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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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Cricket fans, with their faces painted in the Indian and Pakistani national flag colors, ahead of a match between the two countries.

REUTERS/Amit Dave

What We’re Watching: Partition 75th anniversary, Kenyan vote count, US-China in Southeast Asia

India & Pakistan turn 75

This year’s Aug. 15 Diamond Jubilee of Partition, when the British Raj split into India and Pakistan, is a complicated affair. India has gained more from independence in 1947 than Pakistan: earlier this summer, the Indian economy crossed the $3.3 trillion mark and officially overtook the UK to become the world’s fifth-largest — a nice touch to celebrate 75 years of independence from its colonial master. But India’s democratic credentials remain under threat by the rise of Hindu nationalism. However, Pakistan’s experiments after Partition — proxy wars, civil war, martial law, and Islamism — brought much suffering to its people. Today, the country is at the verge of another financial crisis and negotiating its 23rd IMF bailout, as well as in talks with its own version of the Taliban. Unfortunately, a growing nuclear arsenal is the only equalizer for the political and economic imbalance between the two countries. But there is still hope yet. After years of making zero progress, India and Pakistan are now involved in a backchannel dialogue, which may bring some normalcy between the old enemies. That, and the cricket, of course: Pakistan has won more games overall against its arch-rival, but never beaten India in a World Cup match.

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