India and Pakistan: Sharing one soul
Though the partition divided the subcontinent, India and Pakistan are like two bodies sharing one soul.
Recently, I was in India to attend a course on environmental journalism hosted by a renowned New Delhi-based NGO. One day, I was at one of Delhi’s social clubs and ran into a retired Indian general, Maj-Gen Ashok K Mehta, to be precise.
We ended up having quite an interesting conversation. He said that he was in the Indian Army during the 1971 Pakistan-India war and that he had been in contact with several Pakistani prisoners of war.
One of them, he said, was a senior officer, who on the day the Pakistani forces surrendered to the Indians, wrote in his notebook, “One day, we will take revenge”. Gen Mehta said what he saw that day is still etched on his mind, and so he asked me what, as a young Pakistani, I thought needed to be done to bring the two countries closer. Since I had been across the border for some weeks interacting with young Indians, I said:
“Though the (1947) partition divided the subcontinent, we’re like two bodies sharing one soul.”
Then I asked him for his views, specifically on what was preventing the two neighbours from establishing lasting peace between them. He said the basic hurdle to this goal was the militaries in both countries, which didn’t want their nations to be friends. As a result, people in both countries have suffered, and continue to suffer.
During my stay in India, I met many Indians who said that the two countries needed to promote trade and business, which would, in turn, help improve their bilateral ties. I also met many ordinary Indians who, when they found out that I was from Pakistan, warmed up and displayed much hospitality. While my experiences were too varied and enriching for me to describe fully in such a limited space, one thing is important: Pakistanis and Indians need to visit each other’s country because doing so will dispel many misperceptions.