GEOPOLITICS OF THE SUB-CONTINENT

 

By

Lt Gen Ashok Joshi (Retd)

 

 

A geopolitical entity is essentially a derivative of geography but not of geographical factors alone. Added to the geography is the human element : encrustations of human migrations, habitation, and institutions which have become a part of the history, and the living beings which populate the land, their civilization and culture(s), and politics. It is predicated upon the possibility of a certain minimal internal strength born of cohesion and coherence, an idea of a periphery with respect to which insiders and outsiders are determined, and the likelihood of generation and projection of power. Power for securing prizes -- which may not exclude denial of prizes to outsiders. While a geopolitical entity may only remain a strong possibility, awaiting the realization of potential, the existence of the possibility itself may be founded on certain geographical and historical factors, which tend to have a degree of permanence or persistence. A populated land mass is the most basic source of strength and power. When individuals decide to cooperate, on the basis of common perceptions of interdependence and a belief that collective effort will secure prizes for individuals for which individual effort by itself is inadequate, collective associations comprising individuals and groups of individuals emerge.  Collective associations last for so long as they fulfil the promise. If they last long enough, and develop an enduring  collective consciousness -- on the basis of shared interests, preferences, and values -- some groups get placed beyond the pale on account of some perceived difference with the presiding collective identity, or incompatibility, just as some choose to separate themselves because they feel to be at a disadvantage, or discriminated against, or persecuted. Collective identities which develop political strength and power demarcate their territory and create institutions and apparatus for guarding it, apart from using those instruments to acquire additional assets including territory, and for settling scores with adversaries. Collective identities with instruments of power -- mainly nation states in our times -- try to enlarge their territory, if that is possible, by whatever means. International borders stabilize if they are in conformity with `discontinuities' in major dimensions of collective identities like language, race, civilization, religion, and most importantly, perceptions of what constitutes `natural' limits of land mass and its `ownership'. One set of parameters determine the periphery of the collective identity in terms of constituent people. Another set of parameters determine the extent of land that can be occupied by, and if need arises defended -- against other claims and claimants -- by the people constituting that collective identity. If and when an extended geographical area is occupied by a people who have the potential to constitute a collective identity and assert it in political terms, a geopolitical mass emerges. Geopolitics is rooted in this basic and common phenomenon. The larger the number of people who contribute to accumulation of political power, the greater the likelihood of emergence of collective power. It is well known that the per capita income in China is appreciably lower than in the USA, even so there is a prediction that, China at current rate of progress will overtake the US gross domestic produce early in the 21st century.

            ``It is difficult to see any set of circumstances where- measured in a sensible way -- China will not be well on its way to becoming the world's largest economy  by 2020[i].''

           

            ``Assuming a starting population of 1.15 billion people and modest economic growth rates allowing for decay of the double-digit figures of the last decade , then the population China will reach 1.75 billion, and its gross domestic product (GDP) will overhaul that of the United States in the year 2023[ii].''

 

 

            Even India, in spite of the abject poverty of many of its citizens, may perform  a similar feat in times to come.

           

            ``Step forward, India. Before the political pundits fall off their bar stools in shock, let me click on my mouse and bring up my India `spread sheet': by 2051 India's aggregate GDP will also have exceeded that of the United States. Of course, if one assumes a rapprochement with its erstwhile inhabitants in Pakistan and rapidly developing Bangladesh (now about 135 million people each), then the economic power of the Indian sub-continental block will overhaul the United States much sooner[iii]. ''

 

            These predictions are based on an important assumption  that Chinese and Indians will retain their ability to accumulate and combine power of most individuals in political terms, that is, they will continue as nation states. Similarly, although the Soviet Union has disintegrated, Russia is expected to continue as a nations state. A geopolitical entity may live on for centuries without its potential ever being realized. A coherent political regime in control of a geopolitical entity is most likely to realize its potential, that is, convert it into a geopolitical mass -- something that exerts influence by its mere existence because of its strength -- which is an indication of its ability to resist hostile power projection -- and the likelihood of its capacity to project power, should it desire to do so. A geopolitical entity endures almost indefinitely, vulnerable only to major demographic upheavals -- and not mere changes -- which cannot be predicted through logic of linear progression. Political regimes are more prone to change and fragmentation. They can also be more or less competent, vigorous, innovative, or ambitious. Therefore, for how long, often, or when the potential of a geopolitical entity will be realized is difficult to predict.

There was a time in Europe when fervour in Christian faith could realize geopolitical potential.

           

            ``There was even for a while  -- in crusades -- a single foreign policy and a common military task force, something which Europe cannot begin to agree upon now[iv]. ''

            It took several centuries and two cataclysmic wars thereafter, for a major part of Europe to emerge as European Union (EU). EU looks like the beginning of geopolitical realization of Europe.           

           

            It is tempting to refer to Buzan's concept  of `security complex'.

           

            ``A security complex is defined as a group of states whose primary security concerns link together sufficiently closely that their national securities cannot realistically be considered apart from one another. Security complexes tend to be durable, but they are neither permanent nor internally rigid[v].'' 

What is implied here by geopolitical entity is not without strong over-tones of `security complex'.

           

            Napoleon's observation about China's potential was a clear acknowledgement that it constituted a geopolitical entity. Assessment of geopolitical potential implies informed guess-work about the likely strength or power projection capability that a geopolitical entity is likely to manifest in a given set of circumstances.

 

            If international borders are such that they disregard `continuities' in population and geography, geopolitical mass can be viewed as `divided'. Divided parts of the same geopolitical entity are likely to show a desire for unification, at some point of time. East and West Germany did unite, and this could have been foreseen, although the exact circumstances of their unification could not have been forecast by rational analysis. Any long term planning on the basis of divided Germanies was bound to come unstuck at some point of time. Same could be said of the divided Korea, although the present animosity and trading of charges between the two make it difficult to believe such a proposition. What constitutes a natural geopolitical entity cannot possibly be determined by purely geographical factors, any more than it can be done with reference to either demographic factors -- civilization, culture, languages, religion -- or history. All of these matter. The United States of America and Canada certainly constitute a geopolitical entity that has turned into a geopolitical land mass. A large number of substantive `continuities' straddle the international border between the two countries. In these circumstances, had there been an emergence of animosity or adversarial feelings between the two, it could have led, perhaps, to a major conflict and subsequent `unification'. It did not come about because they evolved one collective association and agreed to share instruments of power. Their sovereignties are so well adjusted that they make one whole. On the eve of the Great War, there had been some resentment in Canada on account of American statement that Canadian union with the US was only a matter of time. Creation of a Permanent Joint Board on Defence during World War II and subsequent agreements on defence of North America created conditions in which sovereignties of both countries could reach comfortable adjustments [vi].  The international border between the two, in effect, is not very different from those that separate the states from each other in the US. But anything south of the United States forms a different geopolitical entity. Yes, the demography is different. It is not merely the Rio Grande, or the Gulf of Mexico that create a separate geopolitical entity.

 

            If there is a lack of cooperation and ill will across the international borders that separate -- what would otherwise be --a geopolitical entity, the result is a crop of conflicts both major and minor. Demographic continuities create insidious threats : threats that arise from shared feelings and reactions. Disturbances tend to travel through the medium of undifferentiated continuities in population. Genocide launched by President Yayha Khan in the then east wing of Pakistan resulted in refugee movement. Bengali speaking people, particularly the Hindus, were aware that they could find succour in India. Had there been a hostile population in the territory surrounding the east wing of Pakistan, the refugees would have had to make a far more difficult choice -- death at the hands of the Pakistani soldiery and police, or a worse fate at the hands of those waiting to pounce on them across the international border. Way back in 1919, when there were grave disturbances in India, the Shah of Afghanistan feared that the disturbances would travel into his territory.

           

            `` On 3 March 1919, Amir Amanulla wrote to the Viceroy of india, announcing his accession as Amir of free and independent Afghanistan...Amir Amanulla wrote to the Viceroy on India criticising British handling of the internal security situation in India in general , and at Amritsar in particular, and said that he was moving troops close to the border to ensure that virus of discontent did not seep into his country[vii] .''

           

            It is another matter that he unilaterally decided to invade India to nip the trouble in the bud. Apart from the fear of refugees, there is the danger of contagion : of the fear of the spread of disruptive ideas, anarchy and revolution. Notice the reaction of the European royalty to the rise of Napoleon, or later, that of the then European governments to the overthrow of the Tsars by the communists. Continuities in population also creates opportunities for subversion on the one hand, and holding hostage a section of the population, on the other hand. Years before the partition of India in 1947, even before the British had even thought of Pakistan, there was a section of the Muslim opinion, then working on the concept of Pakistan, who held that if Pakistan was totally devoid of Hindus, they would be left without any leverage to exert pressure on the government of India in the event of ill treatment of Muslim minorities in India.

           

            `` Pakistan without its large non-Muslim minorities in the Punjab and Bengal was hardly well placed to demand safe guard for Muslim minorities in India[viii]. ''  

 

            That was some thinking ahead. Even so, it helps to focus attention on the problems and opportunities that continuities divided by international borders are likely to throw up. If there is a lack of near total understanding and adjustment -- a la United States and Canada, or countries in the European Union -- continuities may prove to be vulnerabilities which lead to eroding of strength. The fear that strength may be eroded is far more frightening than the likelihood of a direct attack or invasion because without the minimum strength -- the mother substance from which power and its instruments are forged -- even the possibility of countering an intrusion does not arise. Repression of Tamils in Sri Lanka caused the resentment to travel across the straits to Tamilnadu in India, and the Government of Tamilnadu or Government of India could  have remained mute spectators only to their disadvantage.

           

            `` Sri Lanka's geographical location so near India, and the deep socio-cultural link between Sri Lankan Tamils and Indian Tamils ... compelled India to perceive critical developments in Sri Lanka not purely as an internal affair of a neighbour but as an issue which could affect India's own unity and territorial integrity if India did not respect the sentiments of its own Tamil citizens[ix].''

 

            Geographical barriers like mountain ranges and deserts create discontinuities when they do not easily yield sustenance for human habitation. If the hazards of travel across the ranges are such that life on either side appears to offer better chances and opportunities, geographical barriers tend to become divides that separate civilizational, cultural, and linguistic entities. Geopolitical barriers may not prevent invasions, as every student of Indian history well knows, but they tend to contain and demarcate. The  sub-continent is as much the creation of mountain ranges as it is of the Indian Ocean. There is a debate about whether seas should be treated as a barrier or an unlimited opportunity to set out on voyages. Unlike the land which permits travel and movement along a few well defined passage-ways, seas do not restrict travel. If travel on the surface of the earth is a matter of looking for or creating opportunities, travel on -- or under the -- surface is a matter of avoiding hazards. Seas do not restrict, they merely pose technological problems. But since seas do not allow habitation, shore lines create either abrupt discontinuities on the one hand, or, at the same time, allow continuities without major changes, to be transplanted across long distances. England is separated from main land Europe by the Channel, but more particularly, by the language(s). The United States and Canada basically represent transplantation of European Civilization, across thousands of miles, without major changes. Whereas land barriers create possibilities of fault-lines or lines along which discontinuities occur mainly because of compartmentalised populations on either side. Seas in our own times, act as bridges or barriers depending upon whether the separated populations represent continuities or not. North Atlantic community would not have materialized but for the close links that bind Canada and United states with Europe in general but the United Kingdom in particular. Similarly, continuities across oceans are exemplified by Australia and New Zealand. Land barriers are more prone to create discontinuities. Tibet across the Himalayas, and Afghanistan across the Hindukush do not appear to be the natural extensions of the sub-continent, but they constitute grey areas. Incidentally, the creator of [the word] Pakistan, Chaudhri Rahmat Ali, had added `A' for Afghanistan or North West Frontier Province, possibly because he believed that Afghanistan is a part of the sub-continent.[x].

 

            Discontinuities in demography and those due to geographical barriers or seas certainly make for stable borders. Conflicts between states separated by `discontinuities' are also to be expected, and border claims cannot also be ruled out, but the sense of security that is born of conviction that the affected states cannot be totally annihilated or  `absorbed' in entirety prevents panic reactions in the would be victims, just as it bridles would be victors from more ambitious plans. Most of the fears of the Pakistan government spring from the notion that the cultural continuities across the international border may tempt India to annihilate Pakistan, particularly if India turns out to be more prosperous, and people in Pakistan develop doubts about separate nation-hood that has not contributed materially to the realization of their dreams. Equally, Pakistan can and does exploit cultural linkages to its own advantage.

           

            ``Conceivably, with sufficient support and encouragement, Muslims and Sikhs could provide a Trojan horse on behalf of the Pakistani Government which could break up the Indian Union and thereby reduce the security problem for Pakistan[xi].'' 

 

            Although Chanakya, three centuries before Christ, had thought of the sub-continent being brought under one rule, in reality, except for short periods in history, this has not been so. History of India has been full of warring kings, those who fought against the invaders, those who made common cause with them, but most of all, those who fought against each other. No wonder India was only seen as a term describing a geographical area and nothing more, by the British. The sub-continent had never been a nation state. It simply could not have been, because, by the time the notion and idea of the nation state took root, India was already a colony.  The Indian intelligentsia lost no time in thinking of the sub-continent as a nation state. Though the undercurrent of the cultural unity of the sub-continent, on the one hand, was a matter of direct experience, the reality of numerous divisions within, on the other hand, could not be wished away. New divides of race and class had been added to religions, languages, and castes. The imperial order, and new technologies of production and communications  seemed to converge when it came to destruction of old bonds forged over centuries of inter-dependence. The nation state as the ultimate repository of all loyalties, something which clearly held the promise of submerging most divides, seemed extremely attractive to those who embraced Indian nationalism as a panacea to all ills afflicting fortunes of the sub-continent. Just as they strove for the objective of home rule -- which ipso facto meant a nation state covering the whole of the sub-continent -- they faced the cutting edge of the divide and rule policy of the British. The British mastery over the sub-continent had been gained, inter alia, by exploiting social, religious, and political divides. Expression in political terms of a presiding collective identity, with sights on the whole of the sub-continent, was anathema to the British rulers. Neutralization of such ideas was fundamental to the continuation of the British rule in India.

 

            The British India consisted of presidencies, provinces, and administrations, where the British ruled directly, and of a hierarchy of `native' states over whom they ruled as a paramount power. This intricate but essentially unitary administration of British India may only in part have been due to the historical process by which the whole of the sub-continent was acquired by the British. British were always apprehensive of the possibility of Russia seeking access to the seas through the sub-continent. Mobilization of the resources of the sub-continent was absolutely essential for countering the Russian threat. India was also to be the base for ventures into the Far East. Resources in India and Indians had to be centrally controlled and managed. Precisely because the British were not unaware either of the continuities that spanned the whole of the sub-continent, or of the divides that crisscrossed it, that they persisted with the system that created islands or discontinuities of their choice in the sub-continent. Though the sub-continent had been pulled together into an administrative unity by the British as a matter of necessity, particularly after their experience in the wake of events in 1857, they wanted fire-breaks for arresting the spread of nationalist sentiments. The British wanted a unified administration for the sub-continent, but did not look upon the possibility of the emergence of the sub-continental -- Indian --identity with any degree of favour. Geographical and demographic continuities in the sub-continent created such possibilities was something to which the British were indeed not blind. At the same time the British were more than aware that divides in the subcontinent made it a practical proposition to rule over it with minimal resources.

 

            Indian sub-continent as a geopolitical entity posed a peculiar problem to the British. In the imperial context, the sub-continent was to be used as a base for campaigns outside the sub-continent. The Russian threat in the closing years of the 19 th century was perceived to be very real. Later, in the Second World War, India was successfully employed as a base to fight the Japanese in Burma and South East Asia. Resources of the sub-continent were to be exploited and used -- manpower and raw materials -- for power projection. This called for cohesion, coherence, and synergy within the sub-continent, if serious effort was intended. This could not occur without giving rise to self identification and self esteem. And yet, the sub-continent was to be kept unaware of its own potential strength. This was a tall order. That the British succeeded at all, and they did succeed to a large extent, is no small wonder. It may be attributed to the ingenuity and vigour of the British on the one hand , and the apathy, greed, and shortsightedness of the Indians on the other. The view of the sub-continent as a geopolitical entity was partly taken in India office, and partly by the Government of India. The India office viewed the sub-continent as an entity that contributed towards the protection and promotion of imperial interests in the East. India office determined the role that India played in fulfilment of the imperial design. That is where the plans took shape, perhaps in consultation with the Viceroy and the Commander-in Chief in India.  The rest of the Government of India played very little part in this exercise. Indians had no access to imperial vision, not even in the closing years of the British rule when the senior civil servants were considered to be good enough to advise on constitution-making for India. The Government of India implemented the plans, even as it practised the divide and rule policies, mostly with finesse. The British administration in India, Government of India, which brought off this miracle, was unified, efficient, and responsive to the imperial purpose and needs.

 

            Efficient governance of the  whole of the sub-continent from  Calcutta, Simla, or New Delhi was shown to have been a practical proposition by the British. The point was not lost on the politically conscious Indians. No matter how much they disliked or hated the British, many from the intelligentsia admired the efficiency and despatch of British governance in India, and looked upon a single unitary government for the sub-continent with considerable approval. It was considered to be a unifying force. Indian nationalism continued to remain inward looking, and mostly concerned itself with unity within, and home-rule, or political independence. All these objectives seemed to be beyond the distant horizon in any case. This was the nationalist view of the majority.

 

            A large number of disadvantaged Indians -- and there were so many of them -- were led to believe that they owed their misfortunes either to their `minority' status, or that they were victims of powerful interest groups. In either case, they had much to gain from loyalty to the British. With British support, minorities could stand up to the oppressive majorities, just as the deprived majority could get even with the upper cast or educated `Hindoos'. Loyalty in exchange for support seemed eminently justified, because only then could they hold their own against their exploitive and rapacious compatriots. Most nationalists showed awareness of the divide and rule policies of the British, and amply resented them. They did emphasize the need for all the Indians to unite, in their fight against the British, but that was mainly to shake off the colonial masters. Nationalists  wanted a  unified  India  under  a  unified administration. The separatists wanted protection and guaranteed privilege disproportionate to their numbers and/or merit.  Indian nationalists wanted a united effort against the British, as a hostile response to the divide and rule policy; the separatist wanted divisions to subserve their interests -- as a natural consequence and by product of the British policies in India. But beyond that, the geopolitical potential of the sub-continent, and its implications remained hidden from separatists and nationalists alike. Except the rarest of the rare, none had given thought to the likely consequences of drawing international borders across a geopolitical entity. The British solution to the management of contradiction inherent in the imperial purpose -- unification for power projection, and division for cost effective rule -- could have but one denouement in the closing years of the British empire : fragmentation of the sub-continent, rendering it incapable of strength and power, and susceptible to internal conflict. It is highly unlikely that the British establishment, in the dying days of the empire, had the energy or vision to have actually thought this through. It was a natural culmination of policies that had developed their own momentum and inexorably, almost `intelligently', sought to fulfil the purpose of their progenitors. It is not without irony that Governments of India and Pakistan turned to the British and the Americans to seek advice on how to cope up with the consequences of  divided sub-continent.

 

            It is readily understood by most Indians at present that it was the divide and rule policy of the British that gave a fillip to the concepts of separate electorates, and eventually to the two nation theory and partition of the sub-continent. Opposition to the British and their sympathizers manifested as a demand for a unified nation corresponding to India under British rule. As has been noted earlier that it was the British rule that brought to colonial India the idea of nation state which seemed especially tailored to suit conditions in the sub-continent in that it had the intrinsic ability to cope up with enormous diversity in the sub-continent by invoking national loyalties. Britain as a nation state demonstrated repeatedly the concept of the total sovereignty and autonomy of the nation state. Models that are predicated upon positive cooperation among and between nation states that occupy a single geopolitical entity were not available in Europe where the concept of nation state took root, until recently. Post partition states in the sub-continent had been part of the imperial hegemony and had the experience of being at the bottom rung.  They had no problems in adjusting to the new hegemonies established by the First World or the second World. They seemed to have slipped into the pattern by becoming parts of the Third World with more or less alacrity or reluctance. What was available was the balance of power achieved in the sub-continent by India and Pakistan being on the two opposite sides of the Cold War divide. This model not only ruled out evolution of relationships amongst sovereign nation states, but also created  a mind-set, that became oblivious of the sub-continent as a geopolitical entity.

 

            A geopolitical entity, when not under a unified political regime, tends to dissipate its strength and potential for generation and projection of power on account of adversarial relationships which unavoidably develop among constituent political units. An equilibrium derived from balance of power, for so long as it lasts, may prevent violent eruptions unless it also supports and holds in place a regional order that not only permits but even encourages cooperation. But experience in the sub-continent since at least the tenth century indicated that by far and large, lack of a unified political regime did lead to violence and dissipation, so much so that in Indian consciousness geopolitical entity -- something that actually exists irrespective of the nature and number of the political units occupying the land mass -- does not seem to have figured.

 

            Most Indians can think of a united and unitary sub-continent, with a unified administration -- something on the lines of what existed under the British rule -- as the ideal. This is not at all surprising because it was nationalism, which had it roots firmly embedded in fight against the British rule, that brought to Indians hopes of ending feuds in the sub-continent. Ever since, sub-nationalism is equated with a dissipated sub-continent in minds of a large majority of Indians ; in many minds, sub-nationalism is scarcely differentiated from treason. It is only now that there are some signs of awareness that fragmentation of the sub-continent into warring factions might have been due, at least partly, to the inability of the 

leaders in the sub-continent to work out or devise a political structure that could `contain' the sub-continent, and build it into a geopolitical entity.

           

            ``Why was India divided? The simple answer is that the Hindus, as represented by the Congress, and Muslims, as represented by the League, could not agree upon a constitutional framework for a united India.

            ``The land, which had been one unit for more than a thousand years with the two communities living and working together and contributing richly to its composite culture, was divided ; it was the most tragic blow, struck at its very heart. It happened because, as Dr. Ram Manohar  Lohia, pointed out, `a tired and an ageing leadership, hungry for power', surrendered to the subtle intrigues of Mountbatten[xii].'' 

            `` The choice with which Jinnah was presented with in the end by the Congress and the British was either an undivided India without any guarantee of the Muslim share of power at the all-India centre or a sovereign Pakistan carved out of Muslim-majority districts of the Punjab and Bengal. Had Jinnah been more sure of his following in the Muslim provinces he might conceivably have decided to work the mission's plan for an all-India federal structure[xiii]. ''  

These two views, appearing on the opposites of the divide, are an indication that a realistic view of the sub-continent as a geopolitical entity may yet emerge.           

           

            Creation of Pakistan was seen as a victory of the British and the sub-nationalism -- two nation theory -- that they supported. This was the perception not only of the common man, but also of national leadership in India. As against this, the leadership in Pakistan was equally jubilant that Muslims in India had secured a nation state for themselves not because of Hindu goodwill, but in face of heavy odds. Indians in the sub-continent rued the partition because a `nation-state' had been divided, and creators of Pakistan were elated because they had effectively eliminated the possibility of, what was in their perception, domination by the majority. Pakistanis had succeeded in isolating themselves from the rest of the sub-continent ; or they, at least, thought so. If Indians, in their minds, hankered after a united India -- that is splicing together of threads broken by the partition into a single nation state -- most Pakistanis thought of establishing new continuities with the Islamic world. Indians tried to come to terms with their newly acquired political identity in secular and socialistic terms, while Pakistanis tried to establish their Islamic identity in contradistinction with India.  If Indian nationalism, as a carry over of pre-partition days, did not quite overlook the sub-continent, Pakistani nationalism lost no time in seeking support from outside the sub-continent so that the newly formed Pakistan had the best chance to prevail against India. Both seem to have given a short shrift to the geopolitical entity that is the sub-continent.

 

            All the three major conflicts that India faced after independence in 1947, and several minor ones since then, seem to have a lot to do with perceptions -- or misperceptions --about demographic and geographical continuities that actually exist in the sub-continent, because of which it is a geopolitical entity, something which cannot be wished away.

 

            Religious continuities between Muslim majority areas of Jammu and Kashmir in general, and Kashmir Valley in particular, with the adjoining territory of Pakistan created the possibility of the merger of the state with Pakistan in Pakistani mind. They concluded that it was a natural corollary to the partition of the country notwithstanding the legally valid instrument of accession signed by the Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir in favour of India. What was a very good argument against India proved to be embarrassing to Pakistan when the self same continuities were invoked by the supporters of the Pakhtoon movement which sought to integrate Pakhtoon speaking areas into an independent political unit, and laid claims on Pak territory. Pakistan then had to take recourse to the arguments advanced by the British in support of the `Durand Line' which essentially supports the view that the sub-continent does not extend beyond that line, irrespective of the spill over of tribes on both the sides of the border.

           

            ``Lord Curzon came out as Viceroy in 1899...One of his first official acts was to take up the question, which the Frontier campaigns of 1897-98 had revived, of separating the North-West  Frontier districts and the adjoining tribal areas up to the Durand line(fixed in Kabul in 1894 between Sir Mortimer Durand, Foreign Secretary, and the Amir Abdur Rahman, to delimit the British and Afghan spheres of influence) from the control of the Punjab Government[xiv].''

 

            The understanding was clear enough; the sub-continent did not extend much beyond the Durand Line, and that there was a need to prevent Afghan turmoil from seeping into it.

 

 

            Baluch sub-nationalism is also dealt with by Pakistan by using arguments which emphasize that continuities within Pakistan are stronger than those which extend outwards. It is undoubtedly easier for Pakistan to retain Baluchistan than for Iran or Afghanistan to absorb it. One or more continuities, or one or more dimensions of those continuities -- since all continuities have multiple dimensions -- dominate the collective consciousness on the basis of which the urges and movements for unification gather momentum. Continuities created by geography, civilization, culture, language, religion, and history do not either materialize or vanish into the thin air in a jiffy. But prevailing moods and the leadership -- which feed upon each other -- decide the dominant theme. Splintering of Bangladesh from Pakistan was, or should have been, a strong reminder to people in India and Pakistan that linguistic and sub-cultural affinities can turn out to be as strong as religious affinities, if not stronger. Before the partition of the sub-continent became a reality, there was just a beginning of a movement for a united Bengal. Geopolitics is based on an assessment of continuities -- and discontinuities -- which are likely to express themselves in the contemporary political structures and idiom.

 

            Emergence of the sub-continent as a geopolitical mass is likely to be of great concern to China for two reasons: firstly, China has always regarded itself as a geopolitical mass with a unified political system -- the middle kingdom -- which has a civilising mission, and therefore it must have a capacity to project superior power in comparison with its competitors ; and secondly, the close proximity and common border it has with the sub-continent makes it obligatory for China to take note and initiate action to neutralize the power potential of the neighbour with whom some kind of rivalry, at some point of time, would be unavoidable. Chinese resented Indian efforts to secure the leadership of the newly liberated colonies and the Afro-Asian bloc. Not only did they bring down India a peg or two in 1962 border conflict, but since then, took active steps to befriend, support, and arm Pakistan even when Pakistan was firmly in the US camp. Chinese support of Pakistan did not await developments in the 70s, but started as early as 1965. Their friendship with Pakistan undoubtedly had an anti-India angle, but perhaps it was not restricted only to that. Decidedly after the liberation of Bangladesh, they seemed to have pulled all the stops in helping Pakistan. They have supported Pak nuclear and missile programmes so that it remains confident of its deterrence capability vis a vis India. General Raghavan quotes CIA Director J. Woolsey from his testimony to the Senate Government Affairs Committee :

           

            ``China has consistently regarded a nuclear armed Pakistan as a crucial ally and a counterweight to India[xv]. ''

           

            ``This strategy of encircling India is not being orchestrated by Washington, but Beijing. The Americans do not give a damn because they have decided to ally with Germany in Europe and China in Asia. .China is militarily powerful, has big market and rivalries with Japan and Russia, the same countries the US perceives as problems in the future. China sees India as a nuisance which needs restraining through Pakistan. The latter has little autonomy and will do what its sponsors require...India should deal with the dog owner and not the dog[xvi].''  

 

            Clearly, the Chinese policy is intended to encourage Pakistani truculence and hard attitude against India. Pakistan's nuclear capability is an insurance that China has taken out against the realization of the sub-continental geopolitical potential which can indeed create problems for China. Should the sub-continent develop such a potential it will be sought out by the United States, Russia, Japan, and several East Asian countries as a countervailing mass against the Chinese. Even the United States, when it saw an opening into India in the wake of the Chinese aggression, went all out to help India and even restrained Pakistan from taking advantage of India's difficulties. The possibility of the whole of the sub-continent acting in unison is attractive to the United States, provided it does not act at cross purpose to its own policies. Was the sub-continent, as a geopolitical entity, in the reckoning of the United States, when it aided India in 1963, is a difficult question to answer. Perhaps, the aid signified no more than the desire to add one more nation to the ring that was to contain communism. It would appear that the sub-continent as a geopolitical entity has started to appeal to the policy makers in the United States. United States have not always encouraged Pakistan not to fight with India ; perhaps, they have indulged Pakistan, in recognition of the services rendered, and given it a long rope, particularly when it became the front-line state. Now in the post Cold-War world, geopolitical interests of the United  States and India may converge. It may actually look upon the emergence of the sub-continent as a geopolitical mass with a degree of favour.

 

            Geopolitical calculus could have and should have made India aware that try as it might -- even by going to the extent of championing the cause of Peoples Republic of China for the membership of the United Nations, and accepting its suzerainty over Tibet without demurring -- it cannot avoid rivalry with China. Rivalry is unavoidable precisely because India and China are two huge geopolitical entities with a common border. As and when they develop power projection capability they must ineluctably bring within their reach and range huge tracts of each other's territories. When they choose to extend trade or influence, their areas of interest must overlap. Similarity in the size of population must make them both prime producers of labour intensive goods. They may both look for more land to accommodate their burgeoning populations. Land may not be a very attractive prize to developed countries because their productivity and prosperity is not directly linked to per capita availability of land. But as for China and India are concerned, that cannot be the case. Their actual requirements of lands will be empirically established only when their growing populations stabilize and they attain a reasonable self sufficiency in food and water. Till that happens a zero-sum solution to the problem may appeal to one side or the other. China is today admittedly in the league of great powers, but that need not make India necessarily believe that China will deem it infra dig to compete with India. If India does not find it inappropriate to compete with much smaller Pakistan, it is highly unlikely that China will ignore India, even in its depleted state. China does take Indian potential seriously, if not the present prowess. It abundantly exploits Indo-Pak rivalry as a part of the answer to the geopolitical problem, and has taken steps to sharpen it. India, on its part, at one point of time, tried out appeasement as a strategy, but perhaps not coherently or cogently enough. India received no prize in exchange for acceding to Chinese claims on Tibet, nor did it secure any tangible benefit for championing Chinese cause at the international fora. When the crisis came, it was only the opportunity of balancing the geopolitical mass of India against China that kindled the interest of the United States to start with, and subsequently that of the Soviet Union. In the post Cold War era, the United States and Russia both are not unmindful of the importance of India as countervailing mass to China.

 

            The difference in capability and power of Pakistan and India will grow with time, other things remaining the same, in favour of India. In another fifteen years Pakistan will be left further behind by India. Status quo favours India. The opposite is true in respect of India-China in-equation. In years to come, China is likely to further improve upon differences which are already in its favour. The comparison of power quotients creates a frame of analysis in which India- Pakistan and China-India relationships can be brought on the same plane and measured on the same scale. If India outranks Pakistan, China outranks India. What is noted less often is that China outranks Pakistan with even greater margin, and this in itself may be sufficient for Pakistan to ensure that their relationships remain free of rivalry or hostility. In no circumstances can Pakistan afford to annoy China. It is another matter than Chinese support to Pakistan, in holding its own against India, gives added incentive to Pakistan to court the Chinese. It is quite likely that at least some of the oil and gas out of the Central Asian Republics may flow through Afghanistan and Pakistan. China could get access to these through good offices of Pakistan. Pakistan also has a unique access into the Islamic world many divides of which it straddles.

            The sub-continent as a geopolitical entity, does not admit of a traditional balance of power : all of the other nations together, including Pakistan, cannot overcome India. It could well be a planetary structure with the central mass being provided by India, with co-existence as the avowed goal. Howsoever it might please India, such an arrangement leaves others dissatisfied and distrustful. A structured hegemony in the sub-continent, with India as the hegemon, is what Pakistan resents the most. Pakistan is willing to see itself as an extension of the Middle-East, with a view to drawing upon the pan-Islamic sentiment and support, so that it could deal with India on equal terms. Pakistan befriended the US and China for the same purpose. During Cold-War, this approach worked up to a point. But now a search must begin to create a new political architecture for the sub-continent in which all its nations are truly equal for certain stated purposes, and in common interests. This is difficult to come by particularly because almost fifty years have been spent by India and Pakistan in confrontation.

 

            It is obvious that in the emerging multi-polar world, the US, Russia, China, Japan, and Europe are going to be the major players. They need to create or maintain a balance of power which takes into account the numerous variables, and a few certainties : militarily, the US will remain the most powerful nation, but economically, China may well forge ahead. Russia may bound back; it still has nuclear weapons, and a great reservoir of resources and a matching population. Japan may want to create a power balance which takes into account the US tilt towards China. Europe will compete with the US, while making the US bear security costs. And yet, in spite of numerous complexities, comparatively simple policy options have to be worked out. For want of such options, national security doctrine cannot emerge.

           

            ``America's permanent interests, he [Kissinger] felt, was in preventing hegemony in Asia of any power and the US would react to attempts by any country to dominate Asia, including China. The United States needs China to maintain a balance of power among Asian countries, including India, according to former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger[xvii].''

 

            ``The Americans and the Japanese are here because India offers the geopolitical and commercial possibilities.

            "In the years to come America's relations with china and Russia, will determine its relations with India. It is an unspoken fact that in the next fifteen years -- the time span which  the Pentagon is using for projections -- the United States see China as its main adversary in Asia, Russia in Europe[xviii].'' 

            Even if one were to disregard over-simplification, it cannot be denied that numerous options are being considered by those aspiring to be or remaining  great powers. In all of these, the sub-continent would have a place provided it develops its full geopolitical potential. As and when Pakistan feels convinced that the value of its geopolitical assets -- location in relation to the Islamic  world, China, and Russia, oil rich Central Asian Republics (CARs), access into the whole of the Muslim world, irrespective of divides in it, and so on -- will only go up when it desists from confronting India, a change in attitudes will come about. India, equally, will benefit if a large chunk of its power projection potential is not set back by Pakistan. Being the largest member of the sub-continent, it may benefit the most by re-establishing the economic zone in the sub-continent. Perhaps, there is a need to bring about this realization. It is only after the end of the Cold War, that the US have perhaps considered the possibility of India as a player in working out balances in Asia. Views expressed by one of the former Chiefs of the Pakistan Army give some idea of perceptions of the elites of Pakistan in this regard. It is obvious that major changes in attitudes are visible all around, and India must now make good use of this opportunity.

 

            ``It is customary that whenever United States desires to implement any strategic decision in the South Asian region, a number of think tank scholars are commissioned to provide a trailer to the strategic move.

 

            ``In 1992, United States scholar Selig Harrison was the speaker at a colloquium on `United States and South-Asia after the Cold War: Implications and Reflections', organized by Foundation for Research on International Environment, National Development and Security.) His statements are quoted to reveal as to what is in the offing in the `held Kashmir' :

 

            "India as the bigger state, having sustainable linkages with the United States, ought to have the primary responsibility with respect to the subcontinent. This should neither be ignored nor forgotten in any calculations or combinations. The status quo has therefore to be in her favour... Pakistan being the lesser member with loosening ties with United States, should adjust herself in the larger context. In her secondary role, as subservient to the regional frame, she must shorten her activities and curtail her aspirations[xix]..." ''. 

           

            This discussion about the geopolitics of the sub-continent would be incomplete without reference to its location on the rim of the Indian Ocean. Sea lanes carrying oil from the Gulf will always have the greatest significance for most countries of the world. So much depends on uninterrupted supply of energy. This is an area of total convergence of interest for the United States and the sub-continent.

 

            The US presence in the Indian Ocean is significant. Its two operational commands -- the Central and the Pacific -- hold a sway over the Indian Ocean now that the Soviet Union has opted out, at least for the time being. The sub-continent has an inherent capacity to be a major player in the region. India and  Pakistan can actively cooperate with the United States and her allies in maintaining uninterrupted flow of oil, that is in policing. As the sub-continent turns into a prosperous economic-zone, the needs of secure trade would also call for the same approach.

 

            India cannot, ever, remain out of Chinese reckoning and attention because of its sheer size, and location ; rivalry between the two is unavoidable, although this rivalry need not always manifest as confrontation. It is obvious that China has taken steps to encircle India and deepen the divide in the sub-continent. This is clearly aimed at preempting the possibility of India's emergence as a great power, and improving upon its own  chances of a substantive victory, should a conflict take place. Indo-Pakistani rivalry is an outcome of colonial past and derived from geopolitical factors. There is a scope for creating a political identity of the sub-continent and adjusting all the nations including Pakistan within that structure so that the geopolitical potential of the sub-continent is realized to everyone's advantage. India is hobbled by Pakistani rivalry, and Pakistan is haemorrhaging because of her spending on the armed forces. SAARC should ultimately assist in this direction. The sub-continent is a civilizational and cultural unity, and it ought to conduct its affairs accordingly, to register a meaningful say in the world order.

 

            Pakistan split open in 1971, because it showed insensitivity to civilizational and cultural continuities in the sub-continent. Relationships and bonds between the two wings of Pakistan were predicated upon a sub-continental identity. Had these continuities not existed in pre-partition days, there would indeed have been no possibility of a country with two geographically unconnected wings. If Pakistan shows incomprehension of this reality, it may split again, under the burden of its expenditure on armed forces. In the face of the implacable hostility of Pakistan, India may have to offer unilateral `no-war' guarantees to Sindh and Baluchistan, so that the jingoistic ruling elite of Pakistan are isolated. Realization may then come that an architecture of identities in the sub-continent will gradually, but inexorably, emerge. It would be on the basis of equitably protecting and promoting interests of all the collective identities of the sub-continent. Pakistan may yet draw the right lessons from the secession of its eastern wing, and seek accommodation within such architecture, on terms it would find advantageous. Should it not adjust to emerging reality, its regions might.

 

            Survival of over-populated and under-nourished countries of the sub-continent, with any kind of self respect or honour, in the emerging world order will be that much more difficult unless they take note of the unifying factors and cooperate.



 

[i].     Hamish MacRae,` The World in 2020 ', Harper Collins, London, 1994, (p.p.253-255).

[ii].     Francis Pike, `Mandate from heaven : China will wear the crown', Asian Age, Bombay, 22 July,1997. By arrangement with Spectator.

[iii].     ibid.

[iv].     MacRae, op. cit., (p.225).

[v].     Barry Buzan,`People, States & Fear', TransAsia Publishers, New Delhi,1983, (p.106).

[vi].     Encyclopedia Britannica, Volume 4, 1964, (p.p. 744-745).

[vii].     Edgar O'Ballance. Afghan Wars 1839-1992. Brassey's, London,1992.(pp.54-55).    

[viii].     Ayesha Jalal.The State of Martial Rule', Cambridge University Press, 1990, (p.23).

[ix].  J.N. Dixit, `Assignment Colombo', Konark Publishers pvt ltd., 1998, (p. 17).

[x].     Jalal, op.cit., (p. 13).

[xi].     Chris Smith, India's Adhoc Arsenal, Direction or Drift in Defence Policy? SIPRI,Oxford University Press, New York, 1994, Pakistan, (p.29).

[xii].     Rafiq Zakaria,`The price of partition', Indian Express, Pune, 14 August, 1997.

[xiii].     Jalal, op. cit., (p. 22).

[xiv].     Michael O' Dwyer, `India As I Knew It - 1885-1925', Mittal Publications, 1988 [originally published around 1930], (p.106).

[xv].     Raghavan, R. V. Lt Gen, `India's Need for Strategic Balance',Delhi Policy Group, Delhi.

[xv].     Gautam Sen, writing on China in Indian Express, Pune, 2 November, 1996.

[xv].     Henry Kissinger, `US needs China for balance of power', Indian Express, Pune, 4 November, 1997, quoting an article by Kissinger in Newsweek.

[xv].     Rajan Gupta,`Look West through the East',Indian Express, Pune, 22 August,1997.

[xv].  Gen (Retd) Mirza Aslam Beg,`Trilateral zone', Asian Age, Bombay, 14 October,1997. By arrangement with the Dawn. Beg is a former Chief of the Pak Ar

[xvi].     Gautam Sen, writing on China in Indian Express, Pune, 2 November, 1996.

[xvii].     Henry Kissinger, `US needs China for balance of power', Indian Express, Pune, 4 November, 1997, quoting an article by Kissinger in Newsweek.

[xviii].     Rajan Gupta,`Look West through the East',Indian Express, Pune, 22 August,1997.

[xix]. Gen (Retd) Mirza Aslam Beg,`Trilateral zone', Asian Age, Bombay, 14 October,1997. By arrangement with the Dawn. Beg is a former Chief of the Pak Army.