05 November 2009

"To Understand Pakistan, 1947 is the wrong lens" by Khurram Hussain

Twelve years back I was in Jamnagar; as one tiny cog in a tiny wheel in the larger scheme of things that went on to create a truly gargantuan refinery.  I held an energizing cup of coffee and drew the drapes of my hotel window one nice morning.  And stumbled into a world I never experienced earlier.  Two young and agile men were tracking something I cannot see in the sky with a really large anti-aircraft gun.  The waiter explained that this was routine air defense against Pakistan’s jets in the sky.

I remembered the other time I was close to an international border as an exchange student in Michigan.  My hosts used to drive down (yes, not up) from Detroit to Windsor in Canada freely.  Cars used to race past the border tunnel without anyone stopping us.  In practice, there was no border!

Why cannot Pakistan and India accept the geography instead of remembering the history?  If co-existence is made inexpensive, the resources released can make a difference to thousands of families on either side of the border.

It appears seemingly rational to see India as a stable multicultural society with popular governments and rule of law; and see Pakistan as an unstable polity dominated by religious bigotry and an eagerness to destabilize India.  Quite convenient a view if you are an Indian.

Khurram Hussain’s article in the Outlook magazine brings a different viewpoint to understand Pakistan. 

India tries to see Pakistan from a 1947 perspective: A religious minority carving itself out into a political entity to escape domination in a “majority rules” democracy and preserving its “anti majority” psyche well past expiry date.  Pakistan remembers India from a 1971 perspective:  An unacceptable treatment of one province by the rest in Pakistan “used’ by India to dismember the country and redraw the map.

The asymmetry in Indian perspectives about East Bengal and Kashmir (one a “good” war to liberate the dominated and another an “intervention” in internal affairs) is rarely discussed in a fair and comparable manner by Indian intellect.

On the other hand Pakistan’s intellect has a different memory.  It does not necessarily accept challenges to popular governments; challenges to rule of law; challenges from religion; and even terrorism.  However, it tacitly accepts intervention in Kashmir seeing Kashmir as a mirror of East Bengal.

When your existence has been challenged, “running for life” seems more important than “running for lunch”.

India would have to appreciate the alternate viewpoint of 1971 war and understand Pakistan from that perspective.  India’s Pakistan policy would have to be shaped by addressing the “existential fears” unleashed by the 1971 strategies. 

In the recent past, Pakistan’s intellectuals have published several books (some of them covered in my blog) that are not afraid to challenge the traditionally held views in Pakistan with intellectual honesty and candor.  We need similar books in India to challenge our own traditionally held views with equal honesty in intellect and candor.

If praising Jinnah can be unacceptable in India (and sufficient to criticize one leader and ostracize another), we would not get smart enough to understand Pakistan and progress toward the normalcy that Khurram Hussain, the Yale University scholar thinks is invaluable for both the countries.

No comments: