T h e

K a s h m i r

T  e  l  e  g  r  a  p  h

Inaugural Edition

A Kashmir Bachao Andolan Publication

May 2002



Spotlight    Chalmers Johnson


Special Report Sundeep Waslekar Ilmas Futehally

Fundamentals Jagan Kaul

Book Review Romeet Watt

InsideTrack          Dr Subash Kapila

Himalayan Blunder              Romeet Watt

In Black & White An Assessment

Statecraft             S a p r a   says

Bottomline           Dr Subash Kapila


A b o u t  U s

F e e d b a c k

D i s c l a i m er

C o p y r i g h t s


 B O O K   R E V I E W

War & Diplomacy in Kashmir, 1947-48

C. Dasgupta; SAGE; RS 250, PAGES: 240

By Romeet Kaul Watt

C Dasgupta, one of India’s most distinguished diplomats, was Ambassador to China and the European Union before retiring recently. He has done the Nation an immense service with his latest book, War and Diplomacy in Kashmir, 1947-48, largely based on documents that have now been declassified. In the words of another diplomat: “what saves Dasgupta’s story from being a twice-told tale is that he tells it from a new angle: the British perspective.” 

Kashmir is beyond doubt one of the most litigious and multifarious issues in South Asia today. It has persisted for more than 50 years, which has resulted in three cruel wars in the sub-continent. This important book aims to see in new light, the origins of the problem and examines the costs of the fact that British officers commanded the armed forces of both India and Pakistan in 1947-48. 

The historical mistake made by India was to refer the case to the United Nations, to which Nehru later regretted. Nehru, to begin was persuaded by Mountbatten to refer the Kashmir problem to United Nations but only with limited references. India suffered in a major way when the case was referred to the Security Council, as Pakistan not only successfully refuted all charges levied against them but effectively countered by asserting that India was hostile to Pakistan. This couldn’t have been possible without the help of 'Old Labour' minister in the Atlee government, Philip Noel-Baker. 

C Dasgupta says: “In 1947, when Pakistani tribesmen invaded Kashmir, Britain decided to adopt a pro-Pakistan tilt — not because of any merit in the case but strictly in pursuit of British global interests in the belief that this was essential for her Middle Eastern policy. Unfortunately for India, the British minister in charge of executing this policy, Philip J Noel Baker, had few scruples in exceeding his instructions.” According the author, Noel Baker decided to take a totally anti-India stand in the UN instead of leaning in its favour as instructed by his government and deliberately misrepresented India’s position to his own government.

The book also gives a vivid account of how Noel-Baker misled his government on the US position too. C Dasgupta says: “In 1947-48, Washington accepted (Secretary of State George Marshall) the fact that Kashmir legally belonged to India by virtue of the Maharaja’s accession. In February 1948, the Americans informed Noel-Baker that they were disturbed by the implications of the resolution that he wanted to move in the UN, which would have allowed Pakistan to deploy its troops in Kashmir.”

When the British side argued that Kashmir was a ‘‘territory in dispute’’, the Americans disagreed, stating that they ‘‘found it difficult to deny the legal validity of Kashmir’s accession to India’’. Under pressure from Noel-Baker, the US finally agreed to float a draft resolution which would have permitted entry of Pakistani troops but only if India concurred. When his cabinet colleagues objected that India would never accept this, Noel-Baker chose to conceal his own hand in prompting the US move.” Noel-Baker tried to have Kashmir placed under effective UN control, pending a plebiscite, with Pakistani troops entering the state with a status similar to that of the Indian Army. But the US and other countries did not accept this.

John Foster Dulles, the acting leader of the US delegation in the Security Council, in November 1948, complained to the State Department that the ‘‘present UK approach (to the) Kashmir problem appears extremely pro-GOP (Government of Pakistan) as against (the) middle ground we have sought to follow.’’

In his summary of the debate in the UN Security Council in January 1948 on the Indian complaint of Pakistani aggression, Dasgupta says: “the Western Group backed Pakistan on three crucial issues: that Pakistan could take no effective action to stop the invaders until a formula was found for a solution of the Kashmir problem acceptable to her; that the Abdullah government would have to be replaced; and that the United Nations must not only observe the plebiscite but actually hold it under its authority.’’

On 27 February, the Commonwealth Affairs Committee of the British Cabinet discussed the Kashmir question for the first time where according to the author at least one minister expressed his views with great force in the British Cabinet minutes, saying the US document made no mention of the undoubted fact that the tribesmen had passed through Pakistan territory before entering Kashmir, or of the failure of the Pakistan Government to prevent this; it mentioned the possibility that Pakistan troops may be permitted to enter Kashmir.

On 16th of February 1948, Nehru had written to Vijayalaxmi Pandit, “ I cannot imagine that the security council could probably behave in the trivial and partisan manner in which……………and it is not surprising that the world is going to pieces…and the US and the Britain have played a dirty game, Britain being the chief actor behind the scenes………”

Nehru originally thought the Western bias was because of America’s search for concessions in Pakistan; but after a briefing, he realized that Noel-Baker was the ‘villain of the piece’. Nehru complained angrily to Attlee that Noel-Baker had, in a conversation with Sheikh Abdullah, dismissed as untrue the charge that Pakistan had assisted the raiders into Kashmir.

Subsequently, in December 1950, India rejected United Nation’s offer to mediate in Kashmir. “the only way to sole it is for India and Pakistan to know that the burden is upon them and no one else”, Nehru wrote to the United Nation’s.

The armed forces in both India and Pakistan at the time of conflict in 1947-48 were still led by British officers and the critical defence committee of the Indian cabinet was presided over by none other than Mountbatten. British generals in India and Pakistan maintained informal channels of communication on Kashmir developments, according to the author. General Douglas Gracey’s telegram of 24 October finds a place in every account of the history of Kashmir; less well known is the fact that he had informed ‘Indian’ commander-in-chief Gen Lockhart about preparations for the invasion even before October 24. In the early stages of the conflict, counselled by the supreme commander for India and Pakistan, Field Marshal Auchinlek, ‘Indian’ commander-in-chief Gen Lockhart refrained from sending supplies requested by Maharaja Hari Singh. He also withheld from the government intelligence received from his "Pakistani" counterparts about impending infiltration by "tribesmen". During the entire episode, the British commanders discharged their duties in a way that suited the British interests.

During the Junagadh predicament, the service chiefs in a joint letter to the Indian defence minister declared their lack of ability to participate in the operations should an Indo-Pak clash ensues. India reacted harshly to this incursion of political sphere by the armed forces and the letter was withdrawn.

The process of management was soon taken over by Whitehall, who over the period of time had come to the conclusion that on greater tactical considerations "a tilt towards Pakistan" was necessary. Mountbatten, it is believed was required to act as go-between between India and Pakistan and when these attempts botched he, acting in knowledge with Lockhart, sought to frustrate India’s plans to take the war to Pakistan’s border with J&K.

Thus the book examines the dubious role played by the British, spearheaded by two persons—Mountbatten and Philip Noel-Baker.

Observers and analysts believe that C Dasgupta has sent a strong message to the Indian establishment through his book: don’t rely on the Western powers, Britain and America, in our fight against terrorism in general and cross-border terrorism in particular.

India has to ensure that in its fight against global terror, it will do what ever it feels necessary to safeguard its national and security interests, irrespective of whether America or other Western powers like it or not.

A senior diplomat observes: “the UK and the West generally continue to refract the issue of terrorism in Kashmir through the prism of their extraneous interests in West Asia and Central Asia. This is, of course, no longer focused on the Great Game of containing Russia but accessing the greatest reserves of natural gas in the world — Central Asia generally and Turkmenistan in particular. Afghanistan is the first transit country on the route. Pakistan is the second. India is not needed. Which is why the ‘global war on terrorism’ has co-opted the principal source of terrorism as its principal ally.”

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