In The Armchair


Posted in India by Armchair Guy on December 19, 2008

Pakistan is in a state of complete denial about the Mumbai attacks, politically and socially.  A large number, maybe even a majority, of Pakistanis believe the Mumbai attacks were orchestrated by “Hindus”.  (Pakistani collective psychology often treats religious and racist collectives like “Hindus”, “Jews” and “black skinned people” as single organizations.)  This grotesque position has saturated the Pakistani press and airwaves until even Zardari, who a few days ago accepted Pakistan’s responsibility for the non-state actors, has retracted and again believes the terrorists were not of Pakistani origin.  Various middle eastern countries have started saying similar things.  Various Pakistanis, from the grassroots all the way up to Zardari, constantly demand proof that the attackers were Pakistani.  Yet, far from cooperating, the Pakistanis are doing everything within their power to hinder investigations: refusing to allow investigators to interview any suspects, refusing to take any meaningful action against terrorist organizations.  It is fairly obvious that all of this is a facade.

A lot has been said about convincing Pakistan to “move” against its terrorist installations.  But this is not something Pakistan is willing to do.  Terrorism and nukes are the only aces Pakistan holds.  Nukes play a deterrent role, but don’t actively get Pakistan anything.  Terrorism is Pakistan’s golden goose: a self-maintaining weapon that can be relied on when Pakistan needs it, and also the reason Pakistan gets billions of dollars from America. Without terrorism, there is no reason for any country other than China to engage with Pakistan.  (Pakistan’s position vis-a-vis India would be weakened to the point that even China may lose interest.) There is no chance that Pakistan will give up terrorism — unless the cost is too high.

Various solutions to the problem have been proposed.  Military solutions are not really meaningful, since there is too much potential for things going wrong.  I think the best solution is isolation.  The international community must take steps to hurt Pakistan financially and culturally, and hurt it badly enough that it needs to reconsider terrorism.  India must use its diplomatic sources to push for such steps.

India took one step in the right direction today by canceling a month-long cricket tour of Pakistan, a move which the PCB says will deprive it of about $25 million.  However, the Sri Lankans immediately agreed to tour Pakistan in place of India.  This move by Sri Lanka is tantamount to supporting Pakistan politically at this time.  India must lobby Sri Lanka to cancel the tour.  Instead, India and Sri Lanka could have a series: a move which will generate more revenue for SLC than it could hope to get from the Pakistan series.  And with the recently promised Indian support to the Sinhala government against the LTTE, it is clear that if Sri Lanka expects India to condemn its militants, Sri Lanka must reciprocate by snubbing regimes that support terrorism.  Countries like Australia have already declined to play in Pakistan.  For a subcontinental country, starving it of cricket is a very effective way of sending a signal.

Next, trade sanctions are essential.  In the current atmosphere of global financial gloom, this may be a hard thing to get other countries to do.  However, India must prevail on Western countries to walk the talk.  Lip service is soothing to the soul, but it doesn’t really help.  India would suffer as well if it imposed trade sanctions on Pakistan, as would other countries.  This is why it is important to share the burden: a large group of countries imposing trade sanctions on Pakistan would spread the cost to other countries and intensify the cost to Pakistan.  The USA has enormous influence in the middle east.  While the middle eastern countries may never impose sanctions on Pakistan, they could perhaps be persuaded not to come to Pakistan’s aid.  America could also be persuaded to reconsider its weapons sales to Pakistan.

This is the right time to tighten the screws.  A few more months, and the window of opportunity will pass us by.  The only question is, will the Congress government be able to do it?  Or will their sympathies lie with Pakistan?


2 Responses

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  1. Vikram said, on December 26, 2008 at 2:38 pm

    I have always been bemused by the Sri Lankans. They seem to be quite anti -Indian actually. There is a veneer of condescension when they talk about India, where they constantly point to the slums etc. in Indian cities (which are there, no doubt) as proof that they are somehow better than Indians. The only people from the sub-continent that I have met and seemed to have positive views about India were the Bangladeshis. Even the Nepalis dont seem to like us for some reason.

  2. Armchair Guy said, on January 22, 2009 at 3:49 am


    Sorry for the delay replying; I’ve been away from the blog for a while…

    I think you’re spot-on about Sri Lankans. A comment I heard: even with such a huge population, India can’t produce a cricket team that’s much better than Sri Lanka’s.

    I don’t know whether I agree about Bangladeshis. Some are ok, but some hate India virulently. Much worse than Sri Lankans, who just have a sort of mild contempt.

    Nepalis seem most worried about their cultural identity being subsumed by Indian culture. I was in a conversation where a Nepali got upset when someone called Buddhism an Indian religion.

    I think perhaps Indians are themselves to blame. We have a tendency to make politically incorrect generalizations and borderline arrogant comments about other cultures. This is true even within India; some states/languages/cultures are not given enough respect just because they are not vociferous enough.

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