TO this day, the people of Kashmir nostalgically recall "the Dixon Plan" and long for the day when it can be put into effect. It was proposed by Sir Owen Dixon, a Judge of the Australian High Court who came to the subcontinent as the United Nations' Representative for India and Pakistan pursuant to the Security Council's Resolution of March 14, 1950. He had a "high reputation for independence, integrity and ability", Jawaharlal Nehru wrote to Kashmir's Prime Minister, Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah, on April 6 (Selected Works of Jawaharlal Nehru; Second Series; Volume 14, Part I, page 205; cited as SWJN). Girija Shankar Bajpai, Secretary-General of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), knew him when both were envoys in Washington (1942-44).
The Report he submitted to the U.N. Security Council on September 15, 1950 is a classic; unexcelled for its elegant style, incisive analysis and transparent honesty. No U.N. mediator received a warmer welcome. No mediator before or since came so close to success.
The five-member U.N. Commission for India and Pakistan (1948-49) secured accord on terms for plebiscite in its resolutions of August 13, 1948 and January 5, 1949; arranged a ceasefire (New Year's Day) and drew up a ceasefire line on which both sides agreed on July 27, 1949. It proved unequal to the task thereafter, so did Gen. A.G.L. McNaughton of Canada. The six reports of mediator Frank Graham (1951-1953 and 1956) reflect incompetence and a passion for survival. Gunnar Jarring (1958) was escapist. They did much harm.
When they met in London three years later, Nehru told him, as Dixon recorded in his diary (June 1, 1953), that "of all the people who had dealt with the Kashmir question, I was the only man who came to grips with it".
That was "The Dixon Plan". It assigned Ladakh to India, the Northern Areas and Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (POK) to Pakistan, split Jammu between the two, and envisaged a plebiscite in the Kashmir Valley. Pakistan demurred at first, but agreed. It fell through because Nehru did not accept the conditions in which the plebiscite could be held; precisely the issue on which the United Nations Commission for India and Pakistan (UNCIP) and Graham failed. They, because of their ineptness; Dixon because he lost patience.
We now have the inside story from an Australian scholar of impeccable credentials. Major William Alan Reid was an Observer with the U.N. Military Observers Group in Kashmir (UNMOGIP). He was obliged to return in 1981 and retire from the army as he had sustained serious injuries in a jeep accident on the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad road.
There can be no greater praise for his B.A. with Honours Thesis entitled "Sir Owen Dixon's Mediation of the Kashmir Dispute" (July 2000) than that Dixon would have approved of it. The writer is indebted to him for a copy of the thesis. Reid is working on a doctoral thesis on the same subject. He consulted Sir Owen's papers; his notes of some 50 interviews, his diary and personal correspondence, as well the Australian Archives, besides published works. This is in the fine tradition of Australian scholarship on India represented by Professors Robin J. Moore, Ian Coplan and T. B. Millar, to name a few. So does Richard Snedden's excellent doctoral thesis Paramountcy, Patrimonialism and the Peoples of Jammu & Kashmir, 1947-1991 (May 2001).
Maniben Patel, daughter of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel.
Dixon had more than a fair prospect of success. Vishnu Sahay, Secretary for Kashmir Affairs in the MEA, had informed the Australian High Commission (AHC) in New Delhi before Dixon's arrival that both Nehru and Vallabhbhai Patel were "even prepared to risk public opinion, if the need arose" to get the plebiscite-cum-partition plan through. Before the end of 1948 if not earlier Nehru had developed second thoughts on a plebiscite in Kashmir (vide the writer's article "India-Pakistan summit, 1955"; Frontline, August 8, 2001). But he told the British High Commissioner Archibald Nye on September 9, 1949 that a proposal for "a plebiscite being confined to the Valley and the area north of it [excluding Gilgit] was worthy of consideration" (SWJN; Volume13; page 225).
Patel and Nehru were agreed "that a plebiscite is unreal" (Sardar Patel's Correspondence 1945-50; Volume 1, page 317. Patel's letter of July 3, 1950). He feared that "once the talk starts the non-Muslims in Jammu and Kashmir would start feeling uneasy and we might be faced with an exodus to India." He had warned Nehru earlier (June 27) that Nixon was "going to try... to bring about an agreement on the question of demilitarisation. If we are not careful, we might land ourselves in difficulties because once demilitarisation is settled, a plebiscite would be, as it were, round the corner" (SPC; Volume 10, page 353). Ergo, scuttle all demilitarisation proposals by the mediator. But was Patel opposed to the Dixon Plan?
We get a fair idea of what was afoot in his daughter Maniben's diary. On April 23, she wrote: "Vishnu Sahay clarified from map that we should give up Kashmir Valley retain Jammu-Ladakh." Dixon arrived in New Delhi on May 27, 1950 and met Nehru, Bajpai and Sahay. He met Patel on May 29 and July 30. Maniben recorded on July 24, "Vishnu Sahay pointed out partitioned border about Kashmir on map" presumably the line Nehru proposed to offer to Pakistan at the summit.
At the MEA, Bajpai told the U.S. Ambassador, Loy Henderson, on April 8, that during the Nehru-Liaquat talks that month on the refugee influx from East Pakistan, the Secretary-General of Pakistan's Cabinet, Mohammed Ali "suggested that it would be helpful if Pakistan and India could come to an understanding re Kashmir before arrival of mediator. Bajpai agreed and outlined various methods for settlement or dispute including his own favourite method which he described to Ali as `Lippmann's suggestions', that is, partition plus plebiscite in Vale of Kashmir. All said Pakistan was so deeply committed to `over-all plebiscite' he did not see how any other method could be approved at this time" (Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS) 1950; Volume V, S. Asia; 1978; page 1,407).
There was also the issue of sovereignty. Reid discloses that "in 1949, the dispute's legal underpinnings became potentially far more complicated: the U.K. government accepted a legal opinion questioning the validity of Kashmir's accession to India. The opinion was circulated to the U.S., Australia and Canada" in 1950. Dixon was also given a copy. This need not raise any hackles in India. It was disclosed in 1978 when a joint memo on the "Kashmir Dispute" by the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern South Asian and African Affairs, George C. McGee, and his counterpart for U.N. Affairs, John D. Hickerson, to Secretary of State Dean Acheson, was published. It was dated February 6, 1950.
The State Department's Legal Adviser agreed with the opinion by the Attorney-General Sir Hartley Shawcross as well as the legal advisers of the British Foreign Office. They held the accession to be "perhaps invalid". The State Department's Legal Adviser gave the opinion that "execution of an Instrument of Accession by the Maharajah in October 1947, could not finally accomplish the accession of Kashmir to either Dominion, in view of the circumstances prevailing at that time; the question of the future of Kashmir remained to be settled in some orderly fashion under relatively stable conditions; this question is an important element in the dispute; and, in proceedings before the Security Council, neither party is entitled to assert that rights were finally determined by the Maharajah's execution of an instrument of Accession." (FRUS, 1950, Vol. V, page 1,379).
The correct view was set out in 1948 in the Government of India's White Paper on Jammu and Kashmir. It was valid but "purely provisional" (page 3). It was also called "conditional". Mountbatten's letter of October 27, 1947 to the State's ruler mentioned the condition: "The question of accession should be decided in accordance with the wishes of the people of the State."
But the two plebiscite resolutions of the UNCIP were based on the legality of Kashmir's accession to India. The Plebiscite Administrator was to "be formally appointed to office" by the State government. It gave Nehru a specific assurance on this point on August 23, 1948. Pakistan accepted these resolutions with knowledge of the assurances.
Dixon knew that "a just and enduring settlement could be achieved only through a pragmatic agreement which recognised the situation as it now stood".
At the outset Dixon felt handicapped by the lack of a political adviser "thoroughly familiar" with India. It proved fateful. Dixon met Nehru, first on May 27, 1950 when "Nehru reiterated that confirmation of the accession of Kashmir to India ought to be done through a Constituent Assembly" (emphasis added, throughout). It was elected in 1951.
Dixon went on a tour of Kashmir from June 7 to July 11 and was unimpressed: "The valley of Kashmir lost all its beauty for me. The lakes became nothing but stagnant swamps, the green rice fields became quagmires of exhausted earth and water in which primitive man and his oxen continued to wallow, and the picturesque house boats... insanitary repositories of furniture and other junk by which infections and contagions were passed from one lessee to another, season after season, I saw it all through a bacteriological haze and wondered why either side wanted it." He met on June 8 and several times later socially, Sheikh Abdullah who ran his fiefdom as a "police state". Erik Colban (Dixon's aide) met Abdullah who "claimed that he was keen to bury the past and try to work `hand in hand' with the leaders of the Azad Kashmir government. Moreover, they should push for a `united' Kashmir that could determine to which country it would accede, `or to other forms of cooperation' with both states. Abdullah wanted Dixon to propose a joint meeting to discuss this." He complained of the UNCIP's failure to negotiate with him and of the omission of the option of independence in the plebiscite.
Maulana Azad met Dixon in Kashmir: "He raised, as Nehru had done, the question of determining the disposal of Kashmir by a Constituent Assembly. Dixon replied that the actual communication accepting the instrument of accession did not use any such term but said that the fate of Kashmir should be decided by an expression of the people's will. Also, in any number of speeches, Nehru had said that this meant by plebiscite, and that was what India and Pakistan had agreed to. Azad, although claiming that India would win a plebiscite, still recommended Partition with a vote only in the disputed areas. This would minimise any migration of refugees and avoid the need for demilitarisation... When Azad concluded by stating that Pakistan's army must be withdrawn, Dixon replied pointedly: `I could say no more than that you did not take votes where there were troops who might be used as instruments of coercion'."
Dixon stayed in the "musty and repellent atmosphere of No. 1 Guest House, Srinagar" and prepared papers on major issues. One concerned demilitarisation, another, forms of Partition and related details.
Back in New Delhi, Dixon proposed to Nehru a summit with Liaquat. Nehru agreed after much persuasion, so did Liaquat but wondered if Nehru was agreeable to plebiscite. Dixon assured him that he was. The summit was held in Delhi from July 20 to 24 without aides. They spent 18 hours, Nehru holding forth for 10. Nehru found his main interlocutor Dixon, "a patient listener... " Liaquat spoke for less than 30 minutes saying "little or nothing except by way of intermittent protest against Mr. Nehru's statements". The possibility of a partition-cum-plebiscite "had been raised". Liaquat's silence preserved his options.
Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad.
Dixon's proposals on the overall plebiscite were rejected by Nehru on the grounds he recorded in his report. "But he was in no doubt why they were put," as he mentioned privately in a letter: "If such a plebiscite were taken freely and fairly (India) would undoubtedly lose it." Bajpai agreed, expressing his "personal view".
Dixon even explored "the possibility of removing the ceasefire line as the political boundary" so that the State could be brought under one administration. He did not favour a coalition comprising Abdullah and Ghulam Abbas of the POK. But the proposals he made were starkly unrealistic. Any competent political adviser would have warned him against making it.
He proposed putting the State "Government in commission"; that is, "replacing the regular constitutional administrators with appointed persons". Ministers would continue to hold office "but they would be relieved of their responsibilities. No Indian Prime Minister could possibly have accepted that. It went beyond the terms for plebiscite in the UNCIP's Resolution of January 5, 1949. This was to prove fatal, eventually, on the limited plebiscite.
"Before the conference adjourned, Dixon sought an indication about India's attitude towards Partition, with a limited plebiscite (the Valley and some adjacent country), or plebiscites in specified areas. Nehru proffered `great interest' and, despite the disadvantages of being seen to compromise, undertook to provide India's view. Although not liking it, Liaquat did not object to the proposal being raised, so long as it came from India... "
After the collapse of the summit, Dixon received from Nehru a tentative proposal: "In Jammu the ceasefire line would become the boundary, Azad Kashmir going to Pakistan, the remainder to India. Since the latter included territory north of the Chenab River, India would also agree not to reduce `sensibly, substantially or materially' its flow. The Northern Areas would be conceded but Buddhist Ladakh in the east would remain with India. As to the Valley, which Nehru defined generously, he agreed that prima facie it was in doubt and that a plebiscite must be taken... This would, inter alia, minimise refugee movement while simplifying demilitarisation and administrative arrangements. The Valley, overwhelmingly Muslim but also Sheikh Abdullah's power base, would be subject to a vote. The major difference that arose was about the territory that India claimed automatically. Because of strong pro-Pakistan areas to the east of the ceasefire line in Jammu, Dixon felt it both unwise and mistaken to follow this closely and warned that he would argue against it."
The 1941 Census was to be taken as the basis "modified by demographic, geographic and other features and `present conditions' " in order to minimise refugee movement. Dixon met Patel on July 30 who opposed a plebiscite ("an impracticable solution (that) had never been possible.") They discussed a partition line in Jammu. Patel said a "settlement would not be allowed to fail over a couple of tehsils here or a couple of tehsils there. The issues were too big."
Dixon was informed by Francis Stuart, the Acting Australian High Commissioner, that before the Prime Ministers' summit, the Cabinet had "unanimously" agreed that a solution must be found quickly; rejected an overall plebiscite; but "a settlement which gave Kashmir substantially Pakistan, provided it included settling satisfactorily other outstanding issues, would be acceptable; but Jammu must remain in India while losing Ladakh would be resisted. The Army also supported an immediate political solution."
Dixon went to Karachi, the then capital of Pakistan, and proposed another summit to discuss a limited plebiscite. Mohammed Ali was sceptical whether Nehru would agree to conditions for a fair poll; Liaquat, facing a divided Cabinet, proposed outright partition, with the Valley going to Pakistan. Dixon returned to Delhi on August 9 and secured Nehru's agreement on a new course of action. Dixon would propose a "definite" plan for limited plebiscite with "the territorial boundaries India might not like". Nehru would attend a conference provided Liaquat did not reject the idea itself. Dixon proposed to give Pakistan "much of Jammu west of the Chenab river". The plebiscite area would be defined precisely. Dixon went to Karachi to secure Liaquat's consent to this. He spent a week there (August 11-18). Liaquat accepted the plan, provided Nehru would agree to a neutral administration for the Valley. In an exchange of cables, Nehru rejected the idea to Dixon's annoyance. They are annexed to the Report.
Dixon was being unrealistic and impatient. Reid writes: "Although the plan was similar in concept to that which Nehru had dismissed at the conference, in practice it would be much different yet it had been rejected without any detail being sought."
True, the idea was "new". It had been aired at the summit when, admittedly, Nehru rejected it. It was new in the sense none had proposed it earlier. None with any political awareness would have proposed it in 1950, either; mechanically perfect, politically impossible. "The Government in Commission" was a concept for which the great jurist would have found hardly any precedent. He even envisaged participation of Pakistan's troops. Reid records that Dixon reminded Nehru that "when he, Dixon, had first used it Nehru had requested an explanation and then opposed the concept strongly. But whether the proposal was old or new had nothing to do with its merits, nor with the need to exclude any possibility of the vote being seen as unfairly influenced. Bajpai then pointed to a paper given to Nehru during the conference and asked why its provisions would not do: this was what the Cabinet had expected Dixon to propose and it would not unduly interfere with the process of Government. Dixon pointed out that that paper was now `entirely insufficient' as its proposals applied to the whole State and dealt only with controlling the police... He had understood from post-conference discussions that India accepted that measures would be necessary in the Valley to ensure a vote free from intimidation and unfairness, but it had now denied him any chance to explain them." But the idea was fundamentally unsound. If his "paper" fulfilled the needs of a fair vote, why did he abandon it "now"?
One wishes that Dixon had persisted and amplified on the UNCIP's formula. Reid asks why Nehru rejected the idea though "the Cabinet wanted a genuine settlement". The Cabinet would have rejected any proposal for ousting Abdullah's government. Dixon's angry comments on Nehru later were unjust. Nehru, to be sure, reneged on his commitment on a plebiscite as this writer demonstrated (Frontline, August 3, 2001). But it is unfair to blame him for rejecting a "Government in Commission". Dixon's distrust of Abdullah's repressive regime was justified. Not so his impatient refusal to see the merit of Nehru's view.
Nehru, true to form, caustically dragged in Pakistan's "original sin" while arguing sensibly. But the record does not suggest that he was insincere on the Dixon plan. He reminded U.S. Ambassador Chester Bowles on July 8, 1952 that "India had always been interested in partition possibility as outlined in Dixon Report," provided that Sheikh Abdullah's continuance in office was not affected (SWJN; Volume 18; page 430).
In 1952, V.K. Krishna Menon told the Australian High Commissioner that Nehru still favoured the Dixon Plan. Reid rightly holds: "Dixon came much closer to creating the conditions necessary for a lasting settlement than has previously been recognised. Moreover, his mission did provide some hope for a future settlement by outlining a sensible approach." The unremitting hard work, the exasperation he felt understandably in dealing with New Delhi and Karachi and his illness accounted for the mediator's refusal to work any further. But he would have returned, if both sides had invited him. They did not.
On July 29, Henderson reported to Acheson that an informant "sent to me by one of most powerful political figures" (was it Patel?) told him: "a. Indian Cabinet was extremely anxious for settlement of Kashmir in near future on basis which will leave as little bitterness as possible. b. It was absolutely out of question, however, for India to permit Jammu with its heavy Hindu population and its geographical position to go to Pakistan. c. Cabinet believed only solution was that of partition plebiscite as advanced by Dixon and believed that if Pakistan accepts this solution, GOI should be extremely liberal in making concessions redemilitarisation and U.N. control in Vale during course plebiscite even though it was confident that plebiscite under such conditions would yield Vale to Pakistan. In other words, Cabinet prepared now abandon idea of Vale going to India provided Jammu and Ladakh would be retained and decision re Vale would be based on plebiscite. d. Nehru, although somewhat reluctant, was willing go along with Cabinet in this regard... " (FRUS; page 1,417). Was Patel more conciliatory than Nehru, then?
Nehru expected to get "concessions from Pakistan in other spheres" as part of the deal. Dixon, on August 15, won Liaquat's clearance for his plan. Even after Dixon gave up on August 23, what Bajpai told Henderson on August 25 was significant. The U.S. Ambassador reported to Acheson: "I said it had been my impression GOI really desired solution of partition-plus-plebiscite and that if it could have most of Jammu and Ladakh it would be willing agree to conditions for plebiscite in Vale. Bajpai... said that had been GOI position and still was its position. GOI did not believe however, it would be necessary replace present Government Kashmir with UN administration in order have fair plebiscite... Public reaction in India would be so sharp that no government which had agreed to such arrangement could survive. This had been opinion not only of Nehru but also of other members of Foreign Committee of Cabinet Patel, Rajagopalachari and Ayyangar. Dixon, however, had offered no alternative. He had taken position there could be no fair plebiscite under Abdullah regime. It was on this issue and nothing else discussions had broken down. GOI was still willing to discuss direct with GOP or under auspices SC solution involving partition with plebiscite in Vale under conditions which reasonable observers U.N. must consider fair" (FRUS; page 1,426).
On August 28, Henderson gave his formula to Acheson. "present government of Kashmir could remain in office during period plebiscite so long as in opinion administrator it was loyally cooperating in facilitating fair plebiscite. Administrator would have authority, however, to appoint U.N. officials to arrange for and conduct plebiscite. He would also be empowered to appoint observers to local military units and to civilian institutions, including juridical and police, in order to make sure there was no direct or indirect intimidation of population, Kashmir Government would be required accept administrator's recommendation for removal of any of its officials who in opinion administrator were not loyally cooperating in order bring about fair plebiscite and to revoke any administrative or judicial order which in opinion administrator was likely interfere with fairness of plebiscite. Such Indian military establishment as might remain in Kashmir would also be required to remove or replace any of its personnel who in opinion administrator were not giving proper cooperation. Administrator should also be provided with sufficient U.N. civilian and military personnel to replace local personnel in case in his opinion such replacements would be advisable." This was negotiable (FRUS; page 1,428).
In Srinagar, Henderson "had two secret discussions" with Sheikh Abdullah, at his request in September 1950. He "was vigorous in restating that in his opinion it (Kashmir) should be independent" (FRUS; page 1,434).
When British and American officials met on September 18, J.J.S. Garner of the Commonwealth Relations Office "pointed out that Dixon's efforts did, after all, break down on a rather narrow point and that, if there really a will on the part of the two sides to settle the problem, it should not be impossible to devise a formula that would, on the one hand, avoid the complete withdrawal of the Abdullah Government, and, on the other, allow proper U.N. supervision of the plebiscite.
"Mr. McGhee, pointing out that partition-plus-plebiscite seemed to be the most likely solution ultimately, thought we might use Dixon's report as the basis for consolidating efforts in this direction" (FRUS; page 201).
SO close and yet so far. The sub-continent would have been spared half a century's bitter travails if Dixon had received proper backing and was persuaded to renew his efforts. President Rajendra Prasad endorsed the Dixon Plan in a note to Nehru on July 14, 1953. "Last year, Dr. Radhakrishnan, (Vice-President) on his return from a visit to Kashmir, came and told me that even Sheikh Abdullah thought that we would lose in a plebiscite as Sheikh Abdullah himself had told him that ... but whether we win or lose in a plebiscite, with our commitments it is not possible to say that we shall not have a plebiscite if the other side presses for it." He feared a refugee influx. And preferred "the suggestion of Sir Owen Dixon and have plebiscite only in an area about which there is any doubt as to which way it would vote. It proceeds upon the assumption that the result of plebiscite in the areas which are left out of plebiscite is a foregone conclusion, and therefore both as a matter of expediency and convenience, the plebiscite should be confined to doubtful areas... One of the implications of this may be that we may lose the Kashmir Valley, but we shall be assured from the very beginning about getting Jammu and Ladakh, and Pakistan similarly about the Azad area" (Dr. Rajendra Prasad: Correspondence and Select Documents; Volume 16; pages 91-92).
In this, he was not being communal unlike Dr. B.R. Ambedkar who said, on October 11, 1951, after resigning from the Cabinet: "Give the Hindus and Buddhist parts to India and the Muslim part to Pakistan as we did in the case of India... If we cannot save the whole of Kashmir, at least let us save our kith and kin" a sentiment Shyama Prasad Mookerjee echoed.
The Dixon Plan figured in discussions in the National Conference's Working Committee on June 9, 1953, "among the alternatives discussed was a Dixon plan with independence for the plebiscite area" Bakshi Ghulam Mohammed was "emphatically of the opinion" that this should be put up "as first and the only practicable, advantageous and honourable solution of (sic.) the dispute" (For text vide A. G. Noorani; The Kashmir Question; 1964; page 63).
A variant figured in Nehru's letter to the Prime Minister, Mohammed Ali Bogra on September 5, 1953 overall plebiscite but partition based on the results in each region (White Paper on correspondence 1954; pages 18 and 42). He was only marking time. Having put Abdullah behind the bars on August 8, he could hardly risk a plebiscite. He said as much to Karan Singh (August 21) and sent A. P. Jain to Bakshi to explain matters (SWJN; Volume 23; page 346).
In 2002, Dixon's plan of 1950 cannot be revived. But, its spirit and his statesmanship can be. Reid deplores the nationalist historiography that mars Indian and Pakistani writing, on Kashmir. To both, Dixon's Report of September 15, 1950 (August 27) provides a devastating corrective. The classic repays study even now. "The question whether Pakistan had or had not been an aggressor had, to my mind, nothing to do with the results of a partition and the fairness and freedom of a partial plebiscite... to agree that the territory not immediately divided between India and Pakistan should pass to one or the other according to the vote of the inhabitants at a plebiscite conducted by the United Nations must be to agree a text involving an equal interest in both countries in the result."
The issue of aggression does not affect Pakistan's standing as a party to the dispute. Dixon suggested a fine blend between international mediation and bilateral talks. The former can only fill in the gaps.
In 2002, the Kashmir question comprises a blend of four incontrovertible elements: 1. The State's secession from the Union is ruled out; 2. The U.N. resolutions on plebiscite are obsolete; not so, the ones forbidding unilateral solution, still less India's pledges to the people; 3. The LoC is no solution either. Dixon was right. The valley is the heart of the problem; 4. The people are more alienated from the Union now than they were in 1950. Most Indians resist this truth, known to the wide world, lest it spelt secession and resent characterisation of Kashmir as "an international problem" crying for a solution.
Intellectual honesty and moral courage demand, instead, that all the four truths should be faced boldly and treated as a challenge to diplomatic creativity and statesmanship. "Many of us think that it is rather disgraceful and does no credit to India that this matter should have dragged on... so long", Vallabhbhai Patel told Owen Dixon on July 30, 1950. Half a century has not wiped out that disgrace shared by leaders of India and Pakistan.
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