Sunday, October 23, 2005

Kashmir in 1947: A Viewpoint

I have simplified the sequence of events and omitted details to keep the narrative brief. This might prompt some to accuse me of being partisan. But a discussion on Kashmir is in order.

British India was partitioned into the Indian Union and Pakistan in August, 1947. Pre-partition Kashmir was 75% Muslim, a fact that underpinned Pakistani claims on Kashmir. It lobbied the Maharajah of Kashmir to join Pakistan. India's claims on Kashmir were predicated on the fact that Buddhist Ladakh and Hindu Jammu were unlikely to opt for Pakistan and that a Muslim majority did not pre-empt union with secular India. Furthermore, there was a strong Shi'ite presence in Gilgit and Skardu. Pre-partition Kashmir was diverse in terms of religion and language.

The Hindu Maharajah had hoped to retain his independence. He reluctantly approached New Delhi to accede to the Indian Union upon realization of the looming threat of invasion from Pakistan. Nehru placed a condition that the Maharajah first consult Sheikh Abdullah, the leader of the National Conference, before any accession could be worked out. Nehru felt that Sheikh Abdullah represented the Muslim majority of the valley and that his support was essential if Kashmir's integration with India was to be successful.

The Maharajah refused to negotiate with the Sheikh given their history of bad blood. Both Nehru and the Maharajah prevaricated when they ought to have acted decisively. Nehru should have first signed the accession papers with the Maharajah and ordered immediate elections to ensure democratic ratification. Nehru argued instead that the Sheikh had to be part of the initial deal.

Meanwhile, Pakistani "irregulars" invaded Kashmir in October, 1947 as anticipated. The Maharajah hurriedly agreed to Nehru's conditions and signed the accession papers. Pakistani irregulars had already annexed Gilgit, Skardu, Hunza, Jammu, Poonch and the valley. Indian troops recaptured Jammu, Poonch and much of the valley in early 1948. Some accounts suggest that they were poised to recapture the remainder of the 86,000 square mile state when Pakistan sued for a cease-fire. Nehru agreed to the cease-fire, referred the matter to the UN and offered a plebiscite. Indian sources point out that the offer was contingent upon the withdrawal of Pakistani irregulars. The rest is history.

The future is uncertain. The only way forward is to continue "delivering the goods" in Indian-held Kashmir and hope that the foreign-financed insurrection implodes over time. Persistence on the part of New Delhi would be key


Anonymous said...

Pakistan has aided and abetted the jihadis in Kashmir since V.P.Singh. India needs to play the same game in Sindh and Baluchistan. Under Narasimha Rao, there were tit for tat explosions in Pakistan in return for incidents in J&K. Time to reconsider that.

nukh said...

anonymous, while i agree with your general idea. i don't think that engineering explosives would be a sound strategy. at least not until uncle sam has interests in the region.

doubtinggaurav said...


Isn't it true that before accession was signed Sheikh Abdullah was taken onboard about the issue.Contrary to present realities, Kashmir in 1947 was largly tolerant (or secular if you like).
I remember reading somewhere that while India was burning from riots, Kashmir was peaceful.
Even in 1965, Kashmiris didnt support Pakistani infiltrators.

Regarding "delivering the goods", I am not sure, while the rest of India is mobile, J&K has been isolated thanks to Article 370.
J&K largly lives on government dole
considering that tourism (which was the major industry) and carpet weaving has been adversly affected by terrorism.
I think people of Kashmir must realize that only after abrogation of article 370, greater integration and consequently greater prosperity is possible.


Anonymous said...

there is along way to go before we can challenge article 370.
a more pragmatic goal would be to slowly convince the average kashmiri [muslim ] that india is not the enemy and their best interests are served by fully participating in the indian economic experiment.....
and then someday when they are addicted to the fruits of free markets.....maybe we can start chipping away at the...370

nukh said...

sorry, forgot to put my name on the previous [last] post.
didn't mean to leave it anonymous.

Anonymous said...

The events in 1947 Kashmir is a contentious issue and its hardly right that one tries to simplify it without sources. The story cannot simply be narrated without citing the appropriate sources because the events are different depending on which side of the border you are from. While I appreciate your need to have an honest discussion on the matter, I believe that in the interest of integrity, a citing of sources is necessary to backup your version of events.


Anonymous said...

"Indian-held" Kashmir? You've got to do better than that

Jaffna said...


Good point. Each side does have its own narrative. Mine was based on reading down the years. However, I could refer you to Prem Shankar Jha, "Kashmir 1947: Rival Versions of History", New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1996. Good book, albeit partisan towards Nehru. This was not my sole source though.


libertarian said...

Jaffna, nukh,
Agree that we have to chip away at 370. Stable republics (hesitate to say democracy) like India have the advantage of having a system that ensures relative continuity of policy. Pakistan does not. We need to be patient, we need to be relentless. Witness the undue haste of the current powers-that-be in Islamabad. It's in our interest to inch the process forward while choking militancy.

Shuuro said...

Well, Its not just Indian sources but Pakistanis are also aware of precondition in UN resolution to allow plebiscite but they choose to ignore it, as it suits their propaganda. Here is the excerpt from a article in pakistani daily, Dawn by Irfan Husain, though bit old but quite relevant to the context:

"So far, Pakistanis have been brainwashed into believing that it was India who did not permit a plebiscite in Kashmir. But in actual fact, the resolutions clearly called for the withdrawal of Pakistani troops from Azad Kashmir followed by the 'thinning' of Indian troops as pre-conditions for a plebiscite. In the event, since Pakistani troops remained in place, the other steps could not follow."

GGK said...

well i will take the xtreme right opinion. The troop withdrawls did not take place. To pakis accept LOC (w/ higher mobility for locals if no terrorists act in kashmir or ANYWHERE else in india) or be ready for an asswhooping of century

Rahul Koul said...

There are lies in what you wrote.

The entire Indian claim of Kashmir being an integral part of the Union of India is based on a document known as the “Instrument of Accession” signed between the ruler of the erstwhile princely State of Jammu & Kashmir, Maharaja Hari Singh, and Lord Mountbatten, the Governor General of India. Doubts have been raised about the very existence of such a document and some people including Alastair Lamb question whether the Maharaja actually signed it? According to him in spite of the best efforts he was not able to see the original document anywhere. He even approached the National Archives in Delhi where the original copy is supposed to be preserved but was denied access to the original document. He could only get unsigned typed copies. The “Instrument of Accession” is said to have been got signed from the Maharaja by VPS Menon. Alastair Lamb considers it humanly impossible for VPS Menon to have shuttled between Delhi, Jammu, and Srinagar in a single day to obtain the signature of the Maharaja and then hand over the document to Lord Mountbatten. The accession document is supposed to have been signed on October 26 and the Indian Forces started landing at Srinagar Airport from October 27. Alastair Lamb mentions in his book that the first troops to reach Kashmir came much before the signing of the instrument of accession and were Patiala Sikhs sent by the Maharaja of Patiala to help Maharaja Hari Singh. This battalion of Sikh troops reached Srinagar on October 17 in a convoy of civilian trucks carrying supplies and went straight to Srinagar Airport to secure it for the already planned air lift of Indian Forces which was to follow soon. In fact, Maharaja of Patiala himself came to Jammu on October 27 to personally supervise the operations by his troops. According to Josef Korbel the airlifting of troops to Kashmir had been a well planned operation. Such operations need extensive preparations and drill. It could not have been undertaken on the spur of the moment within one day of the signing of the accession. Both the authors feel that the Indian leaders had already made up their mind to integrate the erstwhile princely State of Jammu & Kashmir into the Union of India. The Maharaja had been in two minds about the accession of his State to either dominion. Probably he would have preferred to remain independent. It was with this thought in his mind that he had offered a “Stand Still Agreement” to the Governments of both India and Pakistan. The Government of Pakistan had immediately accepted the request and signed a stand still agreement. However, the Government of India had sought some more time to consider it and eventually did not sign it at all. One of the reasons for the vacillation of the Maharaja was the advice rendered to him by his Prime Minister Ram Chand Kak, who too desired an independent Kashmir. Maharaja’s hand was forced by the invasion of tribesmen of North West Frontier Province. Had these tribesmen not come plundering everything in their path, the Maharaja might have resisted the pressure to sign the instrument of accession and may have opted for an Independent State of Kashmir. On advice from Delhi the Maharaja sacked Kak and appointed Mehar Chand Mahajan as his new Prime Minister. Mahajan did all the running around to facilitate the despatch of Indian troops to Kashmir.


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