Soon after Partition, Pakistan’s founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah told the American ambassador, Paul Alling, that he wished for India-Pakistan relations to be “An association similar to that between the US and Canada.” Jinnah had no way of predicting the rise of Pakistan’s military-intelligence complex. Nor did he envision that his successors in the Muslim League would join Islamist leaders in basing Pakistan’s nationalism on the idea of perennial conflict with, and permanent threat from, India. Just as the perceived threat from Hindu domination prompted the call for Pakistan’s creation, the new rallying cry for an ethnically diverse populace was the ostensible threat from India to Pakistan.
This required keeping alive the frenzy of Partition and a contrived historic narrative. It also necessitated the glorification of past and present warriors and the building of a militarised state. Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru foresaw how a national state of paranoia across the border imperiled India-Pakistan relations. He tried to comfort Pakistan’s leaders that disagreement with the idea of Partition before it took place did not mean India would now use force to undo it.
Nehru chose the Aligarh Muslim University, whose alumni had played an active role in the demand for Pakistan, as the venue for a speech that addressed Pakistani concerns as early as March 1948. He reassured those who accused India of seeking to strangulate Pakistan. “If we had wanted to break up Pakistan, why did we agree to Partition?” he asked. “It was easier to prevent it then than to try to do so now after all that has happened. There is no going back in history. As a matter of fact, it is to India’s advantage that Pakistan should be a secure and prosperous state with which we can develop close and friendly relations.”
“Pakistan has come into being rather unnaturally, I think,” Nehru told his audience. “Nevertheless, it represents the urges of a large number of persons. I believe that this development has been a throwback, but we accepted it in good faith.” According to him, “It is inevitable that India and Pakistan should draw closer to each other, or else they will come into conflict. There is no middle way, for we have known each other too long to be indifferent neighbours.” The first Indian prime minister also laid out a vision for India to “develop a closer union” with Pakistan and other neighbouring countries — a vision that seems to be shared by Narendra Modi. But Nehru made it clear that India had no “desire to strangle or compel Pakistan” because “an attempt to disrupt Pakistan would recoil to India’s disadvantage.”
“If today, by any chance, I were offered the reunion of India and Pakistan, I would decline it for obvious reasons,” Nehru continued. “I do not want continued…