Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Punjab: Geo-strategic reality

N S Rajaram

The first point to note is that Pakistan will not crumble quietly. It is too steeped in hate and violence to disappear like the Soviet Empire. More likely, it will be like former Yugoslavia. Eventually the land beyond the Indus will return to being the frontier that it has always been, and the Punjabi-Mohajir colony calling itself Pakistan will be struggling for survival. Its enemy will not be India but the Talibanized network of �schools� and its hate-filled �students� trying to undermine and even destroy the Punjabi elite. To see what will be like, one has only to look at what happened to the Afghan elite after the Taliban took over. And in Punjab the hostilities are infinitely greater. They are rooted in the historic hostility of the frontier nomads towards the settled people of the plains. Appeal to Islam will not save them, for what the Punjabis are up against is the geo-strategic reality of the region. And this is what has shaped their history. And they have made the situation worse by creating and sponsoring the Taliban.

*Here is the historic pattern previously alluded to. Whenever there was a weak state in the Punjab region, it has fallen before invaders from the northwest. This was the case when it was invaded by Darius, Muhammad of Ghazni, Timur, Babar and Nadir Shah. On the other hand, whenever the Punjab was part of a powerful state, it has turned back the invader. This is what happened when the Greeks, the Huns and Afghans in the time of Ranjit Singh tried to invade the planes.* (Incidentally, history books are wrong in claiming that Alexander was victorious. It was as much a disaster as Napoleon�s march on Moscow. This is clear from early accounts. But British controlled textbooks presented it otherwise, to emphasize European superiority. The correct perspective was provided by the great Russian general Marshal Zukhov. Alexander�s troops mutinied, and he himself died a year later broken in health and spirit.)

*To save Punjab*

Saving Punjab is as much India�s responsibility as it is Pakistan�s. India cannot let these invading forces cross the Indus and turn West Punjab into a wasteland. The only way for Punjab to survive is to let the frontier be frontier and rejoin India� its natural home. But is the Punjabi ruling elite capable of such vision? As one Pakistani (Punjabi) journalist told Kaplan, "We have never defined ourselves in our own right � only in relation to India. That is our tragedy." This attitude represents a historic truth: Punjab is India or it is happy hunting ground for the frontier tribes. If the Punjabis do not cure themselves of their hatred, it may soon lead to an even greater tragedy� of Afghanistan consuming Pakistan itself. Punjabis should see for themselves that Pakistan is a fantasy that died the day Bangladesh broke away. They should also recognize that the Punjabis never asked for Pakistan; the people who planted that poison seed remained in India. And the same people � of the Deoband School of Lucknow � planted also the poison seed that grew to be Taliban.

*The choice for the Punjabis of Pakistan is clear. Forces of history and geography are against them*. They can return to their natural home in India as the proud citizens of a great power or continue their sordid existence as a client state that can be hired by a patron whenever a dirty job needs to be done. But even this is precarious and short-lived existence. For all its bombast, Pakistan � its Punjabi core at least � is today little more than a buffer state between India and the violent frontier. Once they become part of India, they will have a great power to defend them against the hordes. One hopes they recognize the inexorability of the logic: it is India or oblivion, there is no middle ground.

*For India the option is clear. Pakistan as it exists today is facing a meltdown. Changes of government and leaders will not turn back the elemental forces now in play. And negotiations and treaties with a melting state are meaningless.* As India becomes a great power, the Pakistani Punjab and the land east of the Indus River will inexorably be drawn into India. And the Indus River will again be its natural boundary. There will be many challenges, but the goal is clear: to minimize the damage and destruction during this historic reunion, which I now feel is inevitable. In summary, India can no longer afford the luxury of being a soft state, continuing to avoid hard decisions and actions. A soft state at this critical juncture in history may also face a meltdown like Pakistan.

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