Abul Mansur Ahmad: Still relevant for his diplomatic wisdom

Abul Mansur Ahmad, a man of versatile genius, is still remembered and revered by all as a litterateur, politician and journalist. A reputed lawyer, he was well-known for his people-friendly role as well. However, one of his qualities that remained hidden or was hardly discussed is his diplomatic wisdom, which is still relevant today.

We can try to understand his diplomatic wisdom and skills in light of his India tour, which he described in his book Amar Dekha Rajneetir Ponchash Bochhor. Under the chapter titled “India Tour”, there are six sub-chapters: 1) Indo-Pak trade agreement, 2) New developments in Indo-Pak relations, 3) Deshai’s dinner, 4) In the service of Maulana Azad, 5) Protest of a fool and 6) Three private hours with Nehru.

What we get to learn from the sub-chapter “Indo-Pak trade agreement” is that the purpose of his India visit was successful. In his own words: “India showed a very friendly gesture towards us.”

In the sub-chapter titled “New developments in Indo-Pak relations”, it is important to note Abul Mansur Ahmad’s attitude, observations and realisation of the overall events of that time. He wrote that there was not only diplomatic friendliness but also actual sincerity, which acted as an ice-breaker to their discussions on long-standing issues. As Abul Mansur Ahmad believed, he was able to give some clear and logical idea to the Nehru government about some important issues. He didn’t have to exaggerate or take refuge in cleverness. For instance, a) he explained to the Nehru government the basic difference between Muslim League and Awami League in their stance on Indo-Pak relations, and b) he logically explained why some of the Indian Hindu’s ideas about Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy were wrong. He was sure that Pundit Jawaharlal Nehru had a completely different opinion about Suhrawardy. Nehru clearly mentioned that there was a possibility that both India and Pakistan would have a realistic outlook about their bilateral relations under the leadership of Suhrawardy.

During that time, the Hindu community had an “extremely adverse” attitude towards Pakistani Prime Minister Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy. And Abul Mansur Ahmad was able to draw the attention of Jawaharlal Nehru towards the difference between Suhrawardy’s approaches before and after the creation of Pakistan and also towards Suhrawardy’s logical, accurate and democratic thoughts.

In “Deshai’s dinner”, we get an idea on how the diplomatic relations between the two countries could get stronger only through an informal and friendly dinner.

In the sub-chapter “In the service of Maulana Azad”, we see how an informal meeting had raised hopes for friendship and brotherhood between the two countries. It was in this meeting that Maulana Azad had said: “Once I had opposed the creation of Pakistan with all my heart and strength. Likewise, today I wish Pakistan’s stability and success with all my heart. If I had the strength, I would have participated in this work. I never believed and still do not believe that Indian Muslims would have faced any problem if Pakistan was not created. But since Pakistan has been created, it must last and become a strong state. If not, not only the Pakistani Muslims but also the Indian Muslims’ future will be bleak. You Pakistanis should always remember this. To this end, India and Pakistan must come to a respectable and realistic understanding.”

From the sub-chapter “Protest of a fool”, we have come to know that Abul Mansur Ahmad took two pots of honey from Madhupur for India’s President Dr Rajendra Prasad and Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. In a speech given there, Abul Mansur Ahmad said: “This honey symbolises the wish of the people of Pakistan to have a friendly relationship with the people of India. India and Pakistan are the twins of Mother India, they are like two siblings.”

There were mixed reactions in the newspapers about this honey episode. While some Pakistani newspapers such as the Morning Sun and those associated with the Muslim League published hostile criticisms of the event, the Indian newspapers published statements like “we have warned the government beforehand that although Abul Mansur Ahmad has brought honeyed words, there is poison hidden underneath in his thoughts… The Indian leaders were so confused having received the honey Abul Mansur Ahmad had brought for them that they could be easily tricked into giving in to all his demands…”

Abul Mansur Ahmad realised that these people did not want friendly relations between India and Pakistan. Although time and circumstances have changed and East Pakistan became independent Bangladesh, did people’s mindsets change at all? Still, some newspapers look for opportunities to provoke people towards division and create instability in society. Politics still spreads the poison of hatred. Instead of being sincere in solving the problems of the past, they are made to linger for political gains, and the common people are the victims of this. Such practices hurt Abul Mansur Ahmad and he wanted to see an end to these. He used his diplomatic wisdom to remove this darkness from society.

In “Three private hours with Nehru”, Abul Mansur Ahmad tried to understand the complexities and contours of the India-Pakistan relations through Nehru’s statements. About the no-war pact, he shared the same thoughts with Nehru.

“I also believe that India and Pakistan can reach a no-war pact keeping the Kashmir issue unresolved,” Abul Mansur Ahmad said.

As time passed, it has become clear how realistic that understanding was.

Abul Mansur Ahmad’s opinion was, it would be easy to solve a diplomatic problem if we could adopt the approach that we resort to in solving our personal and family problems. He believed that there could be many conflicting issues that needed to be resolved. However, if we cannot resolve all of them together, we have to solve them one by one and use our “common sense”, which means we have to solve the simple problems first.

Abul Mansur Ahmad believed that the Kashmir issue should not be left behind but considering it as an unresolved issue, other small issues of the two countries needed to be solved first. Abul Mansur Ahmad’s diplomatic wisdom is hidden in this realisation, which is still relevant but remains unpracticed.

While it is true that there are many unresolved issues in India-Pakistan relations, if the kind of diplomacy that Abul Mansur Ahmad had introduced during his single tour to India could continue for some more time, and if Pakistan had not been continuously ruled by the military, there is no doubt that Indo-Pakistan relations would be very different from what it is now.


Dr Kazal Rashid Shaheen is a journalist, writer and researcher. This is an abridged version of an article that was translated into English by the editorial desk at The Daily Star.

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