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A Conspicuous Absence:
Teaching and Research on India in Pakistan
S Akbar Zaidi

A detailed survey in Pakistan of social science research

and teaching on India shows that there is a conspicuous
silence on India in Pakistans research and teaching
institutions. The little research that is done is skewed in
favour of strategic and defence studies. Even books and
research emanating from India are not part of the
curricula. Among the reasons for this dismal state are
constraints of ideology, politics, state paranoia and lack
of infrastructure. This absence of research and teaching
on India also reflects the generally poor state of social
sciences in Pakistan. The article ends by questioning the
lack of social science interest in India on Pakistan.

An earlier version of this paper was presented at the Perceptions

Workshop, New Delhi, 15 and 16 July 2004, held as part of the University
of Pennsylvania Institute for the Advanced Study of India Project,
International Relations Theory and South Asia: Towards
Long-Range Research on Conflict Resolution and Cooperation-Building.
I would like to thank Mohammad Waseem for comments and
suggestions and Inayatullah of the Council of Social Sciences, Pakistan
in Islamabad, who provided me full access to their database.
S Akbar Zaidi ( is a social scientist based in
Karachi, Pakistan.
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n many important ways, there is not much of a story to tell.

An attempt to look at empirical data and evidence in order to
examine the nature, extent and quality of social science
teaching and research conducted, in Pakistan on India, in the disciplines of economics, history, sociology, political science and international relations draws almost a complete blank. There seems
to be a conspicuous, silent, absence of India in Pakistans academic and research institutions where the social sciences are
taught and researched. There are very few exceptions to this general observation, both in terms of individuals and institutions.
Most of the exceptions that do exist, both in terms of individuals
and institutions, strictly speaking, are not part of the broader category of the social sciences and are almost exclusively restricted
to experts in security studies.
This noticeable absence of India in Pakistans higher institutions of learning and research ought to come as a surprise given
Indias dominant presence in Pakistans historical, political, cultural and military existence. Pakistan was carved out of a united
British India. It considers India its main political foe, largely because of the continuing Kashmir issue. India remains its primary
long-term foreign policy issue, the war on terror notwithstanding. Pakistans military has fought two wars and has had many
more skirmishes with India, having lost its more populous eastern half in 1971. But despite all of these, Pakistans cultural and
entertainment scene remains inundated by Bollywood. Given
all of this, it does seem strange that India is so under-studied and
under-researched in Pakistan, almost a glaring absence.
One would have thought that like the relationship between the
United States (US) and Russia during the cold war and between
the US and China since, India and Pakistan too (and in this case,
neighbours) would have studied, researched, taught, understood
and analysed each other. Unlike other adversaries in the world,
Indians and Pakistanis know little about each other. In the case
of Pakistan, this situation can be based on two probable explanations. The first relates to the nature of Pakistans state and its intrusive security/military establishment which lays claim to being
the fountain of all knowledge and wisdom in Pakistan, especially
regarding anything to do with India. The second explanation is
to be found in the rather dismal state of the social sciences in
Pakistan and in its weak institutions.
The next section of this paper gives some broad empirical data
on the status of social science research on India in Pakistan. It is
based on research and interviews conducted specifically for this
paper to attempt to locate, understand and document the nature


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and extent of teaching and research taking place in higher institutions of learning in Pakistan with a focus on India. Following
the presentations of interviews, Section 3 looks at the largest research area on India in Pakistan security and strategic studies.
Section 4 tries to explain the very noticeable absence of India in
Pakistans institutions of higher learning and research by talking
about the context the state of social sciences in Pakistan in general in which the findings from the earlier sections need to be
placed. Are additional explanations to be found in Pakistans
social science structure and institutions for the fact that India
remains so under-researched and under-taught? Since India is
perceived by many and especially by Pakistans military and
security establishment to be its main adversary and biggest
threat, I also examine some other possible explanations as to why
India is not taught or researched enough in Pakistans academic
and research institutions. This section is then followed by
Section5, which looks at those areas where research on India
does take place. Finally, I conclude by asking the question,
whether Pakistan is at all unique in that it does not study India
as much as it ought to.

2The Search for India

The main purpose of this study was to try to answer the question:
How is India taught and researched in Pakistans institutes and
universities in the disciplines of history, political science, economics, international relations and sociology? The methodology
of this study is based on interviews with academics, researchers,
columnists and commentators. The interviewees, whose names
appear in Appendix 1 (p 68), are some of Pakistans better known
scholars and commentators. Many of them were interviewed
some years ago for a study which preceded this particular one
and on which it builds.1 The focus of the earlier study was somewhat similar but there the broader state of the social sciences in
Pakistan was being investigated. The present study limited itself
to teaching and research on India.
The second component of this study was a visit to institutions
where some form of research on India was thought to be taking
place. Their publications list and curricula were analysed to understand the nature of research and teaching taking place. In addition, the social sciences publications list of three of Pakistans
main publishers were examined for evidence about publications
on India and library catalogues of three different departments
were quickly scanned to get an idea of the type and number of
books that they hold on India. Further, some secondary published
and unpublished material was also analysed in particular, titles
and lists of theses in the social sciences. Since I found little
presence of India in the social science disciplines being taught
and researched in Pakistan, it is not surprising that my data is
also limited.

Data provided by the Council of Social Sciences, Pakistan (COSS),
an independent body which collects data and publishes books,
reports and newsletters about the state and issues related to the
social sciences in Pakistan, shows an extraordinary statistic: in
the 56-year period of 1947-2003, there have only been 1,202


theses submitted, both at the MPhil and PhD level, at all the universities in Pakistan2 in a very broad range of subjects which COSS
categorises as social science.3 A keywords search based on the
COSS database using the titles and subjects of the 1,202 MPhil and
PhD theses showed that there were 41 theses for the word India,
24 for Pakistan-India and 14 for Kashmir.4
Of the 41 theses which had India in their subject or title, 30
were in the related areas of international relations, strategic and
defence studies looking at nuclear issues, the relationship with
Pakistan, of India and China, and the US and similar themes.
Some of the illustrative titles are The Indo-Pakistan War 1965,
The US Policy of Nuclear Non-Proliferation in South Asia with Special Reference to Pakistan: Evaluation and Implications (1947-90),
Indias Strategic Policy in South Asia, India as a Factor in Pak-US
Relations, Indo-US Relations in Post Cold War Era. Three theses
have been submitted in philosophy and three in history. The titles
in the latter are Trade of Moenjodaro, Muslim Politics in Indo-
Pakistan Subcontinent from 1876 to 1892 and Organisation for
War and Peace in Ancient India (600 BC to 700 AD). Of these 41,
there are only five which look specifically at issues related internally to India; the others look at issues around, including and involving India, but perhaps not specifically at India. These five
theses are as follows: Ethnicity and Communalism in India: Role
of BJP, Khalistan Movement 1984-1996, The Impact of Structural
Adjustment Programmes on Human Development: A Case Study of
India, Origin and Impact of Khalistan Movement and, Muslims in
India: A Political Study. Clearly, Pakistani research on India at the
postgraduate level seems to be almost non-existent, especially if
we look at the quantity of work more focused at what is happening within India, rather than research of a comparative kind in
the international relations and strategic studies discipline.
All the 24 theses which showed up using the Pakistan-India
category also showed up in the India category discussed above.
Of the 14 in the Kashmir category, most theses are in the international relations discipline, where issues of the Kashmir conflict
and dispute are examined.
A few look specifically at Azad Kashmir, where some issues of
political, economic and regional development are examined. Of
the 1,202 theses, the search for Security brought up 16 theses,
and Nuclear 13. Of the 92 MPhil and PhD theses in political
science from all 11 universities in 56 years, only three were on
India. What is perhaps most interesting regarding them was that
the term used most often in the title was Islam (18 theses) and
that there was not a single thesis which looked at theory. There
were none on the military or armed forces, the bureaucracy,
defence, or even on elections.
Another data set, that of the university of Karachis Faculty of
Arts total number of MPhil and PhD degrees awarded in the
1958-2002 period, shows an even grimmer picture about research
on India. A total of 239 MPhil and PhD degrees were awarded by
the faculty, including in subjects like languages, which are not
part of the social sciences under COSS categorisation. Of the 184
PhDs awarded by the University of Karachi more than 30% are in
Urdu. There are 12 each in Arabic, clinical psychology and philo
sophy. For the social science disciplines that we are considering, 14
are in economics/applied economics, nine were in international
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relations, 25 in political science, 10 in sociology and 12 in general

history. With the exception of two theses in general history one
looking at Awadh in the late 18th century, and the other at Sindh
under the Mughals not a single thesis of the 239 is on any aspect
related to India. There is one recent thesis in international relations on the national liberation struggle of the Kashmiris, and
another on Azad Kashmir since 1947. This is about all that India
features in the research output in the social sciences from the
university of Karachi over a period of 45 years.
Indeed, it seems that for the Pakistani student in the social sciences who may know of the latest Bollywood movies and its
gossip or about the last partnership between Gautham Gambhir
and Virendar Sehwag India as a researchable academic and
intellectual category does not really exist, for there have been
almost no MPhil/PhD theses on India in the last 62 years. Perhaps
the students should not be held responsible for this situation and
the real responsibility rests on the shoulders of those who teach
them and on what in Pakistan is called the system.

If one examines the curriculum at the masters level for economics
at the university of Karachi,5 or the course content at the MPhil
level and Masters of Applied Sciences in Economics courses at the
same university, there is absolutely no mention of India or its economy. There is the standard curriculum found in all mainstream
neoclassical schools worldwide except that Pakistans curriculum
and its readings list in Economics is at least three decades too old.
Significantly, there is very little heterodox or radical economic
theory. There is also not a great deal of applied economics of countries despite the name of the degree with the exception of some
development economics. Pakistans economy, however, is taught
at all the masters level courses all over Pakistan.6 It is quite fair to
say that India and its economics/economy are non-existent in the
economics teaching programmes across Pakistans universities.
One could add that it is improbable that many economics teachers
at the postgraduate level have anything more than very basic
information about Indias economic developments. And this is des
pite the fact that economics is the most prestigious and sought-
after of all the disciplines in the social sciences in Pakistan.7
The masters degree in political science at the university of Karachi has a number of courses related to theory as well as courses
which have an applied/case study component. Along with standard modules on Locke, Hobbes and Rousseau, there are courses on
Islamic Political Theory and Institutions, International Law,
Comparative Local Government, Public Administration, etc. In
Comparative Local Government there is one module out of six
which looks at comparative systems in six countries, one of which
countries is India.8 The course called Public Administration was
taught with reference to Pakistan, the US, UK and France. A course
entitled Political System of the Developing Countries looks at
comparative politics of Pakistan, Iran, Turkey and India, but in its
list of 38 recommended books there was no book by any Indian
author. Other courses such as Studies in Political Systems and
Theory and Practice of Modern Government, looked at China,
Japan, Indonesia and Malaysia in the former course, and the UK,
USSR (sic), USA, Switzerland, France and Pakistan in the latter.
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The curriculum for sociology is based largely on US textbooks.

These deal with problems of developed countries and are based
on theory which was popular perhaps 30 years ago in the US.
There are a few specialised sub-disciplines in sociology such as
medical sociology, urban sociology, etc, but their reading lists are
reminiscent of 1960s USA rather than with recent developments
or with developing countries. There are, however, a couple of
courses such as the Sociology of Economic Development with
Special Reference to Pakistan, and International Social Systems: Comparative Analysis which offer some comparison of the
economics of the two former blocks the west and the east, as
well as modules related to Judaism, the west and Islam, and to
communism and capitalism. India does not feature anywhere in
the list of countries, themes or reading lists provided. The entire
orientation is largely western, but specifically of the 1960s/1970s
era American sociology.9
It is not entirely surprising that India is ignored in the economics, sociology and political science curricula at the masters level,
for reasons that relate to the general state of education and
research in Pakistan and which are discussed below. However,
because of ideological reasons (and an obvious historical link), it
is not possible to ignore Indias presence in the history syllabus.
There are 27 papers in the two-year general history course at the
Karachi university, with numerous courses on south Asian
history, from the time of Asoka and Harsha to Pakistans
There are papers in the history curriculum which differentiate
Indian/south Asian history over specific periods and begin with a
course entitled: History of South Asia from the Earliest Times to
1000 AD Excluding the Arab Conquest of Sindh. This is followed by separate south Asian history courses based on the following periodisation: 712 to 1526, 1526-1761 and 1761-1947.
There are also courses on the History of Europe, of the USA, and
of west Asia since 1919, as well as optional papers on the French
Revolution and Ancient Greece. Other courses include the History of the Freedom Movement 1857-1947, and one which is entitled Constitutional History of the Subcontinent 1773-1962 excluding Indian Constitutional Developments since 1947. There
are no courses in the syllabus on post-1947 Pakistani history, and
not surprisingly, none on independent India. From the prescribed
reading lists it seems, that for the most part, the history curriculum which focuses on south Asia deals almost exclusively with a
Muslim history of India and its interaction with the British.
History seems to be divided into eras such as a pre-Muslim period,
the Arab invasion of Sindh, the Delhi Sultanate, the Mughals,
and followed by the freedom struggle 1857-1947. For example, in
the paper History of South Asia 712-1526, all the topics listed in
the syllabus deal with the exploits of Muslim rulers, their administration, political system, etc. Similarly, the 31 topics for the 17611947 paper, deal with the decline of the Mughals and the rise of
the British, with Haider Ali and Tipu Sultan, with 1857 and the
Muslim renaissance under Syed Ahmad Khan, the Morley-Minto
Reforms and the Muslim League; yet, there is no mention of the
Congress, Nehru or Gandhi. Clearly, while the general history paper has a large component of India, it is based on a very narrow
and exclusivist reading of what was India between 712 and 1947.


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In the Islamic history MA syllabus, a course entitled the Evolution of the Muslim Community in the Indo-Pakistan Subcontinent 610-1947 CE is, not surprisingly, even less inclusivist than the
general history paper, and here even the British do not get a mention or make a presence. However, it needs to be mentioned that
in the readings provided for the general history courses, there
are a number of non-Muslim Indian authors, such as Beni Prasad,
R C Majumdar, Jadunath Sarkar, Tara Chand and R P Dutt. On
the other hand, in the Islamic history course, all references are of
either British historians or of Muslim authors, some of whom,
such as Abul Kalam Azad, Aziz Ahmad and Khaliq Ahmad
Nizami, are Indians. There are no non-Muslim Indian historians
whose books have been recommended for the course which deals
with India in the period 610-1947.10

2.3 Behind the Theses and Curricula11

The picture that emerges from the discussion of the theses
above, shows quite conclusively that there is very little substantive research on India at the university level in Pakistan today.
In the case of Economics and Sociology, it is clear that no teaching regarding India takes place and almost no research in
the former. History teaching does show a poor though perhaps
not a completely dismal picture. Sadly, interviews of teachers
and students shows a far worse situation than that which
exists on paper.
The first problem arises in naming the subject itself: what
should it be called? It cannot be called the History of India, or

of the subcontinent, for that in many ways undermines the

official justification of Partition and questions the separate
identity of Muslims which, according to the official view,
emerged in 712 AD. So the course or segment on Indian history,
usually ends up being called the History of Indo-Pak. More
over, the now accepted term South Asia seems to have saved
the blushes of many of ficials and ideologues who were forced to
call South Asia the Indian subcontinent, or undivided India.12
The periodisation which the British introduced, into a Hindu,
Muslim and British India, and which many Indian historians
have tried to replace by ancient, medieval and modern, suits
Pakistani historiography, for here there is a very clear, accepted,
period called Muslim India. Nevertheless, this raises questions
of how to look at Moenjodaro or the Indus Valley civilisation as
these are located on what is now Pakistan but pre-date the
Muslim history in Pakistan. Some Pakistani historians call
this period Pakistans ancient civilisation. This causes further
problems: What is Pakistans history and when did it begin?
From the Indus Valley civilisation; from the times of Muhammad
bin Qasim in 712; or in 1947? Clearly, these are fundamental
questions of historiography in Pakistan (and relate to Pakistans
very essence and identity), yet are not discussed, and the official
classification of a Muslim history takes care of many of these
niggling questions.
One of the two official views of history also causes problems
for its study in Pakistan. This view, popularised by Ahmad Dani,
locates Pakistan as part of a central Asian historical and cultural



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entity, rather than within India/south Asia. In the first decade

after independence, Pakistan considered its history to be part
of a larger common history, a joint history it shared with India,
and in fact Indian textbooks were in use in Pakistan. However,
this changed in the early 1960s when Ayub Khans government
wanted to create a History of Pakistan independent and
separate from that of Indias. The historians who were given
this task attempted to take out Pakistan from Indian history
and just look at Pakistan without India. This gave rise to the
writing of a Pakistani history disassociated from an Indian past
and links were established between independent Pakistan and
central Asia.
It is fairly clear that in Pakistan it is Muslim history that is being taught, and not Indian history. In fact, this Muslim history, as
I highlight above, is perceived to be a Pakistani history dating
from 712 AD. This has major repercussions on what is taught and
the way it is taught. For example, since there is a Muslim history
and there are courses and subjects called The Freedom Movement which, looks at the struggle for an independent Pakistan
the seeds of which, according to some historians, were sown in
712 AD, but for others in 1857 it seems to overlook the colonial
period entirely and treats the freedom struggle as a struggle from
Hindu domination, not colonial rule.
Some historians believe that in Pakistan, following from the
tradition of Syed Ahmad Khan and the earlier Aligarh Movement,
there has been a glorification of the British period and for this
reason, there is no understanding of the colonial context or what
colonialism was or what it did. In none of the curricula studied,
did I find a single course on British India, or on colonialism; the
period after 1857 is seen as the beginning of the Pakistan movement and of the freedom struggle. From the Muslim period, we
move on to the Struggle for Pakistan.13 In subjects like the Freedom Movement, teachers only teach the Ideology of Pakistan
and do not deal with India. The conspicuous absence of the Congress, Nehru and Gandhi, among others, has been a deafening
silence in the classrooms of Pakistans universities where students are being taught about a Muslim India after 1857 to the exclusion of 85% of its population. The Freedom Movement is
shown to be a movement for the freedom of Muslims in India, but
not of India from colonialism.
What is interesting, though not at all surprising, is that postindependence modern India, is not taught as part of the History
syllabus in Pakistan. For that matter, nor is there a course on the
history of modern Pakistan, since both these countries in this era
are treated under politics rather than history.
In the international relations, political science departments
and the area study centre at Islamabads Quaid-e-Azam university some professors had made a deliberate attempt to devise a
number of courses on different aspects of India. These courses
were reported to be very popular with students while the nature
and level of the courses depended critically on the facultys interest and desire to teach these courses. The courses which were offered and were popular related to the politics of south Asia and
particularly of India. One consequence of this has been that there
have been a few theses on Indian politics in recent years at this
university. However, there is also a realisation that the old cadre
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and the older professors, who belonged to a different generation,

are leaving and many have already left.14 Much of the research
and teaching was initiated by these professors and there is concern, as with all teaching and research departments in Pakistan,
that once this generation retires there will be very little research
and teaching on not just India, but on just about everything
else as well.
What emerged as one of the most interesting findings as part
of this research was based on discussions held at the international
relations department at Karachi university. Teachers there said
that as late as 1989, the term South Asia was banned in the
department as it was considered too pro-India and was thought
to be a part of an India-centric thinking. South Asia as a subject
was introduced only after the democratic government took over
in 1988-89 after the death of general Zia ul Haq. This change is
also thought to be a result of the end of the cold war. Despite this
gradual reluctance to concede to the presence of India amidst
our midst, the subject that is taught now in the international
relations department is called India-Pakistan Relations, not
India itself. In the second semester Indias political developments constitute one topic out of eight. This course covers a
diverse area including historical background, political culture,
election process, government formation, societal structure, etc,
of all the south Asian countries. India is covered in seven
lectures out of a total of 90. Those teaching these courses admit
that there is nothing specifically on India as such, and that
they really do not have enough country-specific information
or training to teach a proper course on India or on any other
country other than Pakistan. However, in Karachis international
relations department, there are a number of courses which look,
in considerable detail, at confidence-building measures, arms
control, disarmament and at other aspects of the nuclear and
security subject in theory and in the particularity of south Asia.
However, the faculty teaching these courses admitted that out of
40 lectures, just three or four are India-specific, with the rest
related to Europe and west Asia.
While India is studied a bit in Karachi universitys international
relations department, it seems that lectures on India itself are a
very small number and for the most part in relation to either
confidence-building measures, disarmament, the nuclear issue,
or with regard to Pakistan. Nowhere in Pakistan, it seems, does
there exist any expertise to study (or teach) India itself.15

3Studying Security
In terms of the five social sciences considered, there are none in
which any research or teaching related to India takes place.
However, there is one large and buoyant research industry in
which India is central. In most security-related studies and
publications, comparisons are made of/with India, and in fact,
almost the entire discipline, with a few exceptions focuses
squarely on some aspect of India which threatens or affects
Pakistan. It is probably true to say, that most of Pakistans
research and publications that take place in the social
sciences with the exception of economics, increasingly take
place in the very broad arena of security/strategic studies. Many
social scientists trained in political science and international


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relations, as well as some physicists in the anti-nuclear movement, have been writing largely on India in the context of security and related issues, as do numerous journalists and columnists.16 However, despite the presence of a number of independently-minded well-known and highly prolific social scientists
trained in different disciplines, perhaps the monopoly of all wisdom relating to security and strategic studies (especially with
regard to India), rests with institutes and personnel who speak
for and on behalf of the government.
The Institute of Regional Studies, supposedly an independent,
non-profit research centre devoted to the region around Pakistan,
and the more overtly partisan Institute of Strategic Studies, both
in Islamabad, are at the apex of the governments institutions
where some nature of social science (but more specifically,
security/strategic studies) research takes place. While there are
other academic departments where such research also takes
place, the importance in government circles of these two institutes is particularly relevant.
While the Institute of Regional Studies claims that it studies
the region around Pakistan, south Asia, south-west Asia (Iran,
Afghanistan), China, central Asia as well as the Indian Ocean
region, its research output is predominantly on issues of a strategic and security nature related to India. In its numerous series of
publications including books, reports and a journal, India features far more frequently than all the other areas combined.
However, while there is a security/strategy focus, there are a
number of publications which do deal with issues specific and
internal to India, rather than in a comparative perspective or
related to Pakistan. For example, apart from the standard security/strategy issues which are published in the institutes publications, there are a large number of publications including titles
such as: The Maneka Factor, Bombay Textile Workers Strike and
its Impact on Trade Unioninsm, Ethnic Cleansing in Gujarat, CivilMilitary Relations in India, Antarctica and Indias Interests, Politics of Dams in India: A Study of the Sardar Sarovar Project,
A Decade of Indian Economic Reforms and the Inflow of Foreign
Investment, Assam Assembly Polls (2001) and Preceding Developments, The Uttarakhand Movement: A Perspective, and Rashtriya
Swayamsevak Sangh Genesis, Agenda, Apparatus. This is just
an illustrative list of the over 300 papers, books and publications
that the Institute has produced since its inception in 1982. It may
not be wrong in suggesting, that the output from the Institute
of Regional Studies in terms of quantity, far exceeds that of
many organisations in the private, public or non-governmental
organisation sector, accentuating the earlier claim, that security/
strategic studies are the largest component of research in
Pakistan on India.
The reasons for this overabundance of output in this sector
are believed to be based on the nature of Pakistans securitydriven state policy and its national security state apparatus.
Pakistans state has been obsessed with security concerns and
with its various Kashmir policies. Sections of, what in Pakistan
is called, the Establishment have propagated research often
with an overtly propagandist viewpoint where academic or research objectivity is not a value of much significance. Hence, it
might be stretching the point to label official security/strategic


studies as research since their emphasis is less academic

and more of a policy oriented nature. Although it would be
unwise to make sweeping statements about all the research
that takes place in government think tanks, it would be no
exaggeration to state that most of the output is jingoistic,
pro-military, partisan and based on an insufficient and incorrect understanding and reading of India a reading based
largely on newspaper clippings and one which further substantiates official Pakistani positions. The term scholarly research
seems to gain a dubious definition in the hands of official
researchers and analysts.
While government institutes fulfil the numerous needs of government itself, there is also a vibrant, well-published and highly
respected academic community working in the field of strategic
and security studies in Pakistan. Many physicists and those
trained in some component of the social sciences continue to
publish in Pakistan and abroad, are well-cited, have received international honours and awards and are involved in doing academic and scholarly work in the true sense of the terms. These
scholars have a public presence far more than do most economists, sociologists or historians and are frequent and important contributors to the national and international press. They
are usually also members of advocacy and civil society groups
and movements and are active in the public arena as well. In
fact, it would be correct to say that along with a few economists
who are involved in public debates, these independent academics and scholars in the security/strategy field, are the only other
group mildly related to the social sciences, who are also in the
public arena, debating of ficial public statements and policy. In
the case of the latter, the existence of India is central to their
discourse. Yet many of those who write on India-related issues
candidly admit that they know very little about India, are certainly not experts, and with few having visited India, confess
that the little that they know of India is limited and related only
to their own interests and fields.

4Explaining the Absence of India

There are two broad explanations which might account for the
non-existent research and teaching on India in Pakistan. The first
is based on an earlier dismal state of the social sciences in pakistan argument, and the other based on the nature of Pakistans
militarised, national security state apparatus and institutions.
The dismal-state thesis argues that overall, the state of teaching and research in Pakistan is very poor. Both the quality and
the quantity are rather limited. Most social scientists do agree
that social sciences in Pakistan are in a depressingly decrepit
state, while the reasons for this are many. They all agree that not
much research of any quality takes place in Pakistan and the little
that is undertaken is by those who live and work in the west.
Moreover, a few have produced good quality research while
being based in Pakistan, but this is largely individual endeavour
and that the contribution by the institution where they are
located is incidental.
While there is wide agreement for the way things are, there is
also considerable consensus on the reasons. Many argue that
patronage at the private and state-level has distorted the
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environment under which research in the social sciences takes

place, developing a conformist, if not sycophantic and toadyist,
mindset. Others feel that there is a bias against a culture of dissent, debate and discovery, brought upon, perhaps, due to state
authoritarianism and due to the over-developed nature of the
bureaucratic arm of the state. Other, more simpler reasons, include the fact that the incentive and salary structure in public
sector institutions is dwarfed by the visible freedom and economic incentives in the vibrant private, donor and NGO supported sectors, where many of the best graduates head. Clearly,
all these reasons are relevant.
There are still other, more interesting, factors which are all
interrelated and have had a bearing on the noticeable deterioration of the social sciences in Pakistan. For some of the reasons
mentioned above, many of the best Pakistani social scientists
have left for other countries causing a haemorrhaging braindrain. There is, hence, no community of academics or scholars
left to interact with and to discuss and share ideas with; there are
very few journals and almost no professional associations. Moreover, many Pakistani social scientists feel that the western social
scientists who work on Pakistan are second-rate scholars at
third-rate universities, a fact which does not help the Pakistani
social science cause either.
The fact that there is so little scholarly and academic research
on India in Pakistan, is a consequence of overall poor research
and teaching in Pakistan. The academic environment in Pakistan
is insufficiently vibrant to even allow for research on less controversial and problematic areas than India to take place. Moreover,
there is also no tradition of doing comparative research on countries, societies, economies and institutions, in Pakistani academia.
This is a consequence of the way the overall research and academic environment has developed in Pakistan, and is not specific
to India.
Moreover, there are other, academic, reasons why it is not
worthwhile to do research on India. Some academics feel that it
is not rewarding enough in scholarly terms to do research on
India; that there is a dearth of scholarly literature available in
Pakistan on India; and the question of doing interviews, leave
alone serious fieldwork, does not even arise. However, add to
this the context of a national security paranoia, and it becomes
surprising that there is even this (little) amount of research
The military, which forms the most formidable component of
the Pakistani state, continues to see itself as against all things
Indian. With its hold over government and other economic and
educational actors and institutions, it restricts the possibility of
doing research on India, except through its own institutions and
for its own purposes.
Scholars who work on strategic issues and also on India feel
that there is a very assertive attitude of Pakistans security
agencies and its foreign office, who wish to monopolise all ideas,
views and impressions on India. The Establishment wants to
project its own notion of what India is, according to its political
and militaristic designs, and hence non-official research on India,
is thwarted and discouraged. In the Pakistani tradition of
research and academics, scholarly output is expected to be policy
Economic & Political Weekly EPW september 19, 2009 vol xliv no 38

oriented, purposeful, relevant, with lots of recommendations.

Irrelevant, theoretical, academic work is not appreciated much.
The entire purpose of producing academics and teaching
students, in the Pakistani tradition of research and scholarship, is
to solve Pakistans problems.
In the case of doing research on India, this becomes problematic. The military and its establishment does not welcome the advice of citizens in what it considers to be its domain, in this case
foreign policy and that too particularly on India. How could academics possibly be involved in the giving of advice on issues related to policymaking with regard to India? Other than the group
of policy analysts who are considered hawkish towards India,
and are usually quite bellicose and belligerent about their largely
anti-India views, many independent academics are considered
soft on India, which delegitimises their work and the individual
in the eyes of Pakistans security state apparatus. To be even suspected of being pro-India can leave the scholar vulnerable to
charges of sedition and be accused of taking part in anti-state
activities, resulting in dire consequences.
In this context, it is worth our while to reproduce in full, a
secret University Grants Commission Circular, No D 1783/2001-IC.V,
Government of Pakistan, Ministry of Education, Islamabad,
dated 12October 2001. The subject of this circular is Pakistani
Students in Correspondence with Indians for Academic
(1) I am directed to say that one of the security agencies has observed
a growing tendency among the staff members/students of various
professional institutions of India and Pakistan to communicate in different fields of mutual interest; (2) For instance, Mr Imtiaz Ahmed
Pannu, a student of Department of Crop Physiology, University of
Agriculture, Faisalabad has established illegal links with Indian
experts/organisations; (3) It is requested that all the Public/Private
sector Universities/Educational Institutions affiliated, registered or
recognised by the University Grants Commission/Government may
kindly be advised to instruct their staff members/students to follow
the Government directions and immediately dispense with all illegal
links with foreign experts/educational institutions; (4) It may also
be ensured that material to be exchanged be first got cleared from
the Ministry and no links with any foreign experts/educational
institutions should be established without prior approval of UGC/
Government of Pakistan.17

Such cases would be particularly troublesome if the academic

or scholar is perceived to be a liberal and is pro-democratic.
These credentials only add to the states suspicions. If a scholar
looks at India seriously, with the intention of studying Pakistans
neighbour seriously, s/he is asking for trouble by coming to
the notice of the Establishment. Some scholars believe that
Pakistans Establishment is against the development of a certain kind of attitude of scholarship liberal, secular, democratic
towards India. Interestingly, this also has a reverse angle to
the issue as well. While liberal and secular scholars, the
few that they are, tend to be pro-India, their scholarship is
not backed up by thorough research or by facts, and is largely
rhetoric based on an imagined India, an image which avoids
looking at weaknesses in Indian society. Worse still, is the
inability of left-leaning Pakistani writers to actually criticise
India. Just as the right in Pakistan has created its Indian images
and straw men, so have left-leaning academics and liberals.


speciAl article

These images exist in the minds, based on wishful thinking, not

on fact or scholarship.

5Some Traces of the Presence of India

Despite these restrictions and limitations both institutional and
ideological there are some areas where there is a growing exchange of ideas about each others societies and countries, where
social scientists, along with activists, have been playing a role.
Many actors in the large NGO sector in Pakistan have made extensive inroads and connections with their Indian counterparts. This
has led to mutual exchanges of activists and researchers from
one country going to the other and interacting with local communities. This has given rise to independent, as well as to col
laborative, research in subjects related to oral histories about
Partition, women, nuclear/security issues, on the curriculum at
schools in both countries, on issues related to labour, etc.18 While
the quality and standard of this research varies and may not necessarily be academic or scholarly it is at least useful and much
of it is available in the wider public domain. In addition to the
presence of NGOs in Pakistans public life, there is a large presence of the media. Due to the dismal state of the social sciences in
Pakistan, the media has filled the gaps which ought to have been
done by social scientists, and like most other issues and topics
there is a lively debate taking place in the media on different
aspects of India as well.
A second opening up of the possibility of research on India in
Pakistan has been as a consequence of the notion of south Asia

and of the setting up of the South Asian Association for Regional

Cooperation (SAARC). SAARC has been the umbrella which has
allowed all countries to research the others and to know them in
some detail. Since SAARC is a regional entity ostensibly supported
by all seven governments, it does allow for an increasing role for
comparative research and growing understanding. Institutes
based in Pakistan, such as the Mahbubul Haq Human Development Centre, with their annual publications on issues related to
south Asia, also allow for that greater understanding. Many
international NGOs, donors and research organisations have also
used this idea of south Asia as a means to conduct comparative
studies of India and Pakistan. This has allowed greater information and facts about India to filter into one (albeit small) section
of Pakistani society. It must be remembered that a broader South
Asia is being studied under the SAARC umbrella, rather than
specifically India itself. Nevertheless, one must acknowledge that
this is an important beginning.
This SAARC opportunity, and the somewhat easier mood bet
ween India and Pakistan in the past few years, has allowed an
increase in exchanges between citizens of both countries, which
may have softened some of the harsher images formed during the
south Asian cold war of the 1990s. Pakistans main English
language newspaper, Dawn, in its weekly book review section,
for example, carries more reviews of books published in India
on various topics, of varying quality than books published in
Pakistan. While this reflects rather poorly on the Pakistani publication and writing/academic scene, it also shows that the dtente


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confronting the governments of the world.
A separate section assesses the downturn in India, the state of the domestic financial sector, the impact on the informal economy and the reforms
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special article

at the end of south Asias cold war has allowed ideas to cross the
border more easily.
A third avenue which allows for the greater learning and understanding of India, is Pakistans growing intellectual/academic
and student diaspora. Although numbers are difficult to come by,
there is growing anecdotal evidence which shows that many
Pakistani students going abroad are moving away from the more
traditional field of economics and are moving into disciplines
such as cultural anthropology and other non-traditional subjects.
In addition, some of these scholars, not hampered or hassled by
Pakistans intelligence agencies, are able to look at Partition,
nationalism, ethnic identity across the divide, and other issues
pertaining to India. As a second generation of migrant Pakistanis
grows up in the west and constraints such as passports and visas
are removed by acquiring other nationalities, access to India has
become less difficult. For those interested in research and
academic careers, particularly with regard to and with interest
specifically in India, this offers unique opportunities.

6Is Pakistan Any Different?

A number of counter-questions were asked by many of the Pakistani scholars interviewed during the course of this study. Many
asked: Does India study Pakistan at all? Are there any research
centres where appropriate work on Pakistan takes place? Most of
them felt that while Pakistanis have not been able to study India,
the latter too has not studied Pakistan. Some felt that India has
not produced any quality research on any country except India
itself. Indian scholarship was thought to be preoccupied with
Indian domestic politics, not comparative country studies. There
was consensus amongst all the scholars interviewed, that Pakistan was ill-equipped to undertake research on most issues the
dismal state thesis. In fact, one can turnaround the question with
which this investigation started out and ask: How is Pakistan
taught and researched in Pakistan? Is this any different from the

1 See Social Science Research Council (SSRC)
(2002), Social Science Capacity in South Asia: A
Report, SSRC Working Paper, Vol 6, New York and
S Akbar Zaidi (2002), The Dismal State of the
Social Sciences in Pakistan, Economic & Political
Weekly, Vol 37, No 35.
2 The number of universities where social sciences
were taught in Pakistan were 11, but may have increased since 2003.
3 The subjects that COSS includes in their list for
social sciences are as follows: mass communications/journalism, sociology, philosophy, history,
political science, economics, area studies, social
work, education, library sciences, geography,
Pakistan studies, international relations, psychology, law, public administration, archaeology, administrative sciences, defence and strategic studies and Islamic culture. The largest number of
MPhil and PhD theses are in economics (246 out
of 1,202), followed by psychology (159), the numerous area studies (152), history (143), Pakistan
studies (99), political science (92), education (81),
and international relations (74). Almost 50% of
the theses (597) have been completed at the
Quaid-e-Azam university, Islamabad, followed by
Karachi university (171) and the University of the
Punjab (139).

way India is taught and researched in Pakistan? Many social scientists think, given all the additional constraints mentioned in
an earlier section, it was beyond the scope and even capabilities
of Pakistani scholars to study India, and perhaps the question
does not itself arise.
With Pakistan itself poorly researched and badly taught, perhaps there needs to be a level of research affluence to allow
scholars to look at other countries. While there is no doubt that
India is still central to Pakistans existence, perhaps there is a
greater need for Pakistanis to first increase the quality and quantity of research on Pakistan itself.
There is no denying the fact that there is very little research
on India in Pakistan. Many of the reasons for this have been
discussed in this paper, but perhaps what also seems interesting
is why other countries are also not doing enough research on
south Asia. Christian Wagner examining the status of south
Asian research in Germany, finds that a majority of German
research on south Asia is done on classical Indology and more
than 50% of all German south Asia specialists belong to
philological disciplines, with the remainder belonging to nine
other disciplines. He shows that there is a growing interest in
modern topics like nationalism and foreign policy, but the academic infrastructure of German universities shows considerable
gaps in the field of social sciences and contemporary South
Not many Pakistani scholars have the skills and training to do
research on their own society, leave alone on other societies, and
that too on a diverse and complex society as India, specially given
the numerous non-academic constraints. Moreover, there are just
a very small handful of Pakistani scholars who do good research
on Pakistan itself, in the first place. Perhaps the more interesting
question, given Indias huge pool of social scientists and researchers and its abundant research affluence is: Why is there no
quality research in India on Pakistan?

4 COSS has gone to a great deal of trouble and

has made a huge amount of effort to build this
database, and while it is probably the only such
source available, it needs to be stated that it is
very likely that the COSS database under-reports
the number of theses. Nevertheless, what is
interesting for us is not the exact number of
theses in any particular discipline with their
specific titles, but some indication of the larger
picture. Hence, even if the figure of 41 of the 1202
theses with India in their title is off the true figure, it is improbable that with additional data,
the less than 4% proportion would change very
5 It is important to underline that these published
curricula are often outdated. Often some recent
issues and topics do creep in, specially if teachers
are creative and enterprising. However, the system to bring about changes in the curricula is
highly antiquated and bureaucratic.
6 Interestingly, at the Lahore University of Management Sciences, a private university and the one
with the best teaching and academic programme,
by far, in economics in Pakistan, unlike state
universities there is no course which specifically
examines Pakistans economy.
7 See S Akbar Zaidi, op cit, 2001, and S Akbar
Za idi ed. (2003), Social Science in Pakistan in the

Economic & Political Weekly EPW september 19, 2009 vol xliv no 38

1990s, Council of Social Sciences, Pakistan,

8 These observations are being made on the basis
of official university of Karachi publications;
who teaches what and how they are taught is a
different matter altogether. Interviews with students at the political science department at the
Karachi university revealed that they had not
been taught anything on India and none of
their teachers was interested in or adequately
trained to give even a single general lecture on
Indias political institutions or on more recent
developments. The students did say that their
teachers did, derogatively, cite the example of
the rise of the Hindu right when it suited them
and gave examples of the violation of human
rights in Kashmir and did frequently mention
the Gujarat pogrom of 2002.
9 See Hassan Gardezi (2003), Contemporary
Sociology in Pakistan in S Akbar Zaidi, op cit. As
this and the rest of the articles in this collection
show, much, if not all, of the teaching has a
western orientation and India seldom finds a
mention in any subject, in the curriculum or in
reading lists. In fact, as I argue in the Introduction to the collection: while many of the papers
compare developments in the west regarding
their own discipline, they fail to take cognisance


speciAl article






of developments in south Asia, particularly in

India, p 5.
A quick library search showed that very few of
these books actually existed and most had been
lost. Moreover, in all libraries visited, there were
few new books being added and even fewer ones
on India, past or present. One explanation for this
is the rise in book prices and lower budgets at the
universities, as well as a shift in academic and
ideological influence and bias.
This Section is based on interviews and discussions with those mentioned in Appendix 1.
However, the nomenclature South Asia has had
a very uneven history and acceptance as is discussed later in this article.
Also see S Akbar Zaidi (2001) op cit for the sort of
research and writing taking place in history. Also
see Ian Talbot (1998), Pakistans Emergence, Historiography, Vol IV, Oxford History of the British
Empire, Oxford University Press, Oxford.
It is worth mentioning, that the two professors I
spoke to as part of this study, soon left the public
sector Quaid-e-Azam university, and joined the
private Lahore university of management sciences, LUMS, at Lahore. While they may have
retired and found employment elsewhere, the
point is that the individuals who were taking an
interest in teaching India at one of Pakistans
best public sector universities, were no longer
there to do so.
In the course of this study, I asked all the scholars
and researchers interviewed if they could think of
even one single Pakistani academician who they
would call an expert on India. Each and everyone
of the respondents said that there was no such
scholar in Pakistan. Some mentioned a couple of
journalists, but then quickly withdrew these
names saying that they were just journalists and
not academics or researchers.

16 Clearly, in the last few years, there has been a

shift following the war on terror, with numerous books and articles being written on Pakistans security in this new era. It is difficult to assess the impact of this shift on research at this
17 There is story recounted to me by S Jaffer Ahmad,
Director of the Pakistan Study Centre, university
of Karachi. In the late 1980s, a PhD student from
Amritsar University had written a letter to the Pakistan embassy in Delhi asking for the names of
books on constitutional issues related to Pakistan.
The letter was sent from the embassy to the foreign ministry, then to the home department, followed by the ministry of education and then to
the university grants commission, who then forwarded it to the Pakistan study centre. All this
took eight months; six months later, a letter of
thanks was received. While all this was in the age
prior to email, it is still indicative of the mindset of
bureaucrats and of a particular way of thinking.
18 One non-governmental teaching institute also
has well-known Indian social scientists on its faculty who come and teach frequently.
19 Wagner, Christian (2001), Sudaasienforschung
in der Bundesrepublik Deutschland. Bericht uber
eine Besandsaufnahme (South Asia Research in
Germany: A Survey), Internationales Asienforum,
Vol 32, No 3-4.

Appendix 1
Scholars and Commentators Interviewed
Mohammad Waseem, Lahore University of
Management Sciences.
Shaeen Akhtar, research scholar, Institute of
Regional Studies, Islamabad.

Parvez Hoodhboy, physics department,

Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad.
Sadiq Ali Gill, director, Centre for South
Asian Studies, University of the Punjab,
Abdul Majid, senior research officer, Centre
for South Asian Studies, University of the
Punjab, Lahore.
Mubarak Ali, former professor, History
Department, Jamshoro University, Hyderabad.
Rubina Saigol, independent researcher in
Sociology/Education/Womens Studies.
Imtiaz Alam, editor, The South Asian Journal,
Lahore and Columnist for The News.
Rasul Baksh Rais, Lahore University of
Management Sciences.
Ali Cheema, assistant professor, Lahore
University of Management Sciences.
Nighat Saeed Khan, director, Institute of
Womens Studies, Lahore.
Nuzhat Ahmad, director, Applied Economics
Research Centre, University of Karachi.
Naeem Ahmad, lecturer, International
Relations Department, University of Karachi.
Muttahir Ahmad, associate professor, International Relations Department, University of
Sikander Mehdi, International Relations
Department, University of Karachi.
S Jaffar Ahmed, director, Pakistan Study
Centre, University of Karachi.


Essays from Economic and Political Weekly
A compilation of essays that were first published in the EPW in a special issue in May 2007. Held together with an introduction by Sekhar
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traditional songs and the unconventional protagonists in mutiny novels converge on one common goal: to enrich the existing national debates
on the 1857 Uprising.
The volume has 18 essays by well known historians who include Biswamoy Pati, Dipesh Chakrabarty, Peter Robb and Michael Fisher. The articles are
grouped under five sections: Then and Now, Sepoys and Soldiers, TheMargins, Fictional Representations and The Arts and 1857.

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