If Pakistan collapses... By Amulya Ganguli 03 Aug 2009 12:18:00 AM IST Notwithstanding high-minded advice to the contrary, it is more than likely that a section of Indians have been experiencing a feeling of schadenfreude about Pakistan. This undeniably unwholesome sense of enjoyment over its troubles may have grown because of the realisation that even as Pakistan battles its own demons, it hasn’t quite stopped regarding India as its main enemy. It isn’t only the army that sustains this view for its own self-serving purpose, even the civil society is not totally immune from this assessment. It is the longstanding belief amidst this class about India’s supposedly malign intentions that have helped the army to fashion its policies accordingly. This perception may have grown because of a sense of inferiority complex over India’s size, democracy, cultural diversity and greater military prowess. It has probably become deeper in recent years because of its economic buoyancy and growing status as a regional power. Pakistan’s earlier hope of being treated as India’s equal, which was encouraged by the Americans, is now gone. Islamabad had never shown any inclination for genuine friendship with India. The menace of fundamentalism was encouraged by the Pakistani establishment to bleed India with a thousand cuts, to quote a familiar jihadi phrase, when it realised that it couldn’t win a war after the 1971 defeat. Along with China, Pakistan poses the most serious threat to India’s since 1947. That Islamabad and Beijing are nuclear powers adds to the danger. Arguably, a majority of the ordinary people of Pakistan do not harbour any ill-will towards India. But Pakistan’s terrorist-military combine certainly does along with a measure of tacit endorsement from the civilian elite. This was evident when the Pakistani TV channels refused to acknowledge what India said about the Mumbai mayhem and some analysts even blamed India for the attack on the Sri Lankan cricketers. If India had been provoked into starting a war after 26/11, then China would have in all probability stepped in to grab southern Tibet, which is their name for Arunachal Pradesh, an objective which was openly stated by one of Beijing’s commentators. Even if India’s show of restraint defused the situation, there is every possibility that Islamabad may follow the same tack again. Against the background of this potent threat from Islamabad with China palpably becoming more aggressive than before, the old arguments about India favouring a prosperous and democratic Pakistan are wearing thin. Democracy is not Pakistan’s natural form of government, as it isn’t in most Islamic countries, except Turkey. Even there, it is the army’s support for secularism along with Kemal Ataturk’s extraordinary legacy, which has ensured the survival of democracy, but the threat from the Islamists is always there. In Pakistan, as the experience of the Zardari-Gilani government shows, the chances of a civilian administration acquiring the genuine powers of governance are remote. The army will continue to call the shots in the foreseeable future and will have no hesitation in pursuing clandestine operations to undermine India even as the civilian leaders of the two countries engage in a dialogue. The army will lose its raison d’etre without holding up India as a permanent threat. The alternative picture of a disintegrating Pakistan is not all that disheartening. For a start, such a scene will be devoid of the sham of negotiations under the pretence that the Pakistan army, the ISI and their strategic assets, the terrorists, are waiting eagerly for peace to break out. It is clear that the objective of making borders irrelevant, as once suggested by Manmohan Singh, cannot be pursued as long as the military nurtures the jihadis and China waits to pounce the moment when India appears to be in serious trouble. If Pakistan falls apart, two purposes will be served — at least in the immediate future. First, China will lose its all-weather friend. It is this possibility that may have made Beijing more assertive in recent years. Al-Qaeda’s interest in the Xinjiang unrest is another factor that is likely to make Beijing reassess its options. Secondly, the Pakistan army will be too embroiled in quelling the internal upheaval in a disintegrating country to think of provoking India. True, an imploding Pakistan will become even more of an epicentre of terrorism than at present. But this will be only a matter of degree. Terrorists are already well-entrenched in the Af-Pak region with Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar living in safe houses. A formal collapse of the civilian government in Islamabad will not make much of a difference. In a way, it will be a return to the colonial period when the British found virtually the entire area ungovernable. The only difference between then and now is Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal. But the Americans probably have a contingency plan to take them out. However, the terrorists themselves may not have as much of a free run as they may initially expect since the Baloch and Sindhi nationalists will also come out in the open. This group will also be wary of a Pakhtun upsurge in the guise of fundamentalism. For India and the rest of the world, the scene may well become less confusing, for there will no longer be a dysfunctional state trying to pretend that it hasn’t failed, or an army which prefers to run with the hare and hunt with the hounds. Instead, the ensuing chaos may well enable the US and the NATO forces to act with greater purposefulness to eliminate the terrorists, who will no longer have the Pakistan army trying to ensure that they are not totally destroyed. The maelstrom may even prepare the ground for a new geopolitical mosaic with the Pakhtun areas going over to Afghanistan and Sindh moving closer to India. Of the two Islamic countries that emerged in the subcontinent in 1947 and 1971, Bangladesh has acquired an element of stability because it never chased the chimera of parity with India. Its gentle Bengali culture with its leitmotif of somnolent villages and waterlogged paddy fields also nurtured a benign form of Islam far different from the sanguinary tribal concepts of war and revenge, which have long been characteristic of the deserts and mountains of the northwest. In all probability, Bangladesh will prove more durable than ‘moth-eaten’ (Jinnah’s words) Pakistan even if the Quaid-e-Azam’s focus was more on the latter. Just as the Soviet Union collapsed because of the strain of matching America’s might, Pakistan is falling apart because of its antagonism towards India. There is little India can do to save it. The only pity is that the Mohenjodaro and Harappan sites may be destroyed like the Bamiyan Buddhas by the religious zealots, thereby confirming the collapsing country’s image as a state that never knew whether it belonged to the subcontinent with its tolerant traditions or to the less benign West Asia.