Saturday 26 April 2014

Needed: An NSA who advises, not controls (Sunday Guardian)

mong the most consequential of appointments awaiting the attention of the next Prime Minister of India will be the selection of his National Security Adviser (NSA). From the time that Atal Behari Vajpayee chose his confidant Brajesh Mishra for the job, the NSA has played a keystone role in governance, operating under the shadow of the immense authority of the Prime Minister, of course assuming the PM to be independent of "remote controls". Mishra was also principal secretary to the PM, and the joining together of two whole-time responsibilities ensured the neglect of one, which was the NSA's responsibility. While there has been much praise lavished on the Vajpayee era, chiefly because almost any other Prime Minister would appear stellar when compared to the hapless Manmohan Singh, the reality is that several grave failures of both foresight as well as judgement took place during his watch. The most commented upon has been the Kathmandu hijack of an Indian Airlines Airbus by an ISI-backed group, and the subsequent failure to ensure that the aircraft could not take off from Amritsar. Either because of his other responsibilities, or because of poor staff backup, Mishra delayed the taking of decisions which ought not merely to have been taken with despatch, but which ought to have been left to lower levels to sort out. That there was no protocol for dealing with an incident as predictable as the hijacking of an aircraft indicated the lack of sustained and professional attention paid to such contingencies.
The laughable nature — if the consequences were not so tragic — of Brajesh Mishra's response to the Kathmandu hijack parallel similar fumbling, notably at Kargil, where a trusting approach towards the Pakistan establishment led to the abandoning of army posts in that crucial sector. Worse, reconnaissance flights along that stretch of the Line of Control (LoC) were apparently discontinued, again in the belief that Nawaz Sharif was sincere in his protestations of peaceful intent. The only Pakistan President in recent memory to have been sincere in his desire to avoid doing harm to India through (usually harebrained) schemes of the military was Asif Ali Zardari, and he was neutered by then US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in favour of the Punjabi establishment in the Pakistan army and their favourite, Chief Justice Iftikhar Choudhury.
The fact that the Indian Army , was able to evict the Pakistan army regulars from the peaks has concealed the fact that the Kargil incursion took place at all was a disastrous failure of the Higher Command.
The fact that the Indian Army (as well as an Air Force severely hobbled by the constraints placed on their operation by Mishra) was able to evict the Pakistan army regulars from the peaks has concealed the fact that the Kargil incursion took place at all was a disastrous failure of the Higher Command.
Add to the litany of misjudgements the hugely expensive and ultimately useless Operation Parakram, the repeated unilateral ceasefires in Kashmir, and the avoidance of ensuring that intelligence professionals were given the status and responsibilities which they had been denied by "birds of passage" from other services into R&AW or other intelligence agencies, and it would be apparent that while Brajesh Mishra got a good grade as Principal Secretary ("Prinsec"), he failed in his role as National Security Adviser.
After him, there have been J.N. Dixit and Shivshankar Menon of the Indian Foreign Service, both outstanding officers, but subject to the occupational trait of placing diplomatic efforts above other activities less overt or even wholesome, but vital in the protection of the national interest. As for M.K. Narayanan, he has always been a policeperson, and displayed this attitude as NSA by giving emphasis to the IPS-laden Intelligence Bureau rather than to R&AW.
There is logic in the US system of bringing in those outside the formal processes of government in key posts such as that of the NSA, but in India's cadre officer-centred mechanism of governance, such an innovation seems remote.
The fact is that the NSA needs to advice, not control. He or she has to stop himself (or be stopped by the PM) from involvement in operations. Rather, the brief should be to monitor and yes, to advice, leaving it to those directly tasked with operational responsibilities to handle matters within their own spheres. In the words of Nikolai Lenin, the NSA has to accept the maxim of "better less (powers) but better" (in his work).
The "Jack of all trades" tradition in the governance system in India needs to get replaced by ensuring that professional brains (who understand the complexities of their craft and what needs to be done to face challenges) get directly involved in ministries such as Home or Defence. Or indeed, in the National Security Council Secretariat.

Ram Madhav dissects Nehru’s China folly (Sunday Guardian)

MADHAV NALAPAT  New Delhi | 26th Apr 2014
The then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru interacts with soldiers in November 1962.
ndia has been afflicted with historians who are little more than publicists for leaders present and past. Reading the many tomes brought out by them on the main lights of the pre-1947 struggles, one could be excused for thinking that these were super-humans, incapable of human error. The many mistakes they made, errors which led to Partition and to the destruction of the potential of the Indian economy, as well as directly to the abysmal level of societal progress recorded in this country to this day, have largely been glossed over or excused as someone else's fault. Whether it be Sunil Khilnani, Amartya Sen or Shashi Tharoor, each has sought to outdo the other in showering encomiums, principally on Jawaharlal Nehru, who is claimed to be the "discoverer of India", or at the least, the "idea of India" by these authors.
Ram Madhav is very different from, say, Ram Guha, in that he has neither been the beneficiary of the care and attention lavished by trusts, institutions, academies and governmental bodies pre-fixed or suffixed with the Nehru name, or tasked with the responsibility of ensuring that Jawaharlal Nehru continue to remain embedded in public consciousness as the demigod who brought freedom and democracy to a grateful people. It is a tribute to the success of such propaganda — for there can be no more descriptive word than that to describe the outpourings of what may be termed the "Nehru industry" — that even today, hundreds of thousands of voters in Amethi and Rae Bareli overlook the fact that they remain as poor as they ever were, despite decades of being represented in Parliament by that branch of the Nehru clan that has appropriated the power and the perquisites of such a relationship, courtesy Prime Ministers from Narasimha Rao to Atal Behari Vajpayee to Manmohan Singh.
In his Uneasy Neighbours (Har-Anand Publications), Ram Madhav describes in detail the leaps of faith by Jawaharlal Nehru, fantasies which ignored the reality of the hard-nosed Realpolitik practised by Chairman Mao Zedong and Premier Zhou Enlai. He points out startling facts that durbari historians have sought to bury, such as that Nehru insisted on the UN seating the Peoples Republic of China not only as a Member but even as a Permanent Member of the UN Security Council even during the weeks when the PLA was overrunning the pathetic defences cobbled together by Nehru favourite Lt Gen T.N. (Tikkoo) Kaul. Ram Madhav correctly assigns blame also to Vengalil Kumaran Krishna Menon, then the Defence Minister, although the fact is that Menon never dared to challenge a single one of Nehru's edicts, being wholly dependent for his political success on Nehru, whose Fabian socialism so infused the then Defence Minister's own policies that he (correctly) focused on indigenous production of weapons systems, but ensured that these remain the monopoly of the state sector, a ridiculous monopoly which persists to this day. Evidence, if such was needed, that India has been governed since 1947 by either the Nehrus or by a succession of quasi-Nehruvians, with only Narendra Modi emerging as a challenger to such a system of governance.
Former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee sits in a golf cart as he visits the Forbidden City in Beijing on 24 June 2003. REUTERS
Ram Madhav gives in detail the facts relating to the 1962 disaster, including the neglect of troops and the huge political concessions given by Nehru to Beijing in the matter of Tibet. However, being an admirer of Atal Behari Vajpayee, Madhav neglects to mention that on his 2003 visit to Beijing, it was Vajpayee who threw away any shred of any remaining card available to India in the matter of Tibet, by giving a formation that adopted the Chinese viewpoint in its totality. This was a Sharm el-Sheik moment in Vajpayee's era that has not been given the attention it deserves, presumably because not only historians such as Ram Madhav but also Nehruvians treat Vajpayee with almost the reverence they show towards the Nehru family.
Ram Madhav has done well in highlighting the importance to the trajectory of Sino-Indian ties of Nehru's 1959 decision to welcome the Dalai Lama as an honoured guest, as also any inhabitant who wished to leave Tibet. He has emphasised the contradiction between Nehru's chasing of the holy grail of peaceful co-existence with China and his embrace of the Dalai Lama, contradictions in Nehruvian policies that led Beijing to regard him as a leader bent on disrupting Communist China, even while claiming to be its best friend. Madhav has given a concise summary of the war, although he ought to have focused more on the refusal to use air power by Nehru and Menon, and the consequences of such an error of judgement. He has detailed the valour of the Indian jawan, who has stood by his or her country to the last, although hobbled by a clueless bureaucracy and sometimes by weak leadership in the higher echelons of the services. His sections on such valour are touching and effective. Overall, Ram Madhav follows what this reviewer describes as the "Sardar Patel-Subhash Bose" line in contrast to the "Gandhi-Nehru" line, in his descriptions and in his conclusions.
Clearly, China is a country with which India must deal, but this needs to be with clear vision and with a balanced appreciation of risks and possibilites. Ram Madhav has made a welcome and valuable contribution to the all-important issue of a China policy that will ensure that — for the first time since 1947 — it is New Delhi and not Beijing that secures the better deal.
Uneasy Neighbours: India and China after 50 years of the War, Har-Anand Publications

Thursday 24 April 2014

‘Cyprus solution’ inevitable for Ukraine (Pakistan Observer)

M D Nalapat
Thursday, April 24, 2014 - Forty years after the island of Cyprus was divided between a Greek and a Turkish mini-state, with the latter controlling the northern one-third of the republic, another country, Ukraine, is on the way towards a Cyprus-style division. While in the first case, it was the Turkish army that “liberated” the Turkish-majority third of the island from rule by the (Greek-controlled) government in Nicosia, in the case of Ukraine, it is the Russian armed forces that are likely to move in to “protect the Russian-speaking population from fascists”.

A division of the country has become inevitable following the overreach of the European Union and the rest of NATO, who regarded as impossible the possibility that Moscow would respond with force to the alliance’s stratagem to wrest the entire country from the influence of the Russian Federation. When President Vladimir Putin acted the way Washington and its EU partners have on multiple occasions, by using force to secure its interests, there was a collective wail from NATO member-states. Such tactics are reserved for “civilised” people, defined in the “international” media and in “international opinion” as citizens of NATO member-states or countries such as Norway, Australia and New Zealand.

Geopolitical influence rests on three legs, the economy, the military and culture. Of the three, the most important is the economy, for the reason that only a strong economy can sustain a growing military, while a culture is respected much more if the country of its origin is economically strong. The fact that India is still a country of more than six hundred million poor and starving people is the reason why the immense mosaic of culture that characterises it has yet to get diffused across the globe, with the exception of Bollywood, which has managed to penetrate a few countries because of the vibrancy of its offerings. Both the US dollar as well as the Euro are in reality sick currencies, masquerading as healthy because of the dominant position of the NATO alliance in international information-dissemination systems.

However, it is becoming more difficult to conceal the fact that many EU member-states are in effect bankrupt, while the US is avoiding that fate only because its currency is in use as an international reserve. Add to that the fact that NATO member-states have become adept at confiscating assets located within their territories by citizens of target countries, and the continuance of the NATO bloc as the destination of choice for investors in the GCC, Russia, South Asia and East Asia becomes problematic. Only the tardy pace of countries such as the BRICS group in setting up alternative banking and financial structures, or in making each other’s currency freely convertible within the bloc, is ensuring that the lead position of the NATO bloc in the matter of financial flows c.ontinues Should the US and the UK go ahead with an expansion of financial sanctions against the Russian Federation, investors in that country would accelerate the transfer of their holdings from London and New York to safer locations, including in South America, Africa and in selected countries in Asia. Also, such a move would free Russia to retaliate, including by getting deeply involved in West Asia on the side of those forces that are regarded with hostility by NATO.

Should Moscow send some of the sophisticated weapons systems that it has developed to countries such as Iran, that would reduce the potency of the military threat against that country, for it is no secret that the primary objective of any NATO operation is the protection of its own personnel, often at the expense of battlefield logic. Unless an army is ready to suffer losses in manpower, sometimes on a significant scale, that army will find itself hobbled in wartime by tactics intended not for offence but purely for self-preservation. Russian weapons technology, including its missile systems, can be an effective means of retaliation against sanctions imposed by those responsible for the crisis in Ukraine by their punishment of President Viktor Yanukovich for the “crime” of choosing the Russian Federation as the top ally of Ukraine, rather than the EU.

It was from the time that that decision was taken that Yanukovich became a marked man, with the usual clutter of NGOs rising against him. It was not until it was too late that NATO realised that it had made a fundamental error in seeking to gain complete sway over Ukraine, a country vital to the security of Russia’s south western flank. The fact is that Ukraine was always a divided country, its two major groups separated by language and inclination from each other. The ouster of Yanukovich removed any expectation of equal treatment from the minds of the Russian-speaking sections of the country. These now see the Kiev government (with its comic book “prime minister”) as a collection of coup artists, suffused with right-wing hysteria and hate against not only Russia but any of their own citizens who regarded Russian as his or her mother tongue. US Vice-President Joe Biden may wag his finger at Vladimir Putin, but the fact is that Ukraine is now effectively a divided country. Its two groups despise and fear each other, and this situation is only going to get worse in the period ahead. Rather than come with band-aid, it would be far better for all players in the ongoing Ukrainian tragedy to accept the reality of participation, and put in place a mechanism that would facilitate a smooth rather than a troubled process of separation of the two parts of Ukraien, those who are Russian speakers and the rest. Otherwise, ugly incidents will only multiply, and a situation may arise that may tempt some in NATO to send in troops for the protection of the coup leaders who toppled Yanukovich.

Should NATO fall into the trap of sending troops into Ukraine to try and stitch the country together again, it is likely that Moscow would see such intervention as the chance to get even with NATO for its many slights. Just as the US did in Afghanistan in the 1980s,funnel arms and money into the arms of the ISI-selected groups battling against the Red Army (of the USSR), this time around it would be Moscow that sends in assistance to the groups that will spring up to harass NATO as it moves into the country to protect those it has brought to power in Kiev through the use of mobs. Hopefully, wiser counsel will prevail and the extreme step of armed intervention by NATO be avoided. Ukraine is a broken country, and seeking to keep it together will only result in conditions that heighten the risk of a full-scale economic and security crisis in Europe. It is time for a Cyprus-style solution that would ensure the containment of the Ukraine crisis to within its boundaries rather than to the whole of Europe.

Sunday 20 April 2014

MD Nalapat interviews Gen VK Singh

Obama quietly reverses Hillary’s ‘get Modi’ policy (Sunday Guardian)

MADHAV NALAPAT  New Delhi | 19th Apr 2014

Hillary Clinton
S President Barack Obama has quietly reversed a policy initiated by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, to "get Narendra Modi" — ostensibly for the 2002 Gujarat riots, but in actuality "for taking stands that may be different from that favoured by the US administration" — in the words of a senior analyst in New York.
"Hillary Clinton likes to operate through NGOs, which are given funding through indirect channels, and which target individuals and countries seen as less than respectful to her views on foreign and domestic policy in the target countries," a retired US official now based in Atlanta said. He claimed that "rather than US NGOs, (the former) Secretary of State Clinton favoured operating through organisations based in the Netherlands, Denmark and the Scandinavian countries, especially Norway" as these were outside the radar of big power politics. These NGOs were active in the agitation against the Russian nuclear power plant at Kudankulam in Tamil Nadu, with "funding coming mainly from a religious organisation based in Europe that has close links with France".
Incidentally, French companies are in direct competition with Russian rivals in seeking to expand the market for nuclear reactors in India. The senior official, now on a visit to India, claimed that "your (i.e. the Manmohan Singh) government has full details of the religious organisation involved in funding the Kudankulam protests, but is keeping this secret as the organisation has high-level backers" in the UPA.
These present and retired officials claimed that "during the tenure in office of Secretary Clinton, several expert teams in the guise of NGOs were sent to Gujarat to try and find mass graves". The purpose was to then take the matter to the Office of the UN Commissioner of Human Rights in Geneva as an example of genocide. "In 2011, some bones were discovered in a Gujarat field by one of the search teams and there was much excitement, but these were later found to be buffalo bones", an official said. The official added that "no evidence whatsoever of mass graves was uncovered in Gujarat despite six years of clandestine searching for them" by undercover experts posing as representatives of NGOs. He added that "five politicians, three from the state and two in Delhi, assisted the search teams, but the information given by them proved unproductive".
Finally, "now that Secretary Clinton had stepped down from office, by end-2012 orders were given to stop wasting time on the search for mass graves in Gujarat, much to the dismay of those NGOs who were getting significant funding as a consequence of the search operations". Interestingly, the senior official claimed that because of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's inability to water down the Nuclear Liability Act and Defence Minister A.K. Antony's decision to prefer the French Rafale fighter to its US rival, "orders were given to activate the Khalistan file so as to create embarrassment for Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh".
Another official, now retired, claimed that "since 2011, several search teams have been active in Punjab, seeking human remains in suspected mass graves". According to them, "key politicians in Punjab have assisted these search teams and on occasion even provided logistical facilities for them".
These officials claim that the recent decision by the US Aviation Authority to ban extra flights into the US by Indian carriers was "directly linked to US displeasure over the strong Indian response to the Devyani Khobragade episode, especially as they had been privately assured by senior officials that the fallout of an arrest would be routine and perfunctory".
Another example of misuse of public interest bodies cited was the recent decision by the UK Automobile Safety Authority to classify five India-produced small car models as unsafe, "or exactly the same models that are offering competition to European and US vehicles in the European market". They said that such steps were "protectionism in the guise of safety" and that "the Manmohan Singh government's passivity in responding to such unilateral measures encouraged more of them to get slapped on India".
Coming back to the BJP's PM candidate Narendra Modi, these sources say that the Obama administration has dialled back on the hectic efforts by Hillary Clinton to paint the Gujarat CM as guilty of mass murder and even genocide. "This is clear from the latest report of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, which has sharply scaled back its criticism of the Modi government as compared to earlier reports". According to a senior official, "President Obama does not share Hillary Clinton's confrontational approach and her preference for Sonia Gandhi, and is looking to establish a pragmatic partnership with India should Modi become the Prime Minister". Hence the search "for a US envoy who would be different from (former ambassador) Nancy Powell's Clinton-style hostile approach to Modi, and to find an individual who could be expected to bond with the new PM and his team". According to these sources, President Obama "is alarmed at the steep downslide in India-US ties caused by Hillary-style crusades, and wants the relationship to be even better than what it was under the Bush presidency".
Recent remarks by Narendra Modi indicate that the BJP's standard bearer is ready to reciprocate the hand of amity proffered by Team Obama to the BJP's PM nominee.

Saturday 19 April 2014

Raghuram Rajan’s tandava spells death for economy (Sunday Guardian)

Raghuram Rajan with RBI deputy governors arrive for a meeting in Mumbai on 1 April. PTI
MD Nalapat.
Sometime in his past, perhaps as a child, Reserve Bank of India Governor, Raghuram Rajan, must have witnessed a "tandava nritya, the dance of death". For that is what the economics professor from Chicago (the city whose economists sent South America into chaos in the 1970s) is indulging in, as he follows his predecessor Duvvuri Subbarao in pushing up bank interest rates to levels that ensure that significant tranches of domestic industry get killed off. If the UPA is facing the rout that opinion polls are forecasting, the reason lies in the fact that millions upon millions of young people and their friends and family are suffering the effects of years of joblessness.
Those who claim that communal polarisation is the reason for Narendra Modi's popularity, are wrong. Much, if not most, of those casting their ballots for the Gujarat strongman are doing so in order to welcome a future in which they find employment. Certainly young (first-time) voters have been seen in every election. But this time around, they are in unprecedentedly large numbers, fully a hundred million in total, and nervous at the prospect of five more years of jobless growth. Just as it was the economy which propelled William Jefferson Clinton to office as President of the United States, it will be the cry for "jobs, jobs, jobs" that power the shift of Modi from the Chief Minister's Office in Gandhinagar to the Prime Minister's Office in Delhi.
In his efforts of creating more jobs, Modi will run up against a major roadblock, and this is the Reserve Bank of India, whose last three Governors have seen their task narrowly as "inflation targeting" i.e. the use of monetary policy as a supposed means of bringing down prices. That those whose incomes are rising would not be overly concerned about a bit of price rise, while those who lack income because they lack work would find even a relatively lower level of inflation to be more than they can bear. In other words, the focus of sensible — indeed, sane — economic policy has to the boosting of growth and employment. To Raghuram Rajan and his predecessors Yaga Reddy and Subbarao, the only task of the Reserve Bank is using monetary policy to try and damp down prices. Not by boosting production through lower interest rates but by choking consumption through restrictive monetary policy and the boosting of interest rates.
Indeed, Rajan has shown that any excuse is good enough for him to continue on a course that is suicidal. Some months ago, he talked of a bumper harvest increasing rural incomes and therefore consumer demand, which in his view would trigger off a burst of higher inflation. Hence, the need for high interest rates. More recently, he dug into his knowledge of geography (which seems as rudimentary as his command over the economy of a country other than the US) and said that El Nino could cause crop loss and hence push up farm prices. And so, interest rates needed to be kept high! Whether boom or bust, crop failure or bumper harvest, the hero of the Chicago School has a single-point remedy: high interest rates and restrictive monetary policy. Some NGO needs to file a complaint against him in the UN Human Rights Council for causing so many millions of the very poor to remain deprived of any other than the excuse for work going by the name of MNREGA, that is, when that council frees itself of NATO tutelage.
When Subbarao was RBI Governor, and followed Yaga Reddy's policy of seeking to emulate Jawaharlal Nehru in destroying domestic industry in India, then Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee sought to knock some sense into the Central banker. However, because of backing from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who has been as dismissive of the travails of domestic industry as he is solicitous of foreign commercial interests, Subbarao refused Pranab Babu's request. Raghuram Rajan too has the backing of the individual who chose him for his current job, Manmohan Singh, which is why he is on his present destructive course. For any rational mind, growth and employment are as important as inflation targeting, which is why it is inexplicable why three successive RBI Governors have focused only on inflation, that too by adopting measures that have near-zero effect on curbing prices.
Clearly, Raghuram Rajan does not care that the Indian economy is gasping in pain because of policies urged on him by a clutch of former graduate students at his university.
His sights seem set on being the first Third World head of the IMF, where he can be expected to be even more faithful to the agenda of NATO member-states than his predecessors. Those hoping that Narendra Modi will fail in his task of rejuvenating the economy are pinning a lot of hope on Raguram Rajan.

Friday 18 April 2014

The Nehru family fight (Pakistan Observer)

M D Nalapat
Friday, April 18, 2014 - Every family is subject to its feuds and tensions, and the Nehru family is no exception. Because the husband of Jawaharlal Nehru’s only child, Indira Priyadarshini, was re-named “Feroze Gandhi” by Mahatma Gandhi himself, the Nehru family has usually (and inaccurately) been referred to as the “Gandhi family” when in fact there is no blood tie between any of them and any member of Mahatma Gandhi’s family. Indeed, the latter have been conspicuous in the way in which they have declined to take advantage of their world-famous ancestor.

Whether it be Gopal Gandhi, the soft-spoken diplomat who was also Governor of West Bengal, or any of the other descendants of the Mahatma, each has shown a modesty and a dignity that has remained immune to the lure of either power or money. In contrast, Sonia Gandhi has adopted a leading role in the country’s politics, and uses such perquisites of high office as corporate jets while staying in a huge mansion that would cost about $150 million if placed on the open market. Of course, she gets it virtually rent-free from the Government of India, which also takes care of much of the travel and other costs incurred by her and her family members. Interestingly, both son Rahul as well as daughter Priyanka have their own state-provided mansions in Delhi, even while there mother stays in a dwelling that is by any standard palatial, and which has more than enough room to accommodate the two children There has always been tension between Sonia Gandhi, the wife of elder son of Indira Gandhi Rajiv Gandhi, and Maneka Gandhi, the Sikh bride of younger son Sanjay. During the period from the Congress defeat at the 1977 polls to Indira Gandhi’s victory in the 1980 polls, it was Sanjay and Maneka who gave courage to Indira Gandhi, and who carelessly worked towards a political comeback. During this entire period, Rajiv And Sonia were abroad for extended lengths of time, or spending time away from Indira Gandhi and Sanjay.

Indeed, it was no secret that Rajiv and Sonia regarded Sanjay Gandhi as responsible for the downfall of Indira Gandhi, or that Sonia Gandhi had the same feelings towards the younger and attractive Maneka as have been immortalised in “Bahu versus Bahu” soap operas throughout the subcontinent, whether in India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka or Bangla Desh. After the death of Sanjay Gandhi in 1980,which occurred soon after Indira Gandhi returned to power and Sanjay emerged as the second-most powerful person in the country, reports have it that Sonia worked ceaselessly to poison the mind of Indira Gandhi against the young widow, Maneka Gandhi, such that the latter was forced to leave the Prime Ministers House along with her infant son. Since then, Maneka has followed a political career entirely independent of the Nehru family, unlike family of Rajiv Gandhi, which has enjoyed the privileges of state patronage ever since.

How did Sanjay Gandhi die? It was in an air crash, when the small aircraft flown by him crashed. But Sanjay was an excellent pilot, and there is talk that the aileron wires were filed in such a way that a few hard tugs on the joystick would have resulted in their fraying and breaking away, thereby sending the aircraft into a fatal dive, which is exactly what happened. There have been whispers that the incident was arranged by local agents of the intelligence agency of a huge country that Sanjay was open in his dislike of. This was the USSR, now defunct. Moscow saw Delhi as its most important strategic partner in Asia, and was apprehensive that Sanjay Gandhi would persuade his mother to move away from the USSR to get closer to Washington, the way Anwar Sadat had in Egypt.

Certainly Sanjay Gandhi was an individual of firm views, and he was never afraid to express them. Such transparency may have been his undoing. Certainly, with the death of Sanjay Gandhi, all expectations of a geopolitical shift from Moscow to Washington disappeared. Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi were very respectful of the USSR and it needs to be mentioned that this loyalty by a Congress Party dominated by them continued to the very last hours of the USSR. Of course, much of the cause was the approach of Washington towards Delhi, with successive US administrations looking not for the crafting of a fair bargain but a surrender by India to the dictates of the US. Sonia Gandhi has several admirers in the Indian media, among which is Vir Sanghvi, who lost his temper at this columnist on a television show some days ago. This was because Vir (who is ordinarily very pleasant and well-mannered) mentioned that Sanjay Gandhi’s widow Maneka “was not a Gandhi”. Such a view is in sync with that of much of the media, which forgets that Indira Gandhi had two sons, and that both families have the same right to legacy of the family.Indeed, out of fear or respect for Sonia, a conscious effort has been made to airbrush Maneka and her son Varun (who is also an MP in the BJP) from any discussion of the Nehru family.

However, because of the fall in popularity of the Congress Party and a rise in popularity of the BJP, there seems to be rising panic within the ruling party’s ranks. In order to ensure that Maneka and Varun are not seen as what they are, full members of the Nehru family, a diatribe has been launched against them, including by Sonia and her two children. This is unfortunate. Family is family, and civilities need to be maintained untainted by politics.No more can the fiction be maintained that Indira Gandhi had in effect only a single son,Rajiv, and that other son, Sanjay (and his wife and son) are seen as unpersons. The more Sonia and her children rail against Maneka and her son,the faster will be the loss of their public support and popularity. The people of India respect family ties,and those that uphold them.

Sunday 13 April 2014

India’s Nehruvian secularism is a one-way street (Sunday Guardian)



Mukhtar Ansari
t would appear to be obvious that secularism denotes the neutrality of the state as between the practitioners of different faiths. A secular country is where people belonging to different faiths get treated the same, as do their institutions of worship and other aspects of their existence. Contrast this with the form of "secularism" introduced into India by Jawaharlal Nehru after the demise of both Mahatma Gandhi as well as Vallabhbhai Patel. According to this definition, one which will not be found in any dictionary, "secularism" has been defined as a one-way street, where vastly different standards get adopted while dealing with different communities. This has come into relief once again, after Mukhtar Ansari announced his retirement from the electoral fray in Varanasi, in order ( so his admirers claim), "to strengthen secular forces", a claim that has been uncritically accepted and recycled by the media. Now, Ansari has never been bashful of the fact that he confines his appeal and his exhortations to a single community, his own. Nowhere is there even the hint of the multi-religious mosaic that is the mark of genuine secularism. However, because Ansari is not from the "majority community", his narrow appeal is greeted with acceptance and even acclaim by those dedicated to upholding what may be termed Nehruvian secularism.
If Jawaharlal Nehru followed a religion in practice, he kept that a secret not communicated to the general public. Such an individual ought to have ensured that the state whose government he headed for 17 years adopted a genuine policy of secularism, by acting in a neutral manner between people of different faiths and ensuring that the institutions of each were given the same treatment meted out to any of the others. However, this was not the case. So spooked does Nehru appear to have been about the catastrophe of Partition that he apparently decided that the way to prevent a second 1947-style vivisection of India, on the basis of religion, was to separate what got termed the "minorities" (or, in other words, non-Hindus) from the "majority" i.e. Hindus. Nehru further saw to it that the "minority" were given rights denied to the "majority", in the form of exceptions to issues such as "personal law".
Very recently, the Right to Education (RTE) bill passed by Parliament with the support of the BJP exempted those schools run by the "minority community" from its social inclusion provisions. Assuming that the legislation would help in the process of giving the socially and economically disadvantaged greater opportunity for pursuing a first-class education, why make it impossible for members of the "minority communities" to contribute towards this noble objective? Is it the assumption of the Congress Party, the BJP and the many other parties that voted in favour of the RTE that educators from the minority communities would be unwilling to shoulder their share of the burdens involved in giving a fairer chance to the poor in the field of school education? Why cast doubt on the desire of the minorities for the promotion of socially desirable causes, by refusing to allow them to participate in RTE?
Or take the example of places of worship. Atal Behari Vajpayee's adherence to Nehruvian ideology has been recognised by the Congress Party in its recent praise of his record as PM, encomiums that were somehow neglected to be paid during the six years that he was in that office. Perhaps because his ally, the TDP's Chandrababu Naidu, was unwilling to surrender control of Tirupati and other devasthanams, Vajpayee refused to free Hindu temples from state control, so as to give them equality of status with churches, gurudwaras and masjids. However, such discrimination is in perfect accordance with Nehruvian secularism, which has made India the only democracy where the majority community is subject to restrictions and to edicts in the manner that the minority communities suffer from in some other nations, such as Pakistan. If Mukhtar Ansari can be — and is by the media and his political allies — termed as a "secular" person, it needs to be reiterated that such a usage of the term results in its getting drained of all logic and meaning.
In Kerala, the Congress Party is in alliance with two parties that have, with refreshing candour, made no secret of the fact that their interest encompasses only a single community, Christians in the case of the Kerala Congress and Muslims in the case of the Muslim League, which is an offshoot of the same party once headed by M.A. Jinnah. It is because the people of India are getting a wee bit more sceptical of their politicians, and a bit more respectful towards dictionaries, that a reaction is setting in to the anti-secular logic of Nehruvian secularism. Nehru was, and not for the first time in his long career in public life, wrong. It is his policy of creating an artificial wall between the "majority" and the "minority", and the introduction of differential rights and duties for the two that creates the impetus for a second partition. What is needed in India is secularism where each faith is subject to the same rules as the rest. To claim otherwise is to be untrue to the idea of India as a united country.