Secular Lies The Path To Peace

Updated: Jun 30 2002, 05:30am hrs
Conflict Unending: India-Pakistan Tensions examines the mutual hostility between the two countries, beginning with Partition in 1947, right uptil the December 13, 2001, attack on the Indian Parliament. Author Sumit Ganguly shows how memories of the Partition, divergent conceptions of nationhood and territorial claims on Kashmir repeatedly propelled the two states toward conflict. The professor of Asian Studies and Government at the University of Texas says secularism could be the magic mantra for the unending strife between the neighbours.

Dr Ganguly discussed his book with Huma Siddiqui recently. Excerpts from the interview:

What would you say makes your book rather unique, and we believe it is
Well, various components of the book are available all over. But there is not one book that you could turn to when you want to find out when exactly the conflict at the Rann of Kutch took place, how many people were killed in the 1965 war or what Indias war plans were in 1971. Now all that is available in 200 pages.

But how is your book different from other books on the subject
The book deals with Indo-Pak relations from 1947 till the present day. What makes it distinctive is that it is the only comparative and comprehensive account of every Indo-Pak conflict or crisis upto December 13, 2001.

One gets to read political or military memoirs, which tend to be personal accounts of a crisis. In my book, I have tried to provide a comprehensive account of the conflict, some analytical explanations for it, and the factors that precipitated the various wars.

How did you get down to writing on the Indo-Pak conflict in the first place What motivated you
I have been obsessed with this conflict for years. It is like a ball and chain around Indias necknot its feet, but its neck. The conflict has not only poisoned Indias relations with Pakistan, but has significant consequences for its domestic peace and harmony.

Many people in the United States have little or no understanding of the India-Pakistan conflict. Regardless of how segments of the existing regime in New Delhi feel about the Muslim minority, one has to simply come to terms with the fact that this is a multireligious society. And the governance of this society is in some ways inseparable from the problems inherited from the partition of India.

Do you actually see a solution to the Indo-Pak crisis
The deeper crisis has a solution. We ought to reaffirm the word that has now become a word of abuse in India, secularism, not just for public consumption, but as a matter of practice. Because those who curse secularism do not seem to understand that if India were to become a state where the faith of the majority community became the faith of the state, we would have proven Mr Jinnah right... thats the ultimate irony.

The tragedy is that after the Gujarat incidents, many Pakistani hardliners are saying (and I have heard them saying this), See we always told you so. They are laughing.

Will there be more books on conflicts
I am planning to write a book that will deal with every kind of conflict between India and Pakistan, and a book on civil wars, both those that took place and those that never took off. It will deal with civil wars in the regions that I am familiar with, like Malaysia (1969), Sri Lanka and India, including Punjab.

Conflict Unending: India-Pakistan Tensions Since 1947
by Sumit Ganguly;
Oxford University Press;
Rs 395; Pp 187