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The Pakistan Problem: The Long Term Option

February 14, 2018 11:00 IST

'The best course for India is to wait out the implosion that is bound to take place in Pakistan sooner than later.
'We have to ensure that the fallings debris from a collapsing State does not damage us,' says Colonel Anil A Athale (retd).

February 13, 2018: Family members, Indian Army soldiers and locals in Kupwara carry the body of JCO Mohammad Ashraf Mir, the Kashmiri soldier who was martyred in the terrorist attack at the Sunjuwan army camp attack. Photograph: Umar Ganie
IMAGE: Family members, Indian Army soldiers and locals in Kupwara carry the body of JCO Mohammad Ashraf Mir, the Kashmiri soldier who was martyred in the terrorist attack at the Sunjuwan army camp attack. Photograph: Umar Ganie

The second week of February saw terror attacks launched by Pakistanis in Jammu and Kashmir.

As in the past, there was the usual chorus of revenge and some voices calling for 'talks' with Pakistan.

India has tried both approaches in the past, but peace with Pakistan continues to elude us.

It is time we delved deeper into the causes of this instability and avoid kneejerk reactions.

 

Ten years ago, the late Lieutenant General Eric Vas and I wrote a fictional history book on Subhas Chandra Bose. As a part of the research for the book, one went through a lot of published material covering the period just before Independence.

The news media of the 1940s were full of deliberations on the 'Muslim Question'. This was the period when Mohammed Ali Jinnah demanded a separate State for the Muslims of the Indian subcontinent.

We all know that in 1947, Jinnah got his Pakistan, a separate country in the Indian subcontinent in which the Muslims were a majority.

Given the history of India, even in these parts that formed Pakistan, non-Muslims formed 13% of the population.

Post-Independence, the proportion of non-Muslims has reduced to less than 2% or 3%. Today's Pakistan is 97% Muslim dominated.

It was the fond hope of the leaders of the Independence movement that since Jinnah had got the Pakistan he wanted, the two countries could now live in peace and concentrate their energies on the economic progress of their citizens.

Contrary to the wishes of the founder of Pakistan, who wanted a Muslim majority and NOT an Islamic State, Pakistan has turned into a virtual theocracy (the rule by Islamist clergy by proxy).

Many organisations have sprung up in Pakistan to demand even stricter Sharia rule. Relations with India are also influenced by the religious right.

The foundation of constant enmity with India has a theological base. The Hadith is a record of the traditions or sayings of the Prophet Muhammad, revered and received as a major source of religious law and moral guidance, second only to the authority of the Qurʾān.

In Sunan An-Nasa'i, in Book 25 (Book of Jihad), it says: 'It was narrated that Thawban, the freed slave of the Messenger of Allah, said, "There are two groups of my Ummah whom Allah will free from the Fire: The group that invades India, and the group that will be with 'Isa bin Maryam, peace be upon them".'

Thus, 'Gazwa E Hind', or the conquest of India, is the pre-ordained duty of all Muslims.

In following this course of action, Pakistan is emulating the example of Aurangzeb, the last effective Mughal ruler of India.

The first essential step of a national security policy is to understand the basis and substance of the likely adversary's aims and objectives. History offers vital clues on the same.

Without much ado, it can be safely asserted that Indian decision-makers for the last 70 years have failed to understand this fundamental issue.

The consequences of this failure are that from the 1948 cease fire in Kashmir, taking the Kashmir issue to the United Nations, the Tashkent agreement of January 1966 or the diplomatic hara-kiri by Indira Gandhi at the Simla conference in 1972, the Lahore bus trip by then prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in 1999 and Prime Minister Narendra D Modi's latest attempts at peace parleys with Pakistan, India has continued its quest for peace.

Peace talks with Pakistan are like accepting a dinner invitation from cannibals and hoping to return alive.

Pakistan lacks military strength to ever dream of conquering India, whatever be the wet dreams of the likes of Muhammed Sayeed of the Lashkar e Tayiba or other proponents of 'Gazwa E Hind' or conquest of India.

The Pakistan military believes that India is too divided and will disintegrate. Pakistan mistakes the din and noise of democracy for internal weakness.

Right from Ayub Khan in the 1950s, this has been an article of faith for the Pakistan military.

In its deepest convictions and mindset, the Pakistan military considers itself to be an heir to the Delhi sultanate and the Mughal empire. In a broad brush view of the middle ages, the army was at the centre of Muslim rule in North India.

The rulers ruled with help of their military might and were never concerned with seeking public support.

With the notable exception of two rulers, Akbar and Sher Shah Suri, who carried out some works of public benefit, the rest were never concerned with the welfare of their subjects.

Constant warfare, either in present day Afghanistan or campaigns of conquest in South India, marked their rule. There was never a period when the armies were not fighting.

The State of Pakistan seems to be faithfully following this model. In the last 20 years or so, as external conflict has been of less intensity, Pakistan has been busy in killing its own people.

Fighter aircraft, artillery and tanks have been regularly used in campaigns in North and South Waziristan.

In these wars, over 80,000 Pakistanis (figures till 2015) have been killed including 5,400 soldiers, nearly equal to the number of Pakistani soldiers killed in the 1971 War.

Pakistan separated from India because the Muslim elite needed to have political power and feared majority rule.

Jinnah harnessed religion by creating the false scare of 'Islam in danger'. Pakistan was created by the Muslim elite for the elites.

Despite Jinnah's secular pretensions, Pakistan was destined to be a religion-based State as the genie of religious fanaticism once unleashed refused to go back into the bottle.

The last 70 years of Pakistan's history shows that it faithfully followS the Delhi Sultanate model of governance.

Peace has not been an interlude in 70 years of Pakistani history.

Once India understands the permanent nature of Pakistani hostility and its logic, we can work out our strategies to deal with it.

Peace with Pakistan is not possible due to structural and ideological reasons.

The best course for India is to wait out the implosion that is bound to take place sooner than later in Pakistan.

We have to ensure that the fallings debris from a collapsing State does not damage us.

Colonel Anil A Athale (retd), PhD, is a military historian.

Colonel Anil A Athale (retd)