Ideological enemy? By Niaz Murtaza - Wednesday, March 09, 2011

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CERTAIN Pakistani circles argue strongly that India is Pakistan’s ideological enemy and Pakistan should therefore minimise cultural and economic linkages with India. Clearly, there is mutual enmity, but is it ideological?
Some enmities, such as between America and the former USSR, are considered ideologically-driven while others, e.g. between Eritrea and Ethiopia, are not. So what defines ideological enmity?
An ideology is a fundamental set of ideas defining a unique way of life. Ideological distinctiveness could be economic (capitalism vs communism), political (democracy vs totalitarianism), religious (monotheism vs polytheism) or cultural (individualistic vs communitarian). However, ideological distinctiveness does not necessarily mean ideological enmity. Thus, Swaziland (a monarchy) and America (a democracy) are ideologically different but not even in its wildest dreams does tiny Swaziland assert ideological enmity with the mighty Americans.
Ideological enmity arises when entities competing regionally or globally in spreading their distinct ideologies attempt to block, harm or eliminate the other ideology or entity, as in the case of America and the erstwhile Soviet Union.
So, are India and Pakistan even ideologically different? Politically and economically both follow democracy and capitalism. Religiously, the ideologies of their majorities certainly differ. Culturally, once religion is viewed separately, their differences are no bigger than those that exist within each country. Perhaps the biggest cultural difference is that vegetarians are more common in India and carnivores in Pakistan. But are dietary differences the stuff of grand ideological differences?
So religion appears to be the sole sphere of distinctiveness between the two (just as Pakistan is religiously distinct from China, Japan and all non-Muslim countries). However, as argued earlier, ideological distinctiveness does not necessarily mean ideological enmity, for if it did then authoritarian, atheist, communist and culturally more distinct China should be a bigger enemy for Pakistan than India. But China is our best friend despite the four-fold ideological distinctions.
Ideological enmity arises from malevolent ideological competition. However, India and Pakistan are not competing to spread their religions regionally (e.g. in Afghanistan where they compete but politically). They are competing over territory. Thus, their enmity is political. Just because ideologically distinct entities compete politically, their conflict does not become ideological, as with India and China’s tussle over Himachal Pradesh. The two-nation theory also claimed religious distinctiveness not enmity and envisaged two friendly neighbours after partition.
Does it matter whether the enmity is ideological or political? Yes, because political enmity, not as deep-seated and existential as ideological enmity, is easier to resolve through compromise. Thus, hawks often portray political conflict as ideological enmity to enhance hatred and inflexibility nationally. Even if they accept that the enmity is political, some pundits still provide several justifications for boycotting India.
The first justification is egotistical: since India has usurped Kashmir we should not trade with it. However, the world is fast abandoning this viewpoint. People are realising that cultural and economic ties can help resolve territorial disputes, for it is easier to make concessions for a friend than an enemy. Thus, China trades with India and Russia with Japan despite territorial disputes. True, Eritrea and Ethiopia do not trade. But should Pakistan emulate them or countries like China and Japan?
Another justification claims that we risk cultural hegemony by importing Indian culture, especially movies. Are Pakistanis becoming more vegetarian by watching Indian movies? I wish so, for vegetarianism is healthier and more environmentally friendly. Are any Pakistanis adopting Hinduism by watching Indian movies? If anything, Pakistanis are becoming more Islamic over time. Indian movies do have scenes considered inappropriate which Pakistanis dislike watching with their families (so do many Indians), but this is more true for English movies and there is a simple remedy for both — the censor board’s scissors. If anyone is seriously concerned about cultural hegemony then the main threat is not India, for our cultures are so similar, but fundamentalism, which is destroying Pakistan’s historically tolerant culture. There is also some threat from the West. There are many positive cultural aspects about the West, such as work and general ethics, which we should emulate. Other aspects are less attractive, such as over-individualism and over-materialism. And we can certainly do without unhealthy fast food and cola. But I don’t see much in the Indian culture that is different or threatening.
The last justification is based on simple trade calculus (as the scope of justifications shrinks further), i.e. that their movies and products will destroy our industries. However, studies show that Pakistan will benefit more from free trade, for Pakistani Punjab can supply north Indian markets more cheaply than Indian industry located in south India. Pakistani ports can provide shorter export routes for north Indian agriculture.
Then there are films. Was Lollywood destroyed by Bollywood? Lollywood was doing fine till the 1960s when Indian movies were legally shown but collapsed later due to Zia’s policies and its own follies. Should we support it by banning Indian movies? The main argument against a ban is that it is unenforceable in today’s digital age. Making Indian movies legal allows the government and theatres to make money and allows people to watch quality, duly censored copies on big screens. A ban benefits smugglers and forces people to watch pirated, poor-copy, uncensored versions on small screens. Lollywood can also actually revive itself through collaboration (perhaps only so) with Bollywood.
So there is little merit in viewing India as an ideological enemy or in banning cultural and economic exchange. This does not mean that our political tensions are superfluous. But it does mean that we should resolve such tensions maturely through dialogue rather than blockades, actual or proxy wars and terrorism. If dialogue is unlikely to succeed, the other avenues are even more unlikely winners and carry much greater cost as well as enormous risk. An interim solution is all that both countries can probably achieve presently. Anything more must likely await a generation bred not on mutual hatred but on exchange and friendship.
The writer is a research associate in political economy issues at the University of California, Berkeley.

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