Blue Flower

Geo-political and Strategic Implications related to the Emergence of the Indian and Pakistani Nation-states

by J.B.P. More

Paper presented at the International Conference on

The State in South Asia

October 18-21, 2010

Organised by Department of History

University of Hyderabad, Hyderabad, India



It is generally held especially in Pakistan that Jinnah asked for a separate State of Pakistan on the basis of religion and achieved it within a short record-breaking span of seven years. In India, the dominant view is that Jinnah and the British divided India. A minor view is that Jinnah used the Pakistan demand as a bargaining counter in order to extract the maximum concessions for the Muslims within a united India. British leaders, officials and scholars usually hold that the partition of India became inevitable because Jinnah and the Congress leaders could not see eye to eye with regard to the future of India.

In this paper I intend to question all these assumptions and theories and find out if there were any other causes which actually led to the Indian and Pakistani nation-states. This will be done on the basis of authentic evidences, arguments and documentary proofs. But before that it is necessary to look into certain immediate events preceding the partition of India and the context in which the Pakistan demand evolved.


Immediate Events and Evolution:

Mohamed Ali Jinnah decided to return to Indian politics after a self-imposed exile in London, prior to the passage of the Government of India Act of 1935, which envisaged elections to a newly created Federal legislature, with one-third representation allotted to the Muslims and another one-third to the princely states. This would have virtually reduced the Congress to a minority party in the legislature, where the Muslims would still be a minority. So both the Congress party and the Muslim League refused to accept the Federal part of the Government of India Act.1

However in the ensuing provincial assembly elections held in 1937, the Congress won a thumping majority in the general constituencies, especially in the eight Hindu-majority provinces, while the League fared badly, even in the five Muslim-majority provinces, where regional parties like the Unionist party and the Krishak Praja party emerged winners in Punjab and Bengal respectively.2

The subsequent refusal of the Congress to ally with the Muslim League to form coalition ministries in the provinces radicalised the stand of the latter. Jinnah himself felt slighted and side-lined and was on the look out for alternatives to counter Congress domination, which kept the Leaguers out of the corridors of power.

It was at this time in September 1939 that the Second World War broke out which changed the political scenario in the sub-continent and the Indian Ocean region. The British wanted the cooperation of all Indians in the war against Hitler’s expansive Germany. The Congress decided not to cooperate. But Jinnah extracted an assurance from Viceroy Linlithgow during the years 1939-40 that there would be no constitutional advance in India without the consent of the Muslim League.3

Pressured and prodded by Viceroy Linlithgow, Jinnah and the Muslim League ended up asking for two separate Muslim states, one in the north-west and the other in the north-east which would comprise only contiguous areas (and not whole provinces), where the Muslims were in a majority. This demand adopted in Lahore in March 1940 came to be known as the Pakistan demand. It was a straightforward move. There was nothing mysterious about it. It had the potential of cutting India to size and splitting the Indian Muslims into two countries, Pakistan and India or Hindustan. But this was thought to be the best solution to safeguard the interests of the Muslims after the departure of the British, by both the Muslim League and Jinnah.

While coming to this decision, neither Jinnah nor the other front-ranking League leaders had ever given adequate thought to the geo-political and strategic interests of an eventual Pakistan and India or the Hindus and Muslims in a divided India. In the beginning Jinnah thought of uniting the Muslims of India and the Middle-east and confront the British.4 Other Muslim League leaders like Khaliquzamman thought in the same line too.5 Some others like the Nawab of Bhopal, Liaquat Ali Khan and the Aga Khan wanted a close understanding between the Muslim world and the Anglo-Saxon world.6

Pressured by Japanese advance towards India, Sir Winston Churchill sent Sir Stafford Cripps to India in March 1942 with some proposals in order to break the constitutional deadlock. The most important feature of these proposals was the right given to the provinces to secede from the Indian Union.

Stafford Cripps did not concede Pakistan on the basis of contiguous areas as demanded by the League. Instead he conceded the right to provinces to secede. Jinnah was caught unawares by this measure. Gradually he altered his position, most certainly under the influence of Cripps’ Plan. By 1943, he started equating ‘the contiguous Muslim-majority areas’ of the Lahore resolution with the ‘Muslim-majority provinces’. Thenceforth he claimed the whole of the five Muslim-majority provinces for Pakistan, which was definitely not envisaged in the Lahore resolution.7

On the other hand, the Congress party and its leaders maintained an ambiguous position with regard to the demand for Pakistan. They asserted that the Muslims could go their own way if they wanted. They even adopted a resolution that unwilling parts need not remain with the Indian Union. At the same time, they also stood vehemently for a united India.8

Of all the Congress leaders, Rajagopalachari alone struck a conciliatory note. He wanted to concede the Pakistan that Jinnah was asking for on the basis of contiguous Muslim-majority areas, under certain conditions. Though he quit the Congress in favour of cooperation with the British in the war, he was successful in the course of the years 1943-44 in converting Gandhi to his point of view with regard to Pakistan and even arranged for direct negotiations between Gandhi and Jinnah in September 1944. The negotiations failed. Jinnah beat a hasty retreat affirming more than ever before that his Pakistan would consist of all the Muslim-majority provinces. He knew now what he could get from the Congress: a truncated Pakistan. So he turned towards the British in order to achieve his ‘big’ Pakistan. He tried hard for five long years to get his big Pakistan, but ended up getting a truncated one, which strangely corresponded with what was demanded in the Lahore resolution.9

The Congress leaders too like the Muslim League leaders never really gave adequate thought to the geo-political and strategic implications of a united or divided India. In 1946 Nehru waxed eloquent that there were only four powers in the world: America, Russia, China and India, at a time when India was still under the British. He declared that small countries could only be ‘hangers on’ of big powers.10 Patel knew nothing of international politics. Gandhi relied on Nehru as far as foreign relations were concerned. Rajagopalachari thought that India could still play a positive role in the reconstruction of a new world order after independence even if it was divided. But he was never enthusiastic about India becoming a member of the British Commonwealth.11 Maulana Abul Kalam Azad alone of all the Congress leaders opined that partition was dangerous to the Muslims and also to India because through it British or western powers would gain a foothold in south Asia.12




British Geo-political and strategic Interests

It is quite obvious from the preceding that the League and Congress were embroiled in internal squabbles of how to share power after independence. They never gave serious thought to the geo-political and strategic implications of a united or divided India. This was not the case with the British. They were a world power, though their power had diminished considerably due to the war. They and their western allies especially the United States had large interests and stakes in the Middle-east, south-east Asia, Australia and the entire Indian Ocean region. I will presently go into this matter more deeply.

During the whole of the nineteenth century and later Britain was locked in what was known as ‘The Great Game’ with Russia for the mastery of Asia. This rivalry became more acute with Russia becoming Communist in 1917 and its subsequent will to expand its control and influence towards the northern frontiers of the British Empire running from India to the Middle-east, through Afghanistan, Iran and the Persian Gulf. Though the entire Indian Ocean region from the Cape of Good Hope to Malacca including the Red Sea was fully under British control, the real danger to this supremacy came from the expansive ambitions of Soviet Russia and also Germany. Thus India even before its independence was central to Britain as a bulwark to counter Russian advances especially.13

But the outbreak of the Second World War sounded the definitive decline of the British Empire. Besides the spectacular entry of Japan into the war with the objective of getting rid off Europeans from Asia sounded the death-knell of not only British domination but also European domination in Asia and galvanised the Asians against European colonialism.

Though Britain emerged victorious from the war, it was no doubt due to the entry of the United States and Communist Russia into the war on its side. During the war Britain became completely dependent on the United States militarily. From the signing of the Master Lend-Lease Treaty in February 1942, it also became financially dependent on the United States. Her economy and human resources were exhausted that it had no more the means to provide for the upkeep of the Empire.14

After the war, Britain was simply supplanted by the U.S. as the leading military power in the world. On the other hand Communist Russia loomed larger than ever as a threat to the capitalist world built by the west Europeans across the world. As Britain was completely exhausted and dependent on the U.S. in every way, she was left with no other alternative but to dismantle the empire piece by piece. India was of course the prime jewel in the British Crown. The situation demanded that they quit India too. Indian political unity as we know had been nurtured by the British. But while retreating, it was quite natural for the British with their long-standing experience in international politics and diplomacy, to do whatever was necessary in order to salvage something of the past glory from the wreckage and thus secure their future interests in the region.

The British adopted a two-pronged strategy in order to stem the rot and steady their sagging fortunes. The first resided in the pursuit of the strengthening of the British Commonwealth of Nations, which would thenceforth include also non-white nations like India. The second was to actively pursue the creation of a United States of Europe which would include Britain. The idea of British Commonwealth was a different strategy for survival, where all the former subject countries could be brought under the umbrella of the British Crown under certain conditions. The Marshal of the Royal Air Force Lord Tedder said that in his opinion the most desirable position from the strategic point of view was that all Dominion states remained in the British Commonwealth.14

Lord Mountbatten who succeeded Wavell as Viceroy in March 1947, when partition of India was round the corner, said:


Unless Hindustan chose to link up with Russia, they would either have to be out in the cold, with an entirely negligible navy an air Force and an out of date relatively inefficient army or throw in their lot with the British Commonwealth. By doing the latter they would prevent Pakistan from stealing a march on them, they would improve their position in the world and they would have a closer link with Pakistan as both will be members of the Commonwealth.15


Winston Churchill went one step further and said that Great Britain and the Commonwealth would be part of a world government. During the Chief of Staffs meeting it was said:


Our requirements are based principally upon factors of Commonwealth strategy such as geography, manpower and resources, which do not change. The main consideration should be to retain both India and Pakistan within British Commonwealth or at any rate ensure that they will cooperate with us in order that 1) the continent of India will continue to be a main support area in the war i.e. we shall continue to have the active cooperation of the armed forces of both the States and the use of the reserves of man power and of the industrial protection which they can provide 2) we have the use of strategic airfields primarily in Pakistan, in the event of a major war 3)we have the use of the naval and air bases which are important to the security of the Indian Ocean and to the maintenance of our world-wide sea and air communication.

As regards one condition under which the new dominions might cooperate with us in the event of war, at best we would like India and Pakistan to play their full part in the defence of the Commonwealth and to be prepared to participate actively in any war in which the Commonwealth becomes involved….If our maximum requirements cannot be obtained, we should make every effort to extend our immediate requirements to provide for them to assist us in the event of war in the Middle-east and south-east Asia…. The fulfilment of many of our strategic requirements that India should undertake the main burden of defence on land, does in fact demand that India and Pakistan should cooperate in matters of defence.16


Field Marshal Sir Claude Auchinleck elaborated British Commonwealth strategic interests in the Indian Ocean areas on similar lines.17 Thus the idea of the British Commonwealth was not just an innocent association of nations under the British Crown. It definitely had a political, military and economic dimension to it, which ultimately would serve to safeguard not only British or also Anglo-American geo-political and strategic interests, but also maintain and prop up the prestige and sagging fortunes of Britain in the comity of nations.

Besides, Sir Winston Churchill who once thundered that he was not His Majesty’s First Minister to preside over the liquidation of the British Empire coolly switched over to canvassing for the formation of a united Europe. But he did not want to leave India united. He asserted that Indian unity was created by the British and it would perish if Britain departed. He stressed that the pledges given to the minorities need to be honoured, for during the war the Punjab state alone produced more than 800000 volunteers, while the Congress gave no assistance.18 Thus while Churchill strove for a united Europe in Britain, he also stood for a divided India in Asia. Churchill’s views of course had an immense influence on all British statesmen, whether they belonged to the ruling party or the Opposition. But no Indian leader, whether of the Congress or the Muslim League ever bother about why there were attempts in Britain during this period towards the formation of a united Europe, and why the British were so particular to include even non-white nations into the British Commonwealth, when in India measures were afoot to split the country.

During the whole of the nineteenth century and for the most part of the first half of the twentieth century, Britain in partnership with India was able to safeguard its northern frontiers as well as its interests in the Middle-east and the Persian Gulf, against the expansionist aims of Russia and lately the German empire. As early as 1892 it was stated by none other than Lord Curzon that any concession by any power of a port upon the Persian Gulf to Russia was a deliberate insult to Britain and a provocation of war. The naval bases in India and Ceylon had enabled the British to dominate the whole of the Indian Ocean region except for a short interlude during the war.19

There were two crucial factors involved in the British Middle-east oil venture: oil and communication.

The discovery and production of oil in the Middle-east including Iran during the first decades of the twentieth century had made the region the power house of the western world. The British were the pioneers of the oil adventure in the Middle-east. They were followed by American, French and Dutch ventures. So the western oil interests in the Middle-east needed to be protected against encroachers like Russia and Germany. As long as the British controlled the region, they assured its protection against encroachment. But after the war, the British could no more assure this protection single-handedly. It was from this time onwards that the Americans literally stepped into the British shoes in the Middle-east. At the same time they sought to create Muslim countries in the Middle-east favourably disposed to their oil interests and other ambitions in the region.20

As far as India was concerned, its north-western region, not only had a predominantly Muslim population but it also was adjacent and in close proximity to Iran, the Persian Gulf and the Middle-east. British strategists and statesmen began to view this area as part of west Asia rather than south Asia. They had a strong desire to include it in their strategy to safeguard their interests and policy in the Middle-east.

Besides the oil produced in the Middle-east needed to be shipped off through the Persian Gulf into the Indian Ocean and beyond. Of course the British had full control of the shipping lanes of the Indian Ocean, from the Persian gulf and the Red Sea to the Arabian Sea and from the Cape of Good Hope to Malacca and beyond to the British dominions of Australia and New Zealand and the Far  east. But all this could become vulnerable if India became independent, especially if it chose to ally with Russia. This had to be averted somehow and one way was to create Pakistan which would give a foothold to British and western interests in their approach to Afghanistan, Iran and Russia in the west and also to Burma and China in the east. It is noteworthy that during this time Afghanistan was claiming not only the North-west Frontier Province as its own, but also Baluchistan, which was once tributary to the Durrani kings of Kabul, so that it can have access to the Indian Ocean.

With the discovery of aeroplane in the beginning of the twentieth century, air traffic became quite considerable. Therefore the air artery through the Middle-east was an essential link, not only with India, but leading to Singapore and the Far East and also to Australia and New Zealand. This air artery needed to be safeguarded too, in the event of British withdrawal from India.22

As early as 1944, the influential British diplomat Sir Richard Casey who never cared about whether India remained united or not, wrote:


We do not want in particular to antagonise the Muslims and if they want Pakistan we will give it because 1) they have been our friends and supporters for a great many years. 2) the potential North-west and North-east Pakistan lie across the track of our major imperial line of air communication. 3) we do not want to antagonise their Muslim cousins in the Middle-east who also lie across our imperial communication by sea and air.23


In the light of the preceding, discussions went on in British circles about how to preserve British strategic and geo-political interests in the Indian ocean region, in the event of transfer of political power in India. It was above all a question of protecting the oil supplies from the Persian Gulf, the sea lanes of the Indian Ocean and the air communications to the Far East, Australia and New Zealand. As a result at one stage in some quarters a defensive alliance with independent (and united) India was considered to be of utmost importance to British interests.

Besides British authorities pondered over the menace of Communist Russia to India and the Middle-east, which will ruin British strategic interests in the Indian Ocean region. They were not genuinely worried of India becoming hostile to Britain after independence, but the possibility of India coming under the influence of Russia with powerful air forces which would push the British to abandon their command of the Persian Gulf and the northern Indian Ocean waters, was perceived with great concern. Besides, in the event of Indian independence, the retention of Andaman and Nicobar islands as part of British empire and as outposts to Burma and Malaya and also the Laccadives for emergency landing strip and also as a navigational aid, were seriously considered.24 The discussion was finally concluded as follows:


We consider that it is impossible to guarantee that an independent India would not be unfriendly or would not be influenced by a power such as Russia, China or Japan, hostile to the British Commonwealth. Should such a situation arise, we could not maintain our power to move freely by sea and air in the northern part of the Indian Ocean area, which is of supreme importance to the British.25


During the Chief of Staffs meeting held later it was also clearly stated that ‘the area of Pakistan is strategically the most important in the continent of India and the majority of our strategic requirements could be met, though with considerable greater difficulty, by an agreement with Pakistan alone….’ It was generally held that from a strategic point of view there were overwhelming arguments in favour of western Pakistan remaining within the Commonwealth for it would provide strategic facilities like the port at Karachi and the bases and airfields, apart from Muslim man power, not only to ensure the continued integrity of Afghanistan but also assure Commonwealth defence against Russia and improve British prestige throughout the Muslim world. Besides the Chief of Staffs took a strong view that if Pakistan or even Travancore or Hyderabad wanted Dominion status within the Commonwealth and Hindustan went out, it would be advantageous for imperial defence to allow them to have it.26 Thus it is quite clear that the northern part of the Indian Ocean area and the area of Pakistan were of utmost importance to British strategic interests and imperial defence. Given such an importance, it was only natural to expect the British to go to any length to protect those interests as it was a question of their very survival as a world power.

On the whole Britain was faced with three major alternatives to protect these interests. The first was by maintaining the unity of India and making it preferably a member of the Commonwealth. The second alternative was to split India into Hindustan and Pakistan, the latter consisting of the whole of the Muslim-majority provinces as well as Assam, as suggested by the Cabinet Mission. The third alternative was to create a truncated Pakistan with Sind, Baluchistan, North-west Frontier Province, western Punjab and Eastern Bengal as proposed by Rajagopalachari since 1942.27

It was a known fact that the Congress had always challenged British colonialism and supremacy in India. But the Muslim League proved to be an effective counterpoise to keep under check the Congress brand of nationalism which was not at all conducive to British interests. In fact, the British never trusted the Congress and its leaders. Particularly they never thought that Congress would accept to play second fiddle to them and their interests in the international stage. If India remained united after independence, India would not only have emerged as a world power overnight, but the Congress would have probably thrown around its weight at the international stage to the detriment of British (and western) interests.

British sea communication with Australia and New Zealand which usually passed across the Indian Ocean would be under threat too, though these could be deflected around the Cape or through the Pacific without undue dislocation. However, the imperial air communication between U.K. and Australia and the Far East must of necessity pass through India.28 The British statesmen and strategists were quite aware of all these factors.

On top of all this, it was considered as impossible to guarantee that an independent India would not be unfriendly or would not be influenced by a power such as Russia or China, hostile to British Commonwealth. Should such a situation arise, it was thought that the British could not maintain their power to move freely by sea and air in the northern part of the Indian Ocean area, which was of supreme importance to the British Commonwealth.29

Such considerations would have of course weighed upon the British statesmen. They would have been definitely led to think that a united India will not be beneficial to British strategic interests. Besides, they would have been conscious that a united India could keep the British or Anglo-American interests and presence out of the Indian sub-continent and the adjoining regions like Afghanistan, with the help of the Russians or even the Chinese. This would imply a relative weakening of their position and prestige in the international stage. Thus the idea of a united India was not the best alternative from the British point of view to safeguard British and western strategic and other interests in the region.

The argument that Jinnah relied on the British strategic interests in the region, which called for a common defence structure for all of India, is simply far-fetched because it is not based on any sound evidence. How can Jinnah depend upon the seeming unacceptability of a divided India to the British in order to protect their strategic interests in the Indian ocean region, when Sir Stafford Cripps had as early as 1942 envisaged the division of India on the basis of provinces and princely states and when British statesmen like Zetland, Churchill and Amery had never accepted the unity of India and had time and again spoken against it?

It is extremely fallacious to attribute to Jinnah such a weak and risky strategy, especially when it became clear that Britain was no more the power that it was after the Second World War in the face of the emergence of the U.S. as a world power, and the former literally becoming a subordinate ally of the latter. In the light of the preceding it is not right to claim that the decision to divide India was taken at one short meeting of the Cabinet on 11 April 1946.30 It was rather a culmination of a long period of reflection of how to divide India, without jeopardising British or rather Anglo-American strategic and geo-political interests in the Indian ocean region since at least the outbreak of the Second World War and of how to shift the responsibility for the division on the Indians themselves.

But if India was divided according to the demand of the Muslim League since 1943 to include the whole of the Muslim-majority provinces plus Assam, not only the importance of India in the world stage would be reduced, but Pakistan could emerge as a sovereign and powerful Muslim state. This State could be integrated into the British and western strategy in west Asia to counter the Russian threat in the west. Besides, in the east, it could serve as an approach to Burma and counter the emerging power of China. This was foreseen by none other than the prominent British diplomat Sir Olaf Caroe.31 It could also serve as a counterpoise to what would remain of India, if the need arises. It could also prove to be a strong foothold or outpost or even base in the sub-continent for British and Anglo-American interests to intervene in sub-continental affairs through the Muslim league as feared by Maulana Abul Kalam Azad. This was actually the most attractive of the alternatives to safeguard British interests.

It should be noted that before independence, the British policy was to equate Congress and the Muslim League and also Gandhi and Jinnah. But if India was divided and a full Pakistan was created, there would also naturally be a tempting possibility to equate such a Pakistan with India in some way or the other and keep India under check. Therefore the British since the Cripps Offer tried their best through various subtle means to give the Muslim League their Pakistan on a provincial basis, which they sincerely believed would serve British interests adequately. But the vigilance and intransigence of the Congress leaders and the impracticability of such a solution given the ground realities, made this unworkable and impossible.

The third alternative was the creation of a truncated Pakistan. In this case, Hindustan will be weakened, but not to that extent as in the case of the creation of a full Pakistan. It could still emerge as a power and pose a challenge to British interests at sea and in the air, with the help of the Russians and Chinese and even pose a threat to the sovereignty of Pakistan, which would be detrimental to British Commonwealth strategy.32

Until the outbreak of the Second World War the British authorities tended more towards the formation and consolidation of a united India, though time and again they did not fail to hold that India was not one nation. But the Second World War altered drastically this position. They could no longer continue to harp in favour of a united India. Instead, it was none other than the British Viceroy Linlithgow who laid the groundwork for the partition of India, by recognising Jinnah’s claim for separation. This however did not prevent a few utterances off and on in favour of the geographical unity of India, by both Linlithgow and his successor Lord Wavell. But on the whole the tendency was no more in favour of a united India.

This tendency became more obvious when Sir Stafford Cripps came to India with his proposals in 1942. The Cripps Offer was the first attempt at dividing India on the basis of provinces and princely states. If this Offer had been successful the Muslim League would have obtained in all probability a full Pakistan consisting of all the Muslim-majority provinces or the Muslim provinces would have probably become independent. Thus India could have been completely disrupted and weakened. This would have been in line with Churchill’s thinking. But the Cripps Offer failed to take off due to Congress opposition mainly.

It is politically naïve to think that Cripps who was ambassador in Moscow before coming out with his Offer was not aware of the ‘Great Game’ that was being played between Britain and Russia for quite a long time. It will be also naïve to think that Cripps did not take the ‘Great Game’ into consideration when he formulated his Offer which provided for the breaking away of the Muslim majority provinces and the princely states. Such a split would actually safeguard British interests in the northern Indian Ocean waters and in north-west India which was strategically crucial for western interests, as noted precedingly. Of course, the Indian leaders, both Hindu and Muslim never saw the problem from this angle. But this could not mean that such an international dimension to the Cripps Offer did not exist.

As a matter of fact, when in 1942 Cripps came out with his Offer, it was none other than V.P.Menon, the much-esteemed Reforms Commissioner of the British Indian government who held the following about Cripps Offer:


The opinion was widely expressed that the British were bent upon the division of the country; that they wanted to create a Middle-eastern sphere of influence and in pursuance of that policy wished to bring about the creation of a separate Pakistan. This would accord with their traditional liking of the Muslims, with their policy of protecting the Straits and the Suez Canal from Russian influence and with this new but overwhelming interest in the oil of Iran, Iraq and Arabia.33


Thus it became obvious that the Offer of Cripps for the division of India on a provincial basis was not just an innocent offer, in order to solve the Indian constitutional deadlock. But it had other hidden motives not so obvious to the Indian leaders, but which were tailor-made to protect British interests in the region, in the case of British withdrawal from India after the war.

The Second Simla Conference proposal for the creation of a Hindu block and a Muslim block, united by a weak centre, was the next attempt in this direction of creating a basis for Pakistan consisting of all the Muslim majority provinces including Assam. This failed to click. But the Cabinet Mission, in which Sir Stafford Cripps was obviously calling the shots, did not give up. They submitted another plan, creating two Muslim blocks and one Hindu block, united by a weak Centre. But the attempt to create a territorial basis for an eventual big Pakistan on the basis of provinces was never abandoned. Even this failed to take off.

It was none other than K.M.Panikkar, another expert in Indian constitutional affairs who opined that the Muslim blocks would weaken the Centre irremediably. V.P.Menon was convinced that this would have paved the way for a province-wise secession of the Muslim blocks. If this province-wise secession on the basis of the Cabinet Mission Plan had materialised, the British would have achieved their objective of controlling the northern Indian Ocean waters and the region adjacent to it, through the Muslim-dominated state of the north-west. They would have also gained access to China and Burma, if a Muslim- dominated state came about in north-east India. As noted, this was foreseen by none other than that great British strategist and geo-political thinker, Sir Olaf Caroe. Nevertheless this seems to be the only plausible reason for the inclusion of the non-Muslim province of Assam in the Muslim-dominated group.34

Later other attempts were made during the Viceroyalty of Lord Mountbatten, which would have ended up in a full Pakistan or even in a full and independent Bengal and a full and independent West Pakistan. Besides, Sir Stafford Cripps was till the end of the view that the princely states had the right to become independent on the lapse of paramountancy.35 Finally the British decided upon the third alternative i.e. the creation of a truncated Pakistan which would nevertheless serve their geo-political and strategic interests of the British and the west, with America emerging as a leading power of the western block, in the entire Middle-east and the Indian Ocean region. It is certainly not because Jinnah demanded Pakistan and the Congress opposed it and that they could not see eye to eye that the British decided to split India. Instead, the split was necessary in order to serve the interests of the British and the west, reduce the power of India, split the Indian Muslims and render Pakistan dependent on the west and eventually gain a permanent foothold in south Asia. It was also done with the objective of creating a Muslim block running from Pakistan to west Asia who would be partners in an Anglo-American alliance which would include the British Commonwealth. Jinnah unskilfully played into British hands, while both the Congress and Muslim League leaders were both oblivious to the geo-political and strategic interests of the west in Asia and the Indian Ocean region, which pushed the British finally to divide India.  

In the light of the above, it is impossible to believe the following assertion of Lord Mountbatten, the last Viceroy of India:


If the intention of the British had been to remain in India, it was conceivable that they might have tried a ‘divide and rule’ policy. But the British were going in June 1948.36


Besides, it is impossible to trust Mountbatten when he claimed ‘that America and Britain were one as far as defence was concerned and neither would dream of backing one part of India against another. In fact, it was Krishna Menon who told bluntly to Mountbatten that America wanted the Indian market and also bases against Russia. So America and Britain would back Pakistan with arms and ammunitions and in no time Pakistan would have a superior armed force than Hindustan.37

Nevertheless one could say along with R.J.Moore that division assisted imperialism before independence.38 But it is hard to admit that division would not assist imperialism after independence, given the preceding. Strangely Mountbatten wanted everyone to believe that the British were no more in need of the ‘divide and rule’ policy as they were leaving and if India was split it was because the Congress and the Muslim League could not see eye to eye.

In conclusion one could say that the creation of a truncated Pakistan had reduced India virtually into a struggling power, with a myriad internal and external problem. On the other hand Pakistan had become highly dependent on the western powers economically and militarily and for its very survival. There are unmistakable indicators that India too is following more or less the same dangerous path presently. In any case, both have become parts of British Commonwealth strategy as envisaged by British statesmen and strategists in the 1940s.

Besides, Pakistan had entered a turbulent phase since the secession of East Pakistan as Bangladesh in 1971. Baluchis, Sindhis, Afghans or Pathans or the Mohajirs (Indian Muslim refugees) resent the domination of Punjabis in Pakistan. Thus the demand for Pakistan which Jinnah thought would solve the problems of all Indian Muslims had actually ended up in splitting the Indian Muslims into three different entities: Pakistan, India and Bangladesh. It had weakened them probably irreversibly in south Asia and international politics. The situation in India is no better where force is being used in several parts of the country to maintain the unity of India to the extent that one cannot imagine Indian unity without force and coercion.  What remains of India too as India, has been sufficiently weakened due to partition. Its desire to become a superpower through petitioning and canvassing lacks substance and seriousness. There is history to remind us that superpowers are made in the battlefield and nobody has become a superpower in any other way. The British of course were the only winners in the partition game played in the Indian sub-continent as they had through calculated moves backed by long standing experience in international politics had succeeded in not only protecting their geo-political and strategic interests in the region by simply splitting India before their withdrawal, but they had also diminished the importance of India and of course Pakistan at the world stage. It can be concluded safely that the British split India in order to protect their and western geo-political and strategic interests in the entire Indian Ocean region and south Asia and not because Jinnah and the All India Muslim League demanded Pakistan or because the Congress and the Muslim League could not see eye to eye.



1. Sankar Ghose. Mahatma Gandhi. Bombay, 1991, pp.257-259; Khalid bin Sayeed. Pakistan: The Formative Phase, 1857-1948, London, 1968, p.80; Indian Annual Register, 1934, I; R.J.Moore. Escape from Empire. The Attlee Government and the Indian Problem, London, 1983, p.3

2. Returns showing the results of elections in India, 1937. Cmd. 5589; Y.V. Gangowsky, L.R. Gordon-Polanskaya. A History of Pakistan, Moscow, 1964, p.64

3. Letter No. 42 from Lord Linlithgow to His Majesty, 19 October 1939, Linlithgow papers, India Office Library; Khalid bin Sayeed. op.cit. pp. 118-119; R.J.Moore. op.cit. p.9; Sankar Ghose. op.cit. pp. 280-81

4. Note on the proceedings of the AIML at Delhi, 24-26 April 1943, Transfer of Power papers(TP) III, pp.919-922; R.G. Casey (Bengal) to Lord Wavell, Tel. Calcutta, 3 December 1945, TP, VI, p.591

5. The Modern Review. July 1945, p.2; Lal Bahadur. Struggle for Pakistan: Tragedy of the Triumph of Muslim Communalism in India 1906-1947. London, 1988, p.231

6. Nawab of Bhopal to Lord Mountbatten and Liaquat Ali Khan, 10 April 1947, TP, X, pp.330-331; Record of Interview between Lord Mountbatten and Liaquat Ali Khan, 10 April 1947, TP. X, pp.330-331; Dawn, 6 August 1946; Nawab of Bhopal to Lord Mountbatten, 27 March 1947 and Minutes of Viceroy’ s fourth meeting, TP. X, pp. 34-36

7. J.B.P.More. Partition of India: Players and Partners. Tellicherry, 2008, pp. 109-167

8. Ibid. pp.71, 80; Gwyer and Appadorai. Eds. Speeches and Documents on the Indian Constitution, 1922-37. II, Oxford, 1957, p.525; Mohamed Raza Khan. What Price Freedom. Madras, 1969, p.99; Indian Annual Register, 1942, I, pp.294-5

9. J.B.P.More. op.cit. pp. 109-167

10. Jawaharlal Nehru. The Discovery of India. Delhi, 1985, p.536

11. Manchester Guardian. 5 October 1943; Sarvepalli Gopal. Jawaharlal Nehru: A Biography. II, 1947-56. Delhi, 1979, p.258

12. Abul Kalam Azad. India wins Freedom. Hyderabad, 1989, p.209

13. See Peter Brobst. The Future of the Great Game. Sir Olaf Caroe. India’s Independence and the Defence of India. Akron, Ohio, 2005

14. R.J.Moore. op.cit. p.11; Eric Estorick. Stafford Cripps. The Master Statesman. London, 1949, p.332

15. J.B.P.More. op,cit. p.308; Chief of Staffs Committee. C.O.S. (47) 62nd meeting , 12 May 1947, TP X, p.789

16. Fraser to Attlee, 26 May 1947, TP X, pp.989-990, TP XI, p. 945; Le Populaire, 8 May 1948

17. Note by Field Marshall  Sir C. Auchinleck, 11 May 1946, TP XII, pp. 800-801

18. Hindustan Times. 20, 21 July, 7 October 1946, 18 January 1947

19. Olaf Caroe. Wells of Power: A Challenge to Islam. A Study in Contrasts. London, 1951, pp.64, 67, 121; Note on the Results to British Commonwealth of the Transfer of Political Power in India. TP VIII, pp. 50-52

20. Olaf Caroe. Ibid. pp.88, 96, 97, 121, 147, 166

21. Ibid. pp. 32-33; Brobst. op.cit. pp. xiv; Future Relations between India and adjacent countries. Memo of the Secretary of state. India Office, 22 March 1947, TP X, pp. 2-3; Sir G. spire to Mr. Weightman, Kabul, 5 April 1947, TP X, pp. 135-136

22. Olaf Caroe. Ibid. p.164

23. R.G.Casey, Governor of Bengal to Viscount Wavell, 6 November 1944, Political Series, I, Pt. I, Wavell Collections; Hindustan Times. 28 March 1947; see also R.G. Casey. An Australian in India. London, 1947; see also Indian Conference in London. Record of Meeting, 1 December 1946, TP IX, p.276

24. Note on the results to British Commonwealth of the Transfer of Political Power in India and Appreciation of the Strategic Value of India to the British Commonwealth of Nations (Final Paper), TP VIII, pp. 50-53, 56; Staff, Ministry of Defence 13 June 1947, TP XI, p.344

25. Appreciation of the Strategic Value of India to the British Commonwealth of Nations (Final Paper), TP, VIII, p.57

26. Draft Memorandum to the Chiefs of staff to the Minister of Defence – India. Strategic Requirements. TP XI, pp. 957-960. Chief of Staffs Committee C.O.S. (47) 62nd meeting, 12 May 1947, TP X, p. 791; Mr. Turnbull to Mr.Harris, 19 June 1947, TP XI, p>517-518

27. B.Shiva Rao. India’s Freedom Movement: Some Notable Figures. New Delhi, 1972, p.213; R.J.Moore. op.cit. pp. 61, 62, 81

28. Appreciation of the Strategic Value of India to the British Commonwealth of Nations (final paper), TP VIII, pp. 53-54

29. Ibid. pp. 56-57

30. Ayesha Jalal. The Sole Spokesman: Jinnah, the Muslim League and the Demand for Pakistan. Cambridge, 1985, pp. 183-184

31. Note by Field Marshal Claude Auchinleck, 11 May 1946, TP XII, p.801; Brobst. op.cit. p. xiv

32. Note by Field Marshal Sir C.Auchinleck, 11 May 1946, TP XII, p.801

33. V.P.Menon. The Transfer of Power in India. Madras, 1968, p.438

34. Record of Interview between Lord Mountbatten and Sardar K.M.Panikkar (Extract) 5 May 1947, TP X, pp. 623-624; Olaf Caroe. op.cit. pp. xviii, xx, 3, 16-17, 32-33, 96-97, 168-169; Brobst, op.cit. pp. xiii, xiv, xx

35. Sir Stafford Cripps to Rajagoapalachari, Milbank, 23 June 1947, TP XI, pp. 565-566

36. Minutes of Viceroy’s Fourth Miscellaneous Meeting, New Delhi, 18 April 1947, TP X, p.315

37. Record of Interview between Lord Mountbatten and Liaquat Ali Khan, 10 April 1947, TP X, pp. 330-331; Krishna Menon to Lord Mountbatten, 12 April 1947, TP X, p. 372; Lord Wavell to Lord Pethick Lawrence, New Delhi, 17 September 1946, TP VIII, p. 536

38. R.J.Moore. op.cit. p.81