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Bound by sorrows

Their fights against extremism cannot be separated by national borders into convenient compartments, marked ‘domestic’ and ‘foreign’, writes Mohsin Hamid.

india Updated: Nov 30, 2008 22:35 IST

In the rush to blame Pakistan for the attack in Mumbai, a dangerous mistake is being made. The impulse to implicate Pakistan is understandable, given past examples of Pakistani and Indian intelligence agencies working to destabilise the historical enemy across the border.

But it is too soon to know who is behind the attacks. The desire of some in India to ascribe guilt to Pakistan before the evidence is in is an attempt to avoid introspection. India and Pakistan are more alike than politicians tend to acknowledge. The triumphal narrative of India as an incredible success, and the defeatist narrative of Pakistan as an impending disaster are both only half true. For much of this young century, Pakistan has enjoyed economic growth rates not far behind those of India.

India, like Pakistan, is home to many simmering insurgencies. Had recent protests in Kashmir occurred in a former Soviet Republic, they would have been hailed by the world as a new Orange Revolution. Both Pakistan and India are plagued by extremism. Both have in their six decades of independence dramatically failed their poor.

The reason to look at the similarities between India and Pakistan is not to drag India down, but to point out that the countries are in this together. Their fights against extremism cannot be separated by national borders into convenient compartments, marked ‘domestic’ and ‘foreign’. The destruction of the Islamabad Marriott foreshadowed the attacks on the Oberoi and the Taj, and the pitched gun-battle between extremists and government forces in south Mumbai has eerie echoes of last year’s bloody and prolonged stand-off at Islamabad’s Red Mosque.

Just as Delhi has seen bombings this year, so has Lahore. Just as rogue elements of Pakistan’s armed forces have been accused of supporting terrorists, so has a lieutenant colonel in the Indian Army. India and Pakistan are not the same, but the parallels are remarkable. Continuing to ignore this serves only to divide two countries that could benefit greatly from greater unity.

When terrorism strikes, divisive anger is a natural response. Wisdom, however, lies in realising that we of India and Pakistan are united by our shared sorrow.

Mohsin Hamid is the author of The Reluctant Fundamentalist

The Guardian