Independence Day: Why Partition was a good thing for India by Swaminathan S Anklesaria Aiyar, published in The Economic Times Centre page dated 15th August 2012 is a thought-provoking article.
Essentially, he writes that had not 1947 partition of India happened, today's India would have been in the grips of raging civil war or even a bigger partition.
In the article Swaminathan Aiyar argues that it's a myth that partition (stirring partition photos)was forced on the country by the British. He says actually it were the irreconcilable differences between the Muslim League and Congress that were responsible for partition, when they failed to work together in the interim cabinet put together by the British (1946 to 47).
The decision of Liaqat Ali, the Finance Minister in the interim cabinet, to present a high tax budget was inappropriately seen as hurting Hindu businesses while the truth was that it hurt all businesses - whether Hindu or Muslim. This turned out to be the trigger that made the stalwarts in Congress realise and accept their inability to work together with Jinnah and his team. Well, that was the first coalition government and it failed. Thus, 1947 India partition became a reality.
Swaminathan Aiyar says that India would have gone the Yugoslavia way, with multiple partitions had not the partition happened. So let's not mourn it.
Muslims of some means in undivided India were keen to have a say in the ruling of the country. Swaminathan Aiyar says that was fulfilled by having a separate nation of their own.
He also says a Pakistani told him that every time there is a riot in India, he thanks Allah that he is not living in India, which is a hypocritical secular state.
While I belong to the group of utopians who would love to see an amalgamation of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh to happen, I know it is not easy. Furthermore, after reading Swaminathan Aiyar's article, I cannot but agree with him. In my view, he is spot on.
Here I share my little experience. My understanding is that the Pakistani establishment is full of hatred for India, the idea of India and its size. I say Pakistani establishment, not the people. This is where the difference lies.
The experience that I wish to share is a conversation I had with a retired senior officer of Pakistan Navy. As per him, the ruling class of Pakistan considers all the military engagements with India over the years as their victories. I was astounded and prodded him to explain, which he did:
1947 - Pakistani victory as Pakistan was formed, including Bangladesh (at that time called East Pakistan) plus they got a larger portion of Kashmir.
1965 - Pakistani victory as fighter planes of Pakistan bombed Delhi. Even though bombing of Delhi did not happen, nobody wants to know this fact. At that very same time, Karachi was bombed by India and the damage was visible, but again there is a denial about it in Pakistan.
1971 - Pakistani victory - this stunned me as it was this conflict that created Bangladesh. How can this be victory? He replied, "Good riddance to bad nuisance".
1999 - Kargil war - Pakistani victory. And why is it so? Because Pakistan still retains the control of the peaks that it captured. The Pakistani establishment dismisses contrary reports as successful Indian propaganda.
There is a paranoia amongst the elite of Pakistan about India. Occasionally whenever I get a chance to see the Pakistani invitees on the Indian television news channel, I notice that for a few of them it seems that Pakistani identity is all about not being Indian!
The recent economic success of India and also the successful management of Indian polity has been a slap on the face of the ruling Pakistani elite and the citizens of Pakistan are making comparisons and asking tough questions of and from their government.
So can we expect a unification of Pakistan and India? I doubt it. Best we can hope for is a free border, no restrictions, and a healthy trading relationship. Which would be very good!
What is encouraging to me is that I know a couple here or there, where the bride is from Pakistan, married to a Hindu boy. All of them are from the educated class and well off. To me this shows that inspite of vitriolic propaganda between the two countries, sane people can see what the truth is, and live their lives.
In 1947, a substantial number of Muslim middle class opted to migrate to Pakistan, leaving behind the very poor and the very rich. In the next two decades, I expect to see a strong Muslim middle class emerge playing a significant role in the growth of India.
The fact is that for the last 50 odd years, the Muslim middle class was non-existent in North India. So either one saw a rare wealthy / influential Muslim or countless abject poverty stricken Muslims. This skewed perceptions about Muslims, in non-Muslims mind towards the uncharitable.
Until and unless there is an engagement between the communities at all levels of society, integration and understanding is difficult to achieve. As I said earlier, hope is in the air and eventually things are going to get better and better - even with Pakistan.