Sovereign Bonds (And A Million Pound Question)

by Gautam Pemmaraju

Two weeks ago, India and Pakistan commemorated their 64th year of independence, and two weeks from now, 13th September will mark Operation Polo – the 1948 military action against independent Hyderabad by Indian armed forces deposing the defiant princely ruler, The Nizam, who had refused to accede to the newly formed Union of India.

37 I am reminded here of a most curious tale, the core of which remains a tripartite dispute that persists till date.

As Indian troops advanced on Hyderabad, the beleaguered independent militia of the Razakars put up a futile and foolhardy resistance while the Hyderabad State Force under the command of Major General Syed Ahmed El Edroos fell back. At the very same time, a delegation of the embattled state’s representatives, including the then finance and foreign minister Moin Nawaz Jung, were in Paris, desperately petitioning the UN Security Council in the hope of a cease-fire resolution. It was during this period, as the House of Asaf Jah, the dynasty that had ruled for seven generations, was about to fall, that Mir Nawaz Jung, the Agent General of Hyderabad stationed in London met Habib Ibramim Rahimtoola in the presence of Pakistan’s foreign minister Sir Mohammed Zafarullah Khan, at the latter’s house in Hampstead. The Hyderabad representative requested the Pakistani High Commissioner to accept a bank transfer of over a million pounds from an account in National Westminster Bank in his name.

As Mir Laik Ali, the last Dewan or Prime Minister of independent Hyderabad, writes in his account The Tragedy of Hyderabad (Karachi, 1962), the Security Council was to meet formally on the 20th of September 1948, but Sir Alexander Cadogan had agreed on “an urgent meeting” given the “rapidly deteriorating situation in Hyderabad”. In an archival film clip, Cadogan is seen opening the meeting by speaking of the two items on the agenda before the council: “one, the adoption of the agenda and two, communications from the government of Hyderabad to the security council”.

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