Operation Gulmarg and Accession of J&K!

Operation Gulmarg is the name given by Pakistan to the plan of 1947 war that was a breach by Pakistan of the standstill agreement between the independent state of Jammu and Kashmir headed by Maharaja Hari Singh and the newly created dominion of Pakistan partitioned out of Bharat. The operation was formalised on 22 October 1947, however, the plan was conceived months before by Britishers as part of the Great Game. The Great Game was an intense rivalry between the British and Russian Empires in Central Asia, wherein Britain sought to influence or control much of Central Asia to buffer the “crown jewel” of its empire, the British India. In order so the British had a fixation with Gilgit that happened to be part of the Princely State of J&K.
One of the precursors behind Partition of Bharat was the agenda of Great Game of Britishers which was operating behind giving accord to such a unique style of giving independence to their colony. Since it was envisaged that the nationalisation of the armed forces could not be completed by 15 August, the British officers stayed on after the transfer of power. The service chiefs namely General Rob Lockhart and General Frank Messervy were appointed as army chief of India and Pakistan respectively. Field Marshal Claude Auchinleck, was the ‘Supreme Commander’ of the two dominions. And Lord Mountbatten stayed back as Governor General of India.
Operation Gulmarg was planned in the month of August 1947 itself and was operationalized in October. Is it not wonder some that how a newly created dominion of Pakistan could think of attacking in such a short span of time of its creation? This confidence was all because the powers who were working behind ideating, planning and executing were not new but were well experienced administrators. One does not here even need any assumption regarding the role of British, Pakistan Government and Pakistan Army because it is now an established fact that the Operation Gulmarg was well planned attack and not an oversimplified as termed popularly the so called tribal’s attack. The false propaganda about the attack as tribal attack gets busted by none other than Major General Akbar Khan of the Pakistan Army, an important leader in organizing the attack. He elaborated his feat in his book ‘Raiders in Kashmir’, published in Karachi. Sardar Shaukat Hayat Khan, a close aide of Jinnah writes in his book Gumgashta Qaum ( p. 279) “I was given the command of Kashmir incursion and asked for the services of Brig. Sher Khan and Brig. Akbar Khan”. Besides, a top secret letter was signed by the British Chief of Pakistan Army, Gen Messervey, on 18th August 1947. It carried the operational instructions of Operation Gulmarg to annex J&K by force. It proved the fact that while a new nation was still to breathe on its own; the resources of that nation had already been deployed to invade J&K. The most authentic account of the British conspiracy was recorded by Maj. Gen OS Kalkat in his book, The Far-Flung Frontiers. On 20th August 1947 he had a big surprise as he opened the classified mail in the morning. There was a letter with the markings of “Top Secret” and “Personal for Commander”. As he happened to open the envelope being on duty in place of the commander, he realised it was actually a demi-official letter, personally signed by Gen Frank Messervey, the Commander-in-Chief (C-in-C) of the Pakistan army. The letter had an appendix; “Operation Gulmarg- the plan for invasion and capture of Kashmir”. The day for the operation was to be 22 October 1947. He somehow rushed to Delhi and met the officiating Director Militry Operations, Maj Gen Thapar and Brig Kalwant Singh. He was taken to the Defence Minsiter, Sardar Baldev Singh. A team of officers from the Intelligence direcorate then grilled him but without really believing him.
The outline Plan of Operation Gulmarg as disclosed by Maj OS Kalkat include : Ten lashkars (rougly 1000 men) to launch attack against Poonch-Rawalkot-Mirpur-Bhimbar area wiith an aim of reaching Jammu via Rajouri-Naushera -Akhnoor. Six lashkars to advance to Srinagar via Uri and Baramulla and then capture the airfield at Srinagar and Banihal Pass. Two lashkars were to advance through Haji Pir Pass to Gulmarg , thus inserting this force between two thrusts. Two lashkars to advance along Tithwal-Nastachhun Pass for caputure of Kupwara, Handwara, Sopore and Bandipore. Utilizing Muslims with in J&K forces and ex-servicemen/reserve list/de-listed personnel of Poonch, was to be raised through a deliberated psychological operational plan. Infantry Division of Pakistan army was to concentrate in Murree-Abbottabad area by last light on a day prior ie 21 October, with an aim to exploit the gains made by lashkars and to take over Kashmir valley.
As per the standstill agreement between the state of J&K and Pakistan, all the necessities of life like salt, soap,sugar, cloth, food grains and gasoline and kerosene oil meant for Jammu & Kashmir state used to be stocked in the markets of Rawalpindi and Sialkot from where they were sent to the State in trucks. As part of the curtain raiser to the operation, in September 1947, economic blockage had been put on Kashmir and kashmir valley stated running out of supplies. Maharaja appealed to Pakistan to maintain the status quo as per the Standstill agreement. Pakistan rulers did not respond to Maharaja’s appeals and simply went back on the promises given earlier. To add to the misery of the State, PM Nehru began to tighten the screws on Maharaja Hari Singh at the same time. In egoist zeal, he began to turn down Maharaja’s request for essential commodities. The then PM of J&K, Mehar Chand Mahajan received a letter from Nehru on 20 October 1947 in response to his appeal for supplies. The 300 words long letter from Nehru refused the supplies to the State in crisis. Nehru’s only condition was to release Sheikh Abdullah from jail who was arrested on 20th May 1946 for initiating Quit Kashmir movement against the Maharaja Hari Singh ; and install him as the head of the State administration. In response to the preconditions set by Nehru, the Maharaja released Sheikh Abdullah on 26th September 1947 after obtaining a bond as an assurance of loyalty from Sehikh Abdullah.
The Invaders came in huge numbers on the night of 21/22 October 1947. On the morning of 22 October 1947, as the residents lay asleep in their beds, the column of frenzied invaders attacked Muzaffarabad. Muzaffarabad was looted , raped and then put to sleep before people had any chance to react. J&K Forces lost the opening round of the invasion at Muzaffarabad, courtesy treachery generated by playing religious card by Pakistan.
On 24 October 1947, the Maharaja requested the military assistance of India, which provided the assistance on the condition that Maharaja Hari Singh has to sign an “Instrument of Accession”. The Instrument of Accession was signed by Hari Singh on 26th October 1947 and J&K acceded to India.
Brig. Rajinder Singh, the Chief of Army Staff, had an immense role played in giving befitting counter to the flow of invaders. The fight at Garhi proved beneficial in delaying the advancement of the invaders who outnumbered the men with the chief. The delaying gave the necessary time to the Maharaja to move to Jammu and undertake the necessary modalities for signing the instrument of accession. Even when the negotiations between the Maharaja and the Government of India were on, the invaders were virtually at the doors. It was to the credit of State forces that they upset the time plan as envisaged by the British to capture Srinagar and the Maharaja.
The Indian army airlifted its troops to Kashmir on 27 October 1947. The Indian army repulsed the attack and was succeeding in vacating them. Meanwhile, Nehru sought resolution of the issue at the UN Security Council (UNSC) on 1 January 1948. After having set United Nations Commission for India and Pakistan (UNCIP), the UN Security Council passed Resolution 47 on 21 April 1948.
The measure imposed an immediate cease-fire. However, it was on 1st January 1949 that the ceasefire could be put into effect, signed by General Gracey on behalf of Pakistan and General Roy Bucher on behalf of India. The ceasefire line came to be called the Line of Control (LOC). The region that remained under Pakistan was referred by the United Nations, as ‘Pakistani-controlled Kashmir’ (or Pakistan Administered Kashmir) and it was re-named as ‘Pakistan occupied Jammu-Kashmir’ by the Modi Government in 2014.
In the above context of the Operation Gulmarg and its related subsequent events, it can be well realized that had the Maharaja surrendered to the aggressor undertaking Operation Gulmarg and had not done accession of J&K with India on 26th October 1947, then we the people of J&K enjoying all the democratic rights of fast developing nation looking forward to the vision of a developed nation would have been part of Pakistan which has been recognized as failure nation by those even who have been holding soft corner for Pak or playing so with the motive to blackmail India for negotiating power at the helm of affairs.
(The author is Assistant Professor, Department of Tourism and Travel Management, Central University of Jammu)