How can we improve relations between India and Pakistan?
Comment: 70 years of hatred between Pakistan and India
It was a violent breakup. About a million people died as a result, and millions more were uprooted and displaced. The Indian subcontinent, once home to people of different faiths, has been divided and mutilated. A new state emerged in its north, based on religion, foreignness and mistrust. This state is called Pakistan.
The labor pains, the chaos, the physical and emotional suffering have never left the former British colony. When India and Pakistan now celebrate the 70th anniversary of their independence from British colonial rule, they are doing so in a spirit of division and separation. This is as strong as in that midnight hour from August 14th to 15th, 1947.
The foundations for future Indian-Pakistani relations were laid in the first few months after the separation. The two states embroiled in a territorial conflict over the Kashmir region. Pakistan's founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah dispatched a number of tribal fighters to liberate Kashmir from the rule of a Hindu maharajah. India responded by sending its troops into the region and occupying much of the country. Pakistan, on the other hand, took control of the rest of Kashmir.
Both countries have fought three times over Kashmir, and the conflict remains the greatest obstacle to friendly relations between the two countries. When Pakistan also relied on Islamic separatists in this war, the dispute, which was once fought on a secular and ethnic basis, turned into a battle along sectarian lines.
Culture of distrust
DW writer Shamil Shams
As early as 1948, the two states tried to outdo each other in their influence on Afghanistan - a region that British rulers were never able to subjugate. Pakistan feared a pro-Indian government in Afghanistan posed a threat to its very existence.
In addition, many Pashtuns were unhappy with the rule of Pakistan's founding father Muhammad Ali Jinnah and sought unification with Afghanistan, where the Pashtuns were also in the majority. That was the beginning of the never-ending conflict in Afghanistan, which culminated in the 1979 Russian invasion. As India approached the Russians, Pakistan offered full assistance to the United States. It also plunged the region into a deadly civil war that continues to this day.
The foreign policy decisions of Pakistan and India also influenced their domestic policy. Mutual distrust has carved its way into their official propaganda, their history books, their security apparatus, and more into their psyche.
A second division
When Bengalis in what was then eastern Pakistan (now Bangladesh) demanded their rights and autonomy, the first reaction of the authorities in what was then western Pakistan was to discredit them as "Indian agents". It is ironic that the All-India Muslim League, which called for a country of its own for Indian Muslims, would be founded by Bengal.
But Jinnah's idea of gaining greater political and other rights for the minorities in India was betrayed by his successors. Pakistani rulers refused to accept the Bengalis' demands. Instead, they relied on violence - a circumstance that led to the establishment of the independence movement in East Pakistan and the establishment of Bangladesh in 1971.
It was the second division in a span of 24 years - like the first, it claimed the lives of millions of Bengalis. Thousands of Bengali women were raped, intellectuals tortured and houses burned. Islamabad never apologized for the 1971 massacre. Instead, it officially "justified" the conflict by claiming that India wanted to disintegrate Pakistan.
Most of the problems that India and Pakistan have with each other today stem from their separation in 1947. Any scientific study inspired by post-colonial theory would point to similar situations in other parts of the world for comparison - such as the Middle East, Latin America or Africa .
In India there is still debate about the division and its implications. In Pakistan, on the other hand, there is an iron silence - even though the discussion about the partition would be an essential and urgently necessary step in addressing the specific characteristics of political and economic governance in Pakistan.
The takeover of Pakistan by the social elites and the large landowners supported by the British in 1947 has persisted to this day. They controlled the resources of the newly independent country and took over political power. The persecution of religious minorities, which is based on the so-called "two-nation theory", the ideological basis of Pakistan, also persisted.
Archeology of extremism
The partition of India also helps to understand the genesis of Islamist extremism sweeping Pakistan. It also helps to explain why the government is abusing Islam as a foreign and security policy instrument. Today, as Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is betting on the revival of the "Hindutva", an apparently superior Hindu ideology, it is all the more important to look to the events of 1947.
India and Pakistan celebrate the 70th anniversary of partition with nationalist passion. But for the people of both nations there is nothing to celebrate. Both states are in possession of nuclear weapons and have state-of-the-art military defense systems. At the same time, most Indians and Pakistanis do not have access to basic utilities. Completely unaffected by this, both states continued their war cries and fed their subjects with a falsified history of the Indian division. They are stories of false fame and hollow gestures of supposed superiority.
August 14, 2017 is not the 70th anniversary of Pakistan's independence, but rather the 70th anniversary of mutual hostility. The separation cannot be reversed. But the walls of hatred can be overcome. Tear them down!
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