Friday, February 26, 2010

Uncomfortable Truths

Dawn asked its readers to comment on whether India and Pakistan are like Tom and Jerry (the cat and mouse cartoon characters) (Kya India aur Pakistan Tom and Jerry hain?)

I wrote a couple of replies, addressing some of the comments there. They are still awaiting moderation. In the meantime the number of comments has more than doubled - and they have timestamps after mine, so the moderators have been active. Here are my two comments, both of which begin with

"Your comment is awaiting moderation."

India is the legal successor to British India, Pakistan is the new creation. Thus e.g., India is among the founding members of the United Nations; Pakistan’s membership dates to September 30, 1947. These are the facts, easily google-able.

Even while conceding Pakistan, Mahatma Gandhi told Jinnah – let us (India, Pakistan) separate as two brothers who do not want to stay in the same house (i.e., we remain brothers, though we separate). Jinnah did not agree, he said Muslims and Hindus are separate nations – the so-called “Two Nation Theory”. To see now Pakistanis apparently repudiate Jinnah saying that we have so much in common (or Indians repudiating Mahatma Gandhi, denying any commonality) is ironic in the extreme.

From the Indian point of view, I think they’d be satisfied with a cold peace with Pakistan. The main reason Pakistan impinges on Indian consciousness is because of the actions of Lashkar-e-Taiba and the like, which Indians believe are backed by the Pakistani army and the ISI. These actions are actual bomb blasts and attacks in India, as well as radicalization of Indian Muslim youth by these organizations.

Further, it is a common Indian impression that making any treaty with a Pakistani civilian government is pointless because it will be repudiated whenever the Pakistani military eventually overthrows this government. Until there is some continuity in civilian government in Pakistan and it shows it has firm control of defence and foreign policy, so the army becomes an instrument of the state instead of determining state policy, this mistrust will continue. Indians also believe that any Indian covert action in Pakistan ceased with Prime Minister I.K. Gujral (1997) whose Gujral Doctrine is supposedly still being followed.

Can there be peace? Yes, but this will require great patience. From the Indians’ side the distrust factors mentioned above will have to dissipate. And of course, Pakistanis have their own reasons to distrust India, they will have to decide when that can cease.


It is true though India is legally a continuation of the state that existed before 1947, India is new in many ways.

- For the first time in its very long history, India is not a land revenue state. In all previous regimes a good part of the government’s revenue was obtained by taxation of agricultural land.

- For the first time in its history, the legal equality of all citizens is enshrined in the law.

- For the first time in its history, the government is based on universal adult franchise.

PS: Later I was contemplating the miracle of how these truly revolutionary changes came about without any revolution! I still don't understand it!

PPS: The second post probably offends on two counts:
1. While Pakistan is not mentioned, it suffers in comparison.
2. It upends the narrative that the Islamic rule of India was the best.

The first post brings up too many uncomfortable truths:
1. "What existed before 1947" is an uncomfortable thing for Pakistanis for reasons I can't fathom.
2. Too many other truths in there to confront, though I have presented them as matters of Indian belief.