Why do Pakistan and India always have their daggers drawn?

Published: January 20, 2017

There is no one-handed clapping, it takes two to tango and it is in a country’s interest to have a stable neighbourhood. PHOTO: REUTERS.

Pakistan and India are locked in the conviction that each one wants the other’s destruction. Repeating the incantation is patriotic, questioning it, borderline seditious. Each country believes that its violence is only a defensive response to the other’s malevolent initiative. Both nations have separate historical markers to support their points of view and risk engaging in what each believes would be a just war.

This smouldering fire is kept alight by the capability theory of judging intent by capability assessment. US General Norman Schwarzkopf, who commanded the 1990 First Iraq War coalition, believes that,

“… You … judge your enemy based upon capabilities, not intent, you have to look at the enemy and really almost make a worst case call every time.”

General Schwarzkopf’s view is no flash of brilliance but the mundane principle drilled by Staff Colleges and Defence Colleges the world over. This single-minded mission focus is an advantage for the citizens who employ a military.

General ‘Mad Dog Mattis’, the USA’s chosen Defence Secretary’s  advice to soldiers to,

“Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet,” is not as ‘mad’ as it might sound. What he’s actually saying is no more shocking than Lord Palmerston’s well-worn 19th century quote: “We have no eternal allies, and we have no perpetual enemies.”

Furthermore, the French statesman Georges Clemenceau cautioned that,

“War is too important a matter to be left to the military” — it is, after all, a total national involvement.

It would be good to remember that General Võ Nguyên Giáp, one of the greatest military strategists of modern times, who defeated the French and the Americans in Vietnam, had no formal military training. To be fair, neither did Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, under whose stewardship India suffered humiliation at the hands of China in 1962. And Chief Sitting Bull was a medicine man. Barring exceptions, the highest levels of strategic leadership cannot succeed solely on formal military training or political sleight of hand.

So Pakistan’s premise that India wants its destruction is largely based on the neighbour’s military capability. It only indicates military preparedness and intention, not a national decision or a universal truth. The USA, Russia and China also have the capability, but no apparent interest in destroying Pakistan.

In turn, India, too, believes that Pakistan seeks to resurrect Muslim glory at the former’s expense. Fringe Pakistani groups might savour the idea, but some elements of the Hindutva grouping also relish absorbing a conquered Pakistan into their vision of a geographical Akhand Bharat.

Both extremes are appeased by their mainstream mentors’, but the lavish dreams of these peripheral groups neither indicate nor determine policy.

If Indians are as intelligent as they’re reputed to be, then why would they want to increase their population by adding 182 million bellicose Muslims embittered by a defeat, who will fight them till eternity? As foreigners, they can be slaughtered in a war. As citizens, they will need to be provided with kebab rolls and lawyers!

There is no one-handed clapping, it takes two to tango and it is in a country’s interest to have a stable neighbourhood. Basically, India is suspicious of Pakistan due to what General Akbar called ‘Raiders in Kashmir’ in 1947, their successors in 1965 and Pakistan’s alliance with the US. Pakistan is distrustful because of India’s attitude over Kashmir compared with its position on Junagadh and Hyderabad and its active role in the creation of Bangladesh. Pakistan also believes that Indians might want revenge for a thousand years of Muslim rule and for the creation of Pakistan.

The consequences of the 1757 Battle of Delhi should douse any simmering resentment. The Marathas under Raghunath Rao wrested the Delhi throne at sword-point, reduced the Mughal King Aziz-ud-din Alamgir II to a puppet extended their rule as far as the Khyber Pass and thus retrieved Hindu pride. Were Pakistan and India to concentrate on this historical marker and encourage its public consumption, it could contribute to deflating resentment.

That would, of course, still leave the Pakistani and Indian armies playing tit-for-tat on lock and load. A millisecond of inattention could set off a conflagration, the end-game of which is counted in widows, orphans, cripples, tattered economies and the poor being asked to eat parathas when there are no rotis.

Instead, both armies would be well advised to invest heavily in indigenously developed electronic war-games, demilitarise international border zones and, exercise their troops on simulated border terrain of which there is plenty. Deploying the army on the border for exercises should be like drawing a blade from its sheath — very serious business.

At the same time, Pakistan might want to form Army Corps-level civil-military think tanks that would include intellectuals plus academics from the universities within the Corps areas. Their findings should be synthesised by a Government Head Quarters civil-military think tank, and then be submitted to an inter-services civil-military think tank under the National Security Advisor. This would ensure a high standard of military contingency responses beyond the constraining Capability Theory and allow Pakistan to justify Mr Donald Trump’s faith in the intelligence of its people.

As things stand, the University of Pennsylvania 2015 Global Think Tank Index Report lists only 20 for Pakistan, 109 for Japan, 280 for India, 288 for the UK, 435 for China, and 1835 for the USA.

Both India and Pakistan are tenaciously perched on towering moral peaks. Despite one minor and three major wars, and an on-going war of attrition on the Kashmir Line of Control, each side only declares Shaheed martyrs, convinced of its own righteousness and the neighbour’s perfidy. Both claim exclusive rights to the truth, which obstructs joint reasoning. Between the two peaks lies a valley of peace and prosperity. Having made the ascent, neither party is willing to risk a descent to the fertile valley floor and initiate cultivation like Nelson Mandela in his exemplary vale of reconciliation.

Azam Gill

Azam Gill

The author is a novelist, analyst and retired Lecturer from Toulouse University. He served in the French Foreign Legion, French Navy and the Punjab Regiment. He has authored nine books. He blogs at writegill.com/

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Sunil

    Pakistan is occupied India.Recommend

  • Bezukhov

    Why do Pakistan and India always have their daggers drawn?

    So the rest of the World can be entertained.Recommend

  • Asad Khan

    well written, the point to ponder is that in today’s wold of absolute zero morality in geopolitics (if there is such a thing in past) who would want to invest his/her intellectual capital in Indo-Pak issue when both countries are becoming less & less dependents on foreign military imports (i.e indigenous arms industry)Recommend

  • Kasturi K

    Because they have the daggers.Recommend

  • ranjit

    Gill saab, India is a status quo power and has no interest in expanding its borders….and that is because it does not want to add more muslim population which is growing faster than all other segments…….today muslims across the subcontinent are 40% of overall population and growing rapidly, so adding pakistan and bangladesh will mean a massive muslim minority which will easily form a government in delhi by aligning with some sections or castes of hindus…… in other words, akhand bharat will lead to muslim rule in Delhi once again, plain and simple……..therefore, India will never ever want akhand bharat, while muslims may want it in order to restore muslim rule in the subcontinent……this is why India did not absorb bangladesh in 1971……and will never do so with pakistan either even if it came for free…….moreover, India is focused on economic growth and does not want any diversion from that……it is actually in Pakistan’s interest to promote an european union type model in the subcontinent, since it will eventually bring back muslims into the forefront of the subcontinental power structure..Recommend

  • Azam Gill

    Thank you for sharing your perspective – I, too, wrote “…why would they (Indians) want to increase their population by adding 182 million bellicose Muslims embittered by a defeat, who will fight them till eternity? As foreigners, they can be slaughtered in a war. As citizens, they will need to be provided with kebab rolls and lawyers!”Recommend

  • Azam Gill

    Thank you, sir.Recommend

  • 19640909rk .

    Gill sab, I feel pity for people who are separated. I have an employee from my organisation whose wife is from Pakistan. He has to go through hell to get visas. Had we maintained peace from day 1, by now, we could have had a border system like EU. India, Bhutan and Nepal have open borders. Nepal never felt threatened by India. In fact half of Nepalis are working in India (including Gorkhas in Indian Army), since they get better jobs here. Bhutan and Nepal are virtually nations without army. If India wants to expand, as per Akhand Bharat agenda, it will take a couple of hours to occupy these two nations. But India is not interested. Young Indians have absolutely no idea of Indian History and they do not even care for such things.Recommend

  • Patwari

    Er ..well,..see, but,..there is this mammoth neighbor, which you
    very conveniently forgot to mention. It’s called China.
    [Incidentally China drubbed Hindustan in a 1962 mini war]
    And China does not care for Bharat to have expansionist ideas.
    The minute Hindustan even looks at Nepal or Bhutan, China will be there, glaring back. Nobody gives a doozy how many
    Nepalese are employed in Bharat. As for the Gurkhas, they
    are hired mercenaries. Even the Queen of England has some
    Gurkhas in her retinue. Rented soldiers. After their contract expires, they are sent back to Nepal. No pension, no citizenship no nothing. Just a good salary for 5 years. Period.
    Currently every non hindu religious minority in Hindustan has to certify 3 times a day that they are Hindustanis. Saffron Bharat,Vermillion Bharat, Hindustan Rising. Is the mantra they must repeat in front of a yogi. 3 times a day.!!!
    Did you know that Indian PM’s are not allowed to step in
    Arunachal Pradesh. [an Indian State] because China has a claim on it and will consider a hindu PM visit as provocation!!Recommend

  • Sane

    What a subject?!! India Troll Army come on your favorite one is here.Recommend

  • Azam Gill

    Further reading might or might not change your conclusions and overlap of subjects.Recommend

  • rationalist

    “Why do Pakistan and India always have their daggers drawn”

    Why? Simple. Call it the two nation theory and Islamic revisionism and exceptionalism.Recommend

  • Patwari

    Could be Modi Sarkar dyed his beard black, wore a
    long haired wig, [made from Dalit women's hair] and
    snuck into Arunachal Pradesh at 12 midnite? And then
    left immediately by oxcart. So as to not attract attention.
    Possible, possible. very possible in the land where sadhus
    do the rope trick and yogis lay on a bed of nails. All possible.Recommend