Subroto Roy believes the great optimism about the Indian Republic that he had felt as a 7-year old boy upon meeting Jawaharlal Nehru at Colombo Airport on Oct 13 1962 (the first days of the surprise Communist Chinese attack on India), has now dissipated, and apart from Nehru’s immediate successor (Lal Bahadur Shastri) all Indian Prime Ministers since then have been gravely, perhaps catastrophically, disappointing.
Subroto Roy thinks President Obama’s informed lawyerly academic approach to the Afghanistan decision, whether or not it has its intended good consequences, has a positive demonstration effect for other capital cities, e.g. New Delhi, where public policy decisions are too often made to appease special interest groups inside a cloud of meaningless rhetoric.
Subroto Roy says of India and China in summary discussion at Edward Hugh’s Wall: “Well, both have massive and energetic populations, each with relatively little capital per head; raising the capital per head with new production and exchange processes leads to growth. (But the nominal economies are weak, public finances are absymal and paper money is out of control.)”
Subroto Roy recalls again Pericles of Athens: “Here each individual is interested not only in his own affairs but in the affairs of the state as well; even those who are mostly occupied with their own business are extremely well-informed on general politics- this is a peculiarity of ours:we do not say that a man who takes no inter…est in politics is a man who minds his own business;we say that he has no business here at all.”
Almost three years ago when the Baloch leader Nawab Bugti was killed by bombardment during the Musharraf-regime, I was moved to research and write a short analysis of Balochistan for the first time. I said inter alia
“because there are two million Balochis in Iranian Balochistan, Pakistan’s Balochi nationalists have had a declared enemy to their west in the Iranian Government ~ the Pahlevi regime even provided Italian-made American Huey helicopter gunships with Iranian pilots to help Bhutto crush the Baloch rebellions of the early 1970s. In fact, Balochi rebels have had no military allies except the pre-communist Government of Afghanistan under Daud, who ‘ordered the establishment of a training camp at Qandahar for Baloch liberation fighters. Between 10,000 and 15,000 Baloch youths were trained and armed there’ (R Anwar, The Tragedy of Afghanistan 1988, p. 78). The Governments of India or the United States lack motivation or capability to help, and Balochistan may be doomed to becoming a large human rights/genocidal disaster of the next decade. An independent Balochistan may be unviable, being overwhelmed by its riches while having too small, uneducated and backward a population of its own, and powerful greedy neighbours on either side… Today, the Pashtun of Pakistan and Afghanistan (as well as perhaps Sindhis of Baloch origin) may be the only interlocutors who can prevent a genocide and mediate a peace between Balochi nationalists and Musharraf’s ruthless Punjabi military-businessmen determined to colonize Balochistan completely with Chinese help, effectively subsidising their misgovernance elsewhere with Balochistan’s riches…”
Raja Anwar had been a close friend and associate of ZA Bhutto, the founder of Pakistan’s ruling party, and his book on Afghanistan published 20 years ago is required reading.
The wonders of the Internet sent me back to this subject a few days ago when a Pakistani website claimed that the American analyst Dr Christine Fair of RAND said she had visited an Indian consulate in Zahedan, Iran, and alleged to her interlocutors that the consulate was “not issuing visas as the main activity” .
Dr Fair’s reported words seemed to me to be surprising, so I wrote to her seeking a confirmation that she had been quoted correctly, when the Pakistani website very kindly sent me the link to her words at a recent gathering of American and British observers discussing Pakistan. This is what Dr Fair said at that gathering on this topic (emphasis added):
“I think it would be a mistake to completely disregard Pakistan’s regional perceptions due to doubts about Indian competence in executing covert operations. That misses the point entirely. And I think it is unfair to dismiss the notion that Pakistan’s apprehensions about Afghanistan stem in part from its security competition with India. Having visited the Indian mission in Zahedan, Iran, I can assure you they are not issuing visas as the main activity! Moreover, India has run operations from its mission in Mazar (through which it supported the Northern Alliance) and is likely doing so from the other consulates it has reopened in Jalalabad and Qandahar along the border. Indian officials have told me privately that they are pumping money into Baluchistan. Kabul has encouraged India to engage in provocative activities such as using the Border Roads Organization to build sensitive parts of the Ring Road and use the Indo-Tibetan police force for security. It is also building schools on a sensitive part of the border in Kunar–across from Bajaur. Kabul’s motivations for encouraging these activities are as obvious as India’s interest in engaging in them. Even if by some act of miraculous diplomacy the territorial issues were to be resolved, Pakistan would remain an insecure state. Given the realities of the subcontinent (e.g., India’s rise and its more effective foreign relations with all of Pakistan’s near and far neighbors), these fears are bound to grow, not lessen. This suggests that without some means of compelling Pakistan to abandon its reliance upon militancy, it will become ever more interested in using it — and the militants will likely continue to proliferate beyond Pakistan’s control.”
Now I have nothing to do with the Government of India and have no idea about the evidence relating to the precise facts being alleged here. But I do have some circumstantial evidence as well as a personal reason to be curious, as my father was an Indian diplomat in Tehran during 1954-1957 and I was in fact born there.
I recalled him having told me he had travelled in that region and today he confirmed that he had in fact, from the Tehran Embassy as part of his official duties as Commercial Secretary and Consul, visited what was then an Indian Vice-Consulate at Zahedan, peopled by a single Indian Vice-Consul with whom he had spent two days.
That was more than 50 years ago — so the “Indian mission” that Dr Fair said she visited in Zahedan is far from being anything new whatsoever. In fact, I would predict it was probably something that existed during British India too and that it was precisely an outpost of British India issuing visas for anyone headed towards Quetta in what was then British Baluchistan.
Could the Consulate be upto anything else? Hmmm, let’s see, how about assisting in the complex overall discussions, now apparently stalled or aborted, between Iran, Pakistan and India over the gas pipeline perhaps?
In other words, there might be any number of perfectly legitimate reasons for India to be represented in Zahedan as it has been for more than half a century — the allegation contained in the American discussion of India fomenting trouble for Pakistan in Balochistan may be entirely baseless.
Did India once support the Northern Alliance? Of course, as did Iran too, but that was all pre 9/11 during the extended Afghan civil war before the toppling of the Mullah Umar Government by the Northern Alliance allied with the United States! That is wholly a separate thing from any claim that India from Iranian soil has caused trouble in Balochistan.
Such an aspersion coming from such a source would be easily and delightedly picked up by those in Pakistan looking for exogenous explanations of their problems. For example, if you watch the video of the ghastly murder of the Polish engineer Piotr Stanczak by the Pakistani Taliban, you will find a demented Pakistani commentator in the background disclaiming any Pakistani responsibility for it saying instead it was all India’s fault and India has been financing the Pakistani Taliban with “billions”! (Postcript June 8 2009: Jemima Khan reported a few days ago: “Pakistan pulsates with conspiracy theories. One, which has made it into the local newspapers, is that the Taliban when caught and stripped were revealed to have been “intact, not Muslims”, a euphemism for uncircumcised. (Pakistanis are big on euphemisms.) Their beards were stuck on with glue. “Foreign elements” (India) are suspected.”)
Such is the extent of the psychosis. “Delta Dawn, what’s that flower you have on…?”
The Government of India obviously needs to address Dr Fair’s claim and seek to squarely refute what she has said in these remarks.
Subroto Roy, Kolkata
In Chapter 6 of my Philosophy of Economics, is to be found a quote from Solzhenitsyn: “(Also Solzhenitsyn: “Fastenko, on the other hand, was the most cheerful person in the cell, even though, in view of his age, he was the only one who could not count on surviving and returning to freedom. Flinging an arm around my shoulders, he would say: To stand up for truth is nothing! For truth you have to sit in jail!”)”.
Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn, along with Andrei Dmitrievich Sakharov, were heroes of mine after I had left school in India in December 1971 and reached Paris where my father was with the Embassy. My father had purchased Solzhenitsyn’s books and these I devoured eagerly at our then-home at 14 Rue Eugene Manuel, during breaks from my pre-University education at Haileybury College, across the English Channel. We had been in Odessa before Paris, and in Stockholm before Odessa. In 1969, we had travelled by ship and train from Stockholm via Helsinki to Leningrad, Moscow and Odessa. In December 1967, my father had gotten me to fly to Stockholm through Moscow and stay for a day or two with a colleague of his during my winter holidays from India. Moscow in December 1967 was celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution — I recall what the city felt and seemed like to me as a 12 year old: foreboding, awesome, intimidating.
Now in 1972-73 in Paris, the works of Solzhenitsyn and the example of Sakharov explained to me that brief boyhood experience of the USSR and a great deal more.
As it happens, the present PM of India, as a friend of my father’s, visited us at 14 Rue Eugene Manuel in the summer of 1973 at my father’s request to advise me about studying economics (I was on my way to the London School of Economics as an undergraduate). He stayed about 40 minutes during his busy schedule as part of an Indian economic delegation. I was 18, he was about 41. We ended up having a tense debate about the merits (as he saw them) and demerits (as I saw them) of the Soviet influence on Indian economic “planning”. He had not expected such controversy from a lad but he was kindly disposed and offered when departing to write a letter of introduction to a well-known Indian professor at the LSE for me to carry, which I did.
The works and example of Solzhenitsyn and Sakharov built my youthful understanding of the USSR at age 17-18. This contributed to my libertarianism at Cambridge University and later in America (until my experience of the American federal judiciary at age 37 or so).
When I mentioned my admiration for Solzhenitsyn’s work to Milton Friedman at a memorable luncheon at his San Francisco home in 1989, he said that they had been neighbours in Vermont though they had not interacted because of Solzhenitsyn’s desire to be reclusive.
Solzhenitsyn and Sakharov symbolised shoots of new life in the swamp that had been Soviet totalitarianism.