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Monday, August 25, 2014

Why Pakistan shouldn't read too much into Indian editorials

By Swapan Dasgupta


In the coming weeks, both civilian and military policy-makers in Islamabad are certain to mull over one of the most astonishing by-products of its latest spat with New Delhi: the legitimisation of Pakistan’s involvement in the internal affairs of Jammu and Kashmir by a section of India’s public intellectuals.


Whether this extraordinary development points to Pakistan’s success in nurturing Track-2 dialogues or is symptomatic of deeper schisms within India are issues that will be dissected by an otherwise beleaguered Establishment across the Radcliffe Line. Pending a considered assessment, the editorial pages of Indian newspapers will, however, produce many smiling faces in Pakistan.


The outpourings of rage against the Narendra Modi government’s supposed ‘over-reaction’ to the High Commissioner’s meetings with separatist leaders may even convince Pakistani strategists of the need to persevere with the ‘core issue’ of Kashmir. The coming months will definitely witness a concerted Pakistani bid—backed by international do-gooders—to roll back the new red lines drawn by India, perhaps with the use of some explosive pressure points.


In Pakistan, there will even be an understandable temptation to interpret the criticism of the Modi government’s unilateral withdrawal from the Foreign Secretary-level talks as evidence of a weakening of India’s resolve to withstand the war of a “thousand cuts”. That would amount to a grave misreading of India’s internal dynamics.


For a start, it is important to recognise that the decision to withdraw from the dialogue in Islamabad was widely supported within India. The opposition parties had initially taunted the Prime Minister for not acting on his promise to not tolerate any Pakistani transgression. However, once Modi lived up to his image as a no-nonsense leader, the opposition guns fell strangely silent. Indeed, there was the bizarre spectacle of Congress leaders reacting to the event in different voices—one lot participating in the hand wringing and another lot demanding the expulsion of the Pakistan High Commissioner.


The desire to test Modi’s reaction was not confined to the opposition in India. There are indications that the Pakistani Establishment too was anxious to see how far it could push the envelope. It clearly never imagined Modi would react the way he did. There was awareness that Modi was different from Manmohan Singh. But how different? Most important, Pakistan needed to know whether Modi’s neighbourhood thrust would also translate into a variant of I.K. Gujral’s asymmetry doctrine. It’s now apparent it won’t.


Any understanding of a foreign country involves more than poring over press clippings. Presumably, those involved in monitoring India in Pakistan, even if it is for subversive ends, delve deeper. However, the influence of the media, particularly international media, in shaping perceptions can’t be discounted. On this count, the India desks in Islamabad may have been guilty of accepting the rash judgments of Delhi’s foreign media at face value.


The foreign media has traditionally based its assessments of India on received wisdom from the local media and interactions with the type of people who work for international agencies, patronise NGOs and attend literature festivals. During the general election, it demonstrated a deep hostility to the BJP and a partiality for AAP. More to the point, Modi was invariably painted as a deeply ‘polarising’ figure whose victory would put a question mark over India’s future as a plural and tolerant country.


After the election, and once the awkward business of explaining the ‘unexpected’ verdict was done with, there has been a rash of reports—particularly after India said no to the WTO—suggesting widespread disappointment with Modi. The suggestion was that the job of governing India was proving too daunting for the “outsider”. On August 12, for example, the venerable New York Times reported that “this early wave of disenchantment is a reminder that the man India elected this year is, in some ways, a cipher.”


According to the Concise Oxford Dictionary ‘cipher’ means ‘zero’, hardly a description that fits a Prime Minister whose presence in public meetings still evoke frenzy. Yet, when reportage becomes an exercise in affirming prejudices, misjudgements are bound to be recurrent. But then, for some people, any stick to beat Modi will do—even if means giving a helping hand to the patrons of terror and Islamist terrorists. 

Sunday Times of India, August 24, 2014


Om Prakash Sudrania said...

Kashmir has become more a play ground than a political theatre of settling boundaries. I forget the US military general soon after independence who had allegedly remarked, "As far as US is concerned, Kashmir is an integral part of India". Yet US has pushed back its own achives and created an anti Kashmir, read anti India bogey, perhaps deliberately to keep India away from USSR/Russian block and under her own knell.

What Pakistan does again mostly depends upon how US postures, as I believe. Most of Islamist countries are ruled by tyrant rulers under the tutelage of US, but it hardly matters if there isn't democracy as long as they are letting US sleep with them.

Presently Pakistan is facing the most unpredictable moment in her history since independence, where mostly military had been the ruler
but currently neither military is ruling directly, nor is able to stage a coup.

There is an attempt for military to come back by back door, whose symptoms are visible in these street protests that are either instigated or directly orchestrated by military to improve her image that Pakistan can't be run without military. In such a State where it's run like our own UPA govt by multiple power centres, for any foreign agencies, it becomes practically impossible to negotiate with (who).

Hence Modi govt need to carefully watch, go slow but safely with Paki developments because ISI is allegedly masterminding yet another international ploy to brand current Modi dispensation as a hardline Hindutva spear that carries a negative perception, thanks to our own "secular" machinery over the last more than six decades in Delhi.

One more point, I have a feeling that these LoC incursions may be another strategy to keep international attention focused on "K" issue so that the forthcoming New York assembly may be utilised by Paki diplomats to humiliate Modi in his already controversial visit.

Hence I shalln't be surprised if these Pak shelling on LoC are going to continue until at least the US visit by Modi. Pak military shall be using its maximum efforts to incite India to get them ensnared in a full blown war. If not, good sense might prevail on them.

US is already unhappy on Modi's refusal to sign the WTO treaty and their initial enthusiasm seems to be vanning on Modi. Whether Modi shall get a carpet at all, forget its colour is very much suspect. Only coming months shall disclose it.

Cool Guy said...

Cipher is also a secret method of writing, as by transposition or substitution of letters, specially formed symbols, or the like.
In cryptography, a cipher is an algorithm for performing encryption or decryption—a series of well-defined steps that can be followed as a procedure.
Hope Modi proves to be the ‘secret code’ to India’s prosperity.

selvan said...

Spot on Mr.Dasgupta

Darius said...

Cipher has other meanings that you chose to ignore. I read the NY Times article a few days ago and from the tenor of the article it seemed that the author wanted to convey that Modi is an enigma rather than a zero. You picked the negative interpretation of the word probably because you feel that everyone and his brother is out to demean Modi.

Anonymous said...


The tilt of India's English media towards Pakistan (perhaps with the exception of Times Now) is quite discernible - much of it is probably driven by a self-interest to be perceived as "balanced" by western media correspondents and thereby the source of truth about local affairs.

Frankly, I think western media publications such as the NY Times are over-rated and of the same standard as Indian or Pakistani media or that of Middle Eastern countries.