Monday 7 December 2015

Who's Sorry Now?

It is reported that Tony Blair, doing the rounds with his begging bowl, was in India and gave a speech.  Anxious to please as ever, he apologised to India for all the problems that Britain has caused in Kashmir because of the decisions of 1947.

It seems that barely a day goes by without a headline hog politician making an apology for things they know little or nothing about.  The danger is that cheap politics for media exposure leaves many people with beliefs and ideas that are well removed from reality.

Blair was born in 1953 so anything he says is derived from other sources.  It does not take much to find out that the Kashmir issue in 1947 was very complicated, born out of a long history of proud warrior peoples and a situation that was fraught, very dangerous and needed an answer then and there.  As is so often the case, all the options had serious downsides with the potential for later conflicts and disputes.

Kashmir is and was a territory with differing population groups, religious and political as well as governing entities between whom agreement was normally difficult and could be impossible.  More to the point, Kashmir was one of the Principalities in which Britain did not have direct rule.  There was a monarch Prince, Marahajah Hari Singh, with a local administration.

By 1946 across most of the Sub Continent, Britain had lost effective control despite having nominal status and for many of the British there the only way was out and as soon as possible.  Not least the Army we had left there, many young conscripts, was unable to exert authority and the great majority of men just wanted to be on the next boat home.

So Prime Minister Attlee and his government sent in Lord Mountbatten; who had experience and prestige, to deal with it quickly and hand over power.  But he was faced with Muslims who wanted their own nation, Pakistan, and the Princes of territories with self rule some of whom were difficult to convince.  Kashmir was a notable one.

The upshot of this to have an agreement for Kashmir was for some poor man to be packed off to draw a line on the map very fast so that Nehru of India, Jinnah of Pakistan, the Marahajah Hari Singh and Lord Mountbatten could settle and avoid an outbreak of local hostilities.  Gandhi wanted a united Indian sub-continent and had a great deal of support.  Given the warrior histories and fighting capabilities of many of the population groups it would have been very serious and hard to stop.

In the Kashmir, the bulk of that territory that went to India there were minorities and the part that went to Pakistan also had many peoples.  The Maharajah who had hoped for a united India, then perhaps Pakistan gave in to Nehru and the option for India. By this time Mountbatten was in the position of having to concede to Nehru.

London had to accept what was done despite doubts and outcries against it.  Britain was powerless to impose its own policy whatever that might have been.  Mountbatten has many critics, but whatever he would have patched up at the time would always have them.

The British electorate, most of whom had left school at 12 to 14 could only watch and pick up the limited information about it all from their rationed newsprint papers and the few journals available.  Few of them knew much and fewer cared, that I do know.

Because Britain in 1946-1947 offered too many problems at home and abroad.  At home the rebuilding after 1945 had barely begun before that winter wreaked severe damage.  The Cold War had started requiring a major military effort in Germany.  There were many other demanding trouble spots, notably Palestine.

So where does "fault" lie in the Kashmir question?  There are no easy answers because there was too much and too many involved.  What we can do without in any serious discussion is easy come and easy go dodgy politicians on the make.


  1. Had just commenced reading newspapers at this time - after experiencing War India seemed a mercifully long way away. Much for serious thought. Thank you.

  2. At this rate the day will come when someone feels they have to apologise for Blair.

  3. Well, I think you summed it up pretty well in the words "dodgy politicians" Blair is an intelligent man but perhaps he is not very good at seeing the big picture, and sees whatever suits his current situation. A good analysis.

  4. Well, I think you summed it up pretty well in the words "dodgy politicians" Blair is an intelligent man but perhaps he is not very good at seeing the big picture, and sees whatever suits his current situation. A good analysis.