The Reign of Queen Elizabeth II Saw the Sun Set on the British Empire
Queen Elizabeth II (1926-2022) died this week. The sun set on the British Empire during her reign that began in 1952. The dismantling of the empire had already started with the independence of India and Pakistan in 1947 before she ascended to the throne. It continued in the 1950s and 60s with dozens of nations in Asia and Africa declaring their independence. British colonialism was soon replaced by western neocolonialism led by the United States. Black and brown people continue to suffer from the scourge of racism in a world dominated by white Europeans. Corrupt ruling elites with colonized minds ensure that true decolonization does not occur in the former British colonies. They treat their own people with the same disdain as did their former colonial bosses. The struggle for true independence continues.
|Haq Family With British Royal Family at Madame Tussauds in London|
When the British arrived in Mughal India, the country's share of the world GDP was 25%, about the same as the US share of the world GDP today. By 1947, the undivided India's share of world GDP ($4 trillion in 1990 Geary-Khamis dollars) had shrunk to about 6% (India: $216 billion, Pakistan: $24 billion). As of 2010, South Asia's contribution to world GDP further shrank to about 4%, according to British Economist Angus Maddison.
Divide and Rule Policy:
Colonial-era British historians deliberately distorted the history of Indian Muslim rule to vilify Muslim rulers as part of the British policy to divide and conquer India, says American history professor Audrey Truschke, in her book "Aurangzeb: The Life and Legacy of India's Most Controversial King". These misrepresentations of Muslim rule made during the British Raj appear to have been accepted as fact not just by Islamophobic Hindu Nationalists but also by at least some of the secular Hindus in India and Muslim intellectuals in present day Pakistan, says the author. Aurangzeb was neither a saint nor a villain; he was a man of his time who should be judged by the norms of his times and compared with his contemporaries, the author adds. Hindutva today is among the worst legacies of the British Raj.
Legacy of Major Conflicts:
Kashmir today is seen as a major flashpoint for a nuclear war between India and Pakistan. The rise of Hindutva, also a legacy of the British Raj, has increased the risk of such a devastating conflict. Vast majority of Indians, including those who oppose Prime Minister Narendra Modi, believe that nuclear war is "winnable", according to the results of a Stimson Center poll released recently. They want their country to build a bigger nuclear arsenal than China and Pakistan combined. Responding to the clamor for more nukes, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in 2019 that Indian nuclear weapons were not kept as mere showpieces.
Pakistan achieved independence from British colonial rule 75 years ago. However, the minds of most of Pakistan's elites remain colonized to this day. This seems to be particularly true of the nation's western-educated "liberals" who dominate much of the intellectual discourse in the country. They continue to look at their fellow countrymen through the eyes of the Orientalists who served as tools for western colonization of Asia, Middle East and Africa. The work of these "native" Orientalists available in their books, op ed columns and other publications reflects their utter contempt for Pakistan and Pakistanis. Their colonized minds uncritically accept all things western. They often seem to think that the Pakistanis can do nothing right while the West can do no wrong. Far from being constructive, these colonized minds promote lack of confidence in the ability of their fellow "natives" to solve their own problems and contribute to hopelessness. The way out of it is to encourage more inquiry based learning and critical thinking.
Queen Elizabeth's passing represents the end of an era that saw the sun set on the British Empire. Among the legacies of the British rule are racism and slavery that continue to be manifested in the new era of western neocolonialism. Major conflicts created by colonial powers in South Asia and the Middle East continue to threaten world peace. Former colonies continue to be ruled by corrupt elites with colonized minds who treat their own people with utter contempt. Their struggle for true independence continues.
Here's an interesting discussion of the legacy of the British Raj in India as seen by writer-diplomat Shashi Tharoor:
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