Indo-Pakistan: Conflict, Root Cause and Resolution

By: P. Lahiri

To correctly understand the nature of India-Pakistan conflict one has to look back to the 8th century when a petty Arab warlord and mercenary briefly conquered parts of Sindh and Multan. Thereafter, over thirteen centuries Mohammedan conquests of the Sub-continent through Afghanistan probably left a trail of the bloodiest saga of atrocities in world history,

The Two Nation Theory: The demise of the Islamic political order in the sub-continent in the 17th century upon consolidation of British rule, made its Muslim population remain communally surcharged. Some educated Muslim thinkers, not ideologically homogenous, tried to assume leadership of the community to revive the lost Islamic glory. Some of them sought to push Muslims back into medieval era of rule by Sharia (Islamic canonical law). Others like Sir Sayed Ahmed Khan and Sir Mohammad Iqbal (popularly known as Allama Iqbal) who were modernist reformers, stressed on modern education among the Muslims as a means to regain their political domination over Hindus. Sir Sayed founded the Aligarh Muslim University where the first idea of Pakistan germinated. Allama Iqbal, initially a great exponent of Indian nationalism advocating a strong united India, later narrowed his viewpoint to a communal interpretation of Muslim nationalism so much so that he first articulated the “Two Nation Theory” in his presidential address to Allahabad session of the Muslim League in 1930 sowing the seeds of Muslim separatism. Thus Iqbal became the political ideologue for Pakistan movement though it was one Mr. Rahmat Ali who coined the word ‘Pak-i-stan’, (Pak meaning purity and Stan meaning place) to propose a south-Asian federation for Muslims consisting of Punjab, NWFP, Sindh, Balochistan and Kashmir and raised the slogan “Now or Never” in 1933 to force the issue. Finally, it was left to Mohammed Ali Jinnah, the English educated, scotch drinking, bright lawyer to take the movement forward. Allama Iqbal explained in a letter to Jinnah his vision of a separate Muslim state. In Jinnah the Muslims found an elite face to match Nehru of the Indian National Congress. Iqbal the ideologue died in 1938 but after successfully converting Jinnah the politician from an ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity to a communal Muslim leader. In justifying the two nation theory Jinnah emphasised that Muslims and Hindus were two different nations from every definition. They owned different religious philosophies, literatures and social customs, not ready to either intermarry or inter-dine together. Their civilisations are different deriving their inspiration from different sources of history, epics, heroes and episodes. For Jinnah, the Congress became “Gandhi Hindu Congress.” He accused Congress Ministries formed in different provinces after the elections under the 1935 Government of India Act, of interference with Muslim religious rites, undermining the economy of the Muslims and promoting Hindi at the expense of Urdu. Constructing an impossibility of coexistence of the Hindus and Muslims under a Congress regime, he warned such an eventuality would mean degradation of the dignity of the Muslims. This communal propaganda created a fear complex in Muslim minds about Hindu domination in British India and times thereafter, making them search for a vent for their political frustrations. This was the period when freedom movement under Indian National Congress (INC) was getting momentum. With the British engaged in the Second World War India pushed hard for independence with INC spearheading the Quit India movement and the Indian National Army of Subhas Chandra Bose launching the military campaign from East Asia.

But then, unnoticed by most, the entire sub-continent was pushed by a silent communal hate campaign onto a bed of gunpowder of communal violence making it a recipe for an impending disaster. Hindu-Muslim acrimony reached a flashpoint. On the fateful day of August 16th, 1946 labelled by Muslims as the “Direct Action Day,” a protest rally pre-planned by the Muslim League to exhibit the intensity of Muslim feelings, both to the British and the Congress, was turned into a communal conflagration claiming the lives of 4000 Hindus and Sikhs on the streets of Calcutta city (also known as ‘Great Calcutta Killings’). This was followed by a series of gruesome mass murders, rapes, abductions and forced conversions of Hindus to Muslim, looting and arson of Hindu properties, perpetrated by the Muslim community in October 1946, lasting over a week, in the district of Noakhali in the then Bengal province. The Bengali Hindus forcefully converted into Islam were compelled to write statements that they did so of their own volition. This method of ethnic cleansing resulted in mass migration of Hindus from districts of Muslim majority East Bengal (later christened East Pakistan) to West Bengal, Assam and Tripura. This was when Gandhi’s peace mission failed and Congress Party leadership and the British Viceroy Lord Louis Mountbatten had been compelled to acquiesce to the Partition of India into two dominions India and Pakistan.

Indo Pakistan Conflict:

  1. The fundamental basis of the India-Pakistan conflict lies in the Islamic doctrine which divides all of Humanity into two nations that transcend all man-made boundaries of countries. The doctrine says that all Muslims in the world are deemed to be part of one single nation calleddar-ul-islam (Nation of Islam), a nation where they can practise Islam as ruling sect. Contrarily, all non-Muslims belong to dar-ul-harb (Nation-of-War) which may also include Muslim majority lands where Muslims cannot rule as per Islamic laws based on Quranic principles. Hence is the need for strife or war to bring them to be ruled under Islamic laws. It is incumbent upon Pakistan to fight God’s holy war against India (dar-ul-harb).
  2. The India-Pakistan relation is a victim of an identity crisis for Pakistan. Educated Pakistanis are still trying to figure out where its history started. If assumed that it started in August 1947 there is very little to fall back upon for this geographical area that is Pakistan today. The ancient history of the region prior to this was largely of a Hindu-Buddhist civilisation that Pakistan must deny while constructing its different identity. This crisis of identity drives most Pakistanis to believe that history began from 712 AD when Mohammad bin Qasim, a petty Arab general of the Ummayad dynasty of Syria conquered Sindh. To construct an Arab lineage, an ordinary Pakistani had to endure the indoctrination that this Arab conqueror was the true founder of Pakistan conveniently ignoring the historical fact that the Ummayad Dynasty, that Bin Qasim belonged to, was the same dynasty which had in it the sworn enemy and murderer of ImamHussain the descendent of Mohammad (founder of Islam). Writings of most Nationalist Pakistani historians deliberately focussed on their glorious Mughal and Arab ancestry besides the two-nation theory. This explains why the character of Bin Qasim remained in oblivion during the medieval period only to be revived after twelve centuries as a national icon in response to communalism which emerged in 1924. Pakistan recognised Muhammad Bin Qasim as a conqueror hero because he converted Sindh to Islam. However, Charles Napier, the British Army commander who also invaded Sindh in 1843 and modernised it without converting it to Christianity has no other identity than that of an invader. Interestingly, the favourite fiction among all sub-continental Muslims more particularly those of Pakistan is to trace their lineage to a great general or a saint of Arab origin. Despite most Pakistanis being the progeny of the converts they loved to believe that their ancestors had arrived in Sindh with the army under Mohammad bin Qasim. Sadly enough though, their ancestors had converted to a faith professing human equality the Arabs in reality discriminated against the converts as “Hindis.”
  3. Pakistan refuses to accept the irrelevance proved twice of the two nation theory which said – Muslims of the subcontinent being a different nation could not be part of pluralistic India where they could live in harmony with Hindus. First time it was proved irrelevant, was when a numerically vast Muslim population decided to stay back in partitioned India. Later East Pakistan, the majority province that supported the creation of Pakistan based on the two-nation theory, separated itself in 1971, proving that the theory was less potent than the language spoken by the populace. The apologists of the theory, however, try to save face saying Bangladesh decided to remain an Islamic country after secession though the overriding reason for secession was persecution of the local population on the basis of their language and culture.
  4. Finally Pakistan calls the Kashmir dispute with India as the core unsolved issue. It fought three wars with India in 1948, 1965 and in 1999 to annex Kashmir from Indian control. Both India and Pakistan laid claim to the state of Jammu & Kashmir, then under a Hindu Ruler Hari Singh who remained indecisive about the future of the state. Pakistan pushed Pashtun tribal fighters backed by its regular forces in October 1947 into Kashmir and almost overran the Dogra forces of the Kashmiri Ruler, coming within miles of capturing the capital Srinagar. This is when the ruler turned for help from India which demanded accession to India as pre-condition for help. The ruler signed the Instrument of Accession and Indian Army managed to push back the invading Pakistan backed tribal forces. The lingering conflict made Prime Minister Nehru approach the United Nations which brokered a cease-fire leaving Pakistan in control of 37% of the erstwhile princely state. The UN resolution asks for holding a plebiscite in the state after Pakistan vacates its occupation for final resolution of the territorial dispute. Pakistan refuses to vacate its occupation and India lays claim to the entire state by virtue of the accession treaty. Pakistan lost both the wars it started in 1965 and 1999 to wrest Kashmir from India though its propaganda machinery misinforms its population that it won these wars.
  5. Both India and Pakistan became nuclear powers in May, 1998. India which holds overwhelming superiority in conventional military capability over Pakistan now faces nuclear bluff from Pakistan which blackmails India by refusing to declare a no-first-use doctrine, making South Asia the most dangerous nuclear flashpoint in the world.
  6. Since realising that it cannot wrest Kashmir from Indian control by military means Pakistan has embarked on a covert insurgency campaign since 1988 using Jihadi terrorist outfits nurtured in its own backyard. It has vowed to inflict a thousand cuts on India through a proxy war by relentlessly sending indoctrinated terrorist suicide attackers striking all over India resulting in civilian casualties to terrorise the population of India. The terrorist attacks on the Indian Parliament in 2001 and the daring attack at several places in Mumbai on 26 November 2008 are major acts of terrorism.

Root cause: Kashmir dispute is only the symptom and not the root cause of the conflict that exists between India and Pakistan. The root cause is the conflict between religious exclusivism and pluralism. Ever since the advent of Islam in the subcontinent in the 8th century, India has been the victim of this brand of religious exclusivism. The kind of exclusivism that exists in Islamic societies the world over irrespective of whether or not the followers of Islam are in majority or minority has kept the social strife alive. The exclusivism that exists in Islamic societies even today is similar to the one that existed in the European Christian societies of the 16th century, prior to the Protestant Reformation. In the past thirteen centuries that the Muslims have lived in India they have been in many ways thoroughly assimilated into the diversity of India. But the concept of dar-ul-harb has kept the conflict and war still existent. The two nation theory, the type of ethnic cleansing witnessed in Noakhali in 1947 and in Kashmir valley in 1990 are instances of this doctrine of Islam at play. So even if the Kashmir dispute is by any remote possibility settled, there is nothing to believe that India-Pakistan conflict will cease. If only Islam takes a leaf out the West’s experience of Christian Reformation movement, people of both the nations can think of coming out of this discord.


Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Blog Management & Panel Members..


One thought on “Indo-Pakistan: Conflict, Root Cause and Resolution

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