Popular narratives regarding the creation of the Pakistani nation contend that the “idea” of Pakistan was insufficiently imagined. The partition of British India, and the creation of an independent Pakistan, was the unintended consequence of ill-fated attempts to secure the interests of Muslims within a united India.

A new book by Venkat Dhulipala, Creating a New Medina: State Power, Islam and the Quest for Pakistan in Colonial North India, reexamines the historical idea of Pakistan. Contrary to the received wisdom, Dhulipala argues that Pakistan was not simply a vague idea that serendipitously emerged as a nation-state, but was broadly conceived as a sovereign Islamic state—a new Medina. Dhulipala discussed his book, described by Pratap Bhanu Mehta in the Indian Express as “arguably among the most important studies of the ideological origins of Pakistan published to date.” Carnegie’s Milan Vaishnav moderated.

Venkat Dhulipala

Venkat Dhulipala is associate professor of History at the University of North Carolina, Wilmington, specializing in the history of modern South Asia.

Milan Vaishnav

Milan Vaishnav is an associate in the South Asia Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, where he works on the political economy of India.