20.1 New Nations in South Asia and Southeast Asia

At the same time that the Cold War was unfolding, a global independence movement was reshaping the world. The European colonial powers, especially Britain and France, had been weakened by World War II. Their military and financial resources were exhausted, and so was their will to hold on to their colonial empires. While nationalists in the colonies were ready to fight for their freedom, many war-weary Europeans had no desire for further conflict.

Photo of a group of men and women gathered in the street, with banners in Arabic and Devanagari script.

Indians celebrated independence from Britain during this parade in Mumbai on August 15, 1947.


  • Explain how independence led to the partition of India.
  • Describe the national development of India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh.
  • Define the role of South Asia in the Cold War.
  • Explain the impact of independence on nations of Southeast Asia.

Key Terms

  • partition
  • Sikh
  • Kashmir
  • Jawaharlal Nehru
  • dalits
  • Indira Gandhi
  • Punjab
  • Golden Temple
  • Bangladesh
  • nonalignment
  • autocratic
  • Aung San Suu Kyi
  • Sukarno
  • Suharto
  • East Timor
  • Ferdinand Marcos
  • Benigno Aquino
  • Corazon Aquino

Independence and Partition in South Asia

Among the first new nations to win independence were the former British colonies of South Asia, or the Indian subcontinent. Nationalists in British-ruled India had demanded self-rule since the late 1800s. As independence neared, however, a long-simmering issue surfaced. What would happen to the Muslim minority in a Hindu-dominated India?

The Formation of India and Pakistan

Like Mohandas Gandhi, most of the leaders and members of the Congress Party were Hindus. However, the party wanted a unified India that would include both Muslims and Hindus.

The Muslim League, led by Muhammad Ali Jinnah, had a different view of liberation. Although they had cooperated with the Congress Party in the drive for independence, they feared discrimination against the Muslim minority in a unified India.

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Table of Contents

World History Topic 1 Origins of Civilization (Prehistory–300 B.C.) Topic 2 The Ancient Middle East and Egypt (3200 B.C.–500 B.C.) Topic 3 Ancient India and China (2600 B.C.–A.D. 550) Topic 4 The Americas (Prehistory–A.D. 1570) Topic 5 Ancient Greece (1750 B.C.–133 B.C.) Topic 6 Ancient Rome and the Origins of Christianity (509 B.C.-A.D. 476) Topic 7 Medieval Christian Europe (330–1450) Topic 8 The Muslim World and Africa (730 B.C.-A.D. 1500) Topic 9 Civilizations of Asia (500–1650) Topic 10 The Renaissance and Reformation (1300–1650) Topic 11 New Global Connections (1415–1796) Topic 12 Absolutism and Revolution Topic 13 The Industrial Revolution Topic 14 Nationalism and the Spread of Democracy (1790–1914) Topic 15 The Age of Imperialism (1800–1914) Topic 16 World War I and the Russian Revolution (1914–1924) Topic 17 The World Between the Wars (1910–1939) Topic 18 World War II (1930–1945) Topic 19 The Cold War Era (1945–1991) Topic 20 New Nations Emerge (1945–Present) Topic 21 The World Today (1980-Present) United States Constitution Primary Sources 21st Century Skills Atlas Glossary Index Acknowledgments