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Families torn apart by Partition.

Murtaza Ali/DPA via Reuters

The endless anguish of Partition: India and Pakistan at 75

Seventy-five years ago this week, two of the most powerful countries in Asia were born in a bloodbath. At the stroke of midnight that separated Aug. 14 from Aug. 15, 1947, British India was divided — along an inexpertly drawn line — into a sprawling, Hindu-majority India, and a smaller, Muslim-majority Pakistan.

The event, known as “Partition,” tore apart families, villages, and whole regions, sparking violence that left millions dead and displaced. It also laid the groundwork for sectarian conflicts and enmity between India and Pakistan that have lasted to this day.

To learn more about why Partition happened, and how it continues to shape the troubled relationship between these two countries, we sat down with Akhil Bery, a former analyst at Eurasia Group who is now Director of South Asia Initiatives at the Asia Society Policy Institute.

Our conversation has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

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Modi attends an innovation conference with Israeli and Indian CEOs in Tel Aviv.

REUTERS/Oded Balilty

The promise and peril of Modi’s success

Narendra Modi’s political juggernaut seems unstoppable.

Through a series of maneuvers — some of them questionable, if not illegal — Modi’s Hindu nationalist BJP party last week took the reins of Maharashtra, India’s richest state. It was yet another victory for Modi in the run-up to elections in 2024, when he is expected to secure a third term.

But Modi’s take-no-prisoners style of governance, coupled with a weak opposition, a compliant judiciary, a supine press, and a society struggling with weakened civil liberties, is increasingly threatening the pillars of the world’s largest democracy.

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Indian PM Narendra Modi.


Bombastic Modi no more?

Would the Narendra Modi of 2019 – the year his clampdown on Kashmir drew ire from human rights activists worldwide – have backed down on Prophet Mohammad-related gaffes made by members of his party? Pre-pandemic, would the bombastic Indian prime minister have missed a chance to forcefully weigh in on Sri Lankan domestic affairs amid a dire political crisis?

It wasn’t so long ago when former Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa alleged in 2015, just days after voters removed him from office, that India’s spy agency, the Research & Analysis Wing, had helped oust him from power. Now, the tone of Rajapaksa’s family toward India couldn’t be more different. Namal, Rajapaksa’s son, recently thanked Modi and “the people of India” for sending aid to his country at a time when Sri Lanka is battling its worst economic crisis since independence in 1948.

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Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov & Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba meet in Antalya, Turkey.

Turkish Foreign Ministry/Handout via REUTERS

What We're Watching: Russia-Ukraine peace talks, EU & US fight inflation, Indian state elections

Ukraine peace talks fail, Putin pushes back

In the highest-level peace talks since the start of the war, Russia and Ukraine’s top diplomats met on Thursday in Turkey but failed to secure an agreement. The Ukrainians say the Russians refused a brief ceasefire to allow for evacuations of civilians from besieged cities. Russia, meanwhile, pointed fingers at Ukrainian “radicals” for occupying the Mariupol children’s hospital that was bombed on Wednesday. President Vladimir Putin, for his part, banned the export of Russian products to 48 countries in response to Western sanctions. The ban is largely symbolic as it excludes commodities such as oil and natural gas as well as minerals, wheat, and raw materials for fertilizer, all of which could make global prices soar further if the Kremlin removes them from the market. Separately, Russia also unveiled a new accelerated bankruptcy scheme for departing companies, stopping just short of nationalizing them altogether (for now). It seems Putin wants to keep some of his powder dry in case European countries decide to join the US ban on Russian oil imports, or more foreign corporations abandon the country.

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Yogi Adityanath, Chief Minister of the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, addresses his party supporters during an election campaign rally.

REUTERS/Pawan Kumar

What’s at stake in India’s state elections?

Over 150 million Indians have registered to vote in five state elections that just kicked off and will run through March 7. (Fun fact: 39,598 voters aged 100 and over are registered to vote, according to The Economist.) The biggest electoral battle will take place in Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state, which is often seen as a bellwether for national politics. The other states holding elections include Punjab, Goa, Manipur, and Uttarakhand; all but Punjab currently have BJP-led governments.

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Indian PM Narendra Modi along with Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh Yogi Adityanath during the inaugural ceremony of Purvanchal Expressway on November 16, 2021 in Sultanpur.

Deepak Gupta/Hindustan Times/Sipa USA

Indian state elections will test Modi’s strength

Indian voters will go to the polls starting February 10 for elections in five states including Uttar Pradesh, the country’s most populous. The results will be declared on March 10, and have important implications for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s agenda and the 2024 general elections. We spoke to Eurasia Group expert Diwakar Jhurani to get a better sense of what to watch for.

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