Thoughts by Bahadar Ali

July 30, 2010

David Cameron: manners please!

Filed under: Political — bkhan @ 1:06 am

The British Prime Minister David Cameroon, choose the wrong audience, wrong time and wrong proof to castigate Pakistan in later’s efforts against terrorists and terrorism. Mr. Cameron may have been over charged by the prospects of leveraging its position against Pakistan to seek future business prospects with India. However, a caution must be observed while delivering sweeping statements. International diplomacy requires that certain norms must be respected while addressing a third nation.

The British past glory is an obsolete history now. The fact of the matter is that it is just another tiny island floating in Atlantics and rest of the mainland Europe is trying to keep it as far on the other side of English Channel as possible. UK mired by its complex demographic factors, which also highlights the British adventurism in the past, is not in a position anymore to dictate sovereign nations as per the cravings of its past nostalgia. However, this is certainly not to belittle UK in its entirety but it is also important to put the things in their right perspective.

We are certainly critical of Pakistan’s role in the past, but that is not a fact anymore. With the elected government in place which has achieved consensus against the the extremist elements and waged a war that is practically shaking the whole edifice of extremism. Pakistan also understands that it is no longer obliged by the adventurism of the UK’s home grown terrorists to serve as catalyst for its action against the terrorists at home. Extremism is rust which is eroding the foundations of Pakistan and certainly a vast majority of the public understands that. So pushing Pakistan by giving pious sermons by a foreign dignitary in a hostile territory can serve no purpose but to create a bad taste.

Any such statement is counter productive owing to the fact that it rejuvenates the feelings of nationalism. Nationalism in the times of peace is a good thing however a country at war within itself, the nationalism doesn’t help. The whole attention of general public goes out of borders and the feelings of hostility find a new punching bag, which eventually gives another life-line to the terrorists who also join the chorus. And the extremist apologists get more potency in their rhetoric against the West and they make general Pakistani to believe that their government is the friend of ‘real’ enemy.

The move to win hearts and minds cannot be carried on this way. David Cameron’s political expediency is understandable and also his rightist approach but by issuing such statements he is simply undoing all the efforts so far his predecessors have done to create soft corner in the heart of general Pakistani about the UK and the West. In this respect Mr. Cameron must learn some diplomacy lessons from its ally across the Atlantic, the US, whose foreign minister is setting an example guide of a successful foreign policy with Pakistan, whom Western press regards as a difficult ally. She engages herself with the common man during her trips to Pakistan and is open to admitting the past wrong-doings of US in case of Pakistan. Of course detractors are still open to the criticism however inertly Pakistani’s feel more comfortable with a mix of her frank and formal remarks. These are the ways of passing on the right message and also not offending an already difficult audience.

Wiki-leaks, its timing and consequences requires a more detailed analysis which I would do sometime later as more facts unfold. But again Mr. Cameron had no right to formulate his warnings to Pakistan on the un-authentic and seemingly a multi-faceted intelligence reports.

July 17, 2010

India-Pakistan Grow up, Please!

Filed under: Political — bkhan @ 5:14 am

 The stalemate persisted during and after the fresh round of talks between foreign ministers of India and Pakistan in Islamabad. From cordial to hawkish overtures by Pakistani foreign minister didn’t help the matters either. Even during the wars, foreign offices are the only places where the tone remains calm and finds means to mitigate the razor sharpness of the relationship. This is exactly what the word ‘diplomacy’ stands for.

On the Indian side, it seems their snobbish behavior is equally deteriorating the already almost non-existent relations between bitter and nuclear South Asian rivals. Indian foreign minister’s insistence to focus talks only around the cross-border terrorism and discussing the means to circumvent  the non-state actors to carry on the events of the like of 26/11 Mumbai attacks. Fair enough. But I don’t expect them to be naive enough to understand the complexity of the situation Pakistan is facing.  Almost on daily basis the terrorists are exploding bombs everywhere, irrespective of the efforts done by the security apparatus of the country. We have a series of 9/11s, 7/7s and 26/11s in every nook and corner of Pakistan for last three years. Who to blame but thyself. Of course Pakistan coined a misadventure by eulogizing the old dreams of Arab aggrandizement and subsequently translating that into a bloody civil war on its own turf. No one is safe, civil, military, minorities, majorities, everyone is wounded. In fact the whole country is bleeding and the end doesn’t seem in sight. Now if under these circumstances India sees that these warmongers are in Pakistani state control, that would be a total miscalculation on their part.

When I recall the dream of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, to see India-Pakistan to be the two states of the likes of  US-Canada or when I read Mohandas Gandhi’s fasting unto death in protest of India’s refusal to pay Pakistan’s share of resources right after the separation, all this seems like a dream now. The Muslim League and Congress leadership had different views and vision at that time of division. But then establishments on the both sides of the divide, the way they have institutionalized the hatred over the course of 60 years, is horrific and very unfortunate, to say the least.

I always had the understanding that as Pakistan always faced the Martial Law quagmire roughly once in every decade since its existence and consequently the genuine democratic leadership couldn’t emerge out to tackle the issues in a more intelligent and less belligerent way. However, this round of talks and those preceding these also broke the myth of Indian leaderships prudence and their realpolitik spell, at least in my view. Their insistence on carrying talks solely on uni-point agenda of terrorism earns them nothing on the Pakistani side. Non-state actors are powerful enough to break the shell and cause havoc anywhere in the sub-continent. The need is to bridge up differences and some confidence building 
measures must be taken irrespective of what happened in the past. The fresh start is the need of the time as hostility has already kept the 1200 millions souls of the sub-continent hostage to the adventurisms of all sorts.

Indian leadership must assess the situation and bring their commercial interests to Pakistan as their top agenda. Under the fog of a chequered past they forget that Pakistan offers them a vast market for their surplus goods of their juvenile economy. A market that comprises of 180 million people, who are receptive to all kind of imports from Paan Masala to tea and from technological books to visual entertainment of all sorts. Owing to the fact that India is discovering a new romance with the West which Pakistan has already explored in its 60 years existence. One of the advantages (or disadvantages) of flirting with the Capitalist West, is to develop spending habits and credit based economies which leads to an extravagant and spendthrift life-style. And indeed Pakistanis mastered this style and are a big extravagants!. India needs to tap this luxury savvy nation and sell them the stuff at competitive 
prices to what currently they pay for. This would offer them huge profits because of the common border and almost no freight expense. But in order to attain this, they need to ease down the situation and show some brinksmanship on their part to win the hearts of the general Pakistani public. I don’t expect Indians to hand over Kashmir overnight, but at least show some open mindedness in this and other pending issues.

However owing to the nature of ambitious adventurism of the past, if amends are not made, things can turn really ugly for both of these countries. No doubt India has emerged as a more confidant nation on the global scale in the last 20 odd years, it still need to adapt new ways of co-existence vis-à-vis Pakistan. A Pakistan under constant pressure from the US presence in Afghanistan and an already over stretched military waging a war of its survival in the border regions cannot deliver more than what they are doing presently. Bullying Pakistan would only encourage the non-state actors to further destabilize it and would lead to a more nasty and grave situation which she could handle. An instable Pakistan would certainly be counter productive to Indian global ambitions and designs. The only panacea is to break the status-quo and both nations should come forward with open mind and heart. As we have seen that hostility yields nothing but poverty and hunger, in which both nations don’t have any enviable record among the global community.

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