Becca Solnit: The India Lobby

By Anne Crowell, ‘12

The first chapter of Becca Solnit’s honors thesis on the India Lobby, “The Forgotten Lobby,” was an enlightening read.  I’m sure that hearing her read it in person would have produced a different overall effect and perhaps highlighted different passages more clearly than others, but as I was not able to attend, I enjoyed the written version.  I found her writing style clear and easy to understand, which was a great help to me because I was unfamiliar with the India Lobby.  India isn’t really one of my areas of specialty, so I was glad that Becca gave me enough information so that I wasn’t lost.

As I started reading, I tried to recall my background knowledge about the process of Indian independence (much of which, to be perfectly honest, came from this work of fiction—or at least that’s where my immediate reaction on the subject is from).  I couldn’t remember the US playing much of a significant role at all, which, once I thought about it, seemed somewhat puzzling.  After all, Indian independence occurred in 1947, during an exceptionally high point for the US as a superpower in the early Cold War.  It would almost seem strange for the US not to be involved in India’s independence.

It turns out that I wasn’t alone in these thoughts.  As she explains in her project proposal, Becca also noticed this lack of historiographical coverage of US involvement in Indian independence while she studied in India, which gave her the inspiration for her project.  She decided to focus on how public opinion shaped policy in the case of Indian independence, comparing the efforts of the India Lobby to those of other ethnic lobbies such as the China Lobby, which continues to be an important lobby today.  She narrated the development of the India Lobby, including how J.J. Singh changed the India League of America from a small “pet project of intellectuals…into a coordinated organization” that was respected at the national policy-making level.

One concern that I feel may not have been addressed adequately was one of Becca’s original questions:  “Was the India Lobby successful?”  This may well be the subject of a later chapter in her thesis, but if not, perhaps it merits further consideration, as most of the examples she provided were efforts that met with questionable success or occurred at the same time as policy changes by the British.

Overall, I really appreciated all the hard work Becca has obviously put into her thesis so far.  I can see that she has considered her sources very carefully and consolidated the information in a way that, to me, seems very successful.  Excellent job!

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