I posted this as a random comment on Omar’s previous post (Pakistan, Islamism and the Zombie Apocalypse) but this paragraph prompted me to make this article, India and its near-abroad, as a stand-alone post:
This is an economic as well as a diplomatic problem. Lack of integration helps to keep South Asians poor. By one estimate, without barriers trade between India and Pakistan would grow nearly tenfold. Today the main border-crossing near Pakistan’s eastern city of Lahore is at times almost deserted. If educated Sri Lankans were allowed to work in India, they could get good jobs there instead of having to take menial work in the Gulf, thus easing a growing shortage of skilled Indian workers. A regional energy market could boost prosperity; and Indian engagement in the problem of water-sharing could reduce dangerous tensions on the issue.
People rue Partition; I extend that argument one further and “rue” us ever leaving the Empire. Another half-century and India’s unity would have been maintained and we’d have evolved from a Dominion status to the powerhouse of the Commonwealth.
Nehru (I don’t know what Guha is talking about that Congress only became dynastic with Indira after all Jawaharlal inherited the party from his father Motilal), Gandhi’s and Patel’s dreams of a Hindu Raj has cost the Subcontinent dearly. One may disagree but the fact is that the Muslims of India (some 25% of the population at the time but now would be a third of the population according to some account if one were to include Pakistan & Bangladesh) had very little interest in seceding from the British Empire. It took Khilafat to rouse them to some sort of Independence spirit and then the overwhelming show of support for the Muslim League in ALL areas of India (except surprisingly in Kashmir, how serendipitous?) demonstrates that Muslim nationalism was at best reactionary and insipid.
I’m well aware of how the Brits mismanaged the Subcontinent (destruction of the local textile industry, suppression of local cultures, blind eye to the Raj and of course the perennial famines) but it was counter-intuitive to boot them out just as they had finally started to get it right. I can only imagine that the Subcontinent would have easily been a Singapore or Hong Kong on a larger scale where communal and national passions (linguistic too even the Latvians can’t resist “converting” their Russophone population, who make up half the country) would have been severely reigned by a benevolent and paternalistic power and South Asia would have just got on with the business of economic growth and regional prosperity. Decolonisation was a bad mistake pushed on by greedy leaders desperate for power and influence before their time was up.