End seven decades of hopeless hope in Armystan (Sunday Guardian)
By M D Nalapat
It is in the world’s interest that Pak controlled by the military weakens financially.
The danger in democracies begins when the fringe starts overpowering the mainstream in policy. Across democracies, the HNW (High Net Worth) fringe has a substantially disproportionate influence over policy than the rest of the population. These days, the Republican Party in the US has been moving towards an ethno-centred nationalism that is only partial because of the assumption that only some segments of society can be “nationalist”. There is fear in that party’s Senators and Representatives that they will get defeated in the primaries stage by more aggressively “rightwing” candidates. In Pakistan, an individual with a fringe mentality, General Zia ul-Haq, took over Pakistan in the 1970s and began a drive to comprehensively Wahhabise the country that has continued on its fateful way since. In 1977-78, Morarji Desai was separately offered assistance by the US as well as the USSR to bomb to splinters the nascent nuclear capabilities of the Pakistan military. He declined, opting instead to act as though the “armystan” next door was a regular democracy, a favour for which the then Prime Minister of India was given by Zia the highest civilian honour of Pakistan. In the 1980s, Rajiv Gandhi passed up a similar opportunity through a third country to take out GHQ Rawalpindi’s nuclear capability. Whether it be on 1 January 1949, when Lord Mountbatten made Jawaharlal Nehru declare a ceasefire in Kashmir when a third of the acceded princely state remained in Pakistani hands, or in 1972 when Indira Gandhi gave away to Z.A. Bhutto at the conference table what the Pakistan army had lost in combat, exactly as Lal Bahadur Shastri had done at Tashkent. Subsequent to the 1971 war, whether in the matter of pensions or protocol, the armed forces of the Republic of India were downgraded as their “reward” for having won a war, rather than lost as in 1962 or almost lost (but for Lt Gen Harbaksh Singh ignoring a panicky command to fall back by Chief of Army Staff J.N. Choudhury) in 1965. Ironically, since the 1971 defeat of Pakistan, bureaucrats, who cannot tell the difference between a toy gun and the real article, have been running the Ministry of Defence in connivance with compliant and complacent politicians, whose only interest is in the few files where gain can be had for themselves or for friends and family. A limited range of matters that the bureaucrats are happy to deal with to the satisfaction of their political masters, while they in effect take the final decisions on the other matters. In the litany of Delhi’s unilateral gestures of conciliation of, and abasement to, Pakistan, the 1960 Indus Water Treaty cannot be forgiven, for it is more generous to the other side than all other water treaties between the two countries put together. Prime Minister Nehru hoped that such a gifting away of water rights would melt GHQ Rawalpindi’s heart, the way Mahatma Gandhi advised Winston Churchill and his people in 1939 to “welcome Hitler into your homes” without resistance. To the Mahatma’s surprise, Churchill ignored the suggested course of action and instead fought against Hitler until the tyrant was forced to commit suicide in 1945. Unlike Churchill, in 1947, both Nehru as well as Patel obeyed the Mahatma when he demanded that they hand over what at the time was a huge sum of money to Pakistan, no doubt in the saintly expectation of the Mahatma that the gesture would ensure friendship, which it (to little surprise among the not-so-saintly) failed to do. Earlier, the Mahatma had accepted the decision of Nehru and Patel to accept the partition of India rather than urge both to fight for a united country, although he had in the past several times declared that he would never accept a division of India.
Prime Minister after Prime Minister of India has pursued the hopeless hope that a Pakistan controlled by the military would consent to peaceful relations with India. The Pakistan army needs the “India threat” to justify its grip over the governance structure of that country. Were the public to understand that such a “threat” is but a chimera, they would mobilise in sufficient strength to ensure that the military in Pakistan function under the elected civilian authority and be of a size that the economy of that country can afford. When the BJP came to power in 1998, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee began to fashion policy in accordance with the vision of Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, who believed that “just one more concession” would finally tip the scales and make Pakistan the Canada to India’s US. Consider the government’s 1998-99 lowering of the guard in Kargil, thereby allowing the Pakistan military to seize posts in wintertime; or whitewashing Pervez Musharraf by inviting the coup master to India as Head of State (thereby initiating a stampede of similar moves by other countries); or declaring multiple ceasefires in Kashmir that allowed the terror groups there to leap back into action rejuvenated; or doing nothing beyond hyper-expensive posturing when Pakistan-controlled terrorists sought to kill MPs within the Parliament premises; or following the example of V.P. Singh in Kashmir and making indefensible concessions to terror groups to end the Indian Airlines Kathmandu flight hijack. All this took place under Vajpayee, whose team has been repeated in office by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The present government has been filled by those who played important roles under the avuncular Vajpayee.
The good news after the Pulwama killings is that baby steps have begun to be taken—for the first time since 1948—that indicate that the era of hopeless hope may be ending. And that even the Congress Party led by Rahul Gandhi is backing such measures and indeed calling for more. Whether it be Indus waters (where unconscionably delayed canals and other works need to get built that give India at least the limited amounts of water that the Indus Water Treaty allowed), or the ending of MFN status, or the taking away of some of the privileges (among them being the looking away by the ED and the CBDT from financial shenanigans) of those who make no secret of their desire to exchange their Indian passports with Pakistani travel papers. If both the US as well as the UK can strip individuals of their citizenship, so should India with wannabe Pakistanis, who should be sent “home”. So long as Pakistan remains in the control of the military, it is in the world’s interest to ensure that it weakens financially and that its administrative structure melts down. The sooner India’s politicians accept that reality rather than continue in a hopeless hope of better behaviour from across the border, the better for those living in this country.