Of misinformed scepticism about Pakistan

Where’s the context, James?

Indicast’s Abhishek Kumar interviews James Astill, The Economist’s South Asia bureau chief (via Patrix):

(Astill) feels that an average Pakistani citizen is more aware of his Indian counterpart than vice versa. His experience with the two countries tells him that there is a huge amount of misinformed scepticism among the Indians about Pakistan. [Indicast]

Now let’s see why Indians tend to be sceptical about Pakistan? Hmm…how about those terrorists that are trained and sent across from Pakistan? Or…how Dawood Ibrahim is not in Pakistan? Or…how the Kargil war was carried out by mujahideen?

If the misinformed—“they fly kites during Basant in Lahore”—is huge. The informed scepticism is huger.

16 thoughts on “Of misinformed scepticism about Pakistan”

  1. Misinformed scepticism. I like those words.

    Lets see – Include Mullah Omar and the hijacking, Punjab and Khalistan, ISIs activities via Nepal, Bangladesh, the obvious links of many terror operatives to Pakistan.

    Informed scepticism or is that informed certainity?

  2. Kind of explains why the Economist usually concludes that any trouble in Pakistan calls for India relenting on Kashmir. Astill sounds surprisingly naive. Disappointing.

  3. If the average Pakistani is more aware of his Indian counterpart, it is because of Pakistan’s “Indocentric” nature. As long as Pakistan does something better than India, it’ll be satisfied.

    Indians, on the other hand, have a wider worldview than Pakistanis.

    Moreover, India is on the trajectory to becoming a major power. India is a successful nation state. Indians, with their new found status, care shit about people in a nation which is racing towards state failure.

  4. He talks about the Kite flying festival of Basant which is a big hit in Pakistan and feels that not much separates the two countries culturally!

    The belief that there’s not much that separates the two countries culturally is astoundingly naive. While Pakistan is a largely monocultural entity based on Islam, India is a multicultural nation which has more cultural differences with Pakistan than similarities. While most Pakistanis are Muslim, India has a substantial population of Muslim and Christian minorities. Almost onefifth of India is made up of people who dont belong to the majority religion. India has a much wider range of religions, languages, dialects, ideas, political parties etc. Most Pakistanis speak Urdu. There are many Indias who dont speak Hindi. Clubbing India with Pakistan saying they are culturally similar is ignoring the vast difference in culture between southern/eastern and northeastern India and Pakistan. James Astill needs to visit southern/eastern/northeastern India and see for himself how different both the countries are.

  5. Atlantean: Pakistan’s been run by the Army for most of its existence. This army lost half the country on the battlefield in 1971, has effectively lost control of FATA and Balochistan, and engineered the Kargil fiasco. The only people it has succeeded in terrorizing are its own: from Karachi to Baltistan and from FATA to Islamabad. They have visions of conquering the Red Fort in Delhi – but will currently settle for the Red Mosque in Islamabad :-). Their civil society is depressingly stunted and boasts giants like Bhutto and Sharif – who just haven’t learned to keep their dirty little hands out of the cookie jar. Jinnah and his abomination (the Western half anyway) are headed for the dustbin of history.

  6. It speaks volumes that Astill’s business card, according to Abhishek Kumar, describes his beat as – “Defence and Terrorism Correspondent” .
    Now why would the South Asian Bureau chief for The Economist be labelled as such?
    Hmmmmmmm I wonder?

  7. Here is what I think about the interview, James has lived in both the countires that we are talking about. He has also interacted with the “rough characters” which make his insights credible enough to me.

    When James says Indians and Pakistanis have a lot in common, he is referring to an averge pakisatni on the street and not the ones hiding in the hills. It is fairly easy for me to accept that Pakistanis have a lot in common with the people from punjab area and obviously not Indians living in the north eastern/southern people. I am sure, I (from mumbai) dont have a lot in common with people from northeast. So I dont think its a fair to ridicule his thought about the similarities that he mentions about. I think there is a miunderstanding there.

    One of my very good friends in the US is a pakistani and we had the so many things in common. The same arranged marriage, the cricket/bollywood craze, Both of us said the same things while talking about how politicians are ruining the country and a lot more things.

    So lets try and understand James’s point and not make this comment section a Hindu-muslim or India v/s pak thing.

    Phew… my longest comment ever!!


  8. Aditya,

    That you have nothing in common with ‘people from the North East’ is your view. It’s possible to argue that Bombayites have a little in common with Maharashtrians from Vidharbha, or Bangaloreans with people from Dharwad. It is also possible to argue that Indians have a lot in common with Americans. So I don’t put much in store with the ‘people like us’ argument. People are like us or unlike us depending on how we want them to be. In other words, it’s subjective.

    I understand James’s point. And I disagree. Because I think it ignores the context. And how can the comment section not be an India vs Pakistan thing when the topic it discusses, and what James talks about, is an India vs Pakistan thing.

    As this blog has pointed out several times, it does not matter if the ordinary Pakistani thinks well of India. That’s because the ordinary Pakistani’s views don’t count for much in Pakistan. Unfortunately, it’s the ‘rough characters’ that rule that country (and over ordinary Pakistanis). So it’s unlikely that the goodwill for India (if it exists—I don’t suppose you read people like Ayaz Amir in Dawn) will ever translate into Pakistani policy towards India.

  9. @ Gaurav : LOL… is there such a place!!

    @ Nitin : totally agree with point #1. Its subjective.
    Point#2, I dont really see the interview as India v/s Pak. its more on the lines of India and Pakistan. And yes, i dont follow Ayaz Amir.

    Also, Can we give respect to the person who has seen all these things happen at ground level. We are talking based on whats shown on TV and printed in the newspaper.


  10. Aditya:

    Can we give respect to the person who has seen all these things happen at ground level.

    I think the man deserves respect for doing the job that he did. However it is important to make a distinction between the man and his opinion. Is the opinion correct or not is the matter under discussion, not whether he is a sterling human being or not.

    So the story goes that there was an amateur photographer who would every year bring his crop of new pictures to an old man who was master. Every year the master would go through the pictures and sort them out into “good” and “not good” piles. Funnily, the amateur would keep bringing back an old picture which invariably ended up in the “not good” pile. Exasperated he challenged the master, “Why do you keep putting it in the not-good pile?” The master said, “Because it is not good.” The amateur replies, “But don’t you see I had to climb a very high mountain for five days and endure bitter cold to take that picture!”

  11. Aditya,

    Atanu got there ahead of me, but disagreement does not imply disrespect. Indeed, I think that The Economist is a fine publication, and I like it for its opinionatedness. But there are areas where I disagree with that publication—for instance on the nuclear issue—and yet I remain a steadfast subscriber 🙂

    Also, I think it is possible to be rather well-informed these days thanks to the internet. Most Pakistani papers are online, there are some very fine Pakistani blogs out there, and it is possible for one to get a good sense of the proceedings.

  12. @ atanu : Agreed, the example explains it even better.

    @ Nitin : A couple of comments on Indicast had a disrespectful tone.

  13. I thought Economist correspondant was Simon Long. Is he gone? I guess Astill’s views explains the Economist’s analysis (they don’t just report) on current events between the two nations. It seems to fit the mold of news in UK.

  14. @ Chandra: Simon Long is back in London as The Economist’s Asia editor. And I do agree with you that they do not just report NEWS! Some like it, others don’t. Atleast they elicit a response and an opinion from their readers.

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