After a Phd from King's College, London, she has worked on issues varying from military technology, defense decision-making, nuclear deterrence, arms procurement, arms production to civil-military relations in South Asia.
The first woman and civilian appointed as the Director of Naval Research with the Pakistan Navy, she has written for various international journals like Jane's Defence Weekly and the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists. , besides several papers on on small arms and light weapons proliferation and the problems of governance.
In an exclusive chat with rediff readers, she discussed the implications of US President George W Bush's visit to the subcontinent. As for India and Pakistan, 'what will help is not merging the two countries but redrawing the map for the entire region,' she argued.
krish asked, Dr Siddiqa, how credible is General Musharraf's assertion that without him, the mad mullahs will take over pakistan?
Ayesha Siddiqa answers, First, I don't agree that Pakistan will be captured by the mad mullah. Musharraf is a beneficery of this image. However, this strategy is bound to be counter productive and actually strengthen the mullah. It is complete insanity
bimal asked, Dr Siddiqa, what has china offered to pakistan when he visited china on energy matter
Ayesha Siddiqa answers, Nothing substantial was offered. However, the visit primarily underscores the fact that Pakistan and China have a relationship. Depending on how regional geo-politics evolves, this relationship could acquire additional colors
krish asked, Maam, does Pakistan see the sudden India-US bonhomie as a threat?
Ayesha Siddiqa answers, it is not the bonhomie that is worrying. It is the capability that India will acquire that worries the strategic community.
aa asked, Hello Ayesha, Your comments on fighter jets offer?
Ayesha Siddiqa answers, which offer are you talking about. The US has been offering aircraft to both India and Pakistan. If I were India, I would be careful accepting the offer. Developing a conventional weapons dependence on the USD is not a good idea. India could learn from pakistan's experience. There is far more that India could do through a number of other ways
krishna asked, Is Bush is supporting india or pakistan?
Ayesha Siddiqa answers, Bush is noth supporting India or Pakistan. He is focusing on his strategic objective. He needs India on board against China, and now an ally against Iran. This logic makes Pakistan less consequential for Bush
Jay asked, Maam, What do u say about the indirect reference of Condi Rice that Pakistan get nuclear tech from China?
Ayesha Siddiqa answers, well, is Condi creating a logic for giving nuclear technology to India. I suppose so. She is making a case for giving nuclear technology to india. I see her statement purely in that context. The fact that China and pakistan have a startegic link is an open secret
Nukeem asked, Hi Ayesha: What factors need to come into play for it to be in Pakistan's long term interest to make peace with India?
Ayesha Siddiqa answers, I could turn the question around and say what would it take for India to make peace with pakitan. I think things are moving, thought at a slow pace
DSudhindra asked, Hi Ayesha When Bush n Dr. Singh propsed the nuclear deal from WASHINGTON last year, Pakistan said it too wanted a similar deal as it too faces an energy crisis. My question is Did Pakistan not face an energy crisis before the Nuclear deal offered to India? Was the crisis developed only after the deal was announced?
Ayesha Siddiqa answers, a strategic realist or someone familiar with that kind of a paradigm will understand that nuclear power for energy and similar arguments are made to gain access to favorable terms of technology transfer. how else would Pakistan justify its demand for wanting what is offered to India. Of course, energy demands were always there but, obviously, it is not just to get access to alternative sources of energy. The India-US deal does not bode well for Pakistan politically
krish asked, Dr Siddiqa, given the political situation in Pakistan, do you think the people should get reconciled to military rule?
Ayesha Siddiqa answers, It is never a good idea to reconcile with the idea of military rule. I think it is unfortunate that we have to deal with military in power. I agree that things don't look very rosy at the moment. I think that at the moment there is no chance for Pakistan to get rid of military rule. People are tired but there is lack of action.
Ravi asked, Your opinion on Pakistan running a Nuclear Black Market behind the scenes thru Dr. A.Q.Khan as puppet?
Ayesha Siddiqa answers, what could be an opinion on this except that it was highly irresponsible.
Ravee asked, Ms Agha, Why is Pakistan so skeptical about grabbing opportunities of trade with India while China is aggressively wooing India? Wouldnt Pakistan's loss be China's gain?
Ayesha Siddiqa answers, Such slow pace is natural in an environment where policymaking is determied by the military and its cronies. There is sufficient hope in certain circles in pakistan regarding opening up, but the lobbies that control the governemnt are careful on the trade issue. Also, the discussion is currently stuck due to India's subsidies to some of its industries
Rishi asked, with the current stats and happening dont you think that what Nostra Damas said that World War will errupt on 2008 and all muslims willbe united , there will be holy war against the eastern countries. it is true?
Ayesha Siddiqa answers, This is really a far fetched idea regarding muslims getting united. 2008 is definitely not a possibility. However, Muslims are increasingly feeling threatened and taking recourse to actions which makes it appear as if they are all joining hands
Ravee asked, Ms Agha, your answer to Nukeem's question, is it representative of the mindset of most of the people in Pakistan? Why does everyone in Pakistan hate India so much? India should be the victim as Kargil shows. In fact its the benevolent neighbour as the earthquake relief shows !
Ayesha Siddiqa answers, No, people do not hate India. They feel threatened the same way as people in Sri lanka, Bangladesh or Nepal. I believe that we honestly need to sit down and discuss our problematic relations. Not just india and Pakistan, but all states of the region
mm71 asked, Why can't Pakistan leave us alone & let us live in peace?
Ayesha Siddiqa answers, I hope you will genuinly try to understand the answer. Yes, pakistan was responsible fpr Kargil and before that the military action in 1965 leading to a war. However, this is part of our history. I do not necessarily suppiort the policy but I am trying to understand this behaviour as much as anyone else. Smaller states will always try to respond to a bigger state. Let me remind you of the fact that India was involved in training the Mukti Bahini and later the LTTE. Both terrorist organizations. Other states also complain about Indian policy. So, here is not just the issue of one country leaving India in peace. The geo-political scene is far more complex.
murli asked, Hi Ayesha, Firstly thanks for coming in. Also, being a techie and an enterpreneur myself, I am concerned that India is bowing to terms andconditions of US arm supplies, rather than working on joint venture setups like it is negotiating with Russia, example of Brahmos. What are your opinions on how leaders should take this into consideration to build up our indegenious technologies.
Ayesha Siddiqa answers, Indigenous capability is good. I think you need to work on offsets. This is truely the way for developing a set of capabilities. Clearly, the record is that both India and pakistan have not gained a lot from the existing transfer of technology agreements. There are greater advantages in offset egreements that allow the overall technological base to grow
Ravi asked, Don't u think Pakistan is acting copy-cats to whatever India does towards self growth? The only difference being Indian growth attracts global players, while Pakistan is running behind the same!
Ayesha Siddiqa answers, yes, to a certain extent we have this problem of apping India. Counter-productive. But then, you should feel happy about it that we are copying you and not feel uncomfortable.
a_kidambi asked, What do you mean by saying "I could turn the question around and say what would it take for India to make peace with pakitan". Who wants to keep the kashmir issue burning by supporting terrorism? Who's national mission is it to get kashmir by hook or crrok?
Ayesha Siddiqa answers, well if there is no other option than keeping the 'pot boiling'?
MaheshL asked, Dr.Ayesha,If Bush is so concerned about Iran,what factors can India Contribute to him?
Ayesha Siddiqa answers, Bush actually wants all nuclear weapons states on board to push the case for not supporting Iran's activities. India understands that havoijg another nucolear weapon state in the region will not help. The US-India partnership is a significant counterweight. I wonder if you saw the tv clips of Bush-Singh meeting. Bush was trying to get his arm around Manmohan Singh to make a point that India and the US were buddies. This image or body language is not just meant for Indians or Americans but for other regional and extra-regional states as well.
bushlover asked, Why does Pakistan still compare itself with India? Does it not realize how far behind it is in all areas? The only thing Pakis are good at is International Terrorism while India is making waves as an Information Technology Superpower.
Ayesha Siddiqa answers, the same way that India compares itself with China. This game is played by all, all the time
smomaya asked, Ayesha, do you think that the current deal with US will hamper our relations with pakistan?
Ayesha Siddiqa answers, not necessarily.
rajesh asked, Ayesha whats your view on Pakistan handling the Nuclear weapons , we hear lot about the Mr.Khan and his activities which are exposed ? Do you think that after seeing all these consequences US should would do similar role which it played with india
Ayesha Siddiqa answers, I am not suggesting that the US offer such a deal to islamabad or will offer similar terms in the future.
MaheshL asked, Dr.Siddiqa, Can India can rise as a super power by the Nuclear Technology development, i think we should concentrate in different sectors, by collaborating with many developed countries other than US.
Ayesha Siddiqa answers, Agree! India needs to do much more than just build nuclear technology. It still has to develop its infrastructure. It still has a lot to invest in fighting poverty in the country. The slums of Bombay or the conditions in UP and Bihar are pretty bad. While India develops its nuclear energy, it needs to take care of its people as well. I am not too sure about the trickle down theory. Trickle down has not worked any where except in Europe.
Gaurav asked, Hi Ayesha, Whats your prediction on China, India and Pakistan's role in the future vis a vis USA's strategic presence in this region ?
Ayesha Siddiqa answers, I don't like predicting things. I am just an analyst looking at things and how it develops. India has to work consistently on building its economy. China and India are potential rivals especially in the economic sphere. This does not necessarily mean conflict. Pakistan will continue to position itself as a balancer in the cold war between India and China
jhaji20 asked, Ayesha? IS merging India with Pakistan and making it as one country erdicate the problem for the people of India and Pakistan?
Ayesha Siddiqa answers, What will help is not merging the two countries but redrawing the map for the entire region. All the regional states are artificial entities. Internal conflict is a reality in the region which has a logic far broader than just cross-border terrorism. The distribution of power must be bootom-up not top-down. The regions are one whole. India, pakistan, bangladesh and Sri Lanka - the political map has to be redrawn. Don't know how it will be done.
Manoj736 asked, Unless there is development in PAkistan on economic and social levels this mentality will percieve. Similarly for India but their is a much BIGGER problem in Pak. Madrassas must be shut down or put under extensive review to ensure they are not corrupting young lives and dooming their future to one of hate and phobia. Do you agree?
Ayesha Siddiqa answers, I wonder if this kind of comparison is fair. The common man in pakistan cannpt be bothered by India. They don't want war. people have their own lives. However, we have a problem of the lack of political pluralism. India's system is not necessarily producing the best results but there is always the benefit in having pluralism. It is a great system. Pakistan's madrassahs, hence, are not a major issue. Also, it is not as if madrassahs are all we have. I wonder if you know that the ICG figures on madrassahs were incorrect. So, the numbers were more than what the reality is. However, the issue is not the type of schools we have but the systems of socio-poltiics.
partha asked, If Bush is so much worried of Musharoff,why dont he takes the general to safe place Amereica with him and put the mess in Pakistan in order by his renowned coercive action?
Ayesha Siddiqa answers, Bush is Musharraf's 'buddy' he just claimed this during an interview. He wants Musharraf there to make him comfortable and to feel that he is in control in pakistan
cgs asked, Hi Dr. Ayesha You don't have to answer if you are not comfortable with the question. You don't have to put up imaginary theories to defend your / 'any other pakistanis' outlook etc. Helping Bangladesh was a right decision knowing the genocides that took place. Where is your rationality ? And as I suggested you may choose not to answer this :)
Ayesha Siddiqa answers, I am not defending the genocide. Unforgivable. But India's concern was not saving the poor Bangaldeshis from genocide. Can you please explain nourishing and training the LTTE. By the way, get a reality check and visit all South Asian states and what they say about India.
strysh asked, Can you tell me a ballpark date by when will Pakistan become a human managed state? No cheating......
Ayesha Siddiqa answers, Long journey.... Listen guys: India and Indians need to think a little more openly about other states and their problems. You people are typically judgemental. Doesn't get anyone anywhere
Princesss asked, What do you see happening tomorrow, ayesha, when your president meets the US president? any new roadmap for the two countries? you have been diligently avoiding my questions, so don't expect this to ba answered either...
Ayesha Siddiqa answers, I have not been avoiding your questions. There are so many of them.... There is not road map that will be discussed. Musharraf is concerned about his survival. he cannot imagine more than what he has said in the past few months. Whan I talk about imagination or re-imagining the region I include Pakistan in it. The power structures have to change.
Manoj736 asked, "What will help is not merging the two countries but redrawing the map for the entire region. All the regional states are artificial entities. Internal conflict is a reality in the region which has a logic far broader than just cross-border terrorism. The distribution of power must be bootom-up not top-down. The regions are one whole. India, pakistan, bangladesh and Sri Lanka - the political map has to be redrawn. Don't know how it will be done." I'm guessing you would recommend SPLITTING IRAQ amongst the Sunni's Shiites (spelling?) and Kurds?
Ayesha Siddiqa answers, Think again. I am not talking about further divisions. I am talking about bringing the region together but in a different form. Who said that the post-colonial centralized unitary states are the most natural thing possible
kris1234 asked, When will Pakistan every be democratic and secular? Will it ever happen in our life times and we see reduced animosity towards India?
Ayesha Siddiqa answers, I hope it happens in my life time. By the way, you can go and check, the Bangladeshis despise Indians. Pakistanis are far more comfortable.