ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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The India Connection

Sinai–Palestine Campaigns, 1915–18

In a bid to secure its control over the Indian subcontinent, the British empire left no stone unturned in maintaining its stronghold over the various routes leading to India. The war in Sinai and Palestine was a result of this compulsion, to prevent Germany and the Ottoman empire from gaining access to the Suez region, which was a gateway to India and the East. Diplomatic maneouvres in Saudi Arabia and the Zionist movement were also tactical moves undertaken with the aim of securing Britain’s prized Indian territories.

During World War I, the primary concern of the British government was to prevent Europe’s subjugation to one dominant power—Germany. However, it is not so well-known that the British carried on a multipronged, well-calculated and intense war in Sinai and Palestine, which lasted over a period of three years, nine months and two days, and in which the British empire forces suffered over 5,50,000 casualties. In late October 1914, the Ottoman empire threw in its lot with Germany and Austria–Hungary. Early next year, the German-led Ottoman army marched overland towards the Suez and crossed the Suez canal. The British saw this as a grave and immediate threat to the Red Sea route to the Indian empire, and generally to the East.

The British made an all-out and tenacious effort not only to defeat this army, but also to ensure that they would not be called upon to face such a challenge again. They persisted despite the difficulties of facing a land invasion, desert warfare, and also suffering defeats in initial battles in Gaza and Jerusalem. This effort was not the result of considerations having to do with Britain’s wartime position on the continent, or the imperatives of defeating Germany and its allies. These efforts in West Asia had a distinct India connection. The aim of the British was to prevent the Ottomans or the Germans from establishing themselves in the Suez region, which provided the most efficient route between Britain and the Indian empire.

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Updated On : 15th Feb, 2019

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