Pakistan’s India obsession

Published: September 9, 2013
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The writer is the Chairperson of the Department of History, Forman Christian College and tweets @BangashYK

The writer is the Chairperson of the Department of History, Forman Christian College and tweets @BangashYK

A few years ago, during a discussion on Pakistan’s identity at Forman Christian College, the then Vice-Rector, Dr Marcia Grant, remarked that perhaps Pakistan’s identity was ‘Not India’. While almost all the other people there, mainly Pakistanis, shrugged off the suggestion, I always thought that the brilliant Dr Grant had hit the nail on its head.

From its inception, Pakistan has been simply obsessed with India. Like the neglected twin, Pakistan has always looked at its larger, and now more prosperous, neighbour for comparison. For Pakistan, India was the ‘other’ and had to be reacted against. Hence, just because India celebrates its independence day on August 15, Pakistan has to show it one up and celebrate it a day earlier; just because India has nuclear weapons, Pakistan needs them too; just because the US signed a civil nuclear agreement with India, Pakistan needs the same deal too and so on. It seems that Pakistan’s existence is almost inextricably tied with an eternal competition with India, no matter what the cost to its exchequer and people.

That said, some of Pakistan’s obsession is not unwarranted. India did try to throttle Pakistan in 1947-48, especially by blocking Pakistan’s due share of sterling and rupee reserves; it did cut off Pakistan’s canal waters in 1948; and it did help the Bengali secessionists to achieve independence in 1971 and inflicted a crushing defeat on Pakistan. That much, and more, is true. However, we must also remember that it is the same India that signed the Indus Water Treaty in 1960, giving Pakistan three rivers which it could have easily retained; it is the same India that did not occupy Pakistan in 1971 when it could have; and it is the same India whose prime minister visited Pakistan on ‘Bus diplomacy’ in 1999, when he had no real need for it. The same India has managed to be an enemy and an accommodating neighbour.

I come from a military dominated family. My father fought for the country in the Second World War and then worked in the Pakistan Movement and a large number of my father’s side of the family is either in the army or the police. Hence, September 6, Defence Day, has always been an important patriotic day for us. While I will save comment on Ayub Khan’s exemplary spin in 1965 for another day, what has recently intrigued me is that we rarely take the name ‘India’ during programmes/events on September 6. We usually just say ‘enemy country’ and leave the listeners to know that we mean India. It is as if ‘India’ and ‘enemy’ are synonymous. This is symptomatic of our India obsession and our great fallacy, I believe.

As we make our slow transition into regular democratic rule, I hope that we can also learn two lessons from the past. First, that there are no permanent friends or enemies in international affairs. This is something which every student of international relations learns on the first day, but it is still an alien concept in Pakistan. Pakistanis still divide the world into ‘friends’ and ‘foes’ and base their foreign policy on this precept, which is obviously flawed. States formulate policy on interests. The improvement of Sino-Indian relations is a prime example of this. India has been an ‘enemy’ but it can also be a ‘friend’.

Secondly, and most importantly, we need to end our almost maniac obsession with India. We can no longer be ‘Not India’ and cannot any longer act like a neglected twin. At least I would like to live in a country which does not define itself against any other country, but has its own identity and is comfortable with it. Obviously, identity formation is a long process and Pakistan is mired in several problems here, but still it would be healthy for Pakistan to think about what makes it special rather than what it is rejecting. Our India-centricism has not only created a false image of us but has also prevented us from focusing on things which would improve the lives of people in our country, like education, health and sanitation — simply the basics. September 6, Defence Day unites the whole country, but it is indeed very sad that only anti-Indianism brings the country together — surely, there is more to Pakistan?

Published in The Express Tribune, September 10th, 2013.

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Reader Comments (48)

  • SM
    Sep 9, 2013 - 11:57PM

    What is the reason for Pakistan if not being “not India”?

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  • Sep 10, 2013 - 12:02AM

    Bravo!!! Excellent article based on ground realities and proposing a path I hope Pakistan takes for the betterment of the nation and thus the entire region.

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  • Dr Dang
    Sep 10, 2013 - 12:09AM

    Well written. Its high time both the countries acknowledged each other as permanent entities, establish their own identities & move on.

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  • aqib
    Sep 10, 2013 - 12:21AM

    So we got nuclear weapons out of obsession? that is the first time I am hearing such an explanation. They are primarily there to prevent the repeat of 1971 scenario. That is why it is called a ‘Deterrent’. The same country which you are praising for letting us share the rivers, is building dams over them, and I should not even come to the raging insurgencies. Quite a self-defeating article…

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  • gp65
    Sep 10, 2013 - 12:38AM

    So Sir, what is your view about celebrating the day as a defense instead of as Martyr’s Day? After all people who fought for the country and gave the ultimate sacrifice should be commemorated. Such and activity could be done any day of the year (including September 6) and need not restrit itself only to Martyr’s of 65 war but can include those of 71 war and Kargill.

    Calling it ‘Defense Day’ simply perpetuates the lie that India is the on that attacked Pakistan on September 6 and Pakistan ‘defended ‘ itself when the truth is that Pakistan started the war on September 1.Surely it is time to stop lying to its own citizens about information as basic as this?

    You have referrd to Ayub Khan’s spin, so I am quite sure , you know that what I have just written is true.

    Thoughts?Recommend

  • Raj
    Sep 10, 2013 - 12:54AM

    Bangesh sahab, We Indians are also obsessed with Pakistan, although we’re in denial about it. :-)

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  • Peace
    Sep 10, 2013 - 1:16AM

    We should simply focus on the betterment of our masses with privision of quality health and eduction facilities, justice and eliminating “Mullaism” as Iqbal said.” Deen e Mullah Fassad ………..”.

    Cheers

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  • fuzzy logic
    Sep 10, 2013 - 1:21AM

    Turn the table, they hate us more than we do.

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  • It Is (still) Economy Stupid
    Sep 10, 2013 - 1:46AM

    Author is missing a point. In US, Canada, UK and Australia neighborhood of desi stores and mall are still called little India. No one calls it mini Pakistan. So Pakistan can be little India. Oh I forgot “Not India” also means not Indian and that is why people claim they have Arabic DNA.

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  • Anjaan
    Sep 10, 2013 - 2:22AM

    The people in Pakistan have been grappling with their identity crisis since 1947 ……. and of late there has been some debate, and clarity in their thinking.
    There is little doubt that thinking in terms of “not being India” and identifying with the Arabs has not helped Pakistan much in the past 65 years …. or else the problem would be resolved by now. There is also a growing realization that competing with India, that is many times larger by any scale of measurement, was a foolish chase …..

    However, as the earlier comment by SM suggests, there is a large constituency in Pakistan, who see “not India” as the rationale behind separation from India and creation of Pakistan. They have to realize that this logic has outlived its utility, and sounds silly after 65 long years ……. now the time for the new generation to find your own reason and path that has nothing to do with India …….Recommend

  • Ram Ram
    Sep 10, 2013 - 2:26AM

    Author,
    You are a learned scholar and your columns are worth reading.

    However, even you have made some errors in reporting/ summarizing the sequence
    of events.

    1971 came after 1948 and 1965.

    Also learned author, you can read history and note heavy support to North Eastern insurgent groups provided by PA from East Pakistan before 1971.

    Regards

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  • Rahul
    Sep 10, 2013 - 2:31AM

    I woudn’t say Pakistan is anti-India per say. It is the ‘Idea of Pakistan’ that is in negation of everything that the ‘Idea of India’ is. India is more than its geography, and the ‘Idea of India’ is older than India itself.

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  • Timorov
    Sep 10, 2013 - 2:42AM

    Trite and rather “not deep” as always Mr. Bangash.

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  • Mukhtar Khan
    Sep 10, 2013 - 2:58AM

    Pakistan is the greatest Islamic nation on the face of this earth, India can not come any where near that. That is the biggest reason.

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  • F
    Sep 10, 2013 - 4:21AM

    The reason for Pakistan, after reading your article, is being an Islamic country – that religious identity is best expressed by being anti India. Being against India are credentials extraordinaire. It is a matter of pride because Muslims believe in one world with no boundaries. Opposing India fuels the nazariya Pakistan.

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  • Vakil
    Sep 10, 2013 - 4:59AM

    I have heard (and read) this several times over the past decade or so that Pakistan is the “world’s biggest migraine” … now whether everyone agrees with this or not, one thing is certain that India is certainly NOT the world’s biggest source of ecstasy … correct? So there we are then — Pakistan is certainly NOT “Not India” !!! So why all this hullabaloo ??? Or is it just to attract readership and angry comments???Recommend

  • Aurangzeb Khan
    Sep 10, 2013 - 5:27AM

    This is the most ridiculous collection of English language I have ever seen.

    I can relate that Dr. Grant and others like her perhaps have been obbsessed with India. Certainly, the now failed (thank God) film industry was obbsessed. High fashion class could not keep their hands off Indian made Sari’s, and other fashion trends.

    Pakistan has always had an Indian gun on her head. India not only have illegally occupied Kashmir, and some other parts of Pakistan land, for more that 60 years now, but have also stolen away and dammed the rivers that were to be left completely alone as a right of Pakistan. In this, India has defied standing notices of the UN, with impunity.

    Out of what obsession did India acquire her nukes? Obsession with China? HAH.

    Nuclear technology is everyone’s right. It is because of these Nukes that India does not dare a frontal confrontation with Pakistan. Let us now concentrate on eliminating Indian terrorism inside Pakistan.Recommend

  • Mir Agha
    Sep 10, 2013 - 6:10AM

    With the comments, it’s easy to tell who’s obsessed and who hates whom. It’s not Pakistan.

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  • RAW is WAR
    Sep 10, 2013 - 6:37AM

    grt article.

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  • aqib
    Sep 10, 2013 - 7:20AM

    @Aurangzeb Khan; Spot on. Frankly, I am a bit concerned as to what the students are getting to hear in Forman Christian College(especially on the greatness and magnanimity of our neighbour to the east).

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  • zoro
    Sep 10, 2013 - 9:52AM

    @ Dr Dang..
    I totally agree with u except a small error in ur judgement …
    Only Pakistan needs the Identity…India already has one … for a long time..

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  • Nisheeth
    Sep 10, 2013 - 11:02AM

    @Raj:
    Only those living in North, Central and Western parts of India are to some extent obsessed with Pakistan.

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  • 12
    Sep 10, 2013 - 11:50AM

    @Mukhtar Khan:
    ha ha ha

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  • Pakistani
    Sep 10, 2013 - 12:00PM

    @Aurangzeb Khan:
    Well said Sir. You have hit the nail on the head.

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  • Ozymandias
    Sep 10, 2013 - 1:24PM

    Mr Bangash. Pakistan (DPC and some sections of media aside) is NOT obsessed with India. This article should have been written in the ’90s, not 2013.

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  • Naveen
    Sep 10, 2013 - 2:40PM

    That’s what Pakistan was designed for, as a semi-colonial Western outpost to keep India as well as Soviet influence in the region under Check. It has performed its duty just fine.

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  • Stranger
    Sep 10, 2013 - 3:49PM

    Wheww an intelligent article at last . May the author’s tribe increase.

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  • jssidhoo
    Sep 10, 2013 - 3:55PM

    @Anjaan: Could not agree with you more . ‘Not India ‘ is a costly obsession forget about India (we parted 65yrs ago) develop your country and look after your people .Prosper and let us prosper .

    0

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  • Ann
    Sep 10, 2013 - 3:59PM

    @Dr Dang:
    Sorry but India’s identity is already too well and deeply established.

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  • Murthy
    Sep 10, 2013 - 4:08PM

    “However, we must also remember that it is the same India that signed the Indus Water Treaty in 1960, giving Pakistan three rivers which it could have easily retained; it is the same India that did not occupy Pakistan in 1971 when it could have”.
    What Pakistan is trying to do constantly is to see to it that the old embers of the discontent are kept on simmering setting aside the most obvious positives quoted above.

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  • Hunter Punter
    Sep 10, 2013 - 4:47PM

    very well written and thoughtful article. Pakistan has to get over its obsession and move forward to an identity of its own. India is far bigger a country and economy, and so just feels annoyed by Pakistan’s sponsoring of jihadis. Otherwise India has no obsession with Pakistan, and does want to have good relations with all its neighbours. India went nuclear, not because it wanted to threaten Pakistan, but to ensure that we have no issues with China. India has never threatened any of its other 6 neighbours in Saarc. fact is that both Pakistan and India have the same problems after 65 years of separation. Both are poor, have illiteracy, have poor infrastructure, have no schools, hospitals, nor social care. There is so much to do to lift the standard of living of the poor in both countries, that it is a waste to waste our meagre resources on being obsessed with the other. Kashmir is a Pakistani obsession, and till it continues with this obsession and illusion of taking it over from India, Pakistan can continue being the same for next 65 years.

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  • Surya
    Sep 10, 2013 - 5:44PM

    Good article. However, I guess you have to accept the fact that Pakistan was created because the people believed they were not Indian. This attitude is a natural followup from the creation of a non-secular country based on faith.

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  • Pakistani
    Sep 10, 2013 - 6:46PM

    @Hunter Punter:
    You are absolutely right!.
    It is high time that all those countries that have had any issues with India should say sorry for their behaviour and promise to behave themselves in future. They should accept the fact that India is the most just and friendly country in the world that has never interfered in any other countries internal affairs nor ever threatened any country. India has never overtly or covertly used it resources to destabilise its neighbours nor it believes in exploiting situations to its advantage. India’s military is just for show as it needs to entertain its crowd with frequent air shows, parades and boat shows.

    India, an oasis of harmony and peace has shown how wealth is evenly distributed, there is no abject poverty, where women are respected etc etc.

    As soon as we all follow the Indian model, there will be peace on earth.

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  • Pakistani
    Sep 10, 2013 - 6:48PM

    @Hunter Punter:
    You are absolutely right.
    It is high time that all those countries that have had any issues with India should say sorry for their behaviour and promise to behave themselves in future. They should accept the fact that India is the most just and friendly country in the world that has never interfered in any other countries internal affairs nor ever threatened any country. India has never overtly or covertly used it resources to destabilise its neighbours nor it believes in exploiting situations to its advantage. India’s military is just for show as it needs to entertain its crowd with frequent air shows, parades and boat shows.

    India, an oasis of harmony and peace has shown how wealth is evenly distributed, there is no abject poverty, where women are respected etc etc.

    As soon as we all follow the Indian model, there will be peace on earth.

    Recommend

  • Farzan
    Sep 10, 2013 - 7:46PM

    India is “Not Pakistan”
    Dude, this is the most ridiculous article I’ve read in months. I don’t know why ET even published it.

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  • Pradhan
    Sep 10, 2013 - 11:27PM

    @Pakistani:

    Only phrase missing on your comment is “With one or two exceptions”. Otherwise you are absolutely correct. :)

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  • Zain
    Sep 11, 2013 - 12:21AM

    @Mukhtar Khan:

    Keep repeating that to yourself and your younger ones and the truth is other way around.

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  • varun
    Sep 11, 2013 - 1:05AM

    Very well written sir,

    i am a true believer or non-violence and also want AMAN between India n Pakistan..19th century was of the Europeans, 20th was of Americans 21th is ment to be for Asians…china is very well working for its development..
    so why not us…y a disputed land is more important then developing that land n people which are under our control…why we become a patriot when it comes to border issues n why we keep calm watching internal troubles in our countries….

    its seriously high time brothers…we all should focus on our developments in terms of education, jobs, sanitation, industrial development to raise our living standard…

    this rivalry has not given anything in the past except loss of lives n billions of money which could have been used for many other purposes in which we both are lacking…
    plz i request every 1 frm both the sides to stop this feeling of hatred…if u cant love each other its better ignore each other…but dont sow this seed in the young bloods….Recommend

  • varun
    Sep 11, 2013 - 1:05AM

    Very well written sir,

    i am a true believer or non-violence and also want AMAN between India n Pakistan..19th century was of the Europeans, 20th was of Americans 21th is ment to be for Asians…china is very well working for its development..
    so why not us…y a disputed land is more important then developing that land n people which are under our control…why we become a patriot when it comes to border issues n why we keep calm watching internal troubles in our countries….

    its seriously high time brothers…we all should focus on our developments in terms of education, jobs, sanitation, industrial development to raise our living standard…

    this rivalry has not given anything in the past except loss of lives n billions of money which could have been used for many other purposes in which we both are lacking…
    plz i request every 1 frm both the sides to stop this feeling of hatred…if u cant love each other its better ignore each other…but dont sow this seed in the young bloods….

    Recommend

  • Ali
    Sep 11, 2013 - 2:18AM

    Why was my response not printed ET? was it because i had a neutral response to this article? I had said that as a Pakistani i had no obsession with India, it was mainly the army types that did. My only concern was what happened in Pakistan and that i had no love or hate for India. If we traded good, if not no problem. And i’m sure aam janta in India feels the same way as us.

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  • Gurion
    Sep 11, 2013 - 11:26AM

    @Raj:

    Bangesh sahab, We Indians are also
    obsessed with Pakistan, although we’re
    in denial about it. :-)

    Sir, speak for yourself

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  • vikas
    Sep 11, 2013 - 6:03PM

    fantastic….couragious article.really liked

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  • Ramanan
    Sep 11, 2013 - 9:16PM

    @fuzzy logic:
    No. I’m Indian. I still think you as my brother… a brother who is in anger with me

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  • Kannan
    Sep 11, 2013 - 9:18PM

    @Mukhtar Khan:
    In fact, India has more Muslims than Pakistan :)

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  • Bakhtiyar Ghazi Khan
    Sep 12, 2013 - 9:53AM

    Instead of obsession, call it survival and self-preservation in the face of a concrete and real threat to our existence.

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  • B A Malik
    Sep 14, 2013 - 9:50AM

    India and Pakistan will never become friends as long as thee are war mongers on both sides of the border
    .

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  • Observer
    Sep 17, 2013 - 12:50AM

    @Aurangzeb Khan:

    ” India not only have illegally occupied Kashmir, and some other parts of Pakistan land, for more that 60 years now,…”

    Kashmir and Pakistan have been part of the ancient Hindu lands for over 5000 years. Are Kashmir and Pakistan Arabia, Persia, Afghanistan or Central Asia? Just because people from these foreign lands invaded and occupied these ancient Hindu lands does not mean they were not Hindu lands.

    The Partition of Pakistan is a done deal and no one wants to reverse that. As for Kashmir, how can India “occupy” a land that has been part of it for over five thousand years? If you mean, that is a Muslim majority state, be reminded that India has a bigger population of Muslims than Pakistan. Why should 4 million Muslims of Kashmir, who really occupied the land in the past 300 years, be any more special than the 180 million muslims of India?

    Recommend

  • Ricky Arora
    Sep 21, 2013 - 7:57AM

    @Mukhtar Khan:
    When people don’t have any reason showing their country is better, they use religion, traditions etc…. to show they are better. The truth is always knwon to such people.

    Recommend

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