17 May 2013

India and China: Strategic partners in global governance reform

May 16, 2013 

China-India relations have "strategic significance" and "global impact" as both are large developing countries and emerging markets, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang told visiting external affairs minister Salman Khurshid last week, and on his return, the minister, in a press interview, said that “India and China have to collaborate for the Asian century”. Shaping this vision should be top of the agenda of the high-level dialogue later this month. 

Changing the political relationship between two rising powers seeking to establish their territorial integrity, identity and rightful place in world affairs requires that both countries use the opportunity provided by their shared interest in global governance reform to develop close cooperation, which will lead to a demarcated border rather than let a colonial legacy dominate bilateral relations. 

The re-emergence of India and China is a response to globalization, with states gaining in influence not because of the size of their military but the strength of their economy. According to an objective analysis of long-term economic trends by the OECD around 2030 Asia will be the world’s powerhouse just as it was prior to 1800. Currently the OECD has two-third of global output compared to one-fourth in China and India, and by 2060 these two countries will have a little less than half of world GDP with OECD’s share shrinking to one-quarter. China is expected to surpass the US by 2016 to become the largest economy in the world, and India’s GDP is expected to exceed that of the US by 2060, increasing from 11% to 18% as a share of global GDP while China’s share will remain at 28% during this period, and the relative share of both the US and the Euro area will decline. 

By 2060, in developing countries demand for food, water and energy is expected to double. Reshaping a global system that served the natural resource and security needs of 20 per cent of the population to one that will share prosperity and peace with all in an interdependent world will require a common definition of the collective future of countries. Therefore, India and China will have to reconstruct international relations theory, as the focus of both realists and idealists is on material force and material benefit whereas we now need a global vision of sharing natural resources and technology. A shared vision of prosperity for four billion people who have yet to benefit from globalization will provide the legitimacy to reshape the global order. 

The multilateral system is now divided into three related but distinct spheres. In the United Nations, with its stress on political and human rights, redistribution has been kept outside the agenda. Economic and social issues have been relegated to the Bretton Woods Institutions with governance based on ‘one dollar one vote’ rather than ‘one country one vote’. The Security Council continues to give the victors of World War II veto powers to serve their national interests, even in a multi-polar world. This compartmentalized arrangement is not able to respond to tradeoffs between economic growth and global ecological limits. 

Therefore, the shift will be more than just a continuation of the current system, because it will require new global rules based both on markets and social considerations. Creating markets for economic growth and then creating new markets to clean up have led to the current global ecological crisis; climate change is an example of market failure. After the financial crisis of 2008 there is also a questioning of the free market ideology, or “Washington Consensus”. In a multi-polar world sitting on the high-table has lost its relevance, and in the Security Council the focus is shifting to preventive diplomacy and mediation - promoting peace rather than managing conflict. In just five years the BRICS grouping has moved beyond a dialogue forum to cooperative mechanisms challenging the 60 year hegemony of the undemocratic Bretton Woods Institutions by agreeing to establish a new development bank. The real significance of the Fifth BRICS Summit, in March, was that developing countries will not look to the West for developmental guidance and will evolve their own state-driven infrastructure led frameworks that will support sustainable development. 

India, Japan PMs to review China's assertive postures

K.V. Kesavan
16 May 2013

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's forthcoming visit to Japan in the last week of May to meet his Japanese counterpart Mr. Shinzo Abe at the annual summit will be one more significant step in the direction of strengthening and consolidating the bilateral partnership. Mr. Singh was scheduled to make a visit to Tokyo in last December itself, but it was postponed due to the sudden announcement of the Lower House elections in Japan. 

Ever since Mr. Abe came back to power in December 2012 with a massive majority in the lower house, he has been showing a great deal of vigour and drive for revitalising Japan's economy under the rubric of 'Abenomics'. He has correctly understood that unless the stagnant economy of Japan is revived and put on a robust trajectory, his country cannot hope to have any crucial say in the rapidly changing geopolitical situation of the Asia-Pacific region. The effectiveness of its regional and global diplomacy would be closely related to how quickly Japan is able to regain its economic strength. 

Similarly, Mr Abe has also perceived clearly that Japan's position, especially in the Asia-Pacific region, had suffered in recent years mainly because of political instability at home which was reflected in weak governance marked by frequent changes in the post of prime minister. Now Mr. Abe's strong position in the Lower House and the prospects of gaining a majority in the July Upper House election have given him a new hope to consolidate his political strength and draw up a fairly long-term political and economic agenda that would instill confidence in Japan's allies and partners. 

It is inthis context of an emerging stable Abe administration that one has to look at Mr. Singh's visit to Japan. But Mr. Abe is not a stranger to the Indian Prime Minister. They had taken part in two summit meetings earlier in 2006 and 2007. In 2006, Mr. Singh visited Japan and signed a joint communique with Mr. Abe titled, "Towards Japan-India Strategic and Global Partnership". The title carried considerable significance in that the two leaders added 'strategic' to their global partnership to clearly project the unfolding new dimensions of their partnership. The 2007 joint statement which was issued in New Delhi at the time of Mr. Abe's visit to India carried a still further expanded title, "The Roadmap for New Dimensions to the Strategic and Global Partnership between Japan and India." These two summits contributed a great deal to the evolution of the multi-dimensional nature of the bilateral partnership as we see it today. It is also useful to remember that in 2007 Mr. Abe addressed the joint session of the Indian Parliament and talked about the Indo-Japanese partnership in the context of a broader Asia emerging at the confluence of the Pacific and Indian Oceans. 

Territorial frictions 

The present visit comes at a time when both countries are faced with serious territorial frictions with China. The latest Delhi-Beijing standoff arising out of China's totally unacceptable intrusion into the Indian territory inside the Line of Actual Control in Ladakh region demonstrated the unpredictable nature of their bilateral relations. China agreed to withdraw to its earlier position only after causing considerable tension followed by India's rather tough response. 

But China did not choose only India for this kind of treatment. Japan has been facing the fury of China's pressures in the maritime sphere particularly since 2010 when a Chinese ship rammed into a Japanese coast guard ship. China's relentless pursuit of its 'claims' to the Senkaku islands became far more intense after September 2012 when the Japanese government purchased three of the islands chain. Almost on a daily basis, China's surveillance ships intrude into the Japanese territorial waters around the islands chain and there have also been frequent cases of the Chinese air force violating the air space of Japan. 

Will it be a new phase in India-Pakistan Relations?


May 16, 2013 

The President of the PML(N) Nawaz Sharif is all set to become Pakistan’s next Prime Minister. Both before and after the elections, Sharif was quick to send messages of peace and friendship with India promising to start from where he had left in 1999, when he was unceremoniously thrown out of power by Gen Pervaiz Musharraf. Earlier, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh congratulated Mr Nawaz Sharif on the latter’s victory in Pakistan’s elections and invited him to visit India. The BJP in India has also welcomed the move. Will Nawaz’s tenure as the Prime Minister of Pakistan herald a new beginning in India-Pakistan relations? 

The relationship between the two countries had deteriorated in the recent past especially after the beheading of an Indian soldier by the Pakistani troops in Jammu and Kashmir, and the fatal attacks on Chamel Singh and Sarabjit Singh, the Indian prisoners held in Pakistani jail. There is no progress on the trial of 26/11 Mumbai terror attack suspects some of who are till date freely roaming in Pakistan. Pakistani establishment’s link to this incident has made this trial complicated. The public opinion in India has been inflamed at the intransigence of the Pakistani government. It must be noted, however, Nawaz Sharif has refrained from speaking about prosecuting the 26/11 perpetrators. Before the elections he said that he would examine allegations of ISI involvement in the 26/11 attacks and investigate Kargil. This is not going to be an easy task. It has been reported in the Pakistani media that the security establishment is uneasy over his victory in the elections. Moreover, given his links to the anti-India militant organization the Jamaat-ud-Dawa and its militant wing the LeT, it remains to be seen whether Sharif would be able to satisfy India on 26/11 trials. 

Nawaz Sharif’s sentiments for better relationship with India are laudable and should be welcomed. However, there are still constituencies within Pakistan for whom Kashmir remains the core issue. The larger question is whether Sharif will be able to bring the army on board. His first task would be to manage a suspicious army with whom his relationship has been highly strained. The army is unlikely to give up its influence and say on Pakistan’s key foreign policy and security concerns. Anti-India jihadi constituencies in Pakistan are still very strong. They would do anything to prevent the normalization of relations with India. To assure India of his good intentions, he has offered a number of positives. Sharif stated that he will not allow anti-India “speeches to be made against India by anybody including Hafeez Saab”. But it is an acknowledged fact that he does not have any control over the militant groups operating in Kashmir who are Pakistani intelligence agency’s protégée. He also said that he “will not allow terrorism to be exported to India from Pakistani soil.” On being asked whether the army would act as a spoiler in India-Pakistan relations, Sharif boldly stated that “I am determined to restore the authority of the Prime Minister’s office. The Army will report to the Prime Minister, who is the boss.” In spite of such assurances, there are several powerful actors and vested interests that shape Pakistan’s India policy. Therefore, while Nawaz Sharif may be genuinely interested in promoting good relations with India, whether he would be allowed to do so is a big question. 

Nevertheless, India should factor in the changing environment in Pakistan and respond positively to Sharif’s early gestures. Nawaz Sharif and Atal Bihari Vajpai had taken a bold decision to bring about a thaw in bilateral relationship soon after the 1998 nuclear tests even though the Pakistan army was clandestinely engaged in executing Kargil on India. One would hope that given the popularity of Nawaz Sharif at the hustings, the military would not repeat its earlier mistake and would tolerate, if not sabotage, Sharif’s attempts to normalise India and Pakistan relations. 

India-China: Border Defence Cooperation Agreement

Issue Net Edition | Date : 16 May , 2013 

The Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh at a bilateral meeting with the President of the People’s Republic of China Mr Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the Fifth BRICS Summit, at Durban, South Africa 

The events of the past week and half are gradually clearing the fog over why China did what she did at DBO on 15th April 2013. Though a surfeit of motives were assigned, a careful review of the recent events and the sequence in which these have been played out, point towards a possible umbilical link to the Chinese proposed “Border Defence Cooperation Agreement” (BDCA), the draft of which was given to India on 04 March 2013 during a secretary-level meeting. 

…the DBO incident is perhaps the Chinese way of highlighting the need for border talks and compel India to the negotiating table for conclusion of BDCA. 

The Chinese President Mr. Xi Jinping on 29 March in Durban during the BRICS Summit expressed the desire that the border issue with India should be resolved as soon as possible. Immediately following this came the surprise initiative and announcement by China that her Premier Li Keqiang will be visiting India from 19 May 2013 as part of his first four nation foreign tour, and India is the first country to be visited by him after assuming premiership. It is said that a lot of deliberation has gone into while deciding India as the first destination. More surprising than the announcement, was the Chinese intrusion into DBO Sector, particularly at a time when their Premier was about to visit India. Some analysts in the media and as well some officials in the Indian security establishment viewed that the DBO incident is perhaps the Chinese way of highlighting the need for border talks and compel India to the negotiating table for conclusion of BDCA. 

According to a report published in The Hindu dated 10 May, it is said that the Indian External Affairs Minister did not think that the incursion was related to ongoing talks between India and China over BDCA. He said that, “I don’t think this incident should be seen or indicated as part of flagging or a reminder as a nudge or push to solve the border issue”. Conversely, there may not be many takers in India for this line of view. 

The Chinese side is reported to have put forward 16 proposals which they hope, will be approved before Premier Li arrives in New Delhi on 19 May. China is particularly keen on India signing the BDCA proposed by them. In response, India is said to have agreed to consider the proposal and had given some counter suggestions from their side including reiteration of the need for clarification and confirmation of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) pending final settlement, so as to eliminate grey areas or differing perceptions of the LAC. This has been the long standing demand of India which China has been stone walling. 

In the absence of any details being made public by either country, it is difficult to analyse the intrinsic content and value of BDCA about which China is working overtime. 

The Indian External Affairs Minister stated that the BDCA proposal is a broader agreement, so it will take some time to go over every aspect of it. He further added that the 16th round of talks between the Special Representatives on the boundary question will take place in the next two months and they will discuss in detail the issues related to the boundary. On his return from visit to China, Mr Khurshid while referring to the proposed BDCA stated that, “ this brings us together and rationalizes all the existing arrangements”. He, however, could not justify the necessity for such an agreement, particularly when he praised how effective the current arrangements and agreements were in resolving the situation on the LAC. From the Chinese side, there was wide spread clamour and a sense of urgency on the part of their leaders, officials and media, to get the BDCA concluded at the earliest. “We need to redouble our efforts to push forward framework negotiations so that we can reach at a fair, reasonable and mutually acceptable solution at an early date” said Qin Gang, the spokesperson and Director General of Information Department in the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Most of the sound bites originating from China of late, advocate that both the countries should work towards strengthening the bilateral strategic relationship; perhaps an euphemism for saying that both should conclude BDCA. How is it that China who for decades have been advocating “Patience” and “Perseverance” in settling boundary issues, suddenly turned to “Speedy”, “Urgent” and “Redoubling” of efforts? Considering that China is a great believer of the principle of “Expediency”, this should not come as a surprise to any. 


With the Chinese removing the four tents pitched in Indian Territory at an altitude of 17,500 feet, a few kilometers South of Daulat Beg Oldi(DBO) in the Depsang Plains in Eastern Ladakh a potentially explosive situation has been diffused. However, as India’s border with China’s Xinjiang Autonomous Region in Eastern Ladakh and with Tibet opposite Arunachal Pradesh is neither demarcated nor delimited, the potential for conflict remains. China sees no urgency in resolving the border issue in terms of the “guiding principles” that Prime Minister’s Dr Manmohan Singh and Wen Jiabao agreed to in 2005. 

Historically, in Ladakh, two points in the border remain well defined. These are the Karakoram Pass and the Pangong Tso about 200 km further South. The Johnson Line of 1865 put the Aksai Chin within India. Subsequently, the Macartney-MacDonald Line of 1899 put parts of the Aksai Chin within the Xinjiang province of China. British maps used both these lines, but since 1908, the Johnson Line was taken to be the boundary. However, the border was not demarcated. Today, China is in illegal occupation of the entire Aksai Chin area. The Macartney-MacDonald Line generally conforms to the present day LAC in eastern Ladakh. In Arunachal Pradesh, the McMahon Line defines the border. Here, while there are differing perceptions of the McMahon Line, the Chinese quite inexplicably claim the whole of Arunachal Pradesh! We thus have both a border problem as well as a territorial problem with China. 

The intrusion in Depsang in Eastern Ladakh was clearly on the Indian side of the LAC even on the basis of the Macartney-MacDonald Line. It was hence a clear violation of India’s territorial integrity. As India’s border with China’s Xinjiang Province in Eastern Ladakh and the Tibet border with Arunachal Pradesh remain un-demarcated on the ground and as both sides do not use common maps, disputes on the boundary will always remain. These disputes are unlikely to be resolved until both nations agree to demarcate the line on the ground and then have similar maps of the boundary. Differing perceptions of the boundary can lead to a faceoff between Chinese and Indian troops with potential for conflict escalation, which could even lead to full-scale war. In addition, China may unilaterally try to resolve its territorial dispute with India through force. There is thus a requirement to ensure effective border management to both avoid potential conflict as also be the better able to deal with it should such an eventuality arise. This assumes greater significance when viewed in the context of military related infrastructure development by China in Tibet, Chinese defence modernisation and the vast financial outlays allocated for that purpose. While India may be willing to cooperate with an increasingly affluent China, she must factor in the fact that Chinese defence doctrine is getting increasingly assertive. The best way to counter Chinese designs remains in being prepared to defend our national interests. 

Considering the above, it is essential that duality in border management be avoided. As of now, while the Indian Army is responsible for the border, the Indo Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), which comes under the Home Ministry, also looks after some segments. The ITBP reports through its channels to the Home Ministry and remains outside the Army’s chain of command. This is a sure fire recipe for disaster. It must be remembered that prior to the disastrous 1962 conflict with China, the border was under the control of the Ministry for External Affairs and the Army was not in the loop. The army took responsibility of the area only when the situation became untenable. This was one of the major reasons for the 1962 debacle and we cannot allow that to happen again. 

Fresh Off Border Spat, China Woos India

By Zachary Keck May 16, 2013

Fresh off a three-week standoff over their disputed border, the Line of Actual Control (LAC), China and India are taking steps to repair their relationship and possibly set it on a more stable long-term trajectory. 

Although the standoff ended with the withdrawal of troops from the border on May 6, and Indian External Minister Salman Khurshid’s subsequent visit to China last week, recent overtures from both sides, but especially from Beijing, suggest a desire to quickly repair the damage done to the bilateral relationship. 

Ahead of his trip to India next week, China’s Premier Li Keqiang told a visiting Indian youth delegation on Wednesday that India and China "must shake hands" to make Asia an "engine of the world economy.” 

“Many people in the world believe that in the 21st century, the Asia-Pacific, Asia in particular will play a more important role in global economy and politics and that Asia will become an important engine for the world economy,” Li said, adding: “For this vision to truly come true, our two countries must shake hands and conduct exchanges so that together we can raise the standing of Asia in the world and truly make Asian economy an important engine for the world economy.” 

Li’s remarks followed similar ones made by Qin Gang, the Director-General of the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s Information Department. In a trip to India on Monday, Qin assured his Indian hosts that Beijing viewed the recent border incident as an “isolated” incident that should not be allowed to affect broader bilateral relations. Qin also praised the two sides’ use of the joint border dispute resolution mechanism to ensure the standoff remained a “local” issue that didn’t spill over into other issues. 

Most notably, Qin stressed that one lesson China was taking away from the recent standoff is the urgent need to agree to a final settlement on the border. 

“We need to redouble our efforts to push forward the framework for negotiations so that we can reach a fair, reasonable and mutually acceptable solution at an early date,” Qin said, Indian media outlets reported

Following closely on the heels of Qin’s visit, which was mainly to prepare for Premier Li’s trip to India from May 19-21, Chinese and Indian military officials held their own talks on Wednesday at the Multipurpose Complex of Chinese Army (PLA) on the Chinese side of the border. 

Although these are all positive signs for the short-term, it’s not at all certain that any actual progress on resolving the border issue will follow. Talking about the need to solve the border issue has never been the problem—agreeing on issues has been. After all, the two sides have held 15 rounds of talks on the border question over the years, and are still stuck on the second of a three-phase approach for reaching a final agreement. Notably, each step in the process gets progressively more detailed and so more difficult to come to terms on. 

Still, there are strong and growing economic incentives to reach an agreement. The two sides have seen their bilateral trade metastasize in recent years, rising from US$3 billion in 2000 to US$80 billion today. With China already India’s largest trading partner, the two sides aim to increase annual trade volumes to US$100 billion by 2015. Leaders in Beijing are also putting increasing importance on China's trade with India, as evident by Li’s decision to make India the destination for his first visit abroad in his new position. 

Yet, the bilateral exchange still heavily favors China, with India running a US$20 billion trade deficit with Beijing in 2011. Like the border standoff, this is cause for concern among certain quarters in New Delhi.

Wanted, an Afghan statesman

May 17, 2013
Vivek Katju 
The Hindu 

With prospects for peace in Afghanistan and the region at stake, Hamid Karzai needs to end the uncertainties surrounding next year’s presidential election 

On the eve of the decisive transitions — political, security and economic — in Afghanistan next year when NATO drawdown will take place, an unprecedented manthan is under way. Old feelings and emotions long suppressed, and new urges, are being expressed, even asserted, forcefully and publicly. In the process, the contradictions of Afghan society and polity are being pushed to the surface. 

The old are using traditional forms: the media and by putting up hoardings in the cities. The posters, although few, of Daud Khan and the photographs of Najibullah, both strong, if brutal, leaders and symbols of Pashtun authority, which have made an appearance in Kabul, indicate as much a waning of the fear of Mujahideen leaders as of a yearning, among some, for effective, even authoritarian, leadership. The youth are turning to the social media to articulate their political views, largely indicative of a desire for democracy and development. 

For the future of Afghanistan, this manthan needs to lead to consensus on an overarching national theme for Afghan society and polity. But that is nowhere discernible. President Karzai, who has been the central figure in Afghan national life for over a decade, has failed to provide the vision and leadership essential for the evolution of such consensus. 

New thinking 

A paradigm shift is taking place in large sections of the Afghan political elite as well as the main NATO countries regarding management of the transitions. Until now it was felt that the principal challenge in 2014 after the drawdown of foreign forces would come from Taliban insurgency. The capacity of the Afghan security forces to cope with an invigorated Taliban was suspect. It was therefore considered essential to draw the Taliban into a reconciliation process so that the insurgency could be contained post NATO troop drawdown. This approach is now giving way to a new thinking which emphasises that the key to success will lie in a fair and credible presidential election, which is scheduled to be held in April 2014. The reconciliation process, led by the High Peace Council under Salahuddin Rabbani, is not being abandoned but it is no longer considered crucial to future stability. 

The premise of the new approach is that if the Afghan political process coheres it will give confidence to the people in the future of the country, and an Afghan government with a credibly elected President, with the people behind it will be able to successfully handle the insurgency and keep the economy going. Such a government will critically need the international community’s continuing financial support and the presence of around 10,000 U.S. troops which will be available if the Presidential elections are fair. 

At the heart of present thinking lies the role of President Karzai in organising an orderly election next year for a smooth handover of power. The Afghan Constitution does not permit Mr. Karzai to contest the next election. He has said publicly he will adhere to the Constitution but everyone this writer met in Kabul earlier this month said he had taken no practical steps to begin the election process. Some therefore suspect that he is still seeking a way to continue beyond the constitutionally mandated period. However, most believe that he is focussed on finding a person who can not only win the election but will also ensure his security and assure him of immunity and a role in a future set-up. 

Many names including that of his brother Qayyum Karzai are doing the rounds but Mr. Karzai has not been able to make up his mind. Hence, the atmosphere is full of uncertainties and all eyes are on President Karzai. For over a decade he masterfully outmanoeuvred all Afghan political actors but failed to emerge as the leader of the Pashtuns, leave alone the country. At the same time, he ensured that no one else did. Consequently, he has no natural successor. Perhaps he did not form a party so that no one could emerge as a natural successor. 


Through all this uncertainty, the political class is preparing for elections. It is fractured on ethnic lines and there are contending groups within each ethnic community. The Tajiks are divided into two broad fronts: one led by the former Vice-President, Ahmad Zia Massoud, and the other by the former Foreign Minister, Dr. Abdullah, and the former Speaker, Qanooni. Among the Hazaras, the old Mujahideen leader Mohaqiq remains the main figure, while the enduring Uzbek leader Dostum continues his hold over his people. Many Pashtun political figures, both within Afghanistan and in the diaspora, fancy their chances. In typical Afghan fashion everyone is talking to everyone else but it is unlikely that the real coalitions and their candidates will emerge till autumn. 



In laying claims to territories in the SCS and ECS and extending her EEZ beyond the 200 nautical miles norm, China adopted a line drawn by the erstwhile Kuomintang regime that the PRC did not recognise and overthrew. But the Kuomintang drew no such lines to the South along or over the Himalayas. China therefore resorted to improvise through juggling history. Though the northern border of Arunachal Pradesh was signed between Tibet and the British in 1914 when Tibet was not under control of China, PRC refuses to recognise it and claims Arunachal Pradesh as ‘South Tibet’; euphuism for the hegemonic. The Tibet-British boundary accord of 1914 actually followed the McMahon Line. China laid its claims to Tibet based on 13th Century history. So why not go all the way to the 6th and 7th Century when Tibet was a bigger kingdom than China and had even annexed the capital of China. The CCP would do well to read the book ‘Genghis Khan’ but then they would conveniently label it distortion of history.

Coming to the Doklam Plateau of Bhutan, the followers of Sun Tzu apparently slipped for once. The Chinese strategists famed to be distant gazers laid claim to this piece of ground only in early 1990’s. Possibly the strategic significance of Doklam was realised by the Chinese at much later stage because they were eyeing major chunks of Indian Territories as pieces of cake. Perhaps the move by Sunderji through Op ‘Chequer Board’ in occupying forward positions along the Sino-Indian border forced the Chinese to focus on what was left for grabs. Bhutan, with its limited military capability seemed lucrative. Hence claims were laid to the Doklam Palteau. This was accompanied by claim lines in other parts of Bhutan that kept creeping forward like the proverbial Arabian camel with its head inside his master’s tent. It is possible that Arabs may have coined the phrase having studied Chinese moves although Chinese contacts with Arabia were quite unknown then and it took another decade or so for PRC to discover its newfound camaraderie with Al Qaeda spawned by Saudi Arabia’s Osama-bin-Laden. 

The Doklam Plateau lies immediate east of Indian defences in Sikkim. Chinese occupation of Doklam would turn the flank of Indian defences completely. This piece of dominating ground not only has a commanding view of the Chumbi Valley but also overlooks the Siliguri Corridor further to the east. China lays claim to the strategic Doklam Plateau is on account of following: threatens Indian defences in Sikkim; deters possible Indian forays into the Chumbi Valley that may be quid-pro-quo to Chinese offensive actions elsewhere; and provides launch pad to progress operations into the Siliguri Corridor. The latter reason is most important to China who is seeking every possible avenue to reach the warm waters of the Indian Ocean through the land route, be it Myanmar, Pakistan or India. It is also no secret that when the BNP was in power in Bangladesh, their military was practicing a ‘cold start’ to seize the Siliguri Corridor, which may have well been on Chinese advice – similar to Chinese advice to Pakistan to raise a militia to fight in India’s backyard. In case of Doklam, China could not claim any ethnic connections due to the abysmal population in the area. So PLA troops started periodic forays into the Doklam Plateau. The modus operandi was to arrive on the plateau, threaten the Royal Bhutan Guards (RBA) personnel, stay on their post for few hours and tell the RBA they are sitting on Chinese land and they should get out. These incidents were mostly not reported by the Bhutanese and neither in the Indian media for reasons best known to policy makers. Simultaneously, China offered to Bhutan a barter that if Bhutan surrendered Doklam Plateau to China, China would give up equal territorial claims in north-central Bhutan – talk of ‘magnanimity’ of the devil. 

Though Bhutan should logically be wary of what China has done to Nepal; Maoists running riot and PLA virtually having invested northern Nepal akin to Gilgit-Baltistan, the lure of trade may yet enlarge relations, providing opportunity to the head of the Chinese Camel (like British East India Company) to enter Bhutan surreptitiously. China also has the advantage of having achieved finesse in development of infrastructure, particularly roads and railway, as demonstrated in Tibet. It is a different matter that all these construction companies are owned by the PLA and provide avenues for a hybrid soft-hard invasion – PLA soldiers and veterans quietly investing foreign lands. Unlike India who still follows BOT (Build, Operate and Transfer), China continues to operate whatever projects they build. That is why today there are three million Chinese in Myanmar, Chinese operate three star hotels in heart of Kathmandu and Chinese/PLA strength in Pakistan/POK is going to rapidly rise far above the present purported 11,000. Ironically, India has not yet even taken the railway into Bhutan albeit great amount of effort has gone into power projects that have boosted Bhutan’s economy considerably. However, the advent of democracy in Bhutan gives a chance to China to work on Bhutanese politicians, for which China possesses the lure and time, all under garb of opening up Bhutan. 


C. Raja Mohan 
May 15 2013

A fortnightly column on the high politics of the Af-Pak region, the fulcrum of global power play in India’s neighbourhood 

The weekend telephone talk between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Nawaz Sharif, who will soon be sworn in as premier of Pakistan, was presumably in Punjabi. There is nothing like the comfort of one’s mother-tongue in breaking the political ice between nations. 

The origins of the current on-again and off-again peace process between India and Pakistan dates back to the determination of two Punjabi-speaking leaders, Sharif and Inder Kumar Gujral. After Sharif’s landslide victory in early 1997, Gujral negotiated the framework for the composite dialogue that still provides the basis for India-Pakistan negotiations. 

It is quite easy for cynics to scoff at New Delhi’s “Lahore brigade” and the Punjabi peaceniks who light candles at the Wagah border. But no political realist can forget that the shortest road between the two capitals runs through the divided Punjab. 

Nawaz Sharif, who invited Manmohan Singh to attend his swearing-in ceremony next week, understands that the Indian PM has tied himself into knots over visiting Pakistan and will not make it. 

Sharif is also aware that Singh’s clock is running down, and that the UPA government headed by him has little political steam left. There is a danger then that the subcontinent’s traditional curse — the misalignment of the political cycles in India and Pakistan — might once again compel Delhi to lose yet another moment of opportunity with Islamabad. 


As Delhi debates the government’s options towards Sharif within the UPA’s self-imposed constraints, there is one way out — through the Punjab. It could consider, for example, sending an Indian political delegation headed by Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal to attend Sharif’s swearing-in next week. 

To be sure, many in Delhi are gnashing their teeth over the UPA losing control over foreign policy, thanks to the pressures from such difficult CMs as Mamata Banerjee. 

But Bengal and Punjab are two very different stories. Unlike Kolkata, which has seen little political passion for the normalisation of relations with Dhaka, there is a strong bipartisan demand in Amritsar and Chandigarh for a rapid normalisation of ties with Lahore and Islamabad. 

If Banerjee has undercut Delhi’s ambitious plans towards Dhaka, Badal could help India move forward with Pakistan. The role strong CMs can play in foreign policy must be viewed from a political perspective rather than the legalist prism of Centre-state relations. 

The PM can turn his current political weakness on its head by getting Badal to create diplomatic space with Pakistan. That should also help reduce the foreign policy friction with the BJP in an election year. 

After all, the Akali Dal is a political ally of the BJP. 


The BJP has its share of “stupid hawks” who oppose every foreign policy initiative of the UPA. The Congress should remind them of the BJP’s foreign policy under Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who still remains a political mascot for the party. 

When Vajpayee travelled to Lahore in February 1999, defying the hawks in his party, he had the wisdom to ask Parkash Singh Badal, the then CM of Punjab, to join his delegation. 

Vajpayee also encouraged Badal’s successor, Amarinder Singh of the Congress, to sustain contacts with the Lahore Takht and expand the areas of cooperation between the two Punjabs. 

Badal, who returned to power, picked up the threads again. His son and Deputy CM Sukhbir Singh Badal travelled to Lahore last November and articulated with great vigour the shared aspirations for deeper cooperation between the two provinces. 

Shahbaz Sharif, Nawaz’s brother and the CM of Pakistan’s Punjab, was to make a return visit to Amritsar soon after to maintain the momentum in the ties between the two Punjabs. But renewed military tensions on the Indo-Pak border at the end of the year and the UPA’s panicked response, saw the postponement of the visit. 

The elections in Pakistan provide a new political basis for re-imagining India-Pakistan relations. Nawaz Sharif’s victory is rooted in a comprehensive political sweep in Punjab — Pakistan’s largest province. 

On this side of the Radcliffe Line, there is a strong government, whose leaders are deeply committed to normalisation of relations between the two Punjabs, and between Delhi and Islamabad. The stars in Punjab are in rare alignment for a big political push on the people’s agenda in Indo-Pak relations. The only missing element is a bit of political courage in the Congress party. 

The writer is a distinguished fellow, Observer Research Foundation, Delhi and a contributing editor for ‘The Indian Express’

Understanding Pena Nieto's Approach to the Cartels

Thursday, May 16, 2013


By Scott Stewart

Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto's approach to combating Mexican drug cartels has been a much-discussed topic since well before he was elected. Indeed, in June 2011 -- more than a year before the July 2012 Mexican presidential election -- I wrote an analysis discussing rumors that, if elected, Pena Nieto was going to attempt to reach some sort of accommodation with Mexico's drug cartels in order to bring down the level of violence. 

Such rumors were certainly understandable, given the arrangement that had existed for many years between some senior members of Pena Nieto's Institutional Revolutionary Party and some powerful cartel figures during the Institutional Revolutionary Party's long reign in Mexico prior to the election of Vicente Fox of the National Action Party in 2000. However, as we argued in 2011 and repeated in March 2013, much has changed in Mexico since 2000, and the new reality in Mexico means that it would be impossible for the Pena Nieto administration to reach any sort of deal with the cartels even if it made an attempt. 

But the rumors of the Pena Nieto government reaching an accommodation with some cartel figures such as Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman Loera have persisted, even as the Mexican government arrests key operatives in Guzman's network, such as Ines Coronel Barreras, Guzman's father-in-law, who was arrested May 1 in Agua Prieta, Mexico. Indeed, on April 27, Washington Post reporter Dana Priest published a detailed article outlining how U.S. authorities were fearful that the Mexican government was restructuring its security relationship with the U.S. government so that it could more easily reach an unofficial truce with cartel leaders. Yet four days later, Coronel -- a significant cartel figure -- was arrested in a joint operation between the Mexicans and Americans. 

Clearly, there is some confusion on the U.S. side about the approach the Pena Nieto government is taking, but conversations with both U.S. and Mexican officials reveal that these changes in Mexico's approach do not appear to be as drastic as some have feared. There will need to be adjustments on both sides of the border while organizational changes are underway in Mexico, but this does not mean that bilateral U.S.-Mexico cooperation will decline in the long term. 

Opportunities and Challenges 

Despite the violence that has wracked Mexico over the past decade, the Mexican economy is booming. Arguably, the economy would be doing even better if potential investors were not concerned about cartel violence and street crime -- and if such criminal activity did not have such a significant impact on businesses operating in Mexico. 

Because of this, the Pena Nieto administration believes that it is critical to reduce the overall level of violence in the country. Essentially it wants to transform the cartel issue into a law enforcement problem, something handled by the Interior Ministry and the national police, rather than a national security problem handled by the Mexican military and the Center for Research and National Security (Mexico's national-level intelligence agency). In many ways the Pena Nieto administration wants to follow the model of the government of Colombia, which has never been able to stop trafficking in its territory but was able to defeat the powerful Medellin and Cali cartels and relegate their successor organizations to a law enforcement problem. 

Sharing the burden of going green

May 17, 2013
Suresh Prabhu 

The Centre must make richer, more developed States take up the responsibility for switching to renewable energy and reducing the country’s dependence on coal 

If there are two words that describe India’s current energy scenario, they will be: inefficient and starving. Power cuts are back with a bang and the country’s apex electricity regulator has confirmed that 21 major coal power plants are running with stockpile that won’t last beyond seven days. Coal, we all know, won’t last forever; yet we insist that we have more of it. We are importing more coal than ever before without worrying that it is pushing the fiscal deficit to dangerous levels. The over-dependence on this fossil fuel, rather than powering India, has instead turned into an Achilles’ heel in India’s growth story. 

Fortunately, we know the way out. Renewable energy can help ease this economic and rising energy burden while uplifting the lives of millions who are currently languishing in the dark. But sadly, if the announcements at the recently-held Clean Energy Ministerial meet are considered, we might add that our energy planning is inequitable and hypocritical as well. 

New Delhi recently hosted the fourth version of the global meet where delegates from 20 countries came to discuss renewable energy. After the usual grand discussions on clean energy, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh faced the media to tell them what India plans to do ahead on the issue. While he doubled India’s renewable energy target, Dr. Singh reaffirmed India’s stand that “rich nations, who emit the bulk of greenhouse gases, also have high per-capita income, which gave them the highest capacity to bear the burden and provide a workable solution to fight climate change”. Strangely, India follows neither within its own borders. 

India currently is the world’s third-largest carbon emitter. To cut down greenhouse gas emissions and spur the growth of renewable energy in the country, the Prime Minister in 2008 released the National Action Plan on Climate Change. But the plan flopped as 22 out of 29 States in the country failed to do their bit, most of them being the rich developed ones. 

Set higher targets 

Take Delhi, for instance. The national capital sources 73% of its power from the coal fields of Rajasthan, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and West Bengal, indirectly contributing in increasing carbon emissions. And despite holding a huge potential for solar energy, the State didn’t produce even 1% of clean energy in 2012. According to a Greenpeace report, “Powering Ahead with Renewables: Leaders and Laggards”, the State receives 350 days of sunlight every year. Yet, it set a meagre RPO (Renewable Purchase Obligation) target of 2%. RPO targets decide how much electricity produced in a State should come from renewable sources. 

Disappointingly, Delhi missed the RPO target by a wide margin. Maharashtra, another rich well-endowed State, performed badly as it achieved only half of its RPO target. As a result of the poor show by States like Delhi, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and others, the country missed out on producing 5,960MW of renewable energy, which is enough to electrify every household in Delhi for an entire year. 

Now consider Rajasthan. The State’s per capita GDP in 2012 was half of Maharashtra’s. Yet, the State over-achieved its RPO target of 6%. Or look at India’s star-performer, Bihar, which is revolutionising its power scenario using off-grid generation. The State has, till date, spent Rs.5,748 crore with the aim of generating 1,671MW of green electricity, capable of powering one-third of Bihar. Currently, 70% of the people in the State have no access to electricity. 

Sharif must strike against ISI fast and hard

Manoj Joshi
14 May 2013

The moment Nawaz Sharif becomes the Prime Minister of Pakistan, the clock will begin ticking against him. There is nothing surprising in this. In all democracies, the highest point in the political life of a prime minister is on the day he takes office. Thereafter, it is downhill till the next election. 

Now, if Sharif is conscious of this, the one thing he should do on day one is to issue an order placing the Inter Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI) under civilian leadership. In one full swoop, this will de-fang the Army of the most potent instrument it uses to distort Pakistani democracy. Every day that he delays taking action against the ISI, will be a delay that will cost him much more when the confrontation with the Army takes place, as it inevitably will, down the line. 

This is a no brainer. In July 2008, Pakistan People's Party prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani issued a notification placing the ISI under the control of the Interior Ministry headed by Rehman Malik, but within hours the Army and the then president, Pervez Musharraf, forced him to withdraw the notification. That had a lot to do with the fact that Gilani was a light weight and that the PPP had waited several months till after the general elections that swept them into power, to act. 

Nawaz Sharif has come to power with a much stronger showing and he has the clout within the Punjabi establishment to put the army in its place. More than that, he has reasons to distrust the Army which overthrew his government in 1999 and sought to hang him for treason. Sharif has shown an inclination to take on the men in khaki. In October 1998, he sacked General Jehangir Karamat from his position as the Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee and the Chief of Army Staff of the Pakistan Army. It is another matter that he made the disastrous choice of replacing him with Pervez Musharraf. This time around, Sharif is on record declaring that he will go by seniority when it comes to appointing a new chief in succession to Ashfaq Pervez Kayani who retires at the end of July this year, having enjoyed a three-year extension of service. 

But the ISI is quite another thing. Last November, the Pakistan Supreme Court ruled in the Asghar Khan case that former ISI chief Lt General Asad Durrani and Army chief Mirza Aslam Beg had collected Rs 140 million to rig the elections against Benazir Bhutto and the PPP in 1990. Ironically, one of the recipients was Nawaz Sharif who was at that time seen as a creation of the Army to offset the political allure of Benazir. But while politicians got half the money, the ISI and the Army kept the balance for their own use. 

This is just the tip of the iceberg of the ISI's malign activities within Pakistan which includes all manner of skullduggery, including the intimidation of journalists and other democratic elements. No democracy, such as one Pakistan aspires to be, should permit an intelligence agency to be run the way the ISI is. While all countries need intelligence services, they also need to be under the control of the government of the day, not its army. 

Even as an external intelligence agency, the ISI has been a law unto itself. The attacks on the Indian Embassy in Kabul in 2008 and 2009 are instances of action which went against Pakistan's own foreign policy. As for the Mumbai attack of November 2008, there are clear indications that some elements of the ISI were involved in what was clearly an act of international terrorism. All this may still happen in an intelligence agency controlled by the civilian government, but at least the accountability for its actions will be transparent. 

Pakistan’s Elections: A Harbinger of Peace on the Subcontinent?

By Sanjay Kumar 
May 16, 2013 

Now that we know Nawaz Sharif will succeed Raja Pervez Ashraf as the next prime minster of Pakistan, it’s worth noting that Pakistan has never seen a democratic transition as smooth as the one set to take place between the outgoing Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the newly elected Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, or PML(N). 

In its 66-year history as an independent nation, Pakistan has witnessed three military coups and extended rule by army generals. Even today, the nation is plagued by political turmoil. But this year seems to be a new chapter in its turbulent history. 

The verdict from the 2013 elections gives the PML(N) 123 seats out of 254 declared results as of Tuesday evening, giving Sharif’s party an unassailable lead over its main rivals, PPP and Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, which had secured 31 and 26 seats, respectively. The electoral results for the final 18 of Pakistan’s 272 National Assembly seats remain unannounced. 

The voter turnout this year was impressive, with 60 percent of all registered voters turning up to the polls, up from a 45 percent turnout in the last national elections in 2008. This impressive turnout came despite the threat of violence. More than 150 people lost their lives and scores were injured in attacks by insurgents across the country during the election campaigning period and on election day. This brave statement by the people of Pakistan sends a new message to the outside world and gives hope for peace on the Subcontinent. 

In particular, India has a stake in the democratic success of its neighbor, with whom relations have been turbulent. There is widespread hope in India that Sharif, who formed a new Indo-Pakistani relationship in the 1990s, will revive the peace process and improve Islamabad’s ties with New Delhi. 

Indian Prime minister Manmohan Singh was one of the first world leaders to congratulate Sharif after his emphatic victory. In a letter, Singh talked about charting a new course for the relationship between the two countries and invited his Pakistan counterpart to visit India. 

Sharif reciprocated and emphasized the need for improved relations with India. He further stressed the importance of resolving issues, including Kashmir, through peaceful means. He even informally invited the Indian premier to his inauguration ceremony in Islamabad. 

According to veteran Pakistani author and political analyst Ahmed Rashid, circumstances may be more favorable this time for Sharif to improve ties with New Delhi. He writes, “During his two premierships in the 1990s, Sharif made genuine efforts at peace with India but was thwarted by an aggressive and uncompromising army.” But, he continues, “The army—faced with a severe weakening of the state—now seems more amenable to improving relations with New Delhi.” 

The Hindu opines that where Sharif “gives most hope is in his strong and unambiguous articulation of better India-Pakistan relations, though this will depend on his stated determination to correct the civil-military imbalance, and reclaim the national agenda from the security establishment. Whether he can succeed is another question, but India will be hoping he will.” 

As Pakistan passes through a rough economic patch, deeper engagement with its immediate neighbor will not only give the volatile country increased political stability but will also boost growth. India can play a major role in reviving Pakistan's bankrupt economy as a potential investor. 

Sharif Must Curb Pakistan's Military

May 16, 2013

Pakistan has taken an important leap towards generating a democratic order. 

Amid many incidents of violence and bloodshed aimed at thwarting the parliamentary elections, Pakistanis have voted for a democratic transition from one civilian government to another -- the first since the creation of Pakistan in 1947. 

But will it deliver a stable and effective government capable of curing Pakistan's deep economic, social and security problems and foreign policy dilemmas while reining in the military and the Inter-Services Intelligence? 

The election results are not as decisive as analysts have indicated. The Muslim League of Nawaz Sharif has won the largest number of seats, and will have no difficulty securing a simple majority, with support from a number of independents and smaller parties in the National Assembly.

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But to lead a stable, effective government and adopt structural reforms, Sharif would need a very solid parliamentary majority. The best option would be to enlist support from Imran Khan's Tareek-i-Insaf (PTI) and President Asif Zardari's Pakistan People's Party as part of building a national consensus. Yet it is this consensus that has been lacking among Pakistan's political elite.

Sharif and Zardari have been bitter rivals during the life of the last PPP-led parliament. Khan represents the aspirations of the young generation of Pakistanis. This puts him at odds with Sharif, who in many ways is tied to the "old guard" Punjabi majority. 

Whatever the outcome, Sharif is likely to lead a very uneasy government. He cannot expect to have the kind of parliamentary support that could enable him to address effectively Pakistan's economic and security ills, divisions and endemic corruption. 

Ideologically, he stands a better chance of success than the secularist PPP-led government did in seeking a settlement with the Pakistani Taliban to rein in violence. But it is by no means assured. 

To generate the stability and security that is a prerequisite for tackling all other problems, Sharif would need the support of Khan, whose party has emerged as the biggest electoral winner in Pakhtunkhwa province, where the Pakistan Taliban has its roots and the Afghan Taliban and their affiliates have safe havens. 

Beyond this, he would require the solid backing and loyalty of the military and ISI. Many analysts believe these forces have been instrumental in keeping Pakistan's disparate national groups together, but at the cost of undermining the necessary conditions for shaping a democratic and prosperous country. 

The military and ISI boast a pervasive share in the political, economic and cultural life of Pakistan and control its nuclear arsenals. They also have enormous influence in the conduct of Pakistan's foreign policy, especially in relation to India and Afghanistan. 

As well as being confronted with a growing Taliban militancy of its own, Pakistan has played a critical part in supporting the Afghan Taliban insurgency, seriously undermining the efforts of the US and its allies to stabilise Afghanistan. 

The Pakistani military and security apparatus have had a hand in both. They originally nurtured the two developments as foreign policy tools for wider regional ambitions against India. Although they have grown weary of the Pakistani Taliban, they still appear determined to leverage the political landscape in post-2014 Afghanistan, when most of the US and NATO troops have withdrawn from the country, according to Pakistan's geopolitical preferences. 

How a Sharif-led government could tame the military and ISI to act within a democratic framework and wrest from them control of Pakistan's Afghanistan and India policies will be a major challenge. In Turkey, the ruling moderate Islamist Justice and Development Party has been largely successful in this respect. 

However, it took more than a decade to reach this goal. Given Pakistan's myriad domestic problems and foreign policy complications, the task of limiting the political space for the military and ISI is not going to be easy at all. 

Allah and Aam Aadmi

Shekhar Gupta 
May 13 2013

Many Pakistan-watchers, particularly in India, allow our contempt, fear and distrust of the Pakistani army to so cloud our judgement, we fail to see a fundamental, and virtuous, change. For a full five years, Zardari ran a bumbling, waffling government, marred by indecision, corruption and confusion. But his opposition did not pull him down. And his generals stayed in their headquarters. This was a fundamental shift. It has only happened because the people of Pakistan have decided to take charge of their own destiny. 

Over the years (post-Sharm el-Sheikh, let’s say), our view of Pakistan has become re-militarised as its own society’s has become de-militarised. Anybody in Pakistan is willing to say to you now that the beheading of the Indian soldier was carried out by the military establishment only to block the Zardari government giving India the MFN status. And we walked straight into the trap: calling off sporting exchanges, the PM himself saying it can’t be business as usual, the leader of the opposition demanding 10 heads for one. 

At some point in 1992-93, exasperated with my frequent requests for visas, the then Pakistani high commissioner asked me: “Just what’s your problem? Do you think Pakistan politics is India’s internal affair?” 

The point he raised in that momentary lapse of diplomatic restraint was a valid one, particularly as his answer wouldn’t have been very different from mine. Yes, Pakistani politics is so important for India that we Indians can’t be faulted for being obsessed with it. But must we continue to be ignorant and self-servingly patronising about it? 

This election further underlines the fact that we need to revisit some of our old, ossified stereotypes and prejudices about our most important neighbour. Over two decades now, since Nawaz Sharif’s first government was dismissed by the army-establishment combine, Pakistan’s people have come out of several trials by fire. They have come through another coup, near-decade of army rule, a humiliating loss of sovereignty because of the war on terror, high inflation, economic decline, flight of capital and talent, rampant internal Lashkarism, rising radicalism, and a rarely contested description as a global migraine. But what does their report card show at the end of all this? A wonderfully decisive new election, with an unprecedentedly high turnout, despite terror attacks (real attacks, not just threats), a commitment to civilian rule that was never so apparent or deep-rooted, a much stronger judiciary, an election commission that any democracy can be proud of and, most importantly, a new appreciation for institutions of democracy, as well as respect for them. 

The fact is, democratic and political culture, temperament, commitment and talent, all need to emerge from popular movements and struggle. India got its first energy and leadership from the freedom movement, the next from the Emergency (almost all of the Congress party’s opposition today was jailed by Mrs Gandhi in those 19 months) and then again through the Mandal and Mandir movements. The first generation of Pakistan’s leaders had not yet broken out of feudal cliques when impatience with the political process consumed them. The army became a “logical” successor. Since then, even though there were phases of partial, bonsai democracy, no elected government completed its full term, and nobody really complained when each was removed. This has been changing in the last two decades. Fitting, also, that the man elected now, Mian Nawaz Sharif, is the one who started that fightback. 

IN 1993, as he was dismissed by President Ghulam Ishaq Khan and the army, he, unlike others, did not go home in a sulk and resignation. He made a famous train journey back from Rawalpindi to Lahore, speaking to protesting throngs along the way, and questioning the very basis of Pakistan’s power equation then (army-executive president-elected government, the so-called troika). I too was blessed with luck and timing to be on that train. And the words Nawaz Sharif then spoke to me have endured: “What kind of a system is this,” he asked, “addha tittar, addha bater (half partridge, half quail).” 

He would now fight back to ensure either the army runs everything or the elected governments, he promised. Whatever the consequences. That he won a big majority subsequently (in 1998), made an army chief (General Jehangir Karamat) resign prematurely, fired a navy chief, forced a peace accord on Kargil, was removed in Pervez Musharraf’s coup and then incarcerated and exiled, is recent history. But remember his vehicle of comeback. He was riding a popular upsurge against Musharraf’s assault on the judiciary. The people of Pakistan, even its elites, were now willing to fight back to preserve an institution of democracy. The same people who, in the past, had accepted every coup as deja vu. 

It is this change that many Pakistan-watchers either missed or, particularly in India, are still not willing to accept. That is because we allow our contempt, fear and distrust of the Pakistani army to so cloud our judgement, we fail to see this fundamental, and virtuous, change. For a full five years, Asif Ali Zardari ran a bumbling, waffling government, marred by indecision, corruption and confusion (sounds familiar?). But his opposition, namely Nawaz Sharif, did not pull him down. And his generals stayed in their headquarters. This was a fundamental shift. So ISI-coloured has our discourse become in the Indian commentariat, that we are not inclined to see that the two institutions which always fully controlled Pakistan’s identity have lately been at their weakest, ever. It doesn’t mean they can’t play occasional, vicious mischief. But in the big power equation, they matter much less now.