In recent weeks, we have seen tensions develop between India and Pakistan over an assault on the Indian military in Indian Kashmir. If you don’t know what had happened, here’s what we know happened:
A Pakistan- based terrorist organization attacked an Indian military convoy in Indian- administered Kashmir, resulting in Indian leadership to publicly condemn the Pakistani government and its part in this attack. Now, it is unclear whether the Pakistani government actually supports this or not. The Indian media and government both say that they do so while Pakistan has vehemently denied these accusations. No definite proof has been found yet that shows that Pakistan actually supports this organization. However, India- unsatisfied with Pakistan’s response- flew in fighter jets, attacking what they claim to be a training facility of Pakistan-backed terrorists.
Videos and images were leaked by the Indian press, and even though Pakistan denies that this ever happened, we still find a lot of Indians on social media, expressing support for their air force’s actions. The next day, Pakistan launched its own airstrike near Indian military bases. However, unlike their Indian counterparts, they’ve made no claims of killing anyone. In fact, all Pakistan claims to do is show that it is capable of answering to an Indian attack. Furthermore, it shot down an Indian plane (in some places, I found that there were two planes) and captured the pilot, Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman.
The Wing Commander’s capture did not help the situation. In fact, tensions reached their peak after his capture until he was, rather anticlimactically, released on March 1st by the Pakistani government as a gesture of ‘peace’.
While the Indian media claims that Pakistan was pressurized by the strength Indian army, its Pakistani counterparts believe that their country took the moral high road. They could have allowed the escalation to go further, they say, but they didn’t. Because their prime minister is better than his Indian counterpart (this is what a lot of Pakistanis are saying on Twitter).
However, the point of this retelling is not to talk about whether one country was right and the other was wrong, the point is to talk about the war. For we’re a seeing massive public outcry, from both sides, supporting the war. And from an outsider’s perspective, from the perspective of someone who is not exposed to the obvious bias of both the Indian and Pakistani media, it seems crazy that a country- that two nuclear powers would willingly want to go to war.
War is no joke. It is not the ultimate way of expressing patriotism, as both sides seem to believe. It’s hard and it can scar a generation. And yet we find, in both sides of the border, generations that have been affected by war, also preaching it. Have Pakistan and India not learned anything from 1947, 1965 and 1971?
It doesn’t matter which side ‘won’. Both sides suffered- Pakistan more than India, as it lost East Pakistan in 1971, but is national pride really worth the lives of your countrymen?
If you look at the Twitter trends in Pakistan and India, you will interesting things. You’ll find extremely nationalistic individuals from both countries debating (and cursing at) one another, claiming that their country is better than the other because of so and so reason. We see pointless discussions on the Kashmir issue which, to be honest, neither government really has the power to solve. It will be the United Nations that will decide Kashmir’s fate if, and when, it will hold a referendum.
And yet we find these two sides still fighting over a piece of land that neither really owns anymore. Constitutionally, Kashmir should have gone to India. After all, the King promised it. However, a pattern that we see in the Indo-Pak partition was that Muslim majority areas that were not surrounded by Hindu areas were to go to Pakistan. Kashmir comes in that region. So, Pakistan’s claim is strictly based on demographics- which can change drastically in a few years- but those were the terms of the partition. This was the region why many Muslim areas surrounded by Hindu areas did not become part of Pakistan. It just wouldn’t work.
The worst part of the partition of India and Pakistan is that it was strictly and completely motivated by a religious divide. After centuries of living together in harmony (or oppression, according to some Hindu groups I came across while researching), India was divided into two nations based solely on their religious identity.
There’re so many similarities between Pakistan and India. From the languages which they speak to their culture to their food. Ironically, when you’re an international student studying abroad, as a Pakistani, your best friend is probably going to be an Indian. A lot of Pakistanis and Indians I know are close friends because they find each other’s company to comforting in a foreign land. I’ve never seen Pakistani and Indians not get along. The highlight of the academic year in university is when the International Students’ Association has a food festival and both Indians and Pakistanis make biryani together. No one cares about anything at that point. In fact, Pakistanis and Indians band together to mercilessly tease Bangladeshi students. While I don’t advocate bullying, I find it interesting. If you can be such good friends abroad, then why not at home?