Debated on Wednesday 23 June 1948
House of Commons
(by Private Notice) asked the Prime Minister whether His Majesty’s Government have considered or will consider offering their services as mediator between India and Hyderabad.
The Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations
(Mr. Philip Noel-Baker)
I have been asked to reply. As the right hon. Gentleman is aware, a Standstill Agreement was concluded last November between the Government of India and the Government of His Exalted Highness the Nizam of Hyderabad. This Agreement regulates the relations between India and Hyderabad, and His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom have no information that leads them to think that it Toggle showing location ofColumn 1361has been brought to an end. It still remains our hope, therefore, that negotiations between India and Hyderabad will lead to a friendly settlement of outstanding differences. I do not think that the prospects of such a settlement would be improved by an offer to lend our good offices.
Does the Prime Minister remember the very precise pledges which he gave about this important State of 17 million or 18 million people, that they would have the right to choose whether they would accede to Pakistan or to Hindustan—or India—and that, if not, they could remain a separate Dominion of the Crown?
The right hon. Gentleman will not expect me to comment on the authoritative statement which my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister made last July, but if he looks at it he will see that the essence of what the Prime Minister said was that when these States regain their independence they remain in part of geographical India. He said:
“It would, I think, be unfortunate if, owing to the formal severance of their paramountcy relations with the Crown, they were to become islands cut off from the rest of India… It is the hope of His Majesty’s Government that all states will, in due course, find their appropriate place within one or other of the new Dominions within the British Commonwealth, but until the constitutions of the Dominions have been framed in such a way as to include the States as willing partners, there must necessarily be a less organic form of relationship between them, and there must be a period before a comprehensive system can be worked out.”—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th July, 1947; Vol. 439, c. 2451–2.]
Is that not a very unrepresentative form of the precise pledges which were given to this House, that the State of Hyderabad and, I may add, the State of Kashmir, should have the right to choose which of the two Dominions in India they would accede to or, if not, to remain outside and separate?
I think that the right hon. Gentleman will recognise that His Majesty’s Government now have no jurisdiction in this matter. India and Hyderabad have got to live together and we hope that they will settle this matter together by peaceful means. We have no reason to believe that that is impossible.
I was not asking about jurisdiction. I was asking about obligations.
We have no obligations at all in the matter. The right hon. Gentleman is quite wrong in thinking that. The question he put to me was whether we would offer our good offices. The purpose he has in mind is, of course, to get an agreed and peaceful settlement of the differences between India and Hyderabad. About that purpose the Government fully agree with him, but in our judgment it would not help to achieve it if we were now to make the offer which the right hon. Gentleman suggests.
Major Guy Lloyd
Is it not a fact that for several weeks past the late Governor-General of India has been using the utmost of his good offices on his own behalf, and on behalf of the policy of His Majesty’s Government, to bring about a happy settlement of this most difficult matter?
Perhaps the House will forgive me if I take this opportunity of saying that in my judgment the late Governor-General of India has rendered very great services both to the sub-Continent and to the world at large. But I must correct a misapprehension on the part of the hon. and gallant Member. The Governor-General did not act for His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom. He acted for the Government of India, of which he was the constitutional head.