Breakup of Yugoslavia and formation of independent successor states 25 June 1991 – 27 April 1992

SFR Yugoslavia from 1991 through 1992. The colours represent the different areas of control.

 

 

       Croatia (1991–)

      Slovenia (1991–)

       Republic of Serbian Krajina (1991–1995), after Croatian Army Operation Storm (1995) and after UN Transitional Administration in Eastern Slavonia, Baranja and Western Syrmia (1996–1998), part of Croatia

       Republic of Macedonia (1991–)

      Croatian Republic of Herzeg-Bosnia (1991–1994), part of Bosnia and Herzegovina (1995–)

      Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina (1992–1997), part of Bosnia and Herzegovina (1997–)

       Autonomous Province of Western Bosnia (1993–1995), part of Bosnia and Herzegovina (1995–)

      Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (1992–2003), Serbia and Montenegro (2003–2006), Montenegro (3 June 2006–), Serbia (5 June 2006–) and Kosovo (17 February 2008)

      Republika Srpska (1992–1997), part of Bosnia and Herzegovina (1997–)

 

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1

Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (1943–1992)

The breakup of Yugoslavia occurred because of a series of political upheavals and conflicts during the early 1990s. After a period of political crisis in the 1980s, constituent republics of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia split apart, but the unresolved issues caused bitter inter-ethnic Yugoslav wars. The wars primarily affected Bosnia and Herzegovina and neighbouring parts of Croatia.  After the Allied victory in World War II, Yugoslavia was set up as a federation of six republics, with borders drawn along ethnic and historical lines:

  1. Bosnia and Herzegovina
  2. Croatia,
  3. Macedonia
  4. Montenegro,
  5. Serbia
  6. Slovenia.

 In addition, two autonomous provinces were established within Serbia:

  1.  Vojvodina
  2. Kosovo.

 Each of the republics had its own branch of the League of Communists of Yugoslavia party and a ruling elite, and any tensions were solved on the federal level. The Yugoslav model of state organization, as well as a middle way between planned and liberal economy, had been a relative success, and the country experienced a period of strong economic growth and relative political stability up to the 1980s, under the rule of president-for-life Josip Broz Tito. After his death in 1980, the weakened system of federal government was left unable to cope with rising economic and political challenges.

In the 1980s, Albanians of Kosovo started to demand that their autonomous province be granted the status of a constituent republic, starting with the 1981 protests. Ethnic tensions between Albanians and Kosovo Serbs remained high over the whole decade, which resulted in the growth across Yugoslavia of Serb opposition to the high autonomy of provinces and ineffective system of consensus at the federal level, which were seen as an obstacle for Serb interests. In 1987, Slobodan Milošević came to power in Serbia, and through a series of populist moves acquired de facto control over

  1. Kosovo
  2. Vojvodina
  3. Montenegro

garnering a high level of support among Serbs for his centralist policies. Milošević was met with opposition by party leaders of the western republics of Slovenia and Croatia, who also advocated greater democratization of the country in line with the Revolutions of 1989 in Eastern Europe. The League of Communists of Yugoslavia dissolved in January 1990 along federal lines. Republican communist organizations became the separate socialist parties.

During 1990, the socialists (former communists) lost power to ethnic separatist parties in the first multi-party elections held across the country, except in Serbia and Montenegro, where they were won by Milošević and his allies. Nationalist rhetoric on all sides became increasingly heated. Between June 1991 and April 1992, four republics declared independence (only Serbia and Montenegro remained federated), but the status of ethnic Serbs outside Serbia and Montenegro, and that of ethnic Croats outside Croatia, remained unsolved. After a string of inter-ethnic incidents, the Yugoslav Wars ensued, first in Croatia and then, most severely, in multi-ethnic Bosnia and Herzegovina; the wars left long-term economic and political damage in the region.

Background

Yugoslavia occupied a significant portion of the Balkan peninsula, including a strip of land on the east coast of the Adriatic Sea, stretching southward from the Bay of Trieste in Central Europe to the mouth of Bojana as well as Lake Prespa inland, and eastward as far as the Iron Gates on the Danube and Midžor in the Balkan Mountains, thus including a large part of Southeast Europe, a region with a history of ethnic conflict.

The important elements that fostered the discord involved contemporary and historical factors, including the formation of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, the first breakup and subsequent inter-ethnic and political wars and genocide during World War II, ideas of Greater Serbia, Greater Croatia, Greater Albania, and conflicting views about Pan-Slavism, and the unilateral recognition by a newly reunited Germany of the breakaway republics.

Before World War II, major tensions arose from the first, monarchist Yugoslavia’s multi-ethnic make-up and relative political and demographic domination of the Serbs. Fundamental to the tensions were the different concepts of the new state. The Croats and Slovenes envisaged a federal model where they would enjoy greater autonomy than they had as a separate crown land under Austria-Hungary. Under Austria-Hungary, both Slovenes and Croats enjoyed autonomy with free hands only in education, law, religion, and 45% of taxes. The Serbs tended to view the territories as a just reward for their support of the allies in World War I and the new state as an extension of the Kingdom of Serbia.

Tensions between the Croats and Serbs often erupted into open conflict, with the Serb-dominated security structure exercising oppression during elections and the assassination in national parliament of Croat political leaders, including Stjepan Radić, who opposed the Serbian monarch’s absolutism. The assassination and human rights abuses were subject of concern for the Human Rights League and precipitated voices of protest from intellectuals, including Albert Einstein. It was in this environment of oppression that the radical insurgent group (later fascist dictatorship), the Ustaše were formed.

During World War II, the country’s tensions were exploited by the occupying Axis forces which established a Croat puppet state spanning much of present-day Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Axis powers installed the Ustaše as the leaders of the Independent State of Croatia. The Ustaše resolved that the Serbian minority were a fifth column of Serbian expansionism, and pursued a policy of persecution against the Serbs. The policy dictated that one-third of the Serbian minority were to be killed, one-third expelled, and one-third converted to Catholicism and assimilated as Croats. Conversely, the Chetniks pursued their own campaign of persecution in parts of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Sandžak per the Moljevic plan (On Our State and Its Borders) and the orders issues by Draža Mihailović which included the cleansing of all nation understandings and fighting.

Both Croats and Muslims were recruited as soldiers by the SS (primarily in the 13th Waffen Mountain Division). At the same time, former royalist, General Milan Nedić, was installed by the Axis as head of the puppet government and local Serbs were recruited into the Gestapo and the Serbian Volunteer Corps. Both quislings were confronted and eventually defeated by the communist-led, anti-fascist Partisan movement composed of members of all ethnic groups in the area, leading to the formation of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

The official Yugoslav post-war estimate of victims in Yugoslavia during World War II was 1,704,000. Subsequent data gathering in the 1980s by historians Vladimir Žerjavić and Bogoljub Kočović showed that the actual number of dead was about 1 million. Of that number, 330,000 to 390,000 ethnic Serbs perished from all causes in Croatia and Bosnia.

Yugoslavia was in its heyday a regional industrial power and an economic success. From 1960 to 1980, annual gross domestic product (GDP) growth averaged 6.1 percent, medical care was free, literacy was 91 percent, and life expectancy was 72 years. It was a unique state, straddling both the East and West. Moreover, its president, Josip Broz Tito, was one of the fundamental founders of the third world or group of 77 which acted as an alternative to the superpowers. More importantly, it acted as a buffer state between the West and the Soviet Union and also prevented the Soviets from getting a toehold on the Mediterranean Sea.

The central government’s control began to be loosened due to increasing nationalist grievances and the Communist’s Party’s wish to support national self-determination. This resulted in Kosovo being turned into an autonomous region of Serbia, legislated by the 1974 constitution. This constitution broke down powers between the capital and the autonomous regions in Vojvodina (an area of Yugoslavia with a large number of ethnic minorities) and Kosovo (with a large ethnic-Albanian population).

Despite the federal structure of the new Yugoslavia, there was still tension between the federalists, primarily Croats and Slovenes who argued for greater autonomy, and unitarists, primarily Serbs. The struggle would occur in cycles of protests for greater individual and national rights (such as the Croatian Spring) and subsequent repression. The 1974 constitution was an attempt to short-circuit this pattern by entrenching the federal model and formalizing national rights.

The loosened control basically turned Yugoslavia into a de facto confederacy, which also placed pressure on the legitimacy of the regime within the federation. Since the late 1970s a widening gap of economic resources between the developed and underdeveloped regions of Yugoslavia severely deteriorated the federation’s unity. The most developed republics, Croatia and Slovenia, rejected attempts to limit their autonomy as provided in the 1974 Constitution. Public opinion in Slovenia in 1987 saw better economic opportunity in independence from Yugoslavia than within it. There were also places that saw no economic benefit from being in Yugoslavia; for example, the autonomous province of Kosovo was poorly developed, and per capita GDP fell from 47 percent of the Yugoslav average in the immediate post-war period to 27 percent by the 1980s. It highlighted the vast differences in the quality of life in the different republics.

Economic growth was curbed due to Western trade barriers combined with the 1973 oil crisis. Yugoslavia subsequently fell into heavy IMF debt due to the large number of International Monetary Fund (IMF) loans taken out by the regime. As a condition of receiving loans, the IMF demanded the “market liberalization” of Yugoslavia. By 1981, Yugoslavia had incurred $19.9 billion in foreign debt. Another concern was the unemployment rate, at 1 million by 1980. This problem was compounded by the general unproductiveness of the South, which not only added to Yugoslavia’s economic woes, but also irritated Slovenia and Croatia further.

Structural problems

The SFR Yugoslavia was a conglomeration of eight federated entities, roughly divided along ethnic lines, including six republics.

With the 1974 Constitution, the office of President of Yugoslavia was replaced with the Yugoslav Presidency, an eight-member collective head-of-state composed of representatives from six republics and, controversially, two autonomous provinces of the Socialist Republic of Serbia, SAP Kosovo and SAP Vojvodina.

Since the SFR Yugoslav federation was formed in 1945, the constituent Socialist Republic of Serbia (SR Serbia) included the two autonomous provinces of SAP Kosovo and SAP Vojvodina. With the 1974 constitution, the influence of the central government of SR Serbia over the provinces was greatly reduced, which gave them long-sought autonomy. The government of SR Serbia was restricted in making and carrying out decisions that would apply to the provinces. The provinces had a vote in the Yugoslav Presidency, which was not always cast in favour of SR Serbia. In Serbia, there was great resentment towards these developments, which the nationalist elements of the public saw as the division of Serbia. The 1974 constitution not only exacerbated Serbian fears of a “weak Serbia, for a strong Yugoslavia” but also hit at the heart of Serbian national sentiment. Most Serbs see Kosovo as the cradle of the nation and would not accept the possibility of losing it to the majority Albanian population.

In an effort to ensure his legacy, Tito’s 1974 constitution established a system of year-long presidencies, on a rotation basis out of the eight leaders of the republics and autonomous provinces. Tito’s death would show that such short terms were highly ineffective. Essentially it left a power vacuum which was left open for most of the 1980s.

Economic collapse and the international climate

During the years of Tito’s presidency, his policy was to push for rapid economic growth. Indeed, growth was high in the 1970s. However, the over-expansion of economic growth caused inflation and pushed Yugoslavia into economic recession.

After the death of Tito and the rise of Mikhail Gorbachev, perestroika and glasnost in the Soviet Union, the West felt secure enough in the USSR’s intentions that Yugoslavia was no longer of pivotal strategic importance. Despite Belgrade’s non-alignment and its extensive trading relations with the European Community and the US, the Reagan administration specifically targeted the Yugoslav economy in a Secret Sensitive 1984 National Security Decision Directive NSDD 133. U.S. Policy towards Yugoslavia. A censored version declassified in 1990 elaborated on NSDD 54 on Eastern Europe, issued in 1982. The latter advocated expanded efforts to promote a ‘quiet revolution’ to overthrow Communist governments and parties, while reintegrating the countries of Eastern Europe into a market-oriented economy.

The external status quo, which the Communist Party had depended upon to remain viable was thus beginning to disappear. Furthermore, the failure of communism all over Central and Eastern Europe once again brought Yugoslavia’s inner contradictions, economic inefficiencies (such as chronic lack of productivity, fuelled by the country’s leaderships’ decision to enforce a policy of full employment), and ethno-religious tensions to the surface. Yugoslavia’s non-aligned status resulted in access to loans from both superpower blocs. This contact with the United States and the West opened up Yugoslavia’s markets sooner than the rest of Central and Eastern Europe.

  • The 1980s were a decade of Western economic ministrations.
  • A decade of frugality resulted in growing frustration and resentment against both the Serbian ‘ruling class,’ and the minorities who were seen to benefit from government legislation. Real earnings in Yugoslavia fell by 25% from 1979 to 1985.
  • By 1988 emigrant remittances to Yugoslavia totalled over $4.5 billion (USD), and by 1989 remittances were $6.2 billion (USD), making up over 19% of the world’s total.

Death of Tito and the weakening of Communism

On 4 May 1980, Tito’s death was announced through state broadcasts across Yugoslavia. His death removed what many international political observers saw as Yugoslavia’s main unifying force and subsequent ethnic tension started to grow in Yugoslavia. The crisis that emerged in Yugoslavia was connected with the weakening of the Communist states in Eastern Europe towards the end of the Cold War, as symbolized by the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. In Yugoslavia, the national communist party, officially called the League of Communists of Yugoslavia, had lost its ideological potency.

In 1986, the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts (SANU) contributed significantly to the rise of nationalist sentiments, as it drafted the controversial SANU Memorandum protesting against the weakening of the Serbian central government.

The problems in the Serbian autonomous province of SAP Kosovo between ethnic Serbs and Albanians grew exponentially. This, coupled with economic problems in Kosovo and Serbia as a whole, led to even greater Serbian resentment of the 1974 Constitution. Kosovo Albanians started to demand that Kosovo be granted the status of a constituent republic beginning in the early 1980s, particularly with the 1981 protests in Kosovo. This was seen by the Serbian public as a devastating blow to Serb pride because of the historic links that Serbians held with Kosovo. It was viewed that that secession would be devastating to Kosovar Serbs. This, eventually, led to the repression of the Albanian majority in Kosovo.

The more prosperous republics of SR Slovenia and SR Croatia wanted to move towards decentralization and democracy.

Rise of nationalism in Serbia (1987–89) 

3
Slobodan Milošević 

Serbian President Slobodan Milošević’s unequivocal desire to uphold the unity of Serbs, a status threatened by each republic breaking away from the federation, in addition to his opposition to the Albanian authorities in Kosovo, further inflamed ethnic tensions.

In 1987, Serbian communist official Slobodan Milošević was sent to bring calm to an ethnically-driven protest by Serbs against the Albanian administration of SAP Kosovo. Milošević had been, up to this point, a hard-line communist who had decried all forms of nationalism as treachery, such as condemning the SANU Memorandum as “nothing else but the darkest nationalism” However, Kosovo’s autonomy had always been an unpopular policy in Serbia and he took advantage of the situation and made a departure from traditional communist neutrality on the issue of Kosovo.

Milošević assured Serbs that their mistreatment by ethnic Albanians would be stopped. He then began a campaign against the ruling communist elite of SR Serbia, demanding reductions in the autonomy of Kosovo and Vojvodina. These actions made him popular amongst Serbs and aided his rise to power in Serbia. Milošević and his allies took on an aggressive nationalist agenda of reviving SR Serbia within Yugoslavia, promising reforms and protection of all Serbs.

The ruling party of SFR Yugoslavia was the League of Communists of Yugoslavia (SKJ), a composite political party made-up of eight Leagues of Communists from the six republics and two autonomous provinces. The League of Communists of Serbia (SKS) governed SR Serbia. Riding the wave of nationalist sentiment and his new popularity gained in Kosovo, Slobodan Milošević (Chairman of the League of Communists of Serbia (SKS) since May 1986) became the most powerful politician in Serbia by defeating his former mentor President of Serbia Ivan Stambolic at the 8th Session of the League of Communists of Serbia on 22 September 1987. In a 1988 Belgrade rally, Milošević made clear his perception of the situation facing SR Serbia in Yugoslavia, saying:

At home and abroad, Serbia’s enemies are massing against us. We say to them We are not afraid. We will not flinch from battle. — Slobodan Milošević, 19 November 1988.

On another occasion, he privately stated:

We Serbs will act in the interest of Serbia whether we do it in compliance with the constitution or not, whether we do it in compliance in the law or not, whether we do it in compliance with party statutes or not. — Slobodan Milošević

Anti-bureaucratic revolution

The Anti-bureaucratic revolution was a series of revolts in Serbia and Montenegro which brought Milošević’s supporters in SAP Vojvodina, SAP Kosovo, and the Socialist Republic of Montenegro (SR Montenegro) to power. The government of Montenegro survived a coup d’état in October 1988, but not a second one in January 1989.

In addition to Serbia itself, Milošević could now install representatives of the two provinces and SR Montenegro in the Yugoslav Presidency Council. The very instrument that reduced Serbian influence before was now used to increase it: in the eight-member Presidency, Milošević could count on a minimum of four votes – SR Montenegro (following local events), his own through SR Serbia, and now SAP Vojvodina and SAP Kosovo as well. In a series of rallies, called Rallies of Truth, Milošević’s supporters succeeded in overthrowing local governments and replacing them with his allies.

As a result of these events, in February 1989 the ethnic Albanian miners in Kosovo organized the 1989 Kosovo miners’ strike, demanding the preservation of the, now endangered, autonomy. This contributed to ethnic conflict between the Albanians and the Serb population of the province. At 77% of the population of Kosovo in the 1980s, ethnic-Albanians were the majority.

In June 1989, the 600th anniversary of Serbia’s historic defeat at the field of Kosovo, Slobodan Milošević gave the Gazimestan speech to 200,000 Serbs, with a Serb nationalist theme which deliberately evoked medieval Serbian history. Milošević’s answer to the incompetence of the federal system was to centralise the government. Considering Slovenia and Croatia were looking farther ahead to independence, this was considered unacceptable.

Repercussions

Meanwhile, the Socialist Republic of Croatia (SR Croatia) and the Socialist Republic of Slovenia (SR Slovenia), supported the Albanian miners and their struggle for recognition. Media in SR Slovenia published articles comparing Milošević to Italian fascist dictator Benito Mussolini. Milošević contended that such criticism was unfounded and amounted to spreading fear of Serbia. Milošević’s state-run media claimed in response that Milan Kučan, head of the League of Communists of Slovenia, was endorsing Kosovo and Slovene separatism. Initial strikes in Kosovo turned into widespread demonstrations calling for Kosovo to be made the seventh republic. This angered Serbia’s leadership which proceeded to use police force, and later the federal army (the Yugoslav People’s Army JNA) by order of the Serbian-controlled Presidency.

In February 1989 ethnic Albanian Azem Vllasi, SAP Kosovo’s representative on the Presidency, was forced to resign and was replaced by an ally of Milošević. Albanian protesters demanded that Vllasi be returned to office, and Vllasi’s support for the demonstrations caused Milošević and his allies to respond stating this was a counter-revolution against Serbia and Yugoslavia, and demanded that the federal Yugoslav government put down the striking Albanians by force. Milošević’s aim was aided when a huge protest was formed outside of the Yugoslav parliament in Belgrade by Serb supporters of Milošević who demanded that the Yugoslav military forces make their presence stronger in Kosovo to protect the Serbs there and put down the strike.

On 27 February, SR Slovene representative in the collective presidency of Yugoslavia, Milan Kučan, opposed the demands of the Serbs and left Belgrade for SR Slovenia where he attended a meeting in the Cankar Hall in Ljubljana, co-organized with the democratic opposition forces, publicly endorsing the efforts of Albanian protesters who demanded that Vllasi be released. In the 1995 BBC documentary The Death of Yugoslavia, Kučan claimed that in 1989, he was concerned that with the successes of Milošević’s anti-bureaucratic revolution in Serbia’s provinces as well as Montenegro, that his small republic would be the next target for a political coup by Milošević’s supporters if the coup in Kosovo went unimpeded. Serbian state-run television denounced Kučan as a separatist, a traitor, and an endorser of Albanian separatism.

Serb protests continued in Belgrade demanding action in Kosovo. Milošević instructed communist representative Petar Gračanin to make sure the protest continued while he discussed matters at the council of the League of Communists, as a means to induce the other members to realize that enormous support was on his side in putting down the Albanian strike in Kosovo. Serbian parliament speaker Borisav Jović, a strong ally of Milošević, met with the current President of the Yugoslav Presidency, Bosnian representative Raif Dizdarević, and demanded that the federal government concede to Serbian demands. Dizdarević argued with Jović saying that You [Serbian politicians] organized the demonstrations, you control it, Jović refused to take responsibility for the actions of the protesters. Dizdarević then decided to attempt to bring calm to the situation himself by talking with the protesters, by making an impassioned speech for unity of Yugoslavia saying:

Our fathers died to create Yugoslavia. We will not go down the road to national conflict. We will take the path of Brotherhood and Unity.— Raif Dizdarević, 1989

This statement received polite applause, but the protest continued. Later Jović spoke to the crowds with enthusiasm and told them that Milošević was going to arrive to support their protest. When Milošević arrived, he spoke to the protesters and jubilantly told them that the people of Serbia were winning their fight against the old party bureaucrats. Then a shout to be from the crowd yelled “arrest Vllasi'”. Milošević pretended not to hear the demand correctly but declared to the crowd that anyone conspiring against the unity of Yugoslavia would be arrested and punished and the next day, with the party council pushed to submission to Serbia, Yugoslav army forces poured into Kosovo and Vllasi was arrested.

In March 1989, the crisis in Yugoslavia deepened after the adoption of amendments to the Serbian constitution that allowed the Serbian republic’s government to re-assert effective power over the autonomous provinces of Kosovo and Vojvodina. Up until that time, a number of political decisions were legislated from within these provinces, and they had a vote on the Yugoslav federal presidency level (six members from the republics and two members from the autonomous provinces).

A group of Kosovo Serb supporters of Milošević who helped bring down Vllasi declared that they were going to Slovenia to hold  the Rally of Truth which would decry Milan Kučan as a traitor to Yugoslavia and demand his ousting. However, the attempt to replay the anti-bureaucratic revolution in Ljubljana in December 1989 failed: the Serb protesters who were to go by train to Slovenia, were stopped when the police of SR Croatia blocked all transit through its territory in coordination with the Slovene police forces.

In the Presidency of Yugoslavia, Serbia’s Borisav Jović (at the time the President of the Presidency), Montenegro’s Nenad Bućin, Vojvodina’s Jugoslav Kostić and Kosovo’s Riza Sapunxhiu, started to form a voting bloc.

 Final political crisis (1990–92)

In January 1990, the extraordinary 14th Congress of the League of Communists of Yugoslavia was convened. The combined Yugoslav ruling party, the League of Communists of Yugoslavia (SKJ), was in crisis. Most of the Congress was spent with the Serbian and Slovene delegations arguing over the future of the League of Communists and Yugoslavia. SR Croatia’s actions in preventing Serb protesters from reaching Slovenia played its part. The Serbian delegation, led by Milošević, insisted on a policy of one person, one vote in the party membership, which would empower the largest party ethnic group, the Serbs.

In turn, the Croats and Slovenes sought to reform Yugoslavia by delegating even more power to six republics but were voted down continuously in every motion in an attempt to force the party to adopt the new voting system. As a result, the Croatian delegation, led by Chairman Ivica Račan, and Slovene delegation left the Congress on 23 January 1990, effectively dissolving the all-Yugoslav party. This in turn, along with external pressure, caused the adoption of multi-party systems in all republics.

Multi-party elections

When the individual republics organized their multi-party elections in 1990, the ex-communists mostly failed to win re-election, while most of the elected governments took on nationalist platforms, promising to protect their separate nationalist interests. In multi-party parliamentary elections nationalists defeated re-branded former Communist parties in Slovenia on 8 April 1990, in Croatia on 22 April and 2 May 1990, in Macedonia 11 and 25 November and 9 December 1990, and in Bosnia and Herzegovina on 18 and 25 November 1990.

In multi-party parliamentary elections, re-branded former communist parties were victorious in Montenegro on 9 and 16 December 1990, and in Serbia on 9 and 23 December 1990. In addition Serbia re-elected Slobodan Milošević as President. Serbia and Montenegro now increasingly favored a Serb-dominated Yugoslavia.

Ethnic tensions in Croatia

 

4
Croatian President Franjo Tuđman 

In Croatia, the nationalist Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) was elected to power, led by controversial nationalist Franjo Tuđman, under the promise of “protecting Croatia from Milošević”, publicly advocating for Croatian sovereignty. Croatian Serbs, for their part, were wary of Tuđman’s nationalist government and in 1990, Serb nationalists in the southern Croatian town of Knin organized and formed a separatist entity known as the SAO Krajina, which demanded to remain in union with the rest of the Serb populations if Croatia decided to secede. The government of Serbia endorsed the Croatian Serbs’ rebellion, claiming that for Serbs, rule under Tuđman’s government would be equivalent to the World War II fascist Independent State of Croatia (NDH) which committed genocide against Serbs during World War II. Milošević used this to rally Serbs against the Croatian government and Serbian newspapers joined in the warmongering. Serbia had by now printed $1.8 billion worth of new money without any backing of the Yugoslav central bank.

Croatian Serbs in Knin, under the leadership of local Knin police inspector Milan Martić, began to try to gain access to weapons so that the Croatian Serbs could mount a successful revolt against the Croatian government. Croatian Serb politicians including the Mayor of Knin met with Borisav Jović, the head of the Yugoslav Presidency in August 1990, and urged him to push the council to take action to prevent Croatia from separating from Yugoslavia, as they claimed that the Serb population would be in danger in Croatia led by Tuđman and his nationalist government.

At the meeting, army official Petar Gračanin told the Croatian Serb politicians how to organize their rebellion, telling them to put up barricades, as well as assemble weapons of any sort in which he said If you can’t get anything else, use hunting rifle.  Initially the revolt became known as the Log Revolution as Serbs blockaded roadways to Knin with cut-down trees and prevented Croats from entering Knin or the Croatian coastal region of Dalmatia. The BBC documentary The Death of Yugoslavia revealed that at the time, Croatian TV dismissed the Log Revolution as the work of drunken Serbs, trying to diminish the serious dispute. However, the blockade was damaging to Croatian tourism. The Croatian government refused to negotiate with the Serb separatists and decided to stop the rebellion by force and sent in armed special forces by helicopters to put down the rebellion.

The pilots claimed they were bringing equipment to Knin, but the federal Yugoslav Air Force intervened and sent fighter jets to intercept them and demanded that the helicopters return to their base or they would be fired upon, in which the Croatian forces obliged and returned to their base in Zagreb. To the Croatian government, this action by the Yugoslav Air Force revealed to them that the Yugoslav People’s Army was increasingly under Serbian control. The SAO Krajina was officially declared as a separate entity on 21 December 1990, by the Serbian National Council headed by Milan Babić.

In August 1990 the Croatian Parliament replaced its representative Stipe Šuvar with Stjepan Mesić in the wake of the Log Revolution.  Mesić was only seated in October 1990 because of protests from the Serbian side, and then joined Macedonia’s Vasil Tupurkovski, Slovenia’s Janez Drnovšek and Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Bogić Bogićević in opposing the demands to proclaim a general state of emergency, which would have allowed the Yugoslav People’s Army to impose martial law.

Following the first multi-party election results, the republics of Slovenia, Croatia and Macedonia proposed transforming Yugoslavia into a loose federation of six republics in the autumn of 1990, however Milošević rejected all such proposals, arguing that like Slovenians and Croats, the Serbs also had a right to self-determination. Serbian politicians were alarmed by a change of phrasing in the Christmas Constitution of Croatia that changed the status of ethnic Serbs of Croatia, from an explicitly mentioned nation (narod) to a nation listed together with minorities (narodi i manjine).

Independence of Slovenia and Croatia

In the Slovenian independence referendum, 1990, held on 23 December 1990, a vast majority of residents voted for independence. 88.5% of all electors (94.8% of those participating) voted for independence – which was declared on 25 June 1991.

In January 1991, the KOS (Kontraobaveštajna služba, Yugoslav counter-intelligence service) displayed a video of a secret meeting (the “Špegelj Tapes”) that they purported had happened some time in 1990 between the Croatian Defence Minister, Martin Špegelj, and two other men, in which Špegelj announced that they were at war with the army and gave instructions about arms smuggling as well as methods of dealing with the Yugoslav Army’s officers stationed in Croatian cities. The Army subsequently wanted to indict Špegelj for treason and illegal importation of arms, mainly from Hungary.

The discovery of Croatian arms smuggling combined with the crisis in Knin, the election of independence-leaning governments in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia and Slovenia, and Slovenes demanding independence in the referendum on the issue suggested that Yugoslavia faced the imminent threat of disintegration.

On 1 March 1991, the Pakrac clash ensued, and the Yugoslav People’s Army (Jugoslovenska Narodna Armija, JNA) was deployed to the scene. On 9 March 1991, the March 1991 protests in Belgrade were suppressed with the help of the Army.

On 12 March 1991, the leadership of the Army met with the Presidency in an attempt to convince them to declare a state of emergency which would allow for the pan-Yugoslav army to take control of the country. Yugoslav army chief Veljko Kadijević declared that there was a conspiracy to destroy the country, saying:

An insidious plan has been drawn up to destroy Yugoslavia. Stage one is civil war. Stage two is foreign intervention. Then puppet regimes will be set up throughout Yugoslavia.— Veljko Kadijević, 12 March 1991.

This statement effectively implied that the new independence-advocating governments of the republics were seen by Serbs as tools of the West. Croatian delegate Stjepan Mesić responded angrily to the proposal, accusing Jović and Kadijević of attempting to use the army to create a Greater Serbia and declared That means war!. Jović and Kadijević then called upon the delegates of each republic to vote on whether to allow martial law and warned them that Yugoslavia would likely fall apart if martial law was not introduced.

In the meeting, a vote was taken on a proposal to enact martial law to allow for military action to end the crisis in Croatia by providing protection for the Serbs. The proposal was rejected as the Bosnian delegate Bogić Bogićević voted against it, believing that there was still the possibility of diplomacy being able to solve the crisis.

The Yugoslav Presidency crisis reached an impasse when Sapunxhiu ‘defected’ his faction in the second vote on martial law in March 1991 Jović briefly resigned from the presidency in protest, but soon returned. On 16 May 1991, the Serbian parliament replaced Kosovo’s Riza Sapunxhiu with Sejdo Bajramović, and Vojvodina’s Nenad Bućin with Jugoslav Kostić. This effectively deadlocked the Presidency, because Milošević’s Serbian faction had secured four out of eight federal presidency votes and it was able to block any unfavorable decisions at the federal level, in turn causing objections from other republics and calls for reform of the Yugoslav Federation.

After Jović’s term as head of the collective presidency expired, he blocked his successor, Mesić, from taking the position, giving the position instead to Branko Kostić, a member of the pro-Milošević government in Montenegro.

In the Croatian independence referendum held on 2 May 1991, 93.24% voted for independence. On 19 May 1991, the second round of the referendum on the structure of the Yugoslav federation was held in Croatia. The phrasing of the question did not explicitly inquire as to whether one was in favor of secession or not. The referendum asked the voter if he or she was in favor of Croatia being able to enter into an alliance of sovereign states with other republics (in accordance with the proposal of the republics of Croatia and Slovenia for solving the state crisis in the SFRY)?. 83.56% of the voters turned out, with Croatian Serbs largely boycotting the referendum. Of these, 94.17% (78.69% of the total voting population) voted “in favor” of the proposal, while 1.2% of those who voted were “opposed”. Finally, the independence of Croatia was declared on 25 June 1991.

The beginning of the Yugoslav Wars

  • Both Slovenia and Croatia declared their independence on 25 June 1991.
  • On the morning of 26 June, units of the Yugoslav People’s Army’s 13th Corps left their barracks in Rijeka, Croatia, to move towards Slovenia’s borders with Italy.
  • The move immediately led to a strong reaction from local Slovenians, who organized spontaneous barricades and demonstrations against the YPA’s actions. There was, as yet, no fighting, and both sides appeared to have an unofficial policy of not being the first to open fire.
  • By this time, the Slovenian government had already put into action its plan to seize control of both the international Ljubljana Airport and Slovenia’s border posts on borders with Italy, Austria and Hungary.

The personnel manning the border posts were, in most cases, already Slovenians, so the Slovenian take-over mostly simply amounted to changing of uniforms and insignia, without any fighting. By taking control of the borders, the Slovenians were able to establish defensive positions against an expected YPA attack. This meant that the YPA would have to fire the first shot. It was fired on 27 June at 14:30 in Divača by an officer of the YPA.

On 7 July 1991, whilst supportive of their respective rights to national self-determination, the European Community pressured Slovenia and Croatia to place a three-month moratorium on their independence with the Brijuni Agreement (recognized by representatives of all republics).[40] During these three months, the Yugoslav Army completed its pull-out from Slovenia. Negotiations to restore the Yugoslav federation with diplomat Lord Carrington and members of the European Community were all but ended. Carrington’s plan realized that Yugoslavia was in a state of dissolution and decided that each republic must accept the inevitable independence of the others, along with a promise to Serbian President Milošević that the European Union would ensure that Serbs outside of Serbia would be protected.

In the event, Lord Carrington’s opinions were rendered moot following newly reunited Germany’s Christmas Eve 1991 recognition of Slovenia and Croatia. Except for secret negotiations between foreign ministers Genscher (Germany) and Mock (Austria), the unilateral recognition came as an unwelcome surprise to most EU governments and the United States, with whom there was no prior consultation. International organizations, including the UN, were nonplussed. While Yugoslavia was already in a shambles, it’s likely that German recognition of the breakaway republics—and Austrian partial mobilization on the border—made things a good deal worse for the decomposing multinational state. US President George H.W. Bush was the only major power representative to voice an objection. The extent of Vatican influence in this episode has been explored by scholars familiar with the details, but the historical record remains disputed.

Milošević refused to agree to the plan, as he claimed that the European Community had no right to dissolve Yugoslavia and that the plan was not in the interests of Serbs as it would divide the Serb people into four republics (Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Croatia). Carrington responded by putting the issue to a vote in which all the other republics, including Montenegro under Momir Bulatović, initially agreed to the plan that would dissolve Yugoslavia. However, after intense pressure from Serbia on Montenegro’s President, Montenegro changed its position to oppose the dissolution of Yugoslavia.

War in Croatia

 With the Plitvice Lakes incident of late March/early April 1991, the Croatian War of Independence broke out between the Croatian government and the rebel ethnic Serbs of the SAO Krajina (heavily backed by the by-now Serb-controlled Yugoslav People’s Army). On 1 April 1991, the SAO Krajina declared that it would secede from Croatia. Immediately after Croatia’s declaration of independence, Croatian Serbs also formed the SAO Western Slavonia and the SAO of Eastern Slavonia, Baranja and Western Srijem. These three regions would combine into the Republic of Serbian Krajina (RSK) on 19 December 1991.

The other significant Serb-dominated entities in eastern Croatia announced that they too would join SAO Krajina. Zagreb had by this time discontinued submitting tax money to Belgrade, and the Croatian Serb entities in turn halted paying taxes to Zagreb. In some places, the Yugoslav Army acted as a buffer zone, in others it aided Serbs in their confrontation with the new Croatian army and police forces.

The influence of xenophobia and ethnic hatred in the collapse of Yugoslavia became clear during the war in Croatia. Propaganda by Croatian and Serbian sides spread fear, claiming that the other side would engage in oppression against them and would exaggerate death tolls to increase support from their populations. In the beginning months of the war, the Serb-dominated Yugoslav army and navy deliberately shelled civilian areas of Split and Dubrovnik, a UNESCO world heritage site, as well as nearby Croat villages. Yugoslav media claimed that the actions were done due to what they claimed was a presence of fascist Ustaše forces and international terrorists in the city.

UN investigations found that no such forces were in Dubrovnik at the time. Croatian military presence increased later on. Montenegrin Prime Minister Milo Đukanović, at the time an ally of Milošević, appealed to Montenegrin nationalism, promising that the capture of Dubrovnik would allow the expansion of Montenegro into the city which he claimed was historically part of Montenegro, and denounced the present borders of Montenegro as being drawn by the old and poorly educated Bolshevik cartographers.

At the same time, the Serbian government contradicted its Montenegrin allies by claims by the Serbian Prime Minister Dragutin Zelenović contended that Dubrovnik was historically Serbian, not Montenegrin. The international media gave immense attention to bombardment of Dubrovnik and claimed this was evidence of Milosevic pursuing the creation of a Greater Serbia as Yugoslavia collapsed, presumably with the aid of the subordinate Montenegrin leadership of Bulatović and Serb nationalists in Montenegro to foster Montenegrin support for the retaking of Dubrovnik.

In Vukovar, ethnic tensions between Croats and Serbs exploded into violence when the Yugoslav army entered the town. The Yugoslav army and Serbian paramilitaries devastated the town in urban warfare and the destruction of Croatian property. Serb paramilitaries committed atrocities against Croats, killing over 200, and displacing others to add to those who fled the town in the Vukovar massacre.[

Independence of the Republic of Macedonia and Bosnia and Herzegovina

 

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Bosnian President Alija Izetbegović 
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Bosnian Serb President Radovan Karadžić 

With Bosnia’s demographic structure comprising a mixed population of a majority of Bosniaks, and minorities of Serbs and Croats, the ownership of large areas of Bosnia was in dispute.

From 1991 to 1992, the situation in the multiethnic Bosnia and Herzegovina grew tense. Its parliament was fragmented on ethnic lines into a plurality Bosniak faction and minority Serb and Croat factions. In 1991, the controversial nationalist leader Radovan Karadžić of the largest Serb faction in the parliament, the Serb Democratic Party gave a grave and direct warning to the Bosnian parliament should it decide to separate, saying:

This, what you are doing, is not good. This is the path that you want to take Bosnia and Herzegovina on, the same highway of hell and death that Slovenia and Croatia went on. Don’t think that you won’t take Bosnia and Herzegovina into hell, and the Muslim people maybe into extinction. Because the Muslim people cannot defend themselves if there is war here.— Radovan Karadžić, 14 October 1991.

In the meantime, behind the scenes, negotiations began between Milošević and Tuđman to divide Bosnia and Herzegovina into Serb and Croat administered territories to attempt to avert war between Bosnian Croats and Serbs. Bosnian Serbs held the November 1991 referendum which resulted in an overwhelming vote in favour of staying in a common state with Serbia and Montenegro.

In public, pro-state media in Serbia claimed to Bosnians that Bosnia and Herzegovina could be included a new voluntary union within a new Yugoslavia based on democratic government, but this was not taken seriously by Bosnia and Herzegovina’s government.

On 9 January 1992, the Bosnian Serb assembly proclaimed a separate Republic of the Serb people of Bosnia and Herzegovina (the soon-to-be Republic of Srpska), and proceeded to form Serbian autonomous regions (SARs) throughout the state. The Serbian referendum on remaining in Yugoslavia and the creation of Serbian autonomous regions (SARs) were proclaimed unconstitutional by the government of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The independence referendum sponsored by the Bosnian government was held on 29 February and 1 March 1992. That referendum was in turn declared contrary to the Bosnian and federal constitution by the federal Constitution Court and the newly established Bosnian Serb government; it was also largely boycotted by the Bosnian Serbs. According to the official results, the turnout was 63.4%, and 99.7% of the voters voted for independence.  It was unclear what the two-thirds majority requirement actually meant and whether it was satisfied.

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The building of the executive council building in Sarajevo burns after being hit by Serbian tank fire in 1992. 

Bosnia and Herzegovina declared independence on 3 March 1992 and received international recognition the following month on 6 April 1992. On the same date, the Serbs responded by declaring the independence of the Republika Srpska and laying siege to Sarajevo which marked the start of the Bosnian War. The Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina was subsequently admitted as a member State of the United Nations on 22 May 1992.

Macedonia

In the Macedonian independence referendum held on 8 September 1991, 95.26% voted for independence. It was declared on 25 September 1991.

Five hundred US soldiers were then deployed under the UN banner to monitor Macedonia’s northern borders with the Republic of Serbia, Yugoslavia. However, given that Belgrade’s authorities had neither intervened to prevent Macedonia’s departure, nor protested nor acted against the arrival of the UN troops, the indications were in place that once Belgrade was to form its new country (to be the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia from April 1992), it would recognise the Republic of Macedonia and develop diplomatic relations with it. As such, it became the only former republic to gain sovereignty without resistance from the Belgrade-based Yugoslav authorities and Army.

In addition, Macedonia’s first president, Kiro Gligorov, did indeed maintain good relations with Belgrade as well as the other former republics and there have to date been no problems between Macedonian and Serbian border police despite the fact that small pockets of Kosovo and the Preševo valley complete the northern reaches of the historical region known as Macedonia, which would otherwise have created a border dispute (see also IMORO).

The Insurgency in the Republic of Macedonia, the last major conflict being between Albanian nationalists and the government of Republic of Macedonia, reduced in violence after 2001.

International recognition of the breakup

In November 1991, the Arbitration Commission of the Peace Conference on Yugoslavia, led by Robert Badinter, concluded at the request of Lord Carrington that the SFR Yugoslavia was in the process of dissolution, that the Serbian population in Croatia and Bosnia did not have a right to self-determination in the form of new states, and that the borders between the republics were to be recognized as international borders. As a result of the conflict, the United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted UN Security Council Resolution 721 on 27 November 1991, which paved the way to the establishment of peacekeeping operations in Yugoslavia.

  • In January 1992, Croatia and Yugoslavia signed an armistice under UN supervision, while negotiations continued between Serb and Croat leaderships over the partitioning of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
  • On 15 January 1992, the independence of Croatia and Slovenia was recognized worldwide.
  • Slovenia, Croatia, and Bosnia would later be admitted as member states of the United Nations on 22 May 1992.
  • Macedonia was admitted as a member state of the United Nations on 8 April 1993.

Aftermath in Serbia and Montenegro

 The Federal Republic of Yugoslavia consisted of Serbia and Montenegro. The independence of Bosnia and Herzegovina proved to be the final blow to the pan-Yugoslav Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. On 28 April 1992, the Serb-dominated Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) was formed as a rump state, consisting only of the former Socialist Republics of Serbia and Montenegro. Its government claimed continuity to the former country, however, the international community refused to recognize it as such. The stance of the international community was that Yugoslavia had dissolved into its separate states. The Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was prevented by a UN resolution on 22 September 1992 from continuing to occupy the United Nations seat as successor state to SFRY. This question was important for claims on SFRY’s international assets, including embassies in many countries. Only in 1996 had the FRY abandoned its claim to continuity from the SFRY. The FRY was dominated by Slobodan Milošević and his political allies.

  • The five years of disintegration and war in the 1990s led to a boycott and embargo of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, whose economy collapsed as a result.
  • The war in the western parts of former Yugoslavia ended in 1995 with US-sponsored peace talks in Dayton, Ohio, which resulted in the Dayton Agreement.
  • The Kosovo War started in 1996 and ended with the 1999 NATO bombing of Yugoslavia. Slobodan Milošević was overthrown in 2000.

FR Yugoslavia was renamed on 4 February 2003 as the State Union of Serbia and Montenegro. The State Union of Serbia and Montenegro was itself unstable, and finally broke up in 2006, with Kosovo declaring its independence from Serbia in 2008. In a referendum held in Montenegro on 21 May 2006 independence was backed by 55.5% of voters, and independence was declared on 3 June 2006. Serbia inherited the State Union’s UN membership.

Kosovo had been administered by the UN since the Kosovo war; however, on 17 February 2008, Kosovo declared independence from Serbia as the Republic of Kosovo. On one side, The United States, the United Kingdom and much of the EU recognized this act of self-determination, with the United States sending people to help assist Kosovo. On the other hand, Serbia and some of the international community—most notably Russia, Spain and China—have not recognized Kosovo’s declaration of independence. As of July 2015, Kosovo is recognized by 56% of the United Nations

By Courtesy: Original by Hoshie; derivative by DIREKTOR – Made by DIREKTOR, see above for more details on sources, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15851941

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Miracle at Dunkirk? May / June 1940

The escape of the British Expeditionary Force in 1940 was largely due to Hitler’s personal intervention. After his tanks had overrun the north of France and cut off the British army from its base, Hitler held them up just as they were about to sweep into Dunkirk – which was the last remaining port of escape left open to the British. At that moment the bulk of the B.E.F. was still many miles distant from the port. But Hitler kept his tanks halted for three days.
His action preserved the British forces when nothing else could have saved them. By making it possible for them to escape he enabled them to rally in England, continue the war, and man the coasts to defy the threat of invasion. Thereby he produced his own ultimate downfall, and Germany’s five years later. Acutely aware of the narrowness of the escape but ignorant of its cause, the British people spoke of the miracle of Dunkirk.
After cutting the lines of supply to the Allied left wing in Belgium, Guderian’s panzer corps had reached the sea near Abbeville on the 20th. Then he wheeled north, heading for the Channel ports and the rear of the British army – which was still in Belgium, facing the frontal advance of Bock’s infantry forces. On Guderian’s right in this northward drive was Reinhardt’s panzer corps, which was also part of the Kleist’s group.

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On the 22nd, Boulogne was isolated by his advance, and on the next day Calais. This stride brought him to Gravelines, barely ten miles from Dunkirk – the British Expeditionary Force’s last remaining port of escape. Reinhardt’s panzer corps also arrived on the canal line Aire-St Omer-Gravelines. But there the continuation of the drive was stopped by orders from above. The panzer leaders were told to hold their forces back behind the line of the canal. They bombarded their superiors with urgent queries and protests, but were told that it was the Fuhrer’s personal order.

Before probing deeper into the roots of that saving intervention let us see what was happening on the British side, and follow the course of that grand-scale escape.
On the 16th General Lord Gort, the Commander-in-Chief, brought the B.E.F. a step back from its advanced line in front of Brussels. But before it arrived in its new position on the Scheldt, that position had been undermined by Guderian cutting the B.E.F.’s communications far to the south. On the 19th the Cabinet heard that Gort was examining a possible withdrawal towards Dunkirk if that were forced upon him. The Cabinet, however, sent him orders to march south into France and force his way through the German net that had been flung across his rear – though they were told that he had only four days’ supplies and ammunition sufficient for one battle.

These instructions accorded with the new plan which Gamelin, the French Commander-in-Chief, had belatedly made and issued that morning. In the evening Gamelin was sacked and replaced by Weygand, whose first act was to cancel Gamelin’s order, while he studied the situation. After three days’ further delay he produced a plan similar to his predecessor’s. It proved no more than a paper plan.

Meanwhile Gort, though arguing that the Cabinet’s instructions were impracticable, had tried an attack southward from Arras with two of his thirteen divisions and the only tank brigade that had been sent to France. When this counterstrike was launched on the 21st it had boiled down to an advance by two weak tank battalions followed by two infantry battalions. The tanks made some progress but were not backed up, the infantry being shaken by dive-bombing. The neighbouring French First Army was to have cooperated with two of its thirteen divisions, but its actual contribution was slight. During these days the French were repeatedly paralysed by the moral effect of the German dive-bombers and the swift manoeuvring tanks.

It is remarkable, however, what a disturbing effect this little armoured counterstroke had on some of the German higher commanders. For a moment it led them to think of stopping the advance of their own tank spearheads. Rundstedt himself described it as a critical moment, saying:
For a short time, it was feared that our armoured divisions would be cut off before the infantry divisions could come up to support them.
Such an effect showed what a vital difference to the issue might have been made if this British riposte had been made with two armoured divisions instead of merely two tank battalions.

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After the flash-in-the-pan at Arras the Allied armies in the north made no further effort to break out of the trap, while the belated offensive from the south that Weygand planned was so feeble as to be almost farcical. It was easily baulked by the barricade which the German motorised divisions had quickly built up along the Somme, to keep out interference, while the panzer divisions drove northward to close the trap. With such slow-motion forces as Weygand commanded, his grandiloquent orders had no more chance of practical effect than Churchill’s adjurations to the armies to cast away the idea of resisting attack behind concrete lines or natural obstacles and regain the mastery by furious, unrelenting assault.

Whilst the highest circles continued to debate impracticable plans, the cut-off armies in the north were falling back on a slant closer to the coast. They were under increasing frontal pressure from Bock’s infantry armies – though they were spared a deadly stab in the back from the panzer forces.

On the 24th Weygand bitterly complained that the British Army had carried out, on its own initiative, a retreat of twenty-five miles towards the ports at a time when our troops moving up from the south are gaining ground towards the north, where they were to meet their allies. In fact, the French troops from the south had made no perceptible progress and the British were not yet retreating – Weygand’s words merely showed the state of unreality in which he was living.

But on the evening of the 25th Gort took the definite decision to retreat to the sea, at Dunkirk. Forty-eight hours earlier, the German panzer forces had already arrived on the canal line only ten miles from the port. On the 26th the British Cabinet allowed the War Office to send him a telegram approving his step and authorised him to carry out such a retirement. Next day a further telegram told him to evacuate his force by sea.

That same day the Belgian Army’s line cracked in the centre under Bock’s attack, and no reserves were left at hand to fill the gap. King Leopold had already sent repeated warnings to Churchill through Admiral Keyes, that the situation was becoming hopeless. Now, at a stroke, it was so. Most of Belgium had already been overrun and the army had its back close to the sea, penned in a narrow strip of land that was packed with civilian refugees. So, in the late afternoon the King decided to sue for armistice- and ceasefire was sounded early the next morning.

The Belgians’ surrender increased the danger that the B.E.F. would be cut off before it could reach Dunkirk. Churchill had just sent King Leopold an appeal to hold on, which he privately described to Gort as asking them to sacrifice themselves for us. It is understandable that the encircled Belgians already aware that the B.E.F. was preparing to evacuate, did not see that appeal in the same light as Churchill. Nor was King Leopold willing to follow Churchill’s advice that he should himself escape by aeroplane before too late. The King felt that he must stay with his Army and people. His decision may have been unwise in the long view, but in the circumstances of the time it was an honourable choice. Churchill’s subsequent criticisms of it were hardly fair, while the violent denunciations made by the French Prime Minister and press were grossly unjust – considering the way that the Belgian downfall had been produced by the collapse of the French defence on the Meuse.

The British retreat to the coast now became a race to re-embark before the German trap closed – notwithstanding bitter French protests and reproaches. It was fortunate that preparatory measures had begun in England a week before – although on a different assumption. On the 20th Churchill had approved steps to assemble a large number of small vessels in readiness to proceed to ports and inlets on the French coast, with the idea that they might help in rescuing bits of the B.E.F. that might be cut off as it tried to push south into France, under the existing plan. The Admiralty lost no time in preparing. Admiral Ramsay, commanding at Dover, had been placed in operational control on the previous day, the 19th. A number of ferry-craft, naval drifters and small coasters were at once collected for what was called Operation Dynamo. From Harwich round to Weymouth, sea transport officers were directed to list all ships up to a thousand tons.
In the days that followed the situation became rapidly worse, and it was soon clear to the Admiralty that Dunkirk would be the only possible route of evacuation. Dynamo was put into operation on the afternoon of the 26th – twenty-four hours before the Belgian appeal for an armistice, and also before the Cabinet had authorised the evacuation.

At first it was not expected that more than a small fraction of the B.E.F. could be saved. The Admiralty told Ramsay to aim at bringing away 45,000 within two days, and that it was probable the enemy would by then have made further evacuation impossible. Actually, only 25,000 were landed in England by the night of the 28th. It was fortunate that the period of grace proved considerably longer.
For the first five days the rate of evacuation was restricted by an insufficiency of small boats to carry troops from the beaches to the ships waiting offshore. This need, though pointed out by Ramsay originally, had not been adequately met. But the Admiralty now made more extensive efforts to provide them and to man them, the naval personnel being reinforced by a host of civilian volunteers – fishermen, lifeboatmen, yachtsmen, and others who had some experience in handling boats. Ramsay recorded that one of the best performances was that of the crew of e fire-float Massey Shaw from the London Fire Brigade.

At first, too, there was much confusion on the beaches, owing to the disorganised state of the troops waiting to embark – at that time largely base personnel. Ramsay considered that it was aggravated by the fact that Army officers’ uniform is indistinguishable from that of other ranks, and found that the appearance of Naval officers in their unmistakable uniforms, helped to restore order . . . Later on, when troops of fighting formations reached the beaches these difficulties disappeared.
The first heavy air attack came on the evening of the 29th and it was only by good fortune that the vital Dunkirk Harbour channel was not blocked by sinking ships at this early date. Its preservation was the more important because the majority of the troops were embarked from the harbour and less than one-third from the beaches.

In the next three days the air attacks increased and on June 2 daylight evacuation had to be suspended. The fighters of the R.A.F. from airfields in southern England, did their utmost to keep the Luftwaffe at bay, but, being outnumbered and unable to stay long over the area because of the distance, they could not maintain anything like adequate cover. The oft-repeated bombing attacks were a severe strain on the troops waiting on the beaches though the soft sand blanketed the effects. Far more material damage was done over the sea where the losses included six destroyers, eight personnel ships, and over two hundred small craft- out of a total 860 British and Allied vessels of all sizes employed in the evacuation. It was very lucky that the German Navy made very little attempt to interfere, either with U-boats or E-boats. Happily, too, the evacuation was favoured by extremely good weather.

By May 30, 126,000 troops had been evacuated, while all the rest of the B.E.F. had arrived in the Dunkirk bridgehead – except for fragments that were cut off during the retreat. The defence of the bridgehead against the enemy’s encircling advance on land now became much firmer in consequence. The Germans had missed their opportunity.
Unhappily the French higher commanders in Belgium, still conforming to Weygand’s impossible plan, had hesitated to retreat to the sea and to do so as quickly as possible along with the British. As a result of that delay nearly half of what left of the French First Army had been cut off on the 28th near Lille and were forced to surrender on the 31st. Their gallant three-day stand, however, helped the escape of the remainder, as well as the British.

By midnight on June 2 the British rear-guard embarked and the evacuation of the B.E.F. was complete-224,000 men had been safely brought away, and only some 2,000 were lost in ships sunk en-route to England. Some 95,000 Allied troops, mainly French, had also been evacuated. On the next night every effort was made to bring away the remaining Frenchmen, despite increasing difficulties, and 26,000 more were saved. Unfortunately, a few thousand of the rear guard were left – and this left sore feelings in France.
By morning of the 4th when the operation was broken off, a total of 338,000 British and Allied troops had been landed in England. It was an amazing result compared with earlier expectations, and a grand performance on the part of the Navy.

At the same time, it is evident that the preservation of the B.E, F. to fight another day would have been impossible without Hitler’s action in halting Kleist’s panzer forces outside Dunkirk twelve days before, on May 24.

At that moment there was only one British battalion covering the twenty-mile stretch of the Aa between Gravelines and St Omer, and for a further sixty miles inland the canal line was little better defended. Many of the bridges were not yet blown up, or even prepared for demolition. Thus, the German panzer troops had no difficulty in gaining bridgeheads over the canal at a number of places on May 23 – and it was as Gort said in his Despatch, the only anti-tank obstacle on this flank. Having crossed it, there was nothing to hold them up – and stop them establishing themselves astride the B.E.F. lines of retreat to Dunkirk- except the halt that Hitler imposed.

It is clear, however, that Hitler had been in a highly strung and jumpy state ever since the breakthrough into France. The extraordinary easiness of their advance, the lack of resistance his armies had met, had made him uneasy – it seemed too good to be true. The effects can be followed in the diary that was kept by Halder, the Chief of the General Staff. On the 17th, the day after the French defence behind the Meuse had dramatically collapsed, Halder noted:

Rather unpleasant day. The Fuhrer is terribly nervous. Frightened by his own success, he is afraid to take any chances and so would pull the reins on us.

That was the day when Guderian was suddenly pulled up when in full stride for the sea.

Next day, Halder noted: Every hour is precious . . .Fuhrer HQ sees it quite differently . . . Unaccountably keeps worrying about the south flank. He rages and screams that we are on the best way to ruin the whole campaign.
Not until late that evening, when Halder was able to assure him that, follow-up infantry was wheeling into line along the Aisne as a flank shield, did Hitler agree to let the panzer forces sweep on.

Two days later these reached the coast, cutting the communications of the Allied armies in Belgium. That brilliant success seems to have temporarily drowned Hitler’s doubts. But they revived as his panzer forces swung northward, especially after the momentary alarm caused by the British tank counterattack from Arras, slight as this was. His panzer forces, which he regarded as so precious, were now heading towards the zone occupied by the British, whom he looked on as particularly tough opponents. At the same time, he was uneasy as to what the French in the south might be planning.

On the surface it appears to have been unlucky for Hitler that he chose to visit Rundstedt’s headquarters on the morning of May 24, a crucial moment. For Rundstedt was a wary strategist, careful to take full account of unfavourable factors and avoid erring on the side of optimism. For that reason, he was often a good corrective to Hitler, by providing a coolly balanced estimate – but it did not benefit German chances on this occasion. In his review of the situation he dwelt on the way that the tank strength had been reduced in the long and rapid drive, and pointed out the possibility of having to meet attacks from the north and south, particularly the latter.

Since he had, the night before, received orders from Brauchitsch, the Army Commander-in-Chief, that the completion of the encirclement in the north was to be handed over to Bock, it was the more natural that he should be thinking of the next phase in the south.
Moreover, Rundstedt’s headquarters were still at Charleville, near Sedan – close behind the Aisne, and in the centre of the German front facing south. That location fostered a tendency to focus on what was in front and give less attention by what was happening on the extreme right flank, where victory seemed to be assured. Dunkirk came only into the corner of his eye.

Hitler agreed entirely with Rundstedt’s reservations and went on to emphasise the paramount necessity of conserving the panzer force for future operations,
On his return to his own headquarters in the afternoon, he sent for the Commander-in-Chief. It was a very unpleasant interview, and ended in Hitler giving a definite halt order –

Halder that evening mournfully summarised its effect in his diary:
The left wing, consisting of armoured and motorised forces, which has no enemy before it, will thus be stopped in its tracks upon direct orders of the Fuhrer, finishing off the encircled enemy army is to be left to the Luftwaffe!

Was Hitler’s order inspired by Rundstedt? If Hitler had felt that his halt order was due to Rundstedt’s influence, he would almost certainly have mentioned it, after the British escape, among the excuses he gave for his decision, for he was very apt to blame others for any mistakes. Yet in this case there is no trace of his ever having mentioned, in the course of his subsequent explanations, Rundstedt’s opinion as a factor. Such negative evidence is as significant as any.

It seems more likely that Hitler went to Rundstedt’s headquarters in the hope of finding further justification for his own doubts and for the change of plan he wanted to impose on Brauchitsch and Halder. In so far as it was prompted by anyone else, the initial influence probably came from Keitel and Jodl, the two chief military members of his own staff. There is particular significance in the evidence of General Warlimont, who was in close touch with Jodl at the time. Astonished on hearing a rumour of the halt order, he went to ask Jodl about it:

Jodl confirmed that the order had been given, showing himself rather impatient about my enquiries. He himself took the same stand as Hitler, emphasising that the personal experience that not only Hitler but also Keitel and himself had in Flanders during the First World War proved beyond doubt that armour could not operate in the Flanders marshes, or at any rate not without heavy losses – and such losses could be borne in view of the already reduced strength of the panzer corps and their tasks in the impending second stage of the offensive in France.

Warlimont added that if the initiative for the halt order had come from Rundstedt, he and the others at O.K.W. would have heard of it; and that Jodl, who was on the defensive about the decision, certainly would not have failed to point out to Field Marshall von Rundstedt as the one who had initiated or at least supported the order – as that would have silenced criticism because of Rundstedt’s undisputed authority in operational matters among all senior general staff officers’:

One other reason, however, for the halt order was revealed to me at the time- that Goring appeared and reassured the Fuhrer that his air force would accomplish the rest of the encirclement by closing the sea side of the pocket from the air. He certainly overrated the effectiveness of his own branch.

This statement of Warlimont’s gains significance when related to the last sentence in Hallder’s diary note of the 24th, already quoted. Moreover, Guderian stated that the order came down to him from Kleist, with the words:

Dunkirk is to be left to the Luftwaffe. If the conquest of Calais should raise difficulties that fortress likewise is to be left to the Luftwaffe.

Guderian remarked: I think that it was the vanity of Goring which caused that fateful decision of Hitler’s.

At the same time there is evidence that even the Luftwaffe was not used as fully or as vigorously as it could have been – and some of the air chiefs say that Hitler put the brake on again here.

All this caused the higher circles to suspect a political motive behind Hitler’s military reasons. Blumentritt, who was Rundstedt’s operations planner, connected it with the surprising way that Hitler had talked when visiting their headquarters:

Hitler was in very good humour, he admitted the course of the campaign had been a decided miracle, and gave us the opinion that the war would be finished in six weeks. After that he wished to conclude a reasonable peace with France, and then the way would be free for an agreement with Britain.
He then astonished us by speaking with admiration of the British Empire, of the necessity for its existence, and of the civilisation that Britain had brought into the world. He remarked, with a shrug of the shoulders, that the creation of its Empire had been achieved by means that were often harsh but ‘where there is planning, there are shavings flying’. He compared the British Empire with the Catholic Church – saying they were both essential, elements of stability in the world. He said that all he wanted from Britain was that she should acknowledge Germany’s position on the Continent. The return of Germany’s lost colonies would be desirable but not essential, and he would even offer support to Britain with troops if she should be involved in any difficulties anywhere. He remarked that the colonies were primarily a matter of prestige, since they could not be held in war, and few Germans could settle in the tropics.

He concluded by saying that his aim was to make peace with Britain on a basis that she would regard as compatible with her honour to accept.

In subsequent reflection on the course of events, Blumentritt’s thoughts often reverted to this conversation. He felt that the halt had been called for more than military reasons, and that it was part of a political scheme to make peace easier to reach. If the B.E.F. had been captured at Dunkirk, the British might have felt that their honour had suffered a stain which they must wipe out. By letting it escape Hitler hoped to conciliate them.

Since this account comes from generals who were highly critical of Hitler, and admit that they themselves wanted to finish off the British Army, it is of the more significance. Their account of Hitler’s talks at the time of Dunkirk fits in with much that he himself wrote earlier in Mein Kampf-and it is remarkable how closely he followed his own testament in other respects. There were elements in his make-up which suggest that he had a mixed love-hate feeling towards Britain. The trend of his talk about Britain at this time is also recorded in the diaries of Ciano and Halder.

Hitler’s character was of such complexity that no simple explanation is likely to be true. It is far more probable that his decision was woven of several threads. Three are visible- his desire to conserve tank strength for the next stroke; his long-standing fear of marshy Flanders; and Goring’s claims for the Luftwaffe. But it is likely that some political thread was interwoven with these military ones in the mind of a man who has a bent for political strategy and so many twists in his thought.

By courtesy: History of the Second World War by B.H. Liddell Hart, G.P. Putnam’s Sons

Is Democracy in Retreat?

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948, spells out a list of rights deemed to be non-negotiable:

  • Everyone has the right to life, liberty, and security of person.
  • Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.
  • Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; to freedom of peaceful assembly and associations; and to take part in their government, directly or through freely chosen representatives.

The declaration does not use the term democracy but that is exactly what it describes.
Even leaders who are undeniably authoritarian, make some claim to the mantle of democracy, either by holding sham elections or by trying to broaden the definition of rights to encompass goods they can deliver, like prosperity. Those who are not subject to popular will still crave legitimacy – or at least the appearance of legitimacy.

If democracy is broadly understood to mean

  • the right to speak your mind,
  • to be free from arbitrary power of the state, and
  • to insist that those who would govern you must ask for your consent,

then democracy – the only form of government that guarantees – has never been more widely accepted as right.

Yet while the voices supporting the idea of democracy have become louder, there is more scepticism today about the actual practice and feasibility of the enterprise. Scholarly and popular discourse is filled with declarations that democracy is in retreat. The pessimism is understandable, particularly given events in the Middle East, where the promise of the Arab Spring seems to lie in tatters. If there is cause for optimism, it is recognizing that people still want to govern themselves.

Freedom has not lost its appeal. But the task of establishing and sustaining the democratic institutions that will protect it is arduous and long. Progress is rarely a one-way road. Ending authoritarian rule can happen quickly; establishing democratic institutions cannot.
2016

Democracy’s story is evolving. There are always new challenges, new responses, and new possibilities – good and bad. So, it can be said of 2016 and the rise of populism, nativism and a tinge of isolationism. A revolt against political and economic elites, their institutions, and their globalizing and sometimes moralizing views has upended the status quo and left all to wonder, What comes next?

It is no surprise that this earthquake is shaking young democracies like Poland. But it is stunning that it has jolted the most mature of them – the United Kingdom, the United States, and much of Europe. In 2016, voters in the UK narrowly rejected continued participation in the European Union. Proponents of Brexit railed against economic red tape imposed by unelected EU bureaucrats and called for regaining control over their country’s borders. Brussels, they believed had become disconnected from their aspirations and their fears.

In the United States, a new president was elected with absolutely no experience in government of any kind – the first in the country’s history. He had made clear what he thinks of America’s political elites whatever their ideological stripe. They have ceased, he believes, to represent the American people – their aspirations and their fears.
Similar concerns have spread throughout European bloc – including to France and Germany – where the far left and the far right seem to have made a common cause of battling the establishment.

Some write darkly that these trends constitute a threat to democracy – if not the end of it as we know it. That seems alarmist and premature. Indeed, democracy is built for disruption with its institutions, its checks and balances, and its shock absorber – the ability of people to change their circumstances peacefully. People are exercising that right – at the ballot box, in the courts and some in the streets.

More troubling, though is whether the turn to nationalism and nativism will threaten the global order – the balance of power that favours freedom. Here we might ask whether history is repeating itself. Or, as Mark Twain said, whether it is at least about to rhyme.

The statesmen who inherited the broken post-war world of 1945 built a system that trusted free markets and free trade to create an international economy that would grow. They were chastened by the memory of the 1930s when beggar-thy-neighbour trading policies, protectionism, conflict over resources led to the Great Depression and World War II. This time, they insisted that the international economy would not be a zero-sum game. Countries would find comparative advantage, trade freely, and all would benefit. For the most part, they succeeded, restoring the economies of both the victors and the vanquished – and spreading prosperity to hundreds of millions of people across the globe.

They believed too that democratic governments in Germany and Japan would never make war again. The western part of Germany was encased in the European Union so that it could be powerful but not dangerous. There it waited for the time when the collapse of communism allowed the unification of all its territory as a stable democracy. Japan too would become a constitutional monarchy – prosperous and free and no threat to its neighbours. And free markets and free peoples would all be protected by American military power. This time, America would not withdraw and leave the world to its own devices. The United States would make a remarkable pledge to Europe: An attack upon one is an attack upon all. In commitments to Japan and eventually South Korea, the United States would become Asia’s shield against aggression.

Democracy has gained adherents in the context of this global order – though admittedly in fits and starts. Can it continue to do so if America and others withdraw from the responsibilities of the system they created? What will happen to those who still seek liberty in a world told to go its own way? What becomes of those still living in tyranny if we cease to tell others that democracy is a superior form of government and that its tenets are universal?

We cannot possibly know the answer to those questions, but we do know that the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse – populism, nativism, protectionism and isolationism-served neither democracy nor peace very well the last time around.

We can take solace in the fact that democratic institutions are stronger this time. Germany and Japan do not cast a shadow of aggression – they are stabilizing forces for good. But the same cannot be said about Russia and perhaps China – authoritarian states that seem determined to disrupt the global order – if less violently than those who came before.
The victory for democracy is that those who longed for change have done so through it, not around it. But if the lessons of 2016 are to be learned, both insurgents and those who wish to defend the global order will be required to step back and accept some very hard truths.

The standard-bearers for those who voted to shake up the system need to find the humility to know and accept democracy’s paradox: its genius is in its openness to change, but its stability comes through its institutions that embody constraint and reject absolute power. They will find that it is easier to tear down democratic institutions than to build them and work through them. And they must now deliver real prosperity for those who trusted them – not just assign blame to foreigners and immigrants who take their jobs.

On the other hand, those who would defend the status quo – the post-war global order – need to admit there are those who have not shared in its prosperity and are troubled by its rejection of more traditional values.in this regard, the trend towards dividing people into ever-smaller groups, each with its own particular grievance and narrative, comes at the expense of the unifying identity that all democracies need. This is especially true in the United States where we the people has no ethnic, national or religious basis. We reinforce those divisions at our peril.

Global leaders also need to accept that there is a growing gap between those who are comfortable breaking down borders and barriers between peoples – and those who find it dizzying and even threatening. But many people never live very far from where they were born. It is not surprising that their experiences, aspirations and fears are not the same. Increasingly, neither are their possibilities for a productive life.

America’s founding fathers understood that liberty was the necessary condition for citizens to find fulfilment. It is not, however sufficient. Human beings have to have the opportunity to develop their potential through education. A country that fails to provide all its people with equal access to education will most assuredly be a place of hardened inequality. In that regard, no foreign power can do more harm to us than we can do to ourselves.

The Founders’ prescription can be achieved – the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. But the achievement involves taking a hard look at the realities facing so many Americans and making a commitment to address their fate. With that would come the confidence, as a nation, to insist that we are better off when we work to make this true not just for us- but for all humankind.

The United States has been a North Star for those seeking liberty not because it is perfect, but because it was born imperfect and is still struggling with imperfection. That has always been the best argument for America’s example – and America’s engagement. We are a living proof that the work of democracy is never done. For those who are just starting – stumbling and starting again – that is reassuring and inspiring. And it s a reason to be a voice for them as they struggle in their freedom – just as we do – to chart a better future.

By courtesy:

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Origins of the Colonial Indian Navy

Colonial Indian Navy-Establishment of the Bombay Marine

The English East India Company was established in 1600.

In 1612, Captain Thomas Best encountered and defeated the Portuguese at the Battle of Swally. This encounter, as well as piracy, led the English East India Company to build a port and establish a small navy based at the village of Suvali, near SuratGujarat to protect commerce.

The Company named the force the Honourable East India Company’s Marine, and the first fighting ships arrived on 5 September 1612.

This force protected merchant shipping off the Gulf of Cambay and the rivers Tapti and Narmada. The ships also helped map the coastlines of India, Persia and Arabia.

In 1686, with most of English commerce moving to Bombay, the force was renamed the Bombay Marine. The Bombay Marine was involved in combat against the Marathas and the Sidis and participated in the Anglo-Burmese Wars. The Bombay Marine recruited many Indian lascars but commissioned no Indian officers until 1928.

Expansion of Her Majesty’s Indian Navy

IN1

Sailors of the Indian Navy breaching the Delhi gates during the Indian Rebellion of 1857.

In 1830, the Bombay Marine became His Majesty’s Indian Navy. The British capture of Aden increased the commitments of Her Majesty’s Indian Navy, leading to the creation of the Indus Flotilla. The Navy then fought in the China War of 1840.

Her Majesty’s Indian Navy resumed the name Bombay Marine from 1863 to 1877, when it became Her Majesty’s Indian Marine. The Marine then had two divisions; the Eastern Division at Calcutta and the Western Division at Bombay.

In recognition of the services rendered during various campaigns, Her Majesty’s Indian Marine was titled the Royal Indian Marine in 1892. By this time, it consisted of over 50 vessels.

The Royal Indian Marine in World War I

The Expeditionary Forces of the Indian Army that travelled to FranceAfrica and Mesopotamia to participate in World War I were transported largely on board ships of the Royal Indian Marine. The convoy transporting the first division of the Indian Cavalry to France sailed within three weeks of the Declaration of War, on 25 August 1914. At the outset of the war, a number of ships were fitted out and armed at the Naval Dockyard in Bombay (now Mumbai) and the Kidderpore Docks in Calcutta (now Kolkata). The Indian Marine also kept the harbours of Bombay and Aden open through intensive minesweeping efforts. Smaller ships of the Indian Marine, designed for operations in inland waters, patrolled the critical waterways of the Tigris, the Euphrates and Shatt-al-Arab, in order to keep the supply lines open for the troops fighting in Mesopotamia. A hospital ship operated by the Indian Marine was deployed to treat wounded soldiers.

By the time the war ended in 1918, the Royal Indian Marine had transported or escorted 1,302,394 men, 172,815 animals and 3,691,836 tonnes of war stores. The Royal Indian Marine suffered 330 casualties and 80 of its personnel were decorated with gallantry awards for service in the war. The Royal Indian Marine played a vital role in supporting and transporting the Indian Army throughout the war.

The first Indian to be granted a commission was Sub Lieutenant D.N Mukherji who joined the Royal Indian Marine as an engineer officer in 1928.

The Royal Indian Navy in World War II

In 1934, the Royal Indian Marine became the Royal Indian Navy (RIN). Ships of the RIN received the prefix HMIS for His Majesty’s Indian Ships. At the start of the Second World War, the Royal Indian Navy was very small and had eight warships. The onset of the war led to an expansion. Additionally, Indian Sailors served on-board several Royal Navy warships. The large number of Indian merchant seamen and merchant ships were instrumental in keeping the large stream of raw material and supplies from India to the United Kingdom open.

Indian sailors started a rebellion also known as The Royal Indian Navy Mutiny in 1946 on board ships and shore establishments, which spread all over India. A total of 78 ships, 20 shore establishments and 20,000 sailors were involved in the rebellion.

The Royal Indian Navy retained its name when India gained independence in August 1947 as a dominion within the Commonwealth. It was dropped when India became a republic on January 26, 1950.

Partition and Independence of India

In 1947, British India was partitioned and the Union of India and Dominion of Pakistan gained independence from the United Kingdom. The Royal Indian Navy was split between India and Pakistan, with senior British officers continuing to serve with both navies, and the vessels were divided between the two nations.

More information: Vessel type, India …

Vessel type

India

Pakistan

Frigate HMIS Tir

HMIS Kukri

HMPS Shamsher

HMPS Dhanush

Sloop HMIS Sutlej

HMIS Jumna

HMIS Kistna

HMIS Cauvery

HMPS Narbada

HMPS Godavari

Corvettes HMIS Assam
Minesweeper HMIS Orissa

HMIS Deccan

HMIS Bihar

HMIS Kumaon

HMIS Rohilkhand

HMIS Khyber

HMIS Carnatic

HMIS Rajputana

HMIS Konkan

HMIS Bombay

HMIS Bengal

HMIS Madras

HMPS Kathiawar

HMPS Baluchistan

HMPS Oudh

HMPS Malwa

Survey vessel HMIS Investigator
Trawler HMIS Nasik

HMIS Calcutta

HMIS Cochin

HMIS Amritsar

HMPS Rampur

HMPS Baroda

Motor minesweeper(MMS) MMS 130

MMS 132

MMS 151

MMS 154

MMS 129

MMS 131

Motor launch (ML) ML 420
Harbour Defence Motor Launch(HDML) HDML 1110

HDML 1112

HDML 1117

HDML 1118

HDML 1261

HDML 1262

HDML 1263

HDML 1266

Miscellaneous All existing landing craft

When India became a republic on 26 January 1950, the name was changed to the Indian Navy, and the vessels were redesignated as Indian Naval Ships (INS).

Vice Admiral R. D. Katari was the first Indian Chief of Naval Staff, appointed on 22 April 1958.

Courtesy of Wikipedia.org

Stalin and the Allies

A Victory Parade in Red Square was scheduled for June 24, 1945. I came to Moscow for the occasion. I wanted to watch our troops marching and to rejoice with all our people in the capital of our Homeland. Eisenhower came to Moscow, too. He stood with us in the Lenin Mausoleum to review the parade. This was the first time I met Eisenhower. Stalin gave a huge banquet. All our military leaders were there. So was Eisenhower. I don’t think Montgomery; the English commander was there. Stalin had formed good relations with Eisenhower and even better ones with Roosevelt. He had bad relations with Churchill that and even worse ones with Montgomery.

After the war, but before my transfer from Ukraine back to Moscow (at the end of 1949), I frequently heard Stalin speak about Eisenhower’s noble characteristics in conversations with his inner circle. Stalin always stressed Eisenhower’s decency, generosity and chivalry in his dealings with his allies. Stalin said that if it hadn’t been for Eisenhower, we wouldn’t have succeeded in capturing Berlin. The Americans could have been there first. The Germans had concentrated their forces against us as they prepared to surrender to the Americans and British. Stalin appealed to Eisenhower in a letter to hold back his armies; Stalin told Eisenhower that according to his agreement with Roosevelt and in view of the amount of blood our people had shed, our troops deserved to enter Berlin before the Western Allies. Eisenhower then held his troops back and halted their offensive, thus allowing our troops to take Berlin. If he hadn’t done this, Berlin would have been occupied by the Americans before we reached it, in which case, as Stalin said, the question of Germany might have been decided differently and our own position might have turned out quite a bit worse. This was the sort of chivalrous generosity Eisenhower demonstrated. He was true to Roosevelt’s word.

However, at this time Truman was president, and Stalin had no respect at all for Truman. He considered Truman worthless. Rightly so. Truman didn’t deserve respect. This is a fact.

At the very end of the war Stalin was very worried that the Americans would cross the line of demarcation in the West. He was doubtful that they would relinquish territory which Roosevelt had previously agreed to give us at Tehran. The Americans could have said that the line their troops reached was the new boundary dividing the zones of occupation. But the Americans pulled their troops back and deployed them along the line which had been set in Tehran. This too says something about Eisenhower’s decency.

The Germans were hard pressed by our troops and couldn’t resist any longer. They were supposed to throw down their arms and surrender to us. However, they refused to do this and moved west instead to surrender to the Americans. Once again, Stalin addressed himself to Eisenhower, saying the Soviet troops had shed their blood to crush the Germans and now the Germans whom they encountered were surrendering to the Americans. Stalin complained that this wasn’t fair. This was on the Austrian front, where Malinovsky was directing our advance. Eisenhower ordered the commander of the German army to surrender to the Russians who had defeated his army.

Stalin once made a similar request to Churchill. The Germans were fleeing from Rokossovsky and surrendering to the English in a region occupied by Montgomery. Stalin asked the English not to take prisoners and to compel the Germans to surrender to our troops. But nothing of the sort! said Stalin angrily. ‘Montgomery took them all, and he took their arms. So, the fruits of victory over the Germans were being enjoyed by Montgomery!’

Both General Eisenhower and Field Marshal Montgomery were representatives of the same class, the bourgeoisie. Yet they decided this question differently. They interpreted differently the principles of partnership, agreement and honour. Whenever I had dealings with Eisenhower in later years, I always remembered these actions of his during the war. I kept in mind Stalin’s words about him. Stalin could never be accused of liking someone without reason, particularly a class enemy. He was incorruptible and irreconcilable in class questions. It was one of his strongest qualities, and he was greatly respected for it. *

*it is easy to believe that Stalin was more than surprised by the restraint shown Eisenhower and others in the matter of halting the Allied advance into Germany. Certainly, he was furious with Montgomery for taking prisoner large number of Germans fleeing from the Soviet advance. He was of course perfectly correct in telling Khrushchev that he got on better with Roosevelt than with Churchill. Roosevelt held British imperialism in the deepest suspicion and was convinced that he could come to a personal understanding with Stalin.

What were my impressions of the opinions Stalin expressed about the interrelations of the Allies during the war and specifically about Roosevelt and Churchill? Judging from what he said, I think Stalin was more sympathetic to Roosevelt than Churchill because Roosevelt seemed to have considerable understanding of our problems. Roosevelt and Stalin had a common antipathy for monarchy and its institutions. Once he told me about the following episode. When they were in Tehran sitting over dinner, Roosevelt raised his glass and proposed a toast to the president of the Soviet Union: Mr. Kalinin.

Everyone drank and after a few moments Churchill raised his glass and proposed a toast to the king of Great Britain. Roosevelt said he wouldn’t drink that toast.  Churchill’s back went up, but Roosevelt was firm. No, he said. I won’t drink. I cannot drink to an English king. I can never forget my father’s words. Stalin explained that when Roosevelt’s feather left for America from England or Ireland, he said on the boat to the young Roosevelt, the king is our enemy. Despite all the requirements of etiquette, Roosevelt didn’t raise his glass. *

*it would be interesting to know whether in fact Stalin did tell the story of Roosevelt’s refusal to drink to the king. If he really believed that President Roosevelt’s father had emigrated to the USA from Ireland or England, he must have been badly briefed. It seems likely that Khrushchev is confusing one of Stalin’s anecdotes about the coolness between Roosevelt and Churchill at Tehran with a muddled memory about the immediate ancestry of president Kennedy.

In disputes during the working sessions in Tehran, Stalin often found Roosevelt siding with him against Churchill. Thus, Stalin’s personal sympathies were definitely reserved for Roosevelt, although he still held Churchill in high esteem too.  Churchill was not only a great English statesman; he held one of the leading positions in the conduct of world politics. At the time of the Allies failure in the Ardennes, which threatened their invasion landing, Churchill asked Stalin to divert the forces of the German army onto us. This required that we launch an offensive which wasn’t part of our plans at the time and which shouldn’t have come until considerably later, it it turned out to be most profitable for us. Stalin did well to demonstrate our goodwill towards our ally in a time of need.

Churchill certainly played an important role in the war. He understood the threat hanging over England, and that’s why he did everything he could to direct the Germans against Soviet Union. —in order to pull the Soviet Union into war against Germany. When Hitler attacked us, Churchill immediately declared that England considered it necessary to make a treaty joining forces with us against Germany. Here, too, Stalin’s did the right thing. He accepted Churchill’s proposal and signed a treaty. After a certain time, America entered the war, and a coalition of three Great Powers came into existence.

It’s difficult to judge what the intentions of the Allies were towards the end of the war. I wouldn’t exclude the possibility that they desired to put a still greater burden on the shoulders of the Soviet Union and to bleed us even more. Or perhaps it’s as they explained: they weren’t sufficiently prepared for a landing. Their arms production wasn’t sufficiently developed. They needed more time and so on.  Both explanations were probably true, but I think they were mostly dictated by their desire to bleed us dry so that they could come in at the last stages and determine the fate of the world. They wanted to take advantage of the results of the war and impose their will not only on their enemy, Germany, but on their ally, the USSR, as well. I can easily imagine how this thought played a significant role in their thinking.

To look at it from a class position, it was in the Allies’s interest to rely on the Soviet Union as a wartime ally, despite the fact that our country was founded on Socialist principles. We had to unite our forces against a common enemy. None of us could have won the war single handed. But while exerting our collective efforts against the common enemy, each of us remained on his own class position. The Western Allies were certainly not interested in strengthening us. England and America, from their class positions, knew they had to help us to an extent, but they still wanted the Soviet Union to be considerably weaker after the war so that they could dictate their will to us.

For our part, we knew it would be useful to be considerably stronger at the end of the war in order for our voice to carry more weight in the settlement of international questions.  If we had succeeded, the question of Germany wouldn’t have been decided the way it was at Potsdam. The Potsdam decision was a compromise based on the distribution of power among the Allies at the end of the war. The one sidedness of the agreement was particularly reflected in the clauses concerning Berlin and Vienna. These cities were located in the zone occupied by Soviet troops, and it would have seemed that they should have been part of our zone. However, the Allies didn’t give them to us. Berlin and Vienna were each divided into four sectors. We received one sector, and the Western powers-England, America and France-received the other three. This says something about the distribution of power at the end of the war.

When we began our advance west and were approaching the border of Germany, the Allies were compelled to hurry up, and launch their landing. They were afraid we might push considerably farther than the boundaries defined at Yalta.

Nevertheless, we must still give credit to the Allies for their contribution to the common cause of defeating Hitlerite Germany. In order to avoid excessive haughtiness, the people and the Party of the Soviet Union must be properly informed about the contribution of the Allies to the common cause and to the Soviet Union itself. If the past isn’t analyzed objectively, the building of the future will be based on illusions and primitive patriotism instead of proved facts. Unfortunately, our historical records about WWII have perpetrated the illusion. They have been written out of a false sense of pride and out of a fear to tell the truth about our Allies’ contribution-all because Stalin himself held an incorrect, unrealistic position. He knew the truth, but he admitted it only to himself in the toilet. He considered it too shameful and humiliating for our country to admit publicly.

But, telling the truth needn’t have been humiliation. Recognizing the merits of our partners in the war need not have diminished our own merits; on the contrary, an objective statement would have raised us still higher in the eyes of all peoples and it would not in the least diminished our dignity and the importance of our victories. But in this case truthfulness was unthinkable for Stalin. He tried to cover up our weaknesses. He figured that it would make us stronger than our enemy and that we would be feared more. This was stupid. He should have known that you can’t fool the enemy. The enemy can always see for himself and analyze on his own. It’s also possible that Stalin feared that openness about the history of the war might backfire on him personally. That’s a different matter. But I think we should have openly admitted what happened and not tried to cover up. We would have been helping our country and our cause by not trying to hide our mistakes, by revealing them for people to see, no matter how painful it might have been. The people would have understood and supported us. If necessary, they would have forgiven the mistakes which had been committed. When I did expose the mismanagement of the war, the people were able to say, Here Khrushchev is criticizing Stalin, but he is using Stalin only for purposes of illustration in a constructive analysis. That’s perfectly true. I don’t think it’s ever too late for the new generation which will soon replace the current leadership of our country, to cast objective light on the beginning of the war. We must study the past in order not to permit in our own time those mistakes which were permitted earlier. We must prevent them both in the present and in the future.

To acknowledge the material aid which we received in the past from our adversaries of the present doesn’t have any bearing on the situation today. We shouldn’t boast that we vanquished the Germans all by ourselves and the Allies moved in only for the kill. That’s why I give my own view of the Allies contribution, and I hope that my view will be con by the research historians who investigate objectively the circumstances which developed between 1941 and 1945. The English helped us tenaciously and at great peril to themselves. They shipped cargo to Murmansk and suffered huge losses. German submarines lurked all along the way. Germany had invaded Norway and moved right next door to Murmansk.

As Mikoyan confirmed after his trip to America, we received military equipment, ships and many supplies from the Americans, all of which greatly aided us in waging the war, After Stalin’s death, it seemed that all our artillery was mounted on American equipment. I remember proposing, Let’s turn all the automotive equipment we’re producing over to the military so that the tractor-mounts  in our parade will be Soviet made.

By this time, I wanted to stress how many of our cars and trucks we had received from the Americans. Just imagine how we would have advanced from Stalingrad to Berlin without them! Our losses would have been colossal because we would have had no manoeuvrability. *

*The Soviet tanks were the finest in the world; it until Stalingrad the Soviet army had virtually no mechanized transport. It was with Americans and British trucks that it was able to advance swiftly, complete the encirclement of the German forces around Stalingrad, and sweep out rapidly across the steppe to shatter the German armour at Kursk – and on to Berlin and Vienna.

 In addition, we received steel and aluminium from which we made guns, airplanes and so on. Our own industry was shattered and partly abandoned to the enemy. We also received food products in great quantities. I can’t give you the figures because they’ve never been published. They are all locked away in Mikoyan’s memory. There were many jokes going around in the army, some of them off-colour, about American Spam; it tasted good nonetheless. Without Spam we wouldn’t have been able to feed our army. We had lost our most fertile lands-the Ukraine and the northern Caucasus.

I repeat, the Allies gave us this help neither out of compassion for our people, nor out of respect for our political system, nor out of hope for the victory of Socialism and the triumph of Marxism-Leninism. The Allies helped us out of a sober assessment of the situation. They were facing a matter of their own life or death. They helped us so that our Soviet army would not fall under the blow of Hitlerite Germany and so that, supplied with modern weapons, we would pulverize the life force of the enemy and weaken ourselves at the same time. They wanted to wait to join the war actively against Germany at a time when the Soviet Union had already spent its might and was no longer able to occupy a decisive position in the solution of world problems.

In this chapter we have the first public acknowledgment by any Soviet politician of the immense part played by Lend-Lease and American and British aid to the Soviet army. It is a pity that Khrushchev felt unable to speak in these terms when he was in power. The Soviet people have never been told what this aid amounted to, and the whole issue has been so clouded with propaganda of one kind and another, that there are all too many people in the West who have never properly understood the magnitude and importance of the Allied contribution.

Courtesy of:  Khrushchev Remembers; translated by Strobe Talbot; Little Brown Company Boston, Toronto, 1970

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Drawing Arbitrary Lines

The last British viceroy of India was Lord Louis Mountbatten, who was known as Dickie to his friends. A member of the British royal family, cousin to King George VI, Mountbatten was dynamic and ambitious, and during World War II, he had risen to the post of Commander in Chief of Allied Forces, Southeast Asia. A naval man, his chief career goal was to become Lord Admiral of the British Navy, a post that had been denied his father during World War I because of the family’s German background. In addition to his other qualities, Mountbatten was charismatic and handsome, and his stock was raised further by his marriage to Edwina, an intelligent and driven woman in her own right. Still in his mid-40s at the end of World War II, Mountbatten was at the leading edge of a rising generation of British officials and politicians, and both he and Edwina developed a close relationship with Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first prime minister.

Mountbatten was hesitant to accept the post of Viceroy of India when it was first offered to him by Prime Minister Clement Attlee in January 1947. He feared that the situation in India, then threatening to descend into widespread rioting if not outright civil war, could only turn out badly, and he did not want to damage his reputation by presiding over a desperate British departure. He was only convinced to take the post after a conversation with his cousin, the king, and after Attlee agreed to grant him almost unlimited powers to organize the transition to Indian independence. Attlee, for his part, was happy to agree. He wanted someone in India with Mountbatten’s drive and stature to replace the well-intended but pessimistic Lord Wavell.

Mountbatten was sworn in as viceroy on March 24, 1947. He tried to get the situation in hand quickly by arranging face-to-face meetings with top Indian officials, thinking that this personal approach might work better than arranging meetings with all present, which had a history of ending in stalemate. For the rest of March and into the first weeks of April, Mountbatten held several meetings with top Congress Party officials Jawaharlal Nehru and Vallabhbhai Patel, as well as with Muslim League leaders Mohammad Ali Jinnah and Liaquat Ali Khan. He also met with Mahatma Gandhi, the symbolic head of India’s independence movement, who at the time was concerned about both the growing violence in India and the apparent likelihood that the country would be divided. The meetings convinced Mountbatten that the partition of India was now the only realistic possibility left if Britain was to achieve its goals. Jinnah was simply too set in his conviction to see Pakistan become a reality, and Nehru and other leaders were unwilling to grant concessions to Jinnah or his Muslim League that might prevent or delay partition. Britain’s goals were a peaceful withdrawal and the assurance that India and Pakistan remained tied to their soon-to-be-former colonial overlord by accepting membership in the British Commonwealth of Nations. Mountbatten’s charisma was such, and his arguments forceful enough, that even the hesitant Patel agreed to accept the principle of partition. Only Gandhi continued to resist the idea, but he had no official post in the Congress Party or India’s interim government, so his objections had no binding force on the decisions of others.

The agreement that Mountbatten hammered out with India’s leaders was dubbed Plan Balkan by members of the viceroy’s staff who likened it to the divisions of southeastern Europe in the years before World War I. During those territorial divisions, the Turkish Ottoman Empire which had dominated the regions of southeastern Europe known as the Balkans for several centuries, retreated. It left behind a complex patchwork of ethnicities and religious groups that, in that sense was like India. Some of these groups, such as the Serbs, aggressively pursued nationalist interests whereas others sought simply to preserve a sense of territorial or cultural integrity. The conflicts that arose in the Balkans in the late nineteenth century and early twentieth centuries were some of the prime causes of World WarI. Mountbatten’s staff feared that the Balkanization of India would prove violent, as well. One of the administrators, Chief of Staff Lord Ismay, later wrote, No one in India thought it was perfect. Yet nearly everyone agreed that it was the only solution which had any chance of being accepted by all political parties, and of ensuring an equitable deal for all minorities. It was not a gamble. There was no other way. Plan Balkan went through several drafts before Krishna Menon, a congressional civil servant, devised a solution that satisfied Mountbatten’s insistence that India remain within the British Commonwealth. Menon’s proposal was that both India and Pakistan become immediate. Commonwealth members and that India’s many princely states, rather than becoming independent, would join either India or Pakistan. It was, in effect, an acknowledgement that the partition of India was imminent.

Mountbatten approved of the plan and set out to convince Nehru and Patel of its merits.  Both had cone around to accepting the principle of partition but, perhaps impatient to actually govern after years of struggling for independence, they hesitated to remain closely tied to Britain. Jinnah had fewer such qualms, as he recognized that Commonwealth status would enable Pakistan to maintain strong military ties to Britain. Once Nehru was reassured that the plan would not permit individual provinces to break away from India beyond Pakistan, he pronounced himself satisfied. Patel, whose political arm twisting would secure the support of the entire Congress Party, agreed to it on condition that Britain leave India quickly, well before the June 1948 deadline announced by Attlee. Plan Balkan had now become Plan Partition.

2

On June 2, the viceroy convened a meeting of important Indian leaders, whose number included the Sikh representative, Baldev Singh but not Gandhi, although the Mahatma later turned up on his own. It was the first such gathering of importance since December 1946. There, Mountbatten secured Jinnah’s public rejection of the 1946 Cabinet Mission Plan, which would have left India united. After all the principals left to consider the partition plan,  once again, Mountbatten met with Jinnah, where with some difficulty, he got the Muslim League leader to stop his endless negotiating and acquiesce to the partition plan as it then stood. The deed was done. Mountbatten had already secured the agreements of congressional leaders and the Sikhs. His final gesture at the meeting was to present Indian leaders with a prepared document entitled The Administrative. Consequences of Partition. It required them to face the practical consequences of their decision, to unravel the web left behind by three centuries of common habitation of the subcontinent-three centuries that is, of British presence, in which most of the unraveling would be practical and administrative: the division of government offices and property, the national debt and the armed forces. For many Hindus and Muslims, ties dating back ten centuries would have to be sundered, and many of these ties were abstract yet still vital, notably the connection of villagers to their surroundings and to neighbours who practiced a different faith. The partition plan, meanwhile, became public knowledge on June 3, but it did not specify precisely where the actual borders of India and Pakistan would be.

In a press conference, Mountbatten announced that the date of Britain’s departure would not be June 1948, nor sometime near the end of 1947, as he had originally thought. It would be August 15, 1947, two years after Japan’s surrender ending World War II. On July 4, the official Indian independence Bill was presented to the British Parliament; London having had to scramble to make Plan Partition and the August 15 deadline official. The British pronounced themselves quite pleased with events; one, Lord Samuel, said that “it may be said of the British Raj as Shakespeare said of the Thane of Cawdor, nothing in his life became him like the leaving of it.” Even Conservative leader Winston Churchill, who had announced in 1931 that to leave India would mean the end of the British Empire, gave his assent to the plan, and it passed into law on July 15. London’s leaders seemed to have little comprehension of the chaos their quick departure would cause. Meanwhile, in Delhi, Mountbatten printed up hundreds of large tear-off calendars to be placed in government offices, each new page noting that India was one day closer to independence.

The quickness of Britain’s departure left little time to accomplish the practical aspects of partition now that the ideal had been achieved. India’s governmental assets had to be separated, its civil service divided, its armed forces split, and, most importantly, borders had to be drawn. None of these tasks were accomplished without conflict or misgivings or, in the case of the borders, great violence. Adding even greater risk to the plan was the fact that India would simply take over a going concern with everything in place. Pakistan, on the other hand, would be starting from scratch, without an established administration, without armed forces, without records, without equipment or military stores.

Commissions and committees came up with formulas to divide government property, and the concerned officials were so conscientious that they worried about every railroad car, filing cabinet, desk lamp, and even instruments in police hands. After much discussion both sides agreed on a 1 to 4 ratio for government property. For cash assets and their counterpart, the national debt, the ratio was 82.5% for India and 17.5% for Pakistan. Government employees, meanwhile, generally remained in their places across the subcontinent or, if they worked for the central administration, made a choice between India and Pakistan. Establishing these arbitrary boundaries was reasonably straightforward, if not without conflict.

The division of India’s armed forces was more troubling for those directly involved and provided a clear example of the arbitrary borders being drawn. Although material assets, such as guns and ships, were divided in the same ratio of other government property, the same could hardly be done with the soldiers. Most troops were reassigned based on religion, a task fraught with difficulty, since, for example, many Muslims did not want to go to Pakistan, and other troops were neither Muslim, Hindu, nor Sikh. Many troops felt that their loyalty to the armed forces and to their comrades was more important than their communal ties, and they did not want India’s new borders forced upon them.

Meanwhile, officers were given the choice of either the Indian or Pakistani armies; mostly Hindu and Sikh officers chose India, but for Muslims the choice could be very difficult. Many Muslim officers had families and other ties to India and did not wish to uproot themselves. Others felt loyalty above all to Indian Muslims and the ideal of Pakistan, and they hoped to carry the traditions of the Indian army into the new country. These officers made their choices but, in some cases, brothers found themselves in separate armies, which, within months, were to oppose one another on the battlefield. Their fellow Hindu or Sikh officers, meanwhile were often just as distressed at the very idea of partitioning a force that had served India and the empire loyally for decades and had managed to remain aloof from politics.

1

Mountbatten’s plan had made no provision for any specific borders between India and Pakistan. No one had. All anyone knew was that Pakistan would have two wings, an eastern and western, separated by hundreds of miles of Indian territory. They also knew that, as part of the agreements tentatively reached already, the eastern province of Bengal would be divided, and so also would the western province of Punjab. Jinnah was forced to accept what he had earlier argued would be a moth-eaten Pakistan, shorn of some economic assets of the two provinces: part of the rich agricultural lands of the Punjab, as well as the Bengali city of Calcutta.

The division of Bengal and the Punjab were about as arbitrary as they possibly could be, the only guideline being to separate areas of dominant Hindu and Muslim populations. To draw the borders, Mountbatten organized two boundary commissions, one each for Bengal and the Punjab. At their head was a prominent London lawyer named Cyril Radcliffe. He knew almost nothing of India, which was one reason he was chosen for the task and flown to India on July 8.  Mountbatten and other officials thought his ignorance of India would allow him to act without prejudice towards either side.

Radcliffe’s commission met in a heavily guarded bungalow on the grounds of the viceroy’s mansion in Delhi. The Englishman worked with eight prominent India judges, four each chosen by Congress and the Muslim League. To his despair, Radcliffe quickly found that the principle of drawing borders based on population concentrations could hardly be done clearly and evenly; Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs (who mostly hoped to live in India) were simply too dispersed. Some areas had a clear majority, but in thousands of villages, especially in the Punjab, Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs had lived side by side for centuries. Inevitably, large numbers of people were going to find themselves placed in countries where they did not wish to live or where they might not be welcome.

The potential borders might also give rise to devastating economic effects. The Punjab was watered by the Indus River system, which flowed down from the Himalayas in the north. Complex irrigation networks using these waters had turned the Punjab into the most agricultural part of India. Any new borders would not cross only cross the rivers, they would also split irrigation networks; a water pump that fed Indian fields, for instance, might be placed in Pakistan, making the entire system virtually useless. The economic vitality of eastern Pakistan was also in danger, although the drawing of the border there was generally more straightforward than in the Punjab. Eastern Bengal’s main product was jute, a natural fibre used to make bags and other packaging materials. Most of the jute was processed in factories in Calcutta. If the boundary commission decided to award Calcutta to India, millions of jute farmers would lose their livelihoods, turning eastern Pakistan into the rural slum that many feared. Meanwhile, pending any new arrangements, thousands of Calcutta factory workers might be made idle and therefore a potential threat to civil order.

The partition of the Punjab presented a particular danger to the Sikhs. They made up only 2% of India’s population, but the Punjab was their traditional homeland and was where most Sikhs lived. Drawn to the armed services, Sikhs had served in numbers disproportionate to their total population in the armies of British India, and a military leader named Baldev Singh had served as both the representative of the Sikhs and of the military during the independence negotiations of previous years. Their martial tradition derived, in part, from their perceived need to defend themselves from Muslim kings whose habit of oppressing Sikhs dated back to the seventeenth century. The Sikh population, one-sixth of the total, was scattered throughout the Punjab, and the area had been the home of an independent Sikh kingdom during the early 1800s.

Sikh concerns were not at the forefront of Radcliffe’s boundary commission, whose borders were mostly based on Hindu or Muslim interests. Sikhs in the western Punjab feared that the new borders would place them in a Muslim state where they would face renewed oppression in a repeat of earlier patterns of Muslim-Sikh hostility.  Militant Muslims, meanwhile, had little interest in seeing a large Sikh population maintained in western Pakistan. The situation was ripe for conflict and misunderstanding, especially as both Muslims and Sikhs began to, take up arms to defend themselves or to plunder the other. One of the Radcliffe’s few clear choices was to award the city of Amritsar, the site of the Sikhs’ Golden Temple and their holiest spot, to India.

Some Sikhs lived in India’s princely states, and the Sikh maharaja of Patiala was the head of the Council of Princes that had represented the states in India’s independence negotiations. The princes were very concerned to preserve at least some of their authority and privileges after independence. Many claimed that, since the British had entered into separate agreements with each of them, their states should return to full independence once the British left. Neither Nehru nor Jinnah had sympathy for these arguments, and Mountbatten was not about to let the question of the princely states slow down the rapid march towards independence.  Plan Partition required the princes to choose either India or Pakistan and be forced to sign articles of accession in each case, giving up any claim to political power. In exchange, the princes could keep their titles and a portion of their estates, which were sometimes vast and extremely wealthy. Groups of diplomats travelled to visit each of the princes, and by early August, almost all of them, recognizing the inevitable, had signed the accession documents. Three holdouts remained. One was the Nizam of Hyderabad, reputedly the richest man in the world. He controlled a state that was nearly as large as Britain and theoretically wealthy enough to survive on its own. He was a Muslim prince, however, in a state populated mostly by Hindus, and one that would be landlocked, surrounded by India once independence occurred. Another holdout was the ruler of Junagadh, a small state on the coast, north of Bombay. The third hesitant prince was the ruler of Kashmir, Hari Singh. His indecision, and Kashmir’s strategic importance, led to the first armed conflict between India and Pakistan in the fall and winter of 1947.

Meanwhile, Radcliffe’s boundary commissions proceeded throughout July and early August with their unhappy task. They finally presented their boundary awards to Mountbatten on August 13, and Radcliffe, under heavy guard, returned to Britain, where he remained haunted by his decisions until his death. Mountbatten decided to tell nobody of his partition plan, not even Nehru or Jinnah, before independence had been accomplished. He feared not only escalating communal violence, but that news of the specific borders would dampen enthusiasm over the coming independence celebrations, when any troubles would be the responsibility of the Indian and Pakistani governments, not the British one. He kept the newly drawn borders locked in a safe in his office and diverted any complaints from Indian and Pakistani officials on the matter.

Territorial Loose Ends

India still contained territories controlled by others when it became independent in August 1947. Since Jawaharlal Nehru and other Indian leaders wished to consolidate their new nation and prevent any fragmentation, they had to find ways to incorporate these territories and ensure both that India’s new territorial boundaries were secure, and that further fragmentation would not occur,

 Three princely states remained independent that August, their leaders refusing to accede to India, even though most of their counterparts had already done so. One of these was Kashmir, which only acceded to India under the threat of an invasion from Pakistan and whose status is still a source of conflict. The other two required drastic action by India’s government.  One, Junagadh, was a small state on India’s western coast, north of Bombay. Its prince, a Muslim wanted to cede his state to Pakistan, even though Pakistan lay some 150 miles away and most of Junagadh’s population was Hindu. Nehru’s government mounted a naval blockade of the coastal kingdom and, in October 1947, sent an army of 20,000 to take control of the state by force. The prince exiled himself to Pakistan, and Junagadh’s accession to India was legitimized by a vote among its people in 1948. It was integrated into the state of Gujarat.

 Hyderabad, a large and wealthy kingdom that possessed, among other features, its own currency and its own airline, proved more troublesome. Its leader, the Nizam-ul-Mulk, wanted to remain completely independent of both India and Pakistan. When the Nizam refused to give up his independence, Nehru and his deputy prime minister, Vallabhbhai Patel, granted him a period of one year, until August 1948, to change his mind. After the year had passed and the Nizam still had not given in, the government authorized a large-scale invasion that resulted in four days of fighting and a victory for India, Hyderabad and nearby territories became the Indian state of Andrea Pradesh.

 Other parts of India still remained under the control of European colonial powers. In the south near Madras was Pondicherry, a possession of France since the seventeenth century. Realizing that there was little point to maintaining such a small outpost against the desires of India, the French relinquished it peacefully in 1954. France had already, in 1951, surrendered its other outpost: the settlement of Chandernagore in the suburbs of Calcutta.

 On India’s west coast was the large Portuguese enclave of Goa, the oldest European possession in India. Nehru began negotiating with Portugal’s military government soon after independence, but the Portuguese did not want to give up an enclave that they had held for more than 450 years and that was once the centre of their Asian empire. Fed up, Nehru sent in the army in 1961. The Portuguese were unable to mount any effective resistance over several days of fighting, so Goa became part of India, as did Portugal’s other small outposts, Damian and Diu, north of Bombay. Both Goa and Pondicherry were made Indian states and retained a distinctive part-European character.

Radcliffe had been unable to justify awarding Calcutta to East Pakistan, given the importance of the city to recent Indian history. Moreover, it contained large populations of Sikhs, Hindus and other religious groups. He placed the border of East Pakistan just to the east of the city itself, leaving the region without a major city. Calcutta’s governor H.S. Suhrawardy and other separatists thought, even in the spring and summer of 1947, that East Pakistan should become an independent country. In a clear example of creating new troubles by determining boundaries based on stated religious affiliation alone, Bengali Muslims had little in common with Muslims in the Punjab or other western provinces; indeed, aside from their religion, they were little different from Bengali Hindus, with whom they shared the Bengali language and numerous customs. Jinnah himself, meanwhile, had never even visited eastern Bengal, and it remained separated from Pakistan by hundreds of miles. Still, neither Jinnah nor Nehru was willing to accept partition into three rather than into two, and they completely rejected calls for Bengali independence.

The boundary awards in the Punjab gave the city of Lahore, one of India’s largest, to Pakistan, whereas Amritsar, only 40 miles away, remained in India. Elsewhere, the line was fairly arbitrary. Radcliffe and his advisers used the only available maps, which were old and outdated, and despite a few visits and flyovers, he gained very little accurate sense of the Punjab topography. Sometimes, not only villages but farms and even houses were separated by the blunt axe that severed Punjab. in a last-minute decision that was to have far reaching consequences, Radcliffe awarded the district of Gurdaspur to India. Gurdaspur provided the only reliable land route connecting India to Kashmir. Had the district instead been awarded to Pakistan, it is likely that Hari Singh, Kashmir’s maharaja, would have had no other choice but to cede Kashmir to Pakistan as well.

With the boundary set and the plans protected, Mountbatten prepared for the final withdrawal of Great Britain and the independence celebrations of India and Pakistan. One concession he had to make on the deadline was to shift it to August 14 rather than August 15. Hindu astrologers had pronounced August 15 to be an extremely inauspicious day and, in a nation where people consulted astrologers for important decisions on matters ranging from marriage to starting businesses to going to war, such opinions mattered. Astrologers determined that August 14, however, would be auspicious, and independence ceremonies were scheduled for midnight on that day.

On August 13, Mountbatten and his wife travelled to Karachi, the city proclaimed the capital of Pakistan. They were met there by Jinnah, who had been unanimously elected president, or head of state, by Pakistan’s constituent assembly on August 11, and the two travelled by open car to recognize the new nation’s independence. Jinnah’s lieutenant, Liaquat Ali Khan was to be the nation’s first prime minister and as such, the head of the government. Mountbatten later remembered being rather nervous because of rumoured assassination attempts, but Jinnah maintained his customary cool and aloof demeanor. Pakistan’s independence celebrations were as elaborate as could be expected, but Karachi had few facilities appropriate for large celebrations, or even for large-scale governmental administration. This left most of the celebrating to cheering crowds in the streets, which the two leaders’ car passed through. Karachi, a city of 350,000, was overwhelmed by the 250,000 visitors and migrants who had arrived to witness the independence celebrations and to shout again and again, Pakistan Zindabad! or long live Pakistan!

 Mountbatten gave Britain’s farewells to the assembled representatives of Pakistan’s diverse peoples in the crowded—and heavily guarded—assembly hall that had been chosen for the occasion. He was followed by Jinnah, who thanked Mountbatten and the British and expressed his certainty that the two nations would remain on good terms. Jinnah made a more dramatic speech on August 11, before the constituent assembly. There, he proclaimed that Pakistan would be a nation of complete religious freedom and tolerance, not the Islamic state that many feared. He assured his people that my guiding principle will be justice and complete impartiality, and I am sure that with your cooperation, I can look forward to Pakistan becoming one of the greatest nations of the world.

India’s formal independence celebrations began at sundown, when a procession of Hindu sannyasin or holy men, presented a collection of sacred symbols to Jawaharlal Nehru, designated India’s first prime minister, at his Delhi home. Also, that evening, Great Britain’s flag, the Union Jack, was struck from flagstaff at military and government posts around India for the last time. As in Karachi, hundreds of thousands of celebrants and migrants converged on Delhi to witness the celebrations firsthand, whereas millions of others readied festivities of their own in India’s cities and villages.

At midnight, after India’s constituent assembly had been sanctified by further Hindu rites and after a choir had sung the Congress anthem Vande Mataram, (I Bow to Thee, My Motherland), a Sanskrit poem whose adoption had angered Muslims earlier, Nehru rose to speak. His speech delivered extemporaneously, without notes, and delivered across India via the radio, announced:

Long years ago we made a tryst with destiny, and now time comes when we shall redeem our pledge, not wholly or in full measure, but very substantially. At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom.

Soon after, India’s new flag, a tricolour of orange, white and green was raised at Delhi’s Red Fort, an edifice originally erected by the Mughals. The Gandhian spinning wheel that had graced the banner earlier was now replaced by a sign reflecting a much earlier symbol of India’s heritage: the Asoka Buddhist wheel of life. India had achieved independence. The planned processions of Nehru, Mountbatten, and other leaders through Delhi’s streets the next day proved impossible. The crowds were too thick and, to many people’s surprise, both exuberantly happy and peaceful.

At 5:00 P.M. on August 16, Mountbatten revealed Radcliffe’s boundary awards to India’s and Pakistani leaders—Jinnah and Liaquat Ali Khan had flown into Delhi for the occasion. None were pleased. The placements of Calcutta, Lahore and Amritsar were no surprise, but other issues inspired ill feeling. Balder Singh was dismayed that so many Sikh holy places had been awarded to Pakistan. Indian leaders were unhappy that the mostly Buddhist Chittagong hill tracts, in far eastern Bengal also went to Pakistan. Jinnah, for his part, was disappointed that Gurdaspur District, which again provided India’s only road link to Kashmir, went to the Indians, despite an earlier warning to Mountbatten’s staff that this would have a most serious impact on relations between Pakistan and the United Kingdom. Radcliffe had apparently based his Gurdaspur decision on Nehru’s desire to leave Kashmir connected to India pending the decision of the hesitant maharaja, Hari Singh, to join one of the two nations.

The borders were revealed to the public on August 17, and those Punjabi villages whose residents had cautiously flown both Indian and Pakistani flags on August 15 now knew their status. The immediate effect was to vastly increase a torrent of migration towards India or Pakistan that had already begun. Within weeks, 11.5 million people were on the move. Ten million of these were in Punjab, as 5 million Hindus and Sikhs made their way towards India and a similar number of Muslims headed for Pakistan. These millions were people who had found new arbitrary borders drawn around them, often with little attention paid to tradition or other communal relationships, or to areas that had served the agricultural needs of its inhabitants for generations. The migrations were accompanied by communal violence that left hundreds of thousands dead.  V.P. Menon, a member of Congress who had played a large part in refining the partition plan and convincing many of India’s princes to accede to it, said simply as India became independent, now our nightmares really start. He seemed to understand that the drawing of new national boundaries did not automatically create viable new nation-states, especially in a land as diverse and complex as India, a land where people’s loyalties might be attached as much to a religious community, caste, cultural group, or village as they were to a traditionally defined nation-state.

Courtesy of:

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Wavell and His Majesty’s Government: the Cabinet Mission

Wavell and the Labour Government

With Labour Party’s victory at the polls in July 1945, Attlee, as the new prime minister, continued his opposition to Wavell’s proposed policies for India. According to Irail Glynn, the Labour Party also preferred, like its predecessor, that men in Whitehall to be the final judges of the policies to be adopted in India. Wavell was this kept in the dark by his own superiors resulting eventually in his failure to deal with the Indians in an atmosphere of mutual trust and to prevent the Pakistan plan from emerging soon.

Labour Party had been a strong supporter of the Congress and a big proponent of self-government in India for years. Above all, during the recent election campaign it had promised that if Labour is returned we would close the India Office and transfer Indian business to the Dominions Office . . . This act would give them confidence that they are no longer governed from Whitehall. At the start of the new parliament on 21 August 1945, Attlee replied to a question by Woodrow Wyatt about transferring Indian affairs to the dominions office by declaring that he had no statement to make.

The Labour Government on 13 August 1945 undertook three important steps:

  • Release of the Congress prisoners
  • Removal of ban on Congress
  • Immediate ordering of general elections in India.

Wavell was called to London immediately in this regard and he gave his briefing about the problems of the Indian political scene. But ground realities were different as the Hindu-Muslim conflict had reached such a point that in the opinion of David McIntyre,

 Only one week before the Victory Parade, Wavell was predicting the possibility of violent uprising, requested orders as to whether he should plan to scuttle or to stay.

  • It had become clear after the Governors’ Conference on 2 August 1945 that elections to verify the claims of the Congress and the League should be held before the formation of the central and provincial ministries.
  • Secondly, the Pakistan issue must be dealt with and its drawbacks brought to notice of all parties, especially the Muslims.

Wavell went to England with this frame of mind but was taken aback, for Whitehall had a diametrically opposite understanding of, and consequently, a different stance concerning the Indian problem. Although the Cripps Proposals had been rejected by both the Muslim League and the Congress, they had remained the only outstanding offer of the British government during the Second World War. R.J. Moore is right in suggesting that,  the irony is that by the time Labour achieved office, its scheme for the transfer of power (Cripps Proposals) was no longer feasible.

The Secretary of State for India, Lord Pethick-Lawrence, in his briefing to the India Committee suggested that the best guarantor of political progress in India were still the Cripps Proposals. He said that while the constitutional issue was being settled, there would presumably be a time lag during which the business of India had to be carried on. He also suggested means for forming a provisional Executive Council from a provincial panel.

Wavell demanded two things during his talks in London:

  • That the Pakistan issue be tackled
  • The elections take place for the Constituent and Provincial assemblies.

The general elections which were held in 1945-46 witnessed that the Muslim voters gave an overwhelming mandate in favour of Pakistan while the Hindus overall voted for Congress which stood for a united India. This most visible victory of the League, however, was not accepted by the Congress and the British as a complete and wholehearted mandate of Muslims for Pakistan.

Durga Das has recorded his meeting with Attlee in 1945 and writes,

Attlee did not conceal his deep agitation over the Muslim demand for Pakistan and agreed with my plea that a minority should not be allowed to hold up progress of the majority to self-rule. He added that his intention was to promote in India a structure that would give her federal unity . . . He considered the Congress as a party which was the true advocate for freedom and the League a disruption its one and expressed the hope that in the impending elections the League candidates in Punjab, Sindh and North West Frontier would be defeated. That would help preserve the unity of India.

 However, contrary to the desires of Attlee and many other well-known political pundits the results of elections to the Central Assembly and the provincial seats forcefully strengthened the case for Pakistan. Even then, Wavell was not ready to accept ground realities and thought that it was time for the British government to make a clear statement regarding its intentions for acceptance or rejection of the Pakistan demand. He held that the Congress and the League would be unable to settle/arrive at any agreement about the Pakistan issue and this would result in a political deadlock. He thought that His Majesty’s Government should not allow another deadlock in the event of parties failing to come to terms and, therefore, must be ready to offer its own plan.

The Labour Government, though it agreed with the seriousness of the demand for Pakistan, wanted to find out for itself whether it could be dealt with effectively by some other means. They decided to send a fact-finding mission consisting of members of the Parliament to India. Wavell welcomed this proposal and rejected the other one according to which the two main leaders from the Congress and the League should go to London for talks. The Parliamentary delegation was able to confirm that Jinnah was firm on his stand. It also concluded that the demand for Pakistan was not a bargaining counter on the part of Jinnah, therefore, it had to be faced and tackled by appropriate political means.

Wavell and the Cabinet Mission

The British government decided, the foundation of a provisional constitution for India must be based upon the 1935 Act, and such a constitution must continue to provide a unitary framework, but within it means of satisfying, to the greatest degree compatible with preservation of India as a single state, the aspirations of Indian Muslims for self-rule. This was the game plan of the India Office as conveyed to the Cabinet Mission on its departure for India.

According to Philip Ziegler, Lord Pethick-Lawrence was technically to be in charge of whatever negotiations were necessary; but in fact, Cripps and the Prime Minister, Clement Attlee, took over responsibility. The Cabinet Mission which came to negotiate with Indians about the formula and modus operandi of the transfer of power, did not wish to include Wavell, the Governor General, during its workings in India. Probably they thought they knew more than him, therefore, they thought of him as less than useful. The Labour Government, however, included him after his note of protest. Though they decided to include Wavell as one of the negotiators, he was not taken into confidence about their game plan. Wavell rightly observed, I may be left with all the loose and awkward ends to tie up, and perhaps to implement a policy with which I do not agree. He, therefore, made it clear that he should not be treated as a communicator but negotiator and mediator and if it is the wish of H.M.G. that I should be responsible for implementing in India any settlement to be negotiated, I must really and genuinely be consulted.

Wavell’s relationship with Cripps had never been cordial, and it worsened with time. Wavell thought that Cripps could not be an honest and impartial negotiator because he is sold to the Congress point of view. Wavell deplored that both Cripps and Pethick-Lawrence failed to maintain high standards of impartiality, fair play and justice while they were dealing with the Hindu-Muslim problem. He complained to the prime minister that the late Cabinet Mission had too many unofficial advisers and indirect contacts, which had made his job and the job of the Mission more difficult in settling disputes. Further, he said, I thought it was a mistake that the Mission should have had, outside the official discussions, such a continuous and close touch with one of the two main parties, the Congress. This naturally aroused the deep suspicions of the Muslim League about the intentions of the Cabinet ministers.

Wavell was dissatisfied with the tactics of double-cross and underhand dealings adopted by the Cabinet delegation during their negotiations with the Indian leaders.  Cripps methods created suspicion and confusion as Wavell thought that Abdul Kalam Azad and Jinnah were being presented with different propositions. According to Patrick French, in the end the Delegation created more problems than they solved, and the last chance to retain a united India disappeared.

The Cabinet. Mission Plan had pleased neither the League nor the Congress. The Cabinet delegation, especially Cripps and Pethick-Lawrence, knew that without Congress’s support of the plan, a government of a united India though with a weak centre, could not be formed. Cripps, especially wanting to avoid the formation of a government by Jinnah at all costs, persuaded the Congress to at least accept the long-term part of the plan. Wavell wrote on 25 June 1946:

The worst day yet, I think. Congress has accepted the Statement of May 16, though with reservations on its interpretation. They did not intend to do so, having always said they would not accept the long-term policy unless they accepted the short-term one, the Interim Government. Now Cripps, having assured me categorically that Congress would never accept the Statement of May 16, instigated Congress to do by pointing out the tactical advantage they would gain as regards the Interim Government. So, did the Secretary of State. When I talked to him on this, he defended on the grounds that to get the Congress into the Constituent Assembly was such a gain that he considered it justified. It has left sin an impossible position vis-à-vis Jinnah.

 Describing the delegation members’ underhand dealings with the Congress, Sudhir Ghosh has written:

This ‘parity’ between the majority and minority, between the Muslim League and the Congress, was of course wholly unacceptable to the majority party. In giving Mr. Jinnah such an indication, the Viceroy had seriously slipped up and the Secretary of State was disturbed about it. He sent for me on 12 June and told me how upset he was about it all. Was there no way of persuading Gandhiji to find a way out of this tangle? I told the Secretary of State that only thing to do was to have a heart-to-heart talk with Gandhiji and to appeal to him for help. So, he asked me if I could not fetch Gandhiji to his house for a talk that evening . . . It was because of Gandhi’s influence that the Congress accepted the long-term part of the plan only on 25 June.  

Pethick-Lawrence and Cripps were partly successful in trying to clear up the mess created by Wavell’s assurances to Jinnah because he had refused (Wavell) to allow the Muslim League to form the Interim Government without the Congress, contrary to his earlier assurances. Wavell’s justice, fair play and honesty were now put to the test. He told Alexander,

I should normally ask to be relieved of my appointment after what happened; that I thought I had been placed in an impossible position with the M.L. (Muslim League) and that Cripps had not been quite straight.

He thought of resigning but soon dropped the idea, reasoning that his resignation would badly expose the conduct of the three Ministers and His Majesty’s Government and did not want to embarrass either of them. Though Wavell regretted for a short while the failure of not forming the Interim Government, he still believed, we must try to leave India united; and we must secure the cooperation of the Congress which represents the great majority of Indian political opinion whatever our views on the past record of that party. Besides, he held that too much dependence on the shifting views and actions of a set of inexperienced, short-sighted and sometimes malevolent politicians had caused the failure.

According to Kevin Jeffreys, certainly, in assessing the record of the post-war Labour Government, historians are agreed that Attlee’s party made only limited advances towards its stated aim in 1945—the creation of a socialist commonwealth. In some policy areas, continuity with wartime practice was undeniable. Under Ernest Bevin, for example, the surprising choice as Foreign Secretary, hopes of a ‘socialist foreign policy’ soon disappeared as the Cold War got underway, but in case of India it seems oversimplification of the facts. The Labour Government had high regard and respect for Congress and wanted to quickly transfer power to their so-called socialist brothers. This state of mind led the delegation to appease the Congress at all costs during the negotiations and they used all means, moral or otherwise to enlist its leaders’ support for keeping India united.

 Meanwhile Cripps and Pethick-Lawrence continued their daily secret meetings with the Congress leaders. Lawrence took daily walks, with Agatha Harrison (Secretary, India Conciliation Group), a friend of C.F. Andrews, who was himself an associate of Gandhi which prompted concerns about their integrity in Wavell’s mind. He thought, but far more unfortunate than these was the presence of Agatha Harrison and Horace Alexander, who lived in the Congress camp, were completely sold to Gandhi and saw the S.of S. almost daily.

According to Sudhir Ghosh: why Cripps and Pethick-Lawrence, at moments of crisis in the India-Britain negotiations, chose to meet Gandhiji secretly in the garden at the back of the Viceroy’s house in New Delhi without making knowledge either of the British Viceroy or of the Indian political leaders in a struggle to hand over power to an undivided India is, I see now many years later, a poignant as well as a dramatic story.

 While saluting the services of these English leaders for the Congress, B/R. Nanda, a biographer of Gandhi quite frankly admits:

Not merely the compulsion of events, but a measure of idealism went into the policy which Prime Minister Attlee initiated and carried through during the years 1946-47. And in so far as the British Government was impelled by idealism, by a desire to open a fresh chapter in Indo-British relations, it was a victory for Gandhi, who had pleaded for thirty years for transformation of a relationship between the two countries. Among the advocates of this transformation were several English men and women. Hume and Wedderburn, C.E. Andrews and Horace Alexander, Brailsford and Brockway, Laski and Carl Heath, Mauri Lester and Agatha Harrison who never wavered in their sympathy for the Indian cause in their own day they represented a tiny and not-too-influential minority, but in the fullness of time their opinions became the national policies of their country.

 Even Cripps and Pethick-Lawrence quite frankly admitted that they had contacts with the Congress leaders about the nature of which Wavell was unclear. Lawrence admitted that he wrote a secret letter to Nehru while he was in Simla. However, even such favours failed to win Congress’s support as it kept raising the bar. Even, Pethick-Lawrence later conceded,

We think you will agree that it was our experience that it is the consistent practice of Indian parties to take up a bargaining position well in advance of what they expect to get and we feel that it would be fatal to deal with Nehru’s letter on assumption that it is final challenge under threat of a direct breach with Congress. We regard it rather as another attempt, such as was constantly made during Mission’s negotiations, to squeeze some further concessions out of H.M.G.

The Labour Party did not mind letting Jinnah down while trying to appease the Congress. It cared the least for upholding any moral standards while dealing with him. And the Cabinet Delegation also decided to blame him for its failure.  Lawrence went to the extent of using provocative language and even passed irresponsible remarks about Jinnah.

Wavell before offering the formation of the government to the Congress, wanted some clarifications. He wanted to make it clear to the Congress that it must first accept the statement of May 16 fully and sincerely on the lines laid down by the Mission. Besides he did not want any reduction in the powers of the governor-general unless both parties agreed to it. He also requested Whitehall to stand firm against any blackmailing by the Congress. He wanted to correct the Congress’s impression that they had got the British on the run. But the prime minister told him to carry on with what he had been directed to do. But perhaps the greatest of all the impediments to a solution was the state of mutual mistrust amongst the various political actors. According to Leonard Mosley,

Jinnah and the Muslim League mistrusted the Congress and Congress mistrusted the Viceroy; Wavell mistrusted the Labour Government; Attlee did not necessarily mistrust Wavell but had certainly lost faith in him.

Attlee asked Wavell to accept Sir Maurice Gwyer as political adviser. Wavell felt very bad about it and thought that the prime minister and his Labour Government did not trust his political wisdom because it was not sufficiently pro-Congress. He wrote,

 I had a letter from the PM, pressing me again Maurice Gwyer as Political Adviser. He has obviously been told that I receive nothing but official I.C.S. advice and that my political judgement is therefore unsound, i.e., not sufficiently pro-Congress. I think my judgement is better than H.M.G.’s and shall say so; and tell him that if H.M.G. don’t like it their duty to find another Viceroy, as I will not be a figure-head.

Nonetheless, he acted upon the directions and started negotiations with Nehru. Nehru, sensing the weak and awkward position of the governor-general vis-à-vis his own government in London began to behave as if he had already become the Prime Minister of India and expected Wavell to act accordingly. Wavell, under the circumstances, was forced to accept his suggestions.

Wavell was convinced that a coalition government would not only help to bypass the demand for Pakistan but help avoid a civil war as well. However, Nehru and Gandhi did not share his feelings and insisted that the Congress Party should solely be allowed to form the Interim Government regardless of the consequences. When Wavell warned that one-party rule would lead to a certain civil war, as was obvious from the carnage on the Direct Action Day, Gandhi pounded the table and said, if a bloodbath was necessary it would come about in spite of non-violence. Gandhi in his letter on 28 August told Wavell that Congress would not bend itself to adopt what it considered a wrong course because of the brutal exhibition recently witnessed in Bengal. Such submissions would itself lead to an encouragement and repetition of such tragedies. Therefore, he advised Wavell to wholly trust the Congress concerning the formation of the Interim Government.

Wavell aware of the repercussions and the backlash it would bring to induct one party rule in a multi-religious country with hostile feelings, three days before induction of the Nehru’s government, again asked His Majesty’s Government to declare the Grouping was a mandatory part of the Cabinet Mission Plan. To him, it was not a matter of legal niceties but of practical considerations and also because it would put the full weight of His Majesty’s Government behind that important part of the Cabinet Mission Plan. Wavell wrote:

 Though the consequences may be serious I think it as well that things have come to a head. Calcutta with its 4,400 dead, 16,000 injured and over 100,000 homeless showed that a one-party government at the Centre was likely to cause fierce disorders everywhere. Far from having any sobering effects, it had increased communal hatred and intransigence. If Congress intentions are as Gandhi’s letter suggests the result of their being in power can only be a state of virtual civil war in many parts of India while you and I are responsible to Parliament.

But Pethick-Lawrence did not agree with Wavell’s statement that Congress always meant to use their position in the Interim Government to break up the Muslim League and in the Constituent Assembly to destroy the grouping scheme. In response to him he advised Wavell, we should therefore like you to avoid pressing the grouping question to a final issue before the Interim Government takes over and has a period in office. Thus, Wavell was left with no choice but to invite the Congress to form a new government in September 1946.

But Jinnah was not ready to yield to such pressure tactics on his principled stand for Pakistan, referring to which Ayesha Jalal has written,

Not to be outwitted and without wasting further time, Jinnah accepted Wavell’s offer of joining the Interim Government on 13 October 1946. Wavell had made this offer despite opposition from Nehru and His Majesty’s Government. His aim of bringing the two parties together was an attempt to try and solve the major constitutional and political issues, especially those related to Pakistan, but it seems that enough time had already been wasted and now only the adoption of the Cabinet Mission Plan in its entirety could have ensured the unity of India. Such delays had already created doubts in Wavell’s mind that things were moving too fast to be contained simply by bringing the two parties together.

Wavell sincerely believed that the Congress’s objection to the Grouping clause was contrary to the Cabinet Mission’s interpretation, therefore, he showed reluctance to call the meeting of the Constituent Assembly unless the Congress accepted the Cabinet Mission Plan in its entirety. He maintained that the Compulsory Grouping part was the crux of the Cabinet Mission Plan whereas the Congress leaders believed that accepting that part would result in ‘Balkanization’ of India. In fact,

 at this stage a difference of opinion between the Viceroy and the London authorities was noticed. Attlee and Pethick-Lawrence not only regretted Wavell’s intimation to Congress that he would not call the Constituent Assembly until the point about grouping was cleared up, but also asked the Viceroy not to take any steps which were likely to result in a breach with the Congress.

Now Wavell pressured the Muslim League that it must either attend the Constituent Assembly meetings or otherwise resign from the Interim Government to which Liaquat Ali Khan responded that the League members would be ready to resign whenever required, but they would not accept the long-term plan unless His Majesty’s Government declared that the provinces must meet in Sections. Wavell did try again as he himself was convinced that the League’s stand was right. He also knew of the growing risk of civil war in case of the League’s resignation from the government which might put the life, property and interests of the British imperialists in jeopardy. He was equally aware of the growing tendency towards militancy in the League circles which he himself conceded was because of a lack of firmness and honesty on the part of the British government.

Failing to convince Whitehall to make an unequivocal statement regarding the Cabinet Mission Plan, Wavell on 20 November 1946 announced the decision of His Majesty’s Government to call the Constituent Assembly on 9 December. In fact, the Labour Government itself had been under extreme pressure from Congress leaders like Nehru and Patel who had twice threatened to resign from the Interim Government if their demand for dismissal of the League ministers from the Interim Government was not met. Thus, in order to break the deadlock and to bring about a settlement on the issue of the Constituent Assembly, Whitehall invited two representatives each from the Congress and the Muslim League along with one Sikh to fly at once to London for discussions.

On 2 December 1946 in London, Wavell apprised His Majesty’s Government:

The Muslim League leaders raised cries of Pakistan and Islam in danger originally to enhance their prestige and power and thus their bargaining value as a political party. They have now so inflamed their ignorant and impressionable followers with the idea of Pakistan as a new Prophet’s Paradise on earth and as their only means of protection against Hindu domination, that it will be very difficult to satisfy them with anything else. I think Jinnah is honest in saying that he had great difficulty in putting across the Mission Plan with his party, though he was probably wise enough to recognize it as a reasonable compromise worth trying at least for a period.

He recommended to the British government to make the fullest use of the present discussions to try and restore the Mission’s plan to its originally intended form. He feared that it would be impossible to carry out the present negotiations with any hope of success unless the Labour Government made up their mind ‘whether or not they are prepared to stand up to the Congress’. On their part the British government thought that Wavell had outlived his usefulness in his present position so did not heed his advice and decided to re over him. The immediate reason for his removal, however, was his insistence upon implementing his ‘Breakdown Plan’ in case of a political deadlock which he felt was imminent.

Courtesy of: The Dying Days of the Raj by Muhammad Iqbal Chawla, Oxford University Press Karachi 2011