The Reagan Parallel

Bring the wall closer

The Economist‘s eulogy on the death of Ronald Reagan reveals some very striking parallels between the cold war and the India-Pakistan standoff.

The cold war, it seemed, might roll on forever.

Reagan would have none of this. From the moment he took office, he made it clear what he believed: that America stood for a good idea, the Soviet Union for a bad one; that the notion of a balance of power between them—“mutually assured destruction”—was thus morally wrong; and that the Russians’ bulging military muscle had no real economic power behind it. Therefore he decided to pour money into America’s armed forces, and (pace the Greenham Common ladies) put medium-range nuclear missiles into Europe; that way, Europe’s defence would not need an American intercontinental strike. If a rearmed America stood nose-to-nose with its adversary, and firmly but politely refused to budge, he reckoned it would win the day. He was right. By the year Reagan left the White House, the Russians had lost eastern Europe; by the next year, they had abandoned communism. [The Economist]

The idea of a secular, liberal, democratic India is a good one; the idea of a religiously extremist, repressive military dictatorship is a bad one. The notion of India succumbing to Pakistan’s nuclear blackmail over Kashmir and elsewhere is morally wrong. Pakistan’s nuclear or conventional military power has no economic power behind it. Therefore it is unacceptable to conclude that peace with Pakistan is a pre-requisite for India’s economic development. The converse is true. Just as Reagan jacked up defence expenditure to bring the Soviet economy to heel, so can India jack up economic reform to leave its neighbour far behind. That suggests that like Reagan, India should stand nose-to-nose with Pakistan, and firmly but politely refuse to budge.

Nor should Reagan’s admirers claim that without him the collapse of communism would never have happened. It would have collapsed anyway, in the end. A system which believes that a small group of self-selected possessors of the truth knows how to run everything is sooner or later going to run into the wall. But Reagan brought the wall closer. He got the American economy growing again (admittedly at a price), which made more Russians realise their own system’s incompetence; he could therefore spend far more money on America’s military power; and he put those new missiles into Europe. The result: maybe 20 years less of Marxist-Leninist ideological arrogance, and of the cold war’s dangers. [The Economist]

No real peace with Pakistan is possible as long as the country remains under the yoke of its own army. The army’s core interests are inimical to peace. Yet, like the Soviet leadership, Pakistan’s military junta will eventually run into a wall. It almost had by 2001, when only Musharraf’s post-9/11 U-turn rescued its economy from sure bankruptcy. Since then, unfortunately, actions of both India and America have brought Pakistan out of the international dog-house and served to entrench Musharraf and his men in khaki. To bring the wall closer, India (and America) must aim to permanently end the Pakistani army’s hold on power.

3 thoughts on “The Reagan Parallel”

  1. Good points. Let us hope the present government heeds your advice, but I doubt given their unrealistic foreign policy and economic agendas.

  2. great piece of writing there. Couldn’t have said it better. I’ve had similar thoughts and its indeed gratifying to see the same in words.

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