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Although India and Pakistan became independent states simultaneously, they have been travelling in different paths after that. Many believe that democracy is a major reason for the difference in fortune of both countries. Pakistan has been under military rule for a long time during its existence while in India, military has never been involved in government.

What are the reason for this difference (military intervention in government) between these two nations, given that Pakistan and India (at least North India) share a common culture and they had been under the rule of same dynasties for a long time. Also the military tradition and even officers during the early part were inherited from British Raj.

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Pakistan is a whole lot more homogeneous than India. Thus dictatorship could be a lot easier to impose on Pakistan as a much larger number of people would accept its legitimacy compared to India where it would be harder to convince the various ethnic/religous/linguistic groups to back one person or party. –  Opt May 25 '12 at 14:33
@Sid: Indeed. And to wit, the one big ethnic division that Pakistan had, did lead twenty years later to civil war and division - resulting in the creation of Bangladesh. –  Felix Goldberg Dec 18 '12 at 15:59

4 Answers 4

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One thing that might be a factor is the culture of each country going in.

During the colonial period the British got a great deal of their military manpower from India. However, it wasn't evenly distributed. In fact, the native colonial Indian military units were heavily Muslim. The result of this is that Muslim Indians grew to view the military very favorably, while Hindus grew to view it as an instrument of oppression.

When they went their separate ways, this had a certain lasting effect. The military in Pakistan simply had much more prestige than any civilian government could hope to have. So when things go bad, it is tempting to look to the military to set things right.

In India, on the other hand, the people's relationship with the military was much more like colonial America's: The military was used to oppress the people during the colonial period, so afterwards it was viewed as, at best, a necessary evil. Civil figures were the heroes of the independence movement. So certainly nobody would trust the military to come in and run things fairly rather than civil authorities.

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+1 For great answer. I was thinking along similar lines but you put it better than I could. –  Felix Goldberg Dec 18 '12 at 14:53

While the size of India and the presence of multi cultural society makes it hard for an armed force to take control of the entire country I think the structure of the Indian army makes it even harder.

  1. India's military is not independent of the democratic structure. The President of the Republic of India is the supreme commander of the armed forces and the three arms --land, air, and naval are independent of each other. While the former is true for many countries including Pakistan, the latter is not usually the case. Each service branch of the Indian armed forces has an independent Chief of Staff who only reports to the President of India. Although India has a chairman of the chief of staff committee, that post has no formal executive power of the committee. The President of India too has no formal executive power (except during times of emergency) and most of the power is exercised by the Ministry of Defence that is answerable to the Parliament and the People of India.

  2. In addition, India has a fourth branch of armed forces that reports directly to the Ministry of Home Affairs (not the ministry of Defence). This branch is commonly referred to as the paramilitary force. According to the Wikipedia article I cited above, it has some 65,000 active personnel.

So in theory, this structure makes it very hard to make military coups a success without loss of civilian life. Whether or not that itself resulted in no coups in India is a highly debatable question but I would definitely say it is a contributory factor.

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I just failed to figure out what this answer came up with to get acceptance..."The President of the Republic of India is the supreme commander of the armed forces and the three arms --land, air, and naval are independent of each other."...What is the difference with Pakistan in this case? –  BROY Oct 31 '12 at 15:57
Interesting observations, but I doubt they go far towards explaining the phenomenon asked about in the question. As for the paramilitary force, its existence is hardly a force for democracy per se; Russia has just such force and there it's of the best props of any authoritarian regime... –  Felix Goldberg Dec 18 '12 at 14:52

In my opinion, although both India and Pakistan's military were involved in military conflict soon after their birth, India's military directly inherited the structure laid down by the British. One of the things that the British very strongly believed in was the subservience of the military to the civilian leadership.

Pakistan had to develop a new military structure from scratch, and none of its leaders could enforce that culture. Moreover, the military got very powerful due to its role in military conflicts almost immediately after its birth. This changed the dynamics of the civilian-military relationship in Pakistan.

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Do you have evidence to show that Pakistan's military was developed from scratch and not inherited from the Raj? It seems very unlikely to me. –  Felix Goldberg Dec 18 '12 at 14:54
Yes, since India was the legal successor state of the British raj, almost all the military institutions (along with the British army chief) were directly inherited by India. Pakistan did not get this, just because they did not get the most important military structures and people in their territory. –  Arani Jan 31 '13 at 18:32

I believe a number of reasons have contributed to this:

  1. Perceived threat from India leading to an over-powerful military organization, with the nascent nationalist perspective of the general public finding an identity and sense of pride in the powerful military their country possessed. In other words, the people of the country thought in the following way: We may not be great in health/literacy/human rights etc. but we have a powerful army so let's celebrate that! This led to the acceptance of the military organization as something good and to be supported.

  2. Wrong political fundamentals in laying the basis of the nation, which were not entirely democratic in nature (and may have had links to violence ab initio). This led to identity crisis for the political classes as they had no strong ideology to bank on. The political vaccum was filled by the military.

  3. Continuation of feudalism caused subjugation of the rural masses which stifled independent political thought among them.

In India's case the huge size of the nation, coupled with some wise fundamental ideas which shaped the sense of Indian-ness (non-violence, anti-feudalism, etc.) ensured that the military never got an upper hand.

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