any step in the constitutional sphere which would alienate Muslim
opinion might have the most serious repercussions on India's war effort
whereas active assistance of the Indian National Congress would not
make much difference to India's fighting strength though it would
be of value internally in such matters as civil defence.
Under the circumstances, the British officials had to cast a favourable
glance at the demand for Pakistan, even though they were not yet
prepared to commit themselves on the issue of Pakistan. They
accepted in principle that the dissident units could opt out of
the federation 'for the time being and possibly altogether.'
This, they thought, would meet Jinnah's demand and at the same
time induce the Congress to come to terms with the Muslims provinces
in order to secure a United India.
The Cripps Mission was sent
to India precisely for this purpose. It, however, failed in its
purpose because it did not give the Congress and the Muslim League control
of Indian defence, nor did it withdraw the provision of the non-accession
for the provinces. Perhaps, deep down, the British government
was happy at the Mission's failure because it did not like any
fundamental change in the service conditions of the Indian troops
which could have an 'unsettling effect' on them while
the war was in progress.
But the result of the Cripps Proposals
was that the British, for the first time, accepted the principle
of the non-accession of the provinces to the Indian Union, giving
the demand for Pakistan a touch of acceptable reality. Naturally,
the Muslim League came out much stronger than before, especially in the
Punjab and Bengal, giving Jinnah a position of pre-eminence.
In August 1942, the Congress, dissatisfied by the August offer and
the Cripps proposals, decided to exert pressure on the British by
launching the Quit India movement. The timing of the movement
was obviously designed to take advantage of the war situation.
Japan, which had already conquered Burma, was expected to invade
India soon after the monsoon was over in September 1942. The Quit
India movement, however, failed. Its failure brought out the fact
that no movement could succeed without the support of the Muslim League
and the Muslims.
During the 1943-45 period, when the fortunes of the war turned
in favour of Allied victory, the British began to wriggle out
of their previous stance vis-a-vis the Muslims and in favour of
a united India. But Jinnah could not be deterred from his demand
as he had faith in the inherent strength of the Muslim potential
and had realised the importance of the military factor in
British decision making.
Early in 1944, the Congress was also forced
to acknowledge the importance of the Muslim League which is evident from
the initiatives such as the Gandhi-Jinnah talks. It is another
matter that the initiatives did not bear fruit as the Congress was
not prepared to accede to the demand for Pakistan. In early 1945,
fresh moves were made by the Congress for which the Liaquat-Desai understanding
was reached. But the basic problem between them remained unresolved
as the Congress leadership was not willing to meet the Muslim League on an equal
Nevertheless, the British government had been obliged to seek
greater association of Indians in the councils of the government.
The Muslims came out even better because they received a much
greater representation than their numerical strength warranted.
Obviously, the war had changed the British attitude in which their
concern for possible repercussions in the Muslim Middle East played
in important role. They were also not unmindful of the Allied
interest in the independence of India.
This naturally strengthened
the determination of the Muslim League to fight for the achievement of
Pakistan. But then, towards the end of the war, the British began
once more to balance their relations with the Congress when the latter
showed its inclination to co-operate with the government. A united
India again became a popular theme with the British.
The result was that when the war came to an end, the Muslim League had
to struggle even harder, for the British policy was geared to
ensuring a united India. The object of the 1945 Simla Conference
was, therefore, to by-pass the Pakistan issue and to get the political
parties working together in the central government. But Simla
could not kill the Pakistan issue.
Wavell then decided to expose
'the crudity of Jinnah's ideas' and put the Pakistan scheme
to examination with counter proposals. The idea was to discover
some alternative to Pakistan and make the Muslim participate in
the formation of an Indian constitution. But the result of the
elections of 1945-46 demonstrated that an overwhelming majority
of Muslims wanted Pakistan.
The British government, however, remained firm on keeping India
united and, in March 1946, a British Cabinet Mission came to India
which rejected the case of a 'sovereign' Pakistan. Instead, it recommended a three-tier constitution in which an
'autonomous' Pakistan was proposed.
Initially, the Muslim League accepted the Plan, perhaps as a stepping stone towards a
sovereign Pakistan, but later rejected it because the Congress was
not prepared to accept the scheme of the grouping of the provinces
as envisaged in the Plan. The Cabinet Mission failed, but the
Government of India showed a definite tilt towards the Congress. This
led the Muslim League to declare its intention of resorting to 'Direct
The British government, in order to share responsibility
and keep India integrated, announced the formation of an Interim
government consisting of the Congress, the Muslim League, and other minorities.
Accordingly, on September 2, 1946, an interim government headed
by Nehru was sworn in.
Some seven weeks later, the Muslim League also joined
it. But since the arms and objectives of both the parties were
divergent, no working co-operation between them could be established.
The Congress members demanded the resignation of the Muslim League members of
the government on the grounds that the League's working committee
had resolved that it would not join the Constituent Assembly of
India. This demand was not acceded to by the British,
because they thought it would be 'fatal'
for the government to keep the League out.
But the problem
remained unsolved. This led the British government to call a conference
of important political leaders in London. Consequently, on
December 6, 1946, the British government announced that it would
not like to force a constitution upon the unwilling parts of the
country which shows that the situation had taken such a turn that
they just could not dismiss the case of Pakistan.
In the ultimate analysis, however, much depended on the attitude
of the armed forces. The two 'great evils' -- discontentment
and political consciousness which were sought to be avoided by
the British government -- had crept into the Indian armed forces.
The discontentment was caused due to discriminatory treatment
meted out to them in terms of service conditions and resettlement
schemes after retirement.
The induction of the educated element
in the forces and the acceleration of the process of Indianisation
had made them conscious of rapid political change. There had
also been a growing feeling that they were being used as mercenaries.
There had been instances of mutinies during the war which show
the pressure of discontentment and unrest.
After the war was over,
the hero worship of ex-INA personnel encouraged the troops in
believing that mutiny was more rewarding than remaining loyal
to the British. The Naval Mutiny in Bombay and Karachi and, later,
among the airmen at a number of bases and some elements in the
army at Jabalpore were symptomatic of such feelings. The police
and the railwaymen also felt the pinch as did the general public
which came out into the streets and participated in anti-British
The revolt of the military could not be allowed to spread
and the British quickly reassured them that the subcontinent would
be made independent.
Excerpted from Making of Pakistan: The Military Perspective, by Dr Noor-ul Haq, Reliance Publishing House, 1997, Rs 395, with the publisher's permission. Readers who wish to buy a copy of this book may write to Reliance Publishing House, 3026/7H, Ranjit Nagar, New Delhi 11 00 08.