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India - Pakistan - 1947

Partition: An International History | Pallavi Raghavan

5 October 2019

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The International History Review, 2019 | DOI: 10.1080/07075332.2019.1652840


In trying to assemble the structure through which bilateral relations between India and Pakistan could be conducted, policy makers drew heavily from European models of inter-state peace-making evolved in the inter-war decades. The aftermath of the break-up of large multinational empires along ethnic-majoritarian lines posed administrative questions that were, in many ways, also similar to the aftermath of the partition of the subcontinent along religious lines. In this article, I attempt to relate these developments with the signing of the Nehru–Liaquat Pact of 1950, between the governments of India and Pakistan. According to this Pact, both governments would now be accountable to one another for the protection of their minorities in the Bengal province. I argue that this approach to dealing with the question of minority populations after a partition, had been initially developed by the League of Nations, and that emulating these models were part of an attempt by India and Pakistan to borrow from, but also further refine models of European statehood for their own purposes after their partition. This article attempts to evaluate the extent to which these expectations were met in the making of a ‘minorities’ regime’ in South Asia.


1 Suhrawardy, Constituent Assembly of Pakistan Debates; 18th May 1949; Manager of Publications, Govt. of Pakistan, Karachi, 1949.

2 See also, for instance, E. Newbegin, on the Hindu Code Bill: The Hindu Family and the Emergence of Modern India: Law Citizenship and Community (Cambridge: University of Cambridge Press, 2013); Rochana Bajpai also vividly describes how the political aftermath of the partition impacted the shaping of the understanding of what constituted minority rights during the Constituent Assembly debates; R. Bajpai, ‘Constituent Assembly Debates and Minority Rights’, Economic and Political Weekly 35 (2000), 1837–45.

3 Neerja Gopal Jayal, Citizenship and its Discontents: An Indian History (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2013); V. F. Zamindar, The Long Partition and the Making of Modern South Asia: Refugees, Boundaries, Histories (New York: Columbia University Press, 2007).

4 Text of Nehru Liaquat Agreement, 8 April 1950; Press Note of Govt. of India, 16th August 1950; File No. 20 (16)-R/C/50; Ministry of States, Rehabilitation Branch, NAI (Also available in: Government of India Bilateral Treaties and Agreements, Vol. 1, Ministry of External Affairs).

5 Annexure to Nehru–Liaquat Pact.

6 Iqbal, ‘Statement on the Report Recommending the Partition of Palestine’, 27 July 1937; Speeches and Statements of Iqbal, Al Manar Academy Lahore, 1944, 295. See also Faisal Devji, Muslim Zion, Pakistan as a Political Idea, (Cambridge: Hurst & Company, 2013, Chp. 2).

7 Cited from D. N. Verma, India and the League of Nations (Patna: Bharti Bhavan Press, 1968).

8 Beni Prasad, The Hindu Muslim Question (Allahabad, 1940, p. 70), ‘The Example of the Sudeten Germans’.

9 M. Mazower, ‘The Strange Triumph of Human Rights, 1933–1950’, Historical Journal, 47, no. 2 (2004), 379–98; see also, Dark Continent

10 Carole Fink, ‘The League of Nations and the Minorities Question’, World Affairs, 157, no. 4, (1995), 197–205.

11 Ibid.

12 ‘Freedom for the Deputy High Commissioners of India and Pakistan to take part in the discussions of the chief secretaries conferences’, File No. PIII/53/6614/2 (S), NAI

13 Ibid.

14 ‘Minutes of conference of representatives of two Dominions to be held on the 20 June 1948 regarding implantation of agreements at inter-dominion conference in April 1948’, File No. F.8-2/48-Pak I, Min of EA, Pak I Branch, NAI

15 Fink, ‘League of Nations and the Minorities Question’,

16 Ibid.

17 N. Wheatley, ‘Spectral Legal Personality in Inter-war International Order: On New Ways of Not Being a State’, Law and History Review, 35 (Aug. 2017), 753–87.

18 J. Chatterji, ‘South Asian Histories of Citizenship, 1946–1970,’ Historical Journal, 55 (2012), 1049–71.

19 Proceedings of the inter-dominion Conference on 18th April 1948 at Writers Building, Calcutta; File No. F. 8-15/48-Pak I; MEA, Pak I Branch; NAI

20 For example, Ranbir Samaddar has argued that the fact of movement of labour across political boundaries is as old as shift of capital and industrialisation shaped by the requirements of a colonial empire, and later, the changes in industrial centres. R. Samaddar, ‘Still They Came—Migrants in the Post Partition Bengal’, in R. Samaddar, (ed.), Reflections on Partition in the East (Calcutta: Calcutta Research Group, 1997).

21 Willem Van Schendel, ‘I am Not a Refugee: Rethinking Partition Migration’, Modern Asian Studies, 37, no. 3 (2003), pp 551–84.

22 Communal incidents—‘Submission of reports to the Govt. of India by the state government’, File No. L/52/6546/1 MEA, BL Branch, NAI.

23 S. P. Mookerji, Proceedings of the Inter-dominion Conference on 18th April 1948 at Writers Building, Calcutta; File No. F. 8-15/48-Pak I; MEA, Pak I Branch; NAI

24 Ibid.

25 Ibid.

26 See also, for instance, S. Pederson, ‘Back to the League of Nations’, American Historical Review, 112 (Oct. 2007), 1091–77.

27 Copies of these complaints, and responses to them, are to be found in the Political Confidential Reports of the Home Department, National Archives Bhaban, Dhaka.

28 Acharya to S. Dutt, 1 March, 1952, File No. L/52/6614/I, MEA, BL branch, NAI.

29 Ibid.

30 Note by M. J. Desai, File No. PIII/53/66112/1-2, ‘Indo-Pakistan Officials Conference at Calcutta regarding settlement of Eastern Zone Problems’, MEA file, Pak III Branch, MEA Archives.

31 ‘Communal Incidents-Submission of Reports to the Govt. of India by the State Government’, File No. L/52/6546/1 MEA, BL Branch, NAI.

32 ‘Agreement between India and Pakistan about the Procedure to be Adopted for Representing Minor Cases of Harassment of Minorities and not Individual Cases’, File No. 12(21)-Pak III-50; MEA File, NAI

33 Letter from High Commissioner of Pakistan to Ministry of External Affairs, 15 March 1950, File No. 12(21)-Pak III-50, Ministry of External Affairs, Pak III Branch, NAI.

34 ‘Statement Showing Weekly Arrival and Departure of Hindus and Muslims from and to East Bengal and West Bengal from 13.2.1950’, File No. 20 (16)-R/C/50; Ministry of States, Rehabilitation Branch, NAI.

35 ‘A Note on the Implementation of the Indo-Pakistan Agreement’, File No. 20 (16)-R/C/50; Ministry of States, Rehabilitation Branch, NAI.

36 Ibid.

37 Joya Chatterji, Spoils of Partition: Bengal and India, 1947–67 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007). See also U. Sen, Citizen Refugee: Forging the Indian Nation after Partition (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018).

38 Chatterji, J., The Spoils of Partition, Chp. 3

39 Y. Khan, The Great Partition (New York: Yale University Press, 2017).

40 R. Schaeffer, Warpaths: The Politics of Partition (New York: Hill and Wang, 1990), 5.

41 T. G. Frasier, ‘Ireland and India’, in Keith Jeffery (ed.), An Irish Empire?: Aspects of Ireland and the British Empire, (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1996), 92.

42 Arie M. Dubnov, ‘The Architect of Two Partitions or a Federalist Daydreamer?: The Curious Case of Reginald Coupland’, in Dubnov and Robson (eds), Partition: A Transnational History of Twentieth Century Territorialism (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2019).

43 See also, for instance M. Frank, ‘Reconstructing the Nation State: Population Transfers in Central and Eastern Europe, 1944–1948’, in Jessica Reisch and E. White (eds.), The Disentanglement of Population: Migration, Expulsion and Displacement in Post-War Europe, 1944–49 (Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011).

44 Laura Robson, States of Separation: Transfer, Partition, and the Making of the Modern Middle East (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2017).

45 Ibid.

46 S. Pedersen, The Guardians: The League of Nations and the Crisis of Empire (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015), 277

47 Nicholas Sambanis, ‘Partition as a solution to Ethnic War, An Empirical Critique of the Theoretical Literature’, World Politics, 4, no. 52 (Jul. 2000), 437–83; See also Chaim D. Kaufman, ‘When all Else Fails, Ethnic Population Transfers and Partitions in the Twentieth Century’, International Security, 23, No. 2 (1998), 120–56.

48 The Memoirs of Ambassador Henry F. Grady: From the Great War to the Cold War (Columbia, MO: University of Missouri Press, 2009).

49 Cited from K. Sarwar Hasan, Pakistan and the United Nations. Prepared for the Pakistan Institute of International Affairs and Carnegie Endowment; (New York: Manhattan Publishing Company, 1960), 170 (Zafrullah Khan to UN Ad Hoc Committee on the Palestinian Question, 13 October 1947).

50 Speech by Zafarullah Khan, On the UN vote for Palestine; cited from K. Sarwar Hasan, Pakistan and the United Nations. Prepared for the Pakistan Institute of International Affairs and Carnegie Endowment; (New York: Manhattan Publishing Company, 1960).

51 See also V. V. Kattan, ‘Decolonizing the International Court of Justice: The Experiences of Judge Sir Muhammad Zafrulla Khan in the South West Africa Cases’, Asian Journal of International Law, 5 (Sept. 2014), 310–355.

52 See also P. R. Kumaraswamy, India’s Isreal Policy (Columbia: Columbia University Press, 2010).

53 Ispahani to Jinnah, May 19, 1948, Z. H. Zaidi (ed.) MA Jinnah-Ispanahi Correspondence, 1936–1948 (Karachi: Forward Publications Trust, 1948), p. 596.

54 Cited from TG Fraser Ireland and India—Jeffrey, An Irish Empire?; ibid.

55 See, for instance, Stephen Kelly, ‘A Policy of Futility: Eamon de Valera’s Anti-Partition Campaign, 1948–1951’, Études Irlandaises, 36, (2011). doi:10.4000/etudesirlandaises.2348.

56 B. Posen, ‘The Security Dilemma and Ethnic Conflict’, Survival, 35, No. 1 (Spring 1993), 27–47.

57 Dubnov and Robson (eds). Partitions: A Transnational History, 25

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