Friday, December 19, 2014

The pragmatic idealism of Jawaharlal Nehru

Somewhere in the files of the PMO there is a 1949 query by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru to his Army chief, General K M Cariappa, asking if the Indian Army would be able to intervene and prevent the Chinese conquest of Tibet. The General’s response was that, given the capacity of the Army and the difficult communication links with Tibet, intervention was out of the question. 
Nehru was not the caricature woolly-headed idealist that his critics make him out to be. He had to deal with the instruments under his command. And among these was an army that lacked the size and heft to take on the battle-hardened PLA across the Himalayas in Tibet in 1950. 
India’s response to the invasion of Tibet by China, beginning January 1, 1950, was, therefore, cautious. Nehru’s interim government had already supplied weapons and trained Tibetans since 1946. But with Chinese power rampant, the Indian effort became covert. 
According to one source, India quietly dispatched 40,000 rifles to the Khampa regions, the first to feel the weight of the PLA invasion. 
Sardar Patel’s famous letter to Nehru on November 7, 1950, warning of the dangers arising from the Chinese invasion of Tibet, was not meant as a critique of Nehru as many uber-nationalists claim, but as part of a policy review which was undertaken after the Sardar passed away a month later. 
Jawaharlal Nehru meets then Army chief General K.C. Cariappa at Plaam Aerodrome in 1949
Jawaharlal Nehru meets then Army chief General K.C. Cariappa at Palam Aerodrome in 1949

A committee headed by Major General Himmatsinhji, the Deputy Minister for Defence, was set up to examine the issues of the border and external intelligence. 
The Committee, which comprised of senior army, intelligence and foreign ministry officials, submitted its reports in two parts, one dealing with the eastern border in April 1951 and the other with the western border in September. 
The recommendations called for the reorganisation and redeployment of the military forces and an increase in the size of the infantry and supporting arms, the development of certain airfields, the setting up of radar stations in the east, and an increase in the size of the Assam Rifles to patrol the border. 
It called for the strengthening of the administration in the eastern areas and the strengthening of the IB network. 
The dilemma before Nehru was stark. His army could not take on the PLA in Tibet. So, he used diplomacy to delay that moment of confrontation. Unfortunately, it came sooner rather than later and its causes had as much to do with India’s China policy as Beijijng’s internal power struggles.
The Indian Army not only lacked the capacity to intervene in Tibet - it did not even have the ability to defend India’s northern border. To right this, paradoxically, Nehru needed economic growth, which required minimising defence expenditures, while encouraging the creation of a domestic defence industry. 
Towards that end, the government appointed Dr D.S. Kothari as the Scientific Adviser to the Defence Minister and the head of the new Defence Science Organisation in 1949. 
In 1957 India began work on the design and development of a combat aircraft which was to be done by a German team of Dr Kurt Tank and Engineer Mittelhuber, while an Indian team of Dr Ghatage and Raj Mahindra would design a jet trainer. 
The first flight of the HF-24 took place in June 1961 and the trainer HJT-16 (Kiran) in September 1964. 
But Nehru’s diplomacy failed to synchronise with his defence modernisation plans. Also, it was hit by America’s decision to arm Pakistan in the name of fighting Communism. 
Even though India expanded its ordnance factories and established facilities to make and assemble trucks, aircraft and other equipment, poor management and scarce resources ensured that the armed forces were badly equipped when the crisis with China erupted in 1959, culminating in the disastrous war of 1962 that shattered Nehru’s reputation and health. 


Nehru’s pragmatism is best visible in his policy on nuclear weapons. He was among the first leaders to call for the abolition of nuclear weapons in the world. However, he was also the person who summoned Homi Bhabha and gave him the wherewithal to start India’s civil nuclear programme. 
In 1956, a nuclear reactor named Apsara, designed and built by Indian scientists and engineers, went critical. This was the first reactor to go critical in all of Asia. By 1958-1959, the DAE overtook the CSIR as the most important scientific institution in the country. 
One third of all R&D expenditures were flowing to the DAE. This led to the 1955 Canadian offer of a nuclear reactor called CIRUS (Canada-India-US) with the initial load of uranium fuel to be supplied by them came through. Nehru and Bhabha’s strategy was to build India’s nuclear capacity in such a way that it could be quickly transformed into a strategic capability.
Once again, unfortunately, they were let down by their instrumentalities. The DAE failed to deliver the plutonium reprocessing facility in time and the result was that India did not have the wherewithal to carry out a nuclear test shortly after the Chinese test of October 1964 or before the cut-off date of January 1, 1967 for the NPT. 


It is easy to criticise Nehru today. His priority then, as it remains that of our country today, is to take hundreds of millions of poor Indians out of poverty and protect the country’s territorial integrity. 
Given the circumstances, he did not do a bad job, and he did it without murdering millions as was done in China, or overturning democracy, as was the case in many countries of the time. 
But to understand him, you have to place yourself in his very large-sized shoes. Suffice to say, none of the heroes of today’s uber-nationalists would be able to fill them.
Mail Today  November 20, 2014

Kashmir and AFSPA

The sentencing of five army personnel, including the commanding officer of 4 Rajput regiment, for the murder of three young Kashmiris, is a major development for the promotion of human rights and ending the policy of impunity with which the army and police forces have operated in some parts of the country. It will also help to make the fight against Islamist militancy and radicalism more effective.
In April 2010, the three Kashmiris—Shezad Ahmed, Riyaz Ahmed and Mohammed Shafi of Nadihal village of Baramulla were lured by two local counter-insurgency agents to the Kalaroos village in the Machil sector near the LoC. They were promised jobs as porters, instead they were handed over to the army personnel who killed them near the Sona Pindi post and claimed that they were Pakistani infiltrators.  After a hue and cry and despite the efforts of some senior officers, the Army took up their court martial proceedings in December 2013 and the verdict was passed on Thursday. It will now go through the appeals process.
The sentencing of the men is only the tip of the iceberg of the issue of some 3,000 unknown men who lie buried along the Line of Control in Kashmir. While most of them are militants who tried to infiltrate or leave the Valley during the 25-year old insurgency, there is a suspicion among many that they have also fallen victim to the greed of rogue army personnel. This is an issue the country needs to confront with some urgency.
The issue is directly linked to that of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act which gives military personnel indemnity against killing people in an insurgency-hit area. The indemnity is meant to protect the personnel from prosecution and legal action. However, it is only for actions done in the exercise of their duty, but the forces have often used it to cover up actions that were in clearly illegal and some of them ought to be classified as murder. But while the intention of the act is to protect soldiers who have acted in good faith, often it is used to protect people who have clearly violated its intention and carried out acts that are clearly illegal.

There is little doubt that if the armed forces and police personnel are to operate in insurgency-hit areas, they need legal protection against suits and prosecution for acts they may carry out in the exercise of their duties. However, equally, there is need to protect the ordinary citizens from palpably illegal actions carried out by security forces’ personnel using the act as a shield. The best way out of this conundrum is to ensure that the draconian provisions of the law are balanced with equally draconian penalties against those who wilfully misuse the act.
The government needs to consider, too, that the situation in most insurgency-hit parts of the country is very different from the time the law was passed. Whether it is the North-east or J&K militancy is at an all time low and this is not because of the AFSPA, but the changed political dynamics of the region. It would be fitting for the government to consider the abrogation of the act in line with the improved situation there.
The role of the army and police is to fight against those who violate the laws of the land and try to overthrow its legal government. But by equal measure, it is the duty of these forces to uphold the law and any violation of the rights of non-combatants and innocents deserves punishment. In our country, as is well known, even the President cannot order the death of a person. It can only be done by the courts of law and through due process.
Most people in India are not quite aware of the extent of human rights violations and illegal acts that have taken place in Kashmir and other places like Nagaland and Manipur.  Torture was fairly common, there were a lot of extra-judicial killings and cover-ups of incidents were common.
The interesting thing is that the Indian Army usually took a tough approach towards such actions and many of its soldiers were court-martialled and jailed for excessive use of force, custodial killings and rapes. However, the army, in its wisdom, did not publicise this. However, other forces like the BSF and CRPF more often than not failed to act against their personnel in many of the very obvious atrocities that took place and which only added fuel to the fire of militancy.
Ironically, the government was much tougher on violations in the pre Nine-Eleven era. After the “Global War on Terror”, the government has taken the excuse of terrorism to deny justice to the innocent who have been victimised in the name of fighting terror. In the past the government used to provide details on the personnel punished and even publish them in the Home Ministry annual report. Now that tradition is forgotten and the lobby in support of maintaining the AFSPA, regardless of the dramatic improvement in the ground situation, has become impossible to counter.  
The problem is that many of the atrocities took place in the very small area of the Kashmir Valley. It has understandably left behind a residue of bitterness which will not be easy to eliminate. Actions like the Army’s decision to acknowledge a mistake in the killing of two young men in Budgam earlier this month, and the sentence to the Rajput regiment personnel, are an important first step. The people know that we cannot turn back time or get back their loved ones, but an acknowledgement of the truth of what happened in the past helps in the healing process.
An expanded version of article published in Nai Dunia November 18 2014

Japan walks the extra mile

On Sunday, President Xi Jinping met with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan, in an action that reflects the rapid geopolitical churning in Asia. Whether or not this marks a détente in the troubled China-Japan relationship remains to be determined. But the four-point agreement that was worked out by State Councillor Yang Jichei and Japanese National Security Adviser Shotaro Yachi to enable the meeting indicates that Tokyo has walked the extra mile to assuage the Chinese.

It has accepted the need for “facing history squarely and looking forward to the future”— short-hand for its horrific wartime role in China. Further, it has acknowledged that the two parties “had different views” about the issue of the Senkaku/Diayou islands. Japan may not quite have accepted that there is a dispute over the status of the islands, but it has come close to it.
A Chinese-Japanese détente would be a stunning coup for the Chinese. By this action, they would neutralise their most potent East Asian adversary, having already established an entente with Russia to the north. Besides its enormous economic and technological power, Japan’s location is also a very important element in East Asian politics.
Recall that the US carrier groups that have been deployed in the Taiwan Straits area in 1996 came from Yousuoka, not Hawaii or elsewhere, Japan served as the key platform for the prosecution of the US war in Korea in 1950.
Many observers believe that Beijing’s greater assertiveness since 2010 was related to the succession politics in China.
But inner party tensions compelled Xi Jinping to not only press on in the South China Sea and the East China Sea, but to actually increase the heat. Prime Minister Abe’s nationalistic posture and his decision to visit the Yasukuni Shrine last year, led to the Chinese declaration of an ADIZ covering the Senkaku/Diayou islands, which was followed by more aggressive posturing that led some observers to believe that a China-Japan military clash was in the offing.
But what this succeeded in doing is to strengthen the US-Japan ties and encourage Tokyo to move away from its pacifist moorings towards a more active role in its security. So, earlier this year in July, the Japanese Cabinet took the decision to authorise the use of force by the Japanese military for self-defence and included the concept of collective self-defence involving any attack on the forces of “a foreign country that is in a close relationship with Japan” (read the US). In other words, instead of remaining a passive element in the alliance, Japan took a step towards becoming a more equal member of the alliance.
The relations between China and Japan are far more dense than, say, the relations between India and Japan or India and China. This is not merely a result of geography and history, but of globalisation.
Trade between the two countries is around $350 billion and rose last year for the first time since 2012 when political tensions negatively affected it.
If China is a destination of Japanese exporters battling a sluggish economy back home, Japan is the source of many components and sub-assemblies that make the Chinese export miracle what it is. China imports more from Japan than any other country mainly high-tech components and capital equipment for its manufacturing sector. Japan’s expertise in areas like energy efficiency is something that China covets because that will enable it to become a more efficient producer of goods. But Japan is no match for Chinese military power and its World War II history has created a deeply pacific mindset within the country, something that Abe cannot ignore.
Recently, China too began to feel the effects of an economic slowdown. While the Chinese leadership has kept a brave face and indicated their decision to press on, they have also realised that a further deepening of the economic problems, arising out of their dust-up with Japan, could have negative consequences for internal stability. Equally important, they realised that their actions were pushing Japan to take a more assertive military and political posture.
One manifestation of this was the growing ties with countries like India and Vietnam, as well as a strengthening of relations with the United States.
Awareness of these factors have helped both sides to pull back from the brink. This year, Abe did not visit the Yasukuni Shrine on August 15, the anniversary of Japan’s surrender in World War II. Earlier, in May, the two countries held their first minister-level talks on the sidelines of a session of the APEC forum in Quingdao, and later the two foreign ministers met in Myanmar. Subsequently, in the run up to the APEC summit, the officials of the two sides met and drew up the four-point agreement that was arrived at last Friday and which enabled the Xi-Abe meeting of Sunday.
The easing of China-Japan tensions is a positive development, but it is unlikely to lead to an entente between the two countries.
Chinese economic and political power remains on the ascendant, while that of Japan is refusing to budge from its relatively stagnant position. Addressing a group of CEOs on the sidelines of the APEC meeting in Beijing, not only did Xi pledge $40 billion to develop connectivity through the “Silk Road” initiative, but held out the promise of a massive outbound investment surge by China in excess of $1.25 trillion over the next 10 years. He also said that China would import more than $10 trillion in goods and send more than 500 million tourists abroad in the next five years.
These are huge numbers and their consequences will not just be economic, but political.
Mid Day November 11, 2014
On Sunday, President Xi Jinping met with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan, in an action that reflects the rapid geopolitical churning in Asia. Whether or not this marks a détente in the troubled China-Japan relationship remains to be determined. But the four-point agreement that was worked out by State Councillor Yang Jichei and Japanese National Security Adviser Shotaro Yachi to enable the meeting indicates that Tokyo has walked the extra mile to assuage the Chinese. - See more at:

Modi must unite all, not make us fear him

Given its vast size, it is said that a super tanker takes 10 nautical miles to execute a turn. The ship of state that is India is in the same situation. A new party and government has taken charge just five months ago and have begun the process of change, but given the size of the country, it will take time before you actually feel something happening. 
As it is, Modi seems to be working on a different timetable. His goal is nothing short of hegemony in Indian politics, both personal, and that of his party.
Modi has centralised the politics of the country around himself and has made his Prime Minister’s Office the core of his authority. From here he runs India, and it is now clear to all that no detail is too small for the PMO to be involved in - from dealing with Pakistan, China and the US, to dispatching the Joint Intelligence Committee chairman to check out a robbery in Haryana and helping a teacher get her gratuity from her institution. 
As part of this centralisation process, Modi is taking charge of his party across the country. 
Beginning with Amit Shah, party organisations across the states are being reorganised with the old guard marginalised and a new team loyal to Modi being put in their place. 
Modi’s ties to big business are well known. That he is a Gujarati is a natural advantage since many of the top businessmen are also from the same community. But in Modi’s case, he sees the businessmen as instruments of his policy, rather than as a source of funds. 
The way he looks at it, if he is to transform India to becoming a manufacturing hub, and meet the expectations that he has aroused among the people, he needs the cooperation of big business. 
As of now, the picture that emerges of Modi is that notwithstanding the fact that he has a Master’s degree, Modi is not an “intellectual” politician, he runs more on instincts and strong beliefs. 
These views have been built up over time, they have a strong leavening of the Sangh Parivar, but also of his varied experiences as a party organiser and chief minister. In this he is like Ronald Reagan who created a revolution of sorts in American politics by pursuing politics that were rooted in his deep beliefs, regardless of the fact that they were not part of the country’s mainstream. 
But unlike Reagan, and more like Mrs Indira Gandhi, Modi likes to run the show on his own. As of now, his government is painfully thin in terms of talent. He has the formidable Mr Jaitley by his side, but even Jaitley cannot manage the enormous demands of the two ministries - finance and defence - especially since they require not just their running, but also deep restructuring and reform. 
Despite his increasing control over his party, Modi today essentially depends on the bureaucracy to execute his will. He coerces them, but also empowers them to take decisions. They, more than his Cabinet colleagues, are the primary instrument of his decision-making. 
This is the model that he patented in Gujarat and this is the one that he seems to be using in New Delhi as well. But, unlike his predecessors, you will not hear of any coterie or kitchen cabinet. He treats them all alike, but keeps them at a distance. 
There is of course his big family - the Sangh Parivar. But anyone who has seen the record of their dealings will know that the relationship is a complex one.

At Saturday's launch of the BJP membership drive, PM Modi made a case for inclusion in the party
At Saturday's launch of the BJP membership drive, PM Modi made a case for inclusion in the party

Modi is not the typical pracharak. Had he been so, he would not have become the prime minister of India. But he is aware of the enormous power of the Sangh through its network of pracharaks and front organisations, and that just like the Congress is nothing without the Gandhis, so is the BJP zero without the Sangh. 
As of now the relationship has been exemplary. Modi has taken key leaders like Ram Madhav aboard from the Sangh into the BJP, and has institutionalised consultations between ministers and top leaders. What is more likely to happen is that given time, the Modi machine will subsume the Sangh, rather than the other way around. 
There is one big dangerous downside to the current political situation: the efforts to trigger communal polarisation and Modi’s silence, at least till now, on this issue.
It is true that during election time such polarisation is not uncommon. But the talk of “love jihad” by some partymen in UP and the rise in communal tension are a bad augury. 
If Modi is to move this country ahead, he also needs social peace. Indian Muslims have been remarkable in their immunity to the global jihadi agenda till now. None were found in Guantanamo in the wake of the American victory in Afghanistan in 2001, and none have been found in Syria either with the Islamic State militants. 
There have been some claims about Indians going to join the stir, but little evidence. Even in India, the 100 or so Indian Mujahideen involved in the bombing campaign of 2005-2008 are a negligible number as compared to the 180 million Muslim population. 
Indeed, social indicators show and opinion polls reveal most Indian Muslims have the same aspirations as their other countrymen. They want smaller families, better jobs, and good education for their children. Let’s note: 180 million is not a small number, and if pushed to the wall, they are likely to fight back and the consequences will be bad for the whole country. 
Modi himself has been silent on the issue, but last week, kicking off a membership drive for the BJP, he called for a more inclusive party, one that represented all sections of the people. 
Currently it is seen as a party of the Hindi heartland and mainly of Hindus. But if the BJP is to supplant the Congress as the default party of the land, it has to appeal to people across the very diverse landscape of the country. 
Mail Today November 7, 2014

Friday, November 28, 2014

Congress must cast a solid policy platform to survive

As we see the muscular rise of the Bharatiya Janata Party across the country, we are witnessing the atrophying of the Congress party. 
This is neither good for India, nor democracy. But it is today’s reality. 
Zero-sum outcomes are the worst option for the people. A strong Opposition, is the best means of ensuring that the Government of the day lives up to its promises.

Stuck: Congress chief Sonia Gandhi (left) and party vice-president Rahul Gandhi (right) will have a hard fight to reinvent the Grand Old Party, though it has been given new life in the past. 
Stuck: Congress chief Sonia Gandhi (left) and party vice-president Rahul Gandhi (right) will have a hard fight to reinvent the Grand Old Party, though it has been given new life in the past. 

Unfortunately, the Congress is, to paraphrase an idiom, up a fast-flowing creek without a paddle. The depth of the Congress’s problems is evident from the party’s inability to come to grips with the problem of party leadership. 
For structural reasons—primarily the fact that it is a proprietorial entity—this is the most critical problem for the party. 
This was evident from the reactions to P. Chidambaram’s remark that a “non-Gandhi” could “someday” become president of the party. 
Instead of a measured response, we had Gandhi loyalists like ex-Shipping Minister G.K. Vasan, declare no Congressman “from Kashmir to Kanyakumari” wanted a person “from the non-Gandhi clan” to be Congress president. 
However, the issue has not died down and is not likely to do so. 
On Monday, former Union Minister Subodh Kant Sahai said Rahul Gandhi was more of a social worker and was still some distance away from becoming a true politician. He added that Rahul’s policies and perspectives were not clear. 
Sahai, who demanded that Sonia resume command of the party, was probably speaking as a worried and loyal Congressman because the state he comes from, Jharkhand, is going in for elections soon. 
It would be a mistake to see this as a crisis of the Grand Old Party. Actually that Congress, the one that fought for independence, died in 1969 when Indira Gandhi split the party. The GOP died - and what survived became a proprietary of the Gandhi family. 
This party has known many dark days. However, at each stage, it was able to turn the tables on the Opposition and re-emerge. 
The first was 1967-1971 period when Indira Gandhi took a Left-ward swing and marginalised the old guard. 
The second was following the party’s massive defeat in the General Elections of 1977 following the Emergency. 
Here, Mrs Gandhi did not have to do much, but to sit back and watch as the Janata Party came apart and a disgusted electorate gave her a mandate to return in 1980. 
The assassinations of Indira and Rajiv Gandhi in 1984 and 1991 respectively, altered the dynamics of the country’s politics and postponed what was a downward drift of the party. 
But Rajiv’s assassination ensured that the party got enough seats to form a minority Government in New Delhi in 1991, under the leadership of PV Narasimha Rao. 
Though the Government completed a full term, it was never quite stable. Top leaders like Sharad Pawar and Arjun Singh sought to destabilise it from within, and the infighting finally led to the defeat of the party in the 1996 General Elections - which brought about its third crisis.
After two years of experimenting with the leadership of “non-Gandhi” leaders, Sonia Gandhi finally took charge of the family party. 
Under Sonia’s leadership since March 1998 it has won two consecutive victories in the 2004 and 2009 Lok Sabha polls, as well as many state assembly elections. 
Indeed, in the wake of the 2009 victory, it looked as though it was the BJP which was headed for total eclipse. 
The victory of 2004 was more of a negative vote against the BJP for the communal carnage in Gujarat and the fatuous “Shining India” slogan. 
The 2009 Congress victory was an outcome of Manmohan Singh’s leadership in whose 2004-2009 term, the country had seen massive economic growth. 
In some measure, though, it was the outcome of the BJP’s inability to present a credible policy platform. 
However under the leadership of Modi, the roles have been reversed. It is the BJP which appears to have a coherent plan and direction, and the Congress looks leaderless and bankrupt of ideas. 
As a result, the BJP has surged to form the first majority Government in India since 1989, and is now seeking to consolidate itself across the country by targeting state assembly elections in areas where it was marginal. 
This short history reveals that you can either wait for your opponent to fumble, or attract the electors through a clear and credible plan of action. Modi benefited from both. 
The Congress shot itself in the foot in the 2009-2014 period during which Modi systematically crafted a strategy and created an organisation to win over his party and the general elections. 
The Congress’ first option is to wait for Modi to make mistakes. In that case, they may have to wait for long. Modi is not allowing the grass to grow under his feet, and is consolidating himself within the party, shaping it in his own image and ensuring that his flanks are well protected in the future. 
The other option for the Congress is to come up with a plan of action to ensure that Modi’s BJP is not allowed to consolidate itself. But in a family party, it requires proprietors who can provide the requisite leadership. 
The experience of the 1996-1998 period has shown that the Congress cannot function minus the Gandhis. 
Wise words: Former Finance Minister Chidambaram advised Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi to 'speak more' in order to win back the support of the people 
Wise words: Former Finance Minister Chidambaram advised Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi to 'speak more' in order to win back the support of the people 

On the other hand, it requires the Gandhi in question to be bold and audacious like Indira, and to a lesser extent, Rajiv. But both Sonia and Rahul have revealed themselves to cautious and even pusillanimous. 
Chidambaram’s advice that Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi “speak more” and put in action a timetable so that the party could play the role of “true opposition” is fairly sensible. 
But by itself it is unlikely to achieve little. 
Mail Today October 31, 2014

Pakistan trending towards collapse

Since 1991, India has pursued a policy of engaging Pakistan, regardless of what the latter has thrown at us - bombs, terror assaults, fedayeen. This has meant an effort to promote dialogue to resolve outstanding issues, and develop ties with the civilian governments, as against the military. However, two decades later, it seems that this is not working.
If anything, the deep state dominated by the military retains its iron grip on the system and the civilian system remains unable to get its act together. The ‘Lion of Punjab’ Nawaz Sharif is looking like a lamb, while his rival Bilawal Bhutto has become the butt of jokes, and as for Imran Khan, the less said the better.

There were expectations that Nawaz Sharif could keep the army in check and initiate an opening up to India. But a year later, he is a spent force and has been successfully boxed in by the army. Pic/Getty ImagesThere were expectations that Nawaz Sharif could keep the army in check and initiate an opening up to India. But a year later, he is a spent force and has been successfully boxed in by the army. Pic/Getty Images

Maybe the time has come to change course — not by reaching out to the military or taking recourse to tit-for-tat covert war. But by encouraging the peaceful breakup of Pakistan. Across the Islamic world, boundaries and states created by colonial powers are breaking down, and there is no reason to assume that Pakistan ought to be an exception. Using military means or a covert war would be counterproductive, but there could be a way out by persuading the international community that this is the best course, and by providing moral and political support to those who advocate separatism in Pakistan.
No doubt there will be Pakistanis who will claim that this is exactly what they always feared and that India has never reconciled to the creation of Pakistan. But we most certainly do not advocate the annexation of Pakistani territory, not even of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir.
The Bangladesh war is another issue. But by now, there is enough evidence to show that the responsibility for the loss of East Pakistan rests firmly with Islamabad. All that India did was play the role of a
midwife who actually prevented greater bloodshed and horrors. Had India been the factor, Pakistan could have reunited in the 1977-1984 period when anti-Indian governments held sway.
Actually from the outset, it is Pakistan which has promoted violence to obtain the breakup of India. In the 1950s and 1960s, the ISI used its location in East Pakistan to aid the Naga and Mizo insurgencies. In the 1980s, after re-establishing themselves in Bangladesh, they became the principal backers of ULFA and continued giving support to whichever dissident group they could find in the North-east.
Then, when opportunity arose in the west, the ISI jumped into the fray in Punjab in the early 1980s and, few years later, into Jammu & Kashmir. Simultaneously, they also began promoting terrorist attacks across the country. There were two aims in mind. First, the breaking away of two important states of the Indian union. Second, encouraging communal violence with the view of developing an unbridgeable communal divide in the country.
Most Indians, even now, believe that it is in their interest to have a stable and united Pakistan on their western borders, notwithstanding the hostility they have faced in recent decades. This is not because of any altruism, but a perceived national interest in not having a failed nuclear state on our borders. However, without any particular Indian encouragement or assistance, Pakistan is trending towards collapse and chaos.
There is no dearth of fault lines in Pakistan. The primary ones are ethnic, pitting the dominant Punjabis against the Baloch and the Sindhis, with the Mohajirs as a category of their own. The newer one shaping up is one which pits the Pakhtun-dominated Taliban against Pakistan. Then there are sectarian lines, primarily dividing the Sunni and the Shia. But the really complex one divides its dominant military from its civilian establishment.
The idea of Pakistan breaking up has been around for a while. There are two impulses for this. First is from within, where ethnic groups such as the Pakhtuns, Baloch and Sindhis want out of the Punjab-dominated system. The second is from the point of view of the global community, for whom Pakistan has proved to be a menace as an exporter of terrorism and a proliferator of nuclear weapons. But so far the idea has been confined to think tanks and some individuals. Smaller units will certainly reduce the megalomania of the generals who have exaggerated notions of Pakistan’s standing in the comity of nations by virtue of its nuclear weapons and ability to give pain to its neighbours, namely India and Afghanistan.
The one thing that can save Pakistan is the normalisation of ties with India and opening up to the larger economy to its east. But there are equally powerful forces that have prevented this from happening and they show no signs of weakening.
There were expectations that Nawaz Sharif was the leader who could keep the army in check and initiate an opening up to India. However, a year later we find that Nawaz is a spent force and has been successfully boxed in by the army. No one is clear as to where things go from here.
So far, India has displayed little or no inclination from getting involved in Pakistan’s internal issues, Islamabad’s claims to the contrary notwithstanding . But now our own security demands that we begin thinking about the unthinkable, and consulting with like-minded countries on the issue.
A nuclear-armed Pakistan needs to be handled carefully and there is little scope for adventurism here.
As noted, we are not advocating a violent breakup, but a velvet event of the kind that led to the emergence of the Czech and Slovak Republics.
Mid Day October 28, 2014