Kashmir can never be Pakistan's, ask Mountbatten
The question mark over Kashmir's accession to India can have no better defence than the one provided by the then governor general.
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Pakistan's unquenched thirst for Kashmir is a long running saga. Its belief that it can poach Kashmir is akin to the Sisyphus story. A Janus faced nation attempting to wrest control of what is an integral part of the sovereign republic of India. Kashmir remains a utopian dream for Pakistan.
The Sisyphus story is a timely warning to those who try to act too clever. Avaricious and deceitful, Sisyphus was famed for being the craftiest of men. As a punishment for his trickery, King Sisyphus was made to endlessly roll a huge boulder up a steep hill. The maddening nature of the punishment was reserved for King Sisyphus due to his hubristic belief that his cleverness surpassed that of Zeus himself. Clearly, in the Kashmir context, there are those who have tried to be too clever. It is interesting to note that in a confidential aide memoire written by then governor general of India, Lord Mountbatten, on Junagadh and Kashmir, dated February 25, 1948, many misplaced notions, theories and misunderstandings have been dissipated.
The question mark over Kashmir's accession to India, which remains for many shrouded in controversy, can have no better defence than the one provided by Mountbatten. The secret brief was prepared by Lord Mountbatten for the Indian delegation to the UN Security Council. For good measure, he got the three chiefs of staff. Gen RNN Lockhart commander in chief of the Indian army, air marshal TW Elmhirst commanding the royal Indian air force and rear admiral JTS Hall to sign on the aide memoire that no plans were made for sending Indian troops to Kashmir before October 25, three days before the tribal incursions began.
As Kashmir goes to the polls once again, many canards and conspiracy theories abound on plebiscite and a flawed accession. Reflecting on the three main misunderstandings at the time, Mountbatten provided a lucid account of what was right and wrong in terms of perception. The broad sweep of his aide memoire was broken down into three aspects:
1) That the government of India took possession of Junagadh state by force, after its legal accession to Pakistan, and has largely vitiated its case in Kashmir by its actions in Kashmir.
2) That the government of India brought pressure to bear, at various times, on the Maharajah and the government of Kashmir in order to induce the state to acceded to the dominion of India.
3) That the government of India planned the dispatch of Indian forces to Kashmir sometime in advance of the actual date.
Since Mountbatten was present in all meetings, his clear-headed aide memoire offers clarity on several perceptions and myths which continue to cloud people's judgement even to this day. This is what Mountbatten wrote, "On July 25, 1947, in my capacity as crown representative I addressed a special full meeting of the chamber of princes. At this I informed the rulers and their representatives of the policies of the future governments of both India and Pakistan, which I had worked out with them, with regard to the formation of Instruments of Accession and Standstill Agreements by and with states."
Junagadh was the largest state in Kathiawar with a population of 700,000 (82 per cent Hindu), seaboard with an area of about 3500 sq miles. The failure of Junagadh to accede to India by August 15 cause surprise to Mountbatten's government, but no special action was taken to secure Junagadh's accession. Once it became clear that this was happening, government of India pointed out to Pakistan the patent impropriety and injustice of accepting Junagadh's accession and made two formal efforts to obtain a declaration on the intention of the Pakistan government with regard to this matter, but there was no response.
Junagadh became a test case, with other princes coming forward and airing their concerns. Jamsaheb of Nawanagar for instance was clear that if government of India did not prevent Junagadh from going over, the confidence of the princes would be shattered in the process as a whole. Mountbatten asked Lord Ismay for his counsel on the matter. Ismay believed that Jinnah had an ulterior motive and was using Junagadh as a propagandist move, playing an innocent smaller nation, with a larger game plan to use this as to chip away at Kashmir. Government of India didn't move a muscle for two months after Junagadh's accession to Pakistan.
Then came the twist. Among the large number of states in Kathiawar were Babariawad and Mangrol. Both chose to declare their independence on the lapse of paramountcy. Junagadh armed forces took possession of these two areas. The prime minister of Pakistan undertook, but failed to induce Junagadh to withdraw these forces. On November 1, Indian troops entered these two states under a flag of truce. To cut to the chase, a referendum was carried out in Junagadh subsequently which resulted in an overwhelming vote in India's favour. The ruler Sir Mahabhatkhan Rasulkhanji had meanwhile fled to Karachi.
On Kashmir, Mountbatten's aide memoire reveals that, "My government put no pressure to bear on the Maharajah to cause him to accede to India. Visits by Mahatma Gandhi and Acharya Kriplani to Kashmir have been quoted in support of a claim that Indian representatives (though admittedly not members of my government) did bring pressure to bear. All that I can say with regard to Gandhi's visit is that he gave me his personal promise that he would not discuss political matters of this kind. Indeed the government of India went out of their way to abstain from any acts which might be interpreted as inducement. It was on October 24, when I was dining with Pandit Nehru, that I heard the first reports that a column of tribesmen had entered Kashmir in buses from the direction of Peshawar, and were already on the outskirts of Uri. A defence committee meeting was summoned on October 25 morning and it was decided to that efforts should be made to fly arms and ammunition to Srinagar so as to give the ground forces defending the city a chance of repelling the tribesmen. I reiterate that no steps were taken to plan the dispatch of Indian troops to Kashmir before October 25."
Which ends the debate and Mountbatten should be treated as the last word.