President Trump’s decision last week to suspend almost all security aid to Pakistan, which quickly followed his accusation that Pakistan had “given us nothing but lies and deceit,” suggests that his administration is carrying out the hard-line approach that the president foreshadowed in August.
Last Thursday, the State Department confirmed the suspension of security assistance including “coalition support funding,” which reimburses Pakistan for counterterrorism operations, and the Foreign Military Financing program, which pays for purchases of American military hardware, services and training. The decision is expected to affect about $1.3 billion worth of annual aid.
While perhaps it is emotionally satisfying to penalize a country that has supported American enemies in Afghanistan for the past 16 years, the administration’s approach is unlikely to work. Pakistan has greater leverage over us than many imagine.
The keys to understanding Pakistan’s policy and the limitations of American options lie in geography and history. Pakistan essentially amounts to a relatively indefensible sliver astride the Indus River, with flat plains in the east and mountain redoubts populated by hostile tribes in the west. This fragile geography would not matter if not for Pakistan’s long history of enmity toward its far larger neighbor, India.
Since its founding in 1947, Pakistan has defined itself as a national security state in opposition to the Indian behemoth to its east. Pakistanis have long dreaded the prospect of Indian tanks from the adjoining plains of Indian Punjab rolling unimpeded into Lahore and beyond. We may not agree with how Pakistan assesses the threat from India, but in my experience, almost all Pakistanis perceive India as an existential threat.
Because of its real and perceived geographic precariousness, Pakistan has naturally gravitated toward asymmetric military solutions — specifically, the use of proxies. The Pakistani Army and, especially, its spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence, have clandestinely supported all manner of anti-India and anti-Afghan groups.
During the 1980s, the United States found it convenient to support some of these proxies against the Soviets in Afghanistan. That policy ended in 1989 as the Soviet war in Afghanistan wound down. Under the 1990 Pressler Amendment, we punished Pakistan for development of nuclear weapons by cutting off security assistance.
But Pakistan, having these groups on its territory and a large Pashtun population of its own, never had an easy option of breaking with Afghan militants. And it has continued to allow the Taliban, including the Haqqani network — a group the United States supported during the Reagan era — to operate from its territory and at critical moments has provided quiet support.
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The geography that defines Pakistan’s security worries has also been a bane for the United States. For the past 16 years our military efforts in landlocked Afghanistan have been dependent on transit through and especially overflight of Pakistani territory. Absent an implausible similar arrangement with Iran, other options are not good. Supply through the Central Asian states to the north is theoretically possible, but would rely on Russian good will. Enough said. Without Pakistani cooperation, our army in Afghanistan risks becoming a beached whale.
The American solution has been a robust package of assistance to Pakistan, beginning with the Bush administration in 2001. The United States sought to reimburse Pakistan for the costs of supporting our war in Afghanistan. In the eyes of the Pakistanis, this became payment for their war against domestic terrorism, which has cost Pakistan 50,000 lives and untold billions, and was widely perceived as a bad deal.
Despite an infusion of about $1 billion per year of development assistance during the Obama administration, money never gave the United States the leverage it desired. The Pakistani generals who run Afghanistan policy from their headquarters in Rawalpindi were never convinced that they had to choose between their relationship with the United States and their relationship with the Taliban.
I can vouch from bitter personal experience that I hammered away at the need to make that choice for four years, but never got any purchase. The generals knew that as long as the United States maintained an army in Afghanistan, it was more dependent on Pakistan than Pakistan was on it. This disconnect between Washington and Rawalpindi led to the decline in United States-Pakistan relations that was already highly visible in the last year of the Obama administration.
The harsh truth is that American leverage over Rawalpindi and Islamabad has been declining. And as United States aid levels have diminished — reflecting bipartisan unhappiness with Pakistani policy — aid from the Chinese has increased. China has invested around $62 billion in Pakistani infrastructure under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, an element of the “One Belt, One Road” initiative. Its magnitude and its transformation of parts of Pakistan dwarf anything the United States has ever undertaken.
Thus, the Trump administration’s attempt at humiliating and penalizing Pakistan is unlikely to work. Pakistan, like most countries, reacts very badly to public attempts to force its hand. It is likely to respond by showing how it can truly undercut our position in Afghanistan.
A better approach would be to privately convey, at the highest levels and without equivocation that the only way to preserve any relationship with the United States is to cut all ties with the Taliban, including the Haqqanis. The Trump administration, with its hard-line reputation and willingness to reject all previous United States policy, could credibly deliver this message.
But the path of the tweet and highly public aid cuts is not a method that will engender success. The United States can address Afghanistan only with a political initiative. The ultimate answer to the Pakistan conundrum is to start a diplomatic initiative to bring peace to Afghanistan by opening talks with the Taliban. Much of diplomacy is taking away the other side’s talking points, or excuses.
The Trump administration has publicly stated that it sees the conflict ending only through a negotiated solution. It is difficult to understand why no such diplomatic initiative had been started.
Kashmiri Followers of Aurel Stein
By Bhushan Parimoo
Thus goes the English saying: if you love the Master; then you must love his dog as well. Looks, it may be true for some Stein lovers. That he owned seven dogs in succession, and every one of them was called Dash. The name was more common at one time than it seems to be now: Queen Victoria’s Dash was a King Charles spaniel. It still seems slightly odd to give every one of a sequence of dogs the very same name, and Stein, whose claim to fame is above all as an investigator of the Buddhist cultures of Central Asia, sometimes toyed with the idea that the latest Dash was a reincarnation of one of its predecessors. Following Stein’s Knighthood in 1912 at Srinagar, he received a very special greeting telegram. It was from his friend Percy Allen, written on behalf of Dash the Great his canine companion during his Second Expedition. 1906-1908.” Many congratulations, dear Master. Am wearing my collar of achievement. If I had known this was coming, I should not have cried on the Wakhjir. Whip the young one, and keep him in orderSir. Dash, KCIE(Have assumed the title). Thus Dash II was the only ‘Sir’ in Stein’s canine breed of seven. The two other in the family equally special were Spin Khan and Yelochi Beg!Perhaps no animal, except for Lyka, the celebrated Russian dog that ever went into space in the Soviet spacecraft Syoz in the mid-60s of the last century, has attained such a celebrated status as Stein’s dogs, Dash.It was sometime mid-September 2017, sunnyafternoon thatthis writer managed a few moments, with intent to pay a courtesy call on Mahmood Ahmed Shah, the then Director Tourism Kashmir. Knowing him as one of the best adventurist from the valley, he knows the landscape like the lines of his palm. My purpose of the visit was to kill two birds with one visit; one to pay regards beside to inquire about the arrangements being conducted to reinstall the memorial stone at the Mohand Marg in the memory of Sir Marc AruelStein whom the locals call Marg KaBabu. During our conversation I referred to Stein as the Nomadof Mohand Marg, a place where he spent several summers of his five decade stay in Kashmir between 1895 and 1943. Stein simply preferred the place over other places of the valley and even declined more urban hospitality of his fellow Europeans in Srinagar or elsewhere. The only exceptions were when it served the needs of his research.
Of course an earlier memorial of Stein was installed by his camp assistant Late Ramchand Bali and is associates on 15 August 1947, which now stands vandalised. While we were still in mutual conversation upon the subject, a hefty personality who was already there lent his ears to our talk. On his part, he informed us that he knew about mountains a bit more than anyone else; at least in a general sense. He had reasonably good knowledge while impressing that he had grown among the White adventurers. Sure of his claims, this gentleman now posed seemingly a simple question but full of punch, more to me than to Mahmood Shah as to what was the name of Stein’s dog.He wanted to take me off the guard. For a while he believed he had an upper hand thinking many did not know the name of Stein’s canine companion-friend. To say the least,this writer was subjected to a test with regard to my depth of knowledge about Sir MarcAurel Stein which in sincerity is nothing but elementary with no claims ever made in this regard.However, in all humility, I did share with this anonymous ‘all knowing Stein buff’ that it is quite well known that he edited Kalhana’sRajatarangni in Sanskrit in 1892 and later produced its masterly English translation in 1900 and Saniskrit; and both these from the original manuscript written in Kashmir’s unique Sharda script.Nonetheless, I did not shy to share that I had gone through this historical chronicle long ago in 1964 at the erstwhile Prince Wales College Jammu Library now called as. Gandhi Memorial Science College.My inquisitive friend’s roving eyes still tried to elicit more from me about Stein, perhaps in his misplaced belief that soon my ‘ammunition’ will exhaust. And it was then that I had to give a better account of my ‘ Stein ignorance’ by stating that Sir Marc Aruel Stein was born a Hungarian in a Jewish family at Budapest; got baptized to the Christianity along with his brother who was nineteen years older than him. The move was to avoid discrimination with the intent to pursue his desired studies unhindered from Anti-Semitism which was prevailing those days. Also he was administered the oath of a Naturalized British citizenship in a small tent at a remote corner of the Swat called Batkundi now in Pakistan. He carried a British-Indian passport indicating his being a domicile of ‘Kashmir.” Significantly Stein is acclaimed as a great explorer of histime but not before he had acquired the knowledge and skills of an accomplished Sanskrit’s in Kashmir which he subsequently used as a launching pad for explorations in Central Asia and the Middle East.In the finality I replied to his original question when I said Dash was the name of Stein’s dog! It was now my turn to serve. The poser from me caught him plumb before the wicket when I asked him how many Dash Stein had. He sensed it right and changed the topic.It is now through these columns I tell my friend what he avoided that day.Stein owned seven dogs in succession, and every one of them was called Dash except Dash V All were fox terriers .Queen Victoria’s dog too had the same name but was a King Charles spaniel. Dash V was the only Dash who was not a fox terrier. Stein, sometimes toyed with the idea that the latest Dash was a reincarnation of one of its predecessors. He acquired for the first time a dog in 1896 to keep away the rats at his Mohand Marg camp. It was a Fox terrier whom he gave the name of Dash. Animal played no part in Stein’s urban upbringing but perhaps he had been influenced by his old friend Lockwood Kipling who wrote in his own book; ’Beast and Man in India’ (1891) that “the companionship of a good Dog will teach more effectively than the words of any philosopher”.
“But quickly (Dash) became an indispensable companion travelling everywhere with his masters and enlivening otherwise lonely periods with antics which Stein always be recalled affectionately throughout his life”.Eventually a fox terrier became a fixture in his life, always called Dash. Dash I, Stein’s first dog, was acquired in 1896 and accompanied Stein on his early travels, culminating in the 1st Central Asian Expedition. Known also by the Turki name Yolchi Beg — ‘Sir Traveller’ — given to him by Stein’s servant Mirza, he is seen here at Niya in January 1901, wearing the Kashmiri coat specially made to protect him against the desert winter. He died in India in 1902 while Stein was in England.Dash II (1904-18) was the second dog. ‘Dash the Great’, the dog against which all his successors were to be measured, was acquired by Stein in 1904 and travelled with him on the 2nd Central Asian Expedition. He returned to England with Stein in 1909 and lived in retirement in Oxford until 1918, when he was run over by a bus.Acquired by Stein in 1912, Dash II’s successor (Dash III) accompanied Stein on the 3rd Central Asian Expedition between 1913 and 1916. He survived until 1919, when he was killed by a pack of dogs in Srinagar.Dash IV (1921-25) was acquired as a puppy in 1921. He was brought back to England by Stein in 1924, but died the following year. Dash V (1927-30) was acquired in 1927, Dash V was the only Dash who was not a fox terrier. He accompanied Stein on the 4th Central Asian Expedition, but died at Kashgar in 1930. Stein considered that he was perhaps over bred for the rigours of travelling.Dash VI (1931-41) was acquired in 1931 and considered by Stein a very promising reincarnation of Dash the Great’. He travelled with Stein on his archaeological investigations in Iran and Iraq. He survived until 1941, when he was killed by a leopard near Mohand Marg. Dash VII was acquired in 1943-? Dogs have long been companions in man’s quest to conquer the Poles too.
More than a century ago, Roald Amundsen the Norwegian explorer set foot on South Pole on December 14, 1911. The British team led by Robert Scott managed to arrive at the South Pole only on January 17, 1912, 33 days after Amundsen had hoisted the Norwegian flag.
The reason why Amundsen reached the Pole earlier than Scott is not difficult to figure out. Their goal was the same, but their priorities were vastly different.
Scott indulged in scientific work, wasted time to study Antarctic animals and collecting samples. On the contrary, Amundsen was focused to reach the goal to register geographical feat.
Perhaps the singular difference about the achievements between the two came from the fact of the choice of the animals. It was strikingly different. Scott took more ponies than dogs. Amundsen had special dogs to pull the sledges. Worse, Scott sent his dog teams back to the base camps and instead men pulled their heavy dredges.If Amundsen had no hesitation killing the dogs that had weakened, and eat their meat. Scott believed that using man- harnesses was less cruel than using dogs.
In the end, the focus and clear priorities meant that Amundsen reached the coveted place weeks before Scott, simply because the former relied more on dogs while latter on men.The inquisitive Stein lover I encountered that day in September 2107, I later learned is Yusuf Chapri, son of one of Stein’s favourite camp retainers GhaffarChapri.
(The author is a Jammu based environmentalist)
Coalition can be a better option
By Sidharth Bhatia
“If not Narendra Modi, then who? Rahul Gandhi? That would be a disaster.” This has been heard innumerable times. As elections grow closer, discussions centre around not which party or coalition will form the government but who the next prime minister will be. Modi has successfully transformed it into a presidential-style contest between a self-made man like him and a privileged dynast like Rahul.
There are ironies galore here, not the least that the BJP, which has long claimed to be an ideology-led party in which individuals do not matter, is now seen as secondary in importance to Narendra Modi.
Dig deeper and the narrative gets more interesting. Even those who lean towards Modi, either out of conviction or because they don’t see an alternative, tacitly agree that his administration has failed to measure up to expectations. The more blunt assessment is that the last four years have been a disaster in several ways. While it is the farmers who have come out on the streets and protested and the liberal and secular brigade has continuously focused on the rapidly deteriorating social fabric, the business community – corporate chieftains and small traders – tends to express its anger privately.
But the anger is palpable – demonetisation and the Goods and Services Tax, not to say the sluggish economy and lack of investment, have affected companies and small businesses alike.
But it is here that support for the prime minister personally is the most vehement. Modi’s government and its economic policies may have failed to boost growth and the spending on the social sector may appal them, but they have no issues with the rest of it, including Hindutva. Add to that a deep antipathy towards the Gandhi family and it becomes clear why they are inclined to vote for the BJP the next time around.
Rahul Gandhi is also shorthand for a coalition government. Even if the BJP returns with reduced numbers and has to include a sizable number of partners to form the government, Modi is seen as the undisputed leader of such an arrangement. The others are perceived as a hotchpotch grouping with no common agenda but to dislodge Modi and grab power. And who will be the prime minister? Mayawati? God forbid. Mamata Banerjee? Even worse. “Coalitions are useless – all previous experiences of such a khichdi have failed miserably,” goes the refrain.
This limited understanding displays not just ignorance of Indian politics but of India itself. A coalition best represents the diversity of the country and the different needs that each section of this vast nation has. The Congress may have dominated Indian politics for a long time, ruling at the Centre for about three decades continuously before it was dislodged in 1977, but historical reasons had a lot to do with it. Besides, the Congress itself was – and in some ways continues to be – a coalition of forces with varying and even rival social and economic ideologies, accommodating within itself every kind of ethnicity, region and caste.
The notion that coalitions have been disastrous for India also doesn’t stand scrutiny. The Narasimha Rao government is a good example – it was a minority government that not just survived for five years but also ushered in seminal economic reforms – something that the business community needs to remember and even compare with the current BJP government, which received the biggest mandate in 30 years.
Vajpayee ran a coalition and both the UPAs were coalitions too. These leaders had to face pulls and pressures from partners, but were convivial and collegial in their approach, managing to take along their allies without giving up their own core values and agendas. Vajpayee had to deal with mercurial politicians like Jayalalitha and Banerjee while Singh had the powerful CP(M) to contend with. When it became too much, they let the partner go.
It bears repetition that when the BJP led by Vajpayee was defeated in 2004 and the hollowness of the ‘India Shining’ claim was exposed, the urban supporters of the BJP were shocked. The stock markets fell below their lower circuit when it became clear that the Congress had emerged as the single-largest party but would have to tie up with several others to reach the magic number. Five years later, in 2009, when the UPA was voted in with the Congress winning a larger number of seats, the markets had to be closed within a minute of opening because the index zoomed beyond the upper circuit.
The stock market example is used to indicate that at least as far as expectations of economic policies are concerned, the investor community – and by extension, metropolitan and tier 2 and 3 town voters – were all gung-ho about Manmohan Singh, despite the presence of other partners and even though UPA I had invested in much-reviled social programmes such as NREGA. Singh saw through not just the nuclear deal but also presided over an economic boom besides steering the country’s economy through safely in the treacherous post-2008 period.
It is equally true that his second stint saw corruption cases being exposed and he was not effective enough in calling those allies to account. But corruption allegations – and its cousin crony capitalism – are the one common theme of Indian governments, single party or coalition. There was Bofors during Rajiv Gandhi’s time and Rafale now, ‘coffingate’ at the time of Vajpayee-led NDA and the 2G scam during UPA II.
Thus, there is no evidence that coalition governments are uniformly bad for the country and one party domination is far better. Under Deve Gowda – a surprise compromise candidate – we had the ‘dream budget’ presented by P. Chidambaram, even if it went sour quickly. Under Modi, budgets have not enthused businessmen and progressively the government has become more and more welfarist. At the very least, it has not come up with any imaginative economic policies that have spurred growth; instead, we have had demonetisation, the after effects of which have left millions devastated.
That surely was a good example of how one strongman can bulldoze his way through, not even taking his own partymen and cabinet colleagues into confidence. The comparison with the Emergency, also a decision taken by a small group of people, is obvious.
The experience of the past four-and-a-half years should tell us that governments that are built around one leader and one dominant political party can and do often begin to show signs of arrogance and hubris, and get bristly about criticism. They get increasingly cut off from ground realities because there are no checks and balances, no counter forces applying the brakes or even communicating a different point of view.
Smaller parties may and do indulge in blackmail, but represent the voices of their own respective constituencies and thus can temper impetuous decision-making. Narendra Modi has not cared about his own party colleagues, forget the smaller allies, who have left the government over the years.
There is a good chance that the post-May 2019 government will be a genuine coalition, with multiple partners having a say. Who will lead it is still uncertain. But whoever it is – and this includes Modi, who has no experience in collective decision making – will have to understand that his or her government is one that best reflects India and its people and therefore must be respected.
Gandhi and the elusive Nobel
By Amitabha Bhattacharya
Many a genius missed the Nobel Prize. Leo Tolstoy in literature, Lise Meitner, Satyendranath Bose and MeghnadSaha in the sciences; even Einstein was awarded one for the photoelectric effect, not for his revolutionary ‘Theory of Relativity’. Why then is there such lament on Gandhi missing the Nobel Peace Prize? A book of 171 pages titled ‘Gandhi And The Nobel Peace Prize’ written by the noted author Dr.Rajinder Singh of the University of Oldenburg, Germany provides for the first time an authentic and comprehensive account of the ‘why’ and ‘how’ of this case, based largely on his research at the Nobel Peace Prize Institute, Oslo.
The book explains the process of filing nominations, short-listing of candidates based on expert advice and how the final decision is taken. Once the basic rules are explained, Singh goes into chronological details of what happened every time Gandhi’s name came up for the prize. Were the nominations sent in time? Was the expert opinion not favourable? Who were the competitors? When was he short listed? All these issues have been discussed threadbare with supporting evidence. At the end of the book, which is rather non-judgemental, the reader appreciates the complexity of the process and the bureaucratic diligence with which assessments were made and comes to terms with the final decision, with a tinge of sadness.
The fact that a large number of persons – present and past members of the Nobel Committee, advisers at the Nobel Institute, members of national assemblies and governments and International Court of Justice, holders of Nobel Peace Prize and even university professors of law, political science, history and philosophy – can nominate helps one understands why till 1964 fourteen Indians from Gandhi, Sri Aurobindo, Nehru, Aga Khan III and Radhakrishnan to insignificant ones like Hari Mohan Banerjee could be nominated.
Gandhi’s name was raised in 1924, 1937, 1938, 1939, 1947 and 1948 in around 100 nominations. No wonder that GeirLundestad,
permanent secretary of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, admitted “Our record is far from perfect and not giving Mahatma Gandhi the Nobel Prize was the biggest omission”. Gandhi was first nominated in 1924. But the nomination, from the Council of State, Delhi, missed the deadline of 31 January 1924.
In 1937, Ole Colbjørnsen, a Norwegian journalist, economist and politician, on behalf of ‘Friends of India’, nominated Gandhi. The ideals of ahimsa that marked his struggle against colonialism as also the fact that Rabindranath Tagore had proclaimed him ‘Mahatma’ were highlighted.
The expert of the Nobel Committee, Jacob S. Worm-Müller, a historian and politician, made a factual assessment of Gandhi’s achievements but was rather critical of his approach and unconvinced of his internationalism. “Many of his actions though religious and moral, are tactical with sly calculations. He is frequently a Christ, but sometimes suddenly a politician…” He noted that Gandhi had fought only for oppressed Indians in South Africa rather than the natives who were in worse condition, supported WW I and been inconsistent in his approach, especially on rescinding Satyagraha after the burning to death of twenty policemen in Chauri-Chaura. The expert advice was fairly detailed based on which the Nobel Committee “did not see Gandhi’s work as finished and ignored him for the prize.”
Gandhi was again nominated in 1938 by Colbjørnsen, supported by 27 members from the ‘Friends of India’, Denmark. C.F. Andrews wrote, “There is no one in the world who deserves more to receive the Nobel Prize than Mahatma Gandhi. I have known him for twenty-three years and have seen his work of non-violence which has again and again brought peace in the midst of strife…” Gandhi’s Christian followers saw him as a ‘holy Christian’. Even Romain Rolland supported the nomination. Despite such support, Gandhi’s name was not short-listed. Colbjørnsen again wrote, in 1939, reiterating the earlier arguments and adding that ‘the relaxed political situation in the provincial governments is due to Gandhi’s influence.’ This also did not work.
By January 1947, three proposals favouring Gandhi were sent by B.G. Kher, G.V. Mavalankar and G.B. Pant. Rajagopalachari also played a role. Finally, Gandhi was shortlisted amongst six. The Nobel Committee asked historian Jens A. Seip to prepare a new report which Seip did by complementing the old one with Gandhi’s contributions since 1937. This period was crucial, both for his achievements and failures. Seip analysed this period through three conflicts – one between Indians and Britons on the autonomy of India, on the question of India’s participation in WW II and the inner conflict between Hindus and Muslims. Extensive analysis followed. Eventually, Gandhi’s role as a leader of violence- free resistance and as a pacifist was appreciated. However, in the Nobel Committee, two members in Gandhi’s favour could not convince the other three. In the midst of the India-Pakistan conflict, a reported statement by Gandhi that if there was no other way to secure justice from Pakistan, the Indian government would be forced to go to war (The Times, September 27, 1947) was also perhaps taken into consideration.
Gandhi was finally nominated for the prize in 1948 from different countries like the USA, UK, France, Norway and India, with more than 20 from USA alone. Suddenly, it appeared that the whole world was pleading for Gandhi, almost in unison. Seip again added Gandhi’s contribution between the period of August 15, 1947 to Gandhi’s assassination (30 January 1948). The Nobel Committee, according to Singh, was considering a posthumous prize. But the issue was to find an appropriate successor to receive the prize money.
The Nobel Committee was told that Gandhi left no estate and no testament and that The Harijan Trust, SarvodayaSamaj and The Gandhi Memorial Fund took responsibility to work in his spirit and name.
The Indian authorities had no concrete plans and thought that the Norwegian Parliament would ensure ‘The Gandhi Memorial Fund’ receives and controls the prize money. Nothing came out of this confusion. As such, Singh feels, the Nobel Committee could not perhaps be blamed ‘for not awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to Gandhi.’
This long process from 1924 to 1948 when Gandhi’s name came up again and again was also the most tumultuous period of our freedom movement. Globally also, it was a turbulent time. Emotional appeals likening Gandhi with Buddha or Christ did not help.
Various forces working at the national and international levels might have made it difficult for the Nobel authorities to make an objective assessment of Gandhi at that time. Though gentle, his methods were so radical and original that they created different strands of opinion even in India and were adopted in many parts of the world mostly after his demise.