Friday, October 30, 2009

No contradictions

Clinton (the Ms. of the Hill-Billie jodi) had strong words for Pakistan during her recent visit there:

Al Qaeda has had safe haven in Pakistan since 2002,’ Clinton told senior Pakistani newspaper editors in the country’s cultural capital, Lahore. ‘I find it hard to believe that nobody in your government knows where they are and couldn’t get them if they really wanted to,’ she added.

Harsh words, blunt words, but she said what many in the US have felt for the last few years.

Pakistan has recently stepped up military offensives against the Taliban in the Waziristan region. And the Taliban has stepped up the bombing. Here's a brilliant link to images of the strife in the country.

Tangled webs we weave
Pakistan's Interior Minister, Rehman Malik, claims Indian sponsorship of this new wave of Taliban attacks. It's difficult for the layman to knock this claim, given India's recent assimilation of embassies in Afghanistan. India is doing great work in Afghanistan, building roads, improving healthcare facilities, etc, but many feel this is part of India's strategy to undermine Pakistan's influence in the region. Perhaps it's all a front to provide the Taliban the means to wreck further destruction in Pakistan. Analogous to Pakistan's (ISI) efforts to build a nexus between Indian insurgent groups (IIGs) and Islamic fundamentalists in Bangladesh and to install Pakistani maulvis in Bangladeshi madrassas to catalyze anti-India sentiments.

Back to Hillary: She snapped at some students at a University in Lahore as they tried to grill her about how the US has mistreated Pakistan, a long-serving ally.
(paraphrased)"But we've given you billions of dollars".
"If you want to see your territory shrink [by allowing terrorists to expand their space], that’s your choice. But I don’t think that’s the right choice."

But the point of my post is this: The US has indeed given Pakistan billions of dollars. The US will continue to pour money and guns into Pakistan. But the effect on the ground, despite Pakistan's intentions, hasn't been proportional. In fact, the Taliban today are bolder, more aggressive in Pakistan than they have been in a long time. What's the plan to tackle this?

How thoroughly has the U.S. has considered the long-term effects of this supply of gun-money?

What if:

(a) The Taliban gain more ground, and defeat the shaky force that Pakistan's military presents - through building allies in the government, and among the population, through bombing civilian targets till the country grinds to a halt, among several strategies. The U.S.-provided ammunition would fall into hands that would turn, now far more resolutely, against the U.S. themselves.

(b) Pakistan's military is able to defeat the Taliban...The military pledges a feeble allegiance to the government. A new General, a new coup - everything's possible in that neck of the woods. Who's to tell what their policy will be towards the U.S. then?

Essentially, the same machinery that provided arms to the Mujahideen (of which the Taliban was a more fundamentalist subset) to defeat the Soviets, only to have the Taliban come back and strike the U.S. after, is at work again. I hope history does not repeat.

Monday, October 05, 2009


The parental units are touring SE Asia.

The brother has them out of his hair, they have him out of theirs. These twin joys will be short-lived though.

In the papers:
There are storms and floods in Southern India. This is a great opportunity to give. Same with the earthquakes in Indonesia and Samoa. I suspect these flash crises receive a fair bit of public aid. The instant destruction tears at your heart, and hopefully loosens purse strings.

Not in the papers:
In India - the slow erosion of human capital (and the silent crumpling of little lives) when underprivileged children escape the quicksand of hard labour to attend school. The schooling is often free, but the children attend school on empty stomachs.

Imagine sending your child hungry to school. It probably hurts you to imagine such a day. You might've been running late, a water pipe might've broken, or for whatever reason, your child missed breakfast that day. You'd hurt. Imagine then that you weren't able to pack her lunch, and she didn't take her little purse, the one you keep the emergency lunch money stuffed in. The poor thing would have to sit through hour after hour of class running on last night's dinner.

Imagine next, a situation where this empty, whimpering stomach isn't an accident - you just aren't able to feed your child. You want her to learn, you want her to build a life better than yours, but you can't afford to feed her one square meal. Perhaps if she helped you till the land, repair the neighbour's clothes, you might have been able to feed her, but then she wouldn't be able to go to school. Your life hasn't amounted to anything, and you're powerless to make your daughter's life any different.

Akshayapatra provides food for underprivileged schoolchildren. Please give.