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Standing miles away, walking universes apart

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Standing miles away, walking universes apart

After Partition, India chose the path of democracy and continues to successfully preserve its idea. However, it is difficult to disagree with those who wonder if Pakistan can ever be a functional democracy, says MADAN LALL MANCHANDA

For centuries, India and Pakistan were one country with people of the same stock speaking a common language, their Urdu coexisting with our Hindi. We share the same history of loot, plunder, and humiliation by invaders and exploitation by colonial powers in the name modernity.

Therefore, the subcontinent’s Partition was unethical and failed to act as a panacea for the ethnic conflicts that it was meant to be. And a tragedy indeed it was of great magnitude which has no parallel in the living memory of mankind in recent times in any part of the world. A million people were mercilessly slaughtered  and 10 million fled to safety across borders. The horror of the times was captured inTamas (Darkness) by Bhisham Sahni, ‘Toba Tek Singh’ and ‘Thanda Gosht’ and other such stories of by Manto. ‘Peshawar Express’ by Krishan Chander and Train to Pakistan by Khushwant Singh and a host of other stories depicting the ghastly incidents and woeful tales of misery of people on both sides of the border.

India chose the democratic path and continues to successfully preserve its democracy. The decision-making on national security lies with a democratically elected Government. The defence services rightly follow the elected Government as in other democracies in the world. To the contrary, Ayesha Jalal, a fine historian, doubts whether Pakistan can ever be a functional democracy where its elected Government has far less freedom. In fact, Pakistan has no desire to walk back to Jinnah’s utopian secularism.

Former Pakistan Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani has admitted that Pakistan’s military plays an inflated role in that country’s politics. The Pakistan Army is fully entrenched and calls the shots on diplomacy and enjoys a superior position unlike other democracies in the world.  Behind the mask of a civil government lies the real power centre, the Army. However, this must be a cause of concern for the people of Pakistan, not for us.

Coming to the core issue of Kashmir, it may be recalled that the erstwhile princely State of Jammu and Kashmir did not accede to Pakistan. Pakistan attacked Kashmir, took half of it (still controls it). It was Kashmir’s ruler who called for India’s help and in return became a part of India, with the rider that J&K have its own constitution and more political independence while the Centre would handle Defence, Foreign Affairs and communication.

Pakistan’s bid, under a dictator, to capture Kashmir in 1965 was foiled. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto who vowed to wage a 1000 year  war against India in order to get back 100,000 Pakistani soldiers signed the Simla treaty which provided that all disputes between India and Pakistan would be settled bilaterally without mediation by a third party.

Also, Pakistan under President Pervez Musharraf informally agreed to ditch its long-held position, through implementation of a UN resolution for a referendum. Later India and Pakistan came to an understanding not to redraw borders during back channel negotiations held between the two in 2007.

Then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh argued that unless the military establishment and the ISI were on board, this could not be achieved and was therefore simply unthinkable. Further, what was informally agreed to by President Musharraf has not been disowned by successive governments (headed by Yousuf Raza Gilani and now by Nawaz Sharif). The firmed up agreement could not be finally signed because of domestic turmoil that led to President Musharraf’s ouster from power.

The core agreement centered around the cessation of all hostilities and terrorism — a major prerequisite for a joint mechanism for socio-economic issues only and an understanding that like all other States, Jammu & Kashmir too would have autonomy in respect of revenue and law and order. India had reportedly agreed to the reduction of troops (not paramilitary forces). Satinder Lambah, special envoy to then PM Manmohan Singh holds that the firmed up agreement is a “win win” for Pakistan, India and the people of Jammu & Kashmir, and that the threads can be picked up to resolve the core issue.

The long history of the sub-continent holds sufficient proof that India has always chosen the righteous path. Then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee undertook a journey to Lahore to promote good neighbourly relations. But the effort proved futile since Pakistan paid back with Kargil. Barely a year after the broad contours of the agreement had been painstakingly worked upon by the two sides, Mumbai saw a major terrorist attack in 2008 resulting in the death of many Indian nationals as also those of other countries including the United States.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi invited all neighbouring countries including Pakistan to join the inaugural celebrations of the present Government. Nawaz Sharif graced the occasion. The Indian Prime Minister in an unscheduled visit stopped at Lahore to join the birthday celebrations of PM Sharif. Soon thereafter there was a terror attack in Jammu, Punjab Kathua in March 2015, Gurdaspur in July 2015, and Pathankot in January 2016 and then in Uri.

There is no gain saying that Pakistan too has suffered terror strikes. Its anti-terror operation was launched in June 5, 2014, after the attack on the Peshawar Army School in December 2014. This was a turning point in Pakistan’s response to terrorism.  Military courts were set up and reportedly over 300 militants were hanged. This was followed by similar terrorist attacks on Bacha Khan University (the birth place of Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, popularly known as Frontier Gandhi who never accepted the creation of Pakistan from the core of his heart and willed to be buried in Jalalabad, Afghanistan). Again while Easter celebrations were on at Lahore’s' Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park, a suicide bomb ripped through the crowd, killing at least 72 people and 300 injured.

At the same time, terror groups in Pakistan are hand in glove with the ISI and are sponsors of terror targetting India. Therefore, of late, people have raised suspicion on Pakistan’s war on terror. There is no denying the fact that Pakistan is harbouring terrorist Hafiz Saeed, a UN declared terrorist accused of the strike in Mumbai who is allowed to roam free in Pakistan for want of “hard evidence” Now Pakistan’s Interior Ministry has said in court that Hafiz Saeed is a threat to peace and security so he is under “house arrest”. This is clear double speak.

Now that international opinion is united on the war against terrorism, Pakistan stands isolated on the world stage. While there is apprehension that Pakistan’s continuing proxy war in Kashmir could end up in full-fledged conflict, the situation in J&K is well under control. Given its Army’s limitations, it is not in Pakistan’s interest to initiate an armed conflict with India. The Indian Armed Forces have a clear  technological and military edge over the Pakistani Army. Besides, India is the world’s second largest growing economy. Even Bangladesh’s economy is faring better than Pakistan’s. Therefore, the probability of a limited war is low.

India has always been righteous towards Pakistan and firmly adhered to what Eleanor Roosevelt had said: “No people want war but some governments do want power. That is why we are in a precarious position. No real peace but only disturbances and upheavals in certain parts of the world”

Hopefully, Pakistan’s civil society will respond positively to India as the well being and prosperity of the two countries hinges on mutual cooperation and peaceful coexistence.  

 
 
 
 
 

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