The brave and fractious anti-British uprising of 1857 was put down with a heavy hand. It took another 90 eventful years for Hindus and Muslims who claimed to have jointly led the anti-colonial showdown to part ways. Anger, acrimony, violence visited both communities and tore up large swathes of their habitats across the subcontinent .
Himalayan rivers have become the new flash point in the bitter India-Pakistan conflict, providing the latest diplomatic weapon in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s push to isolate Islamabad.
Baluchistan—divided between the Iranian province of Sistan va Baluchestan, the parts of Afghanistan around Kandahar, Nimruz and Helmand and Pakistan’s Balochistan province—is on track to emerge as one of the most pivotal geo-economic hubs of the twenty-first century.
India’s Vice President Hamid Ansari joined Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Presidents Ashraf Ghani of Afghanistan and Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow of Turkmenistan in the ground-breaking ceremony of the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (Tapi) gas pipeline in Mary, Turkmenistan. Ansari hailed the pipeline as a major step towards regional integration. It is to be completed by 2018. Will the Afghan political and security situation allow that to happen?
Pakistan is there. It is on India’s western border (and until 1971 was also on the eastern border). It cannot be wished away; nor can India pretend it will go away. On the very day the two countries became independent, they inherited a clutch of problems that was the inevitable result of Partition. I know of no example in history where two countries born out of a division of land lived in peace ever after.
Afghanistan has always been a frontline state. Alexander came in 327 BCE, Babar in 1504 and the British in 1836. In 1843, it became the first country in South Asia to get independence from the British – more than a hundred years before India. In 1979, the Soviet Union entered Afghanistan and since 2001, United States and NATO forces have been there. The country has always been a coveted area for strategic influence.
In a major breakthrough, Pakistan and India announced on Wednesday that they were resuming the dialogue on outstanding issues, ending a two-year long stalemate.
It is time that Pakistan and India take each other into confidence on their roles in Afghanistan. Their roles need not be mutually exclusive. India is the fifth largest donor to Afghan reconstruction. Any objection by Islamabad to India’s role in Afghanistan causes the most severe resentment in Kabul. Pakistan has the right to demand that Afghan soil not be used by any one against its interests.