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'"In the Mutual Interest": The Making and Breaking of the United Kingdom-Ceylon Defence Agreement, 1947-1957'

Barnes, Robert ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5064-7839 (2022) '"In the Mutual Interest": The Making and Breaking of the United Kingdom-Ceylon Defence Agreement, 1947-1957'. Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History.

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Abstract

Historians have lavished enormous attention on British decolonisation but Britain’s post-imperial military relationships with its former colonies have too often been overlooked. The 1947 United Kingdom-Ceylon Defence Agreement established as a condition of the island’s independence was the first such military arrangement. Crucially, this agreement was vaguely conceived to serve ‘in the mutual interest’ of both states. Yet this article demonstrates that negotiations to implement the United Kingdom-Ceylon Defence Agreement produced deep rifts between London and Colombo. Both Labour and Conservative governments viewed Ceylon as vital to the defence of the Empire-Commonwealth in the Cold War due to its geostrategic position. Britain thus had to retain access to its bases on the island. Still, Britain’s financial constraints and global military commitments forced London to press Ceylon to contribute more to Commonwealth defence. In contrast, Ceylon’s first three prime ministers desired a British military presence to provide a cheap deterrent to an apparently imminent Indian invasion. Nevertheless, Colombo also sought to dispel claims the Defence Agreement derogated Ceylon’s sovereignty. By 1956, therefore, the election of a Sinhalese nationalist government in Ceylon and Britain’s Suez fiasco confirmed the Defence Agreement no longer served ‘in the mutual interest’ and it was swiftly terminated.

Item Type: Article
Status: Published
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/03086534.2022.2084932
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain > DA566 20th century
D History General and Old World > DS Asia
School/Department: School of Humanities
URI: http://ray.yorksj.ac.uk/id/eprint/5875

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