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Tuesday, February 7, 2023

What role a ‘deep state’ plays in politics?

Due to the prevailing geopolitical situation around Pakistan, its internal political chaos, and the economy tottering on the brink,  the armed forces of Pakistan will continue to play a larger-than-life role in the national decision-making process, writes Saleem Akhtar Malik, an army veteran.

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The opposition has filed its much-awaited no-confidence move with the national assembly secretariat. Notwithstanding the war of nerves that is expected to reach its crescendo during the next two weeks, the media oracles, during one of the TV shows this morning, were again talking about the establishment’s likely role in the resolution of the prevailing tumult. While doing so, they drew parallels between the present situation and similar situations in the past where the sitting governments had asked the army chiefs to manage the anti-government agitations. So the Deep State will continue to play a larger-than-life role in Pakistan’s political paradigm.

When the Indians and Pakistani politicians (when in opposition)  join in a chorus to vent their rage against the movers and shakers in Pakistan, they have the same force to point at – the Pakistan Army- ISI combine, euphemistically called the ‘establishment”.

Read more: Indian states to produce bill against Hindu-Muslim marriage?

Why India is not a democratic country?

Contrary to the perception created by the Indians and their Pakistani followers, India is not simply a democracy governed by the known organs of state – the parliament, the judiciary, and the executive. It also has its deep state which impacts the state policies. So, if Pakistan has a deep state, and India also has a deep state, what is the big deal?

We should not take Jinnah’s remarks lightly when he said “I had counterfeit coins in my pocket”, implying that his political colleagues in the Muslim League were “nincompoops”. And this has been reported by no less a person than his ADC.

When you combine this remark with another remark of Jinnah: “I made Pakistan with the help of my typewriter and my stenographer” (Iskander Mirza, Pakistan’s first President, said that this is what Jinnah told him), you get the complete picture.

Let us now come back to India. What is the difference between our Deep State and theirs”? Whereas Jinnah died soon after creating Pakistan, Nehru ruled India for 17 years. Even as an infant has a psyche that doesn’t differentiate between himself and the world around him, Nehru did not differentiate between himself and India.

According to him, he was “the last Englishman in India”. He sculpted India’s political and administrative institutions, its state-run enterprises, and the way it is perceived by the outside world even today. “If you seek his monument, look around you” – To no person applies this epitaph more appropriately than to Nehru.

Read more: Kulbhashan Jadhav: Case of “Indian State Intervention”

Nehru spent the largest segment of his post-independence life in the parliament

But he ruled India with an Iron hand, not with constitutional consensus. He even forced many Congress stalwarts to take retirement from politics. Indians say that Nehru had a foreign policy, whereas India had none. They criticize him for internationalizing the Kashmir dispute and for the Indus Waters Treaty with Pakistan.

While Nehru built a powerful air force and navy, he was suspicious of the Indian Army and gave it secondary importance. His delegation of the Indian Army translated itself into a defeat during the Sino-Indian border war in 1962. How did Nehru rule? What were the constituents of the Indian Deep State? Unlike Pakistan, where the Army gradually stepped into the vacuum created by Jinnah’s death, Indian Deep State comprised Nehru’s inner circle of politicians, journalists, intellectuals, and civil bureaucracy.

Though he was suspicious of the Indian Army as a whole, he had his favorites like Lieutenant General B.M Kaul, a fellow Kashmiri and a distant relative who was a regular visitor at the PM House. Homi Jahangir Bhabha was the nuclear physicist who advised Nehru on all matters nuclear. Bhabha was the architect of India’s clandestine nuclear weapons program. He cleverly contrived a peaceful nuclear program that had military connotations. Then there were journalists like Rustom Khurshid Karanjia (R.K., for short), a Marxist, with whom Nehru constantly brainstormed to remove his mental cobwebs.

This was Nehru’s court which continued to thrive under Indira Gandhi. R.K played an important role under Indira to create contacts between Raza Shah Pahlavi, the Iranian monarch, and Indira. The Indian Deep State continues to thrive under Modi. The old players of this Deep State have, over the period, been replaced by Ajit Doval, the RAW supremo, and Anil Ambani, the Reliance Industries owner who, with Modi’s blessings, has cut a deal with Dassault of France to become the strategic partner to assemble Rafale fighter jets in India. Like Nehru, Indian political leadership still views the Indian Army with suspicion.

So, folks, don’t whimper when your army chief meets with the Saudi and UAE monarchs to iron out the differences between Pakistan and the Petro kingdoms. In India, the same tasks are performed by intermediaries of another kind. But AjitDoval does not brief the Indian parliament members the way the Pakistan Army chief briefs the Senators about the security environment in the region. The Indian Deep State does not trust its politicians.

Read more: 100,000 police deployed as volatile Indian state votes

Due to the prevailing geopolitical situation around Pakistan, its internal political chaos, and the economy tottering on the brink,  the armed forces of Pakistan will continue to play a larger-than-life role in the national decision-making process.



Saleem Akhtar Malik is a Pakistan Army veteran who writes on national and international affairs, defense, military history, and military technology. He Tweets at @saleemakhtar53. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.