Mountbatten and the Transfer of Power

On the 50th anniversary of Indian independence, Alan Johnson reassesses Mountbatten's role in the process of partition, and his legacy.

While from the outset Mountbatten had insisted on a strict time limit of fifteen months within which to complete his task as being the necessary stimulant for achieving any settlement, no one had seriously anticipated such a speedy transformation scene, and there was widespread acclamation for Mountbatten's energy and skill in directing and producing it. Lord Samuel, the Liberal philosopher statesman who tended to choose his words carefully, spoke of the Parliamentary Bill to ratify Indian independence as 'A moral to all future generations – a Treaty of Peace Without a War'; while Lord Listowel, Britain's last Secretary of State for India, and himself a student of history, described the event as one of the turning points of the twentieth century. When ten years later, Harold Macmillan drew attention to the 'Wind of Change' affecting Africa, it was natural to assume that it was blowing in from the Indian Ocean.

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