Mohammed Ali Jinnah is on record, claiming that he brought about Pakistan single-handedly. Had he not been born would Pakistan exist today?
Historians have always found the ‘Ifs’ of history very tantalising. Their speculations of alternative scenarios if history had run a different course at crucial moments are essentially exercises into the imponderables. For example, if a scourge of plague had wiped out early Christianity in Asia Minor, would Europe and perhaps the Americas today be followers of Mithraism? The culmination of Pakistan was indeed the result of one man’s effort and not so much the consequences of a chain of events. It is, therefore, relatively easier to examine what would have been the scenario in the subcontinent but for Jinnah’s two-nation theory and make an estimation of its costs to the two countries it created in terms of political, social, economic and other values.
Two very different kinds of cultures have grown in Pakistan and India post partition. That which grew in India promoted democracy and federalism, secularism and tolerance, a welfare state with enforceable fundamental rights, decentralisation of power, free media and judiciary, individualism, attempts at distributive justice, etc. It is not surprising that India is seen by others as set to make the 21st century its own.
The culmination of Pakistan was indeed the result of one mans effort and not so much the consequences of a chain of events.
On the other hand Pakistan lives under a vastly different set of traditions, with minorities and women treated less than full and equal citizens with others, power essentially in the hands of those who wield a gun; control over free exercise of religion, speech and scientific enquiry; and forms of governments, lacking in democratic character. The blame for such a different turn in history’s march can be plausibly attributed to partition.
An undivided India would have escaped the horrors of partition, carnages, uprooting of millions from their homes, traumas of resettlement and division of families. No visas would be necessary to travel from one corner of the country to the other. The festering sore of J&K would not be there, nor problems like Tulbul Barrage, Sir Creek or sharing of rivers either in the west or east of India. The whole region, it can be reasonably assumed, would have been heir to the positive developments seen in India in various fields. Democracy would have taken firm roots all across the board.
Jehadis and armed sectarian groups will not have a free run in the country as they have in Pakistan today.
Representative institutions, respect for constitutionalism and federalism would have grown in other parts as they have developed in India. The military would have remained under firm civilian control and could not have played the hide and seek with democracy as it has been doing in Pakistan in the last fifty-three years. There would have been no need of participation in military or ideological blocks. Non-alignment would have been the foreign policy Mantra for the entire subcontinent. The convergence that the US now seeks with India to preserve peace and security in the world would have come earlier and would have spared the region which is now Pakistan the demeaning consequences of patronage and rejection after exploitation.
Search for security would have taken entirely new dimensions in the composite India. With little to fear from external predators, if any, the burden of defence budgets could perhaps have been halved, releasing enormous funds for economic growth, removal of poverty and illiteracy, health care and for all other social and societal development, which bring dignity and meaning to human life. With development indices spurting, and a population, which would have become the largest in the world, united India would perhaps already have become a powerhouse by now. National security would not be defined in military terms alone.
Pakistan maintains the seventh largest army in the world. For some years after partition, defence spending accounted for 85 per cent of central revenues.
A paradigm shift would have come about linking real security to non-military factors such as environment and ecology apart from growth indices already mentioned. It is a moot question whether under such circumstances thoughts in the region would have run towards establishing nuclear deterrence with all the possibilities of dreadful scenarios, which it now conjures up. Certainly there would be no role or need for an ISI with its philosophy of subversion and sabotage and no requirement of 5th columnists.
Composite India would most definitely have been a secular state as the present day India is. Communalism including communal disturbances could have been a continuing problem for some time since some notable Muslim personalities like Syed Ahmed Khan who wielded considerable influence had become pessimistic about the evolution of a composite Hindu Muslim culture. Some eventually did succeed in adding a political dimension, however minor, to the sense of separatism that had come about in the thought processes of some segments of the two communities in the 19th and the 20th centuries.
But if secularism is now firmly established in India, why should it be doubted that the same milestone would not have been reached in united India. Mahatma Gandhi did succeed in dousing the flames of communal passions in Calcutta and Noakhali on the eve of partition. And perhaps his life would have been spared if partition had not come about, and his healing touch would have been available for a longer period.