03 April 2012

"War and secession" by Richard Sisson & Leo E Rose

The birth of Bangladesh (earlier East Pakistan) and the India-Pakistan conflict of 1971 were covered by many writers from India and Pakistan.  Despite best efforts, the narratives tend to differ significantly and the subject merits an objective analysis by unbiased scholars who understand the region.

Richard Sisson and Leo E Rose do just that.  Both are scholars in political sciences (Sisson headed Ohio State University and Rose taught at Berkeley); and both specialized in South Asia (with several books to their credit).

Interesting snippets from this excellent book:

The territorial disputes between India and Pakistan are the result of “a hastily devised and extremely sloppy” partitioning of India.  Contiguity, will of the ruler and will of the people were to be heeded in deciding who goes where.  Pakistan had differing principles for different regions.  Pakistan preferred will of the ruler in Junagadh and Hyderabad (where the ruler was Muslim and the people Hindus) and will of the people in Kashmir (where the ruler was Hindu and people Muslim).  India had the opposite view.  India annexed the first two by force and Kashmir in a controversial accession.  The 1949 war between the two young nations over Kashmir resulted in a ceasefire line splitting Kashmir into two parts:  Pakistan held Kashmir and India held Kashmir.  In the 1965 war, India made deep inroads into PHK; but had to give up territory gained under the Tashkent peace treaty.

The first free and fair elections in Pakistan in 1970 resulted in “a majority party with a regional agenda and a minority party with a national agenda”.  One argued for majority’s will to prevail and a weak federation.  Another argued for right to participate in government based on “concurrent majority of two separate interests”.  Bhutto represented a region and had a national program.  Mujib represented the nation and had a regional program.  Military dictator Yahya Khan could not devise a solution and unleashed armed force against Bengalis when they expressed angst at continuing inaction.  (Sisson and Rose say that while Bengalis suffered as a result, the Indian claims of “genocide” are exaggerated). 

Pakistan made several miscalculations:
  1. That the Bengalis in the East will submit quickly to armed force.  They did not.  Bengalis fought back.  Their Mukthi Bahini grew to a size of 100,000 fighters.  They liberated Bangladesh from Pakistan. 
  2. That India will not intervene in the conflict.  India intervened. 
  3. That Hindu India’s army is no match for Pakistan army drawn from the martial warrior community of Punjab Muslims.   In the end Pakistan Army surrendered to three Generals of a secular India: a Parsi, a Sikh and a Jew!
  4. That China will intervene to restrain India in the event of hostilities.  China did not.  India knew (from intercepted communication) that China promised political support but declined to provide military support to Pakistan.  Additionally India’s treaty with the Soviet Union deterred China from any intervention.  India was confident enough to move 6 of the 10 battalions from its borders with China to its borders with Pakistan.
  5. That a conflict in Western border would distract India.  It did not.  India took back several territories in PHK and the new 1971 “line of control” replaced the earlier 1949 “cease fire line”.

The authors observe a few ironies:  Decision making in India was institutionalized and controlled by incumbents “who had been there before”.  Decision makers in Pakistan labored under severe and self-admitted stress.  Democratic India had “strong and consistent” control over the crisis.  Authoritarian Pakistan was relatively “weak and inconsistent”.  India was the “hard” state; Pakistan was the “soft” state.   Pakistan’s policy (with Awami League and later with India) was reflexive and more focused on denying India satisfaction than achieving a domestic resolution – an incorrect priority that lost the country a region, a border and some reputation.

No comments: