Raghavan starts by stating that books on India-Pakistan relations would “easily fill a library.” He has now added to the opus but this is no ordinary book. It is a remarkable, lucid and persuasive account of the impediments to better bilateral ties, and in the process has set a new benchmark for this genre of analysis. Without exaggeration, this book is mandatory reading for those throughout this subcontinent and elsewhere who take the slightest interest in the future of India and Pakistan.
To his credit, Raghavan has skillfully and dispassionately identified the main sources of mistrust of India among Pakistanis. He asserts that “between August 1947 and September 1948 most trends and issues which comprise the current India-Pakistan matrix fell into place.”
Pakistan feels hard done by the non-accession of Junagadh, possible nonaccession of Hyderabad, belated accession by Kalat in Balochistan, and what it considers a fraudulent accession by Kashmir. It sees an Indian hand behind attempts by Afghanistan to block its admission to the United Nations.
Raghavan wonders if Pakistan had turned down the accession of Junagadh as it did in the case of Dujana, would it have strengthened its case on Kashmir? But he counters that it is not fruitful to speculate on what might have been, when the atmosphere was already rife with tension and suspicion.
The deadlock in withholding of funds due to Pakistan from India was resolved only when Gandhi intervened, which directly led to his assassination, and in 1948 already, controversies arose over river waters flowing from India to Pakistan, leading to enduring animus in Pakistan over India’s bad faith. In 1960, the Indus Waters Treaty was signed but has become a source of continuous dispute because the Pakistanis fear that any Indian activity on the western rivers is an existential threat.
The grievance list goes on, embracing Nehru’s manipulation of the Mountbattens and the Radcliffe award of Gurdaspur to India. Cricket matches between the two nations, the first of these in 1952, take place at intervals signifying temporary reduction in animosity, and Nehru’s visit to Pakistan in 1953 marked one such thaw, only to be nullified by Sheikh Abdullah’s arrest and the imminent US-Pakistan alliance. During that visit Nehru had agreed to a plebiscite in the whole of Jammu and Kashmir, an unfulfilled undertaking that has caused permanent resentment in Pakistan.
In 1955, Nehru proposed the only feasible option; the status quo with adjustments along the ceasefire line, which was unacceptable to Pakistan. During the India-China war in 1962, Pakistan made no move to derive advantage, which many in Pakistan, especially in uniform, regard as a lost opportunity.
In 1965, the submission of the Rann of Kutch dispute to international arbitration was seen in Pakistan as a precedent for Kashmir, but more immediately, sensing Indian weakness, for the initiation of a conflict in Kashmir, supported by Turkey, Iran and Indonesia.
This undeclared war snapped many of the existing links between the nations with “a developing psychological gulf” and a surge of nationalist patriotism in West Pakistan. East Pakistan felt it was left to fend for itself, and this became one of the many grievances leading to the secession of Bangladesh following yet another India-Pakistan war in 1971. One legacy of that war, writes Raghavan, was “Pakistan’s acute sense of victimhood.”
The Simla agreement is considered a lost opportunity by many Indians, who feel that a final settlement of Jammu and Kashmir should have been visited on Pakistan. The real issue, writes Raghavan, “is of differing philosophical approaches (in India) to dealing with Pakistan and on that there is hardly ever likely to be one view…” Jinnah House in Mumbai, promised to Pakistan byVajpayee in the 1970s, was never handed over.
It is now the main reason why there has been no exchange of consulates. The Soviet intervention in Afghanistan and Indira Gandhi’s return to power were not welcome portents for Pakistan. One outcome of the former was the arrival of three million Afghan refugees in Pakistan, a proportion greater than the influx from East Pakistan to India in 1971. Indira then blocked Pakistan’s re-admission to the Commonwealth, leading to a “mental state of siege” in Pakistan.
By early 1983, in one of the cyclical swings between bad and worse relations, things seemed to be looking up. But “there are always ‘buts’ in India-Pakistan relations” and confrontation at the Siachen glacier, support by Pakistan to the Khalistan movement, and growing domestic pressures on Zia to step down led to what Pakistan called a “new (Indian) doctrine of interference.”
In 1987, AQ Khan wittingly or otherwise, revealed that Pakistan had a nuclear weapon — something Bhutto had predicted 22 years earlier. In 1992 the demolition of the Babari Masjid resulted in anguish in Pakistan about the illtreatment of Muslims in India, and retaliation in Mumbai was led by the hoodlum Dawood Ibrahim, now in Pakistan. “In the face of evidence…the bland denials…to the contrary have become almost a textbook illustration of the deception and bad faith that forms the core of India-Pakistan relations.”
Periodic efforts were made to improve ties. The problem was whether to give precedence to terrorism (India’s agenda) or Jammu and Kashmir (Pakistan’s agenda). When Pakistan’s Nawaz Sharif proved forthcoming, his subordinates demurred even in their Prime Minister’s presence. Barely six months after the nuclear testing, cricket matches resumed, and Vajpayee visited Lahore. But Pakistan’s Kargil operation gave the lie to grand gestures, as did the Pathankot attack after Modi’s Lahore stop-over.
The basic premise that India would not negotiate with Pakistan unless its support to terrorists ceased was breached repeatedly. So more subtly, as in the Baglihar hydel project on the Chenab, was the Indian doctrine that outsiders should be kept away from India-Pakistan disputes.
After Congress returned to power from 2004, Manmohan Singh wistfully expressed his dream of breakfast in Amritsar, lunch in Lahore and dinner in Kabul. But Musharraf’s standing had collapsed, and Pakistan’s image was at a low ebb.
The Indo-US nuclear accord seemed to signal the end of Pakistani hopes for parity. The Mumbai terror attack was predictably ascribed to Indian intelligence — “defending terrorists became a defence of Pakistan’s sovereignty,” and all its domestic woes were held to be a product of Afghan and Indian hostile coordination. Reflecting their own predicament, the Pakistanis believe Indian intelligence organisations to be omnipotent and able to influence events in the distant future — which beggars belief. Raghavan has written a work of great perception and sophistication, and leaves us to reflect on how to evaluate Pakistan because “there is an India story and a Pakistan story.” He has admirably outlined the essential elements of the Pakistan story.
The Groundhog Day aspect of Indo-Pakistan relations —always something anticipated, always a replay of what has occurred in the past — is all too obvious. Even the reactions of the negotiators and public opinion on both sides are now predictable.
Chance encounters between heads of government have helped at times to improve relations, such as between Desai and Zia ul-Haq at Nairobi, but every initiative has strident detractors on both sides; in Pakistan the perennial question is, what is the value without Kashmir? Many questions arise — are bilateral relations better when Pakistan is weaker or stronger? What purchase do Urdu speaking, ghazal reciting, Indians have on Pakistanis? What purpose is served by Hindus using adab greeting to Muslim Pakistanis when the latter never deign to greet Indian Hindus with namaskar? Is there greater benefit in treating Pakistan unsentimentally as strictly another country, albeit one that poses threats? Why assume any existence of trust when the Pakistani army’s involvement in policy provides complete deniability? Must India always be on the defensive; to prevent a take-over of Kashmir and forestall terror attacks? What purpose is served by extreme rhetoric as used by Foreign minister Swaraj at the UN, obviously toxic for bilateral relations? Does descending to the level of Pakistan establish the very parity that Pakistan seeks? This text includes rare but welcome shafts of humour.
Dating is not excessively used, but provides adequate signposts. Some fascinating nuggets are provided, like BFHB Tyabji’s wife (he was an ICS officer inducted into our foreign service) may have designed the Indian flag, and the first veto cast by China at the Security Council was in 1972 on Bangladesh’s admission. It is astonishing to read the Pakistani official accounts quoted, that are so evenhanded and unemotional. We would not have suspected it.
(The reviewer is India’s former foreign secretary)