Climate of Mutual Suspicion in India, Pakistan Spans 50 Years

By Sieff, Martin | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), May 29, 1998 | Go to article overview

Climate of Mutual Suspicion in India, Pakistan Spans 50 Years


Sieff, Martin, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


India and Pakistan are twin nations born simultaneously from the British Empire in torrents of blood half a century ago, and that legacy of mutual hatred, suspicion and fear has never mellowed.

"The pattern of their relationship is real simple. It's not good," said James Przystup, Asian affairs analyst at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative public policy organization.

The 20th-century conflict between the two nations has its roots in 800 years of turmoil during most of which Muslim conquerors dominated the ancient Hindu civilization of India, analysts said.

Now, tensions between India and Pakistan are on the rise again as the historic enemies sublimate domestic political conflicts in mutual nuclear saber-rattling.

The two great nations of the South Asian subcontinent fought three major wars within their first quarter of a century, and tens of thousands have died since then in the historically disputed Indian border provinces of Kashmir and Punjab.

Historians increasingly blame Lord Louis Mountbatten, the last viceroy of Britain's Indian Empire, for pushing through its partition between Hindu India and Muslim Pakistan at breakneck speed in 1947 before organized local governments and centralized armies could be organized to regulate massive population transfers.

The results were horrific, especially in the disputed Punjab. An estimated 12 million refugees fled from one side to the other, and 1 million others were slaughtered. It was the biggest rapid population transfer in recorded history.

"Before partition, millions of Hindus and Muslims lived peacefully side by side in Punjab and Bengal," analyst Indarjit Singh wrote in the London Independent.

But as mutual fears swelled, "alarm grew to suspicion, hatred and the mass murder of neighbors whose lives and destiny had been entwined for years," Mr. …

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