Sunday, November 11, 2007

the other India

Frontline reports on the violence in Nandigram between the Bhumi Uchhed Pratirodh (Land Eviction Resistance) Committee and the CPI(M). (Is the Left Front easing the pressure on the government over the nuclear deal because it thinks its election prospects are threatened by the situation in Nandigram?)

150,000 farmer suicides from 1997-2005, concentrated in Karnataka, AP, Maharashtra, MP, Kerala. Suicides as a whole rose nationally in this period by 23%, those by farmers by 52%.

eye on Pakistan

(update 11/11): Benazir finally supports the CJ, although The Observer continues to see the BB-Musharraf confrontation as a set-piece drama in which each is still trying to play ball with the other. BB of course has almost as much reason as Musharraf not to want a powerful, independent Supreme Court that might declare unconstitutional the so-called National Reconciliation Ordinance (which drops cases against her). I didn't realise how much the new provisional constitution clipped the wings of the judiciary - apparently it insists that no court should be able to issue decrees against 'the President, Prime Minister or any authority designated by the President'.

George W. Bush has declared that Musharraf is the best President for Pakistan, but then he's always had a knack for saying the right thing at the right time. The NYT speculates that the reconstituted SC will rubber-stamp the General's election, after which he will take off his uniform and everyone will live happily till the next declaration of martial law. (PS - why does Jane Perlez have to use the phrase 'dance of veils' to describe BB's moves vis-a-vis Musharraf, in this otherwise excellent profile of the woman who calls herself chairperson for life of the PPP? There is some juicy stuff in here: (i) she hates competition in the party - e.g. Aitzaz Ahsan; (ii) she once said of her husband Asif Zardari: 'Time will prove he is the Nelson Mandela of Pakistan'.

Hasan Suroor provides a roundup of British media reactions in The Hindu. Official British reaction has closely mirrored the American line, he writes, demonstrating how closely British foreign policy remains tied to America even in the supposedly less slavishly pro-U.S., post-Blair era. Most of the British press, except for The Times, thinks this is a terrible idea. 'There are fears that by continuing to prop up an unpopular leader, the West could very well lose Pakistan as an ally and end up fuelling the already deep-seated anti-West sentiment in that country.' Is anyone thinking of Reza Shah Pahlavi, Ayatollah Khomeini and 1979?

It's very clear that the US/UK reaction has focused solely on what serves Western interests, rather than what is good for Pakistan and its people. India has been quiet, but we too react in accordance with our interests - there's nothing remarkable about that. We've made some noises about wanting to see democracy restored, but actually we rather like Musharraf - under him, official Pakistani support for Kashmiri militants has dried up (not least because Pakistan is now preoccupied with militancy along its western border) and relations with India have improved considerably. More broadly, although we don't trust the Pakistani military, there is a sense that when Pakistan is ruled by the military, we can talk directly to the institution that matters. With a civilian ruler, you never know if what you see is what you're going to get.

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(update 9/11): Benazir's choices: power-sharing or clean break.

***

Benazir
keeps saying 'he promised me he would take off his uniform in November', like a jilted fuck-buddy. I don't say this flippantly. That is the appropriate metaphor.

BBC offers a good quick roundup of the views of the key interest groups on the current situation, and some persuasive speculation on why a coup against Musharraf seems unlikely at the present time.

Harish Khare on why India should not look smugly at Bangladesh and Pakistan. We are not immune to the ills of idioms of confrontation pushed too far, corrupt politicians who throw the democratic process into disrepute, meddlesome army officers who pride themselves on their reputations for honesty and efficiency, overzealous judges who exceed their remit, external powers who seek increasingly to interfere in our affairs. There, but for the grace of God, goes us.

Anyway,
hum dekhenge.

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