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  • Dec 25th, 2004
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The question of political future of some 565 Indian States, ruled by native princes, which constituted about one-fourth of India's population, had engaged the serious attention of the British rulers, the Congress and Muslim League leadership before and after the Partition Plan of 3rd June 1947 was announced. Unfortunately, the widely divergent policy approaches of the three major actors in respect of the States' future created a challenging situation for Jinnah.

Jinnah's stand was in conformity with that of the Nawab Hameedullah Khan of Bhopal, Chancellor of the Chamber of Princes, who held that the States should be free to decide which constituent Assembly to join and suggested that the All India Muslim League (AIML) offer liberal terms for future relationship with Pakistan to those States that might wish to associate with it. The States should be assured that "their sovereignty, integrity and autonomy are in no manner to be jeopardised." He even resigned as Chancellor and declined to attend the meeting of the States Negotiating Committee called for 25 July 1947 protesting that the Rulers "have been invited like the oysters to attend the tea party with the walrus and the carpenter".

The manner in which the laconic British policy was implemented by the Crown Representative, Mountbatten, his open conflict with the Quaid and blatant commitment for the "proto-Indian Government's policy" all made the Quaid's task difficult indeed.

The 3rd June Plan was, on purpose, kept ambiguous about the future of the States: It merely affirmed that the British Government's policy towards the Indian States remained as enunciated in the Cabinet Mission's memorandum of 12 May 1946, which stipulated that paramountcy would lapse on the withdrawal of the British from India and would in no circumstances be transferred to an Indian Government.

The void created by the lapse of paramountcy and the cessation of political and other arrangements between the States and the British Crown was "to be filled either by the States entering into a federal relationship with the successor Government or Governments in British India, or failing this, entering into particular political arrangements with it or them".

In their statement of 16 May 1946, the Cabinet Mission pronounced that paramountcy could neither be retained by the British Crown nor transferred to any new Government in India. The States, released from the obligations of Paramountcy, would work out their own relationship with the Succession States, and it by no means followed that such relationship would be identical for all the States.

These policy parameters did not define the precise status of the States after the British colonial rule in India had come to an end. However, during discussions with the States Negotiating Committee, which comprised the Rulers or their representatives, the Crown Representative observed that, in order that no administrative vacuum might result from the lapse of paramountcy, standstill arrangement would have to be made for the interim period until fresh agreements had been made.

He also confirmed that the accession of a State to one or the other Constituent Assembly was a matter of free choice." Only some three months later, in a volte-face, he urged that the rulers take into account the geographical factor in deciding which dominion to join, so that the balkanisation of India was avoided.

Moreover, although the right of the States to determine their own future had been conceded by the British Government, Mountbatten chose to go along with the Congress plan to pressure the princes into accession before 15 August 1947.

The suggestion was scarcely compatible with the stated policy of the British Government, Referring to the deadline of 14 August 1947, Mountbatten had given the States for accession, Secretary of State Lord Listowel reminded him that his statement was "inconsistent" with the thrust of the debate in Parliament on the Indian Independence Bill.

Whereas the States had accepted the British plan for the transfer of power in so far as it concerned them, this was far from true of both the Congress and the Muslim League leadership. At a meeting between Mountbatten and the Indian leaders on 13 June 1947, Nehru reiterated the oft-repeated Congress policy that paramountcy would devolve on the Succession States upon the transfer of power.

He claimed that the States had no right to declare independence and that the Cabinet Mission's Memorandum of 12 May 1946 did not permit of this. Jinnah took the view that the States would regain sovereignty with the lapse of paramountcy and their treaties and agreements with the British would cease to be valid until fresh agreements were concluded on a voluntary basis with the Succession States.

Nehru had to concede that "he was not intending to lay down that every state must join one or other constituent assembly; but if they did not come in they would have to come to some other arrangement ... which could not and should not be preceded by declaration of independence.

Jinnah reaffirmed that, constitutionally and legally, the States could not be mandated by the British Government to join one constituent Assembly or the other. If a state wished to come in, he said, it could do so by agreement.

Jinnah's stand was in conformity with that of the Nawab Hameedullah Khan of Bhopal, Chancellor of the Chamber of Princes, who held that the States should be free to decide which constituent Assembly to join and suggested that the All India Muslim League (AIML) offer liberal terms for future relationship with Pakistan to those States that might wish to associate with it.

The States should be assured that "their sovereignty, integrity and autonomy are in no manner to be jeopardised." He even resigned as Chancellor and declined to attend the meeting of the States Negotiating Committee called for 25 July 1947 protesting that the Rulers "have been invited like the oysters to attend the tea party with the walrus and the carpenter".

A firm believer in constitutional process and political fairplay, Jinnah's statement of 17 June 1947 highlighted that "constitutionally and legally the Indian States will be independent sovereign States on the termination of paramountcy and they will be free to decide for themselves to adopt any course they like; it is open to them to join the Hindustan Constituent Assembly, or the Pakistan Constituent Assembly, or decide to remain independent."

"The policy of the All India Muslim League," he clarified, " has been clear from the very beginning. We do not wish to interfere with the internal affairs of any State... Such States as wish to enter the Pakistan Constituent Assembly of their free will and desire to ... negotiate with us, shall find us ready and willing to do so. If they wish to remain independent and ... to negotiate... any political or any other relationship .... with Pakistan, we shall be glad to... come to settlement which will be in the interest of both."

The Muslim League had historically shown scant interest and played a marginal role in the affairs of the princely States as out of 565 States, about 537 stood for accession to India due to geographic compulsions, as against 12 States indubitably destined for association with Pakistan.

The leadership stood for faithful adherence to the doctrine of non-interference in the affairs of the states which instance tended to overlook the insidious political developments taking place in states of vital interest to Pakistan like Jammu and Kashmir.

Even among the 12 States located within the geographic limits of Pakistan, at least two rulers initially attempted to keep away from Pakistan. To quote Mountbatten (aid-memoire of February 1948 addressed to the King) "a large State - Kalat - approached the government of India for political relationship, but was refused; and unofficial overtures from Bahawalpur [for acceding to India] were similarly discouraged".

Without looking into the merit in each of these cases, the political hold of Muslim League leadership over the prospective areas of Pakistan appeared to be loose.

The Muslim League had admittedly no political ambition as far as Hyderabad was concerned except for maintaining centuries-old culture and religious bonds existing between the State's Muslims and Pakistan.

On the other hand, the Congress had taken a lead in extending its political influence in the princely States. It actively helped to establish the All-India States Peoples' Conference in 1927. During 1928-46, the Congress leadership worked for establishment of representative institutions in the States and lent active support for their legitimate and peaceful struggle for responsible government.

It demanded the same political and economic rights and freedom for the states, as already introduced in British India under the Government of India Act 1935.

By 1946, the Congress was successful in establishing a strong political hold in the States for the platform of majority rule for the States people. Its resolution of 15 June 1947 stood for a comprehensive political framework in respect of the States which did not concede the right of any state in India to independence and to live in isolation from the rest of India.

All States had to accede to one or the other Dominion in respect of only 3 subjects of defence, external affairs and communications. Nehru had apprehension about the "balkanisation of India" if the States were allowed to opt for independence following the lapse of paramountcy.

He urged that administrative and other arrangements concerning matters of common interest, especially in the economic and fiscal spheres, be made in time.

In the course of negotiations between the British Government and the Rulers of the States, the Congress leaders, Nehru and Patel, adopted a stance bordering on intimidation and coercion of the Rulers as well as resorting to clandestine and crafty dealings.

On 9 April 1947, speaking at Gwalior as President of the States' People's Conference, Nehru threatened the Rulers to join the Indian Constituent Assembly or be treated as hostile. On 5 July, Patel invited the Rulers and the people to the Constituent Assembly in a spirit of friendly co-operation. The States, he warned, should " bear in mind that the alternative of co-operation in the general interest is anarchy and chaos which will overwhelm great and small in common ruin if we are unable to act together in the minimum common task.

Patel told Mountbatten, in a discussion on the future of the States that "he need not bother about the States because after the transfer of power the States' peoples would rise, depose their Rulers and throw in their lot with the Congress.

Conrad Corfield, Political Adviser to Mountbatten, a man with a strong sense of duty and moral obligation, believed that the States would act in concert in asserting their "theoretical" right to independence. He held the view that the States should not sign anything before the date of transfer of power and lapse of paramountcy.

At that point, he thought, they would be the free as independent entities to act in unison and even dictate the terms of any merger with India. Mountbatten, however, was opposed to this approach because of the Congress pressure. Corfield had flown to London with Ismay in May 1947 to seek direct support from the India Office. His trip, without Mountbatten's consent, provoked the Viceroy to dub his Political Adviser as 'son of a bitch'.

H. V. Hodson, a constitutional Advisor to Viceroy Linlithgo, in his book the Great Divide mentions a deal between Mountbatten and Sardar Patel on the States' accession to India at all costs. Patel is quoted to have told Mountbatten; "I will buy a basket of 565 apples", the computed number of States. Mountbatten responded: "If I give you a basket with, say, 560 apples, will you buy it?" The bargain was struck and the ostensible reward was the assurance of Governor-Generalship of independent India.

In open opposition to Jinnah, Mountbatten actively prevented the accession to Pakistan of 5 Kathiawar States namely Dasuda, Vanod, Jainabad, Bajuna and Radha which each had a Muslim ruler who requested for union with Pakistan. In the case of Junagadh, Manavadar and Mangrol, which had acceded to Pakistan, India ordered military action in September 1947, which culminated in their forceful annexation on 9 November 1947.

Four months later, Mountbatten justified the illegal military action against Junagadh, in an aide-memoire to the King of England. He maligned Jinnah in accepting accession of the State, "aimed at deliberately teasing the Government of India into taking precipitous and aggressive action." He accused Jinnah of launching a wider campaign in which Pakistan appeared as the innocent small nation the victim of aggressive designs of its large, bullying neighbour. Mountbatten boasted that the accession exercise was a convenient bargaining counter for Pakistan vis-à-vis Kashmir.

"When I saw Mr Jinnah at Lahore on 1 November, Mountbatten informed his King, "he gave me his view that there was no sense in having Junagadh in the Dominion of Pakistan, and that he had been most averse to accepting this accession. He had in fact demurred for long but had finally given way to the insistent appeals of the Nawab and his Dewan".

Both the views are an apparent contradiction in the first instance and an insult to the sagacity and wisdom of the great Muslim statesman that Jinnah was, on the other.

The case of the Rajasthan Hindu States of Jodhpur, Jailsalmer and Bikaner, contiguous to Pakistan, who favoured independence and accession to Pakistan in accordance with the ground rules provided by the British Government, is a proof how Mountbatten cajoled and threatened them into submission by joining India. According to Hodson, Jinnah had offered Jodhpur the use of Karachi as a free port, free import of arms, jurisdiction over Jodhpur-Hyderabad Sindh railway and a large supply of food grains for famine-struck state population.

Bhopal, Indore and Travancore, influenced by Jinnah's approach on the issue of post-independence political status, stood for independence, as against acceding to India or Pakistan. Mountbatten tackled them with deceit and intimidation and got them into the Indian fold.

According to Viceroy's personal report No 15 of 1st August, the "adherence of Travancore after all C.P [Ramaswamy Aiyar] declarations of independence, has had a profound effect on all the other states and is sure to shake the Nizam."

HYDERABAD: Even since the British policy towards the States was enunciated by the Cabinet Mission in its Memorandum of 12 May 1946 and reaffirmed in the 3 June Plan the Nizam of Hyderabad had been toying with the idea of independence.

On 11 June 1947, he declared that he did not contemplate joining either Dominion. However, he offered India a Standstill Agreement and expressed willingness to assign an agreed number of troops to India for defence. India, however, insisted that Hyderabad accede to India first.

Jinnah understood the Nizam's predicament: "If he accedes to the Dominion of India he will have trouble with the Muslims in his State... If he accedes to Pakistan he would be going counter to the compulsions of geography, the Hindu majority in the State would be stimulated by the Congress Party into rebellion, and the State would probably be subjected to considerable economic pressure from the dominion of India.

While discussing the issue with a State delegation on 4 August 1947, Jinnah had slammed the position taken by Mountbatten, which he thought was contrary to the stated British policy.

He did not mince his words, declaring that "the Viceroy and the Congress were following a policy totally contrary to the declared policy" of the British Government and that if that Government "had a shred of conscience, they would put a stop to the threats which were now being given both by the Viceroy and the Congress."

As to the Nizam's future course of action, Jinnah advised him to act according to his conscience. To Jinnah it was not a matter of political expediency but of principle.

Citing "the greatest martyrdom in history" of Imam Hussain, grandson of the holy Prophet, to preserve and protect the pristine purity of Islam, Jinnah declared that one should die fighting rather than yield on a point of fundamental principle.

Again, while talking to Mountbatten about Hyderabad on 1 November 1947 at Lahore, Jinnah said he had told the Nizam "that he was between the devil and the deep blue sea. If he acceded to India, there would be bloodshed in Hyderabad, and if he did not accede, there would equally be bloodshed.

India continued to pressure Hyderabad into conceding its demand of accession. On 7 June 1948, Prime Minister Liaquat Ali offered to hold a plebiscite on the issue of accession to India or independence, under the auspices of the UN or any other impartial body. V.P. Menon, Secretary, States Department, however, dismissed the offer, demanding that the State first accede to India and devolve powers of legislation in respect of Defence, External Affairs and Communications.

The Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen, an influential political party of the State Muslims, stood for an independent Hyderabad and was opposed to accession to India in any case. Its leaders, in particular Qasim Rizvi, resisted negotiations with India, organising protest demonstrations against the proposed Standstill Agreement.

In a curious volte-face, not uncharacteristic of him, the Nizam wrote to Mountbatten, on 6 September 1947 that "all those people [Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen] are the followers of a certain gentleman [Jinnah] who used to be in Delhi and who had now made Karachi his headquarters.

They consult him in all matter and are his disciples. Mountbatten expostulated with Jinnah about his having influenced the Nizam's decision to reject the Standstill Agreement with India through the Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen delegates who had met him in Karachi in October.

Jinnah explained that he had received the delegates only out of courtesy and told them that it was only a question for the Nizam and his own Government to decide.

On 1 June 1948, Jinnah issued a statement from Quetta that "Hyderabad was an independent sovereign State and it was for its duly constituted authority to accede to India or remain an independent dominion."

On 13 September, the Indian army invaded Hyderabad and obtained surrender by the State forces on 17 September 1948. Hyderabad's fall demonstrated the ineptitude of the Nizam and his failure to properly assess the political situation. Attractive concessions had been offered by Mountbatten such as (i) right of Hyderabad State to remain within the Commonwealth; (ii) joint development of a port in the Indian territory for special use of the State; (iii) Nizam's sovereignty over Berar, etc But these failed to induce the Nizam into signing the Instrument of Accession with India.

The tragedy that befell Hyderabad might have been averted by a pragmatic handling of the situation.

KASHMIR: The declassified archival material on Kashmir indicates that British authorities had, in 1946, made up their mind to allocate Kashmir to India in the event of establishment of Pakistan.

In February 1946, Viceroy Wavell wrote on Menon's notional demarcation plan for Pakistan that Gurdaspur must go with India, in a calculated bid to give an exit to India through Pathankot and Gurdaspur. It was implemented through the Radcliffe Award of 16 August 1947 with the blessing of Mountbatten, which gave three tehsils of Gurdaspur out of four to India.

Following partition, Jinnah had to confront the Indo-British conspiracy with the Maharaja of Kashmir as a pawn, and the anti-Pakistan National Conference of Sheikh Abdullah as perpetrators. According to reports filed by Charles W. Lewis, Charge d'Affaires at US Embassy in Delhi with his State Department in October-November 1947, the ruler of Kashmir had been intending to bring his state into the Indian Union... but at all costs to prevent it from adhering to Pakistan.

The ruler demonstrated open partiality towards National Conference and other pro-India elements with a view to "faking popular support for an anti-democratic decision amounting to the political murder of the State's majority community." Nehru's anxiety for annexing Kashmir is evident from a letter he wrote to the Maharaja on 12 December 1947: "I have an intimate and personal interest in it and the mere thought that Kashmir joins Pakistan and become a part of foreign territory for us is hateful to me. I want to do everything that is reasonably possible to prevent". He had been directing Sardar Patel for arranging accession of Kashmir "as rapidly as possible."

The final act of the conspiracy was therefore initiated by the Maharaja by letting loose a reign of terror against the pro-Pakistan Muslim Conference and their Muslim supporters and by hurling baseless charges of infiltration of Pakistani nationals in his State.

Pakistan made repeated attempts to defuse the alarming political situation by mutual discussions. In return Maharaja sent an ultimatum to Pakistan to invite external help to solve the problem.

JINNAH WROTE BACK: The real aim of your government policy is to seek an opportunity to join the Indian Union as a coup d'etat." He advised the Maharaja to depute his Prime Minister to discuss all contentious issues. Earlier, a Pakistan representative sent to Sirnagar with peace proposals had been turned away by Kashmir Prime Minister.

Eventually, on 27 October 1947, Indian troops marched into Kashmir after getting the Maharaja to sign the Instrument of Accession in a dubious manner. Pakistan declared that the accession was predicated on fraud and violence. On 1 November 1947, Jinnah told Mountbatten at a Lahore meeting that he "felt from beginning to end this was a deliberate, long worked out, deep laid plot to secure Kashmir's permanent accession."

Mountbatten sharply reacted to these statements as did the Indian leadership at Delhi. He somewhat scolded Jinnah by terming these as "unstateman-like, inept and bad mannered". It was like a conspirator reprimanding the victim of the conspiracy.

In contrast, one finds him arguing before his King, in February 1948, with no scruple of conscience that "from the strategic and economic point of view... while Pakistan had no interest in Junagadh, India has considerable interest in Kashmir." It was scarcely surprising that Mountbatten persuaded the King to believe that India had put "no pressure to bear on the Maharaja to cause him to accede"; even though there is overwhelming evidence that India had done all the dirty work to force the Maharaja into accession.

In the same meeting Ismay suggested to Jinnah that the best way "to stand well in world opinion" was to discuss Kashmir with Nehru at Delhi, who had wilfully absented from the Lahore summit. Jinnah, somewhat dejected, replied: "He had lost interest in what the world thought of him since the British Commonwealth had let him down when he had asked them to come to the rescue of Pakistan."

KALAT: Jinnah had problems dealing with his friend, the Khan of Kalat, who claimed independent sovereign status for his State. Pakistan conceded his claim once paramountcy had lapsed in the negotiations held on 19 July 1947, with Crown Representative Mountbatten in chair, who stated that on the lapse of paramountcy "states would de jure become independent; but de facto, very few were likely to benefit... that although Kalat would have gained freedom, no practical course other than some form of association with Pakistan was open to it".

On 11 August 1947, Jinnah recognised Kalat as independent sovereign State in treaty relationship with British Government, with a status different from that of Indian States," although the British Government had earlier disallowed the Kalat's position other than an Indian State.

It is surprising that even though the Indian Independence Act 1947 did not give the option of independence to any Indian State, Pakistan conceded such a status to Kalat. This position was incompatible with the policy adopted towards all other states and resulted subsequently in strained relationship and conflict between Pakistan and Kalat.

Britain also objected to this status and advised against recognition of the State as a separate international entity. Jinnah was anxious to complete the formalities of accession which the Khan of Kalat promised to complete shortly. Not favourably disposed towards accession to Pakistan, the Khan stood for establishment of relations on a treaty basis and took several unwelcome steps to press his demand through his State Assembly.

Jinnah took a dim view of his "most disappointing and unsatisfactory" attitude. The six-month delay in the completion of legal formalities taxed his patience , and on 27 March 1948, he instructed Foreign Secretary Ikramullah that "there should be no negotiations of any kind or any further discussion to create slightest impression that any thing but accession is possible" A.S.B. Shah, a Joint Secretary in the Foreign Office, and Ambrose Dundas, Agent to the Governor-General for Balochistan, were also asked to "make it clear to Kalat to give us his answer whether he is prepared to accede as promised by him more than once or not."

The same day, the Khan somewhat dramatically decided to accede to Pakistan since Lasbela, Kharan and Mekran had already acceded. The decision, announced on 1 April 1948 albeit belated, was very welcome irrespective of the manner of its making and the preceding circumstances publicly known and unknown.

This resolution of a potentially ugly situation, marked by sharp differences between Kalat and Pakistan and the anti-Pakistan goings on of Khan's brother Abdul Karim Khan, were punctuated by an all India Radio broadcast, on 27 March 1948 claiming that Kalat had requested India to accept its accession two months ago.

On 2 April 1948, the Khan assured the Pakistan authorities that "Kalat is now part of Pakistan and it is the first duty of the State to help Pakistan and co-operate in every way, not only in the conceded subjects but in all other matters also."

(The writer Editor, Quaid-i-Azam Papers Project)

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