In 1947, after decades of struggle, India became independent with Jawaharlal Nehru as its first prime minister. Educated at Harrow, an elite English school (Winston Churchill went there for example), he went on to Trinity College, Cambridge, and finally Inner Temple to become a barrister.
During the struggle for independence, Nehru led the Indian National Congress. Nominally secular, it was dominated by Hindus. That is except for Nehru himself, an atheistic Fabian socialist who believed firmly in one-man, one-vote and refused to listen to Jinnah’s call for Muslim rights which would be trampled under majoritararianism. He wanted guaranteed Muslim seats in the legislature to allow them veto power over any egregious legislation.
Jinnah, too, had been educated in England. Indeed he had been a very successful barrister there making himself financially independent. He had a large house fully staffed in Hampstead, a chauffeur-driven Bentley, and for the sartorially elegant Jinnah, his suits came from Savile Row (Henry Poole & Co.).
British trained lawyers both and also in common had an upper class life in England behind them, the two men understood each other, and if Jinnah did not doubt Nehru’s idealism, he also did not trust the others in the Congress Party waiting in the wings. His demand for a separate Muslim homeland brooked no compromise. And so India and Pakistan were formed. The latter discovered religion to be a failing bond in the face of ethnic, cultural and linguistic differences, which led to the splitting off of Bangladesh.
So here we are in the 21st century with a poorly educated prime minister of India who is beginning to think of himself as a mystic and who has an actual self-professed mystic, Yogi Adityanath, as chief minister of India’s most populous province.
In Pakistan, a former cricket hero who led the country to a championship, is now leading the country. A former playboy, he has found religion, he says. The intolerance of other religions or even of the less religious would seem to exclude the likes of Jinnah. Moreover, that intolerance extends to the Shia sect, a sizable minority to which Jinnah belonged.
Thus the India and Pakistan of today would seem to exclude the leaders of the two countries at inception. How these countries have changed … and the world for that matter.
So Putin visits India while Modi plays footsie with the Americans — the latter would not please Nehru, a staunch socialist whose faith rested in the Soviet Union. And Pakistan with Imran Khan is almost a wholly-owned subsidiary of China. Jinnah, who had fought for and valued independence, and also looked to America as a country with less of a colonial past would be disappointed.