The impact of the British policy on the institutional system of the khanate of Kalat (North-West India, 1870-1914)

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The spreading of British influence into the tribal proto-state of Kalat (eastern Baluchistan) provides an insightful example of the overlapping political and administrative logics that supported imperial expansion in late XIX/early XX century India. British relations with Kalat date back to the time of first Afghan war; they fell into abeyance in early 1840s, and were revived at the beginning of 1870s, due to increasing local and international instability. In 1876, the treaty of Jacobabad between Lord Lytton and Mir Khodadad Khan formalized rights and duties of the parties, but it did not provide a firm ground for understanding. Since that time, the Raj official attitude towards its troublesome neighbour sharply fluctuated between involvement and disengagement. In any case, British posture deeply affected, on one hand, the unstable balance of power existing between the khan and his local chiefs (sardars), on the other the same nature of Kalat’s institutional structure. Since the establishment of the Baluchistan Agency (1877-79), its authorities actively promoted the adoption – both within and outside the khanate – of a ‘federal’ image of the Kalat state, based on a largely artificial (re)interpretation of the so-called ‘Brahoi constitution’, the set of informal rules that regulated the power intercourses within the country. In its turn, this strategy strengthened the polarization of the khanate’s political life, increased British involvement in its dynamics, and fostered the centrifugal tensions that traditionally affected its most peripheral areas. At the beginning of the XX century, ‘tribal’ uprisings dotted not only Makran or the semi-independent Nawsherwani chiefdom of Kharan; rather, they extended to core areas of the Brahoi power, such as Jahlawan and Sarawan, despite the efforts to involve their sardars in the management of the state’s machinery. The modernization of Kalat’s administration through the development of an embryo of ‘limited monarchy’ proved equally ineffective. Far from stabilizing the country and making it more amenable to political control, the efforts of the British authorities to reshape the ‘feudal’ khanate into a new ‘federal’ structure, fostered, in the long run, its political weakness, and promoted a radicalization of the rivalry existing between local and central leaderships.
Lingua originaleEnglish
Titolo della pubblicazione ospiteEmpires and Nations from the Eighteenth to the Twentieth Century, Vol. II
EditorAntonello Biagini, Giovanna Motta
Numero di pagine9
Stato di pubblicazionePubblicato - 2014


  • British Policy
  • Institutional Development
  • Khanate of Kalat


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