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So near, yet so far: The fuzzy logic of India-Pakistan relations

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By Vikas Dutta

India and Pakistan have just celebrated their 69th Independence Days. But born in a climate of pervasive hostility, indiscriminate violence and unimaginable suffering and forced translocations for their peoples, the two countries have yet to overcome their toxic birthright to live as better neighbours than they have done so far.

What are the reasons for the continuing mutual suspicion? The bitter memories of Partition? The Kashmir issue/dispute? The lingering distrust of the ‘Other’? There are no easy answers but that hasn’t stopped various interested parties from trying to reason why.

INDIAPAKISTANFLAGSTORY

Objectivity is very difficult to attain – especially if you belong to either of the nations. Are works on the twisted, tangled India-Pakistan relations prejudiced (subtle or blatant) rants or disingenuous/self-serving justifications with some hidden agendas, or sincere attempts to chart how and why Pakistan-India relations have evolved this way? The answer depends on what you choose to believe.

Among the problems in making an objective assessment is of fixing a point when ostensibly irreconcilable and hostile political differences arose – and did they owe to personality clashes, or wider historical/cultural factors? Does such a point lie at Partition or well before 1947 or was there any such decisive moment and it was rather the cumulative effect of decades of political estrangement. There is a host of such issues that can bewilder and perplex.

Only time can answer these questions but for those who choose to satisfy their curiosity now only, half a dozen accessible works can be illuminating.

An overview of India-Pakistan relations extending down to the present day (by a Pakistani/Indian) used to be as rare as travelogues of India/Pakistan by a Pakistani or Indian (one each – Yoginder Sikand’s “Beyond the Border: An Indian in Pakistan” and Raza Rumi’s “Delhi By Heart: Impressions of a Pakistani Traveller” – leaving out India-born but American passport-holder Stephen Alter’s “Amritsar to Lahore: A Journey Across the India-Pakistan Border” but two have come out in this year only. These are Indian diplomat Rajiv Dogra’s “Where Borders Bleed: An Insider’s Account of Indo-Pak Relations” and journalist Dilip Hiro’s “The Longest August: The Unflinching Rivalry Between India and Pakistan” (both 2015).

Dogra, a former Indian consul-general in Karachi, seeks to provide an anecdote-studded account of the region’s recent history, beginning with the run-up to the Partition, its aftermath, other issues that have impacted bilateral relations since and various arbiters of its destiny from the departing British to successors on either side. He also speculates on some “what if” scenarios – no division or a re-union. However, his own professional involvement does mean an element of subjectivity and it is up to the reader to judge the validity of the implied malignity/criminal squandering of advantage but there is no doubt about the less than salutary role of the great powers – but then great power diplomacy is about advantage and influence, not principles.

Hiro’s work, whose title seeks to stress how that terrible month seems to have never ended, follows mostly the same approach but seems a little more equitable and at places quite revealing (especially for Indians conditioned to a particular view of the freedom struggle and its (their) titans (the despair of Mohammad Ali Jinnah as well as many Congress leaders at the direction that the Mahatma was taking the freedom struggle – also corroborated by veteran journalist Durga Das in his memoirs “India from Curzon to Nehru and After” ). One problem is some small but egregious mistakes – Shahzada Yaqub Khan instead of Sahabzada and the like.

If we accept the Partition as a watershed moment, then academician Yasmin Khan’s “The Great Partition: The Making of India and Pakistan” (2008) provides a crisp, balanced analysis of how the murderous madness ensued and played out but also what effect it had on mutual mindsets then (and up to now), while journalist-turned-writer Nisid Hajari’s “Midnight’s Furies: The Deadly Legacy of India’s Partition” (2015) contends how the then unleashed paranoia and hatred, in conjunction with the Kashmir and Hyderabad issue, dug a virtually unbridgeable chasm – and laid the seeds for global terrorism and nuclear proliferation in Pakistan.

Taking the effect forward through oral testimonies is Anam Zakaria’s “Footprints of Partition: Narratives of four generations of Pakistanis and Indians” (2015) which has some touching and saddening examples of the illogicality and iniquity of the division (but also some quite counter-intuitive reactions), though is ultimately disheartening, going by responses of young, impressionable minds.

Marx held the objective was not merely to interpret the world but to change it. For this in the India-Pakistan context, an overwhelming shift in perceptions on both sides is needed. But miracles can happen!

(IANS)

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World’s Anti-Corruption Day

The U.S. Statement Department said in its Friday statement that it pledges "to continue working with our partners to prevent and combat corruption worldwide."

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Anti-Corruption
Bulgarian anti-corruption protesters march during a demonstration in downtown Sofia, VOA

Corruption costs the world economy $2.6 trillion each year, according to the United Nations, which is marking International Anti-Corruption Day on Sunday.

“Corruption is a serious crime that can undermine social and economic development in all societies. No country, region or community is immune,” the United Nations said.

The cost of $2.6 trillion represents more than 5 percent of global GDP.

The world body said that $1 trillion of the money stolen annually through corruption is in the form of bribes.

Patricia Moreira, the managing director of Transparency International, told VOA that about a quarter of the world’s population has paid a bribe when trying to access a public service over the past year, according to data from the Global Corruption Barometer.

Moreira said it is important to have such a day as International Anti-Corruption Day because it provides “a really tremendous opportunity to focus attention precisely on the challenge that is posed by corruption around the world.”

Journalist, Anti-Corruption
An activist places candles and flowers on the Great Siege monument, after rebuilding a makeshift memorial to assassinated anti-corruption journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, in Valletta, Malta. VOA

Anti-corruption commitments

To mark the day, the United States called on all countries to implement their international anti-corruption commitments including through the U.N. Convention against Corruption.

In a statement Friday, the U.S. State Department said that corruption facilitates crime and terrorism, as well as undermines economic growth, the rule of law and democracy.

“Ultimately, it endangers our national security. That is why, as we look ahead to International Anticorruption Day on Dec. 9, we pledge to continue working with our partners to prevent and combat corruption worldwide,” the statement said.

Moreira said that data about worldwide corruption can make the phenomena understandable but still not necessarily “close to our lives.” For that, we need to hear everyday stories about people impacted by corruption and understand that it “is about our daily lives,” she added.

She said those most impacted by corruption are “the most vulnerable people — so it’s usually women, it’s usually poor people, the most marginalized people in the world.”

Anti-Corruption
Anna Hazare raised his voice against corruption and went ahead with his hunger strike at the Jantar Mantar in New Delhi. Wikimedia Commons

The United Nations Development Program notes that in developing countries, funds lost to corruption are estimated at 10 times the amount of official development assistance.

What can be done to fight corruption?

The United Nations designated Dec. 9 as International Anti-Corruption Day in 2003, coinciding with the adoption of the United Nations Convention against Corruption by the U.N. General Assembly.

The purpose of the day is to raise awareness about corruption and put pressure on governments to take action against it.

Tackling the issue

Moreira said to fight corruption effectively it must be tackled from different angles. For example, she said that while it is important to have the right legislation in place to curb corruption, governments must also have mechanisms to enforce that legislation. She said those who engage in corruption must be held accountable.

“Fighting corruption is about providing people with a more sustainable world, with a world where social justice is something more of our reality than what it has been until today,” she said.

Anti-Corruption
It is important to have the right legislation in place to curb corruption

Moreira said change must come from a joint effort from governments, public institutions, the private sector and civil society.

The U.S. Statement Department said in its Friday statement that it pledges “to continue working with our partners to prevent and combat corruption worldwide.”

It noted that the United States, through the U.S. Department of State and U.S. Agency for International Development, helps partner nations “build transparent, accountable institutions and strengthen criminal justice systems that hold the corrupt accountable.”

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Moreira said that it is important for the world to see that there are results to the fight against corruption.

“Then we are showing the world with specific examples that we can fight against corruption, [that] yes there are results. And if we work together, then it is something not just that we would wish for, but actually something that can be translated into specific results and changes to the world,” she said. (VOA)