5 Territories Strategically Annexed by India
Retired Ambassador of India to Georgia and Armenia, Mr Achal Malhotra recently said- ‘India can be said to be living in a dangerous neighbourhood…. The South Asian region is also full of contradictions, disparities and paradoxes. In the post-colonial period, South Asia has been a theater of bloody inter-state as well as civil wars; it has witnessed liberation movements, nuclear rivalry, military dictatorships and continues to suffer from insurgencies, religious fundamentalism and terrorism. Located in this volatile region (and notwithstanding some shortcomings) democracy and rule of law as instruments of political governance are well entrenched in India…. Transfer of power and annexing bordering territories have both been peaceful processes. Today, we explore that last claim a bit more by identifying the strategy India employed to gain control of its little neighbours.
Operation Polo (1948)
State of Hyderabad
After the partition, the Nizam of Hyderabad, Osman Ali Khan Asaf Jah VII decided that the princely state of Hyderabad will not join India or Pakistan. His decision found favour with Pakistan but not with India. The Nizam’s state was a prosperous one and had its own army, railway and airline network, postal system and radio network. On 15th August, 1947, India declared itself an independent nation. And so did Hyderabad.
Shocked by the idea of an independent Hyderabad right in the heart of India, Deputy PM Sardar Patel consulted with Lord Mountbatten and he suggested Patel to resolve the challenge without having to resort to force. India then decided to offer Hyderabad a Standstill Agreement, which assured that no military action will be taken against it. In June 1948, before leaving India, Mountbatten proposed the Heads of Agreement deal which gave Hyderabad the status of an autonomous dominion nation under India. The deal required the restriction of its armed forces and the adjourning of its voluntary forces. Hyderabad would be allowed to govern its territory, but its foreign affairs would be handled by the Indian Government. The deal was signed by India, but the Nizam refused. While these negotiations were being carried out, communal riots between Hindus and Muslims had broken out in Hyderabad. The state was also busy arming itself and was receiving arms from Pakistan and the Portuguese administration in Goa.
As soon as the Indian Government received information that Hyderabad was arming itself and planning to ally with Pakistan, India decided to annex Hyderabad.
The battle between India and Hyderabad began on 13th September 1948 and ended on 18th September after which the Nizam’s army surrendered to the Indian Army and Hyderabad became a part of India. This war which lasted five days resulted in loss of life and casualties and it is estimated that 32 were killed and 97 injured on the Indian side and 490 killed and 122 wounded on the Hyderabadi side.
Annexing Sikkim (1975)
At the time of Indian independence, the privileges that were enjoyed by the British Government in Sikkim passed over to the new independent regime of India. The then ruler, Tashi Namgyal, was successful in getting a special protectorate status for Sikkim in the face of stiff resistance from local parties of Sikkim who were pro-democracy and wanted accession of Sikkim to India. Sikkim was to be a tributary of India, in which India controlled its external defence, diplomacy and communication. A state council was established in 1955 to allow for constitutional government for the Chogyal, which was sustained until 1973. During the Sino-Indian War of 1962, although Sikkim was an independent country, skirmishes occurred at the Nathula Pass between Indian border guards and the Chinese soldiers. In 1963, Tashi Namgyal died of cancer and his son. Palden Thondup Namgyal ascended the throne. In 1964, Nehru passed away and his daughter, Indira Gandhi became Prime Minister in 1966. She saw the reigning Chogyal as a threat to India, especially after his American wife, Hope Cooke, published a journal article advocating a return of certain former Sikkimese properties. By 1973, internal tremors in the political setup of Sikkim led to a complete collapse of its administration. By 1974, Sikkim was transformed from a protectorate state to an associate state with Kazi Lendup Dorji as its first Chief Minister. The Sikkimese youth by this time saw Chogyal monarch as a symbol of tyranny. Indian reserve police were moved in and took control of the streets of Gangtok, after the Indian Army placed the palace of the Chogyal under siege and the borders were closed. The incumbent Chogyal tried in vain to abdicate power to the elected representatives on the condition that Sikkim should not be merged with India. When he failed, he fled to the US. On April 14, 1975, a referendum was held, in which Sikkim voted to merge with the union of India.
May political scientists call Sikkim’s assimilation into India a curious blend of politics and strategy, that laid the foundation for turning Sikkim into one of the most peaceful states of the country.
The control of Junagadh (1947)
Upon partition, the Indian government made efforts to persuade the Nawab of Junagadh, Muhammad Mahabat Khanji III, to accede to India but he remained firm. India even resorted to threatening consequences in case of denial. The Nawab however decided to accede to Pakistan, arguing Junagadh (that was surrounded on 3 sides by Indian mainland) joined Pakistan by sea. Jinnah approved and counter signed Junagadh’s instrument of accession on 15 September 1947. The Indian government tried to persuade the Nawab peacefully by sending its secretary V.P. Menon with the message to withdraw its accession to Pakistan. With accession complete, the Nawab passed on the responsibility on the government of Pakistan. While trying to resolve the issue with Pakistan, India closed all its borders to Junagadh and stopped the movement of goods, transport and postal articles. In view of worsening situation, the Nawab and his family left Junagadh and arrived in Karachi on 25 October 1947. With the situation becoming critical, the Chief Minister of Junagadh wrote to Pakistan. In a return telegram, the Nawab authorised Bhutto to act in the best interests of the Muslim population of Junagadh. He decided to consult with India and it was decided that the Indian Government should be requested to take over the administration of Junagadh to protect the lives of its citizens. In February, 1948, a plebiscite was held in which 99% of the predominantly Hindu population of Junagadh voted to join India. Here’s an alternate story.
Indian annexation of Dadra and Nagar Haveli (1961)
After Indian independence in 1947, pro-India activists in the Portuguese Indian provinces, as well as Indians from other places, proposed of removing Portuguese control of Goa, Daman, Diu, Dadra and Nagar Haveli and integrating them with India. By 1954, they occupied Daman and Diu and displaced Portugese rule. On 22 July 1954, The United Front of Goans attacked the police station of Dadra and hoisted the Indian flag and Dadra was declared a free territory. On 28 July some RSS volunteers got the Naroli police station officers to surrender. Thus Naroli was also liberated from Portugese rule. After Naroli had been captured, the Portuguese police, was concentrated at Silvassa. On being asked to surrender in Silvassa as well, the 150 police personnel fled to Khanvel. On being offered no resistance, the nationalists entered Silvassa on 2 August and declared the territory of Dadra and Nagar Haveli liberated. Between 1954 to 1961, the territory was administered by a body called the Varishta Panchayat of Free Dadra and Nagar Haveli. Finally in 1961, when Indian forces took over Goa, Daman, and Diu, Badlani was, for one day, designated the Prime Minister of Dadra and Nagar Haveli, so that, as Head of Government, he could sign an agreement with the Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru, and formally merge Dadra and Nagar Haveli with the Republic of India.
Operation Vijay (1961)
State of Goa
The 1961 Indian annexation of Goa , was an action by India’s armed forces that ended Portuguese rule in its Indian enclaves in 1961. The armed action, code named Operation Vijay by the Indian government, involved air, sea and land strikes for over 36 hours, and was a decisive victory for India, ending 451 years of Portuguese colonial rule in Goa. One of the problems vexing the Indian prime minister Jawarhalal Nehru in the 1950s was what to do about Goa. The situation began to come to a head in 1955 when a group of Goanese and Indian protesters staged a ‘liberation march’ in Goa and more than 20 of them were shot and killed.
He announced that Portuguese control of Goa could be tolerated no longer and instituted a blockade, which the Portuguese regime evaded by building an airport into which to fly supplies and by opening up trade with Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Portugese dictator, Antonio Salazar tried to drum up international support from world leaders. President Kennedy wrote to Nehru advising him not to use force and the Portuguese ambassador in London reminded the British government that under the terms of the Anglo-Portuguese alliance of 1899 it was obliged to come to Portugal’s assistance if any Portuguese colony was attacked.
There were more incidents and in November 1961 the Portuguese in Goa opened fire on Indian fishing boats. Nehru lost patience and mounted a military, naval and air attack on Goa using overwhelming force on December 17th. The Portuguese governor, who had at the most 3,000 men to oppose an Indian army of 30,000, blew up a few bridges to delay the invaders but his situation was plainly hopeless and he hoisted the white flag and surrendered. There had been almost no resistance and few casualties. The United States and the UK did not lift a finger to help Portugal in any practical way. Nor did anyone else.
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