Friday, May 08, 2009




    Imagine a situation in India where a largely indigenous group (the Naxalities come to mind) started to pose a clear and present danger to the Indian state by occupying vast and ever increasing swathes of territory and advance to within 100 Km of New Delhi. Such a development would certainly set alarm bells ringing both within India and without. If at this stage, Indian authorities were told or advised to concentrate all their attention and resources on the internal threat to its existence and pull out the bulk of its troops deployed on the Western border with Pakistan, how many people in New Delhi would accept, much less act, on such an advice? The answer: hardly anyone. Why then is anyone surprised if, despite being faced with precisely such a situation, there are not many people in the Pakistani security establishment who are willing to listen to the Americans that the threat to Pakistan's existence is not from India but from the Taliban?

For any Pakistani who has the image of India and the Hindu as the eternal enemy engraved on his mind, and his soul, it was always going to be very difficult to suddenly stop seeing India as the greatest threat to Pakistan's existence. Things become even more difficult for him when he is asked to replace India with a fellow Pakistani, who is not only a Muslim but has also for long been a strategic asset (jihadist cannon-fodder is a more accurate description) against the eternal enemy India. While even the most purblind would readily agree that India would be more than happy to see, even assist, Pakistan take on its jihadist strategic assets that have now turned toxic, try telling this to the Pakistanis, who have convinced themselves that India will never let go of any opportunity to add to Pakistan's difficulties. A strategic mindset made indurate by the maxim "my enemy's enemy is my friend" has ensured that the Pakistanis, even in their wildest imagination, cannot ever conceive of a time when they could actually share a common enemy with India.

Part of the reason why Pakistan is unable to get over its India fixation is psychological, and no amount of logic, rationality or common sense can cure such a national psychosis and that too overnight. All this is not to deny that there are many irritants and unresolved issues that bedevil the bilateral relationship between India and Pakistan and in turn colour their perceptions about each other. But there is a critical difference in the idiom that each country uses to define its problems with the other. For Pakistan, its manufactured Islamic identity has made it see its problems with India as a continuum of a millennium old civilizational conflict. On the other hand, pluralistic and secular India sees Pakistan not as a civilizational adversary but as an inveterate and instinctively hostile neighbour with which it would ideally like normal relations but not at the cost of its unity and integrity.

The conflict over Jammu and Kashmir between India and Pakistan is really a manifestation of this fundamental problem between them. And this is also the reason why even if Kashmir is resolved, the adversarial relationship between India and Pakistan will not end. If anything, wresting Kashmir from India is seen by Pakistani strategists as the starting point of the unravelling of India. While Pakistanis never tire of saying that India has never reconciled to the creation of Pakistan, the reality is that it is in fact Pakistan that has not reconciled to India's existence and has used any and every ploy to try and damage, and if possible, destroy India. And increasingly it appears as though Pakistan has reached a point where nothing short of India agreeing to undo itself will make it feel secure.

Perhaps this is why even though Pakistan is facing a life and death struggle on its Western front, it continues to ratchet up tensions with India by once again pushing in terrorists in large numbers into Jammu and Kashmir and other parts of India. One reason for this is that Pakistan believes that if it has to pull out troops from its eastern border to fight the Taliban, it must keep India unsettled by sponsoring insurgencies that keep the Indian troops occupied internally. Another reason is that Pakistan can use the threat from India to make the international community intervene on its behalf and to its advantage on the issue of Jammu and Kashmir. Pakistan's fear and apprehension of India indulging in adventurism or mischief have forced it to take military and diplomatic counter measures to prevent being caught in a nutcracker situation. Ironically, these measures are what could force India to rethink, re-examine and revisit its long stated policy that a stable, friendly, prosperous Pakistan is in India's national interest.

Unremitting hostility from Pakistan now confronts India with a dilemma: will India be better off by resurrecting or rescuing an adversary or will it serve India's national interest better if India slays the adversary when it is down on its knees. In other words, should India help Pakistan get out of the grave of Islamic fanaticism that it had actually dug for India; or should India let Pakistan be buried in this grave or at the very least ensure that Pakistan remains embroiled for a long time in combating internal crises that pose a mortal danger to its existence.

The former option would make little, if any, sense if Pakistan, after clambering out of this grave, tries to push India into it. This is something that cannot be ruled out until and unless the Pakistani state's basic DNA mutates into something more tolerant, liberal, and secular than what it has been so far. As things stand, there doesn't appear much chance of this happening especially since the Pakistani establishment and intelligentsia is trying to get public opinion to back the war against the Taliban on the grounds that these barbarians are working on India, Israel and America's agenda to sully the image of Islam and damage Pakistan. After such propaganda, to expect that Indo-Pak relations will normalise if and when Pakistan defeats the Islamists, will be nothing short of a delusion.

The second option – letting Pakistan be buried – has its attractions, not the least of which is the prospect of India no longer will have to contend with a virulently hostile neighbour whose only purpose is to confront India. But this option also has serious ramifications for India's security because India doesn't know what will replace Pakistan. Nor is there any surety that India will be able to insulate itself from the fallout of an extremely destabilised neighbourhood.

In a sense, the 'Prithviraj Chauhan syndrome' has once again come back to haunt India. If, instead of being magnanimous in victory and allowing his adversary to return to Afghanistan merely on the promise that he will never again attack Hindustan, the King of Delhi had executed Muhammad Ghori after having defeated him, perhaps the history of the subcontinent would have been different. Ghori made full use of the second chance he got and mobilised another army to attack Delhi. This time he won and he made sure he didn't make the same mistake as Chauhan. He blinded the King of Delhi, put him in shackles and transported him to Afghanistan. Is there a lesson in this story for India's policy towards Pakistan, or will India repeat the folly of Shimla agreement?


    <1250 Words>                    8th May, 2009



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very well put. It's beyond foolish and negligent even for India to still think that Pakistan will ever be a normal neighbour. The time has come to work towards a post-Pakistan scenario. That scenario could be a greater India with autonomy agreements with Sind and Baluchistan; renunion with POK; with the Durand line on the Indus. Looking beyond Pakistan, it's time to break the string of pearls by removing its center, Gwadar. No doubt dangerous, but any less dangerous than an increasingly reckless Pakistan? It's inevitable that they will use nukes, and 26/11 will pale into insignificance.

7:58 AM  

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