Nehru: Myth & legacy

Published : Feb 10, 2006 00:00 IST

COULD any of Jawaharlal Nehru's contemporaries in office as Prime Minister or any successor have written a note of quality on the relics of Huen Tsang, or on a film telling the story of the Buddha through sculptures as he did? Where is it now? One waits impatiently for each volume in this invaluable series because none fails to provide rich glimpses of that civilised man. The latest is edited by a distinguished historian, Professor Mushirul Hasan, Vice-Chancellor of the Jamia Millia Islamia in New Delhi. Reactions to them conform to pattern. Nehru-baiters ignore them. Hagiographers lap them up. We want our heroes to be saints. Since the men of action who shaped our politics over the last century and more could not possibly have been saintly, we trim the facts and adjust the record so that the halo, so lovingly devised, fits comfortably over the man.

There are in this volume the usual memos attesting to Nehru's wide range of informed concerns and his phenomenal industry. Some are of current relevance. For example, two notes on security for the Prime Minister. The famous resignation of Lal Bahadur Shastri as Railway Minister after a train accident is well documented. Useful documentation apart, personality traits are revealed which baffle one. Nehru had a contempt for K. M. Panikkar, Ambassador to China, which, with crass impropriety, he expressed at length to the United States Ambassador Chester Bowles at their first substantive meeting on November 6, 1951 (Foreign Relations of the United States, 1951; Volume VI, Part 2, page 2188; vide the writer's "Nehru's China Policy", Frontline, August 4, 2000, for the details). Nonetheless, in 1952 Nehru acted on Panikkar's advice not to raise the boundary issue with China rather than that of a man he respected, Girja Shankar Bajpai, who strongly advised him to take up the issue and resolve it when relations were friendly.

This volume reveals a similar perversity over V.K. Krishna Menon. The man not only kept up a steady barrage of denigration of Nehru's sister, Vijayalakshmi Pandit, High Commissioner in London - a post in which Krishna Menon had an inglorious innings - and attacks on "our Ambassadors... sniping at me", but also made snide innuendoes about Nehru himself. During the crisis in Hungary, he taunted Nehru for a "shift" from non-alignment. Nehru was determined not to gang up with the West but could not suppress censure of the Soviet Union either.

Both S. Gopal, Nehru's biographer, and Escott Reid, Canada's High Commissioner in New Delhi, who admired Nehru, perceived sharp differences between the Prime Minister and Krishna Menon (vide Reid's Hungary and Suez: A view from New Delhi; Allied; 1987). Nehru set out his stand in a cable to Krishna Menon on December 9, 1956, which apparently rattled him:

"Soviet account of events in Hungary and their justification for their action cannot be accepted by us, even though we understand fear motive behind them, and apprehension that Hungary might become a hostile country as it is. Soviet action has made Hungarians more hostile than ever to Russians and there is no likelihood of their changing this attitude because of repression and armed pressure. Even though they submit for a while, this will be sullen submission on surface only with inner fires burning, and likely to break out from time to time. There can be no progress towards solution in Hungary now unless Soviets reverse their policy and gradually withdraw their troops and their imposed rule. No one can consider Kadar's government as free to frame its policies and in any case, it has not got Hungarian people behind it."

Finally, Vijayalakshmi Pandit could stand it no longer and bitterly complained to her brother on February 4, 1957, about Krishna Menon. Nehru, a tireless correspondent, replied on February 13 from the Raj Bhavan in Cuttack: "You have referred to Krishna Menon and to various forces that work in London trying to discredit you. I think I am well aware of all this and, of course, strongly disapprove of it... . I have known Krishna now for a long time and have a fairly good appreciation of his abilities, virtues and failings. All these are considerable. I do not know if it is possible by straight approach to lessen those failings. I have tried to do so and I shall continue to try. This is a psychological problem of some difficulty and has to be dealt with, if at all successfully, by rather indirect methods. I propose to deal with it both directly and indirectly.

"I hope I have the capacity to judge people and events more or less objectively. I am not swept away by Krishna; nor would I like my affection for you to influence my judgment to any large extent, though to some extent, of course, affection does make a difference and indeed should. Krishna has often embarrassed me and put me in considerable difficulties. If I speak to him, he has an emotional breakdown. He is always on the verge of some such nervous collapse. The only thing that keeps him going is hard work. There is hardly a person of any importance against whom he has not complained to me some time or other. Later he has found out that his opinion was wrong and he has changed it" (emphasis added throughout).

Nehru was wrong. Besides "hard work" and cups of tea, Krishna Menon was "living for years on the drug Luminal, frequently fainting, or speaking incoherently in public". In 1950, he sent Nehru a cable "which was so clearly dictated while under the influence of drugs that Nehru had to order him to withdraw it" (Jawaharlal Nehru, Volume 2; S. Gopal; Oxford University Press; page 141).

Yet, Nehru picked this man to deliver long harangues in the Security Council, during one of which he passed out, and made him Defence Minister. Vijayalakshmi Pandit observed that Nehru knew nothing "of that other side" of Krishna Menon's character "which is in such complete contrast to the one you see". She added that Krishna Menon's growing unpopularity was not because of his stand on Suez or Kashmir, "but his twisted approach to problems and his manner of dealing with them". Nehru ignored her advice. Yet, he wrote contemptuously of this dear friend to M.O. Mathai. In a letter of September 29, 1951, he wrote "I saw a progressive deterioration till a time might come when he would disgrace himself not only before others but before himself... inner degradation and disintegration are far worse" than death (S. Gopal, page 143). Krishna Menon, however, remained in office until 1962, thanks to Nehru.

These volumes are no substitute for opening the archives in accordance with the 30-years rule. Editors have to select - which implies omit - documents. Gopal mentions that, piqued with India's vote on Hungary, "the Soviet Ambassador called on Nehru to discuss, of all things, Kashmir" (Volume 2, page 296). Nehru recorded this in a note on November 23, 1956, which was not published in the earlier volume.

Whether he was confused or sought to keep all options open, Nehru contradicted himself endlessly. Sample this: "About the Nagas, I am much worried. This worry is not due so much to the military or other situations but rather to a feeling of psychological defeat. Why should we not be able to win them over? I do not like being pushed into repressive measures anywhere in India. I can understand that action has to be taken and the action must be effective, when necessity arises. But this long drawn out business has a bad effect, both internationally and nationally and, if I may say so, personally on me. I am, therefore, prepared to consider any reasonable approach to this problem which promises a settlement."

As always, when he moved from generalities to specifics, he got confused: "We rule out independence. I do not know what Chummini means by saying something `short of complete independence'. I cannot conceive of anything just short of complete independence being feasible. I can conceive of local autonomy. But my mind is not clear yet how far all this is feasible in these present circumstances. Much as I regret, I do feel that the Nagas must realise that they cannot indulge in this kind of violence and warfare and that we shall not submit to it."

Nearly half a century later, the problem persists because New Delhi never fully accepted that militancy offered the Nagas their only leverage. Only a political settlement can end militancy. Witness: Northern Ireland.

The volume demolishes Nehru myths more than one and lays bare some terrible legacies he left behind, besides his solid achievements.

He was, to begin with, no appeaser of Muslims and there was simply no Muslim vote bank. Muslims could hardly support the Jan Sangh. But as the Opposition parties took up the cause of Urdu, Nehru wrote to the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Sampurnanand, who hated Urdu, on May 19, 1958, that for the Congress it had now become a question "not only of doing the right thing and the just thing, but also the politically correct thing" (Gopal, Volume 3, page 27). Of course, nothing was done.

Article 347 of the Constitution empowers the President (that is, Government of India) to direct a State to recognise a language as an official language if so demanded by "a substantial proportion" of its population. On February 15, 1954, a delegation led by Dr. Zakir Hussain and comprising members like Pandit Hriday Nath Kunzru and Kishen Chander, presented to the President a memorandum signed by 27,00,000 persons. When Maulana Azad, the Education Minister, asked the Prime Minister to act on it, Nehru replied rudely, on March 12, 1954, accusing him of creating a "constitutional crisis". What he feared was a political crisis - Uttar Pradesh would have ignored the directive (SWJN, Second Series; Volume 25, page 91).

Three years later, Nehru poured out his heart to Lal Bahadur Shastri in a letter dated January 7, 1957. Mulims faced "frustration" and "in sheer despair were drifting away from the Congress and often going to the Communist or other like parties". Muslims told Bakshi Ghulam Mohammed "no one seemed to care for them or to come to them not even their representatives in Parliament or the Assembly... . What Bakshi said has been for long my own impression that I have been much worried about it. But I did not know what to do. There are certain matters of considerable psychological importance, even though in practice they might not be so important. One of these major matters is the question of Urdu. There can be no doubt that this has affected Muslims, more especially in the U.P. and Bihar, very acutely. Then there is the question of employment in government services. It has become increasingly difficult for them to get employment in the Army or the Police. I do not know what the position is in the Railways and the Posts & Telegraph Services. But I rather think that the number of new Muslim entrants is very few even there... . Congress leaders as well as the organisation have lost touch with the Muslim world - the candidates who are put up... [are ones] who have lost touch with their own community or some other feeble Muslims who do not count for much" - celebrated Uncle Tom. "This letter, though a longish one, is vague and nebulous. That presents the state of my mind in this matter." He had got the matter off his chest with words and words. Faced with a problem he could well have solved, he "did not know what to do".

NEOCONS denounce, while admirers laud, Nehru as an idealist or romanticist. The record on China and Kashmir shows that he was a congenital hardliner with little talent for compromise, had a narrow perception of the national interest, and did not reflect on the consequences of his decisions. He could be, and was, reckless.

The volume contains records of his talks with China's Prime Minister Zhou Enlai for six hours on December 31, 1956, and January 1 and 24, 1957 (there are five records in all). He regarded Zhou as a "brilliant man, one of the greatest he ever met". Nehru was prone to excess; alike in praise or in censure.

What was the situation in December 1956? The McMahon Line was secure. On February 12, 1951, Major R. Khating had evicted the Tibetan administrators from Tawang, which Tibet ceded to India in 1914 as part of the McMahon deal. China did not protest in 1951 at all. On July 1, 1954 - well after the Panchsheel agreement on Tibet of April 29, 1954 - Nehru ordered revision of maps to delete the legend "boundary undefined" for the western and middle sectors and replaced it by "a firm and definite one [line] which is not open to discussion with anybody".

The Director of the Intelligence Bureau, B.M. Mullik, records in his memoirs, The Chinese Betrayal (pages 196 and 205), that by 1956 India was well aware of the road through the Aksai Chin in Ladakh. In July and September 1955, the Vice Chief of the Foreign Bureau of Ngari (western Tibet) informed India's Trade Agent at Gartok of the Xinjiang-Gartok Road via Rudok. The Aksai Chin Road was built between 1951 and March 1957, when its completion was announced. The Ministry of External Affairs held that "this part of the territory was useless to India... . The boundary line had not been demarcated and had been shifted more than once by the British. There was an old silk route which was a sort of an international route. The Chinese had only improved it."

All this was known to Nehru when he met Zhou on December 31, 1956. He did not mention the Aksai Chin Road even once in talks that lasted six hours. On the other hand, Zhou accepted the McMahon line, mentioned Tibet and assured respect for its autonomy. He also mentioned the McMahon Line of which he hitherto "knew nothing... until recently when we came to study the border problems". Nehru recalled that in 1914 China objected to the Shimla Convention on two other points but not to the Line.

Zhou responded at length: "The relations of Sikkim and Bhutan with China differ from those between Tibet and China, because Sikkim and Bhutan were never under China and even the Imperial Power did not recognise Bhutan and Sikkim as being under them. But in the case of Tibet, it was a different case... . McMahon Line - what I meant was that people like me never knew about it till recently. The then Chinese government, namely the warlords in Peking and the KMT naturally knew about it. Perhaps U Nu [Buma's Prime Minister] might have told Your Excellency that we studied this question and although this Line was never recognised by us, still apparently there was a secret pact between Britain and Tibet and it was announced at the time of the Simla Conference. And now that it is an accomplished fact, we should accept it. But we have not consulted Tibet so far. In the last agreement which we signed about Tibet [in 1954], the Tibetans wanted us to reject this Line; but we told them that the question should be temporarily put aside. I believe immediately after India's independence, the Tibetan government had also written to the Government of India about this matter. But now we think that we should try to persuade and convince Tibetans to accept it. This question also is connected with Sino-Burmese border and the question will be decided after Dalai Lama's return to Lhasa. So, although the question is still undecided and is unfair to us, still we feel that there is no better way than to recognise this Line." China accepted this very Line in its agreement with Burma on January 28, 1960, before Zhou came to India in April 1960.

Nehru did, however, refer to other sectors but this was apparently to the middle sector (Bara Hoti) and not to the road in the Aksai Chin. "The border is a high mountain border and sparsely populated. Apart from the major question, there are also small questions about two miles here and two miles there. But if we agree on some principle, namely, the principle of previous normal practice or the principle of watershed, we can also settle these other small points. Of course, this has nothing to do with the McMahon Line." Zhou Enlai replied: "Yes, the question can be solved and we think it should be settled early."

Talks on this issue as well as the Line were also recorded in Nehru's meticulous note to the Secretary-General of the Ministry of External Affairs, N.R. Pillai. There is absolutely no basis for the assertion that Nehru sold Tibet down the drain. Claude Arpi's Born in Sin: The Panchsheel Agreement (Mittal Publications; pages 241, Rs.495) overlooks the realities as he builds up the case against Nehru. More tendentious is Ajay B. Agrawal's India, Tibet & China (N.A. Books International, Mumbai; pages 211, Rs.295).

Wendy Palace unearthed archival material for her able work British Empire and Tibet (Routledge; pages 194, 70). But while conjecture animates her account of the Simla Conference in 1914, at the end she lapses into unreality, asserting that the British have "a moral obligation to support" Tibet in the 21st century.

Nehru's culpability on another and graver score has gone unnoticed. In 1950, both, the U.S. and the United Kingdom made it plain to Tibetans that no military help was available. Mervyn Goldstein's book A History of Modern Tibet reveals, on the strength of British archival records, that Nehru prevented Tibetans from holding talks with China's representatives in Hong Kong or Singapore. He should have encouraged them to go there or even to Beijing. The British helped by refusing visas.

Two years after the 1956-57 talks, Nehru wrote to Zhou on December 14, 1958, complaining of Chinese maps and quoting from the records of their talks in 1954 and 1956. Zhou's reply of January 23, 1959, did not contest that. But he raised the issue about the road. Nehru replied on March 22, 1959, to contend that the boundary in Ladakh was also a closed chapter, citing a vague and utterly irrelevant treaty of 1842 - as if nothing had happened thereafter. The issue was squarely joined. Nehru did not resolve it in talks with Zhou in New Delhi in April 1960 despite the fact that Zhou conceded the McMahon Line in the talks explicitly. All Nehru had to do was to concede the road and seek a rational boundary in Ladakh. In 1980, Deng Xiaoping withdrew Zhou's concession. In 2006, China insists that India make some concession on the Line before it concedes anything in the west.

The quality of Sino-Indian relations in 1956 can be gauged from the fact that China deferred to India's sensitivities on sending an Ambassador to Nepal. That the U.S. would have followed suit was another consideration. Zhou told Nehru: "As regards China's general relations with Nepal, the view of the Chinese Premier was that they should be built on: (a) The Five Principles; and (b) On the basis of friendship between India and Nepal. In other words, the Sino-Nepalese relations should be based on friendship between these three countries. Both our countries, India and China, wish to improve and strengthen their friendship with Nepal and neither wants anything from Nepal. My ensuing visit to Nepal will also be in the same spirit and I would keep India fully informed of developments."

In the years that followed, Sino-Nepal relations improved. A boundary agreement was signed on March 21, 1960. India still remains embroiled with Nepal on the Treaty of 1950 - which, in 1954, Nehru himself said was obsolete - and Kalapani and like issues of earth-shaking importance.

We now have the entire record of the triangular relationship from 1947 to June 2005 in five volumes edited by the indefatigable archivist and scholar Avtar Singh Bhasin. He has served in the National Archives, the Defence Ministry, and retired in 1993 as Director of the Ministry of External Affairs' Historical Division. He has edited similar compilations on India's relations with Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. One hopes he will compile documents on India's relations with China and with Pakistan. The selection and the Introduction testify to his scholarship. He reproduces 1,501 documents, many of which were unpublished. The section on India-Nepal boundary covers the period from 1815 to May 2005.

A careful reader will find much else besides the triangular relationship that throws light on important issues. Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao was asked by a Reuters correspondent at his press conference in Kathmandu on October 21, 1992, about the famous Article 2 of the Indo-Bhutanese Treaty of Friendship of 1949. It provides for India's non-interference in Bhutan's internal administration and its advice to Bhutan "in regard to its external relations". What advice did India propose to give Bhutan on Bhutan-Nepal relations? Narasimha Rao gave a perfect answer. "This is very simple. We undertake to give guidance when it is asked for" (Volume I, page 871). By a single statesmanlike statement Narasimha Rao made plain to all that India regards Bhutan as a sovereign equal. The Treaty of 1949 bore that meaning in 1992. No student of South Asian Affairs can afford to neglect this excellent compilation.

Nehru's Kashmir policy spelt India's international isolation; a cold war with Pakistan which encouraged anti-secular forces in both countries; and lasting alienation of the people of the State. He sinned against the light. To this day, Kashmiris have neither forgiven nor forgotten the dismissal of Sheikh Abdullah as Prime Minister of the State on August 8, 1954, and his imprisonment for 11 years - both at Nehru's instance. Documents in SWJN Vol. 23 (pages 284-308) reveal that it was Nehru, not Kidwai or anyone else, who decided deliberately on this course. He later denied his role to the nation, to Parliament, the President and even to Indira Gandhi (page 311). But his personal decision was recorded very clearly in a Note of July 31, 1953, which his private secretary M.O. Mathai recorded. Others acted on this decision (Volume 23, page 303): "The Head of the State [Dr. Karan Singh] should be informed accordingly."

Letters in this and previous volumes show that Nehru was out to undermine his prisoner's morale by isolating the Sheikh from the world outside with curbs on visitors and correspondence. On July 30, 1953, Nehru wrote to the Sheikh's deputy, Bakshi Ghulam Mohammed, who was conspiring with New Delhi against his own chief, to prepare him for the Sheikh's arrest.

What was the result? India's total diplomatic isolation. Reporting to Nehru from the United Nations on January 13, 1957, Krishna Menon admitted: "I must mention that there is no goodwill for us on the Kashmir issue so that there should be no complaint from any of your colleagues that I dissipated the goodwill." Nehru warned Bakshi, now the State's Prime Minister, on January 17, 1957: "Practically everybody there is against us except the representatives of the Soviet Union." A few days later, Krishna Menon opined that international opinion would always be against India on Kashmir. The West invariably mentioned the Indian promise to have a plebiscite in Kashmir and the inherent right of self-determination of the people. The "West" was his gloss. President Habib Bourguiba of Tunisia sharply reminded Nehru of his pledge. More politely, did Prime Minister S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike of Sri Lanka.

The documents throw some light on the Soviet Russia's abstention in the Security Council, which enabled its President, Gunnar Jarring of Sweden, to come here as a mediator. As he did with the boundary issue with China during 1959-62, Nehru used Kashmir for political mobilisation, promoting a chauvinism that made the problem more difficult for successors to resolve. He brazenly characterised the rigged polls of 1951, 1957 and 1962 as fair. On February 11, 1957, he recorded: "Lord Mountbatten is also rather agitated because of this press propaganda in London and the general impression created that India was doing something wrong and her moral authority was going. He, in fact, asked Vijayalakshmi to go to India to explain the position in England to us here. I told Vijayalakshmi that there was no need to get excited about these matters. I suggested to her to tell [British Prime Minister Harold] Macmillan to read Krishna Menon's second speech in the Security Council. She said that she had suggested this and Macmillan had replied that nobody had time to read an eight-hour speech." Nehru wrote to Mountbatten: "It is true that a difficult situation has been created and it is not pleasant for us to be told constantly that we are the guilty party and that we are not honouring our international commitments."

Nehru recklessly made statements which were untrue. He told Krishna Menon on January 18: "You will recollect that at that time [in 1947] I had suggested to Pakistan to make a joint request to undertake plebiscite in Kashmir." The minutes of an India-Pakistan meeting in Lahore on December 8, 1947, show that a joint reference was Mountbatten's idea, which Nehru rejected. Read this: "Would the two governments agree to make a joint approach to UNO or that one or other should make the approach? Mr. Liaquat Ali Khan said that he would agree to UNO advising on the impartiality of the administration before the plebiscite. Pandit Nehru said he would entirely reject this idea" (Mountbatten and Independent India; Larry Collins & Dominique Lapierre; Vikas, page 153).

Alec Douglas-Home, Britain's Secretary for Commonwealth Relations, asked Vijayalakshmi Pandit on February 7 "if we would agree to plebiscite under any circumstances, such as if Pakistan withdrew its troops from Kashmir and allowed Jammu and Kashmir to take over entire State. Another suggestion was whether it was possible to have plebiscite in Jammu on one side and Azad Kashmir on the other leaving the issue of the Valley to be considered separately." Macmillan pleaded with Vijayalakshmi Pandit that "Nehru should make an imaginative gesture. He went on to talk about a possible partition of the Jammu and Kashmir State. Vijayalakshmi asked: are you prepared to support such a partition. (Presumably, but I [Nehru] am not sure, the partition meant more or less on existing ceasefire line). Selwyn Lloyd interrupted Macmillan and told him that they could not agree to such a partition, but there might be a partition on the basis of Azad Kashmir going to Pakistan and Jammu going to India, while the Valley presumably would have a plebiscite."

Nehru was reconciled to the Security Council's reference of the legality of (Kashmir's to India) accession to the World Court. Vijayalakshmi Pandit phoned her brother, on February 16, informing him that the legal advice London had secured "was not very much in our favour". Nehru disagreed but added "if necessity arose, the matter will have to be decided by the International Court of Justice". She was, however, correctly informed. As far back as 1947-48, Britain's Attorney-General Sir Hartley Shawcross as well as the Legal Adviser of the Foreign Office opined against India. So did the Legal Adviser of the U.S. State Department (Foreign Relations of the U.S.; South Asia; Volume V, page 1379). Nehru's rather casual acquiescence in reference to the World Court is hard to understand.

The Prime Minister repeatedly urged readjustment of the ceasefire line in Kashmir "on geographical, strategic and like grounds". Sadly, he propagated systematically a falsehood of lasting effect till it became conventional wisdom - plebiscite could not be held because Pakistan refused to withdraw its troops. This is palpably untrue. But it has been constantly cited as the obstacle to a plebiscite.

The Agreement embodied in the United Nations Commission for India and Pakistan's (UNCIP) Resolution of August 13, 1948, said: "When the Commission shall have notified the Government of India that the tribesmen and Pakistan nationals have withdrawn,... and further, that the Pakistan forces are being withdrawn from the State of Jammu and Kashmir; the Government of India agrees to begin to withdraw the bulk of their forces from the State in stages to be agreed upon with the Commission."

The difference in the language used for the withdrawal of the tribesmen ("have withdrawn") and that of Pakistan's forces ("are being withdrawn") clearly suggests that while the tribesmen had to quit completely, the total withdrawal of Pakistan's forces from Kashmir could begin only once India began to withdraw "the bulk" of its forces.

The implications are obvious: (a) There must be synchronisation of withdrawal of the two armies and (b) India must agree to withdraw "the bulk" of its forces. India refused to agree on what constitutes "the bulk" and insisted on retaining large numbers of the troops, as the third report of the UNCIP showed. It began to contend that Pakistan's forces had to quit unconditionally.

Nehru knew very well that this was simply not true. The minutes of his meeting with the UNCIP on August 17, 1948, record that the Commission plainly told him that "the requirement that Indian troops begin their withdrawal before Pakistani forces had completed their withdrawal from the State had been arrived at to meet Pakistan's fears of an attack by Indian forces". Nehru accepted the resolution after this clarification which was repeated to Pakistan on August 27, 1948: "Synchronisation of the withdrawal of the armed forces of the two governments will be arranged between the respective High Commands and the Commission" (Documents S/1100; November 1948; pages 106 and 138).

Zhou's report to Nehru on his trip to Pakistan is significant. "In Pakistan I found proof that the people of Pakistan want peace and friendship. But immediately the Kashmir issue was raised, they asked many questions. As Your Excellency told me, I told them that if the U.N. Resolution which was adopted eight years ago is to be carried out, then Pakistan should withdraw her forces and then India would also withdraw her forces to certain limit and then plebiscite could be held. I have also told them that throughout the last eight years Pakistan had not carried out this. Pakistan's reply was that they would carry out but there must be simultaneous withdrawal of troops."

Had Nehru fulfilled his solemn pledge to hold a plebiscite in 1948, history would have taken a different course. In 1965, Pakistan resorted to war to settle the issue and imparted credibility to the impossibility of plebiscite on which India had reneged anyway.

In 2006, plebiscite is dead as a dodo. But proposals are afloat to resolve the Kashmir dispute in accordance with the realities of today while reckoning with the wishes of the people. New Delhi, prisoner to Nehruvian myths and legacies, rejects every single proposal out of hand. The latest in this series is the brusque rejection of President Pervez Musharraf's proposal for self-governance in Kashmir. So brusque, that even clarification of its implications were not sought.

Selected Works of Jawaharlal Nehru: 1 December 1956 - 21 February 1957; Second Series, Volume 36; Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Fund; Distributed by Oxford University Press; pages 752, Rs.700.

Nepal-India, Nepal-China Relations: Documents 1947 - June 2005 edited by Avtar Singh Bhasin; Geetika Publishers, New Delhi 110028; Rs.6,000 for the set of 5 volumes.

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