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'I expect Kashmir to be partitioned, some day if not right now'

Fighting for Kashmir

Alan Campbell-Johnson Unfortunately, all the troubles did not end along with Partition and Independence. Newly-born India and Pakistan fought three wars, two over Kashmir, the one unresolved matter that still remains.

Today, Kashmir is divided between the two countries, and both claim the other's share. Ongoing turmoil in the state on the Indian side has always kept the dispute alive, and both sides accuse the other of reneging on its promises. One particular insiduous charge often made by Pakistanis, recently reiterated by Professor Akbar Ahmed, who is making a film on Mohammad Ali Jinnah, was that Edwina's 'affair' with Nehru influenced Mountbatten to favour India.

Campbell-Johnson is clearly upset at the innuendo. "What has Lady Mountbatten having an affair with Nehru got to do with Kashmir? I am certain that her relation with Nehru, in the sense that they were lovers, is an absolute myth. They admired each other. As John Kenneth Galbraith, the American ambassador to India once said, 'Can't people realise that men and women can be friends?' Lady Mountbatten had nothing at all to do with Kashmir."

So we go back to Kashmir, a Muslim majority state ruled by a Hindu maharaja, and bordering both the newly-formed nations. As viceroy of India, Mountbatten also had a special relation with the numerous princes of India. At the time of Partition and Independence, they were clearly told by Mountbatten to decide their future, keeping in mind the people of their territory.

Lord Mountbatten "The key man concerned with the princes was Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel," says Campbell-Johnson. In the course of the hour-long interview, Campbell-Johnson clearly revealed a great admiration for the abilities of the Sardar, also known as the Iron Man and Bismarck of India. "Patel assured Mounbatten that if he got the full bag of kings before August 15, there would be no trouble." Prophetic words, as events would reveal only too clearly.

The Maharaja of Kashmir, Hari Singh, joined neither India nor Pakistan till Independence day. "Perhaps he was frightened, as most kings were. They were clearly swept up by the changes taking place, and each one wanted time, especially the big states such as Kashmir and Hyderabad.

However, time for Kashmir was not available. Reports poured in that 'tribesmen' had moved into the state. Patel and Nehru were keen to salvage the situation. Johnson recalls those days. "Mountbatten's view, which I consider the only view he could have taken as the constitutional governor-general of India, was that the maharaja should accede before the Indian army moved in. That would have been the right legal move."

"We had a situation where two new sovereign countries, formed just three months earlier and both part of the Commonwealth, were on the verge of a war, which was dangerous and humiliating. Mountbatten said the only step he would recommend was transferring the dispute to the UN to make it an international one. And with this the two sides just drew back."

What made Mountbatten give his recommendation, which many Indians feel deprived them of the chance to recover the whole of Kashmir. "In case it developed into a war, we would have had British soldiers in the Indian and Pakistani armies fighting each other; something that could not be allowed. Field-Marshal Auchinleck who was still the supreme commander of both the armies had warned that British troops would return home if sent to the warfront. So Mountbatten, in my opinion, took the only step he could take."

Still, history records the 1947-48 conflict as a war which divided Kashmir into two till date, giving an unhappy situation. "Everyone was unhappy: the Indians, Pakistanis, Lord Mountbatten was unhappy at the idea that the two countries may have war within three months of coming into existence."

Sardar Patel Campbell-Johnson has very firm views on the continuing of the crisis. "I don't believe that there has ever been a firm will by both sides to ever resolve the Kashmir dispute. For Pakistan Kashmir was part of a bigger gameplan, at least before the creation of Bangladesh, to link up the East and West wings of the new country. So for the Pakistanis, the idea was to keep the crisis going, there are bigger issues involved."

"The Indian view was that one day Pakistan will collapse and it was worth keeping the dispute going. And the temptation has been too keep the dispute going, and it has been kept going for 50 years."

Did he expect it to remain so all these years? "I would have thought that after the creation of Bangladesh, Kashmir isn't really worth fighting for. I expect Kashmir to be partitioned, some day if not right now."

Certainly J&K Chief Minister Dr Farooq Abdullah must be pleased for he had made the same suggestion some time recently, but was not well received by Indian or Pakistani politicians.

Alan Campbell-Johnson, continued