A Brief History
On August 14, 1947, the independent country of Pakistan came about, a mostly Muslim country consisting of the Northeast and Northwest portions of the Indian sub-continent carved out of the British colony of India. The next day, India also gained her long awaited independence, a fitting thing for the world’s second most populous country.
India had been the target of British colonialism since the 1600’s, and by 1820 the entire subcontinent was basically under British rule. Indians chafed under this rule, a situation not helped by religious and ethnic differences in a giant country of many languages and many peoples.
When World War II spelled the end of large scale European colonialism for most of the third world, Indians demanded they get their independence just as they saw so many other previously colonized countries. By 1947 the inevitable occurred, and India became independent, but not before the areas of overwhelming Muslim majority were carved out and declared the new Islamic based country of Pakistan. Of course, having an East and West Pakistan separated by about a thousand miles with no readily available overland route between them was sure to create problems, and those problems were finally (somewhat) solved by East Pakistan becoming Bangladesh in 1971, an independent country of about 166 million people (8th most populous country in today’s world). What remained of Pakistan now has a population of 202 million people (the 6th most populous in today’s world).
The idea of creating countries of India and Pakistan was to provide homeland for Muslims in Pakistan and for Hindus in India, but this idea was flawed by the fact that these and many other religious groups (notably Buddhist and Confucianist) were interspersed throughout the giant country. When the partition was being made, many of these people became refugees and migrated across the countries to reach the homeland of their religious identity. Of course, many either could not or did not want to leave their homes of their families and stayed, creating religious minorities in each country that would continue to cause friction through the years.
Although not a perfect solution, it is likely other solutions would be as troubled or even more likely more troubled. The idea that a far away country a fraction of the size of India with a fraction of the population should rule India like a step child is of course ridiculous, and now is a thing of the past, something for us to read about and shake our heads in wonder how such a thing could happen in the first place.
A final note about the Independence of India and Pakistan: Both of these countries are mutually antagonistic toward each other and have conducted military operations against each other. Unfortunately, both countries are armed with nuclear weapons, a fact that keeps world leaders worrying.
Question for students (and subscribers): Should Pakistan and India re-unite as a single country? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
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For more information, please see…
Chandra, Bipan, Aditya Mukherjee, et al. India After Independence. South Asia Books, 2000.
Independence of India and Pakistan.
Talbot, Ian. The Independence of India and Pakistan: New Approaches and Reflections (The Subcontinent Divided: A New Beginning). Oxford University Press, 2014.