American Pressure on the British Empire for the Independence of India: American Financial Leverage on the Decolonisation of the British Empire.

American Pressure on the British Empire for the Independence of India: American Financial Leverage on the Decolonisation of the British Empire.

Nevertheless, as it has been said, the decline of the United Kingdom’s economic, colonial and strategic superiority remained invisible for a long period. The county’s resources, in particular its accumulated overseas holding, were enormous up to 1914; its diplomatic flexibility offered a good prospect against a global disaster from an overwhelming foreign coalition; and the decline was relative not absolute.

American Anti-Colonialism and the Decolonisation of the British Empire:

American  Pressure  for  the  Independence  of  India

The United States’ first phase of expansion was without fighting any major wars. It had no rivals on the continent and therefore rapidly occupied its hinterland. It soon made its presence felt outside the continent (Liberia, 1820; Japan, 1854; China, 1859) and by the turn of the century ensured its economic dominance over the American continent and occupied the Pacific as far as the Philippines. “Until the Korean War, the U.S.A had known only absolute victories, total successes; the conquest of the West, the purchase of land from foreign powers (Alaska in 1867), wars against Mexico and Spain. The interventions in 1917 and 1941 themselves were wars in which the United States was protected by its geographic isolation.”16

The United States, being proud of having neither rivals nor colonies, had not throughout her history developed any real conception of inter-state relations. “Not having known the realities that spring from a constant struggle for national self-preservation, the United State became a world power with a historical experience very different from that of the European states.”17

Additionally, Americans were brought up to distrust the very notion of imperialism, whether they were descendants of American revolutionaries or refugees from the old tyrannies of the European continent. Therefore, contrary to the British, who in the previous century had considered themselves entitled to interference with slavery, the Americans regarded themselves as destined to lead the way to universal self-determination. This is to say that if America interferes in other nations’ affairs it is meant to free them from another state’s rule.

As a result “the American certainly did not propose to support the British Empire after the war, however special the Special Relationship. Roosevelt himself was vehement critic of the Empire – ‘the British would take hand anywhere in the world’, he once remarked, ‘even if it were only a rock or sandbar’.”18 For example “as early as 1942 Roosevelt was suggesting to Churchill that India should be given immediate Dominion status, with freedom to secede from the Empire altogether.”19

But it was in the winter and spring of 1943 that it became clear to the British that colonial independence was the explicit American goal. Of the several discussions that the British Foreign Secretary, Anthony Eden, had with the American officials, one in particular brought out the President’s elaborate ideas for colonial reorganisation. President Roosevelt and the British Foreign Secretary met on the 27th March 1943 in order to discuss the possible structure of the post-war international organisation. In that meeting Roosevelt insisted on the central part of China as one of the four foundation members. This made them discuss the Far East’s future. It included the fate of the Japanese mandated islands. Eden reported to Churchill: “In the Far East the policy is to be ‘Japan for the Japanese’. Manchuria and Formosa would be returned to China and southern Sakhalin to Russia.”20

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