That a billion Hindus in India can be intimidated by the Sar Tan Sey Judaa (beheading) brigade from uploading a picture of Nupur Sharma on their social media accounts says a lot about Hindu-Muslim relations in the country. As much as what she said, it was the way Sharma said it that was offensive. Still the Muslim response to her indicates what Jinnah said remains true: that the chasm between Hinduism and Islam is too great to be bridged. It has been the case for a thousand years, it promises to be the case for another thousand. One often hears about talks between India and Pakistan: front channel, back channel, and side channel (third party, read America). A whole diplomatic machinery is kept in motion to this end. But talks between India and Pakistan will lead nowhere. Pervez Musharraf when he was the master of the Pakistani army proposed his four-point formula for Kashmir.
In essence, it meant porous borders between the two halves of Kashmir, each of which the two countries would retain. Manmohan Singh was all for it, but Ashfaq Kayani jettisoned the proposal when he became Pakistani army chief. There has been a ceasefire in effect along the line of control for more than a year now. When the firing ceases, infiltrators from Pakistan find it hard to come to India because they lack covering fire. Yet Indian Foreign Minister S Jaishankar insists that cross-border terrorism is taking place. Most neutral observers agree that the current terrorism in Kashmir is mainly homegrown. India wants Pakistan to come to the negotiating table accepting the ground realities, that the line of control must be made into a permanent border. Pakistan cannot accept this because it means renouncing its claim on Indian Kashmir. But Pakistan is in the doldrums today. Its army will perhaps accept Musharraf’s formula. India though is in no mood to go back to that. It is firmly convinced that it has consolidated Indian Kashmir under its rule. The Pakistani government and even some Indian analysts claim that it was India that was primarily responsible for placing Pakistan in the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) grey list, a move that cost Pakistan billions of dollars.
India is convinced that it was Pakistan that alerted the Muslim world to the Nupur Sharma telecast and tried to make it boycott India. Such then is the reality at the level of the governments. What about the people? Much is made about the bonhomie between the two people, especially when they live abroad. The reality is that Indians and Pakistanis both find themselves second-class in the West. They are considered as one, as Indian, by the white majority. Feeling isolated, and with similar culture and language, they mix somewhat. They might inter-dine but they do not intermarry. And Indian Muslims would rather integrate with Pakistanis than with Indian Hindus. It would not be out of line to say that a majority of Pakistanis distrust Indian Hindus and a majority of Indian Hindus reciprocate the feeling. The distrust didn’t start with Partition. It started a millennia ago when Islam first came to the subcontinent. Partition was a seminal event.
Those who lived through the experience taught their future generations to hate, not love. Many Pakistanis want to see the crescent fly over Delhi’s Red Fort. What is surprising is the number of prominent Indian Muslims who, in the aftermath of the Ram temple award in Ayodhya as well as the Nupur Sharma incident, want to do the same. India’s restive Muslim minority finds itself under siege, but now promises to lay siege to the entire country. What happens if Nupur Sharma is targeted? Will the whole country go up in flames? One side terrorizes if its religion is abused, but feels free to abuse the other’s religion. What happens if the other side too starts killing? Will India descend into civil war? India has become a tinderbox. It is living on a powder keg. There seems to be no honest inter-faith dialogue in progress. One side feels that the government is compromised, in hock to the other party. In such a scenario, only band aids can be applied. How many killings of so-called supporters of Nupur Sharma will it take before India goes into full-scale riot mode? Nupur Sharma is probably running from safe house to safe house. Her lot will probably be miserable for years to come. But even she knows the iconic symbol that she has become for one side. In such cauldrons are mass leaders created. Pakistan is only too happy to see Hindu-Muslim relations deteriorate in India. It is only waiting for when the time is ripe for it to launch its Ghazwa-e-Hind (invasion of India).
The invasion seems far-fetched today, but Pakistan can afford to play the long game. Ghazwa-e-Hind makes Indians see red. Some of them want India to break up Pakistan, and now. They couldn’t care less how many millions of refugees from Pakistan will stream into India. They want to strike when Pakistan is at its weakest. Both then at the governmental level or at the level of the people is there any love lost between the two countries? India has progressed far more than Pakistan, but both still remain poor countries. An enormous amount of money and manpower goes in maintaining some façade of normalcy between the two countries.
The hatred that the two countries feel for each other is perhaps only less than what Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shia Iran feel for each other. It is probably on the same scale that China and Japan reserve for one another. All these countries are not trying to expend an enormous amount of resources in keeping a manufactured diplomatic industry to keep the peace. They realize their differences are insurmountable, and get on with their lives. Jaishankar and PM Modi would do well to follow this template. Boycott Pakistan and focus on the rest of the world. There are plenty of other fish to fry in the world.