India and Pakistan: the missing piece in the Afghan jigsaw

November 26, 2009

One year ago, I asked whether then President-elect Barack Obama’s plans for Afghanistan still made sense after the Mumbai attacks torpedoed hopes of a regional settlement involving Pakistan and India. The argument, much touted during Obama’s election campaign, was that a peace deal with India would convince Pakistan to turn decisively on Islamist militants, thereby bolstering the United States flagging campaign in Afghanistan.

As I wrote at the time, it had always been an ambitious plan to convince India and Pakistan to put behind them 60 years of bitter struggle over Kashmir as part of a regional solution to many complex problems in Afghanistan.  Had the Mumbai attacks pushed it out of reach? And if so, what was the fall-back plan?

One year on, there is as yet still no sign of a fall-back plan for Afghanistan and the tense relationship between India and Pakistan remains the elusive piece of the jigsaw.

After some attempts at peace-making which culminated in a meeting between the leaders of India and Pakistan in Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt in July, and despite Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s own determination to try to repair relations, the two countries have descended into mutual recrimination.

India accuses Pakistan of failing to take enough action against the Lashkar-e-Taiba militant group it blames for Mumbai and which analysts believe is still in a position to launch fresh attacks, and refuses to reopen formal peace talks broken off after the three-day assault. Pakistan has put seven men on trial over the attacks but has refused to arrest the group’s founder Hafiz Saeed nor, analysts say, to dismantle the infrastructure of an organisation whose original role was to fight India in Kashmir. It says it wants to resume talks with India.

As a result of the deadlock, both countries remain bitter rivals for influence in Afghanistan; while Pakistan, fighting its own battle against Islamist militants who have turned against the state, is seen as reluctant to move more troops from its eastern border with India to press home a military campaign against the Pakistani Taliban in its tribal areas. India in turn remains vulnerable to another Mumbai-style attack which could trigger Indian retaliation against Pakistan, running a risk of escalation between the two nuclear-armed countries.

“Now India and Pakistan are both playing for broke. Pakistan says it will support a U.S. regional strategy that does not include India, while India is talking about a regional alliance with Iran and Russia that excludes Pakistan. Both positions — throwbacks to the 1990s, when neighboring states fuelled opposing sides in Afghanistan’s civil war — are non-starters as far as helping the U.S.-NATO alliance bring peace to Afghanistan,” writes Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid in the Washington Post.

“To avoid a regional debacle and the Taliban gaining even more ground, Obama needs to fulfil the commitment he made to Afghanistan in March: to send more troops — so that U.S.-NATO forces and the Afghan government can regain the military initiative — as well as civilian experts, and more funds for development. He must bring both India and Pakistan on board and help reduce their differences; a regional strategy is necessary for any U.S. strategy in Afghanistan to have a chance. The United States needs to persuade India to be more flexible toward Pakistan while convincing Pakistanis to match such flexibility in a step-by-step process that reduces terrorist groups operating from its soil so that the two archenemies can rebuild a modicum of trust. ”

Obama and the U.S. administration are being very careful to avoid being seen as trying to mediate between India and Pakistan — India is sensitive about outside interference, particularly over Kashmir, which it sees as a bilateral dispute.

But in reality, the United States has been involved in easing tensions in every recent crisis between the two countries – from the 1999 Kargil war when India and Pakistan fought a brief but intense conflict along the Line of Control dividing the disputed former kingdom of Jammu and Kashmir, to a military standoff in 2001/2002 when close to a million men were mobilised along the border after an attack on the Indian parliament. Following the attack on Mumbai, it was to the United States that India turned to to put pressure on Pakistan to crack down on the Lashkar-e-Taiba.

Will Obama be able to find a way forward to ease tensions between India and Pakistan, in turn creating a firmer regional foundation to stabilise Afghanistan? Or more precisely, is there a method to his initiatives over the last few months involving not just India and Pakistan, but also China, that in the fullness of time will be seen to be part of an overall strategy to drive a regional bargain that will underpin his plans for Afghanistan?

As discussed in this analysis, the United States faced a difficult balancing act in its relations with India, Pakistan and China.  The financial crisis had made it more economically dependent on China, while its need for support in Afghanistan made it more militarily dependent on Pakistan.

India, which was defeated in a border war with China in 1962, has always been suspicious of Beijing’s role as one of Pakistan’s closest allies. And since Obama’s election it also became wary of what it feared was a U.S. tilt towards China which might undermine burgeoning U.S.-India ties which flourished under his predecessor George W. Bush.

The United States has tried tonavigate its way through these competing rivalries by promising aid and support to Pakistan, while also inviting Indian prime minister Singh to make the first state visit of his presidency. During a visit by Obama to China, the two countries promised to work together to promote peace in South Asia. Analysts variously interpreted the pledge as unwarranted interference between India and Pakistan, a detail in a lengthy statement about U.S.-Chinese relations, and a sign that China might encourage Pakistan to crack down on Islamist militants in ways that would also reassure India. (As yet, the jury is still out on which interpretation is correct.)

When Obama unveils his latest plans for Afghanistan next week, we might get some clues as to whether he has used the long delay in announcing his strategy to build regional support for a grand bargain on Afghanistan.  Failing that, we might get an answer to the question I asked a year ago. What is the fall-back plan?

(Photos: The Taj hotel during the Mumbai attacks, the Dal lake in Kashmir; artillery at Drass on the Line of Control; the Obamas ahead of the state dinner for Prime Minister Singh)

Comments

Dara,I guess we’ll have to disagree on the specific issue of India’s visibility in Afghanistan. Please note, though, that in general, I think India is doing lots of good work there and they should keep it up.On some what of a tangent, I have always found it unfortunate that India and West never became close earlier. You have to agree that Nehru’s anti-colonial leftist mindset had at least something to do with this. History would have turned out a lot differently if Nehru had preferred the West over the sham of the non-aligned movement (which proved to be utterly useless). I really do think that India and the West (not just the US) could be natural allies. I realize this sounds to Indians like they should be an American stooge. But that’s not true. Canada is a good example of a country that has maintained its independence on important foreign policy issues (Iraq and Vietnam for example) while acting with its allies where common interests are concerned (Europe, Afghanistan). I could see India operating in a similar framework as an ally someday.

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To-day, somehow the people first want to know is your religion or caste or whatever, subsequent responses depend entirely on that.-Posted by DaraThis is why I get defensive when posters come here and they first question they ask when responding to someone is “where are you from?” “what race are you?” “what religion are you?” etc.From my perspective, the only reason to ask these questions is if you are going to judge the response that person makes on what the answers to those questions are.One individual a few weeks back had the gall to suggest that he wanted to know this information because he “wanted to know where people come from”. Right.

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Keith said:> On some what of a tangent, I have always found it unfortunate that India and West never became close earlier.The feeling is entirely mutual, I’m sure. However…> You have to agree that Nehru’s anti-colonial leftist mindset had at least something to do with this.I don’t know. Nehru and Kennedy had a very good relationship, I believe. I’m not sure what caused the US and India to drift apart.> History would have turned out a lot differently if Nehru had preferred the West over the sham of the non-aligned movement (which proved to be utterly useless).Many Indians may disagree, as do many historians. Gerald W Johnson (An American and the author of “Communism: A Study of Revolution”) was actually sympathetic to India’s non-aligned policy. He said history was on the side of smaller, weaker countries that chose to remain neutral between big powers because their independence was at stake otherwise.The US hasn’t been an angel, as you well know. They haven’t been a supporter of democracy, only of their own interests (read: the interests of American corporations). Allende of Chile and Mossadegh of Iran, both democratically elected leaders, paid the price because they threatened the interests of Pepsico and the oil companies, respectively. India, understandably, had no desire to be Coca-colonialised. An arms-length relationship with the US, with the Soviet Union as a counterweight, was probably most healthy for India.> I really do think that India and the West (not just the US) could be natural allies. I realize this sounds to Indians like they should be an American stooge.Yes, it does. Alliances can only be between strong nations. If one of the partners is much weaker than the other, it will be used (and abused) by the other.> I could see India operating in a similar framework as an ally someday.It can happen now that India is stronger and the limits of American power have been amply demonstrated in recent times. The US is likely to behave more respectfully with its allies in this new world.Regards,Ganesh

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Keith said:> From my perspective, the only reason to ask these questions is if you are going to judge the response that person makes on what the answers to those questions are.> One individual a few weeks back had the gall to suggest that he wanted to know this information because he “wanted to know where people come from”. Right.Now it’s my turn to tell you not to be too cynical ;-). I like to understand a bit about the background of the people I discuss with, because it really does help to understand where they’re coming from. I agree it can cut both ways. People can dismiss your statements with a “Oh, you’re just saying this because you’re a (insert name of group here)”. But if a person is genuinely capable of empathy, such information provides more context. Without it, it’s like speaking to someone without being able to see them, their facial expressions, gestures, etc.Who *are* you, anyway?Ganesh

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> Who *are* you anyway?I entered a (grin) surrounded by angled brackets, but the blog software discarded it, making it come out like a serious question.Ganesh

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America has already sent every IT job in America to IndiaSorry but you are a moron.When people in India get up in the morning it is Kellogs cereals,before that they brush colgate tooth brush,the shampoo is made of P&G, the soap again from them, when you drive in office you go in one of your cars which is GM or chevorlet,in the office you have a windows system running on oracle platform, when you come back home you entertain yourself in Mac fast food or watching MTV or star news. All our hardwork is represented in the stock market where 49% is held by foreign investors and you made close to $200BN for doing nothing. Now you are planning to get nuclear contracts & selling war planes worth a few billions & you construct our houses with caterpillar cranes.So when do you plan to end this colonization across the world ?

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Mr. Keith you write:”I find your arguments against democracy to be spurious. You seem to suggest that there should be no democracy unless its perfect or there should be military rule. But is military rule perfect?”I am not prescribing this for everyone. In Pakistan, my personal view is that we need a reliable institution to take us to the next level. Only after that can we think of democracy etc. Right now we have a vacuum for leadership. Military is the only institution that has been ethical, moral and honest as far as Pakistan’s interests are concerned. Military rule is not perfect. But so is any other form of government. A democracy like Zimbabwe or Egypt is not worth it.”I am a serving military officer, and I would never think that I could do the job of a civil bureaucrat/technocrat. And while the politicians may be corrupt in Pakistan, your civil service has a reputation for being cleaner (albeit not perfect), and infinitely more competent.”New and poor countries need leaders with vision. Well settled countries can accommodate dummies who can sit on the ceremonial post while the civil institutions do the job for them. You cannot compare the two. If a military general can be bad, then so is a democratically elected actor or script writer or the wife of a dynastic ruler.Imagine them deciding on defense matters. The civil servants are mostly corrupt and will takes these namesake ministers for a ride. And these ministers are in there for making a fortune. National interests will take a back seat while Swiss bank accounts will swell with their money. So I do not see any advantages of a namesake dummy being elected by illiterate and poor people so that he sits and makes a mess of everything. India is doing well not because of their politicians. They had been a barrier to the economic growth until 1991 by controlling the license regime. In 1991 there was no other choice left. Given a chance, these democratically elected politicians can lead a country to its brink as well. This region is not ready to go the next level yet. Economic progress, infrastructure development in health, education, industry etc have to grow to a certain level before people can become mature enough to question their leaders.”Yet, every time the Army comes in, it fires the people who know what they are doing and puts in military officers to do those jobs. How does that help the country?”The same happens in democratic regimes as well. At least in third world countries, when a government changes, a lot of projects started by the previous regime get derailed, enquiry commissions are set up, previous government leaders are hounded out, and a lot of things get derailed. In this part of the world it is a reality. One government will bring in an industry to a state and the next government will throw them out.”If I want to develop the economy, I want economists. I don’t want artillery officers developing complex strategic economic plans.”You also do not want movie script writers, retired actors, sons of rich landlords deciding on the economic policy or any other policy either. Where is their experience? Just because they get elected, it does not make them experts in their fields. Some of them are really idiotic.”So if you think politicians are flawed and military government is better, than what’s with this situation? If the military takes over, why does it need to also ingrain itself into the civil service? “All I am saying is that for Pakistan, we need leaders with vision and sincerity to guide us to the next level. We do not have any. We only have the military to fill up that leadership gap until reforms are carried out, feudalism is removed, fundamentalism is eradicated and infrastructure is built. If there was any other system available, we are all for it. I want all the current politicians disqualified and start from a clean slate. That is a pipe dream.”You still have not answered my assertion. Democracy is a process that is perfected through time and practice. Our Western democracies are still not perfect. We make mistakes (many of which you’d happily point out). However, each mistake we make, our voters learn from and adjust. For every Bush the Americans elect, there’s an Obama. So why should Pakistanis be denied this learning curve and the opportunity to continuously improve their democracy? Why does democracy have to be 100%, 100% of the time for it to take root in Pakistan? Why such a high bar for democracy, yet not much expectations for military rule?”It does not have to be 100% perfect. I just want the society to change where hero worship, war lordism are absent. Our military has more than met our expectations. No Pakistani will complain about our military for what it has stood for. It is the only honorable institution in the country.

 

@Anjum,You need to live in a democracy to understand it. It is by far the best system with inherent checks and balances on all levels of power. Democracy with Capitalism yields the most productive, happy, compassionate and creative individuals. I can tell you it is a good feeling to toss our leaders out of office, after 4 years, if we voters don’t like them. Unfortunately, you can’t quite do that, the Punjabi Mafia owns Pakistan and does not want democracy there. They continue to undermine the judicial, democratic process to keep their iron fist on power in Pakistan.

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Keith,Though democracy is the way to go, it can also turn the wrong way if the system allows for it. Hitler came to power through democratic elections in a highly developed and industrial society. He was no different than Stalin. Saddam Hussein too came to power through elections at the beginning. Hitler had to be removed by means of a terrible war. Stalin died a peaceful death. A lot depends upon the society for democracy to grow in a healthy way. Whenever emotions are present, idealogues can hijack those emotions and sway the public their way and win elections. Then they work hard in keeping those emotions alive. I guess Pak military has done the same thing by keeping anti India sentiments alive. If you look at these leaders, you will always see a history of engagement in wars with others to hide their weaknesses. In India, the local states have tyrants who win elections and control a majority population to stay in power. In my home state of Tamil Nadu, the Dravidian politics is used to hold on to power. They use caste discrimination as an issue, eventhough they are the ones in power. In the state of Maharashtra, the Shiv Sena uses Nazi like ideology to stay in power. They also use violence copiously to drive off civilian people who are progressive and educated. In states like Bengal, Communists and Maoists use that ideology. In the state of Gujerat, Narendra Modi swept to power after orchestrating the massacre of innocent Muslims. Democracy is a great experiment. But I do side with Mr. Anjum to some extent. Societies have to mature and be in a conducive environment with focus on economic growth and public welfare. Then the politicians will change their colors to match those goals. India has gained momentum in that regard since 1991. But it is still on the edge. I pray that the Nehru dynasty does not derail the country from its path. We are not out of the woods yet. In the case of Pakistan, they missed a Nehru. That is all. Mr. Anjum is right in the sense, poor, third world nations, just starting out, need a benevolent dictator for sometime. Nehru did the right things for India fortunately. His daughter tried to burn the country out. We lucked out. And we are not looking back.

 

Military is the only institution that has been ethical, moral and honest as far as Pakistan’s interests are concerned.-Posted by MR.ANJUM===Only desperate ordinary civilian politicians have to indulge in corruption in an underhanded way to earn money.When you have a monopoly on power as the Pakistan army does in Pakistan, P.A doesn’t need to indulge in “corruption” in the traditional sense.When P.A generals and officers can openly monopolize and exploit, loot the country openly obviously there is no need for “corruption”. From cereals, cement to road construction Pakistan army has numerous opportunities to loot Pakistan LEGALLY.http://www.faujicereals.com.pk/h ome.htmlhttp://www.fccl.com.pk/main/inde x.htmlhttp://www.faujipower.com/http://w ww.askaribank.com.pk/This book shines light on Pakistan military’s ‘£10bn empire’http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2 007/may/31/books.pakistan

 

Shastri,While India has a long way to go, could you imagine the country remaining cohesive without democracy? As bad as the extremists are, democracy has worked to keep them in check and generally drown out their voice in the sea of a billion people. By contrast, we could have had an India of dozens of States with Shiv Sena have an Indian reich fiefdom centred around Bombay.Where I take issue with Anjum’s assertion is that from what I’ve seen in my time studying Pakistan is that the military is only marginally cleaner than the civil service. The military officers are getting rich too. They are just better at hiding it. It is quite ingenious that the Army portrays the civil service as corrupt by associating them with politicians, but military officers in those jobs routinely take bribes too.But in taking out the politicians, the military also goes after the civil service routinely. They repeatedly decimate the only nation building capacity the state has. This is why Pakistan is not advancing.Perhaps the politicians are very corrupt. But I don’t buy that the civil servants are all that bad. And they are most certainly not drastically more corrupt than the Pak Army.

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A comment by Yauseen RomanA powerful wing of ISI (Inter-Service Intelligence) in Pakistan is in charge of maneuvering Islamist fundamentalists, numbering up to 50,000 strong armed militias and enrolled in ISI’s payroll, from the line of control in Kashmir to Wana in South Waziristan.Last summer, seventy kilometer from Islamabad, ISI Islamist Militias invaded Swat Valley in North West of Islamabad the capital of Pakistan. The western countries and the United States concerned about fall down of, Pakistan, their allay in South Asia, special concern about Pakistan Nuclear weapons and the possible use of them on western targets or spreading them in the hand of terrorists around the world. The world medias showed the brutality of the ISI militias, code name the Pakistani Taliban, who were lashing a teenage girl, accused of having affair with a boy, who were carrying out on her the Islamic Sharia (law); on the other hand, the diplomatic wing of ISI sent a team of its diplomats to Washington with briefcases full of documents that Pakistan faces severe food shortage, and social and economic crises that force the people of Pakistan to embrace Islamic fundamentalism. These psycho political actors convinced Washington and the White House that Pakistan is indeed in the verge of collapsing and must be stabilized before Taliban reache in the Capital Islamabad. At the same time, president Zardari sent signal to India that he would cooperate with India to bring the corroborators of Mumbai attack to justice and demanded that Pakistan and India should solve its bitter stand via communication and peace talks. The first curtain of this drama fell down and the diplomats returned with a two billion dollar check to Islamabad. General Kaiani, Pakistan Chief of Staff, ordered Pakistan’s armed forces to assault the Swat Valley, no journalist allowed to enter the conflict zone, and forced the inhabitants of Swat to refugee camps in suburb of Islamabad, destroyed people houses and claimed victory over Taliban within a month, and sent back the two million Pushtun refugees to their ruined houses and farms.From the mid September of this year, the Pakistani government was maneuvered on the border of South Waziristan to root out the Taliban from that region; they pull up the second curtain. Again, the ISI pulled back its militias (Pakistani Taliban) from Swat and Bjawar in north-west and stationed them in the suburb of South Waziristan. The diplomat arrived again in Washington to collect the cash from the US government and the package they brought was Pakistan cooperation with the United States to crush the Pakistani Taliban and Al-Queda. Congress approved the 7.5 billion dollars for Pakistan over five years. Again the army entered South Waziristan on October 17, of this year and captured the head quarter of the Pakistani Taliban, no journalists no media, and the drama still has not ended. The Taliban has been relocated by ISI to North Waxirestan and Kurum Agency. To the world, specially, the United States Congress and the White house, these last six months were Pakistan’s determination to squeeze the knurls of Taliban and Al-Queda, but to ISI inner-circle the scenario is far from ending.In ISI set of beliefs, between Indians and Afghans there are historical bind of hate and love, and the Punjab mobs of power and politics in Pakistan are between the two nationalistic nations, a factual future victim. Punjab mobs dynasty understand that enfolding the pushtun nationalism on both side of the Durand line is more dodgy than the line of control in Kashmir; furthermore, on the other side in order to black mail the United States from eastern border, ISI has the Lasher-e-Taiba (the group who bombed Mumbai,) Tahrik-e-Nefaz-Islam, and Jaish-e-Mohammad, the Indian setting.Politicians in the United States want to see a strong Pakistan with prosperous future, but when the Pakistan government maneuvers to crush its own people, pushtun in the west of the country in Afghanistan and kshmiri in the east, the theatre of Pakistan is the bloodiest theatres of history ever human has seen it.

 

GW you write: “You need to live in a democracy to understand it. It is by far the best system with inherent checks and balances on all levels of power. Democracy with Capitalism yields the most productive, happy, compassionate and creative individuals. I can tell you it is a good feeling to toss our leaders out of office, after 4 years, if we voters don’t like them. Unfortunately, you can’t quite do that, the Punjabi Mafia owns Pakistan and does not want democracy there. They continue to undermine the judicial, democratic process to keep their iron fist on power in Pakistan.”We have had democracy in Pakistan. And we lost our faith in it after watching those idiotic politicians swindle the country. They did nothing for the progress of the nation. Even now we have namesake democratically elected leaders. ZA Bhutto did not allow Mujib to assume power. Both were democratically elected politicians. Bhutto convinced Yahya Khan to punish the Bengalis.Mr. Zardari’s days in power are numbered. No one knows what is going to happen after that. Nawaz Sharif and his brother swindled the country’s coffers. We have no good alternatives. I have no faith in waiting for leaders to emerge by sifting through the system for another 60 years while being poor and backward. I’d like to go for the next option – focus on growth and infrastructure, lay strong foundations and then open the system for a suitable type of government. If a charismatic and visionary leader is available now, I am all for supporting him or her. We have none.Everything depends upon a combination of various things working right. Like Mr. Shastri says, Hitler was a product of the democratic system too. Bush was an elected leader. Things can go wrong in any system. All that matters is a good leader. It does not matter what system a country follows. If the leader is good, then a democratic system can keep electing him until he accomplishes his tasks. I do not agree with this checks and balance argument. It might work in a country like the USA. In third world countries, cheques and balances are maintained in Swiss banks.A lot of scams happen and the leaders seldom get punished. By the time a slow and bureaucratic inquiry commission finishes a report on a scam, decades would have passed. By then some of the politicians are dead and gone.One reason why the Taliban initially appealed to the Afghans was their quick justice and clear cut methods. They brought peace forcibly. And the Afghans went with it initially. But they had their conservative methods that became intolerable. This is the same reason why Pakistanis like their military. Its generals can lead. They are leaders for crisis situations. They can make decisions fast and be clear about their goals. If we have civilian leaders of that kind, I have no problems with a democratic system. The system and the people have to match.What I’d recommend is to develop MBA like programs for political process and governance. People deciding to make politics as their career should be able to qualify themselves through this diploma which would give exposure to leadership skills, decision making, understanding basic needs in economy, commerce, diplomacy etc. Leaders have to be trained. Otherwise we have to wait for talent to emerge on its own. And many try to leapfrog to the high level by other means – by being sons of big politicians, or landlords or actors having mass appeal. One still cannot guarantee a corruption free leadership. But an MBA will help people prepare themselves better on how to lead a society. If corporations need trained people for leadership, shouldn’t developing nations need trained leaders? Would the Western powers help set up leadership training for our civilians? That is where I think the effort must be. We have no leaders. And many countries are in a similar boat. There are many worthy people who can lead. But they lack the training. And such training needs to include an understanding of the culture. It is not worth setting up a democracy without proper training of the leaders. This is like setting a lot of musical instruments with no trained musicians. Only cacophony will result. And I see that in many third world countries. The guy with the loudest voice sitting next to the drums gets to lead the cacophony.

 

Keith: “While India has a long way to go, could you imagine the country remaining cohesive without democracy?”India’s case is extremely unique. At the time of independence, there were more factors that favored the disintegration of the union. I’d list some factors that kept the country cohesive.1. An overall pacifist culture. The majority are Hindus and they had lived under subjugation for more than a millenium. In general people are docile. This is a very significant factor. If any other country had seen a Mumbai style attack, their response would have been very different.2. Nehru. India was extremely fortunate to have Nehru at the top as soon as independence was obtained. He was an extremely honest, ethical politician who genuinely wanted India to progress. He was highly Westernized in his outlook and he also knew the Indian culture. He built the infrastructure necessary for a nation to grow. People curse him for his adamant nature, but he had values that most politicians today lack in India. His presence for 17 years really placed India on the right path.3. Pakistan – You might be surprised to see this from me. The presence of an external adversary really unites people and they rally behind their belief systems. Indians must thank Pakistan for helping build the Indianness. There have been four wars and many other proxy attempts that have really united many Indians.4. Partition – This gave a chance to many Indians to realize how the nation would be if it divided further. The partition of subcontinent into just two nations has brought the region to the brink of a nuclear confrontation. Imagine 26 countries doing the same. There are lot of issues between states which could erupt into wars if they were separate countries.5. Dynastic leadership – I do like Mr. Anjum’s point here. We needed, as a developing country, to have a system in place where we could rely on some kind of a national leader at all times. The Nehru dynasty filled that gap. Yugoslavia did well under Tito. If he had worthy leaders succeeding him or had a dynasty following him, the union might have survived. The Nehru family is very unique. They are only leaders with a national appeal. Nehru or Indira Gandhi or her sons could stand for elections in any corner of the country and win. No other leader has that capability. And their leadership did provide the cohesiveness for the nation that was navigating throw the waters of cold war and backwardness.6. British civil administrative system – a number of things just went directly from the British to the Indians. We just took them and amended some of them. That has provided a continuity.7. Elimination of feudal lords – Indian leaders systematically got rid off the feudal system. This was a big change.8. Free press – India has enjoyed free press from day number one, excepting for a few years under the infamous Emergency.9. Emergency in 1975 – This made the faith in democracy even stronger. In 1977 Indira Gandhi thought she had fooled the people. And they threw her out of power for the first time. After that people began to exercise their power more frequently.10. Sustenance of democratic process – Elections have been held without fail. And people have gained experience as a result.11. Coalition system – Slowly over the years regional parties have gained more power and they are beginning to exercise their power through sharing the central government. This has led to a balance and no party is able to sway the country in the wrong direction. The BJP had many things on their agenda. But they could not come to power without coalition partners who saw to that the BJP continued further on economic liberalization started by the previous Congress regime.12. Military non-intervention. No one knows why in India the military never attempted its hands on power. This is a blessing. Indira Gandhi did bring the country to the brink on many occasions and yet the military stayed confined to the barracks.13. Economic liberalization in 1991 – this led to the media being freed for private broadcasting. Cable TV reached every nook and corner of India and politicians could not fool people anymore like before.14. Thaw in the relation with countries like the US. This is a big factor. Recognition of Indian achievements got a boost after the cold war ended and accomplishments are a very important factor in helping the national psyche. People should not feel dejected. Slowly there is a belief that we can do good and be appreciated is emerging.In all, India’s democracy has grown mature. There sure are a lot of pitfalls. Mr. Anjum’s words are coming out of frustration. Until the 1990s, Pakistan’s economy was better than India’s. They could have gone on the right path at that time and they ignored that opportunity. India has managed to build its strength internally. American support and understanding after the cold war is another big factor that has helped India.

 

Myra,The topic of discussions in your blog is about India’s interest in Afghanistan , especially in view of the fact that we are already suffering from our own home grown terrorists .Indian economy is unprecedentedly growing at 7.9% per annum ,which is one of the highest in the world in the aftermath the global melt down. India does not have enough energy resources to meet its ambitious growth targets. Like other countries in the region, Indian also needs natural resources of Central Asia surrounding Afghanistan. Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India  , gas line is one of the proposal being debated in India for along time, but due to insurgency problem in Afghanistan and Pakistan, there is no progress on this issue . Similarly, Indian companies are also eying huge mineral resources of Afghanistan , recently Afghanistan Mining Ministry floated global tender for Expression of Interest for development Hajigak iron ore and coal blocks , 5 Indian companies have been shortlisted.

Posted by Manish | Report as abusive
 

While corrupt politicians can be thrown out, pakistan army as an instituition is so corrupt; due to lack democracy can not be challenged. Any pakistani who challenges them are oppressed, encounter a vicious campaign that they are traitors or worse “Indians”.This pakistani calls the pakistan army invaders of their own country and summarizes how P.A.has undermined its people since 1947.http://www.fascistarmy.org/Ironical ly the punjabis who were late comers to the “pakistan movement” have hijacked the whole power structure into their hands, and in the absence of democracy other ethnic groups are fed up and want out.===Nice & accurate summary by Yauseen Roman. The lack of democracy, and sense of disempowerment at the hands of punjabis is leading to unfolding of pashtun nationalism.UNDER THE AFPAK VOLCANO, Part 1Welcome to PashtunistanBy Pepe Escobarhttp://www.atimes.com/atimes/Sout h_Asia/KK06Df01.html

 

Manish,If resources are India’s primary concern, then surely it’s more important to engage Pakistan than Afghanistan. After all, the IPI and the TAPI both require Pakistani co-operation.I don’t think India’s interests in Afghanistan are solely limited to accessing Central Asian energy stocks.

Posted by Keith | Report as abusive
 

Mohammed Anjum,Much as I would like to argue with you in favour of democracy, I must admit you have some strong points. The more I consider the situation, the more I realise that India was probably just plain lucky it did not degenerate into some dictatorial shambles like so many other newly liberated colonies. Shastri has pointed out some plausible reasons for this. Of course, Indian democracy is far from perfect (and Indians will be the first to admit that), but there is a sense that things have been getting better and will continue to do so.Your suggestion that Pakistan should concentrate on economic development first (under military rule) and then think about returning to civilian democracy has some merit, although not many would like to admit it. Given that there is no civilian leader who currently has the stature or integrity to provide the kind of leadership the country needs, perhaps this is the best option. Of course, remember that if there is a military coup, US aid will be automatically cut off, resulting in even more hardship for the people. Perhaps there needs to be a democratic facade without total power in the hands of corrupt politicians? Is that what we’re in fact seeing today?For all his faults, Musharraf was reportedly on the verge of signing an accord with India that would have reduced tension significantly and let the two countries concentrate on economic development, but then the lawyers’ brouhaha happened leading to his exit. It may still be possible to pursue such a deal. Fortunately or unfortunately, only the Pakistani military has the credibility today to sign such a deal with India and have it accepted by the average Pakistani citizen. Civilian leaders who do that will be seen as selling out the national interest.I believe there should be a moratorium on Kashmir. Put the Kashmir issue on the back-burner for 5 or 10 years and develop the economy and trade relations first. Kashmir may become much easier to solve after 10 years of peace and strong trade relations. That’s my prescription for Kashmir similar to your prescription for Pakistan itself – economic development before democracy.The ball is in Pakistan’s court, though, not India’s. I certainly hope some strong and wise leadership emerges there. The US presence in the region will not solve problems but result in greater confusion and turmoil. Pakistan’s leaders should seize the opportunity to break this cycle and initiate better relations with India. The entire region can then prosper. If they let things drift the way they are, there will be years of misery ahead for everyone in the subcontinent, although India may suffer less than either Afghanistan or Pakistan.Regards,Ganesh

Posted by Ganesh Prasad | Report as abusive
 

Keith,Fair enough, we disagree on the Afghan stuff…As regards India’s ties with the West there is a bit of history to it. It needs to be acknowledged at the outset that one country that strongly supported independence for India was the USA. AS far as my knowledge goes things started off on the right foot. Nehru in fact was a great favourite, India was in fact even offered a place on the Security Council at the time, which Nehru refused in favour of China.The first sour note was the Korean war. John Foster Dulles spent a lot of energy building an alliance, initially known as the Baghdad Pact and later became SEATO. ‘You are either with us or against us’ is attributed to Dulles at that time. India did not agree to formally be part of any alliance,the ‘against us’ clause came into play. That was the first step towards a breach but it was primarily a disappointment more for the US and no one else. Then came the co-ordinated Suez attack by Britain, France and Israelat tjhe same time as the Hungarian crisis featuring the Soviets steam rolling dissidence there. While Nehru was vociferous in attacking the West over Suez he said not a word about Hungary. Even when specifically pushed to come out and decry the ruthlessness of Soviet use of power on unarmed civilians, he claimed that he had no specific information and came out with a watered down statement. I think this was the turning point for a steep decline. Not only did he collect a lot of stringent criticism within India itself for his silence he earned the wrath of the West. His silence undid it all. The greater breach was with Canada, with whom India had a special sort of relationship. They were totally disillusioned with him too. If you are interested, there is a book written by the then Canadian envoy, I forget his name, but its title is Envoy to Nehru. I think it sums up this aspect very nicely.As to being natural allies, I would tend to agree. The time for it is ripe at this stage. India is ready to shed past baggage in a changed world and things do seem to be making headway.

Posted by Dara | Report as abusive
 

Mr Anjum,Agreed that democracy is not perfect at times it borders on the farcical, I think it is still the best thing that is available. I somehow don’t agree with your opinion that some countries are not ready to accept democracy because of culture or whatever. I think it depends on what democracy means to people. I fail to understand why people would not like to be involved in and have a say about things that affects them and how their lives.As to your description of the Pak Army as being patriotic, honest and having the good of the country foremost, I have no doubt of that. However, this probably sums up almost any army in the world. Most people in any country think similarly about their own forces. That, however, does not make a case for Martial Law to me. Armies the world over have a clearly defined role to play, by taking on unrelated responsibilities, they end up diluting their professionalism in the long run.A word about dynastic rule. I doubt there is much in common with monarchy. You perhaps refer to the Gandhi or Bhutto families. The fact is these families run their own parties the way they want to. However, when it comes to forming a government, they are chosen and often thrown out of power by the electorate, unlike a monarchy. So what happens, according to me, is that though a party may be run autocratically, the government is formed democratically. In India for example, there has been a long gap since Rajiv Gandhi was PM, even though the Congress ran three governments after him. Sonia Gandhi stepped down and though all said Rahul was being groomed, it didn’t happen this time either.

Posted by Dara | Report as abusive
 

Myra , Keith,I am sorry but you westerners will never understand the politics of sub-continent, the basic dispute between India and Pakistan has nothing to do with Kashmir or any other territorial dispute.The problem lies with present Pakistani rulers, army men or ISI , who have been in an atmosphere where they have been taught right form the nursery level that the whole mass of land comprising India, Bangladesh and Pakistan has been ruled by their fore fathers, some hindus infidels collaborated with British to throw the muslim rulers . Such is their hatred against hindu infidels . Kashmir is a minor element of dispute. By raising the Kashmir dispute, Pakistanis designs are to divide Indian society on religion lines, fortunately muslims in India have seen the Pakistani conspiracy , and have not taken the bait . Their lies the whole problem .Secondly , as far as engaging Pakistan is concerned, why should we negotiate with Pakistan? Is it because, Pakistan has the capacity to sponsor terrorists against India ? Which in other word means Indian govt should talk to extortionists or terrorists ? Is Indian govt so weak ? The most important question here is whom should we talk ? Who is the ruler of Pakistan? Whether it is civilian administration or army or ISI ?Our only condition for talks with Pakistan is that they should hand over the perpetrators of Mumbai massacre and dismantling of all the terror infrastructure in Pakistan?Pakistan has failed to act , is it not enough proof of the failure of this administration? In this case, we will talk who can deliver .

Posted by Manish | Report as abusive
 

Mr. Dara, you write: “Agreed that democracy is not perfect at times it borders on the farcical, I think it is still the best thing that is available. I somehow don’t agree with your opinion that some countries are not ready to accept democracy because of culture or whatever. I think it depends on what democracy means to people. I fail to understand why people would not like to be involved in and have a say about things that affects them and how their lives.”I am not in disagreement with you. Democracy is a great institution if applied to the right kind of people. It is like a delicate plant. It grows where conditions are suitable for its survival. When it is young, it can get stamped out very easily. It has to grow to a certain size before it can withstand the harsh surroundings. It has to be proected against sickness and disease. At least that is the case with third world countries stepping into democracy. In our country, that tree got disease way to early. And it has been sick ever since. The environment is much harsher than that in India. Now it is even harsher in Pakistan, considering the turmoil our country is in. In India democracy took root in a really backward environment and has managed to grow despite the illnesses it suffered. The economic reforms in 1991, end of cold war, shift in global political alliances etc definitely became the new fertilizer that helped the democratic tree survive in India.Imagine for a second that if the wrong decision was made by Indian politicians in 1991 despite the World Bank demands and India went more socialistic instead of pursuing liberalization, the sheer weight of economic burden would have cause cracks on many sides of the country. Remember that until 1991, India was mostly run by the Congress party and its economic progress was extremely poor. In almost two decades after 1991, India has achieved many times more than what it achieved in the first 45 odd years of its existence. So the democracy in India got a boost from its economic surge. When money starts flowing in, everyone wants to join the party. That can explain why most states are vying to be a part of the union. If on the other hand misery had amplified by poor policies and decision making, by now there would be many local leaders asking for self determination. It is not that they would do anything better. They would get to rule their own nations.I wish we have a Kemal Ataturk in out midst now. We definitely would be marching towards progress and will be able to demand individual rights to vote and elect our leaders and have a healthy democracy. I do not want people voting because they get money or TV sets that do not work. Democracy is a strange thing in many Middle Eastern and African nations. It is not because the people are barbarians. Their societies have not matured to handle it.Pakistan was created as a nation for Muslims. Though Jinnah wanted us to be secular, the natural tendency of the country was to move in the direction of having Islam in all walks of life. Many of us look at the Koran as a constitution. Not everything in it might be applicable to today’s standards, but without the Koran in the constitution, our democracy is meaningless. We are not a secular nation. We are an Islamic nation. Therefore we will need to come up with a democracy that is Islamic in color and appearance. And time has not come for it yet.

 

Manish,You misunderstood my comments. I was referring to your point that India’s interests in Afghanistan mainly concern energy resources. The thread after all is about India’s role in Afghanistan. I wasn’t referring to the Kashmir dispute or the Indo-Pak conflict.

Posted by Keith | Report as abusive
 

M Anjum,

I agree with all you say about an ideal democracy and its flaws in underdeveloped or developing countries. A change in Indian policy was forced upon it by economic conditions. Congress policies caused a decline, but remember it was also the Congress which took the crucial step of changing track and freeing the economy from its socialist shackles. Some say that if India has become relatively stable now it is not because of the government but in spite of it. The entrepreneurs and private enterprise moved and moved well. However, it would not have been possible but for a change in policy.

The reason that happened though was because the political class was allowed to make mistakes and learn from them, fortunately they did. We may not be an economic powerhouse and have a long way to go in all respects, but we have started moving along the right road.

I could be wrong, but I feel that the politicians in Pakistan were not given this benefit of time, to learn from their mistakes. This could be the reason that democracy hasn’t taken roots there. 60 years in the life of a nation is minuscule and for any system to take root and flourish it needs, as you yourself say, to be nurtured and helped to grow. So does the political class.

As for your contention that an Islamic democracy should emerge, that is an experiment worth trying. Look at Iran, they are an Islamic Republic. Their constitution reflects Islamic ideals, their governments are elected and the system is progressing. I am sure there are those who will point fingers at it, because of equations with that country, but the fact remains there is a democratic process in play in Iran, so why not in Pakistan?

Posted by DaraIndia | Report as abusive
 

M Anjum,

I agree with all you say about an ideal democracy and its flaws in underdeveloped or developing countries. A change in Indian policy was forced upon it by economic conditions. Congress policies caused a decline, but remember it was also the Congress which took the crucial step of changing track and freeing the economy from its socialist shackles. Some say that if India has become relatively stable now it is not because of the government but in spite of it. The entrepreneurs and private enterprise moved and moved well. However, it would not have been possible but for a change in policy.

The reason that happened though was because the political class was allowed to make mistakes and hopefully learn from them, fortunately they did. We may not be an economic powerhouse and have a long way to go in all respects, but we have started moving along the right road.

I could be wrong, but I feel that the politicians in Pakistan were not given this benefit of time, to learn from their mistakes which is the prime reason that democracy hasn’t taken roots there. 60 years in the life of a nation is minuscule and for any system to take root and flourish it needs, as you yourself say, to be nurtured and helped to grow. So does the political class.

As for your contention that an Islamic democracy should emerge, that is an experiment worth trying. Look at Iran, they are an Islamic Republic. Their constitution reflects Islamic ideals, their governments are elected and the system is progressing. I am sure there are those who will point fingers at it, because of equations with that country, but the fact remains there is a democratic process in play in Iran, so why not in Pakistan?

Posted by DaraIndia | Report as abusive
 

Myra,

Another piece in the missing jigsaw puzzle is the haphazard borderlines drawn by Sir Durand, where he dismembered the Pashtun Nation and where the British also dismembered India in a haphazard way.

To deal with all this terrorism, a new UN resolution should be tabled, with he Pashtun provinces in Pakistan being re-unified with Afghanistan and the Pakistan Kashmir being re-united with India. This way, India can police its side better and the U.S. and NATO allies can hunt AQ and Taliban MIlitants without the red-tape.

It appears Pakistan is incapable of dealing with militants. Although it may ruffle Pak sensibilities, this maybe one way to stabilize Pakistan in the long run, by rectifying Pakistan’s borders. I think many will agree that these two areas are a huge financial drain and have caused much hardship on Pakistan. Still this requires serious deliberation.

Posted by G-W | Report as abusive
 

@Anjum,

Pakistan needs a peaceful, articulate, educated Gandhian like Islamic leader who can wield power peacefully, while still embracing the best of Islam and embracing the best of secular, plural and democratic values. Unfortunately Pakistan has not produced such an individual and if an when it does, there cannot be any tolerance for those that embrace backwardness like, lashing women, banning music and forcing people to wear a beard, burqua and salwar kameez. For such a Gandhian leader to rise and wield influence, first the people of Pakistan need to stand against the retrograde madrasa culture, double dealing Pak Army and embrace open mindedness. In short, the people of Pakistan need a civil rights movement, within the context of modernizing the psyche and national philosophy of Pakistan. These basic things are needed so that potential great leaders will not have shackles, but some level of courate that will help them to become a lighting rod of awakened resistance against all of Pakistan’s ills. Secondly, perhaps it is time for the British to return and help better administer and manage Pakistan from within, to strengthen its democratic institutions, almost like a mentorship in democracy.

I cannot see the Pak Army being an impediment to true progress towards democracy, if the international community tables a motion, the Pak Army will have to be partners in success of democracy. Militantism cannot have home in Pakistan, but does so, because of rogue/non-rogue Army support in one manner or another.

Posted by G-W | Report as abusive
 

To me it appears that India is being unjust to keep the
predominetly muslim state of Kashmir under her control
through sheer force . There are more Indian soldiers in
Kashmir than its population. On the other hand India is
not giving fair share of its economic gains to its largest minority i,e muslims . All the aces are in India’s hand.All it needs is to be large hearted and
treat muslims fairly. I am sure in case of referandum Kashmiris will vote for India , if they are treated humanely and equal oppertunitis are given to them. Congress did not grasp the oppertunity of giving some concessions to muslims to remove their fears and preferred to create Pakistan. There is no cause of any
dispute between India and Pakistan which would not be
sorted out amicably but it needs give and take. I vividly
recall Madam Indra Gandhi and Mr Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto
( both late ) successfully settled very sensitive issue of return of Pakistani POWS back in 1972 . I foresee a federation of India and Pakistan if both countries have a will to forge genuine friendly and neighborly relations.

goodmansenior

a

Posted by goodmansenior | Report as abusive
 

Goodman,

Of course you can think what you like. But, could you please tell us why you think India is being unjust about Kashmir? I also think that your facts come very close to being fantasy:
1. “There are more Indian soldiers in
Kashmir than its population.”
You are wrong by many millions. Where did you get this ‘fact’ from. The population is around 8 million. The total size of the Indian Army, including those deployed along its entire borders and in cantonments is about 1.4 million. With statements such as this it is difficult to take anything you say seriously.

2.”On the other hand India is
not giving fair share of its economic gains to its largest minority i,e muslims .”
Could you please elaborate. Does it allocate resources based on religion? If so what is the allocation?

3. “All the aces are in India’s hand.”
In whose hands are all the terorists and would you consider them, the 2 of clubs?

4. “Congress did not grasp the oppertunity of giving some concessions to muslims to remove their fears and preferred to create Pakistan.”

After reading this I realised just how wrong your information and perception of the whole problem really is. I don’t think one needs to continue.

Posted by DaraIndia | Report as abusive
 

@Pakistan needs a peaceful, articulate, educated Gandhian like Islamic leader who can wield power peacefully, while still embracing the best of Islam and embracing the best of secular, plural and democratic values. Unfortunately Pakistan has not produced such an individual and if an when it does, there cannot be any tolerance for those that embrace backwardness like, lashing women, banning music and forcing people to wear a beard, burqua and salwar kameez. For such a Gandhian leader to rise and wield influence, first the people of Pakistan need to stand against the retrograde madrasa culture, double dealing Pak Army and embrace open mindedness.”
-posted by G-W

G-W: There has at least been one example of a Gandhian Leader in Pakistan. Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan, also known as Frontier Gandhi, who used non-violence as weapon to fight for Pakthunistan. You know that he was imprisoned for 15yrs (not not under luxury of house arrest that the terrorists are given) IN Khan’s own words, he was treated worse than what the Bristish treated him during Indian freedom struggle. This man did exactly the opposite of what Taliban are doing now in the same region. That guy was Pakistan’s enemy and Taliban is Pakistan’s friends. One can argue that Khan fought against Pakistan, not for, but one can also argue that as ruling power feel its throne shaken, it will eliminate any opposition and it is easier to eliminate a non-violent one if people are not in picture. The mix of terrorists with ruling power is a poison that has become important factor now, not during Khan’s days.

That place is barren for a non-violent individual to emerge. I will count more on mass movement.

Posted by RajeevK | Report as abusive
 

Mr. Anjum,

Democracy can happen in Pakistan, but peoples hearts and core values need to find room for it. In a stroke of the brush, most Pakistani’s seem to casually dismiss democracy as a western affliction of some sort, that is completely the opposite of Islam.

In many ways, disagree if you will, the political steadfastness of Islam in Pakistan as a tool of national unity is actually destroying it like a cancer and will disintegrate Pakistan. Can you imagine that? That which was a tool for the formation of Pakistani formation and unity is the same undertow force that is tearing it apart and when you break things down to the most fundamental level, you cannot deny what I am saying. Most people do not want to live in a mental drone like fashion, blindly praying and accepting all that is fed to them, but some religious leaders, or army types. This doctrine is failing.

There fore, a non-religious awakening must happen in Pakistan to save it. I am not saying that Pakistani’s abandon their love of their faith, I am just saying that what worked at one point in time is not going to work today. It is most Pakistani’s love of Islam, which is justified, but it is also enabling love of fellow muslims to cloud objective judgement and not do anything about the Taliban, speak against them or challenge them or other firebrand clerics, or simply not seeing these type of backwards people as a threat to a true functioning civilized society, where people can become critical thinkers, embrace Islam and still embrace modern thinking to support a democratic governance.

Pakistani’s need a non-religious construct, something outside of religion, an identity of their own, outside of the context of India and this has to make them feel impassioned about their country to the point that they will challenge head-on, those who impose tyranny, propaganda and militantism. My point basically is, is that Islamic identity alone is not enough as a national tool for unity, there must be something else to make Pakistani’s want to think for themselves and use their own faculties to make decisions, rather than embrace a horde mentality, without questioning anybody.

Posted by G-W | Report as abusive
 

Two comments here… First of all Jinnah was only as authoritarian or undemocratic as Nehru. The accusation against Jinnah is that he advised the governor to dissolve the Khan ministry…. but Nehru retained section 93 which allowed for the dissolution of the entire state assembly- a power Nehru used on atleast two if not more occasions. Nehru’s contribution to democracy in India was vital… and it was primarily because he ruled like an autocrat. Jinnah- himself a benign dictator- was vital to democracy in that sense … but we lost him. There is absolutely no question that Pakistan would have emerged as a working democracy had Jinnah lived.

Secondly I’ll request people like GW to stop insulting Pakistanis by telling us that need a Gandhi… we don’t … nor was Gandhi exactly the pious saint teresa he is made out in that horribly inaccurate piece of fiction “Gandhi the Movie” … I for one want a secular democratic and tolerant Pakistan…

I don’t understand why Gandhi is always hoisted on everything. I mean you like the guy … fine… make statues… but why always continue to hoist him on us. As for Ghaffar Khan… his historical role in aid of faqir of Ipi who revolted in the name of Islam against Pakistan should be an eye-opener.

Posted by YLH | Report as abusive
 

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