Let us clear our heads of all the rage that seems to be emanating from ‘the nation’ (read Arnab Goswami’s studio) and try to see — actually see — what we are up against when we talk of war with our disreputable neighbour Pakistan.
In the ordinary order of things, when a neighbour’s dog bites you, you will go to your neighbour and ask (as sternly as you can afford to, seeing as your house is alongside his/her house and you are going to have to continue living there whether you like it or not) them to keep the dog on a leash. In the situation that we find ourselves in, it seems the dog owns the house and its-so-called owner has rendered himself incapable of doing anything to keep the dog from misbehaving. This metaphor of course relates to the relationship between the Pakistani Army and Pakistan’s toothless civilian Government.
Some people call Pakistan a historical mistake, a country born out of a divisive two-nation theory that should never have come into existence. Others consider Pakistan not so different from us and propose woolly-headed peacenick solutions that have nothing whatsoever to do with reality. For some reason, we seem to have gotten it into our heads that these are the only two things we can do with Pakistan.
With due apologies to any Aman ki Asha hippies that might be reading this, I would like to point out that Pakistan is neither our enemy nor our competitor. Pakistan is in no way our equal. The geographical proximity of Pakistan to us — the world’s largest democracy — is an undeniable fact of course, but that is in no way indicative of any kind of equality between the two countries.
From the day of its inception, Pakistan has based its identity on being anti-India. The young Islamic republic allied with America in the Cold War days because India was chummy with Soviet Russia. It embraced an Arabic identity to distance itself from the Hindu history it shared with us. To this day, one keeps hearing odd noises from inside Pakistan regarding how India’s very presence next door is ruining it. The most recent example being the ban on Indian soap operas on Pakistani television on grounds of ‘negative influence’ on Pakistani society.
Truth is, there is absolutely nothing that Pakistan has and India wants. On the contrary, Pakistan has never been particularly shy about expressing its lust for Kashmir and — on many turbo-Islamist occasions — Delhi itself!
Pakistan is and has been a long-standing annoyance for us. Terrorism emanating from that country has brought us to despair on more than one occasion. But what is also to be understood is that this is a country whose primary exports consist of towels and bedsheets, a country which has spent almost 40 of its 60 post-British years under military rule, a country which has absolutely nothing going for it except its proximity with India.
The only way Pakistan can remain relevant in today’s world is by having something to do with India.
It therefore stands to reason that when Pakistani ‘authorities’ (for lack of a better word) talk of giving India ‘Most Favoured Nation’ status, they are not doing us a favour. Their sportsmen do not do us any favours by coming here to play. Their musicians do not do us any favours by becoming a part of our entertainment industry. It is the exact opposite every single time.
India is the land of opportunity for Pakistan, and Pakistan is a country stupid enough to hate us for it.
So we should perhaps consider breaking out of the mental trap that forces us to think that there are only two ways of dealing with our errant neighbour — loving it or hating it. We can choose the third option and start treating Pakistan with the contempt it deserves.
There is no need to fall in love with the idea of a friendly Pakistan. It will, as it has so often in the past, lead to heartbreak. There is also no need to wage war against an enemy as insignificant as Pakistan. It’s uneconomical overkill. A complete and absolute boycott of Pakistan in all spheres should be more than enough to keep the neighbour’s dog on leash.
If Pakistan cannot be expected to see how much it depends on us, then perhaps it is time we reminded them of it, firmly and sternly.
(This was originally published in Niti Central on January 16, 2013)