Essay

Patel the non-Bismarck

Print edition : May 01, 2015

Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel (centre) with C. Rajagopalachari and Jawaharlal Nehru. Photo: THE HINDU ARCHIVES

March 25, 1948: Governor General Lord Mountbatten and Lady Mountbatten with the Maharaja (right) and the Elaya Raja of Travancore at the Thiruvananthapuram airport. Photo: THE HINDU ARCHIVES

The Viceroy with the National Defence Council that was set up in 1940 with members from the provinces and princely states. In this photograph, the second and first rows are occupied by rulers of princely states, with the Viceroy at the centre in front.

Jawaharlal Nehru and M.A. Jinnah. Photo: THE HINDU ARCHIVES

It was Lord Mountbatten who went out of his way to secure the accession of the princely states to India, not Sardar Patel, though the latter played a supportive role.

To praise princes for virtues they do not possess is to insult them without fear of consequences.

– La Rochefoucauld.

THE offence is graver still if false praise continues even after the prince is no more. It falsifies history, creates a climate of servility, and lends itself to political abuse. True, nations live on myths. But it is the duty of historians and publicists to pursue the truth unaffected by myths.

Indians thrive on myths, not only for self-glorification but also for partisan motives. The Nehru-Patel divide is sharply reflected in politics, the academia and the media. Jawaharlal Nehru is posthumously pilloried for (1) promising a plebiscite in Kashmir; (2) referring the Kashmir dispute with Pakistan to the United Nations Security Council; (3) accepting the ceasefire in the state; (4) accepting also the U.N.’s mediation; and (5) for being an “idealist” in his policies towards China. All these criticisms rest on sheer falsehood and deserve to be exposed.

In contrast, Vallabhbhai Patel is hailed as “India’s Bismarck” who “unified” the country and saved it from disintegration. This is a myth hugged by Nehru’s critics, and most of all by those whose hatred he earned by his staunch advocacy of the credo of secularism. The Sangh Parivar is foremost in fostering the myths against Nehru and in spreading the myths about Patel. He was no Bismarck at all. Credit for the crucial phase of the integration of the princely states belongs mainly to the Viceroy and Governor-General, Lord Mountbatten, and his Constitutional Adviser, V.P. Menon. Patel played a supportive and ancillary role. The task was outsourced by him with the Cabinet’s full authorisation to Mountbatten.

The two White Papers on Indian states, published by the Ministry of States over which he presided, record the two distinct phases of the process of integration. One was their accession to India before Independence on August 15, 1947, abandoning for good all pretensions to independent statehood on the lapse of the “paramountcy” of the British Crown. It was a bogus doctrine which British colonialists conveniently evolved with the support of their pliable lawyers. No one refuted it more devastatingly than did Dr B.R. Ambedkar on the eve of Independence.

This first phase, the accession, before August 15, 1947, was of crucial importance. Jinnah egged on the states to declare themselves independent and thus Balkanise India. Mountbatten foiled his plans. The next phase, that of integration with federal India, was plain sailing. The princes were, as it were, lodged in the harem. Those who were small needed slight cajoling to sign agreements for merger with the Provinces of the erstwhile British India; the medium ones formed Unions; the large ones stood alone like the other states. The first White Paper was published in July 1948. Priced at Re.1 annas 12 (that is, Rs.1.75), it recorded the developments since July 5, 1947, when the Ministry of States was set up. Part III covered the “Accession of States to the Dominion of India”. Part IV covered “Integration and Democratisation of States”. Texts of agreement for mergers and Covenants for the Unions were set out. Preceding them were the crucial Instruments of Accession and the Standstill Agreements signed before Independence which paved the way for later integration and democratisation.

A second and fuller White Paper on Indian States was published in February 1950 after the Constitution of India came into force on January 26, 1950. By then, 216 states had been merged in the Provinces; 61 had been taken over as Centrally-administered areas; and 275 had been “integrated in the Union of States”. Hyderabad, Mysore and Kashmir stood by themselves. On Kashmir the White Paper said: “The Government of India, no doubt, stand committed to the position that the accession of this state is subject to confirmation by the people of the state” (page111). This, after India’s Constitution had come into force. Incidentally, to both White Papers were annexed official maps, all of which belie the very basis of India’s case on the boundary dispute with China propounded from 1959 to this day. All of them showed the entire northern boundary from the tri-junction with Afghanistan and China in the West right down to the tri-junction with Nepal and China in the east as “undefined”. This is precisely what Zhou Enlai said from 1959 onwards. Nehru had the maps unilaterally revised in 1954; the old ones were destroyed, and he asserted that the new line was not negotiable. So much for his “idealism” and “romanticism”.

As for the states, they joined the Union of India in 1950 as Part B States under the new Constitution, only to lose this “Status” and their Rajpramukhs under an Amendment to the Constitution and eventually even their privileges and privy purses—deservedly.

After the accession, this was but inevitable. The truth about the accession crisis can be gathered from authoritative works. H.V. Hodson, a friend of V.P. Menon, was Constitutional Adviser to the Viceroy (1941-2) and also an academic. His book The Great Divide (1969) is based on Mountbatten’s Papers besides other material and interviews with leading figures, including V.P. Menon.

A draft Instrument of Accession already existed when the Government of India Act, 1935, was enacted. The Princes refused to join the federation. The document was pressed into service by V.P. Menon. He put forward a plan, which the wooden Linlithgow had rejected, of accession limited to three subjects–defence, foreign affairs and communication. In 1946 the Cabinet Mission had proposed such a federation. Sir Conrad Corfield, the Political Adviser to the Viceroy, did his best to defeat India’s aims.

In 1947, Hodson records, “Sardar Patel was inclined to agree, and at Menon’s request conveyed the proposal to Pandit Nehru, who also agreed if we could see it through”. Menon narrates that he then approached the Viceroy, with Sardar Patel’s cordial assent, and asked for his help. Lord Mountbatten said he would think the matter over, and after an interval accepted the plan, and discussed it frankly with Sardar Patel himself.

“According to Lord Mountbatten, the first time that he debated the states problem with Patel—and this must have been before the setting up of the States Ministry, since he records that he did so because Mr. Menon had told him Patel was much more interested in the states than was the Prime Minister—the Sardar told him that he need not bother about the states because after the transfer of power the states peoples would rise, depose their rulers and throw in their lot with the Congress. The Viceroy reminded him that the states had forces, trained and equipped by the British, ranging from a division in Hyderabad to personal bodyguards in small states, which would shoot down the rebels, and that the Princes were preparing themselves, on the advice of the Political Department, against any uprisings. A civil war would result, and India would lose far more than she would gain from a peaceful settlement. Sardar Patel asked what he meant. The Viceroy replied that the peaceful settlement he had in mind was to allow the rulers to retain their titles, extra-territorial rights and personal property or Civil List, and in return they would join a Dominion—most of them India, a few, like Bahawalpur, Pakistan—only the three subjects of defence, external affairs and communications being reserved to the Central government. Patel said he would think it over.

Basket of apples

“When he next came to see the Viceroy, having meanwhile talked with V.P. Menon—and here the two accounts converge—Sardar Patel said I am prepared to accept your offer provided that you give me a full basket of apples. ‘What do you mean?’ Asked Lord Mountbatten. ‘I’ll buy a basket with 565 apples’—the computed number of states—but if there are even two or three apples missing the deal is off.’ This, said the Viceroy, I cannot completely accept, but I will do my best. If I give you a basket with say 560 apples, will you buy it? Well, I might, replied Patel.

“When Mr. V.P. Menon told Sir Conrad Corfield of the decision he literally threw up his hands in surprise. He did not then know the part which the Crown Representative himself was to play. Sir Conrad, when he did learn of Lord Mountbatten’s intentions, warned him that he was agreeing to use his influence as representative of the paramount power to recommend to the Rulers a bargain which could not be guaranteed after Independence.”

Mountbatten’s Press Attaché Alan Campbell-Johnson’s memoirs were published earlier, in 1951. Interestingly the metaphor of the “basket” occurs in it too. In his address to the Chamber of Princes, “He [Mountbatten] used every weapon in his armoury of persuasion, making it clear at the outset that in the proposed Instrument of Accession, which V.P. Menon had devised, they were being provided with a political offer from the Congress which was not likely to be repeated. Indeed, it was not even a firm offer as yet, and the main chance of it being one rested on his capacity to provide Patel with “a full basket” of acceptance. He reminded them that after the 15th August he would no longer be in a position to mediate on their behalf as Crown Representative, and warned those Princes who were hoping to build up their own store of arms that the weapons they would be likely to get would in any case be obsolete. One point in particular, made with perfect timing and emphasis, did not fail to find its mark with Their Highness. If, he said, the Instrument of Accession was accepted, he had good reason to think that Patel and the Congress would not interfere with their receiving honours and titles from the King under Dominion Status, which he knew meant much to them as exponents of the monarchical order. In this connection it has undoubtedly been a source of strength in his relations with the princes that Mountbatten has been able to speak not simply as Crown Representative, but as a cousin of the King. For these hereditary rulers the blood Royal carries its own authority” (page 141). Besotted with royalty, the princes put great value on the Governor-General’s royalty and his relations with the British monarch.

Even pantomime was enacted. “A certain maharaja, absent from his state and from India at this critical moment, did not seem to appreciate the importance either of coming himself to the meeting or even of briefing his Dewan. For the Dewan had been sent no instructions whatever. Surely, Mountbatten asked, ‘you must know your Ruler’s mind, and can take a decision on his behalf?’ ‘I do not know my Ruler’s mind,’ the hapless Dewan replied, and I cannot get a reply by cable. Mountbatten thereupon picked up a large round glass paper-weight which happened to be on the rostrum in front of him. I will look into my crystal, he said, and give you an answer. There followed ten seconds of dramatic pause when you could have heard a princely pin drop. ‘His Highness,’ Mountbatten solemnly announced, ‘asks you to sign the instrument of Accession.’

“So accurately had he gauged the sentiment of this particular audience that everyone broke out into delighted laughter at this sally, which was clearly regarded as neatly combining the rebuke courteous with the advice timely. For on the whole it was probably wise to strike the humorous note as being the best method of penetrating what seemed to be quite a high proportion of thick skulls.”

These, of course, are British sources. V. Shankar, ICS, served Patel for four years as his Private Secretary and was close to him. His first-hand testimony is more relevant than the guesswork of a hagiography four decades later. “At the meeting of the princes which Sardar had convened, after a satisfactory discussion on the functioning of the new Department and clearance of many misunderstandings, it was agreed that a conference of the Rulers would be held on 25 July at which matters of accession, standstill agreement and other issues concerning the functioning of the States Department would be discussed. But the question as to how this should be done in the face of doubts and uncertainties harboured by the princes and the manoeuvres and machinations of those who were out to sabotage this development caused deep mental anguish to Sardar. Finally he decided that if he himself took a leading part in the meeting, it might lead to open, contrary or hostile acts by the League leaders. He also felt, reassured as he was by Shri Menon’s report of his discussion with Lord Mountbatten, that Lord Mountbatten would be able to lend his help effectively in bringing about the desired results. Sardar, therefore, secured Cabinet approval for Lord Mountbatten to deal with this question in his capacity as the Crown Representative” ( My Reminiscences of Sardar Patel; 1974; Volume 1, page 85).

V.P. Menon’s account

We must now turn to the locus classicus on the subject The Story of the Integration of the Indian States by V.P. Menon (1956). He was Constitutional Adviser to the Governor-General, Mountbatten, as well as Secretary in the Ministry of States headed by Patel. Both tasks were performed with superb tact; not least when he used Mountbatten to prevent an attack on Pakistan over Junagadh a mere month after independence, a venture on which Nehru and Patel had set their hearts.

What V.P. Menon wrote is important. In December 1942 he had approached Linlithgow unsuccessfully for the states’ accession confined to defence and foreign affairs. He now added communications and approached Patel. Nehru concurred. “A day or two later, I met Lord Mountbatten and mentioned to him my talk with Sardar and our tentative plan. I asked for his help in getting the states to accede on three subjects and suggested that it would be a great act of statesmanship on his part if he could bring it about. I felt that he was deeply touched by my remark that the wounds of partition might to some extent be healed by the states entering into relationship with the Government of India and that he would be earning the gratitude of generations of Indians if he could assist in achieving the basic unity of the country. He told me that he would think the matter over. I confess that I was seized momentarily by the fear that Lord Mountbatten might be adversely influenced by some of his advisers. But to my relief and joy, he accepted the plan. Lord Mountbatten discussed the matter with Sardar. This frank talk enabled them to explain and understand each other’s point of view. I should add that the Prime Minister, with the approval of the Cabinet, readily entrusted Lord Mountbatten with the task of negotiating with the rulers on the question of accession and also with the task of dealing with Hyderabad.” Thus, it was the Cabinet which, with Patel’s full concurrence, entrusted the task of securing the states’ accession. Patel as Minister of States did his part and met some of the rulers.

It is little realised that in his drive to secure the accessions Mountbatten had to face stiff opposition from his own staff as well as his bosses in London. Twenty years later, at a seminar in London, Corfield read a paper in which he bitterly complained. “Mountbatten ceased to listen to the Political Department from the day he made his bargain with Vallabhbhai Patel about promoting a limited adherence, which I could not support. Mountbatten told me that he had succeeded in persuading Patel to limit adherence to defence, external affairs and communications. I pointed out that he had agreed to use his influence as the representative of the paramount power to recommend a bargain which could not be guaranteed after independence, and which would be inevitably extended. V.P. Menon was virtually his political adviser from that date, and had had considerable influence before that date. I remember the day but not the date when I gave Mountbatten the facts of a certain case and he said I must be wrong because Nehru had told him otherwise. I don’t know if Menon had briefed Nehru.

“My main difference with Mountbatten was when he agreed to use his influence as Crown Representative and as a royal personage with the rulers to ensure adherence before the lapse of paramountcy. Incidentally, when I asked him what should be said to rulers who wished me to assure rulers that this connection was safe because they would be adhering to a Dominion which accepted the monarch as king. On a further question whether, if the dominion declared a republic, the rulers could then technically withdraw their adherence, he replied that he felt sure that the Cabinet would accept this and I could assure the rulers accordingly. But I felt unable to do so!” ( The Partition of India; edited by C.H. Philips and Mary Doreen Wainwright; 1970; page 531).

Corfield influenced the new Secretary of State for India, Lord Listowel, who warned Mountbatten on August 1, 1947, against applying any pressure on the princes ( The Transfer of Power; Volume 12, page 459). The Nizam’s Counsel Sir Walter Monckton, K.C. was Mountbatten’s friend and a Tory with excellent connections in London. He met Jinnah frequently in New Delhi who doubtless played his own sinister game. It failed to harm India. His ploys harmed Pakistan.

Mountbatten successfully warded off the pressures. “I pointed out that another aspect was that the accession of the princes was bound to exercise a steadying influence on the Indian political arena; this in itself would be by no means a small gain. Furthermore, the princes, had without any exception, been consistently pressing for the retention of their connection with the Crown; and their association with the Dominion of India could only help in the direction of retaining it within the Commonwealth.

“Finally I pointed out to the Secretary of State that the importance of completing negotiations by 15th August was that I would cease to be Crown Representative on that day, and the states would thereafter have to make their own terms with the Dominion of India. It was clear that the compulsion of events would sooner or later force them into the arms of Dominion. It was equally clear that, once the present chance was missed, I could no longer ensure that the terms which the princes would receive would be anywhere near as generous as the terms [that were offered]. It seemed clear that it was the states which would stand to lose if they did not join one or other of the Dominions by 15th August, regard being had to the explosive situation caused by the suppression of their subjects with British help for many years, and to the disparity in the standard of prosperity between the people of most of the states and the people in the contiguous areas of British India.

Push for accession

“In the period between 25th July and 15th August Instruments of Accession signed by Ruler after Ruler poured in. Among the first to sign the Instrument were the Maharajas of Bikaner and Patiala who, with many other important Rulers, came to lunch with me on 1st August and signed immediately afterwards. But there were some sluggards. Apart from Hyderabad and Kashmir (which will be dealt with separately), the states which gave me the most trouble were Travancore, Dholpur, Indore, Bhopal, Rampur, Jodhpur, and Baroda.…

“The Maharaja Rana of Dholpur had been on the Prince of Wales’ staff with me in 1921 and was an old friend of mine. He believed so deeply in the divine right of Kings that I feared that it might not be possible to make him see the need for accession to what he regarded as a future Republic. The last of my interviews with the Maharaja Rana Dholpur took place on the evening of 14th August, when he came to see me to tell me that he had finally decided to sign the Instrument of Accession, as he thought that this was after all the best solution in an intolerable situation. With tears in his eyes he bade me farewell and said: ‘This breaks an alliance between my ancestors and your ancestors which has existed since 1765.’ I pointed out to him that His Majesty would continue to be the King of the Dominion of India and that the link would thus not be broken, but merely changed. However, he would not be consoled and said that he proposed to get out of Delhi that night whilst I was still Viceroy and Crown Representative.” Such was the fealty which the stooges, whom Britain had created, felt towards their masters (Lionel Carter (ed); Mountbatten’s Report on the Last Royalty; Manohar; pages 24-141).

Jodhpur’s plan

Mountbatten foiled Jodhpur’s plan to accede to Pakistan. Hodson records: “The case of Jodhpur should be mentioned because it illustrates both the lengths to which Mr. Jinnah was prepared to go in order to wean states from India, and the contrary efforts of Lord Mountbatten. Jodhpur, a Rajput state abutting on Pakistan, had a predominantly Hindu population and a Hindu ruler. Its Ruler had a series of meetings with Mr. Jinnah and other Muslim leaders, including the Nawab of Bhopal, and had been on the point of agreeing to join Pakistan. Mr. Jinnah had offered him the use of Karachi as a free port, free import of arms, jurisdiction over the Jodhpur-Hyderabad (Sind) railway, and a large supply of grain for famine relief, all on condition that Jodhpur would declare its independence on 15th August, and subsequently accede to Pakistan. The Maharajah, however, had been shaken by a reminder of realities from the Maharaj Kumar of Jaisalmer—a neighbouring state of the same character —who had accompanied him at his last meeting with Mr. Jinnah. The Maharaj Kumar had said that for his part he would join Pakistan on one condition, that if there were trouble between Hindus and Muslims he would not side with the Muslims. The Maharajah of Jodhpur was then summoned to Viceroy’s House in Delhi. Lord Mountbatten told him that, while he was legally entitled to accede to Pakistan, he should consider seriously the consequences of doing so. It would be in conflict with the principle underlying the partition of India and could only result in communal trouble within the state. Then Maharajah began by asking for a string of concessions, saying that Mr. Jinnah had handed him a blank sheet of paper on which to write all the concessions he wanted. Mr. Menon, in the Viceroy’s presence, urged him not to be swayed by false promises but after some argument gave him a letter conceding some of his demands, including free import of arms, food for the famine districts, and the building of a railway from Jodhpur to a port in Cutch. The States Department were in fact scared by the possibility of Jodhpur’s joining Pakistan, for this might have set the trend for other Rajput states like Udaipur which would become contiguous to Pakistan through their frontiers with Jodhpur. Both Jodhpur and Jaisalmer, together with Bikaner, the third large Rajputana state actually adjoining Pakistan, whose Ruler had given a strong lead in the policy of acceding to India, signed Instruments of Accession to the Indian Dominion.…

“When the Maharajah of Jodhpur eventually came to Viceroy’s House to sign the Instrument of Accession, he used an exceptionally large pen. Lord Mountbatten having left the room, he whipped out the nib, revealing a pistol barrel, which he levelled at Mr. V.P. Menon, exclaiming ‘I refuse to accept your dictation!’ Mr. Menon told him not to indulge in juvenile theatricals. The Maharajah calmed down, and later he and Mr. Menon came much to respect each other; but when Lord Mountbatten was told of the prince’s conduct he gave him hell. The pistol-pen, which the Maharajah, a member of the Magic Circle, had had made for him in its magic and gun shop, was handed over, and was presented by Lord Mountbatten to the Magic Circle after he himself was elected to it. A story of great issues and high statesmanship had its crazy moments” (Hodson; page 380).

V.P. Menon’s version deserves to be quoted because it reveals how far the game had gone. “Jinnah, I was told, signed a blank sheet of paper and gave it to Maharajah Hanwant Singh along with his own fountain pen, saying ‘You can fill in all your conditions.’ A discussion followed. The Maharajah was prepared to line up with Pakistan. He then turned to the Maharajkumar of Jaisalmer and asked him whether he would follow suit. The Maharajkumar said he would do so on one condition: If there was any trouble between the Hindus and Muslims, he would not side with the Muslims against the Hindus. This was a bombshell and took Maharajah Hanwant Singh completely by surprise. Sir Mohammad Zafrullah however made light of the whole affair and pressed Maharajah Hanwant Singh to sign the Instrument. But the Maharajah now felt unable to take a decision. He suggested to Jinnah that he would go to Jodhpur and return the next day. The Maharajah remained at Jodhpur for three days. The atmosphere in the state was hostile to the idea that Jodhpur should cast its lot with Pakistan. When he returned to Delhi after three days I was informed that, unless I handled the Maharajah quickly, the chances were that he might accede to Pakistan. I went to the Hotel Imperial and told the Maharajah that Lord Mountbatten wanted to see him. We then drove to Government House and I kept the Maharajah in the visitors’ room while I went in and explained the situation to Lord Mountbatten. The Maharajah was then called in. Lord Mountbatten made it clear that from a purely legal standpoint there was no objection to the ruler of Jodhpur acceding to Pakistan; but the Maharajah should, he stressed, consider seriously the consequences of his doing so, having regard to the fact that he himself was a Hindu; that this state was populated predominantly by Hindus and that the same applied to the states surrounding Jodhpur. In the light of these considerations, if the Maharajah 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” (Menon; page 112-3).

Professor Ian Copland, who has written scholarly works on the states, writes: “Mountbatten reserved the heaviest weapons in his armoury for the large states who showed signs of intransigence. The Dewan of Indore, Horton, who had the nerve to categorise the Viceroy’s letter to Yeshwant Rao Holkar about the merits of accession as a threat was severely rebuked for his trouble. Afterwards Horton expostulated to Corfield that he now knew what Dolfuss felt like when he was sent for to see Hitler; he had not expected to be spoken to like that by a British officer. Holkar, too, was carpeted; while Hamidullah and [C.P.] Ramaswamy Aiyer were bombarded with dire warnings about what might happen if they did not place themselves under the defensive umbrella of the Government of India. On Menon’s advice, Mountbatten in discussion with the deeply conservative Sir C.P. also played heavily on the communist menace, while Bhopal was reminded of the dangers his exposed state faced from Hindu communalism. Last but not least the Nizam was wooed with hints that if he behaved really well, his long-denied request for a title for his second son might be reconsidered” ( The Princes of India in the Endgame of Empire; 1917-1947; Cambridge University Press; page 258).

The case of Bikaner

There is, however, another episode which has been overlooked. It verges on the sordid but the deed was done to favour India. Mountbatten went so far as to tamper with the Radcliffe Report on the Punjab boundary to secure Bikaner’s accession to India. Pakistan suspected foul play when Stuart Abbott, Private Secretary to the Governor of Punjab Sir Evan Jenkins, received a letter from Sir George Abell, Private Secretary to Mountbatten, dated August 8, 1947, enclosing a map which showed the Muslim majority tehsils of Ferozepur and Zira within Pakistan. That line, drawn in pencil on Lord Ismay’s map, was seen by Chaudhri Muhammad Ali when he met Ismay on August 11.

All hell broke loose in New Delhi over the Radcliffe Commission’s Secretary Christopher Beaumont’s disclosure to The Daily Telegraph (February 24, 1992) that Radcliffe was persuaded to change the award and give the two tehsils to India. This was done at a lunch hosted by Mountbatten for Radcliffe from which Beaumont was, he wrote, “deftly excluded”. On August 11, Jenkins received a telegram from Abell which said “Eliminate Salient”—the Sutlej salient where Ferozepur and Zia are located. It was to go to India.

Beaumont came under vicious attack so typical of India’s establishment and most of its media. However, 14 years earlier in 1978 Young Asia Publications had published Reminiscences of an Engineer by Kanwar Sain who was in the service of Bikaner in 1947. Chapter 11 was entitled “Mountbatten Alters Punjab Boundary (At Eleventh hour)”. Intellectual dishonesty was combined with sheer incompetence in the attacks; neither for the first nor the last time. Sain published whole texts of documents including an aide-memoire handed over to Mountbatten on the Ferozepur Head works at 9 a.m. on August 11. He reveals: “The award was to be declared on 15 August 1947. Sarup Singh, Chief Engineer, Irrigation, Punjab, left Lahore on 8 August 1947. On reaching Ferozepur, in the evening he learnt from the Deputy Commissioner, Ferozepur, that the latter had received instructions from the Governor of Punjab to select his headquarters outside the three tehsils of Ferozepur district, namely Ferozepur, Zira and Fazilka, as these were likely to be allocated to Pakistan. This meant the transfer of Ferozepur Headworks and the head reach of the Gang Canal to Pakistan. He realised the seriousness of this proposal both to East Punjab and to Bikaner. He immediately sent a special messenger to me with a secret, sealed letter written in his own hand, informing me of the situation.

“The message reached me early morning on 10 August. Quickly, I caught hold of an index map showing the location of Ferozepur Headworks and the Gang Canal and the boundaries of the three tehsils of Ferozepur District which according to the Deputy Commissioner, Ferozepur, would probably be included in Pakistan. Immediately I went to (the Dewan) Sardar Panikkar’s residence. Sardar Panikkar was an early riser. I showed Sarup Singh’s letter to him and with the help of the map explained that if the three tehsils mentioned therein went to Pakistan, Ferozepur Headworks and the Gang Canal would be lost to India, and the Gang Canal Colony in the Bikaner state would be threatened with short supply of its share from the Sutlej River. At first, Sardar Panikkar argued that if the Ferozepur Head works went to Pakistan, Bikaner state would receive its share according to the 1921 Tri-partite Agreement for sharing the waters of the Sutlej River.

“At this stage, a thought came to my mind. His Excellency, the Viceroy Lord Louis Mountbatten, had paid a visit to the Bikaner state only a few weeks earlier and during the exchange of formal speeches at the banquet given in his honour; His Excellency had mentioned that Maharaja Sadul Singh and he had been together in the trenches during the First World War. This had engendered a feeling of brotherhood between them. I suggested to His Highness that this was the occasion to take advantage of the cordial feelings expressed by His Excellency.

“I drafted a telegram which was slightly amended by Sardar Panikkar and approved by His Highness. The following telegram was immediately despatched to His Excellency the Viceroy of India: ‘It is strongly rumoured that Boundary Commission is likely to award Ferozepur Tehsil to Western Punjab. This Tehsil contains Headworks of Bikaner Gang Canal and under existing agreement state is entitled to receive for its perennial canal specified amount of water. Fear greatly that administration and regulation of this water exclusively by western Punjab may gravely prejudice interest of Bikaner state as its economic life is to very large extent dependent on water supply from Gang Canal. Have every confidence that Your Excellency in finally arriving at decision on award of Boundary Commission will be good enough to safeguard interests of Bikaner state especially as we as one of the parties to the Agreement were not consulted in arrangements that are being made. Request Your Excellency to very kindly give an opportunity to my Prime Minister and Chief Engineer Irrigation, to place facts before Your Excellency prior to final decision being arrived at. They are reaching Delhi on morning Monday eleventh.’

“As an ultimate precaution it had occurred to me, before leaving Bikaner to get His Highness to consent to tell His Excellency as a last resort that if Ferozepur Headworks and Gang Canal went to Pakistan, His Highness, in the interests of his subjects of the Gang Canal Colony would have no option left but to opt for Pakistan.…

“Thus, as His Excellency the Viceroy stopped us from going further (at their meeting), I picked up the courage to say to His Excellency, ‘Our Master has asked us to convey that if the Ferozepur Headworks and the Gang Canal go to Pakistan, His Highness, in the interest of his subjects, would have no option left but to opt for Pakistan.’ As I said this, I could see a change in the colour of the face of Lord Mountbatten. He said nothing and we left His Excellency’s room.

“In the evening, we heard that the announcement of the Radcliffe Award would be delayed by a few days. Sardar Panikkar and myself wondered whether this had something to do with our interview with His Excellency that morning. When the Award was announced on the night of 17 August, we were happy to find that the Ferozepur Headworks and the entire area on the left bank of the river in which Gang Canal was located, were left with India.”

The record proves incontestably that against all odds Mountbatten organised the states’ accession to India, with full authority from the Cabinet and Patel, whose was a supportive role. It is, therefore, preposterous to call Patel the Bismarck of India or even to compare the two. Kissinger wrote of him: “Everything about Bismarck was out of scale; his bulk and his appetite; his loves and even more his hates The paradox of his accomplishments seemed embodied in his personality. The man of ‘blood and iron’ wrote prose of extraordinary simplicity, plasticity, and power. The apostle of the claims of power was subject to fits of weeping. The Iron Chancellor loved Shakespeare and copied pages of Byron in his notebook. The statesman who never ceased extolling reason of state possessed an agility of conception and a sense of proportion which, while he lived, turned power into an instrument of self-restraint” ( Daedalus; Summer 1968; page 890).

Bismarck was the sole architect of Germany’s unification. He accomplished it by recourse to diplomacy as well as armed force as he alone could have.

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