Bogra – Nehru Negotiations


Muhammad Ali Bogra became the Prime Minister of Pakistan in April 1953. He made an impassioned appeal to Pandit Nehru to settle all outstanding disputes between the two countries. Addressing the parliament he said, “I consider that the maintenance of peace and establishment of friendly relations between India and Pakistan are essential to the peace and stability of Asia”. He stressed the need for the settlement of Kashmir issue without which permanent peace or friendship in the Sub-continent was not possible.

Due to his efforts, the two Prime Ministers met informally in London in June 1953, on the occasion of the Commonwealth Prime Ministers Conference, and again the following month in Karachi. Muhammad Ali urged Nehru to realize the desirability of settling the Kashmir dispute, thus promoting friendly relations between the two countries. Nehru was ready to talk on everything, including philosophy and ethics, but not on Kashmir. Bogra seemed impressed by Nehru’s charm and started calling him “elder brother”, but as far as the Kashmir dispute was concerned, the progress was not nearer to any solution.

The Indian government had to face an uprising in Kashmir in 1953, which they crushed by force. This caused widespread anger and concern in Pakistan. Bogra dashed to New Delhi to confer with Nehru, who at first did not like the idea of meeting him, as “the affairs in Kashmir were no concern of Pakistan”. However, they finally met in August 1953. This resulted in a statement that stressed the following points:

  • It was their opinion that this dispute would be settled in accordance with the wishes of Kashmiris by a fair and impartial plebiscite.
  • The plebiscite administrator should be appointed by the end of April 1954.
  • The preliminary issues that had so far held up progress towards a plebiscite should be decided and actions in implementation thereof should be taken, and with this object in view, committees of military and other experts should be appointed to advise the two Prime Ministers.
  • Progress could only be made in this direction if there was an atmosphere of peace and cooperation between the two countries.

The Delhi meeting was followed by an exchange of letters between the two Prime Ministers. It is said that 27 letters and telegrams were exchanged between August 10, 1953, and September 21, 1954. However, in May 1954, the news of American military aid to Pakistan was published, which gave Pandit Nehru an excuse to go back on his commitments to hold a free vote in Kashmir. Muhammad Ali pointed out the strength of India, and the fact that India was spending three times as much as Pakistan on its armed forces. He warned that a war might engulf the entire Sub-continent. But Nehru’s objections to military aid to Pakistan dominated the correspondence and ultimately wrecked the direct talks with Bogra, which had started with great hope.

Muhammad Ali Bogra soon became convinced that all his efforts for a peaceful settlement of the Kashmir dispute were in vain. In his letter on September 21, 1954, he wrote, “It is with profound regret that I have been led to the conclusion that our talks regarding Kashmir have failed.” However he concluded his letter with the words, “I hope and pray that the conscience and wisdom of men may yet perceive the great injustice and dangers inherent in the continuance of this disastrous dispute.”

This article was last updated on Sunday, June 01, 2003