Divided By Democracy

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Item Code: IDF916
Author: Meghnead Desai and Aitzaz Ahsan
Publisher: Lotus Collection, Roli Books
Language: English
Edition: 2005
ISBN: 9788174364258
Pages: 144
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 8.7" X 5.7"
Weight 390 gm
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Shipped to 153 countries
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Book Description

About the book

The second book in the Cross border Talks series examines why India is a democracy while Pakistan is not.

Meghnad Desai identifies the revolutionary decision of the Constituent Assembly to adopt universal adult franchise as the key to the survival of democracy in India. The overwhelming desire of the leaders of the independence movement, many of who were educated in England was for a Westminster-Style democracy. The adoption of this model led to demands for inclusion from lower and back ward castes and Dalits and today Indian democracy is a heady and vigorous mix of ethnic and immigrant groups, class cleavages as well as rural and North South divisions. Aitzaz Ahsan argues that at Partition while India had a strong middle class and political structure and a subordinated civil and military bureaucracy, in Pakistan it was the opposite. It inherited a strong feudal class and insignificant bourgeoisie and an entrenched civil and military bureaucracy. These vested interests have never relinquished their control over the country and have in the process choked the spirit of democracy there.

About the Author

Meghnad Desai was born in Baroda and situated economics at Bombay University. He did his doctorate at the University of Pennysylvania under the supervision of the noble laureate, Lawrence Klein. He is an Emeritus at he London School of Economics where he has taught since 1965. He received his peerage in 1991 and is an active member of the British Labour Party. He has authored an edited many books and has written many articles for academic journals.

Aitzaz Ahsan is a member of the Pakistan people's Party and has served as minister of law, justice, interior and education in the federal government between 1988 and 1993. He studied law at Cambridge University and was called to the Bar at Grays Inn in 1967. He is a senior advocate in the Supreme Court of Pakistan and has been incarcerated many times by military and authoritarian regimes.


When the first volume in the Cross-border Talks series was published, it was making an argument for improved understanding between India and Pakistan, which was noticeable by its absence at that time. So much so that the launch of that volume - Diplomatic Divide by Dr Humayun Khan and G. Parthasarathy - in April 2004 in Delhi and Islamabad became something of a diplomatic event in its own right.

At that time, relations were only just beginning to improve after a sustained period of armed tension and hostility, which began with the Kargil conflict of 1999 and prompted fears of another full-scale war. Fortunately, the Kargil confrontation remained localized to the disputed territory of Kashmir but coming, as it did, only a year after India and Pakistan exploded nuclear devices, it was not surprising that it provoked widespread international concern. At that time, there was a palpable fear that their long-standing rivalry might escalate into nuclear war and bring disaster to the region as a whole.

Today, relations are much improved. After a meeting of the leaders of the two countries at the SAARC summit in January 2004, a gradual thaw has taken place. This has put diplomatic relations back onto a more normal footing and set in train a number of bilateral negotiations aimed at improving travel, communication, tourism and trade. Buses are now running not only from Delhi to Lahore but even from Srinagar to Muzzaffarabad. Indeed, Kashmiri politicians from the Valley travelled this route for the first time in decades when making a visit to Pakistan in mid-2005. These new links between the Kashmiri communities on different sides of the line of control are perhaps the most dramatic sign of a more positive approach to detente. Differences over the status of the former princely state remain unresolved but both countries have seen the value of making progress on other fronts as a means of building confidence for the future.

This progress has been particularly important in terms of people to people contact. In recent years, there have been a number of important initiatives to promote greater understanding, including what is called 'Track Three diplomacy' and exchange visits of various kinds. Many worthwhile contacts have been developed but progress has always been subject to the ups and downs of diplomatic relations. During times of tension, it has not been easy to obtain visas even to visit relatives, let alone for business or tourism. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, the two governments actually encouraged visits as an act of policy but only for a relatively short period. It is very good news, therefore, that there are now plans to reopen the consulates general in Karachi and Mumbai, which were shut down in 1993. This should greatly facilitate travel for those living in southern Pakistan and western India. Both governments have also been much less restrictive recently in granting visas for professional and personal travel, which has greatly increased the scope of cross- border contacts.

Advances in communication technologies have also played a part in bringing people together. The Internet has circumvented official restrictions and brought the possibility of more or less instant contact, though its impact remains confined to the computer-using classes. Among the general public, satellite television has done a great deal to break down barriers and to counter the stereotypes propagated for many years by the state- controlled media. But until recently the flow of images has been largely one-way - from India outwards - and increasingly open to government control, as the Kargil war showed, because of the growing consolidation and regulation of cable networks.

The Cross-border Talks series seeks to improve understanding of the issues which divide the two countries. It is aimed at members of the reading public on both sides of the border and its objective is to provide them with informed analysis of the issues which daily occupy the headlines. Among the issues scheduled for future debate are the nuclearization of South Asia, the faultlines of nationalism, the growth of fundamentalism, Kashmir, cricket, Jinnah's legacy, the cost of conflict, South Asian culture and economic relations.

There have been many books on Indo-Pakistan relations by nationals of the two countries but Cross-border Talks is probably the first series in which eminent Indians and Pakistanis systematically discuss the issues which divide them within the covers of one book. The series is also distinctive because each volume is published simultaneously in India and Pakistan in order to generate discussion in both countries at the same time.

The general format for the Talks is that the authors agree first on an agenda for discussion. They then write detailed treatments of the subject, which they exchange once completed. At this stage, they have an opportunity to revise their texts or to write brief rejoinders. In some cases, authors decide they do not wish to change their original statements. In others, they may take the opportunity to do so. We hope, however, that the debate between them will continue at the launches of the books and that this will engender a wider interest in the subject.

The first volume in the series, appropriately enough, was an analysis of bilateral relations by two senior retired diplomats who had worked with some of the key players and witnessed some of the moments of high tension and conflict in relations between Islamabad and Delhi. The second takes up an equally important issue - the progress of democracy in the two countries and the factors which have either facilitated or impeded its growth.

India is often characterized as the 'largest democracy' in the world, with an electorate of some 600 million voters who have a track record in recent years for changing governments with great regularity. India is also notable for the remarkable stability of its democratic institutions. There have been fourteen general elections in India since Independence in 1947 and only one brief period of Emergency rule, when the elected government was suspended nationally. Pakistan, on the other hand, has enjoyed far less continuity as a democratic country and has spent approximately half the time since Independence under different forms of military rule. There have been periods of democratic vitality - most notably in the 1970s and 1990s - but these have been relatively short-lived and have given way to military rule. Beginning with General Ayub's assumption of power in 1958, the Pakistan Army has played a very high-profile role in national politics and has provided the country with a number of its presidents, including General Zia-ul-Haq and General Pervez Musharraf.



david page
Why is India is democracy?
Meghnad desai
Why is Pakistan is not a democracy?
aitzaz ahsan

Sample Pages

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