Competing with India

Published: February 2, 2015
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The writer is an economist and a former adviser to the Sindh chief minister on planning and development

The writer is an economist and a former adviser to the Sindh chief minister on planning and development

US President Barack Obama’s visit to India as chief guest for the country’s Republic Day celebrations has evoked amusing reactions in Pakistan. Of course, there is peeve at the fact that the US president has chosen to visit India and bypass Pakistan. However, gone are the days when the world treated India and Pakistan on a par and foreign dignitaries considered it a diplomatic necessity to visit Islamabad when visiting New Delhi and vice versa.

Islamabad has accepted the situation as a fait accompli; however, American presidential visits remain an exception. Earlier, when former president Clinton visited India, Pakistani diplomats moved heaven and earth to implore him to add Pakistan to his itinerary; and he obliged with a four-hour visit.

Currently, the Pakistan Foreign Office has adopted a responsible position and refrained from any comment. A section of the media has, however, gone overboard with hysteria and exaggerated pique, particularly by overnight-born experts — ex-generals, stand-alone politicians, news analysts, etc. — who are smarting the most on account of President Obama’s India visit sans Pakistan.

Pakistan has to realise that world affairs are not carried out according to the figments of imagination of the country’s officially-sponsored intelligentsia. The nations of the world are engaged in serious relationships based on trade and security. No world leader will visit Pakistan if there is nothing substantial to talk about. No one has the time to add a day to their route merely to pander to Islamabad’s pretensions about parity with India.

Pakistan will have to accept hard facts and introspect the actual situation. And the fact is that Pakistan has little weight in the international arena, politically and economically. Politically, it is viewed as a nuisance at best and a threat to international security at worst. Economically, it is considered a basket case and a seemingly eternal candidate for bailouts. And it has little international sympathy for its claims of terrorism victimhood, as it is viewed as being bitten by the snakes it has itself bred in its backyard.

If Pakistan is desirous of being taken seriously by the world community, it will have to move on two fronts. One, it will have to be honest and serious about eliminating all forms of terrorism, including the mindset that considers terrorism legitimate. Pakistan cannot expect to be respected when murderers, a la Mumtaz Qadri, are treated as heroes and government prosecution lawyers are reluctant to proceed against him.  Pakistan will also have to produce a new narrative on Kashmir, as the only audience for the old narrative is Pakistan itself.

Pakistan’s knee-jerk response to the emerging India-US strategic partnership is to adopt China as an alternative patron-saint. This move is abjectly unwise. Firstly, no one respects camp-followers of one power or the other. And secondly, reliance on Chinese shoulders to lean on may prove to be unstable as, after all, China, too, is cognisant of India’s rise and will not construct its regional foreign policy to suit the needs of a declining entity that is incessantly in a state of political and economic crisis.

The second front on which Pakistan will need to effect changes is to adopt economic and social development as the primary agenda of the state and second grade the external security agenda. It has to be accepted and incorporated — in belief and policymaking — in all policy corridors — that Pakistan’s security essentially lies in its economic strength and not in its nuclear arsenal or in military posturing. This reassessment will require significant restructuring of economic policy.

Pakistan can never compete with India in terms of its size, population and national income. If Pakistan’s per capita income is twice that of India and the poverty rate is half, a resultantly strong purchasing power will create a proportionately larger market size and the world will take the country seriously and treat it with respect. Pakistan’s balance of payments — sans foreign aid — will also have to generate the surpluses to be able to assist smaller neighbours like Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and the Maldives. These are achievable objectives if the necessary political will is mobilised.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 2nd,  2015.

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Reader Comments (51)

  • stevenson
    Feb 2, 2015 - 2:13AM

    I agree it’s childish for Pakistanis to worry about where the US President does or does not visit. India is after all a country of over 1 billion and the US is trying to use it as a bulwark against China. The fact that the US is making a mistake in this regard is another matter because India’s fundamentals are very weak and its existence as a nation state is even debatable. I disagree with the author completely on the Kashmir narrative. Pakistan’s principled stance on Kashmir should not change since it resonates in the world. Might is right and no one may care about the Kashmiris or the Palestinians right now but that is no reason to deny a people the right to self determination according to UN resolutions. In North America and the UK, people know that Kashmir is a disputed region and also know that the referendum has been denied its people. Muslim majority Kashmiris will always yearn to joint Pakistan based on history, culture, geography, religion and language. This will not change in our Kashmiri family no matter what goes on in India or in Pakistan. It is a sense of belonging and most Kashmiris do not identify with India. Once Pakistan’s own house is in order it can resume the diplomatic offensive in this regard because everyone knows that a people cannot be held against their will indefinitely in today’s world.

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  • Saif
    Feb 2, 2015 - 2:31AM

    Article hits nail on its head …though a bitter reality to swallow but absolutely true !Hats off to brave journalist !

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  • Iqbal
    Feb 2, 2015 - 2:51AM

    A very sensible article after a long time in any Pakistani newspaper. Time now to condemn and stay away from hatred and terrorism. If we do no change now Pakistan willbe at the same place even after 20 years while other Asian countries become major economic powers.

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  • Deepwater
    Feb 2, 2015 - 3:19AM

    It is true – Bengalis are smart.

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  • Anonymouse
    Feb 2, 2015 - 3:27AM

    “Pakistan will also have to produce a new narrative on Kashmir, as the only audience for the old narrative is Pakistan itself.”

    My narrative, “Punjab, Bengal and Sindh” were parititioned, so was Kashmir. Once people on both side of border agree to make the LoC as an irrelevant (so that people can move freely) but international border, everyone can move ahead.. but i guess this will be a dream..

    Anonymouse

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  • Rahul
    Feb 2, 2015 - 3:35AM

    First reasonable article on Obama’s visit to India to come out in Pakistani newspapers.

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  • Asif
    Feb 2, 2015 - 3:40AM

    Nice write up. If any Pakistani commenter dares to write this, we will be accused of being Indian trolls. Economic development should not just be the primary agenda but the only agenda. We are sinking by the minute.
    We further make ourselves laughing stock of the world by our claims of alliance with China. The Chinese are businessmen first and last. If India offers more and more economic opportunities for Chinese businesses and we offer less and less as is the case, it is just plain silly talk to pretend there is a China -Pakistan alliance against India.

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  • Feb 2, 2015 - 4:48AM

    Dipak@Deepwater:
    Bhutto knew Bengalis were to smart for West Pakistani, that’s why he divided the country and now see how great Bangaladesh is progressing while Pakistani Beggars are carrying Begging Bowl extended by ZAB and BB.

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  • Som Tyagi
    Feb 2, 2015 - 5:03AM

    @stevenson “….and its existence as a nation state is even debatable.” What are you really smoking? Mr. Bengali’s article is directed at people precisely like you.

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  • Rao
    Feb 2, 2015 - 5:34AM

    An honest, insightful and courageous colomn. The author deserves every praise .

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  • vasan
    Feb 2, 2015 - 6:27AM

    Stevenson : India’s existence as a nation state debatable ??? I have never read a joke more laughable than this. Your comments are ignorant rant at best.

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  • siji
    Feb 2, 2015 - 6:55AM

    @stevenson:
    So you would “debate” the existence of India as a nation?
    Wow not only did you totally dismissed the article but appear to live in lala land.

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  • ashu
    Feb 2, 2015 - 7:18AM

    @stevenson:
    I can put all my money on bet that India as nation will not only survive but thrive. We are hearing this from some british and lately Americans that India will splinter but sadly Russia broke and weaker India still standing.
    Also, U.S. And UK people opinion does not matter in determining kashmir status .its us indian who matters. As Clinton said during his speech after Kardile war..that world is not belonging to people who attempts to redraw the border. So not an inch I repeat not an inch of indian kashmir will be changed..whether U.S. Or Uk people like it or not but they can take Kashmiris who does not want to stay in India but no redraw of borders…
    A

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  • Laholbila
    Feb 2, 2015 - 7:19AM

    @Stevensen….’The fact that the US is making a mistake in this regard is another matter because India’s fundamentals are very weak and its existence as a nation state is even debatable.’

    Serious, honest and introspective commentary by Mr Bengali deserves a serious assessment, not a laughable absurdity by Stevensen. Try substituting ‘India’ with ‘Pakistan’ in the statement above and see how it starts making sense, all of a sudden!

    Ha,ha,ha,ha………

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  • Hamaqat Singh
    Feb 2, 2015 - 7:35AM

    Pakistani Badshahow, I don’t know why you are making too many noises about Obama sahib’s visit to India. We invited him and he came. You did not invite him and he did not come. Also you are the strategic partner of America but we are not. America refused to give our Pardhan Mantiri visa to visit America. So to get American visa he worked hard and became PM. Now you are jealous. Please dont do this, we will send our PM to Pakistan to make you happy. Then you send your to our country and we will be happy. That will make us good neighbors.

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  • Sk
    Feb 2, 2015 - 8:24AM

    Excellent article, liked the articulate language as seen on prestigious news sites. Subject was presented in a very realistic balance nature.

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  • Rohit
    Feb 2, 2015 - 9:05AM

    What a sane and level-headed article. Hard to believe that I am reading a Pakistani newspaper.

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  • Bharat
    Feb 2, 2015 - 9:10AM

    An honest article. BTW this year India is to surpass even China in economic growth.

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  • nadeem
    Feb 2, 2015 - 10:16AM

    Well said. The entity that has veto power over all decisions in Pakistan – the military – will have to give up that veto power, as the social and economic well being of 180 million Pakistanis will begin to take precedence over the so-called security agenda that has consumed 50,000 souls and left us very insecure. Socio-economic uplift is impossible in a country where the military has veto power over major decisions.

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  • Ayesha
    Feb 2, 2015 - 10:27AM

    Bengali Sahib, It is not only the size of your market that determines your importance in the International arena. While you have correctly argued for increased economic development, your tone towards your homeland is filled with rancor. We DO NOT need a new ‘narrative’ on Kashmir That is for the Kashmiris alone to decide. And please that ‘snakes in the backyard’ theory is Hillary’s brainchild to further American interests.

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  • AVMPolpot
    Feb 2, 2015 - 10:28AM

    ” These are achievable objectives if the necessary political will is mobilised.”
    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
    Political will in Pakistan is subservient to Military Will……

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  • observer
    Feb 2, 2015 - 11:06AM

    So what if we are considered a nuisance and a threat to international security? We the Islamic bomb and we will be happy being classified as a pariah eating grass.

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  • Feb 2, 2015 - 11:10AM

    @AVMPolpot:
    Be sure to let your doctors know you escaped from the hospital.
    They were looking for you in Poona, Then Banaras. They just
    need a bigger net.

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  • Manoj
    Feb 2, 2015 - 11:16AM

    I guess the problem has always been how Pakistan chooses to address its challenges since the time of its inception as a nation. One common thread noticable is its proclavity to resort to violent means to solve just about any kind of problem. Here is a ready reckoner –

    Partition – Violent (ofcourse, both sides culpable)
    Kasmir – Started with attack by Pakistani Army irregulars. No peaceful means were tried
    1965, 1971 wars – Esp. with Bangadesh, no peaceful means were explored, only violence
    Kashmir insurgency – violent support by infiltrating extremists
    Kargil – less said the better
    Afghanistan – Only violent means adopted
    Operation Zarb – e- whatever – Violent

    Even now, when it is faced with uncontrollable domestic terrorism, Pakistan is trying to control it through violent means – hangings, death penalty etc. No dialogue to root out the evil.

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  • Mega
    Feb 2, 2015 - 11:28AM

    @Stevenson: “because India’s fundamental are very weak and its existence as a nation state is even debatable” really? India is thriving stable democracy since independence – 68 years.
    While you splintered into two, switched from democracy to dictatorship. And are yet trying to figure out rigged elections. While we are signing investment and trade deals worth billions with all nations including China.

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  • Milind
    Feb 2, 2015 - 11:29AM

    @Stevenson – India’s existence of nation state was doubted just after partition. However India proved to be too strong to breakup. In fact the concept of Indian state is now more stronger than ever, given the increase in the size & awareness of the middle class, the ordinary man. With a strong leader at the helm and pervasion of India’s soft power (culture, spirituality & philosophy (Vedanta etc.), Yoga), there’s an ever increasing confidence amongst this generation.

    As one of our reputed journalists M J Akbar said before – The concept of India is stronger than the concept of an Indian. Whereas the concept of Pakistani is stronger than the concept of Pakistan. And therein lies the difference.

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  • Sridhar
    Feb 2, 2015 - 12:21PM

    Nice article with good, honest analysis of the problem confronting Pakistan.
    The author says:
    (The second front on which Pakistan will need to effect changes is to adopt economic and social development as the primary agenda of the state and second grade the external security agenda. It has to be accepted and incorporated — in belief and policymaking — in all policy corridors — that Pakistan’s security essentially lies in its economic strength and not in its nuclear arsenal or in military posturing. This reassessment will require significant restructuring of economic policy.)
    Well said.
    Pakistan has trade with China but has it benefited Pakistan? If Pakistan opens up trade with India with which it has contiguous borders, its benefits will be immense. Powerful vested interests (who may stand to lose) do not let this happen and the MFN treaty that Pakistan is supposed to sign as part of WTO agreement lies in limbo today.
    Pakistan can start by showing that it wants to be friendly to India but also allowing India access to Afghanistan and Central Asia through its landmass.
    The opportunites are immense but few in Pakistan today have the leadership and foresight to think out of the box.

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  • Meshuga
    Feb 2, 2015 - 12:24PM

    @stevenson: Mr. Stevenson, I presume? You need to re-read Mr. Bengali’s opinion piece once again, without blinders on this time. Here’s the thing with Kashmir, regardless of the religious affiliation of its people. At Jinnah-caused Partition in 1947, the deal was to have Pakistan be a land for all Indian Muslims. Darn it, it never happened! West Pakistan (after movements of populations) had about the same number of Muslims as remained in India, a parity that continues today. Plus Pakistan got part of it through force (and generously gave of it to China, which had no real or imagined claims on it) as it invaded Kashmir in an unsportsmanlike, yes, illegal manner in 1948. (Can you break the law and still be called “principled”?) Thus forcing Maharajah Hari Singh to throw his lot with India. And did you know that East Pakistan, with a much larger Muslim population, received just one-sixth the land West Pakistan did. The equivalent population of Indian Muslims did not receive any land in compensation after it was clear they could not move. By the way, there was no referendum of ALL Indian people to vote on Partition, whose ancient land was to be divided, even though it included 400 times more people than Kashmir did and still does. The cockamamie rule that all Muslim majority areas in the West would go to West Pakistan is the reason for the hugely disproportionate and unfair land area (six times that of East Pakistan, now Bangladesh) that it received but was NOT merited by population proportions. If India settles with Pakistan (and what’s to settle?), will you be willing to give Sindh and Punjab (sans Pakistanis) back to India?

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  • jay1980
    Feb 2, 2015 - 12:28PM

    @Gopeet: stick to making comments about the article not personal comments .. Remember its always and only business nothing and never personal.

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  • Meshuga
    Feb 2, 2015 - 12:33PM

    @Anonymouse: If you mean, settle on the LOC and drop the matter. That is what I think India’s position is (or was). But to eliminate the LOC so Pakistan can continue flooding jihadis through it to destablize India? Ain’t gonna happen. Pakistan’s “principled” position on Kashmir (it belongs to Pakistan because its Muslims are more Muslim than India’s Muslims, even though the population numbers are the same) is what stoked jihadism and terrorism on Pakistani territory and poisoned the minds of the majority of its people, and will continue till all ice in the North Pole is melted away.

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  • AVMPolpot
    Feb 2, 2015 - 1:08PM

    Bangladesh never sought any parity with India or Pakistan and is prosering…
    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++======
    Bengalis are smart indeed.

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  • lol
    Feb 2, 2015 - 1:24PM

    Read the article.

    Then read the first genius reply to the article from “stevenson” (Pakistanis, pretending to be Chinese and now, Americans).

    This should tell you a lot about how what author of the article is thinking, is nothing but a dream that will NEVER come true. Mark my words.

    India is progressing. India is getting powerful. Meanwhile, Pakistanis are posting jealous comments about India online, while pretending to be Chinese and Americans. This says a lot about Pakistan herself.

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  • Pops
    Feb 2, 2015 - 1:31PM

    @Author
    At last a sane and sensible writeup. I hope the Pak establishment take your advice and act on it.

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  • AVMPolpot
    Feb 2, 2015 - 2:26PM

    @jay1980: ” stick to making comments about the article not personal comments .. ”
    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
    jAy1980, I think thats also important for the Moderators to ensure!.

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  • Salman
    Feb 2, 2015 - 2:44PM

    @Dipak:
    yes, thats why the GDP of “smart” Bangladesh is 139 Billion USD and “idiot” Pakistanis 236.6 Billion USD

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  • Salman
    Feb 2, 2015 - 2:46PM

    Stupid article which has little to do with reality

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  • bahadur khan
    Feb 2, 2015 - 3:11PM

    good reasonable article, with self analysis. One issue not covered, What about the pakistani billions kept away in foreign banks, We in India have failed. There is no sound financial tracking system. inspite of computers, Hawala/SATTA, system is strong from Dubai to Karachi to bombay to singapore,Recommend

  • adeel
    Feb 2, 2015 - 4:36PM

    a balanced article which actually tries to wash away the mud clinging to the brains of ignorant people. In nautical terms, Pakistan must “alter course boldly and steer true north” and India needs to take stock from this article too….as Tom Cruise says in the movie “Jerry McGuire..”help.. me..help.. you..!! .help..me…help you”.

    India will have to realize eventually that Pakistan is linked to its prosperity so better start giving a helping hand…(believe me Pakistan will appreciate it)

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  • Stevenson da Pyo
    Feb 2, 2015 - 6:08PM

    @stevenson:
    First forget Kashmir, even Pakistan is on our ancestral lands, so claiming a region on basis of a foreign religion is absurd. Lincoln fought civil war but did not allow Southern States to secede. Majority population in Southern States wanted to secede and continue with Slavery. This is about principles. Foreign Invaders annex a region, occupy it, massacre locals, forcibly convert them, changing demographics and then the fanatic fanboys of such invaders claim the region belongs to them on basis of religion? Its like White American telling the native Indian Tribes that certain areas of USA does not belong to the tribes.
    Also who are you to comment on fundamentals of India as a Nation? whats your qualification?
    Second the Plebiscite issue, Go and brush up on facts, UN lists Pakistan as Aggressor, It also says that Pak must withdraw its forces from the region, hand it over to India before holding plebiscite. Pak did not fulfill this precondition. Hence plebiscite was not held
    Last look at the state of ethno-sectarian violence in Pak and then comment. Shias, Ahmedis, Baloch, Hindus, Christians are all routinely targeted and attacked. False Blasphemy cases are made, used as excuse to attack Christians and Ahmedis.

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  • Yo2Da2
    Feb 2, 2015 - 6:12PM

    @adeel: Ya know, Dear Adeel, I am sure India would be willing to help as Indians are a generous and emotional people like everyday Pakistanis. It has given Bangladesh and Afghanistan billions of dollars as loans or direct aid. But pride and the large chip on the national shoulder (with pro forma statements like that of Sartaj Aziz and others – “All issues must be resolved before there is peace”) somehow prevents the arm seeking the help to be extended. And why would anyone in his or her right mind want to be in the business of alms-giving when America’s largesse of over $58 billion has not bought any love for it ands people (except as a destination for immigration and money-making)? You may want to read up on the parable of the Prodigal Son. For the sake of regional and world peace, I wish you are right and your leaders take the right steps.

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  • G. Din
    Feb 2, 2015 - 6:47PM

    Author: Congrats on a very refreshing write-up. Shows sane Pakistanis know what needs to be done but there is insanity all around them.

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  • Nozur
    Feb 2, 2015 - 10:04PM

    @observer:
    Whis is what happening currently…..No aid then crisis

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  • Gunga Din
    Feb 3, 2015 - 3:11AM

    The author finally hits the nail in the head. The day Pakistan understands that “parity” with “Hindu” India, and visions of “leadership” of the ummah and rejection of pan-Indian cultural identity in favor of Arab colonial mindset, are illusions that can never bear fruit, that day Pakistan will begin the process of self-healing and come out of this deepening morass. Too many masochistic years have been spent on self-flagellation by Pakistani feudal-military nexus in chasing these grandiose illusions and not coming to terms with reality. Let better sense prevail and let Pakistan become an integral and enthusiastic part of the Indian subcontinent, reveling in its beautiful mosaic/tapestry of cultural juxtaposition. Only then can a large segment of the “Mussulmans of India”, who Jinnah desired to lead to emancipation from imaginary bondage and oppression, find true peace in their heart.

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  • Gp65
    Feb 3, 2015 - 3:23AM

    @adeel:
    Balanced comment. Whenever India offers hlp, Pakstan turns it down. India offered aid during z2010 floods and Pakistan refused, even though aid offered by India was more than China. Similarly during 2014 Kashmir floods ehich occurred due to highest rainfall in 106 years, India offered help. Not oly was it declined, Pakistani media was iven the ridiculous narrative that the floods occurred because India opened flood gates to a dam which is a run of the river dam meaning a dam with no storage capacity.

    During SAARC meeing Modi proposed regional road connecivity to facilitate regionwide trade and a regional electricity grid. All countries agreed except Pakistan.

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  • Sid
    Feb 3, 2015 - 10:02AM

    @adeel:
    we did. When there was flood we did and they denied. When they had avalanche we offered aid and they again denied. You cannot help someone who is solely driven by arrogance and not sanity.

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  • observer
    Feb 3, 2015 - 10:25AM

    @stevenson:

    A. India’s fundamentals are very weak and its existence as a nation state is even debatable.

    I agree. While India’s nationhood is ‘Debatable’, Pakistan settled this debate in 1971.

    B. Pakistan’s principled stance on Kashmir should not change since it resonates in the world.

    Is Muridke now known as ‘the World’, or what? Forget China, forget the UN even the OIC does not support Pakistan anylonger.

    C. Muslim majority Kashmiris will always yearn to joint Pakistan based on history, culture, geography, religion and language.

    Pardon me, but I do have my doubts. The way the East Pakistanis yearned for and got ‘disjointed’ from Pakistan, makes me wonder. History, Religion, Language–none was of any use.

    D. Once Pakistan’s own house is in order it can resume the diplomatic offensive in this regard

    AH!
    Now I can sleep easy.

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  • Noor-e-jahan
    Feb 3, 2015 - 1:51PM

    @stevenson:
    Even if one uses a western name you can smell the rot of army stooges. The author is trying to show the mirror to the nation but it seems denial to the realities has gone deep in our roots. The biggest enemies of Pakistan are Pakistanis themselves….and the tragedy is that people like you are bent on maintaining the falsehood that dictators/generals have nurtured for decades.

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  • Last Word
    Feb 3, 2015 - 6:04PM

    An excellent analysis and author needs to be congratulated for baring the truth thread by thread. Pakistan’s woes are all self inflicted but it keeps blaming US and India for the same. Pakistan is presently reeling under internal terrorism, poor governance and misdirected foreign policy. Despite no threat from its Eastern neighbour, Pakistan has been arming itself to teeth, spending billions on nuclear toys, military infrastructure and remaining India centric at the cost of its own economy. As the author has rightly suggested, the country should go for introspection regarding using terror as the state policy, friendship with India and steps to bolster its failing economy.

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  • tariq
    Feb 3, 2015 - 7:09PM

    @Saif:
    what about his comments that Pakistan needs new narrative on Kashmir, and he did not give any clue on that

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  • tariq
    Feb 3, 2015 - 7:15PM

    so , interesting all applause are coming from India. i do agree with the contents of this article, but what about his comments that Pakistan should find new narrative on Kashmir (Indian occupied J&K). Bengali sb , like a business wants us to set some price and sell our Kashmir policy to India once and for all. Many thoughts in this piece portrayed to be realist and objective have filth and venom. written with focused objective to serve his master in India and USA. SHAME!!!

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  • Yo2Da2
    Feb 4, 2015 - 12:03AM

    @tariq: Maybe Mr. Bengali is from Bengal and understands the reality better than insiders.

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