Friday, July 22, 2005

Dehyphenation of India-Pakistan

As a rule, I decided I would not write anything about India-Pakistan relations in my blog as I have a few very good friends from Pakistan and do not want to write anything that can be construed as being deprecating. But I could not help myself from writing this.

While most (if not all) analysis on PM Manmohan Singh's visit say that the biggest gain for India from the trip was the dehyphenation of India and Pakistan for American policy makers, I can only muse why it took so long. The hyphenation, thanks to the British (with a lot of help from Nehru, Jinnah, Gandhiji and the others), was natural as long as the hyphenation existed between the two superpowers after WWII USA-USSR, with India leaning towards USSR and Pakistan towards USA. I said it was natural, but I am wrong. Hyphenation, I believe, can exist only between countries of equal size or capability, if you will. But suprisingly, India-Pakistan hyphenation existed even long after USSR disintegrated and Russia did not posses the stature any more to be hyphenated with the US of A. India, in turn, cannot and should not hope to be hyphenated with China, a country that is way ahead of India in all spheres (except democracy some maay point out).

That said, I think the hyphenation makes sense in another context. Pakistan and India, particularly the North of India, have a lot in common. At the time of the partition, Muslims in the north of India, mainly the Hindi/Urdu speaking, moved over to Pakistan while the Bengali speaking Muslims moved to Bangladesh (or then East Pakistan). The south of India was thankfully kept out of it. But I am digressing here.

Thus the hyphenation makes sense - similar people having different coloured passports thanks to an imaginary line, a line that not everyone were (or are) happy with. In some ways this hyphenation represents that imaginary line. But then why not India-Bangladesh? Well the Bangladesh are not Hindi?Urdu speaking, are they? India, unfortunately is historically Hindi centric. No, there is no typo there... it is Hindi-centric - not Hindu-centric. Ok let me leave this at that.

But then, what really helped get rid of this hyphenation? It is not very difficult to see. India, the 4th largest economy in the world, has gone from being India - a land of snake charmers, to India - a land of IT experts, outsourcing capital of the world, a land that exports experts. Unfortunately, Pakistan has come to represent what can go wrong when democracy fails. It has become, particularly these past few weeks, as a land that exports Islamic terrorists and ideologies.

It is really unfortunate that our countries should have taken these disparate routes - but India, could have potentially gone the same route, if not for its diversity.

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