South Asia Timeline, 1960-75




  • General Ayub Khan assumes leadership of Pakistan by national referendum until 1969; creates new constitution with a presidential system and an American-inspired electoral college. Khan calls his authoritarian free market style “guided democracy” (after Indonesia’s Sukarno); these years average 6% annual growth; called “The Great Decade.”
  • Pakistan begins the construction of a new capital to be called Islamabad northwest of Rawalpindi in the upper Indus Valley with the guidance a group of Greek architects. Capital moved from the former capital, Karachi, in 1966.
  • Bombay State split to create new Indian states of Gujarat and Maharashtra (May).
  • India and Pakistan sign landmark Indus Waters Treaty at Karachi to jointly manage and share the flows of the Indus (particularly at its source in Kashmir) into the largest irrigated area of any river system in the world.


  • Pakistan starts a space program modelled on NASA.
  • India begins Operation Vijay (“victory”) to seize the colony of Goa in western India after 451 years of Portuguese rule; relations severed in late December after Indian success; Portugal recognize Goa as part of the Republic of India in 1974. Goa conflict part of a wider Portuguese colonial war between 1961 and 1975 that included its territories of Angola, Mozambique, and Guinea.


  • Agronomist, geneticist, and plant pathologist Norman E. Borlaug brings “Green Revolution” to India; increases agricultural yields dramatically.
  • China defeats India in a brief war over Himalayan territories. 




  • Jawaharlal Nehru dies, first prime minister of independent India; Lal Bahadur Shastri succeeds Nehru for short-lived premiership.


  • A five-week war breaks out between Pakistan and India (August) when Pakistan initiates Operation Gibraltar into Kashmir. Americans and Soviets compel both sides to sign the Tashkent Agreement in January 1966; pull back to the borders in Kashmir set in 1949, now known on maps as “The Line of Control” or “LOC.”


  • Lal Bahadur Shastri dies; Indira Gandhi, only child of Nehru, succeeds Shastri as India’s third prime minister.
  • Indian Punjab divided into three parts on the basis of language.






  • Extreme communal violence between Hindus and Muslims in Gujarat state, India (Sept/Oct) over an attack on a Hindu temple. Worst riots since the 1947 Partition; killed a minimum of 700 people.
  • Madras State in India renamed Tamil Nadu (“Tamil country”).




  • Zulfikar Ali Bhutto becomes president of Pakistan (December), with emergency powers; reverses growth policies of Ayub Khan in favor of “Islamic Socialism.”


  • India & Pakistan sign the Simla Accords that establishes the independence of Bangladesh, formerly called East Pakistan, part of greater Pakistan formed with the Indian Partition in 1947.
  • Ceylon changes name to Sri Lanka, reflecting new prominence of Buddhism in the country.


Hindu goddess, Shitala, worshipped to cure or prevent smallpox



  • India self-sufficient in cereals.
  • Smallpox outbreak in Indian states of Orissa, Bihar, and West Bengal (Jan-May).


  • Sikkim, independent since 1947, joins India as its 22nd state.
  • East Pakistan (Bangladesh) discards parliamentary democracy for military junta.
  • WHO launches Operation Smallpox Zero (Jan); disease eradicated in India, May 24.
  • October 16: three-year-old, Bangladeshi girl, Rahima Banu, contracts last case of naturally-occurring virulent smallpox (variola major) in the world. 
  • Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi begins two-year rule by emergency decree. 

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