For “Strategic Reasons”, Did Britain Want Pakistan in 1947?

I got these via an email from an author who apparently wishes to remain anonymous. Since any post about partition gets a lively debate going, I though I would put these up (again, I did not write these points, I am just the messenger 🙂 ):

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Omar Ali

I am a physician interested in obesity and insulin resistance, and in particular in the genetics and epigenetics of obesity As a blogger, I am more interested in history, Islam, India, the ideology of Pakistan, and whatever catches my fancy. My opinions can change.

53 thoughts on “For “Strategic Reasons”, Did Britain Want Pakistan in 1947?”

  1. The More paper (2nd link) is quite interesting. I take issue with its general conspiratorial tone (what else would you expect a strategic world power to do but to safeguard its interests?) but really enjoyed this towards the end-

    “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 likes of Shashi Tharoor and others in Delhi should pay heed and eschew empty talk of “soft power”. David Reich called India a land of collisions in many other contexts, perhaps the Indian state’s policy can achieve strategic coherence only as a swing power, with no pretensions of super-powerhood.

    1. Partition is quite good for Hindu right.otherwise India would have been Muslim majority by the end of the century.

      1. What are the numbers to prove this? If India, Pakistan and Bangladesh would have been one country, Muslims would have been one third of the total population. That’s hardly a majority.

          1. @leopard, Do you have some links to places where numbers of this kind are given along with a formal derivation? I don’t want to just believe claims that “experts” have estimated this or that, I would rather take a call after seeing the methodology and arithmetic myself.

          2. 21% is hardly a majority. Again, I would like to see actual numbers. Otherwise this sounds like loony Hindutva thinking “Oh the Muslims are having so many babies and we Hindus aren’t. It’s cause each Muslim man has 4 wives yaar” (by the way, most Muslim men have only one wife) . Your PM made some very Islamophobic comments back in 2014 or earlier about “Hum panch, Hamaray Pachees” and your comment seems a bit reminiscent of that.

            Anyway, one easy way to lessen your Muslim population is to give Kashmir to Pakistan or let them be an independent country. Are you open to that?

          3. Yes this is the problem with democracy and demography – what people don’t realise is that democracies like India, Israel and even Western ones won’t suddenly flip if demography works against them. They’ll simply surrender democracy..

            It’s the same with South Africa; if it ever truly becomes hostile to the Afrikaaners, the Western Cape will probably become independent etc ..

          4. @leopard, I take back my question since I now I don’t think this is a suitable topic to discuss here. Anyway I have come to acquire too much respect for Omar to contribute to another flame war here. If you are open to continuing over email, please let me know.

          5. Zack,
            I totally agree. Secular people don’t say things like “OMG, those Muslims! They just keep having babies!”.
            It is countries like Israel that talk constantly of “demographic threat” but then again Israel is Occupying a whole another people. India doesn’t have that problem (except perhaps in Kashmir).

            This is what I call Islamophobia.

        1. Higher Muslim fertility is verifiable in multiple government surveys and is not a myth. The Muslim population of India rose from 9% in 1947 to 14% today, because of the same. Ofcourse, you will claim that is because of poverty and not religion, but even Hindu scheduled castes have lower fertility than Muslims in almost all the districts. (There is district wise data from census 2011 saying this, I’m too lazy to dig it up though)

          1. If u don’t like the fertility rates than simply take away Muslim voting rights.

            It’s so annoying when people proclaim to be secular and democratic and then agonise over demography; hypocritical even..

      2. India was ~25% muslim in 1947, and it (historical India, not the state that calls itself India) is ~33% Muslim now. It is foolhardy to predict > 50 years out, but if I were to stick my neck out, I would say Muslims will be ~40% in 2100.

        If India was not partitioned, Muslim population would have likely grown faster. Two long-term trends to likely retard population growth in the heavily Muslim regions, especially in the years to come-
        (1) In Bengal, population growth is retarded because of the border (however porous) retarding more heavy Bengali Muslim migration into rest of India and reduction of resource pressure in lower Bengal.
        (2) In the Sindhu valley, Indus water treaty split water resources based on 1960 population levels. Disproportionate population growth in the Muslim regions face a water-resource crunch that could have been ameliorated by migration in a united India.

        Winners of partition- Muslim elite, religious & right-wing Hindus, foreign powers.
        Losers of partition- Muslims in general, Indian “secular” nationalism, and India’s state security.

        1. Muslims are the winners of Partition – Pakistani Muslims have done extraordinarily well vis a vis Indian Muslims (apart from their highly visible Bollywood-historic elite).

          There are many factors (Muslims who stayed behind were either very rich or very poor) but there is something to be said for Pakistan being good for the Muslims.

          Has Israel been equally as good for the Jews (who have an extraordinary successful diaspora); I don’t know about that..

          1. Zack, Indian muslims substantially economically outperform Bangladeshis and Pakistanis and the margin of this outperformance is widening.

            Would you say that Israel has been economically good for the 20 to 23 percent of her population that is non Jewish Arab (mostly Palestinian)? How would you describe their experience as Israelis?


            Many Gazans and West Bank Palestinians want Israeli citizenship.

          2. I don’t know whether Pakistan was “good for the Muslims”. Demographic indicators in Pakistan are pretty sad. But there is something to be said for being a majority in a country as opposed to a minority.

            Anyway, it is what it is now.

          3. It is difficult to respond when an argument falls into the “not even wrong” category. Pakistani Muslims doing better vis-a-vis “Indian” Muslims, even if true (likely but I don’t see any conclusive evidence), does not imply that Muslims are the winners of partition. It doesn’t even imply that Pakistani Muslims are the winners of partition. The right test is Muslims today vs Muslims in a united India for the former, and Pakistani Muslims today vs Muslims in a united India for the latter.

            Also, Israel is different in so many ways that introducing it here, IMO, will only muddy the waters.

        2. @Rahul, Not going to comment about directionality or specifics so as to respect Zack’s fear of moral hazard, but that number 40% seems completely made up, so be very skeptical of whichever source you got it from (if you calculated yourself, recheck your calculations). That is just not how exponential functions work (yes, even after accounting for how rates change).

          1. @froginthewell
            Agree. ~40% is made-up and I suggested as much in my comment. My point was to respond to the earlier commentator who said it will be 50% and propose a likely upper bound. There is no way to predict > 50 years out with any accuracy. In the interest of rigor, I can withdraw that number; but I stand behind the rest of the comment on its own merit.

            Please enlighten how moral hazard enters into this discussion.

          2. It’s not only about >50 years: these sorts of figures involve functions that aren’t suited for naive human extrapolation. That is why I said in a different comment above that I won’t even trust research papers in general, I need to see the methodology myself. The rest of the comment is not my concern.

          3. How exactly is it made up?if in 2018 the combined population is around 35 percent.

          4. @leopard, I am apprehensive about posting much on this issue here, but just to clarify, I didn’t say or suggest that your number was made up; I suggested that Rahul’s number appeared to be so, and he honorably admitted to it. I don’t know anything about your estimates, and would like to know more about them, but not while on this comment thread.

  2. Churchill was in covert contact with Jinnah and was generally friendly to him. For Churchill , Jinnah provided the leverage in south asia after the proposed Indian Independence. Churchill did not like Hindus or Hinduism , he called Hinduism ‘beastly religion’. He had poor opinion of Islam too – that is a different matter. At one point Churchill asked Jinnah not to be too publicly associated with him, lest it raise concern among Indian and British politicians . I think Before 1947 , Churchill played a secret and negative game in propping up Jinnah so as to have India partitioned.

    Churchill’s plan succeeded. Pakistan was an ally of the US and the west through CENTO treaty. Pakistan also dutifully carried out the role laid out for it the west asia

  3. It is a little too conspiratorial but partly true. Don’t want to go into all the reasons why right now.

    VC, I think Jinnah was an Indian patriot (at least until the summer of 1947). Jinnah’s support for fighting Tojo and Hitler was genuine. Most Hindus and Nehru agreed with Jinnah regarding this. Jinnah was fighting Tojo and Hitler for India, not for England.

    This said I think some English people played Jinnah.

    I am not a fan of Chuchill. But why is the subject of another day. Have a long list of constructive feedback for Churchill 🙂

  4. Partition-47 was an utter disaster from many angles . It uprooted millions of people under horrible circumstances and resulted in large scale killing. Partition was never thought out or given out for public discussion for the parities who were going to be affected or at the national level. Something like like should have been discussed again and again for a few decades, all it’s principles and implications worked out , plans laid out and carried out .

    Partition is a testimony to the lack of political acumen in the subcontinent.
    Partition proves that quick, violent success on a big scale will bring untold, and unforeseen miseries.

    1. +108 VC

      The English should have left India far more slowly. India should have been an independent dominion under the Crown and the English (with elected governments) for many years while working these issues out. The English only held the first Indian election in 1937. There wasn’t enough time after that. The English only allowed meritocratic promotion through the civil services, Indian Army and Indian institutions starting in the 1930s. Again far too late. The English should have done a lot more to surge Indian capacity 1858 to 1929. After the global great depression starting in 1929, England no longer had the ability to surge Indian capacity quickly enough.

      1. AnAn, having asked for Britain’s exit from India , Indian leaders could not reverse the stand. OTOH, with Independence within striking distance , Congress leaders should have made the British government more accountable and exchange Agitator hat for Statesman hat. Congress was strong enough to represent Indian masses but was weak enough to stem Jinnah’s rise.
        Any massive change in the political dispensation brings forth all sorts of fears, anxieties and ambitions. Any political revolution – revolution here in a loose sense – brings lots of opportunities and threats.

        1. I think India’s leaders should have made India an independent dominion inside the English empire 1945-1947 while working these issues out.

          During WWII Quit India was a mistake that Gandhi forced on a reluctant Nehru and Congress Party.

  5. Jinnah was against Quit India because he always (until Direct Action Day) believed in the use of incremental and Constitutional methods. He also probably didn’t see the point of going to jail (and there is perhaps some merit in that). As far as strategy was concerned, he differed from INC.

    The British were going to leave India after WWII for their own reasons, not out of great love for Indians. There was rationing at home and Britain had been devastated by war. Governing a far-flung Empire was unsustainable especially when the “natives” had made it clear that the English were not wanted. I don’t think the creation of Pakistan was part of a British grand plan. I think they were just desperate to get out and they realized they couldn’t get out while leaving “India” (British India) united. So Partition was the price paid for their exit.

    Partition was a disaster in terms of its implementation. But from the vantage of 70 years later, I think Pakistanis are better served by being given the opportunity to rule ourselves. I would venture Bangladeshis are also glad they are not Indian citizens. The Hindu Right is certainly happy that there are less Muslims (see the comments above). All one can hope for is somewhat normal diplomatic relations between India and Pakistan.

    1. At the same time
      1. The Hindu-Muslim troubles of pre-47 were dealt with lathi charges or tear gas shells. Now , due to Partition , there are 2 antagonistic nuclear powers
      2. even without nuclear bombs, there is lot of defense and security expenses, and consequent drain on budget for development
      3. The intra-subcontinent trade, commerce and movement of capital, investment and people has been greatly reduced.
      4. From a strategic perspective, Pakistan happily invites NATO in Afghanistan and any involvement of military blocs from a different part of the world in south Asia will undermine regional security and even independence some day. It will be a replay of early 18th century when Indian kings merrily invited European armies to fight on their behalf – or so they thought – and eventually lost independence.

      1. I don’t think Pakistan had a choice about NATO coming into Afghanistan. According to General Musharraf, some American official (I forget who) threatened to “bomb Pakistan back to the stone age” if Musharraf didn’t cooperate. Of course this is a story that the General himself told, so take it with some salt.

        1. VC, the Pakistani Army publicly lies and claims to support the GIRoA (Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan), ANA (Afghan National Army), UNAMA, and the UN/NATO capacity building mission in Afghanistan while secretly doing everything possible to overthrow GIRoA and kill the ANA. Sometimes Pakistani Army generals don’t even pretend to support the Afghan Air Force (AAF) and demand that it not be funded, trained and equipped.

          By contrast India has been very supportive of GIRoA, ANA, AAF (donating many military aircraft and spare parts) and the UN/NATO capacity building mission. India asked to join the then ISAF (UN military force to aid the Afghans), but India was asked not to participate by President Bush and President Obama . . . who were trying to placate Pakistan. ISAF dissolved in 2014. There is now a new UN/NATO mission in Afghanistan.

          What causes a loss of “independence” is slow capacity/competency growth, dependency, inferiority complex, lack of self confidence and post modernism.

          Kabir, there is no doubt that the US threatened Pakistan after 9/11. Senior generals in the Pakistani Army were complicit in 9/11. Part of the price Pakistan had to bear was that Afghanistan (which was then a Pakistani Army advised protectorate) was taken away from the Pakistani Army. Pakistan withdrew somewhere between 10,000 and 20,000 advisors to the Taliban overnight in 2001–which caused the Taliban to dissolve mostly without a fight. Later however the Deep State GHQ changed their mind and sent advisors back to Afghanistan. We are where we are now.

          1. “Senior Generals in the Pakistani Army were complicit in 9/11”. This is an outrageous claim and if you don’t have solid proof for it, I would highly recommend you withdraw it. OBL was living in Afghanistan. I don’t think the Pakistani Army gained much from 9/11. And whatever you think about Pak Army, they always act in institutional interests (not necessarily national interests).

            Pakistan is always going to be interested in keeping India out of our backyard. That is only natural. Would you let your enemy encircle you? Whether supporting the Taliban was a good strategy is something I’m not going to get into.

    2. “Partition was a disaster in terms of its implementation.”

      The revenge of British on the natives. They want to look as nice guys. So, they made sure the natives fight and kill as many as possible upon their exit. Just like Bengal famine, British should be held responsible for the havoc caused by partition. Not partition itself.

      1. I don’t think the British planned the ethnic cleansing. I think even Nehru and Jinnah didn’t anticipate the horrors that would take place. Perhaps they should have, but they didn’t.

        1. “I don’t think the British planned the ethnic cleansing.”

          Smart people who are in power don’t leave a written note about their misdeeds. It is up to us to connect the dots. South Asians often are misguided to thank British for the colonial times. Be that as it may. When you wish bad on natives and during a time the tempers ran high as anticipated, you simply get out of the way. And claim your hands are clean.

          1. Lord Mountbatten is responsible for advancing the date of Partition by a year and having Radcliffe draw a shoddy line. That’s about as far as I would go.

  6. Secular Indian says
    Higher Muslim fertility is verifiable in multiple government surveys and is not a myth. The Muslim population of India rose from 9% in 1947 to 14% today,

    The Hindus have higher child mortality than the Muslims. Apparently linked to open defecation. You can figure out the reason Hindus are less likely to use common toilets. Muslims dont seem to have an issue using common toilets.

    Today more than 600 million Indians defecate in the open. But India is not the only country to face this problem—15 percent of the world’s population does that. Recent research has shown that open defecation leads to higher child mortality rates and stunted growth. Some regions in India do worse than sub-Saharan Africa on those parameters.

    It was important to be sure that there were no other systematic differences among religious practices of Hindus and Muslims that could have contributed. In “the rare places where Hindus are less likely to defecate in the open than Muslims,” Spears and Geruso found that the advantage reverses—child mortality among Hindus turns out to be lower than that among Muslims.

    The analysis also showed that Hindu households residing in villages with majority Muslim population experienced lower child mortality than Hindus living among other Hindus. The reverse also held true—Muslims living among Hindus had higher mortality rates than if they lived among Muslims.

    he Indian government has spent millions to build toilet facilities through programs such as Total Sanitation Campaign, but they often remain unused or are repurposed.

  7. I blame the English for two botched administrations and partitions:
    1) South Asia or British India (which began in 1919 with the Raj letting go of Afghanistan to ensure that an independent India didn’t get Afghanistan)
    2) Near Asia or Israel/Palestine

    Both have been cluster mess ups that still threaten the world:

    1) The conflict between Afghanistan/India on one side and Pakistan on the other as well as the Pakistani civil war; and Pakistani psychosis are all collateral effects of the botched English administration and partition of South Asia.
    2) I don’t think anyone would question that the English devastated near Asia with their botched administration and partition of historic Palestine. The English did better with TransJordan.

    The English don’t get called out on their criminal incompetence enough. But that is the subject for another day.

    1. AnAn, I agree with you on a few items here. In Middle-East the Brits ruled by literally drawing a line in the sand. That is where the expression line in the sand originated! You have indicated, “The English don’t get called out on their criminal incompetence enough.” I applaud you for the comment of the day on BP. 🙂

    2. There is no “Pakistani Civil War”. Liberal and fundamentalist Pakistanis hate each other just as much as liberal and fundamentalist Indians. Shall I start throwing out terms like “Indian Civil War”. Let’s be equal opportunity here folks. “Pakistani psychosis” is extremely offensive. Remember the furor when I titled a post “Indian psychosis”? Let’s stop with this nonsense.

      Agree with you that the British departure from British India and from Palestine had very negative consequences. However, in British India, the colonial power at least negotiated an agreement (good agreement, bad agreement we can differ on that). In Palestine, Jewish terrorist groups were killing the British (King David Hotel anyone?). Also, the Palestinian people rightfully said “hell no” to a small minority getting 50% of their land. The Zionists started a war and won. Very different from South Asia. By the way, Jordan was part of Palestine and the British separated it in order to reward the Hashemite Monarchy for something. Some extreme Zionists even now say “Jordan is the Palestinian State” (obviously, I am not agreeing with them).

  8. Nobody mentioned Olaf Caroe, the last foreign secretary of the British ran in India and his book “The Wells of power”. Caroe thought Britain could not rely on anti-imperialist Nehru to protect British and the Atlantic alliances interests in the Indian ocean. Caroe wanted a state in northwest India to protect the oil supply to Britain and the West.

    1. Raj these are tiny issues compared to the colonization of the Indian mind, including through divide and conquer post modernist brainwashing. Including the English policy of turning muslim against Hindu; and trying to gin up minority tension.

      Oil should be left to the free market. India has contributed mightily to protecting global sea lanes and global oil supplies since 1947 and never disrupted them. It is crazy to think that India would have ever behaved otherwise. India benefits greatly from free global sea lanes and open oil supply lines.

  9. The oil trade depends on the American military policing the sea lanes in the Persian gulf region. The American military has kept the sea lanes open since the withdrawal of the British. There is a reason Saudi Arabia buys hundreds of billions in military weapons from American defense companies.

    1. The Indian navy, Chinese navy, Japanese navy, Australian navy, European navies also play a large role in protecting global sea lanes including near the greater middle east. It is important for Americans to recognize and appreciate their role and not accuse them of free loading off American taxpayers.

      Remember that the US doesn’t buy large quantities of oil from the middle east. America is an energy exporter. Most of the oil in the middle east is sold to Asia and to a lesser degree Europe (which has a smaller economy than Asia).

      Saudi Arabia doesn’t care about America and is not America’s friend. They buy large amounts of weapons from Russia, China, Europe too. They are buying weapons in attempt to become a regional military superpower and play power games with their “enemies.” Good luck with that.

      Arab League navies and air-forces also play a large role in protecting sea lanes near the Arab world.

      It is critical to US national interests that China, Japan, India, South Korea, Indonesia and Asia more generally has access to oil and natural gas. An Asian economic negative supply shock would cause an Asian and global recession and global financial crisis. When Asia coughs, the rest of the world catches cold.

  10. Remember that the US doesn’t buy large quantities of oil from the middle east.
    Saudi Arabia doesn’t care about America and is not America’s friend. They buy large amounts of weapons from Russia, China, Europe too.

    AnAn you are doing a lot of revisionist history.
    For a start the US was buying most of its oil from Saudi Arabia until a few years ago. Heard of Aramco. The US propped up an medieval monarchy to ensure a steady supply of oil.
    Now the the US wants SA money and has been selling weapons galore (under Obama and Trump) to SA to fight the Yemenis, a war that has caused a humanitarian disaster.

    Russian and Chinas sales of weapons to SA, is a drop in the ocean compared to the arms (and military support) sold and provided by the US and Europe .

    1. sbarrakum, Thanks for the clarification. It is common knowledge that the U.S. and Saudi Arabia are attached at the hip.

      1. Hoipolloi,

        Common knowledge like common sense is not common.

        The caveat being common knowledge and sense may not necessarily be fact.

        Then I can start playing mind games, is a 10% or 50% a fact.

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