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OPINION | Five big blunders of Nehru on Kashmir

The first India-Pakistan war continued for more than a year. Both countries agreed to a ceasefire on January 1, 1949, but, by then, a large part of Jammu and Kashmir remained under Pakistan’s occupation.

Rajat Sharma Written By: Rajat Sharma @RajatSharmaLive New Delhi Published on: October 28, 2022 17:31 IST
OPINION | Five Big Blunders Of Nehru On Kashmir
Image Source : INDIA TV OPINION | Five Big Blunders Of Nehru On Kashmir

Jammu and Kashmir remains an unfinished agenda for the last 75 years, with Pakistan occupying a large part of this former princely state. Pakistan has already declared Gilgit-Baltistan, which was part of Jammu and Kashmir, as its fifth province.

On Thursday, October 27, the Indian Army celebrated ‘Shaurya Diwas’ at the old Budgam airfield of Srinagar. It was to mark the 75th anniversary of the arrival of 1st Sikh Regiment on this day in 1947, when the army was sent to protect Kashmir Valley from Pakistani tribal intruders. This was the first military operation of Independent India. It was a move that changed the course of the First India-Pakistan War in 1947-48.

Speaking on the occasion of ‘Shaurya Diwas’, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said this unfinished agenda will be completed. He said, Indian Parliament had in the Nineties passed a resolution vowing to take back Pakistan Occupied Kashmir, and this vow will surely be fulfilled.

He said, Pakistan had backstabbed India and was committing atrocities on Kashmiris living in PoK. He warned that Pakistan will have to bear the consequences of its actions, and parts of PoK will be retrieved.

“We have just begun our journey towards progress in Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh, and we will achieve our goal when we reach Gilgit and Baltistan. We feel the pain of Kashmiris in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir”, the Defence Minister said.

Rajnath Singh said, the Centre’s decision to abrogate Article 370 was instrumental in ending discrimination against the people of Jammu and Kashmir. “This discrimination ended under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s leadership on August 5, 2019, when Article 370 was scrapped”, he said.

On October 27, 1947, Indian Army jawans landed at Budgam airfield in Dakota aircraft. It was a dangerous operation because Pakistani intruders had already reached the vicinity of Srinagar. Biju Patnaik, father of Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik, played a major role in the landing of army jawans in Srinagar.

An experienced pilot, Biju Patnaik landed the Dakota aircraft safely on the airfield. On Thursday, the same landing was re-enacted by using an old Dakota plane at Budgam airfield.

The first India-Pakistan war continued for more than a year. Both countries agreed to a ceasefire on January 1, 1949, but, by then, a large part of Jammu and Kashmir remained under Pakistan’s occupation.

This Pakistan Occupied Kashmir has now become a major training ground of terrorists who are sent for infiltration from launch pads, run by Pakistan Army’s intelligence wing ISI. Kashmiris living in PoK, who raise their voice against Pakistani rule, are arrested and tortured. It was in this context that Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said on Thursday that Pakistan will have to pay dearly for its actions.

October 27 is a day of celebration for our army, and yet, it is a day that must be remembered by every Indian. On this day, the Instrument of Accession signed by Maharaja Hari Singh of Jammu and Kashmir was accepted by Lord Mountbatten, the first Governor General of India. J&K became an integral part of the Indian Union.

At the time of Independence, there were 565 princely states ruled by kings and nawabs. Out of them, there were four big states – Hyderabad, Mysore, Baroda and Jammu Kashmir. The rulers of Mysore and Baroda immediately opted for a merger into the Indian Union, but the Nizam of Hyderabad and Maharaja Hari Singh of Kashmir procrastinated.

We have been told in history books that Maharaja Hari Singh decided for merger with India only after Pakistan attacked and tribal intruders reached the outer limits of Srinagar. On October 26, 1947, Maharaja Hari Singh signed the Instrument of Accession.

But on Thursday, Law Minister Kiren Rijiju said, this was not the truth. He revealed that it was the then Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru who delayed the accession of J&K with India.

Rijiju quoted from Nehru’s address in Lok Sabha on July 24, 1952. Nehru on that day said: “…integration of Kashmir at first informally came up before us – it was always before us in a sense, but it came up before us informally round about July or the middle of July – the advice we gave to Kashmir State was – and, if I may say so, we had contacts with the popular organisation there, the National Conference, and its leaders, and we had contacts with the Maharaja’s Government also, rather vague contacts, but they dealt with us – the advice we gave to both was that Kashmir is a special case and it would not be right or proper to try to rush things there…”

“…We made it clear that even if the Maharaja and his Government then wanted to accede to India, we would like something much more, that is, popular approval of it before we took that step”, Nehru told the Lok Sabha on July 24, 1952.

Rijiji said, Nehru’s first blunder was: Maharaja Hari Singh was willing to accede in July, 1947, but Nehru dithered. Rijiju says, rather than formalizing the accession, Nehru considered Kashmir a “special case” and sought “something much more”.  Nehru deliberately made Kashmir a unique case where the ruler was willing to accede, but the Indian government hesitated to finalize the accession.

Rijiju said, though Maharaja Hari Singh wanted accession, Nehru wanted to seek “popular approval” and decided to neogitate simultaneously with Sheikh Abdullah, the National Conference chief.

Nehru, Rijiju said, falsely believed that Sheikh Abdullah represented the dominant popular voice of Kashmir, and he wanted the Maharaja to have an interim government before accession, with Sheikh Abdullah as the head of the interim government.

Rijiju quoted a letter from Nehru to M. C. Mahajan, Jammu and Kashmir’s then Prime Minister, on October 21, 1947. In the letter, Nehru wrote: “This is why I suggested to you the urgency of taking some step like the formation of a provisional government. Sheikh Abdullah, who is obviously the most popular person in Kashmir, might be asked to form such a government…. In view of all the circumstances, I feel it will probably be undesirable to make any declaration of adhesion(sic) to the Indian Union at this stage. This should come later when a popular interim government is functioning. I need not tell you about the urgency of the situation and the dangers inherent in it.”

By then, tribal raiders from Pakistan, backed by its army, had already entered Kashmir Valley on October 20, 1947. They swiftly captured large parts of Kashmir.

Rijiju said, rather than swiftly formalizing accession and sending army to Kashmir, Nehru continued to delineate pre-conditions for accession. Rather than learning from his mistake in July 1947, Nehru repeated the same blunder in October the same year.

This delay proved costly for India and allowed Pakistani soldiers to consolidate their position and make further inroads. Had the Indian Army reached Kashmir Valley early, Pakistan could not have occupied large parts of Jammu and Kashmir. Rijiju said, even on October 26-27, when the Instrument of Accession was being signed and accepted, Nehru was not convinced about accepting accession.

The “second major blunder”, according to Kiren Rijiju, was that Nehru still considered the accession of J&K to India as “provisional”. He quotes the resolution of the Cabinet Committee on Defence which says the Government of India “will accept this accession provisionally” and the “accession will be finalized in accordance with the will of the people.”

Rijiju quoted an extract from a note sent by Nehru to M. C. Mahajan on October 26, 1947. It clearly shows, Nehru was less concerned about integrating Kashmir with India, and more concerned about installing his ‘friend’ Sheikh Abdullah as the Prime Minister of Kashmir.  The extract from Nehru’s note says: “.. His Highness the Maharaja will invite Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah to form an Interim Government after the Mysore pattern.”

The “third big blunder” by Nehru was that despite Maharaja Hari Singh having signed the same Instrument of Accession as other rulers of princely states had done, that is, transferring powers of Defence, External Affairs and Communication to the Indian Union, Nehru considered the accession of J&K as “special” and “provisional”, and internationalized the issue by approaching the UN Security Council on January 1, 1948 under Article 35 of the UN Charter.

The UN Commission for India and Pakistan (UNCIP) was then set up.  Nehru’s decision to approach the UN was misused by Pakistan to justify its claim that J&K was a disputed territory.  This was because Nehru moved the UNSC under Article 35 that deals with disputed land, rather than Article 51, that would have highlighted Pakistan’s illegal occupation of Indian territory.

The “fourth blunder” by Nehru was his insistence on plebiscite in Kashmir. Contrary to popular myth, Rijiju said, UNCIP’s suggestion on conducting a plebiscite is not binding on India and even the UNCIP has accepted this. On August 13, 1948, UNCIP adopted a resolution with three parts which were supposed to be implemented in sequence (1) Ceasefire (2) Truce agreement and withdrawal of Pakistani troops, and (3) Plebiscite.

The ceasefire between Indian and Pakistan took place on January 1, 1949, but under Part 2, Pakistan refused to withdraw its troops, and because of Pakistan’s refusal, Part 3, which calls for Plebiscite, could never be implemented.

On December 23, 1948, India had sent its aide memoire to UNCIP, which clearly mentioned that if Pakistan failed to implement Part 1 and Part 2, acceptance of the UNCIP resolution by India will not be binding. UNCIP endorsed this view in a subsequent resolution adopted on January 5, 1949.

The “fifth blunder” by Nehru was the inclusion of Article 370 in Indian Constitution. According to Rijiju, the provisional integration and promise of concessions to Sheikh Abdullah led to Article 306A (which later became Article 370).

It was because of these five “major blunders by Pandit Nehru” that India’s map today is still incomplete, says Rijiju. A large part of Jammu and Kashmir is under Pakistani occupation.

Despite occupying parts of Kashmir, Pakistan has forced itself as a party in this issue, and is constantly engaged in anti-Indian propaganda by harping on Kashmir in international forums.

On October 27, while we in India celebrate “Shaurya Diwas”, Pakistan observes “Black Day’ because Jammu & Kashmir became part of the Indian Union. Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari gave anti-India statements and a letter was sent by Pakistan Foreign Ministry to more than 100 countries on Kashmir issue.

On Thursday, J&K Lt. Governor Manoj Sinha said, it is the western media whose role in spreading misinformation about Kashmir is greater than Pakistan. Sinha said, “Some people keep saying that unless we engage with Pakistan, nothing can be set right in Kashmir. These are the people who have brought Kashmir to this stage. They are more dangerous than those directly associated with militancy. These people feel that unless a certain level of violence is not maintained in the Valley, Delhi won’t value them.”

JKPDP chief and former CM Mehbooba Mufti is among those few who speak the language of Pakistan. On Thursday, Mehbooba Mufti said, “I want to tell the people of India that our merger with the country was based on conditions.

Jammu and Kashmir became part of India on the condition that it will have a separate flag and separate constitution, but Narendra Modi broke the bridge of Article 370. How can Kashmiris have anything to do with India? Kashmir was India’s only Muslim majority state and the BJP could not protect it.”

To this, Manoj Sinha replied, “it would be better if Mehbooba sings Pakistan’s tune less and work more for the betterment of Kashmiris. Had she done this, Kashmir would have been a paradise by now.”

Leaders like Mehbooba Mufti, Farooq Abdullah and those from the Congress, give statements about Kashmir and Pakistan that suit their political purpose. But the core fact about Kashmir is that it was Maharaja Hari Singh who had offered accession in July 1947, a month before Independence, like other princely states, but Nehru did not agree. Nehru made the entire issue complicated.

It was also revealed that Nehru, instead of relying on his Home Minister Sardar Patel, deemed it better to take the matter to Lord Mountbatten and then sought the intervention of United Nations to resolve the issue. He then gave special status to Jammu and Kashmir by bringing in Article 370.

Had the accession of Kashmir taken place at the time of Independence, Pakistan could not have illegally occupied parts of Kashmir, nor would the poison of terrorism spread in the Valley, nor thousands of lives would have been lost and, above all, the Pandits of Kashmir would not have become refugees in their own country. But what can be done now? We can only remember history and learn from our past mistakes.

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