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    South Asia
     Apr 11, '14


Page 1 of 2
Time to end the subcontinent's family feud
By Arshad M Khan

India is holding elections. A massive undertaking, the process is expected to take five weeks to allow the 800 million eligible voters an opportunity to vote. But the issue that can bring Armageddon to the subcontinent is not open to debate. Relations with its nuclear-armed neighbor have not improved, despite attempts by Pakistan's newly elected President Mamnoon Hussain in the last year, because no party would like to appear soft on Pakistan prior to the election. However, the post-election period could present an opportunity.

The next Independence Day will celebrate 67 years of self-rule for India and Pakistan. Yet the two countries are unable to resolve their differences, and extremism is on the rise in both. What a shame, because the cultural roots are identical, and the peoples



lived in relative harmony for a millennia until proactive colonial policies sundered the fabric of a multi-religious, multi-ethnic society. But there are ways to leave differences behind, which the two countries can learn from the experience their own colonial power.

In 1906, the border between the US and British Canada was demilitarized when the British withdrew the last of their troops. It has remained so. Except for a nominal passport and customs check, people travel back and forth freely. How did this happen when the US and Britain had been intense rivals, fighting three wars in the previous century?

The road to peace began with a dispute (in the 1890's) between British Guyana and Venezuela, when the British Admiralty informed their government they could not spare the resources to take on the US opposition to the British position. The British backed off and agreed to arbitration.

In return, the US softened its stance on several issues. Fishing rights were agreed upon, then the Panama Canal, which had been opposed by the British. Finally, the Alaska/Canada border was settled. Much of this was behind the scenes, and kept secret from the British public and even Parliament - the opposition would have skewered the government because public sentiment was strongly anti-American, given that the two countries had been at war off and on for more than a hundred years.

Thereafter, in 1898, Britain was the one major power that supported the US in the Spanish-American War. By 1903, US president Teddy Roosevelt was likening a war with Britain to fratricide. The special relationship was born.

How long standing rivals become friends is the subject of Charles A. Kupchan's last book, How Enemies Become Friends: The Sources of Stable Peace. It is noteworthy that while the agreements with the US were being cemented, Britain also signed a treaty with Japan. It was not successful because cultural dissimilarities prevented the two sides from overcoming fear and mistrust. Between the US and Britain, cultural similarities eased the transition, and one can envision a future where they will for India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Returning to 1906, it was also the year when the Muslims in India, out of fear, launched a party to defend their interests, and the Muslim League was born. A decade later in the middle of the Great War, a young Muslim lawyer by the name of Mohammad Ali Jinnah prepared a proposal, supported by both the Hindu-dominated Congress Party and the Muslim League under the Lucknow Pact, for a post-war self-governing India as a dominion of the British Empire, not unlike Australia, New Zealand and others. Had the British agreed and cooperated, the fearful, frenzied and needless slaughter of millions of innocents during partition in 1947 would have been avoided, and India would still be whole.

Why is this so important? It is important because the problems the subcontinent will soon face - if the scientists are right - are extremely complex, and handled better as a federated whole than as fragmented units acting out of fear, suspicion and mistrust. Climate change cannot be handled individually by nations that share a space. And the worst-case scenario of severe water depletion from the increased ablation of the Himalayan glaciers threatens the granaries of the Indus and Gangetic plains.

India's growth rate has been encouraging (although lagging lately), and the exploits of some of its businessmen make Indians abroad proud. That the Jaguar dealer a mile down the road from me sells cars made by an Indian-owned company brings a smile to the lips of anyone of Indian extraction. And Pakistan keeping up with India's per capita gross domestic product, plus developing a hundred-bomb nuclear arsenal, merits some admiration. The fact is, Pakistan, India and Bangladesh share the same culture, and like the US and Britain, have within them the seeds of a lasting peace.

Continued 1 2






India, Pakistan need to get serious
(Mar 17, '14)

How politics fueled India-Pakistan wars
(Jun 26, '13)

 

 
 



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