Divide and bleed

September 05, 2019


The writer is an author.
The writer is an author.

KING Solomon has just reason for regret. His humane decision has been perverted by two modern mothers — India and Pakistan, each claiming the same child. Both countries are witnessing it being torn asunder. Jammu & Kashmir deserved a better parent.

By revoking Article 370 and Article 35A of its constitution, India had hoped to resolve the issue of held Kashmir decisively. It has done so instead ruthlessly and callously. Prime Minister Modi’s government and Indian parliamentarians decided that half a carcass was better than a whole one. That decision was taken a month ago, on Aug 5. Despite India’s attempts to embalm it in the formaldehyde of cosmetic diplomacy, that half-carcass (much to India’s discomfort) has begun to decompose.

Many nations — more for their own interests than India’s — ignore the reek. They have accepted against their conscience that the action taken by India should be regarded as its ‘internal matter’. Who among them can resist the power of 21st century politico-economics?

India has claimed victory internally but faces defeat internationally. The United Nat­ions and now the European Union have clea­red their tables to make room for a discussion on Jammu & Kashmir. India tried but has failed to sweep human rights abuses in held Kashmir under a bloodied Kashmiri shawl.

Many nations, more for their own interests than India’s, ignore the reek.

Force of habit has made Pakistan regard every Indian setback as an advantage. Such ‘successes’ are Pyrrhic in nature. Foreign policy expects stronger foundations. Recent pronouncements by the Pakistan government, while dramatic in their declarations, need to be tempered with tact. The use of the words ‘Nazism’ and ‘Holocaust’ arouse memories that lie too deep for tears among nations which suffered both. The darker connotations of Nazism were accentuated particularly after the defeat of Hitler’s Germany. The word ‘Holocaust’ predates World War II. It has roots in the mass murder of Protestants in 16th century Netherlands, and in atrocities committed by Turks in the 1920s. However, time has not diluted their potency. They should be uncorked carefully.

In the past few weeks, there has been a curious inversion of postures in New Delhi and in Islamabad. Indian defence minister Rajnath Singh hinted broadly (the breadth of a nuclear warhead) that India will reconsider its nuclear strike option. It is prepared to strike first. Prime Minister Imran Khan has said that Pakistan won’t initiate a military conflict. The common man is finding it hard to distinguish between peaceable hawks and aggressive doves.

This sort of shadow-boxing was a feature of US-Soviet relations until the collapse of the Soviet Union under the weight of its military pretensions. US president Ronald Reagan upped the ante by elevating the debate into the cosmos with his Star Wars doctrine. The Soviet Union had managed to launch the first dog, the first man and then the first woman into space. It could not afford to combat the United States in outer space.

India has the same advantage that the US did. Its economy has the resources and the resilience to arm itself without having to examine the bill. For India, Pakistan is an irritant, a nuisance, but not a competitor. Its true rival — economically, diplomatically, strategically — is a militarised China. In the Eurasian zone, three countries are determined to retrieve territory history forced them to forfeit — Russia, its satellite states; China, the island of Formosa; and India, the Indus plateau from which it derived its name.

Interestingly, of late, PM Modi has changed tack in his recent speeches. In them, he addresses the people of Pakistan. He exhorts them to question their leaders and to demand explanations from them why India is progressing so rapidly and Pakistan is palpably not. Insidiously, he is inserting a stiletto between the Pakistani public and its leadership. He is attempting to extract a dividend from the dissatisfaction Pakistanis are feeling (and expressing) at the failure of the PTI government to govern.

Anyone with sense knows that India and Pakistan are not equals. They also admit the truth that India cannot annex Pakistan. It does not need over 200 million more ungovernable Muslims. That is why in 1971 it preferred the creation of Bangladesh rather than have a reunified Bengal. And it cannot incinerate Pakistan in a nuclear conflict without singeing itself. Pakistan cannot compete indefinitely with India’s plans to improve its defence superiority. At best, Pakistan can use, as it has done in the past, operational expertise to correct the technical imbalance.

What should both countries do? The only answer is a mature, reasoned and arms-less dialogue without preconditions from either side. The mothers must talk. Even King Solomon would find no cause to regret such a judgement.

The writer is an author.


Published in Dawn, September 5th, 2019