Not so beautiful from this angle

 

 

(Love the Ranade portrait behind Obama-YLH)

From The Hindu

Ejaz Haider

President Obama’s visit did nothing for peaceful relations between India and Pakistan.

 

– PHOTO: AFP

ADDRESS AND CLARITY: U.S. President Barack Obama bows after delivering his speech at Parliament House in New Delhi. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is on the left.  

Let us assume, in a simple model, that the U.S. President Barack Obama wants Pakistan and India to talk and make peace because, in a broader sense, this would lead to stability in South and West Asia which, in turn, would serve both the core and peripheral interests of the United States and, by extension, of the world.

Please note the sub-clauses even simplicity can generate in this part of the world. But leaving that aside, and for now even the details where the clichéd devil resides, did he actually serve this cause through his India visit? No.

The de-hyphenation

Behind all the nice talk about setting the world right through a Lockean cooperative framework lurks Mr. Hobbes. First, Mr. Obama tried to de-hyphenate Pakistan and India by not including Pakistan on this visit even as Pakistan is supposed to be a vital strategic partner and a state that is, presumably, going to determine, by his own admission, not only the future of this region but of the entire world. This would be amusing if it did not indicate a deep policy flaw. Then there is the irony of it, palpable, when we saw India re-hyphenating itself with Pakistan by almost pestering Mr. Obama to please call Pakistan a terrorist state!

In the end he did talk about “insist[ing] to Pakistan’s leaders that terrorist safe-havens within their borders are unacceptable.” Today’s speeches may not be Periclean but neither should they entirely lose nuance, especially if the thrust is to change rather than perpetuate the past and the present. Positing it as he did, it might have placated India a little but drew sneers from Pakistan.

Then, speaking at the Lok Sabha, Mr. Obama saluted “India’s long history as a leading contributor to United Nations peacekeeping missions” and welcomed “India as it prepares to take its seat on the United Nations Security Council.”

Pakistan and peacekeeping

Right! Statistically, Pakistan is the largest contributor to U.N. peacekeeping missions followed by Bangladesh and then India, thank you. India’s long history also includes blocking U.N. resolutions and having disputes with almost every neighbour on its periphery. But let’s move away from facts to the good story. It makes eminent sense, from Mr. Hobbes’ perspective, to try and get India in. It’s realpolitik.

And realpolitik is protean. Pakistan created the coffee club at the U.N. and it will, as it has, use every alliance at the U.N. and work the procedures to frustrate every attempt to get India in. It also knows that the working groups on U.N. reform, including that of the Security Council, require a process infested with procedural rigmaroles. So, the UNSC seat for India is not about to happen.

But what this enunciation has done, and it doesn’t appear too useful in the overall game, is to get Islamabad to issue a stern demarche to Washington. From Pakistan’s perspective, the U.S. is catering to India’s interests without regard to Pakistan’s concerns about India. For an actor that wants Pakistan to appreciate its interests in West Asia and help it achieve them, this approach violates even the basics of an incentives structure model.

Add to this de-listing the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) from what Mr. Obama described as the “so-called ‘entity list’” and indicating facilitating India’s entry into Club de Londres and other bodies that form the decision-making super-structure of nuclear- and non-proliferation-related activities and there’s another red rag for Pakistan. All of this will go through many hurdles, a discussion of which is not possible here; much of it may not even be free lunch for India given that it is enhancing its nuclear capabilities. But the symbolism of it is more important than the substance. And the minus side is that it keeps Pakistan outside instead of pulling it in, even as Mr. Obama wants to influence Pakistan’s choices.

C, P and K-factors

The important point here is not that the United States should not help India emerge. Nor is it that India should not enjoy the dividends of its impressive efforts. In a minus-Pakistan scenario, Mr. Obama’s policy could even be hailed on multiple counts including, as some commentators in India pointed out, for the C-factor. The problem is that there are the P and K factors and they cannot be wished away.

Given that India and Pakistan are conflictual states, both are bound to rely on their comparative advantage at any given point to frustrate the other. India wants to capitalise on its increasing ability to interest the world; Pakistan would on its ability to worry the world. On the sidelines of the many positives India can offer to the world, Pakistanis fear that India is simultaneously marshalling the world against Pakistan; Islamabad claims too that it is covertly leveraging groups against it, the evidence of which has been shared with both New Delhi and Washington. In theory, the policy of covert ops offers plausible deniability and India can, to its great advantage, use the same groups that have now turned on Pakistan. A smart strategy this, but there is nothing cooperative and Lockean about it!

India’s Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh, during the joint press conference, said: “We are committed to engage Pakistan … But it is our request that you cannot simultaneously be talking and at the same time the terror machine is as active as ever before. Once Pakistan moves away from this terror-induced coercion, we will be very happy to engage productively with Pakistan to resolve all outstanding issues.”

Well said. Once again, without contextualising things, we get into this chicken and egg problem in terms of cause and effect. But the words of Salvador de Madariaga, once chairman of the League of Nations Disarmament Commission, may form good advice in terms of direction of causality in most affairs, not just disarmament:

“The trouble with disarmament was (and still is) that the problem of war is tackled upside down and at the wrong end … Nations don’t distrust each other because they are armed; they are armed because they distrust each other. And therefore to want disarmament before a minimum of common agreement on fundamentals is as absurd as to want people to go undressed in winter. Let the weather be warm, and they will undress readily enough without committees to tell them so.”

Let the weather be warm and we can all enjoy the sunny beach.

( The writer is Contributing Editor, The Friday Times.)

22 Comments

Filed under Pakistan

22 responses to “Not so beautiful from this angle

  1. Victor H.

    “(Love the Ranade portrait behind Obama-YLH)”

    I think it is Bal Gangadhar Tilak, not M.G. Ranade.

  2. YLH

    You are right. But man do they look similar.

    Tilak was a great patriot and a friend to Mr Jinnah and Mr Mohani.

  3. amar

    Ejaz is a known India-baiter. Everything that he has written here will be smirkwhile music to the terror networks and their pak govt. supporters in Pakistan. Some time around Ejaz use to be honest and then he turned pak-pasand.

    Jawed Naqvi is another such India hater. Then we have Praful Bidwai and N. Ram etc. from the “hindu” side.

    There causality chains are truncated to implicate, ridicule and vilify India and flatter those ears in Pakistan who have yet not realized which heinous politics Pakistan has pursued all these 60 years – much to the detriment of its own suffering islamically-suppressed population.

  4. Prasad

    Seriously speaking we dont need a permanent seat at UNSC. I just pray and hope that we get a prime minister as good as Narasimha Rao again ( Manmohan+Pranab Mukherjee combo has done a great job against all odds). WE DONT WANT ANY RELIGION / 26/11 terror attacks. We dont want to prove our supramacy against any country / religion…we just want Roti, kapda makaan in true sense. We want 9% p.a growth to continue for next 20 years. We want Indian IT output get to 220 bn USD by 2020. We want get rid of beasts who needlessly attack us personally ( a’la Mumbai and not against the state say Kashmir)

    We want a liberal strong Pakistan full of Bin Ismail’s..deeply religious / educated/ liberal/ democratic….. I am sure it is my wishful thinking

  5. no-communal

    I don’t find anything objectionable in what Ejaz Haider has written. This is what any reasonable Pakistani would think about the Obama visit.

    Jawed Naqvi, however, is another story. More and more he sounds like fish gasping for last breath in all his efforts to dismiss India.

  6. Prasad

    Jawed Naqvi is a traitor. Nothing else. He finds everything negative about India. I found one of his writing truly repulsive in Dawn. I wrote to him on his gmail id ” Few People in Pak may take your nonsense in Dawn very seriously and decide to attack Bangalore in due course….You will be soley responsible basta…..” He thinks he is Ozzy Osborne, son of a gun doesnot realise he is nothing better than Usha Uthup

  7. no-communal

    @Prasad

    I agree with you about Naqvi. But what’s wrong about Usha Uthup that you compare him with her?

  8. Prasad

    NC: Usha Uthup is a great singer. But logically in all respects, Ozzy is miles ahead….I was just trying to get this reasoning across without any disrespect to both singers…Naqvi is a good journalist, but he is biased, myopic especially when he writes for the Dawn and to Pakistani audience some of whom may have suicidal tendencies and may attack any city in India at whim….and mimics a’la english ones from uthup….sorry but it is a fact

  9. Chote Miyan

    Ylh,
    “Tilak was a great patriot and a friend to Mr Jinnah and Mr Mohani.”

    Is that why Tilak was a great patriot?

    NC,
    Jawed Naqvi is a humorist.

  10. YLH

    No that is why he was a friend of Jinnah and Mohani. Get with the programme.

  11. Prasad

    CM//Is that why Tilak was a great patriot?//
    valid q

    //
    Jawed Naqvi is a humorist.//from which angle??????????????????????????????????????????????

  12. Chote Miyan

    Hmm…Ok. Some people also think of Tilak as a Hindu communalist.

    Prasad,
    Naqvi is a humorist because of his outlandish theories.

  13. Prasad

    Noted. Thanks

  14. amar

    What was it with B G Tilak and the Lucknow pact? He is said to have first brought muslims as muslims into the political game by giving in to their falsified versions of history.

  15. Anil

    Yasser:

    “…Mr. Obama saluted “India’s long history as a leading contributor to United Nations peacekeeping missions” ….

    Pakistan and peacekeeping

    Right! …”

    You above statement spells out a need to de-hyphenate Pakistan and India. This hyphenation is ingrained in the mindset, and puts a framework “India Pakistan (not India)”. Today’s Pakistan cannot create an identity on not-India, there is so much energy and grass root democracy to build where enough leadership emerges to no just have the portrait of Jinnah, but as in Indian parliament the portrait that stares is not of an army general, or sole spokesman Jinnah.

    You have work cut out, Yasser.

  16. lal

    “India wants to capitalise on its increasing ability to interest the world; Pakistan would on its ability to worry the world.”

    interesting observation..

  17. Ahmed

    Haider’s take on Obama’s visit is way off.

    War on terror, Terrorism, Insurgency, Jihad – that is Pakistan’s domain. And, the world looks to Pakistan when any of the words are uttered.

    Economy, jobs, mutual growth, investments – that is a different dimension all together.

    Obama’s visit was not at all about the former, and hence don’t pertain to Pakistan. After a severe drubbing in the local elections, Obama’s trip was all about the latter. In fact, it was purely “business trip” for him. Pakistan should never have figured in this “economy and jobs” trip at all, as that topic is irrelevant to Pakistan. It is unfortunate that the topic came up at all.

    Ahmed

  18. Ejaz Haider says: President Obama’s visit did nothing for peaceful relations between India and Pakistan.

    Can you say non-sequitur? Obama’s visit was about leveraging Indian/Asian growth to boost the US economy. It was about getting Indians to purchase Boeing planes, getting them to award infratructure project contracts to US companies, and getting India to open up the Retail and Insurance sectors to US firms, and so on – all to improve employment in the US.

    “Right! Statistically, Pakistan is the largest contributor to U.N. peacekeeping missions followed by Bangladesh and then India, thank you. India’s long history also includes blocking U.N. resolutions and having disputes with almost every neighbour on its periphery. But let’s move away from facts to the good story.”

    Another non-sequitur. Pakistan’s contribution is irrelevant to Obama’s statement about India. Also, name me a country that doesn’t have major and minor disputes with a neighboring country and I’ll grant this point to you.

    There’s so many non-sequiturs and holes in the entire article that it’s not worth anyone’s time to read it. At best, it makes for good entertainment for Indians and maybe some self-righteous feel-good for Pakistanis.

  19. amar

    That India has conflicts with all its neighbours does not automatically imply that India is the guilty party. A herd of sheep being attacked by wolves from all sides does not mean the wolves are the innocent party.

    Fortunately not all have the same weak logic that Pakistanis have. Pakistanis have weak logic in these matters because they are indoctrinated from childhood onwards to hate India/hindus on the basis of falsified versions of history-narration.

    India today is what remains after the agents and quislings of islamic and british imperialisms robbed and mutilated whatever they could snatch and deface. However, on the whole, the british imperialists did more good than bad, whereas the agents of islamic imperialism did more bad than good.

  20. kaangeya

    Jawed Naqvi is an Indian, so chill please. While he gets my goat with his endless sympathy for terrorist thugs of every stripe, I am sure there are a few things I like about him, that displeases others greatly. Jawed is a scholar of the several flavours of what is called Hindi/Urdu today. His knowledge of Tulsi’s Ramcharit Manas, and the many Kishan and Ram stories of North India is encyclopedic. He is a true blue syncretist.

  21. Hayyer

    The article is based on assumptions that cannot possibly have been the focus of Obama’s Indian visit.
    One assumption is that Obama came to India to represent Pakistan’s case. The US certainly wants peace between India and Pakistan, unlike China, whose entire Pakistani policy is predicated upon hostility between India and Pakistan. Obama may want peace so that Pakistan can focus on US aims in the region. China on the other hand is surely dependent upon our mutual hostility continuing, for its strategic goals in the same region.

    So, no, Obama’s visit did not serve Pakistan’s goal. But neither was this visit predicated upon achieving that goal.

    Hyphenation!

    Why should India and Pakistan be hyphenated by the US or anyone else. Hyphenation implies treating both countries on an equal footing in the context of some some common goal or motive. Nothing is common here except that there is at least one dispute between India and Pakistan in which the Americans have an indirect interest. India is however not obliged to make concessions to Pakistan to enable America to achieve some nebulous goals in Afghanistan. Why should the US President visit Pakistan every time he visits India, or vice-versa? Pakistan is a strategic partner and Obama can and should visit it as often as the two countries feel the necessity. India does not want its relations with the US to be dependent upon upon this US-Pak partnership. The reverse should be true as well.

    “Then there is the irony of it, palpable, when we saw India re-hyphenating itself with Pakistan by almost pestering Mr. Obama to please call Pakistan a terrorist state!”

    That is not hyphenating. India perceives Pakistan to be a state that breeds terrorists as an instrument of its policy towards India. It wants Pakistan included in the list of states that use terror as a policy. It wants the US not to supply weapons that can be used against India. It is pursuing what its perceives to be its interests against an enemy state. Pakistan is within its rights as a strategic ally to demand that the US not give comfort to its enemy India through the nuclear deal or the suspension of the various technology control regimes. Re-hyphenating is hardly the word to describe this attitude.

    There is nothing very distinguished about UN peacekeeping. It is treated by poorly paid third world armies as a means of supplementing income, planning the equity portion of the home loan and such like. First world armies rarely if ever get into the peacekeeping business, except perhaps Canada.

    “Pakistan created the coffee club at the U.N. and it will, as it has, use every alliance at the U.N. and work the procedures to frustrate every attempt to get India in. It also knows that the working groups on U.N. reform, including that of the Security Council, require a process infested with procedural rigmaroles. So, the UNSC seat for India is not about to happen.”

    Nothing less is expected. Of course India is not getting into the SC anytime soon. And when it does what will it do there? The SC is a kind of club of power brokers. India would love to be in it but it does not count for much eventually excepting striking deals that the head honcho spins, or obstructing them.

    “From Pakistan’s perspective, the U.S. is catering to India’s interests without regard to Pakistan’s concerns about India. For an actor that wants Pakistan to appreciate its interests in West Asia and help it achieve them, this approach violates even the basics of an incentives structure model.”

    May I say that Pakistan is being well paid for its troubles in KP. Anything conceded over India and Kashmir would be a bonus. The US may not be in a position to deliver that bonus even if it wanted to.

    “Add to this de-listing the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) from what Mr. Obama described as the “so-called ‘entity list’” and indicating facilitating India’s entry into Club de Londres and other bodies that form the decision-making super-structure of nuclear- and non-proliferation-related activities and there’s another red rag for Pakistan. All of this will go through many hurdles, a discussion of which is not possible here; much of it may not even be free lunch for India given that it is enhancing its nuclear capabilities. But the symbolism of it is more important than the substance. And the minus side is that it keeps Pakistan outside instead of pulling it in, even as Mr. Obama wants to influence Pakistan’s choices.”

    I doubt that the US has pledged its India policy to fulfilling Pakistan’s strategic interests vis a vis India. Pakistan is a contingent liability rather than a strategic asset, because the asset is required to deal with the contingencies that Pakistani policies continue to create. Pakistan does not impose itself on the US horizon as a full economic and military power like China, an economic power and military ally like Japan, an economic power and military ally like Korea, or even an emerging wannabe power like India. It presents itself almost always as a crisis that may blow up if not attended to urgently. And that is how the US deals with it, bromidics apart.

    Mr Ejaz Hyder contradicts himself below, unwittingly perhaps; it may not be a contradiction, just a bald assertion of the way it is with Pakistan.

    “In a minus-Pakistan scenario, Mr. Obama’s policy could even be hailed on multiple counts including, as some commentators in India pointed out, for the C-factor. The problem is that there are the P and K factors and they cannot be wished away………………
    India wants to capitalise on its increasing ability to interest the world; Pakistan would on its ability to worry the world.”

    The K factor is only an excuse for hostility. Even with K in its pocket P would probably continue to worry the world.

    “In theory, the policy of covert ops offers plausible deniability and India can, to its great advantage, use the same groups that have now turned on Pakistan.”

    Covert ops have been carried out for years from Kathmandu, Dacca and Muzzafarabad. India only just got into the act, if at all. Plausible deniability can work for both.

    “ … Nations don’t distrust each other because they are armed; they are armed because they distrust each other. And therefore to want disarmament before a minimum of common agreement on fundamentals is as absurd as to want people to go undressed in winter. Let the weather be warm, and they will undress readily enough without committees to tell them so.”

    Right, and so back to the chicken and egg problem. Who created the distrust-how was it created and so forth. We will never agree and we will always distrust each other, and therefore it is futile to talk of disarmament anyway, so what is all the fuss about?

  22. amar

    Kaangeya writes:
    “Jawed is a scholar of the several flavours of what is called Hindi/Urdu today. His knowledge of Tulsi’s Ramcharit Manas, and the many Kishan and Ram stories of North India is encyclopedic. He is a true blue syncretist.”

    It is not enough to have encyclopedic knowledge. Honesty and fairness are even more important. He lives in India and eats India’s food and yet spews venom against hindus.

    As regards Ejaz Haider – he has obviously decided to become an India-baiter long ago.