Thursday, March 29, 2012

Should General V K Singh be sacked

A look at the world of politics, statecraft, diplomacy and books

The Chief of the Indian Army, General V K Sngh is acting in a highly irresponsible manner when he makes allegations against the civilian leadership on a daily basis. This is not to say that the bureaucracy is not without its fault. For too long the top brass has had to sidle up to the officers of the Defence Ministry in order to protect their interests and in the process the whole structure of civil-military relations has come unstuck. Further, ever since the Bofors deal, corruption on a gigantic scale has been taking place in the procurement of equipment and aircraft for the Indian Armed Forces. Unfortunately, the Defence Ministry has institutionalised corruption and even A K Anthony who is said to be fairly straightforward is unwilling or unable to do anything about it. It is time to have a rethink on the whole question of procedure for defence procurement. Even serving Army, Navy and Air force officers act as agents for defence suppliers thereby muddying the waters, General V K Singh knows about al this but chose to keep quiet until the very last leg of his term as Chief of the Arny Staff. His eloquence at this stage is not to be viewed as a patriot out to do good to his country, but rather as a frustrated man venting his spleen at all and sundry. If he is happy bringing out a scandal a day let him do so. The question is: What did he do as Army Chief to stem the rot. The answer to the question is simple: He did nothing. He was part and parcel of a corrupt organisation though he himself may have been very circumspect.

General V K Singh has exceeded all limits in his tirade against the civilian leadership. We know that the MOD is stuffed with agents, crooks, double dealing criminals and what not. We do not need General Singh to tell us that. After losing his battle on the age issue with the Government he has opened up not just a second front but a whole series of skirmishes with the Government. The BJP which has jumped into the fray with alacrity should ponder over the consequences of Sinhg's actions. I think supporting V K Singh may not be in the political interest of the BJP though it certainly embarrasses the Government

The Government of India, rocked as it is by a blizzard of scandals does not have the moral authority to dao anything and the man refuses to go quietly. He must be shown the door otherwise the civil-military relations will be damaged beyond repaid. The actions of General Singh in writing to the Prime Minister, bypassing the chain of command, raking up old scandals whose only purpose is to create confusion constitute misconduct and indiscipline and the Govenment must reduce Singh in rank and turn him out.

Even in advanced Western democracies Generals who take their starched uniforms, their stars, their batons and other baubbles of office too seriously are turned out unceremniously. President Obama sacked his Commander in Aghanistan, Gen Macrystal, when he stepped out of line. And this is the way it should be. General Singh seems to be bent on creating confusion and his leaked letters are likely to be misread of several countries. Instead of harping on China as a threat, it is time for India to realise that China as a great and powerful nation does not expect anything more than fair treatment from India. Ever since India joined hands with uSA, the Army has become ungovernable in India and General Singh is only a symptom of this.

Saturday, March 17, 2012


A look at the world of politics, statecraft, diplomacy and books

Staff Sgt Robert Bales of the 3rd Stryker Brigade on his 4th tour of duty left his military base, loaded his kit and set off for the village of Panjawi in Kandhahar province of Afghanistan and went on a killing spree that will cost the US quite a lot of political goodwill and credibility. On several past occasions I have drawn attention to the systematic rampage of US military personnel in Iraq and even when the killers were identified as was the case in the Mahoumadiya incident, the culprits were acquitted after a perfunctory trial in which the pretence of "human rights" and the US military's commitment to civilised values is paraded before the whole world. Of course the order to kill does not come from the top political or military leadership, but the lack of systemic checks and controls make it easy for such rampages to take place. It now transpires that Staff Sgt Robert Bales was involved in a firefight in Iraq in which 250 Iraqi civilians were killed without the loss of a single US soldier. He received a military decoration for his heroism. No wonder.

Afghanistan is largely out of US control/ President Karzai commands neither loyalty nor respect among the people. He surrounds himself with hired American Security Guards and the burning of the Koran, the desecration of Afghan bodies by US soldiers and now this killing spree by Staff Sgt Bales, a decorated war hero, only add to his cup of woes. Barack Obama's policy of counter insurgency has become unstuck and is unlikely to lead to any great US success. Pakistan is on the boil and there is also growing resentment against the US drone attacks on Pakistani targets. The NATO attack on Pakistani military base in which 29 Pakistani soldiers were killed is still simmering. All in all the US is getting deeper and deeper in a mess from which retreat may be well neigh impossible.

Already there is an attempt to shield the soldier who was responsible for the massacre. He suffered a head injury and therefore had diminished competence. If this is so why was he not discharged on the grounds of psychological impairment. The foreclosure of his house upset him, according to one report. Millions of Americans have suffered due to the absolute depravity of the Wall Street thugs and they do not go on a killing spree. Another pointed out that this soldier actually enjoyed killing civilians as he was very proud of his "heroism" in which 250 Iraqis were killed during the course of just one hour of fighting. When soldiers are dehumanized in this manner you can expect consequences.US diplomats go round the world preaching "human rights" and issue threats to heads of state who are involved in deadly conflicts with known terrorist groups. Is not the US military responsible for the actions of this man. By what law should this Staff Sgt Robert Bales be prececuted: as a war crime he should face the Hague. The US has created a kangaroo court whenre Black and Slavic "war criminals" are araigned. Staff Sgt Rober Bales was secretly removed from Afghanistan and he is now in Fort Leavenworth. The US like the old Anglo-Saxon countries is asserting the right of extra territoriality and unfortunately the rest of the world seems to acquiesce in this. It is time for people of the world to say that even in normal rules of engagement during conflict, civilian life must be protected. Robert Bales may not be acting on the explicit instructions from his superiors and that may well be a defence, but that fact has to be established in a credible non partisan manner. US military cannot protect its own by sitting in judgement and then announce to the whole world that the US is a champion of human rights. The conduct of US military in Iraq and Afghanistan has already made such assertion laughable and sonner Barack Obama realises it the better for the world.


A look at the world of politics, statecraft, diplomacy and books

The political crisis that has overtaken the UPA II is largely of its own making. The dynastic fascist party, the Congress, seems to forget that it not not the master of its own house and therefore behaves as though it has an absolute majority like the bad old days. It has learnt the very difficult art of making policy announcements only to sheepishly retract them later. The FDI in Retail sector and the National Counter Terrorism Center both ran into rough weather and the Center looked very sheepish. Now we have the fiasco of the Railway Budget with Mamta claiming a new constitutional provision. A minister from her party must seek approval from the party supremo to present the budget. The Railway Budget itself is a relic of the early days of Independence and we need toive up this senseless practice of having a separate budget for the Railways: it gives the Railway minister a false and illusory sense of his importance. Lalu Prasad Yadava as a Railway Minister made a mockery of the budget and the fellow even fooled the Harvard Business School.

Dinesh Trivedi has no legal or constitutional constraint to consult his Party supremo over the budget. He is accountable to the Lok Sabha for the budget and the Budget is a Cabinet document. If Mamata has any problems with the budget she should withdraw form the UPA and vote against the regime in power. But like every Congress politician, she too has learnt the fine art of barking and not biting. She wants to threaten the regime by attacking her own minister, but not the Government on whose behalf Dinesh Trivedi has presented the Budget. The present regime headed by ManMohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi set a wrong constitutional and political precedent when they succumbed to the old DMK gangster from Tamil Nadu, Karunanidhi, when he forced the UPA regime to sack his nephew Dayanidhi Maran from the Cabinet ehen there was a feud between the sons and daughters of the several wives of that old fossil from Chennai. Since Man Mohan Singh created a bad precedent both constitutionally and politically by sacking Dayanidhi Maran, he is now hoist on his own petard. Had that Karunanidhi not done that act of having his nephew sacked, then the 2G scandal may not have happened and one of his daughters, Kanimozhi, may not have been caught in the biggest scandal of Independent India. Serves that old bandicoot right. The Minister for Railways is accountable to the Lok Sabha and Shri Man Mohan Singh must have the courage to tell the cotton sari Didi from Kolkotta that she cannot demand the sacking of a Minister on purely partisan grounds. As usual the Regine will prevaricate and in a day or two Trivedi will be shown the door and the same budget will be passed without anymore storms in Bengali tea cups.

The Union Budget is caught between two diametrically opposite objectives. It want to slightly bridge the growing fiscal deficit and at the same time raise resources by way of taxes without incurring the wrath of the allies who will face the wrath of the people in the next elections in a few months from now. The Budget does little to enhance growth and stimulate the economy. In fact the Budget will add to the inflationary pressure that already exists. Inflation will push up interest rates and hence the overall growth of the economy will around 5 to 6 % only. Social spending must be curtailed and the badger does little in that direction. The move to amend the foreign transactions taxation provision retrospectively from 1962 is legally questionable but that is the only way the Government can come out of the Vodofone mess. I think this provision must be passed on the grounds of necessity and I hope the Courts concur.

The budget remains a flawed document and in all probability will be tha last budget of this regime. The sooner it goes the better.

Sunday, March 11, 2012


A look at the world of politics, statecraft, diplomacy and books

The BJP always claims that it is more civilised than the Congress Party with its dynastic fascism and courtier culture. Many may be inclined to wonder after the recent train of events. Like the Congress Party, the BJP is riven with factionalism and the appointment of the National President, a man virtually unknown in the rest of India was a big mistake and the party is paying the price for this. I blame the leaders like Susma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley for dividing the Party on favtional lines. Every bJP Government in India ia as corrupt and criminalised as the Congress Government and we wonder as we approach the next election: What is the alternative for India. Instead of introspecting and understanding the loss of its support base and the rapid erosion of its popularity, BJP is as usual indulging in gimmicks. With the exception of Gujarat all other BJP ruled states are as bad as the Congress rule, in some respects even worse.

Shivraj Chaouhan, the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh, promised good governance and what he did was to hand over the state to various mafia groups who seem to enjoy the protection of the BJP big wigs. The routine murder of RTI activists and more recently the brutal killing of Shri Narendar Kumar an IPS officer by the timber Mafia is a brute reminder that the BJP ruled states are as bad as Congress ruled ones. What is worse, the government made an attempt to pass off the brutal killing as a mere accident. If police officers are killed so brutally while performing their duty then we have cause to be worried. Each time such events occur we in the media refer to the killers using a broad generalisation"mafia". We are unable to pin down the names behind the abstraction called the "mafia".The biggest mafia groups in the country are the political parties themselves and unless the Election Commission of India is empowered to audit their accounts nothing serious will happen.

Just think of the endless lists of mafias we read in the newspapers: Tendu leaf mafia, timber mafia, coal mafia, oil mafia, tanker mafia, NRGEA mafia, railway mafia, defence contractor mafia, infrastructure corridor mafia, dalit mafia, OBC mafia, muslim mafia, jat mafia, labour union mafia, land mafia. I can go on and on. The point is made. In India after successive Congress regimes the MAFIA have inherited the land. And the people van do nothing about it. It is time to make attack on public servants a serious offence. The police have lost all credibility due to the absolute spinelessness with which they fawn at the feet of the illiterate ministers and it is time the police took law into their own hands and protected themselves. If the police kill criminals then the wind call goes off that it is a"fake encounter" like the cry against the Tamil Nadu Police when they gunned down Veerappan. HumanRights's activists have nothing to lose and hence they court cheap popularity by indulging in inane rhetoric. If criminals are armed the police must be empowered to shoot to kill as is done is Western democracies like UK, France and USA. Even the Bhattala House event in which a police officer was killed is termed "fake encouter" by the like of Digvijaya Singha.

In 280 districts of India, some kind of mafia is operating and the Home minister is unable to do anything because his own political legitimacy is in question. Unless organised crime is dealt not as a mere law and order problem but as a serious political issue more honest officers will die. In Tamil Nadu when Kanimozhi's father was misruling the state 6 Thasildars were killed by the "sand mining" mafia. After a meagre compensation nothing more was done. Even Jayalalithaa has done nothing which only goes to show how deep rooted the rot is.

BJP kept Yeddurappa and his mining mafia, the Bellary Reddy Brothers, in power and the result is that in Karnataka the BJP will not be re elected ever again. It is time the politicians realise that the purpose of politics is service not crime and the people of India must not vote for criminals.

Western political theory with its Weberian categories of legitimacy and Habermas' notion of public sphere will not be able to unerstand the ease with which criminals are able to acquire political legitimacy in India. The distinction between out law and citizen in becoming increasingly blurred so much so the time will soon comw when people will turn to organised groups whoc are outside the politcal sphere to provide leadership. This trend is already vissible as large swathes of the country are under the control of "naxalites" or radical Maoist groups. These organised violent groups provide a modicum of security in a society in whci criminals can easily be elcted to the Lok Sabha and other state assemblies. In fact parties like the Congress, the Samajwadi party and to a lesser extent the BJP all provide political support to criminals.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

2012 Assembly Elections and their Implications

A look at the world of politics, statecraft, diplomacy and books

The results of the 2012 Assembly Elections are finally out and just as I predicted the Congress was soundly routed in all states except Manipur. The defeat of the Congress in the politically significant states of Punjab and Uttar Pradesh will have a bearing on the survival of the U PA regime in New Delhi. The dual headed hydra--Sonia and ManMohan--never the best of constitutional arrangement has been decisively rejected by the people. Even in Uttarkahnad the difference between the Congress and the BJP is only one seat and so the Congress cannot crow about its victory. Pretty Face, Rahul Gandhi, has been shown to be an electoral non-starter and with an encore performance as in Bihar, the significance of the "dynasty" in the politics of Northern India stands considerably diminished. I cannot say that the electorate has dealt a death blow to dynastic fascim as Akilesh Yadava, the son of Mulayam Singh Yadava has been given a mandate to rule and his only claim to fame is that he is the son of Mulayam Singh Yadava. Until the people of India learn to disregrad birth and lineage and start voting on the basis of the merits of the candidates on offer, India cannot be regarded as a mature democracy.

Rahul Gandhi behaved as if he has the right of birth to high office. The result has been a know-out blow to the pretensions of the Congress "yuvaraja". The coutriers that his young yuvaraja had gathered, the likes of Salman Kurshid, Digvijaya Singh, Beni Prasad Verma and others, all stand exposed. The Congress played the worst kind of identityu politics when they raised the bogey of "reservations " for Muslims knowing well that it will polorise the voters. The voters of UP have right;ly rejected identity politics based on religion. The defeat of Mayawati shows that even identiry politics based on caste was rejected by the UP voter. Rahuls behavior on the campaign trail was erratic to say the least. Throwing garlands back to the crowd something his grandmother used to do, did not go down well with the voters. He is just too young for this kind of patronizing conduct. Tearing up paper in public and other such gestures was not liked by the people. Above all his comment that people of UP are beggras who work in Mumbai has cost the Congress dear. I belong to Gorakhpur and do not like my people to be so characterized.

The victory of the Samajwadi Party will unleash the forces of caste goondaism in UP. The 5 years of Dalit rule has made people of UP politically aware and conscious and they will not take kindly to Yadava hegemony. I think there will be an increase in the social temperature in UP because of the victory of the Yadava dominated SP. The Muslims have returned to the SP this time round and so we can expect a great deal of communal violence in UP as a consequence of SP victory. I think the victory of the SP will soon be regretted by the people of UP. And the prospects for the survival of UPA II have sharply decreased as a result. The performance of the Congress is so bad that in the next Lok Sabha elections if we are to extrapolate from these results, Congress will win less than n6 seats.

The BJP fared very poorly though there has been a slight increase in the voting percentage. I think the choice of candidates was faulty because of factionalism Uma Baharathi tried her best and failed. I think the Party must craft a social coalition based on a unity between upper castes, backward Rajputs and dalits. Only such an orientation will help the BJP in the next General Election. In Punjab as I predeicted the Akalis and the BJP have won. The Congress stands humiliated. I do not know how the Congress could even hope to get Sikh votes after its crimian masscre of Sikhs in 1984. I hold the Congress Party responsible for this massacre and I think its leaders need to be punished. Anyway Punjab has redeemed itself by rejecting the Congress.

Political instability will now increase and I think India is headed for a poll in 2

Saturday, March 3, 2012


A look at the world of politics, statecraft, diplomacy and books

The recent decision of the Vatican to reveal the secret documents that that lain hidden in its extensive secret achives is a welcome step. For centuries the Vatican has hoarded its documents and this tendency has of course fueled speculation that often results in conspiracy theories doing the rounds. If the Vatican had embraced the principle of openess and transparency, the sordid sage of the Da Vinci Code could have been avaided. Speculation enters where there is an opaque blanket of fog and the only way to dispel it is by exposure to the searching light of historical scrutiny and thia is exactly what the Pope has done.

The Secret Archives of the Vatican extend over 85 miles of shelves and the alcoves are stuffed with records going back to the fall of the Raman Empire. It is sometimes said that the very altar of the cathedral on Capitol Hill is located on the tomb of Saint Peter. The velum documents and richly illustrated Bibles are really a treasure that belongs to the whole world and Vatican is doing us a favor by putting them on public display

The secret documents contain records of the Trial of the Knights Templars when the entire order was proscribed and the Knights hunted and burnt at the stake. The record of the Inquisition form another interesting category of documents. The excommunication of the great reformer, Martin Luther, which unleashed the Protestant movement or the Lutheran movement is another interesting historical record. The signed retreaction of Galileo who was forced to withdraw his famous book in which he put forth his heliocentric theory of the universe in opposition to the theory favored by the Catholic Church is another interesting document. During the Second World War when the Germans were busy exterminating the Jews,the Holocaust, the Roman Catholic Church remained a silent spectator. There are also historians like David Goldhagen who argue that the Church was an active accomplce in the Holocaust. The secret archives may shed light on this rather sordid chapter in the history of the church.

Openess and transparecy have never been the guiding principles of any totalitarian religious movement and the Catholic Church is not an exception. However the decision to display the secret archives and to upload part of the Archives on to the WEb site are certainly welcome.


A look at the world of politics, statecraft, diplomacy and books

Elizebeth Eisenstein in her study entitled The Printing Press as an Agent of Change argued that it was the availability of knowledge across class lines that paved the way for the great changes that we now associate with the Industrial Revolution and the Scientific Revolution. The printed book was empowering because it broke the monopoly of the clerical and the warrior groups to literacy and in the eighteenth century we see the sons and grandsons of artisans and peasants emerge as scientists and inventors. Just think of James Watt and George Stephenson. Unfortunately in the poorer parts of the world which became the site aggressive colonisation, the advent of the Internet in the first decade of the 20th century was in many ways the beginning of the print or knowledge revolution which Europe witnessed in the eighteenth century. It is this historic change that is being undermined and subverted by the hopelessly criminal act of the US Congress in forcing knowledge sharing sites like Gigapedia to shut down. Non White researchers and students who do not have access to world class libraries like New York Public Library, Harvard University Library or the Library of Congress were avid and dedicated users of Gigapedia and up to date knowledge was available at the click of a mouse. The forced shut down of sites like Gigapedia is a direct assault on the right of every human being to education and cultural improvement, rights enshrined in the UNESCO charter and several international conventions and treaties.

The Gigapedia was not a piracy site. It was only a file sharing site that was not doing business when it allowed students and teachers from the non white parts of the world to read and store books and journals. It did not make its vast collection of books into a monopoly. On the contrary, it allowed access in a truly democratic manner to all without any restriction. Even Microsoft which funded the Gutenberg Collection is slowly making access more and more difficult and everyday the number of books available for free download is actually decreasing. Gigapedia, like Wikipedia has supporters all over the world and we must educate,organise and agitate over the efforts to curtail our right to knowledge. The corporate interests of USA and Europe are making efforts to curtail our freedoms and the assault on Julian Assange and the Wikileaks is just one of the more egregious of such attempts. Gigapedia was not in the business of exposing corporate secrets or scandals. It only provided a platform for interested scholars and researchers to interact. The Book Reviews on the site were more impressive than those found in NYRB or the Times Literary Supplement. We were getting access to the best minds this globe had to offer and we all stand impoverished as a few smug white men in burlap suits sitting in the US Congress decide that our quest from knowledge can be equated to the corporate greed for profits. Like the battle against Slavery, this battle too has to be won and I know that our side will win. Welcome to the fight as Lazlo says in Casablanca.

I teach in an Indian University and my area of teaching includes Global History and Historiography. Every semester I used to burn CDs with all the important books downloaded in the pdf format and gave the cds to the students. In our University nearly 60% of the stdent population owns a Laptop or desk top computer and there are nearly 800 to 1000n systems on Campus including an all night reading room with Computers which run on the Linux Operating System. Gigapedia was heaven to us as we could now make are students globally competitive. That dream lies cruelly shattered due to the mistaken priorities of the US political class. And both the Democrats and Republicans are united on this one issue.

I appeal to all those engaged in Teaching, Research and connected with the industry of education to take up the cause of saving knowledge sharing sites like Gigapedia or