The Economist, fisked.

620 words in its editorial on Kashmir but not one mention of terrorism

This week’s issue of the Economist has a leader and an article on the India-Pakistan talks and the failure to make any headway on the Kashmir issue. Failure, that it entirely attributes to India’s reluctance to concede anything.

Since the then Indian prime minister offered friendship to Pakistan in April last year, diplomatic relations have been normalised, and planes, trains and buses now shuttle between Delhi and Lahore. There have been military confidence-building measures, cricket matches and a stream of visitors in both directions. In short, there has been progress on almost everything apart from the one thing that really matters. Only Kashmir remains untouched.

This is far from displeasing to India. It is easy to hold out the hand of friendship from a position of superiority, such as that enjoyed by India in the beautiful and strategic Valley of Kashmir. Pakistan, which holds only a fragment of a state that is dominated by Muslims but was ceded to India by its Hindu maharajah in 1947, takes a rather different view of the status quo. So do the Kashmiris themselves. [Economist]

In one sweeping oversimplified assertion, the Economist has decided that all the Kashmiris see the status quo differently. Never mind that Kashmir is only one part of Jammu & Kashmir state, and a majority of the Kashmiris favour remaining in India and turned out in large numbers to vote in the recent elections, in spite of grave threats to their lives. And how can the Economist arrive at that conclusion on behalf of the Kashmiris without considering the opinion of the Kashmiri Pandit community that was driven out of Kashmir by jihadi terrorists?

Perhaps 75,000 of them have died in a 15-year revolt against India’s oppressive rule. But the balance of power is so hugely on India’s side that, if there is to be a peace, most thoughtful observers on both sides accept that it will have to be largely on India’s terms. A group of brave Kashmiris has undertaken to talk to India; and Pakistan, equally hard-headedly, has not repudiated them. [Economist]

Well those 75,000 people died not because of India’s oppressive rule but because of terrorism. This is where the Economist is at its most shameful – avoiding the mention of the role of Pakistan-sponsored jihadi terrorism that is primarily responsible for the bloodshed in Kashmir. Besides it gets its facts on the dialogue between the Indian government and the Hurriyat entirely wrong. Pakistan has consistently undermined the Hurriyat’s talks with the Indian government – first by splitting the separatist conglomerate into moderate and (pro-Pakistan) extremist factions, and then using the jihadi terrorists to circumscribe the moderates.

And India, for reasons that are hard to fathom, seems not to see the danger in allowing the other side to do all the conceding. It has repeatedly failed—and failed again this week—to reward people who are taking dreadful personal risks. There have been no prisoner releases in Kashmir, and the Kashmiri moderates are banned from travelling abroad, which prevents them from talking to Kashmiris on the other side. The famous bus is not running because India insists that passengers must carry passports, which would have the effect of turning the line of control that divides the two Kashmirs into an international border. That is precisely the most toxic issue, and the reason the Pakistani establishment is blocking an agreement.[Economist]

The Economist, for reasons that are hard to fathom, does not see the danger in a secular, democratic nation succumbing to terrorism. Even more fundamentally, the Economist fails to explain why India should make any concessions at all – because like a spoilt child, Pakistan will continue to throw tantrums and go into nuclear convulsions if it is not given its favourite toy?

The Hurriyat leaders, even its so-called ‘moderate’ factions, are hardly moderate in the general sense of the word. Their failure to condemn jihadi terrorism only belies their deeper connections with the jihadi mother-ship. Even without traveling abroad, the Hurriyat leaders have been able to receive orders from their Pakistani puppeteers rather easily. In any case, they find themselves a regular fixture at the Pakistani high commission’s social and political calendar.

If the Pakistani establishment so desired, it could well have allowed the bus service while maintaining that this would be without prejudice to the status of the Line of Control. It is hard to see how mere bus passengers can succeed in defining an international border where full-scale wars (again initiated by Pakistan) have failed.

But it is also why India should show more flexibility. Instead, it is refusing to allow officials of the elected Kashmiri government to take part in the bus talks, even though the bus itself will be their responsibility. If India continues to offer nothing in return, sooner rather than later the Kashmiris will give up on talking. And Pakistan is far too volatile and dangerous a place to be taken for granted either. India needs the moderate Kashmiris and Pakistan’s President Pervez Musharraf to survive. It should be helping them to do so.[Economist]

Under India’s federal system, defence and foreign affairs are handled by the Central government, so it is normal for the Central government officials to handle the talks with Pakistan. And as for those ‘moderate’ Kashmiris (presumably, Hurriyat leaders), India should certainly talk to them as soon as they are moderate, when they bid farewell to an armed struggle. India does not need the Hurriyat to survive, and New Delhi being New Delhi and not Washington DC, can most certainly live quite happily without General Musharraf, thank you very much. If wiser counsel prevails, Washington too would realise that it can live without General Musharraf, if only Pakistan was helped to become a constitutional democracy.

The Economist has completely ignored the failure of General Musharraf to live up to the commitments he made to the world after 9/11, and to Vajpayee during the Islamabad summit in particular. History has shown that there is a link between the institutional interests of the Pakistani Army and its pursuit of an ambitious foreign policy on Kashmir. Unless the General and his army return to the barracks (of which there is no sign), Kashmir will remain on the boil. Time may not be on the negotiators’ side, but only fools rush in…

7 thoughts on “The Economist, fisked.”

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  3. The Economist, I once (wrongly) supposed was the world’s best newspaper. But their Dhimmitude in the face of jihadi reality has totally, totally turned me off.

    Nitin, you should also go and r ead the gratutious, shameless advice these worthies at the Economist have dealt Vladimir Putin of Russia immediately after Beslan. I’m repulsed.

    I believe there may’ve been some recent changes at the Economist’s editorial desk and hence this is being reflected in their policy [prescriptions as well.

    Too bad, most of the anti-jihadi sane world will now have to lump this venerable institution alongwith the likes of the New York times and CBS news…

  4. I don’t have a high opinion about the Economist and have never understood why people rated it so highly. For certain sections of the pro-market professional middle classes it has an allure due to its neo-liberal economic ideology; but after having seen repeated years of it proffering disastrous advice to African countries on Structural Adjustment and macro-economic policies, I am sceptical of its analytic power.

    620 words in its editorial on Kashmir but not one mention of terrorism

    Yes, I think you make an excellent point here. For most Western audiences (which would be main target of the editorials, I assume) the story bascially conveys the impression that there is no terrorism in the state or a low-intensity COIN war going on and seems to see everything through the prism of Indo-Pak relations. This is a serious lapse, and I don’t think it is accidental but reflective of priorities; for the Western so-called WoT, I just don’t think Pakistani CBT registers as something on an equivalent scale to terrorism directed towards Western targets; in fact it clearly isn’t seen as a major part of the problem at all. Which is rather foolish, since the extremist-Islamists, try and tap into the feeling that the ‘Islamic’ world is veing victimised and Muslims ‘oppressed’ in Palestine and Chechnya and Kashmir. The prevention and cessation of support to terrorist organisations in all three theatres is inter-linked and at a political level should be carried out; in the West the empahsis is understandably on the former, which leads to the neglect of the other two areas. Regrettable in that this is going to be exploited by opportunist Islamists for their own purposes.

    And how can the Economist arrive at that conclusion on behalf of the Kashmiris without considering the opinion of the Kashmiri Pandit community that was driven out of Kashmir by jihadi terrorists?

    Slight disagreement here, this was indeed an episode of forced flight but it was carried out by the pro-independence separatists not primarily by the jihadists; who weren’t a major element of the insurgency at this time. More damningly, evidence points towards the fact that this was done with the connivance or benign neglect of the Central govt at the time.

    Well those 75,000 people died not because of India’s oppressive rule but because of terrorism. This is where the Economist is at its most shameful – avoiding the mention of the role of Pakistan-sponsored jihadi terrorism that is primarily responsible for the bloodshed in Kashmir.

    I am unsure where the Economist got the 75,000 figure from, it sounds quite high. It needs to be broken up as the majority of killings are by militants of civilians; the actual casualties suffered by comabatants is quite low. The article is also egregrious in that it fails to account for the timing of the rise of separatism – one is left in the dark as to why Indian rule was deemed non-oppressive for the first 30 plus years only for violence to erupt later on. Obviously other developments must have happened in the interim to change things; the 1965 war showed clearly where the sympathies of the Kashmiri population lay when the anticipated uprising expected by Pakistan failed to materialised, dooming Operation Gibraltar. It is worth noting that the rise in movement of regular forces in both 1965 and 1999 were detected and reported by Kashmiri civilians, pastoralists and farmers along the border, to the Indian authorities; without this kind of co-operation on the ground, events would have taken a different turn. However, this also means that Pakistani based CBT can’t be held to account here for the primary rise in violence; Pakistani regimes have always tried this trick from the 1960s onwards. One needs to ask, what changed by the late 1980s that made this successful, whereas it didn’t work before?

    Even more fundamentally, the Economist fails to explain why India should make any concessions at all – because like a spoilt child, Pakistan will continue to throw tantrums and go into nuclear convulsions if it is not given its favourite toy?

    I am not, and no sane person would object to making concessions – but the point is that there needs to be some decent quid pro quo. I thought the NDA policy was incompetent and Vajpayee seemed to be having some delusions of grandeur, in making overtures for peace, that simply weren’t going to be taken seriously by the other side. How can they be, Mush, can’t pull off his balancing trick between competing interests of the hardliners in the military and the Islamists while doing anything serious about peace in Kashmir. Unilateral concessions, left us with egg on our faces not once or twice but three times, as the failed Lahore bus trip was repayed by Kargil, the Agra summit and the attack on the Parliament and the non-compliance of ceasefires within J&K itself helped nobody but the fedayeen units.

    If wiser counsel prevails, Washington too would realise that it can live without General Musharraf, if only Pakistan was helped to become a constitutional democracy.

    Frankly, I doubt this. In client states that are combustible and unreliable politically, the US has always preferred military rulers to democratic; simply because the latter are easier to pressurise and more predicatable in their aims. A democratic govt would actually have to listen to its population and refuse to co-operate when some measures arouse strong domestic opposition, as Turkey’s AKP govt did in refusing the use of bases to invade northern Iraq last year. Autocratic regimes are more dependable in this regard and as one sarcastic Pakistani writer said, his country remains a ‘one-phone call state’ whereby a single call from the White House can change national policy.

    The Economist has completely ignored the failure of General Musharraf to live up to the commitments he made to the world after 9/11, and to Vajpayee during the Islamabad summit in particular. History has shown that there is a link between the institutional interests of the Pakistani Army and its pursuit of an ambitious foreign policy on Kashmir. Unless the General and his army return to the barracks (of which there is no sign), Kashmir will remain on the boil.

    Well, as you say, history should have told us that Mush’s behaviour wouldn’t have changed, 9-11 or no 9-11. We shouldn’t have expected anything else or new. I agree with you though, that the prospects look grim as long as the current political situation in Pakistan continues; the bitter irony is that until there is a movement towards a stable democracy, someone like Mush is the best bet as our worst nightmare would be the Talibanisation or break-up of Pakistan.

  5. Mr. Barwa:

    On the ethnic cleansing of my community you are right that “…this was indeed an episode of forced flight but it was carried out by the pro-independence separatists not primarily by the jihadists….” That, however, begs the question of the usefulness of such a distinction. I think that it shows the constitutively communal nature of Kashmiri Muslim secessionism.

    However you are mistaken in claiming that our ethnic cleansing was abetted by the “…. connivance or benign neglect of the Central govt at the time.” That disjunctive phrase of yours, ‘connivance or benign [you meant malign, I’m sure] neglect’, covers a huge moral ground.

    Connivance is not quite the same as malign neglect. The two are quite different. Moreover, the moral blame which attaches to the Indian govt. is quite different in the two cases. Which do you think is the case, Mr. Barwa?

    It is, of course, a commonplace of secessionist apologetics–and, no, I don’t count you one such–that our ethnic cleansing was the doing of Jagmohan, the ctrl govt. etc. But I think it, well, absurd, to argue that the ctrl. govt. was morally blameworthy for what happened to my community.

    The reason is quite simple, really. Given the sec’y situation at that time, there isn’t much the GOI could have done to convince most KP’s to remain in J&K. I look forward to your reply.

    Kumar

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