With the rise of nationalism in Europe during the 19th century came a new phenomenon called “irredentism” – the agitation by one country to reclaim portions of another, based on ethnic similarity or previous ownership. The term was based on the phrase Italia irredenta, the slogan of Italian nationalists who wanted Italy to annex Italian-speaking areas retained by Austria after the unification of Italy in 1866. Italia irredenta was a significant force in Italian politics right up until the Great War, and helped induce Italy to join the Allies.
Various irredentisms were the bane of Europe in the 20th century. Hitler wanted to unite with his ethnic compatriots in the Sudetenland and Alsace-Lorraine. A significant Romanian minority was included in the Hungarian portion of Transylvania, causing friction between the two countries. The Turks and the Greeks are still at odds over Cyprus, and the Serbs long to reclaim the “historic heartland of Serbia” in Kosovo.
Ethnicity, religion, language, shared history, and general culture combined to form a volatile mix that produced modern nationalism. But nationalism and irredentism are not necessarily language-based phenomena; both Italy and Spain united even though their component provinces spoke dialects which were all but separate languages.
Driven as it is by powerful nationalist emotions, irredentism can cause countries to make decisions that are not always in their national interests. It is impossible to understand the deadly foreign policy of Germany during the 1930s without reference to German irredentism. Similarly, in order to understand current Chinese foreign policy it is necessary to examine China’s fixation on reclaiming Taiwan.
And Pakistan’s foreign policy cannot be understood without considering Kashmir.
In the runup to independence in the 1930s and 1940s, the Muslim portions of India could not be reconciled with the rest of the country, and the British decided to partition the territory.
Muhammad Ali Jinnah founded the state of Pakistan in 1947, cobbling together different ethnic groups whose only major commonality was Islam. Many Muslims remain in India, but few Hindus and other non-Muslims remain in Pakistan – like other Muslim-majority countries, Pakistan has driven out, killed, or converted most of its infidels.
Even so, Pakistan is quite diverse. It originally included what used to be East Pakistan and is now Bangladesh. The latter is ethnically distinct, and fought to gain its independence from Pakistan in 1971. In Pakistan are Shiites as well as Sunnis, and the Sunnis are divided into different sects and subgroups, speaking different languages or dialects and having differing social status.
One of the major distinctions is between the Deobandis and the Brelvis. According to B. Raman,
|The majority of the Brelvis are descendants of converts from Hinduism and belong to poor rural classes. Since they cannot afford to go on Haj to Saudi Arabia, their tradition allows them instead to visit the graves of their pirs and saints. These flexible and tolerant traditions had spread in the past from the sub-continent to Afghanistan , the Central Asian Republics (CARs), Dagestan and Chechnya and to other countries where Muslims from the sub-continent have migrated.|
|The Wahabi-Deobandis of Pakistan, who are in a numerical minority, are the descendants of the original migrants from Central Asia, Afghanistan and the Gulf. They look upon themselves as the high-born (the “Ashraf”) and look down on the Brelvis as the low-born (the “Alaf”). Power has largely remained in the hands of the Wahabi-Deobandis, but till 1971 there was no organised, state-sponsored attempt to force the Wahabi religious traditions on the Brelvis.|
|The alienation of the people of pre-1971 East Pakistan was mainly due to the refusal of the Deobandi high-born of West Pakistan to accept the Bengali Muslims, largely the descendants of converts from Hinduism, as their equals.|
|The war of 1971 and the separation of Bangladesh and the subsequent appearance of signs of alienation amongst the Mohajirs of Karachi and other urban areas of Sindh, who are descendants of converts from Hinduism from northern India, created fears of another split of Pakistan.|
|This led to the emergence in the 1980s of a number of Muslim extremist organisations wedded to the policy of ridding Islam in Pakistan of what they looked upon as the corrupting influences of Hinduism and making the Muslims of Pakistan strictly adhere to the Deobandi-Wahabi traditions.|
The Deobandi-Wahhabi group Tablighi Jamaat has experienced a tremendous growth during the last quarter-century, converting infidels and bringing lapsed Muslims back into its austere version of the Ummah. Its graduates have moved on to join or form some of the most violent and radical of the Islamist terror groups.
At the time of independence India was awarded the former principality of Jammu and Kashmir. Kashmir is a remote but strategically important area, and has at various times been ruled by Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs, and Muslims, as well as the British. It contains a mixture of tribal groups, including many which share ethnicity with their brethren in Pakistan itself.
Pakistan went to war with India in 1948 with the aim of obtaining Kashmir. There was an eventual cease-fire, a line of control was demarcated, and an uneasy truce ensued. Affairs were complicated by the interference of China, to whom Pakistan ceded a part of the “Northern Areas” in 1963. China annexed the part of Kashmir known as Aksai Chin, which is still claimed by India.
Conflict has flared periodically since 1948, with India and Pakistan occasionally going to war over Kashmir. But after each country acquired nuclear weapons, war became all but unthinkable. In order to achieve its urgent goal of occupying the remainder of Kashmir, Pakistan must consider different strategies.
Since the 1980s Pakistan has allowed extreme Islamist groups to operate openly within its borders. Even proscribed terrorist organizations flourish; when listed by the U.S. State Department they tend to change their names so as to avoid a crackdown.
Pakistan’s intelligence service, the ISI, finds these groups useful, since they are instrumental for operations in Kashmir. The groups infiltrate India, inflame the sentiments of like-minded Muslims there, and organize terrorist attacks against Indian targets. They can also be useful within Pakistan itself:
|In their efforts to maintain law and order in Pakistan and weaken nationalist and religious elements and political parties disliked by the army, the ISI and the army followed a policy of divide and rule. After the success of the Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979, to keep the Shias of Pakistan under control, the ISI encouraged the formation of ant-Shia Sunni extremist organisations such as the Sipah Sahaba. When the Shias of Gilgit rose in revolt in 1988, Musharraf used bin Laden and his tribal hordes from the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) and the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) to suppress them brutally. When the Mohajir Qaumi Movement (MQM—now called the Muttahida Qaumi Movement) of Altaf Hussain rose in revolt in the late 1980s in Karachi, Hyderabad and Sukkur in Sindh, the ISI armed sections of the Sindhi nationalist elements to kill the Mohajirs. It then created a split between Mohajirs of Uttar Pradesh origin (in Altaf Hussain’s MQM) and those of Bihar origin in the splinter anti-Altaf Hussain group called MQM (Haquiqi–meaning real). In Altaf Hussain’s MQM itself, the ISI unsuccessfully tried to create a wedge between the Sunni and Shia migrants from Uttar Pradesh.|
|Having failed in his efforts to weaken the PPP by taking advantage of the exile of Mrs.Benazir and faced with growing unity of action between Altaf Hussain’s MQM and sections of Sindhi nationalist elements, Musharraf has constituted a secret task force in the ISI headed by Lt.Gen.Mahmood Ahmed, the DG, and consisting of Lt.Gen.(retd) Moinuddin Haider, Interior Minister, and Lt.Gen.Muzaffar Usmani, Deputy Chief of the Army Staff, to break the PPP, the MQM and the Sindhi nationalists.|
|This task force has encouraged not only religious political organisations such as the Jamaat-e-Islami (JEI) of Qazi Hussain Ahmed, the Jamiat-ul-Ulema Islam (JUI) of Maulana Fazlur Rahman etc, but also sectarian organisations such as the Sipah Sahaba and the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi of Riaz Basra, living under the protection of the Taliban and bin Laden in Kandahar in Afghanistan, to extend their activities to Sindh.|
This is the unruly tiger which Pervez Musharraf inherited and is attempting to ride. The ISI believes that it controls the terrorist groups, but who controls the ISI? Depending on which source you read, the ISI answers either to the office of the President or to the Army chiefs of staff. Musharraf would like us to believe the latter – “Ah, those rascals at ISI! I wish I could do something about them, but they are beyond my control!” – but Indian intelligence tends to believe that he is in control. Otherwise, how has he managed to escape the tiger’s jaws thus far?
But it is a dangerous game that Pakistan is playing:
|During his televised breakfast discussions with Indian editors at Agra on July 16 and his press conference at Islamabad on July 20, Musharraf described the terrorists operating in J & K as “indigenous freedom-fighters” and denied that they were based in Pakistan or that they were receiving any assistance from Pakistan. A similar stand was taken by Ashraf Jehangir Qazi, the Pakistani High Commissioner in New Delhi, during a TV interview on July 22 when he was asked about the post-summit massacre of some Hindu pilgrims going on their annual pilgrimage to the Amarnath cave by the Al Umar Mujahideen and the massacre of the Hindu residents, including women and children, of a village in the Doda district of Jammu by the LET on July 22.|
|In its issues of February 13,1995, and March 27,1995, the “News” of Pakistan had carried two detailed investigative reports by Kamran Khan, a well-known Pakistani journalist, on an international terrorist network consisting of the HUM (then known as the Harkat-ul-Ansar) and other Islamic terrorist organisations operating from Pakistani territory with the knowledge and connivance of the Pakistani authorities. He reported that about 200 HUM members from Pakistan had died in clashes with the Indian security forces in J & K since 1991 and that its cadres were also active with the Abu Sayyaf group in Southern Philippines and with the terrorists in Chechnya. He also brought out the links of these organisations with Ramzi Yousuf, now undergoing imprisonment in the US for his role in the New York World Trade Centre bombing in February, 1993, and their role in the explosion at a holy shrine at Mashhad in Iran on June 20,1994, killing 70 people and in training Saudi fundamentalist elements opposed to the ruling family.|
The Islamist terrorists may prefer Musharraf to the infidels, but it is hard to imagine that they like Pakistan’s military government as much as they would the Caliphate. That is, after all, their ultimate goal.
Musharraf and the ISI believe that they can continue this triple game indefinitely – holding the terrorists “by the scruff of the neck,” playing the extremists off against each other, and then saying, “Terrorists? What terrorists? There are no terrorists here!” to the world at large.
Pakistan’s cynical policies bore fruit in 1999, when India caved to the demands of terrorists after the Kandahar hijacking:
|Five years after Indian Airlines Flight IC-814 was hijacked in December 1999, the three men released by the Indian government to ensure the safety of the passengers continue to be sheltered in Pakistan despite repeated demands for their custody by Interpol, the American FBI and the Indian Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).|
|On December 24, 1999, five armed Pakistani nationals hijacked Indian Airlines Flight IC-814 from Katmandu to Kandahar, Afghanistan. Led by Sunny Ahmed Qazi, alias Burger, the hijackers slashed the throat of one of the 178 passengers, a honeymooner, and forced pilots to open the cockpit door. Burger demanded that the Indian government release three Pakistani terrorists from prison in exchange for the hostages aboard the aircraft.|
|…Among those released by India was Masood Azhar, a Pakistani national and secretary general of the Harkat-ul-Ansar, who was arrested on February 11, 1994 from Srinagar. Masood Azhar was the ideologue of the Harkat-ul-Ansar, a militant group already placed on the US State Department’s watch list of terrorist organizations. The second released jihadi was an Indian national — Mushtaq Ahmed Zargar, chief of the Al-Umar Mujahideen militant outfit.|
Azhar has continued to ply his trade under the watchful eye of Pakistan and the ISI.
In 1917 The German General Staff had their own version of Azhar. They, too, thought that they had him by the scruff of the neck. Calculating that they could play the Bolsheviks against Kerensky, they permitted Lenin to travel in a sealed train through Germany to the Finland Station in Petrograd. Their schemes succeeded beyond their wildest dreams, igniting the Bolshevik revolution and consigning millions of people to the hell of Communism for the next 74 years. For those survivors who could still remember, it must have been bitterly ironic to see the hammer and sickle flying over the ruins of the Reichstag in 1945.
What diabolical forces is General Musharraf even now unleashing? What future conflagration is he igniting by playing with his terrorist matches?
And all for Pakistan irredenta, those swaths of Central Asian mountainous territory, the Alsace and Lorraine of Kashmir.