Oct 2021


Exposing the dirt

Interesting article in your September issue by the renowned journalist-turned politician M.J. Akbar (‘Who wants the peace of the graveyard?’).  He has outlined how the Pakistani establishment brought the Taliban to power in the 1990s and it is again playing a dirty role in Afghanistan. Panjshir could not have been captured from the valiant Tajiks but for the air support provided by Pakistan. He very rightly says ‘Do we want the peace of the garden or the peace of the graveyard? A graveyard will not remain still; it will keep expanding its boundaries.’

But I don’t understand what he means by saying that the world has a choice, and the time for a decision is running out. What choice does the world have? Should Afghanistan be invaded and bombed? Should innocent people pay for the crimes of Taliban gangsters? That is what America did for the last 20 years.

Also, Akbar does not talk about the very fact that thousands and thousands of Afghan youth were brainwashed and armed and trained to fight the democratic Soviet-supported Afghan regime by the Americans, with the Pakistanis providing their madrasas and covert services, making tonnes of dollars. The then Afghan regime was involved in development work, women’s education and was distributing large tracts of lands owned by the Afghan landlords to common peasants – all of which were resented by the conservative tribal chiefs and their warlords.

In contrast, India has done very good work in Afghanistan, keeping away from the local conflict and concentrating on development diplomacy. Asian Affairs has published articles about the positive attitude of the Indian government, although the Taliban gangsters don’t care a damn. But it is good that you are exposing the dirty role of Pakistan.

Hiren Desai

San Francisco

Terrifying descent into silence

It was both saddening and heartening to read the interview given to Asian Affairs by an unnamed student in Hong Kong (‘Living in fear: Hong Kong after the clampdown’, September issue). The need for anonymity speaks volumes about the deteriorating freedoms on the island since the imposition of the National Security Law last June, yet despite this, people continue to speak out where it is still possible.

For how long will that be, though?The Civil Human Rights Front (CHRF), the leaderless Hong Kong protest coalition that organised peaceful democracy rallies two years ago,recently announced it is disbanding, as it is unable to continue in the face of China’s draconian crackdown on dissent in the city.

The situation is truly terrifying. China is simply reshaping Hong Kong in its own totalitarian image – as one fears it will also do in Taiwan, should the planned so-called ‘reunification’ go ahead – and it is no exaggeration to say that dissenters (described as‘disloyal’ or ‘unpatriotic’ and portrayed as part of a foreign plot to destabilise China) are being purged.

It was interesting to read the student say they have ‘grown more distant from people who hold different political opinions to me’ – something we in the West know well, in the aftermath of Brexit, Trump, arguments for and against Covid lockdowns and vaccines, etc. But to hear it is ‘not because I can’t take various views; it is because I don’t know whether that person will report me or not’ throws everything into perspective.

Maybe it is time for us all to embrace and debate our differences, appreciating that, unlike some, we can do so in safety.

Rachel Strong


Poison in paradise

It was a pleasant surprise for a person like me to read an insightful articleon the Maldivesin Asian Affairs online magazine (‘Endangered paradise’, September issue). I live in Maléand am worried about the poison of Islamic fundamentalism being spread among innocent people – what is correctly described as a ‘toxic cocktail of Jihadi Islam’. The worst thing is that our leaders, too, are playing with fire.

We have very close ties with India, both cultural, educational and economic. Most of our exports go to India. We have benefited from so many schemes and scholarships provided by the Indian government. I too completed my masters at Madras University and was very well looked after by the Chennai people.

The main forces being these jihadis are criminal elements. They want to destroy our beautiful paradise on Earth and turn it into hell. Thanks for drawing the attention of the world to our problem.


Malé, The Maldives


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