Pakistanis are still healing from the loss against India on Wednesday, but what has perhaps caught most people off guard is Pakistan cricket team’s captain Shahid Afridi’s recent statements in regards to the match . At the post-match ceremony after the loss against India, Shahid Afridi congratulated the Indian crowd and the nation for their fifth consecutive victory over Pakistan in the World Cup format. Furthermore, when he came back to Pakistan, Afridi expressed dismay over the fact that both the public and the media were so obsessed over the “Indian rivalry,” when in fact both nations shared similar cultural traits. Many in the public have unfortunately misplaced Afridi’s statement, with some going as far as accusing him of being unpatriotic. However, careful examination of history shows that Afridi’s observations are not ill founded.
Pakistan’s difficulty of maintaining a civil relationship with India finds its origins right after its creation in August 1947. The rapid transition of becoming an independent state was met with much hostility from the Indian National Congress, with some predicting an early demise of the nation. Furthermore, partition left Pakistan with a highly inferior economy due to India inheriting most of the cotton and jute mills. Perhaps the most damaging factor for Pakistan was the fact that it had to create a new central government, whereas India had inherited the British parliamentary system.
Pakistan was engaged in a war over Kashmir only six months after its independence. This changed Pakistan’s political ideology forever, as it spent 70% of its expenditure towards military defense in its first year after independance. Insecurity, Kashmir and a weaker military led to policies that were focused more towards strengthening the military, thus political institutes and provincial understanding immensely suffered. Non-elected Generals and bureaucrats (retired and serving) ruled Pakistan till 1971. Ayub Khan in 1959 did propose for a “Joint Defense” Program with India that could have strengthened ties between both nations. However, Indians simply did not trust the Pakistani military due to the 1948 debable, and thus the proposal never materialized. Ayub Khan never looked back, as 1965’s “Operation Gibraltar” focused on regaining Kashmiri territory. This strategic plan was a failure, as it left East Pakistan exposed, and with it further division within the nation. By 1970, the ripples of non-elected military Generals left Pakistan in a state of confusion, as provincial politics decayed. Anti-Indianism only grew stronger in the 1970’s with the instilled notion that India was “solely” responsible for the creation of Bangladesh.
Even though Pakistan continuously witnessed the decay of politics through military rule, the late 80’s and 90’s showed that with democracy came a shift in attitude towards Indian relations. Both Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif have represented the opposite ends of the ideological spectrum, yet both displayed similar progressive stances towards healing relations with India. Benazir Bhutto, after getting elected in 1988, urged for normalization of relations with India, along with the decrease in the support for the proxy war against India in disputed Kashmir.
Nawaz Sharif similarly in his second term (February 17th, 1997-October 12th, 1999) emphasized on normalization of relations with India (via trade). It was during this term that then Indian Prime Minister Atal Vajpayee made the famous visit to Lahore’s sacred sites, along with the bus ride from Lahore back to India, which was seen as a goodwill gesture towards Nawaz Sharif’s diplomatic efforts. However, both Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto would meet their demise due to their Progressive stance towards India. Benazir Bhutto was removed by the military for being too soft and lenient towards India, as well as allegedly revealing secrets about Pakistan’s uranium program to the United States. Nawaz Sharif similarly was met with contempt from the army when Indian Prime Minister Atul Vajpayee came to visit Lahore.
General Musharraf refused to greet Vajpayee at a ceremony held for the Indian Prime Minister. All hopes of reconciliation deteriorated with the chaotic mismanagement of civil-military relations with the infamous “Kargil” operation. A few years later oddly enough, Musharraf(as the military head of state) was actively communicating with Vajpayee at the Agra Summit. Musharraf also tried to initiate dialogue with India on Kashmir and alleged Jihadist infiltration, however all efforts deteriorated after he got a dose of his own medicine as he was forced to resign from office in 2008.
The ever-changing forms of political rule along with the military’s emphasis on defensive expenditures have largely been responsible for the lack of a consistent relationship with India. Infact, conservative estimates show that for a significant period of the Siachin conflict, the Pakistani army spent more than half a million dollars a day trying to match Indian firepower. In spite of the alliances with the United States and the mind-boggling defensives expenditures, the military has not gained any significant territory for Pakistan. Most unfortunate though has been the dissolution of political institutions within the nation. Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto were destined to not be able to succeed due to the military interference in the political sphere.
It was heartening to see Pakistan cricket team’s captain exclaim puzzlement as to how we have come to a stage that the nation only thinks of enmity when India is mentioned. Both Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif were able to raise questions in regards to how Pakistan should see its relationship with India. One can only hope that sustained civil leadership (without interruption from the military) brings forth these questions once again on the political platform. As a nation, we have been robbed of sustained political rule over the past 64 years, and this has led to a fragmented depiction of our neighbors. Let the future make us seek more deliberation and fewer judgments.