We’re supposed to be at loggerheads, my Pakistani friend and I. The countries in which we were born have come to the brink of war a number of times – they spilled into actual warfare in 1947, 1965, 1971 and 1999. The warfare is over Kashmir; it’s also over influence and, ultimately, about pride. The tensions that tear at these two countries have not been resolved and will not be resolved soon, and the bloody separation from which these two uncomfortable neighbors were born will continue to haunt both as they jostle each other in this new century.
But my Pakistani friend and I get along fine. When Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, former chief justice of Pakistan, visited Georgetown Law Center in November, my friend told me that I was a complete fool for missing out. I had to go to class, I had to do homework – he wouldn’t hear my feeble excuses. After rebuking me, he stormed off in a manner so grand it went beyond serious and into the absurd. We’ve since laughed about that and many other moments. It doesn’t take much effort for the two of us to get along – a cheeky grin or two will do for the day.
Our countries’ shared experience has turned ugly so often that our friendship’s existence is in itself bizarre – his origins should have ended things between us before they began. But one day at lunch, my reaction to the whole situation was one of bemusement – because the girl from Karachi was mocking him for mocking me. He does a fine job of mimicking me, too; something about his international education makes him unnervingly talented at matching the pretentious, snooty, usually sharp manner in which I speak.
It’s probably because my friend, despite coming from the other side of a line of barbed wire called the “Line of Control,” is not too dissimilar to me. As we sprinkled chili flakes over stir-fry, all we saw were the similarities between us. Something about sitting with a Brazilian, a Jordanian, a Turk, a Briton and a Spaniard made the 800 miles between Lahore and Bombay melt away.
y friend and I understand that our two countries have a complicated entanglement that has not yet graduated to a meaningful discourse. Pakistani terrorist organizations Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed continue working in tandem to make things explode in India. Meanwhile, Pakistan’s leaders consider the Indian presence in Jammu and Kashmir entirely illegitimate. More than a half-century of Indian military presence on the border feels a little too much like bullying to the Pakistani army.
Tristan James Mabry’s Pakistan presentation at the Mortara Center’s “Making Sense of the Mumbai Attacks: Conversations with Georgetown Faculty” discussion showed just how messy affairs are between India and Pakistan. The simmering chaos in Islamabad is extremely dangerous; meddling by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence is not limited to the realm of spies and spymasters; and some have pointed fingers at Pakistan’s secret service for the Nov. 26 terrorist attacks in Bombay.
y country bullies his and his bites back at mine. For 60 years they’ve simmered side by side, resentful and bitter, clearly ready to cause each other pain. As Pakistan edges closer to joining Somalia as a failed state, India looks all the more vulnerable to random or not-so-random acts of callous cowardice. Despite all of this, my friend and I can shake hands with more conviction than our countries’ foreign ministers.
There’s something about being taken out of your context. When you’re away from the safety of that for which you are fighting and you’re forced to examine exactly who you really are, you learn what makes our sort of friendship work: Despite the politics and history, we have similarities and differences that lend to us cohesion and camaraderie. The important thing is, we were given the chance. That chance, it seems, was given to the two of us by a pair of admission letters in April 2008. Removed from the bitter context of hostile relations, we find in each other humanity.
Udayan Tripathi is a freshman in the School of Foreign Service. He can be reached at tripathithehoya.com. History Never Repeats Itself appears every other Friday.
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