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  • Writer's pictureSaleem Qamar Butt

Indian Belligerent Nationalism versus Pakistani Patriotism

The current ( Feb 2019) highly inflamed and tense situation between Pakistan and India due Indian originated aggression compelled me to delve into some academic search for finding a raison d'être beyond known reasons for the historic animosity between the two states. While reading a piece by Andreas Wimmer, “Why Nationalism Works”, I was constrained to think, is Pakistan a nation state or a state nation? And does Pakistan need more nationalism or more patriotism? According to Wikipedia, a nation State is defined as a sovereign state of which most of the citizens or subjects are united also by factors which define a nation, such as language or common descent. A nation state is a state in which the great majority shares the same culture and is conscious of it. The nation state is an ideal in which cultural boundaries match up with political ones. The term “nation-state” is a relatively clear term-of-art used in political science discussions. It refers to a country which is created based on a doctrine of ethno-nationalism. This means that it is a country created to serve the national and cultural interest of a specific ethnic group. Greece, Turkey, Armenia, Italy, Israel, Pakistan, Thailand, and a number of other countries can be said to be nation-states since they were created for one ethnicity to self-govern. Of course, these countries also have ethnic minorities, but the prevailing culture, values, and orientation of the society comes from the predominant ethnic group, even if equal rights are granted to minorities. The term “state-nation” is not a clear term-of-art in political science and only occurs in a few research papers. In all of these papers, the term is explicitly defined by the authors. For example in the article Nation-States and State-Nations by Mostafa Rejai and Cynthia H. Enloe, a “state nation” is defined as when: “authority and sovereignty have run ahead of the self-conscious national identity and cultural integration.” This refers to countries that functionally exist because they have borders and a government, but not because there is a national cultural identity that derives from a particular ethnic group. These countries exist because of incidental borders, not because of a coherent sense of identity. Many of the post-colonial countries in Africa and Asia could be considered state-nations under this rubric, especially those in Sub-Saharan Africa; and even USA and India faced this dilemma at the time of their births, which they continue to confront.

According to Andreas Wimmer, Nationalism has a bad reputation today. It is, in the minds of many educated Westerners, a dangerous ideology. Some acknowledge the virtues of patriotism, understood as the benign affection for one’s homeland; at the same time, they see nationalism as narrow-minded and immoral, promoting blind loyalty to a country over deeper commitments to justice and humanity. In a January 2019 speech to his country’s diplomatic corps, German President Frank-Walter Steinmier put this view in stark terms: “Nationalism is an ideological poison.” In recent years, populists across the West have sought to invert this moral hierarchy. They have proudly claimed the mantle of nationalism, promising to defend the interests of the majority against immigrant minorities and out-of-touch elites. Their critics, meanwhile, cling to the established distinction between malign nationalism and worthy patriotism. In a thinly veiled shot at U.S. President Donald Trump, a self-described nationalist, French President Emmanuel Macron declared last November that “nationalism is a betrayal of patriotism.”

The American Civil War was a struggle over two competing ideas of the nation-state. This struggle has never ended; it has just moved around. In the antebellum United States, Northerners, and especially northern abolitionists, drew a contrast between (northern) nationalism and (southern) sectionalism. “We must cultivate a national, instead of a sectional patriotism” urged one Michigan congressman in 1850. But Southerners were nationalists, too. It’s just that their nationalism was what would now be termed “illiberal” or “ethnic,” as opposed to the Northerners’ liberal or civic nationalism. This distinction has been subjected to much criticism, on the grounds that it’s nothing more than a way of calling one kind of nationalism good and another bad. But the nationalism of the North and that of the South were in fact different, and much of U.S. history has been a battle between them. If love of the nation is what drove American historians to the study of the past in the nineteenth century, hatred for nationalism drove American historians away from it in the second half of the twentieth century. By the 1960s, nationalism looked rather worse than an anachronism. Meanwhile, with the coming of the Vietnam War, American historians stopped studying the nation-state in part out of a fear of complicity with atrocities of U.S. foreign policy and regimes of political oppression at home.

In India, incumbent Prime Minister Narender Modi heading far right nationalist Hindu party BJP has throughout tried to ride the tide of centrifugal and fissiparous tendencies marked by hundreds of languages and thousands of casts and sub casts in India by giving ultra fillip to Hindu Nationalism but at the cost of brutal treatment of minorities predominantly Muslims, Christians and Sikhs, which is shaking the very foundations of so called largest democracy and secular India as a State Nation. Modi despite being semi literate person has proven to be a shrewd politician, whose “made in India” slogan not only resonated well among Indian masses especially the cosmopolitan or urban people, but also resembled Trump’s “America First” slogan. However, December 2018 state elections and defeat in three major states gave a big jolt to BJP that had thus far gained majority in 21 states out of 29; resulting in sudden resurgence of Indian National Congress under younger leadership by Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi. In addition to that, Modi’s failure to provide jobs to millions of followers and great depression suffered by farmers in the rural majority areas urged him to up the ante against Pakistan especially across the Line of Control by failed air raids in the backdrop of most probable stage managed or else a genuine retaliatory suicide/ fidayee attack on a paramilitary convoy at Pulwama in Indian occupied Kashmir with pre dominant Muslim population. Pakistan’s befitting and prudent response in the next twenty four hours by shooting down two Indian intruding military aircrafts in Pakistani territory and arrest of Indian pilots had thoroughly embarrassed Modi and his hawks who were foolishly taking it as a political gimmick aimed at gaining 22 more seats in upcoming elections by further raising anti Pakistan feelings, which has backfired; nevertheless raising specter of greater escalation between two nuclear rivals and underscoring the danger inherent in flawed Indian belligerent nationalism. The other purposes Modi might have aimed at achieving were covered in my earlier article “Pulwama Black Swan” published in Daily Times and Daily Business News.

As nothing unites masses in India more than voicing against rulers, which they attempt to subdue by creating war hysteria against Pakistan; conversely, nothing unites Pakistani people more than any threat by India. And that is where the advantage of Pakistan being a Nation State comes in to play versus aggressive State Nation like India threatened by her own internal dissensions. And that is how Pakistanis affection, love, loyalty and patriotism to motherland successfully confronts and punches back in the face of Indian nationalist rulers’ narrow minded, immoral and unjust quest to suppress minorities within India especially Kashmiri Muslims and subdue smaller neighbouring countries in the whole region that are incidentally members of SAARC, where India strives to act as shark. Needless to say that Pakistani patriotism is based on the slogan given by father of the nation Quaid e Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, “Faith, Unity, and Discipline”.

28 February 2019

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