'A Classic Exposition Of A Secular State'

'I believe that this [Jinnah's speech to Pakistan's Constituent Assembly on August 11, 1947] is the ideal that India, Pakistan as well as Bangladesh – the three present-day sover

'A Classic Exposition Of A Secular State'

Speech by L.K. Advani, BJP President and Leader of the Opposition (Lok Sabha)at a function organised by the Karachi Council on Foreign Relations, Economic Affairs & LawinKarachi on June 5, 2005

It is always a matter of pleasure when one goes abroad and gets an opportunity to interact with the intellectual elite of that country. But when the country one is visiting is Pakistan, and when the interaction with intellectuals is happening in a city which is one’s birthplace, how can that experience be described?

Pleasure? Great pleasure? Delight?

I find these words trite on this occasion. The truth is that I have no words to adequately capture the feelings that have welled up in me at this meeting in Karachi, which I have been able to visit only for the second time since I left it nearly six decades ago.

Karachi has changed beyond recognition, not only since I left in 1947, but also since I last came here in 1978. The city has of course become immensely more populous – its population in 1947 was a mere 4 lakh; today, I am told, it is nearly 1.4 crore. But Karachi has also become more developed and prosperous.

I compliment the people of Karachi for this achievement and hope that not only Karachi but the whole of Pakistan continues to travel rapidly on the path to prosperity and all-round development.

My return to the roots

Friends, barring the dinner engagement later in the evening, this function happens to mark the conclusion of my weeklong visit to Pakistan. My visit had three parts. The first part, comprising two days in Islamabad, was largely political. The second leg, which meant two days in Lahore, was part political and part religious-cultural, since it included visits to the ancient Katas Raj Temples and to the Nankana Sahib Gurdwara.

But the last part in Karachi, again of two days, is purely sentimental. Before leaving for Pakistan, I had stated that the primary aim of my visit was to contribute, in my own humble way, to the ongoing peace process between India and Pakistan through my meetings with the leadership of Pakistan and also with representatives of various political parties and civil society organizations in this country. But I had added that the visit is also a kind of "return-to-the-roots" for me and members of my family, who are coming to Pakistan for the first time.

My visit to the school where I studied, to the house where I lived (although it does not now stand in its original shape), to the Sindh Assembly building where I meet legislators belonging to the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), the reception and cultural programme organised by the Hindu Panchayat, and the lunch reception hosted by the Chief Minister of Sindh – all these will remain indelible memories in me.

Jinnah’s speech on August 11, 1947

I have many deeply engraved memories of the first twenty years of my life that I lived in Karachi. I shall recall here only one of them, because the person with which that memory is associated, and the philosophy that I learnt from him in Karachi, have a reverential place in my life.

In the last 3-4 years of my life in Karachi, I came in contact with Swami Ranganathananda, who was the head of the Ramakrishna Math here for six years from 1942 until it was closed down in 1948. I used to go to listen to his discourses on the Bhagwad Gita. In later years, I maintained regular contact with this great disciple of Swami Vivekananda, who went on to become the head of the Ramakrishna Math and Mission in India.

Swami Ranganathananda passed away in April this month. The last time I met him was in Calcutta last year. He was 96 but still very agile in mind and radiant in spirit. Our talk, among other things, turned to his years and my years in Karachi.He asked me, "Have you read Mohammed Ali Jinnah’s speech in Pakistan’s Constituent Assembly on August 11, 1947? It is a classic exposition of a Secular State, one which guarantees every citizen’s freedom to practice his or her religion but the State shall not discriminate between one citizen and another on the basis of religion."

He asked me to send him the full text of the speech, which I did.

The reason for my recounting Jinnah’s historic speech in the Constituent Assembly is two-fold. Firstly, as I said, it is associated with my last conversation with the Swamiji, who was one of the towering spiritual personalities in India. The second reason is that its remembrance was triggered by my visit to the ancient Katas Raj Temples in Chakwal district four days ago. The Government of Pakistan was kind enough to invite me to lay the foundation stone for a project to restore these temples, which are now in ruins but whose legend is rooted in the epic story of the Mahabharata.

I feel it appropriate to read out the relevant portion from Jinnah’s speech.

"Now, if we want to make this great State of Pakistan happy and prosperous we should wholly and solely concentrate on the well-being of the people, and specially of the masses and the poor. If you will work in cooperation, forgetting the past, burying the hatchet, you are bound to succeed. If you change your past and work in a spirit that every one of you, no matter to what community he belongs, no matter what relations he had with you in the past, no matter what is his colour, caste or creed, is first, second and last a citizen of this State with equal rights, privileges and obligations, there will be no end to the progress you will make.

I cannot overemphasise it too much. We shall begin to work in that spirit and in course of time all these angularities of the majority and minority communities, the Hindu community and Muslim community,… will vanish. Indeed, if you ask me, this has been the biggest hindrance in the way of India to attain its freedom and independence and but for this we would have been free people long ago.

Therefore, we must learn a lesson from this. You are free, you are free to go to your temples. You are free to go to your mosques or to any other places of worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed; that has nothing to do with the business of the State.…You will find that in course of time Hindus will cease to be Hindus and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense, because that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the State.

What has been stated in this speech – namely, equality of all citizens in the eyes of the State and freedom of faith for all citizens – is what we in India call a Secular or a Non-Theocratic State. There is no place for bigotry, hatred, intolerance and discrimination in the name of religion in such a State. And there can certainly be no place, much less State protection, for religious extremism and terrorism in such a State.

I believe that this is the ideal that India, Pakistan as well as Bangladesh – the three present-day sovereign and separate constituents of the undivided India of the past, sharing a common civilisational heritage – should follow.

I hope that this ideal is implemented in its letter and spirit. The restoration of the Katas Raj Temples is a good beginning.

Time to undo the follies of Partition

Esteemed friends from Karachi, people often ask me: "Does this mean that you want to undo the Partition?"

My answer is: "The Partition cannot be undone, because, as I said in Lahore at the SAFMA function, the creation of India and Pakistan as two separate and sovereign nations is an unalterable reality of history.However, some of the follies of Partition can be undone, and they must be undone."

I dream of the day when divided hearts can be united; when divided families can be reunited; when pilgrims from one country – Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs -- can freely go to holy sites located in the other country; and when people can travel and trade freely, while continuing to remain proud and loyal citizens of their respective countries.

Friends, at the end of my visit, if someone were to ask me to sum up the situation about Indo-Pak relations at present, I would, on the basis of what I have observed and experienced here since my arrival in Pakistan on the evening of May 30, say unequivocally that "Fiza zaroor badli hui hai, bahut badli hui hai." (The atmosphere has definitely changed, it has changed a lot.)

Yes, it’s true that there is tranquility on the border, which is no mean achievement in itself. True, there are greater people-to-people contacts, which too is a significant step forward. It is also true that the awaam (people) of both India and Pakistan have taken over the peace process.

But the peace and tranquility that exists is still tentative. It is also relative, in the sense that terrorist acts in Jammu & Kashmir have not come to an end. Only last month there was a terrorist strike in Srinagar aimed at innocent school children.

How do we convert this tentative peace into permanent peace? How do we remove all the irrational abnormalities in our bilateral relations to place Indo-Pak ties on a completely normal footing based on the principle of mutual benefit?

I am posing these questions because these need to be discussed in-depth and with an open mind in both our countries. As I have reiterated on several occasions during my visit, I would like to emphasise that we need to seize this historic moment, which is pregnant with hope. We must convert this hope into confidence and resolve that we shall certainly find solutions to all the issues that have estranged our two brother-nations.

There should also be no going back on the realization that dialogue is the only way to resolve every single issue, including the issue of Jammu & Kashmir, between India and Pakistan. Peace cannot be achieved through recourse to non-peaceful means. This must be clearly understood.

Imperatives of Waging Peace

There is a phrase in English that has always intrigued me – Waging Peace. Normally, one comes across the phrase – Waging War. I have often wondered why the word ‘wage’ is used in the context of peace. It is probably because, if the resolve to win is the aim in any war, the same resolve to win has to be the aim of making peace.

However, there is a crucial difference. In war, strategists look for a quick victory. They have an impatience to achieve their goal. In waging peace, you cannot do that. We need patience. We need to realize that it takes time to minimize differences and to find a mutually acceptable solution, especially to longstanding problems.

It takes time – and I would urge all those who sincerely desire peace between India and Pakistan to realize this important truth -- because not only the painful manner in which the Partition happened in 1947 but also subsequent hostilities have hardened feelings and rigidified mindsets in both India and Pakistan.

After all, the Partition resulted not only in unprecedented violence but also in the largest cross-migration in the history of mankind. In history, including in the history of undivided India, kingdoms and dynasties have come and gone. Power has changed hands either peacefully or violently. But in recent centuries these developments did not destabilize the society very much.

In contrast, when the British left in 1947, not only was there a change of power, but there was also human displacement on a massive scale.This has left behind a trail of tragedy. The wars that followed, the long period of terrorist violence and other events have contributed to the hardening of positions in certain sections of society both in India and Pakistan.

This is the reason why even well-intentioned moves for peace and normalization are often viewed with suspicion and met with disapproval on both sides.

I therefore strongly submit to one and all involved in the Indo-Pak peace process – to those in governments as well as to those in civil society organizations – that we should give due weightage to these critical viewpoints. Nothing can be achieved by either dismissing or disparaging these critical viewpoints.

This is because, firstly, those who view the peace process with suspicion both here and in India are not insubstantial in number. Secondly, in our endeavour to establish lasting peace between India and Pakistan, it is axiomatic that we should strive to carry with us all sections of society and public opinion in our two countries.

Let us move on all issues in tandem

I shall make one last point before concluding. For us to move towards peace and normalcy, it is necessary to move the dialogue process forward on all issues. This is the reason why we both have called it the Composite Dialogue process. I was happy to know that many people in Pakistan also believe that we should move in tandem on all issues. As I said in Lahore, it is not in the interest of the peace process to let slower progress on some issues become a hurdle in achieving faster progress on others.

Here I shall just flag off a few issues that show how the relations between India and Pakistan suffer from avoidable abnormality. For instance, since coming here I have not been able to watch any of the Indian news channels to see what is happening in India and also, secondarily, to know how my visit to Pakistan is covered. It is ironical that in Pakistan one can see American CNN, British BBC, Chinese CCTV but not Indian news channels.

The abnormality is also evident in other spheres. India and Pakistan have an official trade of about $ 250 million, which is meager by any standards in today’s age of globalization. But the unofficial trade is at least 4-5 times larger. Isn’t it ironical that we buy and sell our products of mutual demand by routing them through Dubai and Singapore, and thereby enriching those countries, but have not been able to regularize this trade right across our borders, thereby creating more employment and business opportunities for own people?

Take another example. Pakistan’s economy, like the economies of any country today, has a lot of need for Information Technology solutions. And I am told that, in addition to being met by your local IT industry, you buy costly IT solutions from several western countries. But right across the border we in India have a flourishing IT industry, which is ready to cooperate with Pakistan and offer cheaper solutions. Ironically, the IT solutions that western companies sell around the world are produced in Bangalore, Hyderabad, Gurgaon and Pune.

I am making this point because Karachi is the commercial capital of Pakistan. And I may add that, historically Sindh was the incubator for global trade. In ancient times our forefathers from Sindh ventured forth to far off lands, in the same way as in modern times Sindhi businessmen have so successfully demonstrated their acumen in Hongkong, Singapore, London and New York.

In the era of globalization, trade and business are not only about money and profit. They also bring another kind of profit – a stronger stake in peaceful, stable and cooperative relations between two countries.

It is heartening to know that soon we’ll have a broad gauge rail link between Munabao and Khokrapar.I suggested to President Musharraf that we should also re-open the sea link between Karachi and Mumbai via Gujarat. He accepted the suggestion. The issue of re-opening of our consulate offices in Karachi and Mumbai is also on the cards.

All these are good signs. But much more can be done. And it should be our mutual resolve to do all the desirable things, and do them quickly.

With these words, I conclude my remarks. I sincerely thank the Karachi Council on Foreign Relations, Economic Affairs and Law for providing this opportunity of interaction with you.