Monday 27 December 2004

Revenge on Rao (UPI)

M.D. Nalapat

MANIPAL, India, Dec. 27 (UPI) -- Appropriately for the capital of India, a country that has witnessed the demise of so many dynasties and empires, Delhi is a city dotted by tombs. To the many built to encase the remains of the numerous emperors of the Mughal era has been added their post-1947 potentates of democracy: Mohandas K. Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Lal Bahadur Shastri, Sanjay Gandhi, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, Charan Singh and Jagjivan Ram.

While neither Mohandas Gandhi nor Sanjay Gandhi was ever the holder of any public office, some may claim that the contribution to Indian history of the second son of Indira Gandhi may not entirely be on the same scale as that of the Mahatma. However, such niceties were not allowed to stand in the way of Sanjay, too, being granted the same privilege that was given to the Mahatma, a cremation site and memorial, or samadhi in New Delhi.
Both Rajiv Gandhi and Charan Singh -- former prime ministers of India -- died while they were out of public office, while Jagjivan Ram, who never became prime minister, was cremated outside of New Delhi. But his ashes were brought back and re-interred in New Delhi as a mark of respect by the country that he served for four decades.
Four of the eight post-1947 tombs have been created to honor members of the Nehru family, whose names are etched on airports, ports, roads, townships, public conveniences and much else in a country that has rewarded them with power and more in abundance.
Pamulaparthy Venkata Narasimha Rao, who was prime minister from 1991 to 1996, was not a member of the Nehru family. He was, however, the first prime minister from south of the Vindhyas, the first outside the Nehru clan to last a full five-year term in office, and the individual who -- together with his then finance minister, Manmohan Singh -- began the transformation of India through economic reform

MDN: Narasimha Rao's final humiliation (Rediff)

M. D. Nalapat

Appropriately for the capital of a country that has witnessed the death of hope so often, Delhi is a city of tombs. To the many built to encase the remains of numerous emperors of the Mughal era and their successors has been added those from post-1947: Mohandas Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Lal Bahadur Shastri, Sanjay Gandhi, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, Charan Singh and Jagjivan Ram.

Neither Mohandas Gandhi nor Sanjay Gandhi was ever the holder of any public office, although some may claim that the contribution to Indian history of the second son of Indira Priyadarshini may not entirely be on the same scale as that of the Mahatma. However, Sanjay too was granted the same privilege of a samadhi in New Delhi. 

Both Rajiv Gandhi and Charan Singh died while they were out of office, while Jagjivan Ram -- who never made it to the prime ministership -- was cremated outside of New Delhi, but had his ashes brought back and re-interred in New Delhi

Four of the eight post-1947 tombs have been created to honour members of the Nehru family, whose names are etched on airports, ports, roads, townships, public conveniences and much else in a country that is presumably grateful that such a brood chose to be born in their midst.

As some are aware, Pamulaparthy Venkata Narasimha Rao was not a member of the Nehru family. He was, however, the first prime minister from south of the Vindhyas, lasted a full term in office, and began the transformation of India through the economic reforms initiated by him.

Most would say that Rao's remains had at least the same right to a slice of prime New Delhi land as did Charan Singh's or Sanjay Gandhi's. The newspapers, who are extremely deferential to the actual powers-that-be, have been told and have reported that Rao was cremated in Hyderabad 'as per the wishes of his family members.'

This statement contains the same measure of truth as the comment that the former prime minister was 'regularly consulted on all important matters' by the current Congress president, Sonia Gandhi.

In fact, despite being a former AICC president and a prime minister, Narasimha Rao was not just excluded from the Congress Working Commitee since the current heir to the Nehru dynasty took charge of the party in 1998, he was not even allowed to become one of the numerous 'special invitees', most of whom get selected for their cheerleader skills rather than any other contribution.

Given that former prime ministers Rajiv Gandhi, Charan Singh and the non-prime minister Sanjay Gandhi were given state funerals and a final resting place in what may be termed the National Capital's 'Zone of the Dead,' the reasons why such a privilege was denied to Narasimha Rao are obscure.

They, however, are depressingly in line with a pattern that dogged Rao since 1992, when he refused to accept that he was not a public servant, but a Nehru Family retainer. In what follows, an account is given of the circumstances behind the final humiliation of Pamulaparthy Venkata Narasimha Rao.

A short while before he got hospitalised, Narasimha Rao -- whose antennae were always active in picking up signals, especially from the many former and current officials who were admirers of his policies -- was informed of a plan by senior politicians in his own party to implicate him and another former prime minister, Chandra Shekhar, in the assasination of Rajiv Gandhi.

For eight years, Rao had been the only former prime minister to have endured the torture of a series of cases filed against him. These had been masterminded -- and the legwork for them funded -- by the very same individuals who, he was now credibly told, were plotting to implicate him in one of the most heinous crimes of the century. The motive presented for Chandra Shekhar would be revenge -- Rajiv made his life a misery and finally made it impossible for him to remain dependent on Congress support with dignity. That for Narasimha Rao would be the job that he stepped into after the 1991 Lok Sabha election.

To those scripting such Stalin-style show trials, it did not matter that Narasimha Rao had himself asked Rajiv Gandhi in 1991 for permission to retire, and was looking forward during and after the election that year only to writing and to music, and to the company of friends. Or that Rao was the sort of individual who was incapable of violence or vengeance, even against those who were his enemies, which was why -- for example -- the CBI permitted Ottavio Quatrocchi to leave the country.

In Narasimha Rao, forbearance grew to the level of a vice. It was as absurd to imagine him plotting to see Rajiv Gandhi dead as it was to believe that Rajinder Kumar Dhawan planned the demise of the only person he worshipped, Indira Priyadarshini Gandhi.

However, to the Stalinist scriptwriters within the Congress party who hated Rao for his perceived lese majeste, truth and logic were never allowed to remain in the way of a slur.

Shortly before he fell so ill that he had to be taken to hospital for the first time before the final crisis, Narasimha Rao told the writer that it had been a very ugly past few years, thanks to the constant threat of imprisonment hanging over his head. He saw these legal entanglements as a way of paralysing him, removing his capacity to emerge as a player once again, and said that because of their fear of what he could do -- whether justified or not -- they would keep immobilising him through more such stratagems.

PV was calm, he was cynical in his humorous way, but far from resigned. The old fox, whom his father had hoped would become the patwari of his village, felt he had another innings left at the crease, one in which he would once again score a double century. Indeed, he had begun the process of re-entry into active politics by giving me a lengthy interview during the 2004 Lok Sabha election on just why it was wrong to place the destruction of the Babri Masjid at his door, that was carried across a page by The Asian Age.

This was to be followed up by another interview, in which he would explain the conditions in which he and an individual he loved and respected, Manmohan Singh, rescued the Indian economy from collapse, in the process setting it almost free. I would remind him off and on about this second interview, till almost the final days.

Was it the knowledge that yet another conspiracy against him was on the way towards execution that pushed his body beyond the borderline of viable capability? For years, Narasimha Rao had been tended by Sreenath Reddy, one of the finest heart specialists in the world, the son of a close friend -- Raghunatha Reddy -- who was himself as idealistic as his boy. Ever watchful, this surrogate son had monitored PV's health and made sure that the body worked well enough to keep that superb mind working at Concorde speed.

What goes on in the human mind, what short-circuit in the synapses causes a sudden collapse, is impossible to tell. Perhaps it was not this terrible information that pushed him across the red line. Perhaps it was something else. Perhaps it was nothing except perhaps a sudden onset of the common cold.

Even in hospital, even in his final days, PV exuded confidence. The doctors -- and they included many who had grown to love PV the man, if not P V Narasimha Rao the prime minister -- were grim-faced, as were the others clustered outside his room in the All India Institute of Medical Sciences. Not so PV.

Strangely, his physical collapse had led to a toughening of his will. The voice was low, one did not have the will to respond and thus force him to expend energy by replying to the reply, but PV was determined to keep on talking about what would be.

This time, he would not make the mistake of not reacting to the torment, he would resist his inbuilt aversion towards his friends fighting back on his behalf and allow them to. There had been something aloof and patrician about the man from Vangara village, that made any effort at self-defense seem a contemptible display of weakness. But he was aloof no more. The eyes were tired but fierce, the voice was often unable to reach the level of becoming audible, but there was a hardening in the timbre that had not always been present during the years in office.

But this fresh dawn never took place. Sometime after noon on December 23, 13 days after he had been brought to the hospital early in the morning following a cardiac incident, PV decided to call it quits. It was more than an hour before the doctors finally did.

Strangely -- or perhaps entirely expectedly -- despite a special Union Cabinet meeting at 3 pm on the subject of his funeral, at his 9 Motilal Nehru Marg home there were no arrangements made to receive the body and place it on a platform, nor flowers, nor any laying out of carpets by the administration for the mourning crowds to sit down on, nor even a shamiana on the lawns.

Finally, Kishore, a friend of PV's, made arrangements for both. The shamiana could get erected only by 8.15 pm. Carpets and flowers too were provided by family and friends and not by what seemed to be a totally bankrupt Government of India. As if to atone for his visible helplessness, the prime minister, Sardar Manmohan Singh, looked visibly moved as he quietly remained by the side of the body, which had been brought in from the hospital a little before 5 pm. As a gesture of supreme graciousness, Sonia Gandhi turned up and even stayed for a few minutes.

While some of those present then may be made to deny this later, the fact is that the family members -- as well as the crowd of mourners -- would have been happy to see the father of economic reform and the first prime minister from the south in the history of Free India be given the same honours as Sanjay Gandhi and Charan Singh, a State funeral in New Delhi and an appropriate memorial. Home Minister Shivraj Patil was clearly the emissary of some Unseen Power, for he came several times to the Rao home from some other place where he had apparently gone for consultations, to insist in his own courteous way on a funeral in Hyderabad.

It was clear to observers that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was not being consulted on this matter, there was not even a pretence of that on the part of the emissaries of the Unseen Power. A few such as Ahmed Patel could be observed giving regular updates via cellphone to Somebody about the situation in 9 Motilal Nehru Marg. A very useful man, Ahmed Patel.

It was decided Somewhere that PV's body would be sent back to his home state. Ironically, PV had spent the previous 30 years in New Delhi, as a Cabinet minister, as an AICC general secretary and as prime minister. Even when he had been the prime minister, no member of his family lived with him, they would come on (infrequent) visits.

In his last years to, he lived alone. Thus the attempt to justify a shift to Hyderabad on the grounds that "he was not a Delhi resident" was somewhat of a stretch. Another argument used to justify the move to Hyderabad for the final obsequies was that the Vajpayee Cabinet had passed a resolution against any more samadhis. Again, for a regime that has been talking of 'detoxifying' the country from the misdeeds of the Vajpayee Parivar era, this was somewhat ingenious.

The family behaved with quiet dignity throughout. They said that as their father had been a Congressman, a freedom fighter, a prime minister, they would leave it to the Congress party and the government as to what was to be done.

The only moment of friction came when a high official suggested that if the sentiment was so overwhelming within the circle of those who loved PV that the cremation take place in the national capital, then very well, it would take place, but in the Delhi cantonment, as though PV were some bacillus that the refined gentry living in the Lutyens Zone did not want to see contaminate their environment.

The response to this suggestion on the part of those close to PV was that they would then cremate him at the Nigambodh Ghat, along with the other common men, which after all was all that he seemed to be to the powers-that-be.

It was at this stage that a Heavy Hitter arrived, in the person of Y S Rajshekhar Reddy, chief minister of Andhra Pradesh, who 'cajoled' those close to PV into 'agreeing' that it would be best to cremate him in Hyderabad. Around this time, those who looked like Intelligence Bureau sleuths began nosing around the rooms. It had been known that PV had kept voluminous records, including the draft of a book on the Emergency. It is unlikely that any of this will ever emerge into the daylight, except in a very sanitised way.

The next day, December 24, the body of the former Congress prime minister was brought to the gates of the AICC office at 24, Akbar Road and kept there for 20 minutes, 'to pay homage.' Apparently, the body was so heavy that it would not have been possible to lift what was left of PV from the gun carriage into the Congress headquarters, which would have been the civilised thing to do.

After this final humiliation, P V Narasimha Rao left New Delhi for Hyderabad, this time for good.

Thursday 23 December 2004

An Indian Eye On the World (Beijing Review)

M D Nalapat, Professor of Geopolitics at the Manipal Academy of Higher Education of India and also a UNESCO Peace Chair, has become well known for his proposal to form an “Asian NATO” led by the United States and India. A year ago, BEIJING REVIEW interviewed him about his thinking on an “Asian NATO” and the new world order. Last month, Mr. Nalapat visited China again and had a frank talk with BEIJING REVIEW reporter Zan Jifang on current international issues.

BEIJING REVIEW (BR): Last time, we discussed your proposal of an “Asian NATO.” What’s been the reaction to the proposal so far? Can Asia accept such an organization?

MD NALAPAT (MN): I think a lot of discussions are going on about the Asian security system. The need of Asian countries to handle their own security is under discussion among security experts and policy makers of relevant countries.

BR: India has set up its first permanent overseas military base in Tajikistan. India is the first Asian country that has opened an overseas military base. What do you think its strategic importance is to India? In your opinion, how will it affect the regional security structure? Is it out of energy concern, as analysts comment?

MN: The Indian armed forces are quite strong in Asia. The fact of the matter is that India would like to be a global power, not a sub-regional power. I think India’s policies are going to change, with this shift in the perception of India’s role. I think it will not be possible for any country in the world to bring India back into a position where it is not at the first rank of technology. Take nuclear weapons for example. No country can force India to become a non-nuclear power. I don’t think any country in the world should have a problem with this. Every country should accept that India is among the top countries of the world. India has the right to have nuclear weapons, and India has the right to have a strong defense system. I don’t think any country should worry about it.

I think the Indian army is very professional. But unfortunately, in the past, the Indian army did not accept many people from outside our borders for training, especially those from our neighborhood. This was a mistake. The Indian army should become much more active in military diplomacy, and help other armies with training. I think what you referred to is only a small first step in that direction, and I believe that many similar steps will follow.

India, like China, has got serious problems locating low-cost energy sources. India is developing new energy resources, such as natural gas, as alternatives to petroleum. And as far as natural gas is concerned, Central Asia is very important. It’s not only an energy question, it’s also a question of cultural attitude and outlook. We believe we must help countries that are friendly to us. By interacting with them, we can promote values that are good for both sides.

BR: What’s been your evaluation of India-U.S. relations in the past few years? Now, Bush has been reelected, could you forecast the future relations between the two countries?

MN: I think the relationship between India and the United States has gone very far forward in the past four years of President George W. Bush. The two militaries are no longer suspicious of each other, and our air forces and navies are getting very friendly with each other. The two armies are also holding joint exercises regularly. So, there is a very healthy development in the military field. I think Mr. Bush’s reelection is good for India. He looks at things in a very practical way. He supports outsourcing from India, from China and from any part of the world, without the tribal loyalty to Europe that other U.S. politicians demonstrate.

BR: The United States has blamed Indian scientists for helping Iran develop its nuclear program, and it also announced sanctions against two Indian scientists and recently planned to add another three Indian scientists into its so-called blacklist. What’s your comment on this? Will the issue affect the development of the relations between the two countries?

MN: There are some people in the United States who, I’m sorry to say, are not telling the truth. They know very well that India did not do this; but because of their frustrations in not stopping India from becoming a nuclear power, they tell such a lie. My information is that India has not supplied nuclear technologies of any offensive nuclear nature to any country in the world. I think the Bush administration overall is definitely very realistic to ward India, and considers India a rising power, but there are still anti-India elements in the CIA and the State Department.

BR: What do you think of current India-Pakistan relations?

MN: I think it’s in a better position. I don’t see any big changes taking place, such as any change on the map. We should all stop drawing or redrawing maps. We have enough problems in our region without also trying to change maps. Look at India and China, which is a good example for Pakistan. Both India and China have taken a very realistic and mature position on their boundary dispute. In my view, China will never invade India to take over land it believes belongs to it, and I can assure you that India will never invade China to take over the territory that we believe belongs to us. On both sides, we have decided not to go to war again with each other. I think the principle of peace on the borders and prosperity inside proposed by Deng Xiaoping is a very wise policy. India and China are a model for Pakistan. China does not try to change the map by force, and we hope Pakistan will take an example from China and not try to change the map by force.

BR: Many people like to compare the development of China with that of India. How do you see it?

MN: China is much more developed than India. From 1979 onward and even today, our rules and regulations are not as flexible as China’s, for example, in terms of inviting foreign capital and making foreign investors feel more comfortable. China’s economic policy is more advanced than that of India, so I think China is far ahead of India in the economic field.

But what is good is that now we are slowly getting economic freedom in India, as the new sectors of economy are developing a lot. China is an inspiration to India. I think there will be 20 years to go before India is as advanced as China. In my opinion, if there is peace on its borders, in 35 years’ time, China will be the world’s biggest economy, the United States, the second and India, the third.

BR: How do you foresee the tone of future relations of the two countries? Will it be competitive or cooperative? How do you think the surge of India and China will affect the regional geopolitical structure?

MN: I think even in a family, there’s competition and cooperation. So, I don’t think competition is bad. In some sectors, India and China will compete, such as the textile industry. But in other sectors, we will try to do things together. There is a lot of scope for cooperation. But the problem is we are not used to cooperation, because of the suspicions of each other. In my view, India and China should shed their hesitation about each other. Chinese companies should go to India and Indian companies should go to China. Today, we have only come to the start of cooperation. The trade volume between India and China has increased from around $1 billion to more than $10 billion within five years, and I forecast that in three years, bilateral trade will more than double.

I think that better India-China relations will help significantly improve the geopolitical situation in Asia, as the two countries have the two largest economies in Asia and are growing very, very fast.

BR: What’s your opinion of the Iraq war?

MN: I believe that Saddam Hussein should have been removed from power, and I believe it is important for democracy in the Middle East. But I think the way that the United States has dealt with Iraq after the 2003 war is wrong. They became the masters of Iraq. I don’t think any country should intervene in a country and take it over. I hope the American army will come back from Iraq very quickly and allow the Iraqis the freedom to decide their own systems by themselves. So, I agree with what was done in Iraq, but after it was done, Americans should have left administration to the locals. Now Iraqi people are not the masters of their own country, which is a very negative development and has very harmful aftermaths. I am very worried about the future of Iraq, because, you know, foreign troops have a very negative influence in any country. The big mistake the United States has made is that it has totally dismantled the Iraqi army and administration. When even the followers of Hitler and Tojo were largely left untouched in Germany and Japan after World War II, there was no need to destroy the Iraqi army and administration. Both should be rebuilt.

BR: What’s your prediction for the counter-terrorist effort after Bush’s reelection?

MN: I believe George W. Bush has been very successful in the war against terrorism. Success is hidden and failure is public. Bush has been very successful in preventing other terrorist attacks upon the United States. He has stopped money from flowing to those terrorist organizations. He also helped other countries fight terrorism.

BR: What’s your perspective on the future world order in the context of your counter-terrorist background?

MN: Counter-terrorism needs strong economic development, social development and cultural development. Only in such an atmosphere can we succeed in the war on terrorism. People should be given more rights. I think it is the responsibility of big countries like China, India and the United States, to work together to promote peaceful values and against the violent values of terrorists.

(Beijing Review, Vol 47 No. 51, 23 Dec 2004) [Interview]

Tuesday 2 November 2004

Bin Laden's Real Message (UPI)

M.D. Nalapat
MAINPAL, India, Oct. 31 (UPI) -- Where the United States performs superlatively is in the collection of information. Whether it is the Central Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency or one of the lesser-known acronyms in the intelligence community's alphabet soup, vast volumes of data are processed and sent up the food chain. Yet, for all that, much of the intelligence inputs get analyzed from a context and perspective that ultimately distorts their meaning.
Osama bin Laden, poster boy for the Wahhabi war of revenge against the West's victory in the Crusades, conveyed a message in his latest tape that is very different from that which a mere translation of his Arabic indicates.
He offered a conditional ceasefire to Western populations, provided they elect governments that refuse to militarily intervene in the Middle East or give substantive backing to local regimes there.
The jihadist planners of the war of revenge believe the first priority is to establish their sway over their own countries. The reconquest of Israel can wait while the conquest of the West can wait still longer.

Thursday 28 October 2004

Musharraf Calls the Bluff (UPI)

M.D. Nalapat

MANIPAL, India, Oct. 27 (UPI) -- While most U.S. secretaries of state -- save perhaps Dean Rusk -- have gobbled up credit for outcomes that they had little to do with, few have been as brazen as Colin Powell.
Two years ago, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf was surprised when the leader of the main Islamist alliance -- Maulana Fazlur Rahman -- visited India and issued a series of highly conciliatory statements. As Pakistan's president had been telling the United States he was "forced" into taking a hawkish line on India precisely by the likes of Rahman, this was an embarrassment.
The reality is that India is no longer the enemy of choice for the people of Pakistan. That distinction has now gone to the United States.
Realists, and this even includes members of the U.S. Democratic foreign policy establishment such as Strobe Talbott, who have long sought to divest India of its defensive capability against another nuclear power in Asia, understand the only feasible solution for Kashmir is the acceptance of the status quo. India keeps what it has while Pakistan and China (which was gifted a slice of the territory three decades ago) do likewise.
Simultaneously, New Delhi would ensure a degree of autonomy for the state that would help cut popular support off from jihadis attempting to convert Kashmir into a second Afghanistan.
Bill Clinton understood this at the end of his term in office yet, under Colin Powell (who appears to have an affinity for generals active in politics), the pendulum of U.S. policy has once again swung toward a quixotic effort to prize at least the Valley of Kashmir loose from India.

This, Pakistan's lobbyist in Washington Christina Rocca has been told, is the "minimum" that the Pakistan army will accept. It is also far more than what any administration in New Delhi can deliver.

Thursday 2 September 2004

Whose Truth? (Far Eastern Economic Review)

Book review by Prof Nalapat 'Engaging India: Diplomacy, Democracy and the Bomb - Strobe Talbott'

Nalapat, Madhav. Far Eastern Economic Review; Hong Kong Vol. 167, Iss. 35,  (Sep 2, 2004): 54-55.

BOOKS: U.S. ENVOYS IN ASIA Whose Truth? Former U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott's memoir shows a failure of American diplomacy, writes Madhav Nalapat [Engaging India: Diplomacy, Democracy and the Bomb] by Strobe Talbott. Brookings Institution Press. $27.95

WHEN THOSE WHO HELP to make history write it, the result is a memoir that dresses up the truth. This is clear from former United States Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott's new book, Engaging India: Diplomacy, Democracy and the Bomb, a self-absorbed view of the U.S. intervention in the nuclear stand-off between India and Pakistan that began in 1998.

Talbott says the personal diplomacy that he and then-Indian External Affairs Minister Jaswarit Singh undertook for 22 months starting in June 1998 represented "the turning point in U.S.-Indian relations." The book is peppered with the view that only skilful U.S. diplomacy averted a nuclear war between India and Pakistan.

According to Talbott, Pakistan's army was "preparing its nuclear forces for deployment" in 1999. Indeed, he says, there was the risk of a world war, as "Pakistan might seek support from China and various Arab states, while India would perhaps turn to its old protector Russia and even to its newer partner Israel."

In reality, Beijing had already indicated to Islamabad that it would not rescue Pakistan in a conflict, a point acknowledged by Talbott himself a few pages later. Meanwhile, President Boris Yeltsin's Russia arid Israel were both equally unlikely to snub Washington in favour of India.

According to Talbott, Beijing's feverish armament programme was not to counteract the U.S., but India, whose "draft" nuclear doctrine "would surely provoke an acceleration of China's nuclear build-up." Of course, he says, China itself was not a threat to India. Talbott approvingly quotes former President Bill Clinton telling then-Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee to follow the example of Brazil, "which had done the right thing in not going nuclear."

But Brazil may have acted differently if, like India, it had two nuclear neighbours, had fought both in the recent past and was tackling a continuing proxy war with one of them. And, nowhere in the book does Talbott accept that China might be a factor in Indian security strategy.

Talbott places great value on symbols such as membership of the United Nations Security Council, rather than on India's strategic muscle, demonstrated in the 1998 nuclear explosions that forced the Clinton administration to seriously engage India, or the high rate of growth that has kept New Delhi on the U.S. radar ever since.

Talbott follows the line then hewed by the U.S. government's South Asia specialists in hyphenating India with Pakistan. After the 1999 Pakistani incursion in Kargil, Talbott writes, the U.S. put its views "bluntly" to both the Indian and Pakistani envoys. They would be treated equally as "proliferators," though India, unlike Pakistan, has an impeccable record in avoiding cross-border proliferation.

Talbott would have us believe that then-Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif came uninvited to Washington after the Kargil incursion, when newspapers reported that Clinton had invited both him and Vajpayee to a photo-opportunity in the White House Rose Garden, in the style of the famous meeting that had been held there in 1993 between Palestinian liberation Organization Chairman Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. It was a bit of American political theatre that the canny Vajpayee refused to join in. Officials in Delhi were aware that Sharif had been given a face-saving cover to what was a military rout. As some had foretold, the Pakistani army described the Clinton-Sharif meeting as a sellout, and moved against the luckless prime minister.

The relevance of Talbott's book is a grudging admission that U.S. policy in South Asia has been a failure. Pakistan continues to tacitly support militants in Kashmir, while India stubbornly refuses to disarm, in the face of persistent U.S. efforts to ease China's fears. We are likely to see more of the same mix of hypocrisy and self-delusion that has made "U.S. diplomacy" an oxymoron.



Thursday 15 July 2004

Emergent Eurasian Colossus (UPI)

M.D. Nalapat
MANIPUR, India, July 15 (UPI) -- "East is east, and west is west, and ne'er the twain shall meet." Rudyard Kipling's words appear to be the motto of the leaders of Europe, who are trying to insulate themselves from Asia.
The European Union is attempting to create a political community by uniting the different peoples of Europe. Rather than import human talent from wherever it is plentiful -- South India and East Asia, for example -- the core of the EU, France and Germany, are pouring lavish resources into attempting to make the people of former Soviet satellites leapfrog away from their statist past to the era of modern economies.
However, this "Look only at Europeans" policy may boomerang on the West, especially because Eastern Europe is demanding the same social infrastructure as the West has, a wish that would, if fulfilled drain even West European countries of their international competitiveness because of the huge financial costs involved. This will be especially harmful in a context where the "Made in Europe" label is losing its premium.
Genetically, even discounting the prevalent theory that the 6 billion human beings on the planet evolved from a handful of prehistoric human beings in Africa, the reality is that social conditioning and education can make productive the people of any part of the world. Rather than retard progress, an admixture of ethnicities has -- most visibly in the case of the United States -- resulted in an increase in productivity rather than the degeneration feared by Adolf Hitler, Jean-Marie Le Pen and Enoch Powell.

Wednesday 30 June 2004

It's money, not Modi (Asian Age)

By M.D. Nalapat 

The pundits have spoken. The 2004 verdict was a rejection by rural India of the city-centric BJP. Also, a recoil from the 2002 carnage in Gujarat, when ministers in the Narendra Modi government participated as zestfully in genocide as their Congress counterparts did during the 1984 anti-Sikh pogrom. Atal Behari Vajpayee has himself claimed that his unwillingness to sack Modi resulted in his rejection by the Indian voter.

Almost every metropolis in India chose anti-BJP candidates this time, barring Bangalore, which went determinedly saffron. The richest constituencies in India, South Mumbai and New Delhi, went for the Congress Party, as did several others where the only rural people seen are in the movies. And as for Narendra Modi and the Gujarat massacre, the truth is that this was an issue only among the converted, those against the BJP's policy of "Hinduising" society and the polity. 

The RSS and (the intermittent) Venkaiah Naidu are correct. If Modi were such anathema to the Indian voter, the BJP would not have won in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh last year, and done so well in the admittedly moderate state of Karnataka this time. The party even managed a respectable number of votes in Kerala, another redoubt of the fashionable liberal. 

A close examination of the voting trends shows that the BJP's slippage was in the constituency that had been backing the party since 1998, the middle class. A large chunk of those who voted for Vajpayee that year and in 1999 either kept away from the polls or voted against the BJP and its allies. While the pundits have heaped the discredit for the Tamil Nadu debacle on their favourite whipping girl, Jayalalitha, the reality is that the AIADMK held on to its vote share, while the BJP lost a lot of its support. It was the BJP that cost the AIADMK the election, by scaring away minority voters, rather than the other way about. The Dravidian party actually got a higher number of votes this time around than it had in the past. As in many other states, it was Vajpayee's lack of shine within the middle class that did it in. 

And why this aversion to a man touted by the media as a cross between Lincoln and Tennyson? The reason was not Modi. It was money.

Astonishingly, no pundit has bothered to remember the hammerblows that the honest middle-class investor has received as a result of the graft indulged in by the Vajpayee government. Nobody remembers the Unit Trust of India with its 20 million depositors, most of whom got taken to the cleaners during the Vajpayee years. While it had been (then) finance minister Manmohan Singh who had first permitted the UTI in 1994 to invest the bulk of its corpus in equity rather than in safer assets such as bonds, it was during 2000-2002 that the corporation was systematically milked of its capital by forcing it to invest in shares of dubious companies, including several based in Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan. Not only was the UTI forced to buy such dodgy equity, it had to do so at a hefty premium, which was presumably split up between the promoters and the hidden voices that ordered UTI to purchase useless stock. The mobile phone records of disgraced UTI chairman Subramanian will show just who made the calls that led him to squander public funds. 

While there has not been any effort at uncovering the names of those who fleeced the Indian investor of nearly Rs 45,000 crores, nor has any "anti-BJP" party cared to bring out the facts (now that they are in a position to examine the records), those who lost their savings because of the systematic fraud conducted via the UTI know who was responsible: the Prime Minister's Office run by Brajesh Mishra. And they got revenge the only way they could, by voting against Vajpayee.

It was not only the UTI. The BJP had been strong in the metros, the precise locations targeted by another scam, that of the Conditional Access System (CAS). In an era of broadband and the technology of convergence, the Vajpayee government attempted to force television viewers in the big cities to go in for an expensive and outdated technology for reasons that are obvious. Every one of those who either had CAS forced down her or his throat, or was facing the threat of such action, would have had a powerful incentive to punish the Teflon "poet" who gave Narendra Modi a clean chit in 2002 but discovered two years later that the man was evil. Worse, that the chief minister of Gujarat had caused him his chair.
No, Atal, it was not Modi. It was you. It was your men (and not a few women) who realised by 2000 that the Indian stock market could easily get manipulated to get a horde of sacrificial lambs to invest during artificially-induced peaks, then face ruin as values slid. Today, the Indian stock market is not a casino, for there is no element of chance in it at all. Operators manipulate prices, their operations constrained only by the aversion to the equities market that the honest investor is demonstrating. Naturally, none of this will ever be seriously investigated.

Even if we put aside the numerous financial scams that made the Vajpayee government the most venal in the history of the Republic, just the UTI and the stock market fiascos are enough to show just why the BJP's main vote bank — the middle classes — deserted the party this time. Those appearing on television to urge people to back Vajpayee were — almost to a man — from among the super-elite of the country, those who have risen from poverty to lavish lifestyles. They conduct their birthday parties in Paris and spend $150,000 on a single visit to London. Of course, that is a city with many — and expensive — diversions. Today, the "face" of the BJP are these individuals, each oozing money from the pore, eyes darting sideways to see where the next suitcase of cash will come from. 

Under Vajpayee and with the active connivance of the RSS the BJP has become the party of the nouveau riche, expensive watches, clothes, goggles and all. Were all these choices made by Narendra Modi? Each was made by Vajpayee, L.K. Advani being but a shadow that — despite inspired leaks in the media about his defiance — faithfully follows Atal Behari Vajpayee to this day.

During the 2004 campaign, those handpicked by Vajpayee to run the show used to descend on state capitals to bully local party workers. Often, they would be accompanied by charming "friends" who would shop in the afternoons while Netaji went about ensuring five more years of Atal. These delightful individuals would be accompanied by party workers, who would watch as items worth lakhs of rupees got purchased from a single outlet. All payments would, naturally, be made in cash, in Rs 1,000 bills. Small wonder that few of the honest — and that is the operational word — party workers felt much motivation to get out the vote. Even in Kashmir, this time around the "Hindu" constituencies showed a much lower voter turnout than the normal. There was a turning away from this corruption and misrule, even though few voters were aware of the non-economic ways in which the country has been shortchanged by those in government and by those then in the Opposition who remained silent.

Will Sitaram Yechury come forward and demand that the telephone records of the UTI's then chairman be made public? Will Harkishan Singh Surjeet or A.B. Bardhan ask how so many highway contracts went to Malaysian companies, or will they remember that Ottavio Quattrocchi was for long a resident of Kuala Lumpur, and desist? Will they ask that the mysterious "Q" be made to come to India to face justice? Unlikely. They are all now part of one big, happy family. Suresh Pachauri can be relied upon to do the job that Brajesh Mishra did during 1998-2004. After the next election, when the Congress-led coalition collapses, there will be another Narendra Modi, another red herring, to pin the blame on. The system will go on, the Swiss bank accounts will continue to grow, and millions of honest Indians will have no other way of showing their protest than by evicting Tweedledum and bringing in Tweedledee.,nalapat

Saturday 26 June 2004

Avoid a Kuwait in Taiwan (UPI)

M.D. Nalapat

MANIPAL, India, July 25 (UPI) -- During his decade-long battle with Iran, Saddam Hussein was the recipient of support from the United States as well as from such countries such as the United Kingdom, which did not want to see a Khomeinists theocracy dominate the Persian Gulf.
Those in India who were in contact with the deposed president of Iraq and his advisers say that the belief among them was that the United States would not intervene to reverse a takeover of Kuwait, provided that the Iraqi forces did not carry the campaign forward into Saudi Arabia.
Former U.S. ambassador April Glaspie's ambiguous response to Saddam Hussein a short while before the decision to invade was taken was only one of a series of similar messages relayed to the dictator during that period. Soon afterward, Saddam Hussein took over Kuwait, and got thrown back - and, after another decade, out - by the United States.
Within the higher levels of the Chinese Communist Party, a similar debate is now going on about Taiwan.
Will Washington really intervene to reverse a PRC takeover, or will the United States simply indulge in some saber rattling, impose a trade embargo for a while, and then get back to business as usual with Beijing?
The Chinese Communists look at societies holistically, not separating out the different strands but conceptually weaving them into a unified entity with a common decision core. Hence, "casual" remarks from businesspersons or academics known to have close personal ties with senior administration officials are given the same attention as official statements, sometimes more.

Thursday 27 May 2004

Vajpayee Fades Out at Last (UPI)

M.D. Nalapat 

MANIPAL, India, May 27 (UPI) -- Former Indian prime ministers A.B. Vajpayee and P.V. Narasimha Rao are close friends, but while Vajpayee is low on intellect and superb in chemistry, the father of economic reform in India is the opposite -- high on IQ, low on EQ.
Meeting Vajpayee is a delight. The man always smiles and looks at you in a way that makes you feel that his existence was spent waiting for you. Every now and again, there is the emotion-laden hug that warms you to the man. Each of Vajpayee's gestures give off a soft glow but the words actually spoken by him are seldom Einsteinian. They usually consist of self-evident homilies such as, "peace is better than war" or "progress does more good for humankind than stagnation."
Useful propositions perhaps, but not entirely unknown. Going through the thousands of speeches made by the Bharatiya Janata Party regime's prime minister, it is difficult to locate any that deal with issues in a manner other than goody-goody.
The 79-year-old Atal Behari Vajpayee has been blessed by the angels all his life. They allowed him to lead the existence of a lotus-eater, continuing even in his just-concluded job as a relaxed man-about-town who has thus far remained untouched by controversy.
It is not that he ducked when exposes were flung his way; there has never been any need for such exertions, despite the reality that the Vajpayee government was the most graft-ridden that India has seen since 1947.

Friday 23 April 2004

Sabahism, not Wahabbism (UPI)

M.D. Nalapat

MANIPAL, India, April 23 (UPI) -- Kuwait is a tiny sliver of land sandwiched between the three regional giants of Iraq, Iran and Saudi Arabia. Unlike the three, the country is free from extremism and is showcasing economic rather than religious or ethnic issues to underline its identity. Local women go about the shopping malls in denims, although the emir of Kuwait has not been able to persuade Parliament to give voting rights to this better half of the Kuwaiti population.  But it is to be hoped that the next elections will witness both women candidates as well as voters.

The ruling family in Kuwait, the Al-Sabah, are close friends of their Saudi cousins, the Al-Saud. However, the two dynasties have followed entirely different paths in managing their respective countries. For one, the Al-Sauds have been much more proliferant, now numbering an estimated 27,000 -- not counting more distant relatives. They have also taken seriously the message implicit in the very naming of their country after themselves, helping themselves to 36 percent of the total wealth of the kingdom, leaving the rest mostly to the families close to the court.
Many Saudi citizens -- especially in the Shiite east -- enjoy neither running water nor electricity. In contrast, Prince Abdel Aziz Al-Saud, the favorite son of King Fahd, has just done his bit for reducing unemployment in the kingdom by building a new palace in Riyadh at a reported cost of $670 million. No 30-year-old can be content with just a single home, so the austere Saudi royal is building another palace in Jeddah, although this will cost a mere $540 million.
The skies over Europe are filled with private aircraft ferrying the Al-Sauds from one hotspot to the other, and the boutique stores in Paris and London would close down but for free-spending Saudi princes and princesses. Sadly for the Saudi people, such largesse does not extend to home.