Former Pakistani ambassador to the US and expert on South Asian politics, Husain Haqqani, published a short monograph with Juggernaut Books last month called India vs Pakistan: Why Can't We Just Be Friends? Written accessibly, it charts the history of India-Pakistan relations through the decades, cutting through the jingoism and rhetoric that have blinded both sides since Partition. In Bangalore recently, Haqqani spoke with HuffPost India about the book and beyond. Edited excerpts:
The book reads like a primer on Indo-Pak relations since Partition. Did you intend it to be this way?
That's true. Over the years I noticed, even in official meetings, Pakistanis and Indians saying things that were more part of the current narrative than based on actual fact without realising what had happened in the past. For example, in 1959, Ayub Khan says to the American president that he understands a plebiscite is not necessary but any solution to Kashmir has to be acceptable to India, Pakistan and the Kashmiri people. But even now, the official Pakistani position often is that there is no solution except for a plebiscite. Similarly, there is a tendency among Indians to say, "We've done nothing to upset Pakistan." That's not always true either because, especially in the early years, there was a huge effort by India to "try to teach Pakistan a lesson".
So I thought it was necessary to write a short history of India-Pakistan relationship by stringing together anecdotal material with some historical context and create a primer of why we are where we are now.
I got the impression from the book that the ISI insinuated to you that the army was involved in the 26/11 attacks? Is that right?
No. This has been misread here a lot. I'm not saying the ISI or the army was involved. I narrated a conversation between the ISI chief and myself. The ISI chief only said these were "our people", which, I think, refers to Pakistanis who had state support in the past. He didn't say it was "our operation", which would mean it was executed by the ISI.
This led me to make a broader point: if a state had people it considered its own acting without its approval that was a very dangerous thing. Pakistan will have to bear the consequences of the 26/11 attackers without having full control over their participation or planning in it. The other interpretation could be that there was planning, which have been offered by Indian and American experts. If that's the case, then it's even more dangerous.
The point is, most nations methodically calibrate how they go about pursuing conflict. You cannot leave the task to militias fed on ideologies and rhetoric of people like Hafiz Saeed and Masood Azhar. If you read Lashkar-e-Toiba's literature, it talks about how their job is to liberate all territories that used to be under Muslim control and are no longer so. That even includes Spain. This is not a group that advances the cause of the Pakistani state or nation, they have some grand delusion to pursue. Any tolerance for it is going only come back and bite Pakistan.
What is your sense of the evolution of the Indo-Pak relationship in the last seven decades?
My argument is that nothing much has evolved. The politics between the All India Muslim League and the Indian National Congress created certain pathologies that resulted in the Partition. Those pathologies ended up becoming the pathologies of the two countries. Political parties often want to out-manoeuvre each other to win votes. Countries, on the other hand, have to think beyond these lines. Yet India and Pakistan have both behaved like political parties trying to out-manoeuvre each other.
India now has bigger fish to fry, internationally, but in Pakistan a lot that is said about Indo-Pak relations is for the benefit of the Pakistani people. Parties say things they know nobody outside their vote-bank would believe. Just like the Muslim League said things during the Partition to get the Muslim vote, there are things Pakistani leaders say no one else in the world takes seriously. For instance, I don't think anyone takes Pakistan's denial of any role in supporting jihadi groups seriously.
In the same way, the Kashmir issue has become a cyclical thing. Every few years there's an uprising. India turns around and denies any basis for unhappiness in Kashmir, even though all evidence point to the contrary, and tries to blame everything on Pakistan, which, everyone knows, is not true. Pakistan, on the other hand, denies fomenting terrorism in India-controlled Kashmir, which, again, nobody believes.
So there has been no evolution in the relationship, only mutations of the original distortion.
Do you think the recent Kashmir uprising is going to push matters in a worse direction?
I think there will be a temporary worsening. The unrest probably has a lot of local causes and those who don't want to address those will immediately put all the blame on Pakistan. Pakistan will also try to take advantage, as it has done in the past, and try increase India's discomfiture.
Ironically, Pakistan does not have the capacity to force the issue to a solution. So it will become like the Palestinian problem, which, every few years, festers, but the solution to which is well-known. It is the two-state solution, but for it to materialise, the Palestinians will have to wholeheartedly accept Israel, which many are not willing to do.
The solution to the Kashmir problem is also probably in the two sides meeting halfway. As I show in my book, as early as 1963, India put on the table a formula whereby there could be some revaluation of where the line of control would be located. By definition, all negotiations mean meeting halfway. So, if the solution has to be negotiated, it has to be a halfway solution, which becomes impossible if both sides stick to their maximalist positions.
So, while the solution has been on the table, it hasn't been implemented. The desire to keep the grievance alive is greater than the need to solve it. Therefore, the current situation in Kashmir will, unfortunately, come to no different an end than all the previous instances. I do not see the whole world standing up and saying India is wrong and I don't see India thinking that instead of using force, it should just give in. If neither of those two happen, how does an endgame come about?
The desire to keep the grievance alive is greater than the need to solve it. Therefore, the current situation in Kashmir will, unfortunately, come to no different an end than all the previous instances.
Am I right in thinking that in your view Jinnah, with whom you begin the book, was a pragmatist, who was full of contradictions?
The fundamental contradiction is that a country was born that, in its current form, was never intended. Then, what that country got, in the division, also created problems. Pakistan ended up with 19-20% of the population of British India, 17% of its resources and 33% of its army. That is an important thing to remember. A large number of Muslims in India did not move to Pakistan. So the creation of Pakistan did not solve the problem of Muslims being the minority. It wasn't a neat division that said India will stop having a Muslim minority and Pakistan will stop having a Hindu minority.
Mr Jinnah faced a political game of chess, in which he made certain moves with certain expectations and the Congress made counter moves. There are those in Pakistan to this day who believe that had there been a different response to the Cabinet Mission Plan, there might have been no Partition: if the Muslim states were allowed to group together within a confederal arrangement, while keeping a central government with minimal powers relating to foreign policy, defence and the issuance of currency. That's all history now.
Immediately after Partition, Mr Jinnah realised two things: one was that minorities had to be protected in Pakistan, which is why he made that famous speech in which he said religion is a private matter and not the business of the state, which, too, a lot of people felt was odd because he had demanded Partition on the basis of religion. The second was peace and prosperity in Pakistan will depend on its long-term relations with India.
He thought Pakistan and India will, after a period of unhappiness, settle down into a US-Canada-like relationship. I'm trying to rekindle the spirit of Mr Jinnah by reminding people that the founder of Pakistan did not want India and Pakistan to be permanent enemies. He understood there would be high passions immediately after Partition but he thought these would subside after a few years. Unfortunately they haven't subsided even after 69 years.
I'm trying to rekindle the spirit of Mr Jinnah by reminding people that the founder of Pakistan did not want India and Pakistan to be permanent enemies.
There is a passage where you say the army was so large for the size of a country like Pakistan that work had to be created for it. Can you elaborate on this?
A country raises an army proportionate to its size. In case of Pakistan and India, both countries inherited the British Indian army, which had been essentially created for the Second World War. The British did not have time between 1945-47 to demobilise the large army they had created. So, after Partition, it was divided two-thirds to one-thirds between India and Pakistan respectively. It wasn't divided on the basis of the threats faced by each country, but rather on the religious and communal make-up of the army. The majority of Muslims, who were from Pakistan, decided to stay there. Whenever you have a military force pre-existing a threat, the question will arise if the perception of the threat real or is the military raising the threat proportionately with its own size?
There's one way to look at the Pakistani official position, which is, Pakistan is a permanently-besieged country and it has too many threats. But that begs the question: why is that so? If there were to be so many threats, why did we create Pakistan? My view is, we have just had too many conflicts, internal and external, simply because when you have a hammer, every problem seems like a nail.
What about America? It has certainly fostered a major part of this problem.
If Nehru had decided not to be non-aligned, America would have taken India as its ally. Even if Pakistan had chosen to go with the Soviet Union out of spite, it would have collapsed by now. It just so happened that India chose to be non-aligned and Pakistan became allies with America, and that brought America into the South Asian subcontinent. America's only concern was the Cold War but, inadvertently, it reinforced the militarism in Pakistan, which, in turn, reinforced the conflict between India and Pakistan.
Throughout the 1950s, Pakistan's expectation of support on Kashmir from the UN was based on its ties with America. Pakistan didn't have the means to swing votes in the UN without America. It did not come from the Muslim countries based on shared Islamic values. Rather, Taiwan supported Pakistan and so did Latin American countries belonging to the American block.
However, Pakistan was disappointed in 1965 because it did not calculate that when the chips are down in a military conflict, America will not get involved on the side of Pakistan. That made Pakistan angry with the US and we've never recovered from it. America's attempts to make Pakistan feel secure has had the effect of making Pakistanis feel that they are able to sustain competition with India when Pakistan's own economic resources and internal capability are not sufficient. So it has fed the conflict in this way.
Do you see any way out of the Indo-Pak impasse?
I do not see any immediate way out, but in the long-term, the national narrative in Pakistan will have to change. Pakistan has to change from being an ideological state in eternal competition with India to a pragmatic state that starts worrying about the one-third of its school-going-age population that does not go to school. It has to become a country that starts worrying about its human development indicators being very low.
On the Indian side too, it will require a willingness to be proportionate. Pakistan arouses far too much passion in India. Now Pakistan, and the entire Muslim factor, have become big issues in India's domestic politics, which didn't used to be the case earlier. That has its own implications. But my ideal solution still remains that India and Pakistan will have to find a way to be more like the US and Cananda, simply because geography, history and economics demand it.
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