Eminent historian and scholar Dr Mubarak Ali traces back the history of sub-continent and tries to find out what ails the Pakistan-India relations. Dr Mubarak Ali finds fault with the colonial legacy and says “it was the British who destroyed the harmony and sowed the seeds of hatred among Hindus and Muslims.” During an interview with Viewpoint, he stresses that Indo-Pak historical narrative needs to be re-written for a better and clear cultural perspective.
Viewpoint: What are precisely the irritants that are preventing Pakistan and India from achieving peace despite being neighbours for the past sixty years?
Dr Mubarak Ali: Pakistan and India inherited disputes at the time of Partition from Colonial rulers who wanted to secure their interests once they leave the sub-continent. Kashmir was one of the major disputes that had kept the neighbours apart. Indian border dispute with China and Pakistan’s Durand Line with Afghanistan are the other colonial legacies. Moreover, Indian Congress Party never accepted the Partition of sub-continent and it is still very hard for the party and majority of Indian politicians to accept whole-heartedly the fact that Pakistan is a sovereign and independent country carved out of independent sub-continent. Though there is a new generation in India now that does not consider Partition a problem, a mindset is still prevalent in India that is bitter about a divided India. The memories of communal riots in Punjab and Bengal still haunt the people of India and Pakistan.
India has made a lot of progress economically, socially and politically. It is rubbing shoulders with world powers now and the world needs India too. With a stable democracy and growing economy, India is now placed at a higher pedestal as compared to Pakistan. India now wants to dictate to Pakistan and wants dialogues on their terms.
Viewpoint: What are the historic aberrations that need to be rectified to end hatred and misunderstanding prevailing between the people of India and Pakistan?
Dr Mubarak Ali: Well, there are many aberrations in the historical narrative that is fed to the nation. First; India is always presented as an enemy and it is a distortion of historical facts. This mindset that Hindus are our enemies is a major hurdle in the way of achieving a lasting peace. This notion is wrong. Second: The two-nation theory is also flawed. Hindus and Muslims were living together with a shared history and cultural past before the partition. The theory though had some credence before the division, but once the sub-continent was divided into Pakistan and India the theory lost its existence. Third; Our historians always wrote in the context of Hindus and Muslims. They always portrayed Muslims as conquerors and Hindus as defeated and conquered. It is also wrong to say that Hindus were slaves. These historical distortions and cultural hatred is going on generation after generation.
Viewpoint: What prompted the Nehru-Liaqat Pact. What impact did it have on India-Pakistan relations, if at all?
Dr Mubarak Ali: Communal riots and the consequent hatred was the major factor that prompted Nehru-Liaqat Pact. It was an exercise in futility as it neither had any impact on Pak-India relations nor did it help mitigate the sufferings and bitter memories of communities that suffered during these riots. It was only a pact on papers with no impact at all.
Viewpoint: In 1951, Nehru offered Liaqat Ali Khan a non-aggression pact. Was it a mistake not to accept it by linking it with a prior solution to the Kashmir dispute or was it a policy and Kashmir was an excuse.
Dr Mubarak Ali: Yes, it was a mistake not to sign the non-aggression pact. Linking Kashmir with that pact and over-emphasis on Kashmir during every parleys with India has prevented both the countries from finding a way forward. Kashmir has stemmed the progress of the region.
Viewpoint: In 1953, Nehru visited Karachi and later Muhammad Ali Bogra went to India. Again Nehru visited Pakistan, Indus Water Treaty was signed and Bhutto-Swaran Singh talks followed. But the 1965 war stalled the process. Who was to blame — India or Pakistan?
Dr Mubarak Ali: Both the countries were to blame for failure to achieve peace despite high-profile visits and follow-up talks. Kashmir always proved to be a stumbling bloc for both the countries. Practically and realistically, Held Kashmir is under Indian control and New Delhi is manning the valley with 500,000 personnel. Pakistan should know the fact and must realize that it cannot take Kashmir through military force and wars. Though India claims control over Kashmir, Pakistan is morally right when it advocates for Kashmiris’ right to self-determination and resolving the Kashmir dispute under the United Nations resolutions. But, there is no morality in historical account. This is a reality for all to accept. There is no other alternative except to recognize Line of Control (LoC) as a permanent border.
Viewpoint: How did East Pakistan react to the 1965 war and tense relations between Delhi and Islamabad?
Dr Mubarak Ali: East Pakistan had a strong and legitimate complaint that it was always left undefended in case of conflicts with other states. People in East Pakistan felt very insecure as they had no trust in the army and that feeling contributed to their separation from Pakistan. In the 1971 conflict, East Pakistan invited India to intervene and the then Indian Prime Minister Indra Gandhi took advantage of the situation and invaded East Pakistan, leading to its debacle. Indra Gandhi cashed in on the volatile situation in East Pakistan to weaken Pakistan geographically, politically and morally.
Viewpoint: In 1971, by siding with Bangladesh National Liberation, India poisoned relations with Pakistan. Still students are told in text books and we are reminded by columnists about Indian role in 1971. Besides Partition, this remains the other major psychological hurdle in overcoming trust deficit. Your comment.
Dr Mubarak Ali: Our text books contain faulty facts. These books as well as some of our historical narrative need to be re-written to bring to fore some untold truths. Our media is also contributing to this psychological dishonesty by spreading hate messages. Our historians ignore the cultural and historical legacy while painting India and Hindus as our enemies.
Viewpoint: Bhutto was a hawk. He talked about thousand years war. But Benazir Bhutto and Asif Zardari are accused of being soft on India by rightwing forces. What explains this contradiction?
Dr Mubarak Ali: Zulfikar Bhutto was a clever politician and he exploited anti-India feelings in Pakistan after the 1965 war for political gains. Though Pakistan lost territory in Sindh and Punjab during the 1965 war, Bhutto tapped the anti-India hatred in Punjab to win public sympathy for future gains. He also exploited his difference with Ayub Khan over the Tashkent Declaration, which eventually led to the formation of Pakistan People’s Party.
Benazir Bhutto always changed her posture to India whenever it suited her. Same is the case with President Asif Zardari. They become hawkish when it suits them and they become friendly when they need some breather. They always played politics on India and Kashmir.
Viewpoint: Vajpayee came to Pakistan and General Musharraf and General Zia also went to India. How come military hawks can shake hands, but when civilian moderates try to normalize relations, there is lot of protest across the border?
Dr Mubarak Ali: Our foreign policy is India-centric and any policy regarding India is vetted and approved by the Army. Pakistan Army is the real force behind our policy towards India. Repeated martial laws had made the Army and generals very strong. General Musharraf sabotaged Pak-India peace initiatives by opening up the Kargil front at a time when Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee was in Pakistan to sign the Lahore Declaration. Moderates or civilian rulers can stretch themselves to the lines drawn by the Army when it comes to peace with India. (Source: View Point)