The Everlasting quest for parity : The Pakistani dilemma

On the 17th of December, Pakistani media conglomerate, the Dawn Group, released its annual website statistics. And not surprisingly for the 5th year in a row, the most used word on the website, after Pakistan, was India. Over 45% of the comments on the website mentioned India, and over 30% of the articles published on the website were India-centric. This piece of statistics highlights what analysts from around the world have been saying for over a decade : Pakistan is morbidly obsessed with being hyphenated with India. In other words, As Pakistan stares at India, India eyes the world.

India has reasonable aspirations to emerge as a major global power. It is the world’s largest democracy, second largest population, and the 6th largest economy. India wants to sit on the high table of global decision-makers : an aspiration Pakistan can’t absorb or respect. India wants a permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council : Pakistan opposes it. India wants the membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group: Pakistan opposes it too.  Why is it so? Don’t both the countries have different problems, different aspirations, and different futures?  This article seeks to discuss and analyse the reason the Pakistani state is so India-centric and India-specific. 

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Muhammad Ali Jinnah proposed the famous ‘Two Nation Theory’

The August of 1947 marked the Partition of British India into two sister dominions on the basis of religious ideologies ; A secular India, and an Islamic Pakistan. Pakistan was thus the only country to have been created in the name of Islam. Pakistan’s founding father, Muhammad Ali Jinnah had demanded the Partition on the basis of his famous ‘Two Nation Theory’, which fundamentally stated that Hinduism and Islam, were not only separate religions, but seperate ways of life, which could not exist together. Though Jinnah clamoured for the Partition, he favoured and dreamt of brotherly ties between the two nations. He famously declared in 1948, “I hope India and Pakistan develop relations like the US and Canada”. At the same time however, he warned, “India should shed the superiority complex and treat Pakistan on equal footing. The two dominions are born to be equals” . This statement fundamentally  epitomizes the present national psyche of Pakistan.

For many years, global heavy hitters including the United States and the Soviet Union ‘hyphenated’ Pakistan with India. .Even though India had a much larger economy and population than Pakistan, Pakistan had achieved an artificial parity with India due to the heavy American aid it received. Pakistan was an American ally in the war against Communism.   All of this changed with the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War.

As the world witnessed China’s rise, India was seen as the ideal American partner to counter China’s expansionist policies. This fundamentally left Pakistan out in the dark. The Pakistani narrative on this issue is : “We hosted US troops and US bases on our soil for over 50 years. We helped Americans in any way we could. However, the US has betrayed us by siding with India.” Now, the Pakistan-US relationship consisted almost entirely of counter-terrorism cooperation. On the other hand, Indo-US relations significantly expanded, consisting of economy, technology, defence, and cultural ties.

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Indo-US relations have expanded significantly since the end of the Cold War

The growing Pakistani uneasiness with Washington’s increasing coziness with New Delhi can be amply  highlighted by the recent uproar in Pakistan over US President Barack Obama’s visit to India as the chief guest for the country’s Republic Day celebrations.  For the first time in decades, a US President visited India without scheduling a stop-over in Pakistan. Earlier, when former president Bill Clinton visited India, Pakistani diplomats moved heaven and earth to implore him to add Pakistan to his itinerary; and he obliged with a four-hour visit.

Pakistan’s knee-jerk response to the emerging India-US strategic partnership is to adopt China as an alternative patron-saint. This move is abjectly unwise. Firstly, no one respects camp-followers of one power or the other. And secondly, reliance on Chinese shoulders to lean on may prove to be unstable as, after all, China, too, is cognizant of India’s rise and will not construct its regional foreign policy to suit the needs of a declining entity that is incessantly in a state of political and economic crisis.

This insecurity and hysteria for parity with India in Pakistan stems from the fact that the very existence of Pakistan is questionable. Pakistan was formed in the name of Islam : a country which would be the ultimate Muslim utopia. There were no other grounds for the creation of Pakistan. The present day Pakistan shares 5,000 years worth of shared history, culture, and traditions. The Two Nation Theory is faulty due to the fact that more Muslims remained in secular India than live in Islamic Pakistan. For Pakistan, this is a fundamental question of identity : If they are not Muslims, are they second-rate Indians? This lack of a defining sense of nationality, due to the fact that the very theory on which the foundation of a nation rests is faulty, gives rise to insecurity and unrest. Pakistanis feel that they need to distinguish themselves from the Indian culture: which is why many Pakistanis declare that they are an ‘Árab’nation.

When the British partitioned India, the dominion of Pakistan got just over 20% of the total economy of British India, but over 35% of the standing army, which had been mobilised for the Second World War. Pakistan couldn’t justify the presence of such a huge army, unless it brainwashed the public into thinking that the Pakistani State was facing an existential external threat. The Pakistan ruling elite and military commanders conveniently labelled India as ‘Hindu India’, which did not accept the very existence of Pakistan, in order to justify the maintenance of such a huge military. In fact, Pakistan’s first budget earmarked a whopping 75% of the total budget for the military. These developments, certainly contributed in making a needlessly aggressive image of India in Pakistan.

Many Pakistanis consider a Pakistan vs. India scenario as a Muslim vs. Hindu situation. An embarrassment for Pakistan is considered as an embarassment for Islam, which further aggravates the already tense relations. Pakistanis need to separate religion from State, which is the only way forward for peace and prosperity in Pakistan.

Due to the large size of its military establishment, the army wields a huge influence over the Pakistani society. Since the only way to justify this disproportionate dominance of the army on the Pakistani state and society is to preserve the myth of an ‘Indian threat’, the Pakistani military will continue to want to keep the pot boiling against India, even if Kashmir ( a territory which Pakistan categorises as the ‘core’ issue between India and Pakistan)  were to be handed over to India on a silver salver with a white ribbon tied around it.

Pakistan has to realise that world affairs are not carried out according to the figments of imagination of the country’s officially-sponsored intelligentsia. The nations of the world are engaged in serious relationships based on trade and security. No world leader will visit Pakistan if there is nothing substantial to talk about. No one has the time to add a day to their route merely to pander to Islamabad’s pretensions about parity with India.

Pakistan will have to accept hard facts and introspect the actual situation. And the fact is that Pakistan has little weight in the international arena, politically and economically. Politically, it is viewed as a nuisance at best and a threat to international security at worst. Economically, it is considered a basket case and a seemingly eternal candidate for bailouts. And it has little international sympathy for its claims of terrorism victimhood, as it is viewed as being bitten by the snakes it has itself bred in its backyard.

In order to build a peaceful and prosperous nation, Pakistan will need to implement changes  to adopt economic and social development as the primary agenda of the state and  degrade the external security agenda. It has to be accepted and incorporated — in belief and policymaking —  that Pakistan’s security essentially lies in its economic strength and not in its nuclear arsenal, military posturing or in an imaginary competition with India.

In India, the state has an army; in Pakistan, the army has a state. Unlike in India, one does not join the army in Pakistan to defend the country; one joins the army to run the country ~ Hussain Haqqani – Former Pakistani Ambassador to the United States

Note:- All the opinions stated in the above article are the author’s own.

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