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India VS Pakistan: Why can’t we just be friends?

Book Review: India VS Pakistan: Why can’t we just be friends? Kashmir — Terrorism — N-Bomb

Husain Haqqani is a well-known political philosopher, journalist, academic, and formerly Pakistan’s ambassador to Sri Lanka, then the United States. He has a comprehensive command of the affairs of South Asia. His books have been well received for their thoughtful analyses and his considered suggestions for resolving problems:  Pakistan: Between Mosque and MilitaryMagnificent delusions: Pakistan, the United States and an Epic History of Misunderstanding, and now the new book on the difficult relationship between Pakistan and India entitled India vs. Pakistan: Why can’t we just be friends?

His articles have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, Foreign Affairs and Foreign Policy.  Mr. Haqqani is currently the Director for South and Central Asia at the Hudson Institute in Washington, DC, as well as Professor of the Practice of International Relations at Boston University.

article-cmsdnokdcx-1462968445The title and first chapter of his book, India Vs Pakistan: Why can’t we just be friends?, are derived from the historical speeches of Jawaharlal Nehru (Speeches, Vol. 2, p. 246). Regarding Pakistan and India, the author takes note of Nehru’s warning about the potential for a hostile relationship: “Because of our very close contacts we cannot be indifferent to each other. We can either be more than friends or become more than enemies.”  In writing of the historical background for the four major wars and various skirmishes between India and Pakistan, the author covers their ideological and political differences as well as diplomatic misunderstandings.

Discussing the political thoughts of Pakistan’s founding father, he notes that Muhammad Ali Jinnah was not against amicable relations with India after the partition:  “Jinnah was also keen for India and Pakistan not to be in a state of permanent war. Hence his avowal of the desire for relations similar to those between Canada and the United States. That Jinnah did not envisage Pakistan’s permanent enmity with India is borne out by his wish to return to his Mumbai home after retirement as Governor-General of Pakistan.” Of Mohandas K. Gandhi, foremost among the founders of the modern state of India, the author considers his view of the respective births of the two nations to be that, “He believed [it] had been born through an agreed separation between brothers.” Although Mr. Haqqani singles out several parties–the All India Muslim League, the Hindu Mahasabha, and the Akali Dal–as believing in the efficacy of violence, he emphasizes that Mr. Jinnah did not. Furthermore, he stresses that Jinnah favored secularism, as opposed to theocracy, as the ideal for Pakistan.

partition-4But the question inevitably arises, if the founders of both countries had such sympathy for and good wishes towards each other, then why did they advocate or suffer a separation in the name of religion to begin with?  The current impasse in the state of relations between the two countries clearly reflects that neither can make any headway:  “Over the last several years, their leaders (India and Pakistan) have been meeting every now and then, usually on the sidelines of an international summit, and announcing a resumption of talks at the level of officials.”  But then, “Within a few days, a terrorist attack in India that is traced to a Pakistan-based Jihadi group breaks the momentum for dialogue, or there are allegations of ceasefire violations along the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir.”  And the root causes of the ugly relationship between Pakistan and India become manifest once again.

Pakistan does not bear the weight of blame alone.  “In this book I argue that the responsibility for the present state of affairs lies on the both sides of the border (and occasionally third parties), but that it has especially been made tangled by Pakistan’s near pathological obsession with India.” The author is inclined to Jinnah’s view: “Jinnah saw Partition as a problem of one religious community being in majority and another being a minority.”  He posits that the mindsets of both nations have been shaped by the conflicts that occurred during partition, which has made them a constituency for anger, bitterness, and hostility towards one another, stressing that this hostility can be curbed, then eradicated through trade, joint business ventures, and cultural activities on both sides of the border.

partition_publicity_imageFrom the opening pages of the book, Mr. Haqqani emphasizes the need for diplomatic understanding and for assuring Pakistan’s military establishment that Indian political and diplomatic successes simply do not engender ambitions aimed at swallowing Pakistani sovereignty. The writer refers to a speech given at Aligarh Muslim University in January of 1948 in which, “Nehru tried to reassure Pakistan that India did not question Pakistan’s right to exist as a separate country.  ‘If today by any chance I were offered the reunion of India and Pakistan,’ he said, ‘I would decline it for obvious reasons. I do not want to carry the burden of Pakistan’s great problems. I have enough of my own.’ Any close association must come out of a normal process and in a friendly way which does not end Pakistan as a State, but makes it an equal part of a larger union in which several countries might be associated.” Gandhi proposed that as a polity Pakistan be treated like members of a family who have moved out of a joint family into their own home; Pakistanis need to be won over, not cut off further from their estranged clan.  Through the use of these quotations the writer attempts to establish that Pakistan need not fear that India is trying to dismember it or subvert its independence; rather he suggests that Pakistan and India should engage one another in positive ways.

As a political philosopher and intellectual, Mr. Haqqani cites Pakistan’s ideology of the Two Nation Theory as a primary cause of the abnormal relationship between Pakistan and India. He writes that Pakistan’s first Prime Minister, Liaquat Ali Khan, “Declared repeatedly that Pakistan was to be ‘a country where the Islamic principles could be applied, where the Muslims could live according to their own genius’–the same stand was supported by the ministers and the civil society head, Chaudhry Muhammad Ali, who came from Jalandhar.” He goes on to say that despite the exaggerated religious claims of Liaqat Ali Khan, Mr. Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, a distinct Pashtun nationalist and close ally to Gandhi in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, “had prevailed over the Al-Muslim League in his native land in the 1946 elections. Khan was of the view that Pakistan’s rulers, most of whom were not sons of the soil, sought to keep the Pakistani people under control by making them live in a nightmare of riots, assaults and ‘holy war’.”  Furthermore, the author states that it was the Punjabi and Pashtun martial disposition that formed Pakistan and later shaped its state policies after Partition. Several pages of the book relate the thoughts and views of Pakistani rulers and how they fomented hatred and bitterness against India through the national educational curriculum, the constitution, and the military institutions.

Meanwhile, the writer remarks upon the views of Suhrawardy, Pakistan’s prime minister of briefest duration (in 1956), saying that he was of the view that as a state Pakistan is founded on certain sentiments, namely that of ‘Islam in danger’ or ‘Pakistan in danger’. He explains that Pakistan promoted an irregular army from the tribal zone near the Durand Line in order to attack India in its own home and so paved the way for the Indian army’s interference in Pakistan, which in turn let the nations to get involved in direct conflict–the natural result of Pakistan’s hardline policies against India.

The growing mutual mistrust and misunderstandings led to visa requirements being imposed in 1965, while the situation could not be much worse after the 1965 war.  Haqqani writes that under Gen. Ayub Khan’s stewardship, the army became exalted as the institution defining Pakistan’s national interest. By toppling a civilian leader in 1958, Ayub Khan also set a precedent for military intervention in Pakistan’s politics timed to halt any normalization of India-Pakistan relations.

The writer discusses the consequences of the 1965 war for Pakistan and the United States’ military and financial aid to Pakistan in its wake. He excellently exposes the Pakistani state for exploiting religious sentiments in the war and how it fooled its own masses in the name of religion by its success in claiming that Indian soldiers were simply not capable of waging war in the face of the irregular armed forces of God.

Mr. Haqqani proceeds to tell the story of the breakup of Pakistan into two separate sovereign entities, (West) Pakistan and Bangladesh. He also adds that a Punjabi minority deceived the majority Bengalis of East Pakistan when they had won the elections. Not only was their victory undermined, the Pakistani army treated them like aliens on account of their secular ideology and for the fact they had prevailed at the polls.  Defending their electoral victory, however, the Bengalis wouldn’t accept a Pakistani army intervention, which simply led to dissolution of the country.

The first chapter’s final pages consider the attitude and policy of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto toward India. The writer disappointedly verifies that there was simply a lack of interest, coordination, and understanding between both nations until the Bhutto period came to a close with ties remaining strained and no positive results achieved.

In the second chapter of the book, entitled ‘Kashmir is Pakistan’s Jugular Vein’, the author catalogues the relations between India and Pakistan.  He avers that Pakistan’s position versus India on Kashmir has begun to erode, that the international community is no longer giving credence to Pakistan’s claim that Kashmir is Pakistan’s ‘jugular vein’ inasmuch as its irregular jihadi armies have poisoned the world’s view of Pakistan’s diplomatic efforts with respect to Kashmir. Pakistan’s intransigent promotion of Jihadi elements in India has lost Pakistan the world’s empathy, for it is patently indefensible.

Drawing from personal experience, Mr. Haqqani recalls a conversation with a Pakistani army chief about Pakistan’s frustration regarding the issue, in which he remarked that after investing so much time and energy, “Pakistan could not swallow the bitter pill of recognizing that the Kashmir dispute might not be resolved anytime soon. Pakistanis have even ignored the advice of one of their closest friends, Chinese President Jiang Zemin, who told Pakistan’s parliament in 1996, ‘If certain issues cannot be resolved for the time being, they may be shelved temporarily so that they will not affect the normal state-to-state relations.’”  He describes how

Zulfikar Ali Bhutto drew a circle with his forefinger and stated, “You can have this part of Kashmir, we want the rest.” The author’s view is that, “Half a century later, Pakistan’s outlook does not seem to have changed.”

However, the writer stresses that Pakistan’s harsh stand has aggravated the disputes between both nations.  He explains its blasé attitude towards the conflict by citing Altaf Gauhar, who served as Ayub Khan’s propaganda advisor, when he said, “The Pakistan military has often assumed that the Indians are too cowardly and ill-organized to offer any effective military response which could pose a threat to Pakistan.”  Haqqani argues that the proliferation of Kashmir-oriented jihadi groups – such as Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Muhammad – “and their attacks on India’s civilians population have eaten away international support for Pakistan’s position. On the Pakistani side, jihadi groups and the religious political parties that back them help maintain a nationalist frenzy in Pakistan.”

The situation deteriorated further when Pakistani militants attacked the Indian parliament in 2001; then after a few years the perpetrators made another blunder by attacking Mumbai, killing 166 people, including five Americans. The author recounts how, according to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, “India made it clear to her that ‘there would not be such restraint in the event of a second attack’. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress chief Sonia Gandhi explained to Clinton ‘how hard it had been to show restraint toward Pakistan.’”

Deploring the undiplomatic stance of Pakistan on Kashmir, the author cites the example of France and Germany as a lesson that Pakistan might have employed to settle the dispute over Kashmir, for trade and cultural exchanges between both nations point the way.

bhutto-640x480In the third chapter, entitled “We Should Use the Nuclear Bomb”, Mr. Haqqani suggests that Pakistan’s description of their weapon as ‘the Islamic Bomb’ infers nefarious designs.  On its usage, he cites an interview Pakistani Brigadier Amanullah had with an American journalist in which the army man offered in a depressed and angry tone that, “This should happen. We should use the bomb.” Stressing the point, he continued, “We should fire at them (Indians) and take out a few of their cities – Delhi, Bombay, Calcutta.”  He surprisingly maintains, “They should fire back and take Karachi and Lahore. Killing off a hundred or two hundred million people … They have acted so badly toward us; they have been so mean. We should teach them a lesson. It would teach all of us a lesson.”  A retired brigadier who was an aide to Benazir Bhutto is quoted as saying, “None of the children of Pakistan has a future. We are surrounded by nothing but war and suffering. Millions should die away.” Seriously worried about the feelings of this highly placed army man, Mr. Haqqani wonders what the future might bring when a responsible authority expresses feelings with such perilous implications.  For his part, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto once emphasized Pakistan’s resolute hunger for a nuclear weapon:  “We will eat grass, but we will get one of our own.”

Despite the best efforts of top American and European diplomats to stem the threat of nuclear proliferation, Pakistan plunged ahead with their development of their bomb.  Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan, the “father” of the Islamic bomb, instead contributed to proliferation, developing profitable links with illegal networks in Libya, Iran, and North Korea.  Dr. Khan took a hard line approach against India, and was impervious to criticism.  Mr. Haqqani quotes Dr. Khan’s 1980 dismissive attitude concerning a report about his activities in the Observer, the in-depth sister paper of Britain’s highly respected The Guardian.  Referring to its author, Khan wrote:  “Shyam Bhatia, a Hindu bastard, could not write anything objective about Pakistan …” Another Pakistani scientist, Dr. Samar Mubarakmand, “publicly boasted of Pakistan’s ability to ‘wipe out entire India from the subcontinent in a few seconds.’”  Interestingly, in a comment concerning nuclear security, Mr. Haqqani notes that even the Indian military doesn’t know about the locations of their weapons, but on the other side, both the Pakistani civilian and military establishments know the location of their devices of mass destruction.

Regarding diplomatic efforts to curtail nuclear development, the author is of the opinion that promising talks with India were sabotaged by Pakistani blunders, which included ideological contradictions, threats of nuclear use, and the prosecution of the Kargil War. Mr. Haqqani commends the United States for its efforts to forge a peaceful solution to the problems of Pakistan and India, but notes the Chinese interest in supporting Pakistan’s stance on the Kargil incursion.  He questions the sincerity of Pakistan in its negotiations with India, believing its motives to be suspect, and quotes from personal experience in relating how he went to Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs in search of documents pertinent to the history of India-Pakistan talks, only to discover that no such records existed.

In the fourth chapter, ‘Terrorism = Irregular Warfare”, the writer provides details about the terrorist organizations he names that are associated with the Pakistani ISI and their attacks on sensitive sites in India.  He recounts, on the other hand, how Indian intelligence worked to protect Perwaiz Musharraf when it informed the ISI of a possible attack on the Pakistani president by Islamic fundamentalists.  Citing Pakistani hubris over the assumption that their forces were primarily, Mr. Haqqani claims that Pakistan believes it can utilize an irregular army to deliver an inevitable victory in Kashmir as well.  Nevertheless, despite innumerable terrorist attacks and the killing of thousands of innocent Kashmiris, the author is able to find praise for diplomatic meetings between Indian and Pakistani officials in search of an elusive solution.

The thinking of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is revealed in her public statement to the Pakistanis in October of 2011:  “You can’t keep snakes in your backyard and expect them only to bite your neighbors.”  The reference, of course, concerned the risks Pakistan has incurred by continuing to harbor mujahadeen of Arab and other foreign origins who came to fight the Soviet Union in the Afghan war, and whom the Pakistanis believe can be manipulated to further their interests, but have proven to have their own—sometimes inimical–agenda.  Adding to the dangerous mix are uncontrollable elements of the state; referring to personal talks Mr. Haqqani had with the chief of Pakistani intelligence, Gen. Pasha, about the 2008 attack in Mumbai, he writes:  “At my official residence as Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States, Pasha said to me in Urdu, ‘Loag hamaray thay, operation hamara nahin thha.’ (The people involved in the Mumbai attack were ours but it was not our operation.) I asked him, ‘Agar hamaray loag bhi hamaray gaboo mein nahin tau aagay kya hoga?’ (If we have no control over our own people, what is our future?) That question still awaits a well-thought-out answer.”

In the fifth chapter, “The Space for Friendship Is Shrinking”, the writer places an equal blame on India for its failure to foster a good relationship, observing that, “Indians, beginning with Nehru and Patel, chose to punish Pakistan for breaking away instead of wooing it, and in doing so they reinforced the effort by Jinnah’s successors to militarize and Islamize Pakistan. This style never ended, and during an address to the UN Security Council in 1965, Pakistan’s foreign minister, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, spoke of Indian leaders seeing Pakistan as their ‘Enemy number one’, and ‘the fulcrum of India’s fundamental policies’.”

Haqqani argues that the insurgency spawned by Pakistan’s irregular army against India is based primarily on ideological foundations. Pakistan believes that the secular and democratic position of India is somehow inimical to Islamic Pakistan, which is why Pakistan prefers to cultivate its independence and sovereignty and to continue the fight against India until ultimate victory comes.  Concerning Pakistan’s biased ideologies, he refers to a writer, K.K who makes note of “Pakistani textbooks as being replete with historical errors and suggests that their mandatory study amounted to the teaching of ‘prescribed myths’. After examining sixty-six textbooks for social studies and Pakistan studies – Aziz argued that these textbooks aimed at supporting military rule in Pakistan, inculcating hatred for Hindus, glorifying wars and distorting the pre-1947 history of the area comprising Pakistan.”  The author also worries about the Indian curriculum, pointing out that the same hatred and chauvinism are printed in its syllabus for Indian students.  He writes, “There have been suggestions that maps of India at schools should include ‘countries like Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Tibet, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Burma’ as they are all ‘part of Akhand Bharat’.” He also criticizes the inflammatory import that unnatural phrases like “undivided India”, “India partition” and many similar possess, and is concerned about their inclusion in the Indian curriculum.

The author calls the reader’s attention to the fact that Nehru’s nationalism and political philosophy were something that could play an important role in bilateral relations. He reports, “Nehru wrote to Patel as early as 1950 that he deplored the ‘constant cry for retaliation and vicarious punishment of the Muslims of India, because the Pakistanis punish Hindus.’” Haqqani adds, “The argument doesn’t appeal to me in the slightest. I am sure this policy of retaliation and vicarious punishment will ruin India as well as Pakistan.”

In the closing section of the book, Mr. Haqqani discusses Pakistan’s blaming India for an involvement in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan. He argues that India has achieved significant respect on the international level, whereas Pakistan is suffering a period of despondency and isolation. Furthermore, he maintains, 95% of Pakistani nationalism is comprised of hatred. He describes the bone of contention as a hidden ideological clash, “They call it Islam because that is how we learn to differentiate between ourselves and India.” Indian nationalism, on the other hand, insists on describing Pakistani identity as inherently communal, while constantly reiterating the need to dispute the Two-Nation theory. He adds that, “By definition this puts Pakistan down and on the defensive instead of making it feel respected and self-confident.” The Two-Nation theory in the twenty-first century should be left to Pakistanis, who cannot ignore the harsh facts forever.

In conclusion, it may be fairly observed that what Mr. Haqqani has failed to provide in his argument is any reason why Pakistan should feel insecure within its geography.  Or why Punjabi rulers, as the dominant entity, should distrust other nationalities within the federal structure to be equally competent in guiding affairs of state. The reasons seem obvious; given its shaky geographical structure, Pakistan has to rely on its army to keep centrifugal forces at bay, to preserve it from disintegration. For Pashtuns and Balochs have always pointed out that they were never consulted in the scheme that created Pakistan. Their territories, moreover, were forcibly annexed contrary to the will of their people.

The fact of the matter remains that Pakistan is an unnatural state and that all the elements comprising it seek justifiable relief from the clutches of Punjabi domination. Thus, to preserve the nation from disintegration, the Punjabi army of Pakistan is forced to seek “strategic depth” in the territories of Kashmir and Afghanistan.  Accordingly, its rulers have concluded that the projects of war with India and war with Afghanistan comprise the Basharmalbest of solutions to keep it from breaking apart.

Writer: Khan Wali Khan Basharmal

Mr. Basharmal has long worked with both national and international organizations and ministries and currently acts as the General Director of the Strategic Center for International Relations and Editor-in-Chief of its quarterly publication.


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