Can India and Pakistan ever be friends?
Can India and Pakistan ever be friends? We belong to the same race and the ancestors of many of the Indian and Pakistani Muslims were Hindus a few generations ago. We speak the same languages and have the same culture, and history. Despite the commonalities, however, there were few inter-faith marriages and this remains the case even in this day and age. We have few Hindus left in Pakistan, except in parts of Tharparkar and Umerkot which are two Hindu majority districts in the country, but the number of Muslims in India is sizeable. The interaction amongst the communities, however, remains minimal.
The problem between India and Pakistan is not between two countries but between two communities what many regard as two nations. The question of defining an Islamic nation is problematic as the Muslims constitute 55 nations at present and there are innumerable nations within these nations as being experienced within Libya where the tribes in the East are fighting the Qaddafi-led tribes of the West and the provinces in Pakistan join hands to oppose the Punjabi-led domination of Pakistan which is most recently being reflected on the issue of HEC (Higher Education Commission) devolution after the Eighteenth Amendment. There should not be any issues if we all constitute one nation in Pakistan. But do we?
India is bitter with us over the partition which is understandable. It is similar to a partner leaving a partnership and the latter wishing the former to eventually fail and regret its decision to leave it. However, time is said to be the best healer and a new generation has come up in both the countries and is at the helm of affairs. But would the coming generation forget the bitter experiences of partition?
One comes across Sindhi nationalists who praise Raja Dahir giving Mohammad Bin Qasim a tough fight while defending Sindh which happened 14 centuries ago. The Hindus still bitterly lament the destruction of their temples by Muslim invaders during the past ten centuries which was most recently reflected in the destruction of the Babri Masjid. Unpleasant experiences thus have a tendency to linger on.
And this is the problem with the Indo-Pak relations. We on both sides profess for friendship but do not sincerely desire it as either we consider the other side to be inferior as he may be a Hindu and thus will not be going to heaven; or because of the past atrocities committed by the Muslim rulers whom we are obviously not responsible for; or because of partition; or because of injustices done to us by the Indians at the time of partition in the shape of Kashmir, Hyderabad, Junagadh, division of military and ci- vilian assets; or the acts of terrorism sponsored by our respective intelligence agencies in each others’ countries.
There is not much that we all can do about all of the above as most of that happened in the past. We can only do something about the present and perhaps about the future.
The Indian leader Nehru in his book `The Discovery of India’ had opposed Pakistan’s creation on the grounds that the importance of religion will gradually decrease, and the religious differences will accordingly go in the background. Sometimes one feels that this is happening in India when one sees the Indians struggling unitedly against Pakistan whether in cricket or economically or in Kargil. But the way India is treating the Kashmiris gives one second thoughts about this assertion as most of the Hindu Indians are indifferent to the plight of Kashmiris. And isn’t this so because they are Muslims?
The mind-set will thus have to change on both sides; and this is unlikely to happen as long as two religious communities do not recognize the necessity to co-exist for ever together, without looking down upon the other. We have a long way to go to achieve such a mind-set… The writer is an advocate of the Supreme Court and a member of the Washington, DC Bar. He has been writing regularly for various publications for more than 20 years and has authored several books.