Once upon a time, half a century ago, the son of a Pakistani president married the daughter of an American ambassador to Pakistan and moved to Washington. That might be as good a time as any from which to mark the start of the grip Pakistan’s military and political/bureaucratic elite have managed to have on the process of defining official American policy towards Pakistan and indeed the subcontinent as a whole.
Four young and doubtless well-meaning Democratic Party “think tank” analysts have now produced a document Partnership for Progress: Advancing a New Strategy for Prosperity and Stability in Pakistan and the Region (Center for American Progress November 2008) that is the latest edition emerging out of that process.
It is hard to find the most simplistic of the statements contained in the document. My runner-up candidate would be the recommendations that what should happen in Pakistan now is
“Dismantle militant groups and reduce regional tensions;
Bolster civilian governance;
Strengthen Pakistan’s economy and advance development”.
Bravo! What else to say?
My winning candidate for naiveté though must be this on page 16:
“Pakistan… sees itself as the political home for the subcontinent’s Muslim population and believes India’s continued control over the Muslim-majority Kashmir valley and denial of a plebiscite for its inhabitants represent a lingering desire on India’s part to undo the legacy of partition, which divided the British Indian Empire into India and Pakistan.”
Now someone really ought to explain to these soon-to-be-Obama-Administration-Pakistan-specialists that, once upon a time, there were men named Maulana Abul Kalam Azad and Dr Zakir Hussain and Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah and many others like them (let aside Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan) who were all not merely devout Muslims but also leaders who had no wish to have any truck with any idea of a “Pakistan”. And furthermore, that some years later there came to be another man named Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and many others like him, who were Pakistanis but who no longer wished to remain so.
How is it possible for four young scholars from places like the Fletcher School to not know this and yet pretend to expertise on Pakistan or the subcontinent? Pakistanis and Indians and Bangladeshis who actually live in Pakistan and India and Bangladesh all know this from mother’s knee. But the powerful Potomac/CFR/Houston etc Pakistan lobby which has heavily influenced if not controlled the discussion of America’s Pakistan-India policy-thinking has hidden away such inconvenient facts, and may have thus misled our young authors entering these woods for the first time. The inevitable result of such repression has been the set of neuroses and psychoses that have beset the US-Pakistan relationship for decades on end and seem likely to continue now under President Obama.
(As for official New Delhi, its own infirmities, like allowing organized business lobbies to define and control India’s relationship with the United States, as well as its delusions of grandeur, causes it too to fail History 101 miserably, which explains the shallow depths that Indian diplomatic discussion manages to reach on the subject.)
What the Center for American Progress has to say expectedly contains contradictions that have been long seen before. For example, the authors are unable to reconcile their own explicit statements (A) and (B), revealing what a clinical psychologist might follow Gregory Bateson to identify as a classic “double-bind” leading to schizophrenia in the Pakistan-US relationship:
(A) “The United States should continue supporting and working with the Pakistani military despite strains in the relationship. The stakes are too high to walk away from Pakistan’s military establishment. Not only does most of the materiel for the US war effort in Afghanistan go through Pakistan, but the ISI is almost the exclusive source of information about international terrorist attacks perpetrated by Al Qaeda and its affiliates in Pakistan.”
(B) “Pakistan’s powerful military establishment has launched four outright coups d’etat in the country’s 60-year history. And through its control of the Inter-Services Intelligence directorate, or ISI, Pakistan’s premiere intelligence service, the military continues to carry out subtler manipulations of the political system during the periods when it has not held power directly…. The military establishment also has expanded far beyond its national security portfolio, entrenching itself in the Pakistani economy…. .The United States shares some of the blame for imbalance between military and civilian institutions in Pakistan. During the 1960s, 1980s, and since 9/11, the Pakistan military has been richly rewarded by the United States based on its status as a front-line state in the Cold War and then in the war against extremist terrorist networks. The United States has created perverse incentives by richly rewarding the Pakistani military in its promotion of unstable and insecure geopolitical situations on the other side of its borders, and then withdrawing our support if peace and stability return. The Pakistan military, meanwhile, uses the threat of India and the dispute over the Kashmir region to legitimize its leading role in Pakistan’s domestic politics and budget…. Ties between the Pakistani security establishment (or at a minimum individuals within it) and specific militant groups have not been severed. The militants that now form the core of the Pakistani and Afghan Taliban and the Pakistani Army have long-standing connections and shared interests….”
What may be recommended by way of therapy?
For starters, a book created under immense adversity at an American university almost 20 years ago: Foundations of Pakistan’s Political Economy: Towards an Agenda for the 1990s, Edited and with an Introduction by one William E James and one Subroto Roy. (Yes, I too once was as young as these authors are now but we We may have produced a more substantial piece of work.) A prominent Pakistani author in the book thanked me for creating it because, he said, it was the first time Pakistan had been treated seriously at a Western university, not merely seen as a source of real-estate or manpower for Anglo-American interests.
Besides the book, I would, most immodestly, recommend any fraction of my subsequent publications in the field, listed alphabetically as below and all most easily available at this site.
America’s Pakistan-India Policy
History of Jammu & Kashmir
India and Her Neighbours
India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh Merchandise Exports
Iqbal & Jinnah vs Rehmat Ali in Pakistan’s Creation
Is Balochistan Doomed?
Justice & Afzal
Lal Masjid ≠ Golden Temple
Law, Justice and J&K
On Hindus and Muslims
Pakistan’s Kashmir obsession
Racism New and Old
Separation of Powers: India, the USA, Pakistan
Solving Kashmir: On an Application of Reason
The Greatest Pashtun: Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan
Two cheers for Pakistan
What To Tell Musharraf
In such matters, naiveté is too expensive a luxury to indulge in.
Subroto Roy, Kolkata
Postscript: I had erroneously (and patronisingly) brushed all four authors as “young”; that has now been corrected; I hope it will not distract from the substance of the critique.