Home Governance The case of the naughty neighbour

The case of the naughty neighbour

THIS is not a whodunit. So no prizes for guessing who the naughty neighbour is. Our problem with Pakistan is that we cannot destroy it or wish it away. Nor can we ignore it, for it will not let us live in peace.

Pakistan was conceived in sin, for it was the last-ditch attempt of our colonial masters to divide and rule the erstwhile Indian Empire. Had Mountbatten not been in such a dashed hurry, he would not have declared an impossible deadline for the transfer of power to the natives. This made the partition of the country inevitable, even before India had been born. Theoretically, Pakistan was supposed to be the refuge of the pak or the pure, to wit, the Muslims. But it left more of the pure in India than the ones who went to the new-fangled entity. It was supposed to prevent the impending civil war between the Hindus and the Muslims. But it caused the most horrendous holocaust in India’s long history. Jinnah wanted Pakistan; Gandhi tried his utmost to prevent it. Within a year, both were dead; Bapu felled by an assassin’s bullet, the Quaid-e-Azam by cancer.

The rulers of Pakistan have never been satisfied with what they got in the Partition sweepstakes. They tried to wrest Kashmir by force in the 1948 war which was camouflaged as a Qabaili attack. They would have been pushed back entirely but for the adolescent enthusiasm displayed by Nehru for the supremacy of the UN experiment.

Come 1965. They misconstrued the diminutive soft-spoken Lal Bahadur Shastri as being an easy target, but were rudely awakened from their dream when he attacked the soft underbelly of West Pakistan. Had it not been for big power intervention and the mysterious demise of Shastri at Tashkent, the history of the subcontinent might have been radically different.

In 1972, the Punjabi generals who ruled Pakistan committed the folly of underestimating the polite Sheikh Mujib-ur-Rehman as well as the petite Indira Gandhi as weaklings who could be cowed down by aggressive belligerence. The Indian army gave them a crushing defeat and captured a record 95,000 prisoners of war. This was indeed sweet music for ears long used to huge armies being routed by a few hundred horsemen.

Pakistan has a definite India policy that consists of attempts to defeat it militarily. India has no Pakistan policy except to counter Pak moves through hastily thought-out countermoves

But what could have been a historic occasion establishing forever more the unequivocal military superiority of the Indian army was allowed to be frittered away through the simple ploy of the wily Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto falling at Indira’s feet and making a solemn promise to settle the border issue and the Kashmir problem once and for all within three months.

And then we had the Kargil fiasco, the bus ride to Lahore and the Agra agreement that was luckily not finally agreed to.

What is the moral of the story? Pakistan has a definite India policy that consists of attempts to defeat it militarily and establish a clear superiority over the Indian military machine, conspiring with India’s rivals, draining it of its lifeblood through terrorism, forged currency, smuggling of drugs and gold, sparking off communal riots and so on. India has no Pakistan policy except to counter Pak moves through hastily thought-out countermoves.

The only concept that is sometimes bandied forth cursorily or casually is that of the Hindu Rashtra. It seems to imply that the Indian subcontinent should have a majority of Hindus in it. Hindu laws should apply to all. There should be a massive reconversion of Muslims, Buddhists and Christians to Hinduism.

This idea was mooted by RSS ideologues, but there is no action to back it up. For a long time it was believed by most Hindus that one was born a Hindu and there was no way a non-Hindu could become a Hindu. Swami Shraddhananda was the first to make conversion acceptable among orthodox Hindus through his Shuddhi movement started as late as 1923.

The fact of the matter is that Hindutva is not a force. It is not like Islam, with its oil-rich sheikhs and Islamic bomb, and its worldwide reach, its ISIS, its Taliban, its twin towers slap on the face of omnipotent US, its global sweep of opposing every other ideology so aptly captured by Huntington. It is not like communism, which even in disarray, puts out its macabre head in diverse shapes and assorted sizes, pretending to be Maoist in texture even when it is capitalist in design.

HINDUTVA is a phrase of recent origin, coined by some fiery elements advocating militant Hinduism. Like anything artificial it feels unnatural and superimposed. The word “Hindu” itself was not the name given by the intelligentsia of the Indic civilisation to the motley concepts that flitted around their intellectual landscape. They called it “Sanatan Dharma” or the “Eternal or Perennial Philosophy”. The appellation “Hindu” was a name given by foreign invaders to the people living across the river Sindhu.

The peculiar feature of Indic philosophy has been its essentially pacifist tendency. Its most favourite invocation is “Om shanti, shanti, shanti” or “Om peace, peace, peace.” Indian kings never commanded large armies for invasion of foreign territories. Thus historically there has never been a militant Hinduism.

What is referred to in history books as Greater India was a cultural effervescence of our stories, epics, plays, music, sculpture and schools of philosophy. These travelled along with our traders, monks, artists, priests, sailors and tourists, never with kings, generals or soldiers.

The other interesting feature of the Indic culture has been its emphasis on peace, brotherhood, amity, tolerance, love, righteous conduct and non-violence. Our most famous mantra advocated: “Let everyone be happy. Let everyone be free from disease. Let everyone see only what is auspicious. Let sorrow visit no one.” We looked upon the world to be neither like a bazaar, nor like a battlefield. It seemed to us more like a family.

The problem with the Hindutva theory is two-fold. It does not have its origins in our past. The Indic civilisation has always been pacifist. Even though the RSS wishes it, Hindus cannot suddenly turn into aggressive militants. That is why we are unable to produce a militant response to the warlike designs of our neighbour. Whatever be the provocation, India’s approach has always been benevolent, elder brotherly and peaceable. In all the four major wars between us, Pakistan has always been the aggressor. India has repulsed the attacks as a defensive posture. Even where we took Pakistani territory as in 1965, we returned it. Where we had prisoners of war, as in 1971, we promptly released them without holding them as hostages.

PM after PM has tried to promote good neighbourly relations with Pakistan. We unilaterally gave Pakistan the most preferred nation status in our trade. We have continued it even though Pakistan has not reciprocated the gesture. Several times we have tried to promote initiatives for the SAARC region that would be beneficial to all the seven countries. Pakistan has been the sole dissident in all such initiatives.

Somehow, the Pakistanis have assumed that we Indians are inimical to them: That we wish to undo the Partition and create an Akhanda Bharat. (The stray remarks by Hindutva enthusiasts do not help matters.) That R&AW has been created with the sole objective of dismembering Pakistan. They ascribe the separatist movements among their disenchanted people in Baluchistan, Waziristan and so on to secret interventions by our agencies, not as a normal response to the suppression of their democratic sentiments as they undoubtedly are.

In fact, the received wisdom in the policy forums in India is that Pakistan should remain one. A dismembered Pakistan would be an explosion waiting to happen.

The problem with the Hindutva theory is twofold.It does not have its origins in our past. The Indic civilisation has always been pacifist.Even though the RSS wishes it, Hindus cannot suddenly turn into aggressive militants

If one were to conjure up a scenario of militant Hindutva in India, one could suggest the following steps for the consideration of the present government:

a) Whenever a ceasefire violation takes place, the punishment meted out to Pakistan should be at least 10 times in terms of casualties.
b) At an opportune moment the air force should conduct predawn raids in the border areas and destroy the training centres where terrorists are trained.
c) There should be no talks with Pakistan unless they totally abjure the path of terrorism.
d) All terrorists caught in India should be killed in encounters.
e) Separatists who are Indian citizens should be tried for sedition and be jailed for life.
f) If Pakistan commits armed aggression on Indian Territory, it should be repulsed with all our might. The army should be authorised to take as much of enemy territory as it can. The same should be returned only if certain conditions are fulfilled.
g) All kinds of pressure should be brought to bear on Pakistan to achieve the following long-term foreign policy objectives:
i) Complete peace for the next 50 years
ii) No encouragement to terrorism.
iii) Full cooperation to SAARC as an agency for developing South Asia as a region of fast development and cooperation.
iv) A final solution to the Kashmir issue.

What is the track record of the present government? If we designate the approach of PMs like Inder Kumar Gujral as the “jhapian aur pappian (embraces and kisses)” style, Modi cannot be held guilty of the same. Nor has he gone along fully with the hawkish attitude advocated by National Security Adviser Ajit Doval. At best, he can be accused of blowing hot and cold, thus keeping the sundry power centres in Pakistan on tenterhooks. So far, he has not unveiled his long-term plan of besting the enemy.

Foreign policy analysts have, therefore, been reduced to deducing the elements of a strategy from body language. If Modi and Sharif go to the US, the debate centres around whether they will meet in the lift or shake hands. As it turned out this time around, the two leaders merely waved at each other. Now the experts are busy studying the tapes to analyse whether the waves were effusive or merely formal.

Meanwhile, Pakistan continues with its game of being a naughty neighbour. The snag is that the game is deadly, macabre and gruesome.

MK Kaw is a former Secretary, Government of India. (The views expressed are those of the columnist.)

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