January-February 2004 issue
Vivekananda at Kshir Bhawani, Kashmir
From the Pages of History |
… J. N. Kachroo
Many questions in connection with the 1947-48 Indo-Pak war are still shrouded in mystry. For instance, the reasons why India did not carry out the war into Pakistan, as she did in 1965, have often been debated. The arguements for or against the decisions or the actions taken then are generally based on the relevant military developments. But we have seen in the last Kargil Conflict how international diplomacy works and influences the actions of even the sovereign nations. Nawaz Sharief was called to Washington to listen to President Clinton. India declared that she would not cross LOC either to chase the invaders or smash the supply centres of men and material on the other side of the line. Balanced answers to such questions may be available if the role of the British government and the British officers holding high offices in India and Pakistan is considered along with the military developments.
It must be noted that the British government had a unique position at the time of transfer of power. Washington had accepted the leading role of Britain in the area of India and Pakistan. Britain had the political will and opportunity to safeguard its long term interests in the region. Above all, Britain had absolute control on the services and supplies (military) in India and Pakistan. Thus the British government had the power to influence the course of events in the immediate post-partition period which included the Junagadh crisis and more so the 1947-48 Indo-Pak war.
Without prejudicing the opinions of the individual readers, certain facts, some well known and others recent revelations are presented hereunder. It is hoped that they may help to find the true answers to the questions shrouded in mystery.
A) Policy/Objectives of Britain: The plan for the partition of India into India and Pakistan was announced on 3rd June 1947. Earlier the hopes were that India would be one country after the British withdrawal. The policy makers of Britain started thinking of the British interests in India after her independence. The following recommendations/minutes will make the intentions of the British clear:
1. In July 1946, the British Indian Chiefs of Staff Committee thought India would be an important military base because of her 'almost inexhaustible supply of manpower, rapidly growing industrial capacity and geo-strategic value'. The UK Chiefs of Staff added to the above observations.
"If the Indian demand for withdrawal were extended to include all British personnel including those in the services of the Indian government, the fulfillment of any of our strategic requirements would be improbable. It is in our view essential that the Indian Government should be persuaded to accept the assistance of the necessary number of British personnel."
These recommendations of the two Committees were forwarded by the then Viceroy, F.M.Wavel to Pathic Lawrence, the Secretary of State for India in July 1946.
2. In October 1946, the India office advised the Chiefs of Staff Committee: "If India were to split into two or more parts, the Moslem areas and the states would probably be anxious to remain in Common Wealth (C.W).
3. Basing their calculations on Nehru's Foreign Policy pronouncements, the India office (London) advised the Dominion office: "We think it unlikely that India will wish to continue in C.W. at any rate as at present constituted.
4. On 13th March 1947, at a meeting of the India and Burma Committee of the Cabinet, attended by Mountbatten (Viceroy-designate), it was agreed that the Viceroy (of India) should encourage any moves that might be taken by Indian leaders in favour of continuation of India within C.W.
5. On March 24th 1947, Nehru said to Mountbatten, "India wished to retain friendly ties with Britain but she could not stay in the C.W.
6. On April 11th 1947, Liaquat Ali said to Mountbatten, "Pakistan would want to remain in the C.W. and require British officers in her armed forces.
7. Jinnah said to Mountbatten, "You must realise that Pak is almost certain to ask for dominion status within the empire."
8. On 12th May 1947, the Chiefs of Staff came to the conclusion that: "From the strategic point of view, there were overwhelming arguements in favour of W.Pakistan remaining in the C.W., namely, that we should obtain important strategic facilities, the part of Karachi, air bases and the support of Moslem manpower in the future; be able to ensure the continued integrity of Afghanistan and be able to increase our prestige and improve our position throughout the Moslem world ..."
In June 1947, an agreement was reached between the British authorities, the Congress and the Muslim League on a plan for transfer of power to two independent states, India and Pakistan. Both the new states would initially continue to be in the C.W. with dominion status.
B) Security Arrangements:
Note: i) India was in the grip of unprecedented communal riots before the partition plan was announced. ii) Millions of people migrated across the borders of the proposed two countries. iii) Law and order was entrusted to armed forces commanded by a British Officer.
In the wake of the agreement for partition of India, the following security arrangements were agreed upon:
1) Field Marshal (F.M.) Auchinleck was the Commander-in Chief (C in C) of the pre-independence Indian Army. He assumed the post of supreme commander of India and Pakistan on 15th August 1947. He presided over the division of military assets between India and Pakistan. Also, he exercised administrative control over British officers serving in the armed forces of India and Pakistan.
2) General Lockhart was the C in C of Indian Army from August to December 1947, when he was made to resign.
3) General Roy Bucher was the C in C of the Indian Army from 1949 to 1951.
4) General Douglas Gracey was Chief of Staff Pakistan Army in 1947-48 and C in C Pak Army 1949-51.
5) A Defence Committee of the Cabinet (Indian) was constituted on 15th Oct. 1947, with the Governor General, Lord Mountbatten as its Chairman, ostensibly to prevent any misunderstanding or action by the British officers, wittingly or unwittingly. This Committee played a vital role during the Kashmir operations.
6) Military Supplies: For both India and Pakistan, Britain was the leading overseas partner in trade, industry, finance, military equipment, spares and oil supplies.
7) Britain was largely responsible to shape western opinion about happenings in the two dominions.
Role of British Officers Defined:
1) On 28/29 July 1947, the Viceroy, Lord Mountbatten addressed the Provisional Defence Council attended by Jinnah, Liaquat Ali Khan and Sardar Patel. He made the following points:
a) General Ree's force had been tasked to put down disturbances. b) British officers were in every unit of force. c) They (the British officers) were the best safeguards against attempts to subvert troops. d) Their presence would refrain troops of the two dominions from fighting each other, since under no circu,stances could British officers be ranged on opposite sides.
2) Immediately after the transfer of power, F.M.Auchenleck, the Supreme Commander issued the following order which was already approved by Attlee:
"On receipt of the code word "Stand Down", all British officers and other ranks shall cease forthwith to take any part in the command and administration od armed forces in India and Pakistan.
Keeping the above mentioned Imperial Objectives and Security scenario in view, we might find dispassionate answers to contentious questions such as: Why did India not march into Pakistan; or why did India accept the cease-fire, etc.
(To be continued)
Ref: War and Diplomacy in Kashmir 1947-48 by C.Dasgupta.