Shooting for a Century

by Stephen P. Cohen

"Examines the antagonistic relationship between India and Pakistan and the territorial and identity issues that have divided them for sixty-five years, and possibly the next thirty-five, and offers ways the tension between the two might be ameliorated ifnot solved, including a more active role for the United States"--Provided by publisher.

Shooting for a Century




Brookings Institution Press

All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-8157-2187-1


1 Context..................................................................1
2 Conflicts................................................................33
3 India....................................................................60
4 Pakistan.................................................................88
5 Explanations.............................................................118
6 Prospects................................................................147
7 American Interests and Policies..........................................179
India on the Eve of Independence, 1947.....................................xviii
South Asia.................................................................34
Jammu and Kashmir..........................................................45




Since emerging as independent states in 1947, Pakistan and India have been engaged in one of the world's most complex and sharply contested rivalries. It is as long-lived as the Israeli-Palestinian-Arab dispute. Though the two states are similar in many ways, not least in their cultural closeness, they began with a basic clash of national identities, soon followed by border and territorial disputes. Each then went on to support separatist elements in the other country. Now, after four wars and numerous crises, they are nuclear rivals, and a deep and near-permanent diplomatic hostility shapes their relations with the rest of the world. The conflict continues to evoke international attention, although only rarely action. In comparative terms, it has the dubious distinction of being one of the few conflicts that are truly intractable, meaning conflicts that last more than twenty years despite multiple attempts to end them. As one student of the subject notes, 95 percent of the world's conflicts are resolvable, only 5 percent are not, the India-Pakistan dispute being the longest-lasting in the latter group.

Relations between India and Pakistan, today the world's second and sixth most populous states, are far from static, however. They improve and deteriorate within a certain range—generating new aspects and complications, giving rise to cautious optimism, but also feeding uncertainty. The emergence of nuclear capability in both states after 1998 raised the stakes but also reduced the chances of a new conflict. Although going nuclear did not prevent a small war in 1999 and nearly a major one in 2001–02, it did show that these weapons affect the propensity for (and conduct of) war between nuclear-armed rivals. All the same, intelligence errors or a strategic misjudgment—of a kind common to all states, big and small, wise and stupid—could (and probably will) lead to another crisis.

History's Trajectory

In the wide view of scholars and policymakers, the rivalry between India and Pakistan is deeply rooted in the years 1858, when Great Britain assumed direct control over a large part of the subcontinent, taking over from the British East India Company, and 1947, when it partitioned India and decamped. During these years many princely states continued with ultimate authority resting in the British Crown and Parliament. Over half of territorial India (approximately two-thirds of the population) was ruled by British administrators, magistrates, and military forces—collectively known as the Raj—as well as a large army raised in India but officered by the British. The overall security of the subcontinent was enforced by the unchallenged sea power of the Royal Navy. The Indian military (later divided between the two successor states) tied the region together, its multiethnic, multireligious, and multi-caste regiments reflecting the region's diversity as well as British expansion from the south and the east to the west and northwest.

Under the Raj's system of direct and indirect governance, South Asia became a strategically coherent region. It served as an important commercial and military gateway to East and Southeast Asia; then as a source of capital, technology, manpower, and investment for Britain's African and Mideast possessions; and later as an imperial police force in two world wars.

Even before 1947, conflict arose as a result of the intertwining of two competitions. The first competition was between the nascent visions of India and Pakistan, epitomized respectively by the Congress Party and the Muslim League. Both wanted independence from Britain; the Muslim League also wanted independence from a perceived Hindu dominance. The second was the multisided rivalry between and among the princely states, the British Raj, and the leaders of these two competing nationalist movements. The visions of the Muslim League and Congress also differed in the disposition of the princely states; the rivalry was further complicated by their different military, strategic, and economic visions.

The Indian National Congress, formed as a lobbying group in 1885, was initially sympathetic to British rule (one of its founders was an Englishman). Until the group's Lahore session in 1929, it regarded itself as a loyal opposition movement, seeking not independence but reform. By 1930 the Congress was transformed into a mass movement seeking independence—albeit one still led by elites—and included such notable Muslims as Mohammed Ali Jinnah and Maulana Azad. Still other Muslims called for a renaissance, leading to the foundation of the Muslim League in Dhaka in 1906. The close analogy with the Middle East has often been noted; there the concept of Israel as a homeland for the Jewish people and that of Palestine as an Arab-dominated but multiethnic state was intensified and enlarged by their incompatible territorial claims.

In response to pressure, the British introduced the elective principle in the governance of India under the Morley-Minto reforms of 1909 and acceded to demands for separate electorates for Muslims, a step that was strongly criticized both by Hindu-oriented parties and by secular groups such as the Indian National Congress. By 1940 the Muslim League, now with Jinnah at its head, was openly advocating a separate Muslim-dominated and -oriented state, to be called Pakistan.

Despite the rivalry between the ideas of India and Pakistan, supporters on both sides agreed on one major point: all wanted to rid India of the British, although the two differed in the proposed timing of the break. Note, too, that many prominent Muslims were members of the Indian National Congress, though the League ultimately claimed to speak on behalf of all of Indian Muslims. When partition finally took place, it drove the greater population into disastrous turmoil: hundreds of thousands lost their lives and millions became refugees. About 7.2 million Indian Muslims migrated to Pakistan, forming about one-fourth of the population of West Pakistan. On the other side, about 5.5 million Hindus and Sikhs left Pakistan for India.

The two states subsequently acquired extraregional, mutually exclusive allies, became ideological rivals, and were shaped by quite different organizing principles. All of this happened despite a common history and geography, very similar cultural roots and economic systems, and a strategic environment that had been shared for centuries.

Partition was made even more complicated by the existence of a third vision of South Asia, that of the hundreds of princely and autonomous states, although only a half dozen really counted. Though nominally independent, even the major ones—Jammu and Kashmir, Hyderabad, Junagadh—were bound to New Delhi by treaty and by their inferior military capability. The British saw to it that no princely state acquired modern military hardware in any significant amount and that the princely armies were deployed and manned in such a way as to ensure that they would never serve as the basis for a breakaway movement. This control strategy was applied during World War II when many of the princely armies were brought into the regular Indian army. The British exerted similar control through their treaties with the princes and attendant political advisers residing in the state capitals. These ensured that the rulers did not stray in the direction of independence and that affairs of state remained within boundaries tolerated by the British. The quid pro quo was that when a ruler got into trouble, he (or rarely she) could usually count on British military and political support. By and large the system worked at very little cost to the British, as exemplified by Hyderabad, a princely state larger than France with a predominantly Hindu population and a Muslim ruler, known as the nizam. The British provided advice and security to the (Muslim) nizam, who presided over a cluster of smaller Hindu rulers, who in turn governed a largely Hindu population, albeit one with a sizable Muslim minority in one of India's most stable regions—now the state of Andhra Pradesh. Some of these princes, including the nizam at one point, had thoughts of independence, but the costs of challenging the British were steep, and the rewards for loyalty, both fiscal and symbolic, were substantial, as was the assurance of British support against any usurpers.

When partition did come, the Indian princes were strongly advised by the British to choose either India or Pakistan. The visions of a future India and Pakistan rubbed against the ambitions of some of the princes, with the result that the rush to force them to join one or the other ignited several significant conflicts.

Although technically the decision to accede was in the hands of the ruler, not the ruled, India used force to incorporate Hyderabad and Junagadh (another largely Hindu state with a Muslim ruler). But it also proposed a plebiscite in the cases of Junagadh and Jammu and Kashmir, the latter a largely Muslim state with a Hindu ruler. The offer to Kashmir, subsequently regretted by Indian diplomats, came at a moment when the Indian and Pakistani armies were inconclusively battling for control of the state, and the stalemate has continued ever since.

The decision to coerce Hyderabad (in the middle of India) and Junagadh (on the western India-Pakistan border), both Muslim-ruled states with Hindu majorities, into joining India generated anger and unease about Indian intentions. Meanwhile, the handling of Kashmir, a Muslim-majority state with a Hindu ruler, sparked a conflict that would become the focus of competition between India and Pakistan for the next sixty years. This dispute reinforced Pakistan's notion that the army was the most critical institution for the survival and advancement of the nation, which was to have a detrimental effect on Pakistan's political order.

In the short view, it seemed natural that the British Empire should be succeeded by only a few states. The Raj itself rose from the ashes of the Mughal Empire, which in turn was the heir to several regional empires. In the long view, stretching over two millennia, states of the subcontinent emerged in a pattern of imperial advance and retreat, of a single dominant power and then diverse and often competing centers of power. No iron law decrees that South Asia should be dominated by one state, or even two states. Indeed, other regions—China, Europe—have had their integrative moments as well, followed by long spells of competition and rivalry among the fragments.

The periods of imperial retreat were not necessarily marked by stagnation; modern historiography points to important cultural, economic, and even military developments during the many hundreds of years when South Asia was politically less united. Of equal significance here, these years saw the rise of durable regional and subregional political, economic, and cultural alignments. Some of these endured for centuries, especially in South India and along India's western coast, while Afghanistan was under North India's thumb. As a result, even when South Asia was ruled from North India or Delhi, regional powers were usually in a bargaining position with the more powerful rulers.

Bloodbath and Independence

On July 18, 1947, Britain's Parliament passed the India Independence Act and less than a month later, on August 14 and 15, respectively, declared India and Pakistan independent sovereign states. The dates were staggered to allow the last viceroy of India, Lord Louis Mountbatten, to travel from India to Pakistan for the transfer of power. He was then appointed governor-general of India, but in Pakistan the title was assumed by Jinnah to spite Mountbatten, who in his view was too pro-Indian and too much under the influence of Jawaharlal Nehru, the leading Indian politician of his generation.

The vast catastrophe called Partition was prefigured in the ghastly Calcutta riots of 1946. I deal with its impact on the memories of citizens of both states later in the book; suffice to say that it shaped the views of millions of Indians and Pakistanis, especially those who were forced to migrate from one state or another, or who were the victims (or perpetrators) of atrocities. Many of their memories, often in wildly distorted versions of the truth, have been passed on to second and third generations.

Important stories of members of both communities who helped or rescued members of a different faith are mostly undocumented. The great authors and cultural figures who recognized and opposed Partition go unmentioned. Even official history projects in both countries pay little attention to these stories and are devoted mainly to building national solidarity around negatives: distrust or hatred of another religious or ethnic community.

This is true of both countries, but not in equal measure. Taking the moral high ground, India has always seen itself as the regional power that does not need Pakistan and as the prime inheritor of the Raj's legacy of subcontinental dominance. Pakistan, as the smaller and militarily weaker of the two states, has assumed a more defensive and also a more assertive posture, strikingly reminiscent of Israel's stance. In keeping with these attitudes, India rejects outside support, whereas Pakistan cultivates it. In the case of Kashmir, Indians work hard to ignore what steps might change the status quo, whereas Pakistan is eager to seize upon them. India, which once sought UN intervention in Kashmir, now abhors it, and Indian diplomats scramble mightily to prevent it from being raised in any forum in the world, even as their government has been unable to accommodate or suppress Kashmiri separatists and pro- Pakistani factions. On the other side, generations of Pakistanis have been taught to believe that fundamentally India has not come to terms with Pakistan's existence. This overall narrative was reinforced and legitimized by the educational curricula in both countries, perpetuating the divide in successive generations, and the role of partition in feeding this narrative is well documented.

As for the more material consequences, the second partition (which gave East Bengal independence) was also important. In 1947 India and Pakistan constituted 94 percent of the South Asian land mass (not including Afghanistan) and 96 percent of its population. After the creation of Bangladesh out of the former East Pakistan in 1971 these figures changed: Pakistan was reduced by half in population and size. Today, with the loss of East Pakistan, Pakistan accounts for 12 percent of the total population of South Asia, 18 percent of the land mass, and 8.5 percent of the total economy. Its military spending remains very high, about 22 percent of government expenditure. India spends much more on defense, about US$44.4 billion next to Pakistan's $5.6 billion, although as a proportion of GNP defense spending is about 2.7–2.8 percent for both. Nevertheless, Pakistan is falling behind India in terms of overall defense spending and conventional weaponry, which has propelled its nuclear acquisition program; it probably has more nuclear weapons than India, although exact figures are difficult to come by.

From the outset, both states benefited from institutions established by the British: a strong bureaucracy, a functioning judiciary, and a professional military. Contrary to its current status, however, Pakistan's army did not start out as the strongest institution in the state. Very few Pakistanis filled the ranks above colonel, and for a number of years key positions were held by British officers, who even served as the army's first two chiefs. At the same time, Pakistan had a uniting figure in a native son, Mohammed Ali Jinnah. Meanwhile, India had not only Nehru and Mahatma Gandhi but also a much stronger second and third tier of leaders.

Created in two parts or wings, with the more populous but militarily weaker East separated from the West by 1,000 miles of Indian territory, Pakistan held a critically important strategic position. Yet the chaos of partition left it with a proportionately weaker state capacity than India's, as well as limited financial resources. Many Pakistanis also claimed that India had not fulfilled its part of the bargain when it came to sharing military assets, which quickly bred suspicion throughout official Pakistan, but especially the army—where it became one of the institution's treasured grievances. Thus right off the bat Pakistan viewed India as a hostile neighbor and considered itself vulnerable to India's malevolence, which meant that the Pakistan army's primary role from the beginning would be to counter India's enmity. Actually, the lesson drawn by both sides in the aftermath of partition and the ensuing wars and crises was that some military capability directed against the other was a prime necessity. Each saw the other as its most serious security threat, second only to the consolidation and absorption of the princely states.

Four Crises

India-Pakistan relations were greatly affected by four post-partition crises, three of them involving the princely states of Kashmir (see chapters 5 and 6), Hyderabad, and Junagadh. A fourth crisis revolved around the 1950 communal riots in East Bengal, which led the two rivals to sign the Nehru-Liaquat Pact protecting minority rights.

In the case of Junagadh, trouble erupted when on August 15, 1947, its Muslim ruler acceded to Pakistan, which welcomed the move. Junagadh's largely Hindu public responded with massive protests, however, which prompted Indian forces to occupy the state on November 9, 1947, whereupon the ruler reversed himself and acceded to India (on the border, the weak Pakistani forces were unable to intervene in the state). On February 20, 1948, India held a referendum on the accession, and the state's population voted in favor of it.

As for Kashmir, its maharaja toyed with the idea of independence but changed his mind when the state came under attack from Pakistani raiders and was granted armed assistance from India. He then acceded to India, handing over powers of defense, communication, and foreign affairs. Both India and Pakistan agreed that the accession would be confirmed by a referendum once hostilities had ceased.

By May 1948 the Indian army had regained control over much, but not all, of Kashmir, and the regular Pakistan army was called upon to mount an offense. The war ended on January 1, 1949, when a cease-fire was arranged by the United Nations, which recommended that both India and Pakistan abide by their commitment to hold a referendum in the state. The two sides agreed to establish a cease-fire line where the fighting had stopped, which became a de facto border monitored by a UN peacekeeping force, but the referendum was never held.


Excerpted from SHOOTING for a CENTURY by STEPHEN P. COHEN. Copyright © 2013 by THE BROOKINGS INSTITUTION. Excerpted by permission of Brookings Institution Press.
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Full Title: Shooting for a Century: The India-pakistan Conundrum
Author: Stephen P. Cohen
Publisher: Brookings Inst Pr
Date Published: May 28, 2013
Format: eBook, Blio
Feature: Text to Speech Enabled
Platform: XPS Enabled
Length: 236 pages
Language: English
ISBN: 0815721870 / 9780815721871
Categories: Politics & Government / World / Asian
History / Asian History / India & South Asia
Politics & Government / International Relations / Diplomacy