Enemies For 70 Years: Should India And Pakistan Move On?

Posted by Ahmed Zuber in Politics
April 3, 2017

“Kab Nazar Mein Aayegi Bedagh Sabz Ki Bahaar (When o when will I get to see a spotless stretch of green)?

Khoon Ke Dhabbe Dhulenge Kitni Barsaton Ke Baad” (How many rains will it take for the blood stains to wash)?

For those readers unfamiliar with the lines above, they were written by the great Urdu poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz. While Faiz wrote the lines longing for the love of his beloved, little did he know that decades after his death, his lines would become a means to describe the enmity between two neighboring countries. This enmity traces its roots back to the partition of undivided colonial India on the basis of religion, the religious divide that existed since the time of the Sultanates.

The India vs Pakistan debate is arguably the most heated topic of discussion. It is more than just a debate for the combined population of nearly 1.45 billion Indians and Pakistanis, who define their patriotism on the basis of this rivalry. This debate ranges from the field of sports to entertainment, from military might to the relations with the West.

Instead of existing in the political circles, this animosity between India and Pakistan is felt to a much greater extent, bypassing competition, by the common people of both the countries. Most of the people of the two nations don’t know each other and form their opinions based on what either the media or the politicians tell them.

This has become an excellent tool for political leaders in the two countries to emotionally incite the masses, for their electoral and thus personal gains, and by religious leaders to foment extremism. Recent times have seen a huge surge in “nationalistic” feelings in the masses, thanks to hate filled speeches delivered by the political and religious leaders on both sides of the border.

A refugee special train at Ambala station. The carriages were full and the refugees sought room on top of the train.

After 70 years of trouble between India and Pakistan, the two countries have fought four wars, resulting in thousands of needless deaths. They have successfully produced weapons of mass destruction, and have been engaged in a proxy war whenever they are not directly fighting each other in the battlefield. We, the inhabitants of the two countries have a very important question to answer. Is it worth having this enmity?

Going back to the root of the problem, it was thought that the partition would end years of trouble in the country and would pave the way for a peaceful transition of power. What it actually brought with itself was massive bloodshed and large scale destruction. The lush green plains of Punjab were soaked with the blood of hundreds of thousands of innocents, refugees in their own motherland. Their crime? Belonging to a different religion.

To escape death, they had no other choice but to migrate to the other side of the border. This was the story on both the sides. Even after the violence was controlled, India and Pakistan were never going to have normal relations. This was evident from the fact that rival political groups in undivided India, assumed power in the newly created nations, viz. the Congress in India and the Muslim League in Pakistan.

While the Muslim league was decidedly unhappy with the manner in which the events of the partition had folded out, particularly their loss of Kashmir to India (which they thought would become a part of Pakistan owing to its majority Muslim population). The Congress also did not have any particular liking of the ruling Pakistani party, particularly after it tried to invade Kashmir in what was seen as a very desperate measure to get it under Pakistani control.

Thus, the two countries started their newly carved out destinies by fighting over a territory over which both of them claimed their right. The Kashmir issue has since then become the hottest topic of debate and disagreement between the two countries, and is the easiest way to incite the passions of the Indian and Pakistani masses.

Kashmir has always been a volatile issue for both India and Pakistan. Here, Kashmiris can be seen holding the Pakistani flag while marching to Srinagar’s city’s center.

Having had their last face off in the battlefield 18 years ago, the two nations are engaged in a continuous proxy war. State sponsored cross border terror attacks, repeated ceasefire violations at the border and the so called surgical strikes are what constitute this proxy war. Continuous attempts are made by both the governments to isolate the “enemy” on an international level, though to what extent such measures have been successful is a topic of discussion for another day.

In the meanwhile, India managed to break Pakistan by liberating the eastern portion of Pakistan (now Bangladesh) from the western. Pakistan managed to create a state of insurgency in Indian Punjab by fueling separatist feelings.

Thus, having spent so much money on wars and defence equipment, and on destabilizing each other, India and Pakistan relations, even after 70 years of Independence from the British, seem to be going nowhere. It shows no signs of improvement and are in fact deteriorating day by day.

Both India and Pakistan have gained almost nothing by this rivalry. While a continuous fear of Indian might and power drives a feeling of paranoia amongst the Pakistani masses, in India the anger against Pakistan is because of Pak sponsoring cross border terror strikes.

The paranoia that Pak has for India has been abused by the military for capturing power by means of military coup (Pakistan has had three military coups in its seventy years of existence) in the name of national security. Whereas in India, Pak’s state sponsored terrorism has been misused by the politicians to incite passions and take votes by inducing fear and anger successfully diverting attention from the core issues of governance that affect the masses.

The major sufferers, as a result, of the deteriorating relations between the two countries are the people involved in cross border trade. Owing to strained relations there is very low level of exchange of goods and culture which is damaging to both the economies. Indian filmmakers have decided not to hire Pakistani artists and the Pakistani cinema screen owners are not screening Indian films.

During a major cross border standoff, people living in villages close to the border on both sides are the chief sufferers. As far as Pakistan is concerned, it’s major cities and industrial centers, viz. Lahore, Faisalabad, Rawalpindi, Gujranwala, Sialkot and even the Pakistani capital Islamabad, home to a large proportion of the urban Pakistani population, are located quite close to the border.

Both India and Pakistan spend a huge chunk of money and thus, a significant portion of their GDP on defence. Huge quantities of weapons produced in the western nations are bought by these rival south Asian nations and thus, their economy thrives at the expense of ours. Of course, the two nations have never shown a strong will to resolve the conflict, and we have a clear cut explanation of why not.

If India and Pakistan were not having such troubled relations and an almost continuous standoff, both the countries could have easily cut their military expenditures and spend the money on other areas. As is evident by all the indicators of the basic conditions of living like Human Development Index, per capita income, infant and maternal mortality rates and literacy rates, both India and Pakistan fair poorer than most countries of the world.

Even in the 21st century, nearly 196.4 million people in India still don’t meet their daily food requirements, which is nearly 12% of the total population of the country. Similarly, nearly 42% of the Pakistanis are still unable to read and write, with the literacy rate dipping to a mere 28% in some remote regions.

Medical infrastructure and facilities are particularly poor in both the countries. In almost every aspect, Pakistan fairs much poorer when compared to India, owing to its smaller GDP, lack of natural resources, and the large amount of money it spends as a part of its defence budget.

Electricity situations are particularly grim in Pakistan, with major cities like Karachi having a severe lack of power supply and thus long power cuts, even in the hot summer season. Consequently, Pakistan is hugely dependent on grants and loans from western nations to keep its economy running.

Another nation which benefits from the bad Indo-Pak relations is China. The recent combined China Pakistan major project, the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), is a measure by the Chinese government to boost its trade with the West. At the same time, it counters India’s increasing impact in the region.

China views India as its potential rival, a country which can pose a serious challenge to its might in the region. Pakistan, on the other hand hopes to revive its economy with the help of the corridor, and gain China’s friendship and trust to counter Indian aggression, as its relationship with USA are straining. India and Pakistan relations affect the neighboring countries as well, and due to bad Indo-Pak relations, the entire south Asia is a volatile region.

The strained relations are proving detrimental to both the countries, and it’s high time the two countries start resolving their differences through dialogue, for dialogue is the only means through which complex issues like Kashmir can be resolved.

While Pakistan must stop sponsoring militant strikes in India, Indian government and we as Indians should also forget the differences of the past and get ready to move on, though stoppage of cross border terror strikes is a must. Instead of filling the minds of the masses with propaganda and hatred, the political leaders of both the countries have to take significant measures to stop the common Indian and Pakistani from hating each other.

Cross border trade should be encouraged and if need be, trade restrictions for cross border trade should be relaxed. Cultural exchanges should also be promoted for that is a means through which Indian and Pakistani masses can stop hating each other.

An improvement in India Pakistan bilateral relations will mean stability for the region and will reap long term benefits for both the nations. At the same time it will prevent their exploitation by western powers and by China. It will make the world a safer and better place to live in.