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Pragati No 17 | Aug 2008

The Indian
National Interest

Should India send troops

to Afghanistan?

Contents Pragati
The Indian National Interest Review
PERSPECTIVE No 17 | Aug 2008
2 Making a leader
Excerpts from a lecture on leadership and discipline
Sam HFJ Manekshaw Published by The Indian National Interest—an independent
community of individuals committed to increasing public awareness
4 Our voice in our history and education on strategic affairs, economic policy and governance.
Academic freedom, private funding and historical research
Jayakrishnan Nair
Advisory Panel
6 Letters Mukul G Asher
On whether or not India has a coherent foreign policy Sameer Jain
Amey V Laud
V Anantha Nageswaran
FILTER Ram Narayanan
8 A survey of think-tanks Sameer Wagle
On China policy; Fixing the FATA; An Indo-Israeli alliance?
Vijay Vikram
IN DEPTH Nitin Pai
Ravikiran S Rao
9 Hold steady in Afghanistan
India is on the right track and it should stay that way
Shanthie Mariet D’Souza Editorial Support
Priya Kadam
12 A bigger military presence is essential Chandrachoodan Gopalakrishnan
...if India is to shape Afghanistan’s future
Sushant K Singh
14 The myth of Taliban tribalism C Uday Bhaskar
Natraj Publishers
The folly of trying to set tribes against each other
Joshua Foust George Welcome/US Army (Cover Photo)

16 Monsoon Session 2008—What’s in store Subscription:
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17 When it’s good to slow down
The why and what next about rising inflation © 2008 The Indian National Interest. Some rights reserved.
V Anantha Nageswaran
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Making a leader
Excerpts from a lecture on leadership and discipline

THE FIRST, the primary, indeed the cardinal at- worse than an act of commission. An act of com-
tribute of leadership is professional knowledge mission can be put right. An act of omission can-
and professional competence. Now you will agree not. Take the example of the time when the Babri
with me that you cannot be born with professional Masjid was about to be destroyed. If the prime
knowledge and professional competence even if minister, at that stage, had taken a decision to stop
you are the child of the prime minister, or the son it, a whole community—180 million peo-
of an industrialist or the progeny of a field mar- ple—would not have been harmed. But, because
shal. Professional knowledge and professional he did not take a decision, you have at least 180
competence have to be acquired by hard work and million people in this country alone who do not
by constant study. In this fast-moving technologi- like us.
cally developing world you can never acquire suf- What comes next for leadership? Absolute hon-
ficient professional knowledge. esty, fairness and justice—we are dealing with
You have to keep at it, and at it, and at it. Can people.
those of our political masters who are responsible We in India have tremendous pressures—pres-
for the security and defence of our sures from the government, pres-
country cross their hearts and say sures from superior officers, pres-
they have ever read a book on mili- sures from families, pressures from
tary history, on strategy, on weap- wives, uncles, aunts, nieces, neph-
ons developments? Cam they dis- ews and girlfriends, and we lack
tinguish a mortar from a motor, a the courage to withstand those
gun from a howitzer, a guerilla pressures. That takes me to the next
from a gorilla, though a vast major- attribute of leadership—moral and
ity of them resemble the latter. physical courage.
Professional knowledge and What is the moral courage? Moral
competence are the sine qua non of courage is the ability to distinguish
leadership. Unless you know what right from wrong and having done
Photo: Indian Army

you are talking about, unless you so, say so when asked, irrespective
understand your profession, you of what your superiors might think
can never be a leader. or what your colleagues or your
The next thing you need for Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw subordinates might want. A 'yes
leadership is the ability to make up man' is a dangerous man. He may
your mind and make a decision rise very high, he might even be-
and accept full responsibility for that decision. come the managing director of a company.
Have you ever wondered why people do not make       He may do anything but he can never make
a decision? The answer is quite simple. It is be- a leader because he will be used by his superiors,
cause they lack professional knowledge and com- disliked by his colleagues and despised by his
petence, or they are worried that their decision subordinates. So shallow—the 'yes man'.
may be wrong and they will have to carry the can. I am going to illustrate from my own life an
According to the law of averages, if you take ten example of moral courage. In 1971, Pakistan
decisions, five ought to be right. If you have pro- clamped down on the province, East Pakistan,
fessional knowledge and competence, nine will be hundreds and thousand of refugees started pour-
right and the one that might not be correct will ing into India. The prime minister, Mrs Gandhi
probably be put right by a subordinate officer or had a cabinet meeting at ten 'o clock in the morn-
colleague. But if you do not take a decision you are ing. The following attended: the foreign minister,
doing something wrong. An act of omission is Sardar Swaran Singh, the defence minister, Mr Jag-



jivan Ram, the agriculture minister, Mr Fakruddin area. It will take me at least a month to get them
Ali Ahmed, the finance minister, Mr Yaswant Rao back and put them in their correct positions. I will
Chavan, and I was also ordered to be present.  require every road, every railway train, every
 There is a very thin line between becoming a truck, every wagon to move them. We are harvest-
Field Marshal and being dismissed. A very angry ing in the Punjab, and we are harvesting in Hary-
prime minister read out messages from chief min- ana, we are also harvesting in Uttar Pradesh. And
isters of West Bengal, Assam and Tripura. All of you will not be able to move your harvest.” 
them saying that hundreds and thousands of refu- I turned to the agriculture Minister, Mr Fak-
gees had poured into their states and they did not ruddin Ali Ahmed, “If there is a famine in the
know what to do .    country afterwards, it will be you to blame, not
So the Prime Minister turned round to me and me.” Then I said, “My armoured division has only
said, “I want you to do something.”    got thirteen tanks which are functioning.” 
I said, “What do you want me to do?”  The finance minister, Mr Chavan, a friend of
She said, “I want you to enter East Pakistan.”    mine, said, “Sam, why only thirteen?” 
I said, “ Do you know that that means war?”  “Because you are the Finance Minister. I have
She said, “I do not mind it is war.”  been asking for money for the last year and a half,
I, in my usual stupid way said, “Prime Minis- and you keep saying there is no money. That is
ter, have you read the Bible?” and the Foreign why.” Then I turned to the Prime Minister and
Minister, Sardar Swaran Singh in his Punjabi ac- said, “Prime Minister, it is the end of April.  But
cent said, “What has Bible got to do with this?”, the time I am ready to operate the monsoon will
and I said, “The first book, the first chapter, the have broken in the East Pakistan area. When it
first paragraph, the first sentence, God said, “let rains, it does not just rain, it pours. Rivers become
there be light” and there was light.  You turn this like oceans. If you stand on one bank, you can not
round and say “let there be war and there will be see the other and the whole countryside is
flooded. My movements will be confined to roads,
the Air Force will not be able to support me and, if
you wish me to enter East Pakistan, I guarantee
Moral courage is the ability to distinguish you a hundred percent defeat." 
right from wrong and having done so, say so “You are the government”, I said turning to the
Prime Minister, “Now will you give me your
when asked, irrespective of what others might orders?” 
think or might want. Ladies and Gentlemen, I have seldom seen a
woman so angry, and I am including my wife in
that.  She was red in the face and I said, “Let us see
war.  What do you think? Are you ready for a war? what happens.” She turned round and said, “The
Let me tell you— it’s the 28th of April, the Hima- cabinet will meet this evening at four o' clock.” 
layan passes are opening now, and if the Chinese Everybody walked out. I being the junior-most
give us an ultimatum I will have to fight on two man was the last to leave. As I was leaving, she
fronts.”  said, “Chief, please will you stay behind?” I
Again, Sardar Swaran Singh turned round and looked at her. I said, “Prime Minister, before you
in his Punjabi English said, “Will China give ulti- open your mouth, would you like me to sent in my
matum?”  resignation on grounds of health, mental or physi-
I said, “You are the foreign minister. You tell cal?” 
me.”  “No.  Sit down, Sam.  Was everything you told
Then I turned to the prime minister and said, me the truth?” 
“Prime Minister, last year you wanted elections in “Yes.  It is my job to tell you the truth. It is my
West Bengal and you did not want the Commu- job to fight and win, not to lose.” 
nists to win, so you asked me to deploy my sol- She smiled at me and said me, “All right, Sam. 
diers in penny pockets in every village, in every You know what I want.  When will you be ready?” 
little township in West Bengal. I have two divi- “I can not tell you now, Prime Minister”,  I said,
sions thus deployed in sections and platoons “But let me guarantee you this that, if you leave
without their heavy weapons.   It will take me at me alone, allow me to plan, make my agreements,
least a month to get them back to their units and to and fix a date, I guarantee you a hundred percent
their formations. Further, I have a division in the victory.” 
Assam area, another division in Andhra Pradesh So there is a very thin line between becoming a
and the Armoured division in the Jhansi–Babina field marshal and being dismissed. Just an exam-

3 No 17 | Aug 2008

ple of moral courage.  Now, those of you who re- phenomenon. Any man who says he is not fright-
member what happened in 1962, when the Chi- ened is a liar or a Gorkha. It is one thing to be
nese occupied the Thag-la ridge and Mr Nehru, frightened. It is another to show fear.
the prime minister, sent for the army chief, in the Finally, for leadership, men and women like
month of December and said, “I want you to their leader to be a man, with all the manly quali-
throw the Chinese out.” That Army Chief did not ties or virtues. The man who says “I do not smoke,
have the moral courage to stand up to him and I do not drink, I do not (No, I will not say it), does
say, “I am not ready, my troops are acclimatised, I not make a leader.
haven't the ammunition, or indeed anything.”  But
he accepted the Prime Minister's instructions, with
Edited extract from Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw’s
the results that the Army was beaten and the coun-
lecture at Defence Services Staff College, Wellington,
try humiliated. November 11th 1998. Quoted in Field Marshal Sam
This takes me to the next attribute: physical Manekshaw: Soldiering with dignity  by Lt Gen Deepinder
courage. Fear, like hunger and sex, is a natural Singh (Natraj Publishers, Dehradun, 2nd Ed, 2002)

Our voice in our history

Academic freedom, private funding and historical research


"THE INDUS Valley civilisation dwarfed Egypt tory to the Pakistanis, and also because India has a
and Mesopotamia in area and population, sur- large Muslim population.
passed them in many areas of engineering and The article has other issues too. Drought, as a
was aggressive in globalisation 5000 years back." reason for the demise of Indus, is scoffed at while
These are words from Andrew Lawler's lead arti- many other reasons, including "change in a society
cle in the June 2008 issue of Science, which had In- that they say emphasised water-related rituals" is
dus Civilisation as the cover story. offered as an alternative. Western scholars quoted
Previously, archaeologists believed that Indus in the article themselves admit their theories are
people got their ideas from Mesopotamia and pure speculation, but  the drying up of Ghaggar-
were a civilisation without deep roots. But accord- Hakra around 1900 BCE is ignored, since it would
ing to new evidence, the Indus civilisation evolved involve a reference to the Rig Veda.
from the Neolithic site of Mehrgarh in Baluchistan. As Western scholars condescendingly set the
Archaeology has also found evidence of occupa- rules of the game—a very different one from that
tion in Harappa dating to 3700 BCE and in Far- practised in their own research centres—Indians
mana in India to 3500 BCE. need to evaluate what can be done. Whining about
Writing about the religious beliefs of the Indus unfairness can be cathartic, but it does not solve
people, Lawler mentions that the proto-Shiva seal the problem.
has fueled speculation that the religious tradition
of Indus helped lay the basis for Hinduism. While Different standards and inept government
there are questions to be answered on their lan- A few years ago, Stanford University offered a
guage, religion and form of government, decades course on the historical Jesus which was an en-
of archaeology has changed the image of Indus quiry based on the scriptures. Biblical archaeology
from a xenophobic and egalitarian society to one is quite popular in Israel which has the same per-
which was vibrant and complex. centage of Muslim population as India. These
Though the article was fairly balanced, it in- techniques are considered ‘communal’ in India.
dulged in the dubious practice of blaming Indian After two centuries of searching and not find-
archaeologists for using Hindu texts as a guide. ing anything spectacular, Biblical archaeology in
This is a no-no, we are told, because it is inflamma- the past half century has morphed into the archae-



dia, the it also plans to popularise the findings of

Deccan College, the Department of Archaeology of
Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda and the
Archaeological Survey of India.
There have been xenophobic comments regard-
ing this institution due to the involvement of
Western professors, even though the professors
don't believe in the discredited Aryan invasion
theory. There is a fear that their application of
Western frameworks on Indian history will result
in misinterpretation.
But instead of complaining about the West, it is
Image: Raja Manohar

a good idea to adopt some of their techniques for

popularising history. Building a Smithsonian style
museum is an insuperable problem for the cash
strapped ASI which can barely manage the
monuments under its care. The Indus Heritage
Reconstructing the past Centre model, where private donors partner aca-
demic institutions to build research centres in
ology of the Biblical period. Archaeologists now which native interpretation of history can happen
say the Exodus did not happen, not by specula- should be considered.  At this time there are only a
tion, but after conducting extensive studies in few determined individuals who are involved  in
Egypt. Indian scholars too should not indulge in correcting Western biases; their efforts are exem-
speculative archaeology, but first Indian archae- plary but not sufficient to make an impact.
ologists and scholars need to be unapologetic Several decades of research have found no ar-
about knowing the scriptures and using them for chaeological evidence for the Aryan invasion the-
clues. ory. It has been discredited through genetic re-
Such is the state of affairs that scholars who search as well. The demise of Indus Valley is un-
work for government funded institutions like the derstood to be due to hydrological changes. Still,
Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and universi- pick up a book like Karen Armstrong's The Great
ties cannot take this approach. The Saraswati Heri- Transformation: The Beginning of Our Religious Tradi-
tage Project was canned by the UPA government tions—which is used as text book   in graduate
as it was seen as an attempt to push the antiquity courses—and you will find that colonial politics is
of Indian civilisation.  still alive and any deviation is branded as nation-
Recently the Indian government cut funding alism.
for a major Sanskrit program in schools because, One Indus Heritage Centre cannot change such
well, India has a large Muslim population and entrenched ideas. To give megaphones to differing
there was a fear that it would instil religious and voices, more Indus Heritage Centres are required.
cultural pride among students. In such an atmos- This dovetails into the larger debate about the
phere, it would be naïve to expect the government  need to free higher education and research from
to lead the battle in understanding our history.  government control and facilitate an atmosphere
The second problem finds mention in Lawler's where private capital can provide funding. With
article itself. Indian archaeologists—R S Bisht in such freedom, scholars would be able to delve into
Dholavira and Vasant Shinde in Farmana—have research as they see fit, instead of surrendering to
done excellent work but they are slow to publish artificial political fears.
and collaborate. The lack of data from people who Five thousand years back our ancestors living
had first access to the location helps in sustaining in the Indus Valley sailed across the vast Arabian
myths about the civilisation. sea in reed boats with cotton sails and made the
best of the globalised Bronze age world. It would
More and merry be a shame, if we do not show even a fraction of
There is an urgent need to create institutions their ingenuity in making our voice heard in a de-
where scholarship is free of bureaucracy and bate about our history.
political interference. One such institution—the
Indus   Heritage Centre—funded by the Global
Heritage Fund is coming up in Vadodara, Gujarat. Jayakrishnan Nair writes about history, archaeology and
Besides starting a Smithsonian-class centre in In- current affairs at Varnam (

5 No 17 | Aug 2008


On whether or not India has a coherent foreign ture of partisan politics in India. This should all
policy certainly be remedied. But to say that India lacks
SIR—I am glad that Harsh Pant has joined the strategic direction is not in keeping with reality.
growing chorus of scholars who have asked for a  
cohesive national grand strategy free of partisan- Dhruva Jaishankar
ship. (“Adamant for drift, solid for fluidity”, by Washington, D.C.
Harsh Pant, Pragati, No 16 - July 2008) However, I
take issue with his analysis that India “continues SIR—India as a great power is not on the horizon
to drift without any real sense of direction”, that for several decades yet. So the discussion really is
there is not “one big [foreign policy] debate…to tantamount to setting up a straw man of "absence
end all minor ones” and that India’s foreign policy of an appropriate foreign policy" based on a pre-
elite is “mired in the exigencies of day-to-day pres- sumption without basis. India is lacking on all
sures emanating from the immediate challenges at counts: it does not have a military establishment
hand”. that can defeat most competitors; it does not have
  Dr Pant’s analysis ignores or downplays the an economy that exercises leverage based on
realities concerning India’s foreign policy estab- strength globally; it does not have a literate popu-
lishment over the past few years, which has seen lation that focuses on the notion of India being a
remarkable ideological continuity over two com- great power; it is not a country that is governed by
peting coalition governments. It should not be a a system of laws as opposed to personalities and
surprise that preparations for the 1998 nuclear dynasties and so on.
tests were initiated by Congress-led governments, Even assuming that India is on the verge of
while the groundwork for the nuclear deal was being a great power, in current circumstances it
laid by the BJP. Dr Pant’s article overlooks com- would be foolish for India to declare its foreign
parisons with other countries—including the policy. There are major transitions taking place
United States—whose foreign policies are consid- globally and there is too much flux in every sense.
erably more fractured and irresolute. How many So I do think that it is fortuitous, if it is indeed in-
other governments have commissioned reports eptitude on India's part as Harsh Pant would have
framing policy regarding its dealings with other us believe, that we don’t have a foreign policy. Bet-
great powers? ter not to have one than to have one that is irrele-
Finally, Dr Pant disregards concrete examples vant.
of Indian foreign policy successes over the past
decade, including India’s negotiations with vari- Sesh Velamoor
ous countries following the 1998 tests and after Seattle
July 2005, as well as India’s remarkable ability to
rise “under the radar”.  A dozen countries in the SIR—Critics demand a kind of public coherent
Asia-Pacific today, are hedging against China. articulation which only a super power can afford.
Other than perhaps Pakistan and China, who is But even the Americans themselves have learnt
hedging against a rising India? that that can all too often be a recipe for embar-
 The real problem is that so much of what is rassment: Cuba, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, al-
being done in Indian foreign policy remains out- most all of Latin America today. Middle pow-
side the public domain and veiled in secrecy, due ers—indeed even major powers--must state their
to its crafting by a career bureaucracy and the na- policies in more circumspect generalisations which



the critics will happily dismiss as “platitudes". of India; China is not supporting any of the insur-
Actually, these generalisations do provide an over- gencies in India; nobody today seriously accuses
arching framework. India of being any other power's subordinate; In-
The fact that India today has strategic partner- dia has a significant presence in South-east Asia;
ships with all major powers is not meaningless. India has an office in Taiwan; the United States has
Nor are the following facts which collectively give made clear the importance it attaches to India in its
some idea of how India has negotiated its way own strategic vision.
through the tumultuous last four decades which All that we can say about the quote from Chur-
have seen transformation of the world power con- chill is that  there are no Neville Chamberlains in
figurations and many deadly conflicts: India is the South Block. Of course India continues to face
today a major military power;  since 1962 India has multiple challenges; so does every other major
not lost one more square inch of its territory (as power.  
Army Chief has clarified the so-called Chinese in-
cursions are products of continuing disagreements
on Line of Actual Control); East Pakistan is now Vinod Khanna
Bangladesh; Sikkim is now an unchallenged part New Delhi

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7 No 17 | Aug 2008
A survey of think tanks

On China policy power in the hierarchy of the fact that it places the billion dollar Phalcon air-
ABANTI BHATTACHA- states in the international FATA and consequently borne radar system to
RYA of the Institute for system. The few occasions Pakistan right at the epi- India. This event marks a
Defence Studies & Analy- that New Delhi has centre of what Mr Markey watershed in Indo-Israeli
ses (IDSA) condemns In- caused much excitement calls the “global threat to ties as the United States
dia for adopting an ap- in Beijing has been with stability”. Thus, a shift in gave its assent for Israeli
peasing stance towards the explosion of the peace- the Iraq-centric focus of weapon systems to be
China in the face of over ful nuclear device in 1998 US policy-makers is evi- sold to India instead of an
forty incursions by the and when figuring in dent with Mr Markey call- equally eager buyer,
PLA into Indian territory American attempts to ing for a “decades long China.
in the first few months of hedge against China. commitment to the re- The growing warmth
2008. China’s strategy is to limit gion”. Of import to Indian of this relationship is evi-
Furthermore, New India to purely South policy-makers is Mr Mar- denced by the May 2008
Delhi seems unable to Asian role while establish- key’s advocacy of gener- signing of agreement be-
respond effectively to Bei- ing itself as the sole pan- ous trade packages for the tween an Israeli company
jing’s unforgiving diplo- Asian power. It is this Pakistani government and and India’s Tata group on
matic stance as evidenced awareness of Beijing’s the continued capacity jointly developing prod-
by Beijing’s latest claim to strategy of tying down building of its state secu- ucts for the Indian defence
the strategically signifi- India in South Asia that rity institutions. Mr Mar- market. Hence, this de-
cant “Finger Tip” region should in turn imbue a key urges the Bush ad- fence relationship is
in Sikkim.  It seems that revitalised China policy ministration to fulfil its evolving into something
Atal Behari Vajpayee’s rather than vision state- pledge of $300 million for more than simply a cash
hopes for a quid pro quo ments of everlasting the Pakistani security es- for arms transfer.  
when he recognised Tibet friendship.    tablishment and use this The authors urge
as an integral part of Ms Bhattacharya iden- as a foundation for further American policy-makers
China in the now infa- tifies the border issue as aid. Thus, it should be- to be cautious when al-
mous, “One China Policy” the core irritant in Sino- come patent to New Delhi lowing the sale of Israeli-
were misplaced.   Indian relations. She rec- that Washington intends US weapons to India for
Moreover, Ms Bhat- ommends that New Delhi not simply to court new fear of American defence
tacharya warns against should work towards a friends in South Asia, but suppliers loosing out a big
being lulled into a false binding final solution of to keep their old ones as chunk of the worldwide
sense of security by the all its border issues with well.   defence pie to their Israeli
seemingly burgeoning China, before China fully counterparts.
trade relationship be- realises her economic and An Indo-Israeli Alliance? But, the most salient
tween India & China. military potential and XENIA DORMANDY and recommendations are
Whilst the figure of bil- dictates a solution.  Ronak Desai of Harvard’s those that argue for India
lions is bandied about, 52 Belfer Center analyse the to continue to nurture its
percent of India’s exports Fixing the FATA burgeoning relationship relationships with West
to China comprise raw PAKISTAN’S FEDER- between India and Israel Asia whilst intensifying its
materials, much of it iron- ALLY Administered Tribal in a July policy brief. The relations with Israel. Simi-
ore. On the other hand, Areas (FATA) have only relationship is character- larly, the report urges the
China is flooding Indian ever been under tenuous ised by co-operation on United States to facilitate
markets with cheap, control by the Pakistani two main issues: first, Indo-Israeli relations, but
value-added manufac- state. In recent years, the counter-terrorism and to do so privately. This is
tured goods. This unequal areas surrounding the intelligence and second, because accusations of an
trade relationship does permeable border deline- defence. American-Jewish-Hindu
not make China a stake- ating Pakistan & Afghani- Both India & Israel nexus, in response to
holder in India’s prosper- stan have served as safe have long been victims of Bush’s Axis of Evil are
ity as the liberal interna- haven for anti-Western terrorism and have ex- gaining credence and
tionalist thesis would mujahideen and thus pose changed intelligence on could cause a domestic
propound. Rather, it in- significant threats not only terrorist groups, their fi- backlash in India and
troduces another conten- to coalition forces in Af- nances and logistical ca- even greater antagonism
tious issue in an already ghanistan but to the pabilities. Furthermore, against America in the
tense bilateral national security of the Israel has shared its exper- Muslim where it finds
relationship.  United States. Daniel tise in the field of counter- itself in already vitiated
But, the most sophisti- Markey, a former policy terrorism by providing environment.   
cated point that the author planner for South Asia at anti-insurgency training to
makes is about China’s the US State Department, Indian forces. But, the
strategic assessment of now at the Council on most publicised aspect of
India and it deserves to be Foreign Relations lays out the Indo-Israeli relation-
fleshed out. India is a comprehensive strategy ship lies in the realm of Vijay Vikram is a student at
hardly a blip on the Chi- for “fixing the FATA”.  defence co-operation.   the School of International
nese strategic radar, The most significant In 2004, Israel com- Relations, University of St.
ranked as a mediocre aspect of this report lies in pleted the sale of a $1.4 Andrews.

8 No 17 | Aug 2008

Photo: Carol Mitchell

Hold steady in Afghanistan
India is on the right track and it should stay that way

THE SUICIDE BOMBING attack on the Indian The dilemma confronting Indian policy-makers
Embassy in Kabul on July 7th—and the several on Afghanistan is not merely limited to the
smaller attacks on Indian interests that preceded country’s specific interests and engagement in the
it—has generated an important debate on India’s reconstruction activities, but stems from India’s
Afghanistan policy. There are calls for weighing quest to play a larger role both in regional and
and possibly revisiting the current policy, one that global affairs.   
is essentially based on reconstruction and long- India has been a key promoter of Afghanistan’s
term stabilisation of the country. integration with South Asia—as a ‘land bridge’
Since these attacks are a clear signal to India to connecting South Asia with energy-rich Central
either wind up or scale down its operations in the Asia. India’s push for Afghanistan’s inclusion in
insurgency-ravaged country, analysts have de- the South Asian Association for Regional Co-
manded a massive revamp of India’s present pol- operation (SAARC) was primarily directed at
icy of mere engagement in reconstruction activities seeking economic and regional integration of these
through aid in favour of an overt militaristic pos- two regions.
ture in order to secure its long-term interests. Analysts note that the future trade in the region
While a close analysis of the Indian engagement in would benefit Afghanistan more than it is likely to
Afghanistan reveals high rate of success, it also benefit India. It is thus not surprising that
indicates vulnerability and susceptibility of Indian Afghanistan is far more interested in these projects
projects and personnel are vulnerable to system- than the low-scale options that Pakistan offers.  
atic targeting by the forces of destabilisation in that Afghanistan’s potential role as a land bridge
country. further reinforces the rationale of India’s

9 No 17 | Aug 2008

engagement with Afghanistan. Pakistan daily under School Feeding Programme

vehemently opposes India’s growing influence in administered through World Food Programme.
Afghanistan and Central Asia. Elements within • Reconstruction of hospitals including the
Pakistan’s military and intelligence establishment Indira Gandhi Institute for Child Health (IGICH)
view the bonhomie and greater engagement in Kabul
between India and Afghanistan with suspicion. It • Reconstruction of Habibia School in Kabul
has perennially sought to establish a client regime that was extensively damaged during the
in Afghanistan, which it considers as its “strategic decades of incessant conflict. A number of
backyard”. It essentially wants to hold a handle on teachers of this school underwent training in
India’s links with Afghanistan and beyond. This New Delhi.
objective is clear from its present policy of
allowing Afghanistan transit rights for its exports India’s aid primarily revolves around capacity
to India, and at the same time, disallowing goods building and active participation of the local
to move from India to Afghanistan. communities. In line with this, aid policy revolves
on training, transfer of technology and Afghan
Reconstruction initiatives ownership. More than 3,000 Afghans have ac-
India has chosen to involve itself in the reconstruc- quired skills like carpentry, plumbing, masonry
tion of the nascent democracy and has resisted the and tailoring under Indian training programmes.
temptation of getting involved in US and NATO- Every year 1000 Afghan students are awarded
led military operations. India has committed itself scholarships for higher education and skills devel-
to the long-term development and stabilisation of opment. India is also involved in training Afghan
Afghanistan as it considers such a goal as counter- police and military officers. 
ing the forces of destabilisation in the region.   Most of the international aid directed at short-
With US$750 million of pledged aid, India is
the fifth largest bilateral donor to Afghanistan.
Some of the major Indian projects include: 
• Construction of the 218 km road from Zaranj Indian aid projects have generated tremen-
in the south-western Nimroz province to dous goodwill among ordinary people. Non-
Delaram in the Farah province, to facilitate
movement of goods and commodities from participation in military operations alongside
Afghanistan to Iranian port of Chabahar. This multinational forces has helped it retain this
route, once fully operational, would
considerably reduce Afghanistan’s dependence
on Pakistan for access to the sea. It allows Indian
goods to reach Afghanistan bypassing Pakistan. term high-visibility projects in Afghanistan gets
It also provides Central Asian countries with an dissipated by reliance on alternative mechanisms
alternate route. of delivery—like NGOs and Provincial
• Construction of 220 kV double circuit Reconstruction Teams (PRTs). This reliance on
transmission line from Pul-e-Khumri in the alternative mechanisms and lack of co-ordination
North-eastern province of Baghlan to Kabul and with the Afghan government has done little to
a 220/110/20 kV sub-station at Kabul under the build structures of governance. Consequently, little
North-east Power System project to bring power has been done to strengthen the legitimacy or
from neighbouring countries to Kabul. extend the reach of the Afghan government in the
• Reconstruction and completion of Salma insurgency afflicted southern and eastern regions
Dam Power Project in Herat province that would of the country. Indian aid projects, on the contrary,
provide 42 MW of power. through consultations with local communities,
• Telephone exchanges in 11 provinces have generated tremendous goodwill among
connecting to Kabul, and expansion of the ordinary people. India’s non-participation in
national television network by providing an military operations alongside multinational forces
uplink from Kabul and downlinks in all 34 has helped it retain this image. 
provincial capitals. 
• Digging of 26 tube wells in north-west The threat of the resurgent Taliban 
Afghanistan. India’s long term engagement in Afghanistan
• Humanitarian food assistance of one million poses significant challenge to Pakistan’s policies in
tonnes of wheat in the form of high protein that country. As a result, Indian projects as well as
biscuits distributed to 1.4 million school children Indians in Afghanistan, over the years, have be-



come targets of the Taliban-al Qaeda combine and occupied at least a half-dozen villages in
their sponsors, the ISI. Arghandab, a district in central Kandahar,
The Taliban have remained an instrument of threatening to carry out attacks on Kandahar city,
Pakistan’s foreign policy in Afghanistan. Pakistan just 16 km away. It took the Afghan National Army
provided the sanctuary and funding which helped (ANA) and NATO forces three days to dislodge
the Taliban to regroup, recruit and execute  ever- them from the area.  
increasing attacks in Afghanistan.
  Pakistan has diverted the huge military aid it Security for the Indians projects and personnel  
received from the US for the war on terror to its Providing security to the ongoing Indian infra-
anti-India programmes. At the same time, structure projects thus remains a critical issue in
Islamabad has signed multiple peace deals with Afghanistan. Given the enveloping insecurity, any
the Taliban, who are carrying out renewed and amount of security cover appears only minimal.
lethal attacks within Afghanistan. In fact, these From November 2002 till about February 2006, a
have not even built any sustained peace in minuscule contingent of 40 Indo-Tibetan Border
Pakistan. However, making such deals has Police (ITBP) paramilitary personnel protected
emerged as the sole strategy of Pakistan’s military India’s embassy and four consulates.   However,
establishment.  following the killing of Border Roads Organisation
Sanctuary in Pakistan’s tribal areas bordering (BRO) driver Maniappan Kutty in November 2005
Afghanistan, deep ethnic links on both sides of the and the subsequent threat by the Taliban demand-
border and steady support from Arab and other ing the withdrawal of Indian reconstruction work-
jihadist networks combine to make the Taliban and ers, the Ministries of External Affairs (MEA) and
their associates indomitable forces. According to a Home Affairs (MHA) re-assessed the threat per-
ception. Based on its recommendation, the Indian
government sent around 300 ITBP troops to pro-
The ITBP security is available only for the pro- vide security to the BRO personnel. The ITBP per-
sonnel were specially trained in proximate security
jects taken up by the Indian government. Pri- and were placed under a Commandant-rank offi-
vate Indian companies operating have to cer. The commandos provided patrolling and es-
cort security to BRO personnel working on infra-
manage with available Afghan guards. structure projects.  
The task of providing security to the
infrastructure projects appears even more gigantic
due to their dispersed nature, mostly in the far
recent report, “a concatenation of at least 14 flung areas of the country. The 300 BRO personnel
different terrorist and insurgent (outfits) based in who worked on the recently completed Zaranj-
Pakistan regularly traverse the border to target Delaram road link project in the insurgency
Afghan security forces and the American and afflicted provinces were provided security by 320
NATO military units stationed there.”  ITBP personnel and 1400 Afghan security guards,
As a result, security in Afghanistan has rapidly who have been increasingly targeted and killed.
deteriorated. Starting late 2007, there has been an According to unconfirmed reports, around 30
increase in the number and intensity of suicide rocket attacks have been made on BRO personnel
attacks, mostly in south, south-east and east but engaged in building the stretch of the road across
increasingly in Kabul and its neighbouring Nimroz in the first half of 2008 alone.
provinces. Since May 2008, the US and coalition The ITBP security, however, is available only
forces’ fatalities in Afghanistan have exceeded the for the projects taken up by the Indian government
death toll in Iraq. The Taliban have issued serious and certainly not for the private Indian companies
threats to escalate its campaign to topple the operating in Afghanistan. For example, the New
Karzai government and drive away foreign troops. Delhi-based Water and Power Consultancy
The growing Taliban formidability was on full Services (WPCS) working on the Salma dam
display in the daring raid on Kandahar’s main projects had to manage with the available Afghan
prison on June 13th. Around 1,000 prisoners, guards. A similar option is exercised by BSC/C&C,
including over 400 Taliban insurgents, escaped the largest Indian construction company in Kabul.
after dozens of insurgents detonated a truck bomb However, unlike the BRO, this company which
and overwhelmed the prison's Afghan guards. completed projects in southern Afghanistan,
This attack was followed by another raid on June including the Herat-Kandahar link, has never
16th when Taliban insurgents infiltrated and come under any major attack.  

11 No 17 | Aug 2008

Policy Recommendations  India must train Afghan forces, especially the

Terrorist attacks, whether perpetrated by the Tali- Afghan police, to augment its counter-insurgency
ban and its affiliates (including the Haqqani net- capabilities, vis-à-vis the Western nations who are
work) or directed by the ISI, cannot be a reason for more focussed on building the conventional
India to drastically alter its current policy in that capability of the ANA. India must invest more in
country. However, they do highlight the need to human and economic capital in the Pashtun
protect Indian projects and personnel in the face of population in the southern and eastern part of
increasing violence in the days to come. India Afghanistan that are most affected by the Taliban
needs to maintain its present course as scaling insurgency. Importantly, it must continue to weave
down operations would be viewed as succumbing its aid policy around greater Afghan participation
to pressure. At the same time, sending more troops and ownership for long-term feasibility of its
or adopting militaristic posture would serve as an development projects. 
active propaganda material on India’s military
ambition and could be used to turn Afghan public Shanthie Mariet D’Souza is Associate Fellow, Institute
opinion against the country. for Defence Studies & Analyses, New Delhi.

A bigger military presence is essential
...if India is to shape Afghanistan’s future.

AFGHANISTAN IS at the cross-roads and India, as the goodwill created by Zaranj-Delaram highway,
a close ally of the Karzai government, has an im- which has provided a road link between
portant role to play. The debate on Indian in- Afghanistan and Iran. These nations could well be
volvement in Afghanistan is sharply polaris- more amenable to an Indian military presence than
ed—between one group, which wishes to restrict they have been to the United States and its NATO
Indian involvement to providing non-military allies in Afghanistan.  
support, primarily in the infrastructure and hu- The Pakistani state will be denied the strategic
man resource development projects; and the an- depth it seeks by installing a favourable
other, which advocates Indian military involve- dispensation in Afghanistan. The Pakistani
ment in Afghanistan. The arguments dominating establishment will be compelled to divert its
the debate are put forth by those opposing Indian energies from their eastern to their northern
military involvement in Afghanistan: problems of borders. Loud protests can be anticipated from
overreach, difficult experiences of the US and Pakistan against India’s active military
NATO forces, uncertain commitment of the US in involvement in the region, but the involvement of
the region and fear of trapping the Indian armed the United States will restrict Pakistani antipathy
forces in the Afghan quagmire. The most entreat- to voluble complaints. US officials have, moreover,
ing argument put forth is that the current policy of long been frustrated at what they view as
soft power projection pursued by India there has Pakistan's failure to do enough to combat militants
so far been successful and thus warrants no along its border with Afghanistan. 
change.  An Indian military involvement in Afghanistan
will shift the battleground away from Kashmir and
Shifting the battleground the Indian mainland. Targeting the jihadi base will
A significant Indian military presence in be a huge boost for India’s anti-terrorist
Afghanistan will alter the geo-strategic landscape operations, especially in Kashmir, both militarily
in the extended neighbourhood, by expanding and psychologically.
India’s power projection in Central Asia. India has Till the time Islamic fundamentalist forces are
historically had a friendly relationship with both active in Afghanistan and Pakistan, India’s battle
Iran and Russia. With Iran, India can also ride on to contain terrorism in Kashmir will always be a



defensive one. This is because ISI and other  

jihadist forces across the border have the ability to Military paradigm
calibrate the level of terrorism in India. India can The memory of India’s intervention in the Sri
counter this effectively only if it has the capacity to Lankan civil war in the late 1980s animates any
strategically ratchet up pressure either of discussion on foreign troop deployments. But fears
Pakistan’s fronts. that an Indian deployment in Afghanistan will
meet the same fate are unfounded. For in the
Consequences of failure intervening decades, the Indian Army has
Some defence analysts have argued that India successfully fought a similar insurgency in Jammu
should not commit itself militarily to Afghanistan & Kashmir. Indeed, an Afghan deployment will
because Afghanistan will fall, yet again, to the include the he Indian Air Force and the Indian
Taliban as US and NATO forces are likely to pull Navy and help enhance India’s joint operations
out soon. Well, this argument ignores the fact that capability. It will also enhance their external co-
unlike Iraq, Afghanistan is related to the terrorist operation capital as they will operate in a truly
attacks on the American homeland and winning it multinational environment with armed forces
is about ensuring US national security and pride. It from advanced countries.  
is clear, and more so from the pronouncements of Like the 13,000 US soldiers under the Operation
both presidential candidates, that the US is in Enduring Freedom operating independently
Afghanistan for the long haul. Moreover, the alongside the NATO-ISAF, the Indian military
majority of troops in Afghanistan are a part of the presence should have an independent command
structure. Geographically Indian troops could be
deployed in western Afghanistan, allowing US
Indian troops could be deployed in western and ISAF forces to concentrate on the provinces
adjoining Pakistan. 
Afghanistan, thereby allowing US and NATO-
ISAF forces to concentrate on the provinces India’s soft power
The presence of Indian military in Afghanistan
adjoining Afghanistan. and provision of aid for infrastructure
development and human resource training in the
International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), a war-ravaged country are not mutually exclusive
NATO mission, mandated by the UN, where a options. In any case, the ferocity of the enmity of
significant share of soldiers and equipment comes jihadist elements against the Indian state will not
from European countries.   India must move to be subdued, if India shuns military deployment in
reinforce their commitment to see the job done. favour of solely executing developmental projects.
The consequences of a Taliban victory in Moreover India will find it much easier to
Afghanistan will be terrible for India to bear. successfully execute civil projects once it has
Clearly, letting US and NATO forces fail in stabilised the security climate by taking military
Afghanistan is not an option for the Indian state. control of a region. Soft power has to be an
There can be no better strategic justification for important component of any successful counter-
sending our troops to Afghanistan than to secure insurgency operation; but it has to be augmented
our long-term interests.   by hard power – of having military boots on
Some Indian analysts mistakenly contend that ground. It will also send a strong message to the
this is a war waged by the US against Islamic local Afghan nationals that India is in there for a
countries and India will end up being a stooge of long haul, putting lives of its soldiers to risk, and
the West by sending its troops in Afghanistan. not restricting itself to merely throwing some alms
This view ignores the fact that India has been at them, through developmental aid or projects.  
under attack from Pakistan-supported jihadists
that have imperilled the Indian state for nearly
two decades now. India cannot be dissuaded from
framing an appropriate response to terrorism just Sushant K Singh is a resident commentator on The
because this act closely aligns India with the US. Indian National Interest.

13 No 17 | Aug 2008


The myth of Taliban tribalism

The folly of trying to set tribes against each other

ONE OF the most frustrating assertions masquer- brokers, and the nature of Pakistan’s support en-
ading as analysis in the discussion of the conflict in sured that any independent khan-based resistance
Afghanistan is that the Taliban insurgent groups groups would be marginalised. As a result, the
are being driven by Pashtun tribal loyalties: be- tanzims—almost all of which were Islamist—s-
cause Mullah Mohammed Omar is a Ghilzai Ho- lowly became the primary power-groups in Af-
tak and Hamid Karzai a Popalzai Durrani, they are ghanistan during the early 1980s.
somehow compelled toward war since their tribes Thus was both religion politicised and politics
have historically struggled for control of the coun- made religious: especially in areas where the mu-
try. jahideen faced increasing military pressure, com-
Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, manders formed ad hoc coalitions in localities that
the Taliban are so dangerous because they break they called shuras. The shura is an important con-
traditional tribal loyalties. cept in Islamic rule, and the decision to call these
councils shuras rather than the traditional jirgas
Why tribe matters less and less signified the Islamisation of political relationships.
One of the key organisational units in Afghanistan In practice, shuras resembled tribal jirgas in some
during the Soviet War were the tanzim, which areas, but the use of the term implied that the
loosely means “political parties.” In reality, they
were at once political parties, NGOs, militia re-
Photo: Babasteve

cruiters, religious movements, and sectarian ar-

mies. As such, they played a complex role in the
collapse of traditional village society, and helped
to create a society into which the Taliban could
The tanzim were not new to Afghanistan at the
start of the Soviet war—since at least 1973, when
Gulbuddin Hekmatyar formed the original Hizb-i
Islami as an anti-communist movement later based
in Pakistan, they have been at least a marginal
presence in Afghan politics. But the way they were
promoted at the expense of other traditional Af-
ghan power dynamics permanently altered society.
The result was a dramatic reversal of how Af-
ghan society was normally structured. As Barnett
Rubin, a US expert on Afghanistan, noted in a 1995 A quick shura
book, “the biggest impact of the international sys-
tem on local power structures in the early 1980s council should make decisions based on Islamic
was the penetration of village and tribal society for rather than tribal principles. The mujahideen
the first time by political parties.” This penetration formed both commanders’ shuras and ulama shuras.
disrupted the traditional agricultural base of local Alongside the tanzim, the qawm system of pri-
power, and in their new positions of authority the mary identity among Pashtuns was evolving as
tanzims relied on smuggling to raise funds. The well. In the 1980s, for example, Kunar was domi-
process of “outsourcing” revenue, as it were, nated by a   qawm-based coalition, but this was
vastly diminished the role and importance of the quickly subsumed by the Peshawar-based muja-
khans who used to be the main community power hideen establishment as the fighting evolved. It



was a monumental shift in how society organised the Durrani are over-represented, and make up a
itself. In an article for American Anthropologist slim majority of the Taliban’s current leadership.
studying this phenomenon, Nazif Shahrani notes: Furthermore, the neo-Taliban’s recruitment strate-
Ethnicity and kinship, which are expressed lin- gies are based on Pashtun nationalism and pan-
guistically through the same terms, qawm (peo- Islamism, not any kind of tribal pleas.
ple, tribe, group), wulus (nation, tribe, relatives), This has enormous implications. Previous gov-
and tyfah (clan, tribe, group), represent the same ernments in the region were able to “rule” the
or similar ideological frameworks in Afghani-
Pashtuns by exploiting tribal divisions, whether
stan. Together with Islam, they provide the
most fundamental bases for individuals and undermining individual leaders by exacerbating
collective identities and loyalties... tribal division or simply by enacting rules that
Thus, while the qawm became almost more im- hold tribal leaders responsible for their commu-
portant as a means of mobilising the community nity’s actions.
into action under one of the tanzim (or even the The current structure of the Taliban, as a de-
government, depending on the ethnic group), the tribalised insurgency, means that the usual meth-
specific nature of their identity bases and makeup ods of working within the tribal system are far less
came to be much more strongly associated with effective, if at all. This is why the reconciliation
the larger militant group to which they belonged. effort has stalled—it just doesn’t apply. Since the
This is the same process that elevated ethnicity as Taliban is a movement that is inclusive of tradi-
a primary driver in national politics, as many tionally rivalrous tribes, even some rivalrous eth-
qawm organised under one of the ethnic or sectar- nicities, that rivalry cannot be exploited to undo
ian tanzims that then became, for lack of a better the movement.
term, voting blocs at the national level. Unfortunately, there are still those, such as Re-
The tanzim interacted with the rest of society in publican presidential candidate John McCain, who
a variety of ways, whether Jamiat-i-Islami under think a tribal approach to counterinsurgency—as
Ahmed Shah Massoud acting a bit like a quasi- in Anbar province of Iraq—is the best way to
Hizbollah (that is: a militia that performs social tackle the insurgency in Afghanistan. Such an ap-
functions, such as running schools and hospitals), proach could not be less effective if it was de-
Mahaz-i-Milli Islam and Hezb-i-Islami (Khalis) signed to be. Since the Taliban recruit from local
building support through the encouragement of communities for the majority of their fighters, try-
extremist religious demagogues, or Mr Hek- ing to "sell" an uprising against "foreigners"—the
matyar’s method of recruiting boys from the ma- general dynamic of the so-called "Anbar Awaken-
drassas to train into warriors for Lashkar-i-Isar. ing"—simply will not apply.
The end result, however, was that politically Corruption and disenfranchisement are driving
motivated religious leaders came to dominate Af- the insurgency: the Taliban find their most eager
ghan politics and society. Thus, after the Soviet recruits in the provinces with the most corrupt
withdrawal, these leaders lost their common governors. They promise justice, and good Islamic
cause, and degenerated into a horrific civil war. values, and find traction in this because that is
Ahmed Rashid’s classic book Taliban documented precisely what the Karzai government does not.
this fairly well, demonstrating how it led directly Addressing the economic and structural drivers of
to the rise of the Taliban—a group, by his own por- the insurgency—and from a long term perspective,
trayal, of illiterate hicks who didn’t even under- the continued appalling state of Afghan educa-
stand the Islam they were using as a rallying cry. tion—is the ultimate way of undermining the Tali-
ban. Dropping more bombs and kicking down
A de-tribalised insurgency more doors is not. Recognising the folly the United
In short, there is nothing tribal about the Taliban, States seems to wilfully commit is of incredible
because by the time they emerged so much of the importance. It is, sadly, missing from almost all
normal tribal and community relationships and discussion of “what to do” about the resurgent
rivalries that would ordinarily underpin society Taliban.
had been destroyed. Even the “original” Taliban,
had a variety of both Ghilzais and Durranis in its
The neo-Taliban might have been different, ex-
cept that as Antonio Giustozzi has documented in
Koran, Kalashnikov, and Laptop, there was still a va- Joshua Foust is a defence consultant with TSI Executive
riety of Ghilzai and Durrani (and others) in the Consulting. He blogs about Central Asia and US foreign
Rabbani Shura’s membership. In fact, Karzai's tribe policy at Registan (

15 No 17 | Aug 2008
PRS Legislative Research: Monsoon Session 2008—What’s in store

THE UNITED Progressive scheme in 2004 so that This Bill was stalled due schemes have been rolled
Alliance (UPA) govern- pension for new govern- to opposition from the left out. 
ment recently won the ment employees was paid parties, primarily on the Currently, foreign
confidence vote in the Lok based on the employee’s provisions related to ac- educational institutions
Sabha.  The monsoon ses- contribution and invest- quisitions and voting are not permitted to oper-
sion of Parliament is ten- ment gains during service rights. ate in India.  The Foreign
tatively scheduled to be rather than a defined Until a recent policy Educational Institutions
held from August 11- benefit system. The Pen- that allowed private sector Bill, 2007 was circulated
September 5.  sion Fund Regulatory ownership and manage- among Rajya Sabha MPs
With the reshuffle in and Development ment of airports, the Air- in March 2007, but has yet
the UPA coalition (the Left Authority Bill, 2005 sets a ports Authority of India to be introduced.  It faced
parties replaced by the framework for the devel- (AAI) owned and oper- opposition from the Left
Samajwadi Party), there opment and regulation of ated all airports. AAI also who argued that higher
could be a change in the this new pension system, acts as a regulator, which education should not be
government’s priorities.  which provides old age can lead to conflict of privatised and foreign
Bills that have been stalled income security for all interest.  The Naresh institutions should not be
due to opposition from individuals. The BJP has Chandra Committee rec- permitted. The Bill pro-
the Left parties, may be publicly stated its support ommended an independ- poses to allow foreign
brought back for for this Bill, ent regulator for airports, educational institutions to
consideration.  However, The Forward Con- which prompted the gov- offer educational services
not all initiatives have tracts (Regulation) ernment to introduce The in India and proposes a
been blocked by the Left, Amendment Bill, 2008 Airports Economic Regu- regulatory system.  It re-
and a few have been un- amends the Forward Con- latory Authority of India quires all foreign universi-
successful due to internal tracts (Regulation) Act, Bill, 2007.  The Bill estab- ties in India to register
differences within the 1952.  The Bill changes the lishes an independent with the University
Congress Party and with role of the regulator for regulator for all major Grants Commission un-
other UPA allies.  forward markets in com- airports.  The Standing less they collaborate with
The official list of Bills modities—the Forward Committee has recom- a recognised Indian
for the Monsoon session Markets Commission mended that all 125 air- institution.  The Bill also
will likely be announced (FMC)—from a govern- ports in India should be has conditions related to
only in the second week of ment department to an brought under the pur- quality control, and speci-
August. Here, we guess independent regulator. It view of this regulator. fies “prevention of com-
which Bills the govern- enables trading in com- The National Commis- mercialisation” as a condi-
ment may now prioritise, modity derivatives, in- sion for Enterprises in the tion for granting approval.
especially those that were cluding options, which is Unorganised Sector In 2004, the govern-
opposed by the Left but explicitly prohibited now.  (NCEUS) recommended ment proposed raising the
fall under the broad pri- In January, the govern- two Bills—one each for cap for foreign direct in-
orities of the previous ment promulgated this agricultural and non- vestment in insurance
NDA government.  We Bill as an Ordinance but it agricultural sectors—to from 26 percent to 49
also describe some Bills did not get it ratified in provide specific benefits to percent.  The measure was
that could have been Parliament on opposition workers.  Following this, stalled due to opposition
passed without the Left, from the Left.  the government intro- from the Left, and the
but faced opposition from The State Bank of duced The Unorganised government did not pur-
within the Congress India (Amendment) Bill, Sector Workers’ Social sue this until 2006 when it
Party.  Finally, we high- 2006 seeks to amend the Security Bill, 2007. How- constituted the Narasim-
light a few Bills that have State Bank of India (SBI) ever, this Bill differs sig- han Committee.  The
broad political support, Act, 1955 to reduce RBI’s nificantly from those committee examined the
but are pending in shareholding from 55 per- drafted by the NCEUS.  issue and recommended
Parliament.  The success cent to 51 percent for eq- Unlike the NCEUS rec- giving the government the
of the government in pi- uity shares of issued capi- ommendations, this does flexibility (through a noti-
loting these Bills through tal. (A subsequent Act has not specify benefits.  fication) to change the 26
Parliament would depend transferred the RBI’s Instead, it provides a percent cap as needed. 
on its ability to build a shareholding to Govern- framework for formulat- This process requires Par-
majority support within ment of India, and an ing welfare schemes spe- liament to pass an
the UPA coalition and amendment to this Bill is cifically for the unorgan- amendment to the Act. 
perhaps, with some par- required to reflect this ised sector.  Importantly, it The Finance Minister has
ties in the opposition. change.)  introduces a portable indicated that a suitable
Government deficits The Banking Regula- smart card to be issued for insurance Bill will be
and a growing pension tion (Amendment) Bill, targeted delivery of bene- introduced. 
bill have caused many 2005 proposes to amend fits to each worker.  The
states to delay pension the provisions related to Finance Minister, in his
payments to retired acquisition of banks, vot- speech during the trust Compiled by Sarita Vanka,
employees.  The govern- ing rights and transactions vote, referred to this Bill, analyst, PRS Legislative Re-
ment revised the pension with related companies.  and said that some search (



When it’s good to slow down
The why and what next about rising inflation

MANY COUNTRIES are busy joining the double- employment-generating situation. Put differently,
digit inflation rate club.   Philippines, Indonesia, an inflation rate of 10 percent above (there is noth-
Vietnam and India are there. Thailand is fast con- ing sacrosanct about 10 percent, it could be any
verging. Latest inflation reading in Thailand is number and it might vary from country to coun-
over 9 percent. Singapore and China have high try) is well beyond any theoretical inflation-
single-digit inflation rates and could cross over. unemployment trade-off. 
Last heard, the Indian government was planning a Reducing inflation from such high levels would
publicity campaign to tell its countrymen and not kill employment but, on the contrary, create
women that not all of the inflation is their fault.  jobs, as it would help to stabilise inflation expecta-
Even a country like Korea that has a target for tions at a more moderate level and encourage both
the headline rate (different from the core inflation entrepreneurial activity and consumption unaf-
rate that America focuses on; core inflation rate fected by the erosion of disposable income by high
excludes goods and services whose prices are ris- inflation.
ing) is responding to the inflation rate well above
its target by talking much and doing little. Inflation targeting lies abandoned
Some academics have suggested that developing
Long past the unemployment-inflation trade-off countries abandon formal inflation targeting, as
Governments not just in Asia but the world over any attempt to bring inflation closer to the target
are run by economists who would swear in their would entail loss of employment and output. 
sleep that there was no trade-off between inflation It is not clear how many countries experiencing
and employment or output. But, forced by reality a double-digit inflation rate have a formal inflation
to live by their theories, they are failing the test targeting regime. Even if they had one, it is crystal-
miserably. They are behaving as though there is a clear that they cared little for it as otherwise, they
trade-off. They are getting it wrong.   would not have waited until inflation crossed 10
Inflation between 10 percent and 15 percent is percent. So, there is no need to call up on them to
already destroying employment and output as it abandon inflation targeting. They have already
squeezes household wallets and the entrepre- done so. 
neur’s margins. That does not sound like an Yes, that is indeed the problem behind high
inflation today. Nearly twenty five years after
Paul Volcker began to turn the tide against infla-
tion in the United States, the battle against infla-
tion appears much like George W Bush’s “mission
accomplished” in Iraq. The enemy is still going
strong. Worse, much like President Bush, it ap-
pears that central banks never really fought the
real enemy. It is just that inflation had remained
low due to external factors other than their policy
Image:Vikram Nandwani

Did they really defeat inflation or simply took

For much of the eighties and nineties, the price of
crude oil remained at rock-bottom levels as did the
prices of most commodities. When they began to
rise, their effect was offset by the rise of China as a

17 No 17 | Aug 2008

low-cost producer and India as a low-cost service Indeed, it is time to question the exalted place
destination. Further, Anglo-Saxon developed na- that pursuit of growth at all costs has come to oc-
tions had successfully beaten back the power of cupy in economic discourse. That more is pre-
the working class in the eighties and nineties. ferred to less is the guiding principle of modern
Then, a series of crises in Asia and Latin America economics. It is time to count the costs of that
kept economic growth muted, reducing demand mantra. 
for commodities and dampening prices.  Central banks can alleviate the costs of single-
These effects have not only begun to wane but minded pursuit of growth, if they wish to, by put-
also their growth patterns (China) and macro- ting growth on a lower pedestal and elevating
economic policies (monetary policy in China and other concerns such as inflation. But they are
fiscal policy in India) have begun to exert consid- scared that it would spiral out of control. It ap-
erable upward pressure on commodities’ prices. pears that, for all the growth over the last five
Pay-back time for blithely ignoring the risk of in- years, the world economy is still a fragile house of
flation has arrived now, as broad-based inflation is cards that it would come tumbling down if it were
here to stay.  to have even a year of meaningful recession. If
Faced with their first real test of fighting infla- governments and central bank officials prefer
tion, many central banks both in the developing more growth to ward off the consequences of
and in the developed world are failing the test. growth, then the world economys are already on
Central banks all over the world—under govern- the same slippery slope as drug addicts are. 
ment pressure or not—are too reluctant to allow This ties in neatly with the theme of the paper,
their economies to slow, let alone suffer a "Mirage of fixed exchange rates" by Obstfeld and
recession.  Rogoff (1995): it is possible to have fixed exchange
In other words, central banks, it has become
evident, happened to be running monetary policy
when conventional inflation was declining of its Governments the world over should allow
own accord. Their expansionary monetary policies
fuelled inflation in asset prices. Everybody was growth momentum to slow. Central banks
happy and they praised central banks for having should be given untrammelled freedom to
tamed inflation when, in reality, they just got
lucky.   manage short-run demand while governments
It is very similar to how commentators wrongly work on augmenting long-term supply in sus-
credit financial innovation for the last 20 years of
moderation in economic cycles. Financial innova- tainable ways.
tion had nothing to do with it. The same factors
that kept inflation at bay also helped dampen out- rates but sometimes it could be too costly. Simi-
put and demand cycles. In fact, the only contribu- larly, if they believe that recession would tame in-
tion that financial innovation made to this great flation, central banks can have it but they wonder
moderation of output and inflation volatility was if they would pay too high a price for it. 
to end it. Similarly, the only contribution central The price that they are paying and are willing
banks are now making towards low inflation is to to pay to maintain growth is, of course, inflation
ensure that we don’t enjoy it for a long time to because they are miscalculating that inflation costs
come. won't be too much compared to the cost of a reces-
sion. In the final analysis, they may still end up
Should more be preferred to less at all times (or, getting the very slowdown they are straining to
at all costs)? avoid slightly later but with even nastier conse-
For many reasons, we need a recession in the quences.
world. Many fast growing economies have used
up their economic slack. This is evident not just in Fiscal policy to support the poor and monetary
the price of commodities, but in rents, wages and policy to restrain demand
in the prices of other services such as education What then is the answer? Governments the world
and healthcare too. Environmental damage and over should allow growth momentum to slow. It is
climate change impacts are mounting. Resources, simply unsustainable in many ways. Central banks
including water, are being depleted rapidly. World should be given untrammelled freedom to manage
economic growth just cannot go on at the pace of short-run demand while governments work on
last five years. augmenting long-term supply in sustainable ways. 



Further, given that short-term demand man- not need fiscal boosters in any case. Among the
agement would squeeze the poor and that infla- countries that have been guilty of such a conduct
tion would take time to come down, governments in recent years is India and it might yet pay a price
should use targeted fiscal policy to support the for it in coming years.  
poor and the very poor with direct income trans-
fers instead of tampering with the price discovery But, don’t bet on it happening
processes.  The rest simply have to come to terms The reaction to the modest increase in the still-
with it. administered prices of energy products in India
  Instead, price-caps subsidise income catego- recently is a clear example of leadership failure at
ries that do not need government support. These all levels and across the political spectrum. Short-
further reduce incentives for producers to increase term political gains and misguided public angst
production to meet demand, which is what rising dominate national interest. When the Congress
prices are all about. India is guilty of such follies. Party returns to Opposition benches, they will re-
Price signals are essential for producers to boost turn the compliment. It hurts and will hurt India.
supply and to restrain demand. Further, the mid- Badly. It appears that the Indian democracy subsi-
dle and the upper income classes that benefited dises mediocre and inferior leadership more than
during boom times should be willing to or be per- the Indian government subsidises commodities.
suaded to share the costs that boom conditions
have entailed.
This underscores too the importance of running
prudent fiscal policies during boom times. Quite
simply, one saves for the rainy day in good times V Anantha Nageswaran is head of investment research
and to not overspend the fortune. Good times do at Bank Julius Baer. These are his personal views.

The historical roots of the services sector
...calls for a strategy that plays to India’s strengths

INDIA’S RECENT spectacular rate of economic service-led development may be more in tune with
growth, combined with the sheer size of its popu- the legacy of India’s past.
lation, means that it is beginning to take its place
as one of the key players in the global economy. Measuring long-run productivity performance
One way in which India stands out from other Although we know a great deal about the long-run
Asian economies is in the better performance of its development of developed countries, we know
service sector. Whereas other emerging Asian much less about the past performance of less de-
economies, such as China, have experienced veloped countries such as India. In recent research,
growth led by dynamic manufacturing perform- we seek to remedy this by drawing on quantitative
ance, India’s growth has been led by sectors such information collected by the British during their
as business services. period of colonial rule in India to compare sectoral
This is sometimes used to portray India’s per- productivity performance in Britain and India
formance as fragile, focusing attention on short- from 1870 to the present.
comings of the industrial sector. But as much of Our research demonstrates that India’s recent
manufacturing becomes increasingly automated service-led development has deep historical roots.
and “de-skilled”, it is not clear that During the colonial period, India’s comparative
manufacturing-led growth is such a good long-run productivity performance was already better in
bet on the road to development. It may be that a services than in industry or agriculture. This em-
focus on services will prove to be a better long-run phasis on services is in line with much recent re-
route to prosperity. Furthermore, this pattern of search on long-run growth among the developed

19 No 17 | Aug 2008

economies, which finds services playing a key role

in comparative economic performance in the late Explaining India’s better performance in services
nineteenth and early twentieth centuries as well as The productivity gap between Britain and India
during more recent times. has been smaller in services than in industry or
India has long lagged behind Britain. Between agriculture since the First World War. The recent
1870 and 1970, output per worker in India fell emergence of a dynamic service-led Indian econ-
from around 15 percent of the UK level in the omy thus has long historical roots. But why did
economy as a whole, to less than 10 percent as In- the service sector perform better in India, even in
dia fell further behind. Since the 1970s, India has colonial times? Our study suggests that the answer
begun to catch up on the United Kingdom, but by can be found at least in part in India’s education
the end of the twentieth century it was still further system.
behind than in the early 1870s. Even with the rapid This may at first sight seem surprising, since
growth achieved by India in recent years, it will India’s record of investment in human capital, as
take time for India to regain its relative position of well as in physical capital, has been less than im-
the late nineteenth century. pressive. Under-investment in education overall
has clearly contributed to India’s disappointing
Productivity by sector productivity performance over the long run.
Agriculture has an important part to play in ex- But there has been a long-standing bias in edu-
plaining this disappointing overall Indian produc- cational investment towards secondary and higher
tivity performance. The sector remains India’s education, which has produced a small group of
largest employer, accounting for three-quarters of highly educated workers, who have worked
Indian employment in the late nineteenth century largely in services. This is relatively straightfor-
and nearly two-thirds of employment today. ward to demonstrate empirically for the recent
Furthermore, agriculture is the only sector past, when data are available on educational at-
where India has continued to fall further and fur- tainments of workers by sector.
ther behind, with labour productivity dropping It can also be shown for the colonial period,
from around 10 percent of the UK level in the late where data on literacy are available by caste. A
nineteenth century to around one percent at the small group of high castes, including not only the
end of the twentieth. It is clear that India needs to priestly Brahmins and warrior castes but also trad-
increase productivity in agriculture if overall pro- ing casts, desired secondary and higher education
ductivity performance is to improve substantially. as well as primary education. However, the major-
Much of the existing research on economic ity of the population, working in agriculture and
growth and development emphasises the role of cottage industry, required little education to per-
industry. This is particularly so in the context of form their jobs and had little scope for advance-
twentieth century Asia, where the high-profile ment because of the caste system, so demand for
cases of Japan, South Korea and China have all education was depressed.
been seen as manufacturing-led development.
The Indian case, however, does not conform to Conclusions
this pattern, and this shows up in the comparative The first message to take away from this research
productivity data. Indeed, although there have is that India’s service-led development may be a
been fluctuations in comparative India/UK pro- strength rather than a weakness. The emphasis on
ductivity in industry, there has been no trend, with manufacturing as the key sector for growth and
India at around 15 percent of the UK level in the the neglect of services has now largely disap-
late nineteenth and late twentieth centuries. peared in the analysis of economic performance in
Only in services has there been an improve- the developed world, but continues to hold sway
ment in comparative India/UK labour productiv- in the analysis of developing countries.
ity, from around 15 percent in the late nineteenth The second message is that history matters for
century to around 30 percent by the end of the long-run economic performance. A development
twentieth century. Services have thus played a strategy that is in tune with the legacy of the past
positive role in India’s productivity performance has a better chance of success than one that re-
throughout the period, limiting Indian relative quires the eradication of that legacy.
decline before 1870 and leading the process of
catching-up from the 1970s. The service sector
productivity growth is not confined to modern Stephen Broadberry is a professor and Bishnupriya
services such as finance—it is also visible in trade Gupta is an associate professor at the University of
and transport. Warwick. Courtesy:



Photo: Sainath KM

Profiting from education

Resistance against commercialisation is fruitless

INDIA’S POSITION in the emerging world of the global economy—it is a loss to society because
globally interconnected economies will doubt- they will never be able to fully contribute to it.
lessly be dictated by how successful it is in over- Yet the spending for education is large. The
coming the severe limitation of its education sys- Indian government has allocated around US$8.6
tem. billion for the financial year 2009 for education;
With an estimated 360 million of its citizens in annual private spending on K-12 tuition is an ad-
the school-going age—a third of its entire popula- ditional US$20 billion; tutoring adds another US$5
tion—it has an unmatched potential of becoming a billion a year; private professional education is
major economic powerhouse. It has an opportu- another US$7 billion. The education sector is ex-
nity to shape not only its own future but the future pected to grow to around US$70 billion by 2012.
of the world at large. The challenges it faces in re- Compare that to the US$45 billion spending for
alising that potential are many but the most for- power, telecom, and transportation infrastructure
midable of them are those that are in a sense “self- in the 11th Five Year Plan (2007-2012).
inflicted.” The greatest hurdle in India’s path to Current regulations allow only non-profit trusts
the future is the near-monopoly government con- to run educational institutions. The results are dis-
trol of the education system. appointing and point to a failed public education
A quick review of the numbers illuminates the system. Private sector schools do deliver much
challenges and opportunities. Of the total 360 mil- more than the public sector schools and do so
lion who should be in the kindergarten to standard comparatively more efficiently. Private schools
12 (K-12) system, around 140 million children are account for only 7 percent of around 1 million K-12
not in school. Not just a private loss—they will schools and yet they accommodate 40 percent of
never have the opportunity to participate fully in the total enrolled. Studies only confirm what meets

21 No 17 | Aug 2008

the eye—-public sector schools are plagued by with the motivation to profit from it.”
teacher absenteeism, lack of basic infrastructure, But the market does find a way around and
and poor performance. India urgently needs to somehow manages to overcome to some degree
remedy the shortage of quality private schools. the serious defects of the hobbled education sys-
The situation in tertiary education is not very tem. However it is a costly exercise. Infosys spent
good either. Published figures show India gradu- US$120 million for a training facility employing
ates 350,000 engineers and IT professionals a year, 300 teachers to train its raw recruits; Wipro trains
compared to China’s 600,000 (and the United its recruits for three months before putting them to
States’ 130,000). The quantity appears reasonable work; Satyam trains thousands in-house similarly.
until one recalls that only about one out of four Therein lies a very clear and important lesson: that
engineers is employable. This creates the para- for-profit entities can and do promote social wel-
doxical situation of vast numbers unemployed fare in the education sector—they train people to
engineers on the one hand, and on the other em- become productive, thus enhancing private and
ployers desperately seeking skilled engineers. social welfare.
Comparison with another comparably large The argument for liberalising the education
developing country—namely China—is instruc- system is simple enough to state. Globalisation,
tive. By 2005, China was graduating around 12,000 which is essentially the free movement of capital
PhDs a year, about seven times what is did in 1995; in pursuit of profits, is an established fact. It means
India maintained an average of 700 PhDs every that global capital will continue to move differen-
year during the same period. tially to those parts of the world where it most
The education system is supply-constrained. profitably complements the human capital avail-
Around 400,000 compete in the entrance examina- able. Even though motivated by profit, global capi-
tion for 10,000 seats in the few Indian Institutes of
Technology, for instance. Another 240,000 took the
common admissions test for the Indian Institutes Unable to find the opportunity domestically,
of Management. On aggregate, over 2 million stu-
dents take entrance tests for seats in the 1,200 pri- Indians spend an estimated US$10 billion
vate and 400 public professional schools. Test every year for higher education abroad. If
preparation is a huge market but ultimately the
spending is directly unproductive and only serves the sector were to be liberalised, and private
as a means of rationing the limited quantity on investment allowed, then the capacity con-
supply relative to demand.
Unable to find the opportunity domestically, straints will be released.
Indians spend an estimated US$10 billion every
year for higher education abroad. This lends sup- tal has the capacity to contribute directly to rapid
port to the claim that if the education sector were economic growth, as evidenced by the growth sto-
to be liberalised—that is, if for-profit domestic and ries of the East Asian economies in the past and of
foreign private sector entities were allowed en- China more recently.
try—then the capacity constraint will be released. Only those economies that have the human
Furthermore, market competition would ensure capital to absorb global capital will benefit from
that the quality of the education would also im- globalization. Modern manufacturing is the basis
prove. for any large modern economy. It requires skilled
The private sector is essentially denied the op- manpower and therefore the emphasis on educa-
portunity to fully participate in the education sec- tion and training. Currently India does have a
tor. Resistance against commercialisation of educa- small but significant position in the skilled services
tion is held with what approaches religious convic- sector of business process outsourcing and infor-
tion. Profit from education is anathema to Indian mation technology enabled services. But the news
policy-makers. The Supreme Court of India in a there is that shortage of skilled manpower is be-
1993 decision wrote: “Imparting of education has coming a reality.
never been treated as a trade or business in this India needs to diversify its talent pool because
country since time immemorial. It has been treated economic development demands the ability to
as a religious duty. It has been treated as a charita- produce a diverse set of goods and services. Fur-
ble activity. But never as a trade or business...The thermore, for India’s economic growth, it has to
Unni Krishnan decision does not imply that private serve as a global talent pool for all aspects of a
schools cannot exist but states that they should not modern economy—from services to manufactur-
‘commercialise education’ and impart education ing to research and development. Otherwise the



unskilled and poorly educated will find them- helped with educational loans from private and
selves unemployed in the face of structural public sector financial institutions.
changes that are guaranteed in a globalised world. For K-12, the private sector already does ad-
Most importantly, for driving domestic innova- dress 40 percent of the market. By removing the
tion, at the higher end of the education spectrum, restriction that only allows non-profit institutions,
one not only has to have quantity but world-class the capacity will grow and thus permit the scarce
quality which can only be achieved if one has public funds to address the needs of the 140 mil-
world-class institutions. lion children not in school currently. The role of
India has the raw numbers but lacks the finan- the government could then shift from funding
cial resources to transform them into human capi- schools to funding school children.
tal in world-class educational institutions. Fortu- What Indian education urgently requires is a
nately, global capital itself can help India build different way of approaching the matter. The os-
capacity for creating human capital. The argument tensible reason for not allowing private for-profit
institutions is to safeguard the interests of those
who are poor. But one can be sceptical of that and
By removing the restriction that only allows a reasonably argue that through its monopolistic
control, the government and its agents find an op-
non-profit institutions, the capacity will grow portunity to extract rents from the supply-
and thus permit the scarce public funds to constrained market. This creates a system in which
only the rich can afford to pay the rents and the
address the needs of the 140 million chil- poor get rationed out.
dren not in school currently. constraints will India cannot afford the current education sys-
tem any more. Too many of its children are denied
be released. an education today. Globalisation is a double-
edged sword: it rewards talent as handsomely as it
for it is again straightforward. Return on invest- penalises those who are unskilled. It is quite pos-
ment in education is positive and significant in the sible for India to employ global capital to solve its
case of individuals. Therefore, given the ability to local problems—provided that policy-makers un-
pay for it and the opportunity to gain an educa- derstand that voluntary trade is beneficial to both
tion, most people would educate themselves to parties and both profit from it. Undoubtedly
their full potential. Therefore there are immense global capital will profit from investing in educa-
profits in education in India that global capital tion in India. But that is only because India will
cannot afford to ignore. profit even more from an educated population. 
The Indian government has to withdraw fully
from tertiary education. The private sector has the
incentive and the ability to provide tertiary educa-
tion. Private sector investment will release the ca-
pacity constraint in education. Those who are un- Atanu Dey is chief economist at Netcore Solutions and
able to pay for the education upfront can be blogs about India’s development at

Have you tuned in to our podcasts? Listen online or download onto your computer and MP3 player
Specially produced editions and interviews at

23 No 17 | Aug 2008


Four books about Pakistan

On nuclear proliferation, military politics and society

A planeload of Farooqs flown back to the Chaklala airbase in Raw-

1986-87. Gen Zia ul Haq wanted to signal Paki- alpindi where they were met by Gen Arif and a
phalanx of ISI officers. Arif demanded that
stan’s possession of a nuclear bomb to India. But Khan’s deputy step forward and he nervously
he had to do so without damaging US President emerged from a crowd of namesakes…
Ronald Reagan’s ability to lie to Congress and the But in the midst of the chaos, everyone had
American people. He chose to have Abdul Qadeer forgotten to bring back the wives and children
Khan interviewed by Kuldip Nayar. of all the Mohammed Farooqs, who were aban-
Subtlety, unfortunately, was not one of Dr A Q doned to make their own way back from the
Khan’s many vices. haj.

“Mr Nayar, if you ever drive us to the wall, we These are extracts from Deception: Pakistan, the
will use the bomb. You did it to us in East Ben- United States and the global nuclear weapons conspir-
gal. We won’t waste time with conventional acy (by Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark,
weapons. We will come straight out with it.” Atlantic Books), perhaps the most comprehensive,
The Observer splashed with it, ‘Pakistan has the
and yet the most approachable book on the sordid
A-Bomb’, on 1 March 1987, quoting Khan as
saying, ‘What the CIA has been saying about saga of A Q Khan, his centrifuges and immense
our possessing the bomb is correct. They told us damage that China, Pakistan and the United States
that Pakistan could never produce the bomb did to the cause of nuclear non-proliferation.
and they doubted my capabilities, but they now America and the Islamic Bomb: the deadly compromise
know we have it.’ (This was exactly the oppo-
(by David Armstrong and Joseph Trento) is a
site of what President Reagan had been declar-
ing to the US Congress every year—Ed) briefer account of the same story, making it all the
more engrossing through an account of a British
All hell broke lose. Damage control was at-
customs investigation that was thrown off the rails
tempted. Mr Nayar was labelled, what else, a
by powerful interests.
’scummy RAW agent’. Shyam Bhatia, his London
Both books read like fast-paced spy thrillers,
colleague, ‘a Hindu dog in the pay of Jerusalem’.
because that is what they are. The only unfortu-
Even Pamella Bordes (remember her?) was
nate thing about it is that the story is all too real,
dragged into the affair. But to no avail. Dr Khan’s
and none of the people who have endangered the
admission “continued to fizz and whirr like a fire-
security of millions of people have been punished.
cracker, infuriating Zia, who demanded answers
After the recent elections in Pakistan, for a mo-
and a scapegoat”.
ment, there was even talk of making Dr Khan the
Khan had suggested Mohammed Farooq—his
president, replacing General Pervez Musharraf.
deputy director in charge of foreign procure-
ment—had been behind a plan to reveal every-
thing to the Indian journalist. But Farooq was Musharraf’s retirement job
not in Pakistan, having decamped to Mecca on The complex web of subterfuge that has been
haj with his family used to save Pakistan, the United States and others
As Washington continued to berate Zia, he got from embarrassment was recently threatened by,
[Lt Gen K M Arif] to call Pakistan International well, none other than Dr Khan himself. In the
Airlines. Arif demanded a plane and a pilot.
event, his outspokenness certainly put paid to
They were dispatched, along with a military
team, to bring back Mohammed Farooq from whatever chances he might have had of making it
Saudi Arabia. ‘But the military team did not to the Aiwan-e-Sadr, but General Musharraf’s job
know what Farooq looked like. No one had security remains under threat.
thought to give them a photograph,’ recalled Dr In case you thought that the presidency is the
Shafiq, the son of Khan’s aide, Brigadier Saja- only government job General Musharraf holds,
wal. ‘They dared not fail. They did what all
you are wrong. Because, in addition to being
terrified men would have done and seized
every Farooq holding a Pakistan passport they president of Pakistan, it turns out that he is also
could find on haj.’ A planeload of Farooqs was numberdar of the village of Chak 13 BC near Ba-



hawalpur in Punjab province. He owns real estate of a democratic government, the issue of how to
out there in rural Punjab, allocated to him in the re-balance the civil-military relationship, in eco-
proper tradition of the Pakistan army. nomic aspects as much as in politics, is of great
Numberdars are rural bigwigs appointed by the importance. There are a number of critical ques-
state to collect water taxes and land revenue. The tions in this regard. For instance, can the military
numberdar is not paid by the government, but the establishment be allowed to retain its corporate
office wields tremendous political clout in the vil- interests as the price for vacating the corridors of
lage. In any case, he’s in good company—General power? Or, is it necessary to dilute its hold over
Mohammed Aziz Khan, Brigadier Ejaz Shah, economic power before its political power can be
Lieutenant-General Moinuddeen Haider and weakened? How should Pakistan’s donors adapt
Lieutenant-General Shahid Pervez, all farmers their aid policies?
since retiring from the army—are numberdars in
nearby villages. Pakistani journeys
This nugget comes from Ayesha Siddiqa’s Mili- What does Pakistan stand for, then? ‘The idea of
tary Inc: Inside Pakistan’s Military Economy, a dili- Pakistan is still vague. It does not have a de-
gent study of the political-economic edifice that is mocracy. It can not say we are not India. It is
the Pakistani military establishment. From corn- groping to find a reason for its existence. A
country should not need to find a reason for its
flakes to trucking, from farms (complete with existence.’
serfs) to real-estate development, the Pakistani
Ideologies do. ‘Countries do not need ideolo-
military establishment is a dominant feature of the gies. They are there. By historical accident, be-
Pakistani economy. But it is hard to understand cause of geographical reasons, people find it
necessary to form a group. It is too far back to
ask whether Pakistan should have existed.’
Pragmatic Euphony, a blog on The Indian National
Now that Pakistan has a semblance of a Interest recommends Farzana Versey’s maiden
democratic government, the issue of how to re- book, A Journey Interrupted: Being Indian in Pakistan
(Harper Collins India). Reproduced below is the
balance the civil-military relationship, in eco- blog’s review of the book.
nomic aspects as much as in politics, is of The title of the book is slightly misleading. It
lends an assumption of the book being a trave-
great importance. logue. Travelogue it is, at a very basic level, but an
unusual, unconventional and slightly freaky one at
that. If one were to put it rather blandly, it is a col-
why the Musharraf regime banned the book, and lection of vignettes about the many journeyings
forced its author to flee the country: there is noth- made by the author to Pakistan between April
ing in the book that is unknown to most observers 2001 and May 2007. These vignettes form an en-
of Pakistan (and certainly not Pakistanis them- riching and arresting panoply of emotions, phi-
selves). Moreover, it is written in English, in aca- losophies and disconcerting facts; this array of ar-
demic style, which would hardly make it a popu- ticulations is played at many levels simultane-
lar bestseller in Pakistan. ously. Anyone who has followed the journalistic
As a documentation of the Pakistani armed writings of the author will vouch for her creative
forces’ business activities, Dr Siddiqa’s book is un- writing skills, her mastery over the language and
rivalled, and has become indispensable for anyone her vivid usage of imagery.
who wishes to understand the Pakistani estab- The superficial layer in the book is that of a
lishment. But Dr Siddiqa need not have set it in an conventional travelogue. The author’s keen obser-
academic framework of a comparative study of vations about the PIA flight attendants and curious
military establishments and their commercial ac- noting of the Bismillah ir Rehman ir Rahim on the
tivities. The framework is useful, but distracts at- public address system as the seat belt signs are
tention from what really is a book about the Paki- switched on, are pitched at that level. The conven-
stani military establishment. However, you can tional travelogue bit is interesting and enchanting,
skip these bits and jump right into the main but the book really takes off when the author
course. What is missing from the book---and some- delves deeper into serious issues that plague the
thing that one hopes the author will include in the common history of the subcontinent, across the
next edition of this excellent book---is a prescrip- divided geography.
tion of how Pakistan might attempt to dismantle Her journeys are reflective of the changing
the “MilBus”. Now that Pakistan has a semblance geopolitical landscape with the 9/11, NATO in

25 No 17 | Aug 2008

Afghanistan, Kashmir, Gujarat, Karachi, Lal Mas- Her clash of identities---of   religion, culture,
jid and many other incidents impacting the period gender and nationality---makes for a potent con-
of her reportage. Against this fast-changing back- coction when blended with her independent take
drop, she grapples with the conflicts between so- on all issues.
cieties, politics, nationalities, religions and gen- Reviewing Ms Versey’s book in India Today,
ders; these conflicts play out in her interactions Dilip Bobb writes that “she concludes that real
across a wide section of society on a “foreign” peace will never come: being anti-Indian is a cru-
land. She meets their cultural icons and ventures cial component of the Pakistan identity despite
out into other unexplored nooks and corners of their obsession with Bollywood films and Indian
that “land of the pure”---gays, junkies and other television soaps. She writes with anguish and pes-
minorities and even artists, as they jostle for space simism, a journey into hearts of darkness with no
on the periphery of the society. The eight pages in light at the end of that distorted prism, mainly be-
Chapter 10 that deal with and feature an interview cause as she astutely observes, ‘every few years
with the legendary poet Ahmed Faraz are an abso- Pakistan writes a new fiction’ to keep the embers
lute delight as they allow us to peep into the revo- alive.”
lutionary poet’s mind. The book ends with a well-compiled essay ti-
As she progresses in her work, she peels off tled “From Jinnah to Jehad”. At the end of a won-
another layer to reveal an unfulfilled search for her derfully engaging personal tale and irreverent
real identity---as a Muslim, as an Indian and as a takes, this academic piece on subcontinental his-
woman. The author is brutally honest and disarm- tory jars a little. It seems incongruous with the first
ingly frank in dealing with her often conflicting two sections, although read separately in isolation,
anxieties tugging her in different directions. It is the essay would still make a nice serious reading
disconcerting, many a times surprising, and at piece. The essay confirms the fear that the author
times even shocking as she bares her inner emo- is trying to pack just about everything in these 250
tions and relates them to her experiences. All this odd pages, which can make the book sound dis-
while, there is an implicit attempt to clean the jointed and jerky at many places.
cobwebs of confusion in her minds. Despite char-
tering such a wide territory during a tumultuous
period, most of the questions she raises and others
ask of her remain unanswered at the end of the
book.   Probably, it is unwise to seek destinations
when only the journey and the exploration en route Nitin Pai is editor of Pragati and blogs at The Acorn
matters. (

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