Sharing political history, culture and even blood, what is it that continues to drive a wedge between India and Pakistan so much so that the latter finds its interest served by causing harm to the former? The answer lies less in what the British did to them, but more in what Pakistan chose to do unto itself, writes Chayanika Saxena for South Asia Monitor.
By Chayanika Saxena
Unleashing simultaneous attacks on the Indian strategic assets both within its territory and on the soil of another nation, the potential role of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) in orchestrating them is unknown to no one. As facts roll out ascertaining the involvement of this intelligence agency in the Pathankot and Mazar-e-Sharif attacks, what is becoming even more evident is that India and Pakistan stand at fork’s end from each other today. They might have been born together, but what has become of these two countries has made them the obverse images of one another.
Sharing political history, culture and even blood, what is it that continues to drive a wedge between these two neighbors so much so that Pakistan finds its interest served by causing harm to India? The answer lies less in what the British did to them, but more in what Pakistan chose to do unto itself.
Created with the partition of British India in 1947, India and Pakistan were the result of a ‘two-nation’ theory that began to flip the moment it was put in practice, particularly in that very country that was to be its child: Pakistan. As India and Pakistan began charting different courses, the rapid successes met by India on many fronts began to imbue a sense of fear in Pakistan which ever since the untimely death of its creator Muhammad Ali Jinnah began lurching without an effective leader and a clear vision. Pakistan’s identity came to be based on its rabid animosity, or rather envy of India’s stability, growth and relative secular inclusiveness.
In the theories of politics, we have been told that there are two ways to constructing identities: positive and negative. Where the positive formation of identity depends more on looking-within for substance, the latter conception of identity beseeches that one’s existence will be based on what the ‘other’ is not. In other words, in constituting identities, where a positive construction would depend more on self-reflection and self-assessment, the negative will be just the opposite. An identity negatively constructed will be something like this: I am what I am not because of who I am, but because I am not you, and unfortunately, it is this very feature of identity formation that Pakistan took to.
Since its creation, the identity of Pakistan as a nation has depended less on what it was, what it is or what it could be; its obsession with India replaced what should have been a process of self-constitution with a fear psychosis that fed on destructive ambitions of causing harm to India to create a sense of purpose within.
Having been dealt the first blow with the untimely death of visionary Jinnah, the country was left in doldrums; a political vacuum that was filled with the rise of military which had started to stage coups as early as in 1949 (Rawalpindi Conspiracy by Major General Akbar Khan to oust the then PM Liaquat Ali Khan). The loss of Kashmir as a consequence of its sponsored militancy punctured a big hole in the two-nation charade. Its war with India in 1965 saw the Indian Army marching into its territory all the way up to Lahore, and the 1971 war took away its eastern wing which had decided to revolt against the Pakistani oppression and second-grade treatment of the Bengali-speaking citizenry of what was till then the East Pakistan. It has been noted that the creation of Bangladesh hurt the masochism of the Pakistani Army which has since then intensified its anti-India activities.
Hurtling to the last decade of the 20th century, India and Pakistan had liberalized their respective economies in succession to one another, with Pakistan going first in 1990 followed by India in 1991. Here too, the two countries began charting different courses despite beginning at the same starting-point. While India proceeded opening its economy to the world, Pakistan took a step a back with Benazir Bhutto’s People’s Party of Pakistan (which was also the architect of Pakistan’s nationalization scheme in the 1970s) repealing the order as soon as it was put into force. Soon, India became one of the fastest growing economies in the world, making it the world’s third largest economy (by Purchasing Power Parity index) at the end of the year 2014, while Pakistan was at the 26th rank by the same measure.
Politically, the coups in Pakistan had created a tight-fisted rule in the country, stunting the growth of democracy. Starting with the military coups that made democracy to recede, the conscious Islamization of Pakistan under the regime of General Zia ul-Haq unleashed what was to hurt the social base of the country to date: extreme radicalism and conservatism. Some of the most infamous ordinances, like Hudood were enacted in the efforts of making Pakistan into a ‘true Islamic state’ replete with codes and punishment that were in order with the Sharia. The Indian political setup on the other hand was becoming a case of democratic marvel. Despite a poor economic base and rampant illiteracy, India managed to become the world’s largest democracy whose regular, 5-yearly affair turned into a spectacle for the world.
As politics in Pakistan began assuming a theological color, the thriving cosmopolitan culture in Pakistan took the beating. The secular fabric of the country which its founding father, Jinnah, had wanted to preserve was now in tatters. In contrast, India was getting projected as a country of cultural unity, with greater respect for secularism at least when compared to its neighbor.
To add to this, the imprints of India were becoming visible in the region as well. Economically, it became the largest economy in South Asia; its political setup one of the only cases of democratic success in the Third World, and culturally, a society that was immensely variegated but still together. And, Pakistan essentially became all that India was not, and primarily for its own giving.
As we pass through the second decade of the 21st century, the currency of India is experiencing a high-point on all the fronts, while Pakistan is still reeling with home-grown pressures of extremism, an interfering military and a sense of global distrust towards what it promises and what it does. The situation of Pakistan is extremely delicate today especially as the military that had once been the brigade of blue-eyed boys in politics, who were initially looked to for correcting all that was going wrong in the country, are being told to vacate the political space they had once usurped. And, as it struggles to keep its power from going, it has intensified its anti-India rhetoric and acts to show that it still calls the shots in determining what Pakistan does and will do.
The only way out of this precarious situation is to strengthen the civilian government in Pakistan, which in its earnestness has shown its conviction towards fostering peace and stability in the sub-continent and the larger South Asian region. While India cannot take the beating for trying to make Pakistan a successful democracy, but it can surely throw its weight around PM Sharif as it has of late done.
(Chayanika Saxena is a Research Associate at the Society for Policy Studies, New Delhi. She can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org)