India’s partition is one of the most controversial subjects in contemporary history of South Asia. This essay examines an almost neglected implication of India’s partion, namely the British attitude in actively supporting the fragmentation of the Indian subcontinent. The commonly accepted explanations of India’s partition put the blame for this event more on Indian responsibilities than on British intentions. This explanation is normally associated with the assumption that the British statesmen acted as mere agents, who eased decisions adopted by someone else, in fact the Congress and the Muslim League. This essay proves that the British military high commands and part of the political staff favoured the partition as the best solution to safeguard British interests in South Asia, in view of the end of the colonial rule. India played a fundamental role in containing the Soviet expansion southwards and to defend the Middle East and its oil reserves. The British high commands started to plan the partition of India in 1943, therefore much earlier than its implementation. British politicians were aware that the main Indian party, the Congress, would never accept any British interference in Indian defence and would never allow the use of Indian territory for military aims. Pakistan was the best solution. This country became a key ally of the UK and US in the cold war period and beyond.
Marzia Casolari teaches History of Asia at the University of Turin. She has taught at the Faculty of Political Science at the University of Bologna, Forlì branch, and Perugia. She chairs Asia Maior, the Italian think tank on Asia and is member of the Italian Society of International History (Società Italiana di Storia Internazionale - SISI). She has carried out research in India from 1991 to 2000 as a fellow of the Italian Ministry of External Affairs, of the Indian Council of Historical Research and as a Ph.D. student. She published the volume In the Shade of the Swastika. The Ambiguous Relationship Between Indian Nationalism and Nazi-Fascism and several articles on Indian contemporary history, on Sri Lanka's and Bangladesh's politics.
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Marzia Casolari, The British Strategic Imperative in South Asia and Its Role in India’s Partition: 1942-1947, Dipartimento di Lingue e Letterature Straniere e Culture Moderne, Università di Torino, 2017
(«QuadRi» – Quaderni di RiCOGNIZIONI, V)