Sunday 29 May 2011

Trust Indians with information, views (Sunday Guardian)

Niira Radia: A book on her has been stopped from distribution as it might affect her reputation.
irst the Supreme Court reminded the people of India that they cannot be trusted with information about the religious affiliation of a political personality — in the case under reference, Sonia Gandhi. Now the Delhi High Court has ruled that a book on Niira Radia by R.K. Anand (Close Encounters with Niira Radia, Har-Anand Publications) needs to be stopped from distribution, lest it affect her reputation, or what is left of it after tapes of her conversations with multiple powerful personalities became public. Clearly, the people of India are but children, who cannot be trusted with content as adult as religious affiliation or uncharitable views about a prominent personality.
The Election Commission of India would agree with the distinguished judges. That "watchdog of democracy" has thus far been manned only by former officials, none of whom ever fought even a college union election. Whether it is the CEC or the CVC, the presumption in India is the same as during the days when the British were in residence in the Viceregal Palace. That civil society in India is incapable of being in charge of its own affairs and therefore needs the tutelage of officialdom. Because she never thought to try for the IAS, an Arundhati Roy can never hope to become a member of the Human Rights Commission or an Anna Hazare the CVC. And as for the Election Commission, that organisation believes that only a "sanitised" campaign, such as the ones waged in North Korea, are dignified enough to merit approval. Our commissioners frown on "personal attacks" on political opponents during a campaign, as negative information about a candidate is clearly as unacceptable as any criticism of the Raj was during its heyday.Unless key institutions of the state get liberated from the thin layer of officialdom that has thus far constricted their functioning, and unless the people of India be given the same access to information as their counterparts in the US or in the UK (the two other countries with significant English-speaking populations), to call this country a democracy would be farcical. The higher an individual reaches along the system, the greater should be transparency about that person. Neither Ratan Tata nor Sonia Gandhi can claim the right to "privacy", until they recuse themselves from the institutions that they control.
Why Ratan Tata? Because modern India has seen a melting away of the silos that traditionally separated commerce from politics. These days, businesspersons become politicians and vice-versa, so synergistic is the link between two professions that ought to be made mutually exclusive under law. At least at the level of Union and State Cabinets, there needs to be a bar on entry of those who have business interests. Anil Ambani, for whatever reason, reacted properly when he resigned as a member of the Rajya Sabha, an institution around which far too many reports of auctions swirl around. Public service ought to be a high-risk occupation in India, exactly as it is in the US. Instead, we pat ourselves on the back when an Andimuthu Raja goes to prison, forgetting about the many others at his level who are as, or much more, guilty of graft. It is not only in telecom that we need some Radia tapes, but in petroleum, coal, defence and other ministries as well. Sadly, even the driblets of information that are in the public domain are looked on askance by those who for decades have (by reason of being paid by the state exchequer) seen themselves as several cuts above the rest of us.
Not just transparency, but punishment needs to be proportionate to the level of the individual in the governance system. To claim that India is a country where the "rule of law" applies is to indulge in fantasy. Those with influence and resources have an immunity from substantive punishment that would be the envy of their counterparts in more civilised countries. What needs to be done is to ensure that the higher an individual, the greater should be the quantum of punishment. Rather than the present system, where a "joint secretary and above" are given protection even from inquiries, this segment needs to be exposed to the elements. And as for Niira Radia, this columnist, to his chagrin, has never met her. However, any individual who simultaneously wins the trust of Mukesh Ambani and Ratan Tata must be worthy of admiration. Ms Radia needs to seek to make India more like her other home, the UK, with respect to the flow of information. Some months ago, an account of this columnist's mother was published by a Canadian author who had visited her a half-dozen times over the years. With extreme understatement, it can be said that The Love Queen of Malabar (by Merrily Weisbord) is not a flattering book. We Orientals use language as poetry, weaving it in myriad ways and changing its texture and meaning, while Occidentals are more Teutonic, taking words literally. Ms Weisbord is very definitely Occidental. She has interpreted Amma's postures and verbal sallies with a literalness that casts an individual not known for lack of courage as the helpless victim of a brutal man, her husband. As those who knew Kamala Das a tad better than Ms Weisbord can testify, the relationship between my parents was loving and close. Indeed, a woman as independent as Amma would have walked out of her marriage in seconds, were that not the case. We, her sons, were advised to go the Radia route, and to seek an injunction against the book. We refused, because even though what has been said in it bears little relation to the reality of a beautiful relationship between a strong, very protective man and his wilful spouse, Ms Weisbord has the right to publicly express her views. Coming from the family of the writer who wrote one of the first books to be banned in "free" India (Aubrey Menen, and his Rama Retold), we could not react in any other way but to ignore the Weisbord book. Hopefully, those who seek to gag and to block will accept that in a democracy, this seems a better way to go.

Protecting the Mainos from Indians (Org.)

By M D Nalapat

THE external image of the Maino family, which runs the country that claims to be the world's biggest democracy, has been carefully and expensively cultivated. Interviews are bestowed only to those journalists who can be expected to lob softballs and to assist in the creation of the aura of saintliness and patriotism which suffuses each of the numerous official accounts of UPA chairperson Sonia Maino.

Space within the internet gets filled up with laudatory accounts, even while—mysteriously—snide references crop up in sites which feature the handful of individuals who challenge the Maino Myth. Union Home Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram is believed to be behind several of the numerous commands made to website administrators to expunge negative references to the individual whom Chidambaram expects will catapult him to the prime ministership. He has masterminded an internet control law that would make it legally possible for the central and state police agencies to send to prison almost any surfer of the world wide web. Surprisingly, Opposition in India has remained silent over this egregious assault on individual freedoms.

Whenever Sonia’s two sisters, or mother, or nephews and nieces or close personal friends such as the Quatrocchi clan come and go from India after visiting with The Madame, the media are kept far away. Indeed, so are the ordinary people of India, so complete is the security surrounding this privileged group. Their reliance on corporate jets goes unrecorded, as does the fact that exit and entry formalities are minimal, even for individuals who have no security clearance. The numerous foreign visits they make are conducted in secrecy, as is the guest list at the pricey locations where they are put up in by obliging ‘friends’. Not surprisingly, thus far there have been no photographs or news reports about any of the extended Maino clan, while items about Sonia Maino and her two children are almost always in terms that would bring a smile of approval to known admirers of the family, such as Sunil Khilnani or Amartya Sen. Those running media outlets know the baleful consequences of treating Sonia Maino the way the UK media treats David Cameron, or the US media sees Barack Obama. Such lack of teflon is reserved for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who has far less sway over his ministers than political secretary to Congress president Ahmed Patel.

Lately, when Rahul Gandhi was informed by his entourage that a heap of cowdung was actually charred human remains, his find was breathlessly covered by the entire media, with a few outlets still reluctant to admit that a Maino could get facts so spectacularly wrong after it was shown that the claim was false. This columnist admits to sympathy for Rahul Gandhi, who may yet bloom into an effective leader. However, this can take place only if he escapes from the protective shadow of his mother and treats the people of India as people deserving of rights and respect, rather than see them the way his mother does, as a seething mass of people who need to be constantly kept under the control of the state. In the guise of ‘security constraints’, Sonia Maino has insulated herself from the very people who have given her entire family status.

Friday 27 May 2011

NATO “saving civilians” thru bombs (PO)

M. D. Nalapat
All talk about the “emergence” of India and China has stopped with the continuance of the ceaseless bombarding of Libyan cities by NATO. This alliance seems able to go into action only in situations where it faces very weak opposition. Against such weaklings, its

soldiers, sailors and aircrew fight eagerly, conducting their missions with impunity, whether it be against the Serbians in the former Yugoslavia a decade ago or against the legally recognized regime in Libya, that made the mistake of surrendering its WMD capability peacefully in 2003,only to now face attempted decapitation. Each bomb dropped by NATO on Libya shows up the weakness of China and India, both of which have been forced to watch this attack on a defenseless country in silence. Those who believed that they could rely on Beijing to block UN Security Council action crafted by the majority group of the US, the UK and France have now been shown to be wrong. The Chinese do not want to annoy the NATO powers, on whom it depends for much of its export markets.

What a contrast to the period when Mao Zedong or even Deng Xiaoping was in charge. Those two were revolutionaries, unafraid to challenge the world. Chairman Mao at one time went against both the US and the USSR, although the 1960s were harsh years for the economy of the Peoples Republic. Unlike the present, when Beijing is silent at the assault on Libya by a coalition led by France and the UK, in the past it provided immense assistance to North Vietnam in that entity’s successful battle against the US. But for such help, the Vietnam war would have been far longer and much less difficult for the US to carry out. Of course, in 1979, Deng had in effect become China’s Paramount Leader when that country punished Vietnam by a brief 1962-style war, that was conducted not to gain territory but to make the point that Chinese interests could not be ignored by any neighbour. In 1962, the Peoples Liberation Army swept aside Indian forces in the north-east, only to return to the earlier positions once Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru had been shown to be a “paper tiger” in his numerous statements that India would “reclaim the land occupied by the Chinese”. 

Friday 20 May 2011

Why India is not America? (PO)

M D Nalapat

Immediately after the killing of Osama bin Laden at Abbottabad, some military chiefs in India expressed confidence that they too were capable of carrying out a similar operation. Soon afterwards, India’s mild-mannered Prime Minister had to point out the obvious, that India was “not the US”, and therefore that it was not possible for Delhi to replicate the feat of Washington. Around the same time, in a predictable reaction to the posturing of the Indian military, ISI chief Shuja Pasha warned that “targets were prepared” for a strike, in case India carried out a US-style mission. This is, of course, no secret, that Pakistan will retaliate to an Indian strike in contrast with its acceptance of a US one. On the Indian side, even the monkeys that infest the precincts of South Block (the headquarters of the Defense Ministry) are aware that nineteen locations within Pakistan have been identified for a retaliatory attack, should there be a nuclear adventure against India. Such a sequence of action and inevitable reaction is the reason why a nuclear war between India and Pakistan is outside the realm of possibility, and why even a conventional war is almost impossible. Neither side would have much to gain from such a conflict, even should it finally prevail, and a lot to lose.

Thursday 19 May 2011

The Moon Doctrine: Colonials know best (Sunday Guardian)

By M. D. Nalapat


UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (L) and French President Nicolas Sarkozy arrive for a family photo at the Elysee Palace, after international talks on Libya, in Paris on 19 March. Reuters
hen Mikhail Gorbachev embraced the non-violent principles of Mahatma Gandhi to surrender Moscow's control over East Europe, Germany in particular gloated at its reunification with the East. So deep was the Teutonic belief in race within the European Union that it was decided to speedily incorporate most of Eastern Europe within the federation. They were, after all, Europeans. Since the middle of the 1990s, huge financial flows have gone from west to east of the globe's smallest continent (if we exclude the unique country of Russia), in the process weakening the ability of the older EU members to compete with emerging powerhouses such as South Korea, China and these days, even India. The pell-mell expansion of the EU is proving to be a poison pill that threatens to derail the social compact between state and citizen that has created one of the best social security systems in the world, barring that of a few underpopulated countries such as Canada.
So long as the "Rest" were content with doing coolie work for the West, ensuring a constant supply of cheap factors of production coupled with a market for goods and services originating within the EU and its alliance partners in North America and in Australasia, the road ahead was smooth. Problems surfaced when India became a better software and services provider than EU members, and China began to take over markets for manufactured items that since the 1800s been the monopoly of the West. However, there were still a few bright spots. Almost all the financial surplus of the "Rest" was invested in the West, while the former colonial subjects developed a voracious appetite for "wampum". Baubles such as branded shirts, shoes, handbags and even toilet paper, not to speak of expensive corporate and military aircraft and automobiles.
Even while agencies such as Transparency International continued the fiction of declaring them "corruption-free", and international rating agencies lavished Triple A ratings even on institutions that were hollowed out by speculation gone wrong, the 2008 financial collapse occurred. In months,investors in just the Gulf Cooperation Council lost more than $1.3 trillion because of the incompetence and chicanery of the financial institutions located in London, Zurich, New York and Frankfurt. Others in South and East Asia, as well as Russia, lost hundreds of billions more. All of a sudden, it became clear that the most unsafe location to park one's cash assets was a Western bank.
After having given away to NATO all his chemical, nuclear and biological weapons, as well as all his state secrets, Libya's Muammar Gaddafi drew the line at watching his and his country's money end up the same way. He began making noises about diversifying investments from the West to "China, Russia and India". All three paid him back by standing supinely by as NATO began pounding his country, a show of Chinese, Indian and Russian cowardice that continues long after it has become clear that the objective of the alliance is not to "protect civilians" but to protect their primacy not just in Libya, but over the region as an entirety.
The European Union is inches away from disaster. Once Greece defaults (as seems certain), the next to go will be Ireland, followed by Spain, Portugal and Greece. Next could be France. Now that the European Union is being ruled by schoolboys (David Cameron), cowboys (Nicolas Sarkozy), playboys (Silvio Berlusconi) and a schoolmistress (Angela Merkel), there is no appetite for facing the truth, which is that the EU is facing a long period of austerity after decades of spendthrift behaviour. Hence the Ban Ki-Moon option, which is to play the colonial game once again. The UN Secretary-General has legitimised the primacy of "former colonial powers" over vast areas of the globe. Thus, he has cheered on France's military intervention in the Ivory Coast and nodded approval at Italy's hosting of European conferences on Libya, its former colony. Each NATO bomb is a signal to Arab leaders to beware the consequences of shifting their assets away from the West to countries further east. As Syria has no money, bombs need not be wasted on Bashar Al-Assad. And as Bahrain is a reliable dependency of NATO, its royal family can batter civilians without any fear of referral to the Western (sorry, "International") Court of Justice at The Hague. Someone needs to remind Uncle Moon that he is the Secretary-General of the UN, not of NATO, and that Mr Moon's favourite group of countries needs to rely on productivity rather than on missiles, ethics rather than on bombs, to tempt investors and customers for its products.

Wednesday 18 May 2011

Osama's hidden supporters in India: UPA protecting the culprits of terror on India (Org.)

By M D Nalapat

DAYS after the terror attack on Mumbai that took place on 26-28 November 2008, this columnist was informed by elements in the intelligence community that the operation had been conducted by the ISI, and that serving—in addition to retired—officers of the ISI and other military formations in Pakistan had provided the training and logistics for the youths recruited to carry out the attack. The US-approved Chief of Army Staff, Pervez Ashfaq Kayani, had demanded of the ISI that the organisation “do something” to reduce the rate of growth of the Indian economy. In particular, Kayani wanted to reduce the growing commerce between India and the US-EU combine.

The ISI's reply was the Mumbai terror attack, which was carried out in collusion with elements in the Maharashtra establishment and with the help of sleeper cells within the hotel industry that had been activated in the months prior to the assault. That there was high-level complicity in the 26-28/11 attack became clear when none of the many leads that pointed to the involvement of local Al Qaeda-ISI supporters was ever followed up.

A check of flight records would have shown the number of visits made by friends and relatives of senior police and other officials in Maharashtra to Dubai and London (the two locations favoured by the ISI for meetings with their agents in India). None of this data was ever examined. Indeed, despite clear evidence that the ISI was behind the attack, incoming Home Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram meekly followed the Washington line (that the Pakistan state was not involved) and the Maino line (that there was zero local involvement in the planning and execution of the crime. It was only after the Obama administration gave permission to Chidambaram via the Headley confession that the Home Minister became more outspoken about the ISI hand. In contrast, on December3, 2008 itself and subsequently, this columnist revealed details about ISI involvement in his column in and elsewhere, to indifference from the Union Home Ministry which then—as now—was (and is) more intent on identifying and taking action against threats to the primacy of Sonia Gandhi than it is about national security.

Friday 13 May 2011

Time for white paper on Afghanistan (PO)

M D Nalapat

Both the Indian as well as the Pakistani elites have yet to get over their feelings of inadequacy in confronting international challenges. This lack of self-confidence is what leads both to cling to outside players, rather than activate their own strengths. However, the reality is that either country has the size and capability to ensure that its own interests are protected, although of course, the local elites refuse to acknowledge this.

An example is the way the Pakistan elite has swung into a reactive mode when confronted by daily accusations of complicity in the harbouring of Osama bin Laden since 2002. Rather than wring one’s hands and plead innocence, what is needed is for the Pakistan establishment to come out with a comprehensive White Paper on Afghanistan, that would detail the way in which the CIA and other agencies used the Pakistan establishment for their own purposes. This columnist well remembers the 1990s, a period when US (and EU, and Chinese, and GCC) diplomats in Delhi ceaselessly urged Indian policymakers to concede to the demands being made by the jihadis battling Indian security forces in Kashmir. It was no secret that these elements were in even closer touch with US and EU diplomats in Delhi than they were with the intensely-monitored Pakistan mission. Not only diplomats but media-persons from the US and the EU routinely took the side of the jihadis in their reporting, as did outlets such as CNN and the BBC. It took 9/11 for that to change, some what. The Clinton administration followed the line of oil giant Unocal in seeing the Taliban as a friendly force capable of providing access to Central Asian petro-products via territory controlled by it. Senior US diplomats made several visits to cities in Pakistan and Afghanistan in order to liase with the Taliban, even as they lectured Delhi against giving assistance to the Northern Alliance, help that was meagre and intermittent, thanks to US-EU-GCC-China pressure on the side of the Taliban. 

Pakistan has a treasure trove of documents that show the manner in which the US and other countries helped the Taliban, including details of the cash and other payments made by the incoming Bush administration in the weeks preceding the September 11, 2001 attack on the Pentagon and the World Trade Centre by teams formed by “Al-Qaeda”. What is needed is for these documents to get released in the form of annexures to a White Paper that would show the extent to which the US (and other countries) have been complicit in building up the Taliban

Thursday 12 May 2011

Geelani and US must realise terrorists are not true Muslims (Sunday Guardian)

By M.D. NalapatPrintE-mail
Police officers watch over pro-Bin Laden protesters during a demonstration led by radical cleric Anjem Choudary, outside the US embassy in London on Friday. AP/PTI
lthough Syed Ali Shah Geelani may disagree, the fact is that Osama bin Laden forfeited his claim to being a Muslim by engaging in activities contrary to the tenets revealed to Prophet Muhammad. However, rather than confirming this fact, the US action in "giving a proper Muslim burial" to Bin Laden (albeit at sea) is among the many steps taken by that country to legitimise Bin Laden and other terrorists as members of the Islamic Ummah. If the Muslim world has seen a steady flow of recruits to terror organisations across the globe, including in India, one reason has been the consistent US narrative that Wahhabism represents the "pure" form of Islam, in contrast presumably to Sufism (which in the view of this columnist, adheres far more closely to the tolerance and compassion that suffuses the Quran).
A reading of history would show that the golden age of Islam occurred precisely when locations where the faith was dominant became oases of learning and multi-faith harmony. The Jewish populations of the globe were, for example, far safer in Muslim-majority than in Christian-majority countries. Indeed, Wahhabism spread across the globe since the 1980s, fuelled by the petrodollars made available by ruling elites in the Gulf Cooperation Council states who were apprehensive of a repeat of Iran in their own countries. During this time, and despite their immense God-given wealth, innovation and initiative have been largely absent in the petrodollar states. Within the region, Israel accounts for nine times more patents and twice as many book titles as all the GCC countries combined, a sorry result for a people that for a time were among the most advanced in the world.
US action in “giving a proper Muslim burial” to Bin Laden (albeit at sea) is among the many steps taken by that country to legitimise Bin Laden and other terrorists as members of the Islamic Ummah.
After the 2008 Mumbai attacks, the local Muslim community in Mumbai refused to allow the terrorists who had been killed during the operation to be buried in local graveyards, pointing out — correctly — that they no longer qualified as Muslims. Each time the religious factor is brought into a discussion on terrorism, such as in the case of the rituals carried out on the remains of Osama bin Laden, those who claim to be waging a "War on Terror" blur the distinction between practicing Muslims (or those who follow the precepts of the Quran) and apostates such as Bin Laden, who use Islam as a cloak for actions that are wholly contrary to its spirit. Unfortunately for the Muslim world, the "liberal" elites in the US and the EU seem unwilling to admit that Wahhabism and its cousin, Khomeinism are in no way related to Islam, but are in fact separate faiths. Fortunately for the world, after decades of pandering to Wahhabism by the Sudairy branch of the Al Saud ruling family of Saudi Arabia, King Abdullah has worked hard since 2005 to bring the practice of Islam back to the moderate precepts that characterised the golden age of the faith.
Apart from the error of considering Bin Laden and others of his ilk to be Muslims, the Obama administration has distanced itself from the democratic ethos of transparency by concealing most important details of the 2 May operation that resulted in the death of the Yemeni. The public have a right to know the truth about that day, even if it is that the man was shot down in cold blood. By covering up the reality, the Obama administration has created a vacuum that in time may get filled by fanciful accounts of the last moments of Bin Laden, including stories that he escaped alive. The best way of stilling such speculation would have been to release at least a portion of the tapes witnessed by President Obama and others in the White House situation room. Or does the US administration believe that its own people — not to mention the rest of the world — do not deserve the privilege of knowing the facts, and need to be kept in a state of ignorance, the way the lower castes were in India in past eras?

The West’s March of Follies continues in Egypt (Gateway)

M D Nalapat

In case the 1979 example of the Shah of Iran being deserted by the United States and West Europe - after having been their security surrogate in the region for fifteen years - was not sufficient to educate West Asia's rulers about the fair-weather nature of the relationship with these chancelleries, Egypt has provided fresh evidence of this reality.

To promote its geopolitical interests, the West finds champions in-country. In Sri Lanka, it encouraged General Sarath Fonseka to stand against Mahinda Rajapaksa in the 2010 Presidential polls in Sri Lanka.  At the time, Fonseca had direct command of the Sri Lankan military – the force which the same global community believed had committed grave violations of human rights in the final stage of the campaign against the Tamil Tigers. This time around, in Egypt  it is Mohammad El Baradei, the former chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency and Nobel Laureate, seen as the white knight riding to the rescue of US-European Union interests. This, in a country where both Iran as well as the Muslim Brotherhood have been at work for years cultivating the underclass that had been ignored by the Egyptian elite and their international backers.

This time, though, there are more than Western interests at play and the outcomes could be more unpredictable than anticipated.
First, there is the regional activity of Iran. For the Khameini regime in Iran (which the West mistakenly calls the "Ahmadinejad" government when it is the Supreme Leader who controls key swathes of the administration, including foreign, security, education and economic policy), events in Egypt are a comeuppance for the US and the EU, which backed the losing side in protesting against what was once again a rigged election in Iran in 2009.
Since that time, Teheran has greatly boosted its clandestine capabilities and activities in the region, with the intention of promoting chaos, should there be an attack on the regional Shia superpower by the US, the EU or Israel. Most of the effort has gone into assisting those in favour of the collapse of regimes that side with North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) against Iran, and which have most recently been outed in Wikileaks.

Wednesday 11 May 2011

A New Taliban in Libya? (Gateway)

M D Nalapat

Amidst the rejoicing over NATO’s fight for the ‘liberation’ of Libya from Col. Muammar Gaddafi’s four-decade-long rule, few have bothered to ask the dark question: who are these rebels, apparently without a face or organization? How did they ‘win’ the support of NATO’s military might, and find a way of closing in on Gaddafi and his supporters? How did Al Qaeda and fundamentalist involvement quietly surface amidst the mayhem? And what does this mean for the West and for the rest of the Middle East?

The answer lies in the events of 1994, when the US backed the Taliban to defeat the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan. Had the Clinton administration not backed them from 1994 to their takeover of Kabul in 1996 and beyond, the Taliban would never have taken over more than three-fourths of Afghanistan, Al Qaeda would never have become a global organization, and the history of the world in this 21st century would have been different.

The players in this grim game are well known. It is no secret that the elements that later coalesced into the Taliban, had their fairy godmother in the former US Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia, Robin Raphel. She even demanded, as far back as 1997, that Afghanistan’s Northern Alliance resistance leader, Ahmad Shah Massoud (later assassinated by Al Qaeda operatives on September 9, 2001) surrender to the ISI's favoured militia.
Thus far there has been no negative blowback for her career. Instead, another US president, George W. Bush, utilised her services in Iraq, and Hillary Clinton ensured Raphel's return to Afghan affairs in 2009 as a team member of the late Richard Holbrooke, US envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan. Throughout her tenure in the newly-created South Asia desk at the State department in the early years,  Raphel batted for the Pakistan army, getting her reward in the form of a lobbying assignment for that country in 1997 after she stepped down from her diplomatic post.

Osama execution kills the Pakistan myth (Gateway House)

By M.D. Nalapat
At 11:30pm on Sunday, May 1, U.S. President Obama announced that U.S Special Forces had killed Osama Bin Laden. Bin Laden was in a walled compound of a mansion in Abbotabad, in the heart of Pakistani military’s main training school.
The irony of Bin Laden’s hideout was not lost to the world – especially to those of us in India. The western media keeps the Pakistan question at bay; but everyone knows now the connection between Bin Laden and his protectors, the Pakistani military, and especially with its Chief of Army Staff, Pervez Ashfaq Kayani.
Kayani comes from a family dominated by a Wahabbi view of the world, something apparent in the dress and demeanour of his close relatives. From the 1980s, Kayani has been close to the Taliban leadership, and those who do not fall prey to the fallacy of separating this Wahabbi outfit from Al Qaeda understand that he is committed to the jihadist dream of a world united under the religion founded three centuries ago, and which since then has sought -with regrettable success - to replace one of the noblest of faiths, Islam.

The Wahabbis came in handy to the British Empire more than a century ago, when they succeeded in convincing several Bedouin from the Arabian Peninsula that the Sufi variant of Islam favoured by the Turkish Caliph was a perversion of that faith. It subsequently enabled access to oil for the West, which built oil empires and infrastructure from Saudi Arabia.
 Again from the 1950s to the 1970s, Wahabbism was used against Arab nationalism of the sort represented by Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt and Ahmed Ben Bella of Algeria. During the 1980s it was used against an already moribund USSR in the (then) insignificant theatre of Afghanistan. When the Brezezinski-Casey strategy of giving deadly weapons and training to the militarised core of the Wahabbi faith fused with the Al Saud determination to enable this new faith to replace Islam across the globe, what followed was a tragedy for the world. Although he despised the US and the Al Sauds, Osama bin Laden was himself their creation.

Pakistan, again a creation of British strategists led by Winston Churchill, also became a key player in this game.

Jail the 40 2G thieves, Mr Prime Minister (Org.)

By M D Nalapat

THE 2G scam has its 40 thieves, and if the country is to escape the pit that is being dug for it by the crooked, it is necessary that these forty spend at least six to ten years in jail each. Should this happen, the climate of VVIP immunity that has so afflicted India will get diluted, and more and more people will get empowered to give evidence against even the powerful. After decades when the people of India followed the dictates of the Election Commission and avoided any criticism of those in power, finally the dam is beginning to burst, and these days, even the powerful are facing open charges of corruption. Reports are appearing about the sudden wealth of sons and son-in-laws, although, of course, as yet neither the Income Tax department nor the Enforcement Directorate has dared to question these fortunate offsprings about their new found wealth.

All over the country they are purchasing land and other assets. All across the world, they are holidaying in super-expensive resorts. Their parents are flying by corporate jets within India and to foreign countries. Although we claim to have a "free" media, the widespread misuse of corporate jets by politicians and high officials goes unreported.

Those caught in the scam are hopeful that in months, if not in weeks, the brilliant bench of Justices Singhvi and Ganguly will get shifted to other cases. Hopefully, this will not happen, and the duo will remain in the 2G bench until the top scamsters in the loot get sent to jail for long prison terms. There are many questions that have as yet not been investigated by agencies who are clearly under pressure to protect the powerful rather than obey the Supreme Court and go after the guilty. The Rule of Law in India seems to have been replaced by the Rule of the In-law, definitely for the past decade, if not more. There are reports that a senior Law Officer personally took an interest in one of the telecom companies under investigation. If true, Law Minister Veerappa Moily needs to remove him from high office. There are reports that the son-in-law of a prominent politician and the son of a Chief Minister were beneficiaries in one of the many CWG scams. Thus far, neither has been questioned. The IAS officer who was the administrative head of the CWG is out playing golf while Suresh Kalmadi has been sent to jail. Why such indulgence? Who is being shielded?

A culture of immunity has spread across India, so that VVIPs feel that there is no chance that they will be held to account for the multiple crimes that they commit against the national interest. Some—such as ONGC bosses since decades—ensure that potential oilfields in India remain untapped, so that the country may continue to depend on foreign oil companies for essential fuel. Others purchase expensive—and unused— weaponry that has only a single purpose, that of filling the coffers of Swiss banks, while a few spend their time fashioning the high interest rate policies that the Finance Ministry and the RBI have jointly implemented so as to choke the ability of Indian corporates to compete against international rivals. In the process, hundreds of thousands of crores of rupees gets misspent, even while the people starve.

It is the head of the snake that contains the poison sac, not the parts lower down. While the CBI, the Ed, the Income Tax and other agencies of the government go after the lesser levels of the administrative, business and sometimes even the political apparat, almost never is someone high up bothered. Indeed, a web of protection cocoons them, such that even the ruling and opposition party leaders refuse to entertain even the thought of exposing the corruption of higher-ups. And why should they? The children of the opposition leaders dance and revel in the same discos, in the same 5-star hotels, as do the offspring of those ruling at the moment. They form a bond of comradeship that reaches upwards to their parents, who too are usually good friends in private, even while they fool the people by pretending to be rivals in public. Indeed, a new doctrine is being propounded by some prominent opposition leaders, which is that the Nehru family ought to be given immunity from criticism. In exchange, presumably, their own shenanigans will be kept covered and unpunished.

The Income Tax department has done everything short of disbanding itself in its efforts at protecting individuals such as Hassan Ali, who was enabled to withdraw $8 billion from Swiss bank accounts by a mysterious de-freezing of his accounts in 2009. The ED pretends to take strong action against those cheating the exchequer, but in reality follows the dictates of its political masters in pretending to enquire when in fact covering up evidence of wrongdoing. Of course, when as whistle-blower emerges, the ED can always trump up a false charge against that person, such as accuse him of offering a bribe. Today, the Home Ministry and the Finance Ministry are the two Doberman beasts that deed, these days, the volume of loot has begun to exceed that endured during the days of the British raj. Much of this gets sent abroad, often through relatives with foreign nationalities.

That Sonia Gandhi has overpowering influence in decision-making is no secret, an authority that will soon be strengthened when loyalist Pulok Chatterji takes over as either the Cabinet Secretary or the Principal Secretary to the PM. This versatile individual made no secret of his loyalty to Sonia Gandhi, helping in the past to ensure that government decisions got taken that met her needs, and that the activities of the state-funded mega-institutions headed by Sonia Gandhi remain undisturbed by audit or media teams. Such dedication mandates a reward, and Chatterji is likely to soon take over one of the two prize posts mentioned above, as will another individual now in the Planning Commission, who ensured that his nephew (known to the Vadras as Ashok Uncle) took over as chief of an intelligence agency, which he promptly ran to the ground. In the process, he acted as the courier for funnelling cash to members of a certain family who were visiting London. It was only during the time of the Nephew that the chief of an intelligence agency acted as a courier himself, but this so pleased a certain Family that the Uncle will soon be given an even better post than that which he is presently luxuriating in. Needless to say, both Nephew and Uncle are favourites of both the ruling as well as the opposition benches, so incestuous is the power elite in Delhi

It is only with the arrival of Chief Justice Kapadia on the scene that this culture of immunity seems to have been affected. That and the fact the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh seems finally to have woken up to the fact that his great-grandchildren will have to hide in shame, should he refuse to at least attempt to clean up the putrid system over which he presides. In his second term, the PM seems much more pro-active than during 2004-2009, so that agencies such as the CBI ( which is often called the Criminal Bureau of Investigation because of the misdeeds of its officers, many of whom are hand-picked for their pliability) are being forced to bring at least a few top officials, politicians and businesspersons to account. In the past, these would have escaped because of their political connections and cash hoards. However, at long last, a few VVIPs are finally on their way to justice. Of course, even now, it is very probable that these may escape, the way many others have in the past. They may spend just a few months in jail rather than the many years that are required if the ends of justice are to be met.

Friday 6 May 2011

Has Carla Bruni’s charm worked in India? (PO)

M D Nalapat

The Obama administration has largely reverted to the Clinton presidency’s policy of looking at India as a lesser power, although unlike Clinton, who began mouthing praise on Delhi only when US business interests in the country reached critical mass, Barack Obama has been generous with “wampum”, showering sugary words and making insubstantial gestures, even while it seeks to lock India into a dependent relationship now that Pakistan is drifting apart from Washington and moving into Beijing’s orbit. In the nuclear field, the Obama administration is insisting on conditions that collectively negate the Singh-Bush nuclear accord, in effect continuing to force India off the path of nuclear capability. In Space, although a few token gestures have been made, none of these has been followed up by any intensification of cooperation between NASA and the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). The grip of the Europeanist world view is too strong for President Obama to acknowledge that India is at least the equal of France, Britain or Germany, and needs to be so treated. Instead, the policymakers in the DC Beltway are still at work using their many friends in the Sonia Gandhi-led coalition to lock India into a one-sided relationship that would severely affect this country’s prospects for future growth and technological autonomy and excellence.

That the Sonia Gandhi-led administration ( for let us face reality, rather than cling to the legal fiction that any minister other than - perhaps - himself sees Manmohan Singh as the boss) is uninterested in going the China route of technological self-sufficiency has been once again illustrated by the decision to award the 126-aircraft contract to the French or to a French-led consortium. A senior Indian politician, who seems to have been given information from a rival country’s sources once it was clear that France was in the driver’s seat on what is expected to balloon into a $18 billion contract, has publicly accused France’s First Lady Carla Bruni of having intervened with Italian-born Sonia Gandhi in order to ensure that the contract went to Paris in one form or the other, something that has now happened. For more than a year, reports have been swirling around Raisina Road that “Number Ten” ( the 10 Janpath residence of the all-powerful UPA chairperson, who was born in Orbassano in Italy but has made India her home for four decades) was in favour of the French option, although such reports were not accompanied by any proof. It may be that Sonia Gandhi is simply being made the target of a smear campaign, so hopefully both she as well as Bruni will clarify the nature of their contacts and discussions before gossip spreads about the relationship that she shares with the Maino family, who are frequent visitors to India. Of course, given the timidity of the Indian media on all negative matters relating to Sonia Gandhi, the allegation made by Dr Swamy, the Indian politician close to both China and the US, has gone almost totally unreported.