Jinnah, Gandhi wanted us to move past the hostilities

Regular dialogue will increase trade, stop proxy wars and help people travel between the countries

By Waqar Mustafa (Common Ground)

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Published: Mon 14 Aug 2017, 9:54 PM

Last updated: Mon 14 Aug 2017, 11:56 PM

Walking on a beach in Karachi, then the capital of Pakistan which he had founded, Governor-General Muhammad Ali Jinnah telling US ambassador Paul Alling that he wished for India-Pakistan relations to be "an association similar to that between the US and Canada" had a strong suggestion for the two South Asian states that had gained independence only a few months ago, in 1947.
In a 2001 book, The United States and Pakistan (1947-2000): Disenchanted Allies, Dennis Kux, a South Asia expert, who worked in the US State Department for 20 years and spent four years in Pakistan (1957-59 and 1969-71) recalls this private meeting in March 1948 that Alling had at Jinnah's residence by the sea. Alling mentioned to Jinnah that the US wanted to see India and Pakistan as friendly neighbours. Internal memos that Kux based his book on suggest that in response, Jinnah said, "Nothing" was "closer to (his) heart." And he meant it.
Jinnah, who resided in India until the year 1947, sold his house in New Delhi but kept a sprawling 2.5 acre mansion in south Mumbai, which he had built in 1936 after his return from England to take charge of his party, the Muslim League. Jinnah was deeply attached to the house, famed for its Italian marble and walnut-wood paneling.
He reluctantly vacated it a week before partition on August 7, 1947, hinting in his instructions to Bombay's then prime minister, BG Kher, to look after the property that he would return from Pakistan soon on holiday.
India's founding father Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi had plans to travel to Pakistan to create peace and harmony between India and Pakistan. According to Rajmohan Gandhi, grandson of the Mahatma, and the author of The Good Boatman: A Portrait of Gandhi and Understanding the Muslim Mind, "right from August 1947, Gandhi had wanted to visit Pakistan. On September 23, he said, "I want to go to Lahore . I want to go to Rawalpindi."
He wrote about this wish to Jinnah, the Pakistan governor-general who continued to be the president of the Muslim League. On January 27, it was agreed that Gandhi would arrive in Pakistan on February 8 or 9." In his August 23, 2004 article for Outlook magazine, Rajmohan Gandhi wrote that, "a Gandhi living in the late '40s and '50s would have helped . to heal India-Pak relations". The same could be said for Jinnah as well. But that was not to happen. On January 30, 1948, within months of independence, Gandhi was gunned down "as he walked to pray, his hands folded in a greeting to his assassin". And ravaged by tuberculosis, Jinnah died on September 11, 1948.
Bulging with more than one billion people, India and Pakistan have had testy relations at best since independence with the two nuclear-armed neighbours having fought three wars and standing frozen in a cold war. Unresolved conflict - mainly over the Himalayan region of Kashmir - is eating into the resources of the two countries and hampering their social and economic development.
Dialogue can indeed facilitate economic engagement, travel, and other confidence-building measures despite conflict on core issues.
Recently, a citizens' resolution urged South Asian giants India and Pakistan "to take all steps possible towards improving relations". "In the 70 years since independence and partition, the people of India and Pakistan have seen too many conflicts and the loss of many valuable lives.
Enough of the distrust and tensions. Those who suffer particularly are ordinary people denied visas and those in the conflict zones, especially women and children as well as fishermen who get routinely rounded up and arrested for violating the maritime boundary," says the statement.
Titled Resolution for peaceful relations between India and Pakistan and subtitled, Make dialogue uninterrupted and uninterruptible, the statement urged Pakistan and India, the region's most populous and largest economies, to "increase trade and economic linkages and cultural exchanges" from the current bilateral trade, less than $2 billion a year, to their enormous trade potential of about $20 billion because of being one of the world's least-integrated regions. Both countries must, as the resolution suggests, "develop an institutionalised framework to ensure that continuous and uninterrupted talks between India and Pakistan take place regularly no matter what". And "all forms of proxy wars, state-sponsored terrorism, human rights violations, cross-border terrorism and subversive activities against each other, including through non-state actors or support of separatist movements in each other's state" should be renounced once and for all.
Highlighting the importance of people-to-people contact it urged Pakistan and India to "remove visa restrictions and discrimination faced by citizens of both countries". They should, in fact, go further, "to allow visa-free travel between India and Pakistan".
For thousands of Indians and Pakistanis, the quarreling between the two neighbours has meant much fewer visits across the border than Jinnah and Gandhi would have feared!
Waqar Mustafa is a print, broadcast and online journalist and
commentator based in Pakistan

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