Discuss the problems that impeded the integration of the princely states into the Indian Union. How were these problems tackled? (15 Marks)

Mentors Comment:

  • The question has two parts and they are crystal clear in their demands. First, you have to discuss what were the challenges that Indian leadership faced while integrating these princely states into the Union of India. Secondly what were the mechanisms and steps used to overcome this challenge.
  • In the intro, discuss the role of princely states in British India. 
  • Then come to the first part of the question and discuss what were the challenges in integrating these states. Religion of rulers and common people, political nature of these states, nonclarity from the British while framing rules for these states during independence, sense of independence for the rulers, interference of Pakistan, challenges of Junagadh, Kashmir and Hyderabad will form the key arguments of this part.
  • Then discuss how Sardar Patel and other leaders moved forward to tackle these challenges. Persuasion, patriotism, tactical diplomacy and force was used to get these states with independent India.
  • Towards the end, show how all these steps helped to form a unified India with distinct political identity which has held its own even after 73 years of independence. 



While the British were leaving India after almost 200 years of ruling, Indian leadership had a large task in their hands: Uniting and Integrating a large of India into a single political unit. This problem was tremendous while dealing with the Princely States. Though a major part of British India was ruled by the British directly still there were many princely states who were ruled by the British indirectly. With the partition of India and Pakistan, India still had more than 500 smaller princely states which were not part of the two nations.

The problem in front of Indian leaders was twofold.

  • Of transforming the states into viable administrative units;
  • Of absorbing them into the constitutional units.

Challenges with Princely States were:

  • During the time of proclamation of India’s independence, Britain took a stand that princely states can either join India or Pakistan or they can remain independent. 
  • This clause created much confusion. 
  • For the rulers of princely states, they cannot even imagine ceding their power under the Indian constituent Assembly. 
  • These states followed different administrative methods; some were aristocratic, strong differences between the states themselves, people with different opinions, mindsets, and culture to name a few reasons. 
  • Princely states started demanding independence after lapse of British paramountcy. 
  • It was argued that after British withdrawal the situation in the Princely states would turn into lawlessness and anarchy and it is important to be associated with a center of power to handle the situation. 
  • The emergence of hundreds of independent states would make the struggle of Indian independence futile. 
  • Therefore integration of princely states became a major agenda for Indian leaders.
  • Eventually, rulers of all the 652 states with exception of Junagarh, Kashmir and Hyderabad had signed the Instrument of Accession by 15 August, 1947. 
  • Junagadh Nawab wanted to join Pakistan but his people wanted to join Indian dominion.
  • Hyderabad wanted a sovereign status. 
  • Kashmir had a Hindu prince and a Muslim majority population. The prince envisaged a sovereign status for the state and was reluctant to accede to either India or Pakistan.
  • The 3 major issues that impeded the integration process were, firstly their demand for independence, secondly the demand to integrate with Pakistan and finally the problems of administrative integration after political integration.
  • Also, Pakistan was influencing the decisions of these states by offering financial as well as political tools to these states if they acceded in Pakistan. This was a headache for Indian leadership.

How these challenges were overcome:

  • To ensure that princely states did not succeed in their bid for independence, Viceroy Lord Mountbatten and Congress leaders initiated deliberations with the rulers. 
  • Sardar Patel, chief architect of creating the Union of India, appealed to the patriotic feeling of rulers to join the Indian dominion in matters of defense, communication and external affairs. 
  • An Instrument of Accession (IoA) was drafted according to which the rulers agreed to transfer the control of Defence, External Affairs and Communication. 
  • Various states had joined the Indian Union but others remained precariously outside. 
  • In the case of Hyderabad force was used, in Junagadh plebiscite was conducted and the Maharaja of J&K signed IoA after threat of attack from Pakistan.
  • Accession itself did not mean integration. After British withdrawal, popular protest grew in the princely states under the States Peoples Congress demanding full democratic representation. 
  • Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel used this opportunity to negotiate for full integration into India and in exchange, he offered to the rulers a tax-free privy purses guaranteed under the Constitution, the right to retain their titles and their property and palaces.
  • In two years from independence full integration was achieved. Apart from the diplomatic tactics of Congress leaders, it was the popular protest and demands that drove the integration process.

Overall with skillful diplomacy, persuasion and timely use of force, India was able to integrate all the princely states in its territory to integrate with India within a few years of Independence. India was able to use better mechanisms through democratic centralized credentials of the Indian state for better integration of states thereby bringing in a sense of unity among various states which is ever strong after all these years since independence.

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