Thursday, July 24
Pakistan and the "India Obsession"
The Bush-Musharraf Conclave
By HAROLD A. GOULD, Counterpunch, July 18, 2003
Probably the most significant utterance made by General Pervez Musharraf during the press conference that followed his Camp David meeting with President George Bush went completely unnoticed by the press. At one point, after President Bush declared that he is "hopeful that the two countries will deepen their engagement on all issues, including Kashmir," the General dutifully intoned his hope that a solution would be found, but nevertheless felt constrained to remind Mr. Bush that Pakistan has "our sovereign equality to guard, vis-a-vis India."
This remark went unnoticed primarily because most media people are either too young or too historically naive to understand its implications. It was Musharraf's way of saying that Pakistan's obsession with the "India threat" remains alive and kicking. As long as it does, the chances for peace and reconciliation between the two major powers in South Asia are not great. For this obsession has haunted Pakistan's political culture since it attained Independence in 1947, and has fueled all of the wars and near-wars that have been waged between India and Pakistan over the ensuing half-century.
What is the India Obsession? The political divide between Hindus and Muslims originally arose from the fact that for centuries a Muslim minority had enjoyed political hegemony over the Subcontinent's Hindu majority. Since the dawning of modern times, however, with the gradual diffusion of representative government, this Hindu majority found the means to make their numbers politically count. Over the last century prior to Independence, as the power of the demographic majority ramified, the Muslim elites found their political dominance increasingly challenged. Many perceptive Muslims (such as Sir Syed Ahmad Khan.) saw the handwriting on the wall unless somehow they could achieve a relationship with the emerging Hindu majority which struck a balance between Muslim political importance and Hindu demographic importance. While the struggle against British colonialism was taking root, a sub-plot of political maneuvering was simultaneously occurring between the Subcontinent's increasingly strident Muslim leadership (personified by Muhammad Ali Jinnah and Liaqat Ali Khan) and an increasingly aroused and determined Hindu-based leadership (personified by Tilak and Gokhale, Gandhi and Nehru) whose differences were so intractable that partitioning India into two separate and ethnically distinct states turned out to be the only way that imagined Muslim fears of Hindu demographic inundation could be assuaged.
Unfortunately ... [...]
... Kashmir could be settled overnight if there were not a section of Pakistani political society that feeds off it for domestic political reasons.
America's tragedy was its decision to nourish the megalomaniacal fantasies of Pakistan's anti-democratic elites by sucking Pakistan into its militarized Cold War grand strategy. Each infusion of anti-Communist armaments reinforced the power of Pakistan's authoritarian ruling classes, fed their anti-Indian inferiority complex and eventuated ultimately in three intraregional wars, in Kargil, in a perpetual, still continuing pattern of military provocations and state-sponsored cross-border terrorism, and the development of nuclear weapons.
This is an old story which need not be further elaborated here. General Musharraf's visit to Camp David was initially seen as a potential departure from the old ways of doing business. Instead, all signs indicate that we face more of the same. The aid package offered to Pakistan follows the same misguided pattern as all of its predecessors. At least half of the amount will go for military assistance, the very thing that economically desperate and politically frail Pakistan needs the least, and indeed has always needed the least. [...]
The Bush-Musharraf tryst reveals that Cold War baggage remains embedded in the American diplomatic culture. Certainly it survives in the Pentagon and undoubtedly in the ranks of the neoconservative set that has settled in around President Bush. In the circumstances, India will be compelled to adopt a wait-and-see posture pending some indication of whether Mr. Musharraf will (a) keep his promises, and/or (b) will be able to survive the slings and arrows of political dissent, jihadism and economic collapse that now confront him. [...]