“As you are all aware, on the lapse of Paramountcy every Indian State became a separate independent entity and our first task of consolidating about 550 States was on the basis of accession to the Indian Dominion on three subjects. Barring Hyderabad and Junagadh all the states which are contiguous to India acceded to Indian Dominion. Subsequently, Kashmir also came in…”
-Vallabhbhai Patel in 1948
India became independent on 15th August 1947; India then consisted of areas directly ruled by British, Princely States and some territories ruled by other European powers like French and Portuguese.
Post-independence and partition of India, question remained as to what happens to princely states and European colonies. Then home minister of India Sardar Patel and his secretary V.P. Menon were given task of integrating princely states with India. Many states like Travancore, Hyderabad, Kashmir and Bhopal wanted to remain independent, some like Junagarh wanted to join Pakistan etc.
Vallabhbhai Patel and V.P Menon did wonderful job of integrating more than 500 states with India using diplomacy and at times force. They did not hesitate to use force when required ex. in case of Kashmir and Hyderabad.
Recently a trend has emerged to criticise Nehru for not allowing Patel to handle Kashmir and his inability to handle Kashmir issue himself. They even accuse Nehru of sacrificing national interest for sake of international image. Their arguments are not correct.
Congress was clear in its policy towards princely states, any movement against ruler should come from local subjects, Congress may use diplomacy or force, but willingness of local people to integrate with India was vital and this helped in plebiscite, when locals voted for India.
Policy used by Nehru in case of Kashmir was no different. While some parts of Kashmir like Gilgit, Baltistan and Azad Kashmir went to Pakistan, Kashmir Valley under Sheikh Abdullah, Jammu and Ladakh became part of India. Next step was UN monitored plebiscite to decide future of entire Kashmir, while India was ready for it, Pakistan refused. Asking for UN monitored plebiscite shows confidence of Nehru in locals of J & K. Ironically after six decades Pakistan now reminds India of plebiscite.
When it came to annexation of Goa in 1961, his methods were not different from those of Sardar Patel (Patel died in 1950). At no stage was he an impractical idealist as he is portrayed. Local population of Goa was against Portuguese rule and wanted to integrate with India. When diplomatic talks failed, Nehru did not hesitate to use armed forces to annex Goa, though most of the western countries were supporting Portugal. Nehru did not care about international image when it came to national interest.
“With his invasion of Goa Prime Minister Nehru has done irreparable damage to India’s good name and to the principles of international morality.”
-New York Times 19th December 1961
“You spend the last fifteen years preaching morality to us, and then you go ahead and act the way any normal country would behave… People are saying, the preacher has been caught coming out of the brothel.”
-President Kennedy on annexation of Goa
Most interesting was reaction of Pakistan, who wanted UN monitored plebiscite in Goa, while they themselves refused to participate in UN monitored plebiscite in Kashmir.
“The forcible taking of Goa by India has demonstrated what we in Pakistan have never had any illusions about—that India would not hesitate to attack if it were in her interest to do so and if she felt that the other side was too weak to resist.”
– Pakistani President General Ayub Khan
Policy of India remained unchanged even in 1975 during prime ministership of Indira Gandhi, when people of Sikkim wanted to get rid of monarchy and integrate with India. Indian army disarmed guards of Chogyal (hereditary ruler of Sikkim) and plebiscite was held wherein in 97% of people voted in favour of joining India.