The Gray Lady is losing it

It’s getting smelly

Here, according to the editorial board of the New York Times, is why India should be denied the benefits of international co-operation in the area of nuclear technology — because, essentially, Iran and Pakistan have been rather bad boys. It has already devoted much space to carry forward its fallacious argument that it is only due to this deal that the world will find it hard to convince North Korea and Iran to give up their nuclear weapons programmes. For a newspaper that has devoted much space to expose Gen Musharraf’s duplicity on everything from the hunt for bin Laden, to his treatment of rape-victims, it now argues that regardless of all his failings the United States must sacrifice the benefits of a closer relationship with India just to keep him in good humour.

But sticking Mr. Musharraf with the unwelcome task of explaining to Pakistanis why his friend and ally, Mr. Bush, had granted favorable nuclear terms to Pakistan’s archrival, India, while withholding them from Pakistan left him less likely to do Washington any special, and politically unpopular, favors on the terrorism front. [NYT]

The New York Times entirely ignores the fact that Musharraf finds himself on the wrong side of public opinion in Pakistan today because of his own failings. If he had only been honest with the Pakistani people he would not have have been in this situation. Does the New York Times seriously think that after such a long record of unkept promises and broken commitments further rewards will create fresh incentives for him to shape up?

Many Americans are genuinely concerned about the repurcussions the exception for India will have for global nuclear non-proliferation. It is possible to respect them while disagreeing with them. Their concerns must be addressed by the supporters of the deal. And then there are others who see nothing wrong in appeasing dictators and rewarding bad behaviour while ascribing to themselves a divine right to determine whether and how many nuclear weapons India should have. Like the Gray Lady’s recent condescending reference to the use of air-conditioners in middle class Indian homes, this one too is below contempt.

Update: Pragmatic over at Secular-Right India posts an excellent parody

19 thoughts on “The Gray Lady is losing it”

  1. Good one Nitin. Another blatant ==/== attempt by the Atlanticist mouthpiece. The NYT does say anything about Musharraf using helicopter gunships against his own people (Balochistan, now in Wazristan) – this will find no favor amongst Pashtun tribes whose help is key to Musharraf. Like you point you, it also does’nt say anything about Kalabagh Dam, the Uniform issue, tricking elections, etc.

  2. What I’m wondering, and what I have to see explained anywhere, is why exactly we’re currying favor with India right now when Pakistan is our supposed “ally” in the “war on terror.” What are we getting out of this?

  3. You’re not still beating on the story about A/Cs ? That editorial was more about wasteful uses of oil in INdia and it was said that A/Cs in high celinged rooms were wasteful. That happens to be true.

    Besides, 95%, probably 99% of India’s population manages without ACs. The notion that ACs are somehow a necessity is stupid.

  4. AC are necessary for any good computer operation.
    Also as a status symbol. If you want India to adopt
    efficiency and conservation than write a letter to
    President Kalam. Asking for replacement of incandescent bulb
    with compact fluorescent, cfc-free refrigerators, strategic
    petroleum reserve, rain water harvesting, replenishing of underground
    aquifers, and lots more.

  5. It’s interesting to contrast the New York Times’ editorial on the nuclear deal with the Washington Post’s. The Post, another left-of-center publication, clearly has some reservations about the deal. But in voicing them, it showed an intellectual seriousness and willingness to weigh the pros and cons of the arrangement that the Times thoroughly lacked. As usual, one paper cared to give a complex foreign policy issue the gravitas it deserved (disagree though you might with some details of its arguments), while the other cared more about scoring cheap brownie points with its limousine liberal reader base.

  6. That editorial was more about wasteful uses of oil in India and it was said that A/Cs in high celinged rooms were wasteful. That happens to be true.

    That might be true, but it’s true for every country. To use that line as part of an argument against a deal whose proponents believe will allow a developing nation to address its future energy needs, which go well beyond air conditioning, and to have it written by a newspaper in a developed nation where air conditioning in both homes and cars is taken for granted, is a complete exercise in cynicism.


  7. To use that line as part of an argument against a deal whose proponents believe will allow a developing nation to address its future energy needs, which go well beyond air conditioning, and to have it written by a newspaper in a developed nation where air conditioning in both homes and cars is taken for granted, is a complete exercise in cynicism.

    Maybe so. Overall though, I think India could save far more power if some of the power theft were eliminated. In any case, its pretty hypocriticial of Nitin to accuse the NYTimes of elitism for that, when the fact is that 95% of Indians make do without air conditioning at home. We didnt have it in my home when I was growing up.

    And of course The New York Times is right and Nitin is completely wrong in his assessment of how US-Pakistan ties might be negatively impacted. One coudl argue that this is well deserved, that pakistan is an unstable military regime, that this is outweighed by good relations with India etc. One cannot make the bizarre argument that Nitin does with a straight face.

    From the Indian perspective, the deal seems to have worked out nicely. From the American perspective, its not clear what the deal gave to the US (unless there are hidden codicils) except warmer relations with the US. It is perfectly legitimate for the NYTimes to wonder about that, even if I disagree with them.

  8. Ved,

    The point is not about airconditioning. It is the expression of an attitude, from a newspaper of record, that is quite brazenly condescending and colonial. Its reference to air-conditioning is a manifestation of this attitude.

    But what is your argument? That homes (and countries) with air-conditioners (and high cielings) consume more power than ones that don’t? Who will disagree with that? You contend that only 5% of Indian homes have air-conditioning, therefore it is an elitist argument. Remember they said that about mobile phones at one time. I believe that there is nothing special about air-conditioners. More Indians should be able to afford to have them installed, and enjoy a comfortable living environment. And if the NYT has problems with that then I have a problem with the NYT. There is nothing elitist about an argument that calls for the benefits of modern technology to be available to all. On the contrary, it is an elitist argument to suggest that since 99% of Indian homes don’t have airconditioners anyway they might as well go on without them.

    But what is your argument? That Musharraf will be disappointed at not being treated on par with India? Who will disagree with that? But does he deserve better? I think not. And that’s the point. That’s hardly bizarre. In a way, the NYT’s desire to appease Musharraf is not bizarre either. As is often observed in the psychology of gamblers, ponzi schemes and failed investments, there is a desire to pour good money after bad in the hope that luck will turn.

    The NYT belittles the value of ‘warmer relations’ between India and the United States. Just look at the Pew poll. You would no doubt have realised that the NYT editorial was not so much about asking what the US got in return but criticising the US for making a deal with India at the risk of angering Pakistan and creating loopholes for Iran.

  9. In any case, its pretty hypocriticial of Nitin to accuse the NYTimes of elitism for that, when the fact is that 95% of Indians make do without air conditioning at home.

    I don’t mean to speak for anyone else here, but I don’t see what’s hypocritical in that. Unless you’re suggesting that a person can’t accuse a third-party of elitism if they happen to enjoy an amenity that a third-party that also enjoys it doesn’t mind denying it to others who don’t presently have it. If I accuse someone of elitism for wanting to deny the 95% of Indians who don’t have a cell phone the right to own one, it’s not hypocritical of me to do so just because I own one myself.

    And of course The New York Times is right and Nitin is completely wrong in his assessment of how US-Pakistan ties might be negatively impacted.

    It’s hard to say. I think it’s easy for anyone to see the differences between the two countries in this matter, both strategically and in terms of their non-proliferation track records. And I don’t think Musharraf is keen on alienating the White House at this point in time. I think the greater risk isn’t one of Pakistan providing less support to the US on anti-terrorism matters, but of Pakistan collaboarating more with China to further its nuclear ambitions (and China being more willing to help).

    From the American perspective, its not clear what the deal gave to the US (unless there are hidden codicils) except warmer relations with the US.

    In addition to warmer relations, it gives the US a chance to sell nuclear reactors, equipment, and fuel to India – and given the quid pro quo involved in these kinds of deals, you have to figure that some of India’s contracts will be handed out to American companies. And over the long run, it also might help curb India’s growing demand for oil, and thereby cut global oil prices by a few dollars per barrel or more (for a country that presently consumes about 7.5 billion barrels/year, that can amount to a lot of money over time).


  10. More Indians should be able to afford to have them installed, and enjoy a comfortable living environment. And if the NYT has problems with that then I have a problem with the NYT.

    I can’t speak for the NYT, but the article that you referred to did not at any point express the idea that Indians should not use ACs, or not use energy. It simply that there was considerable wasteful energy use in India. In fact, one of the main points it made was about the wasteful energy use where we had massive traffic jams and congestion at airports. That is hardly the point that an elitist who is opposed to development would make. [ It need hardly be added that for people in India who can’t afford A/Cs, power is probably the least consideration anyway (power can be stolen in any case :-), cost of the AC is the main consideration]

    The elitism was in your invitation to the editor to spend a summer without air conditioing in India, as if it was something unthinkable, whereas of course its something the vast majority of Indians put up with.

    The NYT also had an excellent series of articles in the last month or so about the golden quadrilateral development. That was the news section. Harly anti-development.


    That Musharraf will be disappointed at not being treated on par with India? Who will disagree with that? But does he deserve better? I think not. And that’s the point. That’s hardly bizarre. In a way, the NYT’s desire to appease Musharraf is not bizarre either. As is often observed in the psychology of gamblers, ponzi schemes and failed investments, there is a desire to pour good money after bad in the hope that luck will turn.

    The bizarre part is your claim that


    The New York Times entirely ignores the fact that Musharraf finds himself on the wrong side of public opinion in Pakistan today because of his own failings. If he had only been honest with the Pakistani people he would not have have been in this situation.

    Probably the major reason that Mushrraf is on the wrong side of public opinion is that he’s more pro-US than the general populace and that he’s willing to wink, wink, nudge, nudge tolerate US strikes like the one 2 weeks back. . The fact that he hasn’t relinquished power has NOT made that much difference to Pakistani public opinion, which has tolerated military dictators from Ayub Khan to Yahya Khan to Zia Ul Haq.

    The only reason the US spends any time with Musharaff is because he is perceived (rightly or not ) to hold back an Islamist government that would be even more anti-US. And from the US perspective, Musharaff has been better than no Musharaff or an openly pro-Taliban government. Is it gambler’s ruin ? No, its the result of not having any obvious better choices. We know that democratically elected Pakistanis (remember Bhutto) have been as anti-Indian as generals. Remember Bhutto’s promise to eat grass rather than let India alone develop nukes.

    You seem to have this bizarre idea that if Musharraf were replaced tomorrow by a democratic leader, that would be it — everything would be just great. Not at all — any democratic Pakistani leader would still share practically the same compulsions and would probably not have a foreign policy that is any different.

    Is it legitmate for the US to be concerned about Muharraf’s position ? Absolutely, at least until Afghanistan is totally stablized.

    And incidentally, the New York Times has also opposed some US nuclear development like the bunker-buster nukes. So if the NYT is being neo-colonial, its applying that to the US as well.

  11. Ved,

    Beside defending NYT, do you want the nuclear deal. and do you think
    that India will use it to build more nuclear bombs. If you don’t think India can be trusted, please exactly what your plan is for global warming, energy crunch. conservation is not enough and so are renewables. whether 95% don’t have something is quite ridiculous. it is whether they deserve it or not. US uses 30% of world’s energy with 5% of population. Tell us what you have done to save energy.

  12. Atanu Dey sent me a link to this column in the Washington Post. Here’s an extract:

    This elemental principle of life, love and other matters seems utterly lost on so many critics of George Bush’s agreement to provide India with civilian nuclear technology. In doing so, we are told, he has done something truly awful — established a double standard. Well, duh — yes. India is our friend and Iran, just to pick an example, is not.

    India has transferred its nuclear technology to no one. Pakistan has. No one worries about India or Israel making the technology available to terrorists. Everyone worries about Iran doing that. These are distinctions with great differences. They are, as critics charge, double standards, but to apply a single standard to both friend and enemy, while it might be fair, would be singularly stupid.[WP]


  13. Beside defending NYT, do you want the nuclear deal. and do you think that India will use it to build more nuclear bombs.

    Yes, I do want the nuclear deal, and yes, I do think that India will use it to build more nuclear bombs, and I fully support that.

  14. The only reason the US spends any time with Musharaff is because he is perceived (rightly or not ) to hold back an Islamist government that would be even more anti-US.

    Not quite. The US does fear a more Islamist government taking power, but even the prospect of Musharraf remaining in power but providing little or no support to the US is disturbing enough. Being the world’s only Islamic nuclear power, having a population of over 150 million people, and possessing a long border with Afghanistan that’s been hard to police even in the best of circumstances, as well as equally hard-to-police tribal regions that probably contain a number of key Al-Qaeda figures, the US has decided that it has no choice but to try to stay on friendly terms with Pakistan, regardless of which strongman is in charge. Only the emergence of a full-blown Islamist regime would change this calculus.

    Not at all — any democratic Pakistani leader would still share practically the same compulsions and would probably not have a foreign policy that is any different.

    India and Pakistan would still see each other as rivals, no doubt about that. And there would still probably be a large number of Pakistani troops near the Indian border. But if the emergence of a Pakistani democracy was accompanied by the Army being put in its place (I’m not holding my breath here), it could lead to a thawing of relations to a degree, and perhaps even a resolution of the Kashmir dispute. It seems to me that while part of the reason for the political tension between the two countries is ideological, part of it is also the result of the Pakistani Army needing to keep relations between the two countries frosty in order to justify its overbearing influence on Pakistani political life.

  15. Nitin and Cynical Nerd:

    Take a look at today’s editorial in the NYT: “Fac[e] the Facts on Iran”, writes the NYT. Apparently, the NYT thinks doing so for Iran is quite commendable, but such pragmatism deserts it in India’s case.

    An amazing exercise in cognitive dissonance–the editorial argues in favor of a plan that has the potential to increase Iranian bomb-making capability. At the same time, it once again chastises the Bush administration for the nuclear energy deal with India; a deal which doesn’t qualitatively change the nuclear balance of power on the subcontinent!

    For India, only a stern adherence to ‘principle’ will do. Otherwise, you see, America won’t be able to hold a ‘principled’ line against Iran and North Korea. Oh wait, strike Iran from that list: Really, North Korea is the real reason the nuclear-energy deal with India is a bad idea.

    It is astonishing that the NYT is relatively sanuguine about an NPT-signatory country that’s subverted the treaty at every turn, while screaming at the top of its lungs about a non-signatory country like India.

    Regards,
    Kumar

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