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Fighting for a lost cause

No matter how much the Indian government tries, Pakistan will always remain a difficult neighbour. Najeeb Jung writes.

india Updated: Aug 31, 2011 21:53 IST

One of the major efforts of the UPA 2 and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is to improve relations with Pakistan. But the worrying question here is whether friendship with Pakistan is possible, given its history and its foreseeable future. Three issues stand out here. First, the foundations on which Pakistan was created. Second, the Kashmir factor and, finally, the current and future situation in Pakistan to the extent we can foresee it.

Pakistan was born on a flawed notion that different religions cannot co-exist in peace. Since its inception, Pakistanis have been fed on anti-India propaganda. It still continues to believe that Islam and anti-India propaganda can keep the country together.

Therefore, despite recent initiatives, relations between the two remain tardy. These initiatives can't wipe away 60 years of constant badgering that India is a Hindu country determined to usurp Pakistan. Often quoted in Pakistan are Acharya Kriplani's (Congress president during Partition) statement that "neither the Congress nor the nation has given up its claim of a United India" and Sardar Patel's statement that "sooner than later we shall again be united in common allegiance to our country".

But Pakistan today is radically different from India. Conversations in social and political circles of commonality in culture, language and food are misplaced. The more the Indians harp on commonality, the more it hardens Pakistani's attitude.

And then there is the dreaded 'K' word. Working on a perceived threat from India, Pakistan's policymakers and the army speak of Kashmir as "the unfinished business of Partition". They feel cheated on the way Kashmir was denied to them in 1947 and later by not allowing any plebiscite. Pakistani leaders are convinced that apart from being Muslim, Kashmir has been historically with Pakistan since all trade and communication routes in Kashmir have been through Pakistani Punjab. Also since Indus, Jhelum and Chenab flow through Kashmir to Pakistan, they are afraid that the flow of water can be stopped despite the Indus Waters Treaty. The government of India's uneasy dealings in Kashmir and the sporadic periods of violence help Pakistan make the case that the Kashmiris do not accept Indian suzerainty.

The division of Pakistan in 1971 was a major blow to the political establishment and Pakistan's psyche. For years, they believed that a few thousand Muslim invaders managed to rule the country for several hundred years. They give little credit to the sophistication of Islamic culture, Sufi charm or the short comings of the Indian caste structure that made conversion attractive. Therefore, the dismemberment of Pakistan in 1971 with the clinical efficiency of the Indian Army, destroyed many myths in Pakistani minds.

Against this background, it is difficult for the Pakistani leadership to show statesmanship, to rise above their established beliefs and accept India as a trustworthy neighbour. This is compounded by the fact that Pakistan is not likely to be stable in the foreseeable future. With the Americans inching towards some understanding with the Taliban, Pakistan is likely to have a hard-line Taliban neighbour in Afghanistan. Balochistan and the Federally Administered Tribal Area area remains disturbed. The Federal government often treats Baloch-istan as a "wasteland" and an "economic liability". Karachi is in flames, ethnic war having destroyed its social services. The provincial as well as the Federal government, seem inept to manage the situation.

Najeeb Jung is the Vice Chancellor of Jamia Millia Islamia

The views expressed by the author are personal

First Published: Aug 31, 2011 21:50 IST