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Thursday, December 10, 2009

To Deploy Or Not To In Afghanistan

There is a surprising revival of the idea of deploying Indian troops into Afghanistan to apparently help Afghans fight Islamic terrorists along side with US (and NATO) troops. It's a revival because former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee considered the issue when US was planning to invade Afghanistan, then under Taliban and al Qaeda control, post-9/11, and thought otherwise.

So what changed to make the revival possible with the situation in Afghanistan actually deteriorating, not improving. The only change seems to be change in US leadership, from Bush to Obama. It's strange that we would consider deployment of troops in Afghanistan to help Obama, even as Obama himself hasn't done much to improve relationship between US and India. Obama's Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, ignored coming to India during her Asia trip. Obama has again provided aid and comfort to Pakistan despite India's misgivings. There were no significant agreements during recent PM Manmohan Singh visit to US - no finalization of Nuclear Agreement, no anti-terror cooperation agreement, or no hi-tech transfer agreement. Beyond Obama having first state dinner of US for Manmohan, nothing of substance happened between the countries, since the change of guard in US. So the reconsideration of deployment of Indian troops to Afghanistan is surprising.

We commented on Nitin's Acorn blog as to why the idea of troop deployment in land locked Afghanistan is not a great idea unless the deployment on a semi-permanent, meaning on 10-20 year, basis. (Nitin twitted recently that there is wide agreement in India's strategic circle that India needs to deploy troops in Afghanistan!)

And then we will be dependent on US and more importantly, Iran, for deployment. What if one pulls out or other vetoes – do we still stay there or did we waste blood and treasure for nothing?

Given the state of our economic development, our people will simply not fund a semi-permanent force...

Unless Pakistan cleans up its own act, India’s best options are (a) covert ops in Afghanistan (and in Pakistan), and (b) hope for the state of Pakistan to collapse enabling US to it clean up, with our active help. But the latter won’t happen as long as US keeps providing the state of Pakistan with aid and comfort.
We are better off fighting the Islamic terrorists in Pakistan, by going from the eastern border of Pakistan, with US deployment in Afghanistan guarding the eastern Afghan border and Iran guarding its eastern border. That's the only way to squeeze the terrorists, and their infrastructure, in Pakistan. Any other action will be a fight of attrition and will take a long time - one or two decades - and will end in a stalemate, unless Pakistan acts to clean up its act.

The more fascinating question to us is why is there a revival of the debate about troop deployment in Afghanistan. Who started it and why, when nothing changed in India itself?

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Proletariat Communists No More!

Dogs of Beijing, China - For protection from Swine Flu after two dogs were found to have flu

No wonder various avatars of commies in India are actually supporting India in its border dispute with namesake commie China!

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

As Much An Anti-Indian as Anti-Taliban?

US latest iteration of war in Afghanistan effort is being unrolled with lot of confusion as to what the goal will be, how many more troops will be sent, and how quickly US will leave Afghan. Manmohan Singh was just in DC with nothing to show for publicly for his long travel - no deals were signed, no promises about next steps made - nothing was achieved. B. Raman explains the lack of substance of this trip dismantling Manmohan Singh's media spin maestros on trip - nothing on counter terror partnership, nothing on wrapping up the nuclear deal, and nothing on economic issues. One wonder if Manmohan traveled half way across the globe just to attend the first state dinner of Obama - apparently the prawns served during dinner are an indication of the strong and stable strategic relationship.

How this relationship between US and India can be strategic partnership is a mystery. One hopes there were substantial talks on China and Pakistan. But there is no indication that Manmohan Singh pressed Obama on any issues related to China that we identified in our earlier post. On Pakistan, US seem to be sliding backwards from seriously understanding issues impacting us - sliding back to 80s, in fact, when Pakistan made demands and US obliged with serious implication to India's and world's security decades later.

Soon after Manmohan left D.C., reports of a secret offer by Obama to Pakistan, given about a month ago, to expand US patronage of Pakistan came to light. Obama offers more military and economic aid and support, meaning bribe, to apparently make Pakistan fight terrorists, with an 'or else' warning that US may take matters into its own hands.

President Obama has offered Pakistan an expanded strategic partnership, including additional military and economic cooperation, while warning with unusual bluntness that its use of insurgent groups to pursue policy goals "cannot continue."

The offer, including an effort to help reduce tensions between Pakistan and India, was contained in a two-page letter delivered to President Asif Ali Zardari this month by Obama national security adviser James L. Jones. It was accompanied by assurances from Jones that the United States will increase its military and civilian efforts in Afghanistan and that it plans no early withdrawal.
It is like watching a really bad movie being repeated again, but with real consequences to the security and well being of India (and Afghanistan.) Pakistan is very good at playing this game. It just got $6.5billion in aid with conditions that don't amount to much. Pakistan's president was reported to have to formally given the power over nuclear weapons to its prime minister, who is backed by Pakistan military, meaning, the president's formal powers are diminished significantly.

As if this bad movie repeating was not enough, Obama's Afghanistan plan seems to specifically aim to assuage Pakistan interests rather than actually fighting terrorists in Afghanistan. Obama's plan includes a surge of troops, followed by withdrawal of most troops, but continued long term presence in Afghanistan. The plan to stay in Afghanistan on a long term basis, it seems, has nothing to do with fighting the Taliban but to guarantee Pakistan's rite over Afghanistan policy to the determent of India.
Officials of one allied nation who have been extensively briefed on the president’s plan said, however, that Mr. Obama would describe how the American presence would be ratcheted back after the buildup, while making clear that a significant American presence in Afghanistan would remain for a long while. That is designed in part to signal to Pakistan that the United States will not abandon the region and to allay Pakistani fears that India will fill the vacuum created as America pulls back.
Did Obama brief Manmohan Singh on this specific issue? Did Obama provide contours of his Afghanistan war plans to Manmohan Singh during the his "first state dinner" visit? If so, what was Manmohan's response to the plans? If not, what is the nature of US-India relationship? It surely is not a strategic relationship - it doesn't even seem to be a rather friendly relationship.

Obama's Afghanistan war strategy seems to as much an anti-India strategy as an anti-Taliban strategy. India's military and intelligence better plan ahead of this US strategy to strengthen itself in Afghanistan and prepare for the blow back a decade or two from this rather recycled fallacious US policy, learning from American previous missteps.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Critical US Visit of Manmohan Singh

The recent peak of India-US relationship was when during Bush's visit to India, he and Manmohan Singh were discussing the nuclear agreement with a group people and in response to a comment by AEC chief Anil Kakodkar he said something to the effect that as long as we can keep you happy to get (the nuclear) deal done. Meaning, he didn't want minor issues blocking progress of India-US relationship. The key driver to India's improving relationship with US was president Bush himself. Now the relationship is at critical tipping point. On the one hand, it could continue on the high trajectory and make US and India close strategic partners or it could start drifting sideways at the current level of engagement - excellent trade and commerce with some military to military contacts with occasional political interaction with no significant substance. Increasing, the later is becoming a high probability scenario with the former becoming a lower probable.

I was dismayed to see Manmohan's Singh interview with an US journalist - there was no substance at all to the current visit.

I also think that India and the United States could be partners in refocusing our attention on an equitable, balanced global order. 

What does that mean?
We would like to strengthen energy cooperation with the United States -- [in] clean coal technology and in renewable energy resources. Similarly, there is concern for food security. We would like to have a second Green Revolution in our country -- therefore, cooperation in the field of agriculture, in science and technology, in health, and in dealing with pandemics.

It's typical small country talk with no case for enhanced strategic relationship. While, usually, India is not an agenda setter - it takes agenda given to it during multilateral forums - the utter lack of new agenda for this trip is disheartening. The nuclear issue was put on the top of US-India relationship agenda by Atal B. Vajpayee when George Bush was open for strengthening the relationship between the two countries. Manmohan Singh carried forward Vajpayee's agenda, but he has no new agenda of his own. And it's not like there is nothing going on around India that doesn't involve US.

For starters, India needs to understand the evolution of relationship between US and China. Is what China aggressive behavior towards India's entire border area, and how it impacts US relationship, on the agenda? Who would US support in diplomatic and strategic battles? Why did US say China had a role in India-Pakistan relationship when Obama was in Beijing recently, even as Chinese themselves said nothing about it?

There are increasing calls in US that somehow US should settle the issue of Jammu and Kashmir, presumably, favouring Pakistan so that it can take up US fight against Taliban in Pakistan and Afghanistan.  This scenario is not inconceivable as Obama is having second thoughts about Afghanistan war being the good war. A quick way for US to exit this region would be to go back to the 1950s, when Pakistan was the sole pillar of US, and British, strategic interests in the subcontinent. While India will never be a vassal state of US, Pakistan can play the role very well, as long J&K can be settled favourably towards Pakistan - the favour that can milked by US for another 50 years.

It makes even more sense, if US thought working with China is in its long term economic interests as US becomes more focused on economic issues, towards becoming a Europe-lite. The current US political leadership is internal looking and clearly would be happy to concede strategic ground to China in return for economic benefits. China is already US financier. US economic growth prospects would improve if it aligns with China - an economy that is vastly bigger than India's and will continue to be so throughout the current century.

Aligning with China and Pakistan makes eminent sense to US, especially for the current US left leaning leadership. I have argued in the past that the India-US relationship was primarily driven by George Bush. Changing the course of relationship of the two countries from Bush's era will not be difficult. That's why the current trip by Manmohan Singh is so crucial to US-India relationship and India's future. Will Manmohan Singh put India's future on the top of the agenda and get US leadership see our way or will he accept the agenda set by US, again, and realize the impact of US potential realignment too late, boxing India into a unfavourable strategic future?

Saturday, November 07, 2009

US Base Shooting and Vande Mataram

News of a Muslim US army Major shooting and killing his army colleagues randomly, at a US Army base in US, before he was taken down and revelations of his prior pro-Islamic jihadi attitude clarified to us what Vande Mataram debate should be about.

Few days ago, Jamiat Ulama-e-Hind (Pan-Bharatiya Islamic Seminary) said it supported Deobandhi mullahs fatwa saying that Muslims should not sing Vande Mataram song:

A top Muslim body on Tuesday asked members of the community not to recite Vande Mataram and supported seminary Darul Uloom's edict that opposes any prayer involving the song.

"The fatwa of Darul Uloom (opposing the recitation of Vande Mataram) is correct," stated one of the 25 resolutions passed by the Jamiat Ulama-e-Hind on Tuesday, at its 30th general session in Deoband, in the presence of Union Home Minister P Chidambaram.

Darul Uloom's fatwa department had issued the edict in 2006, describing the recitation of Vande Mataram as anti-Islamic.

"The judgment of the Supreme Court also clearly states that nobody can be compelled to sing Vande Mataram," said the resolution, which was adopted by over 10,000 clerics from across the country. [Rediff]
In 2006, Daobhandi itself denied issuing that fatwa. 
The Darul Uloom Deoband -- a leading centre of Islamic learning, categorically stated on Monday that it had not issued any fatwa on Vande Mataram. It added that it has not directed Muslim children to skip classes on September 7 to protest against its mandatory recitation in the Bharatiya Janata Party-ruled states.

Accusing 'communal forces' of maligning the 130-year-old Islamic institution, Mohatamim Maulana Margoobur Rehman, the rector,said that it had neither issued any fatwa nor appealed on this issue after the Human Resource Development Ministry issued a directive to all schools to recite the national song on September 7 which marks the centenary of the song.

"The Darul Uloom is being unneccesarily dragged into the Vande Mataram controversy," he said, adding that Muslims are true patriots and there was no need to question their patriotism. [Rediff]
But anyone who follows Islamic and other forms of extremism and their supporters should know the games that are played by related institutions. If Daobhandhi itself hasn't an issued a fatwa, why would Jamiat Ulama-e-Hind support a non-existing fatwa?

The issue to us is not whether some people chose not to sing what most consider to be a patriotic song, with religious undertones to it. Individuals are free to chose and express as they like - in this case, expressing by not expressing. But, it is cause for major concern if they are doing so because of religious mullahs demands as though it is their religious duty.

A Muslim friend of mine said that, while he doesn't agree with Deobandi mullahs fatwa, the mullahs themselves have clarified that they love the country but don't worship it.

That's exactly my concern. What if worship takes precedence over love? The highest precedence should be for the nation and national security. What happens if a self-declared Muslim nation, say, Saudi Arabia, attacks India. Would religious duty, worship, take precedence over love for the country?

If a Major in the most professional army, egged on by global lefty media and various Islamic terror groups, can conclude that wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are wars against Islam, as evidence shows that Major Hasan believed, as though Saddam Hussein, Mullah Omar, and various terror groups that US is fighting are the only representatives of Islam, what would Muslims looking up to terror groups like SIMI do?

One would hope right thinking people would express outrage at what Deobandi mullahs, and their Jamiat Ulama-e-Hind supporters, have done beyond silly calls by some people asking mullahs supporters to move to Pakistan. UPA lead GOI should take a strong stand against Deobandhi mullahs fatwa, and their Jamiat Ulama-e-Hind supporters, that the nation and patriotism should take ultimate precedence and the religion should not mix with issues of nationhood.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

On Chinese Economy

China official growth rate was 7.7% in first half of 2009 - this when its main customer for goods, US, was down over 6% in first quarter of 2009 and had negative growth in second quarter of 2009. And Europe, the other main customer, was contracting too. So how did an export economy like China grow that much? Daniel Lynch of Far Eastern Economic Review thinks the Chinese are making up numbers:

Beijing's insistence that GDP grew by 7.1% in the first half of 2009 is highly doubtful given that coal consumption by Chinese power plants fell 8.9% and usage of petroleum products (including gasoline) dropped 2.6%. In previous years, energy consumption consistently grew at a 7% to 9% rate. Equally remarkable, aggregate tax revenues fell 6% in the first half of 2009 after increasing by 17% to 31% in preceding years. The drop in tax receipts occurred at the same time as energy use fell.
Some analysts say there is nothing anomalous about these figures, . . . [but] [a]lmost certainly, the Chinese economy contracted after the recession began. . . .
There are other signs that the Chinese economy is not living up to its testimonials. For example, the explosion of credit and money has not been accompanied by inflation. M2—currency in circulation plus savings deposits—is reported each month to be, on average, 25% higher than in the comparable month last year. And new bank loans doubled in the first half and continue to increase at high rates. Yet consumer prices are reportedly down 1% to 2% year-to-date, while producer prices are off 7% to 9%.
Economics 101 teaches that if prices fall when the money supply is rising, either production must be increasing at a higher rate than money supply or the velocity of money changing hands must be falling. In China, the only market in which prices are consistently rising is the property market . . .[Notable & Quotable - FECR]
Also there has been lot of talk of China becoming a consumer economy instead of continuing to be an export oriented economy, which in large part played a role in current global financial crisis - China had to keep buying US treasury bonds, using the dollars it acquired to keep yuan down to enable exports, which kept US interests down helping leveraging up and spending binge by the Americans. Lee Kuan Yew, one of the few global wise men, talking to Charlie Rose, explains why the Chinese economic transition to consumption based economy may not happen anytime soon. In this hour long interview, Lee Kuan also talks about what issues will be paramount in the next few decades. First part of interview is here:

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Nehru, Not A Dove After All

While paying homage to Sri Homi Bhaha's centennial birth anniversary, Sri K. Subrahmanyam writes about the apparent perceived wisdom - that Bhaha was nuclear hawk interested in weapons and Pandit Nehru was nuclear dove interested in global nuclear disarmament:

There is a view that Bhabha was the main driver behind India’s nuclear weapon ambitions and Jawaharlal Nehru was a dove totally committed to nuclear disarmament. The late historian, Sarvepalli Gopal, who had access to Bhabha’s papers, told me that in the wake of the First UN Conference on Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy, over which he presided, Bhabha wrote to Nehru proposing that India should amend its constitution, renouncing nuclear weapons. Nehru replied, advising Bhabha to concentrate on development of the nuclear programme and to inform him when the stage was reached when India could make nuclear weapons. He asked Bhabha to leave political and strategic issues relating to nuclear energy in his hands. [Homi Bhabha - Scientist, visionary, dreamer; highlight by ed.]
Sri Subrahmanyam goes to say Bhabha turned to nuclear weaponization only after Chinese tested the weapon in 1964 and his death may not be the reason why India couldn't test weapon before the January 1st, 1967 deadline of NPT.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

In Defense of Kalam

In a post on failings of Kalam, Acorn tried to bring the veneration of former President Kalam down a notch. And other commentators piled on the failings to try to make the case stronger. While we agree with Acorn and others that raising the stature of Kalam in popular narrative to mythical levels is silly, the counter arguments showing the failings of Kalam doesn't hold much water.

Let's look at some of the criticisms. Well, there is really one core criticism in the post, which really boils down to Manoj Joshi's views on how Bharat should procure high value weapon systems. Acorn, nonetheless, endorses Joshi's view.

Because of (diversions caused by Kalam’s dogmatic insistence), India’s long-range missile deterrent has been delayed by about a decade...

He was not willfully dishonest, but his fixations and whims led to diversions and delays for which the country has paid a huge price. Perhaps his greatest, and in a sense forgivable, weakness was his obsession on “indigenous” development.

But the argument that India’s missiles are “indigenous” and Pakistan’s are based on Chinese, American, North Korean or someone else’s technology is a meaningless one. Military acquisitions are not about the “purity” of solutions, but time-urgent answers to a problem. [The Acorn]
While anyone who follows Sri Kalam's thoughts on weapons systems agree that he is a big proponent of developing weapon systems by ourselves, meaning designing and producing them "indigenously." Using that against Kalam is strange. One would think that was Kalam's career high point. Even if we ignore the struggles of Indian defence industry of not having an extensive and deep military-industrial base to produce high tech weapon systems, do critics really think India should buy critical weapons systems and be subjected to the whims and fancies of the provider nation? May be Joshi and Acorn forgot the trails and tribulations of making LCA take flight and sanctions regime on Kaveri engine, to take just one example. Even if we did buy, who will sell us an ICBM or an IRCBM? Did we forget MTCR.

Or, perhaps, Joshi and Acorn think we should have done what Pakistan and China have done - stealthy sell nuclear technology to rouge nations to acquire missile technology. Somehow I doubt Kalam's critics mean that. Or better yet, acquire the technology by espionage. I am all for espionage and stealing technology and manufacturing designs to speed up critical development process. But unless one believes the mythical status of Kalam to influence entire range of intelligence and political systems, the decision to conduct espionage would be made by political elites, not defence R&D project leaders.

Finally, who says India doesn't have the technology for producing the missile systems in the first place. What has ISRO being doing for the past few decades sending rockets to inner and outer space. Surely, Joshi and Acorn don't believe the myth that ISRO and DRDO are separated by an impenetrable wall!

That Kalam was the stumbling block for development of missile weapons systems doesn't hold water to reality. And that somehow we should use the delays in development and deployment of missiles to point out the failing of Kalam holds even less water. Those were purely political decisions. Kalam's call for indigenous development of missile weapon systems was the right call and it enhanced, rather than imperiled, national security. In fact, he prodded his scientists to think outside the conventional box such as, for example, thinking about reusable missiles.

As for other comments about his less than Victorian English to explain his vision for a strong developed India in a generation, we would take an Indian accent with simple English over apparently sophisticated arguments, in apparently sophisticated London or New York English accents, of some historians who are trying to make the case that India shouldn't even aspire to become a strong and rich nation! If Kalam can inspire enthusiastic and smart children, even better.

His conventional thoughts on getting infrastructure to people, where they live now, are just that - conventional. I simply do not know how people would be forced to migrate from their ancestral land to newly planned cities without economic incentives such as well paying jobs and good schools. But if there are well paying jobs, even without good schools, people migrate to urban centers as slums everywhere in big cities show. Until those economic incentives are in place, it's conventional to call for industry and government to provide basic, such water, electricity, and roads, and not so basic, such as internet, infrastructure to people where ever they live, even in remote villages.

We agree Kalam shouldn't be raised to a mythical status. But to say that Kalam abuses his mythical status is a myth. Surely that award goes to someone else.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Same Fact, Two Stories

Here are two stories of the same fact about the sequence of Modi's offer to resign, and how he continued, after the self-serving coverage by p-sec media after Gujarat's post-Godhra-massacre riots in 2002.

First, Jaswant Singh recalling a conversation, on flight with Sri Atal Vajpayee, Advaniji, Shourie, and himself, about status of Narendra Modi seeming to implicate Advani blocking Vajpayee's decision on Modi. (It is just one in a series of attacks Jaswant lead on Advani in the interview and elsewhere. Apparently all of that won't have mattered if Jaswant's book was welcome by Advani and BJP!)

Shekhar Gupta: It’s come so tryue (sic) now

Jaswant Singh: After a few moments of silence he said, “Gujarat ka kya karna hein?” because the incidents in Gujarat were….

Shekhar Gupta: The riots were in fact were very fresh at that point

Jaswant Singh: They were burning in the hearts of the people

Shekhar Gupta: That’s right

Jaswant Singh: Both ways. The burning of the bogie, the killing of other citizens, the sectarianism of it, the communal nature of it. So there was silence for some time and when we said Gujarat ke bare mein sochna chaahiye. Atalji had a way of never directly, other than me, he often told me, aisa hoga. I would disagree ye teek nahin, aap galat kar rahe hein, aapko teek nahi laga, tho kyo kehte ho mujhe. Because what I am saying is right. He would agree. There was silence…

Shekhar Gupta: So he allowed you to disagree with him

Jaswant Singh: He always allowed me to disagree. Even in cabinet meetings, in cabinet committee on security, I don’t what to say those issues I disagreed on because that is a different matter altogether. But on this particular issue, then Advaniji went to the bathroom or something…

Shekhar Gupta: on the plane..

Jaswant Singh: yeah on the plane…

Shekhar Gupta: It’s a tiny 737

Jaswant Singh: It’s not very big. Atalji then said, poochiye kya karna which he implied I went and asked Advaniji. Advaniji said only one phrase bawaal kada ho jaayega

Shekhar Gupta: You mean there’ll be rebellion in the party if you sack Modi

Jaswant Singh: Bawaal means commotion. Bawaal kada ho jaayega party mein. But when we landed there was already a certain kind of atmosphere prevailing so this issue, on that occasion, did not get taken

Shekhar Gupta: So would it be correct to say that Mr Vajpayee would have been inclined to act on Modi but Mr Advani said if you act there would be commotion in the party which may be uncalled for so lets not do it

Jaswant Singh: Factually, factually, to the best of my recollection, yes, this was the conversation and this would be the interpretation

Shekhar Gupta: So Vajpayee would have liked to sack Narendra Modi as Chief Minister

Jaswant Singh: I might not use the word sack

Shekhar Gupta: to take action…

Jaswant Singh: But certainly for the party to reflect, take some corrective measure

Shekhar Gupta: But Mr Advani came to Narendra Modi’s defence

Jaswant Singh: I think that is correct, that is correct

Shekhar Gupta: Right

Jaswant Singh: That is correct

Second, Arun Shourie recalling the same incident indicating that Advani agreed, along with the other three, that Modi should be asked to resign during the same flight.

Shekhar Gupta: And that call would have been to do what?

Arun Shourie: That Modi should resign. Immediately after we came back we had to go to the meeting of the national executive in Goa and I was told you must be on the flight. I said, ‘No, that is not right. Only Advaniji and he (Vajpayee) should be there. They should thrash it out and finish it. Whatever they decide, whether Modi stays or go’. And frankly, I must say, I was more affected by Atalji’s pain than by what had happened in Gujarat. Maybe this is my inhumanity or something. I can’t claim that I was that great liberal. The second thing happened was that this person, who was saying that you have to go there, said ‘You don’t know, they will not talk. The two of them will just sit, two hours will go and they will not talk... So, Jaswant is going there. The two of you would be there and this subject must be brought up and concluded’. So we sat down but nobody would talk. After a while Atalji picked up a newspaper and opened it. Then Advaniji picked up a newspaper and opened it. So they are sitting like this (face-to-face) and each is holding a newspaper, shutting out the other. So I took the newspaper from Atalji. I said ‘Sir, please you have to decide this issue’. The conversation first went to Jana Krishnamurthy, who was the BJP president at that time, a very nice person... it was decided that Venkaiah (Naidu) would be the president.

Then second, ‘Modi ka kya karna hai?’. I think my recollection is more, what you would call, extended than Jaswant Singh’s. So, this was discussed and it was decided, it was definitely decided that when we get down, Advaniji will ring up Modi and say that in the meeting in the evening, offer to resign. Then the meeting starts, speeches start. Atalji, Advaniji and all are sitting on the stage and Modi got up and said, ‘Mujhe kuch kehna hai’, and he offered to resign. He said, ‘Main nahin chahta ki party should have any difficulties because of me’. And as if on cue, people from different parts of the hall started saying ‘absolutely no... koi galti nahin hai...’. I was sitting at the back... and I saw Atalji’s bewilderment because he thought this was a done deal. This was like an orchestrated coup against him.

So I got up and I said, ‘Narendra Modi ne abhi jo yeh kaha hai, it’s in pursuance of the decision which these senior leaders have taken in the flight... I was present’. There was consternation, but immediately again the chorus started and eventually somebody said, Atalji said or the president of the party said, ‘Abhi to public meeting ka time ho gaya hai, kal decide karenge. Logon ne kaha nahin nahin, nahin hoga’. So there is absolutely no doubt, and I can give you much more details of this, that Atalji was completely thwarted.

Shekhar Gupta: Thwarted? Everybody got together?

Arun Shourie: I am not sure that everybody got together simultaneously, but I must say that I was not all the time for this, that Modi has to go because of the killings, because in my view such things happen as a reaction, as happened in Delhi as a reaction to (Indira) Gandhi’s brutal killing. You can’t then prevent those things. Nobody can prevent those things.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Jaswant Loses His Mind

May be this was sometime in the making. What else explains Jaswant Singh praise for Jinnah and derision for INC during the curial years before 1947. We were willing to grand some space to Jaswant as an intellectual and thinker. Today he proved he's neither.

Why had he been unceremoniously expelled from the party a week ago, the former External Affairs Minister was asked.

"Please don't ask me. I am outside the magic circle of advisers or thinkers. Because, I am not from the RSS, is that why? So are we a political party? Is the BJP becoming some kind of an Indian version of Ku Klux Klan?" he shot back during an interview to PTI here. KKK, widely known as The Klan, is the name of several past and present hate group organisations in the US, whose aim was to protect and further the rights of white Americans by intimidation.

Asked what he meant by reference to KKK, he said, "You know what the Klan means. You don't ask me about this." [IE]

May be he forgot to take his tablets, but he most certainly has lost his mind. Apparently one doesn't learn anything about an organization by working for it for 30 years.

It obviously is a path to join SP in the next few days. Also, may be now he can sell more of his fictional book in Pakistan and win praise from psecs in the country.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Farming or Gardening

Women irrigating vegetable field in Sangli [IE].
One hopes it rains soon.

Nobody in Charge at BJP

BJP's Rajnath Singh is shrinking the party. While we think there is merit to what BJP did to Jaswant Singh, the way it was done is having a blow back. Arun Shourie is challenging BJP to reform itself, quite publicly. BJP wants Sri Shourie to say whatever he wants to the party away from the media. But BJP has itself to blame for the thamasa. Sudheeran Kulkarni's leaving BJP is not such a big event in itself. He was probably at the door, right behind Sri Advani. He used the Jaswant's episode well to his advantage. What is bit more ominous is the resignation of Kiren Rijiju of Arunachal Pradesh. His action does not bode well for the party.

With Sri Rijiju leaving, that would be four active and thinking senior members of BJP leaving within a week. Rajnath Singh may be running the train, but it's Sri Advani who is apparently still in charge. Lot of this internal tussle would have probably happened anyway had Advaniji retired soon after election lose. Now, Advaniji is still the head but apparently not in-charge. He has to leave BJP for the party to remake itself. Atalji has already shown how to do it skillfully.

Transition of leadership is any institution messy business. The thing to note on the turmoil in BJP is its members are fighting back on the dictatorial tendency of its leadership. This happened in Congress I many times, most recently when Sonia Gandhi took charge when Sharad Pawar, P.A. Sagma, and Tariq Anwar quit. As a result of the transitional tussle, Congress I increased the dictatorial style of party governance, in line with its history. One hopes, contrary to what happened to Congress I, this period will allow BJP to become more democratic as an institution - that is the only way to bring new blood into leadership every election cycle, and that BJP will come out stronger the other side of this mess.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Why BJP is Right and Jaswant Singh Wrong

On of the face it, it seems silly for BJP to throw anyone out of the party for writing a book, least of all Jaswant Singh who worked for the party for 30 years and was an effective and prominent minister, handling key portfolios, during NDA rule under Sri Atal Bihari Vajpayee. A case can be made that he was one of the most effective foreign minister (and probably an effective finance minister as well, with Vijay Kelkar on his side ) because of the way he maneuvered US when it was breathing down Bharat's neck to role back nuclear weaponization, join NPT, and sign up for CTBT. Lesser mortals could have succumbed. In fact, NDA government almost did.

The way to look at this is not from Jaswant Singh's side, but from BJP point of view. BJP is political entity. It is based on political ideology and, at least ideally, sticks to that ideology when competing for political power at state and central levels. And its ideology is apparently based on nationalism and on historic Bharatiya cultural continuity, the so called Hindutva ideology. The entire debate after the recent BJP election loss was trying to identify what Hindutva actual meant. BJP and its support organization, RSS, would like the definition of Hindutva to be cultural nationalism rather than nationalism based on Hindu religion .

Even before the debate about Hindutva is settled, Sri Singh writes Jinnah — India, Partition and Independence, that, at its core, absolves Muhammad Ali Jinnah as being the central force for break up the Bharatiya subcontinent and lays the blame for it centrally on Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. He goes even further to say that Indian Muslims may not be comfortable with current democratic setup, meaning they have a legitimate claim to grievance of the current majority-based democratic framework.

It's one thing to write a book that re-looks at the roles Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Patel played leading up to partition. It's entirely another thing to make Muhammad Jinnah as the focal point of his book and downplay his role in partition. Does Jaswant Singh really believe a three-tired structure with semi-independent provinces work for India? If he does, why oppose the current status of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. It's ironic, and besides the point for this current debate, that Nehru dismisses Jinnah's interest in semi-independent provices for a strong centre, a prerequisite for his Fabian socialist agenda, but agrees to the same structure for Jammu and Kashmir soon after. In fact, early on, Nehru was okay with even a very loose federal structure for Jammu and Kashmir which Shyama Prasad Mookerjee, the creator of Jan Sangh, BJP's prior political form, gave his life fighting against.

What Sri Singh did in his book on Jinnah and partition was to undermine the core ideology of his own party. As an individual and a historian, it is perfectly reasonable for Jaswant Singh to write this book. But he cannot write a book that attacks the central ideology of BJP, that too as a senior leader of the same party.

It would have been better for both Jaswant Singh and BJP had Sri Singh resigned from BJP to write this book. The book itself may prove to be an important book on partition. But BJP had every right to fire a person who was working against its own political ideology. We just would have hoped they could have explained the action a little better.

As for the state of Gujarat's ban on Jaswant's book, suffice it to say that Sardar Patel would have probably disapproved the action. We would go further to say that Sardar Patel cannot be brought down by one book. If not, Marxist historians would have done it a long time ago to keep their apparent secular icon Nehru on an even higher pedestal.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

What Wasn't Said about Offending Hindus

Rohit Pradhan has an extremely fair review of Salil Tripathi's short book Offense: Hindu Case in Pragati, an online based magazine. While I'll let you read Sri Pradhan's review here, I am curious about wasn't said in the book. Sri Tripathi regurgitate the usual apparent intolerance of Hindus with stories of Gujarat's apparent anti-Muslim riot, sorry, "pogrom", M.F. Hussein obnoxious paintings of Lakshmi Devi, and others. What was missing was Hindus intolerance towards other Hindus. Even if one ignores the societal discrimination based on jati, Sri Tripathi seems to miss cases of Hindu Marxists intolerance on what Hinduism standards for or of Hindu secularists disdain towards practising Hindus. Aren't they Hindu offenders?

One thing that took me aback was the photo in Pragati of some guy with a tilak and painting and colour on his face with red angry eyes wearing collared t-shirt. What was the point this picture? Was it from Sri Tripathi's book? Is this how an offending Hindu looks like?

One hopes Sri Tripathi can collate a Defense: Hindu Case about how practising Hindus look upon people of other faith as equal, not inferior, to them - a key fundamental difference between other religious practitioners and practising Hindus. But then one has to be a practising Hindu to understand that.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Clinton's Nuclear Sites

Few days ago we weren't sure what role Hillary Clinton, US Secretary of State, would have when it comes to future India-US relationship. We proposed it would be restricted to trade issues.

And with all generals from Pacific command and heads of CIA making their presence in Delhi, Hillary Clinton presumably cares only about trade and people-to-people issues.
It seems we made the right call. Now things are coming into more focus. With Gen. James Jones, US NSA, visit talking exclusively about terrorism and Afghan-Paki region with Bharatiya establishment, Hillary Clinton apparently will be talking about where the nuclear power plants will be built by US companies, meaning trade and commerce issues. Smt. Clinton seems to be scoring with the WTO deal few weeks ago, when Anand Sharma gave up what Kamal Nath fought for for years, and now this.
India is likely to announce locations for two nuclear power plants, which would be made available to the American companies, during US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's visit to New Delhi next month, a top Obama Administration has said.
Who in US establishment would Bharat engage to talk about China, when China is becoming openly aggresive, and about other areas of concern? Are those issues even on the menu?

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Summery of Tussle

Jeff Smith of American Foreign Policy Council summarizes the ongoing tussle between India and China on China's apparent claim on Arunachal Pradesh in WSJ. He forgets to bring up the promise China made to PM Atal Vajpayee during his official to China on solving the border issue peacefully even as China was digging in with its troops and weapons systems on their side of Arunachal border.

He however posits what Washington's position should be.

What is Washington's role in this Asian rivalry? In the short term, a priority must be to tamp down friction over the border. In the longer term, Washington should leverage its friendly relations with both capitals to promote bilateral dialogue and act as an honest broker where invited. But it should also continue to build upon the strategic partnership with India initiated by former president George W. Bush, and support its ally, as it did at the Nuclear Suppliers group and the ADB, where necessary. Washington must also make clear that it considers the established, decades-old border between the two to be permanent.

Most importantly, though, the Sino-Indian border dispute should be viewed as a test for proponents of China's "peaceful rise" theory. If China becomes adventurous enough to challenge India's sovereignty or cross well-defined red lines, Washington must be willing to recognize the signal and respond appropriately.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Missing Word is Strategic

It's hard to know how much influence current US Secretary of State has on US president. Even if one ignores the election battle they went through, Sri Obama has an alternative point man for Afghan-Paki, and presumably for India, region for all security and terror related issues. And with all generals from Pacific command and heads of CIA making their presence in Delhi, Hillary Clinton presumably cares only about trade and people-to-people issues.

Bibek Debroy says one reason why Kamal Nath was not re-appointed commerce minister was because he gave US trade representative hell when negotiating the next round of WTO agreement - meaning, he was fighting for India's cause. Apparently the new commerce minister, Anand Sharma, already obliged his US counter part by making concessions. This implies Clinton apparently already influenced Indian PM decision making.

Hillary Clinton, it seems, has more influence in New Delhi than in Washington. So her speech at USIBC, the text of which I could not find on USIBC site, may not be a comprehensive take on relations between India and US.

However, putting the speech next to her take on the future path of US-China and US-Russian relationships makes us wonder where India falls in the scheme of things in Washington. References to 'Upgrade of Relationship' and 'Version 3.0' in her speech are fine but beyond commerce and trade, there is nothing substantive in her speech that indicates a new level of relationship. More than what was said, we find what was unsaid more interesting.

Ms. Clinton said while pursuing an "enhanced bilateral partnership" the two countries should recognise that their official ties "are past due for an upgrade" as compared to other metrics of cooperation. "We need bilateral cooperation between our governments to catch up with our people-to-people and economic ties".

If Bush administration's "strategic partnership" was version 2.0, we think "enhanced bilateral partnership" is a downgrade to the relationship that existed during the last the few years of Bush years. This may, quite possibly, be an indication of Clinton's influence in Obama's government. There will be more clarity when Obama himself has something significant to say about the relationship. For now, the trajectory of the relationship seems to be pointing downwards.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Humour: Should the Code be Transparent Too?

Martin Demello writes in IE:

The 2005 Right to Information Act was a significant milestone for India, a firm commitment to openness and transparency. The UPA’s promises of a public data project has only strengthened that commitment, promising to sweep away the nation’s dusty piles of secrecy and bureaucracy. But with increasing computerisation comes a related, but often overlooked imperative — that all government software be open source.
Just wondering if the open source code needs to be written in transparent font so one can see through it also. What's more baffling is this column was published at all!

Note: Have been away from blogging while dealing with family issues. Plenty of things happened in the past six months including BJP's failure to win general elections and return of the failed UPA back in power and the rise of left in the US. One nugget that can be taken away from the general and, especially, state elections in AP is people complain about corruption all the time, but they don't care about it. Corruption as a political issue is a non-issue for voters.