What utter nonsense

General Durrani’s abominable comment about Indian Muslims

General Mahmud Ali Durrani has a column in today’s The News. He holds forth — as is his wont and what earned him the sobriquet of General Shanti in Pakistan — on the importance of Track-2 talks between India and Pakistan, as exemplified by Aman ki Asha. Among all the other apple pie and motherhood stuff, one particular bit stood out. And stood out for its outrageous abominableness.

We often forget that there are more Muslims in India than in Pakistan. We also seem to ignore that the quality of life of the Indian Muslims is directly linked with the quality of the relationship between our two countries.[The News]

What utter nonsense. Nearly a decade back, MJ Akbar wrote a piece titled Pakistan cannot expect the support of India’s Muslims.

Indian Muslims are the only Muslims in the world to enjoy sustained democracy since the freedom of their country from colonial rule. Muslim nations, particularly Pakistan, have been unable to fashion a polity relevant to the modern age, with governments accountable to a democratic process. …Indian Muslims use democracy with vigour and finesse. They control or influence the results of elections in at least a hundred seats in the Lok Sabha – the House of the People – the directly elected part of India’s Parliament…[Link]

Are there no problems with India’s Muslims? Yes, there are. On the one hand, there are fundamentalists among them and some of them have even been involved in terrorism. On the other, as a community, their challenging social, economic and educational conditions have been well-documented in the report of the Sachar Commission. But these conditions have little to do with the state of India-Pakistan relations. Leave alone Pakistan, the Muslims from the rest of India have never stood out in support of Kashmiri separatists, who portray their cause as Islamic. Forget the rest of India, even Muslims from the neighbouring Kargil region have never supported the separatism in Kashmir Valley.

How can General Durrani, who must have been in the army then, forget what happened in August 1965? Ayub Khan launched Operation Gibraltar, a plan to provoke uprisings in Jammu and Kashmir by infiltrating teams of military personnel to conduct sabotage and prod the Kashmiri people against Indian forces. The Kashmiris did not co-operate with the Gibraltar Force and the plan failed. The same thing happened in 1999 when there was no support from locals for Pakistani incursions into Kargil.

Anyway, this is not the first time General Durrani is spouting such nonsense. He was at it even in 2009, after the Mumbai terror attacks. What is really tragic that we have a vocal community of Indian Track-2 participants who consider him to be an India-friendly Pakistani activist. If he is India-friendly, then imagine what others in that country would be like.

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Till the next rape case

Same questions. Obvious answers.

The news of a 23-year old student being raped in a private bus in Delhi yesterday evening has outraged most concerned citizens. Even our parliamentarians have taken notice and the police also seems to be swinging into action. But it can not be about one single incident or bringing the culprits of this one crime to book. If it can happen in Delhi, imagine the situation in other far-off places in India. Incidentally, among the 53 cities in India with a population of over 1 million, Delhi recorded the highest number of rape cases in 2011. The state with that dubious honour was Madhya Pradesh.

What is the answer? The most common response to any report of such a crime is to call for harsher punishments for rapists. Some want capital punishment, others want the rapists to be castrated. (Among the countries that have chemical castration as punishment for rapists is South Korea, a country ranked just ahead of most Islamic countries in gender equality. Perhaps there is a linkage between the two.) Considering the reprehensible nature of crime, the emotional response of the people — demand for sterner punishment — is understandable. But it is just another example of searching the keys under streetlight fallacy. Our conviction rate for rapes last year was just 26.4 percent, and that is the figure for the cases where trial has been completed. When we can’t convict rapists, the type of punishment is redundant to the debate. Deterrence lies more in a higher rate of conviction than in harsher punishment.

If harsher punishment is not the answer, then what is the way out? The answer comes from Pratap Bhanu Mehta.

Government can introduce enabling laws, it can spend the money, and it can tick off all the administrative boxes. But these are not the same as inducing profound ethical or social change.

But this issue is also tricky. Most of our politics is focused on the distribution of state largesse or large legislative changes. But the capillaries that nourish society are formed by countless small decisions. Making cities safe, for example, is not just a matter of policing. It depends on architecture, designs of roads, the distribution of people across space, the ability to generate vibrant street life. The sense of alienation from politics is not because of its large failures; it is because it seems to provide no conduit for mobilising common sense or India’s extraordinary creativity into small decisions that will affect us far more than grand administrative proclamations.

But at an even deeper level, these kinds of social transformations can be managed only when there is a synergy between three sites for the reproduction of moral values: the family, civil society and state. One the great legacies of the national movement, and particularly Gandhi, was that he grasped the fundamental fact that unless these move in tandem, all social change will be shortlived.[Indian Express]

Any such project of moral regeneration and social transformation is a long-term exercise. It may take a couple of generations and even then, the success may be only partial. There will be no immediate results, which is what our politicians, media and even the people want. Moreover, where will you get another Gandhi or Vivekananda today? And if we were to be honest, even their projects for social change registered very limited success.

Ambedkar, in turn, believed that the Indian State would be able to remove inequality in social and economic life. For him political democracy was not an end in itself, but the most powerful means to achieve the social and economic ideals in society. The track record of the Indian Republic in the last 63 years doesn’t inspire much confidence in that regard. It has certainly removed many social and economic inequalities but while doing so, it has generated many other problems which the State itself now finds incapable of confronting.

What will be the trigger for such a social transformation? How can we kickstart the process of moral regeneration? This blogger doesn’t have the definite answer but one possible way is for each one of us to propagate and inculcate the right values in our own spheres of influence. It is a slow and unglamorous process but there are no better alternatives.

A country though can’t afford to wait for a few generations to get rid of a heinous crime like rape. That is why you have something called the Rule of Law. And there are instruments of state which are supposed to ensure that Rule of Law: the police and the judiciary. They combine together to form the criminal justice system. It is no secret that our criminal justice system is broken. It is a dead horse. However hard you flog, you can’t make a dead horse canter.

The only way to revive the horse is to reform the system. Police reforms and judicial reforms are the answer. There are many reports laying out the roadmap of these reforms. You don’t need a new committee to tell you what to do. You need to take out the existing reports and start implementing them. But there is no political incentive for such reforms. Law and order being a state subject further complicates the process. The judiciary also seems bereft of introspection. The benefits of the current stakeholders and decision-makers are aligned with maintaining the status quo.

The government nevertheless has to be seen to be doing something. “This is ‘something’. Therefore we must do it.”  Yes Prime Minister‘s words never fail to explain governmental approach. So we will have Veeranganas on the street (Guwahati follows this model), or helplines for women’s crime, or women-only police stations, public-police partnerships, government-funded public campaigns against rape, a call for CCTV cameras in buses, or some other such suggestions. Each of these steps has merit but they are all akin to temporarily treating the symptom when the malignant malaise devours the innards. The real answer is fixing our policing and criminal justice system. More police, better trained police, police free of political control, professional investigations, quick convictions, early disposal of appeals, prompt justice — the wishlist is already known to be repeated.

But none of this will happen. We will end up with some cosmetic steps to satisfy the outraged public and keep the media at bay. With two state assembly election results barely a day away, this clamour will soon subside. The media will move to the next story. And we will wait for the next rape — one of the 24,000 rape cases reported every year from India – to start all over again.

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December 16, 1971

The delusion and the reality

This is the front page of Pakistan’s major English-language daily, Dawn of December 17, 1971 (via Husain Haqqani on Twitter)

And this is after what had happened in Dhaka on December 16, 1971. An unconditional surrender (see the scanned copy of the surrender document) by all Pakistan forces in the then East Pakistan.

Anyway, Happy Vijay Diwas.

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Four years ago

Remembering the Mumbai terror attacks

Lest we forget. It’s not over yet. Ajmal Kasab was just the tip of the jehadi spear wielded by the Pakistani establishment. The real perpetrators of Mumbai terror attacks remain unpunished. And justice remains undelivered.

I believe in Martin Luther King’s words: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” But I also believe in Barack Obama’s explanation of those words: “It bends towards justice, but here is the thing: it does not bend on its own. It bends because each of us in our own ways put our hand on that arc and we bend it in the direction of justice.”

Let each of us put our hand on that arc and bend it in the direction of justice. A rededication to seeking justice is perhaps the best way to honour the memories of those we lost this day four years ago.

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The framework of Islamic law

 A simple explanation

Aakar Patel, in a well-argued column in the Mint Lounge, talks about the three geographical areas of the Indian subcontinent where Muslims are a majority. The continuity across them, he asserts, is that they are neither secular nor plural. He provides many examples of the problems caused by the religion legally dictating a state’s affairs, or at least purporting to dictate the state’s affairs. One such egregious example is from Pakistan.

In Pakistan, you don’t decide what faith you belong to: Islam will determine this. Punjab’s finance minister Rana Asif Mahmood (also fired this year by the Supreme Court) is a Christian, as was his father, Rana Taj Mahmood. A few months ago, someone mistakenly recorded Asif Mahmood’sfaith in the national database as Islam. Mahmood now cannot change this because the punishment for leaving Islam is death. Once a Muslim, even by someone’s mistake, always a Muslim. This is not the saying of some cleric, it is the order of Pakistan’s chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry.[Lounge]

But what is this framework of laws governing a truly Islamic nation? Mr Patel doesn’t touch uponit but Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, Karen Elliott House in her book On Saudi Arabia: Its People, Past, Religion, Fault Lines – And Future does. And its a pretty simple explanation.

As Muslims see it today, and have always seen it, Islamic law recognizes five categories of acts: those God requires of man, those recommended but not required (like visiting Medina after the required pilgrimage to Mecca), those God prohibits (theft, alcohol, fornication), those discouraged but not forbidden, and last, those to which God is indifferent and neither rewards nor punishes. Only in this last category is man free to make laws governing conduct. Otherwise, these broad categories govern all legal and ethical conduct of devout Muslims — and of a truly Islamic nation. [Chapter 3]

That doesn’t sound much better than how Christopher Hitchens described North Korea: a place “where everything that is not absolutely compulsory is absolutely forbidden.”

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One plus one equals half

Nehru and social capital

In the 2012 Legatum Prosperity Index,  India ranks 138 on the Social Capital measure of the Index—the fifth-worst country globally, ahead only of Burundi, Georgia, Benin and Togo. According to the Index’s working definition, Social Capital is the accumulation of benefits accrued by a society whose citizenry is interconnected, trusting, and who engage in altruistic and charitable behaviour. The Index captures social capital performance through a number of variables that measure factors such as donations to charity, volunteering, levels of trust in society, and the willingness to help strangers. Notably, Indians show the least likelihood in the world to help strangers.

This is not a recent phenomenon though. The 1948 session of the United Nations General Assembly and Security Council was held at Paris. MG Setalvad, India’s first Attorney General, was requested by Sardar Patel “to deal with questions of Hyderabad and Suratgarh on India’s behalf in the Security Council”. Mr Setalvad recounts:

It was Nehru’s practice to talk to the delegates at Delhi as the Minister of External Affairs on the basic viewpoints of India on various matters, so that the delegates might be generally informed in regard to the problems which were going to come up before the General Assembly  In addition to these talks, he would, whenever he happened to be at the headquarters of the session of the assembly  also meet the delegates. One observation which addressed to us when he spoke to us at Paris deeply impressed me at the times and has always remained in my mind because I have found it tragically true in my experience of men and affairs. He advised us to work in co-operation and observed that, in his experience, Indians were apt, when working together, to differ and pull in different directions rather than co-operate. He expressed himself pithily by saying that, if one Indian left to himself could muster one horse-power of energy and intelligence, two Indians put to work together, would produce the total output not of two or more but nearer  half a horse-power. That was one of our weaknesses which he told us we should avoid. [My Life: Law and Other Things]

Even if it is an Indian socio-cultural characteristic, does it really matter? Perhaps it does. In his book Trust: The Social Virtues and the Creation of Prosperity, Francis Fukuyama wrote about low-trust societies such as China, France and Italy, which are family-oriented and have relatively low levels of trust among strangers. He argued that low-trust societies have to negotiate and litigate rule and regulations while high-trust societies like Germany and Japan are able to develop innovative organisations and bring down the cost of doing business. According to Fukuyama, the level of trust based upon shared norms is the most pervasive cultural characteristic influencing a nation’s prosperity and global competitiveness.

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Where golf meets army meets Islam

At Lahore garrison

Courtesy Ahmad Rafay Alam, a plaque at the Lahore Garrison Golf & Country Club. It tells you that the game of golf is actually Islamic in origin, played by the Prophet with his two grandsons. Ironically, the evidence used to assert that claim comes from an Israeli source.

Just in case you missed it, the 18-hole course was built and is maintained by the Pakistan Army. Here is the list of officials — all from the Pakistan Army — in charge of running this swish venture.

One final thing.  A quick glance at the website also tells you why the poor Pakistan army has been forced to use the jehadis to do all the fighting on its behalf. The facilities available at the club will not leave the army with any gumption for fighting.

But come to think of it, doesn’t Churchill’s definition of golf encapsulate what Pakistan army has been trying to do since 1947:

“Golf is a game whose aim is to hit a very small ball into an ever smaller hole, with weapons singularly ill-designed for the purpose.”

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The No Love chart

Pakistanis view of the United States (2002-2012)

2004 – US starts drone strikes in Pakistan’s tribal areas

2005 – Massive earthquake in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. US rushes in with a big relief effort (also pushes in CIA and JSOC operatives)

2009 – Kerry-Lugar-Berman aid bill is passed by the US, promising $7.5 bn in civilian aid to Pakistan over next five years

2010 – Worst floods in Pakistan’s history. US is top-most aid provider to Pakistan for flood relief and rehabilitation

2011 – US kills Osama bin Laden in a raid at the Pakistan military town of Abbottabad. 24 Pakistani soldiers die at Salala on the AfPak border due to US military firing

Good, bad or ugly: US actions really don’t matter. Pakistanis continue to hold the US in an unfavourable light irrespective of what DC does. The feeling has now become so deeply entrenched that no political party in Pakistan can afford to be seen on the same side as the US. Forget political parties, now even the army — which has benefitted the most from US military aid, arms, equipment and support over the last 65 years — is scared to be seen as being a partner of the US.

There could be a new President in the US, a new government in Pakistan and a new army chief at Rawalpindi next year. But none of that will change the overwhelmingly unfavourable opinion Pakistanis have of the US. If I were a betting man, I would safely bet my house on that.

[N.B. - Data for the chart from Pew surveys. Idea for the chart courtesy a CRS report]

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Rawalpindi’s diplomatic service

Retired ISI chiefs as back-channel interlocutors

Forget the official Foreign Service of Pakistan. Rawalpindi’s very own diplomatic service is the next big thing in town. David Ignatius revealed last week that former ISI chief General Ehsan ul-Haq is acting as the back-channel interlocutor in Washington DC. He is supposedly trying to bring the US and the Taliban back to the negotiating table.

Now you have reports of another retired ISI chief acting as the back-channel interlocutor for Moscow. General Asad Durrani was received with much fanfare in Moscow last month as he laid the base for General Kayani’s ongoing visit to Russia. Russia’s former intelligence chief Vyacheslav Trubnikov reportedly said General Durrani’s visit had brought the “right man at the right time” to Moscow.

Of course, then you have the former ISI chief, General Hamid Gul who doesn’t believe in any back-channel stuff. He is the ‘front-channel’ interlocutor with all kind of jehadi groups and radicalised parties in Pakistan.

The message is simple. These retired generals have obviously been handpicked by the Pakistan army. For all the air-miles being earned by globetrotting Ms Hina Khar — and same soundbites delivered by her in various cities — the real control of Pakistan’s foreign policy remains with the General Headquarters at Rawalpindi. Not that it was ever a secret or needed further proof, but it helps to reestablish a fact many might have lost notice of, blinded by the glamorous presence of Pakistani foreign minister.

To end with, a quick question. Anyone on this list of retired ISI chiefs suited to be a back-channel interlocutor with India?


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From an IAF veteran of the 1962 war

Indian Air Force was ill-prepared for a war with China

Air Commodore (retired) S. Murugan, who commanded the only modern radar with the IAF in 1962, sent me this email. It was in response to the blogpost on Air Headquarters’ views on Offensive Air Support during the 1962 war.

I feel that your “facts” are incomplete. It is the kind of view from the experience of days of Second World war that had caught us unprepared during those troubled days.

Can you fight an Air War without any powerful Ground interception Radar and other supporting modern communication links? ( Today’s Fighter Pilots will laugh at such suggestions.)

We did not have any GCI radar with MTI capability that could detect targets under heavy clutter (mountainous terrain) either in the Western Sector or the Eastern sector. We had poor communication facilities.

The only Radar at that time available in Air Force that had a moving Target Indication under heavy clutter was an Early Warning one of American origin but produced in Italy. Obviously, this being an early warning one without height information could not be used for interception.

However, within the available resources, Air Force took up all measures to defend its potential targets. I was commanding a Radar Unit with this latest MTI capable Early Warning Radar in the Western Sector. When Tawang fell to Chinese, Air HQ immediately instructed me to move this portable Radar to a location in East for Air Defence early warning tasks on highest priority. Within 24 Hours, I , not only moved this portable Radar using AN 12  Aircraft provided for the purpose but also became operational within 24 hours. My task was mainly to provide early warning information to our Fighters. Since this was the only modern radar at that time with MTI capability, we could perform the assigned tasks.

When the American Team arrived in India after the cessation of hostilities on request of the Govt at that time, their first advice was to establish a Radar Chain along the northern Border to assist our Air Defence Fighters. Accordingly we procured the American Ground interception Radar (Starsfire) from USA and established a Chain that proved highly useful during the subsequent wars with Pakistan.

The plain fact was that Govt of India was totally unprepared for a war with China. Army suffered because they did not even have a modern rifle and winter clothing to fight a war, Air Force did not have any modern Radar and communication facilities.

There is no point in blaming Air Force or Army on some of the operational decisions taken at that time. It is pure speculation how Air Force would have performed over a mountainous terrain with out proper ground radar if a decision had been taken to use the Air Force.

This fits in well with what Srinath Raghavan has written about the civil-military relations during and after the 1962 war. It should also put to rest a lot of myths which continue to be circulated 50 years after the war.

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