Meghnad Desai recently wrote in The Indian Express: The “fragility of nationhood is one reason why all sides in Pakistan need India as an enemy and Kashmir as a cause to pine for (‘The idea of Pakistan’, December 14).” We in Pakistan call it India-centrism, and we put the causality of this state psychosis differently: The state of Pakistan has not become fragile needing India as an enemy; it is rather the unchanging equation of enmity with India that has resulted in state fragility. Perhaps it comes to the same thing, whichever way you put the cause. But there is a Q&A about Pakistan that defines the country as India-centric. It means that India is at the root of the aetiology of the sick state today.
The pre-1947 history of the national schism is disputed, and many Indian historians blame both the Muslim League and the Congress for the politics of division before the demission of British Raj. Put simply, the “one nation” of India couldn’t agree about being one. After becoming two states, they became mutually hostile and the good Indian historian again blames both sides. Today, the “failing” state of Pakistan has to accept the verdict of the world on its “India policy”.
Have both sides done well after 1947? The evidence is mixed. Pakistan did well at first, then succumbed to its Cold War-induced paroxysm of going to war with India. India’s democracy has many flaws to overcome; Pakistan’s military dictatorship has come to grief as well, while its replacement, democracy, remains unstable. This is a double whammy — undemocratic Iran and Saudi Arabia are at least stable.
Shekhar Gupta, former editor-in-chief of The Indian Express, in his book Anticipating India, states: “At a series of public functions in Pakistan in 2002, I said Pakistan was in many ways as imperfect a dictatorship as India was an imperfect democracy, the central argument being that just as India had not been able to accord all its citizens all the freedoms that a democracy of this quality should have, Pakistan had not quite been able to deny its people all the freedoms that a classic dictatorship should have.”
Islam has gone crazy in the Middle East and the crisis of Muslims killing Muslims and defenceless non-Muslim minorities there obscures the fact that it began going crazy in Pakistan first. And the reason was — you guessed it — India.
The Pakistan army, which has directly or indirectly run Pakistan’s foreign policy — another word for India policy — today stands poised to change the paradigm or see Pakistan go the way of Afghanistan and Somalia, growing dysfunction leading to implosion. The following Q&A might help:
Reason for the collapse of governance?
The India policy — because it required not only constant irredentism from a weak position, ignoring state-building, but an induced worldview that couldn’t be sustained over the long term after the Cold War. The nurture of non-state warriors to achieve parity in conflict with India made it difficult to extend executive institutions over areas where the warriors had replaced the state.
Reason for spread of terrorism?
The India policy — because the reflex of using tribal hordes matured into a firm policy of keeping their regional habitat undeveloped. The Taliban policy provided the opportunity to further refine the India policy of constant challenge. The region in question, mostly inhabited by Pashtuns, became the melting pot of global terrorism and dragged in non-Pashtun areas, too. When Pakistan felt it could no longer sustain the policy of breeding warriors, it tried to curtail their outreach to India. The refusal of the non-state warriors to abandon their way of life led to their attacking the state itself. Can one say, pace Pakistani TV anchor Hamid Mir, that cross-border terrorism was started by India in East Pakistan with the Mukti Bahini? Pakistan’s cross-border terrorism involved sending its own proxy warriors across the border. The Mukti Bahini didn’t backfire; Pakistan’s cross-border terrorism recoiled on Pakistan.
Reason for corruption?
The India policy — because the state, rendered dysfunctional by terrorism, inspired insecurity in functionaries and politicians, leading to self-enrichment as alternative security. In the cases of China and India, corruption followed years of high growth rates and the state’s reluctance to adjust to new economic actors. In Pakistan, it is the insecurity felt by the politician and the bureaucrat that bred graft. The bureaucrat thought of surviving decently after his jurisdiction was snatched by the rising madrasa and local jihadi leaders like Hafiz Saeed. Cities like Peshawar, Bannu, Kohat, Hangu, etc are out of their control, like hundreds of others outside Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. The politician, not sure his trade-led India policy would let him complete his tenure in power, feathered his nest. The judge who sentenced terrorists required to be settled abroad or he wouldn’t convict.
Reason for the economic crisis?
The India policy — because terrorism directly affected economic activity and indirectly deterred foreign investment. Security advisories deterred foreign investors from travelling to Pakistan; Pakistan’s source of cheap borrowing that will result in long-term insolvency — the IMF — met Pakistani finance ministers in the UAE. Kidnapping for ransom by the various jihadi outfits that Pakistan hoped to use against India in Kashmir and Afghanistan sent domestic capital fleeing abroad. Pakistan’s economy has been ravished by wars in 1948, 1965, 1971 and 1999, all India-related and all Pakistan-induced one way or another.
Pakistan is regionally and globally isolated. Reason?
The India policy — because Pakistani warriors meant to fight India attack neighbouring states across national borders. The jihadists of an outfit called Jundallah raid across the Iranian border, when they are not killing the Shia of Quetta travelling to their holy places in Iran. All kinds of non-state actors and the Taliban attack targets in Afghanistan, alienating Afghan Pashtuns in addition to non-Pashtuns, who already fear and loathe Pakistan. Uzbeks from Uzbekistan-Tajikistan and Uighurs from China have safe havens against the wishes of Islamabad, but are being retained by jihadists originally trained to attack India. The resentment in the region is compounded by the strengthening global reaction of not giving credence to Pakistan’s stance on anything pertaining to India.
Hopefully, this is about to change. The Economist of December 20 noted: “The growth of the TTP [Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan] is a direct consequence of neurotic fear of encirclement by India, which is widespread in Pakistan’s ruling class and has led to the disastrous policy of exploiting and encouraging jihadist groups in Kashmir — territory disputed by India and Pakistan — and in Afghanistan… After Nawaz Sharif became prime minister in June 2013 and Raheel Sharif took over as chief of army staff a year ago, this disastrous policy began to change. Both men came to the conclusion that jihadist terrorism poses a greater threat to their country than India does.”
The elected government and the army are on the same page not because Nawaz Sharif has woken up to the jihadi scenario just now, but because the army has decided not to wait till the full range of the consequences of its India-centrism overwhelms Pakistan.
The challenge is already quite daunting. Letting Nawaz Sharif advance his own India policy with the help of Narendra Modi in New Delhi would be one big step to reverse the creeping dysfunction in Pakistan. Encouragingly, PM Sharif is already pledging to get after the “supporters” of the Taliban with bounties on their heads.
The writer is consulting editor, ‘Newsweek Pakistan’