Leadership

Professor CM Naim has sent us a unique news report on the creation of Pakistan from the Nation datelined November 15, 1947 (Jinnah’s New Republic by Andrew Roth).

Amongst other things the report remarks on the nature of leadership in the new Pakistan:

With enormous problems, Pakistan has only a very ordinary set of leaders to cope with them. The brilliant Mr. Jinnah, of course, must be excepted, but he is over seventy and has been in poor health since a severe pneumonia attack two years ago. His voice can barely be heard ten feet away, and he chose to become governor general rather than premier partly because it was an easier post. He has repeatedly told subordinates, “I have done my part of the job; I’ve given you Pakistan. It is up to you to build it.”

Premier Liaqat Ali Khan is a competent administrator with the conservative social views of a typical feudal landlord and a strong belief in a political and economic alliance with Great Britain. He had to choose a man of technical ability for his Finance Minister but the other members of his Cabinet are all mediocrities. So farfetched was the appointment of the Calcutta hide merchant, Fazlur Rahman, as Minister of the Interior and Education that an old friend, seeing him in a front seat at the Independence Day celebrations, cried out, “You’re in the wrong row; that’s for the Cabinet!” Top officials are in the main from the landlord class, with a sprinkling of lawyers and merchants. The sole modern-minded industrialist in the dominion, Hassan Ispahani, is being sent out of the way as ambassador to the United States. Provincial officials are of the same kind: the Punjab Premier is the Khan of Mamdot, the province’s largest landholder.

Coincidentally, we were reading Ramachandra Guha’s new book (India after Gandhi) and came across this bit on page 22 about India’s first cabinet: 

Apart from Prime Minister Nehru, it listed thirteen other ministers. These included the nationalist stalwarts Vallabhbhai Patel and Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, as well as four congressmen of the younger generation.

More notable perhaps were the names of those who were not from the Congress. These included two representatives of the world of commerce and one representative of the Sikhs. Three others were lifelong adversaries of the Congress. These were RK Shanmukham Chetty, a Madras businessman who was one of the best financial minds in India; BR Ambedkar, a brilliant legal scholar and an “untouchable” by caste; and Shayama Prasad Mookerjee, a leading Bengal politician who belonged (at this time) to the Hindu Mahasabha. All three had collaborated with the rulers while the congressmen served time in British jails. But now Nehru and his colleagues wisely put aside these differences. Gandhi had reminded them that “freedom comes to India, not to Congress,” urging the formation of a cabinet that included the ablest men regardless of party affiliation.

We will have more to say about this and will pick up on the evolution of leadership in the two countries at another time. For the moment, we jump ahead to take advantage of another coincidental find in a 2004 book by Strobe Talbott (Engaging India: Diplomacy, Democracy, and the Bomb) in which he recounts his experience as President Clinton’s point person in the dialogue with the two subcontinental countries following the tit-for-tat nuclear explosions of 1998. 

Here is how Strobe Talbott describes his comparative experiences (pages 105-106): 

In general, our sessions with the Pakistanis, while occasionally more exciting than those with the Indians, lacked a comparable degree of intellectual engagement… While Jaswant [Singh’s] team was highly disciplined in every respect, some of Shamshad Ahmad’s colleagues tended to be querulous, surly, and sometimes abusive. On one occasion, early in our dealings, a member of the Pakistani delegation exploded at our observation that his country seemed always to react in knee-jerk fashion to Indian moves. He rose out of his chair and lunged across the table as though he were going to strangle either Bruce Reidel or me, depending on whose neck he could get his fingers around first. He had to be physically restrained.

For all these reasons, my team had to shift gears when we traveled from New Delhi to Islamabad. The danger with the Indians was that they would wear us down. They had their game plan and would stick with it, waiting for us to lose congressional support for the sanctions and give up on even the modest demands we were making with the benchmarks. 

The Pakistanis had no game plan. They always seemed to be either hunkering down, lashing out, or flailing about. 

Thus, it was apparent from the outset that the Indians were going to be hard to move, while the Pakistanis were going to be hard to help. 

Nothing much has changed since. 

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