Vishnu and the Missing Minarets

Swiss Muslims are Swiss

In response to Jaideep Kulkarni who had asked why Indians should care if the Swiss ban minarets or mosques and whether it should concern us, NDTV’s Vishnu Som gave an astonishing reply. “Yes it does” he said. “It represents a fundamental threat to millions of Muslims in our country.”

Now, what you think of Switzerland’s decision is one thing. It is totally another to declare that the Swiss decision on minaret-building represents a “fundamental threat” to millions of Indian Muslims. So I asked Mr Som to explain why. His response? “Would you’ve been OK if your place of worship was banned in a country based on the premise that people of your religion are terrorists?”

That being neither here nor there, I repeated the question. And also asked if Saudi Arabia’s ban on temples, churches, synagogues and other places of worship also constituted a “fundamental threat” to Indian Hindus, Christians, Jews and others.

Mr Som didn’t reply. He should have known better than to throw about phrases like “fundamental threat to millions of Indians” so carelessly. In fact if the likes of Mr Som don’t hype up the matter, millions of Indian Muslims wouldn’t know, wouldn’t care and would not be threatened by the absence of minarets in a country most of them wouldn’t ever set foot in.

Related Posts: French Sikhs are French; Malaysian Hindus are Malaysians; Fijian Hindus are Fijians and Italy should mind its own business.

Pragati February 2009: Pakistan needs a MacArthur

Here’s the February 2009 issue of Pragati, a special on Pakistan.

This issue argues that if a stable, prosperous and peaceful Pakistan is in the common interests of India, the world’s major powers and indeed the wider international community, then it is incumbent upon them to engage in a MacArthur-like intervention to transform Pakistan. Merely providing more financial assistance, albeit under different budgetary heads, is unlikely to suffice. In fact, as our in-depth look at one of Pakistan’s biggest jihadi organisations suggests, the export of terrorism from the country is only likely to grow.

In a discussion on India’s options, we examine the role of the use of force; surgical strikes are a fallacy, but credible military capabilities are a necessity. And as the book extract shows, there is a need for skilful diplomacy to use external pressures to bring about internal changes in Pakistan.

In a second perspectives section, we review Pakistan’s relations with its key benefactors—the United States, Saudi Arabia, China and Europe—and highlight how the dynamics of these relationships are changing. The composite picture suggests that after the terrorist attacks on Mumbai, and the arrival of the Obama administration, there is an opportunity for India to engage in bold, imaginative diplomacy to galvanise the international community to radically change Pakistan’s course.

Pragati – The Indian National Interest Review
Issue 23 – February 2009

Contents [Download 2MB PDF]

PERSPECTIVE

MacArthur should return
Only an international intervention can transform Pakistan
Nitin Pai

Pakistan 2020
Nine alternative futures
K Subrahmanyam, Pakistan Planning Commission, United States National Intelligence Council, Sohail Inayatullah, MD Nalapat, Nadeem Ul Haque, Stephen P Cohen, Rohit Pradhan & Harsh Gupta and R Vaidyanathan

FILTER

Essential readings of the month
Ravi Gopalan & Vijay Vikram

IN DEPTH

The assembly line of international terrorism
Why the threat from Jamaat-ud-Dawa is set to rise
Wilson John

PERSPECTIVE

Surgeries are messy
Surgical strikes are a conceptual fallacy and not a prudent option
Srinath Raghavan and Rudra Chaudhuri

Kind words and guns
Effective diplomacy needs credible military capacity
Sushant K Singh

Allies, not friends
The US and Pakistan will need to recast their awkward relationship
Dhruva Jaishankar

A flawed sense of security
The Saudi-Pakistan relationship, underpinned by opportunistic security interests, has run its course
Bernard Haykel

New dynamics of an all weather friendship
China’s influence in Islamabad has been subordinated to US priorities in the region
Zorawar Daulet Singh

Europe’s dilemma
Europe can do little in solving Pakistan’s problem
Richard Gowan

BOOKS

The logic of containment
Using external pressures to bring about an internal transformation
C Raja Mohan

My guest post on Dilip D’Souza’s blog

A common bank of votes and notes

As the ghastly chapter of the terrorist attack on Mumbai came to an end, long time reader Jai_Choorakkot wrote to Dilip D’Souza, Rohit Pradhan and me suggesting that posting on each others’ blogs would be a great way to show that Indians are united on fundamental issues. So here, on Dilip’s invitation is my take on what we—as individuals and citizens—could do in the wake of the terrorist attacks. To keep the discussion in one place, do leave your comments there too.

Nuclear terrorism is already here

And Pakistan is at the centre of it

The world’s strategic analysts worry about the how the “intersection of international terrorism and weapons of mass destruction” poses the biggest threat to international security. [See these reports]

The truth is that the intersection has already occurred. In Pakistan.

Much of the discourse linking terrorists and nuclear weapons revolves around the question of preventing weapons of mass destruction from falling into terrorists’ hands. A terrorist organisation can use a nuclear weapon for compellence—to force governments and people to yield to their demands—with or without actually using it first. Mercifully, by all accounts, this scenario is not upon us yet.

But terrorist organisations are already using nuclear weapons for deterrence—exploiting the nuclear umbrella to carry out attacks without the fear of punitive action by its adversaries. That nuclear umbrella is provided by Pakistan’s arsenal, which today protects both Osama bin Laden and the al Qaeda leadership and the likes of the Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad. And here’s the rub: the terrorists need not own it or even have their fingers on the trigger. There is enough to suggest that the September 11th terrorist attacks on the United States and the November 26th attacks on Mumbai were both conducted with the knowledge and connivance of the Pakistani military establishment. But even if the Pakistani Army were less complicit, its provision of nuclear cover for terrorist organisation makes it part of the world’s terrorists-with-nukes problem. Why would it extend them protection were it not for the fact that such protection promotes its interests?

The Zardari government, as indeed the Pakistani people who elected it, must contemplate on whether they too wish to be part of the same problem. Antagonism against India and national pride are fine, but they should spare a care for their own future. It is impossible for the Pakistani people to escape the consequences of allowing the military-jihadi complex to engage in international nuclear blackmail in their name.

The world’s great powers have already seen how the military-jihadi complex turned against the United States, its former ally. So Pakistan’s current allies won’t, therefore, rest easy merely on the basis of the military-jihadi complex’s current, non-threatening intentions. It is the capability and the willingness to use that they will be concerned about.