Mahatma Gandhi’s Prophecy
Mahatma Gandhi is not often remembered as a prophet. Nor would he wish to be regarded as one, especially the prophet of South Asia’s doom.
“The Partition of India will be the cause of four wars with Pakistan!”
He made this declaration in 1947, before the Partition of India transpired. Before a Hindu fundamentalist gunned him down in 1948. They ironically blamed Gandhi for the mayhem of partition he had tried so desperately, even prophetically, to prevent. I’m sure Gandhi hoped against hope that an augured caveat of four future wars sprouting from proposed partition would motivate the Muslim League of Ali Jinnah and his own Congress Party to forbear slicing up the sub-continent into religiously nationalistic enclaves whose very polarizing existence would, he believed, bring a string of military catastrophes that need not be.
We resume the historical account I wrote for my HogueProphecy Bulletin “Mahatma Gandhi’s Prophecy” (31 December 2001) describing how first three of the predicted four wars came about:
Gandhi lived to see the first Indo-Pakistani war erupt in the mountains of Jammu-Kashmir at the close of 1947. This disputed Himalayan kingdom ruled by a Hindu Maharaja before the partition of India had a predominantly Muslim population. Both India and Pakistan claimed it. After the Maharaja had ceded Kashmir to India, he requested military help as mobile columns of Pakistani troops and armed Pathan tribesmen invaded through the Himalayan passes heading for the Kashmiri capital of Srinagar. Indian forces checked their lightning strike and United Nations intervention resulted in the battle line becoming the de facto new border between Indian and Pakistani Kashmir known to this day as the Line of Control. The first war resulted in roughly two-thirds of Kashmir remaining in Indian hands. Pakistan would demand of India that she let the people of Kashmir hold a special plebiscite to decide whether to incorporate into India or not. India would delay the Kashmiri plebiscite for decades. In 1960, Communist China signed a friendship pact with Pakistan and seized a large portion of Indian-held Kashmir two years later in a surprise offensive
In 1965, India and Pakistan fought a second and much larger war over dominion of Kashmir across the frontiers of West Pakistan. India sent 900,000 troops in a crushing, three-pronged offensive against the Pakistani defenses on the approaches to Lahore. Over 450 Pakistani tanks were destroyed. A UN cease-fire forestalled the intervention of Communist China on the side of Pakistan.
A third and even bloodier Indo-Pakistani conflict came six years later in 1971. A civil war in East Pakistan between Muslim Bengali insurgents (tacitly supported and armed by India) and an occupying army of mainly West Pakistanis escalated into a wider war with India. It started when the wholesale round up and massacre of hundreds of thousands of suspected Bengali civilians by West Pakistani soldiers caused ten million refugees to flood into India and overwhelm its emergency food resources. US President Richard Nixon declared that India’s support of Bengali insurgents was an attempt to destabilize Pakistan — a US client state during the Cold War – and he cut off India’s American credit. Pakistani jets promptly bombed Indian airfields in Kashmir. The Indian army entered the war on the side of the insurgents. In twelve days they successfully shattered Pakistani forces on two fronts and captured an entire Pakistani army of 90,000 men in East Pakistan. East Pakistan became the new country of Bangladesh.
Pakistan had not only lost the war but lost half of its population and two-thirds of its export economy. The army and economy were on the verge of collapse. Pakistan stressed its economy further trying to catch up with India in a nuclear arms race obtaining nuclear weapons capability at the close of the 1980s. Around the same time, it also supplied arms and safe havens for Kashmiri insurgents to wage a decade-long civil war in Jammu-Kashmir. Border clashes across the Line of Control were frequent throughout the 1990s.
I was traveling through India in the spring of 1990 when the two countries nearly fulfilled Gandhi’s prophecy and fought a fourth war. Rumors abounded in the Indian press that India was contemplating a preemptive blitzkrieg strike to take out Pakistan’s nuclear program before they could make deliverable nuclear weapons. However, a report from Indian spies in Pakistan made an ominous discovery. They saw new bomb racks on the wings of Pakistani jet bombers large enough to load atomic weapons. Was Pakistan bluffing? Could they really deliver their nuclear payloads? The Indian government ordered their conventional forces to stand down.
Mahatma Gandhi’s Prophecy, 31 December 2001
There had been frequent border incidents throughout the rest of the 1990s, the worst being prompted by a future dictator of Pakistan in May 1999, General Pervez Musharraf, in a sharp action atop a mountainous section just south of the Siachen Glacier near the town of Kargil on Line of Control dividing Kashmir. Given the account just presented of the last three wars, the border clash, known as the Kargil War (May-July 1999), doesn’t count as Gandhi’s fourth war, as some of you might want to believe. Gandhi’s fourth war will not be some local battle, no matter how intense, fought in one sector in Kashmir. It must be a war not in one sector of the Indo-Pakistani border, but along all sectors. There must be deep incursions by air launched by the Pakistani and Indian air forces. There must be naval confrontations at sea.
A full-scale war didn’t erupt from the Kargil clash because of mountain blasts of a different level of magnitude had happened a year before. Pakistan successfully detonated their first atomic weapons tests deep inside the craggy wall of a Baluchistani mountain range shaking dust off its cliffs in five successful attempts. The largest of these unleashed a 5.0 earthquake unloading a blast yield in the belly of the mountain of 12 kilotons. India responded with its own televised underground tests in the Rajasthani Desert. (India had tested its first atom bomb back in 1974.)
Border clashes and shelling would remain frequent occurances after the tests up to and beyond the Kargil battle and all the way to present day. Indeed, small arms fire and limited shelling along the Line of Control has increased since July 2008.
The last major standoff of millions of Indian and Pakistani troops came in late 2001 with no full-scale war. Apparently, no one on either side now dares push conventional conflict to the extremes of the past.
If they did — if India “does” in the near future to punish Pakistan for the Mumbai terror attacks — Gandhi’s fourth war could go nuclear.
(19 December 2008)