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Volume 2, No. 5 - October 2002

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India and Pakistan: The ever-ever antagonism
By Sreeram Chaulia

A Review of J.N. Dixit's
India-Pakistan in War & Peace

I once witnessed a pitched debate between former Indian foreign secretary J N Dixit, alias "Mani", and peace activist Praful Bidwai on the pros and cons of India going nuclear in May 1998. Bidwai argued emotionally and rhetorically against India "losing its soul in Pokhran" (in a theatrical style which has now been popularized by novelist Arundhati Roy), as Dixit proceeded to professionally and dispassionately adumbrate the security requirements and milieu in Asia that necessitated the Indian nuclear tests.

I came out with the distinct impression that whether one agreed or not with Dixit's defense of "Smiling Buddha II" - as the nuclear device is popularly called - the man was a walking, talking encyclopedia who could rattle off facts and incidents at will and at apposite moments on any subject pertaining to South Asian politics and foreign relations.

A prolific writer and speaker since retirement from the Indian foreign service, Dixit has come up with this volume covering the entire breadth of India-Pakistan animosity, adding another feather to his plume as the one foreign secretary who never went out of vogue, long after superannuation.

If anyone still has doubts whether Mani Dixit is a one-man think tank, this anecdotal and racy survey of the "ever-ever" enmity between India and Pakistan, to borrow a phrase from author Francis Fukuyama, is the clincher. In depth of knowledge and foresight, India-Pakistan in War & Peace pleases, endears and also fills crucial gaps in understanding of recent and not-so-recent events of sub-continental history.

Present backwards
Dixit has chosen an anticlockwise narrative, beginning with the IC-814 plane hijacking and the Kargil war (May-July 1999), and then returning to the historical developments of India-Pakistan tussles from independence in 1947. A "gradual, logical and chronological approach would diminish the sense of urgency with which India should assess and react to Pakistani antagonism, which goes beyond territorial disputes or strategic worries". (p 19)

The author, a member of India's National Security Advisory Board, presents behind-the-scenes information about the involvement of Pakistani authorities in the Indian Airlines hijacking of December 1999. In Kathmandu, as a prelude, senior Pakistani diplomats and Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) officials went to the Tribhuvan airport departure lounge and "had some last minute discussions with the leader of the hijacking group".

Refueling of the hijacked plane en route to Kandahar in Afghanistan was done at Lahore, with Pakistani military officers present at the air traffic control tower. After the Taliban gave safe passage to the terrorists released by India in exchange for civilians in the plane, they proceeded with fanfare to Pakistan. Maulana Masood Azhar's triumphant march throughout his home province had the blessings of local Pakistani government authorities. Pakistani officials were present at Bahawalpur, where Azhar swore to raise an armed cadre of half a million people to continue the jihad against India. What worries Dixit most is that "the common people of Pakistan did not react to the hijacking in a manner influenced by humanitarian considerations". (p 33) They felt it was "incidental" and part of the general support that the ISI gave to terrorist cadre.

The Kargil war must be seen as a continuation of the unalterable objective of the Pakistani power structure: forcibly wresting Kashmir from India. Dixit's evaluation is that the single most important factor propelling Kargil was the personality of warmongering army chief, General Pervez Musharraf. "He believed that a sustained campaign of subversion and military intrusion would result in Pakistan achieving its objective of annexing Kashmir," and staunchly defended jihad as a "tolerant concept embodying commitment to Islam". (p 38). Like specious defenses of innocence in the IC-814 episode, Pakistan's claim that Kargil did not involve regular troops but only mujahideen was disproved by the fact that "irregulars, barring foreign mercenaries, were used as porters and logistical support personnel by the Pakistan army". (p 51) Every foreign government, including Pakistan's ally China, acknowledged that the Line of Control that divides Kashmir had been violated by Pakistan as a unilateral provocative act and that Pakistani infantry troops were directly involved in the aggression.

Again, disappointingly for those who imagine that people-to-people relations are the panacea for the India-Pakistan conflict, Pakistani public opinion (except in Pakistan-administered Kashmir) swallowed government propaganda during Kargil that the misadventure was "launched substantially by Kashmiri militants". (p 75) The lesson for India from Kargil and IC-814, according to Dixit, is that bilateral dialogue at any level should not be undertaken with any excessive expectation and should not be predicated on the sincerity of Pakistan.

Wellsprings of hatred
While there are theories that Muslim separatism and antipathy to "Hindu India" dated back to medieval times or to the anointment of Aurangzeb as Mughal emperor instead of Dara Shikoh, Dixit thinks that the half century from 1803, when Muslim political power crumbled before the British onslaught, was the cementing factor in raising anxiety among undivided India's Muslim intellectuals. The operational styles of both Tilak and Gandhi, not to mention British policies, crystallized suspicions about the Hindu majority in the psyche of Indian Muslims. Partition and its attendant horrors were "seeds of communal antagonism, sown over the previous 50 to 90 years, which were sprouting through the ground as poisonous saplings". (p 108) The moment Pakistan's founding father Muhammad Ali Jinnah complained of receiving a "moth-eaten and truncated Pakistan" in 1947, the seeds of hostility based in religion took on territorial identity. General Akbar Khan, who led the Afridi invasion of Jammu and Kashmir in 1947, laid down the golden rule that has caused untold bloodshed for 55 years: "The accession of Kashmir to Pakistan was not simply a matter of desirability but an absolute necessity for Pakistan's separate existence." (p 114)

Existing contradictions were compounded from 1958 by a "major ideological chasm" with India's commitment to democracy and Pakistan's transformation into a military-bureaucratic authoritarian state. Field Marshall Ayub Khan's era (1958-1965) was characterized by ups and downs in bilateral relations, with a few positive elements like the Indus Waters Treaty and proposals for a mutual defense pact, but a steep escalation in Pakistani war plans over Kashmir.

Then foreign minister (later president) Zulfikar Ali Bhutto's basic hypothesis that the Kashmiri people would rise in support of guerrillas and the Pakistan army in the 1965 war fell flat as locals supplied steady information about infiltration routes and hiding places to the Indian army. Pakistan's usage of code names such as "Operation Gibraltar" (in memory of the Arab invasion of Gibraltar in AD 711) and "appeals to the collective historical and assertive Islamic memory of a conquest nearly [a] thousand years earlier" did not shake the basic secular fabric of India in 1965, although Chinese ultimatums and diplomatic pressure prevented a decisive result in the war. Interestingly, again, though Indian premier Lal Bahadur Shastri made strategic concessions of Haji Pir, Kargil and Uri-Poonch at the Tashkent, it was Pakistani public opinion which was inflamed, led by Bhutto slamming the peace agreement as a "surrender and a betrayal".

The rearrangement of Pakistan
Bhutto's jingoism and communal anti-Indian mentality were unmatched even in the hard core of Pakistan's armed forces. His top secret memorandum to Ayub Khan after the 1965 debacle advocated revenge by not just acquiring Kashmir by force, but also by the dismemberment of India in its eastern extremities with Chinese assistance. As the Bangladesh movement picked up momentum, he accused the Awami League of Mujibur Rehman to be a "pro-Hindu organization that was going to affect the Islamic identity of Pakistan". (p 172) The 10 million refugees who fled genocide and reached India were labelled "rebels", "secessionist miscreants" and "majority Hindus".

An interesting sidelight of the 1971 war that led to the birth of Bangladesh was that when Henry Kissinger and high-level American missives warning India not to take military action for Bangladesh did not convince Indira Gandhi, the US ambassador to Delhi threatened stoppage of economic assistance to India. Mrs Gandhi, without batting an eyelid, suggested "immediate closure of the USAID mission office in Delhi". Another lesser known incident before the December war was that during the visit of famous foreign dignitaries to the Bangladeshi camps in West Bengal, French author Andre Malraux was so moved that he wrote about his desire to mount an Indian army tank and wage war against the military oppressors of Pakistan. Dixit also recounts the delightful episode of Mrs Gandhi chiding General Manekshaw for drinking during military briefings, to which he replied, "Madam, the brand name of the whisky is Black Dog, which [President] Yahya Khan drinks. I am quite sure that I shall overdrink him and outfight him. Please do not get angry." (p 210) One of the Pakistani myths broken in 1971 was that "India as a pacifist and soft state dominated by the Hindu ethos could not match Pakistan's martial traditions". (p 223)

At Simla, Bhutto pleaded with Mrs Gandhi not to publicly disclose his commitment to convert the LoC into a de jure border over three to five years, but quickly reneged on the oral promise by starting a covert nuclear program in 1972 and embarking on a grand strategic Islamic alliance to counter India's influence and stature in Asian, West Asian and Gulf politics. Most ominously, "Bhutto was accurate in this perception about Mujib's subconscious Islamic inclinations and innate reservations about India." (p 231) While crowds jostled around Bhutto's car on his first state visit to independent Bangladesh, shouting "Bhutto Zindabad" and "Pakistan-Bangladesh friendship Zindabad", Dixit, who was the Indian High Commissioner, was harassed and booed with anti-India slogans. The Islamization and anti-India postures of Bangladesh reached full crescent with Ziaur Rehman's military coup and have not ceased ever since.

Zia to Musharraf: The deepening cleavage
General Zia ul-Haq planned a thorough refashioning of India-Pakistan relations in a manner whereby compromises made by Pakistan since 1971 could be reversed. From 1979-1980, Pakistan established connections with extremist Sikhs in Punjab for fomenting the Khalistan movement against India, adroitly using Sikh pilgrimages to Pakistan for recruiting top level commanders (some of whom are state guests to this day, cocking a snook at the Indian government's "20 most wanted" demand). Zia had a two-track policy from 1981 onwards, "An apparent peace offensive, while encouraging covert moves to erode India's unity, influence and strength." (p 248) Concurrent with the total Islamization of Pakistani society, Zia appointed himself a spokesman for Indian Muslims, claiming "my heart bled for them when they are victimized". Dixit's riposte to establishment claims from Islamabad that India was engaging in "uncivilized behavior" against minorities is that "this criterion should be suitably applied to Muslim rulers, beginning from Mahmud Ghaznavi to Aurangzeb and latter-day rulers of Pakistan". (p 254)

Operation Brasstacks (1987), the nearest the two sides had come to war since 1971, was a classic example of the heightened mistrust between India and Pakistan that emerged out of Zia's machinations. Pakistani nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan's "revelation" to Kuldip Nayar in March 1987 that Pakistan possessed the atomic bomb was an orchestrated attempt at coercive diplomacy by Zia, further warning India that Pakistan was going the nuclear route to change the dynamics of the Kashmir contest. Zia also used nukes to develop South Asian allies, telling them that Pakistan's nuclear weapons capacity served the purpose not only of its own security but also to save the smaller neighbors from Indian hegemony.

Benazir Bhutto took Rajiv Gandhi's apolitical past and genuine desire to improve relations for weaknesses and hoped that she could get him to compromise on the Kashmir issue in December 1988. When Rajiv firmly stood by India's interests, Benazir upped the ante in clandestine activities, which coincided with and whetted the 1989 tumult inside Indian Kashmir. Benazir's highly militant and aggressive postures on Kashmir led to speculation about a new war in 1990, which was the first instance of American diplomatic mediation through the Gates mission of what could have been a nuclear confrontation.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif sent positive signals to India assuring that Benazir-style bravado would give way to "change in the ground situation" (read cessation of armed support to mujahideen). But whether civilian or military, no Pakistani ruler was able to extricate Islamabad from its religio-communal compulsions regarding Kashmir. Dixit says that "regardless of their political affiliations, Pakistani leaders remain prisoners of an all-embracing anti-Indianness". (p 282) The ill-treatment of diplomat Rajesh Mittal in 1992 also showed how Pakistani public opinion accepted official media portrayals of Indian lies and conspiracies to be behind acts of wanton violence and violation of international law. So vehement is the public opinion angle to anti-India policies, that Dixit recounts Pakistani Foreign Secretary Shamshad Ahmad "reminding" Nawaz Sharif in 1997 before Indian premier Inder Kumar Gujral that a proposed gas pipeline from Turkmenistan through Pakistan to India "could not be undertaken as there would be opposition from Pakistani public opinion unless the Kashmir problem was resolved first". (p 301)

From 1992-93, Pakistan's rhetoric on Kashmir shifted from "self-determination" to "violations of human rights by Indian security forces", allegations which were effectively rebutted at various world forums by Dixit and his successor foreign secretaries. Islamic terrorism emanating from Pakistan was successfully presented by Indian governments in the 1990s as the core problem, not human rights. In the late 1990s, the Gujral Doctrine of magnanimity did not yield any quid pro quo from Pakistan, leading Dixit to comment that "the doctrine was not rooted in reality". Even Atal Bihari Vajpayee's much-heralded visit to Lahore in February 1999 was bound to fail, as no sooner had he visited the Minar-i-Pakistan, Islam-pasand parties washed its entire platform in a public ceremony "to purify it from the malign impact of the visit of an infidel prime minister of the enemy country". (p 304) Uncontrolled Islamization and Talibanization of Pakistan were the strongest anchors backing the Kargil invasion which followed.

General Musharraf's statements as late as January 2002 that Pakistan would not accept any solution of Kashmir based on the LoC and his repeated warnings that Pakistan will use "all means available" (ie nuclear) in a conventional war have taken the story of India-Pakistan squabbles into familiar territory of mistrust and tension. Daredevil attacks on the Jammu & Kashmir assembly, the Red Fort and Indian parliament and countless acts of terrorist infiltration and violence in Indian Kashmir have added to the sting of mutual bitterness.

Psychological hurdles to normalization
Towards the conclusion, Dixit identifies a series of Pakistani traits that refuse to live amicably with India. First, "artificially nurtured memories of Muslim superiority and a subconscious desire to rectify the unfair arrangements of partition". Second, a certain envy Pakistanis would not acknowledge openly about the failure of their civil society to solidify democratic and tolerant traditions in comparison to an India where khakis and bayonets follow popularly elected representatives. Third, assumption by Pakistan of the role of protector and overseer of the welfare of Indian Muslims, who in the words of Maulana Azad, could be exploited from forces across the border owing to their "socio-political schizophrenia" since partition. Fourth, avenging the military defeat of 1971, which is a formal objective declared in the official oath-taking ceremony of every Pakistani officer-cadet when he graduates. Fifth, irrational faith in the "profound capacity for commitment to jihad amongst the momin", as was publicly declared by Foreign Minister Gauhar Ayub Khan at a press conference in Delhi. Sixth, confidence that Pakistan's nuclear weapons program is an instrumentality to further geopolitical objectives in Kashmir. Seventh, widespread belief in the Pakistani establishment and media circles that India is getting exhausted in Kashmir and would not be able to hold on to it for long (a presumption of Musharraf in Kargil). Eighth, and most significantly, "the unarticulated ambition and hope that if India broke up, Pakistan will emerge as the strongest and most powerful political entity in South Asia". (p 392)

For all the Vajpayee government's "bold and dramatic" initiatives since 1998 to break the log jam with Pakistan (the latest Agra Summit of 2001, incidentally, was L K Advani's brainchild, according to Dixit), unless there is an alteration of the above eight fault lines, no permanent peace can be expected. Unless there is a "fundamental transformation of the power structure in Pakistan, not only in terms of its military components but also of the social background and political inclinations of the plutocratic and feudal leadership" (p 437), the "ever-ever" antagonism will persist.

Mani Dixit's tome is decidedly an Indian version of the causes, symptoms and course of India-Pakistan fencing, but the fact that he was in the thick of diplomatic wrangles and peace initiatives since the 1970s, and the illuminating anecdotes and personal impressions he packs into this book will make it a primary reference guide for students of South Asian history and politics. For one, if Indian politicians understood as much as Dixit about Pakistan, there may be hope for more realistic and problem-solving policies.

India-Pakistan in War & Peace, by J N Dixit, Routledge Publishers, London, 2002. ISBN 0-415-30472-5. Price US$27.50, 501 pages.

[Sreeram Sundar Chaulia studied History at St.Stephen’s College, Delhi, and took a Second BA in Modern History at University College, Oxford. He researched the BJP’s foreign policy at the London School of Economics and is currently analyzing the impact of conflict on Afghan refugees at the Maxwell School of Citizenship, Syracuse, NY.]

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