Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Pakistan Is Not Falling

Top US officials, analysts and media have been making dire predictions about the imminent collapse of Pakistan in the last few days. Peter Bergen, a long-time Pakistan watcher and CNN security analyst, disagrees with the doomsayers in the following opinion piece carried by the CNN website:

In the past few weeks as the Pakistani Taliban have marched ever closer to the capital, Islamabad, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has sounded the alarm about the threat posed by the militants, who she said in congressional testimony pose “a mortal threat to the security and safety of our country and the world.”

Some media commentators have even warned that the populous, nuclear-armed state might fall into the hands of the religious zealots.This is hyperventilation. Pakistan has myriad problems — its economy is tanking; its political leadership is feckless; its military is not trained or equipped to fight a domestic insurgency; and the Taliban now can control the lives of millions of Pakistanis. But none of this means that Pakistan is in danger of becoming a failed state or that the religious militants are about to take over the country.

The present crisis with the Taliban is not nearly as severe as the genuinely existential crises that Pakistan has faced and weathered in the past. Pakistan has fought three major wars with India and has lost each encounter, including the 1971 war in which one half of the country seceded to become Bangladesh.

Pakistan’s key leaders have succumbed to the assassin’s bullet or bomb or the hangman’s noose, and the country has seen four military coups since its birth in 1947. Yet the Pakistani polity has limped on.

And lost in the disturbing pictures of well-armed Taliban foot soldiers advancing on Islamabad are three promising tectonic shifts in the Pakistan body politic.

First is the “lawyers’ movement” that was largely responsible for the ouster of the military dictator Gen. Pervez Musharraf last year and the restoration of an independent judiciary.

Second is an explosion in independent media. Where in the 1990s there was one government-controll ed television station, there are now dozens of channels. The new media is largely pro-democratic and secular in its orientation.

Third is that ordinary Pakistanis are fed up with the militants. The alliance of pro-Taliban religious parties known as the MMA secured enough of the vote in 2002 to win control of two of the four provinces that make up Pakistan. But in 2008 voters threw the MMA out of office, and it secured a miserable 2 percent of the vote.

Similarly, support for suicide bombing among Pakistanis had dropped from 33 percent in 2002 to 5 percent in 2008, according to the Pew Global Attitudes survey, and favorable views of Osama bin Laden and the Taliban have steadily eroded.

Pakistan also lacks a unifying religious figure of the stature of Ayatollah Khomeini, who united disparate Iranian forces to overthrow the Shah of Iran three decades ago. The Shah, after all, was a dictator and not the leader of an elected government.

But, conversely, Pakistan also lacks a leader to unite the country and the army in a common goal of defeating the religious militants. Benazir Bhutto, the country’s most popular politician when she was killed by the Taliban in December 2007, might have been able to do it. But her husband, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, doesn’t have her stature.

A new Pakistan leader will have to emerge who has the courage to say something like the following: “I have a plan. It is a Pakistani plan and not an American plan. Our main enemy is no longer India; if we go to war again, we may well destroy each other with our nuclear weapons. Our new enemy is the militants claiming to act for Islam in our midst. They do not represent the Pakistan that our great founder, Ali Jinnah, envisioned; a country for Muslims living in peace, not an ideologically Islamist state. We will make no peace deals with the Taliban again. Every time we have done such a deal the Taliban have used it as a prelude to steal more of our land and impose their brutal rule on more of our citizens. We will task and train our military for an effective campaign against the militants, and we will wipe them off our lands.”

The United States can do little to help the process of such a politician emerging except to support Pakistan’s fragile democracy and not be tempted by the mirage of another military strongman promising stability, but delivering instead a weakened Pakistani civilian state.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Peter Bergen, CNN's Security Analyst.

Here's another video clip from Intelligence Squared debate about Pakistan:

Related Links:

The World According to Google, Hizbullah and Taliban

Feudal Punjab Fertile for Terrorism

Qasab's Journey in Time Magazine

Feudal Shadow in Pakistan Elections

UN Millennium Goals in Pakistani Village

Saudi-ization of Pakistan

Pakistan's FATA Face-off Fears

FATA Reconstruction Opportunity Zones

Pakistan Power Centers: Feudals, Clergy and Military

Obama Ignores Sonal Shah's VHP Ties

The White House hasn't yet officially confirmed it, but's Sonal Shah has told her friends and colleagues that she has been chosen by President Barack Obama as director of social innovation and civic engagement, according to a report in San Jose Mercury.

After successfully using social networking and Web 2.0 interactive media during the presidential race, Obama has been talking about making the inner workings of the US government, and his own White House, more transparent and interactive. Shah will be part of a team, including a chief information officer and a chief technology officer, responsible for figuring out how to effectively integrate Web 2.0 tools into a government digital network hampered by slow-moving bureaucracy. With her work experience at Google and her Silicon Valley connections, Shah appears to be eminently qualified for the job.

Notwithstanding her unquestionable professional competence for the job, her appointment is controversial due to her ties to the right-wing Vishwa Hindu Parishad, which is accused of using charitable works in India as a cover for inciting hatred against Muslims, Christians and other minorities. The VHP has been condemned by the U.S. State Department and the non-profit Human Rights Watch for its role in the 2002 Muslim massacre in Gujarat, which resulted in the deaths of at least 2,000 people, most of whom were Muslims.

Sonal Shah issued a denunciation of VHP after coming under severe criticism in November, 2008, following her inclusion in the Obama transition team. Stung by sharp criticism on the issue, Shah lambasted the VHP of America for standing by silently "in the face of its Indian counterpart's complicity in the events of Gujarat in 2002." She also stated that at no time was she affiliated with the VHP of America, a claim that has since turned out to be false in an investigation done by Nextgov. Nextgov has uncovered email messages from May 1998 revealing Shah was not only an active member of the VHP of America, but considered one of the organization's next generation of leaders. Nextgov says the email messages show Shah offering advice to VHP leaders about how to improve public perception of the VHP and directly contradict her claims to have never been affiliated with the organization.

Nextgov is not alone in asserting Sonal Shah's VHP links. According to Vijay Prashad, the George and Martha Kellner Chair of South Asian History at Trinity College, Hartford, CT, Sonal Shah has been actively involved with India's right-wing Hindu organizations accused of Gujarat massacre of thousands of Muslims in 2002.

Here's what Mr. Prashad says about Sonal Shah's past: But there is a less typical side to the Shah story. Born in Gujarat, India, Shah came to the United States as a two-year old. Her father, a chemical engineer, first worked in New York before moving to Houston, and then moving away from his education toward the stock market. The Shahs remain active in Houston’s Indian community, not only in the ecumenical Gujarati Samaj (a society for people from Gujarat), but also in the far more cruel organizations of the Hindu Right, such as the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), the Overseas Friends of the BJP (the main political party of the Hindu Right) and the Ekal Vidyalaya. Shah’s parents, Ramesh and Kokila, not only work as volunteers for these outfits, but they also held positions of authority in them. Their daughter was not far behind. She was an active member of the VHPA, the U. S. branch of the most virulently fascistic outfit within India. The VHP’s head, Ashok Singhal, believes that his organization should “inculcate a fear psychosis among [India’s] Muslim community.” This was Shah’s boss. Till 2001, Shah was the National Coordinator of the VHPA.

In 2004, the BJP government in Gujarat honored Sonal Shah with the Pride of Gujarat (Gujarat Garima) award. Sonal Shah could not attend, but her brother Anand was there, to get the award from Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, in the presence of the "venomous" Narendra Modi, according to Prashad.

Indian Muslims have not been the only victims of violence perpetrated by RSS and VHP. Christians have suffered, too. According to All India Christian Council, the 2008 violence affected in 14 districts out of of 30 and 300 Villages in the Indian state of Orissa, 4,400 houses burnt, 50,000 homeless, 59 killed including at least 2 pastors, 10 priests/pastors/nuns injured, 18,000 men, women, children injured, 2 women gang-raped including a nun, 151 churches destroyed and 13 schools and colleges damaged. The violence targeted Christians in 310 villages, with 4,104 homes torched. More than 18,000 were injured and 50,000 displaced and homes continued to burn in many villages. Another report said that around 11,000 people are still living in refugee camps.

A White House spokesman has acknowledged that the administration is aware of the reports but declined to comment on Shah's VHP ties. Not only does it signal a callous disregard for the continued suffering of the tens of thousands of victims of Gujarat pogrom in 2002, Shah's appointment also shows how tone deaf the Obama administration is when it comes to legitimate concerns about the radical right-wing Hindutva Indian fanatics infiltrating the highest levels of the US government.

Here's a video clip of Babu Bajrangi account and confession of killings of Gujarat Muslims in 2002:

Related Links:

Sonal Shah to Help Divide Obama's Victory Spoils

Gujarat Muslims Ignored By Indian Politicians

Violence Against Indian Christians

Obama's Campaign Success on Social Networks

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Pakistani Entrepreneurs Survive Economic Downturn

A new class of entrepreneurs has emerged in Pakistan during this decade who, in small but significant ways, have challenged the religious orthodoxy. They present a sharp contrast to the rising wave of Islamic radicalism that the U.S. and others view as an existential threat to Pakistan. And with many well-traveled Pakistanis importing ideas from abroad, they are contributing to Pakistan's 21st-century search for itself.

The new entrepreneurial outfits range from fashion apparel and cosmetics to upscale restaurants, personal fitness clubs and places offering men's hair transplants.

The consumer-driven growth during Musharraf years has fueled the spread of a middle class in Pakistan's biggest cities. For decades after independence in 1947, a handful of extremely wealthy industrial families dominated the economy. In the 1970s, nationalization of important industries gave the government a major economic role. In recent years, a privatization program has sought to shrink the state's hand, while introducing more investment and competition. In an effort to promote small businesses, President Musharraf's government eased credit availability for entrepreneurs in the country.

While most of the entrepreneurs cater to Pakistan's young, urban consumers, there are a few who have found highly unusual niches for export markets. For example, Integrated Dynamics of Karachi designs, builds and exports unmanned aerial vehicles used by the US for border patrol duty on its southern border with Mexico. Recently highlighted by the New York Times, AQTH offers a more shocking example of a small, entrepreneurial Karachi company that caters to the $3 billion a year bondage and fetish industry in the United States and Europe. AQTH's mom-and-pop-style garment business earns more than $1 million a year manufacturing 2,000 fetish and bondage products, including the Mistress Flogger, and exporting them to the United States and Europe.

The company sells its products to online and brick-and-mortar shops, and to individuals via eBay. The company's market research shows that 70 percent of its customers are middle- to upper-class Americans, and a majority of them Democrats. The Netherlands and Germany account for the bulk of their European sales. Company workers who assemble the handmade items — gag balls, lime-green corsets, thonged spanking skirts — have no idea what the items are used for. Even the owners’ wives, and their conservative Muslim mother, have not been informed.

Overall, the entrepreneurial class remains a sliver, just over a million people by some estimates., according to the Wall Street Journal. In addition to small export niches, much of the business is confined to pockets of urban wealth that most Pakistanis won't experience in their lifetimes. And yet, the brief business careers of many entrepreneurs show how rapidly dramatic change can unfold in Pakistan.

Related Links:

Pakistan's Foreign Visitors Pleasantly Surprised

Start-ups Drive a Boom in Pakistan

Pakistan Conducting Research in Antartica

Pakistan's Telecom Boom

ITU Internet Data

NEDUET Progress Report 2008

Pakistani Entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley

Musharraf's Economic Legacy

Should Pakistanis be Proud of Their Country?

India's Hostility Toward Pakistan

Respected American South Asia expert Stephen Cohen of Washington's Brookings Institution recently told his audience: "Not a few Indian generals and strategists have told me that if only America would strip Pakistan of its nuclear weapons then the Indian army could destroy the Pakistan army and the whole thing would be over." 

India-Pakistan Border Crossing

 These remarks sharply contrast with the volumes being written in the West, particularly in the United States, about Pakistan's "obsession" with India. Pakistan is being incessantly lectured by the Western leaders and media to stop worrying about the security threat from India and focus exclusively on its western frontiers and the Taliban. These positions are often echoed by some of the liberal media editorials and commentators in Pakistan as well, in spite of substantial evidence to the contrary. The American admonitions to Pakistan about India's "benign" intentions are now turning into absolute demands. Preposterous conditions by various interest groups and Indian lobbyists in Washington are being added to the draft version of the "Aid Pakistan bill" that is expected to come up for debate in US Congress soon. 

According to Pakistan's Dawn newspaper, the first major condition for aid requires Pakistan to undertake not to support any person or group involved in activities meant to hurt India and to allow US investigators access to individuals suspected of engaging in nuclear proliferation if it wants to qualify for a threefold increase in US economic assistance. This is probably just one of many conditions that Pakistanis will see as an insult to and assault on the nation's sovereignty. 

 With Pakistan's vociferous protests and angry responses to the US campaign against its military and intelligence service's genuine concerns about the Indian threat, there are a few US respected analysts, including Christine Fair, Laura Rozen and Stephen Cohen, who are beginning to look for and discover evidence of India's hostile actions and intentions vis-a-vis Pakistan. Here's what Christine Fair of Rand Corporation thinks about Indian involvement in destabilizing Pakistan via its growing presence and influence in Afghanistan: 

I think it would be a mistake to completely disregard Pakistan's regional perceptions due to doubts about Indian competence in executing covert operations. That misses the point entirely. And I think it is unfair to dismiss the notion that Pakistan's apprehensions about Afghanistan stem in part from its security competition with India. Having visited the Indian mission in Zahedan, Iran, I can assure you they are not issuing visas as the main activity! Moreover, India has run operations from its mission in Mazar (through which it supported the Northern Alliance) and is likely doing so from the other consulates it has reopened in Jalalabad and Qandahar along the border. Indian officials have told me privately that they are pumping money into Baluchistan. Kabul has encouraged India to engage in provocative activities such as using the Border Roads Organization to build sensitive parts of the Ring Road and use the Indo-Tibetan police force for security. It is also building schools on a sensitive part of the border in Kunar--across from Bajaur. Kabul's motivations for encouraging these activities are as obvious as India's interest in engaging in them. Even if by some act of miraculous diplomacy the territorial issues were to be resolved, Pakistan would remain an insecure state. Given the realities of the subcontinent (e.g., India's rise and its more effective foreign relations with all of Pakistan's near and far neighbors), these fears are bound to grow, not lessen. This suggests that without some means of compelling Pakistan to abandon its reliance upon militancy, it will become ever more interested in using it -- and the militants will likely continue to proliferate beyond Pakistan's control. 

Here's another, similar view of India's involvement with the Taliban to foment trouble in Pakistan as seen by Laura Rozen in her article in Foreign Policy Magazine

The former (American) intelligence official strongly supported the regional approach to Afghanistan suggested by US special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke. "Afghanistan is a classic power vacuum," the former official said. "Neighbors see it as point of instability to guarantee their own stability or an opportunity to score points." While the U.S. media has frequently reported on Pakistani ties to jihadi elements launching attacks in Afghanistan, it has less often mentioned that India supports insurgent forces attacking Pakistan, the former intelligence official said. "The Indians are up to their necks in supporting the Taliban against the Pakistani government in Afghanistan and Pakistan," the former (US) intelligence official who served in both countries said. "The same anti-Pakistani forces in Afghanistan also shooting at American soldiers are getting support from India. India should close its diplomatic establishments in Afghanistan and get the Christ out of there." "None of this is ever one-sided," he added. "That is why it was so devastating and we were so let down" when India got taken out of Holbrooke's official brief. Here is an excerpt from respected South Asia expert Stephen Cohen's recent remarks in Canada: India is groping now for a national identity that would allow it to approach Pakistan with confidence, but there is no consensus on how to mesh India’s identity with that of Pakistan’s. Indians do not know whether they want to play cricket and trade with Pakistan, or whether they want to destroy it. There is still no consensus on talking with Pakistan: sometimes the government and its spokesman claim that they do not want to deal with the generals, but when the generals are out of the limelight, they complain that the civilians are too weak to conclude a deal. The default option seems to be that Pakistan is now someone else’s problem--in this case the United States’. Not a few Indian generals and strategists have told me that if only America would strip Pakistan of its nuclear weapons then the Indian army could destroy the Pakistan army and the whole thing would be over. This of course is both silly and dangerous—and could lead to a catastrophic misjudgment when the fifth India-Pakistan crisis does come. We were close to one last year, I have no doubt that the people who tried to trigger a new India-Pakistan war will try again. 

Below is the full text of Stephen Cohen's April 9 speech before the International Development Research Center in Ottawa, Canada: 

 President David Malone, and Ladies and Gentlemen, I am honored to be invited to speak in this series on India. My approach will certainly be different from that of M.S. Swaminathan and Amartya Sen—both of whose work I came to know in 1993 when I spent a wonderful year in the Ford Foundation’s New Delhi office. My hope is that it offers an equally valid way of looking at India’s “emergence” or “rise,” and that what I have to say is relevant to our shared interest in seeing a more prosperous, equitable, and democratic India. India’s Revolutions India is a revolutionary power in many ways. India is not only undergoing several domestic revolutions—that of its economy, its caste system, and its federal structure, but also in how it sees its place in the world. India’s revolutions are different than those of China, and comparisons must be made very carefully. I can save some of you a lot of trouble by letting you know that much of the literature on “Chindia,” exemplified by two books I saw in Chennai last December—The Dragon and the Elephant and The Elephant and the Dragon, is with a few exceptions, mostly useless. The end of the Cold War forced India to reconsider how it configured its relations with major states, notably America. It is still a free-rider to the extent that, without being a member of any American-organized alliance, it benefits from the stability provided by these alliances. At best, Indians describe their relationship with the US as a “natural alliance,” a content-less term. India has an interest in a stable international order, but it has so far been only a bit player when it comes to global order issues. With the end of bipolarism the long-held dream of becoming one of the world’s four or five centers of power and authority seemed to move closer, but other than run of the mill peacekeeping operations under UN auspices—just like Bangladesh—it shows few signs of playing a larger role. Perhaps maintaining its own integrity is enough for the time being, but the chronic conflict with Pakistan is another reason why India remains confined to its region. India’s dispute with Pakistan is one of the reasons why the reforms sought by Amartya Sen, M.S. Swaminathan, and such eminent businessmen as Nandan Nilekani will be slow in coming. Ironically, this is not because of Pakistan’s strengths, but because of its weaknesses. Let me develop this idea further. Globalization and its Discontented Victims The cold war masked a process that was just as corrosive to many states as the US-Soviet rivalry. Pakistan got the worst of both worlds: its cold war ties retarded its political development, they allowed for the perpetuation of a military and strategic rivalry with the much larger India, and gave it false comfort in the belief that its cold war allies would help them in time of crisis. However, often hidden by the rhetoric of the cold war, another process was moving forward. This was variously termed “non-military security,” or ‘human security,” labels that were invented to compete with the cold war paradigm of “hard” or “real” security, that is, the security of states themselves. There was a widespread belief, promulgated by the foundations and some governments, that states were themselves the threat -- that too strong states repressed their citizens, and that human rights groups and NGOs could, and should, fill in where the state was repressive. There was also a belief that too much attention had been given to the security of states, not enough to their citizens. The state was the problem, non-state forces, backed by international watchdogs, were the answer. I think this was a misdiagnosis—states that were too weak were also a problem, and over the last ten years we have seen the further weakening of many new states, and some old ones, such as Nepal and Afghanistan, states that have been unable to adapt to the accelerating process of what we call globalization, defined as the increasingly rapid movement of ideas, people, and goods around the world at an unprecedented rate. The three technologies at the heart of this latest spell of globalization were the transistor, the wide-bodied jet, and the container ship. They enabled revolutionary applications such as the cell phone, satellite communications, and (a mixed blessing, indeed), global finance networks. Of course, the world has always been globalizing, people, ideas and goods have been in motion since prehistoric times. Four hundred years ago globalization entered its modern era with the invention of navigational aids and new forms of military organization that allowed the exploration and conquest of the world by a few Western states and later Japan. Two hundred years ago globalization hit the middle classes, and allowed ice from Walden Pond to cool drinks in the clubs of Madras, Bombay, and Calcutta, and as Henry David Thoreau wrote, would mix with the holy waters of the Ganges. A hundred years ago steam technology and international mail service enabled my grandfathers to hopscotch around the world until they settled in the United States—one of them, incidentally, made a stop in Canada. India had the resources and the infrastructure to take advantage of the most recent surge of globalization. It has become a global player in the software industry, a major center for advanced research (often funded by others, not necessarily in response to critical Indian needs, such as agriculture), a cultural superpower, and an efficient processor of services. As Thomas Friedman and others have noted, India (and China) have lifted the largest number of people in history out of poverty—yet India still has half of the world’s poor. Misreading the World Indian leaders misread the end of the Cold War. They correctly saw that they had to re-balance Indian strategic policy—after all the chief international supporter, the Soviet Union, had disappeared. Leading Indian strategists argued early on that some accommodation with the United States was necessary. Now, just about every party, except a few on the Left, agree with this shift. However, there was a slow and inadequate response to the unleashing of new forces set free by the decline of communist and left ideology. We forget that the Cold War was not just a struggle between major states—the so-called superpowers—but a struggle between ideas on how the world would be organized. Young people are almost always idealistic, and a generation ago usually rallied to a leftist, pro-Soviet, or even pro-China cause. The end of the cold war, plus China’s conversion to market economics and a cynical single party state pretty much removed the appeal of left ideas as far as the young, the backbone of any revolutionary movement that opposed injustice, even if Maoism without Mao lingers on in South Asia. By the early 1990’s it was easy to predict that ethnic identity movements and religion would replace communism as the Polar Star of the young, the disenfranchised, and the angry.[3] As a state, India is familiar with ethnicity and identity: it is an important element in India’s relations with all of its neighbors. A short list would include Tibetans, Kashmiris, Bengalis, Sikhs, Sindhis, Nepali speakers, Mohajirs, and Tamils. Indeed, every one of India’s neighbors has a major overlap with it in terms of ethnic identity movements. New Delhi early on learned how to manage ethnic movements, using force when necessary, then accommodation. In the words of an Indian police official, “we hit them over the head with a hammer, then we teach them to play the piano.” It works, in the same way that the Romans kept peace in their far-flung multi-ethnic empire. It also works as an instrument of foreign policy, and a number of South Asian states, including India, have used ethnic separatist movements to keep a rival off-balance. India (backed by the US) did this for a while with the Tibetans of China, it certainly did this in Sri Lanka, supporting Tamils, with tragic and unanticipated consequences, and its most significant use of ethno/linguistic discontent was its support of East Bengali separatist against Pakistan. There is ample evidence that India uses its presence in Afghanistan to not only balance radical Islamists there, but to undercut Pakistani efforts. Of course, Pakistan had long fished in troubled Indian waters. Even today it officially draws a distinction between Kashmir and India proper. China actively supported Naga separatists and other irredentists for many years. Two, three, four, or five wrongs not only do not make a right, but they create a morally muddied situation. If everyone is to blame, no one is to blame. The alphabet agencies—ISI, RAW, and so forth—are often the chosen instrument of state policy when there is a conventional (and now a nuclear) balance of power, and the diplomatic route seems barren. Frankly, this would not matter very much in the larger scheme of things, especially with an India that is acquiring real economic power. In the case of India’s other major Asian rival, China, they have a long border dispute, they have supported separatist and irredentist groups in each other’s territory for years, they are economic rivals, and they are nuclear weapons states—yet they have moved to a level of accommodation and understanding that seems impossible in the case of India and Pakistan. China is expected to soon become India’s largest trade partner, whereas Indian trade with Pakistan (except via the smuggling route), is negligible. The India-Pakistan Conundrum There are many reasons why India and Pakistan are seemingly incompatible, despite their shared history and geographical space. Let me present an explanation, and then note how other trends impinge upon an already-dangerous situation. Structurally, the India-Pakistan relationship is toxic. It is a classic case of what I call a “paired minority conflict.” In these situations both sides see themselves as vulnerable, threatened, encircled, and at risk. They have a “minority” or “small power” complex, which also means that conventional morality does not apply to them. Sri Lanka and the Middle East are the other two outstanding cases of a “paired minority conflict.” All three are self-contained, internally powered conflict machines. It is easy to see why Pakistanis have a classic small power complex: they are indeed smaller than India, increasingly less capable, their friends are fickle, and when from time to time Indian politicians and officials concede that Pakistan is a legitimate country, Pakistanis feel even more insecure. But why India? There is a powerful and emerging Indian identity, one that transcends regional differences, a continental-sized economy, and the plaudits of the world, now including the United States. India also has a world-class popular culture and its political parties are constantly redefining and refining a new Indian identity. But the fact remains that until very recently the self-identity of India’s elite was that they were citizens of a loser state? Those who were able to do so left it for more promised lands, to America’s benefit and that of Canada. This is changing rapidly, just as there is new thinking in Pakistan about India, but the core antagonisms still drive the overall relationship, hampering efforts to develop trade, people-to-people, and economic and institutional ties of a level that exists, say, between Taiwan and China. In their quest for an identity, some Indians tried to replicate Pakistan’s failure by manufacturing a “Hindu” Indian identity—the so-called Hindutva movement. But there is no all-Indian Hindu identity—India is riven by caste and linguistic differences, and Aishwarya Rai and Sachin Tendulkar are more relevant rallying points for more Indians than any Hindu caste or sect, let alone the Sanskritized Hindi that is officially promulgated. India is groping now for a national identity that would allow it to approach Pakistan with confidence, but there is no consensus on how to mesh India’s identity with that of Pakistan’s. Indians do not know whether they want to play cricket and trade with Pakistan, or whether they want to destroy it. There is still no consensus on talking with Pakistan: sometimes the government and its spokesman claim that they do not want to deal with the generals, but when the generals are out of the limelight, they complain that the civilians are too weak to conclude a deal. The default option seems to be that Pakistan is now someone else’s problem--in this case the United States’. Not a few Indian generals and strategists have told me that if only America would strip Pakistan of its nuclear weapons then the Indian army could destroy the Pakistan army and the whole thing would be over. This of course is both silly and dangerous—and could lead to a catastrophic misjudgment when the fifth India-Pakistan crisis does come. We were close to one last year, I have no doubt that the people who tried to trigger a new India-Pakistan war will try again. The structural contradictions in the relationship explain much of the problem. Put in terms of raw politics, India’s political parties do not make this a central issue in governance. In Pakistan there is not much support in the Establishment (or ruling oligarchy, to use the proper Aristotelian label) for an end to South Asia’s cold (and sometimes hot) war. As the years pass, India and Pakistan have traded places in being insecure and vulnerable: like two sides of a teeter-totter, when either side is down it fears that any concessions will lead down a slippery slope, when it is up, it expects the weaker side to bow. India is presently “up,” but there is no serious consideration of a deal that would bring to fruition the process begun by Atal Behari Vajpayee in the 1990s. Interestingly, it has been the BJP that seems to be more willing to redefine Pakistan in such a way that India could live at peace with it. Both Jaswant Singh and L.K. Advani have talked of “Jinnah’s Pakistan.” Let me list a few other factors that reinforce this paired-minority complex: * There are groups on both sides that try to disrupt the process when it seems to be reaching a positive conclusion. Some of the bureaucracies and covert agencies on each side need the conflict for their own self interest—the two armies, in particular, would have very little to do (except, perhaps to fight separatists and terrorist groups) if the international border were normalized. On the right, when Jaswant and Advani appeared soft on Pakistan they were roundly berated by the Hindutva hard-liners. * The introduction of nuclear weapons in the arsenals of India and Pakistan have not promoted peace—although they may have made all-out war virtually impossible. * The presence of bureaucratic pathologies should be noted, in particular the Pakistan army’s narrow vision, the Indian Ministry of External Affairs’ absence of vision. * The so-called track II dialogues, are more often than not a way of avoiding serious strategic dialogue between Indians and Pakistanis. They often involve those people who were responsible for past bad decisions, yet the same people who ten years ago were eager to do nothing now preach the importance of dialogue and further meetings—conference building measure. As one Indian journalist properly observed during one of these marathon talk-fests, both governments should consider extending the age of retirement by five or ten years since so many of yesterday’s hawks had morphed into today’s doves. * There is also an absence of imaginative strategic thinking in India—most officials and politicians seem to follow the advice of P.V. Narasimha Rao, who said that inaction is always preferable, that time will fix most problems. Prime Minister Rao may have been right in some matters, but I don’t think this is the case with India’s chief strategic and foreign policy problem, one that penetrates to the core of Indian politics—the crumbling state of Pakistan. I won’t go into details, but all of the long term indicators for Pakistan are very negative: economic growth, population, demographic trends, sectarianism, governmental coherence, rising discontent among non-Punjabis, and an increase in sectarian extremism within the Punjab itself. There is one positive trend: for the first time all of the major, relevant powers of the world are concerned about Pakistan. China, the EU and NATO states, America, and others understand that their Pakistan problem is not simply one of containing terrorism, but the integrity of the Pakistani state. I think that Indians sense this, but the moment for action was five or six years ago. Here, Washington and New Delhi failed each other as they were falling over each other in an attempt to complete an agreement on civil nuclear energy. I supported the deal, but it certainly distracted the United States from what was happening before its eyes. “De-hyphenation” was an Indian objective, and it was successful in the short term—but it contributed to American disinterest in internal developments in Pakistan just as these were becoming pathological. Exactly six years ago I published a book on Pakistan, and the last sentence concluded: “Before writing Pakistan off as the hopelessly failed state that its critics believe it to be, Washington may have one last opportunity to ensure that this troubled state will not become America’s biggest foreign policy problem in the last half of this decade.” Just before that the 2000 CIA “Global Trends” report, looking ahead to 2015, suggested that “Pakistan will not recover easily from decades of political and economic mismanagement. . . . Nascent democratic reforms will produce little change . . . . and domestic decline would benefit Islamic political activists, who may significantly increase their role in national politics and alter the makeup and cohesion of the military. . . . In a climate of continuing domestic turmoil, the central government’s control probably will be reduced to the Punjabi heartland and the economic hub of Karachi.” Most recently, the Australian/American strategist David Kilcullen, predicted that Pakistan might collapse in six months. Is it too late? It might be, but politics is an empirical science, not a theoretical one, and there has to be one last comprehensive effort to answer the question of Pakistan’s viability. As for India, it is both part of the problem and part of the solution, but I know that if it does not act in a positive and creative fashion its hopes of becoming a comprehensively great power cannot be achieved. There may be some gratification in seeing your major enemy and rival go up in flames, but not if your house catches fire. What to Do? Let me conclude with a small “to do” list, addressed mostly to India but also to outsiders who want to be of help: * Kashmir is both the cause and effect of this paired-minority complex, it can’t be “solved” because there is no solution as long as present mind-sets prevail. Read the superb new study by Ambassador Howard Schaeffer of America’s many failed attempts coming out shortly from the Brookings press, and instead, look for ways that turn Kashmir into a non-zero sum problem. My suggestion would be to address, more broadly, the looming environmental and water issue, of which Kashmir is an important component. This affects India, China, Nepal, and Bangladesh, this is properly dealt with on a regional basis. Kashmir, as such, is not “ripe” for resolution, but parts of the problem are. * Regional trade is another area where India and Pakistan need an excuse to do only what is in their self-interest. In this case there is the problem of the big fish-little fish: Pakistan is big fish as far as Afghanistan is concerned, but a little fish when it comes to India. India of course is the whale as far as Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. India stands to gain a lot by giving up a little, a mind set that is common in the business community but not among the bureaucrats. * Nuclear proliferation provides us with anotherff opportunity, and if missed, all parties will suffer. India tirelessly avoids the issue by pious accusations in the direction of Pakistan on how not to be a responsible nuclear weapons state. All that India needs to do is to rediscover the Rajiv Gandhi action plan, which not only called for global disarmament—a politically safe thing to with the Bush administration gone—but Rajiv also addressed, if briefly, the prospect of movement at the regional level. This now means China, India and Pakistan, and it should not take more than ten minutes to figure out how many nuclear weapons would preserve deterrence stability for India. Given that India was rewarded with an incredibly generous agreement by the Bush administration, India should do more than simply reiterate its own excellent record. Such a region-wide agreement might include better verification and assurances regarding national protection of weapons and fissile material; it is not that Indian practices are bad (although there is little evidence that they are good), it is that India’s vulnerability to a nuclear weapon from Pakistan is self-evident. It is astonishing that the same Indian officials and “formers” who decry Pakistan as a rogue state and the epicenter of terrorism, seem perfectly happy with Pakistan’s control over a growing nuclear arsenal. * Finally, India needs to engage in introspection about he full range of military power that it wields. India is certainly Asia’s third great state, but the book I am now completing will argue that its strategic weight and its military power have been misjudged. Just because a state has done well in one or two areas does not necessarily mean that it will do well in all of them. There are no more than a handful of political and administrative officials who really understand the use of force and the instruments of military power. India cannot remove key threats by force, yet it maintains a huge army and an equally large paramilitary force that are strategically dysfunctional. It sometimes behaves like a timid state for good reason—yet it wants its neighbors to be in awe of its power. No big state will ever be beloved by its smaller neighbors, but India has failed to capitalize, especially in the case of Pakistan, on its real assets—these are its great cultural and economic power, not its army or its nuclear weapons. To summarize, India is the dominant power in South Asia, but it is the putative leader of the least-integrated region of the world; its neighbors all struggle, and at least one of them, Pakistan, defines itself in anti-Indian terms. While India must concentrate upon its domestic reforms and restructuring, this process must be accompanied by fresh thinking about India’s regional relations, and the role that outside powers can play in helping these to become more normal. The agenda I have outlined is already too long, and the problems that India faces in its relationship with Pakistan are very great. I remain optimistic that India will change -- it has done so at astonishing speed in many spheres—and somehow convert an enemy into a partner. India may have to give a little, but it has a lot to gain. The rest of us can stand by, offer suggestions where asked. However, we must also be prepared for strategic failure—another serious crisis with Pakistan, the further fragmentation of that state, or the expansion of the radical Islamist agenda to India itself. I am no Cassandra, but prudence suggests that we not just hope for the best, hope is not a policy. 

In my view, Pakistan faces two existential threats, not one. Clearly, the Al Qaeda and Taliban threat is in the news right now much more than the Indian threat. Any nation that has faced Indian intelligence's covert war followed by an outright invasion to divide it can not be told to ignore that threat. The kind of rhetoric that emanated from India post-Mumbai can not be ignored either, particularly when both nations have a nuclear standoff, the kind of stand off the Americans had with the Soviets. In fact, the situation is much worse than US-Soviet standoff because there is no geographic separation. My assessment is that "the Taliban" is not one organized monolith with a clear set of unified goals and single chain of command. There are many disparate groups operating under the label of "the Taliban". My guess is that some of these groups have probably also been infiltrated by foreign intelligence agencies like RAW and Khad that want to wage covert war in Pakistan to destabilize it. 

Related Links: 

Monday, April 27, 2009

American Policies Alienating Pakistanis

WASHINGTON: The United States has alienated Pakistan by demanding that they divert troops from the Indian border to fight the Taliban, says former US ambassador to Islamabad Robert Oakley.

‘We’ve alienated them tremendously. Whether we agree or not, the Pakistanis consider India to be the biggest threat to their security,’ Oakley told a US think-tank, the Atlantic Council.

Oakley, who served in Islamabad from 1988 to 92, also criticized the restrictions proposed in a congressional bill on US aid to Pakistan.

‘What we’re calling ‘benchmarks’ remind them very much of the ‘sanctions’ they had hanging over their heads for so many years,’ he said.

Ahmed Rashid, a leading Pakistani journalist and Taliban expert, said that the United States would do well to set more general parameters for aid.

Rashid told another US think-tank, the Jamestown Foundation, that he was ‘absolutely shocked’ by the conditions in drafts of the US congressional aid bill to his country.

‘No political government can accept a bill like this in Pakistan, even if it is on its knees -- which it is, economically speaking,’ he said.

The proposed restrictions require Pakistan to improve its relations with India, whether New Delhi reciprocates those efforts or not. Pakistan also needs to undertake not to support any person or group involved in activities meant to hurt India.

Another proposed requirement will allow US investigators access to individuals suspected of engaging in nuclear proliferation, such as Dr AQ Khan.

Oakley, in his interview to the Atlantic Council, also criticized the US drone attacks inside Pakistan.

The US, he said, needed to ask itself: ‘Are we creating more terrorists than we’re killing?’ And the drone attacks, he said, were probably creating more terrorists.

‘The drones may be killing a lot of Taliban and al Qaeda but they’re alienating the tribesmen we need to win the war,’ he said.

‘We’ve pushed the Pakistani army to fight our war and created a huge backlash. They’re not trained or equipped for counterterrorism and they’re getting killed and killing the wrong people, essentially fighting their own.’

Oakley said that right now, the Pakistani military had control over their nukes. ‘But, if the Islamists gain ground, who knows what’s going to happen?’ he asked.

Oakley was also unhappy with the current Pakistani leadership, particularly the president. They were ‘both incompetent and corrupt and had no clue on the economic side of things.’

Oakley said that unless the US contained the problem in Pakistan, ‘we don’t have any chance in Afghanistan.’

At the Jamestown Foundation, analyst Shuja Nawaz said the Obama team did not make a positive impression during their last two visits to Islamabad.

‘This was probably the worst ever visit by an American team to South Asia in history,’ said Nawaz, director of the South Asia Center at the Washington-based Atlantic Council. ‘It was a complete disaster.’

If this is how the Obama planned to ‘win friends, I just wonder how you are going to create enemies,’ he said.

Nawaz faulted US special envoy Richard Holbrooke and Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen for publicly demanding that Pakistan’s civilian President Asif Ali Zardari rein in elements of the intelligence service believed to support extremists.

Stephen P. Cohen, an expert on South Asia at the Brookings Institution, said that the United States has made excessive demands of a weak Pakistani leadership -- from fighting extremists to safeguarding its nuclear program to treating women better and reforming its economy.

‘If we think that they can do everything, they will wind up doing nothing well.’

At a separate seminar at the Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars, Khalid Aziz, a former chief secretary of NWFP who heads the Regional Institute of Policy Research, screened ‘Cries of Anguish,’ a short documentary about Fata.

The film recounted the many unsuccessful foreign attempts to conquer the region. It also focused on the tribal society of FATA’s 3.5 million ethnic Pashtuns.

A major theme of the documentary was FATA’s lack of development, which the film’s commentators attributed to the region’s inaccessibility but also to a lack of funds from Islamabad.

While development aid has increased in recent years, this assistance was now threatened by the rapid spread of extremism.

The documentary depicted FATA’s Pashtuns as demoralized, their hopes shattered ‘for reasons beyond their control’ and their lives threatened ‘by a war not of their own asking.’

After the film, Aziz addressed what he described as the ‘burning issue:’ How to pacify the region.

He noted that, historically, ‘scorched earth’ campaigns and other strictly military approaches had failed. More ‘indirect political approaches,’ however, had succeeded.

Aziz said that current pacification policies, such as the use of unmanned US drones, had increased radicalization not just in FATA but across all of Pakistan.

Aziz offered a range of solutions: Strong US rhetoric should be tempered, while better trust should be promoted between the American and Pakistani militaries. Tight border controls should be introduced. Counterinsurgency methods should be better implemented. Pakistani institutions should be strengthened.

And as for the drones, Aziz acknowledged their effectiveness and value. He championed their continued use -- though under a Pakistani flag.


Related Links:

Is Pakistan America's Biggest Problem?

India and Balochistan

Obama's New Regional Strategy

Webchat On Obama's New Regional Strategy

Obama's Afghan Exit Strategy

Obama's Interview with CBS 60 Minutes

Obama's New Regional Strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan

US Escalating Covert War in Pakistan?

Can India "Do a Lebanon in Pakistan?

20th Anniversary of Soviet Defeat in Afghanistan

Taming the ISI: Implications for Pakistan’s Stability and the War on Terrorism

Growing Insurgency in Swat

Afghan War and Collapse of the Soviet Union

US, NATO Fighting to Stalemate in Afghanistan?

FATA Faceoff Fears

FATA Raid Charades

Taliban--Enemies of Pakistan and Islam

With the recent Taliban gains in and around Swat valley, there has been rising concern in Pakistan, even among the Islamist leaders. “According to my knowledge, Taliban have seized control of Buner District too after the Swat valley,” JUI Chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman said a couple of days ago, adding that militants are moving closer to Tarbela Dam from Hazara. “What kind of a message was given to the world by signing a deal with a banned militant outfit,” he questioned.

Taking on Tehreek-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Muhammadi (TNSM) chief Sufi Muhammad, Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) leader Syed Munawar Hassan has called him a ‘kafir’ (unbeliever), according to media reports.

Talking to the media after meeting with Khaksar Tehreek chief Hamidud Din Almashraqi, Hassan said Muhammad had fought counselor elections’ in the past, so he should refrain calling the constitution and National Assembly members’ ‘un-Islamic’.

In an OpEd piece published by the Washington Post, popular Pakistani singer Salman Ahmad and filmmaker Kamran Pasha have now joined the chorus of condemnation of the Taliban. Here's the piece:

The Taliban hordes now sit dangerously close to Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan, and many both inside and outside the country fear that they are poised to possess the souls of a nation of 173 million. As Pakistanis living in America we stand united and join the people of Pakistan to resist the murderous Taliban and their proven malice toward Islam.

Malice toward Islam? But aren’t the Taliban true Muslims who seek only to establish a pure Islamic state based on Sharia, or Islamic law? That is certainly how they present themselves. But the Taliban are no more representative of mainstream Islam than the Crusaders who ransacked Europe and the Middle East were of Christianity. Both the Taliban and their Crusading counterparts represent a political movement meant to dominate and destroy rather than strengthen faith and build human society.

Despite the distorted teaching of extremists like the Taliban, the truth is that the Holy Qur’an does not establish any form of government. Indeed, it is disputes over politics and leadership that split the Muslim community into two sects, Sunni and Shia. The very idea of imposition of religion on others goes against the heart of the Qur’an. In Surah 2:256, the Qur’an says forcefully: “There is no compulsion in religion.”

Even the notion of imposing “Islamic law” is nonsensical, as the very idea of a monolithic body of religious rules agreed to by the Muslim community has no basis in Islamic history. There is no unified notion of Sharia. Over the past 1,400 years, many schools of law have developed, each with its own doctrines and jurisprudence, and with contradictory rulings on many matters. Sharia is not a codified body of rules, but a dynamic interaction between scholars, jurists and the Muslim community.

The idea of imposing a particular opinion on the entire community would have shocked the great Islamic legal thinkers such as Imam Abu Hanifa and Imam Shafi’i.To wage war, topple governments and terrorize a civilian population into accepting one radical brand of religion is by its very essence un-Islamic.

And the brand the Taliban wish to sell is not one the people of Pakistan have any interest in buying. Whenever free elections are held, the Pakistani people consistently reject fundamentalist parties at the polls. In last year’s national elections , Pakistanis living in the North West Frontier Province , bordering Afghanistan, voted for a secular political party. However, it is the failure of both elected governments and military dictatorships, that has allowed armed bullies like the Taliban to threaten the existence of the state.The Pakistani people have been demanding peace, justice,education and economic security from their leaders but instead have been offered corrupt and incompetent leadership for most of its 62 years of independence.The leadership vaccum has to be filled by sincere politicians , an independent judiciary and an army which commits itself to providing peace and security for all of its people.Only a collective,united effort can steer the country away from the edge of a precipice.The Muslim majority of Pakistan easily recognize when politicians are cloaking themselves in religion to secure power over others. The Islam of Pakistan takes inspiration from the tolerant Sufi teachings of poets and philosophers like Rumi,Bulleh Shah and Iqbal.Its the Islam of coexistence, music, art and love. The hijacked Islam of merciless rules, beheadings and floggings has little attraction for Pakistanis and can only be spread through violence, as the Taliban have proved.

Having witnessed up close how the Taliban have destroyed Afghanistan and ruined any chance for that nation’s recovery after the Soviet occupation, it is incumbent on Pakistanis to stand together against these forces of darkness. The fall of nuclear-armed Pakistan to a small band of extremists poses a threat not only to its citizens, but also to the region and the world. If the Pakistani army and politicians will not defend the state from this menace, then the people of Pakistan must rise up and defend themselves.

There are moments in history when we are called to stand and be counted. And today, we proclaim that we stand with the forces of true Islam, of democracy, human rights and freedom, against those who seek to destroy the religion from within.

Related Links:

Pakistan's War is Cultural, Not Military

Pakistan's Choice: Talibanization Versus Globalization

Taliban Target Pakistan's Landed Elite

The World According to Google, Hizbullah and Taliban

Feudal Punjab Fertile for Terrorism

Qasab's Journey in Time Magazine

Feudal Shadow in Pakistan Elections

UN Millennium Goals in Pakistani Village

Saudi-ization of Pakistan

Pakistan's FATA Face-off Fears

FATA Reconstruction Opportunity Zones

Pakistan Power Centers: Feudals, Clergy and Military

Salman Ahmad is the founder of the Pakistani rock band Junoon , author of the forthcoming book “Rock n Roll Jihad” and a United Nations Goodwill Ambassador. Kamran Pasha is a filmmaker and the author of “Mother of the Believers,” a novel on the birth of Islam.

Gujarat Muslims Ignored by Indian Politicians

It has been almost seven years since the 2002 Gujarat riots in India in which at least 2,000 Muslims were killed by Hindu mobs and several hundred girls and women were stripped naked, raped or gang-raped, had their wombs slashed and were thrown into fires, some while still alive. But even today, tens of thousands of Muslims continue to languish in refugee camps, too afraid to return to their homes. Why? Because the names of the politicians, businessmen, officials and policemen who colluded in the anti-Muslim pogrom are widely known. Some of them were even caught on video, in a sting carried out by the weekly magazine Tehelka, proudly recalling how they murdered and raped Muslims. But, as Amnesty International pointed out in a recent report, justice continues to evade most victims and survivors of the violence. Another organization, Human Rights Watch, has also criticized the Indian government for failure to address the humanitarian condition of the victims, "overwhelming majority of them Muslim." Following their traumatic experiences, the surviving Muslim victims of Gujarat are still living in fear, as the perpetrators of riots remain powerful and roam free.

But the plight of the riot victims does not find any echo in the general elections of the world's largest democracy, according to a BBC report. Both the ruling BJP and Congress party remain silent on the shoddy rehabilitation of the victims or the delay in bringing the culprits to justice.

Most independent observers believe that the Nanavati commission report, which absolved Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi of any responsibility for the riots, is nothing but a farce. Nanavati Commission, appointed by the Gujarat government accused of complicity in the riots, echoed the government's position that the Godra incident was a pre-planned conspiracy. The Nanavati report was designed to pre-empt the findings of the independent Justice Bannerjee commission report which clearly found that the fire incident in which 58 Kar Seveks on the train died was an accidental one.

"We cannot vote for the BJP and the Congress almost has a fixed deposit on our votes. So it's a choice between the devil and the deep blue sea," the BBC quotes Mr Ansari, a refugee in Ahmadabad, as saying.

Muslims comprise barely 10% of the population in Gujarat. "Despite the riots and the headlines, the political parties here feel that they can ignore them, because they don't comprise a decisive vote bank," analyst Achyut Yagnik told the BBC.

Such total disregard for the rights and plight of minorities in India raises serious questions about the secular character of India's democracy and adherence to its secular constitution. But the Indian and Western media continue to be silent about the suffering of Gujarati Muslims.

Similarly, while the torture and human rights abuses at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib by the Bush administration have been exposed, documented and condemned by the world media, the continuing abuses of Muslims in India's "war on terror" have gone largely unnoticed. There appears to be a conspiracy of silence by the world media when it comes to the brutality against Indian Muslims practiced by officials and the right-wing Hindu extremists in world's largest secular democracy. The western media, in particular, have completely bought what Fareed Zakaria, the Indian-born Muslim editor of Newsweek International, describes as a "peaceful, stable, and prosperous" India. Even the officially-endorsed anti-Muslim violence and resulting deaths of thousands of Muslims in Gujarat have not been able to shake the faith of the Indophile western journalists.

Here's a video clip of Babu Bajrangi account and confession of killings of Gujarat Muslims in 2002:

Related Links:

Amnesty International India Report

India: Justice- the Victims in Gujarat

India's Guantanamos and Abu Ghraibs

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Will America Doom Sharif?

Alarmed by the recent Taliban gains in Pakistan and President Zardari's apparent appeasement of them, the United States is now contemplating an alliance with Mian Nawaz Sharif to bolster its anti-terror efforts in the region.

According to the Wall Street Journal, "U.S. and European officials now believe Mr. Sharif's long ties to Islamist political parties and leaders could position him better to convince the Pakistani public of the need to confront the Taliban."

Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas, chief military spokesman, has acknowledged the lack of popular support as a reason for the military's inability or unwillingness to confront the growing Taliban threat in Pakistan. Earlier this week, he reportedly told the press, "We need public support to fight militants." Less than half of the population in the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) and Balochistan think that the government should take a tougher stance on ridding Pakistan of terrorist activities, according to a Gallup poll conducted late last year. Overall, sixty percent of Pakistani nationals are of the view that the government should take a tougher approach to rid the country of terrorist activities, the poll said.

After years of shunning Mr. Nawaz Sharif as an Islamist, the United States opened dialogue with the PML chief when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke to him to defuse the political crisis stemming from the dismissal of Sharif's Punjab government last month. Clinton found Sharif receptive and the talks have yielded closer ties between the Obama administration and the PML leader. Following this very overt intervention in the internal politics of Pakistan, Clinton said the Obama administration would continue to work with the Pakistani leaders. "We are going to continue our very close working relationship with the government and a number of Pakistani leaders in the days and weeks ahead," she said. Since March, Mr. Zardari has been losing his popularity in the country and the US now believes he can no longer deliver on his commitments to the US. On the other hand, Mr. Nawaz Sharif's stature has risen both nationally and internationally.

Sharif's change of heart to lean against the Taliban may have its origins in the fear of the Taliban felt by his constituents in the Punjab as well as pressure from Pakistan's closest allies in Riyadh and Beijing. According to media reports, China and Saudi Arabia, have strongly indicated to Pakistan's leadership that its continuing tolerance of the Taleban and al-Qaeda on its soil is endangering the national security of these two countries.

While there are no US plans afoot to remove Mr. Zardari, there is plenty of talk about weakening his office through repeal of the 17th amendment in Pakistan's constitution that gives the president the power to dismiss the elected government and legislature. Such a move will potentially open the way for Nawaz Sharif to emerge as Pakistan's powerful prime minister to succeed Mr. Yousuf Raza Gilani who is generally perceived as weak and indecisive.

One of Obama's key policy adviser on Afghanistan and Pakistan recently said the US was dealing with Nawaz Sharif because “there’s nobody else out there. Zardari has the political strength, but it seems to be evaporating … There is a recognition that [Sharif] may well be the next leader. Therefore, you have to deal with him.” Bruce Riedel said

As the US considers its policy shift to favor Sharif in Pakistan, the Taliban have begun to target the landed elite as a winning strategy. They have latched on to a cause that appeals to the common rural folks in Pakistan's largely feudal society in which most of the political power is concentrated in a few dozen big landowning families. The Taliban are pursuing their campaign with a revolutionary zeal. Like Hizbullah in Lebanon and Google in Silicon Valley, it seems to me that the Taliban play their own game by their own rules. They are very focused, extremely nimble and highly adaptive, and they know how to raise money, as well as any Silicon Valley startup. They have mastered the art of "disruption" and "change". And they appear to have the upper hand at the moment.

Given the underlying and growing resentment against the feudal/tribal power of a narrow and corrupt ruling elite in Pakistan, it appears that Swat represents only the beginning of a bloody revolt in the rest of the country.

It is also clear that the new generation of Pakistanis do not want to accept life under a feudal or tribal system that denies them basic human dignity. In the absence of significant economic growth (even the phenomenal 8% growth roughly equals 2.5m jobs), not enough jobs are being created for 3 million young people ready to join the work force each year, resulting in growing availability of recruits for terror outfits who pay them fairly well by local standards. According to Rand corporation estimates, the Taliban pay about $150 a month to each fighter, much higher than the $100 a month paid by the governments in the region. This fact has been amply illustrated by recent growth of the Punjabi Taliban who have been found recruited by terrorist groups for suicide bombings and violence within and outside Pakistan.

If the reports of US-Sharif alliance prove to be accurate and Sharif does emerge as Pakistan's next prime minister, it is important for both the US officials and Nawaz Sharif to recognize that any hint of Sharif acting on behalf of the US agenda will backfire. And the potential Sharif government will meet the same fate as governments of Musharraf and Zardari in terms of loss of credibility with the people of Pakistan. Even more importantly, if the US does succeed in forcing General Kayani and the Pakistani army to do things that their soldiers detest, as Adm Mike Mullen has been trying to do, it may destroy the army. This would be a catastrophe for the US that would dwarf even defeat in Afghanistan.

While continuous behind-the-scenes pressure on Pakistan may work, the use of America's soft power is much more likely to be effective with Pakistanis. Beyond the efforts to create and fund reconstruction opportunity zones (ROZ) in FATA which are desirable and welcome, what is really needed is an international Marshall Plan style effort toward transforming Pakistan from a feudal/tribal to an industrial society which can employ its growing young population. Pakistan's President Zardari has called for such a Marshall Plan for Pakistan. Such an effort will face major hurdles from Zardari's own party and its corrupt feudal leadership. However, if it is successfully implemented to respond to mounting pressure by the Taliban, new opportunities will open up for the nation's young population to offer them better alternatives to joining Jihadi outfits or seeking work in countries like Saudi Arabia where they are further radicalized.

Although the Taliban are primarily a rural, northwestern frontier movement, it is becoming increasingly clear that their sympathizers are found in all parts of Pakistan in varying numbers. If Taliban do succeed in making substantial gains in the North, no part of Pakistan will be immune...they will particularly commit major high-profile acts of terror in all major urban centers as they have in Lahore and Islamabad recently. I think the urban middle class in Pakistan in all parts of the country should recognize this menace and organize themselves to resists the seemingly inevitable Taliban urban onslaught.

Related Links:

How Long Can President Zardari Survive?

US Urges Pakistan to Repel Taliban

Is Pakistan America's Biggest Problem?

The World According to Google, Hizbullah and Taliban

Feudal Punjab Fertile for Terrorism

Qasab's Journey in Time Magazine

Feudal Shadow in Pakistan Elections

UN Millennium Goals in Pakistani Village

Saudi-ization of Pakistan

Pakistan's FATA Face-off Fears

FATA Reconstruction Opportunity Zones

Pakistan Power Centers: Feudals, Clergy and Military

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Foreign Aid Continues to Pour in Resurgent India

In spite of all of the recent news about aid to Pakistan dominating the media, the fact remains that resurgent India has received more foreign aid than any other developing nation since the end of World War II--estimated at almost $100 billion since the beginning of its First Five-Year Plan in 1951. And it continues to receive more foreign aid in spite of impressive economic growth for almost a decade.

India was the fourth largest recipient of aid (ODA) between 1995 to 2008 (US$26.1 billion), according to Global Humanitarian Assistance website.

According to OECD group of the aid donor nations, the words "aid" and "assistance" refer to flows which qualify as Official Development Assistance (ODA) or Official Aid (OA). Such OA or ODA aid includes both grants and soft loans given by OECD nations and multi-lateral institutions like the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, IMF, etc.

Britain will spend over $1.5 billion during the next three years in aid to Shining India, a nuclear-armed power that sent a spacecraft to the moon recently, to lift "hundreds of millions of people" out of poverty, the British secretary of state for international development said last November, according to the Guardian newspaper.

Douglas Alexander, the first cabinet minister to visit India's poorest state Bihar, said that despite "real strides in economic growth" there were still 828 million people living on less than $2 a day in India.

UK's Department of International Development says if the UN's millennium development goals - alleviating extreme poverty, reducing child mortality rates and fighting epidemics such as Aids - are left unmet in India, they will not be met worldwide. Some 43% of children go hungry and a woman dies in childbirth every five minutes.

British Minister Alexander contrasted the rapid growth in China with India's economic success - highlighting government figures that showed the number of poor people had dropped in the one-party communist state by 70% since 1990 but had risen in the world's biggest democracy by 5%.

After the increase of British aid to $500 million (300 million pounds) a year, India will still remain the biggest recipient of Japan's official development assistance (ODA) in the near future. Since Japan's first ODA to India in 1958, the country has received monetary aid worth Rs 89,500 crore (Rs 895 billion) so far, according to Noro Motoyoshi, Japanese consul general in Kolkata. In 2008, Japan's ODA to India was up by more than 18% compared to 2007 at Rs 6916 crore (Rs 69.16 billion).

The World Bank said recently it will lend India $14 billion in soft loans by 2012 to help the country overhaul its creaking infrastructure and increase living standards in its poor states, according to Financial Express.

At the recent G20 meeting, India has asked the World Bank to raise the amount of money India can borrow as soft loans, generally considered aid, from the bank for its infrastructure projects, according to Times of India. At present, India can borrow up to $15.5 billion in soft loans as per the SBL (single borrower limit)in soft loans fixed by the Bank.

The Indian government has estimated it needs $500 billion over the five years to 2012 to upgrade infrastructure such as roads, ports, power and railways.

"Under the strategy, the bank will use lending, dialogue, analytical work, engagement with the private sector, and capacity building to help India achieve its goals," the World Bank said on its website.

The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development would lend $9.6 billion and the International Development Association would make available $4.4 billion of funding, according to India's Financial Express.

Only 30 per cent of India's state highways have two lanes or more, and the majority are in poor condition, the bank said. Electricity generation capacity has grown at less than 5 per cent in the past five years, much slower than overall economic growth of about 8 per cent over the same period.

The funds would also be used to help reduce poverty in seven low-income states; Bihar, Chhatisgarh, Jharkand, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, the World Bank said.

Foreign Aid as Percentage of Indian GDP. Source: World Bank

The biggest direct aid donor countries to India are Japan and UK, as well as multiple international humanitarian aid programs supported through NGOs, in addition to the World Bank, UNICEF, UNESCO, UNDP, WFP, and a whole alphabet soup of organizations active in helping the teeming population of the poor, the illiterates, the hungry and and the destitute in India.

According to Japan's ministry of finance, India has received $33 billion in soft loans and a billion dollars in grants from Japan since 1997. In 2008, Japan gave India $2.5 billion in soft loans, and $5 million in grants. By contrast, Pakistan has received $10 billion in soft loans, and $2.3 billion in grants from Japan since 1999. In 2008, Japan gave Pakistan $500 million in soft loans and $63 million in grants.

India Top Recipient of US Economic Aid Source: Times of India
India, often described as peaceful, stable and prosperous in the Western media, remains home to the largest number of poor and hungry people in the world. About one-third of the world's poor people live in India. More than 450 million Indians exist on less than $1.25 a day, according to the World Bank. It also has a higher proportion of its population living on less than $2 per day than even sub-Saharan Africa. India has about 42% of the population living below the new international poverty line of $1.25 per day. The number of Indian poor also constitute 33% of the global poor, which is pegged at 1.4 billion people, according to a Times of India news report. More than 6 million of those desperately poor Indians live in Mumbai alone, representing about half the residents of the nation's financial capital. They live in super-sized slums and improvised housing juxtaposed with the shining new skyscrapers that symbolize India's resurgence. According to the World Bank and the UN Development Program (UNDP), 22% of Pakistan's population is classified as poor.

There is widespread hunger and malnutrition in all parts of India. India ranks 66th on the 2008 Global Hunger Index of 88 countries while Pakistan is slightly better at 61 and Bangladesh slightly worse at 70.

Indian media's headlines about the newly-minted Indian billionaires need to bring sharper focus on the growing rich-poor gap in India. On its inside pages, The Times of India last year reported Communist Party leader Sitaram Yechury's as saying that "on the one hand, 36 Indian billionaires constituted 25% of India’s GDP while on the other, 70% of Indians had to do with Rs 20 a day". "A farmer commits suicide every 30 minutes. The gap between the two Indias is widening," he said. Over 1500 farmers committed suicide last year in the central state of Chhattisgarh alone.

Among the Asian nations mentioned in an October 2008 UN report, Pakistan is more egalitarian than the India, Bangladesh, China and Indonesia. Based on all the UNDP data, Pakistan does not have the level of hunger and abject poverty observed in India or Bangladesh.

According to the new UN-HABITAT report on the State of the World's Cities 2008/9: Harmonious Cities, China has the highest level of consumption inequality based on Gini Coefficient in the Asia region, higher than Pakistan (0.298), Bangladesh (0.318), India (0.325), and Indonesia (0.343), among others." Gini coefficient is defined as a ratio with values between 0 and 1: A low Gini coefficient indicates more equal income or wealth distribution, while a high Gini coefficient indicates more unequal distribution. 0 corresponds to perfect equality (everyone having exactly the same income) and 1 corresponds to perfect inequality (where one person has all the income, while everyone else has zero income).

Violence is rising in India because of the growing rich-poor gap. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh himself has called the Maoist insurgency emanating from the state of Chhattisgarh the biggest internal security threat to India since independence. The Maoists, however, are confined to rural areas; their bold tactics haven't rattled Indian middle-class confidence in recent years as much as the bomb attacks in major cities have. These attacks are routinely blamed on Muslim militants. How long will Maoists remain confined to the rural areas will depend on the response of the Indian government to the insurgents who exploit huge and growing economic disparities in Indian society.

In 2006 a commission appointed by the government revealed that Muslims in India are worse educated and less likely to find employment than low-caste Hindus. Muslim isolation and despair is compounded by what B. Raman, a hawkish security analyst, was moved after the most recent attacks to describe as the "inherent unfairness of the Indian criminal justice system".

Ironically, there are some parallels here between the violent Maoists movement in India and the Taliban militants in Pakistan, in spite of their diametrically opposed ideologies. Maoists say they are fighting for the rights of neglected tribal people and landless farmers, as are the Taliban in FATA and NWFP. Though their tactics vary, both movements have killed dozens of people, including security personnel, in the last few weeks. Both movements control wide swathes of territory in their respective countries. Both continue to challenge the writ of central or provincial authorities.

I have always been intrigued by Kerala and I wonder if there is a Kerala model that could be replicated in the rest of South Asia. With the exception of Kerala, the situation in India is far worse than the Human Development Index suggests. According to economist Amartya Sen, who won the Nobel Prize for his work on hunger, India has fared worse than any other country in the world at preventing recurring hunger.

In addition to its high literacy rate, Kerala boasts one of India's best healthcare systems, even for those who can't afford to pay user fees and therefore depend on government hospitals. Kerala's infant mortality rate is about 16 deaths per 1,000 births, or half the national average of 32 deaths per 1,000 births.

Freelance journalist Shirin Shirin thinks Kerala's success has something to do with the fact that communists have ruled Kerala for much of the past 50 years. The CPI(M) successfully pushed for three major reforms in the 1960s and 1970s. The first and most important was land reform. While nearly everyone looks on land reform as a huge success in Kerala, the policy was controversial when it was first proposed in 1959. Land reform, after all, is an attack on one of capitalism's founding principles - the right to property. The central government intervened and effectively blocked the implementation of land reform for 10 years. But planners and unions in Kerala understood that building a more egalitarian economy required attacking the old feudal system at its roots, and small farmers weren't going to stand for anything less.

But even Shining Kerala is plagued by hunger and malnourishment, just as the rest of India. The first India State Hunger Index (Ishi) this year found that Madhya Pradesh had the most severe level of hunger in India, comparable to Chad and Ethiopia. Four states — Punjab, Kerala, Haryana and Assam — fell in the 'serious' category. "Affluent" Gujarat, 13th on the Indian list is below Haiti, ranked 69. The authors said India's poor performance was primarily due to its relatively high levels of child malnutrition and under-nourishment resulting from calorie deficient diets.

A recent issue of San Jose Mercury News has a pictorial about grinding poverty in India done by John Boudreau and Dai Sugano. This heartbreaking pictorial illustrates the extent of the problem that India faces, a problem that could potentially be very destabilizing and put the entire society at the risk of widespread chaos and violence.

Related Links:

Aid at a Glance by OECD Nations

Economic Woes? Look to Kerala

Mumbai's Slumdog Millionaire

Poverty Tours in India, Brazil and South Africa

South Asia's War on Hunger Takes Back Seat

Grinding Poverty in Resurgent India

Pakistani Children's Plight

Japans's Aid to India

Poverty in Pakistan

Japan's ODA to Pakistan

OECD's Definition of Aid