A Chanakyan Lesson for Obama

In 2007, speaking at the London School of Economics, Benazir Bhutto declared that nurturing Taliban was a mistake ; in the 90s it looked like a wise move. In 90s Afghanistan was in disarray: the Americans had left, various Mujaheddin warlords controlled the supply route from Pakistan to Central Asia, and there was no central leadership. Aided by Pakistan, Afghan refugees who attended Islamic schools took over Afghanistan and according to the view at that time – brought stability.
While handing over Afghanistan to Taliban looked like a bad idea after 9/11, we are now back to early 90s thought process again. The American plan calls for negotiating with “moderate” Taliban, through a combination of “political accommodation, financial rewards and astute exploitation of inter-tribal rivalries.” Thus the same entities against which a war was fought and is still being fought, by a simple switch, are going to be rewarded with power.
In Mudrarakshasa, Vishakhadutta’s 4th century novel about the battle of wits between Chanakya and the deposed minister Amatya Rakshasa, a question arises about reinstating people who were thrown out.
In Act III, there is a heated conversation between Chakakya and Chandragupta Maurya on why certain people switched allegiance to the enemy camp. Among them there are, Bhadrabahata, the superintendent of elephants and Purushadatta, the superintendent of horse. Chanakya explains that these two superintendents were given over to women, drinking and hunting. They neglected their duties and hence were removed from their posts.
Chanakya explains that two kinds of action can be taken against subjects who have grievances; they can be rewarded or they can be punished. In the case of Bhadrabahata or Purushadatta rewarding them would mean giving them their jobs back. To reinstate people who have been dismissed for incompetence, Chanakya explains, would be to strike at the very foundation of government.
The question in Mudrarakshasa is domestic politics while it is international terrorism in Afghanistan and the Taliban were removed from power, not exactly for incompetence. One point is moot though: you do not forget why they were dismissed in the first place; you do not give them an opportunity to commit the same crimes again.
Later in Mudrarakshasa, one of the characters Bhagurayana laments about politics.

Turning friend into foe, foe into friend
on grounds of practical advantages
Politics takes a man while he still lives
Into another birth where earlier memories are lo
Bhagurayana’s lament is true about geo-politics as well. There is no excuse, if a decade later, we look back at 2009 and repent like the 2007 Benazir.

The Carrots can Wait

On February 12th, more than two months after 26/11, Pakistan’s Interior Ministry chief Rehman Malik acknowledged that some part of the planning for the Mumbai attacks were done in Pakistan. Pakistani authorities have also said that they obtained confessions from members of Lashkar-e-Taiba and are interrogating one of the Lashkar leaders, Zarrar Shah, believed to be the conduit between ISI and Lashkar.
Is this action — Pakistan publicly admitting terrorists from it soil launching attacks — such a great step forward that India should offer some carrots in return.? Some say, it is time to go soft on Pakistan; some, want to overlook loopholes in Pakistan’s investigation into the incident ; others want to make the right moves in the diplomatic tango.
For the right reaction, uninfluenced by a Ghajini like amnesia, we need to look at the events of the past two months.
POST 26/11
Following the Mumbai attacks, Pakistan, along with other countries, expressed solidarity with India and President Zardari agreed to co-operate to find the masterminds. Soon Defense Minister Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar stated that Pakistan played no role in the attacks. It was then announced that Pakistan would send the ISI chief, Shuja Pasha, to visit New Delhi. Soon they reneged.
President Zardari blamed non-state actors and accused that India did not provide any evidence that Muhammad Ajmal Kasab, the surviving terrorist, was a Pakistani. In January, when Pakistan’s national security advisor, Mahmud Ali Durrani confirmed that Muhammad Ajmal Kasab was a Pakistani, he was fired for “irresponsible behavior.”
The visiting Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi denied that the terrorists traveled by boat from Karachi to Bombay and asked reporters if they had seen the boat? He told Indians that Pakistan too was a victim of terrorism and what was needed was a joint anti-terror mechanism.
When the dossier, which contained previously undisclosed transcripts of telephone conversations and evidence from the trawler used by the terrorists, was sent to Pakistan and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh upped the ante verbally, Sherry Rehman, Pakistan’s information minister said that scoring points like this would not help solve the issue of regional and global terror. Also Pakistan found a Bangladeshi connection by the involvement of a banned militant organisation, Harkat-ul-Jihad-al Islami, Bangladesh (HuJI-B) and announced that the plot was hatched in Dubai by an “international network of Muslim fundamentalists”.
Thus in response to the terrorist attack of 26/11, Pakistan mocked facts, trivialized Indian demands and displayed evasive behavior. From such a position what caused Pakistan to admit involvement in 26/11.? Was it the strength of our dossier or the guilt we created by arguing ourselves out of surgical strikes or those warnings against “neighboring countries.”?
The admissions came on Feb 12th, but even on the Monday before that Pakistan was busy denying involvement. So what changed abruptly.? Richard Holbrooke, President Obama‘s special envoy to the troubled regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan raised the issue with Pakistan according to New York Times. At the same time President Obama  made a call to the Pakistan President. As soon as Mr. Holbrooke left Pakistan for Afghanistan, Rehman Malik of the Interior Ministry made the admission.
Besides this there has been CIA brokered back channel activity as well which allowed India and Pakistan to exchange sensitive information. According to this news, which was revealed by Washington Post, “the unparalleled cooperation was a factor in Pakistan’s decision to bring criminal charges against nine Pakistanis accused of involvement in the attack.”
Pakistan Foreign Minister insisted that Holbrooke’s visit had nothing to do with the change of plans, but it hard to believe. With sufficient pressure Pakistan has produced rabbits out of a hat: Mullah Obaidullah Akhund, who  was considered third, in command in Taliban was arrested immediately after Vice President Dick Cheney’s visit ; in 2005, President Bush telephoned President Musharraf and after the 25 minute conversation, President Musharraf expelled all foreigners from Pakistani madrassas.
While Pakistan admitting to terrorism originating from its soil is definitely welcome, it is not sufficient to display irrational exuberance.
First, in their admission, Pakistan singled out two suspects who are connected to Lashkar-e-Taiba, which apparently is a group banned by Pakistan. The goal of this group is to  wrest control of not just a small part of India, but “All of India, including Kashmir, Hyderabad, Assam, Nepal, Burma, Bihar and Junagadh.” The fact that such a group is operating, just by changing the name to Jamaat-ud-Dawa, with impunity in Pakistan even now should make it clear that the Augean stable is not clean.
Second, to believe how effective the arrests of these suspects are, one has to look at what Omar Saeed was able to do from jail . In death row for the murder of Daniel Pearl, Omar Saeed was able to call Gen Pervez Musharraf on his personal cell phone and issue a death threat. On investigation, the authorities found that he was running a terror network from the jail. Rashid Rauf, the suspect in the plot to blow up planes over the Atlantic, escaped from custody in a plot which the late film maker Manmohan Desai would have found unbelievable.
Third, this concession came due to American coercion. Pakistan and United States have a strange relation. As a front line ally in the war on terror Pakistan gets financial aid and weapons; as the epicenter in the war on terror Pakistan gets bombed by unmanned Predators. This gives America leverage, not India. This admission by Pakistan, after American pressure, could also be a temporary gesture to gain concessions. So let us not build a rope ladder from dental floss.
Finally, this admission came from the civilian government. There is an opinion that India should strengthen the civilian government of Pakistan and see them as partners and not  as adversaries. Those who suggest this seem to be ignorant of what happened in Kargil just a few months after Prime Minister Vajpayee and the civilian leader Nawaz Sharif recited poetry at the border. So it is hard to believe that by supporting the civilian administration, there will be a miraculous act of appropriation by which the other players in Pakistan — the actual power centers — will allow the terror infrastructure to be dismantled or stop such events from happening again.
All the Pakistani drama before the admission states a harsh truth: it will be hard for India alone make any progress. Next.? The crucial question is this: Will President Obama have to get involved — like President Clinton during Kargil war — to force Pakistan make the next positive step.? Will we see justice served or more meaningless statements like “we are determined to get to the bottom of this attacks.”?
So far pattern of the cross border rhetoric and action has been along predictable lines and we have seen this movie before. Unless we see more sincere gestures to match the words, lets hold off on the carrots.

The Circle of Life

On July 2, 1999, at the height of the Kargil War, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif telephoned President Bill Clinton and asked for his personal intervention. Clinton was very clear on his message; Pakistan had to withdraw unconditionally and United States would not reward Pakistan for the violation of the Line of Control. On July 3rd, Sharif called Clinton again with a message: though not invited he was leaving for Washington D.C. immediately. Clinton remarked, “This guy’s coming literally on a wing and a prayer.”[1]

In 1999, Nawaz Sharif cut a sorry figure. He was like the resident of Tokyo trapped in front of Godzilla, but indecisive. Prince Bandar bin Sultan who picked Sharif at Washington airport told the Americans that Sharif was in mental pain about the crisis and scared about the reaction from the Pakistani Army, especially Musharraf.

There could be one explanation that this was an isolated incident. But in fact, always fearful and manipulated by Foreign Minister Sartaj Aziz and Foreign Secretary Shamshad Ahmad, Sharif was like like Rajesh Kuthrapalli on The Big Bang Theory. In 1998, Strobe Talbott, Bruce Riedel, Tom Simmons and Gen. Anthony Zinni met Nawaz Sharif to dissuade him from conducting a tit-for-tat nuclear test and Sharif, “seemed nearly paralysed with exhaustion, anguish and fear.”[1]

While many join Toastmasters to boost their confidence, conquer their fears and express ideas, nothing can match the fear of death and an exile in Saudi Arabia. On the day Yousaf Raza Gillani was sworn in as the Prime Minister, two American diplomats visited Pakistan and they saw Nawaz Sharif in a completely new avatar.

The leader of the second biggest party in the new Parliament, Nawaz Sharif, said after meeting the two American diplomats that it was unacceptable that Pakistan had become a “killing field.”“If America wants tosee itself clean of terrorists, we also want that our villages and towns should not be bombed,” he said at a news conference here. Mr. Sharif, a former prime minister, added he was unable to give Mr. Negroponte “a commitment” on fighting terrorism. The statements by Mr. Sharif, and the cool body language in the televised portions of his encounter with Mr. Negroponte, were just part of the sea change in Pakistan’s domestic politics that is likely to impose new limits on how Washington fights militants within Pakistan’s borders. [New Pakistani Leaders Tell Americans There’s ‘a New Sheriff in Town’]

The 16th century Malayalam poet Poonthanam wrote in Jnanappana, a treasury of transcendental knowledge, “In a day or two, it is He, who makes them ride on the royal chair.” Poonthanam was writing, of course, about the lilas of Guruvayoorappan, but impermanence as elucidated by ancient bhakti poets seem to predict the affairs in our neighboring country quite accurately.

Poonthanam also wrote, “People who is seen by all; you are the one who makes them disappear. On the shoulder of the king; you are He, who places a tattered heap.” If only President Musharraf could read Malayalam.

1. Strobe Talbott, Engaging India: Diplomacy, Democracy, And the Bomb: Revised Edition, (Brookings Institution Press, 2006).

The New Hyphenation

Mr. Prakash Karat, who admires the way Nirupama Rao was summoned at 2 AM by the Chinese, explains why we should not support the protests against Tibet.

“In our country also we have problems of separatism. Those who want the chorus of independent Tibet will be doing a disservice to India,” the CPI(M) chief said reminding that we also had secessionist demands in Nagaland, Jammu and Kashmir and other places.[CPI(M) goes hammer & sickle on Tibet]

B. Raman replies (well actually to Aamir Khan)

9. You and others, who have written on this subject, are correct in their references to Kashmir, our North-East, the grievances and anger of our Khalistanis and Muslims etc. We too have been having problems with our religious and ethnic minorities just as the Chinese are having problems with their minorities in Tibet, Sichuan, Gansu, Qinghai, Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia. No country in the world has been free of such problems.

10.The question to be asked is not whether we have the same problems as the Chinese, but what has been our approach to these probelms. Do we deal with these problems in the same way as the Chinese do or do we follow a different approach?

17. The leaders of Kashmiri and other separatist organisations freely interact with our media. They are interviewed by our print and electronic media and invited to participate in our TV talk shows. You recently attended the World Leadership Summit of “India Today”. I read in the media that one of those, who was invited to address the summit, was Yasin Malik, the leader of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front. Can you mention a single instance since 1949 when Beijing has allowed a single dissident leader to similarly interact with the media and foreign diplomats? Have you ever seen a single interview of His Holiness in the Chinese media? Have you ever seen a single statement of his ever published in the Chinese media?

Read the entire post. Now that the moral equivalence between India and Pakistan has vanished, it is time to establish the hyphenation between India and China and treat a democracy and dictatorship the same way in term of human rights violations. Communists have been parroting those lines and now Aamir Khan has joined in. If someone stands up for India, call him a nationalist (add the word pseudo for more effect). Rinse and Repeat.

See Also: ‘Citizen’ Khan’?.Bravo Bhaichung, Whoring Aamir Khan Style

Technorati Tags: , ,

The Chinese view of India

In San Francisco, the only North American city hosting the torch, officials shortened the April 9 route through the city and have abbreviated the ceremonies. Mayor Gavin Newsom has said no one will be prevented from expressing his views, but permits are required to gather near the torch.[Drama as torch arrival set for Tiananmen, though protests not expected]

The Chinese Ambassador to United States did not summon Mayor Gavin Newsom of San Francisco to his office at 2 A.M. Instead the ambassador made his way to the Mayor’s office in San Francisco to discuss the Olympic torch relay through the city.

Contrast it with this:

A sign of the nature of a relationship between countries is the manner in which they officially communicate displeasure. So when the Chinese government calls in the Indian ambassador at 2am, to hand her details of plans by Tibetan protesters to disrupt the movement of the Olympic torch in India, you know what the Chinese think about the nature of bilateral relationship. China might have reason to be angry. That it chose to be demonstrate unfriendliness reveals that it believes the proper way to handle India is through overreaction and bullying[Doing it at ungodly hours]

The editor of the People’s Daily of Chennai must be upset that Mayor Newsom was not summoned.

Technorati Tags: , , ,

Rashomon Effect (6)

Chinese Ambassador to India on what is happening in Tibet

“There was no such thing as crackdown. It is the duty of the government to protect its citizens. These measures are totally in line with the law and truly supported by the people at the grass roots,” he read from a prepared statement at a press meet.

ABC News Reports

Another Lhasa resident, who also refused to be identified, said the Drepung monastery was encircled by “three layers” of army personnel while the Sera monastery had been surrounded by more than 2,000 police.

The resident said more than 10 trucks filled with soldiers, nearly a dozen police cars and also ambulances were seen heading to the area.

See Also: Episode 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

Shekhar Kapur, Karan Thapar & Pakistan

Pakistan is a major ally in the war on terror since most of the terror originates from Pakistan. Billions of dollars are pumped into Pakistan to improve the Army to fight the Taliban and Al Qaeda. Seeing  little ROI on the money, Americans are planning to conduct aggressive covert operations within Pakistan to strike the terrorists and capture or kill Osama bin Laden and his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri. Shekhar Kapur is upset with this news

It will take a lot of will and hard thinking from the Pakistani people to stop this and not allow their nation to become the next battle ground between terrorism and the US. And neither can India now stand by and watch.

…. It is time for India to go out and actively extend our help to the people of Pakistan to move to a more stable democracy. It is time to forget the past and help Pakistan develop economically. [Bush expands his ‘war on terror’ to inlude all of Pakistan]

A similar surge in sympathy towards Pakistan was seen when Benazir Bhutto was assassinated. While the news was tragic, some Indians were commenting that Benazir was India’s best hope and Karan Thapar wrote a warm and personal article in which she manifested as Saint Bhutto. According to Mr. Thapar she was a warm, understanding and caring person, which might be true, but  secondary if you care about India’s national interests.

She was also the prime minister who gave the ISI the go-ahead to wage jihad on India. She was the one who exhorted the Pakistan trained and financed terrorists to ‘jag-jag mo-mo han-han’ Jagmohan the then governor of Jammu and Kashmir with an explicit chopping motion of the right hand across the open left palm. She was the one who shrieked ‘Azadi-azadi’ from across the LOC and extended Zia-ul-Haq’s doctrine of death by a thousand cuts to Kashmir[Remembering the truth about Benazir]

Zulfikar Bhutto proudly announced, “Pakistanis would eat grass”, referring to their nuclear program.  Pakistan is facing a shortage of wheat, sugar and cooking oil and the ongoing energy shortages and hoarding of wheat have worsened the wheat flour crisis.  Still the American money contributed for the war on terror has been used for developing weapon systems to counter India. Even if Benazir, who Henry Kissinger thought was more intimidating than Zulfikar is dead, the anti-India stand espoused by her is alive under the baleful influence of  Musharraf, ISI and the Pakistani Army.

Also, we have bitten many times before. On February 20, 1999 around 4:10 PM, Indian Prime Minister Vajpayee crossed to Pakistan in the Delhi-Lahore bus and he was  greeted by the Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. They pledged to “open the gates of friendship and demolish the wall of hatred.” Few months later,  in May 1999, the the elite Special Services Group as well as four to seven battalions of Pakistan Army backed by Kashmiri guerrillas and Afghan mercenaries covertly occupied vantage points in Kargil inside India. Finally Indian Army with Israeli and American support regained the territory. Who is going to guarantee that such state sponsored tourism won’t happen again?

Unless there is an attitude change across the border (which will happen when David Dhawan starts making Pather Panchali type movies), any talk about forgetting the pasting is a stultifying discussion.

Technorati Tags: , , , ,

New Benazir Theories

On July 8, 1988, Bangalore-Trivandrum Island Express derailed and plunged into Ashtamudi lake near Kollam, Kerala, killing 107 people.There was an investigation and the accident was blamed on a localized tornado. This was probably the first and last tornado in the history of Kerala which surprisingly did not affect anything else in the neighborhood. On Feb 27, 2002 kar sevaks were burned to death in Godhra, Gujarat and the reason was found to be self-combustion.

Looks like investigators from Kollam and Godhra are now in Pakistan. According to some theories Benazir died because she had struck her head on a metal lever on the sun-roof of her
armoured Toyota Land Cruiser, resulting in a fatal skull fracture. Another theory is that she was killed by a laser gun. If the plan is to come up with an outrageous theory, they should go with the indigestion one.

General Abraham Lincoln in Pakistan

Anyone who has read Gen. Musharraf’s autobiography, In the Line of Fire: A Memoir knows that he can give Jerry Sienfeld a run for his money. Recently he set a new record by being the only dictator in Pakistan’s history to enforce martial law twice and in the speech he displayed his comical skills by comparing himself with Lincoln.

“I would at this time venture to read out an excerpt of President Abraham Lincoln, specially to all my listeners in the United States. As an idealist, Abraham Lincoln had one consuming passion during that time of crisis, and this was to preserve the Union… towards that end, he broke laws, he violated the Constitution, he usurped arbitrary power, he trampled individual liberties. His justification was necessity and explaining his sweeping violation of Constitutional limits he wrote in a letter in 1864, and I quote, ‘My oath to preserve the Constitution imposed on me the duty of preserving by every indispensable means that government, that Nation of which the Constitution was the organic law. Was it possible to lose the Nation and yet preserve the Constitution?’” [Musharraf and Lincoln, in Their Own Words]

In his speech Gen. Musharraf justified the martial law with the line that Pakistan is more important than any person and he was forced to do this to control terrorism. But in fact police and intelligence agencies have been hunting down lawyers instead of terrorists. The supreme court was to rule on the legality of Gen. Musharraf’s re-election and according to some insiders, the verdict was against him.Thus to save his own chair he suspended the constitution, fired his nemesis, Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhary, then merged himself with Pakistan and came up with the statement that it is all being done to save Pakistan.
As Jerry Sienfeld asked Larry King we need to ask Musharraf, “Do you even know who Lincoln was?.”

Doing worse than the U.N.

When Buddhist monks started their peaceful protest against economic mismanagement and political oppression in Burma, the U.N. Secretary General issued a statement asking all parties to avoid provocative actions, thus equating the peaceful monks with the ruthless dictators. As the Burmese protestors got support from around the world, the U.N. sent an envoy, Ibrahim Gambari, to meet with Senior Gen. Than Shwe and pro-democracy leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

Just after Ibrahim Gambari briefed the Security Council and reported that he saw a window of opportunity for talks between the junta and Suu Kyi, the junta reduced security in Yangon. The state television broadcast Suu Kyi’s images, referred to her respectfully as Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and released monks and demonstrators, all of which are unusual.

President Bush, it seems asked the China’s foreign minister Yang Jeichi to talk to the generals privately and it was this intervention that facilitated the visit from the U.N. envoy. Following this, the senior U.S. envoy was invited by the military regime for bilateral talks and she is expected to ask the junta to start talking to the democratic opposition groups.

While China, United States and even United Nations is involved in bringing a transition in Burma, India is absent from the diplomatic effort. When the U.N.  is doing more than us, it tells a lot about how much influence or lack of influence we have in our neighborhood.