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Kashmir (Situation)

Volume 443: debated on Thursday 30 October 1947

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(by Private Notice) asked the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations whether he has any statement to make on the situation in Kashmir, and the relations of the Dominions of India and Pakistan?

According to the information I have received, some 2,000 armed raiders entered Kashmir, on or about the 22nd October; they took the Jhelum Valley road leading to Srinagar. It is alleged that they came in reprisal for attacks on Moslems in some parts of Kashmir reported by refugees. On 26th October, the Maharajah appealed to the Government of India for help, and asked for leave to accede to that Dominion. On 27th October His Highness was informed by the Governor General of India that his accession was accepted, subject to a reference to the people of Kashmir, when law and order had been restored. He was also informed that the Indian Government had decided to send Indian Army troops to assist in defence of the territory and people of Kashmir. I am not informed as to the exact strength or composition of the Indian forces which have in fact been sent to Kashmir.

There were about 325 British nationals in Kashmir when these events began: 200 of them elected to leave, and aircraft in accordance with arrangements which had been made were sent yesterday, 29th October, to bring them out. I trust that this operation has been successfully concluded. On 28th October the two Governments agreed that a conference should be held in Lahore, to which the Governors-General and the Prime Ministers of the two Dominions should be the delegates. Unfortunately, owing to the illness of Mr. Nehru, the conference had to be post- poned; it is now hoped that it may meet on Saturday. I cannot disguise from the House that the conference, when it meets, will have grave and urgent problems to resolve; I am sure that it is only by frank consultation at the highest level that a solution can be found. My right hon. Friend, the Prime Minister, has urged this on the Governments of India and Pakistan, and I am glad to say that both of them appear to share his view. Of course, responsibility in the matter rests with the Governments of the two Dominions and as the conference is, as we hope, about to meet, I think it would be better for me not to comment on the questions with which it will be called upon to deal. I am sure that the House will endorse the Government's earnest hope that the counsels of statesmanship and wisdom may prevail.

While not disputing the closing words of the right hon. Gentleman's reply, can we have his assurance that British officers will not be employed in combatant capacities on either side in this dispute?

Yes, Sir. I can give the right hon. Gentleman that assurance without reserve.