“Log hamarey thhe, operation hamara nahin thha“. This is what Shuja Pasha, the head of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence at the time of the 2008 Mumbai attacks told his country’s then ambassador to the United States.
Husain Haqqani, the ambassador at whose home in Washington D.C Pasha said this, recalls the one-liner in his new counter-intuitively named book India vs. Pakistan, to be published next week by Juggernaut.
Haqqani told The Indian Express that the aim of the book — which at a little over 160 pages is more a monograph — was to “acknowledge what may be the contribution of Pakistan to the current stalemate but at the same time to remind Indians that they are also to blame. “The purpose of the books is to say that we have both not handled the last 69 years well.”
By failing to bring the perpetrators of the Mumbai 2008 attacks to justice even eight years later, Pakistan has created another issue in the fraught relationship, says Haqqani, citing it as an example of the immaturity with which the two countries have dealt with each other.
“Both countries conduct foreign policy with other countries showing tremendous maturity but never with one another. There is a childishness or emotionality in this relationship. I am trying to bring rationality into the relationship and reduce the emotionality”.
According to him, India has committed its own share of mistakes.
“If Pakistan’s curse in its relations with India is that it has sought parity with a much larger neighbour, India’s curse is that it has been obsessed with reciprocity,” he says.
Watch Video: Idea Exchange With Husain Haqqani
Haqqani, whose earlier books include Pakistan: Between Mosque and Military, a trenchant critique of the Pakistan Army for using Islam to turn the country into a national security state, says the new trends in Indian nationalism are also worrying.
“Pakistani nationalism is defined as anti-Indianism; in India a new nationalism is emerging to delegitimize India’s minorities and by extension, delegitmising a neighbouring country where a minority is in a majority,” he said.
Instead of becoming “a state to state relationship in a mature manner it has become a relationship between two countries representing the psychoses of the Partition argument,” he said.
In the book, which is an engagingly written short history of mutual grievances starting with Partition, he writes about the “shrinking space” for India and Pakistan to become friends and his concern about how similar to Pakistan India was becoming.
“In recent years, India and Pakistan are increasingly resembling each other in rage, resentment and public displays of religion…Passions, fuelled by firebrands, distorted accounts of history and violence that begets further violence, are shrinking whatever space has existed for friendship between India and Pakistan. Instead, they are spilling over in to the Hindu-Muslim relationship with India, with potential for ‘we told you so’ arguments in Pakistan by radical Islamists who have built an ideology of permanent hate towards India and Hindus on the edifice of the two-nation theory”.
He also describes the Musharraf era of improvement in bilateral relations as “managed conflict”, which seemed like progress only because it came after the massive setback in relations due to Kargil.
Despite the grimness, Haqqani says, his book is not all pessimism. “My book is conditionally pessimistic. It is pessimistic only if certain conditions are not fulfilled,” he said. Among those is for Pakistan to realise that postponing trade with India until the Kashmir issue is resolved will not help it, for India to realise it must not aggravate Pakistan’s insecurities, for Pakistan to understand the ‘inherent contradiction’ in its stance that India’s real goal is to undo Partition while insisting that Kashmir is the ‘core problem’ in bilateral ties.
“There is no explanation for how and why resolution of the Kashmir dispute would stop India from wanting to undo Partition, if indeed that is what India wants”, he writes, and asks Pakistan to heed former Chinese President Jiang Zemin’s advice and shelve it for now to build ‘normal state-to-state relations’.
Then, there’s the T-word and Pakistan’s confidence that it can get away with using terrorism against India. Haqqani told The Indian Express he is only “cautiously optimistic” on this front.
That tantalizing one-liner from Pasha in the book on the Mumbai attack unfortunately remains just that. But Haqqani goes back farther in time to show that even the threat of being declared a “terrorist state” by the US back in 1992 was not enough to stir the powers in Pakistan at the time.
He quotes from a “rather terse” letter US Secretary of State James Baker III wrote in 1992 to Nawaz Sharif who was then Prime Minister. The US wanted Pakistan to take “steps to make certain that Kashmiri and Sikh groups and individuals who have committed acts of terrorism do not receive support from Pakistani officials”. The letter said, “by later this year Pakistan will take steps to distance itself from terrorist activities against India”, and that
“the training which outsiders, including Kashmiris, previously received alongside Afghan mujahideen in Pakistan is being halted”.
It came with the explicit warning that US law requires “that an onerous package of sanctions apply to those states found to be supporting such acts of international terrorism”.
Sharif was removed from office soon after, and the US, giving his successor Benazir Bhutto a longer rope, did not push with the threat contained in the letter. By threatening action but not carrying it out, the US helped to reinforce Pakistan’s support of terrorist groups
What remains then? According to Haqqani, the “inherent logic of international relations’ where prosperous countries are those that promote trade and free travel with their neighbours, postponing the difficult questions between them.
What the two countries need is a Nixon in China moment. Some describe Vajpayee’s bus journey to Lahore as that. Haqqani points out, however, that Nixon had started preparing the ground for reapproachment with China even before he became President, with an influential essay in Foreign Affairs, where he laid out the need to engage with the world’s most populous country. China grabbed the moment, and the rest is history.
“The way out,” he says, “is that instead of endlessly continuing the arguments over history, India and Pakistan need to start looking at each other as two nuclear armed nations. And start talking to each other as countries rather than as communities still engaged in the politics of communal identity, and not to pass on the anger to another generation”.