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Current Affairs ( 23 Sept 2015, NewAgeIslam.Com)

Time to Call Pakistan's Bluff: New Age Islam’s Selection From Indian Press, 24 September 2015


New Age Islam Edit Bureau

24 September 2015

Time To Call Pakistan's Bluff

By Deepak Sinha

Danger Zone: Posturing Against Pakistan Can Be Costly For India

By Sameer Lalwani

Big City Or Village, India Is Waging A War Against Women

By Samar Halarnkar

Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau



Time to Call Pakistan's Bluff

By Deepak Sinha

24 September 2015

While it is incumbent upon the international community, especially the US and China, to initiate stringent economic sanctions against Pakistan for sponsoring terror around the globe, India must also consider targeted punitive action, both covert and overt

To give the devil its due, Pakistan can be proud of the fact that it has been defeated two expeditionary forces that belonged to the largest militaries in their time — the Soviets and the Americans, in Afghanistan. That it used the US for funding both these ventures without putting its own soldiers in harm, speaks highly of its ability to manipulate, misinform, coerce and blackmail. That this also exposes the gullibility of the Americans and their preconceived notions about the region goes without saying. That Pakistan has received an estimated $30 billion from the US in military aid in the past decade and a half alone, and will continue to remain beneficiaries of American munificence in the foreseeable future, speaks of the effectiveness of its policy.

This narrative has now been somewhat disrupted, as facts have started to catch up with fiction. The first has been the discovery by the US and allied troops deployed in Afghanistan of Pakistani duplicity and the state’s deep involvement in supporting the Taliban and the Al Qaeda. Doubts or suspicions of the complicity of the Pakistani establishment must have been certainly confirmed with the identification of Osama bin Laden’s hideout in the close vicinity of the Pakistan military academy at Abbottabad and from the enormous quantity of data from hard disks and other material recovered during their raid on it.

There has also been a growing realisation, that Pakistan has been at the epi-center of global terrorism till the meteoric rise of the Islamic State. After all, what explains the fact that the common thread that runs through acts of terror, whether successful or otherwise, from the UK to the US and from Mumbai to the recent attack in Bangkok, revolves around fundamentalists from Pakistan.

Moreover, some academics and scholars within the intellectual community in the US, like Ms Christine Fair, author of the seminal work on the Pakistani military, Fighting to the End: The Pakistan Army’s Way of War, have begun to see through the Pakistani narrative. They have identified the state’s intricate links with terror groups and have begun to question its intentions for supporting these groups.  They have also been critical of the US Government response to Pakistan’s unique mixture of cajolement, coercion and blackmail with monetary inducements predicated on the sole belief that an unstable or failed Pakistan can result in its nuclear arsenal falling into the hands of terrorists which will be a catastrophe for the US and the West.

The other strand in the collapse of this narrative has been an increasing understanding among the international community of the post-Independence development in the sub-continent, including Partition, and the consequent collapse of the two-nation theory, after the liberation of Bangladesh in 1971, on the basis of which Pakistan came into being.

In addition, there has also been a growing realisation on the issue of Kashmir and the complete lack of legitimacy to the Pakistani claim due to its refusal to implement troop withdrawals from all of Jammu & Kashmir as required by the United Nations Security Council  Resolution No 47 of 21 April 1948 for a fair and impartial plebiscite to be held.

However, despite the fact that Pakistan’s fiction has been exposed, it has not only fought and lost three wars over this issue, but it still continues its attempts to create turmoil in the valley through proxies. This initiative has lost momentum over the past two decades and has instead led to serious blow-back internally, as these very same groups have now taken on their mentors, as was expected.

That Pakistan continues on its path of confrontation and nuclear blackmail clearly indicates that its ambitions are not just restricted to the ‘liberation’ of Kashmir, but that it sees itself as the true and legitimate inheritor of the Muslim sultanate and the Mughal empire that ruled over the sub-continent for nearly a 1,000 years. This, unfortunately, is not a belief restricted to hardline elements within the military and the religious establishment, who are unable to come to terms with the present situation, but also appears to have supporters among the civil society and the public at large, who have been conditioned over the years, thanks to the revisionist educational curriculum and slanted media coverage that they have been regularly exposed to.

While it may be difficult for pacifists among us to accept, there can be little doubt that Pakistan is embroiled in an ideological war with the very concept of a secular India. Its actions are further bolstered in the mistaken belief that Indian Muslims, supposedly suppressed and deprived by the Hindu majority over the years, and now under attack from the pro-Hindutva agenda of the BJP Government in power, are ripe for rebellion. Those within our polity who have used secularism as a vote catching gimmick have certainly contributed to this state of affairs, without question.

There are those who continue to suggest that yet another round of talks on outstanding issues or increased bilateral trade and cultural exchanges as a means to engage Pakistan will pay dividends. While such an option may appear attractive, especially if you are one of those like this writer who believed that talks give us an opportunity to rapidly increase our economic strength, relative to Pakistan, to such an extent that issues between us become redundant.

This has even been suggested in a study by the Rand Corporation, but suffers from one fatal flaw: Relative weakness between nuclear Armed states means little. We just need to look at the US-North Korea equation to understand that. Supporters of this optionare undoubtedly in denial and distract us from focusing on the actual threat that confronts us. So, despite repeated failures of all our attempts to engage Pakistan, we are condemned to face a cycle of violence from the Pakistani establishment and so-called non-state actors, unless we decide to bite the bullet and tackle this menace head on.

While we are undoubtedly faced with a Hobson’s choice, but so is the rest of the international community since it is as much at risk as we are, thanks to the Pakistani establishments’ preference for using terror as a state policy. History has clearly shown that appeasement as an option has never worked and it is time that we refused to give in to nuclear coercion and called Pakistan’s bluff. So what options do we or the international community have to deal with another Mumbai-type attack or may be something even worse? While it is incumbent on the international community, especially the US, China and the other Western powers to initiate stringent economic sanctions, regardless of Pakistani claims of not being involved, we have little choice but to look at targeted punitive action, both covert and overt against the perpetrators, the individuals involved and the leaders.

It is also time that we re-examined Operation Parakram, our response to the attack on Parliament. Conventional wisdom would have us believe that it was a huge mistake and a strategic failure because of the delay in positioning of our strike forces and the subsequent inaction on our part. In fact one of the lessons that emerged was the adoption of the Cold Start doctrine by the Army that envisages use of integrated battle groups to commence offensive operations within three to four days and capture limited targets rapidly before the international community intervened. The one positive aspect of that operation that received little attention was the fact that it forced the Pakistan Armed Forces to mobilise as well and hold their positions for the duration at huge economic costs.

The question we need to ask ourselves is, what will be the impact of such an operation, may be of lesser duration, undertaken repeatedly over the slightest provocation on the effectiveness of the Pakistani Army already facing internal threats and to its economy in general? If this were to be carried out in conjunction with targeted punitive action, we may be able to restrict Pakistan from ratcheting up tensions or escalating the situation while simultaneously damaging it economic viability, similar to what President Reagan did to the Soviet Union. May be this is the only hope we have to get out of this maelstrom of violence we find ourselves boxed into.

Deepak Sinha is a military veteran and a consultant with the Observer Research Foundation


Danger zone: Posturing against Pakistan can be costly for India

By Sameer Lalwani

Sep 23, 2015

A BSF soldier stands guard outside the paramilitary’s headquarters in New Delhi. India and Pakistan ties have taken a beating with threats and warning flowing from both sides. (AP)

After effectively “scuppering” the much-anticipated meeting between the Indian and Pakistani national security advisers in late August, observers noted that the Narendra Modi government had “abandoned” comprehensive talks for circumscribed dialogue. A number of pundits applauded the strong message to Pakistan as well as the patent disinterest in reviving links. The Indian Army followed with a statement that it was preparing for a short, swift war with Pakistan to retaliate if provoked and impose severe costs to bolster deterrence. Both the cold shoulder to talks and the re-brandishing of this “Cold Start” option are intended to signal toughness abroad and at home, but actually expose India to grave vulnerabilities.

The danger of such posturing is that any crisis or limited confrontation carries some risk of nuclear escalation. And by severely constraining contacts between key officials, diplomats, and security forces in order to punish Pakistan, India limits channels of communication and institutional mechanisms of dialogue necessary to manage crises, or facilitate a climbdown from militarised standoffs. After all, hotlines offer little restraint without relationships built on direct and ongoing dialogue. It is one thing to talk about using a gun for the sake of deterrence, but quite another to brandish it while the safety is off.

Bracketing questions of limited war’s strategic utility or Indian resolve and capability, another angle must be considered. If the next major crisis escalates to a confrontation, the costs could jeopardise India’s broader economic strategy as well as PM Modi’s standing with his political base. Crises and wars introduce tremendous volatility and uncertainty that could derail Indian economic growth, its great power aspirations, and the security of the BJP’s political base.

With China’s economy faltering, India has sought to capitalise on a window of opportunity to outpace Chinese growth by drawing a larger share of capital and foreign direct investment (FDI). A core part of the Modi government’s economic strategy is to attract FDI for its “Make in India” campaign to boost India’s domestic manufacturing, job creation, and trade balance. However, with a slowdown in growth rates, and investors in “wait-and-see mode,” a crisis or conflict could squander this opportunity.

A crisis that spirals beyond cross-border shelling to major militarised actions can negatively affect the macroeconomic outlook through the direct costs of mobilisation, degradation of materiel and infrastructure, as well as downstream effects of reduced investor confidence, higher risk premiums on trade, and deterred tourism. There is a well-recognised general relationship between conflict, instability and economic growth, but some research suggests specifically militarised disputes negatively impact FDI if investments are mobile assets like manufacturing, as opposed to immobile assets like oil. Some research suggests a crisis need not even escalate for firms to limit FDI in anticipation of conflict.

Major crises punctuating the past two decades provide evidence for these abstract theoretical expectations. The 1998 nuclear tests, 1999 Kargil conflict, the 2001-02 “Twin Peaks” crisis, and 2008 Mumbai crisis produced significant direct and indirect costs that negatively affected GDP growth. One research group estimated the initial costs of the 2001-02 crisis totalled $2.7 billion or almost 0.5% of India’s GDP, but this does not account for indirect costs.

A crude examination of monthly data reveals that FDI in India took a major hit after these crises. When comparing average FDI levels six months before and after each crisis, FDI dropped roughly 30% on average with the largest decline following the Twin Peaks crisis. Even after periods of limited mobilisation but heightened tensions in 1998 and 2008, FDI fell at least 20%. Since 1995, the only periods of negative growth in tourism and tourist revenue occurred when tensions escalated, often related to issuance of travel advisories and closing of air space.

India’s overall GDP growth reflected these costs. Quarterly GDP growth slowed slightly during the 1998 crisis and Kargil conflict, significantly during the Twin Peaks crisis (to roughly .5%), and was negative after the 2008 crisis, where the Mumbai attack itself may not have been as detrimental to the economy as the subsequent standoff. A moderate negative correlation appears to exist between periods of crisis escalation and quarterly economic growth. Though hardly definitive analysis, there is strong reason to believe the next crisis between India and Pakistan could be very costly to the Indian economy, no matter what the level of escalation or punishment meted out. There would be little comfort if Pakistan incurred steeper economic costs. India’s great power aspirations depend on sustained, globally competitive growth rates, not relative regional economic gains.

Even if India seeks to keep a confrontation limited, recent analysis suggests Pakistan maintains the conventional capability to deny India a victory on the cheap. Recent American and Israeli military experiences serve as a cautionary tale: the length, scale, and costs of conflicts are rarely predictable, and even a military “victory” often does not change the adversary’s strategic calculus or behaviour.

Moreover, courting confrontation without buffers of dialogue incurs political risks. Public opinion research shows 74% of the Indian public expects the economy to improve in the coming year. Should a crisis deny fulfilment of these expectations or trigger an economic slowdown, the Modi government - which was elected to office for its ability to deliver improved macroeconomic performance far above law and order or foreign policy leadership - could suffer a loss of public confidence, and further complicate his agenda.

The Modi government has made bold moves to place India’s economic agenda at the centre of its grand strategy. Ultimately the prime minister’s economic and political agenda and India’s great power aspirations would be best safeguarded with less brinksmanship in confrontations along with robust avenues of outreach and communication with Pakistan to de-escalate a crisis or conflict before they spiral out of control.

Sameer Lalwani is deputy director, South Asia Program at the Stimson Center. The views expressed are personal.


Big city or village, India is waging a war against women

By Samar Halarnkar

Sep 23, 2015

Earlier this week, news trickled out of rural Uttar Pradesh that 10 village panchayats (councils), largely Muslim--but as we shall see, religion is irrelevant--were enforcing a ban on cellphones and jeans for unmarried women. Families of young women who violated this “ban” were first advised against defiance. If that failed, a boycott was enforced. The reasons for the ban were at once tiresome and familiar: Crime and “mischief” would increase if young women spoke to men; Only “responsible men”, meaning married, should have cellphones. “It (jeans, netted dupattas and other presumably indecent clothing) might be allowed in cities, but our organisation has totally banned it,” panchayat president Mohammad Irfan was quoted as saying in DNA.

Allowed in cities? Irfan and the men of Saharanpur and Muzaffarnagar (districts with literacy rates of about 70%) would find kindred souls across urban India, especially in some engineering colleges of Chennai, a city with a literacy rate of 90%. “Girls should wear only churidhars (sic) with dupatta both sides pinned up,” reads the dress code on the website of the Sri Sai Ram Engineering College of West Tambaram. “Wearing half-sarees, middies, short sleeve tops, tight pants and jeans are strictly prohibited inside the campus.” Much more is banned, including mobile phones, iPods and talking to young men. As engineering colleges and a desire for higher education mushroomed in Tamil in the 1990s, with it came a “control-freak attitude” to discipline students and separate the sexes, reports, a website, which last month described iron rods once separating women and men in college buses, morality squads nixing attempts to talk to men and professors policing dupattas (yes, no netted versions) and women’s leggings, now a particular provocation. “Leggings are obscene: Young women are crossing limits,” warns the latest cover story of Kumudam Reporter, a popular Tamil magazine.

Rural UP and urban Chennai may appear to be worlds apart, but there is great convergence on “decency”, a vague excuse to impose restrictive moral codes on young people, specifically women. In modern India, the drive for education is strong-one of the issues the UP panchayats stressed was that every girl should be in school-but it clearly runs alongside an anxious desire to keep women in check. For these guardians--as many women as men--of “decency”, India’s minister of culture, Mahesh Sharma, only gave voice to beliefs widely but closely held. Indian women have no reason to stay out at night, said Sharma, because that is not Indian culture.

The attitude of Chennai’s engineering colleges was institutionalised because “students to begin with were tame enough to suffer through it” and “parents preferred and encouraged such strict rules”, commented. In Bangalore, residents who run a spiffy park in the tony neighbourhood of Koramanagala pride themselves on stopping “irrational behaviour” by young women and men, the Times of India reported this week. That means love, of course.

Last month, a college principal in the intolerant but prosperous district of Dakshin Kannada told me how he had suspended two female friends-one Hindu, the other Muslim-after a two-year-old photo of them leaning against each other with a wine bottle at their feet went viral on Whatsapp. “What were their parents doing?” he asked. “Is it not their duty to control what their children are doing outside college hours?”

This control continues, even strengthens, as adolescence and hormones subside. Educated women, despite the restrictions on them, flood India’s workplaces, only to eventually find, as one female engineer in her 30s once told me, that whatever else they may desire or achieve, they must ensure “there are hot chapatis on the table”.

The strengthening of regressive attitudes is occurring at a time when women are desperate to work. Perhaps that is why a 10th-standard Chattisgarh text book--the Times of India reports--declares: “Working women are one of the causes of unemployment (for men).” The number of women seeking work rose more than eight times, from 1.8 million to 15.5 million over 20 years to 2011, report Jyothi Koduganti and Shriya Anand of the Indian Institute for Human Settlements. Over this same period, the number of women in the workforce increased more than three times.

Whether India’s men like it or not, the desire for emancipation will only grow. So, the media brim with stories of women who break free, who surmount overwhelming odds, who become role models, whose stories we must celebrate. This week I heard the stories of 25-year-old Sameera K--the daughter of a coolie--and Fouziya B.S., 26, Mangalore hostel mates who were supposed to get an education and get married but chose instead to start a college for dropouts. I heard the latest stories of Rani Rampal, captain of India’s Rio-bound women’s hockey team--and a cart-puller’s daughter--how she overcame the “dishonour” of baring her legs and talent to inspire a generation of village girls to sport and, if not glory, at least the thrill of freedom.

I also heard the story of a professional in Mumbai who seemed sadder than I have ever seen her. I asked her colleagues: What happened? “She got married,” said one, only half joking. But she did. Her in-laws took away her debit card, made her close her bank account and want her to quit her job. It’s uncertain if she will fight back or disappear into the Indian marital void.

Louise Dittmar, a 19th century US philosopher said: “The freedom of women is the greatest revolution, not just of our own day, but of all time, since it breaks fetters which are as old as the world.” The fetters may still be as strong, and the attitudes of men as strongly held as ever, but too many Indian women have broken free to be put back in the cage again.