29. Despatch From the Embassy in Pakistan to the Department of State 1

No. 920


  • Kashmir

It seems timely to attempt to summarize the views of Embassy Karachi regarding Kashmir.

The Prime Minister of Pakistan is now making effective his public advocacy of Pakistan’s case in London; an extract from his speech of June 25th is attached to this despatch.2

The Embassy is satisfied that the depth of feeling, at least in West Pakistan, regarding what Pakistanis consider the injustice of [Page 87] the present situation calls for a continued appraisal of U.S. policies in relation to the Kashmir issue. These policies affect our relations with Pakistan, with India and with the United Nations. This despatch is an attempt to evaluate recent expressions of Pakistani leaders, most of which have been the subject of piecemeal reporting from time to time in cables, memoranda of conversation and despatches. The June 25th speech of Prime Minister Ali will probably remain the classic statement of the case.

It is certainly our impression in Karachi that feelings run deep both among the articulate public and in government circles insofar as Kashmir is concerned. Pakistanis feel that the basic understanding at the time of partition was that contiguous territories would be divided between India and Pakistan pursuant to the wishes of the majority of their populations, that Kashmir was predominantly Muslim, and that the legal devices used by the Hindu rulers of India and Lord Mountbatten in wresting the Kashmiris from Pakistan, however sound they may have been technically, were morally wrong. Furthermore, the arrest of Sheikh Abdullah3 and other oppressive measures taken in Kashmir by the Government of India are proof of the injustice of India’s case and indicative of the Indians’ ambition, under Nehru’s guidance, to dominate for the sake of domination. Pakistanis cite the case as yet another instance where the United Nations has proved to be an instrument of futility. They are convinced that the Muslims, at least in the Vale of Kashmir, wish to be free of Hindu domination and to become aligned with Pakistan.

Pakistani actions in the last few months in handling the Kashmir case, however, are equally indicative of the lack of effectiveness of the Government of Pakistan and the disunity of its top leadership. November witnessed a gathering from throughout West Pakistan of various leaders, described as an All-Parties Kashmir Conference. This gathering was supposed to provide the necessary popular support for a strong line of action to be taken by the Government. Three successive courses of action were mapped out. First there were to be private talks with Nehru; failing a favorable result of these talks, an approach to the United Nations; and failing action by the United Nations, the threat of a mass movement among the tribes and the Muslim population of Kashmir, a satyagraha.

Talks with Nehru have not taken place and have been frustrated by announcements made by Nehru and his colleagues. As far as the United Nations is concerned, the Government of Pakistan is still floundering about trying to find a leader for its delegation to the Security Council who can effectively present Pakistan’s case. The last two months have witnessed fruitless efforts by the Government [Page 88] of Pakistan to find such a qualified person. In the meantime, U.S. interests have certainly not been improved here as a result of our expressed wishes to postpone presentation of the case to the Security Council, and our unwillingness to advocate positive support for Pakistan’s demands for a plebiscite in the Security Council. At the moment, our tactics appear unfortunate as our lukewarm attitude has not helped us here, while Pakistan’s own default has been such as to foreclose action in the Security Council during the spring or early summer of 1956. With the prospects of further political turmoil in this country in the late summer of 1956, it is quite likely that Pakistan will find it still more difficult to recruit a satisfactory team for presentation of the Kashmir case in the Security Council.

Pakistanis are equally vague on plans to administer the state of Kashmir if it were detached from India through action of the United Nations. There is no plan for the taking over of administrative functions, and little thought has been given to the relationship of the areas that might be annexed to Pakistan in the constitutional structure of Pakistan. Queries by Embassy officers as to what Pakistan would do if a plebiscite resulted in Kashmir’s annexation to Pakistan bring either a shrug of the shoulders or a statement to the effect that at the time of partition there were no plans for operating Pakistan, but it was operated; and the same outcome might be anticipated if Kashmir opted to join the Republic.4

I was recently asked to see Secretary of the Cabinet, Mr. Aziz Ahmed, on this subject. Mr. Ahmed considers this issue far and away the most important one facing any government of Pakistan, and is convinced that Pakistan’s foreign policy has been and will continue to be guided primarily by this consideration: “Will our proposed action help solve Kashmir?” Mr. Ahmed told me that in 1953 Nehru had returned from the Commonwealth Conference in London to India via Karachi. When he reached Karachi he had been obviously impressed by the warmth of feeling shown by the Pakistani crowds toward him as a great Asian leader. Moved by this manifestation, Nehru had expressed in correspondence with Pakistan’s Prime Minister his willingness to solve the Kashmir problem by a plebiscite, and working level teams representing Pakistan and India met to discuss ways and means of carrying out this undertaking. The Pakistanis believe that Nehru felt that by a concession of this nature to Pakistan, he could extend his influence over the entire subcontinent and gain a position of dominant leadership over both wings of Pakistan. That would have enabled him to move toward achieving his ambition of being recognized as the unchallenged leader of all of Asia.

[Page 89]

The plans, however, for a bilateral solution of the question failed when rumors of substantial American assistance to Pakistan were broadcast in the autumn. Mr. Ahmed referred specifically to an editorial in the New York Times which upset Nehru thoroughly and frustrated the operation of the working level teams. This editorial considered the possibility that with American military assistance, a Pakistani army of no less than 1,000,000 men would be activated. With such a prospect, Nehru saw that his role as leader of Asia was challenged. Subsequently, the establishment of large scale military and economic assistance programs to Pakistan have rendered impossible any concessions by the vain and ambitious Nehru. Nehru is, therefore, sincere when he says that India’s position with regard to Kashmir has been altered by Pakistan’s acceptance of large-scale assistance from the United States. While such a position appears illogical and irrational to the outsider, what Nehru is really saying is that if the Pakistanis and Americans make it impossible for me to achieve my destiny as the dominant force on the subcontinent and throughout South and South East Asia, I will not agree to a Kashmir plebiscite. The Kashmir plebiscite is in my power, but is to be used only in consideration for achieving my own personal ends. Such is the reading of Mr. Ahmed, an exceptionally well informed Pakistani.

The Embassy has been made well aware of the very considerable propaganda from the Government of India which rationalizes India’s current position on Kashmir along other lines. For example, India treats its Muslim population well. The result of a plebiscite in Kashmir would cause a chain reaction among the 43,000,000 Muslims living throughout India, and cause a revival of communalism in its worst forms. India has a sound legal case in Kashmir and the Kashmiris and Pakistanis were guilty of aggression. This is nobody’s business but India’s and Pakistan’s. It is purely a family quarrel. (The Indians undoubtedly think that the big brother could take good care of little brother if people outside did not interfere.)

The Department will note that in a recent conversation with the Ambassador, the Prime Minister of Pakistan indicated his willingness for a compromise settlement with predominantly Hindu areas of Jammu and Kashmir being permitted to remain with India, but with those territories presently occupied by Pakistan, including the predominantly Muslim Vale, becoming an integral part of Pakistan. At the right time and in the right setting, Pakistanis would accept, in all probability, a solution along these lines, which would fit both ethnological and geographical factors.

The Prime Minister has also on more than one occasion expressed his concern lest the case, which prima facie looks a just one, and a case which rightly should be solved through the United Nations, be allowed to be lost by default through fears in the West [Page 90] of antagonizing Nehru. This would have the secondary effect of aggrandizing Nehru’s reputation while perpetuating the injustice of Kashmir.

The Embassy hopes that the Department will treat this case on its merits: a dispute in which the inhabitants of Kashmir are primarily concerned, and one where justice demands that their wishes be consulted under conditions where a fair and free expression of the public will can be had. Failing such a solution, the prestige of the United States and of the United Nations is bound to suffer irreparably. Kashmir, like Palestine, will remain a deadly cancer.

A.Z. Gardiner
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 690D.91/6–2956. Confidential.
  2. Not printed. The speech, which strongly advocated self-determination for the people of Kashmir, was delivered during the Commonwealth Conference in London.
  3. Prime Minister of the State of Jammu and Kashmir, 1948–1953.
  4. See Clause 203 of the Constitution. [Footnote in the source text.]