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Pakistan - India: A peace to be wary of

by Jawed Naqvi, 3 October 2013

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Dawn, 3 October 2013

AS their prime ministers met in New York to unravel their tangled ties, ordinary Indians and Pakistanis were grappling with their more palpable domestic traumas.

The massacre of dozens of Christian worshippers in a Peshawar church was a sequel to unabated attacks against targeted groups within the Islamic fold and outside, by the same pack of beasts that go by different names in Pakistan.

In New Delhi, at the moment of the New York meeting, a right-wing prime ministerial candidate was whipping up communal frenzy with an eye on its cascading domestic implications that can’t be dissimilar to Pakistan’s ongoing brutalisation by hand-reared fanatics.

It’s a fallacy that the Pakistani Taliban are a byproduct of the war on terrorism that was launched in the new millennium. Their DNA, though of colonial vintage, was honed and shaped in state-backed hatcheries — first in West Punjab in the 1950s, and later across the erstwhile two flanks of Pakistan.

Everyone was complicit, most shockingly Z.A. Bhutto who subsequently gave official cover to Pakistan’s penchant for ethnic and religious feuds.

The orchestrated Gujarat-style murder and rape of Muslims in the Muzaffarnagar district, not far from Delhi, days before Modi’s Delhi rally, also had its genesis in urban India’s traditional flirtation with communalism, of which the liquidation of Gandhi at a prayer meeting in 1948 was just one aspect. His assassins were ideological cousins of Narendra Modi. They shared their DNA with the neo-fascist Hindu revivalist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.

We all know that the RSS modelled itself on Mussolini’s efficient structure of indoctrinated youth and the lumpen squads they spawned. India’s youth bulge the RSS-Bharatiya Janata Party combine is hoping to exploit in the 2014 polls can go any which way, as they did in 1984.

That’s when young lumpens turned upon innocent Sikhs thereby boosting the Congress’s kitty of communal votes.

It is axiomatic that the overtly liberal Rajiv Gandhi could never have got his unparalleled four-fifths majority in parliament without the tactical benevolence of the RSS. He returned the favour by opening the locks of the Babri Masjid and by giving Indian Muslims a mediaeval law for divorcing their wives.

The difference between the two dominant fanatics — Muslim extremists in Pakistan and Hindu revivalists in India — is as stark as are their similarities.

The Indian fanatics, who began as a motley group of communally prejudiced petty traders, are being harnessed to an economic agenda that dovetails with the larger global interests, whereas the Pakistani suicide squads are evidently still bereft of that lure for worldly quests.

There is no evidence that they can’t be woven too into a global plan, say, to exploit natural gas in Central Asia and keep vigil on the network of politically vulnerable pipelines the project requires.

The widely predicted return and anointment of the Taliban in Kabul, not the least as a key stakeholder in the economic pie, could inevitably usher a concomitant surge in the economic preferences of Pakistan’s homegrown brigands.

That’s the real and present danger for the ordinary people and for their liberal peers on both sides of the India-Pakistan border.

At present, the ordinary Pakistani could at least have hoped to ward off the suicide bomber. They have already successfully declared him the enemy of the state, with the aim to isolate him in the not too distant future. What if the bomber becomes an integral part of the state instead, on his terms too?

Imagine two fanatics ruling India and Pakistan. I should imagine they will get along famously. That’s why I don’t believe there could be an India-Pakistan military flare-up in the future, certainly not beyond the skirmishes needed to sustain optimum prejudice towards each, as loose change for domestic purposes.

If you haven’t noticed, the chorus today is for more bilateral trade, which will usher lasting peace. It is not the other way round as it once was. Liberalised visas are for traders, not ordinary men and women.

So there you are. Ask the right question and you will get an agreeable answer. Do Anil Ambani, Mukesh Ambani and Ratan Tata — the main architects of Project Modi — have an interest in a future India-Pakistan conflict? The answer is a plain no in the existing scenario.

In fact, Indian businessmen would be eyeing their chance on the big-ticket hydrocarbon sector in Central Asia and other profitable opportunities once Afghanistan opens up for trade. A profitable route for this would only be through Pakistan.

Promise of peace with Pakistan and vagaries of the Afghan political conundrum could not be the basis for making high-yield profits in the near future. Those profits would come from elsewhere, most crucially from home.

Acclaimed Marxist historian Irfan Habib once observed with his characteristic wry humour that the dream of every merchant was to be able to sell without having to buy. That was Habib’s description of the loot of Bengal by Robert Clive. The phrase now applies to the most crucial military face-off shaping within India’s secure borders.

Modi is being built up not to attack Pakistan. As for China, it was the first major country to subvert a boycott of Modi after he supervised a mass murder of Muslims in Gujarat in 2002.

Nor is there much business sense in laying asunder what remains of Muslim ghettoes within India. They will be attacked to polarise votes and for bits of real estate they vacate, not as a covenant of state policy.

The big target of attack in India, more bloody if Modi wins, will be the vast virgin fields with their natural resources, minerals, water springs and rivers within India. That’s where India’s impoverished tribal communities live with or without the ideological support from Maoist rebels. That’s the loot the businessmen are rooting for.

Let’s say a total rout of India’s hapless tribes people by Modi or whoever wins the next polls could spur an era of peace with Pakistan. Would that warm the cockles of Pakistani hearts?

The writer is Dawn’s correspondent in Delhi.

P.S.

The above article from Dawn is reproduced here for educational and non commercial use