The fear that countries feel from their peers is often very different from what humans experience from wild animals in a forest, especially if armed only with stones and sticks.
That at least, was the theory until now. Recent experience and evidence, however, show reality to be somewhat different. The WikiLeaks expose of the US State Department cables tells the story of Pakistan’s paranoia about India. While this has been known for a while, what the cables highlight is the depth of this feeling and the structure of insecurity it has created, something that is making that country take irrational decisions.
For example, in one December 2008 cable, the then US national intelligence officer (NIO) for South Asia, Peter Lavoy, answers questions by representatives of various countries to Nato on the rationality of Pakistan’s support for the Taliban. Apart from the calculation that the Taliban would “prevail in the end”, the feeling in Islamabad, Lavoy said, was that if militants were not supported in their adventures in Afghanistan, they would seek Pakistani targets.
Now, in any country that pays any heed to governance, arming a section of its populace against external enemies, however dangerous the latter may be, would be considered an extremely unwise thing to do. Yet, such is the convoluted logic that prevails east of the Indus, that such ill-conceived measures are acceptable even if the danger from these armed men biting the hands that feed them is real. To top it, the country then supports these militants abroad for the fear that the latter would turn inwards, in case such support was stopped.
Mental and military gymnastics of this kind are only possible in regimes consumed and driven by little else but fear. Pakistan sadly is one such example.
It is here that explanations for the sources of this fear diverge from what is in plain view. The Western view is that enmity between Pakistan and India is responsible. This is simply untrue. Islamabad is victim to its own fears and actions, something with which India has little to do. It is a fact that in all instances of hostility between the two countries, Pakistan initiated hostile conduct. India merely responded in defence.
Beyond these facts, that can be quibbled about endlessly, lie verities that cannot be denied. Pakistan, for all the grandeur of the idea, is an artificial entity. From the belated realization of the fact on the part of Muhammad Ali Jinnah as he lay dying in Ziarat to the men with brass in downtown Rawalpindi, there is no escape from it. It does not behove Indians to say so for a statement of truth is liable to be viewed as an expression of animus. That said, the truth is there for all to see.
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