On the 15th of August 1947, following many years of preparation, struggles, tribulations and hard work, Mahatma Gandhi and Muhammad Jinnah had finally reached an agreement. Although Gandhi had not wanted this outcome, and saw it as a divisive and evil influence, India and Pakistan would become fully independent nations. This independence was seen in two forms: first in respect to one-another, and second in respect to the exiting British Empire. When the British had first occupied the region they had not taken account for the vast differences in the populations culture, religion, language and nationalities. They Just occupied the land, sapped it of its resources, and called the entire South Asian territory “India”. This meant that when they left, it was time for every nation and people in the region to try and gain sovereignty independently, or risk being grouped and stuck together once again. As the political and ideological forces of the Indian and Pakistani independence movements had come full force, removing British imperial authority and eradicating the British East India Company, it was time to settle another integral issue: The Partition.
Finally gaining independence should have been an amazing, peaceful and celebratory occasion, in which two peoples had finally reached freedom and are no longer under European colonial control. Instead, it proved to be both a blessing and a curse for the respective budding nations. Brother laid hand upon brother, and former neighbors had quickly become enemies. As Sikhs and Hindus re-settled in India, and Muslims settled in Pakistan, a sickening amount of riots, war crimes and crimes against humanity had grown rampant and out of control along the border dividing the two newly formed independent countries. Women were being abducted and raped, entire families were massacred, and tensions between the two countries had exploded from the start. All of this could have, and should have, been avoided by the United Nations.
According to the Charter of the United Nations, their primary goal is to “maintain international peace and security… take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace, and for the suppression of acts of aggression or other breaches of the peace, and to bring about by peaceful means, and in conformity with the principles of justice and international law, adjustment or settlement of international disputes or situations which might lead to a breach of the peace”. This means that if the United Nations were around during that time the entire process of partition would have gone completely differently.
A UN Peace-keeping mission equipped with diplomats and soldiers would have been on the ground immediately. They would have protected the weak and assisted the strong in the act of moving their livelihoods across the border. This alone would have prevented much of the violence that occurred. Further, the UN could use its vast amount of resources and aid to educate and help the new budding nations, showing them that peace and harmony, and not hate and violence, will make their futures much brighter. Finally, at the end of the partition process, the UN would set up a special tribunal, like those in Yugoslavia or Rwanda, to bring the perpetrators who committed these horrific acts to justice, and make sure something like this never happens again. If the UN had the same political power and clout at that time which it has today, many lives would have been saved, and an ugly piece of the history of the region would be erased.
If only it were that easy. . .
The UN, of course, had not yet developed into the body that it is today. The Important international precedents that were set in Rwanda and Yugoslavia simply did not exist during the time of the partition. This meant that no peacekeeping missions or troops would have been prepared for such an experiment. Further, many conflicts on the ground made it nearly impossible for any sense of order to be restored. Tribal and ethnics tensions were so common that many neighbors used the chaos to settle old familial rivalries. Thus any UN type intervention would have been very difficult to maneuver. Overall, it is easy to say that if this situation had occurred today, things would have been very different thanks to the evolution and betterment of the international political system over time. As stated by the Chinese philosopher Confucius: “Study the past, if you would divine the future.” That’s undoubtedly what the UN is doing.