Where this blog leads, greater minds will follow. Or at least so it seems from comments by Simon Tisdall on Cameron in India in The Guardian.
Where this blog leads, greater minds will follow. Or at least so it seems from today’s comments by Simon Tisdall in The Guardian. His learning objectives (or LOs, to use the ghastly initials that stalk education these days) are:
Terror: ‘When it comes to fighting terror, a bit of the famous Cameron humility might not be out of place.’
Af-Pak border: ‘This problem was made in Britain.’ (Well, I could have told him that…)
Kashmir: once a kind of paradise in the Himalayas, Kashmir is now described as ‘the most dangerous place in the world. It’s an issue that a “plain speaking” PM should not try to dodge.’
Democracy: ‘Who d’you want to deal with, Dave? Pakistani democrats, with all their failings, or another dictator?’
People: ‘International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell said: “Pakistan is facing an education emergency…. More needs to be done. Doubling Britain’s annual £130m aid to Pakistan would be an audacious move at a time of domestic financial austerity. But it would serve the British national interest.’ Indeed, and we Mirandanetters stand ready to answer our country’s call once again! I think I’ve still got Teach Yourself Urdu somewhere….
Reaction to our new Prime Minister’s frank remarks in India are warning up nicely – and not just on this blog
Reaction to our new Prime Minister’s frank remarks in India are warning up nicely – and not just on this blog. Today’s lead story in the Guardian declares that Pakistan president will ‘put David Cameron straight’ over terror claims. And the cartoon shows a hyperactive David Cameron, amongst other things, burning the Pakistan flag over a ‘frank incense’ flame. Yesterday’s offering showed Pakistani delegates paying a visit to David Cameron, too. The comments on the cartoon are an indication of the ire aroused on all sides (and that’s just about the jokes), though it’s probably true that for all this the great British public will remain unmoved as the conflict in Afghanistan grinds on till – when?
As the Guardian’s story today reminds us, ‘India and Pakistan have fought three major wars since partition in 1947 and remain deeply at odds over divided Kashmir.’ This was obvious to me in the late 60s; the school I was working in had a memorial to former students who had died in the last conflict.
Three Cups of Tea
At least the US military are taking tea – or more accurately, reading Three Cups of Tea, the book by former army medic Greg Mortenson. This work by a humanitarian worker has recently become required reading for US high command. I had the pleasure of meeting him at the NCTE Convention in Texas in 2008, where it was obvious that this rather unassuming guy was something of a reluctant celebrity. He must be more aware than anyone that all his good work in providing schools for remote areas in Pakistan and Afghanistan is threatened by the combined action of the NATO forces and their enemies. His book is worth reading for a taste of life in a part of the world that normally only comes to our attention when riven by violence, earthquakes or floods. Find out about his Central Asia Institute here.
The words of US Admiral Mike Mullen, joint chiefs of staff, when criticising the founder of WikiLeaks seem too ironic to miss
This week’s Friday’s Phrase is ‘blood on their hands’. OK, so it’s only Monday and I had said Word of the Day was offline until September, but the words of US Admiral Mike Mullen, joint chiefs of staff, when criticising the founder of WikiLeaks seem too ironic to miss: ‘Mr Assange can say whatever he likes about the greater good he thinks he and his source are doing, but the truth is they might already have on their hands the blood of some young soldier or that of an Afghan family.’ (Guardian, 30 July 2010). As David Leigh writes in today’s paper: ‘Damage control efforts by the White House did not improve until the weekend. We then saw the spectacle of generals, with gallons of innocent civilian blood on their hands, orating that WikiLeaks had potentially failed to do enough to protect local Afghans.’
The row over the Afghan War Logs has raised the profile of the conflict in the last week, and seemed to be the prompt for David Cameron’s frank (but rather partial) words criticising Pakistan whilst he was on a visit to India – with the proudly proclaimed aim of doing business for Britain (Hawk jets included). He might have been wise to have sought a briefing from the Foreign Office first; I’m sure they would have reminded him of the dates that a former diplomat, Geoff Cowling (Vice-consul Kabul 1970-73), mentioned in a letter to the Guardian last Thursday:
1842: total annihilation of the 6,000 strong British army retreating from Kabul en route to Kandahar in the first Afghan war
27 July 1880: Battle of Maiwand during the second Afghan war: ‘the final result was a rout for the British army that lost more than 950 men on their retreat back to Kandahar.’
1919: Third Afghan War: ‘totally forgotten by us too’.
As Cowling comments: ‘History tells the Pashtuns that foreign invaders are vulnerable – something the Russians too learned to their considerable cost. It’s a pity politicians did not read their history before venturing into the hostile, fiercely independent Helmand and blundering into the fourth Afghan war.’ His allusion to the humiliation of the Russians (1979-89) is a reminder that the United States and others were only too willing to arm the mujahidin – discovering later, fatally, that ‘blowback’ doesn’t just apply when a Stinger missile is launched.
David Cameron and others might also remember 1947: the partition of India by the departing British into Muslim Pakistan and secular India left the unresolved sore of Kashmir that lies at the root of much of the conflict in the area. I’m interested to read elsewhere in today’s paper that Peter Preston agrees: ‘Kashmir? The reason why Pakistan’s military stays so strong, so funded, so bent on matching India’s every move. The reason why Pakistan democracy has proved so frail. The reason why Islamabad dabbles in Afghanistan’s shifting alliances. Begin to broker a final Indo-Pakistani peace, try to set stable relations at the core of the subcontinent, and everything else begins to follow.’
Good heavens, as a former resident of the North West Frontier Province of Pakistan (glimpsed above), I even told Andrew Bingham, the Conservative candidate (and now MP) all about this on my doorstep back in April. MPs, Prime Ministers: do they ever listen?