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The Indian Political Department (IPD) was a government department in British India. It originated in a resolution passed on 13 September 1783 by the board of directors of the East India Company; this decreed the creation of a department which could help “relieve the pressure” on the administration of Warren Hastings in conducting its "secret and political business".
In 1843, Governor-General Ellenborough reformed the administration, organizing Secretariat of the Government into four departments – Foreign, Home, Finance and Military. The officer in charge of the foreign department was supposed to manage the "conduct of all correspondence belonging to the external and internal diplomatic relations of the government". Its political officers were responsible for the civil administration of frontier districts, and also served as British agents to rulers of Princely states. A distinction was made between the "foreign" and "political" functions of the department; relations with all "Asiatic powers" (including native princely states of India) were treated as "political" and those with all European powers as "foreign". At independence in 1948, the Foreign and Political department of the British India government was transformed into the new Ministry of External Affairs and Commonwealth Relations. A small number of British officers continued to serve as employees of the Government of India.
The staff employed by the IPD, known as the Indian Political Service, were generally referred to as political officers, or colloquially as "politicals", and were recruited from four areas:
- Two thirds were recruited from the Indian Army
- Next most numerous were those recruited from the Indian Civil Service
- Some came from the Indian Medical Service
- Some came from the Indian Public Works and Engineering Department
Employees of the political service were predominantly European, although small numbers of Indians were employed.
- James Onley, The Raj Reconsidered: British India’s Informal Empire and Spheres of Influence in Asia and Africa (2009)
- Hansard 11 December 1947
- Wendy Palace (2004), The British Empire & Tibet 1900 - 1922, London: Routledge, ISBN 0415346827, OCLC 834529138, OL 3291326M, 0415346827
- Hansard 26 June 1939