Pick a Region:. . South Asia
Two Competing Visions
Jawharlal Nehru and Mohammed Ali Jinnah were two leaders with strong opinions concerning what to do about the political situation in South Asia at this time.
Jawharlal Nehru, who was the chief disciple of Mohandas K. Gandhi, became India's first Prime Minister in 1947. Nehru wanted an independent India that was politically a liberal democratic republic. Although a Hindu, he had hoped to keep the subcontinent of South Asia unified by keeping religion out of politics and by making India a secular state. He also wanted to industrialize to create needed prosperity, and he thought socialism would distribute India's economic wealth more fairly among its people. Photo: Mohandas K. Gandhi. Photo © 1999 -www.arttoday.com
However, within India there were Hindu nationalists who rejected Nehrus desire for a secular state and argued in favor of a Hindu-dominated state system. Until recently, these Hindu nationalists were kept out of power by those who supported Nehrus vision for the subcontinent. Since independence was achieved, separatist movements have arisen in all of the countries in South Asia from gigantic India to the tiny Maldives.
Nehrus vision was opposed by Mohammed Ali Jinnah, who was a Muslim and Pakistans founder. Mohammed Ali Jinnah believed that a good society could not be established without taking into account the religious beliefs and practices of the peoples. Peoples (Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, etc.) of other religious beliefs shared Jinnahs point of view. Jinnah also argued that British India was made up of two nations, by which he meant two major religious groups: Muslims and Hindus. He felt that both of these religious groups deserved their own separate homeland and status as independent nations.
To fulfill his vision, Jinnah led the Muslims in their demands to partition India so that they could have their separate state and create a society based upon Muslim values.
Two factors that worked against both of the above visions for the subcontinent were the differences in languages and religions (see Peoples). For those who followed the Gandhi/Nehru desire for a secular state, both language and religion provide a constant challenge. For Muslims, language diversity poses a continual threat to their unity.
The British made some efforts to reconcile these competing visions, but they were unsuccessful. As a result, the British hoped that the partition of 1947 (see History) separating India and Pakistan would resolve the problem.
Their ruling party is known as the Indian National Congress Party. In spite of the dominance of the Nehru family and the Congress Party, the country has held regular elections. In addition, Indian politics has been conducted within the framework of the Indian constitution so the Congress Party and the Nehrus have behaved like democratic politicians. Several times the Congress Party has been ousted from power for brief periods of time, and they are currently the opposition--not the ruling party.
The values underlying the Indian political system fit with Jawaharlal Nehrus vision, but increasingly his values and vision are being challenged by ethnic and religious nationalists.
Pakistan and Bangladesh
However, in 1971 with India's help, East Pakistan broke away from West Pakistan to become Bangladesh. Since its independence, Bangladesh has
Since 1971, Pakistan (formerly West Pakistan) has