Grow up governments!

Published: February 15, 2013

The writer is a consulting editor with The Statesman and writes widely for several newspapers in India

Last month, the elite of Delhi were regaled with a classic collegiate-style debate on whether the civil societies of India and Pakistan could actually make a difference. Worthies arguing for and against the motion included Mani Shankar Aiyar and Kabir Bedi from India and Javed Jabbar and Najam Sethi of Pakistan. The moderator was Indian Minister of State for Human Resource Development, Shashi Tharoor. And to give credit to the organisers, the teams were mixed in that it was both against both and not an India versus Pakistan event. The larger message of the debate supported the importance of civil society in peace efforts.

One is mentioning this as clearly, over and again, we are reminded that peace between India and Pakistan is totally dependent on the political vagaries of time. And while many of us believe that civil society has a major role to play, and is actually very important in keeping relations on some kind of an even keel, perhaps there is some truth in former Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf’s statement that the governments of India and Pakistan basically determine the freedom of civil society to pursue peace, as they are the final arbiters of peace, or for that matter, war, at any point in time.

The role of civil society is important, but as governments like to insist, limited. It is confined to generating pressure, to ensuring that the people develop a stake in peace, to disseminating information about each other to break ugly stereotypes, to resisting efforts by the political class to ghettoise bilateral relations in the corridors of power and to working towards establishing peace not as a whim, but as an ideology surpassing all others.

But the limitations are visible, particularly when governments insist on ignoring the progressive aspirations of their peoples and strengthening what should be fringe voices of intolerance. This time around, both New Delhi and Islamabad seemed to have, at least, managed a holding operation, in that the ceasefire at the Line of Control (LoC) had held since 2003, people-to-people contacts had increased, and while official level talks on the vexed issues had not yielded record-breaking results, at least the talks were on and decisions such as relaxing the visa regime, improving trade and business, were off the ground.

But then, after the LoC skirmishes and the deaths of soldiers (which, by the way, are part of army confrontations at the border at the local levels), it all snapped. Hysterical 24-hour television pressured the Indian government that had initially responded with sobriety, to move into offensive gear and within days, the talks were off, visas became the first casualty as always and the rhetoric changed from peace to war. Pakistani politicians responded in kind and presently, the two countries are again glaring at each other, waiting for the other to blink.

Fortunately, this has not escalated. And while there are important strategic reasons for this, civil society that has expanded to include, as this column has pointed out, many more sections of society has played a role. People of both India and Pakistan do not want war and except for the few masquerading as nationalists on television, the majority wants peace. Perhaps, it is because both our people are facing tremendous problems of existence at different levels, or it could be because the younger generation, free of the baggage of Partition, does not want to keep shedding blood, or perhaps, it is because many more in each country realise that the other does not have horns and four ears. The fact remains that the voice against war is actually growing louder than the voice against peace.

The ruling elite in both countries is reluctant to let go and hence, turns deaf and blind to the reality even as it seeks to drown the voices of sanity and sobriety. But it is losing the plot and even measures, such as not allowing mobile services for visitors from the other side, have not been able to dampen the resolve of the people to keep contact and communication open.

The people of India and Pakistan are coming of age. Grow up governments.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 16th, 2013.

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Reader Comments (36)

  • RAW is WAR
    Feb 15, 2013 - 11:59PM

    The people of India and Pakistan are coming of age. really?

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  • BlackJack
    Feb 16, 2013 - 12:14AM

    Peace between India and Pakistan is in the hands of the Pak army. Civil societies can wave white flags at each other all day but it makes not an iota of difference on the final outcome. Give up the Kashmir fixation and join the 21st century.

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  • John B
    Feb 16, 2013 - 12:58AM

    Civil societies (whatever they may be) are self appointed by vested interests. All civil societies represent a narrow band of social spectrum, unlike the government. They function effectively when they work with the government to translate the functions of a government wherein the vested interests of the civil society and the egalitarian interest of the government are in harmony.

    When the interests of the government and civil societies do not match, the government should reject the civil societies. Hafeez in PAK, JI, and JKLF and KKK in the US are also running the so called civil societies.

    Let us not get carried away as if the civil societies are all angels. Civil societies come to dominate when the governments are failing, and it is a never a good sign.

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  • John the Baptist
    Feb 16, 2013 - 1:21AM

    @BlackJack:

    Okay, let’s try your medicine on you: Why don’t you give up the Kashmir fixation and join the 21st century?

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  • G. Din
    Feb 16, 2013 - 2:36AM

    My dear lady, do not simplify matters by blaming governments. India is a Democracy. Indian government can’t move a step unless it has the approval of Indian people. Your ignorance about our system of governance is excusable because we know it is different in your part of the woods. In spite of the fact that his Pakistan policy was hugely unpopular, ManMohan Singh struggled along in the hope that he would try to persuade Indians to go along with his policy to bring some semblance of peace between two avowed enemies. But, then Pakistan threw the spanner in his works. It committed a huge breach of trust, faith and promises with him when it turned out that Pakistan was simply making a fool of him in promising legal action against 26/11 goons. When Rahman Malik passed those Pakistan Supreme Court decisions to India, it turned out that they had absolutely no bearing on 26/11 event. That is how you disillusioned the sole man in India who had staked his entire credibility on that you would come through on what you had promised. Even he was constrained to say:”no more business as usual with Pakistan”.
    So, madam, you are simply talking in air without thinking through. Who can take risk on dealing with a person who has made it a habit to break solemnly-made promises not only to you but every other interlocutor too?

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  • Arijit Sharma
    Feb 16, 2013 - 4:32AM

    ET should stop patronising authors such as Seema and Kuldip Nayar – for the simple reason that they are misrepresenting facts to the English reading Pakistani public. Here statement “Grow up governments.” would suggest to a Pakistani reader that it is the the Government of India that is a hurdle in “normalisation” of relations between India and Pakistan. In reality, it is the People Of India who are apprehensive about a relationship where one is expected to “trust” Pakistan. (And as is obvious, Pakistanis will have similar opinions)

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  • vasan
    Feb 16, 2013 - 6:31AM

    Oh Yeah; We dont war with Pakistan. We dont want to fight anyone and kill others. OK, all non state actors from Pakistan, pl take note.

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  • Yoghurt lover
    Feb 16, 2013 - 7:27AM

    Good.

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  • Rajeev Nidumolu
    Feb 16, 2013 - 7:52AM

    “The people of India and Pakistan are coming of age. Grow up governments.”

    Civil societies in both countries are troubled by elitism which is out of synch with thinking of common man in both countries . Civil societies which are in favor of Indo Pak rapprochement in both countries are confined to English speaking liberals .
    No one can deny that peace dividend has eluded both poorest countries in the world because of conflict over the years.
    The issue on Pakistani side is that of consistent public support of 15 to 20% for islamic extremists and another 30-40% who have dubious feelings about them . Only 30% of the Pak population support Pak army action against militants http://www.pewglobal.org/2012/06/27/pakistani-public-opinion-ever-more-critical-of-u-s/

    Pakistanis are very negative toward India – about seven-in-ten (72%) are unfavorable, including a majority (55%) that is very unfavorable. Less than a quarter (22%) are positive.Roughly eight-in-ten Pakistanis (79%) say India is a serious threat to their nation, including 57% who believe it is a very serious threat. Fewer say the Taliban (58%) and al Qaeda (47%) are a major danger.
    When asked which is the greatest threat – India, the Taliban, or al Qaeda – a clear majority names India. ( Pew survey –http://www.pewglobal.org/2012/06/27/chapter-3-relations-with-india-2/
    Indians are also very negative toward Pakistan. Just 13% express favorable opinions of their neighbor.
    Do you expect any Pakistani government is going to ignore the ground reality and side with liberal civil society elites?Recommend

  • Mirza
    Feb 16, 2013 - 9:48AM

    I agree that the civil society has a major role to play. However, whenever there is any movement toward peace a Kargil is created by the enemies of peace. This has happened too many times. You said “Fortunately, this has not escalated.”
    Of course it is not going to escalate as the objective is not to go to war but keep the walls of hatred intact so the people cannot see the other side. If there is peace and friendship between the two countries then what would be the excuse to have huge armies? What would be the use of keeping all the strategic assets?

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  • Manju
    Feb 16, 2013 - 10:02AM

    The ruling elite in both countr­ies is reluct­ant to let go and hence, turns deaf and blind to the realit­y.
    It is also important that the civil society in Pakistan stops being mute and come out and speak aloud for humanity instead of ‘Muslims’ alone….

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  • MSS
    Feb 16, 2013 - 1:09PM

    @G.Din,
    ” India is a Democracy. Indian government can’t move a step unless it has the approval of Indian people.”
    That is called anarchy. Participatory democracy has not found its way to the subcontinent yet. Governments are elected to govern keeping in mind people’s aspirations and welfare. When does that happen in any state in India or Pakistan?. The current PIL in the Indian SC on ‘LAAL Batti’ says it all. Both India and Pakistan are very status oriented societies. When that happens, people’s interests come last.
    The author is absolutely correct in her assessments. People do not want war in either country but there are some young ignorants who think of war as a video game that cannot inflict any personal pain. Both countries have genuine security concerns that is why this high alert situation along the LoC. We should develop mechanisms (CBM) that enhance security and peace confidence amongst people and the armed forces.

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  • MSS
    Feb 16, 2013 - 1:12PM

    @G.Din,
    If I am not wrong, Seema Mustafa is an Indian who used to be an analyst at IDSA.

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  • Feb 16, 2013 - 1:24PM

    @John the Baptist:

    Would you give up your house if someone asks you to? Who is fixated on it now? The other guy or you?

    Same thing. Kashmir is ours and you want it. You are fixated on Kashmir, not us.

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  • Sultan
    Feb 16, 2013 - 4:13PM

    @BruteForce:

    Unless you are a Kashmiri, which I doubt very much, the hollowness of your argument is on full display! Kashmir is the “house” of Kashmiris, not a dowry item for India or Pakistan. Let the real house owners decide.

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  • Antanu G
    Feb 16, 2013 - 5:08PM

    @Sultan:
    Who do you mean by Kashmiris? Those natives who were there before the Muslim invaders? Did they ask my father when India was partitioned? These arguments bring you no where? Be happy with what you have got today. You already lost half..lol..

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  • G. Din
    Feb 16, 2013 - 5:28PM

    @MSS:
    “@G.Din,
    If I am not wrong, Seema Mustafa is an Indian who used to be an analyst at IDSA.”

    Well, golly! She is an Indian and she mouths out such platitudes as she has? Welcome to the Quisling Club of Kuldip Nayyar, Jyoti Malhotra, Arundhati Roy, Aakar Patel, Mani Shankar Aiyyar, Jawed Naqvi and all the rest!

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  • Murthy
    Feb 16, 2013 - 5:29PM

    Civil societies can only spend time talking and debating in conferences, but it is the ‘uncivil’ govts that decide on war and peace.

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  • G. Din
    Feb 16, 2013 - 5:52PM

    @Sultan: to BruteForce
    ” Let the real house owners decide.”
    “House owners” you are talking of are not only not the owners of anything but the howels they live in, they are hardly the “sole or real owners” of Kashmir. Name any territory in the world which changed hands peacefully (or otherwise) from one sovereign power to another throughout human history where those living on it were consulted. You cannot, because none exists. Kashmir cannot be an exception to the rule! Before you hark back to Nehru’s promise, be reminded that an idiot’s word is idiotic; only suckers give any credence to it. His promises were not only not ratified by Indian parliament but there is, in fact, a resolution passed by it that Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India. No individual or government in India can ignore that resolution!

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  • Maula Jat
    Feb 16, 2013 - 6:09PM

    Mumbai happened in 2008. India decides to go ballistic on Pakistan in 2013. It is no longer “business as usual”. Pray why? Because elections are in 2014. It is time for nuclear defence drill in Indian occupied Kashmir. Are we missing something here? These simpleton Pakistanis will never understand. What is really cooking Mr. Singh?

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  • David_Smith
    Feb 16, 2013 - 7:04PM

    Mani Shankar Aiyar, Kabir Bedi and Sashi Tharoor. Now that is really scraping the bottom of the barrel!

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  • Feb 16, 2013 - 7:37PM

    @Sultan:

    Why don’t we ask the Democratically elected CM of J&K what he wants.

    Warning: He is secular, married to a non-Muslim, one of the finest CMs in India, if you ask me. He is the very opposite of the politicians in Pakistan.

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  • G. Din
    Feb 16, 2013 - 7:48PM

    @MSS:
    “That is called anarchy. Participatory democracy has not found its way to the subcontinent yet. ….”
    All Democracies are a work in progress, even America’s, the one with the longest experience. Systems, which is what a Democracy is, are by their very nature inanimate. What animates them is the contribution of human effort. If, as you say, our Democracy is wanting, the fault must lie with those who practice it. If you are an Indian, then you should own up to your share of that fault. We cannot have all the democracy we would like to have and only as much as we can handle at a particular time. Since it is an open-ended process, the pace of any change is also up to us.
    We have our hands full with the challenges of our own, as you have yourself noted. Please desist from talking about problems on the subcontinental scale. The subcontinent never presented any kind of uniformity ever. The differences between various countries (peoples) have only accentuated since we parted ways. All commonalities have either disappeared or are about to disappear, Lord be thanked!

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  • Manoj Joshi India
    Feb 16, 2013 - 8:19PM

    The unique distinction that can be observed with regard to nationalism or patriotism in the context of India and Pakistan is the deep antipathy, distrust and negativity which forms a distinct feature. The extent of this antipathy and distrust alone has been the yardstick of the depth of real nationalism or patriotism. This has been the misconception that has pervaded the Indo-Pak mind since 1947 and a paradigm has been set that progress of one lies in the decline of the other. This unique distinction has been a major reason behind the relationship of the two neighbours not having been very cordial. Indeed the governments are to blame to a large extent and the media too to a considerable extent has been responsible in promoting this disharmony, distrust and antipathy. The political hawks within the governments of the two countries have no doubt promoted these perceptions and feelings in order to realise their vested political interests which now as is quite perceptible is being understood by the people of India and Pakistan. The Governments of India and Pakistan need to grow up and display a greater level of political maturity and the citizens of the two countries too must develop the desired understanding and maturity to accept that the people on the other side of the border are as noble or as nasty as those who are their own countrymen. There cannot be overnight wonders and this is well understood however a sincere effort is required from both sides of the border and the people of must come forward. The confidence levels no doubt, will take time to come up to the desired levels which sincerity and perseverance alone can make into reality. Till about a decade from now Indo-Pak amity and trust sounded like a pipe dream but the situation is quite different now as there is a change in the offing. The people of the two nations too need to mature mentally and must learn to accept one another as friends and a part of the Asian Fraternity. After all the people of India and Pakistan are linked culturally as well as historically which amity, trust and fraternity alone can promote.

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  • MSS
    Feb 16, 2013 - 11:07PM

    @ G.Din,
    The fact that the author is an Indian and has written in a newspaper identifying a particular issue cannot deserve condemnation. Recognition of flaws in a system is the first step towards fixing it.
    Any system of government democratic, monarchy or dictatorship even totalitarianism are essentially works in progress. No two parallel systems perform equally well. Democracy is a system better than others but is nothing more than a legalised mafia where ever it is because it empowers a few individuals based on just numbers and not making any distinction between votes of well informed and, less well informed as in the case of feudal or deeply religious societies. A very primitive but in the absence of a better system yet known to humans, an acceptable system. For democracies to work homogeneous societies are best suited.
    You suggest I desist from talking on subcontinental level, but the very fundamentals on which democracies are supposed to function are almost absent from the entire subcontinent and many other parts of the planet. Are you suggesting that every MLA elected in every state is a suitable leader? Look at the levels of education of all MLA in Panjab for example. You will find that a large number are educated below 12th grade. India is ahead of Pakistan and BD but with 1.2 billion people is anything but really democratic in the true sense of the word.
    It is up to us the take the blame and bring in change? Here in lies the sting. People can accept the blame as long as they make the elected leaders to accept responsibility. There is a long long way to go.

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  • G. Din
    Feb 17, 2013 - 12:11AM

    @MSS:
    “It is up to us the take the blame and bring in change? Here in lies the sting. People can accept the blame as long as they make the elected leaders to accept responsibility. There is a long long way to go.”
    There, you said it!

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  • Rex Minor
    Feb 17, 2013 - 1:43AM

    Muslims and hindus do not dine together nor marry with one another. This was the coclusion of Mr Jinnah and th rational for cratin a sparat country with a sparat spac for muslims.

    What are you suggesting lady? The follwers of Bharat(ya) doctrine do not want peace but war lady! This has been the destiny for muslims of India and was foreseen by Iqbal and realisd by Jinnah, which the congress party of yesterday did not accept and have ever since opposed it. If necessary muslims need to laser their eyes lenses if they are fogged.

    Hindus do not even know how to shake hands with others,Sorry Dr Manmohan Singh has now learnt and was seen shaking hands with the French President, though previously he did not observe this civiity with Mr Obama?

    Rex Minor

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  • Alexander
    Feb 17, 2013 - 2:51AM

    So you have a civil society in Pakistan? Those trained in islamic ideology????

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  • Manoj Joshi India
    Feb 17, 2013 - 9:46AM

    @Rex Minor: This is a sheer misconception. Neither India nor Pakistan meaning hereby the people of the two nations do not want war. They all want peace and friendship. The political leadership of the two nations has apparently begun to realise this and are now changing their approach. The level of diplomatic maturity will need time as you cannot expect overnight changes.

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  • Rex Minor
    Feb 17, 2013 - 6:56PM

    @Manoj Joshi India:

    Sorry sir, I am a European not a Pakistani, but disagree with your coclusion. My observation on this as well other blogs is that the majority of the subcontinent people do not seek peace, We exist and therefore are free to act and realise whatever we seek and however we want to live. No one has the power over our decisions, we alone are responsible for whatever occurs around us and in our lands. The only condition being the consensus of the majority and not the minority.

    Protests and marches for peace or war have a very limited influence but the majority can change the course of the history. We have lived and suffered from wars more than any other continent in modern history, no more wars and bloodsheds is the moto of the European majority and this has given birth of the European Union. The abolition of capital punishment and the estabishment of social market economic order which assures solidaarity and compassion for the next.

    Indian military is occupying the majority muslim Kashmir, and Pakistan military has not yet come to peace with civilian citizens while simutaneously preparing for a possible nuclear confrontation. This must change if there is going to be a prspect for peace.

    Rex Minor

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  • G. Din
    Feb 17, 2013 - 8:41PM

    @Rex Minor: to Manoj Joshi
    “This must change if there is going to be a prspect for peace.”
    At the risk of looking like a warmonger, may I ask of both of you: what is so great about peace that you both seem to believe to be a desirable end? That any peace is good is malarkey. Besides only that peace can endure which is desired by both adversaries in equal measure. Since Rex is an European, he should know about certain someone proclaiming “peace in our time” which turned out to be a mirage. It could be argued that ensuing destruction may have been lessened to an extent if other European powers had used the time spent fantasizing about peace purposefully and prepared themselves against the German onslaught to come. It might have also shortened a hugely destructive war. To expect that two adversaries would want peace in an equal measure is itself a bit naive. As soon as the balance tips to one side, there goes your “peace”. Before you wish for something, you ought to know why, how realistic is your wish and how not to indulge in delusions?

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  • Rex Minor
    Feb 17, 2013 - 11:08PM

    @G. Din
    You proved the point, you are part of the majority for war. To answer your question on the past history, Germany was the power unmatched by others in Europe! People need to use their foresight for peace, whereas the military always concentrates on hindsight; what if?
    Both protogonists in the subcontinent have enough lethal oly pops to destroy the whole of continent more than once and remember that the military does not have the foresight to evaluate consequenses.

    Have a nice day, sir.

    Rex Minor

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  • G. Din
    Feb 18, 2013 - 5:02PM

    @Rex Minor:
    I do not know which majority you are talking about that is hungering for war. Nor, am I advocating war. But those who chant “peace in our time” are more likely than not to fall flat on their faces as we were a witness to already. They are “sitting ducks” for a “good makeover” from those fascists who do hunger for wars.
    “Germany was the power unmatched by others in Europe! “
    Are we talking about the same Germany which was crawling on its belly just before it became “the power unmatched by others in Europe”? How did that come about, Mr. Minor? And, what was the rest of Europe doing while Germany lifted itself? Licking the lolly-pop of “peace”, I suppose, and humming “peace in our time”.
    No peace is enduring unless it is backed by a constant preparation for war. And, if you have not kept yourself fit enough, you do not only lose peace but your dignity, too. We, Hindus, should know. We went through that wringer and could not gather ourselves for a thousand years. Answering my own question, Mr. Minor, you in Europe had become lazy and flatulent after centuries of living off of your colonies in Asia and Africa and Latin America and bleeding those colonies to their bones.
    You too have a good day, sir!

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  • Rex Minor
    Feb 19, 2013 - 11:00PM

    @G. Din:
    I have no problems with your opinions, but only with your knowlege. Germany did not possess colonies per say, but was the power house in Europe.Germans are not known for belly crawling nor for laziness, but have the highest prouctivity per capita in the world.

    Rex Minor

    PS ET should respect the freedom of opinated bloggers.

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  • G. Din
    Feb 21, 2013 - 1:22AM

    @Rex Minor:
    Sir, if you are a German, which you seem to be by your fierce defence, I suggest respectfully to you to read your history, especially of the period between the two world wars. That was precisely the period when Germany was not a powerhouse. German economy was creaking under the burden of vast inflation which ultimately and directly led to the rise of Hitler. That is what I meant when I said that Germans were ” crawling on their bellies”.
    I never said Germans are lazy. On the contrary, they are a proud and a self-reliant nation. Germany proved that in spite of the vast burden to incorporate hugely impoverished East Germany seamlessly into combined economy, it did not only hold its own but came to the aid of its neighours. I have a great deal of respect for them. But, no people are an island unto themselves!

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  • Rex Minor
    Feb 21, 2013 - 2:56PM

    @G. Din:

    We are all blessed with hindsight but not all have the foresight.

    Rex Minor

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