An Indian woman, aged 92 years, visited her childhood home in Pakistan for the first time since the latter’s independence. “My dream came true”, she stated.
Varma was 15 years old when she along with her family fled to Pune, shortly before the SubContinent partitioned. Hailing from Rawalpindi, this is Varma’s second visit to Pakistan. She once travelled to Lahore as a young woman, but she never visited her hometown: Rawalpindi. “When I crossed the Pakistan-India border and saw the signs for Pakistan and India, I got sentimental,” she said, speaking during a stop in Lahore. “Now, I cannot predict how I will react when I reach Rawalpindi and see my ancestral home in the street.”
Across the world, various states have been in a tug-of-war since their inception over pieces of land, and territory. States that were once tied by their ethnicities, culture and values, are now divided by their ideology and set of beliefs. The case of North Korea and South Korea is an exemplar of how ideologies can divide families.
On the other hand, the West which was once at each other’s throats has learned from their mistakes, and is now living peacefully. The border between Belgium and Netherlands is not safeguarded by barbed wire, and security personnel. Instead, it is marked by a white line, painted for identifying the two states. One can travel the entire Europe with a single Visa: Shengen without worrying about border patrols.
The imperialist legacy left a legacy of animosity among its colonies. The American states, too, initially did not see eye to eye. But with time, the world power grew beyond the personal grudges and became a force to reckon with.
Pakistan and India should learn a lesson from the European states. Peaceful co-existence offers far more than living in a constant threat of war. The European states do not fear one another. They are working to help the entire region grow economically, socially and culturally. They are no longer at loggerhead about territorial increase. They aim to grow together through trade agreements, alliances and respect for each other.
On the contrary, Pakistan and India have been in a tug of war since its inception, mainly over Kashmir. But, in doing so, both states are investing millions of dollars, if not billion, in weapons. The over spending in weapons have overshadowed education, and health. It has limited the allocation of resources on these two central dimensions of human development. Resultantly, India is home to the biggest slums in the world. Pollution is rising at a striking rate. Recently, the CM of Indian Punjab was admitted to the hospital, after he drank water from the “holy” river.
The situation in Pakistan is no different. Poverty is on a steady rise, with a declining education standard. Both these states need to understand that the well being of its people is far superior to border patrolling, and military spending.
Opening borders can give people on both sides opportunities for jobs, education, and experiencing new things in life without fearing war. It canassist pakistan to transition from security state to a development one. Both governments can hold exchange programs, travel independently for increased exposure, and learn to live in a way their ancestors did. The case of Varma should not be news, it should be a regular phenomenon. No one should have to wait for the better part of a century to visit their hometown. It should be as easy as going grocery shopping. By taking small steps, the governments can end this constant state of war between Pakistan and India, and give birth to a new regional power whose focus is on social, economic and political growth of its people.