1 July 2015

Ambassador Hopes for 'Calmer Dialogue' About Kashmir

Video: Former Pakistan Video
Ambassador Husain Haqqani discusses the ongoing territorial dispute in Kashmir. (4 min., 11 sec.)

Can Pakistan and India consign their longstanding animosity to history and renew their relationship on the basis of contemporary interests? That question hovered over a discussion between Nisid Hajari, author of the recently published Midnight’s Furies: The Deadly Legacy of India's Partition, former Ambassador of Pakistan to the United States Husain Haqqani, and CNN host Fareed Zakaria.

“It would make sense for Pakistan to get on with the business of opening trade, opening relations,” said Haqqani. “And over time, we will be able to have a much calmer dialogue [about Kashmir].”

Haqqani pointed to India and Pakistan’s ongoing dispute over the region of Kashmir, which began after the partition of India in 1947, as a pivotal issue in India-Pakistan relations.

“Pakistan has not been able to get the Indian part of Kashmir in four wars. A fifth war is not going to change that,” Haqqani added.

Hajari, who is also Asia editor with Bloomberg View, echoed the ambassador in predicting that the status quo would be maintained in the Kashmir conflict.

“I think both countries here need to admit that the line that divides Kashmir right now is the line that’s going to divide Kashmir — how is it going to change?” he said.

Zakaria added, “The solution it seems to me is everyone keeps the Kashmir they have.”

Hajari traced the deep divisions between India and Pakistan back to the fears that Pakistan founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah stoked in order to win popular support for his idea of an independent Pakistan.

“In a democratic parliamentary system, as India was at the time and as the British intended to bequeath to them, Muslims would always be a minority. They were a quarter of the population, and they would never [except in certain provincial legislatures] be able to determine their own destiny. This was the fear that Jinnah played upon,” he said.

Hajari also reflected on the ideological conflict between Pakistan founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah and first Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, who serve as central characters in his narrative account of India’s partition in 1947, which changed the course of the subcontinent’s history.

“When it came time to divide the subcontinent, these were not men who could sit down together and understand each other around a table,” said Hajari. “I’m not saying that the Partition wouldn’t have happened or that there wouldn’t have been riots [if you had two different politicians], but there was every possibility that it wouldn’t have been as terrible as it ended up being."

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