August the month in which India and Pakistan threw off the colonial yoke and became independent states inevitably leads to a remembrance of the bitter legacy of a botched and bloody partition and the state of relations between the two neighbors with their history of hostility and protracted and intractable conflict. August 2015 was no exception.
William Dalrymple from his nest in India wrote an account of the 1947 partition and the events surrounding it. His was a historical piece and he ended on a positive note with the hope that in the future the two states could begin to improve their relations. No doubt he based his hopes on the tentative steps being taken by both countries to start a dialogue. Unfortunately there are many who are bent on muddying the waters and creating situations that would ensure a continuity of hostility and conflict. Neither Pakistan nor India would sponsor such events as it is not in their interests at all. Non state actors and militant radical organizations on both sides would however want an environment in which they thrive.
Three other articles in August are important because they are keyed to the present environment and not anchored in the past. Pakistan’s Shocking Strategic Shift by Sameer Lalwani, How Pakistan is Tightening its Grip on the Taleban by Lisa Curtis and Pakistan Beginning to Renounce its Volatile Ways By Russ Wellen are all significant and clearly make out a strong case for Pakistan. The authors all agree that the present reality is that Pakistan has changed track and is now actively pursuing a genuine and positive counter terror strategy that is in the best interests of the region and indeed the world. The reality is that Pakistan has changed strategic direction and its new strategy is a game changing strategy. Mr Lalwani is moving to the Stimson Center soon and his analysis of Pakistan is simply brilliant.
Not enough has been said however about the uncertain and hostile environment in which Pakistan was forced to adopt strategies to safe guard its interests. It would be futile to rehearse history but certain events need to be flagged. The indigenous uprising against Indian atrocities in Kashmir, India’s role in the secession of Pakistan’s eastern province, the Sikh uprising in Kashmir and the bloodbath of Sikhs in Delhi after the assassination of India’s Prime Minister by her Sikh bodyguards, India’s disastrous intervention in Sri Lanka that led to the assassination of another Indian Prime Minister, the killing of thousands of Muslims in Gujerat state under Mr Modi’s stewardship, the rise of radical Hindu nationalism that led to the burning alive of Pakistanis in the train called the Samjotha Express and India’s sponsorship of violence and sectarian conflict in Pakistan through Afghanistan and its hand in the bid to destroy Karachi and Baluchistan. These policies and the uncertainty of the US intervention and policies in Afghanistan and Iraq led Pakistan to do what it could to safeguard its security, foreign policy and economic interests.
Two other articles published in August deserve mention. Not because they are scholarly or positive but because they are totally divorced from reality and most completely biased against Pakistan. The first one is Pakistan’s Strategic Shift is Pure Fiction by Christine Fair and the other is An Unworthy Ally-Time for Washington to cut Pakistan Loose by Christine Fair and Sumeet Ganguly.. Ms Fair is by now a known Pakistan hater and her latest wisdom undoubtedly stems from her recent longish sojourn in India. With her motives totally suspect no one takes her seriously. The surprise is that Mr Sumit Ganguly has joined hands with her perhaps because having lost her credentials she needed some backup. Both articles unashamedly dredge up the past, distort it, completely gloss over India’s past strategies and based on this foundation of sand make out the case that Pakistan has not changed track at all and that Washington should take note of this and cut relations with Pakistan. Whether Washington listens to this minority of two is not important but what is important is that these two authors are presenting the view that Washington like them is blind to what is happening in Pakistan today and does not know how recent events are inspiring hope in the millions that inhabit the sub -continent. It would be folly to give any importance to these articles and to Ms Fair with her obsessive fantasies. The less said the better. Such inspired foolishness is best ignored.
Pakistan is forging solid civil military relations, its democracy stands strengthened, it has stabilized its economy, it is actively seeking good bilateral relations with its neighbors, it wants strategic relations with Washington and China, It is reaching out and reciprocating outreach by Afghanistan, the National Security Advisers of India and Pakistan are meeting and Mr Modi is scheduled to visit Islamabad next year. There is no guarantee that this progress will be sustained but the hope is that there will be positive movement and that these steps will achieve traction. This is what Ms Fair and others of her ilk fear and for that reason they should be considered irrelevant. Ms Fair and her friends may think that their shallow ventures will please India but the fact is that they demean and belittle India perhaps because her sponsors are old hats with outdated mindsets.