To Understand Pakistan, 1947 Is The Wrong Lens

This is an op-ed from Outlook, India (Nov 09, 2009). The quality of the argument or analysis made below might leave much to be desired. We may not necessarily share the author’s views. But the general view is an interesting one, not least because it is debatable. It is with a view to inviting a discussion that it is published here. – PTH

The hurt that moves Pakistan is from a wound more recent—1971

By Khurram Hussain

On a recent trip to India, I was moved by the genuine concern people have about Pakistan. As a Pakistani living in the United States, I am subjected daily to serious exasperation, courtesy the American media. Americans do not understand Pakistan because they do not care. And there is no real knowledge without caring. Indians certainly do care. Pakistan has been on the Indian mind since the moment of their co-creation.

India and Pakistan are like two ends of a thread tied in a fantastic Gordian knot; their attachment magically survives their severance. And how the love grows! The recent Jaswant Singh controversy over Jinnah only partially unveiled how Pakistan is critical to the ideological coherence of Indian nationalism in both its secular and Hindutva varieties. But behind this veil, Pakistan has always been internal to Indian politics. It should come as no surprise then that establishment Indians (bureaucratic and political elites, intellectuals, media types, and the chattering classes) are well-versed in the nuances of Pakistani society. Indians understand Pakistan like no one else does, or can.

Still, there is this curious blind spot: no one in India appears to remember 1971. Worse, no one seems to think it relevant. For all their sophistication, Indian elites continue to understand Pakistan primarily with reference to the events of 1947. Anything else is incidental, not essential. The established Indian paradigms for explaining Pakistan, its actions and its institutions, its state and society, have not undergone any significant shift since the Partition. The tropes remain the same: religion and elite manipulation explain everything. It is as if the pre-Partition politics of the Muslim League continues to be the politics of Pakistan—with slight non-essential variations. More than 60 years on, the factors may be different but little else has changed.

This view is deeply flawed. It reflects a serious confusion about the founding event of contemporary Pakistani society. The Partition has a mesmerising quality that blinds the mind, a kind of notional heft that far outweighs its real significance to modern South Asian politics. The concerns of the state of Pakistan, the anxieties of its society, and the analytic frames of its intellectual and media elites have as their primary reference not 1947 but the traumatic vivisection of the country in 1971. Indians have naturally focused on their own vivisection, their own dismemberment; but for Pakistan, they have focused on the wrong date. This mix-up has important consequences.

Oddly, the Indian elite seem to have a blind spot for the dismemberment india subjected Pakistan to in 1971. their focus never seems to shift from the partition.  
   
First, Indians tend not to remember 1971 as a Pakistani civil war, but rather as India’s “good” war. It is remembered as an intervention by India to prevent the genocide of Bengalis by Pakistanis. The fact that the Bengalis themselves were also Pakistanis has been effaced from the collective memory of Indian elites. This makes 1971 merely another Kargil, or Kashmir, Afghanistan or Mumbai—an instance of Pakistan meddling in other people’s affairs, and of the Pakistani military’s adventurism in the region. This is why mention of Balochistan at Sharm el-Sheikh created such a stir in India. It was literally incomprehensible to Indians that Pakistan could accuse India of meddling in its internal affairs. Surely, this is the pot calling the kettle black. But what the Indian mind perceives as Pakistan’s ongoing divorce from reality is in fact Pakistan’s most fundamental political reality. The Pakistani establishment has internalised the memory of 1971. In all things, and at all times, it must account for India. Dismemberment has the requisite effect of focusing the mind on existential matters. Nothing can be taken for granted.

Second, the Indian establishment routinely misconstrues as ideological schizophrenia the Pakistani intellectual classes’ complicated responses to India. The nuances of the Pakistani experience of India are the very picture of incoherence to them. Worse, Pakistanis often frustrate the project of creating a common South Asian sensibility to bridge the political gaps between the two communities.

But again, no one in India accounts for 1971 when making such grand universalising (and, if I may add, genuinely noble) plans for the future of the region. Pakistani intellectual elites share with their Indian counterparts the normative horror of what the West Pakistani military did in the East. How can anyone in their right mind not deem such behaviour beyond the pale? But horror does not preclude abiding distaste for the Indian state’s wilful opportunism in breaking Pakistan apart. It is for this reason that while the intellectual classes in Pakistan, especially the English language press and prominent university scholars, have almost always condemned their state’s involvement in terrorist activity inside India proper, they have remained largely quiet concerning Kashmir. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander. Kashmir does not seem so different to them than East Pakistan.

It is for this same reason that there was no great outcry about the isi’s supposed involvement in the bombing of the Indian embassy in Kabul. The general sense among the educated elites was that India deserved it for trying to “encircle” Pakistan through Afghanistan. Indians process this either as paranoia or as a visceral hatred of India that blinds Pakistanis to facts. Perhaps there is some of this too. But it bears appreciating that Pakistan is a post-civil war society. Fear and anxiety concerning India’s intentions in the region are hardly limited to the so-called ‘establishment’ in Pakistan. It is a general fear, a well-dispersed fear, a social fear. And a relatively coherent fear at that.

If the vantage point is 1971, it will allow Pakistan to be seen as a state that’s reacting to repeated defeats inflicted upon its forces by a larger neighbour.  
     
 This leads to the third, and perhaps the most important point. The Indian establishment does not see Pakistan as a ‘normal’ society. The substance of this abnormalcy is religion, which is also the irreducible difference between the two societies. It is the original sin and a foundational incoherence that is ultimately inescapable. And it has tremendous explanatory power. It explains both the ideological nature of the Pakistani state’s hatred of India and, simultaneously, the state’s manipulation of the zealous masses for its own ends. That these two explanations do not hold together coherently is besides the point to most Indians. This is an old story and is as such sensible. In the Indian imagination, Pakistan is endlessly regurgitating the politics of Jinnah and the erstwhile Indian Muslim League. While Indian politics moves on, Pakistan’s holds eerily still. I am certainly not one to deny that there are some obvious asymmetries between India and Pakistan. The nature of the relationship between religion and politics is certainly one of them. But it bears mentioning that perhaps the most relevant asymmetry concerns the repeated defeats suffered by the conventional Pakistani forces at the hands of their Indian counterparts. This asymmetry is neither that complicated nor particularly abnormal. It illuminates the actions of the Pakistani state as essentially strategic and only incidentally ideological. And in that sense, it allows an interpretation of Pakistan as a fairly pedestrian, even ‘normal’ post-conflict society in its relations with its much larger neighbour.

Ultimately, this is the real value of a renewed focus on 1971 rather than 1947. It normalises Pakistan. It allows for discussion of real differences between the two societies and the two states, rather than of reified stereotypes that have little political relevance any more. This is not to justify the actions of the Pakistani state, which are in many cases entirely unjustifiable on both moral and political grounds. It is merely to hope that a mutual comprehension of normalcy may lead to peace and progress. Certainly, no one will deny that there is value in that.
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(The author is with the Religious Studies Department at Yale University. He is also a member of the MacMillan Initiative on Religion, Politics and Society at Yale and a doctoral fellow at the Centre for Global Islamic Studies at Lehigh University.)

35 Comments

Filed under India, Jinnah's Pakistan, Pakistan, Partition

35 responses to “To Understand Pakistan, 1947 Is The Wrong Lens

  1. vajra

    At first glance, it seems to have captured Indian perceptions of Pakistan very well. The genuine affection, which is seen sometimes as the overbearing embrace of the friendly relative one never wanted, the perplexity about Pakistan’s fly-in-amber predicament, a kind of self-righteous unwillingness to acknowledge Pakistan’s trauma about 71, an indignation about Kashmir, disbelief and deep suspicion about Pakistani stories about Indian involvement in Afghanistan and Baluchistan – O good heavens! He’s been looking inside my diary!!

    Some of my mentors in Pakistani affairs have sensitised me (not without enormous effort) to the constant sense of oppression and domination that a ‘minority’ suffers from. This sensitisation should have been emotional; it has not been so. Perhaps the difficulty of a dominant culture, of the hegemons, ever beginning to understand the embedded uneasiness and discomfort of the dominated minorities, should not be underestimated.

    Undoubtedly the impressionistic, journalistic accent of the report needs refinement through argument and debate, but as I mentioned, first impressions are that it does indeed capture much of what is presently extent in Indian minds when thinking about Pakistan.

    None of this seeks to wish away the genuine hatred, as opposed to the genuine affection, of certain segments to Pakistan, to Pakistanis and to even the hapless Indian minorities (emphatically not Muslims alone, but all minorities, as can be proven each one taken singly at a time), finally, ironically, including the non-compliant elements in the dominant majority.

    Shove up a bit, good people; we need more space on that park bench.

  2. Milind Kher

    The article has captured beutifully the complex relationship of Pakistan and India.

    Just as 1947 was traumatic for India, 1971 was traumatic for Pakistan. Without going into who was right and who was wrong, these facts need to be acknowledged and registered.

    That being said, our thought process needs to be increasingly tolerant and accommodative, so that we can unitedly fight the worst monster that has come up post partition – terrorism.

  3. Vijay Goel

    At the outset let me say that I love Pakistan and the Muslim culture.The Muslim friends of mine show more Courtesy Hospitalty and Respect (To Elders) which enchants me.The Barelvi Islam and Sufism are very endearing.Not the least because I belong to Bareilly though now live in Delhi.

    What Mr.Hussain has written seems absolutely true to me.It has been so in my case.Because I do not wish to see Pakistan from the 1971 lens wher they seem to be haughty and disrespectful to the Bengali sensibilities.The way they treated their Bengali bretheren from 1947 onwards theu should have forseen 1971.India only speeded up the process and in hindsight maybe for the good as the sore was festering.

    The Bengali especially from East Bengal are highly sentimental and value their intelligence and cuture like no one else in India.I have stayed 2 years in Kolkata and have a number of Bengali friends.They can talk interminably on a cup of tea and a ciggarette and in a Baniyan and Lungi.You may be Lord Faulkland suited booted for all they care.Show them Respect and they are all yours and if you are aggressive and Macho well you will get what you deserve.

    Whenever I have met a Pakistani citizen and he has brought up 1971 I have kept quiet for we are on two different wickets.They feel it is Indias fault and I dont feel it that way.In 1947 we were equals and I would like to think and relate that way.I want to forget 1971 as an aberration of theirs.And so also the division in Pakistan society between the elite and the common man between the Land Lord and the cultivator between the Army and Civil between Boy and Girl is more pronounced than should be and the sooner it is made more equalthe better for all concerned.Whenever a Pakistani citizen has visited and stayed with me he has been struck by this plursm n India compared to Palistan and though he does not like the mixing of Boys and Girls so much he does appreciate the lessening of difference here.And to think Hindusm was caste based and ridden with schism and Islam was supposed to be of Brotherhood!!

  4. Bumblebee

    “To hurt others is to hurt oneself”.Pakistan is living proof of that.What has gone wrong is for the young pakistanis to think about,ponder,and resolve.1971 would never had happened ,if this thinking had happened in 1947 or even later.

  5. Vajra

    @Vijay Goel

    Dear Sir:

    LESS OF THE BANIAN AND LUNGI BUSINESS!

    You won’t find a SINGLE person within any of Calcutta’s innumerable adda’s and tea-shops and coffee-houses and ‘kebins’ in banian and lungi. That’s so disrespectful and defamatory; just come into Calcutta and repeat that.

  6. Hayyer

    Fascinating analysis. Khorram Hussain is an genuine academic but does not quite comprehend all that he encounters in India. His interactions must have been with academia or with metropolitan literati and establishment types, the sort who can be expected to take an interest in or be well informed about Pakistan. By and large Indians are indifferent to happenings in Pakistan other than a smug satisfaction at its current troubles, or apprehension at the further strikes of the Mumbai type.
    The warmth exists, in the north among Punjabis mainly, and there is a general goodwill except where schadenfreude intervenes. In Kashmir it is a strong element of the make up but etched in shades of gray.
    But I have issues with his views of how India perceive Pakistan. It is not just the legacy of 1947, and no one that I know has forgotten that India helped break up Pakistan in 1971. It is seen as the good war, true, and there is no guilt about it. The Indian establishment well understands that the PA was only too eager to do a Bangladesh on India in Kashmir when offered the chance.
    A Pakistani writing in an Indian magazine about Indian perceptions of his country must be prepared for some counter comments on those views as well as on his perceptions of his own country. And so here goes-:

    ” Pakistan has been on the Indian mind since the moment of their co-creation.”
    That is mutual, I think.

    “India and Pakistan are like two ends of a thread tied in a fantastic Gordian knot; their attachment magically survives their severance.”
    Very well expressed. I don’t think that this ‘knottedness’ can be resolved the Macedonian way.

    “The recent Jaswant Singh controversy over Jinnah only partially unveiled how Pakistan is critical to the ideological coherence of Indian nationalism in both its secular and Hindutva varieties.”
    Not at all true. The Sangh Parivar thrives very well on its captive resource of Indian Muslims. Before 1947 the Hindu Right had the entire sub-continental Muslim population in its sights, but one third the number will do equally well for its ideology.
    Secular India does not need Pakistan for its coherence;it is the historical memory of Gandhi and Nehru that needs demonization of Jinnah, not of Pakistan. The secular elements in the Congress led by Nehru won on their own despite the provocation of Pakistan’s creation.

    “But behind this veil, Pakistan has always been internal to Indian politics.”
    Not true! The discourse of Indian politics had been development (and national integration), through Nehru’s socialism to begin with but free wheeling now. Latterly India has developed great power ambitions, but Nehru always wanted to play on the world stage and this latest militarism is only a continuation of policy by other means. If Pakistan figures in this it is because it thwarts India’s efforts.

    “Indians understand Pakistan like no one else does, or can.”
    Probably, but that is not saying much.

    “For all their sophistication, Indian elites continue to understand Pakistan primarily with reference to the events of 1947. Anything else is incidental, not essential. The established Indian paradigms for explaining Pakistan, its actions and its institutions, its state and society, have not undergone any significant shift since the Partition. The tropes remain the same: religion and elite manipulation explain everything. It is as if the pre-Partition politics of the Muslim League continues to be the politics of Pakistan—with slight non-essential variations. More than 60 years on, the factors may be different but little else has changed.”

    Well, how do Pakistanis see it? The feudal families do dominate. The professional classes that came from India are no longer as relevant. Pakistan’s founding may have been on a secular, albeit Muslim ethos but this secular tinge is long lost. Are religion and elite manipulation only tropes?

    “This view is deeply flawed. It reflects a serious confusion about the founding event of contemporary Pakistani society. The Partition has a mesmerising quality that blinds the mind, a kind of notional heft that far outweighs its real significance to modern South Asian politics. The concerns of the state of Pakistan, the anxieties of its society, and the analytic frames of its intellectual and media elites have as their primary reference not 1947 but the traumatic vivisection of the country in 1971. Indians have naturally focused on their own vivisection, their own dismemberment; but for Pakistan, they have focused on the wrong date”

    Mr. Hussein fails to see the contradiction here. Indo Pak relations were born in 1947, not 1971. The latter was a consequence of the former among other things.
    Khorram Hossein would have us believe that the two countries started out with a clean slate in 1972 after the Simla Accord; but did they? India certainly hoped that the Kashmir ghost had been laid and relations would improve. But as Brigadier Samson Simon Sharaf”s pointed out on PTH a few days ago Bhutto had no intention of starting afresh. 1971 gave Pakistan a fresh grouse against India, to add to the earlier one of Kashmir. It is not India that keeps turning to 1947, it is the Pakistan establishment. Did not Ghulam Ishaq Khan refer to Kashmir as the unfinished agenda of Partition? Does not the Pakistan Prime Minister even now refer to the UN Resolutions.
    Any lingering memories of their homes in Pakistan are in the minds of a passing generation. Their offspring have no desire to return. Akhand Bharat is a RSS pipe dream, not a goal of state policy or statecraft. No one even talks of Partition any more.

    “Oddly, the Indian elite seem to have a blind spot for the dismemberment india subjected Pakistan to in 1971. their focus never seems to shift from the partition.”

    Not true. India dismembered Pakistan and no one has forgotten it, in fact the media never lets us forget it. India’s focus is emphatically not on the past. It is over and done with.

    “But what the Indian mind perceives as Pakistan’s ongoing divorce from reality is in fact Pakistan’s most fundamental political reality. The Pakistani establishment has internalised the memory of 1971. In all things, and at all times, it must account for India. Dismemberment has the requisite effect of focusing the mind on existential matters. Nothing can be taken for granted.”

    The notion of dismembering each other wasn’t born in 1971 either. If Nehru and Patel hoped or expected Pakistan to collapse, the latter too thought and hoped India would breakup. ‘Hans ke liye Pakistan, lad ki layenge Hindustan’ was a slogan shouted much before Bangladesh. The Pakistani establishment may be shocked that such a thing happened and constantly apprehensive of its re-occurrence but they should have been aware of the reciprocity of their own sentiments.

    “Second, the Indian establishment routinely misconstrues as ideological schizophrenia the Pakistani intellectual classes’ complicated responses to India. The nuances of the Pakistani experience of India are the very picture of incoherence to them. Worse, Pakistanis often frustrate the project of creating a common South Asian sensibility to bridge the political gaps between the two communities.”

    This is correct, but if you wont allow free exchange of newspapers and greater opportunities for cross travel and interaction of these self same intellectual classes of the two countries what hope for understanding? Again Pakistan goes back to 1947-Solve Kashmir first.

    “It is for this same reason that there was no great outcry about the isi’s supposed involvement in the bombing of the Indian embassy in Kabul. The general sense among the educated elites was that India deserved it for trying to “encircle” Pakistan through Afghanistan. Indians process this either as paranoia or as a visceral hatred of India that blinds Pakistanis to facts.”

    There has to be a symmetry of responses. If India’s presence in Afghanistan is to Pakistan’s detriment it is no different from Pakistan’s presence in Nepal and Bangladesh. It is not intellectual schizophrenia that is a problem, it is perceptual asymmetry.

    “But it bears appreciating that Pakistan is a post-civil war society. Fear and anxiety concerning India’s intentions in the region are hardly limited to the so-called ‘establishment’ in Pakistan. It is a general fear, a well-dispersed fear, a social fear. And a relatively coherent fear at that………………………..
    If the vantage point is 1971, it will allow Pakistan to be seen as a state that’s reacting to repeated defeats inflicted upon its forces by a larger neighbour.”

    Even when Pakistan was not a post civil war society its attitude to India was no different. It did accept the opportunity gifted in 1971, but the history before and after 1971 has always been of Pakistani initiatives. India’s approach vis a vis Pakistan is misunderstood. Given the aggressive Pakistani state it is Indians who would have gone about in fear of Pakistan if India were a smaller country. Till 1962 India did not prepare for war and consequently got a hiding from China. If China had not woken India to the state of its defences Pakistan would have had a walk over in 1965.
    In 1947-48, 1965 (April and August/September) 1999 and even before in Kashmir it is Pakistan that has provoked. Indians can rightly ask why Pakistan is afraid of India when it is Pakistan that takes the initiative every time; even in 1 971.

    ” This leads to the third, and perhaps the most important point. The Indian establishment does not see Pakistan as a ‘normal’ society. The substance of this abnormalcy is religion, which is also the irreducible difference between the two societies. It is the original sin and a foundational incoherence that is ultimately inescapable. And it has tremendous explanatory power. It explains both the ideological nature of the Pakistani state’s hatred of India and, simultaneously, the state’s manipulation of the zealous masses for its own ends. That these two explanations do not hold together coherently is besides the point to most Indians. This is an old story and is as such sensible. In the Indian imagination, Pakistan is endlessly regurgitating the politics of Jinnah and the erstwhile Indian Muslim League.”

    I am not sure exactly what Khorram Hussein is trying to say here. Is he arguing about the sensibleness of the Indian view to itself, does it appear sensible to him. For the present I shall withhold comment.

    “The nature of the relationship between religion and politics is certainly one of them. But it bears mentioning that perhaps the most relevant asymmetry concerns the repeated defeats suffered by the conventional Pakistani forces at the hands of their Indian counterparts. This asymmetry is neither that complicated nor particularly abnormal. It illuminates the actions of the Pakistani state as essentially strategic and only incidentally ideological. And in that sense, it allows an interpretation of Pakistan as a fairly pedestrian, even ‘normal’ post-conflict society in its relations with its much larger neighbour.”

    I am completely at a loss here. How can a state only be strategic, unless it is a mercenary tool for non state forces or for another country. ‘Incidentally ideological’? Does he mean fortuitously? Nations don’t need ideologies, unless one means the substance of its constitution. What Pakistan stands for is endlessly debated on PTH. Readers can draw the most appropriate meanings for themselves.

    “Ultimately, this is the real value of a renewed focus on 1971 rather than 1947. It normalises Pakistan. It allows for discussion of real differences between the two societies and the two states, rather than of reified stereotypes that have little political relevance any more. This is not to justify the actions of the Pakistani state, which are in many cases entirely unjustifiable on both moral and political grounds. It is merely to hope that a mutual comprehension of normalcy may lead to peace and progress. Certainly, no one will deny that there is value in that.”

    Inshallah!
    ————

  7. Vijay Goel

    @Vajra I am exceedngly I repeat exceedingly sorry if I have hurt you.I have innumerable Bengali friends and many stay with me when they come to Delhi.What I meant was a mark of respect that they do not believe in outward showmanship but are intrnsically very respectful of others and themselves.What I meant was that they have sat with me in my sitting room in a Lungi and Baniyan and others have come and we all have sat together quite comfortably wthout being self conscious I never meant that they sit like this in the addas.Sorry again.

  8. Vajra

    @Vijay Goel

    [sigh] Never mind! I am sure you did not mean to offend or insult.

    You Indians and Pakistanis will never understand Bengalis, will you?🙂

  9. Vajra

    @Hayyer

    Your review of the article points out the complexities under the cover that the article draws over various issues.

    Without going into those issues at the moment, I would like to draw your attention to the possibility that the persons and segments he met in India seem to be the equivalent of the very well sensitised persons we encounter almost every day on PTH. There are segments on both sides which can be sympathetic towards the other without necessarily being bathetic and excessively sentimental, and also without being in-your-face hostile.

    This seems encouraging.

    I regret the Farex-like consistency of this post, but thought it necessary to write it.

  10. Vijay Goel

    @Vajra I may not understand Bengalis but am fortunate to know enough Bengali to understand,”Nomr Shire Shukher Dine Tomari Mukh Loibe Chine,Dukher Rati Nikhil Dhora je din Kore Bonchana Tomake na Kori Sonshay”LOL (Laugh out Aloud).

  11. Bloody Civilian

    Hayyer

    who or what is the pakistani establishment? the indian counterpart has to work with facts. but unlike them, we don’t have to merely react. we can try and dig deeper and understand this. what seceded in 1971 was the majority province. can we really call it a secession then? who really seceded?

    drawing a line to join 1971 to 1947 and before will not be without problems. the AIML had a ministry in bengal while it never had one in the punjab, for example. it fared better in bengal even in the 1937 elections than it did in the punjab. and it did much better in the 1946 elections too.

    i hear that 17 december was a bad day for West Pakistanis. i wasn’t there to witness it. but there has been little regret since that i have come across. not of the motherland having being vivisectioned kind anyway. either people think of it as good riddance (a relative minority, i have to say), or that west pakistan pushed the bengalis away, and separation was the only solution. people across both sections of opinion tend to regret the loss of life, the bloodshed… regardless of the difference of opinion in terms of numbers and apportionment of blame.

    i realise that many indians also think of partition as good riddance. others as a democratic, if not the most palatable, outcome. but there are two other views as well: 1) who think it was wrong because we’re the same people that there should never have been any disagreement, and 2) bharat mata was treacherously vivisectioned by one community.

    while many regret the partition violence, since it was perpetrated by and upon what we might describe as common people… we have never really come to terms with it. neither those who blame one community or the other, nor those who blame all or none. but in 1971, there was an army action, organised militancy and an int’l war. the facts will not withstand the vivisection through external interference gloss, nor even the unprovoked, armed rebellion narrative.

    on the other note… feudals might still dominate in the post-1971 pakistan. but one of them was unable to avoid the hangman’s noose. others frequently spend significant number of years in prison and/or exile. the present head of state may have been a B-class feudal, but even he spent several years in prison.

    next, one could ask the question: who or what is the pakistani state? one possible answer could explain (as you put it): How can a state only be strategic, unless it is a mercenary tool for non state forces or for another country. ‘Incidentally ideological’? Does he mean fortuitously? Nations don’t need ideologies, unless one means the substance of its constitution. What Pakistan stands for is endlessly debated on PTH. Readers can draw the most appropriate meanings for themselves.

    despite all this, there has been a process of mostly spontaneous* nation-building too, alongside the often deliberate destruction causing degeneration into a mere crowd, or at times disintegrating into a mob. yet, at other times, showing signs of coming together as a nation. it’s an ongoing process.

    * ie even in the absence of leadership… and, albeit rarely, even while/when the state stands usurped.

  12. Hossp

    This is imo, a good synopsis. I read the article in outlook and I was surprised to read the comments as most of the posters there were grabbing low hanging fruits. This article is not about the 1971 war and what India‘s role was but it is about the mindset that developed in the Pakistani establishment after the war.

    Hayyar’s post above shows lots of promise, though I have not read it completely. As soon as I am able to, I will comment on that but I think he might have already covered what I am about to write.

    I quote below what I think is the key part of the article and the author has clearly shown what ails the Pakistan establishment, or basically the army brass.

    “The Pakistani establishment has internalised the memory of 1971. In all things, and at all times, it must account for India. Dismemberment has the requisite effect of focusing the mind on existential matters. Nothing can be taken for granted.”

    The surrender at Dhaka was a mortal blow to the Army. Was army not expecting it when it started the operations in March of 1971? My theory is that the Pakistan army knew exactly what it was doing. They knew the end result would be separation of East Pakistan. In fact the whole purpose of the operation was to get rid of East Pakistan. Until that happened, they were planning to keep East Pak under their thumb for as long as they could.

    Awami League’s support in India was well known but the Pak army never anticipated that they would actually be fighting the Indian army in East Pakistan. Some of it was perhaps their flawed analysis (a recurring theme with the Pak Army) that either China or the US would prevent Indian interference beyond the moral support. They were not thinking that the US or China would interfere militarily on Pakistan’s behalf but they felt that both China and the US would bring down enough diplomatic pressure on India to keep it away from the battlefield. So a stalemate with Bengali fighters was acceptable and at a later date the separation could be offered to Bengalis as a final political solution. Military intervention by India was not expected by the Pak army. In short, the army was ready to give up East Pakistan but not to the Indian army.As it happens in a large operation like that many unexpected events resulted in a final war with India.

    The surrender at Dhaka almost caused a mutiny in the army and the years after that Pak army was never in any position to open another front. The first opportunity came in the 80s when the US was completely on Pakistan’s side due to the afghan war. There was plenty of money and some willing Jihadist at hand. I think the infiltration in Kashmir started around 1988-89 but before that an Indian mobilization of troops to Pakistan-India borders in 1984, made the Army think about inflicting some heavy defeat to India to exact revenge. What the army planners failed to grasp again was that India had the resources to sustain a war of attritions in Kashmir. Pakistan never had that kind of sustainability in East Pakistan. So Pakistan’s chances of defeating India in Kashmir through the Kashmir Mukti Bahani were never more than zero. The last folly was to open a front in Kargil to first highlight/solicit international attention for the ongoing insurgency in Kashmir. The second goal was to capture some Kashmir territory and assign that victory to the Kashmir militant to boost morale. In most insurgencies capture of even a small portion of land helps recruitment and morale of the insurgents. These fighters fight in really adverse situation, pretty much anonymously and a victory means a lot to them.

    Again the Pak army Planners failed to anticipate that the India would bring in its Air Force to support the ground forces defending Kargil. Recent accounts show that Gen. Musharaf and his fellow planners did not even consult with the Pak air force before the Kargil skirmishes started.

    I am sorry for this long set up but my point was that the Pakistan sponsored insurgency in Kashmir and the Kargil war were attempted payback for the defeat in East Pakistan.

    1947 was a political victory for Pakistan. It was a phenomenal event as Pakistan came in to being without any armed struggle and was carved out of India rather unexpectedly. While the Indians place more important to 1947 a clear defeat for the Indians, the Separation of the East Pakistan was at par with 1947 of India for Pakistan.

    India was helping the Bengalis but to some extent and for some in Indian intelligentsia 1971 was a payback for 1947 and the defeat of the two nation theory.

    So the author is correct in recommending that Indians should pay attention to events in 1971 to get some clues about the Pakistan establishments actions and 1971 should really be the basis for Indian analysis or planning instead of 1947, which is not the focal point of the Pakistan establishment’s behavior in the last 30 years.

  13. Bloody Civilian

    re. repeated failure to anticipate/plan

    the worst harm of long military dictatorship is done to the quality of senior leadership within the army itself. therefore, its quality of decision-making suffers. in the extreme case, objectives get distorted through the subjective goals of the dictatorship.

    no dictator can resist or avoid sycophancy and or the increasing disconnect with reality that is the dictator’s lot. indeed, war is too serious a business to be left to the generals, let alone dictatorial ones.

  14. Bloody Civilian

    with the pak army at war against those who target civilians, this is not the best time to critically analyse the institution’s leadership and its history.

    but the main flaw in khurram hussain’s analysis, in my view, is highlighted by the succinct statement from hossp:

    the army was ready to give up East Pakistan but not to the Indian army

    it puts an entirely different spin on the ‘vivisection’ analogy between 1971 and 1947.

  15. Milind Kher

    The blood letting that happened in 1947 should have been enough to drive home to both sides the kind of damage that hatred and violence bring about.

    Yet, they fought wars in ’65 and ’71 and even today the arms buildup continues. Where continents like Europe and regions like Asia Pacific are uniting with each other to achieve thriving economies, India and Pakistan continue to be at loggerheads and lag far behind.

    At least, the fight against terrorism should get them on a common platform.

  16. Hayyer

    Hossp and BC:
    My comment was only to deny that India or its establishment is fixated on 1947 which was the substance of Khorram Hussein’s article.
    Of-course 1971 was a shock psychologically to the Pakistan army and the Pakistani establishment. That is well comprehended in India and its establishment. But Indians don’t think Pakistani hostility, or that of its army dates only from 1971. PA amour-propre was hit that year and it was looking for opportunities to get even, which India offered by political mismanagement in Kashmir post 1984. So much is standard analysis.
    India distrusts Pakistan not because of 1947 or even 1971, the distrust is due to the perceived leitmotif guiding Pakistan’s attitude to India-That India is the enemy. At least since Ayub Khan (not just from his coup) Pakistan has tried to build itself up militarily against India. India’s establishment, and taking their lead from it, Indians in general believe Pakistan would like to hit India if it could. Pakistan’s actions since 1947 have given sufficient support to warrant such a belief.
    China is a case in point. In the Chini Hindi bhai bhai days Pakistan was in alliance with the West against China. By 1960 as relations between India and China deteriorated to the point of war Pakistan lost interest in Cento and Seato and joined up with China. In the 65 war China was expected to join up on Pakistan’s side and the Chinese did in fact stage an incident featuring some sheep and goats in the Sikkim area.
    So, while 1971 is a stage in relations between the two countries it makes no difference to Indian perceptions of Pakistani hostility.
    If the Pakistan establishment and its army are now entirely fixated on ’71 then I can only suggest that the shock created a selective amnesia about their attitudes to India before that year.
    Khorram Hussein would have been accurate in my view if he had said that while Indian hostility and distrust has not altered since 1947, Pakistan has become even more hostile, and possibly even paranoid in so far as India as concerned, as a result of 1971. One might say that added to Pakistan’s unfinished agenda of 1947, is one of revenge.
    Hossp may be right in his view that Pakistan partitioned India in 1947 and India partitioned Pakistan in 1971, but that was not how it was viewed in India at the time. There was just great happiness at having dealt the enemy a fatal blow. Of-course the enemy wasn’t destroyed. Of-course India’s security problem is not solved. But we are talking of the sentiment in India in 1971.
    I find it hard to believe that the PA could have been so contemptuous of its own people in 1971. If Hossp is right all that PA wanted was to give the Bengalis a thorough hiding and then kick them out on its own terms. It is a terrible thought.

  17. Bloody Civilian

    One might say that added to Pakistan’s unfinished agenda of 1947, is one of revenge

    i guess by ‘unfinished agenda’ you mean kashmir. another way to put it would have been to call it an ‘unresolved dispute’.

  18. Hayyer

    Hossp:
    I think the threat of 1984 was actually in 1986 when in the guise exercises called Operation Brasstacks General Sundarji almost led Rajiv Gandhi into war.
    The Kargil intrusion is very difficult to understand. You must understand that infiltrating the heights of Kargil does nothing for Kashmir. Has Pakistan held on it could have bargained for a Siachen withdrawal by India because that is precisely how we gained control of that glacier-occupying posts vacated in the winter. As a counter for Kashmir it never had any chance. Barren mountain peaks at 15000 feet in Ladakh could not have possibly created an opportunity for a quid pro quo sort of offer.
    I have read K. Tufails article about the non-involvement of the PAF. In my view PAF would have been irrelevant. India took great care not to enter Pak air space. India lost two planes and a helicopter. The helicopter was shot down by a missile. The Mig went down because the engine flamed out, in Indian territory. The other plane went to look for him and intruded into Pak air space where it was shot down. To be useful PAF would have had to operate in Indian air space. That would have taken the war to another level; besides it would have exposed Pakistani claims, that it was Mujahids up there, as fake. Not that that mattered eventually.

  19. Bloody Civilian

    …… as to whether pak should forget about the ‘unresolved dispute’ and accept indian hegemony to the extent of kashmir as fact.. is another matter.

    and the ‘wisdom’ of insisting on resolving this dispute before talking about anything else… is yet another matter.

  20. swapnavasavdutta

    Bloody Civilian,

    What would happen after, let us say,
    India and Pakistan agree on making
    LOC as IB, hypothetically speaking?

  21. Bloody Civilian

    swapna

    your question is what would happen if pakistan were to accept the status quo as the permanent solution. such an acceptance itself would say more about the future than anything i or anybody else could say.

  22. Bloody Civilian

    the threat of 1984 was actually in 1986

    and zia – the humble, selfless peacemaker – got himself invited to a cricket match in india by the bcci.

  23. swapnavasavdutta

    Bloody Civilian,

    I take that as a good thing, a good sign.
    While making sure no such boundary
    demarkation/delineation happens
    in future, Pakistan should go on to
    build bigger and better things like
    supercolliders or something like that.
    It is time…

  24. Bloody Civilian

    swapna

    I take that as a good thing, a good sign

    you’ve been kind enough to let us know enough about you by now to take the above for granted.

  25. Milind Kher

    The best thing for Pakistan to do is to rid itself of the Taliban, and then focus on education and development.

    The sheer size and firepower of India is too much to overwhelm. It is not something to feel bad about, it is a statement of fact.

    Sympathy in Kashmir is also at a low ebb because of the sectarian militants and mercenaries that have operated there.

  26. swapnavasavdutta

    Come on Bloody Civilian,

    I can say the same thing. Anyway,
    good chatting with you, not that it
    makes any difference in the real world.
    Take care.

  27. Bloody Civilian

    swapna

    of course you can say whatever you like about me or anything else. all i’ve ever seen you bringing to the discussion is a statement of your views. welcome as they might be, some facts and arguments would be nice too.. whether for or against. this is not necessarily about making any difference to the real world.

    regards

  28. Hayyer

    Bloody Civilian:
    I was using Ishaq Khan’s term when I referred to the unfinished agenda. Unresolved dispute is of-course the non-rhetorical description.
    Over Kashmir one must find a path that can be traversed, or rather one that both can traverse. Or we remain stuck. I see no sign of any movement despite the episodic fake dawns. To that extent we are stuck in 1948, or rather 1947.

  29. Bloody Civilian

    or rather 1947

    and therein lies the confusion with Partition. the reference is to the same year as Partition but to a different event…. not to Partition itself and whatever preceded it. especially not the so-called pakistan movement.

    GIK was very much part of the bureaucratic-military establishment taking shape soon after ayub becoming c-in-c.

  30. Hayyer

    After 1937 it is seamless. But one could argue that all the way back to Mohammad Bin Qasim.
    Fundamentally of-course starting with Partition, then the killings, then Kashmir and then it never subsides. 1971 added one more layer.

  31. Bloody Civilian

    all the way back to Mohammad Bin Qasim

    in that case, we’ll have to wait a bit longer unless a ferdinand and isabella arrive to take care of things.

  32. Gorki

    Khurram Hussain wrote a well thought out article which was more than matched by an equally well reasoned commentary by Hayyer. (One wonders if he is working for a strategic think tank or something himself.)
    He made an especially insightful comment that while most of Hussain’s observations applied to the academic and intellectual circles that are but a small part of Indian political spectrum.
    For a large segment of even an otherwise politically conscious population in India, Pakistan is a more distant issue.
    Similarly, other than for the generation of Indians who otherwise witnessed the partition first hand; 1947 too is remembered more as the year of Independence (and the party of Independence struggle never lets one forget that😉 ) rather than the year of partition.

    My only additional comment is in response to Hayyer writing: “I am completely at a loss here. How can a state only be strategic…. ‘Incidentally ideological’?

    I believe Hussain is not calling the Pakistani state strategic but only its actions when he wrote “This asymmetry is neither that complicated nor particularly abnormal. It illuminates the actions of the Pakistani state as essentially strategic and only incidentally ideological. And in that sense, it allows an interpretation of Pakistan as a fairly pedestrian, even ‘normal’ post-conflict society in its relations with its much larger neighbor.”

    To me then, it makes sense.
    Perhaps it is indeed true that Pakistan’s extreme reactions to India and all things Indian may not be based on an ideology or a doctrine but only a strategic (defensive?) response to a perceived threat, (of security or even of cultural oblivion) from a larger neighbor.

    How else does one explain the almost allergic response to India\Indians by some otherwise very sensitive and thoughtful individuals on the other side?

    In this context one can even make a case that at least one of the wars that Pakistan initiated, 1971; was in fact a defensive act.
    Pakistan was then being squeezed in the East by the guerrillas actively aided by India.
    Its Dec 3rd surprise air attacks on multiple Indian airbases was an attempt at preemption (it was an attempt to achieve a tactical victory like the 1967 Israeli air attacks against Egypt) and subsequent relief in the East by a strong position in the west.

    If that is the case then it follows that our two countries are not condemned to eternal animosity and that Pakistan perhaps can relent if it feels more confident and less threatened by India.

    Whether India should have done something different in 1971 is an all together different discussion (probably not) but if the above is true, then one thing that may break the current impasse may be a bold Indian gesture; perhaps a public pledge to not attack first in the East while Pakistan was preoccupied with its Western front even if it is provoked by extremist groups if it is proven that they acted independently of the official agencies.

    Such a pledge can be made more politically palatable in both countries if it is combined by some kind of a guarantee to each from another; the USA.

    Only a small suggestion; maybe even of a farex like texture😉 thus I admit it is not perfect; but in the current troubling climate anything is better than the status quo.

    Regards.

  33. Bloody Civilian

    if it is proven that they acted independently of the official agencies

    how about if we change that test to one which is the right way round: ‘unless it is proven that they acted under direction from ‘official agencies’? just so that we’re not in the situation of having to prove the impossible, ie being asked to prove that an absence of evidence is absolute beyond reasonable doubt.

  34. Gorki

    BC: I agree that the wording is better the way you put it. There can be several other alternative versions.
    The point is that out two nations got off to a wrong start right from the very begining and things have gone downhill since.
    There is a need to reset the relationship.

    Since there is a serious trust deficit on either side, the begining will have to be made with the adage: trust but verify, for both sides.

    It is hoped that by taking small steps this way, over the years (decades?) enough credibility will be established in this relationship that we can address the real serious bones of contention.

    It is also my personal hope that maybe in our lifetime, the borders can open up and we can have a regular exchange of visitors, newspapers etc and trade ties can build up.

    Regards.

  35. Bloody Civilian

    Gorki

    lets hope for a more meaningful democracy in pak. then at least the words state, national interest, opinion, strategy each would have the more common meaning. the natural moderating effect of pluralism will follow.

    that is speaking of one side only of the equation.