Kashmir is but an excuse for Islamabad to continue its perpetual fight with New Delhi


PUBLISHED January 11, 2017,


Historian Jacques Barzun once remarked that “it is a great and admirable quality to see yourself as others see you. But in international relations, it is even more admirable and useful to see others as they see themselves.”

In our dealings with our neighbours, or even others, we rarely see them as they see themselves but tend to see them as we want to see them. This is particularly dangerous if we make the same mistake with countries with which our relations are adversarial. In 70 years of uneasy existence, we have not been able to adequately understand how Pakistan sees itself and pursued a policy built on hope.

It assumes abundance of goodwill would be enough to overcome intransigence. We have, thus, failed to understand that Kashmir is not the issue but an excuse for Pakistan to continue its unremitting hostility towards India.

Islamabad knows it cannot solve the problem its way, so why not persist as it serves other purposes. Ayesha Jalal in The Struggle for Pakistan: A Muslim Homeland and Global Politics and Christophe Jaffrelot in The Pakistan Paradox: Instability and Resilience have written more than 1,000 pages between them in their books that cover the creation of Pakistan.

Viceroys like Linlithgow do not figure in Jalal’s book, Wavell and Mountbatten, barely. Yet, these three worthies were the most active before the Partition and in the transition.

Narendra Singh Sarila, in The Shadow of the Great Game: The Untold Story of India’s Partition, concentrates on events and political manoeuvres by the British in the years before independence and their role in the creation of Pakistan.

Sarila’s rendering of history based on documents stops at the Partition. C Dasgupta’s War and Diplomacy in Kashmir: 1947-48 is very specific and relates to events of 1947-48 highlighting manipulative roles played by Mountbatten and the British chiefs of the Indian and Pakistani armies.

Partisan Partition

Tilak Devasher’s Pakistan: Courting the Abyss takes the story forward from pre-Partition and the first war in Kashmir to current times. The book is about Pakistan, what it thinks of itself.

It is not about India-Pakistan relations. He describes the journey of Pakistan from Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s sorrow of a tainted dawn to Habib Jalib’s lament of a loss of destiny.

Based on archival material, the author recounts the intrigue and the manipulation by imperial interests keen to preserve what would be left of the British Empire and that a smaller, compact pro-West Pakistan would be able to better defend British interests against Stalin’s Soviet Union than a Nehruvian India.

Pakistan used this immediately after independence in Kashmir in October 1947.

It is important for anyone trying to understand Pakistan to read the first four chapters — about the Pakistan movement, its legacy, the identity and ideology of Pakistan, and the provincial dilemma — with special care.

The events and tactics of those years and the attitudes firmed up then are reflected in the present-day policies and attitudes in Pakistan. Quite early in their campaign, the Muslim Leaguers had perfected the art of victimhood for obtaining concessions from the British eager to ensure that the Congress party did not get an upper hand.

A favoured technique then was to resort to violence and disruption. And Direct Action was one such decision of Jinnah. Pakistan used this immediately after independence in Kashmir in October 1947 and repeatedly after that into the 21st century. Jinnah comes across as arrogant, ambitious and an unprincipled opportunist, except for his desire to usurp power.

As a brand new country that never existed before August 14, 1947, Pakistan did have a problem of identity. The new identity had to be strongly Islamic even though Islam was not in danger in the Muslim-majority areas that became Pakistan. It was agreed among the leaders that in any case, the identity had to be non-Indian.

Islam was to be one of the glues if the two-nation theory had to be vindicated and reinforced. Independent Pakistan began talking of the ideology of Pakistan and later ‘Nazaria Pakistan’.

But no one quite knew what this meant except that the latter had to be strongly Islamic. Post-1971, the narrative that Pakistan was meant to be a truly Islamic state became strong and hatred for the Hindu became more pronounced even in the schoolbooks.

Heads I Slit, Tales You Spin

As Devasher concludes, “As soon as India became a negative reference point for defining Pakistani nationalism, there was no way Pakistan could develop a new identity for itself or develop normal relations with India. That is the continuing tragedy of Pakistan.”

Unable to solve issues and unable to achieve parity, Pakistan has chosen a path of perpetual animosity. Peace talks are, thus, an interregnum and a tactical ploy. Frustrated, Pakistan now has an absurd wish list for India and the world to fulfil. Its enmity in its neighbourhood has left only one road open, says Devasher.

The book has opinions based on documented facts. A substantial percentage of Indians today were born after 1971. It is important for them to revisit pre-independence events and understand why things are the way they are and will remain so.

(The writer is former chief, Research & Analysis Wing (R&AW))



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