Subordinate alliance

Wellesley’s policy of subsidiary alliance was an extension of ring fence—which sought to reduce states to a position of dependence on British Government in India. According to this system, every ruler in India had to accept to pay a subsidy to the British for the maintenance of British army. In return, British would protect them from their enemies which gave British enormous expansion.

French used to provide their troops for the rent purpose to the native Indian state. Dupleix was the first who lend European troops to the Indian state. Later it was adopted at a large scale by Lord Wellesley who started it to make sure that no state in India

Key features of Subsidiary Alliance

  • The allies of Indian state’s ruler were compelled to accept the permanent garrison of British Army within their territories and to pay a subsidy for its maintenance.
  • An Indian ruler entering into Subsidiary Alliance with the British had to dissolve his own armed forces.
  • He also had to pay for the British army’s maintenance.
  • In return, the British would protect the Indian state against any foreign attack or internal revolt.
  • The British promised non-interference in internal affairs of the Indian state but this was rarely kept.
  • The Indian state could not enter into any alliance with any other foreign power.
  • He could also not employ any other foreign nationals other than Englishmen in his service. And, if he were employing any, on the signing of the alliance, he had to terminate them from his service. The idea was to curb the influence of the French.
  • The Indian state could also not enter into any political connection with another Indian state without British approval.
  • The Indian ruler, thus, lost all powers in respect of foreign affairs and the military.
  • He virtually lost all his independence and became a British ‘protectorate’.
  • A British Resident was also stationed in the Indian Court.

Impact of policy and British Expansion

  • If a ruler failed to make the payment, a portion of his territory would be taken away and ceded to the British in the name of maintaining the troops.
    • This was the outcome in most cases, as rulers fell into arrears and a part of their territory was taken.
  • The subsidiary system was the Trojan horse tactics in empire building. It disarmed the Indian states and threw British protectorate over them.
  • The Governor General had proxy in every Indian state that accepted the subsidiary alliance.
    • Thus, it deprived the Indian princes of forming any confederacy against British.
  • It enabled the company to maintain a large standing army at the expense of Indian princes.
  • According to the Wellesley himself, “by the establishment of our subsidiary forces at Hyderabad and Poona, an efficient army of 22000 men are stationed within the territories or on the frontier of foreign states, and is paid by foreign subsidies. That army is constantly maintained in a state of perfect equipment, and is prepared for active service in any direction at the shortest notice” without any considerable increase to the permanent military expenses of the Government of India.”
  • The stationing of the company’s troops in the capitals of the Indian princes gave the English the control of the strategic and key positions in India without arousing the jealousy of other European nations.
  • The subsidiary system helped the company to effectively counteract any possible French moves in India. The company required the subsidiary ally to dismiss all Frenchmen from his service.
  • The British residents wielded considerable influence in the affairs of the Indian states. This placed great patronage into the hands of company’s authorities in India.
  • The Company acquired territories in full sovereignty from Indian statesand expanded their dominions in India
  • So, we can say that on one hand Subsidiary alliance helped company to reduce the threat of Napoleon/Frenchand on the other hand company could maintain a large army on the expenses of Indian states.

The native states, they virtually ceased to exist from the moment they became subsidiary to or protected by the Company. The conditions under which they were allowed to retain their apparent independence were at the same time, the conditions of permanent decay, and of an utter inability of improvement.