India and Pakistan are twins, born as they were as two independent nations on the same day, or rather night, of August. One might as well add that the two are Siamese twins as they continue to remain conjoined in Kashmir with no clear cut boundaries to separate them. Though, of course, if one gives due consideration to the sensibilities of the Kashmiri people, it was to be triplets. Call it an accident of fate or in utero bullying of the two biggies among the expected triplets, Kashmir never got a change to be born as the third offspring parasitized as it was by the other two. Coming back to our twins, having been cleaved from the same whole, it is not surprising that the people and consequently the cultures of the two countries are essentially similar. However, the two have always been – mistakenly as one can surely make out on careful analysis – pitted as being diametrically opposite to each other.
Of course, there are differences. While India is by and large recognized as a ‘successful’ democracy, Pakistan’s tryst with democracy has been rather spasmodic with the military having always had an overt influence in administering the affairs of the country which for most of its history has even translated into direct governance. Then again, India has been portrayed as much more tolerant whereas Pakistan has wittingly or unwittingly earned itself a reputation of rabid intolerance. Those who live in these countries know that the labels are not necessarily accurate, or to put it another way, Pakistan and India do not exactly translate into Black and White, respectively. It is actually a grey of varying shades that would describe the two countries, even granting that Pakistan would be a shade darker.
In reality, the similarities between the two countries far outnumber the differences. The most prominent political parties in both countries are similar in that the ultimate leadership has a hereditary succession. The previous two generations of both these political parties have had a similar violent end, having fallen victim to political assassinations. Though Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was convicted of murder and sentenced to death by hanging and the sentence was carried out, it cannot be denied that it was actually a political assassination carried out by a military dictator probably at the behest of his handlers. Two young scions of these political parties have been projected as the future in both these countries. In Pakistan, the biggest rival party is the Military establishment, while in India it is the fascist Hindutva brigade that plays the same role. If comparing the two seems like stretching the analogy too far it would do well to remember that both have never shied away from using religion as a rallying force.
People in the two countries like similar food, music and movies and are ruled by similar coteries of the corrupt. If Indian politics has been ‘distinguished’ by Coalgate and 2G scams running into thousands of crores, its twin has had a Mr 10 percent as its President, and a Prime Minister for whom an arrest warrant for corruption has been issued by the Supreme Court of the land. The criminal element is prominently visible in the politics of both the countries. And if it is the big corporate houses that do the backseat driving in Indian politics, the feudal lords in Pakistan go a step further, frequently hijacking the very steering.
It shouldn’t appear strange then that in recent times, the people of the two countries have resorted to a similar strategy to tackle their nations’ problems. While India witnessed a mass movement headed by Anna Hazare, Pakistan has been going through a similar movement under the leadership of Tahir ul Qadri. Both movements claim to be an expression of the common man’s disenchantment with the ruling classes. Both these movements have been dubbed as creations of ‘agencies,’ with an axe to grind. Both have caught the imagination of the common man. Both have been a cause of alarm for the establishment. Both have had political groups other than the ones which form part of the establishment latching on to them. Both have had inspired beginnings, and both seem to have run out of steam.
But, what about the triplet-that-couldn’t-be? Kashmir – claimed and maimed by both the twins. Kashmir – used as a club by the two countries to clobber each other and, in the process, receiving most of the drubbing itself. The very language of the two countries amply demonstrates that for Kashmir the heat never turns off. Even when the twins serenade each other with the tunes of peace, Kashmir is left to simmer on the ‘backburner.’ War or peace, this triplet-that-couldn’t-be suffers both ways. As any wise guy in Africa would tell you, whether elephants make love or war, it is the grass beneath that gets trampled.