Sunday, 16 July 2017

Pahlaj Nihalani shames 21st century India (Sunday Guardian)

By M D Nalapat
Hopefully, the I&B Ministry will step in to ensure that the CBFC gets manned by individuals subscribing to the practices and needs of a democracy.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is working towards creating an environment in which knowledge start-ups in India will flourish rather than—as has largely been the case thus far—perish. Freedom of speech is an essential component of such an ambience, and this means the right to say and to write views that will be the reverse of what many others subscribe to. Cinema is a principal method of communication with the public, and countries such as the UK have established themselves for the quality of their offerings. Indian cinema can take on any competitor, including Hollywood, throughout the world, if only those making films had the creative freedoms that are taken for granted in countries such as the US. Such a movie industry would be an important source of both employment as well as soft power, but not if Central Board of Film Certification chairperson Pahlaj Nihalani can help it. Among the less than inspired choices of the NDA II government, there has been a lengthy record of his unfortunate cinematic interventions, allegedly in the service of Indian culture, although a brief taste of some of the films he himself has made would leave an individual bemused as to the Nihalani concept of India’s culture. However, he has set a new record in absurdity by the cuts introduced to a documentary on Amartya Sen, who is known in India as among the most loyal admirers of the Nehru family, and whose devotion to the First Family of the Congress Party has been recognised, including by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh appointing him as the Chancellor of Nalanda University, despite the absence of visible signs of familiarity with global Buddhist traditions and teachings. A well-regarded filmmaker, Suman Ghosh, has completed a documentary on the Nobel laureate. It is unlikely that there would have been traffic congestion close to cinema theatres showing the film, even in Kolkata, but for the publicity that it has received from the CBFC, which has directed that the words “cow”, “Hindutva”, “Gujarat” and even “Hindu India” be excised from the documentary before releasing it for public view.
Why should mention of the cow be excised, although it is a reality that several influential individuals proudly and publicly affirm the cow to be their mother? The mother of this columnist was not a cow, but a human being, but he does not have the right to deny to others the right to affirm the opposite. That is the requisite of a culture of free speech, of democracy, of the right to hold and publicly proclaim views of every person’s choice. Morarji Desai was sprightly even in his 90s, and it is difficult to prove wrong his belief that an early morning glass of his own urine was the cause of such longevity And it is not always possible to demonstrate that cow urine has miraculous properties. However, it would be wrong for agencies of the state or busybodies acting in their name to prevent individuals from either affirming or denying the properties of cow urine. As for Gujarat, Chief Minister Modi sought multiple times to get the Army to intervene, but was unable to persuade the Central government to do so early enough. Modi’s inspired stewardship of Gujarat convinced his political opponents that he would be their most formidable rival. There has been a coordinated effort to blacken Narendra Modi’s reputation, and even in 2017, anything that goes wrong in India soon gets pinned to the door of his South Block office, including this latest blooper of a cow bleeper from Pahlaj Nihalani, despite it being entirely a CBFC decision. The Prime Minister of India would not have had the time to intervene in the matter of a documentary about an economist, unless the day had 240 hours, rather than merely 24. This is clearly a Nihalani decision, but it is noteworthy that several of the members of that body are standing by the newly-established “Sen precedent” and defending a CBFC action designed to convince the rest of the globe that freedom of expression is dead in India.
If the members of the CBFC are to be believed, the mere mention by Amartya Sen of what he regards as the “criminality of Gujarat” in the 2002 riots would inflame the state such that there would presumably be fresh incidents of violence. Having gone multiple times to Gujarat, it is safe to affirm that yet another articulation (this time in the documentary) of the same view that Sen has expressed several times in locations across the world would not set the Sabarmati afire. Indeed, it would have passed unnoticed. Hopefully, the I&B Ministry will step in to ensure that the CBFC gets manned by individuals subscribing to the practices and needs of a democracy, or at the least, withdraws the order it is reported to have passed on the Ghosh documentary, before this country becomes a global object of ridicule and scorn.
Prime Minister Modi, now that he is entering the fourth year of his term, needs to ensure that India join the rest of the civilised world in removing such colonial laws as “criminal defamation” from the statute books. The thrust and parry of debate in a democracy will be fierce and often unpleasant, but it is a necessary condition not simply of democracy, but of the culture of freedom and transparency needed for Start-Up India to generate the thrust needed to create tens of millions of additional jobs. Freedom of the internet, the universal spread of the internet, high surfing speeds and a sensible policy towards education, are all needed to ensure that PM Modi’s dream of a youthful and innovative India energised and awakened becomes a reality during the time that he is in office. 

Saturday, 15 July 2017

OBOR will transform Eurasian landmass (Pakistan Observer)

M D Nalapat | Geopolitical Notes From India

THE largest construction project in world history after the building of the Great Wall of China,is the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), often known – a trifle inaccurately – as One Belt One Road (OBOR). Most analysts have pointed to the substantial unutilised capacity of the construction industry in China as the trigger for the project, which is the brainchild of Chinese President Xi Jinping. What has not been talked about is the capacity of BRI to transform the entire length of rail and road that it will traverse. Importantly for China, it will provide a mechanism for millions of Chinese citizens to settle along its length through the BRI getting developed.
Such a migration would also extend into Africa, a continent where already Chinese workers are diligently creating infrastructure in countries such as Kenya. Indeed, this has been the case since the 1960s with countries such as Tanzania. As it winds its way from the prosperous, densely populated east coast of the Peoples Republic of China (PRC) through the central and western provinces of that country, and enters into Central Asia and thence into Europe, in the space of five to six years, there is likely to be nodes of development. These would be most pronounced within China, but would also be visible in the regions outside China that the Belt and Road Initiative traverses.
Development will necessitate skilled workers, and because of this, it is almost certain that there will be a movement of such individuals to locations along the BRI route. Even without such a giant project, for example on the China-Russia border, there are already a large number of Chinese settlements on both sides of the long boundary. In several cases, Chinese citizens have married Russians and settled down in the world’s largest country by far in land area. Several shops and establishments have been set up by the Chinese, including in locations that were previously barren, and land in significant quantities bought for utilisation. The influx of Chinese into hitherto almost unpopulated areas of Siberia is creating changes not merely in demography but in economic profile. A similar result is likely to emerge across much of the length of BRI. Thus far, the Central Asian Republics had large numbers of ethnic Russians within their borders. Soon, they will have Chinese as well. It is certain the President Xi Jinping would have factored in the ability of the Belt & Road Initiative to employ and to settle millions of citizens when deciding on the project.
However, in the case of China, that country is looking at large increases in future employment through two routes. The first is the relocation of substantial economic activity from the east coast to provinces located in the middle of China. During the previous 15 years,these provinces have already developed excellent infrastructure, hence they are in a position to provide platforms for economic activity across a variety of fields. The other route is the Belt & Road Initiative of President Xi Jinping.
This will generate migration unprecedented in the western provinces of China as well as in the Central Asian regions through which the BRI will pass. Just as the building of the transcontinental railroad in the US ensured a period of strong growth and regional demographic changes in the world’s biggest economy, so too will the network of roads, railway and facilities that are being built under BRI. BRI will act as a backbone for China’s participation in the economies and even the societies of countries across its length. Of course,others living in the affected regions will also benefit through higher growth, which is perhaps why BRI is being welcomed by several countries. Even the European Union has signed on, although the motivation in this case is to ensure that hundreds of billions of euro gets spent by China in Europe, through the building of facilities.
Given that the overall economy of Europe is expanding at a much slower pace than those of Africa and Asia, to prioritise investment in Europe over investment in Asia and Africa may be a losing proposition. However, a fascination continues to be exercised on minds across Asia (including China) by a continent that just some decades ago controlled much of the world. This explains why the Arabs, the Chinese, the Koreans, the Indians and the Japanese have lost enormous sums of money in Europe. In the case of India, steelmaker Lakshmi Mittal transformed a habit of creating gold everywhere into just producing lead when he took over Arcelor at a huge cost and kept on almost the entire top-heavy, high-spending management of the company. As for Ratan Tata, the head of the Tata Group, he has burnt an enormous hole in the finances of the group by acquiring a UK steelmaker, Corus, again at a fancy price.
The craze to buy expensive assets in Europe and now in countries such as Australia continues despite the experience of Mittal, Tata and numerous others who put their money on Europe rather than Asia. It is to be seen whether the Communist Party of China will follow that example, or concentrate on Asia and Africa in its project to link their country with the world. Whatever they do, the reality is that the Belt & Road Initiative will provide an opportunity for tens of millions of Chinese to relocate along its length, thereby transforming large swathes of territory. OBOR will transform Eurasia once implemented.

Friday, 14 July 2017

Today: India-China border stand-off (China Radio International)

In the past month, China and India have been involved in an eye-ball to eye-ball stand-off along their border in the Sikkim section, with shots exchanged in Kashmir across the line of control between Indian and Pakistani forces, leading to the deaths of seven people.The border disputes between China and India, as well as those between India and Pakistan go back a long way.But what makes this current friction different? Will the current crisis pass without further damage caused? And should new mechanisms be put in place to avoid serious conflict in the future? These questions and more in this edition of Today, taking a closer look at border issues in South Asia.
For more on this, CRI's Jingnan speaks with Rong Ying, Vice Precident and senior reserch fellow at the China institute of internatioanl Studies; Zoon Ahmed Khan, Beijing-based Pakistani journalist; On the phone, Madhav Nalapat, Professor of Geopolitics of Manipal University in India.
Please click the following link for the entire programme's recording:

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Largest-scale drill makes US, India, Japan closer? (CGTN)

Published on 14 Jul 2017
India, the US and Japan kicked off a 10-day naval exercise on Monday in the northern Indian Ocean. It has gained extra attention this year given the current standoff between China and India in the Donglang area. What's the significance of this year's Malabar drill which first took place in early 90s? Should China be concerned? Professor Madhav Nalapat, from Manipal University and Ms. Han Hua, from the School of International Studies at Peking University join the discussion at CGTN’s The Point.

Sunday, 9 July 2017

GHQ-ISI’s global effort to defame India falters (Sunday Guardian)

By M D Nalapat
As yet the Central government seems unaware of the extent to which there has been GHQ-ISI penetration of so-called Hindu outfits. 
Worried at the growing distance between Islamabad and Washington and the readiness of Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India to craft a security partnership with the United States, GHQ Rawalpindi tasked the ISI with working out and putting into operation a plan designed to smear the image of India with the colours of “intolerance” and “fascist majoritarianism”. This, it was hoped, would ensure that the US administration would adopt a cold posture towards Modi, the way Bill Clinton did with P.V. Narasimha Rao. It was also planned to generate through motivated NGO-reporting that India would come to be regarded in the US, and much of the EU, as a country with values and systems wholly contrary to their own. Since beginning work on the project “Operation Smear Modi’s India” in November 2014, after it became clear that Modi’s concessions to Pakistan would not dilute security interests, the ISI has been successful in locating several hundred funders for the project, most of whom are non-resident Pakistanis, plus citizens of those GCC states that officially encourage Wahhabism. Thus far, credible estimates are that around $218 million has been expended in “Operation Smear”, and it must be acknowledged that there has been some success in this effort. Note the several dozen articles and news reports in globally prestigious publications such as Washington Post, New York Times, Guardian, the Economist and others (especially in German and Arabic media) that portray India as a cesspool of discrimination against several elements of the population. These alleged victims include minorities, Dalits, women and children. The actions of cow vigilantes (some of whom have been receiving funding from sources having access to GHQ-ISI cash through Dubai, Kathmandu and Bangkok) have been particularly helpful in seeking to showcase India as a nation filled with Hindu bigots, indulging in murder and mayhem at the slightest provocation. The effort to “prove” that the Hindu population is as much a reservoir of terrorists and fanatics as the Wahhabi population in Pakistan, has a long history, beginning with the initial planting of “Hindu terror” stories in sections of the Indian media in 2002, but has been accelerated since the close of 2014. Interestingly, in almost every report on lynching of minorities (any such deed on the majority community is airbrushed over, as it goes counter to the created narrative of a fanatic and crazed majority), the blame is placed at Prime Minister Modi’s office door, despite law and order being a state subject. The ISI is also using its channels of communication with the global media to accuse India of being the aggressor with Pakistan and China, and of “interference” in Afghanistan. Widespread use is being made of social media to reinforce such views on the world’s most populous democracy, and clumsy counters by boorish trolls are only having a negative effect on global perceptions.

The main plank of “Operation Smear” is that (a) there is zero religious freedom in India for minorities, including Christians, Sikhs and Muslims. This line is being pushed by NGOs based in the US, Canada and Europe. In the US, several of the NGOs pushing this line are close to the dominant Clinton establishment of the Democratic Party, although there are others as well that are linked to proselytizing religious organisations in some of the southern states of the US, and which are Republican in their preferences. What they are seeking is a license to defame traditional faiths and convert on an industrial scale. This the present government opposes as having the potential to severely disrupt social harmony. Interestingly, these very NGOs have remained silent on the actual genocide of Yazidis, Druze, Shias and Christians taking place in Iraq and Syria at the hands of those Wahhabi organisations which have received cash and weaponry from within NATO, or on the inhuman suffering of the population of Yemen as a consequence of bombardments from air and land that are directed by US monitors assisting Wahhabi groups in that country, to overpower the rest. And unsurprisingly, the terror unleashed by illegal Bangladeshi migrants in parts of Bengal are being largely ignored by the international media, as is that caused by the “freedom fighters” in Syria, Libya and Iraq who kill Shias, Christians and other non-Wahhabis routinely, to silence from media outlets regularly apoplectic about conditions in India.

(b) That Dalits are being discriminated against in India, and their rights and practices affected is another plank. The leadership in this part of “Operation Smear” is being taken by certain Netherlands-based NGOs that have maintained silence so far on the systematic discrimination faced by the Romany community throughout Europe, as a consequence of which Romany employment and education rates (not to mention income) are far below national averages in EU member states. Making out Una and Saharanpur to be the norm, rather than the exception, keeps the spotlight away from discriminatory practices against the Romany community in Europe, as well as the squalid conditions in which those who have been forced to relocate from Syria, Libya and other Muslim-majority states—as a consequence of the Bush-Clinton-Sarkozy-Hollande-Cameron wars—are living in so-called human rights havens.

(c) NGOs based in the UK have been particularly active in portrayals of India as a country rife with bonded labour, child slavery and sex slavery. An examination of such entities will show close relationships with politicians and members of civil society in the UK that are active in seeking to delink Kashmir from the rest of India by fair means or foul. Recently, joining hands with like groups in Canada, particular UK NGOs have been raising the issue of Khalistani independence. Of course, given the connections with the ISI and its financial accomplices, the “Khalistan” sought is entirely within the territory of the Republic of India, even though it was in territory now in Pakistan that massacres of innocent Sikhs was rampant during 1947 and 1948, and to this day, Sikh shrines in Pakistan do not have anywhere near the autonomy they enjoy in India.

(d) Interestingly, websites and organisations linked to particular political parties in India have joined parts of this campaign, especially in the matter of women’s rights and what they describe as a torrent of violence against women since 2014. Facebook platforms and Twitter posts have been particularly ubiquitous in this context. Since 2015, there has been increasing emphasis on tribal concerns, as also press freedom. Interestingly, several online publications based in India are themselves in the forefront of those alleging the absence of press freedom in India. These are the reverse of complimentary to the Modi government but they and their financial backers continue the tirade unmolested. Of course, it is a fact that thus far the record of the NDA II government in ensuring the conditions needed for press freedom have been less than complete. For example, criminal defamation (an odious colonial legacy) still gets routinely deployed by suspect officials and politicians to scare into silence the media, while Information Technology and other statutes work against the transparency needed to fight corruption in India and have not been eliminated by the new government, nor has RTI been freed of the grip of babudom.

An unceasing objective of GHQ “Black Propaganda” has been to depict the situation in Kashmir as “genocide”. However, now that violent deeds have become commonplace in Europe, there is less enthusiasm there to lecture India about the countermeasures being taken to constrain, contain and reduce terrorist violence in the state. Incidentally, these measures are far less kinetic than those employed by NATO members in similar situations. Neither are aircraft or even helicopters used, although several experts regard these measures as needing to be introduced in specific situations in Kashmir.

However, largely as a consequence of the energetic foreign policy of Prime Minister Modi, “Operation Smear” is not having the intended effect of taking the shine off the India story globally. Most global policy makers perceive that the faults being mentioned are not systemic, but sporadic. Of course, as yet the Central government seems unaware of the extent to which there has been GHQ-ISI penetration of so-called “Hindu” outfits, and how some of these are being goaded into violence that is causing harm to the image of India and indeed, that of the Hindu community. Earlier, this correspondent had pointed out how there was a systematic effort by elements linked to the ISI to vandalise Christian churches. These days, it is clear that the actual motivators of the criminal and terroristic acts of violence seen in the lynchings of those exercising their right to a diet of their choice, are in Dubai, Karachi, Bangkok and Kathmandu, with many close to the ISI operatives in these locations.

Whatever be the religion they profess, the ISI’s agents in India need to be identified and prosecuted, if “Operation Smear” is to fail comprehensively and India recognised as the inevitable next superpower, after the US and China. The “false flag” covert operations of GHQ-ISI in India need to be exposed and eliminated. 

Saturday, 8 July 2017

India and Modi stand up for Israel (Sunday Guardian)

By M D Nalapat
The Jewish community has an affection for India and its people.
For those who have tracked the 13-year trajectory of Chief Minister Modi in Gujarat, it is safe to infer that for Narendra Modi, governance at the Central level is not a 5-year, nor even a 10-year plan, but extends to 15 years. And that Modi must have worked out in his own mind a performance milestone for each of those years. These calculations will remain with him and not get fully revealed to anyone. Although of course, milestones for the immediate next years may be shared with those he has tasked with helping actualise them. This meticulous segmenting of overall performance into time-bound stages may annoy those well-wishers of Modi who wish to see fulfilled in Year 3 what the PM has kept aside for Year 5, but such shows of impatience will not deflect Modi from following his own timetable. The good news is that when he finally delivers, the results usually will be worth the wait, as has just happened in the case of the visit to Israel. This is a country that the Prime Minister is known to admire, which is why several forecast a Modi visit much earlier than towards the second half of the third year of his current 5-year term as PM. But now that Modi has visited a country that has assisted India in every conflict that our country has been engaged in since 1962, it is clear that the structure of the visit surpassed every early expectation of its depth and impact. Before visiting Israel, Modi hosted the Chairperson of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, and in this context, hopefully India will soon join those nations that have set up educational, health and other facilities in the West Bank. Such a gesture would take place despite the way in which Arab nations have, almost without exception, backed Pakistan on Kashmir out of wholly communal considerations. The Pakistan army is not interested in securing Kashmir for its own sake, but because GHQ Rawalpindi is aware that a wrenching away of this beautiful corner of India would result in a “nakba” (catastrophe) across the country that would make the events of 1947-48 seem mild in comparison.

The State of Israel has indeed expanded the 1948 boundaries given to it by the United Nations, but each time this has been caused by its victory in a war begun by the other side to try and increase the territory they themselves control. The leaders of Israel being somewhat different in mindset from those in India, they have mostly refused to lose at the peace table what the Israeli Defense Forces won on the battlefield, with the exception of Sinai, which was handed back to the Egyptians, and large parts of which have now become a refuge for Al Qaeda, especially since the (fortunately brief) period in office of a Muslim Brotherhood government in Cairo, which was set up with the blessings of Hillary Clinton. The 1948 boundaries of Israel were practically indefensible, and but for the fact that the armies confronting Israel were adept only at shooting down their own populations and not a foreign military, Israel may have either shrunk or vanished altogether. In 1967, President Nasser thought that he could repeat his Suez Canal triumph with a takeover of Israel, but failed, as happened again in 1978 with Anwar Sadat. Since then, and partly because of Israel’s nuclear capability, the Jewish state has not seen conventional attacks on its territory, although non-conventional (terror) attacks are unceasing. Whether they be in Tel Aviv or in New York, the Jewish community has an affection for India and its people, and among the ways in which this gets reflected is the partnership between Jewish-American and Indian-American organisations in Washington. Interestingly, while the classic faiths of Greece, Egypt and Rome faded into nothingness, that of the Jewish and the Indic people survived across millennia of persecution, as did another classic faith, Zoroastrianism, although demography, combined with patriarchal and outdated rules for admission into the fold, is resulting in this fascinating faith shrinking its already tiny numbers at an accelerating pace.

In the context of Prime Minister Modi’s pathbreaking journey to Israel, BJP spokespersons, voluble about the neglect by the Congress and its allies of one of India’s most loyal friends, forget that there was little difference between the policies towards Israel of the A.B. Vajpayee government and those pursued by Manmohan Singh. Indeed, when the first India-Israel-US security conference was organised at the IIC in Delhi in 2003, National Security Advisor Brajesh Mishra worked hard to get it cancelled. Why? Because such a meeting would in his reckoning “confirm fears of a Christian-Jewish-Hindu alliance against Muslims”. This was among the fantasies that Mishra was apparently prey to. Failing in his bid to scrap the conference, Mishra tried to block meetings of the conference participants with key policymakers of the Vajpayee government. To their credit, several of the NDA leaders ignored such advice and went ahead with the meetings, although in their residences rather than their offices. These included Deputy PM L.K. Advani, Defence Minister George Fernandes and HRD Minister M.M. Joshi, although Jaswant Singh kept aloof in deference to the National Security Advisor. President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam showed his mettle by going ahead with a meeting at the Rashtrapati Bhavan with key members of the three delegations. As he later explained privately, given the help Israel had given to India in the field of security, his conscience did not permit him to cancel a courtesy meeting with key India-Israel-US conference participants.

Friendship and loyalty are two-way streets. They need to be given in order to be received. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has, by his visit, shown in ample measure the gratitude of the people of India towards a country and a people who have invariably come to our assistance in times of crisis, thus far without any public acknowledgement by India of the depth of the partnership. Bravo, and may there soon be an encore.

Friday, 7 July 2017

Direct talks with Kim Jong Un desirable (Pakistan Observer)

M D Nalapat | Geopolitical Notes From India

Despite its small size and low level of economic success, the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea (DPRK) — commonly known as North Korea — has surprised its neighbours by launching an inter-continental ballistic missile with success. In such matters, there is an acceleration of the pace of success with the crossing of each stage, and developing lift and guidance capacity to a level that gives the projectile the potential of travelling 4300 kilometres is impressive. Such a leapfrogging of technology is not possible unless there exists within North Korea a dedicated group of rocket scientists fully committed to developing a missile system that has the potential of reaching the country that North Korea considers its biggest threat, which is the United States.
Given that such a system is next to useless unless mated with an array of nuclear warheads, it is certain that such devices must be under development in the DPRK, and are likely to be tested soon. As North Korea has walked away from the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, it is stretching the concept of international law to accuse Pyongyang of violating laws that it is not treaty bound to follow. Of course, whatever be the theoretical versions of international law that get taught in classrooms, the reality is that international law is what the Big Powers say it is, especially the United States and now China as well, in a context where Beijing has evolved as the other superpower.
Over time, India and Russia are likely to join that list, although both are far away from that exalted status at the present. North Korea is not in that league, but despite its small size, the country has demonstrated an independence of spirit under the leadership of the Kim family. Because three generations of this family have been in control of North Korea since the close of the 1940s, it is possible that much of the decision-making level of DPRK society accept them as the natural bosses of the country. In other words, only the Kim family will be able to keep the ruling party in North Korea united and functional and no individual outside the clan. This is analogous to the Congress Party membership overwhelmingly regarding only a member of the Nehru family as being eligible to lead the party.
In 1969, Indira Gandhi eliminated much of the leadership of the party and replaced them with her loyalists, and when a faction of these such as A K Antony and Devaraj Urs revolted in 1978, the party split once more, this time with Indira Gandhi in full control, much as she was during 1975-77, when the country was functioning on the basis of Emergency laws. These laws were put into force because of the perception in Indira Gandhi’s mind that she would soon lose her job as Prime Minister unless normal democratic processes were set aside, as indeed they were during the Emergency. After Indira Gandhi passed away in 1984 through assassination, the leadership went to eldest son Rajiv (younger son Sanjay had died in an aeroplane crash in 1980,otherwise he would have taken over).
After Rajiv’s death in 1991, Sonia Gandhi chose P V Narasimha Rao as Prime Minister, but soon was persuaded to oppose him in multiple ways, thereby weakening the Congress Party enough for it to be defeated in the 1996 polls. The split in the Congress Party caused by loyalists of Sonia Gandhi led to the boost in the fortunes of the BJP that finally brought the party to power in 1998 after having emerged as the single largest party in 1996. Whatever be the reason, it remains a fact that the BJP’s first Prime Minister, A B Vajpayee, is close to Congress President Sonia Gandhi and always showed her great consideration while Prime Minister (1998-2004).
Since 1997, Sonia Gandhi has been both the real as well as the formal leader of the Congress Party, and if she should step aside, it will be her son Rahul ( or daughter Priyanka, or both) who will succeed her. Indeed, had Sonia Gandhi replaced Manmohan Singh with son Rahul in the Prime Minister’s seat in 2011, when Manmohan Singh had become hopelessly discredited politically, the Congress Party tally would have been much higher than the 44 Lok Sabha (Lower House) seats in won in 2014. However, since then, Rahul Gandhi has lost much of the goodwill and charisma he had until a few years ago, and unless he vastly improves his performance in the time remaining till the 2019 elections, the Congress Party is likely to fare equally if not more poorly in that context, especially because Prime Minister Narendra Modi is far and away the most significant leader in India, much as Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi were in their time. However, perhaps because of the different political system in North Korea, the Kim family still seems fully in control over North Korea.
The present Supreme Leader, Kim Jong Un, has been called various unflattering things by observers based in Europe and the US who know him not at all. However, it must be admitted that despite his youth, Kim Jong Un has shown success in ensuring the development of lethal weaponry. Indeed, North Korea has become a core concern of China, the US and Japan, besides some other countries. So long as Kim is in charge, the North Koreans are likely to continue the development of nuclear and missile systems. Whatever they may say or want, world leaders will need to engage with Kim Jong Un rather than keep away from him if there is to be any result-oriented dialogue on North Korea. US President Donald Trump was right in wanting this to happen, although these days, he seems to have changed his views on this as on other issues as a consequence of Beltway pressure.

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

India-China Border Standoff (CGTN)

Chinese troops and a group of Indian soldiers have been at a stalemate for around 20 days in Doklam in southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region. This takes place just ahead of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to the United States. Some say the move is an attempt from India to show the US it has the power to contain China. Can China and India use their memberships in international blocs, such as the SCO, which India officially joined last month, and BRICS, to reach a peaceful solution? Yang Xiyu, senior research fellow at the China Institute of International Studies, Wang Yiwei, director of the Institute of International Affairs under Renmin University of China, and Madhav Nalapat, UNESCO Peace Chair and director of the geopolitics and international relations department at Manipal University share their insights.

Sunday, 2 July 2017

PM will move from Babu Sarkar to Modi Sarkar (Sunday Guardian)

By M D Nalapat
Even in 2017, it is a sign of inertia in practices and procedures that rotation every three years or less continues to be the norm in the higher administration.

During his 13 years as Chief Minister of Gujarat, it was in Year 4 that CM Narendra Modi hit stride and ensured that his administration fully broke away from past governance practices. The change created the Modi Model of Governance (MMG) at the state level. Those looking towards an MMG at the Central level are optimistic that Year 4 of PM Modi’s first term will similarly mark the arrival of a governance change designed to ensure that India’s demography evolves into a boon, rather than a nightmare. This will involve transformative changes in the functioning and policies of ministries such as Finance, Home, Defence, Law and HRD, including the introduction of much greater accountability and horizontal recruitment. Even in 2017, it is a sign of inertia in practices and procedures that rotation every three years or less continues to be the norm in the higher administration. Senior police officers get moved out of districts just when they have understood the roots of crime there and are working out correctives. Poor results are hardly surprising from a civilian bureaucracy, where individuals shift from Animal Husbandry to Home to Fisheries to Defence at the whim of their seniors. As a consequence, they rely on drafting skills, rather than performance for success. Or that officials in their 40s—who are more likely to make a success of tough jobs than those a decade and more older—would by then have lost their “inner fire”, as the calendar, and not substantive results, decides their promotion. This criterion has become the norm even in the higher command of the armed forces. Precisely when it is the younger officers who often have a far more realistic grasp of what needs to get done to win the next war (rather than the last few), than those more senior. 
As Prime Minister Modi reminds the world, India is a country of 1.26 billion souls. Which is why it is desirable for government to trawl much more widely for expertise in the core operations of government, than has been the case since Queen Victoria took charge in 1858. Take as an example national security. A single individual, the National Security Advisor, advised by a National Security Advisory Board comprising a few retired civil and military personnel, is tasked with formulating and implementing the entire national security strategy of India. The agencies working under an NSA’s supervision are, with rare exceptions, headed and manned by individuals with a police background. The police in India, as also the civil and military personnel of this country, may be the best in the world. Even so, they together form only a small segment of the skillsets available for deployment within our 1.26 billion population. For example, a Mahindra Group manager in Africa, or a Tata division head in China may have domain knowledge sufficient to be an outstanding success in particular jobs in the MEA. However, not only are they not thus seconded, there are, in practice, no structures which enable such outside talent to be involved in the making of policies involving locations in which they have worked with visible success for years. And in our university system, the UGC has reduced academic “success” to a series of numeric metrics that are entirely removed from the cultivation of the originality and 360-degree vision needed for cutting edge results.
The 8 November 2016 DeMo experience shows the risk involved in continuing with a narrow base from which is drawn the designers of policy. RBI officials, apparently, believed that Rs 500,000 crore of cash would be burnt or buried, rather than returned to the banks, while the rest of the demonetised cash would stay in the banks, improving their viability. The national security apparatus calculated that DeMO would stop counterfeiting and terror funding. The Finance Ministry pushed for DeMo as a way of exponentially increasing tax collections, while others argued publicly that this single measure would remove corruption. These objectives do not all seem to have been fulfilled, despite a high cost in terms of lost jobs, economic dislocation and loss of confidence in the monetary authorities. Had India moved by then to the Modi Model in display in Gujarat, a host of individuals, many from outside, would have been involved in deciding on such a step, rather than just a handful of bureaucrats who recommended this measure to the political leadership. 
After DeMo, the next transformative policy being implemented by the Modi government is GST. Although there has been broad-based consultation, at least on the record, in practice it would appear from the scheme finally unveiled that ultimately only the opinions of a few civil servants mattered. The design of the GST is such as to make it extremely cumbersome for many, especially those too small to afford high-priced chartered accountants and advocates on tap. Millions of service providers will need to fill in many more forms than was the case in the “more complicated” past. Much more time will therefore go in matters of compliance, leaving less for carrying on business. And should there be glitches in the GSTN software, there could be substantial slowdowns in economic processes, apart from the fact that India is not South Korea, where high-speed internet penetration is universal. It is difficult to fathom why this very essential measure got delayed by three years, when it could have come into force in the glow of Modi’s 2014 victory, latest by early 2015. Or why GST has not been made “saral” through a single (and lower) rate and easier paths to compliance. His admirers expect that PM Modi will ensure through broad-spectrum administrative changes that the Central government begins to function as smoothly during 2017-19 and beyond as the Gujarat government did from the fourth year of CM Modi’s first term in the job. A Modi Model of Governance (Central) is due.

Saturday, 1 July 2017

After demonetisation, Modi implements GST (Pakistan Observer)

M D Nalapat | Geopolitical Notes From India

PRIME Minister Narendra Modi cannot be faulted for a lack of boldness. If there were any doubts about this quality, they were dispelled on November 8, 2017 at 8pm, when he announced that 87% of India’s currency was being declared illegal in four hours time. The measure has caused substantial dislocation in economic activity, and even its supporters admit that millions of jobs were placed at risk as a consequence of the measure, which was unprecedented in any economy of India’s size.
However, with cash once again made available by the Reserve Bank of India, the economy is slowly returning to the level it was before DeMo (demonetisation) was implemented by India’s PM. It may be remembered that the US dollar has never once been demonetised, even though new variants have been introduced. While the new notes were placed in circulation, older notes continued to be legal tender. There were sound reasons why US monetary authorities declined to follow the demonetisation route, despite the dollar being the most counterfeited currency on the planet, with some countries even witnessing official sponsorship of such illegal activities.
The dislocation caused by DeMo is immense, and in many cases,the worst suffering is endured by the underprivileged. In contrast to the poor,whose transactions are almost wholly in cash, that of High Net Worth Individuals (HNI) is usually through banks. It is estimated that as much as 81% of the unaccounted money held by Indian citizens and their nominees is in bank accounts. Of such “banked” cash, about 73% are estimated to be held in overseas bank accounts, while the remainder is in bank accounts in India. Because of increased transparency in the global banking system, it is becoming easier to pinpoint accounts secretly held abroad by the nationals of individual countries.
However, the ten years of office of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh (who was subject to the political direction of Congress President Sonia Gandhi the way the Prime Minister of the USSR was under the control of the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union) proved a blessing for holders of illegal assets abroad. They were given ample warning, and if the passports of several prominent Indian citizens get scrutinized during that period, there will be several visits to Switzerland and to other offshore banking havens such as Macau and the Bahamas, of course for “holiday”. The only way that the incoming National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government led by Narendra Damodardas Modi could have got back tens of billions of dollars from secret offshore accounts of Indian citizens and their nominees would have been to declare an amnesty.
However, the bureaucracy was opposed to such a move, as also the political class, which was wary of charges of softness towards Black Money holders. Hence stiff penalties were imposed on those declaring such foreign bank accounts, while discretion was given to officials to send to jail or levy confiscatory penalties even on those who declared such accounts. The consequence was that very little money was actually recovered from the scheme, despite the Special Investigation Team headed by two retired judges sitting ever so often to try and get back Black Money. The Sonia Gandhi-controlled 2004-2014 administration imposed several harsh punishments and penalties, while sharply increasing the power of officials and the discretion given to them. Instead of a rollback, such punishments and powers have only increased since Modi took charge, although the expectation is that India will soon see evidence of the Prime Minister’s desire for “Minimum Government, Maximum Governance”.
Officials in India have been allergic to tax reductions, a trait seen clearly in former official Manmohan Singh when he was Prime Minister or Finance Minister earlier. Singh lowered taxes on foreign goods and gave concessions to foreign companies but came down hard on their domestic competitors. The consequence is that there has been a substantial rise in the percentage of foreign control and ownership of key sectors such as banking, telecom and aviation. In contrast to China, where domestic defence companies meet more than 80% of critical needs, in India the reverse is the case, with the share of foreign companies in the total of core items procured crossing 80% in several instances.
DeMo was supposed to (1) stop generation of Black Money (2) prevent counterfeiting (3) stop terror funding and (4) make banks healthy through the disappearance of an estimated Rs 500,000 crores of cash that officials thought would not get returned to the banks. While none of this happened, the good news is that the shock therapy increased the taxpayer base. Also, more than a hundred million more people are now operating bank accounts regularly while online commerce has risen sharply. On July 1, Prime Minister Modi will implement the next Economic Shock Therapy after DeMo, which is the Goods and Services tax (GST).
Certainly the measure has several drawbacks in the way it has been designed, but nevertheless, GST will create a unified market in India for the first time. The medicine being prepared by Modi may be bitter at first taste, but the gift of better economic health is expected to come later. Supporters of Prime Minister Modi are hoping that the economy will recover sufficiently by 2019 to a repeat performance of the BJP’s 2014 victory at the polls.

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Interview with former Prime Minister P V Narasimha Rao

Pamulaparthy Venkata Narasimha Rao was Prime Minister of India from June 1991 to May 1996, a period that saw him lay the foundation for the transformation of the Indian economy and a shift in foreign policy from sentimentality and shibboleths towards realpolitik. The only Congress Prime Minister outside the Nehru clan to continue in office for a full term, Narasimha Rao stanched the insurgency in Punjab and cooled it in Jammu & Kashmir. However, his term in office ended in electoral defeat, in part caused by the continuing aftershocks of the December 6, 1992 destruction of the Babri Masjid. This is the former Prime Minister’s first on-the-record interview about the fateful demolition, given to Prof. M D Nalapat:

Q: It is now nearly twelve years since the Babri Masjid was destroyed by a mob of kar sevaks. Looking back, would you have handled the situation differently?
A: On the basis of the information available to me then and the situation as was perceived at the time, there was no way I could have acted differently than what I did in the four months preceding December 6,1992.After all, the problem had not been created by me, but was bequeathed to my government. The idols of Ram Lalla were placed there in 1949 and worship conducted at the site since that time. From then, namaz stopped being conducted at the structure. These are facts. The gates of the structure were opened by a judicial order in 1986 and a shilanyas took place a couple of hundred metres from the disputed structure in 1989, when I was only a minister in the Rajiv Gandhi government. In 1990, during the time of the BJP-supported V P Singh government, a Rath Yatra full of religious imagery was begun by L K Advani that had the effect of inciting passions on the issue.

Q: Why was no effort made by you for a negotiated settlement of this a longstanding dispute?
A: The contrary is true. From the beginning of my term (as Prime Minister) I tried repeatedly to get the issue settled peacefully. At first there were successes. I was able to prevail on the sants to halt their ongoing kar seva on July 26, 1992, by pointing out to them that what they were doing was violative of court orders. After that, I met with religious leaders from the two communities to nudge them towards a solution. In the three months before December 6, 1992, in October, two meetings of both sides were held and the date for the next was set as November 8. The Hindu sants agreed at the second meeting to come to an agreement with the other side on a plan that would resolve the substantive issues ( of the dispute) by this coming meeting, failing which they had promised to back a reference to the Supreme Court. Unfortunately, the sants went back on this word and instead of trying to reach an accommodation with the other side, convened a meeting of the Dharam Sansad, which unilaterally decided to perform kar seva at the disputed site on December 6, 1992. When the November 8 meeting took place,the other side said that there was no point in holding further talks as the date for the seva had been decided upon in such a unilateral way. Thus the negotiations broke down.

Q: There is a perception that you never accepted the historical validity of the mosque, and that the negotiations conducted through you were merely a ploy to gain time for the other side to carry out the demolition.
A: Read the White Paper that was issued by my government after the demolition. On Page 1 itself (para 1.1) is written the words: “The structure commonly known as Ram Janambhoomi — Babri Masjid was erected as a mosque by one Mir Baqi in Ayodhya in 1528 AD. The White Paper was prepared under my instructions and presented views that I saw as accurate. How then can you argue that I did not “accept the historical validity” of the proposition that the structure was in fact a mosque? And as for the negotiations, I went into them with the intention of finding a settlement, or at the least making both sides agree to respect the verdict of the Supreme Court, in case a settlement by them proved elusive. As for me personally, I was in favour of the solution mentioned in the Congress Manifesto, which was to construct a temple without dismantling the mosque. This had been my view since 1987, when I was appointed by Rajivji to head the Committee of Ministers examining the Ayodhya dispute, an appointment that lasted till I was shifted from HRD to External Affairs two and a half months later.

Q : But why didn’t you stop the December 6,1992 kar seva from taking place? It was no secret that the then chief minister Kalyan Singh and other BJP leaders had publicly called for the mosque to be replaced with a temple.
A : Politicians say many things in public. Are we to act on the basis of such statements? A solemn commitment was made not just to me but to the Supreme Court of India by the UP government that the structure would be protected and that the kar seva would be merely symbolic. Kalyan Singh’s government undertook before the Supreme Court that it would ensure that “no construction machinery or material would move into the acquired land and that no construction activity would be permitted to take place”. After getting such an assurance, the apex court permitted the kar seva to take place as scheduled on December 6, 1992. In its order, the Court refrained from prohibiting any individual from coming to Ayodhya to undertake the seva. In effect, the Court’s order dated November 28, 1992 told the Central Government to keep out while it and the lower courts considered the situation. In view of such an order, on what basis could I have imposed central rule, especially in a context when the Marg Darshak Mandal had announced on December 5, 1992 that a decision had been taken that the next day’s kar seva would be peaceful? On my part, I had earlier ordered 20,000 paramilitary personnel to go to Ayodhya and be available to the UP government to protect the structure. I contacted Chief Minister Kalyan Singh several times during those final weeks and emphasized that he was bound both by law as well as by his word of honour to ensure the safety of the structure. People, in whose word I trusted, such as Atal Behari Vajpayee and the Rajmata of Gwalior, assured me that the structure would not be harmed. If you expect me to have had foreknowledge of the future, then I am sorry. I did not. Neither did the Intelligence Bureau nor any other official agency, for I received no warning from any of them that there was any risk that the structure would be demolished on December 6.

Incidentally, my government gave a blank cheque to the Supreme Court to take whatever decision the learned justices saw fit. We undertook to fully implement them. This assurance was conveyed in writing to the Court on November 23, 1992. You should also remember that in July 1992 a situation very similar to December 6 took place, which was defused peacefully. Based on that precedent, the President of India was justified in expecting that the December 6 situation would similarly get resolved without the need for recourse to Article 356. It was after December 6, 1992, that President Sharma changed his view and went to the opposite pole, taking a very negative view even of the activities of the other three BJP-ruled states. He got them dismissed as well, an action that formed the backdrop for the Supreme Court’s Bommai judgement.

Q: Both AIR and Doordarshan gave extensive publicity to the proposed kar seva .This created an impression that it was taking place with the government’s blessings.
A : It was the Supreme Court which directed both the central as well as the state government to ensure that “extensive publicity” be given . Are you suggesting that I should have disobeyed the orders of the apex court?

Q: Why did you not take action even after being told by the Union Home Minister, Shri S B Chavan, that there were inadequacies in the security arrangements at Ayodhya?
A: The action was for him to take. I didn’t believe in micromanaging my Cabinet colleagues. Yes, tasks were assigned to them by me, but afterwards, full freedom was given to ministers to do their job. I did not think it necessary or desirable to interfere via a hyperactive or omnipotent PMO while they were presumably doing so. The Home Minister was given the freedom to act in the execution of his duties, and it was my presumption that he did.

Q: But you ordered the then HRD Minister, Sri Arjun Singh, who had reached Ayodhya on December 3,1992 ,to return to New Delhi the next day.
A: Arjun Singhji told me when I contacted him that he was in Ayodhya to participate in a “peace demonstration”. It was my view that the presence of a Central Minister in Ayodhya at that time would only inflame the situation and serve no beneficial purpose. So I requested Arjun Singhji to return.

Q: There were persistent rumours in New Delhi at the time that both the HRD Minister (Sri Arjun Singh) and the Union Home Minister (Sri S B Chavan) wanted to take action against the UP government, but that you stood in the way.
A: There were so many rumours! The fact is that I left during November 1992 for Senegal for a G-15 meeting and handed over charge to a colleague during that time, who was given full authority to convene Cabinet meetings and take decisions. I am told that informal meetings were indeed held by Arjun Singhji, Sri Sharad Pawar and Sri S B Chavan on November 20 and 21,1992. In case they were in favour of “firm” action, they could have taken it then, when the responsibility vested in their hands. They took several other decisions, and as is my way, I never questioned their right to do so. But not this one.

Q : You declined to implement the recommendation made by Union Home Secretary Madhav Godbole that central forces be sent in the night previous to the demolition to protect the structure and impose President’s Rule on Uttar Pradesh?
A: So did the three colleagues I referred to just now, when they were in charge. But speaking for myself, President’s Rule is not an option to be exercised casually. This belief is an article of faith with me. I myself was a victim of the use of Article 356 in Andhra Pradesh in 1973.This is a provision that should be used only in the rarest of rare cases. Till the morning of December 6, 1992, there was no serious law and order problem in Ayodhya. Assurances both written and verbal had been given to the central government and to the Supreme Court by the state government that it would protect the structure. The Governor of UP (Mr Satya Narayan Reddy) had warned in writing against imposing President’s Rule. In his report, the Governor mentioned that the state government had “assured full protection to the disputed structure and adequate arrangements have been made to protect the disputed structure”. He had gone on to add in his written report on the situation in Ayodhya that in his view,” the time is not right for taking any drastic steps like dismissal of the UP government or the imposition of President’s Rule in the State. If it is done, it may have far-reaching consequences. It may also lead to large-scale violence not only in the state but in other parts of the country”. This was categorical advice. Many of those who subsequently criticized the fact that President’s Rule was not imposed prior to December 6 were themselves against the use of Article 356 at the time. Even the President of India (Sri Shankar Dayal Sharma) would have been difficult to convince, had I gone to him before the demolition with a request that he sign an order imposing President’s Rule in UP.

Q: Was the Governor your appointee?
A: No, he was appointed during the term of Sri V P Singh in 1990.I had nothing to do with it.

Q: Coming back to what could have been done to protect the structure but was not, why didn't you, as the Prime Minister of India, order the central forces to go in and protect the structure even if the state government was not cooperating?
A: Please read the Constitution of India more carefully. The 42nd Amendment incorporated Article 257A, which provided that “The Government of India may deploy any armed forces or any other force subject to the control of the Union (not of the State) for dealing with any grave situation of law and order in any State”, which “shall not, subject to the superintendence or control of the State Government or any officer or authority subordinate to the State Government”. This provision would have given us the authority to act without needing to take recourse to the extreme measure of dismissing the state government. But, without assigning any reasons for such a drastic step, this provision was removed from the Constitution by the 44th Amendment. After the nullification of such a crucial provision, the remaining articles would have rendered any except the extreme action of dismissal (of the state government) ineffective except in case of a threat to the unity and integrity of India, such as insurgency aided by a foreign power. This was hardly the situation in Ayodhya. Also, at that point in time, even the Intelligence Bureau did not foresee what unfortunately took place on December 6, 1992. It is easy to pontificate after the fact, but the reality is that before the demolition there was hardly anyone in authority who was in favour of the use of Article 356 against the Kalyan Singh government. And barring such a step, there were — and still are — very few weapons in the Centre’s armoury to deal with a situation such as that which developed in Ayodhya. The law provides only that central forces can be stationed anywhere on the orders of the Union Government but that orders for their deployment have to come from the state government. We stationed forces for the convenience of the State authorities, who unfortunately did not use them even though they were camped just 15 minutes from the structure. The reality is that the state government held the rest of us hostage thanks to the constitutional barrier in taking swift action without their consent or without imposing Central rule. The effect of removing Article 257A was to render Article 355, Article 257 and Article 356 much less potent in a situation such as what was extant in Ayodhya. The only choices available to us was to ensure that enough forces were ready on standby for the state government to deploy or that President’s Rule be imposed even when there was no obvious sign of breakdown of the constitutional machinery. The question is: can Article 356 be used pre-emptively? I don’t think that such an option was the intention of the framers of the Constitution, nor would it be in the spirit of the Sarkaria Commission or the Bommai decision
However, please note that my mind was not closed on the question of the use of Article 356.In fact, I had asked the Home Secretary on November 28, 1992 to put up a Cabinet note on Article 356, just in case the situation called for that. However, the consensus view among those dealing with the issue was that it was not. That this was wrong became blindingly clear only when it was too late (to save the structure).

Q : To return to the contingency plan that had been drawn up by the Union Home Secretary ,why was it not not followed?
A : In the first place, the gentleman had kept his plan so secret that even the Prime Minister was not informed about its existence till the last minute. Further, it called for highly unorthodox measures, such as a “secret midnight meeting of the Union Cabinet” to take steps under Article 355 to be followed hours later by Article 356. The then Home Secretary was against even Cabinet ministers being given a Cabinet note about the subject of the meeting. Such opacity about the purpose of such an extraordinary “midnight” meeting would inevitably have generated wild speculation about the agenda, which would then rapidly have become public. This is no longer the India of the Raj, after all. We have a free press and we have ministers and officials who are not always averse to communicating privately with the media. The Home Secretary wanted central forces to enter the disputed area stealthily on the night of December 5 and take control of the structure, to be followed almost immediately by President’s Rule. My view was that such a decision could have inflamed the situation and did not appear to be warranted by the situation, especially in view of the assurances that had been given to the Supreme Court and to the Centre. As for a midnight Cabinet meeting, such a meeting — which to my knowledge has never taken place in India — could not have been kept secret for even an hour. The reality is that at that time, there was no consensus that the situation was so irretrievable that Article 356 was inevitable. On the contrary, the consensus was to try and ensure that a symbolic kar seva, which would be followed by a resumption of negotiations to settle the matter amicably, be permitted rather than forcibly halted. However, I realize that failure has no father while success sees many claimants.

Q: What exactly took place on December 6, 1992? When did you know the structure was being demolished, and what did you do to try and retrieve the situation?
A: Around noon I was told that far from being peaceful and doing a symbolic kar seva, a section of the mass suddenly began an attack on the structure. I thereupon instructed the concerned officers to do whatever was possible to save the situation. The Home Secretary told me that central forces had been sent from Faizabad after the first reports had been received of an attack on the structure, but that this force had been given a written order by the Magistrates to return to their barracks. There is no way of disobeying or circumventing these orders. Any suc disobedience would, in law, be tantamount to action without authority, therefore illegal. Every consequence of such action taken by the forces would be open to a criminal case and the central forces would be hled responsible. If there is firing and deaths, every such death would amount to murder. Obviously, the central forces would never act in such a way.

Q: What was your response?
A: To call a Cabinet meeting to immediately impose President’s Rule. It had become clear at that stage that there had been a breakdown of the constitutional process in the state that warranted the use of Article 356 .The Union Cabinet met at 6 pm and the recommendation (to impose President’s Rule) was sent to the President of India, who approved it at 9.05 pm. As soon as we were informed that President Sharma had signed the proclamation, the Advisors who had been designated earlier were dispatched to Lucknow. We were busy the entire evening with this exercise, and in monitoring the situation all over the country, to ensure that matters did not spiral further out of control.
Afterwards, I saw to it that the President of India sought the opinion of the Supreme Court of India on whether a Hindu temple had stood on the site of the Babri Masjid .Further, my government undertook to ensure that the Court’s orders got complied with, whatever the verdict. We also issued an ordinance (which was subsequently converted into law by an Act of Parliament: Act 33 of 1993) to acquire all the area in dispute (in the legal suits pending in the Allahabad High Court) as well as the adjacent area. The plan was to hand over the area thus acquired — barring the place where the disputed structure had stood — to two trusts, one that would build a mosque, and the other that would construct a temple. However, we undertook to respect the status quo till the Supreme Court had given its verdict.

Q: Why was there a delay of nearly a month after the demolition before the central government took custody of the site on January 7, 1993? Why could this not have been done earlier?
A: There were legal formalities to be completed. And anyway, the site was under the control of central forces since December 7, 1992, once it had been cleared of kar sevaks.

Q: What is your expectation about the future course of the dispute?
A : After the December 27,1992 Cabinet meeting that decided to issue the ordinance taking over the land, I publicly clarified that the demolished structure would be rebuilt. That was my promise and my intention, and I hope to see it take place during my lifetime.

(As told to the writer on 11th May, 2004 at 9, Motilal Nehru Marg, New Delhi)

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

World Insight: How will the U.S.-India partnership affect the geopolitical balance in Asia? (CGTN)

Panel: M D Nalapat, Richard Rossow and Yang Xiyu

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Trump-Modi meeting a game changer, despite Beltway sabotage (Sunday Guardian)

By M D Nalapat
Those eager to ensure friction, want Trump to bring up issues that impinge on India’s sovereignty, aware that Modi would react strongly to any such efforts.

Both during the 2016 Presidential campaign trail and in his previous avatar as a billionaire businessperson, President Donald John Trump had integrated India as a core component of the global order in his policies and actions. However, since his inauguration on 20 January and subsequently, very little mention has been made of India in the statements made by spokespersons for the Trump administration, while, as yet, several posts relevant to relations with India (such as that of Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia) remain unfilled.
However, the incoming US Ambassador to India, Ken Juster, was informed two months ago that he was the White House choice for the post, and his nomination has been made official days before the 26 June first-ever meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Trump. The chemistry between the two will play an important role in ensuring that the India-US alliance, which was first initiated by President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, becomes a reality during the terms in office of Trump and Modi. This may already have occurred during the first two years of NDA-II, which began in 2014, but for foot-dragging by those loyal to Bill and Hillary Clinton, who were disproportionately influential during the Barack Obama administration, relative to the Obama loyalists, although less so in the 44th US President’s second term (2013-17). It was known within the Washington Beltway—the US equivalent of India’s Lutyens Zone—that (former) Secretary of State Hillary Clinton held the view that the benefits of a close alliance with India were “oversold” by Condoleezza Rice and others in the Bush team, and that far greater emphasis needed to be paid on ensuring improved relations with China, her rhetoric to the contrary. Although Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, in particular, sought to speed up the process of partnering with India in matters of security, he met a stone wall on the Indian side with Defence Minister A.K. Antony, whose view of the world seems to have been unaffected since the 1960s’ heyday of the Soviet Union. While President Obama and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh saw the advantages, to both, of much closer India-US ties, the former was slowed down by the Clintonites in his administration and the latter by the leadership of the Congress Party, which went largely by the views of Antony in such matters, despite the close personal friendship between Sonia Gandhi and Hillary Clinton. 
Once Prime Minister Modi came to power on 26 May 2014, he adopted a careful approach towards transforming the chemistry and approach of the Central higher bureaucracy, even inducting several into his team who were charter members of the Lutyens’ Zone. President Trump had (in the start of his administration) a different approach, looking for a speedy transition from the traditional Beltway policies and practices to a construct more in tune with current realities. However, the blowback that Trump has been receiving from the Beltway shows that Modi was correct in his caution, as overall the Prime Minister of India has in three years had a far more peaceful innings than the US President in just six months of his term. However, as a consequence of the high initial level of representation of the Lutyens’ Zone in the NDA II government, progress has been slower than expected on some fronts, including that of US-India relations. This despite the warmth and commitment of both President Obama as well as Prime Minister Modi to each other, and to much closer ties. Prime Minister Modi, now that he has mastered the intricacies of Central administration, rather than that of a state, may be expected to accelerate towards a much more transformative structure of governance, in this sense matching the attempted speeds of President Trump in his own administration. The bureaucratic speed-breakers to a much more rapid overall congruence and in several respects convergence of Washington-Delhi policies and actions are getting weaker on the Indian side. However, in Washington, the “Beltway” establishment (both Republican as well as Democrat) is still powerful enough to have a high degree of success in blocking many of President Trump’s initiatives.
In the US, the higher layers of the federal bureaucracy are composed of what may be termed “political bureaucrats”, i.e., officials chosen by politicians and usually on political considerations. White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, apparently, still considers himself to be beholden to the entire leadership of the Republican Party, which he was while Chair of the Republican National Committee, forgetting that from 20 January onwards, his loyalty needed to be directed solely in the direction of President Trump. Over the past months, Priebus has instituted a quota system in the US administration, trying to select candidates for high positions that are a mix of those loyal to George W. Bush, Mitt Romney, John McCain and other Republican Party heavyweights. The problem is that these party grandees would be (not so secretly) delighted were Trump to be made to step down as early as possible. Hence, some of those appointed to high office by the Trump team see as their primary interest the failure of the 45th President of the United States to implement the agenda for which he was elected. Should the 26 June Trump-Modi meeting go well, it would redound to the credit of President Trump and lead substantially towards the long-cherished objective of an India-US alliance for security and prosperity that would in its effects span the globe. Hence, they are seeking to ensure that the meeting goes badly, by seeking to ensure that President Trump brings up issues that impinge on the sovereignty and self-respect of India, aware that Prime Minister Modi is 100% a nationalist, who would react strongly to any such efforts.
Among the issues they would like Trump to bring forward for discussion are issues relating to some NGOs operating in India that have been reported as having indulged in activities that have the potential to cause mayhem and violence. Other issues sought to be introduced into the conversation relate to some of the matters that have been exciting both foreign and domestic media during the past weeks, including matters of diet. Another googly being suggested is to bring up the cordial relations that Delhi has with both Teheran and Moscow, of course for valid geopolitical reasons. The expectation of those in the Trump administration who are eager to ensure friction, and not understanding, during the Modi-Trump summit is that the introduction of such issues into the Modi-Trump dialogue would visibly set relations back, thereby slowing down the momentum already generated by previous heads of government in both Delhi and Washington. However, the few within the Trump administration who are genuine loyalists of the 45th US President (and not of his Republican traducers) say that Trump is fully aware of such moves and will ensure that they are not given a chance to work. They say that while such issues may figure in some conversations, these would be at a lower level and privately. 
From the very first days of his ascension to office, Prime Minister Modi showed his goodwill for the US by casting aside years of hostility manifested in the denial of a US visa to him and making thus far four successful visits to the US. Those familiar with President Trump say that he is in sync with Modi on the need for the US and India to work closely together, and can be expected to ensure that the Prime Minister’s potentially very consequential visit to Washington ends up as productive and ground-breaking. On the Indian side, although there are issues relating to US policy that are of concern, such as recent changes in visa rules in some categories or climate-related matters, these are expected to be dealt with at a lower level and mostly in closed-door sessions, so that the overall atmospheric remain cordial, an important consideration in a democracy. Prime Minister Modi is going the extra mile to ensure this, for example, by refusing to accept the invite by some organisations in cities across the US to address mass rallies of Indian-Americans during his latest US visit. Such meetings may give rise to anti-immigrant feelings in a section of Trump supporters about Indian-Americans, despite this group being the most law-abiding and high (average) tax-paying of any ethnic community settled in the US. Hence the expectations on the part of both Modi as well as Trump loyalists are that there would be a Trump-Modi breakthrough in US-India relations on 26 June. This would ensure that the two democracies move largely onto the same page in confronting threats and taking advantage of opportunities in the Indo-Pacific century.