This paper seeks to frame the Partition of India of 1947 as a wartime event and to situate it within the context of wartime transformations in India of the 1940s. India was greatly changed by the war, and became a receiving country for the first time of thousands of refugees of numerous nationalities from Eastern Europe, Russia and South East Asia. In particular, the arrival of British and Indian refugees from Burma after the Japanese invasion of 1942 had a significant impact on Indian opinions about refugees and their rights. The ‘civil society’ responses of political parties – particularly the Indian National Congress and the Muslim League – to wartime refugees paved the way for responses in 1947 as refugee rehabilitation was already established as a political tool for consolidating vote-banks in the context of decolonisation. British India’s responses to wartime refugees helped to establish structures that would be revitalised in response to the massive Partition crisis, when India and Pakistan were created in 1947.