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India Quarterly: A Journal of


India and Pakistan: Differing Security Perceptions

R. Rama Rao
India Quarterly: A Journal of International Affairs 1985 41: 28
DOI: 10.1177/097492848504100105
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>> Version of Record - Jan 1, 1985

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The two fragments into Ivhiclz Britain, before its ivitJidrawalf,.om the subcontinent, had split the Iiidian Empire, carried witli thenz a legacy of ~ i i u r i ~ a l
distrust. This could not but irzfliience the coiirse of sirbseqirent events in the
sub-continent. So have the attitudes of the erstwliile coloiiial a i d other
powers towards the new states iri the light of their respective regional interests. hi the conparatirely short period of thirty-seveii j'cars, short in the
life of nations, the two states have been involved in hostilities on tliree occasions, iiot coiriitiiig Pakistan's attack on Iiirlia in tlih Kutcli sector in April

Ttnie no doubt is a great healer but it takes saiiie tiiire for deep wourids to
Ileal. The Iiealiiig process ~vorrldbe aided mid succeed only if the governnicnts of both coirritries are conviriced that not miitiial hostility but at least
co-existence, if not ntuttrrll amity, is good f o r both countries and strive to
create conditioiis f o r peacefiil co-existence. If only o m side is anxioirs to
niaintairi peace arid the otlier wislres to iiiaiiitain teiisioii, t i e latter will prevaiL Ptrblic opiiiioii iit the fwo corrrrtries, if ntobilised for proniotiiig coexislerice rather than coifroiitatioii, ~rotrlrlhe@. In rieiiiocrotic court tries, at
least iri theory, public opinion i s aforce to reckoii with and 110 goveriiiiiciii
con f o r long afford to disregard public opiriion. Tltc itiedia, agairt in theory,
reflects piiblic opinioii and serves to consolidate aitd strenptlieii it, in the
process coiiipelliiig thc goreriiirient of tlie day to consider careJrIIy the issues
raised. IIIpractice, hoivever, goveriiriients, eveit irt 6cIiberal" democracies call
influence promimiit segments of the iiiedia to project issues in the iiiaiiiier
desired by the foririer, i.e., the niedia can atid regrettably are being irsed to
misirfornr tlic public at horiie arid abroad. Everi so, in de~iiocracios, irltiniately, goveriiiiiental efforts iiot withstandii1g, at least soi~iesections of the
niedia discover. facts and fiarlessly expose gowrririieiits' earlier efforts to
niisiilforn: the pirblic. This is the inhereiit strength of democracies.
l i t dictatorships this is diffcirlt. Rut there are dictatorships and dictatorships! In Pakistan, for esanlple, by all accoirnts the goreriimcnt of Genera!
Zia ul Hag, in its own way, has managed to seciire tolerance ifiiot tlic enthusiastic support of a inajority of urban n t i d l e and lower niiddle classes for
the niartial law reginre. A sec!ion-even a large section-of politically conscious urban and rirral gtotcps are totally urlreconciled to rule by generals f o r
a number of reasoiis. Aiiotlier section of the same siratn of Pakistani society
again for its own reasons, supports the reginie. Tlius General Zia is secure,
Col Rama Rao (Retd) is at the Birla Institute of Scientific Research, New Delhi.

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provided he continires, with the dexterity he has so anply denioiistrated

dliririg eight tseritjitl years, to steer his country 011 a least r*isIi coiirse,
arid there is a good chance of prescrvirtg peace, precn~oirstlrotigh if lrray be,
iri the sirb-contirterit.


other factors too have to be taken into account in understanding Pakistans attitude towards world events and towards India more
particularly. First, to Pakistanis, their country was carved out of undivided
India in order t o provide Muslims of the sub-continent a homeland where
they could practice their religion without hindrance. This however has
its qualifications, since Muslims were by no means a persecuted minority
in India. On the contrary they were the favoured group in the country,
where traditionally the majority community has been the silent sufferer. The
creator of Pakistan, Jinnah, wanted his people t o shake themselves free
from earlier prejudices. He made this clear in his opening address as
President of the Constitutent Assembly of Pakistan when he called o n his
people to bury the hatchet, let bygones be bygones and to live as free
citizens, contributing their mite for the well being of Pakistan. He also
pointed out that you are free; you are free to go to your temples, you
are free to go to your mosques or to any other place of worship in this
State of Pakistan ...y ou may belong to any religion or caste-that has
nothing to d o with the business of the State ...We are starting in the
days when there is no discrimination, no distinction between one community and another. We are starting with this fundamental principle that
we are all citizens and equal citizens of one State.
Noble principles, well enunciated and not surprising either, since even
in 1946, before the final shape-of Pakistan was decided upon, Jinnali in
an interview with Reuters correspondent at New Delhi had categorically
declared that, the new state (Pakistan) would be a modern democratic
state with sovereignty resting with the people and the nienibers of the new
nation having equal rights regardless of their religion, caste or creed.
However, shortly after Pakistan came into being its architect passed away.
Soon thereafter, Liaqat Ali Khan too departed from the scene, having
fallen to an assassins bullet. However puny Liaqat Alis stature may
Seem to some Pakistanis, i n comparison with that of the founder of
Pakistan, the fact remains that those who succeeded hini proved to be
shorter in stature and far less competent than Liaqat Ali. Shortly thereafter another respected leader Khan Sahib was also assassinated. Meanwhile, n nexus was established between the burcaucracy, army and feudal
and reactionary elements of the Muslim L e a g ~ e , which
grew stronger after
Liaqat Alis death, and this oligarchy, except for brief intervals, has been
running the country since then.

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Fo;br.irrnlhfilitory Agreetirent with ilic Utiiierl States

After an uneasy three-year period of uncertainty and mismanagement of

the country by its politicians, the directions along which Pakistan might
move becanie evident. In 1955, President Eisenhowers Administration proposed a formal military alliance with Pakistan in terms of which the latter
could receive American military equipment, training and other forms of
support. Pakistan for its part was to offer bases for the United States and
support it in the latters crusade against Communism -i.e., the Soviet
Union and a t that time China as well. On this, however, Pakistan had
its own views and plans. It wanted American military assistance and political support *for dealing with India, not for enabling it t o fight the
Chinese or even the Soviet Union. Chinas Prime Minister, Chou En-Lai
received and accepted Pakistans secret assurances to this effect and ensured that the understanding arrived at between China and Pakistan would
be kept secret from India and the United States4 Thus the basis of building up Pakistans military might with United States assistance, supplemented by that from others, was for dealing with India and India alone,
from a position of strength, not for fighting others. This has been the foundation of Pakistans foreign and security policy almost from the day it
emerged as an independent country.
Predictably, Pakistans first military ruler attacked India once he received American military equipment and his troops gained confidence in handling them. He was wrongly advised by his ebullient Foreign Minister
Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, and he himself had made several errors of judgement.
These errors eventually caused his downfall.
The Cliitin Fnctor
After the 1965 debacle, Pakistan once again started building its armed
forces and its second military ruler, General Yahya Khan, having achieved
a diplomatic triumph by arranging a secret meeting between his American
friends President Nixon and Henry Kissinger and the Chinese Ch?irninii
Mao and Prime Minister Cliou En-Lai in 1971, failed to display statesmanship in dealing with the lawfully elected representatives of the then
Eastern Wing of Pakistan. Nor was he well served by his military and
other advisers. He, or in his name, PakistansArmy let loose a reign of
terror in Bangladesh, murdering hundreds of thousands of people Muslims as well as Hindus-and driving out more than ten mi]lion
Bangladeshis into India. As if this demographic aggression against India
was not enough, Pakistani troops began t o carry out forays violating
Indian territory and attacked Indian border posts. Nor were such attacks
confined t o Indias eastern borders. After all India had to protect its borders and Indian troops had no option but to resist aggression and support
Bangladeshis in their struggle for national liberation. What was cIear,thea,

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and even more so now, is that liad Pakistans friends-America and

China-cautioned General Yahya Khan, that it would be h w i s e as well as
counter productive t o resort to genocide and wholesale destruction of
houses and other properties of people of his own country i n answer t o
tlieir legitimate demands for provincial autonomy, Pakistan might have
remained intact. The United States was anxious not to displease General
Yahya Klian in any way since he had been entrusted with the delicate
mission of opening the pa;h t o China. The Chinese for their part, realised
the Pakistani Armys wrong approach in dealing with the people of Bangladesh but diplo~naticallystayed quiet. A Pakistani analyst notes that this
was because Chinas commitment was not to undivided _Pakistan but t o
the area constituting the Western Wi0g.j
Rhirttos Contribirtion to Pokistaiis Eincrgeiice as a httck~wrPower
After the events of 1971, and restoration of civilian authority in Pakistan, it was not unreasonable to expect that the new Pakistan, a more compact and coherent state blessed with hard working and talented men and
women, would devote its energies to develop its economic potential in
order to enable its people to live in comfort and create a base for further
orderly growth .
Bhutto himself, having bcen an .important member of two martial law regimes \\.as well aware of the power exercised by the civil-military bureaucracy- fuedal elite complex-in Pakistan. His first step on assuming office
was to restorc the self.confidence of the armed forces. Nevertheless some
steps werc taken t o tninimise the chances of the revival of BoriupnrtisiiiG by
creating a Dcfence Council, presided over by the Defence hlioister, and the
appointment of a Chairman and Chiefs of Staff, who would be the senior
most military adviser to the Defence Minister and the Cabinet but would
have no direct control over the forces. Likewise the Chiefs of Army, Navy
and Air Force woiild not have direct control over troops but only t h e responsibility for coordination. The objective, as mentioned earlier, was to
raise the odds against individual senior commanders staging a coup.
Bhutto had served his country well by securing the return of over 90,000
prisoners of war as well as 5000 square miles of territory t h a t Pakistan
liad lost during 1971. Rut his statement that he had secured at the conference table what the armed forces had lost on thc battlefield, though correct, caused resentment against him among sections of thc latter who even
otherwise were perhaps not uell disposed towards him. But Dhuttes service to his country in this respect cannot be ignored by historians. So was
his work in laying the foundation and providing the impetus for Pakistans emergence as a nuclear power, as he had rightly declared in his
testament shortly before mounting the gallows? His outspokenness and

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his persistence in proceeding with the nuclear programme in defiance of

the warnings of US statesmens eventually cost him his life.
Rcgiorinl De~eloprrreri~s
Eiilmrtce Pnk Utilityfor the U S

After eliminating Bhutto, General Zia-ul-Haq steadily consolidated his

hold on the country by removing senior generals who i n his opinion might
have staged a coiip against him. The first two years in office were his most
difficult. Thereafter several regional events served to enhance Pakistans
utility for the United States; first, the Revolution in Iran and the flight of
the Shah from his country, ironically brought about by the United States
itself and the rise of fundaiiientalism in that country. The Shah was
Americas dependable ally in the Gulf region, whose role was to keep the
Gulf safe for the United States. The successor government could hardly
be considered a friend of the United States, not certainly after the capture of the American Embassy in Teheran by Iranian students and the
abortive attempt by US forces to stage a commando operation to recapture tkc embassy and secure release of American personnel. The continuing Iran-Iraq War, which in the opinion of some Iranians was started by
Iraq if not on American instigation, a t least in the hope that Iraq would
receive support not only from conservative Arab States but.from USA as
well, is another cause for Irans resentment against America.
A consequence of the abortive American operation in Iran was that
Pentagon realised the need for building secure bases for its RDF (Rapid
Deployment Forces) at several points close to the Gulf for instant and
effective action in the neighbouring region in furtherance of its interests.
Second was the presence of Soviet troops in Afghanistan. The only safe
means of entry into Afghanistan for US agents to organise covert and
other resistance operations is through Pakistan. Pakistan could and has
provided facilities to Afghan resistance personnel and their US instructors.
As qiiiri pro giro Pakistan has sought and received assurance of total
American support in regional matters, military assistance to the extent
considered adequate by Pakistans armed forces, economic assistance and
acceptance, at least tacitly, of Pakistans nuclear weapons
This is because the United States needs Pakistan for its bases close to the
Gulf area and Pakistani troops for protecting Gulf Arab regimes. Equally
important, with Pakistan firmly tied to the United States, the freedom of
manoeuvre by the Soviet Union would be considerably restricted notwithstanding any actions that the United States o r United States-aided
local groups may take in .Iran. This is the significance of the assurance
given by Vice President Bush to Pakistani leaders during his visit to that
country in May 1984, to the effect that American interest and comnlitment to Pakistan transcended Afghanistan. More recently, US diplomats have assured Pakistan that any improvement in US-India relations

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will not be at Paki,stans expense. Indias concern is that an additional

objective of America arming Pakistan heavily, is to utilise the latter as a
lever against India.

Every country has certain basic security concerns arising from its geostrategic location, the character, strength andattitudes at any given time
of neighbouring countries, and equally on the countrys own internal political dynamics and attitudes of the ruling elite or party. In the case of
Pakistan, threats from external sources have been minimal if not altogcther absent. Soviet troops have been in Afghanistan since December 1979,
but judging from Pakistani troop dispositions which are not close t o the
Afghan borders but to those of India, it is difficult to maintain that
Pakistan fears aggression from across its Western borders. Nor does it
have any concerns regarding its borders with China since the two countries havd repeatedly affirmed that maintenance of close friendship with
each other is,one of their principal foreign policy objectives.
This leaves Iran and India. Iran under the Shah was closely allied to
Pakistan both as a non-Arab Muslim country as well as a partner in the old
Central Treaty Organisation formed under US auspices. The new Iranian
regime is fundamentalist, based on Shiite principles. Pakistan is an Islamic
StateI2 and General Zia-ul-Haq has been extremely careful in adopting and
declaring, whenever necessary, Pakistans neutrality in the Iran-Iraq conflict. Hence Iran has no c a w for complaint. Furthermore, Iran has its
hands full with several problems and has n o reason to confront Pakistan,
despite the latters alliances with the United States and Arab States. It
could, in fact, be argued that sllould Iran so much as consider confronting
Pakistan, America using that as an excuse might land its RDF on the
coast of Iranian Baluchistan and establish positions inland as well. Hence
Pakistan has nothing to worry about its Iranian frontier also except that
in the event of American overt or covert intervention in Iran, the Shiite
minority of Pakistan may feel extremely insecure and niay react, Hence
the only -frontier from which, for the sake of argument, Pakistan could
feel threatened is that with India. Here at the risk of stating the obvious,
it must be said that India has not in the past and is not going to, now or
in the future, attack any country. It has been the victim of aggression all
along. At best it reacts and tries to repel aggression.
General Zia-ul-Haq is not unaware of this but given the different pulls
within his country, the India bogey, as in the past, could be, resurrected,
and once resurrected could make Pakistans ruler a prisoner of his own

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There is increasing concern in India on this count. Several factors tend

to reinforce this concern. First, Pakistan has already secured extremely
powerful air, naval and land attack weapons in the form of aircraft, destroyers, other surface craft and submarines and heavy guns that have dual
(atomic as well as conventional) capability. A section of opinion, largely
based on information filtering through from abroad, consider that Pakistan is relatively weak in land attack weapons (i.e., tanks). This, however,
is not the case ; Pakistan has secured large numbers of tanks from China
as well as West Europe and elsewhere and must have methodically up
gunned them. Second, Pakistans electronic surveillance systems, supplemented by information provided by those established by America
around this country, would enable Pakistani forces to destroy any Indian
forces (air, naval and land) found, thus dealing a crippling blow o n India.
Subsequently, Pakistani forces could also mount attacks on Indias key
political, defence and industrial centres, further crippling the country.
Third, and most serious, Pakistan is already a nuclear p o ~ v e r and
~ its
capability may be approaching that of Israel i n this regard. As early as
April 1979, General Zia-ul-Haq had frankly indicated t o US Deputy
Secretary of State, Warren.Cliristoplier, that Pakistan intended to develop
nuclear weapons because India already possessed nuclear capability and
the situation in neighbouring Iran and Afghanistan was unstablc and
hence it was essential for Pakistan to have the weapon. Similar statements,
directly as well as off the record, have been made by Pakistani spokesmen
on several occasions since then.
The position now is that Pakistan is set to make not a few but a sizeable number of nuclcar weapons. Senator Crauston, after a visit to
Pakistan, had pointed out in the Senate that, that country was producing
enriched uranium on an assembly line basis.14 The senators observations
have been confirmed by the creator of Kaliuta and the architect of
Pakistans bomb, Dr. Abdul Qadeer himself.15 I t is difficult to resist the
conclusion that Pakistan has already pilcd up a modest-sized nuclear arsenal based on the design provided by China in. its 1964 test and is now
fabricating some hydrogen bombs as ~ ~ 1 1 .
All these are relevant in the context of Indian sfcurity. Indian defence
planners will not be wrong in assuming that General Zia ul Haq is an
extremely careful commander. He may be expected to follow the principles
of Mao Tse Tung, namely, to attack when victory is certain, to avoid
attacking when victory is uncertain and absolutely refuse to consider
armzd conflict if such a conflict has any chance of adversely affecting the
countrys integrity and safety.
Even a minor engagement o r a local war as Ayub Khan had
wanted his 1965 attack on India to be, o r a punitive action for

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quelling a l o k rebellion, as Yahya Khan wanted his operation in Bangladesh to be, could ultimately get out of control. General Zia is not going
to make similar mistakes. However, his advisers may argue that with
the formidable conventional strength that they have built up with American
and Chinese assistance and the nuclear might that it has acquired in a
decade of intelligent and hard work, Pakistan can indeed deal India a
crippling blow and further, that if India is allowed time the prospective
victim too might build some nuclear weapons and a preemptive strike
may become difficult. These arguments are, no doubt, reminiscent of
those used by Ayub Khans advisers two decades ago. Hopefully, General
Zia ul Haq will not allow himself to be pushed to the point of no return.
The reasons for hope are that given Pakistans internal dynamics, unless
Zia secures a victory over India in the manner that Israel demonstrated
in Egypt in 1967, by destroying the latters air-and ground forces before
they could move, Zias position a t home may become untenable, Further,
if India is not wiped out in the first wave of attack, India may suffer, but
the shock waves that would arise in the wake of the first phase of
Pakistans attack would not only have their impact o n India but far more
perhaps on Pakistan. Here comes the uncertainty of victory. In a dictatorship-although Pakistan is set to transform itself into a state with a
civilian head-the main source of concern for the ruler are the disgruntled
members ofthe armed forces. Several of these have been rounded up from
time to time in Pakistan. This danger will arise again at the first sign of
trouble a t the front. Additionally, there is the problem of minority provinces and this problem added to the others could constitute the proverbial
last straw on the camels back.
Indias interests as well as the true interests of all i n the subcontinent
are clear-namely to prevent a war, conventional and even more earnestly,
a nuclear war. Furtherniorc, India is eager to promote positive cooperation among the countries of the subcontinent, big and small, in matters
of trade, exchange of scholars and generally to bring about conditions
under which fanlilies in onc country could visit their relatives in another
without irksome restrictions, newspapers and literature published in one
country may be available in another and at least over a period to ensure
that mutual suspicious are replaced by inutual trust.
Lest impetuous elements on the other side may be tempted with
prospects of easy victory, India would need to buiId up its defenceconventional and nuclear --while persevering in its efforts to establish
cordial relations with Pakistan as well as other neighbours.
March 1985.

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R . RAh4A RAO-

1 Mohammad Ali Jinnahs Address to Pakistans Constituent Assembly, 11 August
1937 at Karachi, reproduced in Speeches of Quaid-i-Arant Muoliaiitmad AIi Ji/rnah.
Governor General of Pakistan, p. 10. Karachi, 1948. See also Stanley Wolpert,
Jinnah of Pakistan (London, 1984). and Chief Justice Mohammad Munir,
From Jiniiafi to Zia, (New Dellii, 1981).
2 See Mohammad Munir, Front Jiniiah to Zia, n. 1, p. 29.
3 Pakistan :Sub-Continent, South (London), February 1985, pp. 8-9.
4 On 23 April 1955 at Bandung, Chinas Prime Minister Chou En-Lai stated that he
had received assurances from the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Mohammad Ali
Bogra, that although Pakistan was a member of a military treaty it was not against
China and further that if the United States too); aggressive action under the
military treaty o r if it launched global war. Pakistan would not be involved in it
as it was not involved in the Korean War, China and Pakistan also agreed
to keep this understanding seeret from both t h e United States and India.
From Documents on International Affairs for 1955 pp. 421-2, cited in Sangat
Singh, Pakistans Fore&/? Policy (Bombay 1970), pp. 105-106.
5 Naveed Ahmed, Sino-Pakistan Relations, 1971-1981, in Pakistarr Horisott
(Karachi), Vol. XXXlV, no. 3, 1981, p. 59.
G White Paper on Kashmir issued by the Pakistan Government - reproduced in
Pakistait Tiiires (Lahore), 16 January, 1977.
7 Ibid.
8 Prem Chopra (Ed.) : If I aiir Assasci/rattrf (Delhi, 1979).
9 Henry Kissinger warned Pakistan, at a meeting in Paris \\it11 Pakistans then
Minister for Foreign Affairs, Aziz Ahmed that, should Pakistan proceed with its
nuclear weapons programme, the United States mould, make a horrible example
of that country (i.e., Pakistan). See JWIS (Karachi) and news report in Sfatesnmrr,
(New Delhi), 10 November, 1977.
10 The Suirduy Telegraph (London), as early as January 1980, had suggested that
Pakistan has probably received tacit approval from USA and China for going
ahead with its nuclear programme. See news report in Patriot (New Delhi),
14 January, 1980.
1 1 Vice President George Bushs statement reported in Statesriran (New Delhi). 19
May, 1984 and Armacosts interview at Islamabad in Tiriles of I d i u (New Delhi),
13 March, 1985.
12 As Chief Justice Mohammad Munir has noted, it is difficult to define precisely
what Islam is since no two schools of Islamic theology agree on the subject. There
are 73 sects in Islam. According to Sheikh Abdul Qadir Jilani there are as many
as 150 sects and according to the followers of one sect those of all other sects are
heretics. Hence the difficulty in prescribing Islamic laws in a country where
members of more than one Islamic sect may be living. See n. 2, p. 140.
13 I n the Hindusfan Times (New Delhi), 8 April 1979, General Zias stand was reinforced by the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, Senator Zabblock when hepointed out to the Secretary of State t h a t security concerns w r e a
factor in Pakistans drive for acquiring nuclear weapons.
14 Senator Craostons address in the Senate on 21 June 1984 reproduced in Strutegic
Digest (New Delhi), August 1984,pp. 827-833.
15 Dr. Qadeer has clearly pointed out that Pakistan is among the t o p five or six
countries which have uranium enrichment facilities on a large scale. In this respect
Pakistan is on par with Britain and West Germany, he said, adding that the capa-

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cities available in Japan and India. for example, are quite small. Hc also added
significantly that Pakistan has the capacity to enrich uranium beyond 90 per cent
which i s needed for the bomb-A or H. Tiriles of Indiu, 14 March, 1985.

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