Is India to blame for Af-Pak consequences?
There is comment in the media about India being the cause of the West’s Af-Pak failure. Everytime I read about the West’s interactions with Afghanistan or any of the Asian region, I get a strange feeling.
Before I describe it let me tell that it is a feeling one gets when one sees two different species interacting with one another. In this case it is a species divided by geographical location and perhaps colour and anthropological origins. In reality there shouldn’t be any difference considering that both are homo sapiens. Will come back to it a little later … read on.
The US has been drawn into this war now for almost 70 years. A mistake they have yet to realise.
Seventy year hitch
Seventy years? Yes, that was when the Second World War got over and when the US was riding high on their superior position in getting rid of the axis powers. Britain was economically drained and if it was not for the American war effort much like in the First World War, much of the Anglo-Saxon influenced world would have been German and Japanese. The war was won with the presence of two important entities:the Indian Army and the Royal Navy,(it was more because of the collection of troop ships that operated under the Royal Navy that could ferry troops including the US, around the world).
There is an interesting book called ‘Dust of the Empire’ written by Karl E. Myer which captures the reasons for the US interests in the area, the need to create a Pakistan and the availability of this fine fighting martial race to fight on their side: the Indian Army. A myth created by the West to exploit the people of a region is on its way to complete a full circle and still the message hasn’t gone through.
The creation of Pakistan served several purposes, the chief one was western interests. What has been fed to us through our history books is silent about the real reasons which were drowned into the fundamental idea of ‘freedom’ and ‘independence’. It signalled the end of colonialism blinding the regions from knowing future misery. A colonialism of sorts continued because of the disparity of expectations between the West and East.
The questions to ask are why was there no Hindu Muslim hatred during the Moghul rule, with exceptions during the period of Aurangzeb where there was open conflict against tyranny. How did Hindu and Moslem troops form part of the same battalions in the British India Army?
Hindu-Muslim or India-Pakistan ideas were created for a purpose and no one better than Mahatma Gandhi understood and fought against it. It was he who pleaded to Nehru to give up the prime minister ship to Jinnah. If you focus on this aspect you will find a grand conspiracy behind the creation of Pakistan.
The British hardly had a hold over Afghanistan and found little value, except for the strategic Great Game with Russia. It acted as a buffer state between Great Britain and Russia.
Coming to recent events, I feel the US and the West still haven’t fathomed how the region works and bonds with themselves. The Moghuls and the Britishers in India (not the Home Office in London) learnt this aspect over centuries and knew that they had to gain respect of the people to remain there. They had to acculturate themselves with the local populations and not be in constant war. Merely learning Pashthu or Dari is just a fraction. I am suggesting a Lawrence of Arabia approach rather than leaving it just to the intelligence agencies. Would it have been better for the US to work alongside the friendlier Taliban or the Northern Alliance and prop up a warlord?
Foreigners views of the region
William Dalrymple whose books I have blogged about made interesting reading. For him to say that the India-Pakistan differences lie at the heart of the Af-Pak US ‘lack of success’ seems far fetched. This substantiates the aspect mentioned in the first paragraph that he may have researched historical events well but alas missed the essence of knowing India.
Very few westerners have really assimilated eastern cultures. It happened in the 1700s when you had ‘white nawabs’. Wealthy western traders who emulated eastern culture in spirit and soul. It takes a lot to adapt to eastern thought and culture, which anyone from the west will find difficult because of a lack of will to adapt and their physical features still keeping them aloof venerated as Gods and discarded a such. Thus US and NATO troops in Afghanistan will look and be remembered as unwanted constructs to their history. Alas all the good they have done … will be an abandonment to some dark evil forces.
They tried to get India into the coalition of the willing. Indian and Pakistani armies have served together as UN forces, but will not be seen together in any other situation. The US on the contrary has openly supported Pakistan in all its aggression against India. Patton nagar a graveyard of derelict Pakistani- US supplied tanks brought down by the Indian Army stands testimony to it.
Indo-US amity is in other spheres and when it comes to China.
With the Taliban looming over the horizon, thanks to the US failure to contain them, nothing really changes the threats to India. Afghanistan, for India, will be a friendly country and also an Islamic depth more for Pakistan than for India.
I have a feeling that the Taliban in Afghanistan, even though nurtured by Pakistan will fall out with them. Pakistan has to fear the new Taliban themselves.It might eventually be a Taliban that deals with the supplier and does away with the middleman. Besides, they really are not a homogenous group and how long will it take them to get into internecine wars seeking external aid.
This may just be the beginning of a new war or will there be peace?
What do you think? Comment s’il vous plaît
Who will succeed as the next Indian prime minister?
Asian Godfathers, a book by Joe Studwell is about the few families that control countries in Southeast Asia and Hong Kong. These families were the contractors or collaborators of the colonialists and they gained the privilege of being leading authoritative personalities within their countries.
If one were to observe the pattern of leadership in India and several Asian countries one thing emerges: the nexus between personality and the authority they wield. The more important aspect is the authority and power they enjoy. Institutional leadership is accepted and revered because of the devolution of power through elitist ancestry which came about from being powerful in the first place.
The book doesn’t talk about India and South Asia as it was outside its purview. One can apply the same lens on India and can see the power matrix in India revolves around the collaborators to erstwhile colonial powers. Most of them took to politics like a duck takes to water and democracy didn’t change a thing. You still have ‘rajas, maharajas and nawabs’. They are all in the parliament with people connected to zamindars and industrialists.
The others who are not from such backgrounds are genuinely popular or members of the Rajya Sabha, a house of honorary parliamentarians.
What happens when someone who is not from such a background comes to power? It has happened in India’s parliamentary history and there have been prime ministers who could not capitalize their appointment at a national level, because they were thrown up as leaders more by a lack of choice than any charisma or ancestral power block.
An aspect that does affect the selection of leaders in a country fed on the idea of ‘good’ over ‘evil’ is the idea of the person being ‘good’. This factor, however, is usually pushed into the background when voters are bribed or intimated by the perceived blocks of power.
BJP and international relations
The BJP came to power once earlier and rode on two aspects. First: because of the popularity of Atal Bihari Vajpayee and his personality as a ‘good’ man. Second: the incumbency factor; people wanted a change from the dynastic rule of the Congress.
This may be a simplistic approach to understanding the reasons for the rise of BJP to power, and, the possible cause of its decline being its lack of ability to remain in power. Then there is a conflict of perception of it being a Hindu Nationalistic Party with secular intentions. The Congress on the other hand does not have a conflict of ideology in regard.
Despite its structure as a secularist party its association with the VHP and RSS got them a label of being a Hindu Nationalistic Party. The international community sees it as thus. It did pose a challenge to China who saw similarity with it in the Party’s aspirations. The party’s association with RSS as a rival to its own Red Guards, the concept of Hindutva and Akhand Bharath to its own ideology and expansionism and the nuclearisation of India oriented to a declared ‘enemy’ i.e.: China.
Like India all the Asian countries recognize and bow to what is perceived as the centre of power. The Chinese invitation to Sonia Gandhi to the Beijing Olympics is an example that clearly shows that they know where the power is focused in India. Therefore, and not limited to this example alone, one can conclude that there is a clear perception of power and devolutionary power in the case of Indian political parties.
Almost all prime ministers have been presidents of their parties with a few exceptions. These are the two centers of power in Indian party politics. In the case of the Congress Party the centre of power has been with the Gandhi Family. No matter who is the prime minister, power is devolved from the controlling family. There are advantages of this structure as the party has clear idea of who calls the shots. A convenient adaptation of democratic means in a society that believes in institutionalized leadership.
Rahul or Modi is the question
Rahul or Modi, their success as prime minister will depend on the degree of power within the party that each one enjoys to be the executive head of the nation. In this regard Rahul has a clear edge.
The other aspect to consider is the level of national presence a party enjoys; currently the Indian National Congress enjoys a wider popularity.
Modi has emerged as a modern progressive leader and has shown it in making Gujarat a model for other states to follow. Such progress has been shown in the past by other ministers too if you consider Chandra Bubu Naidu in Andhra and the Gandhi family in Rae Bareli. The comparison may not be entirely an equal and consistent one but serves to indicate that success at the state or constituency level does not automatically translate to a national one.
The nation currently expects its leadership to resolve domestic issues and international ones. Indian parliamentary politics has known to be one of being drawn inwards in trying to remain in power rather than a leadership that looks beyond to create reform. In this regard there is expectation from Modi who will bring out political and economic reform to move India forward and address certain international issues with a populist and pragmatic approach. While there is potential in his leadership, there is the question of his party’s support and the question of the power he can derive being the prime minister, while not being the party president. It can be argued that party ideology should guide the prime ministerial candidate. In the case of the BJP where power is drawn from ideology rather than personalities and ancestry, Modi’s dynamism will be better served by him being both the party president and prime minister or perhaps he has been groomed to be the next prime minister and has experience at the national level.
Rahul on the other hand has several advantages pretty much like Modi but a clear one in having absolute power. His dynamism as a minister or leader has not been visible as that of Modi, he is better equipped to deal with party politics at the national level, being groomed into it literally from the cradle.
Social media and Indian elections
The prime minister’s position is quite independent of winning the elections on an individual basis and depends on the party’s success. If there was a direct vote like in the US presidential elections then the contest of Rahul vs Modi would have played into social media and Modi would definitely have an edge.
The percentage of population that actually uses social media to make decision is questionable. The power of sms campaigns will play a major role provided it considers the legality of the telecoms engaging with party ad campaigns. 2014 elections could be a game changer considering the role that social media can play.
BJP has a lot of ground to gain before thinking of the prime ministerial candidate; it is a no brainer when it comes to the Congress.
It is early days. May the best person win … at least we wish!
To start with … hit the like button or vote!
Is it fair to be on the side of the winning team and yet sympathize with the underdog? Such is the nature of human ethos. In the case of Afghanistan I worry for innocent people in and around the conflict more than anyone else in the melee of the Af-Pak region. Imagine the plight of those who are in the conflict zone, close to the fighting, and that afar constantly under threat of an onslaught. Sometimes it is better to be in ground zero for the value of life is reduced to days if not minutes. I digress from my real intent to prophesize about the future of the Af-Pak region.
Afghanistan is on the invasion route to India
History says this, and an unstable region here will make matters a constant burden on the economic growth of India and the region. Look at the genesis of the conflict: it has had two actors: the US and the Al Qaida and their variants the Taliban, it started on an existing overlay of the India-Pakistan conflicts and differences. After 9/11 and the US retaliation I had predicted a 40 year war which the US has gotten into. It is not a prophecy but mere commonsense and knowledge of the region’s history. Osama bin Laden chose Afghanistan because the people there are fighters, born with a gun in their hands and a fairly inhospitable terrain. They have been so since eternity and the colonial British Empire’s biggest military embarrassment was their massacre in Afghanistan. They quickly learnt to respect the tribal and sectarian nature of the region.
Forty years, as it will see some 10 presidency terms for a policy change.
To bring together a warring people you need a charismatic leader who wields the gun – a warlord. Many countries were born out of conflict by the supremacy of a singular warlord, with outside support. Mao and before him Chiang Kai Shek are examples. This leads me to feel that a democratically elected-US backed government has little chance against the Taliban warlords. Would it have been different if they brought in Karzai as a warlord backed by them? They did back the Taliban in the past. Perhaps the Pakistani involvement needed Karzai to be a sanitized approach into the region. It has backfired and left Karzai smoldering between the US and the Talban now a recognizable community by the default recognition by the US. It won’t be too long when you have two Afghanistans the true one and the real one!
To compare the troop withdrawal from Afghanistan to the Iraq situation will be a folly as Iraq had a stable though autocratic system before the US invasion. For these reasons the chances of Karzai government surviving is bleak unless it has a continued physical support of foreign troops or realigns with ‘friendlier elements’ of the Taliban. The US has realized this and under domestic pressure to bring back troops and the need for establishing its foreign policy goals, it has sidelined Karzai with direct negotiations with the Taliban. The zero option gives neither Afghanistan nor the US any options. This will mean the end of US involvement in Afghanistan? Defeat? Afghanistan may eventually end up with the Taliban in power with US support.
the logic and commonsense in seeing the end of conflicts: reading the signals
I was emailed an interesting BBC article about Konrad Kellen. He was an unknown defence analyst who might have changed the course of the Vietnam War if only people had listened to him, argues Malcolm Gladwell. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-23037957
Reading this article will highlight the fact that commonsense is not a key element in deciding outcomes of conflict zones. Conflicts are needed to sustain the idea of a super power. If there isn’t one … one or the other will surface. It is the nature of the human race and the US will drive this idea under any circumstance.
Afghanistan has a similarity with Vietnam more than that with Iraq. If one were to take stock of the good that the US has brought about in the world it stands out as the global policeman mostly in Africa and somewhat n the Middle east. This aligns very well with their economic (arms trading and reconstruction) and foreign policies, but is a matter of debate in domestic circles. There are no questions asked when it comes to national security. (A matter highlighted in Obama’s Drone Policy speech to the US National Defense University). The US faces a threat; it became real after 9/11.
Iraq and Afghanistan even after being declared successful operations will leave behind the threat unlike all the other wars fought by the US. The euphoria of leading the Second World War and the cold war alas has died down and, Iraq and Afghanistan (or the other way round) shows a weakness in their foreign policy. There are too many ghosts with no shadows.
Despite it all the Af-Pak region will benefit by the American influence and the notions of liberty, equality and modern progress. This cannot be denied and post Second World War has seen this being a huge success in the constitutions of countries that came under the influence of the US. Despite the entire anti-American breast beating, people everywhere have a desire to go the American way. A brand that the US doesn’t need to sell, but needs to capitalise.
Matters of convenience
Hsieh Su-wei and Peng Shuai are the two Chinese ladies from Chinese Taipei and China (PRC) they played together to win the Wimbledon Ladies doubles title. Their countries were separated in history largely by the influences of their war lord leaders and US and Russian influences. Can we ever have such partnerships from the Af-Pak region? I highlight this to show that conflicts are sometimes a matter of convenience.
The US is a major player in the North Asian issues. South Korea, Japan and Taiwan are a US interest against China their biggest trading partner. Cross straits relationships are not as hot as they used to be and US has been working collaboratively with China and Russia on the North Korean Nuclear issue. It is important to understand the ambiguity in US relations, which will be the nature of any international diplomacy. Bring the relationships closer to the Af-Pak region and the questions that arise are: will the US incorporate Russia and China into a collaborative thinking about the future of Afghanistan.
US – India relations at a turning point?
Whatever they do, in every situation the region will impact on US-India relationships. A talk about layering the region with Indo-Pak differences seems an attempt to draw India into the Afghan region with more commitment. India has refrained from any coalition and will now have to make hard choices. The Northern Alliance is favorable to Indian and Russian support, but it is a bit late to change the situation Afghanistan.
India does have the advantage to effectively defend itself and can dictate its position in the region in a conventional scenario. The threat of terrorism, which is the hallmark of intimidation in Indo-Pak relations are a different matter and surpasses the geo politics of the Hindukush region. Perhaps the warlords and their handlers need to understand the drivers for peace … why can’t we have a Westphalia type of peace and evolve ourselves to the better aspects of humanity. We do need to eschew a middle age mentality to the problems of the region. Perhaps what is good for the US may be good for all … including the Taliban.
(Photo acknowledgement: theconversation.com)
North Korea and the five in Six Party Talks
This time they kind of asked for it. There is good reason for it. To understand the issue of the talks will read like a book of disagreements and not adhering to conditions and rules. Bottom line is that the International community wants North Korea to de-nuclearise and they in turn have conditions to be fulfilled. Historically the North Koreans have been dragging their feet to close down their nuclear programme.
Russia’s takes a lead in getting North Korea to accept the proposals
The Nuclear issues are North Korea’s only card against the rest (read west). Why would a nation hold its own in the face of such opposition? North Korea’s first vice foreign minister Kim Kye-Gwan was scheduled to meet last Thursday with First Deputy Foreign Minister Vladimir Titov and Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov, in Moscow. Morgulov could sound tough when he says that there will be no alternatives to the six party talks and that they will speak to their N Korean partners. North Korea has many strings attached to it … a Russian one and definitely a Chinese one. It yet retains the ability to be a loose cannon with its nuclear programme.
No chance of a solution to ‘peace’ on the Korean Peninsula
North Korea has vowed never to give up its nuclear power but says it is open to direct talks with the United States. Kim late last month discussed restarting the six-party talks in Beijing with China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi. This is at the core of its thinking even while the community is seeking a diplomatic and political solution to the deconstructing or dissolving the North Korean plan. In reality if one sees the genesis of these talks North Korea has kept its side by allowing inspections and cooperating, while the others have not moved forward to fulfill their part of the story.
How will the talks affect the South Asian situation?
It will be interesting know the outcomes in the wake of a change of guard in the Af-Pak region. While this is being written there is a major terrorist attack in Bodh Gaya, the birth place of Buddha. Ironic as the war on terror is still far from reaching any end.
How do you think it will affect Pakistan? Or, is too far fetched to find a connection between the Six Party Talks and the region’s balance? I do vaguely remember India seeking observer status in the talks. In today’s round up I read about New Zealand seeking a role in the talks.
‘Six party talks’ is the name given to the multilateral negotiations of six nations, US, China, Japan, South Korea, Russia and North Korea to dismantle the North Korean Nuclear programme. North Korea and South Korea borders are an active conflict zone like Iraq, Afghanistan, India-Pakistan, Arab-Israel and Syria. These talks highlight the conflict between the US and North Korea, the closeness of North Korea to China and the nexus between North Korean arms sales to Pakistan.
In 1994 North Korea had agreed to freeze its nuclear programme in exchange for energy aid including two light water reactors. This was through bilateral agreements with the US. Japan. the EU and South Korea were involved in the implementation even though they were not in the initial agreement talks.
After that six rounds of talks have taken place since 2003 and at one stage North Korea agreed to give up its plans, but perhaps didn’t see any reciprocation from the other side.There were conditions such as non aggression, no nuclear weapons in the Korean peninsula. For some reason or the other the talks have not been able to produce the results it set out to.
I feel China is a key player in the talks and is like a firewall to North Korea, filtering and monitoring the talks. They have found a role in being the facilitators of the talks and North Korea ha laid down one of the conditons that the talks are to be held in Beijing.
Article linked below talks of North Korea wants the talks to be resumed.
Kalaschnikow and the global arms trade
There is a saying : ‘God made all men , but Kalaschnikow made them equal. It has also been said of Samuel Colt. Both inventors and designers of small arms at different times in history.
Small arms cause the most destruction, in the current world it has surpassed bombs. There is a huge arms trade linked to it. I was delighted to read this article which is noteworthy written by an award winning writer whom I acknowledge.
Australia takes a look at curbing global conflicts through voicing against small arms
I came across this article from Lowy Institute. You should read this as it will be the first step to understanding the benefactors of conflict.
small arms have led to SENSELESS loss of life in recent times yet there is no shift in policy
In today’s conflicts there is very little use of heavier weapons. In asymmetrical warfare, which is terrorism in a way small arms play a vital role. Terror attacks are generally with bobs and IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices) as they cause a greater shock effect than rifle fire. Whereas in sectarian conflict, mostly in the middle east and insurgency areas, the rifle assumes a greater role. It is easy to train and has led to child soldiers who know how to use them but are unaware of the consequences.
What can be said when there are lobby groups, ‘national’ cultures that support the use of small arms. In the US alone in recent times there have been mindless shootings all because of the easy availability of small arms.
Kalaschnikow is not ready to take responsibility for the misuse of his inventions. He invented them at a time when it was a patriotic duty to defend his country.
Mankind finds ways to cull itself!
What do you think? Will the world ever get rid of these means of death?
Why do all international ‘talks’ beat around the bush. If one goes by the history of mankind conflict seemed a way towards resolution. Leaves a question: Has mankind really evolved or is culling itself through conflict?
It’s Karzai vs the Taliban. US vs the Taliban or Karzai vs the US. Pakistan?
Indeed it is a historic time for the Hindukush region. The Afghan Army takes control of the security within Afghanistan relieving the international forces to a supporting role. Thinking about this; is Karzai left with fighting with some real shadows?
There is reason to celebrate the emerging of a new Afghanistan,post troop withdrawal, but to me I see a tragedy within, much like the fate of South Vietnam when the US troops left. Will Karzai be able to hold on in the face of the Taliban becoming a recognisable political entity considering that they can not be wiped out of the planet? Already, brokered talks by US and the Norway to bring the warring parties together will make the Karzai government and the Afghan security forces either nervous or comfortable depending on the continued US presence in the region. They, the US, do need to get the Taliban on to their side if they have to have a slice of the pie or a wedge between the multitude of power centres.
Something did go wrong, In the first place the US came to the region chasing Al Qaida, which is apparently enemy No 1. The Taliban and Al Qaida can not be differentiated and could seem two versions of the same model. The same can not be said of the US and Afghan Army, With the troop withdrawal there is bound to be a vacuum however small.
If there has to be peace in Afghanistan and one believes in its possibility, then the US is the best bid for it for several reasons. I like to connect some dots and include some more players in this melee for it will be unwise to think of them as non actors.
Pakistan has lost its chance of any domination over Afghanistan being wedged in by the US and despite all the anti-US holler the ruling elite has to appease both the US and the Pakistani end of the Taliban. So it makes little sense for the Taliban to refuse an offer to come to the table in Qatar. Unfortunately funding and support from various sources only teach the hanlding of an AK 47, not a diplomatic finesse in asking for their demands. Nawaz Sharif and the Pakistani politicians suffer the Taliban out of fear, but in return they do educate them to become political entities. I feel this does in a way signal the last days of Pakistani Taliban influence in the future of Afghanistan. The elements from Afghanistan within Pakistan like the Hekmetyar group will lose their voice if they haven’t lost it as yet. This may sound wishful thinking, but they are not direct actors to the situation in Afghanistan but remain conduits of funding. Therefore it will lead to the question of who is the Taliban and their recognisable leader. In propping up Karzai there is a structure and recognisable leadership and success of the situation will depend on how the leadership develops within the Afghan state.
In connecting the dots, the US capability of launching drones from their fleets lessens the dependence on Pakistan. The troop withdrawal or the elections in Pakistan with the US acknowledging Nawaz Sharif even before it, may or may not have been considerations.
Pakistan has proclaimed a new doctrine to counter India’s cold start defence policies. This is like a signal to India not to take advantage of the changing situation/vacuum in the region. Add to this the Chinese intrusion into Ladhak. I can not isolate this from the grand strategy around this region or the event of troop withdrawal.
In the complex situation that has prevailed some actions could be coincidental, but many seem planned, which can be seen now as an hindsight.
India is a major actor in the geopolitics of the region. Karzai represents an India-favourable position. India has been engaged in developmental activities for quite sometime. It also operates a base in the Northern region. There is some goodwill between the Afghan people and India. The question is will it be able to capitalise on the goodwill and be in favour with any government in Afghanistan, even a Taliban one?
Karzai has a tough job ahead. Whatever it be the US influence in the region has put in place a form of governance.The next elections are round the corner and its success will give a taste of the future to come.
The Taliban for their part may eventually come around through elections … someday. They have to get away from the fundamentalist card. It is not about Burqa’s really, but about being in power.
There are many ways to come to power. Peaceful ones too.
Kevin Rudd was asked in a television interview as to what is the relevance of the Obama and Xi Jinping talks. He spoke about security issues and the potential threat to US, Japan and Australia from a growing China. About China’s issues with Vietnam and the Philippines … North Asia.
He did not mention India anywhere!
There is an existing pact between US-Japan-Australia-India which China had objected to in the past. I believe these were more for anti-piracy operations in the Malacca straits and gaining support against China’s strength in the South China Sea.
The reasons have changed now. It is economic, anti-cyber attacks, and the fact that the leading trade partner will be a communist regime with the biggest and strongest army in the world. Having India as a partner, however mute, changes a couple of things. Providing greater security in the ASEAN and Indian Ocean Region which can be potentially a major trading partner region. The second reason is perhaps, encirclement. India’s position may have moved up a notch from being important (which cannot be denied because of its size) to being relevant (because of its ability to have a significant presence in the SE Asian and Indian Ocean Region). India has to work to get the SE Asian countries on her side in the face of China’s influence. ASEAN countries have been a region of peace for a long time after Vietnam and Cambodia, and the ASEAN is perhaps the oldest economic pact doing well. Compare this to other economic alliances and FTAs which have poor results.
As far as Australian politics go, Julia Gillard heralded two events of strategic interest to India; one is the opening of Uranium exports to India and the other, the establishment of a US military base on the Australian soil. Both these clearly irking China’s position over India. Kevin Rudd who is a back bencher Labour party member is also a former Prime Minister and has been a diplomat in China and is an accomplished speaker of Mandarin.
I wonder why he did not mention India?
Has India clearly become the Joker in the pack or is it a zero that can add and diminish values by its mute presence on either side of the equation?