In Flourishing India, An Old Obsession With Pakistan Since they were founded from the partition of British India in 1947, Pakistan and India have become locked in a relationship rooted in rivalry and suspicion. But many Indians believe the country's biggest foreign policy challenge these days is its rivalry with China, and that it is time to put aside old attitudes about Pakistan.
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In Flourishing India, An Old Obsession With Pakistan

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In Flourishing India, An Old Obsession With Pakistan

In Flourishing India, An Old Obsession With Pakistan

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Its MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Im Steve Inskeep.

The prize-winning Indian novel, The White Tiger begins with an entrepreneur in Bangalore. He writes a letter dismissing American books about business success. Those books, the entrepreneur writes, are so yesterday. I am tomorrow. India is the worlds largest democracy with a growing economy, and the possibilities of tomorrow are prompting some Indians to say its time to let go of the past.

For decades now, India has been locked in a rivalry with its neighbor, Pakistan. Theyve been at odds since 1947, when the British colonial rulers carved the territory into two states: one for Hindus and one for Muslims. Yesterday, we heard from the Pakistani side of the border.

This morning, NPRs Philip Reeves reports on Indians who think its time to pay less attention to that divide.

PHILIP REEVES: Some stories still sound new and shocking many years after they were first told. The partition of India is one such story. No one knows exactly how many people died in the communal bloodletting that followed. Some say more than a million. Santosh Madhok(ph) was there.

Ms. SANTOSH MADHOK: Every other person was so sad, crying, the children, and the trains were full.

REEVES: Madhok is 81. She remembers the hurried departure of the bankrupt British as they folded up their empire. She remembers a multitude of Asians on the move, Hindus and Sikhs fleeing the newly created nation of Pakistan, Muslims trudging across the landscape in the other direction. She remembers the pain that lingered on in her family for years afterwards.

Ms. MADHOK: My mother was all the time in a trauma. She could not stop weeping.

REEVES: Madhok, whos Hindu, grew up in Multan, now a city in Pakistan. She and her family fled to India, traveling by train from the border area to the capital, New Delhi. That train ride usually takes six or seven hours. This time, it took four days. The train kept stopping.

Ms. MADHOK: You know, and they could not move because they were - bodies were lying across because the bodies had to be cleared. They were firing across, and every now and then they would say, please lie down, lie down, because the bullets are crossing. So the mother would say, lie down, lie down. Quickly, lie down.

REEVES: That was 62 years ago. Since then, India and Pakistan have fought three wars. Theyve both built nuclear arsenals, and theyve become locked in a relationship rooted in rivalry and suspicion.

Mr. RAHUL GANDHI (Congress Party, India): I actually feel that we give too much time in our mind to Pakistan.

REEVES: Rahul Gandhi of Indias ruling Congress Party thinks its time for attitudes to change. Rahuls mother, Sonia Gandhi, is the party's president. His father, Rajiv, was a former prime minister, and so was his grandmother, Indira, the daughter of Nehru. Both were assassinated. Many believe Rahul will one day lead the nation, a nation hed like to see spending much less time obsessing about Pakistan.

Mr. GANDHI: We are now becoming a serious international player. Pakistan is a very small piece of our world view.

REEVES: Many analysts believe India's biggest foreign policy challenge these days is its rivalry with China. Changing attitudes about Pakistan isn't going to be easy, though. The subject dominates India's news media, which often makes no attempt to disguise its bias.

Unidentified Female: Now it is indeed the most preposterous accusations of all. Pakistan interior minister has accused India of backing the Taliban. On a television interview

Ms. SEEMA MUSTAFA (Editor, Covert Magazine): Its hysterical. I think, it's absolutely, totally unprofessional.

REEVES: Seema Mustafa is editor of India's Covert magazine.

Ms. MUSTAFA: I think the television channels have actually, you know, forgotten that theyre journalists and they've become, like, advocates for war.

REEVES: Mustafa argues the relationship between India and Pakistan is a paradox.

Ms. MUSTAFA: At the individual level, it turns into a whole lot of camaraderie. And at the political level, it is akin to hate.

REEVES: Mustafa says even Indians who take a hard-line stance on Pakistan sometimes display a strangely contradictory view.

Ms. MUSTAFA: People who have been sort of going hammer and tongs about nuking Pakistan, of taking your army across and finishing that country, are people I have seen visit Islamabad and be even friendlier with the Pakistanis. The families all start visiting each other, big gifts are taken. And then after that, they come back and say the same thing.

REEVES: In 2004, India and Pakistan started a peace process and opened up some trade and transport routes. They came close to a framework agreement over Kashmir, the territory at the heart of their dispute. It lost momentum when then-Pakistani leader Pervez Musharraf ran into political trouble at home. Then, this happened.

(Soundbite of gunfire)

REEVES: One year ago, a team of militants sailed in from Pakistan and attacked India's commercial capital, Mumbai. After nearly three days of sieges and gunfights, theyd killed more than 160 people.

Unidentified Group: (Chanting in foreign language)

REEVES: A few days later, thousands of Indians took to the streets of Mumbai to protest.

Prahlad Kakkar, a leading advertising executive in Mumbai, was among them. Kakkar says the crowd was more angry with India's politicians, for failing to protect the country, than with Pakistan.

He still feels that way now.

Mr. PRAHLAD KAKKAR (Advertising Executive): We should look within ourselves for the answers to what we - our problems are, not look at Islamabad. Islamabad is not a superpower.

REEVES: Kakkar believes Indian attitudes toward Pakistan have since hardened.

Mr. KAKKAR: Today, I don't think there is any sympathy for Pakistan in India, whether its among the Hindus or the Muslims, to be very honest. Because they are so alarmed by what's happening in Pakistan. They just see the state sliding into chaos.

REEVES: Gopalapuram Parthasarathy, a former Indian senior diplomat who served in Pakistan, says the Mumbai attacks were a turning point.

Mr. GOPALAPURAM PARTHASARATHY (Former Senior Diplomat): Deep down, there is a sense within the country that we can't go back to business as usual with Pakistan until they act decisively against the perpetrators of the Mumbai attacks, and more importantly, close down what we call the infrastructure of terrorism.

REEVES: After the Mumbai attacks, India's government froze the peace negotiations, officially known as the composite dialogue.

Indias since signaled its willing for the dialogue to resume, but only if Pakistan takes effective action against the Mumbai attackers and other militant organizations on Pakistani soil.

Parthasarathy says Pakistan's current campaign to root out the Taliban is not enough.

Mr. PARTHASARATHY: The Pakistan military has targeted only those radical Islamic groups which have challenged the writ of the Pakistani state, but are still retaining as their own instruments groups which are targeting either Afghanistan or India.

REEVES: Afghanistan is a big source of friction. India is spending more than $1 billion a year there, much of it on infrastructure projects. That alarms Pakistan, which fears that India is extending its influence to its western border.

India has accused Pakistani intelligence of a role in last years deadly attack on its embassy there.

Some in India are opposed to renewing peace talks with Pakistan on any terms.

Dr. AJAI SAHNI (Institute for Conflict Management, New Delhi): The composite dialogue has no potential for resolving these problems.

REEVES: Thats Ajai Sahni of the Institute for Conflict Management in New Delhi.

Dr. SAHNI: Any of the problems between India and Pakistan can only be resolved by an alteration of the equation of power between the two countries. It is power politics that will decide these things. Nothing on the table can be negotiated.

REEVES: More than 60 years after partition, India and Pakistan are still struggling to find a way to live peacefully side by side. And Santosh Madhok is still haunted by the memory of her terrible train journey. She believes the time has come for India to look to the future, not the past.

Ms. MADHOK: Well, it's better to forget, one can do nothing about it now. So thats better to forget and forgive.

REEVES: Philip Reeves, NPR News, New Delhi.

INSKEEP: And we have an update this morning on one of the issues that divides these two nuclear arms states. Philip mentioned the possession of Kashmir, the mountain territory that both sides have claimed since 1947. Theres a line of control, effectively a battle line that cuts through the middle of it right now. Some people in Kashmir would like to be independent of both nations, and a leading Indian newspaper reported today that the Indian government held secret talks with separatists on the Indian side of Kashmir. The talks could reduce tensions. The separatists want Indian troops to pull back and want prisoners released as a prelude to more talks.

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