Can In­dia and Pak­istan ever be friends?

Southasia - - The last stop - By Anees Jil­lani

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.

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