television news, anchors invariably treat Pakistani guests as punching bags.
And should you mention India and Pakistan in the same breath on social media,
odds are that you will immediately be met by a chorus of outrage by angry
Indians. In the Indian imagination, Pakistan has been left behind to wallow in
ignominy while India marches resolutely toward inevitable glory. How dare you
club them together?
isn’t entirely baseless. According to the International Monetary Fund, India’s
$2.94 trillion economy is slightly more than ten times larger than Pakistan’s
$284 billion economy. Looked at differently, about 120 million Maharashtrians
generate $411 billion in economic output, nearly 1.5 times as much as 205
million Pakistanis. At $430 billion in August, India’s foreign exchange reserves
dwarfed Pakistan’s meagre $10 billion. In many areas of scientific inquiry –
for instance, space exploration – the two countries are clearly not comparable.
as with so much else in the new India, the conventional view on Pakistan is
hyperbolic. In gross domestic product terms, much of India’s lead can be
explained by the simple fact that India houses nearly seven times as many
people as its neighbour. The average Indian, whose per capita income is $2,170,
is only 1.5 times richer than his Pakistani counterpart. By contrast, the
average Chinese, with a per capita income of $10,100, is nearly five times
richer than the average Indian.
dip into Pakistani newspapers, you will quickly come to realise that the
country grapples with many problems familiar to Indians. A Supreme Court given
to undisciplined meddling in the executive domain? Policemen casually familiar
with torture? A government allergic to criticism? An inability to slay the
monster of urban air pollution? The idea that a charismatic leader can simply
hit the restart button on a country, like rebooting a laptop? Pakistan has them
advent of Modi strengthened or weakened Pakistan? For the prime minister’s many
fans this is a heretical question. How could India’s muscular leader have done
anything but weaken an historical foe?
know for certain when future historians pore over the Modi era. In the
meantime, the argument would look something like this: The February Balakot
airstrikes called Pakistan’s nuclear bluff and forced the Pakistani army to
reconsider the use of its favourite weapon against India – jihadist proxies. At
the same time, the growing economic gap with India, pressure from the Financial
Action Task Force (FATF), and the handcuffs of an International Monetary Fund
lending programme have also limited Pakistan’s ability to respond to Modi’s
voiding of autonomy for Jammu and Kashmir and bifurcation of the state into two
federally administered Union territories.
can Pakistan do nothing to force its claim, but the world knows it can do
nothing to force its claim. Eventually this could nudge Pakistan to become less
of a garrison state – one dominated by a powerful military – and more of a
normal democracy where elected politicians spend most of their time trying to
please voters with roads, schools and hospitals. Why maintain an outsize army
when Kashmir is a lost cause and nuclear weapons anyway guarantee a large
measure of national security?
outcome would undoubtedly benefit India; it would also benefit the vast
majority of Pakistanis. But it’s not the only way of looking at Modi’s possible
impact on Pakistan. An alternative thesis, one that focuses less on actions and
more on ideas, suggests the opposite result. Instead of weakening Pakistan, the
Modi government has strengthened the Islamic Republic.
heart of this argument lies a simple understanding of the powerful idea that
birthed Pakistan to begin with: that undivided India’s Muslim minority could
never hope to be treated fairly by the Hindu majority in an independent
country. As the standard Pakistani version of history goes, Muhammad Ali
Jinnah, a staunch secularist for much of his political career, tried in vain to
get a fair deal for his community from Congress. Only in frustration did he
pursue Partition, an outcome that his opponents, including Jawaharlal Nehru,
derided as a silly fantasy that could never be fulfilled.
this historical backdrop, even after the passage of seven decades, a question
hung over Pakistanis. Would they have been better off had Partition never
happened? Or in the case of Mohajirs, migrants from Hindi-speaking parts of
India: Would they have been better off had they never left?
ago, you could plausibly argue that, for all its flaws, India offered citizens
of all faiths a combination of economic opportunity and constitutional
protections superior to anything available across the border. After all, would
you rather be a software engineer in Bangalore or Lahore? An actor in Mumbai or
Karachi? A journalist in Delhi or Islamabad?
question mark has now vanished. In the past five years, India has morphed in
the Pakistani imagination, not without reason, to a place where Muslims face
mob violence, political marginalisation and, in some cases, the threat of
disenfranchisement. Far from weakening Pakistan, the Modi dispensation has
instead given the country’s founding ideology its biggest boost in a long, long
Views expressed above are the author's own.
Headline: The Two-Nation Paradox: On Modi’s watch, India has both showcased
Pakistan’s weakness and strengthened its cohesion
Source: The Times of India