The Crescent and the Chakra: After 75 years, India, Pak Have Extra Barbed Wires than Mended Fences

Seventy-five years is a milestone, in actual fact, it’s a landmark, extra particularly a diamond jubilee, or higher but, a lifetime certainly. A lifetime encompasses an eclectic mixture of reminiscences and never all of them can be nice.
August 2022 marked the seventy fifth 12 months of independence for the world’s largest secular democracy of India and the creation of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.

The nations share a standard historical past of colonial rule, comparable cultures (particularly between the Punjabi and Sindhi communities within the north and a big Muslim inhabitants), a mutual affinity for cricket, cinema, and an analogous culinary palate within the north.

However additionally they share a turbulent historical past of violent partition, three brutal wars, a number of border skirmishes, geopolitical standoffs, nuclear arms squared off, commerce embargos, visa restrictions, kerfuffles on the United Nations and the Worldwide Court docket of Justice (ICJ).

The post-partition era has nearly handed on, and those that bear in mind it right this moment had been too younger to have influenced it. The diaspora in each the nations right this moment have been born right into a geopolitical imbroglio, many haven’t been acquainted with historical past sufficient to both know the origins or search the solutions to the origins of the animosity, however they comprehend it lingers and festers and the subcontinent is one unintended missile and one stray fighter jet away from navy escalation.

A number of peace initiatives like ‘Aman Ki Asha’, observe two diplomacy, backchannel talks, mediation, cricket for peace, goodwill excursions, and summits have come and gone, and their ephemerality has additionally meant their lack of ability to vary the bigger discourse.

It’s been a juxtaposition, the place cultural ties between its diaspora have been kindred, however geopolitical thorns and diplomatic diatribe have precluded the prospect for peace and made the idea of peace, virtually utopian.


Plenty of historical past is certainly esoteric. In some methods, it’s akin to fixing a thriller in a fiction novel, solely those that search it (info), shall discover what they’re in search of. To grasp the roots of the discontent, maybe, one must observe the Julie Andrews college of thought and that will be to “begin on the very starting, an excellent place to start out”.

Salman Rushdie, the British-India creator had a near-brush with demise not too long ago. He sadly is aware of the ache of a dagger stab. Certainly one of Rushdie’s seminal novels is Midnight’s Kids, which is a unfastened allegory for occasions in 1947 British Raj India and after the Partition of India. That Rushdie dagger stab was acquainted to many throughout these fateful days, main as much as the independence of two separate nations.

The Partition of India is an occasion that modified each historical past and geography. It was the biggest mass migration in human historical past, with information estimating that 15 million folks set throughout on foot, trains, and bullock carts, and two million of these, would by no means see a brand new homeland however meet their destiny en route.

It stays considered one of historical past’s many merciless injustices and merciless irony would rear its ugly head, {that a} British barrister in Sir Cyril Radcliffe, one who had by no means been East of Paris earlier than his go to to India, could be tasked with understanding a land he was not acquainted with and but determine its destiny and the destiny of hundreds of thousands without end.

Because the British barrister drew a line on a map, this lower bloodlines, as Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs, who had lived for generations collectively in communal concord, immediately turned to communalism as neighbours turned on neighbours; youngsters eschewed childhood innocence and revoked friendships, the zest for all times in one of many richest provinces of India, Punjab, grew to become a quest for all times, moderately because the tune goes, simply ‘stayin alive’.

We’re on the final era that remembers partition, in actual fact, we’re three many years too late, as a result of those who do, had been too younger to have influenced it and too younger to grasp the perils of fissiparousness. It’s a cardinal sin that whereas different atrocities such because the Holocaust and Apartheid have been higher documented for posterity, we solely now have a partition museum, to chronicle the negligence of the Raj, to recollect profound tales, doc the biggest mass migration in human historical past and perceive how historical past formed geography and the way geography will proceed to form geopolitics. However above all, simply merely bear in mind tales, folks, and the acquainted locations that they as soon as referred to as house, that in a single day grew to become harmful, and new locations they had been by no means acquainted with, would now change into their most secure shelters.


It’s from right here that the seeds of discontent had been sown, as Pakistan was born out of a bloody partition, beneath the backdrop of displacement, non secular rigidity, ethnic killings, and mistrust for the bigger neighbor. Wounds heal, however the scars of partition linger.

The primary downside stems from the truth that India and Pakistan don’t agree on historical past. Within the psyche of the Pakistani state, there may be an overt need to retell the story of partition as a necessity and contrive it as a boon for the subcontinent.

It’s tautological so as to add that after all, with out partition, Pakistan wouldn’t exist. However right here is the bigger conundrum. The Pakistani state has been unable to deracinate the method and brutality of a botched partition accomplished myopically versus the Twenty first-century territorial sovereignty of the modern-day state of Pakistan. Condemning the brutalities of partition doesn’t essentially impede or dilute a rustic’s sovereignty. Each states can settle for and acknowledge their 1947 territorial boundaries and but present contrition to the egregiousness of partition.

However herein lies the bigger enigma. When two events don’t agree on historical past (partition and its causes), they received’t agree on the current state that they discover themselves in and ergo there doesn’t exist an setting to discover a constructive resolution. Much more troubling, is the primary a part of fixing an issue lies in acknowledging that there’s a downside, to start with.

Pakistan continues to be one of many solely two modern-day nation-states carved within the identify of a faith, and it prides itself on being the one nation to have been carved out within the identify of Islam. It’s also a nuclear weapon state, and residential to (because the sobriquet goes) the ‘Islamic Bomb’; implying it’s the one Muslim nation to have nuclear weapons. It’s typically mentioned that whereas most states have a military, in Pakistan, it’s the military that has a state.

Pakistan stands for “land of the pure”, however its establishments, least of all, its political ones have been removed from that, extra typically projected as corrosive and corrupt by the navy institution, which is seen as the one purveyor of stability and integrity. For lengthy, the navy in Pakistan has protected each the nation’s ideological frontiers, together with its actual borders.

As Pakistan’s former ambassador to Washington, Husain Haqqani so precisely and articulately quotes in his e book, “after Partition, Pakistan acquired 19 per cent of British India’s inhabitants, 17 per cent of its financial assets, however 33 per cent of its military. His thesis was correct in saying, that the majority states increase a military to counter the menace, however in Pakistan’s case, they raised the specter of a a lot bigger and perceived hostile neighbour India, to justify the scale of the military.

Some would say that the Islamic State of Pakistan’s survival has been a miracle. A miracle that was each troubled by its historical past and exacerbated by its geography. Pakistanis would quip that the gap, financial disparities, and cultural variations between West and East Pakistan, had been united solely by Pakistan Worldwide Airways, because it flew over huge swathes of Indian territory.

Jinnah initially touted Pakistan as a secular state with Islam within the middle and in his earliest remarks made a clarion name saying: “You might be free to go to your temples, you’re free to go to your mosques or to some other place or worship on this State of Pakistan”.

And but mockingly, Jinnah, eschewed a few of that bonhomie by imposing Urdu on the

Bengalis of the East, which sowed the seeds of disenchantment with their extra Punjabi-dominated Western entrance. They discovered the Urdu imposition a brazen violation of their linguistic delight, and a domino impact unfolded of their lack of illustration in Parliament and the disregard for the 1970 electoral outcomes received by the Awami League, as sufficient to name for an independence motion.

Whether or not Jinnah wished an Islamic state or not, nevertheless, is now irrelevant. Islam is the state faith and is codified by the Structure, explicitly precluding non-Muslims from the very best workplaces within the land (President and Prime Minister).

The poem, ‘Pakistan Ka Matlab Kya’, which interprets to, what’s the which means of Pakistan, was written by a former schoolteacher from Sialkot named Asghar Sodai. It begs an enormous query.

Within the run-up to partition, some clerics felt that early publicity to Western training and British patronage had put India’s Hindu majority nicely forward of their Muslim brethren and this unfair benefit would exacerbate when it comes to jobs, particularly in authorities jobs, as soon as the British had been to go away.

Muslim Bengali elites in Dhaka and Bengal performed a seminal position and tipped the British determination to partition Bengal and subsequently started the method of making a separate homeland for the Muslims. And but the identical Bengalis opted out of Pakistan. 1971 was epochal because it modified the contours of South Asia, the second time in beneath three many years, the place South Asia underwent a fast geographic metamorphosis.

Bangladesh, though born out of a bloody battle, and one which was erstwhile East Pakistan has carved its personal success story in a shorter time than its former Western entrance.

Students corresponding to Pervez Hoodbhoy and C Raja Mohan write on Bangladesh’s success story and the way it overtook its western predecessor. Bangladesh, not like Pakistan, didn’t exist as a carceral safety state, one which acquired right into a safety paradox, pushed by one-upmanship, that later prioritized nuclearization within the aftermath of the 1971 battle, additional exacerbated by Indira Gandhi’s Operation Smiling Buddha in 1974. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, the civilian chief as soon as declared that it could be a 1,000-year battle with India, after which his successor, navy dictator Zia-ul-Haq overtly acknowledged that Pakistan would bleed India with a 1,000 cuts.

As an alternative, Dhaka targeted on the upliftment of its marginalized sections of society, prioritized human growth, and sure, it’s removed from a utopia as a crowded South Asian nation and has issues endemic to the area. Nonetheless, Bangladesh has been profitable in carving out establishments such because the Grameen Financial institution and residential to BRAC, organizations targeted on the upliftment and welfare of probably the most marginalised sections of society.

And Bangladesh has continued to stay as Islamic a nation as its East Pakistan avatar. Students notice that mosques in Bangladesh have extra “namazis” than Pakistan, in addition to madrassas. However Bangladesh, not like the political dispensation in Pakistan, didn’t give attention to a rivalry with India, despite the fact that, there stay a number of thorny points from the Teesta River dispute and Rohingya migration disaster.

The historian, author, and creator Ram Guha as soon as referred to as India probably the most attention-grabbing nation on the planet since he mentioned India abjured the European context of nationhood. The European context of nationhood, in response to Guha, was shaped on the premise of 1 faith, one language, and one enemy. India, he mentioned, doesn’t observe this precept, however Pakistan does, within the type of Islam, Urdu, and India because the enemy.

Hindsight is great, nevertheless it was at all times going to be a herculean job to forge a nation on the premise of a single non secular identification from a number of ethnic teams, every with its personal distinctive language, tradition, and habits. The acid check right here is knowing that when the Turks cease being Muslim, they’re nonetheless Turks, when the Iranians cease being Muslim, they’re very a lot Persians and the Emiratis are nonetheless Arabs once they’re not Muslims, however what would that make most Sunni Muslim Pakistanis if Islam had been taken away? India lite? Absolutely, the necessity and identification to discern themselves made Pakistan a hardened Islamic state.

The 1971 battle and subsequent creation of Bangladesh and a secular India, which for the longest time had extra Muslims than the state created for British India’s Muslims is maybe proof that the two-nation concept died a very long time in the past. But, after all, there may be some proof to insinuate that India’s secular credentials stay tarnished, and maybe, there is a component of fact and but schadenfreude in Pakistan, that this was the rationale for a separate homeland.


India-Pakistan diplomacy continues to stay a basic case of two steps ahead and three steps again.

This isn’t only a nebulous argument, to elucidate this level, since 1999 alone, the late Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in his overtures of peace, took the bus to Lahore, signed the Lahore Declaration on the Minar-e-Pakistan, the very image of Pakistan’s founding, thereby assuaging hardliners in Pakistan that India had certainly accepted the state after partition. Because the ink barely dried on the Lahore Declaration, the then Military Chief Pervez Musharraf was plotting the Kargil battle, a harmful skirmish between the now two-nuclear armed states.

Regardless of the incursions of Kargil heights, a navy battle, and a democratically elected authorities deposed by the identical perpetrator, Prime Minister Vajpayee tried to reset ties with Pakistan by inviting Basic Musharraf, now President to India for the historic Agra Summit.

But, shortly after that, the tense border standoff in 2001–2002 dubbed Operation Parakram was in response to a terrorist assault on the Indian Parliament in December 2001 by Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad teams, each of
which have obtained patronage from sure sections of the Pakistan state.

Essentially the most propitious interval in India-Pakistan relations was to observe from 2004-2007, which then imploded with the Mumbai Terror Assaults of 2008. Since then, ties have hit a nadir and regardless of, premonitions in Pakistan of what a Narendra Modi authorities meant, in 2014, Modi did invite Nawaz Sharif, his counterpart to the swearing-in ceremony. In 2015, an impromptu drop-off in Lahore, by Prime Minister Modi whereas coming back from Kabul, displayed political bonhomie over political brouhaha.

Shortly thereafter, the assaults on the Pathankot airbase, the Uri assaults, adopted by a surgical strike on Pakistan’s facet of Kashmir, the Balakot airstrikes, the following dogfight, Pakistan capturing an Indian Prisoner of Battle, in Abhinandan Varthaman, and India’s revocation of Article 370 have seen ties at its lowest ebb in a non-wartime situation.

One of the best ways to explain India-Pakistan ties could be apropos of former U.S. Ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul’s e book, which is titled ‘From Chilly Battle to Sizzling Peace’. A Chilly Battle is much too cliched and accomplished, however the incidents above evince, that India-Pakistan ties exist in a continuing “no-war however no peace” situation. The “sizzling peace” is epitomized as peace on tenterhooks, after incidents of diplomatic awry. Essentially the most propitious durations of the Lahore Declaration, the Agra Summit, the 2004-07 interval, and new civilian management in 2014, invariably had been all derailed and redundant.

There’s a coterie in Pakistan that sees India as too hardline for peace, assuming {that a} post-BJP dispensation will see auspicious instances once more. That’s naïve and traditionally inaccurate, forgetting that three out of the 4 wars, had been fought when there was a Congress authorities was on the helm.

Assuming a change of civilian management would bear new fruit could be as naïve to imagine a brand new paint job is a panacea to a home constructed on an earthquake faultline.

There have been many permutation-combinations of Indo-Pak management and each with its personal augurs of peace. As Ambassador Haqqani notes, when it was Rajiv Gandhi and Benazir Bhutto, the idea was these two had been younger, not traumatized by the horrors of partition, and would resolve what their dad and mom couldn’t. When it was Vajpayee and Nawaz, the soothsayers acknowledged, that two-right of middle politicians is what political will was wanted. When their successors in President Musharraf and Prime Minister Singh met, the idea was, they had been exterior the political institution and born in one another’s nations, pre-partition, and therefore they’d have the lacking resolve. And eventually, assuming that Prime Minister Modi and Prime Minister Imran Khan, two charismatic populists with mass
attraction may result in peace. The premonitions and merchandise are as broad because the Pacific Ocean.

Many see Pakistan’s geopolitical and navy raison d’etre being Kashmir – which many in Pakistan see because the unfinished chapter of partition and one which it was wronged to not have been given throughout the Radcliffe demarcation. Neither facet accepts the opposite’s model of Kashmir, with every claiming both full integrity of the state or alleging dispute.

Islamabad’s frustration with New Delhi has been India’s repeated stance that Kashmir is a bilateral concern with Pakistan and to Pakistan, New Delhi echoes that Kashmir is an inner matter with no purview for Pakistan.

Ties between the nuclear-armed rivals have hit worrisome lows on many an event, however since India’s revocation of Article 370, it was the primary time that Islamabad threw the gauntlet and reacted to one thing New Delhi did, whereas historic proof cites that it has been New Delhi’s umbrage with Islamabad on cross-border terrorism and utilizing proxies as instruments of statecraft to wrest away management of Kashmir.

Sarcastically, for me, the true panacea is available in what Pakistan’s former International Minister Khurshid Kasuri mentioned in his e book, ‘Neither A Hawk Nor Dove’, when he mentioned “our a part of Kashmir, we have now and you’ll’t get it and your a part of Kashmir, you will have and we are able to’t get it”.

That is sensible and correct. For all of the claims and historic injustice, neither facet can wrest management with out navy battle and credibly, the Italian idea of “irredentism”, whereby a rustic can restore any territory previously belonging to it, is a fable in calculated geopolitics of hubris and polarization. Neither facet will hand over an inch, even Musharraf’s lofty four-point formulation on Kashmir, mentioned there could be no change in borders.

On my podcast, The World Element, famous journalist, Wajahat Khan at Nikkei instructed me on comparability between the 2 at 75 years, “India has accomplished a exceptional job, regardless of its hiccups beneath the present political dispensation. India has change into the world’s fifth largest financial system, India surpassed the U.Okay. to change into a 3-trillion-dollar financial system, it took 75 years to beat its colonial grasp, it has change into the fifth largest financial system – ironic, lovely, and elegant should you’re Indian.”

He goes on so as to add “whereas, for Pakistan, experiments with martial legislation, proxy battle, civil battle, self-flagellation, self-destruction hasn’t paid off. Pakistanis are among the smartest and but most underutilized on the planet. The financial system is in tatters and whereas they’re commemorating their seventy fifth 12 months of independence, they’re negotiating the twenty third bailout with the IMF, one of the bailed-out nations on the planet. Not a lot of a statistic for a rustic that was purported to be the delight of Asia that was given recommendation to South Korea and Emiratis within the Nineteen Sixties.”

The famous South Asia scholar author, Stephen Cohen, argued that the rivalry between India and Pakistan has confirmed to be one of many world’s most intractable worldwide conflicts since 1947 and can proceed for 100 years.

Sadly, at 75 years already gone, it’s arduous to show in any other case.

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