Continuing from Fight For Jammu & Kashmir: Abdullah’s lies and opportunism
Instrument of accession executed by Maharaja Hari Singh was similar to such instruments executed by the rulers of other acceding states. There was no scope for ifs and buts in it. According to it the accession was full, final and irrevocable and not in any way conditional or provisional. It should have, therefore, settled the questions of future of Jammu and Kashmir state once for all. The problem created by Pak invasion could be effectively tackled by the Indian armed forces.
But one blunder of Pt. Nehru virtually undid what accession had achieved. Lord Mountbatten as constitutional head of the state wrote a letter to Hari Singh on October 27 in which he mooted the question of ascertaining the wishes of the people of the state about accession to India after the Pak invaders were thrown out. This letter was followed by a statement by Pt. Nehru to the same effect. It was a grave blunder ramification of which have continued to cloud and complicate an issue which was legally and constitutionally settled by the acceptance of the accession of the Jammu and Kashmir state to India on October 26, 1947. This reminds one of the well known couplet:
Woh Waqt bhi dekha hai
Tareekh ke gaharaiyon men,
Lamhon ne khata ki
Sadion ne saza pai.
“Mistake committed at the spur of a moment proved to be a curse and punishment for centuries.”
The offer of plebiscite was uncalled for, irrelevant to the situation and illegal. There was no provision in the instrument of Accession about it. It was outside the ambit of the Act of Indian Independence of the British Parliament. It was never accepted by the Maharaja who had absolute choice in the matter. Nor was it demanded by Sh. Abdullah or any other leader of the State.
The argument that Indian leaders were guided by the situation in Junagarh and Hyderabad in making their offer is untenable because there was no analogy between those states and the situation obtaining in Kashmir. Both Junagarh and Hyderabad were not only overwhelmingly Hindu in population but also completely surrounded on all sides by Indian territory. Therefore under the Mountbatten plan they had no other choice but to accede to India. The only plausible explanation therefore is that Lord Mountbatten made the suggestion about plebiscite merely to placate Pakistan and Pt. Nehru accepted it for the same reason. It was in keeping with his policy of appeasement of Muslim League and Pakistan. Later, however, other explanation: such as refutation of the two-nation theory by showing that a Muslim majority area was prepared to remain in India of its own free will and thereby strengthening of secularism in India have also been offered. But they are after thoughts.
This blunder provided Mr. Jinnah with an opportunity to politicize and internationalize the military issue and convert his impending defeat on the battle field into an eventual political and diplomatic victory. He sent a message to Lord Mountbatten through Field Marshal Auchinleck on the 29th October, 1947 to meet him in conference at Lahore. It was a clever and astute move to make the issue political while the invasion was still on and the possible military decision could not be in his favor.
Sardar Patel, a realist and a practical man as he was, saw through Mr. Jinnah’s game. He opposed any Indian leader going to Lahore and warned against appeasing Mr. Jinnah who was clearly the aggressor in Kashmir. He suggested that if Mr. Jinnah wanted to discuss anything, he could come down to Delhi. But his wise counsel was not heeded and Lord Mountbatten and Pt. Nehru got ready to fly to Lahore on the 1st of November. Pt. Nehru, however, had to drop out at the last moment due to indisposition.
At the Conference Table Mr. Jinnah proposed that both sides should withdraw from Kashmir. When Lord Mountbatten asked him to explain how the tribesman could be induced to remove themselves Mr. Jinnah replied: “If you do this, I will call the whole thing off.” This made it absolutely clear that the so-called tribal invasion was fully organized and controlled by the Pakistan Government.
Lord Mountbatten formally made the offer of plebiscite to Mr. Jinnah at this Conference. Mr. Jinnah objected that with Indian troops in their midst and with Sh. Abdullah in power, the people of Kashmir would be far too frightened to vote for Pakistan. Therefore Lord Mountbatten suggested a plebiscite under the auspices of the U.N.O. This was a clear victory for Mr. Jinnah. He had virtually got the effect of legal accession of the State to India nullified and got Lord Mountbatten committed to a course of action which could only internationalize an issue in which strictly speaking Pakistan had no locus standi after the Maharaja had signed the Instrument of Accession and the Government of India had accepted it.
Pt. Nehru ratified the offer verbally made by Lord Mountbatten at Lahore in his broadcast speech of November 2, 1947 in which he declared his readiness, after peace and rule of law had been established, to have a referendum held under some international auspices such as that of the United Nations.
The commitment on the part of the Government of India had, besides throwing the accession of Kashmir to India open to question, two other important implications. On the one hand it provided Pakistan with a second string to its bow. Conscious of the strength of the appeal of religion to Muslims, it could now hope to secure by the peaceful method of plebiscite what it failed to achieve by force. On the other hand, it made the Government of India dependent for the ratification of the accession through plebiscite on the goodwill of Sheikh Abdullah whose position was changed from that of a suppliant to that of an arbiter who must be kept in good humor at all costs. These in their turn set in motion a chain of events and created a psychological atmosphere in Kashmir which suited Pakistan.
Even this major concession which gave Pakistan a whip hand in Kashmir, did not soften the attitude of Mr. Jinnah and his Government who kept up their military pressure through tribal hordes supported by regular Pakistani troops at a high pitch. Even though the invaders had been thrown out of the valley, they maintained, as described earlier, their advance in Jammu and the northern areas of the State. The right and honorable course for India in the circumstances was to discontinue all negotiations with Pakistan and concentrate on securing a military decision. India, at that time, was definitely in a position to secure a favorable military decision had it decided to attack the bases of the invaders in Pakistan. But Pt. Nehru in his anxiety to keep the conflict confined to Jammu & Kashmir State would not permit that. In this he had the full support of the Governor General, Lord Mountbatten. Therefore, the negotiations were continued even when Pakistani invaders were wantonly attacking and occupying more and more territory.
Direct talks between Pt. Nehru and Mr. Liaqat Ali Khan, the Prime Minister of Pakistan, were held for the first time since Pakistani invasion began, on December 8, 1947 when the former visited Lahore along with Lord Mountbatten to attend a meeting of the Joint Defense Council. But they proved abortive. Therefore Lord Mountbatten who was growing apprehensive of the fighting in Kashmir degenerating into full scale war between the two Dominions, a contingency which he wanted to avoid at all costs, pressed Pt. Nehru to refer the matter to the U.N.O. and invoke its good offices for a peaceful settlement of the problem.
Appeal to U.N.O:-
Most of Pt. Nehru’s Cabinet colleagues were opposed to this suggestion for obvious reasons. It amounted to inviting outside interference into a purely internal and domestic problem and a tacit admission on the part of India of its inability and incapacity to meet the situation created by the invaders. But ultimately he had his way.
As a necessary preliminary, he personally handed over a letter of complaint to Mr. Liaqat Ali Khan on December 22, 1947 when the latter visited Delhi in connection with another meeting of the Joint Defense Gouncil. It demanded that Pakistan should deny to the invaders (i) all access to and use of Pakistan territory for operations against Kashmir (ii) all military and other supplies and (iii) all other kinds of aid that might tend to prolong the struggle.
Liaqat Ali Khan promised to send an early reply. But instead of doing that a fresh invasion was launched in Jammu which forced an Indian brigade to fall back to Nowshera from Jhangar, an important road junction in the western part of Jammu region. The pressure on areas still nearer to Jammu city was also stepped up. This made attack on the enemy bases in Pakistan an imperative necessity to save Jammu and the supply line to Srinagar. But Pt. Nehru was unwilling to do that. So, without waiting for a reply from Pakistan which was being deliberately delayed, the Government of India formally appealed to the U.N.O. under C’hapter 35 of the U.N. Charter on December 31, 1947 and nominated Shri Gopalaswamy Iyengar to lead the Indian Delegation which was to include Sh. Abdullah also.
That very day, but af ter the application to the U.N . Security Council had been despatched, Liaqat Ali Khan’s reply was received by the Government of India. It was lengthy catalog of counter charges. It contained fantastic allegations that the Government of India were out to destroy Pakistan, it also raised the question of Jungarh. It gave clear indication of the line Pakistan was going to take at the U.N.O. From the timing of the reply, it was evident that Pakistan Government had its informers in the Indian Foreign Office who kept it posted with the exact details of the Indian complaint and the time of its despatch. This presence of Pakistani agents and informers in the Indian Foreign Office is an advantage that continues to give Pakistan an edge over India in diplomacy.
This appeal to the U.N.O. by India was the second major blunder on her part in handling of the Kashmir question and was a clear diplomatic victory for Pakistan which succeeded in politicizing an issue in which she had no locus standi. It came as a surprise not only to the Indian public but also to all those countries which had been looking upon the Kashmir question as an internal affair of India. No self-respecting country would have voluntarily invited the interference of foreign powers through the U.N.O. in an essentially domestic affair like this. In doing so, the Government of India simply played into the hands of Pakistan whose leaders found in it a God-sent opportunity to malign India before the bar of world opinion by levelling all kind of fantastic and baseless charges against her.
The Security Council immediately put the issue on its agenda and discussion on it began on January 15, 1948. But to the great disappointment of the Government of India, instead of giving precedence to the Indian complaint about Pakistan’s hand in the invasion and putting pressure on Pakistan to stop aiding the invaders, the security council from the very beginning put India and Pakistan the victim of aggression and the aggressor, on the same footing and began to consider Pakistan’s counter-charges, which were quite unrelated to the basic issue, along with the question of Pak aggresion on Jammu & Kashmir. This was clear from the resolution moved by the Council President Dr. Von Langhenhare of Belgium on January 20, 1948. The resolution provided that (i) a Commission of the Security Council be established composed of the representatives of three members of the United Nations, one to be elected by India, one by Pakistan and the third to be designated by the two so elected: (ii) the Commission shall proceed to Jammu & Kashmir as soon as possible to investigate the facts and secondly to exercise any mediatory influence likely to smoothen the difficulties and (iii) the Commission shall perform functions in regard to the situation in Jammu & Kashmir and secondly in regard to other situations set out by Pakistan foreign Minister in the Security Council.
In spite of the objections of the Indian delegation that by bringing cther extraneous issues raised by Pakistan within the purview of the Commission, the Security Council was relegating the real issue to the background, the resolution was passed with nine in favor and two, USSR and Ukraine, abstaining.
As the debate proceeded, the President suggested that the Security Council might concentrate its attention on the question of holding a plebiscite. This was fully in accordance with Pakistan’s line and was therefore duly supported by her Foreign Minister and chief delegate, Mr. Zaffarullah Khan. Thereafter resolutions and proposals began to be framed with that end in view.
This provoked the Chief Indian delegate, Mr. N. Gopala Swamy Ayyengar, to declare that the Security Council was “putting the cart before the horse”. The real issue, he said, was to get the fighting in Jammu & Kashmir stopped by pressing Pakistan to withdraw her support from the invaders. The question of a plebiscite, he added could be taken up only when peace and normal conditions had been restored. He further requested for adjournment of the debates so that he might go back to India for further consultations. Even this request for adjournment was opposed by most of the members of the Security Council.
This hostile attitude of the Security Council came as a rude shock to the Government of India and disillusioned even Pt. Nehru who had insisted on reference being made to the U.N.O. against the advice of his colleagues. Speaking at Jammu on February 15, 1948 he said, “Instead of discussing and deciding our references in a straight forward manner, the nations of the world sitting in that body got lost in power politics.’
The pattern of voting in the Security Council began to influence India’s foreign policy in favor of the bloc headed by the U.S.S.R. which further prejudiced the Western countries against India in regard to the Kashmir question.