This write-up is excerpted from Tarik Jan’s 2004 book “Secular Threat to Pakistan Security.” This is published in response to Tom Dillman’s "Greater Himalayan Common Market."
Pakistan-India relations have always been troubled. If I had to give a little spin to the title of J.N. Dixit’s book, I would say that they bore the imprint of a flawed legacy. The first contact between Pakistan and India came through a clash of civilization when the Muslims arrived in South Asia. And as they ploughed through the region, the relations between the two began to be tempered in the cauldron of fire and blood. Experience forced Indians to submit to the Muslim writ over the region, but inside they simmered with anger. They also learned to their discomfort that even though they were numerically ascendant, they were no match to the Muslim superiority. And as the Muslims stretched themselves to an almost 1000-year rule, cutting deep into the Indian demography and area, the adversarial relations between the two were sharply drawn. From then onward, the slide in relations was already determined, pushed by dialectic of hatred and mistrust. This shaped two different characters: Muslims adopted a policy of accommodation partly because of the inbuilt Islamic trait of tolerance and partly because of their desire to hold onto a territory in which they were a minority. Their long preponderance conditioned them to a state of self-confidence, making them believe in their invincibility even against large numbers. This disposed them to take their adversaries easy, their policies determined by reaction engineered by their opponents.
The Hindus developed a different mindset: they learned to conceal their true feelings: their use of language became subtle. For them, mere ascendance in numbers was not enough, a qualitative edge in implements was also important. In making policies they became proactive.
Thus, in our relations with India one must not forget their psychology – it is a temper born out of a psychosis of fear and resentment that seeks revenge for all the missed historical chances.
But what is obvious in the Indian desire to dominate Pakistan and thus seek catharsis for their tormented soul becomes complex in the case of a lunatic fringe in Pakistan, which chews Indian themes sometimes in the name of economic well-being and unilateral arms reduction and sometimes in the name of fictitious commonalities and regionalism. Such themes with subtle undertones and fancy political wrappings can be stated as under:
The old generation, which was witness to the bloody Hindu-Muslim conflict, is now phasing out. The new generation on both sides of the divide suffers from no such hang-up and this can bring Pakistan and India together.
That the nation-state has become outmoded giving way to regional groupings.
That people-to-people contact independent of the states is called for because states hanker for war while peoples seek peace.
Let us take these stated themes and see what they mean for themselves and for us as a nation.
History witnessing and national consciousness
Because history is not static, a chance concourse of events but a creative act, which is shaped by commitment and passion, fusing small moments of time into events that transcend the actors and affect generations to come, with all the exhilarating glow of a win or the tormenting hurt of a loss.
I have paraphrased the first theme as “history witnessing and national consciousness” because it is built on the seemingly coextensive relationship between the two. Such a view is based on a number of assumptions: first, if there is no history witnessing, there will be no national consciousness either; second, a nation grows in a vacuity, without any institution to transmit a historic consciousness.
Obviously, both these assumptions are tenuous at best. If these were true, the Muslim consciousness of the Muslims in South Asia should have been substituted by an “Indian consciousness” in the 1940s when those who had witnessed the third battle of Panipat (1761) were long dead. On the contrary, the Muslim consciousness concretized itself into Pakistan in 1947.
Likewise, we were not present at the time of the battle of Badr or when Salahuddin made a triumphant entry into Jerusalem (1187) or Shahabuddin Ghori earned victory in the battle of Tarawari (119l), but we have internalized these momentous events for they make our essence. Why is it so? Because history is not static, a chance concourse of events but a creative act which is shaped by commitment and passion, fusing small moments of time into events that transcend the actors and affect generations to come, with all the exhilarating glow of a win or the tormenting hurt of a loss. This is especially true of the historical events, which affirm our being insofar as they glorify a valuational paradigm or cause a shift in the course of history. In this sense, history is an education process, which employs a consciousness to shape a consciousness.
Though for want of a better expression I alluded to history as education, but as a process, it is far superior to any mechanistic act of communication: it has a totalic sweep, a rhythm and a cadence of its own that not only shapes but puts us into its flow, giving us surge, a sense of belonging that exalts us as a people and creates a web of inter-relations that bond us to our past.
The fact that we ruled India for about one thousand years, that the Muslims by virtue of their belief in a superior value system cannot be a subordinate nation, and that Pakistan is a legacy of that Muslim rule is here to stay and fulfill its destiny to be a power are reminders against any amnesia that might be induced in us.
The withering of the nation-state?
This is especiallytrue of the historical events that affirm our being insofar as they glorify a valuational paradigm or cause a shiftinthe course of history. In this sense, history is an educationprocess,which employs a consciousness to shape a consciousness.
Whether the nation-state has withered or not, the Indophiles have begun convincing people that
it has. Ironically, a minority who opposed ideological Pakistan and insisted on calling it a nation-state is parroting it. Like typical predators, they stage a comeback when Pakistan is at its weakest, marshalling arguments against it. Sometimes they describe it as “a state without sovereignty,” and sometimes they talk of economics, pushing for “a regional grouping with India.” In all such sophistry games, the suggestive idea is “confederation” between Pakistan and India. Those who are a little more discrete and cerebral talk of it as a “commonwealth of cultures,” with emphasis on the sameness of the regional cultures. They conveniently forget in their charade that the emergent economic blocks are either political or politically motivated. This is obvious from their structure. In each case, with varying degrees one finds an axial power around which a block revolves. In a sense, economic blocks are the extension of the empire era when empires sought vast landmass rich in raw material and market potentials. Again, in the empire era the mercantile class served as the bridgehead whereas the ruling élite stood behind it. In the capitalist economy, we see the repeat of the empire era: the mercantile class is seeking wider territories for marketing its goods and the political will of the capitalist state is augmenting its effort.
Talking of the axial power-centered blocks, for NAFTA, it is the United States; for the Council of Mutual Economic Association, it is Russia; for SAARC it is India. Here in these three cases, the desire is power extension. Americans want to dominate North and South America; Russians seek the continuation of their old role in Eastern Europe; Indians want to recreate the old British India, if not the mythical united India.
As opposed to these axial power-centered blocks, there are other trading blocks such as ASEAN and OECD, which have come into existence to protect their member states’ interests against a powerful neighboring nation – that is, Japan in Asia; and Germany, France and England in Europe. Regional grouping as such is not a meaningless modality. Its membership should be determined, among other things, by two chief considerations.
The identity factor: Should we be defined by our ideology or by our regional location, close to a certain neighboring nation, which does not bear with our existence?
What future shape a regional grouping will take? If pulled inward and submerged by a structure, what will become of us?
Regional grouping is thus not trade alone; it has its own dialectical movement in addition to geopolitical ambitions of a larger axial state which the smaller member state has to measure against its own interest in the absolute sense.
They conveniently forget in their charade that the emergent economic blocks are either political or politically motivated. This is obvious from their structure. In each case, with varying degrees one finds an axial power around which a block revolves. In a sense, economic blocks are the extension of the empire era when empiressought vast landmass rich in raw material and market potentials.
A nation that seeks a trading block with others must ensure that it groups itself with nations of similar identities so that even when there is an inward centripetal pull with a corresponding political structure, its merger becomes not a death embrace but a life-giving process of becoming. Fortunately for Pakistan its landmass extends on the west of its geography into uninterrupted Muslim territories which gives it land depth and access to the friendly nations of Islam.
Our grouping with the Muslim nations westward and in Central Asia goes beyond survival to a life surge while in SAARC we are entombed into the secular non-Muslim lap of India.
Added to this, one must not ignore the Indian perception about SAARC, which visualizes it as a substitute for pre-1947 British India – a template of assimilation whereby Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka would be reshaped into a confederation. Culture and trade ties are a prelude to it.
Besides, we must realize that the unipolar world dominated by the U.S. and its allies is not conducive to the Muslims. The West has decimated Bosnia and trapped it into a grotesquely cruel political setup, which instead of empowering the Bosnians has made them destitute. Libya is under siege and so are Iran, Sudan and Iraq. Tomorrow it could be Pakistan or some other Muslim state. Muslims are no exception to the inexorable laws of history – their grouping has to be effectuated before they are isolated and bled white.
People’s diplomacy rather than governmental negotiation is another dance of death being clapped with a flamenco spirit of abandon. Its architects claim that while the state is fictitious, the people are real, that it is the people’s welfare which matters and not the state they live in. The premise is too naive to be accepted and too dangerous to be ignored. There are three problems with the preceding statement:
One, it undermines Pakistan as a state – a home for almost 140 million people and their aspirations. Two, it cleverly peddles the Indian cause for a merger. Three, it misreads human nature by reducing people to a consumer status only – a one-dimensional being as the materialists would like us to believe. Far from it, humans are neither matter nor spirit alone – the two fuse to make a perfect marriage between them. Their longings, their strivings, and their ability to sacrifice for higher motives make them unique, which cannot be measured in the scale of reductionism.
People’s diplomacy rat-her than governmental negotiation is another dance of death clapped with a flamenco spirit of abandon. Its architects claim that while the state is fictitious, the people are real, that it is the people’s welfare which matters and not the state they live in. The premise is too naive to be accepted and too dangerous to be ignored.
Again in giving preference to the people over state, the equation between the two has been unduly disturbed. The whole argument states the anarchist case. True, it is the people who populate a state. Still, one must not forget that there is an isomorphic correspondence between the two. Equally true is the fact that a group of humanity is not a floating mass without a social and political structure that can shift places. Nor are the people a heap of atoms without loyalties. For example, Pakistanis living abroad, even in the best of the materialistic societies, feel themselves entangled in their nation’s affairs – a pull at their hearts which neither can be defined nor described because it cannot be measured in material terms.
This is so because state is a stretch of their selves, endowed with a collective ego, which embraces the past as well as the future; a repository of their tradition, and a vehicle of their dreams. In this sense, it is superior to any existing generation, for in the interest of the children of tomorrow and to continue beyond the present, it may have to make unsavory decisions.
Besides, issues of war and peace, despite the democratic pretensions of the age and deifying people, fall without exception in the realm of the state. The whole concept of people’s sovereignty is hogwash, which one may like to toy with but falls short of a coherent political doctrine.
When taken in the context of the extant reality, the premise becomes absurd. At a time when representative government has become a political norm, and elected leaders mouth their people’s aspiration to be in synch with them, the Indophiles in Pakistan separate leaders from the people and say that while leaders are war-mongers, peoples are peace-seekers. Whether elected leaders can disregard their constituencies and position themselves contrary to their wish is easily glossed over. Contemporary history is of little comfort in this respect. For example, during the last 50 years or so in the democratic setup of India, Indians have been electing the Congress party for most of the time despite the fact that it had been extremely hawkish on issues concerning Pakistan. If the Indians really favored peace with Pakistan why did they not go for a less belligerent party in power? The same can be said about democratic Pakistan as well. Did not Bhutto garner vote in the name of a 1000-year war with India over Kashmir? Why were his publicists plastering walls with posters showing Bhutto riding a fierce horse and making war chants against India? He was obviously capitalizing on the people’s anger against India for his climb into the seat of power. Thus, the relationship between the people and their leaders is symbiotic – one nurturing the other. Visualizing it in any other frame is just claptrap.
A nation that seeks a trading block with others mustensurethatit groups itself with nations of similar identities so that even when there is an inwardcentripetal pull with a correspondingpolitical structure, its merger becomes not a death embrace but a life-giving process of becoming.