The other day, the prime-time anchors on a TV show went on and on about how Pakistan was in “denial” about the role played by state actors in the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks. Since the purpose of TV shows these days seem to be about building righteous indignation about some cause or the other, nothing much emerged from it.
However, there is need to discuss who is in a state of denial, Pakistan or India. We all know what the Pakistani state is all about, so if we still have not understood what they are up to, and why they won’t acknowledge the role of Abu Jundal (or Zabiuddin Ansari) in directing the 26/11 terrorists, we are in a state of denial.
The prime purpose of the Pakistani state is to oversee India’s failure as a state. Which is why when we brandish Abu Jundal’s dossiers, they smirk. They will toss it into a dustbin and ask us “what evidence?” When we sent them the dossier on Hafiz Saeed, the Pakistani foreign secretary in February 2010 called it mere “literature.”
We should never be in denial of this reality till Pakistan itself, through an internal process of rediscovering their relatedness to us, shed their anti-Indian identity.
But we have been consistently foolish in presuming that since we are so alike, they will be thinking like we do: let bygones be bygones. This has been the problem with Indians. We have very short memories, we have very short-time horizons. We have no long-term strategic vision on how to deal with Pakistan beyond hoping that they will pipe down and become peaceful neighbours.
It’s never happened. And it’s not going to happen in our lifetimes even with all the candle-light vigils on Wagah and Aman ki Aasha programmes organised by the media. Pakistanis will hug and sing with us, and then go back to hating us.
For us, 1948, 1965, 1971, and 1999 are just some dates involving past conflicts. Barring some armymen, no one in the present generation even remembers those wars. We don’t even have the grace to remember the sacrifices of our heroes of those times – even the one in Kargil, which is almost recent memory.
For Pakistan – or at least its army and the mullah constituency – these dates mean something else beyond military failure. These dates are imprinted into their psyches; they are signs of repeated humiliation – humiliation they brought on themselves by aggressive behaviour, but humiliation nevertheless. It thus needs avenging even if it means destroying itself in the process. This is why even when they are talking to us, they are constantly trying to damage us.
This is why even when Vajpayee was talking peace in Lahore, Musharraf was plotting Kargil. When India offered to help America fight terror post-26/11, the Pakistanis rushed in faster just so they could prevent an India-US tie-up. They didn’t help the US tackle terror but just wanted to prevent us from doing so. Even as they tasted defeat in Kargil, they plotted the Parliament attack. When things were on the mend, they planned 26/11.
Pakistan’s problem is that barring religion, there is little to differentiate Pakistanis from Indians. Thus, having created a state based on religion, they defined themselves as “Not India” and this meant they had to deny who they actually were: Indians with a different religious orientation.
Thus, while Muslims in India, despite their poverty, have no reason to deny their Indianness, the Pakistanis have done that to themselves – and they hate it.
This is why when Jinnah got his Pakistan in 1947, he called it a moth-eaten Pakistan. He would have been happier ruling India. Pakistan was merely a power gambit in his fight with Nehru and Gandhi – but he got what he wanted and didn’t live to rue it. He felt cheated when India was automatically considered the prime inheritor of British India – not Pakistan. Even today, Pakistanis are unhappy that we are called India, even though they were the ones to choose the idea of Pakistan and wanted to be unIndian in every way.
For Pakistan, the destruction or failure of India is more important that the success of the idea of Pakistan – at least in the generations that are still connected to 1947. If you don’t think so, read this article by Aatish Taseer, son of slain Pakistani Punjab Governor Salman Taseer. It is titled “Why my father hated India.”
“In the absence of a true national identity, Pakistan defined itself by its opposition to India….Had this assertion of national identity meant the casting out of something alien or foreign in favour of an organic or homegrown identity, it might have had an empowering effect. What made it self-wounding, even nihilistic, was that Pakistan, by asserting a new Arabised Islamic identity, rejected its own local and regional culture. In trying to turn its back on its shared past with India, Pakistan turned its back on itself.”
The hatred of India clearly comes from having to deny your own identity. As Taseer writes, “India was just across the border, and it was still its composite, pluralistic self, a place where nearly as many Muslims lived as in Pakistan. It was a daily reminder of the past that Pakistan had tried to erase.”
And let’s remember: Pakistan was an idea supported more by Muslims in places where they were in a minority (in what is now India), and less by Muslims in Muslim-majority areas (in what is now Pakistan). For Pakistan, being Muslim means being against India. This is why they are busy trying to recruit the Abu Jundals of the world to fight India in India.
So, let’s forget Abu Jundal. It may make for hot TV debates, it may serve to show the world we are the good guys and Pakistanis the terror-supporters. But nothing good will ever come of it.
Abu Jundal is a distraction, and we should not be in denial of this fact. We need a long-term plan to protect ourselves from Pakistan’s self-destructive tendencies, and should pray for the day when young Pakistanis themselves come to realise what they are doing to themselves.
A country which is busy denying its past and trying to erase its history is unlikely to help us with Abu Jundal. Or Hafiz Saeed. Or anything. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t talk. We always should. But Pakistan will shed its enmity only at a time of its own choosing. It could take a few generations.