Sindh was the border region of Rajasthan, Gujarat, Punjab region of present-day Pakistan, and Afghanistan. It was the gateway to the west. During the early nineteenth century, the British started to show interest in Sindh. Earlier in 1630, they enjoyed some trade facilities authorized by a Farman of the Mughal Emperor, which provided them with privileges in the ports of Sindh. The British also set up a factory at Thatta in 1758 but abandoned it in 1792 due to commercial factors.
The conquest of Sindh occurred in 1843 due to growing Anglo-Russian rivalry in Europe and Asia. As a result, the British feared that Russia might attack India through Persia or Afghanistan. To counter Russia, the British decided to increase their influence in Persian and Afghanistan. To successfully pursue this policy, the British felt to bring Sindh under their control because of the strategic position of ports of Sindh and commercial possibilities of river Sindh.
Rise of Talpuras Amirs
Since the 18th Century, Talpuras Amirs, also known as Amirs of Sind, ruled over Sindh. In the 1770s, a Baluch tribe called Talpuras descended from the hills and settled in the Plains of Sindh. They were excellent soldiers and adapted to a hard life. Some Baluchi Chiefs soon usurped power in this new region. In 1783, the Talpuras, under the leadership of Mir Fatah Ali Khan, established complete control over Sindh.
In 1800, when Mir Fatah died, the brothers of Mir (popularly known as Char Yar) divided the Kingdom among themselves, calling themselves as Amirs of Sindh. These chiefs of Sindh, known as Amirs, extended their domain on all sides. They occupied Amarkot from the Raja of Jodhpur, Sahikarpur & Bukkar from Afghans, and Krachi from the chief of Luz.
Treaty of Eternal Friendship, 1807
In June 1807, Napoleon Bonaparte joined the alliance with Russia having one of its conditions, the combined invasion of India by the land route. Now the British wanted to create a strong barrier between British India and Russia. To achieve this, Governor-General Lord Minto sent three delegations under the leadership of prominent persons to forge alliances: Charles Metcalfe sent to Lahore in Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s court, Malcolm to Tehran (Persia), and Elphinstone to Kabul (Afghanistan).
Anglo-Russian rivalry and fear of Napoleon’s conspiracy made the British realize the importance of the strategic location of Sindh. To counter the Russian and Napolean Bonaparte threat, Lord Minto sent Nicholas Smith to visit Sindh, who met the Amirs of Sindh to conclude a defensive arrangement. After the negotiations, the Amirs agreed to sign the Treaty of Eternal Friendship, their first-ever treaty with the British. After professing eternal friendship, both sides agreed to exchange agents at each other’s court and exclude Napoleans (French) from Sindh.
The British renewed this Treaty of Eternal Friendship with Amirs in 1820 by adding an article to exclude the Americans from Sindh and resolving some border disputes on the Kachchh side.
Treaty of 1832
The Amir of Hyderabad, Khairpur, and Mirpur ruled the region of Sindh. But, they were not in a position to put a united front against the British. In 1832, Governor-General William Bentik sent Colonel Henry Pottinger to Sindh to sign a treaty with the Amirs. It was a treaty of mutual respect and non-aggression against each other. The provisions of the treaty were as follow:
- The British travelers and traders allowed free passage through Sindh and the use of Indus for trading purposes. But they would not carry any material for war.
- The travelers would need a passport, and no British merchant would settle down in Sindh.
- Tariff rates, if found high, could be altered by the Amirs.
- The Amirs would work with the Raja of Jodhpur to put down the robbers of Kachchh.
Treaty of 1838
In 1836, Lord Auckland became the Governor-General of India. He looked at Sindh from the perspective of protecting India from the possible Russian invasion. Also, the British wanted to consolidate their position in Sindh as a necessary step for their plans on Afghanistan. They got an opportunity when the Sikh ruler Maharaja Ranjit Singh captured Rojhan, a frontier town of Sindh.
Lord Auckland convicted the Amirs about the possible incursion from Maharaja Ranjit Singh. He sent Henry Pottinger to Hyderabad to sign a new treaty with the Amirs, which offered protection to the Amirs on the condition that the British troops would station at the capital at the expense of Amir. The Amirs initially refused to sign the treaty but later reluctantly agreed to sign it in 1838. This treaty of 1838 permitted the British to intervene in the disputes between the Amir and Sikhs.
In February 1839, under the threat of superior forces, the Amirs of Sindh were made to sign a Subsidiary Treaty. Under the Subsidiary Treaty, the British subsidiary forces had to station at Shikarpur and Bukkar. The Amirs of Sindh had to pay 3 lakh rupees annually for the maintenance of the British troops. Further, Amirs debarred from any negotiations with the foreign states without the Company’s knowledge.
Conquest of Sindh, 1843
The Amirs of Sindh never liked the First Anglo-Afghan War (1839-42) to fight on the soil of Sindh. Also, they did not like the presence of the British troops in their region. The British also asked the Amirs to pay for all of this under the Subsidiary treaty. Instead of rewarding for their services, the Amirs were charged with hostility and disaffection against the British government.
In 1842, Lord Ellenborough became the Governor-General of India. The Amirs were made responsible for the British troop’s reversal in the war against Afghanistan. Ellenborough sent Outram to Sindh to sign a new treaty with the Amirs, under which the Amirs had to cede important provinces of Sindh as a price for their past transgressions. The British also intervened in a succession dispute over Sindh. All of this made Amirs rose in revolt against the British.
In 1843, Governor-General Ellenborough sent Charles James Napier to put down the rebels by capturing the Sindh. In February 1843, the British forces under Napier defeated the Baluch army under the three Amirs of Hyderabad, Khairpur, Mirpur at the Battle of Miani. As a result, the British completely annexed Sindh to British Empire in 1843.
After the Battle, Charles Napier sent a one-word telegram to the Governor-General. The message was a Latin word Peccavi, which means I have Sinned. The meaning of this wordplay in the telegram was I have Sindh. Charles Napier got appointed as the first Governor of Sindh.