Letter: The right of self-determination for Kashmiris

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The Independent Online
Sir: In one brief paragraph of his article, 'Kashmir pays price of the great divide', 18 June, Tim McGirk manages to dispose of, and misrepresent, one of the great upheavals of the 20th century, the partition of India. Contrary to Mr McGirk's suggestion, Britain did not just 'draw a line', thus 'cutting off' Pakistan, and turn its back. Rather, the British government and the government of India were forced by the intransigence and militancy of Jinnah and the Muslim League to divide British India at independence on religious lines into the new states of secular India and Muslim Pakistan; Pakistan itself was an artificial state comprising East and West Pakistan, separated by 1,000 miles of India. Bangladesh is the orphan of that legacy.

What is commonly forgotten is that the Princely States, of which Jammu and Kashmir was but one, were not 'part of India' but legally independent states aligned by treaty directly with the King Emperor. In 1947 each of the rulers was invited to join India or Pakistan. The Maharajah of Jammu and Kashmir elected to join India, despite a large Muslim population, with consequences we are witnessing today. The Nizam of Hyderabad, the ruler of an overwhelmingly Muslim state, elected to join Pakistan, a decision which resulted in a 'police action' to incorporate Hyderabad forcibly into India.

There is blame on all sides, more on some than others, but it is a dangerous over-simplification to suggest that the British government 'drew a line' (or two lines) willy-nilly on the map of India and walked away.



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