FEW COUNTRIES achieved independence with as noble hopes and dire predictions as Pakistan and India did on Aug. 14 and 15, 1947. India was to be the world's largest democratic, secular state of multiple religions and languages. Pakistan was to be the state of the Islamic peoples of the Indian subcontinent.
The history of each is a testament to national purpose vanquishing horrendous odds of poverty, strife, Cold War manipulation and hostilities with the other. India long led the Third World morally. Pakistan was an Islamic anti-Communist bulwark.
But each has failed its promise. Pakistan has been ruled by military dictators more than half its history. India had its own lapse from democracy. The failure of India's dream was Pakistan. The failure of Pakistan's was East Pakistan, which seceded and became independent Bangladesh in 1974. As a result, the Islamic minority of India equals the population of Pakistan.
India is more a Hindu state today, governed by a Hindu nationalist party, than its Hindu founders intended. This provokes myriad little nationalisms. Shorn of Bangladesh, the remnant Pakistan is nonetheless torn by ethnic and linguistic rivalry.
Both have enjoyed great economic growth, barely keeping up with population growth. Pakistan is held back by rural feudalism, India by bureaucratic socialism.
Reforms this decade have unleashed economic expansion in India, creating millionaires more rapidly than China, yet not touching most of nearly a billion people. Under a prime minister of the founding Moslem League, Nawaz Sharif, Pakistan is laboring to achieve economic and political reforms. Under an elderly Marxist, Prime Minister I. K. Gujral, India is finally seeking to improve relations with Pakistan, yet has failed to do so with its own Muslim and Sikh minorities.
The three wars India and Pakistan have fought, their nuclear rivalry, the dispute over Kashmir lasting all their national lives, have held them back. Only cooperation can help. A relationship like Canada's with the United States, even Ireland's with Britain, can free them from hostility to joint economic benefit. If that is achieved, their second half-century should witness more progress than their first.
Pub Date: 8/14/97