A Tale of Two countries

It has been 70 years since the Partition of India. The separation was an ugly affair, with both sides holding grievances against each other. After living side by side for more than a thousand years, Hindus and Muslims were declared separate nations by the All India Muslim League which used religion as the primary reason to demand a separate state. When Pakistan came into being, Mr Muhammad Ali Jinnah tried to be inclusive in his August 11th speech at the Constituent Assembly. But his was a lone voice in a chamber full of proto-Islamists. Debates over the Objectives Resolution brought this issue to the fore when all the non-Muslim members of the Assembly voted against it. The Islamic identity that was chosen by the ruling elite, was propped up in opposition to secular India. Pakistan’s attitude towards India has steered its foreign policy and at times, domestic policy, throughout the last seven decades.

Former Pakistani Ambassador to the US Husain Haqqani has had a ringside seat to developments in this arena since the late 1980s. His latest book, India vs Pakistan: Why Can’t We Just Be Friends, tries to capture this unique relationship by focussing on four key areas: History, Kashmir conflict, Nuclear Bombs, and Terrorism. His analysis is peppered with interesting anecdotes that shed a new light on how politicians from the two countries have interacted over the years. It is also a concise history of different efforts by both countries and the International community (United Nations, the United States, and China) to reach a settlement on bilateral issues, especially the Kashmir dispute. Another book that sheds light on recent milestones in India-Pakistan relationship is Myra Macdonald’s ‘Defeat is an Orphan: How Pakistan Lost the Great South Asian War’. Based on her reporting experience in South Asia for more than a decade, MacDonald has penned a magisterial account of events that underpin the current relationship between the two countries.

On Kashmir, Ambassador Haqqani mentions the 1962-63 Indo-Pak talks when India was willing to give up 1500 square kilometres of territory but then Foreign Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto stuck to a maximalist position, rejecting the offer out of hand. Both sides have stuck to their guns since then and neither side is willing to consider a middle-of-the-road compromise anymore. Pakistan has tried using non-state actors and direct intervention, worsening its own case. India neglected the Kashmiris — despite Kashmir’s state assembly ratifying the accession of state to India in the 1950s — and tried manipulating election results in 1987, resulting in a full-scale insurgency that was later supported by Pakistan. After 9/11 attacks, when the insurgency in Kashmir died off, India failed to sell its multicultural and liberal democratic dream to the Kashmiris. In a recent interview with Indian Express, former chief of India’s Research & Analysis wing (RAW) A.S. Dulat spoke about the failure of Indian government to try rapprochement with Kashmiri leadership, resulting in the current unrest in the Valley.

I have heard similar anecdotes first-hand from people who had a chance to interact with military top-brass in Pakistan. Pakistan remains the only state among the nuclear-capable countries to publicly say that its nukes exist as a defence against another country (India) but it has not yet stated a ‘No First Use’ policy. Nuclear weapons have thus become an integral part of Pakistani nationalism and identity, according to analyst Feroz Hassan Khan. India started its nuclear programme ostensibly to obtain nuclear energy but changed course after the 1962 Indo-China war. Macdonald has mentioned at least three instances when India was ready to display its nuclear capability (before 1998) but was restrained by International pressure. The spectre of a nuclear war hangs over India and Pakistan and remains the biggest threat to humanity in this region. Unlike Nuclear scientists elsewhere in the world, many of Pakistan’s scientists have gone ‘rogue’ in recent years. These include the megalomaniac Dr AQ Khan indulging in a global nuke trade and others who are known to have visited Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan.

The year 2016 saw three different events that will define the broader contours of Indo-Pak relations in the 21st century. On Christmas day in 2015, also the birthday of Pakistan’s current prime minister, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi had made an unexpected visit to Lahore, raising hopes for improvement in relations and opening of a dialogue. Exactly a week after that, terrorists attacked India’s Pathankot airbase. Investigations by Indian authorities revealed a Pakistani connection and Pakistan’s government publicly agreed to cooperate with the investigation. In March 2016, Pakistan’s National Security Adviser called his Indian counterpart and alerted him about a possible attack during the Shivartari celebrations in Gujarat. As a result, security was beefed up and nothing untoward took place. In April of the same year, Pakistan arrested a suspected Indian spy from Balochistan. The arrest was presented as evidence of Indian meddling in Pakistan’s internal affairs and ended any hope of a dialogue with India.

In the last few years, India has started treading the path that Pakistan has taken since the beginning: a path of intolerance, jingoistic nationalism and a visceral hatred for secular values. Pakistan’s political class has lately been trying to change course but the immovable force known as the ‘establishment’ stands in the way. Without improvement of relations between the two countries, the future of South Asia is bleak.

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AbdulMajeed Abid

I am a medical doctor by profession, specializing in Pathology. I have been writing about Pakistan's political history and Islamism since 2011. I was the Assistant Editor for Pakistani blogzine, Pak Tea House for a couple of years. I have written for various Pakistani publications (both Urdu and English) since. My writings can be accessed at 1. https://nation.com.pk/Columnist/abdul-majeed-abid 2. https://dailytimes.com.pk/writer/abdul-majeed-abid/ 3. http://www.thefridaytimes.com/tft/author/abdul-majeed-abid/ 4.https://www.dawn.com/authors/500/abdul-majeed-abid

27 thoughts on “A Tale of Two countries”

  1. “After living side by side for more than a thousand years”

    I dont think ‘side by side’ is the way a neutral historian would characterize the Hindu Muslim relationship in those days. Apart from some exceptions, the relationship was predominantly one of ruler and ruled. Just like it is the elites of developing countries that learn English to deal with the dominance of Anglos in the world today, Hindu elites learnt Persian to deal with the dominant Muslims of those days.

    Man Singh and other Rajputs managed the Mughal army, like Sundar Pichai manages Google, this doesnt mean that India and America are equal in any sense.

    It is very natural for a population to want to reassert its own traditions after such a long period of inferior status, especially one with such a long and complex history as the Hindus have. The Indian Independence Movement, in which many Muslims did take part, does take its predominant spiritual inspiration from Indic thought.

    Hindus are dominant in India today, and even though the state is secular, Indian Muslims do have to adjust to this as a demographic reality, just like recently arrived groups in the US have to adjust to the Anglo-Western culture there.

    The proponents of Pakistan probably saw this future, and wanted an exit. This is not entirely unjustified. In fact, if you look at recent history, it is extremely common for a formerly dominant minority to seek some kind of exit from an emergent territorial state. A political solution definitely had to be sought. But what was tragic was that it was the Sindhis and their culture that became the long term collateral damage in the implementation of this solution.

    Sindhis had to lose their Sindhiness so that the Urdu Ashrafiya could maintain their Muslimness.

    1. Also want to add that just like Pakistani Muslims wanted an exit to avoid dealing with a dominant Hindu demography, the Indian Muslims (and other minorities) who stayed back willingly did so to engage and play their part in the India’s rise. For this engagement to be truthful, Hindus have to ensure that the Indian state remains secular. Otherwise, this engagement will be nothing more than a compulsion.

      This is why secularism is far more important in India, where there is a minority which has to engage with a rising majority. If India was not secular, Rafi’s rendition of Mann Tadpat would not have sounded as pure as it does.

      1. Hindustani music has always been syncretic. Just last night, there was a lec dem at LUMS where Dr. Ayesha Nadir Ali began her rendition of Raga Bhairavi with a composition about Shri Ganesh. She noted that she had been taught this by her (Muslim) ustaad and that it was part of the “pre-Islamic” culture, but she sang it anyway. No one was that bothered to have a Hindu god evoked in a room where 99% of people were Muslim.

        When I sing Bhairav, I sing “Jaago Mohan Pyaray” and when I sing Malkauns, I sing “Shankara Mahadeva Deva”. It is true that often in front of audiences who may not like it, one does go to alternative “secular” bandishes like “Koyalia bole amwa ki daar par”–no one is going to object to the nightingale and the mango tree. Pandit Jasraj (not just a Hindu but a Brahmin!) composed “Mero Allah Meherban” in Bhairav. So Hindustani music has always been secular.

    2. “Man Singh managed the Mughal Army”–Man Singh was related to the dynasty through marriage. Sundar Pichai hasn’t married into the White House. Jahangir’s first wife, Lady Man Bai, was his cousin from his mother’s (Hira Kunwari) side. She was Prince Khusrau’s mother. You consistently underestimate the biological and cultural connections between the dynasty and the Rajputs.

      It was not just the Sindhis who lost out. The Sikhs had to leave the majority of their holy sites in (West) Punjab. It was as if Muslims were told that the two Holy Mosques were now in enemy territory and we can’t go there. The majority of the Sikh heritage is in Pakistan. Amardeep Singh has written two books about it. Muslims, too, lost their ancestral lands in Amritstar, Delhi and Agra–this is the story of my own relatives.

        1. Nankana Sahab (where Guru Nanak was born) is in Pakistan. Kartarpur Sahab (where Guru Nanak died) is in Pakistan. I’m sorry, you just sound very ignorant when you make comments like that.

          Amardeep Singh has written two books on the Sikh heritage that is currently in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. Perhaps you should read them.

          1. Not to mention that the capital of the Sikh Empire was Lahore.

            There was a reason the Sikhs were so angry in 1947.

    3. Vikram: “Man Singh and other Rajputs managed the Mughal army, like Sundar Pichai manages Google, this doesnt mean that India and America are equal in any sense.” Very well put. Thanks.

  2. “the biological and cultural connections between the dynasty and the Rajputs.”

    This is corresponds to everything I’ve ever read on the subject. Hindus were very much embedded in the power structures in islamicate India. The banking, mercantile interests were famously so, as were the Rajputs militarily. The Marathas, although less so from an intermarriage perspective, rose through their service to the Bahamani sultanate and later to the Adil Shahis and Ahmed Shahis. The vast majority of muslims who were artisans, horticulturalists, tailors and other tradesmen had nothing to do with the imperial project. In India a lot of people forget that Rajput is a major caste among Sindhi muslims and some Punjabis as well. I’m not certain, but I think the Bhuttos are Rajputs.

    1. The Bhutto dynasty are Rajputs.

      Wiki says:
      “A family of ethnically Muslim Rajputs,[1] based in Sindh province, the Bhuttos have been settled in the area for over two centuries. They migrated to Sindh from Rajputana (present-day Rajasthan, India) under Sheto Khan Bhutto in the early 18th century.[2]”


    2. “…Rajput is a major caste among Sindhi muslims and some Punjabis as well.”

      Is there any basis that Rajputs are descendents of Greeks who settled there?

  3. I wonder if what would’ve been best is if the entirety of Punjab and Kashmir were part of Pakistan (minus East Bengal). If it were conceived as a cultural region for which islamicate cultural heritage was more essential, but was nominally secular as Jinnah had proposed anyway. It would have been >75% muslim and that would have set the cultural agenda. A “look west” policy would have been their prerogative. Because most of the bloodshed of partition would have been avoided in the Punjab theatre, there would have been fewer scars to heal for neighbourliness/friendship to emerge. I’d imagine quite a few elite Hindu/Sikh families would have migrated to India, but perhaps they’d have acted like a bridge.
    Just like Muslims living as minorities in India have to accept the demographic reality of the region they belong to, don’t the Punjabi Hindus and Sikhs also need to reckon with the truth that their homeland and a majority of their own brethren embraced Islam?
    If not for this Punjabi melodrama, there is no reason why the far reaches of east and south india wouldn’t have a relationship with Pakistan akin to Sri Lanka’s. Our cricketers get shot at on occasion but no ones loses their sh*t.

    1. The division of Punjab (and Bengal) was why Jinnah referred to what he got as a “moth-eaten” Pakistan.

      Jinnah intended for there to be a Hindu/Sikh minority in Pakistan just as there was going to remain a Muslim minority in India. He thought that India would have to treat Muslims well if it wanted Pakistan to treat Hindus well. This is sometimes called the “hostage theory” and I don’t think it is particularly nice. But certainly a Lahore in which there was more of a Hindu/Sikh presence would have been a much more vibrant place.

      If the bloodshed (ethnic cleansing) in Punjab had been avoided, India and Pakistan would have a much more normal relationship. Jinnah wanted it to be like the US and Canada–but then the US and Canada were never one country that was “vivisected”.

    2. I am not sure what you mean by Punjabi melodrama. The Kashmir conflict is between India and Pakistan. It has little to do with Punjab, and more to do with the battle between the Pakistani deep state and the Indian government.

      The kind of partition arrangement you are mentioning would have not worked for the simple region that what consists of Punjab, Himachal and Haryana in India was 75% Hindu majority. Punjabi Hindus, who were overwhelmingly high caste, figure far more prominently in the Hindu nationalist cause than any other political ideology. Their most prominent organization was the Arya Samaj. Some pivotal figures like Prithviraj Kapoor were influenced by Gandhi though.

      We have seen the inclusive, Gandhian aspect of Punjabi Hindus via Kapoor and his cinematic dynasty. Now via folks like Rajiv Malhotra, Arun Jaitley and Piyush Goyal we are seeing the Hindu nationalist aspect of this community, which has always been more dominant.

  4. “Just like Muslims living as minorities in India have to accept the demographic reality of the region they belong to, don’t the Punjabi Hindus and Sikhs also need to reckon with the truth that their homeland and a majority of their own brethren embraced Islam?”

    Punjab did not become a Muslim majority region till the 20th century. As late as 1941, despite a century of rapid Muslim population growth, Punjabis were split 60-40 between Muslims and non-Muslims.

    For upper caste Punjabi Hindus, it is the classical Hindu culture and/or Indian nationalism that predominates. The first play Prithviraj Kapoor organized was based on Shakuntala, and the fame of his family is based on the travelling theatre he used to perform all over India to inspire youth to join the freedom struggle. For Ravidasias, the single largest group in Indian Punjab, it is Bey-gham-pura (city without sorrow) in Varanasi that is the most important pilgrimage place. These groups make up 75% of Indian Punjab’s population.

    Your point is more valid for the Sindhi Hindus. Sindh became a Muslim majority region by the 15th century, and there really has been no prominent Sindhi Hindu apart from Jhulelal from the time of Raja Dahir (that we know of). Jhulelal is the figure Sindhi Hindus cling to even today. The historical development of this figure is sketched out in a chapter of ‘Interpreting the Sindhi World’ by Lata Parwani. Nadeem Paracha savagely misrepresented her work in the crap he writes for Dawn.

    Ironically, the most prominent Sindhis today are the Sindhi Hindus, but their work is in the context of Indian national project. The Sindhi Muslims, who were dominant in Sindhi tradition for so long, play a marginal role in the evolution of Pakistan and are staring at an effective wipe out of their native literary and cultural traditions.

    1. Two Prime Ministers of Pakistan were Sindhi Muslims. What are you on about?

      The Bhutto Dynasty has been discussed above.

    2. Vikram,I realize that Punjab was closer to demographic parity compared to Sindh or Kashmir. So many important figures in the independence movement as well as hindu classical revival from there. Likewise UP, Bihar, and the Deccan had so many muslim nationalists. My “what if?” thought experiment was about the possibility that had regions not been internally partitioned, like Punjab, perhaps it would have been a “cleaner” break. You have correctly noted that Himachal and Haryana were part of Punjab province at the time, but they are sort of different dialect regions. What if the line had been drawn to only include all of what we now consider Punjab? With dominion status for all new south asian countries for another 2o or so years, borders, trade, rail links could have stayed active and open, and coexistence would have come slow and steady.
      I think the articulation of the idea of Pakistan would have had to be more inclusive. Less about all indian muslims and more about the actual people of the territory of the country to be. This is where that “indus man” thesis , though i’ve seen it ridiculed, would serve some secular purpose. If you get a country that is 80% muslim it doesn’t matter what argument you made, its mission accomplished. To me, if east Punjab and perhaps Kashmir were part of Pakistan, and less emphasis was placed on appealing to muslims to migrate from afar, then the country becomes quite geographically and culturally coherent, at least the indic portion.
      The idea is that if India-Pakistan got off to a cordial start, then hindus would be crossing over for personal, business, and religious reasons frequently. Most normal countries are like this, people wouldn’t be cut-off the way they are now. Of course the cynical view is “who’s to say the muslims would be happy with even that? they’d want nothing less than delhi afterward..” . The latter is a hard question to answer and I wonder what the Pakistanis here think, would east Punjab and Kashmir have been enough?

      1. Yes but then I think a Millennium Dominion Transfer would have worked out well for South Asia.

      2. Dividing Punjab was a crime. Especially leaving Gurdaspur District in India (done just so India would have access to Kashmir). Muslims from other parts of British India migrated to Pakistan for ideological reasons or for greater opportunity. For many Punjabi Muslims ,it was literally out of fear for their lives. People were told that “they” were killing Muslims in the next village over, so they should flee. No one knew where the border was supposed to be. My own relatives who fled Amritsar for Sialkot longed for Amritsar all their lives.

        The division of Punjab led to genuine ethnic cleansing. It has caused deep scars in Punjabi consciousness even today.

        1. Yes so did the division of India – we should have stayed as an imperial dominion till 2000 and wrest back the gradual accretion of powers..

          1. I think asides from Punjab, Bengal and UP, the rest of India doesn’t really care one way or another. Just my opinion though.

      3. girmit, Sindh was the first assembly to pass the ‘Pakistan Resolution’, but there was absolutely no support for such a resolution from Sindhi Hindus.

        The ‘Indus man’ formulation is really an after thought.

        1. Yes, I meant to imply that. I don’t think the Indus man idea was a thing at all back then. More the hypothetical alternative conception of Pakistan that I feel would have been optimal. Ethno-states have their problems but are easier. When West Pak and Bangladesh split, instead of doubling down on Islam, should have accepted reality that they are now an ethnic coalition of contiguous islamicate cultures around the Indus. Effectively, nothing would have been different than present in terms of being a nation than empowers muslims. Best case scenario would have been to conceive of it this way from they beginning. The argument for Kashmir and a greater share of Punjab would have been more compelling. The boundaries should have been more conscious of not disrupting kinship networks.
          Overall, fewer lawyer politicians negotiating matters would’ve been a better thing. They sowed such bad faith into all of this.

  5. “Mr Muhammad Ali Jinnah tried to be inclusive in his August 11th speech at the Constituent Assembly…”.
    It is a funny delusion that the man’s few words at the fag end of his career is going to undo 30 years of vicious propaganda on religious lines. All of MAJ’s fans trot out these words as if Pakistan should have followed it and be free of talibanisation. Any man’s ideas and inclinations – especially as perceived by his/her followers – should take into account the quantity and quality of propaganda he has done and not just few words.

    1. 30 years of propaganda? The Pakistan Movement started in 1940 with the Lahore Resolution. Where do you get 30 years from?

      The August 11 speech was meant to signal that Pakistan was to be a democratic Muslim-majority state not an “Islamic” state. That the debate continues in Pakistan about what Mr. Jinnah really wanted is another thing. It is also a fact that we now live in General Zia’s Pakistan not Mr. Jinnah’s Pakistan–two very different countries.

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