New Delhi—The diaries of Guy Liddell, then-deputy director general of MI5, reveal that the British intelligence services felt Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru was too weak to deal with the problems of independent India.
The British intelligence also felt a “Sikhistan” was imminent in the communal violence and chaos that followed the Partition of India and formation of Pakistan.
Gen. Reginald Savory, the last adjutant-general of British forces in India, in October 1947 briefed Liddell about his total belief that the Sikhs would soon form a “Sikhistan” in the newly-independent India.
“The Sikhs are already concentrating their forces and have been marching out of certain areas in formation, with advanced guards, rear guards and flank guards. They have rifles, sten guns and bren guns, and I believe a few mortars. He thinks that they will move eastwards in the direction of Delhi, reform and then launch an attack to recover what they consider to be their area. (He did not state exactly what this area was, but I imagine it would be centred on Amritsar),” Liddell wrote in his diary.
Even Savory expressed concern about the effectiveness of Nehru as the Prime Minister. “Nehru is considered to be too weak to deal with the Sikhs and Savoury would not be surprised to see him supplanted by Sardar Patel,” Liddell added.
The possibility of an imminent “Sikhistan” is again mentioned by Liddell with Philip Vickery, the last head of Indian Political Intelligence bureau in British India, who also felt that Sikhs could form a “Sikhistan.”
General Hastings Ismay, who served under last Indian viceroy and first governor-general Lord Mountbatten as chief of staff, also referred to “Sikhistan” as a strong possibility.
“The Sikhs had marched out to the frontier in an orderly fashion with all their goods and chattels, guarded by military forces. The probability was that when they reformed they would attempt to re-occupy their strongholds, and that Nehru would not be able to control them. They lacked, however, a strong leader,” Lord Ismay told Liddell.
Liddell and MI5 had a good relationship with T.G. Sanjevi Pillai, director of Intelligence Bureau in independent India, and even strongly protested against the proposed appointment of V.K. Krishna Menon as the first high commissioner of India in Britain, which was recommended by the viceroy, Lord Mountbatten, to India office in London in July, just weeks before the independence.
“He is a base intriguer and an undesirable from every point of view. I said that I thought we ought to oppose his appointment by every possible means,” Liddell wrote and documented the decision of a colleague, who was part of the Delhi Intelligence Bureau, to write against Menon’s appointment.
“He proposes to state what he believes to be full implications of this appointment and its full effect upon our future liaison,” Liddell wrote as Menon’s close ties with Communists had already made him a suspicious character in the eyes of the British intelligence services.
The MI5 faced a lot of trouble when Sanjevi Pillai visited London at the end of 1948. He was accompanied by his wife, a vegetarian, and the British intelligence agency had to scramble around to obtain eggs for her at the time of strict rationing in the country.