Monday, February 28, 2005

China vs. India

Martin Wolf has a Financial Times column comparing the two Asian giants. It's worth a read.

He concludes that China will overgrow India because while both are the heirs of great civilizations ... China's civilization is inseparable from its state, while India's is inseparable from its social structure, above all from the role of caste.

This difference permeates the two countries' histories and contemporary performance. As Lord Desai of the London School of Economics has noted, "for India, the problem [is] achieving unity in diversity". China, however, is a "unitary hard state, which can pursue a single goal with determination and mobilise maximal resources in its achievement".

There are reasons why Mr. Wolf's prediction might indeed come true, but this one rings real hollow. If "unity in diversity" were such a growth-abater, surely EU would not have found many believers -- including Mr. Wolf. The entire capitalist premise is based on diverse ideas competing ferociously -- leading to new insights and innovations which defy and change history. For this to happen. socio-political-economic structures that accommodate and value diversity are essential. India has many ills, but on this front it has done extremely well.

Chinese state, in contrast, does not value diversity -- in fact, it crushes it. To the extent Chinese civilization is inseparable from its state, as Mr. Wolf avers, well then, it is hardly a civilization to gush over. Further, if the capitalist idea is valid -- we certainly believe it is as, no doubt, Mr. Wolf does too -- then, sooner or later, the Chinese edifice will come down crashing.

A key component of the Beijing's path to wealth has its banks gathering Chinese (very high) Yuan savings to buy US Dollars. Since the Chinese autocracy maintains the Yuan artificially too cheap (and thus the Dollar artificially too expensive), buying Dollars with Yuan seems counter-intuitive. Afterall, no one in history ever got rich buying assets at prices they know are artificially inflated!! When the currencies finally find their natural levels, Chinese banks would then hold Dollar assets worth much less than they paid for them, and Yuan liabilities much higher than these devalued assets can cover. This is when the fun will start.

What's really happening is that China is transferring its Yuan wealth to American consumers. We're OK with this since, as US residents, this keeps our inflation and credit card costs low!! How this is good for Chinese people, however, defies our understanding.

Also, read Rand's Charles Wolf on why China's problems are perhaps even more complex than India's.

Cheering the Prime Minister

At the India Today conclave, Dr. Manmohan Singh said the following as part of a very important speech:

If there is an ‘idea of India’ that the world should remember us by and regard us for, it is the idea of an inclusive and open society, a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, multi-lingual society. All countries of the world will evolve in this direction as we move forward into the 21st century. Liberal democracy is the natural order of social and political organisation in today’s world. All alternate systems, authoritarian and majoritarian in varying degrees, are an aberration. Democratic methods yield the most enduring solutions to even the most intractable problems.

This is essentially neo-conservative thought -- we are thrilled to hear this from the Prime Minister of India. Perhaps the pendulum hasn't swung as far as we feared. Now it's time to back up these terrific words with concrete actions to promote, and where necessary enforce, democracy -- starting with our own benighted South Asian neighbourhood.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

From Morality to Pragmatism: A Pendulum Swung Too Far

For decades, India lectured the world on morality in geo-politics -- the thought being that high-minded rhetoric, and actions, were sufficient substitutes for our lack of military and economic strength.

Consequently, we became isolated from our natural allies, the liberal democracies of the West, instead toasting third world wolves like Arafat and Castro and Mugabe and Suharto in our, ironically, democratic castle. We also somehow credited Soviet-style totalitarianism with morality -- laying the blame for our non-aligned misery solely on the "imperial" West, i.e. America. Our leftist intellectuals romanticized our poverty while their political counterparts plotted democractic and Maoist revolutions (sometimes simultaneously!!) for control of the Indian soul.

Lord knows, we still have such America-baiting intellectuals and politicians around -- some are even in our Government. But, India has become a great deal more pragmatic in its geo-political conduct. Lets first cheer this development.

Next, lets tear our "pragmatic" new avatar to shreds. We think the pendulum has swung much too far from excessive morality to excessive pragmatism. Consider the following:

India has oil interests in Sudan -- so, we keep mum about the on-going savagery in Darfur.
India needs Iran's LNG -- so, we decline to press the Islamic Republic on its democracy deficit.
India needs Russian weaponry and oil concessions (not to mention support for our embarrassing pleas for a UNSC permanent seat; on this, see How to deal with the gang in New York) -- so, we overlook Mr. Putin's thuggery.
India intends building energy pipelines through Burma and Bangladesh -- so, we turn away from Ms. Suu Kyi's much-too-long house arrest and politico-religious fascism in places like Sylhet.

Now, we understand the need to be pragmatic -- and applaud our forward diplomacy to secure our long-term energy interests. But, the cost of this pragmatism has been high -- we have not just descended from our much-too-talkative moral high-horse, we seem to have lost our ability to speak about geo-political morality at all. And when we do stand up for democracy, as we recently did by canceling the SAARC summit to protest the royalist coup in Kathmandu, complex issues arise, as discussed at length by The Acorn, which really leave GOI in a bind.

We really need to find ways for reconciling our pragmatism with our morality. We will likely never fully succeed in this, but if we don't even try, lest we upset our energy suppliers, we might as well run our internal combustion engines on the blood of their victims. Conversely, if we are at all successful, we would blaze a new trail with a worthy idea for fellow democracies to emulate.

So, how should we promote our political values in tyrannies we, unfortunately, need to do business with?

Here's one thought -- its not a fully-formed thought, perhaps not even a practical thought, but hopefully it's a conversation starter.

India could create a statutorily protected Democracy Commission (ala the Election Commission) to promote our democratic values. This DC could be India's face as a protector, a safe haven, an inspiration, and a resource bank for foreign democracy activists being suppressed by tyrannies.

The DC must be independent of the Government of the day and, via EC-like statutory protection, should have maximum immunity against short-term political pressures. Thus, the Government of the day can neither influence the Commission, nor be held responsible for the Commission's actions.

The DC could be funded by voluntary contributions by Indians (who could, for example, give as they do to charities and/or divert a capped fraction of their taxes -- 0.02% of taxes, on average, would amount to ~$10mm/Rs.45crores per annum). [A good parallel is the US taxpayers' ability to check off a box in their annual tax returns that if checked, diverts $3 to fund presidential campaigns. This creates a voluntary mechanism for Americans to fund these campaigns.]

This arrangement will then allow GOI to fete Iran's foreign minister, Kamal Kharazzi, while the DC simultaneously providing resources to Prof. Shirin Ebadi in her duel with the Ayatollah regime, or for the GOI to honor the Myanmarese dictator Than Shwe even as the DC hosts Burmese democracy activists plotting a peaceful regime change! Who says we cannot walk and chew gum at the same time!

If Mr. Kharazzi and General Shwe object to the DC's activities, Shri. Natwar Singh could safely shrug his shoulders and claim helplessness, citing the DC's statutory independence -- then, he could raise his glass to the health of the visiting dignitaries!

On Nepal, the DC could really take up the matter of restoring democracy in Nepal (something we strongly support), while the GOI could address the pragmatic issues raised by The Acorn .

Let the GOI be as pragmatic as it needs to be, but at least we'd have a voluntary mechanism for Indians to express their -- statutorily protected -- moral contempt for some of the tyrants we are forced to do business with. Won't that be a great way to vocalize our moral view without sacrificing our pragmatic interests?

Rooting for Little Terrorist

As we settle in to watch the Oscars tomorrow, we'll be rooting for Ashvin Kumar's short film Little Terrorist. We are also huge fans of Hilary Swank from her role in the gut-socking 1999 film Boys Don't Cry (we haven't seen Million Dollar Baby yet, but have little doubt Ms. Swank is just as stunning here as in Boys).

And, finally, hopefully, Martin Scorcese will pick up his lifetime due in the form of his first Best Director Oscar.

The Great Indian Blog Mela

India Uncut has compiled this week's Indian blog mela. There's great stuff here -- not least because it leads with our own (ahem!) condemnation of the state of contemporary Indian culture!

The conversation then moves on and covers literature and cinema and television and politics and cricket among other subjects. Do check it out.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Alleged LeT Member in Bush Assassination Plot

Earlier this week, 23-year old American Ahmed Omar Abu Ali was indicted in US Federal Court for plotting, with Al Qaeda, an assasination attempt on President Bush. Stephen Schwarz, in his New York Post column, alerts us to Mr. Abu Ali's links to, of all groups, Lashkar-e-Taiba -- the same Pakistan-sponsored terror group that has long been murdering innocent people in Kashmir. Here's the quote:

... Abu Ali is also a familiar figure to U.S. law-enforcement officials and terrorism experts. In mid-2003, federal authorities shut down a Northern Virginia a network of born Muslims and American converts to Islam, headed by convert Randall (Ismail) Royer.

Known as the "paintball jihad," the defendants in the case were supporters of Lashkar-i-Taiba, a violent Wahhabi militia fighting against Indian authorities in Kashmir. They practiced for jihad by playing paintball in the woods, went to Kashmir to carry and use weapons, and then tried to explain away their weekend activities near Washington as harmless fun.

In April 2004 Royer was sentenced to 20 years in prison. Of his codefendants, six pled guilty, three were convicted and two were acquitted. One got a life sentence and another got 85 years.
Ahmed Omar Abu Ali, described by federal prosecutors as a member of the group, escaped the initial crackdown and fled to Saudi Arabia, where he was arrested later in 2003.

Mr. Abu Ali's supporters claim that he, a high school valedictorian in Virginia, has been in Saudi custody since June 2003 -- where he was tortured while Americans looked the other way. His parents have sued the Government for failing to protect his rights as an American citizen.

Liberal American opinion, such as this New York Times editorial, have been quick to condemn the US Government for civil rights issues raised by the matter. Per the Times, Mr. Abu Ali's case is "another demonstration of what has gone wrong in the federal war on terror". They are upset that the US did not bring him back home earlier, so that he could face justice in US court.

Mr. Abu Ali is entitled to a presumption of innocence -- and certainly we do not condone torture, even if, for example, such torture is technically at the hands of another nation with lesser scruples. In fact, if a nation uses an ally to inflict torture while claiming its own disdain for such torture, it -- in our view -- is morally more culpable than even the torture-inflictor.

Having said that, in this case the accusations of torture seem odd. Afterall, as Andy McCarthy points out in The Corner, US courts forbid all evidence obtained under torture -- so, if US were indeed looking away while Saudis did their thing, they were only damaging their case against Mr. Abu Ali. This makes little sense.

We have to wait for the facts to come out in court -- we will reserve our judgement till then. Still, this is a curious case whose facts, if true, alert us to the continuing Al Qaeda threat at the hands of people who one would ordinarily not suspect, and the links between regional terror groups like LeT and their global mentors like Al Qaeda.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Azadi Begins at Home

Our recent post about how India could wrest the "Azadi" argument in Kashmir has been generously linked by The Acorn and India Uncut on their excellent blogs.

Underlying our argument was Freedom House's observation that South Asia (ex-India) is highly illiberal -- thus, we argued, any discussion about Kashmiri future that dilutes liberal India's present role there, in favor of either illiberal Pakistan or an inevitably illiberal autonomy, is unacceptable.

As if to substantiate our point about Pakistan's illiberalism, our friends at The Acorn and India Uncut have this morning highlighted a new outrage by its ruling autocracy: it is threatening to punish Pakistani actress Meera for having kissed an Indian actor in Mahesh Bhatt's new film, Nazar. Apparantly, her kiss has been deemed "vulgar" and against "Islamic ethics and moral values"!!

Somehow the same Islamic values have not prevented the Pakistani army from intimidating Doctor Shazia Khalid who has accused an officer of rape.

Now, we are ourselves hardly cheerleaders for Bollywood, but cannot stand the idea of Pakistan's military thugs wasting time silencing free expression of an actress while dragging their feet in finding the officer-rapist of Dr. Shazia. The contemptible (and decidedly un-Islamic) misogyny of this autocracy is fully on display for the world to see. So much for Gen. Musharraf's enlightened moderation.

Before Pakistan gets hoarse screaming about azadi in Kashmir, it needs to learn that azadi and enlightenment begin at home.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Blogger Freedom in Iran

This is written in solidarity with the imprisoned and persecuted bloggers, and other voices of dissent, in the theocratic republic of Iran, whose foreign minister is currently being feted in India.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Wresting the Azadi Argument in Kashmir

At a recent New York dinner a few liberal Americans, and their angst-ridden Indian counterparts, challenged us on the irony of illiberal Pakistan's support for Kashmiri self-determination, versus liberal India's resistance to it. The following is our response -- a bit long (forgive us for this) but it is (we hope) a sound liberal argument countering India's unfortunately apologetic liberal consensus on this matter. Key passages are bolded for quick perusal.

Consider a hypothetical 10-year-old tsunami orphan, facing these terrible choices: either join an ill-run orphanage or become a bonded laborer or a street urchin. Her choosing freely from among these is hardly "free choice", is it? In other words, free choice absent good options is meaningless.

Why this principle doesn’t apply in Kashmir is baffling. Here, India is pressured to allow Kashmiris "free choice" from among terrible options all of which, as we shall see, would reduce their existing freedoms. Liberals aggressively demand Indian flexibility on Kashmir - implicitly condemning Kashmiris to an illiberal fate.

This attitude is rooted in a discomforting irony - Pakistani dictatorship champions Kashmiri "free choice" while Indian democracy resists it. Notwithstanding India’s legalistic albeit valid claims, this ideological inconsistency bothers Indians - when challenged, we stammer away our discomfort by referencing Kashmiri elections and Pakistani terrorism, and when really cornered, vague possibilities of Kashmiri autonomy. These, alas, don’t really address the core issue of Kashmiri free choice - and we know it.

Our discomfort with the vocabulary of freedom is unbecoming of India. We might secure Kashmir some day with silver and sword, but our ideological discomfort will forever bite. It’s already causing us to poorly negotiate - we are now discussing concessions that, while soothing our ill-concealed discomfort, are potentially terrible mistakes. India had best resolve this matter now, ahead of serious negotiations - for, it is bad form to negotiate from a position of discomfort.
Fortunately, there exists a moral framework where our liberal discomfort is easily addressed. With this, India can wrest the Azadi argument away from separatists.

Consider Freedom House’s 2005 Freedom in the World country ratings. Here, India is rated free, like the West, while Pakistan is rated not free, like Saudi Arabia. In fact, none of India’s neighbors are rated free, making us the lone exception in a decidedly illiberal South Asia. More interesting are Kashmir ratings. While Jammu and Kashmir is rated partly free, like Singapore, Pakistan-occupied Kashmir is rated not free, like Palestine.

Kashmiri self-determination is, thus, really about Kashmiris being asked to choose between their current partly free status and either, a not free future with Pakistan, or an illiberal autonomy, mirroring South Asia ex India. This so-called Azadi that reduces freedom is political self-mutilation. If free choice has meaning only with good options, this is hardly that.

While liberals naively equate polities of democratic India with our illiberal neighbors’ - who are we to judge, they say, let Kashmiris choose freely for themselves - the moral framework asserts the self-evident superiority of secular democracy over communal dictatorship. Further, it deems freedom to choose valid only when such choice, in turn, improves freedom. Therefore, any Kashmiri choice involving illiberal Pakistan or freedom-abating autonomy is rejected on moral principle, not on dry legalisms alone.

Kashmir’s only acceptable free choice involves choosing between its current partly free status and a free future - matching the rest of India. Absent this, we have the absurd paradox of "free choice" which, upon exercise, eliminates the very freedom that made it possible - i.e., free choice reduced to "one person, one vote, once".

A people’s (even self-determined) regression from freedom is bad enough - after two decades of absorbing terrorism, we fully know its spillover consequences on the world. Thus, it’s just as important to defend a people’s existing freedom, as it is to support a not free people’s quest for it. The former is India’s moral and strategic imperative in Kashmir. We may reasonably negotiate with Pakistan on issues of terrorism, river waters, gas pipelines, and free trade, but there is no moral basis to settle these in the currency of Kashmiri freedom. Neither Indians nor Pakistanis, and crucially not even Kashmiris themselves, have the moral right to barter this freedom away.

How should Kashmir be transitioning to greater freedom from its current partly free status? It’s likely that this would occur naturally once Pakistan’s illiberal shadow is lifted. Nevertheless, India should be pro-actively defending Kashmiri freedom constantly - not selling it out by discussing freedom-abating options.

For starters, we could establish this Lakshman Rekha - India will not accept options that reduce existing Kashmiri freedoms rooted in India’s Constitution. This does not compel Kashmiri separatists to accept India’s Constitution per se; it demands they demonstrably embrace its liberal spirit instead. Also, absent substantial reform at home, Pakistan’s role in Kashmir is de-legitimized. Our freedom vocabulary will also help deflect American pressure - after all, President Bush himself has proclaimed spreading freedom as America’s foreign policy. Best of all, it has the comforting virtue of moral consistency.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Lamenting Contemporary Indian Culture

What influence will India have on 21st century thought and imagination?

Bollywood? Call us elitist, but we sure hope not.

A great power is marked not just by guns and gold -- but principally by exportable ideas that inspire the world. Like other great civilizations, India too has had its share of such ideas (e.g., Yoga, Syncreticism, Taj Mahal, etc.). Our lament is that these ideas are antiques and that contemporary Indian thought -- much like contemporary global thought -- is increasingly noisy, unoriginal, and (deliberately or otherwise) designed to shock, like a mirror reflecting our broken world.

Our December trip to Delhi brought home this reality to us. We were astonished by how rapidly Delhi has grown -- and grown rapidly ugly. Our buildings have no character, no voice, no message -- other than a plea that we avert our disapproving gaze. Our cities have become piled boxes -- like graves for the living.

Then, there is the ever-present Bollywood muzak -- played at decibels masking its intrinsic emptiness. At a New York ghazal festival a few years ago, globalized and literate Indians yawned at real ghazals, then burst into applause when Pankaj Udhas sang an insipid lyric set to the horrifying (to us!) tune of "My heart will go on" from the movie, Titanic. A ghazal mahotsav reduced to aping Celine Dion? We felt like committing khudkushi that evening!

You want to discuss Indian art? The two biggest stories on art we've read in recent times were really stories about India's growing affluence and commercialism -- Hussain's sale of 100 un-created paintings for 100 Crores, and the recent sale of a VS Gaitonde painting for $215,000. Read these stories and you'll see they are less about art, more about Indians who can now afford -- what they consider is -- art.

Literature? That which sells is all in English (frequently by Indians abroad) -- the words we devour, therefore, are smothering our beautiful languages. We acknowledge our own guilt in this by throwing up the haunting lines (we forget by who) from Junot Diaz's devastating 1996 book Drown:

The fact that I am writing to you in English already falsifies what I wanted to tell you. My subject: how to explain to you that I don't belong to English though I belong nowhere else

Our architecture is rotten. Our music is noise. Our art is a whore. Our literature is alien. Our much-celebrated exports are fake accents in call centers and cold bit-streams from clattering keyboards.

We are arriving now into cultural modernity even as modernism in culture is already passe. Dan Henninger has a terrific column in Wall Street Journal today demanding respite from this jarring modernism. Here are money quotes:

Modernism was a reaction to the industrial age or the machine age. It produced Cubism, Stravinsky's music and James Joyce's "Ulysses" (also voted the 20th century's most important novel by a panel of the Modern Library). Its most important cultural values included discordance, challenge, collision, violation, confusion. This is wholly out of sync with what people want or need in the current age.

Google, Web surfing, cell phones and 1,000 television channels have also brought us something other than "Grand Theft Auto" and Britney-on-demand. Everyone in the world watched the second World Trade Center tower fall in real time, and will do so the next time. The world we inhabit now is Iraq, Sudan, tsunami, weapons of mass destruction, Rwanda, Bosnia, Beslan. Knowing--and seeing with our own eyes--so much that is so bad is not normal. We don't need to be shocked by art. We now live in a constant state of shock.
We cannot hide from the world as it is, and should not. But we need respite. And sometimes we need solace.

Thats where culture comes in. We need to change the discordance of contemporary culture and imagine it anew. Hopefully Indians will be part of this new 21st century revolution.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Supporting Taslima Nasreen

Controversial Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasreen is now seeking Indian residency. She has been persecuted in her native country solely for her outspoken -- and very edgy -- views and now lives in virtual exile in Sweden.

We advocate India granting her residency. She could live in Kolkata and serve as the enfant terrible of India's cultural scene, where we desperately need some excitement -- Bollywood simply does not cut it for us!

More seriously, we are averse to anyone being threatened for the views they hold -- no matter how provocative -- and India's openness to Ms. Nasreen would trigger a broader debate on this matter in South Asia, all of which ex-India is highly illiberal.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Two Readings

An interesting debate on Iraq between Christopher Hitchens and Tariq Ali can be found here. Worth reading.

Also worth reading is Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran's February 14 speech cited by The Acorn . We generally agree with Mr. Saran except on a key point. He says:

As a flourishing democracy, India would certainly welcome more democracy in our neighbourhood, but that too is something that we may encourage and promote; it is not something that we can impose upon others.

We have, of course, repeatedly argued that India should make democracy a key objective for its neighborhood foreign policy, by persuasion where possible, by imposition where necessary. See also our February 7 post, coincidentally on the same subject India & SAARC: Tough Love or Dadagiri?

Monday, February 07, 2005

India & SAARC: Tough Love or Dadagiri?

Responding to our post Canceling SAARC was the Right Move, Rezwan calls India's aggressive attitude dadagiri. We think such reaction merits a broader discussion about how India should deal with its neighbors.

We have repeatedly called for India to forcibly drag a reluctant, and likely incapable by itself, South Asia into political modernity and have cited writings on this point. This aggressiveness would be good for the people of these nations, and it would be good for India's political, military, and economic security.

In this process, if we are to break a few eggs, so be it. When the peril to democracy and political liberty in our region becomes a clear & present threat, our neighbors' feelings are hardly that important. India should no longer accept dysfunctional conduct by them -- they must, at minimum, make serious commitments to raising the quality of their shattered polities to India's standards.

Rezwan ignores weakness in the region's liberty record, then calls India's own lapses into the discussion. This, of course, assumes that India and its smaller neighbors are at the same geo-political level. Lets be clear, they are not. For all its lapses, India stands heads & shoulders above the rest of the region; besides it is the big dog here -- and let no one forget this.

For a long time we held the view that, being the big dog, India needs to go the extra mile in relations with its neighbors. But this assumed that the neighbors would walk at least a few inches our way. They have not done so -- and then have blamed India for their colossal, and shameful, failures. Its time for these nations, sovereign though they may be, to quit sulking, to own up to their own self-manufactured ills, and to stop blaming India for their own perennial foolishness.

To those who disagree with this, lets ask what these neighbors have done for India? Sri Lanka's civil war led to the assassination of an Indian Prime Minister -- we have remained unable to bring the killer Velupillai Pirabhakaran to justice. Bangladesh, who we liberated, has paid us back through effectively a covert war -- the export of tens of millions of its citizens illegally into India (read Arun Shourie's brilliant book Governance for details). Nepal is now a failed State -- a haven for murderous Maoist ideologies much as Talibani Afghanistan was to Al Qaeda; this garbage is now spilling into India. Our sorrows with Pakistan are well chronicled and do not merit repeating.

This leaves tiny Bhutan and Maldives. Well, at least the former helped India kill and maim ULFA terrorists -- so we'll show it the respect it has earned. The latter is not a threat (although its links to Saudi Arabia need close watch) but it isn't a warm friend either.

Where does this leave us? 4 of 7 SAARC nations have brought tragedy upon India, 1 has helped us, and 1 is too small to offend us even if it tried. Is this not finally time for our neighbors to ask what they have done for India (any small thing at all would have been nice, but no good deed is in evidence) -- rather than constantly harping about what India has done for them?

So, in closing, here is the tough love message that an increasing number of Indians would like to offer our neighbors: We respect your sovereignty, but you need to appreciate we are the top dog. We'll let you have your space, but don't cross our red lines. Your internal affairs are your matter, but when you move to crush democracy or are incapable of modern governance, they are our matters too. Finally, we're open to doing business with you, but you need to get over your existential angst and stop defining yourself as India's victims -- we don't appreciate this falsehood at all.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Cancelling SAARC was the Right Move

The anti-democracy events in Kathmandu this week are appalling -- but hardly surprising. India's neighborhood is decidedly illiberal (see Freedom House's 2005 Freedom in the World report). It's indeed a miracle that India has successfully sustained its democracy in the midst of this chaos.

We have little sympathy for the Maoists and are astonished that they are able to freely cross into India and find support among their Indian comrades. These Maoist leaders, whether Indian or Nepalese, need to be eliminated with extreme prejudice, and soon. This does not, however, require any suspension of democracy as the strange King of Nepal seems to think. He is a man of destiny, however (see Jonathan Gregson's fascinating book Massacre at the Palace: The Doomed Royal Dynasty of Nepal), so his steps need very careful watching.

We have previously cited the need for India to push democracy in the region, by force if necessary. Dr. Manmohan Singh's decision not to travel to Dhaka is a blunt, and much needed, message to both Nepal and Bangladesh where illiberal polities are spawning viciously violent extremism. We applaud this decision and hope the Prime Minister can sustain his pressure on these errant neighbors.

He will face opposition though, from intelligent realists who think it better to engage these nations than to pressure them. As neo-conservative idealists, we obviously disagree on this one. Such engagement is essentially appeasement and makes India punch way below its weight. Our neighbors should be made to understand that, while sovereign, they live in India's shadow and are expected to mature quickly to political modernity. Absent this, they should not expect much sympathy in New Delhi.