When the British left India in 1947 the 500 odd Princely States were given the option of either joining India or Pakistan, or remaining independent. The Sardar had long been regarded as the Congress expert on the States problem and in the thirties, lie had led many a struggle against feudal autocracy in Kathiawar and elsewhere. ‘On his shoulder fell the task of integrating and democratizing those states which were lying within the territory of the Indian Union. The successful way in which tin Sardar handled this problem to the satisfaction of the Princes, their subjects and the people of India —belied the expectations of those sceptics who had predicted that the States will prove the stumbling block in the way of a stable Government in India, and earned the Sardar the title, “The Bismarck of India”.
It is the lesson of history that it was owing to her politically fragmented condition and our inability to make a united stand that India succumbed to successive waves of invaders. Our mutual conflicts, and internecine quarrels and jealousies have in the past been the cause of our downfall and our falling victims to foreign domination a number of, times. We cannot afford to fall into those errors or traps again. We are on the threshold of independence. It is true that we have not been able to preserve the unity of the country entirely unimpaired in the final stage. To the bitter disappointment and sorrow of many of us some parts have chosen to go out of India and to set up their own Government. But there can be no question that despite this separation, a fundamental homogeneity of culture and sentiment reinforced by the compulsive logic of mutual interests would continue to govern us. Much more would this be the case with that vast majority of States which, owing to their geographical contiguity and indissoluble ties, economic, cultural and political, must continue to maintain relations of mutual friendship and co-operation with the rest of India. The safety and preservation of these States as well as of India demand unity and mutual co-operation between its different parts.
When the British established their rule in India they evolved the doctrine of Paramountcy which established the supremacy of British interests. That doctrine, has remained undefined to this day, but in its exercise there has undoubtedly been more subordination than co-operation Outside the field of Paramountcy there has been a very wide scope in which relations between British India and the States have been regulated by enlightened mutual interests. Now that British rule is ending, the-demand has been made that the States should regain their independence.’ In so far as Paramountcy embodied the submission of States to foreign will. I have every sympathy with this demand, but I do not think it can be their desire to utilise this freedom from domination in a manner which is injurious to the common interest of India or which militates against the ultimate Paramountcy of popular interests and welfare or which might result in the abandonment of that mutually useful relationship that has developed between British India and Indian States during the last century. The States have already accepted the basic principle that for Defence, Foreign Affairs and Communications, they would come into the Indian Union. We ask no more of them than accession on .these three subjects in which the common interests of ‘the country are involved. In other matters we would scrupulously respect their autonomous existence.
This country with its institutions is the proud heritage of the people who inhabit it. It is an accident that some live in the States and some in British India, but all alike partake of its culture and character. We are all knit together by bonds of blood and feeling no less than of self-interest. None can segregate us into segments;” no impassable barriers can be set up between us. I suggest that it is therefore better for us to make laws sitting together as friends than to make treaties as aliens. I invite my friends the Rulers of States and their people, to the Councils of the Constituent Assembly in this spirit of friendliness and co-operation in a joint endeavour, inspired by common allegiance to our motherland for the common good of us all.
There appears a great deal of misunderstanding about the attitude’ of the Congress towards the States. I should like to make it clear that it is not the desire of the Congress to interfere in any manner whatever with the domestic affairs of the States. They are no enemies of the Princely Order, but, on the other hand, wish them and their people under this aegis allprosperity, contentment and happiness. Nor would it be my policy to conduct the relations with the States in any manner which savours of the domination of one over the other; if there would be any domination, it would be that of our mutual interests and welfare. We have no ulterior motive or selfish interests to serve.’ Our common objective should be to understand each other’s point of view and come to decisions acceptable to all and in the best interests of the country.
We are at a momentous stage in the history of India. By common endeavour we can raise the country to a new greatness while lack of unity will expose us to fresh calamities. I hope the Indian States will bear in mind that alternative to co-operation in the general interest is anarchy and chaos which will overwhelm great and small in a common ruin if we are unable to act together in the minimum of common tasks. Let not the future generation curse us for having had the opportunity but failed to turn it to our mutual advantage. Instead, let it be our proud privilege to leave a legacy of mutually beneficial relationship which would raise this Sacred Land to its proper place amongst the nations of the world and turn it into an abode of peace and prosperity.