oppn parties Friendship with Pakistan, A Thousand Cuts and Collateral Damage

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Friendship with Pakistan, A Thousand Cuts and Collateral Damage

By Sunil Garodia

About the Author

Sunil Garodia Editor-in-Chief of indiacommentary.com. Current Affairs analyst and political commentator. Writes for a number of publications.
Most Indians have always loved to extend the hand of peace and friendship to Pakistanis. The proof of this lies in the fact that Pakistani actors and singers have always received good fan following in the country. Despite intense on-field rivalry, Pakistani cricketers have never been harmed when they tour India. Instead, they have been showered with love and affection wherever they go. Pakistani TV serials have been aired on Indian channels to wide viewership and applause. People in Pakistan have reciprocated all this, when their government has officially allowed airing of Indian channels or screening of Indian films and if not then by watching pirated DVDs, as accounts of people traveling to that country prove. There is no general animosity between the people of the two nations. All this is because the two countries have a legacy of shared culture and traditions. But in stark contrast to Indian ruling establishment whose policies are largely shaped by the majority public opinion, the Pakistani government, controlled in proxy by the country’s military establishment, has its own India-baiting agenda which does not account for public opinion in that country.

The dispute over Kashmir is an old problem that continues to fester. But one has a sneaking feeling that more than Kashmir, it is the dismembering of Pakistan which took place in 1971 (with the creation of Bangladesh) that the Pakistani establishment and its military have neither forgotten nor forgiven. Much of the ire that is directed at India is on account of its success in the 1971 Bangladesh liberation war that took away a big part of Pakistan that provided huge revenue to it. Ever since then, the Pakistani military establishment has been smarting and wishes to give, in the words of the late General Zia-ul-Haq, a thousand cuts to India. They know that a full scale war is beyond their realm – it will finish them, even if it finishes a large part of India, given the nuclear capabilities of both countries. Hence they indulge in proxy warfare. The thousand cuts are the nicks and wounds they impart to India by attacking the Parliament, or bombing Mumbai or attacking army camps.

A majority of the common people of Pakistan, although showing no animosity towards India, are in no way capable of altering or influencing the establishment’s policy on India. In fact, they are not even in a position to put pressure on the government to change its India policy by holding protests. Our fight is with the Pakistani military establishment as the government there is but a pawn in its hands and the people are gagged through fear of both the military and the various terror groups based in that country. The common people are also not active enough to prevent radicalization of the youth as a feature article in the Herald magazine of the Dawn newspaper group showed recently (read the full article here). It detailed how madrasas were being used to radicalize youngsters and throw them in the arms of the terror groups. Hence, the Indian hand of friendship is held in Pakistan by a group of people who have no say in shaping policies both in politics and in society.

When Narendra Modi took over as Prime Minister of India, contrary to general perception of him being a hawk (due to his RSS antecedents and speeches during the election campaign), he extended a hand of friendship by inviting the Pakistani president to his swearing-in ceremony. As recently as just before the Pathankot attack, Modi made an unscheduled stop in Pakistan to visit Sharif at his ancestral home to wish him on his birthday. Even if Pakistan considered these to be symbolic acts hiding Modi’s real intention, they did not reply with similar symbolic acts. Instead, they gave us dead soldiers at Pathankot and Uri, repeated violations of ceasefire at the LoC and continued disturbances in Kashmir. Anyone who buys the argument that the terrorists coming across the LoC are “non-state actors” not supported by the Pakistani army is either naïve or stupid or both.

If the majority public opinion in India has turned against Pakistan and if this anger is also increasingly being directed at the people of Pakistan, it is because Pakistan is being seen as a rogue state where it is no longer certain who is in control. Is it the democratically elected government that runs the country? Or is it the military establishment? Or have the mullahs taken over public opinion through the madrasas? Or worse, is it that the various terror groups, ostensibly under the control of the ISI and the military, have usurped their handlers and are acting independently? Is Pakistan being devoured by the very groups they bred to inflict “a thousand cuts on India”?

General Pervez Musharaf has said that democracy is not “tailored” for Pakistan. So let the people of Pakistan decide who they want to represent them in the community of nations. Let them end this sham of having a democratically elected government that breeds terrorists to hurt India at the behest of its powerful military. Only then will friendship have any meaning. Otherwise, for each Ghulam Ali concert that we allow in India or each Fawad Khan we allow to work in our films, a few more of our brave soldiers will face bullets when they are sleeping from an enemy that does not have the guts to fire from the front. Most people in India are realizing that although it is not the fault of the general people of Pakistan but the people-to-people contact with the Pakistanis has failed to change the feeling of deep hatred that the country’s ruling establishment has for India. In such circumstances and in the escalated tensions, friendship with Pakistan is suffering an unavoidable collateral damage.