New Delhi: On December 15, 1971, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the then Pakistan foreign minister, said, “The Pakistani nation is a brave nation. One of the greatest British generals said that the best infantry fighters in the world are the Pakistanis. We will fight. We will fight for a thousand years, if it comes to that. So do not go by momentary military victories.”

Bitter of the UN security council’s acceptance of liberation of Bangladesh and dismemberment of Pakistan, Bhutto, the staunch advocate of liberating Kashmir from India, left the meet tearing the papers he had challenging the global body, “Impose any decision, have a treaty worse than the Treaty of Versailles, legalise aggression, legalise occupation, legalise everything that has been illegal up to December 15, 1971. I will not be a party to it. We will fight; we will go back and fight. My country beckons me. Why should I waste my time here in the Security Council? I will not be a party to the ignominious surrender of a part of my country. You can take your Security Council. Here you are (ripping papers). I am going.”

Bhutto was the youngest member of Pakistan’s Cabinet, a close adviser of President Mohammad Ayub Khan, committed to taking Kashmir away from India at any cost. To achieve this objective, he had ceded to China a part of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. He had suggested to President Ayub Khan to join China in attacking India in 1962 and later was a strong advocate of Pakistan’s Operation Gibraltar, an armed invasion to take Kashmir.

Bhutto was crestfallen when Khan entered the Tashkent agreement with then Indian Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri. Post-1971 war with India, it was Bhutto who rebuilt Pakistan after signing a favourable Simla Agreement with the Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. He rebuilt Pakistan, keeping only one common link — that of the desire to dismember India, to take Kashmir from India, and to pay back India for its support to Bangladesh during the liberation war.

Pakistan never thought India as a nation was viable. Amaury de Riencourt wrote in Foreign Affairs how even Ayub Khan had confided in him this feeling. Reincourt wrote, “It was a common assumption during the 1950s and 1960s in Pakistan that it was only a matter of time before India, so vast and disparate, would succumb to its centrifugal tendencies and break up into several distinct states. In a conversation with General Ayub Khan, then president of Pakistan, in February 1960, the latter made it plain that he did not expect India to survive as a united country and that, sooner or later, some event would occur that would trigger the Balkanisation of the country, cutting down what was left of India to a size that would be more to the taste of Pakistan.” After the liberation of Bangladesh, this wish turned as a fetish of sorts to most in Pakistan.  

The thousand years of war as promised by Bhutto was not feasible, with India proving to be a superior power. Pakistan, therefore, attempted to build its arsenal. One was strengthening its relations with China that has today been helping Islamabad in protecting terrorists like Masood Azar and his outfits. The other was to enjoy continued favour from Washington, DC.

While the latter had changed since India officially shifted its socialist gear to a market-driven one and opened its market to global investment, even the Chinese found India’s market too attractive to blindly backing Pakistan in its misadventures. The third steadfast ally of Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, too, had to meet the challenges of market. It could not stay aloof from India, one major buyer of crude oil. The fast growth of the Indian economy in the last two decades as also strategic hugs of Prime Minister Narendra Modi changed the global position of New Delhi, weakening the same of Islamabad.

But the focus in Pakistan’s policy of damaging India stood unaltered. In fact, new opportunities — thus, allies too — came in the form of bitter losers and acrimonious a political situation arising out of the electoral sweep of Modi. Pakistan’s changed plan to inflict a thousand cuts, which began with support to the Khalistan movement and continued unabated with supports provided to terrorists, received the backing of a strong section of Indian left-liberal intellectuals and media persons. This, perhaps, Pakistan never bargained for when it had fine-tuned its policy of inflicting thousand cuts on its neighbour. Conceived after the drubbing in 1971 war, the thousand-cuts policy was perfected by Bhutto’s killer General Zia ul Haq. Peter Chalk and Christine Fair in a report published in the Janes Intelligence (October 2002) cited the former director of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) explicating the strategy, “This is a psychological and political offensive that is designed to make India bleed through a thousand cuts.”  

Arguably the most successful execution of Pakistan’s soft power was through the public outcry over the hijacking of the Air India flight from Kathmandu in 1999. The then Indian government was not prepared to thwart either the hijackers or the collective pressure built on it for releasing Masood Azhar. The same abject surrender was seen again when Indian Parliament and later Mumbai was attacked with impunity. A curious factor that helped creating confusion among the Indian political establishment in particular is the feeling that any strong action against Pakistan and its covert army of terrorists will turn Indian Muslims against the idea of India. Despite examples set by many Muslim nationalists, this feeling is so strongly rooted in Indian politics and among avid supporters of secular principles that India as a nation remains deeply divided, providing ammunition to Pakistan in continuing with its agenda of inflicting a thousand cuts.

A curious fallacy in the Indian psyche is its faith in the campaign of the terror outfits like Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) that it is a holy war against the Indian kafirs. This was the message recorded by the suicide bomber at Pulwama. Sadly, we don’t reflect on the millions of Muslims who go through the same sentiments of ordinary Indians when it comes to India as a nation. Nor do we care to reflect their commitment to live in peace with others, caught as we are in non-serious issues, non-serious since these have little or no effect in the daily chores of ordinary Indians. But the long-term impact, that of a thousand cuts and its unavoidable disaster on India, the nation, cannot be winked at. When will the right sense prevail and India act unitedly against the covert warfare resorted against us? We cannot hope to survive as a nation if we, particularly our politicians, don’t act before it is too late.

The views expressed in this article are personal and may not reflect the editorial position of MyNation.