“Mohammed Ali Jinnah, Pakistan’s first leader, in the doorway of his study in Karachi in September, 1947, just weeks after the new country was formed.” PHOTO/Bettmann/Corbis/The New York Times
This August marks the beginning of the 64th year of the independence of India and the birth of Pakistan. Jawaharlal Nehru’s love for India and Lord Mountbatten’s criminal negligence created the permanent problem of Kashmir that remains unresolved.
Many wish Britain had opted for an abortion of Pakistan. Also if Kashmir’s Maharaja Hari Singh was a Muslim or if the majority there were Hindus, the situation would be different. If M. K. Gandhi had avoided the Hindu terminology in his politics and if M. A. Jinnah was more flexible, and if Cyril Radcliff had taken a few years, not few weeks, to draw the borders, current problems would not exist.
One can wish for a different history to no avail. It is not only that these things happened, but that after sixty three years, these mistakes keep on yielding misery with no hope in sight for the majority of the people in the region.
Kashmir is burning and so is Pakistan.
India’s vast land and its huge US-style propaganda media allow it to ignore and mask the fire of discontent in the Northeast. All woes become “acceptable” under the umbrella of the “largest democracy.”
During the last few years, a new term the “Indian Century” has begun circulating that has implications of terror given its precedent, the “American Century” (as if that was not enough punishment for the world!)
India may have illusions of its century but times have changed and it will not be as easy now for any one power to dominate and hold all the strings.
The factors that enabled the United States to rule the world were: Land mass: it has a vast area endowed with natural resources. Geography: it is flanked on east and west by two oceans and has a subdued neighbor to the north and a weak Latin America to the South who is no match in violence to the US. The folly of European leaders contributed also. (The two world wars not only destroyed the European imperial hegemony and its economy, but also gave a huge boost to the US economy through manufacturing of arms and ammunition and other goods, and allowed women to gain some equality by joining the work force as men headed to the European front.) Besides, the resources and the labor of the colored world, outside the Soviet sphere, were at its disposal, which were and are being exploited to the maximum. India is not that lucky.*
Moreover, in the same vicinity there are two other giants: China and Russia. It can conceivably be “the Chinese Century” or “Chinese/Indian Century”. Or, Russia may finally put its house in order to become an economic power house and claim that title exclusively or in some combination.
Also, let us not forget Brazil, the world’s eighth largest economy or the European Union who may be valid contenders too. Or perhaps, this may be no one’s century. There may be several super powers or several regional powers.
Although culturally, there seems no doubt that the Indian (or South Asian) influence is felt globally, militarily, India lags behind both China and Russia. Another strike against India is its glaring poverty; not all the burqas in the world are sufficient to hide it. Besides, the Indian government is not keen on veiling it anyway; otherwise it would have done something to eliminate the poverty.
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The recent study conducted by the Oxford University is well timed to leave a bad taste in the mouth of the Indian establishment when they are dreaming to play the tune of Indian greatness on its Independence Day this Sunday. According to the study, 55% of the Indians, that is, 645 million of the 1.1 billion people live in the state of poverty. This in a country which now boasts having some of the richest men in the world!
The poverty level in 8 Indian states—Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, and West Bengal—is higher than that of the twenty-six poorest African nations.
The capitalist rekha has been drawn; the divide between the poor and the wealthy is sharply visible and continues to be maintained. Any kind of criticism of inhumane capitalist ventures, such as hosting of the Commonwealth Games is not tolerated, even by a former diplomat and minister.
The poor are more helpless than ever just as the rich have become bolder in flaunting their wealth. This is nothing to be proud of, nor does it in any manner show the greatness of India’s democracy. One thing the government does for the poor is that periodically
a new national anthem video starring millionaire celebrities is released in cinema houses and TV channels everywhere to create the patriotic intoxicant effect.
Pakistan at independence was not in good shape because the areas it inherited were not developed. Also, the Indian arrogance and the annexation of the Muslim majority state of Jammu and Kashmir with India created insecurity in a much smaller Pakistan.
But the later developments, mostly destructive and divisive, such as the creation of Bangladesh and the introduction of religion into politics are entirely Pakistan’s own making. Stating it in simple English: Pakistan self-destroyed itself with the Islamic crescent, the Pakistan military’s gun, and the US eagle.
Today it is difficult to predict with certainty any aspect of Pakistan’s future.
In 2006, a retired US Lieutenant Colonel had suggested a redrawing of the Middle East (including Pakistan—which actually is part of South Asia). In 2005, the United States CIA and the National Intelligence Council predicted a Yugoslav-like fate” for Pakistan and declared that it would be a “failed state” by 2015. Now, the US Ambassador to India, Robert Blackwell, wants to divide Afghanistan, along the ethnic line, into North Afghanistan with Hazaras, Tajiks, and Uzbeks; and South Afghanistan with Pashtun majority. If this happens, then the elements who would like to see a union between the Afghan Pashtuns and the Pashtuns from the newly named Pakistani province of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (formerly North-West Frontier Province) will be strengthened.
It is worth noting that all these US people and agencies are very influential. They are also part of the establishment which has the required force to turn these ideas into reality. The North and South Korea reality is just one example.
A logical division of the Sub-continent would have made Kashmir a part of Pakistan because of its Muslim majority. This did not happen, and it was a grave injustice. But today we can no longer apply that 1947 logic, as taking the current state of mess in Pakistan, it would be reasonable to assume that any addition to Pakistan’s territory is not only going to create more problems but would make the lives of the newly joined Kashmiris a living hell; and would provide militants easy access to new disgruntled recruits. Mind you, it is not that Kashmiris are enjoying fruits of paradise under the Indian rule, or to be more accurate, under the Indian Army’s boots.
On the other hand, let’s say both Pakistan and India agree to grant independence to Kashmir (that is Pakistan controlled portion and the Indian controlled part become one independent country) what is the guarantee that both India and Pakistan would not be looking for “strategic depth”? Remember Afghanistan?
The Kashmir problem needs to be addressed first. An amicable solution, acceptable to the people of Kashmir, and the Indian and the Pakistani establishments, is not as difficult as developing nuclear weapons.
However, what is needed is the willingness on part of the leaders to resolve this issue; unfortunately absent. The process has now become a ritual: hopes are built prior to and during the meetings of both countries’ leaders; after the meetings someone from either side will say something which puts them back to square one or worse. The main beneficiary of these meeting-dramas is the media who get to show films and photos of leaders visiting historic places, and in some cases their ancestral places, and getting the public glued to TV sets.
If the Kashmir problem is resolved and off the table during bilateral talks, then both countries will be able to concentrate on trade and other issues. This will subsequently boost SAARC (South Asian Association of Regional Countries) to unleash its real potential as a unifying and developing force. Also, if Afghanistan is invited to join SAARC, it’ll be good for the whole region as this would diminish competition between Pakistan and India to influence that country.
B. R. Gowani can be reached at email@example.com