501.BB/12–247: Telegram

The Acting Secretary of State to the Embassy in India


55. The Acting Secretary of State transmits herewith for the information of the Embassy a copy of the position paper on the India–Pakistan [Page 182] dispute over Kashmir prepared for the United States Delegation to the General Assembly of the United Nations.1


India–Pakistan Dispute Over Kashmir

the problem

Indications recently received from official sources in India and Pakistan and from unofficial sources, including Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s speech of November 1, 1947,2 are that the current dispute between India and Pakistan over Kashmir may be referred to the United Nations for settlement. Pandit Nehru stated in his speech when discussing the provisional accession of Kashmir to India that “as soon as Kashmir is free from the invaders our troops will have no further necessity to remain there and the fate of Kashmir will be left in the hands of the people of Kashmir”. Nehru then suggested a referendum in Kashmir “under international auspices like the United Nations”.


We would much prefer that the Kashmir question be settled by direct negotiation between India and Pakistan. However, in the event that a resolution requesting the intervention of the United Nations, and in particular requesting the United Nations to supervise a referendum in Kashmir, is introduced by India or Pakistan and supported by the United Kingdom, the United States Delegation should also support the resolution. Such a resolution should define the electoral body in terms of universal adult suffrage.

In the event that a resolution requesting the intervention of the United Nations should be introduced by a third power (including any other member of the British Commonwealth) or introduced by India or Pakistan and opposed by the United Kingdom, the United States position must be further studied.


It is increasingly apparent that this major difficulty between India and Pakistan probably cannot be removed without external assistance, or without resort to further armed conflict which may eventually involve some or all of the Afghan border tribes. Despite their vested interests in this area, because of the peculiarities of their position and the recentness of their withdrawal, the British are apparently not [Page 183] in a position to render this outside assistance, and rather than have the role fall either to the United States or to any other single third party, assumption by the United Nations of the problem would be preferred.

If a resolution of the nature suggested above is introduced, it will probably be by one of the interested parties. The Dominion of India may attempt to establish the extant electoral rolls as the basis for the referendum. As these rolls are said to contain less than 7% of the population and were compiled on a basis which served to weight the numbers of the wealthier educated Hindu minority who would obviously vote for accession to India, it is important that the electoral body should in fact be composed on a basis of complete adult suffrage in order that the result of the referendum may be representative of the actual wishes of the people of Kashmir.

The practical difficulties of supervising a general referendum in Kashmir should not be overlooked by the United Nations. No comprehensive electoral machinery is known to exist for conducting a general referendum. The population of Kashmir is scattered, and many sections will soon be isolated by winter. Few persons other than British political agents and missionaries have first hand knowledge of the people of Kashmir and finally, the people of Kashmir are largely illiterate and without political consciousness.

  1. Copy of position paper also sent to the Embassy in Pakistan in Department instruction No. 12 to Karachi, December 2, 1947 (501.BB/12–247).
  2. Presumably Nehru’s radio address on the night of November 2.