Reading Peter Treston in The Guardian took me back to the early 1990s when while living and working as an Indian diplomat in Islamabad one saw the then prime minister Nawaz Sharif liberating his country’s entrepreneurial skills and latent talents through an ambitious reform programme and Pakistan’s economy surging. (In 1991, India had foreign exchange reserves sufficient for meeting import needs for 6 weeks and had pawned its bullion in London to raise money to add to the IMF loan, just to stay afloat.)
Treston is right, Pakistan has become the casualty of the US-led war in Afghanistan. It could have been as buoyant as India despite its elites being corrupt, inefficient and insensitive as India’s. India’s success story is that it is today able to chug along despite its inept and notoriously corrupt government. It’s the ‘atmosphere’, Stupid!
Pakistan’s got viciously polluted with the debris falling across the Khyber Pass. In spite of the ‘heavy burdens’ (what a beautiful way Treston has with words!) — that Pakistan carried (“preoccupation with India, the futile attachment to Kashmir, the hapless swings between corrupt democracy and army autocracy”), it did have a fighting chance to be alongside India in growth trajectory but for George W. Bush creating mayhem and anarchy in its neighbourhood.
What is appalling, as Treston points out, is that India also didn’t exactly make it easy for Pakistan. It hustled Islamabad in those fateful days 10 years ago by clapping ecstatically when the US invaded Afghanistan and rushing into the bandwagon as ‘natural allies’ without the foresight to know that the Hindu Kush is a graveyard for invaders and there could be no victors in this war — or that the raison d’etre of the invasion was questionable, that the US’ intentions were far from clear, or that foreign military presence would only stymie the region’s genius to sort out problems.
India’s permanent establishment is now (unwittingly, perhaps) triggering a proxy war in Afghanistan by training and equipping the Tajik militia from Panjshir Valley that goes under the rubric of the ‘Afghan armed forces’. And, that too, when only 18% of the Pakistani nation regard India as a ‘threat’. Our chaps may end up bringing the US down from its high rating at 59% and regaining their traditional rating as Pakistan’s enemy number 1 — and restoring the ‘back channel’ to its special status as permanent substitute for a normal relationship. Read Treston here.
Posted in Politics.
– October 10, 2011