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NYT discusses India-Pakistan

February 27, 2010

So the South Asian arch rivals/petulant siblings have finally decided to start talking again. And the New York Times has been full of Indo-Pak news this week.

First there was a report on the talks. The thawing of the ice turned out not to be particularly earth-shattering, so the report is a listing of all outstanding points of contention between the two countries. My absolute favourite part of the article is this quote:

“Asked whether a road map for future talks had been agreed upon, Ms. Rao said: “We are not talking about road maps here. We are talking about staying in touch.””

In ‘First Step,’ India and Pakistan Resume Talks [NYT]

You and I both know what it means when a date ends with “lets stay in touch.”

Understandably, the NYT editorial is worried. It exhorts the United States Administration not to forget  that Americans have a bigger-than-ever stake in the outcome of such talks. Essentially, as of today, a swathe of land that stretches from Afghanistan to Kashmir is a war zone where the US is inextricably involved.

Pakistan is in an extremely difficult position, pulled in all sides by forces that are no longer entirely in its control. NYT’s latest report on the country is a profile of Pakistan Fashion Week in the At War blog.  There is something so sad about the fact that even fashion in Pakistan must be seen through the eyes of conflict. War is probably not the everyday reality of Pakistan, but it seems to be the lens through which international journalism now sees the country.

This particular article is just ridiculous. Here’s the concluding paragraph:

“The grand finale ended just before midnight on Friday. As the fashionable crowd spilled out of the main event building onto the driveway, in an eerie contrast, a religious sermon resounded from the loudspeaker of a nearby mosque, filling the air.”

Pakistan – Fashion Week [NYT]

Well, this maybe news to the article’s muslim writer, but Pakistan is an Islamic country. Its probably as true in Pakistan as it is in India that religious institutions employ loudspeakers to broadcast prayers. How is this an “eerie” contrast? I understand the statement about fundamentalism, but isn’t this a little paranoid and melodramatic?

On the other hand, Akash Kapur in his Letter from India column is busy trying to establish India’s tolerance credentials. He argues that the breakouts of communal violence are aberrations rather than the norm, and evokes Jawaharlal Nehru to bolster his case. There may not be much fundamentally wrong with what he is saying, but India just cannot bury its head in the sand with regard to the injustices that still plague its society.

As international attention continues to be fixed on the region, for various reasons, Pakistan and India are still working on the face that they’d like to present to the world. While they try to “stay in touch”, both countries have their own demons to battle.

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