'Soldiers Fatigued': Advice From Army Chief Led Nehru to Agree to 1948 Pak Ceasefire, Says Report

The Guardian has reported on letters between General Sir Francis Robert Roy Bucher, India's last British army chief, and India's first PM Jawaharlal Nehru. The papers are classified in India.

New Delhi: Advice from his army commander-in-chief on fatigue among the armed forces prompted former prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru to agree to a ceasefire with Pakistan in 1948, The Guardian has reported.

The news outlet read correspondence from General Sir Francis Robert Roy Bucher, India’s last British army chief, who on November 28, 1948, told Nehru that soldiers need respite.

“Army personnel evince two weaknesses, lack of training in the junior leaders, tiredness and ennui in the other ranks … In brief, the army needs respite for leave, training, and vitalising,” Bucher wrote.

These letters are classified by the Narendra Modi government. The Guardian has earlier reported on the Modi government’s unwillingness to grant researchers access to these set of files relating to developments in Jammu and Kashmir during the years 1947 to 49 – the turbulent period before and after its accession to the Indian Union.

An RTI intervention by Venkatesh Nayak, who wrote on the papers for The Wire, to make them publicly accessible has not borne fruit yet.

The papers are, however, available at the National Army Museum in London.

The Guardian‘s latest report claims that Nehru had responded to Bucher’s note on soldiers’ fatigue with the concern that Pakistan may be planning an offensive and that it was building roads to advance positions.

On December 28, Bucher appeared assertive in reply to Nehru and said that the Indian army “Cannot take military action to stop every road-building operation by Pakistan” and suggested a “political approach to the problem.”

By January 1, 1949, the war had ended and Nehru had granted Jammu and Kashmir special status as a state.

The Modi government, often keen to blame Nehru for this decision, in 2019 unilaterally scrapped this special status and read down the Article 370 of the constitution, which granted it. Modi and his ministers often claim that they are on a path to correct the wrongs of Nehru regime.

Union home minister Amit Shah, a month after the 2019 Article 370 move, said at a public function, “In 1948, India went to United Nations. That was a Himalayan blunder. It was more than a Himalayan blunder.”