Is India still Pakistan’s principle enemy?


LAHORE: Although Pakistan currently faces a serious internal threat from al-Qaeda and Taliban linked militants, many amongst its intelligentsia and political leadership still consider India Pakistan’s principal enemy, contrary to President Asif Zardari’s recent statement in Washington that he has never considered India an enemy and that all democratic nations are bound to have good relations.

President Zardari’s declaration was a sequel to his American counterpart Barrack Obama’s statement that his administration was trying to convince Pakistanis that militants and not Indians, are the enemy of Pakistan. While Pakistan faces a growing existential threat from Islamic extremist groups having safe havens and support bases in the ungoverned Pak-Afghan border belt, many in the country remain focused on India as Pakistan’s principal threat, with some of them even viewing al-Qaeda and Taliban linked local jehadi groups as a potential strategic asset against India.

The dismay over Zardari’s observation in Pakistan was universal, uniting the religious orthodox and the intelligentsia in their condemnation of him. Says Yahya Mujahid, central secretary information, Jamaat-ud-Daawa: “Those who think India is no longer Pakistan’s enemy must be living in a fool’s paradise. The very militants who are now being described as a threat by the Pakistani establishment had been their most useful allies against India and were described as the country’s strategic assets.” Agrees Jamaat-e-Islami’s former ameer, Qazi Hussain Ahmed, “India continues to be Pakistan’s enemy no. 1, whatever President Zardari and President Obama think or say. The wars of 1965, 1971, the Siachen and Kargil episodes testify to the fact that India has hegemonic designs in the region and should never be trusted by Pakistan.”

Agreeing with them are even the liberals, usually derided for espousing a soft approach towards India. Yes, says author and analyst Dr Hassan Askari Rizvi, adding that Pakistan’s internal coherence faces a serious challenge from the Taliban. But, he adds that given Pakistan’s historical legacy, foreign policy discourse and troop deployments, India continues to be the principal security concern. The induction of nuclear weapons in 1998 enabled Pakistan to cope with sharp security disparities vis-a-vis India, prompting the two countries to begin reviewing their security worldview. But this effort, Rizvi says, is adversely affected by India’s periodic hardline rhetoric, its use of the terrorism issue for Pakistan-bashing and isolating it globally. Despite the increased threat of transnational terrorism, India and Pakistan continue to function within the traditional adversarial framework.”

Asma Jehangir, chairperson of the Pakistan human rights commission, feels it’s ahistorical and unreal not to count India as an enemy. “India and Pakistan continue to be the worst of enemies and, therefore, Islamabad must remain vigilant against Indian interests that are counterproductive and harmful,” she says. “At the same time, an India-centric foreign policy should be a matter of the past now as we need to engage and resolve our differences step by step rather than keeping armies on high alert on both sides of the Indo-Pak border.” The subtext is obvious: as long as differences between the two countries persist, Zardari can’t begin to sing melodies of peace, under American pressure.

But Zardari’s close associate Wajid Shamsul Hassan, who is also Pakistan’s ambassador to the United Kingdom, pleads for a correct perspective to fathom Zardari’s rhetorical indulgence. The background to Zardari’s statement, Hassan argues, is America’s desire to stabilise Afghanistan and have Pakistan concentrate its energies on the Taliban/Al Qaeda. Pakistan would have been hunting down the militants but for India exploiting Mumbai to threaten war. The consequence has been detrimental. As Hassan explains, “Unless there are guarantees from India of responsible conduct along the borders, Pakistan’s scepticism about India’s intentions would remain in place and may hamper its efforts to go the whole hog against the Taliban even though it may hurt Pakistan”.

President Zardari’s remarks are peace overtures to India, which hasn’t nudged forward the confidence-building measures agreed upon with Pakistan before the Mumbai incident. “India’s present stance is only helping the obscurantist forces wanting to derail the composite dialogue process,” says Hassan. “To some extent, they have succeeded in their machinations, especially when India put the dialogue process on hold.” The ambassador then predicts that once the election process is completed, and a new government is in place, “India is bound to understand the futility of its belligerence.”

However, the informed blame India’s extraordinary influence on the Obama administration for Zardari suddenly seguing into an I-love-India president. Shaheen Sehbai, group editor of The News, in his recent extraordinary dispatch from Washington titled ‘The achievements and embarrassments of Zardari visit’ wrote, “The Indian role in Afghanistan was a highly sensitive subject and according to insiders, the chief of ISI, Lt Gen (Ahmed Shuja) Pasha, had to face a lot of questioning at almost every forum to explain the role of the army and how it would adjust with the new Indian role in Afghanistan.” He claimed New Delhi’s salience had been enhanced because officials promoting India are holding important posts in the Obama administration. In other words, Zardari’s controversial remarks testify to the harsh truth of Washington buying India’s line on Afghanistan—and pressuring Zardari to accept it.

The Pakistani analysts say India’s growing influence in Washington can be discerned in the Zardari and Karzai governments signing a memorandum of understanding (MoU) in Washington for negotiating an agreement allowing Afghanistan transit trade rights through Pakistan. They fear the next logical step would be Pakistan providing India access to Afghanistan through their terrain. However, Pakistan’s federal commerce secretary Salman Ghani insists the MoU is a bilateral issue between Pakistan and Afghanistan—and India isn’t the beneficiary.

But just about every newspaper editorial was critical of the MoU. English daily Dawn noted, “…either the Americans are naive enough to buy the Indian line that New Delhi’s interests in Afghanistan are altruistic, or Washington knows what India is up to but looks the other way. It is unrealistic to assume that the MoU, as it stands, will automatically pass muster with the security establishment even if it makes no public show of disapproval.” The News too fulminated against the MoU. “Both India and Afghanistan have long lobbied for the opening of the land route between the two. Pakistan, considering its fractious relationship with both at different times, has consistently resisted. Who knows what is inside the trucks that will be plying to and fro?” Truly, Zardari is out of sync with the nation.

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15 years ago

Is India still Pakistan’s principle enemy?
“Kargil episodes testify to the fact that India has hegemonic designs in the region ”
FYI India never occupied strategic heights across the Line of control. IT was Pakistan who doesn not get the lesson even after repeated defeats. LEAVE US ALONE.. We do not give the same importance to Pakistan as u give us. We have other things to worry about.. like the well being of our people.

em pee
em pee
15 years ago

Is India still Pakistan’s principle enemy?to pakistani people facts 47 war – pakistan intruded 65 war – pakistan intruded 71 war – genocide in east pak, we liberated in name of humanity Siachen – ofcourse its not pakistan’s. kargil – again pakistan intruded., correct your history guys., you run your country in name of religion, we dont. Jinnah, so called educated was brainwashed by mullahs., he saw his interest & position in that, so he called for pakistan. why do you fear India so much., do your business. focus on it, you are getting marginalized, infact anything & everything happening… Read more »


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