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India has separatist movements in twenty two states. Most of them are militants. However, two of them stand out in the sense that their effort is nonviolent. One of them is Khalistan Movement, and the other one is Manipur.

Khalistanis are holding referendums among the nonresident Sikh community, and Manipur has created a non-resident government in London, UK.

Is there any way for Khalistanis and Manipuris to acquire UN recognition and peacefully get separated from India?

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    I would not overthink those separatist movements, by the way. The Western NGO Twitter comes up with these dozens of separatist movements in Russia, who are in practice a bunch of folks earning some grants and then applying for political asylum when their cauldron starts bubbling. A real separatist movement is usually singular.
    – alamar
    Aug 7, 2023 at 22:13
  • What is the support percentage for this, in the affected area? To take Khalistan look at the map: tribune.com.pk/story/2326088/… . Is there a majority support in those states for being independent? Before one can expect some sort of recognition from the central India government or the UN, one really needs to be sure this represents the wishes of the majority of residents of those areas. What can you indicate about that? Aug 7, 2023 at 22:22
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    Related: politics.stackexchange.com/questions/48316
    – ccprog
    Aug 8, 2023 at 14:30
  • I am not sure if Norway's separation from Sweden is relevant to the question. Aug 9, 2023 at 21:01
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    @slebetman I'm in NZ. Your statement " ... in theory it is a rebel state of The People's Republic of China ... " is true for theories held by the PRC leadership. These theories are not as well founded, by far, as various other theories to the contrary. As you probably know. 'Formosa' [tm] was never a state of the PRC, the legitimate residents of Formosa have never given any indication that they wish to be a state of the PRC, and the Johny come lately questionably-legitimate residents of Formosa in major part do not wish to be, The PRC has better claims to Korea thn it does to Formosa. Aug 10, 2023 at 11:47

5 Answers 5

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There is one good example of a peaceful separation of a state, and that is the "Velvet Divorce" where Czechoslovakia split into Czechia and Slovakia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dissolution_of_Czechoslovakia). Scotland and the rest-UK almost became a second example, when an official independence referendum was conducted in Scotland, but independence lost. Both happened primarily on the national level, and I believe this is going to be the case for any potential future examples, too.

So the peaceful path to an independent Khalistan or Manipur would need to focus on convincing the Indian government, not the international community.

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    I seem to recall there were also several indepencence votes for Quebec to become independent of Canada and one came out essentially 50-50 with the tiniest of margins for remain.
    – quarague
    Aug 8, 2023 at 7:08
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    @quarague That is correct. Québec had two referendums in 1980 and 1995. The second referendum was won with 50.58% of the vote.
    – JS Lavertu
    Aug 8, 2023 at 13:26
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    @GlenYates it was 'remain' (a part of Canada) that won by that tiniest of margins
    – AakashM
    Aug 8, 2023 at 14:53
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    Maybe this is because I'm excessively American, but to me it seems very strange that a bare majority would be enough for a part of a country to separate, from that region's point of view. Regardless of whether the larger country would object, it seems like a very extreme move to commit to based on a one-time 51% vote. Aug 8, 2023 at 16:11
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    @RyanJensen Indeed. See Brexit. Aug 9, 2023 at 7:48
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History is filled with such examples. Some that come to mind off the top of my head:

  • Nearly all former British/UK colonies except the United States (e.g. India, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and lots of others.)

  • Many former colonies of various other European powers (e.g. France, Spain, The Netherlands, Germany, etc.)

  • The Philippines, Palau, The Federated States of Micronesia, and the Republic of the Marshall Islands from the United States.

  • Depending on exactly what you mean by 'peaceful,' much of the Middle East (Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Israel, Egypt, etc.) from the U.K. and French Mandates following WWII. (The separation from the U.K. and France itself was mostly peaceful... the immediate aftermath within the region significantly less so.)

  • The split of Czechia and Slovakia.

  • The dissolution of the USSR. (Initially peaceful, though it hasn't entirely remained that way, as evident from current events.)

  • Probably several times in the Balkans. I think that whole region colludes with map makers to help them constantly sell updated maps. (Granted, this certainly hasn't always been peaceful.)

And this is just from roughly the past century. Going back farther, another particularly prominent example would be the Eastern and Western Roman Empires.

Of course, what all of these have in common is that the country from which a region was splitting consented to allow it to peacefully leave. The region can't just unilaterally split off if the parent country doesn't agree to allow it to do so. There is no separate international body (UN or otherwise) that can force a sovereign nation to allow a region to leave it peacefully. Of course, other sovereign nations can intervene by threat to force the nation to allow the region to split, but, if the original country is willing to fight to force the region to stay, then other countries intervening typically also won't be peaceful, unless maybe you consider the threat of force to be peaceful.

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The only likely way for this to happen is if India itself recognizes them as separate countries as the UN itself says that isn't something it can do.

It should be noted that there are other places around the world that want similar splits that are not being recognized.

A World Tour of the States not recognized by the UN

According to the UN: “the acknowledgement of new State or a new government is an act that only the other States and governments can do. The UN, being neither a State nor a government, is not entitled to acknowledge a State or government”. In order to become a member of the organization, the candidate state must submit an application to the Secretary General, as well as a letter in which it accepts all terms of the Charter. The next step is taken by the Security Council, which examines the request before it is subject to a vote by the 193 members. South Sudan is the latest State to have joined the organization in July 2011, after seceding from the Republic of Sudan, therefore ending decades of civil conflict. Many other countries aspire to become UN member States but are still not considered as such. Who are they?

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No.

Frame challenge. A peaceful separation implies that the resulting fragments are economically and politically stable nation states with no territorial claims to each other and with good now-international relations between each other.

Even if the central government becomes so weak as to not oppose losing some of its territories to secessionists, and the whole process is bloodless, forming functioning nation states would likely be a train wreck.

A good example is USSR, where a peaceful-ish dissolution has caused war between Armenia and Azerbaijan, further cession of Georgian autonomous regions, disintegration of Moldavia into three different ethno-cultural quasistates, jihadist civil war in Tajikistan, etc.

I've looked up these specific examples. Punjab has <60% Sikhs and >35% Hindus. Do you think that the latter will be very happy ceasing being a part of India and becoming a Sikh-land? Those briefly familiar with history of the state of Bosnia may imagine a Republica Hindska.

Same for Manipur, which is 40% Christian, 40% Hindu and almost 10% Muslim. These communities are kept in check by a functioning India state apparatus maintaining monopoly on violence. Once they disengage and let go of that monopoly, it is a disaster waiting to happen in the light of large ethnic conflicts already happening there.

In short, do not recommend, unless you have a taste for ethnic cleanings, poverty and international interventions. Some people will get to hold shiny titles, though.

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    @ItalianPhilosophers4Monica You can get people to vote for independence with a slim majority, only to have a hangover later when it's not any good and the people who were against are now very angry. Brexit is a super nerfed demo version of this.
    – alamar
    Aug 7, 2023 at 22:42
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    This may all be true, but the question is not about stability after secession; it's explicitly about the separation process as such, and its recognition. And to that, the answer is clearly yes, as the example of Czechoslovakia (and even the USSR to a large extent) shows.
    – Zeus
    Aug 8, 2023 at 2:41
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    Also what the question is about is OP's choice, not yours :)
    – bracco23
    Aug 8, 2023 at 11:07
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    Counterexamples: Canada and Australia were both formerly part of the British Empire, and both split amicably from Britain, all of which retain good relations with each other and have stable (indeed, powerful) economies and democracies. A lot of the old empire has been peaceably let go I think, at least up to how much you describe any local anti-monarchy movements as "peaceful"; the US being one of the more dramatic exceptions. So clearly if you want a clean split, then a hell of a lot of distance is probably gonna help. Aug 8, 2023 at 11:17
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    Counter-example: Lithuania peacefully split from Russia despite having a large Russian population. The Russian state and Russian minority have never been happy, and there have been threats of military action, but it's still been fundamentally peaceful.
    – Stuart F
    Aug 8, 2023 at 15:39
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I do not think the movements like Khalistani can be peaceful is possible. As in past the Khalistan movement has held arms and terrorised the Punjab. The problem with these types of movements is that they are politically motivated instead of people's demand. In India a very old Naxalist movement is also going on. In starting this was a genuine movement for the upliftment of tribes and backward classes, but now it's a mess. They are also armed groups and very active politically. I am not saying being political is right or wrong, it is the very nature of human civilizations to be political, but once you are ready to hold arms, you are ready to shoot. In Manipur the situation is much worse as they are fighting with their own people — different groups but both natives. There also, arms are used by both sides including the Indian army. I would also include the movements that were going on in Srilanka. They managed to kill the PM of India.

In conclusion, there are peaceful solutions present. These movements need to find the real reasons they are fighting for today. The reasons change overtime. The Naxalist movement started with downgrade treatment of the goverments towards the local tribes and backward communities. The Khalistan movement is much more complex as there is not a singular reason. But looking at today's scenario, these movements are not doing great in terms of their own people's future. Even if in their own fantasy world they are separated from India, they have no real working plan to run a country, even with support of Indian government. So, leave the arms, talk with the Indian army and government about the demands and try the reason with them for what you want. I would suggest a peaceful protest is an option to consider such as the Kisan movement or the anti-corruption movement. These movements had the power to change government's policies or even government itself. Get the confidence of people, it's a democracy in India, use your power. The only real power which matters is people's power.

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    Welcome to the Politics SE! I do not have enough reputation on this site to downvote, but I would venture to guess you are receiving them because this answer appears to be mostly personal opinion. On this site, answers should be factual and ideally backed by citations. If you improve your answer by sticking to the facts and adding links to support your argument, you will get more upvotes. Don't let the downvotes discourage you, and I hope you continue to stay active on the site in the future.
    – PC Luddite
    Aug 8, 2023 at 11:44
  • @PCLuddite maybe it's personal opinion, but how is that worse than everyone else except for Alamar accepting the premise of the question at face value: that people in Khalistan want to secede. We have had questions about how to separate peacefully, this one would be a dupe except for its applicability to Khalistan-in-India, which is far from proven. This answer basically states there is limited popular acceptability for the whole notion. Aug 9, 2023 at 17:56
  • @ItalianPhilosophers4Monica I'm not sure what you're responding to. How is what better or worse? I didn't say anything about what I thought of this answer. I know users on SE sites get irritated in general when they receive downvotes without explanation. I can imagine it's doubly frustrating to a new user. I was trying to provide the reasoning (albeit speculatively) for why there were downvotes.
    – PC Luddite
    Aug 10, 2023 at 0:34
  • @ItalianPhilosophers4Monica also, Alamar's answer did provide citations among the personal opinion.
    – PC Luddite
    Aug 10, 2023 at 0:38

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