Has Pakistan ever been better than India

History Reloaded - What history teaches us

Indian and Pakistani soldiers dance at a ceremony on the common border. The meeting is not always so peaceful. Photo: Elizabeth Dalziel (AP Photo, Keystone)

A huge crowd cheers in the streets of Delhi. Mounted people proudly demonstrate the new state power with raised flags. "Hundreds of thousands are celebrating on the street," comments a BBC reporter from the new capital dryly, "a rainbow forms on the horizon in the monsoons, a sign of hope for the new country". It's August 15, 1947, India's Independence Day - or the rump state that was left.

70 years ago the British colony of India was divided into an independent Hindu and a Muslim state. The euphoria only lasts for a short time, as fights break out almost immediately. The Indian-Pakistani conflict, which has now started and is still modern today, is an example of how difficult religiously fueled conflicts are to resolve politically.

Did you believe your own statements?

The two political leaders, the Indian Jawaharlal Nehru and the Pakistani Mohammed Ali Jinnah, on August 15th, in sober radio speeches, affirmed the peaceful intentions of their states - different religions or not. The main thing is that the hated colonial rulers are finally gone.

Peaceful intentions: Mohammed Ali Jinnah and Mahatma Gandhi (right). (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

As early as the 18th and 19th centuries, there had been regular armed conflicts between the indigenous ethnic groups and their various religious followers: They fought each other - and the British on top of that. As a result, the "Dominion", the area of ​​rulership, became increasingly alienated from the motherland of Great Britain. At the same time, the rifts deepened in Indian society, and political and religious claims became increasingly inextricable.

It is open whether Nehru and Jinnah believed their optimistic statements on Independence Day themselves. In any case, the last British viceroy, Lord Louis Mountbatten, had prophesied a military catastrophe before he took office in March 1947. Mountbatten did not trust the pacifism of the nationalist revolutionary Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi.

In fact, after independence, the peace lasted just two months. In October of the same year the first war broke out over the Kashmir Valley, because the British had struck this region in India. Kashmir's local political leadership was Hindu, but Muslims made up the majority of the population.

Horrific flows of refugees

At the same time, horrific flows of refugees tormented their way through the subcontinent: Indian Muslims sought security in Pakistan, Pakistani Hindus moved to India - the chaos was terrible with thousands upon thousands dead; nobody knows the exact number. The BBC estimates half a million dead and 12 million refugees.

In fact, lawlessness prevailed in large parts of Pakistan and India for months. Everything was allowed in the name of religion. The stream of refugees continued for years because there were repeated pogroms against the minorities in both countries. Anyone who stayed in their homeland with the wrong religion was expropriated. The descendants of the victims still suffer from the crimes of that time today.

The war ended in stalemate, the stalemate has remained until today

The first Kashmir war ended in a stalemate after more than a year. This dispute remained as unsolved as the numerous border disputes between the two countries, because the British drew the borders between the two countries - as in the former African colonies - arbitrarily. In 1971 what had to come came: the two parts of Pakistan, which are geographically 1,500 kilometers away, split into two independent states, today's Pakistan and Bangladesh, after another civil war. The subcontinent was now divided into three states.

The Kashmir conflict looms after three more wars to this day. The fronts are more confusing than ever. In addition to Indian and Pakistani army units, numerous different Muslim factions and the Indian-Hindu state power are fighting each other. Some want to maintain the status quo, others want to join Pakistan, and others want independence. In any case, the parties to the dispute draw on apparent religious legitimation for their political claims.

Relations between India and Pakistan remain precarious and both nations have nuclear weapons. In addition, there is currently a Hindu party in government in India and actively promoting discrimination against the remaining Muslims. In Pakistan, the situation is as usual tense after the prime minister has been charged with corruption, and large parts of the country have politically withdrawn from state power in Islamabad.