Worrisome Tinkering with Defense Portfolio – Part V
Continued from “Heads I Lose, Tails You Win”
The Berlin Wall, which Willy Brandt famously called the Wall of Shame, once separated Western Europe and the Eastern Bloc during the days of the cold war. (That the phrase still continues to haunt us is another story.) It went up in August 1961. Public euphoria generated by Garbachev’s glasnost brought it crumbling down in October 1990.
The January 1, 1949 ceasefire after the first round of Kashmir War between Indian and Pakistani forces left India in control of most of the valley, as well as Jammu and Ladakh, while Pakistan gained control of part of Kashmir including what is now so-called Azad Kashmir and Gilgit–Baltistan.
In a meticulously researched scholarly piece, “Kashmir Conundrum: Myths & Realities”, carried earlier in the week in Boloji, my esteemed friend Jaipal Singh has calculated that area under illegal occupation of Pakistan and China comes to about 120,849 Sq. Km i.e. 54.37% of the total area of Jammu and Kashmir. Thus only 45.63% of the erstwhile state is with India.
All said, this LoC is the Berlin Wall of the South Asian sub-continent that came up in 1949 and continues to exist. Considering that it has been there for over sixty years, it may still be around in 2047 when both Indian and Pakistan celebrate the hundredth anniversary of their Independence. What a lasting testimonial to the collective insanity that seized us in 1947!
Shall we call this LoC an extension of Tobah Tek Singh Line after the 1955 short story of Saadat Hasan Manto?
There have, however, been many an aborted attempt to convert the LoC to the level of the de jure international border between India and Pakistan. The first of these was when Rajeshwar Dayal’s term in Karachi as India’s High Commissioner was drawing to a close. Dayal and Ayub happened to be personal friends since the days when Ayub (then in Army of British India) headed a services selection board in UP where Dayal was a deputy commissioner. In his memoirs, A Life of Our Times, Dayal tells us about it. He also was on cordial terms with Ayub’s Foreign Minister, Manzur Qadir, who too had close personal relations with many an eminent Indian, especially Khushwant Singh.
A meeting was arranged at Murree where Ayub and Nehru could hammer out the Kashmir issue and possibly evolve a mutually acceptable solution. And the only possible win-win solution to this seemingly intractable problem was then what is today being hawked about i.e. to convert the line of actual control into an international border.
Both Nehru and Ayub could sell such a solution to their respective people. Nehru could convince the Congress Party and people at large that parting with a part of Kashmir was the only way to settle the problem that was, unnecessarily, hindering the neighbors to learn to live together. Ayub owed his undisputed power to his support base in Pakistani army which alone, unlike a political party, could strike a deal with India. So, a meeting was arranged. The version of what transpired, according to Manzur Qadir, is:
... the President and the Prime Minister drove up to Murree in an open car with Manzur Qadir in the front seat. There was no conversation between the two leaders throughout the hour-long drive. Manzur Qadir made some attempts to start a conversation but met with deafening silence; thereupon he gave up the attempt.
Arrived the President’s Lodge, the host led his guest to the sitting room for a quiet tete-a-tete behind closed doors. The Foreign Minister and the Presidential staff waited outside. They did not, however, have very long to wait. When the doors opened, and the two leaders came out, instead of the smiles usual on such occasions, their expressions were serious. The return journey was as frigid as the drive uphill.
Later, records Rajeshwar Dayal, Manzur Qadir tried to draw out from Ayub as to what happened behind closed doors and Ayub’s version was:
... when the subject of Kashmir was broached, Pundit Nehru “shut up like a clam” and gazed out of the open window at the panorama of the mountains of Kashmir.
Ayub gave, in some detail, his version in his autobiography, Friends Not Masters. And this includes some hectoring, which Nehru bristling with his overweening ego, would have found difficult to swallow. Whatever actually transpired, Dayal’s summing-up bears repetition:
The agonizing question is whether there was a failure of statesmanship on one or both sides which led to the loss of a valuable opportunity to commence a process of reconciliation….In going all the way north to Murree, after the formal Karachi ceremony, the Prime Minister implicitly accepted the question of opening unconditional talks on Kashmir....
All this points to the melancholy conclusion that at Murree in September 1960 a promising opportunity of improving relations between the estranged neighbors by engaging in a process of discussion on Kashmir, which could have lasted for years, was lost. At the same time, Pundit Nehru’s whole purpose in going all the way for a face-to-face encounter with Ayub Khan, presumably in the hope of finding some common ground, came to naught.
Unsuccessful Kosygin Intervention
After the abortive Nehru-Ayub Murree meeting, the proposal was again revived after the 1965 war between India and Pakistan. In a piece posthumously published in his name a few days after he passed away, L P Singh – a distinguished civil servant of his day – recounted what happened at Tashkent. In January 1966, Lal Bahadur Shastri consented to the proposal that Kosygin may take the matter up with Ayub that the then existing cease-fire line with some adjustments may be converted into a permanent boundary between India and Pakistan. Shastri, a realist as he was, was prepared to make some adjustments so as to make the boundary-to-be conform to certain physical features even at the cost of India losing some territory.
This is how our generation has lived with the Kashmir problem that the father created in his political and military naiveté and the daughter failed to solve when another opportunity presented itself on a platter in 1972. The continuation of the conflict suits Pakistan because its irredentist ambition to get Kashmir provides oxygenated blood for the survival of its Islamic polity. The unresolved issue has ensured Pakistan to live with a “martyr complex” having been deprived of territory that should have accrued to it in 1947 on grounds of religion.
Meanwhile, there has emerged within the Pakistani society, led by the ultra-conservative Mullahs, fed on heavy doses of anti-Hindu propaganda, armed warriors of Islam like Hizbul Mujahideen and Lashkar-e-Toiba ready to mount a full-fledged jihad against the infidels of India. The heavily armed mercenary groups responsible for Pakistani misadventure in Kargil and the continuing proxy war subscribe to this militant cult. They are behind the insurgency in Kashmir Valley, which has, so far, claimed almost half a lakh lives. Their ultimate aim is to foment trouble within India. Till these groups are reined in by the Government in Islamabad – which seems utterly helpless to do so – one cannot expect any meaningful dialogue between India and Pakistan for a peaceful resolution of their disputes, particularly the Kashmir problem.
Civilizational Clash in Making
An uncured festering wound can assume cancerous properties. And this is what has happened. Does then the unresolved Indo-Pak dispute over Kashmir have the potential of, what Samuel Huntington in his oft-referred classic study, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of the World Order has called a “civilizational conflict”? The answer, unfortunately, is a very possible “yes”.
World history, so far, has been shaped by militarily superior powers imposing their will on those unable to resist it. The course of events from the beginning of the nineteenth century till at least the end of the Second World War, dominated by the Western imperial powers amply bears it out.
An interesting collaboration of this truism is provided by a man of religion. And that too by one of Gandhi’s English discipline: CF Andrews. He came to India to teach at St. Stephen’s College. However, the non-violent struggle that Gandhi had unleashed soon sucked the noble padre. In a letter addressed to Jawaharlal (included in Nehru’s Bunch of Old Letters) Andrews offers an incisive insight:
The two civilizations which have instinctively put “Brute Force” in a low place as uncivilized and vulgar – India and China – at their best, have come to grief and been bullied and oppressed because there has been some fundamental weakness in them.
The two civilizations that frankly accepted Brute Force – Europe and Islam – have both come to grief in other ways. Can there be a peace loving civilization which will at the same time not come to grief and become oppressed by the more brutal peoples? I wonder.
After the Communist revolution that overthrew Kuomintang in 1949, the Chinese wasted no time to come to grips with their “fundamental weakness”. They quickly learnt the lesson from their humiliating past and didn’t mind cultivating the use of “brute force” where they deemed necessary. The one person who didn’t learn from Andrews’ insight was the person whom he had written to, namely, Jawaharlal Nehru. Instead of building a realist paradigm that called for conduct of foreign policy hinged on calculations of power and national interest, Nehru was happy in the woolly generalities of panchsheel based on unenforceable vague moral injunctions.
According to Huntington, major contemporary civilizations will have to learn to live with each other if they wish to avoid collision course – bound to be catastrophic in our times of sophisticated weaponry of mass destruction. (These, as per Huntington’s enumeration, are seven: Sinic, Japanese, Hindu, Islamic, Western, Latin American and – possibly – African.)
Huntington, incidentally, prefers the term Sinic to Confucian, which embodies the “common culture of China and the Chinese communities” in South Eastern Asian countries like Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam. He singles out Japanese civilization as a distinct entity – distinct i.e. from the Chinese. Huntington assumes – though he doesn’t state it unequivocally – that Japan and Japanese institutions are distinct civilizational entities. In case of Hindu civilization, it is Huntington’s premise that Hinduism is “more than a religion or a social system: it is the core of Indian civilization”.
It is Huntington’s thesis that the future of mankind depends on the ability or disability of world civilizations to discover terms of living together. All said, the one most significant precondition of any possible cooperation is the attitude of tolerance towards each other. And this does not mean acceptance of others for mere survival – an attitude that underscored the philosophy of co-existence in the pre-1991 world where, pitted again each other’s dreadful pile of thermo-nuclear weaponry, there was no other choice.
True tolerance presupposes a basic belief propounded for the first time in the Vedic thought that no set of beliefs bears the stamp of finality. This implies the predisposition of accepting others’ beliefs as possible alternatives to the ultimate reality. Any absence of such a predisposition breeds intolerance which, in turn, can be the possible cause of future inter-civilizational conflicts.
We have, in India, to take cognizance of the fact that, geographically, we are sandwiched between the Islamic civilization on the one hand and the Sinic civilization on the other. For us there is no escape to living with two Muslim neighbors – Pakistan in the north-west and Bangladesh in the east. We cannot also disown the responsibility for the break-up of Pakistan which created Islamic states on both our flanks. According to Huntington, it is unfortunate that India’s policy-makers have had a blinkered view of the potential for conflict that states falling in the ambit of Islam hold out for the non-Islamic regions of the world.
Had a Hindu offered the above prognosis, the votaries of “secularism” in India would have dubbed such warning as chauvinistic outbursts of the much-maligned RSS. It is a Western scholar warning us. Both our Muslim neighbors carry to the contemporary world ideological baggage that does not promote the necessary culture of tolerance which alone can provide for a meaningful inter-civilizational cooperation.
Pakistan’s resort to active encouragement of – if not equally active involvement in – organized terrorism in State of Jammu & Kashmir is part of Pakistan’s grand strategy of survival in the name of Islam. The armed forces in Pakistan have an equally deep stake in the indefinite continuation of the Kashmir problem.
What, then, are the choices available to India to solve the mess which is the creation of Nehru’s sentimental attachment for Kashmir and the super ego of Sheikh Abdullah, who nursed right from the beginning secret ambitions for a Sheikhdom in the Valley under the elaborate smokescreen of Kashmiriyat.
Shall we let the unsustainable status quo continue with its accompanying bouts of violence till a viable solution emerges with or without international intervention? Or march towards a military confrontation?
The next full-fledged Indo-Pak war could lead to total dismemberment of Pakistan. The province of Sindh, already groaning under the Punjabi domination, will be only too ready to secede. So perhaps will Baluchistan and NF Frontier Province. Pakistan may survive, by 2047, as merely what once was West Punjab.
This scenario presupposes that in the possible future open round of hostilities nukes that both the sides possess, are not deployed. Should Pakistan choose its nuclear option, forcing India to do the same, the result would be horrendously disastrous. Most of the northern subcontinent will possibly be annihilated, including the whole of Pakistan. Territorially, India is too large to be completely destroyed. Phoenix-like it has the potential to rise even from its nuclear ashes.
The Pakistani leadership – both civilian and military – must recognize the futility of another war. If another war is not in Pakistan’s larger interests, the conversion of the LoC into an international border is the only win-win solution simply because by such an arrangement neither side will lose or gain territory. Cornered once in the National Assembly, even Bhutto reminded his countrymen of the futility of thinking to wrest Kashmir by resorting to an armed conflict. “We may not have gained anything by peaceful means, but how much have we gained by war? The gain by way of war is that we have lost half the country ....”
Some ways of living together, some modus vivendi, has to be found short of a war. As of now, the only sensible way is to work for converting the LoC into an international border. Indian leadership can possibly sell the solution to the nation. Pakistan’s leaders find it impossible even to tell their people hard geopolitical facts of life. Even if they did, will they succeed?
I don’t know if I’ve been wise discarding Mark Twain’s sane advice that it’s difficult to make predictions, especially about the future?