January 24, 2017
this was published by swarajyamag on jan 6, 2017 at https://swarajyamag.com/magazine/thucydides-trap-may-weaken-both-china-and-the-us-golden-opportunity-for-india-to-rise-to-the-top
January 7, 2017
There may be more (or less) to this ‘South Asia’ expert than meets the naked eye
I came across an interesting link this morning, as below. It appears that Christine Fair had a meltdown and she, an associate professor at Georgetown, used unparliamentary language against Asra Q Nomani simply because the latter is a Muslim woman who voted for Trump. That reminded me of a piece I wrote a few months ago about this esteemed character C Fair, but had not published. Perhaps it’s time for it now:
It can be a single word or phrase that gives away the game. In the classic ‘Z’ by Costa-Gavras, quite possibly the best political film of all time, the magistrate investigating a murder is startled by the fact that several suspects use the exact same phrase “lithe and fierce like a tiger”. He realizes that there has been a conspiracy, and the suspects have been coached to use this phrase. In the film, it is an epiphany that illumines the rest of the gripping drama.
In the current case it was a single word: “innocent” replaced by “ordinary”, that provided the epiphany. I refer to an interview and an essay by Christine Fair, said to be an expert on India and Pakistan; she spent years in Pakistan, and is proud of the fact that she can swear rather well in Urdu/Hindi, and knows other languages like Pushto and Dari.
There is a little background. I have been observing this person dispassionately for years with an anthropological interest in that species, the American ‘expert’ on the Indian subcontinent. I must admit to a certain prejudice, especially based on the experiences Indians have had with people like Jeff Kripal, Michael Courtwright, Martha Nussbaum, Wendy Doniger, Robin Raphel, Sarah Caldwell, and Sheldon Pollock, among others. Without going into details, let us say they are not exactly friends of India.
However, when I commented on twitter about Fair, I was told that she was a friend of India. So the positioning has clearly worked on many Indians. I retorted that she was a friend of the #DeepState, which has assets in Pakistan.
My gripe about American ‘experts’ is not new: I was sensitized to this as long ago as my college days, when I got into a public spat with a classmate who pontificated in the school newspaper about his perspectives on India, which to my prejudiced eye were superficial and based on a passing acquaintance with the country.
I pointed out that it was easy to be a helicopter expert who was air-dropped as it were, spent a short time in the country and had no in-depth understanding of the society or the culture, and to pass some judgment. But in all fairness, that classmate had no bad intent: he was merely looking at the ease of doing business in India, which I had to admit is rather spotty. But his facile reasoning for that, I argued, was wrong.
Unlike him, the professional India-watchers such as those I mentioned above are not innocent at all. They usually have an agenda, and seldom is that agenda positive towards India. Though their interests and competencies diverge, they all belong to what is called the American #DeepState: elites who run the US, and whose primary interest is not necessarily the American national interest, but only the elites’ own self-aggrandizement.
Thus I have been observing Christine Fair for long. She occasionally appears in the media, and often on Twitter, with a somewhat opaque modus operandi. She criticizes the Pakistani Army, harshly, and also says rude things about India; this deliberate balance, as well as her airy, imperious dismissals of individuals (such as an auto driver, who, heavens! attempted to fleece her thinking she’s a random white women, and darned if she didn’t show them who’s boss with a stream of first-class invective in Urdu that instantly tamed the wayward fella) are intended to show that she’s a neutral, superior being (she is faculty at Georgetown. In Washington, DC, the seat of #DeepState. And at her age (lots gray hair), she was until recently only an assistant professor per India Today, usually an entry level job. Odd.
I wonder, and I have wondered for some time. Fair has built up this nice positioning of herself as someone with a benign interest in the subcontinent (see, even her name is Fair, and so she must be fair, just like, to take a random example, the South China Sea must belong to China, QED).
Thus, I was not surprised to see a veritable tsunami of appearances in the media by Christine Fair in the wake of the Uri attack. She obviously is a go-to person by many in the Indian mainstream media. I went through her articles carefully, and I got the gist: war is bad, and India should not react militarily to what Pakistan did; the Pakistani Army is bad, very bad, indeed horrible people; but what can you do, India must make a distinction between them and the public there?
Specifically, India must not get into water wars, because that would hurt “innocent Pakistanis” http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/uri-terror-attack-pakistan-india-nuclear-war-christine-fair-terrorism/1/769343.html . That was my ‘Z’ moment: “innocent Pakistanis”. The very same phrase India’s MSM uses to argue against the possible use of the Indus Water Treaty as a weapon, and also against expelling Pakistani artists who are fattening themselves at the trough in India. The fact that Pakistan has been merrily killing “innocent Indians” by the thousands does not seem to enter into Fair’s calculations at all.
Onwards, and the next Christine Fair piece of advice was http://www.openthemagazine.com/article/cover-story/denying-pakistan-the-dividends-of-terror . Long, well written, and recommended on twitter by as astute an observer as Minhaz Merchant. But unfortunately, again the sub-text: “Pak Army bad, blah-blah, very bad indeed, blah-blah, but still India shouldn’t do anything rash, so that ordinary Pakistanis are affected”. (Emphasis mine)
Ah-ha, “innocent” has transmogrified into “ordinary”. See the subtle shift? “Innocent” raises hackles, the canny Fair had concluded, whereas the more neutral “ordinary” would not. But the message remains the same: let it be business as usual with Pakistan.
That is the very same message given by the US State Department: do yet another round of dossier-bombing of the Pakistanis re Uri (never mind that they will gratefully accept all information that identifies for them gaps in their counter-intelligence, as they did with the 26/11 and Pathankot dossiers), and they will merrily continue to send in terrorists.
My hunch about Christine Fair, that she is a #DeepState plant with plausible deniability, is now stronger than ever. I go back to films, this time ‘State of Siege’, another superb political thriller by Costa-Gavras with Yves Montand (coincidentally the murder victim in ‘Z’) playing an American in Latin America, disguised as an agricultural attache, but in reality an undercover anti-terrorism officer. He is kidnapped by the rebels after his cover is blown, tortured and killed. It is based on a real-life case where Tupamaro guerillas in Uruguay captured and killed an American embassy officer.
I am not saying Christine is a military officer or CIA or anything at all, just that there are many ways in which an ‘embedded’ ‘asset’ could be ‘invested’ in India, and have a significant impact on public opinion. And, in the interest of full disclosure, she called me an ignoramus and blocked me on twitter, which doesn’t endear her to me, but neither does it change my view of her as an interesting specimen worth studying keenly. There are many such, including those with Indian names, who carry on in time-honored tradition, and Indians fall for it every time.
1200 words, 28 Dec 2016