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The independence of Pakistan and India has been fairly well chronicled, both with accuracy and biases.

For instance, the renowned book Freedom at Midnight (1975) authored by Larry Collins and Dominique LaPierre, famous historians/writers, for a major part, revolves around the incidents that took place from the time Lord Mountbatten reluctantly accepted his posting as the last Governor General of India till Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination.

It records the end of the British Raj — the end of the Empire on the Subcontinent — the handing over of the ‘Jewel in the Crown’ and the embodiment of the freedom movement, which started long years before Mohandas Gandhi.

Told in a series of vignettes, the book jumps back and forth throughout the long account of Britain’s adventure and involvement in India, but the authors have heavily leaned on narratives of Lord Mountbatten, the last Indian Viceroy and a close friend of Jawaharlal Nehru, Jinnah’s nemesis and, according to the Beaumont Papers, swayed Cyril Radcliffe in shifting the final Pak-India boundary to India’s advantage like reassigning Gurdaspur to it, providing ground access to Kashmir.

In 1947, Christopher Beaumont was private secretary to the senior British judge, Sir Cyril Radcliffe, chairman of the Indo-Pakistan Boundary Commission; Beaumont Papers were made public in 1992.

His Honour Christopher Beaumont, who died aged 89, was the retired circuit judge responsible for stirring the last significant flurry of controversy surrounding Lord Mountbatten’s rule in India; in 1992, he accused him of gerrymandering the Radcliffe Commission’s delineation of the India-Pakistan border in 1947.

It is common knowledge that Pundit Jawaharlal Nehru was having an affair with Edwina, the wife of Lord Mountbatten. Reportedly, Nehru leaned on Edwina to sway Lord Mountbatten to have Radcliffe draw the India-Pakistan boundary in favour of India.

Almost 40 years after the partition of India, Beaumont was so appalled by the pro-Mounbatten line being fed to his own grandson, who had chosen the transfer of power in India as his special subject for Part II of the Cambridge History tripos, that he produced a private paper on the subject.

Then, when the issue was aired in the news and letters columns of The Daily Telegraph in 1992, the Foreign Office agreed that he should reveal the effect on partition of Mountbatten’s sympathy for Nehru, the future prime minister.

Irrespective of narratives, seventy six years later, even a neutral observer can take cognizance of the deep divide that led to the creation of both states.

Jinnah envisaged a separate homeland for Muslims, based on bonhomie and camaraderie, which would lead both nations to achieve their potential while India aspired for freedom from British slavery.

Regrettably, born of the same womb, separated at birth, India and Pakistan have clashed on numerous occasions since independence and been on the threshold of war many times. Ever since the two acquired nuclear weapons, the world has held its breath lest the duo get embroiled in a conflict.

The irony is that despite sharing a language, culture and history, the two have been locked over military-security concerns for decades, much to the detriment of their populace, since the billions of dollars expended on arms and weapons could have alternate uses like development of infrastructure, education, health and other basic amenities.

The very basis of independence has been contested by various writers and thinkers. Mahatma Gandhi opposed the creation of Pakistan, which is chronicled by D.G. Tendulkar, in his book Life of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi quoting from his argument presented after the adoption of the Lahore Resolution: “The ‘two-nation’ theory is an untruth. The vast majority of Muslims in India are converts to Islam or are descendants of converts. They did not become a separate nation, as soon as they became converts….”

We the students of Pakistan’s history like to believe that Jinnah had the prescience to foresee the predicament of Muslims in undivided India thus he renewed his efforts for independence for the Muslims of the Sub-Continent, although in his epoch making speech to the Constituent Assembly on 11 August 1947, Jinnah declared that people of all religious creeds and faith were welcome to inhabit Pakistan, yet partition riots on both sides of the divide took a heavy toll of lives.

It is a vagary of fate that we have deliberately remained oblivious to the Quaid’s travail to treat minorities in Pakistan with respect and honour which is their due.

Jaswant Singh, former BJP politician and author of Jinnah - India, Partition, Independence reveals that Congress leaders Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel “conceded” Pakistan to Jinnah with the British acting as an ever helpful midwife.

Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, a Muslim leader of the Congress, in April 1946, during an interview to renowned journalist Shorish Kashmiri, had predicted that religious conflict would tear apart Pakistan and its eastern half would carve out its own future.

He even predicted that Pakistan’s incompetent rulers might pave the way for military rule. He opined that Muslims of the Indian Sub-continent are a minority but to maintain their collective strength and safeguard their rights, they should not divide India. He predicted that more than 30 million Muslims will be left behind in India. He inquired: What promise Pakistan holds for them? The situation that will arise after the expulsion of Hindus and Sikhs from Pakistan will be still more dangerous for them. Pakistan itself will be afflicted by many serious problems. The greatest danger will come from international powers who will seek to control the new country, and with the passage of time this control will become tight.

Unfortunately, a number of his predictions came true. The Muslims in India remain downtrodden but the plight of Pakistan is no better. In 1971, East Pakistan was wrested free and became Bangladesh. Bad governance has plagued Pakistan for most of its existence, while its geostrategic location and its nuclear arsenal have incited foreign powers to meddle in Pakistan’s internal affairs.

India’s strength has been its adherence to the principles of democracy and a string of rulers, who have guided its economy towards a path of relative prosperity.

India’s teeming millions still starve but it presents the dazzling opportunity for a vast market to the international community, after earning their respect and being recognised as a nuclear power; it vies for a permanent seat in the UN Security Council and further enhances its stature.

Pakistan can still come out of the quagmire it is steeped in by focusing on the growth of its economy and indulging in trade and commerce with its neighbours on an equal footing.

The progress of ASEAN, SCO and EU should serve as examples for emulation where neighbours share the strengths and opportunities of each other, sinking differences and bringing prosperity to all.

The article does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Business Recorder or its owners

S. M. Hali

The writer is a retired Group Captain of PAF, and now a security analyst

Comments

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KU Aug 14, 2023 01:22pm
Very good article, as usual. Hope some sense prevails among the nefarious at the helm, but the lessons from the history of extinct civilizations, do not leave room for any hope. From Hermann Göring’s propaganda to banana republic leaders’ antics, we seem to be faced with all and at the same time.
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Shaukat Hameed Khan Aug 14, 2023 10:35pm
A very informative article. I take the liberty of adding the following comments about Radcliffe. I was studying at Oxford then. At the start of Pak-Indo war September 1965, the Times newspaper published excerpts from Radcliffe's diaries. He was apparently a very tired man and not really suited for the job, having to rely on people like Krishna Menon and of course advice from Mountbatten. While he tried to take local population composition into account when drawing the boundaries between the 2 countries, he had only this to say about the reason he gave Gurdaspur to India! "Acute Diarrhea" ! The Times wrote that a man's stomach condition caused hundreds of thousands to die, and for the trauma inflicted on Kashmiri people.
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