Indifference and negativism
in India and Pakistan ties

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By Samuel Baid

More than about two decades ago, it was said India-Pakistan relations were marked by love-hate vicissitudes- mad hatred in one second and mad love in the next.  Old people may feel nostalgic about that earlier madness because over the years that madness has given way to indifference or negative interest in each other’s affairs.

(Former Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan wasted 44 months trying to get negative information about the governance in India so that he could boast to his people that he was a better ruler than his Indian counterpart. But how did it matter to the people of Pakistan who were suffering due to a messed-up economy. Their starvation and their government’s incompetent governance made them indifferent to things other than their own plight.

In India, people were fond of Imran Khan during his cricketing days but his frequent illogical anti-India harangues in his speeches as Prime Minister of Pakistan upset his Indian admirers. Therefore, when he was in trouble, the people in India developed a negative interest in Pakistan’s affairs.  Even when his government was removed Indians looked indifferent to the change of government in Pakistan. New Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif evokes only indifference in India.

For India and Pakistan to exist as two hostile indifferent neighbors with common border, history and culture, is something abnormal. Unfortunately, this abnormality has been made normal in India-Pakistan relations.

Pakistan’s existence vis-à-vis India is defined by this abnormality.  The rest of this abnormality is Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s two nation theory which was designed to create permanent enmity between Pakistan’s Muslims and Indians. The illogic of this theory was that it did not apply to the Hindus of Nepal, Buddhists of Japan, Christians of Europe and above all to anti-Muslim China.

This theory, besides destroying India-Pak peace prospects, has injected poison in sectarian and intra-sectarian relations in Pakistan.  Sunnis kill Shias and claim they have served God.  If you study Pakistan’s Urdu Press for a week you’ll get a feeling that the whole nation from Khyber to Karachi is at war with itself with domestic, cross border and global terrorists fully involved.  Pakistanis look at their terrorists with reverence. For example, a few years ago, former Pak Army Chief and President Gen Pervez Musharraf told the interviewer of an Indian TV channel “Hafiz Saeed may be a terrorist for you, but for us he is a mujahid.”  What Musharraf said was certainly the Pak Army’s reply to India’s repeated requests that Pakistan should control its terrorists who have been carrying out their activities in Kashmir and the rest of India.

Peace with India militates against Pakistan’s very existence.  Any civilian leader, who believes that without normal relations with India, Pakistan cannot achieve the objectives of its creation, is maligned as a traitor.  In 1972, when the then Prime Minister of Pakistan Zulfikar Ali Bhutto signed a peace accord (called Shimla Agreement) with his Indian counterpart Indira Gandhi, the Muslim League and the Jamaati-e-Islami questioned the relevance of this accord to the Pakistan movement of Jinnah.  They argued if Hindus and Muslims could live in peace where was the need of creating Pakistan?

Bhutto wrote three edit page articles in the government owned Pakistan Times arguing that Jinnah’s dreams of Pakistan as a welfare state could not be realized without peace with neighbors.

During Bhutto’s rule, private trade between India and Pakistan was flourishing and the interaction between the peoples of the two countries was increasing. As a result, peace between the two countries became automatic.  This was exactly what the Army and its Islamist agents didn’t want.  Bhutto was overthrown in July 1977 and hanged in April 1979. With effect from June 1978, Gen. Ziaul Haq, who had overthrown Bhutto, banned private trade and exchange of newspapers, journals and books.  There was no provocation for these bans except that normalization with India was against Pakistan’s ideology.

Therefore, those who hope that the new Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif, being a younger brother of Nawaz Sharif who as the Prime Minister of Pakistan thrice, derived peace with India, would want peace with India, may be disappointed.  He has to be careful about Army’s susceptibilities and Imran’s reactions.

(The writer is political and social analyst and contents of the article are his own views and now necessarily be agreed with the newspaper)