a) Time for an icebreaker: on India-Pakistan relations

In the late 1960s, shortly after the India-Pakistan war, the official in the Ministry of External Affairs handling the Pakistan desk received a strange request during his meeting with the new Pakistan High Commissioner. “I hope that you would deal with Pakistan as a foreign country,” the High Commissioner told the slightly puzzled Indian official, explaining that the familiarity of Indian officials with both language and culture of Pakistan ran counter to Pakistan’s desire to build their identity as a newly sovereign nation.

Two years apart

While the two countries had been physically partitioned, and borders and check-posts now controlled people from crossing over, the ‘intellectual partition’ of India and Pakistan had not taken place at the time. Decades later, it would be hard for a Pakistani envoy to make such a complaint. India and Pakistan are not just foreign countries for each other, they are practically alien, with little to engage on in various spheres. The “intellectual and emotional partition” of the two countries is even more stark today, exactly two years since Prime Minister Narendra Modi landed in Lahore to attend his then counterpart, Nawaz Sharif’s grand-daughter’s wedding. To begin with, Indian and Pakistani societies have learnt to look away from each other culturally. The process of this partition, which began in the 1950s, when poets and historians began to construct separate histories, is now complete, as Pakistani students learn a language more Arabic than Urdu, of a polity that begins in 1947, and about an ancient history that relates to foreign invaders from the country’s west more than the shared history with its east. On the Indian side, contemporary cultural linkages have been severed, with Abida Parveen and Ghulam Ali no longer able to perform in India, Pakistani actors barred from work in Indian films, and a television network stopping the very popular telecast of Pakistani soap operas. Sporting events are fewer, and there is little “healthy rivalry” when Indian and Pakistani teams do meet: instead a defeat becomes a national disgrace, while a victory is celebrated as a quasi-military conquest. Visas are still granted for pilgrimages on both sides, but for all other travel they are tightly controlled and granted as exceptions to the rule. Seldom have two countries which share language, idiom, music and religion been this closed to each other, including in times of war. Bilateral trade, which had developed a low but steady normal, could be reduced even further now: as Indian development of Chabahar port in Iran circumvents Pakistan by sea, and an air cargo corridor to Afghanistan replaces land cargo entirely. Effectively, India is willing to double its trade costs and spend billions of dollars extra in order block out Pakistan, and Pakistan is willing to risk its trade route to Afghanistan and Central Asia, but won’t allow Indian trade to Afghanistan come through Wagah. The only increased ‘trade’ is that of ‘trading fire’ at the Line of Control (LoC), where Pakistan attempts to push in infiltrators over the LoC into India under covering fire, and Indian troops fire back, taking also a high toll for civilians on both sides. After the 2003 ceasefire had been implemented, villagers on either side of the LoC had returned to their homes and rebuilt schools along the area. Most of that peace has been undone by the past few years of ceasefire violations, according to a study by the United States Institute of Peace called “A Line on Fire”. From 12 ceasefire violations (CFVs) on both sides combined and one civilian casualty in 2006, 2016 saw 51 dead in about 900 CFVs. The data for this year has surpassed those numbers, which includes four Indian Army soldiers killed this weekend. Yet, neither side gives credence to claims of the other. Even after the surgical strikes of September 2016, Pakistan’s government refused to accept India’s detailed account of the cross-LoC action. The discourse on terrorism is even more divided. After the Mumbai attacks of 2008, Pakistan admitted in public statements at least that the perpetrators of the attacks would be brought to justice. Yet in the past three years, the Mumbai trial in Rawalpindi has all but ground to a halt. The Lashkar-e-Taiba’s operations commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi is out on bail, while 26/11 mastermind Hafiz Saeed, out of custody last month, plans to stand for elections in 2018. On the Pakistani side, there’s growing belief that India funds groups such as the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) as well as insurgent groups in Balochistan. Mr. Modi’s public support for the Baloch insurgency during his Independence Day speech last year did not help. The fate of Kulbushan Jadhav, whose release from Pakistani custody in other times may have been decided by mutual negotiation and a possible exchange of personnel, is now in the hands of the International Court of Justice.

Difficult calendar

While both India and Pakistan have recently appointed new High Commissioners to Islamabad and Delhi, respectively, there is very little hope of any fresh initiative at this point. Pakistan heads into its electoral process in a few months, once the Senate elections are done in March and a caretaker government is put in place. By the time a new Prime Minister is in place there, the Indian general election campaign will begin to roll out. Given Mr. Modi’s recent attack on former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for meeting the new Pakistani envoy at a dinner during the Gujarat campaign, and suggesting collusion between the two, it is unlikely that the political atmosphere would allow for even diplomatic niceties to be maintained. Yet, for a number of reasons, it is even more necessary for both sides to stem this intellectual partition today. India has long opposed “third-party interventions”, but the lack of dialogue with Pakistan is imposing just that, with every dispute between the two countries now being taken up at global forums: the United Nations, Financial Action Task Force, International Court of Justice, and World Bank for the Indus Waters Treaty. Second, with the U.S. drawing India into its Afghanistan policy, and China’s stakes in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, the subcontinent is becoming an area of contestation by players bigger than both India and Pakistan. Even in Afghanistan, their interests are being increasingly defined by the coalitional arcs being drawn: with the U.S., India, and Afghanistan ranged on one side; and Russia, China, Iran, Pakistan and the Taliban on the other.

The alphabet soup

India’s decision to stay out of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) meet in Pakistan has also complicated its standing as a regional leader. While alternative arrangements such as The Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC), the Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal (BBIN) initiative and the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) represent some parts of the region, they cannot replace the whole, and the region becomes easier to fragment, as China has managed to do by making inroads into Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and the Maldives. Finally, re-engagement will inevitably follow disengagement at some point, and the growing distance between the people of both countries will be much more difficult for their governments to bridge in the future. Even without bilateral talks, the two sides can explore simple engagements on the environment, medical tourism, energy pipelines and electric grids in the interim. In a world where connectivity is the new currency, and multiple alignments are replacing polar geopolitics, it is hard to justify the disconnected space that New Delhi and Islamabad are hurtling into.

b) Another fodder jolt: on Lalu Prasad’s conviction

Twenty years on, the Bihar fodder scam is still hounding Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Lalu Prasad. In 1997, he had to resign as Chief Minister after being charged with involvement in a conspiracy to fraudulently withdraw money from the treasury to pay non-existent suppliers of livestock feed. In 2013, he was sentenced to a five-year prison term in a case relating to the withdrawal of ₹37 crore from the Chaibasa district treasury. He remains disqualified from electoral contest as a result of that conviction, although he was granted bail by the Supreme Court in December 2013. His conviction on Saturday by a Central Bureau of Investigation court relates to withdrawals worth ₹84.50 lakh between 1994 and 1996 from the Deogarh treasury. As it has been established even in earlier trials that a large-scale scam had taken place in the name of purchasing fodder for cattle, any more convictions in one or more of the many cases spread across Bihar and Jharkhand will come as no surprise. Mr. Prasad had failed to convince the Supreme Court earlier this year that repeatedly trying him in respect of the treasury withdrawals in different districts violated his constitutional protection against double jeopardy. The court has ruled that different transactions ought to be established independently, even if the acts of embezzlement arose out of an overarching conspiracy. As Mr. Prasad awaits his sentence, which will be known on January 3, he is already in jail, along with 15 others. Instead of one, he now has two convictions against his name. He has to wait until a higher court exonerates him in both before he can regain eligibility to contest elections. Mr. Prasad’s political fortunes have been fluctuating. He could take credit for the victory of the grand alliance of the RJD, the Janata Dal (United) and the Congress in the November 2015 Assembly election in Bihar, but that unity was short-lived. It was an allegation that went back to Mr. Prasad’s days as Railway Minister that ruptured the ties between his party and Chief Minister Nitish Kumar of the JD(U). Mr. Prasad and his family members were named in a First Information Report filed by the CBI that claimed that his wife Rabri Devi and son Tejaswi Yadav received a prime piece of property in Patna as a quid pro quo for a contract to develop and run two railway hotels. With Tejaswi Yadav refusing to resign as Deputy Chief Minister, Mr. Kumar quickly switched over to the BJP-led camp, to govern without the RJD’s support. This meant that Mr. Prasad’s influence as the leader of an 80-member legislature party was not as game-changing as it had appeared to be when the Mahagathbandhan was formed as an anti-Bharatiya Janata Party front in 2014. It may be too early to write off Mr. Prasad, who is perceived by some sections as a bulwark against communalism, but as the ghosts of the murky past return, his immediate political future looks bleaker. This jolt may not send him to political oblivion yet, but it may be one from which he will not recover easily.


1) Intellectual

Meaning: Possessing a highly developed intellect.

Example: “You are an intellectual girl, like your mother”

Synonyms: Intelligent, Clever

Antonyms: Stupid, Illiterate

2) Envoy

Meaning: A messenger or representative, especially one on a diplomatic mission.

Example:”The UN special envoy to Yugoslavia”

Synonyms: Representative, Delegate

3) Stark

Meaning: Unpleasantly or sharply clear.

Example:”His position is in stark contrast to that of Curran”

Synonyms: Blunt, Bald

4) Invaders

Meaning: A person or group that invades a country, region, or other place.

Example:”It is a country that has repelled all invaders”

Synonyms: Attacker, Raider

5) Rivalry

Meaning: Competition for the same objective or for superiority in the same field.

Example:”There always has been intense rivalry between the clubs”

Synonyms: Competitiveness, Competition

6) Pilgrimages

Meaning: A pilgrim’s journey.

Example:”He wanted to go on a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela”

Synonyms: Trip, Journey

7) Seldom

Meaning: Not often; rarely.

Example:”Islay is seldom visited by tourists”

Synonyms: Rarely, Infrequently

Antonyms: Often, Frequently

8) Cargo

Meaning: Goods carried on a ship, aircraft, or motor vehicle.

Example:”Transportation of bulk cargo”

Synonyms: Freight, Load

9) Infiltrators

Meaning: A person who secretly becomes part of a group in order to get information or to influence the way the group thinks or behaves.

Example: The infiltrator was identified and killed.

10) Troops

Meaning: Soldiers or armed forces.

Example:”UN peacekeeping troops”

Synonyms: Soldiers, Armed forces

11) Ceasefire

Meaning: A temporary suspension of fighting; a truce.

Example:”The latest ceasefire seems to be holding”

12) Casualty

Meaning: A person killed or injured in a war or accident.

Example: “The shelling caused thousands of civilian casualties”

Synonyms: Victim, Fatality

13) Surpassed

Meaning: Exceed; be greater than.

Example:”Pre-war levels of production were surpassed in 1929″

Synonyms: Excel, Exceed

14) credence

Meaning: Belief in or acceptance of something as true.

Example:”Psychoanalysis finds little credence among laymen”

Synonyms: Acceptance, Belief

15) Perpetrators

Meaning: A person who carries out a harmful, illegal, or immoral act.

Example:”The perpetrators of this horrific crime must be brought to justice”

16) Insurgent

Meaning: A person fighting against a government or invading force; a rebel or revolutionary.

Example: “An attack by armed insurgents”

Synonyms: Rebel, Revolutionary

Antonyms: Loyalist

17) Collusion

Meaning: Secret or illegal cooperation or conspiracy in order to deceive others.

Example:”The armed forces were working in collusion with drug traffickers”

Synonyms: Conspiracy, Connivance

18) Niceties

Meaning: A fine or subtle detail or distinction.

Example:”Legal niceties are wasted on him”

Synonyms: Subtlety, Nuance

19) Contestation

Meaning: The action or process of disputing or arguing.

Example:”Ideological contestation over social policy in the European Union”

20) Coalition

Meaning: The joining together of different political parties or groups for a particular purpose, usually for a limited time, or a government that is formed in this way.

Example: Government by coalition has its own peculiar set of problems.

21) Alignments

Meaning: Arrangement in a straight line or in correct relative positions.

Example: “The tiles had slipped out of alignment”

22) Hurtling

Meaning: Move or cause to move at high speed, typically in an uncontrolled manner.

Example: “A runaway car hurtled towards them”

Synonyms: Speed, Rush

Antonyms: Go slowly

23) Fodder

Meaning: A person or thing regarded only as material for a specific use.

Example: “Young people ending up as factory fodder”

24) Scam

Meaning: A dishonest scheme; a fraud.

Example: “An insurance scam”

Synonyms: Fraud, Swindle

25) Conspiracy

Meaning: A secret plan by a group to do something unlawful or harmful.

Example: “A conspiracy to destroy the government”

Synonyms: Plot, Scheme

26) Conviction

Meaning: A formal declaration by the verdict of a jury or the decision of a judge in a court of law that someone is guilty of a criminal offence.

Example: “She had a previous conviction for a similar offence”

Synonyms: Sentence, Judgement

Antonyms: Acquittal

27) Jeopardy

Meaning: Danger of loss, harm, or failure.

Example: “The whole peace process is in jeopardy”

Synonyms: Danger, Peril

Antonyms: Safety, Security

28) Embezzlement

Meaning: Theft or misappropriation of funds placed in one’s trust or belonging to one’s employer.

Example:”Charges of fraud and embezzlement”

Synonyms: Misappropriation, Theft

39) Awaits

Meaning: Wait for (an event).

Example: “We await the proposals with impatience”

Synonyms: Wait for; Expect

30) Exonerates

Meaning: (Of an official body) absolve (someone) from blame for a fault or wrongdoing.

Example:”An inquiry exonerated those involved”

Synonyms: Absolve, Clear

Antonyms: Charge, Convict

31) Fortunes

Meaning: Chance or luck as an arbitrary force affecting human affairs.

Example: “Some malicious act of fortune keeps them separate”

Synonyms:  Chance, Accident

32) Alliance

Meaning: A union or association formed for mutual benefit, especially between countries or organizations.

Example: “A defensive alliance between Australia and New Zealand”

Synonyms: Association, Union

33) Ruptured

Meaning: Breach or disturb (a harmonious feeling or situation).

Example: “Once trust and confidence has been ruptured it can be difficult to regain”

Synonyms: Sever, Break

34) Quid pro quo

Meaning: A favour or advantage granted in return for something.

Example:”The pardon was a quid pro quo for their help in releasing hostages”

Synonyms: Exchange, Trade

35) Perceived

Meaning: Become aware or conscious of (something); come to realize or understand.

Example: “His mouth fell open as he perceived the truth”

Synonyms: Discern, Recognize

36) Bulwark

Meaning: A person or thing that acts as a defence.

Example: “The security forces are a bulwark against the breakdown of society”

Synonyms: Protector, Protection

37) Murky

Meaning: Dark and gloomy, especially due to thick mist.

Example:”The sky was murky and a thin drizzle was falling”

Synonyms: dark, gloomy

Antonyms: Bright, Sunny

38) Bleaker

Meaning: (Of a situation) not hopeful or encouraging; unlikely to have a favourable outcome.

Example:”He paints a bleak picture of a company that has lost its way”

Synonyms: Unpromising, Unfavourable

Antonyms: Promising, Hopeful

39) Jolt

Meaning: Push or shake (someone or something) abruptly and roughly.

Example: “A surge in the crowd behind him jolted him forwards”

Synonyms: Push, Thrust

40) Oblivion

Meaning: The state of being unaware or unconscious of what is happening around one.

Example:”They drank themselves into oblivion”

Synonyms: Unconsciousness, Insensibility

Antonyms: Consciousness, Awareness

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