"History is ruled by an inexorable determinism in which the free choice of major historical figures plays a minimal role",
- Leo Tolstoy
“The Americans have the watches, but we have the time.”
- An Afghan Tribesman
“Recent events surrounding Afghanistan shouldn’t confuse anyone, - The US-NATO coalition has lost a war its political leaders never meant, or knew how, to win.” Michael Scheuer, former head of the CIA's bin Laden unit. To prepare Americans, especially those who refuse to reconcile to the decline of US hegemony, Prof Paul Kennedy, who wrote a path breaking book The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers in 1987, in his recent National Interest.com essay, tries to prepare the believers of perpetual USA’s manifest destiny to the downsizing of Washington’s power and influence. After giving a lucid background of European history of the last few centuries, Prof Kennedy chides the US imperialists, neo-cons and Zeo-cons, especially on the right for the misuse of the word ‘appeasement’, given its notorious connotation; surrender. It was a necessary tactical move at that time by British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain in Munich, says Prof Kennedy and not a surrender.
In the book, Prof Kennedy highlighted the interaction between economics, power and strategy over the past five centuries, perhaps a first in historical writing. It forecast of the US overstretch and possible decline, has come true, although such blasphemous thought was then much derided, especially since, instead, the Soviet Union was unraveling and Japan had failed to acquire any real power. The book translated into 23 languages was very well received by fellow historians, like A. J. P. Taylor, Sir Michael Howard and others. The author then (1987-89) establishing the Diplomatic Training Institute for India’s External Affairs Ministry had recommended it as compulsory reading for new entrants to the diplomatic service and others.
For the first time the book estimated that the share of Hindustan (the Sub-Continent) and China was 24.5% and 32.8 % respectively of the world economy (1750), when the Western trading and invading companies arrived in Asia, but after they had colonized and looted it was reduced in 1900 to 1.7% and 6.2 % while that of Europe (62%), specially Britain went up from 1.9 % to 18.5%. Asia provided raw materials and protected markets to benefit Europe's industrialization, and wealth extorted from the colonies used for the expansion and maintenance of the British Empire over which the sun then did not set. So it should not be surprising that the share of China and Hindustan in world economy is again rising.
Before we look at what Prof Kennedy says about Af-Pak in his essay, let us look at some of the bare facts of history, geography and psyche of south Asia and its immediate neighborhood.
India-Pakistan Geo-political Mold
As for the geopolitical template of Hindustan or South Asia, the people now dominating Pakistan, i.e. the Punjabi Musalman in Lahore or Islamabad have though out history been envious of the rulers of Hindustan with their capital on Yamuna in Delhi or Agra with their vast territories for revenue, even without Deccan .They invited the Moghuls to invade Hindustan when Afghans were ruling in Delhi .Later they invited Pathans and Iranians when Moghuls were ruling in Delhi. The religion of the rulers in Delhi was immaterial. For its strategic defense, Hindustan should control Kabul if not Kandahar as was done by early Moghuls. Once Kabul and Kandahar were lost, Hindustan became a plaything of invaders. And the Punjabi people joined in the loot and robbed the invader if he failed.
The same strategic paradigm is operating now. It is the outside powers, first Britain, then USA and China, which are behind Pakistani aggressive confrontations against India, beginning with 1947, then 1965 and Kargil among these instances. In the process Pakistan has been afflicted with opium (in whose contraband cultivation and trade Pak elite specially elements in the military and ISI are involved both for financing their activities and for personal wealth) and Kalashnikov culture and remains envious of the economic progress India has made.
Great speculators in metaphysics and matters of soul, with inward looking world view like frogs in a well, throughout history Indians have rarely shown much strategic acumen and the ruthlessness to implement strategic decisions. Something goes wrong in the sycophantic climate of Delhi and Hindustan, whether the leaders are Hindus or Muslims. The few rulers with strategic thought and skills were, Mauryas who with their capital at Pataliputra stationed the crown prince at Ujjain to counter the ingress from the Hindukush and meet the invader on the route chosen; Sindh, Gujarat or Punjab and the Himalayan foot hills. So were the early Moghuls, Akbar having built his luxurious capital at Fatehpur Sikri spent a decade near Lahore guarding against Mongols and others assembling across the Hindukush. In modern times we had Indira Gandhi, who instead of mopping around the world (as current leadership is doing after 26/11 rape of India’s financial and cultural capital) against refugee influx from East Pakistan, took advantage of the situation and broke up Pakistan into two. There were a few others like Maharaja Ranjit Singh and Tippu Sultan but their canvas was much smaller.
As a wag remarked that except for the legendry King Porus who put up a valiant fight against Alexander the Great, the area between Peshawar and Panipat has always remained ‘porous’ for invaders from North West. Survival against all odds is the quality of the people of the region. They are dynamic, hardworking and good managing directors but not perspicacious enough to be the chairmen of the board. They have rarely established large kingdoms, as Rajiv Gandhi pointed during the Pakistan supported insurgency in Indian Punjab, that the only major state in that region was founded by Sikh Maharaja Ranjit Singh at Lahore.
Throughout colonial rule and after the partition of India, the British following the divide and rule imperialist policy, used Hindus against Muslims and vice versa. Their lasting false legacy is the brainwashing of Pakistanis that they are braver than Indians and Hindus. Of course this myth has been ornamented by some Pakistani claims of having originated from central Asia, Afghanistan, Iran and Arab lands. For siding with the British, when the people of Hindustan rose against the British East India Company in 1957, they were classified, for their treachery as a martial race and be fodder canon for the empire. Journalist and historian S. Khuswant Singh recalled how Punjab was conquered by the British with Indian troops from Bengal, Bihar and Orissa. Most of the Pakistanis and Muslims in India are converts from original Hindustanis and Deccannis.
Let us take another example. In present day Turkish Republic, those who came from central Asia i.e. Turkmen and other Turkic tribes and established Seljuk and Ottoman empires number between 12 to 15 %. Ironically most of them are Alevis and follow a Shia form of Islam, based on in their central Asian catholic outlook with respect and inputs from all belief systems in their religion, beginning with the Turkic sky god Tangri and their Shamans, Buddhism, Christianity and finally evolving a humanistic Sufi version of Islam. Alevis are treated no better than Ahmedias, Qadianis and even Mohajirs (migrants from present day India) in Pakistan. They face pogroms by Sunni Turks from time to time. Turkish citizens are mostly descendants of original inhabitants of Asia Minor, who spoke Greek when conquered and migrants from Ottoman ruled provinces in East Europe. The country was Islamized and Turkified after the defeat of the Byzantine arms by Seljuk Turks near Lake Van in 11 century and the conquest in 1453 of Constantinople, now called Istanbul.
But not many are aware of the influence and contribution of Buddhism in Sufi Islam, although the contribution of Sufi saints from Khorasan and central Asia has been acknowledged. Islam was spread in the subcontinent mostly by Sufi saints.
The population of Turkic people of central Asia is a small fraction of the population of South Asia, Turkey etc., so the myth of belonging to the invaders is palpably false. In any case Mongols and their hordes, Turkic and other tribes who devastated and ruled over the rest of Asia and east Europe, since a century and more were ruled firmly by the Russians, who cut them loose after USSR collapsed. The era of rule by brute physical strength is long gone, otherwise the Blacks in US and Africans among others, who dominate in sports, would be ruling the world.
ME Oil and Partition of Hindustan
Now let us look at the raison d’etre of creating Pakistan. The importance of petroleum in warfare and economy had become obvious even before the World War II. By 1940s , the British who dominated the Middle East and still ruled over India, realizing the importance of oil and the strategic importance of Middle East as lifeline to India, had created military alliances with most of the countries of the Middle East including Iran to its protect oil wells from the Soviet Union.
So the British created a weak and dependent Pakistan that functioned as a bulwark against any USSR overture into the Gulf and South Asia. From the very beginning the British mid-wifed state was doomed. In 1972, when the author was posted in Ankara, the Turks were not surprised at the break-up of Pakistan.
A former Indian diplomat Narendra Singh Sarila, in a well-researched book 'The Shadow of the Great Game: The Untold Story of India's Partition', based on British documents, uncovers the truth that, after the 2nd world War, realizing that London had to relinquish India, the British leadership across the political spectrum, Conservatives and Labor, intrigued, told lies and finally partitioned the Indian subcontinent creating the state of Pakistan. Because with Mahatma Gandhi with his opposition to violence and war and Jawaharlal Nehru 's non-strategic idealism and the vision of creating friendship and understanding among colonized and exploited people of the world, New Delhi would not join Western military pacts to protect the oil fields in the Middle East from the Soviet Union.
Britain's ultimate objective was to retain at least some part in the North-West of India, for defensive and offensive action against the USSR in any future dispensation in the sub-continent. And Britain knew that this could be best achieved by having a willing and subservient Pakistan as its client. So the only way was to use Jinnah to detach areas of India, which borders Iran, Afghanistan and Xinjiang and create a new state there. Sarila documents in detail how after the end of World War II in 1945, the new Labor government of Clement Attlee and Wavell decided to divide India and used Jinnah and political Islam to protect their strategic interests.
A top-secret telegram of Lord Wavell, then Viceroy, to the Secretary of State in London dated February 6, 1946, suggested the lines on which British India could be divided. On June 3, 1947, British Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin, while addressing the Labor Party's annual conference, spilled the beans that the division of India "would help consolidate Britain in the Middle East".
Sarila also traces the roots of the present Kashmir problem and how the matter was handled in the UN to favor ally Pakistan. That India should have no direct land access to central Asia, even via Afghanistan, motivated Western perfidious policy on the Kashmir Question has also been brought out in the book ‘War and Diplomacy in Kashmir 1947-48’ by another Indian diplomat C Das Gupta.