their years of independence in charts

Pakistan and India celebrate 70 years of independence from British rule this week — on Monday and Tuesday, respectively. The FT’s data team put those years in context.

India as an economic superpower

At the time of independence, Indian output represented around 15 per cent that of the US. Now the Indian economy is around half the size of the US.

When measured at “purchasing power parity” — which adjusts for the fact that locally traded goods and services are much cheaper in the developing world — India is now the third-largest economy in the world, overtaking Germany and Japan since the turn of the millennium.

Living standards

But output per head in India and Pakistan is around 10 per cent of US levels and in Bangladesh — which at partition was part of Pakistan but gained its own independence in 1971 — half of that. For all the spectacular growth of recent decades, these are still poor countries

People and Cities

India’s population is three and half times larger than at the time of independence, and Pakistan’s has grown by more than five times. India is set to overtake China as the world’s most populous country sometime in the late 2020s

A significant moment in a nation’s economic and demographic history is when the urban population exceeds that living in rural areas. In Great Britain this happened around the time of the 1851 census, in the US by 1920, and China passed this mark in 2011. The UN estimates that Pakistan and Bangladesh will have a majority urban population sometime in the late 2030s, but India not until mid-century

Demographic changes are most apparent in the rise of the subcontinent’s megacities. Delhi and Mumbai have overtaken Kolkata, the largest Indian city at the time of independence, with Delhi set to challenge Tokyo as the world’s most populous urban area. But perhaps the most overlooked growth is outside of India — the UN expects both Lahore and Dhaka to be among the 10 largest cities by 2030, ahead of New York.

Life expectancy and health

At the time of partition, life expectancy at birth in India was a mere 32 years. Over the last seven decades India, Pakistan and Bangladesh have made dramatic strides in healthcare. Immunisation, nutrition, and prevention and treatment of infectious diseases have all improved, leading to a reduction in mortality rates.

As a result, people in the subcontinent can now expect to live at least twice as long. Today, life expectancy is 66 years in Pakistan, 68 years in India and 72 years in Bangladesh.

Plenty of challenges remain. While infant and child mortality rates have decreased significantly, they remain high. Infant mortality rates in India (38 deaths per 1,000 live births) and Pakistan (66) remain among the highest in Asia.

The three countries are also battling non-communicable diseases, such as diabetes, cancer, chronic respiratory and cardiovascular diseases — typical of countries getting richer.


At the time of partition, India counted just 84,000 telephone lines for its 350m people, while there were 4,000 lines for Pakistan’s 75m population.

Seventy years on, Asia is one of the fastest-growing mobile markets in the world. Although Europe remains the most highly penetrated mobile region, China and India are the first and second largest mobile markets globally. By 2020, India is expected to join China and cross the threshold of 1bn subscribers.

Mobile use in the subcontinent quickly outstripped use of landlines, which at their peak in 2005 numbered 4.5 fixed lines for every 100 population in India. Today, mobile penetration rates are around 80 per 100 population in India and Bangladesh, and close to 70 in Pakistan.


India has made impressive gains in literacy rates, which increased from 16 per cent in 1951 to 72 per cent in 2015

Challenges, however, remain. Education remains focused on learning by rote. The level of female education, while having come a long way since the early 1950s when just 8-9 per cent of adult females in the subcontinent were literate, is also below that of males.

Differences by gender are starkest in Pakistan, where the female literacy rate is still only 44 per cent, compared to 70 per cent for males. Pakistan ranked second from bottom of 144 countries in the World Economic Forum’s 2016 Global Gender Gap Index.

South Asian countries have invested in education in recent years in a bid to reach their targets under the UN Millennium Development Goals. The subcontinent’s countries have made improvements at all education levels, including higher education. In the last decade, the proportion of students enrolling in higher education has almost tripled in Pakistan and doubled in India and Bangladesh.

Religious demographics

Before partition, according to census data collected the British, Hindus constituted the vast majority of the population of undivided India. The Hindu share declined slightly from some 80 per cent to 70 per cent between 1881 and 1941, while the Muslim proportion increased slightly, due to differing birth rates

Official demographic data were not collected again until 1951. In the meantime, the 1947 partition had led to huge upheaval, with a reported movement of some 15m people between the two countries, largely on religious lines.

The newly created Pakistani state contained a large Muslim majority.

Since partition, the balance between Muslims and Hindus in Pakistan has remained roughly stable. In India, the Muslim proportion of the population has been rising. Muslims make up 14 per cent of the Indian population, roughly 176m people, making India home to the second-largest Muslim population worldwide after Indonesia.


India versus Pakistan at cricket has claims to be the greatest rivalry in world sport, with both nations crazy about the game learnt from the English during the Raj. TV audiences for their meetings can number in the hundreds of millions.

However, in long-form Test matches between the two the prime aim has been not to lose to the other — almost two-thirds of matches have been drawn. Poor relations between the countries precluded any meeting on the cricket field between 1961 and 1978.

India’s surprise victory in the 1983 world cup switched their focus to the one-day form of the game and then to the ultra-short Twenty20 format after a similar win — over Pakistan — in the inaugural T20 world cup final in 2007.

Financially, the sport is increasingly dominated by India, with the riches of the Indian Premier League attracting the world’s best T20 players each year.

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