Over the years that I have written for this newspaper, I have never addressed the India-Pakistan situation. There is an emotional reason for that. I grew up in a Pakistan that was consumed by the Indian question. Stories about the horrors of Partition were repeated to us as bedtime stories.
And yes, we also heard all about the misadventures in the first India-Pakistan war over Kashmir, especially how a war was changed into a looting expedition with the injection of tribesmen from the Frontier, forcing the local Kashmiris to decide that they were better off with India.
I started studies at a medical college during the second India-Pakistan war, and left the country just before the third India-Pakistan war and the separation of Bangladesh. For the next three decades, while in the United States, I was busy building a career and raising a family.
By the time I was able to think about Pakistan in a more objective and personal way, along came the Kargil misadventure. I returned to Pakistan a little less than five years ago. My opinions about India-Pakistan relations are therefore coloured, among other things, by these relatively humiliating efforts by Pakistan to re-conquer Kashmir and my life in the US.
India and Pakistan were born in a cauldron of hate and unparalleled violence that scarred any future relations between these two countries. Subsequent wars between them just made things more rigid and closed to an amicable resolution. Perhaps the great tragedy for future relations between these two countries was the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi.
Few in Pakistan today wish to remember, or are even taught in their schools, that a Hindu fanatic assassinated Gandhi for demanding that Pakistan be paid its share of the Indian money. Gandhi went on a fast unto death, which he stopped only after India paid Pakistan a sum of 55 crore rupees, serious money then.
The assassination of Gandhi and the death of Jinnah were two calamities that made things worse. The Nehru-Liaquat pact tried to restore some sense of balance but the assassination of Liaquat Ali Khan brought that to an end. From that day onwards, Pakistani foreign and security policy has been aimed at only one thing, and that is being anti-India.
However, during my time in the US, I had many colleagues and associates that were of Indian origin, and I got along well with most of them. Some even became good friends. Perhaps because of this it was difficult for me to accept the general Pakistani attitude that all Indians were against Pakistan, and therefore all Pakistanis should be against India and the Indians.
As a consequence of this evolution in my thinking about India and Indians combined with some ‘objective’ assessment of Indo-Pakistan relations available in the West, I came to some conclusions. Of course these are not written in stone, but I consider them quite reasonable and will adhere to them unless proven otherwise.
First and foremost is the question of territorial ambitions. It is clear that Pakistan has not been successful in the past to wrest any part of Kashmir from India and is unlikely to be in a position to do so in the foreseeable future. As far as India is concerned, it has no desire to conquer Pakistan or any part of it. India might not mind taking over Azad (Pakistan-administered) Kashmir, but under present international conditions it is unlikely to even try to do that.
Towards the end of the Indo-Pakistan war in 1971, Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi wanted the Indian army to take over Azad Kashmir, but the word is that US President Richard Nixon called up Soviet President Leonid Brezhnev and asked him to tell Gandhi that the US would not let that happen. This is perhaps the real tilt by Nixon towards Pakistan at that time that the Indians are still miffed about.
As far as the territorial integrity of present day Pakistan is concerned, a dysfunctional and dismembered Pakistan would afford serious security concerns for India, not only in terms of terrorism but possible mass migrations to India. I cannot imagine India at this stage of its economic development wanting to be swamped by economic immigrants from the west that inflate its Muslim minority and further radicalise their Islamic ideology.
The second demand of many Pakistanis is that the world should treat India and Pakistan as equals. This is preposterous. India today is a country six times bigger than Pakistan in terms of population. In terms of its economic status, it is not even comparable to Pakistan. India has just sent an unmanned spacecraft to the moon while Pakistanis are going around hat in hand looking for money to cover their current account deficit.
The third thing that worries many in Pakistan is the dominance of Indian culture in Pakistan. Those that demand that we in Pakistan should separate ourselves from the Indian sphere of cultural influence should just talk to their children and the young in this country. Bollywood and its stars what are what young know about and emulate.
Interestingly, if you go to an Indian American wedding in the US, it is Punjabi songs that are being sung! The point being that from a cultural point of view, there is such a large amount of intermingling that what is Pakistani or Indian cannot be differentiated anymore. Sort of like my Gujarati friend in the US coming up to me and say, “Oh. I loved that gajal!”
And that brings me to the most important thing that must make Indians and Pakistanis come together as a part of the same world. The Mumbai terrorist attacks tell us one very important thing: We in India and Pakistan live together and we die together. We have the same enemies, and if as countries we could be friends, we will do better, nuclear arsenals notwithstanding.
Syed Mansoor Hussain has practised and taught medicine in the US. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Reproduced by permission of DT