A Tale of Two Cities
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness…
No one writes like this any more. Charles Dickens would approve. After all he wrote those immortal lines.
Pre French Revolution Paris and London were twins of their unfortunate selves. Envy, greed, lust, subjugation, hopelessness and despair; never were two cities so conjoined in misery.
Certainly not until the late sixties when Pakistan decided to move its national capital from Karachi to Islamabad, a triangular piece of land facing the Margalla Hills. The city is no longer triangular, concrete having taken its toll in making edifices, which outdo each other in a manic nod to mediocrity.
What clinched the location of Pakistan’s new capital was not just what was supposedly wrong with Karachi, but the location’s proximity to Rawalpindi, the home of General Head Quarters, Pakistan Army. GHQ, Rawalpindi is all that Islamabad should have been, but is not. Islamabad should have been the seat of legislative, executive and judicial power in Pakistan. Let not Google tell you otherwise. A building does not a Supreme Court make. And neither does a Parliament full of elected representative lend gravitas to an otherwise dysfunctional nation.
Islamabad is Rawalpindi’s stepbrother.
The tale of these two cities defines the path Pakistan takes. It tells you a tragic story of why military coups happened, and continue to happen. And it also explains Pakistan’s schizophrenic relationship with India.
Whether the winds of misfortune blow from the east or the west, they hit Islamabad first, and Islamabad absorbs terrible seismic shocks that should have come Rawalpindi’s way.
The Pakistan Army is Teflon coated. No amount of mud will stick. It is the only institution in Pakistan that works. To question it is blasphemy. The failures of the Pakistan Army are always attributed to the civilian leadership. From Islamic radicalization to humiliating defeats by India in all wars, it is somehow the fault of everyone else but the Pakistan Army. And the populace believes this with the same fervor that a Catholic believes that Christ walked on water.
Pakistan has the support some important members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, a group of 57 Muslim countries. It has the grudging support of America, at least till the war on terror is being fought in Afghanistan, and it has the unequivocal support of China. India cannot diplomatically isolate Pakistan, geography being a legitimate argument.
Economic sanctions will not work on a nation that is already being funded by China and the US. And the IMF and World Bank will not allow Pakistan to go bankrupt.
Whatever we may do, Pakistan will receive money from NATO’s Coalition Relief Fund (CRF). These are monies in lieu of using Pakistani overland routes to transport NATO war supplies to Afghanistan, for the war on terror. China has made substantial investments in Pakistan, specifically in the CPEC (China Pakistan Economic Corridor).
What is the Chinese obsession with CPEC and Gwadar about? Oil and distance is what attracts China. Kashgar is at a distance of 2000 kms from Gwadar. When ready, it will save China nautical miles and days. UAE, Oman and Saudi Arabia will be at touching distance. Goodbye Malacca Strait. Welcome Gwadar.
Diplomatically isolating Pakistan or sanctioning it has limited feasibility. Pakistan is too geo-strategically important for the world to ignore it. What was important to Alexander the Great and Changez Khan is now important to China and America. They don’t love Pakistan but yes, they need it.
Economic sanctions and diplomatic isolation will hurt the democratically elected government of Pakistan and the common people. It will not hurt the Pakistan Army. And, the Pakistan Army owns the terror infrastructure in Pakistan.
India must clearly recognize and accept two facts. One, there will never be peace with Pakistan because partition was based on the two nation theory of Jinnah. He espoused that Hindus and Muslims were separate nations, and so different that they could not live in the same country. Two, unless we physically stop the Pakistan Army, terror will revisit India again and again.
Terrorism is cheap and Pakistan has the world’s largest inventory of terrorists. The pipeline is spread across 35,000 registered and unregistered madrasas. The waiting list to go to Jannat is extremely long. The faithful are willing.
Even if each madrasa were to send one single student to become a terrorist, you would have three infantry division’s strength of suicide bombers. All this, without the expenditure incurred on infrastructure, advanced training and advanced weaponry. And it would come with that unique positioning that Pakistan loves; plausible deniability.
If we wish for Pakistan to stop exporting terror to India, we must turn off the tap. There is no other road to take.
The Pakistan Army is inferior to the Indian Army in every imaginable way. If you war-gamed every possible scenario, you would come to the conclusion that there is no way the Pakistan Army can win a conventional conflict with India.
Nuclear weapons are fine for global respect and irresponsible sabre rattling, but even a psychotic North Korea, which threatens Armageddon every week, dare not use nuclear weapons.
Over time, Pakistan has successfully managed to convince the world, especially Indians, that its nuclear threshold is extremely low. Pakistan has convinced the world that if threatened, it will use nuclear weapons as first response. These are unfounded, imaginary fears.
After Uri, the national mood has turned dark. There are calls for vengeance and war. I do not belittle vengeance. It is honorable to seek it. But it must be calibrated, so that the effect is fatal.
Crossing the Line of Control to destroy terror camps has no meaning. These camps across the LoC are all rock, canvas and wood. The real terror infrastructure that we are so fond of speaking about is not near the Line of Control, but inside major cities in Pakistan. And the nerve center is Rawalpindi.
What I am proposing will mean blood. It will mean loss of human lives. The market will nosedive and the economy will take a hit. But to assume that the Pakistan Army will stop sponsoring terror if India abrogates or dilutes the Indus River Treaty is living in a fool’s paradise.
The only way to stop terror attacks on India is to physically confront the Pakistan Army and break its spine. All other ways are temporary, at best. That is why we must go to war once, and for the last time settle all accounts between us.
Only then can we hope for a better future for India, and whatever is left of Pakistan.