Visit to India


An immense country with huge potential, and so is Pakistan


Pakistan and India have such a love-hate relationship that when their prime ministers even just shake hands or sit side by side on a sofa and indulge in a two-minute conversation, it leads to instant headlines. The media is thrown into frenzy, lip reading and speculating to what either of the dignitaries may or may not have said to other.

Our indignation prevents us from accepting that Pak-India relations somehow matter more to us Pakistanis than say relations with our other neighbours, benefactors or even Bangladesh (that was a part of us for quarter of a century). India was instrumental in dismembering our country and is perpetually at war with us. Yet we are keen to develop trade, we cannot stay away from the Bollywood films and we are dying to play cricket with them. We never cease to compare ourselves with our giant neighbour despite its disproportionate size. Call it competiveness, sentimentality or being wary of its evil eye.

I was on a weeklong visit to India last month, accompanied by my wife and daughter, during which we visited Amritsar, Delhi, Jaipur and Ajmer (the provinces of Punjab, Delhi and Rajasthan). We travelled by road, train and air during which we came in contact with ordinary folk and professionals. We had an opportunity to interact with a few well known professors, a distinguished Marxist politician and our high commission officials. I also offered juma prayers among thousands of Indian Muslims in the Jamia Masjid where I had a cordial meeting with the Imam of Jamia Masjid. Amidst the traffic mess and polluted environment, I could have been anywhere in my own country.

We felt no fear or inhibition in boasting to everyone we encountered while eating in restaurants, shopping, sightseeing or travelling, that we were Pakistanis. We met with no animosity or repulsion anywhere. Our Sikh and Hindu friends reciprocated similar sentiments about Pakistan. Almost all the people we met lamented the rift between the two nations and attributed it to party politics and the growing extremism being fanned by politicians to protect and promote their interests.

These were Hindi speaking areas, in which people have more cultural and linguistic similarities with us than with their own people inhabiting in Maharshtra, Tamil Nadu, Bengal or other states. People in those distant areas hardly know anything or have anything common with us, other than what they are fed by their leaders. In order to develop their vote bank, politicians are incorrigible to divide people based on the many easier mediums of hate, religion or caste etc, of which the Indians have no scarcity. The news media flows with the tide and toes the lines thrown by the politicians aggravating the divisions further. This makes news, creates sensation, controversies and raises their ratings.

Shiv Sena activists have been doing just that recently in Mumbai. A small group coerced the BCCI chairman, under physical threat, neither to receive our PCB chairman in his office for a pre-scheduled meeting nor to agree to the proposed cricket series between the two nations. Our former Foreign Minister Khurshid Kasuri barely managed to avert disruption and held his book launch. All Pakistani artists were put on notice they should not dare perform in Mumbai or face the consequences. Could it have been done without the tacit support of the government? Did it represent state policy?

The Indians, under the present government, are faced with a herculean task to defend their much trumpeted claim of secularism and equal opportunities for minorities. Several well-known Indian artists, intellectuals and writers lodged protests by returning their awards. Famous Muslim film stars like Shahrukh and Amir Khan, who spoke against the discrimination, faced hostile responses even from some of their Hindu co-workers.

Muslims constitute in excess of 20 percent of the Indian population according to some estimates. Most of them have never been to Pakistan and are as Indian as their Hindu neighbours. Yet, they face immense discrimination, have limited prospects of upward mobility and are asked to prove their patriotism subsequent to any act of terrorism involving Muslims anywhere in the world. Dalits, low castes, Christians and other minorities face similar biases but are allowed to cross the barrier. Muslims are singularly victimised and have remained an impoverished (large) minority. We in Pakistan cannot thank God enough and should never forget Mr M A Jinnah who gave us Pakistan.

Shiv Sena is an Indian far-right regional religious political party founded in 1966 as an off shoot of RSS. Its members are called Shivseniks (soldiers). The party is sometimes referred to as a fascist party or a terror group and has been blamed for communal riots and violence. The party has a powerful hold over the Bollywood film industry. It is a part of the BJP government in Maharashtra and the Narendra Modi government at the centre.

Prime Minister Narindra Modi has his roots from the extremist militant Rashtria Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) that he discovered at the age of eight and where he was trained as a sort of cadet. His formal political career commenced in 1985 when he joined BJP. Modi has had a spectacular rise in the ranks from an ordinary tea boy to become the Chief Minister of Gujarat and then to the ultimate prize of winning the coveted crown of Prime Minister. He has remained a silent spectator during the recent Shiv Sena anti-Pakistan offensive. With the stated background, one would not have expected otherwise.

Modi’s meteoric rise is not without shrewd political acumen. His anti-Muslim rhetoric (Babri Masjid and communal riots) gained him popular public support. He hinted of improving relations with Pakistan when he invited Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to his inauguration as Prime Minister after a landslide victory. However, in the first state elections after taking over, BJP lost unexpectedly to the Aam Aadmi Party in Delhi elections. Elections in Kashmir and Bihar were coming up soon, followed by other state elections. He had to choose a winning strategy. He opted to revert to his hard line anti-Pakistan stance.

As it turned out, the strategy did not pay dividends. BJP stood second in Kashmir and was routed in Bihar by Nitish Sharma-led alliance. The policy diluted India’s claim as a tolerant society. Modi was personally accused of extremist beliefs. His ambition of becoming a statesman of international status seemed to be drifting further. More state elections were due. It was time to change tactics. Perhaps the overture to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in Paris was the outcome of a rethink of policy. It could be a signal for seeking normalcy in the strained relations if the anticipated visit of a senior Indian minister to Pakistan materialises. Peace with neighbours can only be rewarding.

India is a vast country with 1.2 billion or more mouths to feed. Some 30 percent of its population does not have toilets and defecate in the open. Industrialisation and economic growth has made the rich exorbitantly richer claiming more than one hundred billionaires and thousands of aristocratic families, some of whom are among the richest in the world. Yet, the majority of its population is so poor that it is among the most deprived and the poorest on earth. Its problems are so immense that its aspirations to be counted among the developed world may never be fulfilled.

Our issues, on the other hand, are mostly self-generated and can also be resolved by ourselves. Our prospects for rapid development are within our reach and our affairs are manageable — only if our leaders unite the nation and begin to look beyond their self-interest.


  1. Strangely no pakistanis and indian muslims ever once think of the 'hand-outs' the country has been getting and the beginning continues with more demands and blackmails. Try and put those figures and divide it by the population and see per-capita what has been given versus the Indians who have slowly but surely managed their own affairs without begging and are now standing on their feet and gaining respect from the world at large!

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