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Association of Retired Senior IPS Officers (ARSIPSO)

This is with reference to my letter No. ARSIPSO/GS-BSD-4/2023 dated. 10/08/2023 on the 4th B.S. Das Memorial Lecture, which had to be rescheduled for unavoidable reasons.

The 4th B.S.Das Memorial Lecture to be delivered by Shri Anil Kumar Sinha, IAS (Retd.), on the subject Disaster Management: Creating Safer Communities, has now been rescheduled for October 14, 2023 as per the following:

Conference Room No. 2, India International Centre, Max Mueller Marg, New Delhi, October 14, 2023 (Saturday)

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Is US reading Pakistan correctly? - AK Verma

With elections successfully over in J&K, a renewed pressure from the United States on India to enter into a dialogue with Pakistan may be expected. Such pressures from US have become a feature of Indo US relations and are applied regularly on almost every facet of Indian policies, be they economic, social, political or foreign affairs. Their thrust always is more to serve American interests rather than Indian interests. Any number of examples can be cited to illustrate this.

Take for example the Lahore bus Yatra of Prime Minister Vajpayee. The military mindset in Pakistan is convinced that violent means offer a better hope to Pakistan to solve its problems with India than peaceful methods and it has stuck to this view point despite defeats in the three wars of 1947, 1965 and 1971. All such agreements as the Tashkant and Simla ones were entered into as tactical exercises, to tide over the difficulties caused by the military defeats, and never as defining moments for embarking on a new and fruitful relationship. The Lahore Yatra was doomed even before it had commenced. Even the most simplistic exercise in political analysis would have predicted this. But the visit got scheduled under foreign advice, which though well meaning, was far removed from the understanding of the dialectics of the Indo Pak situation.

It is amazing how the US has been prone to errors in judging Pakistan where its own national interests are concerned. Pakistan broke all the embargoes under which military equipment had been supplied to it by the US before 1965. It cheated the US on its nuclear and missile relationships with China and North Korea. Its nuclear development programme was in direct defiance of US concerns and was carried out in circumstances of deceit, deception and dissimulation of which the US was a victim. Most recently, Pakistani support to International Islamic terrorism hurt American interests. One cannot be certain that after the demolition of the Talibans and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, Pakistan’s proclamations of support to international efforts to destroy terrorism in all its forms are genuine or just tactical like its earlier exercises mentioned above. Such apprehensions are held widely, including in the US. Another peculiar aspect needs to be noted: there seems to be no sense of shame in the ruling coterie of Pakistan, in coming out with lies one after another.

Pakistan has become an unreliable nation, a pariah nation, with no self-esteem, Its people have no faith in the governing leadership and the latter have no sanction from the former to govern. The civil society is deeply fractured. The practising ideology of the nation is religion but different sections of the polity have widely varying views about the role of religion in governance. A strange paradox is in operation that while religion is elevated to national ideology, religious parties never get the mandate to rule. Modernity and orthodoxy are arrayed against each other and none seems to know whether the majority of the citizens is for modernised Islam or Islamized modernity or something else like secularism which had proved to be its founder Mohd. Ali Jinnah’s choice when Pakistan came into existence in 1947. The rulers have taken advantage of this situation. By invoking religion, they have often sought to legitimise their rule. The elections due this October in Pakistan are not expected to ease the stranglehold of the ruling coterie over governance. The same mindset will continue which has been at the root of the problems between India and Pakistan all these years and which practised deception on the US.

The US will be well advised to ponder over this state of affairs. What does it expect to emerge from a dialogue between India and Pakistan? India’s prime concern with Pakistan is the latter’s continuing proxy war of terrorism and destabilisation. What Indian purpose will the dialogue serve if the proxy war will not end. Pervez Muaharraf is on record having said that even if the Kashmir issue is resolved, the proxy war will continue. Can the US get him to reverse this publicly stated policy posture?

The US is keen for the resumption of the dialogue because it fears an accentuation of the conflict in the region, perhaps ending in a nuclear conflagration. There are good reasons for the US to have such apprehensions. It has had credible information in the past suggesting a proneness on the part of Pakistani military leadership to use its nuclear weaponry. If that indeed is the US fear, it would do well to realise that entering into an empty sterile dialogue offers India no guarantee that its most basic concerns, reversing the climate of hostility with which Pakistan has enveloped itself, will be met.

This climate cannot be reversed overnight because it has been built up over several decades and perhaps its roots go deeper into the cultural history of the subcontinent before it was partitioned in 1947. But it is important to understand why this climate has been cultivated. If those fundamentals are not investigated, a dialogue just remains a superficial exercise, which may avert a danger in the short run but the danger will reappear. Kargil should not have happened if the spirit of Tashkant, Simla and Lahore had prevailed. But since that spirit has always encountered a hostile environment in Pakistan, many more Kargils are likely to arise from the dust of the past.

Tackling the fundamentals is not easy. For the US the guiding consideration may well be whether it will be cost effective for itself. But will a barren exercise of a dialogue ensure the safety of its interest, short term as well as long term, in the region? Like the problem in West Asia between the Israelis and Palestinians, which now hinges on philosophical issues rather than territorial, the problems between India and Pakistan are also assuming a philosophical veneer. A philosophical approach is, thus, necessary. If peace is the ultimate US objective in the region, it may ponder over what kind of philosophical approach may prove most suitable.

Any philosophical consideration must begin by questioning the continued application of two nation theory to problems with India by Pakistan. The two nation theory, used as an expedient tool for creating Pakistan, has long since served its purpose and has no relevance today. Many voices in Pakistan in recent times have also questioned the sanity of this theory and even its original application for nation forming. This theory does not allow Pakistan to come to terms with India’s secularism. It is this theory that paved the way for religion, politics, governance and state to get intermixed in an unholy medley in Pakistan. The ideology of a nation does not have to be static. If it fails to serve any purpose any more, it is advisable to revise it. Perhaps, that is the more relevant challenge which should be engaging the U.S. attention.

The views and facts stated above are entirely the responsibility of the author and do not reflect the views of this Association in any manner.

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