Date: 8/9/2004


Source: Kashmir Sentinel, 1st July to 31st July 2004

British top-secret documents of the period proceeding India's independence have now been unsealed. They prove beyond doubt that Britain after 1945 supported Jinnha's demand for Partition in order to safeguard its strategic interests in Asia in the post-war world and was not safeguarding Muslim interests, as believed in India.

British strategists, believed that Britain could not afford to lose control over the entire Indian subcontinent as well as the Indian army if the western powers were to block perceived Soviet designs on the oilfields along the Gulf-the so-called wells of power'-and develop a base for counter action against possible Soviet intrusions or safeguard the sea lanes in the India Ocean. After they became convinced that the Congress party was unlikely to cooperate on such a policy, they encouraged the Muslim League to seek Partition, with the aim of placing India's strategic north-west, that abutted Afghanistan and Iran, in the hands of those willing to support British strategy. Kashmir with access to Sinkiang was considered part of India's strategic northwest.

The blueprint of the Partition plan was drawn up by Lord Wavell in New Delhi towards the end of 1945 and communicated in a top secret telegram to the secretary of state for India in London on February 6 ' 1946. Wavell had no interest on keeping East Punjab and the Sikhs in Pakistan, nor Assam, nor Calcutta and western Bengal. He argued that the NWFP, Baluchistan, West Punjab and Sindh with Karachi port were sufficient for British strategic purposes. A truncated Pakistan might also be more palatable to the Congress leaders and to the new Labor government, keen to maintain a rapport with the Congress and specially Nehru.

Viable Buffer’

However, some British strategists argued that west Pakistan as an independent state would not have the strategic depth or the economic resources to either -'serve as a viable buffer against a threat from India's west' or 'enable Britain to dominate and control an independent Hindustan' and that maintaining the unity of the Indian army would better serve' British interests. This view floundered on the rock of the difficulty to obtain the support of the Congress party for British policy.

Who can say that Wavell's assessment of Pakistan's strategic value to the West proved faulty? For soon after Partition, the new state joined the Bagdad Pact and later CENTO. Then, in 1959, it signed a bilateral military pact with Britain's closest ally, the US, soon thereafter providing a base at Peshawar for American US planes to spy over the Soviet Union. Later. Pakistan helped the US to establish relations with China, to pressure the Soviet Union. And in the 1980s, in the last chukkar of the great game, assisted the US to eject Soviet forces from Afghanistan. If today with the Soviet Union gone and the US entrenched in force in the Gulf, the West's dependence on Pakistan has diminished, a half a century’s run is all one can reasonably expect from the best of strategies.

Stab in the Black

The Anglo-Muslim League alliance that led to the Partition of India began as soon as World War-II commenced. The salient points of the countdown to Partition come.. three ingredients which were British strategic interests, the Muslim League's dreams of restoring after British departure a measure of pre-British Islamic -dominance over India and the Congress' miscalculations.

On September 4, 1939, Jinnah met Lord Linlithgow and pledged to Britain the loyalty of Indian Muslim troops--nearly 40 per cent of the British Indian army--and help with Muslim recruitment.. Muslim areas should be separated from 'Hind India' and run by Muslims in collaboration with Great Britain, he said. These areas would be poorer but 'the Muslims would be able to safeguard, because of their military prowess, even those of their community who had domiciles in the Hindu area.

October 1939 saw the Congress party governments, then holding power in eight out of 11 British provinces and thus the Foremost partners of Britain administering India, resign, reducing British dependence on the Congress and in turn the necessity to accommodate its political demands. The Muslim League resolution of March 1940 demanding "independent states for the Muslims of India" was passed after Jinnah, through Khaliq-ul-Zaman, obtained the support for Muslim states from Lord Zetland, the secretary of state for India. Gandhi's advocacy to the victory of non-violent non-cooperation as the correct policy for Britain and. France against the advancing German armies played into the hands of Congress baiters like Winston Churchill.

The August 1942 'Quit India" resolution passed after the Japanese had overrun British Malaya, captured Singapore and occupied Burma and the agitation that followed, was taken in Britain as a stab in the back at the moment of their direst peril. Then Subhas Chandra Bose joining the Japanese further widened he Anglo-Congress rift. Churchill retaliated by utilizing Cripp's Mission to announce that on British withdrawal, Pakistan and Princestan could not be ruled out. And Wavell used the Gandiii-Jinnah talks of A gust 1945, in which Gandhi discussed possible Partition based on district wise referendums, to submit his own plan for a Pakistan in February 1946, referred to earlier. The cabinet mission plan of June 1946 was largely a device to shift responsibility for Partition onto Indian shoulders, and threatened ultimately to produce a larger Pakistan. Jinnah's direct action of August persuaded the Congress to accept some form of Partition; they had no stomach to fight it out.

The Great Game

Mountbatten in May 1947, following VP Menon's advice, produced the formula that did the trick: You accept the (Wavell's) smaller Pakistan and dominion status as the basis for independence and we will quit within three months and more than compensate you for the territory, lost to Pakistan, by helping. to add the territories of the Indian states.

Britain showed great ineptitude in handling the Congress till Mountbatten's arrival. And the Congress never understood that great nations adopt policies based on their self-interest strategic and economic-and not on morals or merit.

Now that the US has replaced. Britain as Pakistan's mentor, one may ask: Are we better prepared half a century later to handle them, and will Clinton next week hanker to continue to play the great game or be willing to turn over a new leaf?