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‘Dynastic politics continues to plague India’

February 11, 2014

KARACHI: Renowned historian and biographer lamented on the ‘unfortunate’ prevalence of dynastic politics in India and said the world’s largest democracy was failing to live up to the name in this regard.

Speaking at an informal discussion held at the Pakistan Institute of International Affairs on Saturday, the academic criticised Indian society as undemocratic, with hereditary politics continuing to dominate the political landscape and minorities often facing prejudices, says a press release.

Acknowledging the prominent roles played by Indian Muslims through time, including the Presidency and the post of Foreign Minister, Mr Gandhi said that despite constitutional protections guaranteeing minority rights, discrimination continued. He went on to say that the judiciary and police were often ‘biased’ against minority communities. However, he did concede that the Indian bureaucracy had improved in part due to the right to information act, according to the press release. Sharing his experiences from a recent trip to Delhi, he highlighted the role this law had played in scaling back corruption and bribery in the bureaucracy.

The Indian historian also reflected on a growing demand for participatory democracy within the country. He said that despite ongoing social problems like those in the education sector, people were holding politicians more accountable and demanding to hear their views on the issues that affected the populace.

Speaking on Indo-Pak relations, Mr Gandhi highlighted the importance of strengthening cultural links and ensuring a free flow of goods, people and ideas between the two nations. The academic said the people in India sought peace, despite media attempts to stoke discord. He added that this section of the media did not truly represent Indian public opinion. He urged Pakistanis to ignore these voices, saying “Internet articles by Indians should never be read which do not support Indian [views].” Continuing on the topic, Mr Gandhi warned that relations between the regional rivals might not thaw unless the Indian public was satisfied that the Pakistani government had convicted the accused involved in the 2009 Mumbai attacks.

Speaking about the ongoing situation in Balochistan, the historian blamed the Indian media for ignoring the issue and questioned “whether the Indian media will ever investigate India’s role in stoking rebellion in Balochistan.” In the absence of independent probe, Mr Gandhi lamented that the public accepted the Indian government narrative that India was not involved in the conflict. He also questioned whether the Pakistani government had presented any proof of Indian involvement to the government.

Discussing Kashmir, Mr Gandhi warned that the conflict had not evolved to a dispute over water resources. Citing regional analysts, the academic warned that the melting of the Siachen glacier would result in flooding and eventually water shortages. In response to a question, he said that if the Pakistani government feared India could block its water supply, they should raise the issue internationally and attempt to solve the problem.

He went on to say that Indian politicians might be willing to hand over Siachen to Pakistan, but could not be “extra-generous” ahead of the upcoming election.

He also suggested to the neighbouring countries that South Asia be made a nuclear-free zone, with both India and Pakistan agreeing to disarm, the press release added.