Saturday, 7 September 2013

Kashmir: Let the People Decide

Jawaharlal Nehru

The house will remember that a few days ago I made a fairly lengthy statement in this House about the affairs of Jammu and Kashmir State. I do not propose to weary the House by a repetition of what I said then. But at this stage, I should like to emphasize certain aspects of this problem.

For the last five years nearly, the Kashmir problem has been one of the heaviest burdens that the Government has had to carry. It has been a heavy burden because it was a complicated affair and one in which our saying 'aye' or 'nay' was not quite enough. Other factors were involved. There are many things in this world which we would like to change but we cannot shape the world to our will. We live, as the House well knows, on the eve of what appears to be a tragedy in the world and we try-when I say 'we' I do not mean we in this House but people all over the world-to avert the tragedy and somehow to assure peace for this world. But nobody can control events completely. Of course, one tries to mould them to certain extent, tries to affect them in some way; but what the ultimate resultant of the various forces and passions and prejudices at work is likely to be, no man knows. The misfortune of the State of Jammu and Kashmir and our misfortune have become a part-perhaps a small part but, nevertheless, a part-of the larger picture of the world. And therefore the difficulties in our way have increased greatly. It is an international problem and would have been an international problem anyhow if it concerned any other nation besides India-and it does. Its international character was further emphasized because a large number of other countries took an interest in the problem and gave advice.

Well, we have tried to fashion our actions in regard to this problem according to what we considered to be our obligations and responsibilities. What were those obligations and responsibilities? The first was to protect and safeguard the territory of India from every invasion. That is the primary responsibility of the State. Secondly, it was our duty to honour the pledge we gave to the people of Jammu and Kashmir State. And that pledge was a two-fold pledge. We were obliged to protect them from invasion and rape and loot and arson and everything that accompanied that invasion. That was the first part of the pledge. The second part of the pledge was given by us unilaterally and was to the effect that it would be for the people to decide finally what their future was to be. The third was to honour the assurances we gave to the United Nations and the fourth was to work for a peaceful settlement. That was not a pledge we had given to anybody but one that was implied in the policy we had tried to pursue right from the beginning. It is in the nature of things that we should pursue a policy of peace, since we are wedded to the ideals of peace. Apart from that, it was neces­sary that we should do so because the world in which we live appears to be on the edge of a precipice and one has to be very careful in taking any step which might, perhaps, cause the world to tumble over that precipice.

So, these were the four major considerations that we had to keep in view and sometimes it was difficult to balance them. Sometimes they seemed to lead in different directions. I t would have been an easy matter if all these factors had led us to the same conclusion. But since they pulled in different directions, our obligations and responsibilities lead us to think not only of one line of action but of several. Then, difficulties arose. Well, we have faced these difficulties and we have sometimes had a hard time deciding what we should do and what we should not do. I should like the House, therefore, to think in terms of balancing these very important assurances, pledges and the other factors in the situation.

In the course of these years, I have repeatedly placed the situation before this House and it is with the concurrence and support of this House that we have continued to pursue the policy that we have pursued. I t has been my belief that, in this matter more than in others, the great majority of the people of this country have approved of our policy. We have had evidence of this approval from time to time in this House and in the House that preceded it. We have received advice from innumerable people, friends and critics in this country and we have always welcomed that advice, even though some of it did not appear to be feasible or right. We have also received advice from innumerable people outside this country. We welcome their advice, too, when it is friendly' advice. vVe do not welcome it when it comes from unfriendly minds or is accompanied by threats or any hint of threats.

We took this matter to the United Nations four years and eight months ago, in the belief that thereby we were serving the cause of peace and in the hope that we would settle the question of Kashmir by means of an agreement. We have not settled it yet, in spite of the labours of the United Nations and its various organs. I would like to repeat what I said on the last occasion in this House when I paid a tribute to Dr Frank Graham, who has shown enormous patience and enormous perseverance in his pursuit of a peaceful settlement. So far as we are concerned, we shall help him to the end, even though people may get tired of our pursuing the same path. Peace is always an ideal worth pursuing, however tired we may get in the process. Many of our colleagues and friends in the country have perhaps got weary of this process and I can very well understand their weariness; but their weariness can hardly compare with the weariness of those who are in charge of the Kashmir affair. Day after day, week after week, month after month, we have had to carry this heavy burden. However weary we may have become, we dare not act in a hurry, we dare not act in anger, we dare not allow ourselves to be led by passion. The consequences of acting in passion are always bad for an individual; but they are infinitely worse for a nation. Therefore, we have restrained ourselves. We have restrained ourselves even when loud cries of war and loud threats have reached us from across the border. We restrained ourselves and I am glad to say that, generally speaking, our people and the press in this country also restrained them­selves. I have great sympathy and understanding for those who sometimes felt that we should do something more active and throw off restraint; but I was sure then and I am sure now that it would have been utterly wrong to do so. I am not referring to any minor step here and there but rather to the major trend of the policy that we pursued. We must keep these four major obligations in our minds as we have done in the past, even though we have put the matter before the United Nations. Some friends have advised us to withdraw it from the United Nations. I am not quite sure if they have studied this subject or considered how it is possible to with­draw this or any such matter from the United Nations, unless, of course, we withdraw ourselves from the United Nations. The United Nations concerned itself with this matter at our instance. And, in any case, if we had not brought the matter to the United Nations, others might have done so. If we say, 'we withdraw from the United Nations,' we shall only be showing impatience and temper without achieving the results that some people hope we will. Therefore, the question of withdrawal from the United Nations does not arise, unless, of course, this House wishes that the Government of India and the Union of India itself should withdraw from the United Nations. In the latter case, the House must be prepared to face all the consequences of such an action. I presume that the House does not wish this, just as I do not wish it.

I have ventured, in all humility, sometimes to criticize those developments at the United Nations which seemed to me to be out of keeping with its Charter and its past record and professions. Nevertheless, I have believed and I do believe that the United Nations, in spite of its many faults, in spite of its having deviated from its aims somewhat, is, nevertheless, a basic and fundamental thing in the structure of the world today. Not to have it or to do away with it would be a tragedy for the world. Therefore, I do not wish this country of ours to do anything which 'weakens the gradual development of some kind of a world structure. It may be that the real world structure will not come in our lifetime but unless that world structure comes, there is no hope for this world, because the only alternative is world conflict on a prodigious and tremendous scale. Therefore, it would be wrong for us to do anything that weakens the beginnings of a world structure, even though we may disagree with this particular organization and even though we may sometimes criticize it, as we have done. It is mainly for these reasons that I fail to understand this cry about our withdrawing the Kashmir dispute from the United Nations. It is not like withdrawing a case from one law court and taking it to another. The United Nations is not to be considered merely a forum dealing with the Kashmir question. The question is before the nations of the world, whether they are united or not and whether they are a forum or not. It is an international matter and a matter which is in the minds of millions of men. How can you withdraw it from the minds of millions of men? Surely not by a legal withdrawal. The question does not arise. We have to face the world; we have to face our people; we have to face facts and we have to solve problems.

Some friends seem to imagine the easiest way to solve the question is to have an exhibition of armed might. They say, 'Let us march our armies.' That can never be a solution in this case or in any other case. The more I live and the more I grow in experience, the more convinced I become of the futility and the wickedness of war as a means of solving a problem. I consider it my misfortune that we even have to spend money on armaments and that we have to keep an army, a navy and an air force. In the world as it is consti­tuted today, one is compelled to take those precautions. Any person in a position of responsibility must take these precautions and if we take them, we have to take them adequately and effectively. Accordingly, we must keep a fine army, a fine navy and a fine air force. That is so. But to think in terms of throwing our brave men into warfare is not something I indulge in, unless circumstances force my hands as they forced my hands on a late evening in October 1947. It was only after the most painful thought and consultation that I decided upon our course of action. If I may say so in all humility and without sacrilege, I did so after consulting the Father of the Nation.
People say, 'A part of the territory of India has been invaded. It is held by the enemy. What are we doing to defend that territory of India? We have failed in our defence.' Such statements would be perfectly justified; such criticism of the Government would be legitimate to some extent. It was and is our duty to push out the enemy from every invaded part of the territory of India. That is where the conflict between obligations and responsibilities really begins.

As the House knows, we decided right at the beginning that we were agreeable to a plebiscite in which all the people of Jammu and Kashmir State would take part. It was a curious thing that in spite of having so decided, this war should have continued. The war continued for fourteen months or so-from the end of October 1947 to the end of 1948. It was for us to decide at the end of 1948 or the beginning of 1949, whether we should carry this war ·on to the bitter end and thereby recover the lost territory or whether we should call a halt to active military operations and try some other and more peaceful method. We decided and, conditioned as we were, I submit we decided rightly to put an end to active military operations and try other methods. These other methods have not brought a solution in their train thus far. And yet, I think it would be right to say that the mere fact that an extraordinarily explosive situation, such as the one that has existed in the State of Jammu and Kashmir for the last few years, has been controlled is itself no small achievement. We see in other parts of the world how other countries have got more and more entangled in all kinds of morasses and how the path of war becomes more and more difficult. We had the courage and, I say in all humility, the wisdom to pull ourselves out of continuing an unending war before it was too late, so that we might think more calmly, more patiently, more wisely. Whether it has yielded any result yet or not, the fact remains that we have not been having a war for the last three and a half years or so. This is not a bad result, although it may not be a satisfactory solution.

Later, we declared that any further aggression or attack - ­I say 'any further' because there had been aggression and aggression was continuing-or military operations in regard to Kashmir would mean an all-out war not only in Kashmir but elsewhere, too. That decision was not lightly taken but after serious thought and careful consultation. 'We said it knowing full well the consequences of what we said. We had weighed the consequences and yet had come to that conclusion. It was no threat but the statement of what was, to our minds, an absolute fact. There could be no further attack on Kashmir without this matter becoming a major war so far as India was concerned. Having made that perfectly clear, I think we succeeded in preventing many an attack that might have taken place in the hope that the aggressors would get away with it.

Two or three basic things follow from this. One is that, in so far as the United Nations is concerned, we shall continue unless this House decides to the contrary, to deal with it in the manner in which we have done in the past. We have tried our utmost to achieve a peaceful settlement without giving in on any vital point or trying to evade any of our responsibilities or obligations. We have resolved not to dishonour the pledges we have given to the people of Kashmir or to the people of India and, therefore, we shall pursue our policy accordingly.

The House is aware that we accepted certain resolutions of the United Nations and of the UN Commission that came here. We accepted them, not because we liked everything about them but because in our earnest desire for a peaceful settlement, we were willing to go to great lengths. Neverthe­less, we made it perfectly clear that we would not by-pass the pledges we had given or the responsibilities we had undertaken. At a much later stage, another resolution was passed by the Security Council which tried to impose an arbitration on us. We rejected that resolution or that part of it which was objectionable to us. It was one thing for us to agree to a certain proposal after having weighed all the consequences but we could not possibly give up our responsibilities, pledges and assurances; we could not put the matter in the hands of somebody else, whoever he might be. We could never do that because we had our own duties and obligations to consider. How could we hang the faith of the four million people of Jammu and Kashmir State on the decision of an arbitrator? Great political questions-and this was a great political question-are not handed over in this way to arbitrators from foreign countries. That is why we had to reject this particular resolution of the United Nations. We stand by that rejection and are not going to agree to anything which prevents us from honouring the pledges or the assurances we have given.

Subject to that, we shall go all out to seek a peaceful settlement. Among the assurances and pledges that we have given is the pledge which was implied in our policy, namely, that the people of Jammu and Kashmir State would decide their future. Let me be quite clear about this. There still seems to be a good deal of misunderstanding about Kashmir's accession to India. The other day, I said in this House that this accession was complete in law and in fact. Some people and some newspapers, mostly newspapers abroad, seem to think that it is only something that has happened in the last week or fortnight or three weeks that has made this accession complete. According to my views, this accession was complete in law and in fact in October 1947. It is patent and no argument is required, because every accession of every State in India was complete on these very terms by September in that' year or a little later. All the States acceded in three basic subjects, namely, foreign affairs, communications and defence. Can anybody say that the accession of any State in India was incomplete simply because they acceded in only those three subjects? Of course not. It was a complete accession in law and in fact. So was the accession of the Jammu and Kashmir State, in law and in fact, by the end of October. It is not open to doubt or challenge. I am surprised that anybody here or elsewhere in the world should challenge it. I was telling the House that when the first United Nations Commission, accompanied by their legal advisers and others came here, it was open to them to challenge it. But they did not, because it was quite clear to them and to their legal advisers that there could be no question about the legal validity of the accession. So, while the accession was complete in law and in fact, the other fact which has nothing to do with law also remains, namely, Our pledge to the people of Kashmir - if you like, to the people of the world - that this matter can be affirmed again or cancelled by the people of Kashmir according to their wishes. We do not want to win people against their will and with the help of armed force; and, if the people of Jammu and Kashmir State wish to part company with us, they can go their way and we shall go ours. We want no forced marriages, no forced unions. I hope this great Republic of India is a free, voluntary, friendly and affectionate union of the States of India. The people of Jammu and Kashmir State not only agreed to come to us as they did but it was at their request that we took them into our large family of States. I do believe that they have the same friendly feelings towards us as the other States have. I believe that on repeated occasions they have given evidence of this fact. Even in the election of this Constituent Assembly that took place nearly a year ago, they exhibited that feeling of friendship and union with India. I am personally convinced that if at any time some other method of ascertaining their feelings is decided upon, they will decide in the same way. But that is my personal opinion; it may not be your opinion or the House's opinion. The fact, however, remains that we have said to them and to the world that we will give them a chance to decide. We propose to stand by their ultimate decision in this matter. Within the limits of these assurances and pledges, we shall continue to pursue the policy that we have decided upon.

A short while ago, we met the representatives of the Government of Kashmir and they were not merely the representatives of the Government but, undoubtedly, the popular leaders of the people of Kashmir. We met .them, we talked to them and we discussed many matters with them. We did not go to them in a bargaining spirit or in a spirit of opposition. We discussed matter with them, with a view to solving our intricate problems, With a view to unraveling the knots and with a view to finding some way which would fit in with the various assurances that we had exchanged and with the policies they stood for and we stood for. Many of these policies 'were, of course, common to both. I placed the agreements we arrived at before this House on the last occasion. It is obvious that these agreements are not a final solution. Much has still to be done; much has to be thought out. But two or three facts remain. One is that, in the nature of things at the present moment, it is necessary to consider the case of Jammu and Kashmir State on a somewhat different footing from the other States in India. This is inevitable because Kashmir has become an international issue in the last few years. A different footing does not mean any special right or privilege except in the sense that it may mean a greater measure of internal autonomy. It is a developing, dynamic situation. One may gradually change it more and more but it is not right for us under the existing circumstances to try to do something by mental coercion or by pressure of some other kind. That would defeat our object and that would, indeed, be playing into the hands of those who criticize us.

Speech in the Loka Sabha, August 7, 1952

Courtesy: Jawaharlal Nehru’s Speeches 1949-1953 (Page: 100-109)
(First Published: January 1954, Fourth Impression: June 1967)
Publications Division
Ministry of Information and Broadcasting
Government  of India


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