Today, we will try to discuss what is the Policy of Ring Fence policy.
The relations of the British with Indian states underwent changes at different times because these were based purely on grounds of expediency.
The British never lost sight of their Imperial interests. Therefore, their relations with native states were governed by their interests which varied at different times. Besides, the attitudes of British officials and Residents at the courts of native rulers, the personalities of different governors-general and the assertion of the British as the paramount power since the days of Lord Wellesley also determined the relations of the British with the native states.
William Lee Warner in his book The Native States of India categorized the policy of the British with native states up to 1919 into following three periods:
1. Policy of Ring Fence, 1765-1813.
2. Policy of Subordinate Isolation, 1813-1858.
3. Policy of Subordinate Union, 1858-1919.
Policy of Ring Fence, 1765-1813
During this period, the British treated native states as independent states. By that time, the British had not become the supreme power of India. Therefore, they could not interfere everywhere nor could claim complete sovereignty over those native rulers who became their allies. The wars against Mysore and the treaty with the Hindu king after the fourth Mysore War, the first and the second Maratha War, the treaties with Avadh and Hyderabad and the treaty of Amritsar with Ranjit Singh were made during this period.
The wars and the subsidiary treaties of Wellesley with different rulers, of course, made the British supreme power in India while their allies became dependent rulers. Yet, while assessing their relations with native rulers, two following things are clearly visible:
(a) Except the treaty with the Hindu king of Mysore, all treaties with other native rulers were made on an equal and reciprocal. i.e., give-and-take basis. The British made no claim of suzerainty while entering into treaty with them.
(b) Every treaty made it specifically clear that the native ruler with whom it was made, would be entirely free in managing the internal affairs of his state.
By this time, therefore, even Wellesley, who desired and largely succeeded in making the British the supreme power in India, did not claim complete sovereignty and the right to interfere in the internal affairs of the allied rulers. The British desired to extend their territory and safeguard it. Therefore, in the beginning they kept the states of their allied rulers as buffer states between their territory and the territory of an enemy ruler and, later on, they attempted to manage their foreign policies according to their desires with a view to checking their combination against them. They succeeded in both their attempts which helped in extending and consolidating their empire in India. Thus, during this period the British largely treated native rulers as independent.
Source used : NCERT, Tamil Nadu Board, IGNOU Modern History, NIOS textbooks. Wikipedia notes for UPSC exam.
Tags : PDF for UPSC exam short notes on Lord Curzon administrative policies/measures.