Kashmir: Could things have turned out otherwise?

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Rather than give Kashmir special privileges and create resentment elsewhere in India, it was best to let the state go.

As things stood, however, Kashmir ‘was in the grip of two armies glaring at each other in a state of armed neutrality. It may suit a handful of people to see the indefinite continuance of this ghastly situation.

Ramachandra Guha

” …

Perhaps if Jawaharlal Nehru and the Indian government had listened to an obscure journalist of English extraction, then editing a low-circulation liberal weekly out of Bangalore.

In 1952–3, Philip Spratt was proposing a radically different solution.

India, he said, must abandon its claims to the Valley (of Srinagar), and allow the Sheikh his dream of independence. It should withdraw its armies and write off its loans to the government of Jammu and Kashmir.

‘Let Kashmir go ahead, alone and adventurously, in her explorations of a secular state,’ he wrote. ‘We shall watch the act of faith with due sympathy but at a safe distance, our honour, our resources and our future free from the enervating entanglements which write a lie in our soul.’

Spratt’s solution was tinged with morality, but more so with economy and prudence. Indian policy, he argued, was based on ‘a mistaken belief in the one-nation theory and greed to own the beautiful and strategic valley of Srinagar’.

The costs of this policy, present and future, were incalculable. Rather than give Kashmir special privileges and create resentment elsewhere in India, it was best to let the state go. As things stood, however, Kashmir ‘was in the grip of two armies glaring at each other in a state of armed neutrality. It may suit a handful of people to see the indefinite continuance of this ghastly situation. But the Indian taxpayer is paying through the nose for the precarious privilege of claiming Kashmir as part of India on the basis of all the giving on India’s side

and all the taking on Kashmir’s side.

…”

Ramachandra Guha

in India After Gandhi: The History of the World’s Largest Democracy

Citation:

Spratt’s unsigned column ‘The World This Week’, MysIndia, 13 July, 3 and 17 August, and 9 November 1952 respectively.