Dear Brigadier Kamboj,
While the premise of the great importance of the actions of the Indian Services in helping the British to decide to leave India is very credible and probable, the conversation with Clement Attle needs to be understood in a wider context; specifically from a UK and world perspective.
This was earlier in an article in the Tribune at
RIN mutiny gave a jolt to the British
The ratings mutiny in the Royal Indian Navy made the British realise it was time to leave India. Dhananjaya Bhat on the uprising that took place 60 years ago on February 18
My responses are as follows in sequence to the discussion on the Veterans site.
A very interesting series of comments and observations.
However, there is one glaring omission (which is very understandable seen from an Indian perspective)
The major reason why the British gave India Independence was that WW II had impoverished Britain, their industries and infrastructure had been destroyed to a considerable extent in the bombing raids, millions of people had lost their lives, there was an acute manpower shortage, cities were in ruins, industries had been geared to wartime production of military goods, their economy was in meltdown, their merchant shipping had been damaged and millions of tons of shipping sunk, etc., they owed the US huge amounts for the lend -lease shipping, and vast amounts for war materiel, food , etc., all their cash reserves and stockpiles of commodities were exhausted, - they were in a word 'broke', and did NOT have the energy, manpower, or interest to struggle with the Indians who they felt had become ungovernable and it was NOT worth their while anymore. They felt they had saved the world from the tyranny of Nazism and the fascism of Japan and had done enough for the world.
The British sent John Maynard Keynes ( from their Treasury Dept and a noted economist) to get the US Govt to clear their debt to the amount of $3 Bn ( a huge amount at the time) but the Senate did not agree and the British had to get a interest bearing loan instead. At this time also Churchill's ( he had just lost the election in 1945) 'Iron Curtain' speech in the US about the Soviet take over of Eastern Europe suddenly caused the US Govt to change its policy - they started the Marshall Plan which gave $15 Bn to Western European countries to rebuild as they were also shattered in WWII and the fear of Communism taking over Western Europe as well became a major US concern. Britain got an $3Bn in the Marshall Plan (In addition to the loan).
This is a very interesting anecdote.
In reply Attlee cited several reasons, the most important of which were the INA activities of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, which weakened the very foundation of the British Empire in India, and the RIN Mutiny which made the British realise that the Indian armed forces could no longer be trusted to prop up the British. When asked about the extent to which the British decision to quit India was influenced by Mahatma Gandhi’s 1942 movement, Attlee’s lips widened in smile of disdain and he uttered, slowly, ‘Minimal’."
Recently I mentioned that the British thought that India was ungovernable, which Atlee amplied mentioning the INA and the IN Mutiny Although Atlee is reported to have discounted the influence of the 'Quit India' movement of 1942, it contributed to the general public view in Britain among the British people that India did not want to be governed by Britain. This has to be considered in British context Britain is a small densely populated island - with half the land area of France but with about the same population. Britain produces only about 30% of the food it needs and the climate does not help much. Traditionally it developed sheep rearing in the less arable hilly areas and its wealth came from the export of wool and animal husbandry products of high value like milk, cheese, meat and butter etc., on the limited land available and for domestic use also. Fishing is also a important source for food. It also depends on producing high tech goods to export and ideas and services in the form of music, art, acting, financial expertise, etc.
Britian is both insular because of its island heritage, but also outward looking for reasons of trade.
Maintaining and managing a large empire by a small group of people is a national project/ endeavour of great magnitude. Ordinary people and the general viewpoint also influences politicians and their policies, both directly and in their guts - they are also people.
WWI and WWII which they were fought mainly alone ( the US joined much later in both the wars) and they suffered great losses of their people and exhausted their resources greatly.
After WWII the people wanted to rebuild their homes, businesses, factories and infrastructure , have a decent quality of life - they were still on food rationing well into the 1950s so it is unsurprising that few in Britain wanted to hang on in India , 'for what'? they would rightly ask? "
Maurice Abel – Email ID - firstname.lastname@example.org
(Colonel Maurice Abel, UK)