Pakistan, In-Equally Equal With India | The Citizen

February 2014

In November 2013, at the start of a question-and-answer session at a New Delhi event focused on Pakistan, an eminent senior Indian journalist posed a question to a person sharing the stage with me. He said words to the effect as to whether it is not true ….which actually means that, in his view, it is true…… that, in 1947, Pakistan saw itself as being equal to India. That question-cum-comment symbolizes to one how profound is the ignorance and misperception in sections of India about how Pakistan saw India 66 years ago , and how Pakistan sees India today in 2014.

If that remark had been made by an average, non-journalist but bigoted Indian…. in other words, a counterpart of a bigoted Pakistani … one could possibly dismiss it as an example of the sad lack of correct perception of actual realities. But here was a person of distinction, widely respected for his erudition, an individual who has served as Editor of influential newspapers, and continues to contribute notable columns to discourse, making a presumptive statement which has no basis in fact whatsoever.

Led by Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, Pakistan’s founders certainly viewed Pakistan and India as two newly-created, co-equivalent independent entities ( initially as part of the monarchy of the United Kingdom with Governors-General for each entity until each entity became a Republic : India in 1952, Pakistan in 1956 ). Pakistan’s leadership also accepted, along with India’s leadership, and the departing command of the UK’ s leadership, that as two newly created political State entities, the two States were entitled to pre-determined shares of the divisible assets pool inherited from the pre- August 1947 status of resources as entities equally eligible to acquire proportionate — not exactly equal — shares.

At no point and in no utterance or statement by Mr Jinnah and by his colleagues can one find any element which suggests that they ever entertained the illusion of Pakistan and India being completely equal in non-formal dimensions. At a formal level, all States are equal. In the UN General Assembly , China with a population of 1.4 billion people is equal to the Maldives with a population of 300,000 people . Votes cast by both widely disparate States have equal weightage : ie , one vote. For various reasons, that principle of equality does not carry over into the UN’s own Security Council where five States wield permanent membership hold the power of veto which other non-permanent members do not possess. Nevertheless , the principle of formal equality of independent States is an accepted and basic norm of inter-State relations.

From the inception of Pakistan, both its founders and its citizens recognized that, while in diplomatic and formal terms, the two newly-created entities were equal, India was obviously and undeniably the larger of the two entities in terms of territory, population , resources, coastlines, inherited physical infrastructure including industries, logistical support network, human resources et al. There was also the minor yet unforgettable reality that, of the 550-plus Princely States that existed in the British-occupied South Asian Indian region as of 1947, only about five ( Kalat, Khairpur, Bahawalpur, Dir , Swat ) acceded to, or were persuaded to , merge with Pakistan due to geographical contiguity, religious affinity, etc ) whereas as many as 550 other Princely States, be it large Hyderabad Deccan and Kashmir or small Junagadh and others were simply taken over by force of India’s armed invasions and occupation.

The stark , undeniable facet of disparity and dis-similarity in size and scale in every respect was surely a fundamental fact of the respectively different territorial status of the two new State entities. This reality stared every person in the face at the very advent of Independence of the two countries. India , as a region , was geographically contiguous, even before and after India , as an entirely new State entity , absorbed by various means , all the 550-odd Princely States.

In vivid contrast, Pakistan was the only nation-State in world history created with two wings….. with approximately, but not equally-sized populations …. with about 1000 miles of hostile territory in between ….and a second hostile neighbour to boot, ie Afghanistan, which refused to accept the Durand Line frontier….Pakistan was neither geographically contiguous, nor was it geo-strategically and geo-politically assured of a minimal sense of security and stability from the very outset. Vallabhai Patel expected Pakistan to survive for only 6 months .

Then there was the relevant detail of sheer size : India’s vastly greater territory and population , with or without the absorption of the Princely States, and Pakistan’s smaller territory and population, even after absorbing about five Princely states.

The fact that newly-independent India could with-hold remittance to Pakistan of Pakistan’s due share of the divisible pool of pre-1947 assets for as many as five months AFTER Independence reinforces the assertion that Pakistan had to reluctantly accept the fact of India’s pre-dominance in terms of size and pre-possession of vital, regionally-relevant resources. Meanwhile, there was also a brief yet painful phase during which India cut off the supply of water to West Pakistan by virtue of its possession of the headwater sources. Finally, Mahatma Gandhi had to go on a hunger strike to persuade his own Congress-led Government to release to Pakistan the due share of resources. That was the act which tragically led to the assassination of Gandhi by a Hindu extremist and eventually, to the over-due release by India of Pakistan’s valid share of assets.

Yet a whole 66 years later, despite proven, incontestable facts staring us in the face, we witness an erudite senior Indian media person incorrectly presuming that Pakistan deluded itself from the start that it is equal to India in virtually every sense of the word. There was an arrogance barely concealed in that remark : as if to say : ” How dare you, a smaller State than us, think of yourself as our equal ? ” Pakistan’s leadership has made many erroneous decisions…and some good ones as well ..!… but deluding oneself into thinking of exact equality with India is not one of them..

The hard facts are : Pakistan sees itself as a smaller State than , and NOT equal to, the State of India . Pakistan’s principal threat perception is India-specific in terms of a smaller State threatened by a larger immediate neighbour-State, for three uncontested reasons . First, that the two countries have fought wars in 1947-48, in 1965, in 1971 and quasi-wars ( Siachin, Kargil, etc ).

Second, that India is the world’s largest importer of arms. ( can one live next door to a neighbour in , say, Defence Colony, New Delhi, if one knows that one’s immediate neighbour is acquiring weapons on an enormous scale ? ).

Third, that, as per all reliable reports, about 70 per cent of India’s armed forces on land/sea/air remain deployed in a Pakistan-oriented direction, despite India’s concerns about China, and Pakistan’s far smaller military capacity. The nuclear dimension as a force equalizer is another subject requiring separate analysis.

Pakistan acknowledge India’s important role in regional and world affairs, provided India too affords reciprocal respect to Pakistan’s reality, and its role in world affairs.

Pakistan knows it is in-equally equal to India. Yet Pakistan also knows that India has an unequal advantage in sheer size and resources vis a vis Pakistan . It is for India’s media intelligentsia, academia, civil and political society to substantially increase their knowledge and insights into Pakistan’s perceptions and concerns so that the two countries can co-exist peacefully and constructively as two inequal equals.

As published on 13th February 2014 in India's first independent on-line newspaper : The Citizen. Editor : Seema Mustafa.