Review: From the Ruins of Empire; The Intellectuals Who Remade Asia

This was a long rolling rant I wrote 5 years ago while reading Pankaj Mishra’s book “From The Ruins of Empire; The Intellectuals Who Remade Asia“. The format is that I commented as I read the book. So early parts are comments on early chapters and so on. Quotes from Pankaj are in bolded italics. I am reposting today after editing it a little because the topic came up once again.

Spoiler Alert. since the “review” is really a very long rolling rant, written as I read the book, some people may just want to know this one fact: this books is NOT about the intellectuals who remade Asia. That book would have to start with people like Aizawa in Japan, the first Asian nation to be “remade”, but that is one nation and one set of thinkers you will not find in this book. Why? because this book is not about Asia, its history or its renaissance, it is about post-liberal virtue signaling. For details, read on..

Introduction: After being told that everyone from Orhan Pamuk to Pakistani Ambassador (and liberal feminist Jinnahist icon) Sherry Rahman is in love with Pankaj Mishra’s new book I have finally started reading it.
I have only read 50 pages so far but it is beginning to set a certain tone. And its not a very encouraging one. I am not impressed. At all. So Far.

On  page 18 he says: the word Islam, describing the range of Muslim beliefs and  practices, was not used before the 19th century. 
WTF?

This is then negated on the very next page by Mishra himself. The only explanation for this little nugget is that Pankaj knows his audience and will miss no opportunity to slide in some politically correct red meat for his audience. There is a vague sense “out there” in liberal academia that Islam is unfairly maligned as monolithic and even that the label itself may be “Islamophobic”. Pankaj wants to let people know that he has no such incorrect beliefs. It is a noble impulse and it recurs. A lot. Continue reading “Review: From the Ruins of Empire; The Intellectuals Who Remade Asia”

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The Indian Political Service (Raj era)

There is not much known about Indian Political Service (IPS); a service that was involved in three important areas of Empire.  It was part of indirect control of Indian states, frontier areas and peripheral areas of the Empire in Persia and Persian Gulf states.  Following was part of an exchange on the subject.

 

Indian Political Service (IPS) is a very little studied subject.  My two cents worth comments bolded in the main text.  Hope that adds some additional flavor to a savory dish.

 

Hamid

ASPIRING FOR THE INDIAN POLITICAL SERVICE – A CASE STUDY OF A FAILED ATTEMPT

By Maj Gen Syed Ali Hamid (Retd)

 

Syed Shahid Hamid was commissioned from Sandhurst in 1933 and joined 3rd Cavalry a recently Indianised regiment in which he spent six years. The second half of this term were not easy as he did not get along well with the second-in-command who was subsequently promoted to command the regiment. Since there were no vacancies for Indian officers in the other two Indianised cavalry regiments, Shahid sought an entry onto the hallowed ranks of the Indian Political Service (IPS).

The IPS was the cadre of officers which dealt with the Princely States and foreign affairs of the Government of British India. Its genesis lay in a department which was created in 1783 by the East India Company for conducting “secret and political business”. Since in the India of that period Persian was the language of diplomatic correspondence, the head of the department was known as the ‘Persian Secretary’. Its primary responsibility was dealing with the Princely States through British Residents appointed from the Department. It also housed the officers of British India’s diplomatic service i.e. its emissaries to the countries surrounding India and the Trucial States in the Gulf. (The early organization performed various functions including intelligence gathering, diplomatic and foreign affairs.  The Secret & Political Department established in 1784 had three branches; secret, political & foreign. This set up remained in place until 1842.  In 1843, the name was changed to Foreign Department.  In 1914, it was named Foreign & Political Department of the Government of India. In 1937, the title was changed to Indian Political Service.)The IPS cadre was generally referred to as Political Officers, or colloquially as “politicals”. Some famous names in the history of the Middle East served as Political Officers including Sir Percy Coxs who masterminded the British policy in this region during the First World War. (on frontier, the name ‘poltical’ in Pushto still generates an aura among tribesmen although they fondly remember British officers of a bygone era.) Continue reading “The Indian Political Service (Raj era)”

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Indian genetics, the never-ending argument

I am at this point somewhat fatigued by Indian population genetics. The real results are going to be ancient DNA, and I’m waiting on that. But people keep asking me about an article in Swarajya, Genetics Might Be Settling The Aryan Migration Debate, But Not How Left-Liberals Believe.

First, the article attacks me as being racist. This is not true. The reality is that the people who attack me on the Left would probably attack magazines like Swarajya as highly “problematic” and “Islamophobic.” They would label Hindu nationalism as a Nazi derivative ideology. People should be careful the sort of allies they make, if you dance with snakes they will bite you in the end. Much of the media lies about me, and the Left constantly attacks me. I’m OK with that because I do believe that the day will come with all the ledgers will be balanced. The Far Left is an enemy of civilization of all stripes. I welcome being labeled an enemy of barbarians. My small readership, which is of diverse ideologies and professions, is aware of who I am and what I am, and that is sufficient. Either truth or power will be the ultimate arbiter of justice.

With that out of the way, there this one thing about the piece that I think is important to highlight:

To my surprise, it turned out that that Joseph had contacted Chaubey and sought his opinion for his article. Chaubey further told me he was shocked by the drift of the article that appeared eventually, and was extremely disappointed at the spin Joseph had placed on his work, and that his opinions seemed to have been selectively omitted by Joseph – a fact he let Joseph know immediately after the article was published, but to no avail.

Indeed, this itself would suggest there are very eminent geneticists who do not regard it as settled that the R1a may have entered the subcontinent from outside. Chaubey himself is one such, and is not very pleased that Joseph has not accurately presented the divergent views of scholars on the question, choosing, instead to present it as done and dusted.

I do wish Tony Joseph had quoted Gyaneshwer Chaubey’s response, and I’d like to know his opinions. Science benefits from skepticism. Unfortunately though the equivocation of science is not optimal for journalism, so oftentimes things are presented in a more stark and clear manner than perhaps is warranted. I’ve been in this position myself, when journalists are just looking for a quote that aligns with their own views. It’s frustrating.

There are many aspects of the Swarajya piece I could point out as somewhat weak. For example:

The genetic data at present resolution shows that the R1a branch present in India is a cousin clade of branches present in Europe, Central Asia, Middle East and the Caucasus; it had a common ancestry with these regions which is more than 6000 years old, but to argue that the Indian R1a branch has resulted from a migration from Central Asia, it should be derived from the Central Asian branch, which is not the case, as Chaubey pointed out.

The Srubna culture, the Scythians, and the people of the Altai today, all bear the “Indian” branch of R1a. First, these substantially post-date 6000 years ago. I think that that is likely due to the fact that South Asian R1a1a-Z93 and that of the Sbruna descend from a common ancestor. But in any case, the nature of the phylogeny of Z93 indicates rapid expansion and very little phylogenetic distance between the branches. Something happened 4-5,000 years ago. One could imagine simultaneous expansions in India and Central Asia/Eastern Europe. Or, one could imagine an expansion from a common ancestor around that time. The latter seems more parsimonious.

Additionally, while South Asians share ancestry with people in West Asia and Eastern Europe, these groups do not have distinctive South Asian (Ancestral South Indian) ancestry. This should weight out probabilities as to the direction of migration.

Second, I read some of the papers linked to in the article, such as Shared and Unique Components of Human Population Structure and Genome-Wide Signals of Positive Selection in South Asia and Y-chromosomal sequences of diverse Indian populations and the ancestry of the Andamanese. The first paper has good data, but I’ve always been confused by the interpretations. For example:

A few studies on mtDNA and Y-chromosome variation have interpreted their results in favor of the hypothesis,70–72 whereas others have found no genetic evidence to support it.3,6,73,74 However, any nonmarginal migration from Central Asia to South Asia should have also introduced readily apparent signals of East Asian ancestry into India (see Figure 2B). Because this ancestry component is absent from the region, we have to conclude that if such a dispersal event nevertheless took place, it occurred before the East Asian ancestry component reached Central Asia. The demographic history of Central Asia is, however, complex, and although it has been shown that demic diffusion coupled with influx of Turkic speakers during historical times has shaped the genetic makeup of Uzbeks75 (see also the double share of k7 yellow component in Uzbeks as compared to Turkmens and Tajiks in Figure 2B), it is not clear what was the extent of East Asian ancestry in Central Asian populations prior to these events.

Actually the historical and ancient DNA evidence both point to the fact that East Asian ancestry arrived in the last two thousand years. The spread of the first Gokturk Empire, and then the documented shift in the centuries around 1000 A.D. from Iranian to Turkic in what was Turan, signals the shift toward an East Asian genetic influx. Alexander the Great and other Greeks ventured into Central Asia. The people were described as Iranian looking (when Europeans encountered Turkic people like Khazars they did note their distinctive physical appearance).

We have ancient DNA from the Altai, and those individuals initially seemed overwhelmingly West Eurasian. Now that we have Scythian ancient DNA we see that they mixed with East Asians only on the far east of their range.

The second paper is very confused (or confusing):

The time divergence between Indian and European Y-chromosomes, based on the closest neighbour analysis, shows two different distinctive divergence times for J2 and R1a, suggesting that the European ancestry in India is much older (>10 kya) than what would be expected from a recent migration of Indo-European populations into India (~4 to 5 kya). Also the proportions suggest the effect might be less strong than generally assumed for the Indo-European migration. Interestingly, the ANI ancestry was recently suggested to be a mix of ancestries from early farmers of western Iran and people of the Bronze Age Eurasian steppe (Lazaridis et al. 2016). Our results agree with this suggestion. In addition, we also show that the divergence time of this ancestry is different, suggesting a different time to enter India.

Lazaridis et al. accept a mass migration from the steppe. In fact, the migration is to such a magnitude that I’m even skeptical. Also, there couldn’t have been a European migration to South Asia during the Pleistocene because Europeans as we understand them genetically did not exist then!!!

I assume that many of the dates of coalescence are sensitive to parameter conditions. Additionally, they admit limitations to their sampling.

Ultimately the final story will be more complex than we can imagine. R1a is too widespread to be explained by a simple Indo-Aryan migration in my opinion. But we can’t get to these genuine conundrums if we keep having to rebut ideologically motivated salvos.

Related: Ancient herders from the Pontic-Caspian steppe crashed into India: no ifs or buts. I wish David would be a touch more equivocal. But I have to admit, if the model fits, at some point you have to quit.

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Aamir Khan’s Dangal Takes China by Storm

Pakistani academic and ex-diplomat Aamir Khan is an old friend, and he recently wrote a piece on why Dangal is such a hit in China.
What do you think?

Excerpt:

But why did the Chinese fall in love with this movie? Firstly, no country in the world is more sensitive, even obsessed about the achievement of its children than China. The gaokao or university entrance examinations are a case in point. Mothers actually take their offspring to nearby hotels so that the child does not have to travel. They even block adjoining roads so that horn-noise does not distract the examinees. No amount of funds is enough and no level of effort is satisfactory to prepare these children for the future. The movie catches this collective nerve perfectly.
For Chinese viewers, even the slim-fat Aamir Khan reflects control over one’s body. That this is achieved through sheer hard discipline is both magical and achievable. Like China’s own success

At the same time, many Chinese children are being spoilt by the 4-2-1 syndrome. This refers to four grandparents, two parents and one grandchild — the latter has neither siblings nor first cousins. All six parents and grandparents spend money to pamper the “little emperors”. Thus when Aamir Khan cuts his daughters’ hair so that they can fight better, or makes them run for miles, this fits perfectly into the Chinese parental mental grooves. Fed up with Korean soaps, featuring feminized males with long nails, plucked eye-brows and rose-petal lips, Chinese parents have taken their children in droves to Dangal not only to motivate them but also to shame them.

Then, the movie itself is a metaphor for China. Like the future champions but now-penurious village girls who cannot afford to eat even chicken, China has overcome incredible odds to rise from poverty in 1978 to become a politically-stable economic juggernaut that is proud to assume international leadership. Dangal is China itself. No sky is high enough for the Chinese spirit. For Chinese viewers, even the slim-fat Aamir Khan reflects control over one’s body, achieved through sheer hard discipline is both magical and achievable. Like China’s own success.

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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 😉

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By the way, he could have said more about Indian contributions to Arab, Persian and Central Asian civilizations (while acknowledging vice versa).
Excerpts:
….
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.

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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.

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A preview of Indo-Pak cooperation in Uganda

I received a random salesman call from two brown dudes.

One of them (M) had been calling me the past few days trying to set up a meeting. He had been “sirring” me a fair bit and on the third time they managed to come to our offices.
Turns out even though he’s Gujarati Brahmin (I could tell the surname) he looks like a rather familiar North Indian accountant, the type we get somewhat used to. He was very techie and very solicitous.
As I walk into the meeting I notice the darker chap and assume because of his curly hair he must have been South Indian. Turns out he has a Muslim name (A) and upon my asking how long the company has been in Uganda (5yrs+) I ask if it’s an Indian company.
Turns out to my surprise it’s originally Pakistani (I find it a bit odd that an Indian is working for Pakis, but a job is a job I guess).
At any rate turns out A is of course Pakistani and as I sit in that short meeting it dawns on me the almost perfect illustration of Indo-Pak cooperation and stereotypes. Indian accountant in a suit, obsequious looks techie and money.
The Paki had obviously done something to his hair (in Uganda making those curls is called texturising) and was wearing a River Island shirt (we’re not even in Kampala proper) with a slight American twinge (I doubt he was the son of the founder but an aspiring relative so the American accent is grafted on).
I don’t know if Paks are the cool kids of the subcontinent (apparently the Sri Lankans have the most swag in london) but at a few moments in the meeting I couldn’t keep from smiling as the paki went and on with the sale.
Are Paks the natural salesman of South Asia, are Indians more technically gifted I have no idea but when stereotypes slap you in the face, sometime you have no choice but to smile along.. Oh and we might just buy the product.. 
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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. http://www.nps.edu/Academics/Centers/CCC/Research/StudentTheses/Acosta03.pdf an excellent summary of the Kargil war by the US Naval postgraduate school.

2. http://www.carnegieendowment.org/files/kargil.pdf A more recent summary focused on airpower but with a good summary of the whole affair..

3. Role of the Pakistan air force: http://kaiser-aeronaut.blogspot.com/2009/01/kargil-conflict-and-pakistan-air-force.html

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 http://www.indiandefencereview.com/news/kargil-a-ringside-view/0/) 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:

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the 14th Ferozepur Sikh regiment…and some others

Continuing the tradition of posting Dr Hamid Hussain’s occasional emails about Indian military history (and very sad at having lost the previous posts that were in the old Brown Pundits):

Dear All;
A good friend from India asked questions about details of 14 Sikhs in WWI and role of Indian Medical Service (IMS); not much written about IMS.  There were some other questions about Sikh recruitment in British Indian army especially caste issue.  Following piece was consolidation of answers of these queries.  My digging of military archeology is only for those interested in history.  I personally have a lot of fun doing this though quite tiring.  
Hamid
14th Ferozepore Sikhs
Hamid Hussain
14th Ferozepore Sikhs was raised in 1846 after First Anglo-Sikh War from demobilized soldiers of Sikh army.  It was raised by Captain G. Tebbs and recruits came mainly from cis-Sutlej area.  Regiment recruited local Sikhs and Punjabi Muslims.  Initially, Oudh Rajputs from other regiments were posted to the regiment.  In 1852, Tebbs died and Captain T. E. Colebrooke took command.  In 1857 Mutiny, regiment was in Mirzapur.  Few days before the uprising about four hundred men under the dynamic command of Lieutenant Jeremiah Brasyer were sent to Allahabad and few days later they were instrumental in saving the fort.  Brasyer was the founding father of the regiment.  He spoke Punjabi and in 1846, he toured cis-Sutlej area and was instrumental in encouraging Sikhs to join the new regiment.  He was an amazing character.  He was a gardener and enlisted in Bengal artillery.  Few years later he was appointed Sergeant Major of 26th Bengal Native Infantry.  He fought in First Anglo-Afghan War of 1842 and First Anglo-Sikh War of 1846.   He was given commission and appointed Ensign at the age of thirty-three and served as interpreter during the raising of 14th Ferozepore Sikhs.  The regiment was later known by his name as Brasyer’s Sikhs. 
During mutiny, with the breakdown of general order, soldiers of 14th Ferozepore Sikhs got hold of all the liquor from cantonment and city of Allahabad.  They periodically got drunk and discipline was seriously compromised.  British position was still precarious and they have to act tactfully.  They bought all the liquor from Sikhs at asking price and later transferred them from the fort to a nearby building.  During Mutiny, regiment joined Henry Havelock’s relief of Cawnpore and Lucknow. In the hot weather, soldiers discarded their regular uniform and donned red turbans.  British officers including their commander Brasyer also wore red turbans.  In honor of this service, regiment was allowed to wear red turbans and later the whole Sikh regiment adopted the red turban; a tradition still continued in Sikh regiment of Indian army. 

Regiment participated in many expeditions on North West Frontier.  In 1863 Ambela Expedition, regiment under the command of Major Ross and Subedar Major Sikandar Khan participated in some sanguine battles.  In 1877, regiment participated in Jowaki Expedition operating in Bori valley.  In 1878, regiment participated in Second Anglo-Afghan War under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Williams.  Regiment was decimated not by enemy fire but by an epidemic of typhoid fever killing 200 men.  In 1881, regiment participated in Waziristan operation.  In 1884, Lieutenant Colonel George Nicholas Channer V.C. took command of the regiment.  He was originally from 1st Gurkha Rifles.  Channer family had long association with Indian army and especially Sikhs.  His father Colonel George Girdwood Channer served with Bengal Artillery.  His brother Colonel Bernard Channer DSO served with 2nd Native Infantry and Rajput Light Infantry.  Bernard’s three sons served in Indian army.  Guy Channer DSO served with 14th Sikhs and commanded the battalion in 1918, Bernard Gordon with 54th Sikhs (later 4/12 Frontier Force Regiment and now 6 Frontier Force Regiment of Pakistan army) and Keith Francis with 30th Jacob’s Horse.  In 1888, regiment fought in Black Mountain expedition under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Ellis, Chitral expedition in 1895, Tochi Field Force in 1897 and went to China in 1900 during Boxer rebellion. 
In 1866, Punjabi Muslims were phased out and regiment became a single class regiment of Sikhs.  It is important to understand Sikh recruitment in British Indian army.  Sikh religious and social transformation in nineteenth century resulted in retreat of Khatri and rise of Jat Sikhs.  There is no caste system in Sikh religious doctrine and all are considered equal.  However, in reality there existed a clear class hierarchy in descending order of Jat, Khatri, Arora, Lobana, Ramgarhia and Ahluwalia.  Jats were sitting on the top of the pyramid and didn’t mingle with other classes.  British had to consider this during recruitment therefore only Jat Sikhs were recruited for single class regiments as well as class companies.  Other Sikh castes were recruited in separate regiments. 
Lobana Sikhs were recruited mainly in pioneer regiments (48th Pioneers) as well as some Punjab regiments.  British policy of insisting on strict adherence to Sikh religious code for its military recruits resulted in solidification of Sikh identity.  This also helped in significant conversion of Lobana Hindus to Sikhism with resultant marked reduction of Lobana Hindus in Punjab.  Twin benefits of military service and allotment of agricultural lands helped in upward social mobility of Lobanas.  Due to their first class performance in First World War, in 1922 reorganization, it was decided to have at least one company of Lobana Sikhs in each pioneer battalion.  In 1932, when pioneer regiments were disbanded, Lobana Sikhs were recruited in mountain batteries of artillery as well as constituting machine gun platoons of some infantry regiments.  Some Lobanas from disbanded pioneer regiments were transferred to Bengal and Bombay Sappers & Miners. 
Low caste Sikhs called Mazhabi and Ramdasia (M & R) Sikhs were at the bottom ring of the social ladder and they also looked towards army for upward social mobility.  They were mainly recruited in 23rd, 32nd and 34thPioneers.  A very small number served with Royal Bombay Sappers & Miners.  Pioneers were a specialized infantry that was extremely useful in frontier expeditions.  34th Pioneers earned the ‘Royal’ title for their stellar performance in First World War.  In 1932, when pioneer regiments were disbanded, only a very small number of M & R Sikhs remained in army.  About 320 M & R Sikhs were transferred to Bengal and Bombay Sappers & Miners.  Initially, all Sikhs were mixed in Sappers & Miners regiments but problems between high and low caste Sikhs especially the tricky issue of M & R Sikhs attending Jat Gurdwaras of the regiments resulted in segregation.  All Jat Sikhs went to Bengal Sappers & Miners while Lobana and M & R Sikhs to Bombay Sappers & Miners. 
In Second World War Mazhabi & Ramdasia (M & R) Regiment was re-raised from elements of earlier disbanded pioneer regiments.  Several old British officers of disbanded pioneer regiments were instrumental in raising M & R regiment.  1st M & R regiment was raised in Jullundur in October 1941 by Lieutenant Colonel C. H. Price.  Price was from 32nd Pioneers and after disbandment went to 2/12 Frontier Force Regiment.  Second in Command Major E. P. F. Pearse was from 34th Pioneers and had gone to 3/2 Punjab Regiment.  Subedar Major Jewan Singh was from 32nd Pioneers.  9/15 Punjab Regiment and 7/17 Dogra Regiment provided initial lot of native officers and other ranks for the raising of the regiment.  1st M & R fought in Burma theatre.  Later two more M & R battalions and some garrison companies were raised.  M & R Regiment was later re-named Sikh Light Infantry (SLI). 
In First World War, 14th Sikhs served in Gallipoli and Mesopotamian theatres where battalion suffered heavy casualties. In Gallipoli, 14th Sikhs was part of 29th Indian Brigade (other battalions were 69th and 89th Punjabis and 1/6th Gurkha Rifles).  Lieutenant Colonel Philip C. Palin was CO, Lieutenant Cremen Adjutant, Lieutenant Meade Quarter Master and Lieutenant Matthew Machine Gun Officer.  Indian officers included Subedar Major Jaswant Singh and Subedars Thakur Singh, Prem Singh and Kartar Singh.  Battalion’s Medical Officer was Cursetjee and sweeper Channi. Battalion suffered heavy casualties in the Third Battle of Krithia in June 1915 with over three hundred and seventy killed and wounded.  At one time, all officers were killed and wounded and only Second Lieutenant Reginald Arthur Savory remained unscathed and took temporary command of the battalion (he was wounded later and at Lt. Colonel rank commanded the battalion by then renamed 1/11 Sikhs and retired as Lieutenant General).  Battalion was reinforced with two double companies of Patiala Imperial Service Infantry, drafts from India and from other Punjabi regimens and Burma police battalions.  Battalion earned the distinction of winning 35 Indian Distinguished Service Medals (IDSMs) in Gallipoli campaign. 
In Mesopotamia, battalion guarded line of communications of I Corps and served with 51st Brigade. Commanding Officer was Lieutenant Colonel Earle and Subedar Major Sham Singh.  They were succeeded by Major Guy Channer and Subedar Major Narain Singh.  Battalion suffered 61 killed in action and 250 wounded.  Among the wounded was Captain George Francis Bunbury whose father Lieutenant Colonel W. E. Bunbury (originally from 28th Punjabis) had commanded the battalion from 1902-6.  Influenza epidemic decimated the battalion killing 300 men; a de ja vu of 1878 when Typhoid fever took more toll than enemy’s bullets.  Battalion has a unique distinction of having winners of gallantry awards even among its medical officers.  Battalion’s Medical Officer Captain Cursetjee won a DSO while Sub Assistant Surgeon Bhagwan Singh won Indian Order of Merit (IOM) in Mesopotemia.  Heerajee Jehangir Manockjee Cursetjee was awarded DSO in 1918 for gallantry and devotion to service when he attended to wounded soldiers despite being wounded himself.  He retired as Major General.
Indian Medical Service (IMS) was the first branch of Indian army that opened its doors to Indians as King Commissioned Officers.  One the eve of First World War, many Indian officers were serving with IMS.  In addition to Cursetjee, two other IMS officers; Captain (later Colonel) Phirozshah Byramji Bharucha and Captain (later Lieutenant Colonel) Nilkanth Shriram Jatar also won DSO in Great War.  Jatar is the most decorated IMS officer.  He won his first DSO in June 1917 in Mesopotamia when serving as medical officer of 16 Cavalry.  He won bar to DSO during Waziristan operation in 1920 when serving as medical officer of 2/76th Punjabis.  He was severely wounded at Kotkai (in 2008 Pakistan army fought battle at the same location.  In fact, Pakistan army and paramilitary scouts fought many battles with militants at almost all previous battlefields of frontier warfare a century ago) during the withdrawal and lost his leg.  IMS officers introduced their young children to military life and children of many of these pioneer officers of IMS joined Indian army.  Jatar’s three sons joined armed forces; Major General Sudhir Jatar, Brigadier Arvind Jatar (Central India Horse) and Air Vice Marshal Jairam Jatar. Children of another IMS officer Lieutenant Colonel Mohamed Abdur Rahman also opted for army after their education in England.  Atiq ur Rahman ‘Turk’ joined 4/12 Frontier Force Regiment, opted for Pakistan in 1947 and became Lieutenant General in Pakistan army.  Turk’s brother Attaur Rahman after serving with a Frontier Force Regiment battalion joined Indian Foreign Service.  He decided to stay in India and served as Indian ambassador to several countries.
 In 1922 reorganization, 14th Ferozepore Sikhs was designated Ist Battalion of 11th Sikh Regiment.  Ist, 2nd and 3rd battalions of 11th Sikh Regiment were single class Jat Sikh battalions while 4th, 5th and 10th battalions were composed of two Jat Sikh and two Punjabi Muslim companies.  In 1945, Naik Nand Singh of 1/11 Sikh Regiment won Victoria Cross (VC) in Burma.
In 1947, Indian army was divided between India and Pakistan.  Most battalions were composed of class companies or squadrons and they were exchanged between two countries.  Ist Battalion of Ist Punjab Regiment was assigned to Pakistan and it consisted of Sikh A Company, Hazarawal Muslims B company, Punjabi Muslims C Company and Rajput D Company.  Sikh and Rajput companies of the battalion went to India.  Sikh A company was assigned to 1/11 Sikh then stationed at Gurgaon.  In the terrible times of communal hatred when Muslims and Sikhs were killing each other, it is amazing to note that the regimental bond was still vibrant and solid as a rock.  Former Commanding Officer of 1/1 Punjab Colonel Sher Ali Khan Pataudi was in Delhi waiting to go to Pakistan to join Pakistan army.  Battalion’s former Subedar Major Feroz Khan was also in Delhi.  When they came to know that the Sikh company of 1/1 Punjab was in Gurgaon in the process of joining 1/11 Sikh, they decided to visit their former comrades.  While their fellow co-religionists were killing each other Pataudi and Feroz were entertained by Sikhs of 1/1 Punjab with the farewell dinner and karha parsad (a sweet offering to visitors as a sign of hospitality) and many wet eyes.
 1/11 Sikh played crucial role in securing Kashmir for India in 1947-48.  Pakistani tribesmen and some regular troops had captured the town of Baramula and were on the doorsteps of Srinagar.   On October 26, Indian leaders decided to send Indian troops to Kashmir.  1/11 Sikh was the first battalion air lifted to Kashmir.  Commanding Officer Lieutenant Colonel Dewan Ranjit Rai was informed to bring his troops to Palam air filed in Delhi for air lift on early morning October 27.  Two companies of the battalion were on internal security duties.  Rai took C and D companies along with battalion headquarters with instructions that remaining two companies follow later.  Rai had no idea about the task and at the airfield he was given operational orders.  Ground situation was very fluid with very limited information and no one even knew the extent of Pakistani advance.  Rai was instructed to land at Srinagar airport and secure the airfield.  In case, there was no response from Srinagar tower or if it had already fallen, then he was to go to Jammu and grab any kind of transport and try to go as close to Srinagar by road. 
On landing at Srinagar, Rai sent C company under the command of Captain Karamjit Singh towards Baramula and it reached Mile 32.  D Company under Major Harwant Singh did a flag march in Srinagar and then sent reinforcement to C company.  Rai had no communication with his troops as the plane carrying battalion’s signal platoon developed a problem and had to divert to Jammu (signal platoon joined three days later).  Faced with this dilemma, Rai decided to join his forward troops.  At Mile 32, tribesmen failing to dislodge the Sikhs outflanked them and tried to cut off their rear.  Rai arranged for the extrication of his troops and was killed in action.  Major Harwant Singh took temporary command and later Colonel (later Lieutenant General) Harbkhash Singh (originally from 5/11 Sikhs) took command of the battalion.  Rai was a firs rate officer originally commissioned in 5/11 Sikhs.  He was from the Pakistani town of Gujranwala.  His grandson Shivjit Shergill and great grandson Fareed Shergill served in Indian armored corps (Central India Horse).
 In December 1947, battalion lost its Victoria Cross (VC) winner Jamadar Nand Singh in Kashmir.  His body was never found.  He was awarded Maha Vir Chakra (MVC) posthumously making him the most decorated soldier of Indian army.  1 Sikh was instrumental in saving Srinagar for India and rightfully earned 59 gallantry awards.  Their valor was acknowledged by declaring October 27 as ‘Infantry Day’ for Indian army.  In 1962 Indo-China war, 1 Sikh fought in Towang sector.  Battalion had over 170 casualties including 132 killed in action.  Among the dead included their Commanding Officer (CO) Lieutenant Colonel B. N. Mehta and Subedar Jogindar Singh.  In 1965 Indo-Pakistan war, 1 Sikh was in Titwal sector of Kashmir and involved in some minor operations. 
In 1979, Mechanized Infantry Regiment was raised and many old infantry battalions were converted to mechanized infantry and allotted new numbers.  1 Sikh became 4th Mechanized Infantry regiment.  Mechanized Infantry regiments are mixed class and 1 Sikh lost its all Sikh character on its re-incarnation as 4th Mechanized Infantry.  1 Sikh traded its red turban for black beret in transformation to 4th Mechanized Infantry regiment; however it is carrying on 170 years of traditions. 
Notes:
–        The 14th, King George’s Own Sikhs : the 1st Battalion (K.G.O.) (Ferozepore Sikhs), the 11th Sikh Regiment, 1846-1933 by Colonel F.E.G. Talbot, 1937
–        1st King George V’s Own Battalion, the Sikh Regiment. The 14th King George’s Own Ferozepore Sikhs. 1846-1946 by Lieutenant-General P. G. Bamford, 1948
–        M & R: A Regimental History of the Sikh Light Infantry 1941-1947 by J. D. Hookway. 
–        The Sikh Regiment by D. S. Sandhu, http://www.bharat-rakshak.com/MONITOR/ISSUE3-6/sandhu.html
–        The Story of Soldiering and Politics in India and Pakistan by Major General Sher Ali Khan Pataudi, 1978
Hamid Hussain
February 28, 2014
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