Where are India and Pakistan of Post-Partition?

Where are India and Pakistan of Post-Partition?


In light of the Pakistani and Indian Day of Independence on the 14th and 15th of August, it is a fitting time to revisit history and see how relations between the two nations have developed and where they are now since independence.

The Partition of the Indian subcontinent in 1947 into two postcolonial states of India and Pakistan was a catastrophic event, convoyed by unprecedented genocidal violence and one of the largest displacements of people in the twentieth century. These two nations have been embroiled in three wars, among which one is undeclared war while  frequent border scuffles and armed impasses have always been of actuality. Furthermore, both states have accused each other of taking part in proxy wars by providing financial and military backing to violent non-state actors.

The Kashmir disagreement has been one of the primary catalysts for the major conflicts between the two states.

Partition became more of a vital post World War II subject, as both Britain and colonial India were struggling from the monetary strains of the war. The partition was a bloody and brutal process causing ethno-religious conflicts between Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs with fatalities estimated to hover around 500,000 to 1 million.

The reasons for partition vary. British policies of education in India gave rise to several nationalist movements. The British power implemented a divide and rule policy in India. British colonial rulers based their knowledge of the people on religious texts and the innate differences they found in them. A more appropriate method would have been to observe and inspect how people of different faiths coexisted. After the establishment of the Muslim league, the distinction between Muslims and Hindus in India was manufactured in the electoral process by putting Muslims and Hindus on separate electorates. The ideological divide between Hindus and Muslims was increasing by the day, making it even more urgent for a Muslim state in the Indian sub-continent.

As I have already mentioned, the aftermath of partition was devastating and both India and Pakistan are still recovering from the wounds of war. Riots, murders, looting and rape were widespread. In the Post-Independence era, both countries had to build a nation out of underdeveloped and weak economies.

Throughout the tumultuous journey of post-partition, both countries have come a long way. Both India and Pakistan are emerging nations and have been challenging the position of dominance of the old powers. India is seen to be an emerging power on a global scale and is China’s main competitor in Asia and the size of India’s population makes it, the world’s largest democracy. Pakistan has a strategic geo-political location at the corridor of major world maritime oil supply lines, and has close proximity to oil-rich Central Asian countries. Pakistan’s location could influence Central Asia, South Asia and the Middle East. This said, Pakistan is the focus of attention in the wake of the emerging geo-political scenario. In this vein, as you can see, both states have progressed and developed rapidly and extensively since partition making them potential global powers.

Nevertheless, despite economic, political, social and military progression, both countries remain divided along many lines and tensions are still very much present.

The latest military assault in Gaza has made conspicuous India’s and Pakistan’s different views and approach to the conflict of the Middle East. The recently elected Indian government of the nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has become more vocal about its support and growing relationship with Israel. Pakistan, on the other hand, refuses to recognize the Jewish state of Israel and utterly condemns the death of innocents in Gaza. This difference in opinion on world affairs could very easily spark up historical acrimony. The BJP government in India made a show of solidarity for Israel by refusing to allow a resolution in parliament condemning it for the attacks on Gaza.

Pakistan, on the other hand, responded to the onslaught by sponsoring the UNHCR resolution to set up an independent commission to investigate Israeli war crimes.

The different stance on the Palestinian/Israeli conflict and the policies on the Middle East as a whole have divided the two nations for a number of years. India’s dedication to economic growth and security interests have led it to increase its diplomatic influence on the Muslim world. India’s increasing bond with Israel has enabled it to develop its high-tech military capacity, giving Pakistan a potential reason to be anxious over its own security.

The India and Pakistan crisis has a tendency to set off suddenly and rapidly like the Kargil border war in 1999, which means the USA will need to ensure that it has stable diplomatic linkages with both India and Pakistan to resolve any future conflicts and crises. Given the current predicaments in the world, with the crises in Ukraine, Syria, Iraq and Palestine, the Western countries do face various foreign policy challenges. In fact, South Asia may not be on the top of their agenda. But this region as a whole, and, in particular, India and Pakistan are continuously changing and developing both as independent nation states. This includes developing their relationships and the way they approach each other. The are most certainly interesting times ahead in the South-Asian sub-continent!

[symple_box color=”blue” text_align=”left” width=”100%” float=”none”]Nishaat Ismail
Nishaat Ismail is completing a MSc in Middle East in Global Politics: Islam, Conflict and Development at Birkbeck University of London. Nishaat has also a BA in History from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London. Nishaat specialises in the politics of the Middle East and North Africa.