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A wall to break...

Blood is thicker than water. So the dream of India and Pakistan coming together in a healthy union on the economic and cultural fronts is not far-fetched. RANA SIDDIQUI finds reason to hope in this conversation with Kuldip Nayar, whose "Wall at Wagah - India-Pakistan Relationship" has just been published.



An "incurable optimist" Kuldip Nayar in New Delhi. Photo: Rajeev Bhatt.

WHAT HAPPENS when an "incurable optimist" titles his autobiography "The Day Looks Old" on the one hand, and on the other, still makes arrangement for the President of Pakistan and Prime Minister of India to have an evening together over a cup of tea at the Wagah border on the Independence Day? What happens when he almost snaps ties with his close friend, Atal Bihari Vajpayee for "He let the Godhra carnage happen" and yet proclaims that the Prime Minister is "not a communalist" but a Leftist at heart, otherwise the cricket match between India and Pakistan and the Delhi-Lahore bus wouldn't have happened? You may just smile and force yourself to do some analysis. Meet Kuldip Nayar, an octogenarian, a lawyer, a journalist, an author, a columnist, a former High Commissioner to the U.K. an ex-Rajya Sabha member, a member of the Hall of Fame of the North-Western University and a Chairman of Citizens for Democracy - CFD - a human rights organisation.

Nayar has come out with his latest book "Wall at Wagah - India-Pakistan Relationship", published by Gyan Publishing House, New Delhi, recently. This 370-page book is arguably the only one that covers five decades, from 1947 to 2003 of the relationship between India and Pakistan with special focus on Kashmir and records chronologically, phase-by-phase, the collapses and triumphs, hostilities and harmonies, accords and meetings between the two countries. It includes a big chapter devoted to the Kargil War, how and why it happened, its aftermath in the two countries, India's attitude after the war, the Army coup in Pakistan and a possible suggestion for Kashmir that even Sheikh Abdullah favoured.

Ask him if relations between India and Pakistan can be smoothened, and if so, when and how, he has a ready "certainly" to utter. "Unfortunately in India, anti-Pak feelings transform into anti-Muslim feelings. When I was on the Delhi-Lahore bus, Prakash Singh Badal and Nawaz Sharif were discussing about the trifurcation of Kashmir. I asked them, why do you want that. It will reopen Partition for us. It will lead to a direct blame on Muslims. People will say even after 50 years Muslims went away to Pakistan. Do you want it to happen? Both were quiet," recalls Nayar.

Will there a confederation between two nations that long back Ram Manohar Lohia once foresaw and desired?

"No, for a confederation conditions should be conducive. Right now there are a lot of suspicions from the sides. In a confederation sovereignty gets diluted, while we want that sovereignty of both the countries should remain intact. We are heading towards an economic union instead. Through SAHR, South Asian Human Rights forum, a beginning has already been made. It has around 300 members like I.K Gujral, (Chairman) and Rajinder Sacchar from India and 1200 from Pakistan such as Asma Jahangir. India is a developed country as compared to Pakistan. If given a visa, half of Pakistan is ready to come to India, for we have better jobs, technology and much more. In Pakistan, people are complaining that half of the country's wealth, jobs and benefits go to the Army. There is a lot of pressure on Musharraf now. They are even asking if Partition was a right move. See, after 9/11 Musharraf is giving pro-India-Pakistan friendship speeches."

Nayar's optimism has a reason. He recalls a day in Tashkent when Jinnah addressed students saying, "India and Pakistan should be like Canada and Germany which fought but still remained friends." Nayar asked him, "If a third country attacks us, whom will you favour? India, or the other country?" to which he had replied, "Certainly India. Because blood is thicker than water."

And take it from Nayar: If relations between the two countries are smooth, it's Ram Manohar Lohia's ideology that will prevail, not Nathu Ram Godse's.

Reason enough to be an optimist?

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