Continued Expansion of the British Empire
Even after the settlement of 1818 , some parts of the subcontinentï¿½remained out of British control. These included the Himalayanï¿½states to the north, the valley and hill tracts of Assam to theï¿½east, and a block of territory in the northwest covering theï¿½Indus valley, the Punjab, and Kashmir. To the south Ceylon wasï¿½already occupied by the British, but to the east the kingdom ofï¿½Burma straddled the Irrawaddy River.
The Himalayan states included Nepal ruled by the Gurkhas,ï¿½as well as Bhutan, and Sikkim. Nepal and Bhutan remainedï¿½nominally independent throughout the British period, thoughï¿½both eventually became British protectorates-Nepal in 1815ï¿½and Bhutan in 1866. Sikkim came under British protection inï¿½1890; earlier it had ceded the hill station of Darjeeling to theï¿½British. The British claimed that they were forced to take theï¿½valley and hill tracts of Assam under protection in order to saveï¿½them from attack by Burmese. Beginning in 1836, the Indian teaï¿½plant was cultivated in this region, after the failure of Chineseï¿½imported ones, and thus the foundations of the great Indian teaï¿½industry were laid.
In the early 19th century the Burmese were in an aggressiveï¿½mood, having defeated the Thais (1768) and subjected Arakanï¿½and hill states on either side of the river valleys. Attacks onï¿½British protected territory in 1824 started the First AngloBurmese War (1824-1826), which, though mismanaged, ledï¿½to the British annexation of the coastal strips of Arakan andï¿½Tenasserim in 1826. The Second Anglo-Burmese War (1852)ï¿½was caused by disputes between merchants (trading in rice andï¿½teak timber) and the Rangoon governor. The Governor-General,ï¿½Lord Dalhousie, intervened, annexing the maritime provinceï¿½of Pegu with the port of Rangoon in a campaign-this timeï¿½well-managed and economical. Commercial imperialism wasï¿½the motive for this campaign.
The North Western Region
To the northwest, British India was bounded by the Sikhï¿½kingdom of Ranjit Singh, who added the vale of Kashmir andï¿½Peshawar to his state in 1819. Beyond Punjab the situation wasï¿½confused, with the Afghan monarchy in dissolution and itsï¿½lands parcelled between several chiefs, and Sind, controlled byï¿½a group of emirs, or chiefs. British indifference changed to actionï¿½in the 1830s, owing to the reported advance of Russia in centralï¿½Asia and to that nation’s diplomatic fight with the then Britishï¿½Foreign Secretary Lord Palmerston (who later also served asï¿½Prime Minister) regarding its influence in Turkey. Afghanistanï¿½was seen as a point from which Russia could threaten Britishï¿½India or Britain could embarrass Russia. When Lord Aucklandï¿½was sent as governor-general in 1836, he was tasked with takingï¿½steps to forestall the Russians.
Anglo Afghan War
This situation led to the Afghan adventureï¿½and the First Anglo-Afghan War (1838-1842). The methodï¿½adopted was to restore Shah Shoja, the exiled Afghan king,ï¿½then living in the Punjab, by ousting the ruler of Kabul, Dustï¿½Muhammad. Ranjit Singh cooperated in the enterprise butï¿½cleverly avoided any military commitment, leaving the Britishï¿½to bear the whole burden. The route of invasion lay throughï¿½Sind, because of Sikh occupation of the Punjab.ï¿½The emirs’treaty of 1832 with the British was brushed aside,ï¿½and Sind was forced to pay arrears of tribute to Shah Shoja. Atï¿½first things went well, with victories and the occupation of Kabulï¿½in 1839. But the British found that Shah Shoja was too unpopularï¿½to rule the country independently; the British restoring forceï¿½thus became a foreign occupying army-detested by the libertyloving Afghans-and was regularly engaged in putting downï¿½sporadic tribal revolts. After two years a general revolt in theï¿½autumn of 1841 overwhelmed and virtually annihilated theï¿½retreating British garrison. Meanwhile, the Russian menace inï¿½Eastern Europe had receded.
Under Auckland’s successor, Lord Ellenborough, Kabulï¿½was briefly reoccupied and sacked by means of a convergingï¿½march from Kandahar in the south and Jalalabad in the eastï¿½and a return through the Khyber pass. In this way the Britishï¿½satisfied their honour and glossed over the fact that Afghanistanï¿½had defeated them (as it would vanquish even Russia and theï¿½USA later). Shah Shoja was shortly thereafter murdered. Theï¿½episode demonstrated, at a heavy price in terms of money andï¿½human suffering, both the ease with which Afghanistan couldï¿½be overrun by a regular army and the difficulty of holdingï¿½it. The enterprise, though originally justified as an insuranceï¿½against Russian imperialism, was ultimately itself a species ofï¿½imperialism. Economic difficulties combined with the strengthï¿½of Afghan resistance to put a limit on British expansion in thisï¿½direction.
After the Afghans it was the turn of Sind to face Britishï¿½expansionism. The emirs of Sindh were a group of related chiefsï¿½who had come to power in the late 18 th century and had keptï¿½the country in poverty and stagnation. A treaty with them inï¿½1832 threw the Indus river open to commerce but not to theï¿½passage of armed vessels or military stores; at the same time, theï¿½integrity of Sind was recognised. Thus, Lord Auckland’s marchï¿½through Sind was a clear violation of a treaty signed only sevenï¿½years earlier. The emirs were justifiably also concerned about theï¿½turn of events in Afghanistan and this produced a final breachï¿½with the British.
On charge of the unfriendly and hostile attitude displayedï¿½by the emirs during the First Anglo-Afghan War, Karachi,ï¿½occupied in 1839, was retained by the British. Further demandsï¿½were then made by the British while the moderate resident Jamesï¿½Outram was superseded by the militant general Charles Jamesï¿½Napier to facilitate more aggressive action. The resistance thisï¿½provoked was crushed at the Battle of Miani in 1843. Sind wasï¿½then annexed to the Bombay Presidency; after four years ofï¿½rough-and-ready rule by Napier, its economy was put in someï¿½order by Sir Bartle Frere.
After the takeover of Sindh, Punjab, the single-handed creationï¿½of Ranjit Singh, was the only major state left outside Britishï¿½influence in north India. The Sikh movement in the course ofï¿½the 18 th century had changed from a religious to a politicalï¿½movement and was initially directed mainly against the Mughalï¿½imperial authority. Guru Gobind Singh’s death in the earlyï¿½18th century was followed by a peasant revolt led by Bandaï¿½Bahadur. The Mughal empire faced a very difficult situation toï¿½retain their hold over the province. Banda’s execution in 1715ï¿½gave the Mughals a temporary respite. However even after thisï¿½setback, the Sikhs organised themselves into small and highlyï¿½mobile bands, called jathas and posed a serious challenge to theï¿½Mughal imperial authority.
The attack of Nadir Shah in 1739 made the situationï¿½more difficult for Mughal authority in the Punjab. The attackï¿½and plunder of the province by the Persian invader seriouslyï¿½weakened the imperial authority in the Punjab. The Persianï¿½invasion was followed by a series of Afghan invasions ledï¿½by Ahmad Shah Abdali and this gave a concluding blowï¿½to the Mughal authority in the Punjab. In addition thereï¿½was considerable internal struggle within the provincialï¿½administration which weakened it further.
Written by princy