April 25, 2010

Conversations, #8

We took a week's break, Beena and I. Then the eighth installment of our ongoing conversation went up: Clap with both hands.

Please do give us your thoughts. I mean it. That's an order.

For various reasons, unfortunately there will be another week's break before the next installment.

Our previous efforts: #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6, #7.


Anonymous said...

Hi Dilip, Encountered this email exchange on a lacklustre day when nothing seems to be clicking...And that seems to me is the essence of Indo Pak relations and the point of these emails. Nothing ever happens, both stick to their points - some politely and some otherwise. I have spoken to a lot of people on this issue, the general opinion that I gather seems to be a separate entity with soft borders for both Pak and India...will that be possible, ever? Not that one is not patriotic and so forth but for peace anything will do. As long as both Pak and India say all izz well every time they meet as nations, as neighbours and as people...we will remain stuck in lacklustre relations...some may ask what relations? rgrds, jayanthi madhukar

R. said...

Been trying to ask myself why am I so angry with someone's views. Is it the equating of a potential bogeyman of a cut in water supply with itty bitty cross border terrorism, you know, the kind that only a 'limited casuality". Or is it the fact that while agreeing on quite inane stuff the disagreements are on stuff that really matter (Contempt, anyone?) or is it the quaint blackmail of using terrorism as a tool to hasten talks (it 'IS' the way after all).

I don't know, sarcasm apart, I've tried to read this with an open mind but I honestly don't know what makes me so angry, I'd like to know. I like Wasim Akram and Waqar Yunis like any cricket fan does, I don't give two hoots who Sania Mirza marries and I know that the right way to approach the Indo-Pak Issue is not to see this as an issue between right and wrong but issues between two groups of people who have strong beliefs. But how can a nation aim to simply survive basis it's nuisance value for such a long time? How long can it's people simply blame their leaders for their excesses. Maybe I need to read a book or something...you know, get an education.

Anonymous said...

Dilip Bhai,

agar kabhi pakistan gaye to Beena ke ghar mat jaana.. tumhari 'vaat' laga degi

Dilip D'Souza said...

Rabin, only time for a quick response.

If you're angry,

a) Join the ranks. As you can tell from her words, Beena is baffled that I would equate something like 26/11 to the cutting off of water. Seems like what you feel, in mirror image.

2) This exchange is doing its job. As far as I'm concerned, the very purpose of this is to tread uncomfortable ground, because that's the test of this notion of making peace. If we do that, it's likely that we will, by definition, get angry. But give me that rather than homilies, any day.

Dilip D'Souza said...

Thank you, Jayanthi. Some may indeed ask "what relations", and it's a question worth asking. All izz not well, and any forward steps must start with understanding that and accepting it.

Hope things are going well in Bangalore.

Dilip D'Souza said...

Rabin, that should be either 1) and 2) or a and b. I trust you'll forgive that I got my wires crossed.

R. said...

Happens to me all the time. And I guess homilies offer a vent at times when rational thoughts are stuck with a stupid emotion like anger.

Mast Qalandar said...

1. Beena says: "A terrorist attack on any given area will yield limited casualties. Take away a population's water supply, and everyone dependent on that water will die".

Well the difference is that while India has not stopped river waters from flowing into Pakistan so far, terrorists from Pakistan have been regularly causing death, maiming and destruction in India.

The Indus Waters Treaty has been effective for the past 50 years, and it has a working and tested dispute redressal mechanism, in case Pakistan has a grievance.

What is so difficult to understand about this? How can fears of something happening (which has actually not happened for 50 years) be equated with regular terrorist activities in India which are, at worst, sponsored by, and at best, condoned by, the Pakistani apparatus?

2. Beena says: "Having said that, yes, we can and we do acknowledge your fear of terrorist attacks. But remember that some of those people ... carrying out attacks in India are the same as those attacking us here in Pakistan."

So can we hope that Pakistani civil society will put pressure on the apparatus to act as industriously against terrorists striking India, as they are doing against those striking Pakistan? Hardly likely, unfortunately.

So, as Rabin says above, the apparatus will continue its "blackmail". And asking for more information on dossiers.

Jai_c said...

1.Thank you Rabin.


It is very important for people that cannot be dismissed as the 'usual nuts' to display this openly.

I have for long believed its a very negative emotion, rent free space for demons in the head.

This resolve weakened slowly starting with Kargil... but a Rubicon of some kind was crossed at 26/11.

Attempts to get back to the old side are no longer acceptable without some form of meaningful justice being dealt to the perpetrators of that attack.

2. Having said that, I agree with Beena and Dilip that cutting off water supply is unacceptable. It is morally and legally wrong. It also punishes all Pakistanis for the depredations of a few and the way subcontinental feuds go, perversely would *increase* the support for the jihadis.

But this is a float put up to redirect our ire and distract us. There is no serious or even jokey move to do this?

3. [Beena:] "...some of those people carrying out attacks in India are the same as those attacking us here in Pakistan...."

NO. no. no.

Please read acorn.nationalinterest. in and some of its informative comment thread discussions. There are groups and formations that

- target India
- target Afghanistan (Karzai)
- target Pakistan.

A fine-grained policy is in place that treats these guys quite differently.

PS: If its not too off-topic I would like this thread's opinion on Pakistan
- asking for Kasab's extradition
- asking Indian judges to testify in the trial of the 26/11 plotters.

Anonymous said...

Why can't India move beyond the 'do something about terrorism and then we'll talk' line to a realisation that dialogue between our two countries IS one way to counter terrorism?
This is so much bull, please! I am tired of the talks already. Now can Ms Sarwar and her likes stop talking, get up, and get her govt/politicians to take steps against terrorism on Indian soil.
If she feels helpless doing so and is citing Pakistan's home grown terrorism as an example of this helplessness, really what is to be gained from talking with her?

Dilip D'Souza said...

Now can Ms Sarwar and her likes stop talking, get up, and get her govt/politicians to take steps against terrorism on Indian soil.

Without detracting from the merits of this question (and there are many), without getting into what is to be gained from talking, allow me to make a couple of small changes in the words:

Now can Anonymous654am above and his/her likes stop talking, get up, and get her govt/politicians to take steps against terrorism on Indian soil, including but not limited to Bombay 1992-93, Delhi 1984 and Gujarat 2002?

Is this as valid a question, with as many merits, as the one at the top of this comment?

If so, what is our answer to it? Can someone show me the steps that have been taken against those listed acts of terrorism?

If we cannot answer it, why do we assume that Beena Sarwar must answer the analagous one directed at her? i.e. why do we ask something of her that we are unwilling to achieve ourselves?

Jai_c said...

Interesting comparison*

Statement A:
Bade bade shehron mein aisi choti-choti baat hoti rehti hain

Statement B:
India is big.. the bigger country (3 times) Terrorist attacks have limited casualty... why cant India look beyond these attacks?

If one has criticized A and is warmly appreciative of B the following thoughts on differences may help settle any inconsistency:

- i. "shehr" vs "mulk"

- ii. time of statement: immediate aftermath vs 2 yrs away

- iii. who made those statements:
iii.a Position
iii.b culpability or resonsibility
iii.c Nationality(?)
iii.d profession- (your attitude/bias w.r.t their resp. professions say politics vs writer /activist)
iii.e individual perception
(your bias/read on specific speakers)

I find *my* stuff dropping into buckets (ii), (iii.b) and (iii.d) (iii.e)

Another way to resolve is to convince oneself there was no inconsistency- you did not 'really' criticize A and are not 'really' appreciative of B the problem is solved :-) I cant take that route but that might work for some.

* I'm just jotting these down as they occur to me. Please let me know if they are off-topic.

Mast Qalandar said...

Anon 0654 AM,

"What is to be gained from talking to her?"

For one, we may start to understand where Beena and other civil society reps in Pakistan are coming from.

Incredible though it seems, it is actually possible to conceive that they consider 26/11 as a major event, but not an earthshaking one. And my feeling is that they consider it "major" mainly because it could have let to war between India and Pakistan.

Take a 60 year old basic crisis of national identity. Add regular eclipses of the Constitution. Mix a healthy dose of "beware of the conniving Hindu, Jew, Communist, et al" masala. Boil with a tangy "thousand cuts-to-bleed-India" policy and "we-will-eat-grass-but-will-conquer-the-Red-Fort" rhetoric (thank you Mr Bhutto). Season with 30 years of policies (thanks this time to Gen. Zia) which have (a) brainwashed a couple of Pakistani generations by changing textbooks to deny a shared heritage and instead foisted an Arabic identity on a south Asian people, (b) nurtured an omnipresent prying, spying meddling, and mainly self-serving security apparatus. Garnish with a schizophrenic relationship of the security apparatus with America, in which it both hates America's policies and yet blackmails it into providing goodies, threatening "give, or else..", and citing India as the big bad bully. Top it up with a daily mixture of part-fact-but mostly-rumour stories about the bully-next-door's bad intentions.

This is what Beena has to endure. Obviously her perspectives will be different from those of people next door in India. This is not an excuse that I am making for her. It is a reality. Understanding this, to me, is one of the points of this dialog between Dilip and Beena.

As far as I know Beena is neither a war monger nor an India baiter. Appreciating her thoughts in context may allow you to exert "constructive" pressure (good to remember that changing of mindsets, if it occurs, will be likely initiated by concerned civil society and not by those enjoying the fruits of the present state of affairs), and also perceive genuine forward movement if and when it occurs.

Chandru K said...

To repeat or paraphrase things that have been mentioned before, the problem lies in the insecurity and inferiority complex of the Pakistani elite, including Beena Sarwar( though she is far from being the worst example), the entrenchment of the army in politics and the ideology of that army, and the absence of an ideology of pluralism and secularism. To illustrate the difference between India and Pakistan, remember the REM song "Losing my religion"? The director of the popular video of that song was an Indian. This individual could fly into and out of, India, without any trouble whatsoever. Can you see that happening in Pakistan or any Islamic country, even if the religion 'lost' was not specifically named as Islam? It's high time people, including Indians themselves, started appreciating the good qualities of India, instead of just uttering the bland, silly nostrum that India and Pakistan are equally to blame for the tension between the two countries.

Chandru K said...

For the record again, the previous comment by "Chandru K" was not by me. Though I must say I agree with a lot of it. (Except the REM bit, which I dont know.) Can you please stop impersonating me, "Chandru K"?

Anonymous said...

Here is my problem with the conversation. Beena believes talk is the way to peace. However her talk avoids to engage in any real concern. So what are Beena's issues with India? From what she writes so far
a) India's smugness, superior attitude, condescension etc
b) The possibility that India can stop Pakistans water supply
c) India will talk with Pakistan (about Kashmir) only after Pakistan has taken a stand against terrorism on Indian soil

Regd a) let us grant what she percieves is true. I would like to know how and when it becomes a problem? How is the neighbouring citizens daily life affected by this? If I feel superior it is not going to change overnight. Her appeal for less condescension may not give results until her country gains legitimacy as a true democracy or there is atleast a mass grass roots level struggle for it. Anyway like I said how does India's perception become a problem for her?

The second issue is non existant. If you consider that we waged three active wars with this country(each time started by them) and never once resorted to this measure. How does this dialogue about what has never happened and was never proposed help? What are Indians supposed to be doing about this? Allow the neighbours their paranoia as an excuse to wage terror wars? Really!

At least you were first to say lets talk about Kashmir. You admitted to the mess that India made in Kashmir. She herself admits of many Indians who share your view and are against what the Indian Govt is doing. However she refuses to answer you. She fails to address our concern that she and people like her are interested in stopping the terrorism or punishing the perpetrators who have taken refuge in her country.

She would like us to believe that there is no real illwill betwixt the neighbours (according to some survey etc). It is merely vibes given out by some politicians/relegious fanatics that keep this tension going. Her position makes me sad. It ignores our shared history of bloodshed and carnage, of partition and numerous wars, the passions that even a cricket match inspires in its citizenry. If she fails to address this hostility that flows, beneath a veneer of civility, the dialogue is already a lost cause.

Mast Qalandar said...


1. Any thing which forces even most liberal Pakistanis to question the root of Pakistan's national identity - the two nation theory - is likely to run into a wall in their thought process.

2. Cricket, movies, food, music, shenanigans of politicians, and of the rich and the famous - none of these force a confrontation with national identity. Pakistanis can therefore have dialogue on these issues with Indians without any problem. Issues such as Kashmir, terrorism, water, on the other hand, are much more likely to be viewed through the prism of identity, and are therefore prone to be contentious.

3. While a vast number of people in India did not go through the partition trauma personally, a much larger percentage of Pakistanis (Pakistan being smaller geographically) have first hand connections with partition, its reasons - real or imagined - and its aftermath. A talk with some families here in India who underwent that trauma (I know something of it, as both my parents and their families went through it) will give an idea of the mindsets that such an upheaval engenders. It is quite a different mindset from that of a "mango" person, outlined by you.

4. While pre-Zia rulers of Pakistan were opportunistic in using the situation to their political advantage, Zia's Islamization (also opportunistic - but on a different scale altogether) deeply entrenched fundamentalist ideas, to the extent that terrorism is almost accepted by many Pakistanis as a legitimate tool against India.

5. All of the above, and many more factors besides, have led to a present Pakistani mindset vis-a-vis. (The two nation theory does not explain most ordinary Pakistanis' antagonism towards America - which has different causes, though I suspect the question of identity may still have something to do with it).

6. However it is also true that this mindset is a large factor in Pakistan being in the unenviable domestic and international position it finds itself in today.

7. Is change from the present mindset possible? I believe it is. Because it is becoming clear to many more Pakistanis (though way short of a "critical mass") that constant hatred of the other, perpetual strife and violence against others, a zeal among some to wipe out the disbelievers, is not serving to better their lot in any way. Freer play to democratic forces and an open media are instrumental in bringing these facts home. I believe there is an increasing constituency for change.

8. For this constituency to reach a critical mass (a) more awareness among more Pakistanis and (b) an enlightened leadership are required.

9. To increase awareness, vernacular media (vast majority of south Asians do not access internet or the English media) probably has a major role to play. Enlightened leadership - well what can we say about politicians? - except that if there is a constituency for a changed mindset built by public opinion, some politicians are definitely likely to bite into it.

10. Influential opinion makers, media personnel like Ms Sarwar included, therefore have a role to play. Logical, constructive suggestions to them must be encouraged. What these suggestions could be, how they should be put across, how such dialog can be initiated - these are for us to ponder.

I do appreciate Dilip for taking this initiative, because, as you put it, it "fits" my above model.


Chandru K said...

MastQalandar, very good. Though one little point: if it can be shown, at least among Pakistanis, that their support for terrorism against India is in fact paying dividends( of some sort) would that make it okay, defensible and at most, amoral? You are probably underestimating the degree of brainwashing, mendacity, venality and opportunism at work in that country. India's task is not to reform Pakistani society, but to defend itself against the Pakistanis' repulsive, crazy and indefensible behaviour. If such a task calls for covert retaliation, then so be it.This is one of the most ridiculously banal situations in the world, where a democratic, pluralistic and at the very least secular-striving country, is constantly having to defend itself physically, as well as on moral and ideological grounds against a military controlled terrorist state.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the reply MastQ. I didnt notice it earlier.

I found something similar in this article:

"..fundamentalist Wahabi-funded madrassas [are] the only game in town.."

There could be some oversimplification and disconnect* here but Nick Kristof is widely travelled, knowledgeable and has a couple of series devoted to Pakistan- in this article he does something that seems obvious to the point of duh ...in hindsight :-)

He compares Pakistan with Bangladesh.

Please read it Dilip and of you find anything of use do take it up for your dialogue.

* by disconnect I mean that the problem is deeper than collapsed schools and teachers that dont turn up- fairly common in our countryside too but we're not turning militant.