India vs Pakistan: Why can’t we just be friends?

Book Review: "Much Ado About Nothing"

31 May, 2016    ·   5046

Rana Banerji reviews Husain Haqqani's 'India vs Pakistan: Why can’t we just be friends?'

Rana Banerji
Rana Banerji
Distinguished Fellow

Title: India vs Pakistan: Why can’t we just be friends?
Author: Husain Haqqani
Publisher: Juggernaut Books, New Delhi, India, 2016

Apart from the rather melodramatic disclosure of former Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI) chief, Lt Gen (Retd) Ahmed Shuja Pasha admitting that “log hamare thay, operation hamara nahin thha” (the people involved in the 26/11 Mumbai attack were ours but the operation wasn’t the ISI’s), Husain Haqqani’s new book on India-Pakistan relations hardly contains novel academic research or much anecdotal reflection, which could satiate the palate of sensation mongering audiences here.

Starting in promising vein from Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s March 1948 "beach-walk confidences" shared with then US ambassador to Pakistan Paul Alling, Haqqani mentions his founding father’s lament about failure to establish "normal" relations with India. His introductory chapter on why "we can either be more than friends or become more than enemies’ provides a broad, if somewhat sketchy and selective historical narrative, of how conflict evolved in both countries.

Moving to Kashmir as "Pakistan’s Jugular Vein," Haqqani talks of "lack of strategic thinking" "on part of Pakistan’s soldiers and military planners," as also "their circumscribed knowledge of history," which made them "reject partial solutions" when offered. He also blames India for "promising, then putting off, and finally cancelling a UN-organised plebiscite in Jammu and Kashmir" "sixty years ago," persisting "human rights violations and the extensive militarization" there. Since then, Haqqani believes, "Pakistan has been strong in rhetoric without appearing to have a well-considered" plan B, "once Kashmir was engulfed by militancy during the 1990s". Without openly acknowledging State sponsorship here, Haqqani does grudgingly admit that "moral or legal arguments notwithstanding", "proliferation of Kashmir-oriented jihadi groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Muhammad have eaten away support for Pakistan’s position internationally."

Perhaps his own travails in his short-lived role as Pakistan’s ambassador to the US after the `Memogate’ catastrophe in May 2011 (a controversy revolving around a memorandum addressed to Admiral Mike Mullen, ostensibly drafted by Haqqani, seeking help of the Obama administration in the wake of the Osama bin Laden raid to avert a military takeover of the civilian government in Pakistan), lead him to aver that "any Pakistani suggesting normalization of ties with India, preceding a final settlement over Kashmir, runs the risk of being dubbed a traitor."

Talking of Pakistan’s nuclear quest (Chapter 3), Haqqani narrates the interesting experience of an American journalist, Peter Landesman, who came across a slightly depressed Brig Amanullah, head of Pakistan’s Military Intelligence in Sindh. Amanullah not only wanted to nuke Indian cities – Delhi, Bombay, Calcutta (Pages 70-71) but who expected India’s reprisal, destroying Lahore and Karachi. This would result in massive deaths but enable children of both nations to make a fresh start! (Article in The Atlantic: `A modest proposal from the Brigadier’, March: 2002). The military officer was adamant about using the nuclear option as he saw India as the font of all Pakistan’s problems. Haqqani suggests that a similar mind set still prevails among Pakistan’s top security planners. To buttress his argument, he refers to Pakistan’s Adviser to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz’s March 2016 statement averring "India, not terrorism, is the biggest threat to the region and urging India to reduce its stockpile before Pakistan could reciprocate."

Unlike scientists in other countries who avoid politics, Haqqani contends, Pakistani nuclear scientists "became active proponents of Islamic and anti-Indian state ideology." While serving as Adviser to Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in 1996, Haqqani met Dr AQ Khan when the latter was "aspiring for Pakistan’s highest civilian award, Nishan-e-Imtiaz, which he was later awarded," in August 1996. Khan told Haqqani "he had not been honoured enough and should have been elevated to Presidency for life."

Haqqani flags "a bit of James Bond stuff" wherein Pakistan’s Ambassador to Germany Jamshed Marker openly reminisced about Pakistan’s well known clandestine nuclear procurement endeavours to diplomatic correspondent, Mariana Baabar. He tellingly points out, "for Pakistanis, deception and violation of other countries’ laws in this nuclear quest to equal India became a matter of pride."

Haqqani says clearly that serving Pakistani troops crossed the Line of Control in Kargil in 1999. Benazir once told Haqqani that Pervez Musharraf had come to her with a similar plan in 1995 when he was Director General, Military Operations (DGMO), but she had shot it down. Haqqani is less certain "whether, in 1999, Nawaz Sharif mistakenly signed off on the venture or was never fully informed of its scope."

The chapter on 'Terrorism = Irregular Warfare' narrates old facts and cites secondary data to recount known positions. Haqqani does acknowledge though, that "ideologically motivated jihadi militancy is not a tap that can be turned on or off by governments at will." Throughout the 1990s, Pakistani official media encouraged discussion of Ghazwa-e-Hind’ hadith (practices and interpretations of Koran) as a justified way to motivate jihadists. Today, Haqqani points out, many Pakistanis realise that the country’s embrace of terror as strategy has rebounded, endangering lives of Pakistanis, engendering lawlessness and making Pakistan "a potential international pariah." "Still, Pakistan’s generals remain fundamentally wedded to the idea of irregular warfare."

Haqqani notes that "in Pakistan’s case, treating India just as a neighbour has proved difficult because of India’s centrality to Pakistan’s identity as a separate nation." The ISI’s view remains that "jihadi terrorism only counters the R&AW’s operations to weaken Pakistan’s ideology." As long as this belief exists, "that Pakistan must undermine India before India does the same to Pakistan; it is unlikely that terrorism will stop being an issue in the subcontinent."

Dwelling on "The shrinking space for Friendship" in his last chapter, Haqqani reiterates, the India-Pakistan relationship has become a victim of two parallel and contending nationalisms. Under the military’s influence, Pakistani nationalism has evolved as "anti-Indianism." Indians too are to blame, as they "insist on describing Pakistani identity as inherently communal," and, according to Haqqani, "constantly reiterate the need to dispute the two-nation theory." "This puts Pakistan on the defensive instead of making it feel respected and self-confident."

Haqqani ends with an evocative reference to Fehmida Riaz’s poem, ‘Tum Bilkul Hum Jaise Nikle’ (you turned out just like us), though he cites only its English translation, by Shabana Mir. It is a pity, perhaps, that Haqqani penned this book in haste. In many ways, it is a disappointing work. One hopes it will not detract from his standing as an academic of repute, which was justifiably predicated on his two previous outstanding works: 'Pakistan: Between Mosque and Military' (Carnegie Endowment, 2005) and 'Magnificent Delusions- Pakistan, the United States, and an Epic History of Misunderstanding' (Public Affairs Books, 2013).

Still, for Pakistan enthusiasts it may be worth a read.