Secession Disasters

The Scots, having wisely (IMHO) decided to cast their lot with union, I decided to look at the general problem of secession. The argument for secession is essentially always the same: the people (or nation, religion, ethnicity, language, etc.) cannot endure being ruled by the people of Y. When the rule is imperial and historically imposed by force rather than democratic there is some logic to the argument. Since most large nations were the fruits of empire, it's an argument that is frequently available. When we are talking democracy, though, and nations with a long established unity, I think secession is almost always nuts. And why is that idiot Cameron still running the joint?

A very few examples of peaceful and otherwise amicable national divorces exist, but they are vastly outnumbered by those that resulted in war, calamity and catastrophe. India-Pakistan, Yugoslavia, a vast catalog of Africa, numerous examples in the Americas, the American Civil War, and so on.

One of the oddities of the India-Pakistan divorce was that Jammu and Kashmir, a Muslim majority area, as well as some neighboring areas, were awarded by the boundary commission to India. The reasons for this are controversial, at least in Pakistan, but in any event Pakistan decided to subvert the semi-autonomous government of the local Hindu Maharajah by unofficial jihadi warfare. The jihadis did not succeed in inspiring major local support, and the maharajah asked for Indian support, so Pakistan lost its first unofficial war.

Thus, Pakistan’s first move in Kashmir was to announce Jihad by unofficial forces. An unconventional war was started on the assumption that the Kashmiri people would support the invading tribal lashkar (unstructured army) and that the Maharajah’s forces would be easily subdued. Little, if any, thought had been given to the prospect of failure or to what might happen if the Indian army got involved in forestalling a Pakistani fait accompli.

However, the Kashmir Maharajah did seek Indian military help and signed the Instrument of Accession with India to secure military assistance . India’s prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, sent in Indian troops to fend off the Azad (Free) Kashmir forces. The Indian army then secured the capital, Srinagar, and established control over the Kashmir valley and most parts of Jammu and Ladakh before a UN-sponsored cease-fire.

The battle over Kashmir so early after independence transformed the ideological confrontation between Muslims and Hindus of which Jinnah often spoke into a military conflict. Within months of independence Pakistan was at war with India. To this day Pakistan disputes Hari Singh’s accession to India, arguing that it was not the result of a voluntary decision and that he was not competent to accede to India because he had signed a standstill agreement with Pakistan earlier.

Ideologues argued that Pakistan should put off normal relations with India “until and unless the Kashmir issue has been settled.” 33 By and large this stance has endured ever since. As a result, the state of virtually permanent war with India helped Pakistan’s British-trained generals and civil servants establish their dominance over politicians who lacked any real experience in government.

Haqqani, Husain (2013-11-05). Magnificent Delusions: Pakistan, the United States, and an Epic History of Misunderstanding (pp. 28-29). PublicAffairs. Kindle Edition.

And so it goes, usually


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