Today's Paper

Nizam made vain bid to buy Marmagoa port from Portugal

After the police action, Nehru visits Nizam Mir Osman Ali Khan (centre) during the regime of the military government headed by Major General J.N. Chaudhuri.THE HINDU ARCHIVES  

In the days preceding India’s Independence on August 15, 1947, the Nizam of Hyderabad, Mir Osman Ali Khan, had come close to buying the port of Marmagoa from Portugal, according to documents accessed recently at the British Library in London.

The documents were accessed by a team led by Uday Nagaraju, involved in compiling the history of Telangana for Telangana Jagruthi, an NGO run by Member of Parliament K. Kavitha. The researchers looked at over 10,000 documents, some of them classified ‘Top Secret’ by the Commonwealth Relations Office.

The documents related to Telangana and Hyderabad came into the public domain under the ‘thirty years rule' which allows declassification after 30 years. These documents became available in India last week when the team brought the copies to Hyderabad.

British middleman

While the Nizam's interest in purchase of a Goan port is known, the documents, for the first time, shed light on how close the two parties had actually been to striking a deal. The go-between, a Britisher, Sir Alexander Roger, pocketed £17,000 for his efforts at brokering the deal.

“The Portuguese government had in fact entered into negotiations with the agent for Hyderabad and a draft agreement had gone to Lisbon for approval by the Portuguese Government... it was made clear to the Portuguese Embassy that it suited H.M.G. (His Majesty’s Government) very well to be without cognisance of these negotiations,” these words from a secret Foreign Office document in the British Library, dated April 15, 1948, shows how British diplomacy worked in early days of Independent India. This was barely six months before Hyderabad was amalgamated into India.

“We were surprised to find these secret documents,” says Mr. Nagaraju, U.K. Adviser to Telangana Jagruthi. One document cites a private letter from the British Viceroy (Lord Mountbatten) in October 1945 about Hyderabad’s effort to buy Goa.

The Nizam’s Dominion, then spread over 2,15,339 square km, extended right up to Gadag in the present day Karnataka. Marmagoa port lay another 100 miles to the west and would have given sea access to the landlocked Nizam’s province.