OF NEIGHBOURS AND NEIGHBOURHOODS

The Problem of Pakistan

I am not much into reading political histories or dissecting the course of events in history. However, when it comes to the enigma of Pakistan, I like most Indians can participate in endless debates and discussions about the country. I have been fed movies, books and ideas stalwarts like Gandhi, Nehru, Sardar Patel and many more who have struggled for independence and resisted partition. I have been a witness to a plethora of discussions about how India and Pakistan can be friends or can never be friends. So, naturally when I read Professor Ishtiaq Ahmed’s book  Jinnah: His Successes, Failures and Role in History, Penguin Viking, it stirred a hornet’s nest of questions in my mind about the much revered Quaid-e-Azam of Pakistan, Mohammed Ali Jinnah. Professor Ishtiaq Ahmed is a Swedish political scientist and author of Pakistani descent.  He is also the Professor Emeritus of political science at Stockholm University and visiting professor, Government College University, Lahore.

While reading the book what struck me as odd was that until Jinnah relentlessly pursued it, though there were people thinking about creating a separate state for Muslims, no one thought of actually dividing India before 1940. Jinnah was merely a pawn used by the British to deepen the wedge between Jinnah’s Muslim League and the Indian National Congress.

“The British were now laying out a red carpet for Jinnah. However, it would be too hasty to draw the conclusion that the British were already plotting to divide India. At that point, the British  strategy was mainly to checkmate congress ambition to drive British out.”

This quote from the book intrigued me. Was Jinnah the main force behind the partition of India? What would have happened had Jinnah not proposed the formation of Pakistan?

Professor Ahmed: Had Jinnah not proposed the formation of Pakistan, and it not been created as a separate state, the 1000-year-old experience of staying together would have become an asset. I am not saying that there would have been no problems or disputes or occasional communal riots. But what I believe is that there would have been a good balance. Contrary to what most people believe, the Congress never wanted to make India a Hindu state. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have included such a large percentage of Muslims in the Indian army.

The book brings another relatively unknown fact to light. Jinnah was never particularly keen about India’s freedom. In fact, he was quite happy had the British granted a dominion status to India. His letter to the British Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald in 1929 is quite revealing.

“ …I may tell you without exaggeration that the movement for independence is gaining ground, as it is supported by the Indian National Congress. […] I would urge upon you […] to persuade his Majesty’s government without delay to make a declaration that Great Britain is pledged to granting to India a full responsible government with dominion status.”

 “ Jinnah was apparently speaking as an Indian patriot and blamed the British for the radical nationalists winning ground but was advising them to frustrate the Congress’s ambition to win independence for India by uniting all Indians”.

Time and again, the author mentions Jinnah’s and Gandhi’s relationship and the various skirmishes they had.

“That Jinnah and Gandhi could not develop a stable rapport was probably both a matter of negative chemistries as well as they’re over all political posturing. Jinnah considered himself Gandhi’s senior in so far as Indian nationalism was concerned. He cut his teeth in politics in 1906 while Gandhi was away in South Africa. Nevertheless, a process had been set in motion whereby Gandhi would upstage Jinnah has the premier leader of the Congress Party”

“In 1915, Jinnah was the head of the reception committee set up by the Gujrat Society (the Gurjar Sabha; both Jinnah and Gandhi were Gujaratis). Jinnah had very warmly welcomed Gandhi and praised his leadership in generous words. Gandhi responded by saying that he was ‘glad to find a Mohamedan not only belonging to his own region’s Sabha but chairing it.’”

“While some people feel that the remark was meant to demean Jinnah, others feel that Gandhi merely spoke in a spirit of elation and pride that fellow Hindu and Muslim Gujaratis were together in the nationalist awakening in those times.”

Yet there were times, Jinnah had to face embarrassment too!

“In 1917, Gandhi again offended Jinnah when the latter spoke at a public meeting in English, while Gandhi and his followers insisted that all speakers speak in an Indian language. They interrupted him repeatedly and Jinnah had to manage in his broken Gujarati.”

From your book it was clear that Jinnah did not like Gandhi! But Gandhi was a leader of the masses! How did he succeed despite Gandhi’s popularity?

Professor Ahmed: It was not just Gandhi. Jinnah had a problem in playing second fiddle to anyone. When people started gravitating towards Gandhi and the leadership of the Indian freedom struggle went to him by default, so Jinnah had no choice left but to create a counter leadership. So, he became a leader of the Muslims. However, not many people understand that his path was not easy. He had strong opponents like Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad and leaders from Jamiat Ulama-I-Hind, who were anti-imperialist. Despite all the opposition, he succeeded. In the second world war, Congress made a huge mistake. They promised the British support only on the condition that the British would initiate the transfer of power. Had they cooperated without this condition; the Muslim league wouldn’t have had even a remote chance! The main leaders of the Indian National Congress were arrested in the Quit India movement and remained in jails for three years. This eliminated all the competition for Jinnah. He could mobilize the Muslims with all the tall promises.

Yes, the promises made by Jinnah were indeed tall! He promised the fabled land not only to Muslims but to Sikhs and Dravidians of South India.

“Although Jinnah had on several occasions made the division of India sound fair: 200 million Hindus getting three-fourths of India while 90-100 million Muslims getting one-fourth, he gave different signals to the Sikhs and Dravidians of South India. To the Sikhs he offered a Sikh state if they could show him where its boundaries would be drawn. Implicitly it meant the few Sikh princely states because otherwise the Sikhs were not in a majority anywhere in Punjab, not even in the princely states. To the Dravidians, he pledged support for demanding a separate state in the South.”

Jinnah finally got the partition that he had worked for. However, instead of getting the whole of Punjab and Bengal, he got what he described as a ‘moth-eaten’ Pakistan. Is that why Pakistan has a victim mentality? Are things changing now?

Professor Ahmed: The very foundation of Pakistan is based on the blame game. It began with Jinnah who was the creator of the two-nation theory by saying Hindus and Muslims cannot be one nation. Even after the formation of Pakistan, Jinnah believed that the Congress was conspiring to harm Pakistan. However things have now started changing. After the release of my book, a lot of people have contacted me from places like Lahore and India. They ask me questions which have not been asked in the last 73 years. The new generation is yearning to break the shackles and people like Arzoo Kazmi, Abbas Haider are regularly posting videos which are self-critical and help in increasing awareness amongst the masses. I hope the narrative now turns into that Pakistan and India can be brotherly countries. There is a huge percentage of population in both India and Pakistan who don’t get food to eat. I believe that these issues of humanity can be resolved by both nations by diminishing the arms race and releasing the resources for the nation building and increasing the human betterment index. The people in power in both nations are enjoying themselves. In Pakistan, it is the poor who are bearing the brunt of this problem. The privileges of people in power are unbelievable! You should especially see the properties of the Pakistani army generals who retire. India still doesn’t have that level of corruption at least in the army. In Pakistan, generals have been able to purchase islands in Australia, create chains of restaurants, despite having no inherited wealth or property. Where do they get so much money to buy these properties?

“A favorite lament which one hears in Pakistan is that India could stabilize as a democracy because Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru was the helm of affairs for seventeen long years to steer India away from disturbances and upheavals, while Pakistan’s bad luck was that Jinnah died too soon after  Pakistan had come into being. Had he lived that long, Pakistan too would have become an ideal Muslim democracy. The facts belie such analogy.”

The author says that Jinnah was an autocratic ruler whose dismissal of elected governments of NWFP and Sindh were the most egregious examples of a governor- general flagrantly overstepping his office. The declaration of Urdu as the official language of Pakistan deepened the sense of deprivation and alienation of the Bengali majority of united Pakistan.

Where does India stand in comparison with Pakistan?

Professor Ahmed: India still has a better record as far as corruption is concerned. Though they have made mistakes where their political decisions are concerned, at least so far none of the Prime Ministers of India have any corruption charges against them. India has been able to control a lot of its culturally inherited caste issues by creating reservations for the people from the oppressed castes. In a way it has been able to democratically, peacefully, constitutionally deal with the negativity in its cultural package. Dr. B.R. Ambedkar despite being the biggest critic of the Congress party was made the chairman of the constitution drafting committee, which I feel was the greatness of the founding fathers of the nation. The humanism of Mahatma Gandhi and the modern outlook of Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru has helped India to become a genuinely elected democracy. I will not say that it is social democracy yet because the caste system has been a part of her psyche and sociology for more than three thousand years. Hence, complete eradication will take time. The biggest achievement is that of one man, one vote, whether it is a Brahmin or Dalit.

Professor Ishtiaq Ahmed’s book  Jinnah: His Successes, Failures and Role in History has been an eye opener as far as the Jinnah’s motivation for the creation of Pakistan is concerned. Professor Ahmed believes that India and Pakistan can be friends because we are the same people. However, is that really the case? In the following part, we talk to the well-known defence analyst Maroof Raza to know more about India’s  equation with her neighbours and way ahead.

Games People Play- Chinese Whispers

Maroof Raza is a retired Indian Army officer with more than 20 years of experience as a mentor, anchor, correspondent, lecturer, writer and a commentator on issues of National Security and Strategic Affairs. He has also authored books like Low-Intensity Conflicts: The new dimension to India’s military commitments and Wars and No Peace over Kashmir. He minces no words when it comes to India’s relationship with Pakistan and China.

Can we be friends with Pakistan?

Why are we still under the impression that India and Pakistan can be great friends? Our governments and diplomats especially in the South Block in New Delhi are constantly harping about old out-dated ideas like non-alignment or friendship with Pakistan or investment in Afghanistan which have no practical relevance in today’s world. The other day I was talking to my friends in the US who were asking me questions like why cannot India and Pakistan be friends and collectively provide a market for America? They think that as long as India and Pakistan are not firing at each other or Pakistan is not sponsoring terror, India can be friends with Pakistan. I think this is the kind of nonsense that you get fed in the western countries.  There is a simple logic we need to understand once and for all. Pakistan is not interested in being friends with India. For Pakistan, friendship with India is the first step towards denying its own independent identity. They believe that a Pakistani is a person who is not an Indian. What is a Pakistan according to them? It is an anti-thesis to India. So, becoming friends with India will mean a loss of their very existence and identity. People keep coming up with ideas like a great Grand Trunk Road which will connect India to all its neighbours like Pakistan, Afghanistan and Myanmar. All those ideas are a naught. China has already created a counter to the Grand Trunk Road by creating the China-Pakistan economic corridor which has much more financial steam and depth!

So, can India really govern the equation with its neighbours?

Of course! We should get out of the insecure idea that China can dominate a country like India which has a population of more than 1.5 billion. China along with its allies including Pakistan has a population of approximately 2 billion. Pakistan is one sixth the size of India and yet India keeps losing sleep over it. If you want to learn something, learn it from Israel. You have to make India strong! That in itself will make people secure in their environment. You don’t have to become so big that you cannot manage your own affairs. What is really China doing in the neighbourhood? It is simply putting its money in places like Pakistan and Srilanka. India could have done the same thing. Instead of putting money in places like Afghanistan, they could have invested in Nepal, Bangladesh and Srilanka. But Manmohan Singh and to an extent the current government also is so enamoured being America’s side kick that they don’t even think about it.

But hasn’t China has been luring the countries like Pakistan and Srilanka into a debt trap?

That is what China will do. Please understand that over the last 25 years, China has acquired a lot of foreign exchange. It doesn’t know where to spend it other than to buy out countries and create a zone of influence all over in Asia, Africa, Latin America. China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) which extends from East Asia to Europe is not just a road! It is a cyber and a business network. It is something like if someone draw some lines on a cellophane sheet and places it on the top of another country. In this way, they can superimpose another set of networks on a country. This is what China’s land connectivity and whole lot of other initiatives are. When they cannot connect by land, they connect by the sea and they try and take control over the trading routes or the ports on the way by either buying it out or creating pressure on the potential client. The thing with the Chinese are that they are very sweet initially. They go to the countries and bribe the leadership. They bought off the generals of Pakistan, the Rajapaksa family of Sri Lanka in this manner. Later on, after the agreement is signed, people realize the rates of interest is virtually unpayable. That is how they gain control over the area. Why cannot India do the same thing? I believe in India we waste too much time in politics, politicians and border disputes.

How can we solve the border dispute? Why do our maps include the disputed areas like POK (Pakistan Occupied Kashmir) or Aksai Chin even today?

Maps are a part of a historical legacy and these maps have come to be over a period of time in terms of what you regard as India or states who acceded to India. Jammu and Kashmir acceded to India. After the independence when the Indian subcontinent was divided into India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, India never was in Aksai Chin. So, people are making a claim based on a map that the then Maharaja of Kashmir, Gulab Singh had drawn on the basis on the information he had given to W.H. Johnson, cartographer. Apparently, the Maharaja had told him to show his territory to be as expansive as possible, well beyond the Karakoram Pass. So, Johnson did that and showed the territories between Karakoram Pass and Kunlun Mountains. But this map was never presented by the British to China. By 1866, the Maharaja’s soldiers had vacated these areas and the Chinese took control of Shahidullah. The ‘line’ laid out by Johnson was modified by Major General Sir John Ardagh, the director of military intelligence in Delhi in 1897. Post-independence, even though Aksai Chin has been shown as un-demarcated, all the claims of India have been based on this line. The earlier governor of Jammu and Kashmir had said that if India has the money and the resources to fight conflicts, then it should spend it on the development of Jammu and Kashmir rather than fighting over territories which were never ours in the first place.  I believe that there is no option except settling the battle over the boundary line. The way out is to decide what you are willing to keep and give. Nobody, even a country which is one-fifth or one-sixth the size of India will not allow you to keep everything. No one can keep printing maps and say this is mine and that is mine. Today, I feel one has to have the guts to stand up and say let us settle the boundary line.

The Chinese ambassadors have been saying that we can delink the boundary dispute and get on with business. If that happens, India has the advantage because then if it can ban or stop taking their products which means a loss of 50 billion dollars to China per year. It is a huge amount which it cannot afford. It is also the money that they are pouring into Pakistan through China Pakistan Economic Corridor. What is the point?

China is expanding, but people are not happy! Will there be a revolution some day in China?

Please don’t live in the hope that one day there will be a revolution and it will take over the communist party. The communist party will ruthlessly crush those who try to do something like this. This can only happen in a democracy. Democracies can be toppled because democracies are caught up between use of force and non-use of force. But communists are very sensitive to the challenges to their authority. Tiananmen Square in 1989 was a misjudgement which they will ensure does not happen again.

In the eventuality that our neighbours attack, will countries like America come to our aid?

Please understand that continental conflicts will have to be fought by yourself. No one really is there to help, not even America. When there was a brewing conflict between China and Japan about some islands that lie between them, America who has been Japan’s ally ever since the second world war promised to come to Japan’s aid ‘only if China attacks first. The fact is if China attacked first, it would probably render Japan dysfunctional. Japan is a very advanced country which has made some very good weapons. However, in an age where there are so many different verticals of attacks that include conventional forces, satellite forces, missiles, chemical and biological weapons, an attack can render a country defunct!

A few days back, there was a discussion on the apparent Chinese cyber-attack which reportedly led to a power outage in Mumbai last year. This is the first signal that your cyber adversary gives which is an initial black out of 12 hours or more. They are still clueless about how it happened. This is a part of the unrestricted warfare that China follows. They attack your grids and they make you realize that your entire financial capital can collapse in a second. Likewise, Russia attacked Estonia, which  is a completely wired-up country. Everything came to complete standstill. Aircrafts couldn’t land or take off, electricity went off. Russia even did it in Ukraine. Britain claims that it can give Moscow a blackout for 24 hours. The problem with India and China is that India is a passive country and China is aggressive. Therefore, China will do everything to establish its agenda. India mostly reacts.

 The only saving grace in the event of a nuclear attack more in the case of Pakistan than China is something called second strike ability. In case Pakistan hits us with all their nuclear weapons, our submarines will still be safe and we will also hit them back. From the Pakistan India perspective, it depends on whether Pakistan is willing to lose one or two or three cities at the cost of destroying India. Hence, the only relevance of nuclear weapons is that it prevents the other person from attacking you. So, don’t expect anyone to come to India’s aid in case of a full-blown war. US and the other countries will only make the right noises. I believe UN is nothing but the world’s most over rated debating society. The fact is that despite India being touted as the potential great power, it does not have a coordinated or comprehensive national security strategy in case of any attack. All the three forces have separate strategies. It is also important to have a clear aim which in India’s case is defence and not capture.

Shailaza Singh

This article was published in Rashtradoot Newspaper’s Arbit Section on 11 March 2021

2 thoughts on “OF NEIGHBOURS AND NEIGHBOURHOODS

  1. Since 2014 we have made a great mess of our foreign policy. It will take a lot of earnest effort and time to clear this mess which we have created in our foreign relationship with Nepal, Burma, Bhutan, Sri Lanka. It is essential that we do so on an urgent basis if we want to seriously curb the growth of the Chinese influence.

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