The reality is, whether we accept it or not, that Pakistan and India are two ‘uncomfortable’ and ‘uneasy’ neighbors who have been flirting with the idea of love and friendship since long. Even though both countries have many things in common, yet it is an undeniable reality that there is a fundamental difference between socio-political values and cultures of Pakistan and India. This debate can lead us to an unending discussion centered round the question: can Muslims live with Hindus? Was the partition of the subcontinent a legitimate demand and a wise decision? Many think Yes. But a small minority thinks and believes absolutely No. My intention, however, is not to answer or initiate a debate over it. Rather, I am interested in understanding and forecasting the dynamics and nature of relations between the two uneasy neighbors in coming fifty years.
Will Durant, a prolific writer and renowned American historian, has stated, “past is never dead”. In other words, our yesterday is not to die – and it might never. But this must not be perceived negatively, as so many young girls and boys do, in more romantic moments of their lives. Our yesterday – if we are going to commit a blunder today – will be helpful in guiding us to not repeat the same. This is how the history – the past – can be positively taken and will help us in determining our attitudes and actions today and in the future.
Muslims and Hindus have a history of differences and conflicts that started long before Partition. Events like the partition of the subcontinent are the outcome of the struggle of generations. They do not take place in days or months.
After Partition both Pakistan and India needed to lessen tension and hatred between Muslims and Hindus for the sake of peaceful coexistence. But the governments of both states failed to do so. On the contrary, political elite and other strong institutions started exploiting ‘Pakistan card’ in India and ‘Kashmir card’ in Pakistan. From a rationalist perspective, exploiting the event for individuals and some institutions was rational and legitimate; but collectively it was totally irrational and unquestioningly illegitimate. Because of the vested and narrow interests of so-called leaders both nations have to suffer and have been suffering. We can’t determine when this pain will end.
Indian governments have been very smartly using the ‘Pakistan card’ to fool their people during, and after, elections to seek popularity and legitimacy. In case of Pakistan, political leaders and military dictators use ‘Kashmir card’ to win the hearts of locals. This is the dilemma of both nations, unfortunately.
In proxy wars so many innocent people have been killed and yet no one dares to expose the masters. In Pakistan, we watch and hear Indian prominent political figures, and even seniors ministers, threatening Pakistan’s existence which raises so many questions. For instance, what happens if a defence minister of a powerful country openly threatens a comparatively weak country and its existence? It is not so difficult to answer. But not now. The story does not end here. The most unfortunate moment for a Pakistani was when the prime minster of India confessed that India played a major role in breaking Pakistan in 1971. The confession reveals how India has been interested in breaking, and may be eliminating, Pakistan and the fact that India can repeat the same thing in present or future.
To be very brief, history of Pak-India relations is actually a history of mistrust and proxy wars. Visits, negotiations and talks have been nothing more than deceit. In coming years, the history is not going to change. Certainly not. History can’t be changed according to our wishes and we need to accept it as it is.
One more very basic and influential factor in Pak-India relations is one that should be termed as independent variable: the ‘foreign hand’. World powers have interests in both Pakistan and India, but closeness between the two neighbours is not in their list of interests. It will, rather, hurt their interests. Therefore, that independent variable will keep influencing the relations between the two states.
If Pakistan and India want effective talks and meaningful negotiations they need to do something more than merely issuing statements and attending wedding ceremonies. In case of Pak-India relations it really seems funny now that a single bomb blast can easily change the atmosphere and has the power to convert friendship into enmity. This shows and confirms that there is a history of mistrust and may be of misunderstanding as well. In the coming fifty years nothing will change, all visits, talks and negotiations will be overthrown by only one anti-Pakistan or anti-India – or may be anti-Pak-India – person, organization or state. I am not really optimistic about the future of our relations with India.
If Pakistan and India truly want to be friends and desire cordial neighbors in the coming fifty years they need to reform their education systems. Yes, there is only one solution to eliminate mistrust and understanding from the minds of both nations and that is education. Both states need to focus on alternative narratives in this highly complex world. We need to shape a narrative that Pakistan and India are different (really, they are), but “being different”, says one of my professors “never means you are wrong”. We need to accept the differences. India, being the bigger state, should come up and do something really workable for both states.
I am pretty sure both states do understand the changed and increasingly evolving dynamics of world power politics and will take some positive and workable steps in shaping favorable narratives in the best interests of both countries. Let’s hope for the best.