With troops massed at the India-Pakistan border, and
communication and travel between the two nations frozen, we are
reminded of the perpetual possibility of armed conflict between
these nuclear-armed neighbors.
Rich in culture and resources, and the birthplace of several
great civilizations and world religions, the region is marked by
poverty and conflict. Despite its recent advances in cyberscience
and its mature spiritual traditions, India evokes images of disease
and social dysfunction. Pakistan suggests religious intolerance, and
a culture of irrational violence. For both of us - one Pakistani,
the other from India - this is a source of immense sadness.
Until modern times, the region was a model of financial and
administrative accomplishment. Its traders were wealthy, its
manufacturers highly productive, its craftsmen exquisitely talented.
The Muslim Moghuls ruled a predominantly Hindu population and
elaborated an Indian civilization that partook of both cultures.
The Moghuls developed a sophisticated and equitable tax system.
This structure was so well designed, the British emulated it in
setting up their local administration in India, itself the pride of
the British Empire. In the 16-century empire of Akbar the Great, the
poorest province had revenues larger than those of the United
Today, all must also acknowledge the contemporary accomplishments
of Pakistanis and Indians: abroad and at home, in education,
business, leadership of international financial institutions and UN
agencies, academic life, and literature. And though justifiably
known for women's oppression, both countries have had women
political leaders, activists, journalists, diplomats, novelists, and
As British India moved toward independence in 1947, greatness was
expected by all - Britons, secular Indian nationalists, Muslim
partisans of a separate Pakistan, and Hindu revivalists. India would
inherit British power and wealth, and revive its own ancient
Greatness was also expected of the relatively small and
impoverished new nation of Pakistan, so gifted was its leadership.
The first generation of Pakistanis sought to revive the greatness of
Indian Muslim civilization. They sought to represent the interests
of all Muslims of the subcontinent.
Between Rabindranath Tagore, the poet and first Indian to win the
Nobel prize in 1913, and the Pakistani physicist Abdus Salam who
shared the Nobel prize in 1979, came an extraordinary group. Nehru,
India's first prime minister, was an accomplished historian.
Radhakrishnan, its second president, was a renowned scholar and
philosopher, as was Iqbal, the poet and intellectual hero of
Pakistan's national movement. This firmament included women such as
India's Sarojini Naidu, the poet of national awakening. Greatness
will continue to elude both societies in the absence of prosperity
and security. Neither is possible without peace.
There are as many Muslims in India as there are in Pakistan. …