Could India and Pakistan have survived as a single country, if England hadn't divided then in 1947?

What were relations like between the Hindu and the Muslims, before the partition of India, in 1947? I know that the partition resulted in millions of people becoming refugees, as they left their existing homes and moved because they no longer felt they could live where they were a minority.

Would a non-divided country have been stable as it was? Were the relations good enough to allow for ongoing co-existance as neighbors and a common community, or was the partition, while disruptive, in the long run a necessity?

With 72 year hind sight, was a two state solution the better choice or a terrible mistake?

Gandhi was assassinated by a Hindu extremist who thought Gandhi was too eager to appease Muslims.

I can’t say how widespread Hindu-Muslim tensions were, but there were definitely tensions.

As usual, Wikipedia has a pretty good summary.

In short:

When the UK finally decided to grant India independence in 1946, it actually wanted to keep an independent India united. It was the Muslim League that wanted an independent Pakistan, and had been agitating for such for decades. It won a majority of the Muslim vote in 1946. It might have accepted greater regional autonomy for Muslim majority areas rather than outright partition, but Nehru and other Congress party leaders rejected such a deal. There were communal riots in 1946 that killed thousands of Muslims and Hindus.

By 1947, a united independent India was largely a dead letter. The Muslim League would almost certainly have never accepted it. The Indian National Congress was formally in favor of a united India, but there were factions within it that wanted the Muslim majority areas out of India almost as much as the Muslim League did, and a working majority of pragmatists who saw partition as the only way to avoid a civil war. Partition was what the Indians wanted, the Muslim League eagerly, Congress reluctantly. And as disastrous as partition wound up being, trying to keep India united would likely have resulted in a far bloodier civil war, and eventually an independent Pakistan anyway.

Correct me if I am wrong, but was the subcontinent not a quilt of various fiefdoms prior to the British conquest? Was not the single Indian nation an artificial creation to begin with?

If gdave wrote, partition wasn’t something the United Kingdom imposed on India. It was done at the request of the local population. (At least some of the local population. Essentially, Indian Hindus wanted to stay a single country and Indian Muslims wanted a separate country for themselves.)

It was still a quilt of various fiefdoms in 1947. There were a number of what were called princely states, which were essentially autonomous regions with their own local government functioning under British oversight. When Britain surrendered its control, there was very little binding these autonomous states to new state of India.

Getting these states to submit to the national government was the second most difficult issue the Indian faced in 1947 (after partition).

Do we have any people from India or Pakistan on this board who might be able to give us their perspective?


I am busy right now and will write a longer post, but the short answer is no and the longer answer is fuck no

The sub continent has been undergoing two millenia of rule by single power, followed by break into squabbling kingdoms, then single power, then squabbling kingdom…and continue.
The British were merely the last:

Yes, this seems to be a recurring pattern in history… for example the many “civil wars” in Chinese history or the repeated empires and breakups of the Orient and Occident respectfully.


Thats not a good premise to start with. So allow me to illustrate with an example :

Say the Texans are the most prominent Republicans in the US and they decide to divide the US in two parts. So the Texans choose the states above the Mason-Dixon line to be the new R-Country and also Florida. All the Republican Texans move to the states above the Mason Dixon line and force the Democrats out of the states. Similar population movement happens in Florida. After a few years, Florida is just fed up with Texans looking down at them and fight on their own to become an independent country (aka Bangladesh). That’s pretty much what happened

It is to be noted that both Indian Hindus and Muslims fought against the British in the war of 1857 (called the mutiny by the British). But Hindus and Muslims were definitely at odds in the years leading up to 1947. BUT and this is a big BUT it was only in a few parts of India.

The results of the 1946 election is shown with details of Muslim league winnings here :

The Muslim league won elections only in 3 states : The Punjab, Sindh and Bengal. Consider Punjab and Sindh to be States above the Mason-Dixon line and Bengal as Florida while the leadership of Muslim league was from Gujarat/UP/Bihar (Texas . The Muslims of South India and even the state of UP did not vote for the Muslim League.

So India was divided into two parts (later Bangladesh separated from Pakistan in a bloody war ) where the Muslims from some Indian states went on to make a new country and impose their culture on other Muslims living there.

The separation of Bangladesh from Pakistan provides evidence that the bond of culture /language was stronger than the bond of religion.

My family went through this - i.e. the members who survived. Without getting into personal details, people were generally forced out or killed on both sides.

That’s a hard question to answer. In India, in some states Hindus and Muslims live happily in coexistence while in other states there is perpetual friction.

Better choice or terrible mistake depends on your values. I have personal (family) history to be totally objective and leave the call to the others.

That’s what the Brits want you to believe. The history of democracy is ancient in India. Gana / Sanghas the earliest democracies were active around 6th century BCE. Both Buddha and Mahavira have their origins in this type of polities. The Buddhist texts have extensive description on how the gana/sanghas worked.

Before the British “contest”, it was Muslim rulers who were running India.

Ashoka’s empire stretched from Afghanistan to Bengal to southern India. Several modern maps depict it as covering nearly all of the Indian subcontinent, except the southern tip. - Ashoka - Wikipedia

Granted before and after Ashoka, India had many sub-divisions but they were Indians by shared cultural beliefs and values.

Thank you for your views, as someone with family that was involved in the partition. And for what I was wondering, your views are pretty much exactly what I was looking for. It’s one thing to sit on the outside, decades later, and declare that something was good or bad. It’s a totally different thing to have a personal connection with the events.