What do you do with a neighbour that refuses to see itself as a part of a lucrative subcontinent?

My native state has inherited the mess of bad governance of 67 years; its blind hatred and ignorance of geopolitics. I have a right to question why the good people of Pakistan are not able to see this as I do

What do you do when you have a troublesome neighbour, or an irritating colleague at your workplace? You either try your best to hold a decent conversation, or maintain a decorum of a relationship and be cordial or you try to ignore him/her, if they still do not get the hint and wisen up their act. But what if the neighbour were a country and its neighbourly activities involved harm to your being, your family, your property? What then? What if the irritating colleague not only made it a point to harass you but has resolved to undermine and obliterate your very existence? What do you do then?

I couldn’t help mulling over the love/hate relationship between India and Pakistan. After all the personal is political. How one deals with trespassers against one’s being reflects on the general values, moral courage and the political acumen of that country. Now both the countries are not exactly role models for democracy and liberalism.One is a nuclear-capable failed state and the other fails at democracy many times despite a declared nuclear no-first-use policy and is in the process of developing a nuclear doctrine based on “credible minimum deterrence.

But what does a state that has just started coming out of the vestiges of its colonial past do, when it realises that the part carved out of it is hell bent on destabilising it – all on the notions of a two-state theory and beyond. Being the only state in the world to have been created on the basis of religion, Pakistan is yet to understand the functions of a state, democracy and the upholding of a constitution. What do you do after 67 years of realising you made a mistake? You develop a conscience in the form of civil society, writers, authors, speakers, columnists, reporters, artists, thinkers, activists and you force the totalitarian factions in your country to be accountable for crimes against their own people as is evident in the growing form of resistance in Pakistan today. But is it enough? Has it reached the tipping point? Will it ever?

The fascist state in the garb of democracy despite the all known fact of the Army actually ruling it has polished its Orwellian tactics. It has created a vision of a ‘brave new world’ painted with green amid the melodies of the poet Iqbal’s ‘taraanas’ and slickly sold it to the ignorant generations very cleverly through the madrasa-like educational institutions. To top it off, it became the hotbed, sanctuary, training ground, refuge of some of the deadliest terrorist groups in the world and hestiates to change the policy even when they started killing their own children. You still stick to the ‘dream’ of destabilising your two immediate neighbours Afghanistan and India.

To me, reading history, this seems familiarly like the fascist governments starting to form in 1930s Europe which culminated in WWII. Except the covert ‘de facto’ destabilisation foreign policy of Pakistan has been there since its conception in 1947 in what has come to be recognised as 'the unfinished business of the Partition'. I am still ruminating over the fact that a civil war hasn’t cropped up in Pakistan as yet. There should’ve been a revolution or at best a ‘Pakistan Spring’ long ago. The whole premise of political philosophy is based on:
– Good and bad government profoundly affects the quality of human lives.
-The form our government takes is not predetermined, we have a choice to make.
-We can know what distinguishes good government from bad; we can trace the effects of different forms of government and we can learn what qualities go to make up the best form of government.

Judging by this, I’d say barring a few conscientious citizens there are but a few who have felt a great injustice with the way they have been governed the past decades. My native state has inherited the mess of that bad governance of 67 years; its blind hatred and ignorance of geopolitics. I have a right to question why the good people of Pakistan are not able to see this as I do.

Yes, the immediate backlash would be - "... but India isn’t exactly the epitome of democracy!" No states are - with the exception of a few economically well settled and stable states, geographically placed well away from conflict zones and rich in natural resources. India is not just a state but a civilisation and has had to contend with marauders every few centuries, who destroyed the local cultures, way of life, and an indigenous sense of the land superimposing a foreign identity and attitude on it; a colonial empire that upheld a debilitating caste system, which still keeps a good portion of its human resource effectively crushed, not to mention the damages to the socio-economic and psychological aspect of society. It has a hard task of maintaining unity in diversity, making sure that minorities and marginalised communities get an equal place. It too has had to contend with the rise of nationalist extremism and it doesn’t exactly help to have a nuclear capable state next door trying to import radicalization into the ethos of the idea of India.

India’s ignorant section of the population hasn’t developed political acumen to force its political leadership to redress the grievances of those territories demanding secession. One case in question would be that of Kashmir. There is a misconception that Kashmir is the bone of contention between the two ‘rabid’ states and if the ‘dispute’ is solved everything will be hunky dory between the two ‘amicable’ neighbours. How do you control a population fed on extremism, educated on the ‘evils’ of its neighbouring country, repressed by a theocratic constitution wherein large swathes of marginalised communities find themselves hounded, ethnically cleansed, even ‘witch-hunted’ under the notorious blasphemy laws? What progress will such a state see when more than half of its population is bereft of a scientific education and only knows enough technology to create destructive weapons rather than indulge in humanistic inventions in the world?

It would need the spectre of a substitute Kashmir imbroglio (in the event that it IS solved) to keep its unskilled, radicalised and misguided masses at bay. Diplomacy hasn’t worked, be it track 1 or track 2; Pakistan has duped, exploited, blackmailed even defied the US despite threats of sanctions and closure of aids. So what do you do with a wilful neighbour who refuses to see itself as a part of a subcontinent that could do well with a shared progressive economy and instead is on a trajectory of self-destruction and implosion within?

One certainly does not offer ‘the other cheek’.

Arshia Malik is a Srinagar-based writer and social commentator with focus on women issues and conflict in Kashmir. She makes her living as a school teacher and is an avid collector of literature. She is currently writing a book about her life as a female in Kashmiri Muslim society

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