'Thirteen Months Means Mischief to India'
Mountbatten had lived up to his reputation for speed — when Ismay and Abell left for London he had been in Delhi for two days short of six weeks, and in that time he believed he had found the answer to the problems that had stumped his predecessors for years. If all continued to go as planned, and both the government at home and the Indian leaders accepted his solution, he would have achieved his goal in less than two months. But, as always, charging ahead at full speed meant that some things got left behind in the rush — most notably a proper understanding of the complexities of the situation. Ismay had written to his wife while still preparing Plan Balkan: 'We have made almost innumerable alternative drafts ... but it is impossible to get Dickie to go through them methodically. He's a grand chap in a thousand ways, but clarity of thought and writing is not his strong suit.' 1 John Christie, while working on redrafting the V.P. Menon plan, commented that the atmosphere in which he was working was 'more Alice in Wonderlandish than one could believe'. 2
In London, Ismay was faced with a new secretary of state for India. It had become clear that Pethick-Lawrence was now too old and too exhausted to complete the final lap, and on 26 April, Attlee brought on a younger substitute — the 40-year-old 5th Earl of Listowel, who had been under-secretary at the India Office from 1944 until the end of the war, and since then postmaster-general and deputy leader of the House of Lords. A Fabian Society socialist who had been interested in India for many years, Listowel was a long-time supporter of Congress. The change, however, made little if any difference to Ismay and Mountbatten, since Attlee and Cripps made all the policy decisions, anyway. Typically, Mountbatten later claimed that it was he who had suggested 'Billy' Listowel for the position.
Ismay was summoned to a meeting of the India Committee immediately he arrived in London, to present and explain the new plan. 'I emphasised that it