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R. Jagannathan in the DNA wonders whether prime minister Manmohan Singh has risen to his level of less competence:
Was his goof-up at Sharm el-Sheikh, where he agreed to delink terror from a composite dialogue with Pakistan and also inserted Balochistan needlessly into the joint statement, just a one-off or part of his larger makeup?
Manmohan Singh lacks some of the essential skills needed to be PM in a diverse nation. But that does not mean he can't be PM. To succeed, though, he needs people who will cover up for his weaknesses. Pranab Mukherjee is one possible answer. He did his part in the last Lok Sabha when he fended off the left on the nuke deal till the Congress was sure it could win a vote of confidence.
Pratap Bhanu Mehta in the Indian Express says "the disappointment with the PM’s statement in Parliament was that it did nothing to assuage his detractors. It also gave no evidence that he will have the credibility to carry the country when genuine peace might be possible":
The PM is technically right in his statement: mere mention does not amount to an admission of anything. But this technical self-exoneration misses the larger politics of the issue... Whatever is the truth of the matter, there is a propaganda war on this issue; and recently scholars in the US have given succour to claims of Indian involvement. Our challenge will not be issuing denials: it will be reclaiming the moral high ground.
...What makes this task odd is the fact that the Pakistani government, instead of doing something that would appeal to Indian public opinion, went on to milk the Sharm el-Shaikh statement in a propaganda war. And we took the rather bizarre line: go by the interpretation we are giving, not the interpretation Pakistan is giving. This is an odd new definition of a “joint” statement. It is awkward for the PM to say “trust but verify,” when at the same time the Pakistani leadership seems to be cocking a snook at you.
...By putting Balochistan on the table we are continuing to feed Pakistan’s self-perception that it is the victim. This sense of victimhood is the biggest obstacle in Pakistan’s coming to terms with its problems
Full piece: Making Sense of Pakistan
On a related note, in the Hindustan Times, Ram Guha points to the elephant(s) in the room:
"..it is worth investigating the background of the three men who have primary responsibility for our foreign policy. These are Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna and National Security Adviser (NSA) M.K. Narayanan.
Two things are common to these men — their age, and their relative lack of experience in foreign policy.
At the risk of being accused of ‘age-ism’, one must ask whether the recent misjudgements in our dealings with Pakistan and the United States are completely unconnected with the age of our principal negotiators. For the worrying thing is that the prime minister, the foreign minister and the NSA are all the wrong side of 75. In the rocky ocean of global politics, the Indian ship of State can carry one old man, perhaps even two. But three?
Mani Shankar Aiyar in the Indian Express:
Nothing could be more damaging or counter-productive than any Indian attempt to interfere in Balochistan’s internal affairs...
...What would India gain by infiltrating this maelstrom? We would not even know where to begin or whom to support. It is for the Baloch and the Baloch alone to make their destiny and for Pakistan, not us, to ensure its integrity. No outside force, certainly not India, stands a chance of influencing the outcome. That is why the “dossier” allegedly given by Pakistan to Britain and the US several years ago has evoked only quiet sniggering. And that is perhaps the reason why India was given no dossier. India has neither interfered in Balochistan, nor should India ever do so
Read the full article: Provinces of a debate
And as Siddharth Varadarajan points out in the Hindu:
History will pass judgment on the wisdom of allowing a reference to the rebellious province in the joint statement. But what matters most is not the reference but the reality. If Indian agencies are not involved, no “Kasabs” will ever be found and Pakistan will get little traction from raising the B-word in bilateral or international forums. But if an Indian Kasab is ever found there, the absence of a reference will provide New Delhi no protection from the charge of involvement. The Prime Minister said India has nothing to hide. There is no reason to imagine he was whistling in the dark.
Read the full piece here
The current angst about India conceding ground by agreeing to incorporate a reference to Balochistan in the recent joint statement out of Egypt is misplaced. If India is in fact aiding and abetting rebels in Balochistan, then it is not automatically the moral equivalent of Pakistan's involvement in Jammu & Kashmir. Without getting into lengthy legalistic tangles about how the two might or might not be equivalent, the issue is as simple as right versus wrong.
Not all liberation movements are the same in a moral sense, and it follows that not all interference in a foreign liberation struggle is morally equivalent. The fight in Balochistan is about unfair exploitation of Balochi resources by Pakistan's dominant Punjabis, and about the disrespecting of Balochi language and culture. The fight in Kashmir is about the adoption, by a segment of the Muslim population there, of Pakistan's underlying supremacist ideology, usually known as the "two nation theory"...