PEACE IN THE SUBCONTINENT: MILES TO GO….

By

Anil Athale.

This rather melodramatic title is not for sensation mongering, but merely to bring home a combination of factors in India and Pakistan that could push the region into danger zone.

SITUATION IN PAKISTAN

The parallels between Sadat and Musharraf are unmistakable. The deteriorating economy in Egypt, accompanied by a growing distance between rich and poor, led to internal strife, riots, strikes, attacks on the rich. These internal pressures raised the concerns of the United States that internal strife would weaken Sadat's moderate policies. Convinced that peace with Israel would reap an enormous "peace dividend," Sadat initiated his peace diplomacy. In a speech to the Egyptian parliament in 1977, Sadat affirmed his desire to go anywhere to negotiate a peace with the Israelis. Even, he affirmed, he would go to the Israeli parliament to speak for peace. Sadat's speech to the Israeli Knesset initiated a new momentum for peace that eventually culminated in the 1978 Camp David Accords and a final peace treaty with Israel in 1979. At home, Sadat's new relationship with the west and his peace treaty generated considerable domestic opposition, especially among fundamentalist Muslim groups Sadat died at the hands of fundamentalists assassins on October 6, 1981, during a military review celebrating the Suez crossing in 1973.

The parallels are so obvious and need no further comment. It needs to be reiterated for the international and Indian audiences that like Sadat, Musharraf is also a war hero on Pakistani ‘street’. Kargil episode of 1999 ( when Pakistani troops in guise of freedom fighters occupied some mountain peaks in Kashmir) is widely regarded as a Pakistani victory. Nawaz Sharif could be easily toppled because many in Pakistan felt that he threw away a victory under American pressure. Musharraf’s self proclaimed Presidency and popularity rests on this. But unlike Sadat, Musharraf intends to deal with the religious extremists first and make his peace moves after. Like Sadat, Musharaff’s initiatives are a one man effort. Even if the ‘Jihadi’ elements are discounted, there is no indication that his efforts to wind down ‘Jihad’ against India has widespread support. Musharraf is the President , Chief of Army Staff and a virtual Foreign Minister. Every major decision is made by him, and him alone. The only modern day parallels of this kind of governance are seen in Banana Republics in South America and Africa. While he is the source of all power, in case of any failure, he will also be seen as the reason of all misfortune.

A careful and sustained reading of the Pakistani media and its elite show clearly that there is no understanding of changed ground realities after 9/11 and of Pakistani vulnerability. Musharraf has to not merely deal with tiny opposition, but an entire generation that has a warped world view thanks to the ‘Islamisation’ carried out by Zia ul Haq beginning 1979 when he hanged the ousted Prime Minister Bhutto. Official propaganda painting India as a state in which non Hindus are persecuted continues on the television and is reflected even in writings of Director of Islamabad Institute of Strategic Studies. This author had received an e-mail from a Pakistani scholar listing Jains, Buddhists, Dalits, Christians and Muslims being persecuted in India. The noise and din of democracy in India is construed as a sign that India is about to break up. This has been a constant theme of Pakistani intellectuals, the less said about the common man in street. With the expectation of break up of India being imminent, many thinking Pakistanis supported their government’s efforts at proxy war. There is no sign that this mind set has changed.

Well known British historian Prof. P. Hardy writing in 1961 Oxford University book on "Historians of India and Pakistan" says that through the studies of Muslim writings in 1930s it seems clear that the majority settled for an ‘Islamic’ rather than Indian Muslim identity. These depict Akbar as a traitor and Aurengzeb as the hero. This is not mere historical determinism, but is reflected in state polices. Aurengzeb during his reign had banned music since it is ‘un Islamic’. The Taliban did the same. The Jihadis in Pakistan have been clamouring for it Aurengzeb destroyed the Mughal empire due to his obsession with Marathas, who’s destruction he made the mission of his life. The Pakistani fixation on Kashmir is on similar lines.

Even in 2002, one finds columns after columns in Pakistani newspapers devoted to articles on happenings in Syria, Iraq or Turkey in 12th and 15th century being debated upon in the current context of events in Pakistan! There has been and there is a constant effort to deny the South Asian identity.

In South Asian Islam, with the exception of Emperor Akbar, one finds that every time there was a contest for power between an orthodox and a liberal Prince, it was the orthodoxy that won the dayt! The classic example was the defeat of liberal Prince Dara Shekhou by Aurengzeb in the 17th century! Will Musharraf be able to overturn history?

Pakistani constitution vests the ultimate sovereignty in Allah. It is very possible for a group to claim a direct link with God and carry out acts of violence that are perfectly justifiable. As long as this bizarre concept of ultimate source of power with Allah remains, the Mullahs as the ‘agents’ of God will continue to wield influence disproportionate to their number and popularity.

Given this internal situation in Pakistan, it is doubtful if Musharraf can survive peace with India. With no formal structures and his being a one man initiative, there is no guarantee that this policy will be continued by his successor.

CONCLUSION.

The sum of all the analysis so far indicates no early or easy solution to the crisis in the subcontinent. Even with best of intentions, it would be difficult for Musharraf to deliver on his promises and turn Pakistan away from Jihad. The Jihad is a product of high population growth, unemployment and religious extremism. A second generation slum dweller either turns a criminal ( as in Mumbai) or a Jihadi ( as in Karachi). Presently there is much emphasis in Pakistan on return to the ‘vision of Jinnah’. Difficult as even this is, it will soon bring into stark relief the absurdity of the ‘two nation theory’ or nationalism based on religion On the deathbed Jinnah wanted to undo Pakistan as he confessed to his doctor Colonel Ilahi Bax, ( report in "The Frontier Post" Peshawar, Pakistan, dated 26 Nov. 1987. ) Ultimately the battle in the subcontinent is between the ideologies of two dead men, Jinnah vs Gandhi.

It is indeed a difficult and long haul for Pakistan. But does it have time? Most likely, minor concessions by Musharraf would leave India dis-satisfied and the Jihadis up in arms against him. The civil society in Pakistan would watch from the sidelines. Musharraf’s continuation and physical survival is in doubt. Ultimately, all that may happen is that the ‘Cold War’ between India and Pakistan would continue, though India would be exerting greater military pressure on Pakistan, much in line with Israel. Ultimately this Cold War would also end the way the other one did, in the demise of Pakistan, in violence. But it is to be hoped that the world coalition would ensure that its dooms day weapons are neutralised before that happens.