Thursday, April 03, 2008

Understand Writings on India-Pakistan Relations

A lot is being said about Indo-Pak relations by various commentators and frankly the sheer volume of opinions can be overwhelming and confusing.

At this point, I offer my readers the following way of organising the views that are out there.

I personally tend to organise views on Pakistan into four broad regimes,

1) Emergent Situations: Views that highlight sudden unexpected dynamics inside Pakistan that departs from the prevailing consensus on Pakistan's trajectory eg. assasinations, shifts in the drug market, accidents etc... I tend to place a lot of the views on emerging patterns of terrorism in this category - these assessments are given high visibility in the media, but honestly their reliability varies. Most of this material comes from eyes on the ground - news reporters who try to bring out as much information as rationally possible from an event that seems unanticipated.

2) Short Term: Usually, relating to the next two-three years. This is comparable to the timescale on which we anticipate dynamics in the "civilian" authority system that now being put into place in Islamabad. Shifts inside the military's leadership are also relevant. A lot of these views come from people who meet the key personalities - reporters, diplomatic staff, "travellers through the region" etc...

3) Medium Term: Typically on the three-ten year scale. This is typically the timescale for any serious military research and development project in Pakistan, and so any security policy that controls a proliferation risk has to be sensitive to this sort of time frame. It is also the timescale on which any major problem inside Pakistan vis a vis resources distribution (eg. water or land) will become prominent. This kind of view usually comes from "think tanks".

4) Long Term: This is the ten-thirty year timescale. It is here that one can look for the effect of changes in perceptions among the general population eg. the effects of Islamisation, "Roshan Khayali" etc... This view is usually shared only between the Sons of Mother India, and it is usually never really released to the aam junta - however a crude reflection of it may be found in the mood of the analyst community in general.

Most of the newer analysts out there tend to pick a category and contain their comments to a specific time frame. This is because they are "new" and don't have a sense of how their little picture gels with the larger picture. Sometimes, governments and others tend to push analysis of a particular time frame into the media in the hope that public opinion is prepared for the most relevant dynamics inside Pakistan (I only sparingly approve of such conduct). The US is currently inundated with "new" analysts and that kind of thing tends to have predictable consequences - and I understand the US desire to put all their product out there - this way they get the "new" folks reviewed for free.

The "old hands" have seen it all - they know how to carefully interlace the writings with comments relevant to each time frame and please understand the "old hands" have been writing about Pakistan for *decades* now - they have had time to see the long term - the newer lot simply hasn't - so you can't expect them to write about it.

This leaves the people in the "middle" - not so "new" analysts tying to get into the "old hand" category. There are really two kinds here - ones who will become "old hands" and ones who won't. I personally find that a "new" analyst who tends to carefully preface her/his writings with a defined time frame and carefully segregate opinions and speculations from verifiable facts has a better chance of becoming a "old hand" than someone who does not do these things.

That sets the stage for me to tell you all my feelings about the present state of things.

With regards emergent situations, I feel that it is best if India retains the ability to seek out more information if it chooses to. I realise that this means ties have to maintained at a level where communication is easier and yes I do appreciate the potential risks that entails.

As short term dynamics is concerned, again, there must unfettered access to the sources - the key persons themselves and to this end, a little courtship is necessary given the situation that has prevailed in the last two decades - we have become so distant, that needs to change.

The medium term is quite obvious to everyone - Pakistan is going to run out of water, land and food, population pressures on the land and going to create unsustainable patterns of immigration from rural belts to Pakistani cities, and the lack of emphasis on urban industrial growth will come to haunt Pakistan. For a lot of this kind of analysis, we can rely on stand-off information gathering, lately, as you all know, India has made considerable advances in stand off surveillance technology and after Kargil, a good bit of emphasis was placed on training new people to do this kind of work. A precise application of these tools should enable us to remain aware of relevant developments.

That leaves the long-term stuff. I don't want to comment on the specifics as it is not my place to do so - but broadly speaking, stress in India-Pakistan ties was at its highest during the Partition. Subsequently, stress in this relationship has only risen in response to stresses inside Pakistani society. In my opinion this is perfectly normal - India and Pakistan - are part of the same cultural landscape - one affects the other. An ideal long term situation in Indo-Pak ties would be if the coupling between India and the stresses in Pakistani society (and vice versa) is kept to a manageable level.


At 4:37 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

idiot porkistan.. go n die


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