Long Live Pakistan!

India’s long-term interests therefore call for New Delhi to insist on strengthening state institutions
vis-à-vis the military establishment now, at a time when outside powers are interested in Pakistan’s stability. Even as India engages President Musharraf bilaterally, a separate multilateral process will allow it to pursue other imperatives of the stabilization process.

India’s new challenge is to steady Pakistan’s boat

Excerpts from an article in the January 2008 issue of Pragati:

Photo: Jawad Zakariya/Flickr
Photo: Jawad Zakariya

A stable, internally reconciled Pakistan is in India’s interests. Ah! Wouldn’t that mean that it will only pursue its age-old anti-India agenda with even more vigour? Not quite. Because a Pakistan that continues to pursue irredentist goals in Kashmir or indeed, seeks to foment terrorism elsewhere in India can neither be internally reconciled nor be stable. For what is its current, perhaps existential crisis, than proof of this?

A stable Pakistan does not necessarily mean a friendly Pakistan—rather, it is a necessary condition for stable India-Pakistan relations. Whether stability will lead to peace and normality depends on a number of factors. But it will provide India with the space to proceed, relatively undisturbed, on the path to its own development.

So what India really needs is not a peace process, but rather, a stabilisation process. In the short-term this would call for preventing Pakistan’s political crisis from causing it to collapse, and in the long-term ensuring that it builds a sustainable‘ business model’ for itself.

Ah! Why bother, you might ask. Isn’t it just as well, besides much easier, to just let it collapse and split into a number of smaller states? Well, even if that destination itself were desirable, the journey is likely to be so violent that any sense of schadenfreude that Indians might feel would melt away under the costs of having to deal with a crisis next door that would be several Partitions rolled into one. And the presence of nuclear weapons, facilities and scientists on the one hand and the advance of radical Islam on the other should drive home the reality that both journey and destination are not to be wished for, and certainly not to be aimed for.

Of the umpteen challenges to the stabilization process, two stand out for their immediacy: First, India must devise a new mechanism for dealing with the various power centres that hold sway in Pakistan. Second, India is now forced to plan for an entirely new threat: the risk that al Qaeda and its Pakistani constituents will seize control of deliverable nuclear weapons or their components.

India’s long-term interests therefore call for New Delhi to insist on strengthening state institutions vis-à-vis the military establishment now, at a time when outside powers are interested in Pakistan’s stability. Even as India engages President Musharraf bilaterally, a separate multilateral process will allow it to pursue other imperatives of the stabilization process.

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17 thoughts on “Long Live Pakistan!”

  1. Interesting that you mention “various power centers”. Do we even know how many power centers exist in Pakistan. Is there anything called “loyalty” to the country, a party, a state, an institution in Pakistan? Atleast dividing Pakistan will eliminate the weaklings and establish a few that we can talk to.

  2. SumneNeeve,

    Perhaps. But the process of getting there will pose incalculable and unacceptable risks. The breakaway factions/states don’t even need to hit India: they just need to hit each other. The wind will carry the fallout. Literally.

  3. Two points:

    1. If one thinks of balkanization on the lines of breaking a larger problem into smaller ones, know that even Al-Qaeda et al might think of it that way. I guess ,”…the advance of radical Islam…”, takes that into account.

    2. It is also possible that the cultural identities of the regions are still strong enough to avoid turning into another bastion for Al-Qaeda et al. Consider that Sindh, Punjab, NWFP, Baluchistan have had their own identities, in a sense that each of these parts seem to me, more coherent than the sum, i.e. Pakistan. But the big question is, is that calculable?

  4. 1. Control of the nuke ‘crown jewels’ rests exclusively with the Pakjabi elite within the Pak army. So different provinces caught in civil war launching nukes at each other seems rather implausible. Seems to me, only one province will endup with control of usable nukes – Pakjab.

    2. The real costs of civil war in Pak aren’t so much about nukes buzzing overhead. They’re to do with a more mundane humanatarian crisis. The first instinct of janta in both pakjab and Sindh to wanton rioting and looting and bloodshed would be to head for the Indian border. And no, closing the indian border checkpoints is not == closing the border. We’re talking 1000s upon 1000s of families jumping across. Short of a shoot at sight policy (which is another impossibility, not to mention inhumane), we’d be stuck bigtime holding their can. Already MQM chief Altaf Hussein in a speech in london last year (lookup youtube) declared Pakistan a ‘mistake’ and beseeched India to take back the mohajirs! (No, thank you. We can do without ’em). So this last ditch survival instinct of jumpipng into India is alive and well, make no mistake.

    3. Pak’s slide into further anarchy is inevitable, almost. Zia islamicized not just civil society but institutions of the state including the all-important military. Mush and Ashfaq represent the last few batches out of kakul that escaped the indoctrination. Zia-ists now occupy majority of lower officer ranks and the vast majority of non-officer ranks in the Pak army. What would a typical zia-ist look like? Lt Gen (Retd?) Hamid Gul would be a good example. These are fanatics who *really* believe that islam is destined to win. Hence make war on Yindia, Yankeestan and the yehudeestan, pronto. By any and all means necessary. *That* is what concerns me no end. Mush and Ashfaq will have to go one day. What will replace them will decidedly be worse than anything we have seen.

    Just my 2 paisa. Would appreciate the counterview by sceptics, hole-pokers and such. (:@D)
    /Have a nice day, all.

  5. I agree, Nitin. I’m intrigued by your opening line: “Because a Pakistan that continues to pursue irredentist goals in Kashmir or indeed, seeks to foment terrorism elsewhere in India can neither be internally reconciled nor be stable. For what is its current, perhaps existential crisis, than proof of this?” While I’m not entirely convinced that Pakistan’s existential crisis, as you call it, is directly a consequence of its shenanigans in Kashmir and elsewhere, it is definitely one of the factors. How it contributed to the current crisis could be the topic for your next essay/blogpost, maybe? 🙂

  6. There have been intelligence reports that suggest that the U.S. control of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons has been in place for a while. I quote from Stratfor:

    As we have discussed a number of times, the United States delivered a very clear ultimatum to Musharraf in the wake of 9/11: Unless Pakistan allowed U.S. forces to take control of Pakistani nuclear facilities, the United States would be left with no choice but to destroy those facilities, possibly with India’s help. This was a fait accompli that Musharraf, for credibility reasons, had every reason to cover up and pretend never happened, and Washington was fully willing to keep things quiet. After all, the United States was not interested in regime change in Islamabad.

    If true, this lowers the nuclear threat level for India, should Pakistan turn into another failed state as its neighboring Afghanistan.

    I think, the risks from mass migration from Pakistan into India far outweighs those from its nuclear weapons. Witness the conflict brewing in the Dhubri district of Assam between the local and the Muslim settlers from Bangladesh. Read here on the exacerbation of this danger from global climate change. Worse, the Bangladesh Muslim populace is by and large less fundamentalist than their Pakistan counterpart, although they are rapidly getting there. Perhaps, when Prakash Karat (CPI-M) talked of extra-electoral means for defeating “the communal forces”, he meant welcoming ceremonies for the millions of Muslims migrating into the border areas of Bhuj, Patan and Banaskantha in Gujarat!

  7. Well thought out and put, Nitin but I don’t agree that Pakistan is in danger of splintering, with Islamic radicals set to gain power of rump states with nuclear weapons. If the US invaded Iraq on unclear intelligence of WMD, imagine what they’ll do if they even think that Pakistan is in danger of being Balkanized by Islamic radicals…Benazir was a popular leader but she was NOT the sitting PM, was faced with multiple corruption charges (hence prone to overthrow, if elected, by any one of the state actors when any of these charges came to fruition), was not very enlightened as far as India-policy goes and would have done very little to curb growing Islamization in all sections of Pakistani society.

    Let’s also remember that we’ve had violent slayings of similarly popular leaders in India before too, and we’ve not split asunder after that. India is not Pakistan but the nationalistic glue of a common religion in keeping a nation together is, at the least, as potent as the cultural glue of a shared heritage in a multi-cultural society like India.

  8. TRF, thanks for the text from Stratfor.

    That is interesting because I’ve not read anything which is so sure about the status of Paki nukes. To some extent, that might explain why GoI has been willing to go along with American machinations in Pakistan.

  9. Purush, good point about nationalistic glue vs. cultural glue.
    Regarding partitioning Pakistan, its true that it might not be on the verge of breaking up but the arguments in Acorn’s write-up could very well be applied to the question, whether “engineering a partition”, is in Indian interest?

  10. Sud & RF,

    Yes. The results of civil strife are what I characterise as the journey. And as you have elaborated, that journey is nothing we should be hoping or aiming for.

    RF & others,

    Regardless of what StratFor and others say, on a matter of vital interest, India cannot afford to take Washington (much less StratFor’s) word. Washington’s intervention may at best stall the slide or mitigate the consequences. But India must be prepared for the worst case. (Also, while StratFor has its take, other reports—see the Thomas Ricks’ Washington Post story excerpted in Pragati—and a previous post here on PALs give me reason to doubt that Musharraf has allowed Pakistan’s nukes to be hostage to Washington)


    The risk of Pakistan’s collapse arises from far deeper causes than Benazir’s assassination. Media blackouts mask many of the severe multiple crises in the country: Balochistan in rebellion, parts of FATA/NWFP under Taliban control, civil/sectarian strife in Gilgit, Parachinar etc, POK under the sway of Lashkar-e-Taiba, Pashtun-Mohajir-Sindhi faultlines in Karachi, the split between Gul & Co and Musharraf & Co in the army etc. Benazir’s killing is just the most visible (to the popular media) manifestation of the crisis. There’s a lot to fear.

    There’s no comparison of the effects of the assassination with any in India. Institutions work, democratic politics provides the incentives for compromise and reconciliation, and the system is oriented towards resilience. After Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination, even the Congress party—not known for its internal democracy—managed to throw up a government that not only quickly put the assassination behind it, but also pulled India out of the economic crisis. The effects of political assassinations will work very differently.

  11. scritic,

    While I’m not entirely convinced that Pakistan’s existential crisis, as you call it, is directly a consequence of its shenanigans in Kashmir and elsewhere, it is definitely one of the factors. How it contributed to the current crisis could be the topic for your next essay/blogpost, maybe?

    It’s not hard to answer. The fundamental reason is that the India obsession was responsible for chronic misdirection of resources and priorities. Ayesha Siddiqa’s has written an entire book, Military Inc on one aspect of this—military dominance over all other aspects of society. The penetration of radical Islam is another.

    The proximate reason, of course, is the jihadi blowback. What do you do when hundreds of thousands of functionally illiterate young (and middle aged men) cannot make a living out of fighting wars in India and Afghanistan?

  12. Nitin: Looks like shoring up Pakistan is postponing the inevitable. A “stable, internally reconciled Pakistan” is wild fantasy given their history and their recent trajectory. India will not strong-arm them, and the US has no incentive or appetite to do so. Except for Zulfiqar Bhutto’s early years, Pakistan itself has never mustered the collective will to self-correct. Why not aid the “several partitions” and actively manage Marshall Plans in Sindhudesh (proximity and commerce) and Balochistan (for the gas)? And put the fear of God into Uncle Sam about nuke control in Pakjabistan?

  13. Following up from my previous comment about stronger regional identities.

    The two ideas that have been used towards developing a single Pakistani identity are radical Islam as started by Zia-ul-Huq and the anti-Indian’ness. Neither of which are in Indian interest. Considering Acorn’s concerns that the journey towards a partitioned Pakistan is something which we might not want to undertake because of the incalculable risk, is there a half-way point between a centrally strong Pakistan(which is trying to build an identity on the two ideas above..) and a complete partition?

    I think one approach could be to allow the provinces to have larger autonomy and freedom to manage their own affairs, within a Pakistan which is not as strong at the center to micro-manage and suppress regional( and non-religious) aspirations, so the need to develop that single Pakistani identity is no longer present. Is such a business model possible?

  14. dear indians,
    i am a pakistani and i would like to ask you why you guys are taking so much interest in our internal issues .what is happening in my country is no matter to you.do we ever have interfered in your issues? no, we didn’t. then why you always intefer in our problems.before critisizing us look at yourself.kindly don’t depress yourself from our tensions.before advicing us kindly look at your poverty, curreption,and hindu extremism.we’ll be grateful to you.

  15. Dear Naz,

    Why complain when people wish your country well?

    As for why the rest of the world should be interested in your internal issues, well, I suppose that is a question Pakistanis must ask themselves.

    do we ever have interfered in your issues? no, we didn’t.

    Right. You mean Pakistan nurtured Al-Qaeda, Taliban, the Jaish/Lashkar/Sipah merely to provide employment to its youth?

  16. Dear Sir/Madam,
    Patriotic way, to prevail “Democracy in Pakistan”…?

    Democracy as a system of governance and interest representation demands respect for dissent and opposition. It recognizes the principle of majority rule and guarantees protection of minorities. Democracy also builds faith in electoral contestation to gain public office and gives legitimacy to political parties as primary instruments for acquisition and transfer of power from one set of individuals to another. Democracy teaches us equality, tolerance and justice without any discrimination to establish welfare society based on peace, progress and prosperity.

    Therefore, it is essential to denounce the killing of innocent people in Pakistan, since it look excellent and compassionate but are we really feel sorry for that killing of innocent people ? if it is so, then we must eliminate the route cause of suicide killing and other hatred, being a democratic Islamic country and people, we must think in the light of teaching of our prophet (PBH) because killing for killing and bloodshed of innocent people, due to one pretext or other can never gives flowers in return, peace cannot prevail in this circumstances we must adopt democratic ways and means to settle the differences with who so ever they may be.

    In reality, factual reason behind this hate is not born by us, but borrowed by us for the sake of US pleasure “Aa bel muje mar”. Because, those who were supported, financed, equip and trained by the USA and its allies, and who fight in the name of freedom of Afghanistan from occupied forces, were not aware about the truth behind their fighting, their fighting, was to protect the interest of USA, they were fighting a war of USA against USSR, for the political gain of USA (petrol resources around the Afghanistan and get easy excess for ,Iran, china) and when they realise their national interest was going to be robed, they dare to refuse, what kind of robbery was that is mentioned in the recently release book by the France authors.
    “ French authors Jean-Charles Brisard and Guillaume Dasquie recently published a book entitled Bin Laden: The Forbidden Truth which tells of the negotiations for oil pipeline rights in Afghanistan that collapsed in August 2001 after the U.S. told the Taliban: Accept our offer of a carpet of gold or you’ll get a carpet of bombs.”
    Despite the fact that, “Bush administration was expecting from Taliban, to cooperate with their plans for exploiting the oil resources of Central Asia. US were sure until August, that the Taliban, as a source of stability in Central Asia, would enable the construction of an oil pipeline across Central Asia.” But, all of a sudden a trusted partner of USA, turn in to so-called terrorist?
    But fortunately, the Taliban realize that their national interest was going to be robed by USA; they dare to refuse, to accept US conditions for their support in exploitation of oil resources from central Asia.
    As a last hope in the talks between the Bush, administration and the Taliban which began in February 2001, shortly after Bush’s inauguration. A Taliban emissary arrived in Washington in March with presents for the new chief executive, (an expensive Afghan carpet). But the talks themselves were less than cordial. Brisard said; “At one moment during the negotiations, the US representatives told the Taliban, ‘either you accept our offer of a carpet of gold, or we bury you under a carpet of bombs’.”
    USA and its allies attack the Afghanistan under the immediate aftermath of September 11, there were press reports—against, largely overseas protest and hiding the factual reality behind the attack on Afghanistan, they almost destroyed remaining infrastructure and killed thousands of innocent people, such as they attack the Iraq under wrong pretext of having the WMD and against the will of the world to capture the oil resources and acquire a place for their continuous presence in the middle east for their political gain. The United National has lost its credibility as neutral authority to intervene and protect the small and week nation against foreign aggression but instead ,UNO, proved as failed organization playing in the hands of the brutal power intimidating and capturing the countries, in order to grab their, resources such as OIL and to attain political influence, while killing their innocent people under one pretext or other in the name to “demoralized” them and to accept the terms and condition suitable for the occupier.
    At present they (US/NATO) are fighting their war of military/political interest in the region, involving the dependent country like Pakistan, under intimidation of sever consequences to bear, if refuse to support them; The current demand draft of 11 points, submitted by the so-called democratic imperialistic state of USA is a clear sign to a sovereign government of Islamic Republic of Pakistan to accept and obey as matter of master’s voice. This act is a kind of intimidation and direct involvement in the internal matter of a sovereign state. This act create a question as if we are really a sovereign state or part and partial of USA,
    Because, they want Pakistan to fight and kill his own people under one ploy or another, want to drag them in to the chaos and uncertainty, so that they can further impose more condition on the Pakistani Government to follow them, dip and dip until armed forces of Pakistan loose the trust of the Pakistani people and come openly to fight against his own people like they did in east -Pakistan, this is the movement they (USA) are waiting for, so that their, in time financial help to the traitor can play the role to disintegrate the strength of the nuclear country.
    This is a moment invite us all for serious consideration weather to keep our independence in tact or bow down before this mighty evil, democratically bullying to accept the terms and condition of his interest, or in other words be ready to loose our independence for ever.
    How? a patriotic person can repeat, the past mistake for supporting the fight, for external political and regional gain instead, we have already paid to much price in the form of social unrest, ethnic conflicts, drug- addicting and arms problems through Pakistan, If, we have to survive as a Sovereign Islamic Nation, in this world with dignity and respect as a free nation, then we must adopt and adhere the following essential change immediately;
    • Decentralize the power on the basis of division to empower the people at grass route level without any delay.
    • Allow free, complete education with technical knowledge to every able citizen.
    • Establish research institute at divisional level to encourage the youth with god gifted skill to develop and those who are interested in research work in all field, it is necessary step towards self sufficiency in technology.
    • Provide guarantee for job opportunity to all man and women after education/technical training.
    • Rapid industrialization of small, medium and cottage industries be allowed at the divisional level with total protection to capitals and facilities to flourish.
    • A cooperative farming should be introduced at divisional level for large scale agriculture product and development of agro-industries.
    • Supply of controlled price utilities could only be possible if we follow the mass industrial and agriculture production
    • Provide separate working facilities for production and services to women, so that majority women force of 52% can join the force of national production/services.
    • Insurance coverage should be provided all working man/women along with complete medical treatment coverage.
    • Better residential facilities be provided to all
    • Export oriented foreign policy should be adopted and find markets for our excess products in the regional country surrounding us, and provide them market place for their excess products.
    The right way to reverence to Martyr is to eliminate the causes after the incidents. If we can redress the route cause after the suicide killing, we can save many lives in future. The only way out is the change of system, the route cause of all kind of grievances, the time is to empower the Pakistani at grass route level to eliminate the socio-political injustice and strengthen the unity within the society at large, and closing the door for outsiders or intruder to penetrate in our society because of social unrest.
    Pakistani people are left at distant from the corridor of power. As this policy is denial of right of Pakistani igniting the unrest within the society, let the people of Pakistan, to rule their country according to their aspiration and desire to build, which can provide equal opportunity to all without any discrimination for the establishment of welfare society. Only the society base on tolerance, equality and justice can be the real guarantee for the prosperous and strong Pakistan
    See http://www.idp.org.pk
    Ilyas khan Baloch
    Organizer Islamic democratic party

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