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5. The standing dictum, and how it was thwarted
The word colonialism might look quite euro-centric in current-day history writings. However, the fact was that in South Asia, the local kings and other small-time rulers saw the arrival of the Continental European traders as the arrival on their coast of some kind of mercenary soldiery and such, who were available for peanut (actually pepper) worth of compensation, so to say.
Ordinary merchants, traders &c. were and are actually seen, mentioned and defined as low-class people by the ruling classes and the officialdom in South Asia and in current-day India.
The Portuguese, the Dutch, the Italians and the French were seen as usable and, if required disposable, commodities of warfare. Actually Sultan Tipu of Mysore did have or did make use of European soldiers. This soldiery consisted mainly of French and Italian soldiers. This information is what I gather from Malabar Manual. In fact, Tipu’s one famous military commander was Lally. I think this Lally is what is seen mentioned as: Thomas Arthur, comte de Lally.
If what is seen written about Thomas Arthur, comte de Lally in Wikipedia is true, then the stay-at-home French understanding of the state-of-affairs in South Asia (or what they saw as ‘India’) was quite unintelligent and foolish.
South-Asia was not a place of foolish populations living in utter desultory situations. Instead it was a location where different ethnic groups forcefully held more capable ethnic groups in a state of suppression by means of certain non-tangible shackles. It was known to each layer in the social system that the layers below them, if let loose would trounce them and crush them down using the same non-tangible hammers.
This is one information which the native-English nations never got to understand. It is tragic in what it portends.
In Malabar Manual, there is a solitary mention of an English officer working for Sultan Tipu. Nothing more is there about this.
The Travancore kingdom had a Flemish military officer working for them, Eustachius De Lannoy. He appeared on the Travancore Coast as a Dutch military officer. On his being captured by the Travancore forces, King Marthanda Varma of Travancore offered him a military commandership. He lived in Travancore and went on to create a soldiery based on Continental European military systems.
If certain Continental European nations did feel that they could fish in troubled waters in South Asia, it was a very foolish idea. In fact, none of these Continental European nations could create or rule or possess any big area in South Asia. Goa, Mahe, Pondicherry &c. are all very small locations.
Actually, the English East India Company ruled British-India could have overrun any one of them or even all of them with the briefest of efforts. But, the Company rule had no such aim.
The aims of the English East India Company were different. It is true that it took some time and effort for this company to be set up in South Asia. That is a different story. I need not go into that.
The aim of the Company was trade, and that too honest trade. There is evidence that in trade also they were quite fair in their dealings. The understanding that the other side in the trade deal should also prosper was always there.
That the English Company was seen as different can be seen from the words of King Marthanda Varma of Travancore, who on his deathbed gave this advice to his heir in line to the throne:
Marthanda Varma’s words: “That, above all, the friendship existing between the English East India Company and Travancore should be maintained at any risk, and that full confidence should always be placed in the support and aid of that honourable association.” END OF QUOTE.
How the French were seen can be seen from this QUOTE:
In the next year the Rajah of Travancore wrote to the King of Colastria ‘advising him not to put any confidence in the French, but to assist the English as much as he could’. END OF QUOTE.
There is the question of why the English were different and how the English unwittingly got involved in the internecine fights between the local rulers. There was always a standing dictum inside the Company: ‘not to allow the Company to be dragged in as principals in any of the country quarrels...’.
King Marthanda Varma could thwart that. The Company came to the rescue of his tiny kingdom, and got involved neck-deep.