The foreign hand delusion

By blaming the foreign hand and accepting our neighbours have more sovereignty than we do over our areas is ridiculous

Aakar Patel November 17, 2012

On the Indian subcontinent, regional trouble is blamed on the foreign hand. This is because our citizens love their nation and its constitution. It is the mischief of the neighbour that must be suppressed.

Such stupidity is a commonplace in our parts among public, state and media. It is of a piece with the unthinking and closed-minded view that is unique to us in India and Pakistan.

India went through this first 30 years ago when its troubles in Punjab were blamed on Pakistan. Those angered, those agitating, those killed in encounters, were all agents of the enemy state. The vocabulary of the state evolved and common people began using phrases like “asamajik tatva (anti-social element)” which came from propaganda.

When Muslims in Kashmir began a ferocious protest under the Jamaat-e-Islami and the umbrella organisation of Hurriyat, the villain was Pakistan. Even today, when the trouble is behind us, it will be difficult to find an Indian analyst who can say what is obvious to the world. That a large number of Kashmiri-speaking Muslims reject the Indian Constitution.

The primary cause of Kashmir’s trouble was unrest in the population. The militancy, whether local or imported, was secondary. Guerilla war, which is what was waged against India, cannot be prosecuted without a base in the population. But this violence became the narrative and there the solution was focused.

President Pervez Musharraf switched off the jihad in Kashmir (something India hasn’t thanked him for) and the violence wilted after 2002. It is almost gone today. But can we think of Kashmir as any other Indian state? I don’t think so, and the reason is that many if not most people in the valley are still sullen and attracted to the Jamaat-e-Islami and its calls for bandh.

I am visiting there in a few weeks and will have an update for you on this.

Meanwhile, Pakistan is going through the same problem today. India is to blame for the trouble in Balochistan. As a long-term observer of the Urdu press, this was not surprising to me. But I was taken aback by reading that even people like Najam Sethi were talking of Indian mischief in Balochistan. Analysts should get out more, because gathering information from mostly state sources will leave too much for them to filter out. Then there is talk of Indian intervention in Fata and elsewhere through the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan.

The damage done by Talibs to the Pakistan Navy is debited to India. Why? Because the aircraft they killed were India-specific. No more logic is advanced than this. But if Talibs consider the Pakistani state their enemy, and they do, it is only to be expected that they will pinch it where it hurts. It shows how paranoid thinking has become among analysts that this has not crossed their minds. If it has, I have yet to hear it.

I wonder who these people think in the Indian government authorises such mischief. Manmohan Singh? Sonia Gandhi? Then they don’t know much about India.

The sad fact is that our problems are mostly of our own making. Our Constitution, whether Indian or Pakistani, is not universally loved internally. We should try selling it more to those who don’t accept it.

To accept our neighbours have more sovereignty than we do over our areas, which is what we do when we blame the foreign hand, is ridiculous.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 18th, 2012.


Learner | 9 years ago | Reply

"Because history of past 65 years of Indo-Pak conflict shows that while India does not initiate aggression..."

This is laughable!

Hammad | 9 years ago | Reply

Brilliant. Denial rules in the subcontinent.

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