Junagadh and its vassal enclaves were ruled by Muslim rulers but their population was overwhelmingly Hindu.
In a move timed with the first anniversary of the abrogation of Article 370, which granted special status to Jammu and Kashmir, the Pakistan government on Tuesday unveiled its new official political map that included the whole of Jammu and Kashmir, Siachen, Sir Creek in Kutch, and surprisingly – Junagadh.
The Government of India promptly dismissed Pakistan’s new political map as “an exercise in political absurdity”, adding that “ridiculous assertions have neither legal validity nor international credibility”.
Islamabad's claim over Jammu and Kashmir is its proverbial raison d'etre, while the Sir Creek dispute has continued despite an international tribunal in 1968 resolving the larger border claims in Kutch. In addition, India and Pakistan have also fought a war over the control of Siachen in 1984.
The addition of Junagarh – a princely state in British India – and Sir Creek in the new map evoked a sharp reaction from Gujarat CM Vijay Rupani. “This action of Pakistan is both preposterous and obnoxious. Gujarat condemns this absurd act of Pakistan unequivocally,” he tweeted.
The shocking invocation of Junagadh by Pakistan is, however, not without a historical context.
THE JUNAGADH QUESTION
The princely states in the newly-Independent India were given the choice of either merging into India or Pakistan. While most of them acceded to India – or Pakistan in a few cases, the question of princely states like Jammu and Kashmir, Hyderabad and Junagadh remained unresolved.
Junagadh and its vassal enclaves were ruled by Muslim rulers but their population was overwhelmingly Hindu. On August 11, 1947, Nawab Muhammad Mahabat Khanji III told Muhammad Ali Jinnah his intention of acceding to Pakistan. Four days later, he formally issued a communique announcing Junagadh’s merger. Incidentally, India came to know of it through news reports.
The Nawab’s decision did not go down well with India, which feared that a Pakistani presence in Kathiawar would jeopardise the economic and administrative unity of the region. Moreover, Junagadh did not share a border with Pakistan and its Veraval port was 300 miles away from Karachi.
In War and Peace in Modern India, military historian Srinath Raghavan writes that India, after several weeks of no response from Pakistan over Junagadh’s accession, decided to impose an economic embargo. In response, Junagadh PM Shahnawaz Bhutto appealed to Jinnah to “not abandon Junagadh and its people to be devoured by the wolves.”
On September 9, PM Jawaharlal Nehru proposed the idea of referendum to his Pakistani counterpart, under which people would be allowed to choose their country. However, the next day, Pakistan said it had accepted the accession of Junagadh. This complicated matters further and introduced the Kashmir angle.
According to journalist Harry Hodson, Jinnah probably thought of Junagadh as a bargaining chip for Kashmir, a princely state with a Hindu ruler and a Muslim majority, in the hope that a referendum would also be applied there if the Maharaja chose India.
Soon, India amassed troops, feudatory states of Junagadh except Manavadar acceded, a provincial government was formed and a popular uprising emerged. Interestingly, when Mountbatten met Jinnah on November 1, the latter told the former that he was ready to let go of Junagadh for Kashmir. Eight days later, Junagadh capitulated.
In February 1948, India held a referendum in which 95 per cent of the registered voters backed India; only 91 voted for Pakistan. Junagadh was also heard in the United Nations, where the issue fizzled out.
MAP ROW IS NOT NEW
While Junagadh is a non-issue in India and the UN, many Pakistanis have continued to consider Junagadh as a “disputed” territory. In fact, Raghavan notes that Junagadh remained in Pakistan’s official maps until 1960s. But by the time Bhutto’s son, Zulfiqar, came to power, Junagadh issue had lost its relevance.
In 2007, the titular Nawab of Junagadh, Muhammad Jahangir Khan, had accused the Pakistani regime of neglecting his family and removing Junagadh from the official map. He had also urged the government to redraw the Pakistani map to re-include Junagadh.
In 2016, a think-tank, Muslim Institute, had organised a conference on the issue, where participants urged the Pakistani government to highlight the “occupation” of Junagadh at international forums and on Pakistani maps.
Perhaps, the move to redraw the Pakistani map stemmed from the need to satisfy the jingoistic domestic constituency. Diplomatically, the redrawing of the map will have no impact whatsoever on India.