Sunday, December 22, 2013


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

Georgia, a tiny Christian kingdom, lying on the border of the expanding and fiercely Shia Safavid Empire, was conquered by Shah Abbas I the Safavid ruler snd the captured queen was brought in chains to Isfahan where according to Augustinian sources she was imprisoned for 11 years. Shah Abbas i gave her the unenviable choice between death or life in his harem and the valiant queen chose martyrdom. Her son Teimuraz, for whose safety and protection, the Queen offered herself as hostage to the Safavid emperor, composed a hagiographical  text, The Book and Passion of Queen Ketevan and after the Independence of Georgia from the Soviet Union Queen Ketevan has been reinvented as a heroic, national symbol and has become the symbol of nationhood, a role that the deeply religious and spiritual Queen Ketevan would have found both repugnant and distasteful. The horrific torture inflicted on the Queen which include tearing her eyes out with red hot pincers, cutting parts of her body and breaking evey limb before she ultimately died was witnessed by some Augutinian friars who secretly took her body for burial to Goa which was part of the Portuguese empire. The seventeenth century records speak of the interment of her bones near the window of the transept of the great Cathedral built by the Augustinian order in Goa, now a UNESCO world heritage site. Since the Independence of Georgia the Archaeological Survey of India has been carrying out excavations at the site in order to identify the bones of the queen who was canonized in the nineteenth century. The Queen was martyred in 1624 and a few years later her bones were taken out of Persia.

 The image on the right is a nineteenth century representation of the Queen. Fortunately for historians there is a great deal of contemporary evidence relating to the burial of the queen in the Cathedral at Goa. However it was only from 1989 that Indian archaeologists started looking in earnest for the bones. The interest taken by the ASI stemmed from the political and diplomatic pressure put on India bu Georgia. Is is necessary for the bones of the martyred Queen to be returned to Georgia just to serve the political and ideological needs of the Government in power there. Edward Shevardnadze was the politician who initiated the search for the bones. In 1994 a stone reliquary was found embedded in the wall of the transept and had the windows survived the closest would have been the second window and since that discovery there has been a great deal of public interest over this relic. The Archaeological Survey of India only identified it as the bones, perhaps of a woman and it bore unmistakable marks of great trauma. The Georgians were convinced that it was the bone of their Great Queen Ketevan and they carried the relic to Tiblis where it was received with all the honour due to a Head of State. In the rewriting of History which will inevitable result when the past gets so heavily encrusted with the ideological demands of the presnt, will be forgotten one inconvenient truth: Queen Ketevan had invited Shah Abas I to invade and help her son get the throne and wanted the Safavids to guarantee the security of her son. That however does not justify or mitigate the horrible death she was bore.

The tower of the Augustinian Cathedral where the relics were found

In a stunning new development, Indian scientists were able to confirm the remains of the queen by extracting the mitochondrial DNA and comparing it with the descendants of the queen in Georgia. Since mtDNA is passed only along the female line, this confirmation is almost accurate and we know that the Queen did not have an identical twin. The Uib strand in the DNA sequence is not found in the Indian population but is statistically very pronounced in the Georgian population.

The identification of this relic is indeed a remarkable instance of how important the skills of a historian are in the reconstruction of the past.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Devyani Khobragade Affair" What should be Indian's response

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

The Americans seem to have overreached themselves. In a relatively minor matter in which there are conflicting interpretations of the Vienna Convention, USA chose to behave in a most disgusting and barbaric manner. A young woman diplomat of India, posted as the Deputy Consul General at New York was arrested while she was dropping her  daughter at school, handcuffed, taken to a police station where a cavity search was carried out, the young woman stripped and longed in prison along with drug addicts and hookers. The way in which USA treated this woman diplomat even by American standards is appalling and this scandal has escalated into  a full blown diplomatic row between the two countries.

Let us get the facts first. The Indian Government has a policy of allowing its diplomats to engage a "housemaid" or help from India and the person so engages is given a passport and usually a part of the wage is credited into an Indian account so that the family back in India can be supported. The earlier generation of Indian diplomats used to take their sisters, mothers and other relatives as :servants: and their was no problem, However, in recent years there has been a decline in the practice of relatives doubling as "servants" and diplomats engage domestic help from India and the Government allows some semi official recognition to this practice which I agree is open to abuse. The young diplomat in question Dr Devyani Khobragade engaged a woman, Sangeeta Richards and took her to USA as a domestic help in 2012. In November 2012 this woman Sangeetsa disappeared and has remained an illegal alien in the USA ever since. The diplomat reported the matter to her Government and a case was registered by the Government of India and the Metropolitan Magistrate of Delhi issued a non bailable warrant against Sangeeta Richard. There is a valid extradition treaty between India and USa and hence this country expected USA to trace Sangeeta and return her to face Indian law.

When matters were at this stage, USA acted unilaterally. Instead of locating the illegal alien on US soil, Dr Devyani Khobragade was picked up ans subjected to the barbaric treatment, thai I have described in my first paragraph.   What are the charges against the diplomat. She is accuse of not payin her domestic help the minimum American wage. This is a surprising and disingenuous   charge because the American Embassy in New Delhi which issued the visa to Sangeeta knew that the Indian diplomat cannot afford to pay the wage required as that would exceed the salary of the diplomat. Moreover there is also the payment of a ceratin percntage of the salary in India to support the child and husband of Sangeeta. The matter came to light when the woman applied for the notorious Green Card.

Has Dr Devyani Khobragade broken any law. The terms and condition of the contract between her and Sangeeta is set out in detail in the visa application and so no rule was broken. Even if there was a minor infraction certainly srtip searching a young Indian woman and cavity search are certainly egregious instances of calculated barbarism. What is particularly galling is the role of two NRIs (Non Resident Indians), preet Brar and Nisha Desai. The first has made it his business to prosecute Indians icons in the USA and by doing so is trying to establish his credentials in the USA that he is loyal. A loyalty test that requires such obnoxious practices like what was done to the young lady is cheap and vulgar to say the least, but Indians like Preet Brar are expected to comply. The other individual is the Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia appointed by Hussein Obama. And as an Indian woman at least in terms of origins she has to prove to her master that she does not give any favor to Indians. In fact no special favor is expected or required. India expects the Geneva Convention on Consular Ofocers to be followed. The inverse racism of these two Indians aggravated the situation and India is outraged. I strongly condemn the USA for the humiliation it imposed on our diplomat, a mother, a woman and an Indian.

Now I will come to the other side of the story. India has not been sending representatives who can project India's culture and interests in a meaningful way. The reason why India got all exited over this affair is not outrage over the way an Indian woman diplomat was treated but the underlying identity politics involved. Meira Kumar, the Speaker of the Lok Sabha and Sunil Shinde the Police Minister of India refused to meet a visting Congressional Delegation citing the treatment meted out to the woman. The victim happens to be a "dalit" and dalit identity politics came into play. Not just that the way in which the husband and child of Sangeeta were treated in India does not do credit to Indian claim that there is rule of law just as the US behvious discredits the notion that USA has rule of law. India has retaliated by withdrawing all facilities granted to the US diplomats and there is every reason to believe that homosexual American diplomats who brought a live in companion on diplomatic visa will be expelled, The woman happened to be a dalit and so politically can play the dalit card. However there have been sevral instances of US misbehaviour with visiting Indian dignitaries" George Fernades and A P J Abdul Kalam were stip searched and both these men found the expreince so humiliating that they kept quiet. Strobe Tablott brought out the facts in his book. I am one of those who believes that there is no need for the special relationship with USA.

And to make matters worse the father of this diplomat, Uttam Khobragade got a flat for himself in the Adarsh Society which was sret up to build houses for Kargil soldiers and martyrs. So karmic justice finally works its miracles.

Thursday, December 12, 2013


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

India after the abolition of Slavery in 1834 became the largest supplier of involuntary labor called the Indenture System. The historians who have worked on this theme in the immediate flush of decolonization found another robust reason to lampoon India: its oppressive "caste system" and the inherent poverty of India forced men and women to immigrate and seek fortunes overseas. This POLLYANNA  view is enshrined in the scholarly writing and a moral equivalence is established between the slaving countries like USA, Britain, France and Portugal with India. The book under review is a welcome departure form these trends. Hugh Tinker even called Indenture a "new kind of slavery". Gaiutra Bahadur, the great grand daughter of a coolie woman from Bihar, Sujaria, has traced the history of Indenture in Guyana the erstwhile British Guinea, and she has done a speendid job

There is a certain duplicity in the way in which India as a society looks upon the descendents of the indentured coolies. V S Naipaul, the great writer is appropriated as a great Indian who has made India proud in spite of the horrendous history of indenture. The recognition given to Pravasi Bharathi, or People of Indian Origin is meant to celebrate the bond with the great "motherland". However, the Indians who worked on the tea plantations of Sri Lanka are denied that recognition and whatever sympathy the Tamils of Sri Lanka enjoy here in India is reserved for the Jaffna Tamils, the high caste Tamils. Gaiutra Bahadur's book is refreshing only because it eschews such contrived identities and is a harrowing narrative of Indenture from the woman's point of view. Sujaria sailed from Calcutta in 1903 when she was foor months pregnent and there is no trace of a man accompanying her and the author's grand father is born on board the HMS Clyde. Sujaria a single woman made good for herself and in the process accumulated around 2 husbands including a high caste Thakur and all the men in her life seemed to have maintained cordial relations both with her and her children born to different men on the Plantation where she worked.

The labour and its discipline on the Plantation  was severe and many of the labour practices institutionalized in the sugar plantations were hold overs from the era of slavery, the Peculiar Institution as the Americans called it; flogging, branding, whipping, jail terms, extra work etc. Given the harsh condition and also the fact that women were relatively scarce, coolie women unlike their Indian counterparts enjoyed a degree of empowerment that came with choice. Sexual jealousies were rampant and "wife murders" were not that unusual.

The book documents in great detail the several instances of violence on the Plantations. The book is written well and is a moving testimony to the horrors of indenture written with rare sensitivity. The author has even traced the Pass issued to Sujaria and this shows that the System of Indenture was based on the bureaucratic principle of rule of records and classification.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

The Assemby Elections in India: The Prospects of the Congress and the BJP

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

The Assembly Polls in the five states--Rajastan, Chatiisghar, Madhya Pradesh, Delhi  and Mizoram--will soon be over and it is time to look at the possibilities or rather the chances of the two parties. For the BJP this is a make or break election as the Prime Ministerial candidate, Sri Narendra Modi was the chief campaigner in all the state save Mizoram. Any adverse result would be interpretted as a reflection on his electoral appeal and so also the case with the dynastic fascists, the Congress party. The Congress fielded Shri Rahul Gandhi as their main campaigner and once the ballot boxes are open the country will know the mood of the electorate. This election campaign was characterized by extremely low rhetoric from both sides and especially from the Congress party. The Congress "crown prince" Rahul Gandhi the inheritor of the family throne hurled abuses like "Chor" (thief), "lootere" (looters) and his mother, the Italian born Sonia, not to be out done referred to the BJP as "poison". Such rhetoric will hardly enthuse the voter and as we begin the run up to the 2014 Parliamentary Elections we expect the Congress to out do itself in the rhetorical sphere. The BJP responded to these flourishes of inspired invective with a sobriquet that caught the goat of the Congress Party: Shezada or Mughal Prince. Of course the title was used by Narendra Modi to address Rahul Gandhi who is also called Amul Baby by the Indian political class.

In Rajasthan, Vasundhara Raje Scindia ran a well organized campaign and was able to connect with the electorate on the twin issue of mis governance and corruption. The Dynastic Fascists appointed, Ashok Ghelot as their Chief Minister and his Cabinet was plagued with serious issue of crime and corruption from the word "go". The involvement of his cabinet colleague in the murder of a dalit woman who was also involved with another congress man threatened the regime as both the Gujjars and the dalits started distancing themselves from the Congress Party. The Congress started wooing the jats, the notoriously fickle and]self serving caste, by promising a 5% reservation in Government jobs. However, it is unlikely that this strategy will make much of a difference except in the Bharatpur region. The Congress went to town about its social welfare schemes,  but the schemes introduced were badly executed and ended up alienating more people. It is certain that the BJP will form the next Government under Vasundhara Raje Scindia.

In Madyha Pradesh, the Government of Shiraj Chuhan was a corrupt and infested with elements which were thriving off the Government contracts. The Timber Mafia has acquired a stranglehold over the state and people are aware of it. However, the Congress party with its internal factionalism and conflicts over ticket distribution was not able to put up a credible fight. The  senior congressman Dig Vijaya Singha was sideleined and the arc lights were on Jyotie Scindia, the son of Madhav Rao Sindhia and the nephew of Vijaya Raje. The price rise, inflation and the price of onions all came into paly in this election. The BJP was able to recover lost ground as Narendra Modi campaigned extensively in the state and the BJP is likely to come to power with a fairly good majority, but it will see a  drop in seats.

In Delhi the BJP changed its Chief Ministerial candidate mid way through the polls. Vijay Goel was repalced by Dr Harsh Vardhan Singh, a physician with a fairly good reputation as far as Indian politicians go. The Capital has seen a contest between the Congress and the BJP. This time with the entry of the AAM ADMI PARTY  of Arvins Khejriwal there is a triangular contest. The two major parties are both crying foul saying that the AAP is playing the spoiler and the BJP very effectively countered the influence of the AAP by asking people not tom waste their votes. It is likely that the BJP will win the state but the unfortunate presence of the AAP will make Government formation a trifle difficult. I would not be surprised if the AA{ splits after tjhe polls as the party is run on autocratic grounds with Arvind and Sissodia dominating the show.

In Chatiisghar, the massacre of May 2013 oeganized by a powerful faction within the Congress Party has made the job of the Congress Party extremely difficult. The Party tried to blame the BJP for the massacre and elicit sympathy, but the electorate in India knows exactly who was behind the attacks. Ajoit Jogi ran a lack lustree camapign and Dr Raman Singh will reemerge the victor.

In the elections the level of campaigning, especially byn the Congress Party fell to an all time low. Yet with all the negative campaign and personal attacks on Narendra Modi, the bJP will do well. 

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Tehelka, Tarun Tejpal and the Quality of Indian Journalism

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

Regular readers of the Indian press would certainly recognize the name, Tehelka. Rabidly pro western in it political and editorial stance and vehemently pro Congress in its ideological orientation, Tehelka acqired a degree of notoriety when it launched what is called a sting operation against Bangaru Laxman, the President of the BJP, a party which is contesting the Congress all over the country. Though the President of the BJP was not holding any public office, nor was he in any fiduciary sense   in a capacity to influence decisions in the defense ministry during the NDA rule, the sting operation caught the President accepting one hundred thousand rupees from the Tehelka journalist who secretly filmed this. The Congress went to town proclaiming the "corruption and venality" of the BJP led Government. Never mind that there was no bribe paid and it was perfectly legal to accept party contributions, the BJP abandoned any defense of the President and he was sentenced to a jail term which he served. 

Tehelka is a new kind of ideologically driven, headline grabbing electronic journalistic venture. It specializes in uncovering scams, scandals and other goings on in BJP ruled on BJP friendly states.  Tarun Tejpal the aging Editor and his second in command a woman called Shoma Choudhary are well known faces in the country's English news channels and whenever they appear they very predictable give of the Congress spiel and refuse to subject the drivel they espouse to any critical scrutiny. Even though it was known that the sting operation against the President of the BJP was illegal the successive Congress regimes continued to prosecute the dalit President of the BJP. On almost all majot controversies such as the Gujarat Riots of 2002 and the more recent episode of a woman who perhaps came under police surveillance in Gujarat for extra legal reasons, Tarun and his cohort Shoma were at their shrillest on television channels like NDTV another Congress friendly news channel.

Tehelka seems to be a front for a number of illegal companies which are funding this news organization. Though the ostensible owner of Tehelka is a Bengali MP from Mamtha Banerjee's TMC, Tarun Tejpal and his family are the dejure owners as nearly 19% of the shares are owned by Tejpal, giving him effective control over the day to day functioning of the news organizations. The holding companies of Tehelka even managed to get unsecured loans to the tune of 1,400 crores which invited the strong sanction of the regulator, SEBI. The balance sheet of Tehelka and its associated companies are not available for public scrutiny and this itself shows that the Company was involved in many shady and dubious, perhaps even illegal activite. It may even turn out that some of the illegal wealth of Congress politicians may be parked in Tehelka.

Tarun Tejpal is in the news for attempting to rape a female employee of his when the International Film Festival was held in Goa recently. Apparently he cornered her in the life of the five star hotel where he and his staff were staying and abused her sexually. When the girl complained to the "Managing Editor" a woman called Shoma Choudhary also from Kolkatta, she made it appear as if the whole affair was consensual and that the woman was making a fuss over nothing. Tejpal magnanimously offered to take leave from the editorial duties and both the man and his woman felt that the ends of justice had been met. In India, there is growing intolerance toward sexual harassment and exploitation and the words of Nancy Poweel mean nothing as she is not aware of the reality of India today. The outrage against Tarun Tejpal and his "Managing Editor" Shoma Choudhary resulted in the Goa police registering  a case of rape against Tejpal.The mananagment of Tehelka is putting a lot of pressure on the young girl not to cooperate with the Police in its investigatioon and this is the way the"flag bearer" of the so called secular liberalism behaves in India.

The Congress is trying to shield its journalistic hit man with all the power at its command. The Minister of the Congress regime whom we jocularly refer to as the Dr Goebbels of the Regime, the Minister for Mis information and Propaganda, the voluble Manish Tewari has not said a word about this incident in public. Obviously the regime would like the uproar to quieten and then offer him some plum assignemnts like membership of the Prasar Bharati Board. The ammended Rape laws that have been passed allow for procecution even if the woman does not file a written compalint. So the ends of justice may yet be met.

This episode only shows that blackmailing journalists like Tarun Tejpal are predatory sexual perverts and like Rathore and Kanda need to be in jail.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Massacre of the Sikhs by the Congress Party in 1984: Memory and History, Helium, a Novel

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

Jaspreet Singh
Bloomsbury, 2013

Violence is a part of History and the Nation States of today prefer to erase violence, especially collective and concentrated acts of demonic destruction of life from the pages of History. India is not an exception. In the West, the Holocaust is passed off as a Nazi aberration with the ordinary Germans participating only as innocent bystanders and this version history sits quite comfortably with the ideological and political realities of the Cold War and post Cold War geo political environment. In India too, there has been a denial of violence as a factor in the collective existence of India. The "Secular" scholars wax rather eloquently about the "Idea of India" which they associate with Jawaharlal Nehru ignoring the fact the he oversaw the largest mass killing in the history of the Indian subcontinent when the political leadership of the Congress and Lord Mountbatten decided to bring forward the date of Indian Independence from 1948 without bothering to prepere for the enormous tragedy that was to unfold. We may not ever know the numbers, but a figure of 3 million killed or displaced on both sides of the border is certainly possible, making the birth of the so called democratic republic of India one of the most bloodstained in the twentieth century. Yet the acolytes of Nehru pretend that Nehru and his Interim Government cannot be blamed.

The "communal factor" and the "comunalism" in Indian politics is one thmeme that plays itself out in Indian historiography without any theoretical or empirical understanding. The framing of the political issues either prior tpo Partition or Post Partition (I deliberately do not use the world Independence) as "communal" or "secular" is a game that began with the Congress when it participated in the 1937 Elections in the United Provinces and other parts of British India under the Government of India Act of 1935. The Congress did not win a single seat earmarked for the Muslims though it presented itself as a "secular" and the only organization that represented all sections of the Indian population. Instead of introspecting and trying to comprehend the alienation of the Muslim population the Congress did what it always does best: it created a bogey man so that it could use the bogeyman to frighten the Muslims into supporting the Congress. From 1937 after the Congress failed to win even a single seat and when the Muslim League swept all the Muslim seats thereby exposing the fact that the Congress did not enjoy the support of the muslim minority, the Congress leadership particularly Nehru and his "progressive" faction within the Congress started virulently attacking the Hindu Mahasabha and the Rashtrtiya Swayam Sevak Sangh (RSS) and converted the political discourse on the future of India as a common homeland for both Muslims and Hindus into one of conflicting religious identities.  The more stridently Nehru lambasted the so called Hindu organizations whose strength was very poor amidst the electorate, the more aggressively Jinnah put forth his case for Pakistan. The fact is that the failure of Congress leadership and its cynical use of a non existing threat to garner support of the Muslim minority resulted in strengthening the march toward Partition. To this of course, we can add the folly of the resignation from the Minstires in 1939 anf the 1942 Movement. This rehearsal of history is needed to set the stage for the most horrendous act of violence committed by the Congress party in Novemnber 1984 when it organized the killing of Sikhs in different parts of Northern India and the capital, New Delhi on  a scale that even the Germans would have found amazing.

The failure to confront the real the structural underpinnings of violence in modern India, meant that the country could live in denial and pretend that violence did not exist in India in any organized sense. The fact is that the Congress party, particularly in Northern India had begun to use violence as an instrument of political mobilization even in the pre partition days. Gyanendra Pandey and other historians conflate all acts of political violence as "communal violence" thereby giving the Congress party the benefit of doubt. 

In 1984 soonn after BBC announced the death of Indira Gandhi at the hands of Beant Singh and Satwant Singh her two Sikh bodyguards, the leadership of the Congress party in New Delhi decided to take vengence. Rajiv Gandhi famously justified the violence saying , "When a big tree falls, the earth shakes". For three whole days rampaging mobs of Congressmen went from house to house looking for Sikhs. They were armed with a database of names and addresses inn the form of telehone directories and electoral rolls. Whereever Sikh men were found, the Congressmen cut their beards and hair and doused them with petrol and burnt them alive. What was worse is that successive Congress Governments abetted the crime by destroying evidence and impeding investigation. Not a single man was convicted though it is well known thta H K L Bhagat, Lalith Maken, Arjun Das, Sajjan Kumar, and Jagdish Tytler were all involved in the killings. In several of them were even appointed ministers.

The novel, Helium which we are reviewing is a classic inn its own right. It is a work of fiction but fiction is only the form because it explores the dark savagery of 1984. Violence is often the starting point of great works of literature of which Primo Levi's works come to mind. Jaspreet Singh too has done just that. He is a memory keeper, a conscience keeper, a record keeper and above all a Historian who uses his novel to memorialize the unthinkable and verbalize the pain and suffering of countless victims. As one who has also relentlessly worked to keep the memory of 1984 alive, I salute Jaspreet Singh and have no hesitation in saying that this is one of the best novels ever written on a difficult and contentious theme. The acolytes of the Congress Party and the apologists of 1984 want to deflect blame and undermine memory by drawing a false parallel with 2002. 1984 like the holocaust is a unique event. and cannot be that easily domesticated in categories of ordinary experience.

The story revolves around the son of a Delhi IPS officer who perhaps under political compulsions looks away when a Sikh Professor at IIT is killed. Raj carries the burden of the guilt of his father and much later in life meets Nelly Kaur, the widow of the Professor who has collected the documentary and visual evidence of the horrors of 1984 in an archive in Simla. The memory of dark deeds committed even in the soft glow of political and ideological consensus can devastate a human being and this novel explores that aspect in detail.

Lastly: In these so called post colonial times when History is seen as a "discourse" without any contact with a reality, we need novelists like Jaspreet Singh who use the craft of the historian to document the horrors of the past as sirens warning the future about the devils lurking within us.And History has to be retrieved, recorded and remembered.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

International Seminar on India-US Cooperation:a ADefining Partenrship of the 21st Century

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

I am not much of a seminarist. I find the  the academic pretensions a trifle too irritating  and I am particularly wary of those that deal with the problems of today as if history and the past have had no role in creating the problems and feel that in the study of International Relations, the academic discipline of History must play a vital role. There are two reasons for saying this: India does not have an indigenous tradition of Historiography and therefore has no tradition of diplomacy and statecraft. The last theory of statecraft that emanated from India was Kautilya's Mandala Theory of Kingship and Statecraft which goes back to the Mauryan perid. Unlike the great civilization of China, India did not practice the craft of writing History. The second reason is more practical. India got its political freedom in 1947 when three great empires disintegrated" the British Empire, the Japanese co prosperity sphere and the the French Empire. The disintegration of these large imperial entities was accompanied by the rise of two ideologically antagonistic empires: the American and the Soviet empires. USA was able to co-opt the defeated Europeans into a NATO military alliance and the Soviets created the Warsaw Pact as a counterbalance. In a discussion on the emerging challenges before the India in the 21st Century, particularly with regard to its relationship with USA, the only world hegemon in the contemporary scenario, I expect these historical trends to be debated so that we understand the historical context of India;s diplomacy vis a vis USA. I do not want to use the word Statecraft because there is no long term planning or goals in the conduct of Indian foreign policy. In a International Seminar in a University situated in Pondicherry these perspectives were raised only by me, a historian and not a "political scientist".

The Seminar was inaugurated by the Vice Chancellor of Pondicherry University Dr. Chandra Krishnamurthy who in her Presidential Address dealt with the major themes of the Seminar. The former Vice Chancellor of the University dr V T Patil gave  a sound overview of the challenges facing India and went on to add rather gratuitously that China will be a major threat to India. This hostility toward China which is the signature of the India political and academic community is what I would like to challenge. Almost all the speakers including Professor Vijayalakshmi from JNU maintained that China is a major threat to India. This kind of ideological framing of an important issue before the Nation without an iota of critical application of mind does enormous damage to Indian foreign policy with regard to China with which India has had 2,000 years of peaceful coexistence. I met mr D S Rajan a China expert who seemed more forthright on China said that the shadow of 1962 has not lifted. The Indian foreign policy experts play up the threat from China in order to justify India;s deadly embrace of the strategic vision of USA which wants to use India as cannon fodder against China.

The Vice Chancellor inaugurating the Seminar along with Dr V T Patil, the former VC

The Seminar was organized by Professor N K Jha and his colleagues in the Department of Politics and International Studies. My observation which I made repeatedly was that China is not a threat to India and USA will not abandon its special relationship with Pakistan in order to build better ties with India. Nobody even mentioned that USA did not allow access to the American terrorist David Coleman Headley who was one of the masterminds of the 26/11/2008 massacre in Mumbai.

As George Santayana said those who forget History are condemned to relive it.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The absurdities of Indian Archaeology: The Temple of Gloom and the ASI

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

The Archaeological Survey of India which was established more than a century and a half ago has earned a name for itself and  its history has been ably documented by the Prime Minister's daughter, Professor Upinder Singh in a fascinating book, The Discovery of Ancient India Sir Alexander Cunningham who was the first archaeologist to uncover the material past of India realized that there were no written records on which a reconstruction of the historical archaeology of India could be based and so he turned to the Chinese pilgrims who visited India in the early medieval period in search of Buddhist manuscripts. It was left to another great archeologist, Sir Aurel Stein to discover the letters written by some of these early pilgrims in monasteries all along the famous Silk Road. Archaeological discoveries stimulated anb interest in the past and it was only a short hop step and jump to "nationalism" underpinned by a robust historical base in which India was imagined in myriad forms and one of the forms was that of a nation state.  History and Archaeology were inscribed in the very start of the long and tortuous journey to "nationhood" as articulated by politicians like Nehru and Jinnah. Apart from the political uses of an "ancient" past to justify Indian "nationhood" there was also the "medieval|" past to legitimize the quest for nationhood by the Islamic minorities of the Gangetic plains. Further, the discovery of the early urban civilizations in the Indus River Valley led to the appropriation of the ealy urban culture to the so called Dravidian cultural strand of India whose most vehement exponents were the Tamils of the deep south. One enterprising IAS officer, Mahadevan, even created cult following for himself by "reading" certain symbols on the seals of the Harappan civilization as Tamil characters and this man before he slipped into dotage even "deciphered" a seal as the representation of the Tamil god, Muruga. Therefore, Indian Archaeology is full of twists and turns and one is not totally surprised at the present rather strange developments.

On the banks of Ganges there is the non nondescript temple illustrated above. The temple has been the scene of a most bizarre treasure hunt.  A local god man declared that 1000 tonnes of gold was hidden in the temple and he claimed that the last king of the region had appeared in a dream and instructed him to dig out the gold. In any other part of the civilized world this story would have been dismissed with the contempt it deserves. Indian Universities like the infamous Jawahar Lal University which was in the forefront of the so called Ramajanmabhoomi Controversy have maintained a stony silence over this alacrity with which the UPA Government dominated by the Congress pary ordered the Archaeological Survey pf India to excavate in the area suggested by the godman. The last king of the kingdom was hanged by General James Neill when his forces reconquered the area with the help of soldiers from Madras. And so the king is a martyr to "Indian Nationalism".  The last week has seen hectic activity at the site. The Geological Survey of India used ground penetrating radar and declared to anyone who cared to listen that there were solid metal objects under the thick vegetation lenmding a degree of credence to the story of the god man, Om Swami as he is styled. A congress member and a Minister in the Cabinet of Man Mohan Singh instigated the ASI to order an extensive dig at the site of the temple. The result is that a major historical site has been vandalized as a consequence of governmental actions and decisions. No one has ever heard of an archaeological  excavation taking place anywhere in the world on the thin foundation of a senile god man. The frantic pace of digging has not unearthed a single piece of copper and the site,a  potentially important medieval site has been utterly devatated.

The Government of India bypassed all regulatory agencies governing the management of archaeological sites. At the whim of a Minister who happened to be a follower of the senile god man the excavation was ordered. Not a penny was found as there is no hoard buried there. Already the smae god man has spred stories of another treasure waiting in a place closeby the Unnao, Fatehghar. The upcoming Parliamentary Elections which is certain to see a landslide in favour of the Opposition has made the Government of India undertake this ridiculous excavation as the snile god man enjoys a strong support among the backward castes of the region. Indian Government is in the news all for the wrong reason: scams, scandals and now the mad cap treasure hunt.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

China and India: Why India must reset the Sino-India Relations

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

In history we will seldom find an instance of two civilizations that existed peacefully and enriched each other getting enmeshed in seemingly intractable problems as is the case between the two Asian giants, China and India. Though I have not been to China, I can say with some certainty that China has progressed both intellectually and economically well beyond what has been achieved in India. With Chinese Universities making the cut both in the Shanghai and Times list and the visibility that Chinese academics have acquired on the world stage, I can say with a degree of vehemence that  China offers valuable lessons and India in the most short sighted manner is ignoring the hard earned lessons that China has to offer. The objective of inclusive growth with economic transformation has been achieved in China and India is still struggling. Though there has been some reduction in the level of absolute poverty, India's social sector is still weak and when it comes to the girl child, India's record to say the least is just horrendous. In India the Press makes a big issue of the One Child norm in China and hold this up as an instance of authoritarian rule. The fact is that after the Emergency, India just abandoned family planning as a growth strategy, and India's burgeoning population is only adding to the problem. While coercion is not required, public education is certainly possible. And India neglected to do this. In terms of health,China has a better coverage of health services and Indian hospitals are struggling to keep up with the demand. The privatization of health services through the Insurance schemes has only added to the woes of the average India. India can learn lesson from China and instead of rushing to the Americans, India has a good example at its very doorstep.

The Indian intellectuals make much of India's democracy and nothing can be more erroneous than this. India democracy has essentially degenerated into the rule of criminals who threaten and extort the votes from the electorate. Massive use of money power and muscle power has made Indian democracy a laughing stock of the world. The Supreme Court of India had to intervene to ensure that criminals who are convicted cannot continue in office. Even after this the ruling Congress Party sought to overturn the judgement by making changes in the law through a Presidential Ordinance. The reluctance of the President to sign the document saved the day for India. As far as I can make out, China too has problems stemming from politicians using their clout to make money. The Rule of Law that exists in China ensures that such politicians do not get immunity for their actions and this is a lesson that India can learn.

The construction of high speed railway is an area in which China is the world leader and can be justly proud of her achievement. In India,  even the Rajadhani Express rarely crosses 150 kms an hour and so Indian Railways can use the technology developed in China to improve its services. The New Delhi-Beijing Railway link in within the reach from a technological point of view, but we need the Indian leaders to rethink their policy toward China. Unfortunately, Indian political class particularly the Congress has bought into the American doctrine that China needs to be contained and India in an effective partner. The Indian political leadership needs to be educated on the implications of this absurd doctrine. The Americans are using India to irritate China and unfortunately, Indian political class is unwilling or unable to see the reality. The sale of the two nuclear reactors to Pakistan by China is the direct fallout of the policy of civil nuclear cooperation with the USA. The fact is that until this day the USA has not sold a single reactor to India and China has already signed a deal with Pakistan. Indian Civil- Nuclear Deal with the USA was touted as a great diplomatic victory for Man Mohan Singh, the prime Minister, while the sad reality is that India gave up its military programme without any tangible gains in return. The Nuclear deal has become a symbol of India's embrace of the US strategic doctrine which hopes to put diplomatic pressure on China on every possible front. It is not in India's interest to fall into this trap.

The issues between India and China are not strategic differences or even rivalry on an ideological level. Both Asian civilizations have had a similar past and history has shown that China has always regraded India as a great civilization whose message was that of the Great Buddha. Instead of building up on the historical foundations of Indian and Chinese civilizations, India from the time of Nehru undertook to confront China on every issue. The 1962 War in which India was soundly beaten should have been a wake up call to India and should have resulted in a rethink of the policy. Instead a myth of "great betrayal" was created and India became a prisoner of a self created delusion. Tibet had always been a part of China and it was the British under Lord Curzon who sought to make it a part of the circle of states surrounding the Indian territories of British held India. It is amazing how Nehru did not recognize the historical bonds between China and Tibet and continued to follw the colonial policy while pretending to be the elder statesman of Asia.

Even as Man Mohan Singh makes a visit to China, I think India can learn two things from Chimna (1) reform higher education and (2)  Railway Construction. In both these areas China has an edge and I hope the Indian leaders show wisdom is learning from the experience of China.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Calcutta in the Nineteenth Century; A Review

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

Calcutta in the Nineteenth Century: AN Archival Exploration
Bidisha Chakravarthy and Sarmistha De
Niyogi Books, New Delhi 2013

Calcutta is a fascinating city. Its reputation as a City of Joy may be farfetched but as a historical site, Calcutta is the most interesting city of India. If New Delhi is the graveyard of empires, Calcutta has remained a city of culture, cinema, Durga Puja, Communist factional rivalries, naxalite violence and of course, literature and education. From a sleepy hamlet on the banks of the Hoogly, Calcutta became in the nineteenth century the capital of the British Empire in India. The Regulating Act of 1773 vested the Governor General in Council with supervisory powers over all the three Presidencies and during the course of the nineteenth century the city began to grow both in size, in population and in terms of civic and administrative infrastructure. The book under review examines in detail the transformation of Calcutta into a major metropolis of modern India and is a contribution to the cultural and social history of modern India.

The two authors are archivist in the State Archives of West Bengal and have scoured the archives for interesting bits of information about the growth and transformation of the city. In modern historiography of Bengal associated with Barun De, Sumit Sarkar and Sabyasachi Bahattacharya urban history does not have a place. The Subaltern perspective adopted by Sumit Sarkar privileged the social history over cultural history. In the this volume the two authors, both trained as historians have recreated life in Calcutta during the nineteenth century. In 1911 the capital was shifted to New Delhi and Calcutta lost the prominence it once had in the previous century . Human interest stories culled from the archives abound in this volume. The intervention of the English Administration to prevent Sati is ably documented in the book using an anecdote. The attempts made by the erstwhile rulers to ensure a modicum of civic sense in the city is demonstrated by citing the health regulations enacted by the municipal authorities The growth of print culture and the attempts made to regulate the book trade are also studies. As the city grew in size, the hazards of fire also increased and we have a short chapter giving the history of the Fire Service in the city. A city of the size and reach of Calcutta will certainly have its dark underbelly and the authors have dredged from the archives some interesting details of the white slave trade in the city.

The most interesting part of the book are the numerous illustration drawn from the archival sources and contemporary journals and newspapers. The lavish use of documents from the Fort St William Records adds to the attractiveness of the volume. I enjoyed reading this book and wish I could write something similar about my city, Pondicherry where I live and teach.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Convicted Politicians, Rahul Gandhi and the outrage over the Ordinance

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

The Indian Government headed by Dr Man Mohan Singh sent an Ordinance to the President of India by which Indian politicians convicted of heinous crimes would not be disqualified from the membership of the State Assemblies and the National Parliament. The alarming rate at which criminals are entering the political process and getting elected to the seats of power has been commented upon by several public figures and there has been very powerful civil society movements too, The Supreme Court of India in a recent judgement said categorically that convicted politicians lose their seats and cannot continue in their elected positions. This judgement was widely seen as a small step in cleansing the stables of Indian politics of rapists, murderers and dacoits. Instead of welcoming this judgement, the Congress Party introduced a bill on parliament to undo the judegement. The strident opposition of the Bharatiya Janata Party forced the bill to be submitted to a special committee and the matter rested there. The fact is that an important ally of the UPA, a man called Laloo Prasad Yadava, a semi literate thug from Bihar is likely to be convicted in the Fodder Scam case whose judgement will be pronounced on the 30th of September 2013. In spite of having at least 4 prominent witnesses killed, the prosecution soldiered on and and the conviction of this fellow in on the cards.

In the forthcoming Parliamentary election which will be held by May 2014, the Congress and its allies will be wiped out as the Nation is sick and tired of the grand corruption that has taken by place. The minsters responsible for massive corruption have been shielded from prosecution a plaint Central Bureau of Investigation or the CBI whose Director was chastised by the Supreme Court of India for being a "caged parrot" of the powers that be. In the Coalgate Scam even the files implicating the Congress leaders who got coal blaocks allocated to them have disappeared from the custody of the Coal Minister, who happened to be the Prime Minster himself. The BJP in spite of a very messy leadership struggle is poised to win the upcoming electoral battle. The Congress Party pokes fun at the messy struggle involving the aging patriarch, L K Advani and Hon'ble Narendra Modi ignoring the sad fact that in the Congress party, dynastic fascism ensures that on one can aspire for a leadership position in the party except those born to the Nehru bloodline. This is highly primitive system of ensuring that the leadership remains within the "Royal Family" has contributed in no small measure to the degeneration of the political culture in India as it has made politicians cultivate factional loyalties and court family members in oder to ensure their visibility in the political arena. Unfortunately, the Congress political culture is being emulated by all the other corrupt political allies of the Congress like the DMK, the RJD and other "secular" parties.

It is against the back ground sketched above that we must see the "idealistic outburst " of Rahul Gandhi, the Crown Prince of the Congress party and the son of Sonia Gandhi the Italian widow of Rajiv Gandhi. When Man Mohan Singh was away on a visit to the USA to address the U N Genaral Assembly, Rahul Gandhi called a Press Conference and denounced the Ordinance awaiting Presidential assest as "nonsense" and deserves to be thrown out, Most political commentators felt that Man Mohan Singh stood dimnished as a result of the public rebuke administered by Rahul Gandhi. The Ordinance was sent to the President after it had been cleared by the Cabinet and had the backing of Rahul's mother, Sonia Gandhi. It is shameful that dynastic fascism has begun to undermine even the office of the Prime Minister. In the noise caused by Rahul's "idealistic: outburst what is firgitten is the fact that the President of India refused to sign the Ordinance and the real credit for scrapping the Ordinance should go to Shri Pranab Mukerjee, the Prersident of the Republic. Instead the pliant electronic and print media in India make it appear as if Rahul Gandhi's "idealistic" outburst had led to a rethink.

Certain trends are visible form this episode. First, there is a lot of factional strife going on in the Congress Party. Second, a very unhealthy precedent has been set: one in which the Crown Prince can make the Government of the day make a complete turnaround in its policy. There is no place for civilized political discourse in such a scenario. Even Arun Jailey, a senior leader of the bJP said that Man Mohan Singh should resign because he was undermined by the crown price. I expecty that eminent Leader of the Opposition to know that the Prime Minister and his Cabinet is responsible to the Parliament and not to the  strippling, Crown Prince. This just gies to show how deep the shadow of dynastic fascism is in India.

The BJP did not emerge as the victor in this round but to its credit the Pary and Hon'ble Naredra Modi opposed the Orinance. The shameless courtiers of the Congress do not even have the dignity to say that their Government  has been undermined and the Prime Minister, a nominee of the "Royal Family" has been publicly humiliated. The demands for the resignation of the Prime Minister only reinforce the perception that he is accountable to the "royal family" and not to Parliament. Rahul Gandhi said that it was his "personal opinion" but such is the strangle hold of dynastic fascism that personal opinions become Government policy.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Twenty Third Convocation of Pondicherry University

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

The President of India, Shri Pranab Mukerjee who is also the Visitor of Pondicherry University  delivered a most erudite and inspiring Convocation Address on the occasion of the 23rd Convocation. He combines the grace and simplicity of an enlightened mind with the penetrating insight of a good administrator. His long tears in politics has made him understand the reality of the Indian educational scenario and he pointed it out in his address.

After the usual preliminaries he went straight to the point. He lamented that not a single Indian University finds a place in the high table of education. As a student of History, he pointed out that for several centuries Universities like Taxila and Nalanda kept the lamp of education burning not only in India, but more pertinently   attracted students from all over the world. He said that it should be the goal of Indian higher education to bring back the lost glory. India, the President said has nearly 645 Universities and more than 2000 colleges. He seemed to suggest that while the numbers are encouraging, the quality is depressing.

I was struck by the clarity of his thought and the eloquence at his command.  If India has more politicians and statesmen like him the country would be well served. However, the sad reality faces him as he returns to New Delhi. The Ordinance setting aside the Supreme Court judgement   on convicted politicians will be sitting on his table. I have heard many Presidents address the Convocation in the University and I rate A P J Abdul Kalam and Shri Pranab Mukerjee among the most memorable speakers that I have heard.

The President is keen on improving the quality of higher education and his commitment is palpable. However,education should also embrace the humanities and cannot be restricted to the technology stream.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

A Street Cat, Bob: Love and Redemption

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

The little book by James Bowen, A Street Cat named Bob is a remarkable tale of love, hope and redemption. The author James Bowen, a drug addict and in the jargon of British social welfare office, a substance abuser, finds a large ginger cat near his dwelling. The adventures of this duo occupies most of the  book. The author has fallen through the cracks of western society and has ended on the streets of London without a job and little skill,l which can translate into dependable employment. So "busking" for a living is the only career choice that  available. The Cat and James set out by tube to Coventry Garden where James has a designated spot busking, playing music for voluntary donations. Since panhandling is forbidden by law in most western counties, busking invites little attention from the law, provided of course there it is done in a designated place and there is no complaint of anticancer James earns at best little more than what was essential to keep .his nose out of trouble. Petty theft and drug addiction were already on his record and James now has a cat to feed and support. The bond between the two develops into a stable and mutually enriching relationship and now James Bowen had a purpose to his life, something he never had earlier. His life settled down to a routine of busking in London and the petty quarrels and jealousies his success and the attention paid to Bob his cat evoked amongst the other derelicts on the streets of London is brought out well.

The love between the two transforms Bob from a drug addict to a more responsible human being and the book also documents the reconciliation between James and his mother who after her marriage to Nick seems to have drifted away from James. The spiritual anchor of Jmaes' life is Bob and he gradually helps him find his feet again.
For most readers, the tale of Bob and James may sound surreal. Can a street cat make sucha huge difference to a person's life. As someone who has seen and experienced the rougher side of life, I can say that animals do bring a strange kind of unconditional love to their relationship with their owners that is really unsettling at times. James Bowen was down and out in London, barely eking out a bare living by busking in the posh areas of Londan, loving from day to day, taking life one day at a time and when Bob entered his life all that changed. He had a purpose to live anf that made all the difference. Life Richard Parker in the Life of Pi, who became Pi's spiritual anchor in the Pacific Ocean, Bob was to James.

I liked this book immensely and I too am fond of animals and so read the book with interest. The message of redemption comes out strongly in the book.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Narendra Modi, the BJP and the 2014 Elections: The Storm Ahead

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

As expected the BJP Parliamentary Board met this morning and declared Shri Narendra Modi as the Prime Ministerial candidate for the forthcoming Lok Sabha election. The Congress party which reposes faith in dynastic fascism as its only political principle in all probability  rally around  Rahul Gandhi derisively called Amul Baby in India. It will be an unequal match as Tahul Gandhi does not have either the experience or the national stature to stand up to Narendra Modi and in the forthcoming election all seasoned political observers see a tectonic shift in favour of the NDA led by the BJP.

The issues that will dominate the Elections of 2014 are serious ones and some of the issues are listed below:

1 There has been unprecedented levels of corruption and mis governance during the 10 years of the UPA whose PM was the teflon coated Dr Man Mohan Singh. The disappearance of the files relating to the allocation of coal blocks in the coal gate scandal has put the spotlight on the Prime Minister. Indians are used to corruption and in our everyday lives have to deal with it at some level, but under the Congress the scale and magnitude of corruption has broken all limits and the common man in yearning for a change. Narendra Modi has the image of a clean and efficient politician and is not tainted by a singly scandal.

2 There has been a virtual melt down of the Indian economy. The growth rate has plunged to 3.5% and this is the lowest in nearly tywo decades. The Current Account Deficit is narly 7 % of the GDP and is increasing. The trade gap is widening and in spite of the fall in the value of the rupee exports are not picking up. The high rate of unemployment had made the youth restive and it is the young voter who is expected to vote en masse for Narendra Modi. The Congress has offered no explanation for the decline in the economy except blaming the policies of Pranab Mukherjee the former Finance Minister and now President of INdia. Corrective measure have not been taken for bringing the economy back on track. In fact the situation is getting worse with the inflationary pressure exerted by the rise in petrol and fuel.

3 The populist measures taken by the UPA under the influence of a bunch of civil society activists close to Mrs Sonia Gandhi has imposed an enormous strain on the economy and has made corruption a rural phenomenon. The Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme has spawned huge corruption and the Comptroller and Auditor General has drawn attention to the lapses in the Government schemes

4 The foreign policy scenario is not bright. India has declined before the eyes of the World. There was a time when the voice of India was heard. Today India is silent on all major issues confronting the world. This decline is due . bad statecraft and muddled priorities. The incursions of the Chinese Army have to be addressed in a bilateral forum through discussions. The News papers are full of alarming Reports of the presence of Chinese soldiers deep into Indian territory. I am sure this issue can be settled through dialogue, but the weak UPA Government lacks the credibility to undertake such a dialogue. In the case of Pakistan, India has been craven. Inspite of the fact that the Government of India being aware that Pakistani soldiers killed 5 Indian soldiers in a brutal manner, the UPA regime sought to pass the buck by saying that terrorists dressed in Pakistan Army uniform did this dastardly act. The UPA lost what little respect people had  after this display of cowardice.

Against the declining fortunes of the UPA, Narendra Modi has to craft a winning strategy. His personality and image alone will not see the NDA through because the UPA will throw the 2002 Riots in Gujarat against Modi in onder to garner the votes of the Muslims. This strategy will come unstuck in the big state of Uttar Pradesh, but may have some purchase in other parts. Though the Supreme Court of India has not found anything to prove the involvement of Modi in the riots, the 2002 Riots are still there in public perception. NDA must respond by bringing up the Sikh Massacre of 1984 when Indira Gandhi died. The factionalism within the BJP with the senior leader L K Advani sulking in the shadows after the announcement of the candidature of Hon'ble Narendra Modi may be unsettling in the short run.

The BJP has its work cut out for it and the sooner Narendra Modi establishes an organization which can translate his vision into a reality the bettor it would be.

Friday, September 6, 2013

The American Media, Barack Obama and the debate on Syrian and Chemical Weapons

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

The latest issue of Time  (September, 9 2013) has a cover story dedicated to The Unhappy Warrior. Yes it is Barack Obama, the Nobel Prize Winner and now a strong advocate of War in Syria. What is so alarming about the US debate both on the print media and in Congress is that the issue is narrowly focused on the apparent use of Sarin Gas in a suburb of Damascus on August 21, 2013. The American Government has been saying that the Syrian Government forces used the chemical weapons and are making a strong case for bombing Syria. Nobody seems to ask the basic question that Damascus is the capital and no matter how rotten the regime is, the Capital is generally spared the agony of chemical weapons because the military ansd political elites live there. Further, even in Syria there is a foreign Press Corps and no Government will commit a "black deed" so nakedly in front of the International media.This fact seems to be getting lost in the drumbeat of war struck by Obama and his regime in Washington.

President Barack Obama in fact suggested more than a year back that the use of "Chemical weapons will be a red line" and it will have consequences. The US media is faulting the President for "waiting so long". The fact that President Putin has openly suggested in the Press Conference at the close of the G-20 Summit in Saint Peters burgh that the chemical weapons were used by the rebels in order to create the pretext for American Intervention. This argument puts a totally different spin on the policy of the American President. Rather than a humanitarian gesture, US in a cold blooded manner set the stage for a barbaric assault on the civilian population of Damascus so that a "moral" legal and political justification may be created for US intervention. The USA hoped thta the revulsion of the world would be so deep that everyone including the UN Security Council will fall in line. The best laid plans of men and mice go awry and that is exactly what happened.

The US has a plaint Intelligence Community and sn embedded press which laps up everything their regime throws at them. The Intelligence produced by the US is extrmely weak and consists of you tube footage of children gasping for breath in a Damascus Hospital. Are we to understand from thids footage that the Syrian Government ordered the use of the chemical weapons or the exact opposite: the rebels used the gas to tease the Americans in taking a hard stand and the US regime fell into the trap laid for them by the rebels. It seems that the uS has not learnt the lessons from the Iraq War: The Iraqi quislings like Chablis fed the US false information and instigated the US to wage war. Much the same has happened in Syria.

The Syrian Government is fighting a Civil War in which the USA is deeply inmplicated. The rebels have advanced till Damascus and are threatening the Capital. The Government of Assad will fall if the rebels take control of Damascus. Anbar Province is also reeling under the impact of the insurgents. The collapse of Syria is in the interest of Israel as the last major Baathist Government which opposed the formation of Israel would have folded. As Ben Gurion once said If the Arab world in on fire, it suits Israel" and that statement os about to come true. The war against Syria is not about chemcial attack and the Americans know that their allies carried out the attack. It is about reshaping the map of the Middle East in favour of Israel and its security..

The Americans are fooling themselves if they believe that the Assad Government carried out the attack. It is a"Big Lie" and like all big lies this too has its uses . Iran will not stand idly by if Syria is attacked and will hurl Hizbollah against Israel. The Israeli Army lost the war against Hizbullah and now the Military arm is stronger than ever. The only thing US can do is to stir up Wahhabi-Sunni fundamentalism and al qaeda is waiting for just such an opportunity. It seems USA is bent on its own destruction.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Barack Obama, the Syrian Chemical Attack and the Dogs of War

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

"Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of War". This line from Shakespeare's Julius Caesar is appropriate today as the American President, Barack Obama sells his idea of war against Syria to the world. The American establishment has lost all credibility in the Middle East after using the contrived charge of weapons of mass destruction to depose and later hang Saddam Hussein. It is well known that it was USA that supplied Iraq with chemical weapons during the long war with Iran during the 1980s and suddenly USA became so upright and self righteous that it found "chemical weapons an obscenity" in the purple prose of John Kerry. In fact many of us who supported John Kerry when he ran against George Bush were both disappointed and let deceived by this change in tone. Now he is serving Barack Obama and so he has to speak the language that his master wants to hear.

It is well known that USA and France are both very keen to intervene in the civil war that is underway in Syria. The two countries have perfected the recipe for  regime change: arm a rabble, let it loose against the Government, shout that a humanitarian crisis is at hand, get the Arab League to issue a statement in favor of intervention and then tilt the balance of power in favor of the rebels by transferring sophisticated arms and prevent effective counter measures by a no fly zone. This recipe first cooked up in the Balkan crisis let to the division of Yugoslvia into its constituent parts and was effectively deployed in Iraq, Libya. In both these countries the legitimate rulers or governments were forcibly removed and the Presidents were killed in the most brutal manner.Unfortunately, the world does not seem to recognize the pattern of the statecraft of the two White countries.

In Syria the last bastion of Baath resurgence in the Middle East, the Assad Government has played a role in transforming a pastoral society into a fairly successful non confessional state and this grates the countries like Saudi Arabia which do not want a successful non confessional society close to its border and USA does not want any social and political stability in the region. Right from the inception of the civil war USA has made, in defiance of international law, noises in support of the rebels and has been arming the rebels with sophisticated weapons. When Barack Ombama declared quite gratuitously the use of "chemical weapons would be a red line" he was only encouraging the rebels to use chemical weapons so that a pretext for intervention can be created. The  Russian and the UN team have found no evidence to support the contention that the Government forces used the weapons and there is documentary evidence to show that the rebels have used the weapons in the past and Obama conveniently forgot this fact. China and Russia have both decided not to support the USA in its criminal aggression against Syria.

History shows that USA used chemical weapons in Vietnam and the people of that country are still suffering from then aftereffects. USA collected all the data of the use of chlorine gas from the Bhopal Gas Tragedy in 1984/ And the less said about the use of nuclear bombs the better. The world does not see USA as a state committed to peace.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

New Light on India's Relations with Tibet: Weapons supplied to the Tibetans in the years after Independence in 1947

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

The Indian Government has always pretended to follow a "principled" policy towards Tibet. One the one hand it recognizes the fact that  Tibet is an integral part of China and on the other provided space for the Dalai Lama to indulge his fancy for high decibel diplomacy and publicity and China rightly objects to this dual policy. Based on perfidy and exercised through duplicity   this policy has stood in the way of realizing the full potential of Indo-Chinese relations. The two form the very heart of Asian civilizations and there is at least 2,550 years of peaceful history behind the civilizational ties between India and China. Unfortunately, successive Congress regimes have built their foreign policy on instinctive hostility toward China, rather than exploring the threads that bind these two giant neighbors together. And in following this policy, the Government of India starting with the first Prime Minister, Jawarhar Lal Nehru were essentially following the colonial policy enunciated by the British Government in order to keep China under constant threat. The greatest failure of Nehru lies in his wooden headed pursuit of an aggressive China policy without taking into consideration the alternatives. Today as we survey the landscape, we find China standing at the very doorstep of economic powerhouse and India is facing a bleak future because of the inherent stasis created by a corrupt political class and corruption.

Documents recently discovered in the National Archives of India clearly prove that in the 1940;s even as the country was facing the massive onslaught of the Japanese Empire, the then British Government was instrumental in supplying arms and ammunition to the Dalai Lama and his followers in China.The 11 year old "Dalai  Lama" neither had the wit nor the education to understand what the English secret services were up to and after Independence Jawahar Lal Nehru continued the same policy while publicly proclaiming the homilies of "panch sheel". The Revolutionary Government of China obviously saw through this grand pantomime. Therefore the prime responsibility for the border conflict in 1962 rests with the Government of India and its misguided policies and perspectives.

The Political Officer looking after Tibet and Sikkhim in the waning years of the Raj, Mr A J Hopkinson put up a note to his superiors asking for funds to equip a brigade level force in Tibetr with 2 and 3 inch mortars, sten guns, machinme guns and Bren machine pistols. The Memorandum of MAY 29, 1947 WHICH IS FOUND IN THE NATIONAL ARCHIVES OF iNDIA (FRONTLINE AUGUST 23, 2013) contains a reproduction of this important document. The officials were certain that this policy of sending arms will be vigourously contested by the Chinese Government and even Chiak Kai Shek did not acquiesce in this wrong and anti Chinese policy.The programme of arming the "peace loving" monks of Tibet began soon after the Francis Younghusband expedition to Tibet and picked up momentum after the Revolution of 1911.

Even after Independence when the departure of the British should have induced fresh thinking, the policy of arming the Tibetans continued. In October 1947, Sam Manekshaw, then a Lt Col. approved the transfer of weapons and 1,484,000 rounds of aminutions to Tibet. it is likely that Britain wanted a foothold in Tibet in order to exert pressure on China both with regards to Kowloon and Hong Kong.

Independent Indfa did not have any such strategic objective and why was Jawarlal Nehru so utterly foolish and shortsighted.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Durga Shakti Nagpal: An IAS officer suspended for doing her job

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

In several of my blogs I have drawn attention to the criminalization of politics in India, particularly in the state of Uttar Prasesh which has elected a Samajwadi party as its single largest party. Mulayam Singh Yadava, the strong man of the party appointed his son Akilesh Yadava as the Chief Minister and this young man presides over a government in which  crimnals with serious crimes to their names were appointed Ministers. The case in point is the Rajput criminal, Raja Bhaiya who is known to be a thug operating in eastern UP, the bad lands of the state. There is a story, I wish it were not true, that this man feeds his enemies to crocodiles reared in a pond in his extensive "kotti" or bunglow. The Samajwadi party like its predecessor in power the Bahujan Samaj  Party under Mawawati is steeped in caste warfare and criome. The social base of the Yadava dominated Samajwadi Party is of courase the Yadavas, the Muslims, the Mallas and the intermediate caste. The poximity to the national capital has made NOIDA or Gautham Buddha Nagar an important centre for the booming real estate mafia. It may be woth recalling that Neera Yadava, the former Chairman of the NOIDA Development Authority an IAS officer is presently under conviction for crimes of bribery and misuse of power when she was in charge of the land development in the same district in which Ms Durga Shakti Nagpal was posted as Senoior Divisional Magistrate.

This young woman was palced under ssuspension two days back for having shown the courage in taking on the sand mafia. The term sand mafia may appear ridiculous to a western audience. However, given the building boom in New Delhi and Noida, river sand which is mixed with cement in order to make building concrete is in huge demand. The sand mafia was using sand dumpers to excavate sand from the dry river bed of the Yamuna and was selling it at a huge profit to the real estate dealers. The nexus between party members of the Samajwadi Party, the local power elites consisting of the usual Thyagis and Yadavas, and the real estate developers was so strong that when this young woman stated seizing the sand dumpers and confiscating the sand, the yelps from the yadava criminals soon reached Lucknow. Akileh Yadava, the son of Mulayam Singh immediately ordered the suspension of the woman who showed some courage. What is really surprising is that a week back I wrote in a comment in Times of India that this woman is taking on criminals and she is asking for trouble. And exactly as I predicted Durga Nagpal was suspended.

In western countries the officialdom is not takken to task for carrying out the law and implementing policy. The young woman was following the instruction of the Supreme Court of India which has laid down a strict policy of government regulation of sand mining because of its environmental hazards. Durga Nagpal perhaps thought that having the Supreme Court verdict on her side would strengthen her position. However, Akilesh Yadava's government resorted to a crude ruse inorder to have the officer placed under suspension. Citing law and order problems, the criminals of the Samajwadi party tries to give an "identity" colour to the issue by saying that Muslims were being targetted. This line was contradicted even by the local police. Thus, when people elect criminals to power one can expect anything and the suspension of Durga Nagpal shows the depths to which civil administration has sunk in India. In the neighboring state of Haryana, another IAS officer, Khemka who exposed the shady real estate deals of Robert Vadra, the son in law of Soniaji, faces similar problems.

The IAS Officers rallied to the support of the officer and even put out a feeble statment. However, the rot in Indian politics is so deep that honesty does not pay and hopefully in the next elections people of India will show more intelligence in their voting parrern.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Rock Art Exibition in Pondicherry

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

The Indira Gandhi Nation Center for the Arts in association with Pondicherry University organized an exhibition of Rock Art on the campus of the University. Rock Art seems to be a fascinating area of research and the University has a well known scholar in the field of Rock art in Andhra Pradesh. The exhibition was inaugurated by the Vice Chancellor of Pondicherry University, Prof (Mrs) Chandra Krishnamurthy. She spoke eloquently about the importance of rack art as an aspect of Indian cultural heritage. The exibition on Rock painting contained select pieces from all all over India. The discovery of the Bhimbetka caves by Dr Wakankar in 1957 put India on the world map of rock art studies and the 450 sites associated with the Bhibetka complex of sites are inscribed as World Heritage sites by UNESCO.
The inauguration of the Rock Art Exhibition by the Vice Chancellor and the Director of the French Institute of Pondicherry, Prof. Pierre Grard was followed by a extensive collection of of impressive pieces of rock paintings from all over the world.

This is an abstract representation of a figure from Central India. Done with natural pigments, the ochre coloured art works are usually regraded as being earlier than rock art in white colour.

Stick figures in serried ranks shows that the paleolithic age when rock art was crated there was a rudimentary sense of social organization. A group like the one illustrated above imples some sort of hierarchy and social organization.

The early rock art which is found in India depicts only animals. We do not get any representations of flora in them. Were animals depeicted as a part of ritual to increase the hunt by praying to the goddess of fertility. This question is naturally raised when we look at the social purpose behind rock art.

The Vice Chancellor going round the hall which displayed the photographs of rock paintings. Pondicherry University is fortunate to have a very enlightened Vice Chancellor who is not only interested in the academic well being of the University, but is also helping the University scale new heights.

The INGCA also conducted a  painting competition as part of the exhibition and the children of Kendriya Vidyalaya participated in the competition.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Noon meal Tragedy in Bihar: Callousness and Mis Governance

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

Two days dack, in a village Chapra located 65 kilometers from the capital Patna 25 schoolg children all below the age of 11 died after having taken their mid day meals in school. In India, the mid day meal is a major incentive for families from poorer sections of society to send their children to school. Origally conceived in the Southern state of Tamil Nadu by the Cheif Minister M G Ram,achandran, the mid day meal program caught on and even in the mis governed states like Uttar Pradesh and Bihar this welfare scheme is presently underway. The fiances for the scheme are part of the state budget and the school appoints a cook and an attender to run the mid day meal programme.

However, in states like Bihar and Uttar Pradesh there is massive corruption even in this scheme. In fact Bihar has the dubious distinction of having had a Chief Minister, laloo Prasad Yadava who was caught taking the money ear marked for animal welfare. The now infamous Fodder Scam is reaching its final stages in the courts and will end up convicting laloo Prasad Yadava. Even athug like this Laloo Prasad was not able to kill all the 347 witnesses. The current Chief Minister, Nitish Kumar, a past master in the old style identity politics rode to power on the strength of a very fragile social coalition consisting of intermediate caste, landed caste and the higher castes. After taking over the reins of government for the second time, Nitish Kumar began to feel the weight of his victory, but interpreted it as an endorsement of his personal "charisma". And this wrong and ill conceived notion was his undoing.

The tragedy in Bihar took place only because of mis governance. The last 2 years the state administration has been paralyzed due to national ambitions of Nitish Kumar. Ever since he declared his opposition to the Prime Ministerial candidature of Honnourable Narendra Modi, Nitish Kumar regime has been floundering. Corruption, mal administration, scams and scandals have become the order of the day. The death of the 22 school children is a testimony to the plight of Bihar under Nitish Kumar.

The shocking facts have emerged from the news reports. The food itmes for preparing the noon meals were sourced from the shop of the husband of the Head Mistress of the school, a man who as it turns out is an activist of the Rasshtrya Janata dal whose leader is the fodder scam accused, :Laloo Prasad Yadava. The shameless state government sought to shift the blame to the RJD by implying that the RJD wasbehind the tragedy in order to undermine the regime of Nitish Kumar. The level to which politics has sunk in India can be understood from the fact that the Government refuses to see the tragedy as one caused by itts own failures, but is quick to see political conspiracies everywhere. Corruption in the mid day meal scheme is the real factor.

Even after the children took ill, it took over six hours for the children to be shited to the Primary Health Centre and there there was no nurse or doctor and there were no drips to provide immediate releif. This sate of affairs prevailing in Bihar is a national shame and  people must realise that identity politics will lead to the grave as it did for the 22 children

The World Bank and the IMF have given loans, soft loans to Bihar but the utilization of these loans is so poor that the international funding agencies are now wary of giving loans to Bihar. The country as a whole has slid backwards under the rule of the Congress Party and its allies and if India needs better Governence it must vote for change..

Friday, July 12, 2013

The Storm over Narendra Modi 's Interview

A look at the world of politics, statecraft, diplomacy and books The outrage industry is hard at work once again: pouring out anger, invective, hatred and scorn at the emerging national persona of Narendra Modi, the Chief Minister of Gujarat. Taking sentences out of context, distorting the meaning of his sentences and putting words into his mouth, the apologists of the Congress Party like Shoma Choudhary, the notorious Abhishek Manu Singvi, Sanjay Jha and scores of Congress friendly "intellectuals" came flooding to TV studios to have their fifteen minutes of fame. They tried to suggest that Naredra Modi had overreached himself and had exposed his "communal" ideology. The riots of 2002 are always brought out when the Chief Minister of Guharat is discussed. However what is ignored deliberatelyy is that the Supreme Court if India has monitored the investigations into the 2002 Riots and has declared Modi absolutely free of any fault either of omission or commission.

The liberals who vent their fury at Narendra Modi seem to forget that the Congress party organised the largest masscre of Indians in the post Independence period when in 1984 Congress workers led by Sahhan Kumar, Jagdish Tytler, Lalith Makken and scores of other Delhi based politicians attacked Sikhs all over New Delhi and other parts of North India and killed 5,000 Sikhs in Delhi alone. The count of the dead in the rest of North India is not known. Yet these very liberals are silent in the issue of Congress complicity in the 1984 riots and earlier in the Bhagalpur riots ibn which nearly 1,500 men and women were killed. The reason why they vent their spleen on Narendra modi os only to polorise the electorate and harvest Muslim votes. Unfortunatley, the people of India have not forgotten 1984 and the Congress has neither expressed its anguish over the killings nor has the party apologised for the rampage of 1984. Yet when it comes to Gujarat the Congress men like to pose as if their hands are clean when in fact it is dripping with blood and the stains are there for all to see.

Certain remarks made by Modi have beeb twisted out of shape. Modi described himself as a "patriot", a "nationalist" and finally as a "hindu nationlist". The votaries of the fake secularism jumped at the last label and accused him of being divisive. What Modi meant was that he has a vision of India founded on the values and traditions that are associated with Sanathana Dharma and that forms the inspiration for his statecraft. There is nothing divisive or even politically damaging in this statement. Since he was speaking in Hindi, the Congressmen have created a good deal of confusion by deliberately distorting his remarks. The Supreme Court of India has ruled that Hinduism is not a religion but onlyn a way of life and therefore what Modi has said by no stretch of the imagination can be termed "communal".

During the course of the interview, Modi referred to the pain he felt when even a small puppy is killed by being run over by a car. This remark was made in the context of the pain he felt for the suffering of the people of Gujarat during the 2002 riots. A man who can feel the pain of a small animal rum over by a car is certainly sensitive to the feelings of people. Contrast this statement with what Rajiv Gandhi said when the Sikhs were being killed in New Delhi during his watch as Prime Minister: When a big tree falls the earth trembles. Not only was the Army not called in Delhi to control the Congress thugs, but the Sikh policmen who would have protected the people were told not to report to duty. No police station filed the FIR against the Congress men responsible for the killings and yet none of the outrage mongers of today have a word of condemnation for the Congress and this silence exposes the political purpose in hounding Modi. On Gujarat on the other hand, the police restored Law and Order within 24 hours and there has been no riots since much to the chagrin of the Congress Party.

One last point. Modi rightly said that in democracies issues do get polorised and he went on to show the differences between the Republican and the Democratic parties. The Congress spokemsmanSanjay Jha seems to think that American politics is all talk and not much polirization in US politics. He is just an illiterate fellow who should know that the immigration bill and the Arms Control measures are deeply divisive even in American Society. These days the Congress party has begun holding the US as a torch bearer of value politics forgotting its own stand not that long ago. There is nothing wrong ibn polorising the electorate onto the side of good governance and corruption free India which Modi not only promises but has delivered in Gujarat.

The 2014 General Elections will be faught on the issue of corruption and mis governance and on both these issues the people of India have made up their mind and the Congress party wants to take the agends back to identity politics and is trying its level best to whip up passion against Modi. THe elections will see a total wipeout of the Congresss party.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

A trip to Jharkhand: Rohini, a land time forgot

A look at the world of politics, statecraft, diplomacy and books With great trepidation I set off for Jharkhand. I kept telling my hosts that it is unsafe to travel there and they in turn offered police protection from the West Bengal border. I politely declined as I felt safer travelling alone than with a police escort. After all a historian is not really a threat to the Maoists. I am glad I went as I had some memorable experiences there. The districts of Dumka and Devghar constitute the heart of the Santal land and there are well preserved markers of the heroes, Sido-Kunnhu, the two tribals who faught in 1856 against the creeping rule of the East India Company. I found the statue of the two in the heart of Dumka.
Jharkhand being on the border between Bengal and Bihar has been exposed to religious influences which have shaped the identity of the place. One can say that the geographical features and cultural attributes contribute to the making of spatial identities and the best example of this is the Baba Baidynath Dham located in Devaghar. This temple probably of the medieval period is a celebrated Dham of Hindu religion and the puranic lore of the place connects the shrine to the legend of Siva and sati. The heart of sati, the consort of Shiva is said to have falled in this place and the shrine commemorates that event. As a tantric shire this place is marked by animal sacrifices and the crowds there is indeed tremendous. I manged to find my way to the Linga with the help of a muscular panda. Here are some pictures of the Baba Baidyanth Dham.
Rohini, a small "princely" state spawned by the zamindari settlemnt in the late eighteenth century has had an interesting history. It was one of the first to introduce the concept of seed bank in the early twentieth century when the sate of Rohini subsidized the grain that was distributed to farmers during a particularly severe famine. This place was also the first major stop in the spiritual journey of Ramakrishna Parahamsa whose Ashram is still located in Devghar. The ruins of the old palaces of Rohini bespeak of an age gone by and here are some of the pictures which evoke a picture of the age that has disappeared forever. The descendant of the Rohini ruling family is a sociologist by training and an extremely gracious person. It was quite an honour to have met him and his two friendsmNandan and Chowdhury, dring my visit to Rohini.
Rohini has earned a footnote for itself in the history of the Mutiny of 1857. Though the residents of Rohini are all convinced that 1857 was a War of Independence, the fact is that the echoes of the Barrarkpore incident had almost an immediate echo in Rohini when three soldiers led by Salamat Ali killed a cavalry officer, Leslie. With some difficulty Nandan and Choudhury and Srinjeevi were able to locate the long forgotten grave of Leslie alongside ther Kolkotta=Mughalsarai Railway line.
1857 and the events around this landmark have fashioned commemorative practices which are kitschy as they are poignant. The place in which Salamat Ali and his two compatriots were hanged has been made into a Shaheed Sthal. a Martyr's Place, which was set up in memory of 1857. The statues of the 3 are found in this park.
Rohini is surrounded by hills and the hill ranges provided space for the early revolutionaries to try out their explosives and also a secluded place for nationalists and revolutionaries alike to seek refuge from the British Secret police. In a forested track located near the outskirts of Rohini is the mid nineteenth century building, the Grant Bunglow.
The trip to Jharkhand, particularly Devaghar and Rohini was a memorable one and I met some very good people there and was struck by the gracious simplicity of the family of the erstwhile rulers of Rohini.