Prior to Bangladeshi independence in 1971, what routes did people and goods take to move between East Pakistan and West Pakistan? Obviously, they couldn't have gone straight through India. I imagine much of the travel would have been done by sailing around India and Sri Lanka; but was any of the travel done via land (through East Pakistan's border with Burma)?

Also, what about travel by air? I figure air travel must have been very limited at the time, but when people did travel by air between the two parts of Pakistan, what would their flight paths have looked like? Did they have to avoid Indian airspace?


Except during periods of War or high tension, overland travel via India between the 2 wings was possible. However, after the introduction of a visa and passport requirement in 1952, this became much more expensive and time consuming for most people. Prior to 1955, Pakistanis found travel through India more expensive than it should have been because Pakistan hadn't yet devalued their currency while the Indians insisted on exchanging it at par. Furthermore, the break up of the Indian Railways and the new priorities of both countries meant that the Rail connection was neglected.Thus overland travel was possible but costly and difficult. For commodities, the Govt. enabled the shipping route between West and East Pakistan to be monopolized by a few Karachi based West Pakistanis who charged high prices. Economically, there was a huge drain on the East Wing because Bengali jute had to pay for development of the West wing. The air link, via PIA, after 1956, mainly used by bureaucrats and army officers, was very expensive and often detoured via Colombo rather than flying over Indian territory. This was because the Army realized that they would need PIA in the event of hostilities to air lift soldiers (as in fact happened during the 2 Indo-Pak wars) and thus for strategic reasons a longer route needed to be kept operational. The Indians, whose economy was more dirigiste, worried about smuggling and had little interest or incentive in facilitating overland transport between the 2 wings. However, overland travel was certainly possible except during Wartime or periods of increased tension.

| improve this answer | |
  • 2
    Thanks for the answer! One clarification - does "PIA" here mean "Pakistan International Airlines"? – senshin May 7 '15 at 17:07
  • Yes. I should mention that Pakistan couldn't overfly India for a few years in the early Seventies because of a hijacking by Kashmiri militants in January of 1970 which India believed was orchestrated by Pakistani Intelligence. Since, Pakistan was the loser in this, their Intelligence decided that the hijackers were Indian double agents so they were badly treated. Later, one of them returned to India where he faces trial for the same crime despite 'double jeopardy legislation'. – Vivek Iyer May 7 '15 at 17:55

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.