SPEAKING FREELY How politics fuelled India-Pakistan wars
By Arshad Mahmood
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Immanuel Kant - the 18th century German political philosopher from liberal school of thought is known for his achievements in area of ethics and epistemology. Kant was the first thinker to foreshadow the liberal peace theory - in his essay "Perpetual Peace" written in 1795 - claiming that if all nations were democratic, it would end war. This later generated an academic discussion amongst the logicians of international relations. In 1835, Alexis de Tocqueville, the renowned French historian and
thinker from classical-liberal school of thought, refined the theory by arguing that democratic nations were less likely to wage wars with each other.
As the number of democratic nations rose to a large extent after World War-II (between 1946 to 1991), the phenomena of democratic peace became even more significant, compelling many academics, policymakers and politicians to believe that the virtual absence of war between democracies was the closest thing to an empirical law in the study of international relations.
During this period, several proponents of democratic peace ideology further strengthened the theory by adding new dimensions in the paradigm research. For instance, Dean Voris Babst - an American sociologist and criminologist - conducted a statistical research in 1964, and Michael W Doyle - a professor of international affairs, law and political science at Columbia University, USA - contributed further in popularizing the theory.
It is, however, believed by both classical and neo-liberal schools of thought that the hypothesis could only be applied to the relations between democracies and not between democracies and non-democracies. Nonetheless, the democratic peace proposition is perhaps the most widely accepted thesis amongst the international relation theorists today, and the theory in its most refined version is illustrated as: "Democracies don't fight wars."
In the international arena, statistical analyses conducted by various independent political researchers support the theory. There are, however, a few exceptions where there have been wars between liberal democracies.
An evaluation of the Kant's theory in the context of Indo-Pakistan ties may be an important case study for scholars of international politics. The painful history of Indo-Pak bilateral relations is inundated with hate, mistrust, false hopes and broken promises. Dreadful wars, recurring conflicts and an arms race are what people on both sides of the border have witnessed in over the past half century.
Since their inception in 1947, India and Pakistan have fought three major wars (1948, 1965 and 1971), two major conflicts (1965 Rann of Kutch and 1999 Kargil) and experienced countless border clashes. In order to prove Kant's democratic peace theory valid or void in the sub-continent, we need to examine the political environment that prevailed in both countries during the periods of hostilities.
Kashmir - the unfinished partition agenda - has been the main source of tension between India and Pakistan. The gory history of bilateral relations between the two is basically attributable to the Kashmir issue alone. Soon after gaining independence through a 100-year struggle, the armies of both the states engaged in a major war in Kashmir in 1948.
The political scenario of both the nations could never be termed as democratic due to at least three reasons: one, in the chaotic and muddled political conditions of both the countries as - following their horizon on world globe - the state structure had yet to be fully developed; two, the armies of the both were dominated by British officers seeking orders directly from Supreme Command. It is related that General Douglas Gracey, the British Commander-in-Chief of the Pakistan Army refused Quaid-e-Azam's order to send troops to Kashmir. Thirdly, both the states went to war under inherited circumstances.
Hence, Kant's democratic peace theory proves its validity - maybe partially, if not wholly - in the 1948 war. During the 1965 war, there were extremely different forms of government in both the countries. The roots of democratic process - planted in 1947 in both countries - had shown divergent progress. Starting from August 15, 1947, India remained under one Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru of Indian National Congress.
He was followed by Gulzarial Nanda for a brief period of as caretaker until the election of Lal Bahadur Shastri of Indian National Congress on 9 June 1964 - who was Indian Premier during 1965 war.
These indicates political stability, development and strengthening of democratic norms, and persistence of government policies - resulting in cohesiveness in state institutions and better decision making during critical moments.
The situation in Pakistan was just the opposite. Between 1947 and 1958, Pakistan had teight premiers - besides Liaquat Ali Khan all appointed and removed non-democratically - four governor generals and two presidents. Nehru was quoted as passing these shameful remarks about Pakistan's democratic quagmire "I do not change my dhoti (loincloth) as frequently as Pakistan changes its prime ministers".
Moreover, after the assassination of Khan Liaquat Ali Khan, a continuous tussle started between two offices for power in Pakistan. Despite being the parliamentary form of government, the centre of gravity of political powers and decision making remained with Governor Generals instead of the prime ministers' office.
The noxious precedence of overthrowing democratically elected governments in Pakistan was started by Governor General Malik Ghulam Muhammad when he dismissed Khwaja Nazimudin on April 17, 1953. This was to become a major cause of the country's continuous political instability.
Until 1957, democracy prevailed in Pakistan - though without reaching the general masses. Its roots were slashed on October 17 1958 when president Iskindar Mirza abrogated the Constitution and imposed the first Martial Law. He was later forced into exile, handing over his powers to General Ayub Khan. Before, during and after the 1965 war, the military dictator Ayub Khan, lacking political acumen, made several irrational decisions.
In 1971, both the nations fought another brutal war which culminated in the separation of East Pakistan as an independent country - Bangladesh. The growth of democratic institutions in both the countries continued to be on divergent axes.
After the death of Indian premier Shastri during Tashkent Summit in 1966, Indira Gandhi assumed the responsibilities and remained in office till 1977. During her rule state institutions flourished, including the Indian Army - by remaining from power politics and enhancing their capabilities. On the contrary, the democracy in Pakistan continued its nose-down trajectory.
On March 25, 1969, president Ayub Khan, surrendering to heavy public pressure, transferred his powers to General Yahya Khan - leaving the country's fate to a second martial law.
The people of Pakistan were allowed to exercise their right to vote in the country's first general elections in 1970 - 23 years after its inception - in contrast four elections were held for India's Lok Sabha (lower parliament) between 1951 and 1967. Furthermore, due to the non-acceptance of people's verdict, India got opportunity to intervene in East Pakistan which resulted into humiliating defeat to Pakistan forces and emergence of Bangladesh
In other events of Indo-Pak military history, Immanuel Kant's theory of democratic peace has also substantiated its authenticity, as it remained democracy versus non-democracy during Rann of Kutch-1965, Brasstacks-1987, and buildup of forces in 2001. However, Kargil-1999 and military upsurge-2008 is an exception to Kant's theory. But, several independent analysts attribute the former to Musharif's solo-initiative and latter to non-state actors - both non-democratic forces.
The analysis of military history in the paradigm of philosophical thoughts of imminent thinkers is focused on two objectives: diagnosis of the past and prognosis for the future. The hindsight diagnosis of our past make many to believe that had the roots of democracy been allowed to nourish right from outset, Pakistan could have averted 1965 and 1971 wars, and maintained a perpetual peace with its hostile neighbour. Most obviously, both the Eastern and Western wings of Pakistan would have stayed intact.
The prognosis of our future path can be traced back in Mazar-e-Quaid's vision. The founder of Pakistan was once asked by an American journalist in March 1948 what sort of future relations he envisaged between India and Pakistan. The Quaid expounded his desire of good neighborliness similar to bilateral relations between the US and Canada - based on respecting each other's sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Quaid's dream could become a reality, if only democracy in its true essence was allowed to flourish in the country.
Speaking Freely is an Asia Times Online feature that allows guest writers to have their say.Please click hereif you are interested in contributing. Articles submitted for this section allow our readers to express their opinions and do not necessarily meet the same editorial standards of Asia Times Online's regular contributors.
Arshad Mahmood, Scholar M Phil (IR), at the National Defense University, Islamabad