Understanding the neighbour

Indo-Pak Conflict

By Dr DK Giri

The Indian sub-continent is grossly gripped with conflicts between India and Pakistan, intensified by war-cry emitting from both nations. Under this unusually toxic circumstances prevailing at present, a perception is growing among Indians that Pakistan is a rogue State and beyond redemption. India must do all it could to devastate it, and dismember it into four parts as BJP MP Subramaniam Swamy suggests. Whether that is a desirable strategy or attainable goal is another question. But, to be sure, New Delhi must leave no stone unturned in dealing with Pakistan in order to stop the unabated terrorists unleashed from its territory.
In our public discourse, and perhaps, in the foreign policy thinking, Pakistan, the whole country, is the subject with occasional allusion to the Pakistani ‘deep state’. But will it not be easier if we unpack Pakistan as a country as any other should be. My purpose in this piece is to identify more than one actor to deal with the constituents of Pakistan.
Pakistan, if you like, is a five-legged creature — the army, the civilian government, the civil society, Kashmir and Islam. It will be a strategic anomaly to treat these legs as one, though each of these may not be as strong as the other. In order to understand Pakistan as a neighbour, or deal with it as an arch-enemy, it will be useful to comprehend the legs that hold it.
By the far the strongest leg is the army, which undoubtedly sponsors terrorism and even feeds on it. Rahamullah Nabil, former chief of Kabul’s intelligence and contender for president in the ensuing Afghan elections says, “Pakistan army (ISI) shelters and supports between 45-48 terror groups for its neighboring countries. It has been using terrorism as tool and a tactic.” The army rules the roost, either through remote control, or directly from the seat of government itself. It actually has been in charge for a combined 33 years of Pakistan’s 71 years of history.
It begs the question, how has its military become so all-powerful? There are several factors. To start with, at partition, Pakistan inherited 17% of colonial India’s revenue streams, while the military, already the most organised entity, got 33% giving it the advantage in the new government. Partition of Kashmir, through a proxy invasion and Nehru’s prevarication, gave a ‘rationale’ to Pakistan army to have the primacy in politics.
The second partition of Pakistan in 1971 and creation of Bangladesh with the help of India left a defeated Pakistani army with a persistent feeling of ill-will against New Delhi and an unrelenting mood of revenge, “to inflict thousand cuts”.
The third impetus came with Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. Alarmed by Soviet expansion, the US pumped in billions of funds and sophisticated weapons to the army to militarise Taliban to fight the Soviets. Pakistan army found a rare opportunity to build up Taliban, which might become an ally in its fight against India. After the Soviets retreated from Afghanistan in 1989, the US made a U-turn, engaged Pakistan with continued support of arms and dollars to fight Taliban.
It was a grievous mistake from which the US is unable to recover. How could it not know that the army that has propped up Taliban as a bargaining tool will finish it off? But, US knew very well that the military and financial aid it was ladling out to Pakistan might be used against India. But did they care? We saw a few days ago the use of F-16s, meant only to be deployed against terrorists, being used against the Indian State.
To be sure, Pakistani military and its senior officers have an entrenched interest in terrorist violence. They got money and continue to get support for such activities. Senior army officers apparently have their fat bank accounts abroad and their children study and stay in the luxuries of developed countries. So, how could they roll in comfort if they stop doing what they are paid for? The terror funding to Pakistan army must stop. The US began it, although it seems to be rolling back, it is too late and too little. There are other countries doing it too. They must be dissuaded in the interest of humanity. Remember, those who rise with the sword, perish with the sword.
The second leg is the civilian government, whose power and influence has been defined by its equation with the military. There have been of course times in Pakistani history when civilian governments have tried to tame the army, but sadly, it has soon bounced back. When Nawaz Sharif, with a massive mandate, tried to manage the army, removed Chief of staff General Parvez Musharaf, the latter staged a coup and took over the reins.
Evidently, the civilian governments in Pakistan want to deal with India through dialogue and diplomacy, but the army, for its own vested interest, will not let that happen. Hence, India and the other stakeholders in the region should empower the civilian government vis-à-vis the army.
But will stronger powers like US, Russia and China want it? Perhaps not, as their economies partly thrive on sale of arms. They will like the international hotspots to keep simmering. It is up to New Delhi’s diplomatic acuity to pursue this strategy, in the longer run, if not now in a war-like situation.
The third leg is the civil society, which doesn’t have much leeway under military guardianship. But from my own individual experience and from many of those who have been to Pakistan, the people love and look up to India as a matured multicultural democracy compared to their feudal and elitist politics. They would want to have peace and friendship with India. What about business, which always wants peace and tranquility for its smooth operation! The businesses in Europe quietly drove the integration process leading to creation of the European Union. Can they in the sub-continent not rise to prevent the bloodshed between two countries, which were one for hundreds of years before they split in 1947?
Finally, Kashmir and Islam are intertwined as the fourth and fifth legs. Since a Hindu king of a majority Muslim State unified Kashmir with India, Pakistanis consider it to be an incredible and illegitimate union. Many other principalities, around 500 at a time, followed the same rule of integration with India. So Pakistan has no claim to Kashmir on the basis of religious majority of a State. There are more Muslims in India than in Pakistan. India has Christian majority and other ethnic majority States too. Also, Kashmir is a part of State — Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh, Jammu has Hindus and Ladakh Buddhists. In fact, Pakistan should vacate the part of Kashmir it has been occupying and then talk of peace and security in Kashmir.
On Islam, Pakistan is a Muslim majority State, but there are nearly 7 million Hindus, and people of other faiths too — Christians, Sikhs and others. There are many other Islamic States, India is doing business with and has friendly relations. Religion was not a factor in division of Pakistan and creation of Bangladesh unlike when Jinnah demanded a Muslim State. But that has been superseded by later events of Bangladesh etc. Hence bringing Islam into India-Pakistan relations by any one is an erroneous thinking. I mention it as one of the elements in Pakistani diplomacy as it seeks to mobilise support from countries like Saudi Arabia in the name of religion. But thankfully, even the Islamic countries are waking up to the hard and painful reality of terrorism.
The bottom line is there cannot be military solution to India-Pakistan problems, mainly Kashmir. Pakistan realises it, their civilian leadership admits it openly, the present Prime Minister is more vocal about it than his predecessors, but intriguingly, they cannot back it with action or in fact, no-action on the border as their military simply does not oblige.
New Delhi too knows that a war or military skirmishes is not the route. But it has to retaliate if Pakistani military does not change tack. Therefore, is it not politically wiser to stir up multiple sectors in Pakistan despite their power disparity to develop their democracy, which may be inclined to genuinely dialogue and transparently disarm?—INFA