/**SNAP Code begin **/ /**SNAP Code end **/

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.