View Mobile Site


Nichols: Indian-Pakistani conflict goes way back

POSTED: December 29, 2008 5:00 a.m.

When the 10 or more terrorists stormed into Mumbai, India, their three-day rampage was yet another outrage in a stream of wars between India and Pakistan. It follows clashes in 1947, 1965 and 1999, plus individual border incidents in the state of Kashmir, which is divided between Pakistan in the northwest and India to the southwest.

It involves basic philosophy about the nature of India after the British ended more than 400 years of economic penetration. In those years, the British practiced a form of racism they called the "white man's burden" in a form of economic paternalism. India was seen as a source of raw cotton and other basic items, and a market for British manufactured goods.

Many of the British thought they were doing Indians a favor by introducing them to the culture of modern economic life. But socially, Indians were kept in a distance, not permitted to join any of the various clubs and churches that were open only to the white people who came to administer the colony.

Since Britain needed local help to administer such a large population, the British opened their universities in England to students from other parts of the British Empire, including India. Two of the brightest scholars were Mohammed Ali Jinnah, a Muslim, and Mahatma Gandhi, a Hindu.

Both Gandhi and Jinnah posed a question that the British were unable to answer: What gives you the right to rule over India? You did not conquer us in military battle. You did not purchase us from the Mogul emperors who governed us before the British ever got here and snatched us from the Portuguese, Dutch, and French who were left with only tiny enclaves on our coasts.

India supplied many soldiers who fought along side of the British in both World Wars I and II. But for their contributions to allied victory, they received few rewards. Gandhi and his Indian National Congress Party wanted the British to withdraw and let India govern itself as one country with different nationalities and religions.

Jinnah and his Muslim League wanted to have two states; Muslims should get East and West Pakistan for their people, and Gandhi and the Congress Party could have the rest of India for the Hindus, Sikhs, and other groups who were not Muslim.

When Independence came in 1947, the Mountbatten Plan partitioned India along the lines demanded by Jinnah, not Gandhi. East and West Pakistan were separated by a thousand miles of Indian territory. As the direct result of partition, more than 7. 2 million Muslims fled to Pakistan, 7.29 million Hindus and Sikhs fled to India.

As the Muslims moved mostly west and Hindus mostly east, great friction developed and many people were killed. Between 500,000 and 1 million deaths are attributed to the refugees going in different directions for different religious and cultural reasons.

In addition to the property administered directly by the British before they departed in 1947, there were 625 princely states each governed by a local prince or maharajah.

If the maharajah was Hindu and he was surrounded by Hindu territory, he joined India. If he was a Muslim, he joined Pakistan. (Later East Pakistan seceded and became the independent state of Bangladesh).

One maharajah refused to join either side: the Maharajah of Kashmir, who was Hindu while most of his people were Muslim. His first act after the British left was to sign a contract for Pakistan to deliver international mail to Kashmir. Some thought that meant he would join Pakistan like other Muslim maharajas did. But he delayed.

Pakistani militants crossed the border into Kashmir and the maharajah ordered his tiny army to resist. The militants from Pakistan overwhelmed the maharajah's troops. So he called upon India to help him out.

India told the maharajah that they could only send help if he joined India by signing over his country to India and becoming a part of India's territory. He acceded and Pakistan and India began the first of three wars over Kashmir, all fought to a draw, leaving Pakistan in control of about one third of the country, India the rest.

I think the terrorist attack on Mumbai was an attempt by Muslim extremists who want to see a fourth war between India and Pakistan break out, continuing to struggle over Kashmir reflecting the differences between Jinnah and Gandhi over 60 years ago.

What makes this especially dangerous is that since 1999 both India and Pakistan have developed weapons of mass destruction. If this escalates into an out-and-out war, some hotheaded military or political leader might launch nuclear weapons.

A spark in the Balkans started the fire that became the First World War. Nuclear weapons launched in Kashmir could ignite a Third World War.

Our prayers should be with President-elect Obama and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates as they consider how best to keep the peace for everybody.

Tom Nichols is a retired college professor who lives in Gainesville. His column appears regularly. 


Commenting not available.
Commenting is not available.




Powered by
Morris Technology
Please wait ...