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Alternate View: The Great Game behind India’s Partition

Posted by Raunak Mahajan on October 27, 2012

Partition of India, the biggest migration witnessed by the world, one of the worst ethnic manslaughters on the face of the earth has unfortunately not received the emphasis it deserves in the annals of historic literature. Somewhere between the trauma of the Second World War, the Jewish genocide and the Atomic Bomb, the world forgot the millions who lost their lives thanks to agreements reached by England educated politicians in their cozy rooms.Indians then were not important enough to be noticed. Unlike now, we did not control the software industry then.My father was part of this utterly uncalled for dislocation. While on his way from Pakistan to India, he witnessed uncountable hate crimes and even saw his uncle burnt alive by a mob from the other side.

In classrooms, debate panels and cocktail get-togethers in many a Indian households, ill informed people share their “accurate” views that are as unbiased as Fox News itself! While religion is considered the primary force that drove this division, people also lay a lot of the blame on leaders such as Jawaharlal Nehru, Mahatma Gandhi and Jinnah. Some even believe that Jinnah wanted Pakistan to be created so that he could fulfil his ambition of becoming a Prime Minister. Others blame Nehru for not letting Jinnah become the Prime Minister of United India. One aspect that is rarely cited or discussed or even known is the British role in the partition. Did Britain have anything to gain from it? Lets take it a step further. Did the U.S have a role to play in the partition? Maybe.

The Shadow of the Great Game: The Untold Story of India’s Partition is a wonderful book written by Narendra Singh Sarila, who at the time of the partition, served as ADC to Lord Mountbatten, the last viceroy of India. He was also the Maharaja of Sarila, a small kingdom in the heart of India. I was fortunate to have been presented this book by his wife, the Queen of Sarila herself. Narendra Singh bases his reasearch on East India Company communication that in recent years has been declassified by the British government. It is interesting to find evidence that points towards British and American collusion in effecting the partition of India.

To strengthen British and US domination in Asia, the English asked Indian leaders if after independence they would allow the British and the Americans to establish military bases in India. Indian leaders including Mahatma Gandhi flatly refused this proposal. They would not compromise India’s sovereignty and also wanted to set an example of Non Alignment in the world. This snub did not go down too well with the British. They then look toward Jinnah and asked him that if they facilitated the partition of India, would Jinnah allow UK and US to use the newly created Pakistan to position strategic military bases there. Jinnah was only too keen to accept. Not only would this help him gain a new country to rule, but American an British presence would safeguard Pakistan’s interests against India. The British and the Americans couldn’t be happier. The location of the proposed land for the Muslims was strategically perfect to influence the politics of Central Asia and most importantly tackle the new enemy, the USSR. Hence, despite opposition from supporters of United India, the English hastily got the two parties to agree to a partition.

The result: displacement of millions of people, ethnic genocide at a scale unimaginable, creation of two mortal enemy states, one blood, two countries. Not that it mattered to the English or the Americans. They had just won over a new ally in Pakistan and had established an invaluably strategic presence in Asia.

I am a great admirer of English and American political thought and wit. Their well thought out, selfishly motivated execution of the Partition does not seem too implausible to me. Does it to you?

12 Responses to “Alternate View: The Great Game behind India’s Partition”

  1. I agree with you.

  2. I don’t know if “like” is the right reaction to this, but I agree this is exactly the type of move I would expect of both the US and the British governments.
    Have you seen this article (or the book it mentions)?
    He suggests re-uniting India and Pakistan could solve a lot of problems. Do you think that could ever be feasible?

    • Raunak said

      when it comes to Pakistan, I lose all sense of balance and wisdom. There is absolutely no trust between the two countries. Re-uniting them would lead to religious riots. It would be like asking Catholics and Protestants to attend the same church. It would be like asking Sunnis and Shias to eat from the same plate. I have traveled a lot, made friends from all over the world, but not a single Pakistani. I came across a few in the US but something inside me refused to befriend them. Even getting acquainted seemed despicable. And this has nothing to do with the religion of Islam. I hold the religion in high regards. Some of my best friends in India are Muslims. Its just that I cannot get myself to like or trust a Pakistani. And from my experience, I speak for a majority of people on either side of the border.
      Interestingly, India has the 2nd highest Muslim population in the world.

      • What exactly is the source of this distrust? I mean, distrusting a government is one thing, but distrusting all the ordinary people must have some other motive.

        My own view of Pakistan is very confused. One the one hand I watch the BBC and they present Pakistan as an important loyal ally which needs our protection and help in its internal battle against infiltrators from Al Qaeda. The whole picture doesn’t hang together logically and therefore comes across (to me anyway) as fake, or at least ridiculously naive.

        Meanwhile I watch Al Jazeera News channel, (the official propaganda arm of Al Qaeda is you believe the BBC, CNN etc) which presents Pakistan as a country in extreme and worsening poverty, and with a completely uneducated and ignorant population, which is therefore highly vulnerable to being manipulated and used by Al Qaeda which offers them a life which makes sense to them. They present Pakistan as being far more packed with anti-American terrorists than Afghanistan ever was. I have to say the Al Jazeera version hangs together coherently and so comes across as far more plausible.

      • Raunak said

        The fundamental problem with Pakistan is that it is a state that was built out of “fear”. The premise given for carving it out was to provide Indian Muslims a safe haven from the majority Hindus. The original reasons were very different, but the public was convinced by instilling in them fear of the majority Hindus.

        The leaders of newly formed Pakistan soon realized that it would be difficult to sustain Pakistan as a united country because it was composed of provinces that were culturally and ethnically very diverse. A common thread had to be discovered that would keep the provinces together. Religion would not be enough because cultural and ethnic loyalties sub consciously outrank religious ones. Hence they devised a unititing factor “Fear of India”. India was projected as a mortal enemy to the citizens of Pakistan and the trend continues. We have had 3 wars with Pakistan and the only reason we haven’t had more is because we both now have nuclear deterrents.

        Also, Pakistan exported a lot of terrorism to India since 1980s. First Punjab, then Kashmir. It does not let us rest in peace. My family suffered because of the ethnic cleansing in Kashmir at the hands of Pakistan backed terrorists. Its a pity the world overlooked this tragedy.

        Pakistan created the Taliban. Everyone knows that. The north western border of Pakistan is under the control of warlords. The western province of Baluchistan has been fighting for freedom for ages now.

        Pakistan is indeed a failed state that is surviving on US aid and Chinese miltary supplies.

        Yes, a lot of the blame lies with the government, but when the attitude of that country has been so anti-India for 60 years, then one realizes that the people of Pakistan also feel like this. The government is an extension of the people, at least that of the majority.

        The partition was Pakistan’s loss. While it has seen several military coups and is on the verge of being taken over by Taliban, India enjoys an economic growth that makes it its neighbors; envy. We in India have serious issues as well, but atleast economically we are better off than Pakistan.

        Americans and British cannot let go of Pakistan as an ally because of its strategic location. Plus, they do not trust India enough yet. We were closer to the Soviet Union in days of the Cold War. Also, India has had traditional ties with Iran which are tough to let go of so easily.

        Disclaimer: these are solely my interpretations of the situation and could be, though highly unlikely, far from the truth πŸ™‚

      • This is very interesting, and would explain everything I’ve heard about Pakistan.

        Whilst The US and Britain are relucutant to let go of Pakistan, I think part of it is that they are afraid of what could happen – it’s a case of “Keep your friends close, keep your enemies closer”. That’s just my personal view.

        Britain is trying very hard to form a special relationship with India.
        India has been percieved in the financial world as one of the world most important up-and-coming countries for at least ten years, as part of the BRICKS group (you’ve heard of that, right? is that widely known?)

        It seems India needs a bit of convincing about getting closer to Britain.

        After Obama made some very negative comments about the UK and admitted the so-called “special relationship” between the UK and USA no longer exists, the British public let out a great sigh of relief that the sham was finally over, and the current UK Prime Minister realised, unlike all his predecessors, that he could not convince the British public we had any special relationship with the US just by talking abotu it, when it was obviously completely one-sided.
        America is starting to slide from its most powerful nation status and everyone is looking at the next major power to step in.
        So our foreign secretary William Hague is trying to form closer ties with India and most British people are happy about this, I think. There are more than a million Indians living in the UK now and India has influenced British culture a lot, so there is some feeling of reality to the idea of a special connection, in the sense that it would be more than just a political alliance.

      • Raunak said

        you are so right about Pakistan. It is absolutely a case of keeping your enemies closer. With Iran acting up, the US definitely needs Pakistan.

        It amazes me that inspite of being ruled for 200 years by them, Indians still love the British. The Indian public does not hold a grudge against the British and is infact thankful for their greatest gift to us-the Indian railways.The rail network made by the British has gone a long way in keeping India united by allowing cross border travel between the Indian provinces.

        But there will always remain skeletons in the closet of the relationship between India and UK. The diplomatic past will haunt the bilateral relations. With time they will ease and soon enough we might see a stronger alliance between the two nations. A recent example is the way UK has now decided to become friendly with Narendra Modi, a Chief Minister they had till now boycotted diplomatically.

        BRICS is very well known here. I am not too optimistic about that alliance. These are countries that compete with each other for the same market. I do not see competing nations beings economic allies. Any though of that cooperation should be abandoned.

  3. Good Deed said

    Great post… I learned something from history also. Being born in west hemisphere of World, such informations as you presented me is very hard to find, and no one is talking about it, so it doesn’t cross my mind. Can you tell me some book or even better the documentary video about India’s history, religion and all other, from creation till now?
    I’m really interested about India, and I always liked your land… So please give me some link or clue. Cheers!

    • Raunak said

      when it comes to India, my favorite book is “A History of India” by Romila Thapar. Here is a link to the book on Amazon

      No video comes to my mind right now but will let you know once it does.

      • Good Deed said

        Thank you very much… I know only fractions about India. Mahatma Gandhi, Indira Gandhi, Hinduism, and many pieces like this. I just have a question off topic… I watched documentary about Indira Gandhi… Is she a positive person in your history? I know she was when she was elected, than starvation came, problems with railroads, later she got lost and appointed her son, and blindly followed him… So can you please just answer πŸ™‚
        Thanks for link.

      • Raunak said

        Indira Gandhi is held in very high regards in India. She is credited with good leadership and many people wish that we had a Prime Minister like her. However, there were blemishes during her tenure. She imposed Emergency in 1975 for very selfish motives.It was during this emergency that her son became very powerful and carried out a lot of acts by his whims and fancies. However, he soon died in an airplane crash. The act of imposing Emergency led to her brief downfall when she lost the next elections. But she soon came roaring back.

        She was very strong and also referred to as an Iron lady. She led India to victory in our war with Pakistan. We had captured half of Pakistan, but due to US threats we had to retreat and return the captured land. No wonder majority of Indians hate the US regime.

        I blame the poverty more on the socialist policies of her father, the previous PM, rather than on her. India became a Government controlled socialist country and this led to currency problems and financial distress.

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