The Pakistani raiders were almost on the outskirts of Srinagar by 22 October 1947, and the Maharaja desperately sought help from India. Looking to the precarious situation, Sardar Patel proposed sending the Indian Army to J&K. However, Mountbatten insisted that unless the Instrument of Accession was signed by J&K in favour of India (the offer earlier refused by Nehru [Blunder#18], most likely at the instance of Mountbatten himself!), India should not send army to Kashmir, and Nehru concurred.

On Friday, 24 October 1947, the Pakistani raiders attacked the Mohore Power House causing black out in Srinagar. Defence Committee of India, headed by Mountbatten, met the next morning on Saturday, 25 October 1947, and rather than ordering action to save Srinagar, directed VP Menon, Sam Manekshaw and a few senior military officers to fly to Srinagar the same day to check the position first hand. This was actually a deliberate ploy of Mountbatten to pass time and not allow counter-action by India, and let Pakistan gain an upper hand by force, as the British desired—because Mountbatten would have known through the British C-in-C of Pakistan what Pakistan was up to. (C-in-C of both India and Pakistan were British!)

VP Menon and company flew to Srinagar and found the state of affairs to be worse than what was reported. They advised Maharaja Hari Singh to hurry to the safety of Jammu. Hari Singh drove the same night to Jammu, 200 kilometres away. MC Mahajan, the premier of J&K, VP Menon, Sam Manekshaw, and colleagues returned to Delhi from Srinagar early next morning on Sunday, 26 October 1947, and reported the desperate situation to the Defence Committee. They advised that it would not be possible to save Srinagar and its people unless the troops were immediately air-lifted. Even the Srinagar air-strip was in danger of being imminently occupied by the raiders, in which case even that only possibility of air-lifting troops would close.

Notwithstanding the desperate situation, and knowing that unless help was sent immediately, both the Kashmiri Muslims and the Pandits of Srinagar would be butchered by the Pakistani raiders, and the Valley of Kashmir would be lost to Pakistan, Mountbatten still insisted that the Instrument of Accession be first signed in favour of India. Nehru simply went along with his guru Mountbatten. It didn’t seem illegal to Mountbatten and Nehru that the raiders backed by the Pakistani army had invaded J&K, which had not signed any Instrument of Accession in Pakistan’s favour; but it seemed illegal to them to send Indian army help to save people getting looted, raped and butchered!

As desired, VP Menon flew to Jammu the same day—Sunday, 26 October 1947—to have the Instrument of Accession signed by Maharaja Hari Singh, which he did. The Instrument of Accession signed by Hari Singh on Sunday, 26 October 1947, and brought back by VP Menon, was accepted by Mountbatten on Monday, 27 October 1947. With the signing of the Instrument and its acceptance, J&K legally became a part of India, and it became incumbent upon India to defend its territory, and throw out the raiders.

In the Defence Committee meeting held on Monday, 27 October 1947 Sam Manekshaw apprised the members of the Military situation. He said the raiders were hardly seven to nine kilometres from Srinagar; and unless the troops were flown in immediately, Srinagar would be lost, because going by road would take days, and once the raiders got to the airport and Srinagar, it would not be possible to fly-in the troops. He further informed that everything was ready at the airport, and the troops could be immediately air-lifted, once the orders were issued.

However, Mountbatten—serving the pro-Pakistani British interests— tried to stall sending the Indian army, saying it was too late, raiders being already at the door of Srinagar. But, who made it late in the first place— Mountbatten himself! As usual, Nehru prevaricated.

Notably, even when the need for action became urgent, “Mountbatten threw his weight against any precipitate action, emphasising the need for further information,” writes C Dasgupta in his book, ‘War and Diplomacy in Kashmir 1947-48’. Even after further information was available through VP Menon and Sam Manekshaw, who had been specially flown to Srinagar for the purpose on 25 October 1947, and who advised urgent airlift of troops, Mountbatten showed reluctance. Writes Dasgupta “…the service chiefs [all British], supported by Mountbatten, sought to dissuade the ministers from an airlift on the grounds that it involved great risks and dangers.”

Sardar Patel finally intervened. Recounted Sam Manekshaw, who later became the first Field Marshal in the Indian army, in his interview with Prem Shankar Jha:
“At the morning meeting he [VP Menon/Patel] handed over the (Accession ) thing. Mountbatten turned around and said, ‘come on Manekji (He called me Manekji instead of Manekshaw), what is the military situation?’ I gave him the military situation, and told him that unless we flew in troops immediately, we would have lost Srinagar, because going by road would take days, and once the tribesmen got to the airport and Srinagar, we couldn’t fly troops in. Everything was ready at the airport. As usual Nehru talked about the United Nations, Russia, Africa, God almighty, everybody, until Sardar Patel lost his temper. He said, ‘Jawaharlal, do you want Kashmir, or do you want to give it away.’ He (Nehru) said, ‘Of course, I want Kashmir.’ Then he (Patel) said ‘Please give your orders.’ And before he could say anything Sardar Patel turned to me and said, ‘You have got your orders.’ I walked out, and we started flying in troops…”

It has also been reported that the J&K premier, Mehar Chand Mahajan, even threatened to proceed to Karachi and offer Kashmir to Jinnah, if India could not secure safety of the people of J&K. Despite tremendous practical difficulties, lack of preparation, and the short notice, the Indian Army rose to the occasion and chased the raiders out of the valley. It is worth factoring-in the fact that had the Indian army not reached Srinagar in time, there would have been a large scale massacre and mayhem by the Pakistani raiders in Srinagar and surrounding areas, which in turn would have had repercussions all over India. But, Mountbatten and the British didn’t seem to value Indian lives. British were serving pro-Pakistani British interests. But, Nehru? Had Sardar Patel not acted, and had it been left to Nehru and Mountbatten, the whole of Kashmir would have been lost to Pakistan, and the locals would have been butchered.

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