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Travelogue (Part II) – Yeh hai Bombay meri jaan

Things had changed. Bombay has metamorphosed into Mumbai (shining India is also more parochial); Sahar airport had been renamed (as Chatrapathi Shivaji International Airport) after the great Maratha leader Shivaji, who happens to be a villain in our textbooks for having defied the Mughals.

September 14th, 2010|India, Indo Pak peace, Pakistan, Published in The Friday Times, Travel|18 Comments

Manmohan Singh’s ignorance

Manmohan Singh whom I have always held in high regard, disappointed millions in South Asia with his distastefully ill-timed hard talk during his Independence day address. As if Pakistan’s current misery was a time to blow India’s trumpet. He surely was also unaware of what his patriotic Indian poet, Ali Sardar Jafri had written years ago –Dialogue Souldn’t Cease. Here is an Urdu version with a full translation. Perhaps, someone should pass a copy of this poem to the exalted Prime Minister of India.


Calcutta Town Hall Meeting

July 31st, 2010|India-Pakistan History, Indo Pak peace, Pakistan|0 Comments

Redefining national interest

There is simply no alternative to information flow and dismantling the iron curtain. Let the disputes remain, but allow media access across the borders. Let the legislators take the lead and ask the Foreign Office mandarins to take a backseat. Trade and political compacts shall take care of the peace process. History teaches us that the pursuit of rational self interest is the key to progress. Annihilation is the fate of irrational states.

Devising a new framework for Indo-Pak peace

The next 12 months are critical: an Afghanistan settlement has to take place, the water issue needs to be explored and Kashmir back channel negotiations have to be fast tracked. In spite of the hostilities, Pakistan-India trade exceeded $2 billion recently and the unofficial figure is even greater. There is a clear path ahead: keep talking and doing business for mutual gains

Fatal obsession

It is a matter of public record that the founder of Pakistan had stated that Indo-Pakistan relationship will resemble that of the USA and Canada. Even before the Partition, Jinnah in a 1946 press conference stated, “the two states (Pakistan and India)… will be friends and will go to each other’s rescue in case of danger and will be able to say ‘hands off’ to other nations. We shall then have a Munroe doctrine more solid than America…” This vision along with other pronouncements by Jinnah is buried in the debris of Pakistan’s national security paranoia. The spectre of India and its ‘hegemonic designs’ to use an oft-quoted phrase remain central to Pakistan’s security paradigm.

The unwavering view on India is what explains the context for the discussion paper entitled, The Sun in the Sky: The Relationship between Pakistan’s ISI and Afghan Insurgents -authored by Matt Waldman from the prestigious platform of the London School of Economics. Pakistan’s real power-centre, its security and intelligence apparatus are a self-sustaining reality. Other than the financing, of which plenty comes from the Western Capitals, there is a solid national opinion behind the xenophobic worldview carefully cultivated by a decades’ long well coordinated state policy. The centre of this argument is the ‘Indian threat’ and any conception of Pakistan’s security is linked to the evil designs of the powerful ‘enemy’ across the border.

Waldman’s report is neither authoritative nor presents a credible set of data to back up its central argument. But who does not know of the Taliban’s patronage by the security establishment. Confessional labels such as ‘patriotic’ and strategic assets are all too well known. Ask a random passerby on a Pakistani street and one will be amazed at the level of understanding by the common citizen. If you happen to travel a bit northwards and step out of the boundaries of the Punjab, even more riveting insights and stories will be related. Waldman is not telling us anything that we don’t know nor is he giving us a new perspective of how we frame our security interests and strategic priorities.

The report also alludes that Pakistan’s policy is coloured by its India-centric worldview. However, what is critically missing from the discourse at home is to tackle the India-problem, if one were to coin this phrase for simplifying a complex reality. Is this India-obsession sustainable, healthy and in our longer-term strategic interest?

Admittedly, India has not been that wise either. From its flawed strategy on Kashmir to the 1971 intervention it has provided enough ammunition, both literally and metaphorically, to the Pakistani establishment. If we were to ignore the transgressions such as Kargil, Musharraf’s unprecedented offers of revisiting the troubled history on Kashmir related UN resolutions fell on deaf ears. The usual refrain has reflected the typical South Asian emotionalism loosely packaged as ‘trust deficit’. If there is a military government it cannot be trusted, if civvies are in power, they are not the real masters. The end result is status quo thereby feeding into the military-industrial complex that cuts across national boundaries. […]