CMP(22) A reply on the Cabinet Mission Plan 1946 and India's Constitutional question
A.G.Noorani writes(Frontline, January 19 2008) about the Cabinet Mission Plan and its acceptance with reservations by Muslim League and Congress:
"There are two vital differences between the “reservations” made by the Muslim League and by the Congress. For Jinnah and the League, it was a climbdown from a sovereign Pakistan to a group within a federal India. For the Congress, it was a triumph. As H.M. Seervai wrote in his book Partition of India: Legend and Reality, “the Muslim League could not be expected to give up Pakistan ‘in sack cloth and ashes’; the reservations enabled the Muslim League to come down from its high perch of Pakistan”. The other difference is more pertinent.
Nehru said publicly that the groups would be wrecked. The Congress asserted a right not to work the Cabinet Mission’s Plan in order to secure its objectives but to “interpret” it as it wished. Jinnah claimed no such right. The Plan enabled a province to secede from the group in which it was placed, albeit, after the first general elections.
It had, however, no right to secede from the Union. The Congress rejected the grouping itself. But Jinnah did not assert he would secede, regardless of the terms of the Cabinet Mission’s Plan."
It is not accurate to say that acceptance of the Cabinet Mission Plan was a climbdown from a sovereign Pakistan to a group within a federal India and a triumph for the Congress. Jinnah did not surrender sovereignty of Pakistan, except on three subjects only, namely defence, foreign affairs and communications. Jinnah and the Muslim League stated that the Union would not be a Federal government as Congress envisaged but merely an agent of the Group Federations, dependent on the Groups for financing and decision-making on these three subjects .The Congress opined that a Union so restricted in powers would be unworkable and become the victim of intrigue by foreign powers.
However, the Plan not only restricted the Union to three subjects as Jinnah demanded, but also granted the Muslim League a communal veto over the almost three-times larger Congress majority in the Union Constituent Assembly, thereby empowering the League to restrict the Union’s scope as it wished. In contrast, the Congress failed to get included in the Plan, the Union subjects it wanted including fundamental rights and currency .
The Secretary of State termed Muslim League's demand, that the Union Constituent Assembly have no powers to alter Group or Provincial constitutions, as being 'clearly in accordance with our intentions'. This protected the League’s majority in two of the three Section Assemblies and amounted to granting sovereignty to Section Constituent Assemblies with respect to the Union Constituent Assembly on all subjects except defence, foreign affairs and communications.
In other words, compulsory grouping of Provinces in the Sections Constituent Assemblies B and C granted to the purely Muslim party, Muslim League, unimpeachable control over territories with 45% non-Muslim population including a non-Muslim majority province Assam. The Plan thus granted Muslim League sovereign control over regions and populations greatly in excess of what the party could have claimed on basis of Muslim self-determination and its two nation ideology of incompatibility between India’s 25% Muslim minority and Hindu majority. It is arguable whether such an arrangement was even politically sustainable.
Regarding the key Union subject impeding the full sovereignty of Pakistan, namely defence, one must note that Jinnah described the communal and ethnic composition of the Army as a strength vis-a-vis Pakistan. In November 1945 he said: "We can be strong with a Pakistan which has one of its zones in the west and one in the east of India…And do not forget that more than 55 per cent of the Indian Army comes from the Punjab and are mostly Muslims."[ It is also well to note what Viceroy Wavell wrote about the Interim Government in his journal on June 7 1946 - that Jinnah wanted "the Defence Portfolio for himself, and Foreign Affairs and Planning for two of his followers..]
Even had the exact letter of the Plan been implemented, it would have created a Union in which only half the number of Muslim members in Union Legislature (40 out of total of 292 members, assuming the same composition as the Union Constituent Assembly) could exert a communal veto over all of the Indian Union’s actions and decisions on foreign affairs and defence. Was such a scheme of veto by a smaller population and region over a larger population and region, on communal basis, sustainable in the long run or even desirable? It is doubtful whether the Congress could have reconciled its constituents to accept such a veto as the price of non-enforceable unity decreed by the Plan.
A simple majority vote by Muslim League in favour of secession from the Union in either or both the Section B and C Constituent Assemblies was perfectly feasible under the Plan and could not be prevented by either the Union Constituent Assembly or the Indian Army.
Hence, the Plan was neither a climbdown from sovereignty by Jinnah nor was it a triumph for Congress. The Plan offered the Muslim League a “higher perch” than the Pakistan it could claim on the basis of Muslim self-determination.
Not only that, the “reservations” expressed by the League and Jinnah were in fact, explicit statements of their “unalterable” intent to secede from the Union.
It is also not accurate to state that “Jinnah claimed no such right of interpretation of the Plan”. The League in its Resolution of acceptance on June 6, 1946, interpreted the Plan as providing “the right and opportunity of secession of Provinces or groups from the Union by implication” when in fact the Plan did not provide for any such secession from the Union.
The Congress had won legislative majorities in most provinces including N.W.F.P. and Assam on the electoral platform of a united India, and could be expected to oppose the compulsory grouping scheme, which Muslim League’s resolution declared, inherently formed the foundation of a fully sovereign Pakistan. Nehru told the Viceroy “It would be most unfortunate if the Muslim League did not enter the Constituent Assembly but he did not quite see what assurances could be given to them, they certainly could not be given an assurance of Pakistan.” Lord Pethick Lawrence also explained to Prime Minister Attlee, these reasons for Congress's refusal to endorse the compulsory grouping scheme.
In summary, by accepting the Cabinet Mission Plan, Jinnah and Muslim League did not surrender any substantial sovereignty to the Union; in contrast the Congress failed to get its demands for the federal centre accepted. Moreover, inspite of the Plan’s provisions, Jinnah explicitly asserted intent to secede; also, Muslim League did claim a right to interpret the Plan as granting the right of secession from the Union; and ultimately, Congress had ample reason to believe that the Plan was not politically sustainable and that the compulsory grouping scheme would result in a sovereign Pakistan.
The Transfer Of Power 1942-7, Volume VII, page 440.[CMP(11)]
Jinnah stated on May 6 1946 during the Simla Conference
"The only way to prevent complete partition was that Provinces should group themselves together by choice.They should set up constitution-making machinery which de facto would be sovereign though not de jure. These group constitution-making bodies would deal with all matters including the Provincial constitutions and excepting only the three subjects given to the Union. "
The Transfer Of Power 1942-7, Volume VII, page 508.[CMP(8)]
Jinnah stated on May 11, 1946 during the Simla Conference "that he could not agree to an arbitrator deciding on the question of the sovereignty of Pakistan. Subject to the whole picture, he was willing to agree to the sovereignty of Pakistan being delegated to a Union for the three subjects providing a Sovereign Pakistan was recognised in the form of a Group."
Jinnah's Speech at the Secret Session of the All India Muslim League Council, New Delhi, June 6 1946. 'Speeches, Statements and Messages of the Quaid-e-Azam', Vol IV, Khurshid Yusufi, Bazm-i-Iqbal, Lahore.[CMP(4)]
"The Groups should have power on all subjects except defence, communications and foreign affairs. But so far as defence is concerned, it would remain in the hands of the British till the new constitution was enforced. So they need not worry about it now. They would fight in the Constituent Assembly to restrict "Communications" to what was absolutely necessary for defence only."
 Second Simla Conference, May 5, 1946, The Transfer Of Power 1942-7, Volume VII, page 425[CMP(8A)]
The Muslim League said that the Congress President's letter accepting the invitation to the Conference contemplated not a Union but a Federal Government and it specified that Customs, Currency, Tariffs and other ancillary matters should be Central subjects. On the assumption that there were going to be two groups which would be Federations there should be a levy on the two Federations. The Union should submit to the Federations what amount is considered should be spent and the Federations must have a voice in the decision. The Union Government would be a sort of agency for the Federations.
 Second Simla Conference, May 5, 1946, The Transfer Of Power 1942-7, Volume VII, page 425 [CMP(8A)]
Mr. Jinnah said that the League considered that there should be no independent power of levying direct finance vested in the Union and that the Central Authority should not have power to levy unlimited amounts from the units by contribution. The Groups must have a check on any additional expenditure over an agreed sum. .. If the representatives of the two Groups were agreed in the Executive that they wanted more finance, there was no reason to think that the Group Legislatures would be unreasonable about it.
 Terms of the offer made by the Muslim League as a basis of agreements 12 May 1946. 'Speeches and Documents on the Indian Constitution 1921-1947', Selected by Sir Maurice Gwyer and A. Appadorai, OUP, Vol. II[CMP(2)]
The method of providing the Union with finance should also be left for decision of the joint meeting of the two constitution-making bodies, but in no event shall it be by means of taxation.
 The Transfer Of Power 1942-7, Volume VII, page 425[CMP(8A)]
It was essential there should be a legislative forum at the Centre and the necessary financial apparatus. The Centre must be strong and efficient though it might be limited. There was otherwise a danger that foreign powers might intrigue with the Groups.
 Terms of Offer made by the Indian National Congress as a basis of agreement, 12 May 1946 'Speeches and Documents on the Indian Constitution 1921-1947', Selected by Sir Maurice Gwyer and A. Appadorai, OUP, Vol. II[CMP(2)]
“The Constituent Assembly shall draw up a Constitution for the Federal Union. This shall consist of an all-India Federal Government and Legislature dealing with Foreign Affairs, Defence, Communications, Fundamental Rights, Currency, Customs and Planning as well as such other subjects as, on closer scrutiny, may be found to be intimately allied to them. The Federal Union will have necessary powers to obtain for itself the finances it requires for these subjects and the power to raise revenues in its own right. The Union must also have power to take remedial action in cases of breakdown of the Constitution and in grave public emergencies.”
The Transfer of Power 1942-7, Volume VIII, page 500[CMP(15)]
Lord Pethick Lawrence wrote to Prime Minister Attlee on 13 September 1946
"The Viceroy has reported that Liaquat Ali Khan in conversation with one of his staff said that the League wanted assurances..(c) that the Union Assembly would have no power to alter Group or Provincial constitutions except to prevent overlapping with the Union constitution, on the scope of which the Federal Court might decide.
(c) is a new point which is not specifically dealt with in the Statement of May 16th though it is clearly in accordance with our intentions."
Interview to a representative of the Associated Press of America, clarifying various aspects of Pakistan, Bombay, November 8, 1945,'Speeches, Statements and Messages of the Quaid-e-Azam', Vol. III, Khurshid Yusufi, Bazm-i-Iqbal, Lahore[Extra(1C)]
 Jinnah's Speech at the Secret Session of the All India Muslim League Council, New Delhi, June 6 1946. 'Speeches, Statements and Messages of the Quaid-e-Azam', Vol IV, Khurshid Yusufi, Bazm-i-Iqbal, Lahore. [CMP(4)]
"Acceptance of the Mission's proposal was not the end of their struggle for Pakistan. They should continue their struggle till Pakistan was achieved.".
 Resolution passed by the Council of the All-India Muslim League, 6 June 1946 'Speeches and Documents on the Indian Constitution 1921-1947', Selected by Sir Maurice Gwyer and A. Appadorai, OUP, Vol. II[CMP(4)]
"In order that there may be no manner of doubt in any quarter, the Council of the All-India Muslim League reiterates that the attainment of the goal of a complete sovereign Pakistan still remains the unalterable objective of the Muslims in India for the achievement of which they will, if necessary, employ every means in their power, and consider no sacrifice or suffering too great."
ibid.The Muslim League resolution of June 6 1946 stated[CMP(4)]:
"Muslim League is accepting the scheme, and will join the constitution-making body, and it will keep in view the opportunity and right of secession of Provinces or groups from the Union, which have been provided in the Mission's plan by implication. The ultimate attitude of the Muslim League will depend on the final outcome of the labours of the constitution-making body and the final shape of the Constitutions which may emerge from the deliberations of the body jointly and separately in its three Sections."
 The Transfer of Power 1942-7, Volume VIII, page 144, Viceroy Wavell's interview with Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru on 30th July 1946[CMP(14)]
The Transfer of Power 1942-7, Volume VIII, page 500[CMP(15)]
Lord Pethick Lawrence to Prime Minister Attlee on 13 September 1946.
"I feel convinced that there are two distinct reasons for the Congress adopting this idea. The first is their strong dislike of the whole idea of grouping as being a development which would facilitate a later creation of Pakistan by a Group, already closely integrated, breaking away from the Union.
This fear is not entirely without foundation since the Muslim League in their resolution of 6th June accepting the Statement of May 16th said that the League were willing to co-operate with the constitution-making machinery proposed in the interests of a peaceful solution and "inasmuch as the basis and foundation of Pakistan are inherent in the Mission's plan by virtue of compulsory grouping of the six Muslim Provinces in Section B and C", in the hope that it would ultimately result in the establishment of complete sovereign Pakistan.
Secondly, however, there is the objection vociferously raised by the Congress supporters in Assam and North-West Frontier Province that if the Provincial constitution is framed by majority vote of the Section the constitutions of those Provinces will be determined by the votes of Bengal, and of Sind and the Punjab respectively."
 Wavell, The Viceroy's Journal, Ed. Penderel Moon, June 7 1946.[CMP(12C)]
"At 7 p.m. I had an hour with Jinnah on the Interim Government. Not very successful. He said the League would only come in on the 5:5:2 formula, on which he claimed I had given him an assurance. I said that I had not, though it was the formula to which I was still working. He wanted the Defence Portfolio for himself, and Foreign Affairs and Planning for two of his followers."
CMP(1) - From Ayesha Jalal's 'The Sole Spokesman'
CMP(2) - Congress and Muslim League positions on 12 May 1946
CMP(3) - The Cabinet Mission Plan 16 May 1946
CMP(4) - Jinnah and ML responses to the CMP 22 May and June 6 1946
CMP(5) - Jinnah's meeting with Mission Delegation on 4 April 1946
CMP(6) - Jinnah's meeting with Missiion Delegation on 16 April 1946
CMP(7A) - Maulana Azad's meeting with Mission Delegation on 17 April 1946
CMP(7) - The Congress unease with parity 8-9 May 1946
CMP(7B) - Jinnah and Azad responses to preliminary proposals 8-9 May 1946
CMP(8A) - Simla Conference meetings on 5 May 1946 on the powers of the Union
CMP(8) - More exchanges on parity, Simla Conference meeting 11 May 1946
CMP(9) - Jinnah and Wyatt(1) on Pakistan and CMP, 8 Jan. and 25 May 1946
CMP(10) - Jinnah and Wyatt(2) on the interim government, 11 June 1946
CMP(11) - Congress opposition to grouping. Gandhi, Patel and Azad, May 1946
CMP(12) - Congress Working Committee resolutions, May-June 1946
CMP(12A) - Arguments over inclusion of a Congress Muslim, June 1946
CMP(12B) - Behind the scenes-Gandhi, June-July 1946
CMP(12C) - Behind the scenes-Jinnah, June-July 1946
CMP(13) - Jawaharlal Nehru's press conference on the Plan, 10 July 1946
CMP(14) - League rejected Plan, called Direct Action, July-August 1946
CMP(15) - Viceroy strong-arming Nehru, Gandhi on compulsory grouping, Pethick-Lawrence to Attlee, Aug -Sept 1946
CMP(16) - Intelligence assessment on Jinnah's options and threat of civil war, Sept. 1946
CMP(17) - League Boycott of the Constituent Assembly Dec. 1946
CMP(17A) - Congress "climbdown" on grouping and Jinnah's rejection, January 1947
CMP (A1) - Plain speaking from Sir Khizr Hayat, Abell on the Breakdown plan, Wavell
CMP(A2) - North West Frontier Province, Oct-Nov 1946 and Feb-March 1947
CMP(A3) - Bengal and Bihar, August - November 1946
CMP(A4) - Punjab, February - March 1947
CMP (18) - My take
CMP (19) - What did parity and communal veto mean in numbers?
CMP(20) - Another take -with links to reference material
CMP(21) - Mountbatten discussing CMP with Patel and Jinnah, 24-26 Apr 1947
CMP(22) - A reply on the Cabinet Mission Plan
Extra(1) - Jinnah's speech in March 1941 on independent sovereign Pakistan
Extra(1A) - Jinnah's Speeches and Statements from 1941-1942
Extra(1B) - Jinnah's Speeches and Statements from 1938-1940
Extra(1C) - Jinnah's speeches and Statements from 1943-45
Extra(2) - Gandhi-Jinnah talks in 1944 on defining Pakistan
Extra(3) - BR Ambedkar quoted from his book 'Pakistan or the Partition of India'
Extra(4) - Congress and Muslim parties' on the Communal question 1927-1931
Extra(4A) - Excerpts of Motilal Nehru Committee Report 1928
Extra(4B) - Nehru, Bose, Jinnah Correspondence 1937-38
Extra(5) - BR Ambedkar on Communal Representation 1909-1947
Extra(6) - Gandhiji's scheme of offering the Prime Ministership to Jinnah in 1947
Extra(6A) - Jinnah on Congress's offers of Prime Ministership 1940-43
Extra (6B) - Apr-Jul 1947 Negotiations on Pakistan between Mountbatten and Jinnah
Extra(7) - M.A.Jinnah and Maulana Azad on two nation theory
Extra(8) - On Separate electorates, Joint electorates and Reserved constituencies
Extra(9) - Links to cartoons on Indian constitutional parleys from the Daily Mail, UK, 1942 and 1946-1947, by L.G. Illingworth
Extra(10) -Nehru Report 1928 (10 MB pdf)
Extra(11) -Iqbal's letters to Jinnah, May-June 1937
Extra(12) -Jinnah, Linlithgow, Sikander Hayat, Pakistan rumblings 1942-43
Durga Das (1) 1919-1931, Jallianwala Bagh to Bhagat Singh
Durga Das (2) 1931-1936, Crescent Card: Jinnah in London to Fazli Husain in Punjab
Durga Das(3) 1937-1940, Provincial Autonomy to Jinnah gets the veto
Durga Das(4) 1940-1945, The War Years: India's War Effort-Pakistan on a platter
Durga Das(5) 1945-1947, The Cabinet Mission to Divide and Quit
1937-1940(2) Congress and Jinnah fall out in U.P., Jinnah's anti-Congress campaign and the Viceroy gives Jinnah a Veto: Ayesha Jalal, Sarvepalli Gopal and Stanley Wolpert
1937: Congress-Jinnah tussle over coalition government in U. P., M.J. Akbar
1937: Nehru, Jinnah and Coalition Governments, Bimal Prasad
1939-1940: India and the War, Anita Inder Singh
1945-1946: The Elections of 1945-46, Anita Inder Singh
1857-1938 Glimpses of British policy in Punjab: Ian Talbot and David Page
1930-1939 Congress Decline in Bengal, John Gallagher
Glendevon (1) 1937: Congress's Office Acceptance Saga over Governor's Powers
Glendevon (2) 1937-1940: Federation, Jinnah, Congress activism in Princely States
Glendevon (3) 1939-1942: Linlithgow, Congress, Jinnah,War-time Realignments
1939-1947: Jinnah and the Anglo-Muslim League Alliance, Narendra Singh Sarila
1944: Gandhi-Jinnah talks, Jaswant Singh
1899-1947: British Forward Policy(2)