Dynamics of Pak hostility
(J. Mohan Malik on Indian response, August 1999)

(The writer is Director of the Defence Studies Programme, Deakin University, Australia)

In the aftermath of the Kargil war, observers have offered several views on the reasons behind Pakistanís continuing hostility towards India despite New Delhiís efforts to improve relations with it. However, none of the views and theories looks deep enough into the past or forward enough into the future.

Kashmir has always been a symbol, not the root cause of Indo-Pak conflict. The Pakistan Army Chiefís recent admission that even a settlement of the Kashmir issue will not usher in peace in the region has confirmed that the roots of Pakistanís hostility are in history, religion, civilisation and the politics of revenge. The gulf between the two is too wide to be bridged in the foreseeable future without major geostrategic or radical policy changes in the region.

India sees Kashmir as an integral part of its territory, central to its civilisational identity, whose fate is inextricably linked to the secular structure of the Indian polity. Pakistan, however, sees itself as incomplete without control over the whole of the Muslim part of Kashmir. After all, its creation was solely based on religion being the basis of a nation-state.

For India, religion cannot be the sole basis of a modern nation-state. If that were so, there would be only six nation-states (each based on Christian, Islamic, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu and Sikh religions), not 200 nation states in the world. For India, the real issue is the nature of the state (secular, inclusivist versus theocratic, exclusivist) and the type of society (multi-religious, multi-ethnic and multi-cultural in which a tolerant Islam coexists with other religions and faiths as in Indonesia versus the Saudi-Afghan-Pakistan variety).

Moreover, Pakistan was created as a homeland for Muslims living in the subcontinent but more Muslims have chosen to live outside Pakistan (in India and Bangladesh) than in Pakistan! The shabby treatment meted out to Urdu-speaking Muslims who decided to call Pakistan home by the Punjabi/Pathan-dominated establishment speaks volumes for the notion of "Islamic brotherhood".

Most Pakistanis believe that India, like its erstwhile friends, the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia, is doomed to further partition and Balkanisation. Many admit the ultimate game plan is not limited to "liberating Kashmir" but to subsume "Hindu"India into Islamic civilization. In this context, they point out that Zulfiqar Bhuttoís 1971 threat of a 1000-year war with Hindustan (repeated by his daughter at the height of the 1990 crisis) was not hyperbole. Since the beginning of the second millennium, Hindu India has been subjected to repeated invasions by the armies of Islamic faith.

As a result of Islamís eastward march over the last 1000 years, ancient India has already been successfully broken up into three states óPakistan, Bangladesh and India. Hopefully in another 1000 years, so the argument goes, the objective of either an Islamic India or the creation of more Islamic states will be achieved by the end of the third millennium.

Indians counter this by saying that their country, the oldest civilisation in the world, has not only survived but thrived millennia of invasions whereas Pakistan could not survive the first 25 years of its existence and is unlikely to survive over the next 25 years if it continues with its self-destructive policies. Pakistanis respond by saying that Ghauris and Ghaznavis may have lost war several times but they won eventually to subjugate Hindu India. Likewise, Pakistan may have lost to India in 1971 and 1999 but that does not mean the end of Pakistanís attempts to expand Islamís frontiers eastwards. Islam, if not Pakistan, will eventually prevail.

Thus, whilst India is a status quo power, Pakistan is the irredentist power. Pakistan fully realises that in the event of a full-scale conventional conflict, Indiaís greater military strength and economic-industrial capability will eventually turn the tide against it. And if nuclear weapons are used, India may survive but Pakistan will surely disappear from the world map. Therefore, Islamabadís strategy is to keep strategically important areas of Kashmir, Punjab and Assam in continuous turmoil through "low-medium intensity warfare" while avoiding an all-out conflict.

Some military planners in Islamabad believe that Afghanistan in the west now provides Pakistan the strategic depth it has long sought vis-a-vis its much larger neighbour in the east. If a full-scale war with India did break out, Pakistanís military assets (including nuclear-armed aircraft and missiles) could be deployed in Afghanistanís mountainous terrain. In the calculations of some Pakistani strategists, should India decide to strike deep inside the Afghan territory, it would lead to a wider war (jihad) between Islamic countries and "Hindu" India. There is some support for the Huntingtonian view that the India-Pakistan border from Kargil to Kutch is not a mere dividing line between two countries but a civilisational faultline, symbolizing competing visions and conflicting worldviews.

To meet the Pakistani threat, India needs to pursue several policy options simultaneously. One is to engage Islamabad in an arms race by doubling Indiaís defence expenditure from 2.3 to 4 per cent of GDP which in turn will force Pakistan either to spend nearly 70 per cent of its budget on defence or reach an accommodation with India. The Soviet Unionís example shows that while nuclear bombs and ballistic missiles may secure the country from external aggression, they cannot prevent internal implosion.

Two, fight and defeat Pakistan in Afghanistan through active support to the anti-Taliban forces. More than nuclear weapons capability, it is Pakistanís victory in installing a puppet Taliban regime in Afghanistan which has inflated its ambitions and whetted its appetite. The Pakistani Armyís invasion of Kargil marked an extension of the two-decade old Afghan conflict. The Pakistan-Afghanistan area is now the main centre of Islamic fundamentalism, drug trafficking, illicit trade in arms and international terrorism. The last decade has seen the growth of religious and fundamentalist organisations and terrorist outfits in this "zone of chaos".

A Talibanised, militarised and nuclearised Pakistan acting as a rogue state does not bode well for regional security. It has already set in motion geopolitical realignments (the Indo-US dialogue on Afghanistan is a good example). Just as Pakistan was the "frontline state" against the Soviet expansion (the "red menace") during the cold war, India has now emerged as the "frontline state" against the new threats to international security: the Narco-Nuclear-Fundamentalist-Terrorist menace.

Three, pursue a proactive strategic and diplomatic containment of Pakistan through closer ties with Iran, Central Asian states and Russia because the roots of Islamic terrorism from Algiers to Xinjiang and Daghestan to Kyrgyzstan can be traced to Pakistan.

Four, provide "moral" support to Sindhi, Baluchi and Pakhtoonistan separatist movements as a counter to the ISI's activities in India. Last but not least, India should turn the tables on Pakistan by seeking a Kargil war compensation of $60 billion (for the shooting down of two Indian fighter jets, one helicopter gunship and 500 military deaths, and the stock market losses in May-June). It is time to establish a new norm in international relations whereby the aggressor is taken to the International Court of Justice by the victim of aggression.