Racism in the UK – Nitin Sawhney’s opinion

Nitin Sawhney – he of the chillout music fame – wrote quite a good piece in response to the BBC sting on racism in the British police.

I found his views on nationalism particularly interesting. Like his music his interpretation of nationalism is quite progressive.

Guardian Unlimited | Special reports | Whose country is it anyway?: “However, I believe that ultimately racism can only be challenged by abandoning the emphasis that governments and the media place on the issue of one’s nationality. To be honest, I have never really understood the concept of national pride. After all, no one has ever achieved their nationality. The geographical landmass on which we happen to have been born is simply a product of chance. So why should we make our nationality synonymous with our identity? In an enlightened world, surely it is time to see people as people and not products of various countries. Such attitudes only lead to war and racial ignorance. Surely, when the world is becoming increasingly volatile, it is”

October Spring

India has decided to soften its stance again. See Indian Express: October Spring. While it is certain to score brownie points in the international press and receive lavish praise from “State Department spokesmen” or even their bosses, it is equally certain that Pakistan will see it as a vindication of its policies.

Whether it is an act of high statesmanship or of astute politicking I just hope India is on guard for a Kargil replay. If Advani talks to the APHC moderates, the Geelani guys are’nt going to return the AK47s to their ISI handlers. Neither is Pakistan ever going to give up its Kashmir claim. They are sure to see this as a sign of weakness and intensify their ‘struggle’. I am keeping my fingers crossed for next spring.

The appropriate thing to do would have been to scale up developmental activities in Kashmir, give them a share of the growing prosperity of modern India, demonstrate democracy. Let them see for themselves how well placed they are compared to their brethren in Gilgit or Baltistan.

There was no need at all for softening up to Pakistan. New Delhi had a monkey menace, hopefully this is not the start of the surrender monkey menace.

The OIC

The News International and other Pakistani newspapers have been reporting how Pakistan is taking a leading role in the OIC. As usual the OIC has voiced its support for the right to self-determination of the Kashmiris.

Its difficult for anyone to take the OIC seriously. India has 150 million Muslim, but is not allowed to participate in OIC proceedings. It appears that the right to representation of 150 million Indian members of the Ummah are not as important as those of the Kashmiris. The unelected, breakaway faction of the APHC led by Geelani and propped up by Pakistan is the representative of the Kashmiris!

Except for Malaysia, and Indonesia to some extent, there is not one member in the OIC which gives democratic rights to its own people.

For the OIC to be taken seriously it must champion the modernisation and democratisation of the Ummah. Given its current leadership, this is not going to happen in a very long time.

India alone on this one : Vir Sanghvi

Vir Sanghvi wrote a good piece in Sunday’s Hindustan Times. He advocates that there is no point is expecting the Bush Administration to solve India’s problems as it has its own short term interests to pursue. There is no use pretending that the American War on Terror will cause Pakistan to ditch its irredentist agenda.

India alone on this one : Vir Sanghvi

But let’s forget about any support from Washington on Kashmir. On this one, we are on our own. And the way ahead is not to look to Bush or Collin Powell or Condoleezza Rice but to develop our own security strategy. America needs to court the General.

But we need to teach him a lesson he won’t forget.

The Apologists

Prem Shankar Jha’s article in Outlook this week, titled
Double-Barrelled Dialogue ends:

“If the above analysis is correct, then Pakistan’s abrupt change of strategy doesn’t necessarily mean it is going back to its old game of bleeding India with a low-intensity proxy war till it’s forced out of Kashmir. It is much more likely that the shift is born out of a perceived sense of weakness and is designed to bring India to the table. All of Musharraf’s recent statements, such as to the Indian parliamentary delegation that met him in August, and at the UN earlier this week, are consistent with this interpretation.

The ball is, therefore, in India’s court. There is every likelihood that if it takes concrete measures to restart the stalled dialogue, Musharraf will call off his dogs. But there can also be no doubt that Pakistan’s return to coercive tactics has made it much more difficult for New Delhi to take the next step. For if Pakistan cannot negotiate from a position of declining leverage, New Delhi too cannot afford to be seen negotiating with a gun held to it head. However, of the two, India is much more able to afford making a concession on this issue.It is eight times Pakistan’s size, has an immensely stronger economy and, most important of all, is in possession of Kashmir. If the subcontinent ever needed a dose of Mr Vajpayee’s statesmanship and far-sightedness, it needs it now”

It belongs to the same school of thought that as India is larger and can afford to make concessions it should; and Pakistan should not be expected to do so because its smaller or weaker. It is precisely because of this faulty, weak minded, lofty softness that India faces perennial terrorism.

Pakistan is reaping what it sowed – its worthies could very well have decided that after the Cold War Pakistan would focus on economic development and aspire to be an Asian tiger. Instead, they decided to pursue their revisionist agenda of closing the unfinished business of Partition. Why should India even think of bailing out an unrepentant Pakistan ?

Given the unstable nature of the Pakistani government there is no guarantee a quid to one Pakistani leader will be honoured by his successor. Indeed, history gives no comfort as we have a long list of broken promises – Tashkent, Simla, Lahore and Agra. So to concede so much as an inch to Pakistan without a reciprocal guarantee of a total change of heart is utter foolishness.

The sub-continent needs no more doses of statesmanship and far-sightedness; this is not the language Pakistan understands. India needs steely determination in the pursuit of its own self interest. And this certainly does not involve negotiating with a someone pointing a gun at you.

To Islamabad via Washington

Pai Panandikar makes a point in today’s Indian Express.To Islamabad via Washington suggests that Pakistani civil society is powerless in influencing its governing establishment towards a peace process with India, hence India must use the United States as a middleman.

I am still not convinced that civil society in Pakistan is crying out for peace with India. While there is a large majority of urban and rural dispossessed in Pakistan, they have been raised on a diet of blaming India for their misfortunes. The minority ruling class see no incentive to promote peace with India as this could challenge their position atop the commanding heights of the Pakistani economy and society. Only a process of catharsis can attune Pakistan to the modern mindset – that of self-confidence which is a precursor to a peaceful co-existence. Similarly I do not believe in the connection linking poverty in India to the confrontation with Pakistan. Given the right economic policies which bring about total economic freedom in India and stable governance poverty can well be tackled without compromising the security situation. Not so with Pakistan, which almost certainly cannot afford to have any significant economic development with the current and rising levels of military expenditure.

But Pai Panandikar’s basic point that Washington can help to bring about peace with Pakistan is realistic. For one, Washington’s aid to Pakistan will remain a key factor in propping up Pakistan’s economy. But can Washington be relied on to honestly promote India’s interests in the light of Washington’s own expediency ? Even after the 9/11 and the new alignment between India and the US, Washington is yet to demonstrate that it is willing or able to push Pakistan to deliver anything on the Kashmir front.

Charlie Wilson’s War – The realities

In his book Charlie Wilson’s War, George Crile romanticises Charlie Wilson into a larger than life cold-warrior defending America’s national interests against the Soviet Union. His favoured cause – the Afghan mujahideen and its Pakistani backers, especially General Zia ul Haq.

Well, the Soviet Union is long gone, and Pakistan is the new hotbed of anti-American terrorism. But apparently Charlie Wilson has no qualms lobbying for Pakistan. The News International reports that a lobbying firm linked to him is being paid $30,000 per month to plug for Pakistan.

From out here, it looks like Charlie Wilson is just another mercenary politician out to make his buck. We have plenty of them in India too.

Pakistan, a Troubled Ally

During Musharraf’s now frequent visits to the United States, it has become customary for an editorial or op-ed to appear in a leading newspaper laying out the cards as they are. Yesterday’s New York Times carries such an article, titled Pakistan, a Troubled Ally.

The article cites Pakistan’s half-hearted support on the al Qaeda/Taliban front, continued support of violence against Indians in Kashmir and nuclear proliferation in North Korea and Iran, going on to note that the US may need to review its relationship with Musharraf if this recalcitrance continues.

Such articles seem part of the Bush administration’s carrot-and-stick strategy to keep Musharraf on his toes. Unfortunately this strategy does not seem to be working all that well. Before leaving for the US Musharraf makes it a point to announce the arrest of some jehadis, this time 17 madrassa students from Indonesia and Malaysia, and prove his continued usefulness as an ally. This causes the Bush administration to issue a statement that Musharraf is a stalwart ally in the war against terror.

While this charade has its usefulness, it must not be a substitute for real strategy. The US must link its long-term aid programme to Pakistan’s performance set against a time-table.

Can Pakistan be saved ?

“The Pakistan of the Army, followed closely by the Pakistan of the civilian politicians, has long put the freedom of Kashmiris from Indian rule ahead of the freedom of Pakistanis from illiteracy, inequality, and poverty.” writes Council for Foreign Relations’ Mahnaz Ispahani in her review of two recent books on Pakistan in the New Republic, titled Can Pakistan Be Saved?

The article is quite a cogent analysis of many of the issues that make Pakistan the dangerous entity it is. Her proposed solution however, is to give Pakistan more of the same – development aid, trust in Musharraf. Most US analysts tend to take Musharraf at his face value. Even they should be aware of his famous double dealings. The C-130s the Bush Administration gave him for the war on terror were used to ship missiles from North Korea. Far from addressing the nation to cleanse itself of terror and extremist madrassas, he has resorted to more exciting themes like building dams to solve water problems which are likely to appear in 2050 !

Musharraf’s duplicity becomes all the more dangerous given the nuclear dimension. Given its ‘strategic assets’ are as important as the ‘Kashmir cause’ it is reasonable to assume that Musharraf is likely to dupe the US on this account as well.

The Guardian reported yesterday that the Saudis are planning to acquire some nuclear weapons as well. Given the deep bonds between the two countries, as well as suspicions that Saudi money was used to partially fund Pakistan’s Islamic bomb a nuclear nexus between these two countries cannot be ruled out. This nexus is a strategic threat to India, the United States and Israel.

There is no point in giving any aid to Pakistan without simultaneously strengthening its democratic institutions and disarming its military-intelligence complex. It needs more of a MacArthur like intervention which reforged Japan into a dynamic modern nation.

There is a small body

There is a small body of opinion in Pakistan that is advocating a paradigm shift in Pakistani thinking. Here’s an article from The News International dated 17 Sep 2003.

Time for paradigm shift

M B Naqvi

Following a flurry of news items about an emerging new US-Israel-India axis, rising tide of Indo-Israel military cooperation and Israeli PM Ariel Sharon’s New Delhi visit, Pakistan’s reaction was summed up by Foreign Minister Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri: “We will do whatever is required to make sure that the minimum credible balance (with India) is maintained. We have done that for 56 years”. This is a clear declaration of policy that Pakistan will continue to run the arms race with its traditional ‘enemy’.

Given the background of 56 years of cold war, interspersed with four or five wars and half-wars, this is an expected knee-jerk reaction to the emergence of the informal US-Israel-India strategic convergence. US Assistant Secretary of State Ms Rocca has denied its existence, perhaps for the record. This is one of those terminological exactitudes that politicians take recourse to when being really truthful can hurt some of their interests. The trend of growing congruence of strategic perceptions among the governments of the three states is unmistakable. It is like an active living together already, whether or not formal wedding ceremonies have taken place.

There is no doubt it poses a painful dilemma to the ruling establishment of this country. Fifty-year old central plank of Pakistan’s foreign policy was to be loyal camp followers of the US. The latter in return sporadically supported (in 1950s) Pakistan over Kashmir, gave it military aid off and on, always supported the military-led establishment remain in power through the thick of dictatorships or thin of bogus democracies and has underwritten all military dictators, if also at a political price. Now here is a powerful undertow of strategic interests of the US coalescing with those of Israel and India (Pakistan’s ‘enemy’). This is tantamount to the Heavens falling or the earth opening up. Where will these forlorn elites go?
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