The strategy of “Divide and Rule” was employed by most imperial powers in Indian subcontinent. The British and French backed various Indian states in conflicts between each other, both as a means of undermining each other’s influence and consolidating their authority.
Divide and rule (or divide and conquer, from Latin dīvide et imperā) in politics and sociology is gaining and maintaining power by breaking up larger concentrations of power into pieces that individually have less power than the one implementing the strategy. The concept refers to a strategy that breaks up existing power structures, and especially prevents smaller power groups from linking up, causing rivalries and fomenting discord among the people. It is still used today in many different forms and guises.
The use of this technique is meant to empower the sovereign to control subjects, populations, or factions of different interests, who collectively might be able to oppose his rule.
The maxim divide et impera has been attributed to Philip II of Macedon, and together with the maxim divide ut regnes was utilised by the Roman ruler Caesar and the French emperor Napoleon.
Elements of this technique involve:
1. creating or encouraging divisions among the subjects to prevent alliances that could challenge the sovereign
2. aiding and promoting those who are willing to cooperate with the sovereign
3. fostering distrust and enmity between local rulers
4. encouraging meaningless expenditures that reduce the capability for political and military spending
Historically, this strategy was used in many different ways by empires seeking to expand their territories.
The concept is also mentioned as a strategy for market action in economics to get the most out of the players in a competitive market.