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The Indian proposal   


In 1942, the British government accepted that an independent India could secede from the Commonwealth. Burma did so in 1947, as Ireland did in 1948, first securing a treaty with Britain that confirmed the special relationship between them. In 1947, when India became independent, she indicated she wished to become a republic but to stay within the commonwealth.

It had long been clear — at least to those with vision —that independence would in due course be granted to the other colonies in Asia, Africa, and the West Indies. For there was no reason why other people should not enjoy the same rights that for example, Australians and Europeans enjoyed. The imperial authorities had already recognised the inherent equality of the races of the Empire.

For instance, in 1856 the British had insisted on a common role of voters — not one based on race — in their colony in South Africa. The Colonial Secretary had declared in 1897 that the imperial tradition made "no distinction in favour of, or against race or colour".

This liberal tradition sometimes ran counter to the views of the white populations in the settled colonies. This was particularly true of Australia, where responsible governments frequently adopted policies in relation to both the indigenous people and to immigration that caused tensions with governors and colonial secretaries. This aspect of our history is often forgotten, perhaps conveniently so.

 

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