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True tribute to Sardar Patel: Withdraw Kashmir from UN!

By Colonel Anil A Athale (retd)
December 14, 2018 18:00 IST
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'It is time India withdraws the complaint from the UN and fully integrates the state of J&K into the Indian Union,' recommends Colonel Anil A Athale (retd).

IMAGE: The Statue of Unity, Kavadia, Gujarat. Photograph: Amit Dave/Reuters

December 15 is the death anniversary of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, India's unifier.

His contribution in integrating over 460 princely states into the Indian union was no less than the contribution of other similar personalities world over.

Bismarck, the 'Iron Man' of Germany, similarly integrated the German speaking people as also Garibaldi of Italy.

But in the Indian context, right till a few years ago, he was denied his rightful place in history.

The tribute paid to him this year by erecting the world's tallest statue has corrected the historical injustice to some extent.

True, statues are a powerful reminder and play its role in remembering great people, but even more importantly, a greater tribute would be to follow their footsteps.


India is in its 71st year of Independence and yet one legacy of 1947 continues like a festering wound, Kashmir.

Let it be clearly understood what stood between the Balkanisation of India into tiny states with British created Pakistan as the dominant one was the Iron Man of India.

Sardar Patel matched the British in all their wily moves and outsmarted them.

An ideological dreamer like Nehru, if given a free rein, we would have needed a passport to travel to Hyderabad!

For the younger generation post 2000, it may come as a news that in 1947 it was not Kashmir that dominated the news headlines, but Hyderabad.

It was Operation Vijay launched by the Indian Army under Patel's direction that prevented a mini Pakistan within India.

There is enough historical evidence that Patel wanted only Jammu division and Ladakh to be part of India and he was in favour of the Muslim majority valley to go to Pakistan.

But here, Nehru, a valley Kashmiri hiself, intervened and engineered the whole of J&K to come to India.

Once J&K became part of India, Patel was clear that it was now India's responsibility and fell in line.

But leaving the Kashmir issue to be dealt with by Nehru created a problem that we seem to be saddled with even after 71 years.

Unlike all other princely states that merged with India, Kashmir was given a separate status (Article 370) and to compound the mistake, Nehru, on Mountbatten's prodding, took the issue to the UN.

India's original complaint was about Pakistani aggression, but the clever British converted it into legality of accession itself thanks to ongoing Cold War power dynamics.

Today, the Kashmir issue is still on the UN agenda.

It is the only secessionist problem that is being dealt by the UN. Neither Northern Ireland, Tibet, the Mindanao island in the Philippines and other separatist movements like the Basque separatists of Spain have ever been on the UN agenda.

It was one of the greatest blunder of independent India.

This year marks the completion of 70 years of that complaint and the UN is nowhere near taking any action to vacate the Pakistani aggression and hence hold a plebiscite.

It is time India withdraws the complaint from the UN and fully integrates the state of J&K into the Indian Union.

Like all other former princely states, J&K should also be then reorganised on linguistic lines and trifurcated into three states.

This is the only solution to the ongoing troubles in the valley.

IMAGE: Left to right: Sarat Chandra Bose, Babu Jagjivan Ram, Rajendra Prasad, Sardar Patel, Asaf Ali, Jawaharlal Nehru and Syed Ali Zaheer outside the council room at the Viceroy's House, now Rashtrapati Bhavan, New Delhi, September 2, 1946. Photograph: Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

The naysayers would raise objections saying that this amounts to giving up our claims on Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) and Gilgit and Hunza!.

But does any one seriously believe that the UN can compel Pakistan to give up these areas. Especially now that these form a vital piece of the jigsaw of China's 'belt and road' project.

I will be letting out no official secret by saying that India has no serious plans to retake PoK and is quite satisfied with the status quo.

In any case with both India and Pakistan being nuclear powers, that would certainly lead to a catastrophe.

By withdrawing the complaint from the UN India loses nothing.

The major gain would be that there will be closure to the people of the valley, once and for all time.

We owe it to the Sardar's memory that we finish the task of integrating India at least in the 70th year of the blunder.

Colonel Anil A Athale (retd) -- a military historian specialising in counter-insurgency -- is a long-time Kashmir watcher. He is the author of Let the Jhelum Smile Again.

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