saber-rattling that followed the December 13 attack on Parliament
has served two vital purposes. It enabled the US and the
West to apply pressure on Pakistan to curb militant groups.
And it strengthened Musharaf's hands in dealing with the
jehadis and extremists. Paradoxically, Musharaf, an avowed
liberal whose hero is Kamal Ata Turk, is India's and Pakistan's
best bet to rebuild Pakistani society and eliminate the
influence of gun-toting jehadis and hate-filled Mullahs.
He certainly has no love lost for India, nor do we have
reason to trust him. But controlling the maverick elements
in ISI and curbing the extremists are beneficial to both
countries. Our talk of decimating Pakistan or breaking up
the country is both irresponsible and counter-productive.
We do not have to add to our woes an unstable and uncontrollable
neighbour feeding on religious frenzy and in which all state
authority collapsed. Both nations need to move forward with
a vision of genuine liberal democracy, enlightened self-interest,
and economic prosperity. Hate campaigns will do no good
for either country.
real problems for both countries are internal. Pakistan's
problems are its own business. But we need to focus on ours
without resorting to alibis all the time. Of the million
or so families which play a pivotal role in our politics,
bureaucracy, business or professions, some 90% have become
colonists in their own country. These elites have delinked
their future from that of the country. They have no confidence
in the nation's future. Strangely it is today's elites who
benefited most from our society in the past five decades,
what with free higher education, government sops, patronage,
wages and expense accounts from the public exchequer, and
infinite opportunities of corruption at the cost of the
green cards in hand many youth are leaving the country.
There is no point blaming them for wanting to escape. Poor
infrastructure, unreliable systems, ubiquitous corruption,
the rule of the mafia, sub-standard education and inaccessible
health care deter even the most stoic of our citizens. As
someone said, brain drain is better than brain in the drain.
The sad part of our crisis is the incapacity of the middle
classes and ruling elites to envision a humane, liberal,
efficient society that provides opportunities for all.
those who care are often impatient, seeking miracles overnight.
Many nations could overcome their problems only by clarity
and relentless pursuit of institutional improvement. The
world has faced many similar problems and we can easily
adopt the best practices in, say policing, judicial reform,
urban management, public transport, and a host of other
sectors. In our own country Kurien's work in dairy cooperatives
and Arole's work in health care provide outstanding examples
of replicable models. None of our problems is intractable,
and we don't have to reinvent the wheel. But what we do
is endless dithering. Even where some movement is seen,
as in case of the recent Bill on political funding reform,
tokenism and marginal change become the norm. A lot more
can be done, but it needs patient, painstaking, systematic
and professional effort.
other trap we find ourselves in is cynicism and despair.
We tend to ignore what is possible, and blame all our failures
on lack of national character and decline in values. Once
we reach that conclusion, we are absolved of all responsibility
to change things, and can continue merrily with status quo!
But the reality is we have immense potential, and we are
accomplishing quite a bit in select areas. All we need is
better designed and accountable systems which reward good
behaviour, and punish deviant conduct. There are specific,
practical, effective, time-tested remedies to most of our
is no room for cynicism or despair. Realistically India
can accomplish a great deal more with a few sensible, practical
steps backed by institutional reforms. The people are ready
and willing. Does our leadership in all walks of life have
the courage to respond?