| Borders of the mind
CONFLICT UNENDING: INDIA-PAKISTAN ENCOUNTERS SINCE 1947 By Sumit Ganguly, Oxford, Rs 395
Ever since independence India has been locked in a conflict oriented relationship with Pakistan. And there seems no prospect of the tensions easing in the near future. While one group of academics attribute the ceaseless tension between the two countries to superpower intervention, others emphasize the ideological chasm between a predominantly Hindu India and Islamic Pakistan. Sumit Ganguly, however, has an different explanation to offer.
Ganguly argues that it would be wrong to blame the superpowers for the Indo-Pak tension, for conflagrations between the two erupted long before the United States of America and the former Soviet Union paid any attention to south Asia. The US-Pakistan military nexus started only in 1954 after the first Indo-Pak war of 1947-48. During the second encounter in the Sixties, the US hardly showed any interest in playing an interventionary role. Both Washington and Moscow viewed India and Pakistan through the prism of the Cold War. It must be remembered that Islamabad has only featured in Washington’s plans when the alliance brought benefits to the US.
Ganguly also rubbishes the view about India and Pakistan being ideological antagonists. The core conflict between India and Pakistan revolves around Kashmir. Kashmir’s acquisition is important to prove the basis of Pakistan’s origin. How could it, after having claimed to be the home of south Asia’s Muslims, allow a Muslim-majority province to remain with India' On the other hand, the presence of a Muslim-majority province is important for India to defend its secular credentials. In addition, the Indian policy-makers fear, with reason, that a withdrawal from Kashmir would have a domino effect and the Indian republic would start disintegrating.
Thus, while India is interested in maintaining status quo in Kashmir, Pakistan’s objective is to upset it. While India views the Simla accord as the basis of all negotiations regarding Kashmir, Pakistan considers it disadvantageous for itself, having been forced to sign it in the aftermath of the secession of East Pakistan. Thus, Pakistan’s policy is to dismantle the Simla framework so as to manufacture a more favourable negotiating pattern for itself. On the other hand, New Delhi views Pakistan’s attempts to break out of the agreement as an act of bad faith.
After its loss in the 1971 war, Pakistan realized it had no chance of acquiring Kashmir in a straight fight with India. Hence the attempts to stoke insurgencies in the Kashmir valley. Ganguly argues that the emergence of ethno-religious insurgency movement in Kashmir is the product of politico-administrative bungling by India’s political leadership. Increasing centralization of power over Kashmir is an important factor. And this process started as long back as 1964, when an ordinance issued by the then president, S. Radhakrishnan, eroded the federal status of Kashmir by extending articles 356 and 357 over the region. These articles have been used several times. Repeated riggings of state elections by the Congress-led Central government to put pro-Congress parties in power further undermined democratic institutions in the valley and pushed the Kashmiri youth to embrace the gun. But if most of Kashmir is anti-Indian, it does not necessarily mean they are pro-Pakistan.
Ganguly insists that nuclearization of the subcontinent would deter India from launching a conventional campaign to “teach” Pakistan a lesson, though he does not rule out Kargil-type sub-conventional campaigns in future. And Pakistan, by initiating such conflicts, would try to create instability for India to gain more stability for itself.
Ganguly’s statist approach is more valuable than the countless theories about Kashmiriyat, peace-loving sufi thought and so on. His work brings out the structural nature of the Indo-Pak conflict and shows that the instability/stability paradox would continue to keep the problem festering.