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Tag Archives | hillary clinton

Burning the Quran is a bad idea

Turn up the heat on Terry Jones.

News media in the U.S. is inundated with reports about Terry Jones, the pastor from Gainesville, Fla., whose church, the Dove World Outreach Center,  intends to burn copies of the Quran on the ninth anniversary of 9/11.  Visible support for Dr. Jones is limited (unsurprisingly) to the likes of Ann Coulter, who once said, “we should invade [Muslim] countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity.”

Thankfully, saner voices have come out in condemnation of what Dr. Jones and his church propose to do.  Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the pastor’s plans “distasteful,” while commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, Gen. David Petraeus advised against burning the Quran.  Even former Alaska governor, Sarah Palin, who spent much of August 2010, campaigning against the construction of the Park 51 mosque near Ground Zero, asked the pastor to “stand down.” Social networking sites such as Facebook have been awash with supporters and opponents alike. Understandably, this is an emotive issue.

But the question here is not about freedom of expression.  Were it so, this would have been an open and shut case.    Dr. Jones’s objectives and the manner in which he seeks to execute them confirm that he is less keen on testing the boundaries of constitutionally guaranteed freedoms than he is on  inciting a particular community.

I do not disagree that Dr. Jones and his group have the “right” to burn the Quran.  I am also less interested at this point in the narratives of tolerance and morality. However, American citizens and the U.S. government ought to be concerned about how such acts will be perceived in the Islamic world.  Acts such as these, could potentially incite violence against U.S. citizens or U.S. interests, including its embassies and companies, in other parts of the world.  These could be perpetrated in countries where the U.S. is not directly engaged in war, and by people who would not normally be perceived by the U.S. as combatants.  There is no reason any of them should suffer on behalf of Dr. Jones or his political motivations.

This also has the potential to inflame passions against minority communities in the U.S. itself, similar to those incidents that occurred in the immediate aftermath of September 11, 2001, where there was a spike in racially motivated attacks in the U.S.

The State Department has sent cables to U.S. diplomatic posts internationally instructing ambassadors to emphasize that the event, if it does go through, does not reflect the views of the U.S. government.  State Department spokesperson P.J. Crowley hoped that these actions would be seen as those of “a small fringe group.”  News media commentators in the Islamic world, however, have no time for such nuances, largely because they would be against their own interests.  This event, if it goes through, will be painted as having been blessed by the White House — many in the Islamic world will not want to see a difference between Terry Jones and Barack Obama. In fact, as if on queue, Nawa-i-waqt already unleashed a preemptive editorial (اردو) on the issue.

In an offline conversation, my INI colleague JK pointed to me this quote from Heinrich Heine — “when they burn books, they will ultimately also burn people.”  Very apt, I thought, and advise that Dr. Jones and his church will hopefully heed.

 

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Salaam, Washington

Navigating the nuances of the Indo-US relationship.

Much has been written about the impetus being given to the Indo-US partnership in the context of the strategic dialog between Secretary Clinton and Mr. Krishna in Washington, D.C.  For her part, Mrs. Clinton has tried to stay on message, terming Indo-US relations an “affair of the heart, not just of the head.”

As a precursor to the SM Krishna–Clinton moot, U.S. Under Secretary for Political Affairs William Burns spoke at the Council for Foreign Relations on Indo-US relations, attempting to dispel the notion that the Obama administration had “downgraded” ties with India or that the U.S. was attempting to “re-hyphenate” its relations with India and Pakistan.  Truth be told, while U.S. articulations are perhaps needed to temper the noise being generated by sections of the media, they may not have been altogether necessary for those studying Indo-US relations in the context of a rapidly changing world.  And despite the statements made by Secretary Clinton and Mr. Burns, a few points need elaboration.

First, while there is broad, bipartisan consensus on expanding Indo-US ties in the United States (a rarity in and of itself), there are differences on the specifics of what this should entail and how they should be operationalized. The Obama administration defines this partnership within the constructs of leveraging India’s growing global economic profile to tackle regional and global issues — climate change, nuclear non-proliferation, energy and trade security and ensuring checks and balances to China’s ambitions in the Indian Ocean.  In this respect, Mr. Burns’ comments on dialog between India and the U.S. on East- and Southeast Asia is important.

Second, it is important for India to understand the limits to this engagement, at least as far as the Obama administration is concerned.  Some of these limits are imposed by ideology and some by compulsion.  While sharing India’s concerns on jihadi terrorism emanating from Pakistan, the U.S., however, is constrained by its own involvement in the region and on how much it can prod Pakistan into taking any meaningful action on terror originating from its soil. The Obama administration is similarly unable to engage with India in a manner that would appear provocative to China.  And many will argue that given China’s importance to India’s own economy, neither would India.

What this means for India is that it cannot expect the U.S. alone to fully address its security concerns in Afghanistan, Pakistan and the larger region.  The folly of throwing your lot in with a singular power should be more apparent to India now than ever before. Affairs of the heart notwithstanding, securing India’s strategic interests in the region must be driven through multilateral engagement with like-minded regional actors, and not by blind faith in any one power.  In this regard, working with the Russians and Iranians on balancing power equations in Afghanistan is imperative.  It remains to be seen if Mr. Krishna’s recent visit to Iran helped in arresting New Delhi’s diminishing goodwill in Tehran.

Next, on defense procurement, India must be clear about where its defense gaps are best addressed by technical expertise possessed by U.S. companies and must resist the temptation to be over-enthusiastic in trying to please Washington.  Across the services, our weapons are primarily of Russian origin and there isn’t an immediate need to drastically alter this.  Russia is able to offer Indian defense companies opportunities that perhaps the U.S. is unable to — from Technology Transfer Agreements (TTAs) to joint production.  However, U.S. technology and systems can play a pivotal role in the development of India’s power projection capabilities —  from refuellers to transport and surveillance aircraft — and it is here that a meaningful and mutually beneficial partnership can be forged.

That the Obama administration appears to be redoubling efforts to engage with India is encouraging (providing access to David Headley is an important first step); but this is no different from either the Clinton or George W. Bush administrations in their initial years, where preoccupation with the economy and the war on terror allowed for limited bandwidth on Indo-US relations.  This has, in the past, resulted in the necessity to “re-boot” (to borrow an IT expression) Indo-US relations each time a new president took the oath of office in the White House.

Even today, U.S.’s India policy is being driven by people who are not India-experts; indeed, officials in the Obama administration charged with policy formulation and operational aspects relating to Indo-US relations are mostly either experts on East Asian affairs or on Af-Pak.  As India and the U.S. aim to significantly upgrade co-operation on regional and global issues, U.S. administrations must ensure that their India policy teams are appropriately staffed.  Neither India nor the U.S. can afford the extended learning curve each time a new administration comes into office.

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Urdunama: American Woman

What is with Pakistani politicians and US leaders of the fairer sex?  When former Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz crooned a seductive bass-baritone to sweep US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice off her feet, little did he know that he was, in fact, setting a precedent.  A precedent that would soon be adopted by a President, Mr. Asif Ali Zardari, who clasped the hands of one Sarah Palin on three separate occasions in a manner most warm and fuzzy.

Not to be outdone, the makhdoom scion, Shah Mehmood Qureshi locked himself in a  celestial embrace with Hillary Clinton of the likes of which this world hasn’t ever seen.  Indeed, it was the head-shake that shook the world.

Daily Ausaf columnist Sarfaraz Sayed tells you more in his March 29 piece (اردو).  Although not completely necessary, this piece is best enjoyed with a generous dose of The Guess Who’s rendition of “American Woman, ” circa 1970.

These media people are really something!  Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi shared a few friendly moments, locked in a cranial embrace with Hillary Clinton in Washington, D.C., and the media blew it out of proportion.  Now, Shah Mehmood Qureshi has apparently asked, so what if he and Secretary Clinton had shared a few friendly moments?  Some issues can only be tackled when two persons are thus anatomically entwined.

It’s been said that British Foreign Secretary David Miliband properly ticked off Mian Nawaz Sharif over the PML-N leader’s alleged U-turn on constitutional reforms.  A qari now demands to know who really rules Pakistan —  Britain or America?

But this is an important matter — why are Pakistani leaders always being linked to American women? Former Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz adopted a overtly romantic demeanor during his interaction with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.  And Ms. Rice, instead of being duly enamored by the Prime Minister’s suavity, announced later on that Mr. Aziz had indulged her in unnecessary talk.

Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari himself, warmly grasped Sarah Palin’s hands on three occasions; although Mrs. Palin said nothing at that time, we are still trying to come to terms with why the Governer of Alaska tendered her resignation, subsequent to that interaction.

And now Hillary Clinton, the world’s most brilliant woman, nuzzling up to Pakistan’s Foreign Minister. Khuda taala har aik ko har aik se mehfooz rakhey! (God protect us all!)

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Urdunama: "Foreign Hand"

The Filter Coffee is happy to announce a new regular segment, Urdunama, dedicated to coverage of news and analysis from Pakistan’s Urdu media.  As reports ( 2.86 MB) on Pakistan’s media landscape will tell you, Pakistan’s vernacular press dominates English and local language publications and comprises almost 70% of total newspaper distribution.

Yet, while the Internet has provided us the opportunity to read and absorb opinions from Pakistan’s English newspapers, their tone, message and impact on audiences (and indeed on political action) differs greatly from that of the vernacular media.  An eye on Pakistan’s Urdu media therefore helps us see what the awam sees and assists us in understanding what informs popular opinion in Pakistan. This is critical, in the opinion of this blogger, in helping India better understand its western neighbor.

As always, comments and suggestions on what readers like about the segment, or would like to see improved are appreciated.

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The fires may have died down in India, but as far as Pakistan’s vernacular media is concerned, all Sharm el-Sheikh did was to provide fuel to an incantation summoned by Pakistan’s most imaginative minds.

There is pressure on the Pakistani Army to see Operation Rah-e-Nijat through and to turn a blind eye to US Predator assaults in North Waziristan and elsewhere.  A section of Pakistan’s media and intelligentsia wants to know why three Infantry Divisions were moved away from the Indian border and redeployed to assist with NWFP operations.

All these questions cannot be explained without pointing fingers at the Pakistani Army, which is riding a wave of goodwill not seen since the years immediately after the 1999 coup d’état.  The simplest solution therefore is to attack the hapless civilian administration, particularly Asif Ali Zardari and those close to him, including Rehman Malik and Shah Mehmood Qureshi.

Rafiq Dogar’s op-edJhoota kaun hai?”, is a rhetorical masterpiece on the subject of India’s involvement in Balochistan.  Dogar’s issue in the op-ed isn’t focused so much on the factual accuracy of India’s involvement in Balochistan (this is taken for granted), but on why the “proof” of India’s interference wasn’t presented to Hillary Clinton and the people of Pakistan.

Who does one trust? On 13th October, the spokesperson of the Foreign Ministry informed the media that proof of India’s involvement in Balochistan would be presented to the people at the appropriate time. Prior to Hillary Clinton’s visit, the Interior Minister had informed Hamid Karzai that India was interfering in Balochistan, via Afghanistan.

The same day, the president of the Balochistan People’s Party, Mir Lashkari Raisani, informed the media that Education Minister, Shafeeq Ahmed Khan had been murdered because he tried to raise awareness of India’s meddling in Balochistan.   India’s meddling in Balochistan was also corroborated by IG, FC, Maj Gen Salim Nawaz.

Prior to Hillary Clinton’s visit, Interior Minister informed the media that a “foreign hand” existed in supporting the Pakistani Taliban against the army, and had asked the US to ensure that this interference is stopped.  Surprisingly, after Hillary’s visit, the spokesperson of the Interior Ministry announced that no such evidence was presented to the US.

If this was indeed the case, why didn’t the Foreign Ministry — whose spokesperson earlier stated as having proof of external interference in Balochistan — provide the evidence to the US? Ayatollah Durrani is also one of Asif Ali Zardari’s ministers who on 18th October stated that the US wanted Balochistan to secede and that Pakistan’s agencies must work to ensure that this doesn’t happen.

But Pakistan’s agencies operate under the same Interior Minister who announced prior to Hillary’s visit that the proof had been handed over to the Americans.  Who does one believe?

We cannot accept the notion that those suggesting India’s involvement in Balochistan are lying. It is the word of the Prophet Mohammed (SAW) that a Muslim can neither lie nor present false witness.  Our Foreign Minister is a descendant of Muslim makhdooms — are we to now believe that his ministry’s spokesperson was lying?

Even if we are to assume that the spokesperson of the Interior Ministry and the Interior Minister himself were speaking the truth, then why wasn’t (India’s interference) brought up with Hillary Clinton? Were they that scared of her and Richard Halbrooke?

The Interior Minister, Foreign Minister, Zardari and Gilani didn’t have the courage to present the facts to Hillary; but do they have the will to present the facts to the people?

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