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India in 1947 and Iraq in 2007 January 7, 2007

Posted by Sharath Rao in geo-politics, history, india, politics.

To say I am not impressed by the TOI would be an understatement after having started an Orkut community that goes by the name TOI sucks. But lets give credit where its due. This is quite a cool collection. [ although their choice of Sushmita Sen, Jessica Lal case etc. is debatable ]

This collection infact is better.

India in 1947 reminds me of Iraq of today – centuries of being ruled by minority rulers ( Muslims ) that were intermittently despotic and reasonable, when India finally won independence, the only reasonable solution seemed to be the partition. Over 1 million died and another million went missing and a short war ensued in 1947. Iraq faces the same situation, only this time the minorities are the Sunni sect within Islam.

Carry this comparison a little farther, the prospects that you see for Iraq today – violence, bloodshed, civil war – are exactly what was predicted for India then. [ Read this excellent article about how even in 1967 the West didn’t give India a chance for survival ] Considering it all, India hasnt done all that bad a job maybe. **Unsure**. There is already a talk to ‘India-Pakistan-Bangladesh’ style partition of Iraq into Shia, Sunni and Kurdish Iraq.

Here is what I wrote on this topic on Jan 30th, 2005.

Was reading this blog by an Iraqi about the elections. Am sometimes wondering how it might have been in India around 1947. The partition brought so much of pain, blood, chaos and it really wasnt unthinkable that we get into some real mess that has since befallen colonies that suddenly found themselves having to manage and learn democratic norms and institution building.

What prevented India from slipping into the abyss ? That too an India whose political unity came only as an inadvertent consequence of British consolidation and the independence movement that ensued, even though cultural and economic unity had always existed. Is it due to the political class of those years which was largely virtuous and incorruptible ? Is it that they were really careful about how they should handle things in the light of new found independence compared to those of today who have made democracy their greatest weapon ? Is it that the nationalism that the Independence movement generated hadnt yet become more of a token as it seems today ? Infact why didnt the death of Mahatma Gandhi in 1948 ( infact 57 years to this very day ! ) barely months after Independence further lead us into chaos ?

Our first elections were in 1952. How would things have changed if we had elections soon after the partition in 1947 or the British insisted on conducting elections before packing off – this is something that seems to be happening in Iraq at the moment. If the US forces walked out today, a civil war is only a formality. But we managed to have a smooth transition from 1948-1952 ( ofcourse noting that the partition was in 1947 ). I am ofcourse NOT at all a supporter of US occupation but now that they made the mess, they own it !

How could India – a country of 250 million with diversity larger than anything that Iraq comes close to keep itself together as a pseudo democracy until 1952 without a constitution until 1950 ( ofcourse we did have an interim constitution I guess ) ? And how did we imbibe democracy in what was essentially a feudal society even after 1952 ? Was it Nehru and his charisma and his incontestible integrity ? When you look at the Iraq today with its fledgling democracy, that or perhaps something much more complicated India was around 1947.

Before we get too involved in similarities between Iraq of today and India of the yesteryears, we must realize the big difference here. Iraq wasnt liberated by an indegenous independence movement unlike India – the process of liberation didnt unite the country, only divided it. It didnt even throw up any leaders with a nation-wide appeal.

All said and done, in retrospect you feel good about India and how it handled it all. We owe a lot to our political class of that age – Nehru, Patel, Rajagopalchari, Maulana Azad, Shastri, Rajendra Prasad.

Ofcourse today, we live inspite of our political class, not because of them.



1. The nation and the national festivals « Epistles - May 12, 2007

[…] So, a sick man who refuses to die or an warrior who is always at war and each time just manages to scrape through ? But the British in 1947 must have thought ( like Bush does now ( and rightly so perhaps )) that if they leave the sub-continent, India will break up in pieces. Well, we did and we didn’t. Mostly latter. I wrote about this before. […]

2. Dividing Iraq « Epistles - August 31, 2007

[…] previous posts on the subject : Comtemplative in India in 1947 and Iraq in 2007 and quasi-speculative in Why partition may have been the best thing happened to South […]

3. Obama ist der neue Pharao | Asroblogie - October 20, 2013

[…] ich ja nun sicher nicht all zu viel schreiben, man klicke auf die Links weiter oben. Obama ist 47 Jahre […]

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