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Commentary on India - Pakistan War Talk - a select compilation (sept - oct 2016)

5 October 2016

print version of this article print version - 5 October 2016


  • [1] Mr Modi’s Achilles heel | Jawed Naqvi
  • [2] This war cloud has a new shape | Gopalkrishna Gandhi
  • [3] Let us not lose sight of cost of escalation | Pritam Singh
  • [4] Keep your cool | Ghazi Salahuddin
  • [5] Weaponising the people | Cyril Almeida
  • [6] A-warring we shall go | Indrajit Hazra
  • [7] Surgical strikes are good theatre, but stop there | SA Aiyar
  • [8] Situationer: The wages of living by hate | I.A. Rehman
  • [9] Pakistan - India: No option but to talk | Ayesha Siddiqa
  • [10] The terror of war hysteria | Jawed Naqvi
  • [11] Remain the larger nation: Throwing out actors, hating an entire people is small and reductionist | Saba Naqvi
  • [12] No option but to talk to Pakistan. Smoke and mirrors will lead nowhere | Bharat Bhushan
  • [13] URLS for Certain Relevant News reports



Dawn, October 4, 2016

Mr Modi’s Achilles heel

by Jawed Naqvi

SARHAD par bahot tanaav hai kya? Kuchh pata karo, chunaav hai kya? (The border is brimming with tension. Find out if there is an election.) Rahat Indori’s verse deserves scrutiny, even if wars don’t impress Indian voters. Yet Rahat’s lines will nudge growing sceptics befuddled by a contested cross-border raid. Of course, they risk censure.

When Michael Moore made Fahrenheit 9/11, a compelling film questioning the official narrative about the destruction of the World Trade Centre, he was not trolled as an anti-national or an agent of terrorists. He won applause and some fair criticism for presenting an interesting thesis, and it was up to the viewers to accept his version of the truth or reject it. Let an Indian or a Pakistani try questioning their establishments on a war mission without being trolled or threatened.

The difference is one of a confident bourgeoisie, which is sure-footed about its seemingly unending winning streak, and of its fail-proof perfidy where needed. It can eavesdrop on foreign leaders and plunder resource-rich countries at will, but the moment it tries tricks with its own people, there can be hell to pay.

The South Asian arch-rivals on the other hand betray their feudal, trader, crony capitalist, authoritarian proclivity, uncertain and insecure of a rentier future. They plunder and double-guess their own people in the national interest.

The country has been flapping its fins to sail out into the ocean blue as an eager entrant at the Pacific armada anchoring around an anti-China strategy. It is force of habit that India finds itself dragged back into the baby pool of local, avoidable acrimonies.

Sample one such acrimony. Saarc has isolated Pakistan, Indian headlines scream. Saarc was created to encircle India, actually, according to its first host in Dhaka in 1985 Gen Mohammad Ershad. “We were allergic to India. So we decided to come together to deal with it,” he told me in 1997. The old allergens may have mutated, and what set out as an anti-India outfit is now willing to work with India as a new partner. That’s good news all round.

Granted too that Pakistan must pull up its socks with homegrown terrorism to make Saarc a more viable proposition. That’s a fair argument, but in isolating Pakistan has India succeeded at all, barring the headlines? What were Russian troops doing in a politically isolated country? And China? And the OIC, among many such? The latter raised the Kashmir issue with unusual focus over the ongoing killings there. And Kashmir? Who is more isolated with the people in the Valley?

It’s a given for both countries that neither can underrate the threat of religious terrorism. But when the terrorists seek to contrive a war, would it not be prudent to see the trap?

Pakistan on the other hand dreams of being a strategic pivot that regulates Central Asia and beyond. It can’t even cross the Afghan road block, the one it had set up to stall its main quarry.

Truth we all know is the first casualty of war. A saying by Joseph Goebbels could apply to our own nationalists. “Think of the press as a great keyboard on which the government can play.” It’s why George Perkovich, asked about an antidote to xenophobia, said: “Unplug the TV.”

It has worked for me, and it can be a priceless tonic to restore your peace of mind, to see the unfolding drama with relative equanimity. Read the newspaper instead. It doesn’t scream inanities. And if you disagree with the editorial you can always use it to pack fish and chips or to potty-train your dog.

I am actually happy that the Modi government has claimed a chest-thumping victory against terrorism through a resolve that only a macho leader could have carried out. I am happy that he is happy. But I am also happy that the Pakistani army has concluded that it is in no one’s interest to escalate the current crisis. Is peace nigh?

This is where Rahat Indori’s verse should be scoured for a clue. If the LoC strike did take place to control terror, it hasn’t stopped another army camp being attacked. If the main interest was political profit, that too looks distinctly elusive. The Indian military spokesman said there was no plan to conduct another operation, not as a promise but as a hope. There are questions whether there was a strike at all, and Pakistanis are not the only sceptics. The UN missed this invisible outing. UNMOGIP, the UN monitoring group, said it had “not directly observed any firing across the LoC related to the latest incidents.”

Either its men were sleeping at the wheels or they are better aware of the facts than most of us.

Three polls are round the corner, crucial for Mr Modi to set himself up as a confident candidate for a second inning in 2019.

According to a recent count in Punjab, the Aam Aadmi Party was primed to lead the pack. In Goa too, AAP is seen to be winning or at least leading. In Uttar Pradesh, former chief minister Mayawati has surged ahead of everyone with the Congress as its likely junior partner. Intriguingly, a communal riot in the state could consolidate Muslims behind her. No wonder Mr Modi has found a new love for them, calling Muslims his brothers and so on.

If he is politically astute, he might try befriending Pakistan effectively instead of ineffectively trying to isolate it. Reason? Atal Behari Vajpayee mobilised troops in 2002 after the attack on the Indian parliament and lost the election in 2004. Manmohan Singh did nothing (overtly) after the Mumbai terror attack of 2008. He won a totally unexpected second term in 2009. But Modi is not a great student of history. That is his Achilles heel.

Published in Dawn October 4th, 2016


The Hindu - October 3, 2016

This war cloud has a new shape

by Gopalkrishna Gandhi

India and Pakistan are being drummed into war-mindedness, not in the sense of a readiness to face war should it happen, but in the sense of wanting a war

Our Constitution shares something with Leo Tolstoy. ‘War and peace.’ Those three words, written exactly like the title of his classic novel, comprise Entry 15 in the Union List of our Constitution. In mindscapes as ordinary as mine, this simply means that the Union of India, and the Union of India alone, can decide when to declare war, when to return to peace.

We are almost at war. “Almost” because war has not been declared by the Union Government or the President who, contrary to popular belief, is not ‘Supreme Commander of the Armed forces’ but in whom the supreme command over our armed forces vests. The point of this quibble is that the President in declaring war (if and when he does) acts on the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers headed by the Prime Minister.

Wars, declared or undeclared, in India or by India are the work of the Prime Minister of the day. That is the first thing about any ‘India war’.

A short history of India’s wars

We have been at war five times before. And all but once with the same country, Pakistan. In 1947-48, 1965, 1971, 1999. Was war ‘declared’ in all those four cases?

War could not be formally declared in 1947-48 which was Prime Minister Nehru’s India-Pakistan war; there was no time. The second India-Pakistan war, Prime Minister Shastri’s war, also started on August 5, 1965 without a formal declaration of war.

The 13-day, third India-Pakistan war of 1971, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s war, started officially when on the evening of December, 3 1971, the Pakistani Air Force struck eleven airfields in our north-west, including Agra. Addressing the nation over All India Radio that evening, she said the PAF air strikes were a declaration of war against India, and the Indian Air Force responded with initial air strikes that very night.

In the last of the series, in May-July 1999, the Kargil war of Prime Minister Vajpayee, unleashed by Pakistan soldiers infiltrating into the Indian side of the Line of Control (LoC), took us by utter surprise, even disbelief. We were in the war before we could declare it. Declared in terms of Entry 15 or not, all four were wars. And they were wars linked for all time, for the better or worse, with the Prime Ministers of the day.

We are now on the threshold of war. Prime Minister Modi’s war. Tolstoy’s phrase in the Union List beams red to show danger, green as if to say ‘Go Ahead’. As citizens of India, we must trust that such a war, if it does take place, will be justified, will be fought clean, and will put cross-border terrorism in its place.

The results and questions

But before that happens, and while there still is time, we have to ask ourselves: What did the four previous wars achieve?

In the first of the Indo-Pakistan wars in 1947-1948, estimates say, Indian losses were 1,500 killed and 3,500 wounded, and Pakistani losses were 6,000 killed and 14,000 wounded. Nehru’s army taught Pakistan a tough lesson but with international pressure mounting and Governor General Mountbatten turning internationalist, Nehru agreed to a ceasefire. Pakistan gained roughly a third of the former State, a net gain for the new nation. India retained a truncated Valley, Ladakh and Jammu. Who won, who lost that war?

In the second war, the fatalities were 3,000 Indian soldiers, 3,800 Pakistani soldiers. India held Pakistani territory in solid bulk, Lahore being but a knuckle away from Indian control. But the Tashkent Declaration signed by Prime Minister Shastri and President Ayub Khan got Indian and Pakistani forces to pull back to their pre-conflict positions, pre-August lines. Who won, who lost?

In the third war, in 1971, what did India win and Pakistan lose? India won self-confidence, Pakistan lost East Pakistan. India won Bangladeshis’ appreciation, Pakistan lost their companionship. In the process, Pakistan had 8,000 killed and 25,000 wounded and even victorious India had 3,000 dead and 12,000 wounded. In the Shimla Agreement, Bhutto agreed to recognise an independent Bangladesh, even as Indira Gandhi agreed to return all the more than 90,000 Pakistani soldiers taken prisoner by India in the 13-day war. Bangladesh today is friendly to India. But this does not mean that it will always be inimical to Pakistan. Who won, who lost?

Estimates differ wildly but it is believed that in the Kargil war of 1999, Pakistan lost close to 1,000 soldiers and India 550, many of them senior officers. Pakistan had to abandon the Indian points it has got hold of.

It would be sobering to acknowledge the net gains of the four wars that could be termed ‘positive’. One, thanks to India’s active reflexes, Pakistan has understood that its provoking of India by crossing the border or the LoC does not, and will not, work for it.

Two, thanks to India’s active and pro-active reflexes, Bangladesh is on the South Asian map, a permanent rebuff to the Two Nation Theory.

Three, the Tashkent Declaration (1966) and the Shimla Agreement (1972) have shown war as wrong-headed, peace the only condition for the two neighbours to live with each other. Prime Minister Vajpayee’s readiness for a dialogue with Pakistan both before and after Kargil, and Prime Ministers Gujral and Manmohan Singh striving for a détente have been influenced by Tashkent and Shimla, the latter being cited in narratives more than the former because it is a signed and ratified agreement.

Are these three results of the four wars active on India-Pakistan minds today? They are not.

All that’s changed

We should remind ourselves that two Indians — Lal Bahadur Shastri and Indira Gandhi who were no wimps — signed parchments in which the following was said:

“The Prime Minister of India and the President of Pakistan agree that both sides will exert all efforts to create good neighbourly relations between India and Pakistan in accordance with the United Nations Charter. They reaffirm their obligation under the Charter not to have recourse to force and to settle their disputes through peaceful means.” (Tashkent Declaration, January 10, 1966).

“The Government of India and the Government of Pakistan are resolved that the two countries put an end to the conflict and confrontation that have hitherto marred their relations and work for the promotion of a friendly and harmonious relationship… respect for each other’s territorial integrity and sovereignty and non-interference in each other’s internal affairs. (Shimla Agreement, July 2, 1972).

Prime Minister Vajpayee’s nod for an agreement on a ceasefire on the Line of Control in 2003 carried Tashkent and Shimla forward. This was the first time that India and Pakistan agreed to a ceasefire that covered the International Border, the LoC and the Siachen Glacier in Jammu and Kashmir.

What is the difference between the time when Nehru, Shastri, Indira Gandhi and Vajpayee followed the ‘War’ prerogative in our Union List with the ‘Peace’ prerogative in the same and agreed to what they agreed to, and now?

Terror was known then, terror is known now, but in more ferocious and ingenious avatars. And in both countries, intolerance has come to be anointed. That — intolerant frenzy — is being excavated by hawks to fuel a war-psychosis even before war is declared or erupts.

In Pakistan, hawks in the military and clergy have found in terror groups their best grime-handler. In India, Hindutva has found in Pakistan-harboured terror groups their best friend-in-enemy’s garb.

Fuelling hatriotism

Terror and Hindutva do each other’s work for them. They offer to a credulous and suspicious public in both countries an alternative patriotism, which is hatriotism — hatred of the other country, its majority religion. The two have a common enemy: liberal secularism, pluralism, concord. They use a common weapon: incitement. They use a common fuel: fanaticism. They would die without the other.

They feed on and feed each other’s mistaken, misguided, misleading nationalisms.

India and Pakistan are being drummed into war-mindedness, not in the sense of a readiness to face war should it happen, but in the sense of wanting a war. This is the difference.

George Perkovich said as far back as 2003 — in the Vajpayee era — “Pakistanis cite the RSS and VHP as proof that Hindus are out to destroy Muslims and, of course, Pakistan. The RSS and VHP, of course, use the prominence of Islamist parties and terrorist organisations in Pakistan as proof that Muslims are evil… The only way for India to liberate itself from Pakistan is through pluralist liberalism, not cultural nationalism.” He can say, and we should say to ourselves, the same today.

But we should do more. We should trust our Prime Minister, whose mind is so difficult to fathom, to remember what Shastri, Indira Gandhi and Vajpayee did in 1965, 1971 and 1999, respectively, but also how they followed that up with moves that placed war in the doghouse.

This is not to exculpate terrorism. It is to not oblige it by overreaction and self-destruction. M.K. Narayanan’s sage advice in these very columns two weeks ago must be heeded by New Delhi.

There is no such thing in war, declared or undeclared, as tit for tat, and that is that. Surgical strikes can be expected to be followed by post-surgical complications. Who will pay for them? Those who gloat over the ‘fitting reply’? Certainly not. Those who describe that as ‘the rise of a new India’? Most certainly not.

Soldiers, brave-hearts, trained to fight and be prepared to die fighting, will fight the war if it comes. And we will, as we must, honour them. But while they do their duty by war, we must do ours by peace. Remembering that ‘War and Peace’ are one single entry in the Union List, we — you and I — must fight another war. And that is the war against war-mongering, a war against the psychology that glorifies war, that makes nuclear warheads of our minds. We must step out of the queue for sectarian hatred and line up with that for secular intelligence. We must declare war against the un-entered Entry that seeks to displace ‘War and Peace’, which is ‘War and Polarisation’. We must expunge it.

Gopalkrishna Gandhi, a former Governor of West Bengal, is distinguished professor of history and politics, Ashoka University.


The Tribune - 3 October 2016

Let us not lose sight of cost of escalation

by Pritam Singh

Reducing India-Pak tensions is a historic necessity. Regions far from the borders can afford to play warmongering games, but the border regions would be devastated in both countries if war breaks out.

BUSSED OUT: Residents of Ranian village on the border in Amritsar district being shifted to safer places on Thursday. Vishal Kumar/Tribune
There is a palpable danger of India-Pakistan conflict escalating after the Indian Army’s recent operation against ‘terror’ sites across the border. India and Pakistan have previously fought four wars and each of those wars has led to loss of lives and destruction of nature on both sides. These mutually destructive wars have also hindered the initiatives at reducing poverty and ill health in both the countries.

A very basic lesson in economics teaches us that resources are always scarce and overuse of resources in one sphere is always at the cost of resources in another sphere. A development economist once did a global survey of solider-teacher ratio in different countries and found that countries with higher soldier-teacher ratio have lower human development than those with lower soldier- teacher ratio. A very simple conclusion is that societies which have more resources devoted to teaching than those devoted to building armies are higher in human well-being index.

The most impressive example is of Costa Rica, a Latin American country which decided in 1948 to have no army at all because it decided that it will never attack another country and believed that since none of its neighbours will feel threatened by it, it does not have any fear of being attacked by any of them. The country maintains only a police force for internal security measures. A calculation done a few years ago showed that although Costa Rica ranked 68th in the world in terms of per capita Gross Domestic Product, it ranked Number 1 in the “Happy Planet Index” and also Number 1 in the World Database of Happiness. In 1987, Costa Rican President Oscar Aria in an address to the US Congress outlined the remarkable vision of his country when he said:

“I belong to a small country that was not afraid to abolish its army in order to increase its strength. In my homeland you will not find a single tank, a single artillery piece, a single warship or a single military helicopter.... Today we threaten no one, neither our own people nor our neighbours. Such threats are absent not because we lack tanks but because there are few of us who are hungry, illiterate or unemployed.” This bold vision was one reason that he was awarded, very deservingly, the Nobel Peace Prize that year. The peace dividend that Costa Rica earned also led to the country being selected for the headquarters for the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and also the United Nations’ University of Peace. Not every country has the fortune, either because of its geo-political location or due to the quality of its leadership to take the path Costa Rica took, but every country has a choice between deescalating or escalating conflict with its neighbours.

In the case of India-Pakistan relations, there have been ups and downs due mainly to the quality of political leadership in both countries. Undoubtedly, the Kashmir issue is the most intractable in the relations between the two countries. It is an internal conflict within India and any Pakistan interference is because the Indian political leadership has not shown the boldness of vision that is required to solve this issue. An external power can, if it wants to, intervene in an internal conflict of another country but it cannot create that conflict. Why is it that Pakistan cannot intervene in Haryana or Madhya Pradesh or any other Hindi-speaking state? The answer is that none of these states has any fundamental conflict with the Indian Union. Even in Punjab, there was some Pakistan interference only after there was internal disaffection in the state after the 1984 Operation Bluestar action at the Golden Temple. Similarly, India was able to intervene in 1971 in what was East Bengal then because that region had conflict with the Punjabi-Urdu dominated establishment in Pakistan. Or for that matter, India now intervenes in some form or another in Baluchistan because that region has a conflict with the central Pakistani state but India is unable to intervene in any way in Pakistani Punjab because that region has full identification with the central Pakistani state.

India’s problem in Kashmir or Pakistan’s problem in Baluchistan is not unique. In fact, the major forms of armed conflict in today’s world are not between countries but within countries. There has not been a major war for quite some time between countries but the world is ravaged today by internal conflicts. Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan, Somalia, Ukraine, Israel/Palestine, Chechnya in Russia and the Uyghur Autonomous Region in China are the major known trouble spots of internal conflicts. The late Edward Said had once made a remarkable observation that the twentieth century was a century of the birth of nations. He referred both to the process of decolonisation that gave birth to many nation states such as India and Pakistan, but also to the struggles of smaller nationalities within large nation states to shape their own destinies. That process is continuing in the twenty-first century.

Countries with developed democratic cultures and institutions have found democratic ways of dealing with internal nationality aspirations, such as Scotland in the UK and Quebec in Canada, but developing countries lacking such structures have become arenas of armed conflicts. A major study done by Prof Frances Stewart and her colleagues at Oxford has found that countries with poverty are more prone to violent conflicts, and the violent conflicts, in turn, further lead to more poverty by destroying infrastructure and through distorted resource allocation.

In the long run, path to peace does lie in India resolving its internal conflict in Kashmir but waiting for that long run does not mean that steps cannot be taken in the interim to deescalate conflict. It is important to recognise that there are uneven regional implications of conflict. Regions far away from the borders can afford to play warmongering games because their stakes are next to nothing but the border regions would be devastated in both countries if tensions continue and war breaks out. The political and community leaders in the border regions, irrespective of their party affiliations, have a moral duty at this historical juncture to raise their voice against those who are itching for escalating conflict.

The writer is a Professor of Economics at Oxford Brookes University, UK.


The News - October 02, 2016

Keep your cool

by Ghazi Salahuddin

Somewhere, I had read about Buddhism’s three evils, or call them sins: greed, anger and ignorance. To be sure, all religions and creeds would concur with this formulation. But in South Asia, a region particularly immersed in religiosity, leaders and their people proudly brandish their anger as well as their ignorance to affirm their patriotism.

While tensions between India and Pakistan have been simmering since the September 18 attack on the Indian military facility in Uri, there was a sudden and disturbing surge in sabre-rattling on Thursday when India announced that it had carried out ‘surgical strikes’ against ‘terrorist launch pads’ on the Pakistani side of the Line of Control.

This claim, though, was promptly rejected by Pakistan. The Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) described the encounter as a ceasefire violation by India and said that Pakistan lost two of its soldiers and there were also reports of Indian casualties after Pakistan responded to Indian firing.

Irrespective of what really did happen, the temperature has risen considerably. From both sides, the rhetoric has become more belligerent. Anger and ignorance are invested in almost all pronouncements, as war hysteria gains momentum.

In this environment, more dodgy developments are very possible. For instance, it was revealed on Friday that an Indian soldier was captured by Pakistan. The Indians maintained that the soldier “inadvertently crossed into Pakistan and should be returned as per existing mechanism”. Pakistan’s Ambassador to the United Nations Dr Maheela Lodhi announced in New York that he was captured “while trying to enter into Pakistani territory”.

There were bound to be other consequences. The chief justice of the Supreme Court of Pakistan refused to attend a global conference being held in India in October. The Indian Motion Picture Producers Association (IMPPA) banned all Pakistani artists from working in film projects in India and in Pakistan, the exhibitors suspended the screening of Indian films for the time being.

But it is good to know that Rahul Aggarwal, a member of the executive body of IMPPA, has posted a letter of resignation on Facebook and has said that “art is above politics and as the custodians of this art, it is our responsibility to bring people together rather than divide them”. It makes sense, although the message is unlikely to make a large impact. Such is the mood that prevails at the popular level.

For that matter, it is the electronic media in both countries that has polluted the mind of its mass audience with its virulent fulmination. Indian news channel Times Now’s Arnab Goswami has set the bar so high that no other anchor in either country can defeat him in a shouting match. Luckily, Indian news channels are not provided by cable operators in Pakistan. Still, our own anchors, except a few, are doing quite well with their projection of anger and ignorance.

In this setting, how does one counter the idiom of hate and counsel caution and sober reflection on how these passions could affect the future relationship between the two countries and their citizens? The most obvious observation is that India and Pakistan have been at it since the beginning. It is cyclical in some ways. There is a time for confrontation and there is a time for peace and amity. In Agra many years ago, the season changed within hours.

But we did not have the dominance of the private news channels when the Agra summit was held in July 2001. At least in Pakistan, there were no private channels. Now the scene is totally different. Little space is left for liberal opinion to underline the logic for peace. The quality of debate has drastically gone down. More thoughtful and rational observers have gradually disappeared. Perhaps Gresham’s law applies here, too – that bad money drives out good.

Anyhow, it is becoming more and more difficult for the ordinary consumers of our media to make sense of what is happening. They get easily convinced that the obligatory position to take is to join the chorus. This is the impression you get in both countries, though it can be assumed that there is a large number of people out there who aspire to reap the dividends of peace. The likelihood of war between the nuclear armed countries is beyond their comprehension.

We, the citizens of both countries, need to retain our poise and not submit to the excitement of jingoism. We claim to be inheritors of old civilisations and disciples of Sufis and saints. We should be aware of the pain and suffering that wars and armed conflicts necessarily inflict. It is peace that will make all miracles possible. The only way out for India and Pakistan is for them to learn to resolve their disputes through honest and credible negotiations.

Naturally, the world is getting anxious about the rising tempo of rhetoric in South Asia. So much so that the US had to remind India and Pakistan that nuclear capable states do not threaten to use atomic weapons in any conflict. There are other countries that have advised restraint. That both countries have the capacity to totally destroy the other may itself be seen as deterrence – unless their leaders strike a suicide pact and decide to take their people along.

Does this mean that eventually the threat of war will recede and an uneasy equilibrium will be restored in their relations? We cannot be sure because there can be unintended consequences of the kind of escalation that was reported on Thursday – marked by ‘surgical strikes’. Besides, there is an obvious and an unusual surge in patriotic fervour in both countries. That is how passions are aroused to foster national unity.

There is also the compulsion on the part of the rulers to raise the morale of the people and express the resolve to meet any challenges posed by the adversary. So, Pakistan’s federal cabinet met on Friday and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said that Pakistan would take all necessary steps to protect its people and territorial integrity in case of any aggression or violation of the Line of Control. More deliberations are in the offing.

Finally, it is the future of South Asia that is at stake. And if the leaders are able to keep their cool, they would realise that nothing – nothing at all – is to be gained by going to war.

The writer is a senior journalist.


Dawn, October 2, 2016

Weaponising the people

by Cyril Almeida

BROADLY speaking, there are four constituent units to this India-Pakistan business. Whether we talk peace or fight war has depended on how those four have aligned.

The four units: on the India side, the people and their government; on the Pakistani side, the state — the amalgam of civ and mil — and the people.

We don’t have peace — a stable, durable peace, ie normality — because the four have never aligned in the right way.
Where Pakistan and India may be calibrated and calculated in their state-to-state responses and dealings, they are careless with their populations. And therein lies the danger.

When leaders of both sides have wanted to talk peace, one or the other publics has remained unconvinced. When one side has had both state and society in alignment, the other side has a disconnect between its leadership and the people.

Because the four have never aligned in the right way, there has been no peace.

Conversely, and quite happily, the four have never aligned in the wrong way either. We’ve never been at a stage where both state and society in both countries have wanted all-out war, a fight to the finish.

And because the four have never aligned in the wrong way, we’re all still around to reflect on the peculiarness of our South Asian condition: not smart enough to find peace, not insane enough to fight war unrestrained.

But the past isn’t necessarily the future and if you look hard enough, there’re signs of change in how those constituent units behave. And change not in a good way.

Curiously, and contrary to present suggestions, the states are pretty much hewing to their model of sustainable conflict: don’t do anything insane and don’t try and be a hero.

Whatever you believe about who in Pakistan green-lighted Mumbai, Pathankot or Uri, you can’t believe that the purpose was to trigger war. At best it was to dissuade anyone with funny ideas of peace breaking out.

That makes sense: institutional self-preservation, internal predominance and the protection of corporate interests means that the military here can’t want war with India. Needing an enemy is different to fighting that enemy unconstrained.

Same goes for the Indian state: what it wants — becoming an economic powerhouse and a global player — necessarily means it can’t want all-out war with Pakistan. The two are mutually exclusive and in any case what the hell does India get by clobbering Pakistan, assuming it can?

But where Pakistan and India may be calibrated and calculated in their state-to-state responses and dealings, they are careless with their populations. And therein lies the danger.

Specifically, both states are being too casual about weaponising society and public opinion against the other country.

Let’s start with Pakistan. For years now, possibly since the late ’90s, there has been a mainstream political consensus: normalisation of ties with India is fundamental to our security and prosperity.

The terms on which that could work may be contested, but even Imran isn’t immune to the civilian logic on India. Hard fought and still raw, the internal political consensus is now under threat.

And you don’t have to look far for the culprit: the civil-military divide.

Not content with having won the war — Nawaz has nil influence on foreign policy and national security — there has been a case of overkill: making sure that Nawaz can’t even be in a position to make a comeback.

From RAW agents in Sharif sugar mills to conspiracies of steel-mill monopolies to the relentless linking of Nawaz to Modi, all of that has worked to put Nawaz in a position where he can’t even talk about India sensibly anymore.

The same goes for Achakzai and the few heroic voices left in society — tarred deliberately and insistently with the India brush to sabotage their appeals to the public.

Bilawal foolishly is adding to the confusion and undoing the good work of BB, while the MQM and ANP have been fatally undermined by their Indian and Afghan connections respectively.

The net effect is the possibility of an unravelling of a critical political consensus in Pakistan — that peace with India is both desirable and necessary. And that unravelling comes when the weaponisation of swathes of society, via the jihad complex and the mosque-madressah-social welfare network, is at a peak.

Don’t count on Pakistanis automatically settling for not war anymore.

Over in India, a people problem is also evident. It makes sense: a rising country is prickly about its weaknesses and determined to showcase its strengths. The wild and woolly Indian media is essentially catering to that market.

Pakistanis only notice the Pakistan-related stuff, but Indian parents arrested in Oslo by child services and an Indian diplomat arrested in New York have attracted an overwhelming and rough Indian media response.

When it comes to anything related to Pakistan, the Indian media reaction is manifold worse. You can even see how an Indian leadership may be willing to deploy public opinion as a weapon:

Look, don’t do the stuff you’re doing because our options are narrowing, India could be signalling to Pakistan by helping stoke the media flames at home.

That may even seem like a good idea to the Indian state in a world of few good options, hawkish leader at the helm or not. Suffice it to say it would leave India’s leaders with even fewer options eventually.

So, yeah, worry. Not because the states have become crazy, but because the states may have conspired to lose their own people. And with it the possibility of the four constituent units that is India-Pakistan aligning in a good way is becoming more distant.

The writer is a member of staff.


Economic Times - October 3, 2016

A-warring we shall go

by Indrajit Hazra

Oh, the thrill of war. Or rather, the thrill of the thought of war — while you flip channels to watch studio cockfights, and your Navratri fasting gives you a high that you believe to be aspontaneous swelling of nationalistic pride. (It’s gas.) The thrill is primal. And it is real. Folks who find this warmongering stupid — and it is stupid — tend to underestimate the force with which such alust-show comes radiating through, flattening everything else in its path. It is an all-inclusive truly secular high, cutting across classes, regions, and drowning out usual forms of ‘rightwinging it’ nationalism.

One shouldn’t care a rat’s attaché if almost every opinionated Indian wants to go to war with Pakistan. Thankfully, not too many have anything to do with any decisions that can lead to war or everlasting peace. While the military operation that was reportedly conducted by Indian special forces last week did have a solid reasoning behind it — not so much the operation itself but the fact that it was made public — going to war with Pakistan doesn’t.

Enough of mela balloon-shooting

So, to quote someone not Bismarck, why this kolaveri di? War hysteria, as historian Albert O Hirschman wrote in Shifting Involvements about the ecstatic popular reaction to the news of World War 1 breaking out in 1914, “[for] important sections of the middle and upper classes… [lies in] a release from boredom and emptiness, as a promise of the long-for community that would transcend social class.” It is about Malhotraji from Rajouri Garden as well as Shefali at the Phoenix Mall being excited, to the point of being erotically charged, at the idea of not just merging with the crowd called ‘India’ but also thrilled at the vision of being able to ‘beat the shit out of the enemy’… …from one’s living room.

War is more exciting than IPL or Bollywood scandals. And it comes with a righteousness that is unparalleled. It is what Barbara Ehrenreich in her fascinating book, Blood Rites: Origins and History of the Passions of War, calls the need to ‘sacralise’ war, to make war something sacred.

“A cynic might dismiss the religiosity of war as a mythification of its mundane, ignoble aims, all the rhetoric of ‘sacrifice’ and ‘glory’ serving only to delude and perhaps intoxicate otherwise unwilling participants,” writes Ehrenreich. “But there are at least two reasons to take seriously the religious dimension of war. First, because it is the religiosity of war, above all, which makes it so impervious to moral rebuke… The other reason is for what it has to say about us as a species, about ‘human nature’, if you will, and the clichéd problem of evil.”

For a country that unconditionally loves its armed forces — ‘takes great pride’ is the usual way of saying it with the right amount of virility — this love has been sustained empirically solelyby its military results in successive wars, conflicts and skirmishes against Pakistan. (The one war in 1962 with another country is, like that drunk uncle living in the outhouse, not talked of in polite company. In impolite company, ‘that episode’ is blamed on ‘politicians’.)

If there was no Pakistan, India would have had to invent it for the sanity of its own self-worth in, at least, matters military. Winning wars against one’s own citizens, however subversive and secessionary they may be, isn’t as sexy. So, while the villagers raise their pitchforks, calling for war ostensibly to ‘teach them a lesson’, it is really the fear and shame of not being able to defend oneselves from genuine illwishers that make for war worshippers.

Yes, even if these Rambos are not themselves living in border regions or army camps and are more liable to get run over by a drunk patriotic Honey Singh fan behind an SUV than be cut down by a ‘Paki in non-khaki’.

Ehrenreich writes how “as if to emphasise the discontinuity between the warrior and the ordinary human being, many cultures require the wouldbe fighting man to leave his humanness behind and assume a new form as an animal. The young Scandinavian had to become a bear before he could become an elite warrior, going ‘berserk’ (the word means ‘dressed in a bear hide’), biting and chasing people.” Most of the folks who’ve gone berserk, wanting and waiting for that ‘Frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!’ to arrive have no intention of going anywhere close to a backline, let alone to a frontline. But they like putting on the bear suit anyway.

For, as citizens, theirs is the kingdom, and the luxury and proxied glory. So, if there’s no war, there will still be heavy strafing on Twitter and Facebook and from behind the trenches of large living room sofas.


The Times of India, October 2, 2016

Surgical strikes are good theatre, but stop there

by SA Aiyar

The best form of attack is political theatre. It satisfies the bloodlust of enraged domestic audiences without causing serious military damage to the other side, thus limiting escalation. [. . .]


Dawn - September 30, 2016

Situationer: The wages of living by hate

by I.A. Rehman

To the people of the older generation in Pakistan and India, the present level of confrontation between their countries, especially the war of words between their media persons, sounds like a steep fall from the standards of mutual understanding and decency with which they used to treat one another not long ago.

There were wars between the two countries that did not rob the soldiers of respect for each other’s interest or dignity. We had a full-scale conflict in 1965, but there was no rupture in diplomatic relations. While tanks collided with tanks, soldiers in rival camps recognised each other as normal human beings and many of them treasured memories of days of comradeship.

The Pakistan Air Force chief, Air Marshal Nur Khan, had no doubt wished his men “happy hunting”, but he was at the same time reported to have secured an understanding with his Indian counterpart that each other’s industrial and civilian assets would not be targeted.

This gentlemanly code of warfare was considerably eroded by the time the 1971 conflict broke out. Even then, after the surrender at Dhaka, an Indian brigadier sought out a Pakistani brigadier he had known, took him to his tent for a drink and said: “What have you done?” More than a tone of victory, or even reproach, these four words conveyed a feeling of sadness felt by a warrior at the plight of a fellow warrior.

Today Pakistani poets, actors and sportsmen are being hounded by Indian gangs. Can we ever forget the warmth and goodwill Pakistani poets received from India’s political, social and business elite when they went to Delhi to attend mushairas organised by a millowner who had suffered heavily at the time of partition. And this was barely eight or nine years after the bitterness of partition.

Or the competition between Indian immigration staff when they noticed Ghulam Ali in the queue at New Delhi airport? How Nusrat Fateh Ali touched the hearts of India’s music lovers reminds one of the homage paid by Tamil Nadu pundits to Roshan Ara Begum by describing her as an incarnation of Saraswati. The way Abida Parveen won the hearts of a big crowd at the Connaught Place is recent history.

As for sports, Raja Ghazanfar Ali persuaded the governments of India and Pakistan in the mid-fifties to allow a large number of Pakistanis to watch a cricket match between the two countries in Amritsar. Many Lahori young men, including journalists, were able to enjoy hospitality at the houses of Sikh strangers they decided to knock at.

How can one forget the fact that many Indians cheered Pakistan when they faced England in the 1992 World Cup final or when both Indians and Pakistanis cheered Sri Lanka during the final against Australia in the 1996 World Cup. There was a sense of attachment to the people next door that could survive all irritants.

Today an Indian is prosecuted for cheering a Pakistani team and a Pakistani boy is sent to prison for applauding Virat Kohli.

This change has not come suddenly. The state agencies have worked energetically for it and media has made the mistake of playing along.

The newspaper editors of India and Pakistan had laid the basis of friendship between them while the first war in Kashmir had not really ended. A tradition of looking at things unaffected by the state narrative of confrontation grew.

After the 1971 crisis the journalists of India rushed to understand what the new Pakistan was. One can recall a steady stream of media persons coming to Pakistan – from Dilip Mukherjee and Nihal Singh, to Rajinder Sarin and Pran Chopra. Their patriotism did not prevent them from befriending Pakistan.

Later on Shiam Lal, B.G. Verghese, Kuldip Nayar, Shekhar Gupta, Bhardawaj and Barkha Dutt found it possible to interact with their Pakistani counterparts. When the Bharatiya Janata Party started getting the better of Congress a good number of Pakistani journalists rushed to hear from Vajpayee, Advani and Jaswant Singh what the change signified.

These interactions contributed considerably to non-government efforts to promote peace in the region. Peace activists from both countries were able to meet in Lahore in 1994 and adopt agreed positions on issues over which the two governments are today trying to tear each other apart.

And let us not forget that the call for an “uninterrupted, uninterruptible dialogue” between India and Pakistan was raised from the platform of a regional media association.
Media jingoism

What has gone wrong? The rise of politics of exclusion in both countries is a significant factor. The electronic media’s decision to carry the Kargil conflict into the homes of Indian and Pakistani citizens did a good deal of mischief. The media failed to respect the line that separates nationalism from humanism.

Examine: Pak-India media war

From then on, the media on either side has been losing its capacity to respect the other side’s history and interest of the masses. It gloats over the destructive powers of its military and ignores the failure of the two states to feed, clothe and educate nearly half of their populations.

The latest US appeal to India and Pakistan to stop hostile propaganda against one another is an echo of a key provision of the Tashkent Accord (1966) and similar clauses in other bilateral agreements, including the Liaquat-Nehru pact. Unfortunately these agreements to do away with invective have been honoured more in breach than in compliance.

It is time the Indian and Pakistani media realised the great harm to the people of the Sub-continent caused by their war of words, completely oblivious of the fact that the wounds caused by words take longer to heal than the wounds made by swords.

The consequences of an unbridled use of hate material to influence the outcome of a political disagreement or dispute should easily be visible to everyone. The first casualty is the media persons’ faculty to separate fact from propaganda. Whatever is churned out by the propaganda mills of insecurity-driven state authorities is accepted as the gospel truth and used as the foundation of arguments that push the contending parties further and further away from mutual understanding and reconciliation.

The result is that the media loses its capacity to test the truth in one’s national narrative and to recognise the truth in the adversary’s narrative.

We can recall the tactics used by the Second World War belligerents to demonise the other. One big power chose to describe the troops of an adversary as rats and its own war objective as a holy campaign to save the world from ‘yellow peril’.

Some of these practices spilled over into accounts of anti-colonial struggles. When the Vietnamese were labelled as Viet Cong they ceased to be normal human beings and when the Algerian freedom fighters were identified as “Moslem terrorists” they lost in the eyes of the European public all of their human entitlements.

The world did learn to respect the inherent dignity of parties to a confrontation. At the height of the Cold War, Ronald Reagan could not go beyond characterising the Soviet system as evil and stopped short of attacking the dignity of Soviet citizens. Now the Indian and Pakistani journalists, especially in the electronic media, seem determined to make efforts to demonise the other to unprecedented, and palpably abused, heights.

They are not content with attacking the policies and conduct of the rival state; they are forever looking for the choicest words of abuse for not only the other’s rulers but also for the entire people.

Unfortunately the consequences of these hate campaigns are not realised. These practices often harm their authors more than the targets of their venom. Any people driven by hate lose the capacity to think straight and appreciate matters in a proper perspective.

They thus descend from reasonable behaviour into the abyss of irrationality. The media mercenaries seem to be out to convert India-Pakistan differences into permanent hostility, an endless saga of mutually destructive conflict.

Previously the people of the Sub-continent were driven by their governments into confrontationist postures; now the media is filling hearts and minds with so much of hate and intolerance that they would not easily let the state leaders move from confrontation to reconciliation.

No greater disservice to the unfortunate people of India and Pakistan is possible.

Modern states are becoming less and less amenable to public opinion. The media alone cannot determine what the states should do, but the world will be a much poorer place for everyone if it surrendered its right to tell them what they should not do.


The Hindu, September 29, 2016

Pakistan - India: No option but to talk

by Ayesha Siddiqa

Despite the angry rhetoric, this seems to be a slow-paced war, which thus far is limited to both India and Pakistan playing to domestic audiences

This is certainly a new age of India-Pakistan bilateral relations in which both sides are set to maximise costs of conflict for the other to attain their respective geopolitical goals. In order to express its anger, Delhi is shutting down means of dialogue with Islamabad, as had happened in the past. So, it has pulled out of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit along with other states influenced by Delhi or simply angry with Pakistan. The idea is to isolate Islamabad and build its image as a rogue state. From eliminating terrorist leadership to a diplomatic victory are goals that require time. There are no short-term gains to be made that could immediately provide a fillip to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s image as a strong leader, which is certainly one of the goals.

The international response

While Bangladesh, Bhutan and Afghanistan will join hands with New Delhi, there are other extra-regional but more important states that are watching the ongoing situation but are deterred from joining India’s condemnation of Pakistan because they are either not entirely convinced of who was behind the attack in Uri or are generally wary of what the diplomatic and military escalation will lead to. This is certainly the impression we get from talking to foreign diplomats in Islamabad, who are wary of the situation but ready to hear the argument that the border across Kashmir is difficult to penetrate.

In any case, the international community is reluctant to take measures against Pakistan, even if convinced that there was some involvement in case of Mumbai or Pathankot, because the reaction from other states is based on their own calculations of their interests. For instance, concerned about saving Britain from terror attacks, the government and its agencies in London feel they benefit far more by engaging with the military and its intelligence agencies in Pakistan, that have helped them capture terrorists at home. It would take a lot to convince the world of Pakistan’s involvement and for concrete steps to be taken against it.

There is even greater fear of what the war of words might lead to, an actual conflict that raises the threat of a nuclear exchange. Unlike the past, when India had the capacity to take Pakistan to war, it cannot do so any more. While limited escalation may be possible, the probability of a reaction is also ensured. In the recent past, Pakistan seems to have invested in tactical nuclear weapons in response to the threat of a possible limited-scale operation being launched from India. While analysts could draw conclusions regarding the Pakistan military’s rationality, causing it to withdraw from Kargil, a similar reaction may not be expected in case of a military incursion or operation inside Pakistan. This is certainly what I learnt from a conversation with the then air chief, (late) Air Chief Marshal Mushaf Ali Mir. While talking about the difference between the 1999 Kargil conflict and the 2002 escalation, he was of the view that while Kargil was a case of the Pakistan army trying to challenge India’s control of its territory, an issue on which the air force and navy did not see eye-to-eye with the army, the 2002 deployment of armed forces across the border was a different matter. In 2002, there was no friction amongst the three services regarding the need to repel any possible attack from New Delhi.

Terrorism and limited options

Even the jihadi organisations understand the logic of escalation. In fact, as argued by Pakistan’s renowned physicist and political activist, Dr. A.H. Nayyar, the terror groups have become emboldened since India and Pakistan went overt with their nuclear capabilities. They have demonstrated greater adventurism because they understand that New Delhi has limited options. The security experts can boast about at least half of India surviving a nuclear war while Pakistan has less of a chance to do so — however, losing half of its population is not a cost that any leader would like to bear.

The prospects of a conventional war would always raise the spectre of a nuclear showdown which makes the international community worry. Perhaps one of the calculations of a terror outfit is that the fear of a nuclear holocaust will draw world attention towards solving the Kashmir issue. If the international community will not attend to human rights violations in Kashmir, it will certainly stop and listen to rumblings of a possible war. If indeed groups across the border in Pakistan were involved in the recent attack, it was to provide fillip to an indigenous struggle and indicate to local Kashmiri fighters that there is help available. India could talk about Balochistan, Gilgit-Baltistan or Pakistan’s Kashmir but two out of the three territories do not have a history of strong separatist movements.

Despite the angry rhetoric, it seems to be a slow-paced war, which, thus far, is limited to playing to a domestic audience. While New Delhi has told its people how Pakistan is about to be eliminated from the world map, Islamabad tells its people how India has failed in doing much and the international community is listening carefully to its plea on behalf of the Kashmiri people and is ready to condemn human rights atrocities in the Kashmir Valley, which is most likely the purpose behind escalation of conflict (that is, if terror groups from across the border were involved in it). The internalising of conflict on both sides of the border is worrisome because it tends to raise expectations and inadvertently influence decision-making at some later stage.

Non-military strategy

India-Pakistan battles, both verbal or using actual firepower, or prospects of peace, are protracted affairs. There are no quick short-term favourable outcomes through immediate escalation as many on social media expect. There is a lot of experimentation that will have to be done to see what changes minds on the other side of the border. Certainly in the short term, the war rhetoric has allowed the military in Pakistan to further cement nationalism and market its new socio-political discourse. Despite Nawaz Sharif following the script till the last letter, he is still touted as a culprit, Mr. Modi’s poodle. Such an image is meant to diminish the Prime Minister’s capacity, if he is left with any, to effectively control the foreign policy agenda and to reduce the civilian government’s space to manoeuvre during the change of guard at the GHQ.

While it is up to Mr. Modi to calculate benefits from scrapping most favoured nation (MFN) status or the Indus Waters Treaty, such initiatives have little prospects of short-term gains. Notwithstanding the fact that opinion in Punjab had changed regarding India with greater keenness to do trade, it did not turn into a strong enough lobby to influence how the generals think. This lobby needs to be developed. Granted New Delhi feels frustrated with lack of action, the fact of the matter is that what is being played in the Subcontinent is a game of chess, not tic-tac-toe. The moves are plenty, complex and time consuming. At this stage, those from Pakistan doing business with India have access to indirect sources of trade through a third country.

As for water, while diverting a shared resource will not have an immediate impact, Pakistan is likely to raise the issue at international fora. New Delhi may find it difficult to sell manipulation of the treaty through the prism of isolating Pakistan internationally. But definitely these are costs that Islamabad would have to think very carefully about. Even if it was not involved in Uri, it must think seriously about allowing certain terror groups to operate inside Pakistan with impunity.

Under the circumstances, both states will benefit tremendously if they back off from the war rhetoric and return to the negotiating table. What makes peace harder is Delhi ignoring the indigenous strife in Kashmir as business as usual. There is a generation of people angry and frustrated, and the Modi government must think outside the box to develop relations with them. This is perhaps the only short- to medium-term approach it ought to adopt. Peace in Kashmir will probably go a long way as compared to making appeals to the people of Pakistan and calling them to a poverty reduction competition.

Ayesha Siddiqa is an Islamabad-based columnist.


Dawn - September 27, 2016

The terror of war hysteria

by Jawed Naqvi

I HAVE become an admirer of Pope Francis. In a world where Muslims are profiled and shunned as terrorists, he embraces them, and even washes the feet of one or two to send out a message. I am happier that he does that to all manner of underdogs, not just Muslims. These days, when even I can find myself looking over the shoulders at airports for a bearded troublemaker (as others must be looking at me!), I find it nothing short of exhilarating that someone can defy the mob the world has become.

And now Pope Francis has said that journalism based on gossip or rumours is a form of “terrorism”. He says the media that profiles communities or foments fear of migrants is acting destructively.

The pope made his comments in an address to leaders of Italy’s national journalists’ guild. His context was the refugees milling into Europe, facing abuse and calumny from motivated and neo-fascist hacks.

The pope said spreading rumours was an example of “terrorism, of how you can kill a person with your tongue …This is even more true for journalists because their voice can reach everyone and this is a very powerful weapon.”
The angst expressed by Pope Francis about loose talk and terrorism should apply to warmongers too, including journalists found in South Asia.

The angst expressed by Pope Francis about loose talk and terrorism should apply to warmongers too, including journalists found in South Asia. In India, we have seen both, the terrorising effect that wars have on ordinary people as also the profiling of members of specific communities that wars trigger.

In India and Pakistani the media comprise a mix of open-minded and peace-loving journalists on one hand and rabid warmongers on the other. More often than not, the ownership of the news media determines the policy, not so much the journalists though.

In India, journalists who oppose jingoism and its attendant right-wing prescriptions, gravitate to the alternative media on the internet. There are more privately owned TV channels in India, and more newspapers than in Pakistan. They multiply the voices of self-styled repositories of nationalism, unwitting allies of fascist consolidation under way.

Nation-loving journalists on both sides duly fanned the current military spike between India and Pakistan. They ride the myth that national interest requires everyone to become a flag carrier though there is little discussion of what constitutes the national interest. If it requires the thwarting of azadi, or social and political freedoms, as it seems to do today, there must be something very wrong with the national interest.

In wartime Britain, unabashed propaganda machinery was set up and it was called the ministry of information. For two years, between 1941 and 1943, novelist and essayist George Orwell worked for the information ministry as a BBC Talks Producer for the Eastern Service. His wrote propaganda for broadcast to India, where he was born and served in the police. His ominous novels about manufacturing consent may have been conceived in that experience. Graham Greene and J.B. Priestly were the other intellectuals working for British propaganda. That model of the information ministry has remained in harness in South Asia in peacetime.

Few have questioned how we can have a ministry of information in a free country unless we acknowledge that information should be regulated or handed out by the government, not demanded or even stolen from it to share with the people. When the outspoken scribe and politician Sherry Rehman became minister of information in Pakistan briefly, I asked her this question but don’t remember getting an answer.

War is supposed to be an expression of the national will, how can that terrorise any good citizen? But we have seen how war mutates into terror for many, the Japanese in America during the war, for example. In India, you should ask the erstwhile ethnic Chinese citizens of Kolkata how they were terrorised during that brief but landmark skirmish with China in 1962.

I remember the emotional appeal by Jawaharlal Nehru in his newspaper, the National Herald: “Freedom is in peril. Defend it with all your might.” The 1962 appeal was carried for months or perhaps years after the war above the masthead of the paper. My mother deposited whatever jewellery she had with the government for its war effort. But Indian Chinese were suspected and treated as traitors. Many left for Singapore and Taiwan after the war.

I count it as a blessing that in 1965 and 1971 we had no television leave alone any private channel. Company Quarter Master Havildar Abul Hameed became a household name when he apparently destroyed US-loaned Pakistani Patton tanks with hand grenades in the 1965 conflict. He was decorated posthumously with medals though his widow was years later reported to be living in penury.

It didn’t matter if the Hameed story was true, it assured communal harmony, overtly. Dr Asif Kidwai was paralysed from the waist below, but like any good journalist he would tune into Radio Pakistan to know the claim of the other side during the 1965 conflict. A kindly soul scuttled the idiotic move by the police to take him away in his cot. Asif Bhai’s humour was legendary in Lucknow so he could smile through the occasional communal crisis.

The Kargil conflict of 1999 catapulted the role of the media in war zones to dizzying heights. The love of the military grew exponentially under the guidance of mushrooming TV channels and their star anchors. Most chose not to see the link between jingoism and the rise of religious fascism. They ignored the slogan from the rubble of Babri Masjid that the next target was Lahore. The anchors seemed so lost in their patriotism the other day they didn’t see the prime minister turning away from war hysteria. And so they are keeping the drumbeats of war going. Terror. Terror. Remember the words of Marlon Brando, the insane warmonger of Apocalypse Now. God bless Pope Francis.

The writer is Dawn’s correspondent in Delhi.


The Times of India, September 27, 2016

Remain the larger nation: Throwing out actors, hating an entire people is small and reductionist

by Saba Naqvi

I was invited in February 2013 to the Karachi literature festival with my book on India’s popular religion and syncretistic practices. I was surprised and touched to see that the opening ceremony of the festival included a dance-drama called “Tagore”. Gurudev’s poem “Where the Mind is Without Fear” was recited to a dance, included in which was a rendition of Gandhiji’s favourite bhajan, Raghupati Raghav Rajaram, patita paavana Sitaram, Ishwar Allah tero naam …

I later overheard some important citizens of Pakistan grumbling about the kind of projection being given to Indian visitors and the theme of the opening. But no matter: what that little event symbolised is people’s search for compassion even as doctrines of hate jolt their worlds. By the time the festival ended there was curfew in Karachi after a massacre in Quetta claiming over 80 lives. Many international visitors had to leave with security escort.

In the worst of times and places people always look for ideas that separate their sanity from their circumstances. Indian political thinkers, writers and poets have been evoked across the world for the sheer breadth and scale of the grand humanitarian visions they posited. Let’s not diminish ourselves because we have a consistent and real problem with our neighbouring country.

Certainly, we should develop strategies, diplomatic and/or military to deal with the Pakistan’s deep state and establishment. But surely we become smaller if we legitimise targeting of a couple of actors whom the Indian film industry has invested in (or the very talented musicians from Pakistan).

MNS demanding that Pakistani actors leave India in 48 hours is by itself par for the course. What is worrying is that in the atmospherics post-Uri, many influential citizens are saying that Pakistanis on valid visas should only be allowed to stay if they give some sort of undertaking that they are against the state where they were born and presumably their families live.

Throw them all out, they hate us, is the incantation. But asking citizens of any nation to give some kind of ‘dis-loyalty’ test against their country, is both a ridiculous proposition and an idea that lurks with dangers of violating civil liberties. Imagine the millions of NRIs across the globe, being asked to pass any kind of loyalty test in the event of relations deteriorating with India. Even if that’s far fetched, it’s not impossible to imagine in a Donald Trump presidency where the ethnic, religious, or national origins of individuals residing in the US are foregrounded.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi conversely made a very skilled but hard-hitting speech at a rally that marked the beginning of a BJP national council meet in Kozhikode. In the midst of all the cries of war, Modi very significantly made a distinction between the Pakistani state and the Pakistani people and made it clear that his “strategic goals” are still to fight poverty. It was one of his finest turns as prime minister.

The idea of hating an entire people is small and reductionist. In 2006 my former editor, the late Vinod Mehta handed me an assignment of going to Pakistan at a time when the visa regime was tight after another series of blasts in Mumbai. I was to write about the birth village of then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh: Gah in Chakwal district in the heart of Pakistan’s Punjab, where Manmohan was raised till the age of 10. I have travelled to Pakistan before and after my 2006 trip but this was the only time my visa permitted travel outside cities.

It was fascinating. Gah village bore marks of the Partition and our troubled but interwoven history. An old register of students enrolled in the primary school in the decade before 1947 showed student no 187 as Manmohan – the primary school had been named after him, because a village lad had become a prime minister!

Mohammad Ali, a farmer and grain trader who was a playmate of the child Manmohan, told me with regret that half the population of Gah was once Sikh and Hindu (Manmohan’s family left some years before the 1947 bloodbath), then Partition took place, they left and many families were slaughtered during the journey to India. I remember the pucca house that was used as a community centre. It had arches and carved wooden doors, on top of the entrance, the words “Sat Sri Akal” were carved in Gurmukhi.

Manmohan presumably wanted to go to Pakistan but never could during his decade long reign. The villagers of Gah were however given visas to India, and two years after my trip they landed in Delhi, met Manmohan and carried gifts for me. I was touched at their warmth and sheer excitement at being in India.

So when i hear people talk of throwing out all Pakistanis, i wonder if they want to barricade their minds against poetry, literature and music too. I wonder if they should not be made to compulsorily read the works of Sadat Hasan Manto, who technically died a citizen of Pakistan but 60 years ago wrote prophetically of a Pakistan where mullahs would be armed to the teeth.

We have a painful history and a troubled present, but we must never give up on the high moral ground. We must remain the larger nation.


Catch News - 27 September 2016

No option but to talk to Pakistan. Smoke and mirrors will lead nowhere

by Bharat Bhushan

A senior policy maker pointed out that by talking up a storm about military and diplomatic options before it, the Narendra Modi government was simply following an ancient Indian war-tactic where kings would let lose their herds before a battle so that the attacking army would be confused about the size of the rival’s cavalry.

All this talk may keep Pakistan guessing. It also helps to buy time with his own supporters who expected a more radical response from the belligerent nationalist rhetoric they had heard from the Prime Minister and from persons in or close to his government.

It is doubtful whether the options that the government is examining against Pakistan will be able to ensure retribution of the sort that his audiences have come to expect.

"Even US situated Uri attack against the Kashmir violence. So how exactly has Modi govt isolated Pak? "

Much has been made out of India trying to isolate Pakistan diplomatically. In this the Modi government seems to be becoming a victim of its own propaganda. Speeches at the UN General Assembly allowed for venting but changed precious little. Even the US, a strategic partner of India, has not condemned the Uri attack as cross-border terrorism. US Secretary of State John Kerry situated it against the ongoing violence in Kashmir and condemned terrorism in general. China is not with India on Pakistan’s cross-border terror and opposed Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Masood Azhar being put on the list of wanted terrorists by the UN.

The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) is ranged against India’s human rights violations in Jammu and Kashmir. Although India has tom-tommed Bahrain and Saudi Arabia condemnation of terrorism they have not named Pakistan. Even amongst India’s neighbours only Bangladesh and Afghanistan are with it on Pakistan’s cross-border terrorism.

Russia, an old and tested friend does not seem to be keen on isolating Pakistan. It is conducting military exercises with Pakistan, something that would have been unthinkable only a few years ago.

So, what kind of diplomatic isolation is the Modi government talking about?
What options does India have?

Tinkering with diplomatic links is an active option before the government. Yet the option of expelling the Pakistan High Commissioner or downsizing the Pakistani diplomatic mission in India is not even on the table. A reciprocal reduction in India’s mission in Islamabad would follow but at least India would have shown its displeasure by attenuating its diplomatic engagement with Pakistan. That the government was not serious about downsizing the links was evident from the fact that the Uri-Chakauti trans-border bus service functioned normally barely 24-hours after the terrorist attack. And from Tuesday even cross-LoC (Line of Control) trade has been resumed.

Violation of an international treaty on the other hand is so difficult that everyone thought that talk about reviewing the 56-year-old Indus Water Treaty was something that the media had raked up. However, the Prime Minister held a very public meeting on the issue and declared with his usual bombastic flourish, "Blood and water cannot flow together".

Yet all that has happened is that the Indus Water Commission meetings have been suspended. Statements were made that India would start using its share of water in the rivers allotted to Pakistan (Indus, Chenab and Jhelum) in the treaty to its fullest and hasten to build the run-of-the-river projects at Kishanganga and Baglihar. These actions are not prohibited in the treaty. The Indus Water Commission has been made temporarily infructuous by withdrawal of its Commissioner, that is all. India cannot and has not threatened to withdraw from the treaty.

"India cannot withdraw from the Indus Water Tresty. Only a commissioner has been withdrawn."

Even as the Prime Minister is fulminating in New Delhi, the Indian Indus Water Commissioner left for Washington to attend a meeting with the World Bank on Pakistan’s appeal against the international arbitration court decision on the Kishanganga project!

It is well known that no water diversion can take place overnight - dams and canals are required to do that and they take years to build. In any case, how would harming Pakistan’s farmers help India achieve its goal of curbing India-centric terrorist groups in Pakistan? By hurting ordinary Pakistanis, the distinction between the people and an anti-India establishment in Pakistan is being obliterated. Shrinking the peace constituency in Pakistan does not help India.

Now, there is talk of withdrawing or suspending the MFN facility extended to Pakistan. The Most Favoured Nation or MFN facility means nothing like what its name suggests. What it means is that India will not discriminate against Pakistan in trade under World Trade Organisation (WTO) Rules and would treat it like any other nation it trades with.

Although GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade) rules allow for trade restrictions due to security considerations, the threat to suspend or withdraw MFN status means little. The total official bilateral Indo-Pak trade for 2015-16 was $2.6 billion, of which $2 billion comprised Indian exports to Pakistan. Although trade with Pakistan is only 0.4 per cent of India’s overall trade worth $ 643.3 billion in the same year, withdrawing the MFN status would end up hurting Indian exporters if Pakistan suspends trade with India.

In any case, Pakistan’s share in the official bilateral trade is so miniscule that it is not going to persuade its ruling classes to give up on their terrorist proxies. More importantly, the majority of those engaged in trade and commerce in Pakistan has always been in favour of good relations with India. They are a part of the peace constituency which needs to be expanded, not shrunk.

On 27 September, the government announced that it would stay away from the 19th SAARC Summit scheduled to be held in Islamabad in early November. Pakistan in any case is a reluctant player in SAARC.

Significant regional cooperation agreements in the region are already taking place outside SAARC and without Pakistan. The Motor Vehicle Agreement between BBIN countries (Bhutan, Bangladesh, India and Nepal) signed in 2014 will enhance regional connectivity after Pakistan shot down a similar SAARC level agreement earlier. A Joint Working Group is already exploring the scope of power trade, inter-grid connectivity and the possibility of setting up joint power projects between the four countries.

The possibility of a seamless movement of people, goods and vehicles and power trading coming into being between these four SAARC countries has not bothered Pakistan.

The postponement of SAARC is unlikely to have much of an impact on it except accentuating its sense of marginalisation in the region. The question then is: Will Pakistan feel the pinch of isolation so much that it would give up on terrorism as an instrument of its foreign policy?

Then there is the suggestion that India distance itself from the recognition of the Durand Line as the official boundary between Afghanistan and Pakistan; and that this will hurt Pakistan while being welcomed by Afghanistan. When successive regimes in Afghanistan, including the Taliban, have not recognised the Durand Line, India’s acceptance or rejection of the Durand Line is unlikely to matter to Pakistan.

That leaves only the options of exploiting Pakistan’s vulnerabilities in Balochistan, Sindh and Pakistan Occupied Kashmir and considering limited military action at timing of India’s choice. On Balochistan, India has already indicated its changing posture. Backing criminal elements in Sindh, especially in Karachi, or fomenting trouble in PoK is unlikely to make Pakistan sue for peace with India. Nor will limited or low-intensity war do that.

The only way out is to wind down the rhetoric of rage, retribution and paranoia and use diplomacy to restart a dialogue with Pakistan on all issues including Kashmir.

Additionally, India must also reach out to the separatists in Kashmir and restore normalcy in the Valley at the earliest.

The Indian public needs to get out of the crisis mentality being created by keeping the cauldron of hate on constant boil. There is no need to oversimplify the complex relationship with Pakistan or make specious arguments about punishing or confusing the enemy.

Dealing with Pakistan is going to be a long haul. Modi should explain this to his followers who have been fed his ultra-nationalist rhetoric. Indian nationalism cannot find redemption in destabilising Pakistan.

There is also no need for a daily media referendum on the government’s ability to do this or that. Modi is there for the next two and half years. That is ample time to deal with Pakistan in a manner that leads to the desired results.

[13 URLS for Certain Relevant News reports

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