India & Pakistan

Mauritius Times –  60 Years

By Satcam Boolell

Only ten years after achieving independence India has emerged as the greatest moral force in the world keeping in check both the Eastern and the Western blocs from engaging into suicidal wars. By virtue of the position she occupies by refusing to align either with or against any of the great powers now contending for supremacy, she has become the focus of world attention and her every move is being closely watched and commented upon by the great chancelleries of both East and West. There is not a week which passes without some foreign mission landing in New Delhi. Uninfluenced by any foreign power she is slowly but steadily marching towards her destiny which is to link her past glory with the requirements of the present atomic age.

Pakistan, whose destiny is so closely linked with that of India, is struggling to keep in step with her. But owing to the lack of a sound moral foundation on which to build her future, she can only keep an unsteady pace whose progress is frequently marred by the instability of her government and a rather inefficient administration.

A visit to India and Pakistan is both fascinating and illuminating. It is fascinating because both countries are so typically representative of the mysterious East. It is illuminating because only a contact with their people can clear up the misunderstanding and remove the prejudices which centuries of Western propaganda has built up.

I was among a group of about hundred delegates from the Commonwealth countries who had the privilege of touring India and Pakistan extensively. We covered thousands of miles mostly by air. Although our visits to most places were just flying visits, we were fortunate enough to meet and talk to a large number of people from all walks of life, from Cabinet Ministers to snake charmers. Everywhere we were given rousing reception and over-whelming hospitality. The people were most friendly and eager to show us round and tell us all about their difficulties, their failures and their achievements. There was a burning desire among the youth in both countries to learn and to improve. But we also found some discontent and bitterness. Fortunately, the number of the discontented and embittered individuals was insignificant. All of us were full of praise for the Indians and Pakistanis for the warmth of their welcome and their genuine friendliness. But opinions were divided in our appreciation of the efforts being made and the methods being employed by both India and Pakistan to raise the standard of living of their respective people. Some expressed the view that India had put too much emphasis on heavy industries in her second five-year plan, others were skeptical about her hydro-electric and irrigation projects.

The delegates were not so critical about Pakistan. This is partly because we were not shown any project like the ones we saw in India and partly because in her present plight Pakistan is more deserving of sympathy than of criticism. Another reason might be that Pakistan belongs to the Baghdad Pact. However, we visited in Pakistan the Ghulam Mohammad Barrage situated in Sind. It is a mighty project designed to generate electricity and irrigate the lands of Sind.

It is practically impossible to obtain unanimity of opinion about what different individuals from different places feel about a country even after a group visit by all of them to that country. Our appreciation of things is conditioned by our upbringing and outlook. But there are certain facts on which there can be no two opinions. If Russia succeeded in sending a satellite into space and the USA ludicrously failed in a similar attempt, it would be dishonest to divert world attention from Russia’s leadership in guided missiles in an effort to mobilise world opinion to condemn her achievement because a dog found its death in Sputnik II.

Some of the delegates with whom I spent about six weeks gave me the impression that they were emphatically determined to gather material during their tour for an enlarged edition of Miss Mayo’s Mother India. Others were less prejudiced. I knew one gentleman from Rhodesia who saw nothing else in India and Pakistan except that the streets of Karachi, Bombay and Calcutta were littered with beggars. I was myself not immune from some such prejudice when I left home.

As is sometimes usual with those who have been to some extent influenced by the anti-Indian literature of the West. I expected to find in India half the City population living on alms and sleeping on the pavements, the wall of the cities stained red by the spittles of betel chewers, the river banks peopled with fakirs performing blood curdling tricks and villages infested with snakes. In a way I must confess that I have come back disappointed. The walls of the cities were painted white and the streets were kept neat and clean. I met a few beggars but not all of them sleeping on the footpath. I looked in vain for a fakir and I am glad I did not tread on even a snail in the few villages I visited. Instead I saw a surge of enthusiasm sweeping over the whole of the subcontinent.

Mauritius Times –  Friday 10th January, 1958
5th Year No 179

* Published in print edition on 17 December 2021

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