To start with, one must ask the question why does the Pakistani army keep upping the anti-India behaviour? Why do Pakistani politicians like Bilawal Bhutto keep raising ‘the Kashmiri pitch’? What explains Pervez Musharraf’s anti-India rhetoric?
Answering these questions requires an understanding of the fault lines, the multiple power centres and the oligarchy, which rules Pakistan.
The geo-strategic curse on Pakistan
The generally accepted textbook narrative on India-Pakistan partition is that the two nations were partitioned by the British because Hindus and Muslims could not reconcile their differences. However, Narendra Singh Sarila in “The Shadow of the Great Game: The Untold Story of India’s Partition,” presents an alternate account. He claims that the British during the 1940s were looking to create a buffer zone in the Afghanistan-Pakistan borders to halt the rising influence of erstwhile USSR whose diktats ran as far as Afghanistan.
Further, the British feared about the USSR gaining control of the oil wells of the Middle East. Given Nehru’s idealism in foreign policy it was unlikely that he would play the British game in the cold war. Once the British realised that India would not join them to fight the Soviet Union, they settled for those willing to do so. In the process, Pakistan came in handy. Therefore, the author claims, that they were more than amenable to the idea of partition.
The Game of balance of power
The geo strategic curse on Pakistan did not end there. The US administration led by Nixon-Kissinger was interested in Pakistan in 1970s and 1980s for two reasons. One, it wanted to use Pakistan’s borders to supply arms and provide covert weapon training to help Afghani Mujahedeen who were fighting the Soviet war. The US interest, of-course, was containing USSR and to win the cold war. Two, Pakistan was to be used as a bulwark against India who was siding with the USSR and would also enable ‘opening up’ of China for business which would bring benefits to US business houses. Today the same geo-strategic curse is being played out in different form. Pakistan lends itself to be used as permanent ally as long as it gets foreign aid. The US provides billions of dollars to Pakistan to ensure that its ally remains a permanent ally.
Given the varied strategic interests of many permanent allies and global powers, which were at times deeply intrusive in domestic politics Pakistan failed to create its own democratic institutions and failed to invest in independent institutions, which would create a strong civil administration or a democracy. It is in short ‘A Failed State’. Its constant dependence on foreign aid, has led to the state becoming complacent in its political or economic affairs.
Understanding Pakistani army
The first thing to understand about the Pakistani army is that, it is not controlled by the state. In other words, the civil administration of Nawaz Sharief exercises as much control over the Pakistani army as the President of India Pranab Mukherjee has over the Indian Parliament. It subserviently accepts the diktats of the army chief.
To understand how the army became so powerful in a way that it has veto power over its own government we must go back to December 1971. That month, the Supreme Court of Pakistan set up the Hamoodur Rahman Commission which went into the reasons for causes of Pakistani army’s defeat in the 1971 Indo-Pakistan war. While the Commission lay the whole blame for defeat on the shoulders of the Army and political aspirations and opportunism of Army officers, Pakistan also realised that political bickering and lust for office by politicians of West Pakistan had led to the crisis in the first place. This bickering cannot be afforded again. Pakistan now had a choice, it would either modernise its army to prevent such recurrences or disappear into oblivion. Basically, the army was facing its moment of introspection and the state had been plagued by the deep insecurities of a periphery state.
The desire for strong national army led to army officers gaining large public support in Pakistan and came to be seen as patriots as against political class which was perceived power hungry. The state simply could not afford another Bangladesh and the citizenry craved for doing a Bangladesh on India for avenging what it calls its unnecessary intervention in what was its domestic affair in East Pakistan.
The army with a state
Given the army’s growing influence it armed itself to teeth and even became a nuclear power so much that it became politically, economically and socially an independent class. This explains why we see border firings when Pakistani ministers are in peace talks with India. Simply, put the civilian administration’s diktat’s end where the domain of the army begins.
In the book the ‘The Warrrior State’ TV Paul points out that the Pakistani Army is motivated more by ideology and less by pragmatism. Pakistani army sees Kashmir as the last bastion where Bangladesh can be avenged. The army employs non-state actors under its security and even started three wars with India over Kashmir in 1947, 1965, and 1999 but failed to win any of them. Yet, it has successfully sustained a proxy war in Kashmir since 1989 using Islamist militants. Researcher Dr. Christine Fair in her book ‘In Fighting to the End’ concludes that “from the army’s distorted view of history, it is victorious as long as it can resist India’s purported drive for regional hegemony as well as the territorial status quo. Simply put, acquiescence means defeat.”
In other words provoking India into a war is in itself a victory because the status quo is seen as an abysmal failure in the Pakistani Army. Researcher Dr. Christine warns that the Pakistani Army will be ‘Fighting to the End’ just as Hitler’s Germany did and would not surrender at any cost like the one in 1971 Bangladesh. Ideology and honour today is far more important than the lives of Pakistani citizens as the army is not controlled by a representative body of the people. Because the army is unlikely to abandon these preferences, the world must prepare for an ever more dangerous future Pakistan and a dangerous and autonomous Pakistani Army which unfettered by democratic leadership could wreak havoc in pursuit of revenge.
So how should India respond?
India must understand that the Pakistani Army is not controlled by the State. Since Pakistan Army knows that the global powers would not allow two nuclear-armed nations to enter into a war and India has ‘a no-first use policy’, it would enter into minor skirmishes and short firings and make a hasty retreat. The policy is basically ‘hit and run’ to make some quick gains and quick killings. India being a democracy and a responsible power should not play tit for tat with an organ of the failed state. If it does so, it would be playing into the hands of an overzealous ideologue filled army, which wants an all-out war with India.
India’s response must focus on its own security interest and to ensure peace in the region. It is not suggested that the Indian army must not fire back when its posts are attacked but India must focus on other solutions. India must deploy spy satellites and watch towers on the International border and increase border intelligence to identify key areas where attacks are coming from. This data could also be submitted to the UN, which adds credibility of Indian Army’s calibrated response. It must prevent the situation from going out of control and prevent escalation of aggression into a war. An all-out war may possibly ensure that the failed state disappears from the map but the process would be excruciatingly painful for people of the sub-continent.
What binds Pakistan today?
The only factor that binds Pakistan is the hatred for India. Religion as a binding factor of nation was decisively defeated when Bangladesh was created. Language is not the binding force for Pakistan as Pashto, Punjabi, Pakhto, Baluchi and Urdu are hardly discernable to one another. Leave alone the fate of Hindus and Christians who suffer religious persecutions in Pakistan even Muslims are not spared there. Therefore the divisive self-imploding
society of Pakistan needs a binding glue, which can be used by politicians for their political gains and to make people rally behind them and consolidate their vote banks using an ecumenical solution.