I know some readers and writers may disagree with the bold sentiment in the title. That’s to be expected – after all, most of those who write, read or especially both are kneejerk liberals.
Thus their response to serious issues is viscerally emotive, rather than rational. Yet for those who don’t merit the liberal soubriquet, the rational, legal, cultural and moral case for reclaiming India is strong.
After all, India was part of the British Empire for 190 years, from 1757 to 1947. It was during that period that India made her first tentative steps towards the Western ethos, complete with industrialisation, legality, inchoate democratic institutions and even the English language.
It’s tempting to accuse Britain of looting her colonies for her own gain. Such accusations aren’t totally unfounded, considering that Britain first colonised India through the good offices of the East India Company, a purely commercial venture.
However, that’s how civilisation often arrives in faraway lands, through the blood and toil of adventurers seeking riches. Every successful empire, from Rome onwards, testifies to that. And of course colonisation is never free of conflicts and uprisings, usually suppressed by brute force. Yet the net positive effect can’t be gainsaid.
The American westward expansion wasn’t motivated by charitable impulses either. Yet today’s denizens of, say, Colorado or Texas miss neither tribal Red Indian societies nor Mexican rule. If queried, they’ll agree that, on balance, the initial brutality of the white settlers was justified by the subsequent centuries.
To begin with, it was the British who created the political and administrative union called India. Until the Empire, the subcontinent was fractured into autonomous and warring provinces.
Had the Hindi and Muslim politicians been able to strike an accord, the subcontinent would remain united to this day. The subsequent separation and the bloody civil war were tragic, but they weren’t caused by anything the British Empire had done.
Yet even today India herself remains united, and her influence in the world is steadily growing, largely thanks to the British legacy. The splendours of New Delhi, the Gothic architecture of Mumbai (Bombay to you), cricket, a professional and largely incorruptible civil service, democratic institutions, and a thriving economy interlinked by the railways built by the British all testify to Britain’s moral right to reincorporate India.
Let’s not forget that large swathes of India’s population are English speakers, culturally close to the birthplace of the language they love, regard as their first and speak better than most Britons. In private conversations they bemoan that fateful day of 15 August, 1947, when Indian nationalists succeeded in severing the ties with the metropolis.
They would welcome rejoining Britain, even if such incorporation were to be enacted by military force. And those Britons who are uninfected by the liberal virus curse that left-wing prime minister, Clement Attlee, who was unwilling and unable to prevent the separation of India from her cultural home. We do hope that one day we’ll get a strong leader ready to do what it takes to correct that historical wrong…
Have I convinced you? No? Is it because you found my arguments specious, my historical references selective and my disregard for the geopolitical realities too obtuse for words?
Good. In fact, I was being facetious. My aim was to show how history can be twisted and revised to justify even demonstrably unjustifiable claims. And yes, my arguments were indeed weak.
Yet they were much stronger than those Putin and his stooges put forth in favour of Russia’s 2014 annexation of the Crimea. Such acolytes can be found among Russian nationalists and Western ‘useful idiots’, such as, well, Peter Hitchens, a frequent guest in this space.
In his today’s column he again flogged his favourite horse, not realising it’s dead. Speaking of Navalny, he wrote: “He has also spoken in favour of Russia’s repossession of the Crimea, saying ‘the reality is that Crimea is now part of Russia… Crimea is ours’ – a view I think reasonable, but which is hated by the BBC and liberal types who currently laud him.”
That view is considerably less reasonable than my facetious arguments in favour of the reannexation of India. Yet those who hold it make similar points.
The Crimea, they say, is historically Russian. It may be, but less so than India is British.
Prince Potemkin conquered the Crimea in 1783, and it was in 1954 that Khrushchev shifted it under the administrative aegis of the Ukraine. Hence Russia owned the Crimea for 19 years less than Britain owned India, and during almost exactly the same period.
The peninsula had Greek, Roman and Byzantine roots, but for 334 years before the Russian conquest it was part of the Crimean Tartar Khanate. The Tartars gave the peninsula its name, Quirim, and have a stronger claim than the Russians to being the indigenous population.
Yet on 18 May, 1944, the Soviets deported the entire Tartar population to the deadly steppes of Siberia and Kazakhstan, where half of them perished. That action was yet another genocidal peccadillo in the long list of similar atrocities committed by the Soviets, who passed arbitrary sentences on whole nations and then executed them with singular brutality.
After that ethnic cleansing, the Soviets shipped many Russians to the Crimea as a replacement population, but some Tartar survivors and their descendants eventually made their way back to the land they consider theirs.
In 1954 the Soviets indulged their passion for gerrymandering and transferred the Crimea from the Russian Federation to the Ukraine. Unlike many other such actions, this one was administratively logical: the Crimea isn’t contiguous with Russia, as it is with the Ukraine.
Hence for once the Supreme Soviet had a point when its decree cited “the commonality of the economy, the proximity, and close economic and cultural relations between the Crimean region and the Ukrainian SSR”.
Getting back to my parallel with the Raj, Crimeans, along with the inhabitants of East Ukraine, do speak Russian. Yet every unofficial poll (as opposed to the official ones, supervised by Putin’s AK-toting thugs) shows that even the ethnic Russians among them detest the 2014 occupation.
Among the Tartar population the preference for the Ukraine over Russia is universal. It’s easy to see why.
Last year, the Ukrainian Parliament passed a bill calling on the UN to recognise the deportation of the Crimean Tartars as genocide. Under the Russians, however, the Tartars aren’t even allowed to commemorate that tragic day on pain of up to 20-years’ imprisonment.
The view “the Crimea is ours” that Hitchens finds “reasonable” is shared in Russia only by the dim-witted fascisoid Stalinists from whose ranks Putin draws his core – increasingly only – support. The reasons behind it are a great deal less justifiable than those I put forth above, when talking about India.
Reannexation of the Jewel in the Crown, anyone?