For Pakistan, India Is Always An Enemy
Pakistan has always embarked on the road to terrorism, in moments of its weakness to wreck vengeance on India, for splitting Pakistan, and to weaken it internally, by creating communal disharmony in a multi-religious Indian society. If these terror attacks mounted on India failed to break the delicate fabric of communal harmony or to set the Ganga or the Sutlej on fire, the credit must go to the institutional strength of the society, so assiduously built since independence. The secular and inclusive society that India endeavoured to build paid dividends by withstanding the tribulations of the past years, marred by insurgency in north India and terrorist attacks in several parts of the country. One wonders whether Pakistan has at all realised that terrorism was a hydra-headed Frankenstein which could strike back and gobble those who ride it. Terrorism knows no national or international frontiers. It attacks as much others as those who breed it. It is like an avalanche, if it cannot get the direction on one side, it will find another outlet and cause the devastation whichever way the space becomes available. If the Pakistani terrorist groups have not found it possible to turn their wrath on India anymore, because of its exercise of greater vigilance, they have turned venom on their creators and Pakistan is now reaping the whirlwind it sowed for India.
That Pakistan, despite the split following 1971 war with India, did not change much, was perceptible in many ways. It continued to distort intellectual perceptions and domestic and foreign policy planning, at various levels. Increased fear of proportionately bigger India, the impulses among the younger army officers to avenge the 1971 defeat, and a more acute crisis of identity, considering that Pakistan housed only 1/3rd of the Muslims of the sub-continent, were major factors contributing to the anti-India bias in Pakistan. Most of Pakistan’s foreign and defence policies, as evolved and pursued since Bangladesh, are explained as stemming from this approach.
India continues to be a paramount factor in Pakistan’s perception and determination of its policies on international issues, colouring both its internal and external developments. Its Islamic consciousness, needs to keep Kashmir issue alive, and the need for Indian bogey to contain democratic aspirations of its people are chief contributory factors of almost fixed anti-India bias in Pakistan. This policy of uncompromising hostility towards India gave it advantage of simplicity and of unprincipled manoeuvrability, thus justifying subservient role to the Western policies in cold war era and thereby also acquiring economic and military inputs in substantial quantities. However, the internal consequences of a continuing confrontation with India have proved disastrous for its socio-economic and political growth as well as its institutions. The emergence of Bangladesh can be considered the direct result of the same policies. Massive foreign involvement in its militarisation also encouraged lopsided growth leading to an overwhelming role and influence for the military establishment in its society and social and economic life, which led to the subversion of democratic institutions too.
The developments in Afghanistan, first the Soviet intervention in 1979 and later the US war on terrorism, in the aftermath of the 9/11 attack on Trade Towers, catapulted Pakistan to the role of the front line state, bringing in tons of money in economic and military aid besides the huge quantities of arms and equipment. These developments, while further strengthening the army’s position in Pakistan, had an unfortunate effect and were not at all blessings in the long run. First intervention created the Taliban, whom Pakistan exploited in the following years to strengthen its standing in Kabul. The second intervention by the United States was to eliminate the Pakistan-supported Taliban, who had in the meantime become the proclaimed guardians of the Islamic fundamentalism and allowed international terrorist organisations like the Al Qaida to set shop in Kabul, and in conjunction, had now challenged the Western world by declaring it the enemy of Islam. In turn, Afghanistan became the epicentre of international terrorism. This development, too, resulted in massive dose of military equipment being injected into Pakistan thus once again strengthening the military establishment further with serious and pernicious impact on the society and democratic institutions.
The United States and the West failed to realise that in allowing itself to become the frontline state against the Soviet intervention, Pakistan was fighting to protect its own strategic interest on its western border with Afghanistan. It helped it to set up a client state in Kabul, to the exclusion of other powers, particularly India, which had then to wind up its mission in Kabul. The American intervention now, was against the Pakistan’s strategic interests, it had built up in Kabul. In playing an acquiescent role, in joining the war against terrorism under the American threat (as pointed out above, “or else”), one has to remember that during the period of Soviet intervention and in the intervening years, following the Soviet withdrawal, much of the Pakistan area adjoining its western borders with Afghanistan, too had come under the Taliban’s influence and the Pakistani and Afghani Taliban had developed a synergy between them. Therefore rooting out Taliban from Kabul meant war against Pakistan’s home-grown Taliban too. Much of Pakistan’s military strength had to be deployed against its own Taliban in the Frontier Province and the adjoining Federally Administered Area, where they had a sort of complete freedom, shorn of sovereignty, right from the colonial period.
Pakistan’s military establishment reckoned that defeat of the Taliban in Kabul, in the long run, would result in the loss of a client state. India’s massive economic programme to develop the economic and social infrastructure of Afghanistan meant return of the Indian influence in Kabul, which too was anathema to Pakistan. Slowly but surely, the United States discovered Pakistan’s fight against terrorism in Afghanistan was not only half-hearted but surreptitiously undercutting the American efforts, by encouraging terrorist groups fighting the United States. The presence of a number of Al Qaida top leaders including Osama bin Laden, despite Islamabad’s denial of their presence on Pakistani soil, though unconvincing to the United States, provided enough proof of Pakistan’s perfidy. Pakistan may have gained in some crumbs from the United States’ munificence, but its duplicity established Pakistan as a terrorist state, where world terrorists could expect to find a safe haven, along with home-grown elements. In the process, it not only compromised and undermined its position in the eyes of the world, but also its sovereignty, where foreign powers could with impunity mount clandestine operations to hunt out the terrorists and launch drone attacks on terror outfits operating from its soil, with or without its connivance.
NEED TO LOOK BEYOND PLAYING CRICKET
The Pakistani leadership needs to be told in clear terms that violence and diplomacy cannot go together
By Sunita Vakil
The killing of two Indian Jawans—beheading one of them—by Pakistani troops which crossed the Line of Control near Jammu is indeed shocking. The outrageous aggression, a blatant violation of the Geneva Convention 1949 and the cease-fire agreement of 2003 has yet again exposed our unreliable and hostile neighbour. In fact the Pakistani Army is known for resorting to unprovoked attacks. But the way they have repeated the Kargil-type brutality by throwing all civilized norms to the winds is condemnable. The brutal attack sends out a disturbing signal at a time when a slew of measures is being taken to improve bilateral ties.
The atrocious act of brutality by Pakistani Army regulars had a macabre twist to it. Taking away a severed head as a “trophy” is the most degrading thing anyone in uniform can do. How confidence building can succeed in such a situation is a million dollar question. India cannot remain a silent spectator to Pakistan’s troops straying into its territory; nor can it lose its soldiers to such horrible acts of crime. Understandably, the incident has appalled and angered people in India evoking a lot of emotional responses. Some have called for extreme measures such as recalling the envoy, severing ties with Pakistan and even steps just short of war. The Defence Ministry has, quite appropriately, condemned the latest violation of cease-fire line. But the need of the hour is clearly to go beyond words and tell Pakistan in no uncertain terms that India is running out of patience. India should unequivocally warn Pakistan to mend its ways if it really wants to have good relations with its neighbour. We may love to play cricket with Pakistan which exports terrorism to India. But merely having Indo-Pak cricket series will not help build cordial relations. We need to look beyond playing cricket. In fact, the Pakistani leadership needs to be told in no uncertain terms that violence and diplomacy cannot go together.
In the past too, there have been provocations of similar nature. At the beginning of the Kargil war, Pakistani troops captured, tortured and mutilated the body of caption Saurabh Kalia. A few weeks later, Squadron Leader Ajay Ahuja was shot dead while flying in the Batalik Sector during the Kargil war. Later it came out that he had possibly been beaten and tortured first. Then in February 2000, Pak ISI-backed Al-Qaida member Ilyas Kashmiri beheaded an Indian soldier in Nowshera Sector of J&K in a raid in which seven other soldiers were also killed. It is common knowledge that Pakistan’s intelligence agency, the ISI remains a state within a state and continues to fawn over anti-India terrorists such as LeT chief Hafiz Saeed. That Saeed has recently warned that things could turn ugly in Kashmir amply demonstrates the immunity he enjoys as a blue-eyed boy of anti-India sections of Pakistan’s security establishment.
The Pakistanis have of course promptly not only denied the horrific incident being their handiwork but also gone on to term it an Indian propaganda. Pakistan Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar’s claim that Pakistan’s army men were not involved in this grotesque and inhuman act is false. “No Pakistani troops were involved in any incident on the night that the alleged incident took place,” she says. Her suggestion to get the matter probed into by the United Nations Military Observer Group for India and Pakistan is just a ploy to hide the truth.
It cannot be denied that normalisation in the relationship of India and Pakistan largely depends on what measures Islamabad undertakes to halt cross-border terrorism. But it has neither brought to book the perpetrators of the Mumbai terror attacks nor shut down the infrastructure of terror. Indeed intelligence agencies report that about 2500 militants are still getting trained in 42 Pakistani camps across the line of Control. Sources also say that at given point of time about 200-250 militants are waiting in launch pads across the border poised for infiltration into J&K and covering fire by Pakistan has been provided by time to time to facilitate the same.
After the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack Pakistan hid behind the thin line that distinguishes state and non-state actors as it shied away from taking any responsibility for the carnage. Much though India has been insisting, Pakistan has not done enough to punish those behind the terrorists killing. Its argument that the matter was before the Pakistani courts and it could not interfere in their functioning cannot satisfy India. Indeed, the Pakistani state has always woven a web of deceit against India while simultaneously holding bilateral talks. Several dossiers proving the identity of attackers behind the heinous attacks in India were sent to Pakistan but the country remains recalcitrant on the issue.
Though India Pakistan relations have never been smooth, the road, howsoever bumpy, never reached a dead end. Both sides have their limitations and grouses but they have also kept the doors open. It needs no reiteration that holding talks with Pakistan to break the impasse in bilateral relations and eventually establish a congenial atmosphere is of utmost importance for the growth and development of both countries. But sadly peace continues to elude both nations as Pakistan continues to orchestrate a constant proxy war against India. The situation is made worse by subversive elements propagating an agenda of hate that only vitiates the atmosphere further. As is well known, India has made several attempts to improve bilateral relations. Now it is time for Pakistan to respond to the call for cross-border peace and tranquility. Pakistani leadership must realise that pursuing an agenda of hate and violence has never done any good. If the Pakistani establishment truly favours peace, then it has to address the key issue of Pakistan’s hostile attitude towards India.
India may want to avoid taking any step that could lead both countries to a war-like situation. But that can’t be a justification for its soft approach. It is time New Delhi shed its soft approach to Pakistan. A nation which houses and extents hospitality to the masterminds of 26/11 and gangsters like Dawood Ibrahim cannot be trusted with a long rope. It is more than a week since Pakistani soldiers crossed the LoC and mutilated the bodies of Indian soldiers. Besides they have been indulging in unprovoked firing at the Indian posts in clear violation of the cease-fire agreement. Yet the government of India is still wondering how to respond to the naked aggression. Surprisingly, it is the same government that quelled the peaceful demonstrations against its apathy towards women’s safety. Also, it set police on those protesting against corruption. What is amusing that many describe this morbid inaction as a mature reaction.
It is imperative upon India to exhaust all available diplomatic avenues to drive home the point that Pakistan cannot get away with atrocities like this. As with such a hostile neighbour, the odds are stacked against India.
Today Pakistan is besieged by extremism and terrorism in more than one way. There are radical religious groups fighting against each other. Islamic fundamentalism has spread its toxin to an extent that even the Pakistani liberal society has come under its attack and receded into the background. The assassination of one of Pakistan’s most charismatic leaders, Benazir Bhutto, underlined the extent to which the Pakistani society had been brutalised. The army in order to retain its stranglehold on the Pakistan polity and society, developed a vested interest in ensuring that Islamic fundamentalism retained its vice-like grip on the institutions of the State. Despite the restoration of democracy after the overthrow of Musharraf-led military regime, the democratic institutions are gasping for breath and their sustainability is tested almost by the day. Some false hopes were, indeed, raised that after several spells of disastrous military rule, Pakistan had perhaps realised, after all, that democracy, like liberty needs to be nurtured and cannot be taken for granted. For it to succeed, socio-economic development of society was the pre-requisite. But development cannot come without peace, both internal and external. Pakistan has to realise that terrorism is the anti-thesis of both peace and development. In the case of Pakistan, there are too many imponderables putting a question mark on the success of democracy. Unfortunately for Pakistan, the democratic government has come under severe attack from one of the strongest pillars of a democratic polity, the Supreme Court of Pakistan. The Supreme Court’s challenge to the Government, is so harsh, that the survival of the regime looks grim, and it should not surprise anyone, if the army were to strike once again.
As stated in the very beginning, the origin of Pakistan was based on Islam. But one had hoped that in the age of reason, liberalism and socialism, and since much of the history of Pakistan movement was steeped in the democratic movement, Pakistan would move in the direction of a liberal society even if it was an Islamic society. The speech of Mohammad Ali Jinnah at the Constituent Assembly on August 11, 1947 raised those early hopes too. But alas, after his death, Pakistan moved towards the narrow path and created a theocratic state. Gradually, the ruling elite, whether democratic like Zulfikar Ali Bhutto or military like Zia-ul-Haq, in order to perpetuate their rule, fell back on Islamic fundamentalism, distorting noble Islamic values, thereby undermining the institutions of the state to their own benefit. It resulted in alternative political phenomenon promoted by both international and national forces. As long as, state institutions were not distorted, benign Islam did no damage to society. It propagated righteous values and virtuous behaviour. It caused the greatest damage, when Islam was made to sub-serve the personal interests of individuals. Islam and Islamic fundamentalism are two distinct phenomena and they do not complement each other. One is antithesis of the other. It was the latter phenomenon, which proved pernicious and caused the maximum damage to the Pakistani society and state, because it promoted backwardness, social deprivation, a low level of consciousness, poverty and ignorance.
The people of India and Pakistan have lived side by side for centuries and in two separated independent states for more than six decades now. The partition was an opportunity for the two to go their own ways and build egalitarian societies for the benefit of their people in their own chosen way. Given the bonds of geography, history, and culture, it was expected that they would grow together complementing each other. Alas that was not to be. Pakistan used its Islamic self-consciousness based on two-nation theory, to keep alive the animosities of the past and added fresh ones to keep alive, the Indian bogey to contain democratic aspirations of its people, and create an anti-India bias in Pakistan. The feeling of insecurity that it sought to create for itself and its people, drove Pakistan to seek security from sources, which exploited it to their own end, while creating the mirage of security. In this process, it became a pawn in the cold war of great powers. Obsession with Kashmir drove Pakistan to an uncompromising confrontation with India, to establish international connections which though brought it economic and military aid, used it as a base for confrontations of their own. But the internal consequences of a continuing confrontation with India have proved disastrous for Pakistan’s socio-political growth and therefore its economic development too was stunted. Bangladesh was a direct result of this confrontationist mentality. Massive foreign involvement in Pakistan’s militarisation also encouraged lopsided growth leading to an overwhelming role and influence of the military establishment in Pakistani society.
It is time for Pakistan to realise that in more than six decades of its existence, in confrontation with India, it has only undermined its social, economic and democratic institutions and their development. India may have, to a great extent, succeeded in sensitising itself from Pakistan’s baggage, but its growth and development has not remained unaffected. Both were one country, one economy, one market, one culture and one people. Going separate ways but living side by side, in peace and harmony, complementing each other, could have been a great asset in creating a prosperous South Asia, benefiting other smaller nations in the region too. Alas, South Asia after sixty five years of post-colonial history remains a most volatile region, riven with poverty, ignorance, and disease. This has to end.
By A S Bhasin
(The author is a retired IFS Officer)