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Independence for India and Pakistan

This map is part of a series of 14 animated maps showing the history of Decolonization after 1945.

Clement Attlee, the Labour Prime Minister who replaced Winston Churchill in July 1945, was quickly convinced that independence for India was inevitable, but negotiations on the future state were complicated by disagreements among India’s political leaders.

At the time, India was a mosaic of princedoms with populations following a wide range of religions. However, the two biggest religious groups, the Muslims and the Hindus, were in conflict over independence.

With a predominantly Hindu membership, the Congress Party wanted to create a single non-denominational state for the entire Indian population. On the other hand, the Muslim League saw independence as an opportunity to divide India into two countries, one of which would be an Islamic state.

Towards the end of 1945, riots broke out in Northern India’s larger cities and led to a series of violent conflicts between the two religious groups throughout 1946.

In February 1947, the British government decided to accelerate the transition process by announcing that power would be transferred to an Indian authority on 30 June 1948 at the latest.

Indian negotiators finally agreed to a plan for partition. This plan led to the establishment of two independent states in the sub-continent on 15 August 1947:

- the Indian Union which was accepted by almost all the Hindu princedoms;

- and Pakistan, covering the two regions where the Muslims represented a majority of the population, but which were separated by a distance of 1700 kilometres: Western Pakistan and Eastern Pakistan.

However, in certain regions, such as Western Punjab and East Bengal, large populations of Hindis and Muslims had lived side by side. With partition, as many as 10 to 15 million people left their homes in a series of massive exoduses: Hindus travelled towards the Indian Union and Muslims towards Pakistan. During this period, many people were attacked and large-scale massacres occurred.

Although most of Kashmir’s population were Muslim, the Hindu Maharajah decided to join the Indian Union. Pakistan immediately challenged this choice and invaded part of Kashmir.

Early in 1949, a cease-fire line was established which led to the region being divided between India and Pakistan.

In the years that followed, China also made a claim for territories along the Sino-Indian border. Today, Kashmir still remains a hotly disputed territory.

The Principality of Hyderabad, ruled by a Muslim prince with a Hindu population, joined the Indian Union in 1949.

Immediately after Independence, the Indian Union attempted to gain control of the French and Portuguese trading posts. The government soon entered into negotiations with France and quickly obtained the transfer of Chandannagar in 1949 and the four other ports in 1954.

Portugal, however, had no intention of giving up its possessions. It was not until December 1961 that India finally recuperated these towns by force.

In 1971, East Pakistan rebelled against the national government in Islamabad and gained its independence with the name of Bangladesh.