The Inheritance of Bilateral Strategic Partnership -Looking Back at the Indo-German Conspiracy

Oyeshi Ganguly: I am an Undergraduate student of International Relations at Jadavpur University, Kolkata, India. I work as a contributor to The Pangean for it’s Policy Section ( I have worked as a Public Relation Officer at the International Relations Scholastic Conclave 2019. I take an active interest in International relations, World history, Political Psychology, Gender studies, Cultural Studies and Political Theory. I have recently completed a certified diploma course “Global Diplomacy-Diplomacy in the Modern World” offered by the University of London and the SOAS University of London. I have started undergoing German Language Course in order to increase my proficiency in the language and out of my keen interest in  German culture.

I have authored the following papers:

Do we need a Paris Summit on Child Rights? Examining the existing framework for protecting Child Rights in the light of the Sustainable Development Goals” presented at the Youth Convention on the Rights of Child organised by RC24 (Sociology of Childhood & Youth) ISS and Teach For India on 25th September, 2019 at Jadavpur University.

Cinematic Representation of the Feminist Consciousness against the backdrop of the Socio-religious dogmas of 19th century Bengal : A Study of the depiction of cultural violence in Debi, Antarjali Jatra, Sati and Antarmahal” at the Jadavpur University Women’s Conclave organised by Ashoka University Young India Fellow and Indian Association for Women’s Studies on 5th March, 2020 (secured third position )

I am scheduled to present my paper titled “Chronicling lost professions and lost livelihoods: documenting six engendered professions of West Bengal and their cultural consequences” at Sixth Conference on Bengal Related Studies for Students and Young Scholars at Martin Luther Universität, Halle Wittenberg, Germany to be held on October 23-25, 2020. ( I’ve been notified of the selection of my Abstract)

My article “A Paradigm of Dètente to Entènte- A Saga of Indo-Bangladesh ties” has been published in “Visvaneeti-Rethinking India’s Foreign Policy” published by the Economics Society of the Shri Ram College of Commerce, New Delhi (2019)

* Winner of 2nd Best Essay Award *

India | June 27, 2020 | Student Essay

Had the Maverick’s intended cargo reached the volatile youth of Bengal, it could have given the British Government a severe shock” | Germany and Indian Revolution, 1914-18, Thomas G. Fraser.

When Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, and Narendra Modi, the Indian Prime Minister, met in November 2019, aiming to explore bilateral cooperation over a strategic partnership, they had been moulding to perfection a hundred and five year old bond. A little known episode cementing German solidarity towards India can be traced back to as early as 1914 – popularly termed as the “Indo German Conspiracy.” It refers to a series of attempts between 1914 and 1917 by Indian underground revolutionaries, exiled abroad ( known as Ghadar Party, in the United States) closely assisted by the Berlin Committee, an organisation formed in German soil by Indian nationalists to promote the cause of Indian independence. It had been initially titled Berlin Indian Committee. The main motive of the Indian Nationalists can be simplified by the adage “An enemy’s enemy is a friend”- using dissident groups within a state to weaken a potential adversary. Taking advantage of  mutual adversity towards Britain and it’s pre occupation with the World War I, it sought German help to import ammunition for the Indian Cause.

Indispensable German Assistance

In 1912, General von Bernhardi indicated the possibility of utilizing Pan-Islamic and Bengali revolutionaries in the German war effort. The Indian states of Bengal and Punjab, following the partition of 1905 had been hotbeds of political antagonism against the  British Raj. Willhelm II, the last German Kaiser, with the confirmation of Russian mobilisation was  assured of a war with Britain in the near future. Theobald von Bethmann Hollweg, then German Chancellor had been vested with the authority to enlist German support against the British dominion in India. Max Von Oppenheim, the German archaeologist led the Intelligence Bureau of the East, aimed at extending support to anti colonial aspirations in India, Egypt and other British satellite states. He was to organise Indian expatriates into a cohesive political entity. An agreement was reached between Lala Har Dayal, an Indian nationalist leader and Oppenheim of the prospects. M. Prabhakar, a graduate from Heidelberg, A Siddique strongly condemned British and French support to Czar Nicholas II in Russia. A key activist Otto Gunther von Wessndonck, from the Auswartiges Amt, organised revolutionaries in the Indo Russian borders. He was assisted by Abhinash Bhattacharya, Virendranath Chattopadhya, attracting global sympathy for the common cause through issuing anti British statements in other East European nation states including Austria-Hungary, Switzerland enlisting support from the European civil societies. The Berlin Committee established connections with Jatin Mukherjee, leader of the Jugantar Party, the leading anti British secret society in Bengal. The plot to supply arms to him is known as the Christmas Day plot (Autumn 1915) . The extent of German Assistance is evident by the office of the Committee at Wielandstrasse no. 38 being accorded full embassy status. The Berlin Committee headquartered at Schönberg, issued it’s common goals as igniting a revolution in India, which was to be carried at Indian coastal zones, exporting money, arms, ammunition, settling arrangements to ensure the safe return of exiled Indian leaders to India. Chattopadhay and the Pillai brothers formed the Champak-Chatto Berlin nexus. This was followed by  German ambassador to US, Johann von Bernstoff, establishing  ties with US based Ghadarite ( The term Ghadar refers to Revolution in Punjabi) Party.

A tale of two ships.

EH von Schack, the German Vice Consul in San Francisco gave his assent for funds to be allocated for the German cause. Small ammunitions and armaments worth $200,000 were accumulated by Franz von Papen, the captain of the German military attaché through a network of Krupp’s agents. These weapons which included 2400 Springfield carbines, 410 Hotchkiss repeating rifles, 4,000,000 cartridges and 500 colt revolvers with 100,000 cartridges and 250 Mauser pistols were loaded upon Annie Larsen and SS Henry S, which were to leave the United States and transfer the stash of arms into the SS Maverick, which had been stationed at Socorro, Mexico. These vessels were aimed at supplying arms to be used in the February 1915 pan-Indian uprising. However due to a lack of extensive coordination between the two vessels, and British intelligence agencies successfully intercepting the program of action, Anne Larsen never met SS Maverick. Instead two British warships, Kent and Rainbow arrived in the Pacific islands of Socorro  and searched the Maverick SS, found nothing as it’s content was burnt by the five passengers of the Sikhs of the Mutiny Party. It’s  secret destination was revealed by a war telegram slip. February 1917 was marked the “Zimmerman telegraph” being deciphered. It was sent by the German Secretary of State Arthur Zimmerman to the German Ambassador in Mexico encouraging American intervention in the Mexican Civil War as a diversion tactics for America. In the same year, William Friedman deciphered two coded messages between Ghadar activists and German agents drawn from two books- a German Political Economy Book and a German English dictionary.  The cargo of Anne Larsen was auctioned after it being seized by American officials. Johann von Bernstorff, the German Ambassador to the United States  tried to regain control of the ammunitions and establish that the arms were primarily meant for German East Africa. Franz von Papen refused to give up on his efforts to assist nations combating British colonialism. Making efforts to supply rifles and dynamites to Indian Sikh population in British Columbia to blast railway networks, as unearthed by the Directorate of Naval Intelligence which revealed a coordinated German effort, coupled with that of the agents from India, Ireland as well as communist ideologues in the United States. The Black Tom Explosion which shook the New York harbour on 30th July, 1916 resulting in loss of 2 million tons of arms and ammunition, at the eponymously titled terminal has been widely seen as an effort to thaw the British war efforts  by blowing off shipments meant for the Allied forces.

A century later

To appreciate the relevance of the incident , it is imperative to look into the extent of German involvement. The program even included that the convicts freed from the Indian islands of Andaman would be trained in Army Training camps under German leadership. Further on failure to receive the arms, when C Martin ( M.N. Roy) approached Theodore Helfferich and the German consul at Shanghai. Two shipments were immediately dispatched but the Chinese messenger as well as Payne alias Phonindra Nath Chakraborty who had been entrusted to carry on the talks were arrested by David Petre of the British Intelligence services. The trial conspirators of the Anne Larsen plot gave way to the longest and the most expensive trial in American soil. However one can’t deny that the coordination has been a bedrock in furthering common interests of the two nations. The legacy of Indo German solidarity  were revived during the Second World war with Subhash Chandra Bose escaping to Germany and seeking axis support to free India.

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177 thoughts on “The Inheritance of Bilateral Strategic Partnership -Looking Back at the Indo-German Conspiracy

  1. Nilanjan Kundu says:

    This piece was stifled with information while maintaining its flow and it’s inert simplicity all the while capturing its readers attention.
    Great work Oyeshi.


  2. Nishant says:

    I have been reading your articles for a very long time. It is beautiful to note your transformation and maturity in the work


  3. Santosh Jha says:

    As an Indian It amazes me, how much of our history we have forgotten. Kudos to bringing to life a story that deserves to be told.


  4. Ashish says:

    Lovely write up mate.I personally cannot stop wondering what if the Maverick had indeed reached the Indian Shores in 1915.


  5. Preeti Raj says:

    I wish our conventional Indian History Textbooks were as interesting as your article. Would have ensured more history lovers


  6. Rajesh says:

    You have a flair of writing. Combined with an eye for factual details. The result is the brilliant write up above.


  7. Tejashree says:

    An incident which should be pulled out of it’s deliberate anonymity.India and Germany truly goes back a long way.


  8. Alfred Cook says:

    Having known you for so long i am not surprised that your article is so well researched and so informative at the same time interesting


  9. Abhimanyu Mukherjee says:

    It is amazing how you take difficult and complex topics and turn them into easy and interesting reads


  10. Sourabh Joshi says:

    Its sad that these unknown yet fascinating accounts get lost in the pages of history
    Thank you for letting us know these interesting part of history which was unknown to many


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