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India: Historical Legacy
Country Study > Chapter 9 > Foreign Relations > Determinants of Foreign Relations > Historical Legacy


During the British colonial period, India was a large political entity bordered by the buffer states of Afghanistan, Nepal, Sikkim, Bhutan, and Tibet to the north and Ceylon (as Sri Lanka was then called) to the south. The withdrawal of the British and partition in 1947, which created India and Pakistan, resulted in geographical boundaries that cut across regional religious, social, ethnic, and linguistic groups, and disrupted economic and cultural ties. A slice of eastern India and the westernmost part of India became the East Wing and West Wing of Pakistan, respectively, and in 1971 the East Wing became Bangladesh.

After independence India's leaders attempted to build a secular state in which national identity would supersede regional, religious, or cultural identities. They regarded the movements for regional autonomy or independence in Punjab, Jammu and Kashmir, Tamil Nadu, and Assam as threats to Indian unity, particularly because Indian leaders believed that their neighbors -- Pakistan, later Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka -- supported these movements. Furthermore, despite the commitment of Congress (I) leaders to the secular ideal, communal tensions and the rising influence of Hindu political parties pushed the Indian government increasingly to identify Indian greatness with Hinduism. The inability of Indian leaders to restrain anti-Muslim communal violence and the Kashmir policy of the Indian government resulted in continual tensions in relations with its Muslim neighbors. Thus, internal security and domestic political considerations, which stemmed from the perceived goals of building national identity and preserving national unity, permeated India's relations with its neighbors.

Last Updated: September 1995

Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for India was first published in 1995. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on

India Main Page Country Studies Main Page

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