American publication Quartz’s India section recently published a story that sought to follow the change in Pakistanis’ views of India over the past 30 years through eight charts.
Quartz appears to believe that the views haven’t changed so much, basing their opinion on results that show that 61% of Pakistanis hold a negative opinion of India. But the way I see it, among the charts that they have selected, some show a different and more hopeful picture.
Based on data collected through Gallup Pakistan polls, one of the charts shows that in 1981, only 17% of Pakistanis believed that India and Pakistan will not go to war in the near future. That number has since increased to 31%. Another chart shows that in 1979, 33% of Pakistanis believed that India and Pakistan should resolve the Kashmir dispute through war. Now, only 13% think so.
Of course it’s 13% more than should think so, but this change in view must not be taken as insignificant by any means. As someone growing up in Pakistan in the 1990s, the height of anti-India hysteria in Pakistan, this is big news.
It means that if Pakistan plays India in a cricket match today and ends up losing, the captain’s home will not be pelted with tomatoes as was the case with Wasim Akram’s team back in the 90s. It means that school-going children today are maybe not picturing how much they hate someone across the border who they have never met as they sing the national anthem in their morning assembly.
And, if I were to be perhaps a little too optimistic, it means that we are moving away from being a war-mongering nation, weary from years of hate, violence, and fighting. As one of the charts shows, the distrust against India continues to be pervasive in Pakistan, but the great thing to focus on is that fact that the idea of war seems to be losing steam. This, by itself, is heartening news. Slow as it may be, if we continue to think this way about the neighbors, maybe in a couple of decades from now, trade relations with India will normalize and the onerous visa process will be eased for good.
I’m skeptical that Pakistanis would ever completely lose their suspicion of Indians, and vice versa, but I also think that progress towards peace is possible without trying to reach a utopian form of complete trust in each other. Too much has gone down in history for either nation to get to such a point of perfection, but poll results like the ones mentioned above show me some light at the end of the tunnel.
For now, I’m willing to take that.