By Fareeha Qayoom
Friend of mine started a discussion on our foreign policy the other day on Pakistanloversforum.com – the question he asked was pretty simple – peace with India but on what grounds? He invited me to take part in the discussion as well. What I said actually concluded that particular discussion and shut everyone up! 🙂
I wrote on January 9th 2010, “In my opinion, there can be no meaningful peace between India and Pakistan – if that had been possible, Pakistan would not have been created to begin with. If you remember your history – Jinnah served in congress for years working on theory of “United India” before going the other way (creation of separate homeland for the Muslims)…he tried giving peace a chance then…furthermore, the situation with Kashmir was created because India didn’t want a fair division of assets as agreed in the partition agreement…what’s happening with Muslims in India – to be successful, you have to assimilate in the society…the most popular and successful Muslim in India is Shahrukh Khan – to be accepted in the society – he married a Hindu lady (it could have been a love match, but Muslim men actually are not allowed to marry women belonging to idolatrous religions according to their religion– they can only marry Jews or Christians and that too because they all believe in one God, the God of Abraham. So he has publicly gone against his God and religion). Bigotry and bias will always be there and therefore, discrimination…you watch the Indian movies…haven’t you ever noticed, the villains are usually played by Muslims? In fact, Shahrukh started his movie career as a villain too? Furthermore, in their movies, the villains and gang leaders always have Muslim names? There is no social justice for Muslims in non-Muslim lands – Jinnah recognized this reality eventually and therefore, started working towards a separate country for Muslims…
Kashmir is a big issue – on the face of it, in diplomatic language, it’s about the right of self-determination – India or Pakistan (no third option was discussed in the UN Resolution!); however, the underlying factor that’s causing the friction is about water rights – Kashmir contains the origins of our fresh water rivers…you know glaciers and stuff. India doesn’t want you to have it. You are not going to give up on it – your survival depends on it…so stalemate-know what I mean?”
There the matter rested for me…and then out of the blue, yesterday (Jan 14th 2010), a young friend of mine (she’s still in university) sent me her random thoughts about the peace process, what our youth thinks about it (her contemporaries), the bigotry, hatred and lack of tolerance displayed by her friends for India and people of other religions. That got me thinking…Do I hate India? Am I a closet bigot? Am I intolerant about people of other religions?
I don’t think I hate India. In fact, I don’t think I ever did even in my youth. When I worked in one multinational organization with home office in New York – the Indian office used to be the regional headquarters and Pakistan liaison office actually reported to her. Our boss was a Sikh. We had a very good working relationship with him. We had great fun communicating one-to-one with our Indian counterparts. However, there was still friendly rivalry. (The same kind of rivalry that we display over our cricket teams – we hate losing to India, they hate losing to us). We would do our best to get orders placed in Pakistan and they would do their best to get them placed in India.
When I moved on to a Hong Kong based multinational company, I noticed our home office preferred Indians to us. There was no special hatred; just a preference and they preferred Hong Kong or the off-shore Orient to India. Again, there was no special hatred; just a natural preference. I remember my boss was actually best friends with the Indian country manager. She even visited Pakistan once. We took her around, threw a special party for her. Everyone had a good time. There was no hatred. She was very nice to us; we were very nice to her. We preferred her to our Hong Kong counterparts – (we had more in common with her than with our Hong Kong counterparts so it was actually quite natural). However, since she was better friends with our home office managers and more vocal, she managed to create a lot of friction behind the scenes (which was also natural). A lot of our orders got transferred to her region. Since she could understand Urdu, she quoted a lot of stuff out of context and made general trouble. It was naïve of us to actually think she wouldn’t use underhand tactics to undermine us. We were stupid. That doesn’t mean I started hating Indians suddenly. Just because we are conditioned to play fair, doesn’t mean our competitors have to also – you know, as they say it’s all fair in love and war. However, it taught me something – people prefer working with people they can like, understand or communicate with. Unfortunately, differences divide. Similarities bring people together. The more similar you are; the closer your bond and the better your relationship.
Not that there ended my cultural exchange with Indians. I also had to deal with a few apparel factories in Middle East; a lot of their staff was Indian as well. Again, we had a pretty good working relationship with them. At another job, one of my buyers was an American born Indian. I got on well with her. I never got any hate vibe or felt in any way discriminated against. When I was working on Tkfr issue 13 back in 2005, I remember I contacted a few of Indian designers over the net…Tarun Tahiliani, Geisha Designs and Satya Paul were very nice to me, in fact, they were way over nicer than all the local designers put together! They sent me high resolution photographs of their work, gave me exclusive stuff to quote in my magazine and were very friendly and businesslike. All in all, it was a good experience there too.
As far as people of other religions are concerned – I don’t consider myself a bigot there either. Yes, two of my friends and former business colleagues are Christians. We have broken bread together, laughed together and worked together. Our differences, if any, have never been on religious grounds anyway but purely on professional grounds. I have couple of friends in USA as well, I am not even sure if they are Jewish or Christian, the question never came up…we exchange an occasional email every three years to say hi. I still have fond memories of them. I treasure the book one of them sent me over one Christmas, a compilation of short stories by writers from her home town in Minnesota because she knew even back in those days that I wrote and she wanted to encourage me.
People are people. They smile, they cry, they eat, they sleep, they talk, normal every day human activity. It’s universal and forms a common bond between humanity. What divides us is not any individual behavior but collective behavior – so it’s never personal. On individual one-to-one basis, we simply can’t hate a fellow human being, especially if they are a total stranger! You have to know someone deeply to feel hatred for them. Hatred unfortunately, can never be in the abstract. It’s not an intellectual exercise but about a feeling. So am I disturbed about the fact that my friend is disturbed about the growing feeling of hatred she sees in her contemporaries for the Indians?
No, I am not. Not because we are intolerant people. Simply because when we are young, we are more idealistic and intellectual ideals matter to us a lot plus youth is always hot blooded, more vocal and more emotional. With maturity, you cool down and learn to separate facts from feelings and look at things they way they are instead of what they ought to be and you learn to tolerate the reality while you stick to your ideals. It’s as simple as that. By the way, I don’t see a lot of Pakistanis over the net putting fighting talk on public forums, but I do see a lot of Indians expressing their contempt for Pakistan on them. Try CNN sometime or BBC. Most of young Pakistanis are all talk and no action so no, I am not worried.
So back to the real question, can there be peace between India and Pakistan? Yes, if both parties want peace and can arrive at equitable solution. However, talk will not do it. You have to put your money where your mouth is – unfortunately, Indian government’s actions and their words contradict each other. They keep saying they are for peace but they keep preparing for war. So obviously, since Pakistan has a policy of tit-for-tat, you have to keep a minimum deterrence in place to avoid an outright war. Is it fair? No, it’s not. But then, that’s life.