Today in New Delhi, India
Apr 24, 2019-Wednesday
New Delhi
  • Humidity
  • Wind

Karachi dreams

Karachi is very different from Lahore. An average Pakistani compares Karachi to Mumbai and Lahore to Delhi. See it through the eyes of a conceited Indian who dubs Karachi?s buildings to be an apology of Mumbai?s skyscrapers.

india Updated: Jan 03, 2004 15:11 IST
Kumkum Chadha
Kumkum Chadha

Karachi is very different from Lahore. An average Pakistani compares Karachi to Mumbai and Lahore to Delhi. See it through the eyes of a conceited Indian who dubs Karachi’s buildings to be an apology of Mumbai’s skyscrapers. Hear it from peaceniks and the comparisons go beyond cities. They focus on cultural bonding irrespective of the bloody history or altered geography. Consequently, Partition and Kashmir are aberrations. Skip those and the problem never existed. Attempt to mention them and it is a dead end.

Yet unlike Lahore and maybe Delhi, Karachi and its people see hope. Dismissing Lahore as a city which has an ‘army mindset’, Karachi showcases itself as a business city interested in ‘getting on with life’ rather than remaining glued to conventional positions. And here lies the qualitative difference: Lahore puts Kashmir before peace, while Karachi is willing to shelve Kashmir for peace.

It is, therefore, not without reason that Karachiites feel that Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s visit to Pakistan is meaningless unless Karachi is on his agenda. Limiting his tour to Islamabad means making people’s will subservient to a political agenda. A political agenda, people say, ensures deliberating contentious issues often at the cost of peace and goodwill.

Unlike a major section of Pakistanis, Karachiites do not harp on friendship. They prefer to go along with the coexistence theory. Like those Indians who believe that it makes much more sense to hammer a no-war pact and ensure a peaceful coexistence rather than get lost in the maze of Utopian friendship. Friendship, they understand, brings with it a baggage of commonality and commitment. Its prerequisite is consensus and not confrontation. On both these counts, Indo-Pak relations seemed to have hit a roadblock. Interestingly, like-minded

Indians and Pakistanis opt for a formula of ‘piecemeal peace’ instead of a ‘one shot conclusive settlement’.

Simply put, this means that the present generation should make a modest beginning by setting a single point agenda of a no-war pact between the two countries and see it through successfully. Once that happens, the agenda for successive generations could be peace followed by friendship.

With business being their focus, Karachiites treat Kashmir as an issue which though important is certainly not all-pervasive. Kashmir, they feel, will fall in place once goodwill develops, the route being trade and water. Therefore, whether it is a shopkeeper in Zenab market or a trader in Bori Bazar, the sentiment is the same: our gain lies in trading ties. You take something from us and we take something from you. Economic interests will hasten solutions. Otherwise Kashmir will take 100 years to settle.

They feel that one of the routes to peace and goodwill is through water. They regret that instead of sharing the benefits of water, India and Pakistan are divided over it. Water could be the unifying factor. India should let the Pakistani farmers benefit by releasing water. As a quid pro quo, India could take trading rights over their produce. Once benefits overtake political dialogue then it would be virtually impossible to play politics with peace.

However divided minds or national positions may be, there is unanimity on the fact that the peace process is being politicised.

On the one hand, it is the governments of India and Pakistan who are derailing the process for political gain. On the other it is the peaceniks that are trifling with it.

While politicians are in a ‘to-talk-or-not-to-talk’ dilemma, the peaceniks are crossing the Wagah border in hordes. Unlike governments and their monosyllabic foreign service corps, the peaceniks are gushing with enthusiasm, holding conference after conference and drafting resolutions pledging peace. But like them, they have taken it on themselves to script the destinies of people and nations, by keeping out the segments which they claim to represent. Except the governments do it by design and peaceniks by default.

It is against this backdrop that people advocate ‘south-south cooperation’ as against the current dispensation which is Kashmir-centric. A headway can only be made if the southern regions of India and Pakistan (Karachi and Bangalore, for instance) get involved, as against the north (Delhi and Lahore, for instance) which does not see beyond Kashmir and war.

The ‘Indianness’ of Karachi is also evident from its large Hindu population. But they live in constant fear, the situation worsening everytime communal violence takes place in India. Gauriamma, who cleans toilets in a Karachi hotel, avoids Indians visiting Pakistan. She is both ashamed and scared. Ashamed because she does not want her countrymen to see her scrubbing toilets; scared because she does not want Pakistanis to victimise her for saying things which she should not. Yet in husheNewsd tones she indicates that the ‘place to talk’ is the Swaminarayan temple.

Temples — Swaminarayan, Laxminarayan or any other — are the ‘Indian ghettoes’. The lines are well rehearsed: “Pakistan is our country. We are happy. There is absolutely no problem.” It takes 26-year-old Dinanath Das to break the cordon of fear: “Take me back. They are forcing me to convert. They say you bloody Hindus you will never be loyal to Pakistan. Jung mein Hindustan ki hifazat karega (If there is a war, you will fight for India)”. Das is, of course, shouted down, and immediately declared as one who has ‘lost his balance’.

As damage control, we are told to set our — that is, India’s — house in order. In other words, to extinguish the communal virus.

First Published: Jan 02, 2004 21:35 IST