How India lost Gilgit-Baltistan by a silly blunder committed by Nehru!

India after Independence definitely did not see good days, the hope of millions that India will see progress was shattered by few people who considered themselves to be the owners of the country. One among them has to be Jawaharlala Nehru, the Indian painful story cannot start without taking the name of the first Prime Minister of India.

After 1947, the entire Jammu Kashmir should have been under Indian control, the main objective of partition was to take a separate country for the Muslims. After 1947, there were many disputed territories in the region of Jammu Kashmir, but the Indian army was capable enough to get them back to India. The region of Poonch-Uri, Leh, Kargil were all occupied by the army in no time, chasing away the Pakistanis.

The responsibility of Jammu Kashmir was not under Sardar Vallabhai Patel and it was handled by a separate ministry which was headed by Jawaharlal Nehru. This lead to the biggest problem as the man was totally incapable of taking a firm decision and let the Britishers and the United Nation interfere into the internal matter of India.

The Jammu Kashmir was divided into 5 main regions, the Jammu area, Kashmir, Ladakh, Skardu, Gilgit Wazarat and Gilgit agency (today’s Gilgit -Baltistan). Gilgit Agency was given on lease for 60 years to the British since 1935. After India got independence in 1947, Lord Mountbatten let go the lease of the Gilgit Agency.

So the Gilgit agency was handed over to the Maharaja. The Maharaja had a British Army chief Major General Scott as the commander of the Army. Scott had just two battalions, a battalion of Gilgit Scouts (British force) and battalion of 6, Kashmir infantry stationed around 50 kms away at Bunji. But the Gilgit scouts were all Muslims. On the other hand, the 6th Kashmir infantry had 2 Dogra and Sikh companies and one Muslim company. Since the Gilgit scouts were 100 percent Muslims, Gen Scott asked a British man Major William Alexander Brown to command the army as it was difficult for a Hindu commander and he did not trust any Muslims for obvious reasons given the situation.

The biggest advantage Pakistan had was that all routes that lead to the Gilgit-Baltistan were through Pakistan, there were no roads or railway routes that connected India with Jammu Kashmir. Even the flights had to first go to Peshawar from Srinagar before refuelling to reach the Indus Valley.

It was this time the major blunder happened.

Major William Alexander Brown who was the commander of the Gilgit scouts, was ideologically and personally against the Maharaja. Brigadier Ghansara Singh was appointed as the governor of the Jammu Kashmir area by the Maharaja, but Brown had termed the man lazy and incompetent and acted against the wishes of Maharaja.

He never wanted to take the pain of solving the problem of Kashmir, but was even ready to give away Kashmir to Pakistan. He had written in one of his dairies that he was going to go with the Muslims and against India, if the Maharaja would fall with in line with the Indian government.

Brigadier Ghansara Singh also could not handle the situation well and Nehru totally neglected the situation. The Muslim battalions in the 6th Kashmir infantry turned against India and deserted the Kashmir army.

By then, the Indian troops had occupied all the other region of Poonch an Kargil. Immediately Gilgit should have also been occupied by the Indian army. But the army got no orders from the Prime Minister and the commander in the Kashmir was totally incapable. Gilgit had small airstrip, which could have been used by the Army to take over the region.

The utter chaos and the neglect of the Gilgit area by the Nehru government made Brown take complete control over the area. He arrested Brigadier Ghansara Singh taking support from the Muslim battalion. The small non-Muslim army was chased away by the brown lead army and for the first time on 1st November, 1947 Pakistan flag was hoisted in the region.

Once the region was occupied by Pakistanis, people started torturing Indians and numerous women and children were kidnapped and kept as sex workers. But Nehru never took the issue seriously and completely forgot the issue of Gilgit-baltistan.

Kashmir also would have been on the hands of Pakistan today if Sardar Patel would not have intervened. It reminds of an instance which shows how serious Nehru was about Kashmir, Gen Manekshaw and VP Menon had flown to Srinagar to sign the instrument of Accession….Manenshaw recounts the event what happened in the Cabinet Defence Committee:

“At the morning meeting he handed over the (Accession) thing. Mountbatten turned around and said, ‘come on Manekji (He called me Manekji instead of Manekshaw), what is the military situation?’ I gave him the military situation, and told him that unless we flew in troops immediately, we would have lost Srinagar, because going by road would take days, and once the tribesmen got to the airport and Srinagar, we couldn’t fly troops in. Everything was ready at the airport.

As usual Nehru talked about the United Nations, Russia, Africa, God almighty, everybody, until Sardar Patel lost his temper. He said, ‘Jawaharlal, do you want Kashmir, or do you want to give it away’. He (Nehru) said,’ Of course, I want Kashmir (emphasis in original). Then he (Patel) said ‘Please give your orders’. And before he could say anything Sardar Patel turned to me and said, ‘You have got your orders’.

I walked out, and we started flying in troops at about 11 o’clock or 12 o’clock. I think it was the Sikh regiment under Ranjit Rai that was the first lot to be flown in. And then we continued flying troops in. That is all I know about what happened. Then all the fighting took place. I became a brigadier, and became director of military operations and also if you will see the first signal to be signed ordering the cease-fire on 1 January (1949) had been signed by Colonel Manekshaw on behalf of C-in-C India, General Sir Roy Bucher. That must be lying in the Military Operations Directorate.”

Credit: Sanjay Dixit

Principal Secretary, Ayush, Govt of Rajasthan.

Aishwarya S**


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