South Asia Citizens Wire | 22 April 03
Tue, 22 Apr 2003 02:10:52 +0100
South Asia Citizens Wire | 22 April, 2003
#1. India's hand of friendship? (M.B. Naqvi)
#2. Indian right hopes Billy Graham is wrong (Jawed Naqvi)
#3. A River Diverted, the Sea Rushes In (Erik Eckholm)
#4. 'Paradigm shift' in history? - I and II (Michael Witzel)
#5. People Against War, in Mumbai, is holding a Lamp -light Peace
March to protest against the occupation of Iraq (April 23)
21 April 2003 , Karachi
India's hand of friendship?
By M.B. Naqvi
Some of the knee jerk reactions to the Indian Premier AB Vajpayee's
April 18 offer of unconditional negotiations on all contentious
issues between India and Pakistan, including Kashmir, have been
sceptical or negative. More so, because he mentioned the usual Indian
line about negotiations being impossible while cross border terrorism
from Pakistan's side goes on. Isn't it proof that the symbolism of
Friday's offer of unconditional talks was bogus? Well, Pakistanis
have to remember some background facts.
Mr. Vajpayee is India's Prime Minister and his politics is that of an
old and tried BJP-RSS man. He has in fact returned to 1999 when his
new government, soon after the two sets of nuclear tests and some
brutal murder of Hindus in Kashmir decided to open negotiations with
Pakistan. Mr. Vajpayee then rode a bus to Lahore and signed various
documents there with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. There were
indications that the talks had gone well. But the Kargil adventure
sabotaged whatever progress had been made and Nawaz Sharif was forced
to beg peace in Washington and agree to basically Indian conditions.
And a freeze returned to Indo-Pakistan relations.
Vajpayee made yet another overture and Agra talks resulted. These
failed miserably because Pakistan expected the Indians to climb down
on Kashmir while the military hostilities around Kargil had been a
dismal failure. The rest of the story is known.
Following the October attack on Srinagar Assembly, there were another
on Indian Parliament itself in December 2001. After Agra's failure
the BJP government started a furious propaganda campaign against
Pakistan and continued it for over a year. The Indian authorities
have kept on talking about a war during it and later defining it as a
preemptive one. None of it can be forgotten or erased from the
record. The official Indian campaign has created a vicious
anti-Pakistani climate of opinion in India in which a real war,
preemptive or not, would naturally be supported by a lot of Indians
and also to enable BJP to remain in power, perhaps winning another
national election a year hence.
Pakistanis cannot expect Mr. Vajpayee to talk like an impartial
observer or a foreigner. He has to keep his political rear safe. He
has also to keep his line of retreat open, with a viable line of
action in case the overture this time also fails. It is optional to
expect that the Indian government will, on encountering another
failure in India-Pakistan talks, fall back on more of the same: what
it has been doing since December 2001 or may be it might actually go
to a war. Nothing can be said for sure.
A word in parenthesis about the next and easily possible war between
the two countries is in order. The conditions, based on both
countries oft-repeated stances, are propitious enough for a war,
although a comforting conclusion can be drawn that the reasons why
the Indians did not actually go to war with Pakistan last year still
Insofar as the war itself is concerned, a little realistic thinking
is in order. India's preemptive war cannot now be a simple
conventional foray in merely Azad Kashmir. Why? because Pakistanis
have long held that it would mean an all out war and that they would
fight a full fledged war with whatever they have. Therefore, the
preemptive strike will have to be such as to cripple Pakistan's
ability to retaliate with nuclear weapons. In other words, the Indian
preemption is predicated on a sudden massive nuclear strike.
Conversely also, should Pakistan find itself cornered and decides to
make a strike, it too will have to be preemptive with all that it has.
Therefore war is no longer a mere deadly cricket. The nuclear
dimension now ensures mutual defeat and totally unacceptable
destruction. Whatever India decides it is its business. Pakistan has
no rational reason to countenance any war whatever. Ergo, it must do
everything humanly possible to avoid a war. It is no time for macho
talk of professional soldiers; it is time to be realistic.
To repeat, Mr. Vajpayee is not suing for peace from a position of
weakness. What he has said on Friday in Srinagar is an offer of
unconditional talks. It was happily seized by Pakistani PM and FM as
such. They were right. There is no point in insisting on looking too
sceptically into the gift horse's mouth. Mr. Vajpayee can comfortably
live with the success in the talks as well as failure in them.
Insofar as can be seen, his calculation seem to be to win a national
election at the crest of an admiring wave for having befriended a
long lost brother. But he can go back with equal ease in the case of
the talks failure and redouble his anti-Pakistan vitriol to win
another election by in some way repeating a Gujarat. Is Pakistan
equally well-prepared for failure?
This is not Pakistan's finest hour. It has had a constitutional
breakdown in 1999 and a personal dictatorship of a General has
obtained since then. The General is now claiming to make a slow and
rather halting transition to a democracy with which he can live with
with all his jobs and powers intact as a COAS and an all-powerful
President. He means to keep an upper hand over the Parliament and
keep the Prime Minister as his man Friday doing what he wants him to
do. The opposition is fighting against it. There is a deadlock
between the government and the opposition. The President is in no
mood to make any serious concession and the opposition has probably
burnt its boat by over commitment and probably cannot retreat. It is
an unpromising background for serious Indo-Pakistan negotiations, no
matter whether the famous centrality of Kashmir is actually respected
by India or not.
Even so, Pakistanis have to remember that they carry a terrible
burden --- of the failure of their Kashmir policy: After the
sacrifice of 70,000 young men's lives and horrible human miseries in
Kashmir, the Kashmiris' cause has not been advanced an inch by what
is called Jihad and which the Indians call terrorism. If Pakistanis
can see with a clear eye, they would find all their own trusted
foreign friends in India's corner. One means Iran and China both; the
Chinese too want Pakistan to negotiate with India if necessary on
India's terms. The Americans and the British have already pitched in
on the Indian side. It is a time when Pakistan has to change its
basic policies, both in the sphere of foreign affairs and the main
features of its domestic politics.
While foreign policy would naturally take care of itself after the
main domestic issues have been sorted out, the central issue concerns
the amplitude of General Pervez Musharraf's powers. If he is not
willing to make any patriotic sacrifice by shedding some of his
powers that are foreign to a democracy, the outlook would be dreary
and bleak. That would not be the ambiance in which a creative
reformulation of foreign policy would be possible in accordance with
the main thrust and sanction of a vibrant democracy. What chance can
then be of India and Pakistan succeeding or avoiding sterile arms
races and possible nuclear war?
Mentioning weaknesses of Pakistan at this stage and in this context
is not promoting defeatism and pessimism. Let's face the fact that
the world views Pakistan as an unstable and brittle state; it must be
factored in. The need is for constructive thinking and seizing
whatever opportunities there might be in this situation. Can the
Jamali-Musharraf team rise above the puerile and dated formulations
on Kashmir and think of a paradigm shift?
DAWN, 21 April 2003
Indian right hopes Billy Graham is wrong
By Jawed Naqvi
It is indeed true that if most of India's majority 82 per cent Hindus
were not secular, the country would perhaps be a theocratic state. At
the same time had its Muslims, Christians, Sikhs and other smaller
groups not subscribed to secular politics, it would be impossible to
run a country as complex and massive as India. And yet religious
atavism abounds in every nook and corner of this vast nation.
Sometimes it surfaces as religious violence and it then becomes
readily palpable. But the national outrage is not equally
distributed. For example, everyone has expressed their anger at the
massacre of 24 Kashmiri Pandits in Pulwama on March 24 by suspected
Muslim militants. But few are moved by the equally horrendous murder
in Assam of 30 Hindu Dimasa tribals by suspected Hmar tribesmen, who
are predominantly Christian, which took place on March 31.
How is it that a massacre of one set of Hindus leads to a nuclear
flashpoint with a culpable neighbour, but the killings of Hindus
elsewhere does not even find a brief shelf-life in the newsroom, much
less in public sensitivity? Is it the linguistic affinity with Delhi
that determines the degree of outrage? Or is Kashmir the only real
issue, and hence a greater sense of outrage when killings happen
there? Or is it "handling Pakistan" that matters most? The question
Not so complex for right-wing politicians, who feast on the
culpability of Muslim or Christian groups in the killings in Kashmir
and Assam, as they did with the Sikhs at the height of the problems
in the Punjab. They will go to any length to fish in such troubled
waters. Sometimes they are devious, sometimes they are amazingly
For example, after years of glorifying Hitler and his extermination
of Jews as worthy of emulation _ with a different target group, of
course _ the Hindu right has been snuggling up to Israel, hoping this
would enable them to fix their main quarry, India's Muslims.
One remembers the relentless campaign in the Indian media in 1991-92
about the instant benefits that would accrue from the resumption of
diplomatic ties with the Zionist state. We were told that the
Israelis would send their invincible commandos to sort out the
Kashmiri militants and sort out the problem once and for all.
Israeli diplomats would in private shake their heads over the
Kashmir-centric logic that coloured much of the public enthusiasm
behind New Delhi's handshake with Tel Aviv.
Similarly, there has been tacit backing for the American-led bombing
of Iraq. The overt support has come from the trident waving Praveen
Togadia of the Vishwa Hindi Parishad, despite the public posturing
against it. This is in line with the thinking of the Hindu right
which blindly subscribes to the "clash of civilizations" thesis and
sees the invasion of Iraq as a war against Muslims.
A potential problem with this line has gone unnoticed by the right
wing in India, which is that the American Christian right, so far
viewed as an ally against Islam, is now training its guns on the
Hindus. American evangelist Franklin Graham may warm the hearts of
the fanatical lot among them when he denounces Islam as evil, but
what happens when he visits his brimstone and fire on the Indian
government for attacks on Christians?
Which makes for a piquant situation since Franklin Graham is the
presiding religious intermediary of the Pentagon and the White House,
besides being the son of the famous Billy Graham who used to be the
preferred priest in the presidency of George Bush Sr. So what did
ripe octogenarian Graham Sr say to complicate the Hindu right's
favourite thesis on the clash of civilizations?
"Despite their valiant efforts," says Graham senior, "Nagaland
remains an occupied territory. The Indian government empowers its
soldiers to arrest, shoot and even kill at will anyone suspected of
subversive actions against the government. It is said to be the most
unreported area of civil conflict in the second half of this century,
with estimates of up to 300,000 casualties."
Graham says that all the underground organizations in Nagaland are
led by and made up of Christians, predominantly Baptists. "There are
well-documented cases of Naga women being raped or assaulted, crops
being destroyed and women and children dying in concentration camps
of malnutrition, torture and forced labour."
I suppose once we are through with sorting out Pakistan over Kashmir,
and finish dealing with Bhutan and Bangladesh over their alleged
indiscretions in Assam and elsewhere, our right-wing cultural
nationalists, who prey on religious atavism, will be sufficiently
battle-ready to take on the world's remaining superpower for daring
to support a religious insurrection in our own backyard, if the
northeastern states could be called that.
* * * * *
How do you fight communalism when communalists are getting armed
everyday? Muslim communalists are experts at the use of RDX, blowing
up everything in sight, or so we are given to understand. Hindu
groups are forming their own suicide squads and they are distributing
trishuls, or tridents, that look pretty menacing in the hands of the
thousands of young men being trained to use them.
Maverick politician and a frontline champion of secularism Laloo
Prasad Yadav has come up with a simple formula to take on the
fanatical hordes. Beat them with a stick is his simple recipe to fend
off the communal menace.
Laloo has planned a rally of his lathi-wielding supporters in Bihar
later this month to kick off the mother of all battles against
nascent fascism. The increasingly rotund former chief minister says
he is inspired by Mahatma Gandhi's famous lathi which he used as a
The New York Times
April 22, 2003
A River Diverted, the Sea Rushes In
By ERIK ECKHOLM
KHARO, Pakistan - Abbas Baloch gazed ruefully at a wide,
shallow bay of the Arabian Sea. "This used to be our land,"
he said. "And now it's covered by the sea."
When Mr. Baloch was born, 38 years ago, this watery expanse
was at the center of his family's estate on the Indus River
delta. But after decades of dam and canal projects
upstream, his farmland has largely been swallowed.
The dams and canals were built in India and other parts of
Pakistan to provide irrigation and power. But little
thought was given to the consequences downstream.
Here at the mouth of the Indus, the river has dried up and
sea water has rushed in to replace its flows, inundating
2,000 acres of the Baloch family's land. (The family has
received no compensation, said Mr. Baloch, who is now
trying to make a living in the overcrowded business of
And for millions of smaller-scale landowners, tenant
farmers and river fishermen, the losses of land and the
water shortages caused by water diversions upstream have
been even more devastating. Many have moved to the slums of
nearby Karachi; others remain in desolate villages, stunned
by the sight of empty canals.
From its glacial origins in the Himalayas to its mouth at
the Arabian Sea, the Indus and its tributaries support the
world's largest system of irrigation canals. The region has
fertile soils but little rain. The waters of the Indus
basin sustain scores of millions of people in northwest
India and literally underwrite the nation of Pakistan,
population 145 million and growing.
But the progressive blocking and consumption of those
waters have also provided a stark example of the ecological
havoc such projects can cause.
"It was just a race for the water, with no expert
planning," said Sikander Brohi, a development expert at the
Center for Information and Research of the Bhutto Institute
When so much is squeezed from a finite resource, conflicts
are inevitable. No one has fully measured the economic and
environmental effects of half a century of water
developments on the Indus, or shown what a different
pattern of management may have achieved.
By now, the pitfalls of large dams are notorious, and donor
agencies like the World Bank have become more wary, at
least requiring detailed environmental and social
assessments. A few decades back, the engineers were less
The largest single project on the Indus is the Tarbela Dam,
in northern Pakistan, which was completed in 1976. As a
report in 2000 by the World Commission on Dams put it, in
damning understatement, "the ecological impacts of the dam
were not considered at the inception stage as the
international agencies involved in water resources
development had not realized this need at that time."
Yet in parched regions like this, the pressure for new,
perhaps dubious projects remains intense. Residents of
Punjab Province in central Pakistan, who have enjoyed major
benefits and suffered relatively few of the damages of past
projects, are pressing for another major dam. Pakistan is
forging ahead with a disputed new canal in Punjab that will
divert still more water to bring new desert lands under
"A lot of the engineers and politicians consider any flow
of water into the sea to be a waste, and they consider the
mangrove swamps of the delta to be a wasteland," said
Mohammed Tahir Qureshi, coastal ecosystem director in
Pakistan for IUCN/The World Conservation Union, a global
The division of Indus basin waters has been a source of
friction between Pakistan and India, largely but not
entirely salved by an international treaty in 1960. Even
more, it is a source of bitter conflict in Pakistan, with
Sindh Province here in the south claiming that the more
politically powerful Punjab Province of Pakistan is
grabbing more than its share.
"Upstream, they are demanding more water for canals, but we
are demanding water to save our coastal area," Mr. Brohi
said. "The dams are not giving proper benefit to Sindh," he
added, expressing a view that is universally held in Sindh
and rejected by officials in Punjab. "When our crops need
water, they are filling the dams to meet needs in Punjab."
The social and environmental damage is most visible in the
Indus delta itself, which used to be a vast network of
creeks surrounded by rich silt that yielded abundant rice
crops for export. The traditional year-round flow into the
sea was drastically curbed a few decades back, and more
recently, with ever more withdrawals topped by years of low
precipitation in the river headlands, it has disappeared
"At least we used to get water through here for two or
three months of the year," said Muhammad Ali Shah, chairman
of the Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum, during a visit to
half-abandoned villages just above the delta. "But for the
last four years there has been no flow at all. The fields
can't be planted and now drinking water has become the
With no river to push it out, the sea is pushing in. Along
the coast, studies show, at least 1.2 million acres of
farmland have been covered by sea water. Millions more
acres inland have been impaired or destroyed by salt
The coastal marshes, where fresh water and salt water
mixed, were filled with the mangrove forests that are vital
to spawning of fish and shrimp and to protection of the
shoreline. Long under pressure from timber and fuel-wood
collectors and grazing camels, these forests now suffer the
greatest threat yet, a lack of incoming fresh water.
Once more than 850,000 acres, the area of mangrove swamps
in the Indus delta has shrunk to less than 500,000. Trees
are stunted in many of the remaining forests, and the
number of species has dropped to three from eight.
Fisheries have suffered accordingly, with catches of some
of the most valued species nearly disappearing. Overfishing
is another problem: driven out of farming by the absence of
water, thousands of people have switched to offshore
fishing, putting enormous pressure on the stocks.
The flood plains banding the Indus along its lower hundreds
of miles were covered until recently with rich forests,
occupied by more than 500,000 people who engaged in animal
husbandry, farming and forestry. But now the river so
seldom overflows that the riverine ecosystems are failing.
At best, the mix of tree species is changing and in some
areas, vegetation is dying out, leaving ghostlike skeletal
remains of forests and abandoned settlements.
Could it be different? Scientists in Sindh want more water
released upstream, and in seasonal patterns more attuned to
ecological needs of the lower basin. They also note that an
estimated 40 percent of the diverted waters are lost to
seepage from dirt canals and evaporation, losses that can
be curbed only with large investments in concrete and
modern irrigation methods.
"I realize that we can't turn back the clock and restore
the original flow of the river," said Mr. Qureshi of the
IUCN. "But we need to have rational water management."
At the same time, the demands on the Indus climb steadily.
Bitter competition for its waters and ecological costs seem
unlikely to wane. Pakistan's population, which was little
more than 30 million when the country was formed in 1947,
is projected to reach 250 million by 2025.
The Hindu, Apr 01, 2003
'Paradigm shift' in history? - I
by MICHAEL WITZEL
Frawley may `love' India all the way he wants, but if he really wants
to understand, he must at least begin to study the required sciences,
be they anthropology, linguistics, philology, biology or geography.
Of course, he does not see the need as he already knows the `secrets'
of the Veda.[...].
The Hindu, Apr 08, 2003
`Paradigm shift' in history? - II
by MICHAEL WITZEL
Scholarship is not local but universal. Those who want to turn it
back in indigenous fashion may succeed for a while but their
pronouncements will eventually be thrown out on the dung heap of
history. The history of a great civilisation such as the Indian one
does not deserve to be hijacked by narrow parochial, nationalistic,
chauvinistic or political interests. A truly international approach
is needed, with input from many sides.[...].
People Against War,
a coalition of human rights and public interest groups, unions and
concerned citizens in Mumbai, is holding a Lamp -light Peace March to
protest against the occupation of Iraq.
Wednesday, 23rd April 2003
Nariman Point to Girgaum Chowpatty
Assemble opposite the Oberoi Hotel at 6.00 p.m. or join along the way
Bring lanterns and torches to spread the light of peace
Say No to An Unjust Occupation!
Join us there. Remember - one more does make a difference
SACW is an informal, independent & non-profit citizens wire service run by
South Asia Citizens Web (www.mnet.fr/aiindex).
DISCLAIMER: Opinions expressed in materials carried in the posts do not
necessarily reflect the views of SACW compilers.