From: Mohan Natarajan < >









How Pakistan subverts the Indian elite

By Minhaz Merchant



11 February 2016


It’s uncanny.


After every terror attack on India from Pakistani soil, a rash of articles appears in Indian newspapers.


Some are carried on the front pages of well-known dailies, others on the editorial page.


All stress caution.


Don’t blame Pakistan yet, they chant in chorus.


Simultaneously, television studios erupt with choreographed debates.


Panelists urge viewers in dulcet tones not to jump to conclusions about Pakistani involvement in the latest terror strike.


This orchestrated campaign has a single point objective: dilute the perception that Pakistan, ‘the state’, had anything to do with the terror attack on India.


It places the blame squarely on ‘non-state’ actors over whom Pakistan’s army generals, wringing their hands in helplessness, have no control.




This unadulterated nonsense continues to be spread by sections of the Indian media despite David Headley’s confession this week to an Indian court of the Pakistani army’s direct involvement in terror strikes on India.


The narrative echoes Islamabad’s standard line and is a result of a long-standing Pakistani project.


The project, generously funded by Islamabad, is aimed at subverting India’s effete elite.


Let’s analyze how it works.


For a rogue state like Pakistan, perception matters disproportionately.


Islamabad bases its existence on being the antithesis of India.


And yet it craves attention from India.


With the United States, China and Saudi Arabia, Pakistan’s relationship is that of a vendor-serf.


It provides geostrategic real estate to the US and China, and outsources nuclear capability to Saudi Arabia.


In return, it receives money but no respect.


The Pakistan army is a well-oiled, professional machine.


Its officers are paid generously.


Retired generals have a lifestyle that is entirely un-Islamic, lubricated by Scotch, golf, and holidays in Dubai and Macau.


The ISI’s mandate, as Headley confirmed this week, is to play a dual role in India.


Its principal task is to fund terror groups against Indian civilian and military targets.


Its parallel role is to build a cabal of Indian opinion-makers who will provide credible alibis for Pakistan after terror attacks by the terrorist groups the ISI has nurtured for decades.


Who are these opinion-makers and how are they subverted?


In the top tier are journalists and retired army officers.


They can be relied upon to defend Pakistan in newspaper columns and television debates.


In the second tier lie filmmakers, artistes and writers who constantly seek people-to-people contacts and sporting links with Pakistan – irrespective of its terror strikes on India.


In the third tier lurk opposition politicians who are quick to find excuses for Pakistan-sponsored terrorism (“But Pakistan is also a victim of terror”) while criticizing the Indian government’s response.


In the fourth and final tier dwell former Indian diplomats. They are track-II specialists who eagerly attend peace seminars in Pakistan and return with mellifluous tales of Pakistani hospitality.


The ISI nurtures its Indian apologists as generously as it nurtures its terror groups.


India’s chattering classes have always been susceptible to Pakistani wiles.


In the 1980s they thrilled to pre-satellite TV serials from Pakistan.


In the 2000s no international summit in Delhi was complete without a swaggering Pervez Musharraf or supercilious Imran Khan.


The recent controversy over actor Anupam Kher being denied a visa to attend Karachi Literature Festival is a rare example of Pakistan’s slick subversive machinery in India breaking down.




Pakistan high commissioner Abdul Basit then made a cardinal error which even the ISI’s Indian apologists could not credibly defend.


He denied that Kher had been denied a visa: Kher, he said, simply hadn’t applied for one.


Usually though, Pakistan’s strategy of cultivating Trojan Horses in India has worked well.


Most card-holding members of the Indian elite come from inconspicuous backgrounds.


They have over the years climbed up the social, political and economic ladder, rung by rung.


They host networking parties where politicians across the ideological spectrum mix with the rest of Delhi’s nouveaux riches.


Pakistani guests are often invited – visiting human rights activists from Karachi, TV anchors from Islamabad, retired army officers from Rawalpindi, and social butterflies from Lahore.


The fact that Pakistan has subverted a significant section of India’s opinion-makers reflects poorly on successive Indian governments.


During the 10 years of the UPA-I and UPA-II, the atmosphere was especially congenial for the ISI to make deep inroads into the country’s chattering classes.


Track-II meetings, aman ki asha seminars and cultural exchanges were the flavor of the decade, rudely interrupted by the 26/11 terror attack.


But even that was a temporary setback.


The Modi government’s inconsistent policy on Pakistan-sponsored terrorism has emboldened those in India who continue to speak for Pakistan.


Headley’s testimony won’t change that: the subverted rarely reform.


The writer is author of ‘The New Clash of Civilizations: How the Contest Between America, China, India and Islam Will Shape Our Century’


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