Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Pakistan: need for smart diplomacy

It has been clear for some years now that there are few other states in the international system more troubled than Pakistan. And yet, tragically, the Indian debate — academic as well as at the policy-level — reflects neither an appreciation of the complexity of the situation nor a recognition that Pakistan needs to be dealt with at multiple levels, even (and especially) after the Mumbai attacks. Instead, we witness routinely (in the soundbyte-driven media di scussions and predictable seminars) knee-jerk responses — even from otherwise sage former diplomats and intelligence officers — which suggest that even after 61 years, the Indian policy establishment does not really understand Pakistan.
In this sense, the failure of Pakistan is as much the failure of India. Can the inability to stabilise a troubled neighbour inspire confidence outside the immediate landscape? Can India really become a great power when it cannot even influence, leave alone pacify, its own “backyard?” Should India not have a more nuanced and deeper understanding of the range of forces operating in the country? But can India really develop a thoughtful and comprehensive understanding of Pakistan when we have virtually no academic expert or policy analyst who can speak, say, Pashto or Balochi? And should India not be systematically working towards constructing a Pakistan that is at peace with itself and in harmony with the region? Mea culpa is, unfortunately, not a term that exists in the Indian diplomatic or academic dictionary.
The reality is that much of the contemporary Indian analysis of Pakistan is rooted in a blinkered, and often partial, and simplistic understanding of the country as it exists today, and drawn, often, from crude textbook readings of the realist discourse in international relations. Pakistan is not a rational, unitary and univocal actor capable of making coherent foreign and defence policy decisions, or of executing them in a predictable and reliable manner. It is this misconstruction of the nature of the Pakistani state and society that sadly informs the Indian policy, for instance, of nuclear deterrence, compellance, the fight against terrorism and even the composite dialogue. Not surprisingly then, the policy does not and will not work. Contemporary Pakistan is not just another country that can be dealt with by following the well-known axioms of international politics or bilateral diplomacy.
Pakistan’s potential futures
Given the many challenges that Pakistan faces today, we argue that it has at least four potential futures: Fractured Pakistan, Fascist-Islamist Pakistan, Failed Pakistan and, Friendly Pakistan.
The first image is of a Fractured Pakistan. This is the Pakistan the world is faced with today: a state that has been (for at least a couple of decades or more now) on a trajectory that is counter-productive and self-destructive. It is a Pakistan that runs with the hare and hunts with the hounds; creates Frankensteins that confront the maker; rides a tiger from which it is unable to dismount; and bleeds itself almost to death in an attempt to bleed its enemy through a thousand cuts. It is a state that is reaping what it has sown for several decades now. It fits every cliché on the dangers of being short-sighted, tactical and double-faced.
This is a Pakistan which is permanently on the edge of a precipice, with competing centres of power, and increasingly out of the control of even the strongest institution: the army. A Fractured Pakistan would maintain an unpleasant status quo with India and the region, even if it is hurting itself in the process. Elements within the state would fight the jihadis, on the one hand, and others would encourage them, on the other. The state would be in denial of any internal disequilibrium and its almost pathological hostility towards India would increasingly be the only glue that would seem to bind its fractured divisions. A Fractured Pakistan could well descend into a Fascist or Failed Pakistan.
A Fascist-Islamist Pakistan is the worst-case scenario projected by the Cassandras of the strategic community. A state that would be taken over by the jihadis, thanks to the material and ideological help provided by the Taliban, the al-Qaeda, and, to some extent, the rising prominence of the Pakistani army’s ‘Zia bhartis.’ A Fascist-Islamist Pakistan would not just be dangerous and unpredictable but could also become an exaggerated version of Afghanistan under Mullah Omar’s Taliban rule. It goes without saying that the security of India and the rest of the world would be seriously jeopardised if the jihadis were able to gain control of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons.
A Failed Pakistan would be a state that would disintegrate and divide itself into multiple entities. Warlordism, civil war, huge refugee flows, a rise in crime, and the probable spread of a radical, violence-based sectarian ideology would be some of the markers of a failed Pakistan. India, all those who glee at the prospect of a Failed Pakistan should remember, would be a natural target for all the dangerous forces unleashed by Pakistan’s disintegration.
Finally, and unlikely as it seems today, there still exists a possibility of a Friendly Pakistan. It would be rooted in Mohammed Ali Jinnah’s original design for the state: Muslim, Moderate and Modern. It is this Pakistan that an Indian grand strategy must systematically work towards constructing.
Indian grand strategy
India’s grand strategy, we argue, should include a careful application of moral, political and soft power resources; multilayered employment of diplomacy, communication and smart power; and sophisticated coordination of global, regional, bilateral and domestic means to engage Pakistan.
Pakistan, as Richard Holbrooke’s visit reminded us, is no longer just a South Asian conundrum. We will continue to see ‘special envoys’ dispatched to the region with unprecedented frequency. New Delhi, instead of reacting uneasily to what it sees as unnecessary interference in its ‘sphere of influence’ should confidently join such initiatives. This would create the space in which it may become possible to build international and regional coalitions/consensus to help Pakistan move from being fractured to friendly.
But the most important part of this grand strategy is bilateral. Managing the bilateral segment of the grand strategy is perhaps our biggest challenge. India needs to use “smart diplomacy” to engage more than one internal actor in Pakistan, and at various levels. It must take imaginative unilateral steps to empower moderate voices and build real stakeholders. India’s vibrant civil society must be encouraged to engage with Pakistan. While Kashmir may need to be dealt with “symbolically,” it is on the issue of water that Pakistan and Pakistanis will need real reassurance and accommodation.
We should make much greater use of South Asia’s traditional liberal Islam to confront the radicalisation of Pakistan. But soft power has other uses as well. The acclaimed Pakistani novelist, Mohsin Hamid, was asked by Dawn: if he took a break from fiction to pen the script for a Punjabi blockbuster, how would the plot unfold? He responded: “In an operations centre, deep below Heera Mandi in Lahore, a fat man with a moustache receives his briefing. He is a secret agent, code-named Suth Panja, and his mission, if he chooses to accept it, is to infiltrate India and kidnap the one man who can revitalise Lollywood.” All this does not preclude what New Delhi may or may not do to confront those elements that are as much an enemy of moderate Pakistan as they are of India.
This grand strategic approach to dealing with Pakistan is in no way exhaustive, but we hope that it will be a step towards realising that complex problems can be addressed only in a comprehensive manner. Piecemeal and half-hearted approaches simply will not deliver.
 (Co-authored with Happymon Jacob, JNU)
(Source: The Hindu, 25/02/09)

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The Jammu & Kashmir elections and after

Elections in Jammu and Kashmir are much more than a democratic ritual. In the popular Kashmiri imagination, they have been powerful symbols: of faith and betrayal; of resistance and accommodation; of hope and disillusionment; of confidence and uncertainty.
Through the 1950s and the 1960s, stage-managed elections were seen as a betrayal of the ‘trust’ of 1947. The 1977 elections, the fairest the State had witnessed since Independence, became a lietmotif of faith and accommodation. The 1987 election, neither free nor fair, paved the way for militancy in the State. Confidence in the democratic process was restored to a considerable extent when for the first time the electorate was able to dislodge the then ruling party in 2002.
The 2008 elections will also be recognised as a marker in terms of its inclusiveness and credibility, despite the considerable odds. While 43.69 per cent of the electorate voted in 2002, this time the figure was 61.49 per cent — respectable by any national or international standard. More significantly, all the districts of the Kashmir Valley (outside Srinagar) witnessed a healthy turnout of more than 45 per cent. Kupwara and Bandipora, once at the heart of separatist politics, registered 68.22 per cent and 59.66 per cent respectively.
The real long-term importance of the 2008 elections, however, will lie in the manner in which New Delhi and the State government respond to the aspirations of the people and to the multiple challenges that exist within the State. That the people of the State, who took to the streets in Kashmir a few months ago in a mass Intifada-like uprising (or on the streets of Jammu shouting Bam Bam Bhole) should turn out in even larger numbers to vote in the elections may be seen by cynics as evidence of fickleness. This would be a mistake: the “ordinary” citizen is seizing every opportunity to achieve peaceful change from the politics of the street to the politics of the ballot.
New Delhi must not view the elections as signalling a return to “business-as-usual” in the politics of the State. The triumph of democracy should not be a moment of triumphalism. By acting in a statesmanlike fashion now, New Delhi and Jammu/Srinagar will demonstrate a willingness to reward participation in the democratic process and will not be seen as capitulating to extra-constitutional pressure.
For New Delhi, the Working Group reports offer a perfect starting point. Set up during the second round table conference called by the Prime Minister in May 2006, the five Working Groups had a specific agenda. The elements of this agenda were confidence building measures (CBMs) across segments of society in the State; strengthening relations across the Line of Control in Kashmir; economic development; ensuring good governance; and Centre-State relations.
Apart from the Working Group on Centre-State relations, all the other Working Groups submitted their reports in April 2007. The government had, in principle, accepted the recommendations and virtually committed itself to implementing them. But little has been done. New Delhi must signal its sincerity by first acting on the recommendations of the Working Group dealing with CBMs across the State.
Chaired by Hamid Ansari, that group had recommended, inter alia, several steps. These included a review and revocation of laws that impinge on the fundamental rights of common citizens, such as the Armed Forces Special Powers Act; a review of cases of persons in jails and general amnesty for those under trial for minor offences. It recommended effective rehabilitation policies for Kashmiri Pandits and a comprehensive package to enable them to return to their original homes and to help the Kashmiri youth in Pakistan-controlled areas who may have joined militancy for monetary considerations or misguided ideological reasons. Another recommendation involved measures to strengthen the State Human Rights Commission and the setting up of a State commission for minorities.
The Centre must consider revamping the Fifth Working Group on Centre-State relations which failed to arrive at a consensus. A new expert group can consult with all stakeholders to forge common ground on issues such as autonomy, self-rule, regional balances and sub-regional aspirations.
The State government must pay attention to the recommendations of the Working Group on ensuring good governance in the State. These include the appointment of a Chief Information Commissioner for the effective implementation of a more robust Right to Information Act, the introduction of e-governance — to make government at the district and tehsil level more efficient, accountable and transparent. Another recommendation was for the extension of the 73rd amendment to truly empower the panchayati raj system.
However, the immediate priority must be to devise and implement a comprehensive policy for the young men and women of the State. The State has had consistently high levels of educated unemployment and low levels of vocationally skilled human resources. With more than 2,00,000 unemployed, and in many case unemployable (other than as white collar workers for the government), the youth have formed the bedrock of the militant movement over the last two decades. The challenge is to use this energy of the young Kashmiri to build peace.
Re-training hubs must be established in all the district headquarters to ensure that a significant section of the educated but unemployed youth become employable within a period of six months to a year. With the extensive use of Information and Communication Technology, it should be possible to annually produce more than 20,000 skilled and employable workers from the 22 district re-training centres. These centres could be established through public-private partnership or by creating a special purpose vehicle (SPV). Public-private partnerships are also needed to enhance international connectivity by extending broad band access — with stronger incentives provided through the existing universal access funds for telecommunications. In the long term, given the geography of the State and its growing endowments of skills, electronic exports of services may play a more significant role in revitalising its economy than the traditional sectors.
The youth of the State can become its greatest strength, its soft power. Investing in the right kind of education, training and skill development have therefore to be part of the fundamentals of the new government if it has to take advantage of the huge demographic dividend. It is vital that the gross enrolment ratio in higher education rises to at least 15 per cent in the next 10 years. This calls for a massive expansion in education: more universities, more off-site campuses, more colleges, more Industrial Training Institutes and more polytechnics that extensively use the revolutionary new instruments of Information and Communication Technology to deliver world-class course-ware content.
The State government must consider building a knowledge city where there is a seamless transition from studying to training to working within the same geographical space. The Dubai Knowledge village is one, but it is not the only example. The raison d’etre was a long-term economic strategy to develop the region’s talent pool and accelerate its transition into a knowledge-based economy. The benefits for partners include 100 per cent foreign ownership, 100 per cent exemption from taxes, 100 per cent repatriation of assets and profits, and effortless visa issuance. Imagine a knowledge city in a valley on the foothills of the Himalayas where potentially the best and the brightest young men and women from all over the region can come and study, live and work together in a setting that offers world-class infrastructure.
Will the State and the Central government respond to this new peaceful assertion of the people of J&K for real change? Unfortunately, the announcement of the highest civilian awards on Republic Day-eve was a grim reminder that the bureaucratic stronghold on policies towards Jammu and Kashmir may not be easy to dislodge. Hashmat Ullah Khan may or may not be a deserving awardee. But the incident is a powerful metaphor for the New Delhi establishment’s traditional patron-client mindset towards Jammu and Kashmir. Bureaucrats in the corridors of Lutyen’s Delhi, long out of touch with the reality on the ground, use their power of patronage to craft policies that have no resonance with the majority of the people of the State. This mindset has to change if the people of Jammu and Kashmir have to be rewarded for having overwhelmingly expressed their faith in democracy.

(Source: The Hindu, 03/02/09)