Friday 29 November 2013

Needed: A China-Japan hotline (Pakistan Observer)

M D Nalapat. Friday, November 29, 2013 - A single spark can light a prarie fire”, was the lesson taught by Mao Zedong, the creator of the Peoples Republic of China. History provides numerous examples of the way in which a single incident creates a chain of consequences that may ultimately lead to disaster. An example is the 1914-19 WW-I, which began after Archduke Francis Ferdinand of Austria was killed by Gavrilo Princip in Sarajevo in 1914. 

The cost of war has become intolerably high, such that the most effective way to destroy the economies of Europe or the US would be to lure them into a conflict involving ground forces. At an average cost of $600,000 per soldier deployed on the field, NATO is financially unable to bear the costs of battle even against ragtag groups such as the Taliban. Only against much weaker - and conventional - forces such as those of Saddamite Iraq or Kaddafy-ruled Libya can the alliance prevail, and that only as long as the conflict remains conventional.

Once irregulars enter the field, NATO is doomed to face attrition. Unlike in the case of Europe in the previous century or Africa now, relatively few modern wars have taken place in Asia between two countries from the world’s largest continent. Rather, outside powers have sought to impose their will on Asian countries,as for exmple France and subsequently the US in Vietnam or the US and the UK in Iraq. After 1945,two countries which had a long history of tension and conflict have ever once taken up arms against each other, despite being heavily-armed neighbours. Japan and China have in fact become significant economic partners of each other. After Taipei, Tokyo is the largest external investor in China, with Japanese companies providing jobs to more than twenty million Chinese across the gamut of the roduction, distribution and service lines of these enterprises.

China has also by far been the biggest recipient of cash aid from Japan,a s well as being given several technologies. Both economies have formed a symbiotic relationship with each other, and any breakdown of commercial ties would lead to immense economic pain for both. This is especially important for China, for if growth falls below the 6% level, there would almost certainly be widespread unrest in that country. The people of China are seeing the lavish manner in which the elite live their lives, and they want a share of such dazzling prosperity. In the past, the people of China were content to toil away at a primitive standard of living but since the 1990s their concept of minimum acceptable needs has changed, and they expect the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to deliver such a standard of life in exchange for popular support. If Chairman (of the CCP) Mao was the creator of the PRC, it was Deng Xiaoping who was the architect of the immense prosperity that the country has witnessed during the previous three decades.

Deng de-emphasized the military and made it explicit that the use of force or even the threat of force was off the table, save in extraordinary circumstances. The last war fought by China against any other country was in 1979,with Vietnam, and this when Deng had yet to establish his supremacy over the Communist Party. Since then, there has not been a single war fought by China. A frontier (that numerous NATO-funded or influenced think tanks across the globe characterise as “extremely tense” - the Sino-Indian border) has in fact seen exactly zero bullets fired across either side during the past five decades. Contrast such an absence of conflict with NATO, especially after that military alliance’s post- 9/11 avatar of saving the (rest of) the world.

The first response of major NATO powers, especially France in theatres in Asia and Africa, where it boasted significant colonial possessions during the previous century ,is first the threat of force, followed by the use of force. Had it not been made clear by President Vladimir Putin that Moscow would not confine itself to words during the planned NATO campaign against Syria in early 2013 as took place in Libya two years before, but that Russia would provide armed assistance to Bashar Assad, by now Damascus would have followed Tripoli and Benghazi by being under the effective control of groups that are ideological cousins of Al Qaeda.

Deng’s insistence on peaceful means to resolve conflicts created immense goodwill for China. Although Jiang Zemin used a flurry of missiles in the mid-1990s to make the point that Beijing had more projectiles than Taipei, all that such a show of force did was to ensure that Chen Sui-bian of the Democratic Progressive Party, a trenchant critic of China, won the presidential election in Taiwan. It was Jiang whose tactics ensured Chen’s victory. Hu Jintao, who succeeded the Shanghai tycoon as CCP supremo, changed course and used soft power and business carrots to woo the Taiwanese, a softening of stance which helped the pro-China Kuomintang (KMT) to win the last two presidential elections.

While Hu Jintao was in office until a year ago, the situation between China and its neighbours was tranquil overall. However, during his final months in power, tensions began to rise on the South China seas issue, and these have reached a dangerous flashpoint, with Beijing’s implied threat of force against any military aircraft that does not identify itself to Chinese authorities before entering the vast airspace over the South China seas. The US has responded by sending two B-52 bombers sans any notice, and Japan may follow suit. Should a Japanese airctaftbe brought down by an over-zealous Chinese pilot, the consequences may be grave, with the possibility that the incident may ignite a broader war, which would involve many of China’s neighbours What is needed is for tensions to be rolled back.

There is too much at stake for Asia to allow its two most advanced countries to exchange bullets or missiles against each other. What is needed are two hotlines, one connecting the Prime Minister of China with his Japanese counterpart, and the other the military leadership of both countries. The time for such instant emergency communication is now, before a tragedy occurs because of an error of judgement in either Beijing or Tokyo.

Sunday 24 November 2013

BJP scores a self goal in snoop scandal (Sunday Guardian)

Gujarat Chief Minister and BJP PM candidate Narendra Modi is garlanded at an election rally in Agra on Thursday. PTI
espite the presence in its highest echelons of Arun Jaitley, who is far and away the best spinmeister within Delhi's power elite, the BJP appears to be at sea where policy towards the media is concerned.
This is especially so in the case of its Prime Ministerial candidate, Narendra Damodardas Modi. Although he is getting significant traction within the country and in the media, this is not because of any media management. It is only Modi's immense popularity, based partly on his perceived strengths as an administrator as also because of the fact that he (and therefore his party) represent the only genuine anti-Congress alternative in an atmosphere where the ruling party is becoming as toxic as it was during 1977 and 1989. While the Left and the regional parties have, almost all of them barring a few such as the Biju Janata Dal, been allies of the Congress Party at some stage or the other, it is inconceivable that a Modi-led BJP will ever join hands with the Congress Party in the formation of a government at the Centre. This combination of positive and negative factors has worked to create a powerful tailwind for Narendra Modi as he chases the Lok Sabha seat tally of 200 and above, which will make it inevitable that he become the country's next PM. That is, if his own party does not sink his chances. It is not Modi's political rivals who may turn out to be his nemesis. Indeed, the more the likes of Digvijay Singh abuse the current CM of Gujarat, the faster his popularity graph rises.
What is termed in the media as Snoopgate — the tailing some years ago by police from Gujarat of a lady architect — illustrates the danger posed by his friends to his prospects. The two websites that broke the story did not name either the woman or Narendra Modi. In fact, the core of the alleged recordings were not sleaze of the sexual kind but an apparent abuse of state power, the use of the machinery of a state government to track the movements of a private citizen for reasons obscure. Almost as soon as the initial media reports came out about the Singhal revelations, the BJP produced and disseminated a statement by the father of the woman, claiming that the entire exercise was carried out on the basis of an oral request that he had made to his "good friend", Chief Minister Modi. With that, both the identity of the lady architect as well as the name of the BJP's Prime Ministerial candidate took centre stage. From that point onwards, the flame of public interest and media curiosity could only grow, and they did. Had the BJP not felt an uncontrollable impulse to jump in where wiser minds may have hesitated, the Tejpal revelations would by now have pushed Snoopgate completely off the map. Incidentally, the two websites now being excoriated as Congress stooges by a series of irate BJP spokespersons were clear that they would not — or could not — authenticate the veracity of the tapes. This gap in credibility was soon made up by the BJP, which by its interventions and justifications vouched for the benighted of the tapes. The only explanation given was that Operation Architect was carried out entirely because of the desperation of an anxious father out to safeguard his daughter from an unspecified but presumably terrible fate. While such patriarchy may sit well with the numerous khaps and their variants still dotting this country, those whose minds are in the 21st century find it not only strange but odious that a mature woman has to have her male parent do the talking on her behalf. Mr Soni would find Saudi Arabia a very congenial country to reside in, as there too only male members of a family are entitled to speak on behalf of the female.
Again, while the two websites gave the woman who was reportedly under surveillance the alias "Madhuri", it was the BJP who revealed her identity and tore away the anonymity that she has a right to as a private citizen. Ultimately, it is not Papa or Party who can place a lid on the episode, but the lady herself. Should she come forward and say of her own volition that she was not in the slightest under threat from Amit Shah or those he allegedly deployed to keep her under observation, those whipping themselves into a frenzy over what was done to her will need to find other arrows in their quiver against Narendra Modi.
After all, it is not as a saint but as a man who can transform the economy of India that the BJP' s Man on Horseback is gaining ground over his Congress rival.

Saturday 23 November 2013

Rogue clusters in Finance Ministry make merry (Sunday Guardian)

MADHAV NALAPAT  New Delhi | 23rd Nov 2013
he culture of gross over-empowerment of officials at the expense of the public, which was re-introduced in 2004 by Union Finance Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram into the Ministry of Finance (MoF) after a gap of 19 years, has resulted in the "formation of cliques of venal senior, middle and junior officers, each working at the behest of a specific corporate house", say senior retired and serving officials unhappy at the growth of graft. Three of the corporates that "own" such officials are headquartered in West India, two in North India and the other in the South. The officials belonging to each of these cliques is given monetary and other inducements on a periodic basis in order to ensure their loyalty and reliability. "For senior officials, the monthly cash packet (often in foreign exchange banked in offshore havens arranged by the corporates in question) may cross Rs 1 crore, while for lower levels such payments range from Rs 25 lakh to Rs 5 lakh to Rs 50,000 each month", an official recently retired claimed, adding that "the level of corruption as measured by the bribes paid has gone up three times since 2010", the year when Anna Hazare accelerated his anti-corruption movement in the shadow of the Commonwealth Games scam.
These cliques coordinate their activities for purposes of serving their corporate masters with the Department of Revenue Intelligence (DRI), the Enforcement Directorate (ED), the Central Bureau of Investigation, as well as entities such as the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and the Securities & Exchange Board of India (SEBI), according to a serving official who wishes to take premature retirement. "There is a seamless web of corruption linking the MoF with these agencies, the twin purposes of which are to help and protect their benefactor, while damaging the interests of their rivals," he claimed.
According to another serving officer, since 2007 "much of the material on the basis of which action gets initiated is forged". Emails are sent from cybercafes in the name of officials of a target company, who obligingly disclose "facts" relating to tax evasion and foreign exchange violations. In fact, as any verification of the source of such emails would show, most are the result of hacking into computers and sending forged messages.
What would be the purpose of such missives?
"They are immediately sent by, for example, the Department of Financial Affairs in the Finance Ministry to the Indian Banks Association (IBA), so as to blacken the reputation of a lender", said a senior official, who added that the IBA "accepts such messages without being aware that they are forgeries. In some cases, undated and unsigned sheets of paper bear the name of a senior official of a target company, who recites a litany of charges of his firm." A retired officer added that "whenever the IBA or another body gets copies of such letters from the MoF, a guarantee of authenticity should be insisted upon so that the widespread sending of forged and false communications gets curtailed". Some corporates have special teams "expert in cyber hacking and in forgery, which get used to make up false evidence against their business rivals". Such misinformation is made the basis for unwarranted enquiries and general harassment of business rivals of any of the six corporate houses "owning" the MoF officers involved in the racket.
"A check on the emails and complaints against companies and individuals circulated each week will show that most of them are false. Many do not even have names attached to them. However, despite orders to the contrary, these still get used to harass rivals of any of the six corporate houses controlling such cliques of officers," a retired official added.
Each of the six corporate houses "keeps a stable of NGOs as well as journalists" to file complaints and cases and to give publicity, a senior official claimed, adding that in some cases, Members of Parliament are asked to write against business rivals of another group. Often, a piquant situation arises where an MP who does not know the English language, nevertheless drafts page after page of complaints and charges, "which then reach specific officers, whose task it is to forward them to banks and to policing agencies so that maximum damage to reputation gets caused", according to a serving officer who has been tracking such activity. "The good news is that these six houses hate each other, so that much of the mischief each does is directed against one or more of the remaining five", an officer claimed. "Neither the PM nor the Finance Minister seems bothered about the corruption and the harassment of target companies and individuals indulged in by these corrupt cliques," he claimed. Instead, his colleague added, "The instinct of the Prime Minister seems to be to believe even bent officials rather than a member of the public."
What is needed, in their view, is far greater scrutiny of the activities, paper flow and lifestyles of officials working in sensitive agencies coming within the MoF, so that they do not become mercenaries in the corporate wars raging in the present day.

Friday 22 November 2013

Asian Common Market needed (Pakistan Observer)

By M D Nalapat.
Friday, November 22, 2013 - If we correct for exchange rate distortions, Asia accounts for close to half the world’s GDP and more than half its population. However,as yet the much smaller continent of Europe carries more heft in the global order than the giant continent that is its neighbour. In the UN Security Council, while Europe has two seats and its presumed trans-Altantic cousin the US has another, Asia has a solitary place among the permanent members, that of China. Although more than three-fourths of financial savings originate in Asia while Europe and the US have negative savings, both the World Bank as well as the IMF continue to be dominated by the US-EU alliance.

As for the WTO, that agency has followed the US-EU agenda of forcing open markets to manufactures and services from the NATO bloc, while denying Asia similar benefits in the export of brainpower. A handful of pharmaceutical companies headquartered in the US and Europe have till now ensured that much of the rest of the world get deprived of cheaper medicine. The only way President Obama can universalize healthcare in the US and avoid his country going into open bankruptcy is by relying on pharma and other hospital products from India. Instead, he is leading the effort to block generic drugs from entering even markets where millions of the desperately poor require affordable treatment.

Thanks to such a shortsighted approach, Obamacare is on track to become a windfall not for critically ill patients but for Big Pharma The chokehold of NATO-based financial entities on the global financial system has survived the loss of $4 trillion by investors outside the bloc who trusted these entities to their cost during the 2008 meltdown. After a brief hiatus, speculation and profit-gouging have once again become the norm, assisted by fellow travellers trained in institutions that instill obedience to the interests of NATO member states in its pupils. India’s central bank, for example, is run by an individual who has spent more time in the US than in India, and who frames policy with an eye towards Wall Street rather than Dalal Street. In central banks and finance ministries across Asia, there are those in positions of high authority who function in a manner that will hurt their own economies to be benefit of those in the NATO bloc.

Reserve Bank Governor Raghuram Rajan of Chicago School of Economics fame is busy following his two immediate predecessors by handicapping domestic industry through higher and higher interest rates that even a beginner in economics knows is futile although disastrous to the domestic economy. Michael Spence, won a Nobel Prize in economics and thereby followed the pattern of such prizes going to those who uphold the dominance of NATO and its partners over the rest. Naturally, he is a booster of Rajan. For Spence and his ilk, the more pain suffered by domestic industry in India, the better for industry in the countries that he favours, who will thereby not have to face the same competition from Indian companies that they do from Korean, Japanese and Chinese enterprises

Scholars in Asia look at the world through lenses provided for them by Europe,which is why Asians see themselves as impossibly divided. There are almost no organisations that have a continental scope, barring the Asia Cooperation Dialogue which was last held in Kuwait. The GCC separates itself from the SCO, which in turn has nothing to do with ASEAN, which in turn keeps its distance from SAARC, which itself is far from APEC. These separate organisations need to form a coordinating mechanism that would bring them together on the same platform.

Such a coordinating agency could begin the process of an Asian Common Market. After all, economics is what is most important to most Asians, and there is zero doubt that such a common market would benefit the entire continent. Asia would grow faster as a result of such integration, and as a consequence, the rest of the world too would grow faster.

These were the conclusions reached by a conference on “Asia Uninterrupted” organised in the Manipal University campus by the Indian Council for Global Relations, otherwise known as Gateway House because its office is close to that iconic Mumbai landmark. At the conference, participants from across Asia ( including Ayesha Siddiqua of Pakistan) deliberated on ways to bring about better coordination between Asian countries. An important suggestion was a gas and oil pipeline from Russia through China that would branch off into Pakistan and India, thereby benefitting all four countries and bringing them together.

While there are certainly differences between various countries in Asia, the commonalities are much greater. Unfortunately, media and academic attention follows the pattern set by NATO-based thinktanks of acentuating the negatives and ignoring the positives. Such a bias must be removed, and scholars and officials across Asia accept that (1) the continent is as much a single if not unified entity as Africa, South America, North America and Europe and (2) working together makes more sense than working apart. Interestingly, many Asian scholars come across each other in Europe or the US rather than in their own continent. This must change. Asia needs to discover itself, and the first step towards that is to understand each other better, through changes in curricula and by travel. Most important, a sense of pride and hope needs to replace the litany of misfortune and outside conquest which permeates the teaching of history in schools. The bell is tolling. Unless an Asian Common Market begin to get formed, the world economy will continue to remain anaemic.

Sunday 17 November 2013

To build a legacy expose the corrupt, Obama (Sunday Guardian)

Barack Obama talks to workers as he tours the ArcelorMittal steel mill in Cleveland on Thursday. AP/PTI
ith perhaps a wince, government officials and their political minders refer to themselves as "public servants". As with many other titles, such a characterisation is misleading even in the case of those (fortunately not yet rare) officials who genuinely believe in public service. A servant, by definition, follows the will and whims of his master. Even the biggest boosters of officialdom would not claim that administration in India is carried out in accordance with what the common citizen wishes. Rather, almost always, including the case of officials who do believe in public welfare, what gets done is what the bureaucracy as well as the political bosses believe should be done to meet the needs of the public. In an increasing number of instances, even this diluted charter gets thrown away, and ministers and officials are motivated by self-interest. Across global campuses, especially in hard currency zones, many of the students from India are the sons and daughters of politicians and high-ranking officials. Looking at the election returns of the former and the income-tax statements of the latter, it is difficult to understand how they are able to afford university and school fees for their children studying abroad, which amount to several multiples of their recorded income every month. Should elected politicians and bureaucrats be made to list their dependents studying abroad, including the sources of funding for their fees and other expenses, the results would be of immense interest to the public. However, the prospect of such transparency is zero. The politico-bureaucratic New Caste look after their own, only occasionally throwing a Kalmadi or a Raja (temporarily) to the wolves to convince the public that they are serious about enforcing integrity.
This is where Barack Obama comes in. The President of the United States presides over a system that scoops up financial data about high-ranking officials across the globe. While less powerful countries like India cannot (or pretend not to) get information about the unaccounted deposits held by their nationals and close relatives in Swiss banks, when it comes to a command from Washington, the Swiss banking industry is as porous as Swiss cheese. In the guise of the "War on Terror", the Treasury Department, the Department of Homeland Security, the CIA, DIA, Bureau of Intelligence & Research and the FBI have amassed information about the multiple offshore accounts of high-ranking officials in key countries, including India and China. On the campaign trail, Obama exuded the aura of an idealist, often moving the masses to tears with his speeches. Let it be admitted that on more than one occasion, this columnist found himself close to tears because he believed that Obama was a politician determined to change the self-centred, money-grubbing vaudeville, which passes for politics in most democracies. However, by subsequently surrendering his presidency to Clinton-era holdovers, much of this sympathy was forfeited. No one will call the Clintons idealistic, despite their obvious skill in promoting themselves under the cover of public interest. In his first term, Barack Obama played to the tune of Wall Street and forsook Main Street, although some recent decisions, such as nominating Janet Yellin to the Federal Reserve Board, indicate that he is worried about smudging a legacy that had the promise of becoming as much of a legend in the annals of History as those of Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Delano Roosevelt. What the National Security Agency of the US has done is unconscionable. It is somewhat scary to know that the many commercial and personal secrets of individuals that get revealed online will be in the data banks of some US agency, awaiting disclosure. However, there is a way in which Barack Obama can get absolution for the misdeeds of the NSA, and that is by making public the facts related to offshore accounts of high-ranking officials in key countries. These need not be revealed through a White House press briefing but with more subtlety, perhaps by getting leaked to media outlets, the way the financial secrets of former Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao were brought out in the New York Times.
Rather than applauding transparency, the Obama administration has sought to silence whistle-blowers through severe punishment, such as the inhuman sentence meted out to the soldier who released data to WikiLeaks. What Bradley Manning did was not a crime but public service. What Edward Snowden did merits not a jail term but the Nobel Peace Prize, although the former seems more likely. If Obama truly seeks to build a legacy defined by integrity and global public interest, a good way of doing so would be to ensure the offshore accounts of powerful politicians in key countries get exposed. The public in these countries have a right to know the details of the financial fraud indulged in by their rulers, details that are at present kept hidden in the electronic vaults of the National Security Agency in Washington.

Friday 15 November 2013

Manmohan loses leverage in Lanka (Pakistan Observer)

MD Nalapat
Friday, November 15, 2013 - A statesperson is distinguished from a politician by the manner in which the overall national interest is protected rather than sectional demands that when conceded have the impact of harming the overall interest. By staying away from the Colombo meeting of the Commonwealth Heads of Government, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has severely harmed the interests of the country whose interests he is presumed to protect.

Sri Lanka is crucial to the evolving Indian Ocean strategy of India, which envisages a coming together on trade and security issues of the littoral countries. Unless Colombo becomes an enthusiastic partner in such a strategy, it will not be difficult for those powers seeking to limit India’s influence in the Indian Ocean Rim from using the unique location of Sri Lanka as the ideal platform for diluting Delhi’s reach. For both India and Sri Lanka, it makes sense for a coordinated strategy to be evolved and implemented. However, for this to happen, domestic public opinion in both countries needs to be on board. In the case of India, with the exception of a few strands of opinion in the state of Tamil Nadu, there is overwhelming goodwill for Sri Lanka. The people of that country are seen as ethnic cousins who are themselves outgoing and friendly. Buddhism is the preferred religion within the majority Sinhala community in Sri Lanka and India is the country where Prince Siddhartha, the founder of Buddhism, was born. There is therefore a special resonance in visits to India, especially to locations that evoke memories of the period when Emperor Ashoka ensured pride of place to Lord Buddha’s teachings within the vast expanses of territory that he controlled.

In India, there has been a sychophantic race by politicians within the Congress Party to name as many items as possible in honour of the Nehru family. Although much attention, including by the higher judiciary in India, has been paid to the statues of Bahujan Samaj Party founder Kanshi Ram and his acolyte Mayawati, the fact is that the number of such statues is minuscle when compared to the thousands of statues of Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi that dot the country. Flying from Indira Gandhi airport in Delhi to Mumbai and crossing the Rajiv Gandhi Sea Link to the city before taking a flight to Rajiv Gandhi airport in Hyderabad to visit a Jawaharlal Nehru scheme, visitors may be forgiven for believing that the Nehrus are to India what the Al Sauds are to Saudi Arabia, ever-present and all-powerful. Had some element of geopolitical calculation been present in the naming of airports, the Indira Gandhi airport at Delhi would have been renamed the Emperor Ashoka International Airport, so as to kindle the memory of a great prince. The association of Emperor Ashoka with Buddhism would also have served as a whiff of “soft power” reaching out to the Buddhist-majority countries of the world, such as Japan, Thailand and of course Sri Lanka, besides enthusing Buddhists from countries across the globe, including in China, where Buddhism is the fastest-growing religion with hundreds of shrines and temples coming up each year to cater to the spiritual needs of millions.

Now that the LTTE has been defeated, the revulsion which that organisation evoked after the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi twelve years ago has died down. People have forgotten that for the LTTE, the capture of northern and eastern Sri Lanka to set up a Tamil Eelam ( or homeland) was only Stage One of LTTE Supremo Velupillai Prabhakaran’s dream. The devout Christian and loving husband and father who was nevertheless merciless with his foes ( ie anyone who did not unconditionally follow him). Stage Two would have been to use captured Sri Lankan territory to create an insurgency in India which over time would create Greater Eelam, comprising not only the north and east of Sri Lanka but the whole of Tamil Nadu state in India, as well as parts of neighbouring Andhra Pradesh and Kerala.

An LTTE state would have been a security nightmare for India, which is why it was a surprise when in 2009 frantic efforts took place in Delhi to enforce a cease-fire between the Sri Lankan Army and the LTTE which would have saved the latter exactly the way Rajiv Gandhi saved Prabhakaran in 1987 by enforcing a cease-fire just when the Sri Lankan Army was about to destroy the LTTE. Those in Delhi and in Chennai who take the side of LTTE remnants in Sri Lanka forget that the reward Rajiv Gandhi got for his deliverance of Prabhakaran was to get killed less than five years later by those he had saved in 1987. Manmohan Singh sent a high-level team to Colombo in June 2009 to try and persuade President Mahinda Rajapaksa to stop the army offensive, but failed in the effort. Just as Prabhakaran killed Rajiv Gandhi and another South Asian leader who helped him, President Ranasinghe Premadasa of Sri Lanka, he may have turned his guns on Manmohan Singh once he escaped the noose fashioned for him by Gotebaya Rajapaksa,the Defense Secretary of Sri Lanka and the architect of the successful war against Prabhakaran.

By choosing political expediency over national interest and canceling his attendance at the Colombo Commonwealth meeting, Prime Minister Singh has ensured that the biggest losers will be the Sri Lankan Tamils, who incidentally favoured the Indian Prime Minister’s visit to their country. The main reason why President Rajapaksa made concessions to the Tamil groups, such as the holding of fair elections, was to secure the goodwill of India. Now that he has been made aware that such goodwill is a chimera, at least so long as the present government is in office in Delhi, it is unlikely that he will further inflame hardline Sinhala opinion by giving more concessions. The Tamil Nadu parties which succeeded in keeping the PM from going to Colombo will soon begin to reap the bitter effects of the reduced influence of India. A drop caused by decision of Manmohan Singh to bypass the Commonwealth Summit in a country that is only a few minutes flying time from his own.

Sunday 10 November 2013

Catch the traitors behind the ISRO frame-up (Sunday Guardian)



mong the least transparent of ministries is the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), which uses the catchall excuse of "national security" to justify the secrecy which pervades its working. Given the immense scope of its powers, it would be surprising if foreign intelligence agencies were not to attempt to win over the loyalties of those working within the gargantuan labyrinths of the MHA. That so few have been discovered this far is testimony not to the absence of such treasonous elements but to the shoddy manner in which counter-espionage activities get carried out in India. This is a country that has become a safe haven for hostile intelligence agencies working to penetrate in order to sabotage.
Sadly for the people of this country, the record of the NDA has been as much of a disaster as that of the UPA. It was during the period when "Executive Prime Minister" Brajesh Mishra ran the country that Rabinder Singh, a CIA mole, was in effect facilitated to escape to safety in the US. Singh must now be luxuriating in Miami on the earnings of his decade-long career as a spy with RAW while he covertly worked for the CIA. Although his treachery was discovered in 2003, nothing was done to apprehend him, nor to prevent his leaving the country for Nepal. Needless to add that once safely in Nepal, Singh used the new passport handed over to him in Kathmandu to take a flight to London and subsequently to Washington, for a final debrief at the Langley headquarters of the CIA. Neither was Brajesh Mishra questioned about his lapse by the successive government led by Manmohan Singh (indeed, he was given a Padma award for his negligence) nor was any action taken against those officers of RAW and other agencies who allowed Rabinder Singh to saunter across the border of India to freedom. Indeed, several of them were subsequently given high positions by the UPA.
Even countries complicit in US espionage, such as Germany, have protested at their Head of Government not being given the same immunity from NSA electronic interception as those from the white English-speaking countries. So, it was amusing to watch the Government of India's subdued — even approving — references to the fact that this country is among the top five targets for such surveillance. Was it mere servility that made External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid hold his tongue about the scandal? Or was it the fear of secrets in the possession of the CIA involving some top policymakers spilling out that stopped him? It will take a fresh bout of Wikileaks exposes to find out the truth.
The reality remains that India has thus far done little to protect itself from foreign agencies, especially when they act through treasonous elements within India's own intelligence agencies. This must change, and the way to do that is to ensure accountability for those found guilty of sabotaging the national interest at the behest of a foreign power. The 1994 ISRO spy scandal is an obvious example of such penetration, where a foreign intelligence agency has clearly managed to use police officers in both the Intelligence Bureau as well as the Kerala Police to foist false cases against ISRO scientists working on the cryogenic engine program. The arrest of the scientists set the program back by more than a decade, thereby making this one of the most successful intelligence operations in the history of the subcontinent.
It is now clear that the entire case against the arrested scientists was false. The damage to national interest was palpable. Yet, neither during the period of the NDA nor now under the UPA, has the slightest effort been made to interrogate those police officers (some now retired) involved in the frame-up. Who were the mysterious individuals who gave them the false tips and who motivated them to file such cases? Who were those who ran a media campaign against scientists that was based on false data and which, to the media's shame, it declined to cross-verify? Only a comprehensive probe — by those not themselves in the pay of foreign agencies or their associates in India — can uncover the truth behind a scandal which derailed a program vital to the defence of the country as well as to its civilian capability.
Whether it be the ISRO spy scandal and its internal linkages or the mysterious deaths of so many linked to the Indian nuclear programme, especially that part of it relating to the nuclear submarine, Manmohan Singh maintains similar silence as Atal Behari Vajpayee did about Rabinder Gate. The best way for both the BJP as well as the Congress party to atone for past sins would be to bring to book those guilty of delaying the cryogenic engine program that was set back by more than a decade due to the motivated and malicious arrests of the scientists working on it.