The Economist trips up

The Raj thinking revived?

In its leader on the Manmohan Singh’s ascent to prime-ministership The Economist makes two glaring faux pas. That Pakistan must be given a few concessions for the peace process to continue, and that Manmohan Singh’s non-Hinduness will somehow make him more amenable to making peace with Pakistan. Coming from a magazine as knowledgeable and insightful as The Economist these views are surprisingly naive.

…there is reason to fear that another casualty of the election may well be the welcome détente with Pakistan that Mr Vajpayee engineered. If it is to last beyond August, when the two countries’ foreign ministers are to meet, and when the status of Kashmir will need to be discussed, Pakistan needs to be given a few concessions. But if hard-liners are ascendant in the BJP it may be difficult for a minority Congress government to grant them. On the other hand, Mr Singh is a Sikh, and Sikhs occupy a special position in the subcontinent, because their religion draws on both Islam and Hinduism. That might just qualify him to make a historic breakthrough [The Economist]

Whether Pakistan needs to be given any concessions depends on what concessions it is willing to make. There is no case for India to make unilateral concessions even as the myth of Pakistan dismantling its terrorist infrastructure is exposed.

The Economist seems to think that the India-Pakistan issue is an Hindu vs Muslim problem. That view is as oversimplified as it is incorrect. Both I K Gujral and Atal Bihari Vajpayee were Hindus. Yet these gentlemen went out of their way to make peace with Pakistan. The desire for peaceful relations with Pakistan cuts across religions and parties, as shown by new government’s commitment to continue the dialogue with Pakistan. But it is an insult to the Sikh community in general and Dr Manmohan Singh in particular to suggest that his religion will somehow cause him give away India’s family silver.

One thought on “The Economist trips up”

  1. Hmmm…

    This does seem to be a recurring theme on the part of many Western analysts. I don’t have access to this mag., so what sort of concessions do they have in mind ? Given the plural usage, I don’t suppose they mean giving Pakistan the Valley, at least not yet!

    In any case, this is a shallow analysis, borne of wishful, magical thinking on the Economist’s part. Note that many (including the Economist itself, if I’m not mistaken) used to argue that the “Hindu nationalist BJP” was uniquely placed to give away Kashmir. Now Dr. Singh replaces the BJP as being uniquely placed!

    The analysis of Sikhs/Sikhism on which it’s based is fallacious, as you suggest. But even were it on-track, Dr. Singh simply doesn’t have the political power within the Congress party to swing such a deal, let alone within the Indian parliament. Western analysts constantly forget that India is a democracy and any major change in Indian territory or sovereignity will require the assent of both the Congress and the BJP.

    The pressure for ‘concessions’ for the sake of peace/continuing talks is a subtle form of blackmail that will be applied to India. It’s one of the dangers of entering into talks with Pakistan, but one which India will resist successfully: Not so much because of any sterling qualities of India’s politicians but because of the structural impediments present in Indian democracy, with no single party or faction having a 2/3’s majority.

    Kumar

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