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Cans of worms from untold history of British Raj and after

A matter with important long-term implications brought out in the book is Nehru’s refusal to an India-US partnership offered by the US in 1949, which could have proved to be a game-changer for India

Col Anil Bhat (retd) Apr 20, 2022
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Title: Dark Secrets: Politics, Intrigue and Proxy Wars in Kashmir; Author: Iqbal Chand Malhotra; Publishers: Bloomsbury

The trend of hijacking and distorting huge amounts of India’s history by the British was faithfully followed by the Congress for decades after Independence. There are many chunks of history of events and developments both before and after Independence, hurriedly implemented by the British in 1947, which majorly impact India till date. While many have surfaced since 2014 and resulted in politico-social upheaval, there are many more which will keep coming out with books like this one and also movies like “The Kashmir Files” and “The Tashkent Files”. 

Iqbal Chand Malhotra, who through his earlier works on Pakistan and China, proved to be a determined history hound, has again been able to provide to his readers many important and so-far unreported facts, including some which also again have a bearing on the present and future and some which ring a warning bell for India. This time, Malhotra’s findings relate to the Great Game and come up with a great surprise of Great Britain almost losing it but eventually extracting a bonanza from it. 

The British were indeed shocked when they discovered that a battalion of Russian Cossack troops in Kashgar, more than a decade before it was “incorporated” into the People’s Republic of China in 1949. And the installation of nuclear related devices by the Russians in Aksai Chin, which they motivated the Chinese to take over from a then ignorant Indian government, only amounted to a temporary setback for the British in the extended Great Game. 

Soviets & Aksai Chin 

The author maintains that the Soviets desperately needed access to Aksai Chin’s uranium ores and transport them by road to their uranium extraction plant in Khoj and in Tajikistan. The Soviets, using the Chinese as a decoy, both hid their secret and also brought in a third party to become a buffer between them and the Muslim insurgents in Sinkiang, led by Osman Bator, who were privy to the Soviet designs and staunchly opposed them with covert US help. Stalin’s suggestion to Mao to invade uninhabited western Tibet provided the smokescreen to build the road from Aksai Chin to Khoj and kill many birds with one stone. 

One wonders how many Indians are aware of the fact about the first war between India and just-born Pakistan (1947-48), which the British chiefs of Indian and Pakistani armies “directed” much like fixing matches much to the advantage of Pakistan. And headed by a Governor-General, whose wife had India’s first Prime Minister ensnared, whatever happened is a course of events for which India is dearly paying till date. 

Every year since January 26, 1950, great speeches are made about India becoming a republic. The important facts that India’s Independence till the first Republic Day was quite incomplete as it was still under dominion status are never properly explained. The “match-fixing” by the British in the first India-Pakistan war is but one example. There are so many aspects related to Partition as well as pre and post-Independence history involving India, Pakistan and the British till Independence and India, Pakistan, Tibet, China, the US and Russia after Independence which were suppressed, subverted or simply made to disappear. Disappearance of entire files from India’s Ministry of External Affairs, particularly many related to Tibet-China, is in fact one of the afflictions, which prevents or inhibits India from fighting its case against China, which freely and frequently makes good use of lies and fabrications. 

Joining unknown dots 

This book, yet again, significantly joins many dots and answers many questions that have not been answered by anyone else so far, namely, why India was given independence without a fight by the British; why partition took place; why the date for transfer of power was advanced by the British to August 15, 1947; why Kashmir was invaded; why Aksai Chin was invaded. These questions have remained unanswered by governments for 75 years since Independence and till date and continue to affect our lives even today. 

The 13 chapters of the book are packed with a large number of events and issues, most of which remain unreported or underreported. The chapters are: Danger from the Pamirs; Soviet Control of Sinkiang Influences British Policy in Kashmir; Anglo-Soviet Rivalry Takes Political Shape Within India; The British Plan Their Moves in Kashmir; Soviet Russia Remains a Critical Threat and Opportunity; Mountbatten’s Unseemly Moves; Deception and Intrigue as the Transfer of Power Takes Place; Operation Datta Khel; The British Get Enmeshed in Kashmir; The Manifestation of Joe-1(Soviet nuclear device); The Soviet-Inspired Chinese Invasion of Aksai Chin; Abdullah’s Dismissal Coincides with the Birth of Joe-4 (Soviet nuclear device) 

A matter with important long-term implications brought out in the book is Nehru’s refusal to an India-US partnership offered by the US in 1949, which could have proved to be a game-changer for India. It would have changed the world order and enabled India to become a catalyst helping in more nations becoming democracies in the newly decolonizing post-war world. Nehru’s utopia of non-alignment is long forgotten but the crisis it created still pervades the lives of those who fell prey to it. 

Monitoring the nuclear theft by Russia and China eventually benefitted Britain enough to acquire nuclear knowhow. India remains a major loser since the Great Game till date. 

This book is a must read for all concerned with India’s security and politics. It will be of great interest to Indians at large and to readers of all other countries featuring in it. 

Title: Dark Secrets: Politics, Intrigue and Proxy Wars in Kashmir; Author: Iqbal Chand Malhotra; Publishers: Bloomsbury; Pages: 277 (HB), Price: Rs 799; 

(The reviewer, a strategic analyst and former spokesperson Defence Ministry and Indian Army, can be contacted at wordsword02@gmail.com) 

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