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Pakistan's Enemy? Focus Remains On India

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Pakistan's Enemy? Focus Remains On India

World

Pakistan's Enemy? Focus Remains On India

Pakistan's Enemy? Focus Remains On India

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/120448212/120448200" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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Pakistani Rangers dressed in black and their khaki-clad Indian counterparts i

Pakistani Rangers, dressed in black, face off with their khaki-clad Indian counterparts at the Wagah border crossing, where each day at dusk the two sides lower their respective flags in a boisterous ceremony that draws hundreds of spectators on each side of the border. Julie McCarthy/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Julie McCarthy/NPR
Pakistani Rangers dressed in black and their khaki-clad Indian counterparts

Pakistani Rangers, dressed in black, face off with their khaki-clad Indian counterparts at the Wagah border crossing, where each day at dusk the two sides lower their respective flags in a boisterous ceremony that draws hundreds of spectators on each side of the border.

Julie McCarthy/NPR

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In Pakistan, the army is waging war against Taliban militants along the northwest frontier with Afghanistan. Despite the international attention trained on extremists in Pakistan, many Pakistanis regard India, on the eastern border, as their biggest security threat.

But analysts say Pakistan is paying a price for sowing anti-India sentiments.

Nowhere is the enduring animosity between the two nuclear states more apparent than at the Wagah border crossing, where at dusk both sides lower their respective flags.

Goose-stepping Pakistani troops glower at their Indian counterparts while hundreds of Pakistani spectators on their side of the border cry "Pakistan Zindabad" (long live Pakistan), matched by hundreds of Indians crammed into bleachers on their side, shouting "Jai Hind" (long live India).

Pakistan army spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas i

Pakistan army spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas says that while the country has diverted more than 120,000 troops to the western border with Afghanistan to combat militants, the principal threat is still India, with its huge army, air force and modernized equipment. Julie McCarthy/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Julie McCarthy/NPR
Pakistan army spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas

Pakistan army spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas says that while the country has diverted more than 120,000 troops to the western border with Afghanistan to combat militants, the principal threat is still India, with its huge army, air force and modernized equipment.

Julie McCarthy/NPR

A brusque handshake between Pakistani and Indian officers closes the gates for the night on an enmity that is as old as the 1947 partition that divided the subcontinent and created Muslim Pakistan out of Hindu-dominated India.

The border ritual sums up the mutual suspicion with which defense analyst Hasan Askari Rizvi says each side regards the other. "India doesn't trust what Pakistan says or what Pakistan does. And Pakistan is at times paranoid. With [any] slight Indian move, they think that they are out to get us."

Paradoxically, Pakistanis of a certain class indulge in India, traveling there, buying its haute couture and absorbing its entertainment.

Lahore's young upper-middle class fills the cinema to see the Indian film Wake Up Sid, a romantic comedy about the coming of age.

As the credits roll, 19-year-old Rafia Aslam says whatever divisions exist belong to the older generation. "I actually genuinely feel that there are very few people amongst the new generation who feel hostility to India, and I don't think Indian citizens feel it either."

But historian Mubarak Ali says Pakistan has been unable to compete with its much bigger, richer neighbor and has compensated by focusing on national security. "This is our mistake. So that's why we are lagging far behind."

Army spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas readily acknowledges that the bulk of Pakistani ground forces faces India.

Pakistani and Indian officers at the Wagah crossing. i

Pakistani and Indian officers "beat retreat" at the Wagah crossing. The boisterous ritual sums up the mutual suspicion with which each side regards the other. Julie McCarthy/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Julie McCarthy/NPR
Pakistani and Indian officers at the Wagah crossing.

Pakistani and Indian officers "beat retreat" at the Wagah crossing. The boisterous ritual sums up the mutual suspicion with which each side regards the other.

Julie McCarthy/NPR

"All the troops that we have are basically meant to confront India, because this is how we have configured our defensive system. The Indians have huge forces in the conventional army, highly offensive equipment, air-to-air refueling system, modern aircraft — so all of our forces are geared to that."

The United States wants Pakistan to concentrate on fighting the Taliban, not India.

Abbas says Pakistan knows all too well the internal threat, and has diverted more than 120 troops to its western border with Afghanistan to combat militants. But, he adds, nor can Pakistan afford to be "caught off guard in case a threat should develop from the other side."

Moreover, Abbas says Pakistan's defense doctrine is based on the demonstrated capability of its huge rival next door, not on what others may tell Pakistan about the intentions of that rival.

Newspaper editor Najam Sethi says that even though the Taliban may be the existential threat, the media and most Pakistanis continue to view India as the more potent danger.

"Whole generations have grown up with this mindset," says Sethi. "It's not going to be very easy to turn this clock back."

Students at the Government Gulberg High School for Boys in Lahore, Pakistan. i

Students at the Government Gulberg High School for Boys in Lahore, Pakistan, gather for their morning assembly. The widely shared view of India among these schoolboys is one of suspicion. Julie McCarthy/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Julie McCarthy/NPR
Students at the Government Gulberg High School for Boys in Lahore, Pakistan.

Students at the Government Gulberg High School for Boys in Lahore, Pakistan, gather for their morning assembly. The widely shared view of India among these schoolboys is one of suspicion.

Julie McCarthy/NPR

A visit to the Government Gulberg High School for Boys in Lahore demonstrates just how difficult changing attitudes toward India will be. The student body reflects a near unanimous view of India as the "other."

India is admired on the cricket pitch and for Bollywood blockbusters. But in the social studies classes of 16-year-old boys, there seems to be more suspicion than curiosity about their rapidly progressing neighbor to the East.

When asked if anyone in a class of 50 students wanted to travel to India, the reply comes back as a loud, unanimous "No!"

Education expert A.H. Nayyar says "young minds" are "ingrained" to regard India as a hostile country, "and continuously see Pakistan and oneself as a victim of that hostility."

Author Ahmed Rashid says most Pakistanis have not yet grasped that India's preoccupation may be in projecting global power rather than perpetuating regional antagonism with Pakistanis.

Pakistanis, Rashid says, "like to assume ... that they are equal to India, that the world should treat them on par with India. These are all very outdated paradigms, if you like, from the Cold War."

But, Rashid says, nor has India made any effort to mollify Pakistani concerns. "It certainly wouldn't cost India much if it was to start a dialogue on Kashmir."

India and Pakistan have twice gone to war over Kashmir, and a dialogue on the territory that has been in dispute since partition does not seem to be on the horizon.

The terrorist attack in Mumbai nearly a year ago scuttled any hope of that. India blamed the rampage on the banned Pakistani militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba. Before it was outlawed, the group had close links with Pakistan's intelligence service when it launched a guerrilla war in Kashmir.

Seven members of Lashkar-e-Taiba are on trial in Pakistan for the Mumbai attack. But founder Hafiz Saeed is free to deliver fiery sermons at Friday prayers in Lahore, telling followers: "We are preaching jihad whether anyone likes it or not."

Pakistan detained the cleric in the aftermath of Mumbai, but prosecutors said there was insufficient evidence to hold him, and Saeed says he has distanced himself from the jihadist organization.

Groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba were once considered strategic assets for Pakistan, but editor Najam Sethi says they have become a huge liability. They are capable of hijacking Pakistan's foreign policy. And Sethi warns that they are also capable of launching more Mumbai-style attacks.

"There are too many rebel elements out here, loose canons floating around who are quite capable of doing things on their own," Sethi says.

"This is the legacy of the last 30 years. We have created monsters which are going to take time to go away."

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