Showing posts with label South Asia. Show all posts
Showing posts with label South Asia. Show all posts

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Imran Khan: India's Last Hope For Lasting Peace

Imran Khan becoming Prime Minister of Pakistan is like if Muhammad Ali had become President Of The United States. Imran Khan has been the most well known Pakistani in India for much of his adult life. That has not changed. Not only well known, but popular, loved. Give the game of cricket some credit. The game seems to do what politicians can't.

Imran Khan means well. The US would like to see democracy in Iraq, perhaps in Iran. It should start in Pakistan. Pakistan is still a democracy being built. Instead of giving tens of billions to the Pakistan Army, the US should fund the work of democracy.

Imran wants lasting peace. I don't understand why Modi could have talked to Nawaj Sharif but will not talk to Imran.

Imran is a well-educated, well-traveled man. He is East meets West. He has children who are growing up in London. He can talk as articulately about Islam as he can about democracy and economic growth, health and education.

Islam is much misunderstood. It serves the world to give Imran Khan more stages on which to speak.

I want Imran Khan to do for Pakistan what Nitish Kumar did for Bihar after he started in 2005. Bihar was a big mess in 2005 when Nitish Kumar became Chief Minister. Pakistan is a big mess today. I think Imran can get it done. He can put Pakistan on a path to double-digit growth rates. He has what it takes. Permanent peace between India and Pakistan is key to that equation.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Kashmir And Peace

The Disputed Territory : Shown in green is Kas...
The Disputed Territory : Shown in green is Kashmiri region under Pakistani control. The orange-brown region represents Indian-controlled Jammu and Kashmir while the Aksai Chin is under Chinese occupation. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I have no desire to tow the Indian government official line on Kashmir. Heck, I don't even know what that is. I have an idea, but I have not done my homework.

But peace is everyone's desire. Palestine is thought of as the number one flashpoint in the world. I think it is Kashmir. Modi and Nawaz should work towards a permanent peace and get a shared Nobel Prize.

Of course Kashmir can be talked about. Everything can be talked about. The two sides just have to come up with the right framework.

There has to be some out of the box thinking. The two foreign ministries are in a rut. They play the same tug of war over and over again.

The larger framework is the deal Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh and India signed last year. The four have agreed on an economic union within 10 years. Pakistan should start talks on the same. Pakistan eventually being part of that economic union solves the Kashmir problem, I believe. Because if the people in Pakistan and India can freely work in either country, then the question as to which country Kashmir belongs in becomes less urgent.

I think the eventual right solution is to respect the current Line Of Control and then make it pretty much meaningless through a Pakistan India economic union. There are also two Punjabs, one in Pakistan, another in India. It's the same people who live in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and the Madhesh in Nepal. You have West Bengal and Bangladesh. Kashmir is not an exception, more a rule.

Demilitarize Kashmir on both sides. That's the eventual goal. But the path to there might be tortuous. In the short term the right strategy perhaps is to stay engaged and keep the expectations low. Two full fledged democracies would have quite easily solved the problem. But in Pakistan the army and the ISI act as parallel power centers to the Prime Minister. That makes it complicated.

नेपालको बाबुराम भट्टराई र भारतका नक्सल हरु (२)
नेपालको बाबुराम भट्टराई र भारतका नक्सल हरु

Friday, December 25, 2015

पहली बार मोदी नवाज Body Language पॉजिटिव है

Modi's Lahore stopover nothing more than an adventure, says Congress
"It is unfortunate that we get to know about prime minister's visit through a tweet... India and Pakistan relations are not so good as yet that he stops over there on his way back from another country," Congress spokesperson Ajoy Kumar said.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Challenges To The Nation State

European Union
European Union (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The nation state has not been around forever, just like democracy has not been. And so the fact that it is being challenged should not surprise us. These are growing pains.

One major challenge is coming from technology. The individual is greatly empowered through technology, and so the nation state's space needs to shrink. But the nation state is refusing to be a happy, willing partner.

Another challenge is coming from globalization and the redrawing of national boundaries. Europe is a fine example. Europe has the ultimate in infrastructure. It has the roads and the trains and the communications technology. But old cultural identities have not gone away. There are identity movements threatening to break up several countries in Europe right now. I am not sure that is bad news. That is the nation state feeling the pressure.

Scotland is a good example. If Scotland breaks away, I think that will be a vote for the European Union. Defense and monetary policies are best served through larger structures like the European Union, India and the United States. But cultural identities need bigger expressions. That is only healthy.

I don't agree with the methods of the ISIS (at all), but maybe the World War I political boundaries in the Arab world are not sacrosanct after all. Maybe it is good if the Kurds break away. Iraq's boundaries perhaps need to be reimagined.

Sri Lanka is the most literate nation in South Asia. But it has the most complex ethnic problem of anywhere in the world. There has to be peaceful options where an oppressed minority can get justice when a unitary state's majoritarian government is not willing to act fair.

China is another challenge to the nation state. This nation state has lifted more people out of poverty than any other in world history. Give them some credit. Fundamental political reforms are long overdue. I envision a future for China where it has become a multi-party democracy, where it is federal, and Tibet and Taiwan are both part of it. But I feel China can teach America a thing or two about campaign finance reform. When you don't take money out of politics, your democracy is more than a little bit screwed.

Immigration reform failure in America is another challenge to the nation state. America is not keeping up. That is bad news.

Scotland peacefully separating has to become a model for many other parts of the world. If Scotland should move away from London and closer to Brussels, that will be an exercise in deeper, larger political integration. I am all for that.

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

The Tamils Of Sri Lanka And The Federalism Question

Tamil woman
Tamil woman (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Sri Lanka is the most literate country in South Asia, and so the ethnic tension on that island is even more tragic. India is a regional power and an emerging global power, but Indians are the "blacks" of countries wherever they live as minorities, and they, like the Chinese, live everywhere. That state of affairs is a blight on India's potential might.

I am an Indian who grew up in Nepal. I identify strongly with the blacks in America because I grew up Indian in Nepal. Tamils are the Indian origin people in Sri Lanka. This is not China's game to play. This is an issue in international law, this is about minority rights everywhere.

Genuine federalism is so fundamental a requirement of a functioning democracy that I would equate it with free speech, and freedom of religion. A non sensitive state should have to answer to an international court when it denies a minority population its just rights, and genuine federalism. And Sri Lanka is a case study.
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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Trayvor Martin Case

English: Barack Obama speaking at a rally at t...
English: Barack Obama speaking at a rally at the University of Minnesota Field House in Minneapolis (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
(published in Vishwa Sandesh)

The Trayvor Martin Case
By Paramendra Bhagat (

The Trayvor Martin Case has been roiling America. When the incident happened Barack Obama went on television to declare that if he had had a son, he might have looked like Trayvor Martin. Now he has come out to say that 35 years ago he himself might have been Trayvor Martin.

Putting a black man in the White House is quite a slap to 500 years of world history. But race is too deep and complicated an issue to be resolved by one black man's elevation to high office. And Barack Obama just admitted as much. It is gutsy for the guy to talk about it in such plain language.

The details of what happened on that fateful day are hazy and conflicted. But the facts remain that Martin was shot dead and Zimmerman, the killer, has been acquitted by a jury. In February 2012 in a town in Florida Zimmerman, a white Hispanic, was involved with Neighborhood Watch. He was not a police officer but he could legally carry a gun. This happened in a gated community where Martin, a 17 year old African American high school student, was visiting with his father’s fiancée. There is a lot of he said, she said kind of stuff here. But apparently Zimmerman thought of Martin as “suspicious,” and called the police, and then started following around Martin despite being told not to do so by the police. A scuffle ensued. Zimmerman shot Martin dead in supposed self-defense, supposedly permitted by a Florida Law called stand your ground.

The broad context of race cannot be ignored. Why would a black man look suspicious at a place where he had every right to be, and when all he was carrying was skittles? For the same reason that a black man might get followed around in a department store, an experience Obama is intimately aware of. For the same reason that less than two centuries ago a black man was not even fully human according to the US constitution. Or, until 2008, for the same reason that no black man had been deemed fit to lead the country.

Race and gender are broad topics with a lot of texture and details. You cannot talk about race in America, I think, without talking about the Hindu-Muslim issues in India, or the ethnic politics in Nepal. And South Asia is not exactly a shining light for gender justice. But just because there might be hungry children in Somalia does not mean you can push race issues in America under the carpet. This is not the first time it has happened, but the Trayvor Martin case has opened up a fresh debate on race in America. People across the country are marching in protest.

The vast majority of Nepalis in NYC have Indian bosses, but those same Nepalis are prone to the casual use of the word “madisey” – which is equivalent to the n-word as used against blacks – when talking about the Madhesis of Nepal, some of whom are half Indian like me. The core of Jackson Heights is primarily occupied by Indians, Pakistanis and Bangladeshis: Nepalis are few and far between. There are many such micro hurdles in the way of creating a large, positive pan South Asian identity in the neighborhood.

Over 150 years ago the Irish in Boston could vote in city elections even if they were not citizens. The diverse crowd in Queens is not exactly clamoring for the same in the city’s elections. The political consciousness is not there yet.

New York City is the most diverse city in the world, Queens is its largest and most diverse borough. Jackson Heights in the most diverse part of Queens. The 74th Street part might look very Desi, but the 82nd Street part looks pretty Hispanic. Over 50 countries are represented in this neighborhood. The Trayvor Martin case’s reverberations around here might not be the same as, say, in the inner cities of Detroit and Baltimore and Chicago, but there is no doubt diversity brings opportunities and challenges everywhere. NYC is always just one young black male shot by a white cop away from reliving the debate fast and furious.

Barack Obama is famously leery of “singing Kumbaya” or even holding a debate on race as illusory roads to nowhere. Instead he pumped billions into inner city schools not long after assuming office. But I do feel there is a certain value to talking, if only to build new coalitions to bring about further progress on race, to create “a more perfect union.”
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