12/30/2022 - While the below piece is largely correct, I’m not very satisfied with it. Too many Wikipedia links, too much conjecture, not enough sources, and the geopolitical landscape has changed so much since I wrote most of it in 2017 that the tone feels dated (it’s pretty easy to identify what bits were added more recently). A rewrite will take quite a bit of reading, but it’s a worthwhile project. May end up expanding into multiple pieces.

India is a third the size of the U.S. mainland.

India is separated from China by the Tibetan Plateau, from Myanmar by the Arakan Mountains, and from the Arabian Peninsula by the Arabian Sea.

This is why every large-scale invasion (e.g. Alexander, the Mamluks, the Mongols, the Mughals) has come through modern-day Pakistan, specifically the Khyber Pass.

Please take a few moments to study this map and get a feel for what’s where.

The British Raj

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Independence and Pakistan

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  • By the end of World War 2, India had contributed 2.5 million soldiers to the Allied war effort, men who were now more than happy to fight for their freedom.

    Britain, supplanted as a power by the U.S. and USSR, was too weak to hold onto India [1].

    This was the biggest factor in 1947 independence. Mahatma Gandhi was incidental.

  • As the Cold War loomed, Gandhi’s disciple Jawaharlal Nehru (India’s first prime minister) made it clear that India would stay neutral. Wanting an ally bordering Afghanistan and Iran, targets of Stalin’s expansionist Soviet Union, is why the British insisted on creating Pakistan. Religious tensions were a convenient, somewhat absurd excuse [2].

    A million died in the resulting Partition of India, and Pakistan has attacked India four times, in 1947, 1965, 1971, and 1999, three times over Kashmir and once over Bangladesh.

    The West’s alliance with Pakistan proved instrumental to the costly Soviet-Afghan War that helped topple the USSR. However, the Pakistani government may now support terrorism.

    Note that Pakistan’s been mostly under military rule, and is today a democracy in name only.

    [1] While the U.S. ended World War 2 in 1945 by detonating atomic bombs over Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the USSR wasn’t a nuclear power until August 1949. These crucial four years are why India was hobbled by Pakistan and the institution of a foreign political system (Western capitalist democracy). China is lucky to have won independence after the Soviets got the bomb.

    [2] When Pakistan was first proposed in 1933, India’s Muslims rejected the idea. Further, only the parts of India under direct British control (as opposed to the nominally autonomous “princely states”) became part of Pakistan. Pakistan’s existence has nothing to do with religion and everything to do with Western interests in the Cold War.

  • The British also split Bengal into West Bengal and East Pakistan. After Pakistan murdered three million East Pakistanis in 1971, East Pakistan became independent nation Bangladesh.

    Pakistan losing Bangladesh conflicted with American Cold War interests, so Richard Nixon sailed a nuclear-armed fleet into the Bay of Bengal to dissuade further Indian military action.

    In response, PM Indira Gandhi (Nehru’s daughter) signed a friendship treaty with the USSR, indirectly forcing the American trade deals that led China to the world’s largest economy.

China and Nuclear Weapons

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  • India and China had no border disputes until Nehru gave asylum to the Dalai Lama in 1959, which the CPC (Communist Party of China) responded to by asserting territorial claims.

    In the ensuing 1962 Sino-Indian War, Mao invaded and annexed Aksai Chin, part of Kashmir, attacking concurrently with the Cuban Missile Crisis so the USSR couldn’t intervene. This led India to develop nuclear weapons and Mao’s CPC to give Pakistan nuclear technology, which Pakistan may have passed to North Korea.

    Note that during the tensions that led to the Sino-Indian War (1959 – 1961), Mao’s CPC murdered 45 million Chinese [3] [4] [5].

    [3] British imperialism in China caused 30 million deaths in the 1850-1864 Taiping Rebellion, starved 20 million from 1876-1879, ended the Qing Empire, and weakened China enough for Imperial Japan to murder 35 million Chinese in World War 2, setting the stage for the civil war that led to Mao’s CPC seizing power in 1949. So all this still goes back to the British.

    [4] The Sino-Indian War may have been an attempt by Mao to distract CPC rivals from the results of the Great Leap Forward. It’s worth noting that India re-normalized relations with China shortly after Mao’s death, and that the Cultural Revolution was also a way for Mao to override the broader CPC and remain in power.

    [5] Mao’s CPC and the CPC post-Mao are very different entities, to the point that the CPC denounced Mao’s Cultural Revolution as the worst set-back in PRC history. As well, the modern CPC has around 100 million party members, promising stability.

Thank you for reading!