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Thursday, June 18, 2015, Ashar 4, 1422 BS, Shaban 30, 1436 Hijr

Why Delhi-Dhaka ties are durable
Amulya Ganguli
Published : Thursday, 18 June, 2015,  Time : 12:00 AM,  View Count : 22
Historical enmity is not the only reason why the India-Pakistan relations have followed a different trajectory from the one which defines the Delhi-Dhaka ties. Considering how these links have been reaffirmed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to Bangladesh, it may be worthwhile to examine what went so tragically wrong on the other side of the sub-continent.
 An analysis will also have to take note of the fact that the anti-Indian or, rather, anti-Hindu sentiments which gave birth to Pakistan in 1947, which then included present day Bangladesh, were nearly the same in both West and East Pakistan. Yet, the subsequent fallout has been different.
An idea of the prevailing animus of the earlier period can be gauged from a letter written to Muhammed Ali Jinnah in 1945 by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, then a high school student in Bombay.
In it, he wrote: "Musalmans should realize that the Hindus can never and will never unite with us, they are the deadliest enemies of our Koran and our Prophet ? Our destiny is Pakistan, our aim is Pakistan ?"
Today, if that tryst with destiny has reached a dead end, the reasons are: first, the contrived nature of the political machination to create a Hindu-Muslim divide in the 1940s, and, secondly, Pakistan's frenzied attempts to seek parity with a much larger India, which were doomed to failure from the start.
While the hollowness of the two-nation theory was exposed by the creation of Bangladesh, the latter's far closer relations with India - compared to Islamabad's with New Delhi - are testimony to the subterranean role played on the eastern side of the sub-continent by the Bengali cultural and linguistic factors in strengthening community-wise contacts where religion is seen as no more than a personal matter.
Besides, the moderate version of Islam, which is followed in riverine Bangladesh, is more conducive towards facilitating people-to-people interactions devoid of religions undertones than in the desert-based Wahabi model which is now prevalent in Pakistan. It is this much harsher form of Islam which has sidelined the Punjabi cultural links in the region.
Although there are fanatical elements in Bangladesh who succeeded in evicting the outspoken feminist Taslima Nasreen first to India and now to the US, and have assassinated several liberal-minded bloggers, they are basically outliers who are far from representing the mainstream of the country's social, cultural and political life.
Arguably, in Pakistan, too, the jehadis cannot be said to reflect the views of the majority. But, they have succeeded in instilling fear in the minds of ordinary people by their indiscriminate acts of violence. The belief that the religious extremists are hand-in-glove with the army and the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) also gives them an aura of invincibility.
The reason why Pakistan has become an "epicentre of terror" is well-known. It is an offshoot of its desire to be India's equal, which it first sought to achieve by being a tool in America's war against communism, and now as China's all-weather friend.
It is this relentless offensive against the "Hindus (who) are the deadliest enemies of our Koran and our Prophet", which has made the Pakistan army and ISI use terrorism as a weapon of war to the detriment of not only Pakistan but the image of Muslims worldwide.
Bangladesh, on the other hand, has never been driven by this motive if only because its love for the Bengali language marked out its difference from Pakistan, which it began to see as a colonizing power not long after 1947.
Besides, as Ayesha Jalal writes in her book, The Struggle for Pakistan: "Eastern Bengal had formed no part of Muhammad Iqbal's conception of a Muslim homeland. The Lahore resolution of 1940 had spoken of more than one Muslim state in the northwestern and north-eastern parts of the sub-continent. On the eve of partition, Jinnah himself had given his blessings to the idea of a united and independent Bengal".
It was the Quaid-e-Azam who can be said to have sown the seeds of an independent Bengal when, to quote Jalal again, "he bluntly told (the Bengalis) to accept Urdu as the state language".
Moreover, as Hazan Zaheer says in his book, The Separation of East Pakistan, "to the Muslim intellectuals of northern India, influenced by the Aligarh school of thought, the demand for Pakistan was the culmination of the Muslim renaissance movement initiated by Sir Syed Ahmed Khan. ?
"In their thought processes, it was to safeguard the religious, cultural and political rights of the Muslims of the entire sub-continent. They assumed a cultural and linguistic unity of the Muslims which was not there. For the Muslims of Bengal, economic emancipation from Hindu dominance was the immediate and tangible consideration in the pursuit of a separate Homeland".
Having achieved their goal of economic emancipation, the Muslims of East Bengal are now ready to move on to the next stage of accelerated growth through trade and transit facilities so that "sonar Bangla" can attain the heights of prosperity in partnership with India.
Pakistan, too, could have achieved the same objective if it hadn't allowed itself to be sucked into the jehadi maelstrom by pursuing the unattainable idea of, first, equality with India and, secondly, snatching Kashmir if the first objective could not fulfilled.
In the process of chasing these chimeras, Pakistan runs the risk of falling off the map as the world recoils from its medieval-type, violence-prone polity.

Amulya Ganguli is a writer on current affairs. E-mail: [email protected] The article appeared in South Asia Monitor

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