Why India Should Not Celebrate The Trump Tweet

I am an avowed well-wisher of Pakistan. Like any patriotic Pakistani, I would like to see our neighbour emerge as a prosperous, peaceful, harmonious, stable, secure, united and democratic nation, living in peace and cooperation with all its neighbours. I believe that a resurgent Pakistan, whose population is smaller than all but five countries in the world, can greatly contribute to the progress of South Asia (of which it is an integral part), Asia and the world at large. Pakistan's pain is my pain, and Pakistan's joy is my joy. This is because even though India and Pakistan are two separate, independent and sovereign nations (and so may they remain in future), I share my civilisational, cultural and spiritual identity, as also the priceless heritage of over 5,000 years, with my sisters and brothers across the border. I do not want any harm to come to one who is, after all, an offspring of Mother India.

However, when Pakistan continues to harm itself by trying to harm its neighbours (India and Afghanistan in particular), it's time the rulers and people of Pakistan learnt a few basic lessons. One of them is how to safeguard their national self-respect, sovereignty and independence. So far, in its 70 years of existence, Pakistan has bartered its freedom, honour and sovereignty in pursuit of its flawed goals on so many occasions that it is now being humiliated by the very imperial power it relied on, assisted, and received arms and alms from.

Which self-respecting nation, when it gets globally insulted by a tweet by an American president (no respecter of the honour and sovereignty of weak nations), does nothing but offer a weak, formulaic protest? Donald Trump accused Pakistan of "lies and deceit". He almost described Pakistan, without using those derogatory words, as a beggar and cheat nation that took "33 billion dollars in aid over the last 15 years". He blamed it for not fulfilling its obligations and castigated it for "fooling" the aid-giver. Worst of all, in a charge that sticks, Trump slammed Pakistan for giving "safe haven to terrorists".

A day after this New Year slur, the US has blocked the promised 225 million dollars in military aid to Islamabad.

Trump's tweet is so unprecedentedly undiplomatic, indeed downright demeaning, that the least Islamabad must do is ask the American ambassador to go back home and drastically reduce the level of diplomatic ties with Washington. It must reject any further "aid", military or otherwise, from the Trump administration, and also stop all further assistance to America in its war operations in Afghanistan.

But after having done what it must to assert that it is not a vassal of any world power, Pakistan - its army, its political establishment, its intelligentsia and its people - must do some honest soul-searching. Why have they come to experience this ignominy? Their introspection should begin from the time their country joined hands with USA and Saudi Arabia in defeating the now defunct Soviet Union which invaded Afghanistan in 1978. The fact that India did not condemn the Soviet invasion strongly enough, and did not demand the pull-out of its troops from a country which is a member of the South Asian civilisational family, is one of the low watermarks in our foreign policy. Not surprisingly, the Soviet Union paid a heavy price for its unjust and imperialist action. But what did Pakistan gain from its own foreign policy fantasies?

Nearly four decades after the two competing neo-imperialist powers destabilised the region, the worst sufferer, apart from Afghanistan, is Pakistan itself. Far from gaining "strategic depth" in Afghanistan, it is finding itself caught in a strategic death-trap. The woes of Afghan people continue and they too must introspect on the dissensions and divisions in their own society. But has Pakistan remained safe from the fire which it fuelled with state-assisted terrorism, religious extremism and sectarian bigotry? The fire has consumed the lives of more than 50,000 innocent people, a majority of them Muslims. More Pakistani soldiers and security personnel have been killed in terrorist attacks than in all the wars Pakistan has fought with India. Dozens of books by Pakistan's own scholars have bemoaned that the lure of lethal arms from western powers and petrodollars from Saudi Arabia, which came along with the toxic export of Wahhabism, has transformed and deformed Pakistani society beyond recognition. So much so that none other than the country's army chief, Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa, in a recent speech expressed his deep concern over the mushrooming of madrassas in Pakistan, and asked the startling question: "What will the students of these madrassas become - maulvis or terrorists?"

The fact that the terrorists born and nurtured in Pakistan in the wake of the war in Afghanistan started to target India was only natural. For this was a deliberate policy of the Pakistani army and ISI in which its political establishment too became complicit. Pakistan's civilian-military establishment protected, and continues to protect, terror groups that kill innocent people and security personnel in India. What have Pakistan's rulers gained by doing so? Are they even an inch closer to achieving their goal in Kashmir or in destabilising India? No. But they have certainly made a very large Indian population turn viscerally anti-Pakistan. They have unwittingly helped the traditional haters of Muslims and Pakistan in our country become stronger. They have, predictably, also weakened the influence of those Indians who are committed, despite all the threats and adversities, to the cause of India-Pakistan peace and normalisation.

It is for this reason that tens of thousands of Indians are today celebrating Trump's tweet. Not a small number of them would be even more jubilant tomorrow if Trump were to make Pakistan itself the target of America's "war on terror".

This is clearly a moment of reckoning for Pakistan. For its own peace, progress, prosperity and security - indeed, for its own future survival - Pakistan must uncompromisingly fight terrorism and Islamist extremism without lectures and threats from any outside powers.

But this is also a moment of cool and objective reflection for Indians of all political persuasions. Should India really rejoice when the one lecturing and threatening Pakistan is Trump, a disgrace to all that is good about America? Have we Indians become so blind with prejudice as to forget that America and other western powers have contributed enormously to the growth of terrorism and Islamist extremism around the world? Firstly, all of them are buddies and protectors of despotic Saudi Arabia which is the fountainhead of religious fanaticism and whose interference in the internal affairs of Pakistan is alarmingly on the rise. Secondly, although the dictatorships in the Muslim countries in West Asia are by no means blameless, the US and its allies are principally responsible for the deaths, destruction and destabilisation in that region. ISIS and other murderous organisations operating in Syria, Iraq, Libya, Yemen and other countries are at least partly a product of the unjust and criminal acts of USA and its allies in the name of their so-called "war on terror".

Closer home, even though the Soviet Union was the original culprit in destabilising Afghanistan, USA has destabilised it further by waging its other "war on terror" which began in 2001 and is still continuing. Thus, when Trump in his tweet blamed Pakistan for giving "safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan", all the peace- and freedom-loving people in Afghanistan, Pakistan and also India must ask this fundamental question: is imperial America a part of the solution or a part of the problem? In the name of hunting down terrorists, hasn't the USA killed many more innocent people in both Afghanistan and Pakistan? And isn't this one of the main reasons why Al-Qaeda, Taliban and other extremist organisations have been able to radicalise Muslims in these two countries and elsewhere?

In short, the anti-Pakistan hysteria in India should not blind us to the fact that far from putting an end to terrorism, America's 16-year-long war in Afghanistan, which frequently spills over into Pakistani territory, has emboldened Islamist extremism and terrorism in the region. Now Trump seems to want to indefinitely prolong USA's military operations in Afghanistan. In this scenario, if, God forbid, a terrorist attack takes place in America, Pakistan could get hit harder. And the terror groups in the region would become stronger. The fires of West Asia will come closer to South Asia. Is this welcome to the ultra-nationalists in India for whom Trump has become a hero?

Pakistan must of course exorcise the menace it has created for itself and others in the region and the world. But should India be myopic? Should we not correct our own wrongdoings in Kashmir? Should we rely on outside powers to resolve the problem we have with Pakistan? Or should both India and Pakistan revive our own civilisational wisdom to find a path to reconciliation on the basis of justice and non-violence?

(The writer was an aide to India's former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.)

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