Reginald Massey FRSA, is an authority on the culture, religion, music and dance of India. Some of his books are standard works and used by international bodies such as New York's Lincoln Center. In 2002 he delivered the keynote address to inaugurate the Indian Classical Dance Season at the Edinburgh Festival. He wrote and narrated the BBC's well known documentary on Kathakali, the dance drama of Kerala. Later he wrote and produced “Bangladesh I Love You”, a new style travel-docu that starred the boxing phenomenon Muhammad Ali. He has written for leading papers such as The Times and The Guardian and has been a critic of The Dancing Times of London for nearly four decades. [ Background of Reginald Massey FRSA , as compiled by the BBC.]
Editors: Tridivesh Singh Maini and Tahir Malik
Publisher: Peter Lang AD, Bern, 2011. ISBN 978-3-0343-0285-2
Reviewed by Reginald Massey FRSA.
The India – Pakistan problem cannot be easily explained and certainly cannot be easily resolved. The problem has deep roots and far reaching ramifications. There is the age-old Hindu – Muslim tussle with a gravitational pull of mutual distrust. However, we must not discard the facts of the ground reality. For centuries Hindus and Muslims have lived side by side, if not as loving brothers but at least as neighbours with a modicum of respect for each other. That was no mean achievement. Akbar, the greatest of the Mughals, initiated the accommodation.
During the first Kashmir War (late 1947) former brother-officers were pitched against each other in a kill or be-killed situation. One of the prized legacies of the British Raj, the Indian Army, had been tragically ripped apart from top to bottom. Military historians have not as yet grasped this fact fully. However, the great Urdu writer Manto summed it up in his story The Last Salute when a Jat soldier of the Indian Army is shot in Kashmir by Pakistani snipers. The commander of the Pakistan company rushes out to see who his men had shot. He recognises the Jat who only a few months ago had served under him. The dying soldier too recognises his former captain and with a great effort raises his arm and with a trembling hand salutes him. It was his last salute. The Pakistani officer stood to attention and saluted the dying Indian soldier. Most probably this too was his last salute.
Richard Bonney's wide ranging Introduction to this book has certainly provided useful information. However, it must be stressed that there was a fundamental difference between Nehru's attitude towards the military and that of Jinnah. Nehru disliked men in uniform and believed that there was no difference between Indian and Pakistani generals. They were the same men, only wearing different uniforms. He memorably wrote to Bertrand Russell lamenting the rise of a military mentality in India. The Indian armed forces were firmly controlled and actually neglected during the tenure of Defence Minister Krishna Menon who was one of Nehru's favourites. Hence the Indian army's humiliation in 1962 at the hands of the Chinese Peoples' Liberation Army. Incidentally, China still makes claims to districts in Arunachal Pradesh, a state in north east India. The matter is unresolved.
In Pakistan, however, the military had pride of place in the national consciousness. The armed services were, in fact, pampered and spoilt. They became, in effect, a state within a state. After all, the political leaders and the public believed that it was the military that would save them from Indian invasion and domination. That let the genie out of the bottle and hence the era of military dictatorships. India has been raped by politicians; Pakistan has been raped by both politicians and generals and I believe, as do many Pakistani thinkers today, that the generals were far more foolhardy, ruthless and reckless. In 1965 Ayub Khan thought he could cut through north India and take Delhi. Though thanks to American military aid he had better equipped forces, the self-promoted Field Marshal failed. His knocked out Patton tanks littered the fields of Khemkaran. In 1971 Yahya Khan, intoxicated with power, whisky and women in Islamabad, succeeded in losing East Pakistan. Ninety thousand Pakistani soldiers were taken prisoner by the Indian army. It was the worst defeat suffered by a Muslim nation in the entire history of Islam. Later the obnoxious Zia-ul-Haq (born in Jalandhar, India) instituted public floggings in an attempt to purify the populace. And then as a coup de grace he hanged Bhutto. When Pervez Musharraf headed the Pakistan army he planned and executed the 1999 Kargil fiasco; with or without the sanction of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is a matter of some debate. However, the project was an utter failure. But as a reward the general became President. It would have been most interesting if Musharraf had contributed to this book. But perhaps he's too busy in London planning some other project.
Even today, when Pakistan is supposed to be governed by a civilian government, the army chief (Ashfaq Kayani) takes it upon himself to warn the USA against drone attacks on north Waziristan. That, surely, was the job of Prime Minister Gilani or his Foreign Minister.
The twenty-six retired military officers from India and Pakistan who've been interviewed have, on the whole, been frank, forthright and honest. In the old British tradition: officers and gentlemen are expected to look you in the eye and deliver utterances in civilized and courteous language. Let us consider the statements of two. Vijay Oberoi (former Lieutenant-General and Vice Chief of the Indian army) was born in Jhelum, now in Pakistan. He lost a leg in the 1965 war with Pakistan but went on to command a battalion. As director-general of Military Operations he interacted with the Delhi-born Pervez Musharraf who was then his opposite number in Pakistan. This is what Oberoi says: 'There are two possible ways of mitigating the Pakistan army's influence within the political system. The first prerequisite for this is a strong and vibrant civil society.... Secondly, the Pakistani educational curriculum which perpetuates hatred against Indians and non-Muslims needs to be revamped.... Nothing much will change if this indoctrination is not done away with.'
And now Syed Wajahat Husain (former Major-General of the Pakistan army) who was born and educated in Aligarh, India. He says: 'Condemning religious bigotry and obscurantism, Jinnah continuously emphasized a liberal, tolerant and outward-looking Pakistan ….advising us to guard against religious fanaticism which was the negation of Islamic values....he consistently cautioned against these “malignant Muslim diseases” during all his Aligarh speeches. …. Today these very afflictions with growing impunity are threatening to tear further apart our mutilated country.'
The majority of these men who were prepared to lay down their lives have now come to realize that war is no longer an option for either India or Pakistan. Since both countries have nuclear weapons the next war will certainly be the last. The question is: Will the ruling establishments and corrupt governments of India and Pakistan take any notice of what these old soldiers have to say?