Thursday, February 25, 2010

Waters of Peace and Concord

Water need not be a dispute between India and Pakistan! Rather than signify discord and disagreement - it could instead be a Carrier of Peace and Concord between the countries.

How? Siddharth Varadarajan of the Hindu newspaper has an article and a blogpost on the subject. He details the history of the issue:

The early years of independence saw bitter disputes as India treated the waters of the Indus's five tributaries — Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi, Beas and Sutlej — as its own. Geography and terrain meant the Indus itself could not be harnessed on the Indian side of Jammu and Kashmir but intermittent, small-scale, diversions on the tributaries generated considerable tension with Pakistan.[...]
Under the IWT, India renounced its right to block or divert the flows of the ‘western' rivers and agreed to confine itself to run-of-the-river hydroelectric projects and the drawing of irrigation water for a specified acreage of farm land. This partitioning was irrational from an ecological standpoint

He suggests that an integrated hydro-electric generation and supply agreement involving energy swaps could form the basis of a broader joint Indo-Pakistan water management program for the entire Indus river water system, become a major confidence builder, and eventually turn the waters of current discord into Waters of Future Peace and Concord, provided India and Pakistan address each others' issues in a spirit of genuine dialogue and accomodation.

It is worth noting that the US and Canada share the waters of the Niagara River to generate power on each side which then becomes part of a common North American grid. The waters are managed jointly so that hydroelectric power stations on either side of the US-Canada border can be run properly, and this is done in an integrated way. I suggest that this also forms an aspirational model for India and Pakistan to jointly share the waters of the Indus - both for hydroelectric power generation and for other uses (including consumptive, recreational, agricultural uses). The picture above shows the Canadian Niagara Falls on the right, while the American Niagara Falls are to the left, in a panoramic view.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Building Peace in South Asia

In the Global Forum program linked in here, Tariq Ali and Sanjoy Banerjee, a professor of international relations, discuss how peace can be built in South Asia with moderator Dr. Agha Saeed. Tariq Ali sets out the broad political and economic contours of the South Asian Union idea - with each country enjoying a veto in decisions internal to the Union (so that a large country like India cannot dominate). His vision includes visa-free travel and free trade, and he visualizes the external relations of the Union being conducted jointly. He also spells out how a region like Kashmir could be given special autonomous status within the South Asian Union, and how the Sri Lankan Tamil issue can be similarly addressed.

Sanjoy Banerjee argues that an economic union is certainly possible in the near term, but that a political union along the lines Tariq Ali suggests is at least several decades away. He argues that the different countries of South Asia are currently in different stages of political development, and until they all reach a similar stage, the goal of a political union will be difficult. Tariq Ali agrees that it will take time, but that it does not mean one should stop working toward this goal.

The video I link here is Part 1 of 5 clips. Other clips in the program deal with Afghanistan, Tibet, the role of China, and other related issues.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Citizens Express Spontaneous Goodwill and Desire for Friendship

We live in a world flooded with official media images, sounds and words. But what do real everyday citizens feel about the India-Pakistan relationship? Here are a random group of Indian travelers - train passengers on a trip from Mumbai to Delhi sharing their views on Pakistan: food, politics, language, culture, sports - all is covered, the feeling of mutuality and fellow-feeling is spontaneously expressed, by young people of all ages! Check it out yourself:

Aman ki Asha: Anthem with Lyrics

PakiPriinsess has posted a video with the lyrics for the Aman ki Asha anthem:

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Nafisa Ali's Vision for South Asia

Nafisa Ali, an Indian film actress and politician, a former Miss India and national women's swimming champion, is someone with family in each of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. She stars in a soon-to-be released movie Lahore. Here she talks about her vision for South Asia, on how artificial the borders in South Asia are, and her hope for the younger generation of South Asians - that they might finally give up the ultra-nationalism of their parents' and grandparents' generations, and might actually build a South Asia rather like the EU of today: with open borders, free trade, and even a common currency. (This was rather how it was in the pre-1947 era). Thus the hope is that the young people of today will recreate a South Asia that is rather like the one their great-grandparents lived in!

Pakistan and India: Toward a Reconciliation

Forgiveness is essential before India and Pakistan can move toward reconciliation and abiding peace. Noni, who runs the OpinionatedPakistani channel on youtube has a wonderful video just up that I thought I would blog immediately. This is Black History Month in the US and Canada, and Noni talks about the Martin Luther King Memorial that began construction in Washington DC in December 2009. The memorial will be made from granite blocks shipped from China, and the statue of Martin Luther King will be designed by a Chinese sculptor.
it will be bigger than the 19-foot statue of Jefferson in the Jefferson Memorial, the 19-foot 6-inch statue of Abraham Lincoln in the Lincoln Memorial and the 19-foot 6-inch statue of Freedom on the U.S. Capitol dome.

Noni also mentions this letter in the Washington Post:
The site of the memorial is flanked by cherry trees, gifts from Japan, the archenemy of China in the 1930s and '40s and the United States in the '40s.

Noni points out that if China, Japan and the US, who were each others' arch-enemies in the 1930s and 40s (China and Japan); 1930s and 40s (Japan and the US); 1950s and 60s (China and the US), could thus cooperate in the making of the Martin Luther King memorial, then surely India and Pakistan can also put the past behind, forgive each other for what they each did in the past 60 years, and move ahead in peace and reconciliation? She also asks us to remember how far race relations have come in the US in the past 50 years. Yet, she asks, India and Pakistan still seem stuck in the past. Why?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Hey, you're just like us, aren't you?

One of the goals of the Aman ki Asha campaign launched by Pakistan's Jang Group of Newspapers and India's 'Times of India' group is to encourage greater coverage of human interest stories from India and Pakistan in the other country's media, and to encourage more people-to-people contact across the border. The underlying assumption is that if citizens of each country came to see the other's citizens as they actually are, rather than through stereotypes, then the mutual desire for peace could overwhelm any official apathy, foot-dragging at the government level. While citizens of both countries often view the other through stereotypes, and while the education system, (particularly in Pakistan) plays a big role in creating and sustaining these stereotypes in the minds of impressionable young children, this can occasionally reveal a comic side.

A Pakistani disc jockey visiting India with a theatrical troupe, Ayesha Khaled, writes in the Times of India, that

every Indian was curious to meet the delegates from Pakistan. It is this curiosity that makes us friends with every year. I recall this little Indian boy who came to us and politely asked us if we were from Pakistan? Then, very hesitantly, he asked one of our groupmates, "Can I touch you?" We thought he was joking but after seeing the mixed expression of seriousness, interest and nervousness on his face, my friend replied, "Yes, sure you can." He cautiously touched him with his index finger, as if fearing my friend would grab him and take him to some strange place. He shouted happily, "Hey, you are just like us... aren’t you?"

Read the full article.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Canada-US Relationship Model for Pakistan-India?

In looking at the future of Pakistan-India relationship, it is useful to have an aspirational model of what we might aim for. Various people have made various suggestions, based on the history of other countries in the world, depending on what their final vision is, and what lessons they draw from history. For example, it has been suggested that France and Germany could form a model: their history is full of wars in the 17th, 18th, 19th and early 20th Centuries. Yet today they are living in peace, and are jointly the principal countries in the European Union (EU).

Other people have suggested that East and West Germany could provide a model. After the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, the two Germanies, which underwent a de facto Partition based on Allied Occupation Zones at the end of World War II - merged peacefully, though not without significant economic and political adjustments on both sides. Here the common point of comparison is that the German Partition took place around the same time as the Partition of British India - and the two Germanies spent the Cold War on opposite sides, rather like Pakistan and India.

Yet other people have suggested that Brazil and Argentina, which had a long-running rivalry in the 19th and early 20th Centuries (that included a race toward nuclear weapons, which both eventually gave up) could form a model. Argentina and Brazil threw off their colonial occupiers (Spain and Portugal) in the early 19th Century, and then found that they had disagreements over territory, over which they fought wars 1825-28, and then again 1852-54. Brazil settled its boundary issues awith Argentina in the early 20th Century, but the two remained rivals (though not enemies) through most of the 20th Century, each going through military dictatorships. But finally, in the aftermath of the Falklands War of 1980, they both democratized and eventually signed a free-trade pact - Mercosur. They launched a cooperative program in civilian nuclear energy, as well as one in space research. In 2007 they jointly launched a rocket into space. Today Brazil and Argentina are each other's largest trading partners, with a close political relationship.

Other people yet have suggested that the European Union itself forms a model, for the whole of South Asia, including Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bhutan and the Maldives - as a sort of next step from SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) - to result in what has been called a South Asian Union (SAU). Although SAARC is more than 20 years old, movement towards SAU has been slow, mainly because India and Pakistan, the two biggest members of SAARC, need to solve their bilateral issues first.

Yet other people have suggested that the United States is itself a model for South Asia, and all countries in the region could eventually organize themselves internally and externally into what has been called the United States of South Asia (USSA). This has a long history, and was quite actively promoted during the immediate pre-Partition phase 1945-47. The idea was again revived at the end of the Cold War, but in spite of an active constituency in both India and Pakistan, has not quite taken off, again the bilateral issue between India and Pakistan tying up progress.

All of these ideas have many things to commend them, and some have also been studied in depth by various scholars, generals, and diplomats. It may very well be that sometime in the future, a version of either the SAU or the USSA models, or some variation thereof, could be the model for political organization in South Asia.

Here I would like to suggest that perhaps the Canada-US relationship could serve as a good model for Pakistan and India for the immediate future, while in the long term other possibilities can also be studied and could come to fruition if found suitable. Consider the similarities between India-Pakistan and US-Canada.

First, relative geo-demographic scale: Although Canada and the US have roughly the same land area, the population and economy of USA is roughly ten times that of Canada. The population and economy of India are roughly in the same proportion relative to that of Pakistan, though in land area terms, Pakistan is about a quarter of India's land area.

Second, history: Both US and Canada were once ruled directly by Great Britain (later US also took over areas under the Spanish and French). What is often not appreciated is that a significant number of present-day Canadians had ancestors who were Americans that escaped to Canada (then known as British North America) after the American Revolution of 1776. This has its counterpart in India-Pakistan history: both were ruled by Britain (and therefore also, like Canada and the US, use English), but also, as a result of Partition, there is a significant number of people, especially in Pakistan, whose ancestors lived in areas that are now in India.

What is appreciated even less today is that Canada and the early US had hostile relations in the first few decades. They even went to war in 1812. However, in 1815, a peace treaty was signed, and has held ever since. Disputes between the US and Canada have arisen since then, but they have always been settled by negotiations, discussions, give-and-take, and arbitration when needed. For example, the boundary between Canada and Alaska, a dispute running for nearly 80 years, was eventually settled in this way. The Alaska boundary issue between Canada and the US does resemble the Kashmir issue between India and Pakistan, and the Kashmir issue can also be settled between India and Pakistan in the same way - negotiations and discussions, and arbitration if necessary.

What is even more interesting is that water is an issue between Canada and the US at present, just like water is an issue between Pakistan and India. There are proposals today to meet water shortages in the US through import of water from Canada. While strong views are held in Canada on the issue, the matter will eventually be settled in a peaceful manner, with no thought of going to war, an example that Pakistan and India can also follow.

Canada and the US are today joined, together with Mexico, in a North American Free Trade Area, and this is also something that India and Pakistan could move toward, a South Asian Free Trade Area. Canada and the US share a relatively very open border, where citizens of either country do not need visas to travel to the other. So could India and Pakistan.

And just like with India-Pakistan cricket rivalry, teams of Canada and the US have rivalries in (ice) hockey and to some extent, also baseball. Just as many talented Pakistani actors, musicians and other artistes work in Bollywood, so also, many Canadian actors, musicians and other artistes work in Hollywood. In this respect, many concerns regarding cultural issues between Canada and the US are similar to those that often arise in Pakistan and India.

In summary, Canada and the US share many aspects of India-Pakistan history (a common language, English; common colonial master - Britain; populations with significant shared ancestry) and today their relationship has many aspects that India and Pakistan too could come to share: Issues settled by negotiation; relatively free borders; free trade; friendly rivalry in hockey/cricket; shared cultural traditions/Bollywood.

But there are even more subtle points of similarity. It has been argued, quite persuasively, for example, that much of the basis of Canadian nationalism lies in an attempt to define an identity on the North American continent that is explicitly 'non-(US)American'. Indeed, going further, it has been argued that 'Canada is a nation of people in denial of their own American-ness'. While a counter-argument can also be mounted, the very existence of this strain of thought is a point of similarity with the India-Pakistan dynamic - where it is often argued that Pakistan is a nation of people who are in denial of their own Indian-ness! In both cases, it is claimed that there is a nationalism based on negation, not affirmation. Among those Canadians that can see this clearly, there is a strong sentiment to create a larger North American Union which includes both Canada and the United States, much like there is also among many Pakistanis a sentiment to create a South Asian Union that includes both Pakistan and India.

The Canada-US relationship is therefore, in my opinion, an important aspirational model for the Pakistan-India relationship, that merits greater attention from thinkers and scholars on all sides as a good direction for the near term future, while the long-term future could include any of the other possibilities such as SAU or USSA. Indeed, the future, even for the Canada-US relationship could well lie in a larger union, variously called the North American Union (NAU) or a United North America (UNA) that includes both the US and Canada.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

One Young World Indian and Pakistani Delegates Speak

The One Young World 2010 Conference was held in London February 8-10, 2010. In this video, Indian and Pakistani delegates speak:

Saturday, February 13, 2010

A Valentine for Dr Shazia of the ShaziaZenab Show

This Valentine's Day I would really like to recognize someone who has deeply influenced my thinking and outlook, indeed, also someone who actually inspired me to begin writing this blog: Dr. Shazia, of the ShaziaZenab show on youtube. Over the last few years, but particularly in the last few months, it has been my great pleasure and privilege to watch her shows. Her shows cover a number of issues relevant to both India and Pakistan - both the home and the diaspora communities, but a particular theme has been Peace and Development in South Asia, the subject of this blog.

Most well-meaning people regard peace in South Asia as a political problem, as something that could be achieved if only the countries of South Asia (India and Pakistan, in the main) could summon the political will, settle their politico-geographic boundaries, and just get on with the business of developing their societies. Yet clearly it is not so simple, and it is in analyzing this at a deeper level that Dr. Shazia, a practicing physician, has made a deep contribution - one that I at least have not seen done by anyone else. She diagnoses the problem of achieving peace in South Asia as involving the healing of a number of pathologies that occur at various levels: at the individual, familial, social, and finally national level, of which the political situation is merely a symptom, even if a conspicuous and rather pronounced symptom. In this view of the problem, addressing the political problems alone would be tantamount to treating the symptoms of an illness, and thus would be a classic error. Just as health is not merely the absence of disease, so also peace is not merely the absence of conflict, and must therefore be achieved by simultaneous resolution of a number of ills.

Dr. Shazia offers a complex diagnosis, which would need several blog posts to properly summarize. Indeed, I hope to do that myself in the course of writing this blog. The archive of videos from her show should certainly be viewed by all those with an interest in the subject. Among other things, that archive is also testimony to her phenomenal indefatigability, enormous dedication and sincerity, and total fearlessness. I offer only a bare-bones summary here.

Dr. Shazia suggests that among the many ills underlying the hair-trigger hostility that the two main nation-states of South Asia often find themselves expressing, is a rather aggressive macho culture, one that dominates and oppresses women, creates an artificial concept of female honor, in supposed defense of which no level of aggression and hostility would be too much (up to and including homicide). She then suggests that the male-dominated societies of South Asia are creating an analogous and equally artificial concept of 'national honor', in defence of which, again, no amount of aggressive action would be considered too much. Thus, delegitimizing the concept of 'female honor' (and by implication, the constructed concept of 'national honor') and thus also improving the status of women in South Asian society - in other words, bringing in female empowerment, is not only needed as a desirable end in itself, but would also have the effect of significantly moderating the tendency for recurrent hostility and conflict in South Asia, and would be a major step toward abiding peace.

She suggests similarly that the main religions of South Asia have departed significantly from their original tenets which empowered women, and have now become ideological tools for those who would wish to perpetuate female oppression. Justification for the 'female honor' principle is now often sought directly in religion. Therefore it is essential that religion itself be correctly interpreted, and furthermore, that it become a personal matter, so that it ceases to influence social and political matters as much as it now does. The articles of faith that underlie much religious belief (and distinguish it from what is often called merely 'spirituality') are just that: matters of blind faith, and they should be recognized as such. Religion should thus retreat into the personal sphere, and society should become secular, with no state religion, and no discrimination on account of religious belief.

Apart from her deep diagnosis of the problem and the enlightened steps she suggests for an all-encompassing solution, Dr. Shazia also has a charming sense of humor, an absolute delight for her viewers. Her incisive intellect, and her lucid, articulate and powerful speaking manner has very deeply influenced me, who have known her only through her videos on youtube. I can only imagine how deeply she must influence those she comes into contact with more directly.

The wonderful positive messages for all South Asians that come through on each of her shows are all Valentines in themselves. In fact, in the very first video of hers that I saw, which got me hooked she said out loud: I love Indians and I love Pakistanis!

What a wonderful and positive message, Shaziaji! And we, your viewers, love you too! In ending may I just say in the words of another shaayar:

Yeh ghazal mayri nahin, yeh ghazal hai aapki.

Main ne toh bas woh hi likhaa, jo kucch likhaayaa aapne.

Friday, February 12, 2010

The Peace Imperative

Anand Patwardhan, an Indian documentary producer, had made a film called War and Peace in 2002. This was released on CD/DVD late in 2009, and more recently, was broadcast on Aaj TV in Pakistan. A panel discussion moderated by Talat Hussain followed, with Anand Patwardhan, Pervez Hoodbhoy and Asad Durrani as panelists. Excerpts from the discussion in two videos:

Aitzaz Ahsan at India Pakistan Peace Conference 2010

An India Pakistan Peace Conference was held in New Delhi in January, in which (non-official) eminent intellectuals and peace activists, as well as 'ordinary citizens' from both sides renewed their personal friendships, exchanged views, and attempted to change the overall atmosphere of hostility resulting from the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai into one more conducive to dialogue, and eventually friendship and peace.

I think some of the participants might have been privy to the back-channel discussions between the two countries, and the conference was organized partly with the intention of preparing public and media opinion in both countries for a resumption of the official level dialogue.

Aitzaz Ahsan, the leader of the lawyers' movement, and one of Pakistan's leading public intellectuals, recited his poetry on the occasion. Here he recites his Poem of Peace:

Mohammad Ali Jinnah, ne dekhaa tha jo sapna sabka

Saari duniya par ab hogaa saaya: ek, aur ek hi Rab ka.

Woh Rab saancha, woh Rab saccha; Har mazhab, har dharam ka Rab hai.

Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, Isaai; Har insaan pe karam ka Rab hai.

Saancha maaliq, saancha khaaliq; Uske dar par sab haasil hai.

Adam tashaddut rasta uska; Aman hamara mustaqbil hai.

Jaao, jaao, sab se keh do; Kadam hamare ruk nahin sakte.

Jaao, jaao, sab se keh do; Apne sar ab jhuk nahin sakte.

Zaalim aur ghaasib ki dushman; jantaa ham se aaid karegi,

Mazloomon ki aakhir woh hi jari jidd-o-jehad rahegi.

Rasta thodaa hi baaqi hai; Dekho, dekho woh manzil hai.

Zaalim dar ke bhaag rahaa hai; Jeet hamaara mustaqbil hai.

India + Pakistan = Peace!

This video clearly speaks for itself!

Indo-Pakistan Cultural Trade: Should be Both Ways!

That cultural exchanges between India and Pakistan are critically important in promoting the dialogue of peace, amity and friendship between the two nations is considered axiomatic. Similarly, the idea that economic relations between the two countries should be strengthened - that promotion of trade, partnerships and joint ventures between entities in the two countries is critical, is also considered axiomatic. Here developments have been somewhat asymmetric between the two countries. For example, while India has extended, 'most favored nation' treatment to Pakistan, that has not been reciprocated. Similarly, while on an official level cultural products from India cannot enter Pakistan, unofficially there is a lot of trade in pirated and smuggled music, films, CDs and the like. The discussion in the NDTV video linked here, centers on these kinds of issues. In addition to a diplomatic and an economic expert, who expound on the challenges and opportunities respectively, we also have the singer Zila Khan as an expert on (and exponent of) music, which makes for a very interesting discussion.

Youth Voices on India-Pakistan and the Peace Process

Suhasini Haidar of IBNLive was in Lahore recently, at the Lahore University of Management and Sciences (LUMS), where she spoke to the students on the India-Pakistan issue, on mutual perceptions, the IPL controversy in particular:

Thursday, February 11, 2010

India, Pakistan and Kashmir: A Brief History

I found this short video from The Economist on the history of the Kashmir dispute. It provides an excellent summary of the issue, in very neutral terms, that I think all sides would agree with.

Will the India-Pakistan Peace Talks Succeed?

After more than a year without any visible progress [following the Mumbai terror attacks of 26/11 (November 26 2008)], India and Pakistan appear at last to be heading toward talks - beginning first with Foreign Secretary level 'talks about talks'. The Asia Society of New York organized a discussion with Prof. Adil Najam (Boston University) and Prof. C. Raja Mohan (Library of Congress) on the issue on Thursday, February 4th, 2010.

In their opening statements both Najam and Raja Mohan agreed that the Kashmir issue was now really 'ripe' for solution, but that this could change if the opportunity was missed. Both also agreed that the 'smaller' issues - Siachen, Sir Creek, etc could be done first, since fairly detailed agreements have already been negotiated on them, and are ready for signature. Both also felt that, once the 'talks about talks' get going, at least an agreement to 'keep talking no matter what happens' should come out of it. Raja Mohan sketched out 5 elements of what an agreement on Kashmir should contain (hinting that these had already been agreed on): (i) No change in territorial disposition of Kashmir - i.e., no outright transfers of territory from one jurisdiction to another (ii) Soft borders i.e., change not in the 'borders' themselves but in their character (iii) Significant autonomy to the parts of Kashmir respectively occupied by Pakistan and India (iv) Joint institutions delivering solutions to people's problems on both sides of the soft border (v) Progressive demilitarization with simultaneous reduction in (militant) violence on both sides of the soft border. Najam made a very interesting presentation, ending with a 3 part message to India and Pakistan: (i) Get Real (ii) Get Together (iii) Get Going!