World History 2 248 - 14.3.3 India

Like Indonesia, India sought to plot its own path and remain free of the entangling alliances of the Cold War, and it was also one of the initiators of the Non-Aligned Movement. In 1947, the United Kingdom granted India its independence. Anti-British protests had rocked India throughout 1946, and, exhausted from fighting World War II, Britain could no longer afford to maintain control over its colony. In addition, although the United Kingdom had sufficient troops there, the majority were Indian, and it was uncertain where their loyalties lay. Indeed, in 1946 Indians in the British Navy had mutinied throughout the country. Finally, the United Kingdom’s greatest ally and creditor, the United States, pressured the nation to grant India its independence, as the United States had given independence to the Philippines following the war.

The announcement that the British would be withdrawing sparked waves of religious violence throughout the nation. Much of it was caused by a dispute over what an independent India would consist of. Hindus in the Indian National Congress called for the maintenance of a single, unified India. Muslims, however, feared that the Hindu majority would dominate the government to their detriment, and many were reluctant to agree to such a situation. A compromise was reached, and at midnight on August 15, 1947, when India achieved its independence, the region of Pakistan, home to a Muslim majority, became an independent nation as well.

The Past Meets the Present


In August 1947, when India became independent of the United Kingdom and Pakistan was established as a separate nation, the status of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir (usually referred to simply as Kashmir) was in question. India wished to retain control of it, but because the state had a largely Muslim population, Pakistan lay claim to it; thus, India and Pakistan went to war. Peace was established when the United Nations intervened, and Kashmir remained part of India. In 1965, war broke out again when Pakistan tried to seize the Indian state by force. As a result of negotiations mediated by the Soviet Union, both sides withdrew their forces from the region. War erupted a third time in 1971, and fighting broke out yet again in 1999.

Between 2016 and 2018, Kashmiri separatists launched a series of attacks on Indian security forces, with India placing the blame on Pakistan as the instigator of the violence. In 2019, following a suicide attack on an Indian army convoy by militants based in Pakistan, the government of India revoked Article 370 of its constitution, which had granted Kashmir a degree of autonomy. In February 2021, a cease-fire agreement was reached between India and Pakistan, and peace returned to the region as local tourists, unable to vacation abroad because of the COVID-19 pandemic, flocked to the mountainous region to enjoy winter sports.

  • How does the Kashmir conflict reflect the politics of the Cold War?
  • How might the continuing tension in the region represent a new kind of Cold War?

India’s geographic location, bordering both the Soviet Union and China, made it of great interest to the West. The United Kingdom continued to trade with India, supply it with weapons, and train its military officers. India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, wished to maintain his distance from the United States, however. He was sympathetic to socialism and had visited the Soviet Union. He recognized the People’s Republic of China and opposed the U.S. refusal to allow the PRC to hold China’s seat on the UN Security Council. He was also suspicious of U.S. intentions toward India, given the government’s treatment of its own citizens of color. Nevertheless, Nehru accepted aid from the United States in the 1950s, just as he did from the Soviet Union.

In 1950, India’s relationship with China changed when China established border posts in Tibet to demarcate its territory, including land India claimed. India and China sought to maintain an amicable relationship and even signed a treaty affirming the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence in 1954. But when Tibet’s leader, the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, sought protection in India after fleeing Tibet during an anti-Chinese uprising in 1959, India’s support for him angered China. In 1962, a confrontation along the disputed border with Tibet led to war between the two countries. The United States aided India, and while the Soviet Union officially remained neutral, it also continued to provide funds and technology to India. This decision deepened a divide that was already growing between the USSR and China.

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The content of this course has been taken from the free World History, Volume 2: from 1400 textbook by Openstax