Labour Imperial Establishment, and Protecting British Power, and Interests in the Decolonisation Process: Bevinian Atlanticist View in A Bi-Partisan British Post WWII.

Labour Imperial Establishment, and Protecting British Power, and Interests in the Decolonisation Process: Bevinian Atlanticist View in A Bi-Partisan British Post WWII.

However, the Indian leaders were losing their patience and becoming increasingly active in their demands for self-government. They had no wish to wait indefinitely. The Second World War undoubtedly stimulated the Indians’ struggle for separation from the British Empire. “At the beginning of that war the Viceroy made the ludicrously inept mistake of declaring war on India’s behalf, as he was entitled to do, without consulting a single Indian.”19 The white Raj came to realise in the early 1940s that its years were numbered, as Britain’s ability to defend its Asian Empire, with war raging in Europe, was brought into question and increasing reliance had to be placed on Indian support and forces in the face of the Japanese threat. Dominion status had accordingly been offered to the Indians, once the war was over, and detailed propositions had been formulated by Sir Stafford Cripps in 1942; in that year Japanese seizure of the British possessions in the Far East, notably Singapore and Burma, had made Indian help in the face of a threatened invasion of India crucial. However, both the predominantly Hindu Congress party and the Muslim League rejected the propositions put forward by Sir Stafford Cripps. Congress had objected particularly to Cripps’ recommendation that provinces might opt out of the projected dominion, while the League rejected the proposal on the entirely opposite ground that the idea of a separate Muslim state was not contemplated. Gandhi, in particular, had contributed to the failure of Cripps’ mission with his demands that the British should leave at once, even if this meant leaving India to have and the Japanese. Gandhi’s demands obviously could not be complied with by  the British, when widespread disorder had followed the inauguration of a ‘Quit India’ campaign, by the middle of 1943, 36,000 were imprisoned, including Gandhi.

As the war ended it was clear that independence for India could not be delayed, but there was an obstacle. The unity that the British had bestowed on the country was unlikely to be permanent. Since 1940, Mohammed Ali Jinnah had been contemplating two-nation theory, and under his leadership the creation of a separate Pakistan had become the unrelenting policy of the Muslim League. The Hindus, however, were unwilling to contemplate partition. Gandhi and Nehru believed that the communal rift was essentially a domestic problem which Indians would resolve once they had obtained self-government. Gandhi predicted that when freedom had been gained “an interim solution will be found to be easy.”20 Nehru, an agnostic, whose ideal was e secular state, never envisaged a country divided along religious boundaries. In general, Congress believed that conflict was being stimulated by the British with the conscious intention of dividing and ruling.

In March 1946, however, the British Labour Government sent a Cabinet mission to India, consisting of Lord Pethick-Lawrence, the secretary of State for India, Sir Stafford Cripps, then President of the Board of Trade, and A.V. Alexander, the First Lord of the Admiralty, to try to get agreement between the Congress and the Muslim League, by suggesting the immediate establishment of an interim government as a preliminary to independence. This British scheme was rejected by the Muslim League. The proposal recommended that all positions should be held by the Indians and, as a long-term solution, the creation of a federal government which would have the central authority with control over foreign affairs, defence and communications, and would give other issues to the provincial governments.

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