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Expatriate British Officers & Foreign Policy of Pakistan

They left an indelible mark on Pakistan’s foreign policy from 1947 to 1957

The sincerity, ability and honesty of the Founder of the Nation, Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, is beyond doubt. He was devoted to the cause of Pakistan for which he sacrificed everything his property worth millions of rupees, his family life and lastly his health  in pursuit of his sublime goal which was only the creation of Pakistan. His failing health, his chronic disease and his frail body could not deter him from working almost round the clock constantly.

The expatriate British officers played a significant role in orientation of Pakistan’s foreign policy, and they held key posts in this country from 1947 to 1957. In Pakistan’s Air Force, Perry-Keene, Atcherley, Cannon and McDonald served as Air Vice-Marshal before Asghar Khan took over as Air Vice-Marshal in July 1957.

In the Pakistan Army, Frank Messervy and Douglas Gracey were Commander-in-Chiefs (C-in-C) before Field Marshal Ayub Khan seized power in January 1951. In Pakistan’s Navy, W. Jeffords was the Vice Admiral followed by Siddique Chaudhry in January 1953.

Similarly, the British were appointed as provincial governors in Pakistan. Frederic Bourne was Governor of Bengal, from whom Firoze Khan Noon took charge in April 1950. George Cunningham and Ambrose Dundas remained governors of North-West Frontier Province (NWFP), and Sahibzada Khurshid took charge in July 1949.

In Punjab, Francis Mudie was the governor and Sardar Abdul Rab Nishtar took over in July 1949. Sindh (then Sind) was an exception where Sir Hidayat Ullah was appointed governor right from Independence.

In the Police Department and the Intelligence Department — almost in other departments as well — their heads were the British and next to them were all Britishers too.

That was not the nomenclature of Pakistan’s stance. Countries like India, Burma, Nigeria and Malaysia had also appointed Britishers after their independence.

Thomas Elmhurst was the first Air Marshal of India, while Robert Lockhart and Roy Bucher were the early C-in-Cs of the Indian Army. John Talfot, Edward Parry, Mark Pizy and Stephen served as Admiral of the Indian Navy till April 1958.

However, what comes as a surprise is that the expatriate British officers of Pakistan considered the national interest of this country of secondary importance and they behaved in such a man ner as if their foremost interest lay elsewhere. The behaviour of their counterparts in India was altogether different i.e. in line with the national interest of India. Their impact on the political destiny of our country is of lasting nature.

The problems, which Pakistan inherited from them, are of chronic nature and the issues that the British officers had left unresolved are still the crux and focal point of our foreign policy. They are as much alive today as they were back in 1947.

 Indeed the Quaid-e-Azam was an upright and thorough gentleman. Unlike Nehru and Gandhi he never liked to mix up with women unnecessarily even though, at times, he eulogised their role and performance in politics, education and other important fields.
 The sincerity, ability and honesty of the Founder of the Nation, Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, is beyond doubt. He was devoted to the cause of Pakistan for which he sacrificed everything — his property worth millions of rupees, his family life and lastly his health — in pursuit of his sublime goal which was only the creation of Pakistan. His failing health, his chronic disease and his frail body could not deter him from working almost round the clock constantly.

Nevertheless, he was not an ambitious man like Lord Mountbatten and Jawaharlal Nehru. While Mountbatten himself pleaded his case before the Quaid-e-Azam to become Joint Governor-General of Bharat (India) and Pakistan, Nehru’s ambition to become President of the Indian National Congress was shattered when the Congress’s Working Committee gave him only one vote and fourteen to Patel. So the latter was elected as President of the Congress but Nehru put pressure through Gandhi who convinced Patel to withdraw.

Indeed the Quaid-e-Azam was an upright and thorough gentleman. Unlike Nehru and Gandhi he never liked to mix up with women unnecessarily even though, at times, he eulogised their role and performance in politics, education and other important fields. On the other hand, Nehru allegedly had illicit relations with women like Sarojini Naidu’s daughter, Padmaja Naidu, Sanjasin and Saraolda Mata. He is also believed to have an affair with Edwina Mountbatten, wife of the last viceroy of India, and he died of syphilis. As for Gandhi, it was said that he also had amorous affairs with young women including Sarla Devi, a married Bengali woman.

Mountbatten’s appointment was manoeuvred by the Indian National Congress because his predecessor’s tenure was suddenly cut short and thus Mountbatten became the last viceroy of India, the post he continued to hold for less than five months, whereas the normal tenure for the viceroy was five years. That was the most important, crucial and critical period as the Partition was on the cards and the total assets were to be divided between Pakistan and Bharat equally and justly.

However, the last British viceroy virtually worked as an agent for Hinuds and the Indian National Congress. Like Hindus, he wanted to leave behind a legacy of a ‘United India’. When asked as to what would be his ideal state, he remarked: ‘a unified India with a weak Centre.’ So his thoughts were in harmony with the Hindus’ so Pakistan stood nowhere in his scheme of things. Therefore he opposed the establishment of Pakistan tooth and nail but, then, he had to confront the Quaid-e-Azam who stood like a rock and no power on earth could ever change his mind.

 The British Chief of Staff of India wrote a joint letter to the Cabinet, stating that the Armed Forces of India were in ‘no position to undertake a serious campaign’ and that the ‘British soldiers could not take part in any operation which would involve clashes with another Dominion. Therefore, the issue should be settled through negotiations.’
 However, headed by Mountbatten, the Hindus and the expatriate British officers became emotional while leaving behind them the legacy of a United India. That showed antipathy among the expatriate British officers serving in India that one of their greatest achievements in the Indian history was being shattered by the Quaid-e-Azam and his associate who had created an atmosphere of frustration as something inevitable. So the expatriate British officers, who co-opted to serve Pakistan, had the same background and perhaps their anguish was nonetheless different from their Indian counterparts. Moreover, they were incited to adopt a lukewarm attitude towards the national interest of Pakistan on account of their plight. Therefore, on numerous occasions, unconsciously or deliberately — or perhaps consciously — they acted against the national interest of Pakistan. Hence their role was bound to behave in a negative manner.

On the other hand, when the rulers of princely states of Gunagadh Manavadhr, Mongrel etc. acceded to Pakistan and signed the Instrument of Accession with the latter in order to become a legal territory and part of Pakistan, the Indian Army was sent against these states. The British Chief of Staff of India wrote a joint letter to the Cabinet, stating that the Armed Forces of India were in ‘no position to undertake a serious campaign’ and that the ‘British soldiers could not take part in any operation which would involve clashes with another Dominion. Therefore, the issue should be settled through negotiations.’

Mountbatten strongly disapproved that step and put them under great pressure. He then called in the expatriate British chiefs of the Army, Navy and Air Force of India and sharply snubbed them. The paper was withdrawn and it was made sure that such incidents did not take place again. That was the immediate and first incident after Independence. But, thereafter, the behaviour of the expatriate British officers of Bharat changed subsequently. From then onwards, the Chief of Staff and the Commander-in-Chief of Bharat were considered as loyal, trustworthy, hardworking and efficient officers. Paradoxically, these qualities were missing in their counterparts in Pakistan.

By: Dr M Zahid Khan Lodhi

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