'Nehru's acceptance of ceasefire in 1949 prevented Indian Army from retaking all of J&K'

Image Source: IANS News

Image Source: IANS News

New Delhi, December 13 (IANS) There can be no worse example of perfidy than two British Generals -- one commanding the Indian Army and other commanding the Pakistani Army -- conniving in the 'kabaili' (tribal) invasion of Jammu and Kashmir in 1947 after the state had acceded to India -- to ensure that four British seismic and acoustic monitoring stations in Gilgit that were recording Soviet efforts to develop a nuclear bomb remained in Whitehall's control after the US had denied Britain the wherewithal to develop its own atomic weapon post World War II.

Both General Rob Lockhart, the C-in-C of the Indian Army and his counterpart in Pakistan, General Douglas Gracey, "spoke daily on the phone, particularly so after kabailis began congregating in the Attock-Rawalpindi area in the second half of October 1947. By then, the invasion of Poonch was also about to begin. Gracey would give a fairly detailed assessment about everything to Lockhart on a day-to-day basis.

"So, it would not be far from the truth to assert that Lockhart had advanced information on the strength of the kabaili force and its intentions. He, however, kept this information from the general staff, his political boss Defence Minister Sardar Baldev Singh as well as Prime Minister (Jawaharlal) Nehru," award-winning documentary maker Iqbal Chand Malhotra writes in his new book "Dark Secrets - Politics, Intrigue and Proxy Wars in Kashmir" (Bloomsbury).

In New Delhi, Lord Louis Mountbatten's hold over the government of the Dominion of India was so vice-like that from the beginning of the invasion on October 22, 1947 to the declaration of the ceasefire on January 1, 1949 he consistently managed to dissuade both Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel from taking any military steps that would force Pakistan to vacate the areas of the state it had usurped.

"It is my calculated assessment that Prime Minister Nehru was wedged between a rock and a hard place by Lord Mountbatten or some other agents of the British Crown: either halt the Indian Army's advance into the Gilgit Agency (where the British monitoring stations were located) and accept the de facto partition of the state of Jammu and Kashmir or retake the Gilgit Agency but enter into a political and military alliance with the British Crown that would permit the British government to continue to operate its own military facilities in India for as long as they chose to do so," Malhotra writes.

Nehru prevailed upon Patel, his Home Minister, to accede to the first choice.

"The entire war was a mockery that enabled Pakistan to hold on to the Muzaffarabad-Poonch belt and the Gilgit Agency, purely as a result of British perfidy.

"It appears that wittingly or unwittingly, Nehru was part of the plot to restrain the Indian Army from recovering the entire Muzaffarabad-Poonch belt and the Gilgit Agency. Legendary journalist Kuldip Nayar asked (Major General) Kulwant Singh (commander of the force tasked with beating back the infiltrators) why he restrained the Indian Army from recovering these territories. Singh replied that he had been told by Nehru to halt the Indian Army's advance at a place where the Kashmiri language was no longer spoken.

The logic was that the writ of Sheikh Abdullah, appointed the Chief Executive Administrator after Maharaja Hari Singh had signed the Instrument of Accession and a plebiscite had been agreed to, extended only to the Kashmiri-speaking areas that were expected to vote for India in the event of a regional plebiscite.

"This meant that Nehru not only wrote off the recovery of these areas in 1948 but was also prepared for the results of a possible plebiscite in the Indian-held areas of the state as well.

"How much did Nehru know or suspect that British intransigence was a consequence of their participation in (the Anglo-US) Operation Fitzwilliam, (to detect Soviet nuclear tests)," Malhotra asks.

On another level, the Department of External Affairs sent a memo to British Prime Minister Clement Attlee on October 25, 1947 making clear that the real goal of the Indian Army's intervention, which was scheduled to begin two days later, was not to gain control of the Kashmir Valley but the Gilgit Agency. It implied that India's strategic interests coincided with those of the British Raj.

"The arrival of this naive memorandum on Attlee's desk set the cat among the pigeons, so to speak. It became imperative for the British to use every trick in the magician's book to convincingly thwart this goal so lucidly articulated by the Government of India. What this memorandum failed to fathom was that the political objectives of Prime Minister Nehru were no longer in sync with His Majesty's government's, therefore, the objectives articulated in the memorandum were no longer the objectives of the latter. With the Raj gone, the British in India took on a new avatar, because of which it could no longer participate in the game as partners, but as opponents," Malhotra writes.

In the last week of October 1948, Nehru had spent four days relaxing in the Mountbatten country seat of Broadlands in Hampshire.

"Since Mountbatten was busy with other matters in London, he left Nehru alone with Edwina Mountbatten. Edwina was to work on Nehru to accept a ceasefire in Kashmir," and on November 22, the British High Commissioner, Lieutenant General Sir Archibald Nye, met Nehru "and was able to convince him of the virtues of a ceasefire," Malhotra writes.

Then came the detonation on August 29, 1949 of the first Soviet bomb, named Joe-I by the Americans and RSD-I by the Soviets.

"This meant that the importance of the three/four British detection stations in the Gilgit Agency and the exhaustive use of Chaklala and Risalpur airbases (in Pakistan) by the RAF (to ferry to Britain the air samples collected by the first and subsequent Soviet tests) would only gain in importance. This in turn would necessitate consolidating on the ground the advantages that Pakistan had made from the UN-mandated ceasefire put in place on 1 January 1949.

"For India, it meant that the Kashmir problem would never be resolved. There would never be a plebiscite as Pakistani troops would never withdraw from the positions they had occupied on the ground as a result of the events post-24 October 1947. They were under British control, and what had been seized would be retained, not vacated. This was the same policy that the East India Company had employed since 1757 and the British carried forward 192 years later, nothing had changed," Malhotra writes.

The book also charges the Indian government of being "deaf and blind" as Mao-Tse-Tung (Mao Zedong), at the instance of Josef Stalin, of first moving into Tibet and then into Aksai Chin in December 1949 to exploit its rich reserves of uranium and other ores to feed the hungry Soviet atomic project, as also exploit the Karakash river, which originates in Aksai Chin, of its gold and mineral deposits.

"All this activity was known internationally. Unless the Government of India was both deaf and blind, the writing was clearly on the wall," Malhotra writes, adding: "British overflights, based on intelligence inputs, confirmed the reality of the Sino-Soviet invasion of Aksai Chin."

Mao's actions, in fact, were a quid pro quo for Soviet assistance in incorporating Sinkiang, where an East Turkestan Republic had been established, into China.

On April 29, 1954, India and China signed the Panchsheel Agreement on peaceful coexistence.

"By this agreement, India surrendered her traditional rights in Tibet and also shut down her Consulates in Lhasa and Kashgar in Sinkiang. By signing this agreement India accepted and condoned China's usurpation of a vast swathe of her territory in the Aksai Chin region of Jammu and Kashmir and also acquiesced to the organised loot of her mineral resources in Aksai Chin by the Soviet Union and China," Malhotra writes.

The final denouement, as it were, was on September 19, 1960 when Prime Minister Nehru and President Ayub Khan of Pakistan signed the Indus Waters Treaty on distribution of waters of the six rivers of the Indus system.

"This treaty superseded the Inter-Dominion Accord of 4 May 1948, whereby river water was released to Pakistan by India. The treaty gave the lion's share of the waters of the Indus Waters System to Pakistan. By signing this treaty, India acquiesced to the illegal usurpation and control of vast parts of Jammu and Kashmir by Pakistan since 1947.

"Neither Pakistan nor China has ever been satisfied by India's accommodation of their aggression. This aggression has continued unabated till 2021 with no end in sight," Malhotra concludes.