Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Gandhi-Jinnah Talks 1944

The Gandhi-Jinnah Talks have eminent significance with regard to the political problems of India and the Pakistan Movement. The talks between the two great leaders of the Sub-continent began in response to the general public's desire for a settlement of Hindu-Muslim differences.

On July 17, 1944, Gandhi wrote a letter to Quaid-i-Azam in which he expressed his desire to meet him. Quaid-i-Azam asked the Muslim League for permission for this meeting. The League readily acquiesced.

The Gandhi-Jinnah talks began in Bombay on September 19, 1944, and lasted till the 24th of the month. The talks were held directly and via correspondence. Gandhi told Quaid-i-Azam that he had come in his personal capacity and was representing neither the Hindus nor the Congress.

Gandhi's real purpose behind these talks was to extract from Jinnah an admission that the whole proposition of Pakistan was absurd.

Quaid-i-Azam with M. K. Gandhi in Bombay, 1944
Quaid-i-Azam painstakingly explained the basis of the demand of Pakistan. "We maintain", he wrote to Gandhi, "that Muslims and Hindus are two major nations by any definition or test of a nation. We are a nation of a 100 million. We have our distinctive outlook on life and of life. By all the cannons of international law, we are a nation". He added that he was "convinced that the true welfare not only of the Muslims but of the rest of India lies in the division of India as proposed in the Lahore Resolution".

Gandhi on the other hand maintained that India was one nation and saw in the Pakistan Resolution "Nothing but ruin for the whole of India". "If, however, Pakistan had to be conceded, the areas in which the Muslims are in an absolute majority should be demarcated by a commission approved by both the Congress and the Muslim League. The wishes of the people of these areas will be obtained through referendum. These areas shall form a separate state as soon as possible after India is free from foreign domination. There shall be a treaty of separation which should also provide for the efficient and satisfactory administration of foreign affairs, defense, internal communication, custom and the like which must necessarily continue to be the matters of common interest between the contracting countries".

This meant, in effect, that power over the whole of India should first be transferred to Congress, which thereafter would allow Muslim majority areas that voted for separation to be constituted, not as independent sovereign state but as part of an Indian federation.

Gandhi contended that his offer gave the substance of the Lahore Resolution. Quaid-i-Azam did not agree to the proposal and the talks ended.

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