15 June, 2021

What If India Hadn't Been Partitioned?

It is a very big 'What if?' and all I can do is to list how the ideals of the leaders might have been worked out, with advantage to all the people of South Asia...

Hulton Archive
What If India Hadn't Been Partitioned?
"I wonder whether you realise," Lord Wavell, the governor-general, asked the Indian people in a radio address on May 17, 1946, "that this is the greatest and most momentous experiment in government in the whole history of the world—a new Constitution to control the destiny of 400 million people." The decision being made, for or against the Partition of India, would, in 58 years, control the lives of the billion and a quarter people of South Asia and for the foreseeable future. Could another decision have been made and would it have been better for that immense population? ‘Could’ means there was nothing inevitable in the decision made in the summer of 1946.

For those of us who believe that history is "the play of the contingent and unforeseen", that no events are inevitable until they happen, and that there are many plausible possibilities in every decision, "What if India hadn’t been partitioned?" becomes the most intriguing of questions.

In the spring of 1946, the Labour government sent out to India the Cabinet Mission, consisting of Lord Pethick-Lawrence, the...

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