Decision Points

Excerpts

Afghanistan

As I knew from my visits during Dad’s time in office, Camp David is one of the greatest privileges afforded to the president. Nestled in Maryland’s Catoctin Mountains, about seventy miles from Washington, the 200-acre site is a thirty-minute ride from the White House. It feels much more removed than that. The retreat is run by the Navy and protected by the Marines. It consists of rustic cabins, a gym and swimming pool, a bowling alley, a chipping green, and scenic trails through the woods for hiking and biking. The atmosphere fosters reflection and clear thinking.

The presidential cabin is known as Aspen. Its interior is simple but comfortable. The wooden structure has three bedrooms, a perfect size for our family; a sunlit living room where I watched football with my brother Marvin and friends; and a stone fireplace beside which Laura and I liked to read at night.

About a quarter mile down the hill is Laurel, a large lodge with a spacious dining area, a small presidential office, and a wood- panelled conference room that Jimmy Carter used when he negotiated the Camp David Peace Accords.

That was where my national security team gathered on Saturday morning, September 15, to start developing the battle plan for Afghanistan. The mood was sombre, serious and focused. With me at the big oak table were the top national security officials from across the government*. Together they had decades of crisis management experience.
*
• Vice President Dick Cheney
• Secretary of State Colin Powell
• Defence Secretary Don Rumsfeld
• Deputy Secretary Defence Paul Wolfowitz
• Attorney General John Ashcroft
• FBI Director Bob Mueller
• Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill
• CIA Director George Tenet
• Deputy Director CIA John McLaughlin
• Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Hugh Shelton
• Vice Chairman Dick Myers
• White House Chief of Staff Andy Card;
• National Security Adviser Condi Rice
• Deputy National Security Adviser Steve Hadley
• White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales
• Chief of Staff to the Vice President I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby.

The first key presentation that morning came from CIA Director George Tenet. Six months earlier, at my direction, George and the National Security Council had started developing a comprehensive strategy to destroy the al Qaeda network. In the four days between 9/11 and the Camp David meeting, the CIA team had beefed up their plan. George proposed that I grant broader authority for covert actions, including permission for CIA to kill or capture al Qaeda operatives without asking for my sign-off each time. I decided to grant the request.

The heart of the CIA plan was a new offensive in Afghanistan, where 9/11 had been planned. The roots of the terrorist presence in Afghanistan traced back to 1979, when the Soviet Union invaded and installed a communist puppet regime. Afghan tribes, along with a band of hard core Islamic fighters known as the Mujahideen, rose up against the foreign occupation. With assistance from the United States, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, the rebels inflicted fifteen thousand casualties and drove out the Soviets in 1989. Two years later, the super power collapsed.

Free of the communist occupiers, the Afghan people had a chance to rebuild their country. But the U.S. government no longer saw a national interest in Afghanistan, so it cut off support. America’s non-involvement helped create a vacuum. Tribal warriors who had defeated the Soviets turned their guns on one another. Ultimately the Taliban, a group of Islamic fundamentalists, seized power. They imposed a fanatical, barbaric brand of Islam that prohibited girls from going to school, required men to grow beards of a certain length, and forbade women from leaving their homes without a male relative a an escort. The simplest pleasures-singing, clapping and flying kites-were banned.

The Taliban‘s rules were enforced by brutal religious police. A 1998 State Department report described a woman struggling to carry two small children and a load of groceries on a street in Mazar-i-Sharif. When her body length burqa slipped from her face, she was beaten with a car antenna. Petty thieves were taken to the national soccer stadium to have their limbs hacked off.

Homosexuals were stoned to death, as anyone suspected of adultery. Shortly after the Taliban seized Kabul, they kidnapped the former president of Afghanistan from his UN compound. After beating and castrating him, they hung his body from a lamppost. In Bamiyan province, home to the minority Hazaras, the Taliban massacred at least 170 innocent civilians in January 2001. Later that year they dynamited two cherished 1500-year-old Buddha sculptures.

There were some who received warm hospitality from the Taliban. Shortly after taking power, the radical mullahs offered sanctuary to Osama bin Laden, the founder of al Qaeda. Between 1996 and 2001, bin Laden established camps in Afghanistan that trained an estimated ten thousand terrorists. In return, bin Laden drew on his personal fortune to fund the Taliban. By 9/11, Afghanistan was not only a state sponsor of terror, but a state sponsored by terror.

While the Taliban’s ideology was rigid, its control of the country was not. In a small section of northern Afghanistan, a group of tribal commanders called the Northern Alliance held the allegiance of the local population. On September 9, 2001, bin Laden operatives assassinated the Northern Alliance’s beloved leader, Ahmad Shah Masoud. His murder galvanised the Alliance to cooperate with America. We shared an enemy and a determination to end Taliban rule.

George’s plan called for deploying CIA teams to arm, fund and join forces with the Northern Alliance. Together they would form the initial thrust of the attack. By mating up our forces with the local opposition, we would avoid looking like a conqueror or occupier. America would help the Afghan people liberate themselves.

We would not act alone. Colin Powell had done an impressive job rallying countries to our coalition. Some, such as Great Britain and Australia, offered to deploy forces. Others, including Japan and South Korea, pledged humanitarian aid and logistical support. South Korea later sent troops. Key Arab partners, such as Jordan and Saudi Arabia, shared sensitive intelligence on al Qaeda operations.

The most pivotal nation we recruited was Pakistan. No country wielded more influence in Afghanistan than its eastern neighbour. On 9/11, Pakistan was one of only three countries that recognised the Taliban. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were the other two,

Some in Pakistan may have sympathised with the Taliban’s ideology. But the primary motive was to counterbalance India. Pakistan’s bitter archival. So long as Pakistan held the loyalty of Afghanistan’s government, it would never be encircled.

Pakistan had a troubled history with the United States. After our close cooperation in the Cold War, Congress suspended aid to Pakistan-including coveted F-16s America had promised to sell them–out of concern over the government’s nuclear weapons program. In 1998, Pakistan conducted a secret nuclear test, incurring further sanctions. A year later General Pervez Musharraf overthrew the democratically elected government in a coup. By 2001, America had cut off virtually all aid to Pakistan.

On September 13, Colin Powell called President Musharraf and made clear he had to decide whose side he was on. He presented a list of non-negotiable demands, including condemning the 9/11 attacks, denying al Qaeda safe haven in Pakistan, sharing intelligence, granting us overflight rights and breaking diplomatic relations with the Taliban.

Musharraf faced intense internal pressure. Turning against the Taliban was unthinkable for hardliners in his government and intelligence service. I called Musharraf from Camp David during a break in the war council meeting. I want to thank you for listening to our sad nation’s requests, and I look forward to working with you to bring these people to justice, I said.

The stakes are high, Musharraf told me. We are with you.

Our relationship with Pakistan would prove complex. But in four days we had turned Afghanistan’s pivotal neighbour from a supporter of the Taliban to a partner in removing them from power.

In the fall of 2006, I ordered a troop increase that would boost our force levels from twenty-one thousand to thirty-one thousand over the next two years. I called the 50% increase a silent surge. to help the Afghan government extend its reach and effectiveness, we more than doubled funding for construction. We increased the number of Provincial Reconstruction Teams, which brought together military personnel and civilian experts to ensure that security gains were translated into meaningful improvements in everyday life. We also increased the size of the Afghan National Army, expanded our counter narcotics effort, improved intelligence efforts along the Pakistan border, and sent civilian experts from the U.S. government to help Afghan ministries strengthen their capacity and reduce corruption.

I urged our NATO allies to match our commitment by dropping caveats on their troops and adding more forces. Several leaders responded, including Stephen Harper of Canada, Anders Fogh Rasmussen of Denmark, Nicolas Sarkozy of France, the British and Canadians fought especially bravely and suffered significant casualties, America was fortunate to have them at our side and we honour their sacrifice as our own.

Other leaders told me bluntly that their parliaments would never go along. It was maddening. Afghanistan was supposed to be a war the world had agreed was necessary and just. And yet many countries were sending troops so heavily restricted that our generals complained they just took up space. NATO had turned into a two-tiered alliance, with some countries willing to fight and many not.

The adjustments in our strategy improved our ability to take on the insurgents. Yet the violence continued. The primary cause of the trouble did not originate in Afghanistan, or, as some suggested. In Iraq. It came from Pakistan.

For most of my presidency, Pakistan was led by President Pervez Musharraf. I admired his decision to side with America after 9/11. He held parliamentary elections in 2002, which his party won, and spoke about enlightened moderation as an alternative to Islamic extremism. He took serious risks to battle al Qaeda. Terrorists tried to assassinate him at least four times.

In the months after we liberated Afghanistan, I told Musharraf I was troubled by reports of al Qaeda, Taliban forces fleeing into the loosely governed, tribal provinces of Pakistan-an area often compared to the Wild West. I’d be more than willing to send our Special Forces across the border to clear out the areas, I said. He told me that sending American troops into combat in Pakistan would be viewed as a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty. A revolt would likely ensue. His government would probably fall. The extremists could take over the country, including its nuclear arsenal.

In that case, I told him, his soldiers needed to take the lead. For several years, the arrangement worked. Pakistani forces netted hundreds of terrorists, including al Qaeda leaders like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Abu Zubaydah, Abu Faraj al Libbi. Musharraf also arrested A.Q. Khan, the revered father of the Pakistani nuclear bomb, for selling components from the country’s program on the black market. As Musharraf often reminded me, Pakistani forces paid a high price for taking on the extremists. More than fourteen hundred were killed in the war on terror.

In return for Pakistan’s cooperation, we lifted the sanctions, designated Pakistan a major non-NATO ally, and helped fund its counterterrorism operations. We also worked with Congress to provide $3 billion in economic aid and opened markets to more Pakistani goods and services,

Over time it became clear that Musharraf either would not or could not fulfil all his promises. Part of the problem was Pakistan’s obsession with India. In almost every conversation we had, Musharraf accused India of wrongdoing. Four days after 9/11, he told me the Indians trying to equate us with terrorists and trying to influence your mind. As a result, the Pakistan military spent most of its resources preparing for war with India. Its troops were trained to wage a conventional battle with its neighbour, not counterterrorism operations in the tribal areas. The fight against the extremists came second.

A related problem was that Pakistani forces pursued the Taliban much less aggressively than they pursued al Qaeda. Some in the Pakistani intelligence service, the ISI, retained close ties to Taliban officials. Others wanted an insurance policy in case America abandoned Afghanistan and India tried to gain influence there. Whatever the reason, Taliban fighters who fled Afghanistan took refuge in Pakistan’s tribal regions and populated cities like Peshawar and Quetta. In 2005 and 2006, these sanctuaries aided the rise of the insurgency.

In March 2006, I visited President Musharraf in Islamabad. Our meeting followed a stop in India, where Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and I signed an agreement clearing the way for nuclear cooperation between the two countries. The deal was the culmination o our efforts to improve relations between the world’s oldest democracy and the world’s largest democracy. I believe India, home to roughly a billion people and an educated middle-class, has the potential to be one of America’s closest partners. The nuclear agreement was a historic step because it signalled the country’s new role on the world stage.

The nuclear deal naturally raised concerns in Pakistan. Our ambassador, a remarkable veteran Foreign Service officer named Ryan Crocker, argued strongly that we should spend the night in Islamabad as a sign of respect. No president had done that since Richard Nixon thirty-seven years earlier. The Secret Service was anxious, especially after a bombing near the U.S. consulate in Karachi the day before we arrived. But symbolism matters in diplomacy, and I wanted to signal that I valued our relationship. At the airport, a decoy motorcade drove to the embassy, mostly empty. My chief of protocol, Ambassador Don Ensenat, took my place in the presidential limo, while Laura and I flew secretly via Black Hawk helicopter.

In contrast to the rigid security precautions, President Musharraf organised a relaxed and enjoyable visit. He and his wife Sehba, received us warmly at their version of the White House, known as Aiwan-e-Sadr. We met with survivors of the previous October’s 7.6 magnitude earthquake in northern Pakistan, which killed more than seventy-three thousand people. America had provided $500 million in relief. Our Chinook helicopters became known as angels of mercy. The experience reinforced a lesson: one of the most effective forms of diplomacy is to show the good heart of America to the world.

Later in the day, I went to the embassy courtyard to watch some cricket, Pakistan’s national pastime. There I met national team captain Inzaman-ul-Haq, the Pakistani equivalent of Michael Jordan. To the delight of school children at hand, I took a few whacks with the cricket bat. I didn’t master the game but did pick up some of the lingo. At the elegant state dinner that night, I opened my toast by saying, I was fooled by a googly,* otherwise I would have been a better batsman.

*A spinning pitch that is hard to hit, similar to a screwball in baseball.

My meetings with President Musharraf focused on two overriding priorities. One was his insistence on serving as both president and top general, a violation of the Pakistan constitution. I pushed him to shed his military affiliation and govern as a civilian. He promised to do it. But he wasn’t in much of a hurry.

I also stressed the importance of the fight against extremists. We’ve got to keep these guys from slipping into your country and back into Afghanistan, I said.

I give you our assurances that we will cooperate with you against terrorism, Musharraf said. We are totally on board.

The violence continued to grow. As the insurgency worsened, Hamid Karzai became furious with Musharraf. He accused the Pakistani president of destabilising Afghanistan. Musharraf was insulted by the allegation. By the fall of 2006, the two were barely on speaking terms. I decided to step in with some serious personal diplomacy. I invited Karzai and Musharraf to dinner at the White House in September 2006. When I welcomed them in the Rose Garden, they refused to shake hands or even look at each other. The mood did not improve when we sat down for dinner in the Old Family Dining Room. Dick Cheney, Condi Rice, Steve Hadley, and I watched as Karzai and Musharraf traded barbs. At one point, Karzai accused Musharraf of harbouring the Taliban.

Tell me where they are, Musharraf responded testily.
You know where they are! Karzai fired back.
If I did, I would get them, said Musharraf.
Go do it! Karzai persisted.

I started to wonder whether this dinner had been a mistake.

I told Musharraf and Karzai that the stakes were too high for personal bickering. I kept the dinner going for two and a half hours, trying to help them find common ground. After a while, the venting stopped, and the meeting turned out to be productive. The two leaders agreed to share more intelligence, meet with tribes on both sides of the border to urge peace, and stop bad-mouthing each other in public.

As a way to staunch the flow of Taliban fighters, Musharraf informed us that he had recently struck a series of deals with tribes in the border region. Under the agreements, Pakistani forces would leave the areas alone, while tribal leaders would commit to stopping the Taliban from recruiting operatives or infiltrating into Afghanistan.

While well intentioned, the strategy failed. The tribes did not have the will or the capacity to control the extremists. Some estimates indicated that the flow of Taliban fighters into Afghanistan increased fourfold.

Musharraf had promised Karzai and me-both sceptics of the strategy-that he would send troops back into the tribal areas if the deals failed. But instead of focusing on that problem, Musharraf and the Pakistani military were increasingly distracted by a political crisis. In March 2007, Musharraf suspended the chief justice of the Supreme Court, who he feared would rule that he was violating the law by continuing to serve as both president and army chief of staff. Lawyers and democracy advocated marched in the streets. Musharraf responded by:

• declaring a state of emergency
• suspending the constitution
• removing more judges, and
• arresting thousands of political opponents.

Pressure mounted on me to cut ties with Musharraf. I worried that throwing him overboard would add to the chaos. I had a series of frank conversations with him in the fall of 2007.

It looks ugly from here. The image here is that you have lawyers being beaten and thrown into jail, I said. I am troubled by the fact that there is no apparent way forward. I strongly suggested one:

• set a date for free elections,
• resign from the army, and
• lift the state of emergency.

Musharraf made each of these commitments, and kept them. When he scheduled parliamentary elections, former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto returned from exile to compete. She ran on a pro-democracy platform, which made her a target of the extremists. Tragically, she was assassinated on December 27, 2007 at a political rally in Rawalpindi. In February 2008, her followers won the elections soundly. They formed a government, and Musharraf stepped down peacefully. Asif Ali Zardari, Bhutto’s widower, took his place as President. Pakistan’s democracy had survived the crisis.

Over time, the Pakistani government learned the lesson of the Bhutto assassination. Pakistani forces returned to the fight in the tribal areas-not just against al Qaeda but against the Taliban and other extremists as well. Yet more than a year had been lost, as Pakistan’s attention had been focused on its internal political crisis. The Taliban and other extremist exploited that window of opportunity to increase their tempo of operations in Afghanistan, which drove up the violence and led many Afghans to turn against their government and our coalition. It was essential that we find a way to retake the offensive.

By the middle of 2008, I was tired of reading intelligence reports about extremist sanctuaries in Pakistan. I thought back to a meeting I’d had with Special Forces in Afghanistan in 2006.

Are you guys getting everything you need? I asked.
One SEAL raised his hand and said, No sir.

I wondered what his problem might be.

Mr. President, he said, we need permission to go kick some ass inside Pakistan.
I understood the urgency of the threat and wanted to do something about it. But on this issue, Musharraf’s judgement had been well-founded. When our forces encountered unexpected resistance, they got into a firefight and made international news. U.S. Commandos Attack Pakistan’s Sovereignty, one Pakistani headline said. Islamabad exploded with outrage. Both houses of Parliament passed unanimous resolutions condemning our action. No democracy can tolerate violations of its sovereignty.

I looked for ways to reach into the tribal areas. The Predator, an unmanned aerial vehicle was capable of conducting video surveillance and firing laser-guided bombs. I authorised the intelligence community to turn up the pressure on the extremists. Many of the details of our actions remain classified. But soon after I gave the order, the press started reporting more Predator strikes. Al Qaeda’s number-four man, Khalid al-Habib turned up dead. So did al Qaeda leaders responsible for propaganda, recruitment, religious affairs and planning attack overseas. One of the last reports I received described al Qaeda as embattled and eroding in the border region.

We also stepped up our support for Pakistan’s democratic government. We provided money, training, and equipment, and proposed joint counterterrorism operations-all aimed at helping increase Pakistani capabilities. When the financial crisis hit in the fall of 2008, we took steps to make sure Pakistan received the assistance it needed to mitigate the effects of the recession and stay focused on fighting the extremists.

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Courtesy of : Decision Points by George W. Bush, Crown Publishers, New York November 2010

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Facts on the Ground

While turning Bombay’s home for old European sailors into a legislative assembly in January 1928, labourers came across patches of dust. The dust was the disintegrated remains of the city’s first English residents. Now 200 metres inland, workers had dug into a graveyard that once stood on the desolate promontory of Mendham’s Point, looking over the crashing waves and shipwrecks. There, senior English officers had been buried in elaborate tombs, but the bones of clerks and soldiers, the ordinary English functionaries of the empire, were thrown in a shallow grave under a big slab of stone. Corpses were quickly dug out by the jackals burrowing in the ground like rabbits, according to one account. Even the clergy were buried in common graves, with Bombay’s first five priests thrown together in one hole. The cemetery was more terrible to a sick Bombaian than the Inquisition to a heretic, one observer wrote. By 1928, the cemetery had been entirely forgotten.

The English ruled territory in India from the 1650s. Britain was the supreme political force in the subcontinent that stretches from Iran to Thailand, from the Himalayas to the sea, from at least 1800 to 1947. These years of conquest and empire left remains that survived in South Asia’s soil, sometimes until today. Perhaps a quarter of a million Europeans are still buried in more than a thousand cities of the dead, as the British explorer Richard Burton called them in 1847, scattered through the countries that once made up British-ruled India-India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Burma.

These graves trace the geography of British power during those years, marking the processes and places from which imperial authority was asserted. The earliest are in ports and forts like Bombay, Calcutta and Madras. There, tiny groups of British merchants, sheltered behind thick stone walls, with white-skinned soldiers and gunners to protect them from people they tried to make money from. The largest numbers are close to British-built courts and tax offices, near blocky churches built quickly by army engineers as Britain’s conquests extended power through every part of India in the early nineteenth century. Some, like the graves every few miles on India’s Grand Trunk Road between Calcutta and Delhi, are by highways, marking the death of Europeans travelling or laying roads. Others, like the hilltop cemetery at Khandala three hours’ train ride from Bombay, cling to slopes above railway tunnels built at the expense of many Indian and a few European lives, as the British asserted their power by cutting lines of steel into Indian soil from the late nineteenth century on. From the early 1800s the largest single group of graves were those of children, little angels, as the tombstones often described them, killed by disease in their first years before they could be shipped back to Britain to boarding school. One hundred and fifty-one of the nearly 400 gravestones in the cantonment town of Bellary marked the death of children under the age of seven. All these graves mark the death of Britons who intended to return home.

There is little sense of imperial celebration in the inscriptions on these gravestones. More often, the words on the tombs convey a sense of distance and failure. Epitaphs describe men and women retreating into small worlds cut off from Indian society who died unhappily distant from their homes. Very few mention any connection to the people they ruled. What mattered was their sense of private virtue and the esteem of British friends and family, close by or thousands of miles back in Britain or Ireland. Shearman Bird, dead in Chittagong at forty-one, was a bright example of duty, affection, strength of principle and unshakeable fidelity, his gravestone says. His converse with this world contaminated not his genuine worth. Richard Becher, dead at Calcutta in 1782, was buried under the pang of disappointment / and the pressure of the climate. Graves like Bird’s and Becher’s were not those of a triumphant race, but the tombstones of a people scattered by their wars and affairs over the face of the whole earth, and homesick to a man, as the American Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote of the English.

There are 1349 recorded British graveyards in South Asia. Now they are quiet and still, the only signs of life coming from the visits of grass cutters or tourists. But other imperial remains in modern South Asia are full of activity. South Asia’s independent states have moved into the institutions of British rule, many close to the centres of present-day public power. The architecture of old Indian city centres usually conforms roughly to imperial plans, with sites of administration standing aloof from centres of commercial activity, in quiet, green, low-rise compounds, with court buildings and tax offices together with residences for senior officers. Through the Indian subcontinent court cases are decided, taxes collected, and laws made in British-era buildings. Many of the jobs people do now link back to British days. In many districts, the chief local administrator is still called the Collector. Local courts, treasuries, irrigation offices and public works departments have boards listing their officers which stretch back a century or more, suggesting an unbroken continuity between the present and imperial past. The current manual to India’s Public Works administration, published in 2012 begins by noting that the present form of the department was inaugurated in 1854 by Lord Dalhousie, the Governor-General whose actions instigated the great North Indian rebellion of 1857-58. There is no mention that India became independent in 1947.

Perhaps the most persuasive legacy of empire is the imperial system of record keeping. At every place where there is some kind of official activity, pre-paid taxi booths or airport security scanners, police stations and licensed offices, details are written in pen in big lines ledgers. India exports computer professionals by the thousand and its government has put more data online than any other state. Yet its filing schemes and administrative systems are little changed since the days of the British Empire. The latest edition of the Indian government’s office manual has not altered much since the 1920s, the most recent editions simply adding an extra line in the list of correspondence that can be processed by the state’s departments: email.

It is easy to imagine that these legacies are the remains of a powerful and purposive regime.  Colonial cemeteries, imperial-era courts, grand railway stations and fat, rigid looking law codes seem to indicate a regime that had sense of purpose and power. They allow many, Britons and some Indians to look back on the Raj as a period of authority, a time when Pax Britannica imposed reason and order on Indian society and corruption or violence were less rife than now.

This book shows how those perceptions are wrong. They are, rather, the projections of British imperial administrators with a vested interest in asserting that they ruled a stable and authoritative regime. From Robert Clive to Louis Mountbatten, the Britons who governed in India were desperate to convince themselves and the public that they ruled a regime with a power to shape the course of events. In fact, each of them, scrabbled to project a sense of their authority in the face of circumstances they could not control. Their words were designed to evade their reliance on Indians they rarely felt they could trust. They used rhetoric to give verbal stability to what they and many around them castigated as the chaotic exercise of power. But too many historians and writers assume the anxious protestations of imperial bureaucrats were accurate depictions of a stable structure of authority. The result is a mistaken view of empire. We end up with an image of empire as a sort of machine operated by a crew who know only how to decide but not to doubt, as historian Ramajit Guha describes it.

In practice the British imperial regime in India was ruled by doubt and anxiety from beginning to end. The institutions mistaken as means of effective power were as hoc measures to assuage British fear.  Most of the time, the actions of British imperial administrators were driven by irrational passions rather than calculated plans. Force was rarely efficient. The assertion of violent power usually exceeded the demands of any particular commercial or political interest.

Britain’s interest in India began in the 1600s with the efforts of English merchants to make money by shipping Asian goods to Europe. At the start, traders who did not use force made more money. Isolated, lonely, desperate to prove their worth to compatriots back home, Britons believed that they could only profit with recourse to violence. An empire of commerce quickly became an empire of forts and armies, comfortably capable of engaging in acts of conquest. Even then violence was rarely driven by any clear purpose. Most of the time it was instigated when British profit and authority seemed under challenge. It was driven on paranoia, the desire of men standing with weapons to look powerful in the face of both their Indian interlocutors and the  British public at home. But violence did not create power. Most of the time it only temporarily upheld the illusion of authority.

From the middle of the nineteenth century, as more Britons arrived to rule India, the imperial regime seemed more stable. The fiction of power was sustained by its ability to manipulate the world of things, as much as to commit acts of violence. Authority began to be built in stone, in the construction of ornate imperial follies like Frederick Stevens’ Royal Alfred Sailor’s Home, the elaborate Bombay Gothic construction built on the site of Bombay’s first European cemetery in 1876, or Edwin Lutyens’ massive Viceroy’s Palace in New Delhi. In a more prosaic way, the British tried to assert their power on the surface of the earth, in roads, telegraphs, railway lines, survey boundary markers. In each case they use their capacity to re-engineer the physical fabric of India as a surrogate for their failure to create an ordered imperial society.

The British used paper as a surrogate for authority, too, asserting power in census reports and judicial decisions, regulations and surveys. By 1940 more than 400 different ledgers were being maintained in each district office in the province of Bengal, and that number does not include the register of things like birth, death and company directorships held by other departments. British administrators created a form of government that reduced the lives of people to lines in accounting books as if they were goods to be traded. Once official writing could be reproduced by printing and typewriters, the British Civil Service in India became a massive publishing house.

Asserting power in reams of writing was a way to mitigate the chaos that British policies and interests had created by creating order in a small realm that was closest to hand. It also cut the British off from the messy entanglement with Indians they believed might endanger British rule. In practice, British engagement with the complex reality of Indian life was limited and brief. Judging in court or demarcating agrarian boundaries were cursory acts, involving as little conversation with the subjects of empire as could be managed, before officials retreated back into comfortable European worlds, their home, their club, their minds. Whether using guns or cannons, railway lines or survey sticks, the techniques used to assert British power shared a common effort to rule without engaging with the people being ruled. As long as they could get on with their job (whatever the job was) Britons in India were rarely interested in the people among whom they lived.

Imperial rule in India was not driven by a consistent desire to dominate Indian society. The British were rarely seized by any great effort to change India. There was no civilizing mission. The first, often the only, purpose of British power in India was to defend the fact of Britain’s presence on Indian ground. Through the seventeenth to twentieth centuries, India was a place where good livelihood for individual members of Britain’s middle and upper classes were made. The East is a career, as the British politician Sir Henry Coningsby said in Benjamin Disraeli’s novel Tancred. When he said that he did not mean it was worthwhile. Coningsby’s point was that politics in Britain was the only proper pursuit for a gentleman, and that empire in India was a romantic distraction. In real life India was a career that did not link to any great national or social purpose. The most important thing for those Britons who chose it was the retention of personal dignity (in a world that offered great scope for humiliation) and to return home relatively young with a good pension.

Careers in the British Indian government were often transmitted from father to son. Some British elite families had or five generations holding government office. Take the Stracheys, whose most famous son, the Edwardian writer Lytton, wrote a coruscating attack on the hypocrisy of Victorian values. Strachey’s Eminent Victorians, published in 1918, criticized the previous generations’ combinations of high-mindedness with imperial violence. The Victorians praised God yet built a system by which it sought to settle international disputes by force, Strachey noted. Strachey was writing about his own family. Over four generations, members of the Strachey dynasty traced every turn in the patterns of British power in India. Lytton Strachey’s great-grandfather was Robert Clive’s private secretary. His grandfather and great-uncle were district magistrates in Bengal. He was named after the Earl of Lytton, Viceroy of India between 1876 and 1880. His uncle was an imperial bureaucrat who wrote the standard reference for the facts of Indian politics and economics, published in 1888. His father was an irrigation engineer, the first secretary of British India’s public works department and a pioneer of cost-benefit accounting. Strachey’s brother ended up as chief engineer on the East Indian Railways. His cousin was the judge in Bombay who tried and convicted the Indian nationalist Bal Gangadhar Tilak in 1897, in the process widening the definition of sedition to include any text not actively positive about British rule. For each generation, the greatest concern was to maintain the institutions the family business of empire.

With his family’s life so deeply immersed in talk of empire, Strachey was no anti-imperialist. He spent his early twenties writing a 400-page thesis on Warren Hastings, a work which saw its subject as the one great figure of his time. Strachey’s critique was that empire was banal, lonely, purposeless. There was no grand imperial mission; the British were merely policemen and railway makers. Strachey was filled with pity for his relatives, seized by a sense of the horror of the solicitude and the wretchedness of every single [English] creature out there and the degrading influences of so many years away from civilization. India was a place to try and go away and be a great man, but Warren Hastings would have been more use to the world if he had stayed at home and become a great Greek scholar.

For the centuries of its existence, there was something self-justifying and circular about the reasoning Britons used to justify the family business of imperial rule. The empire’s few grand statements of principle came when the livelihood of British officers seemed under the greatest threat. Then, political leaders responded with exaggerated rhetoric, but that rhetoric often meant little practice. In 1922, David Lloyd George described the elite civil service as India’s steel frame. Lloyd George’s words came in a parliamentary debate in which the MPs complained about the low morale and declining pay of British officers in Asia. After the First World War, the British faced a fiscal crisis and a revival in opposition from Indian nationalists. The government felt it had no choice but to allow Indians to start sharing power with their masters, to least to part justify the claim that the First World War had been fought to defend liberty against autocratic powers. In response to a demand for reassurance that positions in the business of empire would not contract, Lloyd George offered fine words but few promises. His metaphor of the steel frame was part of an anxious tirade asserting the centrality of the civil servant to Britain’s rapidly collapsing empire. Official unease continued to intensify, accelerating the process in which the British handed over positions of power.

We tend to see empires as systems of effective economic and intellectual power, as structures aiming to subordinate as much of the world as they can to their commercial power and values. The context to Lloyd George’s words shows that empire is not what we now often think. In fact, in India, the British Empire was never a project or system. It was something far more anxious and chaotic. From beginning to end, it was ruled by individual self-interest, by a desire for glory and a mood of fear, by deeply ingrained habits of command and rarely any grand public reason. It consisted of fiercely guarded outposts of British sovereign power; it did not possess a machinery able to impose British authority evenly across Indian land. To see the real life of Britain’s strange imperial state at work, we need to look beneath the abstract statements of great imperial officers trying to persuade their peers of their power and virtue. We need to tell the story instead of how British and Indian lives became entangled, often fractiously, sometimes violently, on Asian soil.

Courtesy of:

IMG_1163

 

British Government’s Statement of 3 June 1947

India Wins Freedom

  1. On February 20th, 1947, His Majesty’s Government announced their intention of transferring power in British India to Indian hands by June 1948. His Majesty’s Government hoped that it would be possible for the major parties to co-operate in the working out of the Cabinet Mission’s Plan of May 16th, 1946 and evolve for India a Constitution acceptable to all concerned. This hope has not been fulfilled.
  2. The majority of the representatives of the Provinces of Madras, Bombay, the United Provinces, Bihar, Central Provinces and Berar, Assam, Orissa and the North-West Frontier Provinces, and the representatives of Delhi, Ajmer-Merwara and Coorg have already made progress in the task of evolving a new Constitution. On the other hand, the Muslim League Party, including in it a majority of the representatives of Bengal, the Punjab and Sind as also the representative of British Baluchistan, has decided not to participate in the Constituent Assembly.
  3. It has always been the desire of His Majesty’s Government that power should be transferred in accordance with the wishes of the Indian people themselves. This task would have been greatly facilitated if there had been an agreement among the Indian political parties. In the absence of such agreement, the task of devising a method by which the wishes of the Indian people can be ascertained has developed upon His Majesty’s Government. After full consultation with political leaders India, His Majesty’s Government have decided to adopt for this purpose the plan set out below. His Majesty’s Government wish to make it clear that they have no intention of attempting to frame any ultimate Constitution for India; this is a matter for the Indians themselves nor is there anything in this plan to preclude negotiations between communities for a united India.
  4. It is not the intention of His Majesty’s Government to interrupt the work of the existing Constituent Assembly. Now that provision is made for certain provinces specified below, His Majesty’s Government trust that, as a consequence of this announcement, the Muslim League representatives of those provinces, a majority of whose representatives are already participating in it, will now take their share in its labour. At the same time, it is clear that any constitution framed by this Assembly cannot apply to those parts of the country which are unwilling to accept it. His Majesty’s Government are satisfied that the procedure outlined below embodies the best method of ascertaining the wishes of the people of such areas on the issue whether their Constitution is to be framed.
  • In the existing Constituent Assembly; or
  • in a new separate Constituent Assembly consisting of the representatives of those areas which decide not to participate in the existing Constituent Assembly.

When this has been done, it will be possible to determine the authority or authorities to whom power should be transferred.

5. The Provincial Legislature of Bengal and the Punjab (excluding European members) will therefore, each be asked to meet in two parts one representing the Muslim majority districts and the other the rest of the province. For the purpose of determining the population of districts the 1941 census figures will be taken as authoritative. The Muslim majority districts in these two provinces are set out in the Appendix to this announcement.

6. The members of the two parts of each Legislative Assembly sitting separately will be empowered to vote whether or not the province should be partitioned. If a simple majority of either part decides in favour of partition, division will take place and arrangement will be made accordingly.

7. Before the question as to the partition is decided, it is desirable that the representatives of each part should know in advance which Constituent Assembly the province as a whole would join in the event the two parts subsequently deciding to remain united. Therefore, if any members of either Legislative Assembly so demands, there shall be held a meeting of all members of the Legislative Assembly (other than European) at which a decision will be taken on the issue as to which Constituent Assembly the provinces as a whole would join if it were decided by the two parts to remain united.

8. In the event of partition being decided upon, each part of the Legislative Assembly will, on behalf of the areas they represent, decide which of the alternatives in paragraph 4 above to adopt.

9. For the immediate purpose of deciding on the issue of partition, the members of the legislative assemblies of Bengal and the Punjab will sit in two parts according to the Muslim majority districts (as laid down in the Appendix) and non-Muslim majority districts.

This is only a preliminary step of a purely temporary nature as it is evident that for the purposes of final partition of these provinces a detailed investigation of boundary questions will be needed; and as soon as a decision involving partition has been taken for either provinces, a boundary commission will be set up by the Governor-General, the membership and terms of reference of which will be settled in consultation with those concerned. It will be instructed to demarcate the boundaries of the two parts of the Punjab on the basis of ascertaining the contiguous majority areas of Muslims and non-Muslims. It will also be instructed to take in account other factors. Similar instructions will also be given to the Bengal Boundary Commission. Until the report of a boundary commission has been put into effect, the provisional boundaries indicated in the Appendix will be used.

10. The Legislative Assembly of Sind (excluding the European members) will at a special meeting also take its own decisions on the alternatives in paragraph 4 above.

11. The position of the North-West Frontier Province is exceptional. Two of the three representatives of this province are already participating in the existing Constituent Assembly. But it is clear, in view of its geographical situation and other considerations, that if the whole or any part of the Punjab decided not join the existing Constituent Assembly, it will be necessary to give the North-West Frontier Province an opportunity to reconsider its position. Accordingly, in such an event, a referendum will be made to the electors of the present Legislative Assembly in the North-West Frontier Province to choose which of the alternatives mentioned in paragraph 4 above they wish to adopt. The referendum will be held under the aegis of the Governor-General and in consultation with the provincial government.

12. British Baluchistan has elected a member, but he has not taken his seat in the existing Constituent Assembly. In view of its geographical situation, this province will also be given an opportunity to reconsider its position and to choose which of the alternatives in paragraph 4 above to adopt. His Excellency, the Governor-General is examining how this can most appropriately be done.

13. Though Assam is predominantly a non-Muslim province, the district of Sylhet which is contiguous to Bengal is predominantly Muslim. There has been a demand that, in the event of the partition of Bengal, Sylhet should be amalgamated with the Muslim part of Bengal. Accordingly if it is decided that Bengal should be partitioned, a referendum will be held in Sylhet District under the aegis of the Governor-General and in consultation with the Assam Provincial Government to decide whether the district of Sylhet should continue to form part of Assam Province or should be amalgamated with the new province of Eastern Bengal, a boundary commission with terms of reference similar to those for the Punjab and Bengal will be set up to demarcate the Muslim majority areas of Sylhet District and contiguous Muslim majority areas of adjoining districts, which will then be transferred to East Bengal. The rest of Assam Province will in any case continue to participate in the proceedings of the existing Constituent Assembly.

14. If it is decided that Bengal and the Punjab should be partitioned, it will be necessary to hold fresh elections to choose their representatives on the scale of one for every million of population according to the principle contained in the Cabinet Mission Plan of 16 May 1946. Similar election will also have to be held for Sylhet in the event o it being decided that this district should form part of East Bengal. The number of representatives to which each area would be entitled is as follows:

 

PROVINCE

GENERAL MUSLIMS SIKHS

TOTAL

Sylhet District

1

2 nil

3

West Bengal

15

4 nil

19

East Bengal               

12

29 nil

41

West Punjab.                  

3

12 2

17

East Punjab.                   

6

4 2

12

 

15. In accordance with the mandates given to them, the representatives of the various areas will either join the existing Constituent Assembly or form the new Constituent Assembly.

16. Negotiations will have to be initiated as soon as possible on the administrative consequences of any partition that may have been decided upon: —

  • Between the representatives and the respective successor authorities about all subjects now dealt with by the Central Government including defence, finance and communications.
  • Between different successor authorities and His Majesty’s Government for treaties in regard to matters arising out of the transfer of power.
  • In the case of provinces that may be partitioned, as to the administration of all provincial subjects, such as the division of assets and liabilities, the police and other services, the high courts, provincial institutions, etc.

17. Agreements with the tribes of the North-West Frontier of India will have to be negotiated by the appropriate successor authority.

18. His Majesty’s Government wish to make it clear that the decisions announced above relate only to British India and that their policy towards Indian states contained in the Cabinet Mission’s memorandum of 12 May 1946 remains unchanged.

19. In order that the successor authorities may have time to prepare themselves to take over power, it is important that all the above processes should be completed as quickly as possible. To avoid delay, the different provinces or parts of provinces will proceed independently as far as practicable with the conditions of this plan. The existing Constituent Assembly and the new Constituent Assembly (if formed) will proceed to frame constitutions for their respective territories; they will, of course, be free to frame their own rules.

20. The major political parties have repeatedly emphasised their desire that there should be the earliest possible transfer of power in India. With this desire, His Majesty’s Government are in full sympathy and they are willing to anticipate the date of June 1948, for the handing over of power by the setting up of an independent Indian Government or Governments at an even earlier date. Accordingly, as the most expeditious, and indeed the only practicable way of meeting this desire, His Majesty’s Government propose to introduce legislation during the current session for the transfer of power this year on a Dominion Status basis to one or two successor authorities according to the decisions taken as a result of this announcement. This will be without prejudice to the right of Indian Constituent Assemblies to decide in due course whether or not the part of India in respect of which they have authority will remain within the British Commonwealth.

His Excellency the Governor-General will from time to time make such further announcements as may be necessary in regard to procedure or any other matters for carrying out the above arrangements.

The Muslim majority districts of the Punjab and Bengal according to the 1941 (census):

The Punjab Lahore Division Gujranwala, Gurdaspur, Lahore, Sheikhupura, Sialkot
Rawalpindi Division Attock, Gujarat, Jhelum, Mianwali, Rawalpindi, Shalpur
Multan Division Dera Ghazi Khan, Jhang, Lyallpur, Montgomery, Multan.
Bengal Chittagong Division Chittagong, Noakhali, Tipperah.
Dacca Division Bakerganj, Dacca, Faridpur, Mymensingh.
Presidency Division Jessore, Murshidabad, Nadia.
Rajshahi Division Bogra, Dinajpur, Malda, Pabna, Rajshahi, Rangpur

 

 

India Wins Freedom

By Maulana Abul Kalam Azad

Publishers’ Note

When the manuscript of India Wins Freedom was handed over to us for publication by the late Professor Humayun Kabir in September 1958, seven months after Maulana Azad’s sudden death, we were informed that a fuller version containing additional material of about thirty pages would be made available to us for publication on 22 February 1988, the thirtieth death anniversary of Maulana Azad.

On examining the material, it became apparent that the additional matter was not just an extra thirty pages S generally believed but was to be found scattered throughout the text. Also, apart from phrases, sentence sequences and series of passages left out of the published text, the original text has been modified at many places by Professor Kabir’s editorial intervention (see his note in Appendix 1).

The present edition now gives the full text as found in the copies released to us. Major additions to the earlier version are indicated by asterisks at the beginning and at the end, the ‘Prospectus of the First Volume’ as published in the first edition has been retained. The appendixes included in that edition have also been reproduced.

October 1988.

Editor’s Note

When the first draft of Maulana Azad’s autobiography was prepared, he felt that there certain judgements on men and events which were not yet ripe for publication. He therefore prepared a revised version which is being published under th title:

India Wins Freedom

Autobiographical narrative

By Maulana Abul Kalam Azad

Maulana Azad felt that he would also like to leave for the future historian a full record of his judgement and opinion on certain controversial issues which have been omitted from the published book. Even in respect of matter that has not been omitted, there are some minor differences from the original text as preserved here. This is due to the fact that the text for publication was revised several times, and with one or two exceptions, shows a toning down of his original judgement in order to spare the feelings of some of his contemporaries and fellow workers.

In the case of passages which have not been included in the published book the original opinion and judgement of Maulana Azad will be found in these papers deposited with the National Archives. The broad differences may be indicated as follows:

  1. Maulana Azad felt that injustice had been done to Dr. Syed Mahmud in not making him the first Congress Chief Minister of Bihar. On the other hand, he was equally clear in his mind that the way in which Dr. Syed Mahmud secured his release from Ahmednagar Fort jail was indefensible. Maulana Azad also disapproved of some of Dr. Syed Mahmud’s actions after he came out of jail. He decided to leave out of the published text the passages with both these matters.
  2. Maulana Azad felt that Sardar Patel had played a role which was not always consistent with the ideals of the Congress. While the published text gives a clear indication of his judgement about Sardar Patel, he left out some of his stronger indictments as he felt that heir publication should be delayed in the national interest.
  3. Maulana Azad not only disliked but had almost contempt for Mr. Krishna Menon. He felt that Mr. Krishna Menon was not trustworthy, and he had intended to discuss more fully in his third volume of his autobiography some of Mr. Menon’s actions as High Commissioner of India. Maulana Azad believed that the charges against Mr. Menon should have been investigated, so that he was either cleared or condemned. He felt so strongly on this point that when in 1954, Mr. Jawaharlal Nehru wanted to include Mr. Menon in the Cabinet, Maulana Azad sent in his resignation. It was only with difficulty that he could later be persuaded to agree to Mr. Menon’s inclusion in the Cabinet. He openly said that he did so only out of deference to Mr. Nehru’s wishes, and further said that h did not wish to publicise his views as he felt that it would weaken Mr. Nehru.
  4. Maulana Azad had a very warm feeling of mingled affection and admiration for Mr. Jawaharlal Nehru. He no doubt disapproved of some of his actions as too impulsive or precipitate and in the published text has left out a few indications of his disagreement with or approval of Mr. Nehru’s actions. He used to, say that Mr. Nehru has so many merits Nd is so genuine a servant of India that his few demerits should not be stressed specially in his lifetime. Anything which weakened Mr. Nehru’s standing was to his mind harmful to the national interest. At th same time, he felt that the future historians should have some information of these failings of Mr. Nehru and left them in this unexpurgated version of the autobiography.

It was Maulana Azad’s wish that these passages should be included in his autobiography after the papers have been released to the publisher.

Humayun Kabir, New Delhi, 2 April 1958

The work in connection with this book has been for me a labour of love and I shall feel happy if it helps in forwarding an object that was very dear to Maulana Azad’s  heart. This is the promotion of greater understanding among the different Indian communities as a first step towards greater understanding among people’s of the world. He also wished that the people of India and Pakistan should look upon one another as friends and neighbours. He regarded the Indian Council for Cultural Relations as an instrument for the achievement of this object an in his Presidential Address to the Council–his last prepared and printed speech– he made a fervent appeal for the strengthening of the bonds of understanding and sympathy between the people of these two States which till only a decade ago had been one undivided country. I feel that there can be no better use of any income derived from this book than to make it available to the Council for promoting better understanding among the different communities which live in India and Pakistan.

Before I conclude, i wish to make one thing perfectly clear. There are opinions and judgements in this book with which I do not agree but sin e my function was only to record Maulana Azad’s  findings, it would have highly improper to let my views colour the narrative. When he was alive, I often expressed my differences to him, and with the open-mindedness which was so strong an element in his nature, he has T times modified his views to meet my criticisms. At other times, he s lied in his characteristic way and said, “These are my views and surely I have the right to express them as I will.” now that he is no more, his views must stand in the form in which he left them.

It is difficult for any man to reflect with complete accuracy the views and opinions of another. Even when both use the same language, the change of one word may alter the emphasis and bring about a subtle difference in th shade of meaning. The difference in the genius of Urdu and English makes the task of interpreting Maulana Azad’s thoughts still more difficult. Urdu like all other Indian languages is rich, colourful and vigorous. English, on the other hand,is essentially a language of understatement. And when the speaker is a master of Urdu like Maulana Azad, the plight of the writer who seeks to express his thoughts in English can easily be imagined. In spite of these difficulties, I have tried to reflect as faithfully as I could the views of Maulana Azad, and. I regard myself S richly rewarded. Y the fact that the text had met with his approval.

Humayun Kabir, New Delhi, 15 March 1958

Humayun Kabir (1906-1969): after a distinguished academic career at the Calcutta and Oxford Universities, he served as a lecturer, first at the Andhra University at Waltair and then at Calcutta University, 1933-45. In 1937 he was elected to the Bengal Legislature Council as leader of the Peasants Party. In 1946 Azad selected him to serve as his secretary and he was therefore closely associated with Azad. He served as Educational Adviser to the Government of India until 1956 when he resigned and was elected to Parliament as a  member of the Congress Party in 1957. He was appointed Minister for Civil Aviation (1957-58), for Scientific Research and Cultural Affairs (1958-63), and for Petroleum and Chemicals (1963-68). The author of more than twenty books in English and Bangla on philosophy, literature, politics and culture, he also published two novels and three volumes of verse.

Courtesy of:

Orient Longman Private Ltd., Hyderabad India 1959