Tuesday, August 31, 2010
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Wednesday, August 25, 2010
Techniques for running large corporations, pioneered by men like Alfred Sloan of General Motors and refined at a bevy of elite business schools, helped fuel a century of unprecedented global prosperity. [...] the managed corporation -- an answer to the central problem of the industrial age.
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Business guru Peter Drucker called management "the most important innovation of the 20th century." It was well-justified praise. Techniques for running large corporations, pioneered by men like Alfred Sloan of General Motors and refined at a bevy of elite business schools, helped fuel a century of unprecedented global prosperity.
But can this great 20th century innovation survive and thrive in the 21st? Evidence suggests: Probably not. "Modern" management is nearing its existential moment.
Corporations, whose leaders portray themselves as champions of the free market, were in fact created to circumvent that market. They were an answer to the challenge of organizing thousands of people in different places and with different skills to perform large and complex tasks, like building automobiles or providing nationwide telephone service.
In the relatively simple world of 1776, when Adam Smith wrote his classic "Wealth of Nations," the enlightened self-interest of individuals contracting separately with each other was sufficient to ensure economic progress. But 100 years later, the industrial revolution made Mr. Smith's vision seem quaint. A new means of organizing people and allocating resources for more complicated tasks was needed. Hence, the managed corporation -- an answer to the central problem of the industrial age.
For the next 100 years, the corporation served its purpose well. From Henry Ford to Harold Geneen, the great corporate managers of the 20th century fed the rise of a vast global middle class, providing both the financial means and the goods and services to bring luxury to the masses.
In recent years, however, most of the greatest management stories have been not triumphs of the corporation, but triumphs over the corporation. General Electric's Jack Welch may have been the last of the great corporate builders. But even Mr. Welch was famous for waging war on bureaucracy. Other management icons of recent decades earned their reputations by attacking entrenched corporate cultures, bypassing corporate hierarchies, undermining corporate structures, and otherwise using the tactics of revolution in a desperate effort to make the elephants dance. The best corporate managers have become, in a sense, enemies of the corporation.
The reasons for this are clear enough. Corporations are bureaucracies and managers are bureaucrats. Their fundamental tendency is toward self-perpetuation. They are, almost by definition, resistant to change. They were designed and tasked, not with reinforcing market forces, but with supplanting and even resisting the market.
Yet in today's world, gale-like market forces -- rapid globalization, accelerating innovation, relentless competition -- have intensified what economist Joseph Schumpeter called the forces of "creative destruction." Decades-old institutions like Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns now can disappear overnight, while new ones like Google and Twitter can spring up from nowhere. A popular video circulating the Internet captures the geometric nature of these trends, noting that it took radio 38 years and television 13 years to reach audiences of 50 million people, while it took the Internet only four years, the iPod three years and Facebook two years to do the same. It's no surprise that fewer than 100 of the companies in the S&P 500 stock index were around when that index started in 1957.
Even the best-managed companies aren't protected from this destructive clash between whirlwind change and corporate inertia. When I asked members of The Wall Street Journal's CEO Council, a group of chief executives who meet each year to deliberate on issues of public interest, to name the most influential business book they had read, many cited Clayton Christensen's "The Innovator's Dilemma." That book documents how market-leading companies have missed game-changing transformations in industry after industry -- computers (mainframes to PCs), telephony (landline to mobile), photography (film to digital), stock markets (floor to online) -- not because of "bad" management, but because they followed the dictates of "good" management. They listened closely to their customers. They carefully studied market trends. They allocated capital to the innovations that promised the largest returns. And in the process, they missed disruptive innovations that opened up new customers and markets for lower-margin, blockbuster products.
The weakness of managed corporations in dealing with accelerating change is only half the double-flanked attack on traditional notions of corporate management. The other half comes from the erosion of the fundamental justification for corporations in the first place.
British economist Ronald Coase laid out the basic logic of the managed corporation in his 1937 work, "The Nature of the Firm." He argued corporations were necessary because of what he called "transaction costs." It was simply too complicated and too costly to search for and find the right worker at the right moment for any given task, or to search for supplies, or to renegotiate prices, police performance and protect trade secrets in an open marketplace. The corporation might not be as good at allocating labor and capital as the marketplace; it made up for those weaknesses by reducing transaction costs.
Mr. Coase received his Nobel Prize in 1991 -- the very dawn of the Internet age. Since then, the ability of human beings on different continents and with vastly different skills and interests to work together and coordinate complex tasks has taken quantum leaps. Complicated enterprises, like maintaining Wikipedia or building a Linux operating system, now can be accomplished with little or no corporate management structure at all.
That's led some utopians, like Don Tapscott and Anthony Williams, authors of the book "Wikinomics," to predict the rise of "mass collaboration" as the new form of economic organization. They believe corporate hierarchies will disappear, as individuals are empowered to work together in creating "a new era, perhaps even a golden one, on par with the Italian renaissance or the rise of Athenian democracy."
That's heady stuff, and almost certainly exaggerated. Even the most starry-eyed techno-enthusiasts have a hard time imagining, say, a Boeing 787 built by "mass collaboration." Still, the trends here are big and undeniable. Change is rapidly accelerating. Transaction costs are rapidly diminishing. And as a result, everything we learned in the last century about managing large corporations is in need of a serious rethink. We have both a need and an opportunity to devise a new form of economic organization, and a new science of management, that can deal with the breakneck realities of 21st century change.
The strategy consultant Gary Hamel is a leading advocate for rethinking management. He's building a new, online management "laboratory" where leading management practitioners and thinkers can work together -- a form of mass collaboration -- on innovative ideas for handling modern management challenges.
What will the replacement for the corporation look like? Even Mr. Hamel doesn't have an answer for that one. "The thing that limits us," he admits, "is that we are extraordinarily familiar with the old model, but the new model, we haven't even seen yet."
This much, though, is clear: The new model will have to be more like the marketplace, and less like corporations of the past. It will need to be flexible, agile, able to quickly adjust to market developments, and ruthless in reallocating resources to new opportunities.
Resource allocation will be one of the biggest challenges. The beauty of markets is that, over time, they tend to ensure that both people and money end up employed in the highest-value enterprises. In corporations, decisions about allocating resources are made by people with a vested interest in the status quo. "The single biggest reason companies fail," says Mr. Hamel, "is that they overinvest in what is, as opposed to what might be."
This is the core of the innovator's dilemma. The big companies Mr. Christensen studied failed, not necessarily because they didn't see the coming innovations, but because they failed to adequately invest in those innovations. To avoid this problem, the people who control large pools of capital need to act more like venture capitalists, and less like corporate finance departments. They need to make lots of bets, not just a few big ones, and they need to be willing to cut their losses.
The resource allocation problem is one Google has tried to address with its "20%" policy. All engineers are allowed to spend 20% of their time working on Google-related projects other than those assigned to them. The company says this system has helped it develop innovative products, such as Google News. Because engineers don't have to compete for funds, the Google approach doesn't have the discipline of a true marketplace, and it hasn't yet proven itself as a way to generate incremental profits. But it does allow new ideas to get some attention.
In addition to resource allocation, there's the even bigger challenge of creating structures that motivate and inspire workers. There's plenty of evidence that most workers in today's complex organizations are simply not engaged in their work. Many are like Jim Halpert from "The Office," who in season one of the popular TV show declared: "This is just a job. . . . If this were my career, I'd have to throw myself in front of a train."
The new model will have to instill in workers the kind of drive and creativity and innovative spirit more commonly found among entrepreneurs. It will have to push power and decision-making down the organization as much as possible, rather than leave it concentrated at the top. Traditional bureaucratic structures will have to be replaced with something more like ad-hoc teams of peers, who come together to tackle individual projects, and then disband. SAS Institute Inc., the privately held software company in North Carolina that invests heavily in both research and development and in generous employee benefits, ranging from free on-site health care and elder care support to massages, is often cited as one company that could be paving the way. The company has nurtured a reputation as both a source of innovative products and a great place to work.
Information gathering also needs to be broader and more inclusive. Former Procter & Gamble CEO A.G. Lafley's demand that the company cull product ideas from outside the company, rather than developing them all from within, was a step in this direction. (It even has a website for submitting ideas.) The new model will have to go further. New mechanisms will have to be created for harnessing the "wisdom of crowds." Feedback loops will need to be built that allow products and services to constantly evolve in response to new information. Change, innovation, adaptability, all have to become orders of the day.
Can the 20th-century corporation evolve into this new, 21st-century organization? It won't be easy. The "innovator's dilemma" applies to management, as well as technology. But the time has come to find out. The old methods won't last much longer.
Adapted from "The Wall Street Journal Essential Guide to Management" by Alan Murray. Copyright 2010 by Dow Jones & Co. Published by Harper Business, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.
Credit: By Alan Murray
|Subjects:||Innovations, Business schools, Stock exchanges|
|Product Names:||Boeing 787|
|Publication title:||Wall Street Journal. (Eastern edition). New York, N.Y.: Aug 21, 2010. pg. W.3|
|ProQuest document ID:||2115847671|
|Text Word Count||1806|
Sunday, August 22, 2010
Saturday, August 21, 2010
Friday, August 20, 2010
Seeking Gender Equality in the Burka and Hijab
At the WISE Conference the veil was glamorized to a point where it almost seemed like a defense of misogyny and patriarchy
By Farzana Hassan
KUALA LUMPUR - The Second Women's Islamic Initiative in Spirituality and Equality (WISE) conference kicked off on July 16 2009 with high hopes.
Eminent women from all walks of life and all corners of the globe gathered to brainstorm ideas on how to improve conditions for Muslim women across the world. Artists, musicians, writers, authors, journalists and activists brought along their passion for gender equality - and for their cherished faith - to the event in the hopes of improving the lives of their less fortunate Muslim sisters.
Among the 250 or so attendees was the pioneer feminist theologian Amina Wadud, acclaimed Islamic scholar and author Asma Asfuruddin, award-winning journalist Mona Eltahawi and of course the host, Daisy Khan, the Executive Director of the ASMA Society.
Yet, despite the glamour and glitz, and despite the conference's aspirations of being an edifying experience for its participants, something seemed amiss. Throughout the conference, I could not help feel uneasy that things were headed in the wrong direction when it came to articulating a true vision for women's equality in Islam.
For example, I was quite taken aback by the volumes of defense for the hijab and burka. Respecting women's choices to adopt such attire is a long-standing argument in defense of the practice and it often surfaced in discourse at the conference.
But in respecting the choices of a few, defenders of the hijab ignored the severe curtailment of the choices of others who are often forced to adopt such headgear. Nonetheless, it was only this narrow focus on the choices of a few that came to be touted during the conference, the veil was glamorized to a point where it almost seemed like a defense of misogyny and patriarchy.
What offended me even more was the terminology employed to project a supposedly moderate message of Islam. An exercise with an express purpose of showcasing a more tolerant and moderate Islam was steeped in Islamist cliches. The usual Islamist words like "jihad," and "shura" flashed across the conference hall as if one were still living within a medieval political milieu.
At the close of the conference, the organizers extended an open invitation to commentators and writers on Islam to join the ranks of the existing members of the fifteen-member Shura Council, which includes a Canadian Muslim woman.
Described by WISE organizers as a "project of reclamation, consultation, consent and consensus", the Shura Council would render opinions on religious matters from time to time after deliberation and consultation, quite reminiscent of the retrogressive Wahabi Shura Council of Saudi Arabia.
From the outset I was clear about not joining the Shura Council. Apart from being opposed to the institution as a vestige of medievalism, I also questioned its potential to deliver sound and unbiased judgement on issues related to misogyny and extremism in Islam.
My main reason however, for not joining the council was that any message claiming to preach tolerance and moderation should have shunned the nomenclature of the extremists. Regrettably, WISE felt compelled to seek vindication for its positions in Islamist rhetoric.
With such undertones, I wondered if the conference would achieve the objectives it had originally set to achieve. For the most part, the narrative of the conference simply repeated the tired apologist arguments of gender equity rather than true equality for Muslim women.
An occasional glimmer of hope emerged in some pronouncements, such as the reference to the "relativity of fiqh" in delivering more benign interpretations of the Quran, but at no point was the idea of secular governance even suggested as a possible means to achieving gender equality in the Muslim world.
For Muslim women to move forward towards reform, an acknowledgment is now overdue that sharia wholly and blatantly discriminates against their very essence. No longer can polygamy, hijab or segregation be defended, for these entire institutions reek of patriarchy, sexism and misogyny.
It is my sincere hope that the next WISE conference will be open to some of these ideas and suggestions and march forward towards solving gender issues in Muslim countries with a far better grip on what actually ails the Islamic world in its treatment of women and minorities.
Farzana Hassan is the author of Islam, Women and the Challenges of Today(Knight) and Prophecy and the Fundamentalist Quest: An Integrative Study of Christian and Muslim Apocalyptic Religion (MacFarland). She is the former president of the Muslim Canadian Congress
Last Updated: 21:49 IST(18/8/2010)
In India's corridors of power, calling someone "an NGO" is an expression of scorn and resentment. Both feelings were evident as I talked to Mukesh Kumar, Chief Operating Officer of Vedanta Aluminium Limited, part of the Vedanta group, a global corporate wonder that's grown to 54 times its size from 2000. In terms of value, Vedanta is India's third largest conglomerate after the Tata group and the Mukesh Ambani group.
Over two conversations that lasted an hour, Kumar vented his fury at the scathing observations of a government committee headed by Saxena: Don't clear mining in Orissa's Niyamgiri Hills, an anticipated source of bauxite for Vedanta's aluminium refinery, which has grown six times in capacity and violated a raft of forest, environmental and tribal rights laws.
Released three days ago, the 163-page report acknowledges that mining will affect the Dongaria Kondh, a primitive tribe that's now a cause celebre in international environmental circles after being likened to the Na'vi, the blue-skinned nature-loving aliens massacred by greedy human miners in the 2009 movie Avatar. Vedanta says no village will be displaced, no Dongaria Kondh made homeless, and that the Saxena committee says "nothing" that the Supreme Court did not observe in according conditional clearance — subject to regulatory approval — in 2008.
When I spoke to Saxena, he said: "I told them [the state government and Vedanta] to file a case of contempt against me. I dare them to." Saxena told me local officials were "very reluctant" to give him and three fellow committee members data on Vedanta's project, with one district official saying they could "collect it from the Supreme Court". Unsurprisingly, the Saxena-committee report accuses Vedanta of "total contempt for the law" and "an appalling degree of collusion on the part of the concerned officials".
While talking to Kumar, it was hard to tell sometimes if I was talking to a corporate executive or a representative of the Orissa government, which is run by the Biju Janata Dal, a part of the opposition National Democratic Alliance. "How are such issues raised only in Chhattisgarh or Orissa?" Kumar asked.
Well, I could have pointed out the Ministry of Environment and Forests, headed by Jairam Ramesh, was now equally hated in Congress-ruled Maharashtra, where it's questioned the location of a second airport at Navi Mumbai amidst a mangrove forest.
But Kumar had spoken long and passionately about changing rules, the decade-long effort to get his aluminium refinery underway, the electrification of 13 villages, the 20,000 children being fed mid-day meals (but this I learnt subsequently hasn't started yet), the 43 Vedanta child-care centres, the leaf-plate making courses for tribal women, the company's "mission" to eradicate malaria, and the "tremendous pressure for employment" from the locals that apparently prompted the company to start operations without final clearances. He insists all clearances are in place for the existing operations. So, it seemed irrelevant to point out that Ramesh, clearly with Sonia Gandhi's blessings, over the last six months was pushing an environmental crackdown, irking even fellow Congressmen and cabinet colleagues running the highways, coal, steel and tribal affairs ministries.
I have gone into the Vedanta case in some detail because it illustrates India's developmental dilemmas at a time when New Delhi is increasingly mindful of a growing image and insurgency problem.
Investors as diverse as the Church of England and the Norwegian government, sold investments in Vedanta as the controversy over the Indian Na'vi ground on. The concern that unequal growth is endangering the idea of India is reflected in the Saxena committee report: "This committee is of the firm view that allowing mining in the proposed mining lease area by depriving two primitive tribal groups of their rights over the proposed mining site in order to benefit a private company would shake the faith of tribal people in the laws of the land which may have serious consequences for the security and well being of the entire country."
Saxena believes the tribals are getting the rawest deal in the new India, and in a letter to Sonia Gandhi has warned that the methods of the Ministry of Tribal Affairs are contributing to the spread of Maoism.
Ramesh has many consequences to consider and a lot of balancing to do. Tomorrow, another evaluation of the Vedanta project — once pushed by the Prime Minister's Office — begins. The Forest Advisory Committee (it shares a committee member with Saxena's group; Amita Baviskar, a PhD from Cornell University and professor at New Delhi's Institute of Economic Growth) will make a recommendation that Ramesh will use in his final decision, due next week. Every insider says it's unlikely there will any mining on Niyamgiri. By the weekend, another committee will decide the fate of Navi Mumbai's new airport. That, too, appears unlikely.
Last week, Ramesh's ministry ordered the Orissa government to stop land acquisition for India's biggest direct foreign investment, the R54,000 crore steel plant proposed by South Korea's Posco, after another four-member committee — headed, again, by Saxena — reported widespread violations of forest and tribal-rights laws. The pressure to reverse this decision is growing with Union Minister of Steel Virbhadra Singh vowing to intervene. As I write this, angry officials — those Saxena's committee accuses of collusion — from Orissa are flying into Delhi to lobby Vedanta's case.
Will India's laws prevail? Will Ramesh get his way? Will a new balance emerge?
Monday, August 16, 2010
India Quarterly: A Journal of International Affairs, Volume 4 October/December 2009
This article, which was written in the summer of 2009, when India did not want to resume any sort of structured dialogue with Pakistan, until it got satisfaction on terrorism, argues that this played into the hands of the sponsors of terrorism and was self-defeating. It argues that the principal objective of the Pakistan Army is now not Kashmir, but to arrest India’s growth; it uses terrorism as a cost-effective brake. Growth is our highest national priority, but we cannot concentrate on it, while ignoring Pakistan, because its Army will not let us. Sanctions have not worked in the past, because they immediately ratchet up tensions, as they did in 2002 and lead to economic consequences that are far heavier on India than on Pakistan. We must therefore try to persuade the Pakistan Army that peace has something in it too, and we can only do it through a sustained dialogue and through practical measures of cooperation that prove that peace pays. In all this, we should not insist on a reciprocity that in fact concedes to Pakistan the parity that it craves but does not merit.
Over the last sixty-two years, the two-nation theory has become a self-fulfilling prophecy. In Pakistan, all memories of a shared past, and of cultures not Islamic, have been wiped clean. Its history is taught as a hop, skip and jump – a hop, nose held, into Mohenjodaro, a relieved skip to Muslim rule, then a frantic jump to Jinnah and the creation of Pakistan. Which is a metaphor for Pakistan’s life as well: it soars for a bit but ends up on its rump in a sandpit.
Indians who hope that, taking partition as a given, we can forget its trauma and remember that we were one people for ages, miss the crucial point that we now have very little in common. Punjabis share a language but India and Pakistan have gone their separate ways. IT, with which the world identifies us both, illustrates the gulf between us; for Pakistan the IT is international terrorism, its it-girls are suicide bombers in burqas. A state without an ethos is being snared by an ethos without a state, the Qaid giving way to Qaeda.
What is Pakistan? Jinnah thought it was born moth-eaten. Then the behemoth of the army sucked Pakistan into its maw. What the moths and behemoths left the mosques gnawed to the bone. Now the madrassas gobble down the gristle. What started out as a diseased fancy, dreamt up by a poet, coughed up by a consumptive, has turned into a nightmare.
Pakistan has made a horrible mess of itself, almost as if, because it wants to be the antithesis of India, it must embrace failure if India is a success. So it sinks into hell, rises into chaos, and many Indians gloat over its agony as the wages of sin. It is easy to hate Pakistan, even easier now to sneer at it, but loathing cannot form policy, any more than an unrequited love can. Sadly, though, policy on Pakistan is often made either by the raptors or the rapt.
The raptors – the hawks of Lutyens Delhi – are fearful pests, rising on hot air to great heights, where they go around in circles and shriek. But ask what India should do, and the hawk on Pakistan turns out to be not the hawk of falconry, but of the hawk-and-spit, expectoration passed off as policy, or of the hawk-and-sell, the devious flogging of the shoddy and the squalid. Cursed with both a north and a south block, it is dense and costive, so nothing goes in and nothing comes out. If the hawk has its reasons, reason cannot understand them.
We must, though, try to understand Pakistan, gauge what it can do for us, which is very little, what it can do to us, which is quite a lot, and craft policy accordingly. As our national priority is development, for which we need investment, trade and technology, where Pakistan has nothing to offer, the hawks say we should simply shut it out, and focus on growth. If only we could; we cannot grow without peace, which Pakistan can and does deny us. Trade and investment drop on the threat of war, tourism plummets after every major terrorist attack. So Pakistan’s ability to help us is infinitesimal, its ability to harm us is infinite. It is a constant threat.
The threat comes from the Pakistan Army, which straddles its country like an incubus. A few liberals might jib, but most Pakistanis seem happy to be ridden. Perhaps this is because the Punjab dominates Pakistan, the army is mostly Punjabi, proud that they formed the bulk of the regiments with which the British ruled India, and steeped in the belief that Pakistani civilians, like “Hindu India”, are untermensch, over whom soldiers have a divine right to rule. The Punjab finds it hard to rebel against its boys, because it also buys the argument that the army is the dyke that holds back the Hindu tide, which would flood over them first. Better, in this view, to be hostages of the army than handmaidens of the Indians.
The Pakistan Army claims to run Pakistan because it is the only institution there that runs. The cynical view in India might be that experience in three wars confirms that the Pakistan Army does run, quickly and backward, which is where it has taken Pakistan. But if Pakistanis let these uniformed sprinters run over them, there is nothing we can do about it, or about the complexes – over manhood, identity and inferiority – for which their Army tries to compensate. As in the confessional comicality of its buying North Korean missiles called No Dong and giving them Afghan names – Ghori, Ghazni and Abdali – to cover a purely Pakistani inadequacy.
Assuming that this Army will not want to risk war, the threat we will face is from terrorism, as it has been for many years. But though terrorism from Pakistan has been a constant, its motives have changed over the years. In the 90s, the aim was to get India to cede Kashmir or negotiate on it, and terrorism was confined to J&K. That is the primary motive now only for groups like the Jaish-e-Mohammed and their backers in the ISI. It is a subsidiary motive for groups like the Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, which command more mainstream support in the Army.
For the Pakistan Army now, Kashmir is a secondary objective. The primary objective is to arrest India’s growth, for two reasons, both to do with Pakistan’s forlorn quest for parity. Firstly, our success when Pakistan is going down the tubes shatters the myth, spun by the Army, that Pakistan can always best India. And, more practically, the more we grow, the harder it is for Pakistan to match our military expenditure, or our influence in the world.
So the nature of the targets has changed. Instead of the Valley, which is now relatively quiet, terrorists hit technology hubs like Bangalore and Hyderabad, financial and entertainment centres like Mumbai, tourist spots like Jaipur, and the capital. Their task is to damage the sectors that drive India’s success: technology, trade, tourism, Bollywood. If India, like Pakistan, is seen as unsafe, tourism will dry up, investors will go elsewhere, trade will be diverted, and so on. The plan seemed to work after Mumbai, and because it is so cost-effective, it will be tried again. This has nothing to do with Kashmir, it has everything to do with the opposed trajectories Pakistan and India are on. As Pakistan plumbs the depths, its Army does its best to stop India rising.
From 2008, as the PPP came to power, the Pakistan Army also began to use terrorism to protect its power, its special privileges, and the wealth of its generals, which depend on its being able to pull the strings of civilian puppets. In turn, this depends on its being able to convince Pakistanis that there is a mortal threat to them from India, which only the Army can stave off. Peace, except on its terms, threatens its institutional interests, which for it are paramount. When Asif Zardari said last year that peace was a must, because Pakistan’s future lay in “being a force-multiplier for India”, he was, for his Army, thinking and saying the unthinkable. Its response was also the hitherto unthinkable – the attack on our Embassy in Kabul, which stopped Zardari’s initiative in its tracks.
So, while the Pakistan Army first used terrorism, and still does, to coerce India, now it is warning its own government that it will not brook hobnobbing with India, unless its interests are protected. In this avatar of terrorism, the civilian government of the state that is the sponsor is as much a target as the victim is.
The challenge India faces from Pakistani terrorism is therefore unique. The objectives of terrorism elsewhere are narrow. Even Al Qaeda, which seems to have the entire non-Islamic world in its sights, attacks the West to protect Islam from alien values; if the Ummah is left to Al Qaeda, it will leave the motherless world alone, or so we are led to believe. But the more we leave Pakistan alone, and behind, the more its Army will use terrorism to slow us down and to drag us back into its fatal embrace. Ignoring Pakistan is not an option, because Pakistan will not ignore us. We hate the hyphen with Pakistan, it clings to it like a straw. That is its mooring; take that away, and Pakistan drops into the abyss. So we find ourselves partitioned but not separated. Terrorism joins us at the hip to Pakistan, like Siamese twins, and we can cut ourselves away only with its consent.
Foolish voices whisper that terrorism is a game two can play; it is not, even if our agency does cloak-and-dagger as well as theirs, and they are as like as the raw and the uncooked. The Pakistan Army would like nothing better than to drag us down into its cesspit. It has nothing to lose, we have everything. Best to concede that no one does terrorism like Pakistan, and we cannot match it. Nor can we force it to reform.
This is hard to accept, so we ask mutual friends to get it to behave, which is bizarre, because when Pakistan begs its patrons to lean on us, we sniff that it has broken the Simla Agreement. And it is futile, because the West and the Ummah need Pakistan, as they do not need India; they will not force it to abjure terrorism against India, which does not hurt them. Pakistan mugs us, we make it look like a duel, appoint our friends the referees, and let them cajole us to give it satisfaction.
If Pakistan is unfaithful to Simla, what we commit is a chaste rape. We must instead act on the logic of what we say: if we believe “internationalization” hurts our interests, and bilateralism protects them, we have no option but to engage Pakistan, no matter how hard that seems, and without assuming that engagement means either a battle or a betrothal.
Those who say that Pakistan will only behave if we bring it under international pressure, as we have after Mumbai, point out that there has been no major incident since then. But since, barring the odd meeting, we have also refused to talk, the terrorism has worked; there is no imminent danger of peace, so there has been no need of more terrorism. With the world in recession, the India success story has also been muted, so here too, another strike was redundant. If a prophylactic dose is working, a second is unnecessary. The threat will return when the recession ebbs, the effects of the bombings of 2008 wear off, and India takes off again.
We cannot meet this threat if we accept the myth that it is the ISI, or a rogue element within it, not the Army as a whole, that promotes terrorism. The ISI may well be Pakistan’s answer to the Holy Roman Empire, which was neither holy, Roman nor an empire: it has no intelligence, it does Pakistan no service and will in time inter it. But it is not independent; it is a wing of the Army, whose interests it serves. If the Army is again firing at the LOC to help push in the ISI’s jihadis, as it had not in the twilight of Musharraf’s rule, it is not on DG ISI’s orders; he does not control troops, the Corps Commanders do. If the DG ISI went to our High Commissioner’s iftar this year to break the ice, more than his fast, it was because he was ordered to.
We should not dismiss the significance of this gesture, because for years, whenever we have had stand-offs, the Pakistan Army and we have both been apprehensive about a thaw; we have waited for the snows to melt, the Army for the ice. We feared the jihadis would follow, the Pakistan Army peace.
We must therefore try to persuade the Pakistan Army that peace will not harm it. There are three steps we might take. Firstly, we should not try to drive a wedge between Pakistanis and their soldiers. Pakistani politicians who win elections have been as hostile as generals who lose wars; for us, neta neti, as it were, neither this leader nor that. And nothing unites Pakistanis behind their military like our criticism, so, even if we think civilian control of the Army would help us, it is best not to say so.
Secondly, we should stop vapouring every time Pakistan seeks new weapons. The oceans of diplomatic effort and credit we spent did not stop the US giving Pakistan the F-16, the Harpoon and the P-3, and these did not lead to war. Force-multipliers like these are systems for the air force and navy; there are very few in land warfare, and even if military intelligence is a contradiction in terms, the Pakistan Army is not suicidal. It knows it has no edge and knows better than to start a war. It just wants its toys, and will get them, from the US on an apron-string, from China with no strings attached. We should take this as a given, and an excuse for our generals to get more playthings of their own. We should not feed the anxiety in the Pakistan Army that, if there is peace, India will urge, with greater plausibility, that no new arms should be sold to them.
Thirdly, the Army has to be nudged into realizing that peace pays. This was beginning to register in 2007, when we started to import cement, and companies run by the Army won the biggest contracts, piquantly helping to build the new India. Which showed that the generals would wink even at this, provided they are the ones who profit. They might, just might, tolerate peace if they can still batten on Pakistan, and grow fat on trade with India.
We must start now, because the leadership of the Pakistan Army is becoming more doctrinaire. Zia recruited officers from the vernacular schools and the lower middle classes, with toxic piety a major factor in selection, reinforced by indoctrination and service in three decades of jihad in Afghanistan. They come from the social background that the jihadis trawl, and share their views. These dragon’s teeth that Zia sowed are now brigadiers; they will soon be the Corps Commanders who will run Pakistan, and it would be even harder to get the Army to change course on India.
Neither they nor the present crop of generals will change course on Afghanistan. No matter how importunate the US and NATO are, the Pakistan Army will back the Afghan Taliban to the hilt, covertly while its patrons are there, more brazenly as they pack up to go. It would be nonsensical for the Army to abandon assets it has nurtured for so long, just when these are about to yield dividends.
Nor do the skirmishes in FATA and Swat mean that the Army has turned against the Pakistani Taliban. Only those tribes are being attacked in FATA that harbour the Arabs and Central Asians, who are Al Qaeda rather than Taliban, and anathema to the Army, because they reject its diktat, and weaken its hold on the tribes by buying their support. Killing them, and their Pakistani supporters, strengthens the Army, reminds the other Pathan tribes that whoring after false gods is costly, and persuades the Americans that their protégés are behaving.
Most crucially, these military operations were started, and will continue, to make the case for the new weapons Pakistan wants from the US. Sceptics in the US Congress, knowing that Pakistan wanted these to match India, not to support the US, asked how they would be useful in the war on terror, with Gary Ackerman, Chairman of the US House Sub-Committee on Foreign Affairs, scheduling a hearing last September on “Defeating Al Qaeda’s airforce – Pakistan’s F-16s in the war on terror”.
This was the friendly fire that panicked the PAF into action for the first time in FATA. Instead of its Mirages, which carry laser-guided bombs, it used its old F-16 interceptors to drop dumb bombs, flattening villages. The Army rolled out its US howitzers, smashed what the F-16s had left, and gave the Pentagon an action-taken report, which was read out unctuously at the Ackerman hearing. QED. Like a multi-role F-16, the tough love of the Pakistan Army is a many-splendoured thing. Its special weapons are tactics to get more special weapons.
In Swat, so evocatively named, the local Taliban, knowing how important it is to the Army, overreached. The valleys there, which run east to west, are the corridors through which the Army shuttles its jihadis between FATA and J&K. It cannot cede control of these passes, and has gone into action, not to rescue locals from the Taliban, but to wrest back a strategic asset.
These skirmishes do not mean that the military has at last realized that terrorism is their enemy, not India. They are tactical operations carried out with the old strategic objective in mind; a foolish consistency, as Samuel Johnson said, is the hobgoblin of small minds. And the shallow minds of the Pakistan Army crave strategic depth. For them that is the only reason Afghanistan exists. They simply cannot, and will not, take on the Pathans as they did the Bengalis or the Baluch; Pathans form about 20% of the Army, and there would be civil war or worse if the tribes were to rise.
The US National Intelligence Council 2008 report on “Global Trends 2025” is a trifle apocalyptic, but sums it up well:
“The future of Pakistan is a wildcard in considering the trajectory of neighbouring Afghanistan. Pakistan’s Northwest Frontier Province and tribal areas probably will continue to be poorly governed and the source or supporter of cross-border instability. If Pakistan is unable to hold together until 2025, a broader coalescence of Pashtun tribes is likely to emerge and act together to erase the Durand Line, maximising Pashtun space at the expense of the Punjabis in Pakistan and the Tajiks and others in Afghanistan.”
The Punjabi jihadis pose an even more potent challenge, because they can roil the only province that really matters. The Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and Jaish-e-Mohammed may be out of control, though the Army still hopes these prodigals will return for calibrated use against India. The L-e-T, which has put deep roots down in the Punjab, and can unleash mayhem there if crossed, is still obedient to the Army. Therefore, as Prime Minister Gilani confessed to EU Ambassadors late last year, while his government has the will to crack down on it, it does not have the ability. Despite our goading, and that of others after Mumbai, it will remain, like a woman in a burqa, inviolate.
These jihadi groups recruit from the millions of young Pakistanis who emerge from vernacular schools and madrassas, imbued with a hatred for the modern world, in which they do not have the skills to work. So while young Indians go to Silicon Valley and make a bomb for themselves, young Pakistanis go to the Swat Valley and make a bomb of themselves, the meanness of their lives justifying the end. Pakistan has betrayed its youth, which is its tragedy, and as the US NIC report warns:
“Unless employment conditions change dramatically in parlous youth-bulge states like Afghanistan, Nigeria, Pakistan and Yemen, these countries will remain ripe for continued instability and state failure.”
Pakistan, though, is as bankrupt in its ideas as in its finances. Its 2009 budget, prepared on an IMF leash, invokes its war on terror to raise defence spending by 10% and outlays on public order and security by 27%. It also raises spending on education by 28%, which seems a rare irruption of sense, but Rs. 2 billion each will go to basic education and to an Education for All programme, and Rs. 22.5 billion, an increase of 60%, to the Higher Education Commission. Pakistan wants to get a few universities for its middle class to match the IITs, but leave schools for the lumpen decrepit.
This is foolish. A study done on the background of Pakistanis captured in Tora-Bora in 2001 showed that as many were from the vernacular schools as from the madrassas. These schools, where most Pakistanis study, breed just as many jihadis, with the help of local mosques, as the madrassas do, and a sensible government would have made their reform the highest priority.
Perhaps a neglect of basic education is the counsel of despair, because there will be very few jobs for school-leavers. The budget speech noted that the industrial sector had contracted by 3.3% last year, major manufacturing by 7.7%. Pakistan’s industrial base is narrow: textiles make up 60% of its exports and half its industrial workforce. Exports have fallen sharply from 2007, when power cuts crippled production and fears of Pakistan imploding scared importers off. Pakistan is pleading with the US and EU for preferential access, but, even if it gets it, will find it hard to win back custom lost to its competitors, including India. Its only advantage, that the rupee has lost one-third of its value against the dollar, makes its imports pricier, and means it must raise exports by a third in rupee terms simply to get back to where it was in 2007. This is unlikely. Production and exports will not rise, so unemployment will, compounding Pakistan’s misery.
The best it can hope for is a return to the smoke-and-mirrors of Musharraf’s days, when speculative investment flooded in as Arabs and rich Pakistanis, worried after 9/11 that their accounts in the West might be frozen, looked for cover, and Pakistan, with its lax controls, was a hedge. There was no productive investment, no objective correlative to GDP growth, and at the first push in 2008, the economy crumbled, with Pakistan laid bare as even weaker than sub-Saharan economies, forced to turn to the IMF as they did not. Its economy is so brittle and hollow that almost half the present budget is on a drip of foreign aid. Pakistan has become a lethal and unique basket-case, a leaky creel full of jihadis and nuclear weapons, which is why it has so many anxious benefactors, the terrified “Friends of Pakistan”.
No country should be more worried, or have a greater stake in its recovery, than India. A land of desperate destitutes, led by a bitter and envious soldiery, is a neighbour from hell. Variable geometry might work in the EU, not in South Asia with Pakistan seething; if Portugal or Bulgaria fall behind Sweden and Ireland, they are not likely to set off bombs in Uppsala or Cork.
Precisely, though, when in our own interest we should show through words and deeds that the Pakistani boat can also rise on the Indian tide, not be swamped by it, we do not. For years, when Pakistan said that it would only talk to India about Kashmir, we urged it to discuss the other issues that were of vital concern to both of us, until it grudgingly agreed to the “composite dialogue”. Now Zardari’s government wants to talk about everything, we nurse a single issue, like a Chinese mother. Even in the theatre of the absurd we act out with Pakistan, this is non compos mentis.
We offer talks as a reward for good behaviour, but Pakistan is not hanging on our lips, even though our hawks might wish that it would hang itself somewhere. We say we will only talk about terrorism, and we will stop talking if there is terrorism, which means that the sponsors of terrorism, who do not want talks, know exactly what to do. We are in fact offering ourselves as hostages to terrorism. We need to talk to Pakistan despite terrorism, because that it is the only way to show its sponsors that their tactics will not work. And talking only on terrorism will not make Pakistan give it up any more than we gave up Kashmir because Pakistan harped only on it. These are forlorn hopes.
Sceptics say talking to the civilians is pointless, since the Pakistan Army calls the shots. This misses the point that, though the Army does not talk, it listens. It is the audience before which the dialogue between its government and India plays out; the actors speak to each other in the limelight, but it is the khaki darkness they address. If we want to give the Army reasons to change its mind on India, we can only do it through the reassurances we convey in a sustained dialogue.
Sustaining either a dialogue or a policy, though, is now hard. Pakistan is a factor in our domestic politics as even the US and China are not, and, in an era when no party is strong, none want to be seen as weak. Before every general election, and every election in a northern or western state where Pakistan is or can be made an issue, the ruling party has to act tough and India either huffs or runs out of puff, as though to be strong it must be silent. So party political interests in India and the praetorian interests of the Army in Pakistan regularly get in the way of national interests, and since our circadian rhythms do not match, when one of us is ready the other is not.
In Pakistan, whose politicians droop as fig-leaves on military rule, and general elections are usually elections of the general’s people, by the general people, for the generals, politics is rarely local, because the generals would much rather have the general gaze turned outwards. Baiting India was a must, until the last general elections, when it just did not figure, because the big parties wanted to pin on Musharraf, by then no longer COAS, the turmoil that was his legacy. So, though Pakistan’s politicians are not the arbiters on peace with India, they are ready to talk. Over the next few years, there are no elections in India where posturing on Pakistan will buy votes. If Barkis is willin’, will India bark or talk?
The Pakistan Army will decide based on its perception of its interests, but may find it harder to whip up tensions if India is a generous and understanding neighbour. Reciprocity, the staple of negotiations between equals, makes little sense now between Pakistan and us, when in the US this autumn, Prime Minister was at the G-20, Zardari in the debtor’s court called the Friends of Pakistan. For India to insist on reciprocity now in all matters is to concede Pakistan the parity it craves but does not merit.
Instead, it would be sensible to come to quick and pragmatic agreements on problems that have rankled for decades. On Sir Creek and Siachen, where differences have been narrowed, reaching a modus vivendi is not difficult, and should be a priority. These are both emotive issues, used by the Pakistan Army as prime evidence that India refuses to settle any bilateral problem. Resolving them gives the lie to this, weakens the Army’s propaganda, burnishes India’s image in the eyes of the common Pakistani, and promotes our interests, while sacrificing none.
There is still Kashmir, but that too is doable. Musharraf prepared Pakistan to accept that it cannot have Kashmir, and though the Army under Kayani has reversed other policies that flowed from this fundamental shift, there is no evidence so far that it will oppose a settlement on Kashmir, as long as that does not lead to a peace which hurts its interests. It may tolerate peace if its interests are protected. It should not be beyond the wit of two able sets of leaders and diplomats to ensure this.
Anyone who has lived in Pakistan recently is struck by the sadness and apathy that seem endemic there. Pakistanis are clever people, know how far their country has fallen and, unlike their generals, do not think that India can be stopped, or that it helps them in any way if it is. They want to see Pakistan rise and be admired in the world, as India is, as even the smaller members of SAARC are. For all their troubles, Bangladesh prides itself on the innovations of the Grameen Bank, now replicated throughout the developing world, Sri Lanka on standards of social development unmatched by other poor countries, Nepal and Bhutan on remarkable transitions to democracy. What do Pakistanis have to make them proud?
Indians of a certain age, who remember when the image of India abroad was a woman with a begging-bowl, should know how deeply ashamed Pakistanis feel that the world now sees them as mendicants with suicide-belts on. Unfortunately, very few Indians have the chance to live in Pakistan and to get to know its people. The overwhelming emotion that those who do come away with is not love or hate, contempt or fear, but pity.
Gandhi would have urged India to be generous for pity’s sake, but also in its self-interest, as he did when he went on his last fast, just months after the first war with Pakistan, to urge India to give Pakistan the 55 crores that were its due. The objections then were exactly the objections now – give Pakistan money and it will use it to buy arms for use against India. As indeed it did, proving the nay-sayers right. Since then, we have become more Chanakya’s disciples than Gandhi’s, but of the seven ways of dealing with neighbors the Arthashastra offered – samman, upeksha, bheda, maya, indrajala, danda and dana – we have tried the first six, without much luck either.
So perhaps the time has come for us to marry Gandhi and Chanakya and try on Pakistan a selfish altruism, our dana not a gift that can be turned against us, but a determined, hard-headed generosity that we can turn to our advantage.
That is the carrot, but what if it does not tempt? Do we go back to sulking in our tent, nibbling on our spurned bait? Where, our television channels, with their orgasmic patriotism, would clamour, is the stick? FICCI has it. The report it commissioned in 2009 on India’s security urged a panoply of sanctions if Pakistan misbehaved, conceding that there would be costs involved for India, but Pakistan would pay a much heavier price. Would it really? We tried everything we could think of after the attack on our Parliament in 2001. If the security experts who wrote the report for FICCI had done an audit of the impact of Operation Parakram, they might not have been quite so sanguine about sanctions. A nuclear-weapon state that imposes sanctions on another is very like a man confidently stepping out onto a frozen sidewalk: he cannot step back, he has no idea where he will end up, and the rest of the world gives him a wide berth until he comes to rest, usually in shavasana. In 2002:
** we had just become the destination of choice for IT outsourcing. Suddenly, banks and other financial institutions, which were sending their operations offshore, panicked that all their records might go up in smoke if our sanctions led on to war. The search for alternatives to India, which led to the emergence of East Europe, the Philippines and South Africa as competitors, began then. Plans for India were put on hold, and we lost at least two years when we could have made ourselves even more than we are now, the favoured IT destination. Pakistan had nothing outsourced to it, except terrorism, so it suffered nothing;
** European companies that had put all their eggs in the Chinese basket had just started to think of India as a hedge. Investment was picking up. It stopped in its tracks. No one wanted to make investments which might also go up in smoke. Again, Pakistan suffered nothing, because no one was investing there in any case. It lived, then as now, on aid, which donors did not want to turn off, fearing that they would drive Pakistan over the edge and lose what little influence they had;
** our trade took a beating, because Lloyds put a war-risk premium on all shipping touching South Asian ports. This immediately put our manufactures at an even greater price disadvantage to China’s. In textiles, for instance, where Bangladesh, Pakistan and we compete, there were extra costs for all, but Bangladesh had duty preferences as an LDC, while Pakistan had just got a similar concession for being an ally in the war on terror; ours were the exports affected;
** tourism to India, which now forms 6% of our GDP, had just begun to take off. It came to a juddering halt as travel advisories were issued by all Western governments. In EU practice, travel agents who send clients to countries under advisories forego insurance, so no agent wanted to take the risk. Pakistan was not affected since it has no tourism; the only tourists who land there are those whose planes have been hijacked to Pakistani airports;
** the bulk of our air traffic still goes west, as does Pakistan’s, which meant that the ban on overflights made hardly any difference to Pakistan, but forced long and costly detours on Indian flights to Europe and America;
** and then there was the trauma of the villagers at the border, where, a year after we had lifted sanctions, we still could not lift the mines, because no Western nation would sell to nations at the risk of war the modern equipment to detect and lift mines quickly. Farmers at the border probably could not till their fields for the best part of two years.
The list goes on, but the costs to us, which were disproportionately heavy then, would be even heavier now, as our engagement with the world has deepened so much more. Pakistan, on the other hand, is even further on the fringes of globalization now than it was then, and barely surviving on a drip of foreign aid, which just cannot be turned off. On it the impact of our sanctions would be marginal, as would measures the world took to insulate itself from the two of us.
The one card we did not play then was water, but wise men of Hindoostan urge the government to play it now if Pakistan does not behave. This assumes that water is a viable sanction, we have an alternative to negotiations. So we must ask, is it, and if it is, should we use it? The first question first. Under the Indus Waters Treaty, Pakistan has unrestricted use of the three western rivers, which carry 80% of the flow of the river system, which means that, even if we dam up all the water in the eastern rivers, Pakistan would still have most of the flow. And of course we cannot run the eastern rivers dry without building enormous reservoirs, which would mean flooding huge tracts of Indian land at political and economic costs that are presumably unsustainable, since we have not built them in the 50 years that the Treaty has been in effect.
Which leaves us with trying to reduce the flows in the western rivers, but the moment we do so, we would be blatantly in breach of the Treaty, and would be asked by arbitrators to stop. That assumes, of course, that we could reduce the flows there, but we cannot, without building dams, which, under the terms of the Treaty, Pakistan would have to clear. And even if we went ahead and built them, ignoring international obloquy, it would take a decade from today for the first dam to come on stream.
So water is not a viable sanction, but even if it were miraculously to become one, should we use it? In 2005, a World Bank report on Pakistan’s water economy warned that glacier melt and irregular monsoons could lead to apocalyptic consequences for Pakistan’s agriculture. In 2008, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned that crop yields could drop by 30% in South Asia by the middle of this century. Pakistan, which depends on a single river system, would be the country hardest hit, even if we continue to honour the Indus Waters Treaty in letter and spirit. Would our trying to turn it into a desert bring any pressure to bear on its army, or wean the population from it? I doubt it. For the average Pakistani, India would become the ogre that the Army has always said it is. We would simply play into its hands.
So there are really no options to a dialogue, to trying to engage Pakistan, though the task may seem thankless and the road never seem to end.
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