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How the British schemed to give Kashmir to Pakistan

By RASHME SEHGAL
December 05, 2019 11:08 IST

'Once accession to Pakistan appeared unlikely, the British instituted Operations Gulmarg and Datta Khel  respectively  to foil possible accession to India.'
Illustration: Dominic Xavier/Rediff.com

 

Kashmir's Untold Story Declassified has not come a day too soon given that no state -- now a Union Territory -- has witnessed so much turmoil and received so much attention in the last 70 years.

Written jointly by Iqbal Chand Malhotra and Maroof Raza , the book  looks at why the Kashmir valley has been in a state of turmoil for 72 years and why China and its client State Pakistan will continue to back militancy in the years to come.

Malhotra, chairman of AIM Television, produced several documentaries on Kashmir before he and Raza, a strategic affairs expert who anchors a programme on this subject for the Times Now television channel, got down to the task of putting this book together.

"By sustaining the militancy and hybrid war currently on in Jammu and Kashmir, China is seeking to permanently thwart India's attempts to use modern hydrology, to prevent us from tapping into the 19.48% of the waters of the Indus that we are entitled to," Malhotra tells Rediff.com Contributor Rashme Sehgal.

Your book  highlights how a conspiracy was hatched around the erstwhile maharaja of J&K Hari Singh  to ensure that he acceded to Pakistan and not India. Why did this plan prove to be a  failure?

 The British deep state of which Lord Hastings Ismay (Viceroy Lord Louis Mountbatten's chief of staff) and  NWFP (North West Frontier Province) Governor Sir George Cunningham were a part  wanted the whole principality of Jammu and Kashmir to accede to Pakistan.

As long as the principality's prime minister Ram Chandra Kak was in the saddle, they were confident that Kak would steer the state towards accession with Pakistan.

Once Kak was dismissed by Maharaja Hari Singh and accession to Pakistan appeared unlikely, the British instituted Operations Gulmarg and Datta Khel  respectively  to foil possible accession to India.

Operation Gulmarg failed because the invaders were denied British leadership.

This happened because Major Onkar Singh Kalkat, a Sikh officer, gained access to the British devised invasion  plans.

Major Kalkat was waiting to hand over charge of the brigade  when a demi-official letter arrived from General Sir Frank Messervy stationed at the general headquarters in Rawalpindi.

Attached to the letter was an appendix titled 'Operation Gulmarg - The Plan for the Invasion and Capture of Kashmir' with the operations expected to commence on October 20 1947.

Major Kalkat managed to escape from the frontier settlement of Mir Ali Mirali by the skin of his teeth, arriving in Delhi on October 18 1947.

He informed then defence minister Sardar Baldev Singh of this plan on October 19, 1947.

Sardar Baldev Singh asked the British staffed intelligence directorate to verify Major Kalkat's account, but they paid no heed to it.

It was only after the invasion had started in full swing that Major Kalkat's warning was taken seriously. He was   taken to meet  Pandit Nehru only on October 24, 1947.

It is my guess that  it was  this snafu regarding Major Kalkat that made the British mercenaries, who were originally expected  to  lead the Kabailis or Pathan invaders, to  stand down and not lead the invasion.

The rest is history.

IMAGE: Sheikh Abdullah with Jawaharlal Nehru in this 1948 photograph.

The plan for Operation Gulmarg actually started in 1943.

Yes, planning for Operation Gulmarg started way back in 1943.

The British were certain Kashmir would go to Pakistan  and pulled out all the stops in advance to ensure this.

Cunningham , in his second term  as governor of NWFP, had initiated the forming of the Tucker  committee  in 1944  that recommended that regular Indian army troops  be withdrawn from the Razmak, Wana and Khyber Pass garrisons and be replaced with scouts and khassadars.

The northern boundaries  of British India  were to be defended by Muslim staffed Frontier Scouts and Frontier Constabulary.

In 1943, the British withdrew the army from the north western borders and the withdrawal was completed by 1946.

They were replaced by khassadars with  basic detachments of  2,000 of these paramilitary troops being officiated by British officers  called district officers.

There were around 25,000 khassadars with 20 to 40 British officers overseeing them.

They would have achieved success had it not been for the show of courage shown by Major Kalkat.

Your book also highlights how the British deep state was active in ensuring Gilgit was taken over by Pakistan. Its strategic importance was something Indian rulers seemed oblivious of. 

Unfortunately, the Indian political leadership of that time led by Pandit Nehru were singularly obsessed with the mistaken notion that Sheikh Abdullah called all the shots.

However, Abdullah only represented the valley and no more.

Abdullah was unacceptable in the other four regions of the state, namely Gilgit, Ladakh, Jammu and Muzaffarabad.

Gilgit shared an international border with Afghanistan,  Xinjiang  and Tibet. 

How was Gilgit actually given over to Pakistan?

The conglomeration of the vassal States of Gilgit,  Puniyal, Koh-e-Khizr, Yasin,  Yashkoman and Chitral were called Gilgit Agency.

In 1943, Colonel Roger Bacon took over as political agent in Gilgit.

 Lord Mountbatten announced after becoming viceroy of India that the Gilgit lease would be rescinded on July 31 1947 so that it be returned to  Maharaja Hari Singh.

But Lord Ismay, Colonel Bacon and Major Brown in Gilgit had other plans.

Major Brown asked the then governor Ghansara Singh, an appointee of Maharaja Hari Singh, to step down which he refused.

This made way for Operation Datta Khel on the night of  November 4 , 1947 where Major Brown and his troops took siege of the governor's residence.

A fierce gun battle followed and the governor and his staff were forced to surrender.

On November 17 , 1947, a Pakistani flag was flying over the governor's flag staff.

It is obvious this operation was the brain child of the British deep state.

This seems to be a common chord  -- call it indifference or unawareness about the strategic importance of the regions around J&K
For example, when China acquired a large chunk of Aksai Chin, alarm bells should have rung in the Indian establishment, but this did not happen.

The Government of India knew about the Chinese intrusions and purported annexation in Aksai Chin from 1952 onwards.

Why then did the Indian government sign the Pancheel Agreement with China in 1954?

Why did India surrender its consulates in Kashgar, Sinkiang and Gartok in Tibet?

The Chinese followed the annexation of Sinkiang and Tibet by annexing a large chunk of Aksai Chin.

 The central leadership  chose to ignore it and in fact bent over backwards to cede further sovereign territory in Tibet to China.

  This was the principality of Minsar.

China had in 1959, wanted a part of the Gilgit Agency and especially the Shaksgam Valley with its 250 glaciers making it the most glaciated region in the world to be part of China.
Were the Chinese conscious even then of the importance of  water that saw them push their expansionist design?

That is obvious, otherwise they wouldn't have entered into a territory swap with Pakistan in 1963;  they wouldn't have chosen Lop  Nor lake in Xinjiang for their nuclear testing site and they wouldn't have annexed the Aksai lake in Aksai Chin  having a catchment area of 8,000 sq  km  as compensation for their planned degradation of Lake Lop Nor  with nuclear waste. 

IMAGE: November 1962: Indian troops in Ladakh during border clashes between India and China. Photograph: Radloff/Three Lions/Getty Images

Subsequent  to  this was that China attacked India on October 20,  1962 because they needed greater strategic depth to build the Aksai Chin highway. 

The attack on October 20, 1962 by China was to politically consolidate their pre-existing annexation of Indian territory from 1952 onwards.

They were  primarily interested in avenging the Treaty of Chushul signed in 1842 between the Sikh empire, Tibet  and the  Daoguang  emperor of China, wherein China had conceded vast tracts in Tibet and Ladakh to the Sikhs.

The Chinese were interested in overthrowing the Treaty of Chushul which had caused them great humiliation and also emboldened the British officered Indian Army to storm the gates of the imperial capital Nanjing and submit the Daoguang emperor to yet another humiliation in the form of The Treaty of Nanjing signed also in 1842.

Making India bleed with a thousand cuts was not a strategy put in place by either  Zulfikar Ali Bhutto or Zia-ul Haq , but had its origins in the tenure of Pakistan's  longest serving ISI chief Major General  Robert Cawthome. 

Major General  Cawthome  was ISI chief from 1949 to 1959 and devised and institutionalised the strategy of 'continuous proxy war' against India. It  was  he who established the fact that India was an existential threat to Pakistan.

It was he who reciprocated the overtures of China's chief spymaster in the 1950s, Kang Sheng.

How successful was Zia-ul Haq's  operation? To turn Kashmiris away from sufism to hard line  Wahhabi Islam as also to cleanse  non-Muslims  from the  Kashmir valley?
Why were the  valley's leaders and the central establishment napping through all these tumultuous developments? 

Zia-ul Haq's strategy of converting Kashmiris to Wahhabi Islam has been almost 90% successful.

His successors were  almost  100% successful in ethnically cleansing the valley of all Kashmiri Pandits. 

In your book you state that militancy in Kashmir is set to intensify.

China is never going to give up on the waters of the Indus river.

By sustaining the militancy and hybrid war currently on in Jammu and Kashmir, China is seeking to permanently thwart India's attempts to use modern hydrology, to prevent us from tapping into the 19.48% of the waters of the Indus that we are entitled to. 

In your book you state that abrogation of Article 370 and the removal of Article 35A as well as freeing J&K  from the 'tyranny of   majoritarianism'  and  the  transformation of a state into UTs  will see a new political discourse in J&K 
Has this happened or is it set to happen?

It is too early to comment on this.

Let the delimitation of all the constituencies in the newly formed Union Territories first take place.


Rashme Sehgal has had a long career in journalism and worked for The Times of India, the Indian Post among other newspapers.
She can be contacted at news@rediff.co.in

RASHME SEHGAL
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