Indian Partition and Neo-Colonialism
Neo-colonialism is the "retention of influence over ...one's former colonies... by economic or political measures" (Oxford English Dictionary, 1987).
After WWII, the rise of liberation movements throughout the world made a continuation of the old colonialism impracticable. Colonial powers adopted the strategy of warding off genuine liberation movements by:
(1) seeking to weaken such movements by splitting them along religious or ethnic lines;
(2) negotiating with pro-imperialist political forces within the colonies - landlords and capitalists - to transform the colonies into neo-colonies, which are nominally independent but, in reality, still dependent.
This strategy can be seen clearly in the negotiated 'independence' of India.
Partition and the Decolonisation of India
As the British civil servant Sir John Strachey wrote in 1888, "the truth plainly is that the existence side by side of these hostile creeds is one of the strong points in our political position in India. The better classes of Mohammedans are already a source to us of strength and not of weakness.... They constitute a small but energetic minority of the population, whose political interests are identical with ours." (India, 1888, p.225).
In furtherance of this policy of 'divide and rule,' the All-India Muslim League was formed as a counter to the Indian National Congress in December 1906. The British politician, Ramsay Macdonald, reveals that the Muslim leaders "were inspired by certain Anglo-Indian officials, and that these officials pulled wires at Simla [the 'summer capital' of India] and in London and of malice aforethought sowed discord between the Hindu and the Mohammedan [i.e., Muslim] communities" (MacDonald, The Awakening of India, 1910, p.284).
However, the provincial elections of 1937 "provided Congress with an overwhelming victory.... The Muslim League did, in comparison, very badly, winning a comparatively small proportion of the Muslim vote" (Denis Judd, Jawaharlal Nehru, 1993, p.27).
In the light of these results, the leader of the Muslim League, Mohammed Ali Jinnah decided that "the League should strengthen its attraction to Muslim voters by an appeal to Islamic anxieties" (Judd, p.27).
In March 1942, as the Japanese imperialist armies approached the borders of India, the British government despatched Sir Stafford Cripps to india on a mission "to attempt to achieve a reconciliation between the Raj [i.e., the British establishment] and its Indian opponents" (Judd, p.35).
Cripps proposed that "after the war, a constituent assembly, elected in a system of proportional representation by new provincial assemblies, would determine the constitution" of India.
The scheme contained "an important concession to Muslim separatism in the proposal that any province would have the right to remain outside of the new Dominion" (Judd, p.36).
In August 1942, 'Quit India' became the official policy of Congress. The British government struck back and "the whole of the Working Committee of Congress and a number of other party leaders were arrested." Congress "was declared an illegal organisation and its assets and records were confiscated, curfews were imposed and assemblies of more than five people were banned; there were mass arrests (Judd, p.38).
The Viceroy, Viscount Wavell, gave "unabashed support for Jinnah and the Muslim league" (Judd, p.40) and "when the British authorities were obliged, as they inevitably were, to reopen negotiations about India's future independence, the Muslim League had made so much progress among India's Islamic community that it could claim almost equal standing with Congress." (Judd, p.39). Jinnah could then claim that "the Muslim League was the true, indeed the only, voice of Islam in India" (Judd, pp.44-45).
In February 1947, the new Labour Prime Minister, Clement Attlee, "announced in the House of Commons that the British would withdraw from India not later than June 1948." In March 1947, Lord Mount-batten was sworn in as the last Viceroy of India, charged with bringing about "a transfer of power" (Judd, p.49,50).
In May 1947, Mount-batten showed Nehru a 'secret' British plan, called significantly 'Plan Balkan,' which "devolved power to the provinces, including the princely states." Nehru denounced the plan as producing "fragmentation and conflict and disorder" (Jawaharlal Nehru, Letter to Mountbatten, May 1947, cited in Judd, p.52).
British authorities were pleased to amend their proposals to allow for "the concept of an Indian state as a continuing entity," (Judd, p.52) although this would be a partitioned state, in which the predominantly Muslim areas would be permitted to secede from India to form Pakistan.
Source: Excerpt from "British Neo-Imperialism." Online at: http://www.oneparty.co.uk/html/britneo.html