Reformist Muslim

Exploring possibilities for the future of Islam and other thoughts

Location: London, United Kingdom

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Crossing the Border: The Normalisation of Indo-Pak Relations

The normalisation of Indo-Pak relations continues. We’ve already seen the opening of the Kashmir border despite terrorist attacks in India, L.K. Advani visiting Pakistan and yet another cricket series being played in exemplary spirit.

The latest piece of good news is the creation of a bus service linking the Punjab. The most obvious benefit is increasing cultural encounters and creating greater understanding between the two peoples. Having said that, I think that this has been overestimated. The number of people who can take advantage of this service is not that big, and those who do usually already have family or friends on the other side of the border, or are doing so to visit religious shrines.

What gives me hope are the attitudes of the two governments which allowed the bus service to be created. Without a doubt Manmohan Singh doesn’t seem to have achieved much in his time as Prime Minister, while everyone has their own opinion of President Musharraf, but the peace process is something which transcends these concerns.

It would help solidify India’s position as a politically mature nation to go alongside its growing economic strength. At the same time it would provide Pakistan some much needed stability, while the prospect of increased trade with India would certainly help its economic development. It would also serve to demonstrate that the ‘updated Caliphate’ argument which seeks a Muslim confederacy, is a utopian vision which is not the best way to achieve progress in the Muslim world. Pakistan needs greater trade and cooperation with India not Algeria.

This does not mean that there aren't problems in both countries. Pakistan in particular struggles from increasing sectarian violence and has not effectively resolved the problem of Baluchistan. India meanwhile has to find a way of achieving in stability in places like Bihar to go along with the prosperity which it has achieved in other parts of the country, while also ensuring that communal tensions do not get out of control again.

However despite these other problems, there is no doubt that the Indo-Pak rivalry has overshadowed the other ones. From unnecessary military expenditure to the ever present threat of war, it has created a situation in which domestic problems have been ignored in supposedly trying to deal with the ‘other’. These problems will continue to exist even with greater co-operation, but rather than hindering each other's efforts, the two countries will be able to help in dealing with what are very similar problems.

Cross-posted on Desicritics


Blogger Jordan said...

good post!

its almost becoming a Pakistan vs Pakistan problem, as the two side's leadership seem to be on the same page. The president of Pakistan CAN be trusted, and has a tough job of going after the extremest without causing civil unrest.

What I do find disturbing is that while in India, Hindus and Muslims seem to live side-by-side in relative harmony. But the way things are going, this will never happen in Pakistan because most of the minorities have left.

I fear any country that doesn't have diversity... "group-think" is bad for democracy.

Also, the combination of Pakistans fragile leadership (too many assisignation attempts) and nuclear weapons makes for a terrorist one-stop-shopping heaven.

Other than that I think things are looking good!

3:20 am, January 27, 2006  
Anonymous Subheer said...

Great Post.Very realistic.
Btw, Why should there be a plebiscite in kashmir only? [Not that your post is demanding one...just addressing one the major bugbears in our relationship]
Why not have a plebiscite in India - I mean, the pre partition India.
Since the partition was mostly instigated by a minority of Indians in complicity with the British. It was undemocratic and should be nulled and voided.
A new referendum [to be held throughout Hindustan]should ask whether we should revert to pre 47 India?
p.s. just the resulting cricket team woul dbe woth the effort?

12:08 am, January 29, 2006  
Blogger reformist_muslim said...

Thanks for the comments.

Sukhbeer, to be honest I think that the plebiscite is used by Pakistan to make a moral claim to Kashmir to counter India's moral claim that it is a democracy and not a dictatorship.

Thankfully both sides seemed to have moved beyond such idealistic visions and are focussed on making pragmatic agreements.

Jordan, there is diversity in Pakistan but unfortunately it hasn't been channeled for good. For instance Sunni/Shia violence is increasing and the Ahmadadi's who are considered by many to be heretic Muslims have been ill treated for a long time.

Ethnically, people from the other provinces are resentful of what they often see as Punjabi imperialism. Baluchistani trying to achieve independence is just one example.

Ironically sometimes people are more tolerant of Sikhs making religious pilgrimages or Indians coming to watch the cricket then they are of their own countrymen.

Having said that pieces like this one do make me optimistic.

11:52 pm, January 29, 2006  
Anonymous Satinhawk said...

Hi reformist muslim

read your blog. very nice. being an indian i totally agree with you.
i am using ur blog as an example in my school project. i hope you dont mind since i will be attaching ur name as the donor. thnx


12:36 pm, May 20, 2006  

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