Arshad M Abbasi
The Congress government in India is under immense pressure because of electoral drubbing in the recent state elections, but there is no attempt to scuttle the government by raising the temperature at the hustings Our home (Pakistan) is at trouble with itself, so let us look outside at what is going on and what can change the state of affairs inside.
The most accessible and visible outside locale is often the neighbourhood, hence it’s our eastern neighbour, which one has to consider to juxtapose with our own land of the pure. Comparison with India would invite ire from the informed as well as uninformed segments of the population a few years back, but the steady improvement of relations or willingness to live with fine-tuned misunderstandings and mutual hostility no longer provokes anger or leads to suspicion. Comparison is always healthy as it brings to the fore the counterfactual facts and reasoning jolting the brain to think and prodding the brawn to act. It however is more beneficial when it is between actors who have some commonalties so that right and practicable lessons can be drawn. India and Pakistan provide apt historical and contemporary contexts to make a comparison and arrive at a conclusion about what has gone wrong with one country and how does the other excel in almost all walks of life. At face value, there may not be a day-night difference between the two countries, but looking at things at closer range, both nations are now on entirely different trajectories. India is poised to join the first world countries or at least a recognised contender to get to that station despite all odds dragging its feet from inside and twisting the arms from outside. On the contrary, Pakistan is struggling hard to maintain its territorial integrity and more so, its social fabric, which is being torn apart with every passing day.
Pakistan presents a spectacle that portrays the picture of a Hobbesian worldview of everybody fighting everybody or a broken planetary object whose various parts are floating aimlessly in space. A government that was being led by the arguably convicted (now a disqualified prime minister), vocal yet divided and in some sense complicit with the government opposition, proactive judiciary on a collision with the executive, the old retiring to luxury or resigned to fate and the young pessimistic or trying to be optimistic about the future prospects. Every now and then predictions keep surfacing about the total breakdown of the state, thus dubbing the country as a failed or failing state. The country has survived several such predictions but in today’s world characterised by worldwide communication linkages, a gloomy portrayal of a country irredeemably hurts its image. On the other hand, India has shown the knack to showcase whatever little potential it has to project itself as a well-knit polity and an intent to become a global player of the first magnitude. The media-savvy clique is helping the technology wizardry and entrepreneurial class to allow India to achieve something that could not have been imagined a few years back. On the foreign policy front, India has been progressing by leaps and bounds ever since it has got out of its moralistic and rhetoric-driven weltanschauung, thus keeping company with the Soviet Union and showing a cold shoulder to the US. Now dogmatic partisanship has given way to pragmatic calculations whereby India is building bridges with the whole world regardless of its past affiliations and the present fault lines in global politics although with great caution and care. While toasting Ms Clinton last month, no secret was made of hosting an Iranian trade delegation. Contrast it with the way the US is treating Pakistan these days, applying unbending pressure to reopen the NATO supplies route and continuation of drone attacks, despite clear-cut parliamentary recommendations in this regard. Maltreatment of a top Indian film star at a US airport was apologised for loudly and unconditionally, but in Pakistan, even the loss of life at the hands of US forces does not cause any uproar in the US let alone any apologising. India definitely enjoys a cutting edge superiority over Pakistan and its worth pondering for us to know and emulate the success of our neighbour.
The noisy domestic political scene in Pakistan also warrants comparative consideration vis-à-vis the Indian turbulent yet smoothly working political dispensation. Here millions are spent by a chief minister on grandiose schemes meant to steal the popular limelight but there Nitish Kumar, the Chief Minister of Bihar (and if the deal is struck between Janata Dal and the BJP, the candidate for premiership in the 2014 elections) in his Janata Darbar virtually ensures delivery of justice at the doorstep. The opposition in Pakistan relies mainly on loud sloganeering and esoteric doublespeak to place the government in the dock, but the BJP President Nitin Gadkari’s statement is instructive as to how to conduct when confronted with the incumbent governing setup. He has made clear that instead of focusing on the downsides and shortcomings of the current government, they are going to highlight their achievements and accomplishments. The Congress government is under immense pressure because of electoral drubbing in the recent state elections, including UP, which is its home constituency, but there is no attempt to scuttle the government by raising the temperature at the hustings. Huge corruption scams have been unearthed in the tenure of the incumbent Congress government implicating some sitting MPs but the stability of the system has been ensured under constitutional guarantees whereas media and the court zeroed in on the corrupt elements. What India has done is that it has got itself into a position where it is on the verge of becoming a major world power. However, at the same time, it could not come out of a typical third world syndrome hampering its progress and hurting its image due to a slow and creaky bureaucracy, rampant poverty, deep-rooted corruption and social fabric marked by discrimination along the lines of caste, creed and gender. While comparing both South Asian neighbours, one cannot escape the conclusion that now India has surged ahead of Pakistan and it is a moment of concern and deliberation for the rulers and citizens alike as to what lessons can be learned from the Indian experience. Deep-seated hostility has to give way to appreciation at least if not outright cordiality in the short term, if we want to follow in the footsteps of our estranged neighbour. After all, learning ought not to constrain us to learn something good even if we have to be tutored by the enemy.
The writer is a lecturer in the department of Politics and International Relations at the International Islamic University. He can be reached at Arshad.email@example.com
The Daily Times, 25 June 2012