What Pak's crisis tells all Indians: Partition was an excellent idea

If one were to look at what's happening across our western borders – where an elected government is being sought to be ousted by street protests, possibly tacitly backed by the army — any sane Indian should be saying to himself: thank God for Partition.

The fact that we had some past civilisation links to the region now called Pakistan should not blind us to the reality that this link is dead. Islamic Pakistan and democratic India can never be friends — till Pakistan ceases to be Islamic.

 What Paks crisis tells all Indians: Partition was an excellent idea

Our problem is we want to let the naive dictate foreign policy when we refuse to do our homework on what Pakistan is really about. AFP

This realisation is clearly sinking into some intellectuals, but not all. Vir Sanghvi, who is certainly not a hawk on Pakistan, has this to say in his Hindustan Times column today (4 September) titled "We are not the same people". He writes that Delhi's "Punjabi intellectuals and commentators" have a "misconceived sense of brotherhood that leads so many...to believe that it is our job to help democracy flourish in Pakistan. And Pakistani politicians are quick to take advantage of our wide-eyed naivete, demanding Indian support either against the army or against each other."

Put another way, our entire Delhi intellectual establishment is a bunch of "useful idiots" unknowingly serving the cause of Pakistani theocracy and terrorism aimed at us.

The only thing I would like to point out to Sanghvi is that it is not only Delhi’s Punjabi intellectuals who think this way. Siddharth Varadarajan, for example, thinks we have some kind of obligation to talk peace with Sharif. He wrote soon after Narendra Modi cancelled foreign secretary-level talks with Pakistan when their embassy decided to schmooze with Kashmiri separatists: “Modi knows that the military in Pakistan is a reluctant recruit to Sharif’s desire to normalise relations with India. It is possible that as a result of this week’s internal developments in that country, the military establishment will gain the upper hand over Sharif. But that cannot be an argument for Modi doing his bit to undermine a leader who has repeatedly demonstrated a willingness to take political risks in favour of improving relations with India.”

This is really the problem. We want to think we have to come to the aid of the "good"  Pakistani of the moment, whether it is a Sharif or some elements in their civil society or even the army, when it is in a mood for talks (as was the case during Pervez Musharraf’s dictatorship after 9/11, when Pakistan’s double-game on terror was exposed and he was under pressure to negotiate with India.)

How do our intellectuals come to the conclusion that Sharif wants peace with India? In Pakistan, no party really is a moderate. Sharif’s base in Punjab is the cauldron of Islamist thinking – and the fulcrum of the army’s power. In 2013, soon after he was elected, Sharif wanted to hold peace talks with the Pakistani Taliban – which doesn’t want peace with us. As for Imran Khan and the Canadian cleric Tahir ul-Qadri, both of whom are colluding on the streets to get rid of Sharif, they are both Islamists and Shariah-pouting leaders. The army, we all know, is hardly pro-peace. When cricketers can talk about conversion and religion on the field, as Pakistani cricketer Ahmed Shehzad appears to have done with Sri Lankan batsman Tillekarante Dilshan, it is difficult to believe that the pressure for communal politics is only top-down and not ground-up.

So who is the real peacenik who wields real power in Pakistan?

Elected Pakistani leaders may talk peace, but their real intentions are to sweet-talk us into making a concession here or a concession there, so that they are strengthened in the process. Their ultimate aim is to weaken India. And remember, in Pakistan, the people respect the army more than politicians, and so to say the people want peace while the army wants strife is fallacious too.

So India’s attitude to the current crisis in Pakistan should be to watch carefully and stay clear. What they do in their country is something we can’t influence and something we should only note for its potential to spill over here. We need to keep the powder dry against Pakistan all the time.

Our problem is we want to let the naive dictate foreign policy when we refuse to do our homework on what Pakistan is really about. I do support talks with Pakistan in general - but only to get some low-level tasks achieved (some cultural exchanges, some disengagement on the borders) and to maintain the facade of peacefulness for the world at large. I am never under the illusion that talks with Pakistan can achieve anything worthwhile. As for permanent peace, forget it. A theocratic state at war with itself needs a constant state of enmity with us to hold itself together. The Pakistani state will always be in a mental state of war with us.

This why I would like all Indians to say out aloud: partition is the best thing to HAVE happened to us. Consider what all could have gone wrong if we had stayed one country.

First, the demography of a united India - roughly two-thirds non-Muslim and one-third Muslim - would have ensured permanent communal strife and political gridlock. The nation would have broken up into multiple pieces if caste, religion and tribalism were to be used in democratic politics to build vote-banks. It was the overwhelming Hindu majority in partitioned India that allowed us to be a democracy and still remain one country.

Sentimental intellectuals like Kuldip Nayar write that a united India would have been good for Muslims – even though he accepts that partition was inevitable. He writes: “I feel that the Muslims as Muslims have been the biggest losers (after partition). They are now spread over three countries — India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Imagine the influence that their numbers — their votes —could have commanded in the undivided subcontinent! They would have been nearly one-third of the total population.”

In fact, this is precisely the reason why partition made sense for those interested in secularism and democracy. An Islamic one-third would have been toxic for us.

Second, an unstable religious demography in "united" India would have created pressures for building a solid Hindu theocracy as a counter to Islamic theocracy. We would have been in permanent religious tension, if not communal strife, both between Hinduism and Islam, and within Hinduism and Islam. The truth is theocratic states are always at war both within and without, because theocracy needs agreement on what constitutes your brand of theocracy (Sunni, Shia, Ahmadiyya, Bahai, etc). If you cannot agree on this, you will fight people who are nominally of your own religion. Theocracy is possible only in monocultural, small tribes.

It is worth recalling that America legislated against having a theocratic state in its constitution precisely because theocracy also means choosing your own version of religion or denomination as the official religion (should it be Catholic or Protestant, Pentecostalist or Methodist or Mormon?).

Islamic Pakistan is busy defining which is the right Islam to follow and is thus most virulent against its own Muslim sects (Ahmadiyyas, Bahais) just as ISIS is busy trying to eliminate Shias in its fledgling caliphate and the Saudi royalty follows its own extreme version of Islam where they may even end up vandalising their own prophet’s grave.

India was spared a Hindu theocracy by partition. Time to save out aloud: “Thank God for Partition.” Thank God we did not get our Akhand Bharat – which even Sanghi ideologists do not stop fantasising about.

Updated Date: Sep 04, 2014 21:03:16 IST