South Asian Peace

Should Pakistan and India Bury the Hatchet?

As the two South Asian neighbours initiated dialogue in mid 2003, the Pakistani newspaper Dawn posed the question to 26 artists and scholars.1 Here is what some of them had to say:

F.S. Aijazuddin

Poet and Author of several books including Lahore Recollected: An Album and The Bark of the Pen.

Surely we can talk again

Surely we can talk again, without using cloven tongues that lisp and hiss cleft meanings, disguising our true intent.
Surely we can smile again, with teeth washed clean of each other's blood, mould lips into forgiving kiss Jesus gave to Judas Iscariot.
Surely we can touch each other's palms without losing caste, hold fast in an embrace that will keep us face to face as future friends, not yester-foes.
Surely we can age together, teach your youth and mine, what they need to know, about how close we came to committing joint infanticide.
Surely we can offer a common prayer in our separate dialects to our separate, equal Gods.
Have we not proof enough that my God is no stronger than yours, nor yours any stronger than mine?

Dr Mubarak Ali

Historian and author of over 25 books including Historian's Dispute and History on Trial.

A lesson history teaches us is that no country can afford perpetual confrontation with its neighbours. It has to resolve its problems through dialogue. Pakistan has gained nothing from its 56 years of hostility with India. On the contrary, we have lost a number of opportunities to learn together with each other and contribute to the universal knowledge system. We have squandered the opportunity to gain a dignified place in the civilized world. Hostility has affected our energy, creativity and resources. Having experienced economic loss, political subjugation, social and religious disintegration, we are now at the stage when we should abandon our policy of hatred and bury the hatchet with India and concentrate on improving, reforming and strengthening our society internally.

To develop good and friendly relations with India, we must first of all correct history textbooks that contain poisonous anti-Indian and anti-Hindu material. It has already created a mindset, which believes in confrontation, jingoism and extremism rather than tolerance and friendship. This mindset has to be changed. Secondly, we must also make attempts to purge anti-Indian sentiments from our media.

We all know that cultural ties play an effective role in bringing people together. Therefore, there is a need to promote mutual social and cultural relations between the people of the two countries. We must create a peaceful world so that the coming generations are not required to live under the shadow of war.

Dr Aslam Farrukhi

Researcher, literary critic and author of Angan Mein Sitaray.

The doors of friendship between Pakistan and India are now ajar. The dosti buses have started plying on the Lahore-Delhi route. Negotiations on air links are on the cards. These are welcome moves, especially for a person who has been a witness to the animosities of the last 56 years.

Friendship has always taken precedence over enmity for sensible people. Love is a more powerful tool than hatred to resolve problems. Pakistan and India should know. They have fought wars but not a single problem was resolved on the battlefield and matters went from bad to worse. Mercifully they are now coming to understand the truth and efforts are afoot to bring about reconciliation between them.

Writers and poets are the ambassadors of love and friendship. Pakistani authors have used their writings to bring the peoples of India and Pakistan closer so that they can share their pain and sufferings.

I also wait eagerly for the air routes to open between Pakistan and India. I wait for visits from my friends in India and look forward to receiving books, and newspapers from there. I had been visiting the most revered shrine of Hazrat Nizamuddin Aulia for sixteen years. I want to pay homage to my saint once again.

I had composed a 'mauqabat' (adulatory verse) in praise of Hazrat Sultanji (RH) five years ago. The sentiments still hold true. It runs:

Mauqabat by Dr. Aslam Farrukhi

Let humanism, love and peace prevail
Let flowers from every garden spread their fragrance
And in the bouquet collected fondly
Flowers from the Ravi and the Indus and the Ganges and the Jamuna be interlaced

The time has come to pick the flowers.

Ahmad Faruqui

Economist and author of Rethinking the National Security of Pakistan.

India and Pakistan need to bury the hatchet, or their second half-century would look as bleak as their first. The partition of 1947 did not bring an end to the "communal conflict" between the Muslims and the Hindus. It re-emerged as the first war over Kashmir, which ended with Pakistan having won a third of the "promised land." Two more major wars and several minor wars came later, the realities on the ground changed but little. More than a hundred thousand innocent lives were lost in the process. Billions were spent on military expenditures that could have been used to feed the poor, educate the children, minimize corruption and institutionalize sustainable development.

South Asia continues to be a low-income zone while the Asia-Pacific region, which was just as poor a half century ago, now ranks among the world's prosperous regions. If India and Pakistan were to bury the hatchet, there is no limit to what they can accomplish together. When European nations with ancient enmities spanning centuries can become friends, why can't India and Pakistan? Their squabbling has impoverished a fifth of humanity, and only benefited the merchants of hate and the purveyors of weaponry. It should stop.

Dr Farman Fatehpuri

Professor of Urdu, Chief Editor, Urdu Dictionary Board and author of Taabirat-i-Ghalib, and Amli Tanqeeden, Niaz Shenasi and Mir Ko Samajhney Ke Leeay.

It is now 55 years when the Indo-Pakistan subcontinent was declared independent. That is the age the British government decreed as the retirement age of its employees. Let us also retire the British imperialist legacy from our midst. This is time enough for Pakistanis and Indians to cleanse their minds of all such biases and prejudices that have hampered their progress and welfare, as these were created with a purpose.

Let us compare ourselves with other countries, which won their liberation much after us. They managed their affairs so skillfully to consolidate their power so much so that today the major states of the West feel threatened by them. The People's Republic of China, Japan, Malaysia, Indonesia, Korea and others have gained in strength and prosperity and now they don't need not go to any other country with a beggar's bowl.

If we analyze the causes behind our backwardness we will discover that the mutual hatred, apprehensions, biases, narrow mindedness, intolerance and fears that the two countries have nursed for decades have taken them to the verge of destruction. These tools of suicide should now be buried deep. It is time to promote love between the two nations and not hatred.

The nuclear age has taught us about life and death. We can now see the cause behind our malaise. It is our ignorance about each other that breeds fear, and it is fear that causes tension and social and political chaos. In the process we have gone and acquired nuclear power with which we can only annihilate ourselves. Let us use this knowledge to sow the seeds of peace, friendship and development.

Zahida Hina

Short story writer, author of Zamir Ki Awaz and Qaidi Saans Leta Hai.

Those were the martyrs - Mangal Panday and Ishwari Panday lit the torch of freedom by giving up their lives in 1857. The Rani of Jhansi, Hazrat Mahal, Raja Kunwar Singh, Tantia Tope and Bakht Khan chose to die for Mughal India. In the 20th century Bhagat Singh and Dada Ashfaq went to the gallows for India's freedom. Then how did it happen that the Muslims and the Hindus took up the hatchet against each other and launched on a campaign to decimate their rich Indo-Iranian civilization and secular tradition? Sadly the killing spree goes on.

This act of violence has given us the gift of terrorism, poverty, unemployment, illiteracy, and many such social evils in its wake. In global politics, the US has replaced the East India Company. The Americans have established their military bases in our region, and are anxious to devour us with their economic and military might.

Should we the Muslims and Hindus of South Asia continue to bleed each other to death in the name of jihad and Hindutva? Has not the time come yet for us to bury our hatchets, swords and kirpans and our hatred for each other, for the sake of independence, right of self-determination and prosperity of the subcontinent and our invaluable common culture?

Dr Pervez Hoodbhoy

Professor of nuclear and high-energy physics and author of Muslim and Science.

For the moment Pakistan-India relations seem to be on the upswing. But will this happy situation last? It is easy to be lulled into complacency and forget that the fundamentals remain unchanged. A hardline Hindu nationalist government is in power in India, infatuated by dreams of national grandeur and dismissive of the real needs of India's people.

On our side there is a government headed by soldiers, and fatally obsessed with Kashmir. They keep telling us not to worry because nuclear weapons will always prevent war by the very fact of their existence. This untested hypothesis has created a dangerous sense of complacency even as we slide towards nuclear apocalypse. None of South Asia's political and military leaders have yet grasped Einstein's famous remark that the Bomb has changed everything except our way of thinking.

Continuing militarization is glaring proof of the repeated failure of Indian and Pakistani hawks to make peace. These men belong to two tribes that can barely conceal their mutual animosity, but whose mindsets and perceptions are cloned from the other. They can generate no recommendations, no discussions of relevance and substance, and no goodwill for future initiatives.

Therefore, making peace will have to be a task for the people of the subcontinent and the diaspora, spread far and wide. Only activists, scholars, writers, journalists, and others who feel the urgency for breaking with the past, can generate the goodwill needed for peace efforts to eventually succeed.

Dr Tariq Rahman

Academician, scholar and author of several books including Language and Politics in Pakistan.

Pakistan and India have suffered incalculably because of the state of hostility between them. First, many families became separated and the emotional cost of never being able to meet loved ones was simply inexpressible. Then there was the cultural cost. There was much both the countries could have gained by being able to exchange views and cultural artifacts. This is done but at the cost of hypocrisy i.e. Indian songs and movies are enjoyed in Pakistan but the stated policy is to ban them and hate them. Then, there is the cost to trade which is best known to business people who often lament the insanity of not being able to buy and sell things except through smugglers. Above all, there is the cost to the people because of military spending. It is only recently that a new and grisly hydra has raised its head - the possibility of nuclear extiction! If this happens, we will also have to reckon the cost to the environment which one can hardly contemplate without shuddering at the prospect. For all these reasons, it is insane not to bury the hatchet. But how is any government to do so? After all, both sides have spread so much hatred against each other through official textbooks, unofficial posturing and the hateful speeches of religious fanatics on both sides that the public has taken the governments hostage.

The governments may want to move away from their earlier positions but the public would not let them. This is the common perception. However, my recent surveys of the opinions of students and teachers in Pakistan tells me that the public does not want war. Indeed, it wants peace though it imagines that this peace is possible without fexibility and compromise.This is an illusion. The way to buy peace is to make the public flexible on both sides. This will take long but it is possible. It is also in the long-term interests of the elites of both sides since they can only prosper if the countries remain. Not to bury the hatchet endangers the very existence of South Asia. It is one of the greatest perils on the planet.

Fehmida Riaz

Feminist poet, short story writer and author of Badan Dareeda.

Purva Anchal

How beautiful is this land!
Beautiful and long-suffering.
A shawl of buckwheat green
Flutters in the wake
Of this train speeding
Through the East.
As far as eye can see,
Green fields and granaries.
This land is a peasant woman
Coming home from the fields
With a bundle on her head.

Where angry vultures wheel
Over the rooftops and threaten to lunge,
Any minute, in any direction?
The grass is wet with dew,
Unless my tear-glazed eyes
See only tears.

Brick and stone
Reduced to rubble.
Mosque and temple still locked
In the same old squabble.
Every brow disfigured
By a frown.

A son of this land,
Laid long ago to rest,
Wakens now,
To bring you peace.

Listen to Kabir,
Who pleads with you:
Wars of hatred
Do no honour to God.
Ram and Rahim both
Will shun a loveless land.

Near a bamboo grove
Across the unruffled River Sarju,
By a lotus pond thick with blooms,
Stands a Buddha tablet
With a message from the wise.

"When two are locked in conflict and ready to lose their lives,
neither can win in the end,
unless both do -- and equally.

A battle lost by either
Will be fought and refought
Until both are destroyed
And both are equal losers".

Such are the paradigms of war,
Such the insight of the Buddha.
Why are we, his heirs, so blind?

The Pandit and the Mullah
Are flattered and hung with garlands
And feasted and housed like lords,
While you, dear people of the land,
Are drowned every time
In the bloodbaths they inspire.

(Translated into English by Patricia L. Sharpe and Salman Tariq Qureshi)

Dr Sher Zaman Taizi

Pushto scholar and author of Gul Khan, Ghunday, Amanat and Wadah o' N'sho.


There are some small segments of society on both sides, which want disturbance and violence to serve their nefarious interests. They are (a) religious fanatics, (b) greedy business communities, (c) profiteers, (d) black marketers and (e) fame-hungry politicians. They create new issues and exploit dormant issues to fog the minds of the people and entangle them in non-issues.

Majorities on both sides are now tired of their evil designs.

India and Pakistan have no reason to deprive millions of their peoples of their basic rights to security, health and education in the immoral games of the small vested interests.

Of late, hope has emerged on the horizon and the clouds of distrust are thinning. That is how I see the restoration of the Dosti Bus Service; the resumption of the junior one-day cricket matches, the return of the High Commissioners to the two capitals and the recent bilateral trade agreement between the chambers of commerce of both the countries.

Bacha Khan persistently emphasized peaceful co-existence in the region -- between India, Pakistan and Afghanistan. We should not forget the lesson given by this great visionary figure.

It is now time for Pakistan and India to cut down their expenditures on defence and the money thus saved should be diverted to security, health and education, and overall prosperity of their peoples. Both countries should destroy their nuclear weapons under the joint supervisions of teams of their own experts and UN experts. We don't need atom bombs. We need books.

1Used with permission of Dawn, August 2003