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Looking Back, Informing the Future: The 1947 Partition of British India

Textual Analysis of Indian and Pakistani Leaders’ Rhetoric

Led by Professors Asim Khwaja, Director of the Center for International Development and the Sumitomo-Foundation for Advanced Studies on International Development Professor of International Finance and Development at Harvard Kennedy School, and Prashant Bharadwaj, Associate Professor in the Economics Department at UC San Diego, the project aims to fill existing gaps in understanding the impact of political and societal discourses. There has been abundant historical scholarship on the correspondences between pre- and post-independence elites in India and Pakistan, as well as internal meetings and conversations leading up to the Partition. However, there is very little analysis on the rhetoric of post-independence political elites in the past seventy years regarding the relationship between India and Pakistan. This rhetoric is essential to understanding the impact of Partition on political and social life on the Indian subcontinent, as well as how the influence of existing biases affect current decision-making and sentiments on the ground.

The team is analyzing a collection of political speeches, articles, and quotes by political leaders and other figures in South Asia made by Indian and Pakistani leaders in the United Nations General Assembly and various newspapers since independence. The aim is to be able to predict combative speeches made vis-a-vis the other country through machine learning, which may provide insight into how such speeches and messaging can or do influence economic behavior.