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9-08-2015, 22:51

INDIA, PAKISTAN AND BANGLADESH

It was intended to be a peaceful severance from Britain that brought freedom from colonial rule to one-fifth of mankind. The massed bands of the Indian army and the Scottish Highlanders on parade side by side first played ‘God Save the King’ and then when the saffron, green and white flag of free India was raised, with Gandhi’s spinning-wheel at its centre, the bands together struck up the Indian national anthem. It was symbolic of the new relationship, Prime Minister Nehru asked Lord Mountbatten to stay as independent India’s first governor-general. But independence solved only one problem, the relationship with imperial Britain. Daunting tasks faced the new rulers; they had to maintain law and order when the cauldron of ethnic and religious animosities turned to murderous violence; they had to define and to secure the new national frontiers in the vacuum of power left by the British which had not been completely filled by the agreements reached at independence; and they had to find ways of raising the standard of living of the hundreds of millions surviving at subsistence level in rural India and in its teeming cities. All these things had to be tackled simultaneously. Ever since independence, the combination of poverty, the fervour of ethnic-religious minorities and the manipulation of politics by the wealthier elites has resulted in a cycle of violence that has continued for more than half a century. Gandhi’s vision of an India where all its inhabitants would be brothers was not to be realised. Before 1947 it seemed only natural to suppose that British India would be replaced by the one Commonwealth of India. But the deep divisions, never healed during the century of British rule, proved stronger. Only by force and bloodshed was it possible to create two states in 1947. Ten million people fled and half a million perished. Ethnic conflict and nationalism continued to threaten the cohesion of the two successor nations, India and Pakistan. In 1971, Bengal, the eastern region of Pakistan, rose in rebellion and, with India’s help, gained independence from West Pakistan. The new state was called Bangladesh. Now there were three nations. The Republic of India and the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, though facing many similar problems of poverty and of ethnic conflicts within their states and though inheriting the same British imperial traditions and institutions, have developed very differently. With hardly a break since independence, Pakistan has been ruled by a bureaucratic–military alliance under an authoritarian military ruler, while India has preserved a democratic framework of government. In India the politicians have allied with the civil service to exclude the military from decision-making. The commander-in-chief of the Indian army is not a member of the Cabinet, is subject to the orders of the prime minister and defence minister and, to make doubly certain that he can build up no personal power in the army, is replaced every two years. The Indian army has no tradition of mounting coups against the civilian government. Instead of authoritarian military rulers, the Nehru family – down to and including Rajiv Gandhi – acted for most of India’s history as a ‘dynasty’ able to win the necessary electoral support to maintain itself in power except for short periods. India’s leaders have made it a fundamental objective of nation-building that the republic is secular and that the majority Hindu and minority Muslim populations enjoy equal civil rights. No ‘nationalism’ based on religious foundations is tolerated. Pakistan’s official title since the constitution of 1962 is the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. But appearances are misleading. Certain aspects of Islam, for example the enforcing of the sharia law with amputations and floggings, were introduced by General Zia-ul-Haq, who seized power in 1977 and cloaked his military dictatorship with an Islamic façade of respectability. His death in August 1988 in a plane crash, probably the result of sabotage, removed a tyrant who had ordered more than 4,000 floggings of criminals and political opponents during his decade in power. But under Zia the religious leaders, the ulema, had no controlling influence, unlike those in Khomeini’s Islamic Iran. The exclusion of the ulema from the management of the nation’s political affairs has been determinedly maintained by all Pakistan’s leaders since independence. In 1947, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, the leader of India’s Muslim League, was determined to establish an independent secular Muslim state if he could not get a loosely structured, unified India with circumscribed power at the centre – something Nehru and the Congress Party leaders would not agree to. The independent alternative, Pakistan, then became the only other means of protecting Muslim lives and property in the Indian subcontinent. But a separate Pakistan could be justified only on ethnic and religious grounds. The Muslim League thus had to emphasise religion as a ground for demanding independence and as a basis for its appeal to the Muslims spread throughout India. There was one Muslim to every four non-Muslims (most of whom were Hindus), and the appeal of the Muslim League was particularly successful in central India, where the Muslims faced the hostility and discrimination of Hindu majorities. An independent Muslim nation would not only free Muslims within its confines from fear but also promised economic and social improvement for the repressed Muslim poor. The incitement of religious feelings was, however, bound to be dangerous; it led to the fanaticism and massacres that followed partition – consequences which the Muslim League had desperately wished to avoid but which were beyond their control. Thus, from the very beginning, Jinnah’s secular Muslim state implied ambiguities. The ulema were nevertheless powerful in the independent state and could stir up the masses against the ruling elite, so constitution-making proved a long-drawn-out affair. Jinnah, the father of the nation, lived for only one year after independence, and during the decade from 1948 until 1958, when the military first seized power, political development in Pakistan was stunted by the failure of the Muslim League to develop as a mass party – a decade characterised by the factionalism and corruption of the politicians. Nation-building was in any case going to be difficult, and there was no one of Jinnah’s stature to take his place. Pakistan was divided into two parts, separated by a thousand miles of the Indian land mass. In Eastern Pakistan, where the majority (54 per cent) of Pakistanis lived, the Muslims were ethnically homogeneous Bengalis. In Western Pakistan, there was ethnic diversity among Punjabis, Sindhis, Pathans and Baluchis. The central Pakistan government, situated in the western half, set itself the task of dominating the divided West and sought also to dominate the East. In the West, more than half the population lives in the Punjab, the remainder in four provinces and in the capital, Islamabad. The army and the higher civil service were predominantly Punjabi, and the political leadership of the Muslim League had strong roots in the refugees who had fled from India, where they had been in a minority. The building up of a mass democratic base would have ousted the Punjabi–Muslim refugee elite from power and handed it over to the far more united Bengali East. But the desire to hold on to power meant that the Punjabi–Muslim refugee elite would continue to rule with the assistance of the army and the higher civil service, suppressing ethnic nationalism and securing their predominance over the more populous eastern half. Here in a nutshell lies the reason for the catastrophic development of Pakistan’s politics – its undemocratic features, the army’s subversion of civilian government without a broad popular mass base, and ultimately the rebellion of disadvantaged and resentful East Pakistan in 1971. To manipulate the constitution to their advantage, Pakistan’s rulers forcibly amalgamated the provinces in the west into one West Pakistan region which was then given an equal voice to the more populous East Pakistan. But the constitution of 1956 caused much dissatisfaction among the steam-rollered participants east and west. The Muslim League politicians meanwhile could not establish a stable civilian government based on a parliamentary assembly. Between 1948 and 1954 the Constituent Assembly had been less than a hundred days in session and one prime minister had been assassinated. The constitution of 1956 provided for elections in February 1959. Provincial elections in East Pakistan in 1954 had already shown that one political party there, the United Front, would carry all before it; the Muslim League had come last, gaining only 10 of the 309 seats. In West Pakistan, with its fourfold ethnic rivalry, no single party could hope to equal the performance of the United Party. The United Party and East Pakistan would thus take control of the whole country. The rulers were not prepared to accept this. In 1958, General Ayub Khan extinguished parliament, first in East Pakistan, where he had been sent as military governor, and then in West Pakistan, when in the same year he became head of state. It was a military coup, but few regretted the passing of the self-serving politicians. President Ayub Khan invented an ingenious constitutional device, the indirect referendum: an electoral college of ‘basic democrats’ was formed, which then overwhelmingly confirmed him in office. Although power was concentrated in the president’s hands, he relied for day-to-day government on the civil service. There was no room for political parties under the constitution he drew up in 1962; the members of the National Assembly were chosen on ‘personal merit’ as judged by the president and his advisers. The judiciary and press were fettered, and subordinated to presidential rule. Provincial autonomy, to the extent it had survived, was brought completely under central control. East Pakistan, deprived even of the rights of the 1956 constitution, erupted in riots. The political opposition there formed the Awami League under Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, whose proposals for a twonation federation landed him in jail. In the unfavoured provinces in West Pakistan, resentment against the Punjabi–Muslim refugee elite which, with the army, continued to control policy and patronage under the Ayub presidency also produced growing unrest. Ayub’s most capable opponent was Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, whose Pakistan People’s Party gathered the support in the provinces of both rural and urban groups disadvantaged by the changes brought about by industrialisation. Ayub Kahn also had to face the problems of Pakistan’s national security. Relations with India went from bad to worse after independence. Pakistan had taken advantage of the Cold War tensions to redress the balance as against a larger and stronger India by tying itself to the US-backed anti-communist line-up of nations in Asia, joining the South-East Asia Treaty Organisation (SEATO) in 1954 and the Baghdad Pact the following year. As expected, Pakistan thereupon received substantial American military and financial aid. For Pakistan and India, however, it was not the Cold War that primarily concerned them but relations with each other. At the heart of their conflict lay the problem of Kashmir. All attempts by Pakistan to negotiate directly with India came to nothing; nor could the United Nations find a peaceful way to mediate. Every attempt was blocked by Nehru, who refused to hold the plebiscite he had earlier promised. The possibility that the majority of Kashmir’s people might opt for Pakistan because they were Muslims struck at the heart of India’s nationhood as conceived by Nehru and the other Congress leaders: India was a secular state in which both Muslims and Hindus should find their rightful place. The secession of Muslim Kashmir might prompt demands by Muslims elsewhere in India for a plebiscite and, ultimately, for the right of secession, thus undermining Indian unity. India was the stronger and could afford to sit tight, in control of most of Kashmir. Inside Kashmir the Indians suppressed all opposition and stifled a growing demand for independence. Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah, Nehru’s friend, was arrested and imprisoned in 1953 for declaring that he found integration of Kashmir into India an unacceptable solution. He was not released until 1964. Nehru’s India was treated with suspicion by the US and the West. He followed a non-aligned policy in the Cold War and was one of the architects of the non-aligned Bandung meeting in April 1955. He also enjoyed the support of Khrushchev over Kashmir when the Soviet leader visited Delhi in December 1955, and sought good relations with communist China. China’s claim of sovereignty over Tibet caused India anxiety, but this was dispelled by the Indian–Chinese ‘peaceful coexistence’ agreement in 1954. When the Chinese army invaded Tibet to put down a revolt in 1959 and the Dalai Lama fled to India, relations between India and China deteriorated to the point of armed conflict. To ensure better control of Tibet, China had occupied an area of Kashmir, the Asai Chin, and had constructed a road through it from China to Tibet. When China next attacked the ill-defined Chinese–Kashmir and Indian frontier in October 1962, the Indian army was woefully unprepared and was defeated. Nehru had to ask for Western help, and since the opponent was now communist China received military aid from the US, Britain and the Soviet Union. In a show of strength China thereupon invaded the frontier region of India but unilaterally withdrew after securing the frontier it wanted. A ceasefire in December 1962 in effect settled the issue in China’s favour. Pakistan did not take advantage of India’s military plight. In need of Western aid, Nehru was now pressurised by the West to reach a settlement over Kashmir. The West was anxious to ensure peace on Pakistan’s eastern Indian frontier so that it could concentrate on its Western alliance against communism. But Realpolitik dictated otherwise. In May 1964, Nehru died. Pakistan was now convinced that only by war would it prove possible to resolve the Kashmir issue and the frontier disputes with India. The rearrest of Sheikh Abdullab by the Indians made the conflict more certain. In December 1964, India declared that Kashmir’s accession to ‘the Union was final and irrevocable’, a move that greatly angered Pakistan. Western policies dictated by Cold War consideration had been particularly uncertain on the Indian subcontinent, veering from support for Pakistan to supporting India after 1962 and arming both sides. The Soviet Union also sought to play an influential role by supporting India with arms and aid during Khrushchev’s ambitious period of world politics. India, meanwhile, always regarded Pakistan as its principal enemy. As the West after 1962 massively increased the armed forces of India, Pakistan normalised relations with the Soviet Union and drew closer to China again. The poor performance of the Indian army against the Chinese encouraged Pakistan to believe it could now capture Kashmir. At the end of August 1965 Pakistani troops struck across the UN ceasefire line in Kashmir. On 6 September the Indian army replied with an all-out war against Pakistan. Two countries of the British Commonwealth were now at war with each other. Despite India’s military superiority, Pakistan forces resisted effectively. For the second time the Soviet Union and the US were agreed that a war should be ended. Both were anxious to keep China in check. The US did not help its ally, Pakistan, and the Soviet Union did not help its ‘ally’, India. After only seventeen days, on 23 September, fighting ceased in accordance with a Security Council resolution sponsored jointly by the US and the Soviet Union, with Britain’s full support. Alexei Kosygin, the Soviet prime minister, achieved a diplomatic coup in bringing Nehru’s successor, Lal Bahadur Shastri, and Pakistan’s president, Ayub Khan, to a peace conference at Tashkent in January 1966. In effect, the Kashmir question was put on ice and India and Pakistan agreed to withdraw their forces behind the frontiers as they had existed before the outbreak of the war. So ended the short Pakistani–Indian war. It had achieved nothing but casualties for both sides, but the Soviet Union’s posture in Asia as a peacemaker was enhanced. In one respect, Pakistan’s development appeared to contrast favourably with India’s: the growth of its economy in the Ayub Khan military era. Political stability, even of the repressive kind, is seen by investors as a positive factor. In both agriculture and industry Pakistan’s wealth and production grew rapidly in the 1960s. The magic formula was to encourage a capitalist, marketoriented economy and to loosen the bureaucratic regulations imposed in the 1950s. Ayub Khan was following with seeming success the development prescriptions of theoretical economists. One of the consequences they anticipated during the phase of rapid development in what was a Third World country was the unrestrained urge for profits among the owners of the few existing large-scale enterprises. The resulting inequalities of wealth were truly staggering. Just twenty-two families owned the greater part of industry, banking and insurance – or, to be more precise, two-thirds of industry, four-fifths of banking and almost the whole of insurance. Their wealth was fabulous. The senior military and civil service prospered as well, together with a small middle class. In the countryside agriculture benefited from what was called the ‘green revolution’, the creation of new plant breeds bearing much heavier crops. This necessitated shorter stems that would not bend over when carrying more grain. Agricultural research was given high priority in India and Pakistan. A rapidly growing population needed to be fed. The uneven rainfall, the monsoon period followed by drought for nine months of the year, was the main problem on the Indian subcontinent. The seeds that produced the new ‘green revolution’ plants of rice, wheat, maize, sorghum and millet seeds were imported from the Philippines, Taiwan and Mexico. Farmers had to be taught better techniques of husbandry and the correct use of fertilisers. In India, the government, with the assistance of the Ford Foundation, promoted an all-round programme. In Pakistan, education and research were undertaken by the universities. Mexico also assisted by training many agricultural scientists. In Pakistan it was the farmers of the larger farms in the Punjab who benefited rather than the peasants and small farmers and those in the east, in Bengal. The price paid for an economic development in Pakistan that made the well-to-do richer and the poor poorer, despite the rapid growth as measured nationally, was a heavy one. The low living standards of industrial workers and of peasants fell even further. Development was also lopsided regionally – West Pakistan did much better than the eastern half of the country. The tensions were heightened until there was an explosion that ended in civil war and swept the military rulers from power, if only for a time. In 1969 there were student demonstrations, labour strikes and massive unrest coupled with demands for the restoration of parliamentary rule. Ayub Khan promised to hold elections; he had no desire to rule the country any longer under some form of military repression, which was the only alternative. Unlike Zia, he was no ruthless dictator. He handed over power to another general, Yahya Khan, who also honestly attempted to preside over a transition to civilian rule with the army in the background as a check on unbridled political conflict, which might otherwise lead to chaos. In December 1970 genuinely free elections were held. The results and the behaviour of the politicians led to civil conflict and the Pakistani–Indian war twelve months later. The elections split the country politically in two, corresponding to the geographical division. No major party gained a seat in both East and West Pakistan. In East Pakistan the powerful political grouping known as the Awami League, still led by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and on a platform advocating wide-ranging autonomy and only a loose federal linking with the West, carried all before it, gaining 151 seats and losing only two. In West Pakistan eleven parties competed, and none reached double figures except Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s Pakistan’s People’s Party with 81 seats. Bhutto was a charismatic, populist leader from a wealthy landowning family in the province of Sind. His power base in that province was a somewhat opportunistic alignment of opposition to the capitalist–military rule: socialists in Sind and the Punjab, resentful urban workers, liberal reformers and feudal landlords in Sind looking for more favourable regional treatment supported the PPP and turned it into a mass party. Sections of the army, discontented with the outcome of the brief Pakistani–Indian war in 1965, also backed Bhutto. The elections over, the National Assembly should have met shortly after. It did not. The Awami League would have been the governing group in it and the president, General Yahya Khan, first wanted an assurance that the League’s policy would not in effect create a two-nation state. In taking this step, he was reinforced by the strident West Pakistani nationalism of Bhutto. Talks between Mujibur, Yahya and Bhutto failed, and Mujibur was arrested. Bhutto and elements in the army sought by violent threats to prevent the convening of the National Assembly; shortly before it was due to meet in March 1971, Yahya postponed it indefinitely. The scene was now set for the tragic events that followed: the attempt by the army to subdue East Pakistan by force. Bengal, suffering another natural catastrophe in cyclones and floods, had felt neglected by the lack of effective Western relief. Now its right to democratic representation was being denied by West Pakistan. The result of all these cumulative failures was war in East Pakistan. Ten million Hindu refugees flooded across the frontier into India, prompting the Indian army to intervene in East Pakistan, and also to attack in Kashmir. It was all over in two weeks. The Pakistani army in the East became prisoners of war. India and Pakistan concluded a peace settlement at Simla in December 1971 and the independent state of Bangladesh was born. Independence did not much help the Bangladeshi people. Theirs is one of the poorest countries in the world, its population exposed to periodic cataclysms of cyclone and floods. Here, too, the army for most of its history has been the controlling element in repressive government. In 1975 Mujibur was assassinated in an army coup. Powerless parliamentary assemblies and army strongmen have ruled this country, beset by huge economic problems and a rapidly growing population. General Ershad seized power in 1982, retaining it until overthrown by a wave of popular protest in 1990 which ended years of corruption, only to start a new period of turmoil. Meanwhile, in little more than a decade, the population had grown from 84.6 million to over 110 million. In West Pakistan the lost war decided the army to take a back seat, and Yahya transferred power to Bhutto and his PPP. Would Bhutto now usher in the long-delayed social and political reforms, heralding a new era of parliamentary democratic government? In this respect, the Bhutto years from 1972 to 1977, that is until his own violent overthrow by another army coup, were a disappointment. The 1973 constitution was indeed intended to transform Pakistan into a parliamentary democracy; but only a year later it was amended. Bhutto’s political corruption undermined the development of democratic political parties, as he likewise violently repressed political opponents. Civil liberties were severely limited and in the provinces autonomy was crushed. His socialist zeal soon flagged after some early and limited measures of nationalisation. Funds for the promised free education and for the provision of health care for the poor failed to materialise, leaving unfilled the huge gap in the basic social services. Economic growth slowed. But there were some reforms which particularly benefited the factory workers and urban poor – a revision of labour laws and the raising of wages. Bhutto consequently continued to enjoy, even after his fall in 1977, the mass support of millions of Pakistanis, who remembered him for caring for the poor. Crucial to his political survival were Bhutto’s relations with the army. He sought to appease the military by increasing defence expenditure. He appointed as his loyal army chief of staff a young officer who had foiled an army coup in 1972. Bhutto’s fatal error was to choose the wrong man – the ambitious, clever and utterly ruthless Ziaul- Haq. Zia waited for Bhutto to run into political crisis. This occurred after the elections of March 1977, which Bhutto had so blatantly rigged that the opposition parties would not accept the results. Fearing military intervention to quell the ensuing turmoil, Bhutto agreed to the holding of new elections, but before they could be held, on 5 July 1977, Zia staged his military coup. He claimed that Pakistan was on the verge of civil war and that he would hold elections within ninety days, whereupon he would hand power back to the elected civilian government. It was the first of his many broken promises. To rid himself of Bhutto, meanwhile, the fallen prime minister was tried and then, despite worldwide protest, hanged in 1979. After that, Zia made little pretence of ruling other than dictatorially. Zia’s excuse for exercising arbitrary power was the need to wage a moral crusade to create an Islamic state. He devoted himself to arresting, imprisoning and executing his political opponents and army rivals. Martial law was declared, and the remnants of civil liberties and political parties were destroyed. Yet this tyrant won the support of the West. Once more the Cold War had distorted Western perceptions of priorities. The decisive event was the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979. Pakistan became the base from which the Afghan mujahideen were supplied. Moreover, since the Soviet invasion was interpreted as a threat to the oil-rich Persian Gulf, Pakistan once more was seen as a crucial military bulwark of the West. An earlier US arms embargo was reversed into massive US military and economic aid. By 1983 it appeared to Zia expedient, both for internal reasons and to improve his image in the West, to incorporate some civilian ministers and a controlled electoral body into the governing structure of the country. The assemblies so elected were to be Islamic rather than parliamentary, and were not to feature competing political parties. The National Assembly elected in 1985 nevertheless showed signs that it saw its own creation as only the first step in the transfer of power from the military. There was a strong revival of political activity. Miss Benazir Bhutto, the daughter of the prime minister hanged by Zia, was allowed to return to Pakistan in 1986 and attracted large crowds at her rallies. The prime minister and his government, appointed by Zia, showed an unwelcome desire for real power. It was no surprise when, in May 1988, the prime minister was dismissed and the Assembly was dissolved. But a return to further authoritarian military rule was avoided by an accident, the death of Zia in a plane crash in August 1988. The promised new elections were held in November and Miss Benazir Bhutto emerged as the winner with the PPP gaining the largest number of seats of any party. It was a startling result for a Muslim country – the first woman prime minister. The West, especially the US administration, heaved a sigh of relief at being rid of the blemish of association with Zia. Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto promised to continue the pro-Western Afghan policy of her predecessor but the lessening of Soviet–US hostility as the Cold War came to an end made the military establishment less important in American eyes. Benazir Bhutto’s hold on power was fragile, dependent on maintaining a coalition partnership with an unreliable ethnic party. The government could make little headway in solving the country’s economic problems, in easing regional tensions with the provinces or in improving its international position. The Afghan Civil War continued even after the departure of Soviet troops in December 1989, and millions of refugees remained across the border in Pakistan. With democracy restored, Pakistan was welcomed back into the Commonwealth, but the most serious problem – the perennial conflict over the future of Kashmir – was brought no nearer to a solution. In 1990 Benazir Bhutto was dismissed, accused of leading a corrupt government. After fresh elections her fall from power was confirmed by the voters. In the early 1990s the army continued to abide by its undertaking not to intervene. Parliamentary democracy, however, remained a fragile plant in Pakistan. In Pakistan, life and politics have shown little improvement in the 1990s. Since the end of the Cold War, and the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, for the US Pakistan’s role as a key ally had seemingly ended. The US became concerned to foil its attempts to build nuclear weapons. The principal 500 families continue to hold most of the land and inequality remains extreme. Violence broke out in bitter clashes between militant second- generation Muslim refugees from India, the Mohajirs, and government forces. In the mid- 1990s the Mohajirs sought to combat discrimination by forming their own political party; attempts to crush the violent protests led to more than 2,000 deaths, mainly in Karachi. Meanwhile, corruption and venal politics have led to governmental instability. In November 1996 the president dismissed Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto; financial scandals had surrounded her husband and Swiss bank accounts had been opened in her name. Her brother was also engaged in violence; his murderers were never identified. Bhutto’s successor, Nawaz Sharif, promised cleaner government and a revival of the economy. However, Pakistan’s long history of corrupt and violent politics inspires little confidence. Representative government did not prevail. In October 1999 the military did not refrain from once more seizing power. There was no outcry or support for the politicians. In 1999 Pakistan reverted for the fourth time to military rule, overthrowing the civilian government. General Pervez Musharraf appointed himself president. The army occupies a priveleged position having infiltrated all branches of the bureaucracy at state and provincial level. In the West Musharraf was shunned. Pakistan’s assistance to the Taliban and North Korea’s nuclear ambitions especially aroused American anger. But Pakistan is a nuclear power and had to be treated with care. The defining moment for Musharraf was 11 September and the US determination to fight al-Qaeda in its home base, Afghanistan. Musharraf abruptly changed and threw in his lot with the US risking Muslim outrage in the greater national interest. Pressure on Musharraf to step down ceased with equal suddeness now that he had become an ally. This, in turn, encouraged Musharraf to pursue his campaign in Kashmir. There had already been a serious crisis in the summer of 1999, but in the winter of 2001 it escalated to a confrontation that threatened to flare into war. The trigger was exchange of gunfire and fighting across the line of control in Kashmir, the infiltration of guerrillas aided by Pakistan on the Indian side and finally the attack by terrorists on India’s parliament on 13 December while in session. India blamed Pakistan, the attackers were killed but nine Indians lost their lives. In October 2002 Musharraf restored the semblance of civilian rule permitting a general election for the Assembly. A divided opposition allowed Musharraf’s supporters to gain a narrow win. But the most remarkable aspect was the rise of the opposition Islamic religious parties. There is strong opposition to Musharraf’s US friendly policy and anger at his abandonment of the Taliban. Musharraf remained firmly in control holding the position both of president and chief of the army. Kashmir remains the most important goal making it difficult for Musharraf to respond to Indian approaches. The Pakistan army continued to support irregular units entering Indiancontrolled Kashmir where they committed terrorist attacks. India’s democracy is embodied in its constitution, which, enacted by the Constituent Assembly in November 1949 came into force in January 1950. In its form of government the Republic of India leans heavily on British constitutional theory. The president has a similar role to that of the sovereign; the power of government is exercised by the prime minister, who chooses his Cabinet colleagues and is dependent on the majority support of a political party competing regularly at general elections. The Indian constitution departs from its unwritten British model by incorporating a Bill of Rights; another novel feature is the inclusion of ‘Directive Principles’ of state policy, intended in a positive way to remedy particular Indian conditions of exploitation and discrimination such as exist in the caste system of untouchables. India was proclaimed a secular state. Except for one period of authoritarian rule under Indira Gandhi’s Emergency (1975–7), democracy – with general elections by adult suffrage, freedom of speech and of the press, the toleration of non-violent political opposition, an independent judiciary and freedom from arbitrary arrest – has prevailed since independence. This reflects a harmonisation of British tradition and post-independence Indian political will. But, in practice, Indian democracy is specific to India, and no mere copy of that in Britain or in the US. Political parties do not function as in most Western parliaments. The prime minister’s role became pre-eminent not only in comparison with the president’s, but – under Nehru – in relation to the Assembly as well. This was one consequence of Nehru’s complete dominance of politics for the eighteen consecutive years he served as prime minister. He was not even formally chosen as their leader by the Congress Party, but the mantle of Gandhi’s heir unquestionably fell on his shoulders. He enjoyed support throughout the country and enjoyed touring and addressing mass rallies. He carried the Congress Party with him at every general election, in 1952, 1957 and 1962. In the Assembly, the Lok Sabha, Congress was by far the strongest party with never less than 45 per cent of the total vote; the other parties were fragmented and drew support only from largely regional bases. So India looked like becoming a one-party democracy. There are parallels with Italy here. This had its effect on the Congress Party itself. It lacked any common ideology or policies; it was just the ‘winning party’, split into factions, with supporters of the right and supporters of socialism. Various interests believed themselves best protected by being on the government side. This was hardly a healthy basis for the development of a parliamentary democracy. Power corrupts, or it nearly always does so. Nehru’s claim to statesmanship and greatness is that power did not corrupt him. He had the means to become authoritarian and follow the example of other charismatic Third World leaders who, once elected, became dictators, but he set himself the task of making a success of the democratic experiment in this huge country where the majority were poor or destitute and unable to read. He toured the country, educating the people to use their precious right to exercise the vote. He was prepared to listen, to discuss and debate with his ministerial colleagues and with the leaders of the Congress Party. Some were opposed to one or other of his policies, such as his insistence on a secular state, his pragmatic socialism, his opposition to caste discrimination and his relations with the states of the Union. In his dealings with those who opposed him, he was humorous, patient and tolerant. He distrusted theory, rigid thinking and doctrinaire solutions. Consequently, clear-cut and consistent policies were not a mark of his years in office. Nehru could irritate the West by preaching peace; it accused him of hypocrisy, of underrating the menace of communism, and pointed to inconsistencies in his tolerance and pacifism, especially in his denial of self-determination to the people of Kashmir and his readiness to use force to defeat secessionist movements in the 1950s and 1960s. He was also ready to use force against foreign nations. Portuguese Goa represented the last vestige of European colonialism in India. After long and fruitless negotiations Nehru marched Indian troops into Goa in December 1961 and the Portuguese surrendered. Nehru set himself a number of clear objectives for the future of India. With these he would not compromise. The first was to preserve the territorial unity of the state. The second was to ensure the rights of all India’s inhabitants, whatever their religion or ethnic cultural background. This meant that India must be a secular democratic country. The third was to raise standards of living, to develop India into a great modern state. The fourth objective was to ensure Indian security. This involved freeing India from economic dependence on other countries. It would also need a powerful army, but that army would be subject to civilian control. Nehru’s aims help to explain his apparent inconsistencies. His handling of Kashmir was one of these. To allow religion to decide allegiance could plunge India into chaos. For similar reasons he also sent the Indian army to suppress the independence movements of the tribal peoples in the extreme north-east of India. With the hundreds of princes and their states, Nehru had less trouble, apart from Kashmir and Jammu. He left it to his able lieutenant, Sardar Patel, to negotiate the abandonment of their rights and the integration of their states in return for pensions. The princes, large and small, were in a hopeless position confronted with the Indian army. The Muslim Nizam of Hyderabad nevertheless postponed a decision: his people were Hindu and his large territory was entirely surrounded by India, but he was not left a free choice whether to accede to Pakistan or to India – in fact, he dreamt of independence. An Indian army police action in September 1948 put an end to his prevarication and the integration process was completed in 1950, the year in which Patel, India’s most able political leader after Nehru, died. There was no room for the princes in modern India. Nehru showed more forbearance when confronted by another problem that threatened to fragment India. This was the vexed question of the ‘official’ language to be spoken by all Indians. English was the only common language, but it was confined to a tiny percentage of the educated. Of the more than thirty major languages, the language of northern India, Hindi, was spoken by the largest single group but not by a majority of all Indians; large minorities of between 20 and 45 million (in 1971) spoke Urdu, Telugu, Bengali, Marathi, Tamil, Gujarati and so on – some fourteen major languages. Urdu is the language of the largest minority, the Muslims: in its spoken form it is Hindi, but it uses a different script. Because it involved the Muslim minority it was therefore especially important to Nehru to find an acceptable solution. The sensitivity of the language issue is that it can move beyond ethnic and cultural identity to assertions of national independence. Nehru wisely compromised, allowing many languages to coexist with English and Hindi and postponing the introduction of Hindi as the national language for fifteen years – whereupon it was postponed again. Nehru’s readiness to envisage a multicultural India took the heat out of the divisive language issue. But when language was being used as part of an independence claim, as in the extreme north-east of India, Nehru used force to suppress such movements. Nehru laid down the fundamental principle that religion and politics should be separated and that India was a secular state, all of whose citizens, of whatever religion, enjoyed equal civil rights. This necessarily represented a step away from the spirituality that lay at the heart of Gandhi’s mission. Muslims, who constitute about 11 per cent of India’s population, had traditionally been supporters of the Congress and continued to be elected to the Assembly and to serve in India’s governments. Nehru and his successors worked hard to remove any discrimination against the Muslims, but the improving Muslim–Hindi relationship was threatened in the second half of the 1980s by the rise of a group of Hindu fundamentalists. They began to stir up religious animosities by attempting to reclaim former Hindu sites on which mosques now stood. So some fanatical Hindi groups were acting against a tradition renowned for its tolerance towards other religions. Nehru was the privileged son of a wealthy family. He nevertheless regarded democratic, humane socialism not only as the best means to secure Indian economic development, but also as the best weapon to break down the evil of India’s discriminatory class and caste society. Before and after independence, he linked socialism in India, which he believed would free its peasant and urban poor from dependence and indignity, to liberating the oppressed in Asia and Africa from the dependence imposed by Western imperialism. He was optimistic that reason, law and democracy would overcome tradition and prejudice. His was a noble vision that diverged significantly from reality both in his lifetime and after. But his democracy of the poor did not deliver the results he hoped for. The democratic structure became distorted by the power and influence of family connection and of caste, by the landowning class and the wealthy elite. A huge conservative bureaucracy clogs and frustrates fair and efficient government. India did not make the progress Nehru expected by adopting scientific socialism and Western liberal values, but that does not mean that the fundamental principles of his policy were wrong. Indians, in developing their country, did not suffer the harsh fate that befell millions of Stalin’s subjects and Mao Zedong’s peasants. India’s economic development from independence to the 1990s only just kept ahead of its population growth. In successive five-year plans Nehru accepted the premise of the Soviet experience, that to come of age as an independent state India would need to give priority to becoming a modern industrial and military power, with its own heavy industries. The public sector would enter into contracts with the key industries, and central planners would control the commanding heights of the economy. As in Britain, communism and doctrinaire socialism were rejected in favour of a mixed economy. Not until the 1980s did the emphasis revert back to greater reliance on the private sector. Despite the establishment of a modern industrial core – steel, oil, chemicals, power and transport – India’s economic development mainly benefited a growing urban middle class, which demanded all the consumer luxuries of the West. That development left behind the urban poor and the destitute, living in shacks and on pavements in the cities – cities which, in this respect, resembled the Third World urban sprawls, with their contrasts between rich and poor. The increase in agricultural production was also disappointing compared with that attained by other Asian countries, such as South Korea. The ‘green revolution’, which achieved a tripling of cereal production in India, proved far less successful in raising the output of its staple food, rice. Again, agricultural production kept only narrowly ahead of population growth. The emphasis on industrial development delayed the investment necessary to accelerate the growth of farming. By world standards, Indian yields were low, though that at least left scope for spectacular improvement. But such improvements would not occur without social change and without greater resources being devoted to the education of India’s numerous peasantry. The states of India whose influence predominated on questions of land reform were controlled by the very landowners who had little interest in bringing it about. Consequently, reforms such as land distribution to the landless or to those peasants without viable holdings were not implemented to any great extent. Mass poverty persisted in India in the 1990s. Nehru died in 1964. His death left a political vacuum. Would so flawed a party democracy survive after so many years of stability under Nehru’s leadership? The Congress leaders had to choose between the pro-Western conservative Morarji Desai, a former finance minister, Lal Bahadur Shastri, an elderly follower of Gandhi, or, on the left, Nehru’s daughter, Mrs Indira Gandhi. Their choice fell on Shastri. He held the premiership only briefly, incongruously a period notable for the war with Pakistan, before dying suddenly in 1966 while at Tashkent seeking to make peace. Indira Gandhi succeeded to the premiership. In the Congress Party, Mrs Gandhi defeated her rival Morarji Desai and went on to win the elections of 1967; the reverence accorded to her father was an enormous asset, though the Congress Party lost seats. But Mrs Gandhi’s opponents in the Congress Party, especially the party bosses in the states, had not given up the struggle against her. In 1969 the party split. Indira Gandhi was expelled but carried the majority of the party in the Assembly with her, which became known eventually as the Congress (I) Party. She called another general election in March 1971 and completely defeated her opponents in the rival Congress Party. Her intervention in Bengal when civil war broke out in Pakistan in 1971, the ensuing defeat of Pakistan by India and the creation of Bangladesh made her a popular national leader and enabled her to win state elections too in 1972. Indira Gandhi, lacking the moderation and restraint of her father, established a strong, centralised and personal style of ruling. She sought to dominate state politics completely by appointing her own nominees to the chief posts. Was her motive personal power alone? The old bosses had certainly blocked all radical land reform and Indira Gandhi tried to help the peasants. But her new policies promoting the ‘green revolution’ and the anti-poverty programmes had only limited success. She soon ran into trouble. There were food shortages, outbreaks of violence in some states and countrywide protests, until a court ruling in June 1975 declared her 1971 election to be invalid owing to irregularities. She was ordered to be suspended from holding office, but she put a sudden end to opposition moves to discredit her by requesting the president to declare an emergency. Indira Gandhi now put in question her father’s work and the future of Indian democracy as civil rights were suspended, press censorship imposed, thousands of opponents imprisoned and the elections due in 1976 postponed. Particularly resented was her arrogant son Sanjay, not least for his laudable but insensitive campaign to limit population growth by persuading peasants in the villages to submit to sterilisation. Disaffection against the various arbitrary measures of the government grew. Mrs Gandhi, out of touch with the true feelings of the country, called an election in December 1977 and was defeated by a coalition of opposition parties known as Janata. In a perverse way, she had now produced a functioning democracy with the first defeat of the governing party. But Janata was simply a coalition of convenience to oust Mrs Gandhi. Led by the venerable Morarji Desai it restored normal government but in 1979 fell apart, allowing Mrs Gandhi to return to power after the general election of January 1980. She relied increasingly on her son Sanjay, until his death in an accident, as well as on other members of her family and loyal retainers. She retained power because the opposition was too divided to defeat her. The most notable crisis of Indira Gandhi’s rule occurred in the Punjab. Here, the Sikhs had organised their own political party, the Akali Dal. Even after partition religious and communal antagonisms in the Punjab were a cause of conflict between Hindu and Sikh. Although Sikhs in the Indian army have been conspicuously loyal, in the 1980s extremist groups demanded the creation of an independent Sikh state, Khalistan. Moreover, a religious fanaticism was growing among the Sikhs in the 1980s. Indira Gandhi made matters worse by attempting to play off the more moderate Sikhs against the terrorists in her efforts to secure central domination over the state. In the end, in 1984, the killing of innocent Hindus forced her to crack down on the extremists, who withdrew with their armed bands to a Sikh holy place, the Golden Temple in Amritsar. In June she ordered the assault of the Golden Temple and, with the loss of hundreds of lives, it was bloodily cleared. The assault provoked outrage among the Sikh community and cost Indira Gandhi her life: two of her Sikh bodyguards assassinated her in November 1984. A wave of violence and murders followed, directed against innocent Sikhs in Delhi and other Indian cities. It was all a far cry from the days of Nehru, who had sought to conciliate and to reduce communal strife and bloodshed. On a wave of sympathy and Hindu solidarity, Rajiv Gandhi succeeded his mother to the premiership and won a landslide victory in the general election held in December 1984. But his government found no solution to India’s perennial problems, prominent among them ethnic– nationalist stirrings in some of India’s troubled states. Terrorist attacks in the Punjab eventually caused hundreds of deaths and brought about the imposition of emergency rule. And, despite meeting Benazir Bhutto, Rajiv Gandhi was unable to bridge the gap between Pakistan and India over the Kashmir dispute. His boldest move, to assist the Sri Lankan government to suppress the Tamil Tigers by sending an Indian army to the island in 1987, ended in failure when his forces withdrew in the summer of 1989. Sri Lanka continues to be torn by civil war. Rajiv Gandhi and his ministers were accused of corruption, of accepting bribes when concluding a 1986 agreement with the Swedish arms manufacturer Bofors. His Congress (I) Party, meanwhile, was as heavily divided as ever, so it came as no surprise when it decisively lost the general election held in November 1989. A coalition of opposition parties assumed control of the government under Prime Minister Vishwanath Pratap Singh. Central and state government relations dominated the new government. Kashmir erupted in what was more or less rebellion and in 1990 suffered fierce and bloody repression from the Indian army occupying it. This increased tension between Pakistan and India, now both capable of fighting with nuclear weapons. In the south, the government has cracked down on India’s Tamil state, which was aiding the Tamils in Sri Lanka. At home Pratap Singh’s efforts to assist the lower Hindu castes through positive discrimination in government jobs led to violent protests in 1990 by the bettereducated, higher-caste Indians, and young men set fire to themselves. Singh’s uneasy and feuding coalition partners in government could not provide the consistent and stable development policies India desperately needed. Since the assassination of Rajiv Ghandi, India’s party divisions have made it difficult to create governments based on stable parliamentary majorities. The emergence of the Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has even threatened the cohesion of the state. Ambitious Hindu leaders inflamed religious passions condemning concessions to minority Muslims as a means to power in an attempt to replace the Congress (I) Party as the largest party in parliament. They succeeded only too well in 1992 in stirring up sectarian feeling. The flashpoint occurred in December 1992 when a fanatical mob of tens of thousands of Hindus tore down the sixteenthcentury Muslim mosque at Ayodhya. Militant BJP leaders accused the Muslims of having desecrated an earlier temple on the site dedicated to the Hindu god Ram. The riots between Hindus and Muslims, and the bloodshed that followed, were reminiscent of confrontations of earlier years. Had civilised India made no progress? Even Bombay, where Muslims and Hindus were devoted to making money and had lived together for decades, erupted in violence in early 1993 with bombs and riots leaving hundreds dead. Yet quietly India’s 72-year-old prime minister, appointed in June 1991 as a ‘stop gap’, with the able support of the finance minister Manmohan Singh, set in motion a programme of reform, lowering taxes, and liberalising trade that has led to foreign investment and lower inflation. The BJP’s influence has weakened and prospects for stability and development in 1994 began to look better. Nevertheless, violence has a way of erupting unpredictably in India. The population of democratic India, at some 860 million in the mid-1990s, was more than double what it had been on Independence Day 1947. By 1947 China had overtaken India in production per head of population and India’s inability to impose measures to control its population had a negative impact on economic growth. Another striking difference is China’s much higher literacy rate. The Indian poor, on the other hand, never had to suffer human catastrophes on the scale of Mao’s ‘mistakes’, which led to famines in which at least 20 million died. Nor has India set up penal labour camps; freedom and the rule of law are respected there. India’s ethnic, communal and religious divisions have made it difficult to implement national policies. This was compounded by political instability and the corruption of leading politicians. Until the elections of May 1996 the Congress Party had been the dominant ruling party for all but four years since Indian independence. Recently governments have been made up of unstable coalitions of twelve or more left-wing and regional parties, brought together only by the desire to prevent the largest political party, the militant Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), from gaining power. There was one glimmer of hope in India’s turbulent power struggles when an ‘untouchable’, K. R. Narayanan, was elected president. India still suffers from the socialist economic policies adopted by Nehru; the successive five-year state planning took its model from the Soviet Union. Nehru’s aim was to turn India into a great industrial power, but the elephantine bureaucracy, the difficulties in securing planning permission and the endemic corruption stifled enterprise. High tariffs also interfered with market forces. During the 1960s and 1970s Nehru’s daughter, Indira Gandhi, pursued such policies even more rigidly, while population growth left more than a third of the country below the poverty line. Liberalisation of trade began in the 1980s but made slow progress. India has remained saddled with inefficient state-owned industries; plans to privatise minority interests in the most efficient were only at the planning stage at the end of the 1990s. With its large middle class and even larger proportion of desperately poor people, the gap between rich and poor is as wide here as anywhere in the developing world. The need for change and reform and for a tough line on corruption has been recognised, but implementation is proving a painfully slow process. Kashmir continued to be the most serious issue in India’s foreign relations. The province was fully integrated into India; its predominantly Muslim population remains an issue capable of quickly flaring into a crisis between India and Pakistan. A large Indian army is in occupation but low-level fighting continues; greater autonomy for the region may provide an eventual solution. A sea change of politics occurred in the spring of 1998. The decline of the Congress Party since the late 1980s and the growth of regional state parties allowed the Hindu nationalist BJP to become the largest single party in the Delhi legislature after the election was held, though well short of a majority. The BJP had moderated its tone to broaden its appeal and make possible the formation of a coalition of smaller parties which had, up to then, shunned the party associated with Hindu extremism. The BJP’s ideology to turn secular India, the cornerstone of Ghandi’s and Nehru’s legacy, into a religious state was threatened, 120 million Muslims fearing the danger of new religious conflicts. In Delhi, the BJP-led coalition was headed, since March 1998, by Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, whose tone was moderate. But control can be wrested out of Delhi’s hands in the states. The worst atrocity occurred in the BJP-controlled state of Gujarat whose chief minister Nasendra Modi allowed a pogrom to take place, killing thousands of Muslims and driving 100,000 from their homes. The rise of militants in the BJP threatens the position of Vajpayee who, already in his seventies, cannot continue in power for long. The deeprooted religious conflict, the struggle for India to remain a secular country, mars India’s progress in the new millennium. Its economy since the 1990s has grown around five per cent, respectable in difficult global conditions, benefiting the middle classes, but without a much higher rate of growth India’s masses are trapped in poverty and, in 2002, the BJP went slow on the highly necessary programme of economic privatisation to avoid offending electors. Foreign confidence in the Indian economy declined. The BJP were also unexpectedly on the verge of losing power.

 

 

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