Are we overcoming our India obsession

Are we overcoming our India obsession

On the eve of President Zardari’s visit to Washington, President Obama has given the edict that ‘Pakistani government is extremely fragile.’ But he expressed his confidence in the military of Pakistan, which he said is capable of protecting the country’s nuclear arsenal. Many Pakistani politicians are hurt about this statement of fact. Truth always hurts. Isn’t it.

However the most significant part of the statement which came as news to Pakistanis is President Obama’s statement that its (Pakistan’s) military leaders and government officials only belatedly were recognizing that their half-century-long pre-occupation with India had blinded them to the more immediate threat posed by the Taliban. He disclosed that “you’re starting to see some recognition just in the last few days that the obsession with India as the mortal threat to Pakistan has been misguided, and that their biggest threat right now comes internally.”

Now the usual presumption in the political circles here is that the American’s know our army better than us, because of frequent inter-action between the military leadership of the two countries. So if they say our military is overcoming its India paranoia it is good news, even though it’s too early to accept that the 62 years old paradigm is shifting. Apparently the focus of the army has shifted because of the immediate challenge to the writ of the army by the FATA and Swat Taliban. The real test of the fading of the obsession about India would come when the establishment in Pakistan would start dismantling India-specific militant Jehadi groups.

For the time being it would not be wise to open another front and take on these Jehadi groups which are mostly based in Punjab, Azad Kashmir and some parts of NWFP. Undoubtedly the threat of Talibanisation which is coming from the North of the country has to be quashed first.

The good signal from across the Eastern border is that in spite of the Mumbai carnage, no significant political party in India has gone on an anti-Pakistan propaganda binge during the election campaign. Most of the election campaigning was around regional issues. This would mean once again a weak central government in Delhi.  The trend which has emerged after the completion of the third phase of elections shows that regional parties are likely to come out stronger than the last elections.

According to a leading Indian analyst Adit Jain “it does not matter much as to who leads the government. What matters more is by how much. An ‘anchor’ party with 180-190 seats will at the outset provide stability, as it will have more than an even chance of completing its term in office. More importantly, it would be able to push through initiatives that are essential to drive productivity gains. On the other hand, an anchor party with 150 seats may cobble up a fragmented coalition and at a stretch even attempt to do a little bit of good.”

Most projections today therefore suggest a hung Parliament, and the spectre of a fractious Third Front coming to power is real again. Neither the Congress nor the BJP appears strong enough to win 180 seats on its own, the number generally considered as the minimum required to effectively ‘anchor’ a stable coalition.

Adit’s IMA analysis is that emboldened by these developments in the UPA and NDA, a motley group of parties – headed by the Left – has presented itself as a serious contender for power. Today’s ‘bandwagon’ has grown in size and pace in recent months, with the powerful BSP (in power in UP), BJD (in power in Orissa) and AIADMK (possible incumbent in Tamil Nadu) joining in – all lured by the prospect of winning either the Prime Minister’s post, or important cabinet berths at the very least. Fuelling this sense of self-belief is the fact of heavyweights such as Ms Mayawati and Ms Jayalalithaa throwing in their lot with the Front – causing even more regional parties to sign on.

While a weak center and emergence of regional parties is the typical political development, which we have seen in many countries in the post Second World War period, the positive outcome of this phenomenon is that it results in devolution of power to the states/provinces. In Pakistan the results of the last two elections have shown the same trend — each province has elected regional parties. Even the PPP’s main strength had come from Sindh and PML (N) from Punjab.

Coming back to President Obama’s observation about Pakistan military overcoming its India obsession, we have to see how the new Indian government would like to deal with Pakistan after it settles in June 2009. A weak Indian government may resume confidence building measures, but would not be able to take any bold step towards solving the sore Kashmir issue. This bleeding wound of the sub-continent has to be closed with both India and Pakistan meeting each other half way. From Pakistan, if we believe President Obama, the shift in military thinking can go a long way in solving this pending matter. As unfortunate it may be the military’s say is more important on this issue in this God forsaken country than the ‘fragile government.’ But the real question is will a weak government in Delhi have the courage to brush aside the slaves of history in the Indian establishment and shun the Indian big power arrogance? (ayazbabar@gmail.com)

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