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To Explain Why India & Pak Can Never Be Friends


by Ramananda Sengupta


Former Pakistani ambassador to the US, who lives in exile in that country after the Memogate scandal, has again hit the headlines with his new book, India vs Pakistan: Why Can’t We Just Be Friends?


Husain Haqqani is no stranger to controversy. The former Pakistani ambassador to the United States, who lives in exile in that country after the Memogate scandal, has again hit the headlines with his new book, India vs Pakistan: Why Can’t We Just Be Friends?

But first, for those who have forgotten, a bit on Memogate. In May 2011, US SEAL Team Six took out Osama Bin Laden in Abbottabad, a three-hour drive from Islamabad.

Days later, Haqqani, who was Pakistan’s ambassador to the US at the time, approached the Americans with a memo seeking to prevent a military coup in Islamabad, and offering Washington a carte blanche in his country if they helped bring the army to heel.

His conduit was his old friend, millionaire Mansoor Ijaz, a Pakistani-American businessman and columnist with political and security contacts including the Clintons and senior officials in the Obama Administration.

Ijaz, following Haqqani’s assurance that the memo had the support of Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari, took it to former United States National Security Advisor James Logan Jones, who in turn passed it on to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen.

(A decade earlier, apparently with then President Bill Clinton’s blessings, Ijaz had met senior political and military leaders from India, Pakistan, and Kashmir in an attempt to broker a ceasefire in Kashmir. In November 2000, in his first full-length interview, Ijaz described himself as “reclusive thinker with a cause who seeks to help disenfranchised people wherever they may be,” and told me that “Pakistan has too much blood invested in Kashmir to ever walk away quietly.” In other words, India does not.)

In October 2011, Ijaz wrote a column for The Financial Times, London, referring to the memo by a “senior Pakistani diplomat” which he had passed on to Mullen. The initial disbelief in Pakistan was replaced by virulent rage when Ijaz backed up his claim with records of his conversations with Haqqani from his Blackberry messenger.

In November, Haqqani resigned.

“It is not congruent with the national interests of Pakistan to have a clever-by-half ambassador and a deficient-by-full president,” Ijaz told Newsweek a few days later. “OK, not everybody has to be a fucking rocket scientist in all of this but at least be honest to the people about what you’re doing and own up to your actions instead of covering them up.”

In a November 18 interview to Geo News, Haqqani broke down. “There is nothing more painful for a Pakistani than having people call him a traitor,” he said. “My mother is buried in a military graveyard, my father served in the Pakistan Army, my brother served in the Pakistan Army. My political views may be different from others but to accuse me of being a traitor because of that—that hurts.”

Insisting that the whole episode was a misunderstanding, Haqqani stayed on in the United States. He is currently the Director for South and Central Asia at the Hudson Institute, Washington DC.

‘India vs Pakistan: Why Can’t We Just Be Friends?’, which released last month, attempts to answer the question in its title in just under 175 pages.

The book caused a slight stir in India, because it claims that soon after the 26/11 siege of Mumbai, the then ISI chief, Lt Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha, had told Haqqani at his official residence in Washington that “the people involved in the attack was ours, but it was not our operation.”

“A provocative and controversial history, revealing the depth of the links between the Army and Islamic radicals” says the back page blurb attributed to the BBC. But it is a lot more than that.

Haqqani, by virtue of having served as ‘adviser to four Pakistani Prime Ministers’, had insider access to the highest echelons of government there. In this book, he argues that it is Pakistan’s pathological obsession about parity with India which keeps alive the intense enmity between the two nations, and exposes the perfidies of that nation through some fascinating insider insights, anecdotes, and historical detail.

In a chapter on the nuclear issue, he quotes a ‘depressed’ brigadier who believes India should be nuked, swearing that he doesn’t mind if his own children get wiped out in the Indian retaliation.

He also quotes the infamous AQ Khan, the ‘father’ of Pakistan’s nuclear bomb, as saying that Pakistanis and Indians were essentially different because ‘We are Muslims, they are Hindus. We eat cows, they worship cows. That we lived on the same land and spoke the same language does not make us the same people.”

Kashmir, says Haqqani, is not the cause of conflict between the two states, but rather a symptom of it. And “the strong belief in the righteousness of Pakistan’s claim on Kashmir has never been accompanied by a coherent strategy or a well-considered endgame to get it.”

On the face of it, this book guarantees that Haqqani will not get a hero’s welcome if he ever returns to Pakistan.

But a deeper reading reveals a disturbing, if not downright sinister subplot.

A few excerpts are needed to understand this:

On the nuclear issue: “India, singleminded in its quest for global power status, has never been willing to discuss, let alone make any concessions on nuclear issues that could dampen the nuclear competition in the subcontinent…” and “India, intent on seeing itself in global rather than regional terms, seems willing to ignore the dangers inherent in possession of nuclear weapons by two bitter neighbours.”

On Kashmir: While Pakistani has been reacting ‘emotionally’, without a real game plan, “India has been more deliberate in each move on the strategic chessboard. It has made and violated promises as part of a considered blueprint…whether by force or by consent, India has gradually integrated the Kashmiri population into the Indian nation.”

On the fallout of Partition: Despite Gandhi’s belief that Pakistanis needed to be won over, “Nehru and his powerful Home Minister Sardar Vallabhai Patel, however, treated Pakistan more with the disdain that Mughal emperors showed towards their renegade provinces…” thus sparking resentment and concerns over Indian intentions in Pakistan.

It gets far more overt in the final chapter, titled ‘The Space for Friendship is Shrinking’.

“In recent years, India and Pakistan are increasingly resembling each other in rage, resentment, and public displays of religion,” avers Haqqani. “Differences between a ‘secular India’ and a ‘semi-theocratic’ Pakistan are still obvious but they are looking a little less pronounced.”

The ending clinches it. “The Pakistani Poet Fehmida Riaz in her poem ‘Tum bilkul hum jaise nikle’ (Turned out you were just like us) reflects the wistfulness of secular Pakistanis who, while working for Pakistan to overcome its religious passions and fury, have ended up having to see India become more like Pakistan.”

In other words, while denouncing Pakistan for constantly seeking parity with India, Haqqani subtly manages to do just that.

I am sorry, Mr Haqqani, but ‘hum bilkul aap jaise nahin hain’. We are not like you at all.