From the editor- in- chief
At 65, nations, unlike human beings, are still at the peak of their youth. Like humans, young nations are more energetic and grow faster than their older counterparts. For both India and Pakistan, which also happen to be endowed with some of the youngest population in the world, a 65th anniversary ought to be a jubilant celebration of achievement. Unfortunately, neither country has quite fulfilled the promise of 1947. India is still waiting for its tryst with destiny promised by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru at midnight on August 15, 1947. The least we can say for India is that it’s still on the right track, even if progress, particularly on the economic front, is awfully slow. Pakistan doesn’t even have the luxury of that consolation prize. It is a nation that is perpetually on the precipice of becoming a failed state. It has certainly failed the promise of its founding father, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, who wanted to see Pakistan become a secular and democratic modern nation- state.
There is little doubt that despite our common past, India and Pakistan are now worlds apart, whether it is polity, economy or society. India’s performance hasn’t always been extraordinary in any of those spheres, yet Pakistan has somehow contrived to do much worse. For all the flaws of India’s political system, it is a firmly established democracy. When people dislike the politicians in charge of government, they replace them with another set, rather than contemplate an overthrow of the entire system and its replacement with something more authoritarian and less chaotic. The Emergency of 1975- 1977 was fortunately an aberration in the trend. Across the border, democracy has been an aberration over long periods of military rule. Pakistan’s politicians have consistently failed to establish enough credibility with their people to force the military back into the barracks. The failure of democracy, and its associated checks and balances, has extracted a huge price in Pakistan.
On economy, Pakistan actually did better than India in terms of per capita incomes until the 1980s. After that India’s economic liberalisation and the unleashing of entrepreneurial energies has meant that India has eyed China more than Pakistan in the last two decades. Pakistan’s economy has not undergone any significant structural changes to make it more competitive. It’s a country that is almost bankrupt and heavily dependent on foreign aid rather than the creative energies of its own people. There is still too much poverty, illiteracy, malnutrition and gender discrimination in both countries to be optimistic about definitive societal transformation but India, with its more open society, has the edge in achieving modernity.
Our cover story package for this special Independence Day issue features some of the finest writers from both countries. Editorial Director M. J. Akbar, who knows both countries better than anyone else, sets the stage with his opening essay. Gopalkrishna Gandhi, grandson of India’s founding father, writes about Jinnah and Gandhi. Apart from their differences, the two countries have much in common. Mark Tully and political analyst Khalid Ahmed comment on the political dynasties on both sides; The Guardian Correspondent Jason Burke writes on the Taliban insurgency in Pakistan while security expert Ajai Sahni writes about the Naxal insurgency in India. For those not inclined to politics, there are fabulous pieces on films, cities, music and even textbooks in both countries. Moni Mohsin writes on the one thing that still provides a thread of unity: The English language.
This issue is a celebration of two very different nations, warts and all. I hope that you will enjoy reading it.