Home > Opinion > Columns > Opinion | India must be wary of its fretting and fuming neighbour

In Alan Furst’s Night Soldiers, Leon Trotsky is cited as saying, “You may not be interested in war but war is interested in you". All popular sayings and statements may not necessarily be true, but the lessons contained there are always useful.

I recalled this dialogue from the novel because Pakistan’s fascination with war has now become an obsession. Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan even went on to threaten India with a nuclear war, first in its parliament, and for the second time following US President Donald Trump’s assertion, in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, that Kashmir is a bilateral issue between India and Pakistan. In a hurry, Khan addressed the nation and, once again, mentioned the threat of a nuclear war and warned that the entire world will have to suffer its consequences. He threatened the entire world along with India. He did not stop at that.

On 30 August, Khan went on to say that even the United Nations remains quiet over the issue of atrocities against Muslims. It’s clear, he did not get any support from the Muslim countries on the Kashmir issue, hence, he is challenging their pride.

Despite Khan’s bravado, the reality is that he is a weak prime minister. He did not get an absolute majority in the last elections. Rawalpindi’s military establishment used all means to get the parliamentary math in Khan’s favour. And Khan, in turn, showed his gratitude by extending the tenure of army chief Qamar Waheed Bajwa for three years. Such coordination between the army and administration was seen after a long time in Pakistan. The on-off relationship between previous prime minister Nawaz Sharif and the army is well known.

This nexus creates scepticism because Pakistan is an inherently sceptical country. Muhammad Ali Jinnah might have succeeded in creating a country on religious grounds, but this nation has not been able to keep itself united for 25 years. With the emergence of Bangladesh in 1971, Jinnah’s two-nation theory also became meaningless. While leaders, journalists and so-called scholars continued to vouch for Muslim fraternity, the truth is that ISI has been responsible for separatist activities in neighbouring Iran and Afghanistan as well . The mercenary fighters trained by Pakistan military establishment to cause unrest and violence in the neighbouring countries, damaged and harmed Pakistan, too. Such elements sparked religious frenzy, stifled progressive and liberal ideas and became so powerful that at times they even challenged the military establishment of Rawalpindi. When General Parvez Musharraf tried to overthrow them, a conspiracy was hatched to blow him up. He narrowly escaped the attack near Rawalpindi.

This doublespeak by Pakistan’s political leaders has made it hollow from within. In the early 1980s, its per capita income was higher than India, but its attempt to fight a proxy war with its neighbours has hurt its economy. Like India, Pakistan also has a large number of youth in its population, but about one-third of the children there are deprived of any kind of formal education and about 25% of the people live below the poverty line. This is the reason that people running the business of terror there do not face any problem in recruiting and creating suicide squads.

The circumstances in India are exactly the opposite. Indians have not only progressed inside the country, but have also proved their worth in the entire world. A research conducted in the US in 2014-2015 revealed that people of Indian origin constituted only 1% of the total population there. But while 28% of ordinary American youth were graduates, 67% of Indian-origin youth were able to graduate or get a higher educational qualification. It also had a positive impact on individual income.

According to the research, the average income of a common American was $50,000, while people of Indian origin were earning $90,000 on an average. Strobe Talbot, a former deputy foreign secretary of the US, did not say it without reason that India is not just a regional, but a world power.

Ideally, Pakistan should have taken a lesson or two from India and Indians, but the India-obsessed generals there opted for quite the opposite.

This month, 74 years have passed since the catastrophe of the Second World War. People right from World War I were not interested in war but the war was absolutely interested in them. We will have to admit.

Long before the first shot is fired on the battleground, the war already starts in the minds of the political rulers. We will have to be watchful of our fretting and fuming neighbour. It has already imposed on us four wars.

Shashi Shekhar is editor-in-chief of Hindustan.

The views expressed are personal.

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