The recent news of the killing of five Indian soldiers on the LoC by Pakistani troops shocked, but did not surprise, me. This is because the killing constitutes one of those numerous ‘innocuous’ instances of foreign invasions in India which have taken place since time immemorial, and can be owed to the deplorable failure of the political command to curb the killing of Indians on their own territory.
Readers may like to revisit the genesis of the incursions of independent India in the light of facts. To do so, it would be a good idea to take the assistance of a Pakistani rather than an Indian, lest the latter is accused of being biased. Babar Ayaz, the veteran Pakistani scribe, who in his recent book, What’s wrong with Pakistan?, traces the “genetic defect of Pakistan” thus: “It was on the eve of the golden jubilee of Pakistan in 1997 that I made the following observation about the ‘two nation theory’ while giving an interview to BBC World Service:— ‘Although the Muslims were a small minority in India, they ruled the sub-continent for almost 650 years, and it never occurred to them that they were a separate nation. However, after 1857, when it came to democracy, where numbers matter, the fear of being ruled by a Hindu majority suddenly started haunting the Muslim elite. After centuries of convenient amnesia they realized that they were a separate nation.’”
The dormant syndrome appears to persist; it is at times rekindled in the psyche of the Punjabi Pakistanis. The latter were the ultimate gainers from the creation of Pakistan after having suffered most during, and after, the Partition riots. Slowly and steadily, they got hold of virtually all branches of the state machinery, thereby depriving the majority Bengali population as well as the Baluchis, Pashtuns and the Sindhis. This overbearing attitude subsequently led to resentment and revolt among the Bengalis, resulting in the birth of Bangladesh in 1971. Today, the Punjab once again dominates the three other provinces of Pakistan. The prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, can take credit for some of this, since he is a Punjabi himself.
Sharif, who has been the prime minister twice before this, is back in the premier’s chair after nearly 14 years. His main concerns are the Punjab, Kashmir, militancy, the army, privatization of industry and Saudi Arabia, among others; he has now added doing business in the Indian markets to the list. Ghulam Jilani Khan, who was the director general of the Inter-Services Intelligence from 1971 to 1978 and then the governor of the Punjab, along with the army chief and president, Zia-ul Haq, were instrumental in Sharif’s rise in politics. It took Sharif less than five years to become the governor of Punjab with the blessings of his two mentors. The friendship between Sharif and Zia also ensured the return of the steel industry — which was nationalized by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto in the early 1970s — from the government. A strong advocate of capitalism and free market economics, Sharif is known to have invested large capital in Saudi Arabia during his days of exile, and in oil-rich Arab countries in the Middle East in order to restart his steel empire. As the finance minister, Sharif focused only on developing the Punjab, thereby contributing to an increased inequality between the other three provinces and the Punjab. The Muttahida Qaumi Movement and the Pakistan People’s Party of Sindh opposed Sharif for beautifying the Punjab and Kashmir while neglecting Sindh. Baluchistan too resented Sharif’s actions in the past. During his last two unfinished tenures as prime minister, Sharif took active steps towards conservatism with parties which had extreme religious ideologies. He always raised the subject of Kashmir in international forums.
Though friendly mostly with the Punjabi top brass of the army and the ISI, Sharif had trouble controlling his generals. Sharif had to resign in July 1993 under pressure from the army. In his second tenure in office, Sharif once again fell out with the army chief, Jehangir Karamat, and made the unwise decision of bringing in Pervez Musharraf as Karamat’s successor in 1998. Sharif’s inherently suspicious mind and distrustful behaviour alienated him from the army. He exited in ignominy and the army made an equally inglorious entry into the Pakistani durbar. Sharif subsequently claimed that since he knew nothing about the Kargil incursion by his own army he cannot be held responsible for its disastrous diplomatic and military outcome. Sharif clearly showed his immaturity and lack of administrative acumen in running a country. Ironically, Sharif will have to decide in the next few months whether to give an extension to the army chief — and fellow Punjabi — Ashfaq Parvez Kayani or replace him with a new man in November.
One wonders what made Sharif so keen to foster ties with India against the backdrop of the killing of Indian soldiers and the repeated violation of the LoC by the Pakistani army. After the Abbottabad operation in May 2011, Pakistan’s western border is more vulnerable than the Indian border; moreover, when American troops withdraw from Afghanistan in 2014, it is unlikely to make the Pakistani lives any easier. With an uncontrolled population rise, which is bound with an inevitable increase of violence, India has suddenly emerged as a destination for Pakistan to do business with. Reportedly, the Chinese have been nudging Sharif and his followers not to miss the golden opportunity to try entering the vast Indian market through the ‘corrupt’ Indian system. China has pointed out that since it has established a ‘one way’ profitable business relationship — despite the Sino-Indian border dispute and the activities of the People’s Liberation Army — with India, it would be more than possible for Pakistan to make deep inroads into the Indian hinterland in the near future, whereby it can make India ‘see reason’ and capitulate on the situation at the diplomatic table. With the US backing Pakistan owing to its geography and geopolitics, the killings of Indian soldiers and the border violations are likely to be of little, or no, consequence to squabbling Indian rulers.