Now India and Pakistan Can Get Down to Business

High-level talks in February, billed by some as a failure, actually set the stage for progress.

WSJ Op-ed by Najam Sethi, 07 March 2010
On initial appearances, the first high-level bilateral talks between India and Pakistan since November 2008 weren’t a success. When the two foreign secretaries convened in New Delhi on Feb. 25, at times it was as if they were at different meetings. The Indians tried to focus on terrorism sponsored from within Pakistan, while the Pakistanis wanted a broader dialogue. In the end, there was no noteworthy result. But appearances in this case are deceiving. This meeting is likely to prove more successful than many expect.
That’s because interests on both sides are at last correctly aligned to give talks a shot at success. For India, it has been a matter of reaching several conclusions at the same time. First, New Delhi has failed to browbeat Islamabad into steps like cracking down on Lashkar-e-Taiba, the terrorist group responsible for the Nov. 2008 Mumbai attacks. Indian saber rattling alone hasn’t done the trick, just as in 2002 when India’s armed forces tried but failed to intimidate Pakistan into halting the flow of jihadis into the Indian-controlled part of Kashmir.
At the same time, the United States has been pressing New Delhi to reduce tensions along the Pakistani border. Washington hopes relative stability along Pakistan’s eastern border will allow Islamabad to focus more energies on securing its western border with Afghanistan. Given these circumstances, negotiating with Pakistan over outstanding disputes—and the trust-building and enhanced security that might ensue—looks like a smarter approach than what India has been doing up to now.
Meanwhile, a dialogue with Pakistan is now politically possible in India. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh sincerely wants to make a “breakthrough” in bilateral relations and he’s increasingly confident saying so. During the elections last year, Mr. Singh trumpeted his efforts to promote back-channel diplomacy for conflict resolution during the tenure of former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf. Controversially, he also met Pakistan’s current prime minister, Yousaf Raza Gillani, at Sharm al Shaikh in Egypt on July 16 last year to formally pledge a wide-ranging dialogue.
In Pakistan, too, there seems to be a significant shift in foreign policy, as formulated by the powerful military establishment. For the first time since 9/11, the American and Pakistani militaries and intelligence agencies seem to be working closely together to stem the tide of al Qaeda-sponsored terrorism in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Far from casting doubt on the Pakistani military’s motives and abilities, the Americans are tripping over themselves praising the Pakistan army. The Pakistanis have subdued the al Qaeda Taliban network over most of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, though at the great cost of more than 2,500 soldiers, including one officer for every seven soldiers killed. As a result of this and other successes, the U.S. has offered Pakistan a greater future say in Afghan affairs.
All of this has brought home to Pakistan’s leaders the benefits of being a team player in the region—benefits such as support from the U.S. and greater stability in the western regions. A working relationship with India will be more important as Afghan reconstruction continues, given that India has made over a billion dollars in investments in Afghanistan and thus is an important stakeholder. With militants set to be a problem in the west for the foreseeable future, Islamabad also has an interest in stabilizing its relationship with its eastern neighbor.
Despite the forces pushing and pulling both sides to the table, talks won’t always go smoothly—last month’s attempt shows some of what can go wrong. India doesn’t want to seem like it has succumbed to “terrorist blackmail” without extracting some concrete results from Pakistan, and Pakistan doesn’t want to seem like it is begging India from a position of weakness to change the status quo. So neither side can afford to reach an agreement on anything “too quickly.” In addition, neither wants to admit any American pressure to change its policies. This may partly explain why the recent initiative failed to produce any results: On the eve of the talks, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton admitted a role in nudging both sides to the table.
But in other ways there are signs that both sides have learned from the mistakes of the past. Earlier attempts faltered because neither side had laid the political groundwork back home for any eventual deal. The Sharm al Shaikh meeting last year, for instance, was not preceded in India by any media briefings that might have set the stage for a change in course. Indeed, at that time Mr. Singh’s eagerness for talks was like a red flag waved in front of anti-Pakistan bulls like his own national security adviser, M.K. Narayanan, and prime ministerial adviser Shyam Saran. This time, Mr. Singh has brought in a new security adviser, Shiv Shankar Menon, with extensive experience in Pakistan affairs. Mr. Singh’s re-election campaign itself has also shown that the politics of this issue are changing in India.
In Pakistan, too, the signs are good. For the first time in history, the government and opposition are on the same page regarding the necessity of burying the war hatchet with India. The ruling Peoples Party led by President Asif Zardari, widower of the assassinated leader Benazir Bhutto, has always espoused the case of peace with India, even at the cost of sometimes irritating the military. And now the opposition led by Nawaz Sharif, a former prime minister, is on board as well. Mr. Sharif is the architect of the Lahore summit in 1999 with former Indian prime minister Atal Vajpayee, when both sides agreed to hold wide-ranging talks unconditionally. In the old days, Pakistan used to put pre-conditions on the talks—such as requiring a solution to the Kashmir dispute before anything else—but now insists that all issues should be on the table at one time.
Against this backdrop, the ball is rolling again. The Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao is expected to visit Islamabad later this month, followed by the Indian home minister in April. Then the two prime ministers will meet in Bhutan at the end of April at the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation summit. These occasions will doubtless provide adequate opportunity to pave the way for a formal resumption of talks on most issues.
There are obvious exchanges to be made between India and Pakistan. India must stop aiding Baluch insurgents based in Afghanistan and Pakistan must cease supporting jihadis against India. Pakistan must relax the trade regime for India’s exports. India must resume support for the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline. Both must demilitarize border areas and allow greater flow of people between the two countries. And both must find a way forward of Kashmir.
These issues and many more will take time and trust to resolve. So it should not be surprising if the most recent India-Pakistan meeting wasn’t an enormous success. The more important fact is that the two sides are now closer to being able to hash out their differences than in recent memory.
Mr. Sethi is editor in chief of The Friday Times, a national weekly, and Dunya TV, a national news channel in Pakistan


Filed under India, Pakistan

51 responses to “Now India and Pakistan Can Get Down to Business

  1. Ganpat Ram

    Personally, I think the Kashmir dispute has served the interests of India superbly.

    As long as it continues, and Pakistan wastes its strength on the futile “cause” of trying to get the Kashmir Valley (the only predominantly Muslim bit of Kashmir held by India) it means India will have to keep its borders with Pakistan sealed.

    That has big implications.

    Pakistan’s population growth is very fast, and if it were wise enough to drop the crazy Kashmir issue and become friends with India, it would have splendid possibilites of promoting Muslim expansionism at the expense of Hindus.

    It could butter up Hinduy vanity and offer a confederal union with India, with free population movement. That would mean Hindus being trapped in a state with steeply rising Muslim numbers. Eventually it will mean the Islamisation of the Hindus.

    To prevent all this, Hindus need a hostile Pakistan cut off from India.

    And that is precisely what the Lashkar-e-Taiba supporting Pakistan offers them.

    Pakistan will NEVER get Kashmir. All it will do is beat its head bloody.

    Go right ahead.

  2. hoss

    This is so Un-Sethi type of article. But I am not surprised. The more closer he is getting to the army; we see more establishment-centric analysis from him.
    In the second paragraph he confidently claimed that India failed to intimidate Pak in to “halting the flow of Jihadi” into IHK.
    Later on he claimed that now ISI and the US intelligent agencies are cooperating in fighting the “Alqaeda sponsored terrorism” in Pak and Afghan on the western side of the country.
    Hmmm… So the ones that are going to India are Jihadi but the ones sponsored by Alqaeda are really the terrorists. He does not even mention the Taliban that have unleashed terror in Pakistan and have links with the groups (the good Jihadis) in Punjab that unleash jihad in Indian and Pakistani cities. He is camouflaging the recent acts of terrorism by the Taliban and their Punjab based allies in Karachi and Lahore and in many cities of NWFP.
    Right now I am not going to worry about what India should do, but what Pakistani awam have to do to convince the establishment and its allies like Najm Sethi that there are no Jihadis in Pakistan, they are all terrorists. How could the poor people of Pakistan convince this establishment that murders and mayhem unleashed by some Jihadis in the Pakistani cities is terrorism at par with the “alqaeda sponsored terrorism” conducted against the Afghans and in the tribal areas?
    The US has thrown tons of money and threats Pakistan’s way to get the army to cooperate in the tribal areas. Do the people of Pakistan need that kind of money to convince the Army that they too are a victim of terrorism? The problem is that since the poor Awam can’t come up with that kind of money, the establishment would continue to refuse to do anything against the terrorists, it calls jihadi.
    Is this article sort of invitation to India to pay up like the US did for Pakistan Army to “halt the flow of Jihadi” into India?
    Is this a subtle demand for payoff to “halt the flow of Jihadi” like the army is extracting from the US.
    How low the Pak army can go?

  3. maestro96

    Pakistan needs to reorient its policy from a security centered one based on the ‘aggressive designs’ of India to a more economic centered one. But I don’t see that happening anytime soon mainly because the old habits die hard. The Pak Military loves India as its enemy. Every army envies a strong adversary; it’s an institutional thing and a reason de etre for the Pak Army. Secondly, the mode in the India and the Indian media is vehemently anti-Pakistan and is in no mode for a compromise, something which would be needed to make a breakthrough. Call me a pessimist but I don’t see any breakthroughs in Indo-Pak relationships in the near future.

  4. Sadia Hussain

    Stable peace between India and Pakistan would ensure greater progress for the whole south Asian region, as both of the nations have built up massive armies at the cost of development of their own masses. In these turbulent times India and Pakistan face identical threats of religious extremism and now this threat can further alienate them or it could be a common ground for cooperation and building a progressive future. Pakistan has done a lot to curb the extremist elements within its borders and continues to do so, have a peaceful neighbor will assure it do more in this regard.

  5. hoss

    Terrorists struck twice in under a week in Lahore. Since they didn’t do the nasty deeds in the tribal areas, per Mr. Sethi, we should really call them Jihadi and not the terrorists.
    Sadia Hussain,
    I agree with your sentiments but I am unable to correlate peace between the two countries with the rising defense expenses. Defense expenses do cut in the development budgets but I am not sure both countries will cut their defense budgets, after efforts of better relations are productive.
    Recently, Brig. Sharraf made at good point that a conventional war between the two countries in the presence of the nukes is pretty much out of the equation (paraphrasing).The presence of nukes forces an uneasy truce between the two countries. Despite the truce or the status quo, the defense buildup for conventional wars hasn’t dropped, on the contrary both countries have spent more money on conventional weapons in the last ten or so years.
    Both countries have ambitions to be the regional power in the area, I am not sure they will give up the deceptive honor of being the “Regional Power” after they have reconciled their differences. The imperatives of the regional power games suggest that both will not reduce their defense expenses just because there is peace between the two countries.
    In Pakistan’s case, the simple truth is that the high levels of defense expenses also ensure the army preeminence in the political affairs in Pakistan. I doubt that the army is ready or will be ready to give that up just because there is peace between the countries.

  6. maestro96

    We are in a tough position right now. Although, I do agree that peace and reconciliation with India should be pursued, but not at the cost of parity with India on defense. Pak military establishment needs to look at the model which Israel has so successfully pursued. Strong offense is the best defense and that can only come about in the long run with a strong economic base.

  7. Ganpat Ram


    As a Hindu, I can only strongly recommend Pakistan following your course.

    Be as tough as possible with India, so Muslims cannot exploit the “Hind-Paki Bhai-Bhai” card which will be fatal to Hindu interests…..

  8. Hayyer

    I read somewhere of a statement attributed to General Kayani to the effect that the PA prepares itself according to the adversary’s capabilities not its intentions.
    That would be a rather open ended budgetary demand. If the adversary is India and it is openly allied in friendship to Pakistan but preparing to fight to the death with China then PA too must equip to that level.
    General Kayani’s statement if correctly reported may pass as a profundity, but is more likely self serving.

  9. Hayyer

    Ganpat Ram:
    For a moment in your post on another thread you fooled me.
    If I understand you correctly above you believe that ‘Hindu India’ is using Kashmir as a tool to ward off Muslims. Very clever!
    Those poor trusting Kashmiris who put their faith in Nehru, Indian secularism and ‘Hindu’ promises got it all wrong and the separatists are right? Is that what you imply?

  10. Ganpat Ram


    I imply that Kashmiris have a darned sight more rights in India than Hindus in Muslim countries.

    I imply that Pakistan or anyone else can have Kashmir, if they are prepared to fight for it.

    I imply that in the partition Muslims got a large non-Muslim area: the Chittagong Hill Tracts, only 3 per cent Muslim.

    I imply that I don’t give a hoot what you think.

  11. lal

    Being an Indian from the southern most tip, ,Kashmir is a complicated issue.As a person,i will like someday go there,see the mountains,and escape from all this really hot climate to a place where real snow exists….All the talk about the integrity of India as a geographical entity makes no emotional connection to me….The establishment but constantly reminds me,that Kashmir is just a front,and if i agree to it, ‘they ‘will just put 4ward more such demands…that is something to which i empathise as a common Indian….nothing in PTH in the last one year has changed my perception

  12. vajra


    Now there’s a troll, if you like. Much more than G. Vishvas was.

  13. rex minor

    Unfortunately, I do not foresee any peace in the subcontinent as long as the US strategy of “destabilise and control” continues in that part of the world. Here is the classical scenario for them to succeeed;

    . Pakistan Army is currently busy using their destructive energy on their own citizens in Pashtoon territory( somewhat similar to what they did in Bangla Desh etc…..) and the Pashtoons will gradually expand their response gradually throughout major cities.
    . The current Indian Govt. strategy of suppressing the unrest in their own country also by the military, including the one in Kashmir, is unlikely to cease in the near future. As Indian economy grows, their military spending is likely to increase simply to upgrade and expand their air and naval arsenals from Russians, Israelis and the US. Ofcourse on diplomatic front, they would be willing to make gestures to Pakistan Govt. for talks on terrorism and trade.

    It is any one’s guess when the situation in Pakistan would become comparable to that of Somalia? The spill over effect across the border over into the Iranian territory and the Indian mainland would become the real noghtmare. Nothing could stand in the way of this happening!! Indian leaders would no longer be in a position to blame the impotent Govt. of Pakistan.
    It is sad, very sad for all the signs are that the current military leaders of Pakistan and the US, do not have any scruples to stop the adventure in the Pashtoon holy territory. No foreign military in history has escaped unharmed for their adventure in the Pashtoon land.

  14. Mustafa Shaban

    @rexminor: I dont see it exactly the way you do , but I know what you mean but I do not believe Pakistan will resemble Somalia, it will resemble Sri Lanka in terms of terrorism , but much faster. But you have an interesting analyses and some very important facts about American designs in this part of the world.

  15. Hayyer

    Ganpat Ram:
    If you don’t care a hoot you shouldn’t respond.

    You were right maestro. I was taken in. Just another right wing nationalist, dressed up to strip.

  16. Hayyer

    Or a flasher, do you think?

  17. vajra


    A flasher, I think. Look at his posts on other threads.

  18. rex minor

    @Mustafa Shaban

    I pray and hope that you are right.

    Sri Lanka was let down by their Indian brothers! The Pashtoons are around sixty million in total and they are going to rise and unite as they have always done in their history and nothing would stop them to spread across the whole of the continent. You do not have a terrorism in your country but a so called bloody civil war, the army involvemnt to suppress their citizens with foreign support. The Pashtoons strikes into the heartland of Pakistan is likely to grow. The army and the police force would be powerless to protect their own citizens. Most of the casuaties is likely going to be the civilians, old, women and children.
    The so called insurgency or terrorism is being created successfully right across the muslim land. The response is to follow, from Turkey to Iran and Afghanistan. The military of Kemal Ata Turk is on its long leg, their former leaders being prosecuted for treason, the next scenario, Turkey quitting NATO. Pakistan military is going to meet the the same fate sooner or later. Most of the ex’s have already left the country. In time every one would know as to who were on the CIA payroll.

  19. B. Civilian

    rex minor

    ” The Pashtoons are around sixty million in total and they are going to rise and unite as they have always done in their history and nothing would stop them to spread across the whole of the continent. ”

    it took them 300 years never to rise up against the mughals? they needed a madman from delhi to come and try and make them ‘rise’ against the sikhs, and the result of that was hardly them ‘spreading across’ any continent, country or village.

    other than a (very) brief period under ahmed shah, when did the pasthtuns unite and against whom? did khushal khan have no pashtun opponents and enemies? or the pashtun against the british?

    which history did you read and what is this “continent” that is about to be taken over by the pashtuns? asia? well they are spread across some of it already from southern thailand all the way to dubai and northern s.arabia, with their highest concentration in a single city anywhere in the world being in karachi.

  20. Mustafa Shaban

    @rexminor: The indian RAW was behind the LTTE insurgency, so I wouldnt consider them bothers of Sri Lanka. The relations between the 2 have been quite sour lately, especially since there has been speculation that India was behind the attack on the Sri Lankan team in Pakistan as punishment for defeating LTTE also since strong links hav been seen btween indian intellegence and LTTE, but india does that to all its neighbours including Pakistan. Sri Lanka how ever has good relations with Pakistan and China since they helped arm the Sri Lankan government. It did have good relations with US because of that until just recently when Sri Lanks started entertaining the Chinese by offering them strategic ports to control, which the US eagerly wanted. Now the western media hypocritically is firing at Sri Lanka for being careless and killing many civilians, they never said such thing in 25 years until now, shows they really dont give a dam nabout human rght and had something else bothering them.

    Also the Pashtoons are patriotic and respect the Army for getting rid of the TTP. They are also annoyed at the way the operation is being conducted but at the same time they dont put complete blame on Pak Army. They understand the circumstances. I dont see Pashtoon rebellion, though they are very discontent with present government, but who isnt? They understand the need for military action though some critics suggest it should be more precise and less intense, I am not an expert so I dont know how well the Army is doing to avoid civilian casualties and winning hearts and minds, they seem to be doing good with that and also they must be trying to do the operation with the best precision possible. Hard to say, I dont think they are careless.

    I see that terrorism is hurting Pakistan a lot and it bad, but at the same time I see progress in countering the insurgency, from a military standpoint we have done our bit, now its time for ISI and police to do thier bit on catching smaller, and harder to catch elements. I see these attacks not as a demonstration of power of TTP, but a desparate attempt to try and achieve something despite thier massive losses. The fire burns brightest before it goes out. Please dont feel gloomy, have hope, we can get out of this. Only a matter of time. I know it looks like a long way but its not.

  21. insight

    Ganpat Ram:

    @I imply that in the partition Muslims got a large non-Muslim area: the Chittagong Hill Tracts, only 3 per cent Muslim.”

    –If you spend 5minutes at wikipedia looking at the Radcliff line and the resulting disputes, you will find yourself sitting in a glass house throwing stones at others. It is pointless talking about such disputes—just accept them and move on.

  22. Ganpat Ram


    Enlighten us, O Insight.

    What did Radcliffe deny the Muslims that he gave the Hindus?

    Gurudaspur is often mentioned in the tearful but unbrainy Pak lamentations. But the district in question had only a tiny Muslim majority, and had to to India to give some geographical buffering to Amritsar, the Sikhs’ holy city.

    The Chittagong Hill Tracts is a far bigger area, and the non-Muslim majority there was as big as 97 per cent.

    I am not surprised Indians don’t mention this to counter Pak claims to the Kashmir Valley (the small and only Muslim area of Kashmir held by India). Indian negotiators are not known for intelligence. They could also point out that in Pak-held Kashmir there are non-Muslim areas.

  23. Ganpat Ram

    had to go to India, I meant

  24. rex minor

    @ Bcivilian
    I know it is difficult to understand the Pashtoons, they argue within their families, even hurt and kill their own cousins , but remain faithful to their traditions, their family and their tribes. They take hell of a time to come together, unite and then route their enemies from their land. I am sorry but you have a very limited understanding of the history of these people. The cynacism is unlikely to assist you. You want to research then be my guest and try to learn about these unique specie.These people have puzzled and fascinated many historians and researchers going back to Al baruni. Bellow is also considered as a great authority on Pashtoons. Any attempt to delve deep into the history of these interesting people would prove baffling. I would suggest that you take a deep breadth and recognise the simple facts:
    . They have decisively decimated and defeated the Brits. and the Russians in recent history. The great warriors, Generals and Lords of the British empire fought them and most of them are now lying silently in the valleys of the Pashtoon territory. Those who survived came back to their families and told them proudly that they had the honour to combat against Pashtoons.
    . It has not been possible to have a Govt. in Kabul without the blessing of Pashtoons. My guess is that in the future no Govt. would survive in Islamabad as well without the approval of Pashtoon tribal leaders. The current leaders of Pakistan Govt. should recognise this reality. Unless of course they shift their capital to the moon. It is too late to talk about a dialogue between the Govt. leaders , Army, the political party leaders and the so called Taliban leaders to agree on a peaceful resolution of the situation.( By the way this was given in evening European news, together with Taliban actions in Qandhar, Swat and Lahore)
    . The current US lead forces commander in Afghanistan is perobably reading General Warburton account of his experience in his book and Arthur Swinson book on North-West Frontier 1839-1947 and practically copying the tactics used by his scottish ancestors in the nineteenth century. To use Arthur Swinson’s explanation ” This region generates mysterious pressure which has involved Britain, Russia, China, Persia, Turkey , and even France, and have brought the world to the brink of war and yet they seem to have lost little of their potency. The proof is that in the 21st century we are witnessing the rerun of the previous campaigns.

    @Mustafa Shaban
    India is a rising economic power and has a very strong military. Their leadership, however, is politically very weak. They would like to have a permanent seat in the UN Security Council, are in the process of having an aircraft carrear with MIG 29’s, but still are not in a position to take the independent decision of pressuring Siri Lancans to behave with civilian minorities.
    If they are not in a position to intervene and stop the bloodshed of civilian Tamils in their neighbourhood, then I wonder what is the purpose of buying a sea elephant, for a joy ride? They did intervene in East Pakistan to save the Bengali civilians from the brutality of the Pakistan Army.
    . In my opinion it is a mistake for Pakistan to be friendly with Siri Lanka, similar to Indian close cooperation with Israel. What a farce of the foreign policies of these two Govts. suppressing their own citizens and nurturing animosity towards their direct neighbour.
    . I am sorry the Pashtoons are not patriotic people, their absolute loyalty is for their family and the tribe. They could not care less about so called Pakistan or Afghanistan. They are ruthless and do not show any mercy for their enemies. You need to defeat them completely, and no one has ever been able to succeed against them. Unfortunately Pakistan Army is one of the weakest opponent they must have come across in their history. Pakistan Army is not a national army per say, the soldiers and the officers have not been taught to disobey illegal orders. Sooner or later those officers who are ordering the bombing of civilians and use of heavy artillery will have to face the justice. Many soldiers have lost their lives in vain and many are likely to suffer similar fate. Unlike in a combat with non muslims. even the mosque will not provide a sanctuary for them. After their actions in Swat and the Wazir territory the so called Talibans would hunt them down throughout Pakistan.
    One can only feel sorry for their poor souls. They are not even trained to fight the asymmetric combat.


  25. vajra

    @rex minor

    Are you by any chance a Pashtoon yourself? Or is it a vicarious defence? The reason for my asking is that you sometimes contradict and instruct native Pashtoons, and it seems to be a curious, paradoxical path that you have adopted.

    It is a personal question, and you need not answer it if you do not wish to.

  26. rex minor

    All along you have been very curious. I did not mind your asking me personal questions. Yes, I am from the land of Pashtoons and know more about the folks, their origin, the region and their history. In fact, inview of my domicile in Europe they are more close to me than my own family. I also find that many Indians on other Reuters Blog forums such as ‘Afghanistan Journal’, have more knowledge of Pashtoons or Afghan history than people on this forum. There’s is a cold blooded history and the tall mountains are the witness of that Nation. As a matter of fact my primary purpose of coming to Europe was to learn about the self styled foes of Pashtoons, who travelled long distances to fight and die in the Pashtoon land. I was curious and was surprised to learn that they are more simpler than the Pashtoons and became the passage of history simply because of their masters.

    As I said once to Bcivilian that I am not the expert on Pashtoons, but simply have tried to study the Psyche of the people and their leaders of this Nation. M views do not have to be in accord with yours or Bcivilians. I am surprised sometimes, how people on this forum do not allow for the interpretation of and errors of individual writers of written history.

  27. vajra

    @rex minor

    I am sorry that the brusque tone of my post made you think that there was any intolerance of your views involved, merely because they did not match with someone else’s. There is also not the slightest doubt about your grasp and knowledge of Afghan history, and the history of the Pashtoon people. It is all the more to be respected now that I know that you are speaking with some authority about the psyche and thinking of the people in question.

    I have some comments and observations about some of your mails and posts but would like to be sure that this reply is satisfactory before proceeding.

  28. B. Civilian

    @rex minor

    you’ve answered none of my questions, i’m afraid.

    starting from pashtuns spreading over the continent, you have now changed your stance to saying that afghanistan itself cannot be ruled without obtaining pashtun consent. you’ve still not answered how the mughals were able to rule kabul for a long time without major reversals except occasional infighting amongst mughal princes.

    the first afghan war: it was a retreating convoy of military (25%-30%) and civilian british thinking they had promise of safe passage back home, not realisiing that that was not how afghanistan worked. also, more pertinent to your claim, was shah shuja not pashtun?

    the soviet invasion: did the panjsheris and heratis play no role in the resistance? were there no pashtuns in the afghan govt and army? in fact, dr najibullah was a descendant of the same tribes who had spared none but dr brydon almost a century and half earlier.

    without going into the debate about american aid, stinger missiles, chinese logistics, saudi money and pakistani involvment, your argument can only best be accepted as claiming that afghans sometimes have been successfully subjugated and at other times have successfully resisted and ejected invaders.

    that makes them not that different than many other peoples of the world. nobody argued that they were not a difficult people and terrain to subjugate, for foreigners. but to claim that no non-afghan has ever done it successfully and for a significant length of time is simply contrary to historical fact.

    to say that pashtuns instead of afghanistan have all these attributes that you claim is even more problematic. that islamabad cannot function successfully with (pakistani) pashtuns opposed to it is no news to anyone in islamabad, peshawar or lahore.

    you wish to claim that the pashtuns are opposed to islamabad. we can have that debate another day. but your claim that they are anything other than bitterly opposed to and most direct victims of the taliban and are, instead, in your view, one and the same as the taliban is preposterous. it flies in the face of what the common people, from all walks of life, themselves are saying when i talk to them personally.

    they have huge resentments about the afghan war, how it was conducted, what it did to their land, and also how the taliban were allowed to replace the mujahideen and make inroads (physically) into their lands. and also how musharraf had effectively left them at the mercy of the taliban and assorted int’l jehadis for far too long. but what they want at any price is to be rid of these murderers. all other resentments and complaints and issues and misunderstandings can wait till after that, as far as they are concerned.

  29. Ganpat Ram

    India and the West should let Pakistan try to control Afghanistan – they have no choice any way.

    Eventually, the Afghans will turn thir guns against the Paks and drain them in a long-drawn-out war.

  30. Mustafa Shaban

    @rexminor: India is an economic power. Their military is not that good. They spend loads of money on thier military, much more than thier neighbours, 30 billion dollars approx. They have good fighter jets and weapons. But due to immense curroption and mismanagement their huge armament of weapons are very ill maintained and rusty. A lot of thier fighter jets cant even take off from the ground, they are in the processs of replacing thier jets. They also have many failed missile tests and projects. They do have a decent army but no where as good as it can be. The Pak Army spends much less but its maintanence and precision is tops. India has quantity and Pak has quality. The 2 powers are not far apart in firepower.

    Their intellegence agency RAW, is very active in all of Indias neighbouring countries, Sri Lanka, Nepal , Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan, rumors have also come that RAW has provided some aid to the Uighurs of China, not too sure about that one.

    Also I disagree with your point of view on East Pakistan. The Pakistan Army did not commit atrocities against the people of East Pakistan. India intervened having an imperial mindset with the intention to brake a part of Pakistan away. They dont give a damn about human rights. Just like US invaded Iraq for ”WMD” and ”bring democracy” , all imperial countries try to paint a humanitarian picture of thier brutal intervention and invasions.

    Pakistan has taken a good stance regarding Sri Lanka. Like Afghanistan, Sri Lanka is also a base for proxy war between India and Pakistan. An enemys enemy is a friend. Similar is Indias relationship with Israel. India has a very hegemonic imperial mindset and its nieghbours, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka etc are trying to stop the spread of Indian influence in the region collectively which I believe is the right thing to do.

    I dont agree with your position on Pashtoons. You are more expert than me. What I think is that the Pashtoons are not part of TTP, they are against TTP becuase of how these terrorists have bombed innocent women and children and they actually support Pakistan against the terrorists. Your point of view is similar, yet slightly different from Imran Khans view, he also beleives that Pak Army is at war with the entire Pashtoon tribal belt. But I disagreee with both of you in that sense. Yet I can understand how you draw that conclusion. I think the Pashtoon have realised that terrorists like TTP cannot represent thier interests and hence they dont support the terrorists. Also the Pakistan Army has shown a brilliant performance in thier battle against TTP and has defeated them in many areas, and now only a few pockets remain. TTP is very different from the Pashtoons. The Pak Army have won the hearts and minds of the people. We have a professional Army who has done better counterinsurgency than India, NATO or US. They managed to clear Swat in just three months. Again here I differ with you on the performance of Pakistan Army, again your point of view is similar to IK on this point.

    Only at some point the Pak Army was fighting on the wishes of US and Pak government but now they are fighting because it is necessary to defeat the militants. At the same time however the Pak Army has refused to cooperate with the US by not conducting an operation in North Waziristan. They are not trained to fight counterinsurgency but they are learning fast. But to completely eradicate terrorism they will need the help of ISI and police as well.

  31. vajra

    @mustafa shaban

    The Pakistan Army did not commit atrocities against the people of East Pakistan.

    Are you serious?

  32. B. Civilian

    @Mustafa Shaban

    “at some point the Pak Army was fighting on the wishes of US and Pak government but now they are fighting because it is necessary to defeat the militants.”

    so why exactly would you vote for imran khan? the best he can do is be the govt of pak, and have the army take no notice of him. if he really wanted to have the power to decide or to influence decision-making, he should have joined the army. isn’t that, effectively, what you are saying?

    and how would the caliph zaid hamid be any different? you’ve just told us that the pak army decides independently of the pak govt. what difference would it make whether the govt was a democratic one or a caliphate.

  33. rex minor

    @B civilian, Mustafa shaban
    I have expressed my views and I need not say more to avoid further confusion. To deal with Pashtoons, you have to study each of the independent tribes separately, to bundle them as one or to separate them with labels would be an error. There are no Pakistani or Afghan Pashtoons!
    One cannot create the confusion in order to obtain clarity. This methodology may be commonly used in science but is not workable with people. The anglo saxons followed the credo of divide and rule, in fact I heard it the other day from Gordon Brown and I quote, we have to divide the talabans in order to ……….! The Americans neo-fascists credo is to destabilise in order to control. Both of these credos are not workable with Pashtoons.
    The Pashtoons do not negotiate. No one should take them for granted or trust them. They do not give a free passage to foreigners. Like somone recently said that one can rent their loyalty for a specific period. His crude language is true, they are currently allowing the safe passage of the US and NATO military and their supplies against a fixed cash payment. What a way for the US to fight the so called Talibans, pay to one tribe to move from one place to the other and then claim “Operation?” was a success. This is nothing but a smoke screen for the domestiv consumption. I would not be surprised if Mr Karzai, a Pashtoon leader, was to order tomorrow the arrest of the US ambassador and the foreign military Generals. The Amir of Afghanistan did this to the UK ambassador Mr Cavagnari in the 19th century and to the sadness of many he was butchered in the embassy with his staff.

    I have lots of respect for the Indians and Pakistanis alike, but feel distressed with their Govt. love and hate policies for their citizens. Both Countries need to reform their colonial military structure to make them as National Armies. Both armies are at present drilled every day with the slogan of regarding the other as their arch enemy. Both armies have earned the reputation of suppressing their citizens(this in my view was the reason why India and Pakistan stayed away from condemning the atrocities and ruthless suppression of Temils in Siri Lanka). This must stop if they are genuine in their desire to create good neighbourly relations.
    I am sure Mr Manmohan Singh and Mr Sardari would not understand what I am talking about.
    In my view there are no terrorists in India or Pakistan. India should sort out their own mess in Kashmir and Pakistan should do the same in their own back yard. India will gain recognition and respect not on the basis of their economic and military might, but on the stregnth of their playing a greater independent role in world politics.

  34. rex minor

    Sir, you are a very good poker playe! I am no longer going to write about the Pashtoons on this forum. I have declared my biased position now. I am sorry you guys have now to rely on the input of the ex ISI chief or the ex cricketer who is trying to make his foot prints in politics.

  35. rex minor

    India must drop(Kashmir) the bag of worms it is carrying.

  36. rex minor

    @Mustafa Shaban
    Please do not live under the illusion that Pakistan Army do not commit atrocities. The poor soldiers were simply carrying out orders. The PA should not be proud of what they did in East. On your next visit to UK you could dine in a Bengali Restaurant and learn about this sad episode. What Pakistan Army is now doing in the Pashtoon area is equally shabby and disgraceful. No armies in today’s world can commit attrocities for whatever justified reason and then claim respect from the world community.
    In as much as it hurts me I would not be proud of the army which initiates a campaign against the civilians and then surrenders against a smarter enemy. PA needs to be reformed.

  37. For some reason we try to link the local suicide bombings and chaos with the Taliban. I think it is about time we should realize that India has extremism problem in their country as well and we ccant really pin this war on others. This calls for National security and the terrorist must PAY for thousands of lives being taken each single day.

  38. vajra

    @rex minor

    Why are you saying this? What did I say to get this reaction?

    Certainly there are differences in our standpoint, but none that cannot be discussed.

    Please reconsider. I am appalled that you should react like this.

  39. rex minor

    It is nothing personal. You are a gentleman, very curious all along to know the identity of people with whom you discuss. I get similar urge in order to understand the view point of the other fully, but usually get rebuffed. I now rely on my instincts and speculate.
    Inspite of my background, I am tucked away in a country which is far away from the Asian sub-continent. Both Bcivilian and Mustapha Shaban have a very rich knowledge of their country and are better placed to evaluate the ground reality.
    I do not have much to add anything.

  40. rex minor

    Sorry, you tend to ask leading questions. They include the answers to your questions, therefore, I do not comment, e.g;
    . Was shah shuja not a pashtun?
    .Did the panjsheris and heratis play no role in the resistance?
    and so on—–

  41. Mustafa Shaban

    @BCivlian: What I meant to say is that the Pakistan government under US pressure sent the Army to Waziristan in the beginning. But later on with the rise of TTP it became necessary for the government to send the Army to tackle the TTP. The army comes under the government. The Army does not disobey the government unless they stage a coup. Otherwise Army is following government orders.

    @rexminor: You are absolutely right about the Pashtoonsand thier nature. But let me ask you, are the Pashtoons the TTP? Are they fighting with TTP? In my opinion they are fighting with the Army against the TTP or they are neutral. The TTP are a mix of foreigners and Pakistanis who beleive in Takfiri ideology, or are foriegn backed militants . This war is against TTP not Pashtoons, Pastoons does not = TTP or vice versa. They are two completely different things. The Pashtoons do not feel targetted, though they may feel that the method used to hunt down the terrorists are not good and harmful especially when looking at the drone attacks. If the Pashtoons were to side with the TTP which is not the case, things would be 100 times worse than they are now as the Pashtoons are large in number and have a lot of firepower. I think they just want to end this war and live in peace.

    To conclude, I dont think this is a war agains the Pashtoons by the Army, the war is against a terrorist outfit that is 10-15,000 strong. The Pashtoons either help the Army to get rid of these terrorists or they are neutral because they feel the Army’s method of action creates way too many civilian casualties. The Pashtoons may not be patriotic but they arent anti Pakistan either.

    You are a pashtoon so you have more credibility than me on this topic but I do not feel that Pashtoons are as ruthless, primitive and unpatriotic as you show them to be, I think they are more rational than that.

  42. vajra

    @Mustafa Shaban

    As you know, the pace of learning and knowledge has been increasing every century, every decade, every year. Sometimes it is difficult for old people to keep up. Could you help me by explaining these two passages from your last post?

    A. You are absolutely right about the Pashtoonsand thier nature.

    B. I do not feel that Pashtoons are as ruthless, primitive and unpatriotic as you show them to be, I think they are more rational than that.

    Which of these is your view, A or B?

  43. Mustafa Shaban

    @vajra: What I meant is that rex minor understands the nature of the pashtoon culture and practices. He also has mentioned the characterestics of the pashtoon as being uncomprimising, and stuff, which is true to a certain extent, but not to the extreme that he portrays. Though he is more knowledgable about them but somehow i feel that they do not go to that extreme.

  44. Mustafa Shaban

    many pashtoons and other pakistanis have told me otherwise

  45. rex minor

    @Mustafa Shaban
    I guess by TTP you mean Terrorists. Sorry, but I do not agree with your premise. I have indicated earlier that there are no terrorists in the entire sub- continent. This is simply a smoke screen for the various actors to operate. Let us recall the history;

    . Afghanistan had a Govt. under the so called talaban group of Pashtoons. It was invaded by the US with assistance from the Northern Alliance Group.

    . The Taliban group of Pashtoons and their followers have since been resisting foreign occupation. I would call them a resistance group, similar to the French resistence against Hitler army. They were also classified by the Germans as Terrorists.
    . Your ex military ruler caved in against the mighty US and offered them total assistance and services against an annual fee. Many citizens of your country as well as foreign visitors with muslim names were alledged to be picked up by the Pakistani military and handed over to the CIA.
    . A group of over zealous Pashtoons from Swat terrain down to the Waziri land started improving their defences and local institutions to protect their religion against the so called Kafirs who had invaded their cousin’s land and were expected to use their land route for military supplies. As you know a large number of residents in Swat are not Pashtoons and therefore became scared of the changes. Well, the rest is now a history as well. Many civilians were killed, many lost their homes and had to flee to become IDP’s. The PA intrusion into the waziri land is also now a history. Many thousands of the PA have lost their lives in the process and simply managed to destroy houses and cause the death of civilians, children and old people .
    The Pashtoons resistence and in-fighting among themselves is going to continue and is likely to spread throughout Pakistan major cities including army installations.
    Please do not misinterpret my words about Pashtoons. They are ruthless only against their enemies. They are more friendly and hospitable than an average human being and are respectful to people of other religions.
    If you care to read history of these people, you would learn that they are blessed by no other than the Prophet of God Mohammad(pbuh) himself. The historians do mention about their converting to Islam event and their leader receiving a title from Prophet Mohammad(pbuh). I believe that this could be the secret of their invincibility.
    Like other people in the world the Pashtoons also want peace for their families. They are anti no body but they do not want to be messed about. Sure, they are in the army, have ruled Pakistan with firm hands for a considerable period, even lost part of the country with idiocity, but this is another story.

  46. Mustafa Shaban

    @rexminor: I dont agree bt i respect your opinion and analysis regarding the war. As for Pashtoons you are rite, they were blessed by Prophet Muhammed SAWW, he called them Pathan which means the rudder, or steering of a ship to indicate that they have accepted Islam and are going in the right direction.

  47. insight


    @I have indicated earlier that there are no terrorists in the entire sub- continent.”
    -“what’s in a name……..”. The act is terrorism.

    “Afghanistan had a Govt. under the so called talaban group of Pashtoons. It was invaded by the US with assistance from the Northern Alliance Group.”

    –Ask this Qn: Taliban were a pushtoons gone rogue and with help of foreign govts werre governing Afghanistan and collaborating with terrorists called as Al-qaida (but you will not call A-Q as terrorists now). I wonder why common Afghans were so happy with US inavsion in Afghanistan.

    @If you care to read history of these people, you would learn that they are blessed by no other than the Prophet of God Mohammad(pbuh) himself. The historians do mention about their converting to Islam event and their leader receiving a title from Prophet Mohammad(pbuh). I believe that this could be the secret of their invincibility.”

    —Mullah Omar, the then CEO of Afghanistan calls Grand meeting of Pushtoons as un-Islamic. As I said this set of people were ruling by the gun and did not care about Pushtoon values that you so emphasize

  48. insight

    Ganpat Ram jee:

    @What did Radcliffe deny the Muslims that he gave the Hindus?
    –There are more disputes on Radcliffe. I refer you to Wikipedia for details.

    @Gurudaspur is often mentioned in the tearful but unbrainy Pak lamentations. But the district in question had only a tiny Muslim majority, and had to to India to give some geographical buffering to Amritsar, the Sikhs’ holy city.”

    —-Do you expect Pakistan to understand buffering as a reason. But then they Would expect something in return, isn’t it? What Was that?

    @The Chittagong Hill Tracts is a far bigger area, and the non-Muslim majority there was as big as 97 per cent.”
    –Slender margin or Wide margin does not matter, it is all or none case. Yes, it should have been With India not Pakistan.

    Here is final: Chittagong is not With Pakistan noW. Gurdaspur is rightly in India, retrospectively, because Ahmedias make most of Muslim population of Gurdaspur … and they are not counted as Muslims in today’s Pakistan. So it is all fixed. Nothing to cry about.

  49. rex minor

    Now we are getting down to basics. Terrorism is defined in the oxford english dictionary as “the practice of using violent and intimidating methods, especially to achieve political ends”
    You can follow the US propaganda and classify resistance under the banner of insurgency, radicalism and terrorism. Do you expect the Pashtoons to use the missiles to ward off US and PA army bombing of their families in their own land? Please be reasonable and fair in your judgement.
    There were many common people in Europe who were happy to weIcome the invading German army intrusion in their country and even coloborated with them, but the French resistence did go on until the Germans were defeated.

    No one can delete the Pashtoon values from their centuries old culture and traditions. I agree with you only the stronger survives and rules. They all have guns. There were groups within the Northern Alliance who colobarated with the Russians and later with the US. This is also not unique among the Pashtoons. Mr Karzai is one of them, however, if he proves to be stronger than Mullah Omar or others then he is going to stay. But he has to get rid rid of the foreigners!
    In the meantime, let the American marines test their metal. Right now a single sniper was shown on “France 24 channel” giving a dance lesson to the platoon of marines for several hours before the air cover came for their rescue. The Pakistan rag tag regular army is no match.
    Have a nice day.

  50. B. Civilian

    “Mullah Omar, the then CEO of Afghanistan calls Grand meeting of Pushtoons as un-Islamic. As I said this set of people were ruling by the gun and did not care about Pushtoon values that you so emphasize”

    the pashtuns of both settled and tribal nwfp cannot stand nor understand the taliban, who have been murdering and, systematically, destroying them, their society and their land and traditions.

    – taliban routinely mutilate dead bodies, even going to the extent of exhuming one and hanging it upside down from a pylon for two days. there is no tradition of mutilating an enemy – dead or alive – amongst the pashtuns.

    – taliban had been executing people, blowing up their homes as punishment, accusing them of being criminals of one sort or another, simply on the orders of their own leadership without any reference to any kind of a jirga. the least a tribesman and a clan is and always has been entitled to is to have his/their chance to speak before a jirga and only be subjected to the jirga’s decision. even maliks have had to go through the jirga.

    – taliban have decimated jirgas by killing hundreds and more of ‘elders’. jirgas, even grand jirgas, have been blown up by suicide bombers (driving a truck full of explosives in one instance, killing 128) while in session. ‘elders’ (community leaders) have been kidnapped routinely and executed – shot point blank. many more assassinated.

    those who think pashtun tribal society is an open-for-all, free style, might is right, survival of the fittest, know nothing about them. the pashtuns know better than most others how important it is to ensure mutual survival and equilibrium through mutual compromise, and skillful conflict prevention and resolution. for those living in a relatively desolate and rugged land where everyone is armed, these are essential skills and realisation/wisdom.

    the reason for them being warrior-like was not because they thrived on conflict but that they had always derived an income, to supplement their subsistence (or below) farming, by being the masters of their rugged land and the passes through the mountains that travellers, traders and armies needed to use. occasional raids in to adjoining settled areas was another, less dependable and infrequent, method of supplementing income (it was more dangerous too since you need to be careful about who you provoke and how much, even if you have been aggrieved). many tribals are and always have been traders too, in one sense or the other. with all due respect to rex minor, as well as all the respect i can muster on top of that, when he talks of the taliban, terrorists or terrorism, and what that means to and for the pashtun, he doesn’t know what he is talking about.

  51. rex minor

    You are a true gentleman and perhaps a pacifist. From your use of ‘bloody’ before civilian, I could guess that you are also a pashtoon. Let me try to clarify my position. I do not reside in the Pashtoon land or the Pakistan land. Personally I have always been on the side of victims regardless of their religion and ethnic background.

    I could’nt care less what mullah Omar’s views about Islam are, or for that matter the views of Maududi’s in Pakistan. But I am astonished to note your complete disregard of the reality in the Pashtoon land as if something extraordinary is happening there now for the first time. Let us please not start a debate about the unpleasant practices in that land which you describe. I do not disagree with your commentry, and the events do not surprise me.
    I abohr with disgust what the foreigners are doing in that land and equally condemn the responses from the Resistance. If any one believes that the western forces in collusion with afghan and Pakistan army can commit atrocities and set a “guatanomo 2” in Kabul with impunity then they have been definitely mislead by the local colaborators. To dismiss their acts simply by using the word of ‘terrorist’ is a complete spin which the neo conservatives of the US system invented under the auspices of George W.
    I have mentioned several times that the Pashtoons are ruthless against their enemies, you might be an exception and this is very noble.
    I would very much like to know your views on the Drone attacks on individuals who are killed like birds, and about the areal bombardment and the use of long range artillery on innocent old, women and children, who then get buried by the villagers in silence the next day. The jounalists in Pakistan are not even allowed to see the shabby act of the victorious army. And then this is shown on the videos via the cable network, released by the Pentagon.
    Let us recall the history, many foreigners have perished in that land for several centries now and no one is going to find any mass graves that one usually finds on the battle grounds of France Germany and many other parts of Europe which experienced two world wars.
    . This is not new that the enemy bodies are mutilated and burnt. Even among themselves they would dig out the buried body of their enemy and then burn it. I can go on …….if you are not aware of the crude methods. No one should be proud of these acts but let no one ignore that the Pashtoons do revenge their deads.
    . For your info. it is also a unique practice among the Pashtoons to bury the person alive, if they revere him and in case he decides to leave them.