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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.

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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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India Continues Engaging With USA Over H-1B Passport Issue

India is closely engaged with the US administration as well as the US Congress on this matter.

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As Trump proposes changes in H1-B visa, India continues to engage with US

India is continuing to engage with the US over the H-1B visa, largely availed of by Indian IT companies, after the Trump administration proposed changes to the programme, a senior official said on Thursday.

“It is a very important topic for us and that is the reason why we have time and again at various levels, we have taken up this matter with the US side,” External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said in response to queries by journalists here.

Kumar said that most recently, the issue was raised during the first ever India-US 2+2 Ministerial Meeting held here last month that was attended by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defence Secretary Jim Mattis.

On Wednesday, the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said that the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) plans to come out with its new proposal by January 2019.

India n Passport
It will also “revise the definition” of employment and employer-employee relationship to “better protect” US workers and wages Flickr

The DHS said it was also proposing to remove from its regulations certain H-4 spouses of H-1B non-immigrants as a class of aliens eligible for employment authorisation.

The move to end the rule could have an impact on more than 70,000 H-4 visa holders, who have work permits.

The H-4 visas are issued by the USCIS to immediate family members (spouse and children under 21 years of age) of the holders of H-1B visa.

The DHS said it will propose to revise the definition of speciality occupation to increase focus on obtaining the best and the brightest foreign nationals via the H-1B programme.

It will also “revise the definition” of employment and employer-employee relationship to “better protect” US workers and wages, the DHS said.

Donald Trump, India
President Donald Trump speaks about immigration alongside family members affected by crimes committed by undocumented immigrants, at the South Court Auditorium on the White House complex, June 22, 2018, in Washington, VOA

In his remarks on Thursday, Kumar said that India is closely engaged with the US administration as well as the US Congress on this matter.

Stating that there are certain bills which have been introduced, he, however, said that “it is important to note that none of these bills have been passed so far”.

“When we have engaged with the US, we have emphasised that our partnership which we have in the digital sphere have been mutually beneficial,” the spokesperson said.

Also Read: USA And Other Countries Pledge To Eradicate Illegal Wildlife Trade

“We have highlighted the role which has been played by the highly skilled Indian professionals who have actually contributed to the growth and development of the US economy,” he stated.

“And also they have helped the US to maintain a competitive edge in the world towards innovation and science and technology.” (IANS)