Recently, “India vs Pakistan: Why can’t we just be friends?”, the third book of Husain Haqqani, Pakistan’s ex-ambassador to the US, was published in India. The book in five chapters is without proper referencing, and is a hodgepodge of Haqqani’s views already published in various publications.
The first two chapters expose his lack of basic understanding of given issues. For instance, on page 24, chapter one, “We can either be more than friends or become more than enemies” Haqqani writes: “[I]t was argued that the boundary in Punjab had deliberately been drawn in a way that provided India access to Kashmir by land. Although Pakistan had played its cards poorly in securing accession of Kashmir, the loss of the Muslim-majority state was attributed to a British-Indian conspiracy rather than poor planning on the part of the Muslim League.” Here, Haqqani overlooks the fact that as per the June 3, 1947 plan, the partition was supposed to be governed by the matter of principle and not by the matter of shrewdness or manipulation done by any political party to grab as much area as possible.
By giving India road access to Kashmir, the Radcliffe Award published on August 17, 1947, violated the trust pinned on the committee, and hence cleared the path for India to take hold of Kashmir under whatever ruse. The story of India’s having the Instrument of Accession signed by Maharaja Hari Singh, the ruler of the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir, came weeks later that on October 26.
Similarly, on page 39, Haqqani writes that Indira Gandhi was “magnanimous at Shimla” with Pakistan by giving concessions through the Shimla Agreement 1972. Here, Haqqani evades the fact that the price of Gandhi’s magnanimity was the relegation of the Kashmir issue from an international standing to a bilateral spot, as articulated in the United Nation (UN) Resolution 1172 passed on June 6, 1998.
Similarly, on page 44, chapter two, “Kashmir is Pakistan’s jugular vein,” Haqqani writes: “Pakistanis speak about Jammu and Kashmir emotionally as a matter of right and wrong, not in the context of realpolitik.” Here Haqqani overlooks the fact that the then prime minister of India Jawaharlal Nehru made a pledge on November 2, 1947 with the people of Kashmir, and reiterated the same on December 31 to hold a plebiscite under an international neutral body to let them express their wishes freely about the future of their princely state. The primary thing for Kashmiris was the promise of Nehru, whereas what is written in the UN resolutions or in the Shimla agreement is of secondary importance. By reneging on the promise, India breached the trust of Kashmiris. This point made Kashmiris feel cheated, and this was how India lost credibility in the eyes of Kashmiris, a reason for frequent unrest in the Indian-held Kashmir. Instead of addressing Pakistanis, Haqqani should inform Kashmiris that they are the victim of India’s realpolitik, a system of politics that disregards morality.
The next two chapters of the book have more blatant contradictions. For instance, on page 73, chapter three, “We should use the nuclear bomb,” Haqqani writes: “India’s nuclear programme also originated not out of a regional rivalry, but from the argument that non-proliferation should be global.” However, on page 81, he contradicts his excuse: “In a letter to US President Bill Clinton, Vajpayee spoke only of China as the major threat to India and that was to secure US support, given US concerns about potential long-term rivalry with China in the Indo-Pacific region.” Interestingly, about Pakistan, on page 101, Haqqani writes: “Pakistan built nuclear weapons in its uncompromising quest for parity with India and in response to its fear psychosis about India wanting to undo Partition.” It is as if the matter of parity and any fear psychosis of India were absent in India’s response towards China.
On page 102, Haqqani gives a solution: “For its part, India has done little to reassure Pakistanis and to take away the justification for a nuclear arms race.” However, on the question if India can reassure Pakistanis to forgo the yearning for parity and shun fear psychosis, why China cannot reassure Indians the same, the book is silent.
Similarly, on page 111, chapter four, “Terrorism = Irregular Warfare,” Haqqani writes: “India’s role in helping Bangladesh win independence, including the role of R&AW, is well documented. Equally well documented is the ill-treatment of Bengalis by Pakistan’s Punjab-based leaders, which paved the way for plans by R&AW’s founding chief, Rameshwar Nath Kao, to train and equip the Bangladesh liberation army, the Mukti Bahini. The lesson to be learned from the Bangladesh war should have been to avoid creating disgruntled citizens who might become insurgents trained by a hostile neighbour.” However, on page 128, Haqqani states, “India could, but has so far been unable to, reach out to the Pakistani people and convince them that it does not seek Pakistan’s break-up and only seeks good neighbourly ties.”
Interestingly, on the one hand, Haqqani cites an example how India exploited the situation in East Pakistan to separate it from West Pakistan, while on the other, he asks India to placate (West) Pakistanis that India was not conspiring against Pakistan. Haqqani overlooks the fact that both Pakistan and India are composed of multi-ethnic and multi-linguistic populations that may get disgruntled on one reason or another in the post-partition phase. If a country exploits the discontented elements of its neighbour, a wrong precedent is established, as India set in 1971. However, on the question if Pakistan reciprocates in the same vein why Pakistan is accused of launching an irregular warfare, the book is silent.
On page 153, chapter five, “The space for friendship is shrinking,” Haqqani writes: “All nations have sovereign equality in international law but realpolitik demands acknowledgement of the difference of size between nations.” Throughout the book, Haqqani superimposes realpolitik on everything to justify India’s malevolence, and here he once again banks on the same to reveal that the criterion of fathoming a nation’s worth was in fact its size, the idea not known to the UK when it was offsetting Germany in Europe.
The writer is a freelance columnist and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org