On China, Nehru, along with India’s second defence minister, V.K. Krishna Menon, made another huge mess.
When India attained independence after at least 12 centuries of being invaded, marauded and ruled over, it was indeed unfortunate that out of its founding leaders, Jawaharlal Nehru succeeded to reach the top, side-lining Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel and ensuring that Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose was kept well out of his way. It was very vital for Independent India’s first Prime Minister to know or take pains to learn what the vast geo-strategic extents of India and its boundaries were with its new neighbour, Pakistan, old neighbour, China, the intentions of both and what all had to be done to ensure that India is effectively defended and integrated. Unfortunately for India, when Sardar Patel was diligently integrating the princely states, Nehru did not allow him to do the same for Jammu & Kashmir (J&K). For what can only be concluded as devious reasons, Nehru handled J&K himself but with an uncannily close association with Sheikh Abdullah, resulting in making J&K a long term and bloody liability accessible to Pakistan for subversion, radicalisation, etc.
On China, Nehru, along with India’s second defence minister, V.K. Krishna Menon, made another huge mess. And while doing so, both also set a rotten foundation for civil-military relations. Nehru also set the trend for the Congress of making and maintaining India as a soft/weak state. His handling, or rather mishandling of sensitive matters related to Independence, dominion status, J&K and Pakistan also meant his being in cahoots with the British and remaining faithful to them even after Independence. Much of all mentioned so far and later, his handling of China, was artfully suppressed from the Parliament and the public. Yet another blow that Nehru dealt to the Republic of India was of denying its people India’s true history, much of which was ‘altered’ or given a twist and with some important parts of which, till date, remain confined to secret files. Kept well out of educational syllabi, the suppressed and twisted versions of history have just about begun to ooze out here and there since the BJP under Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power. But much of it still remains undisclosed.
This extensively researched book by Malhotra and Raza opens a Pandora’s box of intrigues and misdeeds of many British leaders and military commanders, some Indian leaders like Nehru and Krishna Menon and events related to them, the highly adverse effects of which plague India till date.
Among many ironies in India’s history, the two rude ones to begin with were that (a), the British assiduously planned and partitioned India by trifurcating it to attain their aim of creating Pakistan with two wings West and East – both culturally totally apart – as its long-term deep state, ostensibly to prevent Russians from entering there, and (b), the armies of both India and Pakistan were headed by British officers – Indian Army 1949 and Pakistan Army for much longer.
The second irony is well elaborated in the book. When the newly formed Pakistan Army attacked Jammu & Kashmir along with hordes of Kabailis as force multipliers, as early as August 20, 1947, Gen. Rob Lockhart, the Indian commander-in-chief, was pro-Pakistan and so was his successor, Gen. Sir F.R.R. Bucher. Throughout 1948, Bucher ‘moderated’ military decisions not only because of possible political repercussions, but also because he believed that the Kashmir conflict potentially brought communism to the doorstep of the subcontinent. He also empathised with Pakistan’s vital need for Kashmir in terms of defence, water supplies and the need to control the NWFP.
These two generals were strongly supported by the West Punjab Governor, Sir Robert Francis Mudie. Mudie attended school with Sir George Cunningham and Gen. Rob Lockhart and after they reunited in India, they were all a part of the British deep state that thought it necessary for Pakistan to retain a post-Partition presence in the part of India that contained Kashmir and the NWFP. Mudie anticipated three threats to Pakistan’s existence, namely the Afghan-Russia threat, the India-Abdul Ghaffar Khan threat and the conflict in Kashmir. He was of the view that Pakistan was the only barrier to the spread of communism in the subcontinent.
Another famous officer of the Pakistan Army, Maj. Gen. W.J. Cawthorn, founder of Pakistan’s infamous ISI (headed it from 1950 till 1959), very lucidly voiced all the British strategic fears arising from the Kashmir dispute. His speech in London’s Chatham House in 1948 has him arguing that Pakistan could not afford to have a hostile India by the western borders of Jammu and Kashmir. It would bring the Indian Army within 30 miles of the Pakistan Army Headquarters in Rawalpindi. It would give India control over the waters of Chenab, Jhelum and Indus rivers, and would put India in direct contact with Afghanistan, Chitral and Swat.
On February 11, 1948, when Lt. Gen. Douglas Gracey took over as Pakistan Army Chief from Gen. Frank Messervy, he was faced with India’s spring offensive expected in March 1948. Both the British generals, almost comically, orchestrated the adoption of mutually defensive positions. In his memoirs, Lt Gen Loftus Tottenham, who was a division commander in the Pakistan Army during this war, stated that the Kashmir war was strange in that it was fought under several restrictions. The prevalent attitude was to hit the Indians hard but not too hard, otherwise, they knew that there would be all kinds of unsavory consequences. The same view prevailed on the other side.
With 440 British officers overstaying and serving in key positions in Pakistan as opposed to the 230 in India, this imbalance made worse by Gen. Bucher’s relative detachment from the war as against Gen. Gracey’s hands-on involvement in it. The scales were tipped against India. The choices before the British were to stand down or cease fire. Nehru, fed up with the state of affairs, announced the replacement of Gen Bucher by Gen K.M. Cariappa, the first Indian general of the Indian Army. Bucher worked hard to secure a ceasefire on January 1, 1949, a mere 15 days before he relinquished his office. Gen. Bucher and his accomplice in Pakistan, Gen. Gracey, had thwarted the Indian Army’s ambitions of recapturing all of Jammu and Kashmir. The entire war had been a mockery and had only enabled Pakistan to hold on to the Muzaffarabad-Poonch belt and the Gilgit Agency, purely as a result of British perfidy and treachery.
It was now the turn of leaders like Nehru, Sheikh Abdullah and V.K. Krishna Menon to commit misdeeds rather than mistakes on crucial matters resulting in body blows to India’s integrity and security. Applying Articles 370 and 35A to J&K by Nehru and Abdullah can only be construed as a conspiracy. And later, Nehru and Krishna Menon went on a spree of making flawed decisions on matters related to China as well as humiliating at least two chiefs of Indian Army – Gens. K.S. Thimayya and P.N. Thapar – and some senior field commanders, causing loss of many lives.
The whittling away of Sufism in Kashmir by the Wahabi-Salafi nexus and how it resulted in the massacre of many Kashmiri Pandits and eventually their exodus has been elaborated upon.
Other questions the book deals with are: how important is the ownership of the waters of the rivers of the Indus system for Pakistan – despite generous supplies under the Indus Waters Treaty? What are China’s interests in J&K and how does the success of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) for oil and gas supplies hinge on Pakistan’s occupation of northern areas of Kashmir? Why does the future survival and growth of the Chinese microchip industry depend upon the continuance of China’s control of the waters and dams in the Indus river system? Graded second on the non-fiction best-seller list, this valuable reference book on Kashmir must be read by all who are interested in the unravelling of this conundrum.
The writer, a retired Army officer, is a defence and security analyst based in New Delhi