For some time I have been following Dilip D’Souza’s interesting conversation with Beena Sarwar about Indo-Pak relations and the situation in Kashmir. Here’s the latest installment. Excerpt:
“I remember the family I met in Srinagar on my first visit on ’04, warm and welcoming. On my second visit a few months later, even as I entered their home I got the feeling I had overstayed my welcome. Yes, I thought they were being unfair in their coldness this time around. But our conversations had given me an idea of the complex mixture of affection and doubt, suspicion and the desire to reach out, that made up their feelings towards India and Indians like me. If we Indians want all to be well in J&K, we need to search for ways to understand and address that.
“Yasmin Qureshi’s questions are ones that trouble a lot of Indians: what indeed is the meaning of Indian democracy when there is so much tension and unrest that we are now seeking to eliminate by force? (And will that eliminate it anyway?) (And should a democracy be in the business of eliminating it? or addressing it?) Yet there are also plenty of Indians who see nothing wrong with the use of force. Maybe the concerns about Indian democracy don’t occur to them, I don’t know. And your last letter’s mention of the disappearances in Azad J&K/PoK — or should we ourselves make the start by referring to it as Pakistan-Administered Kashmir? — supports what the news tells me as well, that there is plenty of serious unrest and discontent in Pakistan too, and it gets fueled by the actions of your security forces.”
What makes this conversation interesting to me is that when I was in Saudi Arabia I was struck by how similar were Indians and Pakistanis. Remember we were one colony. I made a lot of friends who speak like us behave like us and culturally I couldn’t spot many differences. They are crazy about Hindi movies and the camp boss who is a Pakistani used to sit with us and watch a Hindi movie every evening. This thing about Pakistanis being our enemies vanished and we discussed things like Kashmir and other issues. They gave me a sweet send-off when I was leaving and some even hugged me the north Indian way.
So, as Dilip suggests we should speak to a Pakistani and hope our two governments bring about some “Aman” or rapprochement.