By Bhaskar Roy
It is no surprise that most in India whether inside or out of the government are cynical about the new initiatives taken by Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh and reciprocated enthusiastically by both Pakistani Prime Minister Sayed Yousuf Raza Gilani and President Asif Ali Zardari. Many such initiatives in the past had come to naught. President Parvez Musharraf came to see a India-Pak cricket match and made facetious remarks later on. There was Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee’s various efforts including the Agra meeting when the Pakistani establishment pulled the rug under the feet of the Indian government. So many false starts can be recounted.
The bloody partition of India in 1947 created such bitterness on both sides that nothing less than the blood of the other would quench the thirst. The Machiavellian British poised Pakistan against India for their own geopolitical interests. They also fathered Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).
India under Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru moved to self-dependence, development, peace and non-alignment. He even sacrificed India’s seat at UN Security Council Perm-5 in favour of China to ensure Asian Solidarity against imperialist machinations to divide and rule. That was an unfortunate decision which the entire country rues today. But it demonstrated where Pt. Nehru’s heart was.
Unfortunately, Pakistan lost its founding father Mohammad Ali Jinnah at a very early stage of its foundation. This one seminal misfortune turned Pakistan’s policy making upside down. Many Pakistanis may blame the military rule for the major part of their existence for numerous flaws. But it was the politicians who invited the army into their politics, and the people remained generally mute. The army was seen as the vehicle of vengeance against India. This view remains even today to a large extent.
That East Pakistan broke away from the West in 1971 is no surprise. They may continue to blame India, but many Pakistanis have lately realized that it was Islamabad’s drive to Punjabicize the Bengali East Pakistan, and the Pak military’s dehumanizing the Bengalis in 1971 that cost them this province.
There is a new concern among some prescient Pakistani media commentators that the army driven establishment had learnt little from 1971. They fear that the manner in which the Pakistani military government under Musharraf and even the present government approached the Baluchistan problems may go the Bangladesh way. Baloch leaders assassinated by the army and the ISI, people gone missing, dead bodies turning up without explanation are a shuddering reminder of what happened in the very initial stages in 1971 in East Pakistan. Pakistan’s military leaders would be well advised not to follow Gen. Yahya Khan’s order in the Pak army in East Pakistan on the night of March 25, 1971 – total annihilation.
Returning to the Mohali initiative and the currently under discussion resumption of cricket exchanges, Pakistani cricket Captain Shahid Afridi’s unfortunate remarks about the Indian media and the Indian people to a Pakistani television should not be taken seriously. Afridi may have cricketing abilities, but he has no political or social acumen and should not be expected to. He was afraid that he would be pilloried in his country after losing to India in the world cup. He took preemptive defensive action, but later found his fears were misplaced. Most Pakistani cricket lovers took the defeat with grace, and Afridi was apologetic and effusive in praise about his Indian experiences when talking to an Indian television channel soon after.
But it was not surprising that a number of Pakistani television channels used Afridi’s anti-India comments to let loose a vitriolic campaign. This was not surprising. The television channels, commentators and anchors are known India slamming brigades nurtured by decades of indoctrination. Even the respected and balanced daily, The Dawn, carried a commentator’s article repeating Afridi’s charges. Such comments proved that the anti-India malaise was still deep rooted in Pakistan.
Indians must understand that a huge constituency has been created in Pakistan in the last six decades by the authorities to hate India. The local Urdu press and, of course, the publication from the Islamic and terrorist organizations are at the forefront. Buoyed by the huge aid, both civilian and military, from the USA and the west, these warriors lancing Sancho Panza’s windmills, have no perception where their country is gowing. Many of them with puffed chests think China’s surreptitious assistance to make Pakistan a nuclear power can treat India with disdain and hold the rest of the world on the knife’s edge. They do not realize that nuclear weapons on the lunch table is not edible, and the ultra-Islamist terrorists are now waiting to get their hands on these very same nuclear weapons.
It must not also forgotten that Pakistan’s extreme or radical Islamism, and Islamic terrorist organizations have been financially supported by some NGOs in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the Emirates. This was the export of the ultra-hard line Wahabi Islam against a relatively tolerant Bahrelvi Islam. The very recent stepped up violence against Sufi shrines threaten to shred into bits Pakistan’s religious and social edifice. These developments have raised serious concerns among discerning Pakistanis. The so-called “India hand” in every problem in Pakistan including terrorism is being increasingly questioned by the Pakistani educated middle class. Interior Minister Rehman Malik, the main proponent of this charge against India, has suddenly gone silent. He failed to explain his charges to repeated questions from the media.
There is no doubt that the Pakistani army has the dominant say in major foreign policy decisions like with India, Afghanistan, Iran, the Middle East, the USA, the European Union, and China. Among these the USA, India and Afghanistan form the core issues at the moment. China is their mentor director.
It may be recalled that following the Mumbai “26/11” terrorist attack, President Zardari agreed to send Lt. Gen. Pasha, the ISI Chief, to India for discussions. Army Chief Gen. Asfaq Kayani squashed the decision. There are other instances that the army over-rode the government’s decisions.
Of course, these developments confirm that the army rules in Pakistan, and Gen. Kayani prefers to do this from behind the scene. Kayani, a very astute political observer, understands that under the current situation a military takeover will not be welcome to the international community. Pakistan’s military and economic financing depends on US and other foreign aid. But Kayani’s hard anti-Indianism, and admittance of terrorist organizations like the Taliban and the Haqqani net-work among others as Pakistan army’s assets, is on record. Therefore, India cannot expect any positive turn from the Pakistan army.
At the same time, real and circumstantial evidence suggests that the Zardari-Gilani government have regular differences with the army. Moreover, the top judiciary led by Supreme Court Chief Justice Choudhury seems to be working with the army to weaken President Zardari.
The Zardari-Gilani decision to reopen the execution case of late Prime Minister Zulfiquar Ali Bhutto as an army sanctioned crime portends a huge conscience explosion in Pakistan. Unless the army decides to remove the Zardari government, the conclusion of the case could certainly destroy to a great extent its moral stature among the people.
Signals suggest that the Zardari-Gilani led civilian government is at least trying to stand up to traditional army dominance.
The Indian critics of the Mohali initiative must try and understand this. The Pakistani civil society and intellectuals are beginning to recognize that the India threat has been used by the Pak army and interested politicians for more selfish purposes than national interests. Pakistan has gained little or nothing in pursuing this policy.
But change has to be slow, gradual, and one small step at a time. Frankly, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh faces a huge indoctrinated population in Pakistan who are confused with the belief that India is bad, but do not really know why. Dr. Singh is well aware of this challenge. The Zardari-Gilani combine, though civilian, is a much better bet than Musharraf who never inspired trust.
The “26/11” attack must be vigorously pursued as well as the IC-814 case and Abdul Rauf and others. It must be understood that the “26/11” perpetrators are the assets of the Pak army and the ISI, and not of the government led by the Zardari-Gilani combine. Resolution of Kashmir, Siachen and Sir Creek must be dealt with on a separate template. Post-Mohali, Gilani has held high Dr. Singh’s role in trying to establish friendly relations between the two countries. His observations recently at a course for senior Pakistani civil servants drew positive responses.
The approach from India has to be two-pronged. No relenting on terrorism, but seeking people’s minds. It would not be out of place to recount some cold war strategies. The Soviet Union won over some young Oxbridge intellectuals like Kim Philpy et al, the “famous five”. But this was temporary. The US preferred “peaceful evolution”, educating the Soviet and its satellite countries that exploiting capitalism had changed to a socialist capitalism. They won.
Despite Gen. Kayani’s articulation that Pakistanis have nothing common with Indians, the truth is the two peoples have everything in common including blood, religion and culture. The hard line Pakistani politicians, religious leaders and the army are more afraid of the power of India’s overwhelming all inclusive culture where Indian children are not taught to call Pakistani leaders and diplomats “Pakistani kutta”. Late J. N. Dixit, former Indian High Commissioner to Pakistan recounted in one of his books how he was called “Indian Kutta (dog)” by a child in the house of one of his Pakistani hosts.
This writer always believed and advocated that the Indian government’s visa restrictions in reciprocity to the Pakistani governments measures was negative, self-defeating, and doing exactly what the Pakistani authorities wanted. Pakistanis must be encouraged to visit India and see for themselves their anti-India indoctrinations have been built on false premises.
Therefore, India should on a third track, open sports, culture, education, tourism in the overall people-to-people contacts with Pakistan. There will be some irritants, but put them aside. Look at the bigger picture. These policies will not bring overnight success. They take time. But at the end, they deliver.