There are many parallels between the present circumstances in Iraq and the circumstances that led to the partition of the sub-continent in 1947 and of Pakistan in 1971. Just to cite a few example consider the following:
(1) In all three instances different sub-nations were or are present to challenge the one nation notion.
(2) After the 1937 elections the Hindu dominated Congress Party formed the governments in many provinces of India and their working was such that it alienated the Muslims to an extent that they were ready to accept the idea of Pakistan. In Pakistan, the West Pakistani dominated central government ignored the sentiments of the Bengalis for too long which resulted in their going their own way. In Iraq, the Shia dominated central government has not done anything or shown its willingness to do anything to win over the Sunnis. On the contrary by making decisions such as the execution of Saddam Hussein, it is sowing the seeds of separatism in the Sunnis. The Kurds had already been alienated from the idea of Iraq by the brutality of the Saddam regime against them.
(3) In both the earlier cases, the partitions were preceded by mass violence. Iraq is also immersed in violence.
(4) Furthermore, both in the partition of 1947 there was and in the case of Iraq there is, a foreign power which did or which can decide to divide the country. In the 1971 case, there was also a foreign power in the shape of India backed up by the Soviet Union which could and indeed did "facilitate" the division.
With these striking parallels, the question arises that will the Iraq head in the same direction which became the fate accompli of the united India and of Pakistan?
Or rather, is the solution to the violence in Iraq the same that brought peace to India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, namely, its partition?
To answer the first question one will have to conjecture and all that can be said is that the circumstances are ripe for another partition whether or not that will happen will depend on the intentions and effectiveness of the incumbent regime and perhaps to an extent on the international circumstances including the choice of the United States between the unity or the partition of Iraq.
The fundamental question is though that should Iraq be divided until the Iraqis that is to say the Shias, the Sunnis, and the Kurds, can and are willing to live together as one nation? The answer to such question has to be yes. Partitions brought peace to India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. It met the desires of the sub-nations for self-preservation and national self-determination. The partitioned countries are key members of world community and can concentrate on their development rather than be kept embroiled in a fatal struggle for their survival. All these advantages can be obtained by partitioning Iraq at least as a loose confedration if not as independent countries of the Iraqi Shias, Sunnis and Kurds.
The partition of Iraq may also help to stabilise the Middle East. Turkey should be happy with a Kurd State as it will solve the Kurdish question in that the Kurds will have a country of their own and their demand for a separate country of their own from the territories of Turkey will weaken if not die down. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia will be more than happy to see buffer states of the Sunnis, Kurds and Shias between itself and Iran and so will Israel. In addition, Israel will be relieved to see the end of one of the main threat to its survival. Iran will also welcome a Shia neighbouring country which in addition to being Shia can act as buffer state between it and the hostile Sunni rivals.
There is only one argument in favour of Iraq?s unity and that is of the perpetuation of a historical accident by which Iraq became one country in its present form. Surely, the advantages of partition far outweigh the arguments against.
As the both Quaids, Pakistan has been bestowed with realised, that it is better to part ways at least until such time that the people can learn to and are willing to live as one when unity means anarchy and perpetual violence, so should the Iraqi sub-nations go their own way until they want to live together by choice and not by virtue of some historical accident.
Three stable countries are far better than one unstable country. Stability in the territories now comprising Iraq will mean a stable Middle East which will in turn mean a stable and safer world for all.
(The article was written in July 2006)