A remarkable writing on the partition of Kashmir – Punekar News
Maj Gen Jagatbir Singh, VSM (retired)
‘Dark Secrets’, Iqbal Chand Malhotra’s latest album, uniquely re-examines India’s contemporary history of the Kashmir conflict and its relationship with Britain, the Soviet Union, Pakistan and China . A deep, dark secret whose intricacies are extremely difficult to plumb, which has never been a piece of masonry until now.
Unfortunately, these facts were never revealed in the public domain as it may not have been in accordance with policy. What the dark secret reveals is the fallout from Britain’s follow-up to the Soviet nuclear quest in one of the most strategic areas – Kashmir and the NWFP and how it continues to impact the region. even today.
The British need to continue to spy on Soviet nuclear activities in Soviet Kazakhstan and Sinkiang from Gilgit made it imperative to control the Gilgit Agency, Kashmir and the NWFP at the time of partition to enable it to monitor the progress of the program Soviet nuclear. The Soviet Union, on the other hand, wanted China to seize the Western Tibet region in order to secure a supply of rare materials. The “big game” has now happened on nuclear weapons after World War II, but the fallout unfortunately persists.
For the Soviets, accessing uranium ores from Aksai Chin and transporting them by road to their uranium mining plant at Khojand in Tajikistan was the major concern. They needed the Chinese government to hide this secret and also become a third party and act as a buffer between them and the Muslim insurgents in Sinkiang, who, led by Osman Bator, were aware of the Soviet designs and strongly opposed them with the secret aid from the United States.
The web couldn’t have been more intertwined. Britain is desperate to join the nuclear club, but is denied access to American nuclear secrets, as its closest ally now needs to keep tabs on Russian activities in an inaccessible region; for Aksai Chin belonged to Jammu and Kashmir but was mostly uninhabited. Additionally, the Soviets also wanted to break India’s hold on Tibet to include its politico-military interests in that region as they had consulates in Gartok and Kasghar, as did Mao. Stalin’s suggestion to Mao to invade uninhabited Western Tibet enabled him to build the road from Aksai Chin to Khojand and thus make many birds with one stone. Pakistan was the pawn, in fact Queen Elizabeth remained the ‘Queen of Pakistan’ until 1956 and Pakistan allowed the presence of the British military including airbases from which frequent strategic missions were carried out.
Semipalatinsk, the site of the proposed Soviet nuclear tests, posed a unique challenge because it could only be monitored by Western powers in Kashmir. Control of Kashmir was a necessity, and the British felt that a British-trusted Pakistan was better equipped to exercise that control than India.
Mountbatten was the man chosen to carry out the delicate task of ‘officially’ ending Britain’s role in India while physically retaining secure control of the Gilgit Agency-based surveillance and study of the trials. Soviet nuclear weapons in Semipalatinsk. Mountbatten’s overriding orders from his government were to ensure the security and continued existence of the three British nuclear monitoring stations at Gilgit, notwithstanding the transfer of power.
The depth of the connivance can be gauged from the fact that the Indian and British C-in-Cs coordinated the invaders’ proxy war in 1947 to ensure that the British seismic and acoustic monitoring stations at Gilgit which were recording the Soviet efforts to develop a nuclear bomb remained under London’s control. General Rob Lockhart and Douglas Gracey “talked on the phone every day, especially after kabailis began to congregate in the Attock-Rawalpindi area in the second half of October 1947. This was before Poonch’s invasion. Gracey would give a fairly detailed assessment of everything at Lockhart on a day-to-day basis. If it had not been for Major Onkar Singh Kalkat, then Brigade Major in Bannu, who got wind of this plot and reported the same to his superiors in Delhi after escaping at the risk of his life , this invasion would have been carried out by British officers, familiar with the invaders and fluent in the language and perhaps they would not have been distracted by their indiscipline.
However, the irony is that while the British in Pakistan changed their plans, no heed was taken in India of this intelligence. Although they met Brigadier PN Thapar, Major General Kulwant Singh and Sardar Baldev Singh, the British-dominated intelligence staff at army headquarters took no action.
Without a doubt,” Lockhart had advance information on the strength of the invaders and their intentions. However, this information was hidden from his staff, Defense Minister Sardar Baldev Singh as well as Prime Minister Nehru,” according to Iqbal. In December 1947, when Nehru asked him if his sympathies lay in Pakistan, he offered to resign as he felt there was a clear lack of trust.
British security interests affected by intrigues, claims, counter-claims and hidden agendas impacted every decision. India was undoubtedly the jewel in the British crown, and Kashmir, with its dominant geostrategic location, is undoubtedly the jewel in the Indian crown as it sits at the head of India and influences its defense and foreign politic. However, Iqbal’s book gives us a new perspective on the treacherous role of the British and why Kashmir remains a constant point of conflict. The division of Kashmir was mainly due to British assessments of their security interests.
For the British, it was imperative that the Siamese twins of NWFP and J&K remain under their control until the Soviet bomb was built and overflights over the Soviet Union were no longer necessary.
While the book ends with Russian tests of their nuclear devices in the 1950s, what is left unsaid is Prime Minister Chou en Lai’s desire to swap Aksai Chin with Arunachal Pradesh, an area already held by India, which can be attributed to China’s demand to join the nuclear club. . Unfortunately, India ignored the Chinese occupation of its strategically dominant area of Aksai Chin, which not only provided fuel for its nuclear program but is also an important source of water.
The book also highlights some important events and talks about some interesting personalities. The meeting of Younghusband and Major Grombchevsky in the remote region of Shaksgam in October 1899, an area illegally ceded by Pakistan to China in 1963; where the Russian gregarious waved a map revealing Russian designs in this mountainous region. This meeting set off a chain reaction of events, the effects of which continue to dictate much of our attention. This encounter is also part of Peter Hopkirk’s stellar narrative on “The Great Game.”
Maharaja Pratap Singh had a ‘series of independence’ about him and hence the state was under the resident. The issue of “sovereignty” and “suzerainty” of areas such as Gilgit, Hunza and Nagar remained a gray area which the British exploited to their advantage, they not only kept the Maharaja out of sight but also neutralized any Russian incursion and prevented any future alliance between the Maharaja and the Russians. He could no longer take any decision of consequence without the consent of the British Resident.
Prime Minister Kak of Jammu and Kashmir was “the brown face of a British-controlled administration”. His instructions from his mentors helped set the stage for the state to break up. He had “his eyes fixed on the conclusion of an agreement with Pakistan”.
The British convinced Maharaja Hari Singh to appoint William Brown an officer who was fluent in Pashto and had served in the Gilgit Scouts as a commander once Gilgit’s lease was cancelled. This necessitated his resignation from his British commission. Subsequently in October 1947, he led the rebellion against Brigadier Ghansara Singh; the governor of Gilgit and declared it to be part of Pakistan. In July 1948, he obtained the MBE. An act of treason honorably rewarded! There is no doubt that he was part of the British intelligence services responsible for monitoring the Soviet nuclear program.
According to Iqbal; on Mountbatten’s orders, Major General Kulwant Singh was prevented from recovering the Gilgit agency and the Muzaffarabad-Poonch belt by Nehru. Mountbatten finally resigned in June 1948 when British complicity became evident and once 7 SIKH supported by C Squadron 7 Cavalry captured a Pakistani POW in May 1948. In fact, in July 1948 Major RE Sloan was killed at Tithwal while commanding a field company. Pakistani engineers.
The conflict can be aptly described as “a war started by the British for the British”. The British never agreed to Nehru’s request to withdraw their officers from both armies. In all likelihood, the Pakistani military would have collapsed without the British officers and the bond between Bucher who replaced Lockhart as C-in-C and his Pakistani counterpart Gracey would have been severed.
Once the 7th Cavalry tanks passed through Zoji La, the British realized they could no longer control Kashmir and feared losing Gilgit and felt the NWFP was also vulnerable. The British now used the head of the RIAF; Air Marshal Elmhirst to convince Pandit Nehru to perform Pakistani airdrop interdiction missions in Gilgit. Permission for Brigadier KL Atal to conduct a ground offensive from Kargil to Gilgit was also never granted.
Nehru was convinced to agree to a ceasefire in November 1948. Apparently in October he spent four days in Hampshire at the Mountbatten house. While Mountbatten was away in London; “Edwina had to work on Nehru to agree a ceasefire in Kashmir”.
There is no doubt that the book is remarkable writing backed by rigorous research that shines a whole new light on a part of our history that continues to stay in the spotlight even today. Filled with interesting anecdotes, the book refreshes our memory on various prominent figures of the time and sheds new light on the parallel events that created the unresolved borders in Kashmir.
What the book does is highlight some parallel but interconnected events that have remained hidden from the public eye for too long and reiterates once again how a nation in this case, Britain; is guided by its interests rather than its values.
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