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The Nehru Memorial Museum & Library


‘Foreign Policy of the Raj: Britain and defence of the Indian Empire 1900-1947’ , 8th December, 2014.

‘Foreign Policy of the Raj:
Britain and defence of the Indian Empire 1900-1947’


Dr. Sneh Mahajan,
Formerly at University of Delhi,


Until 1947, India (known then as ‘India’ or ‘the Indian Empire’) was a colony of Britain and the aim of foreign policy of the Government of India was to serve the interests of Britain. The British Government showed a single- minded determination to defend the Indian Empire and to ensure the security of routes thereto. It did not apprehend danger to its empire from any state in the vicinity of India. But it remained apprehensive about the threat that expansion of Russia, or any other power seemed to pose to the Indian Empire. It took pains to maintain its control or influence over all states along the routes to India. The Foreign Office, the India Office, the War Office, the Committee of Imperial Defence in London and the Government of India systematically sifted and exchanged all information relating to these matters. But ultimately, it was the will of the government at London that prevailed. The expenditure on the entire diplomatic establishment from the Arabian coast to Siam as well as on the army fell on the Indian treasury. This study is based primarily on the records on these issues at the National Archives in New Delhi and London.
Today the entire northern frontier of India forms a conflict zone and has the biggest conventional military buildup. Its roots go back to attempts to define the Aksai Chin frontier in late nineteenth century and to the McMahon Line drawn in 1914. Besides, in the twenty- first century, India has grown from a peripheral player to a key participant at the top level of international diplomacy. In responding effectively to new military and diplomatic challenges, the foreign policy of the Raj provides the key. Any discussion of contemporary Indian foreign policy would make little sense without situating it within the wider framework of Indian history.


Dr. Sneh Mahajan, alumnae of Delhi University and the London School of Economics & Political Science, was Associate Professor at Indraprastha College for Women, University of Delhi. In 1992, she was invited as Academic Visitor to the LSE. In 2011, she became Senior Academic Fellow at the Indian Council of Historical Research. She was elected President of the Indian History Congress (Non-Indian History Section) held at Mumbai in 2012.
She has written extensively on modern Indian and international history. Her book, British Foreign Policy: The Role of India 1874-1914 (Routledge, London/ New York) published in 2002, was reissued in Kindle edition in 2008, Indian edition in 2012 and paperback edition in 2014. Her other publications include British Foreign Policy: The Role of India, 1874-1914 (2002), a Hindi translation of James Joll’s Europe since 1870 (1991/2008), Imperial Strategy and Moderate Politics (1983) and Issues in Twentieth Century World History (2010/2011/2014). She is currently working on a monograph on ‘British India’s Foreign Policy: 1900-1947’.

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