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Myth of India-Pakistan Peace

By: Venkat Lakshminarayan
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(The author is a retired automotive engineer and a resident of Ann Arbor, Michigan)

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We all have heard the story of the wife beaten frequently by her drunkard husband who cannot keep a job to earn a decent living. Every time he beats her she gets angry and leaves him vowing never to see his face again. A few days go by, the larger family holds a panchayat where the husband apologizes to her saying that he is a changed man, and would never even dream of abusing her any more. She, having been grown up in a culture of accommodation and never having learned to assert her own beliefs or self respect, goes back to live with him with new hope. A few days go by, the husband regresses back to his old ways and the cycle repeats. Will she ever learn, or will he ever change? One can only wish.

Is it not the case with India-Pakistan relationship? All the wars between the two countries were started by Pakistan. In each war, by the time the Indian army took over some strategic real estate and Pakistan army was about to be pulverized some bigger power came in with a cease-fire proposal and the Indian government agreed to it against the advice of the army establishment. A so called "disinterested third party" (there is no disinterested party anywhere, everyone has an agenda!) showed up to negotiate peace and the politicians in Delhi directed the army to vacate the places they occupied in spite of the lives lost and the resources spent. Peace negotiations continued but went nowhere and the memory faded. A few years later the process was repeated. A familiar theme! Will it ever end? One can only wish.

After the Pakistani debacle in Kargil the strong man Musharaff threw out his Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and declared himself as the supreme commander. Knowing Pakistan there is nothing unusual about military coups and dictatorships. Their buddies in the US Defense Department watched helplessly. Pakistan was kicked out of Commonwealth. Their nuclear tests had already put them on starvation diet as all the foreign aid had evaporated. For all purposes Musharaff was an untouchable in the International community. What did our politicians in Delhi do? Then Prime Minister Vajpayee invited him to Agra to negotiate peace. Musharaff, typically in Pakistani fashion, took up the platform in Agra, turned the tables against the Prime Minister and Home Minister Advani, and painted them as intractable. In addition, he portrayed himself to be the victim. Indian press (primarily the English media) went ga ga over Musharaff and criticized their own government for not making concessions. Concessions for what? Giving up our own territory! It is a mystery that India has survived as an independent nation under such inept politicians and delusional media. Thanks to the unsung heroes in the army, navy and air force, our borders are still holding.

Peace with Pakistan is a myth. It is no more than a utopian dream. An objective assessment of the situation would necessitate looking beyond the superficial and feel good reports from the likes of "The Time of India" and "The Hindu" and do a deeper study of Pakistan itself. One needs to understand its people, polity, society, army and the economical outlook. There is a need to recount the national objectives of the Indian national experiment and assess how the contemporary Pakistan fits in the picture. The exercise will show how incompatible the two nations are at present though they need to live next door to each other and they were one nation not very long ago. Following ought to open up one"s eyes.

Distinction between the world of Islam and the remainder of humanity (the concept of Dar-ul-Harb and Dar-ul-Islam) is a core idea to Islamic political thought and it was no different in the Indian subcontinent. During the independence struggle the Pakistan movement touted the lie of the idea of Muslims as victims subjected to discrimination by a Hindu majority. They argued that, if they could not rule over Hindus, then they had to be shielded from Hindu influence, not by becoming a separate but equal society, but a separate nation altogether, and a superior one at that. The "superiority" delusion has been a disease inflicting Pakistan all through history. Their goal at the time was to make themselves "more" Islamic in a nation of their own. After independence they moved to a larger mission - enlarged to "liberate" India"s remaining Muslims from alleged Hindu dominance. Thus evolved is the issue of Kashmir and, that will not be the end of it.

Like many other Arab and Islamic populations, Pakistanis have found it difficult to establish or retain a modern state. The government assigned different rights of citizenship to Muslims and non-Muslims. To this they added the blasphemy laws and the declaration of the Ahmediyyas to be non-Muslims. They are a nation of several ethnic groups (Punjabis, Sindhis, Baluchis and Pashtuns) broken into several linguistic groups and religious sects, each with conflicting ideals and separatist tendencies. But they are ruled by an uncompromising central authority. The nation is constantly trying to solve the puzzle reconciling the differences in permutations of state, religion and a dysfunctional oligarchic political order. A solution that will lead the country to be a modern peaceful society is not likely in the near future.

The society, establishment and polity mistakeny equate the restoration of honor with violence. When in trouble they turn to Islam. Their search for "true Islam" has been no different from chasing a rainbow. Islamists view the modern and secular education to be their enemy. The Indian dimension of Pakistan"s identity has been systematically erased out by Pakistani politicians and scholars. They have indulged themselves with a delusional history and passing it on to successive generations through school curriculums and official media. These revisionist historical discourses deny anything good in the land prior to the arrival of Islam and portray Hindu predecessors in negative and racist light. Today the young Pakistanis do not have access to an objective history of their own country. The educational system is so dismal that the masses of youth completing their studies in various madrassahs do not have the necessary skills to be competitive in the modern global economy. Their self inflicted constraints that restrict economic cooperation with India have been detrimental to Pakistan"s economic growth. Pakistan has been mostly living out of the dole handed out by America for the last several decades.

Army"s historic dominance of Pakistan and its central role in Pakistani establishment is a key fact to be noted. Army, in sixties, acquired a racist illusion of weakness of India and its military. The officers had an exaggerated estimate of Pakistan"s martial qualities under the "martial races" myth that was developed by British in the nineteenth century out of European theories of false racial, climactic, cultural and religious notions. In the education given to officers they present distorted images of India. Indian strategic objectives are said to be rooted in communal attributes and illusions of great-power status. The syllabus is often factually inaccurate, and the instructors do not encourage debates or discussions on the subject. The Staff colleges offer their students stereotyped theories of Indian motives and strategy. The cantonments are thick with reminders of past battles and fallen comrades and every year the units muster for regimental and unit memorial ceremonies, each officer being reminded that he may have to make the ultimate sacrifice. Any civilian government that takes a bold step in new direction especially in foreign policy must have army"s consent, or it will be thrown out.

The Pakistani elite and its foreign apologists (including many in India) effectively whitewashed Pakistan"s failure to achieve constitutional normalcy largely under false and trumped up grounds that the state was under external threat and internal disarray and had no choice but to compromise on such niceties as constitution and human rights.

Such being the situation, it will be a utopian dream to expect peace in the contemporary political scene. The immediate priority for India is to introduce some realism in the minds of its own polity about the impossibility of reaching common objectives with Pakistan as things stand today. India"s polity ought to recognize that their priority is to protect the borders, state and the citizens of India and not to please some daydreamers in the West who want military disengagement regardless the situation is secure or just. Economically, diplomatically and militarily India is in a far superior position than Pakistan and there is no need to push for unproductive peace overtures that go nowhere. We need to keep our own national security as the top objective, put the peace issue in cold storage for the present and not bother to take it up until Pakistan itself realizes that it cannot reach a secure nationhood until they reach some realism in their national objectives. Upon such realization they will approach India in their own interest to normalize the relationship.

A constitutionally ruled, democratic and prosperous Pakistan is in India"s interest, but it can only happen out of the wishes and efforts of Pakistani citizens and government. As things stand today any peace agreement with an unstable and delusional Pakistan will not be worth the paper it would be written in. It will be good to remember old Bhutto"s verbal agreement to Indira Gandhi to make the line of control to be the international border in 1972 that he wiggled out of once was across the border.

Venkat Lakshminarayan

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References & Notes:

Author owes his gratitude to the book, "The Idea of Pakistan" by Stephen Cohen (2004) for a comprehensive assessment of contemporary Pakistan"s society, religion, military and economy.

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