Indian circus comes to town!

Courtesy Express Tribune

Ivan Petrovich Pavlov is famous for his research on conditional reflexes, though he did much else to serve the cause of scientific inquiry. The phrase “Pavlov’s dog” has come to describe someone who merely reacts to a situation rather than using critical thinking. Famous English writer, Aldous Huxley, used the idea of Pavlovian conditioning as a major theme in his dystopian novel, Brave New World.

Now, keep in mind the Pavlovian reflex and then write the word India in a Pakistani newspaper that also reaches Indians through the World Wide Web. For greater fun, try identifying India’s many problems. You will have a growling bunch pounce on you. They would even look scary if they weren’t so clownishly Pavlovian.

Random exhibit: a few days ago this newspaper carried an editorial exhorting the Pakistani readers to take note that while India might be weighed down by corruption etcetera, schadenfreude is not Pakistan’s best response and we need to see why the world has a more positive view of India. Perfectly legit and decent this argument.

The non-Pavlovian response would have been to appreciate the newspaper for putting things in a perspective. Perish that thought, however. Like the biblical Gog and Magog arrived the Indians, as they always do, to attack the writer of the piece and Pakistan with nary a thought to the nuance contained in the argument.

There was only one Pakistani reader, G Khan, who kept his humour and noticed, with some amusement, the number of Indians who had pounced on the editorial compared to the Pakistanis and this, praise be to the Lord, in a Pakistani newspaper while, no prizes for guessing, accusing Pakistanis of being obsessed with India! That’s the current pitch. If you are an Indian, you smell like a rose by default; if you are a Pakistani, well, you know what that means!

While Indian newspapers, for the most part, will not publish comments by Pakistanis critical of India nor allow Pakistani writers to tackle ticklish issues of which there is a surfeit, we seem to show a generosity that borders on the masochistic. I should know the Indian attitude, exceptions granted, having written for two major Indian newspapers in the last ten years. I still do for one.

There have been comments upon comments in this newspaper by Indians about, among other things, corruption in Pakistan. Something like the 2G scandal in Pakistan would have given the Indians a field day. Try placing a comment on the Radia tapes, a scandal which, alone in its spread, is enough to eclipse Pakistan’s collective scams over 63 years, or even offer to write on it in an Indian newspaper, and you would know what I am saying.

India has its strengths, without doubt. We need to emulate them, no gainsaying that either. But for Indians to embark on an exercise, every time a whistle is blown, to prove India is the best thing to happen this side of Eden is to ask for willing suspension of disbelief at a level that defies even disbelief.

But while India would deal with its issues internally and even scathingly, it won’t let outsiders in. That’s fine by me. But a people who are so aggressively private about their affairs should use the same benchmark for others.

Having said this, and despite everything that is wrong with India, what is most commendable is the average Indian’s pride in his state, something we sorely lack; his confidence in collective action; his resolve that slowly but surely he will carry India forward and his understanding that his relationship with the state is interactive. Problems there are but they are to be taken care of, not constantly lamented about.

Contrast this with the comments Pakistani readers pen, full of despondency, predicting doomsday scenarios, waiting for a deus ex machina, desiring a utopia, putting the onus of everything on the state while wishing for manna to descend from the Heavens, much like the Israelites. Change requires more than just trawling the net and penning dirges, folks. It needs thoughtful action and solutions. Are we ready for the hard work?

Meanwhile, I have said India and Indians a number of times here; the circus is about to hit town!

The writer was a Ford Scholar at the Program in Arms Control, Disarmament and International Security at UIUC (1997) and a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Foreign Policy Studies Program

Published in The Express Tribune, November 29th, 2010.



Filed under Pakistan

28 responses to “Indian circus comes to town!

  1. Yawar

    Sour grapes.
    This guy is one pretentious fellow.

  2. Anoop

    The only thing I can say to this is better get used to it. Or, build an E-wall. In about a decade or sooner, there will be more Internet users in India than there will be people in Pakistan. Indians will swarm the Pakistani websites, especially English Language sites of all kind. But, Urdu sites will remain off-limits.

    You can add Internet to the list which comprises- Movies, Music, Pop-Culture,etc.

    Not only Pakistani websites, more and more Indians will be seen in all English Language websites of the world.

    And, try not to generalize too much.

  3. Sardar Khan.

    If you are so sure of indians will able to swarm Pakistani web sites,then why don’t you ask your so called democratic government allow the free approach to Pakistanis and we show who will dominate the bunderstani ( the hanuman worshipers/indians) web sites.Just boosting on Pakistani web sites won’t prove you are right.Give an open feild and then compare not under censorship.

  4. Anoop

    @Sardar Khan,

    We are lesser humans because we worship Hanuman, you caught us. I feel ashamed of myself.

    I can point out the obvious but I dont think you have the intellectual capacity to understand what I will say even though I am lowly Hanuman worshipper.

  5. Haq

    no wonder apocalypse is near.

  6. AMG

    I guess you are right, the response is indeed Pavlovian, but only because of the same sort of stimuli.
    I wonder why Pakistanis do not have any other benchmark than India.

  7. Devil's Sidekick

    Sardar Khan,

    Isn’t it better to be a monkey worshiper than holding a pedophile to be the next best thing to god.

  8. AJ

    An article just to rant about reader’s comments! A bit childish isn’t it? The author ran out of issues so decided to let one rip against readers from India.

    Indian comments come in all hues, some are overtly jingoistic while there are others who introspect. To paint all of them into one color is shoddy.

  9. no-communal

    I must say this is a frivolous and shallow article by Haider.

    My guess is Indians come to (reasonable) Pakistani websites for two or three reasons. Speaking for myself, I was interested to find out why Indian Muslims (not all of them, but only some) wanted a separate space. And now that they have it, how they are doing. But most importantly, and I think this is true for most Indians, I got interested only after 26/11.

    To check this hypothesis, one can do a quick survey on PTH itself (my guess is PTH attracts more Indian readers than Express Tribune, but I may be wrong). An article titled “An Indian in Pakistan: Manasa Patnam” attracted 1 comment on June 17, 2008. Another article, “Discussing Democracy in Islamabad – An Indian’s sojourn to Pakistan” attracted 2 comments on June 8, 2008. “Why not hang Sarabjit Singh” attracted 3 comments. It’s pretty much the same across the board. An explosive title such as “Protecting Pakistan’s Hindus” attracted a sum total of 40 comments. Only 7 of them are from the period before 26/11. Only 2 from these seven were from Indians.

  10. Parvez

    Haider hit the nail on the head. Look at the quality of comments right here. These guys from across the border are lack in human qualities and they are happy anyway they can put down Pakistan.

  11. neel123

    A handful of Indians in a few Pakistani blogs and news papers may or may not represent the nation’s position accurately, which is similarly applicable to to a few Pakistanis in Indian blogs and news papers. Also it would be reasonable to expect that there would be people with varying intellectual levels.

    What is important though is, this the only way to provide / obtain an insight into what is going on in each other’s minds.

    You can very well shut the other side out, but that will deprive you of valuable insight and the perspective from the other side, or you can filter out the relevant information ignoring the garbage, or you can turn the blog into a mutual admiration club.

  12. bciv


    i am curious to find out how you could tell by just looking at the archives whether someone commenting on PTH was from india or not.

  13. no-communal

    That’s a valid question. For the posts I mentioned, it’s easy to tell the country of origin from the comments themselves. Also, for Protecting Pakistan’s Hindus the commenters were mostly familiar voices. It’s not that difficult to judge the country of origin from the content itself, but sure there will be some mishits.

  14. no-communal


    I wanted to mention one more thing. This weekend I had a few friends in my place for a Thanksgiving dinner. Predictably the conversation touched upon Pakistan. Equally predictably, almost noone had much idea about Pakistan, other than it’s home of a few well-known singers (who, according to them, mostly tour in India anyway) and LeT/Taliban. It took me a while to explain that Pakistan had about the same GDP as India (despite the last 10 years), had advanced human capital, and an advanced but helpless liberal class.

    I perfectly understand the anguish Pakistanis feel being deluged with aggressive comments from Indians. But often it’s the same Indians who turn the first spokespersons for Pakistan in their own friends circle. In this sense sites such as PTH are serving a small but important purpose in its own way.

  15. Bade Miyan

    I thought that instead of writing a whole paragraph, I would do some crude data gathering just for fun. Here are the results of the comment section of the article that the author is referring to:

    Total number of commentators = approx. 32
    Indians = approx. 20

    For Indians:
    Neutral For India Against India Random For Pakistan Against Pakistan
    6 10(3 M) 2 1 1 5

    For Pakistanis:
    Neutral For India Against India Random For Pakistan Against Pakistan
    1 2 6 1 1

    Some of the people are cross listed as they tilted one way or the another but I kept them in neutral too on the overall message.

    There was only 1 non-South Asian and he was neutral(in a negative way).

    ‘M’ denotes Muslim for Indian Muslims. It may seem unnecessary but I thought I would include it, just in case.

    You can make your own deductions. I am not sure what the author is talking about. If you take out the habitual offenders(Anoop, Cheema, etc.), on the whole, I thought the Indians(and 3 Pakistanis) engaged using well reasoned arguments.

    Why can’t we conclude that Indians are just more curious? After all, I remember Nadeem(?) lamenting in one of his articles about Pakistanis knowing so little of their neighbors or hardly ever reading Indian newspapers. As for commenting in the Indian newspapers, most of the Pakistanis who show up start with the usual bunderstan like drivel, which causes the other side to engage in similar abuse. The poor Indian Muslims are caught in middle. The media is generally sensitive towards minority feelings so they have to moderate the comments. Plus, they are terrified of some lunatic going berserk. The Pakistanis who put forth constructive arguments are often welcomed.

    Just go and check out any youtube. Pakistanis are not far behind when it comes to abuse.

  16. Very interesting (and pertinent) article. If not just on this site – the internet (youtube/rediff etc.) is full of unrelated abusive comments from Indians and Pakistanis.

    In lands where abusive references to mothers and sisters are part of daily and common language, where daily life is so stressful , where negativity is part of the air we breathe – what do you expect ?

    So don’t take the abuse literally – they are just saying “Bhench** , kya bakwaas chai banayee hai “

  17. @Bade Miyan
    At the risk of seeming to participate in this discussion, could I ask you to repeat your post, specifically, the statistics. It confused me (not very difficult to achieve); what are the categories? Are they Neutral/ For India/ Against India/ Random/ For Pakistan/ Against Pakistan? Six in all? In which case, the numbers listed are not the same in the two lists; you have listed 6/10/2/1/1/5 in the first, but in the following case (Pakistanis), there are only five numbers: 1/2/6/1/1. Shouldn’t there be a 0 or a blank or a non-zero number in one space in the second list? Also, what is the difference between the categories neutral and random?
    Presumably to be statistically significant, this would have to be done 30 times at least, to apply small-sample statistics. If you have plans to do so, I shall wait on the edge of my chair for the results.
    The results are disappointing except to the pessimist. I am not a pessimist, hence for me it was uniformly disappointing. Perhaps (just a random observation) coefficients should be applied to the numbers, according to the frequency with which individuals participate. So someone who contributes frequently (you, n-c) would have a greater weight than a fly-by shooter.
    This is not to be interpreted as a comment on the discussion as it was originally, only an observation on your statistics and possible future readings.

  18. libertarian

    One of Ejaz Haider’s flippant pieces. He’s the same guy who said: “The world pays attention to India because India interests it (the world); it pays attention to Pakistan because Pakistan scares it”.

    Then got his butt chewed out by the Zaid Hamid brigade. Made a hasty retreat and was more “balanced” from them on. No more unadulterated admiration for the Hindoos next door – just not good for health 🙂

  19. Bade Miyan

    Thanks for your detailed query. I appreciate it. You are right. I should have put “0” in place where there was none. I had used spaces to make sure that they were under right columns, but when I posted it, I guess it got jumbled.
    So, for Pakistanis, it should have been, 1/2/6/0/1/1.

    Neutral is meant to signify people who were by and large “reasonable” or fair. Some leaned a little bit to one side, which is why I included them in another column too.

    Random is meant for some turds like Amar who use random statements like Islamo-fascism no matter what the occasion. There was one character like that there. I can’t say for sure that he was Indian because he pooh-poohed Indian claims too, but I kept him in the Indian column for the lack of choices.

    As I said, this was a crude test and not a scientific one. For a scientific one, I would have to take such samples from at least 3-4 opinion pieces. There is literature that supports such analysis if the data gathering is more expensive. It can be made more rigorous by asking a neutral observer to gather date from equal number of opinion pieces from both Indian and Pakistani daily.

    There have been cases, especially in Bayesian framework that you can start your analysis with just one sample piece like I sort of attempted here, albeit very crudely. This is a very amateur hypothesis testing where the Null hypothesis meant that the author contention was right. I tried to criticize his claim by questioning his reference data.

    I must thank you for your quite critical review. It actually makes me think that I should do something like that: a rigorous statistical analysis to see if this claim(by the above author) is true. 🙂

    Small sample test typically require at least 27-28 samples but this is a different case. We know that there is an inherent bias in the data and so the Normal assumption for the data is not very accurate. Bayesian framework is more useful in this case.

    I can write more later if you wish. I am a little tired now. This was quite interesting. Thanks.

  20. Bade Miyan

    And yes as you said the categories are:
    Neutral/ For India/ Against India/ Random/ For Pakistan/ Against Pakistan

  21. @Bade Miyan

    On further reflection, you are right. There are inherent biases in the sample, and a Normal distribution cannot be assumed; so no T-test or F-test. Bayesian sounds best. If you do take this further, it would be fascinating. If arrays are available, I can crunch numbers, for what its worth. Excel preferred; nothing else on my Mac at home. And I’ve been corporate overhead for too long to return to coding.

    PS: I have minor quibbles about the categories. Should ‘Random’ be included at all, or excluded as unrepresentative or out of the universe? Certainly Amar by any definition is out of the universe.

  22. Bade Miyan

    Actually, the complication is entirely in the methodology of data collection. You can remove the bias using carefully designed experiments, like for example: using a double blind experiments. In this case, however, it is slightly complicated to do that since the measurements are qualitative and even assigning numerical values to such qualitative things may incur some biases. Above all, few sites are without any moderators, which has to be taken into account as well.

    So, the moment one can settle on a effective data collection mechanism, which I think would be quite time consuming, the analysis wouldn’t be that difficult.

    I included random because at that time I was slightly irritated with that comment, but on second thoughts, I think it is more important that what appears at the first glance. There is something called an “influential” observation in regression. People like that by their corrosive comments have a negative influence on any debate, much greater in proportion to their number, as is well known. One can take them out but it’s a little hard to quantify their corroding influence on the successive comments, an added complexity.

    This is quite interesting, however. In winter holidays, I might take up this topic.
    Thanks again,

  23. Bade Miyan

    By the way, if anyone gets a chance, do read Ahmed Ali’s Twilight in Delhi. It is marvelous.

  24. Alakshyendra

    wow!! looks like ejaz mian has run out of subjects. has he run out of work? for if someone chooses to write about indian posters on anonymous forums, one can safely deduce that he/she has a lot of spare time at hand.

  25. simply61

    How did I miss this one? Enjoyed the read. BTW, just to make matters clear,leave aside the Pakistanis,we Indians are also not allowed any real news or much open commentary on the huge 2G scam.The media, in an attempt to stand by its own, has managed a near total blackout of this scam.
    We might miss the details of this mother of all scams but if because of it Barkha/Arindam and others of the same hues come down a notch from their holier-than-thou reporting style,then some good would have come out of this disaster.

    The tainted minister, A.Raja is a protege of the extended Karunanidhi clan(that includes the media barons..Marans) and was made minister of the telecom ministry a second time AFTER it was widely known that there had been serious misconduct in 2G spectrum allotment. As things stand corruption could be India’s second name.

  26. hindu militant

    @ sardar khan,
    “we show who will dominate the bunderstani ( the hanuman worshipers/indians)”
    My question, I am a hanuman worshipper, you got a problem? Wanna fight a jihad?
    Why do you want to dominate us? If this is the kind of garbage you spew on my religion, you shouldnt have any problem I spew even greater garbage on your one and only true religion, and your peadophile prophet?

  27. Amit Kumar

    Dear Author,
    I am one who knew very little about Pakistan before 16/11 Mumbai attack. I tried to understand and read few books also started following news and sometimes commented.
    Let me put you honestly.. i found Pakistan more screwed then i could ever imagined. Also, i learned that Pakistan’s location makes its a very imp country and Its not possible for India to just create a wall and forget about it.

  28. Subcontinental

    Amit Kumar writes: I am one who knew very little about Pakistan before 16/11 Mumbai attack.

    You have a typo there. It should be 26/11.