10.4 Partition and Conspiracy: The UN and Islam


We can now touch briefly on an essay in The Congress Party in India (ed. N. S. Gehlot, 1991) by Gehlot himself. In it he defends Nehru against Maulana Azad, though this is not of central interest here.

Gehlot covers much familiar ground. He describes the period 1946-47 as ‘when the British imperialist strategy was bent upon one or more divisions of the British India’ (p. 83). Mountbatten had a ‘secret plan’ to balkanise India. ‘It was both secret and limited to a handful of the Indian leaders including the Maulana himself’ (p. 86-87). So, we must believe that this plan was secret, but also widely known? Regardless, Gehlot tells us that Mountbatten’s plan would have resulted in the emergence of ‘at least a dozen confused nations’. Then we learn that ‘… the British authorities had a deep-rooted conspiracy of creating anarchy in the country’ (p. 87). As explained above, this is quite wrong. Finally we get: ‘There would have been numerous Vaticans, abanons (sic: Lebanons?), and Bhutans on this Indian soil, each one having a representative at the United Nations, thus playing in the hands of the imperialist powers of the `West’ ’ (p. 88).

This is a bit different – not to say novel. We are being asked to believe that the British wished to atomise India, the upside of which would be a UN General Assembly full of Indian statelets, who are assumed to have been willing to bend to the West’s will. This slightly bizarre scenario is considered both sufficiently foreseeable and potentially important for it to have been a factor in the run up to Partition (though, rather bafflingly, it is not actually what happened). Now, to erect such obedient statelets and then put them in a majority on the Security Council might have been of some use, if the Russians had had no veto. But apart from that – why would this have been playing into the hands of the West? It would only help if the new statelets were all completely under western control. And why did it not come to pass, if it was such an advantageous scheme, so deeply rooted – even uppermost – in British strategic thinking?

The British did not want a posse of small states roaming around in the United Nations; what they wanted was a unified, independent India staying within the British Commonwealth. As some kind of ‘proof’ of this intention, albeit by omission, the British did have a cast-iron opportunity to create multiple successor states, and they did not take it. When Mountbatten met the senior Princes on 3 June 1947, he made it clear that any state choosing not to join either of the two new countries would not be granted Dominion Status. If the British had wanted to create a flood of small client states then this was a strange way to accomplish it, when presented with such a golden opportunity to do so. Furthermore most of the Princely States were in India and the British supported Nehru in his desire to see them accede to the new India. Mountbatten encouraged V. P. Menon in this work and actively aided Sardar Patel to bring them in through July 1947. Eventually all but three of the 565 states opted for one state or the other, with 553 joining India. The Raj may have been incompetent and ineffective by 1947, but if the British really had other plans, this must rank as their most spectacular failure, ever.

Lastly, we can briefly record, without detailed comment, the existence of another theory that goes back rather further than any of these others. It could, at time of writing, be found on a website based in the US, at http://kosal.us/IRF1-PartI.pdf. I have included this theory here for the sake of illustrating how widely conspiracy theorists can cast their nets, and just how imaginative and diverse the ideas that inspire them can be. Here follows a short summary.

In this telling of events, Pakistan was the result of a long held British ambition to set up in India ‘an alternate center of Sunni Islamic Power’ (i.e. outside Arabia), supposedly inspired by the ideas of Wilfrid Scawen Blunt (1840–1922), as expressed in his book The Future of Islam (1882). To this end the British reached an ‘unwritten agreement with the Arabs [for] the creation of a Muslim homeland in the Indian sub-continent’, as compensation after they had agreed to create a ‘national home for the Jewish people’ in Palestine (1917).

The making of this secret pact (another one!) coincided with two other things. One was the sudden realisation among the colonial powers that they needed oil and that keeping up good relations with Muslims therefore had become a strategic necessity. The other was that after the discovery of Mohenjo Daro (c. 1920), the British realised that ‘the game was up once the natives [of India] connected the Saraswathi Sindhu civilization with the Vedic tradition’, after which ‘it would be difficult to keep the country colonized.’ Partition then became a cultural project to destroy or emasculate ‘Indic’ civilisation.

This is very much a join-the-dots theory, the result of looking at world events having decided that they must all somehow be not just connected. – which to some degree of course they are – but that they must somehow be connected invisibly. There is an old logical fallacy, termed ‘post hoc ergo propter hoc’ (after this therefore because of this). That phrase just about sums up this theory and its connections. As for W. S. Blunt and his long-term influence on British foreign policy, suffice to say that he was a fierce anti-imperialist, and was viewed as a disreputable rebel and a bounder by most senior politicians. He never held office and his ideas were considered either treasonous or mad. He even spent time in prison in 1888 for the rather vulgar offence of ‘breach of the peace’, having got himself involved in violent protests in Ireland. Whatever he wrote that can be thought of as tying him into Partition is highly tenuous, blatantly anachronous, and entirely irrelevant.

The Future of Islam is a curious and interesting book, and one suspects that the author of this theory has not read it. In it, Blunt expresses open admiration for the manly and heroic virtues of the hardy, horse-loving Arabs, along with a parallel disgust for the degenerate and craven Turks, who had wrested the Caliphate and the guardianship of the Holy Places from their original Arab holders.

Blunt felt that the only hope for the regeneration of Islam was the creation of a new Arab-based Caliphate that could purge the Shari’a of its accumulated confusions. He was a romantic rather in the mould of T. E. Lawrence, of a later generation, and had even less influence than his much more famous successor. About India he had little to say. He thought that India would undoubtedly be influential in the future development of Islam, but he made no specific recommendations about British policy, and considered India too distant from Mecca, the focus of his interest, to have any significant role to play in the issue of the Caliphate.

Part 5

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