The passions in the country have been again stirred up by the latest round of brutal killings by Pakistani soldiers (or intruders, or LeT fanatics, whatever you like to call them) in which they even took away one of our soldiers’ head. The rumor has it that Hafiz Saeed, the mastermind of the 26/11 Mumbai attacks recently offered Rs.500,000 for every head of Indian soldiers produced by Pakistanis. The veracity of the offer hasn’t been established yet (nothing can be established beyond doubt when it comes to Pakistan) but it shouldn’t surprise anybody if he really made this offer.
The problem with Pakistan is, its identity depends on an invariable hatred for India. According to this blog by MJ Akbar,
Pakistan’s hard line towards India is held by the Army, which takes the final call on India, whether in strategic planning or real-time response. Its thinking is rooted in Partition. India won freedom from the British. Pakistan won independence from India. Pakistan’s fundamentalist patriots therefore locate the existentialist threat from India.
The main takeaway from the above paragraph is “India won freedom from the British. Pakistan won independence from India.”
Just imagine, a big chunk of the Pakistani population migrated to this part of the world in 1947 because it didn’t want to live in India, especially with Hindus (who, for more than 800 years, had been their slaves and subjects) as ruling majority. On the other hand, Hindus and Sikhs who came to India during partition were forced to flee, otherwise they would have been butchered — they never wanted to leave the land their ancestors had tilled for centuries. There are different psychological dynamics on both the sides. Whereas in India, people are nostalgic about the land they left behind, in Pakistan people detest the people they left behind.
There is a glaring emotional disconnect. Can this disconnect be surpassed, or mended, or overlooked? I am not an expert and whatever I’m saying here is from the perspective of a laymen.
I think India will have to learn to live with hostile neighbors. I think it is easier to have a good relationship with China than with Pakistan. With China the differences might be ideological to a great extent, and racial to some extent and both these differences can be worked out. With Pakistan the problems are religious as well as historical.
As a religion, sooner or later we will have to accept that Islam cannot be at peace with other religions. Do we have a secular Muslim majority country anywhere in the world? Is there religious freedom in any Muslim country? In India the Muslim population has constantly increased since 1947. Can you cite any Muslim country where a minority population has increased? Even where Muslims have migrated to other countries they have had constant conflicts with indigenous populations, such as in many European countries. I’m not saying that this problem is with every Muslim, but with majority of them, it is, and if we’re looking for a permanent solution, we will need to acknowledge that and define a geopolitical philosophy accordingly.
Historically, especially concerning Muslims of the Indian subcontinent, as mentioned above, they dominated this land from the 11th-century till the British overthrew them. They were expecting that after gaining independence, the power would come back to them. They were so blinded with this inveterate hostility and the desire to rule, that they preferred to carve out another country rather than settle for a Hindu-ruled nation.
Unfortunately for them, things didn’t work out the way they might have imagined. Whereas India has experienced, despite massive corruption, caste politics, external terrorism and internal extremism, a gradual social and economic growth, for Pakistan the journey has been downhill. They never reached the old Muslim grandeur and to their utter dismay, their Hindu neighbors are living much better lives. Even Muslims in India claim that they’re better off in India compared to their counterparts in Pakistan.
So all this has generated frustrated anger and inferiority complex, and a sense of divine betrayal. One cannot get rid of such a feeling easily. You can gauge their unmitigated loathing for India by the fact that instigators of mass murders in India like Hafiz Saeed become national heroes over there. They don’t even pretend.
Add to this their military establishment that totally controls their politics and foreign policies. It’s in their army’s interest to project India as a perpetual bogeyman the country needs to be protected against, at all costs. Due to this the army has enjoyed unhindered prosperity because nobody can dare oppose them.
Not only Muslims in Pakistan, even Indian Muslims nurture this disconnect, but that’s another topic.
So what should India do?
India should stop being the nice person constantly seeking approval from other countries. Since their religion and attitude can never allow them to see Indians as worthy neighbors, they will need to be shown their proper place. No, I’m not suggesting launching a war, but India must act tough and make it clear that there are some things that are simply unacceptable.
They cannot digest India’s superiority in the Indian subcontinent? Too bad, they would have to come to terms with the reality. If they harbor terrorists that kill our people on our soil (or anywhere else), we shouldn’t rest until those terrorists are brought to book. There should be no confidence building measures and no peace talks until people like Hafiz Saeed roam free and spit out hateful speeches against India and instigate terrorist acts.
There should be no games, no cultural activities between the two countries unless Pakistan stops, completely, overt and covert acts of aggression against India. The condition must be unequivocal.
What about the peaceniks on both sides of the border? Should their voice be suppressed? There are surely people on both sides of the border who want to rekindle the old charm and under its aegis have nostalgic trips down the memory lane. Just as it is a reality that most Pakistanis don’t see eye to eye with their Indian neighbors, there are also people, although in minuscule minority, who want to live together, peacefully, happily ever after. On private levels they can go on doing this stuff, but they shouldn’t force the state to indulge in such activities unless all the burning issues are resolved.