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Thursday, February 28, 2008

From An Obit-Column On William Buckley, Died at 82

Mona Charen writes in WaPo about her first encounter with Bill Buckley:

Like many a star-struck youngster, I maneuvered to meet him when I was in college. To my amazement, he agreed to be interviewed for my yearbook. Determined to ask questions that wouldn't betray my outsized admiration for him, I posed the vaguely feminist query, "In what ways would your life have been different if you had been born female?" His reply: "I'd have seduced John Kenneth Galbraith and spared the world much pain."

Okay, I can't resist another one.

To the great delight of his fans, Bill published reader letters to himself along with his replies in the "Notes and Asides" column. He called it "infield practice." A particularly nasty physician named Marshall Prickman penned an abusive letter insulting Bill for everything from his "stupidity" to his supposedly ugly face. Buckley published the letter, with this reply: "Dear Doc, Please call me Bill. May I address you by your nickname?"

Without wit could he have achieved so much?

Pitfalls, But a Plan For Resolving Conflict Over J&K

Islamic terrorism, even if unofficial, after border resolution, will not subside until Land of Pure cleans up its act

Writing about the impact of the destruction that Gen. Musharraf brought upon himself on the so-called peace process between the countries, Praveen Swami outlines the contours of secret negotiations for peace settlement in J&K going on between former diplomats of the two countries, for few years now. Five core issues seem broad enough - from converting LOC to international border to joint management of natural resources within the state without diluting sovereignty and free access to people movement between J&K and PoK.

First, insiders involved in the dialogue told The Hindu, the two men agreed that there would be no redrawing of the Line of Control. However, they agreed that minor readjustments were needed to rationalise access to both Indian and Pakistani forward positions.

Secondly, Mr. Aziz and Mr. Lambah exchanged extensive notes on greater autonomy for both sides of Jammu and Kashmir. While they accepted that the process would encompass the entire region, they agreed that local conditions made it difficult to impose symmetrical arrangements on both sides of the LoC. Pakistan, for example, said it needed time to arrive at a consensus on the political future of the Northern Areas. India’s proposals, for their part, closely resembled PDP leader and Jammu and Kashmir Deputy Chief Minster’s proposals for devolving power to regional and sub-regional elected bodies. However, they fell well short of the National Conference’s calls for the restoration of the pre-1953 status of Jammu and Kashmir, which would remove it from the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court and the Election Commission.

Thirdly, a half-way house was arrived at on Gen. Musharraf’s calls for the demilitarisation of Jammu and Kashmir — a position backed by the People’s Democratic Party. India committed itself to reducing troops as the activities of Pakistan-backed jihadist groups scaled down, a process that has been in place since 2005 when India replaced troops in urban areas with police. Despite the Aziz-Lambah dialogue having been placed on hold, forward movements on troop cuts continue. For example, elements of the Rajouri-based 27 Mountain Division are currently being moved to their base station in Kalimpong, along with their organic artillery assets.

Fourthly, Mr. Aziz and Mr. Lambah discussed Gen. Musharraf’s calls for “joint management” of the region at length. India insisted that the phrase suggested a dilution of sovereignty, which it would not countenance. In its place, Mr. Lambah pushed for the cooperative management of mutually-valuable resources such as watersheds, forests and glaciers.

Last, both sides agreed that, in practice, the border between the two sides of Jammu and Kashmir would be open, allowing for free movement of people and goods. [An explosion on the road to peace - The Hindu]

While joint management of natural resources is surely a plus for LoP because it can have control over the origin and (water) source of its major rivers, opening free access to people movement across the border cannot be remotely be possible without Islamic terrorists being completely wiped out from LoP and Afghanistan - not a tenable situation for LoP anytime soon, at least vis-a-vie Afghanistan, even if it shelfs its current policy of death-with-thousand-cuts on Bharat.

And what of the area ceded to China by LoP in Northeast corner of J&K? China will have vacate the land and move its forces back.

Another vital issue missing in the five-point contour is India's access to Afghanistan via currently Northern region in POK. India need clear access to northern Afghanistan, which is the safer region in the country controlled by Tajiks, and into energy rich regions of Central Asia. India should negotiate full-access into northern Afghanistan - a 50 to 100 kilometers corridor for roads and pipelines, if possible swapping land before international border is finalized and clearly demarcated. The long term energy security of the country may well depend on this corridor.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Background History on Naval Carrier Acquisition

In this brief 2006 article, former Navy Chief Admiral Arun Prakash, describes the historical ups and downs in acquiring an aircraft carrier by the Navy and related issues that went into decision making of building an in-house carrier, Air Defence Ship (ADS). He also briefly outlines future of Bharatiya Navy - plans that mirror plans drawn up in 1948, finally picking up where the mighty British Navy left off sixty years prior.

The staff requirements having been finalized in 1999, the ADS emerged, in its definitive form, as a 37,000-ton vessel, to be powered by four LM-2500 gas turbines in COGAG arrangement, which would give it a top speed of 28 knots. The 830ft long angled flight deck would have a set of three arrester wires aft rated to handle aircraft of up to 22-ton all-up weight. A set of jet blast deflectors and hydraulic chocks would be installed to provide a 600ft deck run for launch of the Mig-29K and LCA (Navy), from the 14ยบ ski-jump launch using afterburner. The ship would carry an air group of 30 aircraft and helicopters and would be crewed by about 1400 personnel...

...the Indian Navy aims to fulfil its long-term operational commitments in the IOR by deploying two carrier task forces at sea, while a third ship is under maintenance or refit. This would be the embodiment of a concept mooted in our plans as far back as 1948. [India’s Quest for an Indigenous Aircraft Carrier]

Much Denied Sagarika Works

Tuesday marked the day when the make-up of triad probably went into the last lap of a long marathon. Much of Sagarika's existence was denied with "No Comment". But the SLBM was tested underwater, in it's actual form, and it works.

India on Tuesday proved that it had the capability to launch missiles from underwater by test-firing successfully the Sagarika missile from a pontoon off the coast of Visakhapatnam. The pontoon simulated the conditions of a submarine.

Shortly after noon, the missile’s booster ignited and Sagarika rose from the pontoon. Then in a spectacular display of firepower, it cleaved out of the waters of the Bay of Bengal and tore into the atmosphere as the air-booster erupted into life. It impacted the sea over 700 km away. [Sagarika missile test-fired successfully - The Hindu]

Few weeks ago, India Today had a schematic of the nuclear submarine, called ATV, that would carry Sagarika. (Missiles have wonderful names, but, for some reason, not the carriers - ATV, LCA, ADS. Does that also explain the why the carrier projects take forever while missiles projects were completed in reasonable timeframe? In fact, the integrated missile program is officially shut down because the program is complete - probably a first for GOI) The building of the first ATV, 30-years in the making, has finally been accelerated with the Chinese taking the lead with close to half-dozen or more nuclear submarines in blue water, some in Indian Ocean.

One Way to Inspire a Community!

Some leaders give revetting speeches of an apparent past glorious history and ask their community to pull their selves and get to work to regain some of that lost glory. And other leaders do this:

“We reject all forms of terrorism. Terrorism is completely wrong and an unthoughtful act whoever commits it, irrespective of his association to whatever religion, community and class..."

Maulana Syed Salman Nadvi, of Darul Uloom Nadwatul Ulema, Lucknow, said: “It is high time for Muslims of India to choose their ‘Amir’ and this conference should complete this task today itself”.

Urging Muslims India to draw inspiration from Kanshi Ram and Mayawati, he said “Muslims were once ruler of this country and power was snatched from us. While all communities are marching ahead, the Muslims are standing at the crossroads with a begging bowl”.[Have to fight terror...don’t tar Muslims with its brush - IE]

Very inspirational! (During an All India Anti-Terror Conference by Darul Uloom Deoband, which was, in it's original form, wellspring all terror groups spanning the breath of the subcontinent and beyond.)

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Army Chief Blames Us When Chinese Attack?

There is trouble brewing on the Arunachal Pradesh's border with China. Soon after returning from Chinese trip, Manmohan went to visit Arunachal and said it is our land of rising sun - all though for some reason he didn't go to Tewang, the precise town Chinese claim. All was not well during the visit. Of course, Congress I, following Nehru's lead, assumes the problems will go away and would not share with the public any details of the negotiations or the situation at the border including the extent of Chinese incursions into Bharatiya soil. And now we have an Army Chief, who recently replaced an active and sensible General J.J. Singh, blaming India for Chinese incursions!!!

Manmohan Singh thinks he is a Nehru. He should beware of what he wishes for. He seems to have gotten an Army General in the mold of Gen. B.M. Kaul, who handed Nehru, and the country, a worst parajay with the Chinese.

Noting that there were different perception of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Arunachal Pradesh, Army Chief Gen Deepak Kapoor has said India would be ‘as much blameworthy’ as the Chinese side for incursions on the two sides....

Asked whether Indian troops also incur into Chinese territory as often because of differences of perception about the LAC, the army chief replied: "that's right. Which they would call an incursion into their side. So, therefore, to that extent, we would be as much blameworthy for that kind of incursion up to our perceived LAC."

Kapoor dismissed media perception that Chinese incursion were a sign of muscle-flexing by Beijing indicating something worse to come. [IE]

First comes apologies for the situation, then comes excuses for the defeat - it's a script more common then we think.

Restoration Dept. of Archeology Style

Although there are some really smart and dedicated people working for it, the reputation of Department of Archeology, as most departments controlled by GOI, is probably well deserved, after one sees this:

The picture on the left shows a building at Panam Nagar near Sonargaon in Narayanganj before it was restored by the Department of Archaeology. Following the restoration and the paint job, right, much of the building's motifs have become obscure. A number of buildings at the archaeological site suffered the same fate. Photo: Syed Zakir Hossain - [The Daily Star]

Update: See comments. Dept of Archeology is Government of Bangladesh's creation, not GOI's.

Friday, February 22, 2008

What Else - Corrupt Praising a Dictator

The oldest dictator apparently resigned. Fidel Castro came to power 50 years ago - he come to power when Nehru, another self-proclaimed indispensable leader, was still clinging to power in his third term, I think. Last time one heard, Cuba is still not heaven on earth - it's still the same miserable place for lot of Cubans. No matter. Fidel says he'll still have something to say about the new government which he handed over to his younger, by a few years, brother, to keep the revolution going!! Talk about revolution fervor and nepotism. I wonder what M.K. Gandhi would think about that.

Our own official Communist daily, The Hindu, at least the editorial section of it, has an op-ed praising the dictator. The article was written by the self-proclaimed doyen of Bharatiya Foreign Policy, K. Natwar Singh, apparently from the experience he gained when he wasn't sipping Saddam's corrupt oil which was meant to provide food and medicine to poor Iraqi children.

Mr. Castro is a most-admired, genuine friend of India. He is not just a very great man. He is a phenomenon. He has retired, but not out. May he live many more years. In his own way he has on, several occasions, set the time table of mankind. [The one and only Fidel - The Hindu]

Do these men have no shame?

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Why Did Gandhi Choose Nehru Instead Of Popular Sardar?

Movie history is usually quick and clean and not always accurate. But the underlying theme may still be accurate. The same cannot be said about mainstream history text books and publications - although that's slowly changing and the grip of Marxist historians (mentored mainly at JNU) is slowly coming loose.

I saw two movies over the weekend - Gandhi My Father and Sardar. Gandhi My Father (what's with English titles and credits in Hindi movies these days - although the dialouges were in excellent Hindi) is a story about the relationship between MK Gandhi and Harilal, his elder son. A mediocre Harilal wants his father's help and approval. MK Gandhi, being not just preacher but a practitioner of high moral and ethical values, would not help, and, with his ability to see the different between brilliance and mediocrity, doesn't provide false approval just because Harilal was his son. In one sequence, when Harilal goes to South Africa to ask Gandhi to send him to England to become a barrister, Gandhi not only says no but gives a scholarship, that an admirer gave to his family, to someone else, probably, because he knew Harilal was not good in studies (Harilal had failed matriculation) and, more importantly, I think, because Gandhi did not want to appear to favour his son over other children in that South African settlement.

Now coming to Sardar, although not a biography as I had hoped, Paresh Rawal was great as Vallabhbhai Patel and the plot good (Sardar's major activities between 1945 and 1950) but the movie quality was barely mediocre. It was hard to follow the story line - for example, instead of background narrative to make a connection between two sequence of events, front pages of major English and Hindi dailies are displayed, that too for an unreadable few seconds. The movie is worth watching after reading a book on events leading up to and after independence. The movie was long but I think the history, and the role of various people, is accurately portrayed.

In one scene, Congress working committee was convened to elect the president of Congress party. Everyone knew independence was around the corner - thought to be sometime in 1948 (before Mountbatten pre-dated it to August 1947 to wash British hands off of partition as quickly as possible) - meaning the next president of Congress party would be the prime minister of the new country. Maulana Azad term had ended. Gandhi says we need a new person. Majority of Pradesh (Provincial) Congress Committees voted for Sardar, some for J.B.Kirplani, and none for Nehru. Instead of following democratic norm of the party, Gandhi overrules and wants Nehru to run instead. He asks what Nehru thought about it. Nehru doesn't say anything although he is elated that Gandhi wants him as the president of the party. Everyone waits for sometime to allow Nehru to talk. Nehru doesn't. Gandhi passes a paper to Sardar, who was sitting next to him, and upon reading it Sardar says he was withdrawing from contention. Call it chitthi diplomacy.

Beyond the bad undemocratic precedent that Gandhi set for the future - and the tradition still continues with Congress I (all undemocratic traditions do), why did Gandhi not want Sardar to run for presidency? Gandhi never explains, that I know of, why he choose Nehru over everyone else that day.

I think here, Gandhi was, as usual, thinking about himself. It's not a cynical observation. He doesn't care for consequences - all he cares about his practices of moral and ethical values. I think, he did not want to appear favouring a fellow Gujarati (that Sardar was), in exactly the same way he did not want to give that scholarship to Harilal which was explicitly meant for his family members. When Pakistan, that Land of Pure, attacks the Kingdom of Kashmir, on October 22, 1947, within two months after independence, which latter was defended by India because it acceded to India, Gandhi insisted that LoP be given 75 crore rupees (LoP's portion from the vast sums of foreign exchange reserves that India inherited from British India), even though Sardar warned that Jinnah would the money to fund the on-going war against India. Gandhi goes on a satyagraha with a fast on to death and only budges when Nehru says we'll pay the enemy - ending up funding both sides of the warring parties.

And we are still living with the consequences of both decisions - overruling internal party democracy (which degraded even further under Indira) and no clear borders for J&K and the country. Consequences of Harilal was borne by Harilal, but Gandhi's practices - his secular and religious, especially with regards to removing untouchability, had good ones, and his practices impacting national security and choosing candidates, had bad ones. Nehru could have turned out to be the best prime minister - clearly he was not, but at the time he surely was not chosen by his party.

What M.K.Gandhi did was clearly good for him and his moral and ethical values. But he alone should benefit or suffer from his actions. He should not be in a position to impose those on a nation especially when the nation was under attack. It's an irony to say that because he lead the nation towards independence, just a few months prior, precisely using the same moral force. In either case, consequences have to be acknowledged.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Rage Boy Returns

The Unstoppable Rage Boy returns protesting against, who else, the evil Dans.

And we have name to go with him. (Via Barbar Indians)

Monday, February 11, 2008

Picture of Our Times

(From WaPo, Feb 9,2008)