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Britain's Reasons for Partition of India


Partition of India has been a particularly painful moment in India’s long history.  Here is my view of why Britain partitioned India.

Why Britain Partitioned India :-

Having fought two major wars with their fraternal cousins in less than three decades, the British were desperate to cut their losses and leave those parts of the empire that were giving them particular headaches.  Indian subcontinent was a major headache for the British.  Though it was the jewel in its crown, the crown itself was too heavy for the British to wear. 

Of all its colonial enterprises, India was one of the most profitable.  It was also the most populous and hence the most difficult to manage.  At the end of WWII, Britain was broken.  Though it won the war, it was just by the skin of it’s teeth – it was a close fought thing and Britain was badly drained by the war.  Bigger than its loss of money was its loss of man power.  It had once managed to rule a vast empire around the world by exporting its young men as administrators and generals in charge of ‘natives’.  At the end of WWII, that capital of young blood was badly depleted.  Starved of fresh blood, it was impossible to m  aintain control of far flung parts of the empire. 

Natives of the empire were also no longer happy to be ruled by their British over lords.  Having seen how the Europeans lived and fought in their own lands, the Natives realized that they were just as human as themselves.  They also realized the hypocrisy of Western governments, who espoused democracy at home, but promoted ruthless dictatorship in colonial outposts.

Natives who had studied in Britain were also agitating for self-rule.  In face of their logical arguments, Britain found it difficult to defend the empire on moral grounds.  Having fought fascist ideology in Germany it was impossible to defend the concept of empire.  Economic grounds for empire were also weakening.  What had been lucrative investments in pre-war years were no longer profitable.  Without the use of slaves or indentured labourers, extracting minerals, wood and other raw materials was also becoming expensive.  Laying the infrastructure (roads, rails, government buildings, phone etc) was expensive in countries where floods kept wiping these out on a regular basis.  Getting rid of expensive overseas commitments made good business sense.

Britain knew exactly what would happen as a result of the partitioning India. They had used 'partition' as a tool of it's 'mischievous' foreign policy in the past.  Partition gave Britain and excuse to keep itself involved in the affairs of the nations it was forced to give up.  Currently, Africa, Middle-East, South-East-Asia and India - they are all suffering thanks to the way British government split them up upon independence. Nations were deliberately not split in a rational manner - geography, history, ethnicity etc.  Local people's wishes were deliberately ignored to create artificial boundaries that are impossible to defend or maintain. 

Sadly, emotive issues involved with 'partition' has kept India, Pakistan and Bangladesh on the boil for the last 67 years. If only the politicians involved realise that they are being played like a fiddle by Britain and the Western powers, they would stop fighting and work to improve the lives of their countrymen. 

What all the citizens of the subcontinent should realise is that the Partition is a done deal and it can not be undone. India can't reabsorb the 2 x Pakistans and the 2 Pakistans can't steal land given to India without a catastrophic war.  Politicians keep the issue alive to divert the people away from real issues of jobs, housing, education, commerce, infrastructure etc.  As long as they are able to ‘blame’ the neighbouring country for fermenting some trouble, they can get away with doing their real job of working to improve the lot of their own country.  People should call out this fraud and make their politicians more responsible for what really matters in their lives.

Britain also needs to take responsibility and apologise for the mess it has created in the sub-continent (and the world). BUT at no time should Britain go back in to 'fix' things. They will only make matters worse. 


© Bhagwat Shah   
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