Love-hate ties

Print edition : April 23, 2010

Artists from India and Pakistan at the inauguration of a heritage festival at Virsa Vihar in Amritsar on March 4. Friends and acquaintances who have visited Pakistan return with ecstatic accounts of the lavish hospitality they received, the affection and goodwill, and the care taken to see that they enjoyed their stay in that country.-PTI

All Indians know that Pakistan considers India to be The Enemy. Paradoxically, they do not hate the Indian people, nor do Indians hate Pakistanis. There may be indifference or ignorance, as there is in some areas of the country, and, in North India there is a great deal of goodwill, even affection, for the people across the border, individually and as a body in Pakistan. But India is hated as The Enemy, while in India Pakistan is disliked and distrusted, not as The Enemy but as a very big and potentially dangerous irritant.

As one who is no expert in India-Pakistan relations their numbers are legion but as someone who is just a citizen of India, this seems to be rather strange. I am not really interested in Pakistan I neither speak nor understand Urdu nor have I ever been to that country, though I believe their food is quite as delicious as our North Indian food. But I have met individual Pakistanis, in India and in the United Kingdom, and found them exceptionally warm and friendly.

Friends and acquaintances who have visited Pakistan return with ecstatic accounts of the lavish hospitality they received, the affection and goodwill and the care taken to see that they enjoyed their stay in that country. And I have heard it said that Pakistanis visiting India say much the same thing of their treatment by their Indian hosts.

Contrast this with the attitude of the governments of both countries. Consider the manner in which Pakistan openly nurtures murderous fanatic groups such as the Lashkar-e-Taiba, which have killed large numbers of people in this country. Just cast your mind back to November 26, 2008, to what happened in Mumbai, and more recently to the carnage at the German Bakery in Pune. What have those acts achieved, by themselves or as a part of a larger plan? Will these destabilise India? No, obviously not. Will it provoke India to start a large-scale armed conflict with Pakistan? Most likely not, since these are quickly stopped by what is called the international community. So, why do these groups spend day after day, year after year plotting new ways of killing ordinary people in India?

Let me hasten to say that the last thing one wants to get is profound analyses in historic, sociological, economic and perhaps spiritual terms on the causes. One is asking the questions because they appear to many of us to represent something odd. The dichotomy between the attitude of individuals in both countries towards each other and that of the states, the governments, of those in power. If the government in a democracy does indeed represent the sentiments of the people who vote it into power then what happens when they actually assume office? Why do they suddenly stop being nice to the country across the border?

Let us look for a moment at the genesis of the two countries. Partition, as done by the British, of what was their Indian empire. Those in favour of Pakistan wanted it, those against it did not. The first lot won, and Pakistan was formed. Muslims, as Jinnah had promised them, had their own country. End of story, surely. They go their way, we go ours. Yes, there is the Kashmir issue, but that can be tackled as a residual disagreement, which will eventually be solved. The process may take time, but surely there will be an inexorable move to its resolution.

Look at Great Britain and Ireland. Their relations are very close, and very cordial; citizens of both countries move freely from one to the other. Sometimes it is difficult for outsiders to say who is from which country.

Pierce Brosnan, the film actor, is of Irish origin, but brought up in the U.K.; so is Liam Neeson, another actor. George Bernard Shaw was Irish, but settled and died in Britain. And yet they have been engaged in a conflict over the future of Northern Ireland a conflict that has cost many thousands of lives in bomb attacks and police action, and in random firings by one lot on the other. This conflict seems to be edging to final resolution; is there any reason that the one on Kashmir will not?

Take a hypothetical scenario. Let us assume that Kashmir becomes a part of Pakistan, and Jammu and Leh remain a part of India. Will it then mean that relations between the two governments will become cordial; will it mean that both countries will de-militarise, will terror groups such as the Jaish-e-Mohammed and Lashkar-e-Taiba stop their activities? We know the answer, and if we do not, we have only to look at what is happening in Afghanistan, where Indians who are there to help rebuild that countrys infrastructure are repeatedly attacked, and the Indian mission and buildings housing Indians are repeatedly bombed. The Afghan authorities openly say that these are being done by groups from Pakistan.

Strange, and depressing, that one should have as a neighbour a country that sees India as the eternal enemy. Excepting in one region, nowhere in the world does a countrys government have that kind of feeling about a neighbouring country. Not in Africa, not in South America, not in North America, not in the rest of Asia, not in Europe. Just here in South Asia.

The other region is West Asia, where Israel is the eternal enemy of some Arab countries. But one senses that if Israel were to come to some agreement about land-sharing and stand back as Palestine developed economically, the virulent hatred would end.

But one simply cannot see that happening in the India-Pakistan context, even though, to repeat what one said, the people of each country have nothing but goodwill for each other. Perhaps that could be the subject of a series of public debates between the people of the two countries. One could include in it ideas that could well be considered bizarre de-militarisation, rebuilding mosques and temples, whatever. What is it that is really bothering the two governments? And can that be addressed rationally, calmly, and with an agreement that no solution, no matter how extreme, would be rejected out of hand?

One realises that at the present moment all this is laughable and ridiculous. The Pakistani establishment will do everything possible to get a nuclear agreement with the United States on the lines of the one that the U.S. has with India, and India will continue to buy its 126 fighter jets, its aircraft carriers and develop its missiles. But one day, perhaps one day, long after we have gone, the future generations of the two countries will begin to think of the basic question just why do our governments hate each other?

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