And he’s doing it before even winning the Booker prize

Chetan Bhagat uses sophisms to advance an argument for surrender

So how many cliched sophisms can you squeeze into one 900-word op-ed piece? Chetan Bhagat manages to do five. More than a defence of the prime minister as it announces itself to be, his op-ed in Hindustan Times (linkthanks Rohit Pradhan) is merely a series of lazy arguments and an intellectual superficiality that is more suited to a discussion of Hindi films, cricket matches and cafeteria-gossip, not the grave issues surrounding geopolitics, foreign policy and national security.

Mr Bhagat begins with a profound misunderstanding of “our attitude”. Instead of reconciling with Pakistan, he says, Indians want to “teach Pakistan a lesson” and put them in their place. Now assuming this is true, does Mr Bhagat pause to examine why? Is it perhaps because Pakistan has devoted itself to damaging India right from the word go? Reconciliation is not a rational response towards Pakistan until the time it unequivocally transforms itself into a country that is at peace with itself and its neighbour. Yet, the story since 1998 at least is one where India has made repeated attempts to reconcile—at political and popular levels—and on each occasion received a dagger in its flesh in return. So yes, bashing Pakistan might be considered patriotic and make good politics, but for good reason. Mr Bhagat doesn’t get into these reasons, of course, because they wouldn’t lend themselves to his conclusions.

The second sophism that Mr Bhagat uses is that ‘every Indian’s future is inextricably linked to Pakistan…because of what India spends on defence.’ This is not the (flawed) “we can’t change our neighbours” argument, it’s not even the (flawed) “guns vs butter” argument. It is a (flawed) “let’s submit to our neighbour’s blackmail” argument. It is disguised as (or confused for, if you want to be charitable) a guns-vs-butter argument by pointing to the opportunity costs of defence expenditure. But it sounds plausible for only as long as it takes you to realise that there are opportunity costs of non-defence too. Ask the Morioris, if there are any left to tell the tale.

A reasonable case can perhaps be made around the concept of a peace dividend—that giving Pakistan something would result in a lower defence expenditure that would in turn allow India to channel the ‘savings’ for development. That depends on what is the “something” that would satisfy Pakistan, and whether the act of giving that something away will actually result in a net positive dividend. Instead, Mr Bhagat asks “how badly do we want Kashmir?” As if giving away Kashmir would automatically lead to the building of colleges, irrigation projects, roads and power plants. This is the third sophism—the plausibility of which lasts only as long as it takes for you to listen to a Hafiz Mohammed Saeed’s speech. Giving in to Kashmir fatigue is a terrible idea. Mr Bhagat doesn’t bother to explain just conceding on Kashmir will lead to lower defence expenditure, less more colleges and roads. It’s a double sophism, actually, because Mr Bhagat presumes that government expenditure is required to build colleges, irrigation projects, roads and power plants. You know, just like it was government expenditure that put phones in almost everyone’s hands.

You should really put up your hands when you see India described as the land of Buddha and Gandhi which has somehow lost its peace goals, the fourth sophism. India’s national symbol is not The Other Cheek. As much as Buddha and Gandhi, this is also the land of the Mahabharata, Ramayana and the Arthashastra—treatises that reveal a sophisticated approach to statecraft. These books do not advocate peace at any cost. Even Gandhi drew inspiration from the Bhagavad Gita.

When you don’t have to support your argument with evidence, you can just about say anything you like. Like, for instance, “we need to have peace…because we can’t afford to fight or stay prepared to fight for the next 20 years.” How does Mr Bhagat arrive at this extraordinary conclusion? If India struggling at economic growth rates of 5% or lower could afford to fight and stay prepared for the last 20 years and yet achieve over 8% growth today, surely, it can more easily afford it now? To use Mr Bhagat’s own analogy, if you could afford a security guard when you were poorer, you certainly can afford him now when you are richer.

The byline identifies Mr Bhagat as the author of The Three Mistakes of My Life. With this op-ed he’s made one more.

54 thoughts on “And he’s doing it before even winning the Booker prize”

  1. I wonder what made him write that Op-Ed. External Affairs is not really his affair. But he is a person who has a good image in public because of his immensely popular books.

    I often come across people having expertise in one domain commenting to great lengths over issues in entirely different domain without proving their credibility.

    Arundhati Roy, Or Mahesh Bhatt in my opinion are good examples of this. Is it a pure co-incidents or someone is creating an atmosphere where such acts are awarded with incentives?

    Mango man will never know.

  2. It should embarrass the India-Pakistan bhai-bhai types that they have this pulp fiction writer on their side. I read all of the first ten pages of his One Night At the Call Center. The call center girls love it. Is he trying an image makeover? Recasting himself as an intellectual? Or is a love story ( Paki boy meets Indian girl) on the cards, perhaps? Let me guess the storyline. The Paki dude and the call center gal meet on the net. They chat. They web cam. They voice over IP. They fall in love. The Paki dude comes to India to claim the gal. He gets mistaken for a terrorist. Terrible things happen to the couple from then on. They experience Indian (police) brutality first hand. Muthalik’s men are closing in on them from one side, and the Gujarat police from the other. Gonsalves from Goa risks his life boating them all the way to Karachi. But some unnamed bad people there (hint: they _may_ be the taliban) don’t like the Hindu gal. They are chased again. Not only is suspense going to build up towards the climax, but the climax is going to deliver a bold message to mankind.

  3. Excellent. Excellent. Excellent. And I am just referring to this one post. Although I am not sure Arundhati Roy would take kindly to the title.

  4. Just read oldtimer’s comment. LOL.

    Though I think what he is trying here is to pass himself off as the voice of the young, entrepreneurial, ‘more-concerned-about-the-future’ India rather than one which is saddled with the baggage of the past. But it didn’t work. An entreprenuer wouldn’t cop out so easily, but instead would come up with more imaginative solutions than just surrendering.

  5. @Nitin,

    Say, did you notice the timing? KP over at the Telegraph wrote that the whole–yes, all of them–IFS is against MMS. They are all gathered in Delhi for their annual powwow. And this article comes along in the, hey presto, Hindustan Times.

    Such things are not coincidences in New Delhi. The Chetan dude might be an innocent fool but the HT people are a shrewd bunch.

  6. On the defence budget, I guess Mr. Bhagat misses the point that if the Kashmir issue is resolved tomorrow peacefully, we still have to deal with China and, thus, any peace will minimally impact the defence spending.

    Having said that, Mr Bhagat is not just an author, but also a banker. While I may not agree with the way he has presented his views, his argument on how the conflict – over Kashmir is stifling growth and draining resources is not so unique. I really don’t blame him for thinking that way – after all, bankers can be allowed to have different priorities/perspectives than foreign policy analysts. In a nutshell, he is probably one of those many Indians, who just want peace and would like to move on with other priorities – social, economic, and political.

    Are you going to blame him or others for wanting that?

  7. Not only are his arguments lazy, so is the editing:

    “At Rs 140,000 crore (up to per cent this year), [defense] is the most expensive government spending item”

    Up to per cent this year? Betrays a desire to write content based on preconceived (and ill-informed) notions first, and then go about filling in irrelevant things like facts and numbers.

    Of course, this is not even to get into the huge difference between India’s defense budget allocation vs. defense spending, and that when he says “government spending item”, he actually means “government budgetary item”.

    But Chetan is priming himself for the Man Booker Prize award and clearly wants to model himself on another esteemed Booker Prize winning compatriot, whose 5,300 post 26/11 essay made as much sense as swill and was about as enjoyable as root canal surgery.

  8. I remember that, in one of your posts, you had called it the LIE ( Law of Indian experts or something like that). Some accomplishment in one field confers the right to wax eloquent on any other subject…..

  9. A man of such following (in call centers and students) should not raise his points with weak arguments. That’s probably because he is ignored by intellectual authors I guess.

    Just an incident to share: I have a German-American neighbor who was in US Army and went to Iraq for war, he said this to me “I really respect Indian defense as they never initiated a war against any nation, they are the most peace-making people” – I gave him a small reasoning for this
    I was impressed as people in other countries or at least armies do know about it.

  10. “Are you going to blame him or others for wanting that?”

    These Chetan Bhagats can ask for the moon and “want peace”, but that does not mean they are going to have peace just because they wish for it. The consequences of ignoring mortal dangers has disastrous long-term consequences for all Indians — weak political leadership may decide to let “future generations” fix the problems they are creating, but there is no reason for the rest of us to stand by and let that happen.

    So Chetan Bhagat is free to want to “move past India’s Pakistan problem and into the 23th century, but unless Mr. Bhagat and his ilk explain how they plan to cut down Pakistan’s congenital hostility towards India, as they move on to better things, they cannot expect others to follow their “let us all kiss and make up” attitude with the citizens of countries that are continuing to send terrorists into India even yesterday.

  11. Are you going to blame him or others for wanting that?

    Yup! I am surely. Esp when his “want” appears in a national newspaper.

    Over millennia, there have been many artists– writers, poets, dancers, actors, etc who have had radical opinions about what such topics. But no on bothered to ask for their opinion. There is a simple reason for that:

    They are artists– useful when you need some entertainment after a hard day’s work. Great guys, they are! Good fun! But thats all there is to them.

    But when artists become celebrities and their opinion spills over into public domain, you know that the nation’s future is being toyed with by people whose job is, and talent lies in entertaining people, not to protect dharma.

  12. @paritosh,

    Didn’t know he is a banker. If so, his sense of risk assessment is very poor. I’d expect a good banker to be far more conservative while dealing with complex issues.

    Then again, bankers have not distinguished themselves for prudence these days, so we don’t know.

  13. Nitin,
    While your post is right about the weak rationale provided in the op-ed, I have to agree with Chetan’s intent. While defense is definitely a very important part of any budget , especially India’s. We have to start looking at Re 1 spent on tanks or guns is Re 1 not spent of food or education for the poor. Right now Re 1 on tanks and guns is well worth it, but there is no reason we should not work towards making Re 1 on food more important by reducing neighborhood conflicts.
    Is giving away Kashmir the way? not a chance…Chetan’s solutions are over simplistic. But his larger intent I agree with.

  14. Nitin:

    A few questions for you:

    1. When you say that Pakistan has devoted itself to damaging India from the word go, do you honestly believe the reverse has not been true? And if the answer to that question is “yes”, it would be useful to know how common that understanding of history is amongst the Indian public.

    2. When you say “Reconciliation is not a rational response towards Pakistan until the time it unequivocally transforms itself into a country that is at peace with itself and its neighbour,” do you not see the obvious chicken-and-egg issue here? Do you honestly believe that India has no role to play in Pakistan being at peace with its neighbor?

    3. Do you think Hafiz Mohammad Saeed controls Pakistani policy on Kashmir? Put differently, if I were to ask you what the percentage chances are that Pakistan’s foreign policy establishment pursues peace with India upon the reception of concessions, would you honestly say 0%?

    4. What substantive attempts have been made by the Indian leadership to reconcile? Has India been willing to grant concessions on anything — from Kashmir to Sir Creek, from Siachen to Indus Water Treaty? From my perspective, India has been quite intransigent on all of these issues, under the logic of “why should strong states give concessions to weak states?” This may be rational (though I would argue it is bounded rationality at work), but it certainly belies your assertion that India has been willing to sue for peace, but has been met with an unwilling partner each time.

    I don’t mean to start a sh*t-slingfest (all of my sane Indian readers seem to have been replaced by jingoists in the last few weeks, making me reluctant to engage with them because it’s not worth the trouble), but I am curious about your thoughts here, since I’ve always respected this blog.

  15. Ravi,

    Fine sentiment—but a rupee spent on defence is a rupee taken away from development (and vice versa), ceteris paribus—when everything else remains the same.

    Even under this theory, you could improve development outcomes by ensuring the development outlays are spent more efficiently. How much of the rupee spent on development ends up being used for development? Is there a way to improve this? If so, why not do that first?

    Second, don’t forget that the pie is growing bigger. There’s more money in absolute terms for both defence and development.

    Arguments for reallocation of budgetary outlays are technical and need to be supported with empirical evidence. What is the marginal impact on security due to a marginal change in the defence expenditure? What is the marginal impact on development due to a marginal change in defence expenditure? The onus is on Mr Bhagat to provide empirical evidence to support his argument. Rhetorical flourish doesn’t cut it.

  16. Forget about the solutions. Looks like he doesnt understand the India-Pakistan problem at all. Its not just two nations fighting over a piece of land. There are many social, religious, political and strategic issues involved. It is a complex problem that cannot be solved by a unilateral transfer of a piece of land.

    And many of these drawing room commentators make it look like it is India that is the source of the problem. As if Indians have no other issues to deal with. We just cant afford to let some bloody theocratic failed state decelerate our progress as a nation. But we’ll find a solution that will end the problem forever. And we dont believe giving Kashmir away will do anything.

  17. Nitin,

    Looked like there are even more flaws. What about the strategic defence alliance part? He argues for turning over the responsibility of border security to the US.

    “They have much to gain from our potential market for American products and cheap outsourcing. Well, let’s outsource some of our defence to them, make them feel secure and save money for us. Having a rich, strong friend rarely hurt anyone.”

    rgds,
    Jai

  18. Okay folks,

    I just got up from the floor after reading this on Bhagat’s website. He calls himself “the voice of a generation than just an author”

  19. …you could improve development outcomes by ensuring the development outlays are spent more efficiently.

    And how efficient is (or has been) our spending to improve our defence? Surely, there is a lot of quid pro quo going on there with billions of dollars earmarked for stuff that certain powers want to sell us. I would posit (based on absolutely no knowledge of these things but just gut feeling) that there is probably as much ‘shrinkage’ in defence spending as there is in development spending. The only difference being the latter ends up in domestic pockets – a large chunk anyway.

  20. Bhagat should have known what an easy target he was going to be – being a pulp novelist and all, as opposed to intellectual giants the roam the net. He should have written a few tomes on foreign policy or at least unintelligible blog posts where he could have made up things out of thin air.

    PS: Barb not directed at The Acorn.

  21. Ahsan,

    “What substantive attempts have been made by the Indian leadership to reconcile? Has India been willing to grant concessions on anything — from Kashmir to Sir Creek, from Siachen to Indus Water Treaty?”

    You can start by reading “Outside the Archives” by Y. D. Gundevia.

    PS: Also a good source for those who dislike Nehru. And a lot of non-Kashmir stuff that will make Indians wince (e.g. the origins of ECNR stamp on passports).

  22. I’m late to the party, as usual.

    @ravi
    “We have to start looking at Re 1 spent on tanks or guns is Re 1 not spent of food or education for the poor.”

    Why? Do those soldiers who get paid that Re 1 not spend it on food for themselves and their families, education for their children and so on and so forth?

    As for the poor part, well, most of our armed forces PBORs (sickening tag, but that’s customary, I guess) come from rural backgrounds and a general lack of affluence (I do not wish to call them poor).

    Who do you think they spend this money on?

    And frankly, if money for development means money going to NREGS, to be gobbled up by middlemen in favour with the ruling clique, I’d rather we upped defence spending and paid the soldier his due!

  23. Ahsan,

    >>When you say that Pakistan has devoted itself to damaging India from the word go, do you honestly believe the reverse has not been true? And if the answer to that question is “yes”, it would be useful to know how common that understanding of history is amongst the Indian public.

    I am sure this will be difficult for you to believe, but the fact of the matter is, the answer to that question is No. most Indians see Pakistan as a nuisance, a pest. Vexation and disgust are the feelings with which one views a nuisance, not necessarily visceral hate that seeks destruction. Many Indians cannot understand why Pakistanis cannot focus on what Indians are focusing on: bettering their lives economically, educating their children, getting interested in the arts and hobbies, aiming for a better standard of life, etc, etc. Indians are puzzled why Pakistan doesn’t nurture the same commonplace ambitions as India does — of becoming an economic power, to cite an example. Indians are obsessed with themselves and with their own lives — if your jihadi boys don’t make occasional excursions into our territory, most Indians would even forget that they have a neighbor called Pakistan.

    As a jingoist Indian, I’d love if India devotes itself to damaging Pakistan, but trust me — I say this with sadness — most of my compatriots would show no interest in such a project, mostly because they are indifferent. What people aren’t interested in, the politicians won’t pursue, because we’re a democracy, however flawed. I suspect you’re viewing India through your Pakistani prism.

    >>Do you honestly believe that India has no role to play in Pakistan being at peace with its neighbor?

    There indeed is a school of Indian thought that believes India can play a role to help Pakistan be at peace. The nicest metaphor I can use to describe this school’s philosophy is: “give that yelling child the damned candy it’s throwing a tantrum for so there’s quiet in this house!”

  24. “What substantive attempts have been made by the Indian leadership to reconcile? Has India been willing to grant concessions on anything — from Kashmir to Sir Creek, from Siachen to Indus Water Treaty? From my perspective, India has been quite intransigent on all of these issues, under the logic of “why should strong states give concessions to weak states?” This may be rational (though I would argue it is bounded rationality at work), but it certainly belies your assertion that India has been willing to sue for peace, but has been met with an unwilling partner each time.”

    Ahsan,

    I would strongly urge you to revisit the history of India-Pakistan dialogues before you accuse India of intransigence. India’ s willingness to give up its de jure claims to Pak-administered Kashmir is the single most significant testament to India’s desire for an amicable solution.

    Ad nauseam allusions to UN resolutions cannot hide the fact that the UN Security Council Resolutions (including the oft-cited Resolution 47 of 1948) also acknowledged India’s de jure claims (even if only contingent) over the erstwhile state of Kashmir.

    But successive Indian governments felt it best to not press Pakistan on this issue. Even in Shimla with more than 90, 000 PoWs and 5000 square miles of Pakistani territory, India did not press for its de jure claims. India only sought legalization of LoC into International Border (and even on that, India returned the territory and the soldiers on a mere verbal promise of ZA Bhutto)

    With the benefit of hindsight, it does seem that it would have been better if India had haggled and asked for entire JK including Northern Areas and AJK in all the negotiations right from 1950. At least, its flexibility would not have been misunderstood for weakness (or worse, intransigence).

    Negotiations over Siachen demilitarisation could have proceeded lot more smoothly only if the Pakistani side was willing to authenticate the actual ground position line. Pakistan’s unwillingness of authenticate the AGPL does raise serious questions over its bona fide that no negotiator can ignore. One can understand the Pakistani apprehensions that validating the AGPL would stand contrary to its stated position that entire Indian control of JK is illegal. But any peace process will involve give and take. If the Pakistani negotiators were hoping that Indians will simply climb down from its advantageous heights without any formal guarantee that Pakistanis shall not occupy the same mountains, then they were plain delusional. Or may be they were just intransigent.

    India is a status quoist power and (as much as a lot of jingos may want), the government and the opinion-makers scarcely want a broken and fragmented Pakistan. While it may be in the best interest of the Army-ISI-Jehadi nexus to overplay the existential threat to Pakistan from India, it would indeed be a great step towards cordial relations that ordinary Pakistani citizens appreciate this.

  25. Having read some very interesting comments, I believe some of you have proven yourself true to the first ‘sophism’ quoted in the post above, viz. about the attitude.

    Carry on, tigers…

  26. Ahsan

    1. When you say that Pakistan has devoted itself to damaging India from the word go, do you honestly believe the reverse has not been true?

    I’m sure it has been true. How could it not? As I wrote, the Other Cheek is not the national symbol. As for public understanding of this, I’m sure everyone accepts it to some extent—and many complain that the extent of it is insufficient. Also, 1971 is unambiguous.

    Has this project consumed India to the same extent it has Pakistan? Not quite.

    2. When you say “Reconciliation is not a rational response towards Pakistan until the time it unequivocally transforms itself into a country that is at peace with itself and its neighbour,” do you not see the obvious chicken-and-egg issue here? Do you honestly believe that India has no role to play in Pakistan being at peace with its neighbor?

    If I were a Pakistani, I’d be deeply worried if the only way Pakistan could be at peace with itself is with India’s consent. Because, those wily Indians might not want Pakistan to be at peace with itself, and calculate that bilateral tensions are a small price to pay to eternally torment Pakistan.

    Fortunately (for both Pakistanis and for Indians) a certain Ahsan Butt wrote that Pakistan’s problems are for Pakistan to solve. (link). You have argued that Pakistan can be at peace with itself if the Pakistani people want to.

    I don’t think that’s possible, because the military-jihadi complex has totally captured the state. An exogenous factor is necessary for any change to take place.

    3. Do you think Hafiz Mohammad Saeed controls Pakistani policy on Kashmir?

    No, he’s a symptom, a visible manifestation of Pakistani policy on Kashmir. For an articulation of Pakistani policy on Kashmir, I’d look at Yousuf Raza Gilani and the foreign office spokesman. Horse, mouth.

    4. What substantive attempts have been made by the Indian leadership to reconcile? Has India been willing to grant concessions on anything — from Kashmir to Sir Creek, from Siachen to Indus Water Treaty? From my perspective, India has been quite intransigent on all of these issues…

    As BOK wrote, check out Gundevia’s book for instance. Or how Mr Bhutto was treated after a total defeat in 1971.

    I’m amused to see the IWT included in your list of issues that require concessions. It is the result of mutual concessions…sad to see it come up as an issue needing concession in recent years.

    From a realist perspective, I’d say that the question is who gets hurt more if these disputes are kept alive. If these disputes impose asymmetric costs on Pakistan, then regardless of the merits of the issue, it makes good sense to back off. Some Pakistani strategists talk about bleeding India through a thousand cuts—don’t they realise that they’ve been bleeding Pakistan all along, and all it needs is for India to be “intransigent” for them to continue doing so!

  27. Nitin,

    Since we are not able to ensure effective spending of development outlays it makes sense to prioritize either defense or health/education.

    I agree that right now the defense allocation seems fit for a country that is the biggest victim of terrorism, but to hope that we can work towards making the region a more peaceful place.
    Chetan is being absurd about Kashmir, but not wrong in being hopeful and naive for peace. He is not advocating shutting does our space or weapons programs. He just hopes there will be lesser need for them in the future.

    As for the pie growing bigger, Nitin you have to agree that the pie is still not large enough for 1 billion people. The 1 Re reasoning I gave is not some fool proof rationale but just a method to look at expenditure by the govt in a poor country.

  28. @Shaunak
    The intent of the armed forces is not to subsidize the finances of its soldiers. This reminds me of conspiracy theories when Iraq was invaded by America claiming the American govt was trying to stimulate the economy by buying weapons for the war and giving salaries to new soldiers.

  29. This must be a joke; why the hell would anyone want to write about a f—wit from a business school who writes in terrible English on matters that are so far out beyond his reach!!!

    I am disappointed that this blog has exposed me to such crap.

  30. Brilliant! I used to believe that Chetan Bhagat has atleast got the country reading and now that they are reading, they might move on to better stuff. Always argued for this and was often ridiculed. Now , I realise where I am wrong. His repetitive style could make a book-lover quit reading!
    Loved the article!

  31. @ravi

    Dude. The pie gets bigger and everyone gets a bigger share. Fail to set aside a slice for the dog and someone will steal your pie.

    Also, you can’t base your policy based on hope. Oops, our hopes are dashed, now let’s go out and buy some howitzers because we’re under attack! What? Isn’t building military capacity like buying vegetables?

    When oversimplied, and when the maths is omitted, everyone can have the world just as he wishes. Nice, no?

  32. Nitin:

    1. Ok. Here are my thoughts: *of course* this project, as you call it, has not consumed India to the same extent. It’s the bigger and more powerful country! India has always been a bigger problem for Pakistan than vice versa. That’s not the point. The point is your piece — and many of your other writings — suggest that the stalemate on the subcontinent is almost entirely due to one state, when in fact you acknowledge in comments that it is not. Why not provide this context in the actual piece? I am not arguing for “balance” for the sake of balance, but here it is important I feel, because you seem to tie warmer relations on the subcontinent to actions taken by just one state (I will get to this point soon).

    2. First of all, quoting that Ahsan Butt fellow is foolish — the man’s a bloody traitor, and I hear he’s on the payroll of RAW and the CIA. Don’t trust a word he says, to be honest.

    But here’s the thing. The words you used in the post, and I used specifically in my first comment, were “peace with itself AND its neighbor”. You have only responded to the “itself” bit, ignoring (a) that there can be no peace with India without India’s consent and real concessions on things Pakistanis care about, and (b) the two (i.e. itself and neighbor) and inextricably linked. Perhaps the chicken-and-egg metaphor was a bad one, because it implies a necessary condition where, logically speaking, one could claim that Pakistan could be at peace with its neighbor by simply stopping caring about everything that consumes it right now. But that is unlikely. India has a role to play.

    As for the uber-realist logic of “eternally tormenting” the Pakistan state and having bilateral tensions be a small price to pay, that’s fine — only insofar as Indian analysts such as yourself no longer complain about the manifestations of those tensions. If you’re happy with the status quo, then you should be explicit about it, and accept the small price when it is actually paid.

    3. You missed the point here. As I said, by linking HMS and Kashmir policy in your post, you suggested that the idea of a peace dividend is unlikely because Pakistan is unlikely to be satisfied with concessions on Kashmir alone because HMS is unlikely to be satisfied with concessions on Kashmir alone. But the two actors want two different things. Your post did not deal with that.

    4. It does indeed make sense for Pakistan to back off. I myself have argued for this position for years. But it will not happen unless India reciprocates even mildly. I will check out the book you and B.O.K recommend, but as someone who follows these things fairly closely, I’ve yet to see compelling evidence that India thinks in any other way than the “Why should strong states concede anything to weak states” logic. Which, as I said, is fine in and of itself — but a mutually exclusive position from the one you espouse (i.e. “But India wants to make concessions, it just doesn’t have a real partner”).

  33. paritosh sqwaks:
    “Having read some very interesting comments, I believe some of you have proven yourself true to the first ’sophism’ quoted in the post above, viz. about the attitude.”

    Really now. You do not have any response to hang your hat on, and so you pretend it is everyone else’s fault now, eh? Perhaps you can list out said “sophisms” so that we can all give it a full-body cavity search for the truth.

  34. Ahsan wrote:
    “As for the uber-realist logic of “eternally tormenting” the Pakistan state and having bilateral tensions be a small price to pay, that’s fine — only insofar as Indian analysts such as yourself no longer complain about the manifestations of those tensions. I”

    Nice going, Ahsan. Note the euphemism Ahsan uses to support Pakistani terrorism in India as “manifestations of tensions”. IOW, if India won’t give pakistan some Kashmir candy, then Pakistan is allowed to send terrorists into India.

    Ahsan, if you want to say “India needs to hand over J&K to Pakistan to have peace in the neighbourhood”, just do so without all the obfuscation to hide your overt support for pakistani terrorism in India. I am sure all Pakistanis would agree with that one.

  35. Raghuvaran T.P:

    I don’t appreciate my words being twisted, nor do I appreciate being quoted out of context so that you can make it seem that I am saying something I am not, only so that I fit your preconceived notion of what I would be saying. I am here for a civil discussion; if would prefer not to have one, then please by all means do not address me.

    To recap: it was Nitin, not me, that suggested that India would/could be happy paying the price of interstate tensions to keep Pakistan in eternal turmoil. My exhortation to Nitin was to make this cost-benefit analysis explicit in his writings when the cost is actually paid. I also think Nitin is wrong on the substantive point here, because to keep Pakistan in “eternal turmoil” is actually costly to India, even if Indians don’t realize it. In effect, there are two sets of costs and no benefits.

    My own view on this is that Pakistan tried the non-state actor route for close to 20 years, and it is time to shut up shop. It didn’t work, and in fact proved counterproductive, and the state needs to move on. I have in fact been arguing for those since I started writing semi-professionally close to a decade ago. But just because I want it doesn’t mean it will happen. It will most likely happen when India actually gives some concessions on some issues, short of “handing over J&K”.

    I truly hate being pigeonholed by people who do not know me or my views and base their opinions of me and my views on my nationality. It is why I avoid commenting on this blog, even though I read it every day (or every second day), because invariably something like this happens. Perhaps in the future, I should only email Nitin and keep clear of these boards.

  36. Ahsan wrote:
    ” I also think Nitin is wrong on the substantive point here, because to keep Pakistan in “eternal turmoil” is actually costly to India, even if Indians don’t realize it. ”

    If you write nonsense, you will be responded to. Your premise that India is doing anything proactive is false, so the rest of your arguments are false too.
    Pakistan is doing a fine job of being in eternal turmoil mostly because of their India policy — being Pakistan’s primary victim, India has no interest in assisting Pakistan in being able to hurt India better.

    The cost India bears due to Pakistan has nothing to do with India’s actions — the pakistanis pretend India is in Balochistan when India is doing nothing of that sort. All of that cost Pakistan bears is because of its penchant to be a rentier state willing to work for the highest bidder.

    You pretending that India has any part to play for Pakistan’s sorry state today is plain nonsense and a complete lie.

  37. Ahsan,

    In fact, the problem in India is that most Indians could care less if Pakistan existed or not. Just surviving in India is hard enough without such diversions. This is the very reason Indian politicians have refused to be proactive about Pakistan…it buys them nothing. So the Indian government just builds bigger barricades and more intrusive internal security measures, and the leaders make speeches praising “the courage and bravery of the Indian people to explode in public places for no fault of their own”. This round-and-round circus has gone on in India for so long, people have stopped caring.

  38. Ahsan,

    “I truly hate being pigeonholed by people who do not know me or my views and base their opinions of me and my views on my nationality.”

    My unsolicited advice would be to simply not respond to comments that appear to be from trolls (entirely up to you to judge who a troll is).

    This is the internet, and on discussions like this one, there will be plenty of passionate people singing all sorts of tunes. There is nothing anyone can do about that.

    And quite frankly, nobody would care about your nationality if you’d simply post your opinion and not bring nationalities into the discussion yourself (Ref: your first comment about jingoistic Indians). You don’t add to civil discussions by calling people “bloody traitors” and saying “I hear he’s on the payroll of RAW and the CIA” etc. either. I don’t know whose payroll you are on, and couldn’t care less. All that matters for the purpose of discussion are our opinions, not our employers.

    Back on the substantive issue, I posted a link to a rediff article that does a reasonable job of summarizing India’s rejected offers to Pakistan (as recorded in Gundevia’s book). A short quote:


    * Decision about offering Pakistan a new international border in J&K was approved at a full-dress Cabinet meeting without anyone asking for maps or wanting to see where the new line would be! When someone asked, vaguely, “What about sovereignty?” the prime minister said he did not understand the question — sovereignty over what?
    * The new international line should be “in favour of Pakistan”, giving something east and north of the Kashmir Valley, conceding some 1,500 more miles.
    * To avoid border clashes, the withdrawal of troops from the Cease-Fire Line to a substantial distance of a mile or two miles or five miles — the distance to be named by Pakistan! Nehru approved this at an impromptu meeting with his foreign secretary after the latter had already made the spur-of-the-moment proposal to Pakistan despite knowing that Srinagar was just some 15 miles from the Cease-Fire Line.

  39. Ahsan,
    I disagree both with nitin and you. I don’t think that India is going out of its way to make life harder for the Pakistani state (it does not need to, Pakistan is quite capable of doing this on its own). Most of the measures India takes against Pakistan are essentially in reaction to threats or attacks on Indian interests or its sovereignity and citizenry.
    As others have pointed out, life is hard enough in India, and there is a sufficient degree of incompetence in the govt and bureaucracy in India that a sustained proactive policy that would be required to actively do harm to Pakistan is both not a priority of any sort, and not very practical. And this is still the case, even after the very major terrorist activities sponsored and created by Pakistan within India’s borders.
    The Indian state’s response to most things is essentially one of reacting to events, whether it is external affairs or even very serious internal security problems (e.g naxalites and now Maoists whose rise has been foreseen for quite a while). Note that the internal security problems are arguably much more immediate,have a direct electoral impact, and substantially more dangerous to the integrity of India, than anything else. I don’t think anyone with power in India wants to add to their list of problems, by actively undermining the Pakistani state.
    As for concessions to Pakistan go, they are no longer tenable, since there is no trust left. All previous dealings where India has made any sort of concessions or even indicated a willingness to do so, have been met with a Pakistani response of heightened support and sponsorship of terrorism and a fresh set of demands. Remember that the most recent such instance where an Indian Prime Minister attempted a rapproachment was met with Kargil. Pakistan is now reaping the crop it sowed, and there is no reason why India should be sympathetic or willing to make any sort of concessions, Pakistan has simply abused any presumption of good faith and standing that it may have had in its dealings with India, with its warmongering and terrorism.

  40. @ahsan and @nitin

    The realist discussion is interesting as there is a baseline.

    1. If being intransigent on Pakistan leaves it in eternal torment (and the latter is in India’s interests) then it is not a bad strategy.

    2. Ahsan says then don’t complain if the price for this strategy is proxy war using jihadis.

    This leads us to:

    3. Pakistan itself suffers more because the proxy war has a backdraft.

    4. In turn, Pakistan shouldn’t complain if it, in turn, has to pay the price for instigating proxy war.

    Clearly, this cycle hurts Pakistan more than it hurts India. Of course, Pakistan can do another Kargil…but not when the Americans are crawling over the country and are doling out the money needed to keep the lights on.

    So why does anyone think India should do anything else?

    The way out is obvious: Pakistan does all the compromising it has to to, signals that it doesn’t serve India’s interests to leave Pak to eternal torment. The Zardari dude seems to be saying it. But we watch what their hands, not their lips. The hands, they do something else.

  41. Ahsan,

    >>I’ve yet to see compelling evidence that India thinks in any other way than the “Why should strong states concede anything to weak states” logic

    Actually, the logic is not that. The logic is: why should a party drawn into a violent conflict of not its making concede anything to the aggressor?

    Pakistanis perhaps are acutely conscious of the fact that they are a “weaker” state, but I don’t think that’s a factor in ordinary Indians’ views of Pakistan at all.

  42. Ahsan,

    First of all, quoting that Ahsan Butt fellow is foolish

    Hmm.. I thought “you” were Ahsan Butt of the five-rupees blog. If not, then who are you ?

    Or is this some self-referential joke ? In which case, sorry for not getting it 🙂

    Nitin,

    Instead of cribbing about the shitty situation we find ourselves with our neighbours, can’t we actually take the lead in setting calm and resolving tensions ? I don’t really care “how” the tensions are resolved and what type of sacrifices each country needs to make. But the task is to resolve tensions and set up a sort of bonhomie between the Indian and Pakistani armies, culminating in something like joint military exercises against terrorism.

    Are we taking any active steps to that end ? Are we being aggressive in conveying our point to the Paki political leadership and people ?

    The current strategy (as it looks to me) is to just sit tight and enjoy the show as Pakistan gets engulfed in flames. I would like to disagree that this “non-action” will somehow solve the problems to our advantage.

  43. Ahsan wrote:
    “Joint miltary exercises with Pakistan against terrorism”

    You speak as if the Pakistani military is all reasonable, when it is not.
    Before joint exercises, let the Pakistan army take down all the terrorist camps operating on the other side of the LoC and the International border. Pakistan’s army has no intention of taking down any of those camps, and are in fact starting to line up the entire border with trees so that they can provide cover for terrorists across the border. This kind of Pakistani behaviour is not going to engender trust even conduct a joint indo-pakistani cooking operation, leave alone a military operation with the Indian army.

    http://www.dailyexcelsior.com/web1/09aug09/news.htm#3

  44. As the PM said “trust but verify”, which means, “verify everything before trusting” (or “no trust always verify” is a simpler way to put it). So far all the verification done by India says “don’ trust pakistan”.

Comments are closed.