Time for reconciliation
EXTERNAL factors and domestic imperatives have brought about a sudden but welcome shift in India’s policy towards Pakistan — from confrontation to talking peace. After the terrorist attack on the parliament India applied intense political and military pressure for nearly 16 months to achieve its political and strategic objectives of trying to isolate and compel Pakistan to stop support to the Kashmiri freedom struggle.
The mantra of “cross-border terrorism” had partial success as it drew international support and sympathy from the US and other major powers and put Pakistan on the defensive and compelled it to exercise more effective control on movement of militants. India taking advantage of 9/11 was also able to reducing the centrality of the freedom struggle in Kashmir to an issue of terrorism.
For a while, it worked and even allowed New Delhi to proceed with the state elections in Kashmir, creating some real and part illusionary effect of progress on the domestic front. But the confrontational policy had run its course and reached a stage where it was becoming counterproductive for India to pursue it any further. The world powers realizing that the problem of cross-border infiltration was as much of a symptom as the cause and that Kashmir could become a flashpoint of a future conventional or even a nuclear conflict between India and Pakistan, were insisting on India to shift to diplomatic and political means of conciliation and settlement. The foremost, of course, was the U.S. role in nudging India and Pakistan to creating conditions for reducing tension so that a place dialogue could commence.
Secondly, New Delhi had expected that significant increases in its defence spending, coupled with prolonged mobilization and heightened tension, would compel Islamabad to incur corresponding additional military spendings, leading to the collapse of its fragile economy. Fortunately, because of better macro management, Pakistan’s economy displayed great resilience during this period. Rescheduling of debt by G-8 countries and other multilateral agencies, coupled with other favourable factors such as an increase in remittances and exports, made it possible for Pakistan to face the financial burden of operational deployment successfully.
Furthermore, Indian policy-makers initially misread the US national security strategy as a scheme of this which could be cited as justifying its own hegemonic designs against Pakistan. Washington lost no time in correcting this false impression. It was becoming clearer to New Delhi that despite its close relations with America the unveiling of the US’s global hegemonic ambitions were in fact squeezing the room for it in the region.
Anti-Pakistan and anti-Muslim policy of the BJP diehards may have paid dividends in Gujarat elections but failed to gain nation-wide acceptance as poll results in Himachal and other states subsequently showed. Even within the Hindutva top hierarchy there were elements that clearly saw the benefits of breaking the impasse with Pakistan. Belligerence and prospects of war were having an adverse impact on Indian trade and investment. Equally disconcerting has been the ill-affects of extremism on the Indian polity, causing concern among the moderates and intelligentsia that the secular character of India was changing and a reappraisal was necessary.
Besides, saner elements in both countries seem to be realizing that the existing pattern of relationship is fraught with serious dangers and that neither a limited war nor militancy would resolve the Kashmir dispute. Also, occasional sabre-rattling apart, nuclear capabilities of both states was also a major factor in deterring military adventurism. Above all, it goes to the credit of Prime Minister Vajpayee that despite setbacks to his earlier peace initiatives, he has shown a commendable capacity for persistence in a statesman-like approach to Indo-Pakistan issues and problem.
Recent diplomatic overtures by Indian and Pakistani leaders are encouraging, yet deep down there exists extreme mistrust between the two sides. The gulf on the core issue of Kashmir remains wide and not easily bridgeable. India remains inflexible on Kashmir and merely shows willingness for peaceful coexistence with Pakistan provided it stops “cross border infiltration”. Meanwhile, it attempts to manage the turbulent state through improved governance and tight security. Pakistan naturally wants to move fast on the question of Kashmir and maintain pressure on India to engage in substantive negotiations on its future status because this is where the problem lies.
Ironically, each country’s top leadership thinks that what the other side wants in the context of Kashmir would destabilize its society. No wonder then that both countries perceive each other as potential destabilizers. This is where political acumen and wisdom not only of Indian and Pakistani leadership, but also of the international community and particularly of the US should come into play.
There is a lack of world sensitivity towards the plight of the oppressed people in Indian held Kashmir, who are being held in a state of siege, particularly since 1989. Now that Pakistan is making every effort to stop jihadi forces from crossing over to the other side, the world cannot remain a silent spectator to the gross human rights violations in the held state. Just as India seeks a permanent and verifiable end to Pakistan’s support to militancy in Kashmir so should the world demand cessation of Indian atrocities in Kashmir. This it should ensure through a verifiable and transparent mechanism of monitoring of the situation in Kashmir by human rights organizations.
In fact, India in good faith should start reducing its security forces and end state violence in Kashmir. Both countries could agree on a cease-fire on the Line of Control. At the same time, India should enter into substantive negotiations with Pakistan encompassing all issues.
Restoration of full diplomatic relations between India and Pakistan has already been announced and the revival of air, road and rail links is likely to follow soon. Greater interaction on the economic front, including collaboration in energy pipelines from Central Asia to India via Afghanistan and Pakistan, trade and promotion of cultural activities are feasible propositions, as part of a structured peace process provided the political will for it exists on both sides. India may be ready for normalization of relations in which trade, commerce and cultural activities are taken up first as the composite dialogue moves forward.
Opinion in Pakistan on the question of moving fast on economic and cultural exchanges without corresponding progress on Kashmir is evenly divided. Studies conducted by eminent economists and business houses have come to the conclusion that it is in Pakistan interests more than India’s to engage in normal commercial activity with each other. However, there is another group in both India and Pakistan to whom economic considerations occupy a low priority as compared to the political aspect of relations.
In any case, the inability to resolve Kashmir in the near future should not stand in the way of making progress on other issues, which have their own importance. Cooperation in any area that benefits the people of both countries will surely contribute towards reducing hostility and the proposal for a nuclear free-zone in the present circumstances is too ambitious and, therefore, a non-starter.
To expect that India and Pakistan will give up their nuclear capability or stop its further development and agree to denuclearization of South Asian is far-fetched. India is already working on its ambitious nuclear doctrine based on the triad. And then there is the China factor in the Indian nuclear calculus. For Pakistan’s military planners reliance on the nuclear deterrence to offset India’s conventional superiority and growing military power is a central part of its military strategy.
There is, nonetheless, an urgent need for a nuclear dialogue aimed at creating a nuclear risk reduction regime and nuclear security and stability. The nuclear issue could either be tackled as a part of the integrated peace process or kept out of it and dealt with separately.
Fortunately, there already exist the outline of a peace process spelled out in the summit declaration at Lahore and in an informal sense at Agra. Additionally, the joint statements of the Indian and Pakistani foreign secretaries of 1997 and 1998 can serve as a framework for talks. The agenda should cover all issues affecting Indo-Pakistan relations and the prioritization of items can be mutually worked out.
There have been suggestions that each country nominates its interlocutor, who could then lead their respective teams for a sustained dialogue. These interlocutors should preferably be political appointees of stature assisted by professionals representing the various ministries relevant at each stage of discussion.
Both countries are facing the common scourge of grinding poverty, social divisions and religious extremism. Besides, the relentless pace of globalization and the dangers emanating from the rupture in the world order makes it imperative for India and Pakistan to move towards economic cooperation and seek political interaction for addressing Kashmir and other issues.
This is the only sensible course to follow if the mistakes and pitfalls of the past are to be avoided and progress made. Will Vajpayee and Musharraf develop a genuine shared vision to lead the region towards peace and prosperity and blend and balance the interests of the elite with the long-term economic and political interests of the broad masses?
The writer is a retired lt-general of the Pakistan army.
Emerging out of the quagmire
THE political rhetoric by our parliamentarians in public meetings, in the print media and the loud and rowdy rumpus by them inside the house reflects the disorder that ails our society. The lawmakers are expected to lead from the front and show maturity in their word and deed in all matters of national concern.
Their performance does not enhance the decorum and sanctity of parliament. The people do not expect mob behaviour from their chosen representatives who have the sacred task of leading the country in periods of peace, emergency and war. The persistent stalemate causes anxiety.
But why blame the politicians alone? Indiscipline and chaos are a part of our political milieu. In the present impasse if the opposition get their share of blame, which they do, the treasury benches are also not so innocent either. Both bear responsibility for jointly evolving a mechanism to pull the country out of the quagmire. Given political wisdom and tolerance, the task is achievable.
Our national malaise, deep and wide, affects major and minor issues in many segments of society. Individually, some issues appear small, even trivial and innocuous. But collectively, their impact on our national thinking and conduct is considerable. Some such issues, selected at random, are discussed in this piece. The list is not exhaustive. Space restrictions preclude inclusion of other items.
As a nation we hesitate to admit our faults and lack moral courage to laugh at ourselves. We tend to accept the prevailing status quo without raising an eyebrow and tolerate inefficiency as a part of life in this imperfect world. This tendency does not help us. We have yet to learn the art of calling a spade a spade and accepting criticism in good spirit.
At the time of independence a vast majority of the political elite was the product of a feudal system and culture promoted by the raj. The native beneficiaries were toadies of the British rulers who were handsomely rewarded by the former for promoting their colonial interests in undivided India. Ever since then such feudal landlords and their descendants have dominated the national political scene — particularly in Punjab and Sindh. The sardari system that existed in 1947 remains deeply entrenched in Balochistan. Similarly, tribal culture continues to dominate the political landscape in the NWFP, Balochistan and in the tribal belt.
These pillars of political power vehemently oppose any progressive change in laws and in society. Obviously they do not wish to dismantle or weaken the system that invariably brings them to power. The feudal lords dominate their largely illiterate tenants and sharecropper politically and economically and manipulate their own success in elections. The system stinks of exploitation of the poor masses by the greedy few rich families.
Land reforms introduced by Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto were a sham as these were introduced half-heartedly and implemented selectively. It was widely speculated then that many feudal lords had fraudulently transferred their land holdings in the names of their children and close relations. A large number were quick to join Bhutto’s political bandwagon for sharing power, retaining their land holdings and maintaining their political influence.
The landlords, dominating national and provincial assemblies, oppose the spread of education and kept the national literacy rate low to perpetuate their political domination and hold on the largely neglected rural society. Much has been said and written about education reforms since 1947 but very little has been actually achieved in this period. Many education commission reports are gathering dust in the archives of the ministry of education but the national literacy rate remains pathetically low. The national education policy, if one exists, produces low-grade baboos for clerical duties. The British had reasons for making this policy and we have been slavishly pursuing it since 1947. At best we have tinkered with it here and there.
Our education system is tailor-made to perpetuate the hold of the rich few over the vast majority of the population which is poor and backward. Education has become a lucrative business in which the vested interests play the marching tunes. The country lacks a common curriculum for studies, an inescapable necessity for promoting national unity, cohesion and consciousness and for the spread of knowledge.
British O and A level schools, English-medium schools, Urdu-medium schools, deeni madaris, and Masjid schools churn out students and the country accepts the fait accompli. The basic requirement of providing primary and secondary education to every citizen is largely neglected. It is wonderful to enter the age of information technology, as we loudly claim to do, and with some justification. But can computers perform miracles if the power supply in the country is erratic with ever fluctuating low voltage and frequent power disruptions? The taxpayers are denied a sustained and regular flow of voltage for which they pay through their noses. The system of power supply is designed to promote inefficiency.
Mosques are holy places of worship where the faithful congregate for offering prayers, meeting their fellow co-religionists and developing a sense of brotherhood among them. These are visible symbols of Muslim unity and identity. Shamefully, their sanctity is violated. Many mosques bear the label of this or that school of thought. The ethnic divide goes deeper and wider. Some mosques are identified in terms of sects or particular schools of thought — Bareilvi, Deobandi, Hanafi, etc. The individuals and organizations responsible for running such mosques may have good motives but such classification is against the spirit of Islam.
Our places of worship are the common heritage of all Muslims. Their classification on ethnic or any other basis militates against Islamic unity and national solidarity. A law should be enacted to remove all names and ethnic labels from all mosques in the country and those violating this legislation should be proceeded against. Let every Muslim adhere to his own maslik without let or hindrance and be free to offer prayers in any place of his choice, again, without let or hindrance. It is unwise and dangerous to create divisions among Muslims and weaken national unity.
Permit me to shift from sublime to the ridiculous. It is against civic sense and good neighbourliness to dump the refuse of one’s own house at the doorsteps of others. Some do so routinely without any qualms of conscience or responsibility. This unhealthy practice creates health hazards and pollutes environment. Should we not educate our citizen to desist from such practices?
Equally ugly is the habit of bill sticking and wall-chalking on the properties of others, including public places. This practice assumes nauseating proportions at election times when political parties and candidates paste their banners at places of their choice. One often finds posters stuck at places where it is categorically forbidden.
The custodians of the law look the other way. Bill sticking and wall-chalking deface walls, buildings, streets and places of public use. Can the local governments not keep their areas clean and attractive? Those who spoil the natural scenic beauty of our environment deserve to be handled firmly.
No less menacing and unhygienic is the use of plastic bags commonly called shoppers. These bags choke drains and water channels and emit foul smell. Besides, these are a health hazard. Those travelling by rail and road notice huge dumps of plastic bags littering areas, particularly in the close vicinity of cities and towns. The use of plastic bags by shopkeepers should be legally banned.
Finally, we are always impatient and our reluctance to form a queue and wait for our turn for purchasing a ticket, paying a utility bill, boarding a bus or waiting for our turn for doing anything is shameful — something that we ought to have learnt in our kindergarten classes to avoid.
By stalling legislative business our parliamentarians have neither enhanced Pakistan’s national image nor their own reputation. This ding-dong provides an opportunity to our critics to laugh at us and malign our country. Bargaining in politics is a legitimate tactic but it should be done with finesse, decency and equanimity. This chapter should close. The government and the opposition share equal responsibility for evolving a mutually acceptable and workable political package based on national interest. This package must promote good governance and impose checks and balances on all, including the president and the prime minister.
The writer is a retired general of the Pakistan army.
IT must be something in the air of Bengal. The politics of Kolkata is driven by processions and slogans, and Mamata Banerjee won her spurs with some outstanding heroics during tricolour processions. A procession is irrelevant without a slogan, and a slogan is ipso facto a demand. Is this why Mamata Banerjee is such a demanding politician?
She is indistinguishable from demands. She demanded the status of a viceroy for Bengal affairs from Rajiv Gandhi, which, understandably, he was a trifle reluctant to give. P.V. Narasimha Rao was more pungent; and Mamata Banerjee declared independence from the Congress. It is easy to declare independence; it is difficult to know what to do with it. Mamata Banerjee did not. She returned to dependence, but chose the BJP to depend on. That relationship proved less salutary than she expected.
She rediscovered the Congress. She dreamt of triumph and wound up with sackcloth and ashes. She is now back with the BJP, sort of. But in none of her avatars, or during her transmutation phases, has she ever stopped demanding something or the other. She demanded the railway ministry from Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee. She got it, in the good old days. Then she demanded it right back in the bad old days, when she wanted to return to NDA, as if it was hers for the asking.
When she runs out of serious demands, she is not above making a few mulish ones. On the eve of her scheduled re-induction into the cabinet on May 24 she demanded the head of one of her own MPs, no less than her party whip in parliament, Sudip Bandopadhyay. She wanted a written commitment that he would not be made a minister.
You might wonder why such a problem cannot be resolved through a private phone call. Politicians, after all, do speak to each other in private. Deals are not made over the megaphone. But privacy has no place in a demand culture. A request can be private, but everyone must hear a demand, or it has not been made. A request is part of negotiations. A demand is always laced with the hint of blackmail. It is an exercise in muscle politics. The other day Mamata Banerjee cancelled her appointment with a cabinet berth when she did not receive satisfaction. That was her display of muscle.
The storm may have filled up yet another political teacup, but that was the size of it. Muscle politics has its virtues, but there is a necessary ingredient: you must have muscle. At the moment Mamata Banerjee’s muscles are aching from the pounding she has received from the Marxists.
Mamata Banerjee also suffers from a series of injuries that are self-inflicted. She is both the perpetrator and the victim of personalized, egocentric leadership. There is therefore only a nominal organizational structure in her party, the Trinamul Congress. It is a pyramid of individuals, each one a Mamata clone in his pocket borough, running his local parish in precisely the manner in which she runs the whole party. She can win in a wave, but gets beached without a surge.
The Marxist organization, protected by a well-honed and disciplined cadre, is boringly efficient at decimating personalized parties, and did so again in the recent panchayat elections. Mamata Banerjee trailed to third position, although the difference between third and second (Congress) was minimal, and the gap between the Marxists and Congress was huge. It did not much matter who came second or third; they were so far behind they might have been invisible.
Why does the BJP need a marginalized Mamata as a partner? The answer lies not in Bengal but in Delhi. In Bengal the BJP is a non-starter, and has stitched its napkin to Mamata’s sari so that together they might span a bit more space than the Congress. But as Mr Vajpayee and Mr L.K. Advani move into the final weave of the tapestry before the next general elections, they know that they need to offer the electorate a national platform. Bengal has to be represented, and Mamata Banerjee offers a foothold, however tenuous it might be. But Mamata needs the BJP equally, for alone she is not strong enough to win anything.
That is why the BJP can afford to be cool towards her blasts of hot air. Nothing might be gained, but little is lost either. The Marxists of Bengal can lick their lips peacefully, waiting for the next jug of cream that will come their way as surely as the last one. While the algebra of the next elections has proved beneficial to Mamata, with or without her eccentricities, it has proved detrimental to the interests of another marginal player, Ajit Singh. He has protected his minor fortress in western Uttar Pradesh through freewheeling alliances defined purely by the amorality of personal interest. His luck has held in part because of a splendid inheritance: his father, Charan Singh, was a minor god to the Jats of western Uttar Pradesh.
But it has been obvious that the BJP cannot ally with both Mayawati’s Dalits and Ajit Singh’s Jats. Hostility between the two castes is endemic, and Jats indulge in atrocities against impoverished Dalits even during Mayawati’s dispensation. Social contradictions become sharpest during an election. Wherever and whenever they could, Jats have simply stolen Dalit votes through intimidation. Charan Singh would smile in a superior sort of way when informed of such incidents, endearing him further to the Jat heart. The BJP has invested too heavily in an electoral alliance with Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party. The BJP surrendered its own space in Lucknow to ensure that it could keep control over its space in Delhi. It was a hard decision, that caused substantial heartburn in the party. But once taken, it stood. There are more than enough social contradictions between the BJP’s social base and the Dalits too, but if they manage to unite on polling day their combination could be very effective.
Ajit Singh had to be shown the door. Charan Singh’s heir will now look for other friends, but his bargaining position is compromised by his reputation. He has sold his soul so often that it has passed its most generous sell-by date.
The most important story of the recent reshuffle is about the dog who, as in the Sherlock Holmes tale, did not bark. Those who have watched the prime minister’s manoeuvres know that he prefers a slow dance and leaves exotic jiggling to others.
Sometimes his moves are so slow they seem like an imperceptible shuffle rather than a step in any direction. But step by slow step he is shifting the balance in Tamil Nadu, another state where the BJP has only a technical presence. Age, and bitter succession wars that now possibly include murder, have debilitated the BJP’s ally, the DMK. Mr Karunanidhi looks like yesterday’s man; and his bravely named son, Stalin, looks like he has no future. The DMK, once an institution, has become personalized, burdened with all the handicaps and devoid of the energy and purpose that were once its visible strengths. It is consumptive and faction-ridden.
The BJP has been ogling Jayalalitha for some time now, and she has ogled right back. She has sent enough signals to indicate that her distrust for Sonia Gandhi is matched by her faith in the BJP’s social agenda (the BJP applauded her ban on conversions). With so much flirtation going on, it is only a matter of time before a political consummation takes place. The DMK joined the BJP-led alliance only when Jayalalitha walked out; now that Jaya is ready to walk in, the DMK is being edged out — with, it must be added, minimum discourtesy - so far. But when push comes to shove, the DMK will be shoved off.
Since every shuffle is also meant to move a bigger agenda forward, what does this one indicate? These alterations in the cabinet have nothing to do with the coming assembly elections.
The writer is editor-in-chief, Asian Age, New Delhi.
Our forgotten commitment
EVERY time some leader of India or Pakistan makes a comment on the desirability of ending tensions and creating better relations between the two countries, there is an overwhelming response from the people on both sides, welcoming the move and then waiting eagerly and anxiously for something to happen.
A Pakistani public, grown cynical over half a century of governments — the last thing on whose minds has been the welfare of the people — is still capable of holding its breath whenever there is a prospect of normalization of Indo-Pak relations.
The obvious conclusion is that there is an indissoluble bond between the peoples of the two countries. Despite the continued efforts of the policy-makers of the two countries to create different identities, for instance, by separating the languages (by Sanscritization and Persianization of what used to be known as Urdu or Hindustani), and by erecting an information barrier between the two peoples, the memories of a common culture and a common past have not been erased altogether.
Over half a century of hostilities, four wars, countless people dead, economic disaster and terrible impoverishment of the people — these are the results of the very flawed policies that have governed the relations between India and Pakistan. Every man, woman and child now understands that enmity with India has cost us the freedoms, the democracy, the prosperity and the living standards we had every right to expect from gaining independence.
Fed up with the hostilities, the Pakistani public wants an end to these. It wants peace and understanding, normal cordial relations, to be able to come and go freely, to visit shrines and relatives, exchange ideas and to share knowledge. It wants to see what India has done for agriculture and for the environment; to debate on issues common to our two countries, to read newspapers and books from the other country, see films and write fair and unbiased history books for the children of the subcontinent.
They long to do all this and more. But there is another factor as well which makes normalization, friendship and understanding even more imperative than all the reasons given above. This is the existence of a large minority of Muslims in India. This is the real loose link, the casualty of partition.
In all our arguments for peace and for all our justifications for going to war, these are the people who are most affected and most forgotten. We talk of Kashmir endlessly, of mountain peaks that must be secured, of military might that we must ensure in order to be secure but we forget the ‘core’ of our freedom struggle, the reason Pakistan became first a possibility, then a fact. The reason was the unified demand for the creation of Pakistan made by all the Muslims of India. This was the demand of the Muslims of Madras and Hyderabad as much as that of Dhaka and Lahore.
We proudly write in our history books that the demand for Pakistan was the demand of the Muslims of India as a whole. Of these the most vocal were the Muslims of the minority Muslim provinces. At a Muslim League conference in Allahabad, my father (the late Mohammad Ayub Khuhro) asked a vociferous supporter of Pakistan whether he knew that Pakistan would not include the part of the subcontinent he came from and of what use would Pakistan be for him. He replied that he did not care as long as Pakistan became a reality.
Perhaps this was emotionalism just like that of the Khilafat movement but the fact is that Pakistan became a reality. The hundreds of thousands of Muslims spread from north to south India, who could never hope to be accommodated in Pakistan and who in any case would be reluctant to abandon the graves of their ancestors or their undoubtedly glorious heritage, supported its creation wholeheartedly.
So there continues to be a shadow, a slight niggle at the back of our minds about our dealings with India. There is this large population of Muslims, almost greater than the numbers in Pakistan that is deeply affected by the state of our relations with India. We know that we cannot in all conscience afford to be enemies with India. That was not the intentions of our founding fathers.
The Quaid-i-Azam and his sister Miss Fatima Jinnah told friends that they would continue to visit the Quaid’s favourite house in Bombay as well as visit other places after independence in what was to become Bharat. The attitude of the leadership of All India Muslim League was that there would be easy communication even after separation, that people would be free to come and go and that the formalities of separation would not apply. They thought that the situation would be somewhat like the one envisaged by the Cabinet Mission Plan between the different ‘groupings’ of provinces or somewhat closer than the European Union today.
This vague and undefined division did not materialize. Instead there was the ‘truncated’ Pakistan which messed up the vision of Pakistan as a multi-religious and multi-ethnic state with a Muslim majority - a sort of mirror opposite of India- and in its place there was more or less a single-religion state which could not be a guarantor of the security of Indian Muslims.
Unfortunately, the leadership of Pakistan did not take stock of the situation and work out some via media with India which would allow peaceful coexistence and realization of their vision of an independent subcontinent. Instead, the exact opposite happened and a situation of distrust and hostility developed, thanks to unwise decisions on both sides. India was ungenerous and Pakistan cantankerous. The distrust led to the first hostilities over Kashmir and the rest is history.
Gandhi was assassinated by Hindu extremists because he was perceived to be ‘soft’ on Pakistan. Pakistan chose to fight over territory rather than think of the larger interests of the people it was meant to ‘secure’. So where did this leave the Muslims of India? The Muslims who had always had the moral support of the Muslims of the majority provinces were now scattered and a vulnerable minority all over India. They bore the blame for the division of India and for continuing disloyalty.
The most articulate and educated section of this community migrated to Pakistan leaving the rest, poor and leaderless, to struggle out of a very difficult situation unaided. Every time Pakistan made a hostile gesture or went to war with India the worst sufferers were the Muslims of India. Until 1965 it appeared that indeed the Indian Muslims had a rosy view of Pakistan and their loyalties were perhaps divided.
But in the wake of the war of 1965 they made the final commitment to India and cut off their sentimental attachment to Pakistan. But this does not absolve Pakistan of its fundamental duty — to safeguard the Muslim community of the subcontinent against the tyranny of the majority. Nor indeed was the Hindu extremist perception of Indian Muslims changed. The destruction of the Babri mosque, the Bombay killings and the Gujarat communal riots have occurred in recent years. Life continues to be uncertain for the Muslims of India. There is no dearth of right-wing politicians to call their loyalty into question and to blame them for the ills of the country.
Fiftysix years after partition it is high time that Pakistan realized its actual role in the subcontinent. The creation of Pakistan came with certain commitments. We failed badly in one of these — of justice and fair play for all the people and for the provinces of the federation and the result was the bloody dismemberment of Pakistan in 1971.
So far we have also had very convenient amnesia about our commitment to the Muslim community of India and pursued our petty agenda to the detriment of our national wellbeing. We talk ad nauseam about the Muslim Ummah. But where is this Muslim Ummah? Is it just in the Arab countries that call themselves Arab but hardly describe themselves as ‘Muslim Ummah’? What about the Ummah back here in our historic homeland — the community which is the integral part of our history, the integral part of our freedom struggle? No one talks about that. The time has come to live up to the commitments of our founding fathers. They may not have realized what was in store for Pakistan but enduring good relations with India were a necessary part of their programme because only that would ensure the security of the huge Muslim community in the rest of the subcontinent. It is not fair to just concentrate on Kashmir, which after all is majority Muslim state and in the last resort able to look after its own interests.
We have to think about those who cannot ensure their own security and if that involves getting off our high horse, so be it. It is an accident of history and the ulterior motives of the imperialists and our own lack of forethought and wisdom that we stand where we do today — isolated and bewildered, unable to fulfil our commitments. We must get out of this bind. There is nothing eternal or essential about being inimical to India. We are the same people and we share the same ancestors and the same culture. We have a thousand years of amicable coexistence.
Let us make fresh beginnings which will also ensure that our co-religionists elsewhere in the subcontinent can sleep easy at night.
It will do us good to remember that for the major part of his life, the Quaid fought for a unified India in which Muslims would have constitutional guarantees that they would not be victims of the tyranny of the majority. These guarantees were not forthcoming, so very reluctantly he opted for a separate state which would provide that security. Let me quote the great Quaid-i-Azam speaking from his heart:
“We are all sons of this land. We have to live together. We have to work together and whatever our differences may be,let us at any rate not create more bad blood... Believe me there is no progress of India until the Musalmans and Hindus are united, and let no logic, philosophy or squabble stand in the way of coming to a compromise...”