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Cobrapost Exclusive: Nehru wanted to attack Pakistan in 1947 after it invaded Kashmir
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Cobrapost Exclusive: Nehru wanted to attack Pakistan in 1947 after it invaded Kashmir

Bikash C. Paul |
December 14, 2019

Contrary to what is believed, and the image of a softy the Sangh Brotherhood has assiduously built around him, the first Prime Minister of Independent India was hawkish on Pakistan after the tribal incursion into Kashmir


New Delhi (Saturday: December 14, 2019): “… [I]t seems to me that we may be faced with an advance into Pakistan and for that we must be prepared”, thus wrote Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of an Independent India, 72 years back to Sir Francis Robert Roy Bucher, who was then Chief of Indian Army. This telling comment made when the Pashtoon tribals, and riding piggyback on them the Pak Army, made incursion into Kashmir in 1947 shows that Nehru was no less thinking of an all-out war with Pakistan. This comment is part of a 20-page interview that Roy Bucher gave to B.R. Nanda, the noted biographer of Nehru. This information was gleaned from a few pages of this historic interview to which the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library (NMML) allowed us access upon an RTI request.

In fact, Nehru has been a favourite whipping boy for the RSS and its political arm BJP, always blaming his follies for the Kashmir mess. Recently, Amit Shah reignited the old debate saying, “Sarder Patel united 630 provinces. Nehru had just one job (to unite J&K with India).” Shah went further to term Nehru’s decision to move to United Nations a ‘Himalayan blunder’ (“Nehru’s mistake of taking Kashmir issue to UN bigger than Himalayas: Amit Shah’, India Today, published online https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/amit-shah-jawaharlal-nehru-kashmir-mistake-un-bigger-than-himalayas-article-370-1604467-2019-09-29). Several authors have also helped build this perception of Nehru by criticizing him for going soft on Pakistan and not taking back the territory lost to India’s perennial adversary after the war in Kashmir ended up in the UN sending its mission in 1948.

But contrary to this perception, Nehru was not averse to taking the war deep into Pakistani territory. The UN intervention in J&K, however, proved a spoilsport. How hawkish Nehru was on Pakistan becomes clear from the pages of the interview that Roy Bucher had with Nanda. This interview not only gives a glimpse of the events that sealed the fate of the newly acceded state of Jammu and Kashmir as a disputed territory for all times to come but also peeps into Nehru’s mind. Quoting what Nehru had suggested then, Roy Bucher said in this interview: “He (Nehru) had become very perturbed about the shelling of Akhnur and the Beripattan Bridge by Pakistan heavy artillery from just within Pakistan; he enjoined me to do all I could to counteract this. There was nothing which one could do except counter-shell. In one of his letters Panditji wrote: ‘I do not know what the United Nations’ – I am quoting – ‘are going to propose. They may propose a cease-fire and what the conditions are going to be I do not know. If there isn’t going to be a cease-fire, then it seems to me that we may be faced with an advance into Pakistan and for that we must be prepared. I assured my Prime Minister that all steps would be taken to meet any eventuality” (Annexure: Interview of Roy Bucher). It would have been interesting to discuss the entire interview here but NMML refused access to it declaring the same “closed” for reason best known to them. Still the interview makes an interesting reading with tidbits about what happened in J&K narrated from memory and also Roy Bucher’s love for India and the respect he had for top leaders like Nehru, Sardar Patel and C. Rajagopalachari.

It seems things changed dramatically after that as the interview reveals how the cease fire came into effect. The former army chief received a call from the then Defence Minister Sardar Baldev Singh. To Roy Bucher, “‘The next happening so far as I was concerned, was when Sardar Baldev Singh rang me up on the telephone and said: ‘Go ahead.’”

“I asked: ‘Go ahead with what?’

“He replied: ‘Go ahead with the cease-fire.’

“My reply was: ‘Well it is a jolly difficult job for me as a Commander-in-Chief to tackle and you have the United Nations Commission for India and Pakistan in the country.’

“The answer (from the Defence Minister) was that I have to go ahead (with the ceasefire).

“So I drafted out a signal to General Gracey, the Commander-in-Chief in Pakistan; a copy of this is, I know, in the file in the Museum now. The signal was kept purposely short and merely stated that my Government was of the opinion that senseless moves and counter-moves with loss of life and everything else were achieving nothing in Kashmir; that I had my Government's authority to order Indian troops to cease firing as from a minute or so before midnight of the 31st December 1948.”

“The signal was very carefully drafted and was addressed to General Gracey,” said Sir Roy Bucher, adding, “as I have already said I took it along to Pandit Nehru in the Lok Sabha before dispatch and showed it to him. He read it two or three times, counter-signed it and told me to get it sent off; he took a copy for his own file. The signal was despatched.

“I knew if General Gracey understood that Pandit Nehru had approved the message that he would immediately inform his own Prime Minister, Mr. Liaquat Ali Khan. By permission of the Government of India I could telephone to Army Headquarters Pakistan; I used this permission to inform General Gracey that my signal had Pandit Nehru's agreement.

“The ceasefire came in. Indian troops stopped firing, and as I have already narrated, the United Nations Commission was apprised of this a day or two later; they were told that what they come out for had been achieved two days or so ago. I do not think Commission knew anything about the cease-fire signal before that.”

What prompted Nehru to change his mind to “advance into Pakistan”, was not even clear to Roy Bucher. He said, “What went on within Indian Cabinet I do not know.”

Roy Bucher did not speculate on it either. After 72 years, we should also stop speculating and bar ourselves looking at the issue through the narrow prism of ideology.


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