The question keeps reverberating time and again whether India and Pakistan can ever be friends. Whether the two nations, who would celebrate 72nd year of their independence, can ally with each other and turn the relation into something fruitful. For too long has the relation between the two-midnight children been internecine which has proved a great hindrance for the growth process on the both side of the border.
If we go back in history, particularly unfateful for Pakistan was the death of her founder Muhammad Jinnah, whom they call Quaid-e-Azam –the great leader. Symbolically he was perhaps one of the tallest leaders in the nationalist struggle for freedom of India. Most historians have the consensus that he was a secular leader whose ego cost India her incision. After the foundation of Pakistan, he had vowed to build a nation for all the communities, where everyone would be equal before the law. And he had wished for the relation between India and Pakistan akin to that of the United States and Canada divided by the border, united by the culture, and linked by strong economic ties and human relations. In fact, when India’s first High Commissioner to Pakistan, Sri Prakasa asked Jinnah what do of his Bombay house in Malabar Hills, he replied: 'Sri Prakasa, don’t break my heart. Tell Jawaharlal not to break my heart. I have built it brick by brick. Who can live in a house like that? … You do not know how I love Bombay. I still look forward to going back there.”Nehru Agreed. It is clear that if Jinnah survived, Pakistan would have been in much better shape than it is now and her relation with India would have been much more amicable. But the fate had other plans.
Since its inception India and Pakistan have seen four major wars (none initiated by India) and many standoffs. Pakistani based terrorists carried out many terror activities in India and the infamous 2008 Mumbai attacks, and many militants regularly infiltrate India. Pakistan accuses India of exporting terrorism via Afghanistan and of supporting Tahreek Taliban Pakistan and other insurgent groups in Baluchistan. Where Pakistan regularly becomes the election rhetoric in India, a fear is created by Military establishments in Pakistan to influence foreign policies and to be allocated lion’s share of country’s GDP. In India, a significant part of its population is bullied in the name of Pakistan and denied their rights. In Pakistan, its population is starved of basic needs because of meagre GDP percentage that it has for non-security issues. Governments of both the countries hide their failure in each other’s name. Thus the fight between two neighbours doesn’t limit to borders but also affects the internal matters.
When it comes to the common people, they are misled by the propaganda that the governments create. Despite, that there is a deep connection, perhaps the nostalgic one. Hindustani music and language is admired and shared by both. Indian films are watched and loved all over Pakistan and the music from Pakistan is preferred to that of its own music in India. Both the nations are obsessed over cricket and compete on who produces better mango. There are more as the shared palate and shared ambitions than anything antagonistic.
Whether we Indians agree or not, despite all the terrorist activities, Pakistan has acted as a buffer zone from instability for us. During the whole cold war era, when Pakistan acquiesced to America’s imperialist vision, it paid heavily with its own loss and in the process largely containing the trouble in its borders. More insecure Pakistan is, more threatened we are. It is thus not a coincidence that with the start of democratization of Pakistan, the subcontinent has gradually moved towards peace.
As far as the economy in the two countries is concerned, it is in both countries’ interest to improve bilateral relation. We share a large part of the land border. India has unfortunately been unable to draw much of foreign investment. The United States has not only vowed to discontinue its aid to Pakistan, it has also levied additional import duties of USD 241 mn on steel and aluminium from India. Although, China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is going to bring investments to Pakistan, in a longer run it will suck out the country financially on a longer run. As much of the need in both our countries is the same, it will be beneficial to promote business between the two of us. Only if the two nations come together, can we really fulfil our dream of modelling SAARC as the European Union where everyone prospers?
It will perhaps take years for the two countries to be friends, but smaller steps can be taken in this direction. We should promote the export and import of art and artists. Visa process should be made easy since the terrorists don’t apply for it anyway. As Pakistan is going through its second democratic handover, although with the military intervention, our best bait would be supporting the further democratization of Pakistan. India can teach a lot to its neighbour of its experience with the process of democratization. A strong civilian government would mean the limited military interventions. We can and we must fight together to exterminate the menace of terrorism. We have more reasons to be friends than to fight. It is indeed a gradual process but not an impossible one.