Saturday, 15 November 2014

Blaming Nehruji - Part 1; The 1948 War

The modern Indian - regardless of political dispensation {IMHO}, has a rather disturbing propensity to blame Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru for a variety of errors of omission and commission. A simple glance at a normal Facebook page, newspaper coverage, political utterances by a select few politicians etc all convey this rather sad fact; sad because this is done on the basis of incomplete facts. 

It is not my position that Panditji did not make mistakes; he was human, and was thus prone to error. But what were those errors? Under what situation were those erroneous decisions taken? And is every "error" that is blamed on him an error? Was he the one who actually committed that error, or are we in error in blaming him? 

In this series, I shall attempt to examine a few of his more popular errors, and attempt to present a more complete picture, basis the more than several books I have studied and reviewed on my blog. Further, this is not a political comment on any political party, or the present party in power. This is just an attempted factual examination of the sequence of events. 

In the first part, let us examine the war of 1948. I am not a military expert, and thus cannot comment on the specifics of the war per se. But it is a common statement that I have been hearing for years that had we fought on, we could have won back Kashmir. Or that Nehruji stopped the war; or that he went to the UNO; or some other such thing. Is this based on fact? In the following paragraphs, I shall lay down some facts that I have come across in my readings that certainly queer the plot for people who blame Nehruji.


{This is by no means  a complete picture; I cannot summarize in a blog post something that has taken authors in excess of a 100 pages to put across. My only attempt here is to kindle the thought process of my readers, and kindle a desire to know more about what exactly transpired. References can be found, as is my habit, at the end of the post alongwith a link to the relevant book review}


First, what was the British attitude towards the JK dispute? They werent disinterested and innocent bystanders, or kind and helpful gentlemen. Let us look at a couple of incidents - with documented proof, to establish that :

1) It would have been natural for Kashmir to eventually accede to Pakistan on agreed terms - British Secretary of State of Commonwealth relations in a top-secret communique to the high commissioners of Delhi and Karachi, 31 October 1947, 5 days after the accession of Kashmir to India

2)  Second, why was this critical? Answer : Gilgit, which was considered strategically important. India would not allow defence movements by external forces from within its area, whereas Jinnah had already agreed to cooperate and allow defence moves from within Pakistan. Nehru, Patel et al where specific {yes, including Nehruji} : India would never allow foreign troops on Indian soil. This remains as the most important principal of our policy structure. I have previously established, with proof - in other blog posts - that US-UK preoccupation with Russia, as was made clear in the July 1945 post-war meeting, wherein CENTO was visualised, with Pakistan as a founding member. Please remember that in 1945, the UK was ostensibly trying to forge a united India, whereas in its top-secret papers, it was planning the reverse. The other aspect is that Jinnah had alreaady committed cooperation on the 3rd September 1939! 

3) "The broad post-partition plan had been discussed by [Major] Brown and the Colonel [Bacon] in June 1947. And after Mathieson arrived in Gilgit, the two British officers refined contingency measures, should the Maharaja take his state over to India..  On 2nd November, the Major raised the Pakistani flag, and announced that they now served Karachi." 

Being British, they should have been neutral, or asked for a transfer. Major Brown was conferred the Most Exalted Order Of The British Empire in 1948. This is proof positive. With the local Gilgit scouts firmly pro-Pakistan, delivering Gilgit to Pakistan was a guarantee, almost. This needed one other support, which knocked the sails from the Indian side almost totally. 

The question remains, why was Gilgit so critical? This can be seen in one statement by Ernest Bevin, The British Foreign Secretary, To George Marshall, The American Secretary Of State : "The main issue was who would control the main artery leading into Central Asia..." 27 October, 1948


4) The other area that the British definitely wanted to go to Pakistan was the strip from Naushera to Muzaffarabad."

Bucher admitted to Gracey, the Pakistan C-in-C, that he had no control over Cariappa but hit upon an intriguing scheme to now stop the advance of his own army. Graffety Smith, British high commissioner in Karachi, reported to London the arrangements reached privately between the commander-in-chiefs of the 2 dominions. General Bucher indicated to General Gracey that he had no wish to pursue an offensive into what is effectively Azad-Kashmir controlled territory i.e. to Mirpur and Poonch sector... the object of these arrangements is to reach a situation in which each side will remain in undisputed military occupation of what are roughly their present positions... An essential part of the process... is that 3 battalions of the Pakistan Army should be deployed opposite the Indian forces at Jhangar, in or around Poonch and at Uri..."

This was a tell-tale interlude between the Pakistani Army chief and Indian Army chief in 1947-48. A paragraph that strips naked the United Kingdom, exposes fully and finally how it was playing a dangerous double game... and shatters all pre-conceived notions about parition! The Indian Army Chief, a Britisher, is advising the Pakistani chief, also a Britisher, what to do, and sharing his plans as well. 

Thus, it seems to me that the result of a military solution to this problem was a foregone conclusion -  it was never going to deliver all of Kashmir to India. In either case, there is enough documented and authentic evidence available for us to stop blaming Nehruji, and instead attempt to read up a little more to understand precisely what transpired, which was very different from what is generally understood. 


Next, Panditji. I wish people would stop blaming him for everything, without reason. Firstly, Nehruji did NOT approach the UN out of the blue; the first suggestion was made to Jinnah by Mountbatten on 1 Nov 1947. He did not have GOI approval for this. Second, because of the support to India in the matter of the princely states, Mountbatten enjoyed the complete trust of everyone in the cabinet. Third, we know from hindsight how we were double-crossed; they didnt. Fourth, the newly independent India was new to matters of state and international duplicity and diplomacy. Fifth, we have no idea of the kind of international pressure that was being brough to bear. Read this little gem,  to get an idea of the kind of international pressure on Nehruji : 

"There was no alternative to the UN approach; if war came, the world would blame India because Pakistan was seen as too weak to seek belligerency; war would mean the Indian Leaders abandoning all they have stood for; if the UN declares India an aggressor, even India's best friends would have to conform to the world body's decision; war would result in a communal carnage inside India; and finally, India did not have the means to prevail on its own. What have you got? A few old Dakotas..." - 15th August, 1948

The key aspect here was Gilgit; which was strategic, as also the corridor to Muzaffarabad. Gilgit was transferred to the British by the Maharaja in 1935 in a lease agreement effective for 60 years. This led to an erratic Indian position, in 3 communiques, one omits any reference to Gilgit; this lease also proves the strategic importance of this land to the West, as subsequent history has proven. India's only fault : not taking a firm position on the Gilgit lease, and that erratic wavdering communiques, which did nothing to ease the problem. And remember the pressure being brought to bear on India by international powers, and the strategic vitality of the regions of Kashmir under dispute. But that is another story, not relevant to this question. 

Regardless, Gilgit was already in Pakistani hands, firmly so. Furthermore, every international hand as well as the British Officers of the Indian Army were clear : Gilgit and the strip should not go to India. Pakistani Army was aware of Indian attack plans. In this scenario, a military victory was never a guarantee. Quite the opposite, in fact. And the icing on the cake, this was just at the end of the WW2, in an atmosphere when the predominant focus of what I like to call The Great West was on Russia; and the overarching, most vital Western objective was ensuring the presence of a military option against Russia. As history subsequently proved, this came in handy during the Afghan campaign. 

Please stop blaming Nehruji. Due to the incomplete picture presented in front of us, we just do not know the entire story, nor do we know what kind of problems he had to deal with - some of which I have highlighted above. We tend to ignore the British role in this episode, which I have proven quite clearly. We further tend to ignore The Great Game, and the use of Pakistan in that Great Game against Russia. Fact of the matter is, our only fault was naivete; which is excusable given that we were newly independent. 

He stands tall as one of the strongest, most far sighted and most powerful  architects of Modern India. Yes, he did make mistakes; but that made him human. Blame him all you want, but do so after studying in depth the situations under which he operated, and understanding the full nature of the decision and the underlying parameters. For that, you will perforce have to abandon the internet, and go back to books - pedigreed books that have analysed these matters in considerable detail, based on documented facts and irrefutable proofs. 

In conclusion, in this atmosphere wherein we {or a few of us}, are blaming Nehruji for lots of things, I would like to say :

Thank You, Sir. Thank You, Panditji. I shall never forget what you did for India, and under what difficulties you did it! India owes you a deep debt of gratitude. Thank you, thank you from the bottom of my heart. Main aapki poori kahaani apne bete ko zaroor sunaoongaa...


References : The Shadow Of The Great Game - The Untold Story Of India's Partition by Narendra Singh Sarila {Reviewed here}

This book is written by the ADC to Mountbatten in 1947-48; it has further been researched extensively in 3 countries national archives, libraries, communications and documents : USA, UK, and India. It is based  on solid documented evidence,  and each claim is solidly referenced and annotated, even to the extent of dates, photographs etc.

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