In June 1989 a project at an American university involving Pakistani and other scholars, including one Indian, led to the book Foundations of Pakistan’s Political Economy: Towards an Agenda for the 1990s published in Karachi, New Delhi and elsewhere. The book reached Nawaz Sharif and the Islamabad elite, and General Musharraf’s current proposal on J&K, endorsed warmly by the US State Department last week, derives from the last paragraph of its editorial introduction: “Kashmir… must be demilitarised and unified by both countries sooner or later, and it must be done without force. There has been enough needless bloodshed on the subcontinent… Modern Pakistanis and Indians are free peoples who can voluntarily agree in their own interests to alter the terms set hurriedly by Attlee or Mountbatten in the Indian Independence Act 1947. Nobody but we ourselves keeps us prisoners of superficial definitions of who we are or might be. The subcontinent could evolve its political identity over a period of time on the pattern of Western Europe, with open borders and (common) tariffs to the outside world, with the free movement of people, capital, ideas and culture. Large armed forces could be reduced and transformed in a manner that would enhance the security of each nation. The real and peaceful economic revolution of the masses of the subcontinent would then be able to begin.”
The editors as economists decried the waste of resources involved in the Pakistan-India confrontation, saying it had “greatly impoverished the general budgets of both Pakistan and India. If it has benefited important sections of the political and military elites of both countries, it has done so only at the expense of the general welfare of the masses.”
Such words may have been bold in the early 1990s but today, a decade and a half later, they seem incomplete and rather naïve even to their author, who was myself, the only Indian in that project. Most significantly, the position in international law in the context of historical facts had been wholly neglected. So had been the manifest nature of the contemporary Pakistani state.
Jammu & Kashmir became an entity in international law when the Treaty of Amritsar was signed between Gulab Singh and the British on March 16 1846. British India itself became an entity in international law much later, possibly as late as June 1919 when it signed the Treaty of Versailles. As for Pakistan, it had no existence in world history or international law until August 14 1947, when the British created it as a new entity out of certain demarcated areas of British India and gave it the status of a Dominion. British India dissolved itself on August 15 1947 and the Dominion of India became its successor-state in international law on that date. As BR Ambedkar pointed out at the time, the new India automatically inherited British India’s suzerainty over any and all remaining “princely” states of so-called “Indian India”. In case of J&K in particular, there never was any question of it being recognised as an independent entity in global international law.
The new Pakistan, by entering a Standstill Agreement with J&K as of August 15 1947, did locally recognise J&K’s sovereignty over its decision whether to join Pakistan or India. But this Pakistani recognition lasted only until the attack on J&K that commenced from Pakistani territory as of October 22 1947, an attack in which Pakistani forces were complicit (something which, in different and mutating senses, has continued ever since). The Dominion of India had indicated it might have consented if J&K’s Ruler had decided to accede to Pakistan in the weeks following the dissolution of British India. But no such thing happened: what did happen was the descent of J&K into a condition of legal anarchy.
Beginning with the Pakistani attack on J&K as of October 22 upto and including the Rape of Baramulla and the British-led Pakistani coup détat in Gilgit on one side, and the arrival of Indian forces as well as mobilization by Sheikh Abdullah and Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad of J&K’s civilians to repel the Pakistani invaders on the other side, the State of Jammu & Kashmir became an ownerless entity in international law. In Roman Law, from which all modern international and municipal law ultimately derives, the ownership of an ownerless entity is open to be determined by “military decision”. The January 1949 Ceasefire Line that came to be renamed the Line of Control after the 1971 Bangladesh War, demarcates the respective territories that the then-Dominions and later Republics of India and Pakistan acquired by “military decision” of the erstwhile State of J&K which had come to cease to exist.
What the Republic of India means by saying today that boundaries cannot be redrawn nor any populations forcibly transferred is quite simply that the division of erstwhile J&K territory is permanent, and that sovereignty over it is indivisible. It is only sheer ignorance on the part of General Musharraf’s Indian interviewer the other day which caused it to be said that Pakistan was willing to “give up” its claim on erstwhile J&K State territory which India has held: Pakistan has never had nor even made such a claim in international law. What Pakistan has claimed is that India has been an occupier and that there are many people inhabiting the Indian area who may not wish to be Indian nationals and who are being compelled against their will to remain so ~ forgetting to add that precisely the same could be said likewise of the Pakistani-held area.
Accordingly, the lawful solution proposed in these pages a year ago to resolve that matter, serious as it is, has been that the Republic of India invite every person covered under Article 370, citizen-by- citizen, under a condition of full information, to privately and without fear decide, if he/she has not done so already, between possible Indian, Iranian, Afghan or Pakistani nationalities ~ granting rights and obligations of permanent residents to any of those persons who may choose for whatever private reason not to remain Indian nationals. If Pakistan acted likewise, the problem of J&K would indeed come to be resolved. The Americans, as self- appointed mediators, have said they wish “the people of the region to have a voice” in a solution: there can be no better expression of such voice than allowing individuals to privately choose their own nationalities and their rights and responsibilities accordingly. The issue of territorial sovereignty is logically distinct from that of the choice of nationality by individual inhabitants.
Equally significant though in assessing whether General Musharraf’s proposal is an anachronism, is Pakistan’s history since 1947: through Ayub’s 1965 attack, the civil war and secession of Bangladesh, the Afghan war and growth of the ISI, the Kargil incursion, the 1999 coup détat, and, once or twice removed, the 9/11 attacks against America. It is not a history that allows any confidence to arise in Indians that we are not dealing with a country misgoverned by a tiny arrogant exploitative military elite who remain hell-bent on aggression against us. Like the USA and USSR twenty years ago, what we need to negotiate about, and negotiate hard about, is an overall mutual military drawdown and de-escalation appropriate to lack of aggressive intent on both sides. Is General Musharraf willing to discuss that? It would involve reciprocal verifiable assessment of one another’s reasonable military requirements on the assumption that each was not a threatening enemy of the other. That was how the USA-USSR drawdown and de-escalation occurred successfully. If General Musharraf is unwilling to enter such a discussion, there is hardly anything to talk about with him. We should wait for democracy to return.
A lawyer friend tells me she thinks it a “technicality” that there is no Lok Sabha or Parliament in India today despite eleven long days and nights having passed since the 15th Lok Sabha came to be elected by the people of India. “At least we did not get Advani and Modi to rule”, is how she sought to justify the current circumstance. I am afraid I think she has produced a non sequitur, and also forgotten the constitutional law she would have read as a student.
The best argument that I think the Government of India shall be able to give justifying their legal error in not having the 15th Lok Sabha up and running yet 11 days after India’s people have spoken would run something like this:
(1) The President of India invites a Council of Ministers led by a PM to form the government and has done so.
(2) The President must be satisfied that the PM commands a majority in the Lok Sabha, and the President has been satisfied by the 322 “letters of support” that the PM produced.
(3) The Government of the day calls parliamentary sessions and does so at its discretion, and the Government of the day headed by this PM has announced when it shall call the 15th Lok Sabha which will be in a few days yet.
Any such argument, I am afraid, would be specious because it simply puts the cart before the horse.
Parliament is sovereign in India, to repeat what I have said several times before.
Parliament is sovereign in India — not even the President who is the symbol of that sovereignty. We do not follow the British quite exactly in this because we are a republic and not a monarchy. In Britain sovereignty rests with “The King in Parliament”. With us, Parliament is sovereign and the President is the symbol of that sovereignty. In all matters of state, our President must act in a manner that Parliament and parliamentary law says.
Parliament is sovereign in India — not the Executive Government, certainly not its largest political party or its leader.
Parliament is sovereign in India because the people of India have chosen it to be so within the Constitution of India.
Parliament is sovereign in India and the people of India have elected the 15th Lok Sabha which has still not been allowed to meet eleven days later.
To the contrary, as noted days ago, the purported “Cabinet” of the 14th Lok Sabha, a dead institution, met on May 18 2009, some 48 hours after the 15th Lok Sabha had already been declared! The 14th Lok Sabha in fact stood automatically dissolved in law when General Elections came to be announced.
Is all this merely a “technicality” as my friend believes? I think not.
Executive Government in India derives its political legitimacy from being elected by Parliament, i.e., from holding the confidence of Parliament, and that means the Lok Sabha.
The Government of the day might for sake of convenience have a prerogative of calling sessions of the 15th Lok Sabha once it has been constituted but the Government of the day cannot logically constitute a Lok Sabha after a General Election because it itself receives legitimacy from such a Lok Sabha.
If the 15th Lok Sabha has not met, confidence in any Executive has yet to be recorded, and hence any such Government has yet to receive legitimacy.
Do “322 letters of support” suffice? Hardly. They are signed after all by persons who have yet to take their seats in the Lok Sabha! (Let us leave aside the fact that the PM, not being a member of the Lok Sabha, is in this case unable to be one of those 322 himself!)
Yet we have 79 “Ministers” of this new “Government” holding press-conferences and giving out free-bees and favours etc already. As I have said before, Ambedkar, Nehru and others of their generation, plus Indira and Rajiv too, would all have been appalled.
Because the incompetence of the fascists and communists in the Opposition may continue to be expected, it will be up to ordinary citizens and voters of India to point out such simple truths whenever the Emperor is found to be naked. (Our docile juvenile ingratiating media may well remain mostly hopeless.)
There are at least three Supreme Court lawyers, all highly voluble, among the higher echelons of Congress Party politicians; it is surprising that not one of them has been able to get the top Party leadership of Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh to see the apparent breach of normal constitutional law in Parliament not having met more than 10 days after it was elected.
A Government has been formed, Ministers have entered their offices and have been holding press-conferences and taking executive decisions, wannabe-Ministers continue to be wrangling night-and-day for the plums of office — BUT THERE IS NO PARLIAMENT!
Today is the death-anniversary of Jawaharlal Nehru and last week was the death anniversary of Rajiv Gandhi.
Nehru, whatever his faults and infirmities, was an outstanding parliamentarian and a believer in the Westminster model in particular. He was intimately familiar with its unpoken customs and unwritten laws. He would have been completely appalled by the situation today where luminaries of the party that goes by the same name as the one he had led are paying obeisance to his memory 45 years after his death but have failed to see the absurdity in having a Government in office with no new Parliament ten days after a month-long General Election was over! (Incidentally, had he not left explicit instructions against any hero-worship taking place of himself too?)
Rajiv knew his grandfather and had acquired a sense of noblesse oblige from him. He too would have been appalled that the procedural business of government had been simply procrastinated over like this.
It surprises me that Dr Manmohan Singh, having been a post-graduate of Cambridge, having earned a doctorate from Oxford, and more recently having been awarded honorary doctorates from both Ancient Universities, should seem so unaware of the elements of the Westminster model of constitutional jurisprudence which guides our polity too.
It is too late now and the mistakes have been made. I hope his new Government will come to realise at some point and then keep in mind that our Executive receives political legitimacy from Parliament, not vice versa. An Executive can hardly be legitimately in office until the Parliament that is supposed to elect it has been sworn in.
As for our putative Opposition in the Parliament-yet-to-meet, it seems to have drawn a blank too, and eo ipso revealed its own constitutional backwardness and lethargy.
Sad to say, Parliament’s sovereignty has been diminished, indeed usurped, by the new Executive Government.
Here is a brief record for future generations to know.
India’s people completed their voting in the 15th General Elections on Wednesday May 13 2009.
The results of how they had spoken, what was their will, were known and declared by Saturday May 16 2009.
There was no legal or logical reason why the 543 members of the 15th Lok Sabha could not have been sworn in as new MPs by the close-of-business on Monday May 18 at the latest.
On Tuesday May 19 the 15th Lok Sabha could have and should have met to elect itself a pro tem or even a permanent Speaker.
The Speaker would have divided the new House into its Government Party and its Opposition.
There would have been a vote of confidence on the floor of the House, which in the circumstances would have been in favour of the Government Party.
Observing this to have taken place, the Hon’ble President of India as the Head of State would have sent for the leader of the Government Party and invited her to form the new Government.
In this particular case, the leader of the largest political party, namely Sonia Gandhi, would have been accompanied perhaps by the Leader of the Lok Sabha, Pranab Mukherjee, as well as her personal nominee for the position of PM, namely, Manmohan Singh.
Sonia Gandhi would have respectfully declined the invitation of the President to be the new Prime Minister, and she would have also explained that she wanted Manmohan Singh to have the position instead.
The President would have said “Very well, Dr Singh, can you please form the Government?”
He would have said, “Yes Madame President it shall be a privilege and an honour to do so”.
The President would have added, “Thank you, and I notice you are not a member of the Lok Sabha at the moment but I am sure you are taking steps towards becoming one.”
End of visit.
Manmohan Singh would have been sworn in as PM and would have gone about adding Ministers at a measured pace. Later, he would have resigned his Rajya Sabha seat and sought election to the Lok Sabha on the parliamentary precedent set by Alec Douglas-Home.
What has happened instead?
On May 18 2009, instead of 543 members of the 15th Lok Sabha taking their oaths as required by parliamentary law and custom, Dr Singh held a purported “Cabinet” meeting of the 14th Lok Sabha — a long-since dead institution!
Some of the persons attending this meeting as purported “Cabinet ministers” had even lost their seats in the elections decided a few days earlier and so had absolutely zero democratically legitimate status left. All these persons then submitted their purported resignations which Dr Singh carried to the President, stating his Government had resigned. The President then appointed him a caretaker PM and he, along with Sonia Gandhi, then went about “staking claim” to form the next Government — turning up at the President’s again with “letters of support” signed by some 322 persons who were MP-elects but were yet to become MPs formally by not having been sworn in.
The President appeared satisfied the party Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh belonged to would command a majority in prospect in the Lok Sabha and invited him to be PM. Some major public wrangling then took place with at least one of his allies about cabinet berths — and that is the situation as of the present moment except that Dr Singh and several others have been sworn in as the Council of Ministers even though the new 15th Lok Sabha of 543 members has still not convened! It has been all rather sloppy and hardly uplifting.
Parliament is supposed to be sovereign in India.
Not the Executive Government or the largest political party or its leader.
The sovereignty of Parliament required Sonia Gandhi and Dr Singh to have realised
first, that the 14th Lok Sabha stood automatically dissolved when elections were announced;
secondly, that the 15th Lok Sabha could have and should have been sworn in by Monday May 18;
thirdly, that there should have been a vote of confidence in the Lok Sabha immediately which would have gone in favour of the Government Party;
fourthly, that only then should the Executive Government have been sought to be formed;
and of course fifthly, that if that Executive Government was to be led by someone who happened to be a member of the Rajya Sabha and not the Lok Sabha, parliamenary law and custom required him to follow the Douglas-Home precedent of resigning from the former and seeking election to the latter at the earliest opportunity.
Let future generations know that as of today, May 25, the 543 persons whom the people of India voted to constitute the 15th Lok Sabha still remain in limbo without having been sworn in though we already have an Executive Government appointed!
The sovereignty of Parliament, specifically that of the Lok Sabha, has come to be diminished, indeed usurped, by the Executive. It is the Executive that receives its political legitimacy from Parliament, not vice versa. Nehru and his generation knew all this intimately well and would have been appalled at where we in the present have been taking it.
Subroto Roy, Kolkata