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How the British failed India and Pakistan

The history of two neighbors born at war — and the British strategy behind it.

There’s an ancient Macedonian phrase that’s become a common principle in politics and power: “divide et impera,” or “divide and rule.” It’s the strategy in which rulers promote political division within the people of conquered nations so they’ll be busy fighting each other — instead of imperial rule.

And for nearly 200 years, that’s exactly how the British ruled India. The large nation was home to dominant religious groups including Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs. To discourage unified Indian campaigns for independence, the British reinforced divisions along religious lines.

By 1947, when the British were finally ready to grant India independence, the seeds of discontent had been sowed. The handover of power, and the resulting partition of India and Pakistan, would be bloodier than anyone could have imagined.

For a brief history of how the region was split in two, check out the video above. If you’d like to learn more about Kashmir in particular, and how it’s become one of the most disputed regions in the world, be sure to watch our other video on that.

You can find this video and all of Vox’s videos on YouTube. And if you’re interested in supporting our video journalism, you can become a member of the Vox Video Lab on YouTube.

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