The supreme act of patriotism for both Indians and Pakistanis will be to stop the confrontation between their two countries and establish just peace.
Who but the justices of the sub-continent will tell the governing classes of India and Pakistan to go for an “ephphatha” to make both countries listen to possible settlement measures as an urgent desideratum for survival and development? (Ephphatha is an Aramaic word that means “to be opened.”)
We are ready for peace talks, India had said. That statement was welcomed by Pakistan. The start of a serious, responsible dialogue is bound to produce — if it turns out to be successful — peace and prosperity, and augur well for a new world order. But communal views today mar harmony among the Indo-Pakistan humanity. Such an epic event cannot happen merely by the leaders meeting and talking. It requires a powerful awakening among the masses on both sides.
At the bottom of it all is the Kashmir dispute, which is now communal as well as military. Meanwhile, China and the U.S. tacitly support Pakistan.
Is Jammu & Kashmir a theological state? No. It was not an Islamic state because its royal ruler was a Hindu. Nor was it a Hindu state since the bulk of its population was Muslim. The Hindu ruler acceded his territory to the Indian Republic, a secular, socialist state. And the only political organ of J&K was the National Conference, which was Muslim-oriented. Its outstanding leader was Sheikh Abdullah. The leader of the pro-Pakistan group, and Pakistan's first President, was M.A. Jinnah. This thoroughly westernised barrister was in his younger days a member of the Congress, before switching over to the Muslim League. His first messages to Pakistan were secular in nature.
When the second Prime Minister of India, Lal Bahadur Shastri, suddenly died in Tashkent in the Soviet Union, his bier was carried, among others, by the President of Pakistan who was there for bilateral talks. What a fine gesture it was. A notable memorial for Shastri today stands in Tashkent. There is indeed a bedrock of sanity and amity between the two peoples and their leaders.
A resident of Tirur in Kerala's Malabar region was the secretary of a political party in Pakistan, and on the few occasions I visited Pakistan decades ago he used to call on me with affection. There was a People's Human Rights Commission headed by a former Chief Justice of Pakistan who cherished my presence. When Zia-ul Haq, the President of Pakistan, died, a Chief Justice was made pro-tem President. He invited me to his palace. He said that house was honoured by my entry.
Indo-Pakistan friendship will thrive if it is cultivated. It will mark a benign portent if both countries come to terms with each other. A 21st century Indo-Pakistan concord will be a historic event in Asia. What then stands in the way? It is nothing but political obscurantism. The army can win only with the common person supporting it. If it is to become feasible, there must be a people's peace movement. So we now want people's peace.
“There never was a good war or bad peace,” wrote Benjamin Franklin. The supreme act of patriotism for Indians and Pakistanis will be to stop the confrontation between their countries and establish just peace. A creative federalism can end the war tomorrow.
What is the way to create Indo-Pakistan understanding and friendship? This should be done not only by politicians but also by the people. Islam stands for peace and stability. Unfortunately, Jinnah, Pakistan's founder-leader, was secular and loved his Malabar Hill bungalow in Bombay till the end. But since then communalism has conditioned the people's outlook. Therefore the mullahs and the moulvis and other theological species have made Pakistan an Islamic state. It is said that Jinnah did not know how to read the Koran. But today the Koran is the Constitution and the political leaders are intrinsically Islamic.
One of the first pre-conditions for Indo-Pakistan rapport is a solution to the J&K issue. The legal accession by the Maharaja made that State an integral part of the Indian Republic. Nevertheless, certain determined elements are today ready to die for the “cause.”
The Indian Constitution stands for religious liberalism, and J&K need not worry even for a moment that Islam would be in danger or the faith would be fouled by it being a part of India. The huge expenditure on maintaining war-readiness is a grave drain on the resources of both countries. The role of the U.S. in subsidising Pakistan with weapons has, over time, made it a dependant of America. It is a pity the U.S. moved huge quantities of weaponry into Pakistani hands on the pretext of driving out the Soviet Union from Afghanistan. That military assistance still swells Pakistan's arms arsenal.
When Jawaharlal Nehru once protested to President Eisenhower about the inequity, he virtually advised India to beg the U.S. for arms. Nehru, with his characteristic pride, famously told the U.S. President that Indians were no international mendicants for weapons. What is more disconcerting is that China is today with Pakistan. Equally unfortunate is the fact that the Soviet Union, which was once a close ally and could balance out the U.S. aid to Pakistan, is no longer around, and its successor-state is not as powerful as the Soviet Union was. These developments in China and Russia have made an adverse difference to India.
Statesmanship argues powerfully for a settlement of the Indo-Pakistan estrangement.
Today both countries are largely insensitive to the cause of peace. Some Jesus must whisper into their minds an ephphatha. Let us prove the Mahatma right when he observed: “A day will come when the world will approach India in its quest for peace and India will become the light of the world.”
There are many Hindu religious centres and even a Hindu college still on Pakistan territory. The converse is true, too: Ajmer in Rajasthan is an important religious centre for the Muslim community. General Zia used to make pilgrimages to the Ajmer shrine. Religion is irreligious if it divides. Allah is the cosmos of one world; so is Adi Sankara's Advaita. The state is secular. There is no Islamic Pakistan or Hindu Bharat; all belong to the same universe. Bigotry is anti-God. God is no fanatic; he does not kill but integrates and fraternises. We are all one.
The possession of nuclear weapon capability by both countries is a grave danger. Either ban it from both, or have a joint control body. Or else, at some stage of the conflict both New Delhi and Islamabad will turn to ashes. These thoughts have burning relevance now since representatives of both countries are going to meet later this month, apparently without reservations. India had suspended a four-year-old peace process with Pakistan after the 26/11 attacks on Mumbai by Pakistan-based Islamist militants in 2008.
When Nikita Khrushchev sent Soviet warships to Cuba with nuclear arms, John F. Kennedy said his fleet, duly armed, would stop that advance. A world-scale confrontation seemed imminent. At that point, one great man, Bertrand Russell, travelled from city to city and held press conferences. In London he told the British people that unless the disaster was averted they would not eat their breakfast the following day. But none, not even Nehru, woke up to his message. Except one man: Khrushchev himself. He withdrew the Soviet fleet, and saved the world.
A similar drama awaits us unless potential nuclear terrorism is stopped right now. Dinner parties in Delhi and Id events in Islamabad will all end. Tomorrow may be too late. It needs no astrologer to predict that the Asian humanity's survival is in peril. Awake, arise. It's now or never.