Pakistan-India Relations: The Way Ahead

24 Aug, 1998    ·   139

Mr. Siddiqui, General Secretary, Pakistan-India People Forum, Pakistan Chapter, proposes various steps that can be taken to improve Indo-Pak relations

I must first of all congratulate the organizers of this seminar on barging up an issue that is today. If I may say so, the most important global issue.



Before dwelling upon the sub-topic of today’s seminar "The Way Ahead" let me first touch upon the issue of existing Pakistan-India relations. These relations, frankly speaking are not good; they are pretty bad and will worsen if the people on both sides of the divide do not join their heads and bring out a happy and life-long solution to the problems facing them.



I will begin by saying that the way ahead in Pakistan-India relations is tricky and dotted with many hurdles, big and small.



·                     The first and foremost hurdle is the unholy alliance of the vested interests constituting the ruling class, the religions elite and the filthy rich. There narrow interest require that the mass of the people, especially the workers (on whose physical efforts the economy of a country rests) remain illiterate, lacking in political awareness, bereft of basic human rights of health, education, proper housing and a certain level of income that may secure them not only sustenance in food, education, health care, and housing but also in leisure.


·                     The second big hurdle is the absence of a democratic, forthright and honest leadership amongst the lower and middle classes. This shortcoming on the part of these classes (that constitute the majority) is due to their not being trained in doing long-term politics that engenders in one political consciousness and ability to lead people. On the contrary they have been involved in short-term politics that generate false expectations raised in them by the selfish, egoistic, power-hungry and money-grabbing politicians of today, to serve their own selfish motives and interests. Another reason for this lack of trained leadership amongst the lower classes is the refusal by the ruling elite to devolve political and economic power to the grassroots level giving effective decision making powers to the municipal committees so as to enable these to solve the multi-faceted problems at the local level, thus resulting in gaining valuable political experience and raising leadership from amongst the lower tiers of society.




·                     The third hurdle is the general psyche of the people of both countries that has been constructed by their political leaders over the last half a century that India and Pakistan are enemy countries, and that they cannot come to terms and develop friendly and brotherly relations. Religious intolerance and the Kashmir question have been especially used by the governments to build such a frame of mind.



·                     The fourth hurdle is lack of right information about each other’s developmental efforts in the educational, social and economic fields. Exchange of books, magazines and newspapers of both countries is very much restricted. The information media of both countries present a tainted picture about each other’s activities. The news media is not portraying positive values, and statements of well-meaning leaders of public opinion. On the other hand it is flashing news that cause fear and frustration in the people. It has turned in to an anti-people Mafia. The books in the two countries pertaining to history and social sciences misinterpret historical facts and put forth negative values in human relationship.



·                     The fifth hurdle is the non-existence of opportunities for the two peoples of India and Pakistan to freely mingle, and have free exchange of views with each other in an atmosphere of tolerance. The visa restrictions and high costs on travel and transportation, closure of road link between the two countries and high postal rates disallow such relationship to develop.




·                     The sixth hurdle is unwillingness in both the peoples to learn for the others, and lack of tolerance about each other’s views. Ofcourse, there are intellectuals of high caliber on both sides but generally speaking, they are not broadminded and are not open to conviction; their historical perspective is colored and is not based on facts; they are more or less communal rather than humanity at large; they have a tendency to divide people rather than to unite them; they serve the requirements of shallow politicians rather than pick up the courage to criticize them and give a positive direction to their doings; they portray human right not as a serious subject, a mission with a definite purpose and a useful direction, as a real opportunity to build their societies (that ultimately benefit the individuals); they project life as an unfettered opportunity to live gaily and carelessly to one’s own personal benefit, and detrimentally to others needs and aspirations. It is now high time the intellectuals play their part indulgently, creatively, forcefully and effectively, to make innovations in thought and action and thus lay down useful directions for the people, and Ofcourse for themselves too, to follow. They should bring out and develop positive thoughts through their artists, columns and editorials while keeping in view real needs of the people.


You may go on adding to these hurdles in the way of peaceful and democratic living of the two peoples of India and Pakistan and healthy transformation of their societies, but I will stop here in order to proceed to the second and more important part of the subject under consideration, that deals with securing the future of the two nations.



The Way Ahead



The way ahead of us, the two peoples in my views, is quite clear and obvious. Having analyzed and learnt the negative and dangerous aspects of the situation in Indo-Pak relations let us now move forward, sure-footedly, and on positive lines, to lay down the steps that are required to ensure the fruitful results of our honest endeavor.



·                     The first step should be to determine our behavior on the true concept of "One Lord One People" which is in keeping with the humanistic approach Granted we cannot straightway jump forward towards this ideal Ofcourse, we will have to tread a long path to achieve this objective. But let us start from the concept that we can develop ourselves-the concept of "One Subcontinent One People." The only basis on which this concept could be developed is love and understanding on the individual plane and peace, democracy and development on the collective level.




·                     The second step that needs to be taken is that we, two peoples, devote our energies and resources jointly towards building up an effective pressure on our respective governments to open up the avenues for exchange of ideas and goods by:


o                    removing vsia restriction between the two countries.


o                    minimizing postal rates and travel expenses.


o                    Giving MFN (most favored nation) status by both status to each other for increasing mutual trade.


o                    Fully democratizing the electoral process and devolving power down to the local level with the purpose of throwing up effective and to leadership from the lower and middle classes of the people and evolving truly democratic governance by the people.


o                    Running the business of the state on non-communal limes in order to equally benefit all its citizens irrespective of caste, color, creed or gender.


o                    Discouraging religious intolerance and religious elitism, and encouraging people to exchange views and construct useful ideas freely for the betterment of society.


o                    Giving priority to education, and for that purpose exchanging delegations of students, teachers and intellectuals. Revising the curriculum and syllabi for schools and colleges bringing them in line with modern requirements, and replacing redundant books with those that impart better education. Constructing fresh concepts of child development.


·                     The third step should be to make the electoral systems of the two countries free fair, transparent and truly democratic, enabling the people of the lower and middle classes to send representatives to the parliament from amongst themselves so as to look after their interests well enough. Elections should become instruments of change, not of the status quo.




·                     The fourth step should be to open up to the maximum extent trade between India and Pakistan . Thus by importing goods at much cheaper rates we will be releasing pressure on the economies of our two countries.



·                     The fifth step should be to reduce substantially expense on conventional arms and armed forces mutually so that maximum resources of our countries could be spent in the social sector in the interest of the masses. We should also ban nuclear tests and manufacture of nuclear bombs, and also work together for getting these banned on the global level as well because the costs incurred on the "nuclear game" are prohibitive and unproductive. A no-war treaty should also be signed between India and Pakistan to allay any fears of attack by either country that are falsely raised in public mind by the vested interests of both countries.




·                     As a sixth step a peace movement should be initiated in India and Pakistan simultaneously and, in alliance with Japan and the SAARC countries, later to be developed into a World Peace Movement. In this way the evil let loose by the leaderships of the two countries could be alleviated and converted into a blessing for humanity.



·                     Last, but not the least, we should concentrate on developing a culture based on tolerance, mutual understanding and co-operation and on the principles of liberty, creatively and fraternity, by bringing out the best in man and making all-out efforts to establish humane and fruitful societies in the world. Such efforts will lead to the flowering of a civilization that humanity could well be proud of. Culture and civilization are the two most valuable end products of human endeavor. Greatness and progress of a nation depend upon the advancement achieved in these fields. The main factor that contributes to greatness and progress, sustained throughout history, can be described as openness, creativity, variety and the spirit of tolerance. Civilization thrives and greatness grows with the clash of ideas and the convergence of diverse influences, knowledge, viewpoints and the various cultures. For all these to develop, an environment of peace and friendliness and an atmosphere of understanding is required, but for the creation of which dialogue, not confrontation, is the basic tool.


So let us stand up, and get ourselves counted, as the torchbearers of such creative and revolutionary endeavor.



Presented at Indian International Centre, Delhi . 17 August 1998