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Archive for January, 2004

US And South Asia

US positive vibes about India is nothing new, it has been in existence since 1947 but the relationship has had its ups and downs, particularly during the period India was an ardent anti-US champion as leader of the “non-aligned” countries basically an anti-west pro-soviet Russian bloc. The pro-India is lobby’s views were best expressed by then US Ambassador (to India) Chester Bowles in his May 25, 1965 Memo annunciating that India should be the main US partner in Asia for containing China. The times may have changed, the policy has been revamped to reflect the same aim. Earlier to the SAARC event in January 2004, an Independent Task Force co-sponsored by the “Council on Foreign Relations” and the “Asia Society” took out a report, viz “New Priorities in South Asia: US Policy towards India, Pakistan and Afghanistan”. As the Task Force states “India represents a partner of great value” for the US, being one of the world’s largest economies and its increasing security presence in the Indian Ocean region. Despite policy disagreements there are many converging issues of consequence that encourages the US to “transform this relationship into a genuine partnership”.

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Breakfast at Davos

The World Economic Forum (WEF) Annual Meeting 2004 this year was a success story for Pakistan. While the President Gen Pervez Musharraf had many one-on-one meetings and also addressed a Plenary Session on Thursday Jan 22, the inter-active Presidential Breakfast on Friday Jan 23 hosted in cooperation with Global Agenda, the official magazine of the World Economic Forum (WEF) was a tremendous success. The President also held a Press Conference on Jan 23, this had standing room only. We have probably never had such a targetted multi-country high level audience focused on Pakistan under one roof except at international institution meetings like the UN General Assembly, etc, the list of persona reads like a world “who’s who”. Almost everyone present in Davos got a detailed knowledge of Pakistan, courtesy Global Agenda’s special Pakistan Supplement. Global Agenda honoured Pakistan by giving the President’s interviews both in the main magazine and the Supplement. Since the Supplement was brought out by a neutral entity, its credibility was for real. However because of the small number of Ads, the number of pages was limited to 32. It was frustrating to note that entities like PIA, Export Promotion Bureau (EPB), Board of Investment (BOI), Adamjee Insurance, Muslim Commercial Bank (MCB), etc which otherwise give Ads in every conceivable international media neglected this important print media circulation that is read by almost all the decision- and/or influence makers in the world, whether in government, academic, media or corporate entities, etc.

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The Corruptors

When posterity evaluates the merits and de-merits of the Musharraf era, it will record that one of its better achievements was the establishment of the “National Accountability Bureau” (NAB), giving it at the outset virtually a free hand to go after those who had looted public money of (including a huge amount of un-repaid loans from nationalized financial institutions). Despite the fact that NAB was still in the initial mobilization stage the results were spectacular in the first year. Today, when more than four years have elapsed, corruption convictions are still being successfully prosecuted in the courts of law, however the initial enthusiasm has somewhat dissipated with the passage of time and change of personnel. The fervour dampened even further after the democratic government assumed power in late 2002.

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Cautious Optimism

War is not always a viable modus operandi for achieving one’s national objectives and certainly no substitute for the gains one obtains by following the path of peace. But the search for peace can be a risky proposition, it can give the wrong signals of inherent weakness to one’s opponents and invite adventurism thereof by any one party to take advantage of the perceived adverse situation of the other. A nuclear capability to offset conventional disadvantage is always a handy deterrent. One can always slide into state of war. Accusing Pakistan of sponsoring the terrorists who attacked the Indian Parliament on Dec 13, 2001, India promptly moved the bulk of its armed forces into an offensive posture facing Pakistan, the two nations stayed in a state just short of a state of war for the better part of 2002. Any trigger-happy field commander could have set off a nuclear holocaust.

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Resolution For 2007

All individuals have a responsibility to the community and to the family, this is force-multiplied manifold for those in power in the country, that responsibility must be used for the good of the people and the nation they govern. For the rulers of Pakistan and Bangladesh the prime resolution for 2007 must be to hold free and fair elections. Musharraf has recently said that the “Elections 2007” will decide Pakistan’s destiny, one believes it is the way the elections are conducted that will decide the country’s destiny. I also believe Musharraf has both the vision and courage to fulfill this destiny. While the usual classic mistakes of governance in an enduring search for survivability scar his otherwise benign rule, Musharraf’s successes still far outmatch his failures.

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Whither South Asia?

All roads did not lead to Rome! For nearly three centuries till Portuguese Vasco de Gama rounded the Cape Horn to fulfill the dream of the European monarchies there was a mad rush by Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch, English, French sailors, etc to somehow discover a sea-route to the riches of India and China. Christopher Columbus did not set out to discover America, that was an accident of history as he vainly explored an alternative route. “Indians” were discovered in North and South America in the 16th century because the seafarers generally believed that they had reached South Asia.

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