On August 15, 2016 Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi made the usual Independence Day speech under the shadows of the imposing Red Fort, constructed by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan. Speaking from the ramparts of fort from where a vast empire was controlled in the seventeenth century, Modi sounded almost like the Mughal Emperor himself – almost like, but not quite the same. However, like Shah Jahan, Modi wanted to speak about Balochistan – the land where the Baloch, Brahui and Pashtun reside. Like Shah Jahan he wanted to lay a claim to it, but like Shah Jahan, who lost the territory irrevocably to the Safavids in 1638, Modi could not make a strong enough case.
Ever since Modi’s speech there has been a flurry of discussion on Indian media about the ‘accession’ of Kalat State and inclusion of Balochistan into Pakistan. Their logic is that since Pakistan disputes that the State of Jammu and Kashmir legally acceded to India, they could find an equivalence in Balochistan, which largely comprises the erstwhile state of Kalat – as that would give them a counterpoise to Pakistan and that can also be used to dampen Pakistan’s attempts to highlight human rights abuses in Indian-Occupied Kashmir. But they are sadly mistaken for various reasons. Balochistan is integral part of Pakistan following all historical and legal basis representing the will of people.
First, Kalat State was a princely state of India, just like all the other princely states and did not differ in status from others of similar rank. It is true that the last Khan of Kalat, Mir Ahmad Yar Khan disputed this appellation. He claimed that Kalat was a non-Indian state and so should be treated as such. His argument was based on two premises. One premise was that the treaty of 1876 with Kalat of the British Government of India promised to respect the ‘independence’ of Kalat. This, he argued, meant that Kalat was a different state. However, in doing so he conveniently forgot that similar provisions were made in treaties with other Indian states too where it was never disputed that they were an Indian state. Several treaties with the Marhatta states and Hyderabad, for example, refer to their ‘independence.’ Furthermore, the British Government of India clarified this in a note in 1941 stating: “Article 3 of the treaty of 1876, however, expressly saves the provisions of Article 3 of the Treaty of 1854, by which the Khan of Kalat bound himself, his heirs and successors, in all cases to act in subordinate cooperation with the British Government. Thus, the engagement of the British Government to respect the independence of Kalat must be read subject to Khan’s undertaking to act in subordinate cooperation with them, and the position thus arrived at does not differ materially from that reached in the treaties with various other Indian states…” Hence, this argument does not hold correct upon scrutiny.
The second argument put forth by the Khan for a different status was the fact that at the 1877 Durbar (assembly) the Khan of Kalat was treated as a non-Indian prince. This much is true. However, the full story of the 1877 Durbar reveals a rather significant development, which is always missed by Baloch nationalists and others. Lord Lytton, the Viceroy, reported to the Queen-Empress Victoria on Kalat that: “the Khan asked to have a banner given to him. It was explained to His Highness that banners were only given to Your Majesty’s feudatories, and that he, being an independent prince, could not receive one without compromising his independence”. He replied, “But I am a feudatory quite as loyal and obedient as any other. I don’t want to be an independent prince and I do want to have my banner like all the rest. Pray let me have it.” From this it is sufficiently clear that from henceforth the Khanate of Kalat was treated in the same way as the other Indian states, quite simply because the Khan begged the Viceroy for the same. Thus in 1877 the Khan of Kalat accepted paramountcy of the British Crown and became an Indian state. That is why in all the subsequent Durbars, 1903 and 1911, the Khan was treated exactly like an Indian prince without any protestation.
Secondly, Indian media has done mud-slinging on the fact that Pakistan recognized Kalat’s non-Indian status on August 11, 1947. This part is again true that the future Pakistan government did issue a communiqué on August 11, 1947 stating that: “The Government of Pakistan recognizes Kalat as an independent sovereign state in treaty relations with the British Government; with a status different from that of Indian states.” However, what these predjudiced critics do not realize is the legal implication of such a declaration. Succinctly, the British Government of India had leased certain territories – Quetta, Nasirabad, and Nushki, from the Kalat government at various times. With the lapse of paramountcy and the termination of treaties with all princely states, these areas would have automatically returned to Kalat State. However, since the government had spent millions of rupees on their development and as they were strategically very important, both the Pakistan and the British government did not want these areas to revert to Kalat. Now since the Khan had been arguing, without any success, about the different status of Kalat, the Government of Pakistan readily agreed to his definition since if Kalat were a non-Indian state then Pakistan would inherit the leases and they would not terminate. The Pakistan government agreed to this ‘since on August 15, 1947 all princely states would become independent states and so there would be no difference between say Kalat and Hyderabad or Junagarh from then onwards.’ Lord Mountbatten, the last Viceroy, understood this and noted to the Secretary of State for India: ‘it looks as though if the Khan of Kalat insists on his independent status it will cost him the leased territories including Quetta – a high price to pay for vanity.’ Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary, Ikramullah, also noted that the difference of status was only material before August 15, 1947 and said: ‘During his last visit the Khan was told quite clearly that the fact of independence was immaterial because according to our interpretation all states became independent and sovereign on the lapse of Paramountcy. Therefore, even if there was a difference in the position of Kalat in the pre-partition days... after the partition the position changed completely.’ One must note here that the Indians might be confused by this explanation as the Indian National Congress never accepted that the princely states would become completely independent on August 15, 1947, which these legally did, but the Muslim League always accepted this legal reality. Hence, mention of Kalat’s ‘different status’ after that date is immaterial.
Thirdly, the accession of Kalat to Pakistan is entirely legal. While it is true that the Khan of Kalat did not initially want to accede to Pakistan and wanted to continue with a separate existence, in the end he did sign the Instrument of Accession in favour of Pakistan on March 27, 1948. In fact, he was prompted into action not by any move of the Government of Pakistan but by a news report from All India Radio Delhi on the same day which alleged that Kalat had applied for accession to India. As a result, the Khan immediately signed the Instrument of Accession. The Khan explained himself: “My first reaction after hearing the news was that no time be lost to put an end to the false propaganda and to avoid and forestall the possibility of friction between the Moslem brethren in Kalat and Pakistan... It is therefore declared that from 9 p.m. on March 27 – the time when I heard the false news over the air, I forewith decided to accede to Pakistan and that whatever differences now exist between Kalat and Pakistan be placed in writing before Mr. Jinnah ... whose decision I shall accept.” Hence, the Khan’s immediate reason for accession was ironically India!
From the above, it is sufficiently clear that equating Kashmir and Kalat is simply wishful and posinous thinking. It is also clear that unless we understand the historical reality of Kalat – and by extension Balochistan, we cannot comprehend the situation. Kalat/Balochistan after its accession is an internal matter of Pakistan while Kashmir is an international dispute as its accession is contested. The Indian media’s attempts to muddy the waters by beating the dead horse of Kalat’s different status – which even the British Government of India categorically denied – shows sheer desperation to find a ‘Kashmir’ in Pakistan. They better look elsewhere.
The writer teaches at IT University Lahore and is the author of ‘A Princely Affair: The Accession and Integration of the Princely States of Pakistan, 1947-55.’
He tweets at @BangashYK.
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