Monday, February 1, 2010

Case For Resuming India-Pakistan Talks

I believe it is a crazy notion that talking to someone, particularly your adversaries, is a concession. This kind of distorted thinking is the result of the Bush era failed policy of "punishing" your enemies by refusing a dialog. US President George W. Bush is gone, but it appears that the Indian policy of not engaging with Pakistan is guided by with the irrational thinking learned from him.

If the Americans and the Soviets could talk when they had thousands of nuclear warheads pointing at each other during the cold war, surely India and Pakistan can, too.

It must be remembered that the population centers in India and Pakistan are so close geographically (unlike population centers in US and Russia) that any serious miscalculation can lead to a deadly nuclear war with little or no warning, a potential accident whose chances can be minimized by regular communication and discussions between India and Pakistan.

Unfortunately, excuses are dime a dozen, if India wants to pursue its misguided policy of prolonged disengagement. The costs of such a policy could potentially be much much greater than the terrorist incidents that affect Pakistan more than India.

The biggest cost of the policy of confrontation backed up by a massive military buildup by India is already being paid by the most vulnerable Indians whose numbers exceed the poor, hungry and illiterate people anywhere else in the world.

One out of every three illiterate adults in the world is an Indian, according to UNESCO.

One out of very two hungry persons in the world is an Indian, according to World Food Program.

Almost one out of two Indians lives below the poverty line of $1.25 per day.

And yet, India spends $30 billion on defense, and just increased the defense budget by 32% this year.

Here are some more recent comparative indicators in South Asia:


Population living under $1.25 a day - India: 41.6% Pakistan: 22.6% Source: UNDP

Underweight Children Under Five (in percent) Pakistan 38% India 46% Source: UNICEF

Life expectancy at birth (years), 2007 India: 63.4 Pakistan: 66.2 Source: HDR2009


Youth (15–24 years) literacy rate, 2000 to 2007, male Pak istan: 80% India 87% Source: UNICEF

Youth (15–24 years) literacy rate, 2000 to 2007, female Pak istan 60% India 77% Source: UNICEF


GDP per capita (US$), 2008 Pak:$1000-1022 India $1017-1100

Child Protection:

Child marriage under 15-years ; 1998–2007*, total Pak istan - 32% India - 47% Source: UNICEF

Under-5 mortality rate per 1000 live births (2007), Value Pakistan - 90 India 72 Source: UNICEF

In spite of the grim statistics above, India is ranked the fourth biggest military spender in terms of purchasing power parity.

The poverty and hunger situation in Pakistan is only a bit less serious than in India. It is also in Pakistan's best interest to focus on developing its people and its economy rather than engaging in confrontation with its neighbors.

Given the ugly realities of South Asia, it is high time for India to respond to Pakistan's overtures, as argued in the following Op Ed by a sane Indian Siddarth Varadarajan in The Hindu newspaper:

When the Angels who rule India say they favour dialogue and peace with Pakistan but then fear to tread, is it any surprise that fools would rush nin to destroy that virtuous path? We will never know whether somebody from our shadowy security establishment whispered something dark and fanciful in the ears of the owners and managers of the Indian Premier League as they went in for the player auction last week and if so, for whom he was batting.

Certainly, the manner in which every Pakistani cricketer was boycotted despite the initial expression of interest by the teams smacks of considerations other than sports, business or common sense. Most of all, the decision betrays such a poor understanding of the geographies of market development, brand building and soft power that its net effect will be to undermine India’s interests in the widest possible sense.

My own view is that the boycott was not ordered or engineered by the Government of India or any of its agencies acting on instructions from the top. But that does not free our leadership from the vicarious responsibility of needlessly perpetuating a bilateral vacuum that has produced one of the most spectacular self-dismissals sub-continental cricket — and diplomacy — have ever seen.

In the face of a popular backlash across the border, the Ministry of External Affairs rightly noted that the government had nothing to do with the IPL selection. But instead of expressing regret over an outcome that it played no direct role in producing, the MEA statement threw a heap of salt on the wounded national pride of all Pakistanis. “Pakistan,” the Ministry smugly declared, “should introspect on the reasons which have put a strain on relations between India and Pakistan and adversely impacted on peace, stability and prosperity in the region.”

If anything, a little introspection on the Indian side may have been equally appropriate, since some senior Ministers — including P. Chidambaram — later went out of their way to say the exclusion of Pakistani cricketers was indeed unfortunate. Apart from reflecting badly on India, the insulting exclusion has allowed reactionary, extremist elements in Pakistan to seize the moral high ground. And it has pushed Pakistani public opinion and civil society further into the embrace of those who would like to perpetuate a climate of hostility with India and who have more than a soft spot for terrorism.

When terrorists from the Pakistan-based group, Lashkar-e-Taiba, attacked Mumbai in November 2008, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh decided not to repeat the mistake the Vajpayee government made in December 2001 of cutting off transport and people-to-people relations as part of its strategy of coercive diplomacy. Dr. Singh’s advisers knew they were dealing with a fractured polity and society across the border. They knew India needed a differentiated approach that would help isolate those elements in the Pakistani establishment with connections to jihadi organisations while strengthening those who had realised the damage state sponsorship of extremism was inflicting on Pakistan itself.

Within this framework, suspension of official dialogue was seen as a way of putting pressure on the Pakistani military and the Inter-Services Intelligence directorate, a strange conclusion given that the army and the ISI were never too hot on talks in the first place and used the resulting tension to rally the nation behind them. The civilian leadership, which managed to get a reluctant establishment to accept that the Pakistani soil had indeed been used to plan 26/11, needed the limited resumption of dialogue to strengthen itself for the larger domestic battle against military dominance and jihadism. The arrest of senior LeT operatives should have occasioned some let up from India, at least by the time their trial got under way last year. But the hysterical cries of sell-out which greeted the July 2009 Sharm el-Sheikh summit stayed the Manmohan Singh government’s hand. As for civil society, New Delhi believed it would be possible to push ahead with people-to-people relations despite the freeze that had set in at the official level. Subsequent events have shown that belief to be slightly misplaced. The problem was not with the willingness of Pakistani businessmen, cricketers, artists and others to engage with India but the corrosive effect the suspension of dialogue would have on the capacity of the Indian system to use soft power to its advantage.

The IPL fiasco is one example of the negative externalities generated by the lack of official contact between the two governments. But there are others. During the India International Trade Fair in 2009, several container loads of Pakistani products got held up in lengthy customs clearance procedures. Needless to say, this petty if unscripted harassment of traders and exhibitors from across did nothing to enhance India’s national interest. This year, many Pakistani publishers and book distributors have been unable to obtain visas for the Delhi book fair.

Instead of people-to-people relations influencing official relations in a positive way, the freeze in official ties has inevitably begun to cast a chill on all forms of interaction. Businessmen, who should be looking to exploit opportunities for mutual gain, have become infected with the same hard-line pathology that our security establishment suffers from. Last year, the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry Task Force on National Security and Terrorism came up with a report so strident and hawkish that it provoked an unhelpful backlash from traders in Pakistan. Among the “hard options” the FICCI task force said India could take against Pakistan in the event of another major terrorist attack were “surgical” strikes, covert retaliation inside Pakistani territory, the blocking of imports, all-out assault and “leveraging the water issue” to pressure Pakistan.

Like nature, the relationship between the two countries abhors a vacuum. India held back the tide of dialogue in the hope that Pakistan would permanently dismantle the infrastructure of terror on its territory and a more fertile ground for bilateral progress results. The strategy might have worked up to a point but diminishing returns set in a long time ago. Today, India is acting as if the continuing suspension of dialogue is buying it security and that the resumption of dialogue would be a concession to Pakistan. In fact, dialogue is nothing other than a mechanism for advancing one’s own goals. In the hands of a skilled diplomatic establishment, dialogue, even on a range of difficult issues and disputes, can be used selectively to harvest gains. New Delhi has talked to Islamabad for decades about Kashmir without conceding an inch of territory and there is no reason to fear what might happen if talks are resumed. Especially if the same dialogue process also allows bilateral trade to increase beyond the current annual level of $2 billion and allows Indian soft power to create a wider constituency for peace and good relations in Pakistan.

It goes without saying that Pakistan needs to do more to demonstrate its willingness to crack down on extremist elements that continue to plan attacks on India. On its part, India needs to realise that engaging with Pakistan will be a more effective way of driving home that point than trading statements and insults every few weeks and refusing to sit down at the same table. A new start must immediately be made with the convening of a meeting of the two Foreign Secretaries. Neither side should stand on ceremony as far as the venue is concerned. Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram should make it a point to visit Islamabad for the Saarc Home Ministers meeting later this month and meet his Pakistani counterpart to review not just the Mumbai case but other subjects of mutual concern. The Saarc summit in Bhutan in April will provide another occasion for bilateral interaction at the Prime Ministerial level though careful preparation is needed to ensure a productive and implementable outcome. In the meantime, a moratorium on sound-bites, especially by those who are not in the loop or in synch with Prime Minister Singh’s thinking, is essential.

Related Links:

India's Sane Voice Warns Indians

India Tops in Illiteracy and Defense Expenditures

UNESCO Education For All Report 2010

India's Arms Build-up: Guns Versus Bread

South Asia Slipping in Human Development

World Hunger Index 2009

Challenges of 2010-2020 in South Asia

India and Pakistan Contrasted 2010

Food, Clothing and Shelter in India and Pakistan

Introduction to Defense Economics

Food, Housing and Clothing in India and Pakistan


Anonymous said...

India must talk but donot take pakistan words serious. Plan as though there will be a war proxy or direct.

Please read the amount of infilitration of support for taliban in the military. Few were court marshalled. There are more prohit under the cover

Anonymous said...

I think India's best option is to outrun the clock even at 7-8% GDP growth we will be the world's third largest economy in 2020.Pakistan on the other hand will be forced to integrate with us economically or else stall economically,then we dictate terms ala US-Mexico.10 more years!

In the mean time keep the singing and dancing routine vis a vis talks.
i.e talk for the sake of talking nothing concrete.

Riaz Haq said...

anon: "Pakistan on the other hand will be forced to integrate with us economically or else stall economically,then we dictate terms ala US-Mexico.10 more years!"

The reality is that, in spite of a decade of rapid economic growth, most Indians are hungry and malnourished which affects their ability to be function normally.

Vast majority of Indians are dirt poor and live in worse conditions than their Haitian or sub-Saharan African counterparts. As a recent British report put it, India is condemning almost half its children to "permanent brain damage".

It is hard for a nation of ill-fed illiterates to aspire to becoming a great power in this day and age, without first taking care of its people's very basic needs of food, clothing, shelter and literacy.

Gourish said...

Dear riaz sir, why is it that i feel that ur blog post have become repetitive and redundant by the day..instead of getting new topics on the post you seem to have been getting fond of posting the same things over and over again.i was and am really a regular reader of your blog.but these days you seem to be possessed by this india bashing spree of yours.we all know there are countless problems india faces but even so does pakistan..heck they have a common legacy.but that does not keep from pakistan multiplying its problems for itself..atleast india is trying to fight it.With due regards you seem to have taken this india bashing too seriously..look at this post for too of the opinion that dialogue is necessary..but what was the need for citing previous posts..wouldn't a fair analysis of pros and cons be enough in an unbiased and simple way..

Anonymous said...


India has to fight its poverty and i think it is doing it in a small manner due to its diversity and the democracy.

But where is pakistan going. In case if you are convinced it is doing great so be it.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a heart-warming story of Indian and Pakistani children joining together for space competition:

Notwithstanding the chill in Indo-Pak ties, students from both the countries have come together in designing an innovative crew ship to travel from Earth to Mars and jointly compete with students from other countries at NASA.

Under the Sixteenth Annual International Space Settlement Design Competition, sponsored by National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and Boeing, school students from Lahore and Delhi have prepared a novel project on future of human civilization in Mars.

It was like a dream come true for Sara Afzal, a student of class 11 from Lahore, when her team won the Asia Space Settlement Design Competition defeating 15 other teams with their innovative design to settle over 10,000 people in a city in space in 2055.

Sara is part of a group of 36 children from India and Pakistan who will join 12 other finalist teams from around the world in July this year to compete at the 16th Annual International Space Settlement Design Competition at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.

“I can’t tell you how excited I am that our team has been adjudged winner in Asia. It’s recognition of our hard work that we have put in the last six months. We worked for 18 to 22 hours in a day while preparing for the initial project,” said Sara, a student of Lahore Grammar School.

US ambassador Timothy J.Roemer Tuesday met the students and lauded their efforts.

“This group of Indian and Pakistani students are together designing the future of our civilization - one with few limitations of geographical boundaries,” said Roemer.

The competition was organised by US Space agency NASA and Boeing.

The students were asked to present their ideas based on which three teams - Amity International School in Saket, Lahore Grammar School and Little Flowers School in Hyderabad - were selected for the next round.

“All the three teams were invited to Gurgaon and were randomly given proposals on space settlement. The students were given 21 hours to come out with their proposals and Amity School and Lahore Grammar School won the competition,” said B.P Pandey, guide of Amity School.

An excited Palash Gupta, a class 11 student of Amity school, said: “We were given a project to make a mobile space settlement between Earth and Mars. We were divided into five groups - structure planning, operations, human engineering, automation and marketing. It was a tough task but real fun and we worked as a team to provide a winning solution.”

The students have already started preparing for the final test and are hopeful to win the competition.

“We have started our research for the final competition although the topic will be given randomly but we should know the properties of various planets and how we can construct our city with all modern facilities anywhere in space,” said Sanjana Mohan, another student.

Anonymous said...

All is not lost:

It is basically a fight between sane voices who want to deal with real problems and pursue peace, progress, literacy and science on the one side and those on the other who value hatred, religious bigotry, illiteracy and a constant state of war. Those who have chosen rationality and co-existence should do all we can to support our cause.

Reader from India

Riaz Haq said...

Indian NGO Sathi's Findings as reported by Times of India:

The urban population of the coastal region, which includes the country’s commercial capital Mumbai, has the highest prevalence of calorie deficiency (43%) in Maharashtra.

Analysis also shows that undernutrition is prevalent across all religions.

only 30.7% of the people in Maharashtra are classified as Below Poverty Line (BPL). The official BPL designation excludes over 16 million people who are too poor to afford adequate food.

Calculations made using a per consumer unit calorie norm of 2400 in rural and 2100 in urban areas, reveals that the incidence of calorie-based poverty is 54.1% in rural areas and 39.5% in urban areas.

Going by the NSS norm of 2700 calories per consumer unit, then 68% of households in rural Maharashtra are not receiving adequate calories and should be considered ‘poor’.

According to Ram, Mohanty and Ram’s 2008 analysis, 65.4% of abject deprived households25 in Maharashtra do not have BPL cards.

In contrast to the millions of households in abject poverty that cannot access BPL cards, 12.7% of non-poor households posses BPL cards. Specifically, BPL cards are owned by 15% of families owning more than five acres of agricultural land, 5% who own a television and refrigerator and 7% with a motorized vehicle.

Undernourished children are more susceptible to illnesses such as diarrhoea and acute respiratory infections and are less likely to survive them. In cases where they do survive, they are further weakened and susceptible to future illness.

Only 12% of schools investigated were providing cooked midday meals. Among the schools distributing food, most only provided cooked rice without any other supplements such as cooked dal and vegetables. This study also found that not a single school was providing the stipulated 300 calories and 8 to 12 grams protein.

ICDS feeding centres (i.e. Anganwadi centres) often do not weigh the children regularly or properly. Other research (both government and independent) suggests that a much larger portion of children are malnourished than that reported by ICDS.

Grade III and IV malnourishment is grossly underreported by the ICDS. Workers often lack the skills and equipment necessarily to accurate weigh and classify children. ICDS employees tend to underreport severe malnutrition in order to mask program failures.

Anonymous said...


It is good that you keep bringing up issues of nutrition, poverty and education in India. These three together with population explosion and healthcare are probably the biggest roadblocks to progress in my country.

While there seem to be some work done by the government and private organizations and people, but in general the effort on our part seems to be sadly missing. A few NGOs, journalists and others are doing great work, but it is only a drop in the ocean. Some existing religious, linguistic and cultural biases also make the progress slower.

There is a huge rising middle class, that is good and should be celebrated, but not at the cost of ignoring bigger problems which we cannot wish away as a nation.

And then there are others who oppose the writing and work of others who are at least making an effort - for them closing their eyes and letting the country bleed is fine as long as their own families are covered at least in the short term.

On the other hand, we can hope that one day the youngsters of our countries will rise above the current status quo and make the progress we haven't been able to achieve. The foundation stone of democracy and a secular constitution are a great gift from our founding fathers - which by and large most Indians tend to agree with.

I am sure this is the case with Pakistan too - hope and progress lie a few decades away.

After all we have been independent nations only for a few decades, and we have made so much progress. The future is bright, it is our duty to do what we can towards eradicating poverty, illiteracy, hunger, disease and over-population.

Keep the thought provoking articles coming.

Reader from India

Anonymous said...

"A Year After Mumbai, India Offers to Talk With Pakistan"

From nytimes:

Riaz Haq said...

Reader From India: "There is a huge rising middle class, that is good and should be celebrated, but not at the cost of ignoring bigger problems which we cannot wish away as a nation."

I agree. The rapid economic growth will not solve the problems of poverty and hunger and illiteracy by itself. It will require sharp focus, progressive policies and public funds to make it happen.

Anonymous said...


Hunger problem of india are due to the corrupt politicians and uneducated mass. Politicians would love to keep them in the same level for their glory.

Same is the case of pakistan where it wants to keep the people in the loop of religious fundamentalism and poverty.

If you have a look at the trend, the education brings economic development and reduction in the family size.

From the earth perspectivce, i think the population has to be brought into control for the sake of future.

Riaz Haq said...

The Times of India has reported today that it's a myth that the global financial crisis left India virtually unscathed. In fact, India is the biggest victim of financial crisis-induced poverty, according to data obtained by TOI from the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs' (UNDESA). Check out these figures.

The UNDESA data estimates that the number of India's poor was 33.6 million higher in 2009 than would have been the case if the growth rates of the years from 2004 to 2007 had been maintained. In 2009 alone, an estimated 13.6 million more people in India became poor or remained in poverty than would have been the case at 2008 growth rates.

In other words, while a dip from the 8.8% growth in GDP averaged from 2004-05 to 2006-07 to the 6.7% estimated for 2008-09 may be nothing like the recession faced by the West, its human consequences for India were probably worse. The 2.1% decline in India's GDP growth rate has effectively translated into a 2.8% increase in the incidence of poverty.

According to the UNDESA's World Economic Situation and Prospects 2010, 47 million more people globally became poor or remained in poverty in 2009 than would have been the case at 2008 growth rates, and 84 million more than would have poor at 2004-7 growth rates. Of these, 19 and 40 million respectively are in south Asia.

Riaz Haq said...

Indian artist MF Husain has reportedly sought asylum in Qatar after he was hounded out of India by right-wing Hindu extremists. Here's a take on this matter by Soutik Biwas of the BBC:

The story of Husain is one of the saddest of post-Independence India. It is a story of how the country's most famous painter has been hounded out while the state looked on.

Thirteen years ago, hardline Hindus attacked Husain for his paintings of nude Hindu goddesses. In 2006, he apologised for a painting in which he represented India as a nude goddess. Hindu nationalists accused him of defiling their region.

They didn't stop at that. They vandalised his exhibitions and filed law suits all over the country. Husain reckons that there are 900 cases against him in Indian courts. His lawyer in Delhi tells me he is personally aware of seven such cases. Four have been dismissed, in three others judgement is still pending.

For the past three years, the 95-year-old maverick painter has been living in Dubai and London. When news washed up earlier this month that he was contemplating taking up Qatari nationality, there was predictable outrage from the arts world in India.

"This is not the first time we have thrown away our geniuses," said fellow painter Anjolie Ela Menon. "In India, we recognise our national treasures only when they are gone." Film actor Sharmila Tagore urged the need for a "movement" to bring back the painter to India since "isolated voices" will not help.

To many, this sounded like a case of too little, too late. Most galleries have been scared to exhibit Husain's work for some years now. A big art summit hosted by India two years ago did not exhibit a single Husain painting. Unbelievable, but true.

Many say the Indian government could easily promise Husain security and coax him to return to India. But that wouldn't necessarily allow the painter to live in peace. As his lawyer, Akhil Sibal, tells me, there's nothing to stop more cases being filed against the painter in remote courts or even getting a judge somewhere to order his arrest. The misuse of judiciary to settle scores is rampant in India. "So Husain is not enthused by the prospect of returning to India which he easily can," says Mr Sibal.

Rahul said...

Mr. Haq. i agree to many of your statistics. You are right that poverty,malnutrition are prevalent in high numbers in India. But I don't follow your conclusion, that because of these factors India should start talking to pak. India is capable of solving these problems. The only problem is that we need to improve our delivery systems. And that can be done without even engaging with your country. What you fail to see is that India today doesn't need aid from countries or IMF as Pak does. Governance is the only problem, as evident from the Bihar turnaround. So please stop making wrong conclusions that we have to depend on you for our development...

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a recent news report on Asian nukes from Times of India:

Pakistan is estimated to have more nuclear warheads than India and the two Asian neighbours along with China are increasing their arsenals and deploying weapons at more sites, two eminent American atomic experts have claimed.

While Pakistan is estimated to possess 70-90 nuclear weapons, India is believed to have 60-80, claims Robert S Norris and Hans M Kristensen in their latest article 'Nuclear Notebook: Worldwide deployments of nuclear weapons, 2009'.

The article published in the latest issue of 'Bulletin of the Atomic Science' claimed that Beijing, Islamabad and New Delhi are quantitatively and qualitatively increasing their arsenals and deploying weapons at more sites, yet the locations are difficult to pinpoint.

For example, no reliable public information exists on where Pakistan or India produces its nuclear weapons, it said.

"Whereas many of the Chinese bases are known, this is not the case in Pakistan and India, where we have found no credible information that identifies permanent nuclear weapons storage locations," they said.

"Pakistan's nuclear weapons are not believed to be fully operational under normal circumstances, India is thought to store its nuclear warheads and bombs in central storage locations rather than on bases with operational forces. But, since all three countries are expanding their arsenals, new bases and storage sites probably are under construction," the two nuclear experts said.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an excerpt from a post by Soutik Biswas of BBC on rising Kashmir protests against Indian rule:

This is clearly beginning to look like the biggest challenge to Indian rule in Kashmir in more than a decade. The protests have also begun to spread outside the valley - some recent ones have taken place in Muslim-dominated pockets of Jammu, the bit of Kashmir where Hindus are in the majority and which has been peaceful so far.

Most believe that the government has itself to blame for the current mess in Kashmir. The common perception is that it didn't fix the leaking roofs when the sun was shining in the valley - the months of relative peace, booming tourist traffic. Now the authorities are groping around for administrative solutions to fix the festering wounds - they are under pressure to water down or even scrap the draconian Armed Forces Special Powers Act or to move security forces out of the bigger towns.

But most believe that this kind of tinkering, however important, would not be enough. The time has come for the government to think big - and be imaginative - and launch the beginnings of a political solution to bring peace to the valley. Bringing the hardline separatists on board will be key to any solution - the octogenarian separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani, by default, is the only leader with credibility among people in the valley because of his consistently obdurate pro-Pakistan, pro-secessionist stand. Some believe that India's cussedness in refusing to talk to Mr Geelani is costing Kashmir dear - the leader appeared to have mellowed, leaving Pakistan out of the equation in his recent roadmap to restore peace in the valley. Pakistan could perhaps be worked into the matrix of a political solution at some later stage. But for the moment, India needs to show initiative and come up with some guarantees and time-bound plans to foster political reconciliation and sow the seeds of a political solution. Without this, the stone-throwing protesters may give way to Kalashnikov-wielding rebels from within the valley and across the border, in a return to full-blown bloody militancy.

Riaz Haq said...

To get a peek into the Indian psyche, read the following advice offered by Financial Times to David Cameron prior to his recent India trip:

The first is 'Kashmir', he says. Recalling controversial utterances by previous British foreign secretaries like Robin Cook and David Miliband, Barker tells Cameron: "The quickest way to turn a charm offensive into a diplomatic fiasco. The basic rule: British ministers should say nothing. Don't dare criticise, offer to help, or link bringing peace to tackling terrorism. Stray words have consequences."

The second is 'Poverty'. "More poor people than anywhere on earth. But not worth mentioning too loudly. Talk about the New India instead. Mention the aid review. A patronising tone is fatal."

The third, 'Coming over too fresh'. Barker says: "The young, dynamic, no-nonsense version of Cameron should probably be left behind. It's time to learn some manners. Indian politicians are, as a rule, double his age and four times as grand. If the meetings are stuffy, formal, overbearingly polite, that's a good thing."

The fourth is the 'Immigration cap'. The columnist writes: "A big issue for the Indian elite. Anand Sharma, the commerce minister, raised his 'concerns' earlier this month with Cameron himself. A heavily bureaucratic and stingy visa regime will not encourage Indians to work or study in Britain."

Read more: Don't mention Kashmir, poverty in India, UK PM advised - The Times of India

Riaz Haq said...

You often hear rhetoric about India-Pakistan friendship. But friendship is a two-way street.

Musharraf was very serious about making friends with India on his watch from 2000 to 2007. He offered significant concessions and tried very hard to reach an agreement with Delhi on Kashmir, but to no avail.

Instead of of responding positively, India stepped its hostility by opening a new front in starting a covert war in Pakistan via Afghanistan.

Here is how South Asia expert Stephen Cohen described India's ambivalent attitude toward Pakistan recently:

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.

In addition to Kashmir, the other key and potentially more explosive issue between India and Pakistan is that Indus water.

A South African water expert and Harvard professor John Briscoe recently argued that Pakistan was woefully vulnerable to Indian manipulation of the timing of water flows of the Jhelum and Chenab; that the Indian press—unlike the Pakistani media—never noted the other country’s views on the issue, and was instructed on what to say by the Ministry of External Affairs; and that India lacked the leadership of a regional power, as Brazil had been magnanimous in similar disputes with Bolivia and Paraguay.

Here is the exact quote from Briscoe's piece published in April 2010:

Living in Delhi and working in both India and Pakistan, I was struck by a paradox. One country was a vigorous democracy, the other a military regime. But whereas an important part of the Pakistani press regularly reported India's views on the water issue in an objective way, the Indian press never did the same. I never saw a report which gave Indian readers a factual description of the enormous vulnerability of Pakistan, of the way in which India had socked it to Pakistan when filling Baglihar. How could this be, I asked? Because, a journalist colleague in Delhi told me, "when it comes to Kashmir – and the Indus Treaty is considered an integral part of Kashmir -- the ministry of external affairs instructs newspapers on what they can and cannot say, and often tells them explicitly what it is they are to say."

Riaz Haq said...

Indian newspaper The Hindu is publishing some wikileaks cable on India. Here are a few interesting ones:

1. The Hindu reveals that PM Singh isolated on wanting talks with Pakistan:

During the interaction, Mr. Narayanan, who had been described by the Embassy in a January 12, 2005 cable (25259: confidential) as a long-time Gandhi family loyalist “who is seen as part of the traditional ‘coterie' around Congress Party President Sonia Gandhi,” came through as a hardliner on Pakistan, never afraid to voice his differences with Prime Minister Singh.

In an August 11, 2009 cable (220281: confnoforn), sent a day after the meeting, Mr. Roemer noted that Mr. Narayanan, a former chief of the Intelligence Bureau who is now Governor of West Bengal, readily conceded that he had differences with Prime Minister Singh on Pakistan. The Prime Minister was a “great believer” in talks and negotiations with Islamabad, but Mr. Narayanan himself was “not a great believer in Pakistan.”

2. India was locked in a tussle with the United States over sharing information from the 2008 Mumbai attacks investigation with Pakistan, according to a chain of U.S. Embassy cables accessed by The Hindu through WikiLeaks.

During the India-Pakistan standoff in the aftermath of the 26/11 attacks, the Federal Bureau of Investigation helped the two sides share information of each other's investigations.

But India, suspicious of Pakistan's intentions, tried as long as it could to fend off U.S. pressure on information-sharing — before relenting, but with some conditions.

Unhappy about those conditions, the U.S. then sought to work around them through a “broad” reading of the assent.

On January 3, 2009 Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice instructed the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi to deliver a demarche (cable 185593: secret) that the U.S. was making available to it material on the Mumbai attacks provided by the Government of Pakistan.

Dr. Rice asked Ambassador David Mulford to tell New Delhi that “this information originated from top Pakistani officials in very sensitive positions and is passed to you with their permission. It represents a genuine willingness on their part to share sensitive and significant information with India.”

Riaz Haq said...

The causes of failure of India-Pakistan diplomacy, cricket or otherwise, include the hijacking of Indian policy-making by special interest groups who benefit greatly by sustaining the conflict.

A new and significant factor that stands in the way of peace and security in South Asia is the emergence and growth of Indian think tanks, making India second only to the United States in numbers of such think tanks.

Out of 422 recognized Indian think tanks, around 63 are engaged in security research and foreign policy matters. These are heavily funded by the global arms merchants. India’s retired spies, police and military officers, diplomats and journalists are hired and handsomely compensated by such national security & foreign policy research institutes.

They exaggerate terror threats with the help of the media and intelligence folks to promote greater defense and security spending. As a result, India has already become the world's largest importer of weapons last year, according to SIPRI. These weapons imports are done at the expense of other far more pressing needs of the world's largest population of poor, hungry and illiterate people who call India home.

Riaz Haq said...

A new Wikileak revelation by The Hindu quotes BJP leader Arun Jaitly calling Hindutva as an Opportunistic issue for the party that exploits anti-Muslim sentiments and India-Pak tensions:

CHENNAI: Is Hindu nationalism the raison d'ĂȘtre of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), or just another vote-catching device? In a private conversation with American diplomats in May 2005, senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley articulated the view that Hindu nationalism was an opportunistic issue for the party.

Mr. Jaitley, who is now the Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, met with Robert Blake, the Charge at the U.S. Embassy, on May 6, 2005, and provided him and the Political Counsel an insightful exposition on the politics of Hindutva. “Pressed on the question of Hindutva, Jaitley argued that Hindu nationalism ‘will always be a talking point' for the BJP. However, he characterized this as an opportunistic issue,” the Charge wrote in a cable dated May 10, 2005 ( 32279: confidential).

“In India's northeast, for instance, Hindutva plays well because of public anxiety about illegal migration of Muslims from Bangladesh. With the recent improvement of Indo-Pak relations, he added, Hindu nationalism is now less resonant in New Delhi, but that could change with another cross-border terrorist attack, for instance on the Indian Parliament,” Mr. Blake reported on the interaction with Mr. Jaitley.

On the basis of these remarks on Hindutva made by Mr. Jaitley, the diplomat concluded that his “credentials with the Sangh Parivar are weak, and he may not have what it takes to mobilize the BJP base.”
On the issue of revocation of the visa of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, Mr. Jaitley complained that he could not understand how the United States could take such an action against the party that began the transformation of U.S.-India relations.

When Mr. Blake explained the “rationale and legal basis” for the U.S. decision, “Jaitley agreed with the Charge's point that Modi was a polarizing personality, but argued that it would have been better for the US to let the Chief Minister visit the US, where he would have attracted a few demonstrators and then nothing more would be said.”

The Modi issue aside, the BJP leader was upbeat on U.S.-India relations, “emphasizing that ties with the U.S. were no longer a point of controversy in Indian politics.” Citing his own situation as typical, “Jaitley noted that he has several nieces and sisters living in the U.S., and ‘five homes to visit between DC and New York.'”

In private, Mr. Jaitley appeared more willing to give credit to his political rivals where due. “Putting on his hat as a former Commerce Minister, Jaitley confessed that the BJP's opposition to a Value Added Tax (VAT) at the state level was based on a narrow political calculus, and predicted that the BJP states would adopt the VAT soon in order to protect their revenue streams. He gave the Congress government generally positive marks for its handling of economic policy issues, but focused on the contradictions inherent in the UPA coalition.”

In response to the “Charge's pitch for opening of the Indian services sector,” Mr. Jaitley, a Senior Advocate, agreed that legal services should be opened to foreign competition, “noting that the performance of the Indian bar has begun to improve, even though the quality of judges suffers from a ‘Gandhian' mindset that leads to unreasonably low salaries.” On the retail sector, Mr. Jaitley “argued that foreign competition should not seriously hurt the mom and pop stores that form a BJP constituency.”