September 14, 2009 — drsubrotoroy
(Preface: This is a Note of mine at Facebook, based on my comment there on Avner Cohen’s link to a recent LA Times article.)
“I wonder if Iran’s modern cinema has reached American and Israeli audiences easily. I am introduced to it quite recently myself on India’s cable TV — e.g. “White Balloon”, “The Circle”, “Song of Sparrows” etc… It seems to me to be compulsory viewing for anyone wishing to make war on Iran…It is surely among the best cinema there is. Nothing like it coming out of Hollywood, Bollywood etc.
The films reflect the society. “Offside”, about the six female soccer fans not allowed to enter the stadium, is especially brilliant in its candour. Nothing like it anywhere in the world at the moment. If society is so candid about itself, the politics cannot be all bad. I fear there is a massive cultural miscommunication between Iran and the rest of the world, caused of course by rather thick diplomacy on all sides. Is there not a master diplomat in the world who can get Iran and Israel to the point of diplomatic recognition? Zubin Mehta (an Indian of Iranian origin beloved in Israel) might be my choice as the initial/symbolic leader of such a diplomatic team!”
March 18, 2009 — drsubrotoroy
Nine months ago, on June 9 2008, I wrote but did not publish the op-ed article below “Pakistan’s progress” intended for an Indian newspaper. When the Mumbai massacres took place, I was rather glad I had not come to do so because its cheer and optimism contrasted too starkly with the vileness and viciousness of the massacres. Instead I turned to the legal, moral and political implications of the massacres, and several articles are to be found here on Kasab, competing jurisdictions in international law in prosecuting the crimes, and application of the Law of the Sea Treaty (which both countries have ratified) to jointly try and hang the masterminds at sea in international waters. Pakistan’s initial criminal investigation into the massacres received praise here, and I can only trust that both the Government of India and the Government of Pakistan will remain forensically focussed on that case of mass-murder and other heinous crimes until its appropriate conclusion.
Meanwhile, recent political events in Pakistan have made the article below relevant again; when it was written Pervez Musharraf had still not departed from office but the more abstract constitutional question raised in the article had to do with the relative powers of the Head of State and Head of Government in the new Pakistan. With the peaceful restoration of the Chief Justice to his high office, I am glad to say that the question I raised but did not publish nine months ago, namely, “A rare constitutional consensus might be developing – can it last long enough?”, seems to be headed at present to being answered in the affirmative.
March 18, 2009
Pakistan’s progress: A rare constitutional consensus might be developing – can it last long enough? Subroto Roy, dated June 9 2008
The dynamic evolution of politics in Pakistan should be judged not against Indian politics (rotten or exemplary as our politics can be at different times) but against its own initial conditions. It is an unimaginable luxury that Pakistanis in recent months have been discussing such sweet constitutional questions as how to restore judges unseated by soldiers having entered the Supreme Court, what to do with judges who took an oath despite such an abomination, how to maintain diplomatic relations between the PPP and PML(N), and most important of all, whether the military with its nuclear assets should report to the PM or President – in other words, is the Head of Government or Head of State the Chief Executive? It is a luxury too that Pervez Musharraf has become almost a distraction in Pakistani politics, that he himself indicates he may be running out of dramatic lines and may be getting ready to exit his country’s political stage, that the Pakistan Army is shocked by its realisation of its loss of prestige in society, that the Ex-Servicemen’s Society thinks Musharraf deserves punishment for having caused such a state of affairs. Dr Ayesha Siddiqa has pointed out that every Pakistani military strongman has been eventually removed, and has been removed not by democratic forces alone but by intra-military pressure.
It is likely we are at present witnessing such a critical moment, and it is naturally fraught with danger for any civilian prime minister and parliament because any intra-military conflict can descend into mutiny or worse. Pakistan Army officers have been deeply divided for years over Islamicisation already — onto which is now compounded the issue of loyalty to Musharraf (mostly paid for in American dollars) versus the urge to remove him in the best future interests of the military. Musharraf himself, with his usual braggadocio, has been claiming fealty to constitutional principles as well; so at least there is agreement on all sides that matters should proceed in an orderly and dignified manner and not by nefarious means.
The relevant comparison of the present situation is with the recent past. Let us look back just a few years, say to the autumn of 2005 when the initial post 9/11 Western backlash against Pakistan had been renewed after the London Underground bombings. On 1 September 2005, during the scheduled Islamabad visit of the Indian Foreign Secretary, the PAF launched massive month-long war-games against an assumed Indian enemy. It involved “the entire fleet, including US-made F-16s, French Mirage fighter aircraft and Chinese-built jets” and “using all assets” in an exercise “closest to war you can get in peacetime”; from the Hindu Kush to the Arabian Sea “8,200 operational sorties” would be flown, Shaukat Aziz witnessing the start, Musharraf the finish. Hardly had this orgy of militarism concluded when northern Pakistan and parts of J&K were hit by the devastating earthquake; Musharraf visited quake-hit areas still dressed in battle gear down to his para wings.
Pakistanis of all classes were appalled at the ineptitude of their government in face of the earthquake and it was inevitable the military would be held responsible. What had been the opportunity cost in fungible resources of those “8,200 operational sorties”? The military’s extremely expensive “assets” were designed for war with India and had bankrupted the country but ordinary people had been left utterly helpless in a natural calamity. Future historians of Pakistan may well see the 2005 earthquake as a critical turning point in their political development just as the 12 November 1970 cyclone was in the history of Bangladesh.
A modern war between Pakistan and India, even a non-nuclear one, would be like a hundred earthquakes. Indians have not been so jingoistic as to contemplate such an exchange of destruction but less than a decade ago Gohar Ayub Khan, as Pakistan’s Foreign Minister, was boasting how India would surrender within a few hours in the next war – which was presumably a threat to unleash missiles, even non-nuclear ones, as a first resort against Indian cities and civilian populations. That such abominable Pakistan-India tension has today come to vanish might have been indicated during the recent IPL cricket final when Kamran Akmal jumped onto Yusuf Pathan or crashed into Mohammad Kaif as commercially driven team-mates led by an Australian captain and associated with what used to be Hindu Rajputana. So much for the “Two Nations Theory” in the 21st Century. Maulana Azad seems to have been proven right and MA Jinnah proven wrong after all.
The Pakistani state had become an oppressive war-machine solely guided by anti-Indian paranoia even while ordinary Pakistanis, through modern communications and technology, knew fully well India and Indians were not nearly as bad as the Pakistan Government was making them out to be. From an official Pakistani point of view, a nuclear bomb (even a purchased and assembled one) was needed out of fear India intended to destroy what remained of West Pakistan – a theory that could arise only from the delusion that Bangladesh had been caused by Indian intrigues. The Pakistan Army has been reluctant for more than a generation to face up to the reality of its behaviour in East Pakistan and the consequences that resulted; it has been far easier to blame India instead.
Yet Pakistan’s national hero, AQ Khan himself, born in Bhopal and extremely bitter at modern India as many former Indian nationals tend to be, has now said “Never! Never!” will there be an exchange of destruction in nuclear warfare between India and Pakistan. It may be a wise Indian diplomatic move to invite Dr Khan, stricken with cancer as he is said to be, to make a quiet private visit to his place of birth if he wished to (perhaps followed by a courtesy luncheon at BARC on the way home).
Of course Indians cannot forget the destruction that has been wrought in this country in recent years by our old Bogeyman, the ISI. Yet it is a fair bet that not only do we not comprehend the workings of that particular bureaucracy, nor do Pakistanis themselves, indeed the ISI itself may not comprehend itself in the sense that different ISI sections have been and may remain at cross-purposes or conflict with each other as has become apparent in the ongoing official attempts to suppress the new “Taliban”. Proper civilian control of the ISI is part of the same process as the proper civilian control of the Pakistan military as a whole, and what we are witnessing is nothing less than the first serious constitutional attempt in Pakistan’s history for that to take place. The whole subcontinent is hopeful and watching Pakistan’s transition. In the meantime, a milestone was certainly reached on 25 May when Pakistan’s young and brilliant sufi rock band *Junoon* performed in beautiful Srinagar to the delight of thousands of Kashmiris. The “United Jehad Council” and Syed Ali Shah Geelani had denounced them; in reply the band’s lead guitarist Salman Ahmed had the courage to say: “I want them to join us in the musical *jehad* for peace and ring the bells of harmony.” For peace to break out will of course require India’s participation and willingness as well.
December 5, 2008 — drsubrotoroy
Some nine or ten years ago, Gohar Ayub Khan, as Pakistan’s foreign minister, had said the next war with India would be over in a few hours with an Indian surrender, presumably because Pakistan would immediately launch nuclear bombs. Now a leading Pakistani military scientist (who is said to have earned a doctoral degree in 1966 from Oxford University in Experimental Nuclear Physics) has apparently recommended his Government immediately launch nuclear bombs against India within minutes of a war.
[If the link does not work, as it seems not to, paste in http://dailytimes.com.pk
Viz., Daily Times, December 5 2008 “Nuclear missiles can be fired within minutes in case of war”.]
This is supposed to be responsible behaviour and talk from a serious nuclear weapons’ power ? Whose leadership has assured its Western mentors and allies that its nuclear arsenal is kept in a disassembled state beyond the control of all irregular forces like potential terrorists?
And there is its cricket board suggesting business go about as usual with India! While its liberal commentators go about shedding crocodile tears for victims of the systematic mass murder last week, describing it all as the “Mumbai incident” or the “Bombay event”! Almost the Bombay soiree?
There is a sheer lack of reason, a lack of reasoning, and a lack of reasonableness here, as well as widespread need among Pakistan’s terrorist and military masterminds for what is known in popular psychology these days as “Anger Management”.
October 30, 2007 — drsubrotoroy
India-USA interests: Elements of a serious Indian foreign policy
First published in The Statesman, Editorial Page Special Article, Oct 30 2007
If there is a “natural alliance” between India and the United States, it arises to the extent that both are large democracies and more or less free societies that happen to be placed half way across the globe and pose no perceptible military threat to one another. The real long-term strategic and political dimensions of such an alliance are quite independent of the business interests driving the “nuclear deal” or selfish interests of the few million “elite” Indians who have fled to the USA as immigrants in recent decades. The interests of Indian immigrants in the USA and interests of the vast masses in India are, after all, quite distinct. Also, America derives most if its own energy not from nuclear reactors but from abundant hydroelectric resources. If the nuclear deal has been ill-conceived and fails in implementation at any stage, India will not import expensive nuclear reactors but can still learn much from the USA in developing hydroelectric power which constitutes India’s greatest energy potential as well.
China and Pakistan
Key strategic interests of India and the USA are fully convergent in East Asia, especially in respect of Communist China. But in West Asia, American attitudes and actions towards the Muslim world, specifically the invasion and occupation of Iraq and now a possible assault on Iran, have been deeply disconcerting for India which has some 120 million Muslim citizens.
It is not a coincidence that Pakistan, an overtly religious Muslim state, has had a marriage of convenience with Communist China, an overtly atheistic anti-religious state. Both have been militarist dictatorships that have seen democratic India as a strategic adversary, especially over territorial claims. It was Pakistan that facilitated President Nixon’s desired opening to Communist China and later permitted President Reagan’s attack on the soft underbelly of the USSR in the Afghan civil war (an attack in which China participated too). With the USSR’s collapse, the USA removed its main strategic adversary only to be left with two new adversaries: Islamic fundamentalism in the short run and China in the long run!
Indian diplomacy can credit a rare (indeed exceptional) success in having warned the USA from the early 1990s onwards of the dangers brewing in the jihadist camps in Pakistan sponsored by the ISI. The US Government has now declassified its assessments of those dangers and what it tried to do as early as 1995 and as late as 2000 through the Saudis with the Taliban’s Mullah Omar ~ who refused to hand over Osama Bin Laden to Saudi Arabia and openly spoke of plans for revenge against American interests. With a continuing Cold-War mindset, US policy-makers thought state-actors like Saddam Hussein were a graver risk to Israel than non-state or pan-state actors like Osama could be to the American mainland. Having distracted itself with Saddam, the US Government’s response to Osama has been far too much far too late ~ the maddened bull chasing the matador’s cape, in Stephen Holmes’s recent metaphor.
Pakistan’s consistent motivation was one of gaining advantage with the Americans in the hope of undermining India, and indeed the nexus created in Washington by Pakistan’s bureaucrats, politicians and military over decades has been the envy of all lobbyists. But Pakistan overplayed its hand, and once the 9/11 genie was let out of the bottle it could not be put back in again. Meanwhile, Pakistan allowing Gwadar port to become a haven for China’s Navy would have obvious new strategic repercussions.
American interests in West Asia are to protect Israel, to protect trade-routes and to defend against non-state or pan-state terrorism. American interests in East Asia are to protect Japan, South Korea and Taiwan from communist attack, to protect trade-routes and to defend against new terrorism arising from places like Indonesia or the Philippines. All American interests in Asia would be facilitated by appearance of genuine multiparty democracy and free societies in China and Pakistan.
China as a two-party or multi-party democracy and a free society, even on the Taiwan-model, is unlikely to be an expansionist militarist aggressor in the way it has been as a dictatorship and unfree society. Communist China in the early 21st Century makes the same outrageous unlawful claims on Indian territory as it did half a century ago. Only the USA came to India’s assistance in a tangible way when Communist China attacked in Ladakh and Arunachal in the late months of 1962. John Kenneth Galbraith was President Kennedy’s Ambassador in New Delhi and his memoirs tell the tale of the landings of C-130 aircraft in Kolkata carrying infantry weapons, light artillery and quartermaster stores for the beleaguered Indian Army in Tezpur and Leh.
Nehru, Krishna Menon and India’s whole political and diplomatic leadership revealed gross incompetence as did the Army’s top brass. Indian Communists virtually betrayed the country. The Chinese massed in the Chumbi Valley near Nathu La, and had they attacked all the way to Siliguri, India’s North East would have been cut off. As a demonstration, the Chinese in division strength took and held the whole of Arunachal for a month, withdrawing before there could be anyIndian attempt to retaliate or cut supply lines. The geography has not changed in fifty years. What can yet change is the ideology, away from the communism that has ruined China’s great people, to a new and bold commitment to liberal democracy and the Rule of Law.
As for Pakistan, its people under crude military rule have hardly allowed themselves to become the source of Muslim culture that Iqbal had dreamt of. Pakistan today is not a place even the most ardent pro-Pakistani person in Jammu & Kashmir can find very appealing or inspiring. If there was multiparty democracy and a free society in which the military had a normal small role of defence (as opposed to a large purportedly offensive role against India), Pakistan could calm down from its neuroses and become a normal country for the first time~ one in which the so-called “extremists” of today are transformed into a politically legitimate religious conservatism, who could seek to take power responsibly through the ballot box.
India should be a friendly neutral in the conflict between the West and Muslim world, doing whatever we can to bring better understanding between the two sides. Both have been invaders in Indian history, bringing both evil and good in their wake. India’s culture absorbed and assimilated their influences and became more resilient as a consequence. India also was a haven for Jews and Zoroastrians fleeing persecution. India as a country must condemn fanatical terrorist attacks on the West and bizarre reactionary attempts to return to a caliphate in the world of modern science. Equally, India must condemn vicious racist bombing and warfare unleashed by technologically advanced countries upon ancient societies and cultures struggling to enter the modern world in their own way.
As for the central issue of Israel in Palestine, Martin Buber (1878-1965), the eminent Zionist scholar and philosopher of Judaism, said to Rabindranath Tagore in 1926 that the Jewish purpose should be one of “pursuing the settlement effort in Palestine in agreement, nay, alliance with the peoples of the East, so as to erect with them together a great federative structure, which might learn and receive from the West whatever positive aims and means might be learnt and received from it, without, however, succumbing to the influence of its inner disarray and aimlessness.” If India could guide the region towards such a “great federative structure” of reason and tranquillity, while encouraging democracy in China and Pakistan, the aim of our “natural alliance” with the United States half way across the globe would have been fulfilled.