India Lobby Honors Thesis Presentation

by Anna Hansen ’12

Last week senior history major Becca Solnit presented on her honors thesis project. She is researching efforts in the U.S. to lobby in support of Indian independence during WWII. A number of groups pushed first for naturalization rights within the United States, later turning their attention to the question of independence from Britain. Solnit collectively refers to them as the India Lobby. The most prominent figure in this movement was J.J. Singh. Solnit discussed how she wanted to look at relationship between the lobby effort, public opinion, and policy. She discussed several examples of the movement’s impact, such as the Cripps Mission and the Pearson Leak.

Solnit puts this in the context of other, more well-known, lobbying groups operating at the time, such as the Israel lobby. She noted that, although of course many members of the movement were Indian Americans, others were part of the group as well.

Solnit also discussed how Indian independence, as part of a larger anti-imperial/ decolonization movement corresponded with the Civil Rights movement in the U.S. I think that is an interesting parallel to draw because a lot of the sentiments behind the two movements arguably overlap. Solnit also pointed out that Walter White, head of the NAACP, was also involved with the India lobby.

One interesting thing about the issue is that the U.S. could only influence the outcome indirectly. The U.S. could apply pressure, but ultimately only Britain had the authority to grant India independence. I think it would be interesting to explore what it means that a lobby existed in the United States, as opposed to only in the U.K., in support of this issue. It would also be interesting to look at what this meant for relations between the U.S. and U.K.

A question that occurred to me in listening to Solnit’s presentation was the issue of the partition of India and Pakistan. Since this was messy and has been a problematic issue, particularly over Kashmir, I wondered whether the Indian independence movement had anything in mind regarding this. Was there supposed to be a single Indian state, was partition assumed all along, or was there some disagreement even then?

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