Monday, May 18, 2009

India and Pakistan

India is about one third the size of the United States and Pakistan is about the size of Texas and Louisiana combined. India is a rapidly emerging economic power and Pakistan is a country with potential but it is having trouble transitioning to the 21st century. Both India and Pakistan are nuclear powers and for a number of reasons they are also enemies of one another.

Eriposte of The Left Coaster has been doing posts on Pakistan. Today he has a post on the elections in India:
The Indian National Congress (INC), the incumbent ruling party, turned in a strong performance this time despite having severed relationships with some allied parties that helped them form the government in 2004. The INC is now in a much better position to form the new national government with fewer allies, implying that it is likely to be a more sturdy government - which might partly explain the history-making surge of India's stock market in the aftermath of the election results. In my view, this election is significant because this is the first election indicating that the INC has significantly recovered from a historic low in its political fortunes and turned around a long-term secular decline in its performance at the ballot box.

Again, India, despite many significant problems, sounds like a nation moving forward. In an earlier era, India, or any other nation, might have used a terrorist attack, like the one that occurred this winter in Mumbai, as a rationale for launching a war, in this case against Pakistan. That war appears to have been averted and economic progress in India continues.

Not including its troubles with India, Pakistan has been hampered by a number of problems. The long war in Afghanistan during the 1980s put the Soviet on the border with Pakistan. Some millions of refugees escaped into Pakistan into the border areas. Now the United States is in Afghanistan. In a sense, Pakistan has had to deal with the Russians, Americans, Afghans, Indians and others in the last sixty years, not to mention many armed and militant political groups inside the country. Pakistan's border region with Afghanistan is more a loosely controlled territory than a fully integrated part of Pakistan. In a way, the people of the territorial areas have easier access to the modern areas of Pakistan than the people of the modern areas do in the other direction. A curious thing has happened in recent weeks and I honestly don't know what to make of it. The people who rule Pakistan in a strange coalition of elected officials and a quasi-independent military have decided to set aside their quarrels with India (for the moment) to deal with increasing unrest in the territories that is impacting other areas of Pakistan.

In the meantime, other issues about Pakistan can hardly be ignored. The New York Times has this article today:
Members of Congress have been told in confidential briefings that Pakistan is rapidly adding to its nuclear arsenal even while racked by insurgency, raising questions on Capitol Hill about whether billions of dollars in proposed military aid might be diverted to Pakistan’s nuclear program.

Sooner or later, the international community is going to have to do a more effective job of dealing with the increasing complexity of nuclear weapons issues. Cowboy diplomacy, of which George W. Bush was such a famous and dismal practitioner, may, in my opinion, have played a role in Pakistan's rapidly increasing arsenal (caveat: I'm assuming that Congress has been accurately informed). After 9/11, Bush made it clear to other nations that they were either with us or against us. That kind of language was brought strongly to bear on Pakistan. To deal with Afghanistan, we needed Pakistan's cooperation. President Musharraf of Pakistan appears to have had some ultimatum laid down to him to encourage his cooperation. The details are fuzzy but a high stakes bluff seems to have been played. Later Bush made some unfortunate comments to the effect that we would have swept in and taken Pakistan's nuclear weapons if Mushrraf had declined to cooperate with the U.S. I say unfortunate because it was unlikely that such a sweep of Pakistan's nuclear weapons was possible. But if we assume that Pakistan was concerned that such an operation was possible (either by us or by India), the building of more nuclear weapons (and dispersing them) obviously renders what were dismal odds in 2001 to odds that are now nil. Even if I'm reading this wrong, we can be certain of this: Bush's many blunders are still playing out months after his departure and will continue to play out for some years to come.

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