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Monday, July 16, 2018

Beyond Its Boundaries

In his new book, Christophe Jaffrelot explores the continuously evolving and multifaceted nexus between Pakistan’s political economy and global politics.

Written by Srinath Raghavan | Updated: May 21, 2016 12:23:14 am
pakistan at crossroads, book review, book review indian express, pakistan foreign relations, indo pak ties, indo pak relations Apart from the US, there are useful treatments in the book of Pakistan’s relationship with China, Saudi Arabia and Iran, as well as its long-running antagonism with India and Afghanistan.

This collection of essays edited by Christophe Jaffrelot is a companion to his monumental Pakistan Paradox (2015). In that book, Jaffrelot had presented a brilliant historical and political sociology of Pakistan. A key shortcoming of Jaffrelot’s account was the neglect of the country’s international dimension. Neither Pakistan’s external relationships nor the impact of processes such as migration and globalisation on its political economy featured in the book. This volume comprehensively makes up for those omissions. Jaffrelot has assembled an excellent group of authors — both seasoned and younger scholars — to cover the waterfront on Pakistan’s engagement with the world.

Scholars and analysts tend to regard Pakistan as an “ideological state”, a “garrison state” or, more recently, as a “terror state”. Jaffrelot contends that these do not adequately capture the trajectory of Pakistan. Instead, he offers two — not incompatible — alternatives: “client state” and “pivotal” state. Pakistan has been more dependent on external support and more porous to outside influences than other states of similar geographic size, population and economic development. The prime cause of this “extraversion”, he argues, lies in Pakistan’s “feeling of vulnerability” vis-à-vis India and its turbulent relationship with Afghanistan. Both of these were apparent from the moment the state of Pakistan came into being.

Jaffrelot quotes a revealing note by Muhammad Ali Jinnah, which states that the Congress party had accepted Partition “with mental reservations”, that they were keen to “restore the unity of India as soon as possible”, and hence, the Indian leadership “will naturally be regarded as avowed Enemies of the Pakistan State working for its overthrow.” Antagonism with India was inherent to the Pakistan project and issues like Kashmir aggravated and militarised the tensions between the two new states. In any event, Jinnah looked from the outset to the US for support. To its west, Pakistan was faced with an Afghanistan that refused to accept the Durand Line and opposed its entry into the United

In forging ties with the United States, Pakistan chose to become a “client state”. A clientelistic relationship is based on a reciprocal exchange of favours between the patron and client, whose control over resources, however, is unequal. Importantly, as Jaffrelot observes, this asymmetric relationship does not imply any ideological affinity, but is purely instrumental. Thus, in exchange for military and economic aid, Pakistan has performed the role of a frontline, “pivotal” state in the Cold War and the War on Terror. Yet, the very nature of the relationship has imparted a high degree of volatility to US-Pakistan relations.

In a fine chapter on Pakistan’s economy, Shaid Javed Burki and Adnan Naseemullah underline the centrality of American aid to the country’s economic performance and prospects. In turn, this dependence on external aid has cemented the ties between various components of the Pakistani elite: the military, the bureaucracy and the political class. It has ensured “the growing commonality of their world view and (more or less) illicit interests.” In a succinct but sophisticated reading of the country’s political culture, Jaffrelot mordantly notes that “equating civilians with democrats is highly questionable in Pakistan”. A “feudal” culture tinctures urban businesses as much as the rural grandees and the political leaders who hail from both backgrounds. This social and political elite has actively sought to distance itself from any notion of the public good: their refusal to pay taxes being a prime example. While persuasive, this line of argument tends to overemphasise culture and underestimate social structure. There is hardly any mention in the book of the absence of land reforms in Pakistan — even when compared to the poor record of countries like India.

Apart from the US, there are useful treatments in the book of Pakistan’s relationship with China, Saudi Arabia and Iran, as well as its long-running antagonism with India and Afghanistan. Jaffrelot is almost certainly right in arguing that neither China nor Saudi Arabia can displace Washington as the “key partner by default for the Pakistani establishment”. At a time when the Indian government is working itself into a lather about China’s support for Pakistan’s misdeeds, it is a useful reminder that the main shield remains in Washington and not Beijing. This is equally true of the situation in Afghanistan, where China is playing a more active role. Our policymakers should read Avinash Paliwal’s chapter on Afghanistan. His conclusion is sobering: “there are no endgames between Afghanistan and Pakistan, only new beginnings, better or worse.”

Nevertheless, it would be misleading to assume that there is nothing new under the sun. In a superb chapter on the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, Mariam Abou Zahab shows how the pattern of migration of Pashtuns has transformed the local political economy. Starting from the late 1960s, Pashtuns have been migrating to the Gulf countries. The call of “Dubai chalo” attracted many tribals, especially from north and south Waziristan. The accumulation of wealth by minor lineages and the massive remittances to lower middle class families has overturned established social relations. The Afghan jihad led to a further rupture in tribal society with the import of Islamist ideology and new modes of violence. This was the context for the rise of the Pakistan Taliban after 2001. This insurgency, she argues, has all the “characteristics of a social movement, and the class and generation factors should be taken into account to understand the dynamics.”

Such insights bring us a long way from the portrait of Pakistan as a static society that is purveyed by some influential scholars and uncritically embraced in India and elsewhere. The nexus between Pakistan’s political economy and global politics is multifaceted and continuously evolving. This book is the best starting point to understand it.

Book name- Pakistan at the Crossroads: Domestic Dynamics and External Pressures
Author- edited by Christophe Jaffrelot
Publisher- Random House India
Pages- 376
Price- 699

Raghavan is the author of India’s War: The Making of Modern South Asia, 1939-1945.

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