Stray Reflections on Geopolitics and History Writing
Maj (Retd) AGHA HUMAYUN AMIN from WASHINGTON DC goes over the ramifications of geopolitics and how events affect the history.
This is not exactly an article but an attempt to analyse certain current geopolitical and current affairs issues. Many of these are discussed in various articles published in this journal. It is felt with a certain amount of conviction that there are certain psychological hang ups, which in my humble opinion have contributed, a great deal in adding fuel to fire in the Indo-Pak Sub Continent. We mortals are frail creatures vis-a-vis the current of history which we attempt to approach and understand and analyse in our own particular ways. In the process we mostly become subjective and passionate. Long ago the great psychologist Freud had concluded that majority of men are irrational and make most of their decisions on irrational basis! The role of those who write is thus to rise above their impulses and to write something to infuse some rationality in at least a certain segment of mankind!
One typical but vulgar approach in writing articles is to condemn any one particular state, without bothering to analyse the various factors that led a state to a certain point where its actions conflicted with another state or resulted in violation of human rights. I feel with considerable conviction that history is largely a record of crimes, follies and misfortunes of mankind as the great historian Gibbon said and above all is merely the story of manipulation of the many, the populace, by the few, the leaders or the dominant smaller classes, in the name of high sounding slogans like ideology, nationalism etc!
The Nature of Human Aggression
Human nature is essentially same, man can fight or kill for anything and any idea whether based on ideology, nationalism or class, it can divide people of the same race, even the same religion and even of the same family. The ulterior motivation is always personal or class interest disguised in the garb of high sounding slogans! I want to give certain concrete historical examples to prove this harmless assertion.
Take Spain of 1930s. One race, one country, one religion, and one sect. The struggle is between the feudal-clergy-military junta and the republicans asking for more equitable distribution of resources! No Two-Nation Theory but the Spaniards fight savagely for three years! Mind you there were no fighting in the Indian Freedom Struggle, as we like to call it, although the transfer of power was more the result of war exhaustion brought upon the British Empire as a result of two world wars! The result of the fighting between the Republicans and Monarchists under Franco1, 600,000 Spaniards were killed! In the Russians Civil War fought from 1917 to 1922 the casualties; killed only, were 1 crore or ten million!2 Russian killed Russians simply because one was from Denikin Kolchak or Yudenich’s White Army and another from Trotsky or Lenin’s Red Army! Even a Menshevik Communist killed another Russian simply because the other man was a Bolshevik Communist! The Chinese Civil War lasting from 1911 with uneven intervals till 1949 was equally brutal with Chinese killing Chinese in the name of an ideology conceived by a German of Jewish ancestry to liberate the workers of the world! The Britishers were horrified with the brutal pillage and destruction of Muslim Rohailkhand3 following conquest of Hindustani Pathan Muslim Rohailkhand by Shia Muslim of Oudh through hiring a British-Indian Brigade of the Honourable English East India Company!
What is the lesson! That man can fight for anything, not because two nations are different or war is inevitable between them or because Pakistan or India was inevitable; but simply because “Aggression” is ingrained in the human character! It is justified in the name of class war, war between two nations, a football riot or wars of successions between real brothers! The issue is never ideology but a piece of land that was lost by folly of one king or a flawed constitutional arrangement or a broken treaty concluded 100 years before. In the background is either class interest or ego of a leader or intrigue by a third party for its own interest! It’s a subtle combination of “Ideology” “Ethnicity” “Opportunism” and “Substance” that this scribe in his humble capacity has discussed in some detail in a small book written a year ago. Journalists make their living or channel their urges for aggression by writing militaristic and jingoistic sabre rattling articles about such issues, as is the case in Indo-Pak or any conflict dominated region! Leaders talk about these issues frequently as Indian and Pakistani leaders do to galvanise their electorate, so that their mind remains distracted from the core issues of class exploitation economic disparity and exploitation!
Take the Indo Pak Subcontinent. The two states of Pakistan and India were created because a third party i.e. the Britishers who were neither Muslim nor Hindu conquered India. Communalism based on religion emerged as a factor, emerged only after 1857 when the Hindu middle classes and business classes saw in introduction of Western Democracy and Competitive examinations, an opportunity to grab power without fighting a battle. It all started from the three coastal cities of Calcutta, Bombay and Madras with the highest number of educated Indians dominated above all by the Bengali Hindus who were the first to enjoy the fruits of Western Education by virtue of being colonised by the British before all other parts of India! I will quote some statistics to reveal the Bengali Hindu dominance in education over all other parts of India. From 1864 to 1885, the reader may note that this was Bengali Hindu dominance vis-a-vis other provinces which had similar Hindu majorities; thus the dominance was more provincial and ethnic than religious! From 1864 to 1885, 2,153 Indians from Bengal Province (Bengal Bihar and Orissa) passed the B.A examination as compared to 272 from NWP and Oudh (Modern UP), while only 107 candidates from Punjab (which at that time had two large non-Punjabi enclaves in the Trans Indus territories and the Hariana Districts) passed B.A.4 The Bengalis took the lead and were viewed as a threat by the UP elite both Hindu and Muslim in the 1880s! In 1886 Pandit Ajudia Nath a leading UP Hindu made a statement before the Public Service Commission against recruitment to government posts by competitive examination since the learned Pandit felt that UP men were backward in English education compared with maritime province (i.e. Bombay, Madras and Bengal). Candidates could stand little chance in open competition against the maritime province candidates.5 As education advanced in UP the Hindus of other provinces came closer. Being the larger community and more dominant in terms of education, business assets and representation in the professional and civil servant classes. The Indian Hindus were in a position of strategic advantage to dominate post British politics of India after the British withdrew from India! Even this was a class affair since the Hindus who dominated the Congress were from Brahmin and Kayasth classes while the older Hindu dominant classes i.e. the Rajputs, Jats and Marathas were now relegated to the background by virtue of being less educated and financially insolvent or bankrupt!6 The Muslim League founded in 1906 was on the other hand a Muslim feudal dominated party with its base in UP till at least 1937! In 1937 Nehru foolishly antagonised the UP Muslims who dominated the Muslim League by not offering them any seat unless they left the Muslim League! It was just a question of two seats in the UP Cabinet over which the Hindustani Muslims decided to stand behind Jinnah. Pure Punjabi intellectuals like S.M. Ikram have admitted that Muslim separatism had its origin in the Muslim minority provinces, and that too primarily U.P. Francis Robinson has made a remarkable study of the UP Muslims and has proved, with conctrete facts and figures that it was while defending a position of strength, during the periood 1860-1923 which was threatened by introduction of local; government and the competitive examinations that the UP Muslims decided to opt for separatism, which became the basis of Pakistan Movement! The point is that all these political developments were more related to individual leaders and class interests than ideology as is propagated in India and Pakistan. Mr Jinnah broke away from Congress not over Hindu Muslim issue but over use of violence as a policy to evict the British from India! As late as 1937 Mr Jinnah described Punjab, which became the cornerstone of Pakistan in 1946 as a hopeless place, which he shall never again visit!7
Pakistan was created in 1947. It is thought provoking to note that only 10 % of the population of India was eligible to vote in the 1935 Elections and out of these less than half did not vote8 The situation was not much different in 1947! Muslim separatism which finally led to the division of India in 1947 was not something inevitable since 711 A.D but was a tactical response of the Indian Muslim middle and higher classes to fear of Hindu Brahmin and Kayasth class domination. A valid response but one, which required great vision which was sadly lacking! Once religion was misused to exploit the East wing, Bangladesh was created. Bangladesh has survived, a fact that disproves the pre 1947 Congress assertion that India cannot be divided into smaller states and the post 1947 Pakistani assertion that mere religion is a panacea for all problems!
Now coming to Kashmir, the subject of some 60% articles of many Indo-Pak military, historical and geopolitical journals. The issue in Kashmir is simple. An insurgency in order to succeed must either be backed by armed intervention by the neighbouring state or by massive financial or military aid from outside. The former was the case in Bangladesh in 1971 when the Bengalis got their country because of Indian military intervention! Or it was Kuwait in 1991, which owed its re-birth to US military intervention! The latter happened in Afghanistan or Vietnam with massive US or Soviet/Chinese aid to guerilla forces, or in Spain in 1936-37 with massive German aid to Franco. Now lets look at the failures. The Poles revolt heroically against Russia in 1830 and 1863 but are crushed since no foreign power intervenes or exerts real diplomatic pressure on their behalf! They are overrun in 1939 and are again liberated in 1945 by the Red Army. Now what do we have in Kashmir? We do not have the military potential to intervene and no massive aid like Afghanistan from 1979 to 1988. The Kashmiris are dying, they are fighting heroically, but how do we suppose that Indians will leave without an all out war which our leaders do not have the resolution as proved by Nawaz’s irresolution in the Blair House ‘Bachao Bachao’ rush of June 1999! We don’t have any massive finances to back the Kashmiri guerillas! What’s the solution! Wait like the Germans from 1945 to 1988 or to let the Kashmiris die like the Poles! Or fight a war, a suicidal war, but that is not in our culture! So Hara Kiri or Kami Kazi attacks are out! What is left is rhetoric! Kashmir Committees!
The employment of the Jehadis voluntarily or deliberate is an interesting phenomenon of the Kashmir situation. Many of these are men who would be as happy to kill a Shia as a Hindu! A saying of a Britisher said about a Bannu Tribal Pathan lashkar brought to loot and kill Muslims of Lucknow and Oudh in 1857-58 fits well with these extremists i.e. “whether these blood thirsty brigands kill a rebel Hindustani Indian or are killed is equally beneficial for the British Empire, for in the Trans Indus Frontier one tribal Pathan less will make our task easier and one Indian rebel Sepoy killed in Lucknow will make our task in the Ghadar easier”!
The problem is that mere “Eeman” as some would call or fanaticism as some others may call it is not a tailor made formula to solve all military or political issues! There were Ghazis in 1857 who would charge British positions with the firm conviction to kill or get killed! They were brave men but the British managed to win and Ghazis despite all their devotion failed to carry the day! Some people in our top decision making echelons mistakenly thought in the 1980s that guerrilla war or low intensity operations as presently being waged in Kashmir could solve all our military and political problems!
Guerrilla warfare as perfected by Sivaji, the father of modern guerrilla warfare was a savage and protracted affair and it took about eighty years to succeed even at that time! A rudimentary glance at guerrilla warfare’s history proves that guerrilla warfare is a story of successes as well as failures. A Guerrilla war in order to succeed must be fought in an environment in which both internal, local and international conditions favour it. Imam Shamyl who led the Daghestanis war of resistance against the Russian Czars was one of the most charismatic and brilliant leaders in the history of guerrilla war. Yet Shamyl failed and finally died as a prisoner under house arrest in European Russia. The international conditions did not favour Shamyl’s war and the great man despite all the valour and advantages of adverse terrain failed! Almost during the same time the Greeks were successful in attaining independence since West European powers specially Britain actively helped them. Around the same time, the Armenians, another Christian people failed to attain independence since no external power favoured their cause! Sandino of Nicaragua was a great guerrilla leader of Central American history! He eluded the US Marines who hopelessly tried for a long time to militarily defeat him but was finally treacherously killed by the Somozas. Nicaragua had to wait for many more decades to evict the Somoza dynasty till the late 1970s. Local conditions favoured guerrilla warfare but international conditions were against it and USA was bent at all cost to defeat any radical movement in Central America. Cuba with the particular Cold war tension of the late fifties and early sixties was the only guerrilla success story in South and Central America. The Basmachis also failed for similar reasons to defeat the USSR in Central Asia in the 1920s and 1930s. Biafara was yet another failure of a secessionist movement. The worst story of failure of guerrilla warfare can be found in Kurdistan where the brave Kurds despite being morally right, ethnically homogeneous and terrain wise well placed have failed to create an independent Kurdistan. Local conditions favour them but international conditions by virtue of being divided into three different countries as well as lack of open superpower support has so far doomed their struggle. I do not think there is any braver race in the Middle East than this warrior race that produced a Saladin! But all the valour and sacrifice of many decades has so far not brought them any success! Balochistan is yet another failure story of guerrilla warfare. Local conditions favoured the guerrillas in Balochistan in the 1970s but international conditions were against them and those indomitable men who were superior in minor tactics than any Afghan Mujahideen group failed in the final reckoning! They failed not because they lacked valour or because of tactical incompetence but simply because they did not get a billion dollar aid package from a super power and all important neighbouring countries did not actively help them! Malaya is yet another example of failure. Distance from Mainland China, ethnic composition of the local population and international involvement doomed the cause of the extremely brave, motivated and tactically sound, Chinese Communist guerrilla warriors of Malaysia. Che Guevera an extremely charismatic and brilliant guerrilla leader is yet another example of failure in guerrilla wars. Che drew wrong conclusions from the successes of the Cuban revolution and paid it with his life while trying to bring a similar revolution in Bolivia through guerrilla war! The ethnic logistic as well as internal conditions of Bolivia were different from Cuba and did not favour guerrilla warfare. The population was largely Mestizo (Red Indian/European mixed) and was far more conservative than Cuba. Distance from main external base country was so great that logistically it was difficult to support Che’s brilliant war from outside.
Now compare figures like Che Guevera, Shamyl, Barzani with pedantic officers in charge of guerrilla operations in Third World countries! These are the officers working in the agencies dealing with guerrilla forces fighting a war of secession in neighbouring countries! What is their intellectual calibre or what is their motivation! Does an army’s best lot serve in the Intelligence agencies which at least in the Third World perform most despicable task of petty spying rather than any grand strategic intelligence work! Can these pedants succeed where Che, Shamyl and many extremely brilliant motivated and brave leaders failed. The organisation dealing with the so-called Kashmiri Jihad is more illustrious for so scientifically rigging elections that the first Nobel Prize for rigging elections without being caught can be awarded to it. This organisation has a history of doing everything including personal fortune enhancement, selling Stingers, and sleeping all the time when the Indians infiltrated 35 miles inside Siachen glacier! In short doing everything except its actual intelligence job!
Back in the 1980s we in Pakistan drew the wrong conclusions from the Afghan Guerrilla war! It was mistaken as the success of Islam over Godless communism! In reality it was the success of a multi- billion dollar CIA sponsored war over the army of a country which was hardly communist but was run by third generation bureaucrats who had survived all the Soviet purges of 1920s and 1930s in which all real communists were killed by Stalin! The first blunder that resulted from false conclusions was our backing of Sikhs! The Sikhs fought well and local conditions favoured their cause but Pakistan did not have the military potential to deliver the final coup de grace and transform the Sikh guerrillas into creators of a new Sikh Desh as was India able to do with a physical invasion of East Pakistan in 1971!. In the process the flower of Sikh youth died although they were relatively far braver than the Afghans were without CIA Stingers, or without the relative security of the high mountains of Afghanistan! A whole generation was destroyed for no purpose and simply because someone in an intelligence agency thought that lessons of Afghanistan could be applied in Indian Punjab. Resultantly and most mysteriously around the same time as the Indians came close to crushing the Sikhs another kind of political semi-secessionist and ethnic movement emerged in urban Sindh in the shape of MQM
To come back to the main discussion i.e Kashmir. Kashmir is not Afghanistan by any definition. The growth of militancy in Kashmir is the result of a complicated series of historical processes. It is not simply a case of Islam versus Hinduism but a case of a history of disillusionment of a particular ethnic-religious group with a central government which increasingly infringed over provincial autonomy to a point where a conflict situation was created where the Kashmiris perceived that their ethnic as well as religious survival was at stake unless they struck back! This was largely a result of the Indira Gandhi era when India was transformed from a relatively secular progressive state into a pseudo secular but essentially Hindu Chauvinistic state with a most negative tendency to destroy provincial autonomy. The Kashmir struggle in this sense has a very close similarity with the East Pakistani struggle against West Pakistani domination, the only difference being that the Bengalis were Muslims by pure chance and the Kashmiris are Muslims by pure chance! We must remember that the same Kashmiri Muslims betrayed thousands of infiltrators from Pakistan to the Indian Army in 1965! A subtle difference has to be recognised at this point of discussion! The same Kashmiri Muslim in 1965 viewed India or to be more specific India’s Federal Government differently! The difference between 1965 and 1999 or 2000 is not about Kashmiris being good or bad Muslims but a radical transformation in Kashmiri Muslim perceptions about India’s Hindu identity! The conflict is essentially between centrifugal tendencies in an ethnically and religiously divergent province made further intense by religious differences! But then we must remember that a similarly savage war between ethnically different but religiously same West and East Pakistanis in 1971! We must not forget that the Kashmiris war with India did not start over independence but over the Indian Federal Governments infringements on Kashmir’s special status relatively slowly from the 1950s and markedly speedily since the 1984 elections! The situation became more radical following the Russian withdrawal from Afghanistan since many extremist religious groups of Pakistani Pathan or Afghan origin diverted their energy towards Kashmir! Many people in the highest echelons of Pakistani decision-makers thought that Kashmir could be another Afghan Jihad!
The Kashmir situation unfortunately is very different from that of Afghanistan. The war being fought there may be outwardly or symbolically a war of Islam with Hinduism! In reality the issue is far graver for both the successor states of the post-1947 partition of British India i.e India and Pakistan! Kashmir is an ironic Catch 22 situation for both the states, which some political scientists have termed as ‘failed states’. The core issue till 1947 was the controversy whether religion is the basis of a nation or is geographic compactness, economic viability requirements of external Defence and abstract ideas like democracy and secularism more important! The result was a compromise, India being divided as Muslim and Hindu India, while in reality Muslims were divided into Muslim majority Pakistan and India with a huge Muslim minority.
The populace of Indo-Pak had voted for the Congress and the League motivated by vague hopes, unrealistic expectations and impractical ideals! Secular or supposedly secular Bharat did not bring prosperity for millions of Indians whether Hindu or Muslim! The class that did the best was the middle class, Hindu, Muslim and Sikh that had most shamelessly collaborated with the British and had little to do with any tangible or concrete anti-British actions! The new rulers of Indo-Pak were little different from the oppressive Aurangzeb or the Colonial British. A non-Muslim Government at Delhi did not save the Indian Sikhs from or the brave Nagas or Mizos from persecution. This was despite the fact that all of these groups were not Muslim by any definition! Similarly a pure Muslim government in Pakistan did not save the Pakistani Muslim, Baloch or Bengalis from genocide, discrimination and persecution! The Baloch or Bengalis soon discovered that their new masters were far worse than Outram Sandeman, Jacob or even Clive and Warren Hastings! Ironically the partition of India was justified with the constitutional rationale that “if India was not divided the Hindus would use a Hindu controlled and dominated army to discipline Muslim provinces! But the Baloch and Bengalis discovered that the Butcher of Balochistan or Bengal Tikka Khan was not a Hindu but a Muslim! Similarly the Sikh Kabba i.e the Golden Temple was not desecrated by a Muslim Army but by a Hindu army of a supposedly Secular Socialistic country!
In this respect thus both the countries were partial failures. The partition was logically a neat solution but future developments proved that things were not as simple as both Mr Nehru and Jinnah could have imagined in the wildest of their dreams! The course which future history as we have briefly discussed took proved that both great leader premises were fallacious! The separation of East Pakistan in 1971 and the resultant creation of Bangladesh proved that mere religion was no panacea for all political problems! That religion was an important aspect of man’s life but was not an absolute basis for nationhood! Bangladesh further proved wrong the pre-1947 Congress assertion that India’s provinces could not survive as smaller states!
In Kashmir the issue is once again at stake! Ironically Kashmir is a vindication of the “Smaller State Theory” just like Bangladesh rather than a proof of Islamic identity as we in Pakistan are inclined to believe! Kashmir is no Afghanistan, which was an unproductive country far away from the Great Russian heartland! It has been a province of the Indian Union for half a century just like Sindh or Balochistan are provinces of Pakistan! It’s not an uninhabited desert like Sinai or something like Algeria with many hundred miles of sea in between France and Algeria! How on earth do we expect that the Indians would withdraw from Kashmir without a major war or a multi-billion dollar logistically backed hi-tech guerrilla war like Afghanistan!
The pedants who make our strategic decisions fallaciously imagined that Kashmir could be yet another Afghanistan! The men in charge of overseeing the guerrilla war are not having a fraction of Mao’s or Lawrence’s or Che’s acumen, nor any of Ho Chi Min’s ideological conviction! They are the ones who act once their personal interests whether that of a politician or that of a serving officer are threatened; but never in cases when national pride is at stake or the country is forced into a humiliating political retreat. The most convincing proof of this assertion is the Kargil Crisis when the army should have removed Nawaz Sharif! The action of 12th October albeit necessary and decisive was taken once personal careers were under danger of termination and the situation was that of a clash of personalities rather than a clash of ideas! So much for the strength of conviction of our leaders, civil or military! I am tempted to agree to the adage that the danger is not that a particular class is unfit to govern but that every class is unfit to govern! At least in the Indo-Pak subcontinent where one thousand years of subjugation has destroyed the leadership qualities of all the classes that dominate the society! The elite in reality is fooling the common man in the name of Hinduvta or Islam!
Pakistan lacks the military potential to physically invade Kashmir and lacks the economic potential to finance the proxy war. The foreseeable result is that the fate of the Kashmiris will be something similar to that like the Polish people of East Europe. The reader may note that the Poles were crushed by Germany, Austria and Russia for two hundred years despite the fact that they fought more than three heroic wars of independence against Russia, the country which was occupying the vast bulk of Polish territory till 1918. The Poles were as brave as the Kashmiris but no country was willing or geographically able to assist them! They were liberated only as a result of the First World War, which destroyed Russia, Austria and Germany. Germany and Russia only liberated in 1945 yet again occupied them in 1939 when they traded German oppression for Soviet Russian oppression till 1988! All that we are doing is pushing the Indians as well as ourselves into a “Catch 22” situation which has the danger of a nuclear exchange which both the countries cannot afford! The issue is more sentimental than substantial and will trigger a process of Balkanisation of the Indian subcontinent, which will affect both the countries. Even if India withdraws from Kashmir, a remote possibility, it will resort to measures to redress the balance by encouraging separatism in any of Pakistan’s ethnically diverse provinces! Gain of territory did not help the Germans in 1870, or the Israelis in 1967 or the Russians in 1979! The main danger lies in the post-conflict bitterness and the feelings of revenge ignited in the party, which comes worst off out of the conflict!
In addition we in Pakistan must not forget that we are also a multi- ethnic state with as brutal insurgency record as India in Balochistan and East Bengal! Inflation is growing and if a youth can become a Jehadi, he can also become an ethnically motivated secessionist! History is not constant and it does not move in straight lines! If there are high mountains in Kashmir there are even higher mountains in the northern areas and even more barren and desolate ones in Balochistan. Sindh has been a historically turbulent province whether it was the Talpur times or the Hur Rebellion, the MRD Movement or the MQM Urban guerrilla business. And what do we have to offer to the Kashmiris? Four successive and phenomenally corrupt democratic ministries! Four military governments, the first three of which hopelessly failed to solve the country’s economic or constitutional problems and the second one leading to the country’s dismemberment! The fourth one’s performance will vindicate its place in history if it steers Pakistan out of 2000 in face of an intensely complicated geopolitical situation ! An open question but one which only a prophet can answer, although subcontinental history has ample proofs of mediocrity at the highest level in both the countries!
Writing of articles dealing with Small Unit Actions
Writers of such articles tend to exaggerate their unit’s performance in any war. The following quotation from “Memoirs of General Sherman” is quite thought-provoking: —
“ I am not publishing my memoirs, not theirs and we all know that no three honest witnesses of a brawl can agree on all the details. How much more likely will be the differences in a great battle covering a vast space of broken ground, when each division, brigade, regiment and even company naturally and honestly believes that it was the focus of the whole affair! Each of them won the battle. None ever lost. That was the fate of the old man who unhappily commanded”.
The humble advice to writers of small unit actions is to remember that their battalion, regiment, company or troop was the only unit or sub-unit that did everything!
On dealing with countries perceived as “Enemy States”
The press and this includes newspapers, journals etc are one of the major culprits in making the Indo-Pak atmosphere more tense. Vajpayee is a demagogue and may perhaps be dead in a year or two. India is witnessing social unrest, which is amply proved by protracted labour strikes. A positive development since the common man in both countries is a victim of the same class of exploiters! The Press/Media in this situation should not behave like a Nathoo Khan; just calling the enemy bad guys! Instead practical solutions should be offered.
I read two books recently in which the writers showed a remarkable attitude. One was by an Indian Christian titled “The Tigers of Mysore” on Hyder and Tipu. The author praised Tipu despite the fact that Tipu had persecuted the authors southern Indian Christian community for betraying Mysore’s national interests and collaborating with the English East India Company. The authors verdict was that Tipu’s actions were just since the author’s community had played the role of traitors! It’s a remarkably detached treatment of a subjective part of history. Calling the enemy bad is counter productive in most cases. The other party reciprocates and resultantly the atmosphere becomes more highly charged and tense without any actual provocation by either state. What’s the point in unnecessary verbal sabre rattling!
The other book was written by a brilliant German officer who became a Russian prisoner of war in WW Two.The layman reader may note that the Russo-German conflict was one of the most savage military conflict of WW Two in terms of atrocities against combatants as well as non-combatants committed by both sides. Yet Colonel Baron Hans Von Luck in his excellent book “Panzer Commander” makes an admirable attempt to understand the Russian point of view! Some excerpts are worth quoting! This is how Von Luck describes the situation on being captured in action. “From all sides Russians came with Tommy guns at the ready, I saw to my dismay that they were Mongolians, whose slit eyes revealed hatred, curiosity and greed. As they tried to snatch away my watch and Knight’s cross, a young officer suddenly intervened. ‘Stop don’t touch him. He’s a geroi (hero), a man to respect”. Now Baron Hans Von Luck is taken to a colonel and this is how he describes the meeting.” This burly man who made such a brutal first impression laughed. ‘You see’ he cried, that’s poetic justice; you shot up my tanks and forced us to retreat; now in re-compense I have you as my prisoner ...he fetched two glasses and in Russian style filled them to the brim with Vodka, so that together we would swallow them with one swallow! “Baron Hans Von Luck reflected,” my thoughts took shape...the conduct of the young lieutenant and the colonel scarcely fitted into the image of the Russians that we had formed for ourselves. Certainly the atrocities of the mass that had invaded Germany were indisputable and exceeded all that could be imagined, but what had been inflicted on the Russians in huge losses, also among the civilian population, in the treatment of prisoners in Germany and in the devastation of the areas occupied by us, had with reason given rise to immense hatred, which had been further inflamed by Russian propaganda (herein comes the negative role of the media/press) and was now venting itself in personal encounters. However, as in my own case, it appeared that soldiers all over the world have one thing in common; they have chosen their profession or called upon to defend their homeland. They respect their opponents, who are doing no more than their duty. Wars are begun by politicians. They are the true militarists”! Von Luck’s reflections on life as a Russian prisoner are also thought provoking. “In the first two years, especially in the severe winters in the Elburs mountains about 50% prisoners died...to be fair it should be said that even the Russians in the years 1945 and 1946 were not much better off than we as far as food was concerned. We worked (in the coalmines) alongside Russians and Georgians who proved to be good mates and often shared their last bits of bread with us. Hans Von Luck gave the following advice to Russian haters on being released. “On the train journey to France I tried to make clear to them that the black and white portrayal of the Russians as nothing but evil and us in the west as nothing but good was mistaken and led us nowhere “.
Now lets draw some practical lessons in rational writing. All serious and earnest writers should rise above the role of a mere propagandist .The thinking audience expects dispassionate analysis rather than propaganda. The second subjective or regional lesson for Pakistani writers is the fact that Kashmir was lost by our politicians in 1947-48 and 1965. Ayub being more of a politician than a soldier! How do we suppose that now the Indians will behave ethically and give up a piece of valuable real estate without a war, or that the Americans would act as our fathers in getting us back a piece of ancestral property that we lost because of lack of political acumen and decisiveness!
On Atrocities in Civil War/Partition etc:— Atrocities are committed once law and order breaks down and the fear of coercive power that keeps the beast in most men under control is removed! These atrocities have no connection with ideology or even race. The point that I want to drive home is the simple fact that atrocities in 1947 or 1857 or 1971 were committed because the multitude knew that there was no central coercive authority to protect a particular community, which was momentarily perceived as enemy or exploiters!
The first point that I want to drive home is the fact that atrocities in 1947 were committed by on both sides! But as they say truth is the first casualty in a civil war or in any crisis situation.
Lord Roberts of Kandahrar adopted a novel way of dealing with the Kabul mob in the Second Afghan War! He erected gallows in the city and hanged anyone suspected of being a potential trouble creator! The affect was positive and Kabul thereafter remained more tranquil and calm! Probably Nawab Mohammad Hayat had accompanied Roberts as sort of a political assistant. A family anecdote told by my grandfather’s brother thus goes that Nawab Mohammad Hayat had advised Roberts that “Sahab, if we hang them like Metcalfe Sahab did at Delhi, it will have a good impact on these savages! In any case we are not going to stay in this accursed place permanently”! The reader may note that my great grandfather’s father who was from the Punjab Police Department had also accompanied the British Expeditionary army as a Persian interpreter. In those days Pan Islamism was not yet in vogue. The Indians whether Muslim, Sikh or Hindu had different perceptions about Afghans who were much hated because of their raids on India from 1739 to 1799 as mercenaries of Persia or as Abdali’s army! During these raids these Afghans had indiscriminately looted all Indians whether Muslim Indian or Sikh! On one occasion the loot that Ahmad Shah Abdali’s army was carrying from Delhi to Afghanistan was so heavy that the Akhnur bridge of boats over the Chenab collapsed while the looters baggage train was crossing it and considerable movable wealth was lost and many Afghans were drowned in the fast flowing Chenab river !
The point is that the riots of 1947 which are cited as the vindication of ‘Two Nation Theory’ in Pakistan as a matter of fact were outbreaks which had a far deeper connection with the bursting out of the innate animal aggression in human nature, which in normal times is restrained by the coercive machinery of the state! The atrocities committed by Muslim mobs on non-Muslims and vice versa, mostly in West and East Punjab were acts of a hostile mob against defenceless unarmed people who were perceived as belonging to an enemy country and thus an ideal pray for rape, loot and slaughter! The problem had a deeper connection with the British failure to keep a large purely British force to restrain the Indians from killing each other in a situation where no purely Indian force could have effectively controlled the wild mobs! Both Mr Jinnah and Nehru never foresaw the amount of carnage and slaughter that would accompany the transfer of power and partition. Nehru even vetoed the proposal of keeping British troops to control the mob by stating “ I would rather have every village in India put to the flames rather than have the British Army after August 15”.9 The most ironic part is that atrocities are never wholly ethnic or even religious.They have more to deal with group perceptions regarding another group! Thus the atrocities of the Pakistan Army in 1971 in East Pakistan when the Bengalis despite being Muslims were perceived as enemies or traitors and the official policy was that of endorsing all killings as necessary. In addition the situation was made more emotionally charged by similar atrocities committed by Bengali mobs against non-Bengali civilians in the four weeks before the army action. Similarly Indian Army atrocities in Kashmir cannot be taken simply in terms of bifurcation of religion!
This reminds me of a unique true story of ethnic hatred, which has little to do with religion! This story is based on the experiences of the Ranghar Muslims of a village Chak 130 LGB or Nao Rohtak in district Lyallpur! My great grandfather settled in that village in the 1880s as a colonist of the newly created Chenab Colony. The settlers in that particular village were mostly Ranghar Muslims from East Punjab districts of Rohtak and Hissar. These men hailed from the old Bengal Cavalry villages like Kanar, Kalanaur, Jatu Satna and Jamalpur. Most of them in the 1880s were serving or had retired from Skinners Horse, 1st and 3rd Punjab Cavalry and 19 Lancers. They hated the Punjabi Sikhs and Muslims and Pathan Muslims who in 1857 had committed countless atrocities in Rohtak and Hissar district as part of Hodson’s Horse or as part of General Van Cortlandt’s force!
The Writer’s Job:— So what is the writer’s job! One may say that it is neither to laugh, nor to cry, nor to romanticise nor to hate or spread hatred...but to understand! This should be digested by all Indo-Pak writers! I sincerely hope that this journal will act as a forum where light instead of heat is supplied. One where the broader vision is improved and the reader does not get lost in the trees and bushes of communal or regional hatred but is provided a vantage point from where he can look down and survey the forest as a whole!
The important task for the policy-makers and executors in both India and Pakistan is to read some practical psychology in order to solve the pathological problem of regional and communal hatred that has gripped the region since mid -1920s. Perhaps they should study someone like Dr Eric Berne! They have two broad options i.e; either makes their mental images correspond to reality or to fashion reality in such a manner that it corresponds with their mental images! The second option is more impracticable now since both the countries are nuclear powers. They also must remember that both parties do not have the potential, both military as well as economic to impose their will on the other party! The Indians must remember what Ravi Rikhye had observed some years ago, i.e, the Nuclear Bomb would prolong Pakistan’s life by another 50 years. Pakistani policy makers must also remember that the so-called Afghan Jihad succeeded (which in itself is debatable keeping in view Afghanistan’s post Soviet withdrawal conditions!) Not simply because of Islamic zeal but because of many other factors, out of which the most important one was US military material and financial aid! Another fact that the Pakistani policy makers must remember is, that men galvanised to do Jihad will not stop at Srinagar! Their next destination that is if they survive Kashmir will surely be the Penthouses in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad! They should also not forget the extremist germs in the Pathan psyche! How the Hindustani Rohilla Pathans dealt with the de jure Mughal Emperor of India once they blinded him. How they made the Mughal Princes wear female clothes and dance! They should also not forget that finally Shah Alam was not rescued by the Punjabi, Pathan or Afghan Muslims but by the Hindu Marathas!
Similarly the Americans must remember that the Muslim Jehadi Count Dracula that they resurrected many centuries after the crusades with CIA Dollars and modern US military hardware in Ningrahar and Paktia is definitely far more dangerous than the older original Transylvanian version of Bram Stoker which was only confined to the London journal in which it was serialised! This new Muslim Dracula may one-day travel in the hidden vaults of a merchant ship across the Atlantic or Pacific to USA! The reader may note that as per one respectable authority only five out of 100 containers arriving at US ports are checked thoroughly!
Ironically the result would be the re-creation of a medieval or pre medieval religious rivalry, for vampires can only be destroyed by recourse to religion! As in Indo-Pak religious extremism in India was intensified once religious extremism intensified in Pakistan from the post-1977 period. The case in Europe and USA may be almost similar. Fears of Islamic resurgence may give rise to another similarly absurd reaction in shape of Christian military resurgence!
The Western policy makers and US also must remember that terrorism will become increasingly global if only one religion or a selected number of countries. After all those who had dug a hole in Vietnam stumbled in an Afghanistan in their old adversary’s hole! Unfortunately it’s a never-ending story! Terrorism never was and never will be Islamic or Communist or capitalist only! Pentagon or the DIA or CIA must not forget this fact! It may be easier to catch a man with Arab or Asian features and a beard but it took the FBI and many other agencies many years to track the UNA Bomber!