It was exactly 70 years ago when the united India was halved into two parts, thus giving birth to another country called Pakistan. That was further divided leading to creation of Bangladesh. As both countries – India and Pakistan celebrate 70 years of their freedom both are far from having evolved as "good" neighbours. Four wars and recurrent phases of hostility have kept them away from each other. Kashmir has remained the bone of contention but there are other issues as well that have made them bitter neighbours. Both countries have the opportunity to look back at the bleak past and look forward to a brighter future for their generations. Peace is a key to economic growth and forward movement. In order to know where India and Pakistan stand @ 70, Rising Kashmir spoke to leading experts in their respective fields. Here is the package full of wisdom and lessons for the future.
By Chandan Mitra for Rising Kashmir
Two huge challenges faced India in the aftermath of independence 70 years ago. The first was the humungous human tragedy of the partition, some of whose ramifications are felt even now. The second was the unification of nearly 600 princely states that were never fully integrated into the British Indian political system. While leaving India – the jewel in the Crown of their Empire – the colonial rulers had sowed the seeds of unrest and disruption. It gave the Indian princes the option of acceding with either India or Pakistan and also a third choice, remaining independent. Governments of both the countries did not permit independence and through a mix of persuasion and coercion, integrated all princely states within their geographical domain. This integration is considered one of the biggest achievements of the then Indian Home Minister, Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel. But one unresolved issue remained – that of the erstwhile princely state of Jammu and Kashmir. India and Pakistan went to war almost immediately after their independence over the State’s accession to India. Even after 70 years, the question of its integration with India remains a matter of debate.
But over the last seven decades, India achieved spectacular success in almost all other spheres. It is today a thriving and vibrant democracy, a fully functioning federal union of states, a rising economic and military power, a major achiever in the field of science and technology, particularly Information Technology. India is viewed with respect and even in awe in the West because of its talent pool of skilled engineers, doctors, management gurus and computer scientists. It has made rapid strides in space technology, sending two missions to the moon and poised to send another to the Mars.
Admittedly, its record in human development has not kept up with the dizzying pace of its progress in science and technology. This remains a dark spot on its otherwise proud record.
Although successful in integrating states with diverse languages, cultures and social norms, India has repeatedly faced political unrest over demands for greater autonomy, particularly in the North-East and in Punjab in the 1980s. However these violent disturbances have been handled deftly by India’s political class which employed a judicious mix of firmness and flexibility in accommodating many of the separatists’ demands.
On the whole, therefore, India’s journey of 70 years has been a remarkably successful one. Even militarily it has fought several wars, and barring one with China in 1962 in which it was humiliated, India has trounced Pakistan decisively by dismembering erstwhile East Pakistan from Islamabad’s rule to create an independent Bangladesh. The Indian Army enjoys an enviable reputation of skill and discipline. It has never intervened in the political process, unlike Pakistan, enabling democracy and diversity to flourish.
Unfortunately, the Jammu and Kashmir issue continues to be a festering sore in India’s body politic and insurgency has continued there since 1989 and shows no signs of abating fully. Arguably, the sponsorship of terrorism by Pakistan is a major factor for continued unrest in the Valley, but local factors cannot be ignored. Many Kashmiris continue to feel alienated from the rest of India. Despite the state having a special status by virtue of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution, many in the Valley believe they do not have adequate political autonomy.
If we prepare a balance sheet of India’s performance over the last 70 years, Kashmir must be regarded as a failure of the Indian state. Although periodic attempts are on to accelerate the process of integration, separatist tendencies still persist in the Valley. Former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee made a determined bid to reach out to all people in J&K by offering to the entire way permitted by “Insaniyat” of humanism, but the defeat of his government in the 2004 general election was a setback to the reconciliation efforts. Kashmiri people have participated in the State and national elections in large numbers from time to time, but they seem to have voted with their heads, not their heart.
All said and done, as India steps into the 71st year of its independent existence, resolving the issue of Kashmir’s integration must be uppermost in the minds of those who want Indian democracy and civilisational virtues to triumph fully and finally.
(Chandan Mitra is the Editor, The Pioneer and has been two-term Rajya Sabha MP of BJP)
Resilient, Robust and Rejuvenating
By Mushahid Hussain for Rising Kashmir
Seventy years after emerging through a democratic struggle for self-determination through the ballot box, Pakistan, probably the Muslim World's freest democracy, is learning from three abiding reminders of the relevance of history.
First, the prescient words of the founder of Pakistan and the greatest Muslim leader of the 20th Century, Quaid-e-Azam Muhammed Ali Jinnah. In his first interview with an American journalist, after the independence of Pakistan, he told Margaret Bourke-White of LIFE magazine (published as a cover story in January 1948), 'Pakistan is the pivot of the world, placed on the frontier on which the future position of the world revolves.’
These words ring true today, 70 years later, as Pakistan through the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), is today the pivotal player, the bridge between South and Central Asia, promoting a new regionalism driven by economy and energy, ports and pipelines, roads and railways, eventually encompassing 3 billion people, over 40 percent of the world's population.
Second, the Kashmir cause, to which Pakistan has an abiding and enduring commitment, like 70 years earlier, refuses to 'go away' and is central to lasting peace, security and stability in the South Asian subcontinent, notwithstanding efforts of India to the contrary. The popular, spontaneous, indigenous and widespread uprising of the Kashmiri people shows renewed resistance and rejection of the repression of India’s military occupation.
Third, 70 years after independence, the Two Nation Theory that guided the quest for freedom for the Muslims of India, has been vindicated by Modi's India and its unmistakable Hindutva stamp on India's erstwhile 'secular' polity, reinforced with the Hinduisation of the Indian state and society and state-sanctioned pogroms against minorities.
The most-telling comment on this state of affairs that Pakistanis find relevant 70 years after independence is by two close relatives of India's founding fathers.
Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru's niece, Nayantara Sehgal, wrote in The Guardian of August 5, 2017: ‘The menace of partition is again upon Indians, this time through the intention to impose Hindu nationhood. To foist a Hindu identity is senseless beyond belief. Lynch mobs kill Muslims, reminiscent of the lynching of blacks in America's Deep South. On this anniversary of the partition of India, another partition stares us in the face.’
Writing in The Economic Times on September 19, 2016, Rajmohan Gandhi, the grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, said: “A de facto plebiscite already seems to have taken place there. Kashmiris appear to have voted with untiring throats, with eyes destroyed or deformed by pellets, and with bodies willing to fall to the ground for what the heart desires. And the vote seems to be for azadi.”
During a Pakistan-India Media Dialogue in Washington on July 24, 2017 hosted by the Atlantic Council think tank (with former Information Minister of India Manish Tiwari) and an earlier one hosted by the Harvard India Conference in February 2017 in Boston (where Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, Omar Abdullah and Air Marshal Kapil Kak also spoke), I made it clear that without a Kashmir settlement based on implementing United Nations resolutions, talking of peace and normalisation in South Asia is like staging 'Hamlet without the Prince of Denmark!' It won't work and it won't be enduring. India cannot be exempt from the March of history, just as the past superpowers like the US and USSR weren't!
Pakistan and India also need to have a strategic stake in each other's future through economic cooperation, and I invited India to rejoin the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project (which India backed out under American pressure in 2006, but Pakistan rejected US pressure) as well as the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, with Kashmir as its key component given the geographical location, which would help in providing a conducive environment for peace in South Asia.
Why, after all, if India can be part of the US-supported Turkmenistan Afghanistan Pakistan India (TAPI) pipeline, can't it be part of IPI and CPEC?
The main problem in South Asia is that 70 years later, India doesn't realise that size doesn't necessarily equal strength (examples: Cuba-US and Afghanistan-USSR), and unless India discards its hegemonic aspirations (witness blockade of Nepal, incursion into Myanmar, failed attempts to isolate Pakistan and the current standoff with China over Bhutan), one fifth of humanity, residing in South Asia, will remain mired in conflict, contention and confrontation.
India at 70 is a major disappointment, the self-proclaimed world's 'largest democracy' being transformed into an intolerant, exclusivist, state driven by bigotry and religious extremism, a total negation of Gandhian principles and Nehruvian ideals.
In the realm of foreign policy too, India is going against the tide of history, particularly the resurgence of Asia in the 21st century, the 'Asian Century'. While regional pattern is being driven by corridors, cooperation and connectivity, India has been promoting conflict and confrontation.
The way forward is what the Quaid-e-Azam enunciated 70 years ago that the model for Pakistan-India relations is the 'relationship between Canada and the United States, two neighbours living in peace' based on sovereign equality, reciprocity and non-interference in each other's internal affairs.
(Mushahid Hussain Syed is the Chairman of Pakistan Senate’s Committee on Defence and former Information Minister)
India Strong, Pakistan Strong Militarily
I was born in 1937 and was around 10 years in 1947. I remember when there was the upheaval. I remember when the Kabalis came and they were outside Srinagar. I remember seeing those spitfires coming and landing at Shalteng. I saw Indian troops landing at Damdar Wudur. I hid behind my father when I saw those six-foot Sikhs with copper rings on their turbans. I asked my father who they were. I went to my father to the airport. I had never seen an aircraft before that. I went with him when troops were coming and somebody had to go back in that aircraft. My father went to the airport to see them off and I saw these troops coming.
Kashmir was absolutely calm in 1947. Kashmiris had not known what a rifle was till then. They were poor, half-starved. They had nothing, hardly any education, hardly any health. The population was very small.
Pakistan unfortunately, because of the Taliban, the effect of Americans financing the Taliban at that time to fight the Russians, created a force, which became part of the Pakistan Army. The gun came in a very big way. That has now become a tragedy for them because those very guns are being used against the Pakistani administration. They are fighting on two sides. They are fighting these Taliban and the Afghans on the one side and they are fighting India on the other side. They are in a terrible tragedy. Their existence itself today is a question mark.
India has progressed and is strong. It is a much larger country. They have been able to contain Pakistan internationally and in declaring them as terrorists. Today, nobody wants to listen to Pakistan. When they represent and talk about Kashmir to the world, nobody wants to listen to them. India has been able to build that pressure on the world that this is the country that is producing terrorists, that today we are at the fighting end and tomorrow it is your country that would be involved.
India has achieved a lot in the past 70 years. The progress has been phenomenal in almost all sectors. Pakistan I don’t know much what their progress is because I have not been to Pakistan since 1974. Militarily, Pakistan is quite strong. They have a very strong military. They are actually the masters of Pakistan. The government itself is at the mercy of the Pakistani Army.
(Farooq Abdullah is the Member of Parliament, opposition National Conference President and three-time J&K CM)
As told to Shujaat Bukhari and Faisul Yaseen
Well wishes for India, Pak; wish well for us
Mirwaiz Umar Farooq
It is an irony that while 70 years have gone by and people of both India and Pakistan have their separate countries and identities, the legacy of partition continues. Due to the failure of the two countries in resolving Kashmir issue, Kashmiris have continued to suffer.
The past 70 years have been difficult for Kashmiris. Although people in both India and Pakistan also face difficulties, they at least have the freedom and identities of their nations while we continue to feel the pain due to the failure of the two countries in resolving the issue.
At the same time, the United Nations and other world bodies have also contributed toward the sufferings of Kashmiris by failing to come to their rescue despite promises.
Although against the hegemonic approach of India, Kashmiris wish well for the people of both India and Pakistan. They have always wanted peace and Indo-Pak bonhomie but their own fate has been lingering for the past seven decades.
Kashmir continues to be a tinderbox in the region, a region whose abundant resources could make the two countries richer than United States as well as Europe but whose potential, including Bangladesh and the rest of South Asia does not get fulfilled due to the race for nuclear stockpiling and nuclear buildup between India and Pakistan.
Organisations like SAARC have not fulfilled their promise as the main players have failed to address their core issues. Instead of capacity building and building future, India and Pakistan have got wrangled in a web of confrontations as Kashmir continues to be in the thick of its action.
China as a player has added a new dimension to the conflict and Chinese dimension could become a major game changer in the future.
We wish people of the entire region well but at the same time, people of India and Pakistan also have a role to play toward peace building. Unfortunately, the media, particularly the electronic media in India is playing a negative role and doing disservice to the people of the region who they could have brought closer.
We hope these things change and the pain and sufferings of Kashmiris end. Hope the Indian leadership realizes wars, military might and iron fist cannot resolve issues. The biggest challenge is for the leadership of both the countries. Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi in particular could have taken initiatives to move forward on Kashmir and on India’s relations with Pakistan but New Delhi is approaching Kashmir issue militarily. Avenues can open once Government of India (GoI) realizes that it has to give up its stubbornness on Kashmir. It has to feel for the young boys who are joining militancy while their lives are getting consumed due to its intransient approach of pushing youth to the wall. India has to shun its military approach on Kashmir and realize the truth that the sentiment in Kashmir is at the very soul of the people. GoI needs to engage with the sentiment but forget the engagement, it is not even ready to accept the reality that there is this sentiment and blames Pakistan and separatists for its own misdoings.
(Mirwaiz Umar Farooq is the Chairman of APHC M and Awami Action Committee)
As told to Faisul Yaseen