17:11 GMT23 July 2021
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    India and Pakistan Turn 70: Now What?

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    It's been seven decades since the British Raj was epically split apart, and after many twists and turns in their relationship since then, it's fitting to reflect on what the future holds in store for both India and Pakistan.

    These two states might be neighbors, but their relations have been anything but neighborly over the years. They've fought three wars against one another and still remain at tense odds to this day over the future of the former princely state of Kashmir. The long-standing distrust between India and Pakistan is globally relevant because of the over one billion people that collectively live in these two nuclear-armed states, meaning that any hot war between them runs the very dangerous risk of suddenly escalating into a nuclear exchange of unthinkable devastation for humanity.

    Interestingly, seventy years after independence, India and Pakistan appear to be on the cusp of a grand strategic reversal in many respects. Whereas Pakistan was once conceived of for a period of time as being a strictly religious state, India under the ruling RSS-aligned BJP of Prime Minister Modi is more visibly embracing the ideology of Hindu nationalism, also known as Hindutva. Moreover, while Pakistan was in the Western camp during the Old Cold War and India was in the Eastern one, that too appears to be changing in the New Cold War. Pakistan experienced a falling out of sorts with the US in recent years and is in the midst of a rapid rapprochement with Russia, while India has diversified its long-standing relations with Russia in favor of a so-called "multi-alignment" policy which has seen it become the US' "Major Defense Partner".

    In addition, after separating from the British Raj, India and Pakistan now have to contend with their own separatist movements inside of their borders. Pakistan lost what was formerly known as East Pakistan to the Indian-backed Mukti Bahini that founded what is current-day Bangladesh, and it's still fighting off and on against various groups in Balochistan. India, for its part, has been confronted by numerous separatist groups in its Northeastern States, colloquially called the "Seven Sisters", since almost the moment after its independence, and this remains an enduring challenge for the country to this day. These religious, geostrategic, and separatist factors will come together to determine the future of South Asia, so it's appropriate on the 70th anniversary of India and Pakistan's independence to discuss their present-day importance.

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