Deccan Chronicle

Dinesh C. Sharma | How the Nizam of Hyderabad secretly plotted war with India

Deccan Chronicle.| Dinesh C. Sharma

Published on: December 1, 2022 | Updated on: December 1, 2022
File photo of Sardar Patel being welcomed by the Nizam of Hyderabad.

File photo of Sardar Patel being welcomed by the Nizam of Hyderabad.

India became independent on August 15, 1947, but the Nizam’s Dominion, Hyderabad, chose not to become a part of free India. With the departure of the British from India, the special relationship of paramountcy the British had with Hyderabad also had to end. After the British Crown terminated its ties with Hyderabad, the great question was what would happen to matters pertaining to communications, defence and external affairs in Hyderabad. To address this, Governor-General Lord Louis Mountbatten signed a Standstill Agreement with the Nizam on November 29, 1947. It was agreed that the arrangements relating to external affairs, defence and communications will be handled by India in the same way as by the British Crown.

The Nizam was allowed to appoint agent-generals in Delhi and London. India deputed K.M. Munshi as its agent-general in Hyderabad. The Standstill Agreement was to maintain the status quo till a permanent solution to the future of Hyderabad was found. The relations between India and Hyderabad soured and Hyderabad was integrated with the Union of India barely a year of the Standstill Agreement. The intervening period — from November 1947 to September 1948 — was used by the Nizam’s government to prepare for possible military action. Declassified documents of the central ministry of states (ministry of home affairs now) show that the Nizam’s government secretly sought military help from the British, violating the terms of the Standstill Agreement. The British helped through unofficial channels.

The Hyderabad forces lacked modern military ware and an air defence system. Hyderabad’s agent-general in London, Mir Nawaz Jung, was asked to procure wireless sets and dispatch them in a chartered plane in November 1947. He procured 52 radio transmitter sets and 18 battery chargers from Tropical Radio Equipment Company, in a transaction valued at £7,850. "The type of set selected by the (Hyderabad) home secretary is very hard to obtain as it was manufactured only for the requirements of the Allied Armies during the war. The company with their best efforts could only procure 34 unused sets," Jung cabled Hyderabad Prime Minister Mir Laik Ali. The equipment was inspected and tested by Major H.P. Pitt, a retired officer of the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineering Corps. A chartered plane, GAIHV, brought the wireless equipment from Bovingdon airfield to Hyderabad via Karachi on October 18, 1947.

In December 1947, Hyderabad reached out to retired air marshal, Sir Christopher Courtney, to "draw up a scheme for army transport, selection of aircraft, setting up a maintenance and repair workshop, recruitment of personnel and setting up of a proper training arrangement with suitable instructions". The British air ministry advised Courtney to avoid visiting Hyderabad as the Standstill Agreement was in force. Courtney suggested Hyderabad to inform the Government of India that it was merely seeking advice for an air transport scheme and training centre. Courtney drew up a scheme while in London.  R.M. Hoyes, director of the Paris-based European Aviation Company, was appointed air adviser to the Hyderabad forces and was paid an advance of £20,000. Gen. Syed Ahmed El-Edroos also visited London in late 1947 to meet military equipment suppliers.

The Government of India which was keeping a close eye on the situation got suspicious of planes landing in Hyderabad. An aircraft in which Hoyes was travelling to Hyderabad was held up in Cairo, apparently at the behest of the Government of India. Indians cabled the air ministry in London asking British-registered planes to make a halt either in Bombay or Ahmedabad while flying from Karachi to Hyderabad. Hoyes made some enquiries with Royal Air Force pilots to join the Hyderabad forces, about which Jung cabled Laik Ali a warning that such indiscreet acts "would embarrass the British government" and harm Hyderabad’s interest.

In January 1948, Jung was told to procure an armoured car for the Nizam and ship it to Bombay camouflaged as "property of one of our officers now returning" home from London. After making enquiries with agents dealing with war supplies, Jung informed Hyderabad that "there are no ex-German armoured protected cars available as Russians had taken them over. There may be one or two Humbers and Cadillacs in the British Zone used for transporting VIPs which will be suitable for the purpose for which the cars will be required in Hyderabad". The final choice was a Daimler armoured car costing £2,000.  In the end, all such preparations proved futile as the Hyderabad forces surrendered to the Indian Army when the military action eventually took place in September 1948.

About The Author

The writer a journalist and author based in New Delhi

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