CMP(21)  Mountbatten discusses the Cabinet Mission Plan with Sardar Patel and M. A. Jinnah,  24-26 April 1947

Documents included
  • Viceroy Mountbatten's Personal Report  on talks with Liaquat Ali Khan, 24 April 1947 (excerpt)
  • Minutes of Viceroy  Mountbatten's Meeting with Sardar Patel, 25 April 1947 (full text)
  •  Sardar Patel's letter to  Viceroy Mountbatten, 26 April 1947 (full text)
  •  Viceroy Mountbatten's  Interview with M. A. Jinnah,  26 April 1947 (excerpt)

Viceroy Mountbatten made an effort to revive the Cabinet Mission Plan. The Congress and Muslim League positions had evolved a little since end-January 1947 -  Congress was willing to accept the Plan and the December 6 1946 statement of the British Government [CMP(17), CMP(17A)], while  Muslim League leaders were even more disinclined to accept  the Plan than before.

From The Transfer of Power 1942-7 Volume X The Mountbatten Viceroyalty, Formulation of a Plan, Eds. Nicholas Mansergh and Penderel Moon.

211 page 403(excerpt)
Viceroy's Personal Report No. 4                                                                                         
24 April 1947
18. I am naturally still doing everything in my power to get the Cabinet Mission plan accepted. But although the Congress have nominally accepted both the plan and the statement of the 6th December, Jinnah and the Muslim League leaders I have spoken to are convinced that the Congress have no intention whatever of complying with the spirit of the plan. They consider that Congress would merely use their permanent majority at the Centre to manipulate the army, to bring pressure to bear on Groups B and C where necessary and to manipulate the right to raise finance for the Centre to the detriment of the internal economy of Groups B and C. In evidence of this they draw attention to the Constituent Assembly decision that Customs must be dealt with by the Centre in view of their implications on external affairs.

19. Liaquat went so far as to say that it was providential that Congress had refused the Cabinet Mission plan during the time that the League had accepted it, since it was now clear that they intended to use the Cabinet Mission plan to obtain a permanent stranglehold over the predominantly Muslim groups.

20. I have already pointed out to Jinnah and the League leaders that there must be some form of Centre or Supreme Defence Council even if Pakistan comes about, and that this Centre will have to deal with practically the same subjects as the Centre envisaged in the Cabinet Mission plan; that is to say, over-all defence. So we come to the ridiculous situation where Jinnah in his insistence on Pakistan is likely to get a very truncated edition of it and still have to go to some form of Centre, instead of accepting complete autonomy over Groups B and C with a somewhat similar Centre. The real difference of course lies in the fact that in the former case there would be parity at the Centre and the League could not be outvoted. But it shows what value the League sets on this parity, since to obtain it they are prepared to sacrifice the richest plums of Pakistan.

216 page 423(full text)
Minutes of Viceroy's Eighth Miscellaneous Meeting, Item 2
Mountbatten Papers
25 April 1947
Those present at this Meeting held at The Viceroy's House, New Delhi on 25 April 1947 at 3 pm were : Rear-Admiral Viscount Mountbatten of Burma, Sardar Patel, Lord Ismay, Sir E. Mieville, Mr. Abell; Lieutenant-Colonel Erskine Crum (Secretariat)

HIS EXCELLENCY THE VICEROY said that nobody was a more ardent subscriber to the theory that India should remain completely united than he. If a full Central Government could not remain in power after the British had gone, he would like to see the Cabinet Mission's plan accepted. The last thing he wanted was any form of partition. However, Pandit Nehru and the other Congress leaders whom he had consulted had declared that they did not wish to embody any unwilling provinces (or parts of provinces), which, in the present state of affairs, might go to war rather than accept an united India.

SARDAR PATEL stated that it was a fundamental policy of Congress that there should be no coercion. But it was equally fundamental that they should not themselves be coercion[coerced].

HIS EXCELLENCY THE VICEROY then gave an outline of one of the plans then under consideration, whereby provinces would be given the choice of their own future. In discussion of this plan,  SARDAR PATEL made the point that, in the Punjab, Bengal and Assam, the answer to be given to the question of provincial partition would depend on the answers given elsewhere on the partition of India as a whole. For example, people would vote differently if they knew that there was going to be a Pakistan or if they knew there was not.

HIS EXCELLENCY THE VICEROY said that this difficulty could perhaps be got over by making those Provinces in which there was no question of partition vote first. Then those which might be partitioned would be able to see more clearly on what issues they were voting.

MR. ABELL expressed the view that voting in every Province would depend on decisions in others, and that it would therefore be difficult to lay down an absolutely fair system of priorities.

HIS EXCELLENCY THE VICEROY said that he had got the impression from several sources that Bengal, for economic reasons, wanted to remain as an entity. The Hindus' fear in this, however, was that they might be voted into Pakistan by a slight majority. SARDAR PATEL said that he believed that the feeling in Bengal among non-Muslims was that, whether there was Pakistan or not, they could not remain unless joint electorates were introduced.

HIS EXCELLENCY THE VICEROY asked what the attitude of the Muslim League to joint electorates was likely to be. For instance, Muslims were 57% of the total population of Bengal. Surely they would welcome joint electorates: If not, why not? MR. ABELL said that the Muslim League feared that Congress would put up Muslim candidates if joint electorates were introduced. SARDAR PATEL gave his opinion that the main objection of the Muslim League to joint electorates was because the Hindus were so much better organized. However, joint electorates could be easily arranged and an additional safeguard could be provided by the reservation of seats according to population.

HIS EXCELLENCY THE VICEROY asked what would happen if joint electorates were introduced in the Punjab. SARDAR PATEL said that it was quite possible that a Coalition Government would be set up.  HIS EXCELLENCY THE VICEROY remarked that the Muslims would jump at the idea of joint electorates if they had faith in them.

HIS EXCELLENCY THE VICEROY said that, if the Working Committees of the Muslim League and Congress agreed that joint electorates should be set up, this fact might be included in the announcement.

SARDAR PATEL said that the people in Eastern Bengal were very poor. The only industry there was the growing of jute. Both Hindus and British had exploited them. There were no Muslim factories in that part and the people would either have to build jute factories or deal with Calcutta. They could not afford to wait.

HIS EXCELLENCY THE VICEROY said that he had received several reports that the Sikhs intended to fight a war of revenge as soon as the British left India.

SARDAR PATEL said that there were 100 Sikh girls in the possession of the Muslims in Western Punjab. HIS EXCELLENCY THE VICEROY said that he would speak to the Governor the Punjab about this. He asked what was the object of forcible conversions. SARDAR PATEL said that it was impossible for him to answer this because he had no idea of the Muslim mentality. They might be the result of religious fanaticism or, partly, of efforts to increase the Muslim population. He said that 95% of the Muslims in India were converts from Hinduism and 80%  were forcible converts-although they had in some cases been enforced by the old rules of Hindu society. There was no question of forcing or trying to persuade people to convert to the Hindu religion.

SARDAR PATEL said he thought that His Majesty's Government had got the idea that Mr. Jinnah could still be induced to accept the Cabinet Mission's plan. He gave his opinion that the main result of the statement of 20th February had been a race to capture the different Provinces. He said that in attacking the economic cohesion of India the Muslim League were in fact only attacking themselves.
HIS EXCELLENCY THE VICEROY said that Mr. Jinnah had explained to him his reasons for not accepting the Cabinet Mission's plan. He had said that it could be worked only in a state of mutual trust and co-operation, which was impossible at the moment.

SARDAR PATEL then went through the whole history, at very considerable length, from his own point of view, of the refusals to accept, the acceptances of, and the withdrawals of acceptances of the Cabinet Mission plan. He said that Congress were ready to accept the Cabinet Mission Plan even now with no reservations, including the statement of 6th December. However, on this point he insisted that Sir Stafford Cripps and Lord Pethick-Lawrence had stated in the Houses of Parliament that the Muslim League could not deliberately frame a Constitution in Group 'C', which would make it impossible for Assam to opt out. HIS EXCELLENCY THE VICEROY pointed out that this was not clear in the statement of 6th December. He said that he would look up the record of the Parliamentary Debates concerned.

During his description of negotiations the previous year, SARDAR PATEL implied accusations against Mr. Abell of being biased in favour of the Muslim League. He said that he had called Mr. Abell to his face "the Secretary of the Muslim League". Later he unreservedly withdrew these accusations, and expressed the view that the desire to be fair-minded was apt to result in pressure on both Congress and the Muslim League, both of which were apt to resent it.

SARDAR PATEL said that he understood that the Viceroy had offered Mr. Jinnah a greater degree of parity in the Interim Government if he accepted the Cabinet Mission's statement. HIS EXCELLENCY THE VICEROY said that this was not the case. He had made no such offers to Mr. Jinnah. However, the latter had told him that the basic reason for his non-acceptance of the Cabinet Mission's plan was his fear of Congress domination, by majority vote, on the reserved subjects. HIS EXCELLENCY THE VICEROY suggested that a possible compromise might be that all major questions in the Cabinet should be settled by a majority of each party, voting separately.

SARDAR PATEL said that this procedure would be impossible to work if, as at present, every honest act suggested by the Hindus was taken by the Muslims as directed against them.  He further pointed out that it could, however, be introduced by legislation of the existing Constituent Assembly if  the Muslim League would join it.

HIS EXCELLENCY THE VICEROY said that he intended to point out this to Mr. Jinnah.

SARDAR PATEL then made the following statements:-
(a) Congress would not accept any suggestion for a further degree of parity in the present Central Government.
(b) If the Muslim League did not accept the Cabinet Mission's plan, Congress desired partition.
(c) Congress had reached the maximum limit of their concessions.

HIS EXCELLENCY THE VICEROY said that Mr. Jinnah had requested him not, at the proposed meeting of Indian Leaders, to ask him to accept the Cabinet Mission's plan. SARDAR PATEL said, "All right, don't ask him." HIS EXCELLENCY THE VICEROY pointed out that history would judge very harshly of him if he did not. SARDAR PATEL said that history had already exonerated the British, since their statement of 20th February.

HIS EXCELLENCY THE VICEROY  said that he would consider asking the question of Mr. Jinnah and Mr. Liaquat Ali Khan separately, and  not before the full meeting.

(i) Invited C.V.S to consider introducing into the time-table of events a provision by whereby those Provinces in which provincial partition was an issue should vote after those in which it was not.
(ii) decided to speak to the Governor of the Punjab about the report that there were 100 Sikh girls in the possession of the Muslims in Western Punjab;
(iii) decided to look up the records of the Parliamentary debates in which Sir Stafford Cripps and Lord Pethick-Lawrence were alleged to have stated that the Muslim League could not deliberately frame a Constitution in Group 'C' which would make it impossible for Assam to opt out;
(iv) decided to point out to Mr. Jinnah that, if the Muslim League were to join the Constituent Assembly, legislation could be introduced whereby all major questions in the Central Government should be settled by a majority of each party voting separately.

226 page 445(full text)
Sardar Patel to Rear-Admiral Viscount Mountbatten of Burma

My dear Lord Mountbatten,
You will recall that during our discussion yesterday the question came up about Provincial constitutions being framed by the Sections in such a manner as to prevent the free and unfettered expression of opinion on the question of grouping by the Provincial electorates and I told you that this was an action which was contrary to the Cabinet Mission Plan.

2. To substantiate my statement I would refer you to the following extract from the letter of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad to the Viceroy dates the 14th June 1946:-

"You are no doubt aware of the strong feeling of resentment which exists among large sections of the people against some of the proposals in the statement, notably the idea of grouping. The Frontier Province and Assam have expressed themselves with considerable force against any compulsory grouping. The Sikhs have felt hurt and isolated by these proposals and are considerably agitated. Being a minority in the Punjab, they become still more helpless as far as numbers go in Section B. We appreciated all these objections especially as we ourselves shared them. Nevertheless, we hoped that according to our interpretation of the clauses related to grouping, which we still hold is the correct interpretation, for any other interpretation would endanger the basic principle of Provincial Autonomy, we might be able to get over some of the obvious difficulties". To this the Viceroy replied in paragraph 3 of his letter dated 15th June as follows: "The Delegation and I are aware of your objections to the principle of grouping. I would however point out that the statement of 16th May does not make grouping compulsory. It leaves the decision to the elected representatives of the Provinces concerned sitting together in sections. The only provision which is made is that the representatives of certain Provinces should meet in sections so that they can decide whether or not they wish to form groups. Even when this has been done the individual Provinces are still to have the liberty to opt out of the group if they so decide."

3. From this correspondence it is clear that the statement of 16th May, 1946 does not make grouping compulsory. For a constitution to be drawn up in such a way as to prevent a Province from expressing its true will on opting out of grouping would in effect amount to making grouping compulsory.

4. Apart from this, I would invite your attention to the following extract of the speech of Sir Stafford Cripps in the House of Commons on the 18th July 1946(Page 1404[Pages 1401-2] of Hansard Parliamentary Debates Volume 425, No. 179)-"There are two main points which the Congress were stressing as to the statement of 16th May. The first was as to whether the provinces were compelled to come into sections of the Constituent Assembly-sections A, B and C-in the first instance, or whether they could stay out if they wished. We made it quite clear that it was an essential feature of the scheme that the provinces should go into sections, though, if groups were subsequently formed, they could afterwards opt out of those groups. A fear was expressed that, somehow or other, the new Provincial constitutions might be so manoeuvred as to make it impossible for the Provinces afterwards to opt out. I do not myself see how such a thing would be possible, but if anything of that kind were to be attempted, it would be a clear breach of the basic understanding of the scheme. The essence of the constitution-making scheme is that the provincial representatives in sections A, B and C, mentioned in paragraph 19, should have the opportunity of meeting together and deliberating upon the desirability of forming a "group" and upon the nature and extent of the subjects to be dealt with by the group. If, when the pattern of the group ultimately emerges, any Province wishes to withdraw from the group, because it is not satisfied, then it is liberty to do so after the first election under the new Constitution, when, with no doubt a wider electorate than at present, that matter can be made a straight election issue."

5. Similarly I invite your attention to the following extract of the speech of Lord Pethick-Lawrence in the House of Lords on the 16th December 1946 in which he has dwelt upon the danger of Provincial constitutions being imposed upon a Province contrary to the wishes of its inhabitants or in such manner as to prevent the wishes of the majority of the inhabitants prevailing in the decision whether or not to opt out of the group. (Hansard Parliamentary Debates Volume 144, No. 15 of Monday  the 16th December 1946)-
"One aspect of this matter is that there is anxiety in certain quarters whether the majority in a Section might not  impose a Provincial Constitution upon a Province which would be contrary to the wishes of its inhabitants, and might even be of such a character as to prevent the wishes of the majority of the inhabitants prevailing in the decision whether or not to opt out of the Group. I am sure that neither side have any wish that this should take place. There is no reason why the two major communities should not come to an arrangement between themselves which would avoid any danger of it happening."

6. The All-India Congress Committee resolution of 6th January 1947 does no more than stress the necessity of proceeding in the matter of grouping by mutual agreement and not by compulsion or coercion. This is clearly in accord with the intentions of His Majesty's Government as expressed in the above-mentioned extracts of correspondence and Debates. The statement of December 6th implements this intention by making it clear that His Majesty's Government cannot force a constitution on unwilling parts. Government spokesmen in the House of Commons have stressed this on more than one occasion in the debates on India. A typical example is the following extract from Mr. Alexander's speech:-
"We would not contemplate, and Congress itself does not contemplate enforcing upon an unwilling Section of the community anything they do not accept." (p.1555 Hansard Parliamentary Debates(House of Commons) Volume 431 No. 24). The statement of the 20th February 1947 also lays considerable emphasis on an agreed constitution rather than a constitution settled by majority decisions. The Congress has on its part already stated on a number of occasions that it will adhere to this principle in constitution-building. It is clearly incumbent on the League to work the Sections in similar spirit. I have no doubt that if this were done, the minorities in the section would react sympathetically and in a cooperative spirit to the reasonable wishes of the majority.
                                                                                                                                                                       Yours sincerely,
                                                                                                                                                                                        VALLABHBHAI PATEL

229 Page 451 (excerpt)
Record of Interview between Rear-Admiral Viscount Mountbatten of Burma and Mr. Jinnah

Mountbatten Papers. Viceroy's Interview  No. 100

26 April 1947, 5-6.20pm

..Finally, I reverted to the Cabinet Mission plan, much to his distaste. I said "You told me that your objection to the Cabinet Mission plan was the fact that the Centre would be controlled by a majority vote of the Congress, and would be able to exert economic and military pressure to the detriment of Groups B & C. Is that your objection to the scheme?" He nodded his head vehemently; and I then said : "I have been looking into this, and there is little doubt that the provision in the Cabinet Mission plan whereby the Constituent Assembly votes on any major communal issue in two parts, and unless there is a majority of the members of both communities present and voting the measure cannot be passed." * If that were so, I pointed out, then surely he would have as many safeguards as he would ever get under Pakistan with a Central Defence Council. He replied emphatically "No; it is laid down that a difference of opinion on a major communal question should be decided by the Federal Court. It is clear that the President of the Constituent Assembly is not obliged to take their ruling. I asked the Chief Justice what he would do if his ruling was  disregarded, and he replied that the Federal Court would refuse to give any more rulings. That would then leave it open to Congress to impose their will by majority vote.

"In fact the leaders of Congress are so dishonest, so crooked, and so obsessed with the idea with the idea of smashing the Muslim League, that there are no lengths to which they will not go to do so; and the only way of giving Pakistan a chance is to make it an independent nation of the British Commonwealth, with its own army and the right to argue cases at any Central Council on this basis." I was quite unable to shake him from this decision; and he begged me not to ask him to reconsider the Cabinet Mission plan again.

*[note below in Transfer of Power text]This sentence is evidently not complete.

Update in 08/09: is closing down in end-October 2009. The new location of this website is:


Page 2

Secondary sources on Page 3

CMP(1) - From Ayesha Jalal's 'The Sole Spokesman'

CMP(2) - The Congress League positions on 12 May 19946

CMP(3) - The Cabinet Mission Plan 16 May 1946

CMP(4) - Jinnah's and Muslim League's responses to the Cabinet Mission Plan 22 May  and June 6 1946

CMP(5) - Jinnah's meeting with Mission Delegation oon 4 April 1946

CMP(6) -  Jinnah's meeting with Mission Delegaation on 16 April 1946

CMP(7A) -  Maulana Azad's meeting with Mission Delegation on 17 April 1946

CMP(7) - The Congress unease with parity- it's exchhanges with the Mission  8-9 May 1946

CMP(7B) Jinnah and Azad's responses to the Cabinet Mission's 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 during Simla Confference meeting  11 May 1946

CMP(9)- Jinnah's Conversations with Major Wyatt(1) on Pakistan and the Cabinet Mission Plan , 8 January and 25 May 1946

CMP(10) - Jinnah's Conversations with Major Wyatt(2)) on the interim government, 11 June 1946

CMP(12)- Congress Working Committe resolutions, May-June 1946

CMP(12A) Congress and the Cabinet Mission's arguments over inclusion of a Congress Muslim in the Interim Government June 12 and June 23 1946

CMP(13)- Jawaharlal Nehru's press conference on the Plan, 10 July 1946

CMP(14) - League withdrew from Plan, called Direct AAction, Viceroy Wavell talked to Nehru, July-August 1946

CMP(15) - The Viceroy tried to strong-arm Nehru and Gandhi on compulsory grouping, Pethick Lawrence to Attlee, August-September 1946

CMP(16)- Intelligence assessment on Jinnah's options and threat of civil war, September 1946

CMP(17)- The League's boycott of the Constituent Assembly, Jinnah and Wavell, Mission insisting on compulsory grouping, etc October 1946-January 1947
CMP(17A) Congress "climbdown" on grouping and Jinnah's rejection, January 1947

CMP (A1) - Additional material - Some Plain speaking from Sir Khizr Hayat, Abell on the Breakdown plan, Viceroy to Jinnah

CMP(A2) North West Frontier Province, October-November 1946 and February-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 summary /take on the Cabinet Mission Plan-with links to the above reference material

CMP(21) Mountbatten discusses the Cabinet Mission Plan with Sardar Patel and M. A. Jinnah, 24-26 April 1947

CMP(22) A reply on the Cabinet Mission Plan

Extra(1) - Speech by Jinnah in March 1941 outlining the case for an 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) -  Jinnah's letter to Gandhi during Ganndhi-Jinnah talks in 1944 on defining Pakistan

Extra(3)- B.R. Ambedkar quoted from his book 'Pakistan or the Partition of India'  

Extra(4) Congress and Muslim parties' positions on the Communal question 1927-1931

Extra(4A) Excerpts of Motilal Nehru Committee Report 1928

Extra(4B) Nehru, Bose, Jinnah Correspondence 1937-38

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 and Gandhi's 1943 letter to Jinnah from jail

Extra (6B) April-July 1947  Negotiations on Pakistan between Mountbatten and Jinnah

Extra(7) M.A.Jinnah and Maulana Azad on two nation theory

Extra(8) Comments on Separate electorates, Joint electorates and Reserved constituencies
Extra(9) Links to a selection of cartoons on Indian constitutional parleys published in the Daily Mail, UK, in 1942 and 1946-1947, by L.G. Illingworth, from National Library of Wales' online Illingworth exhibition