75 years ago, India became independent

This time we recall that the liberation from fascism and war in 1945 also meant an upswing for the anti-colonial movement, especially in Asia. The most visible sign of this was the independence of the Indian subcontinent from British colonial rule.

We do not forget that Indian colonial troops also fought actively in the ranks of the anti-Hitler coalition as part of the British formations. Initially with a 200,000-man volunteer army, over two million Indians were ultimately recruited into the British forces. At the same time, there were also attempts on the part of reactionary clan structures to raise an Indian volunteer army against the British colonial power in alliance with fascist Germany and militarist Japan. This cooperation went as far as the creation of an “Indian Legion,” a fighting unit subordinate to the German Waffen SS.

The defeat of the fascist states strengthened the forces in the Indian National Congress, which successfully fought against colonial rule under Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru with many forms of social resistance (salt march). On August 15, 1947, the country’s independence was officially recognized. At the same time, the British colonial power decreed the partition of the former colony of British India into two states, the secular Indian Union and the smaller Islamic Republic of Pakistan. The partition led to one of the largest displacement and flight movements in history. About 10 million Hindus and Sikhs were expelled from Pakistan, and about 7 million Muslims from India. 750,000 to one million people lost their lives. Since this partition and the entire process of declaring independence took place from the perspective of the colonial powers, political conflicts arising from the arbitrary assignment of different regions to India or Pakistan have remained present to this day, including the Kashmir conflict, which has already led to several regional wars on the Indian subcontinent. Moreover, India’s release into independence was conditional on the new state becoming a member of the British-dominated Commonwealth of Nations in November 1949.

Contrary to expectations, India under Nehru managed to play an independent role in foreign policy. For four decades, India’s foreign policy was characterized by its involvement in the Non-Aligned Movement. In addition, in this context, India’s foreign policy was important for the peace policy efforts of the FIR. The guidelines of Indian nonalignment were to stay away from military alliances with U.S. or Soviet participation, to meet foreign policy challenges from an Indian perspective, and to pursue friendly relations with all countries. India strove to play a leadership role within the nonaligned movement until the 1962 border war with China. This was expressed, for example, in the deployment of peacekeepers to the Gaza Strip in 1956 and the Congo in 1961, as well as in the condemnation of Franco-British intervention in the Suez crisis.

For many decades, the Congress Party under Prime Minister Nehru, and later under his daughter Indira Gandhi, determined domestic political developments. Since the 1980s, social challenges have intensified, as have religious and nationalist conflicts. Hindu nationalism is gaining increasing influence. The political arm of the Hindu nationalists, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), achieved a landslide victory in the 2014 election, and its leading candidate, Narendra Modi, was elected prime minister.

Indian historian Benjamin Zachariah warns that the country under Modi is on the path to authoritarian, if not fascist, rule. Suppression of social protests, restrictions on academic freedoms and nationalist mobilization are clear signs of this development. FIR expresses its concern about this tendency in view of India’s long meritorious role in the world.

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