Changing the Mindset

The rivalry between India and Pakistan has adversely affected peace and stability in South Asia. We live in the twenty-first century, an era in which states have adopted the model of regional integration and the policy of economic cooperation to safeguard their security objectives. The South Asian region, despite being a potential economic hub because of its attractive market value and manpower, has been unable to fully utilize the opportunities the modern era has offered to developing economies around the world. Unfortunately, the challenges of terrorism and extremism, along with other socioeconomic problems, have not been addressed collectively by the regional states. The threat of terrorism poses a grave and equal challenge to every state in the region, and a cooperation-based approach among the South Asian states holds the key to tackling this menace. The volatile relationship of India and Pakistan, coupled with their inability to materialize the convergence of interests into economic integration and counterterrorism in the region in general, and in Afghanistan in particular, are the main impediments to regional economic integration and prospects for cooperation on counterterrorism in South Asia.

There have been many attempts to normalize relations between the two countries, with little success. There are several factors that do not allow for the normalization of relations between India and Pakistan, but one very important factor that I believe is a root cause is the mindset of both countries. Being a Pakistani, I will try to explain in this article why the Pakistani mindset is misguided and why it needs to be changed.

Pakistan was created on the basis of a two-nation theory, which implied that Muslims’ rights (being the minority) in united India could not be guaranteed unless there was a special constitutional arrangement, or unless they could have their own political arrangement as a separate country. When the ideology of Pakistan is discussed or taught for educational purposes, the impression is given that the two-nation theory was actually the product of a serious confrontation between the Indian Muslims and Hindus. The struggle of the Muslim League is projected as the struggle, not as a political one, but the struggle of virtue against evil. The matter of truth is that the Muslim League was a political party that wanted to manipulate the Muslim communal factor. All the leaders of this political party were from the elite, and most of them were not even from the existing geographic entity of Pakistan. They found the Muslim cause and capitalized on it to pursue their political goals.

The point that I am trying to make is that the roots of the Pakistani state are based on political reasons, rather than the result of a confrontation with the Hindu majority population. The Muslim League leadership had a genuine case to advocate for Muslims, as there were socioeconomic and political insecurities for the Muslim population. But where they erred was the exploitation of religious sentiments to advance their political goals, and this mistake caused the loss of lives of thousands of people in communal violence at the time of partition.

To strengthen my argument, it is stated that Muslims, along with all other religious entities in India, fought collectively against the British in the 1857 Rebellion. Moreover, Muslims and Hindus were united in their political struggle against British rule, as the Congress Party had a significant representation of Muslims, not only as its members, but in the mainstream leadership as well.The Khilafat Movement is one such example in this regard, in which Mahatma Gandhi was among the top leadership of this campaign. Most importantly, during the last years of British rule in India, the leadership of the Muslim League had accepted the Cabinet Mission Plan in 1946, according to which the current Pakistan would have been a part of united India. According to this plan, national matters such as defence, diplomacy, currency, etc. would have been controlled by the centre. The acceptance of the Cabinet Mission Plan by the Muslim League shows that the Muslim leadership did not rule out the idea of coexistence with the Hindu majority, provided that the political rights of Muslims were protected through constitutional arrangements.

The decision-making elite has used the ideology of Pakistan, with a distorted perception of history, to build a narrative that serves their institutional interests. The key component of Pakistan’s ideology is anti-Indian rhetoric. Anti-Indian rhetoric has portrayed Hindus as having never wanted the creation of Pakistan and as having been trying to disintegrate Pakistan like India did in 1971 in East Pakistan. But the matter of fact is that it was Pakistan who backed the tribal people to liberate Kashmir in 1948 and provided the opportunity to Indian forces to take the control of Jammu and Kashmir. In 1965, it was again Pakistan who launched operation Gibraltar in a failed attempt to liberate Kashmir. In 1971, India did invade East Pakistan, but this was one major factor among several other factors that caused the disintegration of the country. The Kargil war is another example of how Pakistan used force as an instrument to change the status quo. Pakistan has been involved in fueling militancy in Kashmir, which has domestically affected Pakistan by fueling religious extremism and radicalizing the society. I believe that this strategy has not only harmed my country, but has also undermined the genuine cause of Kashmir by providing the opportunity to India to label the freedom movement as state-sponsored terrorism.

Currently, the vital challenges to Pakistan are its weak economy and its internal security threat emanating from religious extremism. The public is extremely frustrated because of the energy crisis, unemployment, lack of education and health facilities, and the issue of terrorism. The improvement of relations with India might not be the solution to every problem, but it can significantly help in terms of exploring more economic opportunity and to effectively address the issue of terrorism in region. Even though Pakistan has suffered heavily from terrorism, as more than 50,000 people have lost their lives, not to mention the socioeconomic cost, Pakistan’s security policy is still mainly India-centric. Pakistan’s defence budget is still far larger than the budget of its law enforcement entities. The Army is fighting against terrorists, but the point is that the permanent solution of the problem lies in investing in the law enforcement security apparatus. The law enforcement forces are still underdeveloped and are not being provided the necessary funds. On the other hand, it is evident that Pakistan is actively developing its nuclear weapons program, which may not be a smart investment, considering the threats confronting the country.

Pakistan needs to reshape its security policy by reevaluating threats to its existence. Furthermore, Pakistan should determine the exact nature of the threat from India. In my opinion, the decision-making elite has exaggerated the threat from India to safeguard their own institutional interests. Anti-Indian rhetoric was used to justify defence funding to build a powerful military in Pakistan, and it is still being used today, especially in Pakistan’s nuclear development program. India could be a threat to Pakistan, but only if Pakistan continues to use non-state actors to achieve its political goals. But this strategy has failed in the past and will not succeed in future, since the international environment has changed drastically. Moreover, even though the majority of Kashmiri people want to get rid of India, they do not want to be part of Pakistan either. The best policy for Pakistan, taking into account the challenges it is facing, should be to make the economy its first priority, and the rest of its policies should be in line with its economic objectives. The threat of terrorism should be Pakistan’s first and foremost priority in articulating its security policy. Most importantly, Pakistan needs to engage India by providing the surety that it would not allow any terrorist group to operate inside its territory. Pakistan needs to realize the ground realities in the region demand a more pragmatic approach to address the issues of national security.

The possibility of this shift is much less due to the mindset and institutional interests of military establishment. The civilian leadership is most likely to reshape Pakistan’s security policy, but at this time it is too weak, incompetent and irrelevant to take such bold decision.


Image: Pakistan Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR)-Anadolu Agency, Getty

Posted in , Cooperation, Culture, India, India-Pakistan Relations, Pakistan, Peace, Politics, Strategic Culture

Mirza Muhammad Masood Akbar

Mirza Muhammad Masood Akbar

Mirza Muhammad Masood Akbar has M.Sc. and M.Phil degrees from the Department of Defence and Strategic Studies, Quaid-i-Azam University Islamabad, Pakistan. His areas of interest is non-proliferation and arms control in South Asia. He was a Research Fellow at the South Asian Strategic Stability Institute (SASSI), Islamabad from December 2013 to December 2014. He was also a visiting fellow at James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, MIIS California (Spring 2015). He can be reached at

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16 thoughts on “Changing the Mindset

  1. Today’s war on terrorism (WoT) has many dimensions and among them, one of the obvious reason behind asymmetric war in Afghanistan and Iraq is US hegomonic designs. Post cold war era, USA used the Afghans, Arabs and in particularly Pakistanis to fight her proxy war in Afghanistan. Post 9/11, the same Afghans became problematic for United States. I am sure that attack of ISAF on Afghanistan was justified but it was a sheer blunder to invade Iraq. Where are WMDs? Even responsible US politicians admit that attack on Iraq was a mistake. In my opinion, US is responsible for today’s extremism in Pakistan. USA imposed WoT on Pakistan and finally it became Pakistan’s war.
    It is easy to give a verdict on end result of a war while writing an article on internet. There are already many books written on Indo-Pak war, so, i dont feel like writing anything about that. In my opinion, Mirza Masood must analyze the security policy of India and role of USA in destabilising world’s peace.

  2. Very well written Masood! It would have been lesser suggestive and tendentious had you mentioned India’s aversion to diplomacy and its growing military might at both conventional and non-conventional levels. Indians would say this maximized militarization is in line with the nations aspiration to become a Major Power probably eying itself a competitor of China. This is right. But When it comes to Pakistan, India forgets to behave like the one . India should stop seeing itself as a competitor of Pakistan. It should behave like a major power. Solve the issues and Move On. Simple.

  3. Masood you have done a great job. I have really enjoyed your analysis and it has helped me knowing more about Pakistan. The young people like you can really change the fate of developing countries. Keep it up.

  4. The above account is more than a satire intermixed with an obscure irony to define the fate or let say “changing the mindset” of the South Asians. We are very much clear in drawing up the parameters in which two independent sovereign states have been created in which religious factor is much dominant. The above account misses a very important factor in states relationship and that is ‘Proactive in Response.’ Its not about Pakistan only, the whole South Asian region is much clear about the expansionist and hostile attitude of India towards other regional states. The Cold Start Doctrine is a clear show of Indian offensive attitude towards a nuclear neighbor state. On other hand, Pakistan always remain very much defensive against all the hostiles. What Pakistan did in response is its inherent right to maintain its territorial integrity and political sovereignty. One important thing which should actually need to understand that Pakistan is an independent sovereign nuclear weapon state. This is a reality and no one can roll back this fact to get into notion of subcontinent.

  5. I don’t think you have provided concrete solutions in this piece. 1st of all, do you think that there is need of change of in Pakistani mindset, where you place India, in particular RSS, Shive Sina and VHP mindset? 2nd, regional integration in South Asia, I wonder if that is possible in the presence of grave territorial disputes such as Kashmir Issue. 3rd, do you know what is the meaning of Two Nation Theory? before making your opinion, you should have researched more because your opinion seems a propaganda tool against Pakistan and here I doubt about your mindset. Nuclear weapon in your opinion is waste of money, before suggesting Pakistan why didn’t you raise your voice against India the only country responsible for nuclearization of South Asia. You are totally biased and you are totally at sea because you failed to come with a neutral approach.

  6. Mr. Masood, you have been articulate while projecting your case of the nature of politico-strategic policies adopted by Pakistan since its appearance on world’s map. In the view of changing international scenario, is it a wise move to suggest that a state should relinquish its security apparatus. If I am not wrong, you have peddled a narrative of depicting India as a benign state. My dear, realist paradigm, which is 90% dominant in all state affairs of all states, clearly demonstrates that primary objective of any state remains as its security as well as its national interest. What sort of proxies was Pakistan using when India intervened in the internal affairs of an independent state in the name of humanitarian intervention ? You may have known this fact that India or any other state can attack any state if its deems the target state as a vulnerable task. You’re a scholar on world politics, but kindly take an objective position with impartial analysis rather than pre-planned or focusing on one angle excluding others.

  7. Masood has done a good job shedding light on the situation in Pakistan and the entrenched mindset of the Pakistani people. I agree that valuable resources should not be wasted on arms race which will benefit no one but a small group of people with invested interest. National priorities should be established based on objective assessment of the actual threat. Pakistan should take advantage of its geographic importance and focus on ecnomic development. Given the time-honored friendship, I am sure China will be glad to help Pakistan achieve stability and prosperity, because a stable and prosperous Pakistan will benefit not only its own people but also China and the whole region at large.

  8. Relations between India and Pakistan has not been stable for several years and in my opinion both states are involved in not normalizing it. Indian growing power is a big factor involved, currently India is in pursuit of status quo among the global powers even on the cost of bullying the neighbors. Similar evidences have been found that India is involved in supporting terrorism against Pakistan likewise Pakistan wants to destabilize Indian policies. So India has considered Pakistan a bigger threat and enemy in its way rather than Pakistani elite and eventually creating a situation in which Pakistan remains economically fragile.

  9. Economic problems in Pakistan has nothing to do with ideology of Pakistan and military establishment. It is because of the corrupt political elite that has been involved in corruption in all ministries. There are no development or infrastructure projects introduced by any of the governments. We all know what role Zardari has played or Nawaz Shareef has played. All they care about is bribing, money laundering and etc. Masood is connecting the issue with wrong explanation and examples. Our military is working fine this is civil political elite that has failed us completely.

  10. Dear Aazar Kund 1)The factors like RSS, Shive Sina and VHP would be bigger threats to India itself. No factors can make a country weaker more than the factor of extremism in any form. 2) Pakistan should provide the political support for the Kashmir’s right of self-determination but no more than that; not at the cost of people of Pakistan. 3) If the two nation theory is ever relevant in South Asia; it is relevant right now for Shia community in Pakistan. By applying the essence of two nation theory, Shia community in Pakistan is entitled to demand a separate homeland for them. 4) Majority of Pakistani population has no access to the basic needs like water, health, education, electricity, justice etc. They don’t care about nuclear weapons or Indian “hegemonic” designs.

  11. Dear Muteeba: You have pointed out the Indian Cold Start doctrine but you have not provided the context in which this doctrine is developed. From the Indian point of view, Cold Start doctrine is in response to Pakistan’s policy of “exporting terrorism” in India. Don’t you think that the threat of “Cold Start” could be neutralized If Pakistan takes effective action against militant groups that have been involved in terrorism in India? Please don’t respond with the version that Pakistan had not been involved in past or have stopped supporting anymore. I have my personal experience that during my school time in late 1990s, the people from Lashkar Taiba used to come before the summer vacations to seek volunteers for Jihad training. After 9/11 the things are significantly changed but the same group still exists with different brand name, their activities are restricted but not finished. My personal observation is that they are asked to keep their activities on hold for time being. I am really apprehensive about their role in Pakistan’s Kashmir policy in future. For me, Pakistan can significantly reduce the threat from India by taking effective action against these groups. One argument could be made that since these groups can turn against the state itself if Pakistan uses the force to ban these groups. In this regard the argument of George Perkovich is that in such scenario Pakistan should take India and international community into confidence and show them that Pakistan has a policy in place that would gradually try to control these groups.

  12. Dear Saleem: The military has governed Pakistan for thirty years and even when it is not in power, no security or foreign policy could be articulated without army’s consent (What was their performance). The economy of any country depends on the security environment as peace is prerequisite for any country to progress. Pakistan army’s adventurism in India and Afghanistan has never let the peace to prevail in country. The major chunk of Pakistani budget (28 percent) is spent on defence and less than 10 percent is spent on education. You cannot expect your uneducated people to choose the leaders that can make your country better. I do believe those politicians are power hungry and corrupt but not more than the military in Pakistan especially when it comes to power.

  13. Dear Ahmed Obaid: My humble request is that there lives a thing in Pakistan called “Common man”, We also need to take them into account while defining our “national interest”. I believe that had Pakistan given the basic rights to the people of East Pakistan, we could have avoided the tragedy. The irony is that we still remember what India did but we don’t admit what we did to the people of East Pakistan. Our leaders have learned no lesson from that episode and I would not be surprised if the demise of Pakistan continues in coming years if we persist with the current policy. I am very sure about one thing that even strong military and nuclear weapon are not going to save us if our decision makers do not change their priorities.

  14. @ Masood Allow me to make an assertion here. Frankly the above comments clearly show that the point is either being blatantly missed or there is a deliberate attempt to malign, (what I personally in my humble capacity) think should act as a policy recommendation for those who wish to see South Asia move forward. Nowhere is it stated in this article India’s rogue designs should be dismissed, but it is rather a wake up call for all of Pakistanis to introspect as to how is holding on to our decision making apparatus by those at the echelons of power, ruining the process of critical thinking. The key point that Masood Mirza has highlighted in his article is the need to introspect, and consider cooperation is the solution to conundrums which have beset both India and Pakistan. We live in a region where there is a great amount of interdependence. A stable Afghanistan is in the interest of a stable Pakistan and the same applies to India as well. Our indigenous industries have been plagued by infatuations with Strategic Depth and defense spending when millions of people are victims of poverty, malnutrition and lack of access to quality education. India’s economic rise should not detract us from applying a similar approach by pursuing economic policies which could boost growth and prompt amiable ties between two countries locked under deterrence since the inception of nuclear weapons.

    Hence, the author has made a valid point, which sadly has been missed by many commentators on this blog Post.

  15. Dear Masood I agreed on some points with you especially, you focused on vital challenges to Pakistan are its weak economy and its internal security threat emanating from religious extremism. The public is extremely frustrated because of the energy crisis, unemployment, lack of education and health facilities, and the issue of terrorism. But at the same time I have some questions in my mind that need to be addressed.
    1- How do you know that Kashmiri people want to get rid of India, they do not want to be part of Pakistan either? Have you ever visited Azad Kashmir or Jammu & Kashmir to know about viewpoint of Kashmiri people??
    2- What is your opinion about Indian insurgencies in Balochistan and in other areas to destabilize Pakistan???

  16. To be precise, eminent scholar on South Asia Prof. Stephen Cohen in his book “Shooting for a Century” (Published by The Brooking Institute in 2013) has provided the details about what Kashmiri people think on the basis of what he called, a comprehensive survey that took place in 2010 (page 47). This survey was conducted in both parts of Kashmir (Indian-controlled as well as Pakistani-controlled). He says that people were deeply dissatisfied with the status quo and 80 percent respondents claimed the dispute to be very important. Moreover, 85 percent people were in favor of the LoC under freer circumstances to have more people to people contact with other part of Kashmir. The percentage of population that that opted for Pakistan was as low as 15 percent and percentage that opted to be part of India was at 21 percent. He concludes that the referendum might have yielded favorable results for Pakistan in 1949 but the situation in quite different in the current circumstances.
    I believe that in past especially during 1990s both countries were involved in supporting insurgencies in each other’s backyard. I am really not sure about the level of Indian support to the insurgency in Balochistan in the recent years. And even if the India is supporting the insurgency, it would be the exploitation of the situation and not the root cause of Balochistan problem. Moreover, if there is a concrete evidence of Indian involvement, our case would be weak in backdrop of our own policy of supporting militants in Kashmir. Pakistan cannot justify the policy of exporting terrorism on the basis of Indian involvement in Balochistan. The best approach in the given situation to counter the Indian involvement would be to engage India and bridge the trust deficit. India also needs to realize that a weak and unstable Pakistan would be grave threat to India in longer run.

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