(Some personal utopian thoughts by Yousuf Saeed)
Recently, (sometime before the launch of the Ghauri missile and the BJP government, and obviously much before the Pokharan and Chagai N-tests) I happened to read the following graffiti on a wall in Delhi: “If the two Germanys can unite, why can’t India and Pakistan?” It was not clear as to who would have written this, but it definitely set my mind thinking.
An idea like this, though, was not new to me, or to many others. It is just that whenever any body starts thinking on these lines, one is confronted with such enormous complexity of issues dealing with history, religious sentimentality, gross misunderstandings about each other’s communities, and above all, petty motives of our politicians - that one finally drops the idea as practically improbable.
But I told myself, “what the heck. So what if it is impossible - nobody can stop me from dreaming about it”. So I continued thinking for quite some time, and came up with many dreams that I would like to share with others. I am no expert in History, Political Science or Sociology; what I have here are amateurish ideas and questions for a dialogue – just like an ordinary chat that people in a by lane café would sit and have, on any topic that fancies them without much substantial thought to it.
I believe that when you dream about an ideal future, you have to cut short from a lot of unpleasant memories of the past. Therefore I personally want to avoid the obvious debates such as what ideologies was Pakistan created for, and whether it has succeeded in maintaining them or not, and why have the two countries become such fierce enemies etc. etc. I simply want to put forward my idea of an ideal state that could be conceived by the integration of the two countries, and also what possible benefits could be achieved from such an enterprise.
Today both countries spend enormous chunks of their annual budgets in maintaining their military establishments, which are basically aimed against each other. On the other hand, the situation of basic public amenities like primary health, primary education, sanitation, potable water supply, electricity and roads etc. is quite pathetic in both the countries, apart from a high rate of corruption and crimes. I am not suggesting that all this will be magically reformed within a day if we unite, but may be if the two countries cease to remain each other’s enemies, at least the military expenditure could be reduced considerably. Also we could evolve a system of sharing the wealth and resources of the entire region and hence resolving some of the basic resource crunch. Here are some suggestions:
Indian subcontinent comprises of many small regions or states that are linguistically, culturally and geographically very different from each other. In the past (i.e. before the British), each of these has also been an independent and economically self-sufficient state. In other words, there seldom has been a centralized power controlling the entire subcontinent, as it does in the contemporary India and Pakistan. Today’s centralized governments, in spite of being called Democratic, have stripped the smaller states of their individuality by trying to homogenize their diverse cultures and natural resources into one national mainstream. Needless to say, this homogenizing process has religious overtones too, which, I hate to say has only worsened the problems. To cut the story short, I feel that it is this centralized control of power that frustrates the people of small states, and hence the contemporary problems of Kashmir, Punjab, Assam, Pakhtunistan and Jharkhand etc. etc.
I think we can learn a lesson or two from the experiences of USSR and Germany. My ideal state should be that in which all the culturally different regions of the subcontinent are given complete autonomy with which they could develop themselves to be entirely self-sufficient (though they can continue to be inter-dependent too) while remaining united inside one large commonwealth of the subcontinent. There should be no centralized govt., or even if there is, it should be just like an observer. I think the localized governments of each state will be able to manage their land and people, and especially law-and-order much more efficiently.
- Cultural exchange (music, literature, arts, cinema etc.) MOST IMPORTANT
- End of the arms race (MOST IMPORTANT)
- Exchange of ideas/better understanding of each other
- Ancient trade routes will open up
- Exchange/distribution of natural resources (water, fuel, electricity, minerals etc.)
- Reunion/meeting of divided families across the border
- Travel and tourism possibilities
- Studies, Education, Job opportunities
- Technical and industrial collaborations
- Religious pilgrimages
- Opportunities for voluntary agencies/NGOs
I know my ideas are very personal and subjective, and may also seem extremely utopian, but I don’t think they are motivated by any specific political ideology. I might just be having an “Indian” perspective, and that is why I want to know what Pakistanis feel about this proposition. For them, I would like to make it clear again and again that my above proposal does NOT seek to create a Pan-Hindu or Pan-anything-else kind of state. I vote only for an ideologically, culturally and linguistically de-centralized commonwealth of South-Asia. So what will you vote for?
Some Links (that may or may not have any link with the above text)
Ganguli's page about India-Pakistan Unification:
Another page with similar propositions. Must read the guests' reactions to see how civilized the people of Indian subcontinent are!
Chowk : Interactive Internet Magazine:
This is a place where many Pakistanis and Indians interact and share their views about the culture, history and politics of the subcontinent.
South Asia Net:
A search engine about SAARC countries
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