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Syllabuzz: Pol 362 - India and Pakistan

Find out more about some of the interesting courses faculty are teaching at Elon.


On the eve of India’s independence from Great Britain – Aug. 14, 1947 – Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru delivered the following words: “Long years ago we made a tryst with destiny, and now the time comes when we shall redeem our pledge, not wholly or in full measure, but very substantially.”

Years of internal conflict had culminated in the division of the country into two territories: India and Pakistan. Though there was a sense of great optimism for what lay ahead, 64 years later, relations between the two countries continue to be delicate at best.

Was the partition really destiny or would the outcome have been better had India taken a different route? How is it that India has managed to embrace democracy while Pakistan has remained largely under military authoritarianism? Assistant Professor Jason Kirk explores these and other questions as part of his India and Pakistan political science course.

Students spend the first third of the course learning about India’s colonial past and the events, ambitions and fears that led to its independence from Britain and the creation of separate countries. They also participate in a historical role-play exercise to better understand the process and the motivations driving the different political actors. The rest of the course is spent looking at what happened after India and Pakistan separated – the international wars, territorial conflicts and other factors that have helped define each nation’s identity. Current events shed light on the United States’ relationship with both countries.

Kirk says the class attracts students with mixed motivations. There are those who are interested in India as an emerging power while others want to learn more about Pakistan from a military perspective and its role in the War on Terror. For all students, Kirk’s goal is to explain that the consequences of India and Pakistan’s relationship are not isolated to South Asia.

“We need to understand one another better. It’s not just Pakistan’s or India’s story, it’s our story, too,” Kirk says. “This is not some exotic place in another part of the world. Through our country’s involvement with Pakistan, we have shaped history, both for South Asia and us. We continue to do that today.”

About the professor
Jason Kirk has taught political science and international studies courses at Elon since 2008. Much of Kirk’s scholarship focuses on India, an interest he developed after spending a semester in that country as an undergraduate student.

Recommended readings
The Great Partition: The Making of India and Pakistan by Yasmin Khan
In Spite of the Gods: The Strange Rise of Modern India by Edward Luce
Pakistan: Between Mosque and Military by Husain Haqqani

Syllabuzz is a recurrent feature in The Magazine of Elon. To read the latest edition, click here.

Keren Rivas,
9/5/2012 8:19 AM