In CIA reports, story of Sheikh Abdullah’s ‘role’ in J&K’s accession to India

In CIA reports, story of Sheikh Abdullah’s ‘role’ in J&K’s accession to India
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Srinagar: Asserting that Sheikh Abdullah, founder of the National Conference (NC), the oldest political party in Kashmir, played an instrumental role in accession of Kashmir to India, a declassified report of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) states that a fair election in Kashmir at that time (1947) would have reversed the accession in favour of Pakistan.
The CIA special report, titled “Sheikh Abdullah and The Kashmir Issue”, sent to the spy agency’s headquarters in 1964, stated that it was the Indian union which made much of Abdullah’s role so as to keep its claims to secularism and nullify the two-nation theory. The cables were declassified by the CIA early this year.
On Tuesday, NC observed the 112th birth anniversary of Abdullah. All these years later, the role of Abdullah in the accession to India, his friendship with former Indian Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru, and his subsequent politics in Kashmir continues to be debated. The CIA report gives a fascinating peep into the developments in Kashmir during 1947 and especially the role of Abdullah in them.
Giving a detailed account about his “role in accession,” the CIA reported that Abdullah first came into limelight internationally in 1947 and 1948, when the dispute over Kashmir between India and Pakistan broke into war and was taken to the UN Security Council.
“In keeping with traditional Kashmiri separateness, the Maharaja (of Jammu and Kashmir) chose to remain aloof, from both India and Pakistan. Within two months, however, Kashmir was invaded from Pakistan and the ruler sent Abdullah to New Delhi to request India to help. The Maharaja’s accession to India followed quickly thereafter, and Abdullah was made prime minister of the largely autonomous Kashmir,” the CIA report said.
But, it added, “Outside observers agree that a fair vote, then as now, would have reversed the accession in favour of Pakistan”.
The report goes on to show that Abdullah’s role was magnified by the Indian union to disapprove the two nation theory.
“India, in keeping with its claims to secularism, made much of Abdullah’s role. The fact that a Muslim had led a Muslim majority state into the Indian Union was for the Indians a textbook denial of the very basis on which Pakistan had been formed – the theory that South Asia’s Hindus and Muslims formed separate Nations,” the report stated.
The CIA report discussed the closeness of Abdullah to Jawahar Lal Nehru, which later cost the Kashmir leader dearly.
Under the subtitle, “closeness to Nehru”, the CIA reported that “there can be no doubt that Nehru’s secularism appealed to Abdullah. They had long been friends and had cooperated closely during Nehru’s long struggle against the British and Abdullah’s against the Maharaja; conversely, Abdullah had never hit it off well with Mohamamd Ali Jinnah, the prime mover behind the creation of Pakistan. As early as 1939, Abdullah had secularized his political organization in Kashmir by admitting Hindus and Sikhs to membership and by dropping the Muslim from the title.”
The CIA reported that Abdullah was influenced strongly by the fear that Pakistan may overrun Kashmir. “Conversations with him in 1947 – and more particularly with his wife and some close associates – bear out that he favoured some solution in which the state would go its own way. He seems to have agreed to accession to India out of the strength of his regard to Nehru and his fear that otherwise, the state would be overrun by Pakistan,” the report stated.
During his early years as Prime Minister of Kashmir, Abdullah defended the accession and in 1952 formally agreed with Nehru that Kashmir’s foreign affairs, its defence, and its communications should be in Indian hands.
“His friends say he did not give up the idea of independent or quasi independent role for Kashmir but that rather, he felt these had to be submerged out of the gratitude to India for its military and economic support,” the CIA reported.
However, the CIA reports pointed out that relations between the two leaders began to sour after Nehru started building a centralised federal structure, that is, consolidating power in New Delhi.
Under the title “fall out”, the CIA reported that in time, as Nehru continued to build a strong and centralised federal structure in New Delhi, Abdullah found himself questioning Indian policies – first privately, and in 1953, publicly.
“He began speaking out on the need for preserving a larger measure of autonomy in the state, and his enemies began accusing him of advocating independence. All of this culminated in 1953 when, amid considerable public disorder in the state, Abdullah was removed from the prime ministership and subsequently charges (were made against him) of disruptionism, corruption, nepotism, maladministration and establishing foreign contacts of a kind dangerous to the prosperity of the state,” the CIA report stated.
He was then replaced by his former deputy, Baskhi Ghulam Mohammad, who, although weak at the time, gave every evidence of being willing to cooperate with New Delhi, the report said.
“Abdullah was released from prison on 1958, but his outspokenness again ran him afoul of the authorities. He was jailed within four months and formally charged with a far-reaching conspiracy aimed at bringing Kashmir into Pakistan,” the CIA reported in 1964.