India and Pakistan Make-Up: Is It for Real, this Time?

Roundup: Media's Take

Shashi Tharoor, author of Nehru: The Invention of India, writing in the LAT about the recent warming of relations between India and Pakistan (Jan. 14, 2004):

In reality, history has not always been as grim as the pessimists believe. Muslims and Hindus (as well as followers of other creeds) have shared the same civilizational space on the subcontinent for more than 1,000 years. Islam came to India as early as the 8th century, to Sind in the north with the Arab armies and to Kerala in the south with traders and travelers across the Arabian Sea.

For the most part, the two big faiths co-existed for centuries; though persecution and violence were not unknown, few saw religion as the primary determinant of their loyalties. In the great revolt of 1857 against the British, Hindus and Muslims rose as one, rallying under the banner of the last Mughal king.

But the Hindu-Muslim unity seen in that revolt led the alarmed British to adopt a policy of"divide and rule" that sowed mutual suspicions and hatreds. In Indian eyes, the policy found its culmination, 90 years later, in partition.

The tragic flashpoint of Kashmir, which has twice brought the two countries to war and several times to the brink of it, is described by some in Pakistan as the"unfinished business of partition." When a student at Cambridge, Chaudhury Rehmat Ali, invented the name"Pakistan" ("land of the pure") for the country he hoped would be created for his co-religionists, the"k" in his neologism stood for Kashmir, a mountainous, predominantly Muslim state in northern India.

But when partition finally took place, the maharajah of Kashmir, who was Hindu and facing an invasion from Pakistan, acceded to India instead. War ensued, leaving both countries with a portion of the state and a dotted line ("the Line of Control") across the maps.

Pakistan argues that the Muslim-majority state should have always been part of the Muslim country; India points to Kashmir's Muslim majority as proof of the pluralism of its secular democracy.

So for years the talk has been of war, militancy, terrorism and now the nuclear threat. And yet history entwines the two countries together with bonds of paradox. India derives its name from the river Indus, which flows in Pakistan. The partition of 1947 created a state for India's Muslims, but today there are more Muslims in secular India than in Islamic Pakistan. The two countries share common languages, costumes, customs and cuisines; when their citizens meet abroad, they slip easily into camaraderie.

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