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)


Till the truth about Afghanistan’s war is revealed by the American Government, it is not advisable for a country like India to participate in the Afghanistan war. I don’t mean the OBL capture thingy, I am referring to the real thing, which many people know but do not want to refer to.India should play it’s cards right and only be involved in the re-building of Afghanistan from a humanitarian or alternatively a business-minded perspective. Running headlong and taking the yoke from the Americans will only result in Obama removing away all the troops and the onus will then be on India to maintain peace, so that America’s pipeline dreams are consummated.The Mumbai attacks probably have something more sinister to them than just a terror attack. It is surprising how vociferous the US has become about India joining it’s cause in Afghanistan and being concerned for it’s security after the attacks. While the US might be concerned about India’s security, it is high time we Indians learn to take care of ourselves and hold our own in the global arena, rather than looking westwards every time someone sneezes.

Posted by Prashanth | Report as abusive

Keith,You asked, ‘Is this India’s intention in Afghanistan or their primary policy driver? Are they there solely to counter/encircle Pakistan or is that a secondary driver/benefit?’- Access to energy is the primary benefit for India to have its influence in Afghanistan and beyond. A relatively stable Afghanistan unlocks many opportunities for trade and commerce between India and Central Asia. Energy and economy will continue to be the policy drivers in India’s foreign policy for years or decades to come.The secondary benefit for India is the security of its interests. India always enjoyed excellent relations with Afghanistan with the exception of the Taliban regime. If the Taliban are back, with or without the support of Pakistan, India will be hit harder than the countries in the West.I’m attaching a link to an article in WSJ regarding India’s role in different regions of Afghanistan. India has done remarkably well in executing development projects while keeping a relative low key presence in Afghanistan. e/SB125061548456340511.htmlTo summarize, the goals of the NATO and India in Afghanistan are similar – stability, end to terrorism and development. India sincerely hopes that Afghanistan, a member of the SAARC, evolves in to a relatively stable, multi-ethnic democracy.

Posted by Nikhil | Report as abusive

–NO, practically speaking Christians only.In India, religion is not bar, if you know India so well.- Posted by rajeevNote this does not apply to all Western democracies.We’ve had an Indian-born Sikh premier for our third largest province in Canada: l_DosanjhSo please try not to group all of the West in the same club. At times, we take offence to it, just like how Indians don’t like to be clubbed in with Pakistanis when it comes to discussions about democracy and such.

Posted by Keith | Report as abusive

M. Anjum,Dynastic politics are by no means an indicator that democracy is flawed. Every country has its dynasties (the Kennedy’s and Bush’s in the US for example). And younger democracies tend to rely on the founding dynasty for some years when they start out. Had Jinnah survived for a few more years, I am willing to bet that Pakistan would have had it’s own version of Gandhi dynastic politics.Countries also tend to have what we call natural governing parties, or parties that voters tend to default to when nothing out of the ordinary is going on. However, a sign of maturity is when voters decide to punish the natural governing party for a poor performance. And Indians have shown a readiness to do this.Your measure is extremely pessimistic. If you consider India a flawed democracy for its run with the Gandhis, I wonder what you would say about Japan and the LDP!When it comes to Afghanistan, I can agree that perhaps western parliamentary democracy may have limited success. But that does not mean other forms of democracy (the jirga can be one for example) would not be successful. The key is to help the Afghans find something that works for them.Finally, I would hope that Pakistanis aspire to more than military rule. Why can’t they hold Turkey as an example? That country has not lost its Islamic identity at all. Heck, the Turks show the world that Islam can be ‘cool’ and compatible with modernity. Yet it’s staunchly secular, has a vibrant democracy (the Army only having stepped in to keep the authoritarian parties who’d threaten said democracy out…and they hand back power right after) and a well developed economy. What keeps them strong at their core though is their democracy which forever fosters debate between the right mix of secularism and Islamism. That back and forth helps them define a middle ground that keeps the country moving forward without giving up its traditions. And although sacrilegious for Muslims to hear this, Israel is another excellent example of a democracy that mixes secular and faith based traditions in a vibrant democracy. Is all this too much for Pakistanis? Do you have such little faith in your people?

Posted by Keith | Report as abusive

Keith, Myra,You have begun to ask if it would be prudent for India to engage its troops in Afghanistan. This question is late by eight years. When 9/11 happened, there was an expectation in India that the US would turn to India for help in cornering all parties responsible for global Islamic terror. Had the US done the right thing at that time, India might have co-operated by allowing for bases and supplies as starters. Troops might have been engaged as well. From Indian perspective, global Islamic terror originates from Pakistan and India has been a victim of it for a long time. Had the US launched a two-pronged attack – one directly targeting Afghanistan and another from the South knocking out Pakistan’s terror infrastructure, by now all elements could have been driven to the center and dismantled. For India, Pakistan would have been cut to size and its fangs removed. So India would have co-operated, considering its own gains. Attacks like Mumbai would never have happened.At this time, it is prudent for India to engage in civilian activities in Afghanistan. A golden opportunity to set things right has been missed. It is too late to think along those lines now. It is better to go forward with the current plans of increasing the military strength in Afghanistan, force Pakistan to dismantle its terror networks, and launch an all out offensive against the Taliban and Al Qaeda until they surrender. This objective is very much achievable. Already an experiment using locals to arm themselves in defending against the Taliban insurgency has been gaining ground in Afghanistan. It is good to engage the local people and thwart any future attempts by these barbarians to regain their power.India has always invested in constructive activities abroad, while it has many needs at home. One needs to do both. It is not a small country and is highly respected and looked up for its stand on many issues by countries in the third world. It cannot confine all constructive activities within its borders.


Keith:@So please try not to group all of the West in the same club. At times, we take offence to it, just like how Indians don’t like to be clubbed in with Pakistanis when it comes to discussions about democracy and such.- Posted by KeithKeith: Please scroll down and read my post again before you type. My comment was in response to Anjum’s commnent on America (US based upon your earlier Reagan comment).He said “American system is set up such that anyone can be a head of state”-AnjumI said “NO, practically speaking Christians only.”Do you disagree?I am aware of Canada’s politics and Indian sikhs in BC like Dosanjh going up the political ladder (i give that as an example to admire the syetem). I know the difference between US and Canada. Not every Indian-sounding poster thinks the way you assume. So pause.

Posted by rajeev | Report as abusive

The best arguement against democracy is what Churchill said ” you just need to speak to a average voter for 5 minutes”.The point still is democracy works compared to any other form of government.A country like USA with unlimited resources,talent & energy has not been able to fix Afghan, so it is foolish to think Indian army could have done any miracles there.I think it is now important for India to look at its own backyard where someone needs to study 1951 demographics to 2001 & understand how everything has been changing dramatically.When you fast forward to 2035 Islamic caliphate looks a very real possibility.For first time history of the world will have a emperor earth.After looking at referendum vote in switzerland i am just reminded of need hiearchy theory of Maslow, whether we have orbited beyond necessity,physical or safety needs in enlightened or poorer society. Or is it possible that these needs have to be legislated for each country going forward.For the moment Keith is right he takes umbrage to head of state position, but i am sure a michael can’t rule Saudi Arabia as much as Hussain ruling canada or Ahmad as Indian Primeminister this is unwritten fact.All these political niceties will be up for real test in next few years.

Posted by Vijay | Report as abusive

Gordon Brown questions Pakistan’s record on fighting terrorismPM asks why no one knows whereabouts of al-Qaida leaders Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri ld/2009/nov/29/gordon-brown-pakistan-ter rorismAt the end of the day, all said and done, every one agrees pakistan’s main industry is sponsoring terrorism.[:D]


Keith,I really don’t know where to start from here after a two day gap. But let me dwell on an older exchange with you on Indian involvement.Firstly I found your opening statement about a sensible post from an Indian very strange, to put it mildly. On reflection I presume it was also due in part to the flak you had been receiving and that the pressure relief valve operated eventually! The fact is I think many Indians are quite disappointed at the progress, if any, that is made on any subject. We seem to be stagnating and goping over the same ground on the same issues.For example, I don’t know how often this question of pressure on Pakistan with the talk of forces on its eastern border. I don’t know how many Indians have repeated the same answer, that it is a matter of India’s security concern that is India’s priority. The US or Pakistan or any other country is equally right in reflecting on its own interests. Yet the same question gets repeated by quoting yet another foreign ‘expert’ or analyst or diplomat etc. But the Indian answer just seems to be overlooked. So how often do we have to say, “Hey we try to learn lessons from history, got our own priorities, we got a war on terror on our hands too, if you can’t help, that’s ok but please don’t hinder.” I do not recall Indian concerns, being discussed at all.Similarly, take this business of Indian consulates. I and a host of others have asked all those who keep talking about the threat of these consulates to at least enumerate the numbers and where they are located and since when. Have you read that question being addressed anywhere? Yet I can lay a bet, wait another a few days, this will come up again.Not being familiar with how things are conducted, I asked as to how your recommendation that India should channel aid through the Afghan Govt. and as to how it is being done at present. Perhaps its a matter of syntax or our own individual ways of expressing ourselves, but my doubts and query still persist.This is not to get personal or rant, but I hope I have been able to convey, at least vaguely, why there is a certain amount of frustration creeping in when people answer the same question without their previous opinions or views even being acknowledged.Anyhow, feel free to chalk this one up as another rant from an Indian, no offense will be taken. :)

Posted by Dara | Report as abusive

Vijay,Allow me to go a step further. Looking at how we are managing certain aspects of it in this part of the world, I don’t think democracy is such a hot idea. Unfortunately it is what we have accepted and we need to work within itslimitations. Sometimes I despair at seeing to what levels our public discourse has reached.I also agree that we should not try to influence outcomes for others. In fact I wish India got off its high chair and stopped talking about Security Council seats etc. we have a long way to go and need to concentrate on ourselves for the next many years first. However, though we shouldn’t try to influence outcomes elsewhere, we need to maintain co-operation internationally, specially in our neighbourhood and increase commerce and co-operation. That is essential for progress to be maintained. It has to be mutually beneficial and a win win situation for all concerned, only then will it succeed. Again I’m being idealistic, but really there is no short cut.

Posted by Dara | Report as abusive

@Prashanth wrote….I don’t know why we do not have more smart people like you in INdia. You are 100% correct. There is something cooking in the south asia policy of west. Out of the blue moon USA is acting good buddy buddy with us. No one asks why? And when SOmeone asks we have no truthful answer. We should be truthful with our future generation. Where was USA before? Why did it not think of us before? We should be careful of what USA wants from us. As you know you do not get something for nothing. I think they want to make INdia the cannon fodder in war with CHina. We were better when we were a mamber of NAM. We should not take sides. That is the best policy to get benefits from both sides. NOw I know there is only one side that is USA but CHina is becoming bigger and powerful.THey have invited our PM to white house and they can not even make his security tight and this SLahdin or something couple went to dinner in white house without security clearance or invitation. If they can not provide security to our PM in white house how can they provide security to our country in front of CHina?USA became Pakistan’s friend some time back. Look where pakis are now?

Posted by Sanjay | Report as abusive

Keith,It is not that I am against democracy. In order for democracy to work effectively, a nation has to reach a certain level of development and maturity. In that regard I’d say the Chinese are ready for democracy. But if they find it comfortable to leave the power at the hands of autocrats and continue with their lives so long as the economy is doing good, then it is their inclination. For Pakistan, I’d say we are not ready for it. That is why corrupt leaders take over as soon as any democratic circus is staged. Just like you mentioned about people preferring a default party when things do not go well, we put our faith in the military. They may not be publicly elected, but we need to get a level of development before we can say we are ready for a democratic exercise. Our fedual system has to be eradicated first. And our country has been busy with conflicts in the region way more than others. So that has to settle down first.My only point was to the Indians about feeling superior with a democracy. As I see it, it is more like a circus than a real democratic process. But that is their choice. In places like Kashmir, and their North Eastern states, military has unlimited powers and has no accountability for its actions. In a true democracy states will not be managed under the gun for so long. The North Eastern states have been kept forcibly under gun point. If these people are true democracy lovers as they project themselves to be, let them hold public referendums in those states and see what their people really choose. I am sure it will not be favorable to them.At least Pakistan is being straight forward. We are not pretending to be something we are not. We have to rely on an institution like the military until we get to that stage of development when we can choose which path we should take. Right now, considering the situation in our country, democracy is not the priority in our minds. We have to let the dust settle down. We want corrupt people like Zardari brought to justice.


On this subject, draw your attention to today’s comment by Gordon Brown on Afghanistan:”And I can also say that over time our objective is to work for and to encourage a new set of relationships between Afghanistan and its neighbours, based on their guarantee of non-interference in Afghanistan’s affairs and on a commitment to fostering not only its long term economic and cultural links with other powers in the region but immediate confidence-building security measures from which all can benefit.”The implication is that involvement in Afghanistan by its neighbours does not have to be zero sum game. In theory it would leave room both for CBMs and for economic benefits for every country in the region.As Nikhil wrote:”Access to energy is the primary benefit for India to have its influence in Afghanistan and beyond. A relatively stable Afghanistan unlocks many opportunities for trade and commerce between India and Central Asia. Energy and economy will continue to be the policy drivers in India’s foreign policy for years or decades to come.”Anyone care to take this forward?

Posted by Myra MacDonald | Report as abusive

Keith,I have been telling you this. We need to confront Pakistan with the truth and NOT acquiesce to Pakistan’s demands or desires. Obmama is putting all means on table to deal with Pakistan (we all know what that means). Even Brown is tightening the screws on Pakistan.=====Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, in Washington for the first official visit of the Obama presidency, signed a joint statement pledging to “enhance” cooperation to root out extremists in Afghanistan.Obama and Singh in their statement voiced “their shared interest in the stability, development and independence of Afghanistan and in the defeat of terrorist safe havens in Pakistan and Afghanistan.”"They’re probably frustrated with the Pakistani complaints as there’s very little to substantiate any of their claims about a nefarious Indian role in Afghanistan,” said Lisa Curtis, a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation.”Clearly, as the joint statement showed, the US and India share the same goals,” she said.Ashley J. Tellis, a South Asia expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said India’s reconstruction efforts fit in neatly with the Obama drive to ensure Afghanistan will no longer be a haven for extremists.”India has a comparative advantage in this area and it provokes the least Pakistani anxiety,” Tellis said.Owing to India’s cheaper labor and proximity to Afghanistan, Tellis estimated that Indian-led reconstruction projects cost up to 10 times less than a Western-driven efforts.But India feels a major stake in the outcome as many of the Islamic extremists who found haven in Afghanistan also virulently oppose the secular but Hindu-majority regional power.Lashkar-e-Taiba, the extremist group India believes carried out the grisly assault a year ago on its commercial hub Mumbai, was created in Afghanistan.”India’s core interest is for the Taliban not to return to power. They fear Afghanistan would then once again provide a haven to anti-Indian groups who before long would find sustenance in Pakistan,” Tellis said.On Afghanistan, Obama finds friend in India p/article/ALeqM5jx1aG0Wp6jpFDmdxWkvhi6ge HhAw

Posted by Soman | Report as abusive

Anyone care to take this forward?- Posted by Myra MacDonaldSome benefits of Af-Pak-India working together and developing the region.But before that can happen, terrorists camps and talibans must go away! Trade, Talk and Terrorists don’t go together!”A route for South Asian peace via Afghanistan”  /South_Asia/KK25Df01.html

Posted by Soman | Report as abusive

Mr. Keith,Let me elaborate on one more point that you have raised and then quit from this topic. I know we are drifting off from the main topic. My apologies to Myra again.You mention about the benefits of dynastic rule as follows:”Dynastic politics are by no means an indicator that democracy is flawed. Every country has its dynasties (the Kennedy’s and Bush’s in the US for example). And younger democracies tend to rely on the founding dynasty for some years when they start out. Had Jinnah survived for a few more years, I am willing to bet that Pakistan would have had it’s own version of Gandhi dynastic politics. “Dynasties like the Kennedy family are very different from those one comes across in third world countries. Typically in a third world country like India, North Korea or Cuba, they will start with a charismatic leader. These leaders will wipe out all opposition as the first task. Any serious contender will be relegated to oblivion. Corruption charges will be brought against such people. Typically in these countries, there will be only one radio channel or TV channel in which people will get to see only the face of these leaders day in and day out. Young children in schools will be brainwashed with the images of these leaders, their sacrifices, their triumphs and so on. Text books will be distorted to highlight the achievements of these leaders. Imagine a country that is mostly illiterate, poor and backward. An image really helps control these people. As the “leader” ages, his or her replacement begins to surface. Until then this “prince” is studying abroad, partying and having fun. One starts seeing the image of this “prince” along with the “father or mother” of the nation. Opposition is reduced to naught and in every election, the “national leader” has a big swing in votes. Election rules are twisted in order to favor the leader. This kind of system breeds sycophants and corrupt people who take over the system and proliferate all over. Corruption becomes the way of life. People become dejected and accept their fate. Some of these leaders will launch their countries into wars with others whenever their ratings go low.In the case of India for example, socialism was touted as the medicine for national welfare and growth. Nehru ruled for 17 years until his death. And people looked at his daughter immediately. All others who filled in the slot were mostly looked at as gap fillers. And Indira Gandhi came to power. I remember reading the slogan “Indira is India and India is Indira.” She plainly declared that corruption is part of life. When she found that she was losing ground, she declared the emergency and put everyone behind the bars. I do not have to elaborate on it further. Indians have mentioned on these blogs that she burnt the country from within. I can quote contributors like Mauryan who have been caustic about her. Her son was no less a tyrant. Both his mother and he engaged in the civil strife in Sri Lanka.In 1991, all these people were dead, falling prey to assassins. That left a power vacuum in the country. If you look at the states, again you will see the same thing at the microcosmic level.India has progressed because of economic reforms and doing away with socialism that was the policy of the Nehru dynasty. Their democracy has not changed much and its loopholes are hidden below this economic progress. Now the new prince and princess are being groomed for continuing the leadership of the nation. This is 60 years after the country was born. When Indira Gandhi was killed, they simply voted her son to power. And he was just an aircraft pilot. After he was killed, his Italian wife who knew no politics got the power baton passed to her. She controls the nation from behind until her children come off age to rule.This is nothing but monarchy in the disguise of democracy. It is the same leaders with an exercise every five years.In the US, the Kennedy’s do not control the national psyche this much. In Cuba you have the Castros.I do not know how Pakistan would have emerged, had Jinnah lived a little longer.India’s monarchy is flourishing. It is really not a democracy in the real sense. They have no term limits for their politicians and some of them have grown filthy rich at the expense of others.Just wanted to clarify. That’s all. I leave the stage for others.


Dara,I am pretty genuine when i do say this,My heart really reaches out when i see the Kids in Afghanistan.It is the most frustrating thing to know when a country has been cursed so badly & every political power through fair or unfair means have exploited for strategic reasons.But at same time we need to realize India complicates Afghanistan than it soothes people up there.Our backyard itself is flush with innumerable headaches,you can’t go & do anything.Long term energy security of India cannot be a reason to be there,since only through Innovation & focussed substitution efforts in energy guzzling industry is way out.This is where you make efforts to invest in right initiative & galvanize public opinion.Now to second point on a form of governance surely something like caliphate sounds absurd to me,this is because you may have one benign emperor who will be good & another who can be a drunkard,so perpetuating a race where one man’s family enjoys the benefits through lineage is not at all good.Secondly a military form which people say can bring discipline,from what i understand it again spells nepotism which will go completely unchecked,they may do public looting,appoint their own henchmen.In democracy the lease of life of a legislator is fixed & when a Multiparty sytem is fixed moods of the public has to be obeyed you may swindle still but the courts or newspapers can expose you,in a military such a thing will invite death sentence or punishment of varied type.Democracy by itself can’t be successful till the institution around it are not strong Police,Judiciary,press or bureacrcy.The gang up of all these institution with Politics is what has made accountability weaker.The longer independant institution,public debates are held in right way the mix & match ultimately will give the right balance.For india this is right thing to do. As to views whether seperating from indian federation can improve a state’s prospect i am pretty doubtful,You need funds to progress which can only come through economic means.Establishing your own setups,foreign missions,cost of governance makes it impossible for smaller states.The romance of new ideas is like the first few days of marriage where excitement wanes down when reality sets in.At the moment personally i think every educated man should promote democracy irrespective of whichever nation he may belong.The thing which is really disappointing & frustrating me is extremism,religious fanatism which is causing unwanted stress.There is a systamatic build up of fear,hatred,supramist tendency which is simply going unchecked.Even if all of humanity follows one particular religion you still can’t overcome prejudice or hatred.A handsome man will not marry someone ugly or vice versa,the difference of language,ancient lineage everything will come into play.It is a ficle minded arguement by every bigot that scriptures came to them by God & forcing it to be followed even unwillingly.This poison spread by every zealots of every religious denomination can only cause harm & no good.The external manifestation of god’s revealation is not looking pretty.The twisted arguement that God saved one person in a group of 100 for a tsunami accident without blaming him for other 99 makes the case for fighting religious tendency idiotic.Once the political aspects of religion is removed then solutions would be feasible for peace,since the excuse for war in every country becomes untenable.

Posted by Vijay | Report as abusive

Dara,No offence taken. I think its important to have frank discussions. I did it when I worked as an analyst and I do it on here.I also think its important to remember that friends can disagree. And it is this point that I think Indian diplomacy still has to grasp.What’s frustrating for Westerners is the fact that while Indians complain about not getting enough recognition from the West or claim that the West betrayed them in the past (ironically Pakistanis make the same claim too), there is very little recognition of the efforts made by the West to engage India in the post-Cold War era. Yet, despite all the strides made, Indians expect the West to completely absorb the Indian viewpoint, and to make it their own overnight. Anything less is viewed as a lack of progress. For example, if our threat perception of Pakistan or China, is anything less than 100% in line with the Indian mindset, then the West is betraying India.There is little room for give and take here. Look at the lambasting I got over the suggestion that India’s acquisition of nuclear capability had shades of an AQ Khan like action. All of a sudden, India is an exception to the rule and the West should just accept it. Never mind that the single action by India shattered nuclear and foreign policy in Canada, for example, led to the formation of the NSG, and lead to a severe global clampdown on nuclear technological development. Yet, somehow in the same breath the claim is made that what’s good for the goose is not good for the gander. So Pakistan’s acquisition of nuclear weapons in light of the perception of the Indian threat is not acceptable (talking getting the bomb here, I recognize the difference of proliferation records).It is these kinds of ‘with us or against us’ mentality and double standards that makes the relationship troublesome.Yes, we recognize that mistakes have been made in the past. But somehow Indians seem to think that Westerners are superhuman and are not allowed to make foreign policy mistakes, and if they do its probably not a mistake but was intentional (a conspiracy theory mindset at times). Case in point, Pakistan. Increasingly, you are seeing a shift in the mindset about Pakistan over here. There is a growing realization that Pakistan has been less than ideally co-operative post 9/11. We realize now that we were a little naive post 9/11 in expecting full Pakistani cooperation. However, action has been hampered by the lack of leverage.This is something Indians can’t seem to understand. The US President is not superhuman and Pakistan is not a US colony he can fix. The yanks cajole the Paks, offer them carrots to try and get them to progress. But at the end of the day there’s only so much they can do. Consider for example, the CIA checking on LeT camps. The argument was made that the CIA’s actions show they don’t care about India because they were only checking for foreigners. Now consider what leverage the Americans have. They can’t order the Paks to close the camps because the Paks would simply ignore the order, hide the camps or threaten non-cooperation with US/NATO forces in Afghanistan. So the best that the CIA can do is get a shot at inspecting the camps and hopefully share that information (which is why developing intelligence sharing mechanisms is vitally important to Indian security). The Paks, of course, will assume the information has been shared, hide the camps, till the CIA finds them and the whole cycle recommences. But again, what leverage do the Yanks have in this case? The best they can do is try and maintain the peace by offering incentives to the Pakistanis, while sharing vital information with India.Some have argued that the US should completely re-align its policy to the Indian viewpoint. One suggestion, few comments back suggested that the US should have used Indian bases to bomb India’s nuclear armed neighbour. Aside from the fact that such a suggestion would probably do more damage to India than anybody else, I fail to see how a re-alignment would necessarily ensure US or Indian interests for that matter. Any full re-alignment would ensure Pakistani non-cooperation, thereby also ending Western access to useful intelligence that India can use. In such a scenario, Pakistan would have also resorted to openly causing havoc in Afghanistan and would have unleashed hell across the LOC. It was for these reasons that it was judged better for both parties to keep their efforts separate. A healthy tension between Western and Indian interests, engenders more Pakistani cooperation than a relationship where the US is seen as an Indian stooge in Pakistan.Anyway to cut my rant short, both sides need to understand where the other is coming from. From our side there are significant efforts being made. Can anybody imagine India being admitted to the NSG with a unanimous vote by every Western nation (including the ones it swiped technology from) just a few years ago? Clearly, we recognize that times have changed, we have changed and so has India. All we ask is for some similar flexibility from India.Tying it to this post, I have suggested that India should make a more concrete effort to annunciate its Afghan policy, avoid attracting too much attention in Afghanistan, and consider growing its relationship there. And though they might sound contradictory, they can be implemented in a synergistic fashion. On a broader note, I’ve suggested that India needs to consider NATO’s interests in Afghanistan as well, since we’re doing the bulk of the fighting and dying over there. From this perspective I’ve suggested that India could help by lowering its visibility (not its efforts or presence). I don’t think any of that is tough or extremely controversial to implement. Nor should any of these suggestions be taken as an affront to Indian dignity.If we’re all on the same team in Afghanistan, then surely we can work together and make accommodations where required. Consider that if the US had wished they could have pressured Afghanistan into minimizing India’s involvement there. However, the West has long recognized that India has interests in Afghanistan and a lot to offer to the stabilization effort. There now needs to be dialogue (although years late) on what that role is and how India is going about fulfilling its on a side note, read the recent rumblings on the new US Pakistan policy which includes specific language requiring action on the Afghan Taliban, the Haqqani network and LeT. Clearly, the Americans are coming around to the Indian viewpoint slowly but surely.

Posted by Keith | Report as abusive

… he was just an aircraft pilot. After he was killed, his Italian wife who knew no politics got the power baton passed to her. She controls the nation from behind until her children come off age to rule.This is nothing but monarchy in the disguise of democracy. It is the same leaders with an exercise every five years.In the US, the Kennedy’s do not control the national psyche this much. In Cuba you have the Castros.I do not know how Pakistan would have emerged, had Jinnah lived a little longer.India’s monarchy is flourishing. It is really not a democracy in the real sense. They have no term limits for their politicians and some of them have grown filthy rich at the expense of others.Just wanted to clarify. That’s all. I leave the stage for others.- Posted by Mohammed AnjumSetting aside the rest of your points which I am sure the Indians on here will respond to, I find this one curious. You’ve made the assertion before that voting for actors or cricketers is indication of an immature democracy.So what’s the qualification to run for the Presidency or Premiership in your view? What should we make of Obama who was a Senator for a mere two years before running for President and was a community activist before that. Should we have a class of people that are groomed to rule? I fail to see how that would be any different than a monarchy.You’ve also made the point repeatedly that Pakistanis prefer military rule. Why then, the agitation during the lawyer’s movement? Were those not Pakistanis on the street?I have heard this view expressed from Pakistani military officers too who routinely say Pakistanis can’t handle democracy. The way I see it, the PA does everything possible to prevent democracy from maturing. Democracies only mature when voters pay for the mistakes of those they elect, learn from them and learn to adjust their choices. The American public got this lesson in spades during the recent Bush presidency. Why won’t the PA allow Pakistanis the same freedom to screw up? What was the need for example for Zia to overthrow Bhutto (given that the East Pakistan was already over at that point)? What was the need for Musharraf to overthrow Sharif? Does the Army really not trust the public to make those decisions? Did the PA really think the public would not have voted out ZA Bhutto at the first chance they got?Yet the Army jumps in before the public ever gets to make the decision, rules through the upswing and then just before everything goes to pot, they hand over a government in impending disaster to a civilian administration. Don’t you find it curious at all that Musharraf gave up so easily right before an impending financial disaster in Pakistan?

Posted by Keith | Report as abusive

Similarly, take this business of Indian consulates. I and a host of others have asked all those who keep talking about the threat of these consulates to at least enumerate the numbers and where they are located and since when. Have you read that question being addressed anywhere? Yet I can lay a bet, wait another a few days, this will come up again.- Posted by DaraOn this point, note that I question any Pakistani who brings this up, including in official circles. Just because Pakistanis don’t answer the question on here, I don’t see how this should be an indictment of a lack of western concern for India and its interests. What are we to do if Pakistanis aren’t up to answering the question? It’s not as though we believe them or take their assertions at face value.This is what I mean, when I say it can be frustrating to deal with India. This dialogue here is a microcosm of the thousands of interactions that happen between our diplomats, intelligence professionals, analysts, military personnel, etc. everyday.

Posted by Keith | Report as abusive

Hello Keith,I know I’d be one of those million Indians who believe there’s a lot we need to do for our country and our top priority is to get our democracy to truly work in all aspects first within our country. Eradicating poverty, educating our citizens, strengthening our democratic institutions are some of the many things that we need to work on.However regarding this topic I for one have never understood why off late, there has been several reports in certain media of the need for India to scale down the visibility of some of the development work its doing in Afghanistan.I feel that is precisely playing into the hands of what the Taliban would want, If anything we need to unite to strengthen the Afghan government, its democratic institutions and help train the Afghan police to eventually be capable of fighting the Taliban.Isn’t it India’s priority to ensure that it has a safe neighborhood in India’s own security interests?Doesn’t a country as vulnerable as Afghanistan need support in strengthening its institutions to fight extremism,especially considering the threat of extremism spreading from its border.I think it’d be more productive for all of us US,India,EU interested in seeing how we can ensure a more secure Afghanistan.I think most of us in India are supportive of US/NATO’s role in Afghanistan.My heart goes out to the many brave soldiers who continue to fight for a better world.Without the allied forces in the region it would only become a place for harboring terrorists.The presence of the allied forces is surely one of the reasons why India is even able to carry some of the development work there. I would go a step ahead to say that our combined goal is to improve development and create a vision for many of the young Afghans for a better tomorrow.It surely will gain more goodwill even with the people of Afghanistan and help them understand why we are there in the first place.As much as I would want India to join these forces militarily in solving the problem I feel such measures will only be counter productive considering the strain in INDO-PAK relations.I believe it can escalate tensions to extreme levels between India and Pakistan if India were to deploy troops in Afghanistan.They are already paranoid about our 5 consulates there, I can only imagine the fear deploying troops can cause.I should again agree that its the trust deficit between the two countries that is a barrier between the people of both India & Pakistan.I hope we can eventually see how education,human rights,eradicating poverty,strengthening democracy, experiencing true potential should be what every individual in these countries should be striving for.I hope voices of RSS and extremist BJP in India can be marginalized similarly I am extremely concerned about the growth of madrassas and religious fundamentalism in Pakistan which many of us view as a grave threat to world peace.Let us not get swayed by voices which have a hidden agenda. Let us unite for a cause that needs all of us to stand together which is a need for a secure future and a slightly better world.Enough is Enough with terrorism anywhere in the world. We all deserve a right to live and not succumb to fear.

Posted by Bijoy Jose | Report as abusive

Keith,Since you came up with more questions, let me try to answer them from my perspective.I never said democracy is bad. It is a good institution. But states have to become ready for democracy to flourish. This means leaders should be held accountable and bad leaders should be rejected repeatedly and good alternatives must come forward to take over and lead. In third world countries like ours, this cycle is not efficient. We get mostly bad leaders who are in general either rich people to start with, or became famous by some means (acting in movies, sportsman etc). These are the people with easy tickets to power. In India you have the ex-kings who still have large following in the regions where their ancestors ruled. And these people keep getting elected no matter what they do. If you throw out a bad one, the replacement is as bad or even worse. Very few are honest and sincere people. Most get filthy rich and start treating their states and constituencies like many African despots do. I read about one low caste leader in the Northern Indian state getting filthy rich and she has used state’s money to build statues for her everywhere.Though you say that these kind of circus acts are part and parcel of a growing democracy, I’d prefer the society to mature to a higher level by education, economy etc and then move into a democractic system. That is what I prefer for Pakistan. I prefer the Chinese model of getting to a better stage and then contemplate on what is good for us. Do not assume that dictatorships will always lead to nepotism and corruption. Nepotism and favoitism can be rampant in democracies too. Look at India as an example.We have had elections in the past and we got no politician who was devoted for nation building. They swindled the coffers right away and built mansions for themselves in UK and elsewhere. We had no other alternatives. And I am not alone in my expectations. Most Pakistanis want to be led by those who are passionately patriotic and will give up their lives for the nation. Who else can do it for us? Every soldier in the military will.Our military personnel also have high expectations of any leader who comes forward to lead the nation. After all they are protecting the country with their lives and it is not worth that life if some politician sits in comfort and swindles the country. That is the perspective of our citizens and our military.We have not had the luck of such a leader emerging yet. But in the meantime, we want to progress economically and expand our national infrastructure towards growth in all aspects. Once we get there, I am sure there will be enough wisdom to choose what suits us.Musharraf was coerced out by the US. The elections held to bring Mr. 10% to power was an eye wash staged by the US. We don’t know what the US was trying to accomplish by it. Musharraf did everything in Pakistan’s interest. He was a complete soldier. With war on terrorism at our door step, things cannot be expected to go better, even under military rule. Look at what the democratic government has achieved. Pakistan has become worse within the last one year ever since Mr. Zaradi and Gilani took over. Only when these American puppets are replaced by worthy leaders can we even consider democracy for us.I have no regrets about military rule in our country. It happened because our nation was pushed to the brink every time and we had to save our nation first. Our military did everything in our interest. I can bet that without our military, Pakistan would have been destroyed long ago by the wolves in the sheep skin that are surrounding us. For now, we need a focused effort to get to a level of stability and prosperity. We do not see any other form of government that will get us to the next level. Hence my faith in our military.


Keith,Pakistan could have evolved into a decent democracy. Because of its geo-political position, it was manipulated by the cold-war equations. I have read somewhere that the CIA staged a coup that brought Ayub Khan to power in 1958. I do not have the reference here with me. Pakistan has never been the same again. Once military is given too much power and pampered with money, weapons etc., they are going to find an enemy and start fighting them. Pakistan has intelligent people. They are no different from the people in India culturally and otherwise. The mindset, outlook etc are very similar. It is unfortunate that their proximity to the cold war battle field never allowed them to experiment with democracy. India was lucky in the sense it had Nehru who stayed in power for a long time and helped set up the infrastructure for democrcy, nation building etc. Pakistan did not have such a leader. Even Jinnah would not have gone along that path. It was easy to stage protests and riots. Administration and governance need true leaders. We saw how Bush ran the American Presidency. All it takes is one bad leader to mess everything up. Pakistan has been unfortunate in this regard. They got too busy with external goals and did not prioritize internal development. Now they seem to have no alternative but their military. If the military is weakened, it will lead to its eventual collapse. The military is the one that is holding the country together currently. It is unfortunate.I’d suggest going easy on Pakistanis right now. They are under tremendous emotional stress and they may not express themselves calmly at this time.


“India’s monarchy is flourishing. It is really not a democracy in the real sense. They have no term limits for their politicians and some of them have grown filthy rich at the expense of others”- Posted by Mohammed AnjumI didn’t know that people get to choose their leaders in a monarchy. It seems, you need a crash course on democracy. India follows the parliamentary democratic system, which is followed by most democracies, including UK & Australia. Under that system, there’s no term limit for Prime Ministers or MP’s. This system is different from the Presidential form of democracy followed by the US, which has a 2 term Presidential limit but no term limits for senators, House Reps, governors or mayors. Pakistan is the only country in the world which seems to be following a bizarre fusion of both Presidential & Parliamentary democracies. No offense, but I think you should stick your expertise on Pakistani democracy instead of enlightening us about Indian democracy & Politics.

Posted by Mortal | Report as abusive

Keith/Mohammed Anjum,Democracies are works in progress and Indian democracy is no exception. India, unlike Pakistan, knew well what it stood for from the beginning. Many here perhaps may not know that Maulana Azad, the Indian Congress President, in April 1946 gave an interview to Lahore based Urdu magazine named ‘Chattan’ – now defunct publisher – and had predicted the possible outcomes of the new state of Pakistan and its impacts on South Asia. Looking back, it is almost freaky to know how accurate his list of predictions related to Pakistan were; such as the loss of East Pakistan, military rule, ethnic conflicts, foreign interventions and tense relations with its neighbors, particularly India.

Posted by Nikhil | Report as abusive

Nikhil,Slightly off topic, but since you mention it, that Maulana Azad interview has been challenged over at Pak Tea House: 009/12/01/the-man-who-forged-an-intervie w-shorish-kashmiris-maulana-azad-hoax/

Posted by Myra MacDonald | Report as abusive

Myra,Sorry, the interview has been published in well known magazines. I’d rather take that as a word than opinions published on blogs such as Pakteahouse.

Posted by Nikhil | Report as abusive

Mohammad Anjum said:> In India you have the ex-kings who still have large following in the regions where their ancestors ruled. And these people keep getting elected no matter what they do. [...] I read about one low caste leader in the Northern Indian state getting filthy rich and she has used state’s money to build statues for her everywhere.There’s a contradiction right there. On the one hand, you say India’s democracy is a sham because the privileged continue to rule unchallenged. Then in almost the same breath, you turn around and point to the example of a lower caste leader who has come to power. Doesn’t this example contradict your own thesis?I liked your previous post where you diagnosed the reason why Pakistan’s democracy has not evolved – feudalism. I also agree with you that the prolonged use of the army by India in its troubled areas is not healthy. But your statement that India pretends to be something it is not, while Pakistan is more honest, is making a virtue of necessity. It’s quite possible that India is not yet a mature democracy, but it must be acknowledged that India is much further ahead than Pakistan. The strength, resilience and responsiveness of Indian democracy have only improved over the years.I also don’t agree with your earlier statement that democracy does not suit South Asia. I think only Pakistan and Nepal have done badly here. India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka have not done as badly. Indeed, no other system of government would work for our countries.I am pretty confident that Pakistan will one day become a mature democracy. There’s no reason for sour grapes just because it is taking time to mature.Regards,Ganesh

Posted by Ganesh Prasad | Report as abusive

ISI, the democracy killer in Pakistan!”Pakistani Journalist Critical of the Military Is Threatened by ISI” rld/asia/01pstan.html

Posted by Soman | Report as abusive

Is there a Democracy in Pakistan ???Look how many years have been ruled by authoritarian Military Dictators here. What a shame!!! Its virtually on the verge of total colapse now.

Posted by Pratt | Report as abusive

M. Anjum,So do you think the Quaid-e-Azam was wrong for setting Pakistan up on the path of democracy?

Posted by Keith | Report as abusive

Mr. Ganesh you write: “There’s a contradiction right there. On the one hand, you say India’s democracy is a sham because the privileged continue to rule unchallenged. Then in almost the same breath, you turn around and point to the example of a lower caste leader who has come to power. Doesn’t this example contradict your own thesis?”I am not contradicting anything here. On one side are the rich class who wield political power because of their money and clout. On the other side are union leaders, communists and caste politicians who act like war lords literally. The politician I mentioned about belongs to the latter category. The bottom line is that neither group really cares for anyone other than themselves and their aggrandizement. In a healthy democracy, accountability is a necessity. I read that many members of Parliament or state legislative assemblies are criminals or have criminal records or criminal cases in process. I wonder how different these people are from Afghanistan’s war lords. These people can take to the guns and militia if they could. I am just making a point. I will not say that your democracy is inferior to our system. Ours is a sham too. I’d say it is much worse.The discussion was about what people from different regions will choose to better their lives. In the case of Pakistan, the military has helped the nation survive. In the case of India, dynastic politics which resembles a monarchy has helped India survive. Bangladesh was under military rule for a long time after Mujib’s assassination. If the economy goes down, none of the systems will work. Sri Lanka was almost on the brink.Our feudal lords and your politicians can sell their mothers if it suits them. In Pakistan, our military has been an honorable institution. We have nothing else to rely on at this time. So we will support our military and its benevolence.


Who cares what system is good so long as economy is good? Look at China. They do not have democracy, but are doing better than Americans now. That is all matters for this land.- Posted by Mohammed AnjumSo why don’t you guys merge with China?That will save us a whole lotta migraine and you guys can save a lotta jet fuel!!!

Posted by Ramin | Report as abusive

Keith:@What’s frustrating for Westerners is the fact that while Indians complain about not getting enough recognition from the West or claim that the West betrayed them in the past (ironically Pakistanis make the same claim too), there is very little recognition of the efforts made by the West to engage India in the post-Cold War era.-KeithKeith: perhaps you have not seen the surveys and have not sensed how much support US enjoys in Indian public.Have a look: y.php?PageID=800There is more anti-Americanism in Europe than in India (though this survey is at Bush’s time). This is due to growing India-US relationship in several sectors. Currently, US perhpas will be #1 on Indians like any country. This is not a small thing and is happening despite any Indian complaint of US–like on terrorism as an example. Indian public and govt go together in this relationship. Look at US-China andUS-Pak relationships—people in both China and Pak do not like US. Indians, however, do not like to agree to each US policy since that is the practical need of India considering several geo-political factors.

Posted by rajeev | Report as abusive

Keith:Corection to my eralier post:”Currently, US perhaps will be #1 in the countries that India likes.”

Posted by rajeev | Report as abusive

M Anjum,I think we are losing sight on what our primary focus here is. Yes, India’s democracy is yet to mature and we as citizens need to go a long way before we can call it a mature democracy, but isn’t it always a continuing process? However I find it hard to understand why any country would want its military to have the final say,I think fear has gripped Pakistan to such an extent that people have lost faith in their democratic institutions.I hope Democracy will flourish in Pakistan primarily because the voices of people in Pakistan will have greater say in which direction their country should head in the 21st century.I understand you are cynical about the same, but democracy needs time and effort by all its citizens for a better nation.One more hope is that the people in Pakistan can stand up against those who always look outside to cover up their shortcomings.Let us also strive at getting our houses in order in the first place. A short cut will not work, it is a gradual process of maturing which starts with a vision, a vision which truly has to be the aspirations of the people of Pakistan for a better country. I think both India and Pakistan have a million reasons to unite in their goals of eradicating poverty, educating its citizens, ensuring human values are held high and also to fight extremism.I believe India actually woke up after 26/11 in many ways. Similarly Pakistan has a need to stand up against extremism. The moderate voices should have a greater say in both our countries.Being fixated on Kashmir does no good either for Pakistan or India. Lets first fight terrorism in every way and also see the million reasons why we should channel our energy for common goals of development.

Posted by Bijoy Jose | Report as abusive

The question is who represents the Military.Is it a fair representation through every province or it will be advantageous for one specific group of people who speaks a specific language.Only those who speak a specific language get the creamy posts since the working relationship is excellent,a perceived notion is there that he will work for a common cause.There will then be disenchantment with others or one can feed their frustration.One can’t say when you live in a multicultural society with different language that head of state should be only from this province.WHat happens when one states sends military personnel another state sends revenues another natural resources who should have a better say.Is there not bound to be exploitation which explains why India before the british was having 100s of kingdoms, You had nizams,mughal,shahi kingdoms or among hindus rajput,maratha,vijaynagar,travencore etc, the dearth for zealots that he is superior to the other has no ending.When brothers from same business family can’t get along despite being so rich i am not very sure whether governance from a particular province will stand durable test of time.A representative government is inclusive across language & socio cultural representation.All infatuations to government besides democracy makes it slightly troublesome since progressive development even if it moves at a slower clip is unsustainable longer term in other forms of government.I would think 20% of elected representatives who are MPs may be corrupt,when you go to state it increases 40%+,when you move to muncipality you have to search who is good since they have just started their career.IT, technology,RTI can curb this gradually.The most important measure i do is asking students in schools how many cheat in their exams,inadverently most do & boast about it.That is where reforms need to start about.Cheating & Illiteracy among parents is directly linked in a major way,Where their parents come from a middle class background the ignominy is very palpable when kids find it disgusting about their parents or vice versa.Kalam pushed that thought in interactions with students.The power of reforming schools & colleges through NGOs should be a good start where deeper values of hardwork,honesty has to be imbibed.If one plots out statistically you will see incidence of corruption is more from people who come out from poorer school system than from middle class kind of backgrounds.Most leaders representing our society are basically school or college drop outs, when there is pilferages in mid day school meal the hope of a finer society is least expectable.

Posted by Vijay | Report as abusive

Vijay,I have absolutely no doubts over your sincerity in what you say and that it is genuinely meant. Unfortunately I see Indian presence in Afghanistan differently. The issue for me is simple, Afghanistan is a country that direly needs all the help it can get, if we can provide some it is worth going there. India and Afghanistan, pre-Taliban regime, had excellent relations and many ties, mainly economic which benefited both. I also don’t think our presense there has anything much to do with our energy security. But I genuinely feel India is doing more good than harm there and helping to improve quality of life there. The work it is involved in is humanitarian not military related in any form.The present hue and cry being made is what I am against, because to my mind it is totally instigated by those who see India as a threat or a permanent rival, no matter what it does, whether in Afghanistan or Timbuktu.As to your views on democracy – Indian style – I am generally of the same opinion as you. We have messed it up. And I really mean ‘we’. Agreed there is an unholy nexus between politicos-babus-criminals etc etc. but how did they get to be so strong? WE let them do this to us, over many years, by simply ignoring things and letting government get away with doing nothing or whatever it wanted. A long time ago, Khushwant Singh, when he was editor of the Illustrated Weekly of India, wrote that the wrong kind of people win elections because the right ones don’t vote. Have things changed even now? Look at Mumbai – a perfect example of just talking and yelling. We have been so laid back that the role of the average Indian or aam aadmi if you will, has been reduced to voting, perhaps, and then the politician or the rest of the democratic machinery has no more use for us. We are slowly realising this and now seem to want everything to get back on the rails yesterday! Its not going to happen, not for many years to come and then too only if all of us get seriously involved.In a way the same applies to the way religion now dominates everything. Arun Shourie wrote something that has stuck in my mind for years. He mentioned that in the 50s people dealt with others as human beings frist and listened to what they had to say and held discussions depending on what that person said. To-day, somehow the people first want to know is your religion or caste or whatever, subsequent responses depend entirely on that. I think it is a very pertinent observation. Again, I think we let ourselves be manipulated to get where we are. Unfortunately, we slept for five decades and now probably have to work for 10 more to get things back on the rails.

Posted by Dara | Report as abusive

Ganesh, Musaafir, Keith,I find your discussions here on democracy and its functioning very infortmative. I would like to join it but for now am simply rushed for time. So please spare me some space in to-morrow’s edition.

Posted by Dara | Report as abusive

Keith,Thanks for your comprehensive reply. I need to keep it short here – I agree that the shadows of the cold war did play a part in shaping attitudes. In one word it was – caution. However, we have all moved. I think most in India, who keep abreast of events in Afghanistan are aware of the problems and the difficult balance that the US and NATO have to maintain while dealing with the two sub-contental neighbours. While one understands them one also sees a tilt at times.For example, you mention here that India and the West agree they are on the same side. Well from my personal view point I have this to say. You may recollect, and this is on Congressional records too in the US – India was amongst the first to offer support to the US within hours of the attack on the twin towers. Who was the amongst the last? Pakistan, as Musharraf admitted on American TV, had to be threatened of being bombed back to the stone age, before it agreed to offer support. Even so, and it is only now becoming apparent to the West, that support was a cat and mouse game. I am not going to elaborate on that aspect except to say that it was an explicit condition that India be kept out.The arm twisting worked because strategically Pakistan was better placed to facilitate US aims in Afghanistan than India – I can see the logic there. However, just because Pakistan feels threatened by Indian presence, even if it involves mere humanitarian work,to hear suggestions of India becoming less visible is a bit difficult to digest. If you attribute troop casualties there to Indian presence in Afghanistan, I don’t follow the reasoning other than the implication that if the Indians weren’t there, the Pakistanis would co-operate and not resort to shadow boxing in Afghanistan.Keith, to my knowledge there are more than 40 countries operating in Afghanistan. To single out only India and question its presence or visibility or interests there as being detrimental to the Western cause, I’m sorry to say somehow just doesn’t wash with me. It is plain and simple playing to the Pakistani gallery. The West has compulsions, India may empathise there but is surely not going to let it be a determining factor of its foreign policy. No country would.Well like I said at the outset, I need to keep it short!

Posted by Dara | Report as abusive

The Night Of Pakistan’s Generals india/articles/20091201.aspx

Posted by Somers | Report as abusive

The Scary Unraveling of Pakistan by Ahmed Rashid”There has been an unrelenting campaign by the military and political parties who are allied to the army to weaken Zardari so irreversibily that he is forced down from office and a new, more pliant president could be appointed who would do the army’s bidding” gs-and-stories/2009-11-30/gunning-for-za rdari/full/

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Mr. Ramin, you write: “So why don’t you guys merge with China?That will save us a whole lotta migraine and you guys can save a lotta jet fuel!!!”This is a useless statement to prolong the argument. In that case may be India should merge with UK. After all both have Parliamentary system and India was a British colony. Just because I am a Pakistani, it does not mean everything I say has to be idiotic. This is the point I am making to the Indian contributors here. Just because you are an Indian and we are Pakistanis, it does not give you a higher pedestal on every view. You can be wrong too.Mr. Keith, you write: “So do you think the Quaid-e-Azam was wrong for setting Pakistan up on the path of democracy?”We do not know what Jinnah would have done. He died within a year of our independence. There was a power vacuum right away. The creation of Pakistan happened too fast and the demands made by Jinnah were not met when partition was made. So he got a moth eaten Pakistan and the first priority was to accept this strange geography. Then was the problem of money and infrastructure. Depending upon the size of a country, different approaches have to be made. Pakistan is a relatively smaller country compared to India. We just did not have our Lee Kuan Yew. Once again, let me state that I am not against democracy. I just do not want it to be a sham. I want our country to get up to a certain level of development before taking up democracy. Otherwise it is like letting children in charge of an abandoned household. They will need to grow while managing the household. Things can go wrong in that condition. New countries need patrons and guides to take them to the level where their people can decide for themselves wisely. And they will feel empowered as a result. That is why my view is that Pakistan is not ready for the democratic experiment yet. The past 60 years have been wasted due to geo-political turmoil in the region. Hopefully, once this war on terrorism is done, we will look at how our future should be. I hope we will get a devoted leader under whom we all can rally and work towards taking the country to a higher stage. I do not see any such leader at present. That is why I am looking up to the next best option. It is not because I believe only in the military. We have no other leadership that we need right now.Mr. Pratt, you write: “Is there a Democracy in Pakistan ??? Look how many years have been ruled by authoritarian Military Dictators here. What a shame!!! Its virtually on the verge of total colapse now.”Small countries have that vulnerability of getting crushed. Our growth got offset by various factors – Our national leader died right after our independence. Our country was lying on the battle trenches of cold war. We were sucked into it. Now we are fighting terrorism. One after another, we have been in a crisis. So our military has been the choice for us to get us out of these difficult situations. There is nothing shameful about being ruled by an elected leader or a dictator so long as there is progress. If you look at countries like India, Singapore etc, though they have a democracy, the countries have been ruled mostly in the form of a quasi-dictatorship. Developing countries do not have the privilege of experimenting. Their growth takes precedence over everything else. Growth brings prosperity and then everyone can choose what they want. Until that happens, it is good to be under the wings of some kind of leadership that is steady and unchanging. In India, Nehru dynasty provided that steadiness. Though elections came and went, this family mostly held on to the power and their personal outlooks shaped the nation’s path. India is doing well not entirely because of these politicians. They opened up their economy and have benefitted from it for the past 20 years. Prior to that, their democracy was still there and never got this much of publicity they are getting now. Everyone loves to be associated with those who make money. So in the case of Pakistan, we need to settle things and start making money. And then no one will complain about what kind of a system we have. At that time we can decide what we want.


Willie Brigitte was trained by Pakistan military”There is an Interpol warrant for his arrest as well as a number of Pakistan military and intelligence officers identified as terrorists” .au/news/willie-brigitte-was-trained-by- pakistan-military/story-e6freuy9-1225805 920213

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The Indian Muslim leader (Maulana Abul Kalam Azad) who foresaw the unraveling of of Pakistan, even before partition in 1946! il_1946_interview_maulana_abul_kalam_aza d_man_who_knew_future.html“I feel that right from its inception, Pakistan will face some very serious problems:1. The incompetent political leadership will pave the way for military dictatorship as it has happened in many Muslim countries.2. The heavy burden of foreign debt.3. Absence of friendly relationship with neighbours and the possibility of armed conflict.4. Internal unrest and regional conflicts.5. The loot of national wealth by the neo-rich and industrialists of Pakistan.6. The apprehension of class war as a result of exploitation by the neo-rich.7. The dissatisfaction and alienation of the youth from religion and the collapse of the theory of Pakistan.8. The conspiracies of the international powers to control Pakistan.In this situation, the stability of Pakistan will be under strain and the Muslim countries will be in no position to provide any worthwhile help. The assistance from other sources will not come without strings and it will force both ideological and territorial compromises.”

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Our country was lying on the battle trenches of cold war. We were sucked into it.. If you look at countries like India, Singapore etc, though they have a democracy, the countries have been ruled mostly in the form of a quasi-dictatorship.- Posted by Mohammed Anjum====Mr.Anjum:Your postings are hilarious and have very good entertainment value. Very nice depiction of victimhood. The only problem is you are rather loose on facts. Starting with Jinnah you have always been desperate to be the ally of US/West.To be precise- you have been beseeching and pleading with them to be their allies in hopes of war mongering, militarism against India.The article here nicely summarizes the US role in S.Asia: 2Where did you learn India has been quasi dictatorship? Jinnah was an undemocratic, authoritarian man. Once he dismissed a minister without talking to the prime minister. His early death has nothing to do with absence of democracy in India.The only person you could accuse of semi-dictatorship in India was Indira Gandhi. Nehru was a true democrat and sought the counsel of his colleagues always. We have several prime ministers since then including Dr.Singh who are truly democratic leaders. Stop spinning yarns of lies and tales here.


Meant to say”His early death has nothing to do with absence of democracy in pakistan”.


Help India? America has already sent every IT job in America to India. There are hundreds of thousands of IT engineers out of work in the states and you say Help India. Not a dime of my taxpayer money, (while I still have a job and pay taxes).

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@Just because I am a Pakistani, it does not mean everything I say has to be idiotic. This is the point I am making to the Indian contributors here. Just because you are an Indian and we are Pakistanis, it does not give you a higher pedestal on every view. You can be wrong too.”–AnjumAnjum: I totally agree with you. Am I the only one who feels that you are talking with cool head now and are able to have some meaningful conversation? Take it as a complement but do not take that I agree with you on your idea of democracy.@I just do not want it to be a sham. I want our country to get up to a certain level of development before taking up democracy.-Anjum–You mentioned it earlier also giving China’s example that they have achieved certain level of development and are candidate for democracy. I totally DISagree. China’s main aim is development by communist party (only by communist party) and democracy means are least 2 parties and China takes special precaution in uprooting any mass movement that remotely resembles a political movement. Chinese history is replete with such examples and I see some Chinese organizations banned with a fear that they have the potential to have political aspirations.Also, democracy will help development while ensuring individual rights and expression.If military rule carries Pakistan on path of development, what is your motivation for adopting democracy? Thus far development and military rule have not gone hand-in-hand in Pakistan. If Pakistan had democracy and military did not interfere, Pakistan would have remained one; division was due to military intervention. Pakistan would not initiate wars if military rule was absent and democracy was in place. The chances of peace will be higher.Lastly, in India it is the democratic system that works not the individual contributions of the leaders. As you noted there are criminal leaders and corrupt leaders in India. But there are lots of positives of the system that introduces checks and balances that puts the country on cruise. Indian leaders have made mistakes but India can bear the consequences of those than living under a military rule. It just does not suit Indian psyche. It is 62 yrs since 1947, Pakistanis and Indians are very different in their expectation of political system.If you ever think of democracy in Pakistan, do not wait for development to happen. Give your leaders 10 election cycles with non-interference of military and you will be see faster development. if Pakistan adopts civilian govt with PA/ISI under its control, Pakistan’s case will be like certain medical treatments that worsen the symptoms of the disease before curing it. But then if you can live with disease why not live with discomfort of the treatment.

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M. Anjum,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 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.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?If I want to develop the economy, I want economists. I don’t want artillery officers developing complex strategic economic plans.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?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?What’s interesting to me too, is that I only seem to hear middle class Pakistanis (the kind who speak english and have visas to the UK, Europe or the US), say that Pakistan is not ready for democracy. Somehow, I doubt the poor downtrodden Pakistani on the street would make that same argument.

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