Anglo-French Conflicts in South India!
The political ambition arising out of the weakness of the Indian rulers inspired the Europeans to dream of building their empires in India.
French first thought of an Empire in India. Dupleix accelerated the process and entered boldly into Indian politics. The Englishmen were also ready for a political role like the French and therefore when Dupleix entered into the field with sword in hand the English opposed him equally with sharper sword.
The Anglo French conflict began to occupy the political scene of Southern India.
In the year 1740 there broke out conflict between France and England in Europe over the question of Austrian succession as to who should sit on the throne of Austria. It was a major conflict famous as the War of Austrian succession involving bigger powers and continued for long eight years. The echo of the war was heard on the sea shores of Southern India.
On the Coromandal coast of the Deccan the English at Madras and the French at Pondicherry looked at each other with suspicious eyes when the news of the European war reached India. They came to arms on the sea coast.
This conflict appeared as a golden opportunity for Dupleix to satisfy his ambitions in India. Dupleix proceeded with his army to destroy the English fort at Madras. On the other hand the English was ready for resistance. The war broke out famous as the First Anglo-French War or the First Cornatic War. Dupleix attempted to conquer Madras and directed La Bourdonnais the French Admiral to attack Madras from the sea and to capture Madras Fort. The English at Fort St. George failed to show much of their strength and that made Dupleix more daring.
He made all the English inside the fort captive and kept Madras under his control. The Nawab of Carnatic was Anwar-ud-din. As both Madras and Pondicherry were situated in his territory he became the master of both the English and the French. When he saw the foreigners fighting in his territory without his permission he became angry. Dupleix being a great diplomat pretended that after capturing Madras he would hand-over the place to the Nawab. When that idea was not going to be materialized the Nawab therefore decided to teach Dupleix a lesson.
The Nawab with 10,000 soldiers proceeded to punish Dupleix. Dupleix came forward to challenge the Nawab’s army only with S00 soldiers and this battle was fought within a short distance from Madras. As the French canons began to roar the Nawab’s army fled away and the French tasted the victory which came so easily. From the military point of view it was a small battle but it was very significant from the historical point of view.
It proved the potentiality of the western Military system of warfare. In the direct manner that battle revealed a much deeper political reality. It also carried significance for the immediate future. After the French Victory the Indian princes became very anxious to get the foreign military support to fight against their enemies. They thought it necessary to use the European Soldiers on their sepoys for better result. Such was the result of the French victory under the command of Dupleix.
The war in Europe came to an end in 1748 after the signing of the treaty at a place Aix-La-Chapelle between the European powers. According to the provisions of the treaty war in India was brought to an end and Madras was returned to the English East India Company.
Dupleix felt disappointed and the loss of Madras was a blow to his ambition. But yet he did not give up hope to drive out the English from India. With that aim in view he immediately entered into the politics of the south. He wanted to get the benefit of the fluid political situation in Hyderabad and Carnatic region.
Disputes were going on at two capitals in the south for the possession of the throne. In 1748 the Nizam of Hyderabad Asaf Jah died. For his empty throne quarrel broke out between his son Nasir Jung and grandson Muzaffar Jang. Dupleix took up the cause of Muzaffar Jang and the English therefore supported Nasir Jang. Similarly at Arcot the capital of Carnatic there started an alarming dispute between the ruling Nawab Anwar-ud-din and another claimant Chanda Sahib.
Dupleix helped Chanda Sahib and thus the English came to the side of Anwar-ud-din. Thus the two European powers took up opposite sides in a contest for throne in Southern India. In the name of their respective candidates they began their war which is famous as the Second Anglo-French War or the Second Carnatic war.
In the first phase of the war success was with the French. The combined army of Dupleix and Chanda Sahib defeated and killed Anwar-ud-din and Chanda Sahib was made the Nawab of Carnatic. Muhammad Ali the son of dead Nawab Anwar-ud-din fled and took shelter inside the fort of Trichinopoly. Chanda Sahib proceeded to capture him and beseiged the fort. The supremacy of Dupleix was established over the Carnatic. It was an insignificant Englishman who changed the course of history.
He was Robert Clive. When the English Company’s hopes were almost lost in the South and everybody was in despair, Clive the outstanding intelligent man saved the situation. He saw that the French soldiers and Chanda Sahib were busy at Trichinopoly to destroy Muhammad Ali where as Chanda Sahib’s capital Arcot remained unprotected, he therefore proposed that the English soldiers should better capture the city of Arcot.
Clive’s proposal appeared sound and others agreed to it. Clive himself took the responsibility to lead the campaign and with courage and confidence he attacked Arcot and captured it. On receiving the news of the fall of Arcot Chanda Sahib sent his army to recover it but the army was defeated by Clive. That made the French soldiers nervous too.
Clive next attacked Trichinopoly and defeated Chanda Sahib and the French. Mahammad Ali was rescued and brought to Arcot and was made the Nawab there in 1752. Chanda Sahib was killed. That became a terrible blow to French prestige. On the other hand the whole Carnatic region and the Nawab remained under the influence of the English. Dupleix was not the man to loose confidence and the war continued. At this critical time the Government of France directed Dupleix to return in 1754. It shattered the hope of Dupleix as much as it shattered the French cause.
At Hyderabad too the diplomacy of Dupleix became successful. Through treachery he got Nasir Jang killed and raised Muzaffar Jang to the throne. When Muzaffar was killed within a short time by some of his enemies Dupleix placed Salabat Jang over the throne. To protect him General Bussy was placed at Hyderabad with a French army. But this success in Hyderabad was equally failed in the Carnatic front by Clive. Dupleix’s fall became Clive’s opportunity. More ambitiously he looked over a wider horizon. The time was also opportune for him.
In 1756 there broke out a bigger war in Europe famous in history as the Seven Years War. Once again England and France appeared in opposite sides to fight as enemies. As a echo of the war the French and the English took up arms and fought. That war is famous as the Third Anglo-French War or Third Carnatic War. That war was not confined only to the South India but spread to other parts of the country.
The result was primarily decided on the Soil of Bengal. There was no competent leader after Dupleix in the French camp and the English Company had the opportunity to get Clive to guide the destiny. His uncommon leadership paved the way for the greatness of his countrymen as an empire builder in the East.
In 1757 the English captured the French territory Chandarnagore in Bengal. In that year Clive defeated Siraj-ud-daula, the Nawab of Bengal Bihar and Orissa in the battlefield of Plassey and laid the foundation stone of the British Empire in India. For a little longer however the French and the English continued to fight in the south. Count Lally the French general fought with English from Pondicherry.
The Nizam of Hyderabad was fighting in the side of the French and the French general Bussy was in the capital of the Nizam with his army to protect the Nizam. All-in-a-sudden Count Lally recalled Bussy from Hyderabad and the influence of the French on the Nizam came to close for all times to come. Lally was brave but lacked efficiency. At last in 1760 Lally was badly defeated in the battle-field of Wandiwash by the English general Eyre Coot. That brought the decline of the French influence and hope in India.
The French East India Company never rose again as a political force against English East India Company. The Seven Years War came to an end in 1763 in Europe. With that closed the Third Anglo-French conflict or the Third Carnatic War in India. The French retained a few such places as Pondicherry as their centres of trade and their political role did not revive. With the fall of the French the whole of India turned to be a political play ground for the British. They began to build their British Empire.
It was Dupleix who began the real political venture in India. Similarly it was Clive who brought the density for the English. The history of the French and the English in India would be incomplete without having a study on the personalities of those gifted sons of two European nations.