India and Pakistan's cold war

india-pakistanwarThe Los Angeles Times reported Sunday that Pakistan had admitted to India that the terrorists who laid siege to Mumbai last November, killing 166, had been members of Lashkar-e-Taiba, a radical Muslim groups formed two decades ago to fight Indian rule in the Kashmir region. The Mumbai terror attacks were rife with religious depth, much of which went unexplored, and Pakistan's mea culpa for letting a group of extremists from within its borders terrorize a neighbor was met with optimism. Maybe, the Times reported, this could help thaw the icy relations between India and Pakistan:

Meeting in Sharm el Sheik last week on the sidelines of a summit, Pakistani Prime Minister Yusaf Raza Gillani met with his Indian counterpart, Manmohan Singh, and pledged to resume dialogue between the two countries, a significant step toward reconciliation.

At a news conference in Islamabad on Saturday evening, Gillani said his talks with Singh were a good first step, but added that it would take time to chip away at the deep mistrust built up between the two nations for decades.

"Dialogue is not the problem. A trust deficit, that's the problem," Gillani said. "But with more interaction, that will be taken care of."

Relations between India and Pakistan, nuclear-armed countries that historically have regarded each other as archenemies, froze in the wake of the attacks, as New Delhi accused Islamabad of dragging its feet in tracking down Lashkar-e-Taiba members involved in the rampage.

Lashkar-e-Taiba was formed about 20 years ago to fight Indian rule in the Himalayan region of Kashmir. It was founded by firebrand Islamic cleric Hafiz Saeed with what many say was support from Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency. A Pakistani court freed Saeed from house arrest last month, angering Indian leaders.

But missing from this relatively short article, about 20 column inches appearing on A22, was an explanation of why India and Pakistan have been locked in their own cold war since the Indian subcontinent was partitioned. I suspect that was a result of space constraints, but the omission causes a bit of a religion ghost to appear.

Like in Palestine later in 1947, Britain, no longer strong enough to support an empire, decided to abandon its Indian colony. Instead of a bloody war between Arabs and Jews, the consequence on this occasion was an even bloodier war between Muslims and Hindus.

This is why a deep mistrust remains between India and Pakistan. (It's not all a cricket rivalry.) And if we've learned anything from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict it's that diplomatic maneuverings are not enough to quell rooted, and often religiously inspired, hatred of the other.

It would seem, then, that any discussion of lasting peace between India and Pakistan needs to address what Hindus in India grow up believing about Muslims and what Muslims in Pakistan are taught about Hindus. It would also be worthwhile to explore how about 156 million Muslims live peacefully in India, and some quite successfully.

A Life magazine cover from the U.S. State Department Office of the Historian.

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