What is in name? The politics of naming Pakistani Missiles
After its inception in 1947, the first dilemma that the newly-born state of Pakistan faced was how to define its identity. Since Pakistan was the result of a demand for a separate homeland for the Indian subcontinent’s Muslims, its identity had to inevitably hinge on Islam. In contrast to this parochialism, India projected herself as the inheritor of not only the Indus valley civilization, but also the centuries of cultural confluences which constantly redefined her social and cultural fabric. Therefore, India embraced everything: from the Islamic influences of the Turko-Mongol culture to the Persian culture and most importantly Sufism, the mystical Islamic tradition.
The geography of the Indian subcontinent is such that it was easily penetrable through the Khyber Pass (present day Pak-Afghan border in the Hindukush mountains), a strategic pass which provided an easy access from the rugged terrain of Central Asia to the fertile Indus and Ganges river plains of north India. In this light, it is quite interesting to note that it is after the invaders who had attacked India that Pakistan has come to name some of its missiles. The names are:
Ghaznavi Missiles: Ghaznavi is a surface-to-surface short range ballistic missile named after Mahmud Ghaznavi, an 11th century Persian invader of Turkic origin who was the ruler of the Ghaznavid Empire, which consisted of modern day Pakistan, Afghanistan and eastern Iran. During his rule, the Mahmud of Ghazni invaded India 17 times and attained notoriety for destroying and looting the Somnath Temple (revered by Hindus).
Ghauri Missile: This series of surface-to-surface ballistic missiles is named after the Mohammad of Ghor, a 12th century ruler of Afghan Ghurid Empire, who attacked and defeated a Hindu ruler Prithiviraj Chauhan in 1192. Later, one of his slaves, Qutab-ud-din Aibak went on to conquer North and Central Indian territories and founded the Delhi Sultanate, the first Islamic empire in India with Delhi as its capital.
Babur Missile: A medium range subsonic cruise missile, it was named after Zahiruddin Mohammad Babur, a Chagtai Turk from Ferghana valley in Central Asia, who dethroned the Afghan Lodi dynasty ruling India in 1526. Babur established the Mughal Empire in India and became India’s first Mughal emperor.
Abdali Missile: This short-range supersonic ballistic missile is named after Ahmed Shah Abdali, an 18th century Afghan king who is also founder of the modern state of Afghanistan. By mid 18th century, the Mughal Empire had been severely weakened and Delhi began to be dominated by the Maratha Empire. In 1761, Ahmed Shah Abdali declared war on the Maratha Empire (which ruled Central India), known as the third battle of Panipat in which the Maratha Army was routed. He is also known for the holocaust his army carried out on the followers of Sikh faith. Between 1748 and 1765, Abdali invaded India 7 times and is also known for the humiliation he brought to the then Mughal dynasty.
Taimur Missile: It is speculated that Pakistan is working on an Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile (ICBM), again named after a 14th century Turkic King whose empire spanned across Persia, Central Asia and Mesopotamia. Taimur (or Tamerlane as he is popularly called) invaded Delhi in 1398 and his invasion is said to have followed by one of the brutal massacres which Delhi saw in the medieval ages.
Identification with these personalities acts as ego-boosters for a state yet in search of an identity as the act of invasion of India is linked to a superiority complex. However, some paradoxes are worth mentioning. For instance, none of these personalities belonged to the present day Pakistan. The only commonality which all of them shared was that their invasions targeted towards the Indian subcontinent, which were also detrimental to the populations of the regions where the present day Pakistan stands.
Moreover, these invaders also fought amongst themselves. The Ghurid dynasty overthrew the Ghaznavids in 1186, ending its rule by capturing all their territories, ending with the conquest of Lahore. Babur established the Mughal Empire in 1526 by dethroning the ruling Islamic Lodi dynasty, thus ending the era of Delhi Sultanate, whose foundations were laid by the Mohammad of Ghor in late 12th century. Coming to Ahmed Shah Abdali, during his first conquest, Abdali’s forces ransacked and burnt the city of Lahore, which is the second largest city of Pakistan today.
In short, the aggression which the Pakistani establishment tries to exert robs it of the understanding that these invaders were not committed to any religious cause, but rather looted India due to the abundance of wealth it accumulated owing to the vast irrigated plains and a relatively matured trade and commerce. The only exception was the Mughal Empire, which made India its home and ruled for almost three centuries. The Mughal Empire’s conscious understanding of the diversity of Indian culture started an era of religious and cultural syncretism.
On the other hand, India’s nuclear tests in 1974 were named ‘Operation Smiling Buddha’. The use of Lord Buddha’s name was to project India’s image as a peace loving nation. The tests were carried out on the day marking the birth anniversary of Lord Buddha. Later, India’s nuclear missiles were given Sanskrit names such as Agni (fire), Prithvi (Earth), Akash (sky) and Trishul (named after a Hindu deity Lord Shiva’s weapon, the Trident).
It is not to say that India achieved a morally superior position by using a non-provocative terminology to name its missiles as irrespective of their names, Missiles are bound to cause widespread destruction. India’s missile arsenal is as lethal as that of Pakistan. Rather, the point to be highlighted is that the identity crisis which Pakistan faces has made it cling to anything which is opposed to the Indian identity and these missile names are the most visible proof of this fact. As mentioned earlier, missiles are undoubtedly destructive, but the naming of missiles after invaders by the Pakistani establishment is detrimental to the stability of Indo-Pak relations. The symbolism behind these names is bound to make the Indian establishment suspicious of Pakistan.