The non-existent department

India must increase its intellectual investment in studying Pakistan

For a country that faces an acute, chronic threat, India does not have any–forget the best–think tank or school engaged in a multi-disciplinary study of Pakistan. When most analysts offer policy recommendations, it is either based on experience or polemics, and not on deep analysis. So it is good to see Jerry Rao draw attention to this lacuna:

In trying to understand why Pakistani leaders behave the way they do, we need to be cognisant of these and other patterns. Let us consider a range of questions:

Given his Baluchi-Sindhi-Shia connections, can a Zardari or for that matter a Bhutto appear conciliatory towards America or India and get away with it? Will he not be accused of having soft traitorous and heretical instincts?

Can the Pakistani officer corps, increasingly populated by upwardly mobile but traditional social groups (not by Aitchison college alumni as was the case in years past) take an overtly anti-Islamist or pro-Western stance?

Why is Pakistan not able to come up with a Sadat or a Mubarak who seem to be able to manage the contradictions within Egypt?

Despite having China as their close ally, why has Deng’s growth strategy not appealed to the Pakistani elite? They could easily increase their trade with China and create domestic prosperity instead of simply buying arms (nuclear and conventional) from their friends in the PRC. Why is this not happening?

Saudi Arabia has strong Islamic credentials. They are able to lock up extremists. Why can Pakistan not take a cue from them and do the same?

Over the next few months and years, we all need to collectively invest in understanding the Pakistani society better and in opening up dialogues with disparate elements within that society. Merely complaining that Pakistan is beginning to resemble a rogue state will not do. We need to understand persistent domestic compulsions within Pakistan and see if we can open up multiple dialogues not only with the elements in the Pakistani society who are ostensibly in power but with others whose motivations may be more complex and mysterious. In doing so, we may be able to resolve the conundrum of Pakistan and move it away from its “migraine” status. If we fail, the consequences for all of us are grim. For the unhappy Pakistani people the consequences will be catastrophic. [IE]

4 thoughts on “The non-existent department”

  1. hi there,

    your point is well taken. But, I think that this argument could be made for any other part of the globe. In fact, as I have interacted with most of the think tanks from idsa to orf and ipcs, they are very much involved in pakistan-watching to the detriment of other important regions, like china or central asia.

    I am sure that if you take a count of books on diplomacy and area studies published recently by indian authors, including academicians and diplomats – pakistan would account for a large proportion. How many books or papers can you name on say, africa and central asia, which are so important for India’s energy security.

    I have heard too many complaints that Indian international studies is too pakistan-centric and needs to grow out of its western neighbourhood to truly get a grip on the current geopolitics.

  2. Trying to understand what Jerry Rao means with “collectively invest”…what really needs to be done?

    Surely it is not a question of resources or number of people involved in such study/analysis, within India or abroad? A recent chart in The Economist – courtesy Foreign Policy – shows India having, let us say, enough think-tanks.
    Link to the chart >> link

    Is it really the quality or lack of analysis done, or is it the quality of policy recommendations and/or formulations, which, for varied reasons, might choose to ignore any such analyses?

    I also note and agree with the point made by >>scribina<< on diversifying our intellectual attention across the globe.

  3. India is geographically placed such that it shares boundaries either with hostile / unstable neighbours (Bangladesh, Nepal, China, Pakistan). Pak is a place where the snake it nurtured is getting out of control and there are chances of it biting the country itself. If you look at Pak media and propaganda (newspapers, school textbooks etc) most have very strong anti-Indian and distorted articles. This will bring up a generation of brain-washed minds which will be perinially at a state of war against India. It may be true that the common Pak man may want truce and peace but the fundamentalist voices are louder and stronger.

  4. In America, one of the biggest Neo-conservative think thanks was PNAC – Project for a New American Century.

    What are some of the larger foreign policy think thanks in India?

    P.S. How did Jaithirth become Jerry?

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