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LORD MOUNTBATTEN'S ROLE IN INTEGRATION OF PRINCELY STATES
Answer the following question in NOT MORE than 200 words in the Comments section.
Content of the answer is more important than its length.
Discuss the contribution of Lord Mountbatten in the integration of princely states into India.
Lapse of Paramountcy:
- At the time of Indian independence in 1947, India was divided into two sets of territories, one under the control of the British Empire, and the other over which the Crown had suzerainty, but which were under the control of their hereditary rulers.
- The termination of paramountcy would have in principle meant that all rights that flowed from the states' relationship with the British crown would return to them, leaving them free to negotiate relationships with the new states of India and Pakistan "on a basis of complete freedom".
- This was unacceptable to the Indian National Congress, which regarded the independence of princely states as a denial of the course of Indian history, and consequently regarded this scheme as a "Balkanisation" of India.
Lord Mountbatten's Role:
- Lord Mountbatten believed that securing the princely states' accession to India was crucial to reaching a negotiated settlement with the Congress for the transfer of power.
- Mountbatten was also persuaded by the argument of Indian officials such as V. P. Menon that the integration of the princely states into independent India would, to some extent, assuage the wounds of partition.
- The result was that Mountbatten personally favoured and worked towards the accession of princely states to India following the transfer of power, as proposed by the Congress.
- Lord Mountbatten addressed the Chamber of Princes on 25th July 1947 giving a powerful speech in favour of integration of princely states within the Indian geographical region with India.
- As a relative of the British King, he was trusted by most of the princes and was a personal friend of many, especially the Nawab of Bhopal, Hamidullah Khan.
- The princes also believed that Lord Mountbatten, as the first Governor General of the Dominion of India post-Independence, would be in a position to ensure the independent India adhered to any terms that might be agreed upon.
- Mountbatten used his influence with the princes to push them towards accession. He declared that the British Government would not grant dominion status to any of the princely states, nor would it accept them into the British Commonwealth, which meant that the states would sever all connections with the British crown unless they joined either India or Pakistan.
- He pointed out that the Indian subcontinent was one economic entity, and that the states would suffer most if the link were broken.
- The Instrument of Accession the princely states were asked to sign would cede away defence, external affairs and communications. The Congress offer, said the Viceroy, left the rulers ‘with great internal authority'while divesting them of matters they could not deal with on their own.
- He also pointed to the difficulties that princes would face maintaining order in the face of threats such as the rise of communal violence and communist movements.
- Mountbatten stressed that he would act as the trustee of the princes' commitment, as he would be serving as India's head of state well into 1948.
- He engaged in a personal dialogue with reluctant princes, such as the Nawab of Bhopal, who he asked through a confidential letter to sign the Instrument of Accession making Bhopal part of India, which Mountbatten would keep locked up in his safe. It would be handed to the States Department on 15 August only if the Nawab did not change his mind before then, which he was free to do. The Nawab agreed, and did not renege over the deal.