New Indian Policy and Mountbatten's Appointment as the Viceroy

The Muslim League's refusal to take part in the Constituent Assembly meant that the plan of the Cabinet Mission for the transfer of power in accordance with a Constitution framed cooperatively by the Indian political parties themselves had come to a deadlock. Accordingly, Prime Minister Attlee made the following statement on Indian policy in the House of Commons on February 20, 1947:

His Majesty's Government desire to hand over their responsibility to authorities established by a Constitution approved by all parties in India in accordance with the Cabinet Mission's plan, but unfortunately there is at present no clear prospect that such a Constitution and such authorities will emerge. The present state of uncertainty is fraught with danger and cannot be indefinitely prolonged. His Majesty's Government wish to make it clear that it is their definite intention to take the necessary steps to effect the transference of power into responsible Indian hands by a date not later than June 1948…if it should appear that such a Constitution will not have been worked out by a fully representative Assembly before the time mentioned, His Majesty's Government will have to consider to whom the powers of the Central Government in British India should be handed over, on the due date, whether as a whole to some form of Central Government for British India or in some areas to the existing Provincial Governments, or in such other way seem most reasonable and in the best interests of the Indian people.

In regard to the Indian States, as was explicitly stated by the Cabinet Mission, His Majesty's Government do not intend to hand over their powers and obligation under paramountcy to any government of British India. It is not intended to bring paramountcy, as a system, to a conclusion earlier than the date of the final transfer of power, but it is contemplated that for the intervening period the relations of the Crown with individual States may be adjusted by agreement.

It was announced at the same time that Rear-Admiral the Visount Mountbatten would succeed Lord Wavell as the Viceroy in March. Lord and Lady Mountbatten landed at Delhi on March 22, 1947 and he took over as the Viceroy two days later. He could very well have represented to the British Government that both the Congress and the Muslim League had already asked for the partition of India into Muslim-majority and non-Muslim majority areas and sought their permission to embark upon the process of partition straightaway. But he chose to follow the policy that first the attempt to transfer power in accordance with the Cabinet Mission plan must continue. It is to that end, therefore, that he first directed his endeavors.

Mountbatten's relations with the Congress party had a flying start. The foundation of Nehru's friendship with Lord and Lady Mountbatten had been laid in March 1946 when the Indian leader visited Singapore. The political conditions in India too had changed in favor of the Congress. In post-independence India the Congress party was expected to rule the country. Consequently, it was the Congress's friendship that had now to be cultivated. The fact that Mountbatten personally was bitterly opposed to partition, made it much easier for him to court the Congress leaders.

All these factors greatly increased the already formidable odds facing the Quaid-i-Azam in his fight for Pakistan. In his meetings with Mountbatten, he refused to budge from the position that Pakistan was the only solution acceptable to the Muslim League.

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