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30 Mar 2020, 03:15 HRS IST
  • PTI
    • Bookworm
  • Partition through the eyes of an ex-British commander
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  • the book, published by Simon & Schuster.

    "While commanding British and Allied troops in Iraq, I found myself at that interface of political and military affairs whereby we were trying to make sense of political direction that was not always clear. I have had a life-long fascination for India and Pakistan and particularly for the events of 1947 so I found myself wondering how our forbears had reacted when faced with similar issues," he says.

    White-Spunner says he, in particular, was never able to understand why both the British and British Indian armies were not used more extensively in the Punjab.

    "An effective military deployment, which was urged on the authorities in Delhi from as early as March 1947, would have prevented much of the violence. Why had this not happened? I also feel that although lots is written about Partition in India there is surprisingly little in the UK - just as there is surprisingly little about the events of World War Two in India and the Bengal famine," he says about the reasons he chose to write the book.

    According to him, one of the advantages of writing having had military experience, and especially military experience at that political-military interface, is that he is in a better position to understand what was going on between Claude Auchinleck and Lord Mountbatten and the Army and Congress.

    "It is the almost total lack of military initiative that was the cause of so much of the bloodshed; that is what needs exploring and my background means I can approach that with some idea of how armies and governments are meant to work together," he says.

    White-Spunner regards H V Hodsons' "The Great Divide", Ayesha Jalal's "The Sole Spokesman" and V P Menon's "The Transfer of Power in India" as the top three books on Partition.

    "Hodsons' 'The Great Divide' is to understand the British perspective. It is factual rather than exciting to read but very well researched as Hodson was Reforms Commissioner before Menon. 'The Sole Spokesman' is to understand the Muslim League. Jalal has got nearest to what Jinnah really wanted

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