The Congress party made two decisions, which this columnist regards as momentous from the viewpoint of seeking to ensure that the British left a united India behind them, rather than the vivisected entity which finally emerged by 15 August 1947. The first was the 22 October 1939 decision by the Congress party to make its legislators resign from the provincial ministries controlled by it, a move which facilitated full control by the colonial authorities over several key provinces and which strengthened the bargaining position of the Muslim League, which was of course delighted at the decision apparently taken after consultations with the “Inner Voice” of Mahatma Gandhi. Predictably, M.A. Jinnah called 22 December 1939 (the day when the Congress provincial ministries formally quit office) as “Deliverance Day from Congress Rule”. The Mahatma’s unwavering adherence to the dictates of his “Inner Voice” are exemplified in such decisions as the 1922 decision to abort a swelling programme of noncooperation with the British authorities as a consequence of the torching of a police station at Chauri Chaura, or his decision to fast until the newly-formed government of independent India gave Rs 55 crore of that period’s money to Pakistan, a view which had the wholehearted concurrence of Governor-General Louis Mountbatten of India. In contrast to Gandhi’s “Inner Voice”, M.A. Jinnah allowed not conscience but crafty opportunism to guide his decisions, which included complete support to the British war effort, in contrast to the “neutral” stand of the Congress Party, which in essence was about as “non-aligned” between the Axis and the Allies as Delhi’s policies towards Washington and Moscow during the 1960s until the 1990s, when the doctrine was quietly buried by P.V. Narasimha Rao.
And, now, to the second decision with huge consequences for the future. In 1942, the complete contrast between the Congress Party and the Muslim League on the issue of support to the Allied war effort, got highlighted by the start of the “Quit India” movement, which turned out to have minimal consequences on the ability of the British authorities to ensure that manpower and resources from India flowed to theatres of war in an uninterrupted fashion. From that period onwards, Pakistan became an inevitability, given the reaction even of friends of the Congress Party to its “neutral” stand at a moment of crisis for Great Britain, as the UK was known in those times. Within the British establishment, pro-Congress and therefore pro-unitary voices got muffled in contrast to the vigorous promotion of Jinnah and his divisive agenda by Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who spoke often and with fervour of “those beastly Hindoos” in his conversations on the future of India. Creating a state wholly on the specious logic that Hindus and Muslims formed “two nations”, the British authorities and the Congress Party (which acquiesced in the partition) ensured that a state got created, which defined itself in opposition to India, and which promptly erased its history, replacing that narrative with an imaginary construct where the people of Pakistan were held to have been descended from the Turks or the Turkomans, rather than from the same gene pool as the rest of the subcontinent. Since then, Pakistan has consistently looked westwards, seeking simultaneously to pretend that its eastern border is wholly unrelated to it.
The time has come to give the Pakistan establishment what it wants, which is dissociation with India. In such a context, retaining Pakistan in any subcontinental formulation would be an absurdity. Hence, the need to set up a new Economic and Security Cooperation Union (ESCU), which would include Myanmar, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Mauritius, Nepal, Bhutan and the Maldives, besides India. SAARC can continue, and for each meeting, chefs should be flown in so that dishes of each of the participating countries can be cooked and savoured. The discussion should focus on cuisine and other like matters of great import to humankind, rather than inconsequential items such as trade and security, which can be tackled by the ESCU.
To delude ourselves any longer that Pakistan is linked to “South Asia” rather than to Turkey and the Turkomans is to fly in the face of the history and geography taught in that country.
Looking at the trajectory of that country, it is an illusion to believe that a course correction is possible at this stage of its evolution. What is needed is a Pakistan-mukt South Asia, so that the rest of us can speed up progress in harnessing the synergies between our countries, rather than plod along at the limping pace set by Islamabad for SAARC.