Jaswant Sigh Speaks to Indo-Pakistani Audience in Washington DC

India and Pakistan has no choice but to pursue the Path of Peace to alleviate Poverty

By: Khalid Hashmani

Washington DC – March 29, 2010: Jaswant Singh, an eight-term member of Indian Parliament and a former Finance and External Affairs Minister of India discussed his recent controversial 637-page book “Jinnah: India – Partition – Independence” at School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) in Washington DC. The event was one of rare occurrence as a large number of Indians and Pakistanis attended the same event. Dr. Ayesha Siddiqa, a SAIS resident Pakistan Teaching Fellow provided a review of Jaswant Singh’s book from the perspective of a Pakistani analyst.

Mr. Jaswant Singh

Talking about himself, Mr. Jaswant Singh said that he comes from the Indian state that is adjacent to Sindh meaning Rajasthan. He said that what fascinated him about Jinnah was how an ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity became the ‘sole spokesman’ of Muslims in India within a span of few years. Other key take-aways and memorable statements from this discussion are as follows:

1. Like Sindh, Rajasthan too did not suffer loss of lives and blood-shed due to partition. Both Muslims and Hindus lived and continue to live amicably in his home province.

2. 1947 partition of India was one of the most horrible events of the 20th century in the context of human sufferings – millions were killed and many more millions were uprooted from their ancestral homelands.


What is disappointing that where as in the USA, about 20-25 books are written about American Civil each year, almost no books are written in both India and Pakistan about their partition.


The British should be held responsible for the tragedy of partition and its immediate aftermath. British left in haste without due process, analysis, and planning as they were tired after World War 2 and wanted to return back to their home country in hurry.


Radcliff who had never visited India and confined himself mostly to New Delhi took 47 days to divide huge country of India. In fact other than Punjab and Bengal, no one knew the lines of partition for other provinces.


In addition to British, the responsibility for partition lies squarely with the Congress party and two of its leaders Nehru and Patel. In fact the resolution to prevent the partition was voted by a meeting of the Congress party but Gandhi voted to defeat the motion.


Unfortunately Jinnah and his ideals are forgotten in Pakistan and down-sized in India. Jinnah once said Hindus and Muslims must not be allowed to get divided as they would be a formidable adversary of British.


It is sad to see that peace has abandoned India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. Without peace in the region, full one-fifth population is doomed to live in poverty and without peace.

Dr. Ayesha Siddiqa


Mr. Jinnah was secular and those who followed up have been negating his ideals and principles.


Mr. Jaswant Singh’s book does not condone two-nation theory. The partition was not about religious ideologies but was used as tactics for political ends.


Neither Mr. Nehru nor Mr. Jinnah understood the consequences of partition and the extent of the blood-shed and loss of life that would occur.

Question-and- Answer Session


Question on Negotiation and possibility of compromises – Mr. Jinnah accepted the concept of two dominions within one country but Mr. Nehru rejected that idea as well. Mr. Jinnah asked for 30% reserved seats in the Parliament and later was ready to accept 20% but that too was not agreed by the Congress party.


Question on how Muslims would have faired in India – Mr. Jaswant Singh said that they would have done reasonably well and added that Islam would have shined far greater as the most important religious schools-of-Isla were all in India. Today more Muslims live in India than in Pakistan.


Question that both India and Pakistan are artificial nations and had the various states being allowed to be sovereign in European style economic union – Mr. Jaswant Sigh said he would not comment what constitutes a nation vs. country as in all likelihood he will be either misquoted or misunderstood by some.


Question about use of religion in politics – Mr. Jaswant Sigh said the use of religion into politics is not confined to Jinnah only. He said that Mr. Gandhi often said that without religion, politics would be immoral.


Question on who in legal sense be held responsible for bloodshet and killings during partition – Mr. Jaswant Singh said that the responsibility for that strategy squarely lies on British as they being the government abandoned their duties.


Question on what should be done next? – Mr. Jaswant Sigh said that both India and Pakistan should wipe-out the virtual war that they have carried out against each other since the 1965 war. Expand the constituency of peace continuously. Punjab has been a garrison province with a peculiar attitude towards how things should be run. The countries where militaries play a critical role in their decision making have difficulty in understanding the long term benefits of peace. Get rid of the armies in two countries and things will sort themselves out for better.


What are lessons Learnt from the book? – Mr. Jaswant Singh replied that there is no other alternative to peace. No outsider will find answers for us. Bangladesh, India and Pakistan will have to find answers themselves. Dr. Siddiqa added that disputes between Pakistan and India have moved from being “territorial” to “ideological” and that is more dangerous.


Can Pakistan become a secular country? – Mr. Jaswant Singh said that Pakistan can become a secular provided it stops being proxy for other countries and fight some one else’ wars. Dr. Siddiqa disagreed and said that Pakistan will not become a secular country. We can only arrest its decline further into fundamentalism.

April 4, 2010

3 thoughts on “Jaswant Sigh Speaks to Indo-Pakistani Audience in Washington DC”

  1. Jaswantsing is raving and trying in vain to generate goodness in the Muslims. It is like taking a horse to water but will he drink it. The idiom applies to Muslims who were born to be fanatics with a grudge against one and all including their own community. It is useless to cite examples of animosity of one Muslim for the other and the world in general. Only ALLAH can bring in a miraculous change in the fanatic community.

    1. Dear Sir,
      Please don’t blame any community as whole. We all belong to the religion of all men, all women and all children of our mother earth. I am everyone.

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