The Assistant Secretary of State for United Nations Affairs (Hickerson) to the Ambassador in India (Bowles)1


Dear Chester: Thank you for your friendly and informative letter of April 28 on Kashmir. I am glad that you wrote and took the time and trouble to detail your candid analysis of the apparent differences between yourself and us over how the Kashmir question should be handled. I have described our differences as “apparent” because I think they are more apparent than real. But however described they should be removed and I hope my reply will do just that. In this connection, I trust that our telegram no. 24312 has been helpful.

In discussing the Kashmir question, particularly from our point of view, it seems to me we have to answer two fundamental questions: (1) What are our objectives in this problem; and (2) What can be done to settle it?

Answering the first question, our objectives are that the problem be solved through peaceful means acceptable to both parties and that we as a nation vitally interested in this problem shall assist toward such a settlement as an impartial friend of both India and Pakistan. We believe that, in attempting to reach a peaceful solution of this problem, India and Pakistan, as members of the United Nations, wisely resorted to the Security Council for assistance. The Council has patiently considered the case for four years. We as a member of the United Nations have firmly endorsed and assisted all the efforts of the Security Council in seeking settlement. We believe that the problem should be settled in the United Nations, particularly since the parties themselves sought recourse to it. This does not preclude the settlement of this matter outside the forum of the United Nations, if the parties themselves mutually agree on a settlement on a bilateral basis. This, however, is up to the parties and since [Page 1253] they have not agreed on such a course of action, we must continue to support United Nations action and to press the parties to reach therein a peaceful solution of their dispute.

I’m sure you would agree that in the process of mediation, it is dangerous to abandon a plan of settlement which has been agreed to by the parties to the dispute in favor of something new, unless there is the strongest reason to believe the new approach will work. Do you think we have that reason now? When India had the opportunity to discuss partition (when Sir Owen Dixon was working on this case) it very quickly made it clear that it was not prepared to agree to conditions for a plebiscite in the Vale, which in Dixon’s opinion were the very minimum required to assure the freedom of the vote. It is possible, although we are compelled, on the basis of the past history of this problem, to remain skeptical that the Government of India may now be in a mood to agree to conditions which from the objective standpoint seem required for the administration of the plebiscite area under a plan of partition. Nevertheless, I think it is safe to assume, that even if Pakistan were now willing to talk about partition, it would only be on the condition that India first accept a plan of administration in the plebiscite area which, in Pakistan’s view (since there must be agreement), would provide the proper safeguards for the freedom of the vote. It is very clear to us that there is scope for infinite discussion and delay over the modalities of a plebiscite whether it be held throughout the state or in a smaller area.

I should appreciate your critical analysis of Indian motives in talking to you about partition, while apparently maintaining silence, except on one occasion, in talks with Graham. You mention in your telegram No. 40723 that the Indians raised the question of partition with Graham in a formal way, but it is clear that they did not authorize Graham to go to the Pakistan Government with the suggestion. Why does India seek to have someone else raise the question? If Bajpai were serious about partition couldn’t he find some way of letting the Pakistanis know that GOI honestly desired to discuss this possibility? Partition, however, flies in the face of the concept of the secular state, and if proposed by India might give cause for general speculation as to the security of India’s present position in Kashmir. Partition, as you know, is something of a nasty word in the subcontinent, particularly in India. I am sure the Indians must realize that if Pakistan should propose partition there might also be a negative reaction in India. We are frankly not impressed by Bajpai’s rather tortuous explanations of India’s failure to push the idea. It seems clear to me that if India is sincere in its expressions of a wish for a settlement via partition, it must in the nature of things come forward with some sort of specific proposals.

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The pressure is on India because of its own record, and has been for some years now, to give some convincing evidence of a genuine intention to do its part in settling this dispute. You have reported in your telegrams and mentioned again in your letter that Bajpai has admitted that his Government has really not itself come to grips with the idea of partition—that it hasn’t “thought” through to the position that they would take if Graham did open up the partition approach. This brings into doubt India’s motives in trying to get Graham to open up on partition. It suggests that if Graham were willing to discuss partition he would have to wheedle and cajole India into making some firm proposal. It again raises the question as to whether the Indians are seeking to get out from under the current pressure by raising a new point. If Bajpai is hinting that India is willing to consider partition with the idea of getting GOI out from under the current negotiations, his remarks cannot be taken seriously until such time as his Government may officially say to Graham or to the Pakistanis something along the following lines: “We believe certain agreements which we made three years ago have outlived their usefulness; we want a settlement of our dispute with Pakistan but we cannot now proceed on the basis which we previously accepted. We are now willing to discuss a settlement on the basis of partition as follows: …” And then the Indians should spell it out. In this connection, your repeated suggestions to Bajpai along the lines that India has a very real responsibility to work for a settlement and to come forward with concrete proposals are most appropriate.

Adverting for a moment to the question of conditions in the smaller plebiscite area under a scheme of partition, it might seem at first glance that demilitarization would be less of a problem. Bajpai has indicated to you that partition with a plebiscite limited to the Vale would reduce the problem. We believe that the problem of the quantum of troops would still remain, particularly since there would still be the necessity of determining how many troops Indian or otherwise should be stationed in the Vale. We would assume that the Indians would want to relate the number of their troops remaining in the Vale to the number of Pakistani troops which might be on the Pakistani side of the partition line. Does it not seem likely that India would still insist on the extreme disproportion of troops that they now insist upon? The point to this question is that whether there is acceptance of Graham’s Twelve Point Program or whether the UNCIP resolutions are scrapped in favor of partition and a plebiscite in the Vale a number of extremely knotty questions would still remain.

We now come to the second fundamental question—what can be done to settle the Kashmir dispute? Graham as the agent of the Security Council is charged with doing his utmost to get agreement between the parties on the demilitarization of the state as the step precedent to the [Page 1255] plebiscite. He has been carrying out the task with which he has been charged and he has indicated that he proposes to continue to do it. He would not be fulfilling his task if he should now drop his program without having reached a clearly indicated impasse on the remaining major points. The Pakistanis have indicated it is on this one remaining point that they are most anxious to negotiate. Now we gather from Bajpai’s remarks to you the Indians do not desire to pursue further negotiations on this point. Rather, before an impasse is reached with the genuine likelihood of an unfavorable reflection on India’s motives and sincerity, Bajpai, speaking for the Indian Government, wants Graham to go to the Pakistanis who are still willing to negotiate on this program, and say in effect: “Let’s forget my demilitarization program which the Security Council directed me to work out, and let’s forget the two UNCIP resolutions to which you and the Indians agreed and upon which the Security Council long ago put its blessing. I have got an idea for partitioning the state and for a plebiscite in the Valley, and I hope you and the Indians will agree to it. If you don’t agree, I’ll not only have to report that I can’t get agreement on my demilitarization program but also that you would not agree to my alternative proposal.” Granting the crudeness of this illustration, I have the gravest doubts over Graham’s resorting to what the Indians are suggesting to you. Not only would he be scrapping his own efforts of the past year but he would be proposing something which he knew the Indians, at least in principle would accept and the Pakistanis, as a matter of fact, would not. What would be accomplished by such a procedure and who would benefit by it? The Kashmir question would certainly be no nearer settlement and the United Nations and the United States would certainly not have gained anything in India’s favor commensurate with the United Nations loss of prestige and with our loss of favor in the eyes of Pakistan and probably the rest of the Moslem world. Graham’s usefulness as agent of the Council in this particular case would be destroyed and we would not only have retrogressed as far as the date of the adoption of the UNCIP resolutions but farther back than that since the UNCIP resolutions themselves like Graham’s labors of the past year would in effect, be scrapped. One can only guess at the consequences arising out of such a situation but it is a fair guess that further handling of the case by the United Nations would be a virtual impossibility and that the Pakistanis might well feel impelled to rash action.

In dismissing this course of action, it seems well to comment briefly on the alternative course of action proposed to you by Bajpai as being that course of action which India suggested would only be misunderstood as a propaganda move, i.e. a public appeal in writing for partition with emphasis on the rights of minorities etc. The mere fact that the Indians have not taken that course of action and have stressed to [Page 1256] you their desire to avoid any publicity whatsoever on their proposal, even to the extent of being sure any discussion of it is on a purely verbal basis, merely underscores our conviction, that India does not wish to assume the responsibility for undertaking a course of action which would, in effect, say that they desired to go back on their commitments under the UNCIP resolutions and hence were proposing a new course of action. Rather, they want us or the United Nations in the form of Graham, to abrogate for them their agreement with Pakistan.

The course of action which we must pursue is that upon which we have been embarked for the past four years. The settlement of the Kashmir question is the initial responsibility of India and Pakistan. The United Nations and we, as a member of the United Nations, are rendering the parties friendly assistance in their seeking a solution of the problem. We can and must encourage the cooperation of both parties toward the desired objective. The United Nations has to date had the general cooperation of the Pakistanis. Thanks to you and Graham we have had the feeling that the Indians have recently shown a more cooperative attitude than in the past. We hope that this attitude will continue to develop since it is the only way that a just and peaceful solution of the problem may be reached. In pursuing this course of action, we must rely on the parties themselves and on Graham to determine the how and the when of each new development in the negotiations and we must then be prepared to back up Dr. Graham and the cooperating party or parties, at such time as public debate may occur in the Security Council.

These are some of the considerations which we feel bear heavily on the approach we take to the Kashmir dispute at its present stage. I think you understand that Dr. Graham is responsible only to the Security Council. He listens to ideas but makes his own decisions. I don’t know the reason for the different stories you have had regarding whether or not Dr. Graham was briefed on your views in Washington in January. The fact is he was informed of your talks with Bajpai and of your own ideas as well. Quite possibly he felt when he was in Delhi that his position demanded that his informal talks in Washington not be referred to as “discussions.” I don’t know, but I hope the matter can now rest.

My feeling is that if there are any differences in our views on this case they relate mainly to timing and technique. The US does not have the ball; Graham has it, and he is not a US agent. He has apparently so far not considered, in the light of his considerable knowledge of the problem and of the attitudes of the two governments, that the time has been propitious for entering into the question of partition. He has indicated that he would do so if one of the parties wanted him to be a messenger boy, or if it was clear to him that both parties wished [Page 1257] to talk about it. We have no reason to think that this is not still his attitude, and we have no solid reason to question the wisdom of his not opening up the question so far.

I sincerely hope this letter, which is in the nature of a commentary on our telegram no. 2431, answers the questions which you have had out there. I greatly appreciate your writing me and hope that this exchange will clarify further any doubts you may have had concerning this case. I am looking forward to seeing you sometime during your forthcoming visit to the Department and possibly using the opportunity for a further exchange of views on Kashmir.

Sincerely yours,

John D. Hickerson
  1. Drafted by James M. Ludlow of the Office of United Nations Political Affairs (UNP) and by T. Eliot Weil and William L. S. Williams of the Office of South Asian Affairs (SOA).
  2. Dated May 3, p. 1241.
  3. Dated May 5, p. 1243.