State, identity and foreign policy

Flexible foreign policy favours a normal state. But if you have ideology driving policy, then ‘fixity’ becomes a flaw.


Khaled Ahmed June 04, 2011

Foreign policy is determined by a number of factors, some realistic, like geography; and some ideological, like identity. Political science theory says a flexible foreign policy favours a normal state. But if you have ideology as a driver of policy then ‘fixity’ becomes a flaw. Above all, it is the national economy with its edict of ‘rational opportunism’ that first revolts against this fixity.

Aparna Pande, a PhD from Boston University and a research fellow at Hudson Institute, Washington DC, in her critical book Explaining Pakistan’s Foreign Policy: Escaping India (Routledge 2011) points to flaws of state identity in Pakistan’s foreign policy. She begins by perhaps according nationalism a benign definition: “Islam and Islamic unity are the principal drivers of this ideological foreign policy, which fit in with the leaders’ conviction that Islam could be a substitute for nationalism as the basis of Pakistani identity.”

Pakistan’s hostile gravitation to India is based paradoxically on its passion for escaping it: “In some ways Pakistan has been trying to escape its Indian legacy — historic, geographic and civilisational — and attempting to find security in a virtual relocation through ideology.” The fulcrum of ‘fleeing India’ was its religion-based identity. The founding fathers also constructed a national narrative to develop the ‘other’ in India as an existential threat.

She sees this religion-based definition of India in Pakistan’s adoption of Hindustan or Bharat as India’s new name. She writes: “Pakistan was the first country to call itself an Islamic Republic, and the 1949 Objectives Resolution of Pakistan’s First Constituent Assembly emphasised the need for ‘ordering lives in accordance with the teachings and requirements of Islam’…. Over time, the existential threat to Pakistan has been expanded to include all global powers engaged in conflict with Muslims. This has included, at different times, the Soviet Union, Israel and the United States” (p.2).

The book juxtaposes two definitions of Indian culture, one by Jinnah who thought it separated Muslims from Hindus; and another by Abul Kalam Azad who saw it as a binding factor. Recall here also a debate between chief cleric of Deoband, Hussain Ahmad Madni, who accepted the nation state with Hindus and Muslims as one nation in it, and Allama Iqbal who rejected the nation state after seeing its self-destructive obsession with war through nationalism in Europe.

Pande gets the story of Pakistan’s foreign policy right, putting the blame on Pakistan for its failures, except one reference to former BJP leader Jaswant Singh’s biography of Jinnah, titled Jinnah: India, Partition, Independence, in which he blames the Congress leadership. There were others too, like Seervai; but about identity, MJ Akbar in his latest book Tinderbox: The Past and Future of Pakistan (HarperCollins 2011) quotes Lala Lajpat Rai: “There can be no doubt that the Hindus are a nation in themselves because they represent a civilisation of their own” (p.179).

Muslims were not the only community thinking of a separate identity.

There is yet another brilliant woman, this time a Pakistani scholar born in Karachi with an MA from Karachi University and a PhD from Columbia University, who thinks identity, is more a problem with Pakistan than a solution. Farzana Shaikh in Making Sense of Pakistan (Hurst & Company 2009) says “chronic ambiguity and confusion over the meaning of Pakistan as a homeland for Muslims has raised questions about the status of its non-Muslim minorities and their claims to qualify as Pakistani” (p.60).

Both authors write thought-provokingly about how Pakistan has “imagined itself wrong”, resulting in a fixed foreign policy that defies pragmatism and a polity where non-Muslims suffer and Muslim sects fight one another for ownership of the state.



Published in The Express Tribune, June 5th, 2011.

COMMENTS (13)

Kivalur | 10 years ago | Reply The two-nation theory, the basis for formation of Pakistan was irrational to the point of being insane. If hindus and muslims are two different 'nations' and cannot live under the same law, how would the new Pakistan justify or expect the minority hindus within the new country to accept muslim rule? And by the same count, why should India not have demanded that if a separate country for muslims was formed then every single muslim should leave India and move to Pakistan especially since 30 % of the land area is being truncated for this doctrine? So once you start with a mad doctrine you are rapidly hijacked by it, the nutters take over and the strident and extreme maniacs are in charge of the asylum. All intitutionalized religions are autocratic by nature, the more a society embraces religion the more fundamentalist, undemocratic and impractical it gets. You are compelled to explain or justify every policy on the basis of absoute religious values. No pragmatism is possible. Pakistan's virtual relocation was not just away from the civilizational or cultural India but from what is 'Not-muslim'.
gt | 10 years ago | Reply Mr.D, The danger of THAT ideology, that drive to PRIMACY,that you glorify, is precisely what has sown such incredible, deep and lasting hatred against Islam that you will never care to either understand nor investigate. It is this legacy that will bring, and now is bringing, an extraordinary reaction action against the so-called UMMAH. In time, all conquerors become the conquered. That is the inevitable law of Nature. Muslims delude themselves by invented myths of exceptionalism, and are horrified when those myths are punctured. The Indian subcontinent was invaded by different sets of Muslims, as it has been invaded by different groups in the past, some exceedingly savage like the Huns who perpetrated acts of terrible sadism on the inhabitants. And SEVERAL waves of these HUNAS over millenia. Yet they became absorbed as a valuable and integral part of the society, as Rajputs. What India and Indians cannot and have not forgiven has been the violence and desecration visited on her religious institutions and sacred places. Some historians have tried to trivialize this extraordinary trauma by comparing alleged "Hindu" desecration of Hindu & Buddhist shrines. The outrageous idiocy & lack of any comprehension of Indian society is evinced by their ignorance by entire schools or movements of Buddhism e.g. the KALACHAKRA TANTRA proclaiming Mohammed as an ABOMINATION and making the extirpation of Islam from the Universe their primary mundane goal. NO Buddhist sect, text or group EVER has called any Hindu group or entity an ABOMINATION or made its extinction its chief aim. How relevant is the Kalachakra Tantra? That is the CENTRAL TEXT taught and given initiations in by HH the Dalai Lama and by each of the significant Tibetan Buddhist teachers. Their followers are not insignificant in number or influence and grow each year. They are not crazy animals either, like Maududi, Jameelah Maryam or Jamat-ud-Dawa types. The point here is that unless there is a serious effort to reconcile the Muslim world with the Indian, the former will continue to suffer. The Indian and Chinese civilizations are the backbone of the world and cannot be extinguished spiritually or materially. When Iran abandoned Zarathustra, it died in every possible way and today is a nation of semi-humans [compared to their past], as they themselves will admit. Arabs are magnificent only in their own estimation. For others, they are a cancer that needs to be permanently eradicated. The Hand of God has arranged for Israel to begin that cleansing and disinfection. Others too will participate and you can see why they have been made strong. Where Pakistan chooses to stand, is the question. Who inspires people like you, is another question, the voice of Divinity or some opposite source?
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