On the eve of India’s founding, no one could have imagined how successfully it would come to navigate the international system. At that time, there were legions of skeptics who believed that the half-life of this new country would be measured in years, perhaps decades at most. The question of when India would split apart was one of the staples of public discussion going back to Churchill’s celebrated remark, “India is a geographical term. It is no more a united nation than the Equator.” Since then, legions of commentators believed that it would be a miracle if India survived.
Today, however, India’s unity is taken for granted. In one of the greatest feats of modern history, India has built a cohesive nation despite incredible poverty and diversity. India has done just as well in regard to its territorial integrity. Yes, it lost one major war and it has lost bits and pieces of territory, but India as a unified territorial entity has survived despite being located in an extremely contested and unsettled regional environment. And, to everyone’s surprise, India has managed, despite great material weakness, to protect its political autonomy.