Sunday July 22, 2018

Book Review: What will be Pakistan’s Fate? Toxic Legacies and Structural Weaknesses

Tilak Debasher's new book on Pakistan deals with a handful of debated issues related to the country

A Pakistan Navy soldier stands guard while a loaded Chinese ship prepares to depart, at Gwadar port, about 700 kilometers (435 miles) west of Karachi. Pakistan, Sunday, Nov. 13, 2016. VOA

– by Vikas Dutta

Jan 5, 2017: Title: Pakistan – Courting the Abyss; Author: Tilak Devasher; Publisher: Harper Collins India; Pages: 472; Price: Rs 599

What will be Pakistan’s fate? Acts of commission or omission by itself, in/by neighbours, and superpowers far and near have led the nuclear-armed country at a strategic Asian crossroads to emerge as a serious regional and global concern while creating many grave internal faultlines that raise doubts about its viable existence – or even existence for that matter.

Could Mohammad Ali Jinnah, as he left New Delhi for ever on August 7, 1947 have visualised the “moth-eaten” country he obtained in less than a decade with his iron determination, the machinations of the imperial power and mistakes of his opponents, “would within twenty-four years be broken into two?”

Or that the “rump come to be variously described as ‘deeply troubled’, ‘in terminal decline’, ‘in crisis’, ‘failing’, ‘on the edge’, ‘on the brink'”, unable to “provide minimum safety and law and order to its citizens” or “survive without repeated external financial support”, become “a hotbed of terrorism, both internal and external” or “a nuclear proliferator?” asks Pakistan expert Tilak Devasher.

Devasher, who retired in 2014 as Special Secretary in the Cabinet Secretariat where he specialised in security issues in India’s neighborhood (and continued to maintain the interest), goes on, here, to undertake a full-scale and clinical examination of the various ills plaguing the country.

His research and analysis indicates that the roots of many of Pakistan’s problems lie in its past, in some cases, stretching back to before its founding. Also at fault, he finds, is the nature of the party that accomplished the work, the tactics used by the founding father, probably without much thought to their future implications (rather atypical of the forensically precise Jinnah), other structural weaknesses that were ignored, besides the latter errors.

Devasher admits his “fascination” with Pakistan doesn’t stem from being of a Partition-affected family or even Punjabi, but from the stories told by his air force officer father, about two of his superiors who later on headed the Pakistan Air Force. His interest was further strengthened by his own reading of Indian history, especially the freedom struggle, but this also raised questions about the two countries’ different courses.

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As a history student, he was not content to “skim the surface” and went deeper to know more about how Pakistan’s creation impacted its future, and the “real issues that plagued the country and its people”, beyond the “exciting issues” figuring in the headlines.

This, Devasher seeks to bring out in this “holistic book” which encompasses both “exciting issues” like terrorism and the roller-coaster course of relations with India as well as “boring”, but no less vital, ones like ideology, economy, environment, demographics and other internal dynamics. He however stresses it is not a comparative study with India.

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Beginning, most methodically, from the foundations, comprising the movement for Pakistan and legacy, he goes on to the building blocks, or the Pakistani ‘ideology’ and provincial relations, the framework, comprising the army and its relations with the state and society, and the superstructure which covers Islamisation and the sectarianism that also ensued, the role of the madarsas and then terrorism.

Then, he outlines the worrying state of the crucial “WEEP” sector – water, education, economy and population, and takes up relations with four key states – India, Afghanistan, China and the US.

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Devasher, who ends almost every alternate chapter with how the discussed issue is leading Pakistan to the abyss, is quite gloomy in his conclusions, mostly arrived at careful and reasoned analysis, quite free from prejudice.

The main, he singles out, are the weakness of Islam as a uniting force (as the Munir Commission found in the 1950s), of hate (and why) and quest for parity with India, and the weakness of the political culture (due to the spells of military rule), which in turn affects society, economy and security.

Though he gives no dramatic prescriptions or ways to deal with the eventuality of an implosion, which he gives a decade or so, what makes this book essential reading is its warning against emulating any of Pakistan’s failed, fatal choices – especially the role of religion and hate of the’other’ for nation-building – which some of its more stable neighbours could well pay heed to. (IANS)

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FIFA World Cup 2018: Indian Cuisine becomes the most sought after in Moscow

Indian cuisine in FIFA World cup
Indian dishes available in Moscow during FIFA World Cup 2018, representational image, wikimedia commons

June 17, 2018:

Restaurateurs Prodyut and Sumana Mukherjee have not only brought Indian cuisine to the ongoing FIFA World Cup 2018 here but also plan to dish out free dinner to countrymen if Argentina wins the trophy on July 15.

Based in Moscow for the last 27 years, Prodyut and Sumana run two Indian eateries, “Talk Of The Town” and “Fusion Plaza”.

You may like to read more on Indian cuisine: Indian ‘masala’, among other condiments spicing up global food palate.

Both restaurants serve popular Indian dishes like butter chicken, kebabs and a varied vegetarian spread.

During the ongoing FIFA World Cup 2018, there will be 25 per cent discount for those who will possess a Fan ID (required to watch World Cup games).

There will also be gifts and contests on offers during matches in both the restaurants to celebrate the event.

The Mukherjees, hailing from Kolkata, are die-hard fans of Argentina. Despite Albiceleste drawing 1-1 with Iceland in their group opener with Lionel Messi failing to sparkle, they believe Jorge Sampaoli’s team can go the distance.

“I am an Argentina fan. I have booked tickets for a quarterfinal match, a semifinal and of course the final. If Argentina goes on to lift

During the World Cup, there will be 25 per cent discount for those who will possess a Fan ID (required to watch World Cup games).

There will also be gifts and contests on offers during matches in both the restaurants to celebrate the event.

FIFA World Cup 2018 Russia
FIFA World Cup 2018, Wikimedia Commons.

“We have been waiting for this World Cup. Indians come in large numbers during the World Cup and we wanted these eateries to be a melting point,” he added.

According to Cutting Edge Events, FIFA’s official sales agency in India for the 2018 World Cup, India is amongst the top 10 countries in terms of number of match tickets bought.

Read more about Indian cuisine abroad: Hindoostane Coffee House: London’s First Indian Restaurant.

Prodyut came to Moscow to study engineering and later started working for a pharmaceutical company here before trying his hand in business. Besides running the two restaurants with the help of his wife, he was into the distribution of pharmaceutical products.

“After Russia won the first match of the World Cup, the footfall has gone up considerably. The Indians are also flooding in after the 6-9 p.m. game. That is the time both my restaurants remain full,” Prodyut said.

There are also plans to rope in registered fan clubs of Latin American countries, who will throng the restaurants during matches and then follow it up with after-game parties till the wee hours.

“I did get in touch with some of the fan clubs I had prior idea about. They agreed to come over and celebrate the games at our joints. Those will be gala nights when both eateries will remain open all night for them to enjoy,” Prodyut said.

Watching the World Cup is a dream come true for the couple, Sumana said.

“We want to make the Indians who have come here to witness the spectacle and feel at home too. We always extend a helping hand and since we are from West Bengal, we make special dishes for those who come from Bengal,” she added. (IANS)