The Myth of Indian Claim to Jammu and Kashmir
The formal overt Indian intervention in the internal affairs of the State of Jammu & Kashmir began on about 9.00 a.m. on 27 October 1947, when Indian troops started landing at Srinagar airfield. India has officially dated the commencement of its claim that the State was part of Indian sovereign territory to a few hours earlier, at some point in the afternoon or evening of 26 October.
From their arrival on 27 October 1947 to the present day, Indian troops have continued to occupy a large proportion of the State of Jammu & Kashmir despite the increasingly manifest opposition of a majority of the population to their presence. To critics of India’s position and actions in the State of Jammu & Kashmir the Government of New Delhi has consistently declared that the State of Jammu & Kashmir lies entirely within the sphere of internal Indian policy.
Do the facts support the Indian contention in this respect?
The State of Jammu & Kashmir was a Princely State within the British Indian Empire. By the rules of the British transfer of power in Indian subcontinent in 1947 the Ruler of the State, Maharajah Sir Hari Singh, with the departure of the British and the lapsing of Paramountcy (as the relationship between State and British Crown was termed), could opt to join either India or Pakistan or, by doing nothing, become from 15 August 1947 the Ruler of an independent polity. The choice was the Ruler’s and his alone: there was no provision for popular consultation in the Indian Princely States during the final days of the British Raj. On 15th August 1947, by default, the State of Jammu & Kashmir became independent.
India maintains that this period of independence, the existence of which it has never challenged effectively, came to an end on 26/27 October as the result of two pairs of closely related transactions which we must now examine. They are:
- a) an Instrument of Accession of Jammu & Kashmir to India which the Maharajah is alleged to have signed on 26 October 1947, and;
- b) the acceptance of this Instrument by the Governor-General of India, Lord Mountbatten, on 27 October 1947; plus
- c) a letter from the Maharajah to Lord Mountbatten, dated October 26, 1947, in which Indian military aid is sought in return for accession to India (on terms stated in an allegedly enclosed instrument), and the appointment of Shiekh Abdullah to head an interim Government of the State; and
- d) a letter from Lord Mountbatten to the Maharajah, dated 27 October 1947, acknowledging the above and noting that, once the affairs of the State have been settled and law and order is restored, “the question of the State’s accession should be settled by a reference to the people.”
In both pairs of documents it will be noted that the date of the communication from the Maharajah, be it the alleged Instrument of Accession or the letter to Lord Mountbatten, is given as 26 October 1947, that is to say before the Indian troops actually began overtly to intervene in the State’s affairs on the morning of 27 October 1947. It has been said that Lord Mountbatten insisted on the Maharajah’s signature as a precondition for his approval of Indian intervention in the affairs of what would otherwise be an independent State.
The date, 26 October 1947, has hitherto been accepted as true by virtually all observers, be they sympathetic or hostile to the Indian case. It is to be found in an official communication by Lord Mountbatten, as Governor General of India, to M.A. Jinnah, Governor General of Pakistan, on 1 November 1947; and it is repeated in the White paper on Jammu & Kashmir which the Government of India laid before the Indian Parliament in March 1948. Pakistani diplomats have never challenged it. Recent research, however, has demonstrated beyond a shadow of a doubt that the date is false. This fact emerges from the archives, and it is also quite clear from such sources as the memoirs of the Prime Minister of Jammu & Kashmir at the time, Mehr Chand Mahajan, and the recently published correspondence of Jawaharlal Nehru, the Indian Prime Minister. Circumstantial accounts of the events of 26 October 1947, notably that of V.P. Menon (in his The Integration of the Indian States, London 1956), who said he was actually present when the Maharajah signed, are simply not true.
It is now absolutely clear that the two documents (a) the Instrument of Accession, and (c) the letter to Lord Mountbatten, could not possibly have been signed by the Maharajah of Jammu & Kashmir on 26 October 1947. The earliest possible time and date for their signature would have to be the afternoon of 27 October 1947. During 26 October 1947 the Maharajah of Jammu & Kashmir was travelling by road from Srinagar to Jammu. His Prime Minister, M.C. Mahajan, who was negotiating with the Government of India, and the senior Indian official concerned in State matters, V.P. Menon, were still in New Delhi where they remained overnight, and where their presence was noted by many observers. There was no communication of any sort between New Delhi and the traveling Maharajah. Menon and Mahajan set out by air from New Delhi to Jammu at about 10.00 a.m. on 27 October; and the Maharajah learned from them for the first time the result of his Prime Minister’s negotiations in New Delhi in the early afternoon of that day.
The key point, of course, as has already been noted above, is that it is now obvious that these documents could only have been signed after the overt Indian intervention in the State of Jammu & Kashmir. When the Indian troops arrived at Srinagar air field, that State was still independent. Any agreements favourable to India signed after such intervention cannot escape the charge of having been produced under duress. It was, one presumes, to escape just such a charge that the false date 26 October 1947 was assigned to these two documents. The deliberately distorted account of that very senior Indian official, V.P. Menon, to which reference has already been made, was no doubt executed for the same end. Falsification of such a fundamental element as date of signature, however, once established, can only cast grave doubt over the validity of the document as a whole.
An examination of the transactions behind these four documents in the light of the new evidence produces a number of other serious doubts. It is clear, for example, that in the case of (c) and (d), the exchange of letters between the Maharajah and Lord Mountbatten’s reply must antedate the letter to which it is an answer unless, as seems more than probable, both were drafted by the Government of India before being taken up to Jammu on 27 October 1947 (by V.P. Menon and Jammu & Kashmir Prime Minister M.C. Mahajan, whose movements, incidentally, are correctly reported in the London Times of 28 October 1947) after the arrival of the Indian troops at Srinagar airfield. The case is very strong, therefore, that document (c), the Maharajah’s letter to Lord Mountbatten, was dictated to the Maharajah.
Documents (c) and (d) were published by the Government of India on 28 October 1947. The far more important document (a), the alleged Instrument of Accession, was not published until many years later, if at all. It was not communicated to Pakistan at the outset of the overt Indian intervention in the State of Jammu & Kashmir, nor was it presented in facsimile to the United Nations in early 1948 as part of the initial Indian reference to the Security Council. The 1948 White Paper in which the Government of India set out its formal case in respect to the State of Jammu & Kashmir, does not contain the Instrument of Accession as claimed to have been signed by the Maharajah: instead, it reproduces an unsigned form of Accession such as, it is implied, the Maharajah might have signed. To date no satisfactory original of this Instrument as signed by the Maharajah has been produced: though a highly suspect version, complete with the false date 26 October 1947, has been circulated by the Indian side since the 1960s. On the present evidence it is by no means clear that the Maharaja ever did sign an Instrument of Accession. There are, indeed, grounds for suspecting that he did no such thing.
The Instrument of Accession referred to in document (c), a letter which as we have seen was probably drafted by Indian officials prior to being shown to the Maharajah, may never have existed, and can hardly have existed when the letter was being prepared.
Even if there had been an Instrument of Accession, then if it followed the form indicated in the unsigned example of such an Instrument published in the Indian 1948 White Paper it would have been extremely restrictive in the rights conferred upon the Government of India. All that were in fact transferred from the State to the Government of India by such an Instrument were the powers over Defence, Foreign Relations and certain aspects of Communications. Virtually all else was left with the State Government.
Thanks to Article 370 of the Indian Constitution of January 1950 (which, unlike much else relating to the former Princely States, has survived to some significant degree in current Indian constitution theory, if not in practice), the State of Jammu & Kashmir was accorded a degree of autonomy which does not sit at all comfortably with the current authoritarian Indian administration of those parts of the State which it holds.
Not only would such an Instrument have been restrictive, but also by virtue of the provisions, of (d), Lord Mountbatten’s letter to the Maharajah dated 27 October 1947, it would have been conditional. Lord Mountbatten, as Governor-General of India, made it clear that the State of Jammu & Kashmir would only be incorporated permanently within the Indian fold after approval as a result of some form of reference to the people, a procedure which soon (with United Nations participation) became defined as a fair and free plebiscite. India has never permitted such a reference to the people to be made.
Why would the Maharajah of Jammu & Kashmir not have signed an Instrument of Accession? The answer lies in the complex course of events of August, September and October 1947 out of which the Kashmir crisis of 26/27 October 1947 emerged. The Maharajah, confronted with growing internal disorder (including a full scale rebellion in the Poonch region of the State), sought Indian military help without, if at all possible, surrendering his own independence. The Government of India delayed assisting him in the hope that in despair he would accede to India before any Indian actions had to be taken. In the event, India had to move first. Having secured what he wanted, Indian military assistance, the Maharajah would naturally have wished to avoid paying the price of the surrender of his independence by signing any Instrument which he could possibly avoid signing. From the afternoon of 27 October 1947 onward a smoke screen conceals both the details and the immediate outcome of this struggle of wills between the Government of India and the Maharajah of Jammu & Kashmir. To judge from the 1948 White Paper an Instrument of Accession may not have been signed by March 1948, by which time the Indian case for sovereignty over Jammu & Kashmir was already being argued before the United Nations.
The patently false dates of documents (a) and (c) alter fundamentally the nature of the overt Indian intervention in Jammu & Kashmir on 27 October 1947. India was not defending its own but intervening in a foreign State. There can be no reasonable doubt that had Pakistan been aware of this falsification of the record it would have argued very differently in international fora from the outset of the dispute; and had the United Nations understood the true chronology it would have listened with for less sympathy to arguments presented to it by successive Indian representatives. Given the facts as they are now known, it may well be that an impartial international tribunal would decide that India had no right at all to be in the State of Jammu & Kashmir.
(Excerpt from the author’s book- Kashmir a disputed legacy)