American Policy Advice in South Asia: Fatal Flaws

By Moorthy Muthuswamy, February 2004


It has become quite clear that the United States is playing a leading role in both the initiation and to some extent, in setting up the agenda for the ongoing Indo-Pak peace talks and eventual rapprochement between these two nations.

The US State Department, the sponsor of these developments is dependent on policy advice from several scholars based in American Think Tanks. I would like to make an independent evaluation of the outlook of these scholars specializing in South Asia. Such an assessment is badly lacking at the moment and is much needed.

Among the Think Tanks, the South Asia program headed by Ambassador Teresita Schaffer at "The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS)" has the largest program of its kind and has produced volumes of work on conflict resolution in South Asia. Looking at the statements related to Indo-Pak peace talks released from the US State Department, it appears that Amb. Schaffer has played a major role in setting up the agenda it follows.

Flawed Approach

The general approach suggested by various South Asian scholars, including Amb. Schaffer is along these lines: increased confidence building measures between India and Pakistan, much increased/free trade and soft borders. It is hoped that as the economic links increase, the possibility of a conflict decreases between the two nations. In addition, at least on paper, the economic opportunities increase for both by diverting resources away from defense towards investment as well as by the new trade opportunities created. Feels good – or is it?

In reality, this is a half-baked vision because these proposals ignore the long-term impact on India.

I am enclosing below the contents of my exchanges with Amb. Schaffer on January 28, 2004.

Dr. Muthuswamy to Amb. Schaffer:

"If Indo-Pak relations normalize and increased trade happens (you are among the proponents of this idea) between these two nations, the western India is likely to be flooded with Pakistani Muslims.

Question: Did you or your colleagues consider its implications for India and for the rest of South Asia?

I went through several of your past work and I didn't see any evidence of that."

Amb. Schaffer to Dr. Muthuswamy:

"I simply don't believe that western India, or any other part, will be flooded with Pakistani Muslims. At most, a few thousand, as visitors who will cheerfully go home."

I am not enclosing further correspondence with Amb. Schaffer as they do not add anything more to this analysis.

1) This is a very disappointing misstep by Amb. Schaffer, considering that there are already several tens of thousands of Pakistanis in India illegally despite very restrictive contacts between the two nations. This leads one to seriously question her "vision" for South Asia.

Furthermore, I contend that these "conflict resolution" proposals would definitely lead to a massive influx of Muslims from Pakistan into India. Their implications have not at all been adequately discussed by any of these scholars.

Already, India with its normalized relations with Islamic Bangladesh has seen its eastern borders, and beyond, flooded with huge influx of Bangladeshis -- at least 10 million of them. Due to this India is facing a serious threat on the eastern borders and beyond.

With economic divergence between Indian and Pakistan likely to increase in near future and with Pakistani population growth rates likely to remain high, normalization of the relations between India and Pakistan in conjunction with increased trade will invariable lead to one-way transfer of Muslims from Pakistan to India. Pakistanis have been illegally migrating to countries around the world, from Canada – Africa – Turkey – Malaysia to Japan. What is stopping their exodus to India is an adversarial Indian army. If Pakistan’s relations with India were to normalize, India could easily become their favorite destination - given the common culture, language and the presence of their religious compatriots. There will be jihadis too visiting India from Pakistan -- to setup shop.

For an India already struggling from a fast growing indigenous Muslim population that has fallen behind in every measure of progress and is under the grip of fascist Muslim clerics, -- this would be a death sentence.

It is highly unlikely that even Pakistan will be reformed through increased interaction with India, given India’s experience with its own Muslims and the observations that even within the multiethnic, secular and democratic India, there exists no reformed version of Islam.

These ideas are discussed at a greater detail in my previous analysis:


2) Almost none of these scholars appear to have adequately understood the dynamics of Islam that is very intolerant in South Asia -- the massive non-Muslim ethnic cleansing conducted in every Muslim majority area of South Asia.

I was among the first to point this out and study the implications of this tragic dynamics of Islamization of South Asia (, However, from what I can tell, almost all American scholars specializing in this area are yet to realize this or yet to understand its implications.

By missing out on this crucial pattern of behavioral dynamics of Islam in South Asia, it seems these scholars have undermined their ability to provide solid policy making advice to the US government and others.

Then there is Dr. Stephen Cohen of the Brookings, who published recently a book titled "Rising India", while barely discussing the dynamics of a growing Islamic fundamentalism among the Indian Muslim population in determining India’s future.

Another proposal to resolve the Kashmir conflict put forward by Frank Wisner, Nicholas Platt and Dennis Kux calls for free movement of people between the two Kashmir regions and its joint administering by India and Pakistan. This too ignores the dynamics of Islam in South Asia and the impact of soft-borders between India and Pakistan.


Clearly, policy advice on South Asia is in need of fresh minds and ideas. Most of the established American scholars whose formative years were spent at the height of Cold War do not seem to have grasped adequately that India and Pakistan have recently taken to very diverging outlooks toward their future.

It definitely appears that the US State Department’s current long-term vision/proposals for diffusing the Indo-Pak conflict, including Kashmir or even reforming Pakistan are not particularly well-advised. Going ahead with these proposals at this time without an immediate review will be catastrophic for the entire region, India’s future, to the American interests in the region and finally, -- the war on terror.

I would like to present an alternate vision of achieving peace and prosperity in South Asia (

One should view Pakistan and even sections of Indian population as being inflicted with a social disease called Islamic extremism. The right approach here is to quarantine India with respect to Pakistan - the worldwide sponsor of this infection, and eradicate the disease within India and then work to eradicate it in Pakistan and Bangladesh. This should be a win-win situation. However, the act of opening India to Pakistan will lead to this disease further consolidating and expanding into India and eventually destroying it, -- just like the way it is destroying Pakistan and Bangladesh.

(The views expressed here are author’s own. The writer is a nuclear physicist based in America. He is also a director of Indian American Intellectuals Forum, a New York-based non-profit organization. His contact address: