Funding Jehadis — Part 3

Some time ago, I had lamented India’s funding of Pakistani jehadi groups and then posted a followup to that. In a comment to the former post, Tanveer wrote a comment:

Atanu: You are a Phd in economics, I am sure you know enough how the world works. There isnt always a meaningful reasoning to everything more so in the world of politics. BY your logic since India itself spends so much on nuclear weapons it has no right to recieve any kind of aid. And since the US spends more on military than the rest of the world put together it has no right to talk of peace. Yet it also funds the UN and then bypasses it when it suits her. No country that spends on military should have recieved any aid during the devestating tsunami. But thats not the way the world works. As for your comments on muslim invaders you should remember “An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind” Also, if we are so concerned about our past we should shut down the british high commission . At least till the british arrived india was still the richest country. Just by changing the name of the missile doesnt change its character. Be it Prithvi or ghauri they’ll still kill an equal number of people.

One really does not have to have a PhD in economics to know how the world works. Anyone past puberty and of average intelligence is equipped to figure out how the world works given a bit of pondering. The basic principle upon which the whole argument hinges I stated in the first line of the post: Money is fungible.

There are limited resources available to any entity, be they an individual or a nation state. It is a matter of choice which uses these resources are employed in. If the entity chooses to waste resources into destructive activities, there is no moral ground for anyone to promote those by providing additional resources to the chooser. It is a shortsighted ethically unsupportable act. As long as a country is wasting resources arming itself to wreak havoc on another country, that country does not deserve any sympathy or material help, irrespective of the circumstances. I would apply this principle to all states, but I would be especially vehement in my objection when it comes to terrorist states.

By this standard, I would argue that India should not be offered, nor should it accept, any material help from any other state, as long as India is spending any resources stockpiling weapons of mass destruction. I am quite aware of the fact that India lives in a dangerous neighborhood and needs nuclear weapons to deter its nuclear-armed neighbors who seeks its destruction. India has to do what it has to do–stockpile nuclear bombs and missiles to deliver them as a deterrence. But as a matter of principle, India should not accept any charity from any other nation.

More importantly, India should not offer charity to nations that use their limited resources to arm themselves with weapons for India’s destruction. There are two reasons for this, the first of which is that money is fungible: what India gives to Pakistan–even if ear-marked for feeding the poor–is indistinguishable from a gift for Pakistan to employ and equip a huge army of jehadis to kill innocent average Indians. This is unconscionable and irresponsible. The reason this sort of insanity happens is simple. Those who are incharge of this insane magnanimity are shielded from the effects of their folly. The politicians are not the ones who will have to pay with blood, sweat and tears when the next jehadi terrorists–funded by the Indian politicians–strike and kill by the scores in India. It is a sad and lamentable fact that the politicians have security (unlike the average guy on the street) and are immune to the consequences of their actions.

The other reason for my opposition to state-directed charity is based on the recognition that charity should be voluntary. If I pick your pocket and then even if I give the proceeds to charity, there is no virtue in it, is there? It gets worse if I take your money under the threat of violence and then give the money to someone you may not wholly approve of. That is in effect what the government of India is doing when it takes tax payer’s money and gifts a part of it to Pakistan. I think that the people of India should have the freedom to decide which charity they wish to support. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, as a citizen of India, is entirely free as much as the next guy to take his money and gift it to Pakistan. But it is absolutely immoral and unprincipled of him to take my money and give it to Pakistan. He did not ask my permission and even without asking it is easy to figure out that I would not approve of his taking my money to fund Pakistani jehadis. I am sure that the Prime Minister is capable of this simple thought experiment: if he were to ask the 400 million Indians who live on less than $1 a day if it is alright with them if $25,000,000 were given to fund terrorism, what does he imagine their response would be?

With all due respect to the Prime Minister of India, I think it is totally stupid and asinine and I hold him responsible for such blatant idiocy. You can quote me on this one.

I should hasten to add that this is nothing new. Indian prime ministers have had a particular penchant for their asinine policies with regard to Pakistan. It starts off with Nehru (ack-poo!) and his refering the Pakistani invasion of Kashmir to the UN. It continues with his daughter Indira not negotiating the mess that he father created when she held all the chips following the humiliating defeat of the Pakistani army in Dhaka and the taking of over 90,000 Pakistani prisoners of war. Then Vajpayee continues that tradition so well-associated with Prithviraj Chauhan. He goes on a “bus yatra” and is amply rewarded with a knife in his back planted by General Musharraf. No, I take that back. He is not the one who got a knife stuck on his back–it was a thousand poor soldiers who died in the icy wastes of Kargil who paid the price. Vajpayee was safe and comfortable at home, just as all his predecessors were. Neither Nehru (ack-poo!) nor his kin paid for his Himalayan Blunder. It was the poor sods who enlist in the Indian army that pay with their lives. In the meanwhile, Nehru (ack-poo!) sheds crocodile tears while listening to Lata Mangeshkar sing “Aye Mere Vatan Kay Logo“.

Economists always stress that as long as we get the incentives right, the world will work out the right solution to any given problem. I sincerely and totally believe in that. The problem of modern state warfare is a problem of incentives. How eager would Bush the Idiot have been to attack Iraq if his children were among the first to be sent to Iraq? How eager would the US Senate be to authorize invasion and wars around the world if the necessary requirement for being a senator was that you have to have your children in the military? How eager would any government be to wage war if the requirement was that to be in government, you have to have all your children in the military serving at the front? It is only because the politicians and often the generals don’t have anything to lose that they wage wars.

Coming back to Tanveer’s comment: yes, no nation that is engaged in arming itself against any threat is incapable of helping its own citizens when faced with a tsunami or an earthquake. If Pakistan wishes to spend five billion dollars ($5,000,000,000) buying F16s from the US and then go about with a begging bowl for a hundred million dollars to provide relief to its citizens, it is a pathetic hypocrite and scorn should be heaped upon it rather than pity and money.

I have always been amazed at the well-meaning stupidity that most NGOs display when they beg around the world for a bit of money to help the needy and do nothing about the insane waste of resources by militaries around the world. I have volunteered for some of these–and yes, it was stupid of me. In one organization, hundreds or even thousands of volunteers in the US would spend enormous amounts of time raising money. Their take? About a few hundred thousand dollars. And they would congratulate themselves for it. That same time could have been spent in lobbying the powers that be to reduce military expenditure, to think beyond war, and that would have resulted hundreds of millions of dollars–not a hundred thousand–being available for education or whatever. But no. Stupidity is the defining characteristic of the charities that work to raise a few dollars while not working to change the dysfunctional system.


I took a break from blogging. The primary reason is that I am totally disheartened. Of late I have been thinking that the system is so badly flawed that there is no way that any good will come out any attempt to change it. It is a vicious circle: the government is bad because the people from which the government is drawn are ignorant and stupid. And given a bad government, there is no way that the people will find a way out of their ignorance and stupidity. I am sure that some readers with over-active PC sensibilities will be offended by my characterization of the majority as ignorant and stupid. But where is the argument that will persuade me that the majority are not stupid and ignorant. What accounts for the sorry scheme of things? Surely there has to be some reason. India has 250 million who are below a poverty line which is so low that all it requires is that you can purchase 2000 calories a day. Imagine: if all you have was about seven rupees a day to buy just 2000 calories, you are above that poverty line. You are, by that definition, not poverty stricken. And yet there are a quarter billion people, the size of Western Europe, who have less than that in India. How did we get here? When India gained independence, there were only 350 million people, half of which were poverty stricken. So after all these years of advancement, growth, progress, poverty alleviation schemes, amazing Nehruvian (ack-poo!) socialistic schemes, we have increased the number of the abjectly poor by about 75,000,000. What was the reason if not the collective inadequacy of the nation? Were the leaders stupid? Or was it the people who consistently vote these thugs into power?

The same policies that have brought us to this unimaginably pathetic pass, there is more of it coming down the pike. And why not? The incentive structure has not changed. The politicians and bureaucrats have the same incentives to continue implementing the same failed policies. The economy loses but they don’t. Until that incentive structure is changed, there is no hope for India.

I am sorry that I am unable to sign a happy song and talk glowingly of the amazing Indian consumer and how that growth is going to transform India. Those who join that chorus are generally anaesthesized. Perhaps I should also swallow a happy pill. But until then, I will write a bit more about how to bring the incentives of the policy makers in line.

Author: Atanu Dey


31 thoughts on “Funding Jehadis — Part 3”

  1. Hey Atanu,
    Your concluding remarks more than pain me! Do you think your writings here have no effect on anything or anyone? I would bluntly refuse it, except for the fact that your effect may not immediately reflect on Indian politics or our netas and babus. I have gained so much insight into many of our economy, politics and laws through your writings and many a times, I started searching and reading more after reading your posts. I often asked my friends too to read your posts. I am sure there would be many such souls across India who wish for a better-ruled country along with you, and who would for sure read your writings. you have added fuel to already burning rage in us for a better country to ‘live-in’. Please continue writing (if you have spare time) so that we get more info and exposure to our economies and economics..
    And regading the emerging India, though it may be true that a few are climbing the ladder faster, there are millions who don’t even have access to this ladder.. first thing is to make easy access for them to the ladder and then aiding them in climbing. I understand that you must be very exhausted after writing so much about our politicians and policies, but you could write about some concepts in Economics which could help understand economics easier… We the youth need to learn such things (and before that, unlearn what we learnt at school and college!! 🙂 )


  2. I second venkat’s opinion. Please keep sharing your thoughts. I am an avid reader and have shared your views with a lot of friends. Your blog is definitely an n-ary tree of knowledge propogation and left uncontrolled, the effects can be phenomenal.


  3. I agree with the essence of your argument yet my heart goes out to the thousands of POK families that have been devastated. But I do see your point.

    Atanu’s response: I think that the thousands of families who lost their dear ones feel the same sort of pain that is felt by the families of those who get maimed and killed by Pakistani sponsored terrorism. For a moment, let us also recall that the ethnic cleansing of Kashmiri Pundits was done with the sponsorship of Pakistan. But then who cares about people who are meek enough to quitely leave their homes and wander as refugees in outside their home state. If these displaced people had taken to large-scale death and destruction, the Government of India would have bent over backwards to appease them.


  4. Atanu – you have no idea how important your opinions are to readers like me. You are doing a sterling job of influencing young Indians – and when we reach critical mass India will be transformed.

    It may take some time – it might not even happen within our lifetimes. But please don’t give up…


  5. I thought you were down due to some viral fever. Dont be disheartened.

    Think about where our soceity was in the 18th century. We have banned Sati, untouchability etc. We have come a long way through history. We have moved from a land of snake charmers to a land of clercs.

    Nothing lasts forever – be it glory or shame; poverty or richness. Somehow everything is destroyed.


  6. Whoa Atanu,

    That was quite a rant, you were definitely on a roll. But jokes aside, your pain is understandable and insights like that are not easy when you know that the system is so dense. But despite the obtuseness of the majority, please continue to write and inspire people like us, whom you give so much food for thought. It might provide sufficient insight to galvanize some future generation into action.

    Yes, I agree that the US is ethically bankrupt, Pakistan is blatantly parasitic and India pathetically stupid. In a larger perspective, we as a species are potentially self-destructive and stupid not to make the best of what we have. That is our collective karma.




  7. Nice post as usual. I hope your spirits are up (or, at least higher) by the time you check comments. Although I empathize with the majority of your frustrations, there is one thing that jumps out: It would hardly be efficient for Mr. Singh to ask his constituents for permission (via referendum, I suppose) before making decisions. I suppose a natural rebuttal is that your argument applies to important issues such as aid. While much of your readership (myself included) would agree, who decides what is truly important? Don’t we afford some flexibility (and, for better or worse) and discretionary decision-making in these matters to the individuals for whom we vote? Ah, but do we really vote for them? Perhaps corruption is so widespread that the wrong guy or gal always ascends to power. Or, as you said, the majority is stupid and by definition will gravitate towards a dumbass of greater proportions! Anyway, I don’t mean to argue that we should just go along with anything our leaders do because we voted for them, but we can’t vote for someone and expect to be involved in every single issue — what one person finds trivial another would die for. If enough people would die for it, then it’s worth pursuing? How to reconcile?! In any case, this is just peripheral, stream-of-thought rambling. Now I’m in a bad mood! Keep up the thought-provoking work.


  8. Atanu check numbers. Pakistan wanted USD 5.4billion in aid for earthquake response And it did get a majority of that throught subsidized intereset loans. They deffered F-16 purchases but sooner or later the’ll get them.
    So mussharaf did get his MilF (money i’d like to funge) and officialy he got 25 mill from india.
    BTW there are some reports suggesting that pakistanis want another 10billion from US the euphimism was that it would go to social programs to stop terrorist breeding activity. (so 1st they deny it that it exists but they will kill it if you pay them and ofcourse throw in osama dead or alive)
    I dont buy your arguement for india not accepting any aid. Since there is some MilF in the world that some SAP is willing to part with i dont care where it comes from as long as it does not come from me.
    If aid money helps to develop nuke, roads, rails, ports good if it makes a politico fat and sated so that he funges it all thats ok too(its going back to the larger world economy).

    Atanu’s response: Yes, Pakistan did defer the purchase of F16s. By a few days. The first two F16s will arrive in Pakistan this week.


  9. I d second to your thoughts about ignorant stupids and overzealous PC enthusiasts. There are enough of them with the mouse and keyboard wrecking havoc!

    Don’t just leave the blogging yet. I too am cynical about the blogs making any tangible difference. Partly because of the audience we tend to attract and partly because the powers that be are totally immune to any valuable feedback or suggestions. The worst off is the priveleged beareucracy which feeds on likes termites on dead wood. I really wonder whether we really have “intelligent” politicians.Well, till the time it happens, let’s go on a roll and trash them!

    As for the “gift” to Pakistan, I believe that we are playing to the gallery and indulging in politics of appeasement. F*** the “seculars”.

    In the hindsight and off the tangent a bit. Do you remember how much “controversy” was raised by Murli Manohar Joshi’s idea to “reduce fees” in IIM’s. The CII, NASSCOM, ASSOCHAM, “leaders”, “intellegentsia”, “seculars” were “aghast at the suggestion”. Now Arjun Singh is talking of RESERVATIONS for the “minorties”- no WORD of it anywhere. No mention in the editorials, no mention in news channels and worse off still, the ones who are affected, the management students from IIM’s- no word from them.

    Intelligence indeed. Surely, if we want to create a space and stimulate debate, we have an uphill task to make the generation unlearn their follies. By virtue of oppurtune circumstances, this responsibility has landed on you! Don’t loose hope as yet!


  10. Atanu – Your pessimism is not only justified, it’s needed. It’s needed to keep us on our toes, to bring about that discomfort that one gets when one has a lot to do. The media created psedo-feel-good-factor is making us too relaxed


  11. Hi Atanu,

    An aid package is perhaps the simplest of financial interchanges between countries for me to absorb: a hand-out with no strings attached. I see your fungible point very clearly. But where does one draw the line when allowing trade with an ‘enemy’ state?


  12. Good post. and rant.
    Both on our “Pakistan Policy” and on our economics.

    The problem with our current incentive structure is that while the economy loses, the people in power gain personally from it. Gain a lot, indeed.

    Looking forward to more posts on re-aligning on the economy.


  13. do you seriously believe that your arguments are valid???

    Atanu’s reponse: That appears to be the case, doesn’t it? I have not seen anyone refute it. After all, it is a simple proposition that money is fungible and giving money to Pakistan is not in India’s best interests.


  14. Atanu,
    I read an article in Fortune about ‘Attack of the blogs’. Bloggers destroy image of a product and/or company. Companies have to counter attack or be careful about their products. So, blogs are affecting something somewhere in the world. Maybe India’s path to become a well-governed and nice place to live-in country starts with your blog, you never know.
    I always wonder that if all things in the world can be changed with intelligence why not a country’s political scene. India has many brilliant minds like you, which can unite and form a plan. Create a political party of educated people (atleast graduates), have a plan to be in power in next 10 years. Once in power work intelligently, unlike the acck-poo people in power since past 50 years?



  15. Atanu,
    Good to see you’ve recovered and welcome back to blogging! I share your sense of frustration with the ‘system’ that has enabled few to rise while the abject millions continue to descend/wallow in dismal poverty. One can only hope that your thoughts, ideas & opinions can influence the blogging community to make a difference, in whatever little way we can!


  16. i find the arguments very silly. there is no consensus on the argument that security of a country is not needed. i personally do think that the biggest problem with the world today is the current trend of the arm race. india alone cannot do anything about it. it has to acquire arms as long as US, Pakistan, China etc does so. that doesn’t mean that India is a rogue country and it doesn’t deserve any positive relationship with the rest of the world. just because a person has one shortcoming, he is not dispelled from the society. i don’t believe every country that invests in security should never recieve any charity – its so silly. India donating for pakistan’s cause is equally silly though. donations are done when there is surplus stored in the banks, not when a big part of the population are below poverty line.
    the argument that donating pakistan for earth-quake relief is equivalent to funding their terrorist groups is also very irrational. whatever pakistan may use the donating money for, they *have* to use some money for relief operations. india would assume that, that is the money which it has donated. when you lend me some money in my crisis, you don’t check whether i have any bad habits as alcohol drinking or betting before you do so, even if ultimately i use the money you lent in those very activities.


  17. Ha ha ha. Now it is proved that you are a normal human being. I previously thought you were insane, ranting all the time about India’s development.

    Jokes aside, you must watch one of those Tamil movies , where the Hero takes on decadent society by butchering all and sundry. It provides you some comic relief!!



  18. Tabrez

    the argument that donating pakistan for earth-quake relief is equivalent to funding their terrorist groups is also very irrational. whatever pakistan may use the donating money for, they have to use some money for relief operations

    well you yourself suspect that only some of the money will be used for that activity. What about the rest?
    But that is not the issue many of us have with helping pakistani’s out.
    The relationship with pakistan is at best going to be that of a nuisance with sporadic shelling to an all out war.
    So why the f/(k should my government aid them in any way.
    If BJP,RSS or shivsena had any balls they should have made this a bigger issue.


  19. Hey Atanu,

    The first step to resolution is discussion and we seem to be doing that. What can we do to take these ideals and transform it into action? If we stir up discussion and awareness, then we have a moral obligation to see it through to the end.

    Keep at it, do what you do…and when time and opportunity intersect, things will start happening.



  20. Atanu,
    I just have to say this from Astavakra Gita, a very favorite text of mine. I believe it is yours too:

    The liberated person is free from desires everywhere. Such a one neither blames, praises, rejoices, is disappointed, gives nor takes. 17.13

    The liberated person is self-possessed in all circumstances and free from the idea of “done” and “still to do.” Such a one is the same wherever and whenever, without greed. Such a one does not dwell on what has been done or has not been done. 18.98


  21. Your nature is the consciousness, in which the whole world wells up, like waves in the sea. That is what you are, without any doubt, so be free of disturbance. 15.7


  22. I thought about your post for a while before choosing to write this comment. My opinion, not entirely similar to yours, follows.

    I think,

    1. It is a well established fact that terrorist training camps operate in Pakistan. There was an amazing BBC documentary that I saw on BBC1 when I was in the UK. I’ll try to find the link and share here. I have also read some reports that suggest that India knows the exact nature and location of such camps in Pakistan. Dictator Mush is frank in admitting the state’s moral support for their cause.

    2. It is a well known fact that Dictator Mush was the architect of the Kargil incursion by militants.

    3. Democracy is suppressed in Pakistan. Take the number of extensions (unconstitutional) Dictator Mush has taken. The current one will run out only in 2007. Merge this with another fact – India has had wars with Pakistan only when Pakistan was ruled under a dictatorship.

    4. 9/11 forced a volte-face in Pakistan’s attitude, changing its stance to now appearing to be fighting against global terror. Thats an oxymoron-ic attitude bigger than any that the world has faced in a long time.

    Now to think of India’s policy during this period, it does appear to be extremely naive. Despite all the above facts, which are clear and concise and well known throughout teh Indian establishment, we choose to do charity.

    However, the point that you discuss Atanu, is not entirely black or white. There is the question of the intangible benefit in terms of people to people contact, not ignoring the fact that many relatives, or friends, are shared across the border (including my own, my family migrated at the time of partition).

    Charity cannot be run like a cold-hearted business enterprise, weighing the pros and cons. Charity stems from emotional roots and the Indian culture historically, has been a strong supporter of that fact.

    What Singh is doing, is merely succumbing to this cultural trait. Naive it may seem, but if it works, the benefits might be immense.

    However, my position on this, is that we should not have given direct aid, only access to international aid agencies, who would be keen on routing their supplies through the Indian side.

    It is not easy milk to churn, this.


  23. Atanu:

    Good to see a post from you. Looks like you did some strong thinking while suffering with your fever.

    First, let me add to the plethora of comments that your thinking is important. I personally can vouch for that. In the one year I spent working with you and the continued friendship I found in you has changed me forever. It will continue to do so in my life. I treasure your connection.

    I was talking to a friend of mine today and he said how here in Australia we are not better off then before and was comparing to Greece where it would be ok to finish work at 1, have some lunch, sleep and come back in the evening to talk and think with people.

    Your blog is a way for that to happen. You are providing an opportunity for a lot of young people to think, to discuss, to converse.

    It is an important exercise as you would accept. Thinking is important.

    Can we link this blog and its thinkers to any specfic event? No.

    Can we link any change to thinking? Yes.

    Your blog and its followers will make a difference. Its just that it is not easy to quantify it. So cheer up and continue blogging.

    We all do our small part in the world. You are doing yours. is an important part of this “contribution”.



  24. I too thought you were down with fever and thats why no blogging.

    You are dead right on the “vicious circle”.
    >>” It is a vicious circle: the government is bad because the people from which the government is drawn are ignorant and stupid. And given a bad government, there is no way that the people will find a way out of their ignorance and stupidity.”


  25. I think the world is still going on because of humanity. I really agree with you: Phd wont make any difference. Pakistan does not have democracy and is ruled by a millitary dictator. But they are worried of giving freedom to Kashmir. Give us a break,


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