Monday 26 September 2011

Nehru fashioned free India as a British clone (Organiser)

By M D Nalapat
Over the years, a group of social scientists have fashioned a narrative that places Jawaharlal Nehru as the individual who brought democracy to India. Hundreds of books have been written and multiple curricula have been fashioned to implant the story that India is an example — if not an exemplar of —democracy, and that this is owed to a single individual,in gratitude for which the people have entrusted his family or their nominees with their governance for all but a total of ten years since 1947. Even during these years, only the period when Morarji Desai was the Prime Minister can it be said that Nehruvian domination of the governmental system was absent. While Deve Gowda and I K Gujral depended on the Congress Party for their survival, both VP Singh as well as AB Vajpayee were admirers of Nehru and the system that was nurtured by him
Mahatma Gandhi nominated Jawaharlal Nehru, first as Congress president and then as Prime Minister, without any recourse to democratic methods. Indeed, in both instances, the Mahatma was in a minority of one in favouring Nehru. Yet, despite the lack of support for the Old Harrowian, he was thrust atop the apex of both the party and the government by the Mahatma. Both as Congress president and as Prime Minister, Nehru took decisions that were to have tragic consequences for the future of India. Rajendra Prasad, Abul Kalam Azad and several others who were active participants in the events of those days have written and spoken about how the man who ( to admirers such as Sunil Khilnani and Amartya Sen) single-handedly made India a democracy had a penchant for taking decisions that were never discussed before hand, even with those close to him, such as Mahatma Gandhi or Louis Mountbatten. They argue that it was the mistakes made by Nehru that assisted MA Jinnah and Winston Churchill in their joint (and ultimately successful) effort to vivisect India.
Nehru publicly —and without any consultation with other senior Congress leaders — trashed the Cabinet  Mission plan that was designed to ensure Dominion Status for a united country. He permitted the then Viceroy, Archibald Wavell, to invite the Muslim League to join the Interim Government, disregarding the fact that Wavell was intent on breaking up India so as to create in Pakistan a supposedly reliable military ally of the UK. Nehru halted the Indian army from clearing the Pakistan forces from the whole of Kashmir, and later pursued the contradictory policy of first ensuring a Red Carpet welcome to Mao Zedong when the latter occupied Tibet, but subsequently creating an irreparable break with Beijing by welcoming the Dalai Lama nine years later and presiding over the comprehensive defeat of Indian forces at the hands of the PLA in 1962. None of these decisions was taken after a process of consultation. Neither was there any discussion before Nehru went against the overwhelming majority in the Congress leadership in shutting down  large segments of the private sector in India by converting the economy into a diluted version of the Soviet model. Nor was there any substantive discussion before Jawaharlal Nehru implemented his policy of “non-alignment” that ensured zero international backing for India when the 1962 Chinese attack came, and which saw India out of the UN Security Council. Surrounded by a handful of acolytes (similar to those who are these days cheerleaders for the present head of the Nehru dynasty, Sonia Gandhi), the first Prime Minister of India functioned in a manner that can only be described as subjective and arbitrary.
Coming to the core of democratic politics, the party system, it needs to be remembered that Nehru himself was promoted aggressively by his father, and that he himself promoted his daughter, including making her Congress president and his clear favourite to someday succeed him. Today, the Indian party system hhas broken down, in that almost all political parties in India are—in effect - owned by particular families, and are bequeathed to legal heirs generation to generation. Such a perversion of democracy is inherent in the system of nepotism that was crafted by Nehru and followed by his successors and acolytes across the political spectrum in India.
Also, there has thus far been no discussion of the fact that it was Jawaharlal Nehru who ensured that the entire colonial apparatus of law and procedure that was crafted by the British Raj to control their Indian subjects. The British-era law that Nehru and his successors have continued without change since 1947 hand over all discretion to the instruments of the state, leaving almost nothing with the rest of the population. The privileges enjoyed by those in government mirror those that were the right of the British colonialists who oversaw the rule of London. In India, those in government enjoy special treatment at transport hubs and in accommodation.They move around in vehicles that are appropriately bathed in a red light, even as the rest of the population is made to wait while such convoys go past.While the excuse of security has been trotted out to justify such contra-democratic measures, the reality is that the general population is at far greater risk than VVIPs, especially in a context where terror groups are less the focus of intelligence agencies than political foes of those in power.
In Anglo-Saxon law, as followed in the UK, an individual is innocent unless proven to be guilty after a due and predictable process of law. In India, such a rule is indeed applied, but only in the case of those having money and influence.The rest of the population have to wait their turn, often serving as undertrials for a decade and more before their case gets decided. The fact of police corruption ensures the production of false witnesses and evidence, and given the absence of accountability for such a criminal misuse of the justice system, it is small wonder that the only people afraid of the Indian justice system are the honest who are indigent. Wherever a citizen comes up against the state, he or she is put in a supplicatory position, exactly as was the situation during the British Raj. On a whim, multiple agencies can take away an individual's liberty or property, with redress a slow and usually unavailable process.That this state of affairs is the inevitable consequence of the colonial system of law and procedure followed by “free” India since Jawaharlal Nehru took over as Prime Minister is ignored by the many admirers of the individual whom his friends used to refer to as “the Englishman”, and not in jest.
Sadly, each of  Nehru’s successors has continued the colonial system, because of the immense patronage that it provides. Apart from a few spasms of de-regulation during the period in office of PV Narasimha Rao (who soon became persona non grata with Sonia Gandhi), thus far there has been no serious effort to ensure that the laws and procedures that are followed in India reflect those that deal with a free rather than a slave people. It is only during the Anna Hazare agitation that substantial segments of the public have suddenly awoken to  the fact that their democracy is a myth, and that—as during the period of frank colonialism —the people have to run to the governnment for permission to undertake almost any activity. Anna Hazare himself was presented with a list of 22 demands by the Delhi police, who were confident in the vast British-era powers they enjoy, powers that were and are used to suppress any manifestation that does not have the blessing of the wealthy and the influential.
The Anna Hazare movement is pathbreaking, in that it puts forward the possibility of breaking the monopoly of the politico-official crust over the spoils of office. Just as only the British occupied the top rungs of the administration in the past, since 1947, only those within the administrative structure—overseen by politicians—have been allowed to occupy the numerous levers of office. This despite the fact that the growing complexity of modern life mandates the entry into the layers of governance of those with direct knowledge of fields such as technology, agriculture,  medicine and other fields. India needs a system where those from the professions can make a lateral entry into the administration. Instead, it has retained the British-era system that gives full power to a privileged group of generalists. If in the past, being British was enough to get trusted with any sort of position in India, these days, those who have crammed their way into the various administrative cadres monopolise government jobs. Indeed, over the decades, there has in particular been a competition between the IAS and the IPS to get key posts for their own cadre,with the IFS joining in the division of the spoils. Members of the IAS, IPS and IFS are indeed an admirable and versatile group, but to act as though they alone contain the wisdom to man and run the administrative machinery is to deny the need for a system that ensures the entry of individuals with a track record of success in fields that actually matter to the people
Hopefully,  just as they challenged the monopoly of the British, the people of India will challenge the neo-British system put in place by Jawaharlal Nehru, and reclaim for themselves the freedoms that ought to be theirs by right. Unlike in the past, when the Opposition quickly adopted the policy of the previous ruling parties when they took over, this time around, the Opposition needs to present a new blueprint for India,and show that they are sincere in implementing it. The people of India deserve the freedoms and rights that are enjoyed by populations in genuine democracies,and hopefully the political class will accept this challenge and fulfill such a mandate.  A 21st century governance system is needed to ensure the prosperity of India,not the 19th century construct that is the legacy of Jawaharlal Nehru.

Sunday 18 September 2011

The RBI has gone mad (Sunday Guardian)

here are numerous corners of Indian officialdom that still believe that the country is in the pre-1947 stage, when civilised people ruled India, and few more so than the Reserve Bank of India. Even after Independence, "coconuts" (fruit brown on the outside but white on the inside) such as H.V.R. Iyengar and L.K. Jha ruled, while deputy governors such as P.N. Damry would affect what they believed to be a British accent, pretending that they had nothing to do with the natives on whom they were inflicting policy. Understandably, the RBI looked for guidance and for encomiums to chancelleries in the civilised part of the globe, locations such as New York and London, ignoring the views from Mumbai or Kolkata, not to mention Ranchi or Bhubaneshwar.
Since Sonia Gandhi warned against triumphalism at one of Delhi's numerous conclaves, soon after she took control of the government in 2004, the UPA has worked with impressive success to damp down the country's economic expansion, and to return India to the "Nehru Rate of Growth" of 3% and below annually. In this, it has been assisted by both the former as well as the present governor of the Reserve Bank, Yaga Reddy and Duvvuri Subbarao. Those foreign companies that are nervous about competition from Indian companies — on top of the assault from Chinese entities — can now breathe easy. India Inc has been crippled by the duo's policy of relentless rate hikes, ostensibly to "rein in inflation". That neither Reddy nor Subbarao had the IQ needed to understand that inflation in India is caused by factors other than the interest rate is a tragedy for the country.
That neither Reddy nor Subbarao (right) had the IQ to understand that inflation in India is caused by factors other than the interest rate is a tragedy.
Inflation since the UPA took office in 2004 has been largely caused by uncontrolled government spending, mostly on programmes that are designed to increase the tally of the Congress in the next elections. Thus, instead of a public works programme that would expand rural infrastructure, what has been implemented is a dole that does nothing to ensure that permanent employment opportunities form as a result of the huge financial outlays of the Sonia Gandhi-approved schemes. Across the board, the UPA has let loose a torrent of expenditure, a lot of it flowing back into the pockets of key political and official clusters in the form of kickbacks and retentions. This has been the second-largest engine of inflation in the country. The biggest has been state policy, notably the severe increase in regulations that has come about after the "reformer" Prime Minister was led to his chair by the UPA chairperson. These have opened the door to such criminal activities as speculation in essential commodities by hedge funds, as well as supply blockages caused by regulatory overkill. The combination of huge increases in financial outlays coupled with the creation of new regulatory barriers to investment and output are what is causing inflation, and neither will be affected one whit by the rate hikes inflicted on the economy by the RBI.
Try telling that to Duvvuri Subbarao as he preens in front of the mirror admiring his ill-fitting suit, lost in daydreams that he has suddenly been transformed into a real Brit rather than an ersatz version of that much-admired species. While magazines such as The Economist will pat the RBI on the back for the "courage" it is showing, the same journal subscribes to a policy of super-low interest rates for the UK itself. Only potential challengers to North America and Europe such as China and India ought to boost up interest rates repeatedly, so that their enterprises lose the ability to compete globally. While the Chinese have thus far not been as devoid of commonsense as the Indians, there are enough acolytes of The Economist in Beijing to ensure that the PRC too has put in place an interest rate system that seems certain to choke growth by the time Xi Jinping takes over as Communist Party General Secretary next year.
Poor Subbarao, if he were only to cease glancing at the mirror, would perhaps have enough residual intellect to find out that the global economy is already in a recession, and could tip into a depression. The EU financial system is bankrupt, its only chance of survival is to persuade China, the Arab states, India and other credulous countries to invest in Euro financial assets. Assets that are certain to be marked down at a huge discount within year. In such a situation, the human power resources of India and its other advantages — which somehow enable the economy to survive a government determined to push growth to the 3%-minus level — can enable the economy to escape the oncoming catastrophe, provided the regulatory framework gets lightened and interest costs fall. Neither seems in any danger of taking place. The ridiculous effort of the Petroleum Ministry to implement a system of partial subsidies on LPG (something that would be an administrative nightmare) and the just-announced rate hike show that Subbarao's IQ levels are matched by other key policymakers in the Sonia Gandhi government.
ver the past 18 months, the RBI has raised basis points by an unprecedented 350 points, with more planned. This has had the effect of converting large swathes of the economy into the "sick zone", with consequent effects on the health of the loan portfolios of the very banks that the RBI is supposed to pay beneficial attention to. No other central bank in the world has demonstrated the IQ levels of the Reserve Bank of India. Most have been very cautious about rate hikes, while the "civilised world" has ensured super-low rates while it awaits salvation from barbarians rushing to purchase their financial instruments. Even China (where the grip of the "civilised world" is strong on monetary policymakers) has paused, while Brazil has joined others in cutting rates. What will it take to educate poor Duvvuri Subbarao?

Friday 16 September 2011

Will Putin take back Russia? (PO)

By M D Nalapat
History has shown that those most obsequious often turn out to be the most obstreperous. Four decades back, Z A Bhutto chose General Zia-ul-Haq as the Chief of the Army Staff, believing that the polite military officer would follow his orders without question. Indeed, General Zia was known for his politeness, a trait that is associated in India with the city of Lucknow, where legend has it that two twins kept delaying their birth, because each wanted the other to go first! However, this charn did not prevent General Zia from removing the PPP founder from power and later, seeing through his execution on a murder charge

In India, the case of Sitaram Kesri is noteworthy. This senior Congress functionary used to fall at the feet of Prime Minister Narasimha Rao each time the two met. At every such meeting, Kesri would fawn over and flatter Rao, who was so delighted by the politician from Bihar that he made him Congress President when the party lost the general elections in 1996,in large part because of a split in the party caused by followers of Sonia Gandhi, who wanted the party to revert back to the control of the Nehru family, and consequently disliked Rao. It did not take even a week before Kesri forced Rao to resign as Leader of the Congress Parliamentary Party, sending him into a retirement that lasted to Rao’s lonely close in 2004, eight years later. During his final days of life, only ward boys and doctors used to visit a man who had been the Prime Minister of India for five years, and who initiated the partial economic reforms that converted the country into an economic powerhouse (and which have since been rolled back, once Sonia Gandhi took over effective control of the government in 2004 and returned to the state-heavy model favoured by the Nehru family.

Russia saw a similar transition five years ago, when President Put in nominated the quiet Dmitry Medvedev as his successor after two terms in office in 2008. Going back the record of history, President Medvedev ought to have used the powers of his office to finish off Putin, the way Kesri did to Rao. However, perhaps because of his milder nature, or - more probably - because Putin is still much more powerful than his nominal boss, Medvedev has not been able to ensure the exit of Vladimir Putin from the levers of power in Russia. Indeed, the chances are that Putin will run for the office of President of the Russian Federation early next year. Polls show that he would score an easy victory over any opponent, including President Medvedev. The reason is that Put in taps into the Russian spirit the way Mahatma Gandhi unlocked the psyche of millions of the people in the Subcontinent in the 1930s, or Mao Zedong fired up the enthusiasm of the Chinese people in the 1950s. The Russians are a race apart from both Asia and Europe, and are a unique people with a distinct civilization.

President Medvedev is known to be powerfully influenced by experts from Europe, especially Germany. There has long been a fascination within Russia for Germany, perhaps because the Empress Catherine was German in origin, and because those of German descent played such a eye role in the Russian court before the country changed its system of governance in 1917. It is no secret that Dmitry Medvedev favours the Boris Yeltsin policy of obedience to the wishes of the EU, in contrast to Put in, who seeks a policy closer to the assertive, independent role that Moscow had during the period when the Soviet Union was still extant. Indeed, the Europeans as well as the US would like to ensure the retirement of Vladimir Putin from Russian politics, and the complete takeover of governance by the Euro-centric group advising Medvedev. They are hoping that the 2012 elections will witness the end of Putin and the full return of the Yeltsin policies of the 1990s that did so much to reverse the balance between Russia and the EU. However, given the strong nationalist sentiment that is flowing in Russia, it seems more likely that it will be Medvedev who will have to surrender power. The question is whether he will do so willingly, or only after he gets defeated by Putin in 2012. The Europeans are advising him to use the levers of power more ruthlessly, so as to remove from office key followers of Prime Minister Putin, thereby weakening his rival.

There is no doubt that several segments of Russian society are pro-European, and are comfortable with the Yeltsin-Medvedev policy of tailoring Russia’s strategic responses to fit the prescriptions of the major EU chancelleries, principally Germany. However, the difference between the period of the first post-democracy Russian President ( Boris Yeltsin) and the third (Dmitry Medvedev) is that the earlier period proved that the two major powers in Europe - France and Germany - would not be willing to accommodate Russia within the matrix of Europe, except as a dependent power. Should Russia enter Europe in a manner commensurate with its size and potential that would be the end of Franco-German dominance of the EU. Thereafter, Moscow would emerge as a challenger to Berlin and Paris, which is why Yeltsin failed to ensure acceptable terms for the integration of Russia into Europe, despite the many concessions he has made. In the case of Medvedev as well, it was his intervention that led to the NATO bombing of the Kadhafi forces in that country, and their replacement by a Sarkozy-nominated “National Transitional Council”. Although key nationalist elements in the Russian Foreign Office wanted to use the veto to block UN Security Council Resolution 1973 ( which was used by NATO as legal cover for its intervention), it was President Medvedev who ordered that Russia abstain, thereby ensuring that the resolution got passed.

Since 2008,President Medvedev has been open about his desire that Moscow coordinate its actions with the path favoured by the EU. However, the EU lobby in Moscow has got a setback with the growing economic crisis in Europe. The Franco-German policy of placing almost all of West Europe’s eggs in the East and South European basket has led to a situation where the financial health of both France and Germany is under severe strain. Indeed, it looks inevitable that Greece will go into default, followed by Italy. The indebtedness of both is too huge to be dealt with by the palliative measures being taken by the ECB in order to prevent a default. Unless China and the Arab states can be persuaded to put their own futures at risk by giving huge loans to the Eurozone (debts which will never get repaid), there seems little option but a default of Greece, followed by other countries. Just as the 2008 financial crash severely weakened the geopolitical strength of the US, the Eurozone crisis is depleting the diplomatic power of the EU, whose leaders are expected to beg economies in Asia and elsewhere for more funds to rescue them, when the IMF has its meeting in Washington soon. Indeed, Christine Lagarde was chosen to succeed Dominique Strauss-Kahn as IMF Managing Director precisely because she can be relied upon to place the interests of the EU first, second and third in any decision she takes. Should President Medvedev win the 2012 elections, we can expect to see a full return of the policies of the 1990s,that dovetailed Russia into the geopolitical framework crafted for the country by the US and the EU. In contrast, Putin would follow a line, of aligning Russia with rising powers such as China, India, South Africa and Brazil rather than relying only on Europe.

A marriage of Russian technology and Indian ingenuity - for instance - can create products that can compete with any other, even in high-tech markets. Since Dmitry Medvdev came to office in 2008, it has been much more difficult to get such collaborations going, because of the powerful influence of the US and the EU over the Russian President. However, should Vladimir Putin take charge once again, it is likely that the Russian footprint will once again extend across the globe, most likely in partnership with strong regional players. An early sign of who is having the upper hand will come in the UN General Assembly, when the resolution calling for the declaration of Palestine as a state is brought forward. Medvedev can be expected to oppose this, while Putin is likely to give it backing, aware that such support would create immense goodwill for Moscow in the Arab world. Will Russia sit on the sidelines (as it did in the case of the invasion of Libya) or support the effort to declare Palestine as an independent state? Given the backdrop of the weakening of the US and the EU, caused by the criminal activities of the financial elite in both locations (an elite that even today is pampered rather than jailed), it seems likely that the Putin vision will prevail over that of Yeltsin-Medvedev in 2012. Should that happen, Russia is once again likely to emerge as a key global player.

Monday 12 September 2011

Arab Spring to Wahabbi Winter (Gateway House)


Ten years on, and two trillion dollars and counting, is the world a safer place for the NATO partners? The security of NATO members has been at the core of actions taken by its components – principally the U.S. – since 9/11. While the absence of a terror attack on the U.S. has been taken as proof of the success of the War on Terror, the truth is that such a criterion is too restrictive to reflect reality. Also, the spawning of newer mutants of terror organisations may have created a base within the U.S. that could host future action.

The change that has come about is this: the complex of ideologies (and organisations owing fealty to them) that get clubbed together as “Al Qaeda” has morphed; from a grouping directed and motivated by a few individuals, it is now disaggregated. The steps taken by the true heroes of the War on Terror - the U.S. Treasury Department and the FBI - to identify and disrupt funding networks for terror organisations has made the former big spenders (on jihad) go into the woodwork to avoid detection. Over the decade, they have been replaced by thousands of smaller contributors, funding a miscellany of organisations across the world, instead of a small number of groups. Many of these funders are camouflaged as “human rights” or as “democracy fighter” organisations. Very often, they have a small number of non-jihadi sympathisers as office-bearers, so that their core ideology gets concealed. As the Libyan overthrow of Colonel Gaddafi and the events in Egypt that culminated in the forced departure of Hosni Mubarak have shown, Wahabbis have mastered an argot that wins them a support base within the populations (and chancelleries) of the NATO members. 

In Gateway House as well as in other sites, this columnist has been wary of the Arab Spring from the start, seeing in the ferment a near-inevitable Wahabbi winter. Today, events in Egypt are demonstrating the truth of the view taken six months ago, that the core of the ideology behind the protests is Wahabbi, magnified in lethal power by getting fused to public discontent over the rising prices of essential commodities. The forecast that the Wahabbi nature of the unrest would become evident by October is now materializing with the attack on the Israeli embassy in Cairo. Should an election take place, the balance of power within Parliament in Egypt would shift overwhelmingly towards Wahabbi groups who would be about as sympathetic to the NATO powers as the Taliban is, although they may show this distaste in less robust forms than that particular cohort.

Over the 1990s, this columnist has witnessed the methodical manner in which the Wahabbis of the Kashmir Valley have used the language of democracy and human rights to co-opt liberals such as Arundhati Roy to their side. Diplomatic pressure on India to make terminal concessions to the jihadis in Kashmir is not as strong now as it used to be during the Clinton years. But today, the NATO powers ignore the plight of religious minorities and moderates in Kashmir (for example, the destruction of several Hindu houses of worship by the Wahabbis) in their eagerness to back an agenda – that aims to make Kashmir a state where Wahabbis will enjoy the religious supremacy they do in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. Those backing the numerous pro-jihad organisations in Kashmir never stop to read the numerous tracts brought out by the very individuals who claim to be “fighting for democracy” in Kashmir. This shows an obsessive desire to cleanse the state of “impure” influences (i.e. those not sanctioned by the Wahabbi theology, such as politicians opposed to Wahhabi supremacy) and when relating the rest of India, talk of a determination to “bring back the glory of Mughal rule” over the country. Arundhati Roy may not know this, but that period was not a particularly liberal one in Indian history.

In Libya, the Wahabbi core of the opposition to ‘apostate’ Muammar Gaddafi has mimicked the message that has served their counterparts so well in Kashmir. They speak of “democracy versus dictatorship” and of “modernity versus autocracy”. All this when the so-called National Transitional Council (NTC), of presumed democrats, has been appointed by Nicholas Sarkozy and has about as much popular resonance as the “Iraqi” groups set up while Paul Bremer was Proconsul of the country some years ago. The reality is that the NTC has zero control over the youths with guns on the streets in Libya. As soon as NATO helps them to complete the task of eliminating Gaddafi remnants from the entire country, these youths will form their own leadership councils, several of the members of which will soon get active in ensuring that Libya becomes a jumping-off point for jihad in Europe. In empowering the Wahabbis in Libya, NATO has dug a huge hole in the future security of Europe, the way the Brzezinski-Casey strategy of creating a jihad force in Afghanistan has blown back across the globe.

As in Kashmir, the briefest of glances at the NATO-backed tracts that enabled a defeat against Gaddafi will reveal their mindset. Such samizdat has been circulating across Libya and the Arab world for decades, and few contain any suggestion that Libya ought to become a democracy. Instead, the emphasis is on the “impure” and “impious” nature of a leader - Colonel Gaddafy - who allows women to go about unveiled and refuses to make (the Wahabbi version of) Sharia the law of the land. The writings of several of the "military commanders" (as distinct from the politicians placed there by Sarkozy) of the Libyan revolt against Gaddafi speak of the need to create a society run under religious law; where women will be shown their place, as will all those not Wahabbi, including more than two-fifths of the tribes in Libya. Now that almost all of Libya has been “liberated”, we will see the impact on women and minority rights of the control of the “democrats” enabled to victory by NATO. Only a minority of tribes are active in the battle against Gaddafi, but as these are being backed by Saudi Arabia and Qatar (the way the Taliban was), they are considered kosher by NATO. Within a year, the folly involved in this war will get revealed in a way that will embarrass David Cameron as much as the Iraq war affected Tony Blair.

But by that time, it would be too late for Europe. NATO would have created a state where the instruments of coercion are largely controlled by those who have been trained by their Wahabbi ideology to see the West as sinful and evil. And also as the successor to the Crusaders who took back the conquests of the earlier followers of Islam. While Gaddafi was able to keep such groups largely in check, they have now broken free, and the consequences will soon become obvious.

Europe must also learn the lessons from the U.S. involvement in Afghanistan: George W. Bush and Dick Cheney lost the War on Terror almost as soon as they began waging it in 2001. The first error was to be blind to the fact that the endemic focus of the jihadi infestation was Pakistan, including significant elements of its military. As the Soviets discovered in the 1980s, any action in Afghanistan is pointless without simultaneously tackling the root of the problem, which is Pakistan. By teaming up with the very force that was the principal backer of the Taliban, Bush and Cheney doomed NATO to failure in the battle against that force. Also, by not moving more decisively on Saudi Arabia to shut down the education and propaganda networks of the Wahabbi International, Bush and Cheney ensured that the ideology known as “Al Qaeda” would continue to find adherents across the globe.

The War on Terror has further Wahabbized the Ummah rather than empower moderates. It has helped create an economic crisis that is sapping the will of the NATO powers and their ability to respond to future threats. Most ominously, by its continued credulity in the camouflaged jihadis, NATO is empowering its future foes in the Arab world as recklessly as the Central Intelligence Agency did in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

The lambs must speak out (Sunday Guardian)

Lok Manch workers during a protest against the arrest of party president Amar Singh in Azamgarh on Wednesday. PTI
irefighters know that the best way to arrest the progress of a blaze is to create a firebreak by destroying habitation in the path of the fire. Once the flames reach that area, the lack of fuel forces them to die away. In much the same way, a few individuals are being served up to the public — almost in the manner of human sacrifices — in the hope that such a sacrifice will stanch public anger over corruption. Thus, a Kalmadi for CWG and the Kanimozhi-Raja duo for 2G, even while the investigation stalls in its forward path. That Kalmadi or Raja were the sole — or even the primary — masterminds of the CWG and 2G scams is to believe that A.Q. Khan conducted his nuclear bazaar without the help of the higher rungs of the Pakistan establishment. Of course, unlike the luckless Kalmadi, Kanimozhi and Raja, the nuclear trader is being treated like the national asset he has been.
There was an expectation that Kalmadi and Raja would spill the beans on others involved in the scam, but as yet, this does not seem to have happened. Clearly, both are hoping for the sort of legal reprieve that it has been commonplace for the affluent and the powerful (two categories that almost always fuse into a single blob) to enjoy. It is a tribute to Justices Singhvi and Ganguly — not to mention their boss, CJI Kapadia — that this has not yet taken place, despite the contortions of counsel and the (certain) efforts of the CBI to get the big fish to escape. Given the fact that senior officers in the CBI move in and out of the organization during the course of their careers, the need to cultivate politicians is obvious. Unlike the FBI, which has a permanent cadre of officers who remain with the organisation throughout their careers, most CBI officers are birds of passage. More importantly, many are hand-picked precisely for their malleable nature. While legend has it that the PMO or tangentially the Home Ministry has formal or actual oversight over the CBI, the reality is that the Boss of Bosses during the period of the NDA was Ranjan Bhattacharya, while since 2004 it is Ahmed Patel.
However, that Amar Singh is the source of such a conspiracy (cash-for-vote) is to believe that a Suresh Kalmadi could twist the governmental machinery into pretzels simply because of the immense charm that the man exudes.
After much prodding by the judiciary — which, it must be admitted, has been functioning in a manner that enables one to almost forget the fact that justice in India often takes several generations to get delivered — the Delhi police have arrested Amar Singh in the cash-for-votes controversy. Although L.K. Advani seems eager to follow Mr Singh to Tihar, this privilege has been denied to him, no doubt after an assessment of the immense benefit that his short incarceration did to Anna Hazare. By arresting Amar Singh, the Delhi police are indicating that what was witnessed in Parliament that day was no mere sting operation, but a well-considered plan to buy votes in order to rescue the Nuclear Bill. However, that Amar Singh is the source of such a conspiracy is to believe that a Suresh Kalmadi could twist the governmental machinery into pretzels simply because of the immense charm that the man exudes. Clearly, Mr Singh was functioning on behalf of others. Who? Unless he himself says, the odds are that this will never be known.
Those responsible for making Amar Singh the human sacrifice for the cash-for-votes scandal are confident that there are graveyards of skeletons rattling around in the closet of the former Samajwadi Party leader, and that he would not risk these coming to light, the way it may happen were he to spill the beans. Of course, most of these skeletons are not just the property of Mr Singh, but of his hidden persecutors as well, thereby giving them an equal stake in silence about the many unpleasant — and sometimes pleasant — activities of Mr Singh in the course of a long career strengthening Indian democracy. Public interest would demand that Mr Singh break his silence and reveal the full facts about voting that day, in the same way as it would make India a better place if Mr Kalmadi or Mr Raja were to fess up about others involved in the scams that they are now in jail for. To speak out would be an act of moral courage that would obliterate the harm done by their misdeeds. However, as yet, fed as they are by hope that they will soon be free men, both the CWG as well as the 2G "human sacrifices" are remaining silent. As for the CBI and the rest of the state machinery, they continue to keep details of misfeasance from public view.
The odds are, therefore, that the lambs will remain silent, and that higher-level participants in the scams will escape attention. However, what is working against the Business as Usual approach of the establishment is the growing public perception that the potholed roads, the wretched public schools, housing and healthcare facilities, the frequent power and water cuts and the galloping inflation are all the effect of corruption. Pollsters ask citizens whether they regard corruption or terrorism as bigger problems. The reality is that corruption begets terrorism, by making it easy for depredators to escape. Indeed, the huge size of the narcotics industry in India, and the hawala networks created by it, have served as a protective cover to groups that seek to repeatedly kill people by the use of terror as a weapon of war. The fact is that corruption is at the root of most of the problems that the average citizen faces today, which is why Anna Hazare gained so much traction.
f course, it will take more than a Jan Lokpal to downsize this virus. Most likely, the monster created by Kiran Bedi and Arvind Kejriwal will itself become corrupt, so that friends and relatives of the Jan Lokpal will themselves become as rich as friends and relatives of Finance or Home Ministers in India are becoming these days. A better way forward is to press for making the RTI far less subject to exceptions and delays, so that the entire process of government — where it involves commerce — comes into public view. The country does not just need one Jan Lokapl. It needs millions of concerned citizens, people such as the Founders of Common Cause. And, even more urgently, it needs the lambs to abandon their silence and speak out. For once, not for themselves but for the people of a country that has made them rich.

Friday 9 September 2011

Congress paralysed without Sonia (PO)

M D Nalapat
When Prime Minister Manmohan Singh landed in Dhaka on September 7, his retinue did not include the most important member, Chief Minister Mamta Banerjee of West Bengal (now renamed Paschim Banga). Till the final two hours, efforts had been ongoing to get her to join the group, and to drop her objection to the PM signing the Teesta River Accord with his Bangladesh counterpart, Sheikh Hasina Wajed. These failed, and the outcome was a huge loss of face for Dr Manmohan Singh personally, who was shown to command zero political influence with Ms Banerjee, despite the high post that he holds. Clearly, it had been a mistake to deal with Ms Banerjee through bureaucrats, competent though these might have been. Just as the British colonialists looked upon Indian members of the civil service with contempt, so too do politicians regard officials. Each day, all too many of the latter crawl at the feet of the former, either to get a prize posting or to avoid being shifted from one. It was therefore no surprise that the senior civil servants who had been dispatched failed to persuade the West Bengal Chief Minister to accept the Accord.

48th and Lexington (The Diplomat)

By M D Nalapat, September 9, 2011

When 9/11 dawned, my wife and I were staying in New York at the Radisson Hotel, on the corner of 48th and Lexington, and were due to leave the next evening for Mumbai. The previous afternoon had been spent at Columbia University, where Prof. Jack Snyder had been dismissive of my warning that the Taliban’s main foe was the United States, and that even New York could be at risk from the terrorists they harboured.

‘This is the safest city in the world,’ was his response. That evening, a friend came over for dinner, and my wife, Lakshmi, mentioned that she was planning to have breakfast the next day at the Roof of the World restaurant in the World Trade Center.

Coming from a more relaxed civilisation, many in India rarely have their TV sets on, especially on holiday. But the next morning, there was a frantic call from our dinner companion of the previous evening. ‘Did she go to the World Trade Center? Did she? Tell me,’ our friend demanded. She sounded as if she was about to break down in relief when I told her Lakshmi was still in our hotel room, and she immediately ended the call.

Within seconds came another phone call, this time from a friend in Bangalore, who sounded almost as frantic. ‘Put on your television,’ she demanded. After a few muttered protests, I did just this, and was watching as the second aircraft hit the World Trade Center. I would have mistaken it for a movie except for the fact that it was unfolding on a news channel. There were images of people running, of smoke, of something horribly wrong happening.

Lakshmi and I changed as fast as we could and headed for the streets, watching the dust and the people as both came in apparent slow motion toward where we were. Reflexively, we called our family back home in India from our mobile phones and told them that we were safe. Soon afterward, it was impossible to place any more calls.

It was another five days before we could get a plane back to India. Every now and then, I remember the police officers at the precinct house we had visited on September 10 when our dinner companion was unable to locate her car. How many of them had survived the following day? These men were soon to show the world that they were heroes, even though only 12 hours before they had seemed like bored kids.

On the evening of 9/11, Lakshmi and I joined thousands of others who held candles in an effort to escape the darkness of the evil that had stricken the city. Friends in India warned me to be careful in New York because of my brown skin and beard. But there was no hostility in any of the faces that I encountered that day. Instead, all I saw in people’s faces was surprise and hurt. The people of New York showed then exactly why they knew themselves to belong to the most vibrant city in the world.

When we left for the airport to head home, we made sure that we arrived at the airport four hours before we departed to ensure we had enough time to get through security. That day, al-Qaeda took away the America that I loved and replaced it with a nation in lockdown. For this, as for so much else, it is impossible to forgive them.