Monday 30 September 2013

India needs the Right to Recall a truant MP or MLA (Sunday Guardian)

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with Finance Minister P. Chidambaram at the 16th meeting of the National Integration Council in New Delhi on Monday. PTI
t is scarcely a secret that existing laws and the manner of their enforcement have failed to eradicate corruption among politicians in office. Where, once those at the starting rungs of the political ladder used to travel long distances by bus and train, these days, even commercial flights are regarded by many netas as an inferior and hence avoidable method of transport. Corporate houses are increasingly purchasing and maintaining small aircraft as well as helicopters, less for their senior staff to flit about than to loan — free of cost — to select politicians for trips within India and abroad. Where once schoolrooms or dilapidated guesthouses were the usual places of overnight stay, these days even a 4-star hotel is considered a letdown.
Visitors to The Oberoi, the Taj Mansingh, or other 5-star hotels in Delhi cannot fail to notice politicians crowding the rooms and restaurants, running up bills at a meal which would feed a village for weeks. While the dress may still be kurtas and pyjamas, these are often tailored to perfection from the finest linen or wool, depending on the season. Clearly, it is a hugely expensive task to maintain for even a week a "representative of the people". Of course, the only people that such elements represent are the Nandan Nilekanis and the Bill Gates. The frenetic zest with which politicians in India make money gives rise to the suspicion that this country's politicians have — in secret — discovered a method whereby they can take their hoard of wealth with them when they finally depart for the hereafter, or at least that portion not already spent in the fleshpots of Miami, Paris and London.
Recently, the Supreme Court of India made a welcome contribution towards the objective of cleansing the political system of the crooks, who have clogged it almost from the time India became Independent. The court ruled that those lawmakers found guilty of major crimes will be disbarred from Parliament. After all, those who make the law need to be subjected to a much higher standard of compliance than the rest of the population, rather than — as now — escape the law altogether. Following Rahul Gandhi's completely accurate characterisation of the ordinance designed to enable tainted netas to escape from the fate, Justice A.K. Patnaik would consign them to, there has been a chorus of voices that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh ought to quit. Such an outcome is unlikely. It needs to be remembered that after the Chandra Shekhar government fell, then economic advisor to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh went to the outgoing PM and asked for a new sinecure when faced with the unendurable prospect of being without an official title for the first time in his life.
The skill exhibited by Manmohan Singh in hopping from one important position to the other is only matched by that other saintly member of the Union Cabinet, A.K. Antony.
Dr Singh lamented to the outgoing PM the fact that he had no house in Delhi to retire to, a sad state of affairs which so moved Chandra Shekhar that he (reportedly through pre-dating the relevant order) ensured that Dr Singh was given a perch in the University Grants Commission, from where of course he once again moved on to the Ministry of Finance, this time as its minister. The skill exhibited by Manmohan Singh in hopping from one important position to the other is only matched by that other saintly member of the Union Cabinet, A.K. Antony. The Defence Minister has seldom been outside the "cool shade" of high office, and should Dr Singh do the unexpected and quit, is likely to take his place.
It was Manmohan Singh who announced recently that he would deem it an honour "to serve under Rahul Gandhi". This being the case, there ought to be no problem in swallowing the barbs tossed his way by the Congress vice-president and consigning the Tainted Neta ordinance to the rubbish heap. Following on its stellar performance in the case of tainted netas, the Supreme Court has now ordered that voters be given the "None of the Above" option at the ballot box. Should the percentage of this cross that secured by the winning candidate, the election ought to be countermanded. And in order to ensure that our lawmakers avoid acting irresponsibly after getting elected, a law needs to get passed giving voters the right to recall a truant MP or MLA. Accountability ought to be continuous, and not just at five-year intervals.

Sunday 29 September 2013

‘Army’s secret Division would have prevented Samba-like encounters’ (Sunday Guardian)

MADHAV NALAPAT  New Delhi | 28th Sep 2013
Indian army soldiers gather behind a small wall during an attack by militants on an army camp at Mesar in Samba District, some 20km south-east of Jammu on Thursday, Sept 26, 2013.
he Samba attack by Pakistan-based elements could have been avoided if the Technical Services Division (TSD) had not been shut down a year ago, claim senior military officers who wish to remain unnamed. Speaking to them, it becomes clear that the decision by incoming Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Bikram Singh to shut down the TSD of the Army immediately upon taking charge from General V.K. Singh a year ago has been greeted with dismay by his own officers, especially those on the frontline of Pakistan terror. These officers say that the scrapping of the TSD is a major reason why there has been a spurt in cross-border intrusions over the past year, and warn that unless the organisation gets re-established, counter-insurgency operations will suffer.
"The decision to finish off TSD was political and not military. It was done to show (former COAS) General V.K. Singh in a bad light," a senior officer commented, while another claimed that "the TSD enabled our boys to get prior information on the movements of terror groups, so that these were caught before sneaking into India". He claimed that "despite the effort by the ISI to create a Kashmir Intifada by motivating youngsters to pelt stones at security forces, the situation was quickly brought under control." An officer claimed that the TSD was able to use technical means to operate deep within Pakistan and find out the trajectories of terror plots against targets in India. "At a cost of just Rs 20-30 crore annually, the Army was able to finally reach the actual sources of terror operations and not just tackle the symptoms," a former officer claimed.
The 26/11 Mumbai terror attack of 2008 showed the need for the army to go beyond its focus on the Line of Control and run sources deep inside Pakistan. In March 2009, a meeting took place to discuss this need, and then COAS General Deepak Kapoor asked Military Intelligence to work on a position paper, which was approved by Defence Minister A.K. Antony soon after its submission in October. The proposed TSD was to function under the Director-General of Military Intelligence, who would audit its funds and give operational directives. However, although the proposal had been cleared, it was not implemented until General V.K. Singh took over as COAS in April 2010. Among the tasks of the new unit were to keep a watch on separatists and other pro-Pakistan elements, as well as identify and record the groups and individuals seeking to destabilise the Kashmir valley. The getting of sources from within Pakistan was a high priority. The 2010 Intifada, which was countered less by standard police procedure than by an "information war" (Infowar) pointing out the harm the movement was doing to the physical and financial well-being of residents of the valley. A senior officer then in J&K admitted that "some NGOs which promoted peace and conciliation were funded by the TSD, but such expenditure was nothing compared to ISI cash pouring into the valley".
Among the examples of Infowar carried out by the TSD were the securing of numerous videos showing the maltreatment of locals in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir by Pakistan army personnel, and the humiliation that locals had to daily endure, besides their economic hardship. "We showed the valley that life was hell on the other side, and this hurt the pro-Pakistan groups who painted a rosy picture of the other side," an officer claimed. His colleague claimed that "at least three dozen terror plots against targets in India were discovered because of the TSD, and foiled". He added that the (26 September 2013) Samba attack "showed the problem created by removing the TSD 'eye' from the armoury of the army". He added that the attack showed that "military intelligence needed to operate not only just across the LoC but deep within Pakistan to be effective". He warned that the "peace group (now running policy) had taken away from the army the right to a robust response to provocations after first draining it of Infowar capability". Another claimed that "these days, only officers who are more adept in cultivating superiors rather than in fighting get ahead" and warned that this would "affect the success of war operations, where courage and improvisation are key to victory".
The officers claimed to have no knowledge of any TSD connection with an NGO that filed a complaint against the present COAS, General Bikram Singh, over the 2001 Janglath Mandi encounter, in which a 70-year-old local resident (who seems to have been indigent) has been identified by the army as a dangerous militant, who shot and killed the commanding officer of a unit as well as injuring then Lt Gen Bikram Singh. The NGO claimed that the alleged militant was only a bystander and that he was killed in the crossfire between two units of the army, one of which mistook the other to be terrorists. A source close to the present COAS says that Gen Bikram Singh "is a very bold officer and just because a man is 70 years old, does not mean he cannot be a threat". The military has consistently taken Gen Bikram Singh's side of the story, even while Gen V.K. Singh was COAS, and has refused to conduct any fresh investigations into the encounter that left both the alleged terrorist as well as an army officer dead and the present COAS injured.
About news reports that Gen V.K. Singh snooped on officials and politicians using off-air interceptors ordered by Military Intelligence, a source pointed out that only one of the interceptors was in army use, "and that on the LoC and not Delhi". He said that the other vehicles were in the possession of the NTRO. When then Defence Secretary (and now Comptroller and Auditor General) Sashikant Sharma ordered an inquiry into all such matters in July 2012, the Board of Officers concluded that there was no evidence of any wrongdoing. Interestingly, the role of the officer who actually ordered the purchase of the off-air interceptors has never been probed. This has, however, not prevented a spate of reports from coming out about the TSD, thereby obscuring its utility as a low-budget instrument both for collection of information about hostile elements and for the conduct of Infowar in sensitive theatres.

Friday 27 September 2013

Beijing-Delhi-Islamabad: Future partners? (PO)

MD Nalapat
Friday, September 27, 2013 - As expected, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will be meeting both US President Barack Obama as well as Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. As earlier mentioned in these columns, the two meetings are linked, in that Washington made no secret of its view that a Singh-Sharif meeting would be helpful. The (presumably unspoken) codicil to that bit of advice was that a Singh-Obama meeting would be much more productive were India’s PM to also meet with his Pakistan counterpart.

The meeting with Nawaz Sharif will have political consequences for Manmohan Singh, as the opposition BJP is certain to question the need for such a get-together. Both the Congress Party as well as the BJP are known for changing their views dramatically, depending on whether they are out of office or in power. It was BJP Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee who adopted a policy towards Pakistan which was more friendly than that of any other PM except for Morarji Desai (1977-79) and I K Gujral (1997). Vajpayee took the now famous bus journey to Lahore, and was eager to arrive at a settlement of outstanding issues when Pervez Musharraf’s Kargil brainchild erupted. The Indian establishment was caught by surprise at the occupation by Pakistan formations of several posts in the Kargil area.

The Chief of the Army Staff, General Ved Prakash Malik, was in Poland on what was essentially a holiday while the commanding officer of that sector was more interested in setting up a golf course than in improving defensive capability. However, all such lapses were swept under the carpet as Vajpayee was eager to trumpet a success which was expected to – and did - give his party victory in the 1999 parliamentary elections. Had there been no Kargil conflict, the Congress Party would almost certainly have returned to power in 1999 rather than having to wait another five years. Small wonder that Vajpayee swiftly recognized General Musharraf after the coup against Nawaz Sharif which brought the Army chief into power Not talking to those having views different from one’s own is almost never a good tactic, and Manmohan Singh deserves credit for taking the politically costly step of engaging his counterpart from Pakistan in a dialogue. Breakthroughs are unlikely, because the fact is that the peace process between India and Pakistan has been made the hostage of terror groups active in both countries.

Each time there is a terror attack in Pakistan, more than a few fingers get pointed towards India, a stance that is reciprocated whenever there is a mass terror attack in India. What is needed is to give both countries a greater stake in each other’s prosperity, and this means that trade in goods and services should expand across the border. At the same time, the media in both countries ought to be made easily accessible on both sides, so that well-known Pakistan television sitcoms can be savoured by audiences in India and vice versa.

Whatever be the faults and mistakes of Pervez Musharraf (and this columnist has pointed out several of them), the reality is that it was under his watch that civil society in Pakistan began to regain the spirit and the strength that it had in the petiod before General Zia-ul-Haq sought to replace local societal mores with the values and attitudes prevailing in Saudi Arabia. The media in Pakistan, both press and broadcast, is considerably more vibrant than its counterparts in India, where several senior journalists still suffer from the hangover of the 1980s,acting as though the world and their country has not changed since then. There is a disconnect between such attitudes and the reality of change in civil society in India, and it is time that mediapersons in India stopped looking at Big Government as the natural way of existence and asked for a more equitable devolution of powers between government and people.

If General Musharraf helped transform Pakistan civil society so that for the first time, conservative elements feel challenged, it was Asif Ali Zardari who made his own contribution towards the deepening of democracy in Pakistan by serving out a full term in office and handing over responsibility to a political rival. Former President Zardari is still regarded with affection in India for being the first senior politician in Pakistan to say that peace with India should trump endless bickering over the disputes which continue to fester between Islamabad and Delhi. Unfortunately, Zardari was given zero backing by the Obama administration, which consistently sided with those opposed to him. As a consequence, he was unable to replicate the success of Turkey’s Recip Tayyep Erdogan in establishing the supremacy of the civilian administration over the military.

A purely military view of relations between two countries seldom generates a positive momentum for reconciliation, and so it has proved between India and Pakistan, where the question of borders has swatted away all other issues into the wastepaper basket. A similar situation exists between India and China as well, where the border issue dominates dialogue between two countries with huge commonalities. This columnist has long held the view that those who say that the India-Pakistan and India-China border issues should be settled before any partnership takes place between the two sides is to place the cart before the horse. The border issue will only get settled once overall trust and mutual cooperation in varied fields expands to levels far higher than they are at present.

In the same way as Asif Zardari,Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was sincere in his desire for conciliation between both sides. Certainly there are powerful groups on both sides that gain from conflict. However, the overall national interest of India, China and Pakistan mandate the establishment of collaborative structures between them. Repeated terror attacks have taken away the probability that Delhi and Islamabad will come to a political settlement during the remaining months of Manmohan Singh’s second term in office. However, whoever be Singh’s successor, she or he will need to show to the Pakistan side that the people of both countries gain not from war but from peace.

Not from conflict but from conciliation. Soon after his return from New York, the Prime Minister of India flies to Beijing.There too, he will be looking at creating a legacy of peace, such as was envisaged by Rajiv Gandhi and Deng Xiaoping in 1988. In such an effort, there will be those who seek total alignment between India and NATO who will seek to sabotage any putative Sino-Indian thaw. Sadly, experience has shown that the saboteurs of peace in all three countries almost always carry the day over their more constructive counterparts, and so it is likely to remain between Delhi, Islamabad and Beijing.

Wednesday 25 September 2013

The case for India-Alignment (Gateway House)

M.D. Nalapat

Non-alignment is regarded as a seminal achievement of Jawaharlal Nehru, whose letters and essays on the international situation are seen as the insights of a genius by Indian and other historians. To the less “committed” beholder, they seem little different from undergraduate reflections of 1930s vintage in the better universities of the UK. Thus far, there has not been a rigorous accounting of the costs and benefits of non-alignment to the nation as a whole, as well as to some of its constituent parts. An opportunity for securing a united country through the goodwill of Whitehall was lost when in 1939 the Congress Party adopted a stand regarded by its leaders as ambivalent (or non-aligned) between the Axis and the Allies, but which was seen in London as helping the Axis powers by seeking to – inter alia – deter individuals from joining the army.
The resignation of Congress-led ministries in the provinces and the absence of Congress leaders from any of the structures responsible for governance of the country between 1939 and 1945, combined with the 1942 Quit India call (at the very moment when it seemed that Japan was about to sweep across the subcontinent the way it had southeast Asia) and gave traction to the India-phobic lobby within Whitehall.
The consequence was a steady accretion of support to Mohammad Ali Jinnah and the Muslim League, and to UK acceptance of the Two Nation theory. Despite the absence of any visible benefits as a consequence of Congress adopting a policy of non-alignment during the 1939-45 world war, schoolchildren as well as university students in India have been taught that the movement was an immense success. Indeed, if an individual were to go by the history books prescribed across the education system in India, he or she may be forgiven for regarding Mahatma Gandhi and his hand-picked Prime Minster Jawaharlal Nehru as men of outstanding brilliance who were incapable of making mistakes.
The reality was that the Mahatma’s chosen successor adopted in its entirety, the British colonial system of law and administration, which reserves all power to the state and none to civil society. The country slid into the Nehru Rate of Growth of 2% at a time when even neighbouring Pakistan was developing at more than twice that speed. India had zero backing from the “non-aligned” world after the People’s Liberation Army entered its territory in October 1962. In the tradition of non-alignment, they refused to condemn China or to give any assistance to India. What assistance there was came from the U.S. during the weeks of actual conflict. It was far too late to be of any value, and was tagged along with impossible conditions, such as accepting the Pakistan army’s view on what constituted a fair settlement of the Kashmir issue.
The policy of non-alignment was extant during 1945-64 but was followed again starting 1968 by a tilt towards the USSR. This continued – with intervals of weak enforcement being followed by a stronger alignment – till the USSR itself imploded in 1992. Since then, at first weakly (during 1992-96) and afterwards strongly (1998 onwards), India has sought to replace the 1968-92 tilt towards Moscow with a similar arrangement with Washington.
This has yet to actually happen – not because of the lack of eagerness from Delhi but because of the U.S. establishment’s continuing failure to come up with a paradigm of partnership, one that is not wholly skewed in its own favour but which accommodates a few Indian interests as well. The 1963
Harriman-Sandys mission, the early contacts between Indira Gandhi and Lyndon Johnson, the Clinton-Narasimha Rao and Clinton-Vajpayee years were marked by lost opportunities on both sides. The U.S. Assistant Secretary of State W. Averell Harriman and Duncan Sandys, the British Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations, concentrated on Kashmir without thinking of the possibility of making India a military ally of the western powers. A similar focus on Kashmir (and on the destruction of India’s nuclear and missile capability) blinded Bill Clinton to the benefits of making India the primary partner of the U.S. in South Asia, replacing a radicalizing Pakistan.
George W Bush, although more focused on the overall relationship than his predecessors, allowed traditional military thinking that was based on the 1980s Afghanistan war to override considerations that had evolved since then – especially the utility of India as a military ally as part of an Asian version of NATO. The Bush-Cheney team was unable to comprehend that the war in Afghanistan was going badly because of Pakistan and not in spite of it, and reduced India to a sideshow in its obsession with getting the generals in Islamabad on their side.
With Barack Obama in office now, even the weak shoots of a putative new policy towards India have dried up.  The new U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry clearly disinterested in a country his diplomats see as too fractious to trust and too chaotic to ever be a source of major trouble.
During the 1960s and after, it was essential for an Asian country bent on economic progress to have the goodwill of the United States. From 2005 on, that attention is increasingly going to China. Be it Japan, South Korea or Australia, the three military allies of the U.S. in the eastern Asian theatre, all have economies that are dependent on the Chinese market for their prosperity. Even in the case of India, China has emerged as a much larger potential source of inward investment than stricken economies such as the U.S. or the EU. China also offers technology and production capacities in fields such as telecom, energy and infrastructure. India needs low-cost telecom, energy and infrastructure. Its inadequate domestic production capabilities means that the only location from where it can affordably source such services and equipment is China, which is also in a better position to meet India Inc’s growing need for international capital than western institutions.
Thus far, mutual mistrust has prevented the immense potential synergy in Sino-Indian relations from being exploited. Within India, the security agencies still serve as roadblocks to closer collaboration between domestic and Chinese entities, thereby directly benefitting countries such as the U.S., France and Japan whose manufactures and services compete with Chinese entities in telecom, energy and infrastructure.
The Ministry of Home Affairs in Delhi has had great success in ensuring that competition from China is diminished. This it does by (often clandestinely) blacklisting Chinese companies and ensuring that they are not given orders from Indian entities, despite the commercial advantages that they offer. To these bureaucracies, no matter the tepid response of Barack Obama to Delhi’s overtures, India and the U.S. need to be as firmly aligned as Moscow and Delhi were in the Cold War era. The wish being seen as the fact, these agencies ensure that Chinese companies get (often invisibly) disadvantaged from expanding their operations in India.
During the historical period when the Congress Party ought to have been close to the British – the period of the 1939-45 war, after which it was clear that a weakened Britain would no longer have the resilience to hold on to India – it was hostile to London even as its rival, the Muslim League, cosied up to Whitehall and the Viceregal Palace in order to achieve the partition of the country into Pakistan and India. During the period when it was essential to faster economic growth to be Washington-friendly (mid-1960s to mid-1980s) India was in effect in the Soviet camp.
And now in the second decade of the 21st century, when it is obvious that better ties with China are needed to give an impetus towards the double digit growth that the people of India need to escape from the poverty of centuries, the Manmohan Singh government, in an inversion of Nehruvian geopolitics, ignores west and east Asia as sources of capital and technology in favour of continuing the three-decade old habit of looking to the West for capital and for crutches for growth.
Why is India always in the right place at the wrong time or the wrong place at the right time? In large because dogma trumps honest calculations of self-interest in the framing of policy. An example is Iran, where the sanctions imposed on the country by the U.S. and the EU have opened the oil sector to exploitation by Indian companies. Sourcing more crude oil from Iran would not only reduce the overall cost of India’s crude oil import bill, but equally importantly, reduce the over-reliance on U.S. dollars that has been among the factors leading to the recent fall in the value of the rupee. It would make sense for India to initiate bilateral swap deals with major countries, with a beginning being made within the BRICS bloc. Certainly China and Brazil will be receptive to a changeover from U.S. dollars to local currency, as would – probably – South Africa and Russia.
Barring India and South Africa, the remaining three BRICS have geopolitical approaches at variance with that of the U.S. – as witnessed most recently in President Dilma Rousseff of Brazil cancelling a meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama during the UN General Assembly session in New York, over the issue of the U.S. government spying on her office.
Some worry that higher volumes of purchases of oil from Iran will trigger U.S. and EU sanctions. Given the present precarious state of the recovery in the West, it is unlikely that any major trading nation will be severely sanctioned. Certainly not China, and almost certainly not India or Brazil. Should the U.S. or the EU actually move to sanction India, this country could go to its BRICS and other partners and ask for collective counter-measures against the West for inflicting its own geopolitical preferences and prejudices on the rest of the world.
Sadly, in present-day India, even practices that are punished in the U.S. or the UK are not merely tolerated but encouraged. Take for example the operation of international financial entities such as J P Morgan and Goldman Sachs which indulge in speculation and worse and thereby book huge profits at the expense of the overall economy. Such U.S. and UK financial entities that do this in their home countries are fined billions of U.S. dollars by the Obama and Cameron administrations respectively, but get away with a free pass in India despite committing equivalent wrongdoing on an industrial scale.
The refusal of both the RBI as well as the Ministry of Finance to act against these foreign entities even while its agencies harass Indian entities has resulted in sharp rises in the prices of a range Of commodities, including staples like onions. It is common knowledge that British Petroleum is paying out nearly $200 billion because of an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico; But Union Carbide escaped with a $400 million penalty for being responsible for the death of several thousand people in Bhopal in 1984.
The only fixed point where policy in India has not been aligned is that spot which defines Indian national interest. Non-alignment in practice has meant a refusal to examine policies and outcomes solely from the viewpoint of the national interest, reflected in greater economic growth and a stable internal and external environment which propels such an effort. The national interest calls for selective alignment on some issues with Washington and on others with Beijing.
It calls for the operationalising of a flexible range of options to take advantage of geopolitical opportunities and trends. It calls for substituting Non-alignment with India Alignment.
M. D. Nalapat is vice-chair of Manipal Advanced Research Group and UNESCO peace chair, and professor of geopolitics at Manipal University, India.
This article was written exclusively for Gateway House: Indian Council on Global Relations. You can find more exclusive features here
For interview requests with the author, or for permission to republish, please contact Rajeshwari Krishnamurthy at or 022 22023371.

Sunday 22 September 2013

Dr Singh, follow Dilma Rousseff, not Obama (Sunday Guardian)

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh talks with Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff during their bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the BRICS summit in Sanya, on the southern Chinese island of Hainan on 14 April 2011. REUTERS
razilian President Dilma Rouseff's refusal to meet the United States President is in contrast to Manmohan Singh, whose staff were scurrying between the US and India to ensure that the Prime Minister was given the (for him) extraordinary privilege of settling down with Obama for a brief chat. During the six years that Obama has been in charge, he has shown next to no interest in crafting a relationship with India other than on the standard 90:10 model (where the US side gets 90% of what it seeks and India has to be satisfied with 10%). Bush-era initiatives such as cooperation in space and in other hi-tech applications have been slowed down to stall speed, while pressure on India to cap and ultimately eliminate its missile and nuclear weapons program is relentless, while hidden from public view.
The manner in which Manmohan Singh has created constitutional history in India by outsourcing its powers has created a vacuum in governance. Rather than a system Soviet Chinese style — where the party chief has the upper hand in administrative decision-making rather than the head of government, it would be better were Rahul Gandhi to assume the responsibility of being Prime Minister of India. This, although, the Real Rahul remains largely hidden from view, except for choreographed appearances. We know he wants Niyamagiri in Orissa to remain pristine and that NGOs from across the globe, especially those based in the US and Europe, have greater access to his team than Congress politicians or lowlife such as Indian journalists.
We know that he likes to stay in the homes of the very poor, when the media is around and in more exotic locations when the press is kept away, and that suburban trains are touted by his team as a favoured means of transport. But what his social, agricultural, scientific, industrial, cultural, horticultural, medicinal, educational, security or sports policies are, we are yet to find out. This columnist has since 2006 held the view that Rahul Gandhi is the obvious standard-bearer of the Congress Party for the 2014 polls and Narendra Modi for the BJP, but while it is possible to sometimes to meet the Gujarat CM, the Heir to the Congress Leadership has proved to be more elusive, even on the infrequent occasions when he is in the country. Such an artificially-created scarcity of contacts between Rahul Gandhi and the media have, has in fact harmed his own cause, because the few who meet him say that he is a warm and personable individual party.
Manmohan chose an RBI Governor, who does what Wall Street wants rather than what Dalal Street needs, and who believes that inflation can be tamed by higher interest rates.
Had our PM been a wee bit more 21st century in his outlook, he would have chosen a Reserve Bank of India Governor, who understands not Chicago University classrooms and textbooks but the needs of the economy of a country that Professor Raghuram Rajan knows hardly at all. Instead, Manmohan chose an RBI Governor, who does what Wall Street wants rather than what Dalal Street needs, and who believes that inflation can be tamed by higher interest rates. Raghuram Rajan has shown that he is as dedicated to wrecking Indian industry through higher interest rates as his predecessor Duvvuri Subbarao was. Which is why Manmohan Singh is unlikely to follow the example of Brazil's Dilma Rouseff in matters relating to the US. Even as our PM — after a fair amount of lobbying — got his brief meeting with Obama, the President of Brazil has refused to go to Washington after learning that her own conversations were being intercepted by the US National Security Agency (as indeed Manmohan's must be).
Hopefully, Dr Singh's successor will follow Brazil's example of seeking to create Internet systems that are outside the control of the US and which can avoid monitoring by the NSA. This columnist was the first to warn (after the Snowden revelations) that much of the snooping was to give US (and a few EU) companies an unfair and clandestine advantage over their Asian counterparts. Blocking such an unfair trade practice ought to have been a priority with Manmohan Singh. However, we may need to wait for a new PM to get sworn in to ensure such an outcome.