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Differences in the Character of Post-Colonial States is a Reflection of their Path to Independence
Differences between India and Pakistan have been designated as a direct consequence of the British partition with ethnic tensions, religious differences, border disputes, and many other socio-economic issues stemming from the same event. The partition of the Indian subcontinent also resulted in the largest and most rapid migration in human history. While the agreement did not include any provision that required the human population exchanges, the migration was necessitated by the violence that ensued the region. The establishment of the independent states of Pakistan and India through the partition in 1947 stamped the end of the British occupation of the region. Pakistan would reconstitute with a Muslim-majority population while India had a Hindu-majority populace. Ever since the declaration of independence, these two states have co-existed with an incremental level of hostility between them. The relationship between the two states is a reflection of the manner in which the independence deal was struck. The partition has also contributed to questions over the British morality in imposing the partition and whether it was the most pragmatic means of dealing with the ethnic differences and communalism. The debate seems to lean in on the idea that the partition was inevitable and was a logical approach in solving the conflict between the Hindus and Muslims who were unable to co-exist harmoniously. There is evidence, however, that Pakistan is starting to divert away from British influence and this will ultimately shape the character of the state in the coming decades.
To begin with, it is important to evaluate the characters of the individual states. Both Pakistan and India adopted asymmetric forms of federalism as a business structure and this has been seen to be a direct consequence of the partition. Federalism was pursued as a national and ethnic conflict regulation policy under colonial dispensation. Characteristically, the two states are anthropologically heterogenous and originate from the same colonial regime. They also had similar institutional frameworks by the time the Indian subcontinent was approaching independence. However, following the imposition of the partition at independence, the two young states had the imperative to pursue economic and social development under different political systems hence effecting variably motivated reorganizations of their regional borders, all happening within a decade of the declaration of independence (Adeney, 2003). The reorganizations of the political states were intended to be a management of the ethnic differences between the two states. The federal system adopted by the Indian government was founded on the linguistic identities of the constituents while rejecting any ideas of recognizing people on the basis of their religious affiliations. Article 370 of the Indian Constitution provides for special status for Jammu and Kashmir (Rudolph and Hoeber Rudolph, 2010). Additionally, Article 371 also provides special provisions for other states such as Goa, Gujarat and Sikkim (Rudolph and Hoeber Rudolph, 2010). The Indian asymmetry is not solely a consequence of partition as many of the states are geographical distant from India’s borders. On the other hand, the Pakistani government rejected the proposals to use language to define identities of its citizens. Instead, a One Unit plan was implemented facilitating the fusion of the Western wing into a single province. While it was meant to be beneficial in the sense of promoting unity, the plan ignited an antagonistic co-relation between that Western wing and the Eastern wing which was linguistically homogenous (Adeney, 2003). It is paradoxical that the One Unit plan designed to promote unity caused the 1971 secession of the Bangladesh state that was formerly the Eastern wing of the Pakistan state. Pakistan, whilst also an asymmetric federal state, provides for an additional level of government which incorporates tribal leaders into local decision-making whereas India does not, officially, do the same. The tribal areas are enumerated in the Pakistani Constitution, all of which being administered through local provinces. This federally administered tribal area, Pashtun, was integrated into a larger province in 2018 (Marten, Johnson and Mason, 2009). This could be illustrative of an attempt to increase the territorial unity of the country or indeed cultivate a more unified Pakistani identity by sublimating local solidarities to a national polity; a measure that is deemed to be a derivative of the One Unit plan.
From the foregoing, it is evident that the poor design of the federal framework implemented by both states has failed to regulate the ethnically instigated conflicts. In this case that is characterized by the territorial concentration of the states in terms of the large populations they host, it would be effective to have homogenous populations rather than heterogenous populations as a way of ameliorating the tension. The British used federalism in the Indian colony, as part of their divide and rule strategy, to manage the societies. Their rationale is that the political institution of federalism as a structure would serve to autonomously regulate the ethnic conflicts; especially in consideration of the situational nature of ethnicity. The British set the precedence for the federalism in the divided states during the anti-colonial movements. Arguably, India and Pakistan are both federal because of collective historical memory of power being centralised in a distant location (London) and the Indian independence movement came not from one centre but was diffuse in its nature.
In as much as the pretext for the partition was the religious difference within the Indian subcontinent, religion was not a major factor and could have been used as an anti-colonialism tool at key moments of the struggle. It is hard to ignore the timeless hostility between the Hindus and Muslims. The differences between the two transcended just religion and had extended into other social elements, the most profound being the social stratification system. The Muslims mostly formed the upper class of the society while Hindus comprised of the lower and middle classes. The stratification of the society in itself had bred some conflicts in the past with some of them turning out to be violent. However, it was not a factor that hindered national unity as much as the calls for nationalism. Rarely did the religious factor, within the limits of morality and reason, impede the national unity of the region. Religion was as variegated as the aspect of culture, and had thus far attracted enthusiastic nationalists of all sorts, hues, and colours (Bose, 2013). In fact, religion and culture variability would not have embittered and soured the relations between the different ethnic groups of the country were it not for the influence of the British colonialists. In pitting the groups against each other, they flaunted the Hindu nationalists into boasting the power of majoritarian triumph. It was made to seem as though the Indian nationalist movement was a sole effort by the Hindus, and that the Islamic groups were riding on a bandwagon wave effect. The Hindus had united under Mahatma Gandhi’s leadership to make a compelling argument for their self-rule and eventual independence. At the same time, there were calls for unity against the British rule by all Indians. The threat posed by the Indian Congress forced the British to adopt a divisive political strategy. These conceits of unitary nationalism drove a wedge and instilled a deep sense of alienation among the groups described as the minority who in this case were the Muslims (Bose, 2013). In fact, the calls for nationalism amidst the power struggle and seeming condescending perspective of the minority segment of the population was a far more divisive issue than the attachment to various religions. The Muslims later staged a withdrawal from the Indian Congress in protest of the strong political hold held by the Hindus (Jaffrelot, 2004). In so doing, the focus, amidst the fight for independence, shifted from establishing a united front to religious conflicts. The Muslims went on to start their own campaign, which was independent of the Hindu movement, called the Muslim League. The fight for independence evolved into two factions that not only struggled against the British rule, but also against each other. Further confusion was heaped onto the menacing situation as the minority group advanced territorial claims over sections of the land (Bose, 2013). The two factions campaigned on separate agenda and developed independent nationalism movements, all this while enunciating hostility towards each other, setting up the stage for a federal republic. In 1940, the Muslim League actualized on its claims for certain territories by passing the ‘Lahore Resolution’(Wilcox, 1964). It demanded for the British to allow the Muslim majority areas a substantially significant degree of freedom and independence. Vague as it was during its conception, the idea would later evolve into the nation-state of Pakistan. With the tensions threatening to boil over, it became apparent that there would be no use dispensing the authority over the Indian subcontinent as a shared sovereignty as had been the case in the pre-colonial era. The British, therefore, imposed a moral authority to divide the land in terms of the religious affiliation.
However, there have been attempts by the Hindu nationalists to rewrite history regarding the struggle for independence in a way that underplays the role of the Muslims during the time. The texts are inclined towards the dissemination of the active role of the Hindus through the Indian Congress and the passive anti-colonial resistance led by Mahatma Gandhi. This is true for the Indian texts which greatly undermine the contribution of the Muslims considering that the mainland India is vastly populated by Hindus following the partition by the British. On the other hand, the Pakistani narratives of the struggle for independence has a propensity for oversharing the role played by the Muslim League at the expense of the Hindu-dominated Indian Congress. The nationalist movement is attributed to the Islamic faith (Jaffrelot, 2004). The Islamic dominion has gone on to form a basis for the national ideologies pursued by the state, as is characteristic of the Islamic states. Islam is an intricate part of the Pakistani state with its manifestation evident in key political structures such as the sharia courts and other national symbols (Mitra, 1995). The diversity of both states was created in part due to the disregard for such pluralism by British authorities however nationalist attempts at homogenisation are also something that is increasingly common in both states, perhaps as a way of consolidating the post-British geopolitical landscape. The One Unit plan in Pakistan, for instance, was aimed to promoting the agenda of homogenization of the state as a way of strengthening it. Every religion would be brought into conformity with the Islamic religion according to the provisions of the 1956 Constitution (Wilcox, 1964). The end result was the increasing discrimination of the minority religious groups which later ceded forming Bangladesh. In as much as it was ineffective in achieving the goal of unity since the homogenization was on grounds of religion, the intention was not lost. The post-colonial states were looking to strengthen their unity around common ideas as a way for pushing for nationalism. A strong sense of nationalism would serve to wade off any potential aggressors such as the Indians.
Both India and Pakistan maintain close relationships with their former colonial power. India has extensive diplomatic relations with the UK with a high commission in London and deputy high commissions in Birmingham and Edinburgh. The UK has a high commission in New Delhi as well as deputy high commissions in Bengalore, Chennai, Hyderabad, Kolkate and Mumbai (Pant, 2016). The political ties between the two nations run deep owing to their historical ties as colony and colonial master. Following the end of the colonization era, the British Empire sought to ease the decolonization process by maintaining strong ties with the respective governments. One such way was through the Commonwealth association. Britain left behind a strong sense of its institutional and ideological ideals in India. The legacy of the political framework it used during the colonization era is still apparent. The ideals of democracy have also been integrated into the independent republic of India. Additionally, the countries have representative diplomats who facilitate the foreign relations between the two states on issue of international concern such as counter-terrorism, maritime security, cyber security, and climate. The British Council and other UK soft power entities have worked collaboratively in order to maintain links with India, one such event being the 2017 UK-India Year of Culture. Other traces of culture such as the architecture and cricket are legacies of the British culture. The UK still admits many students from India to further their studies. India is second largest investor in the UK, behind the US, and British government policy regarding international trade has often been focussed on promoting trade between the UK and India, and indeed other former Commonwealth states. The relationship swings both ways as the UK still relies heavily on India as a designated market for its goods. The vast nature of the economy in terms of purchasing power is an enabling factor for the economic ties between the UK and India. Pakistan has one diplomatic mission to the UK and the UK has one in Pakistan. Some work has been done to promote trade between the two states however arguably Pakistan’s involvement in China’s Belt and Road Initiative is reflective of a desire among Pakistani political elites to shift its focus away from Britain and its sphere of influence. This has historical precedent as Pakistan was one of the first countries to recognise the People’s Republic of China over the Republic of China in 1950. This could be read into Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s view of Pakistani foreign policy, which is also prominently displayed on the Pakistani Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ website: “The foundation of our foreign policy is friendship with all nations around the globe” (Curtis, 2012). However, the relationship between Pakistan and UK has increasingly shifted from political ties and normative considerations to economic ties. Pakistan’s hand in the relations is continuously consolidated by the sheer power of economic weight in terms of purchasing power. In any case, Pakistan has developed a proclivity towards Asian states. For instance, it has strengthened its ties with China and Saudi Arabia. By shifting the discussions from political ties to economic subjects, the Pakistani state is attempting to strike a neutral stance rather than as a firm ally of the UK.
In conclusion, Domestic political structures and nationalisms were and still are largely shaped by the creation of India and Pakistan after the British Partition of India. One such evidence of the legacy of their history as Britain’s colony is democracy. The cultures are also intertwined with the two states producing some of the best cricket players. The diplomatic and foreign policy approaches of the two states is beginning to diverge as Pakistan appears to be shifting away from the UK and towards Asia whereas India is continuing to cultivate strong cultural and economic links with its former colonial overlord.
- Adeney, K. (2003). Chapter 9: Between federalism and separatism: India and Pakistan. In: U. Schneckener and S. Wolff, ed., Managing and Settling Ethnic Conflicts: Perspectives on Successes and Failures in Europe, Africa and Asia. [online] Hurst and Co, pp.161-175. Available at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/287997257_Between_federalism_and_separatism_India_and_Pakistan [Accessed 6 Aug. 2019].
- Bose, S. (2013). Nation, Reason and Religion: India’s Independence in International Perspective. Economic and Political Weekly, 33(31), pp.2090-2097.
- Curtis, L. (2012). The reorientation of Pakistan’s foreign policy toward its region. Contemporary South Asia, 20(2), pp.255-269.
- Jaffrelot, C. (2004). Pakistan. New Delhi: Manohar.
- Marten, K., Johnson, T. and Mason, M. (2009). Misunderstanding Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Area?. International Security, 33(3), pp.180-189.
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- Pant, H. (2016). Indian foreign policy. Manchester University Press.
- Rudolph, L. and Hoeber Rudolph, S. (2010). Federalism as State Formation in India: A Theory of Shared and Negotiated Sovereignty. International Political Science Review, 31(5), pp.553-572.
- Wilcox, W. (1964). The Economic Consequences of Partition: India and Pakistan. Journal of International Affairs, 18(2).
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