Glimpses of a rich life

Print edition : June 23, 2017

September 1960: Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru driving through Karachi with President Ayub Khan. Photo: THE HINDU ARCHIVES

These volumes of the Selected Works of Jawaharlal Nehru are a useful record of Nehru’s talks with Ayub Khan on the boundary question.

AS with every single volume in the entire series, these volumes contain invaluable material on India’s domestic affairs and its foreign policy under the stewardship of its Prime Minister and Minister for External Affairs, Jawaharlal Nehru. As before, we have to depend on the editor’s judgment in selecting and ignoring the documents. Volume 62 has a solitary document on Kashmir. It pertains to Zorawar Singh’s tomb, and is of a few lines—an MP’s question and Nehru’s reply.

The volumes cover, sporadically, events after the Nehru-Zhou En-lai summit in New Delhi on April 25, 1960, at which they asked officials of both countries to “examine, check and study all historical documents, records”, etc. on which each side relied; draw up the point on which they agreed, ones on which they did not and report. It was hoped that “this report should prove helpful towards further consideration of these problems by the two governments”.

The annals of diplomacy provide no precedent for such a fatuous exercise. The editor is so obsessed with it that he published the entire report in Volume 66 as a “Supplement”, though the Indian report was not written by Nehru. Volumes 63, 64 and 65 have maps of the border areas. The 3,000 pages of transcripts of the officials’ discussion lie in the archives of the Ministry of External Affairs, which, evidently, does not wish to transfer them to the National Archives of India. If the Chinese were provided with India’s evidence, why withhold it from the Indian citizen?

We are provided with a useful record of Nehru’s talks with Pakistan’s President M. Ayub Khan at Murree on September 20, 1960, when he went to Pakistan to sign the Indus Waters Treaty with Ayub Khan in Karachi on September 19. They discussed two important questions, the boundary with China and Kashmir, Nehru said at a Citizens’ Reception at Frere Hall in Karachi. “I told you in the beginning that the pictures of the past unfold before me, because as you may remember, India’s struggle for freedom was not separate from that of Pakistan, which came into being later. It was a common battle in which not only the leaders but the people of both the countries participated and ultimately won freedom. It is true, that freedom brought tremendous problems in its wake. This is the time that I recall vividly, the days when we fought together against a mighty imperialism, without any weapons, and succeeded.”

On the boundary question, Ayub Khan’s approach differed fundamentally from Nehru’s. He accepted the historical truth that the boundary was undefined. Nehru recorded: “When I was driving up to Murree with President Ayub Khan, I referred to our north-west frontier and Chinese claims on it. President Ayub told me that they knew this past history about the territory claimed by the Mir of Hunza. That claim had no basis and recently he had told the Mir of Hunza that he should not get entangled in this matter and the Mir had said that he had waived his claims. All that he had there was grazing rights. I am writing a separate note on this subject.”

In his Note Nehru opined: “It appeared that they were not quite clear about this frontier. Insofar as the Kilik Pass and the Mintaka Pass were concerned, they agreed with the map, but further on to the east they seemed to think that the frontier approximated more to the Chinese line on the map than to our present alignment. They appeared to know still less about the area further east. In the Historical Division’s note it is said that there are Chinese posts in the Taghdumbash. President Ayub Khan said that there were no such Chinese posts there. So far as the 1947 line was concerned, they agreed that this could not be maintained, but, as I have said above, they were not at all clear about the divergence between our present alignment and the Chinese line east of the Mintaka Pass.”

The note of Historical Division of the Ministry of External Affairs on this sector of the boundary was given to Ayub Khan. It noted: “Considering the complications arising from the Chinese pressing their claims to Hunza, the Government of India was contemplating the renouncing of the rights over the Taghdumbash Pamir and Raskam if China in turn renounced all connections with Hunza. In 1927, since it was found that administration extended only upto Hunza and the Shaksgam valley, a boundary line, which, more or less, agreed with the present alignment was marked on a Tibet map with the legend that it was in no way authoritative but represented what for practical administrative purposes was the accepted boundary’…. The decision taken to abandon the claims to the Taghdambash and the Raskam valley was, however, not incorporated in the official maps which continued to show the old alignment. This was rectified by the alignment decided on in 1953. …

“There has been no actual occupation from our side of the area beyond the present boundary line except old Kashmir occupation of Shahidulla and the Kanjuti (Hunza) occupation of Raskam for cultivation. On the other hand China has extended its jurisdiction upto the north of Karakoram Pass and there are Chinese posts in the Taghdumbash. And China has never given up its claim to suzerainty over Hunza. By rectifying the earlier official maps and accepting the present alignment in 1953 we have voluntarily given up claims to an area of about 6,000 square miles.” Pakistan ceded no land to China at all.

Yet, on his return to New Delhi Nehru publicly poured scorn on Pakistan’s antiquated maps. But when it brought them in line with the 1927 decision and settled the problem by an agreement with China on March 2, 1963, he attacked it for relinquishing large areas under maps which he himself considered out of date.

On Kashmir, Nehru refused to alter the status quo. “The slightest change in territory involved our going to Parliament and changing our Constitution, apart from convincing our people. Then again, according to our very Constitution, we could do nothing in regard to Kashmir without the consent of the Kashmir Assembly. Twice there had been elections in Kashmir for this Assembly. Next year we are going to have a third general election in which Kashmir would join.” Ayub Khan argued: “There were three parties to the question of Kashmir: India, Pakistan and the people of Kashmir. All must be satisfied.” Russia’s maps supported China from the word go.

The volumes have some interesting disclosures, for example, Nehru’s letter to Mulk Raj Anand, of December 9, 1960. On D.H. Lawrence’s novel Lady Chatterley’s Lover published in 1928, Nehru wrote: “Without going into literary merits or the wider question of freedom of publication, I came to the conclusion that it was not desirable to have this book widely circulated or published in India. The book may be quite suitable in England, but may not be suitable in India.”

Another disclosure is about the ace hypocrite, the long-winded A.K. Brohi. He was one of the leading lights of the Congress For Cultural Freedom and the International Commission of Jurists. But he served every military dictator with zeal. Ayub Khan sent him as High Commissioner to India, where he sought assiduously to ingratiate himself with Nehru. He spoke to the Prime Minister “for nearly an hour” in June 1960 and assured him that “as a matter of fact, he did not refer to any existing dispute between India and Pakistan, such as canal waters or Kashmir. He explained at length to me his own background, how he had been impressed in his youth and how he had been entirely opposed to the partition of India. When this took place, he kept out of politics and all that till he was more or less dragged in. Then again when military rule came, he reacted against it and wanted to keep out and in fact did not accept some offers made to him by President Ayub Khan. When, however, the President appealed to him to help in improving relations with India, he could not refuse.” Brohi went on to serve Zia. Only five months later, he told this writer at the premises of the famous law book publishers N.M. Tripathi in Mumbai, “Your country will go to pieces”.

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