The Cabinet Mission Plan

The Cabinet Mission Plan (History)

Article Upload Date: 2018,Jan 27

The last attempt by the British to keep the subcontinent together as a federation was the cabinet mission delegation. In March 1946, the British government sent three senior cabinet ministers to India to try and negotiate a settlement acceptable to all parties.

Title Description
Type: Pre-Partition History
In English: Cabinet Mission Plan
In Urdu: کیبنٹ مشن پلان
Location: British India
Proposed By: British Government
Drafted By: Sir Stafford Cripps, Mr. A.V Alexander and Lord Pet hick Lawrence
Task: The cabinet mission had the unenviable task of trying to reconcile the different views of the Congress and Muslim League.
Appreciated By: Muslim League to some extent
Disregarded By: Congress
Presented in : March,1946
Presented At: Meetings with Muslims League and Congress
Important events: All-India Commission, Division of sub continent, Nehru's Statement

Members and purpose

The cabinet delegation was led by Sir Stafford Cripps, Mr. A.V Alexander and Lord Pet hick Lawrence. The delegation was sent with the instruction to try to resolve the issues of princely states and communities. The cabinet mission had the unenviable task of trying to reconcile the different views of the Congress and Muslim League.

Cabinet Proposals

Sir Stefford Cripps

Sir Stefford Cripps

After many discussions, the Cabinet Mission met the Quaid-i Azam and informed him that in their view there were only two possible options to his demand for Pakistan
  1. One was that Sindh, the North West Frontier, Baluchistan, West Punjab and East Bengal could be agreed upon as a separate state. Jinnah rejected the idea of partitioning the provinces of Punjab and Bengal as it would leave them 'moth-eaten' and economically handy-capped. He was especially adamant that East Bengal without Calcutta would be a 'man without lungs'.
  2. The other Cabinet Mission proposal was that if the League agreed to a loose federation with subjects like defense, foreign affairs and communications centrally decided, then the whole of Punjab and Bengal could be added to Pakistan. Jinnah said that he could not accept the second proposal either as it still meant Hindu Control at the center.

Proposal of Interim Government

After weeks of further discussions and meetings, the Cabinet Mission delegation eventually realized that the Congress and the Muslim League were fundamentally and implacably opposed to each other’s proposals. The Muslims League wanted the state of Pakistan to be granted first. Only then was Jinnah willing to discuss an amicable arrangement with the Congress party on various matters such as defense. The Congress wanted a central authority from which certain areas of administration could be given to the provinces.

All-India Commission

Lord Pethick Lawrence

Lord Pethick Lawrence

Eventually, the Cabinet Mission thought the best way forward was to try a completely new line of approach. They proposed that a new interim government should be formed which should be entrusted with the task of setting up an All India Commission from the Provincial and Legislatures. This commission was to decide whether there should be one or two separate states after the British left India. If that Commission failed to reach a decision, representatives of Muslims majority areas would be given a vote to decide the issue. This scheme was turned down by both the Congress and Muslims league. 

Division of sub-continent

A,V Alexander

A,V Alexander

Eventually, in May 1946, the Cabinet Mission announced their final conclusions and stared that it was up to the major parties to accept or reject the plan. The Cabinet Mission felt that a fully independent Pakistan was not a viable option at this stage. So they suggested that sub-continent be divided up into three parts:
  1. Section A would be the Hindu majority provinces
  2. Section B would be the western Muslim provinces
  3. Section C would be Bengal and Assam
The plan was that these sections would have a great deal of local autonomy and could frame their own constitutions. However, they suggested that a central Indian Union should deal with foreign affairs, defense and communications. 

Congress deviated

The Congress party seized upon the Cabinet Mission statement that this outline was only their recommendation and so was open to discussion and change. Both the British and Muslims league agreed that this indicated that Congress was only interested in trying to get power as soon as possible so they could deal with the Muslim league and princely states themselves.  Although the Muslims League was unhappy with the Cabinet Mission not agreeing to an independent Pakistan, Jinnah said that he was willing to nominate Muslim League members to serve in the interim government needed to oversee the transition to independence.

Nehrus Statement

Abul Kalam Azad

Abul Kalam Azad

In July 1946 , Nehru stated that the Congress party would not feel bound by the terms of Cabinet Mission Plan once the British had left and that any future independent Indian government would not be bound by it. This statement destroyed any chance that the Cabinet Mission Plan had of ever being accepted by the Muslims League. Even Azad ,a senior Muslim Congress leader felt that Nehru’s statement was ‘ one of those unfortunate events that change the course of history’.   [1] cabinet mission  

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