Pakistan: Well-being, Regional Peace & Terrorism

Wednesday May 20, 2009 (1446 PST)

 This piece is about the regional approach to problems involving Afghanistan and Pakistan taken by the US, UK and several European countries. ‘The region’ has excluded the key player, India. And a focal and related, fully connected problem of Kashmir, which was going to be worked on, has been sidelined.

India has long-standing policies and strategies to make and keep Pakistan weak. There is the Indian strategy of the encirclement of Pakistan by making Afghanistan into a vocal anti-Pakistan client state, with a busy Indian embassy and four very active Indian consulates there; a military and air base in Tajikistan; a consulate in Zahidan, Iran, where no one lives, but which is on the border with Pakistan; well over two million Indian soldiers in Kashmir and on the Pakistan border; a navy which focuses on the blockade of Pakistani ports; heavily manned air bases near the Pakistan border, etc. Then there is funding, training and arms from India’s RAW (along with its Afghan wing, RAAM) into Baluchistan and the NWFP, and further into Pakistan. India has spent immense amounts over the years to make the Northern Alliance into its stooges. It is still doing so, and has intensified efforts to make inroads into Pashtun militants on both sides of the Durand Line with money, training, weapons and equipment. Today Karzai does India’s bidding and acts as her surrogate mouthpiece.

Where all this directly affects the war on terror, in which the US is so involved, is that intermittent, threatening saber-rattling by India on trumped up, usually fictitious charges, and aggressive army movements and exercises on the Pakistan border, has forced the Pakistan army to move over 30,000 of its elite troops to the western front from their positions on the eastern border, thus undermining its effort on the Pak-Afghan militant-infested border area and against the terrorists who destabilise the tribal regions. This too has drawn no response from the US. India is chuckling because the movement to the eastern front has reduced the military coverage of the Pakistan army on the western lines. Then India keeps trumpeting (with Afghanistan and often-Western leaders in tow) that Pakistan should do more! Indeed one of the strategies of India is to so badmouth the Pakistan army and ISI as to present them both into pariahs. It is Indian propaganda, which has a connected strategy of stating, again and again, ad nauseum, that the Pakistan army is not a unified force. That it has rogue elements in it. And ISI is the same. The bottom line of this insidious propaganda is that the Pakistan army is not in the control of the generals, nor is the ISI.

India recognizes that the very strong and disciplined Pakistan army, and the very effective ISI, keep preserving Pakistan’s short and long term survival. Badmouthing them is a good way to undermine, at least, their images. India’s clients in Afghanistan (and some purchased in Pakistan and elsewhere) echo these positions. The objective here is a long term one – to remove any influence Pakistan has in Afghanistan, so when the Americans leave, India may have a client state hostile to Pakistan. If the ISI acts to protect Pakistan’s long-term interests it is presented as counterproductive to the war on terror. India’s active role in this matter is never mentioned. Should Pakistan not work on preserving some influence in Afghanistan? What would any other country do in these circumstances? (I may mention here that the image of Americans, the world over, is one of ‘expedient friends’. An anecdote may register this better. The chemicals arm of the world’s largest oil firm, with two interlocking X’s in it, is widely called ‘the double-cross company’ in the Far East, as it treats export markets as ‘opportunistic sales’ and goes in and out of markets, depending on domestic demand. This analogy properly registers the image of Americans – surely something needing redress by the US government, or the rather illogical word on the street that the CIA, meaning the US, is supporting Pakistan with one hand, and, at India’s overt and covert behest, the terrorists on the other, will get deeper roots).

But India is such a darling, such a vast market for US and European products, with such an Israeli-backed extensive US lobby that instead of reining in India’s hugely negative role in the region, the US is seeking ‘concessions’ from Pakistan. However much the pressure, Pakistan cannot agree to open India’s land route to Afghanistan, and through it to central Asia unless India holds a plebiscite in Kashmir and the international community makes it implement the result. Nothing less. No other half-baked solution will do. India’s stance that the time for a plebiscite is gone is sheer nonsense. Injustice is never undone by slogans. It acts. And reacts. And acts some more.

A further strategy to undermine Pakistan is cooked up by the nexus of the huge and much-funded Indian US lobby, backed by the even more pervasive and powerful Israeli lobbies, that Pakistan has the ‘Islaamic Bomb!’ which must be neutralised. The route to this is an insidious one, now also owned by Americans smarting from 9/11, that the atomic assets of Pakistan could fall into the hands of terrorists! No one talks of the thirty-plus domestic insurgencies in India. Could they not take charge of the ‘Hindu Bomb’ and take over India (and the world)?

Another key strategy of India is to accentuate its hegemony on water which flows from Kashmir into semi-arid Pakistan plains, which is the lifeline of its irrigation-dependent agriculture and the dominant sector of its economy. This seems to be the bigger reason for India holding on to Kashmir despite a UN mandate to hold a plebiscite, which India has always dodged, because ‘democratic India’ knows that the majority of Kashmiris do not wish to be a part of India. Kashmir is the weak link in the democratic credentials of India. India has built 62 dams on rivers in Kashmir, diverting waters to rivers going to India, blocking water to Pakistan (as it did to Chenab waters, in 2008, making barren hundreds of thousands of acres of Chenab-waters-dependent land in Pakistan. Also fishermen on the Chenab lost their livelihoods. This event should silence the western media’s tirades about how (wrongly) obsessed Pakistan is, and Pakistanis are, about India’s enmity for it. But will it? Or will the chorus go on shutting eyes to the reality on the ground?. Water blocking by India is done by flouting, with bravado, international agreements. Its bravado in this matter has become more brazen. It has also started voicing that these international agreements should be undone!
Kashmir has very, very sparsely been ruled by Hindus. Just because a British henchman, bought in to thwart the dominant Sikhs, was a Hindu, does not Hindu-wash the history of Kashmir. Indeed the American historian Alistair Lamb has said that the accession document of Jammu and Kashmir to India by the then renegade maharaja has not been found anywhere. It probably does not exist. Even if it did, the British ‘partition formula’ for what went into Pakistan was the democratic approach of Muslim-majority, contiguous areas. Jammu and Kashmir clearly fell, still fall, into this category.

Perhaps the US considers India as a countervailing partner, or pawn, against the growing might of China. India will never, never, be a military match for China. For the US, a much more sagacious strategy here would be to make friends with China. With such huge volumes of Chinese trade with the US (and it is such a huge market for US manufacturers, software, etc.), it should respond positively to such an overture. Mr. Obama has, with courage, and a break from the myopic past, initiated such an approach with Iran. Why not with China? Would the ultimately untenable long-term, very costly approach of supporting Taiwan at the expense of good relations with China too heavy a price to pay? On balance it would not be. China, including Taiwan, as a friend, would be an invaluable asset to the US and save billions of dollars annually without any loss of influence in the Pacific, except that sought by hegemonic or imperialist aspirations.

Then India, with its thirty-plus active domestic insurgencies, has a tradition of expediency, and would not be a reliable long-term pawn or supporter of the US. US, European, and Japanese policymakers know this. India has speaking from several sides of its mouth in its national character.

In addition to India’s massive defense budget (which is no match to China’s, and will never be), its annual growth is presented only in percentage terms, in the mid to high twenties. Through clever manipulations of India’s very effective information mechanisms, it is never mentioned, even in the Pakistan press, that just the annual increase of India’s defense budget, in money terms, is more than the entire defence budget of Pakistan. And yet, with its six to seven times population and over five times military budget, India has managed to present Pakistan to the world, and even more importantly, to its own people, that Pakistan is the threat that India is arming itself to the teeth for!

In addition to a ‘defense budget’, India has a Pakistan-specific ‘offense budget’. This funds projects for destabilising Pakistan; building a road from Afghanistan to Iran to divert NATO supplies away from Pakistan, thus reducing this country’s importance as a supply route; funding tribal insurgencies in Baluchistan, NWFP, and within Pakistan; spending huge amounts on its anti-Pakistan diplomacy and surging lobbies in the US and elsewhere, etc. Sixty-two dams in Kashmir, and more on the way, on rivers flowing into Pakistan, are a part of this action.

Why do the US and other international players not ask the very important question: Where do the impoverished militants wreaking terror in Afghanistan and Pakistan get such monies for better pays than the Pakistan and Afghan armies, such sophisticated weaponry, training, intelligence, FM stations, etc., etc.? The trail, without much effort, would lead to India. Where else? I repeat, where else?

In his recent salvo, the apparently mild-tongued prime minister of India, called Pakistan a hub of terror. India is the financer, arms provider, trainer, strategist, intelligence supplier, for terror in the region. Which country then is the hub of terror? And yet the US government has specifically excluded India from Mr. Richard Holbrooke’s regional mandate. India should absolutely be an integral part of it, unless his mission is to have cosmetic, or piecemeal, or lame success.

Kashmir needs a democratic solution, not allegiance to the ‘no third party mediation’ mantra of India. Without this approach the war theatre of the region may shift, but the region cannot see peace. Peace is dependent on reining in India’s designs, bullying approaches and intransigence. Time to stop being pusillanimous with India, both by the West and specifically by the US, as well as by the Pakistani leadership, which keeps talking about ‘a foreign hand’ in terrorism in Pakistan, only hedgeingly naming India, while India will knee-jerk and blame Pakistan for anything at all. It is still milking the deplorable carnage at Mumbai and is mum about its support for the attack on the Sri Lankan team as revenge. The world looks on, while Pakistani international cricket has got a body blow, which will not be easy to undo, something that seems to please India. With gloating, indecent haste, India has managed to exclude Pakistan venues from the next cricket world cup in 2011, having won over the ICC and taken all Pakistan venues for the world cup itself. (But India itself may turn out to be an unsafe venue!).

Finally let me address the lure of India, which has made it such a darling of ancient wisdom: The Vedas, particularly the Rig Veda, with its strong avowal of monotheism, was written in proto-Pakistan. Auyurveda, the so-called ‘Indian’ ancient system of medicine, now in great vogue in India, was compiled by Carak, a man from Multan, in proto-Pakistan. Classical Sanskrit was developed in proto-Pakistan. Its grammar was codified in the great Eight Chapters of Panini, a man from Swabi, in NWFP, proto-Pakistan. Kautilya/Canakya/Cankya, who wrote Arth Shaastar, and who is regarded as a huge ‘Indian’ scholar, taught at Takshasila University, in proto-Pakistan. Yoga, the ‘Indian’ system of health and meditation, and the Sankhya philosophy, the cornerstone of Hinduism – a name given by the British, in the eighteenth century, to the diverse cults in proto-India – was codified by Patanjali, a man from Multan, in proto-Pakistan, as the Yog Sutr, 188 AD, testifies. Gandhara Civilisation is Pakistan-specific. And the Indian Valley Civilisation, with which Indian history books begin, was in proto-Pakistan, with only peripheral outposts in India. The Taj Mahal was built by masterbuilder Ahmad Maemaar Lahori under the guidance of Shah Jahan. It has proto-Pakistani credentials. There is more, but this should suffice. (For more, my book Unity in Diversity, a Vision for Pakistan may be read. It should change the way Pakistanis, its neighbours, particularly India, and the world, think about Pakistan, and its neighbours).

This flirtation with ‘Indian culture’ must be put into perspective. Indeed most of what Bharat-Indians and Hindus pride themselves for, and which, most regrettably, many Pakistani Muslims hold in denial, and the west ignorantly calls ‘Indian’, are the achievements and genius of the ancestors of proto-Pakistanis, and sourced in the Indus basin, in proto-Pakistan. The only major old ‘Indian’ ideas are the tyrannical, vertically-rigid Brahmanic Caste System, which demeans the bulk of humanity as untouchables; idolatry; and gods in human form. These were crafted in the Ganges basin.

Please do not read this as a diversion. It is foundational in putting the two countries, and ‘Indian culture’, into perspective. One big reason for this confusion is that the word ‘India’ has had many geographies. Proto-India had numerous ‘Hindu’ and Buddhist rajadoms and principalities before the Muslims unified the Indus and Ganges basins, and beyond, and the British extended this geography. All the geographies throughout history cannot be called ‘India’. There were Hindu-ruled areas, Buddhist-ruled areas, Muslim ruled states, a British ruled state, and now Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Bharat-India. By touting the word India for all these, Bharat-Indians, most erroneously, but to their advantage, use the word ‘India’. This must stop, and both the Indian constitutional names of present ‘India’ should be used jointly. (India is the only country in the world with two names in its constitution, Bharat, and India). Scholars, and the West must insist on Bharat-India as the current country’s name to get rid of the huge geographical and cultural confusions that the all-pervasive name ‘India’ has created. Will Western writers and the public remain congealed and fossilized in continuing to use ‘India’ for all geographies to which it is applied? Or will they wake up?

Because of nefarious Bharat-Indian actions, the region, must, repeat must, include Bharat-India, as it is a key player and must be reined in if the West’s and Pakistan’s terror war is to succeed. The recipe for peace in the region – there is no Af-Pak region – is Bharat-India inclusive. It is mandatory to rein in Bharat-India’s Pakistan-weakening activities; and a plebiscite in Kashmir, nothing less, which the international community must prompt urgently and ensure its complete implementation. Or the region will lumber along as a major trouble-spot in the world.
• More Articles by Muzaffar A. Ghaffar