Guest Post – Vijay Dandapani on the CFR task force report

(The Council on Foreign Relations and Asia Society set up a high-level task force to study US relations with India and Pakistan, which submitted its report last year. Vijay Dandapani attended a recent meeting of the council and shares his opinion on the report and the proceedings. The transcript of the session including Vijay’s question are available here on CFR’s website.)

The task force report as you must have read was years in the making and, in my opinion, does go some distance in influencing thinking in the current administration given Wisner’s real job. Nevertheless, their broad goals, in my opinion, suffer from two long standing fallacies – that India and Pakistan always need to be considered together when addressing security issues in the sub-continent and that Pakistan as a nation-state needs to be kept intact in its present form.

The first was evident in the question that I asked which Kux basically dodged in his response about the need to find something that fits today’s reality. It is still not clear to me how nuclear proliferation can be curtailed by including India into an updated world system. Assuming both countries were signatories to some new construct, would that have stopped Pakistan (or the implausible rogue scientist) from exporting their wares illegally? Nor would it stop them illegally augmenting their stockpile to keep up their 55 plus year game of one-upmanship on India.

The second point needs no elaboration for Indians but it appears not to be self evident to the west even though they have discovered in the aftermath of the current war that Pathans view themselves as Pathans first and nationals of whichever country next. Nor do they draw any inferences from the fact that loads of ordinary Pakistanis try almost anything to view Indian movies in violation of their censors – despite several decades of a Berlin wall, the endurance of common cultural interests points to the absurdity of the artificial divide.

Another problem, that I am not sure has an immediately apparent solution is that they, like many other non-governmental initiatives, end up drawing conclusions by meeting with the elite of the countries they visit. For instance, the task force moved around with ex-special forces protection around very limited areas of Kabul with a pre-selected list of leaders and warlords. I suppose in Pakistan in particular it is the feudal elite and the military that determines most if not all policy decisions, so one risks coming away with at least some of those limited perspectives filtered into their analysis. I also think the task force misses one of the compelling reasons for Pakistan’s support of the current peace initiatives – the widening economic gap between the two countries. Pakistan has quite obviously missed the globalization train and despite the arguably false notion that India and Pakistan are equally weighed down by the border dispute, economic liberalisation will before long leave the latter significantly behind. Lastly, two (and perhaps three) near miss meetings with his maker must certainly have concentrated Musharraf’s mind.

One thought on “Guest Post – Vijay Dandapani on the CFR task force report”

  1. The American penchant for treating India’s and Pakistan’s nuclear weapons programs as (morally) equivalent is obviously self-serving. And it has the added disadvantage of being false.

    Pakistan is, after all, an anti-status quo nation. As such, the acquistion of nuclear weapons serves its strategic interests. The nullification of India’s conventional weapons superiority allowed them to pursue terrorism without fear of Indian retaliation, in an attempt to alter the territorial status quo.

    Unless India unilaterally disarms (i.e., if Arundhati Roy becomes PM), Pakistan will resort to any means–legal or illegal–to maintain parity with India.

    But I doubt the eminent members of the CFR will be persuaded by this analysis. Musharraf is their man, and they appear to believe that wishes are indeed horses.

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