In 1947, the British Raj was partitioned into two separate nations, the Union of India and the Dominion of Pakistan (including present day Bangladesh). The division between the two countries was largely split along religious lines, with the Dominion of Pakistan mostly Muslim and the Union of India primarily Hindu.
The partition led to the largest mass migration in recorded history, with 14 million Hindu’s and Muslim’s being forced to move. Despite their long heritage of unification, relations between the new nations on the subcontinent quickly soured. During the partition, the region of Kashmir was a heavily contested territory. War erupted between Pakistan and India over the territory in what became known as the First Kashmir War. Pakistan ended up with control over one-third of the territory, whereas India maintained control over the remaining two-thirds.
War erupted over Kashmir between the two states again in 1965. Hoping to incite an insurgency against Indian rule in Kashmir, Pakistan launched Operation Gibraltar. The operation was a complete failure and instigated India to launch a full-scale attack on West Pakistan. The conflict was short but saw the largest tank battle between professional armies since the end of World War II. Both sides claimed victory in the war, but there were no territorial changes made and the bulk of Kashmir remained under Indian control.
In 1971, India supported East Pakistan’s move for independence that sparked a third conflict between Pakistan and India. Unlike the 1965 war where West Pakistan had stood toe-to-toe with India, the 1971 war was a decisive Indian victory. The Indian Air Force crushed the Pakistani Air Force and delivered a terrible blow to Pakistan’s navy with the sinking of 14 vessels. East Pakistan earned its independence and became the modern state of Bangladesh.
Relations between the two nations took a dramatic turn in 1972 when India successfully tested its first nuclear bomb. Pakistan responded by developing its nuclear program and in 1998 successfully tested its first atomic bomb. Current estimates report that Pakistan and India possess around 250 nuclear warheads. Should conflict erupt between these two states again, the threat of nuclear war remains exponentially high.
Look for more information regarding the history of Indo-Pakistani wars in the upcoming Modern War issue #20 with the article “Indo-Pakistani Air Wars: 1965 & 1971” and join the conversation on Facebook!