Indo- Pak Relations: Hard to Normalize

Indo- Pak Relations: Hard to Normalize

By Masood Ali Mir

India and Pakistan are the main two players in South Asian politics, as the two constitute 86% of its population and 80% of the land area. When these two are at peace with each other the whole region by and large is at peace, when they have trouble relations the region is uneasy, and when these two fight the whole South Asia shakes with fear. Thus India and Pakistan as the main powers of the region determines in their relations ( war and peace) the present and future of the South Asian region.
India and Pakistan have much in common in terms of history, culture, language and religions.  Both the countries were parts of a single political entity until mid August 1947. Despite these close affinities psychologically both the countries have always been living two poles apart. Since their inception both the countries have grown ever further apart and their policies both domestic and international have evolved increasingly in divergent directions. During the seven decades of their existence, the two countries fought three full fledged conventional wars   ( 1947-48, 1965 and 1971)  and war  like situations emerged at numerous times like that of Kargil crises of 1999 and thus their relations remained by and large deteriorated for most of the time.
Among all other major factors, the Kashmir issue ( as it is at present the main bone of contentious) remained the most dominant factor of Indo- Pak relations. It has been an outstanding security pre-occupation as much to Pakistan as to India and an actual and potential destabilizer of the entire geo- strategic balance of the whole sub- continent.
To India, a Muslim majority Kashmir, is a symbol of its secularism and a permanent  evidence of its rejection  of ‘Two Nation Theory’. To Pakistan, Kashmir, as a part of India is a challenge to its existence and a separate identity as an Islamic state in the sub- continent, therefore, Kashmir issue is not just a question of some part of land and people but of two ideologies which have a stake in Kashmir. It appears that no government in India will easily allow Kashmir to secede from India  and no Pakistani government will keep quit , stop the diplomatic and moral support and accept the agreement that Kashmir’s accession to India as final and irrevocable.
Besides the Kashmir, other disputes and issues too have cropped up between India and Pakistan .The dispute over Siachen. Wullar- Barrage, Tulbull- Navigation, Bhaglihar Hydro-electric Project, Sir-Creek , minority issues, fundamentalism and terrorism have also hampered the Indo-Pak relations and created a lot of mistrust between the two rivals many times in their relationship.
If we will look only on the above mentioned factors and issues as the main sources and causes of mistrust and antagonism between India and Pakistan in their relationship, it will be an ordinary outlook and a layman’s perspective. To go beyond this for a broader perspective we have to analyze the historical factors and events which had first led and then shaped  the perspective of two contrasting ideologies which later led the creation of two nations out of single one. We can not neglect the following factors, issues and events which has laid the foundation of the antagonism, mistrust and hatred among the rulers and the ruled of the two countries and which still are relevant in shaping their policies towards each other, in other words the pre-partition and immortal  causes and factors which hampers the Indo-Pak relations.
The two countries ( India and Pakistan ) view their history differently. It all started in past when more and more Hindus and Muslims engaged in myth creation and it as a process still continues both in India and Pakistan. On one hand Muslims across borders saw India’s Muslim period  ( Mughal Rule) as  the golden age, an era of high cultural, material and spiritual progress and which was all  but absent under the earlier regimes. On the other hand, the Hindu nationalists projects that the Muslims brought  a new dark age, marked by the  mass destruction of places of worship, forced conversions and Muslim cultural imperialism. Even Narender Modi, the Prime Minister of India, when ever talks about the pasts never exclude  the Muslim Period from the slavery period. Histories of this nature are manufactured by the propagandists on both the sides and are periodically refreshed by the events like the demolition of Babri Masjid (1992) and the communal riots of Gujarat of 2002 .
The end of the Mughal Rule meant two different things to two major communities of undivided India. For Hindus it was independence, as they call the event of 1857 as the first war of independence but the Muslims still call the same tragedy  and a mutiny.  By this” the Muslims of India ” as said by Akbar S. Ahmad “ lost their kingdom, their Mughal  Empire, their  emperor, their language, their culture, their capital city of Delhi and their sense of self”. After 1857the Muslims were dislocated by the malevolent Britishers allegedly with the consent of Hindus. The English people swept all away in an instant and the fundamental political, social and economic structure of India was re-ordered in a fashion that gave the Muslims little social space and no political power. Muslims ways dress, style, food were also put aside. Muslims now felt not only politically vulnerable but concerned for their very identity. Filled with the fresh memories of grandeur and glory, the Muslims grew increasingly  frustrated and fearful as the Hindus adopted more swiftly than Muslims the British new political and social order. Stephen P. Cohen says  that by favoring Hindus in education and administration and other spheres the Britishers titled against Muslims culturally, economically and politically and by promoting parliamentary democratic institutions, the imperial  authorities inadvertently bestowed a permanent minority status on Muslims in greater India, as they would always be outnumbered by the larger Hindu community.
Undivided India was very diverse in terms of religion, castes, colour, region culture and status. Aware of this vast social differences in the Indian Society, the White imperialists felt an obligation ( although some scholars  are of the opinion that it  was the policy of divide and rule), to protect its vulnerable  segments hence adopted the principles of separate electorate and the quota system, first for the deprived Hindu castes notably the untouchables and Hindu tribal’s. Then the policy was acceded by the Britishers to the Muslim demands for separate electorates. Initially the predominantly Hindu Congress did not oppose the separate electorate for Muslims  but soon it became a highly contentious issue, one that remains politically significant even today. Swayed by the argument that the Indian Muslims were largely converts hence are of the same cultural, moral and social order like those of Hindus and could share the common electoral arrangement, the Congress reversed its position on separate electorate for Muslims – although it continued to support  the reservation for the disadvantaged Hindus and tribal’s. To this day, India and Pakistan have been unable to reach a conclusive position on the question of quotas and reservation, as there is great debate whether there were valid reasons for differential treatment of religion, on one hand , and language ethnicity and caste on the other, nevertheless this separate electorate for Indian Muslims latter became an important milestone on the road leading to Pakistan.
It is widely regarded fact and belief that it is the Two Nation theory which has led the creation of Pakistan but the truth is also that the same two nation theory has laid the foundation of the future relationship of India and Pakistan. As Mohammad Ali Jinnah is regarded the champion of Two Nation theory and the Quied-i- Azam –Great Leader ( many scholars are of the opinion that it is the Sir Syeed Ahmad Khan who has provided the intellectual basis for Pakistan and he is the first person to systematically set forth the argument for what eventually became Pakistan). Jinnah put the tone and base of the two nation theory as “ the Hindus and Muslims belong to two different religious philosophies, social customs and literature. They neither inter-marry nor inter-dine together and indeed they belong to two different civilizations which are based on mainly on conflicting ideas and conceptions …… ………they  derive their  inspirations from different sources of history……………… very often the hero of one is a foe of the other and likewise their victories and defeats overlap”.
Jinnah turned the Two NationTtheory in to an effective political movement. At the dawn of 1940 because of the two nation theory the Hindus and Muslims were on a collision course, as Ambedkar puts it, “ Both Hindus and Muslims appear to be preparing for war and each is watching the preparation  of the other. Even the idea of reform in one community threatened the other. Even today the Hindu nationalists are unable to digest the two nation theory”.
The  Muslims tend to emphasize that, it was injustice and discrimination, that force them to demand a separate Muslim state. On the other hand  Indian historians ( mostly Hindus) tend to regard Pakistan as partly the product of the British imperial strategy  of “ Divide and Rule” and not the result of a legitimate demand hence they even reject the very idea and base of Pakistan.
Partition too had a consequence that underscored the theme of betrayal in relations between India and Pakistan. Pakistan considered India’s failure to adhere to the terms of partition as the supreme betrayal. Their stand stands on the view that India had not only defaulted on the division of assets, but it had also connived with the British to manipulate the international boundary between the two states  and persuaded some of the rulers of the princely states  to accede to India rather than Pakistan. India had forcefully annexed Junagarh and Hyderabad and had unfairly moved its forces to the Princely state of Jammu and Kashmir.
The aftermath of partition was an untold story of killings in communal riots and the migration of millions of people from their homes as refugees most of them forcefully from both the sides of border. The two newly born states adopted new political philosophies which were primarily divergent in nature.
The pre-partition hostilities which has ingrained into the psyche of the people and ruling elite alike in the two countries flares up prejudice, suspicion, mistrust, pre-conceived notions and delusions which impeded the process of  normalization of relations. Thus the vision of Akhand Bharat continues to exist in the minds of a good number of people in India even after the independence and the Pakistan’s quest of parity with eight times larger India indicates the mindset of the people  of the other side of border.
The Pakistani postures towards India, too have been coloured by the historical experience of fears of absorption, initially geographically and politically and now culturally continues to persist in the minds of the ruling elite in Pakistan. India is being accused of trying to annul the partition as it is not reconciled to an independent and sovereign Pakistan.  India’s role in the liberation of Bangladesh reinforced this Pakistani fear psychosis. It is put forth that since mid 1970’s. Indian policies towards the region have been formulated in the framework of a regional security doctrine labeled as ‘ Indira Doctrine’ where in  India views the entire South    Asian region as a single strategic unit and herself as the sole custodian of its security and stability. Thus their historical fears and the current suspicions have shaped their relationship and given the above points it becomes very tough to predict any long time friendly relationship between the two countries.

—Masood Ali Mir is a freelancer and can be mailed at

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