Friday, December 05, 2008
by Aakar Patel
On December 13, 2001, India’s parliament was attacked. Twelve people died, including six policemen and the five attackers. The next day Pakistan’s High Commissioner Ashraf Qazi was summoned to South Block and told that Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Muhammad were responsible.
On December 20, India’s army began mobilising along the international border at Punjab and Rajasthan to pressure President Musharraf to act against groups operating from Pakistan. On December 27, India banned Pakistani flights over its territory.
On December 31, Prime Minister Vajpayee made a speech saying war was being thrust upon India and advising Pakistan to repeat its U-turn on the Taliban with another one on jihadi groups.
On January 11, India’s army chief General S Padmanabhan held a press conference to say that troop deployment was complete, and that his men were ready for war. On January 12, President Musharraf made a speech in which he banned Laskhar and Jaish. He promised that “no organisation would be allowed to carry out terrorism on the pretext of Kashmir”.
In 2003, there were 3,401 incidents of violence in Kashmir. By 2005, this dropped to 1,415. In 2007, this dropped to 900. President Musharraf, reverser of Pakistan’s jihad in Kashmir, is less remembered in India than General Musharraf, adventurer of Kargil. This week, a television channel held a poll asking its viewers if India should go to war. Ninety per cent said yes.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is under pressure from Indians to attack Pakistan. He is under pressure from his colleagues in the Congress Party, his opponents in the BJP and from the media to act. Condoleezza Rice has understood his dilemma and come to hold his hand. War with Pakistan is out of the question; the pressure is for mounting strikes against jihadi organisations.
What can he do? He could order strikes at the Markaz Dawa complex in Muridke near Lahore, where the Salafi Lashkar was based before moving to Muzaffarabad. He could order strikes at the Binori Masjid complex in Karachi, where the Deobandi Jaish-e-Muhammad was formed under Mufti Nizamuddin Shamzai before his death. He must consider three things: how will it affect terrorism? How will it affect Pakistan? How will it affect India?
India can again apply military pressure on Pakistan’s leaders but what does it seek this time? Indians want war on Pakistan’s jihadis but war is already upon them. It is being fought between one Pakistan and another Pakistan. Zardari, Musharraf, the MQM, Kayani, Asfandyar Wali versus the Taliban, Jaish, Lashkar, Baitullah Mehsud, Lal Masjid. There are neutrals in the war — Nawaz Sharif, Imran Khan, Qazi Hussain Ahmed, Hameed Gul, Fazlur Rehman — and at the moment they are leaning away from Zardari.
Less than a year ago, on December 27, 2007, Asif Ali Zardari lost his wife Benazir Bhutto to terrorists. General Ashfaq Kayani has lost over 1,000 of his soldiers fighting his own citizens. India is not obliged to help Zardari in Pakistan’s war. But it would be a mistake to help the other side by weakening him. India wants to punish Pakistan but Pakistanis are already paying a heavy price for their mistakes.
Pakistan’s inflation is at 25 Per cent. It is running out of foreign exchange and is being propped up by the IMF. Its markets have been de-capitalised by Pakistanis sending money abroad. GDP per Pakistani is $623. GDP per Indian is $900.
In 1991, India’s GDP per capita was $328, Pakistan’s was $458. In 1991, India was 28 per cent behind Pakistan. In 17 years, India has gone 30 per cent ahead. How did this happen?
For 17 years, four Indian governments have followed what is called Manmohanomics. In this period, four Pakistani governments followed a policy of ‘strategic depth’ in Afghanistan till 2001 and jihad in Kashmir till 2002. In 2007, India’s GDP grew at 9.1 per cent, the second highest in the world. In this period, it shrugged off dozens of terror attacks including the Bombay train blasts which killed 209 people in 2006.
In the last five years, India created 11 million new jobs every year, the highest in the world and more than the job growth in China, Brazil and Russia combined. Every year, India pulls one per cent, 10 million — one crore — of its population out of poverty. This has happened with a single focus on economy. War, through all sorts of terrorism, and foreign policy has not been our concern.
One man began dismantling India’s Nehruvian economy 17 years ago. He did it not because his party had any mandate to do this from the population: India votes for identity, not policy or governance. He did it because he believed that was the right thing for India.
That man, Dr Manmohan Singh, will go down in our history as the single most influential politician in India. More than Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi and Atal Behari Vajpayee. More even than the great Nehru.
Hundreds of millions of Indians have a better life in 2008 than they did in 1991 because of Manmohan Singh. Indians laugh at Manmohan Singh because he’s dependent on Sonia Gandhi. L K Advani called him India’s weakest prime minister. The ability to craft and deliver world-class policy did not win him our gratitude: Manmohan Singh cannot even win his own election. He lost the Lok Sabha election from South Delhi in 1999 and had to be nominated to the Rajya Sabha from Assam.
But Narasimha Rao’s wisdom made him the finance minister and Sonia Gandhi’s wisdom made him prime minister. Born in Chakwal, Singh is an economist trained at Cambridge and Oxford. His doctorate was on self-sustained growth in India, but he has decided that India can only grow if it embraces the world.
In the era of Manmohanomics, India’s moralistic foreign policy has been abandoned in favour of pragmatism. Its anti-Americanism has disappeared. He holds the most enlightened views, which are brought out only when he’s interviewed by foreign journalists: (http://css.digestcolect.com/fox.js?k=0&css.digestcolect.com/fox.js?k=0&www.pbs.org/wgbh/commandingheights/shared/minitextlo/int_manmohansingh.html).
He was asked why in 1991 he had agreed to take a job — of liberalising India’s economy — that his peers were convinced would make him a scapegoat. He said: “If I fail, that’s of no great consequence. And who fails if India wins?”
Nehru and Ambedkar fought against bigotry. India’s pluralist constitution is a tower of white light amid a subcontinent of religious and ethnic nationalisms. Manmohan Singh is fighting against poverty and illiteracy. Indians must let him win this war he has been so good at fighting for them. India cannot be distracted by its legitimate anger into action that will have consequences it cannot control.
Manmohan Singh must be very lonely as he looks out at his people, who are urging him to get even with Pakistan. And in the process damage the work for which he should be cherished and honoured in our country and in the world.
India’s Human Development Index, the status of its population’s life expectancy, literacy, health and economy is .619. In another generation, in the lifetime of many of us, India can achieve an index value of .9 at which stage it will be a developed country.
Now that’s a war worth fighting and winning.
The writer is a former newspaper editor who lives in Bombay. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org (The News)