Tuesday, 20 October 1998

The Agenda Behind the 'Hidden Agenda' Cry

(Originally appeared in the 1990s in the Times of India, as published in M. D. Nalapat's book "Indutva", Har-Anand Publications, 1999)

An effective method of concealment is to create a diversion, so
that attention gets deflected. Thanks to the din created by the
many who are talking of the "hidden agenda" of the BJP few are
paying attention to the quiet campaign that has accelerated
sharply since the election results put the saffron formation ahead
of the others. The objective of this is to get the BJP to either shelve
its commitment to the nuclear option, or throw it out via the
enticing of a dozen or more of the present supporters of the
Vajpayee government in Parliament.

That the government was not defeated owes less to the BJP’s
capabilities of floor management than to the realisation within
the anti-nuclear camp that any of its favoured candidates such
as Manmohan Singh is unlikely to be the first choice of the
opposition parties in the event of a snap defeat. Neither Sharad
Pawar nor Rajesh Pilot will be acceptable to this lobby, as both
have nationalist credentials and may be tempted to reverse the
neglect of strategic defence that has been a characteristic of the
Indian political leadership for long. While neither Indira Gandhi
nor Rajiv went as far as Morarji Desai (who evidently felt that his 
favourite liquid refreshment was sufficient to deal with security
threats), both ensured that no further nuclear tests took place,
thus effectively emasculating this country’s deterrent capability.

In 1990, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed helped Pakistan get a
foothold in Kashmir, by his refusal to take preventive action
against many who had been won over by the ISI. Subsequently, 
during the Narasimha Rao period, an organised effort took place 
to starve strategic programmes of adequate funding, and ensure
that Prithvi was capped, Agni rolled back, and the nuclear 
deterrent defunct. Two senior civil servants, with the enthusiastic 
backing of a Cabinet minister, masterminded this effort. However,
India escaped most of the negative consequences of such a
policy, thanks to the mistakes of others. Due to Pakistan's
induction of large numbers of Afghans, Pakistanis and others in
the Valley during 1993, local support for the insurgency waned.
And after the 1995 Brown amendment - that rewarded Pakistan
with key US equipment for continuing its drug and terror war
and its China-aided nuclear bomb programme - bureaucratic
support for this Gang of Three vanished, and even Narasimha
Rao was forced to begin reversing the earlier policy of neglect.
Small allocations once more began to be made to critical

Thanks to the realisation that the political class in India has
been spineless when it comes to taking tough decisions, both
China and Pakistan have continued their clandestine war on
India. Beijing has transferred technology to Islamabad, aware
that Washington and New Delhi will do nothing other than
make protests for the record. Pakistan, after its defeats in Punjab
and Kashmir, has extended the covert war to the whole of India.
In a less complacent setup, this would have led to immediate
retaliation in the form of a policy of hot pursuit of terrorists
across the Line of Control in Kashmir. In India, all it has led to
are warmer and warmer references to Pakistan by political
bigwigs. Small wonder that Islamabad believes that the security
risk of its aggressive policy is zero.

In case New Delhi does not have the stomach for a policy of
hot pursuit, the least that needs to be done to convey a message
that it is no longer paralysed in the face of the covert war is to
speed up the Agni programme and the induction of Prithvi. This
needs to be followed by open development of the nuclear
deterrent. Should Washington not make available sufficient
data, there will be no option but to go in for a limited number
of tests to refine the deterrent. As for the threat of sanctions,
should this lead to financial pain, then windows will need to be
found for generating funds through the sale of Indian technology
to countries that will not pose strategic threats to India in future.
Indonesia, Singapore, South Korea, Oman and Bahrain are some
of these states. Even in the event of sanctions, New Delhi needs
to retain a responsible posture towards proliferation of
technology. It cannot adopt the Beijing-Pyongyang approach of 
letting the market decide where technology should be allowed
to flow to.

Apart from fullscale induction of Prithvi, rapid development
of Agni and the improvement of the reliability of the nuclear
deterrent, there is need to change our attitude towards events
across the border. After ten years of absorbing Islamabad’s
intensified terror war, New Delhi needs to adopt a policy of
giving moral and political support to disadvantaged sections in
Pakistan. This is because only after that country becomes a full
democracy, where all regions and communities are treated
equally, will there be a mindset in Islamabad for genuine peace
with India. Thus, associations that support the rights of Shias,
minorities, women, Sindhis, Pashtuns and Baluchis need to be
set up here, that can give non-personnel assistance to the
suffering people of Pakistan. They should be encouraged to
adopt a charter that demands, for example, that not more than
25 per cent of the jobs at all levels in the Pakistan army, judiciary
and administration should be monopolised by the people of a
particular province.

When a general here was courageous enough to suggest that
the pain threshold for Pakistan’s interference should be raised,
the babus in the ministry of defence (some of whom can expect
to be rewarded with overseas jobs for their work in demolishing
morale and preparedness in the armed forces) asked the officer
for an explanation, rather than reward his candour. This is just
a continuation of what has been taking place for decades:
soldiers suffering because of neglect of their needs, including for
example an adequate supply of advanced rifles to face the

Sadly, the Congress party has gone so far away from its
nationalist traditions that Sitaram Kesri recently tried to shift the
responsibility for the Coimbatore bomb blasts away from the ISI.
Today both Pranab Mukherjee and Manmohan Singh are one in
demanding that the nuclear deterrent should be abandoned.

Small wonder that voters are making a beeline to the BJP. No
surprise that powerful lobbies are working overtime to destabilise
it, before the Vajpayee government follows through on the
promise inherent in its manifesto. Those who support China’s
security interests in India can be expected to oppose the deterrent,
but not a party that stood for nationalism till recently. Hopefully,
rather than adopt the hidden agenda of those who seek to
continue India’s weak response to Sino-Pakistan provocation,
nationalist elements in the Congress party will support a special
session of Parliament on National Security, so that measures to
safeguard this country can get debated and approved, just as the
CTBT policy was. Prime Minister Vajpayee, we are waiting to see
you convene a Parliament session that will evolve a consensus
on national security and approve practical steps to deter those
waging a covert war on India.

That there exists a powerful lobby encouraging the external
backers of subversion is no secret. The way to expose the allies
of this lobby in India would be to call their bluff and propose and
implement policies that will guarantee security rather than a
continuation of the slow bleeding that has been inflicted on this
country as a consequence of the timidity of its political leadership.
India needs not only secularism, but also security.

The Red-Herring - Pakistan's Role in Dividing Asia

(Originally appeared in the 1990s in the Times of India, as published in M. D. Nalapat's book "Indutva", Har-Anand Publications, 1999)

In another manifestation of ”planted" diplomacy, the Washington
Post has again been used by the Clinton administration to scare
India away from a nuclear test by invoking the Pakistan bogey.
According to "senior officials" in the United States administration,
Pakistan plans to conduct a test whenever India does, with
technology got from the Chinese.

If the unnamed officials are correct, then they are breaking
US law by refusing to impose sanctions on China and Pakistan.
Thus far the Clinton administration has pretended that there is
no ”clinching evidence" that China has in fact transferred
nuclear technology to Pakistan. If the Washington Post story has
its basis in an actual briefing, then obviously the US administration
has given up this pretence, and has admitted that US laws have
been breached. Then why the refusal to impose sanctions?

Opinion is divided in India on whether, as of date, Pakistan
possesses the capability to detonate a nuclear device. However,
there is unanimity that China has given substantial help to
India’s western neighbour, and that such help is clearly in
violation of US law. While in the 1960s Chinese help to Pakistan
was motivated by a desire to increase the pressure points on
India, by the 1970s Pakistan became important to China as a
route to Washington’s approval. The tacit US encouragement to
the Chinese supply of strategic technology to Pakistan has
obviously been taken as a signal by Beijing that continuation of
such supplies would be welcome, formal protests

No Longer Possible 
If the Clinton administration is facing difficulties in conniving at
the breaking of its own laws, it is less because of a desire to
enforce them than the fact that both the US media and Capital
Hill have become less susceptible to the nostrums peddled by the
state and defence departments. Although it is still possible to
plant a false report about South Asia in even a major American
newspaper, it is no longer possible to fob off supplementary
questions about the apparent US impotence in preventing China
from creating a new nuclear power in addition to the six that
have already detonated a nuclear device: India, US, Russia,
France, Britain and China. The passage of the Brown Amendment
has made it clear that Pakistan has become important enough to
Washington for the latter to ignore the former's support to
terrorism and its feverish search for nuclear capability.

What are the reasons for Pakistan assuming such an
importance? They lie in Pakistan’s willingness to create a red
herring which has the capability of further dividing Asian
countries. Had there been, for instance, an interface between
Indian technology and Gulf capital both sides would have
benefited. India would have got more capital, while the Gulf
countries would have been helped to set up a technical base of
their own that would have ended their current dependence on
Western expertise. In time, this could have created a joint
infrastructure in manufacturing defensive weapon systems, thus
reducing the huge flow of Gulf capital to the West to meet the
cost of arms purchases. Thanks to incessant Pakistani propaganda
of India being an "anti—Muslim" state (a canard greatly helped
by the utterances of the Hindutva brigade), the synergic potential
of India-Gulf co-operation remains untapped.

Two Major Economies
In the East, it is no accident that Benazir Bhutto is targeting
Indonesia and Malaysia with warnings against co-operation
with "Hindu" India. In damaging the prospects for joint action
by India and these two major economies of the region, Bhutto is
fulfilling the agenda of her patrons, who would prefer to see the
major Asian economies linking up with them rather than with
each other. British Foreign‘Secretary Malcolm Rifkind has once
again articulated the policy of using Pakistan to check India by
pretending that both economies (and societies) are equal, and
that therefore Pakistan should be admitted to any forum that
India gains entry to. Apart from the difference in economic size,
Rifkind is apparently unaware of the difference between a
secular society such as Indonesia or India, and a fundamentalist
state such as Pakistan or Sudan. Perhaps he should similarly
equate Ireland with Britain and call for Dublin’s entry into the
UN Security Council, because Britain is a permanent member.

Apart from its utility in preventing closer co-operation
between India and the Muslim-majority states, another way in
which Pakistan is useful to its Western patrons is as a hypodermic
syringe injecting fundamentalist teachings and terrorism into
places such as Chechnya, Afghanistan and Jammu and Kashmir.
The quid pro quo for this is the Clinton administration's refusal
to acknowledge that Pakistan has become the most significant
breeding ground for fundamentalist terrorists.

However, there are two reasons why Islamabad’s willingness
to accept a client status may soon end. The first is the increasing
awareness within Pakistan that the conflict with India is proving
far costlier to Islamabad than to New Delhi. At present rates of
growth, within four years the difference between the two
economies will render obsolete the Western policy of equating
India with Pakistan. At the same time, Pakistan will lose out on
the sharing of the opportunities created by this growth. Should
the two countries co-operate, the benefits to Pakistan would be
significantly greater than to India. Secondly, because of the
Wahhaby Punjabi dominance in Pakistan, it is that country more
than India that is likely to be mired in ethnic strife. The ISI tinder
so carefully being set aside for Delhi and Mumbai may get
kindled in Lahore and Karachi instead.

The realisation that the people of Pakistan are paying a high
price for Islamabad’s refusal to accept the LoC in J and K as the
international boundary may before long create political forces
opposed to Pakistan being used for achieving the foreign policy
goals of western countries. India needs to hasten the climate for
the emergence of such balancing forces by upgrading trade and
cultural ties with Pakistan even while beating back its attempts
at exporting terror. As for China, so long as it believes that to do
so would please the US, it will continue to supply strategic
technology to Pakistan, despite Islamabad’s eagerness to inject
fundamentalism into provinces such as Sinkiang or Inner

Change of Mind
It would be desirable for the Pakistani elite to change its mind
before its masters do. Within the US and other Western countries,
those mindsets which are locked into Cold War patterns may, in
time, give way to others that accept that the development of a
billion-strong liberal democracy—and one that is English-
speaking, to boot—is far more conducive to international order
than support to a fundamentalist country out to annex a secular
neighbour’s territory. While the Narasimha Rao government has
thus far been very indulgent towards Islamabad, it may yet
respond better to public opinion which is impatient with
Pakistan's attempts to foment separatist impulses in India.
However, whichever government takes office in Delhi, by now
a consensus on national security issues has evolved that will
make it impossible to realise the Bhutto dream of winning
concessions from a future "unstable" Indian government. The
more "unstable" a government, the greater the compulsions
within a democratic system for it to take a tough line against

India and Pakistan, in common with other Asian countries,
are natural partners. For its own survival, Pakistan needs to free
itself from its client role and enter into a friendly relationship
with its brother nation to the east.

Saturday, 17 October 1998

When the Law Becomes a Mischievous Ass

(Originally appeared in the 1990s in the Times of India, as published in M. D. Nalapat's book "Indutva", Har-Anand Publications, 1999)

Ten years ago, the Malayalam newspaper Mathrubhumi ran a
series about rotten apples in the Indian Union Muslim League
basket in Kerala. One of those who had been featured telephoned
the present writer-who was then the editor of the newspaper-
and warned that unless the series was withdrawn, "you will
spend all your time in the courts". On getting a laugh as a reply,
he rang off.

Weeks later, a spate of defamation cases began to get filed.
In a few months, I became familiar with courts across Kerala,
waiting for hours to catch my name—defendant so-and-so—
shouted out for me to appear before the magistrate, who would
usually give a fresh date for this ritual and move on to the next
accused, this time a rapist or a pickpocket.

One of the cases was filed in Badagara, a town in north
Kerala. Almost every month for a year, my appointments diary
would block an entire day for "appearance at Badagara". The
defamation had been the reporting of a taluk-level politician’s
fulminations against another, an act of journalistic impropriety
so gross that the editor himself—though not the reporter—had
to shamble to the dock to make appearance after appearance or
face a warrant of arrest. The Badagara sojourns ended only after
the magistrate got transferred, and the replacement took a
somewhat less apocalyptic view of the report, and excused me
from appearing. With that, the ’defamed’ individual dropped
the suit. The rash of defamation suits disappeared only after the
IUML leader—again in the columns of the Mathrubhumi—was
exposed giving dud cheques, and had to bow out of major-
league politics.

Years later, I attended another hearing, this time in the 
Supreme Court. An elderly relative had been sued for some 
property by other relatives, and after their case had, in the 
remarkably quick time of 12 years, been thrown out of the lower
courts, an appeal by the losers had been admitted in the Supreme
Court, and all property transactions by my relative stayed "till 
the matter was disposed of". As a result, even while paying taxes
on the assets, he could not sell them, nor had he the funds to 
properly maintain them. 

Finally, after years of waiting, his petition for dismissing the 
stay was to come up for a hearing. By then he was nearly 80 and 
in poor health. Chief Justice S. Mukherjee himself took up the
matter. After a glance, he ordered that the matter be listed again
after six months. Not a long time, surely, for a country with a
history going back several thousands of years. As it transpired,
both Chief justice Mukherjee and my relative died within a few
months of that order, the latter without escaping from the legal
quicksand into which he had been thrust by a suit that was, after
his death, dismissed by the Supreme Court, just as it had been
in all the lower courts. Later on, I asked some of those on the
opposing side why they had filed the case. One gave me an
honest reply, "We knew we had no case, but because legal
procedures in India take so long, we thought he would
compromise and give us something". In other words, use legal
action as an instrument of blackmail. 

Those travelling between Trivandrum and Quilon could, for
more than 10 years, see a half-finished bridge on the road to
Attingal. Work had stopped, we were told, because of a court
order. The quickest way to abort a project, evidently, was to go
to the courts and get a stay. Finally it would be seen that the 
grounds for the stay were non-existent, but by then children 
would have become grandparents. In the courts, time is a
concept akin to the vastness of space: six months is an instant.
10 years, incredible speed.

The danger in all this judicial power—to halt, to delay—is 
that in some hands it might get misused. Years ago, when just 
starting out in the newspaper profession, I visited a judge of the
Kerala High Court. Justice Namboodiripad did not call out for
handcuffs when cheekily queried about judicial corruption by a
rookie journalist. "Look, I like orange juice", he replied. "But I
can't afford to drink it except once a week, it’s too expensive.
Therefore, I often wonder how some of my brother justices can
afford to drink liquids far more expensive than orange juice, that
too every day", he added with a mischievous smile.

A democracy cannot afford official arbitrariness or lack of
accountability. Rather than reach for the bludgeon of contempt
at every comment on their shortcomings, our judicial watchdogs
need to better police—and punish—themselves. Charges of
collusion against the person who gave bail in Madras to a
notorious fugitive and that of manslaughter against the Delhi
individual who in effect ordered the execution of Rajan Pillai,
seem to be the minimum that justice warrants. Mere verbal raps
on the knuckles or transfers—the preferred mode of 'punishing'
judicial misderneanours—are not enough. More deterrent action
needs to be taken to ensure that such unconscionable anomalies
do not recur.

Different Strokes - Relevance of Asymmetrical Responses

(Originally appeared in the 1990s in the Times of India, as published in M. D. Nalapat's book "Indutva", Har-Anand Publications, 1999)

Just as a houseperson takes a while before getting a new recipe
right, the Indian voter may need to experiment with four or five
Lok Sabha polls before settling on a stable mixture. This election
is the fourth general election since 1989. Hopefully, there will not
be another round before 2000 to craft a political structure that
does not crumble midway through its term.

Even while political leaders inhale the dust of the campaign 
trail, the problems confronting the country remain: weak
infrastructure, excessive regulation combined with inadequate
checks on official corruption, a tendency towards ”populism"
and, finally, security, defined as defense against subversion and

In the melee of issues projected by the political parties,
security has been almost forgotten. This is not surprising in a
political culture which believes that piping hot servings of mooli
paratha and sarson ka saag are enough to deter Islamabad from
its policy of trying once again to vivisect India on religious
grounds. As the two Robins (Cook and Raphel) illustrate, such
a policy has strong support in countries that should normally be
expected to back democracy against extremism.

Twin-track Policy
The Pakistan army, whose actual strategic objective is the
maintenance of the domination of one province over the other
three, can be expected to trigger the break-up of its host country
within a decade, thanks to its indulgence of extremist and
regional interests and the money it is raking in from the legitimate,
i.e., non-drugs trade, budget. Thus, as far as Pakistan is concerned,
all that needs to be done is to ignore the bleatings of the Hurriyat
lovers and operate a twin-track policy of strong action against
subversion combined with offers of expanding trade and cultural
contacts with a population that has been distanced from its
Hanafi traditions since 1947.

Non-democratic China is the main strategic challenge India
needs to tackle in the coming decade. And in working out
doctrines capable of self-defense against hegemonism and
blackmail, this country needs to avoid the mistake made by some
western powers in implicitly presuming an equivalence in the
response by China and by them to different situations.

Thus, while on computer screens China may have the
capability merely to destroy two west coast US cities by 2005
while Washington can pulverize the emerging superpower in
retaliation, the fact is that a two-city capability is enough to deter
a US response in all except a direct attack on itself. In effect,
therefore, the US will cease to have an effective retaliatory
capability against Beijing’s hegemonic moves in Asia by that
year. This means that within the next seven years, New Delhi
will need to actualise enough retaliatory capability against
communist China to deter any attempt at blackmail.

Casualty Rate
A second divergence between thresholds is the casualty rate.
While Beijing can sustain fairly high levels of bloodletting,
Washington will need to reconsider its options once the body
bags move into the thousands. The Vietnam standard is no
longer acceptable to US voters and legislators. Thus, once the
Chinese regime crosses a minimum retaliatory capability in a
few years time, US troops in Asia will have mostly a ceremonial
function, just as the US fleet movements in the Taiwan straits
looked good on television but would have been unable to deter
a sustained missile attack.

Fortunately, this country has a much higher casualty threshold
than Washington, at least in Asian theatres. This has been
demonstrated not just in Kashmir but in external theatres such
as Somalia and northem Sri Lanka. Unless there is a fusion
between the different strokes of India and the other major
democratic powers, it will not be possible to patch together a
credible defense against putative hegemonism in Asia.

Just as New Delhi should adopt a two-step strategy towards
Islamabad, it needs to do so vis-a-vis the US and the EU. Within
the latter grouping, France has moved the farthest from the
standard British position of seeking to equate India with Pakistan
in all security matters. Hopefully Germany will follow. However,
overt development of India’s deterrent will lead to sanctions
from many countries. This is not as negative as it sounds, in view
of the reality that near-maximal technological sanctions have
already been imposed on New Delhi by the US and the EU, even
while the China window ensures that other "target" countries
such as Pakistan escape the effects.

While refusing to accept the Neville Chamberlain option of
unilateral disarmament in a developing threat scenario, New
Delhi needs to adopt business-friendly policies to ensure that
lobbies are created against the indiscriminate extension of
technological sanctions against business. While the insurance
sector needs to be opened to Indian players, infrastructure
projects can be made friendly to foreign investment. Also, while
speculation needs to be protected against in the equity and
currency markets, genuine overseas investors need to be given
incentives on par with domestic interests.

While the Narasimha Rao government made significant
progress in dismantling the legacy of colonial restrictions, it
implicitly accepted the Pollyanna scenario of the Raphels on
external threats. As a result, it continued the underfunding of
strategic programmes that were begun in 1984, and almost
crippled work on Agni and its warhead. The impact of this will
become evident only in the coming years, once Beijing puts in
place sufficient retaliatory capacity to ignore the US in the Asian
theatre. From that point, India, APEC and ASEAN will be at risk
to putative hegemonism, unless New Delhi has by then created
an adequate defensive capability.

Security Issues
New Delhi needs to follow policies that promote the expansion
of its pitiful per capita economic base. Sadly, too many politicians
are succumbing to the 1947-89 mantra of abusing and restricting
those with initiative and enterprise, rather than encouraging
them. Externally, while continuing bridge-building efforts with
other major democracies, work on missile and warhead
programmes needs to be accelerated. This should go parallel
with efforts at promoting trade and cultural links even with

Hopefully, the new government will begin the process of
institutionalising security policies, not just by setting up boards
that are, in effect, sinecures, but by encouraging the web of think-
tanks and institutional interfaces that this country needs to
generate and getting defensive measures implemented.
Otherwise, 2005 may repeat the shock of 1962.

Thursday, 15 October 1998

Crossroads: India's Tryst with the Future

(Originally appeared in the 1990s in the Times of India, as published in M. D. Nalapat's book "Indutva", Har-Anand Publications, 1999)

Across Asia, there are two broad tendencies. The first is the West
Asian model, the second the East Asian. Afghanistan and Pakistan
reflect the first, while Indonesia and (as yet) Malaysia practise
the second.

The West Asian model postulates a society where one
community is supreme, the others being given inferior status.
Women are part of the underprivileged group, and the use of
violence to achieve political and foreign policy objectives is
encouraged. In Afghanistan and Pakistan, one segment of society
has been given the monopoly of power, with the rest condemned
to servitude. In Saudi Arabia there are no churches or Buddhist
viharas. In Pakistan, Shias, Sindhis, Baluchis and the religious
minorities are discriminated against. As an Islamabad satellite,
the Taliban-controlled regime follows its master’s model in its
own country.

The West Asian model promotes feuds and confrontations,
and allocates a low score to orderly economic development. It
rejects the concept of a plural society that slowly evolves a
composite culture. Within India, its most ardent followers are
the activists of the Viswa Hindu Parishad and the Jamaat-I-
Islami, which would like to adapt the Pakistani model to this
country by relegating ”unbelievers” to second-class status. The
VHP would like to destroy places of worship the way temples
have got demolished in Pakistan. Those who promote caste and
regional divisions also fall within this category.

The East Asian model puts the highest premium on economic
growth, and on the development of private initiative as a means
of ensuring this. Progress requires social - as distinct from
political - stability, and this means a polity where no group feels
discriminated against. In both Indonesia and Malaysia the
minorities are treated on a par with Muslims, though in both
countries certain politicians are now trying to promote the
Pakistan model against their own. However, till today they have
not succeeded, with the result that communal harmony still

Rather than the West Asia model conquering South and East
Asia, there is need for the Eastern model to spread to the other
parts of the continent, so that societies there can avoid the
bloodshed that sectarian policies generate. An example is Sri
Lanka, where the 1950s-1960s attempt to make the Sinhalas
dominate over the Tamils led to the rise of the LTTE. Today there
is an effort to reverse anti-Tamil policies to damp down the roots
of the rebellion. In India, despite pressures from Hindu, Muslim,
Sikh and Christian extremists, the East Asian composite culture
has prevailed, as illustrated by M. F. Husain, a Muslim painter
proudly depicting scenes from the Rumuyana and the Mahabharata.
As an Indian, Husain has as much proprietorship over these
epics as Uma Bharati has. Sadly, however Homer’s epics are
given more prominence in Indian classrooms than home-grown
epics. An example of West Asian thinking where epics too are
given religious connotations rather than historical ones.

There are numerous individuals in India who follow the
West Asian model while parading as liberals. These are the
people who ban the teaching of Indian epics and who downgrade
most manifestations of local culture. Thanks to them, the word
"secular" has acquired an anti-religion character, when in fact
the truly religious are the most secular. The phoneys are the
individuals who seek to banish international languages from
Indian classrooms and who are opposed to large-scale industrial
projects allegedly on environmental grounds. At the same time,
they claim they want to abolish poverty. Presumably this will be
done the Stalin way—by finishing off the wealthy. The "Left"
and the "Right" appear to share the common goal of diverting
public attention from the need to focus on economic development
by throwing up red herrings in the shape of demolition of
minority houses of worship or the banning of investment even
from friendly Asian countries.

The battle for establishing the East Asian model - while
harmonising it with the imperatives of political democracy -
needs to be won in India. Thereafter, this country has to serve as
a disseminator of a development-friendly and moderate cultural
paradigm to the region, especially the western and central
reaches, where fanaticism reigns. One way of helping this task
would be the beaming of more Indian programmes to the region,
through strategic alliances with Asian programmers. If there is
an improved constituency within Pakistan for better relations
with India, some of the credit must go to the numerous Indian
television programmes that are getting aired within that country.
These sitcoms show that people of other regions and faiths are
not monsters but very similar to oneself.

Lal Krishna Advani is a politician this writer admires, hence
the sorrow when he gives the impression of believing that the
destruction of places of worship in Varanasi and Mathura are of
greater importance to the 900 million dirt-poor Indians than
orderly development that can change their lives the way it has
happened in Korea or Malaysia. Why does the BJP look towards
Pakistan and Afghanistan for inspiration, rather than to these
two countries? As for the "secularists", should they keep putting
roadblocks in the efforts of the Gujrals and the Chidambarams
to free the economy from Nehruvian chains, the people of this
country will remain poverty-stricken. The country has yet to
forget Pranab Mukherjee demanding higher taxes from the
middle class or Sitaram Yechury opposing foreign investment in
any Indian state except of course Bengal, or any move to inject
competition into key sectors such as banking and insurance. Of
course, funds from well-off businessmen profiting from their
monopoly positions may dry up if sensible policies get pursued.
But surely Mukherjee and Yechury want the rest of us to enjoy
the standard of living that they themselves are used to.

Unfortunately, the Gujrals and the Chidambarams are not
doing much to checkmate the Mukherjees and the Yechurys.
Rather than expose their double-talk, the politically correct path
these days is to play along with the fiction that the Mughal-
British-Nehru framework was good for India. By down-grading
the importance of economic issues this school focused attention
away and on to regional, caste and communal issues.

India has the ingredients in place to become a world power.
However, it lacks a political class that has confidence in its own
people. Hence the pussyfooting on developing a nuclear deterrent
or the avoiding of policies that would increase investment from
Asia and from those EU members not dominated by US-UK
perceptions about the subcontinent. Jaswant Singh, Madhavrao
Scindia and Palaniappan Chidambaram step forward. It's your
turn to try and free the Indian people from the colonial web of
restrictive laws fused to a legal system that takes a hundred
years to decide on cases. Do that, and your fellow-countrymen
will do the rest.

Friday, 9 October 1998

Make no Concession to the Terror Network

(Originally appeared in the 1990s in the Times of India, as published in M. D. Nalapat's book "Indutva", Har-Anand Publications, 1999)

The Cold War might have ended seven years ago with the fall
of Soviet Union, but since then a new archipelago of terror has
taken shape, in Asia and Africa, with spottings in Europe. This,
the Archipelago of Terror, has been created by religious
fundamentalists to promote their agenda of separateness. Here,
in the camps of the network, recruits are taught that it is
irreligious to live peaceably alongside other faiths; that it is a
holy duty to use the AK-47 and the plastique explosive against

This new Terror Archipelago has its strongpoints in Saudi
Arabia and Pakistan, with smaller bases in Libya, Iraq, Sudan,
Palestine and Iraq. There are scatter of cells in several countries,
including several on the Indo-Nepal border, as well as in the
Philippines and recently in Marseilles in France. Xinjiang in
China is a new focus of attention. There are two broad streams
within the system, one centred in the Saudi-Pakistan link-up and
the other in Iran. Smaller sub-systems, with linkages to other
countries, also exist.

In the countries where the network is based, there exists a
dual system of authority: the regular government, and the
shadow entity of the Archipelago. The first has almost no control
over the second, while the latter has a great deal of leverage over
the former. Thus a Syed Mohammed Khatami in Iran will have
as little control over the elements of the Archipelago in his
country as Nawaz Sharif will have over the ISI-druglords combine
in Pakistan, or King Fahd will have over dozens of Saudi
nationals who finance subsystems of the network in locations as
far separated as France, India and the Philippines.

While much of the expenses needed for running the system
comes from the drug trade, Saudi nationals provide the bulk of
the rest. Pakistan is home to the largest number of training
camps in the network, beating Sudan by a wide margin if one
includes the training camps in Afghanistan that are Lahore-
controlled. Indeed, Afghanistan has been sought to be recreated
by the Terror Archipelago as the first country to fall totally
within its grip. However, this is being resisted by two contrary
tendencies. The first is Pashtun nationalism, which is chafing at
the Sunni Punjabi strings controlling the Taliban; the second is
the large number of non-fundamentalist Afghans, who do not
want to be part of a network.

The significance of the Archipelago for the policies pursued
by democratic states towards countries that are home to it lies in
the fact that concessions given to the network weaken not just the
country making them but democratic tendencies in the host
countries. Thus the 1972 Shimla agreement, which handed back
all the gains of the 1971 war, did not protect democracy in
Pakistan from getting subverted, initially by Z. A. Bhutto and
later by Zia-ul-Haq. While concessions to the democratic
superstructure - such as trade concessions and people-to-people
exchanges - are welcome and necessary, concessions that are
designed to feed the demands of the Archipelago are futile. The
democratic superstructures have no way of forcing the terror
network to adopt democratic ways. Instead, concessions will
embolden the warriors of terror.

Thus the acceptance by India of Kashmir as an "area of
concern" may in fact have an effect which is the reverse of that
hoped for by those who agreed to this demand. It may embolden
the Archipelago to make further attempts at establishing its hold
over major parts of the state. Until the likely recruits to the terror
war realise that the sovereignty of New Delhi over at least the
parts of Kashmir now governed by the National Conference is
final, they will continue to pump oxygen into the war. Just as at
Shimla in 1972, at Murree in 1997 the Indian negotiators forgot .
about the Archipelago when agreeing to important concessions.

There are several problems in Pakistan that affect the security of
India, the genocide in Sindh being an example. Another is the
second-class status given to minorities in Pakistan. Had these
questions been included along with Kashmir as an "area of
concern", it would have been a fairer exchange.

Just as in 1972 the ground situation was overwhelmingly
favourable to India, and yet the Shimla Accord that was signed
continued the fiction of the Kashmir "dispute", today once again
the ground situation is in India’s favour, at great human cost. Yet
once more New Delhi has given life to a ghost, by agreeing to
discuss a single Indian state rather than generalised principles
over clusters of territories in both countries. The least that can be
expected after such a step is to withdraw the foolish 1948
application to the United Nations. That august body needs to be
told that for years it has failed to vacate aggression and now
India will settle the problem itself. Secondly, the UN Observers
Group, all relaxing at the expense of the international community,
need to be sent packing. Thirdly, the counter-measures against
the Terror need to be maintained.

After a few more years, slowly the economic ruin caused by
the wars indulged in by the terror network will embolden the
people of Pakistan to come out against the fundamentalists and
demand peaceful ties with India.