By Nayyar Niaz Khan
Part I, Concept of a Nation State and Indian Princely States:
The nation states developed not long ago in the known political history. Prior to the 1500 in Europe, the nation-state as we know, did not exist. If anything, people were more likely to recognize themselves with their constituency or local lord. At the same time, the rulers of states normally had slight rheostat over their countries. Instead, local feudal lords had a great deal of power, and kings often had to be contingent on the goodwill of their dependents to rule. Laws and their practices freckled differently in different parts of a country. After the Treaty of Westphalia the concept of nation states emerged on the global political scene. After the birth of nation states monarchs encouraged their subjects to be loyal towards their nation. It took almost two centuries after the Treaty of Westphalia to establish the integrated nation states in Europe.
This was not all true with regards to princely states of India (562 as most historian agreed on this number). Princely states of India were merely subordinate units of British India but some of them enjoyed greater internal autonomy as compared to others because of the size of the area and other factors. To call them sovereign states per Westphalia Treaty is politically incorrect because if that was the case there would have been 562 nation states in the greater sub-continent.
Hasan Ahmed in an academic paper notes with references and citations that princely states were internally autonomous entities of India during the British Raj, which were not under direct rule of British but rather ruled by their local ruler which was subject to the subsidiary alliance agreement between princes and British paramountcy. Malleson, G. B. in his book “ Historical Sketch of the Native States of India in Subsidiary Alliance with the British Government, Published by Longmans in1875 writes that “ The Indian princely states were not fully sovereign, but remained under the British Raj. Their sovereignty was mainly affected by the acceptance of subsidiary alliance and the suzerainty or paramountcy of the British Crown.
In other words Princely States enjoyed the internal autonomy instead of the sovereignty and the autocratic rulers were the masters of their states answerable to East India Company and later the British Raj. This mechanism was introduced by the Viceroy Lord Wellesley. According to the agreement between the rulers of the Princely States and British Colonial government in India Princely States were barred from maintaining troops in their states and had to allow British troops in their states known as Imperial Service Troops, had to allow a British Resident in their states, they were not allowed to enter into agreements with any other power nor could they declare war on any other state without approval from British Indian government. (Malleson 1875). Malleson further notes that “the rulers of the princely states had to acknowledge East India Company as a paramount power in India, if they failed to pay British troop maintenance fee a part of their territory would be acquired by British as a penalty and in return they were guaranteed protection from internal disorders and external dangers”
Continue reading Status of Princely States, Treaty of Amritsar: Myths and Realities