Politics / 21.04.2011

By Anjum Altaf What exactly is India’s Pakistan policy? For years (decades, really) I have puzzled this over without being able to discern anything coherent. True, I am not privy to the inner councils of the Indian establishment but backward induction from observed actions does not seem to suggest I am grossly mistaken. The Pakistani establishment, by contrast, has a very clear India policy: keep the pot boiling, engineering an incident when needed; bleed by a thousand cuts with the bleeding outsourced to third parties; shore up domestic support by transforming education and information into indoctrination; and minimize public contact across borders to prevent any erosion of the mythology.
Politics / 07.02.2011

By Anjum Altaf What do the recent events in Tunisia and Egypt portend for Pakistan? The question is on many minds. One approach to attempting an answer might be to try and infer it from below by investigating the morphology of Pakistani society and noting any significant similarities and differences in the process. A convenient point of departure is the elementary error that most people make in their characterization of Pakistani society. It is often argued that the portrayal of Pakistani society as religious is incorrect because people do not vote for religious parties in elections; the latter hardly ever get more than five percent of the votes cast. This error flows from an uncritical conflation of religious beliefs and voting behavior. The fact that people are religious does not mean that they are oblivious to their material interests. A defining characteristic of Pakistani society is that it...

Politics / 19.03.2010

By Vijay Vikram One of the misfortunes of having an intellectual sympathy for the political Right in India is that one automatically finds oneself in the company of unbecoming Hindu goons, be they online or in the field. As legitimate political activity in India is set on a default left-liberal setting, it is in the normal order of things quite problematic to find a desi political animal to engage with who is possessed of a sense of public service and a strong sense of national identity. The ones who do represent the aforementioned themes and other programmes dear to the heart of the Indian political animal often also couple these admirable political sentiments with quite a nasty anti-cosmopolitanism, not to mention a general distaste for Muslims.
Politics / 04.07.2009

Professor Alok Rai of Delhi University has suggested an exchange on Kashmir between members of civil society in India and Pakistan (Pakistan’s Kashmir Problem, Daily Times, July 3, 2009). This is a welcome initiative and the thrust of Professor Rai’s conclusions is sensible. But, the framing of the issue – in terms of an India-Pakistan “problem” – is not the best to achieve the end that Professor Rai has in mind. This framing leads straight back into the morass that has dogged all previous discussions on this topic. The bottom line of Professor’s Rai’s argument is that what’s done is done and cannot be undone; that the status quo is unchangeable; that Pakistan needs Kashmir to validate the two-nation theory; that a cost-benefit analysis should convince Pakistan that attempting to change the reality in Kashmir is not worth the price; and, that India does have a problem in Kashmir but Pakistan should allow it to resolve it on its own.
Politics / 29.01.2009

A reader’s comment has raised the issue of the dynamic of Pakistan’s creation. The question posed is about the role of Mr. Jinnah’s leadership: did Mr. Jinnah’s charisma make Pakistan possible or was the yearning of Muslims for self rule the primary driver? There have a number of other explanations for the creation of Pakistan and one can attempt to evaluate them by seeking answers to a few simple questions: (1) In which geographical areas did the demand for Pakistan emerge first? (2) Why did the demand arise when it did and not earlier? (3) Which social groups articulated the demand and lent it support? Some of the explanations appear weak when evaluated against these questions. One of them is the religious explanation that presents the creation of Pakistan as the fulfillment of a religious desire for a state in which Islam could be practiced without hindrance....

Politics / 07.12.2008

Here we are at the beginning of life beyond Mumbai. We have expressed our feelings, described the situation, analyzed the problem, prescribed a response, and articulated a vision for the future. We have come out of this gut-wrenching process changed. A fundamental truth has dawned upon us. Today, in this twenty-first century, in this global village, it makes little sense to be Hindu or Muslim, Sikh or Buddhist, Catholic or Protestant, Black or White. What matters only is whether you are for terrorism or against terrorism. If we make a false choice here, Hindus and Muslims along with all the others would go up in a ball of smoke. There are attributes of individuals that unite them in a common humanity and those that divide them into quarreling tribes. Terrorists can strike because we are divided; terrorists will thrive if we are divided yet again. There is a personal...

Politics / 06.12.2008

We have stood up and we have been counted. And despite all the caveats and all the filters, there are still many more non-terrorists than there are terrorists. So, how do we translate these numbers into the strength we need to STOP TERRORISM NOW? Isn’t it obvious? We have to recognize each other. Then we have to reach out and hold each other by the hand. We have to project a resolve so impregnable that a terrorist would think many times before he or she would hurl himself or herself against it. And we have to work together to drain the swamps that feed the fevered causes of terrorism in our homes. All this cannot be done in a day and yet we do not have too many days to lose. We need to begin small and have a plan to get big fast. Here is the contribution of...

Politics / 05.12.2008

There is a huge wave of anger, frustration, and fear welling up in South Asia. Will this wave peter out only to arise again after the next incident of terrorism? Will it spiral out of control, plunging our region into further chaos and doing even more damage than terrorism alone could have achieved? Or will it be channeled into a force that would move us to a better and more secure future? To some extent the outcome will depend on what we, the citizens of South Asia, do or do not do today. Let me propose a two-step agenda: turning in and reaching out. In this post I will elaborate the first of the two steps. We have to begin by asking ourselves a simple question: Are we against terrorism or not? If we are, we have to be against terrorism wherever it exists, not just across the borders...

Politics / 29.11.2008

Making South Asia safe from the kind of terrorist attacks that have hurt Mumbai and Islamabad calls for an intelligent response from South Asian citizens. The first step is to understand the nature of terrorism. At a very broad level, we can identify two types of terrorism. The first is the terrorism practiced by relatively small, marginalized groups that wish to achieve some utopian vision of society. The classic exemplars of this type were the Red Brigade in Italy and the Baader-Meinhof group in Germany. Both emerged in the 1970s led by alienated students and professors radicalized by the brutalities of the Vietnam War and supported by the client states of the USSR in the context of the Cold War. The second type is the terrorism practiced by large groups that have lost hope in having their voices heard by the political process. At one point or...

Politics / 30.09.2008

It is often asserted that the majority of people in India and Pakistan desire peace. Do you believe that? Even if they don’t, some suggest that if only people knew how much it is costing to keep up the state of conflict they would become advocates for peace. Well, here is the information as calculated in 2004 by the Strategic Foresight Group, Mumbai, in their report Cost of Conflict between India and Pakistan. The summary of the report claims that “the Siachen conflict alone will cost India Rs 7,200 crores and Pakistan Rs 1,800 crores in the next five years;” that “India and Pakistan have the potential to enjoy a trade of about $1 billion if the hostile environment continues and $13.25 billion if peace prevails on a cumulative basis for the next five years (2004-08) resulting in an opportunity loss of $12 billion;” and that “Kashmir...