Saturday, January 15, 2011

Alistair Lamb: The Indian Claim to Jammu and Kashmir - A Reappraisal

by Alistair Lamb

The formal overt Indian intervention in the internal affairs of the State of Jammu and Kashmir began on about 9.00 a.m. on 27 October 1947, when Indian troops started landing at Srinagar airfield. India has officially dated the commencement of its claim that the State was part of Indian sovereign territory to a few hours earlier, at some point in the afternoon or evening of 26 October. From their arrival on 27 October 1947 to the present day, Indian troops have continued to occupy a large proportion of the State of Jammu and Kashmir despite the increasingly manifest opposition of a majority of the population to their presence. To critics of India’s position and actions in the State of Jammu and Kashmir the Government of New Delhi has consistently declared that the State of Jammu and Kashmir lies entirely within the sphere of internal Indian policy. Do the facts support the Indian contention in this respect?

The State of Jammu and Kashmir was a Princely State within the British Indian Empire. By the rules of the British transfer of power in Indian subcontinent in 1947 the Ruler of the State, Maharajah Sir Hari Singh, with the departure of the British and the lapsing of Paramountcy (as the relationship between State and British Crown was termed), could opt to join either India or Pakistan or, by doing nothing, become from 15 August 1947 the Ruler of an independent polity. The choice was the Ruler’s and his alone: there was no provision for popular consultation in the Indian Princely States during the final days of the British Raj. On 15th August 1947, by default, the State of Jammu and Kashmir became independent.

India maintains that this period of independence, the existence of which it has never challenged effectively, came to an end on 26/27 October as the result of two pairs of closely related transactions, which we must now examine. They are:

(a) an Instrument of Accession of Jammu and Kashmir to India which the Maharajah is alleged to have signed on 26 October 1947, and;

(b) the acceptance of this Instrument by the Governor-General of India, Lord Mountbatten, on 27 October 1947; plus

(c) a letter from the Maharajah to Lord Mountbatten, dated 26 October 1947, in which Indian military aid is sought in return for accession to India (on terms stated in an allegedly enclosed Instrument) and the appointment of Sheikh Abdullah to head an Interim Government of the State; and

(d) a letter from Lord Mountbatten to the Maharajah, dated 27 October 1947, acknowledging the above and noting that, once the affairs of the State have been settled and law and order is restored, “the question of the State’s accession should be settled by a reference to the people.” 


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