Saturday, February 11, 2012

The Army Chief, the Judiciary, the Government and the Media

But in the Indian context! This excellent discussion moderated by Karan Thapar of IBNLive (10 February 2012) talks about the implications of the Indian Army Chief withdrawing his petition before the Supreme Court - with representatives from ex-servicemen, bureaucracy, and media. Excellent points made by all. On the crucial issue of whether the Army Chief should now resign, the former senior bureaucrat wants him to 'take it on the chin' and carry on, while the ex-servicemen (including a former Deputy Army Chief) and the analysts think he should resign. What is interesting to note here is that Karan Thapar's own father, General Pran Nath Thapar, resigned as Army Chief after the Indian Army's performance in the Indo-China War of 1962, but nobody mentions this in the program.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Mani Shankar Aiyar: India-Pakistan - Can We Dream Big?

Mani Shankar Aiyar spoke at the Jinnah Institute on 4 Feb 2012, and later joined Moeed Pirzada and his guests Muhammed Malick (Editor of The News), Farhan Bokhari (Pakistan correspondent for The Financial Times, UK) and Dr. Ejaz Haider of the Jinnah Institute for a different type of discussion on India-Pakistan relations - a discussion which begins with the setting out of a vision for India-Pakistan relations (some would call it a 'dream'), instead of merely being fixated on everyday transactional trivia. Aiyar begins by laying out the vision, and then addresses the points brought up by the other interlocutors.

Shashi Tharoor at the Jinnah Institute Islamabad

After his speech at the Jinnah Institute, a new think tank in Islamabad, Dr. Shashi Tharoor, former Indian Minister of State for Foreign Affairs joins host Moeed Pirzada of the program Sochta Pakistan and his guests, Naseem Zehra, anchor of the program Policy Matters, and Dr. Ejaz Haider, Director of the Jinnah Institute, for a discussion on India-Pakistan relations, on January 7 2012.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Mani Shankar Aiyar: Inside Pakistan - 4

In this episode of Inside Pakistan, Mani Shankar Aiyar visits with two prominent Sindhi personalities - Illahi Baksh Soomro, a former Speaker of the Pakistan National Assembly, and the academic Hamida Khuhro. Assuming they both agree that normal India-Pakistan ties are desirable, he asks them if they also think that is feasible and achievable. Both answer that they are indeed feasible and achievable, and he engages them in a lively conversation in which this answer, and all its underlying layers, are unpacked, including how one should go about making it happen.

Mani Shankar Aiyar: Inside Pakistan - 3

In this program in the series Inside Pakistan, Mani Shankar Aiyar visits with Senator Sartaj Aziz (a former Foreign Minister of Pakistan) and Senator Javed Jabbar. A lively conversation ensues, in which, beginning with the difficulties Pakistan faced immediately after Partition in 1947, the sources of resentment, suspicion and hostility between the two countries is examined. The two senators present the Pakistani view, and Aiyar occasionally interjects with a question or remark based on the Indian narrative. A most candid and revealing exchange, underlining that even at the highest levels in Pakistan, there is still a considerable degree of suspicion and skepticism regarding Indian intentions that will take a long time to satisfy and dissipate. A very useful airing of views, as they say in diplomatic terms, but which is literally aired, i.e., broadcast, both in India, and now, over youtube, throughout the world.

Mani Shankar Aiyar: Inside Pakistan - 2

In this program of the series Inside Pakistan, the host Mani Shankar Aiyar travels to Lahore, to meet his exact contemporary and Cambridge classmate Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri, with whom he discusses several aspects of the India-Pakistan dispute, including over Kashmir. Most importantly, Kasuri and Aiyar rekindle their old Cambridge bonhomie, and discuss the contours of the settlement of the Kashmir issue arrived at through unpublicized backchannel negotiations between the Pervez Musharraf government in Pakistan and the Manmohan Singh government. The agreement was to be signed in Islamabad and the scheduled visit by Prime Minister Singh of India (himself born in what is now Pakistan) had to be postponed because of the lawyer's movement in Pakistan creating a severe crisis of legitimacy for President Musharraf.

A candid conversation between Cambridge classmates 50 years later, but also between two Lahore-born gentlemen who each rose to Cabinet rank in their respective countries. Kasuri laments that the whole problem could have been settled if only Aiyar and he had both been Foreign Ministers at the same time (Aiyar had held the Petroleum and Sports ministries when Kasuri was Foreign Minister) and been locked in the same room for a few hours, to which Aiyar responds that it might have happened, but afterwards their countries might have had to lock them up separately!

Mani Shankar Aiyar: Inside Pakistan - 1

Mani Shankar Aiyar - a Congress politician in India (now a Rajya Sabha MP, but earlier a member of the Lok Sabha from a constituency in Tamil Nadu)was born in Lahore, Pakistan (then British India) in 1941. (Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, the late University of Chicago professor and Nobel Laureate in physics, also from a Tamil Brahmin family, was born in Lahore in 1907).

After Partition, his family migrated to what became India, and later, in the 1970s, Mani became the Indian Consul-General in Karachi. A strong supporter of people-to-people contact between India and Pakistan, a visa-free travel regime, and 'an uninterrupted and uninterruptible' dialogue process between the two Governments, he hosted a TV series Inside Pakistan with Mani Shankar Aiyar during Fall 2011 with the channel NewsXLive, and the programs are now available on youtube. They are a major contribution to mediated people-to-people dialogue, and to the demystification of Pakistan and Pakistanis for India and Indians. I have decided to blog the series here.

In this program of the series, he crosses the border at Attari-Wagah, travels to Lahore, visits his old neighborhood, his old building, even the tenant who lives in the apartment his father had, interviews the family of Saadat Manto, and interviews many ordinary Pakistanis (including passers-by on the street) about India, Pakistan, people-to-people and state-to-state relations. A most enlightening, and most uplifting program, for it raises the hope of ordinary citizens being able to eventually persuade their governments to build abiding peace in South Asia.