Of a new New Delhi myth and the success of the University of Hawaii 1986-1992 Pakistan project (with 2015 Postscript)

A leading Indian commentator says in this morning’s paper (November 15 2008) about Manmohan Singh:

“His formulation on Kashmir (“I have no mandate to change borders, but we can make borders irrelevant”), became the obvious solution once he articulated it.”

Such may be how  modern New Delhi’s myths and self-delusions  get born — since in fact there is no evidence that Manmohan Singh  or any of his acolytes had anything to do with originating the Pakistan-India peace process in recent decades, just as there has not been that Manmohan Singh or  any of his acolytes had anything to do with originating the  Congress Party’s new economic thinking in 1990-1991.

(Lest I be misunderstood I should add at the outset that I have the highest personal regard for Dr Singh, he has been  in decades past a friend of my father’s, he at my father’s request consented to discuss economics with me in Paris in 1973 when I was a callow lad of 18, he himself has not claimed the originality that has been frequently mis-attributed to him by others for whatever reason, etc.)

The origins of  the idea  about India-Pakistan and J&K expressed by Manmohan Singh’s words are to be found in the last paragraph of the Introduction by the Editors of a book which arose from the University of Hawaii’s 1986-1992 Pakistan project, which read:

“Kashmir… must be demilitarised and unified by both countries sooner or later, and it must be done without force. There has been enough needless bloodshed on the subcontinent… Modern Pakistanis and Indians are free peoples who can voluntarily agree in their own interests to alter the terms set hurriedly by Attlee or Mountbatten in the Indian Independence Act 1947. Nobody but we ourselves keeps us prisoners of superficial definitions of who we are or might be. The subcontinent could evolve its political identity over a period of time on the pattern of Western Europe, with open borders and (common) tariffs to the outside world, with the free movement of people, capital, ideas and culture. Large armed forces could be reduced and transformed in a manner that would enhance the security of each nation. The real and peaceful economic revolution of the masses of the subcontinent would then be able to begin.”

The University of Hawaii’s Pakistan project, involving Pakistani and other scholars, including one Indian, led to the volume Foundations of Pakistan’s Political Economy: Towards an Agenda for the 1990s published in Karachi, New Delhi and elsewhere. The book reached Nawaz Sharif and the Islamabad elite, including the most hawkish of Islamabad’s hawks, and Pervez Musharraf’s 2006 proposal on J&K, endorsed warmly by the US State Department,  may have grown from that paragraph. The Editors of the book, as economists themselves, decried the waste of resources involved in the Pakistan-India confrontation, saying it had

“greatly impoverished the general budgets of both Pakistan and India. If it has benefited important sections of the political and military elites of  both countries, it has done so only at the expense of the general welfare of the masses.”

Such words were impossibly bold in the  late 1980s-early 1990s.  However,  as stated in  a special editorial article “What to tell Musharraf”     in The Statesman of December 16 2006, they seemed  in recent years incomplete and rather naïve even to their author, who was myself, the only Indian in that project and the one who had conceived it. Most significantly, the position in international law in the context of historical facts had been wholly neglected. So had been the manifest nature of the Pakistani state (as it had become prior to the splendid 2008 elections).

The Hawaii project had involved top Pakistani economists, political scientists and other commentators but had deliberately chosen to keep the military and the religious clergy out of its chapters.  And it was the military and religious clergy who in fact came to dominate Pakistan’s agenda in the 1990s, at least until the 9/11 attacks in America indirectly  altered the political direction of the country.

The peaceful and mundane economic agenda outlined for Pakistan in the Hawaii project  has come into its own  by way of  relevance ever since.  A few weeks ago, the first trucks filled with fruit, woolens and many other goods traversed across the “Line of Control” in J&K for the first time in sixty years.   The Pakistan project that James and I led at the University of Hawaii in the late 1980s may be now declared a success.   Among other things, our book explained to Indians that there does exist a Pakistani point of view and perhaps explained to Pakistanis that there does exist an Indian point of view.  That  is something that had not existed before our book.

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Postscript 18 Nov 2015:  I have made clear at Twitter that I find the K.M. Kasuri book promoted and publicized in India by MS Aiyar, S Kulkarni, B Dutt and others in Delhi and Mumbai is mendacious where it is not merely self-serving.  Its clear intent is to get India to accept the (false) ISI/Hurriyat narratives about 1947, Kashmir, Bangladesh, terrorism etc.  Its purported ideas of demilitarisation and a borderless Kashmir are essentially lifted from my earlier 1980s work in America cited above — which I myself have rejected as naive since the Pakistani aggression in Kargil in 1999.  More anon.

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