“If only I had met, on this search, a single clearly evil person.” –Timothy Garton Ash, The File
A Note to Indian Readers: Some Indian readers reacted to my Oct. 2, 2013 column, “Islamabad’s Myopic View of New Delhi” (The Nation) with outrage to the extent of outright abuse. That was obviously sad. My view is: let us be less
impassioned. It is the 21st century and the age of sentimentality is over. All of us need to respond to the political challenges of our times with due logic and rationality or we will never rise to the level of civility expected of modern humanity.
Human beings are not evil, vindictive, vengeful, resentful or vicious by nature. It is cognitive development, peculiar societal norms, nation-state symbolism, religious intolerance, and political hypocrisy that has driven most of humanity into groups opposing each other, turning them into enemies. Nonetheless, we are all children of God – diverse, distinctive, characteristic, unequal and unmatched, and yet we all bleed the same way. As human beings, we have the potential to respect and value each other as we wish to be respected and valued ourselves. We all can coexist in spite of our cultural diversity, religious and faith differences, and national sentiments. But for that to happen, we need to construct a new sense and awareness of a consciousness with shared human values rather than hatred and hostility towards each other.
Let us attempt to construct a paradigm of mutual coexistence between India and Pakistan based on historical realities rather than political slogans, rhetorical nationalistic sentiments and religious symbolism all viewed and presented to the general public in manipulated form.
First: Let us all admit that Hindu culture and religion is centuries old. Its philosophical, spiritual, artistic and scientific contributions have had enlightened impacts on Indus-Ganga civilization. Hindu civilization is pre-Islamic. It has survived for centuries and it will continue to survive, no matter how much the die-hard anti-Hindu fundamentalists desire its demise.
But let us acknowledge, with the same spirit of openness and tolerance, that the Islamic civilization is the culmination of all religious philosophical thoughts and its 1400 years of history has had a paramount global impact on human civilization. Islamic civilization’s philosophical, spiritual, artistic and scientific, architectural, mathematical, astronomical and medical contributions have had a revolutionary effect on humanity’s spiritual and material advancements in the recent past history. Islamic political thought and governance ideology added a new chapter in the concepts of justice, equality and welfare state in modern political thought and ideological parameters.
It is not an accident of history that the Islamic civilization was able to spread all over the globe in a relatively short time. The fact is that it offered salvation to oppressed humanity in many parts of the world – until the “Crusades” in general and “colonialism” in particular put an end to the spiritual worlds of Hindu-Muslim India. Hence, the emergence of Pakistan was a natural consequence of a colonial era and the resultant effects of a socio-psychological-political wedge that was natural to two different communities essentially diverse in their philosophical view on life and values. Fundamentalist Hindus must come to grips with the fact that Pakistan is a historical reality and it is here to exist forever – no matter how much they lament the loss of “Akund Bharat.”
Second: Hinduism ideologically does not preach or believe in a classless, modern egalitarian concept. Religiously, it is a class-based society. On the other hand, Islamic political thought and ideology is entirely focused on the creation of a welfare state based on the equality of all – a classless society.
However, the fact of the matter is that Muslims are very often in contradiction with the ethical political values that Islam is supposed to be celebrating. Pakistan in particular, since its inception, has been driven to a class society gradually reaching the epitome of it. Whereas India has failed ideologically, but has made determined efforts to correct itself, Pakistan has practically ditched its ideological stance and its ruling elite has politically driven this nation to the limits of a strictly class society where socio-economic realities are as grim as Hindu fundamentalist India if not exactly the same. Indeed, the masses in both India and Pakistan remain oppressed and disenfranchised.
Third: Let us admit that Indian democracy is a functional, forward-moving political force squarely established in that country. Pakistani democracy, on the other hand, has been driving the nation backwards into a client-state, dependent on foreign assistance, foreign intervention in its domestic and foreign affairs, foreign dictates, and socio-economic disasters, political crises and leadership failures in policy planning and nation-building parameters. In India, in spite of its relative success with democracy, the majority of the masses remain economically and socially disenfranchised, while in Pakistan, the marginalization and deprivations of the common citizens seems to have become an enterprise of the so-called “democratic” leadership and “saved democracy.” Perhaps Pakistani “saved democracy” can learn a lesson or two from the Indian practical and forward-moving democracy. Perhaps the two democracies can acknowledge the massive poverty of its masses and admit that egalitarian societies in both nations are a remote possibility as of now.
Could a new paradigm of mutual coexistence between the two neighbors be built on the mutuality of shared ideas on the creation and development of egalitarian societies in both nations? After all, India cannot deny the fact that poverty, illiteracy, rural backwardness and social incohesion are all part of its larger existential reality. In Pakistan, these elements of social and economic backwardness are too obvious to be mentioned.
Manmohan Singh’s India is in an intense political romance with the US seeking a role that a new bride deserves of a loving groom. Nawaz Sharif’s (and successive Pakistani military and civilian rulers) Pakistan is hanging around in the loop like an orphan calling for attention that an orphaned child demands. Both are dependent on the intensity and assumed perceptual strength of their relationships. Both are respectively unaware that some romances fail and orphans are generally disowned. Both are willfully in self-denial that the US is a dog-eat-dog world where loyalty is paid well while disloyalty is punished harshly and severely. The fact is that the worlds of political romance and political orphanage are themselves fractured existences where permanence is only a conditional reality.
Would it not be more appropriate for Indian alive democracy and Pakistani “saved democracy” to work towards an acceptance of their diverse historical realities, acknowledge their ideological differences, reconcile to the idea of mutual coexistence based on respect for each other’s faith and historical contributions to human civilization, and join hands in the creation of ideas for the development of egalitarian societies in both countries?
India has to stop playing the new bride to the US. Pakistan will have to abandon its orphanage act. We do not have to be bed-partners, but India and Pakistan can help each other as good neighbors – that is an acquired state of mind. And that is what will matter most at the end.
India cannot be the regional and global dominant power that the US wants it to be – it is an abstract idea in itself hindered by India’s massive poverty – and whose time has not come and will not come for an indefinite period in the future.
Pakistan and other regional powers will not accept Indian political and economic domination – that is simply a logical foregone conclusion, given the state of global political realities of the present time.
And I will eagerly wait for my Indian readers’ reactions to this writing. Have a good day!
The writer is UAE-based academic, policy analyst, conflict resolution expert and author of several books on Pakistan and foreign policy issues. He holds a doctorate and a masters degree from Columbia University in New York.