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The Elusive India-Pakistan Peace

Saim Saeed, WRM’s student not so long ago and currently Via Meadia’s man in Pakistan, has an excellent piece today in The News that takes aim at the mindset—all too prevalent among Western policymakers but also fashionable among Pakistan’s elites—that the resolution of Pakistan’s long-running conflict with India is a simple matter of transcending differences:

There are many examples of people that present a trivialisation of a rich, complex, and often conflict-ridden history of the two largest religions in South Asia. A glance at any India-Pakistan peace forum, on or off line, reveals plenty of well-meaning individuals who want nothing more than peace between Pakistan and India, explicitly belittling history, conflict and consequence—while recommending that we ignore reality as the way to peace.

‘If the conflict never existed, it seems absurd that we’re fighting’ seems to be the mantra. While Hindu-Muslim and India-Pakistan relations are rather different, I do think that this trend of trivialisation applies to both.

Atheism is a similar tactic. If one doesn’t believe in religion, then surely any Hindu-Muslim divide would just evaporate. So, instead of looking to history, to the fruitless negotiations between the British, Gandhi and Jinnah, to the fear, the riots, the bitterness, the segregation and bloodshed, we look to the caprices of religion as the reason why we divided ourselves. Be that as it may, the ‘solution’ is not a disavowal of religion under any circumstance.

All too true. And it’s important to remember that the fallacy is often applied the other way: most of the world’s thorniest conflicts are not simply reducible to religion either.

In any case, congratulations to Saim on the fine work. Read the whole thing.

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