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India: Rising Great Power or Paper Tiger?

Is India what The Economist magazine describes a "paper elephant" in spite of huge increases in its military spending? Has this perception been reinforced by post-Pulwama events between India and Pakistan? Have the failures of Indian military in Balakot and Kashmir caused a reassessment of the western narrative that says "India is a rapidly rising and Pakistan is collapsing"?

India-Pakistan Military Spending: Infographic Courtesy The Economist

Do Indians, particularly its Hindu Nationalists, suffer from what Indian diplomat and politician Sashi Tharoor has described as "India's Israel Envy"? Is the Hindu Supremacist ideology similar to Naziism and Fascism? Does it represent a serious threat to world peace? Can it lead to a global disaster with billions dead if the two South Asian nations target each other with nuclear weapons?

Have post-Pulwama events brought Kashmir on the international agenda? New York Times editorial board has written: "As long as #India and Pakistan refuse to deal with their core dispute — the future of #Kashmir, India’s only Muslim-majority state — they face unpredictable, possibly terrifying, consequences." Does this suggest that Kashmir issue is back on the agenda? IOC, the world's second largest organization of 57 countries, has condemned “in the strongest possible terms recent wave of Indian terrorism in occupied Jammu and Kashmir that has resulted in the deaths of 48 people in the month of November alone, making 2018 one of the deadliest years." Is this a rejection of Indian position on Kashmir?

Viewpoint From Overseas host Misbah Azam discusses these questions with Sabahat Ashraf (iFaqir) and Riaz Haq (www.riazhaq.com).

https://youtu.be/tEWf-6cT0PM

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Views: 58

Comment by Riaz Haq on March 11, 2019 at 2:41pm

Are #India’s Think Tanks filled with retired armchair generals Cheered on by #Indian media, Promoting Conflict With #Pakistan ? #Modi #Hindutva - Bloomberg

https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2019-03-07/are-india-s-t...

Peace appears to have been given a chance in South Asia. Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, striving to play the statesman, has not only released a captured Indian pilot but also detained several alleged Pakistani militants. Still, there’s good reason to worry that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi might once again ratchet up tensions against a nuclear-armed neighbor as he approaches the most crucial election of his political life.



Modi’s militant nationalism, loudly amplified by Indian television anchors, isn’t the only flammable element in a volatile situation. India’s burgeoning military-intellectual complex also deserves the world’s close and skeptical scrutiny.

One wing of this community consists of superannuated and clearly bored generals, titillating hyper-patriotic television anchors and themselves with visions of do-or-die wars and glorious victories. Their jingoism far exceeds the capacity of the Indian military, which, an internal report recently revealed, is encumbered with “vintage” equipment.

Perhaps more worrying, though, are the credentialed members of what a recent report by Brookings India identified as India’s “strategic community.” Though much more sober than the fire-breathing talking heads on cable TV, they seem equally attracted to the “temptation,” as U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower put it in his classic warning against the military-industrial complex, of “some spectacular and costly” military action.

Perched in privately funded think tanks, many of these connoisseurs of “surgical strikes” did not seem in the least shocked or disturbed that an Indian leader who has, as the Economist put it last week, “made a career of playing with fire” was now playing with Armageddon by launching airstrikes into Pakistan. Rather, they echoed the Hindu nationalist consensus that India was now finally dictating the terms of engagement with its rival — a triumphalism shattered the very next day when Pakistan raised its own threshold for conflict with India by striking within Indian territory and bringing down an Indian warplane.

Eisenhower’s fear in 1961 of vested interests acquiring “unwarranted influence” is freshly pertinent in today’s New Delhi. With hopes rising that India would soon be a superpower closely allied to the U.S., as well as a strategic counterweight to China, much Indian and foreign money has gone into creating a luxurious ecosystem for strategic experts and foreign-policy analysts.There’s ample reason to fear that such an often murkily funded and influential security establishment outside government won’t serve the cause of democracy and peace in the Indian subcontinent. In the U.S., a series of reports by the New York Times in 2016 alleged that on all kinds of issues, including military sales to foreign countries, think tanks were “pushing agendas important to corporate donors, at times blurring the line between researchers and lobbyists.” If intellectual dishonesty mars analysis in Washington, it can be expected to be more pervasive in New Delhi, where the line between paid service for corporate donors and research work is even fuzzier.

It may seem melodramatic to fear that a few well-connected intellectual racketeers might endanger democracy and social stability. But America under President Donald Trump confirms that Eisenhower was right to worry that an axis of government, corporations and intellectuals-on-hire might skew national priorities, or that, pathologically obsessed with an enemy, his country might degenerate into “a community of dreadful fear and hate.”

Already by 1984, George F. Kennan, arguably America’s finest diplomat, was lamenting that the “habit” of constantly preparing for “an imagined war” with the Soviet Union had “risen to the status of a vast addiction of American society.” This habit, Kennan presciently warned, “would be difficult to eradicate in the future,” long after the U.S.S.R. had disappeared.

In India, Hindu nationalist politicians and their sympathizers in the media have similarly turned an imagined punitive war on Pakistan into another vast addiction, and the military-intellectual complex increasingly aggravates this national habit. Focused on Islamabad’s backing for the militant insurgency in Kashmir, they’ve successfully externalized a problem that is primarily domestic: the Modi government’s resolve to suppress, rather than address, Kashmiri demands for democracy and civil liberties.

Ajai Shukla was one of the very few mainstream Indian writers on security issues to point out that “the wider story in a crisis with such potential devastation is that the Modi government has launched a nationwide anti-Muslim agenda that regards Muslims as unpatriotic, Pakistan as a cunning and implacable foe and Kashmiri separatists as its willing tools.” Thus, Shukla argues, Kashmiris protesting against Indian brutality have come to be widely seen as “Muslim traitors, rather than the manifestation of a political problem that has to be discussed and resolved, not militarily crushed.”

Zealously pushing a military solution to a political problem, India’s political, media and security establishment suffered a debacle last month. They ought to “learn,” as Eisenhower exhorted, “how to compose differences not with arms, but with intellect and decent purpose” — above all in Kashmir, which is the key, now more than ever, to the health of civil society in both India and Pakistan.

Comment by Riaz Haq on Sunday

#India, #Pakistan threatened to unleash #missiles at each other. #India threatened to fire at least six missiles at Pakistan, and Islamabad said it would respond with its own missile strikes “three times over”. #Balakot #Kashmir #Modi https://reut.rs/2HzpotM

The way in which tensions suddenly worsened and threatened to trigger a war between the nuclear-armed nations shows how the Kashmir region, which both claim and is at the core of their enmity, remains one of the world’s most dangerous flashpoints.

The exchanges did not get beyond threats, and there was no suggestion that the missiles involved were anything more than conventional weapons, but they created consternation in official circles in Washington, Beijing and London.

Reuters has pieced together the events that led to the most serious military crisis in South Asia since 2008, as well as the concerted diplomatic efforts to get both sides to back down.

The simmering dispute erupted into conflict late last month when Indian and Pakistani warplanes engaged in a dogfight over Kashmir on Feb 27, a day after a raid by Indian jet fighters on what it said was a militant camp in Pakistan. Islamabad denied any militant camp exists in the area and said the Indian bombs exploded on an empty hillside.

In their first such clash since the last war between the two nations in 1971, Pakistan downed an Indian plane and captured its pilot after he ejected in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir.

Hours later, videos of the bloodied Indian pilot, handcuffed and blindfolded, appeared on social media, identifying himself to Pakistani interrogators, deepening anger in New Delhi.

With Prime Minister Narendra Modi facing a general election in April-May, the government was under pressure to respond.


That evening, Indian National Security Adviser Ajit Doval spoke over a secure line to the head of Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), Asim Munir, to tell him India was not going to back off its new campaign of “counter terrorism” even after the pilot’s capture, an Indian government source and a Western diplomat with knowledge of the conversations told Reuters in New Delhi.

Doval told Munir that India’s fight was with the militant groups that freely operated from Pakistani soil and it was prepared to escalate, said the government source.

A Pakistani government minister and a Western diplomat in Islamabad separately confirmed a specific Indian threat to use six missiles on targets inside Pakistan. They did not specify who delivered the threat or who received it, but the minister said Indian and Pakistani intelligence agencies “were communicating with each other during the fight, and even now they are communicating with each other”.

Pakistan said it would counter any Indian missile attacks with many more launches of its own, the minister told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“We said if you will fire one missile, we will fire three. Whatever India will do, we will respond three times to that,” the Pakistani minister said.

Doval’s office did not respond to a request for comment. India was not aware of any missile threat issued to Pakistan, a government official said in reply to a Reuters request for comment.

Pakistan’s military declined to comment and Munir could not be reached for comment. Pakistan’s foreign ministry did not respond to a Reuters request for comment.

---
U.S. security advisor Bolton was on the phone with Doval on the night of Feb 27 itself, and into the early hours of Feb 28, the second day of the Trump-Kim talks, in an attempt to defuse the situation, the Western diplomat in New Delhi and the Indian official said.

Later, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who was also in Hanoi, also called both sides to seek a way out of the crisis.

“Secretary Pompeo led diplomatic engagement directly, and that played an essential role in de-escalating the tensions between the two sides,” State Department deputy spokesperson Robert Palladino said in a briefing in Washington on March 5.

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