The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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- India must make concessions to Pakistan and remain on guard

Visiting Karachi, Islamabad or Muree, my preconceptions about the role of fundamentalism in Pakistan, of only burqa-clad women, hostility to India and Indians, were shattered. There are more full-burqa clad women on the streets of Bangalore than in these Pakistani cities. Among the educated, one sees little sign of a rigorous Islam. And they are extremely friendly and hospitable to Indians.

Pakistan has had an unfortunate history since its creation in 1947. Dictatorships by the military, a pliant judiciary, corrupt politicians, rulers using religion to entrench themselves, medieval society imposed on a people who were naturally tolerant and exposed to global influences, feudal land-ownership structures, female exploitation and lack of national cohesion have bedevilled its progress. Its leaders used hatred of India to give the country a focus. The retention of much of majority-Muslim Kashmir by India was projected as the reason. The military consolidated itself on the excuse of a threat from India. It built up massive intelligence services and independent revenues to fund them. The military became another class interest and the most powerful one, though membership was by selection, not by birth.

Pakistan initiated three wars with India that it lost. Indira Gandhi did not insist on a final settlement of the Kashmir issue despite almost 100,000 Pakistani soldiers in Indian captivity. Pakistan embarked on a nuclear programme aimed to give it a nuclear option as the only way to confront India. Conventional warfare had not been successful. But Pakistan did not actually test an atom bomb till India did so.

Later, the Pakistani president, Zia-ul-Haq, turned Pakistan to Islamic fundamentalism to unite the country and secure funds and support from Arab countries. He mobilized young Muslims to form the taliban and so fill the vacuum in Afghanistan after the Soviets retreated from there. This would give Pakistan leverage over India and a bargaining ploy with the West. Zia built a network of terrorist camps in Pakistan to infiltrate into Kashmir and other parts of India to wage a new form of warfare since conventional war had failed.

Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif, the politicians who succeeded him, allegedly made huge fortunes for themselves and their families but had no strategy for moving Pakistan forward to social and economic progress.

Pervez Musharraf appears to lack the fundamentalist credentials of Zia and the venality of the politicians. A commando, he uses commando tactics to great effect in confounding domestic and foreign politicians. Having participated in failed conventional wars and knowing that the nuclear option was not actually usable, he looked for ways to break the stalemate. He had participated in the execution of the terrorist infiltration strategy. It failed since India showed willingness to bear any financial and human cost to counter it. He stealthily took over the commanding heights of Kargil to control Indian military access to Kashmir. A.B. Vajpayee's willingness to suffer high casualties in the Indian army to dislodge the Pakistani army from Kargil and the intervention of the international community that was fearful of a possible nuclear conflagration in south Asia ended that adventure. It also displayed Musharraf's abilities to change tactics to suit the moment. He seized control over Pakistan by banishing the prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, and began overtures to meet Vajpayee and negotiate all disputes.

Musharraf was perhaps the first in Pakistan to realize what a godsent the World Trade Center killings on 9/11 were for him and Pakistan. He reversed tactics, abandoned the taliban and Islamic fundamentalism and offered 'full' cooperation to the American president, George W. Bush. As a result he got American and hence international backing to stay in power, financial support, military hardware and the status of a close ally of the United States of America. The economic support package included waivers of loans and special trade preferences. In return, Musharraf had to open Pakistan to American intelligence and armed forces and use the Pakistan army to hunt for the terrorists. In this he managed to strike a balance between offering help but not to the extent of surrendering Osama bin Laden and other top terrorist leaders. Open American intervention on the Kashmir dispute did not come about but negotiations started because the international community intervened with India and Pakistan to prevent any possibility of nuclear conflict. He reciprocated Vajpayee's desire for better relations. After an initial stumble, Musharraf changed tactics and opted for a step-by-step process for resolving all issues.

In seeking a resolution with India, Musharraf has antagonized the Islamic fundamentalists in Pakistan, foreign mercenary groups, elements in the army and particularly, the intelligence services. Three reported assassination attempts (rumoured to have been actually 11) make it unlikely that he will die in bed. India must prepare for future scenarios without Musharraf.

The key questions are whether he has cleansed Islamic fundamentalists from the army and the intelligence services and planned his succession. In a military dictatorship, a successor could unseat the incumbent and so there is probably no plan. American support will no doubt determine the succession. With no charismatic political leader in sight and no army backing for a civilian leadership, Pakistan will probably remain either a military dictatorship or subservient to the military for many more years.

Will the army ever reform the feudal land-ownership, improve investment levels in the economy, reduce corruption, improve the health and educational services, especially for the poor, stop the drain of educated young Pakistanis from the country, clamp down hard on fundamentalists and militancy, join in making Saarc into an economic partnership, improve public and corporate governance and take all the actions to transform Pakistan into a modern state' Past experience suggests that it will not. Continued army power and influence demand that it does not rock the uneasy stability that has been built up between the different ruling elites. While the army can pick targets as Musharraf has done (fundamentalists, select terrorist groups, and so on), it cannot go against the ruling elite of defence officers, business men, landlords and key tribal leaders.

Pakistan has for years faced revolts in Sind, Baluchistan and Waziristan and of the mohajirs, against the ruling Punjabi elite. There is no strategy to contain and reverse these resentments. There is also the sustained divide between the Shias and Sunnis and the continuing killings of Shias by Sunnis. Karachi appears to have reached an uneasy stability but remains a city that is dangerous for foreigners, for the wealthy and Muslim minorities.

Recent economic growth exceeding 6 per cent with foreign exchange reserves crossing $11 billion have been fuelled by massive American financial aid and the write-off or postponement of repayment of international loans. The economic progress is driven by consumption, not investment or inherent internal strengths. There is little industry or a growing industrial class, necessary for social change.

In this scenario of uncertainty, India cannot trust that successor rulers will honour any political agreements regarding Kashmir. Building economic and cultural links through people-to-people contacts at all levels, easier travel for ordinary people, removing bureaucratic visa harassments, research and educational exchange and collaborations, must be unilaterally initiated by India. The object must be to improve mutual understanding, reduce hostility and resentment of India.

Pakistan faces a very uncertain future. India must remain on its guard. Bonhomie between people does not mean that old hostilities and resentments have disappeared. India could use the resentment against its bigness and prosperity to offer unilateral concessions that do not ignore India's security interests.

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