India and Pakistan: War threat looms large

The Indian subcontinent is bracing itself with the threat of a fourth full fledged war .The trumpets of war are being sounded on both sides of the border and a frantical war hysteria is being build up. The situation is tense with rapid troop deployment and movements especially along the line of control, the temporary border dividing the Himalayan state of Kashmir. Lal Khan, editor of the Pakistani Marxist fortnightly paper Jeddo Judh (Class Struggle) provides a socialist analysis.

In fifty two years of its history the Indian subcontinent is bracing itself with the threat of a fourth full fledged war, yet again .The trumpets of war are being sounded on both sides of the border and a frantical war hysteria is being build up. The situation is tense with rapid troop deployment and movements especially along the line of control, the temporary border dividing the Himalayan state of Kashmir. Indian Air force jets are strafing and bombing the mujahideen (Islamic fundamentalists) positions close to the line of control.

The present hostilities escalated when two Indian MIG fighters were shot down on the Pakistani line of control on 26th May by the Pakistan army anti aircraft batteries. The next day an Indian M17 gun ship helicopter was shot down by the so called mujahideen. The wreckage of the Indian aircraft and a captured pilot were shown on the Pakistani television screens. It was being used to whip up chauvinistic frenzy, desperately needed by the Pakistani regime to evade and divert the burning issues rocking the government. The Indians were struck with a humiliating silence in the immediate aftermath. However this initial silence can prove to be very menacing. A number of airforce squadrons have been moved to Sirinagar, the summer capital of the Indian held Kashmir. Now the Indian regime is talking war. The Pakistani regime has released the captured pilot, has asked for immediate negotiations on a foreign minister level and is giving all sorts of gestures to back out of a situation it has involved itself. The Americans initially tried to shy away from the conflict but as things started heating up, they have started to put pressure on both sides to avert a clash, which could end up in a conflagration creating unprecedented instability and chaos in the whole region. The Chinese bureaucracy is watching from the sidelines, again terrified of the consequences.


This recent tension started in May last year when India and Pakistan exploded nuclear devices in the background of intense socio- economic and political crisis plaguing the two regimes. In India the third general election is being held in as many years, five governments have changed in the so called largest democracy of the world, in the same period. Still the future of any stable regime in the existent set up is almost ruled out. The crisis has splintered Indian politics and its national cohesion is in tatters. In the dissolved parliament there were 43 different regional and other parties as compared to 28 in the previous one. The concept of a National Party ruling India has withered with the intensifying of the crisis. In 52 years of Independence, in spite of full support and protection of the Nehruvian State the Indian National bourgeoisie has not been able to solve a single problem or complete a single task of the National Revolution. Apart from Kashmir, there are separatist movements and sectarian strife raging in 17 out of 25 provinces of the Indian Union. There are bloody guerrilla wars and serious civic disorders in Assam, Nagaland, Manipur, Bihar, Punjab, Arunachal Pradesh, Tamilnadu and several other states. The economic growth has slowed down from about 10% in the late 80s to an average of 5.8% in the 90s. The opening up of the Indian market to the multinational corporations in the 80s and early 90s has exposed the real nature of the Indian bourgeoisie. Not only have they conceded defeat in front of the financial and the technological might of these multinationals but they have resorted to reliance on one of the most primitive and reactionary fundamentalism on earth. This has shown their true character and the reality of their pretence of secularism, nationalism, democracy and progressiveness. Due to its historical belatedness, and reactionary character this bourgeoisie has plunged India into turmoil and to the brink of a terrible disaster. The glare of the trumpets of war is just one expression of it.


The situation in Pakistan is not very rosy either. In the major period of its post independence history it has been under brutal Military dictatorships. Its ruling elite has not been able to fabricate even a democratic farce as their counter parts did in India. The fragile 'democratic' facade was in fact a distraction and democratic counter revolution to divert the 1968-69 revolution in Pakistan. The failure of the policy of left reformism under the first PPP government (1972-77) lead to its overthrow and the imposition of Gen. Zia's vicious military rule. This dictatorship which lasted for eleven long tyrannical years had to give way to another mass upsurge which brought Bhutto's daughter, Benazir to power in 1988. In her two stints in power she went from right reformism to outright bourgeoisie reactionary policies. She not only failed miserably to solve any of the problems but also added to the gloom already present amongst the masses. This stagnation in the movement and malaise amongst the masses brought the present Muslim League government into power in February 1997. The present regime consists of the descendants of the past dictators, loan defaulters, landlords, capitalists and probably the most corrupt, reactionary and criminal elements of the upper crusts of the society. Nawaz Sharif himself was politically developed and nurtured by general Zia, and proclaims to be his heir and protégé. Lurching from one crisis to another, the present regime has resorted to successive acts of repression, very much in accordance to the methods of their mentors. They were given a massive mandate by the state in the 97 polls where actually less than 17% of the electorate voted. It is a classical example of parliamentary bonapartism where Nawaz Sharif and his brother are trying to accumulate more and more power. This has solved nothing.

The formal economy has collapsed, the black (informal) economy is thrice the size of the formal sector and the growth rate in manufacturing industry is negative (-2.1%).More then 6000 large and medium scale units have been closed down in the last 5 years. Unemployment has surged and every year there are almost one million entrants into the already congested labour market. There is a new epidemic of suicidal tendencies encompassing society. In the first 100 days of 1999 there have been 276 reported suicides due to unemployment, poverty and misery. Foreign exchange reserves are low, trade volume is contracting, recession is deep with little or no signs of recovery, Banks and other financial institutions teetering on the brink and agriculture is in a shambles. In spite of being an agricultural country Pakistan has to import wheat and other food grains to avert starvation. A vast section of medium farmers and families based on land are going bankrupt at a rapid pace.

The national question is resurfacing once again, as a horrifying spectre of bloodshed and anarchy. With the change of demographic ratios and mass migrations in the last three decades any clash on a national basis would spell unprecedented bloodshed. The present regime seems to pursue its rulership on the basis of conflagration rather than stability. They are themselves trying to stoke the fires of the national question, to divert the class movement. Their provocative acts are further invoking the sense of deprivation amongst the peoples of the oppressed nationalities, especially in Sindh and Baluchistan. If this nationalist strife flares up then not only the regime will be overthrown, but this could eventually lead to the break-up of Pakistan. But this would not be a short sharp affair, it will be a bloody and a protracted process. It will make the genocide during partition of the subcontinent (1947) a rather subtle affair.

Fundamentalism has become a chronic festering wound on the body of Pakistan society. The internecine clashes and rampant violence in society being inflicted by the Islamic fundamentalists is rampant. Although they have a meagre base in society their social dominance is mainly due to the appeasement of the mullahs by the capitalist elite and their use of religion time and time again to curb a rising tide of class struggle. The fundamentalists are loaded with hefty amounts of money. In the past they were sponsored trained and financed by US. imperialism, especially during the Afghan conflict. Now the Saudi and the Iranian regimes are sponsoring their respective streaks of Islamic fundamentalists. But above all fundamentalism is the political and ideological face and representation of Black money and economy. Precisely that is why it is so unpredictable and uncontrollable. It is a beast which scares its own masters. With such upheavals and turbulence of volcanic proportions in society, it can only be ruled by somebody extremely indifferent and devoid of basic human instincts or who lives in dreams of the grandeur as kings of medieval ages or the Mughal dynasty. One must have to relieve one's psychology of some portion of sanity even to pretend that all is well! These characteristics fit into Nawaz Sharif 's personality to a large extent. But now events are catching up and fast. Going to war, according to Clausewitz 's dictum "war is the continuation of politics (domestic) by other (violent) means" is perhaps the only means for them to enhance their rule. Or so they thought.


If actually war breaks out on a full scale, it would be a very disastrous one. Leaving aside a nuclear conflict even a so called conventional war would be unimaginably devastating. The Indians will try to go the whole hog. They are sick of their involvement in Kashmir. They want to finish the whole affair. The hawks in Delhi mainly the hard-liners in the BJP government want to use this opportunity and take the rest of Kashmir now under Pakistan's control. It is possible they might have intentionally provoked the Pakistan gunners to shoot down the not so modern and not so expensive MIG-21. Kashmir to India is, as was Ireland to the British, the Basque Country to Spain, Kurdistan to the Turks and Vietnam to the Americans. War cannot solve any of those, but the ruling classes in the Indian subcontinent have run out of options. Looking at the balance of military power, between India and Pakistan, the possibility of a total annexation of Kashmir by India cannot be excluded. India has a total active armed forces of 1.18 million as compared to Pakistan's 0.59 million. It has 140,000 combat and other air craft as compared to Pakistan's 45000. In 1998 India spent $9.9 billion. on armaments, while Pakistan's spending was $ 3.2bn. India has 50 to 60 nuclear warheads as compared to Pakistan's 12 to 18.

Even if India annexes the rest of Kashmir it will not solve anything. The state atrocities con never conquer a whole people's in struggle. Had there been no incursions and penetrations by the Pakistan state secret services and the Islamic fundamentalists in the movement in Kashmir and had the leadership of the national liberation struggle a class approach and less nationalistic policy. Kashmir would have proved to be India's Waterloo long ago. A total occupation of Kashmir by India would give a new impetus to the struggle in Kashmir, which would turn this victory into a terrible defeat. If this struggle is linked to the struggle of the oppressed in other parts of India and throughout the subcontinent, which is only possible on a class basis, this wretched system could be overthrown and the whole region would be transformed. But if Kashmir goes, it would be a terrible blow for the Pakistani ruling classes and the state. They would never be able to recover from it. Then, why all this war mongering? Why this chauvinistic rhetoric?

In the last year the Indian and the Pakistan rulers have embarked upon a path of a militaristic and nationalist frenzy. They have exploded eleven nuclear devices, have tested and manufactured several long range ballistic missiles. These missiles can carry nuclear war heads and strike every city in the subcontinent. In between these jingoistic bragging there have been facades of friendship, gestures of peace and bus trips and services across the border. That has all gone with the winds of war blowing from Kashmir.

In any case it was sheer utopia to harp upon the conclusion that through the kind hearted, soft hearted, poetic and loving personal relationship between Sharif and Vajpayee the destiny of 1.1 billion people of the Indian subcontinent could be altered. The impression being given even by the ex-left intellectuals and leaders at the time of Vajpayee's visit to Lahore in February 1999, was that now peace and tranquillity were round the corner and the countries of the region would live in harmony and friendship there after. How naive, to say the least.

Imperialist exploitation

With more than a billion people, this South Asian region has more population than any other country including China. During and since partition, the living body of India has been divided into more than three nation states. Today, it is the poorest, most undernourished, most illiterate, least gender sensitive and probably the most dangerous region of the world. In the past Pakistan could muster aid from the west due to its strategical importance and its toadyism towards the United States. India having a relatively larger country used to manoeuvre between the US. and the former Soviet Union. After the collapse of Stalinism and the crisis of the world economy the situation has changed radically. The tendencies of globalisation and the impulsion of the multinational interests have put severe strains on the nation states of both India and Pakistan. The conditions of the IMF and the world bank, in accordance with the dictates of upholding the globalisation process, in the scenario of shrinking markets, dwindling consumption and excessive productive capacity have already crippled these economies. Through lowering of the tariffs the local industry is being crushed by the aggressive onslaught of the multinationals. These economies are being converted from partially manufacturing economies into retail economies. Accepting the imposition of privatisation, means handing over the crucial sectors of the society and economy, like power generation, telecommunications, air and sea ports, railways and motorways and other sensitive branches of industry to the multinationals. This also means a major reduction of the control of the state over such vital areas of the economy and infrastructure. Then there is the question of the down sizing of state institutions. This means physical annihilation of the state body and apparatus.

These conditions have made the state institutions, especially the army more vulnerable to the penetration of fundamentalist and chauvinistic tendencies. Along with these conditions the concessions given to the ruling classes of these countries are being withdrawn. The extremely corrupt rulers who have stashed away billions of dollars in the past, with the casual side looking of the imperialists, are now being asked to service the imperialist debts and put that money in the economy to kick start it. Their markets have been already taken over by the multinationals, now imperialism wants them to put up their loot and plunder to run these economies and create a market for the multinationals. How clever! For the first time in the post war era the imperialists are forced to attack their own stooges through economic compulsion.

The ruling classes, at least a big chunk of them are not going to take it lying down. This has forced a large section of the bourgeoisie to come out in its true colours. Its most reactionary shades. They have piled up large sums of black money, are trying to reassert the nation state and try to harp on national and religious chauvinism, even propping up fundamentalism. This is the real explanation of these nuclear blasts, missile gimmicks and building up of this war hysteria. They are trying to scare imperialism to stop the economic and political onslaught against them. The most important contradiction of this epoch is between the existence of the nation state and so called globalisation. But globalisation under a crisis ridden, capitalism is too weak to abolish the nation state. On the other hand the nation state in reality becomes so obsolete that it cannot fight back the onslaught of global economy dominated by imperialism. Hence this mess will continue. With the aggravation of the economic crisis, a deep slump or depression and the exacerbation of contradictions will give rise to greater turmoil and social explosions.

The rulers of the Indian sub continent cant afford a war. The question is can they afford peace. No! History is witness to the fact that every war ended up in revolution. After the 65 war there was the glorious 68-69 Revolution in Pakistan. After the victory of India in the 1971 war in Bengal, there was a mass workers movement and general strikes of the Indian proletariat. This lead to the over throw and subsequent demise of the victor of that war, Indira Ghandi. If there is a war this time on it will result in total subjugation of the nation state to imperialism if not its annihilation. The cause of the war would be its first casualty. But in the aftermath of a war a revolutionary upsurge of unprecedented proportions is inevitable. With a genuine Marxist leadership its victory and a socialist transformation of the society would be entirely possible. If that doesn't happen then the ravages of the war would be so drastic, that the future of human civilisation, culture and existence would be in jeopardy. The whole of the subcontinent would be splintered into bloody fragments and the spectre of barbarism would loom large. Even if they can avert a war still they have no way out of the present crisis. If they had one then in the first place why would they embark on this path of war mongering. In the last ten years of "peace" more than sixty thousand people have been killed in the strife just in Kashmir. This is more then the total casualties in the three wars fought between India and Pakistan.

Either way a spectre of class war haunts the ruling elite. They can neither avoid it nor can they win it. Whatever they may do the are representing a lost cause and an obsolete system and state. The victory of the working masses and the oppressed peoples of the Indo-Pak subcontinent in the coming class war, is the only way forward for the emancipation of the society and survival of mankind. This road is the road of the socialist revolution.