Rereading the Dixon Plan

Pages of History

Sir Owen Dixon was a judge at the Australian High Court, whose meticulous report drafted to UN in 1950 received a commendation for the obstinacy of his analysis of the Kashmir resolution by the Security Council. He is regarded as an Australian scholar of impeccable credentials. In fact Major William Alan Reid, who was an observer with the UN Military Observers Group (UNMOGIP) in  Kashmir, got inspired by his work for his BA Honours thesis titled “Sir Owen Dixons Mediation of the Kashmir Dispute” (July 2000) for which the writer is greatly indebted. Reid is currently working on the doctoral thesis for the same subject. He has even consulted his notes, some of his fifty interviews, his diary and personal correspondence as well as the Australian archives, besides other published works.  To add more facts, there has been a tradition of Australian scholarship on India represented by Professors like Robin J Moore, Ian Coplan and B. Millar to name a few.

Academia studying Kashmir conflict will also be familiar with Richard Snedden’s excellent thesis ‘Paramountcy, Patrimonialism and the Peoples of Jammu and Kashmir, 1947-1991 (May 2001).’

Dixon Plan has a certain incisive analysis about the dispute. It assigned Ladakh to India, the Northern Areas and Pakistan Administered Kashmir (PaK) to Pakistan, split Jammu between the two, and had suggested a plebiscite for the Kashmir dispute. When Dixon had met Nehru in June 1, 1953, he had told Dixon that “he was the only person to have grips for the Kashmir question.”  But Nehru was reluctant to accept all the conditions of the plebiscite on which United Nations Commission for India and Pakistan had arranged a ceasefire.

Secretary for Kashmir Affairs in the Ministry of External Affairs, Sahay, had informed the Australian High Commission (AHC), in New Delhi before Dixon’s arrival in New Delhi as a mediator. Nehru at that time had developed second thoughts about the partition cum plebiscite plan, irrespective of the fact that he had told the British High Commission Archibald Nye on September 9th that a proposal for a plebiscite had been taken for the valley excluding the Gilgit areas.

Patel and Nehru however had later agreed that the plebiscite was unreal. They feared that many non-Muslims would face an exodus to other parts of India.  Nixon was also going to try for a demilitarization plan. Nehru had pointed out some borderline on the map during the meeting, in May 1950, presumably an offer to Pakistan in which Bajpai and Sahay were also involved.

In Nehru-Liaquat talks on April 8, 1950, the issue of East Pakistan refugees was raised and there was a consensus met by Bajpai at MEA meeting with US ambassador Loy Henderson that Kashmir issue be resolved before the arrival of mediator. However, Dixon had a fair prospect of success a month after but the legal interpretations had become complicated.  Reid discloses that in 1949, the UK government too questioned the legality of Kashmir‘s accession to India. The issue was circulated to the US, Australia and Canada as well. Dixon too had been given a copy in 1950.

The British State Department’s Legal Advisor as well as the British Foreign Office held that the accession was ‘invalid’ in terms, and it could not establish a relationship with either of the dominions, and that the resolution of Kashmir was vouchsafed under stable conditions. All these developments and previous analysis by political analysts form an important component of the Kashmir’s resolution problem, as drafted in the journals of the Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS).

The Indian white paper on Jammu and Kashmir also suggests that the accession was purely provisional. Mountabatten’s letter to the Maharaja in October 27, 1947 also stated that the dispute be settled according to the wishes of the people. That’s why UNCIP had installed a Plebiscite Administrator for the purpose.

Nehru infact reiterated to Dixon that Kashmir’s accession to India should be done through the Constituent Assembly in May 1950. It was elected in 1951. Then Dixon melancholically added:  “The valley of Kashmir lost all its beauty for me. The lakes became nothing but stagnant swamps, the green fields became quagmires of exhausted earth and water in which primitive man and his oxen continued to wallow, and the picturesque house boats, insanitary repositories of furniture and other junk by which infections and contagions were passed from one lessee to another, season after season, I saw it all through bacteriological haze and wondered what either side wanted.”

Dixon regarded Pakistani Army in PaK as instrument of coercion in various conversations with Maulana Azad.  Dixon then tried to meet Sheikh Abdullah, who ruled like a fiefdom in a police like state. He had even prepared papers on major issues related to demilitarization, and forms of partition by staying at taverns in Srinagar and even met Liaquat and Nehru for drafting of the plebiscite from July 20 to 24, but was only assured of semantics and reservations.

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