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India, Pakistan Celebrate 60 Years of Independence

August 15, 2007 at 6:45 PM EST
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INIGO GILMORE, ITV News Special Correspondent: For a brief, beguiling moment, his recent woes were set aside, as President Pervez Musharraf indulged in a little patriotic flag-waving. Pakistanis are a proud people, and the 60th anniversary of the country’s founding is being celebrated with fervor among its 170 million people.

But behind the singing and smiles, there’s a dark mood of foreboding for a country whose future has never looked more uncertain. Hovering impassively above the celebrations in Islamabad, the father of the nation, Muhammad Ali Jinnah. His vision of moderate, progressive state at peace with its neighbors is far removed from the conflict-ridden, militarized, and nuclear-armed Pakistan of today. And from Pakistan’s prime minister, a stark reminder to his neighbor, India.

SHAUKAT AZIZ, Prime Minister, Pakistan (through translator): Our nuclear command and control structure is established on a very strong foundation. We have the capability to protect our nuclear installations. A weak nation cannot establish peace.

INIGO GILMORE: There’s been little of that since the Indian subcontinent was partitioned into Muslim Pakistan and Hindu-dominated India in 1947. Up to a million people died in the related unrest, and many families on both sides of the border are still scarred by that tragedy.

In Pakistan’s biggest city, Karachi, Mohammed is from one of those families. He was 14 when he fled Delhi on a train with his grandmother. He speaks fondly of his childhood and weeps for the life and brother he left behind.

MOHAMMED YUSUF, Partition Survivor (through translator): Once, we were not divided. Now, we are now divided into three places, India, Bangladesh and Pakistan. For which one should we weep?

Hoping for unification

INIGO GILMORE: It's a question pondered by his brother and his family over in Delhi. As the old photographs are brought out showing the family together as one, his eldest son expresses hope that this may yet be possible again.

MOHAMMED TARIQ YUSUF, Nephew of Mohammed Yusuf (through translator): We want the same thing that happened in the two Germanys, which shared the same culture. If we could forget this line, this border, and unite as one, that is my heart's desire.

INIGO GILMORE: Hope is one thing, reality another for those living in what are now two very different countries. Pakistan may resent the way it's portrayed as a nearly failed state, but it does face problems on a vast scale, many linked to the absence of real democracy.

Pakistan's military leader may have looked relaxed as he fielded questions on television, but he's facing his most serious crisis since seizing power. Just last month, more than 100 died after he ordered troops to storm the Red Mosque in Islamabad, when one of Pakistan's many burgeoning jihadist groups took it over.

More protests against Musharraf's government, this time from Balochi separatists in Pakistan's volatile tribal hinterland. Hundreds have died in areas bordering Afghanistan in a wave of attacks since early July, as Washington steps up pressure for a clampdown on militants in this troubled region.

India celebrates

It had all the pomp and ceremony befitting an increasingly assertive India, a country confident that it's on the verge of superpower greatness. Plenty of security, too, for leaders of this vast nation which, like Pakistan, was born amid bloodshed and has endured its fair share of terrorist attacks.

Such considerations aside, the landmark anniversary comes as people's expectations, both here and abroad, are soaring, in tandem with the booming economy.

This nation, which won independence through nonviolence, yet is now a nuclear power, is undergoing staggering changes. Dropping his guard only for a moment to join a rousing chorus of "Long Live India," the prime minister issued no familiar slogans about military might, but rather words of caution.

MANMOHAN SINGH, Prime Minister, India (through translator): We have moved forward in the many battles against poverty, ignorance and disease. But can we say we have won the war? We have been able to step up the rate of growth, but can we say we are satisfied with the pace? Even after years of development and rising growth rates, why have we not been able to banish mass poverty and provide employment to all?

Alleviating poverty in India

INIGO GILMORE: He offered no quick-fix solutions, but pledged to try to alleviate poverty by boosting industry and the country's embattled farmers. It's a tall order in a country where more than 800 million survive on less than 50 pence a day.

For all the talk of a new India, there are fears of another partition of sorts, between rich and poor. So while urban India is enjoying an economic boom, there's concerns that the old values may be corroded by the new, particularly among younger Indians.

GEORGE FERNANDES, Minister of Labor, India: The whole lot of students, the youth, they participated in the movement. And now, the youth should know what they have to do. They have to have a cause. It is maybe we have to fight against violence, hunger, disease.

INIGO GILMORE: But the same demand is being made of the government by those who feel left behind by the new golden age, in particular the rural poor, millions of whom were affected by the recent devastating monsoon floods. State assistance has been slow and fitful.

As independent India turns 60, its leaders appear to recognize that, if they are to keep this nation buoyant, they must address the inequalities that threaten to drag the country back down.