SOUTH ASIA & WAR ON TERRORISM: SOME THOUGHTS.

 

By

 

Anil Athale, Coordinator Inpad.

 

INTRODUCTION.

 

In last week of May 2002, in the North Indian state of Haryana, farmers at a small town, Jind, went on warpath and confronted the government. The farmers demands centred on waiving of electricity bill backlogs. The agitation turned violent. Roads were blockaded, families of policemen were kidnapped  and government  property was burnt. Subsequent reports clearly brought out that persons indulging in the violence were not farmers at all but were unemployed high school graduate youth![1] When asked why they were doing it, the chilling answer was that there was nothing else to do any way and that the farmers paid well for this activity.

 

The events that took place in Haryana are repeated all over the developing world, be it Palestine, Sri Lanka or Karachi! It is often said that a second generation slum dweller becomes either a criminal or a terrorist. There is nothing new in this phenomenon per se, the world witnessed similar happenings in Europe in 19th century. The vast masses of humanity in Asia are currently going through the painful process of industrialisation and modernisation of traditional societies leading to break up of families, changing social and economic relationships and threats to the long held religious beliefs. Rise of Islamic fundamentalism is thus no different than similar epochs in Europe of 16th century.

 

But world in 21st century is different. Spread of communications, world trade, travel and nuclear weapons, have shrunk the world. Globalisation has unfortunately been seen only as an economic issue, so far. But the other developments have made the world interdependent in far too many areas as well. The modern international terrorist is both a product and consequence of Globalisation. It is in this context that a young faith like Islam is posing a threat as it sorts out its contradictions and (hopefully) undergoes ‘Reformation’. Again this is not unique to Islam as Hinduism, Budhism, Christianity et al have all gone through this phase. But unlike the world of that bygone era, Islam does not have the luxury to sort out its problems in isolation, nor will there be the kind of time frame available in the period of instant global communication.

 

The region of South Asia is home to close to half of the world’s Muslim population. Thus the epicentre of the terrorism born out of radical Islam is likely to remain in this region for the foreseeable future. The current war on terrorism cannot be understood without appreciating the problems of this region.

 

FUNDAMENTAL FACTS ABOUT SOUTH ASIA.

 

Six out of the seven nations of this region are territorial status quo powers, minor border disputes notwithstanding. Pakistan is revisionist state that seeks to alter the territorial status quo in Kashmir through military means ( overt or covert) and break up India to achieve pre-dominance in the region.

 

India is the home of unique Indic civilisation and is not a mere nation state. India is ten times larger than the other states and its pre-eminence is an existential reality.  The national goal of the status quoits powers has been economic development. India has sought political and military power ( including nuclear weapons) in order to safeguard its independence of decision-making in political and economic sphere. In that sense her approach to military power has been minimalist.

 

Pakistan, that consists of four Muslim majority provinces, which seceded from India  in 1947 on departure of the British imperialists, sees its military as the sole safeguard of the nation and its ideology of being the ‘homeland’ of the subcontinent’s Muslims. Most of the period of its existence the military has ruled on the justification of also being the sole nation builder. Economic, social or political reform  has been a low priority for Pakistan. Throughout the cold war and later during the Afghan War (1979-1989), it evoked American power to strengthen itself militarily and American aid to survive economically. The Gulf oil boom also helped. Close to 20% of its GNP at one time was contributed by money orders from the Gulf.[2]

 

With the passing over of the Gulf oil boom and end of Cold War, Pakistan’s economy has been growing at around 3 to 3.5% while the population continues to grow at 2.5% annually. The armies of unemployed and unemployable youth have found a vocation in ‘Jihad’ Lack of democracy and predominance of the military has meant that scarce resources have been diverted to defence at the cost of economic and social sectors. [3]

 

These retrograde forces have gone unchallenged so far. Even if the social and political reform process begins NOW, its effects will only be apparent within 20 years or one generation. For the short and medium term, Pakistan will continue to remain the breeding ground of terrorism as the socio-economic forces, combined with radical Islam forms a volatile cocktail.[4] 

 

The cult of suicide bombing is an effort on the part of Radical Islam to rectify the technological imbalance vis a vis the West. The goal of radical Islam is to overthrow the existing world order and replace it with the Islamic ideology. CLOSE TO I BILLION MUSLIMS THE WORLD OVER, EVEN THOSE OPPOSED TO THE VIOLENT MEANS, HAVE DEEP EMPATHY FOR THIS ULTIMATE GOAL OF THE ISLAMIST FORCES. The extraordinary success of Al Quaida in escaping the American dragnet cannot be explained in any other way. 

 

It is indeed time to ask some hard questions. Why is it that Pakistan that is one tenth the size of India, constantly strives for ‘parity’ with India? While Bangladesh, a Muslim majority country of equal size to Pakistan, does not feel threatened by India ( in terms of Indian invasion and absorption) or for that matter tiny Bhutan or Nepal, why does only Pakistan feel that India is threat to its existence?  Why does a slum dweller in Karachi feel it his religious duty to cross the border into India and kill women and children or attack the Indian Parliament?

The roots of Pakistani hostility go beyond the Kashmir issue.[5]

.

In the immediate aftermath of the war of independence of 1857, in which the Muslims played a prominent role, the British implemented policies that marginalized the Muslim military class. But within 50 years, as the Hindus began to vociferously demand freedom, the British began to tilt in favour of Muslims. Yet it is to be noted  that the British raised many battalions on regional lines ( the Gorkhas, Sikhs et al) the clever imperialists were careful not to have any pure Muslim unit in the British Indian Army.

 

In Oct 1906, a Muslim delegation lead by Aga Khan met the Viceroy and demanded separate representation for Muslims. Not just that but this delegation also insisted, and the Viceroy agreed, that the scale of this representation should not depend on their numbers but should take into account their ‘past greatness ( of having been the rulers) and political importance’. Muslim League to press these demands was established in that very year.

 

The Pakistan resolution passed on  23 March 1940 at Lahore, claimed that the Muslims in the subcontinent, not just in Muslim majority provinces, constituted a ‘nation’ and demanded a ‘homeland’. In the last attempt at Indian unity in Simla conference in 1946, Jinnah demanded that the 23 % Muslims be given 50% representation in Parliament![6]

 

Ever since independence in 1947, this syndrome of parity has been kept alive. As Pakistan joined the Western camp in the Cold War, the west with its superior resources ensured that Pakistan maintained military parity with India-Nehru’s neglect of defence added to this effect. For last five decades, Indo-Pak parity has been the ‘mantra’ for the west and was the founding principle of western approach to the Indian subcontinent.

 

Under the ‘homeland’ concept, Pakistan laid claims to the loyalty of all Muslims of the subcontinent. Yet when asked about the fate of Muslim minorities in India, Jinnah, cavalierly dismissed the question and left them to their fate. Pakistan then went ahead with ethnic cleansing of Hindus from its Western wing. The population of Hindus that was around 23 % is today closer to 2%.

 

.

In 1971, due to repression and genocide tactics of  Pakistan army ( according to Pakistan appointed Hamidur Rehaman Commission Report 300,000 Bengalis were killed in a span of less than six months), the eastern wing separated and became Bangladesh. In 1990s the Cold War ended and the west no longer needed Pakistan as an ally.

 

But unmindful of the changed circumstances, Pakistan has clung to the notions of Jinnah and is now running an un-winnable arms race with India and bankrupting itself.

 

Ideally, after the secession of Muslim majority provinces, Pakistan’s policy towards India ought to have been of peace and amity in the interest of close to 30% of the subcontinents Muslims left in India. Instead, it chose the path of constant adversarial relation and conflict.

 

BUILT UP MINDSET.

 

Islamist religious schools as the breeding ground of Taliban have been much in news. What has been ignored is that even the main stream Pakistani schools run by the government have been indoctrinating the school children with Anti India and anti Hindu ( for most Pakistanis the two are synonymous) poison. Even a cursory study of text books for middle school level prepared by the Lahore text book board is enough. This has been going on since 1947 and specially after 1979 when Zia began Islamisation of the country. A whole generation of Pakistanis has grown on this diet and the whole country lives in a make believe world as far as India is concerned. The propaganda on the Pakistani television is equally vicious and is carried on day in and day out. Hatred of India runs in Pakistani blood. [7]

 

In Pakistani scheme of things, the ultimate power resides not in the people but Allah. Even the constitution  or law is subordinated to the will of God. The effect on ground level of this has been that as the interpreters of the will of the God, the Mullah has acquired power. At the more dangerous level, any individual, including the ones in the Armed forces and in charge of nuclear weapons can disregard any orders on the justification that he has the access to the will of Allah.

 

One has noticed that even the opponents of the radical Islam and Muslim liberals are forced to carry  out their discourse in strictly  Islamic terms quoting Quran and Hiddith in their support. There is virtually no secular space. An extreme example of this mindset is the classic in Chemistry books in Pakistan,

“ When Hydrogen and Oxygen come together by the Grace of Allah, water is formed.”[8]

 

 

 

The distortion in Islam began in 661 AD when the Ummayad dynasty of Mecca, the erstwhile fierce opponents of Prophet took over the reins of Islam after the Prophets death. Islam was then converted into ideology of Arab Imperialism. The narrow concept of division of the world between ‘true believers’ and ‘non-believers’ ( Kafirs) evolved to include the believers of all other faiths as non-believers and there fore  enemies of Islam. To all the great and universal values preached by the Prophet , brotherhood , peace and justice, his later day followers began to add ‘Muslim’ or ‘Islamic’ as adjective and qualification. So early on, from a universal faith, Islam turned into a close knit brotherhood, open only to the followers of the Prophet. This is like the Biblical verse of ‘Love thy neighbour as thyself’ being changed to ‘Love thy CHRISTIAN neighbour as thyself’. Or the Hindu concept of ‘Vasudhev Kutumbakam’ ( the whole world is one family ) being modified to read ‘the whole HINDU world is one family’.

 

‘Literal ‘ Islam has thus used the very words of Holy Quran and Hadith to destroy the spirit of Islam. No Islamic society has yet shown the gumption to question this distortion. Though the tolerant Islam has long been practiced in many parts of India, South East Asia and Central Asia in form of Sufiism. But as the world reacts to the intolerant strain of Islam, instead of introspection and reform, there is ingathering and rise of siege mentality. It is indeed an irony that Islam that expressly forbids idolatry in order to keep itself away from ills of ritualism and domination by Priesthood, toady has the strongest and most influential priesthood in shape of Mullahs and Maulavis and obsession with ritualistic behaviour of five time prayers being the end all of piety. 

 

 

SHORT AND LONG TERM PROSPECTS FOR PEACE.

 

The American and world pressure appears to have worked to defuse the current crisis in the Subcontinent with Pakistan agreeing to stop cross border infiltration and India de-escalating its forces mobilised for attack. But peace may yet prove fragile as Pakistan has insisted that it will continue ‘moral and political support ‘ to Kashmir’s Islamic separatists. The vicious anti India propaganda on Pakistani television and Urdu print media continues unabated. While it can be justified as the Pakistani rulers attempt to mollify public opinion on the other hand it continues to stoke the fires of hatred against India. How on one hand General Musharraf , the Pakistani President , can control the Jihad against India while his media continues to rouse people is million dollar question! In addition the Taliban and Al Quaida cadres ( estimated to be 30,000 strong) are restive, armed to teeth and in Pakistan. To believe that not just the Taliban and Al Quaida leaders but their Jumbo sized families ( Bin Laden is reported to have four wives and 22 children) have simply vanished in thin air taxes credulity. That these are obviously sheltered in Pakistan and have still not been tracked speaks volume of the kind of support base they have there. With these two factors, the chances of present peace to last are slim.

Long term prospects of peace are entirely dependent on the question whether a reform process starts in Islam. The world ought to give up the fiction that the present war on terror is not against Islamic mindset. Only then will there be a chance for the painful reformation to start. If it does not, then like many extinct faiths, ( the Egyptian, Sumerian etc) Islam may well be on its way to demise, not unlike the International Communism.  

 

 

CONCLUSION.

 

This then is the logic of Pakistani hostility. When the Indian PM mentioned that the Indian strategic objective is to ‘change Pakistani mentality’ he was hinting at this very issue.

 

Given the above discussion and the deep rooted causes of Pakistani hostility, patch work solutions can at best work for a while only. A final armed conflict  is an inevitability . It is not question of whether but when?

 

It is the duty of the countries who for last five decades fostered this ‘parity’ syndrome and created Pakistan, to deal with their creation. Else the second nuclear use in war can unleash nuclear anarchy in the world. That would be tragedy not just for India and Pakistan but the entire mankind.

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  NOTES AND REFERENCES

 

 



[1] Times of India, dated   June 01, 2002, page one.     .

[2] Baxter Craig, ‘Zia’s Pakistan: Stability and Politics in a Frontline State.’, West View Press, Boulder , Colorado USA, 1980.

PP. 63-90.

 

[3] UN Population Study, 2002, Pakistan.

 

Pop in 2002   Est. Pop.2050    Rate of Growth         PerCapita GNP   Expenditure %GNP        

                                                                                                                 Education- Health

145.                      344.                  2.5                              1860               2.1             0.9

Million                Million                                                  PPP $

 

[4] The News , 16 June 02, ‘BJP in Retreat’, by Dr Farrukh Saleem, “To top it all, indoctrination runs deep on both sides of the LoC (more so on our side than theirs). When I sit to explain the prescribed history book to my 14-year-old daughter I find it full of half-truths mostly directed at India’s leaders and the people that they lead (at American and British university campuses Indians and Muslims make the best of friends). Military cadets at our military academies learn that the very reason for Pakistan’s existence is the “liberation of Kashmir”. To spice it up, we began erecting replicas of Ghauris, Abdalis and Ghaznavis at major street intersections (named after Muslim invaders from Afghan provinces of Ghowr, Kandahar and Ghazni). Then there is PTV’s “Kashmir file”. Put frenzy and indoctrination on to a sizzling pot and present it the way you like. The turnout is bound to be deadly.”

 

[5] The Times of India, 18 July 1987. P.3

A Pakistani school boy wrote to the Indian PM Rajiv Gandhi asking him why India threatens Pakistan. The key phrase in the letter was ‘India is prejudiced Hindu state.’

[6] Menon VP, “Transfer of Power’.

[7] Punjab Text Book Board, ‘Muashrati Aloom’. Hijari Pub. Lahore, June 1986.

P.55. ‘ The whole Hindu civilization was based on tyranny and injustice.’

P.77.’ The Muslims ruled India for 1000 years therefore they are pre-eminent amongst all the people of the subcontinent. No other community could compete with them in being civilized.’

Punjab Text Book Board, ’Tehrik E Pakistan’, by Prof. Mohammad Aslam, Standard Book House, Lahore 1986.

This is text book prescribed for Std. IX and X.

P.150 ‘ Hindus always remained opposed to Muslims and whenever they found an opportunity they tried to destroy Islam.’

 

[8] Dawn , 16 June 02,’ Democracy & intellectuals’ By Anwar Syed. “ Pakistani intellectuals who take their basic premises from medieval Islamic theology may not be very receptive to the idea and apparatus of democratic governance.”