Pseudo-Secularism

Hindu dharma is implicitly at odds with monotheistic intolerance. What is happening in India is a new historical awakening... Indian intellectuals, who want to be secure in their liberal beliefs, may not understand what is going on. But every other Indian knows precisely what is happening: deep down he knows that a larger response is emerging even if at times this response appears in his eyes to be threatening.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

At war with Hindu India

by Premen Addy

Pakistan has been at war with India since the partition of the subcontinent in 1947. Its raison d'etre has been the destruction of 'Hindu' India, and the restoration of pristine Islamic power and glory. A Muslim League resolution in the aftermath of World War II called for the quick departure of Britain, so that the forces of Islam could wreak havoc on the country in the monstrous tradition of Ghaznavi, Tamerlane, Nadir Shah and Abdali.

It was in the reading room of the old India Office Library (now part of the magnificent British Library) that I read these incendiary words following an accidental reach of the arm to the appropriate volume of the Annual Indian Register on the open shelves. I drew the attention of an English post-graduate student -- a friend as it happens -- who was prone to see no evil and hear no evil in and about the League leadership. He perceived in cold print what he had been unable to see through the distorting prism of his supervisor's received wisdom.

I remember many hours of conversation with the late Air Commodore MK Janjua, Pakistan's first air chief who, falling foul of his political masters, was falsely arraigned and sentenced in the 1951 Rawalpindi Conspiracy case, which allegedly was Communist driven. A fellow prisoner, the poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz, in 1979 assured me during a visit to London that Janjua was neither conspirator nor Communist, but a victim of events over which he had no control. He was eventually cashiered and released and ended his long years of exile in London where I came to know him well.

Islamabad's genocide in the country's eastern wing had shredded the conceptual paradise of a South Asian Muslim homeland, forcing Janjua who, in his time, had fought resolutely for its realisation, to meditate on this blood-stained saga. The unburdening of a tortured soul requires a sympathetic witness: I was that person, the right man at the right place.

I became a repository of my subject's confidences and confessions, of the grandiose fantasies that haunted Pakistani officers' messes, where the faithful swore to "bleed the bastards" from across the border to extinction. It could be a perilous exercise with unforeseen consequences, warned Janjua to an exuberant acquaintance who came calling, as he related the incident ruefully.

Jinnah, as Islamic Sisyphus, made the initial charge to the heights of an imagined triumph by directing his Pathan hordes to Kashmir in October 1947, but they failed to deliver the prize to their genie. His successors, seized by Jinnah's spirit, have sought repeatedly to roll the stone up the mountain to only see it roll back to the bottom. So the labours of every would-be Sisyphus, under an ancient curse, are condemned to continue ad infinitum.

Bombings in Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Jaipur, Mumbai and myriad other places take their toll of innocent lives. The Pakistan military, the shadowy ISI and their jihadi collaborators are no nearer their goal of laying hated India low today than they were some 62 years ago. The only way to release Pakistan from its burden is to smoothen the wheels of an honourable and peaceful exit from the stage. The dodo may be extinct but its image draws crowds of sightseers to every museum where the creature's skeletal remains are housed. We pick at the zoological past to understand the evolution of life on earth, so might not we profit from a similar exercise on political forms that have outlived their purpose?

Take heed of Kemal Ataturk's caution to Turkey's new National Assembly in 1921, in the wake of the Ottoman Empire's defeat and dissolution: "Gentlemen, by looking as though we were doing great and fantastic things, without actually doing them, we have brought the hatred and rancour and malice of the whole world on this country and this people. We did not serve pan-Islamism. We said we would, but we didn't, and our enemies said: 'Let us kill them at once before they do!' And there you have the problem... Rather than run after ideas which we did not and could not realise and thus increase the number of our enemies and the pressure upon us, let us return to our natural, legitimate limits. And let us know our limits... Those who conquer by the sword are doomed to be overcome by those who conquer with the plough... That is what happened to the Ottoman Empire."

Britain and America, having delivered and succoured Pakistan, like the famous Dr Frankenstein, are being stalked by the monster of their creation. Influential British and American voices across the political spectrum refer increasingly to Pakistan as the global hub of Islamist violence and conspiracy against the non-Islamic international community.

"Breaking the silence on Pakistan and terrorism" is the title of Con Couglin's recent Sunday Telegraph report on the expanding Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan. The Pakistani hinterland bears the primary characteristics of a failed state equipped with nuclear weapons, he opines.

Fraser Nelson, in an article headlined "Don't Mention The Afghan-Pakistan War" published in the Spectator, analyses the West's stark predicament. "Like it or not, war is being waged on Afghanistan from Pakistan... In theory, the Pakistan Government has signed up to the war on terror... But in practice it is playing a double game... The American failure to understand the complexity of the Pakistan problem is perhaps one of the biggest strategic errors of the war in Afghanistan." This is now a single conflict, pronounced a British officer on the ground.

US covert action, through the CIA, in Afghanistan was "actually authorised full six months before the Soviet invasion" -- in July 1979 -- wrote veteran American reporter John K Cooley (Unholy Wars: Afghanistan, America and International Terrorism). President Jimmy Carter's Polish American National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski's insouciant admission that this was a Machiavellian ploy to trap and weaken the USSR is not without irony. The boot today is not on Washington's foot.

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