Learning from the failed summit

By Moorthy Muthuswamy, July 2001

Let us ask ourselves what is really the long-term security objective of India that dictates Indo-Pak relations. It can be stated as stopping and finally reversing the Islamic expansion into the only secular land non-Muslims can live free and secure -- India.

If there is only a few Muslims left in India the threat from Pakistan is minimal. Indiaís preoccupation with itís security stems largely from Muslim sympathizers of Pak, particularly in Kashmir, Indiaís only Muslim Majority State. Also, Pak is finding more sympathizers in rest of India that is home to more Muslims than the entire population of Pak. The increasingly radicalized and alienated growing Indian Muslim population is a threat for Indiaís survival, since British India had been partitioned once before in the name of Islam. The alienation of Muslims is civilizational, hardly India specific -- seen from difficulties encountered by Muslims around the world and the associated armed rebellions.

Soon after the partition every Muslim majority region, be it Pakistan, Bangladesh or Indiaís very own Kashmir valley have been virtually cleansed off non-Muslims (and driven to India). Islamic Pakistan constitutionally discriminates against itís non-Muslim citizens in voting, employment and practice of faith. However, secular and democratic status of India is a reflection of itís Hindu majorityís tolerance and inclusiveness.

Thus, we reach an important conclusion: In South Asia, coexistence with Muslims is nearly impossible when Muslims are in majority and difficult when in substantial minority. There is no indication that there will be any progressive change in Muslim outlook for a foreseeable future Ė especially, not when retrogressive and influential Saudi Arabia sits on top of another 30 years worth of oil. Therefore, special efforts are needed to protect India and itís non-Muslim subjects.

How could Pakistan get away by conducting non-Muslim ethnic cleansing on one hand but support Muslim "self-determination" in India on the other? Given that India had been divided on the basis of Islam and was at the receiving end of the associated non-Muslim ethnic cleansing, one would expect India to be less apologetic about cracking down on Muslim extremists. But India still, even in this summit, has allowed Pakistan to claim the "moral high ground" of support of Kashmiri Muslim self-determination without taking Pakistan to task on non-Muslim ethnic cleansing. Non-Muslims have been reduced to a tiny minority in Pakistan and the Pakistani army killed and drove out a large number of non-Muslims in 1971 from the then East Pakistan.

If India could make counter territorial claims on Pak for its part in non-Muslim ethnic cleansing, it would have certainly put Pak on the defensive. Not being able to neutralize this "moral high ground" bares the intellectual inadequacies of Indian establishment. This failure would imply that Pak would continue its proxy war with India as usual Ė as seen from the summit pronouncements. Even though the summit stalled over Kashmir, Pak has been able to articulate itís Kashmir position well without an effective counter punch from India except the usual and highly ineffective "stop cross-border terrorism" howling.

If India could not bring itís own Muslims, including Kashmiri Muslims, into main stream, what does it hope to achieve through any form of people-to-people contact between the two nations? In fact, the Hindu-Muslim divide in India is only increasing. The "confidence building" measures such as easier visa access to India, proposed by BJP-led government will further infiltration of extremists, while doing nothing to encourage non-Muslim Indians to visit Pak Ė hardly a mode for developing people-to-people understanding. Implementation of the above measures would mean more migration of Muslims into India.

This failed summit has come across as a one more wasted exercise that has further eroded Indiaís security interests. Reluctance by Indian media and others in the Indian establishment to discuss Islamic extremism related issues comprehensively in the fear of "hurting" Muslim sentiments has left Indians unable to focus or understand the issues involved. This is the reason, time and again India has come across as a soft state not knowing what it wants and unable to act decisively. The events of the last fifty years have shown that Islamic extremism can only be wished away to Indiaís and itís non-Muslim citizenís peril.