Do Peace and Harmony Have A Chance?
Continued from Previous Page
For over two years now, the political and diplomatic relations between India and Pakistan are perhaps at the lowest ebb without any serious efforts on either sides to mend or minimize their differences over various issues through the bilateral dialogue. The reasons behind this stalemate and frigid relation are quite obvious. While Indian leaders like Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Narendra Modi took sincere and serious initiatives during the initial years of their regime, they were betrayed by their counterparts in Pakistan every time with or without complicity of Pakistani army and ISI. The Pakistan leadership so often talks of peace and cooperation but always lacks required sincerity and seriousness which is evident from their simultaneous steps like Pakistani engagement with separatists, support to terrorist activities and open threat of using nuclear weapons against India.
The events of seven decades of history of acrimonious and hostile relations between India and Pakistan would prima facie suggest that Kashmir issue is the major obstacle in normalizing relations with Pakistan. At the time of the creation of Pakistan itself, Muhammad Ali Jinnah had staked their claim over Kashmir by pronouncing it as the “Jugular Vein of Pakistan” and subsequent many leaders and heads of state followed the same confrontational line to keep the dispute and hate agenda against India alive despite the fact that the state of Jammu & Kashmir was lawfully integrated with India in 1947. The two countries fought four bitter and costly wars including the one localized in Kargil during 1999 with Kashmir remaining at the centre of conflict on all the occasions.
It’s Kashmir or Religion Based Bigotry!
On face, the dispute over Kashmir certainly appears the real cause of conflict between India and Pakistan. The two countries fought wars in 1947-48, 1965, 1971 and 1999 (Kargil): While the first and last were localized in Kashmir territory, the second and third in 1965 and 1971, respectively, were spread over a large geographical area across the border yet Pakistan applied its major force and thrust in Kashmir only. Failing to achieve its objective through wars, Pakistan revised its strategy from direct and open war to an unabated and covert proxy war and resorted to assist, physically and financially, train, equip and sponsor separatist and terrorists groups from 1980s onwards. Besides, being incapable to match India in conventional war requirements in terms of manpower and weaponry, it clandestinely developed nuclear weapons and delivery systems, and started blackmailing India and international community through nuclear threat.
As for India, it clearly holds that the state of Jammu & Kashmir is an integral part of India and the issue of the negotiated settlement, if any, applies to the territory of Kashmir unauthorizedly under the occupation of Pakistan by application of force since 1947. Pakistan, on the other hand, argues that the entire state of Jammu & Kashmir is a disputed territory and should be part of Pakistan due to its majority population being comprised of Muslims. While India treats it a bilateral issue and insists future talk and settlement under the aegis of Shimla Agreement of 1972 and Lahore Declaration of 1999 between the two countries, Pakistan constantly violates both the treaties and later United Nations’s resolutions by attempts to internationalize the Kashmir issue by demanding plebiscite and insisting intervention of the world body and third party mediation.
For many interested in South Asian politics and/or India-Pakistan relations, perhaps the foregoing facts are suffice to conclude that Kashmir issue is the chief cause and central theme of traditionally bitter and acrimonious relationship between the two neighbours. But to my understanding and opinion, to learn the genesis and real cause behind the traditional hostility between the two nations, one needs to go look back in time the past events and circumstances that were responsible for the creation of Pakistan and subsequent unfortunate events.
In fact the foundation for the creation of a separate state exclusively for Muslims was laid down by the people like Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, Sir Muhammad Iqbal and Chowdhary Rahmat Ali much before the independence. Syed Ahmad Khan was an Islamic reformist and philosopher of nineteenth century who was a strong critic of the Indian National Congress and constantly called upon Muslims to adopt Urdu as the lingua franca and serve the British Empire with full loyalty. He felt the British rulers will ensure level playing between two major communities in India else majority Hindus will dominate the Muslims in an independent India. The British crown, in turn, rewarded him with the coveted title of “Sir” for his good services. Some people even remember him as the “Father of the Two-nation Theory” who had a strong influence over other Muslim leaders including Allama Iqbal and Muhammad Ali Jinnah.
Sir Muhammad Iqbal aka Allama Iqbal was a strong proponent of the political and spiritual revival of Islam world over in twentieth century, who is well known for his propagation of the idea of the two nation theory and creation of a "state in north-western India for Indian Muslims". His presidential address to the Muslim League on 29 December 1930 is widely believed to have served as the philosophical exposition of a separate Muslim state while barrister turned politician Muhammad Ali Jinnah actually translated it into a political reality in 1947. In the same context, yet another name of Chaudhary Rehmat Ali is often quoted among the precursors of Pakistan giving the idea of separate homeland for Muslims. After initial education and teaching in the erstwhile Punjab, Rehmat Ali had shifted to England and published a paper in 1933 ‘Now or Never’ using the word Pakistan for the first time as new homeland for Muslims after independence.
The two-nation theory referred to in the foregoing paragraphs ultimately became the founding principle of the Pakistan Movement led by the Indian Muslim League leading to the partition of British India in 1947. Muhammad Ali Jinnah capitalized on the ideology that, instead of language, ethnicity or any other common heritage, the religion is the chief determining factor in defining the nationality of Indian Muslims. The chief argument put forth was that among the Muslim population the primary denominator of their identity and unity was religion. For the very reason, a Muslim feels more affinity towards a Muslim in another territorial entity (country) than a non-Muslim in the same land. Therefore, Indian Hindus and Muslims are two distinct nations, irrespective of their language and other ethnic commonalities. As the movement for the separate Muslim homeland grew, the idea of the Hindus and Muslims being distinct nations was even more radicalized by arguing that the two communities are so different that they cannot live in peace and harmony together.
Some historians and independent thinkers later opined that the interpretation of the alleged theory was so radicalized to suit the political needs and as some historians and independent thinkers believe, perhaps the individual personal ambitions of the key leaders and personalities. An imaginary fear was created that minority Muslim population will be ill-treated and discriminated by the dominant Hindu majority government after the British leave India. Therefore, Muslims needed a separate homeland to live with dignity and freedom through the transfer of population i.e. total removal of Hindus from the Muslim-majority areas and Muslims from the Hindu-majority areas to achieve a complete separation of two incompatible nations. This ideology was pursued by the Muslim League and their leader Jinnah, who termed it as the awakening among Muslims for the creation of Pakistan.
To force their demand of the partition of India, the Muslim League gave a call of the "Direct Action" vitiating the communal peace and deep polarization of the two major communities. Then the riots broke out at the Noakhali in the Chittagong Division of erstwhile Bengal on 10 October 1946 at the insinuation of some local Muslim leaders leading to a series of organized massacres, rapes, abductions, arson, looting and forced conversion of Hindus by the Muslim perpetrators. The forcibly converted Hindus were coerced to give written declarations that they had converted to Islam of their own free will. This perpetration continued unabated for about a week with estimated 5000 Hindus killed, hundreds of women raped and thousands of Hindus forcibly converted to Islam. Another over fifty thousand Hindus were uprooted from their homes taking shelter in the relief camps in Agartala, Chandpur and other surrounding places. This incident was perhaps one deliberately created tragedy convincing many senior leaders associated with the freedom struggle that partition of the country was the only viable solution if the two communities were to live in peace.
As available accounts suggest that the Indian National Congress including many nationalist Muslim leaders like Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan, Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad were against the partition of the country on the communal lines, but the Muslim League under the leadership of Jinnah with the tacit support of British had their way and the Dominion of Pakistan was created on 14th August 1947, a day before the formal declaration of independence. What followed next was perhaps beyond everybody’s imagination and the biggest human tragedy in the Indian sub-continent in the modern times. The Partition marked a massive and bloody upheaval as Hindus living for generations had to flee their homes overnight from the land that was to become Pakistan. Similarly, Muslims too in large numbers had to abandon their existing homes to cross the border into Pakistan. The chaos and violence that erupted went unabated for weeks leading estimated two million people killed and more than ten million displaced. The ongoing bloodbath and human tragedy stopped only weeks after the people, irrespective of their creed and religion, were given choice by both governments to choose their homeland rather than migrating to India or Pakistan based on their identity as Hindu or Muslim.
Post-independence, Jinnah took reins of Pakistan and Nehru India’s; some historians and independent thinkers blame personal ambitions and greed for power of the two leaders also responsible for the partition. While Jinnah was undisputed leader of the Muslim League and to certain extent of Muslims too, Nehru was hand-picked by Mahatma Gandhi to head the interim government after independence against the claim of other senior Congress leaders like Sardar Patel because he was reluctant to work under any other leader. Today, after seven decades of independence, perhaps population wise India has nearly equal Muslim population if not more compared to Pakistan so also the civil liberties and democratic rights. The entire episode raises many questions like whether the two nation theory served any purpose other than personal ambitions of those who pursued it as also whether Muslims achieve anything beyond religion because more than religion, an individual or community needs a reasonable level of peace, progress and prosperity. The biggest question is whether the partition indeed achieved the intended goal of independent homeland for all Muslims.
Muhammad Ali Jinnah did not live long as Governor-General of Pakistan to enjoy the fruits of separate homeland for the Muslim brethren as he soon died of tuberculosis at the age of 71 years on 11 September 1948. He left behind a legacy of unstable governments run by military dictators, and weak and corrupt civilian heads who prospered only at the agenda of constant hate and war cry against India since the formation of Pakistan. Consequently, Pakistan continues to remain among the most backward and poor nations even after seventy years of its creation. Despite claiming more than one-fourth land area, it could attract and accommodate only a few millions Muslims of the undivided India. Muslims migrated from India are called Muhajirs in Pakistan and they are still being discriminated by the native Punjabi and Sindhi Muslims. What to talk of carrying the sad legacies of partition and constant persecution of minorities, the two geographical units, namely East and West Pakistan could not live in peace and harmony together despite common religion.
The modern day Pakistan is a classic example of a nation born out of religious bigotry and hatred with successive autocratic and authoritarian regimes constantly engaged in systematic persecution of religious minorities, human rights violations, sponsoring terrorism and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. At partition, while Pakistan became an Islamic country, India remained a secular and democratic country with a pluralistic society of Hindus, Muslims and minorities of almost all religions of the world. Among Indian states, while Jammu & Kashmir and Lakshadweep have majority Muslim population, a significant number of Muslims also exist in West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Maharashtra, Kerala, Telangana and Assam. Many of them have relatives and conjugal relationships with Pakistani nationals thus fostering physical and emotional bonds within both the nations. The very systems of governance in two countries have left minorities including Hindus to a bare minimum in Pakistan while Muslims and other minorities have flourished well and, in fact, have enjoyed better terms of life and more freedom in the democratic India.
Thus the time has proved the two nation theory wrong and futile but Pakistan still continues to stake its claim over Jammu & Kashmir based on the flawed logic that the state has a majority Muslim population. Besides, many Pakistani ulema and cleric, army personnel and politicians, and even other professionals actively pursue the ideology of "Ghazwa-e-Hind". Ghazwa means a war to kill Kafirs and Hind (India) is the land of Kafirs from their point of view. Thus fanatics and hardliners constantly poison the minds of Pakistani masses against India through hateful propaganda and speeches while few people with rational minds and reasonable voices are in minority and remain sidelined. These are the reasons why I consider the ideology of “Two Nation Theory” as the chief evil and obstacle in fostering peace and harmony between India and Pakistan. Unless this religion-based flawed ideology is renounced in Toto, peace and harmony would remain a bleak prospect even if the Kashmir issue is resolved someday.
Kashmir and Way Forward
Since independence, Pakistani civilian governments and military generals have constantly used Kashmir as an emotive issue in their anti-India rhetoric to mobilize mass support as also for diverting public attention from crucial domestic problems and issues. In the recent years, the former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif who had been ousted under the orders of the Supreme Court on serious corruption charges is known to use anti-India rhetoric and Kashmir raga in a comeback campaign. In a rally in Muzaffarabad of the Pak-occupied-Kashmir in February 2018, while condemning India for the alleged (false & fictitious) brutalities against Kashmiri people, he declared that his heart beat equally for Pakistan and Kashmir. The incumbent Prime Minister Imran Khan too, during the election campaign in 2018 and on many other occasions subsequently, made scathing attacks on India as self-proclaimed spokesman for human rights and right of self-determination of Kashmiri people.
Of the total area of Jammu & Kashmir as at the time of independence was approximately 222,336 Sq Km, Pakistan forcibly occupied an area of about 83,294 Sq Km (37.46%) in 1947, and ceded 5180 Sq. Km to China in 1963. China occupied an area of about 37,555 Sq. Km. (16.89% ) in 1962 Indo-China War, the remaining area of about 101,487 Sq Km (45.65%) constitutes the present state of Jammu & Kashmir in India. Of this, the Jammu Division comprised of 26,293 Sq Km (25.93%), Ladakh Division 59,241 Sq Km (58.33%) and Kashmir division only 15,853 Sq Km (15.73%). It is the Kashmir Division (popularly known as Kashmir Valley) which has now predominantly Muslim population with few districts badly affected with Pakistan sponsored insurgency and terrorism. Among other two divisions, Jammu has about 69% Hindu and Sikh population while two districts of Ladakh namely Leh and Kargil have predominantly Buddhist and Muslim population, respectively. While India’s consistent stand is the lawful accession of the state in 1947 and complete social, political and economic integration during the last seven decades, Pakistan tirelessly lays its claim over the state citing the concept of contiguity and majority Muslim population.
Several efforts of mediation were made since 1947 by the United Nations and influential countries like the US, UK and Russia as also bilaterally since 1972 but the issue remained unresolved between the two countries. Four costly wars and constant proxy war waged by Pakistan from 1980s onwards through insurgency and terrorism took heavy toll in both countries in terms of manpower and material losses without any objective gain and, in fact, this has catapulted Pakistan almost under the league of being declared as “Rogue Nation” in the world. On their part, while India continues to periodically stake its claim over the territories under the occupation of Pakistan and China but probably considering the geo-political and demographic realities, it has not been proactive in regaining the lost territories militarily or diplomatically. So let us see what are the possible scenarios and options and solution of the Kashmir imbroglio.
The simplest scenario and option could be that both India and Pakistan put aside the Kashmir issue at the back burner and mutually engage themselves on the constructive agenda of development and growth. They could focus on encouraging economic cooperation, bilateral trade, and strengthening educational, sports and cultural exchanges. India has been constantly willing to pursue this course and had even unilaterally granted Pakistan the status of the most favored nation (MFN) way back in 1996.
But this course appears unlikely because Pakistan, irrespective of political regime and leadership, has been tirelessly insisting that Kashmir issue must get precedence over any other issues of mutual interest. They maintain that any progress in other areas could be made only after resolution of the Kashmir issue. At times the civilian leadership in Pakistan showed such inclination but the powerful military and ISI acted as spoilers on each such occasion through subversive activities. Here it looks like as if a nation suffers with an obsessive compulsive disorder where irrespective of the regime and leadership, everyone talks of taking entire Kashmir without a viable vision or roadmap.
Scenario Two: Pakistan has constantly demanded the right of self-determination by the Kashmiris through a plebiscite at the United Nations and other international forums. Under the Shimla Agreement in 1972 and Lahore Declaration in 1999, the two countries had agreed to discuss all pending issues bilaterally in future. Pakistan did not honour these treaties and continued to raise the rhetoric of Kashmir dispute every now and then. It is true that at one point of time, India had approached the UN and had even agreed in 1948 to hold a plebiscite in Kashmir. Ever since, Pakistan has constantly demanded a plebiscite in the state perhaps with the hope that they could turn the table in their favour in such case with the assistance of handful separatists and terrorists.
As per the UN Security Council Resolution on the subject, Pakistan was required to completely withdraw from the occupied territory as precondition and India was to minimize its forces to a level as necessary for maintaining civil order to create ideal circumstances for the plebiscite among other provisions. The resolution was never carried out largely because of the reluctance of Pakistan to withdraw from the territory already occupied in Kashmir and reservation of India on stipulations like reconstitution of a representative interim government by participation of all political parties including separatists. After more than seven decades with so many demographic, geographic, socio-economic and political changes on either sides of the Line of Control, holding of a plebiscite is neither relevant nor practical. Even UN has stopped pressing for the plebiscite after 1962 and refused to intervene treating it a bilateral issue.
Both India and Pakistan may forego their claim on the the Kashmir valley region (including Gilgit-Baltistan) and agree to initially make it an autonomous region under UN supervision, and allowing choice to Kashmiris for self-determination. In such case, both India and Pakistan will lose some territories currently administered by them and the remaining two regions, viz. Jammu and Ladakh, will have to essentially stay with India because when religion becomes the reason for dispute, the majority Hindu, Buddhist and Sikh population cannot be left high and dry at the mercy of Islamic fundamentalists.
However, it is highly improbable that Pakistan will ever agree to this preposition with a significant part of Kashmir already under their occupation and they are constantly staking claim over the entire state of Jammu & Kashmir. India too is not likely to be favourable to this position; firstly, the state was lawfully integrated with the Indian Union in 1947 and successive Union Governments have invested a lot in Kashmir for its development and prosperity; secondly, it will face serious strategic difficulties in administering Ladakh in such case which is connected with the mainland through the Kashmir Valley only. There is yet another reason, accepting such irrational demand on religious ground may trigger similar demands from other regions of the country too considering the multi-ethnic diversity and culture of India.
Another option and rather simple solution of this long drawn issue is that the present Line of Control between India and Pakistan may be accepted as the International border between the two countries and both may rescind their claim over the territory under the other country’s control. The implication of this would be that India will formally renounce its legal claim on Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir including northern parts of Gilgit-Baltistan and Pakistan would permanently give up all hostilities and any claim or call for the plebiscite in rest of the Jammu and Kashmir. Initially it may appear as a difficult solution for either of the countries but in the given situation, this is perhaps the only viable and workable solution. Both India and Pakistan may face domestic resistance and criticism initially from their people, opposition parties and defense establishment but ultimately everyone is likely to reconcile with it in the larger interest of peace and tranquility in the region.
One may easily find critics both in India and Pakistan to the above solution. But if Pakistanis look at it pragmatically, they would understand that despite four consecutive wars and continuous cross-border insurgency and terrorism in seven decades, they have not yielded an inch on the ground. Similarly Indians would learn that the years of hate propaganda against India in the Pak-occupied-Kashmir, use of the territory as nursery and launch pad for insurgents and terrorists, changed demography, socio-economic and political regime for so long have totally alienated people in POK over the years, rendering it more of a liability than any asset from an Indian point of view.
India and Pakistan Have So Much in Common
Notwithstanding fierce rivalry and animosity between the two countries, traditionally India and Pakistan have so much in common and close cultural affinities in several walks of life, such as in the landscape, architecture, language, attire, cuisine, literature, festivals, music, films and television, games and sports, and so on so forth. In fact, the people of Northern India are culturally more akin to their Pakistani counterparts than the brethren in the states of Southern India so far as social customs, attire, language and food habits are concerned. Common language, food habits, attire and fashion, music, art and sports, and above all a shared past, provide ideal forum and conducive atmosphere for the purpose. Thus the common cultural heritage and sports of two countries provide a wide canvas and plethora of opportunities for frequent interaction and exchange between the people of the two countries that could help in minimizing tensions and normalizing bilateral relations.
Indian movies and television programmes are quite popular in Pakistan and, in fact, the Indian cinema provides a lot of scope and opportunities to Pakistani artists too to participate for the mutual benefit and promotion of arts. The contiguity of landscape and prolonged border provides ample opportunities for the economic cooperation and trade between the two countries. In fact, India had granted the most favoured nation (MFN) status to Pakistan in trade relations way back in 1996 but this kind and friendly gesture was never reciprocated by Pakistan. A mutual MFN status could have worked to eliminate the trade barriers, creation of new jobs besides helping the economy in both countries. Such initiatives in economy and other sectors enabling larger movement and interaction among the professionals and common citizens could also help in easing tension provided Pakistan agrees to put aside the contentious issues like religion and Kashmir.
There is a widespread perception that the Pakistan army is against any trade and cultural relations with India, hence normalcy of trade relations would largely depend on how their army perceives and balances their security considerations vis-à-vis economic needs. Thus for adopting any peace and confidence building measure, a strong political will and military nod in Pakistan is necessary which is, unfortunately, lacking in the present day Pakistan. In fact, constant hostility of their army and ISI through repeated ceasefire violations and support to terrorism has only led to further deterioration of Indo-Pak relations. AS a result, India has refused any interaction or talk with Pakistani counterparts till the latter not only officially renounce all links with the terrorist groups in Pakistan but are also take concrete action against the terrorists outfits so identified. Recently, after the Pulwama attack by the Pakistan based Jaish-e-Mohammad in February 2019, India has formally withdrawn the MFN status too earlier unilaterally granted to Pakistan.
As for India is concerned, the successive governments heads have unequivocally held that a strong and progressive Pakistan is in the best interest of India too. Pakistan also needs to realize that seven decades of hostilities with India has yielded nothing except inflicting costly wars, disproportionate spending on the military build-up and arms race in the sub-continent at the cost of their socio-economic development. On the contrary, healthy and peaceful relations with India would be in the best interest of peace and progress of both the countries. The first and foremost requirement on Pakistan’s part would be to solemnly renounce the religious bigotry and work on Kashmir agenda with open mind. Following this, a few following confidence building measures could prepare grounds for healthy futuristic relations:
(1) The two countries should agree to jointly fight terrorism without making distinction of ‘good terrorists’ and ‘bad terrorists’.
(2) Trade and economic co-operation should be restored and given priority over the political differences for long term mutual engagement and benefit.
(3) Free and uninterrupted movement of citizens should be allowed with all fairness for cultural and sports exchanges.
Conclusion: Fate of Indo-Pak Relations!
Undoubtedly, the flawed and failed two nation theory based on religious bigotry and intolerance is the root cause of the problem between India and Pakistan, and the much talked about Kashmir dispute is only a corollary and major byproduct of the same. The flawed and irrational concept of Ghazwa-e-Hind too is a consequence of religious hate, bigotry and human greed largely pursued by the religious fanatics, political leaders and war crazy Generals in Pakistan. In fact, the same narrow religious sentiments of one community have already started showing ill effects in the secular and pluralistic Indian society in the form of intolerance and socio-religious conflicts. The peace and progress of the two nationalities in particular and humanity in general will remain elusive and under dark clouds of wars and subversive activities in the Indian Sub-continent unless the hate and bigotry as state policy based on religion is abjured all concerned.
I do not wish to appear as an alarmist to create scare by foretelling a disaster or optimist by willfully writing a paragraph on happy ending on Indo-Pakistan relations. Notwithstanding ill effects of past wars, terrorism and all time low reputation of the country at the world forum, Islamic Pakistan continues to justify its stake on Kashmir on religious considerations and continues to refuse normalizing the bilateral relations till the Kashmir issue is settled. There is no existential threat to Pakistan from India, yet it has entered in an unwarranted rivalry and disproportionally built up weapons of mass destruction and even made its intentions clear for its use which can happen intentionally as well as accidentally. Hence normalization of relations of two neighbours is not foreseeable unless Pakistan realizes the truth on Kashmir and completely abandons terrorism as state policy. If the past events and the recent developments are of any indication, Pakistan is not likely to abandon the path of confrontation and terrorism.