Democracy in South Asia

By Geoffrey Cook, MMNS  

Milpitas (Calif.)– June 11th–This article is extricated from a much larger Forum on “The Future of Democracy in South Asia” sponsored by the Asia Society of Northern California several and several other organizations.  When I cleared my press credentials, I was told by the Society, that they decided to hold the event in Silicon Valley because they wished this and probable further programs to be nearer the Bay Area’s Indo-Pakistani’s base.  Further, in upcoming pieces I shall write up the segments on Islamic Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The “headlines” on the BBC on Sunday (the fifteenth) were that the Afghani President threatened the politically weakened President of Pakistan that, if Islamabad respected their treaty with the tribal chieftains of non-interference – this included the Taliban and Al-Qaeda – Karzai was prepared to cross the border in hot pursuit – including occupation of their sovereign territory if need be.  (Eleven Pakistani border troops were killed in an American air strike on the night of the tenth.)  The next day (the 16th) after Karzai’s warning, Kabul’s Ambassador was called into the Government of Pakistan’s Ministry for a “dressing down!”

Questions that the Panelists wished to answer were what are the prospects for containing the Taliban; thus, bringing stability to Kabul?  What will the consequence for America’s War on Terrorism be for the geographical expanse and its democracies under examination?  Will it stabilize or destabilizing the panorama of neighboring peoples?  Is religious extremism worsening or improving in the environmental sector?  How has political corruption confused the circumstances of this zone?

The “moderator” of the Forum was Larry Dimond, a Senior Fellow at the conservative Hoover Institute, a think tank housed in Stanford University.  I greatly disagree with his Neo-Conservative influenced ideas on Democracy.  His belief in forced Democracy on the Third World was predisposed to the failed principles of the Neo-Conservatives, for not all Democratic States follow our norms.  In the Islamic World Pakistan and Turkey offer alternatives, for instance.  They are Democracies, but definitely not in the Jeffersonian mould.  Democracy has to be built upon the culture, religion and the history of the State.

That is not to say that the scholar being discussed lacked perception.  Unfortunately, he was a promoter of India at the expense of the Islamic nations in the vicinity.  Although many of the points that he made are true of Islamic Democratic States, across the Line of Control (LOC), as well.  Voting tends to follow Feudal loyalties in India as well as their Islamic neighbors.  Only in the Indian States of West Bengal and Kerala has this been broken.    Predeep Chibber of Berkeley thought that Democracy in India was neither good nor bad.  He felt one of the great problems in New Delhi was “…politicians made bad decisions on [the appointment of] bad judges” which might be argued of Pakistan, too.   Also, the military is in charge of its own strategy.  That is, there is not enough civilian control over its Armed Services.  (Again this is definitely a Pakistani problem, moreover.)  Curiously, this independence of the Indian military has a great bearing upon the Islamic State to their West, Pakistan, and that on her East, Bangladesh.  (I shall cancel any further comments on India in this and further articles based on this Forum, although Bharat herself contains the second highest Muslim numbers in the world!  The information I garnered that night would be of little interest to an Islamic audience because the information was too slight.).         

Dimond claimed that a fifth of the world’s population live in the South Asian district.  Yet, area wide, there is “A lot of ambiguity” and struggle, for violent forces are challenging all the States in the localities in and around the Subcontinent.  “Bush says he wants democracy…[but he conducts] a contradictory policy.”

In the future, I shall discuss the comments of Mohammed Humayon Oayumi’s on Afghanistan and Ahmed Rashid’s discussion over the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.


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