Fatal obsession

Raza Rumi

It is a matter of public record that the founder of Pakistan had stated that Indo-Pakistan relationship will resemble that of the USA and Canada. Even before the Partition, Jinnah in a 1946 press conference stated, “the two states (Pakistan and India)… will be friends and will go to each other’s rescue in case of danger and will be able to say ‘hands off’ to other nations. We shall then have a Munroe doctrine more solid than America…” This vision along with other pronouncements by Jinnah is buried in the debris of Pakistan’s national security paranoia. The spectre of India and its ‘hegemonic designs’ to use an oft-quoted phrase remain central to Pakistan’s security paradigm.

The unwavering view on India is what explains the context for the discussion paper entitled, The Sun in the Sky: The Relationship between Pakistan’s ISI and Afghan Insurgents -authored by Matt Waldman from the prestigious platform of the London School of Economics. Pakistan’s real power-centre, its security and intelligence apparatus are a self-sustaining reality. Other than the financing, of which plenty comes from the Western Capitals, there is a solid national opinion behind the xenophobic worldview carefully cultivated by a decades’ long well coordinated state policy. The centre of this argument is the ‘Indian threat’ and any conception of Pakistan’s security is linked to the evil designs of the powerful ‘enemy’ across the border.

Waldman’s report is neither authoritative nor presents a credible set of data to back up its central argument. But who does not know of the Taliban’s patronage by the security establishment. Confessional labels such as ‘patriotic’ and strategic assets are all too well known. Ask a random passerby on a Pakistani street and one will be amazed at the level of understanding by the common citizen. If you happen to travel a bit northwards and step out of the boundaries of the Punjab, even more riveting insights and stories will be related. Waldman is not telling us anything that we don’t know nor is he giving us a new perspective of how we frame our security interests and strategic priorities.

The report also alludes that Pakistan’s policy is coloured by its India-centric worldview. However, what is critically missing from the discourse at home is to tackle the India-problem, if one were to coin this phrase for simplifying a complex reality. Is this India-obsession sustainable, healthy and in our longer-term strategic interest?

Admittedly, India has not been that wise either. From its flawed strategy on Kashmir to the 1971 intervention it has provided enough ammunition, both literally and metaphorically, to the Pakistani establishment. If we were to ignore the transgressions such as Kargil, Musharraf’s unprecedented offers of revisiting the troubled history on Kashmir related UN resolutions fell on deaf ears. The usual refrain has reflected the typical South Asian emotionalism loosely packaged as ‘trust deficit’. If there is a military government it cannot be trusted, if civvies are in power, they are not the real masters. The end result is status quo thereby feeding into the military-industrial complex that cuts across national boundaries.

Since 1971, Pakistan has not been idle either. The real and imagined sponsoring of proxy wars and the hot favourite terrorism mantra these days is a constant charge from the Indian side. Mumbai incident of 2008 nearly led to a war-like situation. More dangerously, the public perceptions and psychological warfare garnered through an aggressive corporate media on both sides has watered down whatever goodwill was achieved in the Musharraf years.

This is how Pakistan’s Afghanistan policy and its quest for strategic depth gets a lifeline. This is also something that the West knows but does not grasp in toto. Most importantly, the follies of India policy are not debated or critiqued in the domestic arena. Any hint of revising the India-centric security policy is considered as an unpatriotic act, almost akin to treason.

However, this is a time for stocktaking and swallowing the bitter pill of introspection. What have we gained out of nurturing Frankenstein[s] of various varieties? It is our internal security that is now jeopardized and the entire country is fast turning into a battle ground not just between the sects or the Islamists and the moderates to use the cliché from Western lexicon. Instead, the gulf between the disempowered and the affluent areas is now turning into a defining phase. Pakistani state will not be able to contain the fissures if resources are not diverted towards the people.

A recent study shows that after the payments for defence and debt-servicing, 34 dollars per capita are left for all other expenditures from the meager public resources. If this is the level of public investments in the teeming millions, then all depths, strategic or otherwise are untenable.

This is why the LSE report, despite its obvious gaps, needs to be reviewed again for its central message is clear: suicide bombers blow up everything including their creators. We still hope that the process of correcting flawed strategies of yore by the present military leadership will continue to its logical end and militancy of all kinds will be recognized as a threat to Pakistan.

In the meantime, there is no alternative to think of creative ways to deal with India and build a public opinion that favours trade over war and regional cooperation over nuclear shows.

Raza Rumi is a writer and policy expert based in Lahore. This article was first published in The Friday Times.

13 Comments

Filed under India, Liberal Democratic Pakistan, Pakistan, Politics, public policy, south asia, violence, war, Zardari

13 responses to “Fatal obsession

  1. Hayyer

    “Is this India-obsession sustainable, healthy and in our longer-term strategic interest?”

    The obsession is mutual but it isn’t a causal relationship. Sustainable? I don’t know-but it is not healthy and it is in no one’s longer-term strategic interest; provided of course that there is a valid longer-term strategic interest common to both apart from peace and goodwill.

    “Admittedly, India has not been that wise either. From its flawed strategy on Kashmir to the 1971 intervention it has provided enough ammunition, both literally and metaphorically, to the Pakistani establishment. If we were to ignore the transgressions such as Kargil, Musharraf’s unprecedented offers of revisiting the troubled history on Kashmir related UN resolutions fell on deaf ears.”

    India’s fabled wisdom, isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. Its behaviour (or strategy if you like) in Kashmir is definitely a series of flaws with episodic correctness. The 1971 intervention though was a self invited disaster. Pakistan calculated that it was well rid not only of the Bangabandhu and his cohort but also of a huge number of Hindus and this created the opportunity that India exploited. If 10 million refugees had not sought sanctuary in India she could have had no possible excuse to intervene. And then Pakistan gave India the opening by actually attacking.

    “If there is a military government it cannot be trusted, if civvies are in power, they are not the real masters. The end result is status quo thereby feeding into the military-industrial complex that cuts across national boundaries.”

    The term ‘trust deficit’ is of recent origin. We have been enemies from birth. India’s military-industrial complex was a late conception. It is still non-existent-because India does has only just begun to involve its private sector in the defence business. India’s military had a severely retarded childhood. Till India’s China war the military was a stepchild. Nowadays with our world class aspirations of course every sector wants world class toys. Our military strategists though are focussed on saving us from a China Pakistan combination. They have no illusions about liberating Tibet or rescuing Gilgit and Hunza, far less of linking up with the NA to squeeze Pakistan.

    India is essentially status quoist. Not just externally but internally too. It wants to leave things as they are because it cannot cope with change, unless that change is both systemic and autonomous. It commits large resources to maintain the status quo hoping all the while that somehow this translates into world power. If forced to signal India does so rather like a fish does with its fins. Ambiguously and with complete deniability. Catch it if you can.

  2. Mehak

    Well said Rumi sahab, the dilemma of dealing with the real power center is the one that is often cited for not engaging with Pakistan.

    Vajpayee was the only brave leader to recognize the importance of our relationship. Looking back retrospectively at what he did, one can only appreciate his courage. The man was a true leader who did what he thought was right.

    The current UPA government has become a lot more “pragmatic” in its approach towards Pakistan. Though Manmohan Singh keeps saying that talks with Pakistan are the only way forward, he will back down the minute some untoward incident takes place.
    Unfortunately, I believe this is going to be the state policy in the future as well since we don’t manufacture leaders like Vajpayee anymore and the honeymoon of 2004-2008 is well and truly over.
    I believe in future we will be left ruing the fact that we didn’t take bold steps during that period and couldn’t cash in on the goodwill prevalent at that time.

    Improving relations in the future will only get more difficult.

  3. androidguy

    @Hayyer, you have described India perfectly🙂

  4. Sher Zaman

    I always say that Quaid-e-Azam was the biggest visionary born on this soil; he dreamt of a relationship between India and Pakistan, more on the lines like US and Canada. But unfortunately, The wars right in the beginning reshaped the whole thing; but we can still make things right, by working on new lines and can define a relationship based on mutual trade and information sharing.

  5. neel123

    Right now, it is Pakistan hoping India would disintegrate, and India hoping Pakistan would disintegrate.

    While India seems to be determined to play catch up with China, Pakistan is caught up into chasing India tank for tank, fighter jet for fighter jet.

    The race is destructive and Pakistani Army seems to be determined not to give up, what ever be the price ……. !

  6. chacha

    Yes founder of Pakistan wanted Canada-USA like relationship between India and Pakistan; and it goes without saying that Pakistan was to have Canada like position….however all his dreams for this friendly neighborhood smashed when immediately after division of erstwhile Punjab in 1947 there was a bloody transfer of population from both sides….the scars of those riots, killings and rapes by both the communities against other were never allowed to be healed by our respective establishments and their supporters under the garb of nationalism and religion. Rulers in both the countries have filled our minds with hatred for other through school curricula and rhetorics.
    Most people will deny that Pak army has not yet disowned the so-called Jihadis, but alas it is the factual position. It is in fact the psychological problem of our establishment …..we have not won any war against India except the one we had in 1948 when we got a portion of Kashmir….and that victory came through the support non-state actors ..the tribals….in other wars ,of 1965 and 1971 our army went alone and lost…….and in 1980’s we once again gained militarily, on our western fronts-Afghanistan this time, again with the active support of tribal non state actors……so we know that we cannot win alone, we can gain something militarily only when we have tribals as our proxies; hence it is difficult to completely severe our links with at least a few groups of them….’good taliban” types….
    Most of people would find it difficult to swallow, but the truth is that the survival of Pakistan lies in establishing Canada -USA type relationship between the Pakistan and India……the sooner we do it the stronger will be our economy , ensuring sustainability to our nationhood…..
    Political leadership must be supported for that, if not we will continue being pawns of establishment whose reason to exist is enmity with India ….we will remain poor, insecure, extremists and believers of conspiracy theories……and the ongoing mayhem and anarchy will continue in our society…..

  7. Actually, I have to agree with J. Krishnan’s first two paragraphs. Not having gone through Murali Manohar Joshi’s rewriting of history, or the efforts of Sangh Parivar initiates to change the tone and colour of school textbooks, I too have not read about Muslim-hating (Islamophobic) texts. They are frightening enough, in that they offer a one-sided mono-cultural view of Indian society which is desperately slanted, but no hate against Muslims or Islam.

    I would rather not comment about his sanctimonious third paragraph.

  8. Bin Ismail

    We have to let the dust settle. We have to help the dust settle. We have to bury the hatchet. We have to keep the hatchet buried. We have to remember that our collective future lies ahead of us, not behind us.

  9. Neel: I see you are back with your dramatic statements. Please spare us of your gems. Indian and Pakistani establishments are not silly to dream of disintegration. Such a process does not suit anyone. Pakistan wants to be reckoned as a regional player and the 1971 paranoia continues. There is a school of thought which is wary of what Nepal and Bhutan have become. This fear pervades the Pakistani side. What will Pakistan gain from disintegration – more chaos as if Afghanistan was not enough of a headache.
    India surely does not want an unstable Pakistan either – it does not suit its economic and strategic ambitions.

    J Krishnan: I am sorry I don’t agree with you. It seems that you are unaware of the studies done in India about the textbooks by INDIAN scholars. There can be no point scoring here as both the nation states were created rather imposed from the above and not necessarily what the common people wanted.
    I will post stuff here that will back this argument using materials from Indian publications. Distortion of history is a common disease in South Asia.
    And what about the 50,000 RSS schools which teach and spread hate. I am not trying to justify what happens in Pakistani textbooks (I have written against that consistently) but let’s not be naive here.

  10. AZW

    Neel:

    Right now, it is Pakistan hoping India would disintegrate, and India hoping Pakistan would disintegrate.

    How about a only a rabid crazy Islamic fanatic is hoping for India to disintegrate. I, and almost all the Pakistanis I know, may be suspicious of Indian intentions, but have no desire or hope to see India disintegrate. On the opposite, I wish that India would prosper. And so would my nation.

    Stop making generalized statements without any basis. And for those wishing to see Pakistan disintegrate, my question is what is the difference between you and the religious fanatic sitting in Pakistan hoping for your destruction. Two blokes with same tunnel vision, same paranoia, just different nationalities.

  11. J.Krishnan

    to raza rumi

    10 young Pakistani men take “a glorious islamic adventure trip” to Mumbai and kill 166 humans. These 10 were even sure of going to heaven, straight from Mumbai.

    Has anything like that taken place from any of the 50 000 (?) RSS schools against Pakistan?

    One has to consider not only hate but also differentiate between level of hate and resulting actions and adventurism.

  12. shiv

    @ J. Krishnan
    0 young Pakistani men take “a glorious islamic adventure trip” to Mumbai and kill 166 humans. These 10 were even sure of going to heaven, straight from Mumbai.

    Has anything like that taken place from any of the 50 000 (?) RSS schools against Pakistan?

    When you ask a rhetorical question like this – you are asking for numerous rhetorical fingers to be inserted up your backside with clever answers, two of which I will provide for you, since I doubt if anyone else will do that.

    1) yes of course. All of Pakistan’s problems stem from the RSS schools of India – well known terrorist training centers

    2) The RSS people know that their violence cannot get them heaven because they are followers of an inferior faith. That is why Kasab and co are more successful.

  13. Aiimsonian

    I have had the chance to peruse history textbooks upto Class X(most indian students study academic history upto Grade 10) of state board of Punjab, Central board, and ICSE .And I have never observed any disparaging comment on Pakistan or Islam. On the contrary , my 9th grade textbook was highly praiseworthy of the simplicityof Islamic Architecture(unlike the complexity of Hindu architecture) and the syncretism that resulted in Medieval india.
    Even when the Partition was discussed, hardly any judgements were passed on jinnah (Jinnah was mostly quoted in relation to the TNT)

    There are very few RSS schools in the South,East and Punjab as far as i know .Their influence is minor.

    A month or so ago, i was seeing a pakistani news bulletin on you tube and i was shocked by the maliciousness with which the telecaster spoke about Hindus. Her ignorance made me feel glad that i was born in a secular nation.