May 26, 2017

China’s silent debt bomb for Pakistan

Pakistani PM Nawaz Sharif meets Chinese President Xi Jinping ahead of the Belt and Road Forum in Beijing, China, on May 13, 2017. (Reuters)


 MINHAZ MERCHANT | Thu, 25 May 2017-08:05am , DNA

Excessive liquidity making its way from Chinese banks to Pakistan does not bode well for its modest economy

History shows that when a country’s debt-to-GDP ratio climbs above 200 per cent, a red flag goes up. China’s total debt at $27 trillion is now 277 per cent of its GDP. At first glance, the principal worry for China is its over-leveraged state sector. Local governments have used cheap credit for years to fuel infrastructure growth. Many gleaming new Chinese cities built during the boom period are today ghost towns with unoccupied residential towers and empty streets.

Chinese GDP has slowed significantly from its breakneck speed of 10 per cent a year in the mid-2000s. China’s economic statistics are not entirely reliable and the official GDP growth rate of 6.8 per cent for fiscal 2017 can be discounted to around 5.5 per cent.

State and local government debt is a concern because most state enterprises have borrowed heavily from banks. Defaults could set off a banking crisis that will be difficult to contain. Li Yang, a senior researcher with the leading government think-tank, the China Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), said: “The gravity of China’s non-financial corporate debt is that if problems occur with it, China’s financial system will have problems immediately. It’s a fatal issue in China. Because of such a link, it is probably more urgent for China than other countries to resolve the debt problem.”

China’s debt bomb has not yet exploded and is not about to explode any time soon, for two reasons. One, the government is cash-rich and stands guarantee for most of the non-financial corporate debt owned by state enterprises who might default to banks — which again are state-owned and can, therefore, be bailed out. Two, China’s debt is largely funded by its high rate of domestic savings. This tends to make debt more stable than debt in countries whose borrowing is in foreign currencies.

And yet, China’s ballooning debt could have geopolitical consequences. Following last week’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) Summit in Beijing, China is preparing to widen its arc of influence well beyond Asia. Some of its grandiose projects in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a key part of the BRI, have begun to cause uneasiness even in Pakistan.

The Pakistani newspaper Dawn last week published ‘secret’ details of what China intends to do in the CPEC: “The main thrust of the plan actually lies in agriculture, contrary to the image of CPEC as a massive industrial and transport undertaking, involving power plants and highways. The plan acquires its greatest specificity, and lays out the largest number of projects and plans for their facilitation, in agriculture. In any plan, the question of financial resources is always crucial. The long-term plan drawn up by the China Development Bank is at its sharpest when discussing Pakistan’s financial sector, government debt market, depth of commercial banking, and the overall health of the financial system. It is at its most unsentimental when drawing up the risks faced by long-term investments in Pakistan’s economy. The chief risk the plan identifies is politics and security. ‘There are various factors affecting Pakistani politics, such as competing parties, religion, tribes, terrorists, and Western intervention,’ the authors write. ‘The security situation is the worst in recent years.’”

Thoughtful Pakistani commentators have started to question the CPEC on three grounds. First, that it focuses on agriculture rather than infrastructure and industry. Second, that it is based on high levels of debt that could be difficult for Pakistan to repay. And third, that it will use cheap Pakistani labour and raw materials for China’s benefit.

As the Dawn wrote: “Relying on the assessments of the IMF, World Bank, and the Asian Development Bank (ADB), Pakistan’s economy cannot absorb FDI much above $2 billion per year without giving rise to stresses in its economy. ‘It is recommended that China’s maximum annual direct investment in Pakistan should be around US$1 billion.’ Likewise, it concludes that Pakistan’s ceiling for preferential loans should be $1 billion, and for non-preferential loans no more than $1.5 billion per year.”

For India, the CPEC is an egregious violation of sovereignty. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is slated to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit in Kazakhstan on June 8-9. Knowing your adversaries’ weaknesses, financial or otherwise, in advance is crucial, as the ancient Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu would have advised. Modi will be well prepared.

The writer is the author of The New Clash of Civilizations: How The Contest Between America, China, India, and Islam Will Shape Our Century

Three years of Modi Sarkar: Bureaucrats now have hotline to Prime Minister

By Sidhartha & Dipak K. Dash, TNN | May 26, 2017, 10.57 AM IST

Junior officials too can send ideas to the PM through the mygov portal.

The NDA government appears to have made a dent in the working of the bureaucracy that seemed plagued by compartmentalisation, which turned ministries and departments into silos, stalling the smooth exchange of ideas. 

Under PM Modi's system of secretary-level panels, ideas that may have remained on paper don't just find traction but are even getting implemented. "If I can convince committee members, there's every chance the PM will give his go-ahead to implement a scheme," said a secretary . 

Junior officials too can send ideas to the PM through the mygov portal. "At times we hesitate, wondering if there'll be an adverse impact. But there've been cases when ideas submitted have received a positive response," said an officer. 

Secretaries make presentations directly to the PM to ensure that they have command over the subject, they have to go alone to meet Modi. In many cases, the PM communicates directly with officers instead of going through ministers. 

The Prime Minister's Office under Modi has become one of the most powerful in recent years, with some secretaries accused of spending more time there than in their respective ministries -raising concerns that the Cabinet secretary is being relegated to the background. 

Soon after taking charge, Modi met all secretaries and made it clear they figure prominently in his scheme of things. But a series of transfers had shaken up the bureaucracy . Initial appointments did not instil confidence, with officers entrusted with departments where they had little or no experience, but with time and knowledge, that concern has largely been addressed. 

The other change has been the deployment of officers from all services other than the IAS across ministries. When it came to the post of Central Vigilance Commissioner -monopolised by retired IAS officers -thegovernment opted for K V Chowdary, a former income tax chief. 

"The difference is we do what we're asked to. In Manmohan Singh's time, we'd ask the minister if we had to do what the PMO had asked us," said a secretary. 

When occasion demands, the PM shows bureaucrats he cannot be taken for a ride. At a video-conference with senior officials, Modi showed a picture of the little progress made on the construction of a bridge on the Ganga in Bihar to counter officials' claims. 

Another time, he ticked off officials from Sikkim for tardy progress in the building of an airport. Non-performers invite the PM's ire. In the past year, 129 officers have been shown the door. 

Areas where Modi's administration needs to do more include the railway bureaucracy. Despite repeated promises to revamp the state transporter, the Railway Board continues to operate as before. There is also the complaint of an administration's favourite being appointed to key jobs. "That's any government's prerogative. Disruption is good, but too much disruption does not instil confidence in your people who deliver," said a bureaucrat. 

But the PM is clear that he needs bureaucrats he can trust -both in terms of integrity and performance -to deliver on his government's agenda

May 25, 2017

Ahead of 'Modern Silk Road' build, China credit downgrade worrisome


The recent announcement that Moody’s Investors Service, one of the leading global credit ratings agencies, downgraded China’s credit rating, contradicts the official narrative promoted by China that things are great, and its economy is on solid footing. Chinese policymakers have consistently justified the high debt-to-GDP level arguing that its economic model can both safely and reliably service such large amounts of debt, so long as the economy continues growing at a healthy pace.

For Moody’s, the assumptions on which China is predicating its growth has it most concerned. For roughly the past 10 years, China’s growth has come by way of two areas — investment in infrastructure, commercial and residential real estate and exports of manufactured goods.

With regard to the former, since 2008, China has embarked on a building spree unlike anything witnessed in world history. In fact, more concrete was poured in China from 2011 to 2013 than all concrete poured in the United States during the 20th Century. The building of roads, tunnels, bridges and high-rise buildings has put a lot of people to work and kept factories humming with construction-related materials.


Regarding exports, it is apparent that China has been very successful in manufacturing products of all kinds and selling them in the world’s most important consumer markets, such as the United States and the EU.

The challenge China is confronting is the sustainability of its growth model and its ability to continue its reliance on investment- and construction-driven growth, as well as diminishing competitiveness in its manufacturing sector.

On the construction side, all funding came by way of debt. Chinese corporations and local governments borrowed heavily to construct state-of-the-art highways, transportation facilities, shopping malls and residential towers. The problem is, what if the projects fail to meet revenue expectations and, if so, how will the debt be repaid? 

On the export side, China is also getting squeezed — the cost of manufacturing in China is going up. The cost of labor and inputs have all risen, making it increasingly difficult to compete against places like Vietnam and Sri Lanka. To address this, Chinese factories have been heavily investing in automation and robotics to offset the rising cost of labor. 

At the same time, global demand for manufactured goods has been less than the global increase in manufacturing productivity, leading to a glut of supply and not enough demand to absorb all of the built-up capacity within China.

Realizing that China’s go-go days of growth may be behind it and that it’s mountain of debt casts a shadow on its future prospects, its policymakers are looking to revive its fortunes through the One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative. In fact, OBOR is the centerpiece of President Xi Jinping’s blueprint for China’s economic future. 

In a nutshell, under OBOR, China wishes to link the entire Eurasian continent by way of an extensive land (rail) and sea (sea ports) network that will represent the modern recreation of the ancient Silk Road connecting East with West. The intended benefit would be to facilitate long-term multilateral trade between China and all of the nations that OBOR will traverse.

China envisions the unification of the Eurasian continent, from Western Europe, through Central Asia and Russia, all the way to China and South Asia. It represents one of the most ambitious and massive infrastructure projects ever conceived, covering a distance equivalent to three United States, end-to-end. 

To fund this undertaking, China has created its own policy bank, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, and bankrolled it with an initial capital worth $50 billion. It has been estimated that the total cost of building OBOR may exceed $3 trillion, meaning China will have to rely on global capital markets to answer the need.

Given the staggering amount of capital to build out OBOR, the $50 billion allocated is but a drop in the bucket. China is particularly incensed that the United States has stayed on the sidelines regarding OBOR.

Given the massive infrastructure needs within the United States, capital providers would have a hard time justifying investing in OBOR and funding China’s ambitions when there is such glaring need at home. The OBOR is more than just an “If we build it, they will come” project. The OBOR entails a multitude of risks — security, operational, geopolitical and economic.

The risks call into question whether or not OBOR will be economically viable and whether or not the intended benefits of OBOR will materialize as assumed. Moreover, Moody’s downgrade will only make borrowing costs in China rise as the perceived risks become more apparent. 

Arthur Dong is a professor of strategy and economics at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business. He specializes in legal and business engagements between China and the United States

Pakistan operationalises Naval Station in Balochistan

KARACHI:  Pakistan  Thursday operationalised a Naval Air Station which will provide the navy with the much needed depth, flexibility and reach to counter emerging challenges of deterring terrorism at sea, curbing piracy and carrying out maritime security operations, according to a statement

Defence Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif was the chief guest of the ceremony that was also attended by Chief of the Naval Staff Admiral Muhammad Zakaullah and other officials.  

Speaking on the occasion, Khawaja  Asif highlighted that this major Naval facility will boost Pakistan Navy’s capability for the defence of motherland, enhancing the Naval power over the Arabian Sea and especially its strategic reach westwards.

He said that the dual utilization of Naval Air Station Turbat will accrue dividends both for the maritime defence and in the economic sector by yielding best value for money.

The defence minister said the development of Naval Air Station Turbat would definitely provide a vital link for air transportation and as a Base for Naval Operations besides providing required support to CPEC project.

“ With the realization of intra-regional connectivity, Balochistan will act as a gateway to Pakistan,” he said.

The Chief Guest also lauded strenuous efforts of Paksitan Navy for operational pursuits and for contribution towards socio-economic uplift of the area by providing quality education, healthcare facilities and employment opportunities for the local populace.

“He also assured all out support  from government  to strengthen Pakistan Navy – “the Guardian of the Sea” to discharge onerous responsibilities in the most befitting and efficient manner,” the statement read.


Earlier in his welcome address, Commander Coast Rear Admiral Abdul Aleem highlighted strategic and economic importance of Naval Air Station. He also underlined Pakistan Navy’s efforts in providing quality education, healthcare and employment to the people of Balochistan in general and the people of Turbat in particular.

Commander Coast extended his felicitations to all PN officers who remained associated with this mega project and made untiring efforts in turning this dream into reality.

 He also thanked the ministry of defence for providing all out support towards completion of this state of the art Air Station.

According to the statement, the new runway at the Naval Station has been constructed as per modern standard and it will also have the capability to handle heavier aircraft, not only for Pakistan Navy but also of Sister Services and Civil Airlines.

Pakistan Navy P3C Aircraft, Z9EC and Sea King helicopters participated in an impressive fly past During the ceremony

How Pakistan avoided a plebiscite -Excerpts from the book "The Kashmir Story" by B. L. Sharma

How Pakistan avoided a plebiscite -Excerpts from the book "The Kashmir Story" by B. L. Sharma

April 01, 2003

How Pakistan Avoided Plebiscite- I
Excerpts from the Book "The Kashmir Story" by B. L. Sharma
Publishers: Asia Publishing House, Copyright © B. L. Sharma, 1967 

To those conversant with the so-called Kashmir Question, Mr. B. L. Sharma needs no introduction, for chiefly as Officer on Special Duty for Kashmir Affairs in the Indian Foreign Office he accompanied nine Indian delegations to the United nations between 1948 and 1965 in the capacity of Adviser. In 1952 he was again a member of the Indian delegation for talks in Geneva, and he also attended the Tashkent conference, in January 1966, as Adviser. 

Mr. Sharma has thus been in close touch with the Kashmir Question since its inception and his book reflects the tremendous industry and insight he brought to bear on this difficult, delicate, and complicated subject. Here, however, is much more than the official mind at work. Mr. Sharma obviously knows all the minutiae of this tangled controversy but he has also a clear, incisive mind and style which present and interpret not only the facts but the nuances of the problem. 

The book is critical in many aspects of some of the attitudes adopted by the U. N. in dealing with the Kashmir Question. Mr. Sharma supports his conclusions with a formidable array of facts. The book is heavily documented and the author's ability to sustain his arguments with citations from speeches, discussions, documents, and records makes the end result useful and impressive

Not all may agree with Mr. Sharma's analysis and interpretation. But here is a book no student of Kashmir affairs can ignore. It constitutes a valuable addition to the growing literature on the subject. 

New Delhi 

India was the first to suggest plebiscite as a peaceful method for resolving the Junagadh dispute with Pakistan. India made a similar offer for settling the Kashmir situation in 1947. The offer was reaffirmed in 1948 and when the U.N. Commission suggested plebiscite, India accepted the proposal. When Graham went to the subcontinent in 1951, it was India which not only wanted a plebiscite but wanted it as quickly as possible. In 1953, India reaffirmed its adherence to plebiscite as the best way of resolving the Kashmir problem in a joint communique issued by the Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan in New Delhi on 20 August. And yet a plebiscite could not be held.

The fact of the matter is that Pakistan never wanted a plebiscite. In spite of a plethora of statements of its leaders to the contrary, acceptance of plebiscite by its government was insincere. All available evidence goes to show that it did everything in its power to prevent a plebiscite from being held. In this endeavour, it achieved complete and unqualified success. Not that the double aggression it committed against India, together with its denial and concealment, was not condoned and, in fact, rewarded by the Security Council. Many of Pakistan's unreasonable demands were accepted; most of India's reasonable ones were rejected. The initial rejection of the 13 August resolution by Pakistan, and its subsequent violations thereof, were ignored. Nonetheless, nothing could make Pakistan take the steps laid down in that resolution towards the holding of a plebiscite. The mass of evidence in support of this view, though piling up year after year, awaits examination.

It is worth noting that Pakistan encouraged and wangled the accession of the State of Junagadh surrounded by Indian territory, a State which was not contiguous to Pakistan territory. This was done on the ground that the matter was for the ruler, in this case a Muslim, to decide, irrespective of the wishes of the people, the geographic location of the State, economic considerations and markets and communications, all of which were inextricably tied up with the surrounding Indian territory. Pakistan thus initiated an entirely unnecessary and trouble-making interference in Indian affairs. By underhand means Pakistan also endeavoured to secure the accession of jodhpur and Bikaner which by no stretch of imagination could be considered desirous of joining Pakistan. No justification whatever could be offered by Pakistan for its folly, for if India or Pakistan were to accept the accessions of Princely States in such a way as to create enclaves of one country in the other, it would have made nonsense of the partition. Geographical compulsions were real and had to be accepted. In conversations at a high level between responsible personages on both sides, the leaders of the future Pakistan had justified the impression that Pakistan also intended to recognize this principle, and not to enter into a competition with India in obtaining accessions. Sardar Abdur Rab Nishtar, subsequently a member of the Government of Pakistan, was at the time a member of the coalition Cabinet of the United India, and was in charge - at the time Lord Mountbatten referred to the principle of geographical compulsion in his address to the Chamber of Princes - of the States Department of the future Government of Pakistan. He actually expressed his agreement with this principle in official records.

Following this principle when a large Princely State, Kalat in Baluchistan, which had obvious geographical compulsions to accede to Pakistan, approached the Government of India for political relationship,, it was refused. Certain unofficial overtures were made from another Princely State, Bahawalpur, and they were similarly discouraged, although in this case the State was also contiguous to Indian Union territory. In the circumstances, the leaders of India naturally assumed that this principle would be scrupulously honoured by Pakistan also. 

Imagine their surprise, when Pakistan accepted the accession of Junagadh. As this accession came long before the trouble began in Kashmir, Pakistan cannot use one wrong to justify another wrong which it committed in Kashmir. Anxious to settle the matter amicably, the Government of India in a telegram on 11 September 1947 asked the Pakistan Government to reconsider their decision, treat the accession of Junagadh as provisional and agree to a settlement of the problem by a plebiscite." No reply was received until 5 October 1947, when, in a telegram, the Prime Minister of Pakistan proposed considerations and discussions, conditions and circumstances "in which plebiscite should be taken by any State or States at our next meeting." Even now there was no acceptance of plebiscite but only an offer to consider it at a future meeting. However, the reference to "any State or States" was cryptic and inexplicable. The cat jumped out of the bag on 24 October 1947 when, in another telegram, the Pakistan Government stated: 

Our position was and still is that we are prepared to discuss conditions and circumstances in which a plebiscite or referendum should be held in any State or States. You must have no doubt realized that Junagadh's not the only State regarding which the question arises, and that is why we advisedly said "any State or States."

By 24 October, the State of Jammu and Kashmir had been invaded from Pakistan. The mention of "any State or States" in the Pakistan telegram of 5 October now became clear and was intended to refer to a future event which was to be brought about by Pakistan invasion of Kashmir which was then partly under way, though not yet in a big way, as subsequent events revealed. Refusing to be fooled by these tactics, India held a plebiscite in Junagadh in which the number of voters who polled was 190,870 out of a total of 200,569. Of these 190,779 voted for India and only 91 for Pakistan. Zafrullah Khan admitted that the Government of India had "insisted that this question should be decided by a plebiscite.". He also admitted that "it is unlikely that the fairest plebiscite in Junagadh would result in the people of Junagadh deciding to accede to - Pakistan and I myself concede that as unlikely." Then why did Pakistan accept Junagadh's accession, unless it was to poison Indo-Pakistan relations? Years afterwards, in 1962, he made another significant admission, namely, that when the people of Junagadh came to know of the ruler's accession to Pakistan, "quite a substantial number of them apparently did not like it." 


Meanwhile, Shaikh Abdullah who had been incarcerated by the Ruler for organizing and conducting his "Quit Kashmir" movement, under which the Ruler was asked to hand over authority to the people and quit the State, was released on 29 September 1947. Soon after his release, he defined his attitude about the accession of the State to either Dominion. Speaking in Delhi on 9 October, he said that the people's first concern was "attainment of self-government, so that people armed with authority and responsibility could decide for themselves where their interests lay." A few days later he reverted to the subject.

Kashmir to be a joint Raj [rule] of all communities. Our first demand is complete transfer of power to the people in Kashmir. Representatives of the people in a democratic Kashmir will then decide whether the State should join India or Pakistan. 

Of course, we will naturally opt to go to that Dominion where our own demand for freedom receives recognition and support. We cannot desire to join those who say that the people must have no voice in the matter.... 

At this time Kashmiris must come forward and raise the banner of Hindu-Muslim Unity. 

In order to secure the cooperation of Pakistan in the pursuit of such a policy, some of the leaders of the National Conference went to Lahore. One of them, Bakshi Ghulam Mohammed, subsequently, disclosed that the Pakistan leaders were unwilling to let the Kashmir issue be decided by a referendum. 'I'he Pakistan leaders were reported to have said that unless Shaikh Abdullah pledged to Pakistan that the National Conference would solidly vote for the State's accession to Pakistan, they could not agree to a referendum. That suggestion was totally unacceptable to the leaders of the Conference. 

'I'his was confirmed by Ghulam Mohammed Sadiq, another prominent leader of the National Conference.

Before the invasion, the National Conference deputed me to approach the Pakistan Government at the highest level to recognize democratic rights of the Kashmiri people for self-determination and abide by the sovereign will of a free people on the question of free association with either of the Dominions. I met Pakistan's Prime Minister and other Ministers, but it was of no use. We see finally put, into operation a programme of first enslaving and then sectoring "yes" in their favour from an enslaved people. 

When the invasion of Kashmir from Pakistan began, Shaikh Abdullah reacted. "The invasion of Kashmir is meant to coerce and compel the people of Kashmir to act in a particular way, namely, to accede to Pakistan. Every Kashmiri resents this compulsion on his will." 

This is how Pakistan treated popular leaders of Kashmir who had only asked that their right to self-determination should be respected by Pakistan, as India had agreed to do. Pakistan was not interested in referendum and had no desire to leave the Kashmiris alone to decide their own future. 

Consistent with its policy on Junagadh and in spite of its legal, political, and strategic rights, India offered to settle the, problem of Kashmir by a referendum. In a broadcast on 2 November 1947, Prime Minister Nehru said that India was prepared, when peace and law and order had been established, to have a referendum held under international auspices like the United Nations. The offer was rejected by Pakistan. Referring to the proposal in a broadcast on 4 November 1947, Liaquat Ali Khan, the Prime Minister of Pakistan, ridiculed it. If the plans of the Kashmiris' "enemies" succeeded, he said, they (the Kashmiris) would be exterminated. "It is presumably after such extermination that the Indian Government propose that a referendum should be held. What use is a referendum after the voters have been driven away from their homes, or silenced in death?"

If, according to Pakistan leaders, the Kashmiris had their hearts set on acceding to Pakistan, where was the necessity of organizing an invasion of Kashmir in disguise? Time would be on the side of Pakistan and the people of Kashmir sooner or later would get an opportunity of taking a decision in the matter. In spite of an attempt by Pakistan to seize the State by force, India offered to settle the issue, in the interest of friendly relations between the two countries, by a referendum. Here was an opportunity which one would have imagined Pakistan would seize with both hands. 

Mountbatten's talk with Jinnah in Lahore further confirms the suspicion that Pakistan would favour plebiscite only in conditions which it considered would guarantee success for Pakistan. Mountbatten proposed a plebiscite under U.N. auspices, whereupon Jinnah asserted that only the two Governors-General could organize 

it. Mountbatten at once rejected the suggestion, stressing that whatever Jinnah's prerogatives might be, his own constitutional position allowed him only to act on his governments advice.

And yet when India placed its complaint of aggression by Pakistan before the Security Council, Pakistan's denial of any aid or assistance to the invaders was matched only by its insistence on a plebiscite, which it had already rejected twice. It might be argued that Pakistan preferred a plebiscite under international auspices, with ample safeguards to ensure its fairness and impartiality. Even if this is conceded for the sake of argument, it passes understanding why Pakistan, after denying that it was a party to the tribal invasion, should have clandestinely mounted an invasion of the State with its regular army, thereby jeopardizing the chances of holding a plebiscite for which it had pressed in the Council between January and April 1948. It is not easy to brush aside the suspicion that Pakistan had more faith in the arbitrament of force than in the will of the people, and that the second invasion was undertaken to strengthen its military position in the State. This aggression was to prove in course of time an insuperable obstacle to the organization of a fair and impartial plebiscite even under international auspices.

True to type, where the U.N. Commission produced its draft resolution Of 13 August 1948, among at bringing about a ceasefire, Pakistan once again insisted on a plebiscite and refused to accept the draft resolution until the details of a plan for a plebiscite were worked out and incorporated in this or a supplementary resolution. This meant further delay. The Secretary-General of the Government of Pakistan, Mohammed Ali, expressed the view to the Commission that it was impracticable to arrange for a plebiscite in 1948." 

Eventually, the principles of plebiscite were set out by the Commission in its resolution of 5 January 1949. Pakistan was now fully aware of India's position, namely, that if having accepted this and the Commission's resolution of 13 August, Pakistan did not implement Parts I and II of the latter resolution, the Commission's plebiscite proposals would not be binding on India. The Commission agreed to this view and recorded it in its second interim report. This was the fourth occasion on which plebiscite had come up and it was hoped that this time Pakistan would go out of its way to bring about its early consummation. But history repeated itself and by raising all kinds of needless problems about the withdrawal of its troops and the disbandment and disarmament of Azad Kashmir forces, it created a series of vexatious and intractable difficulties which pushed plebiscite farther and farther away. Not satisfied with this, Pakistan extended its military control to the northern areas and increased the striking power of the Azad Kashmir forces, both during the period of cease-fire. Pakistan could not have been unaware of the fact that this was hardly the way of expediting a plebiscite, and that India would never compromise on these developments.

As in the case of its tribal and military invasions, the new violations were committed clandestinely and were recorded by no less an authority than the U.N. Commission. Instead of simplifying the problem for India and the Plebiscite Administrator, Pakistan appeared to be working overtime to make a plebiscite impossible. A series of denials and admissions by Pakistan had already brought her motives under suspicion in India. Her invasion of the northern areas seemed to emphasize the view which many Indians held that the slogan of plebiscite was only a smokescreen behind which Pakistan consolidated its position in the occupied territory, seizing new areas as opportunity offered.


In so far as India's sincerity in this matter is concerned, the Colombian representative in the Security Council has put the whole question beyond any shadow of doubt. Colombia was a member of the U.N. Commission and its representative had recorded the proceedings of the Commission for the information of his government. Urrutia, who had studied these records, said in the Security Council on 15 February 1957: 

When the Security Council appointed the Commission which went to India and Kashmir in 1948, it committed without design the same error as we are about to commit with the present draft resolution: the Commission's sole terms of reference being to negotiate within the framework of the resolution of 21 April 1948 (S/726) which one of the parties-India, in this case-had denounced before the Commission left New York. Thus on its arrival in India the Commission found itself in the following rather absurd position: it was acting in accordance with Chapter VI of the Charter, in other words, it was engaged in conciliative procedure, and was required, in doing so, to keep strictly to a resolution that had been denounced by one of the parties.

Despite this completely illogical situation, the Commission scored an unexpected success by getting the Indian Government to agree, subject to certain conditions, that the question of Kashmir's future should be submitted to decision by its inhabitants by means of a plebiscite ... what was arrived at, therefore, was a compromise solution whereby it was possible to elicit an offer from India to submit the final disposition of Kashmir to a plebiscite. Two points have to be made clear, however: first, the Commission accepted the sovereignty of the State of Jammu and Kashmir as a fact and avoided entering into a discussion of the legality or illegality of the act of accession, which meant that it recognized the de facto sovereignty of India. Secondly, the Commission never recognized the legality of the presence of Pakistan troops in Kashmir. These points must be stressed in order to appreciate why the Commission ordered the complete withdrawal of the Pakistan forces but only requested India to withdraw part of its forces, while permitting it - and even giving it special rights- to maintain internal order and take charge of external defence. For the same reason, the Commission, when the idea of a plebiscite was discussed, was the first to recognize that Pakistan had no right to take part in drawing up the rules and regulations for the plebiscite, except in an advisory capacity, whereas India was recognized as having the right to be consulted.... The Chairman of the Commission, during these discussions, was the representative of Colombia, and therefore I felt it was my duty to examine the records. And of course I found, first of all, that when the Commission was asked whether it wanted to enter into a discussion on the legality of India's sovereignty over Kashmir,

the Commission said it would prefer not to do so; second, that when Mr. Nehru asked Mr. Lozano whether the offer to hold a plebiscite would, in the Commission's view, entail an unconditional commitment if the first and second parts of the resolution of 13 August 1948 were not carried out, Mr. Lozano replied very definitely, "'No." It is very clear that there would be no commitment on India's part until after the first and second parts of the August resolution have been complied with."' 

After giving this background to the subject, Urrutia went on to explain what followed: 

Unfortunately, the atmosphere of confidence that had been achieved was lost owing to a series of errors and incidents which it is advisable to recall so that they will not recur. The first was the appointment of the Plebiscite Administrator. As it is now nine years ago, I think it is now worth while to explain what happened. In the Commission the Colombian delegation urged that the Plebiscite Administrator should be a neutral, that being the only way to induce India to abide by the offer which had been obtained with such difficulty. Unfortunately, other delegations had explicit instructions to urge that the Plebiscite Administrator should be a United States citizen. My delegation suggested in private conversations also that we should accept the Indian Government's suggestion that the President of the International Red Cross should be appointed Plebiscite Administrator. If, at that time, we had accepted the Plebiscite Administrator proposed by India., the President of the International Red Cross, the plebiscite would already have been held. Instead of that, Admiral Nimitz waited nine years in New York for an opportunity to organize the plebiscite. But these errors are delicate matters, because an apparent diplomatic victory, obtained at a certain time, secured propaganda purposes, but in reality undid all the work the Commission had accomplished.

Urrutia emphasized that what the Commission had in view was a very early plebiscite. 

The Commission had provided for an arrangement, system, or procedure that was to be carried out in six weeks or three months at the most. Advantage should have been taken of the favourable atmosphere of the climate that had been brought about in India: Mr. Nehru's acceptance, and the confidence with which the Commission had inspired him to accomplish all this in three months. 

Aggression against India by the Pakistan army had stiffened the attitude of India to any proposal for a plebiscite. In these circumstances, a conditional acceptance of the proposal by India was a major concession to a peaceful settlement. But in the matter of rights, Pakistan began to claim parity with India which the resolutions of the Commission had denied to the invader and sought to foist obligations on India which the same resolutions had placed firmly on Pakistan. Had Pakistan really wanted a plebiscite, it would not have raised these irrelevant issues, particularly when the plebiscite had to be held, as Urrutia had disclosed, in a maximum period of three months, and when India, shaken by the disclosure of aggression by the Pakistan army, had no reason to agree to a plebiscite at all. Pakistan should have helped the Commission and India in every possible way to bring about an early plebiscite, which it said was its supreme objective. In the light of all that has come to pass, it is difficult to believe that Pakistan was serious about its acceptance of the UNCIP resolutions, much less about a plebiscite.


The reasons for the Pakistan attitude are not difficult to fathom. Pakistan raiders and troops had indulged in loot, arson, rape, and murder in the State. Scores of villages and towns were destroyed and hundreds of thousands of people uprooted. A large number of women were abducted and sold in Gujrat, a town in West Pakistan, and in North-West Frontier Province. These were hardly the ways of winning the votes. As Shaikh Abdullah said at the time, the invaders who, according to Pakistan, were "liberators" had liberated the people from life. Pakistan wanted to mark time, pinning its faith on the hope that memories are short., time might heal the wounds, and better opportunities might come in the future. 

According to a writer, by no means friendly to India, Jinnah did not like the plebiscite at all because he was convinced that its result would be determined by Shaikh Abdullah. In the early stages of the Kashmir problem "when the memory of the horrors of the tribal invasion of October 1947 was still fresh in Kashmiri's minds, thoughtful Pakistan leaders cannot have been convinced that the vote would in fact go in their favour." "At this period, 1948-49, a Kashmir plebiscite would have involved a considerable Pakistan gamble." This shows that Pakistans interest in Kashmir was not to ascertain the will of the people or to ensure their well-being but purely one of tactics by which it could secure possession of the State.

The UNCIP resolutions aimed at the holding of a plebiscite. Having accepted them, Pakistan nevertheless supported the McNaughton proposals which struck at the very root of those resolutions. These proposals endeavoured to modify the agreed resolutions when agreement between the parties was of the essence of the matter and something extremely difficult to achieve. And yet Pakistan was provoking doubts in India about its own bona fides by seeking to undermine the very resolutions which only a year before it had accepted. Apart from anything else, any new proposal would consume time, thereby postponing the plebiscite. On the other hand, if there was no other way of avoiding a plebiscite, the Pakistan move made sense, and it worked.

More reasons for postponement were provided by what was happening in the State under its lawful government. On 13 July 1950, the government declared its policy of liquidating the big landed estates and transferring land to the tillers of the soil. On 17 October 1950 was enacted the Big Landed Estates Abolition Act by which the right of ownership in respect of lands in excess of 22¾ acres of land- excluding orchards, grass and fodder farms, and fuel reserves- was abolished, and such land was transferred to the actual tillers. Estates were abolished without payment of compensation. This was a revolutionary piece of legislation, in conflict with the provisions of the Constitution of India, but badly needed in the State and undertaken at a time when Pakistan was ruled, as it still is, by feudal interests. Similarly, rural indebtedness was drastically scaled down. The hereditary princely rule was abolished. These changes were far-reaching in character, the impact of which on the people was immediate. Finally, popular elections based on adult franchise were held and a Constituent Assembly. which also functioned as a legislature, convened. These

were factors which obviously discouraged Pakistan from forging ahead under the commission's resolutions to accelerate the holding of a plebiscite. 

All that it did was to send frequent letters to the Security Council objecting to this or that step taken by the Government of India or the Jammu and Kashmir government. Political and economic instability had begun in Pakistan and was to lead in the end to another period of political servitude, though under its own government which relied for sanction, not on popular support but on the army and the services. Conditions in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir held out little hope of winning a plebiscite, where government followed government, sometimes at short intervals. Years were to pass before details of the iron repression and popular revolts in this part of Kashmir were disclosed by leaders of its tormented people. In 1955 the All-Jammu and Kashmir Muslim Conference, the political party nominally in power in Pakistan-held Kashmir, submitted a memorandum to the Pakistan Constituent Assembly. This memorandum stated; For the past few years the people of Azad Kashmir in general., and those of Poonch in particular, have been subjected to great torture and terrorization. Account of this terrorism is very heart-rending. 

Martial law was imposed in Poonch last time without any justification... About a dozen houses were blasted with dynamite, a number of poor families rendered homeless. Ruthless shelling and random firing by mortar guns took place, resulting in many deaths....

After the Civil Disobedience Movement of 1950-51, launched by the people against the authority, the Government of Pakistan had come to an agreement with the All Jammu and Kashmir Muslim Conference that all cases of political nature, and even criminal cases with any political background, would not be prosecuted. But the present regime have so shamefully gone back on these commitments and the old cases have been revived... 

The people have been arrested, without any warrants of arrest, on mere suspicion or personal vendetta, in all the three districts of Azad Kashmir. They are rotting in the concentration camps at Bagh, Bari, Pullandri, and Saraswah. 'I'hev are forced to live under subhuman conditions.... 
Shelling and firing has been resorted to in the various parts of Azad Kashmir, at least a dozen times, from 1950 onwards.... 
This territory has been reduced to the position of a colony. 

Enough extracts have been given from the memorandum to show the relationship that existed between the "liberators" and the "liberated" in this part of Kashmir. No Pakistan Government would in these circumstances commit the folly of taking a decisive step towards the holding of a plebiscite. Inevitably it must temporize, raise a host of irrelevant issues, advocate measures known to be unacceptable to India and harp on India's, "intransigence," so that the responsibility for postponement could always be fastened on India.

Pakistan began to make a fuss over plebiscite after the arrest of Shaikh Abdullah, evidently in the belief that the new turn of events would divide the people of Kashmir, the majority of whom might retaliate by turning to Pakistan. Even assuming for the sake of argument that the circumstances were more favourable to Pakistan, one would have thought that Pakistan would cut its losses and make up for the lost time by taking immediate action on its own obligation under the resolutions of the Commission, and by accepting India's proposal, throw the whole responsibility for holding an immediate plebiscite on India and the Security Council. Pakistan took no such step. The bona fides of the Government of India are proved by the joint communique issued by the Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan in New Delhi on 20 August 1953 which stated inter alia that the most feasible method of ascertaining the wishes of the people was by fair and impartial plebiscite. Prime Minister Nehru suggested the replacement of Admiral Nimitz by a Plebiscite Administrator from one of the smaller States and a regional plebiscite. Had Pakistan the slightest interest in a plebiscite, its government should have jumped at these suggestions and put India to the test. Instead the Government of Pakistan rejected both proposals. 

One reason for this strange attitude was the fact that while outwardly Pakistan talked about a plebiscite, as a matter of fact it was negotiating aid agreement with the U.S.A. By signing this agreement and by joining SEATO, Pakistan instead of demilitarizing its forces in Kashmir as required under the resolutions of the Commission began to militarize them, thereby reversing the process envisaged in these resolutions.

Obviously what Pakistan was aiming at was not the ascertainment of the wishes of the people in Kashmir but to dictate terms to India from a position of strength. This was proved by a number of authoritative statements made at the time. The U.S. News and World Report, for instance, carried a significant interview with the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Mohammed Ali, in its issue of 5 January 1954, from which the following extracts are taken: 

Q. How would a military agreement with the U.S. affect your relations with India ? 

A. At first they might become slightly strained but eventually I am convinced that our relations would improve as the military strength of the two countries becomes more nearly equal.

Q. Wouldn't a settlement of the dispute with India over the State of Jammu and Kashmir then be more difficult to reach through? A. Yes, at first. But, again, I am convinced that ultimately it would make a settlement easier. At present we can't get a settlement, mainly because India has greater military strength and Nehru is not much interested in a fair settlement. When there is more equality of military strength, then I am sure that there will be greater chance of settlement. 

Similarly, Chaudhuri Mohammed Ali, Prime Minister of Pakistan, said: "The hope of resolving the Kashmir tangle to Pakistan's satisfaction through the acquisition of military strength by joining the Baghdad Pact and SEATO is the very raison d'etre for Pakistan to remain a member of these pacts." 

Thus the weapon in which Pakistan believed was force. As the military strength of Pakistan grew, conditions began to deteriorate along and across the cease-fire line, and Mohammed Ali's public assurance that U.S. military aid would eventually improve Indo-Pakistan relations proved to be both a blind and a snare.


Ten years after the first invasion of the State from Pakistan, the attitude of Pakistan showed little change. Speaking in the Security Council on 18 February 1957, the Foreign Minister of Pakistan revealed that what Pakistan was after was not a peaceful plebiscite but a religious holocaust. He said: 

It would be perfectly legitimate in the case of a plebiscite to draw attention to religious, cultural, linguistic, economic, geographic, strategic, and other ties, affinities, and considerations that might sway the choice ... whereas in an election it is the duty, of a Government to see that it is free and no religious arguments are brought in, in the matter of a plebiscite, wherever it is held, it is held because of religious differences or of ethnic differences or of geographic, linguistic, or other differences. Therefore, in a plebiscite it is quite legitimate for people to appeal to the electorate for these reasons before they decide whether to accede to one side or the other. 

From this statement it was clear that in spite of the tragic experience of the partition, the leaders of Pakistan were determined to inflame religious and communal passions in a plebiscite. This was another violation of an assurance which the U.N. Commission had given to India. Nehru had exactly this type of danger in mind when he asked the Commission on 21 December 1948 that India and United Nations being secular in their policies, an appeal to religious fanaticism in a plebiscite could not be regarded as legitimate political activity. Lozano on behalf of the Commission agreed that any political activity which might tend to disturb law and order could not be regarded as legitimate. This assurance was made public in the Commission's second interim report.

In 1960, Pakistan changed its tune. President Ayub Khan and Foreign Minister Manzur Qadir began to refer to methods other than plebiscite. On 26 September 1960, President Ayub Khan said that any international agreement worth its name must be a compromise. On 14 November 1960, he observed that only a sensible solution of Kashmir would be acceptable to Pakistan. On 22 March 1961, he reiterated that Pakistan would be prepared to consider an alternative to plebiscite. On the following day, he said at Dacca: "Plebiscite is the only solution because Kashmir belonged to the people of Kashmir. . . We have gone further to say if there is any other reasonable solution so as to satisfy the legitimate aspirations of the people of Kashmir, we should be prepared to listen." Similarly, the Pakistan Foreign Minister, Manzur Qadir, stated on 26 March 1961 that Pakistan was willing to consider fresh proposals for the solution of the Kashmir problem. In spite of all these and many other similar statements, Pakistan switched back to plebiscite when the joint talks between the two countries began in December 1962, a posture which was abandoned during the second round of talks, after which the delegations of two countries devoted their time and energies to considering other forms of settlement. Once again it was clear that Pakistan favoured plebiscite no more than a hungry man worships his hunger.

Pakistan is fully aware that plebiscite in any shape or form is no longer feasible or practicable. The elected representatives of the people of Jammu and Kashmir framed and promulgated a democratic constitution which might serve as a model for Pakistan. They have had three general elections based on adult franchise and two five-year plans under which the State has been keeping step with the other States of the Indian Union in economic and social development. Besides, there has been progressive extension of provisions of the Constitution of India to the State of Jammu and Kashmir as required under Article 370 of that Constitution. None of these developments is reversible. As Benegal Rau pointed out in the Security Council, Pakistan believed in possession, not plebiscite, President Ayub Khan left no one in any doubt about it. In December 1959, he said: "Kashmir is vital for Pakistan, not only politically but militarily as well. Kashmir is a matter of life and death." Speaking at the National Press Club, Washington, on 13 July 1961, he said: "You might say, 'Why can't you give up Kashmir?' Well, we cannot give up that dispute not because we are bloody-minded but ... for example, for the reason that Kashmir is connected with our physical security. Thirty-two million acres in Pakistan are irrigated from rivers that start in Kashmir." Again: "Kashmir is important to us for our physical as well as economic security."

Commenting on these statements in the Security Council on 10 February 1964, Mahomedali Currim Chagla, then the Education Minister of India, said that this showed that Kashmir was not vital for human reasons; it was vital to Pakistan for its own reasons, namely, its own security and its own defence. During the joint talks, as revealed in an official publication, Pakistan had claimed Kashmir on similar grounds. The delegates of Pakistan considered that their country should have control of the watersheds and catchment areas of the rivers in Jammu and Kashmir, because Pakistan could not otherwise store water for irrigation or produce hydroelectric power. If such an argument were to be accepted, every lower riparian could claim the watershed of a common river in the territories of upper riparian States. Another no less strange argument advanced by Pakistan delegates was that Kashmir was essential for the Security of Pakistan, for without control of the State, Pakistan could not protect its rail and road communications which passed through important centres of population and ran parallel to the States' western border with Pakistan. This meant, by implication, that any country could claim the territory of its neighbours in the name of safeguarding its border roads and railways.

More evidence was forthcoming that the aim of Pakistan was no other than possession of Kashmir. When, in 1964, Shaikh Abdullah during his talks with President Mohammed Ayub Khan in Rawalpindi proposed an independent Kashmir, the latter turned it down on the ground inter alia that such a proposal would make the State a cockpit of international intrigue. So far as India is concerned, under its Constitution de-accession of the State can hardly be contemplated; the people of Kashmir settled the matter by throwing in their lot with India and by ratifying the accession. Pakistan opposed the suggestion made by Abdullah apparently because it ruled out the merger of Kashmir with Pakistan. 

For any plebiscite, the territorial unity of the State was of capital importance and this vital fact was emphasized by the Commission in its resolutions. In violation of those resolutions and the Council's resolution of 17 January 1948, Pakistan began to break up this unity. It accepted the accession of component territories of the State of Jammu and Kashmir, such as Hunza and Nagar. It extended its administration to the northern areas of the State which were made part of its own territory by its Constitution. It gifted away over 2,000 square miles of Indian territory to appease expansionist China and to give a semblance of reasonableness to China's spurious claims on Indian territory. Unilaterally and despite opposition from India, it placed all the areas of Kashmir under its unlawful control within the jurisdiction of Lahore Flight Information Range, instead of leaving it, as had originally been agreed, under Delhi Flight Information Range. It is now clear that this was done to prepare the ground for Pakistan's military operations, including bombing in Kashmir by its Air Force planes, in 1965.

The leaders of Pakistan in and outside the Council have made much of offers of plebiscite made by Nehru and reiterated by Gopalaswami Ayyangar- and Benegal Rau. They argue that India wriggled out of its commitment to hold a plebiscite because of its fear that Kashmir would not vote for India. Hence, they say, one excuse by India after another; hence progressive "integration"' of the State under Article 370 of the Constitution of India; hence dismissal, arrest, and detention of Shaikh Abdullah. Assuming all this to be true for the sake of argument and assuming every other conceivable motive which Pakistan can attribute to India for preventing a plebiscite, was this not all the more reason why Pakistan should have strained every nerve to expedite the holding of a plebiscite, instead of spending all its time in building a rampart of insurmountable difficulties? If Pakistan was serious about a plebiscite, it would have taken advantage of numerous opportunities which India had offered of bringing one about. Instead Pakistan dragged its feet, and seemed to be content with accusations of "intransigence" against India, when all that it needed to do was to pull its troops out of the State. A plebiscite would have become inevitable as the basic condition stipulated and agreed to by the parties would have been fulfilled. Having failed in this, Pakistan embarked on the propagandist and futile course of either resisting or condemning democratic changes in Jammu and Kashmir resulting from peoples aspirations, which were both inescapable and irresistible.

Once people have political aspirations, change, which Pakistan resisted, is inescapable. Unable to prevent political changes in its own territory, the Government of Pakistan resisted every popular change in Kashmir. As Chagla asked in the Council, did Pakistan expect that while it continued its aggression, India would sit with folded hands and do nothing whatever in Kashmir to improve the lot of the people? A plebiscite is only a machinery for ascertaining the wishes of a people. There is nothing sacrosanct about it. There are other methods which are equally efficient. The possibility of a plebiscite was envisaged because at that time no elections had been held in Kashmir. The whole picture changed after Kashmir had three general elections with universal adult franchise, and at all the three elections a party was returned to power which had finally and emphatically supported Kashmir's integration with India. Tribal invasion from Pakistan, invasion by the Pakistan regular army, consolidation of its military position in Pakistan-held Kashmir, military aid, agreement with the U.S., participation in military pacts, collusion with China against India, continuous threats of jehad or holy war-these could only consign the proposal for a plebiscite to oblivion. All the weapons in Pakistan's armoury, including subversion and sabotage, organized crossing of the cease-fire line by trained civilians and the creation and maintenance of tension along the cease-fire line, were used against India. Holding the key to a plebiscite, Pakistan refused to use it, preferring to let it rust. The first step, namely, the withdrawal of Pakistan troops, had to be taken by Pakistan and India did nothing to prevent it.

At every meeting of the Council, the Indian representatives complained that Pakistan had not honoured its unconditional commitment-withdrawal of Pakistan troops-without which the resolution of 13 August could not be geared into action. It was not until 1957 that India's attitude changed, the moral duty which India had towards the people of Kashmir having been discharged meanwhile. 

When, at the instance of Pakistan, the issue came up again in the Security Council in 1964, the context had changed. Krishna Menon, in spite of serious and continuous violations by Pakistan of Part I of the resolution of 13 August, had not made it clear in the Council that India was no longer bound by the UNCIP resolutions, except the cease-fire agreement of 27 July 1949. At one stage he said that if Pakistan vacated the aggression, India would then consider what was to be done with the resolution. The agreement between Pakistan and the Republic of China on the boundary of Kashmir with Sinkiang completely changed the position of the parties. By choosing to line up with China which had invaded India and seized Indian territory in Kashmir and by claiming, as its Foreign Minister Bhutto did, that the defence of Pakistan involved the security of the largest State in Asia, Pakistan's professions of seeking friendly relations with India and harbouring no aggressive designs against its territory sounded insincere. Besides, there was no doubt that Pakistan was not interested in the realities of the situation, but only in exploiting every tension in India.

The objectives of Pakistan and China vis-a-vis India were similar and their methods of achieving them identical. Both assumed that India was breaking up socially, politically, economically, and ideologically, and that it was only a matter of time before they could satisfy their territorial lust to their heart's - content. Their press and radio propaganda against India was planned, coordinated, and conducted on identical lines. Both installed powerful transmitters for broadcast to the border areas of India. Pakistan constantly probed the cease-fire line and the number of incidents in its vicinity began to rise rapidly from month to month. The theft of a holy relic from a mosque in Srinagar which led to popular demonstrations against the local government was worked up in Pakistan newspapers, broadcasts, and official statements, and presented as a grave crisis which demanded immediate attention. 

And although, with the recovery of the relic, conditions returned rapidly to normal in Srinagar, Pakistan propaganda showed no diminution in its virulence.

In these circumstances, Chagla took the plunge and told the Council that the resolutions of the Commission had lapsed and that on no account would India agree to hold a plebiscite. This was necessary in the interest of peace and progress of the people of India and Pakistan and above all in the interest of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. "Pakistan talks glibly of a plebiscite Does it realize what its consequences will be?" asked Chagla.

In the place of peace and quiet, we may have bloodshed. If the theft of the sacred relic could be exploited to produce riots 1,500 miles away [in East Pakistan], the stirring of communal passions on a large and massive scale may lead to serious communal riots all over India and Pakistan and to migrations. The only people who would suffer are not the politicians in Pakistan who preach a holy war but millions of innocent people who are not interested in politics and who want to be left in peace to carry on their normal avocations. So, if we are thinking only in terms of maintenance of peace, respect for human beings, then we should think a thousand times before we would disturb a situation which has existed since India became independent. 

Thus plebiscite which India had offered time and again to Pakistan and for which Pakistan had no appetite was buried seventeen years after it was first suggested. 


For the first time the significance and implications of the Sino-Pakistan collusion, which had completely changed the Indo-Pakistan picture, were explained , in some detail, and the threat which this development posed to the security of India in general and to Kashmir in particular.

We have been witnessing with amusement and also with a certain amount of disgust, the greatest tight-rope act ever seen in international affairs. Pakistan has achieved this extra-ordinary skill by keeping one foot in the South-East Asia Treaty Organization and the Central Treaty Organization and the other in the Chinese camp. She is getting closer and closer into Chinese embrace, and the latest incident of this touching affection between the two countries is what happened in Djakarta, when Pakistan, China, and a few other countries "ganged up"-I am sorry about using the expression, but it is the only way to describe what has happened- "ganged up" to deny the Soviet Union a place in the Asian world and refused Malaysia admittance to the next Asian-African conference as an Asian country, although Malaysia has an undoubted right to it. Pakistan tells the United States that it is an ally and wants arms in order to fight communism. It tells China that if China attacks India, "Pakistan will stab India in the back. Pakistan preaches democracy to us and asks us to hold a plebiscite in Kashmir, but it does not permit even a vestige of democracy in its own territory. It has suppressed the democratic movement in East Pakistan. It has refused the principle of self-determination which it professes to consider so sacred to Pakhtunistan and Baluchistan. I must emphasize a fact that the representative of Pakistan has conveniently over looked namely, that in the context of what has recently happened there, Kashmir is vital to India not only for recovering the territory which China has unlawfully occupied, but also for resisting future aggression by China. The defence of Ladakh, which is in the north-east of Kashmir, against the continuing menace of China is impossible except through Kashmir.

Chagla's statements in the Council are a major landmark in the history of the issue. On a reduced and therefore easily comprehensible scale, he presented the Indian case with a refreshing and unequivocal clarity and precision. For the first time the basic conditions, without which no talks with Pakistan would be possible or fruitful, were indicated. 

I want Pakistan to accept certain basic positions which India takes up and it will always take up. One is that Kashmir is an integral part of India; that is a basic position. The second is that no country can be a party to giving up part of itself, that no country can agree to the self-determination of a part of the country. It would break up India, and if this dangerous principle were to be applied to other parts of the world, it would break up Africa, it would break up many parts of Asia, and it would break up many parts of the Middle East. 

Both the conditions were to become major planks of India's policy. Chagla's forthright exposition had its effect. A striking feature of the debates in 1964 is the casualness with which members mentioned plebiscite, if they referred to it at all. Even the representative of Pakistan, Bhutto, appeared to have lost much of his zest for it. His emphasis was mostly on the right of self-determination, whatever that might mean. Plebiscite was already dead, but Bhutto repudiated it by putting an impossible interpretation on the UNCIP resolutions, namely, that Pakistan's obligation to withdraw its armed forces from Kashmir was conditional. He knew that no one would accept such a blatant perversion of the resolutions, but it did indicate that Pakistan was determined to continue with its aggression and that therefore plebiscite was no longer a practical proposition. He also went back on statements made by his predecessors, namely, that Pakistan was committed to the withdrawal of its troops.

Bhutto's emphasis on the right of self-determination was misplaced. He had no answer to the questions which Chagla put to him. 

Did Pakistan permit the people of the princely States in Pakistan to exercise the right of self-determination after the ruler acceded to Pakistan? As disclosed in the West Pakistan High Court a few years earlier, the accession of Bahawalpur had been forced on the ruler of that State. The Khan of Kalat revolted against accession and was arrested and detained in 1958. In neither case was the principle of self-determination applied. When Pakistan purchased the territory of Gwadur from the Sultan of Muscat, what happened to its solicitous regard for the people's right to self-determination ? No opportunity was given to the people of Gwadur- to say whether they wished to be bought like chattel. 

Was the Foreign Minister of Pakistan prepared to concede the right of self-determination to the Pakhtoons, the Baluchis, or to East Pakistan whose people, as a matter of common knowledge, racially, ethnically, and linguistically, are different from the people of the rest of Pakistan? 

Chagla said that it was futile for the representative of Pakistan to talk of the principles of the Charter and of a scrupulous discharge of international commitments, when his country had flagrantly violated the Charter and had perpetrated aggression upon another country in which she persisted. It was equally obvious that Pakistan had failed to discharge its international commitments by not complying with the directives given by the Council to Pakistan to withdraw its troops from two-fifths of Kashmir.

Pakistan had failed to realize that the significance of its treaty with China, by which it had given over two thousand square miles of Kashmir, was not its territorial aspect nor the arithmetical calculation by which Pakistan claimed to have made a net gain, but the fact that Pakistan had no common border with China and had negotiated with regard to a territory to which internationally it had no claim. Pakistan stood self-condemned of aggression, because in no view of the case was the territory part of Pakistan. It was not correct to say that the treaty was provisional. As far as Pakistan was concerned, it was bound because the treaty provided that if Kashmir came to Pakistan, Pakistan would be committed to the agreement it had made with China.

Chagla drew pointed attention to the policies of the theocratic State of Pakistan. He said: 

When I said that the representative of Pakistan has learnt nothing, I meant that he still believes that we are living in the mediaeval age and not in modern times. One of the most serious problems that is facing us and which the Security Council will be discussing very soon is racial apartheid. But there is an equally serious problem, equally vicious and evil, and that is religious apartheid. In principle there is no difference between the two. Both discriminate between man and man and do not respect human dignity. Pakistan was founded on the principle of religious apartheid, and that principle is still observed today, the most eloquent testimony to which is the fact that no less than 300,000 members of the minority communities from East Pakistan have sought refuge in India since the beginning of this year. They have fled from persecution and insecurity of the worst type, involving their lives and property and even the honour of their women.


All this tended to make the position somewhat fluid. The familiar pattern in the Council of a restricted discussion on the UNCIP resolutions and the ways and means of implementing them began to crack up under the realization that the passage of time and change of circumstances could no longer be ignored. Members talked about the responsibility of the Council, but had to admit at the same time that no solution could be imposed on the parties, which would have to seek it by negotiation. Even Adlai Stevenson of the U.S.A. felt that what was needed was a fresh attempt "in the light of today's realities." The problem of minorities, the secular and democratic character of Indian society, the danger of inciting religious passions, and the importance of a calm and friendly atmosphere for the resolution of Indo-Pakistan differences, inclined the members of the Council to view the relations between India and Pakistan as a whole, and to emphasize their interdependence and common ties of history and culture-facts which were not to the liking of leaders in Pakistan. Kashmir was no longer the dominant theme, but Indo-Pakistan problems and relations. Some members still talked about the resolutions and the need for third party assistance, if the parties agreed to it or asked for it, but the past bullying tactics and truculence of the Council were not so much in evidence. Chagla opposed all suggestions for a resolution or mediations.

The Kashmir question will not be solved by interminable discussions and debates in the Council. It will be solved only when Pakistan realizes that Kashmir is not a political shuttlecock in the game of anti-Indian politics which she has for the time being adopted. The Kashmir question will be solved when Pakistan realizes that India wishes her well and has no designs on her independence and that, in the prosperity of the two countries, lies the prosperity of the whole subcontinent. In this prosperity, the people of Kashmir must have a share as an integral part of India. India has always stood, and stands, for a just solution, a peaceful solution, an early solution to the Kashmir question. It is Pakistan which has blocked the way to such a solution. There cannot be a just solution in international affairs if aggression is either condoned or rewarded. There can be no just solution of the Kashmir question if Pakistan does not vacate her aggression and while the Pakistan army still keeps two-fifths of the State of Jammu and Kashmir in her unlawful possession." 

The Soviet representative reaffirmed the position of its government on Kashmir, as he had done in 1957 and 1962.

The Soviet Union's position of principle on the substance of the Kashmir problem has already been stated more than once by the Head of the Soviet Government, Mr. Khrushchev. As is well known, our position is that the question of the ownership of Kashmir has already been solved by the people of Kashmir themselves. He questioned Bhutto's statement that there existed no truce agreement between India and Pakistan and that "even a cease-fire between them could in present conditions be considered obsolete." 

The Security Council gave up the idea of considering a draft resolution and devoted more time to a consensus. Even this eluded its members. As the representative of France who was President for the month told the Council, despite every effort the members had been unable to reach complete agreement, and it was not possible to reach unanimity on one of the important points under discussion. The Foreign Minister of Pakistan gave vent to his disenchantment. 

We asked for prompt and tangible assistance from the Security Council in the effort toward an early settlement, and it was our expectation that the Security Council would be a positive and material factor in the situation. We had hoped that the Council would finally lay down the framework within which contacts between India and Pakistan should be carried on for a solution of the problem of Jammu and Kashmir. We would also have liked a definite role to be assigned to the Secretary-General to enable him to facilitate the progress and to ensure a fruitful result of these contacts.

For the first time the Security Council did not oblige Pakistan. Also for the first time the Council adjourned not only without adopting any resolution but also without a consensus. The Council had exhausted its utility. Its partiality, its condonation of aggression, and its contradictory resolution had ground its own activities, so as the Kashmir issue was concerned, to a halt. For eighteen years it had grappled with wrong issues and advocated wrong remedies. The original complaint of India against aggression by Pakistan had led to nothing. On the other hand, the party that had denied any hand in the invasion of Indian territory ended up by entrenching itself firmly in the territory it had seized by aggression. The position was worse than what it was on 1st January 1948. 

Chagla could not help drawing attention to the mess which the Council had made of India's original complaint, permit me to say in all frankness that our government and people have a grievance to the effect that during the years the Kashmir question has been before the Security Council, most members of the Council have turned a blind eye to the patent fact of Pakistan's aggression. It is that attitude, together with the indulgence that Pakistan's allies have shown it in the Council, that has been the greatest obstacle to the solution of this question which has bedevilled relations between ourselves and our neighbour ... members have made this suggestion or that, but the vital question brought before the Security Council has remained unanswered. Our people expect an answer from the Council. So long as it is not answered, the Council will be unable to grapple with the basic elements of the Kashmir situation. My delegation hopes that even at this late hour the members of the Council will give careful thought to the matter and give an answer to these questions which I now pose;

(i) How is it that Pakistan occupies two- fifths of Kashmir and by what right? 

(2) Has it any legal right to be in the possession and control of any part of Kashmir territory's? 

(3) Has it any right to negotiate and give away any part of Kashmir to China, which it has admittedly done... ? 
(4) What steps should the Council take to make Pakistan vacate its aggression ? 

None of the questions was answered by the Council. To have answered them would have meant self-condemnation. 

Such was the culmination of Noel Baker's advice to the Council in 1948, advice which led it away from facts, away from the Charter, away from the rule of law, away from justice. Whether the Council succeeded in satisfying the tribesmen from Pakistan, which Noel Baker and Warren Austin so passionately desired, is known best to the Council or to the tribesmen. However, it is on the record that the Council never uttered one word of condemnation of the tribal invasion of India from Pakistan. This was the Council's way of ending war, not extending it. As a matter of fact, the only success it ever achieved was in its extension

An Independent Iraqi Kurdistan? On the Prospects and Viability of a Future State

25 May 2017

By Gallia Lindenstrauss and Adrien Cluzet for Institute for National Security Studies (INSS)

OK, so how close are Iraqi Kurds to establishing their own independent state in Northern Iraq? In this article, Gallia Lindenstrauss and Adrien Cluzet analyze the myriad factors that have to be addressed if a truly autonomous or South Sudan-like homeland is to appear. In all cases, our authors are confident that such an entity would be pro-Western, have a favorable attitude towards Israel, and remain lukewarm to the idea of creating a Greater Kurdistan

This article was originally published in Strategic Assessment Volume 20, Number 1 by the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) in April 2017.

In February 2016, Masoud Barzani, President of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region, announced his desire to hold a referendum among Iraqi Kurds on the issue of independence. While he did not promise that the results would dictate an immediate declaration of independence, he did state that such a referendum will reveal the wish of the people, and will be realized “at the appropriate time and circumstances.”1 An informal referendum already took place in 2005, in which 99 percent of those who voted supported independence, and the idea for a formal referendum surfaced in 2014. A referendum is likely to result in a sweeping majority of Kurds favoring an independent state. As Mustafa and Aziz note, “The idea of having a sovereign Kurdistan is so popular that it is hard to find a single Kurd who would oppose it.”2 Hence the question arises, what will be Barzani’s steps following such a vote. Opposition elements inside the Kurdish Region have charged that Barzani will use the referendum to bolster his own legitimacy as president. Yet irrespective of his political ambitions, the Iraqi Kurds’ aspiration for independence is strong.

This article examines how far the Iraqi Kurds have moved toward gaining independence and establishing a Kurdish independent state in northern Iraq, and will assess the likelihood of Barzani declaring independence. Beyond the issue of the Iraqi Kurds’ demands for self-determination, these questions bear on the fear of Kurdish independence that has been a long time concern for countries with a significant Kurdish minority in the region; many have invested much effort in quelling such ambitions. With the weakening of Baghdad’s central authority and the prominent role of the Kurds in the struggle against the Islamic State, never has Iraqi Kurdish independence been discussed so much. As to political orientation, a Kurdish independent state in northern Iraq will likely be a pro-Western state with a favorable attitude toward Israel.3

The article will address the issues of political unity and institution building, economy and energy dimensions, the situation of the security forces, and the level of international support for the idea of independence, in order to assess the viability of an independent entity, if indeed the Iraqi Kurds move toward it. A unilateral declaration of independence is a possible but not likely prospect for the Kurdish Region. Another way for the region to gain independence is by agreement with Baghdad (a type of “South Sudan” model), or if Iraq as a state completely disintegrates.4 Indeed, in March 2017 President Barzani said, “Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia have faded away, as happens today to the legacy of Sykes-Picot.”5 There is also the possibility of the Kurdish Region gaining independence and trying to form a greater Kurdistan, but this seems to be a very unlikely scenario and hence will not be discussed.

Political Unity and Institution Building

Of the many challenges to political unity that have long confronted Iraqi Kurdistan, most still exist. In 2005, the new Iraqi federal constitution granted the Kurdish region a legal autonomous status. It stipulated that “Kurdistan’s institutions exercise legislative and executive authority in many areas, including allocating the Regional budget, policing and security, education and health policies, natural resources management and infrastructure development.”6 This power extends over four governorates (Erbil, Sulaymaniyah, Dohuk, and Halabja) of Iraqi Kurdistan. The parliamentary regime of the region gives powers to the President, elected by universal suffrage, and to the Prime Minister, who is appointed by the elected Parliament.

Despite this relative institutional emancipation, however, the Kurdistan Region has never been fully able to gather together the different Kurdish parties and reach fundamental agreement on many issues. These difficulties, regularly exploited by external powers, are partly related to the tribal division in Kurdish society. It has proven difficult to deepen political unity because of some clan differences, and the lack of political unity is also linked to the various spoken dialects; the two main dialects are Sorani (Arabic script) and Kurmanji (Latin script). At the same time, most Kurds understand both dialects,7 and in any case, tribal divisions and dialect differences, while hindering unity, have not prevented other states from forming or from basic performance. In addition, from 2014, the advances of the Islamic State have acted to some degree as a unifying element, although as the organization has weakened, its unifying effect has decreased.

These divisions were one of the main reasons behind the civil war among the Kurds in the 1990s, bringing into conflict the KDP (Kurdistan Democratic Party) and the PUK (Patriotic Union of Kurdistan). The memory of this civil war resonates in the region, the scars are still palpable, and the Iraqi Kurds want to avoid a return to domestic conflict. The KDP was established in 1946, thanks to Soviet-backing against the Iraqi and Iranian monarchies. Now based in Erbil, capital of the Kurdish Region, it is considered the most influential party within the region, thanks to the role of both President Barzani and Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani. The PUK was born out of a split in the KDP in 1975 and since its creation has been based in Sulaymaniyah. Its formation was inspired by Ibrahim Ahmad, former member and intellectual of the KDP-I (the Iranian branch of the KDP), and the Talabani family influence in it is very strong.8

 Today, the main differences between these two parties are fanned by recent political developments. Beyond the inheritance of divisions and conflicts, the PUK accuses Barzani of not respecting the democratic game, and denounces the illegality of Barzani’s continuing role as President.9 This division has caused the blocking of any presidential election since 2013 (postponed to 2015, then to 2017). Moreover, the 2013 parliamentary election gave rise to a new political party. The Gorran (“Change”) party, which defines itself as opposed to the ruling two-party coalition (PUK-KDP), came second (after the KDP and before the PUK), highlighting a possible evolution of Kurdish society vis-à-vis this inner crisis. Others, however, claim that the rise of Gorran mostly reflects a division within the PUK.10 These elections also gave 12 parliamentary seats (out of the 100 seats that were open)11 to three Islamist parties, thereby indicating the growing importance of the Sunni identity.

The regional positioning of the Kurdish Region, between various spheres of influence and within a country at war for almost 15 years, makes achieving political stability difficult. This instability and intra-societal differences complicate the task of strengthening democratic institutions. In the various fields where the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has the freedom to act, the government has had difficulties in finding a political consensus and in legitimizing newly founded domestic institutions. These difficulties are also related to problems of corruption and nepotism in the Kurdish Region. The KRG has planned a deep restructuring of the current institutions and their operations for 2017, and it remains to be seen if it succeeds in this goal.

Energy and Economy

In the post-Saddam period, many international oil companies arrived in the Kurdish region,12 perceived as “the last big onshore ‘easy’ oil province.”13 Still, while oil revenues have facilitated the economic development of the region, the previous estimations regarding the Kurdistan Region’s oil and gas reserves have overstated the amount of exploitable resources.14 If the Kurdistan Region declares independence without a prior agreement with Baghdad and issues concerning the legality of the region’s oil exports remain unresolved, it is likely that uncertainty will continue to deter major international companies from investing further in the region. There has already been disappointment with the real returns on prior investments of these companies. However, should the region reach understandings with Baghdad, it will be able to sell its oil at a higher price, as the current price reflects a discount the KRG must give to compensate for the legal risks the buyers are taking on themselves.15 As the Kurdistan Region is landlocked, it relies on Turkey to export its oil. There are calls (especially among the PUK) for the need to diversify the possible outlets for the Kurdistan Region’s oil and to use Iran as well as a possible future outlet.

In 2015, the KRG began facing difficulties paying salaries to the 1.3 million employees on its payroll. Note that the total workforce in the Kurdistan region is around 2 million, which testifies to a problem of an inflated public sector. There are several reasons for the economic problems. Since 2014, because of the Kurdish Region independent sale of oil, Baghdad has reacted with a halt on budget payments from the central government. The declining energy prices have also been one of the major causes of the growing debt of the Kurdistan Region. Another issue has been the resources needed to pay for the handling of over 1.8 million Iraqi displaced people and Syrian refugees arriving in the Kurdish Region after the major advances of the Islamic State (marking some 30 percent of the region’s population). In addition, the price of the military struggle with the Islamic State has put pressure on the KRG budget.16 Not being a state entity has also made it harder for the region to obtain international loans, although the struggle against the Islamic State has brought about a first direct loan from the United States to the KRG to pay the salaries of the Peshmerga armed forces. Opposition sources, however, claim that the crisis mainly results from the uncertain destination of the oil revenues, which in turn raises charges of corruption.17

The KRG has made some efforts to carry out economic reforms in the region. While not cutting the number of employees in the public sector, salaries have been reduced. Also, the low oil prices have been used to begin removing subsidies on gasoline and, with World Bank funding, a much needed overhaul of the electrical infrastructure is planned.18

Security Forces Dimension

Related to the political consensus necessary for the construction of common public institutions is the organization and the efficiency of security forces. Within the region, several agencies are supposed to control public order and ensure homeland security, including Peshmerga army forces, Zeravani forces (a type of gendarmerie), police, Asayish (intelligence agency), emergency, and anti-terror forces.19

The two veteran political parties (KDP and PUK), formerly militias, are known for keeping powerful security forces. Although all Peshmerga forces are officially subordinated to the KRG Presidency Council (the cabinet) and its Peshmerga Ministry, and article 121 of the Iraqi Constitution and Kurdistan Region’s laws allow only one single and unified force as the regional guard force (the Peshmerga army), the two forces remain subordinate to separate PUK and KDP commands. Moreover, many civilians possess weapons in their home, adding to the lack of full control of the KRG over the security dimension. One estimate in 2009 put the number of PUK Peshmergas at 42,500 soldiers and KDP Peshmergas at 54,700, plus 30,000 former KDP Peshmergas transferred to Zeravani militarized police, officially under the Iraqi Interior Ministry orders.20 Today, and with its reservists, the Peshmerga army is estimated to have between 150,000 and 200,000 fighters.21 Legally financed by both KRG and Baghdad, the Peshmerga army’s budget is a matter of dispute between these two sources, and payments of the soldiers’ salaries constitute a source of negotiating leverage for Baghdad.

The war against the Islamic State revealed some of the weaknesses of the Peshmergas.22 Their equipment and effectiveness depend in many respects on Western countries’ support allocated since the war against the Islamic State began, as weapons originating from the former USSR and Yugoslavia are beginning to be sorely lacking in effectiveness.23 On the other hand, the war against the Islamic State has made the Peshmergas important allies for the international coalition against the Islamic State.

The Peshmerga’s effectiveness is questioned by many experts. The prevailing picture in the media of a very effective Kurdish army is the result of real achievements against the Islamic State but also of a successful public relations campaign and the excessive glorification of the female combatants. However, many of these successes occurred in Syria and were registered by the Syrian offshoot of the PKK (YPG), not by the Iraqi Peshmergas. The armed forces of the KRG remain very much dependent on Western support, without which the Peshmergas will find it difficult to impose their will on the ground.

International Legitimacy and Support

The independence of the Kurdish Region is closely linked to foreign support and to international legitimacy, and thus to the interest of global and regional powers not to block Kurdish independence and even to assist it. Located in a war-torn country and in a region of economic and geopolitical significance, the fate of Iraqi Kurdistan is very important for Turkey and Iran, for major Arab states such as Saudi Arabia, and for the world superpowers as well. There are currently 34 foreign consulates in Erbil, including representatives from all the major powers.24

The regional powers have exploited divisions within the Kurdish Region. While the PUK has been backed by Iran for many years, the KDP is pulling the KRG towards a strong relationship with Turkey. As an important ally for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, both in his struggle against the PKK and as part of Turkey’s attempt to counter Iran’s sphere of influence in Iraq, Barzani has held multiple meetings with Turkish leaders over the years. Aside from the economic aspect of this relationship, the backing it receives from Turkey in the regional context is essential for the KRG. For Erdogan, beyond achieving more diversification of Turkey’s energy supplies, this alliance represents a way to show that he is not against the Kurds in general but rather only against the PKK. In 2010, Ankara opened a consulate in Erbil, and there have been negotiations about the opening of a KRG representation in Ankara.25In February 2017, during Barzani’s visit to Turkey, the Kurdistan flag was hoisted next to the Turkish and Iraqi flags on several occasions, a move that was criticized by the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), but defended by the ruling party.26 This relationship remains very much unbalanced, vital for Erbil but of secondary importance for Ankara.27 Moreover, the intensification of the conflict with the Kurdish minority in Turkey also puts a strain on the relations with the KRG.

The Iranian neighbor is positioning itself to oppose Kurdish independence, much more so than Ankara. Indeed, Iran is afraid of the spreading and strengthening of the drive for independence among its own Kurdish and other minorities. In December 2016, accusations surfaced that the Iranian Revolutionary Guards were responsible for double bomb attacks against KDP-I’s offices in Erbil.28 Tehran is also afraid of an instrumentalization of the Kurdish cause by its rivals, such as Saudi Arabia. Several Iranian officials asked Saudi Arabia to remove its diplomatic representation from Erbil, which opened in February 2016.29 That was somewhat ironic, since Iran has two consulates in the Kurdistan Region (in Erbil and in Sulaymaniyah). Nevertheless, a top Iranian commander has called on Saudi Arabia to leave Erbil because its presence is destabilizing.30 Iranians are also wary of a loss of their interests in favor of the Turks within the Kurdish Region. With that in mind, they have increased their backing of the PUK.31 Iran seems clearly opposed to the independence of the KDP-led Kurdish Region, which represents a red line for Tehran. Still, it is not clear whether Iran will use its military power to halt a Kurdish drive for independence (especially if such a state earns US backing), although they will certainly invest much effort in weakening such an entity.32

The US has opposed Kurdish independence, especially since the 2003 War, because it saw it necessary to keep Iraqi borders intact. However, as Iraq’s instability persists and even worsens, there are calls inside Washington to rethink its policies. It is quite clear that the Kurdish state will be a friendly actor to the US and that if the US chooses to give such a state security guarantees, this might well deter the Iranians from acting militarily against it.33 The US already has small deployments of forces in the region.34 Russia’s position toward the Kurds is complex. Traditionally, Russia has had friendly relations with the Kurds and was one of the first countries to open a consulate in Erbil.35 Moscow, however, opposes a unilateral decision by Erbil to declare independence and will support an independent Kurdish state only if that emerges with the consent of Baghdad. There is also a linkage between the situation in Syria and Iraq, and an Iraqi Kurdish precedent of seceding from the Iraqi state would not be received well in Damascus and in Tehran, whose position on the matter may affect that of Russia. It is likewise unclear that a Kurdish state, which will be pro-Western, is in the best interest of Russia.

While Israeli support is not expected to significantly change the Kurdish calculations, it is clear that Jerusalem will be fully in favor of such an independent state. In June 2014, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pronounced his support for the establishment of an independent Kurdish state in Northern Iraq, stating that “they deserve it.”36 That same month, then-President Shimon Peres met President Barack Obama and also spoke in favor of a Kurdish state in light of the situation in Iraq.37 While some of the reports on the Israeli purchase of oil from the Kurdistan Region have been exaggerated, Israeli companies did facilitate the export of oil from the region and were not afraid to bypass Baghdad, since Israel doesn’t have diplomatic relations with Iraq.38 In January 2016, Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked also voiced her positive sentiments towards the Kurds, and stated, “It is time to help them” and the “Kurdish people are a partner for the Israeli people.”39

Thus it appears that the rise of the Islamic State and the struggle for its defeat have created a situation in which the Kurds have gained growing international attention and wider acknowledgment of their achievements and rights, thereby creating an overall positive feeling (at least in public opinion in Western states) toward possible Kurdish independence. Moreover, as time passes and with the election of President Donald Trump, who does not see himself committed to continue the policy of its predecessors, American insistence on keeping Iraq as a unified state will perhaps diminish. Turkey’s alliance with Barzani has been sustained for quite a while, and Turkey’s growing troubles in the Middle East seem to imply that it will not endanger this alliance as long as it continues to view it as bearing fruit both in the energy realm and in its struggle against the PKK.


As with many new states, it seems that the Kurdistan Region will not obtain the blessing of some of the actors in the region if it declares independence, and its birth as a state may be accompanied by war. Hence, courageous and strong leadership is an imperative for the Kurdistan Region. A new state in the making also requires a minimum of international legitimacy to become independent and, as Anaid argues, what is surprising nowadays is the lack of a strong reaction to announcements regarding possible Kurdish independence and the sense that “both the region and the world are becoming gradually more receptive to an independent Kurdistan.”40

The political divide is a lingering problem in the Kurdistan Region, and of all the issues discussed in this article, it is probably the most difficult to solve. While the initial euphoria following independence might somewhat mitigate the intensity of this challenge in the first few months, it will likely resurface again early on. The issue of unifying the Peshmerga forces has been on the Iraqi Kurds’ agenda for almost three decades, and clearly some major steps have been taken in this respect, albeit not enough. Acquiring a state status would probably serve as a catalyst for advancing this aim further. Some of the economic problems the KRG is now encountering will accompany it if it achieves independence (for example, the inflated number of employees in the public sector and the economic price of absorbing the IDPs and refugees in the region). However, some of the economic difficulties will be more easily handled once the Kurdish Region gains independence and is able to issue its own currency, control the exchange rate, and obtain the necessary loans for building the state. Foreign support for independence will likely be rather muted. It is not expected that either Turkey or the US will give the KRG a green light, but it will be an achievement if these actors don’t present Barzani with a red light. Iran will presumably continue to be a staunch opponent of Kurdish independence, but while the possibility that it would attack this new entity exists, it is more likely to try and further strengthen its relations with the PUK and act in a subversive manner from within the new state. An independent Kurdish state will thus have many problems to deal with and will be highly dependent on Turkey and the US to deter Iran. Given all this, however, the balance sheet seems to tilt cautiously in favor of independence.


1 Seth J. Frantzman, “2016: The Year Kurdistan Finally Breaks From Iraq?” National Interest, February 26, 2016.

2 Sara Salahaddin Mustafa and Sardar Aziz, “Turkey and Iraqi Kurdistan Federal Region: Bonds of Friendship,” in Iraqi Kurdistan in Middle Eastern Politics, ed. Alex Danilovich (London and New York: Routledge, 2017), p. 151.

3 Ofra Bengio, The Kurds of Iraq: Building a State Within A State (London: Boulder, 2012), pp. 224, 298.

4 For elaboration, see Ryan D. Griffiths, “Kurdistan Independence and the International System of Sovereign States,” in Iraqi Kurdistan in Middle Eastern Politics, pp. 120-31.

5 “Masoud Barzani: Independent Kurdistan is Loyal Response to Peshmerga Sacrifices,” Rudaw, March 5, 2017.

6 “Fact Sheet: About the Kurdistan Regional Government,” Kurdistan Regional Government website,

7 “The Kurdish Language,” Kurdistan Regional Government website,

8 David McDowall, A Modern History of the Kurds (London: I. B. Tauris, 2007), p. 297.

9 Mohammed A. Salih, “Iraqi Kurds in Limbo over President’s Fate,” al-Jazeera, August 18, 2015.

10 Nigel A. Greaves, “Rebels Without a Cause? A Historicist Analysis of Iraqi Kurdistan’s Current Political and Economic Development and Prospects for Independence,” in Iraqi Kurdistan in Middle Eastern Politics, p. 65.

11 The parliament has 111 representatives, but 11 are reserved for minorities.

12 Ofra Bengio, The Kurds in a Volatile Middle East (Ramat Gan: Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, 2017), p. 14.

13 As quoted in Francis Owtram, “Oil, the Kurds and the Drive for Independence: An Ace in the Hole or Joker in the Pack,” in Iraqi Kurdistan in Middle Eastern Politics, p. 99.

14 Michael Rubin, Kurdistan Rising? Considerations for Kurds, Their Neighbors, and the Region (American Enterprise Institute, 2016), p. 68.

15 Kenneth M. Pollack, “Iraqi Situation Report, Part III: Kurdistan,” Markaz, March 30, 2016,

16 “Iraqi Kurdistan Government Behind on Salaries for over 1.3 Million Employees,” Ekurd Daily, November 10, 2015.

17 Ibrahim Abbas, “The Real Reason Behind Unpaid Salaries in the Kurdistan Region,” NRT September, 14, 2016; Mustafa Saadoun, “KRG Speaker: Independent Kurdish State Complex Issue,” al-Monitor, January 15, 2017.

18 Pollack, “Iraqi Situation Report, Part III: Kurdistan.”

19 “Fact Sheet: About the Kurdistan Regional Government.”

20 “Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Guard Forces (Peshmerga), Global Security Website,

21 Raja Abulrahim, “Are Iraq Renowned Peshmerga Fighters Any Match for Islamic State?” Los Angeles Times, October 9, 2014; “Outgunned and Untested for Years, Kurdish Peshmerga Struggle,” Reuters, August 13, 2014.

22 Ibid.

23 Pollack, “Iraq Situation Report, Part 3: Kurdistan.”

24 “Three More Countries to Open Consulates in Erbil: Official,” Basnews, January 4, 2017.

25 “KRG to Open Representation Office in Turkey,” Basnews, November 23, 2016.

26 “AKP, MHP in Row Over Iraqi Kurdistan Government Flag,” Hurriyet Daily News, February 28, 2017.

27 Denise Natali, “Turkey’s Kurdish Cards,” Foreign Policy, September 12, 2011.

28 “Twin Bomb Attack Strikes Office of Iranian Kurdish Party, at Least 7 Killed,” ARANews, December 21, 2016.

29 “Iranian Commander Warns that the Saudi Arabia Consulate Should Leave Erbil,” Rudaw, January 15, 2017.

30 Ibid.

31 Mohammad Salih Mustafa, “Iran’s Role in the Kurdistan Region,” al-Jazeera Centre for Studies Report, April 20, 2016,

32 Ofra Bengio, “What can Make or Break a Kurdish State,” Tel Aviv Notes, January 10, 2017.

33 Paula Pineda, “The Kurdish Issue on the USA Foreign Policy Agenda,” in Iraqi Kurdistan in Middle Eastern Politics, p. 175.

34 Trudy Rubin, “Time for Kurdish Independence,” Inquirer Daily News, March 23, 2017.

35 Vitaly Naumkin, “Russia’s Kurdish Dilemma,” al-Monitor, January 26, 2014.

36 Barak Ravid, “Netanyahu Calls for Kurdish Independence from Iraq,” Haaretz, June 30, 2014.

37 Chemi Shalev, “Peres’ Parting Tip to Obama on Middle East: Stick with Your Friends, Warts and All,” Haaretz, June 25, 2014.

38 Eliyahu Kamisher, “How the KRG Quasi-State Built an Independent Oil Industry,” Iqtisadi, 6, no. 1, January 27, 2016.

39 “Justice Minister Calls for an Independent Kurdistan,” Times of Israel, January 20, 2016.

40 Anwar Anaid, “Learning from History: Kurdish Nationalism and State-Building Efforts,” in Iraqi Kurdistan in Middle Eastern Politics, p. 30.

About the Authors

Dr Gallia Lindenstrauss is a research fellow and Adrien Cluzet is an intern at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS