Indian Religious Landscape Survey

This is a very simple poll. I posted a couple of these questions on Twitter (@omarali50) and want to do the same here. The idea is to test a hypothesis (not about what will happen to the Indian religious landscape, but what do readers of this blog THINK will happen to it, and why) which will be part of a later blog post I plan. For now, please take this very simple 3 question survey by scrolling down within the survey below.. and comment on the post as you see fit.. We may learn something, or at least have some interesting discussions..

Create your own user feedback survey

Review: The Spy Chronicles

This is a review of “The Spy Chronicles” (not by me, but by our regular contributor Dr Hamid Hussain), a recent book co-authored by two former chiefs of ISI (the Pakistani intelligence agency) and RAW (the Indian intelligence agency). The book has generated some controversy (a lot of it far-fetched and irrational) and the Pakistani author (Retired General Asad Durrani) has been called to GHQ to provide an explanation and has been barred from leaving the country until an enquiry (conducted by a 3 star general) has been conducted.

The review is by Dr Hamid Hussain.

The full title is: Spy Chronicles: RAW, ISI and the Illusion of Peace. A. S. Dulat, Assad Durrani and Aditya Sinha (Delhi: Harper Collins), 2018.

This book is neither a memoir nor an organized attempt to explain a theory. It is essentially a transcript of conversations. It covers India Pakistan relations, Kashmir, Afghanistan and other general regional and international topics. Two informed individuals from rival countries engaged in a candid conversation and some of their views are not fully in line with the official stance of their respective countries.
In view of unresolved issues between India and Pakistan, there have been several international attempts to bring high former officials of both countries together for dialogue. One effort was to bring former intelligence officials of both countries together. This effort called ‘Intel Dialogue’ was organized by the University of Ottawa. Dulat and Durrani met each other during these ‘Track II’ efforts and developed a kind of friendship. Continue reading “Review: The Spy Chronicles”

Kargil War

This topic comes up every once in a while on twitter, so I am reposting an old post with a few new links and videos added at the end.. The main point is simple: Musharraf and a few of his cronies (Javed Hasan, General Aziz, General Mahmood), without having thought it through, conducted a foolish operation in Kargil that cost hundreds of lives on both sides and set back (perhaps destroyed forever) the chances of peace between India and Pakistan (set in motion by Vajpayee’s historic bus journey to Lahore). The operation was not only a strategic disaster, it was a tactical disaster..

First, some links with details about the operations: Continue reading “Kargil War”

For “Strategic Reasons”, Did Britain Want Pakistan in 1947?

I got these via an email from an author who apparently wishes to remain anonymous. Since any post about partition gets a lively debate going, I though I would put these up (again, I did not write these points, I am just the messenger 🙂 ):

Continue reading “For “Strategic Reasons”, Did Britain Want Pakistan in 1947?”

1947-48 Kashmir War

Extracts from Major Amin’s history of the 1947-48 war.

THE 1947-48 Kashmir War

Major Agha Humayun Amin

The war of lost opportunities 
History is made by those who seize fleeting opportunities in the critical time span in any particular situation and relentlessly execute their plans without second thoughts, subduing inner fears, overcoming procrastination and vacillation, and above all by those who are propelled by the burning desire to defeat the enemy rather than any half hearted judiciousness and timidity. Ninety years of loyalism and too much of constitutionalism had however made the Muslims of 1947 slow in taking the initiative and too much obsessed with consequences of every situation.This attitude was excellent as long as the British were the rulers, but not for a crisis situation, in which geography, time and space, alignment of communications and weather temporarily favoured Pakistan, in case initiative and boldness was exercised and simple but audacious plans were executed in the shortest possible time!

Today, it is fashionable to blame the Indians, Mountbatten, Gracey etc as far as the 1947-48 War is concerned. A dispassionate study of the events of 1947-48 clearly proves that victory was closer in 1947 than ever again as far as the Pakistan Army was concerned. Opportunities were lost because very few people who mattered at any level apart from Mr Jinnah, Brigadier Akbar Khan and some  others were really interested in doing anything!
Continue reading “1947-48 Kashmir War”

The Civilizational Unity of India

This article (excepts at end of this post) is a good summary of the (relatively reasonable Hindutvadi) arguments for regarding India as one civilizational and cultural whole (at least in historical time). i.e. you don’t have to share the author’s Hindutvadi beliefs to accept a lot of his arguments for the civilizational and cultural unity of India.
Of course, nation states may come and go and even civilizational boundaries can and do change; Tunisia and Libya used to be pretty Roman and now they are pretty Arab. Shit happens. One would not be likely to lose much money betting on Xinjiang being very Chinese for centuries to come. Han migration alone will take care of that. But still, there is a civilizational and cultural unity of India and that is not such a bad basis for a nation-state… It is certainly better than many other UN member nations have these days (hint hint..)

By the way, you will notice that even “soft Hindutvadis” with relatively rational arguments continue to have serious difficulty with the Indo-European invasion/migration into India. Come on dude, man up, own your frigging warlike ancestors 😉

By the way, he could have said more about Indian contributions to Arab, Persian and Central Asian civilizations (while acknowledging vice versa).
These ideas of our unity have permeated all our diverse darshanas. We have talked aboutBhakti and Vedanta and the epics of the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. But this idea of unity was not limited to particular schools. They were equally present in the tantric schools that exerted a tremendous influence on popular worship. Thus we have the legend of Shakti, whose body was carried by Shiva and cut up by Vishnu, landing in 51 places throughout the landmass of India that are now the site of the Shakti Peetham temples. The body of Shakti, or so the story goes, fell all the way from Neelayadakshi Kovil in Tamil Nadu to Vaishno Devi in Jammu, from Pavagadh in Gujarat to the Kamakshi temple in Assam and 47 other places.
Why would the story conceive of these pieces of Shakti sanctifying and falling precisely all over the landmass of India, rather than all of them falling in Tamil Nadu or Assam or Himachal (or alternately, Yunan (Greece) or China, or some supposed `Aryan homeland’ in Central Asia) unless someone had a conception of the unity of the land and civilization of Bharatavarsha? Whether these stories are actual or symbolic, represent real events or myths, it is clear from them that the idea of India existed in the minds of those that told these stories and those that listened. Together, all these stories wove and bound us together, along with migration, marriages and exchange of ideas into a culture unique in the story of mankind. A nation that was uniquely bound together in myriads of ways, yet not cast into a mono-conceptual homogeneity of language, worship, belief or practice by the diktat of a centralized church, intolerant of diversity.
And this unity as nation has been with us far before the idea of America existed. Far before the Franks had moved into northern France and the Visigoths into Spain, before the Christian Church was established and Islam was born. They have been there before Great Britain existed, before the Saxons had moved into Britannia. They have been there while empires have fallen, from when Rome was a tiny village to when it ruled an empire that rose and collapsed.
Thus the Arabs and Persians already had a conception of Hind far before the Mughal Empire was established. If we suggest that their conception of Hind was derived only from their contact with Sindh in western India, why would the British, when they landed in Bengal, form the EastIndia Company, unless the conception of the land of India (a term derived from the original Hind) was shared by the natives and the British? They used this name much before they had managed to politically hold sway over much of India, and before they educated us that no India existed before their arrival. Why would the Portuguese celebrate the discovery of a sea-route to India when Vasco de Gama had landed in Calicut in the south, if India was a creation of the British Empire?
The answer is obvious. Because the conception of India, a civilization based in the Indian sub-continent, predates the rise and fall of these empires. True, that large parts of India were under unified political rule only during certain periods of time (though these several hundreds of years are still enormous by the scale of existence of most other countries throughout the globe) such as under the Mauryas or the Mughals. But those facts serve to hide rather than reveal the truth till we understand the history of the rest of the world and realize the historic social, political and religious unity of this land. We are not merely a country; we are a civilizational country, among very few other countries on the planet.

…o there we have it. India is one of the few nations of the world with a continuity of civilization and an ancient conception of nationhood. In its religious, civilizational, cultural and linguistic continuity, it truly stands alone. This continuity was fostered by its unique geography and its resilient religious traditions. Unlike any other country on the planet, it retained these traditions despite both Islamic and Christian conquest, when most countries lost theirs and were completely converted when losing to even one of these crusading systems. The Persians fell, the civilizations of Mesopotamia and Babylon were lost, the Celtic religion largely vanished, and the mighty Aztecs were vanquished, destroyed and completely Christianized. Yet Bharata stands. It stands in our stories, our languages, our pluralism and our unity. And as long as we remember these stories, keep our languages and worship the sacred land of our ancestors, Bharata will stand. It is only if we forget these truths that Bharata will cease to be. That is precisely why the British tried to hard to make us forget them.

You are excluding Islamic contributions and Indian Muslims from your definition

This essay is about finding the historic roots of the Indian civilization and defining who we are as people and as a nation. We have had many migrants and invaders. While Islam has contributed to the Indian civilization, our roots are much older than when Prophet Mohammad first appeared in Arabia in the 6th century AD, so our civilization cannot be defined by Islam. Alexander the Greek came to our shores, so did the Kushans and Mongols and Persians and Turks. All of them added their contributions to our civilization as we did to theirs. The Mughal Empire helped in our political re-unification. But none of them define who we are.

We had the great Chinese civilization towards the north and the Persian civilization towards our west. Each of them influenced us as we influenced them. But because the Chinese came under Buddhist influence from India does not mean that they cease to be the Chinese civilization, an entity with a distinct cultural flavor and history from India.

Similarly, the Persians and the Turks came in many waves and contributed to Indian culture, even as we did to theirs. This does not mean that our civilization suddenly became Persian or Turkish. Some of these people settled in India, some of them brought a new religion called Islam and converted some of the existing people. All those who ultimately accept India as their homeland are accepted as Indians, for we have been a welcoming land. It would be a strange case indeed if conversion to Islam led people to deny the roots of their civilization. Do the Persians cease to be Persians, now that they are Muslims?

Islam does not define nationhood. If it did, the entire region from Saudi Arabia to Pakistan would be one country. Iran and Iraq would be one large Islamic country, rather than separate entities based on Persian and Babylonian civilizational roots. Indonesia and Malaysia would be one country.

Thus the civilizational roots of India belong to all Indians, Hindus, Muslims and Christians. Indonesian Muslims don’t trace their civilizational roots from Arabia, but from the Indonesian culture developed over the centuries. As Saeed Naqvi writes, the Ramayana ballet is performed in Indonesia by “150 namaz-saying Muslims under the shadow of Yog Jakarta’s magnificent temples for the past 27 years without a break” — Indonesians can apparently celebrate their civilizational roots without conflict of their being Muslims. There is no reason that Muslim Indians feel any differently unless led by the creation of fear or sustained demagoguery to believe otherwise.

Pakistan and India. The Long View

An awful lot can be said about the India-Pakistan conflict and what is said is heavily dependent on how the writer sees the world and what he or she wants it to become. Now that the latest round of proposed “National Security Adviser Talks” has fizzled, a lot is being said about who is to blame and what to do next. I thought it would be a good idea to just step back a little from the (necessarily and correctly) petty tactical maneuvers behind the talks and their cancellation and look at the (somewhat scary) big picture and then try to see what the possible futures look like. The last section is my personal obsession and can be skipped.
So here goes:

Kashmir is a disputed region that is claimed by both India and Pakistan. Pakistan holds one chunk of Kashmir (now administered as Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Kashmir) and India hold another. Without going into the details of whose claims are how good and what the UN resolutions really say, let us note one fact: Pakistan wants to change the status quo in Kashmir. India pays lip-service to the notion that it wants the Pakistani part of Kashmir, but in practice India looks like it will go along with keeping the status quo. So as far as Kashmir is concerned, India’s interest is to have Pakistan STOP trying to change the status quo (especially via terrorism or military force; India knows that complaints in international forums and human rights clubs are not a significant issue if kinetic actions cease). Pakistan’s interest on the other hand is to force India to give up its part of Kashmir, i.e. to CHANGE the current borders and administrative arrangements. In this sense the positions are not symmetrical.

Pakistan has tried various things to change the status quo. When India was partitioned, the princely ruler of Kashmir dithered about his choice (whether to join India or Pakistan). At that point, we tried to force his hand by sending in tribal irregulars to grab Kashmir by force (and we nearly succeeded; tribal lashkar were entering Srinagar when the Indian army intervened and pushed them back). After the tribal lashkars were forced back, regular army units joined the fight and both sides fought to a standstill by 1948 and then agreed to take the issue to the UN. Neither side did what the UN resolutions demanded (details vary depending on whom you ask). But the bottom line is that India held one part of Kashmir and we held the other and of course, both sides refused to budge from where they were.

In 1965, we tried operation Gibraltar to “liberate” Kashmir by sending in commandos who were supposed to spark a general uprising. The general uprising never happened and a conventional military offensive (operation Grandslam) was stopped after some early success and led to a short general war (the 1965 war) which was pretty much stalemated when both sides threw in the towel and agreed to a ceasefire. Again, opinions and details vary depending on who you ask, but no one can deny that the borders looked about the same after the 1965 as they did before it, so our attempt to change the status quo had again failed.

In the 1971 war, India defeated our forces in East Pakistan but nothing much changed on the Western front. The status quo in Kashmir remained more or less the way it was before the war (though definitions and fine details of the boundary changed a little and diplomats argue forever about how many angels now dance on which pin).

In the late 1980s a widespread revolt did break out amongst the Muslim population of the vale of Kashmir and in the 1990s we vigorously promoted an Islamist-Jihadist insurgency staffed by Pakistani as well as Kashmiri militants. The revolt and the subsequent Islamist insurgency (the two are not the same, though details and definitions can be argued about endlessly) shook India’s hold on Kashmir for a while and both India and the local population paid a very heavy price, but by 1999 it seemed that the insurgency itself was not going to drive India out of Kashmir and our civilian PM was thinking of making peace. The army stepped in to nip this in the bud and launched a limited war in Kargil, but failed in it’s objectives (tactically and strategically unsound to begin with) and got a bit of a scolding from the Americans in the bargain; always a net negative for us because Uncle Sam has historically paid for a lot of our “national security” upkeep.

In 2001 our brothers in Afghanistan (who provided strategic depth and much more for the Kashmir Jihad) got into trouble with America and were forced to temporarily relocate to Pakistan. Pakistan was also forced to tamp down the Kashmir Jihad in the generally “Jihad-unfriendly” atmosphere that followed and India has been able to use the breathing space to restore some degree of peace in Kashmir. But while we have kept the Jihad on a tight-ish leash (Mumbai 2008 being the biggest, though not sole, exception), we have not shut down the Kashmir branch completely. And of course, we have not changed our “principled stand”. We still want to change the status quo in Kashmir. The problem is, how is that to be done?

Since 2001, there have been several rounds of peace talks and many proposals for a peace settlement in Kashmir. Pakistan is of the view that even though our guerrila and military efforts failed to dislodge India from Kashmir, we still have a good claim on the state and India should agree to a substantial change in the current status quo in order to make peace with us and to have peace in the subcontinent. On the other hand, the dominant Indian view seems to be that since Pakistan has already “tried it’s worst” and failed, it should not expect to receive on the negotiating table what it could not win on the ground by force.

Peaceniks and pragmatists on both sides have proposed that we could agree to keep the status quo on borders (India keeps their Kashmir, we keep ours) but should give substantial autonomy to each side and allow freer movement across the border,so obviating any need to adjust borders and fight wars.

This sound good (and I personally think it is the nearest thing to a doable deal) but hardliners on both sides reject any such deal. At it’s core, the objection from the Indian side is based on lack of trust. Some Indians think they detect a scheme to use autonomy and softer borders to prepare the ground for bigger future demands (supported by an anti-Indian Kashmiri Muslim populace). Extreme Hindutvadis may also feel that any compromise with Pakistan is unacceptable and the long term aim should always be to one day destroy Pakistan and reabsorb it into India (or to absorb at least the Indian half of it, the Afghan and Baloch half are welcome to their own states).

Hardline Pakistanis meanwhile think acceptance of the current boundaries means giving up on the dream of ever seeing a Kashmir united with Pakistan and is a betrayal of the ideals of the Pakistan movement. More to the point, the security establishment feels that if peace comes, can disarmament and loss of domestic power and status be far behind?

Pragmatic peaceniks know that the fears of hardliners are not unfounded. But we do feel that those fears are unhelpful for the bulk of the population and stand in the way of a doable deal that can be made to work for all sides.On peace being prelude to another attempt at taking Kashmir away, well, we would say that India is not run by children. If India could stop us in the 1990s when the world was not so anti-Jihad, when India was poorer, when its armed forces were less equipped and when it’s establishment was at least as corrupt and incompetent, why should it lose control in the future when all these factors may change in India’s favor?

For the Hindutvadis, I would say this. Yes, you may never see the Indus basin, home of the Rig Veda and site of so many historic Sikh and Hindu sites returned to Mother India, but  worse things have happened in history. Maybe you can take it as the price “Mother India” has to pay for having been conquered and ruled by invaders for so many centuries and for not being able to assimilate them into India more fully. Maybe, as Don Corleone said, “there just wasn’t enough time”.. Meanwhile, enough local people were assimilated into the conqueror’s culture to such a degree that they no longer think of themselves as Indian. IF Indian-ness is truly deep rooted and desirable (and this conversion is actually a bad fit for our deeply Indian culture), then their descendants may drift back. If not, maybe it is time to move on.

On the Pakistani side, yes, I think the ideals of the Pakistan movement will be betrayed by such a deal. But really, even you guys cannot seem to agree on what those ideals were in the first place. Maybe the whole partition thing was a bad idea. Why make it worse? It cannot be reversed, but at least it should not be made worse. Let it go. What’s next? 200 million Indian Muslims added to Pakistan?

And yes, if we don’t get Kashmir the coming conflicts over water may find us forced to trust India and international mediation. But the Indus waters treaty has worked for 50 years. If we have peace and increased trust, we may be able to work it out in the future too. In any case, what is the alternative? It’s not like all our attempts to get Kashmir by force have been hugely successful to date. Sure, we would be nicely placed if we owned ALL the rivers from Tibet to the sea, but we don’t. China and India happen to be upstream. But then again, many other nations with rivers that run down from other countries don’t control their destiny all alone. They have to make deals and manage. Deals are easier when you are at peace.

And finally, the security establishment and it’s fear of irrelevancy and demotion: no such luck. This is not a valid fear at all. Guess who will get all the Amul franchises when peace breaks out? Yes, cousin Jimmy and retired Brigadier uncle! Money can be made in many ways. You can make it in peace rather than war. Collect tolls. Distribute movies. Arrange concerts. Set up businesses.You know you can do it. And security? it will be an even bigger headache after we betray the two-nation theory and try to hold Pakistan together for Chinese transit companies and Qingchi makers. Endless Islamist, Baloch and Mohajir insurgencies loom on the horizon. Maybe even a Maoist one will break out if poor people get shafted extra-hard. Your jobs are safe.

This is the case for peace. What is the hardline case?

Note that the two sides do not have symmetrical aims. Pakistan’s aim is to force India to make concessions using the threat of renewed support for Jihadis, Khalistanis, Maoists, NE Separatists etc, to force India to make concessions. India’s aim is to prevent Pakistan from making such an attempt. In order to see decisive change in this respect, India also wants clear and decisive action against the Mumbai attackers. Such action is not just desirable because a heinous terrorist crime was committed and its perpetrators have not yet been punished (though I personally think that is a good aim in itself) but because such action would be the best evidence that Pakistan is no longer committed to the Jihadist option against India. If Pakistan does this, India will almost certainly be willing to make at least a cold peace. Thus, when I speak of an Indian hardline case, I do not mean the extreme Hindutvadi case of wishing to reabsorb Pakistan “with extreme prejudice”.

The Pakistani hardliners case is qualitatively different. We are the party that wants a change in borders or at least some major move towards Kashmiri autonomy that we can accept as a halfway house to union with Pakistan. We have tried to force this change using proxies as well as the regular army and we have (till now) failed. But our hardliners think the failure is not as final as it seems. Our options are still open. Now that America is getting out of our hair, and China wants us more than ever (or so we think), we can deploy the threat of revived Jihad and Khalistan to ask for concessions. If India does not make concessions, we may have to move beyond the threat. Those willing to use these levers (rather than those just wanting to threaten to use them) are probably in a minority even in Pakistan. But the minority has the Paknationalist narrative on their side. So they can get their way because they control the Pakistaniat narrative and when push comes to shove, their opponents cannot muster good arguments without challenging the core narrative. All else being equal, the national narrative wins.

So let us suppose the hardliners win the argument. Do they have a case in the real world? i.e. can they win?

That depends on what weight one assigns to different factors. Pakistan has a proven record of deploying proxies and supporting insurgencies. All talk of Balochistan and MQM notwithstanding, India does not have such a record in West Pakistan. Even though Doval sahib has reportedly said “we can hurt them more than they can hurt us using these same tools”, an objective observer would have to say the edge lies with Pakistan. Our use of proxies has a record of “success”. India’s (in West Pakistan) does not. And Indian internal security institutions are already stretched thin and their state is known to be rickety and inefficient. Advantage Pakistan?

On the other hand, India is the bigger power. It has the bigger armed forces (even if they are weaker pound for pound; I am not saying they necessarily are. Maybe they are not. But the point is that even if they are somewhat less efficient than Pakistan’s armed forces (superior American weapons, less waste and corruption in procurement and weapons systems, higher asabiya??) they are so much bigger that they probably have a conventional edge. What if they actually use that advantage? Well, we don’t know for sure until they do, but these are two nuclear powers, Everyone gets nervous. So the threat of force is in India’s favor, but even India would prefer that it not be put to the test. 

It may be that in a few years India will be in a position to impose penalties with less fear of things getting out of hand (or going unexpectedly badly) but it is not in that position yet (wet dreams of ultranationalist Indian notwithstanding). Even though India may be able to prevail in a conventional confrontation, it will not do so without considerable cost; costs that may set back the economic takeoff that is India’s best chance of breaking out of the glorious poverty that has long defined it.

So, the bottom line is, we don’t know if the hardliners on either side can win. It is best not to put their theories to the test.

Best case scenario: that MNS and his government manage to reach out to Modi and BOTH sides are mature enough to understand that it is in the interest of both nations  not to put the hardline options to the test. Even while MNS is not in a position to bypass GHQ and the Paknationalists, he can arrange for lower profile meetings, smaller deals on trade, tourism and transit,  and other baby steps.. And if things go well and Indian development continues to accelerate then Pakistani economic needs, increasing economic disparity and international pressure may force even GHQ to give up on Kashmir. Then we can think of flashier and bigger peace moves and start dreaming about a South Asian Economic Union.

What will really happen: probably a few more bumpy years, but no serious war. Things will limp along, till peace slowly settles around the exact same borders we have had since 1948.

Finally, a few words about why I regard the hardcore “ideology of Pakistan” as a threat to peace: The Turko-Afghan Delhi Sultanate is the charter state of “Hard Pakistani Nationalism”. Muslims live in all parts of India and (especially in parts of the South) their presence is not necessarily connected with the Turko-Afghan invasion and colonization of North India. But the Muslim intellectuals that laid the intellectual basis for the struggle for Pakistan saw themselves as the inheritors of the Delhi Sultanate and the Mughal empire.

This does not mean that the Delhi Sultanate was foremost in the minds of everyone who wanted Pakistan. Not at all. It may not have been the proximate motivation for most of the supporters of Pakistan. Left wingers for example point to the “Muslim salariat” and its fear of being outcompeted by the more educated Hindu middle class. Or at the fears of the North Indian Muslim-feudal elite that had been pampered and protected by the British but that saw unpleasant changes coming in the wake of independence and democracy if Hindu-dominated mass parties came to power. Others have more fanciful theories; e.g. a prominent progressive Pakistani politician has written a book trying to prove that Pakistan was just the natural outcome of “Indus man” going his own way, distinct from the rest of India, as he has always done. Why “Indus Man” was more North Indian Feudal and Bengali than Punjabi (and many other inconvenient facts about history) get in the way of that theory, but the point is, the theory is out there and like most theories (even the silliest ones) there is some evidence for it if that is all you want to look for.

There is even a popular theory that Jinnah never really wanted Pakistan and the demand was more or less a bargaining chip that got out of hand. But hardcore Pakistani nationalists understood then (and understand now) that Pakistan must identify itself with the Turko-Afghan invaders, must reject the previous culture and religion of the inhabitants of this region (as a pre-enlightened state that we gave up once we adopted the superior religion and culture brought in by Islamic invaders),  and must see itself as the “Un-India”; not just a political unit of greater India that happens to be mostly Muslim, but a separate nation that consists of people who do not share a common culture with the rest of India.

This understanding appears, at one level, to be a fringe view. Among Pakistan’s small super-elite the most educated segment consists of Western-educated intellectuals who, like their Indian counterparts, get 90% or more of their knowledge of history, sociology, culture and even religion from Western sources, in Western languages. Among this super-elite, the dominant mode of thought is not “hard paknationalism” or Salafist Islam, it is Eurocentric neo-orientalism (a bad term, I know, but this post is not long enough to accomodate a detailed description, you can guess what I mean), leaning heavily towards postcolonialism and postmodern Marxism. Meanwhile among the barely literate or illiterate masses, the inherited wisdom of their own older cultures (from Pakhtunwali to rural Punjabi values to Sindhi and Baloch culture, with all their subsets and varieties) still guides life far more than any superficial snatches of propaganda they may have picked up from the modern mass media and mass education.

But “Pakistaniat”, based on the Delhi-sultanate-charter-state view that I sketched above, rules supreme in official propaganda, in mass media and especially in modern mass education. This version of Pakistaniat is so ridiculous in the eyes of the Western-educated super-elite commentators that they not only reject it as ridiculous, they find it hard to even take its presence seriously. Their books and articles (and these are, of course, most of the books and articles the highly educated read, within Pakistan and even more so, outside of it) do not engage with this Pakistaniat because “the eye cannot see what the mind does not know”. But enough about them. We can see this paradigm in operation if we wish, and it turns out to be the one guiding our foreign ministry, our defence services and our intelligence agencies. It is the historical myth promoted in our educational institutions. And it is the one we use when we name our most important weapons. It is a framework that matters. Not the only one, but very much an important one. And critical when it comes to relations with India. You can see more on this topic in my previous posts here and here, but it is easy to see why this narrative to the extent that it remains a real factor in Pakistani opinion, is a hurdle to peace. ..

I believe the Indian secular state narrative is not a mirror-image obstacle to peace. The hard-Hindutva narrative does have the potential to obstruct peace (not just because of what it says about Pakistan but because it raises the possibility of new partitions within India), but it is not yet the official core narrative of the Indian state and until it becomes so it is not the equivalent of the Paknationalist story. And no, I don’t think the election of Modi constitutes such a point in itself; even Modi pays lip service to secular democratic India, and in these things “lip-service” is the point; it sets the parameters for public debate and restrains excesses. A lot of what is still powerful in our religious culture (fanaticism, unwillingness to marry across religious boundaries, inability to tolerate literary and artistic expressions considered offensive, etc) is restrained by this modern Western import. At some point our modernizing indigenous culture will meet the decaying karma of British liberalism and hopefully this union will occur in a happy zone and not in the dumps. But until then, this Western liberal import is a positive factor that India maintains closer to the modern ideal than we do. And that is why their national narrative can live with the present borders, but ours finds it harder to do so because ours demands more than what we got in 1947.

PS: A couple of clarifications (since people have asked)
1. Don Corleone saying “there wasn’t enough time”. That quote is from the famous garden scene in The Godfather (see below at 2 minute onwards). The thought I had in my mind was that by 1800 the Turko-Afghan colonization of India had run out of steam. Large areas of India were dominated by the Sikhs and the Marhattas and the remaining Turko-Afghan elite were so Indianized that the thought of going home or asking for reinforcements from Central Asia was dying out. At the same time, much of India was pulling ahead of Central Asia in warmaking technology and even in Asabiya (clearly illustrated by the fact that the Sikh Kingdom ruled parts of Afghanistan instead of vice versa; a fact that gifted those parts to West Pakistan 😉 ). It was the British who froze the North Indian Muslim elite in place and allowed visions of “our greatness till the British came along” to take hold. Given more time, Indians (Hindus, Sikhs AND Muslims) may have fought over many things, but none of the rulers would have imagined they were Central Asian any more.

2. A number of friends have objected to my characterization of “extreme Hindutvadis” as desiring an eventual reabsorption of the Indus valley into Greater India. Two points: One, I did say “EXTREME Hindutvadis”. I am well aware that most Indians would prefer not to add to their current headaches by absorbing Pakistan into India. But the dreamers are out there. Take my word for it 🙂
Two: even the extreme ones rarely imagine a straightforward reunion of current West Pakistan with India. The idea is more like “you, being wrong in so many ways, will fall apart. All sorts of shit will happen. Then the kids may come home crying to mama”. I am not saying this will happen, just reporting that its out there 🙂

3. Others are offended that I have not mentioned the desires of the Kashmiri people. I think the desires of the Kashmiri people are rather mixed-up at this time. First of all, the Hindus and Buddhists would prefer to stay in India. The Muslim majority may wish to leave India, but it is not clear that a majority now want to go to Pakistan. That leaves independence and neither India nor Pakistan will permit that and both are strong enough to prevent it. Case closed.

4. About my “optimistic” best case scenario, see more here. It would have made this post too long (though the link is an old post, some of which I may modify if written today).

Everyone has a plan ’till they get
punched in the mouth. (
Mike Tyson)

Post post-script: Friend and uber-intellectual Ali Minai added a comment that I am posting here in its entirety:
I would make two additional points:

1. There is another sense in which the Kashmir situation is asymmetrical, though you do allude to this indirectly. There is a real separatist movement in Indian Kashmir with real buy-in from a significant (possibly growing) segment of the population. There is no such separatist challenge on the Pakistani side. Thus, in real terms, Kashmir is a much more “actual” problem for India than for Pakistan. It is true that Pakistan has failed to change the status quo of the borders, but the price of that “failure” has been paid more by India than Pakistan – if we do not count the jihadi menace afflicting Pakistan now as part of that cost. As long as this calculus obtains, I don’t see the true decision-makers on the Pakistani side budging. India may think it can counter this by supporting separatism elsewhere in Pakistan, but it just isn’t the same.

2. The hysteria created by the Indian TV news media is truly a phenomenon in its own right. There is a corresponding process in Pakistan, but it pales in comparison. This may have gone into overdrive post-Mumbai, but is not caused by that horrific event. I have been watching the evolution of this ultra-hyper-super-duper-nationalist media in India with considerable horror for many years since long before Mumbai. Unlike the jingoism in the Pakistani media which is: a) mostly incompetent; and b) leavened by a fair amount of serious punditry, a lot (not all) of the TV news media on the Indian side is superficial and “Fox-y”. The print media, in contrast, is much better – better than Pakistan’s – but we all know that print is dead 🙂

Both you and I recently had a more-or-less friendly twitter argument with a well-known Pakistani anchor/pundit who thought that India may soon go the way of Nazi Germany. In my opinion (and yours, I think), that is absolute crap. It just cannot happen in India, with its huge population, its diversity, its inherent tumult, its philosophical traditions, its socioeconomic stratification, etc. However, India, Pakistan, and any other country, can be subject to nightmare transformations. Some would say that it has already happened in Pakistan, but such nightmares are possible also in India. It’s hard to predict what the form will be – it will definitely not be Nazi Germany! – but the danger is limitless with the involvement of two nuclear states. The world can barely survive a dysfunctional Pakistan; it cannot survive a dysfunctional India. As such, India has a greater responsibility to remain serious, gracious and sagacious even in the face of provocation. When it too turns to provocation, I think it is time for everyone to get very nervous.

I think a serious case can be made that we are at the beginning of a great worldwide “unravelling” –  brought on by climate change, demographic pressures, terrorism, etc., all feeding into each other. Perhaps in a hundred years, the period when liberal democracy thrived in half the world and the rest aspired to it will be seen as a quaint interlude in a multi-millennia history of war, misery, oppression and autocracy. But that hasn’t happened yet, and what occurs between India and Pakistan may be one of the most important determinants of its likelihood.

Kargil War

This topic comes up every once in a while on twitter and I always regret having lost my old post about it when the old Brownpundits crashed and burned. So I just looked up a cached copy and am reposting it (with slight editing) so that it is available whenever another young Pakistani officer announces that we were robbed of a great victory in Kashmir by Nawaz Sharif (I am not kidding).

First, some links with details about the operations:

1. an excellent summary of the Kargil war by the US Naval postgraduate school.

2. A more recent summary focused on airpower but with a good summary of the whole affair..

3. Role of the Pakistan air force:

Back in 1999 I thought that Musharraf should have been dismissed and prosecuted for his role in the affair, but I also bought into the propaganda that the operation was a “great tactical success but a strategic blunder”. As time went on and more details came out, it became clear that the planning at the tactical level was as bad as the stupidities and mistaken assumptions that underlay the strategic vision of General Musharraf and inner coterie and in particular the commander of Force Command Northern Areas (FCNA), General Javed Hassan.

The men (primarily Northern Light Infantry (NLI) and Special Services Group (SSG) volunteers) who did the actual fighting from the Pakistani side performed with suicidal bravery, but once the Indian army learned from its early mistakes and brought all its resources to bear on the operation, these brave men were left to literally starve and bleed to death while Javed Hassan and his boss tried to bluster their way past their disastrous mistake. Musharraf’s coup protected the plotters from facing any consequences within Pakistan and a systematic disinformation campaign was used to crease (not just in Pakistan but also in some casual observers and Anatol Leiven level analysts abroad) an impression of tactical brilliance. The above reports provide a good corrective and one hopes that the day may still come when Musharraf and Javed Hassan will face the music for their role in this terrible disaster…a disaster that led to hundreds of needless deaths on both sides in an operation that civilian prime minister Benazir was able to see as “crazy” at first glance. Unfortunately, Nawaz Sharif was not that sharp…

Given how long it takes most armies to learn from their mistakes during the course of a battle, the Indian commanders on the spot deserve some credit for belying stereotypes and actually thinking and adapting while the battle was on. The British Indian army was a fine fighting force, but not one known for innovation and flexible thinking. Either India got lucky in a few officers on the spot (e.g. artillery commander Brigadier Lakhwinder Singh and GOC 8 mountain div General Puri or it really does have a better culture of officership than its mother army did.

Anyway, take a moment to read the above reports and links for details, but the main point is that it was not even a “tactical success”. It was poorly planned and once the Indian army found its feet, leaving those men out on the peaks to die was hardly a sign of brilliant tactical execution. The basic TACTICAL assumptions that proved wrong were:

1. The heights, once occupied, could be held by small groups for at least the entire summer.

2. Those men could be resupplied under fire for several months with food, water and ammunition, using mountain trails and helicopters.

3. The Indian army was incapable of attacking from any direction except straight up the front slopes, where they would be cut down like grass.

4. And behind it all, the firm conviction that while “our boys” will exhibit the required suicidal bravery, the other side will not.

All these assumptions proved wrong. After some early charges that failed with heavy casualties (but also showed that Indian troops were perfectly capable of suicidal bravery of their own) the Indian army figured out how to use its artillery to great effect and went up near vertical slopes at night under cover of accurate artillery fire and recaptured crucial heights. They also managed to interdict most of the resupply effort, leaving many freezing Pakistani troops exposed on the heights without food or water. There is no evidence that either Javed Hassan or Musharraf made any real effort to come up with new solutions once their original assumptions proved wrong. Musharraf seems to have focused mostly on making sure the blame could be pinned on Nawaz Sharif, and that some sort of domestic (or intra-army) propaganda victory could be salvaged from the disaster.

The status quo is indeed in India’s favor by now. The critical period for India was the early nineties. Once they got past that, they were never going to be kicked out of Kashmir by force; and by using outside Jihadis and then the regular army and failing to dislodge them, Pakistan has already played all its cards. Another attempt could set the whole subcontinent aflame, but is not likely to change that outcome.

The fact that Kashmiri Muslims (or at least, Kashmiri Muslims in the Kashmir valley proper) remain thoroughly disaffected with India provides some people with the hope that human rights and democracy campaigners can win where brute force did not. But this too seems unlikely. The same Kashmiri Muslims are almost as disaffected with Pakistan as they are with India, so that the main demand seems now to be independence. But the demographics, geography, history and international situation of Kashmir all make any smooth passage to independence inconceivable. Inconceivable in the literal sense of the world; what I mean is, try to conceive or imagine in concrete detail what this independence would look like and the steps via which it would be achieved. Enuff said.

btw, General Shahid Aziz, who used to be Musharraf’s DGMO (director general military operations), CGS (chief of general staff) and then corps commander Lahore (and is now saying he repents siding with infidels against the Afghan Mujahideen; the timing of his decision to switch sides against the new Afghan regime remains in line with past GHQ strategic coups; see Afghan election coverage for details) has decided in his retirement to announce that kargil was a disaster caused by Musharraf.

He did back away a bit after other army officers accused him of washing the army’s dirty linen in public, but the damage was done.

By now, the cat is well out of the bag though. Here is Brigadier Javed Hussain from the Pakistan army making exactly the same points..

And now we have General Asad Durrani, former ISI chief (and the SOB who said on BBC TV that the thousands of Pakistani civilians, including school children, killed by the Taliban and other Jihadists are “collateral damage” and we have to accept this damage in the larger national interest, which he believes has been well served by our Jihadist policies) writing a book with a former RAW chief and saying most of the same things..

Gen Durrani on MNS knowledge of Kargil

For many other interesting links and videos, see this excellent collection from researcher Aamir Mughal.

btw, there ARE jokers on the other side. We are, after all, one people: