Friday, August 8, 2008

Western Myths About "Peaceful, Stable, and Prosperous" India

Guest Post by Pankaj Mishra

In the past five years bomb attacks claimed by Islamist groups have killed hundreds across the Indian cities of Mumbai, Delhi, Jaipur, Varanasi, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Ahmedabad. An Indian Muslim was even involved in the failed assault on Glasgow airport in July last year. Yet George Bush reportedly introduced Manmohan Singh to his wife, Laura, as "the prime minister of India, a democracy which does not have a single al-Qaida member in a population of 150 million Muslims".

To be fair to Bush, he was only repeating a cliche deployed by Indian politicians and American pundits such as Thomas Friedman to promote India as a squeaky-clean ally of the United States. However, Fareed Zakaria, the Indian-born Muslim editor of Newsweek International, ought to know better. In his new book, The Post-American World, he describes India as a "powerful package" and claims it has been "peaceful, stable, and prosperous" since 1997 - a decade in which India and Pakistan came close to nuclear war, tens of thousands of Indian farmers took their own lives, Maoist insurgencies erupted across large parts of the country, and Hindu nationalists in Gujarat murdered more than 2,000 Muslims.

Apparently, no inconvenient truths are allowed to mar what Foreign Affairs, the foreign policy journal of America's elite, has declared a "roaring capitalist success story". Add Bollywood's singing and dancing stars, beauty queens and Booker prize-winning writers to the Tatas, the Mittals and the IT tycoons, and the picture of Indian confidence, vigour and felicity is complete.

The passive consumer of this image, already puzzled by recurring reports of explosions in Indian cities, may be startled to learn from the National Counterterrorism Centre (NCTC) in Washington that the death toll from terrorist attacks in India between January 2004 and March 2007 was 3,674, second only to that in Iraq. (In the same period, 1,000 died as a result of such attacks in Pakistan, the "most dangerous place on earth" according to the Economist, Newsweek and other vendors of geopolitical insight.)

To put it in plain language - which the NCTC is unlikely to use - India is host to some of the fiercest conflicts in the world. Since 1989 more than 80,000 have died in insurgencies in Kashmir and the northeastern states.

Manmohan Singh himself has called the Maoist insurgency centred on 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.

Politicians and the media routinely blame Pakistan for terrorist violence in India. It is likely that the ISI, Pakistan's intelligence agency, was involved in the bombings two weeks ago in Ahmedabad and Bangalore, which killed 46 people. But their scale and audacity also hints that the perpetrators have support networks within India.

The Indian elite's obsession with the "foreign hand" obscures the fact that the roots of some of the violence lie in the previous two decades of traumatic political and economic change, particularly the rise of Hindu nationalism, and the related growth of ruthlessness towards those left behind by India's expanding economy.

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".

To take one example, the names of the politicians, businessmen, officials and policemen who colluded in the anti-Muslim pogrom in Gujarat in 2002 are widely known. Some of them were caught on video, in a sting carried out last year 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. Tens of thousands still languish in refugee camps, too afraid to return to their homes.

In an article I wrote for the New York Times in 2003 I underlined the likely perils if the depressed and alienated minority of Muslims were to abandon their much-tested faith in the Indian political and legal system. Predictably Hindu nationalists, most of them resident in the UK and US, inundated my email inbox, accusing me of showing India in a bad light.

It is now clear that a tiny but militantly disaffected minority of Indian Muslims has begun to heed the international pied pipers of jihad. Furthermore, there is no effective defence against their malevolence. Conventional counter-terrorism strategies - increased police presence or greater surveillance - don't work in India's large, densely populated cities. Nor do draconian laws such as the Prevention of Terrorist Activities Act, which allowed police to hold suspects without charge for six months and was repealed in 2004.

Gung-ho members of the middle class clamour for Israeli-style retaliation against jihadi training camps in Pakistan. But India can "do a Lebanon" only by risking nuclear war with its neighbour; and Indian intelligence agencies are too inept to imitate Mossad's policy of targeted killings, which have reaped for Israel an endless supply of dedicated and resourceful enemies.

As we now know, the promoters of pre-emptive strikes and rendition have proved to be the most effective recruiting agents for jihad. In that sense the Indian government's inability to raise the ante, to pursue an endless war on terror or to order 150 million of its poorest citizens to reform their religion is a good thing. For it helps to maintain a necessary focus on terrorism as another symptom of a wider crisis that will be alleviated not so much by better policing, intelligence gathering or consultation with mullahs as by confronting socioeconomic frustrations and political grievances.

The absence of "tough" retaliation also leaves the jihadi terrorists incapable of dealing more than a few glancing blows to the Indian state. Certainly, a hysterical response of the kind that followed the 7/7 attacks in London - a crackdown on civil liberties and demonisation of Islam - would in India only have accelerated the radicalisation of the Muslim minority.

It is true that nihilist terrorism has no greater adversary than people who refuse to be terrorised or provoked. There have been remarkably few instances of retaliation against Muslims in the wake of terror attacks. In Mumbai, where nearly 200 people were killed by bomb explosions on commuter trains in 2006, normal life resumed even more quickly than in London in July 2005.

But the resilience of India's poor, who have no option but to get on with their lives, should not be taken for granted, or used to peddle India as a stable, business-friendly country. For their stoicism in the face of terror also expresses the bitter wisdom of the weak: that violence is far from being an aberration in the inequitable world our political and business elites have made.

· Pankaj Mishra is the author of Temptations of the West: How to Be Modern in India, Pakistan and Beyond

Here is a video clip about Maoists in India:


Anonymous said...

Interestingly I saw this piece on website.Its a commie views website right? India is on good growth trajectory and independent market surveys confirmed it to be so. We are 100% stable,peaceful not yet prosperous for a country of our size,with diversity in languages,ethnicity,religion etc. There is turbulence in jammu coz of Muslim appeasement(venomous Mufti family and opportunistic Abdullahs).Muslims have a very powerful constituency here coz of their block voting tactics and Congress Party almost wholly depend on them for votes.Hindus are not homogeneous in anyway except that they dont belong to abrahamic religions and votes for bread and butter issues of bijili, sadak, pani. Its very unfair to say that 2000 muslims were slaughtered by hindu activist like its kinda single massacre. It started with 3000 SIMI(ISI instigated organisation) people stopping a train and burning 65 hindu activists alive. That resulted in rioting where 790 muslims and 254 hindus where killed in riot not genocide.The Modi govt is accused for giving hindu activists a 3 day "retribution window" after which Army was called out and everything stopped. That was a questionable practice. But in hindsight, I think Muslims must know that Hindus are no longer "sheeps to slaughter".Now there are bomb blasts and stuff..and i don't know how much longer people are going to put up with Islamofascists. Another backlash in on the horizon.

Riaz Haq said...

Yes, this piece is by Pankaj Mishra published by Guardian yesterday, and it's attributed as such if you read to the end. And no, this is not a commie site. While I do not agree with the piece in its entirety, I do see that it points out how the Indian democracy is failing to serve majority of its ordinary citizens, including the poor in the rural areas as well as its Muslim minority who are being left out in its shaky march toward prosperity. What happened in Gujarat is an absolute blot on India's secular democracy. Defending it is even more shameful.

Anonymous said...

I am not trying to nick-pick or something..but can u explain what you mean by this.
"Muslim minority who are being left out in its shaky march toward prosperity"
Its not like muslims are black or something..easily distinguished and discriminated against. Only place I have seen that are banned for Muslims(or ppl of other religion) in India is inside 'some' temples.How can you say muslims are left out, nobody is taken with or left out.A democracy or an good representative system can only provide equal opportunity. And I can vouch for that(I live here..).
I will make a few observations why muslims are down on the growth index:
* the muslims live in a ghettoised manner and look with suspicion modern education. tonnes of saudi funds go into building mosques and madrassas in every nook and corner.
* govt is scared of any social reform measures (not development) in muslim areas..coz even polio vaccinations are suspected to be contraception stuff.
*there is a oppressive self-inflicted system among muslims where girls are married off early,no family planning
(my rich muslim friend has 9 siblings..this is slowly changing)
all middile class hindu families go only max 2 children(so more recourse concentration)..3 is rare..Lalo Prasad Yadav has 9 kids..and lives in Bihar..I am talking abt normal places..not stone age places..
* The "oppression talk" among a minority of muslims who are the highly educated(not highly wealthy) and impoverished madrassa going is coz they are highly intolerant of other people points of views or lifestyle.These are the type of ppl who blow up men,women, kids& hospitals.A Darul-Harb attitude.. i think this is a global prob among muslims not only in India. If u recall..recent Saudi Arabia initiated interfaith dialogue in Madrid..the crux of the meeting agenda is to convert all other religionists to islam..if u want u can look it up.
* The main friction of hindu-muslim riot is because muslims get disproportionate political power due to "block-voting".

Its very painful and provocative when you write like "muslims are oppressed in India" posts. I can rhetorically give you a money back guarantee if you visit India in person and POST "MUSLIMS ARE OPPRESSED and LEFT behind deliberately"..You may be talking about Sanchar committe report or something...BUT IRONICALLY THERE IS A LOT OF PEOPLE HERE WHO PROFIT GREATLY IF THE IS A TALK THAT "muslims are oppressed" and create paranoia in minds of muslims. But as the saying goes, "even paranoid people have enemies".

Riaz Haq said...

There is no question that progress in India is very uneven, with the highly disproportionate benefits of growth going to a small number of people. It has some of the richest as well the poorest people in the world. It is home to the largest number of impoverished people and the highest population of undernourished children. It has serious gender bias issues that manifest as growing number of female infanticides. Such inequities breed resentment and lead to major social strife. History is filled with such examples.

All of the independent published reports and Indian government data and my own personal observations during my visits to India indicate that Muslims remain far behind even the untouchables in terms of education and economic status. Muslims do not have the benefit of any affirmative action programs that have helped untouchables in India and African-Americans in the US.

As India matures in its democracy, it'll have to deal with such inequities effectively to ensure smooth sailing. It'll need to be proactive in helping its less fortunate citizens including women, farmers and Muslim minorities.
It'll not be helpful to perpetuate the stereotypes to blame the victims, as it'll only serve to exacerbate the problems.

Anonymous said...

I give up! I think u r not understanding wat i am saying..
*I not suggesting that there is no inequality
*You can even spot inequality in india by satellite maps.
* All I am saying is the inequality and poverty is by default not by design.
*There is equal opportunity for all means nobody is barred from doing something they wanna 2..that doesnt mean adequate no: of schools with teachers or healthcare r there.
*Bad attitude doesn't help either.
The bad indices for Muslims in general is coz of attitude towards modernity and western education.

u may know that the icon of educated youth is former president and space scientist APJ Abdul Kalam.

If u have visited India and still holds those views i have nothing to add..
like saying goes when all you have is hammer everything looks like a nail.

Riaz Haq said...

I received a long commentary via email from Razzak L. It may be disturbing to some and interesting to others. Here it is:

"I am probably older than all of you. As a child grew among Hindus (there was no Pakistan in my child hood), As a young professional studied and Worked among Hindus in England and worked among Hindus in USA. A Total of 40 year mileage before settling back in my old country to get older and die..During this period read Hindu's Religious Epics Mahabharata, Ramayana and Geeta. Then Bibles and Jews' Torah, and of course read English translation of Quran at 11by a British translator named Sell.(Gandhi had recommended it in his Biography) Saw carnage on the Punjab Border during Partition in preadolescence. BY my being with Hindus I have learned a few of their provincial languages which I can read and write with the fluency of native. If I drop my First two names and use only last name I immediately get metamorphosed in to a Hindu Baniya. And I have passed as one in many Hindu "Western" groups and ate at Temples without difficulty.

Some examples:

* Hindus are keeping their prejudice within their country !!!!: (Don't forget daily riots in Bombay in 1946 and Gujarat Carnage 4 years back).
* Place: London University Dorm (1965): A few Hindu PH.D students, Doctors and Intellectuals came to meet my Hindu Room Partner. He was not here. I introduced myself with my last name and they immediately assumed me as a Hindu. The conversations and discussions which followed for 2 hours were venomous against Muslims to the degree which would put Nazis to shame when talking against 1939 Jews.
* In US, a Hindu Family (1975) in my neighborhood would not touch a glass of water in my house hold.
* The new present Lady President of India had in her First speech this year had, asserted that Hindu ladies were wearing Sarees and covering their heads because Mughal soldiers would abduct and rape them. Muslim ruled India for 700 years. Muslim Kings married Hindu princesses and brought in the concept of Hijabs, and Burqas. Hindu women covered whole body contours with a multiplied robs called sarees Nevertheless The Lady President was perhaps telling truth. The old Temple's sculptures around India show statutes of cloth-less men and women in most graphic and erotic sexual postures which tourists would avoid to see with their daughters around.
* Hindus don't speak of their religion in foreign countries because 25% (300m) of 1 B population is religiosly untouchable called chudras or achhuts. Muslims another 15% are called Mallechs ( =dirty foreigners)-2nd Rates.
* 1986: New Delhi: Went to attend a Seminar. Reached Sofital Surya a 5 Star Hotel (thanks to Indian Ministry of Irrigation, they had fixed only Rs 350 per night for neighboring Cylone, Pakistan and Bangladesh participants). Got up in the morning and picked up the news paper from under the door. There was Hindu Muslim Riot Curfew in 4 Cities (Babri Masjid thing), including Old Delhi, One in Assam asking for a New State, one in Tribal area of Jarkhand bordering Bihar, UP and W. Bengal, asking for a new stae and daily revolt in Kashmir. What a way to start the the day!!!
* Regarding Hijab of Sarees claimed by the lady President (Rashtrpatni?). Now Hollywood has taken second "puritan" place in nudity and erotic dances after Bollywood. It cost $ 2 to ask a Hindu support actress to shed her cloths for camera, takes perhaps $1200 for a high profile chick to raise her hemline 4 inch above knee and drop her blouse 3 inch below contours' top line. All compitible with Hindu's ancient religious culture come back after Mughals' had put a screw on it for 7 Centuries and British packed and went home 1947,.
* One jucy story to turn the subject in a light vein: (1977): Place: Philadeplphia, PA Railway staion Platform. A beautiful 30'sh lady with absolutely white set of teeth with a 3 year old girl, in Sarree was asking the Black Station Attendemnt perhaps about some train connections. I approached her. She wanted to reach her home at Terrytown, upstate NY. We sat on the adjacent seats in Phili-NYC train. I intoduced myself by with my Hindu name for which I had no problem because I could speak her provincial langauge with more fluency than her. Then came Hindu Muslim topic. The poison spilling out of her, I had never seen such worse coming out of a pretty lady. A mischievious thought stuck me.

My car was parked at Penn Central Staion in NY City. She had to go to Grand Central Station to get a train to Terrytown which was 3 hours drive one way from New York City.It was 11at night time. I volunteered to drive her to Terrytown, and we became a little more frank in 3 hour drive (Child was sleeping). Learnt Husband was continuous traveller to Europe and she was not a happy wife.. Got her phone. We then after carried on for 2 years. My only problem was that I had to keep my waist covered with a towel before and after the love.
So much about Muslims raping the Hindu women."

Anonymous said...

i am not in politics at all, but still i feels that india is not a peaceful county at all!!!
there are lots and lots of internal problems in india e.g

Muslim-hindu conflicts
hindu-crist conflicts
conflict on Kashmir
7 bomb blasts at same day in benglore and other cities.

and many other factors are there. so india is not a peaceful state at all.

Anonymous said...

Doesn't it impress you Pakistanis that India, a much more populous and far poorer land than Pakistan, nevertheless manages to reain a demiocracy?

I have never had any illusions that India is economically better off than Pakistan. That is an absurd Indian myth indeed. It has alaways been poorer, and manty decades of economic misanagement by the Nehru family held it back. Even Pakistan did much better.

But so what?

Riaz Haq said...

BBC News on Hindu extremists targeting Christian orphans in Orissa today:

Police in the Indian state of Orissa say suspected Hindu extremists have set fire to an orphanage run by Christian missionaries, burning a woman to death.

The mob reportedly ordered people out of building before setting it alight.

But the woman - a cook at the orphanage - was thrown into the burning building when she tried to stop them from attacking the children.

Local Hindus went on the rampage after the killing on Saturday of one of their leaders.

His supporters suspect Christians were responsible, but the police believe he was killed by Maoist rebels.

The religious leader, Swami Laxamanananda Saraswati, was at the centre of controversy late last year.

Hindus accused Christians of attacking him and police were called in to restore order in the ensuing violence.

Hindu extremists have targeted Christians in Orissa before. Nine years ago an Australian missionary and his two sons were burnt alive by a mob that set their car on fire.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an LA Times report on the vicious cycle of poverty in rural India:

India has long been plagued by unscrupulous moneylenders who exploit impoverished farmers. But with crops failing more frequently, farmers are left even more desperate and vulnerable.

Reporting from Jhansi, India - She stops for long stretches, lost in thought, trying to make sense of how she's been left half a person.

Sunita, 18, who requested that her family name not be used to preserve her chance of getting married, said her nightmare started in early 2007 after her father took a loan for her sister's wedding. The local moneylender charged 60% annual interest.

When the family was unable to make the exorbitant interest payments, she said, the moneylender forced himself on her, not once or twice but repeatedly over many months.

"I used to cry a lot and became a living corpse," she said.

Sunita's allegations, which the moneylender denies, cast a harsh light on widespread abuses in rural India, where a highly bureaucratic banking system, corruption and widespread illiteracy allow unethical people with extra income to exploit poor villagers, activists say.

But here in the Bundelkhand region in central India that is among the nation's more impoverished areas, the problem is exacerbated by climate change and environmental mismanagement, they say, suggesting that ecological degradation and global warming are changing human life in more ways than just elevated sea levels and melting glaciers.

"Before, a bad year would lead to a good year," said Bharat Dogra, a fellow at New Delhi's Institute of Social Sciences specializing in the Bundelkhand region. "Now climate change is giving us seven or eight bad years in a row, putting local people deeper and deeper in debt. I expect the situation will only get worse."

An estimated 200,000 Indian farmers have ended their lives since 1997, including many in this area, largely because of debt.

A 2007 study of 13 Bundelkhand villages found that up to 45% of farming families had forfeited their land, and in extreme cases some were forced into indentured servitude. Tractor companies, land mafia and bankers routinely collude, encouraging farmers to take loans they can't afford, a 2008 report by India's Supreme Court found, knowing they'll default and be forced to sell their land.

"While a few people borrow for social status or a desire to buy a new motorcycle, in most cases it's for sheer survival," Dogra said. "When they see their children starving after several years of crop failures, many feel they have no choice."

Recent amendments to a 1976 law in Uttar Pradesh state have increased the maximum punishment for unauthorized money-lending to three years in jail, up from six months, but many loan sharks are well-connected and elude prosecution. The law specifies that lenders must obtain a state license, but the requirements for obtaining it can be vague, a situation that critics say gives bureaucrats significant leeway to enact arbitrary rules and exact questionable fees.

"I take occasional loans when we're desperate," says Jhagdu, 50, a farmer in Barora, 60 miles south of Jhansi, sitting on his haunches with teeth stained red from chewing betel nut. "When there's no rain, like now, you can't repay for a year, so the amounts can double."

Riaz Haq said...

India(49) has more than twice as many billionaires as Japan (22) which is a far richer country.

Indian and UNICEF officials concur that Indians are much worse off than Pakistanis and Bangladeshis in basic nutrition and sanitation.

Meanwhile, India is worse than Bangladesh and Pakistan when it comes to nourishment and is showing little improvement in the area despite big money being spent on it, says Planning Commission member Syeda Hameed.

India might be an emerging economic power, but it is way behind Pakistan, Bangladesh and even Afghanistan in providing basic sanitation facilities, a key reason behind the death of 2.1 million children under five in the country.Lizette Burgers, chief water and environment sanitation of the UNICEF, said India is making progress in providing sanitation but it lags behind most of the other countries in South Asia.

Most of the 8-9% growth has fattened the bottom line of a small percentage of India's population, with the rest getting poorer. India's Gini Index has increased from about 32 to 36 from 2000 to 2007.

India now has 100 million more people living below the poverty line than in 2004, according to official estimates released on Sunday. The poverty rate has risen to 37.2 percent of the population from 27.5 percent in 2004, according to a Reuters report.

The rising gap between abject poverty and obscene wealth in India is fueling anger, and insurgencies such as the Maoists'.

Mayraj said...

He wasn't just a Muslim phobe, he was latino phobe as well.

This is the guy Fareed Zakaria admires????
The Hispanic Challenge
By Samuel P. Huntington

Two articles by two reactionaries. I have not read Samuel Huntington, but his clash of civilizations is famous for its belief that he and others like him are superior to Muslims. I thought FZ was strange. Now I know who taught him.

Remembering Samuel Huntington
A man of towering intellect, who never shied away from going for the jugular.

Samuel Huntington's Legacy
Why his works on world order -- political and otherwise -- are still relevant today.

Riaz Haq said...

Lack of water and toilets are a major problem for Anna Hazare supporters in New Delhi, according to media reports:

As droves of people flocked to Ramlila Maidan to voice their support for Anna Hazare, lack of water and sanitation facilities at the venue tested the resolve of quite a few supporters.

With the protests probably stretching over more than two weeks, protesters hope that arrangements will be made soon for clean drinking water and medicines to alleviate the suffering of the people flocking to support the movement.

According to the agreement reached between Team Anna and police, the organisers have to arrange for drinking water, medical aid and mobile toilets.

A protester at the venue said, "There is no water and toilets are in a deplorable condition. People, especially women, who have come from outside Delhi are suffering terribly here."

Scarcity of water and sanitation facilities at the venue have created trouble for the Gandhian's supporters, with one fainting and being rushed to a hospital.

One Vishnu Dutt Sharma from Uttar Pradesh who is fasting in the city collapsed in the morning and was rushed to LNJP hospital where he is being treated. "He did not have food or water for three days. He fell unconscious," an agitator said.

A doctor at the venue said the basic problem was scarcity and the quality of water the protesters were drinking.

"There is no proper arrangement for water supply and people are not carrying bottled water. So they are facing problems," he said.

To provide relief, a group of doctors from Indian Medical Association have set up camp at the venue to ensure round-the-clock emergency medical care free of cost to the supporters.

Dr AP Singh of IMA said, "We have volunteered to provide free medical services because we support the cause of Hazare and his team. Corruption affects everybody, including us and we feel that if we can contribute in some way to this movement, we would have done our part."

Dr Sachin Bhargav, another doctor, said, "we are providing medicines free of cost, and paying for them from our own pockets, because we believe in Anna's cause, and sympathise with the poor people who have come here from villages all over India."

Armed with medicines for common ailments like dehydration, gastro-enteritis and fever, the doctors have treated over 400 patients since the protest began at Ramlila Maidan, and referred around 10 patients to nearby hospitals.

The doctors have put their own practise at stake to volunteer at the Maidan.

"The government is not providing proper facilities because it wants the people to leave as soon as possible. Despite this, people won't leave, and we won't rest till the government agrees to Hazare's demands," Amina Khan, a nurse, alleged.

The doctors are also playing a part in ensuring that the crowd doesn't go out of control. Singh said, "If any supporter becomes too aggressive or starts hyperventilating, volunteers bring him to us, and we give them medicines to calm them down, thus preventing any untoward incident."

Riaz Haq said...

Here are excerpts of a Bloomberg piece by Indian journalist Pankaj Mishra on Pakistan's "unplanned revolution":

...I also saw much in this recent visit that did not conform to the main Western narrative for South Asia -- one in which India is steadily rising and Pakistan rapidly collapsing.

Born of certain geopolitical needs and exigencies, this vision was always most useful to those who have built up India as an investment destination and a strategic counterweight to China, and who have sought to bribe and cajole Pakistan’s military-intelligence establishment into the war on terrorism.

Seen through the narrow lens of the West’s security and economic interests, the great internal contradictions and tumult within these two large nation-states disappear. In the Western view, the credit-fueled consumerism among the Indian middle class appears a much bigger phenomenon than the extraordinary Maoist uprising in Central India.
Traveling through Pakistan, I realized how much my own knowledge of the country -- its problems as well as prospects -- was partial, defective or simply useless. Certainly, truisms about the general state of crisis were not hard to corroborate. Criminal gangs shot rocket-propelled grenades at each other and the police in Karachi’s Lyari neighborhood. Shiite Hazaras were being assassinated in Balochistan every day. Street riots broke out in several places over severe power shortages -- indeed, the one sound that seemed to unite the country was the groan of diesel generators, helping the more affluent Pakistanis cope with early summer heat.
Gangsters with Kalashnikovs

In this eternally air-conditioned Pakistan, meanwhile, there exist fashion shows, rock bands, literary festivals, internationally prominent writers, Oscar-winning filmmakers and the bold anchors of a lively new electronic media. This is the glamorously liberal country upheld by English-speaking Pakistanis fretting about their national image in the West (some of them might have been gratified by the runaway success of Hello magazine’s first Pakistani edition last week).

But much less conspicuous and more significant, other signs of a society in rapid socioeconomic and political transition abounded. The elected parliament is about to complete its five- year term -- a rare event in Pakistan -- and its amendments to the constitution have taken away some if not all of the near- despotic prerogatives of the president’s office.

Political parties are scrambling to take advantage of the strengthening ethno-linguistic movements for provincial autonomy in Punjab and Sindh provinces. Young men and women, poor as well as upper middle class, have suddenly buoyed the anti-corruption campaign led by Imran Khan, an ex-cricketer turned politician.

After radically increasing the size of the consumerist middle class to 30 million, Pakistan’s formal economy, which grew only 2.4 percent in 2011, currently presents a dismal picture. But the informal sector of the economy, which spreads across rural and urban areas, is creating what the architect and social scientist Arif Hasan calls Pakistan’s “unplanned revolution.” Karachi, where a mall of Dubai-grossness recently erupted near the city’s main beach, now boasts “a first world economy and sociology, but with a third world wage and political structure.”

Even in Lyari, Karachi’s diseased old heart, where young gangsters with Kalashnikovs lurked in the alleys, billboards vended quick proficiency in information technology and the English language. Everywhere, in the Salt Range in northwestern Punjab as well as the long corridor between Lahore and Islamabad, were gated housing colonies, private colleges, fast- food restaurants and other markers of Pakistan’s breakneck suburbanization....

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Wall Street Journal story on the stunting of human capital growth in India:

At least 3,000 children as young as six are being recruited by insurgent groups across India, according to a new report published by a human rights group.

The New Delhi-based Asian Centre for Human Rights says the practice of using child soldiers is “rampant,” with the majority recruited in Maoist-affected states like Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and West Bengal.

Maoist rebels, also known as Naxalites, have been described by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as India’s greatest internal security challenge. They assert control over vast areas of land in central and eastern India. The insurgency was launched in the late 1960s in West Bengal. The rebels say they are fighting for the rights of indigenous tribes and the rural poor, and their ultimate goal is to create a communist society.

Riaz Haq said...

Deadly ambush raises fears of #Maoists rebel resurgence in #India. #Chattisgarh #Modi

The attack, which killed 25 soldiers, has raised fears that the five-decade insurgency is seeing a revival. This year is already one of the bloodiest in recent years, with 72 soldiers killed in the rebel heartland of Chhattisgarh. By comparison, 36 were killed during all of last year.

“You let him die,” Kumar’s 15-year-old daughter cried to the soldiers carrying the body of her father to his home in the northern hill town of Palampur on Tuesday night. “Why didn’t you do something?”

Indian soldiers have been battling the rebels across several central and northern states since 1967, when the militants — also known as Naxalites — began fighting to demand more jobs, land and wealth from natural resources for the country’s poor indigenous communities. The government has said the insurgents, inspired by Chinese revolutionary leader Mao Zedong, pose the country’s most serious internal security threat.

Before this year, the deadliest Maoist attack was in 2010, when rebels killed 76 soldiers in Chhattisgarh, one of India’s poorest states despite vast mineral riches. Rebel attacks in other Indian states are less frequent, but also sometimes result in casualties.

Analysts said Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government is slipping in its commitment to fight the rebels, and that authorities should be deploying more police and paramilitary troops while simultaneously focusing on boosting economic development for poor villagers who may be moved to support the rebels.

“It’s as if no lessons have been learned from similar attacks in the past,” said Ajai Sahni, a security analyst in New Delhi.

The troops attacked on Monday had been having lunch along a partially built road cutting through scrubland, taking a break from scouting the area ahead of a construction team, when they were ambushed by about 300 armed rebels, touching off a three-hour gunbattle.

“I find it incomprehensible that the Indian state cannot deploy enough soldiers to protect 70 kilometers of road within the country,” Sahni said.

Facing a resurgence in the rebellion, the government should change its standard deployment and surveillance tactics, he said. Authorities also need to improve living standards for local villagers, noting that none had warned the troops about the presence of hundreds of armed rebels moving through the region.

Years of neglect — marked by a lack of jobs, school and health care clinics — have helped to isolate the local villagers, making them open to overtures by the rebels, who speak their tribal languages and have promised to fight for a better future with more education and job opportunities.

The “government needs to reduce the economic deprivation, which has led to an alienation of the local people,” Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Raj Kadyan, a defense analyst, told India Today television channel.

Other analysts noted that Monday’s attack occurred when the soldiers deviated from the standard operating procedures by sitting as a group for lunch, without anyone standing watch, as reported by soldiers who survived the attack.

One survivor said they’d first been approached by villagers, whom the rebels then followed.

“We thought it was a group of villagers coming toward us, when the rebels began firing from behind,” said Sher Bahadur, who was among six soldiers injured.

Riaz Haq said...

Why Iraq Is Still Worth the Effort

By Fareed Zakaria
Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Three years ago this week, I watched the invasion of Iraq apprehensively. I had supported military intervention to rid the country of Saddam Hussein's tyranny, but I had also been appalled by the crude and unilateral manner in which the Bush administration handled the issue. In the first weeks after the invasion, I was critical of several of the administration's decisions -- crucially, invading with a light force and dismantling the governing structures of Iraq (including the bureaucracy and army). My criticisms grew over the first 18 months of the invasion, a period that offered a depressing display of American weakness and incompetence. And yet, for all my misgivings about the way the administration has handled this policy, I've never been able to join the antiwar crowd. Nor am I convinced that Iraq is a hopeless cause that should be abandoned.

Let's remember that in 2002 and early 2003, U.S. policy toward Iraq was collapsing. The sanctions regime was becoming ineffective against Saddam Hussein -- he had gotten quite good at cheating and smuggling -- and it was simultaneously impoverishing the Iraqi people. Regular reconnaissance and bombing missions over Iraq were done through "no-fly" zones, which required a large U.S. and British presence in Saudi Arabia and Turkey. These circumstances were fueling a poisonous anti-Americanism in the Muslim world.

In his fatwa of 1998, Osama bin Laden's first two charges against the United States were that it was "occupying" Saudi Arabia and starving Iraqi women and children. The Palestinian cause was a distant third. Meanwhile, Hussein had a 30-year history of attempting to build nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.