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Manekshaw rues missed chances on Kashmir

New Delhi, Nov. 3 (PTI): India twice lost a chance to resolve the Kashmir issue during Pakistan President Ayub Khan’s regime and allowed the problem to grow “big”, said Field Marshal S.H.F.J. Manekshaw.

The Bangladesh war hero claimed that an option had cropped up when the Pakistani military ruler had proposed to then Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru that as both of them were unquestionable leaders in their respective countries, they could work for a solution to the Kashmir issue.

“Ayub Khan, President of Pakistan, who, though senior to me, was a friend,” Manekshaw told reporters at the sidelines of a Kargil war book release.

“I saw Nehru, I told him, I can do what I like in Pakistan and nobody dare say anything and Panditji, you can commit murder in India and everybody will say wah! wah! So, can we sort it out'” the former army chief quoted the Pakistani strongman as having told him.

“But Panditji said, ‘You have no right to be in Kashmir. Kashmir belongs to us’,” Manekshaw said Ayub Khan had told him. “So it could have been done then,” he said, regretting that nobody in India or Pakistan had been strong enough to solve the issue.

He said the second opportunity to solve the Kashmir issue came after the 1971 war, when then Pakistani Prime Minister Zulfiquar Ali Bhutto, after promising to his counterpart Indira Gandhi to cooperate to resolve the issue, got away by seeking time to establish himself.

“Bhutto told Gandhi, ‘I have just taken over from Yahya Khan. If I do anything now, they will throw me out. Give me a chance, I promise you, everything will be okay.’ But he had no damned intention of ever doing anything,” he said.

When asked to comment on the recent redeployment of troops from the border and whether Indian forces should have attacked Pakistan, Manekshaw said: “These are all political matters and nothing we soldiers can do. It’s a political thing.”

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