The King of India and the King of Pakistan in 1948 was a title held by George VI, who had been Emperor of India. Both countries made him the head of state and commander in chief. But they also fought each other.

How can a commander in chief's army fight an army legally commanded by the same person? Do any peculiar legal problems emerge from this, such as the definition of treason?

  • 1
    Fun fact: both militaries were also commanded by serving British officers, at least at the start.
    – cpast
    Commented Nov 7, 2023 at 12:02

1 Answer 1


While it's true that George VI held both those titles, the civil and military leadership had been transferred to the respective Dominions, which had recently become formally independent. The 'King', therefore, had more of a ceremonial role than any substantive authority over the civil and military affairs of the Dominions.

Treason, as typically defined, covers acts that would amount to betraying one's own nation or sovereign. While both Dominions recognised George VI as their sovereign, they operated as independent nation states at this point, with their own national governments and armies (though, as this comment points out, with some British officers on both sides).

What makes the historical circumstances uniquely complex is the fact that this was happening in the context of a transfer of power marred by mutual hostility, migrations on an unprecedented scale, and brutal violence.

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