Thursday, June 13, 2002

Immigrants and the Prom
Great article in yesterday's New York Times discussing Immigrants and The Prom. I am glad, that finally there is recognition of the differences in culture that make it difficult for immigrant parents to allow their children to participate in events that are percevied as typically "American." Sure, things like the prom seem harmless, but to the immigrant it is the unkown, or maybe the unfamiliar that is dangerous. Parents like the mother of Nowrin Khana , whether or not they should, think about the possible ramifications back home of their children participating. While this is something that must be overcome, it is no matter, still aprt of the mindset. What is so great about stories like this one is that it lets immigrants, especially those not in places like New York City, know that they are not alone in having to face issues such as these.

"Each day of being an American is an improvisation; each custom calls for examination. Here, even the choice of prom music — American R&B, Hindi hip-hop or salsa — calls for negotiation among cultures."

I think it also show that immigrants, especially those from South Asia, are growing in numbers, which inherently makes it easier for these immigrants to adjust. Susan Sachs, the author of the article suggests some correlation between Bollywood's increasing Westernization to the increasing opennes in the South Asian-immigrants mindset with regards to things like the prom, although I am not too convinced.

"In recent years, imported popular culture, like the Bollywood films that are wildly popular with South Asian immigrants, has helped push the boundaries of acceptable teenage behavior for immigrants.

"I'm stunned when I see Indian films these days," said Annetta Seecharran, the executive director of the South Asian Youth Action group in Queens. "They're totally westernized. They totally embrace the idea of dating and partying. It wasn't anything like that in my day."

Emboldened by those images and the strength of greater numbers, she said, teenagers from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh seem better able to reconcile their identities. Many adopt American rituals like the senior prom as their own cultural right."

India-Pakistan Walking Away from the Brink...for now

There were two editorials today with regards to the India-Pakistan easing of tensions. Michael Igantius in the Washington Post credits the easing of tensions to good U.S. diplomacy. While I agree in part, good diplomacy, high level visits, and strong langauge to both India and Pakistan were beneficial, really good diplomacy would entail that tensions would not again rise. In my estimate, I can see tension rising again, oh in September or October when Musharraff decides he is unable to stop militants from entering across the Line of Control. Ignatius calls the crisis an ethnic one, "The ethnic roots of this crisis remain -- in a Muslim Kashmir that is ruled by a Hindu-controlled India." I tend to disagree, and think of it more as a political issue. It wasn't so much that the Muslims cannot live under Hindu rule, but that central to the Indian state is the ideal of secularism. If Kashmir was to go because it was a Muslim majority state, then other states too might have grounds for secession. Same with Pakistan as its identity is based on being a home for the Muslims of India. Pakistan too has its share of secessionary movements, and well, the fact that Bangladesh exists already disproves Paksitan's claims that it should control all of Kashmir on that basis. The best solution is for the two coutnries to accept the current Line of Control as the International Border. Another great line from Ignatius reads:

"Musharraf, in particular, deserves credit. For my money, he is the most courageous and visionary leader on the world scene today. What Musharraf decided was that, in the end, India and Pakistan were fighting a common enemy in the remnants of al Qaeda and the Taliban that had infiltrated Kashmir. This common enemy was responsible for last December's bombing of the Indian parliament, just as it was responsible for recent bombings of a church in Islamabad and a French group in Karachi. The same common enemy threatened two countries that were on the brink of war.

That insight made all the other diplomatic moves possible. What's more, I'm told by one of Musharraf's close military advisers that the Pakistani president concluded that elements of his own intelligence service, the Inter-Services Intelligence agency, were in part responsible for the rising wave of terrorism that was afflicting both Pakistan and India.

Musharraf recognized that the ISI had helped the Taliban (and its al Qaeda allies) take power in Afghanistan during the 1990s, a decade of political weakness and corruption in Pakistan. After they were driven from power in Afghanistan last fall by the United States, the Taliban and al Qaeda fighters drifted south and east -- into Pakistan and Kashmir -- where they posed a mortal threat to the subcontinent."

I would first tell Ignatius, that I will take his money. Musharraf, who I think has been great for Pakistan, is courageous. But to think that he is being rewarded for stopping State sponsored terror is quite disconcerting. Also, I think it is slighlty naive to think that he [Musharraf] just now realized that the ISI was involved in terror in Kashmir and with Al-Qaeda. Musharraf was instrumental in allowing these groups to operate until September 11. After all he led by example, he led the charge during the 1999 Kargil war. I guess editorial writers don't need to know too much about their topics before they begin to pontificate on them.

Surprisingly, on the other hand, was Nicholas Kristoff's editorial in the New York Times as he does the right thing andcalls everyone out, all the players, for acting foolish in South Asia.

"Everybody here is behaving irresponsibly. Both India and Pakistan are cavalierly playing with nuclear fire and brutalizing the Kashmiris they claim to be championing, while the Bush administration intervenes tardily to defuse crises rather than taking the initiative to prevent them from occurring in the first place. If a new August 1914 is to be definitively averted, President Bush must show continuing interest in the region when it is hot and also when it is not. But judging from his lack of engagement in countries not in the headlines, I wouldn't bet that he will."

Kristoff is right on. Nuclear blackmail by the Pakistanis just scares the world, while the Indians carelessly waste millions of dollars trying to flex conventional force muscle. The United States, concerned only with ITS war on terror, only gets involved when war is imminent, but only to diffuse crises, rather than defuse tensions. While the world is becoming smaller, it seems that the American self interest is still the motivator for all policy direction. I don't know if I am saying this too much, but what happens next time, when the insurgents cross the LOC again, and India cannot take Pakistan's word at face value. What about other issues affecting South Asia, what about HIV/AIDS, economic development, education, literacy? Stability levels could increase in both India and Pakistan if nations will start selling books and vaccines and boycott the sales of military equipment. (yeah that is naive thinking).


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