How important was World War II in causing British India to be partitioned in 1947?

Futurist

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May 2014
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I have previously read that World War II was very important in causing British India to get partitioned in 1947 (due to Britain wanting to reward the Pakistani Muslims for their support of the British war effort during World War II, et cetera); my question here is this: is this information which I previously read correct? Was World War II genuinely the decisive factor in causing British India to get partitioned in the late 1940s?

Also, would British India have been likely to (eventually) gain independence as one unified state if World War II would have never occurred (such as if Adolf Hitler gets killed in 1923)?

Thoughts on this?
 
Jun 2014
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Pakistan was born in 712, by 1940s it became an adult that could bully others. Partition was not forced on Indians, even without World War, existence of Pakistan was inevitable.
 

tornada

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Mar 2013
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Ajan is correct. Pakistan's creation was not so much about "rewarding" anyone as about ensuring that the country they were creating would remain unstable, and hence allow the British to control and exploit the conflict between the two parties that would inevitably follow, and hence prevent the formation of a new geo-political power, allowing Britain to retain regional dominance. Atleast that was the plan.

So Partition did not have anything to do with the interests of the people in any way. However World War 2 did probably have an impact. Britain was seeking to withdraw as quickly as possible from its colonies during this time period, and so they rushed Partition. In the interregnum that followed, as American and European attentions were focused on Central Europe and the Soviets and also in Korea, India was able to consolidate its position, and instead of being the patchwork and wholly unsustainable polity the British had envisaged, Patel managed to create a united and stable nation. Pakistan in turn, due to the near constant support from America (which had taken over the international reins from Britain so to speak) but almost total lack of supervision started descending into Religious extremism. Having been founded on a religious identity and an identity of "rejection" of "Indianess" it naturally resulted in the secular sections of society being quickly marginalized and the hardliners coming to power. The hasty partition also meant that the land owning elite and the Pakistan Army became inordinately powerful, and so was quickly able to subvert democracy. America's attention was distracted by the Soviets and concerns over India's socialism and the potential Soviet expansion into Afghanistan (which later did happen) and so would continue to support Pakistan as a regional destabilizer even if it meant letting Pakistan degenerate socially and politically. Over time Pakistan essentially became like a comatose patient, with its economy almost entirely sustained by outside funding of the military.

World War II thus altered the paradigms of the British plans in the region. I suspect that the British withdrawal from its colonies in some form had become inevitable even before the outbreak of World War II. There was a growing consciousness about the evils of colonialism, there were far too many liberal educated Indians invoking International Sympathy in England and America, and England's positions against expansionist powers such as Germany and Russia were becoming untenable given their own world spanning empire. To some extent they had already started pulling back - their navy in the Pacific for example was a total joke as Japan would quickly demonstrate.

The rush of Partition also meant completely poor organization. I doubt the British had planned for the massacres that happened in the course of partition. Although it is ofcourse alleged, I find it hard to believe that the British had supported and planned for such a blood letting. Bad relations between the countries was anyway guaranteed, and the British were IMO appalled by the violence. But the violence occurred because the British rushed into Partition. The World War led to a very quick collapse of the British Imperium, and it resulted in masses of chaos during Partition, chaos that was probably not part of the long term plans of anybody, and chaos that might not have occurred had the British been able to move through Partition in a more planned manner.
 

Linschoten

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Aug 2010
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No, it was not Britain's wish that India should be partitioned, that came about as a result of political pressures in the subcontinent itself, accompanied by inter-communal violence that Britain lacked the power to control, hence the putting forward of the date for the transfer of power; the historical record is entirely clear. Indirectly the WW2 was of course very important in leading to partition, but it was nothing to do with Britain wanting to reward Muslims for support during the war.
 
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Linschoten

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I doubt the British had planned for the massacres that happened in the course of partition. Although it is ofcourse alleged, I find it hard to believe that the British had supported and planned for such a blood letting.
Such a generous concession! :lol:

The fact is that Britain was simply not in control of events at the time, gratifying though it may be for us to be credited with such Machievellian ingenuity.
 

tornada

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Mar 2013
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Partition was actually a bit of a staple of British policy. There was a nice joke on it in the Yes Prime Minister episode "A Victory for Democracy". Its a pity I cannot find a youtube video of that conversation between Sir Humphrey and the Foreign Secretary, when Sir Humphrey insists that St George's island should have been Partition. IIRC, the examples he cites are Yemen, Ireland and India.
 

Linschoten

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Aug 2010
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I do hope you don't regard comedy programmes as valuable sources of historical insight.
 

tornada

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Mar 2013
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Such a generous concession!
I don't think its a concession. The British were Imperialist and exploitative but they weren't exactly maniacal butchers. The Partition violence was needless, and despite British geo-politics I doubt mindless violence and bloodletting was something they liked. British reactions to the violence of Partition and even other forms of genocidal violence like the Holocaust and the Nanking Massacre tells me that they were genuinely appalled by such events. I'm not sure why that should be a big deal. There's enough to vilify the British Empire without having to fabricate material.
 
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Jun 2014
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The idea that cunning British created Pakistan to thwart India looks good initially but it suggests as if they forced partition on Indians which is plain wrong. Kindest of imperialists want to see their subjects remaining in a state of disunity so there was nothing unusual about it, infact Mountbatten played a good role( considering that he was from ruling race over 'beastly people') in preventing Punjab and Bengal to be given entirely to Pakistan and also in integration of states to Indian Union.

Ofcourse, a India including modern day Pakistan and Bangladesh was and is still not in interests of any nation of this world among great powers, not for Britain, not for US, not for USSR and certainly not for China so once the issue came to surface, British were more than jubilant( anyone who is not living in illusion would be) and provided all kind of patronage to Communists and Muslim League.
 

tornada

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Mar 2013
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I do hope you don't regard comedy programmes as valuable sources of historical insight.
No. I'm not basing my historical opinions on it. But it conveys a point in a manner which is quite important. Partition was a part of British policy. yes the makers of Yes PM used it for comedy, much as they did with many aspects of British policy. It was after all a satire on Governance. But it remains true nonetheless that such things were part of British policy, and people were not unaware of this.