Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Who is to blame for Pakistan failing?

Nisid Hajari makes such an obvious point in Foreign Policy (see here) that it surprises. Blaming India for the failure of Pakistan is so cliched! What do we not know of the arguments made? That Gandhi was too religious for secular leaders like Jinnah to put up with, and this is why he went on to set up a religious state? Pakistan faltered because it was not given Calcutta, and later Kashmir? That Indian leaders never wanted Pakistan to succeed? These arguments have been repeated since the 1940s, and promoted assiduously by two groups of participants in the drama, who may each have something not to talk about.

First, the Pakistani elite. Nehru did indeed scare them off, but this was not about Hindu majority. If anything, ask the Hindu fundamentalists in India, Nehru and Gandhi would be accused of undermining Hindu majoritarianism. Nehru scared them off because he was dangerously socialist and the founders of Pakistan were mostly landowners. Most political leaders, and the Army top brass, dealt with the rest of the population with contempt. Ask why Pakistan had to wait for a peaceful transition from one democratically elected government to another for more than 60 years, and hopefully one would not find the handiwork of Nehru. 

This is the same elite, which caused an existential danger for Pakistan by trying to exterminate the Bangladeshi peasants, with the landowning arrogance that they dealt their own with. Indira Gandhi surely supported the Mukti Bahini, but it would be naive to claim that she created it. Today, Pakistan is failing because the state has lost the legitimacy with its own common people, which is not surprising. Blaming India for this may sooth some hearts, but would not stop the disintegration.

Second, the British imperial administration, which sponsored Pakistan. For them, Pakistan was never a viable state, so precarious that it was to forever be dependent on Western military support. This was to be the bulwark of British Imperialism in Central Asia, restricting Soviet influence in Iran which was the equivalent of Saudi Arabia, the main oil producer, at that time. The fact that they, and later various American administrations, propped up various Pakistani regimes to keep fighting India, which they saw as a Soviet proxy, and later the Soviets themselves in Afghanistan, and helped them undermine the local aspirations of development and progress, should give them some responsibility of the failure of Pakistan.

As for India, Indian leaders may not have wished Pakistan well. Pakistan was a direct negation of whatever the idea of India supposed to be. For many Indians, it was a part of the country they knew - and the partition was a tragic anathema. Some leaders wanted Pakistan to fail, others less so. [One of the reasons Gandhi was killed because he was seen to be too friendly to Pakistan, planning to carry out a peace march to Karachi to meet Jinnah. He was supposed to leave the first week of February, which was stopped as he was killed on 31st January.] However, one could argue that they were so busy keeping India together, and moving forward on development, giving them credits for the self-destruction of Pakistan would be way too much! (proving the wry observation of British administrators that India has bad people and good politicians, and Pakistan, the opposite)

For all Indian leaders through the generations, Pakistan arouse convoluted feelings. On one hand, it is a competitor and a problem for the idea of India, but, on the other, a failing Pakistan is a terrifying prospect, because that would surely destablise India. Today's Indian leaders are possibly different from the previous generation, who may feel no connection to Karachi or Lahore and come to regard Pakistan as a different country. At least they are more capable of some self-interested sincerity in the Indian approach to Pakistan, because they, more than anyone else in the world, do not want it to become a hotbed of anarchy and terrorism. However, the Pakistani elite and their Western sponsors continue to dig themselves in deeper holes, and India is surely becoming a hapless spectator, and a victim, of this unfolding tragedy.






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