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Decolonization and the Struggle for National Liberation in India (1909–1971)

Historical, Political, Economic, Religious and Architectural Aspects


Edited By Thierry Di Costanzo and Guillaume Ducœur

At the end of the First World War, the Raj remained economically or even strategically more central than ever in the general colonial architecture of the British Empire. Yet, between the two World Wars, the colonial regime hung only by a thread when confronted with the rising popularity of the nationalist movements. As a result, independence was granted in 1947 to this major component of the Empire, a truly cataclysmic event for the remainder of the world. This reality conflicts with the idea that a well-managed, peaceful decolonization process was launched by the British authorities. The independence of British India proceeded at the same speed as the Partition of British India which had both immediate and distant, but surely terrible, consequences like the 1971 war with Pakistan over Bangladesh.
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The Long-Term Effects of Decolonization of the British Empire in South Asia: the 1971 Secession of Bangladesh and its International Consequences



In 1971 India and Pakistan fought their third war in less than thirty years. The history of hostile relations between the two countries is not sufficient to understand the genesis of the 1971 conflict, which was not fought, as the first two were, to rule over Kashmir. The key to comprehension lies rather in the domestic situation of Pakistan. This article demonstrates that the third Indo-Pakistani war originated from the actions of the authoritarian Pakistani governments that repeatedly negated and repressed regional identities and claims for decentralisation. The direct consequence of these policies was the eruption in East Pakistan of a civil war in 1971, which ended up involving India and triggering the third Indo-Pakistani war.

In the first section of the article the causes of the East Pakistan civil war are analysed to provide the tools for understanding the 1971 events. Cultural, sociological, political and economic disparities between East and West Pakistan were the bases for the regional political movement that emerged in East Pakistan. Some of these imbalances, like the territorial conformity of Pakistan, the sociological dominance of the Punjabi ethnic group in the military and civilian administration, the vice-regal pattern of government, and the lack of strong and rooted political parties were inherited from the colonial period. However, colonial legacies alone cannot fully explain this discord. The second section of this article indeed shows that by worsening these imbalances and by repressing democratic claims for major regional autonomy, the Pakistani...

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