Pakistan and Indonesia are Different Countries

The perceptive Sadanand Dhume in his article “A Model for Pakistans Revival” draws parallels between Pakistan and Indonesia, and uses the dramatic transformation of Indonesia as a reason for optimism and the way forward in South Asia. Dhume cites the current stability and prosperity in Indonesia and points out:

Consider the parallels between yesterday’s Indonesia and today’s Pakistan. Sukarno’s Indonesia was the region’s problem child: unhappy with its borders, tilted toward an authoritarian power (China), and infested by a totalitarian ideology (communism). Today Islamabad pursues so-called strategic depth in Afghanistan and won’t quite abandon obsolete ambitions in Indian Kashmir. It leans toward “all-weather friend” China even as its economy stagnates and radical Islam eats away at society and the state.

 While at first look the similarities are uncanny, the example cited is not remarkable: If one wants to cite examples of poorly governed countries with poor economies turning around, there is South Korea. If you want the example of a Muslim country which turned its economy around, it could be Saudi Arabia in the 60s and 70s. An example of a Muslim country without oil achieving this feat could be Turkey. Essentially what I am arguing is that such a parallel between Pakistan and Indonesia does not quite capture the very basis of all that ails Pakistan: Her identity which will cause a perpetual instability in the eastern border and her geography which will cause a perpetual instability in her western border. On the subject of Identity:

Commentators who wish to explain Pakistan’s seemingly irrational behavior—Supporting the destabilization of Afghanistan and her affinity towards China*—frequently attribute it to Pakistan’s security anxieties vis-a-vis India. This is not an accurate explanation: Nuclear bombs and ballistic missiles have ruled out India-Pakistan wars of the magnitude which cleaved Bangladesh away from Pakistan. Therefore, possibility of conflicts which challenge the existence of Pakistan itself is ruled out and in this sense the conflict has stabilized. Then why does Pakistan still pursue avenues which give it strategic advantage over India? The only possible explanation would be the pursuit of India’s defeat rather than the pursuit of any guarantees of Pakistan’s survival. This is because:

Pakistan views herself as the ideological progeny of the Mughal empire, with an unfinished agenda of conquering the subcontinent. Abandoning this endeavour would mean accepting the eventual supremacy of India (simply due to her demographics and geographical area) which would be interpreted (in Pakistan) as the defeat of the religion itself. This is unthinkable. Furthermore, abandoning this identity of Pakistan is unthinkable. This is the first “circular” conundrum.

This is essentially what sets the India-Pakistan conflict apart from seemingly similar conflicts, and can end only with the ideological collapse of one of the adversaries — in this sense it resembles the US-Soviet cold-war conflict (which ended with the collapse of the USSR) than the Turkey-Greece or Egypt-Israel conflict (where the adversaries realized the futility of conflict and the economic advantages of peace). This is the first objection that I have towards Dhume’s prescription: Convincing Pakistan of the benefits of peace and working with her to de-radicalize her society and re-structure the economy to bring stability, would have as much success as attempting to talk the Soviet Union out of the Cold-war, by convincing the Soviet Union to abandon communism.

The “Convincing Pakistan of the benefits of peace” part is an order of magnitude harder than what US has achieved in Indonesia and elsewhere. In the pursuit of this “Convincing” strategy, US has failed in an even more dangerous way: She has armed Pakistan (to address the “insecurity vis-a-vis India” thesis), which will eventually serve as a catalyst for more conflict (due to the “defeat of India” pursuit) rather than less conflict.

The second part of Pakistan’s problem is her Geography. The land that is Pakistan today, has neither been a viable entity nor had peace with Afghanistan except during periods of economic linkages and power projection from the Gangetic Plain. Astute observers of history will not fail to notice the fact that:

Peace between Pakistan and a strong Afghanistan is possible only with a strong Pakistan-India military alliance. In the absence of this alliance, peace is possible only with a destabilized Afghanistan. However an Afghanistan under perpetual Pakistani hegemony is possible only with strong economy in Pakistan, which is impossible without strong economic linkages with India. This is the second “circular” conundrum.

Ergo, Pakistan is not Indonesia. Therefore, any solution to create stability in the region will not have “Sell the idea of economic prosperity to Pakistan” as the first step. If anything, Pakistan is the Gordian Knot, which can be cut only by a revolution inside Pakistan first — that too a revolution of the good kind. But this is no reason to abandon optimism. Being the optimist that yours sachly is, I will wait till the region collapses into a rubble and then rebuilds itself into a stable and viable entity.

___________________________________
*Pakistan shares no common grounds or linkages with China on the basis of race, religion, values or geography (except of course the tiny strip of a perilous highway). The single point of convergence with China is the shared hostility towards India. Even there, both countries disagree about the magnitude of hostility. While China is content with an India that cannot drain her resources through economic and territorial challenges, Pakistan wishes to bet her very survival towards besting India.
Advertisements

16 thoughts on “Pakistan and Indonesia are Different Countries

  1. Well argued!
    About this:
    “The land that is Pakistan today, has neither been a viable entity nor had peace with Afghanistan except during periods of economic linkages and power projection from the Gangetic Plain”

    The British expended a lot of ‘development’ on Punjab in the period 1860-1940. The British built
    a far flung canal system, converting dry regions previously inhabited by nomadic grazing communities into fertile cultivable land(making Punjab India’s ‘breadbasket’ in pre-Partition era) with new towns and a strong agriculture-based economy. The British also ‘settled’ some of the North West frontier tribes and raised a viable army from the region. Those changes might have changed the viability factor of the land that is Pakistan today.

    Also, it might be only Indians and Americans who feel Pakistan has irrational policy. Maybe it is India and America which are doing something wrong. Neither US nor India is rich enough to incessantly wage war for 30 years and to keep talking of collective action for continuing war against 2 neighbours and 1 superpower -while avoiding all collective action for their economies, jobs, education and state services. OTOH Pakistan is able to do this.

    • As I recall, during the early 40s, the British had considerable doubts about the military-economic viability of the proposed Pakistan. I’m sure those doubts are amply expressed in the Transfer of Power papers. If I recall, one of them even rather presciently estimated how much of the new nation’s budget would have to go into defense. Basically the rest of British India was subsidizing what is now Pakistan for defense of the north-west frontier, and partition would abolish that subsidy.

      • Yes true. The British had a relatively benign revenue policy in Punjab. Moreover military manpower from the Punjab/NWFP region was paid for by the rest of India, according to Ambedkar. Additionally, the cash payoffs to FATA tribes so that they kept peace were also coming in from outside the region.

        But since then, I surmise that the agricultural economy provided a base for industrialization around cities in Punjab, Balochistan/Sindh’s gas reserves were made use of(Pakistanis have piped gas to their homes) and Karachi having grown in size is probably much more economically vibrant compared to before independence. Add to that foreign remittances, cheap oil and weapons paid for with foreign aid.

        I think Mr. Dhume’s and Mr Majorly’s fourth coujin’s assumption that Pakistan is doing badly economically and cannot afford conflict is wrong. I doubt the Pak Army brass has ever discussed within itself or with the Pak civilian govt, the macroeconomic implications of 30 years of conflict with both its neighbours. I doubt anyone in Pakistan has ever demanded that Pak Army brass be accountable for the said macroeconomic implications. Pakistan, its political parties or its military never obsesses about the economy, jobs and education like their counterparts in America and India do.

        The inescapable conclusion is that Pakistan has been in conflict with its neighbours for 30 years and now contemplates taking on the US as well because Pakistan can afford it.

      • “The inescapable conclusion is that Pakistan has been in conflict with its neighbours for 30 years and now contemplates taking on the US as well because Pakistan can afford it.”

        Pakistan will have to commit 20% of it’s GDP to defense to match Indian defense expenditure. To create a balance of power, Pakistan will have to outspend/outgun India by a factor of 5, due to the territorial/population imbalances between the two. In effect, Pakistan needs to spend 100% of it’s GDP on defense year after year to create a genuine balance of military power. Let’s not bring the US into this already grossly lopsided picture.

  2. One question: Are the paragraphs in italics Major’s fourth cousin’s Analysis or Mr.Dhume’s? unfortunately,I couldn’t read Mr Dhume’s article.The link asks me to subscribe ,& I don’t want to!

      • Thanks for clarifying. Sorry for attributing it to your fourth cousin:)thanks for sharing your wit & making things seem so much more digestible for us South Asians

  3. it is the leaders in Pakistan who find their own acceptability raise after India bashing.Peace between the two countries will only happen when these leaders stop this India bashing to hide their non achievement.When this shortcut to popularity is stopped then we will have peace between the two countries.

  4. “Pakistan views herself as the ideological progeny of the Mughal empire, with an unfinished agenda of conquering the subcontinent. Abandoning this endeavour would mean accepting the eventual supremacy of India (simply due to her demographics and geographical area) which would be interpreted (in Pakistan) as the defeat of the religion itself. This is unthinkable. ”

    How about Indian Muslims? Have they abandoned this endeavour without making it a defeat of their religion?
    There may be a way if they recognize the common ancestry which is not Arab or persian.

  5. Very insightful – especially the part about economic linkages with the Gangetic plain. Agree with your basic thesis that Pakistan is not Indonesia.

    Hope your thesis of Pakistan seeking India’s destruction is wrong – and is not as pervasive as you suggest. This reader believes the idea of a neo-Mughal empire headed by Pakistan is as popular as the silly Akhand Bharat idea i.e. loony-fringe idea.

    Do you see any catalyst – cataclysmic one maybe – that will keep it’s geography intact while rebooting it’s ideology?

  6. But is there any meager chance that Pakistan will come out of this radicalism ?? First thing tht they have to do is to bring ISI under the civilian government. And I do not understand why Pakistan’s educated civilian government too supporting Taliban rule in Afghanistan. They know it will destabilize the region totally. Still they are doing it for their strategic interests. It is like winning at any cost. I now understand it is totally useless for India to sit and talk with Pakistan in any matter whatsoever. A very enlightening argument.

  7. There is one thing most punjabis are not aware of and that is the treachery of the mountain people, pashtuns, on the Punjabi tribes in the plains. it has happened many a time in history, and can repeat itself.

  8. As insightful as ever, brave fauji. But are there any Pakistanis reading this? Seems most comments here are from treacherous yinds like despicable me. My experience is that even edijicated Pakistanis mostly continue to live in de Nile. Panjab University’s most shamous famous alumni, Ejaz Haider, MA, (yas, I knows he is poor example of edijicated Pak) dropped a load of codswallop (Panjab U is so very worldly, we are so impressed) over the imagined pros of stratijic depth, to scarcely any dissension from the Express Tribune’s equally worldly readers. True, many yinds also live in de Nile (plenty of room in this river) about Pakistan’s true intentions, but nothing like the lock-step groupthink seen across the border. It doesn’t bore well for the future of AfPak or their people; a tragic failure of leadership in every walk of life.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s