Friday, July 13, 2018

What About Confederation Among India, Pakistan and Bangladesh!

July 3, 2018

By Saeed Qureshi

“A confederation is a union of sovereign states, united for purposes of common action often in relation to other states. The member states of a confederation retain their sovereignty, they have an implicit right of secession. Some of the well-known and firmly successfully functioning federations around the world are Belgium, Canada, Union, America, Serbia and  Switzerland.”

The racial and religious discords between Hindus and Muslims as well as historical perspective, were the predominant reasons for creation of India and Pakistan. Population-wise, the Hindus are 74 per cent followed by Muslims whose percentage is 15 per cent. During the past fourteen hundred years, the Muslims conquerors from the Arab peninsula and the Central Asian states had been assailing, conquering and ruling the territories in India.

The first prominent conquest of Sindh and the remaining territories up to Multan in the Indian sub-continent was by a Muslim Omayyad general Muhammad Bin Qasim in 710-711 AD. His victories became a prelude to the later Islamic military onslaughts and occupation of territories for several centuries. One of the Muslim conquerors Mahmood Ghanavi, reportedly, launched seventeen military forays mostly on the coastal territories of India including the Somnath Temple. He conquered Lahore city in 1015 AD. Each time, after plunder, he went back to his seat of power Ghazni in Afghanistan and never thought of becoming a local ruler or the monarch of the captured territories. He however appointed governors in the conquered territories.

Until 1160 AD, the Ghaznavid Empire was spread from central Afghanistan east to the Punjab, later another Afghan Muslim ruler and army general Shahabuddin Ghori conquered all the Ghazni occupied territories. From Shahabuddin Ghori onwards a series of conquerors from the North followed and established their islamic dynasties one after another by defeating their Islamic predecessors and local non-Muslim potentates. The last was the Mughal empire established by Zahiruddin Babar which lasted until 1857 when Britain took over India by deposing the last Mughal emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar in 1857. He was exiled to Rangoon (Burma) along with his family. The British colonial rule in India began in 1793 and ended in 1947. At midnight on 14–15 August 1947, the two successor self-governing states of Pakistan and India came into being.

The Islamic dispensations promoted Islam in every possible manner: be it building mosques or preaching Islam either by peaceful or other means. The local Hindu, Buddhists and other religious populations were the pristine natives and believers in polytheism and worshippers of idols, statues and animals. They had an entirely different cultural, religious and historical background.

The advent of Muslims in ancient India led to the faith-based collusion between local faiths and that of Islam. One may imagine the sense of alienation and deprivation by the Hindus and other non-Islamic minorities under the control of an alien nation, culture and religion that continued for centuries. But this is how the human history had been all along and in all the societies.

Under the burgeoning pressure of liberation movement led by both the Muslims’ political party All India Muslim League” and “The Indian National Congress” party for the Hindus, the British monarchy decided to leave India. Yet the most fundamental dilemma before them was as to whom to transfer power. The Muslims were the nation from whom the British took over power. The Indian Hindu majority population would not want to live under a latter-day Islamic governance.

The Muslims had the same perception of alienation under the Hindu majority rule, all the more when they have been ruling the Indian Subcontinent for 12 centuries either fully or partially. Both the communities viz. Hindus and Muslims started colliding in their claims to be the successor to the British rule in the India. The Hindus would not want India to be divided nor were ready to accept the Muslims as taking over India as rulers.

The bitter and unflinching conflict of claim over power led to the division of India according to the size of the population of both the communities. Thus, in August 1947, the British India was partitioned into two parts by the outgoing British government under then then viceroy Lord Mount Batten. Thus, two states viz, Bharat for the Hindus and Pakistan for the Muslims emerged. This was indeed a myopic resolution as perceived in the light of the perpetual military conflicts and confrontations that happened in later times between India and Pakistan and which still continue.

The partition led to a massive upheaval, displacement and migration of the population across the unguarded borders which meant the Muslims migrating to Pakistan and the Hindus from the Pakistan’s territories to India.  Millions of migrating people and families perished on the way because of the bloodshed carried out on both the sides by mostly the religiously hate-filled bands of looters, as well as other assailants and marauders.

Unfortunately, since 1947 both the successor states of British India have seldom been entirely friendly or good neighbors. There have been some undecided areas called “disputed territories”, whose placement or alliance either with India or Pakistan couldn’t be decided one way or the other during the time pf partition. However, their fate was to be decided later by the plebiscite or through the vote of the people of those territories as enshrined in the partition plan. Their choice was whether they wanted to integrate with India or Pakistan.

One of such territorial disputes is about the valley of Kashmir. However. In case of Kashmir, India always opposed the plebiscite option under the apprehension that the majority Muslim population of Kashmir would prefer to join with Pakistan than India.  In the meantime, the settlement of Kashmir dispute is still in a state of limbo. That one issue, not only entailed several armed conflicts between India and Pakistan, but also adversely affected their economies which were partly diverted from peoples’ welfare to the production and procurement of weapons including the nuclear arsenal.

During the last 70 years, besides several standing armed conflicts, bloody clashes and other armed engagements, India and Pakistan have fought four major wars in 1947,1965, 1971 and 1999. We all know how devastating these military incursions have been for both the neighbors for a durable peace and unhindered economic progress in the Indian subcontinent.

The simple question ignored by both the Muslim and Hindu leadership should have been that if Hindus and other religious non-Islamic denominations lived under the Islamic rule for a pretty long period of time, why couldn’t they live together after the exit of the Britain from the Indian Subcontinent. As such that division should be taken as an historic blunder.

Suppose one of the countries dominates and defeats the others by ascendancy of nuclear power, would that mean that the victor would, thereafter, rule peacefully. Wouldn’t it generate perennial jingoistic and military conflict between India and Pakistan. Let us keep in mind that in an atomic war no side would be victor. All would be the losers.

However, the most damaging aspect is the intention, mentality and competition for acquiring the capability for mutual destruction and annihilation. God forbid if both the countries use atomic weapons then It could be the first atomic war after the dropping of two bombs by USA on two cities of Japan Hiroshima (August 6, 1945) and Nagasaki (August 9, 1945) during the world war-II. In those atomic bombings, millions of people perished or maimed.  Even after 71 years of those devastating nuclear attacks, the normal life or livable environment couldn’t be entirely revived.  

India, Pakistan and Bangladesh should not suffer from false egos but understand that the people are most important for all the three regional countries. Would Hinduism or Islam prevail after the holocaust of wars? No way. On the contrary the surviving population in the Subcontinent would suffer for centuries. This present technology is not that of 50s. It is hundred times more destructive than what it was several decades ago.

The historic folly of partition can be rectified if all the three states of the Indian Subcontinent, namely India, Pakistan and Bangladesh join hands in a confederal setup and move along with peace, dignity and togetherness for a glorious future of their people. That milestone would ensure economic and social stability for their people suffering enormously for all these decades due to the bitterness between the two countries of India and Pakistan. If Saudi Arabia and India per say, are more cordial friendly states despite deep religious cleavage, why cannot the Islamic states of Bangladesh and Pakistan on one side and Republic of India on the other live peacefully with each other.

Let us admit that partition of India was demanded by the Muslims and not by the Hindus. Now It should be the Muslims of the Indian Subcontinent who should take initiatives in calling for a confederation.

The people of Bangladesh had a genuine reason and grounds to separate because the majority party Awami League from East Pakistan was not given the right to form the government after her victory in the first General elections held in Pakistan on 7 December 1970. Instead, they were victimized and brutalized by a massive military onslaught and operation causing innumerable deaths widespread destruction and ruination on both the side. The People of former East Pakistan launched a civil war under Awami league party headed by Mujiburehman and won that war with the help of India.

Thus, a separate country Bangladesh came into being. That backlog of stigma, tragedy and humiliation for the then west Pakistan and its armed forces and even the West Pakistan’s political parties can be allayed through a confederation. Yet the attainment of that goal depends upon the consent of the people of Bangladesh as well as India.

Within a confederation, the people would be able to visit all places that are spiritually and by faith sacred and precious to all the religions, faiths and denominations. The disputed territories would be no more disputed to be safeguarded and fought by heavy military contingents. The people of Kashmir and other disputed areas, struggling for territories, identities and national rights would become part of a government that would be their own. Thus, they would be able to enter power corridors through public votes from their respective areas of representations. On top of it, the tension and animosity that is rampant and persistent at the cost of national progress, peace and prosperity would vanish. Is that a bad bargain.?

The religious fanaticism would give way to better understanding and respect and faith-based co-existence for all beliefs. Anyway, the people are more important as for peace and the mutually honorable cohabitation is concerned. The Muslims would go to their mosques and the Hindus to their temples and the other denominations to their places of worship.

Thus, the vested and intriguing role of the leading world powers to blackmail and pit one developing country against another for selling weapons and military hardware, could be halted. That would in turn be helpful in eliminating poverty and backwardness in all the three members of confederation.

Let the leadership from the three regional countries join hands, sit together, click the button and take a giant step for a grandiose and historic decision of entering into confederal set up. If Hindus, Muslims and other religious minorities have been living together for ages, then they can still live in a confederation which would safeguard their lives, as well as quality of life and ensure peace in the Subcontinent. 



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