India’s Pakistan Fixation
India‘s Pakistan Fixation
September 11th, 2008. US President George Bush permitted US troops to take offensive actions against its ally, Pakistan – in the US War against terror! Indian news channels were elated – and it must have taken Arnab Goswami (of Times Now) a lot of self-restraint not to do a gig. It took 4 generations of Indian (and now part of Pakistan) leaders to throw out the West from the sub-continent. 60 years later, India is celebrating the return of the West, to the sub-continent. The most potent symbol of this is India’s Pakistan Fixation.
The Pakistan Fixation is a a cover-up of India’s laziness or lack of resolve. I don’t really believe that Pakistan has the focus or the persistence to do half the things that India imagines Pakistan is doing. In the last 20 years, India has lowered its guard – and has become further fixated on the Pakistan bogey. The Pakistan Fixation hides Indian ineptness at confronting the root of Pakistani problem – USA, amongst others.
As Britain (and the West) was forced out of various colonies, left behind was the garbage of colonialism. This post-colonial debris has become the ballast, that is dragging down many newly de-colonized countries.
Vietnam suffered from a prolonged war (1956-1976) – and finally peace had a chance after 20 years of war. Korea remains divided. The Cyprus problem between Turkey, Greece and the Cypriots has been simmering for nearly 100 years. The role of the Anglo Saxon Bloc, in Indonesia, the overthrow of Sukarno, installation of Suharto and finally the secession of East Timor is another excellent example. The many issues in the West Asia and Africa are living testimony to the British gift to the modern world. The entire Arab-Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a creation of the Anglo-French-American axis.
Closer home is the Kashmir problem. After 60 years of negotiations, India-Pakistan relations have remained hostage to the Kashmir issue. India and Pakistan must remember that the Pakistani armies and the Indian armies at the time of the 1948 Indo-Pak War, were under the command of British Generals. India’s Governor General , in 1948 was Mountbatten, who was removed after this mischief was done.
Things become more difficult when leaders like Asif Ali Zardari dismiss written agreements with his coalition partners, PML (N) headed by Nawaz Sharf, claiming agreements were not”holy like the holy Koran.” Or when General Musharraf starts a Kargil War with a rogue army that is no longer under the command of the civilian authority.
India and Islamic Demonization
In 1990, an ‘orientalist’ writer from Belgium, Koenraad Elst, waded into India. His books on Hinduism, Aryan culture, Islamic history in India were avidly lapped up by a section which was eager for Western approval. Elst’s blatant anti-Islamic agenda warmed the cockles of many hearts. LK Advani released Elst’s book in India. BJP’s proximity has given Elst’s ideas high visibility which imbalances the discussion.
In the siege mentality during 1989-1995, one fine day, a US Senator, Larry Pressler, announced at a press conference in New Delhi, that India was encircled by an Islamic coalition of 9 countries. The proxy war against India by Pakistan was at its height. This ‘Islamic Crescent’ (as Larry Pressler called it) first stunned India – and then stampeded its foreign policy.
Larry Pressler was seen as a friend of India - by Indians. He got some well-paying corporate board room positions – and he has kept himself in the back ground after that. But his 1992 press conference still rings in Indian ears. And Pressler’s proximity to Indian liberal establishment (which is close to both the BJP and the Congress), flanks India’s movement towards Western paranoia from the opposite direction. (Strangely, Google search, Yahoo search, Indiatimes search, websites of newspapers like The Hindu, cannot find any newspaper coverage for that press conference.)
Soon after Pressler’s press conference, India upgraded its relationship with Israel, (practically) abandoned the Palestinians (not to ignore West Asia’s own desire to cosy with the West) – and started getting closer to the US. The Vajpayee Government (with a historic tendency) continued with this rush to embrace the US.
The Islamic Crescent
While the activities of these Western ‘friends’, sensitised India to the Islamic ‘threat’, it more importantly, has lowered the Indian guard against the resurgent Western encirclement.
American forces are based in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Diego Garcia – and of course Iraq. The wolf pack behaviour of pursuit of quarry does not allow co-operation between packs – but within the pack itself. So, while the Islamic crescent perception has some validity, the threat of The Star and The Cross is equal, if not greater.
Sometimes, ‘friends’ are more dangerous than a recognised opposition.
India’s Record – And the Reversal
India was in the vanguard of opposition to Apartheid, neo-colonialism, (especially in the Middle East). Especially, when you consider the Khilafat Movement by Gandhiji. However, in the last 15 years, under the garb of ‘geo-strategic interests /initiatives /imperatives’, changed ‘super power equations,’ ‘uni-polar world,’ India is losing its moral initiative – and equally importantly its long term interests. It is getting sucked into uni-directional relationships – which are going down.
Equally, India should not acquire the practices or memberships that have made recent history bloody and exploitative. While many civilizations have stumbled (Greeks, Romans, Egypt) and fallen by the wayside, India’s many comebacks, have been based on never losing moral stature – and it is late in the day to start down that path. Manmohan Singh’s desperate desire to ‘sit at at the high table in the comity of nations’ is both repugnant and undesirable.
There is too much tradition and culture for India to go down the demonization path, but recent developments do call for consciousness on this account. Is India falling prey to Western case-building and logic for Islamic demonization? Is the ‘Islamic demonisation’ an attempt by the ‘wolf pack’ to separate a member of the herd and then go for the kill – like Iraq. Is India getting co-opted in this ‘wolf pack hunt’?
India’s intellectual vacuity is best demonstrated in this post by Gurcharan Das, an ex-MNC CEO, who started writing in various newspapers. His latest post in The Times Of India, plumbs the depth of misdirected warmth towards Western democracies. He writes,
“thanks to the treaty, which paved the way for closer ties with the Western democracies. The West stood by India during its times of trouble and eventually India went on to balance power in Asia and the world”.
Gurcharan Das’ gullibility on matters of international relations is worth a bucketful of tears. Why would any country (let us keep Western powers aside for a minute) support India (or any other country) – except if it in their self interest? After 300 years of pillage, loot, murder, genocide, slavery are Western nations going to suddenly change become Good Samaritans, Mr.Das?
Your naivete, Shrimaan Das, makes me squirm.
This India Pakistan Cricketing relationship is very healthy – and has been managed by four people. Of course, there has been no case study, or a book or even a news report on this partnership. So some of this is my perception based on media interaction.
The four people in this complex relationship have been Jagmohan Dalmiya and Shahriyar Khan at the administration level. Between these two, they have managed a consensus between the Asian cricketing countries and South Africa. Jagmohan Dalmiya has a business background – and a career in cricket administration. Shahriyar Khan is a career diplomat and also a cricket administrator.
The other two are Sunil Gavaskar and Imran Khan – two well known and respected players in each of the countries. Between, these four, they have managed this complex cricketing relationship. Some of it is visible – but mostly, below the line. Especially, significant is the management of agreements.
Another cricketer showed us the way of getting over the Pakistan Fixation. For decades, India had a mental block while playing cricket against Pakistan. It took a Sourav Ganguly to break that fixation in the Indo-Pak Test Series in 2004.
Now, if these four can overcome the complex political situation and the minefield of history, is there a learning for others? Especially, for those who manage the India-Pakistan political relationship.
Hidden in this cricketing relationship, is the solution to the sub-continental peace.
If India’s problems were limited to Pakistan, possibly, there is some merit to India’s Pakistan Fixation. India’s relations with its other neighbours are also in trouble. Its relations with Bangladesh are at a historic low. Relations with Sri Lanka are back from the brink. Nepal is the new fire in the sub-continent.
What should India do?
How should Delhi treat its smaller and economically weak neighbours? There are many answers to that, but one thought remains central. The rest of the world will never take India seriously until it is able to bring the rest of South Asia on its side. Going out of your way to be nice to old friends could be one way of doing it.
The Root Of This Problem
The state of inter-government relations in South Asia is a sign of lazy Indian diplomatic corps (the IFS) which considers all these neighbourhood postings as ‘punishment’ postings. The ‘best’ of IFS corps wants postings to Western capitals. Like the IAS, the IFS is another albatross around India’s neck.
A large part of India’s Foreign Ministry budget goes towards Western engagement (for proof, look at the dubious Festivals of India in USA, France, Russia, Britain, etc). Instead if the same money was spent in the sub-continent, it would have been better spent. The huge monies spent on Western embassies are mis directed. It would be ideal if those Western embassies were Spartan, frugal (I should actually say Gandhian) – and our the money saved was invested in the sub-continent.
India’s Western engagements are at a direct cost of involving and managing the neighbourhood relationships. The terrorism related issues have an element of Indian element. After all, who propped up Bhindranwale? The treatment of J&K Governments by the Rajiv and Indira Gandhi do not bear repetition. The birth of LTTE was midwifed by India. I have not followed the Naga and ULFA story as closely to get a clearer fix – but there is an element of ‘games’ in there also. And these ‘games’ have a habit of getting out of hand! It is not a co-incidence that John Nash suffered from schizophrenia.
Hence, our favorite game is blame game – blame the neighbours and get on with the Western pre-occupation. The Pakistani involvement in various crimes of omission and commission could be better understood if our relations with our other neighbours were better. It is India’s superior attitude that makes us believe that we know better. No neighbour would want to willingly embrace China! After all, India offers a template that others can use – and China offers a road map that points downhill. It is India’s superior attitude which has made it attractive for our neighbours to embrace China.
For this reason, again SAARC has been bombast – and little action. It is our diplomatic corps that are found wanting. The SAARC opportunities in the economic area are huge – and history is on our side. It is our Western pre-occupation and Pakistani Fixation which are to blame for the slow uptake on SAARC. SAARC has become a case of all potential and no performance.
Western Adventurism - The Imperative
Without slavery, the West does not enjoy the manpower edge that it had till 1900. The loss of colonies from 1900-1950 has taken away the resource base and captive markets for Western dominance.
Now with the collapse of Bretton Woods, the opacity in financial systems is diminished. The welfare state has put a significant burden on an aging Western population.
What Have We Achieved
60 years on, there is nothing to show for these border disputes. Dutifully, the Indians, Pakistanis and the Chinese glare at each other – over colonial border issues. These border issues are less than peripheral to our nations. We have allowed the past to hold our future as a hostage.
The past is extracting a ransom that we cannot afford to pay. Let us recognize our past for what it is – empty ballast that is dragging us down. Having achieved nothing on this front for the last 60 years, why do we wish to continue down that path? We need to see that going downhill is always easier than climbing the Himalayas.
As I write this, comes news that New Delhi has been the latest in the series of Bomb blasts. Is it following a clockwise pattern? Bangalore, Ahmedabad, New Delhi – and then Kolkatta or is it Patna or Bhubaneshwar? On August 15th, I was in New Delhi. Large parts of New Delhi were paralysed. Traffic did not move for more than 4 hours. More than 100,000 vehicles were out on New Delhi roads – packed likes sardines. Was that dry run?
This still does not change my thesis. Behind Pakistan …