View: Balochistan Issues I Naeem Tahir

Indian Independence Act 1947 did not give the option of independence to any Indian state, Pakistan conceded such a status to Kalat

It is surprising that even though the Indian Independence Act 1947 did not give the option of independence to any Indian state, Pakistan conceded such a status to Kalat

This week it was reported that a strike took place in Quetta against the decision of the Balochistan ‘states’ to accede to Pakistan in 1948.

For some it may have appeared as a surprise and some may have understood it as a campaign that is part of the nationalist movement in Baluchistan. So various reactions would emerge and culminate in stressing the inability of the current government to handle the issue. This may be correct but too simplistic. Therefore, it is worthwhile that the Balochistan perspective be refreshed and the history of Balochistan’s annexation to Pakistan remembered.

While working on the run-up to the independence of the subcontinent, the British laid down some ground rules. In their statement of May 16, 1946, the Cabinet Mission pronounced that paramountcy would neither be retained by the British Crown nor transferred to any new government in India. The states, released from the obligations of paramountcy, would work out their own relationship with the successor states. The question of the political future of some 565 Indian states ruled by native princes, constituted about one fourth of India’s population, and had engaged the serious attention of the British rulers and the Congress and Muslim League leadership. Unfortunately, the widely divergent policy approaches of the three major actors in respect of the states’ future created a challenging situation for Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah. The manner in which the British implemented their laconic policies through Crown Representative Lord Mountbatten, who due to his open conflict with the Quaid and blatant commitment to the proto-Indian government’s policy, made the Quaid’s task difficult.

The policy of the All-India Muslim League, as clarified by Jinnah, was: “We do not wish to interfere with the internal affairs of any state… Such States as wish to enter the Pakistan Constituent Assembly of their free will and desire to negotiate with us shall find us ready and willing to do so. If they wish to remain independent and…to negotiate…any political or any other relationship…with Pakistan, we shall be glad to come to settlement which will be in the interest of both.”

In the course of negotiations between the British government and the rulers of the states, the Congress leaders Nehru and Patel adopted a stance based on intimidation and coercion of the rulers as well as resorting to clandestine and crafty dealings. On April 9, 1947, speaking at Gwalior as President of the States’ People’s Conference, Nehru threatened the rulers to join the Indian Constituent Assembly or be treated as hostile. H V Hodson, Constitutional Advisor to Viceroy Linlithgow, in his book The Great Divide mentions the deal between Mountbatten and Sardar Patel on the states’ accession to India at all costs. Patel is quoted to have told Mountbatten: “I will buy a basket of 565 apples”(the computed number of states). But if there are even two or three apples missing, the deal is off.” Mountbatten responded: “If I give you a basket with, say, 560 apples, will you buy it?” Patel replied, “I might. “The bargain was struck and the ostensible reward was the assurance of the post of governor general of independent India for Mountbatten.

In open opposition to Jinnah, Mountbatten actively prevented the accession of five Kathiawar states, namely Dasuda, Vanod, Jainabad, Bajuna and Radha to Pakistan. Each of these states had a Muslim ruler who requested union with Pakistan. In the case of Junagadh, Manavadar and Mangrol, which had acceded to Pakistan, India ordered military action in September 1947, which culminated in their forceful annexation on November 9, 1947. Four months later, Mountbatten justified the illegal military action against Junagadh in an aide-memoire to the King of England.

Jinnah still stuck to his stated policy about accession of states, but faced some problems in the accession of Kalat to Pakistan. The British government had given extraordinary autonomy and independence to Kalat through their treaties of 1841, 1854 and 1876 after a series of inconclusive wars. Jinnah had to cope with that mindset of Kalat and it was not easy for him to topple the state and merge it with Pakistan with just a stroke of the pen. Therefore, tact was required and that was what Jinnah did.

Jinnah had problems in dealing with his friend the Khan of Kalat, who claimed independent sovereign status for his state. In the negotiations held on July 19, 1947, with Crown Representative Mountbatten in the chair, who stated that on the lapse of paramountcy, “states would de jure become independent; but de facto, very few were likely to benefit…that although Kalat would have gained freedom, no practical course other than some form of association with Pakistan was open to it. “On August 11, 1947, Jinnah recognised Kalat as an independent sovereign state with a status different from that of other Indian states.

It is surprising that even though the Indian Independence Act 1947 did not give the option of independence to any Indian state, Pakistan conceded such a status to Kalat. Britain objected to this policy and advised against recognition to the state as a separate international entity. Jinnah had some understanding and was anxious to complete the formalities of accession, which the Khan of Kalat promised to complete shortly. However, the Khan seemed to waver. Jinnah took a dim view of his “most disappointing and unsatisfactory” attitude. The six-month delay in the completion of legal formalities taxed his patience, and on March 27, 1948, he instructed Foreign Secretary Ikram Ullah that “there should be no negotiations of any kind or any further discussion to create slightest impression that anything but accession is possible”.

(To be continued)

The writer is a culture and media management specialist, a researcher, director and author. He is also a Vice-President and Punjab General Secretary of the All Pakistan Muslim League (APML)

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