Long Live Pakistan!

India’s long-term interests therefore call for New Delhi to insist on strengthening state institutions
vis-à-vis the military establishment now, at a time when outside powers are interested in Pakistan’s stability. Even as India engages President Musharraf bilaterally, a separate multilateral process will allow it to pursue other imperatives of the stabilization process.

India’s new challenge is to steady Pakistan’s boat

Excerpts from an article in the January 2008 issue of Pragati:

Photo: Jawad Zakariya/Flickr
Photo: Jawad Zakariya

A stable, internally reconciled Pakistan is in India’s interests. Ah! Wouldn’t that mean that it will only pursue its age-old anti-India agenda with even more vigour? Not quite. Because a Pakistan that continues to pursue irredentist goals in Kashmir or indeed, seeks to foment terrorism elsewhere in India can neither be internally reconciled nor be stable. For what is its current, perhaps existential crisis, than proof of this?

A stable Pakistan does not necessarily mean a friendly Pakistan—rather, it is a necessary condition for stable India-Pakistan relations. Whether stability will lead to peace and normality depends on a number of factors. But it will provide India with the space to proceed, relatively undisturbed, on the path to its own development.

So what India really needs is not a peace process, but rather, a stabilisation process. In the short-term this would call for preventing Pakistan’s political crisis from causing it to collapse, and in the long-term ensuring that it builds a sustainable‘ business model’ for itself.

Ah! Why bother, you might ask. Isn’t it just as well, besides much easier, to just let it collapse and split into a number of smaller states? Well, even if that destination itself were desirable, the journey is likely to be so violent that any sense of schadenfreude that Indians might feel would melt away under the costs of having to deal with a crisis next door that would be several Partitions rolled into one. And the presence of nuclear weapons, facilities and scientists on the one hand and the advance of radical Islam on the other should drive home the reality that both journey and destination are not to be wished for, and certainly not to be aimed for.

Of the umpteen challenges to the stabilization process, two stand out for their immediacy: First, India must devise a new mechanism for dealing with the various power centres that hold sway in Pakistan. Second, India is now forced to plan for an entirely new threat: the risk that al Qaeda and its Pakistani constituents will seize control of deliverable nuclear weapons or their components.

India’s long-term interests therefore call for New Delhi to insist on strengthening state institutions vis-à-vis the military establishment now, at a time when outside powers are interested in Pakistan’s stability. Even as India engages President Musharraf bilaterally, a separate multilateral process will allow it to pursue other imperatives of the stabilization process.

Download the issue to read the whole thing »

A lesson in opposites

Why doesn’t Karan Thapar dare to call anti-Hindutva by its name?

In an op-ed that wishes for Narendra Modi’s ‘sudden removal’, (via Offstumped) Karan Thapar writes:

Where does this leave the regional parties and the Left? They may retain their identity, even their present base, but they will have to line-up behind Modi or Sonia, in the saffron camp or the liberal/secular one. They may even have to submerge themselves within the broad appeal of the camp they belong to. [HT]

Now calling for parties to line-up against Modi is fine. But why the subterfuge? For neither Sonia Gandhi, nor the Left nor any of the regional parties are truly secular. And they are far from being “liberal”.

Secularism and Liberalism are lofty principles. The word that Thapar should use is anti-Hindutva. Will Thapar, Sonia Gandhi or anyone else in that camp dare declare that they are anti-Hindutva?

Guest post: Benazir’s sacrifice changed little

In the bloody arc of history, is Ms. Bhutto’s murder truly as seismic as is being claimed?

by Primary Red

She’s been in political exile for over a decade. Her Washington influence is only of recent vintage. India has been lukewarm to her attempted return to power.

Her killing is clearly reprehensible. But it does little to change the dynamics among Pakistan’s real political powerbrokers. For them, she and her party were mere pawns and her martyrdom has changed nothing. Of the key players: the military, the ISI-jihadi nexus, Saudi Arabia, US, China, and India, the first three come out ahead. What’s new?
Continue reading “Guest post: Benazir’s sacrifice changed little”

Narendra Modi’s foreign affairs

The Gujjus of Astrakhan

Newspaper columns this week are mostly about Narendra Modi, and mostly about domestic issues. Those interested in foreign affairs will find K P Nayar’s piece in The Telegraph of interest:

While India’s strategic community and sections of the media have been obsessed with the India-United States of America nuclear deal, it has largely escaped their attention that Modi travelled twice to Moscow to cash in on traditional Indo-Russian links, going against the recent fashion in New Delhi of running down such commercial-cum-cultural ties with Russia in an eagerness to suck up to Washington. No one should be surprised if it is Modi who has the last laugh at the Americans, who denied him a visa in a moment of extreme bad judgment and short-sightedness in Washington. Continue reading “Narendra Modi’s foreign affairs”

Structural asymmetric secularism

Arvind Sharma, a professor of comparative religion at McGill University, “pinpointed asymmetrical secularism practised in India as a reason for Hindutva and went on to suggest that it is a structural problem with the Indian Constitution” and that “the asymmetry was not merely in discourse, but structured in the Indian Constitution that favours some religion over the other.”

The Indian variety

India Today’s S Prasannarajan refers to an “apt term to describe the official Indian secularism”. That term is “asymmetric secularism”. Speaking at a panel discussion at the launch of Tavleen Singh’s new book, Arvind Sharma, a professor of comparative religion at McGill University, “pinpointed asymmetrical secularism practised in India as a reason for Hindutva and went on to suggest that it is a structural problem with the Indian Constitution” and that “the asymmetry was not merely in discourse, but structured in the Indian Constitution that favours some religion over the other.”

Arun Shourie agreed with Dr Sharma and “suggested that individual-based policy planning is necessary for a secular state”. Salman Khurshid, on the other hand, said individual rights and rights guaranteed collectively to a group are both important for the functioning of a secular state and Constitution.

Is asymmetric secularism an oxymoron? In a strict sense, yes. As for Khurshid’s argument, it is hard to square group rights with equality of all citizens under the law. Such an argument holds up only if we accept that equality too should be asymmetric.

Update:Bibek Debroy in the Indian Express

Except where there are clear inequities in access to physical and social infrastructure in some backward districts and villages, deprivation is an individual concept. The apparent religious deprivation flagged by the Sachar Committee breaks down, once one controls for other variables like class and educational status. There should be legitimate resentment at UPA’s attempts to equate deprivation with collective caste and religious categories and this brings one to a difference between the two major political parties on what may be called a social-cum-political continuum, with ideology now focused on what one means by secularism. Does secularism mean rejection of religion for formulating public policy and neutrality across religions, or does it mean positive affirmation in favour of minority religions? [IE]

Indian ‘liberals’ must become more Liberal

But things might be turning out as Raj Cherubal predicted in this month’s issue of Pragati: the time has come for Indian ‘liberals’ to become more Liberal.

A kidnapped word can’t be held hostage any longer

For some levity, read this op-ed by a certain Parsa Venkateshwar Rao Jr in DNA.

The other weakness in the liberals’ crusade against Modi was that they saw his market-friendly, reformist economic agenda as anti-poor and anti-minority. They did not reckon with the fact that the poor and the minorities, who wear no ideological blinkers, are willing to embrace the market to improve their lives. The poor are not natural socialists, a mistaken notion in the minds of radical bourgeoisie.

The liberals may have to abandon their unconscious socialism and pathetic secularism, and to stand up for the rights of individuals to believe and not believe in religion, to believe and not believe in nationalism. Believers in religion, nationalism and market economics are not to be shunned as reactionaries. [DNA]

Reminds you of Amit Varma’s complaint. But things might be turning out as Raj Cherubal predicted in this month’s issue of Pragati

Missile vs Missile

Missile defences strengthen India’s strategic deterrence

Failure to understand how deterrence works is a common error. Wholesale application of the Cold War era nuclear arms race in today’s South-Asian geopolitical context is another. And analysts assuming every Indian strategic platform is exclusively targeted at Pakistan is yet another. Jawed Naqvi’s recent article in Dawn makes all three, when he criticises India’s progress towards development of a missile defence system.

Maverick explains—like only he can—why Naqvi’s arguments are wrong. Strategic deterrence is first and foremost a mind game: its objective to ensure that nuclear weapons are not used. Any system that increases the chances of non-use increases stability. In the case of the missile defence system, pointing out that 4 minutes is way too little for Indian anti-missile missiles to do their work misses the target. The system needs to be good enough make a potential adversary think “What if the first strike fails?”. In combination with India’s possession of a second-strike capability, a missile defence shield enhances nuclear stability.

More importantly, it’s ironic that Pakistanis, whose rulers (and their nuclear/missile benefactors) have done so much to put nuclear weapons within reach of any state that wants them, should think that India only thinks of them.

From the archives: Defence against the dark arts; and Kind Word Defence

Why the US paid big money to Pakistan

The US government’s complicity is not without reason. Although the reasons wouldn’t be the ones it can put in front of Congressional auditors. That’s because the money that the US was paying the Musharraf regime was the only way—short of messy, and far more expensive, military methods—it could retain a hold over its actions.

American dollars were not “wasted”, even if they won’t please prissy auditors

So the New York Times reports that all that money that the United States is giving to the Pakistani military establishment is being “wasted”. Musharraf’s regime is not only overcharging the United States, siphoning off much of it and not spending the money on fighting terrorism, as it should. One European diplomat is quoted as saying that the Americans are being taken for a ride.

Yet none of this is the least bit surprising. The US government knew before and during the entire period that the Pakistani establishment would behave exactly as it is behaving. The lessons of the anti-Soviet jihad of the 1980s in Afghanistan point to that. Musharraf’s contemporary shopping list—F-16 fighter aircraft, P3-C Orion maritime surveillance aircraft and anti-ship missiles—was not exactly secret either. The smart people in Washington won’t be unaware of the principle of fungibility of money, as also the fungibility (to a large extent) of military hardware and training. The European diplomat is either being charitable or being naive. The US government is not a victim of the Pakistani military establishment: it is a willing accomplice.

But its complicity is not without reason. Although the reasons wouldn’t be the ones it can put in front of Congressional auditors. That’s because the money that the US was paying the Musharraf regime was the only way—short of messy, and far more expensive, military methods—it could retain a hold over its actions. The US essentially bought the co-operation of the Pakistani military establishment. The itemised billing was for show. Indeed, this strategy required the US to allow its money to be used, abused, siphoned and spirited away by the Musharraf regime. The idea was not to insist on transparency and accountability on how the funds were spent. Rather, it was to hold Musharraf accountable for the results. The pertinent question that needs to be asked—and criticism leveled against the Bush administration—is how far it pursued the latter. It is also reasonable to ask, in the interests of good governance design, how far the former affected the latter.

Let’s not forget externalities. Supplementing Pakistan’s military budget allowed the Musharraf regime to purchase more weapons than it could otherwise have changing the military balance with respect to India. And the US stands to benefit (via Atanu Dey, who has a lucid explanation of dollar auctions and deadly games) from the inevitable Indian response. If there is a victim in this story, it is the poor Indian taxpayer.

Should India love Musharraf?

Love him or hate him. But it’s not about him.

M K Narayanan, India’s National Security Adviser (no less!) has declared a ‘grudging admiration’ for Pervez Musharraf. Now, stating that India would do business with whoever is in power in Pakistan is the right thing to do at a time when Pakistan is acutely unstable. But to declare admiration—grudging or otherwise—is pushing it too much. But then, Narayanan was always more comfortable in backrooms of internal security. He never had a flair for the front room of international diplomacy. J N Dixit died too early.

Then Maverick, a voice this blog respects, writes that India’s perceptions of General Musharraf have changed over the years. And that he “howsoever grudgingly has earned that respect from India”.

If this admiration and respect is for the manner in which Musharraf managed to ensure his own political survival in the face of political tumult and rising unpopularity, that’s fine. But it would be dangerously naive to believe that the ‘sombre, determined’ Musharraf somehow is now the best thing for India. Stephen Cohen’s 1999 thesis—that a Pakistan under military rule will be in India’s interests—has been recalled. This theory is the mirror image of those, like Rohit Pradhan, argue that a democratic Pakistan will be better.

Both these views just leaps of faith. What really matters is the balance of power. As long as this prevents Pakistan from pursuing ambitious projects at India’s expense, the type of dispensation in Islamabad is not of primary consequence. So India’s policymakers can entertain whatever fancies they like regarding Musharraf, as long as they are paying attention to what really matters.