Date: 5 February, 2016
Venue: Sapru House, New Delhi
A discussion on the book titled “The Longest August: Unflinching Rivalry between India and Pakistan,” by Mr. Dilip Hiro was organised at the Indian Council of World Affairs on February 5, 2016.
The discussion was chaired by Ambassador Satish Chandra with Ambassador Rajiv Dogra and Mr. Sushant Sareen, Senior Fellow, Vivekananda International Foundation, as the discussants.
The text of Ambassador Satish Chandra’s presentation is attached at the end of this Report.
Ambassador Rajiv Dogra started the discussion on the book by saying that ever since the partition Pakistan has been loud in its complaints whereas India fights shy of scenes. That's why Pakistan's propaganda version on issues like Kashmir finds more resonance in international councils.
Talking about the portions of the book dealing with the partition, Ambassador Dogra remarked that despite the horrible dimensions of the tragedy there is a lack of authentic information related to the 1947 killings and displacements. He questioned the author's claim that the suffering was equal on both sides.He said the fact is that killings of Hindus and Sikhs went on for over 10 months in Pakistan, whereas in Indian Punjab it was only an act of revenge that lasted for less than two months.It is also a fact that 50 and 60 mile caravans moved only in direction of India indicating the scale of suffering and migration towards it. Moreover there is hardly any instance of Jinnah controlling violent mobs attacking Hindus in Pakistan. Whereas Nehru put his life repeatedly at risk to save Muslims in India.
He also found fault with the author's claim that Jinnah didn't know of infiltration into Kashmir by the tribals. In fact Jinnah had full information about the plan of the Kashmir war and that's why he had stationed himself in Lahore in order to quickly fly to Srinagar.
Talking about the Indus Waters Treaty, Amb. Dogra termed the author's claim as deeply flawed. Rather the IWT treaty was the most generous treaty in the history drawn in favour of a downstream country. In contrast and around that time US had given virtually very little share of waters to Mexico.
On the author's claim that India had delayed payment to Pakistan, he suggested to the author that he should try and locate another example in the history of the world where a country facing a war gives money and armaments to the aggressor. This is exactly what India did despite being attacked by Pakistan.
The final discussant Mr. Sushant Sareen talked about the book saying that it has reignited the memory of partition. The book is structured in a unique way in the context of the two countries. He also pointed out two inaccuracies: that Motilal Nehru was a lawyer, not a barrister; and that Gen. Ayub Khan was a Hazara, and not a Pashtun.
Mr. Sareen further said that the book is biased in favour of Pakistan and bats for Jinnah against Gandhi ji. According to Mr. Sareen, the most troublesome part is that the author justifies the use of Terror in Kashmir, which is an endorsement of Pakistani position on Kashmir. He said that this is the failure of Indian diplomacy as public diplomacy has failed in its objective. He said that friendship should not be mixed with national interest and questioned the usefulness of people-to-people contact asking if there has been any study on this issue. Referring to India-Pakistan negotiations, Sushant Sareen said that those, who pitch for friendship and common culture, must remember that the two are different people. He mentioned former ISI Chief Durrani’s statement on Al Jazeera regarding the AMS carnage in December 2014, saying that in strategic game, collateral damage takes places. We look at the relation as state to state, but Pakistan takes it as a civilisational conflict.
After the discussants, Dilip Hiro spoke about the book. He said that the book has covered political, economic, diplomatic and cultural relationship between India and Pakistan. He said that the work of a good historian is to be objective in dealing with the historical facts. The book is one-third about partition and two-third about the relationship between the two countries. He provided links to a few of the sources on which he built up his argument that Jinnah did not know about the 1947 tribal invasion. Quoting from The Friday Times, September 23, 2005, he said that 5000 tribals had taken part in raiding Kashmir. Brig. Akbar Khan played an active role in providing arms to the tribals recruited from NWFP and FATA for the purpose. Mr. Hiro also talked about March 1888 speech of Sir Syed Ahmed Khan espousing the cause of two nations. From his book, he also quoted, Luis Fischer on the position of Gandhi on Hindu-Muslim affairs and religion.
This was followed by question & answer session where questions related to India-Pakistan position on SAFTA, Ramrajya, MFN and his experience in such a hostile situation, as an author, were asked and commented on. Mr. Hiro did not respond to any questions that came up during the session and instead tried to support Pakistan’s position on granting MFN to India.
Date: 10/02/2016 (Amit Ranjan)
(Nihar Ranjan Das)
The text of Ambassador Satish Chandra’s presentation
I would at the outset like to thank DG ICWA for having invited me to participate in today's discussion on Dilip HIro's "The Longest August" as the subject of the same is something which has been of great interest to me for the better part of my life. I would also like to compliment him in his choice of the two discussants notably Ambassador Dogra and Mr Sushant Sareen both of whom have a deep personal knowledge of Pakistan and of India-Pakistan relations.
Dilip Hiro is a prolific writer. Apart from his extensive writings in many papers and journals he has authored well over 30 thirty books of which "The Longest August" is one of his most recent offerings. It is long book running into over 500 pages. It is devoted to India-Pakistan relations with about 20 to 25% being devoted to the history of Pakistan's birth in the first four decades of the 20th century and the animosities that developed between Jinnah and other Indian leaders like Nehru.
Despite its length the book is an easy read and the style is racy. It also contains several nuggets of information ranging from the relatively unimportant to the profound. Amongst these I may cite the following:
I would be less than honest if I refrained from also drawing attention to the fact that there are also several inaccuracies in the book. In this context I would like to list the following:
The book is provocative and provides much food for thought and I would venture to make the following observations:
First, I find it hard to accept as made out that partition was inevitable because of Hindu-Muslim tensions. The fact is that these communities have and continue to live together in harmony. These tensions were created and exacerbated by our leaders aided and abetted by the British. Perhaps this is a line of thought which will one day be the subject of a detailed analysis.
Second, the book is unduly harsh on Nehru. I am no admirer of him and feel that he committed massive mistakes but to term him Machiavellian is stretching the point. In contrast one would have hoped that the author had made a serious attempt to analyse as to how Jinnah could change his stripes as often as he did and what his role was in the tragedy that was partition.
Third, there is not the slightest recognition of the serious efforts made by India to reach out to Pakistan and the enormous concessions made by it on this account.
Fourth, there is no analysis of the systematic use of terror by Pakistan as an instrument of its foreign policy. On the contrary, it is almost sought to be explained away by India's "obduracy" on Kashmir without even acknowledging that the legitimacy of the latter's accession to India both legally and by popular will cannot be seriously challenged.
Fifth, India has no rivalry with Pakistan in Afghanistan. While the former's interests there are a function of its centuries old historical, commercial, and cultural ties and are not based on any desire to impose its will on that country the latter nakedly envisages exercising its hegemony there.
Finally, one was hoping that the book would come out with concrete suggestions on the way forward between the two countries. This unfortunately has not been done. Perhaps, those of us we need to dwell on this at length and come up with an appropriate prescription. It goes without saying that this has to be based on a ruthlessly objective assessment of the underlying nature of each country and their respective motivating factors towards each other.