Posted on 24-03-2010
Filed Under (Foreign Policy) by Rashtrakut

Pakistan’s foreign minister visited the United States this week.  On deck were a discussion for aid to Pakistan, a civilian nuclear deal similar to what India was granted in the Bush administration and a familiar litany of complaints on Indian intransigence on bilateral talks.  The timing seems propitious as Pakistan is still basking in the warm afterglow of approval for finally moving against its erstwhile Taliban proxies.  Some of the sheen on that accomplishment has started to wane, with Hamid Karzai angrily complaining that Pakistan had disrupted ongoing talks and with intelligence communities still suspicious of Pakistan’s motives.  See here.  Yet, it may be some time before Pakistan gets as favorable a reception in Washington.

However, apart from some more money Pakistan is unlikely to get much of its wish list.   See link.  Since independence Pakistan has aggressively sought diplomatic parity with India.  However, the economic, military and geopolitical gulf between the two countries has widened in the last 20 years.  It is a bitter pill that the Pakistani establishment has not come to terms with.

There was a lot of Congressional resistance for the nuclear deal with India.  A similar deal for a country whose nuclear scientists sold nuclear technology to Libya and North Korea will be dead on arrival.  The thin-skinned Indian response to the prospect does not seem needed.  See link.

The litany of complaints against India is not likely to go too far either.  For the last 30 years Pakistan has agressively sought to internationalize its dispute with India and India has stubbornly pointed to the 1972 Simla Accord as the bench mark for bilateral negotiations.  Foreign diplomats like Robin Raphael or David Miliband who hinted at third party facilitation of negotiations drew a sharp Indian response.  See here.  That is unlikely to change in the near future, particularly with Indian sensibilities sore after the plea bargain by (and the promise not to extradite) David Headley.  See here.

Pakistan’s security establishment seems still stuck in the 1980s when its allies in Congress would issue annual anti-India resolutions and India would have to go all out to stop them.  By the mid 1990s, Pakistan’s staunchest ally Dan Burton could not even get a sufficient number of co-signers for his resolutions to proceed.  The best Pakistan can hope for on the subject are bland statements calling for dialogue.  See link.

As noted in a previous blog the talks are meaningless so long as Pakistan’s terror support infrastructure remains in place.  See link.  From India’s perspective there is no point coming to the table to discuss disputes while Pakistan treats terrorism as a bargaining chip.  For all of Pakistan’s bluster of similar Indian activities in Baluchistan, precious little evidence has been made public.  Unlike Kashmir, Baluchistan does not lie along the India-Pakistan border making it hard logistically for India to provide much meaningful support to Baluch separatists.

On the flip side it is time for India (and its media) to recognize India’s rising maturity as a global player not hyperventilate on perceived slights every time the Obama administration dangles Pakistan a carrot.  American policy makers in both parties are only too aware of the greater desirability of India as a strategic ally.  However, the realities on the ground in Afghanistan force the United States to make some concessions to Pakistan.  It is the only strategic card Pakistan has at present and it is hardly surprising that it will be played as often as possible.  With low global tolerance of terrorism as a tool of foreign policy, Pakistan’s diplomatic options are limited.

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Posted on 24-03-2010
Filed Under (Politics) by Rashtrakut

Matt Yglesias has a good article comparing Romneycare to Obamacare and Mitt Romney’s transparently dishonest attempts to run away from his legacy.  See link.  He also discusses the fundamental flaw in the Republican position which accepts the need to prevent insurance companies from denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions without understanding that such a provision cannot stand alone.  This point is not new.  Others like Paul Krugman and Jonathan Chait have raised this point in responding to people like Peggy Noonan.  See here and here.

The point is simple.  If insurance companies cannot deny people with pre-existing conditions you create an incentive for healthy people not to get insurance until they fall sick.  Hence you need a mandate to take care of the free-riders.  But once you create a mandate you need subsidies for people who cannot afford health care.  The end product is something along the line of Romneycare, Obamacare or a robust public option (which is probably more popular than either).

Given that Republicans support an ban on insurance companies discriminating against pre-existing conditions they need to come up with a meaningful alternative to Obamacare, not that nonsense of a plan they previously issued which expanded coverage by only 3 million.  Otherwise it is time for them to focus on responsible fixes to the plan, notably on the issue of cost control.  Somehow, I don’t see that happening.

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