THE WAY IT WAS: Let there be no losers —Mian Ijaz Ul Hassan
diverse ideological persuasions are coming together in the world today. People
on both side of the Pakistan-India border want peace. Let us discard the clichés
and traditional attitudes. Let us not reduce a dialogue to mine and thine. Let
us build mutual confidence and strengthen the peace process. Let there be no
Naresh Wadhera Ji, the purpose of writing this is not to dispute but to find common ground. I received a telephone call from the person who reads the Daily Times Op-Ed pages before they are printed. He was embarrassed and sorry for having missed my error of typing seven million instead of seven lac troops (500,000 regulars and 200,000 paramilitary) stationed in Kashmir. Myself, I have never been good with numbers often confusing kilometres with miles, and millions with lacs. Frankly, even 700,000 is a pretty awesome number in the context.
At school I used to enjoy athletics as much as art and found immense pleasure in sprinting as well as painting. Painting remains a passion even now that I find tying my shoelaces a bit of an effort. I make certain, however, that no one can detect from my demeanour that I wield a brush. The best way of preserving one’s privacy is to mingle with the crowd. Painting, in any case, is not a job or a profession but a means to repair the world and integrate a fragmented human existence. Have I lost track of what I set myself to say? Oh yes, ever since they started measuring the athletic distances in metres instead of in yards, feet and inches, I find myself at a loss when the results are announced. For instance when an athlete sets a new long-jump record, measured in metres, I have no sense of what has been achieved in comparison with Jesse Owen’s Berlin Olympics record.
No, I was not born when Jesse Owens broke three Olympic athletics records in an afternoon but yes, I do belong to the generation that has a problem matching miles and millions with kilometres and lacs. Of course, it doesn’t really matter to one with empty pockets whether the money is counted in millions or lacs. But Wadhera Ji’s exclamation at the mention of seven million Indian soldiers instead of seven lacs — “Professor Ji kyoon khup paanday o”’ — is not entirely justified. Even seven lacs appears to me a frightening number. Actually, even seventy thousand would be quite threatening.
But let me share with the readers the email from Captain Naresh Wadhera Ji. He compares my ‘advice’ addressed originally to both India and Pakistan (‘Will the advice be taken?’ Daily Times, October 27, 2004), to the proverbial sieve telling off an urn with a spout, “be gone you with the holes” (chanani nein kia lotay noon, “Ja way chekan walia”).
Naresh Wadhera Ji writes:
“With the Greatest of Respect I am sure that you’re aware of the following:
1. Pakistan’s Population is ONE SEVENTH of India’s.
2. Pakistan’s GDP of $95 billion is ONE SIXTH of India’s GDP of $599 billion
3. Pakistan’s Area is about ONE FOURTH of India’s.
4. Pakistan’s Coastline is ONE SEVENTH of India’s.
5. Pakistan has a Total Land Boundary of 6,774 kilometres of which only 2,912 kilometres are with India. Of the remaining 523 kilometres is with the Fraternal Friend China and 3,309 kilometres with Islamic Brother Countries (Afghanistan 2,430 kilometres and Iran 909 kilometres). India’s Total Land Boundary is 14,000 kilometres. Thus Pakistan has to guard only ONE FIFTH the Land Boundary as India.
“However Pakistan’s military Strength is ONE HALF of India’s (650,000 against 1,200,000)
“I see no reason why Pakistan should have more than ONE FIFTH the Armed Forces of India. As such, Pakistan should reduce its Armed Forces Strength to AT LEAST ONE FOURTH that of India. It can safely reduce its Armed Forces to One Half the present size and still have One Fourth the Armed Forces Strength as India.
“I await your comments on this matter.”
Frankly, I lack means to immediately comment on Captain Wadhera’s elegant figures. The purpose of my ‘advice’ was not to pick and show lice from anyone’s head but for peace and friendship’s sake to help straighten the head itself. I am afraid entering into a bickering over statistics would trivialise the spirit of what I wrote. But let me try to summarise in plain words what I gather is being said: (a) India has seven times more people to feed therefore it is incumbent on her to have a proportionately bigger army; (b) India has approximately six times the riches and can consequently afford more waste; (c) India is four times bigger so it is natural for it to act big; (d) India does not like Pakistan’s having more than a fifth of its own armed forces but it would not reduce the size of its own army.
I wish to make a few observations: (a) countries usually build their military strength — unless they have expansionist designs — not in proportion to their size but commensurate to their threat perception (of course, that can often be exaggerated); (b) India’s 14,000 kilometres boundary should not worry her because she is surrounded by countries that are no threat to her. In fact, all except China feel threatened by her disposition; (c) I wish Pakistan would not merely halve its armed forces’ strength but cut it another ten times. In the present circumstances — India doesn’t seem to budge from its traditional positions — this is unlikely to happen.
People of diverse ideological persuasions are coming together in the world today. People on both side of the Pakistan-India border want peace. Let us discard the clichés and traditional attitudes. Let us not reduce a dialogue to mine and thine. Let us build mutual confidence and strengthen the peace process. Let there be no losers.
Prof Ijaz Ul Hassan is a painter, author and political activist