The news about British Kinghthood to Salman Rushdie- a British author of Indian origin- has sparked public protests in Pakistan and some other Muslim countries. The Pak parliament also passed a resolution deploring the Award. However, the British High Commissioner to Pakistan Robert Brinkley said that Rushdie’s knighthood was a reflection of his contribution to literature and was not intended as an insult to Islam or the Prophet Mohammad. However Pakistan summoned Brinkley to protest against the Award. Britain’s envoy in Iran was also summoned.
Meanwhile protests are being witnessed in Afganistan also.
Thankfully, India has not done nothing so far ( It may be noted that India has a bigger Muslim population than the total Muslim population of Pakistan). That probably to some extent also derives for the fact that in a theocratic state -as Pakistan chose to be- the mills of religious passions and intolerance always keep on grinding, whereas a ‘secular’ democracy sets different types of tones and thus it becomes hard to sustain the religious passions!
The growing religious intolerance, particularly of Islamic world, is of concern to India. India is surrounded by Pakistan and Bangladesh (and Afganistan ) and as we know the first two were parts of undidvided India at one time. It is so painful to have lost territories of your country first on purely the flawed basis of religion and then see these countries engrossed in totally misplaced priorities. It concerns India beacuse we need peaceful neighbors. I have alwys maintained that we need friendly ties with Pakistand and Bangladesh and we need stable democracies in these countries. I abhor the way the two countries keep igniting the animosity and refuse to mutually resolve the issues (I am not trying to underplay the complexities of the issues, but we need to move ahead for sure) India must engage them diplomatically towards these issues. But the likes of current developments totally offset the hope that I have indicated in my columns.
Why Pakistan is acting as a custodian of Islam, more so of a militant Islam? Why were we divided? What went wrong with our ancient civilizationa and the oldest religion on the earth (read Hinduism) that preaches universal peace? Can cultural invasion (Mogul rule) put your identity at stake? Can same people -who speak kind of same languages, dress the same way, look similar, still share many cultural ethos, but are divided on the basis of religion – behave so differently? I am pained to say that an implanted religion on Indian sub-continent is drawing attention world-wide and for wrong reasons!
Meanwhile this article titled “The Real Problem With Pakistan” by Fareed Zakaria published in the June 25, 07 issue of NewsWeek tries to analyse the complexities of Pakistan. He rightly says: ” If there is a central front in the war on terror, it is not in Iraq, but in Pakistan”. And he concludes his article with these apt remarks: “Back in the 18th century, Frederick the Great’s Prussia was characterized as “not a state with an army, but an army with a state.” So it is with Pakistan. A complex reality”. Despite this, I would reiterate that a stable and democratic Pakistan should be the long-term goal for India and it must play its role in achieving this goal more responsibly, instead of uttering the usual rhetorics. India and US should see this as a common goal and should work in tandem to acheive this. However, the current Bush administration -who treats Pakistan as an ‘ally in the war against terror’- will have to revise its strategy and see the facts in a newer light.