Pragati

I have a small piece in this month’s issue of Pragati: The Indian National Interest Review on, well, Pakistan. I wasn’t able to spend much time on this piece so I am unsure if it meets the standards of the journal.

You can download the issue and circulate it around.

I should also congratulate Nitin Pai on a fine e-publication – which I should say has better production value than many a print-based circulations. Much to emulate here for both the scholarly and the policy community.

Author: sepoy

what is the vertiginous chapati saying to me?

10 thoughts on “Pragati”

  1. Due to the kindness of someone who forwarded Nasr’s paper “Islamic Oppositin to the Islamic State,” I have a better understanding of JEI.

    But one thing:

    I didn’t fully understand why a party like JEI would want elections. Nasr’s paper seems to be written for an audience that have some sort of background in Pakistani politics, and while I followed his argument, I asked myself why would it want elections at all.

    I had the similar sensation when I read this paper a while ago:

    http://www.carnegieendowment.org/publications/index.cfm?fa=view&id=18553&prog=zgp&proj=zsa

    In it, Grare discusses how the MMA wants elections and demands democracy. But this sort of baffles me, because if the MMA knows that 1) it’s survival is somewhat dependent on Mush; 2) that it’s success in the 2002 “elections” were a product of rigged elections, and 3) if there were to be fair and free elections, then MMA would definately not be successful, then why would it vociferously ask for elections?

    To take it further, why would these religious parties in general even ask and push for elections given their political beliefs?

  2. Sepoy:

    “The case in point, made with tremendous force in Vali Nasr’s excellent Vanguard of Islamic Revolution, is Jam’at-i Islami and its founder, Maududi.”

    I haven’t been able to read the book, and I would like to confess that I am somewhat ignorant about the Jamaat-i-Islami in the context you are talking about. I’ve tried to find out more about it, but haven’t really come up with anything that shows an evolution in the party’s platform as a result of political bargaining.

    What I did come across, though, is their website:

    http://jamaat.org/indexe.html

    I could ask my questions to them as they have a Q&A forum, but “Q&A Service is suspended for the time being. Hopefully, we shall be able to continue after Eid, inshaAllah.”

    Do you mind expanding on the “that is the struggles between the avowed cosmology of these religious powers and the political bargains necessary” bit in relation to JEI?

  3. “that is the struggles between the avowed cosmology of these religious powers and the political bargains necessary.”

    Oops,I snipped this part when I responded to you. I now see what you are saying. Apologies!

    Mane maaph kar, Sepoy Ji.

  4. Sepoy:

    “The point about slick rhetoric has an added dimension within the Pakistani (and more generally in the Islamicate world) context”

    Yes.., but I was talking about what you said in your earlier comment: about democracy forcing religious parties to change their rhetoric as they’re strolling down the path of electoral governance. My point was that in some cases, that “change” isn’t a fundamental “change”, even in democracies.

  5. DI: The point about slick rhetoric has an added dimension within the Pakistani (and more generally in the Islamicate world) context – that is the struggles between the avowed cosmology of these religious powers and the political bargains necessary. The case in point, made with tremendous force in Vali Nasr’s excellent Vanguard of Islamic Revolution, is Jam’at-i Islami and its founder, Maududi.

  6. Sepoy:

    “1. The path to the elected bodies changes the rhetoric and goals of the religious based party”

    I agree with you to a certain extent. But we’ve also seen that since democracy theoretically means the freedom to vote, parties will often use slick rhetoric to accumulate votes. Bush is unabashedly a born-again-Christian; though he did not put Christianity/Evangelism at the forefront, he WAS able to attract Evangelists voters (and gung ho warriors). It’s the same thing in India- it tones down the religious rhetoric somewhat, but not enough to the point where others who are more blatant about their religious politics will not vote for them.

    “2. The body politic itself is able to judge the party on its governance, execution of the agenda, etc. and not just on wild promises.”

    Yes, but that doesn’t always deliver. In Indian politics, you rarely (and I mean, really, really, rarely) see any accountability. It seems as if elected politicians are not beholden to the voters. Yes, they want to get voted, and so will frame their platforms a certain way, target specific constituencies (but I am not sure if we are broadly interpreting “voting” as people faced armed thugs to vote for certain candidates, rigging, etc).

    “All exceptions, as pointed out by Rohit and DI, are duly noted.”

    But see, I don’t think what I was pointing out was an “exception”. We tend to think of the BJP, Gujarat 2003, New Delhi 1984 (and scores of other places in India that we rarely hear about) as aberrations to an otherwise functioning “democracy.” I actually think that these cases are symptomatic of something… I think along the lines of how “democracy” is envisioned, the interpretation of democracy, the unaccountability, and what “democratic” practices mean in India and for Indians…

    OK, back to work.

  7. I should really clarify this, no? Damn you 1000 word limits.
    Basically, two broad assertions
    1. The path to the elected bodies changes the rhetoric and goals of the religious based party
    2. The body politic itself is able to judge the party on its governance, execution of the agenda, etc. and not just on wild promises.

    How is India stronger? I think, as in all democracies, elections do educate, bring the conversation forward, reveal the growth (regress) of the nation. That Congress triumphed because of out-smarting BJP may or may not be true but I think it is true that the body politic _did_face a distinct choice and they changed the face of Indian democracy. To me, that is the strength of Indian democracy on the meta-level. All exceptions, as pointed out by Rohit and DI, are duly noted.

  8. Sepoy:

    Nice article!

    One thing:

    “That religious parties provide one of those choices is not cause enough for us to deny them everything. After all, India emerged that much stronger after the BJP led governments from 1996-2004.”

    I’m not sure if I understand the connection you are making between the two assertions above. First off, I agree with the first assertion. But are you saying that if in Pakistan there comes an Islamic party to rule (which I don’t believe will if there are fair and free elections), then post Islamic rule in Pakistan might leave Pakistan stronger? And how is India stronger after the BJP rule? I’d actually argue that it has left India weaker rather than stronger; they’ve left a political legacy built on Hindu nationalism- and they are certainly not the first to manipulate religion, no doubt [ie Congress and Sikhs in the 80’s]- that still reverberates strongly with some segments of the Indian population, which unfortunately still have a lot of clout. Like you, I’m not saying that the very fact that the BJP came in power should be a reason to deny Indians from electing their leaders and as such in Pakistan.

    But help with explaining the link between the two assertions…

  9. Excellent article. It challenges the idea, espoused by left and right alike in South Asia, that we have always been just after the Fall; of the anteriority of a golden age. But I do have a question about your claim that India emerged stronger after the BJP. India may be suffering from sectarian fatigue but the body politic is not stronger than before.

    I wonder if one might arrive at another conclusion earlier: that the Congress and other parties learnt to use the strategies of the BJP more effectively than the BJP itself. Not that the Congress was the paragon of secularism earlier, but it has learnt a few more tricks of speaking with forked tongue…

    Thanks
    Rohit Chopra

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