Continued threat of terror inspired by Islam – 4 – historical never-Neverland of Pakistan

Posted on August 6, 2008. Filed under: India, Muslims, Pakistan, Politics |

What is now Pakistan, was the corridor attached to the main gate of the extended mansion called India for a long long time. We will consider two important junctions in the history of the subcontinent connected to the ancient land now called Pakistan.

The first one was Alexander’s trip through Multan and Sind in late 4th century BCE. We do not have any history or written account of Alexander’s campaign through North-West India from the side of Indians. By analogy with Prof. Romila Thapar’s argument that if victims of war or repression do not leave written records of trauma at the hands of invaders, and all claims of victory, slaughter, rape etc., come only from the pen of the victors, then we have to summarily reject the invader’s claims, we should reject Arrian or Ptolemy’s accounts. In particular therefore there was no victory by Alexander over Puru, perhaps only a skirmish, which ended in a stalemate, and Alexander wisely retreated making a strategic  alliance with Puru.  Alexander was  severely wounded in one or more seizes of the fortified Indian towns along the Punjab and Sind river tracts. Even on Alexander’s hagiographers, we do not find mention of lasting conquered cities or local governors (typical acts of submission are mentioned – but again by Prof. Thapar type arguments, these mean nothing since they are not corroborated in verifiable contemporary written records of Indians). Alexander barely recovered from the Indian arrow that pierced his lungs, and had ships built  according to a  design which are now suspect (impossible to navigate in Indus). He lost a child, sent a naval expedition along the Persian Gulf and himself took the remainder of his army on a punishing desert crossing back to Persia.

There are speculations that his army did not like the taste of elephants and Indian weaponry, and were quite concerned at the rumours of a mighty army led by the Magadhan rulers approaching, and therefore refused to move further east. This episode is typically dramatized in a “bad omen” supporting retreat and therefore Alexander had to bow down before the will of the “Gods”. This seems unlikely in reality, as there is textual evidence of Alexander retaining his imperialist zeal, even after the Indian experience. It is perhaps safe to assume that Alexander scratched the periphery of Indian power, and decided to give it the slip rather than risk a full scale confrontation.

It is significant to note that almost immediately after Alexander’s visit, the Mauryan empire rose up. This could have been the result of the political shock of the failure of the previous Magadhan elite to crush Alexander, as well as perhaps the realization that a strong, unified  and aggressive centre  based in the  geo-political  heartland  of the Indian subcontinent  was the  only  guarantee for safety of the Indian society from marauding fortune-seekers coming from “outside”.

Kautilya’s Arthasastra, more or less  accepted by “experts” to be dating from this period, has curious gems for both detractors as well as blind supporters of everything that now passes for “Hinduism” – such as that a “Shudra” could also be “born an Arya”.  Arthasastra is heavily criticized  by Bangladeshi and Pakistani  India-bashers, as the supposed “source of inspiration for the RAW”. But Arthsastra’s reflection of the possible basic strategic thinking of this most extensive of all  known historical “Indian” empires is  significant – and we can see why it is “feared” by those who would  gloat over the dissolution of India.

Ashoka Piadassini’s efforts to conquer the hearts and minds of the hungry hordes around India through the peaceful exhortations of Buddhism, did not bear long lasting fruit – his efforts probably finished off in less than 50 years what took almost 100 years to build. Peace is only meaningful if potential peace-breakers fear violence and the effects peace-breaking can have on them. Ashoka could afford to be peaceful and  indulge in grandiose religious self-delusion that ideologies alone guaranteed everlasting peace and well-being because his ancestors had unified India with an iron fist.

It is possible that Buddhism had a much more long term emasculating effect on the Indian subcontinent. It damaged the survival of the Indian society in two ways – (1) by instituting “ethical” conduct in war, which was taken full advantage of by the Muslim armies invading India, who really never showed any ethical conduct anywhere in their wars [Salahuddin was perhaps a notable exception] (2) by instituting the semi-magical self delusion that “everyone believes in peace and enlightenment” and abhorrence of warfare leading to complete neglect of preparations for large scale warfare, abandonment of continuous  research and development  of military technology  and tactics,  and most importantly  abandonment of that  vicious  determination to annihilate  the  enemy that given half a chance will do the same.

Archaeological evidence  points  to quick  surrender of  exactly those areas to invading Muslims in North-western India including the current lands of Pakistan- Punjab, Afghanistan, and the Indo-Iranian borderland (Seistan) that came under strong Buddhist influence. The apologists for Islam try to say that the Buddhists were so tortured by reviving “Brahmanism” that they willingly embraced Islam to escape “casteism”. It has never been considered whether these were also communities most vulnerable militarily by long habit and tradition.   The Muslims, mainly Sunni Arabs, quickly overran Iran (this was the time when Parsis of India escaped, sought, and granted  refuge in Gujarat) and made very short shrift of the scattered Buddhist communities on the Indo-Iranian border. The “Hindu” kingdoms of Kabul and Zabul resisted better, but were ultimately defeated. Their defeat laid the path clear for Muslim invasions. Multan was the stronghold of Sun-worshippers, and later became the hot-bed of Ismailis – considered heretic because of their “Qufr” leanings towards Indic concepts by “pure” and “good” Muslims  like Mahmud of  Gazni  – the bravest  general of  Allah  who  was never   hesitant to beg  and  insinuate his way out  when faced with  defeat or death  by appealing to or manipulating  “Hindu” chivalry.

What was the difference between Mauryan Pakistan and the Pakistan between 600-1200 CE?  (1) It was under a highly centralized and militarily efficient empire with its centre in the heartlands of India with the capacity to rally huge resources for defence in the Mauryan period while it was split into small kingdoms without resources in the latter period (2) the foundation of the early Mauryan empire was under individuals and a leadership who realized the importance of organizing the “borderlands” properly and did not flinch from being ruthless if necessary (both the Prophet of Islam, and Ashoka, were apparently extremely comfortable with deception or ambushes or surprise night attacks – if the stories about their lives are even half believable) whereas the Indian kings and elite in the latter period did not have the minimal brains and vision  to unify in the face of an external threat  (the attempts were sporadic and not long term and well interspersed with betrayals and alliances by opportunist  Kings with Muslim invaders or rulers) (3) the Mauryan period had an unifying ideological framework firmly rooted in an identification with India as a geo-political-cultural identity whereas in the latter part sects and over-idealistic religions detached from human reality kept the strength of the society divided and unfocused.

This is the historical lesson of the area of Pakistan as relevant for India. In the next part of this series I will elaborate on modern Pakistan.


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