Paul Revere

Paul Revere: 21/12/1734-10/5/1818

On the famous 18th of April in 1775—230 years ago—the British infantry marched west out of Boston to seize a cache of arms they believed rebellious colonists had collected at Concord. A couple of hours ahead of them rode Paul Revere, a Boston silversmith and political activist, who warned the countryside of the armed approach that precipitated the violent beginning of the American adventure into nationhood.

Also on the road that night, and on the same mission as the immortal Revere, were the considerably less immortal William Dawes and Samuel Prescott. Dawes was a tanner, then about age 30; Prescott a few years younger. Both had ridden from Boston as well to warn of the British approach. In fact, according to a recent history of those extraordinary days, there were a good dozen riders giving the alarm that night. And a good thing it was, too, for Revere and Dawes didn’t spread the word of the British sortie very far. Only Prescott made it all the way to Concord, which had been the original objective of all.

It is the nature of history, when studied with care, to prove that human events are seldom as simple as we’ve been told, and to show that the heroic acts of legend, drama, and patriotic verse are never quite the whole story. Paul Revere was not one man, but many. We ought not be downhearted, however, for that fact does not for a moment diminish the event or impair its high drama and momentous importance. Let yourself be swept up by the excitement. Enjoy the game, but know the score.

Adapted from the Old Farmer’s Almanac 2005.

Midnight Ride-Battles of Lexington and Concord: when British Army activity on April 7, 1775 suggested the possibility of troop movements, Joseph Warren sent Revere to warn the Massachusetts Provincial Congress, then sitting in Concord, the site of one of the larger caches of Patriot military supplies. After receiving the warning, Concord residents began moving the military supplies away from the town.

One week later, on April 14, General Gage received instructions from Secretary of State William Legge, Earl of Dartmouth (dispatched on January 27), to disarm the rebels, who were known to have hidden weapons in Concord, among other locations, and to imprison the rebellion’s leaders, especially Samuel Adams and John Hancock. Dartmouth gave Gage considerable discretion in his commands. Gage issued orders to Lieutenant Colonel Francis Smith to proceed from Boston “with utmost expedition and secrecy to Concord, where you will seize and destroy… all Military stores…. But you will take care that the soldiers do not plunder the inhabitants or hurt private property.” Gage did not issue written orders for the arrest of rebel leaders, as he feared doing so might spark an uprising.

Between 9 and 10 p.m. on the night of April 18, 1775, Joseph Warren told Revere and William Dawes that the king’s troops were about to embark in boats from Boston bound for Cambridge and the road to Lexington and Concord. Warren’s intelligence suggested that the most likely objectives of the regulars’ movements later that night would be the capture of Adams and Hancock. They did not worry about the possibility of regulars marching to Concord, since the supplies at Concord were safe, but they did think their leaders in Lexington were unaware of the potential danger that night. Revere and Dawes were sent out to warn them and to alert colonial militias in nearby towns.
In the days before April 18, Revere had instructed Robert Newman, the sexton of the North Church, to send a signal by lantern to alert colonists in Charlestown as to the movements of the troops when the information became known. In what is well known today by the phrase “one if by land, two if by sea”, one lantern in the steeple would signal the army’s choice of the land route while two lanterns would signal the route “by water” across the Charles River (the movements would ultimately take the water route, and therefore two lanterns were placed in the steeple). Revere first gave instructions to send the signal to Charlestown. He then crossed the Charles River by rowboat, slipping past the British warship HMS Somerset at anchor. Crossings were banned at that hour, but Revere safely landed in Charlestown and rode to Lexington, avoiding a British patrol and later warning almost every house along the route. The Charlestown colonists dispatched additional riders to the north.

Riding through present-day Somerville, Medford, and Arlington, Revere warned patriots along his route, many of whom set out on horseback to deliver warnings of their own. By the end of the night there were probably as many as 40 riders throughout Middlesex County carrying the news of the army’s advance. Revere did not shout the phrase later attributed to him (“The British are coming!”): His mission depended on secrecy, the countryside was filled with British army patrols, and most of the Massachusetts colonists (who were predominantly English in ethnic origin) still considered themselves British. Revere’s warning, according to eyewitness accounts of the ride and Revere’s own descriptions, was “The Regulars are coming out.” Revere arrived in Lexington around midnight, with Dawes arriving about a half-hour later. They met with Samuel Adams and John Hancock, who were spending the night with Hancock’s relatives (in what is now called the Hancock-Clarke House), and they spent a great deal of time discussing plans of action upon receiving the news. They believed that the forces leaving the city were too large for the sole task of arresting two men and that Concord was the main target. The Lexington men dispatched riders to the surrounding towns, and Revere and Dawes continued along the road to Concord accompanied by Samuel Prescott, a doctor who happened to be in Lexington “returning from a lady friend’s house at the awkward hour of 1 a.m.”
Revere, Dawes, and Prescott were detained by a British Army patrol in Lincoln at a roadblock on the way to Concord. Prescott jumped his horse over a wall and escaped into the woods; he eventually reached Concord. Dawes also escaped, though he fell off his horse not long after and did not complete the ride.

Revere was captured and questioned by the British soldiers at gunpoint. He told them of the army’s movement from Boston, and that British army troops would be in some danger if they approached Lexington, because of the large number of hostile militia gathered there. He and other captives taken by the patrol were still escorted east toward Lexington, until about a half mile from Lexington they heard a gunshot. The British major demanded Revere explain the gunfire, and Revere replied it was a signal to “alarm the country”. As the group drew closer to Lexington, the town bell began to clang rapidly, upon which one of the captives proclaimed to the British soldiers “The bell’s a’ringing! The town’s alarmed, and you’re all dead men!” The British soldiers gathered and decided not to press further towards Lexington but instead to free the prisoners and head back to warn their commanders.  The British confiscated Revere’s horse and rode off to warn the approaching army column. Revere walked to Rev. Jonas Clarke’s house, where Hancock and Adams were staying. As the battle on Lexington Green unfolded, Revere assisted Hancock and his family in their escape from Lexington, helping to carry a trunk of Hancock’s papers.

The ride of the three men triggered a flexible system of “alarm and muster” that had been carefully developed months before, in reaction to the colonists’ impotent response to the Powder Alarm of September 1774. This system was an improved version of an old network of widespread notification and fast deployment of local militia forces in times of emergency. The colonists had periodically used this system all the way back to the early years of Indian wars in the colony, before it fell into disuse in the French and Indian War. In addition to other express riders delivering messages, bells, drums, alarm guns, bonfires, and a trumpet were used for rapid communication from town to town, notifying the rebels in dozens of eastern Massachusetts villages that they should muster their militias because the regulars in numbers greater than 500 were leaving Boston with possible hostile intentions. This system was so effective that people in towns 25 miles (40 km) from Boston were aware of the army’s movements while they were still unloading boats in Cambridge. Unlike in the Powder Alarm, the alarm raised by the three riders successfully allowed the militia to confront the British troops in Concord, and then harry them all the way back to Boston.

Longfellow’s poem: in 1861, over 40 years after Revere’s death, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow made the midnight ride the subject of his poem “Paul Revere’s Ride” which opens:

Listen, my children, and you shall hear

Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,

On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-Five;

Hardly a man is now alive

Who remembers that famous day and year

Longfellow’s poem is not historically accurate, but the inaccuracies were deliberate. Longfellow had researched the historical event, using such works as George Bancroft’s History of the United States, but he changed the facts for poetic effect. The poem was one of a series in which he sought to create American legends; earlier examples include The Song of Hiawatha (1855) and The Courtship of Miles Standish (1858). Longfellow was successful in creating a legend: Revere’s stature rose significantly in the years following the poem’s publication.

From Wikipedia July 16, 2016:

Paul Revere Dec. 21, 1734 – May 10, 1818




The Pursuit of Kashmir

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif takes the floor at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) and makes a speech far more direct than most in the audience expect. “Since 1947, the Kashmir dispute has remained unresolved. [The] UN [United Nations] Security Council resolutions have remained unimplemented. Three generations of Kashmiris have only seen broken promises and brutal oppression. Over 100,000 have died in their struggle for self-determination. This is the most persistent failure of the United Nations,” he states.

This is not the only time in recent weeks that Pakistan has raised the Kashmir issue. On October 22, 2015, when Sharif meets President Barack Obama at the White House, the K word makes a conspicuous entry into their joint statement: “The leaders emphasised the importance of a sustained and resilient dialogue process between the two neighbors aimed at resolving all outstanding territorial and other disputes, including Kashmir, through peaceful means and working together to address mutual concerns of India and Pakistan regarding terrorism.”
India’s reaction has been predictably dismissive to this renewed vigour in Pakistan’s pursuit of Kashmir. “India has always desired resolution of all issues with Pakistan bilaterally through dialogue and peaceful means,” is how a spokesman of India’s Ministry of External Affairs reacts to the joint statement issued after the Sharif-Obama meeting. The curt rejection of suggestions that outsiders may have a role in the resolution of the Kashmir issue is quite obvious in the spokesman’s rejoinder.

Illustrations by Ayesha Haroon

Islamabad and New Delhi are certainly saying nothing new as far as their respective stances on Kashmir are concerned. Yet it is quite clear that the conflict in and about this long-disputed region is back on centre stage — and not entirely because of Pakistan’s efforts. Kashmiris have launched a non-violent agitation movement since 2010 amid arrests, custodial deaths and relentless military oppression. They have, indeed, paid a very heavy price for many decades to get their story across to the world.
For the most part, Kashmir has been known to people through state representations. This is true for Kashmir’s history and perhaps equally so for the policies of the two states towards it. Both Islamabad and New Delhi ceaselessly try to expunge from public imagination anything that questions, albeit remotely, their official narratives on Kashmir even when the two narratives sometimes are as divergent from truth as they are from each other. Some of their most glaring contradictions and lies came to the surface for the first time when India’s Ministry of External Affairs recently declassified its archived documents, covering 50 years of the country’s foreign relations starting with 1947.

Kashmir’s story, as presented here on, is mainly reconstructed through those declassified documents. Where the documents are not available, especially for the post-1997 era, the narrative is continued by citing other primary sources. What follows is a historical account of the tragedy of Kashmir. A tragedy that stems from a ceaseless contestation for a pursuit based on two arbitrary – and conflicting – claims put forth by Pakistan and India.

Delhi, August 1947


It was supposed to be a new world that Lord Mountbatten traversed in those last months of 1947 as British India’s last viceroy. The Indian subcontinent, so long the jewel in Great Britain’s imperial crown, had been born anew and transformed into two sovereign states. And yet, as he made his way from Delhi to Karachi, it must have occurred to Mountbatten how little things had actually changed. Decades of nationalist struggle, two world wars, a formal transfer of power and millions of deaths later, he still had to mediate between the leaders of the new subcontinent. They were still grappling with – and fighting over – a number of unanswered questions. Perched on the very top of those questions was the one of Kashmir.
The British Raj in the Indian subcontinent had always been a highly complicated affair. To run an imperial enterprise spread over half a continent, the British authorities had to create and maintain several types of territorial arrangements, much like the Mughals before it. The British had to weave an intricate web of local collaborations that included a buffer zone between India and Afghanistan, hundreds of princely states of various sizes, that had a certain degree of legal and administrative autonomy from the Raj within their borders, and many directly administered provinces and territories. The decolonization process spelled the unravelling of this web.

A chinar leaf entangled in a concertina wire around a police camp in Srinagar | Dilnaz Boga

The two new states – India and Pakistan – that emerged from the decolonization process could not operate under the same legal, political and administrative paradigm which the British had. The geographical unity of the two states could only be maintained if they came up with new political and legal arrangements to integrate swathes of territory, both big and small, that once belonged to the princely states. In order to deal with this challenge, the two states embarked on projects to absorb such territories into their respective borders as quickly as possible. There was no universally acknowledged single instrument to achieve this. Both states used a similar repertoire of techniques — negotiating accession treaties, making deals with local elites and, in certain cases, sending in troops to snuff out opposition.
The Kashmir crisis was born out of the discontents of the twin processes of decolonization and territorial integration by India and Pakistan. Jammu and Kashmir was a princely state which the East India Company had annexed in 1846 and then transferred to Gulab Singh of the Dogra dynasty for a payment of 7,500,000 rupees. As the British exit from the subcontinent became apparent, the then ruler of Jammu and Kashmir, Hari Singh, wished to remain independent. This was obviously not going to be acceptable to either India or Pakistan. Four major rivers originate from the Himalayas located in Kashmir and it also shares a border with China — the two factors that make it a strategically crucial region. In other words it is a prized territory. Both states, therefore, formed strategies to lay claim to it.


Delhi, September 27, 1947
India’s deputy prime minister Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel received an urgent letter from Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru regarding the situation in Kashmir. Nehru was convinced that Pakistan was preparing to infiltrate the region and foster an insurgency. He also knew Maharaja Hari Singh’s forces could not do much to stop infiltration without help from India. More importantly, Nehru realised, Hari Singh’s regime could not be sustained if its own people went against it.Sheikh Abdullah headed the largest political party in Kashmir – the National Conference – but he was a staunch opponent of the Dogra dynasty. He had initiated a “Quit Kashmir” movement before the British left India in 1947 and, hence, was imprisoned in May 1946. Nehru wanted him freed. He noted in his letter that Sheikh Abdullah was eager not to join Pakistan. His opposition to Hari Singh, therefore, was not tantamount to support for accession to Pakistan. If the Indian government could work out a rapprochement between Hari Singh and Sheikh Abdullah, Nehru suggested to Patel, Kashmir’s accession to India would become easier.

The final phase of the partition of India: Jinnah and Liaquat Ali Khan with Viceroy Mountbatten and Congress leaders during a meeting on June 2, 1947 | White Star Photo Archives


Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Indira Gandhi sign the Simla Agreement | White Star Photo Archives

“It seems to me urgently necessary, therefore, that the accession to the Indian Union should take place early. It is equally clear to me that this can only take place with some measure of success after there is peace between the Maharaja and the National Conference and they co-operate together to meet the situation,” Nehru wrote. “…Abdullah is very anxious to keep out of Pakistan and relies upon us a great deal for advice.” But, at the same time, he “cannot carry his people with him unless he has something definite to place before them. What this can be in the circumstances I cannot define precisely at the present moment. But the main thing is that the Maharaja should try to gain the goodwill and co-operation of Abdullah,” Nehru added. “It would be a tragedy if the National Conference remains passive owing to frustration and lack of opportunity.”
Nehru’s predictions about a likely infiltration into Kashmir were proven true. By October 1947, tribal militias from Murree, Hazara and parts of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) raided the valley through the Poonch area and began a widespread campaign to destabilise the Maharaja’s regime. The Maharaja looked to India for help which he got only after promising to sign an instrument of accession in favour of New Delhi.
Writing to British Prime Minister Clement Attlee, Nehru argued that the Indian intervention in Kashmir was a response to an urgent appeal from the government of Jammu and Kashmir for help against tribal invaders who, he claimed, were aided and abetted by the Pakistani government.
Pakistan denied any involvement. Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan insisted the actions by the tribesmen were an almost instinctive response to the atrocities being committed against Muslims in Kashmir. In his correspondence with Nehru, he argued that the tribesmen were helped by local Kashmiri Muslims who sought liberation. Liaquat Ali Khan also pointed out that the government in Kashmir had manipulated the situation in order to accede to India against the wishes of its own people. For Governor General Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the accession was nothing short of a coup d’etat.

Sardar Abdul Qayyum Khan (left) and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto at a Kashmir conference  White Star Photo Archives

A different story hid behind these public statements. On November 1, 1947, Mountbatten and his chief of staff, Lord Ismay, travelled to Lahore and met separately with both Jinnah and Liaquat Ali Khan. When he recorded the daily proceedings in his notebook, Mountbatten could not help but say the tribesmen had been acting on the express and direct command of the Pakistani leadership. Implicitly, Jinnah accepted as much to Mountbatten. “When I asked him how the tribesmen were to be called off, he said that all he had to do was to give them an order to come out and to warn them that if they did not comply, he would send large forces along their lines of communication. In fact, if I was prepared to fly to Srinagar with him, he would guarantee that the business would be settled within 24 hours. I expressed mild astonishment at the degree of control that he appeared to exercise over the raiders,” Mountbatten wrote Pakistani strategy was to create enough pressure on the Maharaja to abdicate, to then claim that the region should become a part of Pakistan because most people living in Jammu and Kashmir are Muslims. The Pakistani government knew only an indigenous revolt could preclude India from holding on to Kashmir. But therein lay Pakistan’s greatest challenge: The Muslim League had virtually no presence in the state of Jammu and Kashmir and Pakistan had no guarantee that the people of Kashmir would overwhelmingly vote to be part of Pakistan. Pakistani leadership was aware of the problem which is why both Jinnah and Liaquat Ali Khan consistently rejected a plebiscite in Kashmir as long as Indian troops were there. “If the India Government [is] allowed to act…unfettered as [it pleases] by virtue of having already occupied Kashmir and landed their troops there, then, this El Dorado of plebiscite will prove a mirage,” read an official Pakistan statement. During negotiations with Mountbatten, Jinnah strongly objected to having a plebiscite even under the auspices of the UN, maintaining that the presence of Indian troops as well as Sheikh Abdullah’s tilt towards India would deter the average Muslim in Kashmir from voting for Pakistan. In a letter to Attlee, Liaquat Ali Khan described Sheikh Abdullah as a “quisling” and a “paid agent of the Congress for the last two decades”.

In a December 1947 meeting with his Indian counterpart, Liaquat Ali Khan also questioned the efficacy of a voting process in Kashmir while it was under an India-sponsored administration. “… [T]he people of Kashmir were bound to vote, in the plebiscite, in favour of whatever administration was then in power. The Kashmiris were an illiterate and oppressed people, and they would be bound to favor the authority in possession. If an Englishman went as administrator, they would vote to join the United Kingdom,” he said that not only the Maharaja but also the National Conference favoured India was the advantage Nehru wanted. In his correspondence with Indian politicians, he pointed out that any activity by Pakistan would look illegal and unacceptable after Kashmir had acceded to India. He was right. After the Maharaja acceded to India on October 26, 1947, New Delhi was successful in portraying to the rest of the world that Pakistan-supported militant activity was an act of belligerence. This would remain the thrust of India’s case against Pakistan for the times to come.

Indian policemen detain JKLF activists during a protest against the Indian army in Srinagar | Dar Yasin, AP

The accession also formed the basis for a justification of India’s military presence in Kashmir. The Indian government argued it was well within its right to send troops to drive away outsiders from what it considered Indian territory. When Pakistan contended that it would only attempt to ensure the withdrawal of tribal militias if that coincided with a simultaneous withdrawal of Indian forces from Kashmir, the Indians simply refused, arguing that the presence of the two forces could not be treated the same way.
By the end of 1947, India decided to apprise the world of what it called Pakistani intrusion in Kashmir. In a meeting with Mountbatten in December that year, Nehru suggested India should raise the issue at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), “charging Pakistan with aggression and asking UNO [United Nations Organization] to call upon Pakistan to refrain from doing so”. If the Security Council failed to make Pakistan stop its “aggression”, he warned, “we would have to take action ourselves in such a manner as we thought fit to stop this aggression at the base.”
When Mountbatten suggested that the “UNO [should] supervise and carry out a plebiscite as we had previously declared” once “law and order has been restored”, Nehru replied with a definitive no. When India had made a unilateral offer for a plebiscite after partition, he argued, Pakistan rejected it and instead chose to support chaos in the valley. It was that chaos that made the plebiscite unfeasible, he declared. Pakistan’s early policy in Kashmir obviously failed to result in any legitimacy for Pakistan’s claim. Within its borders, however, the Pakistani state was incredibly successful in cementing Kashmir as an invaluable, indispensable and eternal part of the Pakistani national imagination. Primarily, this was a function of fervent propaganda campaigns carried out by newspapers such as Dawn, Jang, Nawa-i-Waqt and Zamindar as well as through radio broadcasts and publishing special pamphlets, books and plays. Several films produced in this era also carried an explicit message that Kashmir belonged to Pakistan and it was incumbent on the Pakistani state and society to take necessary measures to realize its integration within Pakistan. Both Islamabad and New Delhi ceaselessly try to expunge from public imagination anything that questions, albeit remotely, their official narratives on Kashmir even when the two narratives sometimes are as divergent from truth as they are from each other.
The overarching theme pervading this propaganda was the two-nation theory that Muslims were different from the Hindus and, therefore, the two cannot live together. Within a few short years after independence, the Pakistani media had convinced the citizenry that pursuing Kashmir through any means was not only legitimate, it was also noble.
The argument was simple: Kashmir was a Muslim majority area and hence could not be ruled by Hindus. By promoting such a narrative, the Pakistani state ensured that the Kashmir question was enmeshed with the question of Pakistani identity and that both questions were framed in religious terms.
This narrative, however, translated into little bargaining power during negotiations with India. Unsurprisingly, when Liaquat Ali Khan exchanged letters with Indian and British leaders, he seldom made a reference to Islam or jihad. His arguments, instead, rested entirely on the Kashmiris’ right to self-determine their political future. Pakistan posited that India had forcibly and undemocratically annexed Kashmir without taking the will of the people into account.
In the age of decolonization, self-determination was considered a universal right and carried far more weight than the two-nation theory. Highlighting its absence as the core reason for the problem in Kashmir, indeed, forced India on the defensive. On several occasions, Nehru had to give assurances that a plebiscite would eventually take place and that the mandate of the Kashmiri people will be respected. This apologetic Indian reaction convinced the Pakistani ruling elite that if it needed to force India to a negotiating table, it needed help — from powerful friends.


New York, November 1952
Sir Gladwyn Jebb, the British representative to the UN, handed a draft resolution on Kashmir to his Indian counterpart Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit who hurriedly wrote to Nehru, telling him that Britain and the United States were prepared to take the matter to the UNGA if India did not move within the next 30 days. A debate in the General Assembly and a possible resolution against India could be a national embarrassment, she said. Nehru was aghast. “Have the English learnt nothing at all during the last few years? I am not thinking so much of their draft resolution, although that is bad enough, but rather of the way they think they can bully us. If there is one thing that all the powers in the world cannot do, it is to bully us,” he wrote in his feverish reply to Pandit. Nehru’s frustration with Britain and the US had been growing for the past couple of years. He believed British and American patronage was the chief reason why Pakistan was being abrasive towards India. The Pakistani establishment, indeed, was seeking political and military support from the two countries in return for strategic loyalty. Quickly though, the Pakistani elite realized that its efforts would have to be directed mostly towards the US as Britain had little economic and political clout left in the post-World War II era. While the sun was setting on the British Empire, the American pursuit of hegemony in the postcolonial world had just begun.
This period was also the beginning of the Cold War, the ideological conflict between the US and the Soviet Union that would last for the rest of the 20th century and engulf the entire world. Policymakers in the White House and the State Department were deeply anxious to enlarge the American sphere of influence to ensure that newly formed states did not gravitate towards the Soviet camp.
The American reaction to the first phase of the Kashmir crisis was to impose an arms embargo on both Pakistan and India. But this policy had to change with the beginning of the 1950s. As the realities of the Cold War took centre stage, American policymakers aggressively pursued the policy of “containment” against the “communist virus” and they found in Pakistan a willing partner in their pursuit of this policy in the subcontinent.

Kashmiri protestors throw stones at Indian security personnel in Srinagar | Dar Yasin, AP

In 1950, Liaquat Ali Khan publicly admitted that Pakistan would “seize the opportunity eagerly” should the US decide to give it as much importance as it gave to Turkey. Keen on developing a stronghold in the Middle East, the Americans were planning a multilateral security arrangement among Iran, Iraq and Turkey, their allies in the region. Given its geographical proximity to the Middle East, Pakistan could be included in this collective.
While Britain had reservations about including Pakistan in a Middle East collective and warned the Americans about the possible negative effects it might have on the relations between Washington and New Delhi, policymakers in the US remained determined to make Pakistan a client state. For its part, Pakistan received strong warnings from Moscow and Beijing against such an arrangement but the Pakistani establishment was adamant on securing military aid from the US.

When American Secretary of State John Foster Dulles visited Pakistan in the summer of 1953, he was deeply heartened to see Pakistan’s enthusiasm to ally with his country. In December that year, American Vice President Richard Nixon visited the subcontinent and concluded that America needed to sacrifice a potential relationship with India for one with Pakistan. In 1954, Pakistan became part of the South East Asian Treaty Organization (SEATO) that also included Australia, France, New Zealand, the Philippines, Thailand, the UK and the US; in early 1955, it joined the Baghdad Pact along with Iran, Iraq, Turkey, Britain and the US.
While the rebel in him might have been defiant, the politician in Nehru understood that these alliances had changed the power dynamics in South Asia. Equally importantly, the situation in Kashmir was changing and support for Pakistan was emerging among the Kashmiris. In 1953, Nehru acknowledged that a pro-Pakistan lobby was present in Kashmir valley alongside a pro-India one.
A number of political actors, including Sheikh Abdullah – who, by then, had become the prime minister of Jammu and Kashmir – also started imagining a possibly independent Kashmir. He went to the extent of stating that his government was not bound by the accession treaty signed by the Maharaja. Many in India’s ruling Congress party, who considered him a friend, were shocked by the statement. New Delhi could simply not afford a popular challenge to the accession treaty. Sheikh Abdullah was, therefore, sentenced to 11 years in prison under what became the infamous “Kashmir conspiracy case”.

Women grieve the killing of an alleged Kashmiri militant | Dar Yasin, AP

All these developments forced Indian leaders to seek a lasting, internationally-recognised agreement over Kashmir. In May 1955, Nehru met with Pakistan’s Prime Minister Mohammad Ali Bogra and his interior minister Iskander Mirza in Delhi. Senior Indian minister Maulana Abul Kalam Azad was also present during the talks which lasted for three consecutive days.
Despite tumultuous relations between the two states, the air in the negotiation room was gracious, even hopeful. Nehru frankly admitted that the American military aid had changed security circumstances in the subcontinent since “it brought the prospect of world war to our door”. Bogra, however, assured his Indian counterpart that Pakistan desired nothing but friendliness with its neighbour to the east. At one point, he even said: “India [is] a big country, the big sister of Pakistan…India should, therefore, be generous and magnanimous”.
While the two states were putting up a rare show of mutual understanding, the voice of the Kashmiris was conspicuously missing from their discussions. The real question being discussed was a partition of Kashmir. Before the Delhi meeting, Pakistan’s Governor General Malik Ghulam Muhammad had informally proposed that a large tract of land north of the Chenab River should be transferred to Pakistan and that Kashmir, as a whole, should come under some sort of a joint supervision by the two states.
For Nehru, these proposals were “completely impractical”. The Indian side could never give up territory because the Indian constitution stipulated that the government in Delhi could not alter the boundaries of the state of Jammu and Kashmir without the consent of the state’s own legislature.
While Bogra agreed that the Governor General’s proposals were unfeasible, he emphasised that he could not return to Pakistan empty-handed. “Something had to be done to make [the people of Pakistan] feel that they had gained something,” is what Bogra told Nehru who said India could transfer only the Poonch district to Pakistan. Bogra and Mirza sombrely announced that “if they accepted the Indian proposal, they would be blown sky-high in Pakistan”.

JKLF Chairman Yasin Malik, centre, attends a memorial service to mark the anniversary of an alleged massacre in Srinagar | Mukhtar Khan, AP

Their concerns were not exaggerated. Many political and religious leaders in Pakistan were mobilising people for an Islamic war in Kashmir. On August 14, 1953, Chaudhry Khaliquzzaman, then governor of East Pakistan, exhorted the Pakistanis to “keep their swords shining and horses ready”. Feroz Khan Noon, the then chief minister of Punjab, said in a public meeting in Lahore, two days later, that the Indian government had gone “back on [the] international understanding between the two countries” by sending troops into “a predominantly Muslim country — Kashmir”.
Such provocations, mirrored relentlessly by the Pakistani press and radio, could only lead to an atmosphere full of deep acrimony where conflict was celebrated and peace was mocked as a manifestation of weakness. In 1954, a pamphlet entitled Fatwa was published in Pakistan which contained virulently anti-India contents with reference to Kashmir. The Indian High Commission in Pakistan requested the Pakistani government to withdraw the pamphlet. The request was turned down.
In these politically charged circumstances, Bogra and Mirza could not make any concessions without risking the fall of their government. The same militaristic narrative that the Pakistani state was actively promoting, thus, circumscribed its negotiating power. When the two sides returned to the negotiating table the next day, Bogra produced a map of Jammu and Kashmir. It was divided into two parts: the Hindu areas which amounted to a few districts around Jammu were coloured yellow while the rest of the map was coloured green to indicate the Muslim majority areas. The Pakistani delegates suggested a “large area of the Jammu province including Poonch, Riyasi, Udhampur” could go to India along with the “possible transfer of Skardu to India”.
Azad, at that point, stated that India could at best agree to concede some parts of Mirpur district alongside Poonch to Pakistan. For Nehru, the acceptance of Pakistani proposals was as good as an Indian “defeat and the dictation of terms” by Pakistan which, he said, no Indian government could accept. Mirza responded by stating that all he could do was report back to his government in Karachi. And on that inconclusive note, the negotiations ended. Although the talks achieved nothing, they clearly depicted that Kashmir had turned into a territorial dispute. The ultimate object on the negotiating table was a map — a cartographic representation of space bereft of people and their history, identities, voices and relationships. The Kashmiri ‘self’ – which Pakistan ostensibly wanted to guard under the banner of Islam and which India wanted to protect under its constitution – was actually considered wholly fluid and expendable, something that could be cut up by the two states wantonly. The important question was not whether to cut Kashmir or not — it was how to go about cutting it. And so it has remained since then.

Karachi, February 8, 1963

A supporter of senior separatist leader, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, carries a Pakistani national flag during a rally in Srinagar | Mukhtar Khan, AP

A young Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was hunched over a sprawling map of Kashmir, surrounded by the delegates he was leading as Pakistan’s foreign minister. They were in the middle of the third round of talks with their counterparts from India. The first two rounds had taken place in Rawalpindi and Delhi. The agenda was now a familiar one — the drawing of a boundary that could divide Kashmir between India and Pakistan. The Pakistani delegation was anxious. “We must draw lines on the map,” they insisted. As ever, it seemed an impossible exercise. Swaran Singh, India’s foreign minister and the head of the Indian delegation, drew a line on the map indicating his side’s “readiness to concede in favor of Pakistan the rich forest areas in the north, on both sides of the Kishenganga River”. He also suggested that India was ready to concede some more areas in the west and north of the Kashmir valley.
The Pakistani negotiators appeared shocked at the meagreness of his offer. Bhutto prepared a counter offer — only Kathua, a district on the border with Punjab, and some adjoining areas from other districts would go to India while Pakistan would be entitled to all the others areas up to Ladakh in the north-east and including Srinagar, Jammu, Udhampur and Riyasi districts. The Indians immediately shot down these suggestions as “ridiculous”. The invasion by the “Azad Forces” led to massive retaliation by the Indian military not only against Pakistan but also within the state of Jammu and Kashmir. An intense military campaign was started to rid Kashmir of outside elements as well as any local pro-Pakistani activists.

Bhutto perhaps believed that placing such a huge demand would compel the Indians to revise their original offer, convincing them to give up more territory. Singh, however, was determined not to cede anything more than he had offered. He said he was willing to accept an end to the talks, seeing little point in another round scheduled in Calcutta that March. The angst, the arguments and the outcome — nothing that happened in Karachi was unexpected but the world in which these talks took place was being critically transformed.
In 1958, Field Marshal Ayub Khan launched a coup d’état against the civilian government and set himself in power as the Chief Martial Law Administrator of Pakistan. His martial law regime was bent upon consolidating the central authority in Pakistan, reigning in recalcitrant provinces and establishing its writ at all costs. And, despite all the trouble at home, Kashmir figured prominently in the military government’s imagination. Critical to this pursuit was the acquisition of military aid and international support against India. The US remained a crucial supporter in this regard and the Pakistani state continued to identify itself as a strategic ally of the West against the “menace of communism”. Relations between India and Pakistan also soured further under the martial law regime despite some high-level talks, including a one-on-one meeting between Nehru and Ayub Khan. By 1961, public confrontations between the two states peaked with accusations flying between them.
That year also marked the inauguration of John F Kennedy as the 35th president of the United States. His administration was keen on a rapprochement with India. Pakistan, obviously uncomfortable with such a policy, realised it could not rely merely on the United States and needed to expand its international support base. The Soviet Union was across a vast ideological gulf from Pakistan and, more importantly, had very friendly relations with India. Pakistan, therefore, began courting the People’s Republic of China. Beginning with Nikita Khrushchev’s denunciation of Stalin’s legacy, China-Soviet relations had been rapidly worsening. By 1961, there was an official parting of ways. During this time, relations between China and India also experienced a sharp decline owing to a series of conflicts on the Himalayan border between the two countries. These conflicts eventually resulted in the 1962 Sino-Indian War.
China’s anti-India stance as well as its victory in the 1962 war made China a possibly important ally for Pakistan. Internal correspondences among Indian officials in the early 1960s show their anxiety over a possible Pakistan-China secret deal and a possible Chinese involvement in Kashmir. Rajeshwar Dayal, India’s high commissioner in Pakistan, went to the extent of warning Ayub Khan against befriending China. “I warned the President [of Pakistan] that if China was no friend of ours, it was much less a friend of Pakistan’s. Bringing China into the Kashmir dispute would make the problem completely insoluble, for the Chinese would be playing only their own game.” He then reminded Ayub Khan of “his own views regarding China’s aggressiveness and expansionism” and his declaration in November, 1959, “that Pakistan would not take advantage of India’s difficulties with China”.
Indian fears were confirmed when, during the very first round of Pakistan-India talks in early 1963, the Pakistani side announced having reached an agreement with China on Kashmir’s border with the Chinese region of Sinkiang (now spelled Xinjiang). The Indian delegation was shocked not only at the nature of the announcement but also over its odd timing.


A Kashmiri woman sits in front of a banner showing portraits of missing Kashmiris  Dar Yasin, AP

Tensions rose between India and Pakistan exponentially when the China Pakistan Boundary Agreement was officially signed on March 2, 1963. The agreement sought to “delimit and demarcate” the boundary between China’s Xinjiang region, and its proximate regions, which formed part of Kashmir under Pakistan’s control and resulted in the demarcation of a new international border and a territory exchange between Pakistan and China. As a result of these developments, China ended up controlling all of the present-day Xinjiang region. Through the agreement with China, Pakistan made two noteworthy gains. Firstly, it consolidated its relationship with China, signalling to both India and the United States that Pakistan had a powerful friend in the region. Secondly, by negotiating – and reaching an agreement – with China on a border in Kashmir, Pakistan was able to establish its sovereignty over those parts of Kashmir which it controlled. This was a major setback to Indian claims that the entirety of Kashmir was an indivisible whole and an unquestionable part of India. Once China established its writ over the areas it had received through the agreement with Pakistan, it became virtually impossible for India to reclaim them without going to war with China.
Political leadership in India, therefore, was appalled by the Pak-China agreement and saw it as a proof of Pakistani insincerity. Almost immediately the matter was taken up in Lok Sabha, India’s lower house of parliament. Nehru told the parliamentarians that Pakistan’s official claims of having given up just over 2,000 square miles of territory to China were not correct. China, indeed, had gained control over 13,000 square miles — almost all those parts of Xinjiang region which during the British Raj in India had been included in Kashmir. This, he said, became possible because Pakistan had surrendered “that part of the Indian territory in Jammu and Kashmir which is under Pakistan’s illegal occupation”.
Countering the speeches being made in the Indian parliament, Bhutto addressed Pakistan’s National Assembly and argued that the Indian attitude “confirms our genuine apprehensions that there has been no real desire on the part of India to reach an honourable and equitable settlement with us on Kashmir”.


Police and protesters clash in Kashmir | Mukesh Gupta, Reuters


Activists of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) shout slogans during a procession in Srinagar on April 18, 2015

As the stalemate continued, the political situation within Pakistan was rapidly deteriorating. Indian intelligence concluded, and rightly so, that Ayub Khan’s regime found itself in hot waters. In a secret letter written to Commonwealth Secretary Y D Gundevia, India’s high commissioner in Pakistan, G Parthasarathy, quoted a highly credible Pakistani source – mentioned in the letter as Colonel Mohtarram – as saying that Ayub Khan was increasingly becoming unpopular among the masses as well as in the army. His unpopularity in the army could have been because of his corrupt dealings, his involvement in partisan politics and his ill treatment of senior officers. The Pakistani source believed an underground campaign against Ayub Khan was being run from England and was gaining strength. Given his desperate position within Pakistan, the source apprehended, Ayub Khan “might start the so-called ‘Jihad’ against India in the hope of consolidating his own position.” The Indians, the colonel suggested, “should therefore be prepared to meet such a situation”. He also warned that Pak-China relations were likely to deepen.
These reports caused grave apprehensions in New Delhi. An unstable regime in Pakistan could create trouble in Kashmir, especially if there had been some secret arrangement between Pakistan and China. On July 24, 1963, Bhutto gave a long and fiery speech in the National Assembly and claimed that “an attack by India on Pakistan would involve the territorial integrity and security of the largest State in Asia”. This strengthened suspicions in New Delhi that a secret pact actually existed between China and Pakistan.
The Indians took the matter to the Americans, raising alarm over how a Pak-China alliance could wreak havoc in Kashmir. The Americans, however, assured the Indians that they had been guaranteed by the Pakistanis that there was no secret deal between Pakistan and China. The American assurances did little to assuage Indian concerns. Over the course of the next year, relations between India and Pakistan plummeted even further. In early 1964, India redesignated the heads of state and government in Jammu and Kashmir as “governor” and “chief minister” – instead of Sadr-e-Riasat and Prime Minister – and called for the hoisting of the Indian flag on government buildings in the state instead of the state’s own flag. In September that year, Pakistan followed suit in its part of Kashmir by replacing the Azad Kashmir flag at the President’s House in Muzzafarabad with the Pakistani flag.

Kashmiris watch the funeral procession of a local militant | Dar Yasin, AP

Tensions burst forth in the summer of 1965 when guerrilla fighters – hailed as “mujahideen” in the Pakistani press – invaded Indian-controlled parts of Kashmir. According to Indian sources, “5,000 armed men, trained and supported by the Pakistani army had been sent in across the cease-fire line to commit arson and sabotage, to strike at our security forces and to incite the local people to rise against the Government”. Pakistan vehemently denied having designed the infiltration, arguing that the “Azad Forces” which had invaded the Indian-controlled part of Kashmir was an organic and indigenous response to the Indian occupation. Pakistan also maintained that Pakistani military action in support of the “Azad Forces” was only an act of self-defence undertaken after India had violated the ceasefire line.
The UN, however, saw Pakistan as the aggressor and directed it to observe the ceasefire line and abide by the status quo. In a letter to the UN Secretary General, Ayub Khan refused to comply. “I fear that your present appeal will only serve to perpetrate that injustice by leaving the people of occupied Kashmir to the mercy of India. What is to become of the brave people of Kashmir who are fighting for their freedom? I cannot believe that it would be the intention of the United Nations to permit India to liquidate them and to consolidate its stranglehold over occupied Kashmir,” he wrote.
The invasion by the “Azad Forces” led to massive retaliation by the Indian military not only against Pakistan but also within the state of Jammu and Kashmir. An intense military campaign was started to rid Kashmir of outside elements as well as any local pro-Pakistani activists. Regular Pakistani military units also entered the Indian-administered Kashmir, citing Indian atrocities there and as a declaration of support for the Kashmiri people. Concomitantly, India launched a full scale attack on Pakistan’s western border near Lahore and Sialkot. The Pakistani authorities were not expecting this attack.
Pakistan immediately looked towards its allies, particularly the US and Britain, for help but the State Department did not find it prudent to support Pakistan. Ayub Khan invoked the assurances given by America in 1959, which made it incumbent on the US to provide support to Pakistan in the event of a war but the American government refused to entertain this plea and “did not accept Pakistani denials of infiltration across the ceasefire line”. Shortly thereafter the American government imposed a military embargo on both India and Pakistan.
Pakistan vehemently protested against the embargo. In repeated discussions with the American ambassador to Pakistan as well as the British high commissioner, Bhutto pleaded for a re-evaluation of the policy. India, he argued, was still receiving aid from the Soviet Union whereas Pakistan was getting no arms since it relied solely on weapons from its Anglo-American allies. The embargo, thus, disproportionately affected Pakistan, greatly weakening its position. But all his pleas fell on deaf ears.
Anglo-American indifference was not for want of sympathy for the Pakistani case. Indeed, the September 6, 1965, attack on Lahore and Sialkot had convinced many in London and Washington that, while Pakistan might have initiated the conflict, it was Indian belligerence which had exacerbated it. There was also some recognition that Pakistan would need some guarantee regarding the resolution of the Kashmir issue for it to agree to a ceasefire.


A passenger boat moves on Dal Lake during December snowfall | Mukhtar Khan, AP

The war, however, made it clear that India was far stronger militarily than Pakistan and was willing to hold onto Kashmir even at the cost of an indefinite war of attrition. And important international players knew this. On September 16, 1965, the British high commissioner in New Delhi wrote to the Commonwealth Relations Office in London asking for a reappraisal of British policy on Kashmir: “I feel it must be recognized that our historic policy of holding the balance between India and Pakistan no longer accords with the facts: By her action in August 1965, Pakistan in effect abandoned her attempt to secure a political and diplomatic solution of the Kashmir dispute in favour of a military solution. This has now probably failed. India appears from here to be on the way to achieving substantial military superiority over Pakistan through the attrition of Pakistan armour and aircraft. If that assessment proves to be correct, I am convinced that India would not submit to a political settlement at this stage which appeared to favour Pakistan’s claims.”
After recognising India’s military superiority, he dwelt on the China connection. “If a political settlement enabled Kashmir to opt into Pakistan, Pakistan and China would then have a common land frontier of several hundred miles accessible by a main motor road within easy striking distance of one of the most thriving industrial areas of India, the Punjab … I do not believe that India could now accept the self-determination of an area which permitted Pakistan and China to develop direct land communications through Ladakh. Nor, as I see it, would this be in the interests of the West.”
The prospects of a close Pak-China collaboration right next to India caused considerable anxiety within the Soviet Union too. Moscow, indeed, pressurised New Delhi to accept a ceasefire with Pakistan by raising the spectre of Chinese aggression.
But its Western allies made it clear to Pakistani interlocutors that any secret Pak-China endeavour would lose Pakistan all Western support for its stance on Kashmir. The Pakistani government was, therefore, keen to dispel such misgivings. After meeting Ayub Khan, Iran’s ambassador to Pakistan told his British counterpart that the Field Marshal contemptuously dismissed the “possibility of Chinese intervention in [an] Indo-Pakistan war”. The Iranian ambassador quoted the Pakistani president as saying that “Pakistan would never be [a] Chinese satellite” even though it was “prepared if necessary to be [a] United States Satellite”. Ayub Khan also assured the Americans and the British that he had unofficially asked the Chinese to show restraint on the China-India border.
On September 19, 1965, however, China issued an official message to India, demanding that the, “Indian Government dismantle all its military works for aggression on the Chinese side of the China-Sikkim boundary or on [the] boundary itself before midnight of September 22, 1965.” China also demanded the return of four kidnapped Tibetan inhabitants, 800 sheep and 51 yaks alleged to be captured by Indian troops. The Indians responded to these Chinese demands with deep agitation. “…[T]he Government of India cannot but observe that China taking advantage of the present unfortunate conflict between India and Pakistan is concocting without any basis casus belli in order to commit aggression against India.” These protestations clearly suggested that India could not afford a simultaneous conflict with China and Pakistan.
On September 22, 1965, Indian Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri accepted an offer by Soviet President Kosygin to broker a ceasefire agreement between India and Pakistan.


Dhaka, December 16, 1971
A defeated Amir Abdullah Niazi officially surrendered to his Indian counterpart General Aurora and in doing so announced the end of Pakistani sovereignty over what had been East Pakistan since 1947. India’s victory was complete. Militarily, the Indian army had enjoyed tremendous success and 93,000 Pakistani soldiers and officers were now in its custody. In the West, India had thwarted the Pakistan Army’s initial advances in Chhamb and other parts of Kashmir and, instead, occupied several territories in Pakistan including Thar.
On the political front, India successfully dealt a debilitating blow to the religious basis of Pakistan as more Muslims lived in what became Bangladesh than in what remained of Pakistan. Internationally, too, New Delhi was hailed as a champion of democracy, freedom and humanitarianism that helped Bangladeshis get rid of an oppressive state.
The cataclysmic events of 1971 were obviously incredibly significant. Equally noteworthy is what did not happen. India, for instance, did not try to take over the Pakistani-controlled part of Kashmir. The reason was American pressure on the Indian government to refrain from taking the war into Kashmir. The Americans argued that any Indian action in Kashmir could precipitate a much larger war involving China, the US and the Soviet Union. D P Dhar, chairman of India’s Policy and Planning committee and a key part of India’s diplomatic endeavours before, during and after the 1971 war, admitted that the American intervention had prevented India from making territorial gains on the western front. Washington, however, did nothing beyond making attempts to avoid a wider conflagration about Kashmir. It did not show any interests in intervening during the war on Pakistan’s behalf. China, too, stayed out of the war. Bhutto, then serving as the president of the truncated Pakistan, made a frank and candid admission of his country’s severely weakened position in a speech to the parliament on July 14, 1972: “Because circumstances were really impossible, India had all the cards in her hands and India is not a generous negotiator. They had Pakistani territory. They had East Pakistan separated from Pakistan. They had 93,000 prisoners of war. They had the threat of war trials and so they were sitting pretty, as the saying goes. What did we have in our hands? Riots, labour troubles and all sorts of internal dissensions … It was a nation completely demoralized, shattered.”

The cataclysmic events of 1971 were obviously incredibly significant. Equally noteworthy is what did not happen. India, for instance, did not try to take over the Pakistani-controlled part of Kashmir. The reason was American pressure on the Indian government to refrain from taking the war into Kashmir.He was speaking immediately after the signing of the Simla Agreement.

Earlier that year, Dhar met with the French foreign minister who asked him about the chance of a durable peace between India and Pakistan. Dhar was unequivocal. He said India wanted to sign a definitive peace agreement with Pakistan on all issues, including Kashmir. He made it clear to the French minister that “the package of peace related to overall settlement of all elements of tension and friction and that included Kashmir also”.
Three days later, Dhar reiterated the centrality of the Kashmir issue to an enduring Pak-India peace during his meeting with Soviet President Kosygin. “…[I]n Kashmir we are faced with the question whether we leave this artificial line where trouble breaks out frequently or whether we should address ourselves to this problem also once and for all. Even if all other issues between the two countries are resolved but the Kashmir issue is allowed to fester like an open wound, there can be no hope of permanent peace in the sub-continent,” Dhar said.
The war had drastically changed the power dynamics in the subcontinent and Indian leaders were eager to take advantage of the changes. “Our presentation (on Kashmir) … should bear the stamp of our new prestige and authority,” noted Dhar after his visits to France and the Soviet Union in February 1972. Indian diplomats insisted that the 1971 war rendered the 1949 ceasefire line in Kashmir obsolete. They knew they could make a beleaguered Pakistan agree to the new ceasefire line as a secure, inviolable international border.
Pakistan, too, was acutely aware of the asymmetry of power. When the negotiation started on June 28, 1972, Pakistan’s newly appointed Foreign Minister Aziz Ahmed insisted that the peace agreement must demonstrate parity between the two sides. For any agreement to be accepted by the Pakistani public, he repeatedly argued, Pakistan must avoid giving the impression that it capitulated on the issue on Kashmir.
But the Indian delegation was unflinching in its demand that the ceasefire line be turned into an international border and Pakistan cease insisting on the Kashmiris’ right to self-determination. Indira Gandhi and Dhar, who were heading the Indian delegation, implied that there could be no movement on the prisoners of war and the withdrawal of Indian troops from parts of Pakistan’s mainland unless Pakistan accepted the ceasefire line as the new border in Kashmir. With his “back against the wall,” Bhutto had little choice but to acquiesce, though he was successful in convincing the Indians that the ceasefire line should be called something short of an internationally recognized border. The final agreement thus read: “In Jammu and Kashmir, the line of control resulting from the cease-fire of December 17, 1971 shall be respected by both sides without prejudice to the recognized position of either side. Neither side shall seek to alter it unilaterally, irrespective of mutual differences and legal interpretations. Both sides further undertake to refrain from the threat or the use of force in violation of this Line.”


A soldier stands guard on a boat on Dal Lake | Dilnaz Boga

The Simla Agreement was transformative in two respects. Firstly, it laid down bilateralism as a principle underpinning all future negotiations between Islamabad and New Delhi. India has always resisted interference and mediation by other states as well as by the UN when it comes to discussing and settling disputes with Pakistan. On the other hand, Pakistan would often ask the international community to intervene. With the Simla Agreement, Pakistani efforts to involve the rest of the world in dispute resolution in the subcontinent would have only weak moral and legal authority, if any at all. At least this is how India has been interpreting the agreement since 1972. Secondly, the agreement prevented both India and Pakistan from interfering in the territories owned or controlled by the other side.
Even though the Simla Agreement was put into effect, Dhar was not excited about its ability to maintain peace in the long run. What made him particularly pessimistic was the ever-present possibility of a military coup in Pakistan. Indeed, just five years after the agreement, Pakistan experienced its third coup, inaugurating the reign of the most protracted and arguably the most repressive martial law regime in the country — under General Ziaul Haq.
Over the next decade, Pakistan became a crucial player in the America-led proxy war in Afghanistan. The Pakistan Army fostered, facilitated and trained Afghan mujahideen not just militarily but also ideologically. A generation of military officers and soldiers, working with these mujahideen, came of age espousing ideas for a global jihad in general and the one in Kashmir in particular. It was during this era that the Zia regime encouraged the massive growth of Islamic fundamentalist organisations within Pakistan and actively supported the emergence of militant outfits for guerrilla warfare in Afghanistan and Kashmir.
In 1989, the Red Army began its historic retreat from Afghanistan, initiating the end of the Soviet Union and the Cold War. Emboldened by this victory, the Pakistani establishment cast its eyes on Kashmir, yet again.


Srinagar, summer of 1989
The sound of gunfire and explosives reverberated in the valley mingled with vociferous chants of ‘azadi’. Young men, their faces often covered, carried Kalashnikov rifles and roamed the streets of Indian-administered Kashmir, demanding freedom from New Delhi.
The roots of the 1989 insurgency in Kashmir lay in a highly problematic history of electoral politics of Jammu and Kashmir. In 1987, Farooq Abdullah, son of Sheikh Abdullah and the leader of the National Conference, struck a deal with the Indian government led by Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi for the resumption of the electoral process in Indian-administered Kashmir. The election that followed resulted in an easy victory for Farooq Abdullah. The only problem was that a large part of the Kashmiri population deemed the voting to be rigged. By 1989, a huge number of Kashmiri youth had risen in anger to protest against what they considered an unrepresentative government. Many of them soon joined an insurgency against the Indian state.
India was quick to respond, deposing Farooq Abdullah, installing Jagmohan Malhotra as governor and deploying 700,000 military and paramilitary soldiers in Kashmir to counter the insurgency. The insurgents received immense support – militarily, diplomatically and financially – from Pakistan. The Pakistani military, particularly the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), was eager to take advantage of anti-Indian sentiments within Kashmir. Jihadi outfits, including the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LT), Hizbul Mujahideen and Harkat-ul-Ansar, were propped up to recruit young Kashmiri men, bring them into Pakistan for training and then send them back into Indian-administered Kashmir.
A generation of military officers and soldiers, working with these mujahideen, came of age espousing ideas for a global jihad in general and the one in Kashmir in particular.
These developments were taking place as democracy returned to Pakistan in 1988 after an 11-year hiatus and Benazir Bhutto became prime minister. But even though she headed a civilian government, the military establishment tenaciously held on to its influence, particularly on subjects such as Kashmir. Managing relations with India, thus, became a reflection of the conflicting tendencies in Pakistani politics. While the civilian government claimed to work towards a diplomatic solution to the Kashmir issue, the military ardently supported jihadist outfits. This was not lost on the Indian government which rightly considered Benazir Bhutto’s government vulnerable to pressure from the military.
It was only in January 1994 that the two sides finally agreed to resume their formal dialogue process as Pakistan’s foreign secretary presented a series of non-papers – so called because the positions stated therein are not considered official – to his Indian counterpart. These non-papers proposed “measures required to create a propitious climate for peaceful resolution of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute and other issues”. These measures ranged from finding the modalities for the holding of a plebiscite in Jammu and Kashmir to the resolution of other territorial conflicts such as Siachen and Sir Creek.
The Indian reply was dismissive: “India categorically states once again that Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India. The question or the need for conducting any plebiscite in any part of India including in the State of Jammu and Kashmir simply does not arise.” The Indian side also claimed that Pakistan had only restated its preconditions for talks through the non-papers. The stalemate thus persisted. In 1996, Farooq Abdullah once again formed a government in Indian-administered Kashmir with support from Congress. Meanwhile in Pakistan, Benazir Bhutto’s second government was toppled and Nawaz Sharif became prime minister, for the second time, in 1997. Amid all these changes, relations between India and Pakistan were following what by then had become a familiar pattern: talk of peace ran parallel to talk of war.
This pattern continued when Sharif met his Indian counterpart Atal Bihari Vajpayee in September 1998 in New York on the sidelines of the UNGA. The two sides reaffirmed their commitment to bilateral dialogue during the meeting. But when, a few days later, Sharif supported Kashmir’s right to independence during his address at the UN, his remarks elicited strong objections from New Delhi.

A Kashmiri woman being taken away in a police van | Mukhtar Khan, AP

His address marked two critical changes. For the first time, Pakistan supported a “third option” — of letting Kashmir become an independent state if it did not want to remain a part of India but also did not want to join Pakistan. As late as 1995, Benazir Bhutto had rejected the third option, arguing that “it would mean the Balkanization of both India and Pakistan, which was not in their interest”.
Secondly, both India and Pakistan became nuclear states by 1998 and their nuclear capabilities meant that the next war could lead to an unprecedented degree of destruction. The age-old question of Kashmir thus operated in a drastically new paradigm – to put it in the words of some American pundits and officials, the dispute over Kashmir became the world’s most dangerous nuclear flashpoint.
It was only after many years that India was willing to come back to the negotiating table. In a historic moment, Prime Minister Vajpayee travelled by bus to Lahore. The world applauded what appeared to be a significant breakthrough. But in the ultimate manifestation of Pakistan’s paradoxical and often parallel policies, the Pakistan Army started sending troops into Kargil on the Indian-controlled side of Kashmir, leading to the fourth India-Pakistan war.
The Kargil War was envisioned as a covert operation; which is why Pakistan initially stressed that an Indian assault was aimed at the Kashmiri mujahideen and that Pakistan had sent its troops to the border only in self-defence. But the massive retaliation by India – known as Operation Vijay – compelled Pakistan to seek American mediation for an immediate ceasefire. This showed India that it could neutralize a military attack by Pakistan, the latter’s nuclear capability notwithstanding.


Washington, February 2003
The American Secretary of State Colin Powell did not seem happy. In a meeting with Khurshid Kasuri, Pakistan’s foreign minister, he expressed concern over the continued infiltration across the Line of Control (LoC) in Kashmir. Summer was around the corner which would make movement across the LoC easier, pushing Pakistan and India towards the brink of another violent conflict. “We would have a real mess on our hands,” Powell told Kasuri. India and Pakistan, he insisted, would have to take “difficult decisions” were they to avoid war.

The American concerns were well founded. Pakistan and India had been on the precipice of a war in 2001/2002 following a terrorist attack on the Indian parliament. While the US had strengthened its relationship with India tremendously over the 1990s, a post-9/11 Pakistan was once again required as a key strategic ally in the War on Terror. America’s strategic interests in South Asia and the Middle East dictated that Washington did whatever it could to keep both India and Pakistan on its side and stop them from engaging in a war. Condoleezza Rice, Powell’s successor as the Secretary of State, informed Kasuri that “American regional interests were linked to stability in South Asia”.

In his recently published memoir, Neither a Hawk Nor a Dove, Kasuri credits the Bush administration with facilitating the peace process between India and Pakistan. Pressure from the US, Kasuri reveals, compelled President Pervez Musharraf to reign in a hawkish policy towards India and create conditions conducive for something extraordinary — a chance to settle the Kashmir dispute for all times to come.
Beginning in June 2004, India and Pakistan resumed their Composite Dialogue — a process of negotiations that requires simultaneous progress on eight contentious subjects including Kashmir, terrorism, water sharing, nuclear weapons and territorial disputes. In September that year, the two sides decided to set up a mechanism for holding back channel negotiations on Kashmir. Over the next couple of years, serving and former diplomats and officials from the two countries would hold secret meetings to come up with a formula for a negotiated settlement of the conflict. Publically, too, the two governments sought to mend relations and appeared happy with the progress they were making. Manmohan Singh, who became India’s prime minister in 2004, however, made it clear to Pakistan that the border in Kashmir could not be redrawn. It could be allowed to become “irrelevant”, though, by letting the Kashmiris travel across it with ease. This eventually led to the historic opening of the Muzaffarabad-Srinagar Bus Service in April 2005.
Meanwhile, local and foreign interlocutors agreed that Pakistan’s overtures for peace could only amount to something if its establishment agreed to unravel the infrastructure it had so meticulously constructed over the past decade and a half for an insurgency in Kashmir. Murmurs in 2005 and 2006 within Islamabad’s most powerful circles suggested that Musharraf was indeed considering that. While active infiltration into Kashmir decreased during and after those years, terrorist incidents elsewhere in India, such as the serial train bombings in Mumbai in July 2006, still haunted the bilateral negotiations. The terrorist attack which claimed over 200 lives led to severe criticism of Pakistan, and public support in India for the dialogue process plummeted rapidly. Pakistan’s official denial of any involvement in the attack as well as Musharraf’s insistence that Pakistan was no longer supporting terrorist outfits creating trouble in India did little to improve the situation.


Kashmiri leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq during a protest in Srinagar | Dar Yasin, AP

This is how an official Indian spokesman summed up the situation: “If Pakistan really wants to convince the people of India that we are working against terrorism then it can take some action immediately. For example, the self-styled chief of Hizbul Mujahideen, Syed Salahuddin … should be arrested and handed over to India.” The spokesman also called for an action against Jamaatud Dawa. “Instead of their saying that Jamaat-ud-Dawa is being kept under close watch, the organization should be banned and its leader should be arrested.” A few months later, Musharraf met Singh in Havana and the two sides agreed to set up a joint anti-terror mechanism.

In December 2006, Musharraf announced something unprecedented. Pakistan, he said, was willing to give up its claim on Kashmir should India agree to his four-point proposal which suggested that: (a) borders between Pakistan and India remain the same; (b) Kashmir be given autonomy but not independence; (c) a steady withdrawal of troops take place from both Indian and Pakistani administered parts of Kashmir and (d) a joint supervision mechanism be set up with representatives from India, Pakistan and Kashmir to ensure a smooth implementation of these proposals. Pakistan said it was even ready to take back its demand for a plebiscite if India was willing to negotiate on the proposals.

It remains a matter of conjecture if Musharraf was truly committed to a peace deal but the undemocratic nature of his regime allowed him to exhibit flexibility that a civilian government could not afford. At one stage, a bilateral agreement appeared extremely possible. “We were down to the commas,” Kasuri later told Steve Coll of the New York Times. While Pakistan insisted it had to take into account Kashmiris’ sentiment, the conspicuous absence of any Kashmiri representation in the process was hard to miss. After 60 years of going through political suppression, geographical and social divisions and wars, the Kashmiris were still largely absent from a negotiation table laid down to decide their destiny. It would appear that Pakistan and India were on the precipice of a “deal on Kashmir” when the peace process was thwarted by the political turmoil that engulfed Pakistan in 2007 and continued well into 2008.

On November 26, 2008, 10 young men launched a massive terrorist attack in Mumbai, leading to the killing of 164 people over a period of three days. India later claimed the attackers were members of the Pakistan-based LT. The attack would extinguish the prospects of an India-Pakistan peace for many years to come.


Photo by Dar Yasin, AP

Epilogue: Lahore, 2015
While driving on The Mall, one is likely to spot auto rickshaws carrying a certain poster on their backs proclaiming that Pakistan has the right to get Kashmir back from India. The poster also exhorts: “Pakistan can only survive if it keeps its ideology intact.” Together, the two slogans have long served as the bedrock of a state-driven national narrative that sees Islam and Kashmir as its twin foundation pillars.
The pursuit of Kashmir remains embedded in popular and official imagination as strongly as the perception that a nuclear Pakistan has a special status within the Muslim countries. Both these views were manifest – and with a lot of celebratory chest thumping – as Pakistan commemorated the 50th anniversary of the 1965 War with India – a war that Pakistan still claims it won. General Raheel Sharif, Chief of the Army Staff and arguably the most powerful man in the country, partook in the celebrations, announcing that “Kashmir remains the unfinished business of partition”.

Across the LoC, India’s grip on Kashmir has never been stronger. With half a million soldiers stationed there, Kashmir is the most densely militarized area in the world. And enjoying an across-the-board political support for counterinsurgency measures, Indian governments of different ideological persuasions have felt no qualms in perpetuating a reign of terror against the Kashmiri civilians found protesting on the streets.

Chauvinistic and jingoistic rhetoric and policies prevail in both India and Pakistan as far as their stances on Kashmir are concerned. The two governments keep assuring their electorate of the legitimacy of their position as well as their preparedness for war. The rest of the world, meanwhile, remains a faithful, but passive, audience to a Kashmiri spectacle, in which the same characters are condemned to perform the same acts with the same tragic outcomes.

Courtesy: The Pursuit of Kashmir by Zaib un Nisa Aziz; New York, September 30, 2015; Updated Feb 09, 2016. Research contributed by Saniya Masood and Shanze Fatima Rauf at the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) and Laila Hussain at the Herald


The Decision

The breach between de Gaulle and the men on the night of 16 June can be broken down into dissidence, followed by revolt and crowned by the proclamation of an alternative legitimacy. The first phase is negative. It is the refusal of any political or military agreement with the conquering and occupying Hitler. De Gaulle, eliminated politically, deprived of any army posting and the holder of a doubtful rank said “No” and went into exile  – a symbolic reaction to the intolerable. At that time he was still wondering about the extent and the meaning of his act. It was only gradually that the mission that he had assumed took shape. A shape that was determined by wills other than his own: he did not know who would come to join him, or take up a position superior to his.

The first phase of the decision, that of Bordeaux, the negative phase, the refusal to compromise, was itself spread over several days. On 9 June, when he saw Churchill and was able to weigh the Prime Minister’s strong determination against the collapsing morale of those about Reynaud, and when he acknowledged that Churchill was right to keep the RAF’s planes for the defence of Britain and not give them to de Gaulle and for the defence of France, he had already entered into spiritual dissidence.

The fact remains that by taking off from Bordeaux for London at 9 am on 17 June, Charles de Gaulle had, for all that matters, burnt his boats and defied the “order” on the capitulation that had been laid down. From that moment, as the forerunner of a movement or the leader of a rising, he had broken with formal legality, rejected the hierarchy and opened the case against the policy based on an armistice that was now and henceforth accepted by the Marshall. It was that moment of the decision which counted more than any of the rest. His hegira dates from the morning of June 17.

Charles de Gaulle was in Bordeaux. An isolated figure who had just learnt that power had escaped from his friend Reynaud’s hands and therefore from his own, and that the country’s future had been handed over to a leader, henceforward all powerful not only because of his glory of former days but even more because of his present humility. A power handed over not for action but for submission. De Gaulle had lost the game for the time being – for a long time being, and so, he thought, had France.

He had to see Paul Reynaud, who, now that he had handed President Lebrun his resignation, had withdrawn to his present solitude, while not far away Marshall Petain, the new head of the government presented his request for an armistice to his ministers; in twenty minutes they had approved it and that same night it was drawn up by Baudouin and sent to Madrid to be transmitted to Adolf Hitler.

I found him without any illusions about what the Marshall’s coming to power would entail and on the other hand he looked as though he had been relieved of an unbearable load. He gave me the impression of a man who had reached the limits of hope.’ Perhaps a mistaken impression. Other people who were present at the time certainly thought Reynaud was exhausted, but as they saw it he had not quite given up looking upon himself as a resource, sure as he was of the confidence of Jeanneney, Herriot and France’s allies- and with certainty that Hitler’s requirements would be unacceptable, so Petain’s move was doomed to failure.

When he refused Spears’ offer to take him back to London, Reynaud did so not only out of weariness or despair but because of the possibility of a recall, the prelude to a departure for North Africa.* In short, de Gaulle seeing him at the very moment he had just laid down the burden, saw in him no more than a broken man. But not broken to the point of not wishing to carry on the fight.

* a possibility that did not prevent him, some days later, from provisionally accepting Petain’s offer of the Washington embassy.

Reynaud approved of his companion’s decision to go to London, where perhaps he might join him one day. Churchill’s plane was there. From that point of view everything was clear. Yet still there were certain problems that had to be solved. Should he leave? Yes. But when?  With what means?  With whom?  By virtue of what “mission”. When? It was essential to leave tomorrow morning. Because the German army would be at the gates of Bordeaux in the next two or three days. Because London’s immense disappointment at the rejection of the offer of union, by Reynaud’s resignation and the cancellation of the Concarneau meeting must as matter of urgency by counterbalancing by striking mark of solidarity, if the alliance was to be saved. Lastly, because General de Gaulle’s personal position was far from secure.

Reynaud at once assured him that since he had secret funds at his disposal until the handing- over of power the next day, he would allot a sum that would deal with de Gaulle’s immediate expenses. Roland de Margerie was told to deal with matter immediately- and also, at the General’s request, to obtain passports for Yvonne de Gaulle and her daughters who were sheltering in Brittany that would allow them to enter Great Britain: they received them the next day.

To leave with whom? A little later that night de Gaulle gathered some of his people, less with the intention of getting them to go with him than of informing them of his decision. Two showed a certain inclination to leave: Jean Laurent promised to join him very soon in London, and gave him the keys o his Mayfair flat; Manor Chomel, posted to his department after having been his Chief of Staff in the 4th DCR for a fortnight, was persuaded not to go by the general himself, who reminded him of his duties towards his numerous family. The others seem to have been reserved, including the faithful Auburtin, whose conduct the general did not resent in the least. “I did not want to take a whole tribe along,” said de Gaulle at a later date.

As for the “mission” that de Gaulle was supposed to accomplish in Great Britain, it has been said that on 16 June Paul Reynaud was still charged with “carrying on current business” and he took it upon himself to draw an order meant for the traveller. The document has never been produced, either by de Gaulle, or by Reynaud, or by diplomatic archives. Although the first letter de Gaulle sent from London on 17 June had, as we shall see, the tone of an official telegram, it will be assumed that the general left for London without any order de mission.

Since it was the question of London and of a British plane, it was important to have at least the approbation of those who represented Britain on the spot. The general’s conversation with Paul Reynaud took place a little after 11 pm. At about midnight Charles de Gaulle called at the Hotel Montre, at which wine-importers had stayed for many years past: it was here that Ambassador Campbell and General Spears had taken up their quarters.

Edward Spears was seven years older than Charles de Gaulle; he belonged to the upper-middle class and was a regular soldier. He had been a liaison- officer with the French General Staff in 1917; this had brought him into contact with Petain, for whom he conceived a very great admiration. He was elected to Parliament as a Conservative at the end of the twenties and he became much attached to Churchill, to whom he was devoted. Like Churchill, he was well known as a Francophile, speaking French excellently and knowing everyone worth knowing in Paris and Nice. It has been uncharitably said that he “loved France as one loves foie gras“. This is unfair. He appreciated the art of living as it is understood in France; he moved about among the “right people”; he admired the Romanesque churches and the landscapes of the Midi. He loathed the left wing, trade unions and “Gallic anarchism”.

He conveyed de Gaulle to London and he thought that this gave him a right to the unalterable gratitude of Free France, which, for almost a year, he supported by his influence with Churchill, in a most devoted and efficacious manner. He never understood that the status thus acquired-and fully justified- did not give him all rights over those whom he had obliged. But the bitterness that these incidents left in the minds of Sir Edward and his wife, the American novelist Mary Borden, led them to express opinions on de Gaulle and Free France even more acid than those on Spears with which the Gaullist legend overflows.

Towards midnight, then, Charles de Gaulle was received at the hotel montre by Campbell and Spears, whom he told of his intention to reach England as soon as possible, using the plane that the prime minister had put at his disposal the day before. They made an appointment to meet at 7.30 am in the hall of the Hotel Normandy, where de Gaulle had at last found a room.

Meanwhile Spears made a last attempt at persuading Mandela to go to Britain too. The now ex- minister of the interior refused, saying that in time of national disaster a Jew, more than anyone, was required to stay on the country ‘s soil: it was with the Algerian departments as a base that he wanted to carry on with the war.*

* three days later, together with about thirty other parliamentarians, he went abroad the Massila, bound for Morocco, and there he was forced to see that at that shameful time a Jew did not even have the right to leave metropolitan France for the empire. He was arrested in Casablanca before being handed over to the Nazis, who first deported him and then delivered him to the Milice.

The next morning, then, a little after seven o’ clock, de Gaulle and Spears met outside the Hotel Normandy; Jean Laurent was also waiting there, with the money Paul Reynaud had promised- 100,000 francs, Free France’s first credit. Courcel also London bound was present as well; de Gaulle, now more than ever before, needed an associate who was a diplomat and who spoke English.

They drove on to in two cars, the one for the three travellers, the other for the baggage. The airfield was the scene of one of the most extraordinary states of disorder and confusion in this disintegrating war, an indescribable mass of people, something between scrap-metal fair and a gypsy encampment. If de Gaulle had been afraid that military security would seize him just as he was about to take off, the sight that met the three travellers’ eyes must have comforted him. The chaos was so great they could be sure of escaping in the little four seater biplane with the RAF colors, in which the British pilot had slept.

Thus on the evening of 17 June, he said to Jean Monnet, with whom he was staying in London, “There is no longer anything to be done in France. It is here that we shall work.” and when Mme Monnet asked him what mission he was engaged upon, he replied “I have not been sent on any mission, Madame. I am here to save the honour of France.” But on 18 June the “irrevocable words” were still limited to the military sphere. On the nineteenth, it is true; the second radio speech began the great denial of the Bordeaux government’s legitimacy. It was on 26 June, the day after the Armistice, when he sent Churchill a memorandum calling for the recognition of a French committee that was already a counter government, that the decision was really taken and formal legality defied: one destroys only that which one supersedes.

How could the youngest general in the French army have failed to bleed from his very depths at breaking with the rules, the affections and principles of a life devoted, at least in appearance, to “the prime strength of armies”, which is, as everyone knows, discipline. And how could this man in the prime of life and already marked out for the highest rank in the field have failed to suffer by breaking with the mangled body of the French army in the midst of a most horrible collapse, quitting the dismasted ship at the height of the storm? However harsh he may have been on the subject of Marshall Petain’s words and behaviour during those June days of 1940, he was also well aware that the demonstration of strict solidarity with the bewildered nation and the broken army and the determination to remain at their side had its grandeur and its necessity. It is not easy to renounce the bitterest task, that which also had to be accomplished on the soil of France.

On 17 June 1940 fate did not strike Charles de Gaulle with a thunderbolt and hurl him into an opposite course. On the collective and mythical level he bore a character that he had been shaping, armouring and sharpening for more than twenty years- the character of the superior man who is aware of his superiority, who does not hamper himself with any hierarchies but who on the contrary flies out against them. A character who believes himself to be so profoundly in tune with the national interest that he finds justification for each one of his actions and who does not consider any proceedings unworthy if they are of such a kind a to ensure the triumph of his arguments- the arguments being legitimate since he himself was legitimacy. A highly sensitive nationalist, a fighting patriot, a repressed theoretician, everything led him to refuse to admit defeat and to do so with the mocking serenity that the old Marshall brought to it. (“I told you so!”).

For Charles de Gaulle, June 1940 was less the revelation of the army’s bankruptcy- he had long since weighed it up and in its collapse he saw nothing but a consequence- than the deliquescence of the State. The sight of Reynaud reduced to impotence, to dubious shifts and to a resignation in favour of his worst opponents was, for de Gaulle, a most striking symbol of the downfall not of a man who retained his esteem but of the State itself. It s not only because those of Bordeaux had adopted a policy contrary to what he believed right for the honour and the interests of France that the Constable removed himself; it was also because he felt his life’s ideal gradually crumbling away beneath his feet, that is to say a State which expressed and which by the most varied paths and ideologies served the unchangeable, incorruptible French nation. Yet on a humbler level there was also this reply to one of his first companions in Britain, who asked him whether he refusal had been based more upon a feeling of honour or upon common sense: “Much simpler than that; I had the sight of treason there before my eyes, and in my heart a disgusted refusal to acknowledge its victory. That’s all”.

The passenger in Winston Churchill’s little biplane that was coming down over a London airfield that 17 June was a rebel, an insurgent in essence and constitution. But it was circumstances that were about to give this rebellion the meaning of a new legitimacy. Charles de Gaulle was to use the challenges and refusals that had permeated his career in the French state and the army to people his world and, for four years on end, to form the basis for a strategy of myths and words.

Like Chateaubriand he knew it was advisable ” to lead the French by dreams”. Like Bonaparte he was to learn ” to make plans out of the visions of his sleeping soldiers”. For four years the words coming out of London were to be the night-voice of the imaginary- that spiritual rebellion against reality which may also be reality’s pre figuration.


Excerpts from De Gaulle The Rebel by Jean Lacouture. Published in English 1990 by Collins Harvill, London. Translated from the French by Patrick O’Brian



Charles André Joseph Marie de Gaulle (22 November 1890 – 9 November 1970) was a French army officer and statesman. He was the leader of Free France (1940–44) and the head of the Provisional Government of the French Republic (1944–46). In 1958, he founded the Fifth Republic and was elected as the 18th President of France, a position he held until his resignation in 1969. He was the dominant figure of France during the Cold War era and his memory continues to influence French politics.

Born in Lille, he graduated from Saint-Cyr in 1912. He was a decorated officer of the First World War, wounded several times and later taken prisoner at Verdun. He tried to escape with a fellow prisoner but failed several times. After the war ended, he was released. During the interwar period, he advocated mobile armoured divisions. At the beginning of the Second World War, he led an armoured division which counterattacked the invading German army, before being appointed to the French Government as Under-Secretary for War. Refusing to accept his government’s armistice with Nazi Germany in 1940, de Gaulle exhorted the French population to resist occupation and to continue the fight against Axis powers in his Appeal of 18 June. He led a government in exile and the Free French Forces against the Axis. Despite frosty relations with Britain and especially the United States, he emerged as the undisputed leader of the French resistance. He became Head of the Provisional Government of the French Republic in June 1944, the interim government of France following its Liberation. As early as 1944, de Gaulle introduced a dirigist economic policy, which included substantial state-directed control over a capitalist economy. It contributed to thirty years of unprecedented growth.

Frustrated by the return of petty partisanship in the new Fourth Republic, he resigned in early 1946 but continued to be politically active as founder of the RPF party (Rassemblement du Peuple Français). He retired in the early 1950s and wrote his War Memoirs, which quickly became a classic of modern French literature. When the Algerian War was ripping apart the unstable Fourth Republic, the National Assembly brought him back to power during the May 1958 crisis. De Gaulle founded the Fifth Republic with a strong presidency, and he was elected in the latter role. He managed to keep France together while taking steps to end the war, much to the anger of the Pieds-Noirs (Frenchmen settled in Algeria) and the military; both previously had supported his return to power to maintain colonial rule. He granted independence to Algeria and progressively to other French colonies.

In the context of the Cold War, de Gaulle initiated his “Politics of Grandeur”, asserting that France as a major power should not rely on other countries, such as the US, for its national security and prosperity. To this end, de Gaulle pursued a policy of “national independence” which led him to withdraw from NATO’s military integrated command and to launch an independent nuclear development program that made France the fourth nuclear power. He restored cordial Franco-German relations to create a European counterweight between the Anglo-American and Soviet spheres of influence. However, he opposed any development of a supranational Europe, favouring a Europe of sovereign nations and twice vetoed Britain’s entry into the European Community. De Gaulle openly criticised the US intervention in Vietnam and the “exorbitant privilege” of the US dollar, and supported an independent Quebec. His antipathy towards Great Britain and Canada in his later years, including twice blocking accession of the UK to the European Union, generated considerable controversy.

Although re-elected President in 1965, in May 1968 he appeared likely to lose power amid widespread protests by students and workers but survived the crisis with backing from the Army and won an election with an increased majority in the Assembly. De Gaulle resigned in 1969 after losing a referendum in which he proposed more decentralization. He died a year later at his residence in Colombey-les-Deux-Églises, leaving his Presidential memoirs unfinished. Many French political parties and figures claim the Gaullist legacy.



Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill 1874-1965


At the end of the Great War the armies went home, and it was the attitudes and actions of these returning soldiers which created the world that went to war in 1939. Communists had conspicuously associated themselves with pacifism and anti-militarism. Returning soldiers despised the men who had stayed at home preaching against the war.

Despite its democratic government, a defeated Germany was convulsed in a series of localized revolutions as left-wing and right-wing political parties fought for power. There were violent uprisings in many German cities and for a few days Bavaria had a ‘Soviet Republic’. The government of this fragile republic saw its prime tasks as protecting the government from Communist takeover and keeping public order. To do this it came to terms with the highly organized veterans’ organization: most notably the Freikorps, a huge patchwork of small armies, illicitly armed and ready to fight all- comers. Such units were used as an armed frontier guard against Polish incursions and as a secret supplement to the army permitted by the peace treaty. In Russia Lenin had not waited for an end to hostilities before harnessing the energies of the soldiers to his Communist revolution. In Italy Benito Mussolini offered such men a uniformed Fascist state. But it was Adolf Hitler, in Germany who most skillfully designed a political party that could manipulate the ex-servicemen. The declared aims and intentions of the National Socialist German Workers’ party swept away their cynical disillusion with politics and transformed such veterans into ardent Nazis.

Entering politics, Hitler’s coarse regional accent and wartime lowly rank were appealing to thousands of ex-servicemen who heard their thoughts about war-profiteers and self- serving politicians voiced by a man with natural skills as an orator. The Nazis were fiercely xenophobic: Germany’s troubles were blamed on foreigners. Socialists and Communists owed their true allegiance to Moscow, the Nazis said. Capitalists were equally unpatriotic, for they used cheap overseas labour for their imported goods and sent their profits to foreign banks overseas. Hitler’s anti-Jewish tirades were well received in Bavaria, the Nazi party’s home, where both Lutheranism and the Catholic Church provide soil in which deep-rooted prejudice had flourished over hundreds of years.

Hitler was not the first politician to foment anti- Jewish hatreds for political ends. In 1887 an International Anti-Jewish Congress had been organized in Dresden. More such gatherings had taken place in Kassel and Bochum in 1886 and 1889. By 1895 anti- Semites were virtually a majority in Germany’s lower house, while in Vienna, Karl Lueger’s anti-Jewish Christian Socialists had 56 seats against 71 Liberals. In France the persecution of Captain Alfred Dreyfus revealed anti-Semitism no less deeply seated. A motion in the Senate that would have banned Jews from public service in France was defeated 268:208.

Hitler’s vaguely defined anti-Semitism enabled the small farmer to hate the bank to which he owed money, the small shopkeeper to hate the department store against which he competed. More intelligent Germans were convinced that these rabble- rousing simplifications were temporary measures. They firmly believed that once the Nazis turned their eyes away from Munich, Bavaria, to focus attention on the real seat of power in Berlin, such vicious anti-Semitism would tone down and fade away. These hopes that Hitler and his Nazis would become moderate and statesmanlike were illusory. Hatred of Jews was Hitler’s whole motivation. His campaign against Jews became more and more murderous and demented right up to the time of his death. He fanned ancient irrational fears of Jewish international conspiracies; this gave him the excuse to put peacetime Germany into a permanent state of emergency.


It has become convenient to think of the war as a confrontation between Adolf Hitler and Winston Churchill, but Britain’s leader in the years leading up to the war was Neville Chamberlain. Although very much in the minority, there are still those who say that Chamberlain was an astute statesman. They prefer to believe that Chamberlain, by appeasing Hitler and letting him march into Austria and then Czechoslovakia, gained time for Britain to rearm. There is nothing to support this contention.

By 1937 Hitler had provided Germany with formidable fighting forces. His troops had reoccupied the demilitarized Rhineland in open defiance of the peace treaty. In Britain there were no signs of a resolve to confront Germany. According to the foreign minister, Anthony Eden, the elder men of the cabinet were not convinced of the need to rearm. Chamberlain thought armaments were a wasteful form of expenditure and saw no reason to believe that war was bound to come. In the previous cabinet, Chamberlain had been Chancellor of the Exchequer. He knew how much a government’s popularity depended upon keeping income taxes low. Opposition politicians were certainly not demanding rearmament. Prominent churchmen and intellectuals said little about the persecution of German Jews, even though refugees brought ever more appalling stories of what was happening.

Chamberlain was concerned with his personal popularity and he spoke of it frequently. The welcoming crowds he saw on his visits to Munich and Rome were reassuring to him. Chamberlain’s ego led him to believe that his personal negotiations with Hitler were a statesmanlike contribution to world peace. In fact he did little but give way to Hitler’s bullying, and ratify and assist the aggressions he claimed to be stopping. In addition Chamberlain’s well publicized meetings with Hitler encouraged the more extreme Nazis while demoralizing the few influential Germans who opposed Hitler’s methods.

The persistent belief that war could be avoided by appeasement made Chamberlain reluctant to form an alliance with Stalin’s USSR. He and his colleagues shared a well merited distaste for Stalin’s violent and repressive empire, and yet an alliance with Russia-as the British chiefs of staff pointed out-might be the only practical way to stop Hitler. Many military men said that an alliance with the USSR would only be an encumbrance. Britain’s ambassador in Berlin added to Chamberlain’s confusion with a ridiculous warning that a British alliance with Russia would provoke Germany into an immediate war. (To prepare peacetime Germany for a war against Russia would have taken many months.) While Chamberlain vacillated it was Hitler who saw the advantages that a pact with Russia could provide. Hitler’s occupation of the Rhineland and then Austria had been welcomed by virtually the whole population of those German speaking regions. But the people of Czechoslovakia-apart from the vociferous Volksdeutschen who lived in the border regions- had no love for the Germans.

Within Czechoslovakia’s boundaries remained many of the old Empire’s munitions factories. With the newly minted Czech crown unwanted on the international money markets, the Czechs were pleased to find their armaments could be sold for hard currency. The new government strongly supported the armaments industry-Skoda at Plzen and Zbrojovka at Brno- and chemical plants too. Within a decade Czech arms salesmen had 10 per cent of the world arms market. The German army greedily eyed the Czech arsenals. Rightly so: tanks and guns of Czech design and manufacture were to serve that army throughout the war. Czechoslovakia’s production of aero engines and aircraft components was to prove even more important. Hitler’s claim to Czechoslovakia’s Sudetenland was based upon spurious complaints that the German community residents there were being harshly treated by the government in Prague. It was not true, but German newspapers manipulated by Goebbels, told the story the way the Nazis wanted it told. The Sudeten Germans lived in the borderlands, an area well fortified against German attack. The Czech stood firm and mobilized their army. Chamberlain convinced that Hitler was a rational individual with whom an agreement could be reached, offered to meet him. There were more fruitless meetings and for a time outsiders began to think that war was inevitable. Then at the last moment Chamberlain sent a secret message to Italy’s leader, Benito Mussolini asking him to intercede.

In September 1938 Hitler, Chamberlain, Mussolini and Daladier, the French PM, met in Munich to discuss Hitler’s claim. Hitler, Daladier and Chamberlain had no common language. Mussolini delighted in the fact that he could manage all their languages. Chamberlain came back from Munich waving the agreement, and a supplementary joint declaration renouncing war, and saying it meant peace for our time. The meeting was a futile attempt to preserve the dignity of France and Britain, while allowing Hitler to seize the Czech border regions. By occupying the fortified border the Germans rendered the rest of Czechoslovakia defence less. The only consolation for the Czechs, who were given no say about the dismemberment of their land, was that Britain and France guaranteed the new frontiers against unprovoked aggression. Germany was also asked to do so, but never did. Any last idea that Chamberlain, and his colleagues, were temporizing, permitting Hitler to march into Sudetenland to give Britain time to rearm, is refuted by Chamberlain himself. When after the Munich meeting, Lord Swinton ( one-time secretary of state for Air) said to Chamberlain: ‘I will support you, Prime Minister, provided that you are clear that you have been buying time  for rearmament,’ Chamberlain would have none of it. He took from his pocket the declaration that Hitler had so cynically signed and said: ‘But don’t you see, I have brought back peace.’

On 9 October 1938, only days after his triumph at Munich, Hitler made a speech at Saarbrucken in which he attacked the Western powers and forecast that soon warmongers would take control of Britain. It was a reference to Churchill and any others who objected to Chamberlain’s appeasement policy. In those days before worldwide electronic communications, such as satellite telephones, the role of an ambassador could be vital. It was unfortunate for all concerned that so many of the ambassadors involved were men of low calibre. America’s man in London was Joseph Kennedy, father of the future US President. He was rabidly anti-British and had long since decided (not without some reason) that Britain would not long survive a clash with Germany. The American ambassador in Paris was a man who saw Bolshevik conspiracies everywhere he looked. Britain’s cabinet had to depend upon Neville Henderson of whom William Shirer-an American journalist and historian who was at the time resident in Berlin- wrote as a footnote in his memories:

I have tried to be as objective as possible about Sir Neville Henderson, but it has been difficult. From the moment of his arrival in Berlin he struck me as being not only sympathetic to Nazism but to Nazism’s aims. The ambassador did not try to hide his personal approval of Hitler’s taking Austria and then Czechoslovakia- he seemed to loathe the Czechs as much as Hitler did.

By the end of 1938 the threat of war was giving the British government economic worries. In April that year Britain was holding a healthy reserve of £800 million in gold, but appearances were deceptive. The money belonged largely to foreigners seeking a safe haven for their funds. The threat of war and the fact that Britain seemed unready for it caused some £150 million in gold to move out of the country between April and September. Britain’s economy was not resilient enough to cope with such swings of fortune. The cost of the First World War was still a burden on the taxpayer; despite the fact that war debt to the United States was never paid. The Treasury had repeatedly warned that Britain could not afford to fight a major war lasting three years or more. The armed services all needed money and the government’s headache was made worse by the ever growing cost of modern armaments.

Having occupied the Sudetenland, Hitler encouraged Slovakia-a large section of the dismembered country- to demand autonomy. Nazi demands upon the Prague government became more and more outrageous:  Czechoslovakia must leave the League of Nations, reduce the size of its army, turn over part of its gold reserves to the Reichsbank, outlaw the Jews in line with the Nuremberg laws the Nazis had passed.

Inevitably, in March 1939, the Germans took over the whole of Czechoslovakia. Bohemia and Moravia were declared a German ‘protectorate’. Slovakia became a separate state. The newly acquired riches made Germany the greatest industrial power in the world after USA. All the Balkan nations, from Yugoslavia to Turkey, were equipped with Czech weapons. From this time onwards, all foreign powers using Czech armaments would depend upon Hitler’s good will for spare parts and replacements. Czech steel was so much better than Britain’s that during the Thirties Britain was importing Czech armoured plate for building its warships.

In London the news that German troops had driven into Czechoslovakia and occupied Prague came as a shock. Under the terms of the Munich Pact, it was time now for Britain to fight for the Czech borders. The cabinet looked to Lord Halifax, Chamberlain’s foreign secretary, for a reaction. He received the news calmly. Britain hadn’t guaranteed the Czechs against the exercise of moral pressure, explained Halifax. In the circumstances which had arisen, Britain’s guarantee had come to an end. Chamberlain agreed and blamed the Slovaks for wanting a separate state, what was what precipitated the risks, he said.

Yet despite these self-abasing reactions to it, the German occupation finally persuaded Chamberlain and his cabinet that Hitler might be seeking world domination. Chamberlain aired these thoughts in a speech. Now he began to look for allies who would actively oppose the next act of aggression. Britain’s foreign secretary was hardly the man to put backbone into Chamberlain. An intensely religious former viceroy of India, the first Earl of Halifax was an elitist of the old school, a snob who recoiled at any prospect of true democracy. As more and more was known of his behaviour, he was to emerge as the personification of appeasement. Halifax was prepared to go to extreme lengths to appease Hitler, even to giving Germany some African colonies. It was Halifax who tried to muzzle British newspapers which he thought too critical of the Nazis. It is certainly chilling to consider how near he came (in 1940) to getting the premiership instead of Churchill.

Any coalition to resist Hitler would have to include Poland’s formidable army and Romania’s oil wells. Both countries shared frontiers with Germany and were likely to be attacked, but the Poles and Romanians were not friends and didn’t want to be allies. Both felt closer in spirit to Germany than to Soviet Russia. Political creeds made it difficult to put together an agreement that included Russia with such anti-Communist governments as those of Spain, Portugal, Poland and Romania. The recurring problem was that countries with short-term fears of German military actions also had long term fears about Soviet Communism. The shape of Poland provided Hitler with an excuse for action. The Poland created after the First World War, with its ‘corridor’ through Germany to the sea, cut East Prussia away from the rest of Germany. Danzig (present- day Gdansk) was a coastal town on the corridor and the centre of the crisis. Largely German, it had been made a ‘free city’ under international control in the hope of avoiding such conflicts. In October 1938, even before his troops occupied Prague, Hitler was demanding that Danzig be incorporated into his Third Reich.

In March 1939 the British cabinet was receiving convincing reports that Hitler was planning to attack Poland. One came from America’s ambassador in Warsaw and was delivered by the abrasive Joseph Kennedy, the US ambassador in London. Another came via Ian Colvin, Berlin correspondent of the News Chronicle, who had just been expelled from Germany because of his continuing contacts with anti-Hitler groups. Colvin’s detailed report of German intentions was a mixture of hard secret information, inferences and wild exaggerations. Some of the material originated from General Franz Halder, chief of the army staff. It had been concocted by someone with access to Hitler’s 25 March directive to Brauchitsch, the Army C-in-C, and was given to Colvin in the hope of provoking resistance to Hitler’s aggressive plans. On 29 March Colvin took his story to the Foreign Office and was immediately asked to recount it first to Lord Halifax and then to Prime Minister Chamberlain, who decided that some sort of undertaking to aid Poland was needed while they continued to seek a coalition of anti-Hitler nations. An ‘ interim’ statement was cobbled together by 31 March. It simply said that in event of a threat to Poland which that country resisted by force, Britain would go to Poland’s support.The French Government have authorized me to make plain that they stand in the same position’, Chamberlain added, and a crowded House of Commons echoed with cheers at this more positive news. Chamberlain looked sick. A mortal illness had begun to take its grip on him, and he seemed not to understand the extent of his momentous undertaking.

Less than a week after Chamberlain’s momentous statement, news came that Italy- until this time regarded by Chamberlain as an opponent of German expansion- had invaded Albania, a small country that was in any case virtually an Italian mandate. The news sent ripples of alarm across Europe. In those days European governments were even more secretive than they are today, and rumours mushroomed in the darkness of official silence. Concerted attacks by the German and Italian dictators were expected any minute. The scaremongers said that war would start with bombing raids on London and Paris.

The attacks did not come, but during that winter of 1938-39 the mood in Britain changed. Ways ahead of politicians, the British public was starting to believe that war was inevitable. Few people anywhere in the world realized that Britain lacked the financial resources needed for a major war. Everyone assumed that Britain, with the backing of a vast empire, must be strong and rich enough to play policeman to the world. In any case a future war would be fought in France, which possessed the world’s most formidable army and the Maginot Line defenses.

Drafting civilians into the armed services was a painful step for the British. Compulsory military service had been used in the previous war, but it was very distasteful to them. Chamberlain was opposed to the draft because his predecessor had promised the voters that on no account would it come before the next election, and Chamberlain had repeated the promise. By 23 April 1939 cabinet and Treasury approval for some of the army’s urgent needs produced some money, but that was not the same as having equipment on hand. The list of urgently needed items that could not be simply be bought off the shelf makes chilling reading now that we can see how close Britain was to war. Tanks were in short supply: even guns had to be borrowed from the Indian army.

In response to questions raised by the British ambassador in Moscow the cabinet was astonished to receive on 18 April a long proposal from Maxim Litvinov, Stalin’s foreign minister. Litvinov, an urbane and widely travelled Jewish diplomat of long experience, had an English-born wife and was an advocate of stronger Soviet ties with Britain and France. Now he proposed a five-or ten-year military pact with Britain and France, providing for mutual assistance in the case of aggression by Germany.

The British cabinet was thrown into disarray by such plain language. The British guarantee to Poland had deliberately not mentioned Germany by name; wouldn’t a Russo-British agreement upset Hitler? Surely it would upset all the other East European countries threatened by Hitler. The Poles would scorn a Russo-British pact: they had already made it clear that they would not permit Red Army units to cross their frontier, even to help fight German invaders. What about the Baltic States? What about the United States and the Dominions? An agreement with the Soviets would bring change to just about every international relationship the British enjoyed.

The French government was ready to explore the Russian proposals, and try to form some form of words that would satisfy London, while Chamberlain was frightened that the news would leak and become known to the British voters. When he told the leaders of the Labour Party, he swore them to secrecy.

The Russian proposals challenged the intelligence and understanding of the men in the British cabinet. They consulted their army, navy and air force chiefs not once but twice. The military chiefs modified their views considerably for the second report but the cabinet ended up as baffled up as they ever were. In a private letter Chamberlain said he had ‘the most profound distrust of Russia’. As war drew closer, Lord Halifax summed up the dismal confusion of these men, to whom the British people looked for wisdom and leadership, with the words: ‘we ought to play for time.’

The British got deeper and deeper into a quagmire of words, producing counter- proposals which seemed ever more complex and unsatisfactory to Stalin. The Foreign Office mandarins realized that if they continued to leave Germany unnamed in their agreements, Britain could end up guaranteeing everyone in the world against everyone else. The Russians could see that the British were in no hurry and suspected that they were trying to keep the negotiations going ad infinitum. Stalin, who had traitors spying for him in the high levels of virtually every European government, became convinced that Britain and France would never fight anyone until they were directly attacked. He decided that Russia’s salvation might after all be a pact with his declared enemy, Nazi Germany.

Whether Hitler or Stalin was first in suggesting a non-aggression pact is still disputed. Before Hitler came to power, Germany had been a major buyer from the Soviet Union and was supplying almost half of their imports. Hitler’s doctrine and his noisy and vituperative propaganda had strangled that trade. Since then Hitler’s rearmament programme had drained the German economy so that in January 1939 every director of the Reichsbank had signed a warning memo to Hitler. The Germany economy was dangerously over extended and, for reasons both economic and political, it had become more and more difficult for Germany to get foreign credit. The Soviet Union on the other hand had never ceased to hint that a return to the volume of trade they had enjoyed with pre-Hitler Germany would suit them very well. It was this mutual need to trade that drew the two great powers together.

Perhaps Hitler’s calculations concerning the contribution that Austria and Czechoslovakia could make to the German economy lessened his enthusiasm for a pact with Stalin, for it was not until Good Friday 7 April that Joachim Von Ribbentrop, Germany’s foreign minister, told Peter Kleist, an expert on his personal staff, to make contact with Soviet diplomats and push for negotiations along. Within a few days Kleist was drinking tea with Georgi Astakhov, the bearded Soviet charge d affairs in Berlin, who had the rarely granted power to receive a foreigner and be alone with him. At the May Day parade in Moscow, Stalin gave his foreign minister a noticeably chilly reception. Ivy Litvinov, the Minister’s English-born wife said ‘damn that fool Chamberlain!’ and others capable of recognizing subtle fore tokens of Soviet foreign policy changes guessed that Stalin’s eyes were now turned towards Berlin.

The delegation of British and French negotiators the Allies sent to Moscow confirmed all Stalin’s fears. It lacked the sort of high ranking figure that the Russians thought appropriate. When Astakhov went to the Berlin Foreign Office to get the official answer about the Skoda exports he pointed out that Stalin’s new foreign minister, Vyacheslav Molotov, was also prime minister, second in power only to Stalin himself. Unlike his predecessor he was not a Jew, and this too was a signal to the Nazis. In fact he did have a Jewish wife, and this became a closely guarded secret. Molotov was a man of ‘outstanding ability and cold-blooded ruthlessness’ Churchill wrote in his war history. His appointment was a sign that from now on the Nazis were dealing with Stalin himself. The next sudden lurch in negotiations came when Ribbentrop told Hitler that the Soviets might be considering a military pact with the British and French. The Nazis had never got beyond discussing trade, and this development caused Ribbentrop to again bypass the usual channels by sending a personal representative to hurry things along. From now onward it was the Germans who pushed the talks forward urgently, and the Soviets who met most of their wishes. When Astakhov became suspicious of German motives he was recalled and put into prison, where he remained until he died in 1941. There was a good reason for German eagerness. The pact would have to be announced before a German invasion of Poland, and military action there would have to be complete before the winter rains started.

On 20 August Hitler sent a telegram to Stalin asking him to receive Foreign Minister Ribbentrop in Moscow. This direct personal appeal, and the way in which it recognized Stalin as head of state while technically he was only the secretary of the Communist party, arrived at exactly the right time. During that summer, for the second year, fighting had broken out between the Red Army and Japanese troops in the Far East. Stalin, like Hitler, feared a two-front war and to avoid it he was prepared to trust even Hitler.

Warnings about a forthcoming Hitler-Stalin pact, and the way in which the two dictators planned to slice Poland in two and gobble it up, were received in both London and Paris. General Karl Bodenschartz, a wartime comrade of Goring in the old Richthofen squadron and now his liaison officer at Hitler’s headquarters, disclosed an outline of the German plans to the French air attaché in Berlin, and to the Foreign Office in London. Dr Karl Goerdeler, one of the most active anti-Nazis, also sent warnings. The Foreign Office ignored them, preferring to believe that the stories were planted to spoil Britain’s negotiations with the Russians.

Hitler was confident that Molotov would sign a non-aggression pact with him. Indeed so certain was he that on 22 August, at his mountain home in Berchtesgaden, he briefed his military chiefs about the coming attack on Poland: ‘Our opponents [the French and the British] are little worms. I saw them in Munich . . . The victor is not asked afterwards whether or not he has told the truth . . . Close your hearts to pity. Proceed brutally . . . the stronger is in the right.’

On the following day the German-Soviet pact was signed in Moscow. In keeping with the devious and feudal nature of both powers, many of the pact’s most important clauses remained closely guarded secrets. Ribbentrop was reassured by the warm welcome he and his team received from the Russians. Like Chicago gangsters, Hitler and Stalin had split Eastern Europe into two spheres of influence in which each could do more or less as they liked. Stalin’s territory included the Baltic States and Finland, while Poland was to be invaded by both armies and divided down the middle. When the pact was announced Life magazine cabled the exiled Leon Trotsky, who had lost to Stalin in the struggle to inherit Lenin’s Russia, asking for his views. From Mexico City came a prescient reply: ‘[Stalin] sees clearly for a short distance, but on a historical scale he is blind. A shrewd tactician, he is not a strategist . . .’
Stalin honored the German-Soviet pact in a way that Hitler never did. Russian grain and oil soon began moving to Germany. So did iron- ore, manganese and cotton. All over the world, members of the Communist party ( many of them secret members) obediently changed their political opinions and switched activities to line up with the new pact.

Hitler had arranged everything for action against Poland with uncanny skill. He had become convinced that Britain and France would never fight him, and his demands on the Polish government were based upon that belief. Some historians say that Hitler did not look for concessions from the Poles; what he wanted was a short sharp war that would establish his military skills.

When he heard that a Stalin-Hitler pact was about to be ratified, Chamberlain summoned Parliament back from its summer recess. In a speech on 24 August he told the Commons: ‘I do not attempt to conceal from the House that that announcement came to the government as a surprise, and a surprise of a very unpleasant character’. Chamberlain described how an Anglo-French mission had been welcomed in Moscow on 11 August while the Soviets were actually conducting their secret talks with the Nazis.

The Germans had failed to appreciate that even Chamberlain could not be pushed for ever. The time had come to stand firm and, if need be, to fight. Yet Britain was not prepared enough, strong enough to fight; it was an insoluble dilemma. Chamberlain was worried about the way in which events had prompted a drain on gold reserves; £30 million was withdrawn in one day. Currency exchange control (to prevent anyone converting sterling to other currencies) was discussed, but the government contented itself with doubling the bank rate to 4 per cent and asking businessmen not to purchase foreign exchange or assets, nor move capital out of the country. Despite all his misgivings Chamberlain tried to make his position absolutely clear. To Hitler he wrote:

apparently the announcement of a German-Soviet Agreement is taken in some quarters in Berlin to indicate that intervention by Great Britain on behalf of Poland is no longer a contingency that need be reckoned with. No greater mistake could be made. Whatever may prove the nature of the German -Soviet Agreement, it cannot alter Great Britain’s obligation to Poland, which His Majesty’s Government have stated in public repeatedly and plainly and which they are determined to fulfil.
It has been alleged that if His Majesty’s Government had made their position more clear in 1914, the great catastrophe would have been avoided. Whether or not there is any force in that allegation, His Majesty’s Government are resolved that on this occasion there shall be no such tragic misunderstanding. If the need should arise they ate resolved and prepared to employ without delay all the forces at their command, and it is impossible to foresee the end of hostilities once engaged . . . I trust that Your Excellency will weigh with the utmost deliberation the considerations that I have put forward before you.

Even this did not persuade the Germans that Britain was determined to fight.

The German army invaded Poland in the early hours of Friday 1 September 1939. All through that day and the next London was pressing Paris to declare war. By Saturday afternoon rumours about more appeasement were being circulated.
On Sunday morning Chamberlain broadcast to the nation, telling them that war had begun and that ‘It is evil things that we shall be fighting against, brute force, bad faith, injustice, oppression and persecution’.
Winston Churchill appointed to be first lord of the Admiralty that Sunday morning, went with his wife to the Westminster apartment of his son-in- law, a stand up comic named Vic Oliver. They drank champagne and toasted ‘victory’, after which Churchill took a short nap and then went to the Admiralty to start work.

With conscription as a way of life, France entered the war with an army of 2.7 million men. Most of these were draftees or reservists. Their job was to defend France, and many were assigned to the subterranean fortresses of the Maginot Line, which were proving an uncomfortable and unhealthy environment. Neither draftees nor reservists were well trained or well equipped, and almost all were unhappy at their plight. In 1939 the Hotchkiss and Somua tanks used by the French army were as good as any in the world, and the 4.7-cm gun mounted on the Somua was better than anything the Germans had in use. The French tank force was equal to the Germans in numbers too. But the French generals did not agree on how to use this weapon. In 1939 they were still experimenting, not only with the constituents of the armoured division but also with the method of its deployment. They spread thinly, assigning them to scouting and reconnaissance duties, or gave them to infantry units. When in 1939 three real armoured divisions were formed, there was an overreaction and the high ratio of tanks made these units unwieldy and vulnerable. To form an effective armoured force it was vital to have the constituents mixed in right proportions.

The German armoured divisions were like very mobile miniature armies, incorporating infantry regiments, combat engineers, anti- tank guns (Pak), artillery and their own Flak. Such wheeled or tracked elements were able to react quickly to the changing situations that battle brings. Germany had ten such divisions ready for action in Poland.
France’s professional army was quite different to, and mostly separated from, the mass of drafted soldiers. The regulars were more likely to be stationed abroad in colonies, such as Africa or Indo-China, where careers were made. The officer corps was a small elite element of the population which did not consider it desirable that the army should distance itself from political ideas and political movements. Few officers thought the Socialist government that ruled France in the Thirties was in any way successful, and monarchists and extreme right wing organizations had sympathizers  in the highest ranks. Many officers thought that eventually the army would be compelled to take a more active part in the nation’s political life.

France was a divided nation where Fascists, Communists, Socialists and monarchists were numerous at all levels of society. Since the signing of the German-Soviet pact, in August, Moscow had been instructing Communists not to join the fight against Hitler. These differences of outlook meant that the French began hostilities without the sense of purpose that by this time had unified Britain to a remarkable degree. The French government went to war under pressure from Britain and with considerable misgiving. The National Assembly was not invited to vote on the matter of declaring war. Members were simply asked to vote credits to ‘fulfill our treaty obligations’ and no debate was permitted. Some leftists members who wanted to speak were silenced. As soon as the war was declared, political extremists, and some not very extreme opponents of the war, were taken into custody.

When war began France’s agreement with Poland called for substantial French military action in the west. This was an undertaking made by General Maurice Gamelin, the 68 year old commander-in-chief of the French army, whose influence in shaping his country’s foreign policy during the interwar years was disastrous. ‘Small, plump, slightly puffy, with his hair tinted, he might, but for the uniform, be an abbé, a fashionable abbé . . . He had virtually forbidden any discussion of motorization and mechanization of the army, by saying that all lectures and articles with such subjects must be submitted to authority. Although those in contact with him found him lacking in both intelligence and ‘guts’, the wider world rated him as a high-grade military expert. For this reason perhaps he had decided to manage without the aid of a proper staff.

March 1936, when Hitler occupied the Rhineland in defiance of the Versailles treaty, had been the time to confront the Nazis. Despite the fears expressed by the British government at that time, France’s Prime Minister Sarrault and Foreign Minister Flandin had urged Gamelin to eject the Germans, but he would not do so, explaining that Germany had 22 divisions on a war footing. In fact they had three. Afterwards, it was discovered that the Germans had orders to withdraw if they were opposed, and Eden’s memoirs said this was the act of appeasement he most regretted.

Gamelin decided what he wanted to do and invented the reasons afterwards. It was his low opinion of the Czechoslovak army that influenced the Allies to give way to Hitler at Munich. He told his political masters and the British too, that the ‘West Wall’-Germany’s concrete fortifications, which the British press, liked to call the ‘Siegfried Line’-would possibly halt him and force him to withdraw to his Maginot defenses. When asked about the strength of his army he boasted of what it could do, while artfully adding such alarming asides as ‘initially ( it) will be a modern version of the battle of Somme.’ It was enough to make the politicians sign anything Hitler gave them.

But when the next crisis came Gamelin expressed no such reservations about the Polish army. He thought it was formidable, and this had persuaded him to agree that in the event of war he would attack Germany three days after France’s mobilization. Such a two- front war was calculated to divide Germany’s effort and give the Poles a chance to defend themselves. And on 7 September 1939, eight divisions of the French army- including two motorized divisions and five tank battalions- moved forward into the region between the Maginot Line and the West Wall. The Germans pulled back, leaving unoccupied some 200 square kilometers of ground and about 50 German villages mined and extensively booby- trapped. Newspaper correspondents exulted, telling of great French victories and deep penetrations into Germany. Photographs and newsreel footage appeared to back up the claims. As September ended the ‘Saar offensive’ could be seen for what it really was: a propaganda exercise. The French withdrew having suffered 27 killed and 22 wounded and the loss of a number of aircraft. By the end of October both sides were back in the positions from which they had started. From what we know now of Gamelin’s spirit and mentality it seems not impossible that the ‘Saar offensive’ as staged to prove that the cautions he’d expressed to his government about going to war in aid of Czechoslovakia were correct.

Just one week into the war the British cabinet were told some harsh facts by the Chancellor of the Exchequer: Britain’s financial position was desperate; far worse than it had been in 1914. Her ally France was also far weaker in every respect and three other allies of that previous war- Russia, Italy and Japan-were now potential enemies. Britain’s total resources were about £700 million with little chance of adding to that figure. And, because the government had defaulted on its First World War debts to the United States, purchases there would in future have to be paid in cash. Surely no one in the cabinet room that day could have missed the implication: America’s entry into the war was the Allies only chance of salvation. And it would have to come very soon.
For two weeks the world watched the Germans smash their way into Poland. Then there came a grotesque finale as the Red Army occupies came rolling across Poland’s eastern frontier. It was clear to anyone who looked at a map that if Germany and Russia were friendly enough to mount a combined attack on Poland, they would be friendly enough for the German army to leave only a token force along that Polish frontier when they regrouped and came clubbing their way westwards.

For the first time, the new German army was seen in action, using techniques and weapons old and new. The Polish campaign was decided by the fact that the German army went to war by railway. The railheads near the border had to be the jumping-off points for the invaders. The armoured and motorized units that spearheaded the assault constituted only about one-sixth of the invading force; the rest of it was the same plodding horse- drawn German army that had fought in the previous war. Of the whole army only about 10 per cent had been equipped with wheels and tracks. Even this attempt to mechanize the army had been achieved only after 16,000 German civilians vehicles were commandeered in 1939.
Germany’s auto-industry was big but it never came near to supplying the quantity of vehicles needed. Neither was the quality good enough. Few, if any, German trucks were robust enough for military use. But in ‘lightning war’ such failures did not matter. By the time the hardware of war fell apart the enemy had surrendered.
The Germans used bases in Czechoslovakia to attack Poland from north and south, as well as from the west. Poland’s geography and the historic threat from both west and east, precluded effective defensive woks. Like the French, the Poles would not build any defence lines that relinquished large areas of the country to the enemy, and they tried to hold the Germans along the frontier. It was hoped that this would provide time for the country to mobilize its army and mount a counter-offensive, and for France and Britain to attack Germany from the west.

For the first time, the world saw the sort of opening air attacks that nowadays are the way in which most wars begin. German intelligence- both on the ground and by photo reconnaissance- had prepared the target lists, and hampered as they were by bad weather, the Luftwaffe managed to destroy much of the Polish air force in the first hours of war. Medium- range bombing attacks on Polish towns disrupted mobilization of the army. At the fighting front Stuka dive- bombers served as efficient artillery, for the Stukas training schools produced men able to get at least 50 per cent of their bombs within 25 metres of the target. (Stuka is an abbreviation of Sturzkampfflugzeug, a dive bomber. The name could be applied to any aircraft used in this role, but was often used to refer specifically to the Junkers Ju87.)

The Polish army and its air component, proved a dauntless opponent, but it was not equipped to fight a modern war. The Germans used armoured divisions to pierce the front. Following them, conventional armies converged to surround the Poles in two vast encirclements, one inside the other. It was the seventeenth day of the campaign when the second set of pincers met at Brest-Litovsk in the middle of eastern Poland. On the same day, the Red Army moved across Poland’s eastern frontier. The fighting continued but the war was decided.

The Germans, always ready to learn, studied their campaign. The supply of fuel and ammunition to the fast advancing units must be improved. Battalion and regimental commanders were urged to keep closer to the fighting men. Artillery must be pushed forward more quickly. The lighter tanks- the Mark Is and Mark IIs- had suffered 89 per cent and 83 per cent losses, bile the heavier ones-Mark IIIs and Mark IVs- had suffered only 26 per cent and 19 per cent casualties. The factories must shift to the production of heavier tanks.

In November 1939 Stalin, quick to utilize his allotted sphere of influence under the pact with Hitler, effectively took control of Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania. Faced with the demands for their territory, the Finns refused to fall in with Russia’s demands. On 30 November 1939 the Red Army attacked with five armies, against which the Finns put up stout resistance. Still smarting from the way in which Stalin had done deal with Hitler, the men in London and Paris impulsively offered aid to the Finns. Without consulting the British, the French Premier Daladier said he’d send 50,000 volunteers and 100 bombers to Finland via northern Norway and Sweden. Britain followed suite and said it would send 50 bombers. Landing at the (iron ore) port of Narvik, the troops would travel by railway through the mountains to the Sweden iron-ore region, and thus to Finland. Behind these altruistic offers there lurked a cynical plot. On the pretext of aiding the Finns, the Allies planned to seize neutral Sweden’s iron-ore fields and prevent them exporting to Germany. It is strange to record that the same Allied leaders who were frightened to attack Germany’s Western Front, and were forbidding their air forces to bomb German towns were planning to send soldiers and bombing planes to fight the Red Army and bring Russia into the war against them. Before this ill-conceived operation could begin, the Red Army, despite grievous casualties, broke through the Finnish fortified defenses. The Finns asked for a cease fire.

When the Germans marched into Denmark, resistance collapsed so quickly that it became the only occupied nation not to have a properly constituted government in exile. Norway was not so quickly conquered, but it was a German triumph nevertheless and one in which the German Luftwaffe played a vital role. Within six weeks the Germans had Norway. Like the Polish campaign, it was a victory largely attributable to the efficiency-and sometimes improvisation-of the German supply services. The most serious German setback was the German naval losses. Raeder recklessly committed his battleships Gneisenau and Scharnhorst to unnecessary forays in the north where both were seriously damaged and out of commission for many months. So the German navy found itself with only three cruisers and four destroyers fit for sea duty. Admiral Erich Raeder needed all the goodwill he could get from Hitler. His navy was now quite unfitted to support and protect a seaborne invasion of England.

The Anglo-French failure in Norway could not be glossed over. It caused considerable public disquiet, and Chamberlain’s Conservative government came under fierce attack even from its own supporters. There was a two-day debate about the debacle in Norway. The vote brought the government’s majority down from more than 200 to 81. The way in which so many of his own party had either voted against him or abstained was enough to convince even the egoistic Chamberlain that he could not remain as prime minister. The Labour party, which most people now thought should be represented in wartime government, refused in any circumstances to serve under Neville Chamberlain. Many thought his replacement would have to be Lord Halifax, and yet several people noticed that feeling in the House was veering towards Winston Churchill. Chamberlain, who had been the target of so much of this criticism, had no affection for Churchill. King George VI, who consistently tried to influence political decisions, declared Halifax to be his preference. Fellow Conservatives had no great love for Churchill, who had changed his political allegiance more than once, who had attacked them again and again with uncomfortably accurate warnings of the need for rearmament, and had in the end proved right. The Socialists had made him into their bogey man for using troops in the Welsh mining strikes of 1911, and for his role in the General Strike of 1926. Anyone no listened to the debate could see that many of the failures of the Norwegian campaign had been Churchill’s fault.

So why did Churchill get his position of ultimate power? His speech had proclaimed him his own man; endearingly loyal to the wretched Chamberlain, fiercely combative with his political opponents, ready to admit mistakes but bending his knee to no one. Certainly a large section of the British public thought a man who had, during the 1930s, constantly opposed Hitler, and had urged rearmament to stop him, must be the best ma now to confront him. But the opinions of the man in the street do not count for much in such a situation. It seems that Chamberlain favoured Churchill as the lesser of two evils. For him to say openly would have brought displeasure of his party, so he conspired to get Churchill into the job. Possibly Chamberlain hoped that Churchill’s tenure would be short, and he himself would return before long to number ten Downing Street. Some said that the cabinet seat, and the job as party chairman, that Churchill let Chamberlain keep was the offer that tipped the balance. Chamberlain’s remarks to his colleagues suggest that he knew that Churchill’s elevation to the premiership had been only a matter of time once war began. One recent history says Chamberlain feared that if Lord Halifax gained power he would immediately start armistice negotiations with Hitler.

There is plenty of evidence to support such allegations. Britain’s acute financial difficulties meant that continuing the war would involve going to the United States cap in hand. This was not a task that would appeal to Halifax, who had great doubts about the wisdom of continuing the war in any case. Winston Churchill never showed any doubts about confronting dictators of the left or the right. He championed individual freedom to the point of being a maverick. Having an American mother, the daughter of a tycoon, provided Winston with a realistic view of the disposition of power of the United States at a time when most of those around him were patronizing and smugly superior about that nation.

In 1900 Churchill embarked on the long and restless political career that was to bring him infinite joy and pain. He was elected to Parliament as a Conservative but four years later his beliefs in free trade took over to the Liberals, who in 1911 made him first lord of the Admiralty (a post he held again in 1939). His decision to keep the fleet mobilized after exercises in the summer of 1914 was an important one an widely applauded, but he took the blame for what proved a disastrous attempt to seize Turkey’s Gallipoli Peninsula in 1915. Some said his ideas had been changed too much for him to be the guilty party. But dejected and almost 40 years old, he resigned from office an went to serve as an infantry colonel on the Western Front. Later he had other important jobs, secretary for war and colonial secretary, before rejoining the Conservative party in 1922. They made him Chancellor of the Exchequer from 1824 until 1829. But after that his political past caught up with him and he became an obstinate outcast whose career seemed to have ended. All through his life he suffered from the bouts of melancholy but his capacity for reading, writing and working was undiminished.

Churchill’s restless political history, and radical ideas, had left him with powerful enemies and few friends. Yet in practical terms he was never an extremist: extremism was more likely to be revealed in his critics. As a Liberal minister in 1909 he’d attacked the gulf between rich and poor, and ‘the absence of any established minimum standard of life and comfort among the workers‘, and at the other end, ‘the swift increase in vulgar, joyless luxury’. In 1918 he demanded lenient terms for the defeated Germans. It was an extraordinary coincidence that Chamberlain’s enforced decision to step down should come at the same hour that the Germans attacked France and the Low Countries

With courtesy, excerpts from: Blood, Tears and Folly by Len Deighton. Published by Castle Books, Edison NJ,  1999.