Pakistan is using “jihad” primarily to influence events in its immediate neighbourhood, says S. Paul Kapur, a professor at the Department of National Security Affairs at the US Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, California, and a faculty affiliate at Stanford University’s Center for International Security and Cooperation. Paul’s book, jihad as Grand Strategy: Islamist Militancy, National Security, and the Pakistani State focuses on Pakistan’s “militant strategy”, rather than on Pakistani foreign and military policies, broadly. Paul spoke to The Sunday Guardian. Excerpts:
Q: Has its jihad strategy proved more divisive than unifying for Pakistan?
A: Pakistan began using jihad as a strategy because it lacked a unifying state-building narrative and needed to become a home for ethnically, linguistically, economically and geographically diverse people. So, for at least some period of time, the jihad strategy was useful; it helped to promote Pakistani political cohesion. But the strategy subsequently ceased to be useful, and created serious problems for Pakistan. Pakistan continued to use jihad because the strategy’s negative repercussions became clear relatively recently. For many years, the Pakistani leadership was able to tell itself that the jihad strategy was working. Things got really bad only in the past couple of decades.
Q: What alternative narrative can pull Pakistan out of this whirlpool?
A: India defines itself as a secular home for South Asians that is heterogeneous, diverse and is not based on religion or ethnicity. Pakistan is unlikely to adopt such a narrative. It could, however, acknowledge its religious foundations, and create a home in which South Asian Muslims could enjoy their unique heritage and culture, without defining itself as an oppositional state, dedicated to struggling against India and changing the South Asian status quo. To put it differently, Pakistan could define itself as a state for Muslims, rather than a Muslim state founded in contradistinction to India. That would probably be more compatible with what Jinnah, Pakistan’s founder, originally wanted.
Q: Would this mean that reformation in Islam could help Pakistan’s case?
A: The problem of Pakistan’s jihad strategy does not require us to address the issue of reform in Islam. Pakistan uses jihad to oppose India and to overturn the South Asian status quo because of its view of regional religious demographics, which is rooted in the two-nation theory. According to that theory, Hindus and Muslims cannot live together in a single political entity. The two-nation theory was devised by intellectuals and political entrepreneurs. It has nothing to do with religious doctrine or dogma.
Q: Do you think Pakistan government will be able to change their view?
A: It will be very hard. If change does occur it will take a long period of time—perhaps generations. It is possible that, with generational change, Kashmir and religiously based opposition to India will become less important for Pakistanis, while trade, economic growth, and good governance become more important. If this happens, perhaps Pakistan’s strategy will change.
“India defines itself as a secular home for South Asians that is heterogeneous, diverse and is not based on religion or ethnicity. Pakistan is unlikely to adopt such a narrative.”
Q: What is your view of Balochistan’s secessionist activists asking for India’s intervention?
A: India is better off not getting involved with secessionism in Pakistan. Doing so will divert energy and resources from India’s efforts to deal with China, which is its real strategic challenge, and may fail to achieve the desired results.
Q: You have said that US aid to Pakistan did not lead to desired results. Now Pakistan is relying on China heavily. Where do you think this will go?
A: Pakistan has a history of overestimating the benefits that it will receive by cooperating with China. It could well be disappointed again. China, for its part, uses Pakistan to contain India; resources that India devotes to the struggle against Pakistan and its jihad strategy cannot be used to resist China’s growing power. There is a risk, however, that militancy could spread from Pakistan into China. China will therefore want Pakistan to continue using jihad, but also to ensure that it does not get too far out of hand. Striking that balance could prove to be difficult. As far as the CPEC (China Pakistan Economic Corridor) is concerned, we will have to wait and watch.