Group Blog: The Indian National Interest
Varnam | Indian History Carnival–62: Indo-Europeans, Muchunti Mosque, Joao Da Cruz, Christoph Clavius
- At his blog at Discover, Razib Khan presents his hypothesis for West Asian migration to India
- Giacomo Benedetti has a post on a similar theme of Indo-Iranians, Aryan invasion etc. and writes
I have the impression that the Aryan Invasionism follows the same method as Creationism. The supporters of the Indo-Iranian invasion from the European steppes of Central and South Asia have no sacred text to defend, although sometimes they use the Vedas or the Avesta with biased (often racial) interpretations. They have a sort of preconceived faith, maybe based on a secret, obstinate Eurocentrism: Europeans must be the conquerors of the Indo-European world, and not the conquered or colonized, they must be the origin of the change, not the recipients.So, they already firmly believe that the Indo-Aryans must have arrived there in the 2nd millennium BC, and so we have to find, in one way or another, the facts able to support that dogma. I think that we should rather start from the archaeological facts, and build a theory from there, seeing if we find a harmony with linguistics and textual traditions, and also genetics. Someone could object (with Nietzsche) that there are no facts, only interpretations, particularly in the realm of prehistoric archaeology, but still, there are worse and better interpretations. The evolution and connections of material cultures can give a reliable picture, which can be mirrored by the linguistic and textual tradition.
- One of the oldest mosques in Calicut is called Muchunti Mosque because it may have been found by a person named Muchiyan. But shouldn’t it be Muchanti (junction) mosque.? Calicut Heritage investigates
Sure enough we found an alternative possibility on the streets of faraway Penang in Malyasia. On Pitt Street to be exact, named by the British after the Prime Minister, William Pitt, the Younger. The street is now called Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling, after a mosque built by a South Indian Captain of a ship. Down the street one finds the Tamil area of Chulia Street, formerly called Muchanti (junction). A little away from this junction on the Penang Road, we come across a notable Malabar monument, in Kampung Malabar (the Malabar colony), named after a faith healer from Calicut named Syed Mustafa Idris Koya. The entire Penang Road is known in Tamil locally as Ezhu Muchanti (the junction of seven roads). Muchanti in Tamil means a junction and perhaps meant the same in 13th century Malayalam, too. Muchunti Palli in Calicut is also situated on a junction where three paths meet. Did Muchanti Palli become Muchunti Palli in due course?
- Maddy revises his earlier tale of Joao Da Cruz or John of the Cross with some new information. If you have not read this story of the Nair boy who went to Lisbon, met King Manuel, converted to Christianity, and became responsible for the conversion of the Paravas in Tuticorin, you should
It was on such a tense day in Tuticorin during 1534, when as usual, a Parava woman went out to sell her home made Paniyarams. As it appears from the texts of Teixeira, a Muslim insulted her and the lady promptly went home and complained to her husband. The enraged man went out and a fight ensured with the Muslim, during which the Muslim cut off an earlobe of the Parava, a great insult indeed for they wore large ornaments on their ears which extended down to their shoulders. So the honor of the entire community was compromised, as Schurhammer reports. The two groups went at each other’s throats and a great many were killed. The Muslims of neighboring towns joined the fracas and the Paravas were systematically decimated (in fact a bounty of 5 fanams per head were initially paid to the mercenaries, but as the heads piled up, this was reduced to one fanam). The Paravas had nowhere to go and were in a dire situation with no hope (A little exaggeration can be seen in these accounts – since the Muslims needed the Parava to eventually go out to sea and continue with their business and pay them the taxes).It was into this mess that the indebted Joa Da Cruz strayed. The Paravas talked to him and explained their desperate plight. Seeing an opportunity to redeem himself, Da Cruz suggested that they convert and get allied to the Portuguese to save themselves. The Paravas, seeing no other alternative, agreed.
- Mughal India blog writes about knowledge circulated during Aurangzeb’s time
Clavius’ work, which responded to and was inspired by Arabic mathematicians and scientists in Latin translation, here a generation after its publication is translated back into Arabic to be read, presumably by elites at the court of Aurangzeb, where the work’s translator and his son were courtiers. This translation demonstrates the complexity of knowledge flows – that they were synchronic as well as diachronic, and also involved a process not just of translation, but of re-translation, re-interpretation and development as they travelled. Furthermore, the inscriptions taken in tandem, one in English made by an East India official, the other in Arabic by a Mughal courtier, open the possibility that already in Aurangzeb’s reign, Mughal elites travelled to Europe perhaps to study. In the case of Mu‘tamid Khan, the translator of this text, he mastered the technical idiom of geometry and mathematics in Latin, and then translated it into an equally complex scholarly language, Arabic. Not an uncommon intellectual feat at the Mughal court, this process of scientific translation remains to be studied in depth. It is also possible that the presence of the Jesuits at Goa had an influence on the production of this translation, but firm evidence remains to be found.
- The next Carnival will be up on March 15th. If you have any blog links, please send it to varnam.blog @gmail.com
- Ganesh idol under a mosque A Ganesh idol was unearthed on Thursday during excavations at a mosque in Jambusar in Bharuch district, about 60 km from Vadodara, police said. Bharuch’s Superintendent of Police G S...
- Indian History Carnival – 37: Vasco da Gama, Venice, Patanjali Giacomo Benedetti looks at what ancient DNA can tell us about the Indo-European problem. We can suppose that the Oxus valley was an ancient seat for the R1a1a people coming...
- Indian History Carnival – 29 As a response to the 2004 paper by Farmer, Sproat & Witzel which argues that the Harappans were illiterate, Sukumar, Priya Raju and NK Sreedhar have published a paper which refutes that...
- Indian History Carnival – 17 The Indian History Carnival, published on the 15th of every month, is a collection of posts related to Indian history and archaeology. One fundamental dispute regarding the Indus script is...
- Indian History Carnival – 47: Sabha, Mughal Miniatures, Calicut, Linnaeus Tripe, Project “Sesame” Sriram explains how the Sabha culture originated in Chennai Chennai was uniquely positioned for the birth of such a concept. When Chennai or Madras first came into existence in 1639,...
Second, Reich agrees that the ANI (West Eurasian, “Ancestral North India”) admixture into the India population exhibits at least two admixture events. There were hints of this in the original 2009 paper, and looking more closely at the South Asian data others have suggested this more explicitly. This seems the best explanation for why non-Brahmin upper castes in South India do exhibit distance on the ANI-ASI cline from lower castes, but without clear connection to many ancestral components with a “northern” affinity present at non-trivial levels in Indo-European speaking groups and South Indian Brahmins (or those groups which have admixed with Brahmins, such as Nairs).
The hypothesis I prefer is that there was an initial wave of West Asian agriculturalists who arrived in the Indian subcontinent <10,000 years B.P., and admixed with the ASI (“Ancestral South Indian”) substrate. Then, there was at least one further substantial demographic wave of West Eurasians, probably bringing the Indo-European languages. This population had more northern affinities (though not exclusively; the Basque vs. non-Basque difference in European seems to be a West Asian element), which explains the subsidiary minor explicitly European-like element found in many upper caste populations, and to a lesser extent Indo-European speaking South Asians generally. Finally, I do suspect that some groups in the Northwest, such as Jatts, were shaped by later migrations.
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Last year I audited two courses on World History from two American Universities. The first one was the Making of Modern World from the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) and the second, The Modern World: Global History since 1760 from Princeton University via Coursera. A common area covered in both the courses were the Islamic invasions of India and the establishment of the Delhi Sultanate. The UCSD course by Prof. Matthew Herbst, spent almost an hour on the topic, while that much time was not spent by Prof. Jeremy Adelman of Princeton. While the UCSD lectures are still available online, the Princeton ones have gone offline and so the I have to rely on the course textbook for material. In this post, we will look at how the two professors dealt with the material.
The book Worlds Together, Worlds Apart: A History of the World: From 1000 CE to the Present (Third Edition) by Robert Tignor et al, which is the course textbook at Princeton, talks about this period and states that Islam joined the canopy of Hinduism to make the region more diverse. This showed how cross-cultural integration preserved diversity as well as integral unity. As the Turks “spilled into” India with their new beliefs, they added to the ethnic and religious mix “without upsetting the balance” and India became an intersection of trade, migration and culture of Afro-Eurasian people.
How did India look during that period? They were ruled by Rajas, supported by high-caste Brahmins. These Brahmins previously had converted much of uncultivated India into arable land. The Brahmins also did two other things: they built temples and converted indigenous hunter-gatherers to Hinduism. Following that they spread the religion and expanded the agrarian tax base. The relationship between the Raja and the Brahmin was one of quid pro quo. The Brahmins created elaborate genealogies for the kings and the kings besides giving them wealth learned Sanskrit culture and became patrons of arts.
When the Turkish warlords entered India, they introduced their own customs while accepting Indian customs like the caste system. Since they were concerned with promoting their religion, they built grand mosques and libraries. There is mention of both Mahmud of Ghazna and Muhammad Ghuri: the former just led some “expeditions” into North India while the latter led a wave of “invasions.” Much later, when the Delhi Sultanate was established, they strengthened the cultural diversity and tolerance, which were the hallmarks of Indian society. They did not convert their subjects and due to this India never became an Islamic-dominate country.
Also, by the time the Turks arrived, India had experienced many invaders and had assimilated them. The Turks cooperated with the assimilation and thought of themselves as Indians, but they never changed the way they dressed and soon the local started wearing trousers and robes. They had an influence on the language as well: Persian was made the court and administrative language even though the majority of the people they ruled did not speak that language.
According to the authors, Islam did not become a conquering religion in India; they collected jaziya and let people worship as they pleased. The new sultans granted land to the ulema and Sufi saints, like how the Hindu rajas had done to Brahmins.
University of California, San Diego
Prof. Herbst sets the context by talking about the Egyptian Mamluks, who were Central Asian pagans who were captured, sold, converted and eventually ruled Egypt as elites. They were Muslim rulers who were ruling over a Muslim population and even though they were outsiders in terms of language and culture, they were insiders in terms of religion. These outsiders united the people by advocating jihad against the enemies of Islam like the Mongols, Crusaders and Shiites. But when it came to the Delhi Sultanate, they had a different problem: they were a Muslim power ruling a numerically large non-Muslim population with a radically different culture.
He explains the three approaches of Islam in India during this period.
The first was to plunder and leave. According to Prof. Herbst, Mahmud of Ghazni did not lead “expeditions”; this descendent of a Mamluk, led military campaigns for plunder. He attacked cities, sacked temples and wanted to destroy the idolaters of India. The Somnath temple was destroyed and the idols of Shiva were broken and there were two reasons for it. One, the temples had money and it was simple plunder. Second, Hindu temples have representation of God and that if offensive to the invaders because that is forbidden in their religion. Mahmud called it jihad and the Caliph from Baghdad wrote a letter congratulating him for a quarter of century of attacks.
The second approach was to conquer and stay which the Delhi Sultanate did from the 13th to the 16th century. Their goal was to change India from Dar al-Harb to Dar al-Islam and that was a hard task in a land which was holy to another religion. Also the Delhi Sultans were outsiders who ate different food, spoke a different language and had a different style of clothing. The Caliph appreciated the work of the Sultans, but then Indians did not care much for the Caliph. They adopted Persian as the language of the court, but a vast majority of Indians did not speak that language. To build legitimacy in such an atmosphere, they did few things.
They built the Qutub complex using the pillars of destroyed Hindu and Jain temples. Then they also bought the iron pillar and some Asoka edicts there. Then a 240 ft high minar was built. Obviously such a tall minaret was not for the muezzin to call the faithful for prayer, but it was a statement of power to the 100 million non-Muslims. Even though India lay at the geographic fringe of Dar al-Islam, they had to be central in their accomplishments. For this they hired Muslim poets and judges: Ibn Battuta, a North African Muslim, thus found a job a qadi in Delhi and Muslim scholarship and literature started rising from India.
The third approach was the Sufi way. The Sufis, who emphasized a person experience with God and used images of sexuality and drunkenness, challenged the tolerance of the ulema. They were organized into brotherhoods under a sheikh. They ran soup kitchens, asked the followers to develop river like generosity and enjoy worldly pleasures in moderation. They did not want to be seen associated with the administration: there is a story of one of the sheiks leaving through the backdoor when the Sultan visited. When the Sufi sheikhs died, their shrines became places of pilgrimage and very soon there were Muslim places of pilgrimage in a place where there was none. Prof. Herbst ends by talking about Vijayanagara empire, which was established in South India during this period to ward off the Islamic invasions.
The Princeton version has no mention of the plunder or the destruction of temples; they are replaced with euphemisms like “expeditions” or “spilled into” as if they came on a sightseeing trip. Also, in their versions empires like the Mauryas and Guptas which ruled a large portion of India did not exist and it was left to the Brahmins to make the whole country arable. That must have been quite an effort. The UCSD version does not resort to such political correctness. These two interpretations shows how Indian history is shaped and massaged in American Universities. Sometimes you know the historian and are prepared for the bias. When it comes to unknown historians, it is important to read multiple interpretations to understand the history of the historian.
- Making of the Modern World 13, Lecture 3, Lecture 4 at UC San Diego of April, 2012
- Tignor, Robert, Jeremy Adelman, Stephen Aron, Stephen Kotkin, Suzanne Marchand, Gyan Prakash, and Michael Tsin. Worlds Together, Worlds Apart: A History of the World: From 1000 CE to the Present (Third Edition). Third Edition. W. W. Norton & Company, 2010.
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This isn’t about BJP’s hurt feelings!
Media reports suggest that Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde would offer regrets for his infamous ‘Hindu Terror’ remarks delivered at the Congress party’s Chintan Shivir in Jaipur. While it is unclear that if a full apology is in the offing, a statement acceptable to the BJP is likely to be delivered by the Home Minister. Apparently, the Home Minister is motivated by a desire to avoid the disruption of the budget session of the Indian parliament.
So all fine and dandy? Hardly. In his comments at Jaipur’s Chintan Shivir, Shinde had not only commented on the involvement of some Hindus in terror incidents in places like Malegaon and Hyderabad but had specifically alleged that BJP and RSS were running training camps to spread saffron terror across the country. That is an extremely serious charge as it suggests that the country’s largest opposition party is virtually a terror organization. This is a far more serious allegation than indirectly linking some of the alleged Hindu terrorists like Sadhvi Pragya to RSS and its affiliated units.
Let’s not beat around the bush here. There is a deep and abiding distrust among Indian Muslims for the BJP and its ideological fountainhead: RSS. On similar lines, among Muslim intelligentsia and thought leaders, it is widely believed that the Indian state is intrinsically unfair to its largest minority. In often impassioned speeches and opinion columns, it is argued that Muslim youth have been falsely accused and arrested in terror attacks. The cases in Malegaon and Hyderabad where innocent Muslims were implicated in the terror incidents before the role of Hindu extremists was exposed lend further credence to these charges. It would be no exaggeration to state that many Muslims believe that Hindu extremists are behind virtually every terror attack India has witnessed in the last few years. Indeed, it may not be politically correct to explicitly state it any longer but a section of Muslim intelligentsia believes that there is some deep mystery behind the Mumbai terror attacks of 2008 and the unfortunate death of Hemant Karkare was no accident. There is a deep and simmering discontent among Muslims and India’s leaders would be very unwise to ignore it.
Indeed, among Muslim opinion-makers, Shinde’s comments on the terror antecedents of BJP/RSS were widely seen as a vindication. Here was a leader who was not afraid of calling a spade a spade. Who finally articulated what Urdu newspapers had been arguing for years. And how would Shinde’s capitulation be received in such circles?: That the ‘Hindu India’ had again managed to marginalize a truly secular leader who was not afraid of speaking truth to the power. Irrespective of the contents of Shinde’s regret, it is only likely to further exacerbate the growing divide between the Indian state and the average Muslims.
And can they really be blamed in this particular episode? After all, if a person as responsible as the country’s home minister charges the main opposition party with blatantly encouraging terrorism, what should be the next logical step? That its leaders should be hauled to the jail while the party itself is banned. Instead, he has now decided to express regrets. Isn’t the Indian state in that case directly complicit in encouraging Hindu terrorism?
Unfortunately, this is hardly the first time the Congress party has played a similar game. During 2012 UP assembly elections, Digvijay Singh repeatedly alleged that Batla House encounter was staged and had promised an inquiry. In his eagerness to court Muslim votes, Digvijay Singh completely ignored the fact that a decorated police officer had died in that incident which happened under the auspices of Congress governments both at the central as well as the state level. And what has happened to the inquiry now? Unfortunately, this is now virtually a race to the bottom in which the Congress party and other ‘secular’ formations compete to fan the flames of Muslim disenchantment.
This sorry episode calls for an introspection for all the parties concerned. The BJP should think about why the average Muslim is so ready to believe terror charges leveled against the country’s second largest party? What explains the trust deficit between the party and the Muslims? And what has the BJP done to address it? Surely, a party which ardently believes that it is a serious contender for political power should worry that it attracts the hostility of India’s most significant minority. Shouldn’t it worry that individuals who appear to be at least tangentially linked to RSS are accused of killing innocent Indians? The opinion makers in the Muslim community should evaluate if destroying the already tenuous trust in the Indian state would really serve the community’s interests. And if ignoring the extremist elements within the Muslim ranks is really the ideal way forward. And Congress party should introspect if encouraging Muslim sectarianism is really the best way to preserve secularism and seriously think about the threats it poses to the long-term security and stability of India. And indeed to its own political relevance. After all, if Muslims conclude that the Indian state is inherently unfair to them why would they trust its most visible representative?
There are no winners here. There is only one loser though and that is the idea of India.
Debating markets and identities
Apropos this interesting debate in the Indian Express between messrs Rajeev Mantri and Harsh Gupta and well-known political scientist Professor Ashutosh Varshney. First things first: Both parties are to be congratulated on an engrossing debate—an unfortunate rarity in Indian opinion pages.
Let me offer some thoughts on Professor Varshney’s arguments—not because I necessarily agree entirely with Mantri & Gupta but simply in the interest of space. I also refrain from commenting on Narendra Modi because my views on the Gujarat chief minister are well known to the readers of this blog.
Mantri & Gupta lend the term “left-liberal” considerable imprecision. They see many more economic adversaries than there actually are. Very few oppose markets today. The bone of contention is whether markets alone would lead to mass welfare, or state intervention is also required. Liberals like me find markets necessary, but not sufficient. India needs greater play of market forces, but the government’s welfare, regulatory and public-goods functions remain.
With due respect, Professor Varshney is overstating the agreement here. As Sushant Singh has argued in Pragati, the Indian republic has lurched further to the left in the last ten years. Ever since the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) won the 2004 general elections demolishing BJP’s ‘India shining’ argument, the prevailing political wisdom is that massive entitlement schemes and not market reforms win elections. Even BJP which had haltingly embraced markets under Atal Bihari Vajpayee is now largely a left-of-center formation economically having endorsed the atavistic policies of RSS and its various off shoots. The recent reforms pushed by the UPA government—FDI in retail for instance—are motivated simply by the slowdown of the Indian economy. Or just witness the rhetoric here: These reforms are necessary to generate sufficient resources for the government to enact newer entitlement reforms. Hardly a ringing endorsement of the markets! To some extent, Narendra Modi is certainly an exception here but he is an exception who proves the rule.
Professor Varshney also vastly underestimates the role of the so-called National Advisory Council (NAC). Short of the Indian cabinet, it is perhaps the most powerful body in India as it enjoys the confidence of Congress president Mrs. Sonia Gandhi. Just look at the schemes it has pushed: From the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act to the massively flawed Right to Education Act which despite its benign nomenclature may entirely decimate private schools in India. To be clear: The idea here is not that the primary education is the responsibility of the state—-as it certainly is—but that only the state can provide it as well. The argument is not restricted to mere financing of public goods but to its exclusive provision by the state as well.
Professor Varshney is also plainly disingenuous in arguing that the ‘The bone of contention is whether markets alone would lead to mass welfare, or state intervention is also required.’ If only it was that simple! It is no one’s case that a well-functioning state is not essential for India’s progress. Indeed, as the Delhi gang-rape demonstrated, the essential weaknesses of the Indian state in delivering basic public security adversely affects the quality of life of all Indian citizens. The Indian middle class has belatedly discovered that it simply cannot secede from the republic and certain essential services can only be delivered by the state.
Instead of Professor Varshney’s rather simplistic formulation, the real debate in India is this: How can we augment the state’s capacity in certain areas—security, public health for instance—while ensuring that it retreats from those areas of the economy where the private sector does a better job and there is no prevailing public interest? To borrow from Gurcharan Das, what India needs is a state which does fewer things but does them well.
But this is not the debate India’s dominant left-liberals are interested in. They are certainly for greater state involvement in provision of basic necessities—from education to food—but they have never made the case for the state’s withdrawal from other less central areas of the economy. For instance, have you ever heard a left-liberal make the following argument:
I believe that the Indian state needs to invest more in public health. An easy way to raise money for such endeavors would it for it to divest from running five star hotels or chronically loss-making enterprises like Air India. After all, Indian air travelers would survive whether Air India flies or not and in any case, what has Air India got to do with the aam aadmi? So I oppose the 30000 crore rehabilitation scheme for Air India and demand that the monies saved be reinvested in public health.
Neither have I. All left-liberals ask for is greater involvement of the state. Period. Yes, the reforms of 1991 have not been rolled back but that is hardly a high bar to cross. That India reforms in stealth remains as true in 2013 as it did in 1991.
Though often associated in popular mind with the US, scholars of nationalism are clear that France is the ultimate melting pot of the world. There are no hyphenated identities in France. Muslim-French, Jewish-French, Arab- French are not categories France allows; all have to be French in an undifferentiated way. In contrast, the US allows hyphens: Irish-American, Italian-American, Jewish-American, Chinese-American, Indian-American are all accepted categories. Moreover, the term “minorities” is highly prevalent. There is no minority quota to be sure, but affirmative action is practised as an enabling provision. I routinely sit on admissions and fellowship committees, which consciously search for minority candidates.
Professor Varshney is on stronger ground here. As Amartya Sen has persuasively argued, individuals adopt multiple identities which may encompass religious, linguistic or religious affiliations. The idea of an Indian Muslim or a Telugu Indian is not incompatible with the larger Indian identity. In any case, a state enforced uniformity is a dangerous idea which may be critically unsuitable to a large and extremely diverse country like India. Even France with it’s a well-established ideals of a secular republican state has not always been successful in reconciling the interests of its various minorities.
But two caveats are important here. First, we should carefully distinguish government from the larger society. In the social context, identities are much more fluid but the government is clearly restricted by constitutional provisions. For instance, social entites funded by private money may endow scholarships restricted to certain religious groups. But should the state do the same? It becomes a tricky question because the state certainly has an interest in addressing disparities and encouraging diversity for both normative as well as practical reasons. Nevertheless, a singular focus on celebrating identities imposes its own challenges and may distort the states’ ability to project fairness.
Second, how far should the state go in admitting multiple identities? For instance, religion specific educational provisions may be defendable because certain groups have been left too far behind to accommodate fair competition. But should it mean that constitutionally mandated provisions like Uniform Civil Code are not enacted because of certain entrenched interests? As Mantri & Gupta correctly point out: The government should not violate important constitutional commands such as gender equality in the name of religious liberty. Worse, such mandates can have the insidious effect of promoting group identities at the cost of individuals. A careful balance between communitarianism and individual identities is required but it can be fairly said that the Indian state has often rewarded the former at the cost of latter. It is one thing for the state not to enforce a common identity; it does not however extend to deliberately forcing individuals into group identities.
Simply put: There certainly can be Gujarati Hindus as well as Indian Christians or Muslims but should the state treat the individuals which constitute these groups differently in the name of recognizing identities? And if yes, how far should the state go before it is stifling individualism in the name of diversity?
P.S.: To be absolutely clear, these are my individual views and Mantri and Gupta may or may not agree with any or all of my arguments.
Prof. Subhash Kak has put his book The Astronomical Code of the Rig Veda in the public domain (via Michel Danino). From the introduction of the book
My own discovery was triggered by an essay in a popular magazine in November 1992 pointing out the marvelous coincidence that the moon and the sun are nearly of identical size when viewed from the earth. I had an overpowering feeling that the matter of size had something to do with the structure of the R. gveda. Checking the text in my library, I quickly discovered that the number of hymns encoded facts about the passage of the sun and the moon. The next task was to make sure that the correspondence was not just a coincidence, which required a careful sifting of numerical and textual data. I later found a confirmation of these numbers in the structure of the Atharvaveda and the Bhagavadgita.
There are those who argue that human progress can be measured only in terms of scientific progress. To such people the question of the science of the R. gveda is of much importance, for it is the oldest complete book that has come down to mankind.
Scholarly opinion has often swung between two extreme views on the past: one barbaric, the other idyllic. In truth, the past was much more of a complex affair than suggested by either of these labels. The discovery of the astronomical code not only allows us a new look at the rise of early science, it also focuses on the need to find the developmental process at the basis of the hymns[The Astronomical Code of the Rig Veda]
I have not read this book yet, but will do soon. You can download the entire PDF here
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Or Why Hartosh Singh Bal is both right and wrong
Writes Hartosh Singh Bal in the Open magazine,
There will be the usual litany from JLF camp followers, part of the large industry around books that feeds off JLF (‘our’ corruption is indeed more sophisticated) who will write in to protest, but this really is not about JLF, it is about the intellectual life of this country. Last year Samanth Subramanian objected to my accusing the JLF organisers of cowardice and instead suggested I should have focused on the police or the government. Obviously he had not even bothered to read the article in question, but surely it must now be apparent that the defence of liberal values does not lie with the police or the government in this country. The fear that made the St Stephen’s students flee the college festival is the same fear that afflicts those who pretend to speak for liberal values today. [Link]
Bal is both right and wrong. He is right because Indian liberals—and we will not engage in dogmatic fights over how to define one—are often too accommodating towards the state. They worry too much about the effects of free speech on the Indian society and worry too less about the principle itself. They treat the Indian people with a certain degree of infantilism—-’communal comment’s will automatically and immediately result in massive riots and therefore the state is correct in quelling speech in the name of social harmony. The deference in the case of free speech is particularly striking as liberals view the state with a certain degree of healthy skepticism in most other matters. And then they act entirely surprised when the more rabid elements take advantage of their own principle—-that the state should be able to restrict speech in the name of peace—to shut down art exhibitions and vandalize cinema halls. As Bal correctly points out, the issue at stake here was not Professor Nandy’s status as the eminence grise of Indian intellectualism or the purport of his comments but the idea of speech itself. But it is doubtful that many liberals would have protested the arrest of an anonymous blogger over similar comments. Their defense of professor Nandy was not couched in the terms of liberty but was reduced to issuing character certificates for the man himself.
But Bal goes overboard in directing his ire almost entirely at liberals and ignores the role of the state. He is not exonerating the Indian state—not at all—but he appears to have given up on it arguing that the ‘defense of liberal values does not lie with the police or the government in this country.’ Superficially appealing as this argument is, it is dangerously naive and foolish. Here’s why.
Bal quotes author Bashrat Peer who recounts how Professor Nandy was forced to issue an apology letter by a local MP and his thuggish supporters. It is heartbreaking to read how an elderly person was humiliated while the festival organizers were scurrying around trying to pacify the purveyors of permanent victimhood. But what were his alternatives when the police officers were happily sitting around trying to negotiate his surrender? Is there any doubt that his refusal would have led to physical violence and what is quixotically described as ‘vandalism’ in India while the police would have done their usual vanishing act?
Or take the case Kamal Hassan and the recent controversy over his movie Vishwaroopam. Yes, it is easy to criticize his surrender to fanatics—and I happily did the same—but what are his choices when the state pleads its helplessness in the name of communal harmony while the courts openly defy the orders of the highest court in the land. (And the Supreme Court, usually so quick to take offense, happily ignores this insult). Sure, he could have stood by his principles and risk the livelihoods of many or he could attempt to rescue what he could from the unfolding disaster. Hassan’s ultimate capitulation was frustrating but entirely understandable.
And what about the courts who are supposed to gurantee the fundamental rights of the Indian citizens? Take the recent comments of Indian Supreme Court in the case of Professor Nandy,
Every citizen has right to free speech but not at the cost of others. We are not at all happy with the way the statement was made. Why do you make such a statement in the first place?’ [link]
This is entirely in character with the Supreme Court which is forever attempting to balance competing interests instead of debating and defending constitutional principles. So the Court protects Professor Nandy from immediate arrest but ticks him off for making ‘controversial’ remarks in the first place. Contrast that with the US Supreme Court which struck down a federal ban on animal cruelty videos—subject of sexual fetishes for some depraved individuals—because it may have a chilling effect on free speech.
In this environment, it is unfair to blame individuals like Professor Nandy or Kamal Hassan as some gutless liberal lackeys. Short of raising vigilante armies who physically confront murderous mobs, what alternatives they truly have? Yes, criticize the double-speak on free speech by all means but don’t blame it all on the lack of individual guts.
In an essentially conservative society, the Indian constitution is the repository of liberal values. And what is the role of the Indian state?: It is to defend the constitution. Merely because the Indian state is failing to do its job, it does not follow it should be given a free pass and left alone as an impossible problem child. For all its faults, it is still far easier to negotiate with the Indian state than it is to talk with the mobs of cultural terrorism. And the state will respond to criticism if it feels that the ‘liberal center’ is sufficiently strong and principled. That doesn’t mean all battles would be won but it is the only way to advance the cause of free speech in India.
Bal’s diagnosis of the weaknesses of the Indian state is correct but his prescription is entirely wrong. Nowhere in the world has free speech survived independent of a well-functioning state. Somalia is not the heaven of free speech; US is. The European newspapers certainly showed a lot of guts in printing the controversial Mohammad cartoons but it is equally true that they had the backing of their respective states. Frustrating as it may be, the focus should on the Indian state and its failing and not so much on individual actors. It is only the Indian state acting on its constitutional instincts which can protect free speech in India. Individuals and the larger society need to push the state in that direction but it is impossible for free speech to exist if the state will not exercise its ‘monopoly of violence.’
Seceding from the Republic is a tempting option but as the Indian middle class has lately discovered, it has its natural limits. That is as true for the safety of women on the streets of New Delhi as it is for free speech or other liberal values.
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By the 1800s, the British had occupied Calcutta, Madras, Bombay, and Northern Circars with the noble goal of personal enrichment. Large parts of the country still lay outside British control with the Marathas, the Nizam of Hyderabad and Tipu Sultan. There was a nominal Mughal emperor who ruled over a vastly shrunk empire. Once forces under Arthur Wellesley, the man who would defeat Napoleon years later, eliminated Tipu Sultan in 1799, it opened up the path for British supremacy in India. While all of these was happening in India, another geopolitical game was being played in the Western hemisphere involving a Spanish playboy, a French emperor, an enlightened American President who kept slaves and actual slaves who defeated two empires. A fortuitous turn of events changed the history of United States and the colonial European powers shifted their gaze to the East.
When Napoleon evaluated the French position towards the end of the 18th century, it looked terrible. The Egyptian invasion had failed, so had the creation of the Mediterranean empire. The French position in India did not look promising and they had already lost the vast territories of Canada to the British. But much more important was the development in their colony Saint-Domingue — the richest colony in the Western hemisphere — where the slaves had revolted. The Austrians and the Russians formed an alliance to stop France and war was happening in Switzerland and Germany. From these data points he decided what had to be done: France needs to reclaim Saint-Domingue as well as create an empire in United States.
In 1800, Spain controlled a vast amount of territory which included large parts of what is now United States (Florida, Louisiana), Mexico, Central America, Cuba, and the entire Western and North parts of South America. In spite of this, Spain was seen as a weak empire due to misrule by Charles IV, who did not want to govern and was happy to delegate the responsibility to someone else. That someone was Manuel de Godoy who became the Prime Minister mostly because he was the Queen’s lover and thus was able to quickly become powerful and influence the King.
Among all the possessions of Spain, the port of New Orleans, was of special interest to Napoleon. During that period, when the United States did not have highways or railroads to transport goods across the nation, but they had rivers. American agricultural goods like wheat, corn and cattle were transported down Ohio river and the Mississippi to the port of New Orleans. At the port, the goods were moved to bigger ships and taken to the East Coast as well as to other countries across the Atlantic. Even though the port was under Spanish control, they had a relatively peaceful policy towards American shipping. No tariff duties had to be paid to Spain before the goods were moved to larger ships. Napoleon knew that if he controlled New Orleans with his new army, he could choke United States and control its fate.
To realize his vision, Napoleon came up with a three point plan.
- Make peace with Austria and Britain. He had problems with Britain during the Egyptian invasion and if he made peace with them, his fleet could cross the Atlantic without collateral damage.
- Create secret deal with Spain
- Assemble a large expeditionary force with hundreds of ships for the conquest of Saint-Domingue and holding on to New Orleans.
Everything went as planned. He made peace with Austria and Britain. Godoy wanted some property in Tuscany and in return he was willing to give Louisiana to the French. The Third Treaty of San Ildefonso was made in secret exactly as Napoleon wanted. The large force was assembled and Napoleon was ready to execute his vision. The United States under Thomas Jefferson was shocked as the country did not have an army to fight Bonaparte. Even though New Orleans was under the control of Spain, Jefferson was sure that he would not have the same business relation with a French controlled New Orleans.
Two events saved United States. First Thomas Jefferson threatened France that if such an event happened, they would join forces with Britain. This was a particularly bold statement because Britain and United States were fighting a war just more than a decade back. Maybe , he was borrowing the enemy of my enemy concept from Chanakya. Then Jefferson had no other choice; he had an army of 1500 men, an unreliable militia, and a navy which was no match against the French. For the security of the nation, he had to align himself with a bigger power.
Second and probably what sealed the fate of the French invasion were guns, germs, steel and something Jared Diamond would not have written about: slaves. When a 10,000 strong French army, under the leadership of Napoleon’s brother-in-law arrived at Saint-Domingue, the slaves gave them a good fight. Napoleon wanted to establish slavery in the colonies and for the slaves, it was a battle for their future. L’Ouverture, the slave leader, was captured through trickery and sent to France where he died in prison. But soon yellow fever stuck and the French army never recovered from it. Those who survived the machetes fell to the germs. Napoleon’s brother-in-law, Charles Leclerc, too died from the disease.
This was unexpected and Napoleon fell into despair. He had to make a critical decision. Should he proceed to the American mainland or does he withdraw back to Europe? Some of his advisors suggested that he go forward with his plans, but he decided to go back to Europe and continue his wars against the British there. If the United States aligned with the British, that would be a formidable power and in case there was such a battle, he could lose his Caribbean possessions.
What was surprising was another decision he made: he decided to sell Louisiana to the United States at a cheap price of 3 cents per acre. He could have returned it back to Spain, but instead he decided to sell it to the country he was coming to build his empire. There were few reasons for this strange decision. First, the secret deal he made with Spain got bogged down over details. Second, Godoy fell out of favor with the Emperor and compared to this fool, Napoleon found the Americans more palatable because New Orleans would make America more powerful and a powerful America would keep the British busy to his favor. Third, he needed money for his wars in Europe.
This turned out to be a blessing for the Americans. This video shows the population growth of United States through that period; with New Orleans secure, the country started moving from the Atlantic border to the West and the future of North America changed.
A decade earlier the British had made a bid to conquer Saint-Domingue, but they were defeated by the slaves and yellow fever. Then they tried to conquer Buenos Aires and that costly expedition failed as well. The retreat of the French, the stability of United States and Wellesley’s growing Indian empire made the British pay more attention to the East and shift the base of their operations. They would still fight the Americans in the War of 1812, but their shift to India paid rich dividends for them. Following the defeat of the Marathas, they had much of India under their control.
- Lecture titled “The Lucky Americans” by Prof. Philip D. Zelikow at the University of Virginia
- Lectures by Prof. Michael Parrish at UC San Diego on America and the World
- Keay, John. India: A History. Grove Press, 2001.
- Sivers, Peter von, Charles A. Desnoyers, and George B. Stow. Patterns of World History: Since 1750. 1st ed. Oxford University Press, USA, 2011.
- The Benevolent Empire Walter Russell Mead has a new book God and Gold: Britain, America, and the Making of the Modern World in which he argues that United States has become the logical successor...
- Don't Blame India Thomas Friedman had an article in New York Times expressed “his concern”:http://www.apolloalliance.org/apollo_in_the_news/friedman.cfm that America is losing its competitive edge to countries like China and India. bq. First, one of America’s...
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- Oh God, Where art thou? Ray Nagin, Mayor of New Orleans: New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin (NAY’-gin) is suggesting that Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and other storms were a sign that “God is mad at...
- British Airways “Liz Hurley, Nayar have another spat in the skies”:http://headlines.sify.com/2089news4.html?headline=Liz~Hurley,~Nayar~have~another~spat~in~the~skies bq. Elizabeth Hurley has done it again. Just when the British Airways staff was recovering from her outrageous demands of upgrading...
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Nazaria-i-Pakistan Trust’s annual Kashmir Solidarity Day conference was held in Lahore yesterday. Speakers included the always-delightful Majid Nizami, chairman of the Nazaria-i-Pakistan Trust and Waqt Group, and the well-known pacifist and respected academic, Professor Hafiz Mohammed Saeed. The theme of this year’s conference was clear. The U.S. has been vanquished in Afghanistan. India’s leverage over Pakistan is at an end. The Kashmir issue is no longer on the back burner. Freedom fighters are about to return to the Valley. Excerpts of their speeches follow:
Majid Nizami: Kashmir cannot become a part of Pakistan without jihad. I am willing to sacrifice my life for Pakistan. We can win Kashmir only through arms, missiles and atom bombs, not through dialog or trade. And until the issue of Kashmir is solved, Pakistan must not have any relations with India of any kind.
Hafiz Saeed: In the past, we have been unable to resolve the issue of Kashmir because our political and military leaders were disunited. When Pakistan became a nuclear power in 1998, India was despondent, and [prime minister] Vajpayee — whose links are with the BJP, which was recently identified as having terrorist affiliations by India’s Home Minister — rushed to Pakistan to save face.
Similarly, when it appeared in 1999 that India was about to lose Kashmir (and I am personally aware of what our position was in Kargil), India appealed to the U.S. It was because of U.S. interference and our own internal differences that we were not able to win in Kargil. But there is no need for pessimism. I propose that a committee be formed under Majid Nizami, which will examine the reasons for our past failures and propose future plans for the resolution of the Kashmir issue.
As a consequence of 9/11, the freedom struggle in Kashmir was negatively affected. During the U.S.’s invasion of Afghanistan, India tried its best to cause harm to Pakistan. India set up terror training camps along our border with Afghanistan and interfered in Balochistan. But India’s ambitions in Afghanistan now have been severely hit with America’s retreat.
The issue isn’t just Kashmir. India plans to stop the flow of river water into Pakistan; there is a project to build over 250 dams to prevent river water from flowing into Pakistan, of which 62 have already been built. But India knows that it is failing in its designs against Pakistan. It brings up dialog and “aman ki asha” when it realizes that its American friends have have been forced to leave the region. We salute the Kashmiris for not having given up hope these 11 difficult years.
Pakistan’s priority must be to solve the Kashmir problem. We can talk to India, because issues can also be resolved through dialog. But on the condition that India stops its aggressive behavior towards Pakistan, withdraws its troops from Kashmir, and stops damming the rivers flowing into Pakistan. Let India decide if it wants to resolve the Kashmir issue through dialog or through war. Hafiz Saeed and those under his command are ready for jihad. [نواےوقت]
Slate has an expanded article based on last year’s discovery of “curry” in Farmana. It has details on the technical advances that made this discovery possible.
Archaeologists have long known how to spot some ancient leftovers. The biggest breakthrough came in the 1960s, when excavators began to drop soil from their sites—particularly from places where food likely was prepared—onto mesh screens. The scientists then washed the earth away with water, leaving behind little bits of stone, animal bones, and tiny seeds of wheat, barley, millets, and beans. This flotation method allowed scientists to piece together a rough picture of an ancient diet. “But spices are absent in macro-botanical record,” says archaeologist Arunima Kashyap at Washington State University Vancouver, who, along with Steve Weber, made the recent proto-curry discovery.*
Examining the human teeth and the residue from the cooking pots, Kashyap spotted the telltale signs of turmeric and ginger, two key ingredients, even today, of a typical curry. This marked the first time researchers had found unmistakable traces of the spices in the Indus civilization. Wanting to be sure, she and Weber took to their kitchens in Vancouver, Washington. “We got traditional recipes, cooked dishes, then examined the residues to see how the structures broke down,” Weber recalls. The results matched what they had unearthed in the field. “Then we knew we had the oldest record of ginger and turmeric.” Dated to between 2500 and 2200 B.C., the finds are the first time either spice has been identified in the Indus. They also found a carbonized clove of garlic, a plant that was used in this era by cooks from Egypt to China.[The Mystery of Curry]
As you read the article you find that our food habits (rice with curry, tandoori chicken), the ingredients used in our food (ginger, turmeric), culture of leaving food for animals and treating cows as sacred animals have not changed in the past four millennia.
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Or what is wrong with Pakistan?
At the outset, let me confess that I am not a strategic analyst. I leave that rather arduous task to better trained colleagues within the Indian National Interest platform as well as the hordes of analysts available on more mainstream publications. I write this post more as an aam aadmi—even though I dislike how this term has been appropriated by certain political formations. So now we are done with this mea culpa, let’s move on to more important things.
An idea which dominates the recent peacenik/liberal conversations is that Pakistan is much more interested in peace than India is. The Outlook magazine perfectly captured this sentiment through a recent cover while across the border, strategic analyst Ezaj Haider argues thusly,
Firstly, unlike Pakistan, there is no real political consensus in India on normalising with Pakistan. Regardless of Pakistan’s concessions, and Pakistan has conceded almost everything India has demanded over the years — trade, investment, MFN without reference to disputes — India demands, though it won’t say so for obvious reasons, unconditional capitulation from Pakistan. [Link]
This is about as nonsensical as it gets. At the minimum, Haider is unaware that Pakistan has still not granted India the MFN status despite the alleged domestic political consensus.
If anything, the only consensus of such nature exists in India across governments of diametrically opposite political persuasions. A little history lesson would be in order here. In the year 1999, Atal Bihari Vajpayee heading a ‘Right-wing’ government agreed to travel to Pakistan resulting in the famous Lahore summit. There was much talk of leaving the past behind and even a Declaration was signed. It is also important to underline that Vajpayee agreed to the peace process with Pakistan despite opposition from his own party and the more virulent sections of the larger Sangh parivar. And what was his reward?: The Kargil war. Even Pakistanis no longer pretend that Kargil was anything but a war thrust upon India. Despite immense domestic pressure, Vajpayee did not expand the war beyond Kargil even though he had every right to do so (In fact, this is exactly what India had done in 1965 in response to Operation Grand Slam ) Perhaps, if you live in the world Ejaz Haider inhabits, this was war-mongering on India’s part and it should have let Pakistan ’peacefully’ occupy Kargil.
Undeterred, Prime Minister Vajpayee tried again in 2001 by staging the Agra summit which unfortunately was a major fiasco. Well, not before providing a televised opportunity for General Musharraf to publicly scold some of India’s most prominent editors.
And then in December 2001, the Indian Parliament attack was attacked. An audacious assault at the very heart of India’s democracy was staged by Pakistan backed terrorists whose goal was to wipe out the entire political leadership. No government in the world—and I repeat no government—could have tolerated an attack of this nature and even then India did not go to war.
And do you see a pattern emerging here: Talking peace but waging war?
In the interest of space, I will not recount the multiple attempts Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh has made for a peaceful resolution with Pakistan. Suffice to say that even after the dastardly Mumbai attacks, Dr. Singh agreed to delink action on terrorism from the composite peace talks during the infamous Sharm El Sheikh meeting. Sure, he encountered domestic opposition but is that not understandable especially since the Mumbai attack was planned and executed directly by Pakistan? And despite all the roadblocks, Dr. Singh has continued to press Pakistan for peace. One may blame Prime Minister Singh for wishful thinking but surely no one can doubt his sincerity or the genuine desire for peace. Dr. Singh may be weakened domestically as Haider gleefully implies but he has displayed nerves of steel when it comes to issues he is genuinely invested in: Nuclear deal and the FDI in retail are two issues which immediately come to mind. Prime Minister Singh clearly views Pakistan as his legacy issue and is prepared to walk the proverbial extra mile for peace. If Dr. Singh has not been able to forge a lasting peace with Pakistan it is not because of his alleged weakness or domestic opposition but because there is no genuine reciprocity from Pakistan. Let no one fool you otherwise least of all Ejaz Haider.
Even more importantly, if there is a genuine Pakistani desire for peace with India, why don’t we see its effects on the ground? Perhaps, Pakistan cannot afford to surrender Dawood Ibrahim to India but surely it escapes understanding why in a country so desirous of peace he is sheltered and venerated? Or take the ongoing prosecutions— and I use this word in its broadest formulation—for the Mumbai attacks. What has been the progress there? Zero. Nada. Zilch. As even a self-confessed Indian peacenik recently admitted.
I am honestly at loss here: I am told repeatedly—and asked to believe—that Pakistan cannot wait to give India a giant bear hug but somehow it still insists on protecting those who have attacked India? Can someone solve this puzzle for me?
And if you really want to shut up the BJP and associated fringe groups, here’s what you need to do. Demonstrate your commitment to peace by at least depriving Hafiz Saeed of his liberty. You can’t even do that and you are claiming a domestic political consensus for peace?!!
But here the old good-cop, bad-cop returns. We can’t act against the planners of Mumbai because, you see, the army won’t let us. So what exactly are you good for? Making peace overtures on twitter? No. Thank you.
Pakistan’s perfidy is hardly limited to India. It has been well documented that Pakistan continues to protect the ‘Good Taliban’—despite horrible terror attacks within Pakistan itself. If the Pakistani establishment has no qualms about protecting domestic terrorists, what is the likelihood it genuinely desires to punish those who have staged attacks in India with its open encouragement and material support?
This is an argument you will rarely hear among the peacenik circles. Because that will give the game away. The India-Pakistan peace process is propped up by little more than hope unencumbered by any notions of history or geo-political thought. Not to put too fine a point on it, it is essentially a shell game.
So forgive me, if I don’t buy this ‘genuine Pakistani’ desire for nonsense rhetoric. And unless you can solve the above conundrum, I will continue to remain very skeptical.
The second interesting idea we often hear about is Track II diplomacy. The argument is fairly simple: Indians and Pakistanis have limited interactions with each other and therefore their views are colored by history and what their respective politicians and the media have told them. Only if the citizens of these two countries realized their shared heritage, the hatred would gradually disappear and they would force their respective government on the path of reconciliation and peace. There is also a more subtle subtext here: That it is all the fault of the darned politicians and the people desire peace.
Superficially at least this makes sense. Despite Pakistan’s attempts to pretend that it evolved directly from the Arabic civilization, India and Pakistan do have common cultural roots. How could it be otherwise when they belonged to the same civilization for at least a millennia? And personally speaking, If Ghulam Ali saheb was to perform in New Delhi, I would have no problems in attending his concert and cheering for the maestro. And I am not interested in any reciprocity either. If Pakistan is not interested in hosting India’s cultural ambassadors then the loss is entirely theirs.
So what is the catch here? Despite its protestations to the contrary, the peacenik/liberal establishment in India is a powerful entity and dominates the national political conversations. (This has both positive and negative effects but that is a debate for another day.) The same is not true for Pakistan where liberals remain a scared and scattered bunch who have little influence outside social media and op-ed columns in the English media. Forget India, their inability to influence Pakistani domestic policies have been repeatedly demonstrated. The whole clusterfark over reforming the blasphemy laws is merely a recent example.
As already conceded it doesn’t mean that there is anything specifically wrong with Track II diplomacy or encouraging more visits of Pakistani artists to India. If people feel good lighting candles at the Wagah-Attari border, more power to them. However, it is entirely wooly-headed to believe that these gestures can actually influence the Pakistani establishment and its powerful army in giving up its inherently anti-India posturing. So those who start worrying that the peace process has come ‘unstuck’ because of protests organized by fringe groups after particularly egregious outrages should relax. By all means practice jadu ki jhappi in Jaipur or Lahore but please don’t pretend that the Pakistan’s liberals can actually influence its India policy. And if they can, where is the evidence?
And if the past is any indicator, then democracy makes little difference either. The Kashmiri militancy was encouraged in the era of Benazir Bhutto while Kargil happened while Nawaz Sharif was busy playing ‘dazzling’ cover drives in Lahore’s Bagh-I-Jinnah. The culprit here is the powerful military-jihadi complex and it is unlikely to be persuaded by peaceniks waving the White flag. And by promising a false dawn, the peaceniks in both India and Pakistan unwittingly play directly in the hands of the military-jihadi complex and limit India’s strategic options in the name of preventing war. Indeed, Pakistani liberals have little faith in their own army when it comes to multiple domestic and international issues but some how expect India to trust Rawalpindi!
Simply put, what is wrong with Track II diplomacy is not the idea itself but the argument that it actually amounts to anything. Or that it will make any difference in the foreseeable future. And we will all be dead in the long term.
(To be continued)
Instead of viewing friendly gestures by India as compromise despite hostility from Pakistan, Pakistan is likely to view friendly gestures by India as a compromise due to hostility from Pakistan.
By Barath C
The policy of the Indian government of voluntary commitment to uninterrupted and uninterruptible diplomatic relationship with Pakistan, while not insisting upon credible and verifiable progress towards reducing hostilities from various arms of Pakistani state and its terror apparatus, is unlikely to yield results.
Prime minister Manmohan Singh’s government has displayed remarkable tenacity and determination in normalising relationship with Pakistan. Despite lack of progress in bringing Mumbai terrorist attack (among other terror attacks) masterminds to justice, lack of progress along reciprocal trade agreements like MFN status to India, and a continuation of hostile policies towards India such as the recent incident along the Line of Control, the current Indian government has pressed on in its quest to normalise relationship with Pakistan.
While there is no contesting the fact that a peaceful neighbourhood is always better than a conflict-prone neighbourhood for any country, stability in relationship with Pakistan (stability is used here to denote a state that is neither friendship nor hostility) is impossible without at least one of the two factors (1) Favourable public opinion (2) Paucity of periodic hostile and inimical acts.
Let us consider favourability of public opinion. This single factor by itself is sufficient in most cases for countries to pursue friendly policies towards each other. A good example of this is of India’s relationship with United States of America. US has supplied Pakistan with offensive weaponry, including P-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft, anti armor, anti air and anti ship missiles, self propelled artillery, combat helicopters, fighter aircrafts, and missile frigates creating a huge conventional security threat from Pakistan. In addition, its refusal to punish Mumbai terrorist mastermind David Headley commensurate to his crime, and its decision to rely on Pakistan to stabilise Afghanistan have hugely enhanced the triple threats of terrorism, nuclear and conventional blackmail from Pakistan. However, Pew surveys indicate that over 40 percent of Indians view USA in a favourable light, with about 10 percent viewing the US in an unfavourable light. Therefore, despite arguably committing acts which impact India’s security in an enormously negative way; India is able to pursue peaceful and stable relationship with the US.
Considering the second factor: Lack of periodic hostile and inimical acts, public opinion in India is decidedly against China. Despite this, the lack of periodic provocations in the border and the international fore have enabled India and China to enter a phase of a stable relationship, largely driven by a top-down approach by the government. Despite lack of progress in border talks, trade is burgeoning between the two countries. If such a stable state continues, it is conceivable that outstanding territorial disputes could be resolved in the future, with the possibility of even security and economic cooperation between the two nations for peace and prosperity in Asia.
Considering India-Pakistan relationship, Indian public opinion towards Pakistan is neither favourable nor have hostile acts from Pakistan ceased. The former is difficult to remedy, considering the history of the subcontinent. Considering the latter, hostile acts from Pakistan continue. It is unclear if Pakistan is unable or unwilling to control all arms of the state and terror groups it once patronised or if Pakistan still views them as a tool of power projection. The reality is probably a complex mixture of the three. What is even more concerning is the trajectory: various statements from various terror groups and ex military officers in Pakistan hint that terrorism originating from Pakistan will get a fillip once US leaves the region and Pakistan is free to pursue its designs in Afghanistan. Under these two realities, India’s effort to normalise relationship with Pakistan is destined to an inevitable failure.
So what does India lose by pursuing normalisation with Pakistan in the absence of continued hostile acts and unfavorable public opinion and possible failure in the future?
The efforts invested in normalising relationships is unlikely to bear fruit: Every incident, minor and major would prove to be a huge impediment towards such a pursuit. In the era where opposition parties, media and informed citizenry have increased scrutiny of government missteps, India is one terror incident away from the entire peace process getting derailed. Lack of favourable public opinion also constrains India’s ability to offer ‘compromise’ (like Siachen and Sir Creek) of the kind Pakistan desires.
The efforts invested in normalising relationship despite provocations only rewards bad behavior from Pakistan. Instead of viewing friendly gestures by India as compromise despite hostility from Pakistan, Pakistan is likely to view friendly gestures by India as a compromise due to hostility from Pakistan. In this context, a rational adversary would only seek to increase hostility to maximise reward.
The era of hassle free travel, ability of Pakistani media personalities to influence India media, voluntary renunciation of India of the possibility of even considering a punitive response, combined with an increase of Pakistan’s ability to inflict conventional (nuclear and terror) attacks is a combustible mixture whose brunt has to be borne by Indian citizens.
Barath C is a researcher interested in Science, Technology and International Relations. Follow him on Twitter at @barathcn
Minoans, who lived on the island of Crete, were contemporaries of the Harappans. But unlike the Harappans, they were known more for their monumental palaces and mansions. The civilization came to an end by fire, ash or flooding when the volcano on the Greek island of Santorini blew up. Till recently, it was believed that this civilization was devoid of war and now new evidence suggests it was not so.
“The study shows that the activities of warriors included such diverse things as public displays of bull-leaping, boxing contests, wrestling, hunting, sparring and duelling. Ideologies of war are shown to have permeated religion, art, industry, politics and trade, and the social practices surrounding martial traditions were demonstrably a structural part of how this society evolved and how they saw themselves.”
Molloy found a “staggering” amount of violence in the symbolic grammar and material remains from prehistoric Crete. Weapons and warrior culture were materialised variously in sanctuaries, graves, domestic units and hoards. It could also be found in portable media intended for use during social interactions, for example, administration, feasting, or personal adornment. “There were few spheres of interaction in Crete that did not have a martial component, right down to the symbols used in their written scripts.” said Dr Molloy.
This is interesting because the Harappan civilization is also considered to be a peaceful one; you do not find glorified rulers, or depiction of conquest or warfare. There are no jars or seals depicting battle and no trace of armed conflict. It remains a mystery as to how such a vast domain was governed. One theory is that trade and religion were the instruments of authority and not warfare. But then as Michel Danino writes in The Lost River, only less than 10 per cent of the 1140 Mature Harappan sites have been excavated. The buried ones may have a different story to tell.
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- The Lost River: Harappans and Vedic People Michel Danino’s The Lost River (Penguin, March 2010) has been reviewed by V. Rajamani in the well-known scientific journal Current Science (25 December 2010, vol. 99, no. 12, pp. 1842–43) Part...
- A Harappan Feast If you are having a proper Indian lunch or dinner, there is good chance that your food will contain ginger or turmeric or lentils. You have rice or millet and...
- Gandi Umar Khan “Gandi Umar Khan”:http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=story_20-1-2004_pg7_29 is a site in North West Frontier Province of Pakistan, which belongs to the Harappan Civilization era. This site was discovered in 1997 and excavations were carried...
- Legacy of the Harappans Legacy of Harappan tech all pervasive even today THE RECENT findings of glass beads proved that people of Harappan civilization had knowledge of glass. And, recent findings of Mesolithic tools...
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