History as prison

Print edition : September 23, 2005

Shortly after he had left India, Mountbatten wrote to Nehru on August 15, 1948, warning him against going to war with Pakistan... . But even years later, many in our "strategic community" hold that India should have gone to war in 1947-48.

Jinnah Papers; First Series; Volumes VIII and IX; Editor-in-Chief: Z.H. Zaidi; Quaide-I-Azam Papers Project, Government of Pakistan; Distributed by Oxford University Press, Karachi; pages. 434 and 654; Rs.500 and Rs.650 respectively.

Mohammed Ali Jinnah with the Khan of Kalat, Ahmed Yar Khan. Jinnah was embarrassed when the Khan took him at his word and started talking of sovereignty.-

Statesmen, it is true, generally inherit from their predecessors predicaments and dilemmas to which they can see no complete solutions; their ability to improve situations by action over the short term is often quite genuinely limited; but over the long term... there are always some choices at their disposal. - George F. Kennan

IT would be hard to find a more accurate description of the predicament in which Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President Pervez Musharraf find themselves today. They are prisoners of history who are eager to break out of its shackles; find themselves unable to agree on any breakthrough "over the short term", but have the desire for, and vision of, success "over the long term".

Meanwhile, the situation in Kashmir deteriorates. A vacuum in leadership is sought to be filled by politicians jockeying frantically for recognition. Popular alienation and human rights violations show no sign of ebbing. The main inhibiting factor is public opinion moulded by rhetoric of the past.

China keeps reminding India that the boundary dispute must be resolved bearing in mind both the facts of history and the realities of today. The same holds good for Kashmir as well.

These volumes of Jinnah Papers make a timely appearance together as inseparable twins. Volume VIII covers Pakistan's policy towards the states generally and in respect of each of the 12 states that acceded to it; notably, Kalat and Junagadh. Volume IX covers Hyderabad and Kashmir in one volume, as if to project the duplicity, double standards and the lies retailed by the top leaders of both countries. That, of course, was not Z.H. Zaidi's intention. He is a stolid Establishment man and his Introduction is appropriately tendentious.

But no reader can fail to be struck by the inconsistencies. Therein lies their value. Public opinion in India and Pakistan needs to be educated. Their leaders were undoubtedly men of high quality. Sadly, in 1947, they failed to devise a settlement which would ensure peace between their countries. Instead, they sowed by their actions the dragon's seeds of war and spread by their rhetoric lasting prejudice.

In the process, the communal atmosphere in both countries was also fouled. The roots of the Kashmir dispute lie in 1947. Contested historical narratives are trotted out still by the leaders, aided by ambitious academics and enthusiastic journalists, to buttress their stands. In truth, both sides adopted inconsistent stands on: (1) the worthlessness of the ruler's Instrument of Accession; (2) plebiscite; (3) territorial contiguity and (4) the communal factor. Both practised deception and both used force. The starting point must be recognition of the historical truth that neither side was virtuous. Their sordid intrigues in Kashmir, Junagadh and Hyderabad were not retaliatory. They were begun and proceeded afoot simultaneously. "When the ambivalence of one's virtue is recognised," to quote Kennan again, "the total iniquity of one's opponent is also irreparably impaired."

The Council of the Muslim League met on June 9, 1947, at the Imperial Hotel in New Delhi, to accept the Partition Plan of June 3. Mohammed Ali Jinnah was questioned sharply by members from Bombay, the United Provinces, Orissa and Bengal about the plight of the Muslims in India. He said blandly that he "could disclose nothing beyond his personal opinion that the safeguarding of the rights of Muslim minorities would depend upon the future relations between Hindustan and Pakistan".

That was only one reason why he should have tried earnestly to ensure good relations between them. Pakistan depended on India for division of assets; it was militarily weak and administratively in a shambles. A Kemal Ataturk would have done just that and proceeded to build in peace the state he had succeeded in establishing. Jinnah had won Pakistan. He needed peace in its own interests and, indeed, for its own sake in this land of strife and sorrow. But in his hour of triumph, Jinnah emerged as a small man. He launched a campaign designed to ensure India's Balkanisation and laid the foundations of estrangement for decades to come. However, Jawaharlal Nehru and Vallabhbhai Patel were then at work simultaneously in a similar enterprise. They knew what he was up to. He knew nothing of their work. "I doubt very much if it [Pakistan] can survive at all," Nehru predicted. Jinnah had a different prediction. "Kashmir will fall into our lap like a ripe fruit," he would say, Mohammed Ali, Secretary-General of Pakistan's Cabinet, recorded in his memoirs.

There assuredly was a way out. That avenue was opened by the Congress and barred by Jinnah. The Partition Plan covered British India, alone. The princely states comprised one third of India's area and a quarter of its population.

The leaders clashed at a joint meeting with the Viceroy Lord Louis Mountbatten on June 13. Nehru insisted, rightly, that the princes could only join one or the other of the states in a "federal relationship". Jinnah asserted they could also opt for independence. He had said in May that Pakistan must be "viable" vis--vis India. Partition of Punjab and Bengal was a blow he could not avert. Why not enfeeble India and redress the imbalance? The minutes record: "Pandit Nehru said... he spoke as a lawyer. Mr. Jinnah said that he spoke as a lawyer also." It had come to that.

The All India Congress Committee (AICC) passed a resolution on June 15, upholding the right of the people of the princely states to decide on the issue of accession to either state. Jinnah issued a statement on June 17, and another on July 11, asserting the right of the rulers to do so or to become independent. It was a foolish and immoral gamble, as events demonstrated. In 1947, Pakistan's vital interests centred on Kashmir; India's on Hyderabad. Professor Reginald Coupland asked: India could exist if its arms were amputated; but could it survive without its heart (Hyderabad)? Jinnah went straight after this "heart", nearly jeopardised Kalat's accession to Pakistan, ruined Hyderabad and ensured the loss of Kashmir in the bargain. Above all, he inflicted on Pakistan enduring damage.

An outraged memo, dated August 25, by his followers in Kashmir in the Muslim Conference, rival to Nehru's ally Sheikh Abdullah's National Conference, said: "Kashmir can join Hindustan and Quaid-i-Azam cannot have any objection to it, though geographically Kashmir may be contiguous to Pakistan." National Conference workers "argue that the Muslim League stands for the sovereignty of the rulers whereas the Congress stands for the sovereignty of the people. They [the Muslim Conference] feel as if they are left in the lurch".

Zaidi's comment is absurd: "Jinnah's stance remained legalistic rather than pragmatic, as distinct from the Congress stand, based on realpolitik." To assert the people's right to decide their future and prevent Balkanisation of both states is not "realpolitik" but very moral. It was Jinnah who practised realpolitik and came a cropper.

His Minister of States Abdur Rab Nishtar told Mountbatten on July 18 that Pakistan "would be embarrassed if states within their sphere of influence wished to join the Indian Union" (emphasis added throughout). Yet, Jinnah wooed the ruler of Jodhpur. V.P. Menon describes how he caught him at the Imperial Hotel and took him to the Viceroy who reminded him "that his state was populated predominantly by Hindus... if the Maharaja were to accede to Pakistan, his action would surely be in conflict with the principle underlying the partition of India on the basis of Muslim and non-Muslim majority areas" (The Story of the Integration of the Indian States; V.P. Menon; pages 112-3).

That principle had a sequel which would have been comic if its consequences were not so tragic. As Governor-General of India, Mountbatten protested to Pakistan's Governor-General, Jinnah, on September 22, that Junagadh's accession to Pakistan was "an encroachment on India's sovereignty and territory... a clear attempt to cause disruption in integrity of India by extending (the) influence and boundaries of the Dominion of Pakistan in utter violation of principle on which partition was agreed upon and effected".

That principle surely applied to Kashmir as well. Yet, on July 3, Minister of States Vallabhbhai Patel wrote to the Prime Minister of Kashmir, Ramchandra Kak, that Kashmir "has, in my opinion, no other choice" but to accede to India. The opposite was true. Let alone the communal factor - even Jammu had a slim Muslim majority then - Kashmir's postal and telegraphic services, its roads and rivers were connected to Pakistan; hence, its stand-still agreement with Pakistan, of sheer necessity and exclusively. India acquired a tenuous road link only on August 15 when the Radcliffe Award assigned Gurdaspur to India. The June 3 Partition Plan had placed it in Pakistan.

After Independence, Patel set about feverishly building road and telegraphic links. This did not inhibit him from citing "the general principle on which the division of India had been effected". That was as late as on October 3 - but apropos Junagadh. Nehru warned Patel on September 27 that the winter "is going to cut off Kashmir from the rest of India. The only normal route then is via the Jhelum valley" - which led to Rawalpindi. "The Jammu route can hardly be used during winter and air traffic is also suspended... Therefore, it is important that something should be done before these winter conditions set in. This means practically by the end of October or, at the latest, the beginning of November."

The Maharaja of Kashmir's forces needed popular help. But "if their own people go against them, it will be very difficult to meet the situation". Ergo, get the Maharaja to release Abdullah from prison. Released he was, on September 29. All was set for an accession to India. A Kashmiri associate of Nehru, Dwarkanath Kachru, wrote to him on October 4: "Sheikh Saheb and his close associates have decided for the Indian Union. But the decision has not been announced yet and the impression is being given out that so far the National Conference have taken no decision." Why this dissimulation? Because, in Jammu and the present Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, the Muslim Conference was more popular. In the Valley, Abdullah held sway; but, on accession popular opinion was against him as Indira Gandhi informed Nehru on May 31, 1948. Indeed, as the British Resident, Wilfred Webb, noted on August 13, Sheikh Abdullah's influence had declined after the fiasco of the Quit Kashmir movement he had launched.

Pakistan solved the problem by sending tribesmen into Kashmir on October 22. The Maharaja acceded to India on October 27. Mountbatten accepted the accession on the condition that "the question of the state's accession should be settled by a reference to the people".

How could Jinnah complain? His reply to Mountbatten on September 22 asserted that "the principle" had "nothing whatever to do with this as the question of states was dealt with quite separately". But that was - apropos Junagadh.

Documents in Volume VIII reflect Jinnah's acute embarrassment as the Khan of Kalat took him at his word, began to claim sovereignty, and avoided accession to Pakistan. He even made overtures to India. He was brought to heel only in April 1948 after a display of armed force. It would have been actually used if, like the Nizam of Hyderabad, the Khan had refused to see reason.

Jinnah did his best to prevent the Nizam from seeing reason. The ruler sought his opinion on July 28, noting realistically: "When the British go, there would be no chance of making anything like so favourable arrangement with the Government of the Dominion of India, as would be probable on the present basis, if a settlement could be reached now." He demanded to know "to what extent could Mr. Jinnah provide the state with arms and equipment and if necessary, with troops". What if there was "economic pressure" or a revolt "indirectly assisted" by India?

On August 1, Jinnah told the Nawab of Bhopal, a devoted friend, that "Pakistan has no means of helping us". He gave no such advice to the Nizam. A note by Ali Yavar Jung recording the Hyderabad delegation's interview with Jinnah on August 4 shows Jinnah in a very poor light. The note was endorsed by Jinnah as an accurate record of his remarks and signed by him.

Jinnah emphatically asked the Nizam not to accede to India, citing illustrations which would have drawn withering remarks from him had they come from anyone else. These extracts reveal what he was up to:

"There was some such thing as standing for one's own right, despite every threat or provocation. If it came to the worst, one should die fighting rather than yield on a point of fundamental principle. Mr. Jinnah gave the illustration of what he called the greatest martyrdom in history, the example of Imam Hussain standing for what was right and giving his life for it. All the sanctions in the world then existing were applied against him and his followers but they withstood them and suffered wholesale butchery... That should be the attitude which the Nizam and his advisers and people should adopt... In our own times, England had done the same against the heaviest odds... "

After the sermon, the priest came into his own form as a shrewd lawyer.

"As regards His Exalted Highness' question as to how far Pakistan would be able to assist Hyderabad economically or politically or with troops or arms and equipment and the like, Mr. Jinnah said that it was not possible for him at present to give any specific undertaking but that, generally speaking, he was confident that he and Pakistan would come to the help of Hyderabad in every way possible. There should be no doubt on that point. He said that even countries with long-established governments could not give specific undertakings of the nature desired except by reference to the situation as it developed. The United States could not give any such undertaking when it was first approached by the United Kingdom for help during the last war, but the United States gradually began helping on different fronts until they ultimately came into the war itself." Jinnah was gently leading Hyderabad up the garden path.

"England was very nearly booted when, to her good fortune, Hitler diverted himself from England and attacked Russia, thus bringing the latter into a natural alliance with England and saving England from the concentrated attack which might otherwise have centred upon her. Then, America which had till then kept out of the war except by way of moral and material help, entered the struggle as a result of the Japanese attack upon her. These were providential developments without which all the odds were against England. They brought about Allied victory." So, Hyderabad should hope and pray for support which he could not provide, nor could any other country. Pakistan's expert on world affairs was as informed and modest as ours. A foolish remark by Jinnah on Sudetan Germans in Czechoslovakia and Hitler in the early 1940s cost Pakistan Czechoslovakia's friendship in 1947, as Khaled Ahmed recalled (Friday Times; November 1, 2002).

Jinnah added: "If Hyderabad was short of petrol or kerosene, it would not matter; if, on the other hand Hyderabad had abundance of firmness, perseverance and courage. The Russians were threatened by a blockade against them but they won the war. If Hyderabad was similarly threatened, there would be other ways to fight, not necessarily with guns if there were no guns, and not necessarily with mechanised transport if there was no petrol" - fight with faith and on Mohammed Ali Jinnah's empty promises. The cynicism and irresponsibility are breathtaking.

Four days later, the Nizam wrote to the Viceroy refusing to accede to India. But on September 6, he wrote again to denounce the Ittehadul Muslemeen and its leader Qasim Rizvi: "All these people are the followers of a certain gentleman who used to be in Delhi and who has now made Karachi his headquarters. They consult him in all matters and are his disciples." Zaidi's explanation is delightful: "Probably refers to Jinnah." Probably, Zaidi, very probably. The Nizam sent Yamin Zubeiri and another to Jinnah on October 23 to solicit his advice on the draft agreement with India and rejected the draft on their return. Jinnah's denial to Mountbatten on November 1, when they met in Lahore, was false.

The Nizam's Constitutional Adviser, Walter Monckton, had warned him in September 1947 that he was "entirely mistaken in being led by Jinnah for after all whatever advice Jinnah tendered would always be coloured by that which would be beneficial to Pakistan and not to his [Nizam's] state. He will merely make him [the Nizam] the instrument for achieving something good for Pakistan".

The Nawab of Junagadh, Muhabat Khan III.-

While all this was on, a similar game was being played in New Delhi with comparable honesty. India treated Junagadh's accession to Pakistan as an act of war and began war preparations. Zaidi deserves our thanks for drawing extensively on the "Mountbatten Papers". Among them are "Notes by Louis Mountbatten on Junagadh crisis", dated September 29. Like Jinnah's oration, these also deserve quotation in extenso. Together, they provide a flavour of the madness that gripped the leaders:

"Mr. V.P. Menon came to see me, while I was dressing, to inform me of what he considered the most serious crisis which had yet arisen. He told me that a complete split had occurred between the Prime Minister [Nehru] and the Deputy Prime Minister [Patel] over the policy about Junagadh... . He explained to me that although he agreed that Pandit Nehru's reputation stood higher than ever before in the eyes of the world for the statesmanlike and unbiased policy he was following with such courage, in the communal state of mind that Hindus and Sikhs were now in, he was very unpopular in his own country and had lost all his following and might not even get in himself if there were another election.

"Conversely, Sardar Patel, who had gone completely communal, was the embodiment of the feeling of the Hindu/Sikh majority, and his stock was now higher than it had ever been and he alone could really hold the Cabinet. It followed that if Sardar Patel resigned, Nehru would be unable to carry on for long successfully and would bring about the fall of the Government.

"I pointed out that if Pandit Nehru resigned, Sardar Patel's extreme communalism would soon plunge India into an untenable position; in fact we agreed that only the combination of these two could save India and that therefore everything must be done to try and avoid a split between them... . When Sardar Baldev Singh arrived he told me how serious the situation was, and that he himself entirely agreed with the paper put up by the Commanders which he considered had to be said.

"I pointed out to him that if he agreed with the paper, then he was the person who should have said it as his own thought and not the thought of his Commanders, since it was his business to put the political objections of committing an act of war against Junagadh to the Cabinet. He admitted this and agreed to my delivering the letter to the Prime Minister asking for the withdrawal of the offending paper [by the Service chiefs, who had demurred to a military campaign].

"... Sardar Patel was anxious that we should send forces to Babariawad and Mangrol [Junagadh's feudatories] which he said were legally part of the Dominion of India now... I asked him if he was prepared to take the risk of an armed clash in these two territories, leading to war between the two Dominions if Mr. Jinnah preferred this method rather than take us to UNO [United Nations Organisation]. Sardar Patel said he was ready to take this risk but that he thought it was very slight, since Pakistan was in no position to wage war... .

"I then said that I was sure that an intermediate course could be found... . I saw no objection to building up a strong force to the strength of a Brigade group which would completely surround Junagadh, but remain on Indian territory."

As part of this alternative strategy, "I considered they should pin their hope on the People's Provisional Government of Junagadh which Mr. Menon had so ably formed in Bombay under the leadership of Mr. Gandhi's nephew [Samaldas] and which I understood had that day arrived at Rajkot in a beflagged special train. Pandit Nehru entirely agreed. He said that this was a matter for the people, and that they should quickly establish their reign over those `island' territories in Junagadh within the Dominion of India, and later decide how to go into the other territories. It was pointed out that funds, arms and volunteers were not likely to be lacking to help this rising in Junagadh." Thus the "Provisional Government" was New Delhi's creation.

Mountbatten knew that Junagadh was a side-show. Kashmir and Hyderabad were the real prizes. "I also urged him [Nehru] to make a statement of policy that in cases of states whose accession was disputed by the people or who had not yet acceded, the Dominion of India would accept a clear indication of the will of the people. I pointed out that this clearly applied in particular to states were the great majority of the population was of the opposite community to the Ruler, his Government, police and Army. I told him that I thought such a declaration would help me in my negotiations with Hyderabad. But Pandit Nehru (revealing his well known emotional streak concerning Kashmir) said that he could not bring himself to frame a statement of policy in this form, since it might be taken to indicate that they were trying to discourage Kashmir from joining India. He told me that with the dismissal of the late Prime Minister of Kashmir, Pandit Kak, and the release on the previous day of his friend Sheikh Abdullah, there was every indication that Kashmir wanted to accede to India.

"I begged him not to consider accepting their accession unless it followed a really fair plebiscite or referendum, for I prophesied that there would be nothing but trouble in Kashmir and incidentally the Dominion of India if we did a sort of Junagadh with Kashmir on Pakistan... . Mr. V.P. Menon remained behind to express his great relief that the impasse had been resolved and the split in the Cabinet averted though, I pointed out to him that the price we had to pay was to bring appreciably nearer the danger of war."

In a letter to The Times of India, Sir Chimanlal Setalvad criticised New Delhi for its conduct. This was on October 3, before the tribesmen's raid into Kashmir. Thereafter, he put the two countries on a par, morally and legally (November 3). Officially, both countries denied their complicity in their respective ventures (vide "Jinnah and Junagadh"; Frontline, October 12 and 26, 2001).

It was in these confabulations that the idea of plebiscite and recourse to the U.N. came up - well before the Kashmir crisis. Pakistan's stand was that it was prepared to consider a plebiscite if the principle was applied to Kashmir. Nehru demurred to this in talks with Mountbatten. But, on October 1, he relented and told Liaquat Ali Khan that "in difficult cases like this the will of the people should be ascertained".

Mountbatten recorded: "I went on to stress the importance of this statement of Pandit Nehru's which, I assured Mr. Liaquat Ali Khan, was a statement of Government policy by which they would abide. I said I was sure that Pandit Nehru would agree that this policy would apply to any other state, and that India would never be a party to trying to get a state to join their Dominion against the wishes of the majority. Pandit Nehru nodded his head sadly: Mr. Liaquat Ali Khan's eyes sparkled: and there is no doubt that the same thought was in each of their minds `Kashmir'."

Nehru had, of course, no enthusiasm for plebiscite in Kashmir. He noted Abdullah's feelings against plebiscite and wrote to him on November 21, 1947: "In fact I share the feeling myself." He, of course, realised that Abdullah might not deliver and wrote to his friend Sri Prakasa, the High Commissioner to Pakistan, a few days later: "The fact is that Kashmir is of the most vital significance to India as well as to Pakistan. There lies the rub... it is quite impossible for us to withdraw... Kashmir is going to be a drain on our resources, but it is going to be a greater drain on Pakistan. In a military sense we are stronger." Nehru walked into Kashmir in the face of a people not fully behind Sheikh Abdullah and acquired a problem with his eyes open. So, of course, did Jinnah, by launching the tribal raid and losing everything.

Note how the leaders interacted. Jinnah rejected on November 1 Mountbatten's written proposal for plebiscite in all states "where the ruler of a state does not belong to the community to which the majority of his subjects belong, and where the state has not acceded to that Dominion whose majority community is the same as the state's" (that is, Kashmir, Junagadh and Hyderabad). On November 8, Nehru made a very fair offer - Pakistan's withdrawal of the raiders; India's, of its forces thereafter, once "law and order are restored" and "a joint request to UNO to undertake a plebiscite in Kashmir". By then a draft agreement had been hammered out. It is a pity that it was "not traceable" by Zaidi. But his reference to another document "however" - as if in consolation - makes no sense. That document was Nehru's wire of November 13 asserting that "there is no such thing" as an agreement. The minutes of India-Pakistan talks in Lahore on December 8, however, record Mountbatten's references to "the draft agreement", in Nehru's presence. It is a document of cardinal importance on which the U.N. Commission based its ceasefire resolution of August 13, 1948. Nehru himself referred to it in a letter to the Maharaja of Kashmir on December 1. Headed "Draft Kashmir Agreement", it was negotiated on November 27 by V.P. Menon, Mohammed Ali, and Ismay, Mountbatten's Chief of Staff (Selected Works of Jawaharlal Nehru; Volume 4; page 408).

Nehru rejected the draft. So did Jinnah. He made a note in his diary on November 30: "Kashmir - no commitment - should be made - without my approval of terms of settlement. Mr. Liaquat (sic.) has agreed and promised to abide by this understanding." Zaidi does not reproduce a yet stronger entry of December 16, nor the Cabinet decision of December 30 - no question of policy or principle to be decided except at a Cabinet meeting presided over by the Governor-General - itself a gross impropriety - and in the event of disagreement, Jinnah's decision would prevail over the Cabinet's! Thus did Jinnah undermine Pakistan's parliamentary democracy in its infancy (vide Hasan Zaheer's excellent work The Times and Trial of the Rawalpindi Conspiracy Case; 1951; Oxford University Press, Karachi, 1998).

In Delhi, Patel was again on the warpath; this time, on Kashmir. The Commander-in-Chief Roy Bucher's report of his interview, on April 26, 1948, is amazing. Patel thought "it would have been best to have marched on Lahore immediately after partition and he had advocated... " - Zaidi, true to form, omits a paragraph from this vital document and continues - "the subsequent concentration of all available formations of the Indian Army in Kashmir and the over-running of the whole of the state." Bucher replied - a paragraph omitted, again - that "there was no point in over-running the rest of Kashmir, as the inhabitants would not vote for India anyhow". He found Patel "bouncing up and down on his bed" cursing the British and Bucher in particular.

But, Patel was prepared for plebiscite there if it was held in Hyderabad as well. "Why do you compare Junagadh with Kashmir? Talk of Hyderabad and Kashmir, and we could reach an agreement," he told Liaquat, as Mohammed Ali recorded. This, Jinnah refused flatly.

Shortly after he had left India, Mountbatten wrote to Nehru on August 15, 1948, warning him against going to war with Pakistan. "I think you will agree with [me that] Pakistan is in no position even to declare war, since I happen to know that their military commanders have put it to them in writing that a declaration of war with India can only end in the inevitable and ultimate defeat of Pakistan. Therefore a declared war can only come about by India making the declaration. I know that you will instinctively shrink from taking such a course, but I also know that there are some of your colleagues in the Cabinet and the more noisy and unthinking elements in the country who will press you to declare war... .

"Have you asked your Chiefs of Staff Committee to give you the advantages and disadvantages of declaring war?... What have you got? A few old Dakotas with a somewhat doubtful Harry Tate contraption to drop bombs which I have seen for myself at the Hindustan Aircraft Factory. To hit the target with this arrangement would entail flying at so low a height that the Pakistan anti-aircraft gunners could not miss. And we know from our own experience in England how ineffective even a first-class bombing force can be until after years of training and war experience."

But even years later, many in our "strategic community" hold that India should have gone to war in 1947-48.

One man who kept his head throughout was Mountbatten's successor as Governor-General, C. Rajagopalachari, the tallest of them all. He told Ismay that he had "deplored the bitterness and the provocative behaviour of the Indian Government over the numerous issues which had arisen with the Government of Pakistan and said that he had urged them to learn international manners and the power of self-restraint from the British, but knew that he himself carried no weight with his Cabinet or with the present Congress Committee".

Funny things happened. Where the future status of a territory is in issue, the accepted mechanism is plebiscite. Elections are no substitute, least of all rigged ones. Witness the referenda in European countries on the constitution of the European Union. It is another matter that 1965 rendered plebiscite impossible. India did hold a plebiscite in Junagadh on February 20, 1948, and one in Sikkim ("the special poll") on April 14, 1975. But, not in Kashmir as it had pledged. Exasperated, Pakistan went to war in 1965 and put it out of bounds.

Today, plebiscite is as dead as a dodo. But popular alienation is greater in 2005 than it was 50 years ago. It is this stark reality which faces Manmohan Singh and Pervez Musharraf. The past does not permit them or their peoples the luxury of self-righteousness. Kashmir's de-accession from India is impossible. The people's rejection of the Union with India is palpable.

Given the grave mistakes committed by both countries in the past, they must craft a solution which is based on both aspects of a grim reality, reflects the security concerns of India and Pakistan, and gives the people of Jammu and Kashmir, in all its regions, the largest measure of self-government possible.

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