Why do India and Pakistan celebrate Independence Day one day apart?

The two nations were born on the same day in August 1947

Pakistani Rangers, right, and Indian Border Security Force soldiers on the eve of Pakistan's Independence Day celebrations. AFP
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On midnight of August 14, 1947, the Indian Independence Act 1947 came into being, effectively ending 200 years of British colonialism and splitting the country into India and Pakistan.

“As from the fifteenth day of August, nineteen hundred and forty-seven, two independent Dominions shall be set up in India, to be known respectively as India and Pakistan,” the Act states.

But why does Pakistan celebrate its Independence Day on August 14, a day earlier than India?

According to historians, it was all down to the schedule of Lord Louis Mountbatten, the last viceroy of British India. As India decided to hold celebrations at midnight on August 14, it would have been impossible for Lord Mountbatten to attend two events to hand over power on the same day.

A solution was found by advancing Mountbatten's visit to Karachi, the capital of Pakistan at the time, where, on August 14, 1947, he transferred power to Pakistan's founding father Muhammad Ali Jinnah at the Constituent Assembly.

“Tomorrow the government of the new dominion of Pakistan will rest in your hands,” Lord Mountbatten said in his speech. “Tomorrow two new sovereign states will take their place in the Commonwealth. Not young nations, but the heirs to old and proud civilisations, fully independent states, whose leaders and statesmen, already known and respected throughout the world; whose poets and philosophers, scientists and warriors, have made their imperishable, contribution to the service of mankind.”

The next day in independent India, first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru made his famed Tryst with Destiny speech at the stroke of midnight above the Lahori Gate of the Red Fort in Delhi.

“Long years ago, we made a tryst with destiny, and now the time comes when we shall redeem our pledge, not wholly or in full measure, but very substantially,” he said. “At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom.”

What happened on August 14, 1947?

Despite the historic moment of independence, the division of India in 1947, known as the Partition, was followed by widespread violence between Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs, as millions migrated between the newly created states according to their religion.

It's thought that about 10 million Muslims left India during this time, while a similar number of Hindus were displaced and came to India. Hundreds of thousands died in the ensuing violence.

The scars of the partition created great hostility and distrust between the two nations, some of which still exists today.

Updated: August 14, 2023, 12:01 PM