A Tale of Two Nations

Sixty years ago, a nation achieved a long cherished dream of independence; Britain relinquished its 163-year-old colonial possessions in South Asia, leaving behind the new nations of India and Pakistan. The continuous sacrifices and struggle of Indian people regardless of their religion against the colonial rule guided them to regain their lost Independence. However, before the nation could embrace each other for the much-awaited freedom, its geography and people were divided for the times to come. A legacy of hatred and animosity was passed on to future generations.

The pangs of partition were fresh and the wounds were open, the souls of one million humans who died ‘finding a nation of their choice’ had yet to attain eternal peace; India and Pakistan fought a bloody war in Kashmir just after a year gaining independence. A legacy of antagonism was created for the future. The intrinsic tussle became obvious and the world community came for reconciliation.

The bitterness increased with every passing day, the comrades of the Indian freedom struggle were now archrivals. The rivals went to another war in 1965, again over Kashmir. Within a span of six years in 1971, India and Pakistan were again engaged in a war, which led to the independence of East Pakistan, now Bangladesh. The progeny of the freedom fighters who laid their lives fighting against the colonial rule both acquired weapons meant to destroy each other from the face of the earth.

The differences seeped deep in to their blood. In 1974, India conducted their first nuclear test. A race for procuring deadly and destructive arms began. Forgetting their internal issues of poverty, hunger, unemployment and under development, India and Pakistan started piling up deadly arms, spending billions of rupees on strengthening their military might and supremacy in the region. In 1998, India conducts nuclear tests and Pakistan reiterates with similar tests. In the following years many peace initiatives were taken, Delhi-Lahore bus service was started but soon the Kargil war took place. When the dust of Kargil war was about to settle the Indian Parliament was attacked, India blamed Pakistan for the attack and the two nations were at the verge of another war.

Confidence building measures were taken to create an atmosphere of trust and tranquility. Meeting between the diplomats and heads of the governments, MFN status, though served as temporary remedies, however, these steps were short lived and the euphoria of peace vanished in a moment. The people of both countries again faced the naked reality of malice for each other. The people of India and Pakistan have most things in common; a common history, culture, language, food, tradition but the differences had undermined their sameness.

In short, ever since the creation of the new nations, both countries shuttle from peace to conflict and vice-versa. Successive governments on both sides have time and again ‘identified’ the problems and tried to solve them. Tashkent Agreement, Simla Agreement, Lahore and Agra, all these panaceas were applied to heal the divide. Nothing worked at the political level, however, when the people were given a chance, they were able to create a conducive atmosphere, which resulted in the governments of both countries agreeing for reconciliation. Fathers, sons, daughters, brothers and sisters were united across the border after decades of separation. It was an emotional integration watched and hailed by the common peace of the rival nations. After crossing many obstacles the people of India and Pakistan were able to bring harmony on the borders.

The hopes are high if not in political consciousness but in the heart of people. This showed that people remain undivided and ready to leave their past behind. It is they who have to decide whether to live as enemies or friends. They share a burden; half the population of the countries is illiterate, poor, homeless, there children die in absence of proper medical care. Lakhs of people trek miles to reach their homes. Hundreds of villages are without electricity. When people have not been provided basic amenities like food and water, Nuclear and chemical weapons consume billions of rupees. The governments of both the countries have time and again diverted the attention of their people from these things by jingoism.

Though there seems to be an ‘eternal’ conflict created by the political mongrels of both countries. A question always pops up in ones mind. Do the masses living across the sturdy border drawn before six decades really want to live in isolation? Or it is the political ‘leadership’ which propagate the rhetoric of hatred. After sixty years, the two independent nations find themselves at crossroads both within and with each other. The people of the twin nations are yet to achieve the cherished dream of Independence.

Jalees Andrabi is a Delhi-based journalist who covers a wide range of issues in India.