27th October 1947 when the news of Kashmir’s accession to India and subsequent landing of Indian troops at the Srinagar Airport reached Pakistan, the first Governor-General of Pakistan, Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah at once ordered General Douglas Gracey, the acting Commander-in-Chief of Pakistan Army to despatch Pakistani troops to save Kashmir. General Gracey, however, felt it necessary to contact Field Marshal Claude Auchinleck, the joint Chief of Army Staff of both India and Pakistan before taking any such step. The next day, Auchinleck flew from Delhi to Lahore where he met Quaid-e-Azam and was able to persuade him to withdraw his orders and advised that he may invite Lord Mountbatten and Jawaharlal Nehru to a conference to settle the issue. Quaid-e-Azam, therefore, withdrew his orders and formally invited Lord Mountbatten and Pandit Nehru to a conference at Lahore.
As a result, Mountbatten arrived Lahore on 1st November 1947 to meet Liaquat Ali Khan and Muhammad Ali Jinnah. Sardar Shaukat Hayat wrote in his book “The Nation that Lost its Soul” that Mountbatten had carried an offer by Sardar Patel to exchange Kashmir for Hyderabad. To quote him;
‘Mountbatten arrived in Lahore when fighting broke out in Kashmir, he addressed an important dinner meeting which was attended by the Pakistani Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan, the Governor of the Punjab, and four Ministers from the Punjab, where he delivered a message from Patel. In his message, Patel suggested that India and Pakistan should abide by the principles that had been agreed upon between the Congress and the Muslim League with regard to the political future of the princely states, according to which the states would accede to India or Pakistan depending on the religion of the majority of their inhabitants as well as their contiguity to either of the two countries. Accordingly, Patel suggested that Pakistan should take Kashmir and renounce its claims to Hyderabad Deccan, which had a Hindu majority and which had no land or sea border with Pakistan. After delivering this message, Mountbatten retired to the Government House to rest… I was in charge of Pakistan’s operations in Kashmir. I went to see Liaquat Ali Khan and pointed out that Indian forces had entered Kashmir and that Pakistan could not succeed in driving them out using the tribal raiders to ensure that Kashmir became part of Pakistan. I even said that it seemed unlikely that the Pakistani Army could succeed in doing so. Hence, I insisted, we must not reject Patel’s offer. But Liaquat Ali Khan turned to me and said, “Sardar Sahib! Have I gone mad that I should leave the state of Hyderabad Deccan, which is even larger than the Punjab, in exchange for the mountains and peaks of Kashmir?” I was stunned at Liaquat Ali Khan’s reaction, shocked that our Prime Minister was so ignorant of geography, and at his preferring Hyderabad Deccan over Kashmir. This was nothing but living in a fool’s paradise. To acquire Hyderabad was clearly impossible, and we were rejecting an opportunity that would have given us Kashmir. Yet, Liaquat was totally unaware of the importance of Kashmir for Pakistan. That is why I resigned in protest as in charge of Kashmir operations.’
This “revelation” rather an allegation by Shaukat Hayat Khan is often quoted when it comes to Liaquat Ali Khan’s role vis-a-vis Kashmir. In order to find out how true this statement was, let us discuss Lord Mountbatten’s visit in detail.
When Quaid-e-Azam had requested Mountbatten and Nehru to attend the meeting of the Joint Defence Council, both Mountbatten and Nehru accepted the offer. As per Shaukat Hayat, Mountbatten was carrying a message from Sardar Patel, this means that at least between 28 to 31st October 1947 (if not earlier) Sardar Patel must have told Mountbatten to convey his message to the Prime Minister of Pakistan. But when we look for any contemporary source to find whether any such discussion had taken place between them, we could hardly find anything. The press attaché of Mountbatten, Campbell Johnson wrote that before Mountbatten left for Pakistan, Nehru had told him to convey his message that he could not attend the meeting as he was ill. Campbell Johnson did write about the message concerning Nehru’s illness but not about such an important offer made by Sardar Patel. Not only him but also no other source has ever mentioned if Patel had asked Mountbatten to give this offer to Pakistan. In fact, Sardar Patel was even against their visit to Pakistan, let alone making offers and conferring Kashmir. Before that visit he said;
“For the Prime Minister to go crawling to Jinnah when we were the stronger side and in the right would never be forgiven by the people of India.”
This is enough to bust this lie that Sardar Patel ever gave any such offer to Pakistan through Mountbatten. Now, let us see what actually transpired in that meeting of 1st November and what Mountbatten put before Quaid-e-Azam and Liaquat Ali Khan?
On 2nd November 1947, Lord Mountbatten wrote a letter to the then Indian Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru to inform him about his meetings with Jinnah and Liaquat Ali Khan.  He attached two notes with his letter that give a detailed insight into the whole meeting. With regard to his meeting with Liaquat Ali Khan, he wrote that on arrival at Lahore, he discovered that Liaquat Ali Khan was too ill to come to join the meeting at Government House so he went to Prime Minister’s House and met Liaquat Ali Khan in his bedroom. He tells that the meeting between him and Liaquat Ali Khan had taken place in isolation. To quote him; “Everyone left the room excepting Mr. Liaquat Ali Khan, Lord Ismay and myself.” Mountbatten doesn’t write much about his meeting with Liaquat Ali Khan for “so much of this [meeting] was the same as I was later to repeat to Mr. Jinnah”. After having a discussion with Liaquat Ali Khan which lasted for less than an hour, he left his house to meet Jinnah and didn’t see Liaquat Ali Khan again. Mountbatten notes, “Owing to the great length of the discussion with Mr. Jinnah time did not permit of our returning to see his Prime Minister, but we sent a message excusing ourselves.”
Here, it must be noted that according to Sardar Shaukat Hayat, Mountbatten “addressed an important dinner meeting which was attended by the Pakistani Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan, the Governor of the Punjab, and four Ministers from the Punjab, where he delivered a message from Patel.” But it can be seen that Mountbatten didn’t return to see Liaquat Ali Khan that he could have dinner with him. Secondly, his only meeting with Liaquat Ali Khan, which lasted for less than an hour, had taken place in complete isolation. This again proves the story cooked by Shaukat Hayat, according to which Mountbatten had met Liaquat Ali Khan in presence of the Governor and four other ministers from Punjab, as false.
Mountbatten, then, had a lengthy meeting with Jinnah which comprised of three to four hours. According to Mountbatten, while telling about the India’s Policy towards the states whose accession was in dispute he “pointed out the similarity between the cases of Junagadh and Kashmir and suggested that plebiscites should be held under UNO as soon as conditions permitted.” However, he further told Jinnah that he personally had drafted out a formula to which he thought his government might agree. To quote Mountbatten;
“I told Mr. Jinnah that I had drafted out in the aeroplane a formula which I had not yet shown to my government but to which I thought they might agree. This was the formula:
“The Governments of India and Pakistan agree that, where the ruler of a state does not belong to the community to which the majority of his subjects belong, and where the state has not acceded to that Dominion whose majority community is the same as the state’s, the question of whether the state should finally accede to one or the other of the Dominions should in all cases be decided by an impartial reference to the will of the people.”
To this, Jinnah had refused as “he could not accept a formula if it was so drafted as to include Hyderabad, since he pointed out that Hyderabad did not wish to accede to either Dominion and he could not be a party to coercing them to accession.” However, when Mountbatten “offered to put in some reference to states whose accession was in dispute ‘to try and get round the Hyderabad difficulty’, he said that he would give his careful consideration if it was put to him.”
Mountbatten also records that when he asked Jinnah whether he would sign a standstill agreement with Hyderabad if offered, Jinnah replied that “a standstill agreement that there are relations and intertwining factors which formed the basis for a standstill agreement. He could not think of any such factors between Pakistan and Hyderabad,… [so] he did not envisage wishing to sign such an agreement.”
It is pertinent to note that neither Mountbatten, nor Lord Ismay mentioned anything about the so-called “offer” by Patel. If anything came from Sardar Patel, it could only have been the above-mentioned plan, which according to Mountbatten, was drafted in aeroplane by himself. That plan too was not rejected by Liaquat Ali Khan but Jinnah. It was Jinnah’s policy not to include Hyderabad in the scheme. The reason he did so was not that he was being greedy for the wealth of Hyderabad. Pakistan didn’t long for Hyderabad as it is clear from Jinnah’s answer regarding the Standstill Agreement. The reason from Jinnah’s side was quite amicable. He couldn’t make decisions on someone else’s behalf. However, it should be told that this was not the main disagreement between Mountbatten and Jinnah. The major difference was that Mountbatten wanted Plebiscite under the auspices of UNO whereas Jinnah wanted the Governor Generals of both the Dominions to supervise that.
Saifuddin Soz’s Book
Recently, a Kashmiri politician Saifuddin Soz has written a book “Kashmir: Glimpses of History and the Story of Struggle” in which he has quoted Shaukat Hayat and some other sources and has tried to present Sardar Patel as a saint who wasn’t interested in Kashmir at all and was ready to give it to Pakistan on a silver platter without any plebiscite but Liaquat Ali Khan missed the opportunity. To support his argument, he quotes Chaudhry Muhammad Ali as saying:
“Sardar Patel, although a bitter enemy of Pakistan, was a greater realist than Nehru. In one of the discussions between the two Prime Ministers, at which Patel and I were also present, Liaquat Ali Khan dwelt at length on the inconsistency of the Indian stand with regard to Junagadh and Kashmir. If Junagadh, despite its Muslim ruler’s accession to Pakistan; belonged to India because of its Hindu majority, how could Kashmir, with its Muslim majority, be a part of India simply by virtue of its Hindu ruler having signed a conditional instrument of accession to India? If the instrument of accession signed by the Muslim ruler of Junagadh was of no validity, the instrument of accession signed by the Hindu ruler of Kashmir was also invalid. If the will of the people was to prevail in Junagadh, it must prevail in Kashmir as well. India could not claim both Junagadh and Kashmir. When Liaquat Ali Khan made these incontrovertible points, Patel could not contain himself and burst out: “Why do you compare Junagadh with Kashmir? Talk of Hyderabad and Kashmir, and we could reach an agreement.” Patel’s view at this time and even later was that India’s effort to retain Muslim majority areas against the will of the people was a source not of strength but of weakness to India. He felt that if India and Pakistan agreed to let Kashmir go to Pakistan and Hyderabad to India, the problems of Kashmir and of Hyderabad could be solved peacefully and to the mutual advantage of India and Pakistan.”
Before we talk about this meeting, it must be recalled that on 8th November, 1947 a Joint Defence Council meeting was held in Delhi in which Chaudhry Muhammad Ali and Abdul Rab Nishtar had represented Pakistan. The plebiscite question was discussed and a plan was drafted jointly by Chaudhry Muhammad Ali and V.P. Menon with Lord Ismay’s help which reads:
“both Governments agree that all forces whether regular or irregular must be withdrawn from Kashmir at the earliest possible moment. The withdrawal will commence on the 12th November and will be concluded by the 26th November. The Government of Pakistan solemnly pledges themselves to do their utmost to ensure that the tribesmen are withdrawn according to this programme and that they make no further incursions. The Government of India undertake to withdraw their forces according to programme.” 
As for the plebiscite, it was agreed that a “plebiscite will be held under the aegis of two persons nominated by the Governments of India and Pakistan with a person nominated by the Kashmir Government as observer. The plebiscite will be conducted by a British officer.” The draft also extended the principle of plebiscite to other problematic states. In this manner, Pakistan had given consent on a plebiscite for Hyderabad.
Alastair Lamb believes that Menon’s attitude was inspired by Sardar Patel and notes that it was “the most realistic Indo-Pakistani negotiation ever conducted on Kashmir problem”, but “V.P. Menon’s efforts were rejected out of hand by Nehru, so Chaudhry Muhammad Ali told Ismay in a note dated 9 November that “I am so sorry to have wasted so much of your time and I see no use in the further meetings that you suggested between yourself, Menon and myself.” 
The next meeting of the Joint Defence Council was held on 26 November, 1947 in which Liaquat Ali Khan and Chaudhry Muhammad Ali had participated from Pakistan. It was about this meeting Chaudhry Muhammad Ali noted that Patel had told Liaquat Ali Khan to also include Hyderabad in the discussion. While quoting Chaudhry Muhammad Ali, Saifuddin Soz forgets to mention that after this meeting of the Joint Defence Council, V.P. Menon and Chaudhry Muhammad Ali had drafted an agreement which provided for a plebiscite in Hyderabad also. A.G. Noorani writes that “Menon would not have concluded it without Patel’s approval nor Muhammad Ali without Liaquat’s.”  For plebiscite, it was agreed that “the Government of Pakistan would use all their influence to persuade the Azad Kashmir forces to cease fighting and the tribesmen to withdraw from Kashmir territory as quickly as possible; that the Government of India would withdraw the bulk of their forces from Kashmir territory as soon as the fighting had ceased and the tribesmen began to withdraw, leaving only small contingents at certain points on the frontier; that simultaneously with the cessation of hostilities, an approach would be made to the UNO jointly by both the Governments requesting them to hold a plebiscite.”  It was also agreed that both sides would discuss these proposals with their respective contacts in Jammu and Kashmir.  Therefore, when Liaquat Ali Khan met with the leaders of AJK Government, he put before them the outline of the draft agreement on plebiscite for Jammu and Kashmir. The agreement was unanimously condemned by the leaders of AJK government. They had said that they were not willing to consider any suggestion which did not include complete withdrawal of the Indian forces. On the same grounds, Quaid-e-Azam had also opposed the draft agreement. On the other side, Nehru started opposing any further discussion with Liaquat Ali Khan on this matter. Here it can also be seen that although these proposals were contrary to Jinnah’s stand — Indian Army should vacate completely, an impartial interim administration and plebiscite should be held under his and Mountbatten’s supervision instead of UN’s — yet they were agreed by Liaquat Ali Khan. He had even gone against Jinnah’s policy to have a settlement on Kashmir with India, how can one say that he did not negotiate well on Kashmir?
Was Sardar Patel ready to give away Kashmir?
Saifuddin Soz has also quoted an Indian journalist Kuldip Nayar who wrote that “While it is true that Nehru was keen on Kashmir’s accession to India, Patel was opposed to it. Even when New Delhi received the maharaja’s request to accede to India, Patel had said, ‘We should not get mixed up with Kashmir, we already have too much on our plate’.”
Although the author does not cite any source for the statement “We should not get mixed up with Kashmir, we already have too much on our plate”, nor could I find in this in any of the biographies of Sardar Patel so far consulted by me but when we look at the role of Sardar Patel during those days, this again looks far from the truth and seems to have been presented out of context. During the last week of October when India was preparing to send her troops in Kashmir, Nehru wanted the instrument of accession to be signed so that Indian actions might look legitimate but Patel on the other hand was concerned about capturing Kashmir. He feared that during all the drama of accession, India might lose Kashmir practically as the tribesmen might reach Srinagar at any time. For instance, Hindol Sengupta writes in his book “The Man who Saved India: Sardar Patel and his Idea of India”:
“The news of the attack reached Delhi on 24 October and the next morning, Patel vigorously argued that support should immediately go to Kashmir whether Maharaja acceded or not… Mountbatten advised caution but Patel stood firm and insisted that help should be sent right away and without any caveats.”
Bakhshi Ghulam Muhammad provides us proper insight into what Sardar Patel really wanted at that time. He tells that Sardar Patel was much desperate that the Indian army should be sent to capture Kashmir. According to him, Sardar Patel said that “Kashmir must be defended at all costs and come what may, resources or no resources. This must and must be done. Do whatever you like, but do it.”  This is why Bakhshi gives full credit to Sardar Patel for Kashmir’s occupation by India. For him it was “the result of Sardar’s decisiveness and determined will to implement the decision, whatever the odds.”
Before the last week of October, 1947, Patel had done much to secure Kashmir for India. From nominating new Army Chief and Prime Minister for Maharaja to the metalling of Pathankot-Kathua road which gave India a land route to Kashmir. It was he who first requested Gowalkar to visit Kashmir and meet Hari Singh. And once the Indian Army had landed in Kashmir, Hindol Sengupta writes that neither did he “want to give an inch”, nor did he “want a plebiscite”.  This contention is well-supported by Sardar Patel’s own statements. For instance, while talking to Air Mashal Thomas Elmhirst, the chairman of the chiefs-of-staff committee of India at that time, Patel said:
“If all the decisions rested on me, I think I would be in favour of extending this little affair in Kashmir to full-scale war with Pakistan. Let us get it over once and for all, and settle down as a united continent.”
In another instance, Patel Said, “If Kashmir is to be saved by the sword, where is the scope for a plebiscite? We shall not surrender an inch of Kashmir territory.”
When Nehru took the issue to UN, Patel was not in favour of it.  Rather he preferred a “timely action” on the ground. In a letter to Arthur Henderson, Patel wrote:
“I myself have felt that we should never have gone to the UNO, and if we had taken timely action when we went to the UNO, we could have settled the whole case much more quickly and satisfactorily from our point of view.” 
When Owen Dixon was working to bring about an agreement between India and Pakistan on the question of demilitarization, Patel wrote to Nehru: “If we are not careful, we might land ourselves in difficulties because once demilitarization is settled, a plebiscite would be, as it were, round the corner.”
This is not all, Patel was even in the favour of converting Muslim majority in Kashmir into a minority to secure Kashmir for India forever. Hindol Sengupta writes, “Even on article 370 giving special status to Kashmir, Patel and Nehru differed. Patel even told Achyut Patwardhan, the founder of the Socialist Party of India, that his solution to the Kashmir problem would be to send Sikh settlers to the Valley.”
Mountbatten didn’t carry along with him any offer from Sardar Patel regarding the straight exchange of Kashmir and Hyderabad without any plebiscite. None of the biographers of Sardar Patel including Balraj Krishna and Rajmohan Gandhi ever mentioned if Sardar Patel gave any such offer to Pakistan through Mountbatten. Shaukat Hayat’s version of the story is completely false as no such dinner meeting had taken place between Mountbatten and Liaquat Ali Khan that too in the presence of four ministers and governor of Punjab. If any offer had come from Patel’s side, all it could have been a plebiscite under UN’s supervision in both Kashmir and Hyderabad. This proposal, too, was rejected by Quaid-e-Azam, not Liaquat Ali Khan. As I have already said, he wasn’t being greedy for Hyderabad. Pakistan was supporting the independence of Hyderabad. It never wanted Hyderabad as a part of Pakistan at all. Hyderabad had not acceded to Pakistan. So, Jinnah did not want to decide for Hyderabad as he did not feel that he had any right to do so. It should be remembered that Jinnah was ready for a plebiscite in Junagadh since its ruler had acceded to Pakistan. Anyhow, the question of Hyderabad had later been included in the drafts after the next meetings of the Joint Defence Council.
Even if we accept, for the sake of argument, that Patel had really given such an offer of direct exchange without a plebiscite, the question arises would Nehru really have accepted such an offer? After all, it was he who actually ran these affairs. It can be seen from the above discussion that he always had sidelined Patel and did whatever he liked, be it Mountbatten’s visit to Lahore to attend the meeting of the Joint Defence Council against the will of Sardar Patel or the rejection of the plans after the meetings of the Joint Defence Council which were drafted with the approval of Sardar Patel. From taking the Kashmir issue to United Nations to the article 370 for Kashmir, Patel was not heard. Even if, in case, Patel really had given such an offer and Pakistan had accepted that, Nehru would have turned that down in the end. The inclusion of Hyderabad in the proposals for plebiscite under United Nation’s supervision was itself nothing but just a drama like Nehru’s statements in the beginning regarding plebiscite in Kashmir. Like Nehru, he also didn’t want to hold plebiscite in Kashmir. Anyhow, Pakistan had accepted the inclusion of Hyderabad and the bilateral talks before January, 1948 did not fail due to this reason. The initial proposals which were brought by Mountbatten on 1st November and were also discussed in the subsequent meetings of the Joint Defence Council were about a plebiscite in Kashmir under UN’s supervision. Those proposals later on got the shape of UN Resolutions of 13th August, 1948 and 5th January, 1949. In short, Liaquat Ali Khan did not lose anything. Instead of making mountains out of mole-hills, things should be viewed in their proper contexts.
- H.V. Hodson, The Great Divide: Britain – India – Pakistan, p. 458
- Durga Das, Sardar Patel’s Correspondence vol. 1, pp. 71-81
- Alastair Lamb, Birth of a Tragedy: Kashmir 1947, p. 149
- ibid., p. 150
- Srinath Raghavan, War and Peace in Modern India, p. 113
- Alastair Lamb, op. cit., p. 151
- A.G. Noorani, Liaquat and Jinnah, Frontline Magazine, 24 November, 2004.
- V.P. Menon, The Story of the Integration of the Indian States, pp. 279-280
- H.V. Hodson, op. cit., p. 462
- Ibid., p. 464
- Srinath Raghavan, op. cit., p. 119
- Hindol Sengupta, The Man who Saved India: Sardar Patel and his Idea of India, Chapter, 11 “This must must be done” Retrieved from Amazon.com.
- Durga Das, Sardar Patel’s Correspondence, vol. 6, p. 387
- Victoria Schofield, Kashmir in Conflict: India, Pakistan and the Unending War, pp. 82-83
- Hindol Sengupta, op. cit.
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Author is a resident of AJK, Pakistan and can be reached at email@example.com