Will Pak and India be enemies forever? Husain Haqqani's latest explores the possibilities
The writings of Husain Haqqani, a former Pakistani ambassador to the United States, academic and advisor to four Pakistani prime ministers, are, more often than not, interesting for a wide variety of reasons.
His perspectives on Pakistan’s foreign policy, the Kashmir dispute, complex India-Pakistan and Afghanistan-Pak affairs, and the economy, are quite different from what we often get to read in print or hear on live television.
Whether one agrees or not, the author undeniably provokes his readers to think. His views challenge the long-held beliefs in Pakistan and in Kashmir.
Extending an olive branch
In his latest book India vs Pakistan: Why Can’t We Just Be Friends?, published by Juggernaut in 2016, the writer makes a strong case for friendship between Pakistan and India while highlighting the difficult challenges ahead.
It is a skillfully woven narrative spread over 177 pages.
Mr Haqqani’s razor-sharp analysis compels one to acknowledge that he has an eye for detail and understand that geo-politics is less about right and wrong or sentimentality and more about pragmatism.
From his insights as an insider on India-Pak relations, Kashmir and the nuclear bomb, the author explains how terrorism in Pakistan and growing Hindutva and radicalism in Indian polity are factors responsible for shrinking spaces for friendship between the two nuclear states.
A skewed direction
In the first chapter ‘We Can Either Be More Than Friends or Become More Than Enemies’, Mr Haqqani draws home the point that Pakistan is not the country that its founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah had wanted it to become.
Jinnah had wished for India and Pakistan to have “an association similar to that between the United States and Canada”. Quoting Stanley Wolpert, Jinnah’s biographer, and Rajmohan Gandhi, the author argues that both Jinnah and Mahatma Gandhi were passionate about good ties between the two countries.
Going for the jugular
The second chapter in the book, which consists of five chapters, is titled ‘Kashmir Is Pakistan’s Jugular Vein’.
Here, Mr Haqqani concedes that India hasn’t behaved well, especially in its brutal militarisation of Jammu and Kashmir and frequent human rights excesses, but he sounds more critical of his own country’s official policy on Kashmir.
He describes Pakistan’s Kashmir policy as an emotional one and blames it (Pakistan) for “near pathological obsession with India”.
Haqqani blames Pakistan for a 'near pathological obsession with India' when it comes to Kashmir
“Pakistanis speak about Jammu and Kashmir emotionally as a matter of right and wrong, not in the context of realpolitik. To Pakistanis, it is the unfinished business of Partition and the ‘core issue’ between India and Pakistan,” he writes.
Strangely, the author doesn’t talk about India’s Pakistan paranoia or how the large sections of India’s corporate media feed themselves on daily diets of anti-Pakistan rhetoric and cash in on falsehoods, propaganda and vitriol to stoke passions in the name of nationalism, patriotism and national security.
‘Rhetoric on Kashmir’
According to him, what Pakistan’s current Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said in his speech to the United Nations General Assembly in September 2015 did not make any impact on global stage. Sharif’s speech, according to the author, only made headlines in Pakistan.
“Of the 193 members of the UN, Nawaz Sharif alone spoke about Kashmir. This was a far cry from earlier times,” he writes.
In 1948, a majority of the UN’s 58 members had sided with Pakistan while the UN Security Council passed a resolution calling for a referendum in Jammu and Kashmir. The UN had also argued that the people of Jammu and Kashmir deserved self-determination.
The author’s main contention is that Pakistan’s “rhetoric on Kashmir” does not interest the world community any longer. He holds Pakistani soldiers and military planners responsible for “lack of strategic thinking” while urging Pakistan to understand this to change its policy for good.
Mr Haqqani rues the fact that Pakistan ignored the advice of former Chinese president Jiang Zemin, who told Pakistan’s parliament in December 1996: “If certain issues cannot be resolved for the time being, they may be shelved temporarily so that they will not affect the normal state-to-state relations.”
To build his case further, the author argues that “the proliferation of Kashmir-oriented jihadi groups — such as Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Muhammad — and their attacks on India’s civilian population have eaten away international support for Pakistan’s position.”
The missing context
It is precisely here the author misses an important context: the re-emergence of indigenous rebellion in Kashmir, the growing popularity of the armed rebels for they do not harm civilians and Kashmir’s romantic civilian uprising against the Indian state.
Civilians in rural Kashmir often form human chains to shield the armed rebels and disrupt cordons laid by the government forces during encounters with freedom slogans, stone pelting and demonstrations. They appear willing to pay cost for their expensive expression. Pakistani flags replace shrouds as Kashmir’s dead rebels and civilians are lowered into the ground.
The author does mention these facts. He is well aware of the global opinion on Kashmir, but seems unaware of the ground reality.
Haqqani is well aware of the global opinion on Kashmir, but seems unaware of the ground reality
Talking about Kashmir’s historical context, Mr Haqqani is of the view that “The Muslim League had missed the boat on winning Sheikh Abdullah over, but Pakistan could have built on a Standstill Agreement it signed with Maharaja Hari Singh and sought his accession to Pakistan.”
The author notes that Pakistan paid a huge price for cultivating jingoism, as it lost East Pakistan in 1971. He mentions that Pakistan did manage to garner global support for Kashmir from 1948 to 1963, waged war in 1965, supported the armed rebellion of 1989, and also attempted to alter the Line of Control during the Kargil conflict in 1999. None of these efforts, he claims, have met with real success.
Hard on Pak; soft on India
While concluding his chapter on Kashmir, he asks these two questions: “Is Kashmir really Pakistan’s ‘jugular vein’ if the country has survived for sixty-nine years without it? If it is not critical for the survival of either India or Pakistan, should the two risk mass destruction over a quarrel they have not been able to resolve for so long?
Then, he moves on to the third chapter ‘We Should Use the Nuclear Bomb’ and the fourth one ‘Terrorism = Irregular Warfare’. In both, he is more critical of Pakistan’s policies than India’s.
In the last chapter titled 'The Space for Friendship Is Shrinking', the author argues that 69 years after Partition it is unfortunate that “the anger and rhetoric of Partition forms part of transmitted memories while the reconciliatory statements by Gandhi and Jinnah after Partition do not.”
Haqqani advocates India-Pak friendship, trade ties, people-to-people contact, and opening of borders
In his in-depth analysis of Pakistan-India relations the author argues that “Islam and anti-India sentiment are the cornerstones of the ‘ideology of Pakistan’ and it is often the fear of India that makes Pakistan do what it does. He quotes Khaled Ahmed, one of Pakistan’s leading thinkers, ‘Pakistani nationalism comprises 95% India hatred.’
Throughout the book, he is soft toward India.
Though, in the end, he warns that “the attempts to saffronise the curriculum have encouraged chauvinism in India. There have been suggestions that maps of India at schools should include ‘countries like Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Tibet, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Burma’ as they are all ‘part of Akhand Bharat’.”
The author inscribes that both Pakistan and India have given priority to ideology over pragmatism
The author inscribes that both Pakistan and India have given priority to ideology over pragmatism as far as their relations are concerned. However, in his view, Pakistan needs to acknowledge the difference of size between the two nations.
“Pakistan is India’s rival in real terms only as much as Belgium could rival France or Germany.”
Mr Haqqani articulately mentions that India’s population is six times larger than Pakistan’s while its economy is ten times bigger, but what he skips in this context is Pakistan’s all-weather friendship with an economic power house, China, growing strategic proximity with Russia, India’s old ally, and the diplomatic warmth that Pakistan enjoys with many other countries.
Besides, there is no analysis of the multi-billion dollar China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) or its possible positive impact on Pakistan’s economy.
Talking about the path ahead, the author advocates Pakistan-India friendship, trade ties, people-to-people contact, and opening of borders, etc while recommending shelving of the Kashmir issue temporarily so that some progress is made in other key areas.
The author seems fully aware of the dangers, too, as he clearly points out that Pakistan and India are unlikely to throw their borders open to each other due to the atmosphere of mistrust that exists between the two countries. This lack of faith in each other, he argues, makes both countries see students, businessmen, doctors and patients, even musicians and artists, as “potential spies”.
The book ends with an Urdu poem by the Pakistani poet Fehmida Riaz titled Tum Bilkul Hum Jaise Nikle (Turned out you were just like us), translated into English by Shabana Mir.
Through this poem, Mr Haqqani conveys how India is becoming more like Pakistan, as religious frenzy in India seems to be prevailing over pragmatism.
Edited by Aleesha Matharu
India vs Pakistan: Why Can't We Just Be Friends?
Author: Husain Haqqani
Price: Rs 299