The Forces that Divide
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The Forces that Divide


The relationship between India and Pakistan continues to be held prisoner by past traumas despite both countries’ effort to move ahead. A case in point is the current controversy over India’s decision to grant Pakistani cricketer Javed Miandad a visa to visit the country to watch the just-concluded cricket match that was the first between the two sides in nearly four years.

Miandad was supposed to attend the last one-day cricket match in Delhi on January 6th, but a section of India’s media and right-wing Hindu political groups heavily condemned the trip, forcing the veteran cricketer to cancel his journey. The player has family ties with Dawood Ibrahim, an organized crime kingpin who was accused of participating in the 1993 serial bombings of Mumbai that claimed hundreds of lives. Miandad’s son is married to Ibrahim’s daughter. 

The English daily, The Hindu, writes that “the visit was cancelled as the Pakistan Cricket Board did not want any controversy affect the cricketing ties and wanted to avoid focus shifting away from cricket to other matters, sources in the Ministry of Home Affairs said security reasons might have forced him to change his mind.” 

But this issue transcends any individual and is really a question of mindset. Despite a focus on long-term interests and changing political scenarios in which both countries are trying to deepen their understanding and gradually redefine their relationship, how much longer will people continue to harp on the same old issue which is quickly losing relevance?  

Those who have been opposing Miandad’s visit forget that the Mumbai serial blasts were a response to large-scale religious riots perpetrated by Hindu fundamentalists against the minority Muslim population in 1992 in the wake of the demolition of a disputed 16th century mosque in the eastern Indian town of Ayodhya. The culprits of the riots have yet to be held accountable for their actions, a fact the media in India fails to cover.

India has, however, moved beyond the political narratives of 1990s. The right wing Hindu parties, like the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Shiv Sena and others have seen their support weaken over the last ten years. They are looking for an opportunity to revive the same divisive sentiment to polarize the voters along religious lines and reap electoral dividends in the 2014 elections.

The immediate impetus for such a strategy is the third successive victory of Narendra Modi in the recent Gujarat elections. Modi first came to fame for his role in the 2002 crisis in his state that saw riots against Muslims claim the lives of more than 1,000 people, according to some estimates. Various reports and the popular perception continue to blame Chief Minister Modi and his state administration for not suppressing and perhaps encouraging the chaos and the corresponding lives that were lost as a result. Modi has won the praise of Hindu fundamentalist forces for his abrasive politics and complete disregard for minorities and pluralism in the state he governs.

The normalization of Indo-Pakistan relationship will undermine the very raison d'etre of right-wing groups, which thrive on stoking anti-Muslim sentiments. By linking Miandad with Dawood Ibrahim, these forces want to inflame the sentiments of the people. 

A similar plan is at work when right-wing groups demand that India make the arrest and sentencing of Jamaat-ud-Dawa chief Hafiz Saeed, believed to be the mastermind of the 26/11 attack in Mumbai in 2008, a precondition to normalizing relations with Pakistan.

But India’s geopolitical interests and the subcontinent’s inclination towards peace demands a deeper engagement with Pakistan. Such engagement cannot be held hostage by hawkish fringe groups that thrive on the two neighbors’ continued animosity. 

India and Pakistan have been prisoners of political parochialism for too long. Today, Pakistan understands the consequences of harboring and nurturing religious extremist forces, including the threat that poses to its own internal security. India similarly realizes the folly of a Pakistan-centric foreign policy that has muddled its geopolitical vision. It now wants to look beyond brinksmanship with Islamabad and engage its neighbor politically and economically.

The new visa regime and greater economic integration between the countries is an indication of a growing detente between the traditional enemies who have fought four wars since 1947.

The greater political and economic bonding will also mean the marginalization of the right-wing religious fundamentalist groups in both countries. However, these entrenched forces are not easily defeated and will continue resisting the forces for peace through actions like those that forced Javed Miandad to cancel his trip to New Delhi. 

February 8, 2014 at 10:07

An overly simplistic article with an agenda to bash conservative parties in India.

January 16, 2013 at 02:29

So…is America weakening the terrorism by building schools, hospitals in Pakistan?
Ever heard of Drone attacks?

Chandrashekhar Joglekar
January 12, 2013 at 19:33

AT present, there is no guarantee that Indian investment in Pakistan will end up actually contributting to the development of social index and elimination of militant tendencies. ON the other hand, any indian investment will give more space to Pakistan's government to increase its military budget and divert money to aid militants. 

January 11, 2013 at 06:36

India does not have any geopolitical reason to engage with Pakistan. On the Western Front, Pakistan is consolidating its gains in Afghanistan and Once US boots leave the ground, that objective is done. Pakistan needs peace in the eastern front and so its logical for the Army-Mullah Alliance in pakistan to make peace overtures with the civilans just as puppets. Either its LET,Afghan talibs or D company, they are strategic assets which pakistan can and never leave. Modern game theory dictates that India logically (if it looks at its self-interest) has to strengthen the hands of Northern Alliance and baloch rebels with russia and iran by creating a  fund for Arms/funding substantially to maintain  mixed-strategy equilibria in two-person zero-sum games and try to consolidate and give a political cover/recognition to Baloch issue just as Pakistan does with Kashmir.
The the mas­sive com­mit­ment on pakistan's economy will take a toll and the effect will be to keep pakistan drained in Western flank and drain the valuable F/X to pull the already overburdened economy in to bankruptcy. Economics will dictate that US/IMF will have no reason to bankroll them (once NATO boots leave the ground) while China does not see a collateral to give a loan. the blowback will be similiar to war fatigue which broke USSR. Pakistan is fragile,corrupt and lacks a singular national identities along the provinces other than Islam. so ther probability will be 4:1 that the country will fail and fade apart with  Baloch & NWFP being separate countries. at later point NWFP will be integrated to larger pusthun country.  Punjab and Sindh will be remaining Pak entity. remanants of erstwhile Pak Army in punjab will  capture the underdeveloped Sindh hinterlands and leaves india with a moth-eaten failed entity as a neighbor.

January 11, 2013 at 04:33

Just have quick look at Sanjay Kumar's all article and you will see his hatrate for Hindu nationalist…try to be objective in your article Mr sanjay kumar

Chandrashekhar Joglekar
January 10, 2013 at 15:11

This is a very short sighted article. All soft efforts by India to engage the people and political establishment in Pakistan to resolve all the disputed issues betwen the two countries have failed so far. As far as Pakistan's army is not controlled by politicians in Pakistan (which is not a possibility in near and distant future) the tensions between India and Pakistn will continue.The kargil was is a distinctive proof of this. 
It has to be kept in mind by authors like Mr. Sanjay Kumar that Kargil happened when the so called right wing BJP led NDA was ruling in Delhi. Then prime minister of India, Mr. Atal Bihari Vajpayi had travelled to Pakistan on a peace mission. In return India got Kargil.
As a matter of fact, the political establishment in Pakistan is very weak and the army is capable of carrying attacks within India wihtout the concent of politicians. The tool of tour of Pakistan's tour of India has been tried in the past for several times. To what extent the author thinks that such tactics have helped peace keeping efforts? 

January 10, 2013 at 12:24

This is what I mentioned in a previous comment. India must do more to weaken Islamic militancy in Pakistan by investnig in schools, hospitals, recreation, etc. there. It can ease confrontational tendancies which in turn helps reduce troops along the border. Huge economic savings outweight costs of investment in peace in Pakistan.

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