By Sunil Sharan
December 25, 2017
A poker player has three straight aces. What will he do? Close the deal and walk away with his winnings? Or gamble it all on searching for that elusive fourth ace?
Pakistan holds three aces in Afghanistan. By all logic, it should walk away. But Pakistan, like its cricket team, doesn’t play by logic. It will gamble all by going for India’s jugular.
Pakistan has been successful in Afghanistan by its laser-like focus on India. But it lost it all once and seems destined to lose it all again.
Witness the Russian war in Afghanistan. Jimmy Carter offer Zia-ul-Haq four hundred million dollars to fight. Zia dismissed that money as peanuts. By upping the ante, Zia got over a billion dollars. (A billion in the late seventies is perhaps equal to a hundred billion today.) Zia did what was asked of him, and then the Yanks chucked him aside as a used condom.
Zia typifies the archetypal Pakistani ruler. He inherited a country at peace with itself, converted it into a factory for jihad, and did not, ever, ever want to relinquish power.
In came the moderated commando: Musharraf. He put a duly-elected PM into Attock, and instead of his own self-being tried for treason, convinced his successors to first humiliate, and then oust the same PM.
Musharraf did Kargil. Musharraf behaved childishly during the Agra Summit of 2001. Yet, India forgave him. Because Musharraf originates from Chandni Chowk, that silver street in Delhi where the orthodox Hindu and the observant Sikh and the Sunni Muslim live cheek by jowl next to one another, not always in good humour perhaps, but never at one another’s throats.
It is also the city of Ghalib. It is also a place that has never thrown up any ruler of independent India, much to the eternal consternation of its denizens, who are convinced that they are the fount of Indian power but see men and women from all over the land rule over them. If a ruler of one’s own land has not emanated from amongst themselves, at least a ruler of another land, howsoever hostile, did.
But now Musharraf wants to consort with Hafiz Saeed, to finally put Nawaz out of his political misery. This Chandni Chowk cannot, nay will not tolerate.
Pakistan was born as a haven for sub-continental Muslims. But somewhere along the line, the nation lost its raison d’etre. Was it the Citadel of Islam? The boss of the Organization of Islamic States? Not-India, but also a perennial bugbear for India?
India is seven times Pakistan’s size, but that has not deterred Pakistan from punching way above its weight. It has seen ghosts everywhere, for instance; that India is stealing its waters when even many knowledgeable Pakistanis will agree that there has been no such theft; to snatching Kashmir and Khalistan; to serving as a support group, perhaps even trying to incite, India’s minorities.
If Pakistan were to cast a glance around the world, it would come across a number of nations somewhat its own size who are doing relatively well. Brazil comes to mind. So too South Africa. Ever wonder why Pakistan is not in BRICS, and Brazil and South Africa are? Sure, India might try to deny it entry, but there is China, and even Russia to open the blockade.
Pakistan is not in BRICS because its members believe that Pakistan hasn’t reached the level of maturity to consort on the world stage with them. Will it ever? Perhaps not, if 1971 and the Russian exit from Afghanistan serve as a guide.
Today Pakistan has the Americans, and the Indians, at its mercy. But it must remember that even though America might be a crumbling empire, crumbling empires can take a long time to crumble. And ascendant superpowers such as China can take a long time to ascend.
It is now that Pakistan should close out its hand. Sign a deal with India on Kashmir based on the Musharraf-Manmohan formula or some variant thereof; sign a no-war pact with India; and sign a treaty for non-interference in the other’s internal affairs, which of course does not obviate persecuted groups from leaving their land. As for Afghanistan, serve as a guarantor that the Taliban will not enable another 9/11.
India and Pakistan both need to learn from Chandni Chowk, and even those nations that have traditionally not liked each other, for instance, England-France and Brazil-Argentina, that one can live as neighbours without having atom bombs scoot out like pistol shots from a few miles away.