Monday, July 9, 2007

India- Pak 55th Ann 02-08-16

A message to India and Pakistan on their 55th Birthday

Mirza A. Beg
Birmingham Post-Herald
August 16, 2002

India and Pakistan came to life as countries 55 years ago at a tumultuous time, in the wake of the British withdrawal and sectarian frenzy. They came in existence to fulfil a dream of charting a future for those who believed in the ideals of equality freedom and justice, though their perspectives were different.

In their short lives, India and Pakistan have gone through more than their share of trials and tribulations, from most of which they have not emerged unscathed. They survived the of assassination of Mr. Gandhi, death of Mr. Jinnah, assassinations of their Prime Ministers and abrogation of democracy many times. Pakistan survived, albeit in a truncated form after the secession of Bangladesh in 1971. Today these two countries with nuclear capabilities are looking to redefine their identities and find the ideals that gave them birth; to find a better tomorrow, to avoid the repercussions from many failed yesterdays.

I wish India and Pakistan would flourish and not only find their rightful place in the sun but be beacons of success, models of good government and society to the rest of the world. They have the intelligentsia, wherewithal and natural resources to achieve this goal, if the people work for it with courage, tolerance and conviction.

The concept of what a nation and a government should be was clear to the founders but has eluded the later generations. A people become a nation when they value the interests of all of its people, provide enough flexibility in the governing system to accommodate their aspirations and channel them to strengthen the body politic. Indians and Pakistanis enjoying the freedoms of the U.S. constitution can help their friends and families in the old country understand this critical concept.

In India, Pakistan and other eastern countries, often even among intellectuals the concept of a nation is parochial. Religion, language, ethnicity, color and creed are not used for healthy competition but for suppression of the “other”.

A country is a geographical entity. It becomes a nation when a consensus towards its ideals is reached and enshrined in the constitution, implemented with justice as the cornerstone.

One needs to understand the difference between nationalism and patriotism. Nationalism is blind support of one’s country no matter what the issue. Patriotism is based on the values that are patrimony of a nation. There were ideals on which India and Pakistan were created. One should not only aspire to those, but insist on them.

Nationalism has no intellectual roots. Patriotism impels us to be true to ourselves. Ends should not be allowed to justify the means. This is a challenge to thoughtful people who value truth, decency and love of fellow beings.

People who have immigrated to the United States from India and Pakistan often realize that they have much in common and can be friends even though they come from countries that often consider each other arch enemies.

There are as many Muslims in India as there are in Pakistan. It is unfortunate that the religious bigots in India in power at the Center and the Gujarat have unleashed pogroms against the hapless Muslims. The sad fact is that Pakistanis while grieving for the Muslims in India treat their own minorities as shabbily.

In Pakistan the blasphemy laws are designed to persecute the minorities. Fortunately there are many in India and Pakistan who have spoken out or written against the insidious nature of such politics, some time at the risk of their own safety.

Kashmir is a bone of contention. Both countries put forward their seemingly legitimate claims. Unfortunately the treatment of minorities in both the countries, religious, ethnic and linguistic scares the people of Kashmir enough to steer clear of both the countries, given a chance.

Enormous amounts of money are sent by the collective “us” to help organizations in our ancestral countries that supposedly help those less fortunate than us. It is a laudable act, but to our chagrin we have lately discovered that some of these often do evil in the name of good. We need to give but with open eyes.

Fifty-five years have passed. How many yesterdays are we proud of? How many tomorrows will not be born unless we use today to actively nurture the ideals that gave birth to the two nations with entwined histories and destinies?

Mirza A. Beg can be reached at or

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