All this talk of friendship with India is getting to me. I would like to ask all the Pakistani ‘friends’ of India to tell me one ‘good’ thing that India has ever done for Pakistan, just one. And no, export of Bollywood ‘item numbers’ to Pakistan does not count. As a child, I was brought up on the stories of murder, mayhem and massacre perpetrated on migrating Muslims travelling to Pakistan from India at the time of partition. I know, I know, bad things happened in the other direction also but then there was India refusing to pay Pakistan’s share of money, leading Gandhi to a ‘fast unto death’ and eventually to his assassination. The Indian annexation of Kashmir, Hyderabad, Deccan, and Junagadh did not help either.
During the later 1950s, India and Pakistan seemed to be crawling towards some form of accommodation, eventually leading to the Indus Water Treaty in 1960 but all this came to a screeching halt after the 1965 war between India and Pakistan. Since then, things just kept getting worse. Indian help in breaking up Pakistan in 1971 and the subsequent attempt at conquering ‘Azad Kashmir’, which was only stopped because US President Nixon supposedly called up Brezhnev, the USSR president, and told him to tell Indira Gandhi that would not be acceptable, did not help.
Since then there have been some half-hearted attempts to make things better between the two countries but nothing has ever come out of it. Perhaps the best initiative was the ‘Gujral Doctrine’, offered by I K Gujral as the prime minister of India during the late 1990s. This doctrine suggested that India, as the larger power, had the responsibility of trying to make peace with its neighbours. This came to naught after Gujral left the scene. The low point arrived when India and Pakistan went through the ‘tit for tat’ atomic tests and then fought an entirely stupid war over Kargil.
During the last decade, things took a turn for the worse every time an attempt was made by the two sides to arrive at some sort of rapprochement. I remember a time about a decade ago when things got so peculiar that almost every week, there was some terrorist attack somewhere in Pakistan that the Pakistani government blamed on the Indians, and the same happened in India. As a matter of fact, somebody at that time suggested that the ‘agencies’ on either side had probably made a deal with each other. They would just set off a few crackers every now and then in their own countries and blame it on the other side. This would of course save both sides the trouble of having to infiltrate agents across the border to do the needful.
The long and the short of it is that I do not like India, I do not trust the Indians in India and I have a strong suspicion that they entirely reciprocate these feelings. I have nothing against the Indians as people. During my years in the US many of my good friends, colleagues and neighbours were from India. And I got along just fine with them. Some actually became lifelong friends, especially the ones from the Indian Punjab.
For instance, one of my co-residents during my surgical training was a Sikh who attended the same medical college in Amritsar that my parents attended in the 1940s, and his father had graduated from my alma mater, King Edward Medical College, around the same time. My wife also became quite friendly with one of our ‘Punjabi’ neighbours from India whose mother had attended Kinnaird College in Lahore where my wife was a student in the 1960s. As a matter of fact, at the parties given by this couple, I had the pleasure of consuming some of the best ‘North Indian’ food. During my next visit to the US, I look forward to a dinner at their place.
It was also great fun to watch new medical residents ‘just off the boat’ from India assimilate into the US melting pot. The most interesting ‘cultural confrontation’ was always with the food available in the hospital cafeterias and in local restaurants. This is about a time, almost 40 years ago, when Indian or Pakistani restaurants and grocery stores were hard to come by. From personal experience, I would divide my friends from India into two categories: those that within five years learned to enjoy a medium rare steak with all the trimmings and those that stuck to carrying ‘peanuts and green chillies’ in their pockets during working hours, and essentially lived off them.
Perhaps there existed an ephemeral connection between those of us that had our roots in the same part of India. One of the most interesting conversations I have ever had was about a decade ago with a young Sikh surgical resident. He kept talking of ‘Lyallpur’ (modern day Faisalabad), a city he obviously had never seen but where his family was originally from. The sense of loss was utterly palpable in what the young man had to say.
The relationship between India and Pakistan as it has evolved over the last six decades is that of a ‘schoolyard bully’ and the pesky ‘runt’ that refuses to accept the bully as his superior even after being beaten up with considerable regularity. And now that the runt has achieved ‘nuclear parity’, the runt expects some respect, which the bully finds hard to dish out. Considering the ‘bomb’ situation, the bully cannot just beat up the runt at will and is now reduced to temper tantrums.
I do not believe that ‘friendship’ between our two countries is around the corner. The best we can hope for is to get over the bully and the runt relationship. Grow up as countries and pursue relations based on mutual interests. Peace is what is needed. And a ‘sane’ visa regime between the two countries would be an important beginning.
In this follow-up article to ‘Mahatma Gandhi on Palestine’ (Daily Times, July 22, ...