By Ahmad Khan
The complexities of South Asia’s political and geostrategic environment drives scholars, experts and practitioners from within subcontinent and the West to share their scholarly views on the dynamics of its major component: the India-Pakistan relationship. A relook or revisit to their scholarly work in form of book, biographies and research papers gives us a broad canvas to draw a holistic picture of the ever fragile relationship since the subcontinent partition in 1947. Most of the scholarly work is about studying the dynamics of relationship that have been changing since the Cold War. Such books and research papers discussed the nature of the conflict and the security competition between India and Pakistan as per the understandings of the authors. J.N. Dixit articulated the nature, history and type of relationship between the two archrivals in the subcontinent, in his biographic cum academic style work, India and Pakistan in War Peace (London and New York: Routledge, 2002), 494. The late Khushwant Singh, who studied Indo-Pak relationship dispassionately, lauded Dixit’s systemic study, saying “he knows what he is writing about. He is objective, clear-headed and lucid. He knows his facts and marshalls them with ability.” Singh’s front page endorsement makes Dixit’s work a must-read for those who love to study masala on Indo-Pak relationship. J.N. Dixit was the Indian High Commissioner to Pakistan from 1989 to 1991. He also served as Indian foreign secretary from 1991-1994. His last assignment was the National Security Advisor to the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for a year until his death in 2005.
The main theme of the book is his attempt to explore “the deeper the fault-lines in Pakistani society, the more adversarial became Pakistan’s attitude and policies towards India.” (p7.) The author’s contention about the adversarial relationship in the subcontinent has put Pakistan in the driving seat. The study remained focus on the actions taken by Pakistan to settle territorial disputes with its strategic competitor—India, since its inception. The study has encompassed the history of Indo-Pak relationship, since the “shameful flight” of British Raj from the subcontinent in 1947. Dixit is pretty much convinced in his writing that after the divide, troubles in Pakistan have strongly impinged upon the relationship towards India. The author has determinedly written that most of the Congress leadership wasn’t in favor of the partition. In fact, the literature survey on Indo-Pak history does suggest the same kind of findings. However, little has been discussed on the Muslim League point of view of having a separate homeland for the Muslims of subcontinent, or for their attempts to have a loose federation with their support of the 1946 Cabinet Mission Plan.
In the beginning of the book, the author tells his meeting with Cowasji Jehangir. The author gives compliments to Jehangir for providing a “post facto rationale” for the book. He quotes Jehangir stating that the objective of the partition of subcontinent was fruitless and unable to meet its desire goals. The writer underpinned his book of being one of the critiques of the Partition. Likewise, he also argued that Mohammad Ali Jinnah and Jawaharlal Nehru wanted to end the “antagonism, apprehension, and suspicion” towards each other. However, according to the main theme of the book; which suggests Pakistan being the driving force behind the changing dynamics of the relationship; exactly the opposite has occurred as inspired by Jinnah and Nehru at the time of partition. Dixit stressed that the subcontinent remained vulnerable, hostile, fragile, and volatile than ever before. The Indo-Pak mistrust and rivalry created more hostility and belligerency in the region. The writer, who has enjoyed top position at highest rung of decision-making body in India for several years, pinned down his first-hand knowledge regarding some of the decisions taken by Indian leadership at the time of numerous crises. In fact, the book which is all about Indo-Pak relationship in peace and war, accounted all three wars fought in the region, as well as the Kargil conflict.
The whole study pivots around criticizing and demonizing Pakistan as the source of troubles in the region, and hence the spoiler of peace. The main theme of the writer seemingly organized the whole study to discuss the internal politics of the Pakistan as a spillover effect on its brittle relationship with India. The writer discuss the internal politics of Pakistan in two chapters “the break-up of Pakistan: Mujibnagar to Simla—the Advent of Zia-ul-Haq” and “Coup to Coup: Pakistan 1972-1999.” The chapters are written under the umbrella of his hypothetical statement labeling Pakistan for creating friction with India. Similarly, the author also discussed about the nuclearization of South Asia. He explicitly discussed the post-1998 situation in a very cognitive manner. In the middle of the book the writer discussed the strategic culture of the two regional rivals. However, as his hypothesis focuses on Pakistan, he remained biased towards its role. He discussed the role of Pakistan in Agra Summit and other negotiation processes. Interesting, the writer is pretty much convinced that it was military which didn’t accept the 1999 Lahore Declaration wholeheartedly. Likewise, the writer also blamed former President General Pervaiz Musharaff behind the fruitless 2001 Agra Summit. At the end of the study, J.N. Dixit stressed that the 9/11 terrorist attacks brought a complete transformation in the international security environment, and significantly impacted on the entire matrix of the Indo-Pakistan relationship. He opined 9/11 also impinged upon Musharraf’s decision to end the “three-and-a-half decades of incremental Islamisation of Pakistani civil society and Pakistan’s power structure resulted in this mindset.” (p412.) In last chapter, the author suggests that “India faces a complex predicament in dealing with Pakistan.” (p430.) In fact, study seems to end on this particular statement of his that “there is no clear shift in Pakistan’s India policies,” as he was criticizing Musharraf for still harboring terrorist groups in the country to fight a proxy war with India in the disputed territory of Jammu and Kashmir.
Analysis: It is always interesting to read an Indian perspective on the Indo-Pak relationship and J.N. Dixit’s analysis, accounts and knowledge on this particular relationship are noteworthy. However, every writer while articulating its narrative or knowledge on the issue, always comes with some certain preferences and biases. The book is relevant to study the period of war and peace between India and Pakistan before the 21st century. Interestingly, the book covers the major part of Indo-Pak history. The author main theme was about societal fault-lines in Pakistan having a spillover effect on Indo-Pak relations. There are societal fault-lines in India too. Hindu extremist party always threaten Pakistan which are strongly intercepted in Pakistani society, In fact, the occupation of Jammu and Kashmir by the Indian forces draw strong sentimental and emotions with the Pakistani society towards Kashmiris.
Unfortunately, Pakistan fault-lines get too much attention in the book while ignoring some profound historical factors. It is interesting to mention that the author completely neglected the economic and military condition of Pakistan right after independence. Dixit neglected to mention Indian leadership’s dismissive views towards Pakistan’s sovereignty and survival, as well as lingering of Kashmir dispute, setting the stage for a bitter rivalry. The author completely wiped-off Indian involvement in creating Mukti-Bahini (first ever non-state entity in South Asia) in East Pakistan during late 1960s raising tensions with Islamabad. Also, the author downplayed the Indian promise of giving Kashmiris for vote to exercise their right of self-determination per UNSC Resolutions. These are some of the issues that should have been embedded with rest of the arguments in the book. The book was more anecdotal in its content due to a significant lack of academic references. The book is more like a biographic cum research book based on personal experiences of the author and more or less gives a summary of the Indian political elite’s perceptions and apprehensions towards Pakistan. J.N. Dixit’s diplomatic background and positions meant that whatever he wrote would have to be steadfast to the official line when writing this book.
Nonetheless, it is a worthy read to understand the Indian diplomatic corps stratagem on dealing with Pakistan and their role in the decision-making processes for the political government in New Delhi.
Note: Ahmad Khan is a PhD. student in National Defence University, Islamabad. Twitter Handle @ahmadkhan000