By Ambreen Agha
Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri, Neither a Hawk nor a Dove: an Insider’s Account of Pakistan’s Foreign Policy, (Pakistan: Oxford University Press, 2015), Pages: 851, Price: Rs 999
A detailed read, Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri’s Neither a Hawk nor a Dove: An Insider’s Account of Pakistan’s Foreign Policy, published by Oxford University Press, 2015, is a timeline of events on Pakistan’s foreign policy, with emphasis on India, including the ‘Details of the Kashmir Framework’, in the 851-pages long book.
The book is essentially a repetition of what has been done, what has been told, and what is left to be done. The reader is left to wonder the lack of disclosures in a book that had raised expectations and promised revelations thanks to its title, ‘An Insider’s Account.’ With nothing new to gain, the book is a compilation of previously discussed and deliberated issues on Pakistan and its foreign policy. Except a few personal incidents, including his childhood days, family background, and a few incidents when holding the office of Foreign Minister, there is nothing remotely close to insider information in the book. However, despite the run-of-the-mill narrative, Kasuri can be credited for being a determined optimist with an undying spirit for dialogue between the two hostile neighbours, India and Pakistan.
Indo-Pak Relations: History, the first casualty
Given the distortions in history writing, Kasuri appears to be seriously concerned about the younger generation that is susceptible to becoming myopic in its approach towards Islamabad’s relations with New Delhi. Further, commenting on the inescapability of history, the author points out (p.126), “Historical distortions, especially in the Pakistani narrative, must be highlighted and addressed since the current state of intolerance in Pakistani society is deeply linked to this narrative.” Here, history is described as the first casualty because of the deliberate attempts made by the religious hardliners “to infuse ideology in the curriculum”. In a passing remark, Kasuri observes that the partition narrative too has been given an over-the-top communal colour.
A staunch believer of peace between the two nations, Kasuri calls for “Peace with Honour,” and normalisation of long troubled relations with India, which he says is in “Pakistan’s national interest.” This long troubled relation is mainly contingent upon the Kashmir issue. And it is here that hope, for Kasuri, becomes the second casualty in the edgy relations between India and Pakistan. With successive attempts at peace on the issue of Kashmir fading-out a thousand times quicker than the long-drawn efforts that go into their making, the issue continues to be a lingering irritant.
Washington-Islamabad Relations: Magnificent Delusions
With several hiccups in the United States (US)-Pakistan relations, the relationship between the two countries has varied from being one of uneasy bedfellows to Pakistan being a Major non-NATO ally (MNNA) in Washington-led ‘war on terror.’ Marked with delusions, the US-Pakistan relationship is of converging and diverging interests. As Kasuri reiterates (p.556),
“Despite numerous areas of convergence, there exist disconnect between the interests and security policies of the two countries. This has been a major factor in their roller-coaster relationship. It is no wonder that Pakistan, from being the ‘most allied ally’ became the most ‘sanctioned ally’ of the United States, and then, once again, a ‘major non-NATO ally’. The two countries are now sometimes even referred to as ‘frenemies’.”
The security-focused relationship that the two allies share has been wrought by many disappointments and occasional triumphs. Oscillating between the two points, the US-Pak relation started on a high note with the triumphant visit of the first Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan to the US that led to Pakistan becoming “most allied ally” of the US to the last low point, the Salala episode in November 2011. From the containment of communism, to the rolling back of the USSR from Afghanistan, and to the ongoing War on Terror post 9/11; all of these define the relationship between the two sides.
China-Pakistan Relations: Friendship of Reciprocity or hypocrisy?
The People’s Republic of China and the Islamic Republic of Pakistan have managed to maintain a strong friendship from the 1960s onward with Pakistan supporting China’s entry into the United Nations. Strengthening a strategic relationship, “Pakistan”, writes Kasuri, “supported One China Policy at a time when China was isolated.” This brought the two countries closer. It was after the Sino-Indian war in 1962 over the disputed border between the two countries, the US sent massive doses of military aid to India and which alarmed Pakistan, making it rely on China even more.
This cosying up with China is credited to efforts made by Ayub Khan and Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. The author describes the relationship between the two countries as, “higher than the Himalayas, deeper than the oceans, sweeter than honey, and stronger than steel.” However, this friendship also suffers from setbacks, which appear cursory in Kasuri’s account. Most importantly, the presence of Uyghur militants in North Waziristan Agency of the tribal areas might prove to be a source of trouble for the two “closest allies.”
But, what remains to be addressed in the book is the relationship of hypocrisy that Beijing and Islamabad share. How does Pakistan look at Chinese policies of curbing religious freedom in the Xinjiang region that is majorly a Muslim dominated area? The banning of Ramazan fasting for Government officials in Xinjiang by the Chinese Government this year was an evidence of hypocrisy adopted by the Pakistani Government that is quick to stand for injustices against Muslims across the world. But this restriction on religious practice didn’t ruffle any feathers.
Interestingly, in this measured narrative by Kasuri one observes that India is an integral calculus in Pakistan’s foreign relations. It has become imperative for Pakistan to re-assess the causal dynamics that have negatively impacted durable peace and reframe its policy initiatives. For this, it should, first, deconstruct the idea of India that is perceived as a perennial enemy in popular imagination; and second, hand over the arduous work of history writing in responsible hands.
(Ambreen Agha is a Research Assistant at the Institute for Conflict Management, New Delhi. She can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org)