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India & Pakistan: IS THERE HOPE FOR PEACE?, by Prakash Nanda,8 January 2010 Print E-mail

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New Delhi, 8 January 2010

India & Pakistan



By Prakash Nanda


India’s largest, most powerful media house, The Times of India group and Pakistan’s highly influential Jang media group have taken an arduous task upon themselves. The two have launched an Indo-Pak peace initiative, Aman Ki Asha (destination peace), in the hope that “one day, words like Pakistan, India and Love will not seem impossible in the same sentence”. Will it?


India was partitioned by the British way back in 1947, but the partitioned units – India and Pakistan, which subsequently split and Bangladesh was born - are still struggling to have a normal and peaceful relationship. The invariable question is: has the partition, which resulted in the death of a million people in the subsequent communal riots and uprooting of as many as 12 million from their hearths and homes, helped anybody?


It may appear strange but is true that the areas that comprise Pakistan today did not want the partition. In 1947, Punjab, Pakistan’s largest province was ruled by a coalition led by the Unionist Party, which did not share the Muslim League’s vision of a new state of Pakistan. In fact, the then undivided Punjab province, the Hindus and Sikhs equaled the number of the Muslims. The Unionist party, in coalition with Sikh leader Master Tara Singh, had defeated the Muslim League in 1946 to form the government.


Lahore was essentially the city of Sikhs and Hindus. With its agricultural bounty, undivided Punjab was often termed the 'Breadbasket of India' and, as the principal exporter of grain and other manufactured items, was an extremely wealthy State. Prior to the partition of India, Lahore was its banking capital. 


The province of NWFP was led by the veteran Pathan leader Khan Abdul Gafoor who was keen on remaining with India. On the other hand, Baluchistan was fighting for total independence from the British India and its lawyer was none other than Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan. It is to be noted that Baluchistan was forcibly annexed by Pakistan in 1948 and that too after the death of Jinnah.


Sind, the other major province, had a mixed picture. The urban centres such as Karachi were totally dominated by the Hindus, with the Muslim peasantry constituting the majority in rural areas.


Ironically, Pakistan was the creation of the upper class Muslims who essentially were from present-day India – particularly Uttar Pradesh, Delhi and Bihar. They, in collaboration with the Bengali Muslims, who now have Bangladesh for themselves- succeeded in impressing the British that the Muslims could not coexist with the Hindus.


This theory was fundamentally flawed – otherwise the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM- which represents mainly those Muslims migrating from northern India to Pakistan) leader Altaf Hussain would not have declared the other day that “the creation of Pakistan is a monumental blunder” and Bangladesh would not have come into existence.


It is not that the British authorities of the time were unaware of the limitations of the plea on the basis of which India was eventually partitioned. Many books on the subject, which have been published of late, have exposed how it was the geopolitical imperatives of ensuring the then Soviet Union not stretching its reach to the Indian Ocean and jeoparadising the western influence on the oil-rich Persian Gulf that led the British to create a frontal state called Pakistan. London was not sure whether a united but independent India under the leadership of the Congress party would play the game as per its strategy against Moscow.    


In his just released book, Partition, Jihad and Peace, senior journalist Subhash Chopra wonders why the last British Governor General of India, Lord Mountbatten, advanced the date of transfer of power from June 1948 to August 1947.


It may be noted that in February 1947, the then Labour government in London had set up a time-table for transferring power in June 1948, without any details of partition. But it was Mountbatten who surprised everybody on June 3, 1947 by declaring that the transfer of power, along with partition of the country, would take place on August 15 1947.    


Thus, Mountbatten shortened the pullout period from 18 months (February 1947 to June 1948) to a mere 10 weeks (June 3, 1947 to August 15, 1947), during which the details of partition were to be worked out. It created sheer confusion and the subsequent communal mayhem. 


Scholars are now arguing that Mountbatten knew something that the then Congress leadership of Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru did not know. And that was Jinnah’s illness; he was suffering from tuberculosis and did not have much of a chance to survive more than a year. Now imagine that had the Congress leadership known about this it would have easily offered the prime ministership of undivided India to Jinnah. Or for that matter, if Jinnah unfortunately would have died before June 1948 with India still united, who knows what would have happened.


In other words, just to ensure British and American interests in Afghanistan and Persian Gulf were in tact Mountbatten did not take any chance and wanted the partition and transfer of power as early as possible, with Jinnah still there. 


Obviously the flawed partition has not helped much. It has not resulted in any betterment of relations between the Hindus and Muslims of the sub-continent. It has not even benefited the Muslims, bulk of whom continue to live in India. Pakistan or for that matter Bangladesh is not a paradise for Muslims in any sense of the term. There, Muslims are killing Muslims. Worse, Indians and Pakistanis have been living either in a state of war or war-like peace situation since 1947.  


What then is way out? Many leading bureaucrats, lawyers, journalists like Chopra and academicians, who have come to this side of the border following partition, are very sentimental about Pakistan, their place of birth. They clamour for a European Union like scenario in which the partition is not undone but there is free movement of people through open borders, common currencies and common market. Some even go a step further to suggest common defence for the entire sub-continent, stretching from Afghanistan to Bangladesh.


But will this be possible? As it is, we in India and Pakistan are quite familiar with so-called track I, track II and track III diplomacy.  Track 1 refers to diplomacy engaged in by the policy-makers themselves---at the political and bureaucratic levels.  Track II refers to attempts to avoid or deal with conflicts through non-governmental intermediaries with close links to the governmental policy-makers. It is undertaken at the instance of track I diplomats to find a way out of difficult situations without feeling of loss of face on either side, or negative consequences if the diplomacy fails and without embarrassment if there is leakage to the media and the public.


Track III is about conflict-avoidance or conflict-resolution efforts undertaken by prominent non-governmental personalities, with or without links to the policy-makers, at their own initiative. But none of this has worked. That is why now we have Track 4 diplomacy, which is about creating a congenial atmosphere through people-to-people contacts in order to facilitate conflict avoidance or resolution. The objective here is not to find a solution, but to lessen or remove the poison and distrust in the atmosphere, in the hope that this would facilitate a search for an accord through any of the other three tracks.


The latest manifestation of Track 4 is the arrangement between the two media houses. The project says: “starting with a series of cross-border cultural interactions, business seminars, music and literary festivals and citizens meets that will give the bonds of humanity a chance to survive outside the battlefields of politics, terrorism and fundamentalism…” One can only wish the endeavour all the best! –INFA


(Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)



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