The Truth About India & Pakistan Conflict


For almost 200 years, the Indian subcontinent was ruled by the British Raj. “Raj” is Hindi for “reign.” Most of India was directly under the British rule (60 percent of the total area, and as much as 75 percent of the total population), but there were a few hundred princely(or native) states that the British ruled indirectly, through local maha-rajahs (meaning great kings or great rulers).

At its height, the British Raj was made up of not just present-day India  (with the exception of small French and Portuguese owned territories like Pondicherry and Goa), but also Pakistan, Bangladesh and Myanmar, and also, for shorter periods – Aden (now part of Yemen), British Somaliland (now part of Somalia) and Singapore. Countries like Ceylon and Maldives however were also under the British rule but not a part of the Raj as they were bound by treaties to Britain and were able to retain their independence.

India-Pakistan Handshake
India-Pakistan Handshake

When World War II ended, the British realized that they could no longer hold onto India. And in early 1947, Lord Louis Mountbatten, the last governing official of British India, set the deadline for Independence for Aug. 15, 1947. On July 8, the British lawyer Sir Cyril Radcliffe arrived in India with a plan that divided Hindu-majority lands from Muslim-majority ones as fairly as soon as possible. Then in August 1947, the British finally left after partitioning the Indian subcontinent into two separate nations – India and Pakistan. On August 14, Pakistan became an independent country. But it faced several problems.

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It did not have natural borders, such as rivers, mountains or the sea. Also the two regions of Pakistan (East Bengal and West Pakistan) were separated by about a thousand miles of land that belonged to India. The problem with drawing borders was that no amount of population distribution could perfectly divide the Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs. Sixty-two percent of the area of undivided Punjab was given to India, along with fifty-five percent of the population.

The Punjab region was split into Punjab, Pakistan and Punjab, India following the independence and partition of the two countries in 1947. The boundary ran from the border of Kashmir State south along the Ujh River, leaving one sub-district of the Gurdaspur District to Pakistan and giving the rest to India.

When the Radcliffe border division plan  became public, heavy violence and riots broke out all over the country. The partition had left up to 1 million dead and forced around 20 million people to move one way or the other across the new border. Millions of people found themselves living in the ‘wrong’ country and became victims of discriminatory attacks.

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People thought their only hope for safety was for Muslims to move into Pakistan and non-Muslims to move into India. This led to one of the largest mass migrations ever witnessed in history.

5.3 million Hindus fled from Punjab and Sindh into India, 5.9 million Muslims fled from India into West Pakistan. Also, 3.3 million Hindus fled East Bengal, and 1.3 million Muslims fled from India into east Bengal. More than one million refugees migrated from East Pakistan (which is now Bangladesh) to West Bengal in India.

On April 8, 1950 The Delhi Pact was signed in New Delhi by Indian Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru and the Pakistani Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan. The pact was to allow refugees to return safely to take care of any unfinished business, as well as abducted women and stolen property were to be returned. The pact even cancelled any forced religion conversions.

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Among other assets that had to be distributed were. Wine cellars would stay with India, as Pakistan would be an Islamic state where alcohol was haraam. However, Pakistan was to be monetarily compensated for its share of the value of the wine. There was only one government press that printed currency notes and India refused to hand that over. So Pakistan began its existence with Indian currency notes rubber stamped “Pakistan” over “India”.

One of the major issues involved in partitioning the old British India was how to divide up the assets of the country. They now belonged to two countries, not one anymore. It was agreed that the assets were to be divided in the ratio of 17 to India and 5 to Pakistan. This was based on the size and populations of the two countries. The British were, at first, reluctant to divide the armed forces but eventually it was agreed that they should be split 36% and 44% between Pakistan and India respectively.

The armed forces personnel were given freedom to join whichever country they wanted. Muslim forces went to Pakistan and non-Muslim forces went to India. A big problem for the Pakistani army was that their army of 150,000 men needed 4,000 officers. There were only 2,500 trained Muslim officers. So Pakistan did what they could and took 500 British officers for the time being.

Pakistani troops patrol on a hill top post in Ladha, a town in the troubled tribal region of South Waziristan along the Afghan border on November 17, 2009.  Donkeys nibbling on the roadside are the only creatures living in the ruins of war in the hamlet of Ladha, the scenic valley emptied of inhabitants due to fighting between army and Taliban. For five weeks, 30,000 troops backed by warplanes and helicopter gunships have waged battle in South Waziristan, bombing, shelling and fighting in streets against homegrown Taliban militants the military has vowed to crush.  AFP PHOTO/ AAMIR QURESHI (Photo credit should read AAMIR QURESHI/AFP/Getty Images)
Pakistani troops patrol on a hill top post in Ladha

The tricky part of the 1,800-mile line dividing Pakistan and India lay north of Punjab. This used to be the princely state of Kashmir – whose ruler had to decide whether to join India or Pakistan after independence. The state had a mostly Muslim population but a Hindu ruler who wanted to keep Kashmir independent. A rebellion broke out and caused the king – Maharaja Hair Singh to ask for India’s help. This resulted with Kashmir joining India. War broke out between the two countries over this in 1948, and again in 1965 – and again in 1999.

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The Indo-Pakistani war of 1947-48 created the state of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (known as AJK) which is a self-governing administrative division of Pakistan. Most of Kashmir at this point is Indian-held, while the Pakistani hold an eastern portion. Depending on who you’re talking to, the map of Indian and Pakistan can vary. Meaning, the line dividing the two countries is not an actual international border, determined by officials, but rather, a “line of control,” which was the result of a cease fire.

Aksai Chin, was occupied by China during the brief Sino-Indian War of 1962. India and Pakistan agreed to respect the line of control by the Simla Agreement in 1972, But that document left out the Siachen Glacier, which India occupied in 1984. Occasionally battles start over this region.

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The Siachen glacier is considered to be the largest single source of fresh water on the Indian subcontinent. Sachen Glacier is the highest battleground in the world, where Indian Soldiers are at 21,000 ft above Sea Level. It’s serves India’s interest to go guard this area since the glacier prevents a direct link between Pakistan and China.

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The canal water dispute: The canal water dispute can be traced back to Punjab in 1947. West Pakistan was a fertile country but had a hot and dry climate. Rainfall can also be inadequate and so it relies upon irrigation from a series of canals which draw water from the three main rivers in the area –  the Indus, the Jhelum, and the Chenab.

The partition of the subcontinent cut across many rivers and canals. The problem for Pakistan was that the flow of water through the canals and rivers was controlled at a series of headworks all or which lay in the part of Punjab that now belonged to India.

The Indian government promised not to interfere with the supply of water to Pakistan. However, India and Pakistan were soon in a dispute over the canals, especially the waters from the Bari-Doab canal. India claimed that as the origin of the waterbodies were in its country it had complete rights to do what it wanted with the water. Pakistan argued that it had a right to the water as its economy depended upon it. Thus came about The IWT – a 56 year old accord signed in 1960 that governs how India and Pakistan manage the vast Indus River Basin’s rivers and tributaries. The treaty allocated three rivers each to Pakistan and India. Pakistan was given control of the Indus Basin’s three large western rivers — the Indus, Jhelum, and Chenab — which account for 80 percent of the water in the entire basin.

106487 Map of Indus Basin with red dots indicating study sites
106487 Map of Indus Basin with red dots indicating study sites

If Pakistan’s access to water from the Indus Basin were cut off or merely reduced, the implications for the country’s water security could be catastrophic. Pakistan’s economy is the most water-intensive in the world, and yet it has dangerously low levels of water to work with. If India decided to maximize pressure on Pakistan by cutting off or reducing river flows to its downstream neighbor, this would cause problems for India as well – because bottling up large volumes of water in northern India, could cause significant flooding in major cities in Kashmir and in Punjab state (for geographical reasons, India would not have the option of diverting water elsewhere).

The partition affected the Indian cotton industry badly. Most of the weavers who were Muslims migrated to Pakistan. There were 394 cotton mills in India before partition, out of this 14 mills went to Pakistan. The remaining 380 mills were left in India. However 40 % cotton producing area became part of Pakistan. Although Pakistan’s biggest and most populated city, Karachi had substantial trading and business activity, much of Pakistan had not experienced the industrialization that had taken place in central India. Around 90 % of the people lived in the countryside.

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Pakistan was not a wealthy country and its major activity, agriculture, did not produce a enough profit for industrialization. The exception to this was in the production of jute, where, in 1947, east Bengal produced nearly 70% of the world’s crop. Jute export produced the major source of foreign income for Pakistan for many years. But the problems created by partition meant that, in 1947, Pakistan did not have a single jute mill. Most jute producing mills were in the new India whereas major portions of jute-producing areas went to Pakistan.

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