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Himal Southasian Volume 19, Number 9, December 2006 Dixit, Kanak Mani 2006-12

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 December 2006
Vol 19      No 9
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India-ASEAN   ..
FTA Woes     4^
Paranjoy Guha Thakurta
Are New Delhi and Bangladesh
Islamabad In Control? 52   Meltdown 1
Panos-Himal Roundtable Mahfuz Sadique, Zafar Sobhan
fendbdesh RDT 60 • Bhutan BTN 60 • India INR 50 • Nepal NPR 50 ■ Maldives MVR 40 ■ Pakistan PKR 80 • Sri Lanka SLR 80 ■ Rest of th
ID 4 / GBP 3
Name : Adam Stevens
Age : 43
Designation : CEO
Time : 11:28 pm
Place : ITC One, Maurya Sheraton, New Delhi
_^ Deep sleep is more than just the right bed. It is about an
Jgj environment that soothes all the five senses. Experience our rooms and
%^ know how it feels to sleep like a baby again.
ITC Maurya Sheraton • ITC Grand Maratha Sheraton • ITC Grand Central Sheraton • ITC Sonar Bangla Sheraton     \
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But for democracy
in Pakistan
The cover theme for this issue is the complexity that surrounds
Pakistan's relationship with pluralism and democracy. Ejaz Haider
discusses the continuous centrality of the military, Nadeem Omar
Tarar challenges notions of cultural determinism, and Beena Sarwar
engages with the issue through the lens of the anti-woman Hudood
Ordinances. For the cover image, we have chosen "Sarmad", a
watercolour by Lahore-based artist Sabir Nazar. The scene refers to
the beheading of the mystic Sheikh Sarmad by emperor Aurangzeb on
charge of heresy. The artist has moved the setting from the Jama Masjid
of Old Delhi to the Badshahi Masjid in Lahore, built by Aurangzeb
himself. Says Sabir Nazar: "The beheading symbolises every autocrat's
wish to separate the people from their consciousness; but as with Sheikh
Sarmad, it just does not work."
Are New Delhi and Islamabad in control?
Panos-Himal roundtable
Sachar's damning report
Hope amidst explosions
Feet across the frontier
The revival of Nepali politics
M Hussanan
'East of the Railway Tracks'
Sostiissian briefs
Mountain of a Man
Deepak Thapa
Cover story
The democratic uncertainty of Pakistan
Ejaz Haider
Reforming Indian policing
The compatibility of democracy
Swati Mehta
Nadeem Omar Tarar           -
The inheritance of stereotype
Fighting Hudood, protecting women
Namrata Chaturvedi
Beena Sarwar
Soisfftasiassrfiere: 8 M Ial
India as subtle power, not supt
Bangladeshi standoff
Zafar Sobhan
Pi&io feature
Roadblock on the Middle Path
Election fever, JNU
Tenzing Sonam
Dhruba Dutta, Atul Mishra
Sri Lanka's international straitjacket
Sunil Bastian
Back to their corners
Paranjoy Guha Thakurta
New tales of old
Jai Arjun Singh
Trying times for the Bangladeshi democrat
A sick system
Mahfuz Sadique
Madhumita Bose
Refugees and agency
Ravi Nair
3H SISW3V l!f!
Soldiers under stress
Cairo's crows
Peerzada Arshad Hamid
Himal Southasian I December 2006
 Vol 19   No 9
December 2006 | wvvw.hima]magrcom
Kanak Mani Dixit
Assistant Editors
Frashant Jha
Himali Dixit
Desk Editor
Carey L Eicon
Business Advisor
Monica  IShatia
Marketing Manager
Kqmal More
Editorial Assistance
Ashmina Bhattarai
Contributing Editors
Calcutta Rajashri Dasgupta
Colombo       Jehan Perera
Delhi Mitu Varma
Dhaka Afsan Chowdhury
Karachi Beena Sarwar
Kathmandu   Deepak Thapa
Manisha Aryal
Creative Director
Bilash Rai
Roshan Tamang
Web                                    ^
Rupendra Kayastha
Sunita Silwal
Santosh Aryal
Shahadev Koirala
Himal Southasian is published by
The Southasia Trust, Lalitpur, Nepal
Office address
Patan Dhoka, Lalitpur, Nepal
Mailing address
GPO Box: 24393, Kathmandu, Nepal
Tel: +977 1 5547279
Fax: +977 1 5552141
ISSN 10129804
Library of Congress Control number
88 912882
Image setting: ScanPro
Printed at: Jagadamba Press, Lalitpur, Nepal
Contributors    to   this    issue
Atul Mishra is a research scholar at the School of International Studies at
Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi.
C KLal is a columnist for this magazine and for the Nepali Times.
Dhruba Dutta is a Delhi-based photographer.
Ejaz Haider is an editor with The Friday Timesand The Daily Times. He is based in
Jai Arjun Singh is a freelance writer based in Delhi.
Madhumita Bose is a journalist, and formerly an editor with Business India
Mahfuz Sadique is a senior staff writer with New Age, Dhaka.
Mohammad Hussanan is a Balti activist, and writes on issues related to Ladakh-
Nadeem Omar Tarar teaches at the Department of Communicaions and Cultural
Studies, National College of Arts, Lahore.
Namrata Chaturvedi teaches English at Shyam Lai College, University of Delhi.
Peerzada Arshad Hamid is a Sri naga r-based journalist.
Paranjoy Guha Thakurta is a journalist and educator based in Delhi, and formerly
a TV anchor.
Ravi Nair is with the New Delhi-based South Asia Human Rights Documentation
Sabir Nazar is a Lahore-based cartoonist with The Friday Timesand The Dally
Sunil Bastian is a Research Fellow at the International Centre for Ethnic Studies in
Swati Mehta is an activist lawyer who appeared before the Supreme Court of India
in the Prakash Singh case.
Tenzing Sonam is a filmmaker. Along with Ritu Sarin, he is co-director of the
Tibetan feature film Dreaming Lhasa. More information at
Venantius J Pinto is an artist who moves between Bombay and New York.
Zafar Sobhan is assistant editor of The Dally Star, Dhaka.
j Address }|F] 53
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December 2006 I Himal Southasian
 The language of apartheid
1 found your recent photo feature,
"Stones of Benaras" (See Himal
October 2006) intriguing, both the
title and the pictures. The lead
photograph shows a man
worshipping what the title suggests
are "stones". Clearly for that man,
they were more than stones. So why
not recognise that fact? It seems
petty to me to call them stones.
Faith transcends nomenclature,
which is just as well, for fait/h is the
Uniform civil code
The problems that you have
described in your cover article on
Gujarat (See Himal September 2006,
"Gujarat as another country") are not
due to the Hindus, but to the
attitude of the Muslims toward
Hindus. Look, for instance, at
Kashmir, and what happened to the
Kashmiri Pandits. Gujaratis are just
being proactive in ensuring that
what happened in Kashmir does
not happen to them. Even the law
grants the right to every citizen to
protect himself. Muslims are the
aggressors here. They do not want
to secularise their affairs; they talk
about jihad and kafirs and want to
Islamise the whole world, including
India. What is wrong in defending
and exercising one's right to resist
aggressive designs?
If Himal Southasian .is concerned
with secularism, you should ask the
essence of a man. What is a man
who has no faith? And here I don't
mean faith as in belief in God, but
in the larger sense. And while it
may be fashionable from time to
time to make light of the faith of
some - especially those who are
not organised enough or
sophisticated enough to realise
what is going on - doing so does a
disservice to all humanity, whether
it is  running down a  child's
Muslims to accept a Uniform Civil
Code that will help to secularise
their affairs. As long as
communities are governed by laws,
conventions and ideas such as
kafir and jihad, there will be strife.
Peace between communities and
religions requires that old ideas
that are propagated by religion be
given a decent and well-publicised
burial, and that new liberal ideas
be adopted in their place. That can
happen only if we have a Uniform
Civil Code in place.
Vivek L Dev
(via email)
dreams of a better future or of a man's
way of worship.
I am familiar with the arguments
around self censorship, over-
sensitivity, the fact that 'stone' is not
a pejorative, freedom of speech,
etcetera, and they all have merit,
particularly this last. Yes, it's even
good to blaspheme from time to time.
But in this instance, it just seems
pointless to me. Perhaps the editor of
Himal thought it was a catchy line,
and that's about it. But for a long time
I will carry in my head the image of
the man praying devoutly, and
someone calling the object of his
worship 'stones'. It's not fair to him
- he probably does not speak English,
will probably never see his picture or
the way his faith was labelled.
I think I would concede a point
about 'stone' not being denigration
if a Devanagri issue of Himal (in the
month of Kartik) had a photo essay
titled "Varanasi kay Patthar". It is
much easier to write this kind of thing
in English, because of the language
apartheid that goes on in the
Dipika Damerla
Secularist lies
Half your story on Gujarat was
fiction. Where did you get the
Babu Bajrangi character from?
And Sauyajya - what an
unrealistic conversation. You
secularists have to finally resort
to lies to prove your case. Even if
it had been the truth, what is
wrong with it? This is the Modi
-model of dealing with Muslims,
and the world should leam from
it. All Muslims may not be
terrorists, but all terrorists are
Muslims. It is important to keep
them down. And that is what
happening in Gujarat, We will be
eternally grateful to
Narendrabhai Modi for saving us
from the menace of Muslim
Udit Joshi
Send your comments, questions and corrections - or anything else - to editorial® hi ma I mag, com
Himal Southasian | December 2006
Sachar's damning report
Muslims remain the silent underclass of secular India.
From lack of access to education to negligible
representation in public employment, they lag behind on
all socio-economic indicators. A new report, released by a
government committee headed by former Chief Justice
Rajinder Sachar, has thrown up striking data about
the dismal social, economic and educational status of
Indian Muslims.
Consider this: Muslims rank below what are known as
the Other Backward Classes and even Scheduled Castes
on a variety of indicators. The share of Muslims in higher
governmental positions in states where their population is
at least 15 percent is no more than six percent; in a dozen
states with large Muslim populations, their presence in
judiciary positions averages to just 7.8 percent. In the
national bureaucracy, the figures are even more stunning
- the share of Muslims in the Indian Foreign Service is just
1.6 percent, while they constitute less than 2.2 percent in
the Indian Administrative Service. Muslims make up 12
percent of the population. The poverty level of urban
Muslims, meanwhile, is 44 percent, compared to a national
average of 28 percent. The one space where Muslims are
represented significantly above their population share is
in India's prisons - in Maharashtra, the community makes
up 10.6 percent ofthe population, while the percentage of
Muslim inmates is as high as 40 percent. Muslims are just
over nine percent of the Gujarati population, but they
constitute a quarter of its prisoners.
The results should not come as a surprise, for the Hunter
Commission appointed during the colonial era and the
Gopal Singh Committee two decades ago came up with
similar conclusions. What is shocking, however, is that the
poor status of Muslims spans the entire country, even
among states with relatively 'secular'
administrations. West Bengal may have Jail
succeeded in preventing riots and
assuring security to Muslims, but the
communist government has been able to
deliver little else to the minorities. A quarter
of the state's population is Muslim, but it
has one ofthe lowest shares of Muslims in
government employment - 4.2 percent.
Many commentators have pointed
% of Muslims in various sectors
fingers at the community itself, claiming that Muslims have
refused to get out of their ghettoes, engage with the
'mainstream' and access modern opportunities. That is a
laughably unintelligent argument, but one that continues
to be heard. Such a view ignores institutional prejudices
and systemic flaws, for these figures represent not the
failure of Muslims but of the Indian state to create an
inclusive framework. It would be grossly unfair to put the
onus on the victimised Muslims themselves, overlooking
the fact that this marginalisation has more to do with larger
social attitudes, ground-level power politics and
administrative priorities.
There are pressing moral, political and social reasons
as to why the Indian polity must take seriously the figures
and recommendations of the Sachar Committee. It is
incumbent upon a state that still deigns to call itself 'secular'
and 'socialist', and on a society that prides itself on
tolerance, to address the matter head-on and to provide
the excluded religious minority an equitable place and
share in national life. The ruling elites must recognise that
they cannot maintain eight percent growth rates if more
than 12 percent of the country's billion-plus population are
educationally and economically deprived. Indeed, Muslim
distress is a tinderbox. If India wants to retain any level of
stability and social cohesion, there is no choice but to
address this glaring gap.
Equal opportunities
There is already a healthy debate raging in the Indian press
and intelligentsia on the mechanisms to remedy this
situation. Some political leaders have made the case for
reservation and quotas for Muslims in education and jobs.
We believe there are other enabling measures which ought
to be implemented. Besides the fact that reservation is a
polarising issue, and its effectiveness questionable, there
are practical hurdles to its implementation. The Indian
Constitution does not allow for religion-based reservations,
and the ceiling of 50 percent reserved quota set by the
judiciary has already been used up. Additionally, several
Muslim communities have already been classified as
OBCs and given concessions.
What is needed are innovative ways to ensure that
Muslims occupy their rightful place in public life, as well as
the growing private sector. The Sachar Committee
recommendations are a good start. These include setting
up an Equal Opportunities Commission, promotion of the
Urdu language, reforms of madrassas and their affiliation
to state higher education boards, increased flow of credit,
and enhanced participation of Muslims in governance.
Recognising the nature and extent of this problem,
and mobilising the political will to address it, is among the
foremost challenge Indian democracy faces in the
coming years. At a time when the disenfranchisement
among the Dalits, the tribals, the 'other' backward
communities are already at the centre of the discussion,
the Sachar Committee has done good work to bring
India's beleaguered Muslims under the purview of
public scrutiny. k
December 2006 | Himal Southasian
Hope amidst explosions
President Mahinda Rajapakse's decision to open the
A9 Highway to Jaffna as a one-time measure to send
humanitarian supplies to Jaffna has come as a surprise,
albeit a welcome one. For weeks, humanitarian
organisations had been pleading with the government to
open the road. But not only did the government keep the
door shut, it also made it more difficult for those
organisations to reach different parts of the northeast.
However, a day before the 'donor co-chairs' were to meet
in Washington, and prior to the president's visit to India,
the locks were released.
There is positive news that the Panel of Experts
appointed by President Rajapakse to assist the work ofthe
All Party Conference will be coming out with a progressive
scheme of devolution of power and internal self-
determination. It is also reported that the power-sharing
envisaged in this proposal would exceed that proposed in
the draft constitution of 2000, which was the farthest that
any government has gotten in terms of a concrete proposal
for devolution of power. These proposals are to be put
before all the political parties, and thereafter presented for
discussion to the LTTE.
There are many hurdles to be crossed before these
proposals become a reality. They may become diluted, in
the same manner that the draft constitution of 2000 was
diluted. On the other hand, almost all political parties in the
country accept the need for the devolution of power and
power-sharing as the solution to the ethnic conflict. The
memorandum of understanding signed last month
between the ruling party and the main opposition, headed
by former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, will come
in useful at the stage of obtaining an all-party consensus.
The draft constitution of 2000, which was put forward by
President Chandrika Kumaratunga, was scuttled by the
then-opposition of Wickremesinghe in tandem with other
nationalist parties. On this occasion, however, the new
agreement is likely to prevail. Wickremesinghe
has been steadfast in his commitment to a federal
solution, after his government and the LTTE reached a
historic agreement on exploring a federal solution in
December 2002.
President Rajapakse has made it clear that he will
proceed to negotiate a political solution on the basis of the
decision made by the All Party Conference. The
uniqueness of the president's position is that he is willing
to accept whatever the consensus turns out to be. If there
is no consensus, he will most likely choose the majority
opinion, which is in favour of the power-sharing proposal.
Therefore, the major question mark will be over the LTTE's
reaction to the proposal.
At the moment, relations between the government and
LTTE are extremely hostile. While the government has
indicated its willingness to equal the LTTE in fighting fire
with fire, for the first time in a long while the Colombo
government is facing the reality of being reprimanded in
parallel to the LTTE by the international community. This
is due to the international perception that the government
is not doing enough to prevent human-rights abuses.
So even while a compromise solution is being sought in
the political realm, simultaneously both sides appear to
be preparing for a long and difficult war of attrition against
the other.
At present the only real pressure on the government
and the LTTE is coming from the international community,
although this does not appear to be having a positive
impact on either side. Both the government and LTTE have
shown a readiness to challenge the international
community and to disregard both their criticisms and
sanctions. Ultimately a change in the behaviour of the
government and LTTE is most likely to come about if they
make the decisions themselves. If there is to be a reduction
in violence and human-rights abuses, it has to come from
decisions freely taken by the government and LTTE.
The Panel of Constitutional Experts is now reported to
be on the verge of proposing a new scheme of power-
sharing that is the best that Sri Lanka has seen. The
president's readiness to open the A9 Highway may be
seen as a herald of better days ahead. But both of these
positive initiatives can flop unless sincerely intended and
reciprocated. If the LTTE can rise to the occasion and
express its own readiness to deal constructively with the
openings to peace, however slender, a better future for Sri
Lanka may yet be possible. A
The revival of Nepali politics
The political agreement reached by the Seven-Party
Alliance on 9 November and a peace agreement
signed between the two sides on 21 November, besides
committing the Maoists to abandoning their 'people's war'
and paving the way for a constituent assembly, is most
importantly a means for the revival of politics in Nepal.
Under the agreements, the political parties have
decided to make space for the Communist Party of Nepal
(Maoist) in an interim Cabinet and interim legislature in
the same proportion as the mainstream Communist Party
Himal Southasian I December 2006
 of Nepal (United Marxist Leninist) and the Nepali
Congress. The Maoist fighters are committed to entering
cantonments, where their guns would be kept in boxes
which they will guard themselves; the entire exercise will
be monitored by the United Nations, however. The
carriage of arms in public will now be deemed an offence,
all abductions and extortions will have undersigned
commitment to cease, and the Maoists will begin their
conversion into a political party.
All systems are now 'go' for a constituent assembly,
for which a 'mixed' electoral system has been envisaged,
with 205 seats to be elected according to the old 'first-
past-the-post' system, and 204 members to be elected
as per the proportional representation system on the basis
of votes won by the political parties.
The pace at which myriad issues have been addressed
and decisions taken in Kathmandu over the past month
has been nothing less than dizzying. These include: the
decision giving many disfranchised of the tarai region
the right to citizenship, a right to information bill placed
before the House, a new law put in place to control the
Nepal Army, and an agreement to nationalise all royal
properties. Doubtless, many other issues remain pending,
and some mistakes will have been made in the rush, but
there is no denying that the political process is on the up
and up.
Challenges and hope
While uncertainties still abound, there are now important
demands to be made of the Maoists, the state and the
political parties. As far as the rebels are concerned, in a
matter of days, as they join the government and the interim
legislature, they will have to shed their radical demands,
insistence on which would needlessly bring gridlock to
the government and rekindle hopes in the royal palace
and army of making some kind of comeback. With the
regulars of the 'People's Liberation Army' in the
cantonments, there are hopes of psychological relief
across the countryside. Even though the Maoist militia is
not addressed in the agreements of November, it is hoped
that e>riortions, abductions and use of threat of physical
violence - with or without arms - wil I cease over the course
of December.
The state's responsibility is to energetically re-establish
its presence across the country, right down to the Village
Development Committee level, and in particular to fill the
vacuum in law and order. Besides motivating the Nepal
Police and reinstating the hundreds of posts abandoned
in the course of the war, there is the challenge of state
administration, governance and development. The danger
of a rightist royalist revival will come not only if there is
political collapse, but also from the public's
disenchantment with the long interregnum between now
and the end ofthe constituent assembly process in a year.
There must be a massive effort for reconstruction of.
destroyed infrastructure, revival of the economy, and
delivery of services to the people.
As far as the political parties are concerned, they must
'East of the Railway Tracks, Section 2'
In this section of a larger panorama, Venantius J Pinto
shows us a village that may be the epitome of decrepit.
Ramshackle structures stand with walls cracked and doors
off-hinge. Weathered tin roofs are patched with whatever
material is closest at hand. Something is wrong in this
town. Will nothing happen to change this bleak scene?
The village seems empty. Where are all the people? At far
left we see two of them, busy at a pair of big tin drums.
They tend carefully, and out of the barrels rise tall,
December 2006 | Himal Southasian
 hasten to re-establish themselves in the villages of Nepal,
which will also goad the local Maoist leadership to convert
from high-handed commissars to politicians relying on
argumentation rather than on the rifle in the closet.
Indications are that, because of the maturity of the
countrywide political class and the ground-level wisdom
of the populace, there will not be violent attacks on Maoist
cadre all over the country as the guns come down. In
many parts, district-level Maoists have maintained a level
of goodwill by allowing development activities to
continue, and for standing up against nasty local feudals
- in such areas the Maoists will find it relatively easy to
transform into a political force. It is in areas where the
rebels have taken on local bullies and bandits as part of
their fast-paced expansion of the early 2000s that there
will be villager reaction. The government has to guard
against vigilante action, and ensure that the legal process
is observed.
As far as the constituent assembly process is
concerned, the dangers are manifold, and not least the
need to explain the intricacies of the mixed electoral
system to the populace. Additionally, one of the
grievances with the recent agreements is that the
demands of various ethnic, regional and other
marginalised communities have not been adequately
addressed. To do so, the political players must prove
their commitment to an inclusive Nepal, and ensure that
there is full representation of the country's diverse
population groups among the candidates, as well as in
the broader political process.
Elections mean polarisation, as the various political
parties compete for votes. The process has already begun
in Nepal, and it can be expected that the two parties most
at loggerheads would be the CPN (Maoist) and the CPN
(UML), who would presumably be battling for the same
ideological space. Given that the elections are not even for
a Parliament but a constitution-making body, there is an
urgent need for a code of conduct that binds the political
parties to minimum standards of good behaviour. This is
absolutely crucial. A highly charged and potentially violent
campaigning period over the spring of 2007 would be one
more cause for the reactionaries of Nepal to try to flex their
muscle. This must be avoided at all costs, and the answer
lies in a campaign low on adrenalin and high on reasoning.
The most significant demand for moderation, then, would
have to be made with the CPN (Maoist), which is traveling
the greatest ideological distance and does not even have
the experience of pluralistic and parliamentary practice
the other parties do.
The Nepali ship of state has already shown an ability to
astound Southasia and the world with the relentless pace
in its political advance over the past half-year, all of which
was triggered by the uniquely participatory - and glorious
- People's Movement of April 2006. The political parties
and the Maobaadi of Nepal are now asked to live up to the
people's expectations, by reviving politics of the kind that
is representative and inclusive in the run-up to the
constituent assembly. ^
magnificent sheets of red fire, dancing strips of bright
colour in an otherwise dreary sky. What have they found
to burn in the village, that the flames should stand so
spectacular and so high? How much of it did they have to
throw in to create something this wonderful, this warming?
How much will it take to achieve real change? ;i
This is part of a regular series of Himal's editorial commentary on
artwork by Venantius J Pinto. Enogu (Japanese pigments); Inks:
Shellac, Walnut, Sumi; and Photocolor, Moleskine Japanese
accordion book. 31 panels (each 9 x 14 cm (3% x 51/2"), including
back of front cover.
Himal Southasian | December 2006
More trains, not too many
crossborder train lines. In
October, they made
preliminary agreements to
introduce a freight-train
service between Munabao
and Khokhrapar, and to
step up the number of
freight trains running
between Attari and Wagah.
The decision was made
following three days of talks
in pursuance of
agreements made in
March during the third
round of Composite
Dialogue talks. Around 20
trains currently ply the
New Delhi and
Islamabad have given
signals recently that they
are keen to build on the
initial success of their
Help wanted:
New Delhi has promised to help the Maldives make
revisions to its Constitution and judicial system. The
pledge came at the end of a week-long trip to India by the
Maldivian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ahmed Shaheed.
During a meeting with Manmohan Singh, Shaheed
delivered a letter from President Maumoon Abdul
Gayoom requesting a "closer engagement" between the
two countries. The letter also explained President
Gayoom's contentious reforms roadmap, which includes
the modernisation of the country's electoral and security
infrastructure, as well as its media and judiciary.
Prime Minister Singh subsequently promised India's
fullest cooperation, cautioning that the atolls' reforms
must be sought peacefully. The Maldivian Democratic
Party (MDP), the main opposition, meanwhile, has been
increasingly critical of the government for trying to stall
any meaningful democratic progress. A pro-democracy
rally in Male.sponsored by the MDP, slated for 10
November, was called off in advance due to worries that
the government was planning a violent crackdown.
In addition to seeking help on democratic reforms,
Foreign Affairs Minister Shaheed also met with then-
Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee (he now heads
Foreign Affairs), and pushed for greater military ties with
India. One of the primary emphases of Shaheed's trip
was reportedly to reassure New Delhi that the Maldives'
growing relationship with Beijing is not an attempt to play
the two powers off one another. Saying that the Male
government "sees the world through the Southasian
perspective", the foreign minister dismissed as "a
canard" reports that China has been allowed
Jo build a naval installation on land leased by the
Maldivian government. A
tracks between Attari and
Wagah every month, and
the new agreement
would increase that
number to around two a
day. Also discussed were
plans to ease
immigration procedures
on the Thar Express
line in the Sindh-
Rajasthan sector.
Islamabad seems a bit
wary of too much of a
good thing, however.
During the week the
agreement was signed,
the Pakistani government
rejected an Indian plan to
start a train service
between Amritsar and the
Sikh holy town of Nankana
Sahib. Currently there is
only a bus service
between the two. Although
the Railways Ministry had
recently found the
proposal to be
economically viable, the
government dismissed the
scheme after the Interior
Ministry raised concerns.
Over in New Delhi, South
Block is said to be wary
about the Punjab
government being overly
enthusiastic about
developing cultural links
with Pakistani Punjab on
its own (see
accompanying story).    £
Siphoning Brahmaputra
Reports have been surfacing of a preliminary plan
by the Beijing government to dam the
Brahmaputra (Tsangpo), diverting roughly 200 billion
cubic metres of water per year into the Yellow River.
Dubbed the Greater Western Water Diversion Project,
the plan reportedly has the blessing of President Hu
Jintao, himself trained as a water engineer.
Given China's ability to push mega projects and its
willingness to disregard environmental and
humanitarian issues in the process, there is every
reason for India and Bangladesh to be alarmed over
this design on the Brahmaputra/Jamuna. China wants
to divert water to areas in its northeast, which it
projects will soon be parched, as the Yellow River
faces a drier future. Siphoning off the Brahmaputra,
however, would immediately diminish one of India
and Bangladesh's most vital water sources.
The project is only one part of a much larger water-
diversion programme already underway in China,
which aims to take water from the waterways of the
south to the semi-arid north. The elevated position of
Tibet in this context becomes an immediate geo-
strategic advantage for the
People's Republic.
New Delhi is said to be
worried enough to have
initiated a dialogue with
Beijing on the matter.
Meanwhile, this is much
more of a clear and present
danger for Bangladesh
than would be India's 'river-
linking' scheme, which has
caused such bad blood
with New Delhi. £
December 2006 I Himal Southasian
 ' J !:!■•:•..
A new hub?
Recent months have seen a sudden spate of
planning of potential flights between Nepal and
other Southasian countries. Late in October China
Southern Airlines had sought permission to fly between
Guangzhou and Kathmandu. It expects to tap the
Chinese tourism market, given that Nepal is
approaching peace, and also because the Chinese
authorities have designated it an 'approved country' for
its touring citizens. Meanwhile, GMG Bangladesh
Airlines, which began flying internationally in 2004, is
set to begin flying between Kathmandu and Dhaka
thrice weekly. In mid-September, the newly renamed
'Indian' resumed its Kathmandu-Benaras-Kathmandu
flights after an 18-month break.
Authorities in India and Nepal are also looking to
increase the number of seats available on flights
between the two countries. Sri Lankan Air has
announced its intention to start flights to Nepal in the
near future, as have more airlines from the Gulf, Korea
and Thailand.
With so much expatriate flying, the news about
Nepal's own airlines is not so good. The country's first
budget airline, Cosmic Air, suspended operation of its
single remaining Fokker jet (down from four) in mid-
October for maintenance reasons. £
'South Tibet'
A   controversy erupted
on 14 November over
the long-simmering
bilateral issue of
Arunachal Pradesh, just a
week before the much-
heralded arrival of
Chinese President Hu
Jintao in India. In a
televised interview,
Chinese ambassador to
India Sun Yuxi stated: "In
our position, the whole of
what you call the state of
Arunachal Pradesh is
Chinese territory, and
Tawang is only one
place in it and we are
claiming all of that. That's
our position."
Tawang is AP's
northwestern district, and
for the past half-century
has been considered by
Beijing to be part of
Shannan Prefecture in the
Tibet Autonomous Region.
AP itself is referred to in
China as South Tibet.
Foreign Minister Pranab
Mukherjee responded the
same day, saying that
Arunachal Pradesh is an
"integral" part of India. With
warming relations between
the two superpowers,
optimism had surfaced in
recent months that the
border dispute between
China and India may have
seen progress before
President Hu's visit. Sun's
statement, however,
showed that there is
enough that has been
pushed under the carpet
for things like this to
surface at odd times
and add turbulence
to developing
Hindi-Chini bonhomie.
Incidentally, New Delhi
is currently planning to
build roughly 3000 km of
new roads in Arunachal
Pradesh, to strengthen
both its connection and its
claim to the state. A
Menon to Bhutan
The new Indian Foreign
Secretary, Shiv
Shankar Menon, made his
first trip abroad as the
country's top diplomat to
Bhutan. During his three-
day visit, Menon brought up
New Delhi's desire to revise
the 1949 treaty between
Bhutan and India,
particularly in the context of
the Druk Yul's slated
unveiling of a new
Constitution in 2008. Among other things, the 1949
agreement includes a clause, dating back to 1910, that
gives India direct influence over Bhutan's foreign policy.
We wish we could report what it was that Menon
proposed. While it is clear that Thimphu would want to
wriggle out of that particular clause, could it be that New
Delhi too wants to let go? A
■ -■■ ;
Indian army/landowner
There are around six lakh soldiers of the Indian
Army stationed in Jammu & Kashmir, making it
the most militarised comer of Southasia. We now
know that the military is also owner of a large amount
of land in the state. The military recently purchased
5000 kanals (about 625 acres) of land tn Kupwara
District, just one kilometre's distance from a military
camp that stands on 10,000 kanals of land. There is
a third camp about three kilometres away.
All in all, villagers say that the army's occupation
of roughly 25,000 kanals of land within the three-
kilometre radius has kept them from building any
new houses or tilling any new soil. Similar
complaints are being made elsewhere in the
Kashmir Valley* According to official figures, Indian
military and paramilitary forces currently occupy
around 150 sq km of land in J & K. Land acquisition
is currently in progress in 51 additional cases,
involving a total of more than 13,000 acres. A
. -*.vLha
Himal Southasian I December 2006
An obvious market
Over the past financial
year Bangladeshi
exports to India have risen
sharply, narrowing the
trade deficit between the
two countries to an all-
time low of around 14
percent. Current annual
exports from Bangladesh
to India total nearly USD
242 million, compared to
less than USD 144 million
last year. Indian exports to
Bangladesh, meanwhile,
dropped eight percent
during the same period.
The 68 percent climb in
Bangladeshi exports has
come about mainly
because of Dhaka's
reaching out to the states
ofthe Indian Northeast. A
recent report out of Dhaka
suggested that this market
had remained untapped by
Bangladeshi traders until
now largely due to Indian
bureaucracy and foot-
dragging. One factor that
particularly aided
Bangladesh's entrance into
the Northeastern market
was the new ability of Indian
banks to open lines of credit
to traders from the
neighbouring country. If all
this is indeed true, then we
can conclude that
relationships in the east
will improve, as trade oils
the inter-state connections
through shared economies
and tradespeople's interactions.        A
Fewer and fewer
Under a new decision by the Chinese government,
the amount of direct participation by Tibetans in
administering the Tibet Autonomous Region is now set
to be lower than at any time in the past 40 years. For the
first time since 1980, the Communist Party committee
in Lhasa will be overseen by an ethnic Han Chinese,
Qin Yizhi.
The Chinese Constitution stipulates that a majority of
representatives of the government and ruling Peoples
Congresses of a particular area must be members of
that area's ethnic majority. Such laws do not apply to the
Communist Party apparatus, however, which effectively
controls all other governmental bodies.
The new move is merely a continuation of a long
decline. In 1986, 80 percent ofthe Lhasa party
committee were
Tibetan; by 1997, that
number had dropped to
around 55 percent. With
only eight out of 30
members of the new
party board
being Tibetans -
around 26
percent - the new
composition will
have the lowest Tibetan
represen-tation since
1966. The further we go,
the sadder it gets...    A
Tidying up
Ahead of a visit by
Chinese President Hu
Jintao to India, New Delhi
threatened a prominent
Tibetan activist with
deportation to Tibet if he
left the confines of
Dharamsala before 25
November. President Hu
is slated to be in India from
20-23 November. Tenzin Tsundue is the general-
secretary of the pressure group Friends of Tibet, and has
led several high-profile protests during the visits of other
Chinese premiers, including prime ministers Wen
Jiabao and Zhu Rongji.
Tsundue, who was born a refugee in India, was
served with the warning from the office of the
Superintendent of Police, and threatened with
prosecution under the Foreigners Act of 1946. Among
other things, this Act gives the government broad
powers over anyone deemed to be a foreigner,
including "requiring him to reside in a particular place"
or "imposing any restrictions on his movements".        A
Take your money
If you thought the
government of
Manmohan Singh would
always opt for economic
openness and
liberalisation, you may
wonder how he is going
to react to some
regressive suggestions
made by India's National
Security Council (NSC).
New Delhi in fact is said
to be planning legislation
that would discourage
foreign investment from
several countries,
including Pakistan,
Bangladesh, Afghanistan
and China. The move
came following a recent
meeting by the NSC,
which took note of
Chinese investments in
the telecom sector and
recommended limiting
future Chinese FDI.
Similar recommendations have been made
against the three
Southasian neighbours,
as well as Taiwan, North
Korea, Macau and Hong
Kong. The NSC warned
that foreign direct
investment under the
present set-up could pose
an opportunity for both
money laundering and
unregulated hawala
money transfer - both of
which the NSC considers
threatening to India's
economic stability. More
likely, however, some
businesses are using this
back door entry to block
competition. On a
Southasian scale, this
discrimination could be
seen as an unfriendly act
that goes against the
S.AARC ethos. A
December 2006 | Himal Southasian
 ^    Her highness
A state government ruling in
Madhya Pradesh recently
brought an end - some would
say a wrong-headed one - to a
longstanding feud between the
state's tourism minister,
Yashodhara Raje Scindia, and
her civil-service underlings.
The Scindias are the former
royal rulers of Gwalior, which
later became part of Madhya Pradesh. Despite the fact
that the Indian Constitution outlawed royal titles more
than a half-century ago, Minister Scindia has
reportedly been refusing to show up at official
functions and meetings when invitation cards do not
address her as shrimant, which can be translated as
'highness'. And despite that ban, the Madhya Pradesh
government ruled in her favour. Meanwhile, the
minister (who has Nepali blood from her mother's
side) said, "All over the world and in Europe, royalty is
given due recognition."
Even while politicians of all stripes deride the BJP
government's ruling, the government says that it sees
the issue merely as an official name-change.
Scindia will simply be known by the name she put
on her nomination documents for the state's most
recent polls. fr
Don't fence me in
India has built border fences along its Pakistan and
Bangladesh frontiers. This has given Pakistan ideas,
and Islamabad now wants to fence its frontier with
Afghanistan. A spokesman for Hamid Karzai in early
November said that Afghanistan would "never" allow
its border to be fenced. Amidst increasing militant
activity in the Afghanistan-Pakistan borderlands, which
has resulted in increased tensions between Kabul and
Islamabad, the Pakistani government had again
raised the issue, by way of Pakistan Foreign Minister
Khurshid Kasuri.
The exact location ofthe 2500 km-long border,
the so-called Durand Line, has long been disputed
Dy Afghanistan, which remains anxious about
any attempt to internationally standardise the
frontier. Besides its other functions, that is what a fence
would achieve.
Kabul said that fencing of the border would not
effect a "rooting out" of militant organisations. On that
front, it put out in the same week a general call to
militants to turn away from violence and come to the
negotiating table. No pre-conditions would be placed
on the talks. The offer, which was also extended lo one
of the country's most notorious warlords, former Prime
Minister Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, follows similar offers
made last month to Taliban leader Mullah Omar. o
Himal Southasian I December 2006
A cautious forum
More than a year after
the idea was mooted,
the India-Pakistan Forum
of Parliamentarians is
finally set to begin working
at the end ofthe year.
While the Indian part of the
forum was set up last year,
the Pakistani side has now
been created and will
reportedly begin work in
December. The two
committees are supposed
to act as a high-level go-
between, bringing the
executives in the two
countries closer
together. Indeed, the
parliamentarians are
expected to provide a
great back-up to what is
agreed to between the
governments, for they
have a greater ability to
generate public
acceptability, So, good
that fhe MPs have joined
the gig, and may the
forum meet often -
unrestricted by visas
and city-specific
reporting problems.      A
Pipeline knots
In what many admit is a last-ditch effort, an
international consultant was trilaterally appointed in
mid-October to study the gas-pricing issue on the
proposed Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) pipeline. The UK-
based Singaporean consultant, Gaffney Cline, is
scheduled to submit a report ahead of a working-
group meeting in Tehran before the end of the year.
The plan, thought to be sure-fire just two years ago,
was to have Iranian gas from the South Pars field
brought to the Indian market via Pakistan, which
would also get to partake of the supply.
While Tehran wants to sell its gas to its eastern
neighbours at international prices, Islamabad and
New Delhi have made offers of roughly half that figure.
The pricing issue has held up all progress on the USD
7.4 billion gasline for nearly a half a year. By early
November, however, a new player had solidly entered
the fray - Russia's mammoth Gazprom, which is
offering both technical and financial assistance.
Gazprom's involvement was welcomed by the
petroleum ministries of both India and Pakistan.
By and large, however, regional pipelines are
facing dire problems. Two current projects are
being slowed down by violence along the
routes, including the IPI and
the Turkmenistan-
Afghanistan-Pakistan line, j
A third, which Would run
between Qatar and
Pakistan, was recently
halted after Qatar said that it
did not have enough gas
reserves to sell to Pakistan,
Meanwhile, the Balochistan
problems have suddenly created
further uncertainties with regards
to the Iranian pipeline.
 Gambari returns
nited Nations
Undersecretary General
Ibrahim Gambari returned to
Burma in early November,
nearly six months after he last
visited the country. At the time
of his previous visit, he
became the first foreigner and
the highest-ranking member of the UN to be allowed to
meet opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi in more
than two years. During Gambari's four-day visit this
time around, he met again with Suu Kyi, as well as with
junta leader Than Shwe.
Gambari's last trip set in motion some of the most
concrete actions ever undertaken by the international
community with regard to Burma. The country was
officially added to the Security Council's agenda in a
move led by the US, which is now also pushing for a
Security Council resolution on Burma. Gambari's last
trip had little immediate effect within the country,
however. Immediately following his departure in May,
the junta had again extended Suu Kyi's house arrest
sentence for another year.
Nonetheless, some observers have noted that by
allowing Gambari to return, Rangoon may be
preparing to offer some concessions. The junta,
meanwhile, will be hoping that the Undersecretary
General endorses its recently re-started National
Convention, the first step in its highly criticised
seven-step roadmap to democracy. "The first meeting
was diplomatic, an opening," Gambari noted after his
four-day mission ended. "But now there is hard
bargaining and give-and-take." A
Frowning upon
Punjal>Punjab games
The Indian External Affairs Ministry has castigated the
Chandigarh government for going forward with plans
to step up crossborder relations with Punjab province in
Pakistan without first informing the ministry's desk officers
in Delhi. South Block took umbrage at the recent unilateral
visit by chief parliamentary secretary Rana Gurmeet Sodhi
to Pakistan to finalise plans for the Punjab-Punjab games,
scheduled to take place later this year.
The ministry also noted its displeasure at the
September attempts by Punjab Minister of Transport
Mohinder Singh Kaypee to look into the possibility of
adding more crossborder bus lines to Sikh holy places in
Pakistan. All confidence-building measures, the ministry
warned, must have prior approval by the Centre. Might
we add that some such measures are needed between
the state and union governments? Why not leave Punjab
alone when it seeks to build relations with Punjab?
Northeast merger illegal'
On 16 October, the Sri Lankan Supreme Court ruled
that the merger between the northern and eastern
provinces of the island is in fact illegal. The two
provinces, both with a Tamil-speaking majority, were
'temporarily' merged in 1987, following the peace
accord brokered by India. But the agreement by which
this was done also stipulated that the LTTE militants
would subsequently have to lay down their arms,
something that has still not taken place.
The case, brought to court by two MPs of the radical
Sinhala Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) party,
subsequently considered whether the deal could now be
nullified given that intransigence. The judgment "knocks
the bottom out of the peace process", noted a member of
an opposition group in Parliament, "as a merged
northeastern province must be the basis for any
peace negotiations".
Critics also argued that the court had not allowed any
Tamil testimony during the case. President Mahinda
Rajapakse, meanwhile, has stressed that the issue
needs to be resolved through a referendum, as the
original Indo-Lankan accord had stipulated. This
judgement seems to be one more addition to a process
of relentless polarisation in the island. A
Atrocities investigation
n early November the
Colombo government
reversed its previous
stance, officially
announcing that it would
launch investigations into
15 cases of alleged
human-rights abuse that
have taken place in the
country since August
2005, perpetrated by both
the government and
LTTE rebels.
A committee will be
appointed that will be
headed by a Supreme
Court judge and overseen
by representatives of the
international community,
including the EU, US,
England and Japan.
Among the incidents the
committee will look into will
be two that took place this
past August: fhe highly
contentious killing of 17
Tamil aid workeis in Muttur
town, and an air strike that
reportedly Killed 61
The committee will also
investigate the June 2006
mine attack that killed 64
people, and the October
2006 killing of 99 people,
including a group of Sri
Lankan sailors. The
committee will report back
within a year. A look at this
brief timespan alone
indicates how the violence
has escalated in Sri Lanka,
and why any action to
demand accountability is
welcome. While the dead
are gone, at least this
may help control excesses
in the future. A
December 2006 I Himal Southasian
Trying times for the Bangladeshi democrat
v - J
Notwithstanding the
current electoral chaos,
Bangladesh is trying its
best to furnish a
functional democracy.
The next few months
will be crucial ones.
It has been a month of high drama in Bangladeshi
politics - things have been melodramatic, in fact,
even for election season. The storm that has been
gathering over many months of tension - political and
civil - over issues as disparate as the workings of the
Election Commission, electricity and workers' wages,
finally arrived at the end of October. Right on schedule,
many observers noted.
As a modern democracy no more than 15 years old,
dogged by a cynical, egocentric, bipartisan political
mechanism shared almost exclusively between the two
main political camps, change of power was never going
to be a smooth deal. On one side ofthe divide sits the
Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), which held a two-
thirds majority as part of a four-party alliance in the
immediate past Parliament. This was partly courtesy of
the catalytic Islamic vote-bank effect of its allies - the
mainstay Jamaat-e-Islami and the splintered Islami
Oikya Jote. On the other side of the gulf stands the
Awami League (AL), the main opposition in the last
house, which presently leads a 14-party combine camp
of left-leaning political groups, including the recent
addition of the Liberal Democratic Party, a breakaway of
the BNP's disgruntled old-school core. Through months
of political somersaults, backstabbing and finger-
pointing, political soothsayers have been prophesising
anything and everything under the sun: no elections,
rigged elections, violent elections, military rule!
By late November, just weeks from the 'constitutional
provision' (a term frequently used and blatantly abused
in political talk these days) for elections in mid-January,
the country seemed to be stuck in a labyrinth deeper
than anyone had anticipated. Meanwhile, with more than
30 deaths from political violence and repeated
shutdowns of economic activity, everyday life for
Bangladesh's citizens had been put on hold.
While October's street violence and November's
political drama played out as the lay-up to the elections,
they were set into motion almost a year ago. It was on 12
February, in the dying days of last winter, when AL
leader Sheikh Hasina tabled 34 reform proposals after
months of boycotting the House. These included
reconstituting the Election Commission and revising the
voter roll. More broadly, however, the proposals raised
questions about the form, representation and motives of
the constitutionally stipulated caretaker government that
was to be set up after the late October power handover.
The AL latched onto the controversial choice of Justice M
A Aziz as Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) as the
critical issue, although this was more due to the need for
a political effigy than from any actual political foresight.
The present political and constitutional situation was
arrived at by the domino effect of those proposals of the
AL. Nearly ten months later - after rounds of letter-
swapping and further rounds of frantic political talks at
the parties' secretary-general level throughout October
over a revamped 31-point AL reform proposal -just days
ahead of the scheduled handover, coming up with the
right question about how to structure the caretaker
government was still the issue. As the last days of the
BNP government drew near, no party was ready to get
serious about the negotiations, fearing blame for failure
in the high-tension atmosphere. Fatalism was in the air.
Anticipatory calm
Talks collapsed just before Eid. On 26 October, 102 high-
profile members of the BNP - including 12 members of
Parliament, former state ministers and influential political
leaders - led by renegade Oli Ahmed, a former army
man and close aide to the late General Ziaur Rahman,
defected to form a new party. The Liberal Democratic
Party was formed by merging this group with an already
existing BNP splinter party, the Bikalpadhara, led by
former President A Q M Badruddoza Chowdhury. The
Himal Southasian I December 2006
 With surprising maturity, or perhaps due to the prospect of military intervention in the
case of anarchy, the AL and its allies "conditionally accepted" the president's action,
first widespread political violence feared during election
politicking started minutes after the announcement of the
new party, and BNP activists burned houses and
businesses of those who defected.
As outgoing Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia
delivered the last lines of her farewell speech on the
evening of 27 October, street agitations had already
broken out across the country between activists of the
opposing parties. During the following two days, with the
power handover on a tightrope, dozens died in street
violence, and a nationwide transport blockade halted the
economy. Meanwhile, a high-stakes political game was
being played behind the scenes.
While the AL-led 14-party alliance demanded the
withdrawal of CEC Aziz and K M Hasan, the candidate to
head the caretaker government, the BNP's political
acumen showed signs of anticipatory calm. Amidst the
brouhaha, President lajuddin Ahmed, who had been
widely considered a political appointee of the BNP,
emerged as a mediator between the parties. Without
much hype, the Hasan problem vanished on 28 October
when he stepped aside. As the president's talks with
both parties continued, and a farcical search was
undertaken for "a politically acceptable man and yet
maintaining constitutional sanctity", President Ahmed
proposed his own name for the position of chief of the
interim government. On 29 October, the job was done.
With surprising maturity, or perhaps due to the
prospect of military intervention in the case of anarchy,
the AL and its allies "conditionally accepted" the
president's action, quelling fears of another eruption of
political violence. The AL's condition - that Presideni
Ahmed had to "prove neutrality" within three days - was
put off by another week, but had little effect on the
president's actions. Al the time of writing, the AL was
pushing an 11-point ultimatum, with the removal of M A
Aziz as the most definitive demand. The threat: a nonstop blockade.
In the course of the next two days, ten advisors,
chosen from lists provided by the two main political
parties, were sworn in and given multiple portfolios. Not
helping to quell the brooding suspicion with regard to his
intentions, President Ahmed kept a range of sensitive
ministries tied to the election process under his own
purview. More worryingly, weeks after the interim
government was put in place, the country was still
awaiting an overhaul of the administration.
On track?
Bangladesh suffered blockades throughout November,
enforced by the AL and with later support from the new
Liberal Democratic Party. Aziz's removal became a near
national obsession, with such comical announcements
as the country's largest body of grocers' deciding to stop
providing supplies in protest of the CEC. Meanwhile, for
the first time since the political impasse began, the
representatives of the European Commission and the
United States clarified their own positions. Just days
before Aziz's inevitable 'departure', both the EC and the
US made clear that he had to go. Then, in a late night
address to the nation on 22 November, Aziz's
decision to go on a 90-day 'leave' was announced -
much to the discontent of the AL and its allies, and an
apparent crack within the panel of ten advisers on the
president's final decision.
While his exit may silence some of the political
activism, the political gridlock and the dark clouds over
the 2007 elections will remain. Pre-poll politicking has
remained in full swing even through these turbulent
times, and as winter's discontent broods into the coming
year, elections might just turn out to be a means to an
end. While political parties continue partisan games with
little thought for stability, the bigger question is whether
the AL will participate in the polls at all - or, if they do,
who will accept the results.
With an economy clocking above 5.5 percent annual
growth for several years now, Bangladesh is still on track
- even though the current political instability will surely
curtail the projected growth of above 6 percent for the
current fiscal year. While many observers note with
some spite that the country has become a 'corrupt
democracy', smoothing the pains of growth and
furnishing a functioning democracy for a populace of
150 million is no easy calculus.
While the current political crisis brews, looming in the
background is an ever-deepening mistrust by the
populace of both the political process and players. Over
the years, radical Islamists have gained ground given
the lack of long-term vision among any of (he major
political camps. As they have slowly increased their
ability to draw votes, the past five years have seen a
significant rise in their political, economic and social
clout. This process has been expedited by the fact that
two Islamic parties have shared power in government for
the past five years. Their role in and impact on the future,
particularly on the still unsure elections, will be observed
with some trepidation.
Be it the provision for a caretaker government or the
reservation of seats for women in Parliament,
Bangladesh is a country still experimenting with its
democracy in all possible manners. What will most likely
save the day is the widely held notion that Bangladesh's
electorate is a resilient lot, and hopefully will not loose
their sense of belonging. The onus lies on the country's
mainstream political establishment to get the political
process back on track. Otherwise, the path they tread
could lead to that place that signifies the death of any
democracy, mature or infant: indifference.
December 2006 I Himal Southasian
After three relatively successful elections,
democracy in Bangladesh has run
The political situation in Bangladesh has become
so volatile that anything a reporter writes runs the
risk of being out of date by the time it gets to print.
The country is currently in the midst of a political
standoff, the likes of which even this most unpredictable
and explosive of countries has never before seen. In the
run-up to the January elections, one would have to be a
bolder man than this writer to predict how everything will
turn out in Ihe coming weeks.
For the past 15 years, Bangladesh has had a more or
less functional democracy. Despite crippling political
infighting, the country has muddled through to post
mpressive gains, both economically and socially.
Governance has remained extremely poor, and
democratic institutions such as the Parliament have
remained largely dysfunctional. Nevertheless, the
country has been moving in the right direction, with
changes of government following more or less
acceptable elections in 1991, 1996 and 2001. The 1991
elections were held in the aftermath of the overthrow of
H M Ershad's military autocracy, which came after a
half-decade-long struggle for the reinstitution of
democracy. This also marked the last time that the
two main political parties, the ruling Bangladesh
Nationalist Party and the opposition Awami League,
cooperated on anything.
1991 brought the BNP to power, and the two
subsequent general elections have delivered two
changes of governments. First the AL took over in
1996, and then the BNP swept back to power as
the head of a four-party alliance in 2001.
Suddenly, this system of governance, which
had sustained from 1991 to 2001, appears to
have fallen apart.
To understand why this situation has come
aboul, one needs to go look at the country's
system of caretaker governments, which was
devised in 1991 to oversee the elections that
were held after Ershad stepped down (see
Himal August 2006, "The crippled
caretaker"). This worked very well, and the
11 eminent citizens chosen by the president
(ex-Chief Justice Shahabuddin Ahmed, who
Tad been installed as president by the
consensus of the political parties) to form the initial
caretaker administration presided over what are
generally seen as the most credible elections
Bangladesh had ever seen.
In 1996, the combined opposition parties refused to
contest elections under the BNP government, due to a
well-founded apprehension that the BNP would use its
incumbency to rig the polls. This apprehension was
based in large part on that party's shenanigans in
by-elections prior to the February 1996 general election,
and was spectacularly borne out when the results of this
election (boycotted by all major political parties except the
BNP) were published. Following countrywide agitations,
the BNP government was forced to step down and hand
the reins of power to the second caretaker government,
which presided over elections in June 1996 that saw the
AL come to power with a slender majority in coalition with
the Jatiya Party. In 2001, the BNP returned to power at the
head of a four-party alliance that secured a thumping
two-thirds majority in Parliament.
All goes haywire
Currently headed into the fourth general election since
the restoration of democracy (not counting the bogus
February 1996 polls), it would seem that the country's
democratic institutions should have been in better shape
than ever before. But this was not the case. The first
electoral controversy was one that had been simmering
for several years, and it came to a boil on 28 October,
when the outgoing four-party alliance government had
been mandated to hand over power to the incoming
caretaker administration.
The disagreement centres on who is to be the 'Chief
Adviser', the head of the caretaker administration. This
issue had not caused controversy in the past, with the
Constitution clearly stipulating that the first choice for
Himal Southasian I December 2006
 Currently going into the fourth general election since the restoration of democracy, it
would seem that the country's democratic institutions should have been in better shape
than ever. But this was not the case.
Chief Adviser should be the last retired Chief Justice of
the Supreme Court. Nonetheless, the debate in October
came to a head due to the fact that, during its tenure in
office, the BNP had amended the Constitution to raise
the retirement age of judges from 65 to 67 - thus
ensuring that in 2006 the last retired Chief Justice would
be K M Hasan, a one-time BNP office-bearer. The
opposition had long ago announced that it would not
agree to Hasan becoming Chief Adviser, and endless
dialogue between the opposition and the government
yielded no compromise.
On 28 October, the AL took its argument to the
streets. There, they were met with equal ferocity by the
police and cadres of the four-party alliance. The vicious
fighting that engulfed the country ended up leaving
two dozen dead and thousands injured. Justice Hasan
issued a hurried statement, declining the honour
of becoming the Chief Adviser. The story then only
gol complicated.
Choosing not to follow the constitutionally mandated
steps for appointment of the Chief Adviser, President
lajuddin Ahmed then proceeded to appoint himself to
the position - an option the Constitution does indeed
offer, but only as a last resort. For the opposition, this
was not much of an improvement over Hasan, and, as
matters have turned out, may end up looking much
worse. President Ahmed had been elected by the BNP-
dominated Parliament, and is well known to be a longtime BNP man. Nonetheless, the opposition halted its
street-agitation programme, most likely due to
apprehension that the armed forces would be
called out to quell what was turning into an
uncontrollable situation. They reluctantly issued a
statement offering tepid conditional acceptance of the
president as Chief Adviser.
Since he became Chief Adviser on 29 October,
nothing the president has done has encouraged the
belief that he is a neutral figure - as would befit the head
of an administration that is vested solely with presiding
over the conduct of free and fair elections. As opposed
to the last caretaker chief - who transferred key officials
from his first day in office, and imposed his authority with
an iron first - the current Chief Adviser has done very
little in the way of shuffling administrative and police
personnel, which everyone would agree would be
necessary to ensure credible elections. What is truly
unprecedented is the Chief Adviser's split with the rest of
the 11-person 'Council of Advisers', as the caretaker
government is referred to. A significant gulf has grown
between him and more than half of the council - who
are said lo be ready to tender their resignations,
something that has never happened in the history of the
chief advisorship. The main complaint is that decisions
collectively made by the Council are subsequently
unilaterally countermanded by the Chief Adviser, in clear
contravention of the Constitution.
Perhaps what will be seen as the final straw came
on 12 November, when the caretaker government put the
armed forces on standby to lend support to the
civil administration. This decision was made unilaterally
by the Chief Adviser, without informing the rest of
the Council.
Stubborn partisan
That is not all. The next crisis centred on the Chief
Election Commissioner (CEC) and the Election
Commission, which had also been thoroughly politicised
by the BNP government and staffed with its hand-picked
people. The CEC, Justice M A Aziz, has alienated most
members of the polity, with the exception of his boosters
in lhe four-party alliance. He ignored judgments by both
the High Court and the Appellate Division of the Supreme
Court when he went about creating a bogus voter roll,
which was prepared by politically partisan enumerators
and allegedly contains well over one million fake voters.
The 14-party alliance led by the AL has insisted that no
credible election can be held under Aziz's supervision, a
sentiment that has widespread sympathy beyond the
realm of party politics. Indeed, about the only people who
want Hasan to remain in his post once again are the four-
party alliance hardliners - and, it seems, the president/
Chief Adviser himself. The opposition has imposed
periodic blockade programmes, apparently in the hope of
shaming the CEC into relinquishing his position. This
pressure, together with the near consensus in the country
on the need for the CEC to go, finally persuaded Aziz to
step aside on 22 November - though whether this will
have the desired effect of allowing reconstitution of a
credible Election Commission remains to be
seen. Removal of the CEC without further steps to
reconstitute and reform the Election Commission will
solve little.
In this finely balanced situation, there is very real
possibility that the army will be forced to step in and break
the deadlock. In fact, the military has already been asked
to do so, both by the BNP's four-party alliance
government and the current caretaker government, but it
has thus far resisted the call, showing great forbearance
and maturity. At the same time, the army brass has
indicated that if forced to enter the filed because of
political chaos, it will not activate its ranks as the cat's
paw of either the president and his BNP backers, or
ofthe AL-led 14-party alliance. Rather, the army will be
its own master. . ■
December 2006 I Himal Southasian
Reforming Indian policing
A groundbreaking
decision by India's
Supreme Court could
speed up reforms in a
police establishment
governed by one of the
world's most archaic
On 22 September 2006, the
Supreme Court of India, one
of the most proactive courts
in the world, directed the governments
at the state and the union level to
institutionalise 'best practices' in the
country's police force. In the landmark
judgment Prakash Singh v Union of
India, the court stated that given the
"gravity of the problem" and the "total
uncertainty as to when police reforms
would be introduced" if the
government were left to its own
devices, it felt compelled to issue
"appropriate directions for immediate
compliance". Those directions to the
government are binding until the state
legislatures enact a new Police Act.
Police in India continue to be
governed by an archaic colonial law
from 1861, making it one of the oldest
such legislation anywhere. Enacted
in the aftermath of the Mutiny of 1857,
the Police Act of 1861 sought to create
a force that would crush dissent, and
in particular any movement for self-
determination. The Constitution of
Independent India makes policing a
'state subject', which means that state
governments have the authority to
pass more progressive policing
legislation. Despite this freedom, most
states continue to utilise the 19th
century legislation, and even the few
that have enacted their own laws
have modelled them on the 1861
Act, Retaining outdated, regressive
legislation has meant that policing
has not kept up with the overall
democratic development of
Independent India; this has aided the
continuing high incidence of custodial
torture, extrajudicial killings, illegal
detention and corruption.
The need for reform in the police
force has long been recognised, and
how such reform would be carried out
is also fairly well understood. Though
many committees and commissions
have been set up to suggest reform
since independence, none of their
recommendations have been
implemented. The most recent such
committee, headed by former Indian
Attorney General Soli Sorabjee, was
set up in 2005 to draft a new Police
Act. It remains to be seen if its
recommendations, submitted to the
government in October 2006 in the
immediate aftermath of Prakash
Singh, will be implemented.
Lack of political will remains the
greatest obstacle to police reform.
Successive governments over the
past half-century have retained and
in fact encouraged colonial styles of
policing. It suits the political elite to
have subservient police who will do
their bidding. Politicians in India have
ensured compliance by retaining
powers of appointment, transfer and
promotion as potent tools by which to
influence the police. The status quo
also suits police officers, who realise
that so long as they are pliant, they
can get away with murder, sometimes
literally. The experience of various
communal riots across India has
illustrated not only how political
interference in the functioning of the
police can result in huge loss of life
and property, but also how police
misconduct goes unpunished if the
political masters are content.
In 2002, the involvement of the
state police in the communal riots in
Gujarat and their aftermath invited
much criticism. The police refused to
register complaints, conducted
shoddy investigations and fudged
evidence - all with impunity. Those
officers who upheld the law and tried
to stop the attacks on minority
communities were punitively
transferred by the state government.
One police superintendent
successfully thwarted an attack on a
school, rescued 400 students and
registered criminal cases against the
attackers, despite pressure from local
political leaders to turn a blind eye.
He was subsequently transferred five
times in a single year. On the other
hand, Ahmedabad's police
commissioner, widely believed to
have played a biased and compliant
role during the riots, was promoted to
the position of the head of the state
Himal Southasian | December 2006
 police forces anti-corruption bureau.
The message has long been clear.
For a police officer, enforcing the diktat
of the politician can be much more
rewarding than upholding the rule of
law. Given such a scenario, it did not
seem likely that the authorities would
ever get around to reforming their
police squads. With the Prakash Singh
judgement, the Supreme Court may
have changed this.
Autonomy, accountability
The Supreme Court's new directives
recognise the need to achieve two
basic principles of policing under a
democratic system: functional
autonomy and accountability. The
former implies that the police are free
to perform their functions without
extraneous pressure. They cannot be
directed, say, to arrest a particular
person or to investigate a particular
incident in a particular manner.
Significantly, international norms
indicate that appointment, transfer
and promotion should all be handled
within the police hierarchy, not
by politicians.
As such, the September court
ruling mandates that chiefs of police
be selected through a transparent
process, and that they, along with
other specified officers, should enjoy
the security of tenure. In addition, the
authorities are directed to create an
Establishment Board, comprising the
chief of police and four other senior
police officers, to decide on
promotions and transfers. The court
further directs each state government
to set up a State Security Commission
- comprising elected leaders from
both the government and the
opposition, the chief of police and
others drawn from the government,
judiciary or the public - to lay down
policy guidelines for the police force,
and to ensure that there is no
interference with its functioning.
To ensure that the powers of the
police are not abused, the court
mandates that functional autonomy be
tempered with accountability. As with
any other public service, police must
be responsible not only for the
services that they are expected to
provide and to be answerable for each
and every action that affects the lives
of citizens, but also for the public
money that they spend. The Supreme
Court has now directed the new State
Security Commissions to evaluate the
performances of the police in their
respective states.
Perhaps more importantly, as an
agency ofthe state entitled to use force
against citizens, it is imperative that
misconduct on the part of the police
be met with consequences. Opaque
and non-responsive internal
disciplinary systems in India have
long failed to inspire any faith in the
country's citizens. While the National
Human Rights Commission is
empowered to inquire into complaints
against the police, it lacks resources -
both financial and human - to deal with
the large number of complaints that
are lodged against the police force as
well as other government agencies
every year. The Prakash Singh
judgment now directs the state
governments to put in place Police
Complaint Authorities at both the state
and district levels, to inquire
specifically into complaints against
the police.
Mow for compliance
The directions of the Supreme Court
are binding on all state governments,
which must comply by the end
of December. In prescribing such a
short timeframe, the court must have
been guided by the failure of
past governments to implement
measures to reform the police. But the
proximity of the deadline will pose
many challenges.
The state governments in India now
must decide whether they will comply
with the court's ruling through
executive orders or through new
legislation. Some of the directions,
such as ensuring security of tenure
and creating an internal Establishment
Board for transfers and promotions,
can be complied with immediately
through executive instruction. Others,
however, such as the creation of State
Security Commissions and Police
Complaints Authorities, will have to be
enshrined in law in order to ensure
their independent functioning.
In creating these bodies, the state
governments will have to face some
problems that are inherent in the
judgment itself. The judgment
mandates, for instance, the creation
of a State Security Commission to
ensure that "the state government
does not exercise unwarranted
influence or pressure on the state
police". But in practice, how will the
Commission ensure that there is no
interference? What skills will the
Commission possess by which to
evaluate the police, and how will it go
about performing this function?
Similarly, will inquiries by the Police
Complaints Authority lead to criminal
charges, or will there be a parallel
police investigation? What will be the
relation between the criminal
investigation undertaken by the police '
and the inquiry by the Authority?
These questions will require
thorough consideration, and must be
addressed by well-thought-out laws.
The end-of-the-year deadline clearly
does not provide enough time for the
creation of such complex legislation.
Governments must nevertheless take
definitive steps towards such reform.
Changes that do not require legislative t
basis should be introduced
immediately, and a process must
begin whereby comprehensive
legislation will be enacted.
The legislative process is itself
fraught with problems. There are
dangers that the lack of political will to
reform will be reflected in any eventual
legislation. It is also possible that the
new laws will not have mechanisms
by which to ensure police
accountability, or that fhey will create
only pliant institutions. If a process of
appointment is instituted that is again
un-transparent, or if the new state
bodies are denied resources, the new
mechanisms will be crippled. As such,
the onus will be on civil-society groups
in each state to ensure that the new
laws reflect the spirit of the judgment.
A good template to adopt would be
the Model Police Act, drafted recently
by the Sorabjee Committee. In any
case, governments in the process of
legislating must be pressured to
ensure that the public has the space
to debate and present its views on the
kind of policing it wants. A
December 2006 | Himal Southasian
ActionAid international (AAI) seeks a committed and competent leader
for its programmes in Pakistan.
■ ...
AAI is a unique partnership of people partnering with community based organisations, non
governmental organisations, social movements, people's organization and activists, and critically
engaging with governments, international organizations and private companies to ensure
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the Americas and Europe, it is committed to a mission of working "with poor and excluded
people to eradicate poverty and injustice". Our innovative projects, social mobilization and
policy advocacy work focuses on issues of women's rights; food security; education; governance;
HIV/AIDs and human security in conflict & emergencies.
With a proven track record in leading and managing institutional development programme, the
Country Director will bring an experience of working with social movements or being an active
member of civil society.
She/He will adopt empowering management practice to expand and deepen our partnerships,
programmes and accountability in the country programme. Our Country Director will be actively
committed to gender equity, value driven and a team player with high level of people related-
skills. S/He will have the perspectives and competencies for rights-based and policy advocacy
work; fundraising and donor relations; regional and international linkages and a sound
understanding of organizational development Familiarity with local strategies for poverty
eradication and social change is desirable. Courage of conviction in taking public stands against
issues of injustice and experience of dealing with governance boards would be an asset. Excellent
communication skills both in English and local languages is a requirement. ;■:■
'ft    .  .ft-. ::■■■ ..-.-'■■.    ft. .-■■v-d-ft-ftd-...■-.■■■    :  . ■":■
This is a senior position based in Islamabad, Pakistan with frequent travel nationally and
The position is offered under AATs international terms and conditions with an initial three
An application letter along with an updated CV including two referees should be sent to by 20th December 2006. We will be able to respond only to the
shortlisted candidates for the selection processes. For more information on ActionAid International
Whilst all applicants will be assessed strictly on their individual merits, qualified women
■    It J 'a I
are especially encouraged to apply.
But for
Pakistanis have everything
going for them. A proud young
ideology that can galvanise
nation-building, a federalism
that could work better than
elsewhere in Southasia, a
productive population and a
vibrant intelligentsia that has
sharpened its mind on the
stone of continuous adversity.
But for democracy in
The democratic uncertainty of Pakistan
For now, continuing civil-military partnership is the only thing that can save Pakistan
from descending into the chaos of a 'mass praetorian' society. However, all
actors must be careful to use the time they have to establish democratic norms
and institutions.
Everyone in Pakistan wants democracy;
ironically, this includes the army, which
intervenes every now and then to put the
country back on the rails and introduce 'true'
democracy. Just as every Western state defined peace
differently in the 20 years between the world wars,
democracy seems to have acquired various meanings
within Pakistan, which depend on one's ideological
and political leanings.
The Pakistan Army has repeatedly shown an
inclination to place itself within the political system
in an arbitrator's role. To this extent, it wants a
'controlled' rather than an unfettered democracy. At
least two military generals - Ayub Khan and Pervez
December 2006 | Himal Southasian
 While the army can be biamed for its interventions, there is empirical evidence that
political forces themselves have repeatedly failed, during democratic intervals, to act
prudently and develop a tradition of democracy.
Musharraf - have tried to wed the political
conservatism of the military to liberal policies in the
social and economic realms. Political parties have
similarly tended to eschew any normative framework
in the conduct of politics, and even centrist parties
have shown a tendency to court political and social
conservatism while pursuing - at least in the case of
Mian Nawaz Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League-N
(PML-N) - economic liberalism. Jn the long run. the
one negates the other. The religious right, meanwhile,
agrees with the form of democracy - elections,
Parliament, etcetera - but wants to grab power to
further the spread of Islam in the country, it is also
imbued with an all-pervasive conservatism in the
spheres of politics and socio-economic relations.
Smaller nationalist parties, secular for the most part,
do not have the capacity to impact national politics
directly, and squander any ability they might have to
liberalise the socio-political sphere by remaining
confrontational on parochial issues such as the rights
of the smaller provinces. Somewhat more nationalist
in its approach, but still essentiaiiv a party with its
basis in ethnicity, is the Mutahidda Qaumi Movement
MQM) in urban Sindh. It is secular, middle-class and
progressive. But it has tended to act in violent ways,
and retains the pathology of a small party. The
Pakistan People's Party (PPP) is the only political
entity with inroads into all four federal units. It is also
the only party with an agenda that is liberal on all
three counts: political, social and economic.
This scenario has put Pakistan in a quandary - not
I List when it comes to establishing and sustaining
democracy, but also in terms of identifying and
strengthening a norm that could characterise the
functioning of various political actors and the relations
between them. It is important to note that while the
army can be blamed for its interventions, there is
empirical evidence that political forces themselves
have repeatedly failed, during democratic intervals,
to act prudently and develop a tradition of democracy.
Not majority opinion
The philosopher Karl Popper termed public opinion
"an irresponsible form of power", and warned liberals
of its dangers. It was easy to understand and desirable
to minimise the power of the state, but how, other than
through the agency of the state, might the individual
be saved from the tyranny of public opinion? And if
the state is needed for such protection, how does one
square these conflicting requirements? Through a
"certain tradition", argued Popper. Of what tradition
did Popper speak? As Project Democracy fails in several
states, not just in .Asia but also in Furope, it is important
to revisit what he said.
Democracy as such cannot confer anv benefits upon the
citizens and it should not be expected to do so. In fact,
democracy can do nothing - only the citizens of the
democracy can act (including, of course, those citizens
who comprise the government). Democracy provides no
more than a framework within which the citizens mav act
in a more or less organised aind coherent way.
We are democrats, not because the majority is always
right, but because democratic traditions are the least evil
ones which we know. If the majority (or 'public opinion')
decides in favour of tyranny, a democrat need not therefore
suppose that some fatal inconsistency in his views has
been revealed. He will realise, rather, that the democratic
tradition in his country was not strong enough.
Contained in this analysis are two crucial points.
First, democracy is not only about the rule of minority
opinion. Second, while it is vital to keep the state in
check, it may in some situations be equally or more
crucial to use the state's protection to safeguard and
advance an eminently sensible course of action, which
may not have the power of public opinion behind it.
The past few decades have seen the failure of
people's power in various states. Flower and coloured
revolutions in Eastern Europe have given way to the
same old governmental lethargy and the lack ot an
internal norm so essential for preventing politics from
degenerating into anarchy. The "certain tradition"
Popper talked about seems missing. The incisive Alexis
de Tocqueville expressed concern about precisely these
circumstances when he wrote, his 1835 Democracy in
America: "If men are to remain civilised or become
so, the art of associating together must grow and
improve in the same ratio in which the equality of
conditions is increased."
Any discussion of democracy in Pakistan, as in other
states that have seen its ebb and flow, must move away
Gen Musharraf's dilemma is a classic one. On the one hand, he genuinely wants to
effect certain reforms to improve Pakistan's image as a moderate state. On the other,
he is reluctant to broaden his political support-base in pursuit of this agenda.
Himal Southasian I December 2006
 Despite having engineered the system as he pleased, Gen Musharraf knows that his
real power-base is the army, and not the office of president.
from a near-absolute faith in its dividends, and towards
consideration of the paradoxes contained in the
Popper quote above and of de Tocqueville's precondition of the "art of associating". Equally
dangerous, however, is the reformist who comes to
power, whether through a vote or a coup, and waves a
blueprint of reforms that he and only he can deliver.
Pakistan, as it stands today, is the story of these
paradoxes. For this reason, any discussion or analysis
of the country's politics must be watchful on the one
hand of simplistic understandings of democracy {what
political scientist Farced Zakaria calls 'illiberal
democracy'), and on the other of the proven inability
of strongmen to determine the exit strategy from the
hold they have put on democracy in the name of reform.
Praetorian fault-lines
Pakistan's 59-ycar-Iong history is replete with political
uncertainty. Each brief run of democracy has ended in
a military coup. For this reason, the country has
remained unable to complete the transition from an
authoritarian system to a democratic one. While
Pakistan has not seen mobilised violence, which
drastically reduces the prospects of political
democracy, it has suffered from an inability on the part
of political actors during periods of transition to
determine how and to what uses newly acquired
democratic authority should be put. For the most part,
this has resulted in political brinkmanship among
leading political actors, which in turn leads to the
breakdown, at some point, of the democratic cycle into
another military coup.
This is why Pakistanis initially welcomed all the
three coups d'etat (leaving aside the internal transition
in 1969 from General Ayub Khan to Yahya Khan, and
the 1993 'soft coup' by General Waheed Kakar) as
respite from the uncertainty of poor political
governance. It is a matter of record that when Pervez
Musharraf mounted his coup - or what he calls the
'counter-coup' - on 12 October 1999, he was hailed by
a large segment of the Pakistani people. The Pakistan
People's Party, the country's largest political force,
which the ousted Prime Minister Sharif had chased
from pillar to post, was ecstatic. Many of its workers
distributed sweets on the streets. The intelligentsia was
relieved that Sharif had gone and the era of democratic
totalitarianism had come to an end. The liberal-secular
sections of society were glad that he could no longer
fulfil his agenda of making Sharia the basis of
legislation, which would arguably have converted
Pakistan into a theocratic state.
At this stage we run into a paradox. It is important
for a genuine political process to begin, in order to fill
in the current fault-lines within the polity; vet, to open
up the system bv means of a vote would sharpen the
salience of these fault lines. What is the remedy? This
is not a theoretical question. Last October, Anatol
Lieven wrote in the International Herald Tribune:
Most developing countries seem closer to the melancholy
pattern of most of Latin America over the past century,
of a cyclical movement hetween flawed democracies and
ineffective dictatorships and back again - a process
interspersed with numerous' people-power revolutions'
that turn out to have made no real difference whatsoever.
This assessment brings us to what Samuel
Huntington posited in the late 1960s: some societies
evince a praetorian strand. 'Praetorian' normally refers
to a military that displays a tendency to mount coups.
Huntington, however, used the term to describe
societies in which, in the absence of a normative basis
for political functioning, all groups, including the
military, vie to capture state power for themselves.
Looking at the issue of military interventions,
Huntington dismissed the thesis that an explanation
of these interventions would require an analysis of the
military itself: "Military explanations do not explain
military interventions ... because the most important
causes of military intervention in politics are not
military but political, and reflect not the social and
organisational characteristics ot the military
establishment but the political and institutional
structure of the society." Huntington sought to
look for explanations in society itself, because countries
grappling with the cycle that Lieven described
show that the "society as a whole is out-of-joint, not
just the military".
As such, the military usually wins. As Thomas
Hobbes put it aptly, "When nothing else is turned up,
clubs are trumps". The political interregnums are as
bad as the military ones. In a praetorian society -
Huntington lists three stages of praetorianism:
oligarchical, radical and mass - political participation
and modernisation do not result in political
development but in political decay. This is why as a
society graduates from oligarchical to radical and,
finally, mass praetorianism, its chances of getting out
of the cycle steadily diminish. Increased political
participation in such a society, in the absence of
Be wary of the reformist who comes to power, whether through a vote or a coup, and
waves a blueprint of reforms that he and only he can deliver.
December 2006 | Himal Southasian
 political norms and "political institutions capable of
mediating, refining and moderating group political
action" means increased anarchy and chaos.
Huntington's thesis steadily lost adherents because,
besides being culturally deterministic, it was also seen
as an apology for military interventions. His praise for
military dictators or reformers - in the case of Pakistan,
Ayub Khan - was deemed inimical to a movement
towards political participation and activity. Yet, when
Pakistan finally managed its first national election in
1970, the exercise in political participation did not
bring about national cohesion or an aggregation of
interests. It tore the country asunder.
Furthermore, it may be noted that while accepting
reformist or military rule in a praetorian society at a
particular point in history, Huntington does not accept
it as desirable beyond that point. He makes clear that
military leaders or reformers need to take steps towards
two goals. First, they must not allow oligarchical
praetorianism to move towards radical praetorianism,
or the latter to further degenerate into mass
praetorianism - in which everyone enters into the
political fray in the continuing lack of political
evolution and the absence of acceptance of the rules of
the game. Second, they need to break the praetorian
cycle. If a country, despite a line of reformers and
military leaders, has not broken the cycle, one can only
say that the problem is even more complex than
Huntington thought it was.
The third party
Pakistan's case also relates to the problem of military
interventions and flawed democracies. In attempting
to capture the country's political space, the two parties
that alternated in power from 1988-99 failed to devise
a code of conduct or a norm for political practice.
Nawaz Sharif's PML-N, much more so than the PPP,
had allied with the army to put down the opposition.
But the 11-year opportunity to agree on an endogenous
norm was squandered by both parties as each tried to
pull the other down. On 14 May this year, when they
signed the Charter of Democracy in London, the
pressure to offer a mea culpa and the resolve to stay
the democratic course in order to retain the legitimacy
of the political opposition were born of the regret the
two parties now feel, having been thrown into the
political wilderness. However, given their conduct
since then, it is clear that they agree on nothing beyond
getting rid of General Musharraf.
In 1999, however, the situation was different. As
per the past script - in which the decline in the fortunes
of one party meant an automatic incline in the fortunes
of the other - the PPP was confident that with Sharif
and his League shown the door, the PPP was the
natural candidate for the high table. But Gen Musharraf
had other plans. The first thing he did was to chalk
out a seven-point agenda for reform, which he
announced before the country. The army, by this plan,
would immediately get to work restructuring the
political system - "total restructuring", as Gen
Musharraf put it. Its first task was to cleanse the
system of the two parties - PML-N and PPP - that
had shared the spoils of power during the 11-year
'democratic' interregnum. This entailed the ouster of
both the premiers who had also alternated during
that period.
In his recently published autobiography In the Line
of Fire, Gen Musharraf recounts:
1 set myself a seven-point agenda... 1. Rebuild national
confidence and morale. 2. Strengthen the federation,
remove inter-provincial disharmony. 3. Revive the
economy and restore investors' confidence. 4. Ensure
law and order and dispense speedy justice. 5. Depoliticise
state institutions. 6. Devolve power to the grassroots. 7.
Ensure swift accountability across the board.
Having swept aside the two main political parties,
he decided to embark on this programme in a political
vacuum. As most military dictators are, Gen
Musharraf was convinced of several things: the
political system should be purged, corruption should
be uprooted, the economy should be put in the fast
Himal Southasian | December 2006
 Shakily invincible
lane and, for all this to work, the country should be
depoliticised. However, to make all this happen, the
army needed to retain its primacy without having
to constantly intervene in the system as an external
player. In other words, the system needed to be
engineered to bring the military in as the legitimate
arbiter, rather than as an actor that must jump into
the arena from the outside and then seek legitimacy
through the highest court.
To this end, Gen Musharraf presented his
epigram: if you want to keep the army out, bring it
in. But alongside the military, of course, he needed a
political partner, and got down to the task of creating
a third, viable political force - an entity that would
not only neutralise the two main political parties,
but also give him the political legitimacy he needed
to pursue his agenda. This party was created from
Sharif's PML-N. He also brought into the loop some
smaller political groups, and managed, after
some initial difficulty, to wean from the PPP some of
its members.
This project of creating an alternative political
force severely compromised the idealism of the
seven-point agenda. Most of the currently ruling
PML - which began as the PML-Quaid-e-Azam and
has since rechristened itself the Pakistan Muslim
League - members are equally, if not more, corrupt
than the opposition members that Gen Musharraf
has since chosen to target. Simultaneously, to keep
the PPP and the PML-N out of political reckoning,
the general-president supported the six-party
religious alliance, the Mutahidda Majlis-e-Amal
{MMA, the United Action Front), to become the official
opposition in the National .Assembly.
On the plus side, even before he decided to ally
Pakistan with the United States following the events
of 11 September 2001, Gen Musharraf was a cultural
liberal. Before the 2002 elections, he ran government
through a quasi-political arrangement that included
liberal technocrats and members of NGOs. Since 9/
11, he has coined and made famous the slogan of
'enlightened motierstiori'. However, his cultural
liberalism has not prevented him from pursuing a
politics that is socially conservative. He supported
the religious right not only in order to keep at bay the
PPP, which shares his liberalism, but also because,
with the MMA enjoying the spoils of the system, the
federal government can more easily remain engaged
in die pursuit of al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters in the
North-West Frontier Province.
For Gen Musharraf, this has spelled a gradual
break with liberal elements that have watched him
with increasing suspicion, and now distrust his
motives. This mistrust is exacerbated by the impunity
with which Gen Musharraf has gone about amending
the constitution while pussyfooting on issues such
as the repeal of the Blasphemy Law and the Hudood
Ordinances, the streamlining of the seminaries and
the purging of textbooks. Indeed, it is only recently
that the president has recovered a little of the ground
he has lost with liberals, by pushing a reluctant ruling
parry to pass a Women's Protection Bill, which has
taken some of the sting out of the Hudood Ordinances
(see accompanying story, "Fighting Hudood, protecting
•women"). Since' the PPP took a principled stand on
the issue, it voted in favour of the government's
passing of the bill. For Gen Musharraf, equally
damaging as the lack of liberal support is the tirreat
of resignations he now faces from the MMA, which is
becoming increasingly strident and which also shows
internal fault-lines.
Gen Musharraf's dilemma is a classic one. On the
one hand, he genuinely wants to effect certain reforms
to improve Pakistan's image as a moderate state. On
the other, he is reluctant to broaden his political
support-base in pursuit of this agenda, because doing
so - especially if he co-opts the PPP - would mean
allowing space to a political actor that could
ultimately challenge the primacy of the Pakistan
Army. Any clipping of the army's wings, he feels,
could once again plunge the country into the old cycle.
The fact that he still feels this way means that the
institutionalisation he talks about (and is often
downright boastful of)  - whereby norms are
Yet, when Pakistan finally managed its first national election in 1970, the exercise in
political participation did not bring about national cohesion or an aggregation of
interests. It tore the country asunder.
December 2006 I Himal Southasian
 If a premium is placed on the agenda for reform, Gen Musharraf wtii have to think about
allying with the PPP, Reaching out to the PPP, however, would require making a deal
with that party, and would also mean a major realignment of political forces in Pakistan.
developed on the basis of which politics is practiced,
leading to an inclusive system of governance - is far
from fruition. Nothing makes this moro evident than
the general's insistence on not doffing his
uniform - because, he claims, to do so "is not in the
country's interest".
A new alliance?
I wo factors emerge from this. First, despite having
engineered the system as he pleased, Gen Musharraf
knows that his real power-base is the Pakistan Army,
and not the office of president. Second, he knows that
the opposition in Pakistan is waiting in the wings,
and that if it were to smell hlood, it would quickly
move in for the kill. On both counts, and despite some
of the good work he has done - bringing Pakistan
out of isolation, improving the economy, normalising
relations with India, making the press more free,
referring to and promoting liberal values - the system
atop which he sits remains fragile.
Lqually, however, the political parties do not seem
to have overcome the flaws that have led the countrv
to the crises it has experienced, hoth past and present.
The rightwing suffers from an intolerant ideology,
and if elections were to bring to power certain
elements within the MMA, Pakistan would lose
whatever progress it might have made in the past
seven years - at least in terms of the economic upturn
and social liberalisation. The ruling PML, has a
natural affinity with the MMA, rather than with the
PPP's liberal agenda. The PML-N is also much closer
ideologically to the MMA than it is to its Charter of
Democracy partner, the PPP. The MQM, despite its
secularism and full support to Gen Musharraf,
remains an ethnic party confined to urban Sindh.
Other secular parties are mostly NWFP- and
Balochistan-based nationalist groupings. Thev may
like Gen Musharraf's liberal agenda, but are
completely out of tune with some of his policies; most
feel that instead of devolving power, he has further
centralised it. Decentralisation being the main plank
of their provincial politics, they remain even more
cut off from the federal government. Islamabad's
development agenda for Balochistan has great
economic, social and strategic significance for
Pakistan. But the Baloch are not prepared to buy into
these plans because the divisive nature of politics
over the past six decades has ensured that national
consensus remains elusive, even on issues of vital
importance for everyone.
As the country moves towards the 2007 elections..
the president will have to rethink some of his
strategies in view of the response to the Women's
Protection Bill bv various political parties, including
his own ruling PML. One third of the PML members
abstained from voting on that bill, and it could not
have been passed without the support of the PPP,
which has vet to accept Gen Musharraf as the
country's president. Meanwhile, his religious allies,
the iMMA, are increasingly seeking to distance
themselves from the general-president, and may resign
ahead of the elections so thev can again campaign on
the basis of Islam. The PML-N, despite its alliance
with the PPP, opposed the Women's Protection Bill,
reflecting the long-known truth that thev hold nothing
in common aside from their desire to oust
Gon Musharraf.
The ruling PML, meanwhile, has shown itself
incapable of carrying forward the president's liberal
agenda. If a premium is placed on the agenda for
reform,Gen Musharraf will have to thinkaboutallving
with the PPP. Reaching out to the PPP, however,
would require making a deal with that partv, and
would also mean a major realignment of political
forces in Pakistan. If Gen Musharraf does extend a
hand to the PPP, allowing that partv to be a
true political actor and to link up with other secular-
liberal elements across the country, the next elections
would be contested by the consolidated liberal
camp against the culturally conservative and
Islamist elements.
In some wavs, such a changed dvnamic would free
Gen Musharraf of the conflict that.has continued to
run throughout his seven-year tenure. It would also,
however, sharpen the fault-line between the liberals
and the conservatives. Of course, this scenario
presupposes that Gen Musharraf is likely to stay in
the driver's seat for at least another five years. If that
does come to ptiss, the political environment of
Pakistan will depend on how effectively he can sell
his policies bv enlisting genuine political actors. The
process of reform mav slow down in such a case, but
it will definitely acquire more legitimacy, and may
become more acceptable to recalcitrant elements
within the smaller provinces.
President Musharraf's review of his alliances
will not automatically resolve the issue of the place of
the armv within the system. As such, it is difficult to
see what kind of arrangement mav evolve in the future.
But until such time as the political parties
come of age and the army loses its praetorian
edge, the pattern of Pakistan's political experience
suggests that a civil-military partnership mav be the
safest bet.
Himal Southasian I December 2006
The compatibility of democracy    i
Pakistanis must not listen when told that democracy is something for which
a society has to be prepared.
The Pakistani intelligentsia is used to bemoaning,
in addition to the overdeveloped state structure,
the disease of authoritarianism that threatens
the future of democracy in Pakistan. This disease is
nurtured, it is said, by a blend of retrogressive social
values, which encourage submission to patriarchy and
kill an individual's questioning spirit. Most
importantly, it is argued that an essential structure of
democratic norms, having evolved in the West through
a long process of conflict between bourgeois and feudal
elements, has not established itself in Pakistani
culture. Going by the prevailing arguments, there are
cultural prerequisites to democracy as a system of
governance, and the absence of a particular moral and
social fibre in the society inhibits the growth of
democratic practice in Pakistan.
This argument of organic incompatibility and
retrogressive cultural values assumes a certain
democratic ideal with which political situations can
be compared - an ideal that is both a theoretical and a
historical fiction. Such an argument brings Western
and non-Western societies into a parallel that is
unwarranted and simplistic, given the vast amount of
historical and'cultural differences between and within
the two. In this hypothesis, democracy is granted a
fixed historical origin. Instead of viewing culture as a
process of becoming, the argument looks for
prerequisites, as if it were not the democratic process
but rather the culture without democracy that gives
rise to democracy. Instead of studying the shaping
influence of historical experience, this argument sticks
to the emblems of origins, and pins the failure of
democracy on cultural values. It omits the local brand
of democracy by committing itself to the professional
humanist habits of seeing only evolution along
Western historical lines as true evolution, and of
interpreting non-Western societies by their placement
along such an imagined timeline. In other words, by
staring too much at 'History', the Pakistani
intelligentsia loses sight of its country's own multiple,
discrepant histories.
The argument of Pakistan's incompatibility with
democracy testifies to the claims of British colonial
historiography: that democracy was bestowed on India
through colonialism. It supports the idea that it is thus
an alien concept, one that runs only through the
institutions of power that were put in place to colonise
the native population. No doubt there is an element of
historical credence to this point, but in the heat of
argument we often forget that the grand narratives of
democracy and enlightenment - as well as their
institutional practices - mobilised people in the
colonised world to rise up and throw off the yoke of
imperial subjection. Aijaz Ahmad, a postcolonial critic
and historian, has argued that the historical adequacy
of such things as democracy and nationhood should
December 2006 I Himal Southasian
 not be looked for by referring to their origins in Europe;
rather, this needs to be established through reference
to the practices of political subjects within a
geo-political space.
Local democracy
The historically adequate referent for democracy exists
in pre- and postcolonial India in the shape of the anti-
colonial struggle. Internally this process was far more
democratic than was the colonial state, and it mobilised
some 20 million peasant households through the Quit
India Movement. In a similar vein, various sub-national
resistances against the internal colonialism of the
nation state in Pakistan - such as those of Bengali,
Sindhi, Pakhtun and Kashmiri nationalism, along with
broad-based peasant and labour movements - are
testimony to the fact that democracy is not the privilege
of a few cultures, nor is it tied to a string of liberal
cultural values. However, the sad fact is that official
historians of state nationalism excised crucial chapters
from the pages of subcontinental and Pakistani historv:
those of the unleashing of a democratic process by the
anti-colonial struggle. They did so by splitting the
struggle along communal and separatist lines, thus
creating part of a story that puts the onus of
responsibility for extended military dictatorships
directly on the shoulders of the masses themselves.
Furthermore, the position that attributes the failure
of democracy to certain archetypal features of Pakistani
culture, such as family institutions and baradai
networks, echoes the views of modernisation theorists
who attribute underdevelopment to the internal
backwardness of third-world societies rather than to
historical and global circumstances. Such arguments,
which emerge through the educated prisms of our
intellectual elite, resonate with the paternalist
arrogance of great fiction writers such as Joseph
Conrad and Rudyard Kipling, who, by insisting that
the Indian reality required (indeed, beseeched) British
tutelage more or less indefinitely, ultimately forecast
the untenability of their own theories of organic
backwardness. Though the Pakistani state may give
its citizens democracy more in breach than in
observance, it is worth recalling that nowhere in
Europe or North America is adult franchise
implemented with such low levels of literacy and
material well-being as there are in Southasia. And
nowhere in the West did women achieve the right to
vote in the founding moments of electoral democracy,
as happened in post-Independence India and Pakistan.
These observations are not intended to privilege
feudal residues, patriarchy and gender oppression, or
the presumed ills of social structure. Nor are they meant
to play down the corrupting influences of martial law
on Pakistan's fractured political process. Nevertheless,
there is a need to register unease with the argument
that ties democracy to a handful of Western liberal
values. Democracy as a political practice must be read
in the active struggle of political subjects in their
political space. The institutional values of democracy
should be separated from democracy as a set of cultural
practices. When it comes to cultural practice, it is the
active political struggle of a subject that can adduce a
historically adequate referent for democracy, and not
a squabble over the question of origins and endings.
However, the forms of democratic norms are bound
to vary in different cultural spaces. It is in large part
the colonial engineering of Pakistani society - which
fostered a certain evolution of the social structure of
the colonised - that is responsible for the fact that it is
not individual ethos, but rather ethnic, religious and
kin networks that will continue to provide the support
for the electoral process. Those who think that
democracy can only work where there is a pervasive
philosophy of 'one man, one vote' - the individual
existing free of kinship networks - are searching for
an impossible ideal. If 'clientelism' (the generally
exploitative relationship between a powerful 'patron'
and a weaker 'client') of one sort or another pervades
Pakistani society, then the point is not to
disown customary practices by imagining a
monolithic definition of feudalism, or to castigate
them in a barrage of moral rhetoric. The task is to
understand the sociological significance of the patron-
client relationship, which provides an important
nexus of electoral politics in Pakistan and elsewhere
in Southasia.
British anthropologist Ernest Gellner once called
politics based on clientelism "government-by-
network". In this formation, formal institutional
arrangements matter far less than do the informal
connections of mutual trust - those based on past
personal services, or on exchanges of protection from
above for support from below. Pakistani society is ruled
by networks, quasi-tribes, alliances forged on the basis
of kin, services exchanged, groups of common regional
and ethnic origins, and common institutional
experiences. But even in this last case, the most
important connections largely find their basis in
personal trust, rather than in formal relations in a
defined bureaucratic structure.
Tn our passionate yearning for democracy, it is
important not to disavow what is often hastily
dismissed as 'feudal residue'. Rather, we need
to understand how this structure has been carefully
put in place through colonial governance, and how it
works in the postcolonial state. Radical research
into the various forms and norms of local democracies
is what is needed to provide an understanding of a
local democratic order. It should not be forgotten
that if Pakistani society is ever to reform itself, it has
to do so on the bedrock and by the terms of its own
local cultural ideals and aspirations. Democracy
cannot be thought of as something borrowed
from the outside, or as something credited to its
pristine ideals. i
Himal Southasian I December 2006
Pakistan votes to amend rape laws
15 November 2006: Pakistan's national assembly votes to amend the country's strict Sharia laws on rape and
adultery. Until now rape cases were dealt with in Sharia courts. Victims had to have four male witnesses to the crime
- if not, they faced prosecution for adultery. Now civil courts will be able to try rape cases, assuming the upper house
and the president ratify tlie move. The reform has been seen as a test of President Musharraf s stated commitment to
a moderate fonn of Islam. Religious parties boycotted the vote saying the bill encouraged "free sex".
Fighting Hudood, protecting women
Pervez Musharraf's amendment of Pakistan's Sharia laws represents only a
partial victory against legislation that many have been battling
for over two decades.
31 July 2006, it was a stiflingly hot afternoon in
Islamabad. The entire audience at a packed
seminar titled 'Hudood Ordinances: Time for
Repeal' had moved out from the conference room to
the street in front of the hotel to hold an impromptu
demonstration. Women and some men brandished
banners and shouted slogans. Many of the
demonstrators had been fighting these laws since 1981.
That year, activists had launched the Women's Action
Forum (WAF), an umbrella organisation of women's
groups. They had been galvanised into action by
sentences of 80 lashes of the whip and death by
stoning respectively for a young couple. Fehmida and
Allah Baksh had eloped after Fehmida's father had
refused to allow them to marry, and her father had
filed a police report alleging that she had been
abducted. The couple had gotten married two weeks
after Fehmida became pregnant. The newly instituted
Hudood laws made extramarital sex - zina - a crime,
punishable by severe, supposedly Islamic,
punishments. (The Supreme Court later overturned
the conviction for lack of evidence. Many such appeals
are also heard by Pakistan's Federal Shariat Court.)
One of WAF's founding members was Zohra Yusuf,
the petite, steel-willed head of the Star weekend
magazine in Karachi, where I was an intern fresh out
of high school. I became a member too. During the 1980s,
a time when public dissent was dangerous, WAF
became a significant voice against military rule and
for gender rights. I'hrough demonstrations, seminars
and letter-writing campaigns, this headquarters-less
movement became a thorn in the side of the military
regime. When the Hudood laws were imposed, only
the WAF activists risked public protests.
One of those long-time activists, Nasreen Azhar, was
at the 31 July Islamabad demonstration. I remembered
her bold comment on a television talk show from earlier:
"Whenever anything is done in the name of Islam,
people keep quiet and are afraid to say anything." As
usual at such demonstrations, dozens of policemen
and -women blocked the street, official pistols and steel-
tipped batons clearly visible. We all knew what would
December 2006 1 Himal Southasian
 happen if the demonstrators tried to move to a more
public venue, such as the Supreme Court or National
Assembly on nearby Constitution Avenue - sometimes
called 'Dissolved Assembly' and 'Amended or
Suspended Constitution Avenue'. Pakistan's political
realities, after all, include a police force that is used to
suppress political opposition rather than to protect
the citizenry. It is quick to fire teargas or bullets, or use
batons on unarmed protestors who move bevond the
limits set bv the authorities.
The Zia laws
One particular incident during General Zia-ul Haq's
military regime, which stretched from 1977-88,
catapulted the nascent women's movement into the
political foreground. On 12 February 1983, the Punjab
Women Lawyers Association in Lahore organised a
public protest (one of its leaders was the prominent
human-rights lawyer Asma Jahangir) against the
proposed Law of Evidence that reduced the testimony
of two women in court to that of just one reliable
Itness. Manv WAF members were part of this first
public demonstration by any group against a martial-
law edict. Police fired teargas and baton-charged the
women to slop them from marching towards the
Lahore High Court, injuring several and arresting
nearly 50.
Zia had grabbed power in a military coup during
1977. Two vears later his regime hanged the elected
prime minister, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, and crushed
political dissent with arrests and disappearances,
torture, military trials and executions, and strict
censorship. Zia declared that he would hold elections
in 90 days and Tslamise' the country. "The motive
behind these laws was political, not religious," says
Aslam Khaki, a Supreme Court lawyer and honorary
counsel to the Federal Shariat Court, which was
established in 1980 with the exclusive jurisdiction to
hear appeals against convictions under the Hudood
Ordinances. "Gen Zia-ul Haq had come into power
aifter toppling a popularly elected government, and
he had to justify his act. The slogan of Islamisation
was convenient for this purpose."
Zia never did get around to elections, but he began
the process of Islamisation through media policies and
various legislation, including the Hudood Ordinances
and the Law of Evidence. The United States supported
him because it needed Pakistan to help fight the Soviets
in neighbouring Afghanistan. The use of religion to
gain support for the Afghans' struggle for freedom
from foreign invaders subsequently developed this
fight into a jihad.
And in the name of religion, much harm was done
in Pakistan. Zia enacted the Hudood Ordinances as a
set of criminal laws for which hadd ('God's limit';
Hudood or Hndood is the plural of hadd) punishments
could bo prescribed, such as stoning to death and
amputation of limbs. Fehmida and Allah Baksh had
been charged under the Offence of Zina. Ziuti is an
Arabic word rhat means'fornication' or 'adultery', and
was not in use in Pakistan before the introduction of
these laws, lhe Offence of Zina encompassed rape,
abduction of women, prostitution and adultery. Other
Hudood offences relate to propertv (theft and armed
robbery), qazf (bearing false witness or making false
accusations) and prohibition (drug trafficking and
alcohol consumption). The fifth Hudood law, the
Execution of Punishment of Whipping Ordinance,
prescribes the mode of whipping for those convicted
under the ! ludood laws.
The Zina law has most adversely affected women,
particularly the poor and the illiterate. It criminalizes
consensual sex between adults not married to each
other (like Fehmida and Allah Baksh). It also blurs the
distinction between adultery and rape, making
fornication a criminal offence, and rape a private one
in which the survivor has to prove her innocence - or
risk being accused of having had illegal sex.
Hudood punishments carry stringent requirements
of testimony, and can only bo administered on
confession of the accused, or if the act has been
witnessed bv four adult Muslim males who are
'truthful' and abstain from major sins, Non-Muslims
can only bear witness if the accused is also a
non-Muslim, and women's testimony is excluded
bv default. Hadd punishments cannot be prescribed if
these requirements arc not met, but the accused
can be given ti tazir punishment {tazir simply
means punishment).
Many religious scholars have opposed these laws
as un-islamic. Fven the Federal Shariat Court ruled
that the punishment of death bv stoning was not
Islamic; but Zia changed the bench, and the new judges
upheld the punishment as acceptable. At the anti-
Hudood laws seminar in Islamabad this past July,
Mohammad Farooq Khan, an Islamic scholar from
Mardan in the North-West Frontier Province, called
the laws "the biggest insult to lslam". The Council ol
Islamic Ideology, a constitutional body that advises
Pakistan's legislature, recently reviewed these laws as
well, and reported them to be flawed and not in keeping
with the teachings of Islam.
Prior to the imposition of the Hudood Ordinances
and the Zina law, the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) did
not consider sex outside of marriage a criminal offence.
Lxtra-marital intercourse involving a married woman
was a private offence for which only the man could be
punished. Only the husband of an adulteress could
file a complaint against her, but women could not be
punished under this law. When it came to an accused
man, the offence was compoundable and bailable, and
if the prosecution dropped the charges, criminal
proceedings were automatically abandoned. The
punishment was five vears or a fine, or both. The state
could not be a partv to the case. According to a 19c>7
report by the Commission of Inquiry for Women:
Himal Southasian | December 2006
 In the pre-Zina Ordinance period, there were only a handful
of reported cases of adultery. As soon as the law was
changed to include women within the scope of its
punishment, allegations of zina started to run into the
thousands, This clearly indicates that as long as it was
only the male who could be punished for adultery, there
was a reluctance to prosecute. The Ordinance became a
tool in the hands of those who wished to exploit women.
The Commission also noted that the number of
women in prison had risen drastically since the
imposition of the Hudood and Zina laws. In 1979, there
were only 70 women in Pakistani prisons. A decade
later, in 1988, this figure had risen to 6000, with zina
complaints comprising the majority of cases against
women and girls.
Tepid reform
After Zia died in a mysterious airplane explosion in
1988, general elections brought Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto's
daughter Benazir Bhutto to power as the world's first
Muslim woman prime minister. However, her
government did not have the necessary majority to
overturn laws such as the Hudood Ordinances. She
also faced fierce opposition from the religious parties
that had gained strength during the Zia years. Post-
Zia governments did not pursue Hudood cases with
the same zeal, but thousands of women nevertheless
continued to be prosecuted for zina. And more recently,
their numbers increased from nearly 3300 in 2001 to
more than 3800 in 2004. However, more cases ended in
acquittal than in conviction,
In 2002, a district court in the town of Kohat
sentenced a young woman, Zafran Bibi, to death by
stoning for sex outside of marriage. Zafran had alleged
rape by her husband's younger brother, as a result of
which she had become pregnant. Because she could
not prove that she was raped, and the pregnancy
occurred while her husband was in prison, the district
court took Zafran's pregnancy as proof of her guilt.
Once again, Pakistan's women's-rights activists led a
massive public outcry. In August of that year, the
Federal Shariat Court acquitted Zafran, and reestablished the principle that a woman's pregnancy
could not be taken as proof of adultery.
Coverage by the newly established private television
channels raised public awareness in a way that
newspapers cannot in a country with a literacy rate of
barely 40 percent. Meanwhile, the current head of state,
General Pervez Musharraf, who had seized power in a
military coup in 1999, was trying to undo Zia's legacy
and 'de-Talibanise' Pakistan. He had already restored
the provision of reserved seats for women in Pakistan's
assemblies and at local councils.
In 2003, the National Commission on the Status of
Women (NCSW) released its report* on the Hudood
laws, recommending repeal. Majida Rizvi, Pakistan's
* Available online at
first woman High Court judge, headed the commission
and its 17-member Special Committee, which reviewed
laws relating to women. The committee included
members of the president-appointed Council of Islamic
Ideology, as well as religious scholars, lawyers and
retired judges. They agreed that these laws do not fulfil
the criteria for providing justice under national,
international or religious law. Two dissenting votes
came from Sher Zaman, chairman of the Council of
Islamic Ideology, and Farida Ahmad Siddiqui,
president of the women's wing of the religious political
party Jamiat Ulema Pakistan.
Again, private television channels reported on the
proceedings, and viewers saw veiled women from the |
religious parties demonstrating in Islamabad in favour
of retaining the Hudood laws, as well as women's-
rights groups demonstrating in Islamabad and Karachi
for their repeal. The NWFP assembly passed a
unanimous resolution condemning the NCSW
recommendation as a part of a "conspiracy against
Islam". Working as a news producer at the time, 1
brought out a couple of documentaries on women in
prisons and the Hudood laws - the first time that the
issue had been presented on Pakistani television in
this format. Not much had changed since the 1980s,
when I first started writing about the issue.
Modest relief |
Given two decades without public debate on the
Hudood Ordinances - and with religious militancy
increasing all the while - it was still only the women's-
and human-rights activists that were willing to stick i
their necks out on this issue. Parveen Parvez, a lawyer
in Karachi's City Courts, says that most zina cases are
still "registered by parents against their daughters who
have married of their own choice, or former husbands
whose ex-wives re-married after the divorce". Khalida
Parveen, of the anti-gender-violence organisation War
Against Rape, says that rape victims who are unable
to prove their 'innocence' still risk being accused of
fornication and imprisoned for adultery, "just like
Zafran Bibi".
On the other side, members of the religious parties
continued to oppose any move to amend or repeal this
law, even though some accepted that it was being
misused. Farida Ahmad, one of the two dissenting
voters in the NCSW Committee's recommendation to
repeal the Hudood laws, even listed five categories of
women whom she agreed are unjustly imprisoned: rape
survivors, women who marry against their parents'
wishes, divorced women contracting another marriage
whose ex-husbands accuse them of zina, "Then there
are prostitutes - but some dalal (pimp) or other gets
them out. And fifth, girls are forced into this profession
by their fathers and brothers, I have met such girls in
jail myself, who say they were forced [into prostitution]
and arrested during a police raid." So why did she
oppose repealing these  laws,  wdrich  have sent
December 2006 | Himal Southasian
 thousands of innocent women to jail? "But thousands
of women have only been shut away in prison," she
retorted in 2003. "No one has ever been punished under
the Hudood laws, because of the condition requiring
four witnesses. That is what has saved them."
"If there were only administrative problems, it
would be another matter," said NCSW Committee
member Shaiq Usmani, a retired Sindh High Court
judge. "But the law itself Is deeply flawed." He argues
that the driving principle in Islam is the provision of
justice, so any law which leads to injustice cannot be
Islamic. Speaking at the Islamabad conference in July,
he suggested that the Hudood laws be re-named the
Zia Laws' in order to remove the religious connotation.
However, under pressure from the religious lobby,
the President Musharraf-led government let slip the
opportunity provided by the NCSW's recommendation
to amend or repeal the Hudood laws. The issue
lingered on until May 2006, when the channel Geo TV
started a public awareness campaign about the
Hudood laws, Zara Sochiye (Just Think). The Geo
campaign included talk shows and interviews,
featuring not those who had for years been
campaigning against these laws, but religious scholars
who admitted that the Hudood Ordinances and their
associated legislation are not divine. For the first time
since the Hudood laws were promulgated, the issue
was being debated in the public arena.
Soon afterwards, on 7 July, President Musharraf
issued a directive that allowed women detained for
minor crimes other than terrorism and murder to post
bail before trial, an option previously unavailable to
zina prisoners. Around 1300 women in prison were
immediately released on bail. While welcoming the
step, human-rights activists noted that most under-
trial prisoners are entitled to bail but cannot afford it.
Nor did this step address the root cause of the problem
- the Hudood Ordinances and the related laws, which
kept sending women to prison.
The government promised to amend the Zina
Ordinance through the Protection of Women (Criminal
Laws Amendment) Rights Bill in the previous assembly
session, starting in August 2006. Four months later,
Parliament finally accepted this amendment on 15
November. "One drawback of the law [after
amendment] is that adultery still remains 'a crime
against the state'," comments Zohra Yusuf. It also is
still punishable with stoning to death under the
Hudood Ordinances. These amendments "are not a
substitute for the repeal of the Hudood Ordinances,"
emphasises Supreme Court advocate Iqbal Haider,
General Secretary of the independent Human Rights
Commission of Pakistan. "However, this is a positive
step, although much needs to be done."
It has been a long fight. But it is not over yet.        >
This article is based on a longer paper originally written
for the Harvard South Asian Journal.
7,8,9,10 AND 11 DECEMBER 2006
Showing paths bovottd mountains
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Organized by:
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Supported by:
Canada      Q»
Himal Southasian I December 2006
Roadblock on the Middle Path
Will Dharamsala's insistence on following the current
form of the Dalai Lama's Middle Way approach continue
to hinder a return to Lhasa? Will China ever relent?
The Chinese attacks on the
Dalai Lama in recent months
have been of an intensity and
viciousness not seen for years.
Among a host of accusations, he
has been called a "false religious
leader" and a "double dealer"; his
Middle Way approach to finding a
solution to the Tibet situation has
meanwhile been roundly rejected,
described as a "swindle". The new
Communist Party secretary of Tibet,
Zhang Qingli, who.has been at the
forefront of the new hardline
approach, has described the battle
against the Dalai Lama as a "fight
to the death".
This latest round of vituperation
from China is all the more surprising
as it comes at a time when contact
between the Dharamsala-based
Tibetan government-in-exile and
Beijing is> on the face of it, better than
it has been for some time. Although
the Chinese have never officially
acknowledged the Dharamsala
government's existence, five
rounds of talks have been
undertaken between the two sides
since 2002, the latest taking place
in February of this year. Moreover,
in an effort to create the best possible
environment for the discussions, tire
Tibetan side has been at its most
conciliatory. For the first time, the
Kashag - the executive body of the
government-in-exile - has officially
issued appeals to Tibetan exiles and
their supporters to refrain from
public demonstrations highlighting
the cause of Tibet.
Why, then, when the Tibetans are
officially doing everything possible
to create what the Kashag's Prime
Minister, Samdhong Rinpoche,
calls a "conducive atmosphere", are
the Chinese stepping up their
campaign to vilify the Dalai Lama,
and denouncing his overtures to
find accommodation? More
importantly, what does this imply
for the future of a negotiated Tibetan
settlement based on the Middle Way
approach, which seeks autonomy
for a Tibet that would remain
within the People's Republic?
Let us go back to June 2005, soon
after the fourth round of talks
between representatives of
the Dalai Lama and senior
Chinese officials had concluded.
Reporting on the status of these
discussions to the Fourth World
Parliamentarians' Convention on
Tibet in Edinburgh, the Dalai
Lama's envoy, Kelsang Gyaltsen,
stated: "What is presently most
disturbing and of great concern to
us is that there have been no
positive changes inside Tibet since
the opening of direct contact with
the Chinese leadership. On
the contrary, repression inside
Tibet has increased recently ... nor
have there been any clear signs
that the Chinese leadership is
genuinely interested in beginning
an honest dialogue."
Despite this pessimistic
overview, the exile government
continued its confidence-building
measures. In the lead-up to the fifth
round of talks this February, the
Kashag made its strongest appeal
yet to US-based Tibetans and Tibet
support groups not to disrupt
President Hu Jintao's visit
to America by staging
demonstrations. In keeping with
the previous meetings, the
substance of the talks was not
revealed by either side. Special
Envoy Lodi Gyari's press statement
started with a positive spin:
"Today there is a better and
deeper understanding of each
other's position and the
fundamental differences that
continue to exist in the positions
held by the two parties,"
But the statement went on to hint
at a more serious impasse: "This
round of discussion also made it
clear that there is a major difference
even in the approach in addressing
the issue." Although Gyari did not
elaborate, this most likely refers to
China's rejection of the Middle Way
approach. This dynamic was made
amply evident in a recent article in
Beijing's official mouthpiece, the
People's Daily, which explains why
December 2006 | Himal Southasian
 the Chinese government sees
the current negotiations as
representing "the Dalai Lama's
ulterior motive: eventually seeking
Tibetan independence."
The article is the clearest
indication yet from Beijing about its
position with regard to the Middle
Way approach, and comes hard on
the heels of its renewed attack on
the Dalai Lama. Despite this, Prime
Minister in-exile Samdhong
Rinpoche stressed in a recent
statement: "In order to resolve the
issue of Tibet, which is the main
objective of the Tibetan community
in exile, we intend to make more
efforts towards continuing the
current Sino-Tibetan dialogue
process, based on the mutually
beneficial Middle Way approach."
in a recent Australian documentary,
Rinpoche also stated that, "Unless
the Chinese prove they are not
trustworthy, until then we will have
to trust them." Pressed by the
reporter as to whether the Chinese
government had not already proven
itsell untrustworthy, he replied,
'Thev have proved in the past ...
'But] for the last few years we have
been in dialogue, and they have not
proved as yet." This implies that
despite all evidence to the contrary,
Dharamsala still believes that
the Middle Way approach is not
only a viable basis for dialogue
with China, but is actually
'mutually beneficial". But is this
really the case?
Impossible pre-conditions
As outlined on the official website
of the Tibetan government-in-exile,
the main component of the Middle
Way approach is that "Tibet would
not seek separation from, and
remain within, the People's
Republic of China". Bv itself, this
should be an attractive proposition
to China. But this concession is
predicated on three preconditions,
which must first be agreed upon
bv Beijing:
1. Without seeking independence
for Tibet, the Central Tibetan
a^idministration strives for the
creation of a political entity
comprising the three
traditional provinces of Tibet
2, Such an entity should enjoy a
status of genuine national
regional autonomy
3. This autonomy should be
governed by the popularly-
elected legislature aind
executive through a
democratic process
The recent People's Daily article
has made it clear that Beijing is
deeply resistant to the idea of the
creation of a greater Tibet, and sees
it as a call for what it has previously
termed "disguised independence".
Before the Chinese invasion, the
Lhasa government did not exercise
control over the areas beyond what
is roughly the central Tibetan
province of U-Tsang, the region
todav demarcated as the Tibet
Autonomous Region. While all
Tibetans shared common cultural
and religious traits, and Lhasa was
unquestionably the spiritual heart
of the country, most of the province
of Kham and all of Amdo were de
facto independent territories with
shifting political loyalties -
sometimes paying tribute to Lhasa,
sometimes to the Chinese, and more
often than not to neither. China
immediately took advantage of
these ground realities. The 17-Point
Agreement, which it forced upon
the Tibetan government in 1951,
applied only to central Tibet,
the area controlled by the
Lhasa government. Amdo and most
of Kham were appended to the
Chinese provinces of Qinghai,
Gansu, Szochwan and Yunnan.
it was only after coming into exile
in 1959 that the concept of a greater
Tibet - comprising U-Tsang, Kham
and Amdo - evolved to reflect the
aspirations of refugees from all
three provinces who had fought
together against the Chinese, and
represented a renewed awareness
of Tibet as a nation state. In recent
vears, anti-Chinese activities and
expressions of Tibetan nationalism
have taken place in both Kham and
Amdo, pointing to the fact that the
ideal of a united Tibet - forged in
exile - has taken root inside Tibet.
This is a worrying trend for Beijing;
any move towards the unification
of Tibet's traditional provinces
would, in its estimation, further
encourage such nationalist
tendencies, posing an even
greater threat to its rule. It is
the contention of this writer that
this fear alone will keep China
from ever acceding to this key
pre-condition to the Middle
Wav approach.
In a statement made earlier this
vear to commemorate the Lhasa
uprising of 10 March 1959, the
Kashag made the case that the
demand to unite the three provinces
of Ti bet into one autonomous region
conforms to the provisions of
China's Regional National
Autonomy Law (RNAL), which
was set up to safeguard the culture
and identity of minorities. Lobsang
Sangay, a Tibetan legal expert,
wrote recently that within the
provisions of RNAL, the concept of
'unity' assumes greater importance
than that of autonomy, "thereby
creating paradoxical and
contradictory approaches to
autonomy for minorities".
"The definition of 'unity' here
includes both unity of the
motherland and unity under the
leadership of the Communist Party
of China. But even if this ambiguity
did not exist, we know that China
has a very poor record of abiding
by the strictures of its own
Constitution. Time and again
Beijing has shown that it does not
tolerate anything that remotely
threatens its power base, and has
no hesitation in trampling even the
most basic rights of its citizens. In
the case of Tibet, what China sees
as a threat to its 'unity' will always
outweigh any concern about
regional autonomy - indeed, this is
the crux of the argument made in
the People's Daily article. Therefore,
presenting this demand as ai legally
viable option within Chinese law
gives China more credibility than
its record would suggest.
The other pre-condition set out
Himal Southasian | December 2006
 in the Middle Wav approach is that
even if China were to agree to an
enlarged Tibet Autonomous
Region within the meaning of the
RNAL, this region must be
"governed by the popularly-
elected legislature and executive
through a democratic process".
Given that China is a totalitarian
state, there is no wav it can
accept such a demand without
first undergoing a major
transformation. It has been argued
that this demand has precedent in
the 'One Country, Two Systems'
approach operating in Hong Kong.
But there is a significant difference
in the situation between these two
regions. The Basic Law under
which Hong Kong retains its
special characteristics was
negotiated by the British as an
integral component of their
agreement to hand over the colony
to China. Additionally, it was
advantageous for China to
maintain Hong Kong's uniquely
capitalist set-up as part of its own
burgeoning economic strategy. No
such precedent or compulsion
exists with regard to Tibet.
Next year in Lhasa?
While the Middle Way approach
makes a huge sacrifice in terms of
giving up the claim for Tibet's
independence, it does so bv
placing pre-conditions that, as far
as China is concerned, are no
different from actually seeking
independence, and are far from
"mutually beneficial". This
impression is not helped bv the fact
that Dharamsala continues to
inadvertently send out mixed
signals. For example, on the Dalai
Lama's 71st birthday on 6 July this
vear, the Kashag strongly
reaffirmed the "determination to
engage in dialogue for resolving
the issue of Tibet through the
present Sino-Tibetan contacts".
But it then concluded its statement
bv exhorting, "May the truth of the
issue of Tibet prevail soon!" Most
Tibetans would understand this
"truth" to mean only one thing:
Tibet's independence. The Chinese
must surely recognise that this
underlying sentiment exists in the
hearts of all Tibetans, regardless of
their official stance. Nowhere is
this more starkly evident to
Beijing than in the influence that the
Dalai Lama continues to wield
inside Tibet.
Beijing officials understand that
it only takes one appeal from the
Dalai Lama - for example, to stop
using furs - and suddenly they are
confronted with spontaneous
public burnings of fur from Lhasa
to Karze in Szechwan and Rebkong
in Qinghai. Thev know that the
destruction of a statue of Dorje
Shugden, a 'Tibetan Buddhist
protector deity, in Gan den
monastery near Lhasa earlier this
vear bv a group of monks was in
direct response to the Dalai Lama's
denouncement of the worship of
this spirit. Thev have seen that even
in the furthest reaches of Qinghai,
it only takes a rumour of the Dalai
Lama's return for thousands to
gather in anticipation, as took place
earlier this vear. There are so many
instances that demonstrate the
Dalai Lama's pervasive influence
throughout Tibet, and the
continuing devotion and loyalty he
commands there, that in order to
trulv consolidate their hold on
"Tibet, Beijing's battle with the Dalai
Tama must necessarily be "a fight
to the death".
This explains why the Beijing
government is opting to escalate its
anti-Dalai Lama diatribe, even at a
time when it is supposedly engaged
in talks with him. To the Chinese
government, after all, the talks are
not about discussing the Middle
Wav approach, but rather aibout
how to neutralise the Dalai Lama's
influence once and for all, both
inside and outside Tibet. Gestures
of goodwill on the part of the
Kashag will ultimately mean
nothing to China, other than to give
its international image a public-
relations boost. The onlv
"conducive atmosphere", as far as
Beijing is concerned, is one wherein
the Dalai Lama ceases to exert
influence of any sort in "Tibet.
And this, so long as he is alive,
is impossible.
Given such a situation, unless
there is a major change within
China's political set-up, we can
assume that as long as Dharamsala
insists on the Middle Way
approach in its present form as the
basis for negotiations, Beijing's
intransigence will continue. And if
this remains the state of things until
the Dalai Lama passes away - as
China surelv hopes - what then will
be the fate of Tibet's national
struggle? Will the Middle Way
approach remain a viable option
without the Dalai Lama to give it
credibility? These are difficult
questions, but ones Tibetans in exile '
must be prepared to ask and
discuss while they still have the
Dalai Lama to lead them.
In November 1996, when he was
the chairman of the Tibetan
People's Deputies, Samdhong
Rinpoche proposed a programme
to launch a Tibetan Satyagraha
movement. I le ended his proposal
with an emotional appeal: "When
Gandhiji gave the call to 'Do or Die'
there was no other choice. As 1
propose mv people to 'Do or Die'
there is no other choice either. The
return journey back to the
homeland must commence here
and now. Onlv then we can say,
'Next year in Lhasa'." That was ten
years ago. Unless Tibetans seriously
reconsider the direction of their
struggle, the matter of a return to
Lhasa will not onlv remain as
elusive as ever, but will become
increasingly irrelevant.
In recent years, anti-Chinese activities and expressions of Tibetan nationalism
have taken place in both Kham and Amdo, pointing to the fact that the ideal of a
united Tibet - forged in exile - has taken root inside Tibet.
December 2006 | Himal Southasian
| Sri Lanka's
The failure of Sri Lanka's peace process
is partially due to the simplistic
government-versusUTE formulation
adopted by international mediators.
While the history of the current process of Sri
Lanka's globalisation goes back to the
colonial period, the opening up of the
country's economy 40 years ago worked to intensify it.
The civil war that has plagued the island nation for
more than two decades has done almost nothing to
undermine this dynamic. Rather, the conflict has
brought the international system into affairs that had
hitherto been protected on the basis of the nation's
sovereignty. Today Sri Lanka is indeed a fragmented
state, part of which is controlled by the LTTE, but all of
which is now inextricably linked to the global politico-
economic system.
Unfortunately, it is largely the contradictions of the
global system that have exerted such influence on Sri
Lanka, leading to pessimism in the context of the
breakdown of the peace process. The dynamic today
is relatively straightforward: on one side, violence and
conflict; on the other, a framework for the peace
process, dominated by international actors, that is not
working. Even when the war was being fought at its
highest intensity in the past, this had not been the
case. For example, at the time ofthe People's
Alliance regime's 'war for peace' strategy, war was a
reality, but the space for peace was still open and
available. Today that space is closed, given a
procedural structure that seems ineffectual, while the
violence continues.
Within Sri Lanka there have been diverse
responses to the intervention of international actors in
the country's peace process. The Sinhala nationalists
and old-style leftists have been uncomfortable with it,
and some have actively opposed it. Some liberal
internationalists, on the other hand, view the world
community as a bunch of do-gooders, eager to deliver
peace to the island. They ignore the politics and
power-play that are part and.parcel of these
interventions in a globalised world. The construction of
the term 'international community' itself is a ploy to .
hide the politics inherent in this dynamic. What Sri
Lanka needs today is an analysis that can highlight the
politics of power in these interventions, so that its
citizens can spot the contradictions, as well as the
opportunities available to promote the cause of peace.
Growth in conflict
The liberalisation ofthe Sri Lankan economy in 1977
was a turning point in the expansion of the involvement
of international actors in the country's affairs. Sri Lanka
was the first country in Southasia to liberalise, and the
process generated a tremendous response from the
aid agencies. At one time, Sri Lanka received one of
the highest per capita levels of international aid in the
world, both bilateral and multilateral. While the civil war
has forced some donors to rethink their policies, Sri
Lanka has consistently enjoyed the commitment of key
donors, including Japan, the World Bank, the Asian
Development Bank and the International Monetary
Fund. From around the mid-1980s, the latter
three accounted for about 75 percent of foreign aid to
the country.
Meanwhile, the implementation of Sri Lanka's
economic-reform process has always been more
important to these key donors than concerns over the
civil war. Aid from them has regularly been reduced,
adjusted or diverted to new projects depending on how
Himal Southasian | December 2006
 successful the Colombo government has been in
carrying out the economic-reform agenda towards the
further development of liberal capitalism on the island.
The war was for a long time only of concern to these
organisations to the extent that it impacted on the
economic agenda. But the Sri Lankan economy has
been performing reasonably well despite the conflict,
with an average of four to five percent annual growth.
This has not been the eight percent growth that
mainstream economists have been hoping for in order
to equal the East Asian miracle, and certainly Sri
Lanka would have performed better had there been
no civil war. But the fact remains that the conflict has
not significantly affected the country's economy, which
in turn has allowed donors to view the country as
relatively 'stable'.
According to international indicators, Sri Lanka is
no longer a 'poor' country, but rather a 'low middle
income' one, with an annual per capita income of
more than USD 1000. The economy has diversified
from its agricultural base, and a significant portion of
people now earn an income in sectors linked to the
global economy. A large number also make use of
global labour markets. Although Sri Lanka has a
heavy burden of foreign debt, many believe that the
debt-service ratio, meaning the proportion of export
earnings spent on servicing foreign debt, is still at a
manageable level. In addition, there is no danger of
Sri Lanka defaulting on debt-service payments. Of
course, this relative success does not mean that the
country has solved its development problems. Both
the economy and society show the usual social
contradictions of a capitalist economy. Nonetheless, it
is crucial to note the fact that, seen through the logic of
capital, Sri Lanka has performed reasonably well in
the midst of the civil war.
A number of factors explain this peculiar picture,
First, the core of economic production has been
confined to areas surrounding the capital. Close to 50
percent of the gross domestic product is now within
the Western Province, close to Colombo. So long as
the war is confined to the north and east - which were
never particularly important economically, even before
the conflict began - the economy can function
perfectly well. Many sectors in Sri Lanka, not to
mention the incomes of more and more of its people,
depend on the health of the global economy. Hence, if
the global economy performs better, so too does Sri
Lanka's - regardless of the war. Finally, several other
factors have helped Sri Lanka to achieve economic
gains while simultaneously waging an expensive war:
generous donor support, the reduction of the burden
on the state coffers by getting rid of loss-making state
enterprises, and the relative degree of autonomy that
the central bank has maintained.
The entry of the Norwegians as mediators in the
peace process coincided with the breakdown of this
order. This took place during 2000 and 2001, years of
a global economic recession. Then, in 2001, the same
year that a severe drought struck the island, the LTTE
carried out a devastating attack on the country's only
international airport - the nerve centre for an economy
that depends on global linkages. These factors
combined to produce a negative economic growth in
2001 for the first time since Independence. The
International Monetary fund came up with a rescue
loan package, and the People's Alliance government
of Chandrika Kumaratunga requested the Norwegians
to act as mediators in negotiations with the LTTE.
However, it was the United National Front (UNF)
government, elected in December 2001, that made
use of the Norwegians' entry to sign a Ceasefire
Agreement, embark on an extensive programme of
economic reforms, consciously expand the
internationalisation process, and include the US, EU
and Japan as co-chairs of the peace process. The
political objectives of the UNF strategy - led by Ranil
Wickramasinghe, the nephew of former President
Junius Jayawardene, the architect of Sri Lankan
liberalisation - included not just peace, but also the
pushing of the economic-reform agenda begun by
President Jayawardene, This agenda, which
developed independently of the peace process, had
its sights on an extensive reform programme covering
all aspects of the economy. The Wickramasinghe
government consciously sought international support
for both of these agendas, This strategy lasted for a
very short period, however, and its neo-liberal peace
was defeated by both Sinhala and Tamil nationalism,
working side by side,
Two-sided stranglehold
The current situation is thus one wherein a war is
being fought and fuelled by nationalist forces on both
sides. At the same time, contradictions of the
international set-up inherited from the
Wickremasinghe period are not only complicating
matters, but do not allow much hope for securing a
long-term settlement.
The Norwegians, who are very much wedded to the
Ceasefire Agreement (CFA) secured during the UNF
period, are working with a framework much more
suited to an inter-state conflict based on a two-actor
model. Hence, the CFA recognises only two sides, the
LTTE and the Colombo government, There is an
acceptance of the presence of two armies, rules of
engagement and no-go areas between these two
armies, and rules dictating how either side can
withdraw from the agreement.
This set-up entirely ignores the complexities of
conflicts that build on the basis of identity politics. It
legitimises the demands of the LTTE as the sole
representative of the Tamils, and undermines space
for democracy within the Tamil population. It also
forgets that there have always been struggles for
political supremacy among Tamils, even while
December 2006 I Himal Southasian
 The implementation of Sri Lanka's economic-reform process has always been more
important to the key donors than concerns over the civil war.
simultaneously fighting the Sri Lankan stale. The
LTTE has taken care of this issue by eliminating its
opponents. Meanwhile, the rights ofthe Muslim
population have not been given due importance, thus
pandering to a position among Tamil nationalists that
has deliberately ignored Muslim rights by creating a
notion of a Tamil-speaking people.
The two-actor structure of the CFA also cannot take
into account the complexities of politics among the
Sinhalese, which is fought through a problematic
multi-party system. The Norwegian approach gives
the impression of being based on 'primordialist'
interpretations of identity conflict, where a monolithic
group of Sinhalese, represented by the Colombo
government, is fighting a monolithic group of Tamils,
represented by the LTTE. As such, the Norwegians
are involved as impartial mediators between these
two 'underdeveloped' communities, to find a 'rational'
solution that only Europeans can provide.
The formation of the 'co-chairs' group came about
due to initiatives of the UNF government, and not the
other way around. In order to understand the positions
of the co-chairs, it is important first to focus on the
individual policies of each of these countries, The
fundamental objective of the Japanese, US and EU
policies is one of security and stability, in order to
continue work on the economic agenda, and promote
capitalism in the island. At the very beginning of the
peace process there were divergences from this
position, mainly among EU countries. Pressure from
the global 'war on terror', however, has pushed these
countries into uniform alignment. The recent ban on
the LTTE by the EU as a 'terror' group is a reflection of
this policy convergence, made with the objective of
establishing stability.
This position is strengthened by support given by
multilateral agencies such as the World Bank and the
Asian Development Bank, which work on the basis of
a similar policy perspective. Of course, promoting
negotiations is an important element in this strategy,
with the aim of ensuring security. But the fundamental
motivation of supporting negotiations is very different
from the objectives behind the Norwegian two-actor,
impartial-negotiator model. Suddenly what becomes
more important is not balancing between warring
parties, but rather the stability of an established state
in order to promote capitalism.
Despite the presence of this fundamental position,
it is not one that the ruling classes of Sri Lanka can
take for granted. Continuation of this policy, after all,
will depend on the good behaviour of those elites.
Developments such as a stepped-up military strategy
could worsen the humanitarian crisis, increase
human-rights violations, instigate a greater flow of
refugees and destabilise the core areas of the
economy - evolutions that would clearly go against the
policy objectives of the co-chair countries. Similarly,
any significant reversal of the economic agenda, or
any move to undermine the influence of the co-chairs
by courting other international actors, could also bring
about a change in the international approach
As much as the two-actor model reveals
contradictions that undermine the chance for long-term
peace in Sri Lanka, the policies of the co-chairs have
their own inconsistencies. For example, even while
calling for negotiations, two of these actors - the EU
and the US - have banned the LTTE as a 'terrorist'
organisation. Though prescriptive statements are
made about human rights, humanitarian crises and
the like, there remains a continuous flow of foreign aid
from these key donors, so long as the reform agenda
is maintained by the Colombo authorities. Promotion
of the private sector likewise continues unabated, with
the support of many agencies. Finally, although
security and stability are the underlying motives of this
approach, there is very little commitment to actually
support Sri Lanka through military means.
The contradictions of this international conundrum
create complicated problems for those who accept that
working with international actors is essential in the
current context of global capitalism. This is relevant not
only for Sri Lanka, but for other countries in Southasia
as well - particularly in the situations of internal conflict
that have become such an integral part of the region's
socio-politics. Unfortunately, our dominant response to
these complicated issues is generally one of two. We
either remain within a framework of liberal
internationalism that naively believes in the goodness
of an 'international community'; or our response
originates among nationalists of various guises, who
believe in an ahistorical notion of sovereignty.
The time has come for us in the global south to
break through this conceptual trap, which does not
provide us a framework with which to deal with these
international interventions. All our societies are now
already a part of globalised capitalism. Our belief in
the sovereignly ofthe nation-state will not isolate us
from it. Neither can we afford to go along with liberal
internationalism naively. Globalisation, while
integrating the world, also brings out differences more
sharply. How global factors affect South Asia will thus
be a result of our own histories and social conditions.
Only a much closer look at our specific historical
situations will help us to identify spaces
within global capitalism that we can make use of for
our own purposes. And only in this lies the
foundation for a new politics with which to deal with
international intervention.
Himal Southasian | December 2006
Refugees and agency
The UNHCR refugee agency has been oddly listless in addressing
the problems faced by Burmese refugees in Delhi.
While Burmese refugees
living in Thailand and
Bangladesh receive
intermittent attention, the situation of
those in India goes unnoticed both
within India and internationally. The
northeastern states, in particular
Mizoram and Manipur, host the
majority of the 50,000 Burmese
refugees in India. Another 1800 or so
lived in New Delhi during the summer
of 2006, and every month dozens
more arrive in the capital from other
parts of the country. Far from finding
the support they are looking for in
Delhi, however, Burmese refugees
are faced with what one report
recently called an "urban nightmare".
Despite being directly under the
nose of both the Indian government
and the United Nations High
Commissioner     for     Refugees
(UNHCR) office, a recent survey has
found that national and international
systems have largely failed Delhi's
Burmese refugees. Their continued
inability to integrate in the capital is
indicative of the problems faced by
refugees throughout India - problems
that will continue until the central
government brings the country's
legislation with regard to refugees in
line with international conventions.
Most of the Burmese refugees in
New Delhi are ethnic Chin from
western Burma, a predominantly
Christian group who have fled
the country over the past decade
citing religious persecution and
other human-rights violations. The
growth of Indo-Burmese relations over
the last decade has contributed to a
growing feeling of insecurity among
the Burmese refugee community in
Delhi, and makes the granting of
legal rights to refugees even less likely
- the formal placement of Burma
on the United Nations Security
Council agenda in September
Although in the immediate
aftermath of the 1988 democratic
uprising in Burma, India allowed the
establishment of refugee camps in
Mizoram and Manipur, within seven
years most of those were closed down,
leaving the refugee community
almost entirely without support. Exact
figures are unknown, but in recent
years, in part due to the increasingly
friendly ties between New Delhi and
Rangoon, Indian authorities at state
and federal levels have undertaken
campaigns of arrest and deportation
of refugees. While many Burmese
in Northeast India have been able to
December 2006 I Himal Southasian
 integrate locally relatively successfully,
many olhers face regular harassment,
exploitation and persecution.
Although UNHCR has been in India
for a long time, the Indian government
has in recent decades worked to
significantly diminish the agency's
role. Largely due to foreign-policy
considerations. New Delhi's attitude
towards the organisation has been
ambivalent. While UNHCR was invited
into India in 1969 in order to assisi
Tibetan refugees in the country, the
agency was forced to leave in 1975
due to its failure to protect refugees
from East Pakistan, At that time, India
was seen as a fellow traveler with the
Soviet Union, while there was a
pronounced Western tilt towards
Pakistan led by the United States.
Then-UN High Commissioner for
Refugees, Prince Sadruddin Aga
Khan, who had dual Pakistani
citizenship, was also not overly keen
lo help India deal with a massive influx
of 10 million refugees. Ever since,
India has been suspicious of
UNHCR's selective appreciation of
its mandate.
In 1979, following the Soviet
invasion of Afghanistan, large numbers
of Afghan refugees began to arrive in
India - which continued to be on
friendly terms with the Soviet Union.
So as not to support the refugees
directly and thereby risk souring its
relations with Moscow, the Indian
government decided to hand over
responsibility for the Afghans to the UN,
and in 1981 the UNHCR office was reestablished in New Delhi. Since that
time, the agency has been
responsible for the recognition and
protection of urban refugees within the
capital, but nowhere else in India.
New Delhi has continuously denied
UNHCR a presence in any other part
of the country, with the exception of a
small office in Madras that nominally
oversees Sri Lankan refugee
epatriation. The agency has been
refused access to refugees in camps,
where they would normally provide or
support international assistance, This
includes the denial of access to the
camps established in Manipur
and Mizoram in 1988 for Burmese
refugees. In 1994, UNHCR was
also refused access to refugees
being involuntarily repatriated to
Bangladesh from the northeastern
state of Tripura.
At the same time, however,
UNHCR-Delhi has never adequately
appealed to the Indian government,
the United Nations or the international
community for much-needed support
- a critical breach of its mission to
provide protection and seek long-term
solutions for these refugees. In the
absence of any domestic legislation
for the recognition and protection of
Burmese refugees generally, UNHCR
is responsible for determining refugee
status only for asylum seekers who
find their way to New Delhi. Those near
the Burmese borders remain at
the mercy of the Indian Border
Security Force.
Self-sufficient refugees
Increasing numbers of Burmese
refugees have thus decided to make
the long trip from the Northeast to New
Delhi, often on the (mostly false}
assumption that being in the capital
will speed up their applications for
refugee status. Attempts by UNHCR
to make Burmese refugees in Delhi
self-reliant - by providing vocational
training courses through the YMCA
and the Calcutta-based Don Bosco
Ashalayam - have largely failed, for a
variety of reasons. Most refugees in
Delhi are not only unemployed but
see little hope of finding work, let alone
becoming financially 'self-reliant'.
Those who do find jobs are often
exploited by their employers, and
often arbitrarily fired without receiving
owed wages. Few urban refugees are
able to hold a job for long, While Hindi
or English language skills would
improve their chances of finding
employment, the fact remains that
Burmese refugees in India are legally
relegated to the informal sector: as for
all foreigners except Nepalis and
Bhutanis, it is illegal for them to work
m the country without a permit.
Even though a UNHCR
programme is available to supplement refugee salaries to ensure that
they reach India's minimum wage of
NR 3166 per month, the majority of
refugees find it hard to sustain
themselves. Large families are the
worst affected, as are older refugees
who do not fit the UN's definition of
'Extremely Vulnerable Individuals'.
Finally, refugees who cannot obtain
residential permits for reasons outside
of their control - including reticent
landlords and bribe-demanding
officials - are not eligible to take part
in the programme.
With UNHCR itself experiencing a
significant global funding crunch, the
Delhi office's budget was slashed by
20 percent for 2006. The gradual
withdrawal of financial support by the
refugee agency, along with the failure
ofthe self-reliance strategy, has made
the condition of Burmese refugees in
Delhi even more precarious than it had
been previously. Refugee safety in
Delhi has long been compromised by
discrimination by neighbours,
employers and the judicial system.
Over the past year, however,
most refugees have been unable to
pay their rent regularly or to send
their children to school. Many families
have accumulated large debts,
and are forced to rely on the
generosity of churches or friends for
their survival.
Those Burmese recognised by
UNHCR as refugees used to
receive a monthly subsistence
allowance, in 2003, however, the
agency decided to discontinue
this stipend after an initial
one-year period, again as part
of the attempt to make refugees
self-reliant. Since the discontinuation
of the living allowance, the
number of evictions of Burmese
refugees from their homes has
increased significantly.
Burmese refugee families receive
educational grants from UNHCR to
UNHCR has been accused of failing to effectively lobby third-country governments to
accept and prioritise Burmese refugees for resettlement.
Himal Southasian | December 2006
 Although the exact number is unknown, studies estimate that 50 to 65 percent of
Burmese students in Delhi were no longer in school by July 2005.
send their children to government
schools. For most, however, this
allowance does not cover the actual
cost of a child's education - particularly
at private schools, where admission
standards are often more flexible.
Since the discontinuation of the
subsistence allowance, many parents
have been unable to pay the monthly
tuition fees. As a result, an alarmingly
high number of children were expelled
from school in 2004 and 2005.
Although the exact number is
unknown, studies estimate that 50 to
65 percent of Burmese students in
Delhi were no longer in school by July
2005. UNHCR has subsequently
urged Burmese refugee parents to
enrol their children in government
schools, where the tuition fees are
minimal - despite the fact that many
children are refused admission in
these schools for lack of the required
birth certificate.
Refugees also voice dissatisfaction with the medical services
provided by the Voluntary Health
Association of Delhi (VHAD), a public-
health NGO tapped by UNHCR to
oversee refugee health. Many
refugees describe the experience of
hasty examinations and prescriptions
of the same medicine, particularly
vitamins, for any and every health
problem. Furthermore, UNHCR's
policy of reimbursing for expenses
related to medical care fails' to meet
the needs of many refugees. The
computation of the reimbursement is
neithertransparent nor consistent, and
many report being reimbursed only a
fraction of the costs incurred at the
stipulated government hospitals.
Finally, Burmese refugees in Delhi
relate numerous difficulties in
obtaining and renewing residential
permits, documents required in order
to take part in the Basic Salary
Scheme, the UNHCR's minimum-
wage top-up programme. To obtain
the permit, refugees must show proof
of residence, such as an electricity or
water bill in their name. Landlords,
however, frequently refuse to provide
refugees with such documents,
particularly because of tax liability. As
a result, many refugees cannot benefit
even from this basic safety-net scheme
designed specifically for them.
Dwindling durable
In the face of these and other problems
of survival and integration, many
Burmese refugees, both in Delhi and
in India at large, see resettlement in
third countries as the only realistic
solution to their situation. Even here,
however, refugees express frustration
with UNHCR's lack of clarity and
cooperation with regard to options and
procedures. Furthermore, the agency
has been accused of failing to
effectively lobby third-country
governments to accept and prioritise
Burmese refugees for resettlement.
According to the findings of a recent
survey, the Burmese refugee
community in Delhi seems to have
little trust in UNHCR. While there is no
doubt that the agency has good
intentions - in particular in its efforts to
make the community 'self-sufficient' -
its strategies are running into critical
problems, particularly due to a lack of
adequate consultation with the
community itself.
The refugee community's decision
to disband the New Delhi-based All
Burma Refugee Committee (ABRC)
in early 2006 was symptomatic of this
failure of communication. Set up in
2001 by refugees based in Delhi, this
organisation had until February of this
year played a role in mediating
between UNHCR and the Burmese
refugee community. UNHCR had
decided to fund ABRC's activities soon
after its founding, under the condition
thai it refrained from any political
activity. But part of the reason for its
dissolution this year was the
perception among various groups that
the ABRC was a UNHCR creation, and
that it did not effectively relay the
concerns of the various groups within
the Burmese community. As a result
of its disbanding, UNHCR is now left
with the difficult task of trying to
strengthen communications with the
refugee community in the absence of
a unified representative group. While
there exist numerous organisations,
committees, councils and groups
within the Burmese community in New
Delhi, nearly all of these are political
groups focusing on the situation within
Burma, and take little or no action with
regard to the community's welfare in
the capital.
India has been a member of
UNHCR's Executive Committee since
1994. In the dozen years since then,
however, it has neither ratified the
UN's 1951 Refugee Convention, nor
enacted any domestic legal
mechanism for the protection of
refugees. As such, UNHCR's most
critical responsibilities within India are
twofold. First, the agency needs to
actively lobby the New Delhi
government at an international leVfel
to take immediate steps to conform to
international standards on refugee
recognition, protection, granting of
legal status and assistance provision.
New Delhi needs to allow all refugees
to work, to provide them with travel
documents, and to allow them
freedom of movement within India. In
addition, UNHCR must be given
unrestricted access to refugees
outside the capital.
Second, until such time as India
gives refugees within its borders full
legal recognition, local integration will
not be a real possibility. As such,
UNHCR must pursue the option of
third-country resettlement. The agency
needs to actively work towards
convincing its member states to
increase the number of Burmese
refugees they accept for resettlement,
and subsequently to assist individual
refugees in the resettlement process.
Until these two responsibilities are
acted upon with real commitment, the
condition of India's Burmese refugees
will continue to worsen.
December 2006 I Himal Southasian
 Back to their corners
The proposed free trade area agreement between
India and the Association of South East Asian
Nations (ASEAN) is unlikely to materialise in the
near future, Deep divisions have crept up on both sides
over the possible benefits from such an agreement. A
section of India's policymakers are apprehensive about
cheap imports flooding the market and how this would
effect vulnerable sections of the population, particularly
farmers and workers in labour-intensive industries such
as textiles. Some within ASEAN also contend that India
is unlikely to fully open its economy to duty-free imports,
thereby diluting the potential effectiveness of any FTA,
The main bone of contention is the 'negative list', or
those items that would be excluded from the proposed
FTA agreement. These would have limited or no tariff
concessions. Matters came to a head on 25 July this
year, when Rafidah Aziz, Malaysia's Trade and
Industries Minister, announced that ASEAN had
suspended talks on an FTA agreement with India on
account of the latter's reluctance to open up its markets.
She pointed out that the negative list of 850-odd items
comprised roughly 30 percent of the exports of ASEAN
members to India.
Rao Inderjit Singh, India's Deputy Minister for
Defence, who happened to be in Kuala Lumpur at the
time, immediately undertook damage control. He told
journalists that the fact that India had reduced the
number of items to be placed on the negative list - from
1414 to around 850 - actually indicated its commitment
Research assistance by Kaushiki Sanyal.
Despite the
excitement - and
emphasis - that
surrounds the
possibility of an
India ASEAN free
trade area, both
sides are running
into protectionist
obstacles. At this
point, meeting a 1
January 2007
deadline looks
to making the agreement
work. He hinted that the list
could be further reduced,
and added that the talks
were still very much alive.
Singh also claimed that
Aziz's views were not representative of the entire
ASEAN, which at present comprises ten countries -
Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Burma,
the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
Singapore's Foreign Minister, George Yeo, during a
meeting with Indian negotiator Rajiv Sikri, even offered
to draft a statement to the effect that Rafidah Aziz "was
not speaking on behalf of ASEAN".
In August, India offered further concessions by again
cutting the number of products on its negative list,
bringing the total down from 850 to 560, The then-
Special Secretary to India's Ministry of Commerce and
Industry, Gopal K Pillai, stated that New Delhi was
willing to offer tariff concessions for 94 percent of
ASEAN exports to India. Such a plan would, for instance,
reduce tariffs on refined palm oil from 90 to 60 percent,
crude palm oil from 80 to 50 percent, black tea from 100
to 50 percent and pepper from 70 to 50 percent.
However, New Delhi continued its refusal to give
agricultural concessions, on the grounds that doing so
could adversely affect the livelihoods of Indian
subsistence farmers.
The concessions resulted in the resumption of
negotiations, although Malaysia's Minister .Aziz still felt
that India's timetable for reducing tariffs was too slow.
Himal Southasian | December 2006
 The Indian proposal to reduce tariffs on palm-oil products
over 16 years also came under fire, with ASEAN officials
arguing that New Delhi should offer concessions, such as
cutting duties on palm oil gradually over a 10-year period
after an initial five-year period. India has also offered to
implement Tariff Rate Quotas, which apply a certain
customs duty to a specified quantity of a particular import,
and a different duty rate to imports above that quota.
However, the negotiations are likely to hit another
roadblock in the future, given the fairly uncompromising
stances taken by both sides on other issues.
Reactive regionalism
The disagreement over India's negative list has served
as a reality check on New Delhi's Look East policy. The
impetus for wooing the Southeast Asian 'tigers' came
from the repeated failure of multilateral talks at the World
Trade Organisation (WTO) - in Seattle during 1999,
Cancun in 2003, Hong Kong in 2005, and Geneva this
past June. Those failures have spurred many countries,
including India, to look towards regional cooperation and
bilateral agreements as viable substitutes for time-
consuming negotiations at the WTO. For New Delhi, an
added impetus to forge closer economic ties with
Southeast Asia came from the stiff competition posed by
China. That has not stopped either country, however,
from making efforts to engage the other as trading
partners. Thus, regionalism has gained ground as a
reaction to the failure of the multilateral process to put in
place a rule-based international trading system,
India gained a foothold in the Asia-Pacific region after
ASEAN and its dialogue partners recognised India's
membership in the ASEAN Regional Forum. The first
India-ASEAN Economic Ministers meet was held in
2002, and an initial regional cooperation agreement was
signed in October 2003. This provided for an FTA
arrangement among the countries, which would be
implemented in a phased manner - by 2011 India would
have such an arrangement with longstanding ASEAN
countries, and by 2016 with the rest.
The 2003 agreement also included the Early Harvest
Programme (EHP) of immediate deliverables, and
unilateral trade preferences by India in favour of
ASEAN's least developed countnes, Cambodia, Laos
and Burma. The EHP provided for tariff eliminations by
31 October 2007 for the older ASEAN countries -
Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, the
Philippines and Brunei - and by 31 October 2010 for the
new member states. The agreement adopted by the
ASEAN-lndia Partnership in 2004 reinforced the
intentions of both parties to deepen their commercial
links. Currently, India has bilateral agreements with
Singapore and Thailand.
In 2005, it became evident that the proposed India-
ASEAN FTA agreement would encounter major hurdles,
because over half the exports to India of at least five
ASEAN members - Indonesia, Malaysia, Burma,
Thailand and Vietnam - was limited to a single
commodity, which was invariably from the agricultural
sector. The Indian Ministry of Agriculture raised strong
objections to the inclusion of farm products such as
pepper, rubber, palm oil, coffee and tea in the tariff
liberalisation programme. The ministry instead
suggested that these commodities be included in a
'sensitive' or negative list. ASEAN members, including
the single-product-exporting countries, opposed this
measure, and wanted the tariffs on all goods to be
reduced to zero at one go.
Free trade agreements generally work on the
principle that at least 80 percent of a country's trade is
covered under the agreement. ASEAN maintains that if
these agricultural items are part of a sensitive list,
single-product-exporting countries such as Malaysia
(which mainly exports palm oil to India) and Thailand (a
major exporter of rice) will not meet this criterion of
substantial trade coverage. India's Agriculture
Ministry contends that the commodities mentioned are
on a list of special products in the WTO, and
subsequently should not have zero tariffs slapped on
them under any FTA.
The issues at stake do not pertain only to trade, of
course, but also to the livelihoods of a large number of
people. For instance, import of palm oil and pepper
under the lndo-Sri Lankan FTA has adversely impacted
farmers in South Indian states such as Kerala. In fact,
the crucial stumbling block in completing the Doha
round of talks at the WTO was on account of the
developed countries themselves being unwilling to
reduce their farm subsidies. Jairam Ramesh, India's
Minister of State for Commerce, has said: "We cannot
have an FTA just for the sake of having an FTA,
especially if it negatively impacts the interests of our
farmers. FTAs that result in macro-benefits can also
cause micro-pains."
Hence, while the proposed FTA may result in macro-
economic benefits to the country, it could grievously hurt
large sections of farmers as well as local industry. The
Indian government has officially acknowledged that at
least 100,000 desperate farmers committed suicide in
different parts of India between 1993 and 2003 - an
average of 10,000 a year. Tariff reduction, especially of
customs duties on imports of agricultural commodities,
is an extremely sensitive issue in India.
Unbalanced trade area
Until India initiated economic reforms in 1991, its peak
customs duty rate was as high as 150 percent. Since the
United Progressive Alliance government in New Delhi is
dependent on the 'outside' support of 61 MPs from the
Left parties for a majority in the Lok Sabha - and these
parties, led by the Communist Party of India (Marxist),
are opposed to the government's agenda of economic
liberalisation - political compulsions are bound to
impinge on the Indo-ASEAN talks. Congress leader
Sonia Gandhi has already warned both Manmohan
Singh and Commerce Minster Kamal Nath about the
December 2006 | Himal Southasian
 consequences of hurting the interests of those cultivating
groundnuts, pepper, rubber, tea and coffee. Finance
Minister P Chidambaram also pointed out to the Trade
and Economic Relations Committee, which advises the
prime minister, that if customs duties on palm oil were
halved, the government's revenue loss would be around
INR 14 billion per year on this item alone.
A look at the developing trade relationship between
India and Thailand will help throw light on the broader
dealings with ASEAN. Opposition to FTAs has also come
from Indian industrialists, in particular leading the
Ministry of Commerce to announce that it will re-evaluate
certain bilateral commitments made in the India-
Thailand FTA. This agreement was signed in 2003
during the previous National Democratic Alliance
government led by the Bharatiya Janata Party, and
envisaged a process by which the two countries would
progressively reduce taxes on 82 items over three years,
and complete the creation of a tax-free zone for trade of
5000 items by 2010. There is considerable evidence to
indicate that exporters in Thailand have benefited
disproportionately from the FTA in comparison to Indian
exporters. In 2004-05, Thai exports to India grew by
nearly 37 percent, whereas India's exports to Thailand
grew by a meagre 5.8 percent. A report by Thailand's
Department of Foreign Trade on the first three months of
the Indo-Thailand FTA agreement found that Thailand's
trade surplus ratio with India was 400:1.
Under pressure from the business community, India
now wants one-fifth of the 5000 tradable items to be
placed on a negative list, on which there would be no
tariff cuts. Indian industrialists claim that the current
agreement is working against the interests of local
industries. Power-cable manufacturers claim that this
agreement would ruin their businesses in India, as it is
not possible for them to compete with Thai companies
jnless internal fiscal, labour and infrastructure
reforms are first implemented that would allow Indian
firms to manufacture products at internationally
competitive prices.
According to a recent survey by the Federation of
ndian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, the
inverted duty structure that certain industries are facing
may lead to Indian companies outsourcing products from
Thailand, or setting up manufacturing bases in Thailand.
The survey also reveals that internal cost disabilities are
eroding the competitiveness of such industries vis-a-vis
their Thai counterparts.
In addition, some observers feel that New Delhi has
compromised on the issue of Rules of Origin (ROO) with
ASEAN members. Rules of Origin refer to the fact that
goods exported from a certain destination must have a
minimum specified value addition in the country of origin.
India has reportedly agreed to a 35 percent value
addition and changes in tariffs at the level of 'subheadings', whereas in the case of bilateral arrangements
with individual countries like Thailand and Singapore, the
rules specify 40 percent value addition and tariff changes
at the level of 'headings'. When ROOs are worked out at
the level of sub-headings, it implies that value-addition
norms have been specified in an extremely detailed
manner, down to the level of not just broad product
categories (say, garments) but along specific product
lines (women's blouses, skirts, trousers and so on). In
other words, the value-addition norms that are
incorporated in the ROOs are, in India's case, lower or
more liberal in the proposed FTA with ASEAN, and more
stringent or higher in bilateral agreements with Thailand
and Singapore.
Rules of Origin are a major reason why negotiations
are stalled between India and Thailand over expansion
of items on the FTA list. New Delhi fears that further
relaxation of the ROO could lead to imports from third
countries via Thailand that would, in turn, antagonise
Indian industry. The doubts expressed over the ROO are
not without basis. According to a report by the Associated
Chambers for Commerce and Industry in India, China,
the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia and even Taiwan
were using Thailand as a preferred destination to
route to India a wide variety of products such as
textiles, engineering items, processed foods and
electronic products.
Experts believe that the Indian farm and industry
sectors desperately need infrastructural reforms in order
to reap benefits from the FTAs. T S Viswanath, a senior
adviser to the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), has
pointed out that Indian manufacturing has proven that it
can be globally competitive, and is therefore not asking
for protectionist measures. "All that we are saying is that
lowering tariffs under FTAs should be accompanied with
labour, fiscal and infrastructure reforms," he says. Indian
companies are handicapped not only by acute
infrastructural constraints, such as shortage of power and
high tax rates, but also lack the flexibility enjoyed by
some of their counterparts in Southeast Asia and China,
particularly in terms of labour laws that make it easier for
them to take on and dismiss workers.
In the medium term, there needs to be a fine balance
between genuinely required protection and economic
liberalisation. This, in turn, requires a high level of
preparedness on the part of India's bureaucracy, and
also calls on the country's political leadership to build an
internal consensus on contentious issues. In the final
analysis, when there is competition among unequal
participants, there has to exist considerable political
sagacity and a willingness to compromise on all sides to
work out trading arrangements that can create a win-win
situation for all.
One would need to be an incorrigible optimist to
believe that the India-ASEAN FTA agreement would be
implemented by the 1 January 2007 deadline.
Negotiations are now at least one year behind schedule,
and many issues currently appear intractable.
Meanwhile, this failure will surely throw a wrench into
India's plan to double its share of world trade to two
percent by 2009. *
Himal Southasian | December 2006
Feet across the frontier
How a young Ladakhi shepherd in Baltistan learns
and unlearns the importance of the inter-state frontiers.
"t was about three in the morning when Ali heard the
rooster crowing. He was already awake. He had not slept
.well the previous night, contemplating the journey he
would make today. As he looked around, he found the others
still asleep. Hussain, Ali's best friend, was sick, and had
been coughing irregularly for the past few days. Ali had
lived with Hussain and his family for 12 years now. They
had taken him in as one of the family after he had
accidentally ciossed the border and found himself stranded.
That was in 1971. At the time, India and Pakistan were
engaged in a war over Bangladesh, which killed hundreds of
thousands of people and displaced many more. The war
severely affected the people of Baltistan and Ladakh, and
crippled local livelihoods. Thousands of people, separated
from their loved ones as a result of the war, were now
waiting for the border to re-open. Ali was among the refugees of Ladakh who had wandered
across the boundary into the Kharmang Valley of Baltistan.
It all began on a sunny day when Ah was 16 years old. He was grazing his yaks and
dzomos in the pastures near the Baltistani border. His favourite yak, named Dong-kar, White
Face, sharpened his horns on the ground nearby. From where he sat under a willow tree, .Ah
could see the lush green pastures across the border. At the time, traders and shepherds
found it easy to slip across the border. This summer, Balti traders had brought news of
Pakistani soldiers fighting against Bengal's struggle for independence. In the Kargil bazaar
of Ladakh, shopkeepers worried over the escalating tension between Pakistan and India.
Farmers and shepherds like Ali had not paid much attention to the news, however, as their
region remained peaceful.
Now these thoughts ran through Ali's mind as he crossed into Baltistan. He cautiously
looked down the valley for Pakistani soldiers. Pakistan had stationed a large number of
troops in Baltistan after occupying the region in 1948, and they remained. Ali reached a
brook as the path wound through the lower gorges on the left side of Suru Chu River. It was
a long and arduous journey. Through a cluster of trees, he saw houses on the other side of
the brook. Smoke was coming out of the chimneys. On the rooftops, women had laid out
apricots to dry for the winter. "This may be a place to spend the night," Ali thought with
some relief. His feet moved faster as he hummed loudly. The yaks also lumbered faster,
anticipating the fresh grass on the upper side of the pasture.
Ali stretched his legs in the soft grass while talking to his dzomos and yaks. "Rinmochhe
Balang, your fate has brought you to Baltistani pastures today. Now eat as much as you can,
so we can return to our home before it is dark and unsafe." As he lounged, he could see a
Pakistani army camp in the distance. All the camps were in the valley west of the pastures,
and the local villagers had shifted even further west when the Pakistan Army had seized
their land. The farmland had gone fallow as soldiers turned the valley into a garrison. After
the departure of locals from the valley, only wild ibex, deer and the cattle from Indian
December 2006 I Himal Southasian
 villages grazed these pastures. Ali thought of Tsevvang, a shepherd from his village who
once could not control his sheep. A few had wandered into the armv camp. Fearful of the
soldiers, Tsewang did not fetch the stray sheep, instead leaving for his village with the
remaining flock. Since then, Ali and the other shepherds had been cautious in controlling
their cattle in these pastures.
Lost in thought, Ali pulled out some khulak, a snack made of roasted barlev flour and
salted yak-butter tea, and took small bites. He had a couple of plaiting, dried apricots, left in
his pocket. As he nibbled, his thoughts came to rest on Gyalmo, his fiancee, who had given
him the apricots that morning. Gyalmo would wait in front of her house with food for Ali
as he went to the pasture every morning. Food was an excuse for them to see each other at
least once a day. At different times, Gyalmo would give him dried fruit, some local bread
called klmrba, fresh walnuts and mulberries, dried yak meat and the local yogurt drink,
darba. Today, she had not been in a good mood. She had staved for just a few minutes, had
not talked much, and had given him a few phating and nothing more. They argued
about the dangers of the border crossing. Neither knew that they would wait decades to
meet again.
As darkness spread, Ali herded his cattle towards the lower reaches of the pasture. The
dzomos and yaks were docile after eating all day. But as he neared the brook, Ali saw
soldiers moving about below. There was haphazard movement, suggesting panic and
chaos. Ali drove his cattle behind a cliff, and waited there. He was still half an hour's
distance from the border, and soldiers now stood in his way. He waited until it got dark,
and then carefully moved his cattle towards the houses on the other side of the brook.
As he drew near, he could hear the army vehicles in the distance. When he reached the
first house, he stumbled in without knocking. In the dark, he whispered fearfully, "Is there
anyone here?" The room was empty but warm. He took the cattle to the barn and locked
them inside, He did not understand why the barn door was ajar at that time of the night,
then he returned to the room and sat waiting for the owner, The howling wind and
desolation scared him. He remembered how his mother had always forbid him to cross into
Baltistan. Gyalmo too disliked his willingness to take risks for greener pastures. The warm
room made him dizzy - a dav of shepherding and emotional distress was catching up with
him, He stretched his legs by the stove and quickly fell asleep.
Ata Mutik
At dawn, Ali awoke to the noise of shelling and mortar fire. In the morning light, he now-
noticed that the room had been hastily abandoned. Utensils were scattered about, floor
mats missing, and barley seeds were spilt near the door. It did not take him long to realise
that the owners had fled with their valuables and cattle before his arrival. To his dismay,
the barn door was broken, and his cattle had disappeared in the night. Amidst the shelling,
Ali wandered around looking for his cattle. 1 fc was not very far from the brook when a
soldier surprised him from behind. "Why are vou still here?" the soldier demanded. "Don't
you know that war has started in Baltistan? If vou insist on staying here any longer, you
will get killed."
Ihe soldier had mistaken Ali for a local villager on his side of the frontier, i le pushed
him in the direction further west of the valley. Along the way, he hid behind boulders at the
sounds of shelling. He saw smouldering homes across the Suru Chu. After a few hours of
walking, he reached a village filled with refugees. He saw men carrying heavy loads on
their backs, while women carried infants and dragged toddlers behind them. The wailing
of children added a sense of panic and fear to the air. Men struggled to move cattle along
with the people. Ali joined the caravan and moved west as the villagers followed the river.
Some refugees stopped at Marol, a village at a safe distance from the border, while others
kept walking.
Ali saw an old man stooping to find a place to rest. He was panting and seemed unable
to support his weight. Ali grabbed him and took him to an emptv house nearby. Thev found
a mat, some pieces of chopped wood and some utensils in the room, lt looked like the
villagers here had also left in haste. When the old man recovered his breath, they
introduced themselves. His name was Ata Mutik. He was with his sons, Hussain and little
Shesrab. Hussain had gone back to look for Shesrab, who was lost in the crowd. They
feared Shesrab had hidden himself along the way after losing sight of his family,
Ashi God, in
the name of
and his
family! Make
my return
possible. Unite
me with my
family and
tribe. Help us
overcome the
Ladakh and
Himal Southasian I December 2006
 As Ata Mutik's condition improved, Ali went in search of water and food. Both of them
were very hungry. He found some dried fruits and crumbs of bread in neighbouring houses,
and used a tea-stained pot to fetch some water. Ata Mutik thanked him, and they both
consumed the food ravenously. While they ate, Ali revealed his accidental arrival in
Baltistan. He worried for his mother and Gyalmo, and feared that his village would be
destroyed amidst attacks by Pakistani forces. Tears rolled down his cheeks as he thought
about his family in danger. Ata Mutik patted his shoulder, "Ali, you are like a son. Please
stay with us. We will take care of you. After the fighting ends, you can return to your village.
Don't worry. No one will know you are from the other side." After eating, Ata Mutik and Ali
walked to the road to wait for Hussain, who returned with Shesrab late in the evening.
They assessed the situation and, after some discussion, decided to stay in one of the
empty houses until it was safe to return to their village. Ali helped the family take their
belongings into the house.
Despite his fortune in finding Ata Mutik and his family, destiny was not kind to Ali. As
the war ended, the governments of India and Pakistan decided to permanently close the
frontier, and stop all crossborder movement. Given these circumstances, Ali decided to stay
on with Ata Mutik's family. When the ceasefire was declared, they moved back to Ata
Mutik's ancestral village near the border. Ali felt at peace living with his adopted family, and
being closer to his own village. Every evening, he visited the barber's shop for gossip, and to
listen to the radio for news of Kargil. Reports came of several Baltistani villages in Gangche
District being taken under Indian control. As a result, thousands of people became refugees
and moved to Skardo, the capital of Baltistan.
After four months, Ali received a letter from home. His family was alive. They had moved
40 miles east of their ancestral village, after Pakistani attacks had destroyed the houses.
"Your mother cries and prays for your safe return," uncle Zhangmo Anchan wrote. "If you
fail to return soon, Gyalmo will marry someone else." Ali hastily replied, assuring them of
his safe and speedy return. After dropping the letter off at the postman's house, he prayed
that it would reach its destination swiftly.
Days passed quickly, as Ali anxiously waited for the border to re-open. Once at dawn and
once before going to bed, he would stare at the mountain pass, the same pass over which he
and his dzomos had descended into Baltistan. His life had stood still since he had come over
that pass, like a stationary picture. His home and family seemed like a dream slipping further
away every day.
With hope in his heart, he wrote letters to his mother and to Gyalmo every week. He also
visited several holy Phyak-khangs, Khankahs and Imambaras, praying for a safe return. He
prayed, "O Shazdechan-Ashi God, in the name of Rtsangma Rinchen Muhammad and his
Rinmochhe familv! Make my return possible. Unite me with my family and tribe. Help us
overcome the barrier between Ladakh and Baltistan." One day he visited Shiekh Ibrahim of
Ata Mutik's village, who wrote smonlam, the Quranic prayers, for Ali on a piece of birch bark.
Ali washed the ink from the bark into a cup and drank the blessed water, hoping that God
heard his prayers. To his right arm he tied the dod-strung, an amulet that the Shiekh had
made with Quranic prayers. But as the months turned into vears, Ali busied himself with
work, helping to support Ata Mutik and his family. He was valuable to the family because of
his shepherding and farming skills. On many occasions, Ata Mutik advised him to marry
and settle down. But all his thoughts revolved around the girl who lived on the other side
of the pass.
As the years passed, the relationship between India and Pakistan began to thaw, and both
countries began what was known as confidence- and peace-building measures. There were
rumours that the troops would return to the barracks, and life to normalcy. The border would
open, allowing divided families to reunite. The rumours set a tempest brewing in Ali's mind.
He visited government offices to confirm the stories. The village barber advised him to go to
Tolti or Skardo, and register his name among the refugees to be sent back to their homes. Ali
did not want to lose this chance after so many vears, and followed every piece ot advice. Ata
Mutik was also a distant relative of the tehsildar, the district magistrate of Tolti. He
approached Tehsildar Sahib and introduced Ali to him. Ali begged and offered presents to
the man, and his emotional plea made everyone in the room tearful with sympathy. Tehsildar
Sahib promised Ali that he would be one of the first to cross the border. He then kindly
suggested that Ali take his presents back with him, and give them to his mother upon
48 December 2006 | Himal Southasian
 returning to Ladakh.
A few weeks later, while Ali was grazing the yaks in the pasture, young Shesrab came
running and yelling, "Ali Kaka! Ali Kaka!" Ali ran to him with anticipation. "AH Kaka,
father has just received news that you can go home," Shesrab panted. "He said you will
leave within the week." Ali left Shesrab with the yaks and ran home. He collapsed onto Ata
Mutik in a joyous embrace. From that moment, Ali became restless. His racing thoughts made
sleep impossible. He lay wakeful, planning his future with his family. He did not know what
to expect of Gyalmo after so many years. He also worried about saying farewell lo Hussain
and his family. Fear and confusion haunted him, while thoughts of seeing his mother
thrilled him. He lost his appetite and interest in work. Suddenly, he felt he was living in
strange surroundings. He was like a passenger at a railway station, desperately waiting for a
delayed train. He knew that losing the chance to return to Ladakh would take away all
meaning in his world.
The free cavalcade
On his last day, Ata Mutik saw Ali sitting on the bank of the river, staring at the mountain
pass and throwing pebbles in the water. He was struggling with his conflicting emotions.
Ata Mutik sat down and said, "Son, do you know, Ladakh and Baltistan were part of the
same province before Partition in 1948?" While Ali stared at the ground dejectedly, Ata
Mutik continued, "Our province was called Ladakh Wazarat. I was very young when
Partition occurred. I used to travel to Leh, Kargil and Changthang with my father to sell fruit
and other goods. At that time, the valley of Kharmang was part of Kargil District, like your
village is now. When Tehsildar Sahib of Kargil would visit our village, the excitement and
preparations caused a great commotion. At that time, Skardo was the winter capital of the
province, while Leh was the summer capital. The provincial government spent six months in
winter in Baltistan and six months in summer in Leh."
Ata Mutik's eyes searched the horizon. "Because of the capital transfer, the movement of
the cavalcade ebbed and flowed," he continued, "creating a carnival atmosphere in
Kharmang Valley. Accompanied by thousands of bureaucrats, workers and ordinary people,
the Wazirs, Kalons, Lonpos and Trangpas passed through our villages on horseback. The
village elders welcomed officials with gifts, cattle and prettied-up houses. As the cavalcade
moved forward, it was a traveling festival from village to village. At night, fire dancers with
flowers in their hats performed with smoking juniper twigs. Professional storytellers recited
and performed sagas of Ling Gesar, Gyalbucho Lobz.ang and Yulstrung Karim with
reverence, while the singers sang traditional Gyang-Lu and Barg-Lu songs. Villagers
arranged polo matches, archery competitions and traditional feasts. Every household
contributed food from their rations. The women spent the entire day making dishes of every
kind, causing the children to run with excitement at the smell of meat and yak-butter tea. The
entire village was involved, each person assigned a task to help pull the ceremony together."
Ata Mutik continued wistfully, "We travelled freely between Skardo, Leh, Srinagar and
Shimla. Peace prevailed everywhere."
Ali looked at Ata Mutik with new excitement. He had never heard him talk like this
before. Ali had had no previous interest in history, but found himself listening to the old man
with rapt attention. He remembered how his own father, Ata Sengge, used to tell similar
stories to him as a child. His father spoke of his journeys to Skardo, and compared the
vastness of the Zanskar and Shigar valleys. Impatient to play with the other boys in the
courtyard, Ali would fidget and look for the first opportunity to escape. Now he wanted to
know about the time without borders - when people traveled freely, and when communities
co-existed so well.
Ali realised that people born after 1948 in both Ladakh and Baltistan accepted the border
as set in stone. Like himself, they had compromised with the times. Today, for the first time,
Ali escaped into a pre-1948 past. The existence of a border and travel restrictions suddenly
pierced his soul. The more he learned about the past, the more suffocated he felt. This was the
same frontier that had separated him from his parents and fiancee all these years. If he could,
he would erase that line instantly, that artificial boundary that kept members of the same
community physically so divided.
As he heard these stories, an idea planted itself in Ali's heart. He looked to Ata Mutik with
hope and excitement and asked, "Don't you think that a border drawn so recently can be
Today he
found a new
and purpose
for his life -
a mission to
people across
Himal Southasian | December 2006
 erased again?" Ata Mutik, who saw the light coming back to Ali's eyes, smiled thoughtfully
and said, "Son, borders are manmade. They can be erased or changed. Ladakh and Baltistan
share the same culture, language and customs. Several traditional trade routes connect us to
each other. Our fate and economic prosperity is joined to that of Ladakh. Closing these trade
routes has degraded us severely. If we understand this, then we should work together to
erase this imaginary frontier." Ali nodded in agreement. Today he found a new
understanding and purpose for his life - a mission to connect people across the mountains.
Controlling the line
It was well past dusk when they finally returned home. The young man was filled with
energy. Ata Mutik had shown him a path with which to bridge his life of the last 12 years to
his impending return home. It was as if a paralysis had been lifted, and replaced by the
voice of ancestors saying that it was possible to rebuild a strong community. He dreamed of
spreading the message of prosperity through a unified Ladakh and Baltistan. Now, he was
hopeful about seeing Ata Mutik again. He envisioned a day when Ata Mutik and his family
would visit him in his home. He imagined introducing the old man to his wife Gyalmo and
their children. That night, Ali tossed and turned for hours. He was in deep contemplation
when the rooster crowed the coming dawn. At last, the morning had arrived when he was to
return home. The sadness of saying goodbye to a life of 12 years was made sweet by his
eagerness to revolutionise people's thinking about the border.
Ali got out of bed and boiled some water for tea. He had packed his luggage earlier,
including silver and turquoise jewellery for Gyalmo made by Awulu, the village silversmith.
Sheikh Ibrahim had given him a string of Quranic d.od-strimg for his mother. The previous
evening, Ata Mutik had presented Ali with a woolen kaar, the local shawl, which he had
weaved himself on the house loom. Hussain added khulak and dried apricots for the journey.
The knowledge that he was leaving those who had nurtured him left Ali heavy of heart.
Everyone was gloomy.. Hussain, whose early morning coughing calmed after drinking his
first cup of tea, sat quietly in the comer and avoided looking into Ali's eyes. With strained
cheer and a promise to see them soon, Ali hugged Ata Mutik and Shesrab. Ata Mutik found
it difficult to say goodbye to Ali, who had been like a son to him. They wept quietly together
for a while. After 12 years of holding back his tears, Ali finally let them all go. Hussain
walked Ali to the road to see him off. Ali promised to bring Ata Mutik and Shesrab to Kargil
after the next harvest.
After bidding Hussain farewell, Ali walked through the village he had called home for so
long. He memorised how each house was set against the other, each field terraced against
the next. As he navigated the streams of snowmelt for the last time, he thought of all the
children who played along them on summer days. As he looked up at the mountains, he
drought of all the days spent in the high pastures. As he passed the barbershop, the barber
and his three boys came running up to say goodbye. .Along the way, Awulu fhe silversmith
intoned smonlam, for safe travel.
At the border checkpost, aAli joined the first group of people from Baltistan and Ladakh
who gathered to return across the border. It was 11:00 am when the paperwork was
finished, and the security officials ordered the refugees to cross. Everyone walked across the
border on foot as a group. Ali felt his heartbeat rise as he
neared the frontier. On the other side, his relatives recognised
him and shouted Ms name in joy and celebration. But Ali's
thoughts were concentrated on the Line of Control he was
crossing. He wanted to record this moment in Ms mind
forever. He dragged his feet across the ground, as if footsteps
could erase the border. Once on the other side, he fell to his
knees to thank god, Rgyalbachan Ldanchuk-khan. His
relatives clustered around him, and cried in elation.
Through his journey, Ali had negated the very existence of
the artificial boundary dividing his two homes. He saw
Mmself as the first drop of rain, which leads to a drenching
downpour and enriches the earth. Today, Ali laid the
foundation of the umfication of Ladakh and Baltistan
with his feet. £
December 2006 ] Himal Southasian
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Gatekeepers at the roundtable
The PanosHima/Southasian media gatekeepers' roundtable,
11-12 November 2006.
Since May 2002, five gatekeepers' roundtables
have been held on the India-Pakistan
engagement, organised by Panos South Asia
and Himal Southasian. These started with the
understanding that rapprochement between New
Delhi and Islamabad is all-important for a safe, secure
and prosperous Southasia, and have subsequently
addressed a series of critical bilateral topics between
the two antagonists. The reports on the discussions,
all of which have been printed in past issues of this
magazine, are a barometer of the changing times and
moods. We notice in them that, even amidst continuing
domestic and international challenges, there is a
permanent place for reasoned debate and mature
deliberation in the India-Pakistan dialogue.
The fifth and latest roundtable was held on 11-12
November 2006 in Cairo. Under the theme "Are India
and Pakistan really in control of the situation?", the
meeting discussed the following issues:
• Internal factors in India influencing relations with
Pakistan, including issues related to political
equations, vote banks, radical groups, popular will,
Gatekeepers' Roundtables
Conflict and the India-Pakistan media
Nagarkot, Nepal, May 2002
The nuclear weaponisation of Southasia
Bellagio, Italy, July 2003
The  India-Pakistan  'Composite  Dialogue'
Bentota, Sri Lanka, September 2004
The question of Kashmir
Istanbul, Turkey, December 2005
Are India and Pakistan really
in control of the situation?
Cairo, Egypt, November 2006
militancy and so on.
• Internal factors in Pakistan influencing relations
with India, including the role of the military, radical
groups, political factors, popular will, militancy and
so on.
• External influences on bilateral relations vis-a-vis
Pakistan, including the 'US factor', the West's
positioning and the Islamic world, energy needs,
the role of China and so on.
• External influences on bilateral relations vis-a-vis
India, including the 'US factor', energy needs, the
role of China and so on.
The discussants at Cairo were as follows. From
India: Shahid Siddiqui, MP and General Secretary of
the Samajwadi Partv; Salman Haidar, former Foreign
Secretary of India; A S Panneerselvan, Executive
Director, Panos South Asia; Bharat Bhushan, Editor,
the Telegraph; Madhuker Upadhvav, Editor, Lokmat
Samachar; N Ram, Executive Editor, The Hindu; Ranjan
Rov, Editor, limes News Network. From Pakistan:
Tasneem Noorani, former Interior and Commerce
Secretary for Pakistan; Aitzaz Ahsan, former Interior
Minister, lawyer, author, from the Pakistan People's
Party; Hameed Haroun, CF.O, the Dawn Group of
Publications; Talat Hussain, News Editor, Aaj TV;
Mujibur Rehman Shami, Editor, Daily Pakistan;
Shaheen Salahuddin, Editor, Indus TV; Aslam Kazi,
Publisher, Daily Kawish and Chairman, KTN channel.
As in the previous four meetings, the Cairo
roundtable was moderated by Kanak Mani Dixit, editor
of Himal Southasian.
Within the given theme - whether or not the
governments of India and Pakistan were in any
position to guide the evolution of the bilateral
relationship amidst competing and ever-changing
internal and external pressures - the participants of
the Cairo roundtable engaged in two days of
intense and free-ranging discussion. What we present
here is a summary of kev presentations made
extempore by participants, which provided grist for
vigorous debate. i
December 2006 | Himal Southasian
 The national-security state
Aitzaz Ahsan, former Interior Minister, the Pakistan People's Party
he pain of the Partition
has left a legacy. There
also persists in some
quarters a fairly widespread
fragility syndrome - as if
Pakistan would revert one day
to India, and that it is a fragile
state. It was something that
was attributed to Jawaharlal
Nehru. This held the minds of
Pakistani intellectuals,
because there was a crisis or a
certain inability to properly identify and realise one's own
identity. The only way we could identify ourselves was that
we were Muslims. But the presence of a large number of
Muslims in India, the creation of Bangladesh, among other
things, weakened this proposition. The fragility syndrome
helped suppress these uncomfortable questions - you
don't ask questions, you cannot seek answers because
Pakistan is fragile, India is hostile.
Indian hostility was manifested quite early. The first issue
was that water was held back after the monsoons in 1947.
Secondly, the division of assets became a sore issue. Now
in the context of this fragility syndrome, and the initial
hostility, a third feature emerged very early in Pakistan's
life. Pakistan adhered to a protectionist regime for its
industrialisation. Imports were regulated very strictly. So
we historically sealed out borders in a way regarding the
exchange of goods and business with India.
The Pakistan Army took over in 1958. Gradually, but
very perceptively and very surely, the very nature of the
state changed, from what was initially to be a social-welfare
state to a national-security state. In a welfare state, the first
priority ofthe state is the citizen; in a national-security state,
the first priority of the state is the soldier, and the
intelligence agencies and the state establishment. To
justify a military government, you also need to have
palpable threats to national security. So you also tend to
convert your neighbours to being your enemies.
Now, India's contribution itself to this national-security
paradigm in Pakistan has been profound and continuous.
If India blasts the Pokhran sands with a 'smiling Buddha'
in 1974, Pakistan has no option but to say 'We'll eat grass,
but we'll have the bomb'. If India blasts the Pokhran sands
on 11 May 1998, we have no option but to shake the Chagai
mountains on 28 May 1998. And India continues to raise
its defence budget, which elicits a response from Pakistan.
Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was democratically elected, but was
a continuum of the national-security state. He also sought
to appease the mullahs with some gestures but it was
during Zia's time that money, weapons, weapon trainers
came into jihad and empowered fundamentalist units. This
period also saw the Islamisation of the textbooks. Hate
literature came into it. Our history began in 712 AD, when
Mohammed bin Qasim came to Pakistan. It was not the
history ofthe land we were teaching; it was the history of
the religion.
When you start creating a national-security state and
paradigm, then you are bound to get into adventures like
we did in the so-called Afghan jihad, against the Soviet
Union, where we were used as tools. In that process of the
jihad against the Soviet Union, Pakistan became populist,
weaponised and jihadised, intolerant and militarised. All
these jihadis were unemployed after the withdrawal of the
Soviets and the failure of the operation in Jalalabad in
1989. And the whole swath actually moved into the Kashmir
front, so that became live. All these events reinforced what
was a marginal faction in Pakistani politics - the faction
that believed that Pakistan was an ideological state, just
like Israel.
The cold war between India and Pakistan has continued
through this period and created vested interests - for
instance, the weapons suppliers who sit and lobby in the
Defence Ministry, sit and lobby in the prime minister's
house. The other problem is that our foreign offices are
locked in reciprocity. Neither state has the imagination or
the guts or the initiative to say, 'We don't care about
reciprocity, we are going to open visas. We're going to
open imports.'
At present, Pervez Musharraf is incapable of breaking
away from the hold of the national-security structures of
the state and the national-security establishment. In fact, at
least three close calls on his life in December 2004 have
made him even more a prisoner. He owes his continued
uniform and the holding of two offices to them, as they
voted for him in the 17th Amendment.
Having said that, I think India is wasting an opportunity.
The solutions that a Pakistan Army chief can undertake
with India are not those that political parties will be able to
do even after full democracy is restored. We should look at
a gamut of measures in different fields that can improve
ties - from the defence-security options to the economic
security, and look for avenues and work on that. Pakistan
will not cut its defence budget if India is increasing its
defence budget. Secondly, nobody is stopping people from
issuing visas, people-to-people contact. There has been a
certain amount of movement in that. I think the visa regime
should be relaxed enormously because it really brings
people together.
Pakistan must realise the immense potential out of trade
with India - it gets a market seven times its size. India gets
a huge market as well. And despite such an opportunity,
our commerce minister goes around begging for an
increase of 0.01 percent in textile quota in category 622 in
Europe and the US. On the import side, why is it the fault of
my 160 million consumers, that he should have to buy a
cycle for 4000 rupees when can buy it for 2200 rupees
coming across on trucks from Wagah? £
Himal Southasian J December 2006
 The impact of fundamentalist groups on policy
Bharat Bhushan, editor, The Telegraph
et us took at some
internal factors.
Does internal
electoral compulsion affect
India-Pakistan relations in
India? Certainly it does, and
it should. Because in an
inclusive democracy, you
must take the views of all
constituents into account,
irrespective of what we
might call vote-bank politics.
However, having said that,
there are cynical politicians - and not only in the
Congress, right across alt kinds of parties - who see their
policy towards Pakistan as an extension of their domestic
compulsions. So, for example, the elections in Uttar
Pradesh, which are due in February next year, before
that you will see a certain kind of polarisation. There is a
lot of guesswork involved in democratic politics, so there
will be parties who think that being softer towards
Pakistan, being reconciliatory, would help them with votes
of certain communities or certain sections of society.
The second question is - do fundamentalist groups
influence policy towards Pakistan? They certainly try to
do that; sometimes they're effective, sometimes they're
not. Fundamentalist Hindu groups like the RSS, Bajrang
Dal, they're only anti-Muslim. They have a bias against
Pakistan, to put it mildly. But they tend to have far greater
influence on BJP-led governments. For other
governments, they create communal tension, they create
problems, law-and-order problems which can be dealt
with. Are there Muslim fundamentalist groups in India
which influence policy? We have an absolutely amazing
organisation called Jamaat-e-Ulema-Hind, which took
on Jinnah earlier with the two-nation theory. Exceptionally
nationalist, even today they argue for moderation,
particularly after the Bombay serial blasts; its influence
on policy has been fairly remarkable. There is another
element in the Muslim community that has emerged, but
this is more a response to a lack of social and political
justice. If t was a young Muslim kid living in Gujarat and 1
found that there was no justice for Muslims of Gujarat, I
would turn towards extremism.
My next point is terrorist acts influencing policy. Some
of these kids can get used by the powers that be to create
terrorism in India. Are terrorist acts in India an internal
problem in India? People suspect they are part of an
external policy that Pakistan follows towards India. I've
had very liberal Pakistani friends tell me that if we give up
- not now, five years ago - if we give up using violence
against India, you would never talk about Kashmir. 1
suspect they're right. But after every big terrorist
act, whether it is the market blasts in Delhi, or Bombay, or
Malegaon, it becomes that much more difficult for
the leadership to pursue a line of reconciliation
with Pakistan,
Popular will influences relationships. Popular will
expresses itself in various ways - elections are one of
them, and people by and large want peace with Pakistan,
despite these aberrations and terrorist acts. The
people-to-people contacts, which have gone up in the
last five or six years, have had an amazing influence -
the kind of warmth that has developed between the two
peoples is amazing.
The media is a major problem, because in India it has
become a force multiplier of the Defence Ministry and
the Foreign Ministry, by and large. The best of our
correspondents have become nothing more than
stenographers, somebody who could go to the Foreign
Office briefing and people would say, 'Sir could you go a
bit slower, I missed that line.' We have internalised the
national-security paradigm completely. There are vary
few newspapers which are outside of that paradigm. We
do unsourced stories from Kashmir, we accept what the
military intelligence says about Mr X being a Pakistani
agent or his name being this or that - there is no way of
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December 2006 I Himal Southasian
 The Hindu-Muslim question
Shahid Siddiqui, MP and General Secretary, Samajwadi Party
I wish to place emphasis on
some issues that have not
been highlighted in the
past, and realities which we
have been pushing under the
carpet for the last 60 years.
India and Pakistan were born
out of deep distrust. The two-
nation theory stemmed from
the strong belief that Hindus
and Muslims of India could
not live together as one people. Unfortunately, Partition
did not solve the problem of communal and religious
divide in the Subcontinent. Muslims and Hindus did
not emerge as two separate nations - there were as
many Muslims left behind in India as there were in the
new nation of Pakistan.
This Hindu-Muslim question is the core issue
between India and Pakistan. The second-largest
population in India is the Muslim population, a fact
which has influenced India's relationship with
Pakistan, its own political and social character.
Despite pressure from, various quarters, Indian
leaders at that time realised that India could not and
should not become a Hindu state. This pressure of
creating a secular India, where minorities, especially
Muslims, have equal rights, was at the back of the mind
of Indian political leadership when conflict in Kashmir
arose. The Congress party, Jawaharlal Nehru and all
the leaders were seen to be soft on Muslims. The
legitimate question raised by many in India was that if
Kashmir belonged to Pakistan because it has a very
large Muslim population, and there should be a
referendum in Kashmir on this issue on religious
grounds, then what was such a large Muslim
population doing in India, and why should they have
all these political and social and legal rights? People
across party lines were articulating these ideas.
Indians therefore had to reject the two-nation theory
in its entirety, if we wanted to build a secular state and
give equal rights to our large Muslim population. This
has created a situation where even secular and liberal
political parties could not take a soft attitude towards
Pakistan. On the one hand they had to defend Indian
minorities, especially Indian Muslims. And in doing
so, they were in competition with rightist Hindu
parties, and pressure from within their own parties;
therefore, they had to create a strong, rigid, sometimes
even unreasonable stance towards Pakistan. This
happened because nobody wanted to be seen as being
soft both on Pakistan and on Muslims.
This situation continued til), say, the BJP came to
power. A Hindu party was raising the issue of Muslims
within Indian polity. The vote of Indian Muslims was
extremely important, and has been wooed by a number
of secular parties, while the Right Hindu parties realise
that they cannot get this Muslim vote, and therefore
they have been both anti-Muslim and anti-Pakistan.
They wanted to cater to voters on issues of Islam being
a threat, Muslims being a threat, Muslims being
responsible for the creation of Pakistan, and that with
such a large Muslim population in India, a
further threat remained which would again lead to
division of India.
In the post-9/11 period, this anti-Pakistan
sentiment got converted more to anti-Muslim
sentiments, and Muslims are seen to be terrorists.
Therefore, there is a competition between all of the
political parties as to who is more anti-terrorist, who
is more anti-jihadi. And in a way, who is more anti-
Pakistani jihadi. This takes place even among the
secular parties.
In such a context, the liberal and the secular parties
played on the insecurity of the Indian Muslims. And
the Right political parties, and also sometimes the
Congress, played on the insecurities of the Hindus.
The Muslim vote has never been influenced by what
happens in Pakistan. And anybody who tries to do
that doesn't know the ground realities, But what
happens is that when Manmohan Singh talks about
reservations for Muslims, within a short time he makes
a strong statement on Pakistan. When they want to get
the Muslim vote bank, they say something very nice
for Indian Muslims - that they are backward,
something should be done, come out with 15 or 20 or
25 points in their favour. Immediately these secular
leaders say something about Palastan, which can tn a
way appease the other constituency.
Pakistan was created in the name of Indian
Muslims. It was created because they thought they
were insecure here, they will have their security there;
but it did not resolve the issue of Indian Muslims. The
resolution of this tension, this conflict, this suspicion,
can take place if we understand that Pakistan has been
created as a nation, it remains as a nation, but it is not
a nation in the name of Indian Muslims anymore. It
was not and it is not. Until and unless we accept this
reality - until the larger sections of the ruling elite in
Pakistan accepts that we are two nations in the political
sense, and we are territorially separate, but we are not
two nations because of religion - we will not ultimately
be able to come closer.
But there has been one immensely positive change
- the creation of a national consensus on improving
ties with Pakistan. Despite all its rhetoric, once the BJP
came to power and it faced ground realities, it was
Himal Southasian I December 2006
 willing to engage with Pakistan. At the political level,
the Hindu and Muslim debate is now getting separated
from the issue of India-Pakistan relations.
Since even the Right Hindu parties in India have
realised that there is a very large constituency for peace,
a national consensus has emerged. And therefore, they
have had to change their line. And since the pressure
from those playing on the insecurities of the majority
is not there on other so-called secular, liberal,
democratic parties, this allows more space to negotiate
with Pakistan.
There are some other factors that have contributed
to better ties. Earlier, when a single party had to get a
majority, all outfits played lots of games - and the
foremost was the Hindu-Muslim card, or India-
Pakistan card. With the emergence of coalitions,
regional issues have become much more important.
Regional parties are not interested in a confrontation
with Pakistan. Economic growth has also influenced
India-Pakistan relations. When it was not satisfactory,
the Indian political leadership raised the threat of
Pakistan, in order to divert the public attention. But
now, in the post-liberalisation phase, Indian economic
growth is taking us in a direction where political
parties realise that we cannot have this eight to ten
percent growth unless we have peace in the region,
unless we have better relations with the neighbours,
and unless our neighbours grow with us.
The media has made both sides aware of each other
and helped in removing misconceptions. But at times,
the competitive nature of the media, especially the
electronic media, means that they can blow some issues
out of proportion, which creates pressure on political
leaders to be more aggressive. £
The national-economic-security state
Talat Hussain, news editor, Aaj TV
Let's look at the fundamental
factors influencing Pakistan's
outlook, primarily towards India
and generally towards the rest of the
world. The 'national-security state' term
can be modified to explain tire pre-9/Vl
foreign policy of Pakistan. Pakistan has
always been, ever since its creation, a
national-border-security state. Its
borders have been the drivers of
Pakistan's defence and foreign policy -
the desire to protect these borders, secure
these borders, reinforce these borders, to
defend these borders, and also I would
daresay the desire to expand these borders. The
ideological factor was there, but frankly, at one level,
the speed with which we discarded the Taliban
indicates that the ideological factor was not exactly
a big factor.
Post-9/11, while the national-border-security state
was still concerned with its border, there was an inner
debate that was emerging. If you were to look at Pervez
Musharraf's first seven points to begin the reform
process, economic security was a fundamental point
that he was raising then, and has been hammering
every since. The national-security operators in Pakistan
came to the conclusion after the Kargil war that the
cost of war is a bit too much for them to take. Rebuilding
the economy has been the central theme of Pakistan's
outlook as far as foreign policy is concerned. Post-9/
Ila tire national-border-security state is hying to now
become the national-economic-security state. This
means you have to have economic stability, you have
to have the depth of the economy, enough foreign-
exchange reserves, enough integration through trade
in order for you to have not just a good international
image, but also enough in your pocket to
sustain your defence and foreign policy.
This has had a rather sobering effect
on Pakistan's external conduct. If you look
at the entire thrust of Pakistan's foreign
policy after 9/11, there isn't a single speech
that Musharraf has made, isn't a single
statement that the prime minister has
made, there isn't a single core
commanders' meeting that has taken place
after 2000 in which the economic factor is
not debated thoroughly. In fact, even in
the National Defence College, which deals
with pure and hardcore defence, there is a
whole new course that has been evolved on national
security driven by the economic factors. The sobering
effect is that it has made the military think, and analyse
situations available to them. The other is that it has
worked as a break on the controlled, resistant elements
within Pakistan's security establishment, because their
ambition cannot be funded anymore.
Let's also look at the anecdotal history post-9/11.
Accepting the US cooperation in the 'war against
terrorism', and before that starting with the
dislodgement of the Taliban, had a lot to do with hard-
nosed economic calculations and what Pakistan would
get in return financially. Similarly, the entire peace
process with India is now being posited in the overall
context of the economic benefits. Yes, there is a border-
security issue - with the Afghanistan border in the
state that it is, it makes sense for a border-security state
to stabilise the border. But it also makes eminent sense,
for an economic-security state, to derive some economic
benefits out of it.
China and the Middle East is another case in point.
Pakistan's cooperation with China is increasingly
December 2006 | Himal Southasian
 acquiring an economic dimension that needs to be
figured out. The operation in Balochistan was
undertaken not just to bump off an 80-year-old man,
but to clear the path of the seeming obstacle in the way
of bringing in investors who could utilise the remarkable
natural resources of the area.
There is something happening in Pakistan that our
friends in India need to look at. If we continue to use the
old prisms of two different trajectories being developed
by two different types of states, then we will fall easy
prey to a cliche that hasn't taken us forward. India and
Pakistan are potentially the most vibrant economies.
There are immense opportunities, ranging from joint
investment ventures to joint building of dams. Whether
India and Pakistan will be able to make use of this
change of the national-border-security state into a
national-economic-security state or not hinges purely
on the level of confidence.
There are two flip-sides to it, and that is where we
need to probably be more forthright in assessing each
other's weaknesses and strengths. Only a higher level
of mutual confidence and resolution of conflicts will
allow both of the countries to maximally exploit this
potentiality. So economic cooperation will depend on
where our defence and foreign policies are going.
The more dangerous flip-side is that with economic
stability comes arrogance. Both on the Pakistani and
Indian side, there is the possibility of new wealth and
new confidence in economic stability being channelled
into challenging each other. Once you have money in
your kitty, you can either spend it wisely, or you believe
that now you have a license to slap each other on the
face. I am a little fearful of this flip-side because of the
international arms-purchase report which has
just come out. This reports that while Asia is the
biggest purchaser as a continent, tndia is the biggest
arms purchaser in all of Asia, to the tune of USD
12 billion. ;-l
The opportunity of the current context
Salman Haidar, former Foreign Secretary of India
The international situation at this time is
extremely conducive for India and Pakistan to
resolve their differences. Nobody is playing heed
anymore to complaints that India and Pakistan might
make about the other. Traditional Southasian
diplomacy in that sense is now obsolete.
'Dehyphenation' means that we can no longer hope to
prevail by running down the other side. For instance,
every advantage India gets in strengthening its ties
with America should not be viewed as
being against Pakistan. Instead of
being pushed, we are being encouraged
at most by the supreme superpower, the
hyperpower. The US has been wise
enough to do so in a discreet manner.
There is no public presentation, no
public expression of concern that these
two countries should make stronger
efforts to resolve their differences.
The US position about Southasia
has gradually been changing. In the
early 1990s, visits from the Pentagon
started taking place. Then a political
dimension to this relationship was
established, with the highly successful visit of Bill
Clinton. A little later we came across this notion of a
strategic partnership between India and America.
There is a general sense that these two countries have
harmonious, broader interests. India is seen as a factor
for stability by America. .And its influence outside its
borders is not seen in negative terms. This is in fact a
reversal of a traditional perception. The conclusion
that was reached and then pursued by the US was
that India was an acceptable and useful potential
partner at that stage.
Some dangers in this relationship are also fairly
obvious. India is accused, within India, of accepting a
second role, even a subordinate role vis-a-vis the
superpower. There have been times when this seemed
to go further than the public could accept. There was a
very real move, for example, for a couple of
Indian divisions to go to Iraq as part of the coalition
forces. This was scotched by Parliament
- there are enough correctives within
the system.
There is a danger of complacency.
Figure everything is going well; we are
chums of America. We've got our
external coordinates worked out, and
now can go along smoothly and steadily
on this established course. Events are
now going in our favour, and all we
have to do is hold steady. Such an
attitude would support the view that
Pakistan cannot do anything much to
disturb   this.   But   I   believe   that
Manmohan   Singh   knows   that   a
supportive neighbourhood, good neighbourhood
relations, are necessary if tndia is going to make the
strides forward.
Energy needs are important. Here India has been
very active, gone global - in Central Asia, Latin
America, Sudan. Even though oil and politics go
together, these are essentially commercial issues, not
geopolitical issues. The Iran gas pipeline has been
mentioned in this context, also a pipeline from
Himal Southasian | December 2006
 Central Asia. It can be a major building block of good
relations between India and Pakistan. I think that one
should not think of the American position as
unalterably opposed.
I do not see China anymore as a factor that promotes
strife between India and Pakistan. China has been
moving to a position of equidistance on Kashmir.
However, if Indians are 'midnight's children', we're
also children of 1962, and the memories and the
lessons, the unabsorbed shocks of 1962 are still with
us. There's an inclination in India to see Chinese
assistance for the development of Gwadar port as a
power-play on our doorstep, and as an attempt to
establish a presence where it did not exist. Mutual
disarmament between India and Pakistan has been
discussed - it is a good idea, but it's not a simple idea,
because from India's point of view, there is this other
factor of China. We also have other naval
responsibilities, and need to upgrade our equipment,
The war on terror does have difficult consequences.
There is a perception and the sense that India is
subjected to Pakistan-grown, Pakistan-trained
terrorists. The 'war on terror' came long after our own
concerns with terrorist activities in Kashmir and
elsewhere. But it has reinforced those factors and
increased the difficulty of India and Pakistan being
able to come to a common cause. This knee-jerk reaction,
blaming Pakistan every time something goes wrong,
has to do with this history and present global
environment. The fact that a lot has happened,
especially in Kashmir, will provoke a certain type of
reaction. Terrorism in India has been supported
by Pakistan, which has trained terrorist in its own
training camps.
There is no international bar to India and Pakistan
sorting out their problems. Each will have to take into
account many factors, but it is in their hands. The way
forward is to be discerned. I think a process does exist.
Autonomy is a big issue. We have already commenced
the kind of activity that can permit a kind of statutory
arrangement at the almost municipal, state-level
arrangement between Azad Kashmir and Jammu &
Kashmir. The other great area of concern is that of
demilitarisation. Here again there is no dispute on
the acceptability of it. But the notion of
what demilitarisation is, where it leads, what it
involves, is very different on the two sides of the Line
of Control. &
The external context
Tasneem Noorani, former Interior and Commerce Secretary, Pakistan
India was earlier aligned
with the USSR, while
Pakistan had the backing of
the USA - the superior world
power - and China, the
strongest regional player.
Now, India as a bigger regional
player, a bigger economic
force, a bigger consumer
market and a bigger supplier
of quality manpower, is wooed
by the US, European Union and Russia. The
relationship between China and India is also
improving, with trade likely to go up to about USD 20
billion in the near future. China also now takes a softer
stance on India, vis-a-vis Pakistan, than it used to.
India is currently the darling of the West. They're
unwilling to push India to do anything against its will.
India now perceives itself as a potential world power,
and therefore wants a place on the high table - that's
the Security Council. The goaT of enhanced
international support and pressure on India to find a
solution to Kashmir has also reduced. The Indian
statement on Balochistan recently indicates that it sees
itself as a regional player.
Currently, the main concern of the US and EU is to
avoid a conflict between India and Pakistan, not
necessarily to look for a solution. The role of Bill Clinton
in the Kargil issue was a case in point. The US agrees
with India's stance that Kashmir is a bilateral issue,
and needs not be internationalised. So, all matters
pertaining to the Kashmir issue and other central
issues are really more covertly handled than overtly
handled. For its part, the Islamic world has only given
moral support to Pakistan. There is no pressure on
India from the Islamic world on this issue.
The one critical impediment for India could be
energy. Many of these energy sources are available in
Central Asia; but with strained ties with Pakistan, it
will be difficult for New Delhi to access these areas. If
you take a mature view, Balochistan is a site for many
of these resources. There are problems in that region
at present. But in the future, collaborative projects
will benefit India as well, if it looks to improving ties
with Pakistan.
What has changed for Pakistan? Post-9/11,
Pakistan has become an important necessity of the US
and its fights against terror. The US needs Pakistan's
continued support in its fight in Afghanistan. The US,
UK and EU understand the importance of solving the
Kashmir issue in order to remove the main cause of
the radicalisation of the Islamists in Pakistan, because
this affects their war In Afghanistan and generally
the 'war against terror'.
Are the governments of the two countries really in
control? My perception is that in Pakistan, because it
is in effect non-democratic, one man's decision makes
a lot of difference. The government in Pakistan is in
control in that sense, that if they were to enter into an
agreement, they would certainly be able to deliver. But
December 2006 | Himal Southasian
 one is not sure if the same can be said about the
Indian side.
My last point is really on the future scenario. India
is confident, it continues to grow, there is no major
international pressure, it is engaging with Pakistan
on its own terms, the wait-it-out policy is continuing.
On the other hand, Pakistan continues to spend
disproportionately high sums on defence with
resultant pressures on the economy; the army in
Pakistan enjoys the centre stage due to this; the chances
of a sustainable growth of democratic institutions are
dismal. The extremist jihadi elements are still gaining
strength. They have a cause, and the public empathises
with them.
At present, external factors, barring perhaps a need
for energy resources and trade and investment
expansion, are not prodding India to seek a solution
to the problems. The powers that be in the world are
really excessively favoured on one side, on an
institutional basis. In the case of Pakistan, it's an
incidental basis, based on individuals, based on
incidents. That is a very significant difference between
the partnerships that exist.
Is a scenario where one is a success and the other a
failure likely to continue? Probably not. Silencing
Pakistan is also an unlikely option because of the
nuclearisation phenomenon. It's not something that
can be wished away or bashed into the ground. So
what is the possible scenario 15, 20 years from now?
If there is this smug attitude in India that everything
is going fine, Pakistan is not getting any assistance
from anywhere else, there is a standoff because of
nuclearisation, then something will give way. It is
important that India takes a more mature
and confident view of the situation and review
the strategy. A
Reality testing
l\l Ram, editor-in-chief, The Hindu
here is a need to do what
many call 'reality testing'
of the India-Pakistan
relationship, with reference to
both the internal and external
factors. Reality testing in
psychology is the technique of
objective evaluation of an
emotion or thoughts against real
life - as a faculty present in normal individuals, but
defective in others. There has been some attempt in tndia
to do this. There are visions of India's future, on this whole
issue of India's place in the sun. It is arranged from the
extremely bullish and upbeat, rooted in extremely
optimistic projections of Indian economic growth, and in
uninhibited realpolitik, At the other end, they are rooted in
preoccupation with basic livelihood and human-
development issues, and of moral concerns over recent
and current foreign-policy developments. I would just like
to cite as evidence the remarkable result of the 2004
general election, our 14th, where the slogan of 'India
Shining' bombed. As for the mass of deprivations, I think
the government figures tend to underestimate them.
The play of external factors has its limits. Basically, it is
my conviction as a journalist that the two countries need
to settle it themselves. There'll be some pressure as
during Kargil that works to the advantage of one or the
other, depending on who is on the right side on that. But
this kind of impatience for results coming from external
pressure is not realistic.
There is a significant crossborder input, which must
be recognised by all sides. The big point is that it should
not be converted into a polemical exchange. I think all
reasonable people in India would say, 'Don't link it to
talks'. The process of dialogue must go forward. Even if
there are some inputs from that side, do you cease
dialogue, terminate the process of detente, threaten
Pakistan with crossborder strikes? Of course, you can
turn around and say public opinion will not accept it. This
is often a euphemism for being timid. And this is our
criticism against the Manmohan Singh government, as
well as the Vajpayee government.
The second strand of criticism is about the
abandonment of what was seen to be a dilution of a
commitment to what were seen to be core values. I
personally believe that there has been this loss - the
passion to sit at the high table, and all this has taken
Indian foreign policy off the track. It needs serious
correction. Nuclear weaponisation has destabilised the
situation. But on the Pakistan side, you cannot escape
from one conclusion: that you cannot depend on anyone
else to force the pace, to deliver anything, other than the
well-known methods that have worked when you have
tried them or when India has tried them. It is not fully
correct to say that nothing has happened on Kashmir
with the dialogue. Reality testing would demand that you
recognise, at least as a discussable proposition, that this
is the Indian political consensus.
And we know that the reality in Pakistan is that this
cannot be sold to the political forces in Pakistan. Therefore
it looks like an intractable problem or an intractable gap,
which has to be lived with, tolerated, you have to be patient
with it, and you have to work on it to narrow that gap.
There must be agreement on one principle: non-use of
force to alter the status quo along the Line of Control.
This is the sacred principle in India-China relations, and
this is the only principle that would work in India-Pakistan
relations, whether anyone likes it or not. There is no way,
there is no god from the machine, no external factor that
can force the pace, '£"
-■■ft^V.S^d'Sd-Vft^dd-- .'\-.:'d
Himal Southasian | December 2006
 relationship with Washington. Yes, of course, Indian
academia is not dead, and Indian intelligentsia is not dead.
But think of the enormity of the move, and how little has
been said in response to: it. Take Pakistan and its
brigadiers. One day, they are pro-Taliban, and the next
day they are told our policy has changed. So now you are
going to be anti-Taliban and pro-Northern Alliance. This
is the beginning of the change in Afghanistan, when the
new government had turned over. Think of what the
Pakistan government has gone through in order to ensure
this change in implementation, the reining in of Kashmir
militants. Maybe not successfully, but in a big way. How
come India and Pakistan have both accomplished sea-
changes in ideological perception? Overnight!
But when we say it's time for a change of mind on
Kashmir, both sides throw up their hands and say, 'Hold
on, this can't be done.' These are two candidates who
change their ideologies and their policy positions quicker
than a fickle man changes his garments to be noticed.
How is it that Kashmir policies become so insubordinate
to change, and we can't resolve Kashmir, but we can
change everything else in our ideology, thinking, strategy,
intelligence agencies, even in our morality - how is it we
are able to accomplish this? 1 think this is the key question
that needs to be addressed.
Hameed Haroon, CEO, Dawn Group of
hat is important and
critical is ideology,
because we have
changing ideologies in both
India and Pakistan. We
encounter the mechanics of
changing ideology every day.
Everybody says in Pakistan that
Pakistan cannot change its
policy on Kashmir significantly
because of public Opinion. Everybody in tndia says that
India cannot significantly change its policy on Kashmir
because of public opinion. Yet people will hold in history
the governments of India and Pakistan, as past masters,
on the arc of changing ideology in the short term.
Let's take India. India's leadership has steered its
whole establishment, academia and public opinion, the
schizophrenic heart of the tndia Internationa! Centre in
Delhi also, away from its position as neutralist leader of
the Third World to a pro-US stance, and to a subordinate
Five years of bilateral critique
A short assessment of Panos South km-Himai Southasian's half a decade
experience of India-Pakistan dialogue, which finds a heartening trend towards
openness and self-questioning.
In 2002, when Panos South Asia and Himal Southasian
launched the first roundtable of senior journalists from
India and Pakistan at Nagarkot in Nepal, we did not
expect that our initiative would become an annual event,
let alone have any sort of impact on the polity of the
two states. It was a modest attempt to bring together
influential sections of the media and help them to listen to
each other.
The time of the Nagarkot meeting was when Islamabad
and New Delhi were on the brink of war. There was
massive mobilisation of forces along the border following
the attack on the Indian Parliament, an eyeball-to-eyeball
confrontation; there were provocative statements from both
sides, while self-righteousness and narrow patriotism
governed the narrative of both countries' political and
media discourses. Amidst such an atmosphere of
heightened hate and mutual distrust, the participants at
the very first meeting set the tone for all the sessions to
follow Nagarkot, in Bentota, Bellagio, Istanbul and Cairo.
They proved that the voice of sanity, reason and
forbearance would be able to penetrate even ultra-
nationalist chatter of the highest volume.
As the organisers started these series of meetings five
years ago, media pundits and political scholars were
sceptical ofthe result. In their view, the reasons for Partition
had not disappeared, and in fact had become more
complex over five decades. In their considered opinion,
Kashmir remained an intractable issue because neither
side could discuss it outside their stated state-side
positions: that total possession of Jammu & Kashmir was
vital for the two countries to complete their nation-building
exercises according to their chosen paths; that Muslim-
majority J&K had to be an integrated part of India to prove
the latter's secular credentials; that Pakistan could not give
up Kashmir because that would challenge the former's
very rationale for existence under the two-nation theory.
Back then, the arguments in favour of war and
confrontation were cast in a modern-scientific mould, while
the articulations in favour of peace between India and
Pakistan were ridiculed as naive, emotional yearnings of
December 2006 | Himat Southasian
 peaceniks woefully out of touch with reality. Against this
background, in 2002 it looked like Panos South Asia and
Himal Southasian were anachronistic sisters
championing lost causes.
The security state
The new global political narrative after the attacks of 11
September 2001 was a significant impediment. In
Southasia as elsewhere in the developing world, there
was an attempt to force the focus away from the welfare
state to the security state. Suddenly every requirement
for a population's social and economic wellbeing was
being viewed from a security paradigm, and the think
tanks and geostrategic analysts quickly shifted gears to
speak up for this new, exclusionist {some would say warmongering) position.
The very use of language indicated this shift: what used
to be termed 'food self-sufficiency' and 'energy needs' in
discussions from the 1960s right up to the 1980s now
began to be addressed as 'food security' and 'energy
security'. The attempt to provide 'basic needs' was
couched in the language of 'livelihood security'. Planning
and implementation of welfare models were replaced by
the notion of 'strategies' and 'execution'. The warmth of
compassion was being substituted with the cold language
of one society establishing 'strategic advantage' over
another. AH of this was given a market twist, and the pundits
suggested that it was the demand of the market which
required a hardening of stances.
But right from the first of our confabulations that brought
together senior journalists and also politicians, analysts
and former bureaucrats and diplomats, the organisers of
the roundtable realised that the situation was not as
hopeless as the sceptics in New Delhi and Islamabad
wanted us to believe. Nor was it necessary to trudge down
the path of confrontation they proposed. Through the
dynamic of bringing together editors, media proprietors,
columnists and politicians from the two countries to
discuss the pitfalls and opportunities that lay before media
in their coverage of bilateral issues, we found that space
could be created for new possibilities.
At Nagarkot, participants discussed a variety of issues
that determine the way India and Pakistan figure in each
other's media. Also under discussion was the role that
the media plays or can play in either reducing or inflaming
the one conflict that has dominated all of Southasia for
some time, Kashmir. Through these and various other
exploratory discussions, a perhaps unprecedented
exercise was carried out: one of Indian and Pakistani
media on Indian and Pakistani media. The result was an
illustration ofthe processes of journalism, and a revelation
of the tensions that inform and emerge from the practise
of this difficult trade in this difficult region.
Internal critiques
The myth that the market itself demanded a chauvinistic
approach was exploded during the 2002 meet by Kaipana
Sharma of The Hindu. She said: "The Hindu would not
have been the second largest circulating newspaper if the
market did not want to read the kind of things that it
publishes. The Hindu\s published from a very conservative
part ofthe country, in the south, and the kind of news it has
carried and its editorial criticism of the BJP has invited
furious letters to the editor. But the paper's circulation
did not decline for that reason. The market is therefore
just an excuse behind which other kinds of priorities are
being met."
One of India's dynamic ministers, former diplomat Mani
Shankar Aiyar, was candid in explaining the problems of
the state machinery and its understanding of the media. "I
find this whole exercise of trying to either defend our own
minds from the other side or inflicting our point of view on
the other side so naive. It assumes that you could very
easily change what the other person's perception was or
get your own perceptions so easily changed. The attempt
to use intelligence information or the media for propaganda
purposes is doomed to failure, especially in our countries."
Pakistani editor Rehana Hakeem brought out the
pressures on media during intense conflict: "People do
tend to take sides, and the media is not an exception.
Besides, access to information is limited. Journalists are
not allowed to investigate independently, and so
they have to rely on the government. But usually - and of
late, once the event is over - there is a fair
bit of introspection, as happened in the case of the
Kargil war."
By bringing such voices together and initiating an
internal critique of both countries' media and governments,
our roundtables have managed to energise and also be a
part of a very important shift in perceptions among
'gatekeeper' practitioners in India and Pakistan. Instead
of projecting the practitioners from the other country as
pari of the enemy camp, editors began looking at them as
peers, besieged by the same set of problems. Over the
years, we experienced increasing openness in
the roundtables, and a willingness to set aside exclusive
nationalist positions, and to question one's own
state establishment.
Editors and media-house owners, once the floodgates
were opened, were not hesitant to touch any tricky or
sensitive issue. At Bellagio in Italy (2003), they discussed
the wretched nuclear issue. At Bentota in Sri Lanka (2004),
they took the discussion beyond the confidence-building
measures, and scrutinised the Composite Dialogue
between the two countries. The most inflammatory issue,
Kashmir, was discussed amidst the presence of Kashmiri
leadership at Istanbul in 2005. And at Cairo in November
2006, as reported in this issue of Himal, the media
gatekeepers and policymakers of the two nuclear
neighbours shared - with extraordinary candidness - their
perspective on internal and external factors that affect
the relations between the two countries. We believe that
our modest but sustained initiative over the last five years
has played a small role in keeping the process of
detente on track, despite the many provocations we know
so well. *
Himal Southasian I December 2006
C K Lai
India as subtle power, not superpower
If India can
show that
it has the
to be a
leader, it
can gain
friends in
A pot begins to warm
A face starts to redden
A brutal brightness
Begins to rise from tobacco fields
And circulate in the blood veins of the man
- Kedarnath Singh in Surya
Here in Japan, the land of the rising sun,
the building boom continues
unabated. In coastal areas, bridges are
being retrofitted to withstand the force of
tsunamis. The neighbourhood of Kobe is being
encircled with all-steel expressways, in
anticipation of massive tremors in a not so
distant future.
The serenity of snow-capped Fuji-san has
the menace of beauty buried in its womb.
Although presently inactive, it is nonetheless
a dormant volcano that could erupt without
warning, instantly drowning the most
productive region of Japan. The Japanese know
these risks better than anyone. But in the
manner of the super-breed envisioned by
Friedrich Nietzsche, thev continue erecting
their own Pompeii apace. Beyond a point, there
is not much that can be done to anticipate and
control the quirks of nature.
Fear of human failings is an altogether
different matter. So despite their apparent
prosperity, Japanese strategists fear South
Korean commercial competition, the North
Korean nuclear threat, European economic
resurgence and the unpredictability of the
American military. Most of all, they fear the
rise of the Chinese dragon in all spheres, and
look towards the Southasian elephant as a
possible counterforce. The sushi-loving and
rice-eating Japanese have suddenly developed
a liking for ready-to-eat curry and naan, which
are now available even at small-town
convenience stores.
Economic think-tankers in Tokyo are
delighted that the Indians have begun to build
their own expressways, to support an
independent automobile industry, and to
follow the capitalist road that the Europeans,
Americans, Japanese, Koreans and Chinese
passed through during the 1930s, 1940s, 1950s
- the 1960s were decades lost to the American
adventures in Korea and Vietnam - 1970s and
1980s respectively. But for policy analysts at
academic institutions, the Indian promise is
tinged with the fear of implosion caused by
conflicting priorities. New Delhi needs to
decide whether it wants to continue being a
camp-follower - of the Soviets until the 1980s,
and the Americans thereafter - or grow up and
become an independent global player in its
own right. That will decide its acceptability in
the community of nations.
Despite the rise of radical conservatism in
Japanese politics after the phenomenon of
former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi -
who transformed Japan's economy and
politics almost the way that Margaret Thatcher
and Ronald Reagan did in their own countries
- most decision-makers here know that their
country has little room to manoeuvre in the
international arena. Ten years ago, it would
have been sacrilegious to say so, but now even
professors at the hallowed Tokyo University
frankly admit that the best that Japan can
aspire to be is an influential planet around
some global star.
With ail the limitations of its geography (a
volcanic archipelago prone to earthquakes),
history (a militarist polity defeated in the War),
society (monocultural and hierarchical) and
economv (import-based and export-led), Japan
lacks the resilience to be an independent
player. To make up for its own deficiencies in
countering the Asian challenge from China,
Tokyo wants India to emerge from its chosen
orbit, and become an autonomous entity
instead. Some Japanese thinkers even oppose
the candidacy of their own country for a
permanent seat on the United Nations Security
Council. "Of what use is offering another UK
to wag its tail and make the US an owner of
three votes in that crucial international body?"
asks an eminent economics professor
who wishes to remain unnamed. If India can
show that it has the determination to be a
leader, it may gain some powerful friends in
Japanese academia.
The Asian century
The Asian Way proposed by Singapore's Lee
Kuan Yew and Malaysia's Mahathir
Mohammad was a non-starter, largely because
the anglicised Chinese of the Indian Ocean
island and the Americanised Muslims of the
Malayan peninsula were possessed with the
inherent insecurity of the colonised mind.
Their alternative was an apology for the
incomplete Western clones they had built in
countries under their possession. In essence,
Lee and Mahathir appeared to be saying that
December 2006 | Himal Southasian
 while Western free-market systems were
whollv replicablc in Asia, free politics had
better wait for the day Asians grew up to be
sensible citizens, under their tutelage. It made
them rich but it will never let them be
powerful: power flows from the free will of
the people, not from the barrels of guns, oil or
merchant ships.
The Chinese, meanwhile, are trying to
fashion a hybrid model of Soviet centralism
and American mercantilism. Serious
contradictions in this experiment have yet to
emerge, but an economy driven by Special
Economic Zones cannot pull a stagnant and
authoritarian society to equity and prosperity.
The Chinese economy is so big and so
centralised that its collapse would have a
cascading effect that would shake markets
around the world. This is a fear that most
multinationals want to ignore, but it is one
that is nonetheless very present. No matter
how big the country grows, China will never
, be 'important' in the way that, sav, Norway
t r Switzerland or France is, it realises that
global influence can neither be coerced nor
bought. It has to be earned by being original
and persuasive in the marketplace of ideas.
Except for the trite irrelevance of the colour of
the cat that catches mice, no original idea of
global importance has emerged from China,
once a cradle of creativity. No matter how hard
they try, leaders in Beijing cannot build an
Asian Century by themselves.
The Chinese have another albatross around
their neck. Rightly or wrongly, Beijing is often
perceived to be a backer of rogue regimes, just
as the Soviets were blamed to be sponsors of
terrorism during the 1960s. Right now, Islam-
phobia is keeping right-wingers occupied; but
as soon as they get tired of Baghdad, Kabul
and Tehran, their burning gaze will turn on
Pyongyang and the satellite states of Africa that
Beijing has been quietly cultivating, much to
the muted chagrin of the Europeans. China
wants to become a world player, and knows
that it can only do so in association with
countries other than American proteges in
Asia. Therein lies the importance of being India
in the contemporary world.
To her credit, Sonia Gandhi seems to realise
the enormity of burden that comes with the
possibility of becoming a leader. Addressing
the annual Hindustan Times jamboree in mid-
November, provocatively titled "India: The
Next Global Superpower?", the de facto
premier said pensively, "The question is
certainly appropriate. But while noting the
I question mark, I am somewhat uneasy with
the very word superpower. For too many of us,
it evokes images of hegemony, of aggression,
of power politics, of military might, of division
and conflict." Perhaps for this reason, India
needs to be a 'subtle-power', relying on the
force of ideas rather than on money or guns.
But such a dynamic would require a
reorientation in South Block, which will have
to lower its gaze to its own regional
neighbourhood. A country that is occasionally
tempted to bully Bangladesh, bamboozle Sri
Lanka or bludgeon Nepal will never be taken
seriously elsewhere.
The second compulsion of India's strategic
ambition is the importance of engagement
with China. In the wake of the finalisation of
Indo-US nuclear cooperation, Chinese
President Hu Jintao traveled to New Delhi to
make a matching proposal. If his offer of
cooperation is spurned, Flu's sponsors in the
People's Liberation Army of China may well
turn towards their traditional favourites in
Islamabad, fuelling yet another nuclear race
in the Subcontinent. Having to choose between
the US and China is a no-win situation.
However, engagement with both can turn it
into a win-win proposition.
The third choice that Indian decisionmakers face is even more perplexing. Although
Indo-Chinese trade has increased a hundredfold over the past decade, it is still less than
USD 20 billion annually. Despite all efforts by
the commercial mandarins of Marine Drive,
corporate India attracts international
investment worth USD 7 billion, which places
it on par with Vietnam. Clearly, a trade-based,
foreign-investment-fuelled, export-oriented
growth model of economic development is
unsuitable for a country that will have the
world's largest population within a decade.
New Delhi needs to rethink and reorient its
economic policies to create jobs for all in the
region, a task that requires a larger role for
government in the economy.
In order to establish its autonomous
identity, even as it comes up for chairmanship
of SAARC next year, New Delhi would do
well to revisit its own Nehruvian past, and
give it a regional thrust to pave the way for a
truly Asian Century. The American Century
was energy-based - one of fire, tobacco, guns
and missiles. The Asian Century will have to
be an epoch of water - of songs, grains and
masalas. Even some Japanese thinkers do not
want India to go the Japanese way. But
temptations of the rising sun are too strong to
resist, especially when the gentle moon has
already been conquered. h
Clearly, a
growth modei
of economic
is unsuitable
for a country
that will have
the world's
within a
Himal Southasian | December 2006
Soldiers under stress
With suicides and 'fraternal killings' among soldiers in Jammu & Kashmir suddenly
escalating this year, India's military brass is forced to admit that there's a prohlem.
J J Singh admits
The Indian Army and
associated paramilitary forces
fighting in Kashmir are losing
more men to stress than to militant
attacks. The capacity of the 1.3 million-
strong army - an estimated 600,000
soldiers of which are stationed in
J&K- to cope with stress came
dramatically into focus during October
this year, when the incidents of
'fraternal killings' suddenly spiked,
During that month alone, ten Indian
soldiers were killed by colleagues,
while only three died in combat
operations. Similarly, during the first
ten months of this year, the Indian
Army lost 55 soldiers in anti-
insurgency operations in Kashmir, but
86 more took their own lives. These
figures are all the more striking against
a recent report that violence levels in
Kashmir are actually down by around
20 percent this year. Although the
military has long denied that its ranks
suffer from systemic stress problems,
army chief General J J Singh recently
admitted to the pressure faced by
soldiers, and ordered an investigation
into the deaths.
As for suicides, official statistics
show that 66 Indian Army soldiers took
their own lives in 2002, 96 in 2003,
100 in 2004 and 71 through
November in 2005. The number of
recorded 'assault and affray' cases -
including battery of officers and
violence among troops - is also said
to be significant. Murders within the
army also rose during the same
timeframe, with six in 2002 and
between 16 and 18 each year for 2003-
05. Experts generally describe
suicides and fraternal killings among
soldiers as being 'panic reactions'.
These are attributed to a plethora of
reasons ■ work under hostile
conditions, experience of a continuing
threat to one's life, lack of recreational
options, and homesickness due to
long separation from families.
Theories abound as to why the
trend in suicides and inter-personal
violence has suddenly gone up at this
particular time. But as stress among
army and paramilitary troops is now
an official truth, it becomes obvious
that the Indian Army does not have
adequate systems in place to combat
the growing problem. The army brass
has recently decided to train 50
counsellors to cope with this
'emergency', 40 of whom will be sent
to J & K. In addition, military officials
are hiring psychologists to be sent
into the field, as well as experimenting
with meditation, exercise and
yoga programmes.
"Yoga has worked wonders for
troops," says Prabaker Tripathi, a
public-relations officer with the Central
Reserve Police Force (CPRF) in
Srinagar. "It keeps their minds under
control during hostile circumstances.
and helps them to remain controlled
persons and behave properly with
civilians." There are generally two
reasons that soldiers commit suicide
or turn their weapons on their fellow
soldiers, Tripathi suggests. "One,
pressure related to family affairs,
and two, round-the-clock duty.
Investigations into cases have
revealed that in the wake of domestic
pressures, soldiers take such steps
mainly over denial of leave or
altercations with officers or fellows."
The army is also placing emphasis
on strengthening officer-soldier
relationships. "We focus on officer-
man relationships, and try to develop
personal contact among the soldiers
in order to make them feel them
relaxed," says Colonel Hemant
Joneja, defence spokesman in
Srinagar. "We have also employed
entertainment techniques.
During extreme conditions, when we
feel that a soldier is not showing signs
of improvement, we seek the help
of psychiatrists."
Dr S Khrushid-ul-lslam, who
teaches behavioural science at the
Institute of Management and Public
Administration in Srinagar, says that
fatigue may be one crucial reason for
the recent rise in suicides and fraternal
killings. Top military officials have
admitted that the ongoing war in
Kashmir is taking its toll on troops,
who are reportedly increasingly
questioning their role in the conflict. In
addition, Dr Khrushid believes that
regular exposure to media
transmissions from the outside world
could enhance mental disturbance
December 2006 I Himal Southasian
 rather than act as a palliative. "With
the introduction of the Internet and
cable TV, these people get exposed
to the other side of world, where life
looks rosy," he says. "Away from their
homes and amidst constant tension,
they begin feeling that people outside
are enjoying life at their expense.
Desperation sets in and they search
for an escape."
Uncaring bureaucracy
Almost all incidents of suicide and
fraternal killing have taken place within
barracks or camps. Invariably, soldiers
who shoot colleagues and superiors
also turn their weapons on
themselves. On the few occasions
in which soldiers have been
overpowered or shot in self-defence,
it has been found that they have
been aware of the consequences of
their actions.
A health worker working on
psychiatric disorders in J & K, who
wishes to remain anonymous,
attributes the recent increase in stress
levels not just to the environment of
chronic conflict, but also to the cold
weather, long working hours and
frustrating bureaucracy. An enormous
amount of paperwork is involved even
for a small clearance, she says. She
adds that the crucial first step was for
military officials to admit that troop
stress had become a problem. Now
that this has been done, she suggests
a restructuring of duty hours and
vacations, incorporating counselling
as a part of mandatory training,
educating soldiers on what stress
signals to watch for in peers, and
administering personality tests before
placement in high-risk stations. She
also refutes the army's claim to have
employed stress-coping techniques
among its soldiers. Yoga classes may
look good on paper, she says, but are
difficult to find on the ground.
Dr Mushtaq Margoob, a noted
psychiatrist in the Kashmir Valley, says
that stress in the armed forces has to
be considered an expected outcome,
and should be planned for as such.
"They too are human," he
emphasises. "Being on the forefront,
they are witness to severity, and are
exposed to traumatic experiences.
When facing life-threatening incidents,
their coping mechanisms give up, and
they fall prey to psychological
disorders. Here you have no shortcuts
- you have to address the problems
by addressing the grievances of every
soldier to avoid further episodes."
Even as militaiy officials are slowly
waking up to the reality of stress levels
among their troops, this is a problem
that Kashmiris have faced for a long
time. Among the population of
Jammu & Kashmir, it has been a while
since stress-related disorders reached
alarming heights. In 1987,775 patients
visited the government's psychiatric
hospital in Srinagar for treatment. After
1989, that number increased
dramatically. More than 65,000 have
sought treatment through last
December - more than 4060 per year.
The soldiers are experiencing now
what civilians have for long
*. ■-..
"-"■ »•"■»■
■ -~'~ ■""-"-.:.'..' "'   " "
In the Kathmandu Valley...
Summit Hotel
Somtwhere sik«<>1
Summit Hotel. Kopundol Height
PO Box 1406. Kathmandu Nepal.
Tel: 5521810. Fax: 55 23737
Email: summit^
Website: www.stjmrrri-neDal.coTi
^L !he Summit is the preferred hotel for visitors who want to get away
fl ■ from the packaged environment and the noise of downtown
Kathmandu. This is where a wide range of travelers come to rest
and recuperate, A popular bar and spacious gardens make the Summit a
favoured Pase for many who came to Kathmandu to work The diplomat, the
scholar and the development expert aiike, enjoy the
ambience and our friendly service. Our Friday evening
barbecue is the talk ofthe Valley, The Summit Apartments cater
to ail the needs of long-term visitors. If you want a break even
from ail of this, then a walk to the cafe which we run, at the
Museum in Patan Durbar Square is recommended.
Himal Southasian | December 2006
"fountain of a man
Harka Gurung (1939-2006)
On 23 September 2006,
headlines suddenly flashed
around the globe of a World
Wildlife Fund-chartered helicopter
missing somewhere in eastern
Nepal. Among the 24 people on
board were a government minister
and several foreign dignitaries,
which perhaps explains why, over
the next few days, before a crash
could be confirmed, the incident
received extensive international
coverage. The Nepali victims
included several prominent
personalities, who had contributed
significantly to turning Nepal into
an exemplar of community-based
natural-resource management. The
accident was termed a tragedy of
countrywide importance, and the
government declared a national day
of mourning.
Tucked into the roster of
passengers was the name of Dr
Harka Gurung, whom the papers
variously described as a
geographer, conservationist,
regional planner, former minister,
mountaineer, author and - due to
the capacity in which he was on ill-
fated flight - simply as "adviser to
WWF". It is a measure of the man's
accomplishments that all of these
descriptors applied to him equally.
But Dr Gurung was much more than
such descriptions could express.
With due respect to all the others
who lost their lives in the accident,
it was his death alone that
amounted to a national tragedy. As
the tributes began to fill the
newspapers, the import of what he
meant for Nepal slowly became
clear to the many who knew of him
only by name.
Dr Gurung (over the decades the
title had become indelibly affixed to
his name) was one of those rare
individuals who. could pursue
diverse interests and be equally at
ease with each of them. It all began
when an inquisitive but unschooled
boy of nine ran away from home to
explore the world of knowledge.
Born in 1939 into a family of well-
to-do Gorkha soldiers in the
Himalayan foothills of central
Nepal, Harka Gurung could easily
have slid into a comfortable rural
living, or followed in his father's
and brothers' footsteps into the
Indian Army, as did many others in
his situation. But destiny had other
designs for this boy.
After some preliminary education
in Kathmandu, Harka Gurung
completed his schooling in India.
He then returned to finish his
Intermediate in Arts in Kathmandu,
and went on to get a Bachelors from
Patna University, and a PhD in
geography from the University of
Edinburgh. After returning to Nepal
in the mid-1960s, Dr Gurung joined
Tribhuvan University as a lecturer
in geography. But the newly
modernising country needed his
services at the level of policy, and at
the age of 29 he was inducted into
the National Planning Commission.
Within a year, the young Dr Gurung
introduced the idea of dividing the
country into smaller units, in order
to allow different regions to devise
their own development strategies.
This was a dramatic departure from
Nepal's history of central control
over all government activities. The
political will necessary to implement
his vision in its entirety may have
been lacking, but his model is still
extant, if only in form.
By 1972 Dr Gurung had risen to
December 2006 I Himal Southasian
 head the planning commission, as
its vice-chairman. His government
service soon led to political office,
and he was appointed first as a
minister of state and later the
country's first tourism minister.
His political career ended abruptlv
in 1978, however, when he was
implicated (by all accounts falsely)
in what is known in Nepal as the
'carpet scandal'. Forced to quit, Dr
Gurung went a step further and
resigned from the national
legislature as well, despite the fact
that this could easily have
been construed as an affront to the
all-powerful king who had
appointed him.
and commitment
A decade in government service did
not impinge on Dr Gurung's
extraordinarily productive life. Out
of office, he continued with his
research and writing. His depth of
knowledge on various subjects
made him the logical first choice for
a multitude of appointments, and
he shouldered burdens from which
lesser minds would have shrunk.
His heading of the government
taskforce to devise a national policy
on migration, for instance, led to
recommendations that attracted
heated criticism for their supposed
bias against the people of the tarai
plains. The controversy had been
caused by, among other things, the
suggestion that the open border
between Nepal and India be
regulated, which was perceived by
some as an attempt to close the
frontier altogether.
In his writings, Dr Gurung
reflected sadly on this incident,
and imputed much of the resulting
criticism to a phrase that many had
erroneously believed to have
appeared in the report - 'people of
Indian origin', an idea that would
surely have raised the hackles of
Nepalis of tarai origin, since it
emphasises their 'Indian' roots in
contrast to the presumed origin of
ali Nepalis in the country's hills
and mountains. In fact, what Dr
Gurung had done was to challenge
the notion of a 'person of Nepali
origin', a concept that still forms the
cornerstone of Nepal's citizenship
laws. As he later wrote: "There is a
Nepali language and a Nepalese
state but no Nepalese race. A
modern state should be above race,
religion and culture and subscribe
to the territorial foundation."
One of Dr Gurung's more well-
known accomplishments was
heading the government committee
that named many of the peaks of the
Nepal Himalaya. As someone who
had grown up in the lap of the
Himalaya and who had a strong
love for the mountains (he even
named three of his four children for
Himalayan peaks), this was a task
he relished. It was also a job that he
was well suited for because, with
the notable exception perhaps of
Toni Hagen, the Swiss geologist
who surveyed Nepal during the
1950s, there was no one who knew
Nepal quite as well. One gets a taste
of this vast knowledge in Vignettes
of Nepal, published in 1980.
Although he calls the book an
account of his journeys from the late
1960s to the early 1970s, it is history,
ethnography, geography and
geology, all at the same time.
This fascination with the
mountains extended to mountaineering as well. As a university
teacher, he had authored A nnapurna
to Dhaulagiri, chronicling the historv
of climbing in the Nepal 1 fimalava
between 1950 and 1960. Dr
Gurung's interest in climbing was
more that of a chronicler than of a
climber, but he did join the
international expedition to Mount
Everest in 1971, and made it up to
Camp I. Later, in 1988, he also
served as the deputy leader of the
Nepal-China-japan expedition that
made the first successful north-
south traverse of Everest.
Cartography was another
passion, and it is likely that no atlas
has been published in Nepal
without Dr Gurung's involvement.
When it came to his knowledge
of the country's topography, he
had no peer. Thus it was that
before thev became redundant,
anthologies of introductory essays
on Nepal invariably began with Dr
Gurung's meticulous description of
its physical geography. Human
geography had an equally
animating effect on him. His
later periodic analyses of the
country's demography and the
transformations wrought on it over
time are essential reading
for scholars engaged in research
on Nepal.
A few more asides to Dr Gurung's
life have to be mentioned here. In
1967, while a teacher at Tribhuvan
University, he led a Kathmandu
football team to victory in the
national league championships.
And, while still a teenager, he
participated in a countrywide art
competition, and had two of his
paintings of birds chosen to be
issued as postage stamps in 1956.
In his later years, Dr Gurung
began to devote a large part of
his time to understanding and
explaining the backward condition
of those of Nepal's ethnic groups
called janjati, and the state's role in
creating that situation. As a member
of one such group and as someone
who had occupied high government positions, he had a vantage
point few could claim. But while
much discourse - especially in these
times of flux - has been driven by
emotion, Dr Gurung always
provided a calming voice of reason.
That voice was in high demand
in various Kathmandu forums. Dr
Gurung certainly knew how to
enthral a crowd, whether by his
blunt way of speaking or his
breadth of knowledge and
experience. But for all the heavy
demands on his time, and despite
being quite computer-illiterate, he
never delivered anything
extempore, instead always arriving
with a well-prepared text
painstakingly written in longhand.
Long before his untimely end,
Harka Gurung had gained an
iconic stature. As a former student
of his put it, "Dr Gurung was
sometimes criticised for not
building any institutions. But the
man was an institution himself." A
Himal Southasian | December 2006
ay 1968: A particularly potent graffiti during the
students' revolt in France mocked the Charles
de Gaulle administration's encouragement of
docility with these words: "Be young and shut up," Of
course, the French youth spoke and de Gaulle had to
listen. November 2005: A few young voices at New
Delhi's Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) spoke
up, and almost did not let their prime minister finish
his address.
If that incident was a glimpse into this university's
student politics, the annual student's-union elections
spread it out into a much larger, more vibrant picture. A
fortnight-long affair, the elections are unique in the
Southasian university circuit for several reasons.
December 2006 I Himal Southasian
 Contrary to the money-muscle nexus, glittering posters
and coercive strategies (including violence, threats and
kidnapping of rival candidates) that mark many regional
university elections, polls at JNU are treated as a secular
festival - one that is non-violent, issues-based and
removed from flashy campaigns. The whole process is
conducted by a non-partisan Election Committee,
comprised of students.
General student-body meetings act as platforms for
voters to review performances of outgoing office-bearers,
to ask questions and grill the new candidates. In the runup to the elections, student outfits organise post-dinner
public meetings, addressed by some ofthe country's top
academics, political leaders and activists. These are
followed by torchlight processions against - depending
on the outfits - US imperialism, neo-liberal globalisation,
state-sponsored repression, communalism, patriarchy,
leftwing extremism, terrorism, communism, fascism,
anarchic-nihilism, pseudo-secularism and jingoistic
nationalism. Whoever said you cannot defeat an isrri?
Intense personal and group campaigns, political
pamphlets, heated dhaba discussions over chai and
Navy Cut cigarettes set the stage for the presidential
debate - the most eagerly awaited night of the season.
As the contenders for the top post lock horns, students
eagerly cheer their favourite, jeer the tasteless, suffer
public disappointments and experience personal
triumphs. Many debates carry into the wee hours ofthe
no-campaign day, just before the polls.
Once counting begins, groups and their sympathisers
burst into a final leg of sloganeering - revolutionary and
patriotic music swelling - to brave the leads announced
Himal Southasian | December 2006
 . V   ■" ■■-■- jr.
regularly over loudspeakers. A wave of
announcements silences hundreds. The leaders
cheer, as do the trailing candidates; leaders begin
trailing, and new leaders emerge. But all the while,
slogans continue. Laai Salaam versus Vande
Maaiaram. Asli Laai versus Nakli Laai. Shades of
communism vie against each other. Drowsy eyes,
tired bodies retain enough to sloganeer for 40 hours
or more, and keep a bit in reserve for that one last
victory march.
Traditionally a Left-dominated campus, this year's
JNU elections saw a proliferation of participating
organisations. The extreme leftwing outfit
Democratic Students Union (DSU), the Dalit
organisation Bahujan Students Front (BSF), and the
new reservation opponent Youth for Equality (Y4E)
gave impressive competition to long-time popular
organisations such as the Students Federation of
ndia (SFI) and the All India Students Association
(AISA). Much to the dismay of many, the Y4E gave a
real scare to the SFI and the AISA for central panel
posts, eventually emerging as the third-largest outfit.
Eventually the SFI and AISA clinched two posts each
in the central panel, leaving JNU's leftwing
domination intact. What's more, the students elected
an American national their vice-president. The
young have never shut up on this campus. And
when they speak, they set examples.
December 2006 | Himal Southasian
It has been a month of
Indian media houses
organising big jamborees.
The Hindustan Times
Summit saw Delhi's power
elite, a galaxy of political
leaders from across the
region and film celebrities
rubbing shoulders with
each other. But the star treatment seemed to be
reserved for the region's own revolutionary-turned-
politician from Nepal, Pushpa Kama) Dahal
('Prachanda'). Newspapers gave his speech the
front-page spread and welcomed his "debut on the
Subcontinent's political stage". Political reporters
couldn't stop raving about his straightforward and
frank style. Dahal played his part by turning
nostalgic about his underground life, spent in large
parts in Noida and R K Puram in Delhi. He shed all
anti-India rhetoric and, to please the security hawks,
added for good measure that he had refused help
from ISI in the past. Oh yes - there was that small
matter of the killings and misery for thousands
unleashed by his revolution. When Dahal said
violence was relative, scribes asked no tough
questions, and the land of Gandhi remained mum.
The welcome accorded the leader of the Communist
Party of Nepal (Maoist) seemed to be generally aimed
at letting the Indian Naxalites know .the bouquets
that awaited them if they came aboveground. All
very opportunistic, and the reality that till a year
ago the Maoists were diehard anti-Indians, who
were digging trenches to counter an Indian invasion,
be damned!
While the HT Summit took
pride in having the high
and mighty, Tehelka, the
investigative website-
organised a 'Summit of the
Powerless'. Forget for a
while the pejorative
inherent in the very title of the conference; the
objective was to get political power, money power,
and people's power all onto one platform and
discuss grassroots issues. Laudable indeed. But hold
on. Isn't political power in a democracy really
people's power? No, the paper decided that this
honour went to representatives of 'people's
movements' rather than to elected political leaders.
And if the focus was on the 'powerless', what
explains the emphasis on the inaugural speech by
bomb-maker President Abdul Kalam, where only
special invitees had access? The 'powerless'
meanwhile looked on as images pasted on banners
and posters outside the venue. Postscript - the latest
edition of Tehelka, with reports on the plight of the
'powerless' - is now being sold by ill-clad and
hungry kids at Delhi traffic crossings.
Speaking of problematic events, the First South Asia
Film Festival, organised by the South Asia
Foundation in Delhi, was an unmitigated disaster.
Sri Lankan and Pakistani filmmakers boycotted the
event due to 'mismanagement'. The opening, in the
capital's premier Siri Fort auditorium, with seating
capacity of more than 2000, had no more than 50 in
the audience. The Hindu reported Satyajit Maitipe, a
leading Sri Lankan director, as saying, "Sri Lanka
was the focus country of this event, but only two Sri
Lankan movies have been screened so far. It is an
insult; we have been exploited by the organisation."
At the opening, the organisers had to look for
another venue because they did not have a permit to
continue screening at Siri Fort. As a result, no one
aft«aaY *l^«f.E,,«  had a clue as to which movie
^iia ^jjJT6- i>Mt:"M   was being shown and
where, and the filmmakers
were shifted from one seedy
hotel to another. The
organisers refused to
  comment on the fiasco.
Pervez Musharraf s smooth talk about his liberalism
is gradually coming apart. He has consistently
claimed that press freedom in Pakistan is healthier
than in most democracies. The International
Federation of Journalists reports otherwise. During
the last six months, four journalists have been killed
after filing stories that the government did not want
reported. The latest victim of 'enforced
disappearances' is Dilawar Khan Wazir, a BBC
Urdu service reporter in South Waziristan. Hussain
Haqqani, an analyst in Islamabad, writes that key
issues have been kept out of bounds for journalists,
including the role of Pakistan's intelligence services,
and corruption of senior military regime figures.
Human rights and sovereignty violations in the 'war
against terrorism' are strict
no-no areas. Opinions critical
of the military regime are
allowed, but not facts that
back up these opinions.
General Sahib, who is in the
line of fire here?
Chhetria Patrakar cannot vouch for the accuracy of
this snippet. But there is a high possibility that, run by a credible business
journalist, has got it right. The blog reports that the
Hindustan Times came out with a survey finding that
59 percent of Delhi citizens were against sealings -
the drive by local authorities, on the orders of the
judiciary, to shut all illegal constructions. From a
paper that has been fairly positive about the sealing
Himal Southasian | December 2006
 MSH  Management Sciences for
V^^X   Straightening Heatth Programs
Director of Capacity Building
Band ;7
Job ID
Reports To
No. of Positions
Closing Date
Deputy Chief of Party
December 15, 2006
Pakistan Primary Healthcare Revitalization,
Intergration and Decentralization in Earthquake
Affected Areas Project (PRIDE)
Overall Responsibilities
The Director of Capacity Building (DCB) will supervise the
implementation of all project activities designed to improve
financial and human resource management and capacity
building. In recognition of the integrated nature of the PRIDE
program, the DCB will maintain strong, collaborative relationships
with the Director of Primary Health Care and the Director of
Community Mobilization. The DCB will facilitate consensus
building across all levels of government, and will provide advice
and input on the development of effective financial,
supervisory, and personnel policies. Throughout the project, the
DCB will sustain positive relations with USAID headquarters
and mission staff, the Government of Pakistan, NGOs/INGOs,
local CBO partners, and other USAID CA's.
Specific Responsibilities
1. Implement the project in accordance with the cooperative
agreement, donor regulations, and internationally recognized
quality standards;
2. Participate in the development of strategic work-plans with clear
objectives and achievement benchmarks, long- and short-term
priorities, implementation plans, financial projection arid
evaluation tools;
3. Map perceptions and opinions on health services delivery and
the decentralization process, and address disparities in
4. Create a Basic Management Package, in consultation with the
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planning, HMIS, quality assurance, and other essential points;
5. Design and manage workshops and training/coaching packages;
6. Seek and develop strong public/private sector alliances to
address immediate gaps in service;
7. Manage and evaluate project staff performance;
1. At least 7 years senior level management experience in health
programs in developing country setting, or equivalent with
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2. A Master degree, or above, in management or a related area.
3. Relevant technical expertise and experience in capacity building;
epidemiological FETP training a plus.
4. Understanding of Pakistan and earthquake affected areas
particularly as related to local government, communities, and
5. Demonstrated ability to wort< with data - this includes facilitating
data intensive assessment and planning task.
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drive till now, this was a
surprise. It so happens that
the illegal residence of a top
executive of the media group
was sealed a day before the
survey was published.
Hmm. The blog does not
spare HT's rival either. The Times of India has been
consistently reporting on the traffic mess in Delhi
over the past few days. It now appears these reports
came in the wake of a case filed by the group's
number two honcho against the Delhi Traffic Police
because he couldn't leave his house due to Chinese
President Hu Jintao's visit. The things you can do if
you own a newspaper.
The Indian Cabinet has finally approved a longstanding demand of civil-society organisations to
allow NGOs to initiate community-radio
broadcasting. The new policy says that the license
will be given only to a "non-profit" organisation with
at least three years social service to local communities,
and the community radio station should serve
specific local communities. As one broadcaster put it,
the policy has been cleared 80 years after
broadcasting began in India, and 11 years after the
Supreme Court declared airwaves public property.
But certainly better late than never. Nonetheless, there
are voices of dissent. Some point to the fact that hard
news Is still not allowed to be broadcasted, while
others claim that besides political and electoral news,
people can decide what to air. Many are now keenly
awaiting detailed guidelines being prepared by the
Ministry of Information and Broadcasting to
understand the fine print.
It has long been a fact that
the Delhi media is capital-
centric. At best, it is willing
to peep into developments
in neighbouring North
Indian states. That is why
CNN-IBN's "Golden South" series is refreshing.
Pegging the stories on the golden jubilee of the
creation of the southern states of India, the channel
has been carrying daily reports on various facets of
life from the south of Vindhyas. These range from
human-interest pieces to stories on social trends and
economic changes. The North India obsession of the
English-language channels is surprising, actually,
because the bulk of the English-watching audience is
in the south. Chhetria Patrakar hopes tliat the coverage
of South India continues on a sustained basis, and
other channels pick up the thread as well. After that,
the North India channels can focus on the Northeast,
Kashmir, and finally the neighbourhood of Southasia.
- Chhetria Patrakar
December 2006 I Himal Southasian
The inheritance of stereotype
i.'.^SZ   M    a,,.
One of Edward Said's contributions to the
humanities has been to push scholars to
analyse the politics of 'representation', as his
own writings did in the case of the creation of the
Orient as the 'other', in contrast to Europe. In his book
Orientalism, Said exposed the veneer of romance that
overlays this way of thinking, generating complacency
and almost justifying prejudice. It was in large
part Said's writings that led to the creation of
postcolonial studies, but analysis of the politics of
representation is something far too important to
remain confined to academia.
The story of Oriental romance continues in
numerous forms, both overt and discreet. Kiran
Desai's The (nlieritance of Loss, which recently won this
year's Man Booker Prize, is a case in point. While
representing an individual or group, fiction always
contains the possibility of making them overly exotic
or romantic. Because of its distance from the majority
of the Indian public, this tendency is particularly
strong in Indian fiction in English, It is easy for a
writer like Desai, for instance, to view the entire
community of Nepalis of Kalimpong and Darjeeling
through tinted glasses, given that she is writing in
English. Had the text been written in Nepali, it would
in all likelihood have been rejected by the people it
claims to represent.
The picture one gains of the Nepalis of the
Darjeeling hills from Desai's book is of a community
that is poor and illiterate - perhaps even insignificant
- in its entirety. Out of all the Nepalis we meet here, it
is only the tuition teacher, Gyan, who is educated; but
lest the reader sees him as a learned, ambitious young
man, the author makes it a point to show the 'reality'
Awarding the 2006 Man Booker Prize to
The inheritance of Loss amounts to
trivialising marginal communities, in this
case the Nepalis of the Darjeeling
of his existence - the poor, sordid environment of the
Bong Busti to which he belongs. In the detailed
description of the surroundings of Gyan's shack-like
home, the incongruity of his aspirations is
meticulously drawn out. Even his involvement in the
Gorkhaland movement is left unexplained, evidently
not requiring as careful a treatment as the breakfast
served to the character of the retired judge when he
was a young student in London.
In an interview following the announcement of the
Man Booker award, Desai claimed to have drawn a
parallel in the book between the Nepali diaspora in
India, and Asians, particularly Indians, living and
scrounging for work in the US. The parallel can be
justified in that a poor Indian's desperation to go to
America in order to escape the clutches of poverty of
his homeland may be similar to the issues of
instability and lack of opportunities that have
through the centuries brought many immigrants to
India from the Nepal hills and plains. But from this
point onwards, critical differences emerge between
the two situations. While the Indian immigrants vie
for green cards and must constantly be on their toes
with regards to paperwork to stay in America,
circumstances are not the same for Nepali
immigrants In India. The community that Desai has
chosen to represent are not immigrants, let alone
illegal ones, but Indian citizens with franchise and
other rights. The Nepali language itself is recognised
in the Eighth Schedule of the Indian Constitution.
The status of Nepalis in India, hence, cannot be
relegated entirely to that of cheap labour.
Black-and-white exotic
The truth is that, for the people of Kalimpong, life is
as real, as tough, as beautiful, as happy as for people
elsewhere. It is neither a mysterious place, nor are the
shoulders of every Nepali here sagging under the
weight of poverty and hardship. Besides the
Metalbox watchman and his family (who are
paralysed by the intricacies of telecommunications
technology), Gyan's family (where his mother locks
her son inside to keep him 'safe'), and the boys clad
with bandanas a la Rambo, forcing appalled people
to buy cassettes and calendars to support the
movement, other Nepalis live in Kalimpong too.
Himal Southasian I December 2006
 One can only hope for a sensitivity on the part of readers that is missing in the
writer, to consider with due interest and respect the community the novel claims
to represent.
There are students, teachers, professors,
photographers, poets, critics, novelists, artists. For an
outsider who reads the novel, it is not difficult to
construe an image of the Nepalis of India as
unsophisticated and hopelessly vulnerable.
The choice of Kalimpong as a setting for the novel
is convenient for two reasons. First, because it is a
'sleepv, obscure place in the hills', so detailing comes
easy and unquestioned. Second, it provides a
historical backdrop that seems to make the novel
impressive - a well-researched, careful, perfect
combination of history and fiction, treating diaspora,
multiculturalism and what have you. Perhaps most
importantly, it has that something that makes
contemporary Indian novels so intriguing to the
West. Indians can speak about these issues with
honesty, apparently, because of their firsthand
experience. The West likes to read these works
because it satisfies their scruples about genuine
concern for spaces beyond their maps.
Desai is fortunate in two ways. First, because she
is an Indian woman, and this enables a claim to
authenticity for which every writer of fiction
clamours. Second, she has chosen to write about a
marginalised community that has not spoken much
for itself through Indian English-language fiction.
But combining these two things, however, she has
managed to marginalise that community within its
own area. The marginalised 'subaltern' in this case
neither speaks for itself, nor does the writer choose to
speak for it.
The historical backdrop Desai has chosen is that of
the Gorkhaland movement of 1980s West Bengal.
Throughout the novel, the movement's only
contribution is in making the hills a site of violence
and torture. Desai attempts to recreate the
atmosphere of the uprising, and gives a smattering
mention of various leaders and treaties, but fails to
move beyond the mere 'concept' of the movement.
The 28-month-long uprising appears merely as an
extension of the inner landscape of the judge's mind,
and therefore as a series of unfortunate, unavoidable,
disturbing events.
Pankaj Mishra, in his review of the novel, wrote:
"Sai is romantically involved with her math tutor,
Gyan, the descendant of a Nepali Gurkha mercenary,
but he eventually recoils from her obvious privilege
and falls in with a group of ethnic Nepalese
insurgents." The revolutionaries here are indeed
mere "insurgents", forming a thrilling backdrop to a
love affair. I listory does not emerge from the text as a
reality, but is reduced to a function in the plot.
Mishra goes on: "Not surprisingly, half-educated,
uprooted men like Gyan gravitate to the first
available political cause in their search for a better
way. He joins what sounds like an ethnic nationalist
movement largely as an opportunity to vent his rage
and frustration" (emphasis added).
For youngsters in The Inheritance of Loss,
participating in the movement seems to be an
opportunity to make themselves useful, an
opportunity they evidently rarely find. The fact of
demagoguery is brought out well, but at the cost of
trivialising the uprising itself. It is easy for the reader
to feel sorry for Father Booty, the Swiss dairy man
who is forced to leave Kalimpong, or for Sai, whose
first romance is shattered, or for the two Anglophile
sisters whose beautiful house is ransacked. But the
poor father and daughter-in-law, who come to the
judge on their knees, are seen through the eyes of Sai,
who is returning after a bitter quarrel with her
lover. The poor pair, squatting in a corner, appears
as an object of pity and irritating persistence, a
result of their helplessness and vulnerability.
People presented as the majority are thus
constantly marginalised.
There is a distortion of details in the novel that
would not have been overlooked if the 'object' being
represented had been mainstream to more of its
readers. The real Apollo tailors have been renamed
Apollo Deaf Tailors, not missing a jibe at the
inefficiency of their work. Such distortion is not to be
confused with the misplacement of details and facts
due to nostalgia, a process that Salman Rushdie
hails as a creative power at the hands of the
expatriate writer. Desai repeatedly emphasises the
seven years she spent researching her book, the
guarantor of her precision.
This kind of smugness in an Indian diasporic
writer is threatening. Tn the nature of her
representation of her object, Desai justifies
Orientalist notions of cultural superiority, notions
that postcolonial criticism has been trying to
question for decades. If the recognition accorded by
the Man Booker Prize serves to justify positions of
apathy adopted by a novel, then this recognition is
not only damaging to the culture and people
represented, but also renders attempts at generating
cultural sensitivity meaningless, as it paves the way
for further stereotyping of this and other cultures.
With the increased readership that the Man Booker
is sure to bring to The Inheritance of Loss, one can
only hope for a sensitivity on the part of readers that
is missing in the writer, to consider with due
interest and respect the community the novel claims
to represent. »
December 2006 j Himal Southasian
New tales of old
It is difficult to tear oneself away
from the covers of Ramesh
Menon's two-volume English
translation of the Sanskrit epic
Mahabharata. The colours are bright,
and the design is strikingly informal
and minimalist. The first volume has
featureless figures representing the
Pandava princes at the game of dice,
their humiliated queen Draupadi
gambled into slavery, and the lord
Krishna standing in the foreground,
identifiable mainly by his blue skin.
The figures all have short, cropped
hair. "I wanted a contemporary look,"
explains artist Moonis Ijlal, "because
this is a great contemporary story."
The Mahabharata is a universal epic,
he says, not one that belongs only to
Hindus. To this end, he convinced the
publishers to allow him to write
Mahabharata in both Hindi and Urdu
scripts on the back cover - the words
are entwined, and the effect is of one
language reaching out to and almost
embracing the other.
Ijlal's belief in the fact that the
Mahabharata is a human story with a
strong contemporary resonance on
the one hand, and that it is an epic
that belongs to everyone on the other,
fit well with former journalist Ramesh
Menon's novelistic rendering of the
work by Vyasa. In prose that is
dramatic (as befits a grand epic) and
at the same time accessible to the
casual reader, the author brings the
story alive. He continues the tradition
of writers like the late Kamala
Subramaniam, who wrote a beautiful,
intimate single-volume rendering of
the epic, which Menon acknowledges
as a major inspiration.
Both Menon and Subramaniam's
works are significantly different in tone
from the only full-length English
translation currently in the public
domain - the one by Kisari Mohan
Ganguli, published in the late 19th
century. Ganguli's 12-volume
translation* is an invaluable reference
work, but it is hard to imagine the non-
academic reader bearing with its
sheer length, archaic language,
detailed listings and descriptions of
places, and exhaustive elucidation of
character names.
Besides, as Subramaniam
suggests in the introduction to her
book, it is not possible to do full justice
to ancient texts in a literal translation.
"English is not suited to the elaborate
similes that are common in Sanskrit,"
she writes. "Also, there is a vast
difference between the Eastern and
the Western ways of description. For
instance, [the Pandava prince] Arjuna
is called 'Bharatarshabha', which is
very pleasing to the ear in Sanskrit.
But in English, it translates into 'O Bull
of the Bharata Race!' One can see
how awkward it sounds." Such
awkwardness can be found on nearly
every page of Ganguli's otherwise
commendable effort.
At the other extreme, however,
many of the simpler translations give
us only the stories of the epics - their
bare bones. These often take the
sprawling canvases of the original
works and reduce them to easily
digestible morality tales, without
handling the complex characters with
the sensitivity and depth they deserve.
Works by C Rajagopalachari and R K
Narayan   (both   of   whom    have
translated the Ramayan, the
Mahabharata and other autonomous
stories from Hindu mythology)
are among those that fall short in
this respect.
What Subramaniam has done is
to strike a balance between the two
extremes. Her treatment of the
Mahabharata as a human tragedy is
reflected in the way she fleshes out
the conversations between the
characters, emphasising their inner
conflicts, holding their struggles up to
the light; and in the empathy and
understanding she brings to nearly all
the people in the story. Inevitably,
some creative licence is exercised, but
none of her extrapolations are
inconsistent with the tone of the epic.
Mythological relevance
Recently, publishing house
Canongate began a series of
revisionist writings on ancient myths.
Leading novelists such as Margaret
Atwood, Jeanette Winterson and A S
Byatt were asked to retell myths from
works including Homer's Odyssey
and The Labours of Hercules. In the
anchoring book of this series, titled A
Short   History   of  Myth,    Karen
The Mahabharata: A modern
rendering (two volumes)
Ramesh Menon
Rupa & Co, 2004
Armstrong reminds readers that myths
were not meant to be taken literally,
or to be seen as providing factual
information. Theirfunction was to help
people cope with spiritual emptiness
and make sense of their lives:
Human beings fall easily into despair,
and from the very beginning we
invented stories that enabled us to
place our lives in a larger setting.
'Available at
Himal Southasian I December 2006
 We all want to know where we came
from, but because our earliest
beginnings are lost in the mists of
pre-history, we have created myths
about our forefathers that are not
historical but help to explain current
attitudes about ourselves,
neighbours and customs.
In the Indian context, the work done
by Subramaniam and Menon reflects
this attitude. They draw out the human
Siva: The Siva Purana retold
Ramesh Menon
Rupa & Co, 2006
aspects of the epics, and make them
more relevant for readers who are nol
as interested in mythology for either
its literal truth or religious significance,
as they are for what it tells about the
human condition, about the everyday
bustle of life. Subramaniam's likening
of Prince Duryodhana to
Shakespeare's tragic heroes -
marked by a single fatal flaw but
otherwise a noble prince with many
fine qualities - may not sit well with
purists who choose to see the
Mahabharata as a simple tale of good
versus evil, and Duryodhana as a
straightforward villain, a demon
incarnate. But surely one of the world's
most sprawling, complex works
of literature deserves a more
searching treatment.
To illustrate the difference between
Ganguli's literal rendition of the
Mahabharata and the newer
translations, here is a simple example
from one of the most vivid of the epic's
passages. The fierce fighting, often
interrupted and resumed, rages
between Bheema, the mighty
Pandava, and the great warrior Kama,
on the 14th day of the Kurukshetra
War. The two men are brothers,
though only Kama, the elder, knows
this, and his affection for his younger
sibling has impaired his ability to fight
with full vigour. Besides, before the
The Mahabharata: A modern
rendering (two volumes)
Ramesh Menon
Rupa & Co, 2004
war began, Kama had promised his
mother Kunti that he would not kill
any of his brothers, with the exception
of Arjuna.
These are the psychological
subtexts to this great passage, but they
are all but concealed in the Ganguli
text, which devotes passage after
lengthy passage to the actual fighting
- the details of weaponry and chariot
manoeuvres, descriptions of the
resplendent warriors as they cast
arrows and spears at each other.
Ramesh Menon, on the other hand,
finds time for the profound human
poignancy of this scene: for the unseen
tears in Kama's eyes, for the subtlety
with which he keeps Bheema at
bay while taking care not to strike him
a fatal blow, and the way he masks
his feelings by addressing Bheema
with cruel words when he has him at
his mercy.
Menon is among the most rigorous
modern re-tellers of these stories. Apart
from his voluminous Mahabharata, he
has also translated works such as the
Skanda Purana and the Shiva Purana.
These are full of enthralling
mythological stories - the churning of
the ocean by the devasand the asuras,
Sati's self-immolation in her father
Daksha's yagna, Shiva's subsequent
revenge, the reunion of Shiva and Sati/
Parvati, the genesis of Karttikeya and
Ganesh, and the creation and
destruction ofthe magnificent celestial
cities jointly known as Tripura. This is
captivating stuff in itself, but Menon's
prose brings a strong, individual voice
to these oft-told tales while retaining
their basic flavour. He knows how to
be florid when the stories demand it,
but his descriptions never become
ridiculous or over the top. They remain
precise and vivid. A sample:
An earthquake shook sacred
Gangadvara. As in a dream, Daksha
saw a mysterious and malignant
cluster of stars at noon. The sun was
blotched with black patches; a dark ring
glowed balefully around the star. The
quarters were squalid and gloomy,
strange comets fell out of the dim
heavens. Vultures circled low over
the yagna, darkening the sacrificial
platform; jackals howled at
the perimeters of the conclave of rishis
and devas.
Mounted on Garuda, the Sudarshana
humming at his finger, Vishnu faced
Virabhadra. Heartened, the devas
turned and came back to fight.
Bhanukampa sounded Virabhadra's
conch, which glowed like moonlight.
The devas quailed at the blast; they
prepared to flee again. At once, in
reply, Vishnu blew a deafening note
on the Panchajanya, rallying them.
He froze the gana army for a moment
on its murderous, rapacious spree:
Virabhadra's forces stopped their
ears with bloody palms.
Even Menon's seemingly
throwaway use of words like
"humming" (to describe the
Sudarshan Chakra) brings the scene
an immediacy and intensity that few
modern translators have achieved.
The reader can almost hear Vishnu's
December 2006 | Himal Southasian
 disc spinning fiercely at his finger.
Phallus and ail
Something else that the better
retellings do is to present the more
controversial aspects of the originals,
without making them gratuitous. This
is an important function, for
generations of Indians have grown up
with sanitised versions of these stories
- in the Amar Chitra Katha comics, for
instance. Such renditions have
performed an important role in
acquainting young children with the
myths, but they offer little to
open-minded adult readers who might
want something of the tone and
complexity of the original tales.
Consequently, many people have
no idea of the scatological elements
in the texts they have been taught to
revere. More conservative households
find it easy to play ostrich when faced
with the sexual explicitness of the
Puranas, for instance. This reviewer
once had a piquant conversation with
a shocked colleague who, having read
some of the unexpurgated texts,
wondered aloud what the point was in
worshipping gods who seemed to
have the same frailties as human
beings - sexual appetite being one of
these 'frailties'. Likewise, millions of
devout Indians are probably unaware
even that the Shiva linga represents
the male phallus. One of the
achievements of the modern
translations is to present these aspects
matter-of-factly, thus paving the way
for them to enter the public domain
rather than to be treated as something
better left unaddressed.
The works mentioned thus far have
been examples of translations that
stick close to the original plots. But
revisionist retellings of myths have
also been gaining currency of late. A
good example is Ashok Banker's
bestselling Ramayana series, written
and marketed as fantasy novels,
complete with the bright covers that
evoke the Western fantasy/science-
fiction genre. Banker's works have
drawn accusations of being
'assembly-line' creations, perhaps
because of the speed at which
he churns his books out. But to his
credit, he has taken an epic that
was never considered very exciting
(the Ramayana does pale
when compared to the richness of
the Mahabharata), and effectively
repackaged it for a new generation
of readers.
Authenticity will, of course, continue
to be a burning subject when it comes
to the retelling of myths. But as Banker
rightly asks in his author's note: "Does
a grandmother consult Valmiki's
original Ramayana before she retells
The Ramayana series
(six volumes)
by Ashok Banker
Penguin Books India, 2005-2006
the tale to her grandchildren at night?"
He has a point. In a sense, we are
continually redefining and reinventing
these legends; each generation brings
its own wisdom and life-experiences
to them, and that is how it should be.
At their best, these modern
translations revive the sense of
wonder that we felt when we first heard
these ancient stories from our
grandparents, even while showing us
how the tales are relevant to our own
lives and times. In this sense, it
is appropriate to call them noveiistic.
After all, to quote Karen Armstrong
again: "A novel, like a myth, teaches
us to see the world differently; it
shows us how to look into our own
hearts and to see the world from
a perspective that goes beyond our
own self-interest."
A sick system
The existing public healthcare
systems in Southasian
countries are largely the
legacy of colonial administration.
Despite the fact that these systems are
now worn dangerously thin, they
remain little changed. With the limited
resources at their disposal, regional
public health focuses almost
exclusively on the urban sector,
neglecting the rural majority. The
system in place in Pakistan is no
exception. The average family here is
large, its members lack education, and
are undernourished and unhealthy. At
the moment, the Islamabad
government is doing almost nothing
to change this situation.
In a region plagued by poverty,
pollution and rampant disease, with
enormous rural populations largely
neglected by their respective states,
Southasian governments have begun
to realise that a healthy economy is
impossible without a healthy people.
A lack of attention to public health
amounts to condemning a large
section of the population to difficult,
short and unproductive lives. This does
not help in the creation of an educated,
skilled and competent middle-class
workforce, which is essential for the
development of a market. Records
of Pakistan's recent economic
performance show marginal
improvements in the manufacturing
sector, but economic progress will
remain low as long as its social
indicators remain dismal. With the
Himal Southasian I December 2006
 Pakistan's nearly 108,100 doctors far outstrip a
countrywide nursing staff of just over 46,300.
exception of war-torn Afghanistan and
Nepal, Pakistan's vital health statistics
are currently lower than that of every
other Southasian country.
Despite the grim scenario,
Pakistan's health sector remains a low
priority for its government today,
conspicuously so when compared to
the country's notoriously well-funded
military sector. In recent years, health
and education have seen only token
increases in allocations. In order to
more fully explore the effects of this
neglect, professor K Zaki Hasan, the
founding dean of two Pakistani
medical institutions, has compiled
in Public Health Challenges in
Pakistan a body of statistics that
speaks for itself.
Total public and private health
expenditure in Pakistan accounts for
just 2-3 percent of the country's gross
domestic product. In 2001, less than
one percent of the GDP was allocated
for public healthcare, whereas
expenditure on debt servicing and
defence exceeded the country's total
revenue. Pakistan's total health
expenditure per capita was only USD
13 for 2005, having declined from
USD 16 in 1998. In comparison, in Sri
Lanka that amount is USD 32, and in
the Maldives it is USD 120.
Indeed, Pakistan's vital statistics for
health are low even within a region
where such statistics are generally
poor. Although 2004 figures show that
the country's life expectancy has
increased to 61 years from 43 years
in 1960, this is still an excruciatingly
low national average - regionally,
Pakistan fares better than only Nepal
and Afghanistan in this regard. Infant
mortality rates are very high, at 81 per
1000 live births as of 2003, as per
UNICEF figures from 2004; in Nepal
that figure stands at 61, and in Sri
Lanka at 13. Mortality rates for children
under the age of five are 103 per 1000
Public Health Challenges in Pakistan
by K Zaki Hasan
SAMA, 2006
live births, as per UNICEF's 2005
figures, again high for the region.
Malnutrition is the reason for half of
these deaths. To complete this sorry
picture, maternal mortality rates are
500 per 100,000 live births, with only
20 percent of children being delivered
by trained medical personnel.
Dr Hasan, who has been working
closely with the Islamabad
government since 1970 in shaping the
country's public-health policies, offers
the reader a perspective on the health
sector from within the administration.
He also brings to the text a social-
scientific approach that tries to get at
the deeper causes of Pakistan's
health-sector ills. Problems in
the country's healthcare are not simply
a matter of inadequate funds. Instead,
Hasan places a significant
amount of the blame on a culture of
patriarchy and the low status of
women, which in turn manifests
itself in low female literacy rates and
female disempowerment.
The combination of inadequate
primary healthcare and high
population growth leads to a
significant prevalence of
communicable disease, especially
among children. Government figures
for 2004 also show that manpower
imbalances persist, as Pakistan's
nearly 108,100 doctors - highly
concentrated in urban areas, and
showing marked preference for work
in private hospitals - far outstrip a
countrywide nursing staff of just over
46,300. Recruitment in the medical
and public health sectors is also
dangerously skewed in favour of men.
The lack of decentralisation in
Pakistan means that government
hospitals are found almost exclusively
in urban areas, even though most of
the population lives in the countryside.
The majority of Pakistanis thus have
little access to hospital beds or
doctors, and must either travel long
distances for medical treatment, or
rely on practitioners of traditional
medicine. Pakistan's urban rich, able
to afford private treatment, are
oblivious to the country's healthcare
pinch. The rural poor, on the other
hand, comprise 90 percent of the
population. It is imperative that
medical manpower be developed for
the rural public-health sector.
Hasan also points out that close
attention needs to be paid to the
country's environment, with an eye to
the growing population. The bulk of
health problems in Pakistan are
comprised of respiratory infections
and diseases such as cholera,
typhoid, dysentery and hepatitis, most
of which affect children. These are
brought on largely by systemic
problems such as biological
contamination in water, industrial
waste and air pollution. Inadequate
attention is not exclusive to children's
health, and Hasan also stresses that
both women's health and mental
health are in need of increased
Grassroots knowledge
Islamabad came up with two
innovative social-action plans in recent
years, in 1991 and 1996, spanning five
years each. Both offered broad goals
of upgrading primary health, primary
education, public welfare and rural
water supply and sanitation, and were
expected to significantly accelerate
improvement in the health sector.
Supported by the World Bank and
involving both government and
NGOs, the participatory development
model encouraged people to initiate
projects to improve social services in
their own communities.
Unfortunately, the scheme failed to
December 2006 | Himal Southasian
 meet its goals and was finally
disbanded. Insufficient funds were
cited as one reason for the failure, as
were politicised and lopsided
disbursement policies. Provincial
governments with high budget deficits
could not afford the long-term
expenditure required by the projects,
and neither could they generate
revenue to finance them on their
own. To make matters worse, by the
end of the second phase in 2001, the
plan had in fact decreased expenditure
on basic services from the allotted 1.7
percent of GDP in the base year
of 1991-92 to 1.4 percent during
Islamabad's experiments with such
social-action plans present a classic
example of unrealistic approaches to
problems concerning large
populations. Particularly in situations
where funding is a problem, it would
make more sense to implement policy
changes at a grassroots level, and
subsequently let them work their way
up to the top. When government
officials work with local organisations
that have direct access to people at a
local level, even small budgets can
prompt significant effects.
Though public-health policy is
changing in Pakistan, this is
happening much too slowly. It is not
acceptable to allow the system to gear
itself over the next decade to tackle
the problems it faces today.
Pakistan's population is growing, and
so are the numbers of poor and ill -
the much-touted benefits of
globalisation notwithstanding.
Increased numbers will continue to
strain a system that has not
reformed itself quickly enough or with
adequate foresight.
Pakistan's primary healthcare
system urgently needs to be
overhauled. A strong network must
be created in place of the existing
system, under which a basic but well-
equipped medical unit is created in
every village. Literacy programmes
are needed, as are awareness
programmes to educate people about
the sources and dangers of various
diseases. In this regard, a UNICEF
project in West Bengal offers an
important lesson. After months of
trying in vain to explain to villagers why
they should not drink water straight
from local ponds, government doctors
set up a microscope one day in the
village commons. Each villager
subsequently looked through the lens
to see the microbes squirming in the
untreated pond water. Within six
months, cases of waterborne
diseases in the village had been
nearly halved. What works in rural
West Bengal, surely may work in
rural Pakistan.
In the preface to Public Health
Challenges in Pakistan, Dr Mubashir
Hasan states that, "a modern nation
state is contractually bound to do the
very best it can to look after the health
of its citizens." The Islamabad
government would now do well to
remember this. It is imperative that it
muster the political will to understand
the vast and complex spectrum of
causes that affect collective well
being, and to act on that knowledge
with speed and intelligence. A
ACTED, Agency for Technical Co-operation and Development, is
an international NGO with operations in Central Asia, South Asia,
Central Europe, Central America, Central Africa and the Middle
Chief Finance Officer, Afghanistan
Job Description
Under the responsibility of "Afghanistan Country Coordinator and Finance Director in HQ, the Chief Finance
Officer will perform the following tasks:
Budgets follow up and supervision of accounting of the projects
Budgfet toiiow up of the projects implemented: preparation and follow up, with HQ finance and administrative department of the budget
planning and of the financial sports of each project.
Accounting supervision: follow up and verification of bills registration, accounting coding and project allocation, follow up of staff
.advances, follow-up of providers etc.
■     ■'
Financial and administrative follow-up
ACTED procedures administrative and accounting fbllSw tip on ?. monthly basis comprising reporting, cash flow, staff follow up etc.
Preparation of weekly report on ongoing activities to be prepared in close co-operation with project managers. Representation of ACTcD
during the meetings (NGOs, donors) in the absence of the regional coordinator.
Qualifications and skills required
Master degree in administration/finances/accounting
Proficiency in written and spoken English
Report writing skiils
Experience in overseas position
Experience with humanitarian and development programs
Transportation, housing, and food ensured by ACTED
Salary according to profile and experience, and perdiem
■■   '.
To be sent in English [along with a resume, a cover letter and three references) tbjobs@actGd.Qrg [Ref. Code: RW_.6T5EN3*67)
_■.';'  ■    ■
Closing date: Sunday, 31 December 2006
■: x
Himal Southasian I December 2006
 "It is same to
same, here and
Cairo's crows
If you want to get a feel for a Southasian
metropolis, you could not do better than land up
in Ca^iro - al-Kahira, capital of al-Misr, or
Misradesh. The latitude and temperatures are
comparable; the garbage collected along the Nile has
the same mix of polythene bags amidst the muck.
Like here, the stale haze smells of a combination of
sewage, dust, diesel fumes and burning coal. This
could be Karachi, Dhaka, Madras, Bombay.
Cairo's crows (jackdaws) are near-identical
cousins of Southasia's urban crows, They croak and
holler just as much. Perhaps the only difference is
that while the Southasians have a loose grey band
across the nape of the neck, the grey bands of those
in the Lower Nile are more of a jagged sort.
Cairo's citizens shun overhead pedestrian
walkways just as do their counterparts in Calcutta
or Kathmandu. Like here, they exhibit enormous
daring to cross thoroughfares amidst whizzing cars
and buses. The Cairo-wallahs, too, walk confidently
across busy two-way boulevards, while their hard
disks simultaneously calculate the speed of several
oncoming vehicles as against their own diagonal
traverse, lt is same to same, here and there.
Ah, then there are the enclaves. After miles and
miles of tenements, you leave the city suburbs to
enter the desert. Suddenly, there is a vast green oasis
covering hundreds of acres, with individualised
housing semi-standardised to some rough Greek
design - but all posh, very posh. There are lakes,
fountains and a manmade forest in the middle of the
desert. Every tree and bush is individually watered
with miles of underground piping. In this tiny
corner of over-populated lower Egypt, no one walks
- everyone drives to do their groceries, to get to the
malls and the multiplex cinemas.
This, too, is the way of Southasia Shining, A
distancing between the upper- and the underclasses, one that is just beginning to kick in along the
Indus-Ganga-Jamuna basin. (That's Jamuna, by the
way, as in the Brahmaputra, and not the eviscerated
western watercourse.) When the middle class gets
too rarefied to join with the rest of the populace,
they will eject themselves out of the teeming cities.
They will create bubbles for themselves - enclaves
that will become neutered, a-cultural havens, where
they can partake in idealised forms of suburban
American bungalow living.
Someone needs to tell our middle classes that
this is not necessarily the way of the West - that the
upper classes of old Europe are doing just fine
living amidst real places, not make-believe bazaars
and marketplaces. What we are doing in the cities
of Southasia instead is creating a stifling, faux
atmosphere, complete with artificial and invented
cafes, promenades and lakefronts. The sociopolitical phenomena of such a distancing can only
be imagined, and it will doubtless be horrific in a
region where the upper crust will want to flee the
muck and stench of the marketplace, On the whole,
the creation of the Southasian Class Bubble will
guarantee the placement of autocratic regimes in
the capitals of our countries, states and provinces.
And that eventually must give way to ... what?
The process has begun in India in particular, but
also in the rest of Southasia. As yet, the enclaves of
the regional elites are still connected to the rest of
society. They still call out to the vegetable vendor,
who continues to wander the neighbourhoods; they
still rely on the service providers of the poor, such
as the bicycle-repair family at the curb or the paan-
masala guy across the street. For now, the enclaves
are not completely cut off. But it will happen, and
the process is already well underway, with the
malls, the exclusive multiplexes, the toll highways
and air-conditioned cars, trains, buses, lobbies,
offices and toilets.
The definitive distancing of the rich from the
masses began in India during the 1970s, when Air-
Conditioned Il-Class seaters and sleepers invaded
the Indian Railways. The windows became sealed
with tinted glass, and you could no longer hear the
chai-wallah quickly enough to holler at him to rush
over. The best you could do now was to cup your
hands against your own reflection on the glass, and
gesticulate to him. And then, your chai came not in
an earthen cup, but a brittle plastic one.
Is this the way we want to go? Because if
it is, there is no way everyone can come along for
the ride. A
il Qnlhe_yy_axup
December 2006 I Himal Southasian
 Enginsering Rotable Support by
klTm    © Lufthansa Technik
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