Playing on a wrong wicket
March 30, 2011 1 Comment
As the countdown to what is being billed as the “mother of all matches” (clearly ignoring the fact that there have been & there will be such “mothers” in the upcoming editions of World Cup) enters the last few hours, the nation seems to be in a vice grip of jingoism of all hues.
While the cricket fans are contributing to the frenzy, there is a new generation of “peace jingoists” who are trying their best to add to the shrill. It must come as a surprise to pair “peace” and “jingoism” together but I have done so in full conscience.
It has become fashionable of sorts to dismiss voices of “realism” on our troubled relations with Pakistan as “right-wing” mongering. I am not suggesting that “right-wing hardliners” don’t exist in India, not after seeing the trolls in the social networking.
But I am disturbed by the “holier-than-thou” behavior of these so called “peace activists” who seem to believe that those advocating caution are “hate and war mongers”. Far from that.
The “peace doves” don’t get tired of repeating the same “we-have-the-same-culture” rhetoric to define the Indo-Pak relations and their over reliance on “people to people contacts” to foster better ties with Pakistan.
I am a bit skeptical about this “same-culture” theory not because I am jingoistic but I refuse to believe that culture is a static entity. Whether it ought to have happened or not, Partition is the reality and it serves no one to “ignore facts”. The day India and Pakistan became two nations, their destinies were de-coupled. The progress report of India and Pakistan reads very different, but relative to the respective social and political changes witnessed in the countries.
I believe it is quite naïve to insist that the culture of India and Pakistan “remain the same”. They may have been same but today I believe there are as many differences as there are similarities. To insist that the cultures continue to be same is ignoring the winds of social change or the lack of it in both the countries.
If we extend this argument of “same culture” then we have to accept “talibanization” as Indian culture ; we have to also forego the identity of our nation as a “secular formation” and instead be identified as a theocracy.
Will Pakistan abolish their feudal system or will their army accept the “superiority” of their civilian, elected government ?
I suspect that the continuous harping of “same culture” doesn’t go too well with Pakistan, which reads into this much differently. Pakistan has always maintained that India should better get reconciled to the “two nation theory” as “real, final and irrevocable”. No wonder the attempts by the “peace jingoists” is not always reciprocated by Pakistan.
The argument that India and Pakistan have the “same culture” and hence should “learn to live in peace” is also flawed and if I may say dangerous. Does this presuppose that those who don’t have similar cultures like the Sinhalese and Srilankan Tamils ought to be warring?
Peace is desirable for the sake of progress and well-being not just because of a “shared culture”. Actually when nations whose cultures are different learn to live in peace, it reflects real maturity and statesmanship.
I think we have to recognize that both India and Pakistan have moved from being “one big happy family” to independent, sovereign nations, working to uplift their people from poverty and ushering in prosperity. Their problems are different and so are the methods.
It is an onerous task in itself without the additional trappings of a “shared culture”.
Real progress can be made, in my view, only when there is recognition of the differences that need to be acknowledged and respected. The mantra for peace can be “we are different” but we can live in peace as “mature nations”.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s gesture of inviting the Pak PM is important but has it’s limitations as a diplomatic initiative. There has to be the realization that “cricket diplomacy” cannot replace “real and substantive diplomatic initiatives” to secure peace with Pakistan. The outstanding issues are not beyond resolution especially if there can be better sense on both sides. However there has to be recognition that the issues are far complex to be entrapped in the jingoism of “common culture”.
The PM may have used the occasion of the cricket match for positive symbolism mainly and also to get a marauding media off his back for a while. He has succeeded in using cricket to pitch for progress in peace and one hopes that “peace jingoism” doesn’t end up in him playing on the wrong wicket.