Look who needs the Indian state!

So “mobile, independent republics” need the protection of a “corporate, Hindu, satellite state” Ha ha!

Others have written about Arundhati Roy’s latest, successful hijacking operation. Her cameo appearance in the service of the cause of Kashmiri Sunni Muslim separatism has transformed the debate from being about Jammu & Kashmir to being about freedom of speech (especially hers). So it is unclear whether the likes of Syed Ali Shah Geelani will invite her to speak at the next seminar they organise.

More seriously, while her remarks have backfired on the cause she ostensibly supports they have wildly succeeded in drawing attention to her—heck, even The Acorn is moved to write about her. But this post is not about her being more than just a rebellious self-promoting intellectual stuntperson. Nor is it about the wrongness of her angry opponents breaking her flower pots.

This post is about the vacuousness of her claims of personally seceding from India and declaring herself a “mobile, independent republic“. The problem with mobile, independent republics is that they don’t last more than as long as it takes to break a flower pot. For all her grandstanding against the Indian state, Ms Roy (well, her husband) “lodged a complaint at the Chanakyapuri police station, following which police personnel were deployed outside the residence.”

The mobile, independent republic couldn’t even protect itself. It (well, its husband) had no choice but to turn to the corrupt, human-rights-abusing, uniform-wearing personnel of “the corporate, Hindu, satellite state.”

But then, the mobile, independent republic has a case history of irony deficiency.

This incident tells you why Arundhati Roy is wrong at the most fundamental level. The Indian state might be imperfect, but presents the best way to protect the rights and freedoms of all its citizens. Its faults must be identified and publicised—not to build a case for its dissolution, but to organise efforts for its improvement.

Painted buses and $300m of Pakistan’s ‘own money’

Another terrible report by Emily Wax

It is one thing to say that “Pakistan is pouring $300 million into Afghanistan”. It is entirely another to say that “Pakistan is pouring $300 million of its own money“. It is absurd to talk about Pakistan’s own money when it is bankrolled by the United States and the international community. Even if it’s elite didn’t stow away their cash in Dubai, London and other places, and actually paid their taxes and power bills, it is absurd to talk about $300 million of Pakistan’s own money as long as it is receiving that much or more in foreign aid.

Money is fungible. So the $300 million is quite likely to be some poor American taxpayers’ hard-earned money used to paint a few buses in the colours of the Pakistani flag. Not all of it, mind you, and quite possibly not even the majority of it, unless you happen to believe—like Barack Obama—that there is no corruption east of the Durand line.

Yet the sheer folly of the use of the phrase “Pakistan’s own money” is relatively mild compared to the overall message today’s report in the Washington Post seeks to convey. That message goes somewhat like this: India’s development assistance (mind you, not military presence or those ‘consulates’) “is causing new security and diplomatic problems” for US officials, because Washington “fears upsetting the delicate balance in its relations with Islamabad”. Pakistan is responding—apart from the case of providing some buses emblazoned with its flags—by killing Indian development workers. The unstated, but obvious, implication is that it is India that is causing problems for the United States in Afghanistan.

The Post‘s Emily Wax outdoes herself. Yes, this is the same person who asserted that the demands made on television by the ‘gunmen’ who carried out the 26/11 attacks on Mumbai reflected their real agenda; and the same person who was surprised to find that Indians do not follow Mahatma Gandhi’s dress code.

Strangely enough, other than those US officials and the Pakistani diplomat, the Afghan blokes interviewed only had nice things to say about India’s role. Like Sayed Arif, a young Afghan electrical engineer. “We very much want the Indians here,” Arif said, looking out at the power lines that India brought to his country. “That much in Afghanistan we are sure of.”

If US officials believe that what ordinary Afghans want in their own country is a problem, what it really means is that the US officials are the problem. Unless Ms Wax was attempting a satirical critique of US policy in Afghanistan, she has completely missed the plot.

Crossette & cliché

A fisking of Barbara Crossette’s piece in Foreign Policy

Foreign Policy‘s online editors invited me to rebut Barbara Crossette’s piece on India being the baddest boy of global governance. You can see the published version on their website. This is the original draft.

Making room for India
Contrary to Barbara Crossette, India does the global governance thing

According to Financial Times’ Lucy Kellaway, “Elephant in the Room” was the most popular cliché to appear in major newspapers and journals in 2009. It is perhaps appropriate then, that Barbara Crossette’s latest diatribe against India appeared in Foreign Policy under that headline. While it claims to show that it is India that causes the most “the most global consternation” and “gives global governance the biggest headache” it is merely a series of rants and newsroom clichés selected entirely arbitrarily in order to support the author’s prejudice.

It is unfathomable how Ms Crossette can declare that it is India that causes the most consternation and the biggest headache—among Afghanistan, Iran, Venezuela, North Korea, Pakistan and China—merely by listing its alleged failings. Without an attempt to compare the failings across countries—and why only these countries, why leave out the West and the rest?—it is logically impossible to arrive at a conclusion that one of them is the biggest culprit. But once you trade logic for hyperbole, you can fit just about any animal you like into that room. For Ms Crossette’s, it is the pachyderm.
Continue reading “Crossette & cliché”

Are Washington Post’s editors out to lunch?

Beware: it is seeing India fighters marking halls

Just because Shaiq Hussain and Karin Brulliard, reporting from Rawalpindi, sent in their report on a Sunday, it doesn’t mean that the Washington Post’s editors can let references to Little Green Men from Mars appear unfactchecked in their news pages. Look at this (linkthanks @muladhara):

Despite the Taliban’s assertion of responsibility for the attack, some analysts and intelligence officials said the assault bore the hallmark of Indian fighters, who might have been acting in retaliation for a bombing last week outside the Indian Embassy in Kabul, the Afghan capital. Pakistan’s intelligence officials have regularly alleged that India, its archrival, supports insurgents fighting in their country. [WP]

Hallmark of India fighters? Hallmark of Indian fighters? Hallmark of Indian fighters?

Remember this is the Washington Post, not even the New York Times. And it says Indian fighters. It needs to either sack some of the editors responsible—for who knows what they’ll allow to slip through next—or perhaps hire one.

A conversion course for Middle Eastern journalists

On ‘entrenched military rule’

Western journalist moving from the Middle Eastern beat to the subcontinent must be put through a transition programme, mostly requiring them to read history and the daily news. Perhaps then, like a certain Graham Usher, they won’t write a sentence likemilitary rule in Indian-occupied Kashmir remained as entrenched as ever” in between 2004-2008. Sure, the writer is based in Islamabad, so it is understandable if he chooses to use the word like Indian-“occupied” Kashmir, but entrenched “military rule”? Mr Usher claims ‘entrenched military rule’ in Jammu & Kashmir is one reason why the bilateral back channel talks over Kashmir broke down. He must be ignorant of facts, terribly confused or engaged in wilful misrepresentation: for the only part of Kashmir where military rule is entrenched is the part that Pakistan occupies. Surely, Mr Usher can’t have missed the fact that Jammu & Kashmir had very successful elections in 2002 and again in 2008, where a large number of people turned up to vote. That’s even before the ‘peace process’ started in 2004.

The article itself is a regurgitation of the delusional thinking that prevails in the Pakistani military establishment and the kind of line that comes out of the Pakistani foreign office. Sure, the writer is based in Islamabad, but the level of credulousness is astonishing.

Update: K Shankar Bajpai’s masterful deconstruction of the vacuous argument:

If Kashmir underlies Pakistani policy, again it is not Indian but Pakistani designs that will shape events. It is not India that is trying to change the situation. Pakistan will say we are missing the point: all their provocations arise from India’s greater provocation, the “wrong” we continue in Kashmir. Public versions of back-channel achievements are wrong in major ways, but demonstrate one great reality: even this issue can be resolved bilaterally if Pakistan is willing.

We have been through all this endlessly, Pakistan will no more believe our version than we can theirs; but, knowing both, Washington still defers to Pakistani obsessions. Catering to delusions does not dispel them: progress depends on uprooting them. This Herculean work (which we will be pressed to facilitate) is surely the first priority. Washington cannot work miracles: even if imagined. There is the reality of Pakistan professing fears, but don’t call them “legitimate”. [IE]

Chennai rejects

Some opinions just can’t make it to the People’s Daily of Chennai

The Beijing correspondent of The Hindu can hardly be classified as a critic of the People’s Republic. But when Pallavi Aiyar wrote a piece that compared India and China that showed the latter in rather unfavourable light, she had to publish it in Asia Times Online, a Hong Kong (Special Administrative Region of China) based publication. It is understood that The Hindu, ‘India’s national newspaper’ declined to publish it. Oh! the irony.

In direct contradistinction to China, India’s polity has flourished precisely because of its ability to acknowledge difference. The very survival of India as a country, given the scope of its bewildering diversity, has been dependent on the possibility of dissent…

In China, regular lip service is also paid to the country’s own, considerable diversity. During the National People’s Congress’ annual session, for example, delegates representing China’s multiplicity of minorities swish around the Great Hall of the People in Beijing in their “ethnic” dresses. Beijing regularly talks of the religious freedoms enjoyed by the country’s Buddhists, Christians and Muslims.

But in fact, the fundamental tenet of China’s political philosophy is not diversity but uniformity. This homogeneity does not only extend itself to the tangible, such as architecture or the system of writing alone, but also to thought.

Even in the modern China of the 21st century where there are more Internet users than even in the United States, those who disagree with mainstream, officially sanctioned views outside of the parameters set by mainstream officially sanctioned debate, more often than not find themselves branded as dissidents – suspect, hunted, under threat.

The insistence on “harmony” as the only reality and inability to admit genuine differences in interest and opinions between the peoples of a country of the size and complexity of China is ultimately the country’s greatest weakness.

Talk of political reform in China continues to be bound by the “harmonious” parameters set by Hu Jintao, the president. The idea is that everyone’s interests and opinions are to be balanced and resolved without conflict…

For China’s authorities to simply deny the reality of the problem, blame all tension on an exiled leader and insist that the majority of Tibetans couldn’t be happier with the Communist Party’s harmonious policies, is self-defeating. [Asia Times]