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India's Mineral Wealth and Political Future

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DISCUSSIONS of the future of India usually proceed in political and social terms and often in a vein of prejudice and recrimination. In the course of them it sometimes happens that observers lose sight of fundamental economic realities which are most important for any long-term solution of Indian problems. These material factors are less controversial and deserve far more consideration than they customarily receive. One of them -- the presence under the soil of India of rich mineral deposits which in this industrial age are a primary source of national power and, even more significant, of social well-being -- should be taken into account by all who wish their opinions on the question of India's political future to be soundly based.

India's mineral deposits will determine in considerable measure her place in the world; and the way in which that wealth is distributed will affect the relationship not only of each part of the country to the other parts but also of the country as a whole to the world outside. Moreover, it seems to have been demonstrated by history that any general rise in a country's standard of living affects favorably the relations between the various peoples inhabiting its component parts. As they become better fed and better housed they also become better educated, better informed and more understanding and more tolerant towards each other in spite of racial or religious or other cleavages.

Probably almost every literate person has an opinion on the question of Indian independence. No sensible person not informed at first hand and not compelled by world events to find an immediate answer will propose a categorical solution to the problem of how it might be attained. This article does not pretend to report on many of the major elements involved. Political and religious questions, for example, are to an indefinable extent a matter of personal values, and a comparison of the validity of differing viewpoints founded on such values necessarily lies outside the technical competence of a geologist like the present writer. But although the geologist cannot propose the ideal solution for the cultural and political problems of India, his particular kind of information may be of value in helping to determine which of two specific steps in a difficult transition period might be more practical and helpful -- in a word, the better -- and which one might be the worse.

The bare facts regarding India's mineral resources and the manner of their distribution suggest conclusions as to her economic strength and her capacity for attaining national self-sufficiency. In particular, they suggest conclusions regarding a particular proposal which is highly charged with political and religious feeling -- namely, that India be divided into two separate states, Pakistan and Hindustan, one largely Moslem, the other mainly Hindu.

Any discussion of the question of a division of India must begin with assumptions as to the line of division. It is difficult to say exactly what the boundaries of the proposed Moslem state of Pakistan would be. One has the impression that the rapid growth of the Pakistan movement has surprised the Moslems themselves almost as much as it has startled the Hindus, the British and people abroad. This may be one reason why both objectives and boundaries have been varied and ill-defined.

The idea of Pakistan, an independent Moslem state or federation of states within India, probably was first proposed as recently as 1933. In that year the plan of a Moslem nation, composed of certain present-day Indian states, was advanced by Choudhary Rahmat Ali, a post-graduate student at Emmanuel College, Cambridge. The name Pakistan[i] was devised from the word Pak -- difficult of exact translation into English but meaning "pure," "clean," that which is noble and sacred for a Moslem -- and letters taken from the names of the five Moslem Provinces in the northwest of India: Punjab, North West Frontier, Kashmir, Sind and Baluchistan. A status of nationhood was also claimed for the provinces of Bengal and Assam, in the northeast of India. In the early literature of the movement these two northeastern states were grouped under the name of Bang-i-Islam. The founder of the movement also proposed a third Moslem state, to be known as Usmanistan, comprising chiefly the present Hyderabad in the center of the Indian peninsula. As the movement developed, however, the names Usmanistan and Bang-i-Islam were apparently discarded.

It is a matter of opinion to what degree deficiencies of Hindu Congress leadership, as evidenced under the majority system in the self-governing provinces from 1937 to 1939, may have contributed to the growth of the Moslem desire for a separate state. On this the writer can hazard no comment. It is likewise an open question whether Moslem support of Pakistan is as unanimous as the leaders of the Moslem League assert, and whether, as Congress leaders maintain, it is supported by the British under a policy of "divide and rule." There is no doubt, however, that the Moslem League now stands firmly, indeed apparently intransigently, for the idea of Pakistan, that the League is a major political party in India, that its power is growing, and that its proposal represents a genuine political possibility, recognized as such by the British Government and feared by the Hindus.

Those who favor Pakistan usually propose to divide India on a basis of religions; but even among the Moslems there is still no general agreement on precise boundaries. British India is now divided into more than 450 states, provinces and principalities. Some Moslems propose that the independent Moslem state or federation of states be formed by cutting across all these political boundaries. Thus pictured, Pakistan would be a state with redrawn borders, comprising those areas in northern, northwestern and northeastern India which have predominantly Moslem populations. Other Moslems include only those present states, principalities and federations in each of which the plurality of the population is Moslem. This latter is, of course, the simpler plan, though it implies the inclusion of many "island" populations.

Any attempt to utilize mineral resources as a criterion for judging the proposed division of India must assume that a boundary between Pakistan and Hindustan would be drawn along preëxisting state lines (see accompanying map), for nearly all statistical data are classified by such boundaries. However, for our present purposes the difference is not important; examination of the alternate plans indicates that in general the distribution of mineral resources between Pakistan and Hindustan would not be materially changed under either plan.

Authoritative figures giving the proportions of the various religions and races in the Indian states and agencies are not available. "The Statesman's Yearbook" gives estimates, however, for certain of the British Provinces which might be assigned to Pakistan, that is, in which the Moslems are believed to outnumber any other one religious group. The estimates are as follows: Baluchistan, 405,000 Moslems out of 464,000, or 87 percent (1931); Bengal, 32,560,000 out of about 60,300,000, or 54 percent (1941); North West Frontier, 2,764,000 out of about 3,038,000, or 73 percent (1941); Punjab, 13,322,000 out of 23,580,000, or 57 percent

Map of Afghanistan

(1931); and Sind, 3,208,300 out of 4,535,000, or 71 percent (1931). Two other British Provinces would be included, Assam and Kashmir. In 1931, Assam is reputed to have contained 2,755,914 Moslems as against 4,931,760 Hindus. It will be noted that these figures do not give a plurality of Moslems. The province is nevertheless included in Pakistan because: (1) it is generally regarded by proponents of Pakistan as predominantly Moslem; and (2) the population of the sections not controlled by the British, though not carefully enumerated, is more strongly Mohammedan than Hindu -- perhaps enough to make the region as a whole Mohammedan. The figures for Kashmir vary, but the Moslems are stated to constitute the "bulk" of the population.[ii]

Mohammed Ali Jinnah, the President of the Moslem League, identifies Pakistan as consisting of the seven states named above -- Baluchistan, North West Frontier, Kashmir, Sind and Punjab in the northwest, and Bengal and Assam in the northeast. Their borders represent the boundaries of Pakistan for the purposes of the present survey. As the accompanying map shows, the eastern and western parts of the proposed Moslem state are separated by the peninsula of Hindustan, which along the northern frontier of India is some 700 miles wide.


India, exclusive of Burma, now is or promises soon to be important in world trade as a source of coal and petroleum, iron ore, manganese ore, chrome ore, gold, bauxite, salt, magnesite, mica, gypsum, various gemstones, monazite and certain refractory materials. The location of the chief deposits and mines of most of the foregoing is indicated by appropriate symbols on the accompanying map.

Industrial power in the modern world is based on the trinity of coal, iron and oil. Together, coal and iron are the foundation for industrialism in our present steel age. They are to the development of the machine what oxygen and hydrogen are to the growth of the human body: they must be present in combination. Oil, though also valuable, is far less essential; in times of peace, a state rich in coal can do entirely without oil deposits if exchange in mineral commodities is free. Even if it has no oil, it may convert its coal to liquid fuel, as Germany does. Oil is of little direct value in the making of steel, and cannot as yet be substituted for coal in the steel industry. Coal remains essential.

Both in aggregate value and in distribution the most important single industrial mineral resource in India is coal. The grade varies from low to high, and from lignite to local anthracite. It is found in almost every state, but the best, and by far the greatest amount -- more than 98 percent -- has been and will be taken from the moderately old (Permian) rocks found chiefly in three provinces: Bengal, Bihar and Orissa.

Broadly speaking, the major better-grade coal fields extend in an arc from the great bend in the Ganges (where it crosses the boundary between Bihar and Bengal) westward and slightly south to the western edge of the Central Provinces, and then sweeps back abruptly southeastward to the mouth of the Godavari River in the Madras Presidency. The reader might at this point consult the map again, fixing in his mind the position of the two eastern provinces of Bihar and Orissa. These are provinces in which Hindus vastly predominate (31 million Hindus, as against 4.2 million Moslems in 1931). In any political division of India on religious lines, both provinces would be part of Hindustan. Since they are the repositories of India's greatest mineral wealth, including the highest quality of coal that she possesses, they constitute the most important area from the point of view of present and future industrial development. It will be noticed that both adjoin the Pakistan state of Bengal; and that Bihar lies directly between Bengal and the five Moslem states of Pakistan to the northwest. The geologist would note further that the geological characteristics of Bihar and Bengal are similar; rocks that appear in one province extend in large part into the other. Thus the coal fields of Bengal are an extension of the fields in Orissa and Bihar.

Central India contains several coal fields, of which the Johilla field is probably the largest in extent and value. Estimates of the reserves of this field differ widely, ranging from 30 million tons to about 100 million tons. In either case, it is probably the most important in Central India for the future. The Wardah Valley field is the most extensive in the Central Provinces, containing about one and a half billion tons. Isolated coal fields are also developed in Baluchistan.

But by far the largest fields, containing coal best suited for general and varied use and especially for coking, and at the same time most accessible by rail and sea, are those of Bihar and Orissa, mentioned above, and their extension northeast into Bengal. Estimates made between 1915 and 1934 indicate that they hold a total of about 10,150 million tons of coal of good grade. These deposits are concentrated chiefly in the Karanpura field (eastern Bihar), the Raniganj field (mainly in southwestern Bengal but striking into eastern Bihar as well), the Jharia field (Bihar), and the Bokaro field (Bihar).[iii] Farther southwest are the great coalfields of the Godavri Valley, continuing through Hyderabad and Madras, almost to the sea at Cocanada. They represent about 6,400 million tons of high grade coal.[iv] The reserves of these two areas alone should easily last for four centuries.

Thus India's high grade coal reserves are exceeded only by those of China, the U. S. S. R., Poland, Germany, England, Canada and the United States. Yet they are, on the whole, localized. This limited distribution unfortunately acts as an effective brake upon widespread industrialization. That fact in turn affords a glimpse into the future of India and makes possible a reasonably safe forecast as to the loci of industrialization.

The economist would say that India is fortunate because her vast coal deposits are in close proximity to her great iron deposits. The iron production of India comes likewise chiefly from the deposits of Bihar and Orissa, again running northward into Bengal. Total production in Bihar and Orissa from 1900 to 1932 was about 22 million long tons of ore,[v] valued at roughly £4,215,000; and latest figures previous to the outbreak of the war indicated a continued increase.[vi] Residual ores are widely scattered throughout the peninsula in bodies which, though small, are commonly of fair to good grade; such deposits are especially widespread in central India. The most important type of ore, however, partly because of grade, partly on account of continuity and access, is that bearing much resemblance to the Lake Superior iron ores of Canada and the United States and occurring in immense quantities in the easterly provinces of India, notably Bihar and Orissa, and in smaller but still important bodies in Bengal and locally elsewhere.

Reserves of these various iron deposits are difficult to estimate. Most attention has been given to the ores of Bihar and Orissa, and estimates[vii] give the following totals of economically mineable ore:

Singhbhum district, Orissa 1,047,000,000 long tons
Keonjhar State 988,000,000  
Bonai State 648,000,000  
Mayurbhanj State 18,000,000  
  Total 2,701,000,000 long tons

More recent estimates [viii] suggest that the above figures are in part too low. Since the ores now being mined carry an average of slightly more than 50 percent of iron, they represent mineral reserves of 1,400,000,000 tons of metallic iron, or enough for at least 500 years at present rate of use. This favorable estimate, it is true, makes no allowance for a marked rise in consumption, but it also discounts the possibility of extending the reserves by further exploration. One should add that, as iron ores the world over go, these are of relatively high grade.

Although India has only fairly recently begun producing iron and steel in any quantity she already was exporting those commodities before the present war. About 55 percent of the pig iron was exported in 1937 to Japan (281,748 long tons) and the rest went chiefly to the United Kingdom (215,801 long tons) and the United States (88,013 long tons).[ix] Probably most of the steel exported went to Japan also. Only special kinds of pig iron were imported. India is, however, an importing country for steel of certain compositions, including ferro-alloys, and for many kinds of specially fabricated shapes. Indeed, steel billets and even sheet steel, and similar raw materials for steel fabrication, are as yet produced in only moderate quantity.

In 1932 there were four major producing firms in India: (1) the Indian Iron and Steel Company, with two blast furnaces each with an annual capacity of about 150,000 tons at Burnpore; (2) the Mysore Iron Works, with a few small charcoal furnaces at Shimoga; (3) the Bengal Iron Company, with five blast furnaces at Kulti having a total capacity of about 250,000 tons of pig iron per year; (4) the Tata Iron Company, whose large Jamshedpur works had a pig iron capacity of 510,000 tons per year, said to be steadily expanding. The war has stimulated the growth of the industry, and if it receives reasonable support India's production of iron and steel for peacetime purposes may be expected to continue to expand until it reaches the point of self-sufficiency.

It will be seen that all of India's leading iron districts are in Hindustan. There are many small iron deposits in the western part of Pakistan but none that would sustain a large steel industry. The one exception is the northward and eastward extension of the Orissa ores into Bengal. This occasioned the founding of the Bengal Iron Company, a corporation that began production in 1940. Even these Bengal deposits are not large compared with those in Orissa.

India is less well supplied with petroleum, the third of the three great components of industrial power. Although Indian production has increased in recent years, and now amounts to about 275 million gallons of crude oil annually, the rise has not been spectacular and production still is not adequate to supply domestic requirements. In fact, about as many gallons of fuel oil and "kerosene" are imported each year as are produced from Indian drilling. With increased industrialization and with steady, intensive exploitation like that practised in the United States or the Caucasus the supply of Indian petroleum may some day become adequate for local needs, at least temporarily. But the longer future is far from bright. India's annual production is somewhat less than 1 percent of the world's petroleum supply, and of this small quantity about four-fifths comes from Burma.

The oil fields of India proper are chiefly located in two regions. In Assam there are areas containing oil which extend in a broad arc southward into eastern Bengal. They parallel the rich pools of Yenangyat (made famous in war dispatches) and other oil fields of Burma, yet so far only two important fields, at Digboi and Badarpur, have been found. The Badarpur field was once a great producer, but has steadily declined; it produced only 847,000 gallons in 1932 and apparently yielded none in 1938. The Digboi field yielded 66,718,437 gallons in 1937 and holds much promise for the future. The other important region is the Punjab, where three fields, Khaur, Dhulian and Chharat, are promising. The output of Khaur has recently fallen off, but numerous oil "sands" and favorable structures are known to exist there, and there is some hope of finding new pools. Reports for 1938 gave no production for Chharat; for 1937 only 9,939,420 gallons were reported for the Khaur and Dhulian fields together.

It is pertinent to our present purpose to note that almost all of the petroleum so far reported and known to be in the ground is in the Moslem part of India. The great backbone of Hindustan, the peninsula, is of a geological composition to exclude the discovery of noteworthy petroleum resources there. Another significant fact, as we shall note more carefully later, is that Burma, India's neighbor on the east, is rich in petroleum.

In the hierarchy of industrial power, manganese and chromium hold important rank because of their use as alloys in making high grade steel. India is abundantly supplied with deposits containing recoverable amounts of manganese, the alloy metal which makes steel hard and tough. Indeed, in recent years her standing has been first or second in order of production among the world's sources. In 1938, for example, the Indian output came after that of the U.S.S.R., but was nearly twice that of its next competitor, South Africa. In 1937 the leading producing states of India were Central Provinces, with 65.8 percent of the total ore produced; Madras, 16.2 percent; Bombay, 5.7 percent; Bihar and Orissa, 1.1 percent; and Mysore, 0.5 percent. All of these are in Hindustan. The export shipping of manganese has been handled from coastal cities located chiefly in Hindu India, except for Calcutta; and the new port of Vizagapatam in the Madras Presidency has still further strengthened the Hindu hold on this important raw material.

Chromium is the alloy next most important to manganese in making steel. Its function is mainly to increase toughness and strength and, in certain proportions, to make the steel relatively rust-resistant. The sources of chrome ore in India are widespread, but lie mainly in Baluchistan, Mysore, Bihar and Orissa. Estimates as to reserves are not available, but the nature of the deposits suggest that the resources of the different states are of about the same order as their production. On this basis they seem to be about equal in Hindustan and Pakistan.[x]

Of the precious metals, India is well supplied with gold. The Kolar district in Mysore, in the Hindu region, has mines employing about 24,000 workers, and their production in 1937 was 330,710 troy ounces. Indeed, this district is one of the outstanding gold sources of the world. A smaller deposit of gold, now un-worked, is situated in the Anantpur district of the Madras Presidency. Silver is one of the many metals mined in the Bawdwin district of Burma; but in recent years no noteworthy production comes from within India proper.

Among the non-ferrous base metals, bauxite, the source of aluminum, is widely distributed in India, some in the Pakistan area of Kashmir, but more by far in the Hindu area -- the Central Provinces, Bombay and Bihar.[xi] The grade of Indian ore does not justify a premium, nor are there other factors favoring the industry; hence, despite its wide distribution, bauxite mining and aluminum manufacture have not achieved prominence in the industrial life of India as a whole. A steady growth may be anticipated in the future, however, to the degree that aluminum maintains its previous hold on the light metal market. Such aluminum as is now made in India is chiefly to satisfy domestic needs. Fabrication of aluminum into utensils on a moderate scale is progressing at several plants, especially in the Hindu area.

Copper is produced in amounts of about 7,000 long tons of metal annually, the only two noteworthy mines being those at Mosaboni and Dhobani in the Singhbhum district of Orissa. Lead and zinc are plentiful in Burma, but the fact does not affect the relationship of Pakistan and Hindustan. Burma, likewise, is the source of tin and nickel for Indian metallurgical plants.

In any state where industrialism is to become highly developed, certain non-metallic minerals are of great significance. In the early stages of mechanization and modernization they generally are of little importance; but their rôle mounts with the increase in fabrication and especially with the growth of the chemical industries found in most large countries of dense population and varied occupations. Conspicuously important among such non-metallic minerals are salt, lime, sulphur, gypsum, clays and magnesite, as well as phosphates and potassium sources.

Deposits of all of the foregoing except sulphur are known and worked in India. Lime is widespread, and the degree of its exploitation for use in plaster and cement making and in the heavy chemical industries is mainly a matter of transport facilities and local demand. We may assume that both Pakistan and Hindustan would find enough lime for ordinary uses within their own boundaries. The same can be said of gypsum. Salt is extensively mined in the form of rock salt in the Punjab and North West Frontier Province, both of them in Pakistan. More than 85 percent of Indian salt, however, comes from the evaporation of sea water, chiefly in Bombay and Madras, and of lake water, chiefly in Rajputana -- all in Hindustan. In any case, reserves of this important chemical material are adequate for domestic use, even in Pakistan, despite the possibly increased demands of a much larger chemical industry. Pottery clays, china clays and fire clays are widespread also, and though estimates of reserves are not available it is safe to say that both Hindustan and Pakistan have sufficient to support an autonomous status. The best fire clays are in the eastern coal fields and extend across the proposed political boundary. Magnesite, which is used as a refractory in certain cements and can also serve as a source for magnesium, occurs in large quantity in Madras; smaller deposits in Mysore are also productive. Indian mica and kyanite are exported widely, mainly from Hindu areas.

Phosphates, of course, not only are useful in industry but are essential in agriculture. This is especially true of old countries, such as India, where farming has been carried on intensely for many, many centuries and where the soil is therefore approaching or has reached exhaustion. All of India, Hindustan and Pakistan alike, is lamentably short in phosphate sources. A large tonnage of manure and fertilizer is annually imported, a third of it consisting of materials intended to supply phosphate to the steadily impoverished soil. A minor mineral source of phosphate occurs in two broadly contrasting areas where it is worked with relative difficulty, in Bihar and Orissa. Another and as yet unworked source consists of the nodules in the coal-bearing shales of the Punjab, and in various rocks in southern India. Again, the chief sources of this mineral material, whether natural or artificial, are in Hindustan. Potassium sources, furnishing another fertilizer ingredient essential to land that has been long and intensively cultivated, are available to Pakistan and Hindustan alike.


From the preceding survey of India's mineral resources, brief though it is, our first conclusion is apparent: India is not abundantly supplied with oil, but she possesses large reserves of most important industrial minerals -- coal, iron, several of the ferro-alloys which make good steel, and the subsidiary minerals -- in ample quantity to make her a powerful and reasonably self-sufficient industrial nation. The per capita supply is relatively low in comparison with that of most of the great industrial nations, but per capita consumption could be materially raised without seriously endangering reserves of the more essential minerals in the reasonably near future.

It is also apparent that India's minerals are so distributed between the parts of India in which Hindu and Moslem people preponderate that if India were divided on the basis of religious population the Hindu state would be rich and the Moslem state would be conspicuously poor. This disproportion is sufficiently great so that, speaking generally, it does not even seem to be cancelled out by differences in population density. Not only is this fact of Hindustan's relatively greater mineral wealth true for the present, as judged from a comparison of the minerals now produced; it will doubtless be an even more striking fact of the future, as the industrialization of India advances. The significant conclusion as to the question of Pakistan and Hindustan is corollary to this fact.

Hindustan has great reserves of coal and iron; it has excellent reserves of the more important ferro-alloy metals (though these must be supplemented by the import of others) and of the nonmetallic minerals and gold; it has considerable reserves of bauxite and some copper. Pakistan has a small amount of coal and iron; few ferro-alloys; and little bauxite. But Pakistan has as much of the ferro-alloys, other than manganese and chromium, as has Hindustan; it has adequate reserves of the other subsidiary minerals, except magnesite; and it has most of the oil. The leading feature of the complicated picture is, as we have noted, that Moslem Bengal is geologically a continuation of Hindu Bihar and Orissa. Speaking very generally, about 90 percent of India's coal and 92 percent of her iron would be in Hindustan; the remainder would be in Pakistan, but the grade (and rank) of the latter is relatively poor. Hindustan would have most of the ferro-alloy and subsidiary minerals which complete the requirements of a relatively autonomous industrial realm; yet Pakistan would have some of them. Under conditions of moderate industrialization and with fairly high living standards, India as a whole would have less oil than she needed for her internal combustion engines; most of what she had would be in Pakistan.

Our second conclusion, in short, is that the Hindu and Moslem areas of India are interdependent. Not only would Hindustan need some of the resources of Pakistan; for industrial life, Pakistan would desperately need great quantities of the resources of Hindustan.

In a closed trade system the Pakistan state of Bengal would, industrially speaking, die. In such a situation one would expect violence. And it is permissible to note that the Moslem state which would thus be strangled would contain the people who are considered more aggressive and warlike than their richer neighbors. The economic position of the Moslem state of Assam, adjoining Bengal on the east, would be also unfavorable. It has no outstanding mineral wealth; petroleum and chrome ore are its only noteworthy mineral resources. In a divided India, then, it would seem to be even more hopelessly situated, economically speaking, than Bengal. Division or no division, there would be little need for change in the economy of the Punjab, Kashmir, and the Moslem states to the west. They would remain as they are now, pastoral and agricultural, economically tributary to Hindustan. A division of India strictly on religious lines would seem to destine all of Pakistan for such a status.

Whether Mr. Jinnah accepts this fact, or merely postpones consideration of it, one cannot quite tell. In a recent interview with Herbert L. Matthews, appearing in the New York Times of September 21, 1942, he remarked that: "Afghanistan is a poor country, but it gets along; so does 'Iraq and that has only a small fraction of the 70 million inhabitants we would have. If we are willing to live sensibly and poorly so long as we have freedom, why should the Hindus object? . . . The economy will take care of itself in time." He added to this somewhat cryptic statement the observation that for administrative purposes "a corridor could be established" between Bengal and the Pakistan states in the west. In the modern political vocabulary, the word "corridor" has come to have ominous overtones.

A possible solution of the confusion resulting from the economically "unnatural" boundary between Bengal and Bihar might be to redraw the border of the proposed state of Pakistan, giving to Bengal the region north of the Ganges and westward to the United Provinces, and allotting to Bihar in compensation that part of the present Bengal south of the Ganges. This would be in part justified by the present distribution of the adherents of the two major religions. It would place all the Bengal coal lands of major potentiality under the sovereignty of Bihar. It would reduce, but would not remove, the great Hindu prong represented by the United provinces, which separates Moslem Punjab from Moslem Bengal. It would inevitably add more marked economic differences, and eventually greater cultural differences, to the religious contrasts which already exist between the two factions. On the other hand, it would still leave agricultural Pakistan with some resources, notably oil, which industrial Hindustan needed. Moreover, it might perhaps tend to reduce the sources of conflict by allotting a dominant industrial rôle to one people and a frankly subordinate one to the other. Is this desirable?

The pressure of industrialization is pressure for unity, in India as elsewhere. But does India want industrialism?

In his "Democratic Ideals and Reality," Sir Halford J. Mackinder refers -- a trifle wryly, perhaps -- to the psychology or ideology of nations, by saying that "the influence of geographical conditions upon human activities has depended . . . not merely on the realities as we now know them to be and to have been, but in even greater degree on what men imagine in regard to them." India's mineral resources and her potentialities for industrial well-being are realities. Yet the geologist, like the geographer, must remember that it is not so much the facts as the way men look upon them which largely determines action.

Mr. Gandhi evidences even less interest in India's industrial future than does Mr. Jinnah. It is not within the province of this report to analyze Mr. Gandhi's point of view. Yet perhaps we are justified in wondering whether he advances his program of handcrafts as a realistic economic policy for India or as an admirable symbol of India's needs: her need of greater self-sufficiency, above all her need to look to the village, the small community, for well-being.

Among the things in the Indian village which it would seem difficult for anyone to overlook, from any angle, is the poverty. There seems to be fairly general agreement that no approach to the problem of India which does not promise amelioration of the conditions of desperate poverty under which India's millions labor can hold any serious hope of a solution.[xii] A possible form of amelioration is certainly the manufacture on a grand scale of consumer goods, whereby price may be lowered and purchasing power increased. Industrialization, if not the trigger by which this happy result can be assured, is at least one means that may be used, once the desirability of it is recognized.

The war has given a tremendous impetus to the process of industrialization of India, and, although the history of industrialism is still in its early chapters, there is nothing in the record of man's experience with this unruly geni -- sometimes beneficent, sometimes cruel -- to suggest that once unloosed it can ever be bottled again. India not only has coal and iron for the machine. She has a superabundance of the final resource on which the machine is based: manpower. And the distinguishing characteristic of India's immense manpower, at least in Western eyes, is its low per capita consumption, in a word, again, its poverty. Given the natural resources, given the manpower, given the need for an increase in the standard of living of the people of India, an increasing degree of industrialization of India would seem inevitable.

India's decision as to the terms of her political future will determine whether that advance toward industrialism is relatively easy or difficult. The experience of "new" and financially weak South American states bears on India's problem. "New" nations, in process of industrial development, have customarily paid stiff prices in terms of concessions and franchises, for needed capital, when they have been forced to seek that capital from private entrepreneurs. A united India would be in a position to command the sympathy and confidence of other governments, and to ask for loans under international auspices on some such terms as those for which China will ask. But an India, and yet more two Indias, using newly-won sovereignty to erect tariff walls around the national borders, would be a poor economic risk. Possible investors would demand the gambler's percentage.

Once committed to a program of industrialization, India would rapidly find herself confronted with the problem of controlling the program in the interest of all her people rather than of a few -- the familiar task which has agonized Western nations for a century and which, of course, is already a present component of the Indian situation. Divided into economic fragments, India would find this unavoidable issue doubly painful of solution. In a united India, the problem would seem to present the spur urging the country to the higher degree of social consciousness which her friends within and outside would wish.

With her coal, her iron, her manpower, India could share Asiatic leadership with China or perhaps assume the outstanding rôle in the industrial development of Asia. External factors press her toward unity no less than does the logic of her economic resources. Buddhist Burma, on her eastern frontier, aspires toward nationhood. From Burma, India must have nickel, tin, tungsten, lead, zinc and probably petroleum. Economic relations with Burma would be more fruitful for a United India than for a fragmented one. As China develops her own heavy metal industries in association with her coal deposits in the northeast, near the coast, India's iron ore, travelling by water, will be her most easily transported and least expensive source of supply. The present restrictions of British imperial policy would, however, have to be removed before this interdevelopment of Chinese and Indian resources could progress.

This report does not pretend to assess the responsibility for the delay in the settlement between India and Great Britain, any more than it wishes to belittle the importance to the peoples of India of their religious values. It notes merely that, from the point of view of mineral resources, the Hindu and Moslem areas of India, intimately intergrown, are also interdependent economically. It urges that political interdependence is a wise solution where economic interdependence is so intimate and so essential. It implies that the Moslem sections of India would have more to lose than the Hindu sections if a separation by states on religious lines were carried out. And it suggests, finally, that the economy of India as a whole is interdependent with that of other parts of Asia.

Chinese leaders have shown statesmanship in recognizing that it is to the advantage of China that her great neighbor on the south be a strong and unified nation. It is likewise to the advantage of Hindus and Moslems within India.

[i] As explained by F. Krenkow in the "Encyclopedia of Islam," Sup. no. 4, p. 174.

[ii] The northern parts of the provinces and states east of the Punjab -- the United Provinces, Bihar and Bhutan -- tend to be Moslem, but as they are not separate political entities they are not here grouped in Pakistan.

[iii] C. S. Fox, "The Lower Gondwana Coal Fields of India," Geological Survey of India Memoirs, LIX, 1934.

[iv] V. Ball and R. R. Simpson, "The Coal Fields of India," Geological Survey of India Memoirs, XLI, Pt. I, 1913.

[v] J. C. Brown, "India's Mineral Wealth." London: Oxford University Press, 1936, p. 106.

[vi] S. G. Koon, "Iron and Steel" in "The Mineral Industry During 1938" (ed. by G. A. Roush). New York: McGraw, 1939, p. 353.

[vii] H. C. Jones, "The Iron Ore Deposits of Bihar and Orissa," Geological Survey of India Memoirs, LXIII, Pt. II, 1934, p. 249-255.

[viii] M. S. Krishnan, quoted by H. C. Jones, op. cit.

[ix] A. M. Heron, "The Mineral Production of India and Burma, During 1937," Geological Survey of India Memoirs, LXXIII, 1938, Pt. III, p. 337.

[x] The increasingly important steel alloy molybdenum is found in several localities in the Hindu parts of central India, but commercial production is small. The same can be said of the other common steel alloy metals.

[xi] C. S. Fox, "The Bauxite and Aluminous Laterite Occurrences of India," Geological Survey of India Memoirs, XLIX, 1923, Pt. I, p. 62-187.

[xii]Cf. "The Indian Village and Indian Unrest," by C. F. Strickland, FOREIGN AFFAIRS, October, 1931.

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