Prime Minister Narendra D. Modi fast tracked the Look East policy of P.V. Narasimha Rao by going forward with an Act East policy. During the 1990s, the economic size of India was not sufficient to achieve more than looking at the east of India with an intensity that had been absent during the period in office of his predecessors. Among the multiple “buses” that India missed boarding was membership of ASEAN, the offer of which was turned down by then Prime Minister, Indira Priyadarshini Gandhi, presumably on the advice of those around her who visibly favoured the Soviet line in matters of economic and foreign policy. This was a contrast to the eagerness shown to be a part of the Organisation for Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in 1969. Saudi Arabia and several other Muslim-majority countries wanted India to be a part of the grouping in 1969 when it convened at Rabat, but General Yahya Khan, the then dictator of Pakistan prevailed over New Delhi’s diplomacy and ensured that the invite given to India to join was withdrawn. It was only in 2019 that External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj was invited by the hosts of that year’s conference, the UAE, to be the Guest of Honour. The Prime Minister of Pakistan sought to replicate what Yahya Khan had earlier done, and threw what in colloquial terms is known as a “hissy fit”, demanding that the invite to Sushma Swaraj be withdrawn. Given that by then the Pakistan government had become an international beseecher of assistance from the prosperous GCC countries, this time around the OIC refused to bow to Rawalpindi’s dictates. EAM Swaraj attended as Guest of Honour and gave a memorable speech. The prestige of the OIC was boosted by the manner in which the organization stood up to GHQ Rawalpindi and its Hinduphobia. To the amateur sociologists in khaki at the ISI, any Muslim living in a country that does not have a Muslim majority has to be seen differently from those in countries with a Muslim majority. That Muslims usually do much better in countries where the majority of the population does not belong to that faith. The OIC would do well to recognize this, and to go forward in the direction taken by the UAE and more recently by Saudi Arabia, two countries where the rulers are completely devoted to the tenets revealed by the Prophet Mohammad more than 1,500 years ago. They understand the necessity of co-existence and mutual respect of faiths, the absence of which leaves a country in ruins after a while. The OIC has a responsibility towards the billion-plus Muslims of the globe, and this is to ensure that the extremism of Wahhabism and its cousin Khomeinism be rolled back, and the Ummah get returned to the path of harmony of all human beings given that each is the creation of the same Eternal Force. In such a context, it was a disappointment that Official India refused to openly back the Afghan people rather than remain silent at the Trump and Biden-assisted capture of Afghanistan by the Taliban. As Suhasini Haider has pointed out in a newspaper column, the Lutyens Zone refused to understand the inevitable outcome of the surrender to the Taliban at Doha by President Donald Trump in 2020. Rather than reverse such a disastrous course, the man who cast himself as the obverse of Trump meekly went along with the handing over of power to the Taliban. In this, Joe Biden has followed the example set by Bill Clinton in 1996, who was the US President who ensured that the Taliban took over power in Afghanistan in 1996.
Sunday 26 December 2021
Where is the science in shutting down entire economies?
Sunday 19 December 2021
India’s kinetic test on the country’s boundary may take place by 2023, before the 2024 Lok Sabha polls. Although not much is being shared in public, indications are that PM Modi, EAM Jaishankar and Raksha Mantri Rajnath Singh are working energetically to ensure a favourable outcome in any such test.
She understands the danger that the Party of Trump poses to the future of her country, and is seeking to reclaim the GoP for what it was.
Saturday 18 December 2021
While this may not be obvious to the New York Times or the Washington Post, nor certainly for the BBC, Al Jazeera and CNN, India is a functional democracy. It is not the fault of their bete-noire Narendra Modi that Rahul Gandhi has failed to dent the popularity of the Prime Minister, despite a daily stream of epithets aimed in his direction. What assists the Sino-Wahhabi lobby across the world in the task of presenting the world’s most populous democracy as the world’s second-most populous autocracy is the fact that Official India has long sent off confusing signals to the rest of the world about where the polity of the country is anchored. While the invasion of Suez in 1956 by France and Britain (joined by Israel) was correctly condemned as a colonial reflex by Paris and London, the invasion and occupation of Hungary in the same year by the USSR occasioned not a squeak from New Delhi. While the US stepping into the footwear of France in its efforts at preventing the Vietnamese from getting liberated from colonial fetters was condemned, the brutal suppression of freedoms in Czechoslovakia in 1968, again by troops from the USSR, took place without any discernible expression of discomfort from Official India. Apologists have later claimed that “strong” messages were “delivered in private to Moscow on both occasions by New Delhi”. Whether there actually were any expressions of unhappiness at the USSR acting as a colonial power in Hungary and Czechoslovakia is a matter of debate, and the low credibility of the “sarkari” historians of the period cast doubt that such moves took place at all. Small wonder that India’s sudden loss of its international voice during such crises convinced several across the world that the country was not a democracy, when it was. Where external signalling is concerned, India may be termed a democracy reluctant to advertise its democratic credentials in situations where such signalling is needed to show the world that India is not an autocracy but a democracy. Misleading signalling has been converted into an art form by Official India, and a recent example of this is the immediate endorsement by India of the 2022 Beijing Olympics, when at least two of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue partners had announced diplomatic boycotts, while in Japan those with a bit of spine were (and still are) trying to overcome the considerable influence of those in that country who are in the pocketbooks (sorry, pockets) of the Peoples Republic of China and join Australia and the US in what after all is only a symbolic gesture. Athletes from the US and Australia will compete, but the absence of high officials will rankle in a system that prides itself on having earned the respect of the globe for its success in becoming the second superpower. Should Japan and India be reluctant to advertise their democratic preferences so openly as to join Australia and the US in a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 winter games in Beijing, the minimum they need to do to showcase their faith in democracy as a better system than authoritarianism is to send only their ambassadors to attend the Winter Olympics and not high officials from Tokyo and New Delhi. Should several democracies join the US in a diplomatic boycott of the games, it would assist Sino-Wahhabi lobby to double down on their efforts at seeking to falsely showcase India as being autocratic rather than democratic.
Sunday 12 December 2021
It is folly for the US and its European allies to continue to regard Russia as the primary threat.
Unlike India, which barred most US researchers from entering the country during the Cold War, China from the 1980s welcomed them, gave many of them tenured and other assignments, and went along with a few of their suggestions that were regarded as not threatening the Chinese Communist Party’s monopoly of power. The consequence was that during the 1970s until the 1990s, India lost and the PRC gained acceptance within the west from this group.
Saturday 11 December 2021
Had Barack Obama been a bit more confident of himself rather than seek to remain on the periphery rather than atop the centre court of activity, he may have persuaded Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg of the US Supreme Court to retire so that the vacancy could be filled when the President of the US still had the legislative strength needed to do so. That vacancy was filled by Amy Coney Barrett, whose brilliance is matched only by her tilt towards the social constructs favoured by the Trump wing of the Republican Party. Chief Justice John Roberts is a Republican at heart, although a lot more conscious of the emerging cleavages in US society than Barrett, Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch. Neither the legal horsepower of the appointees nor their bias towards the New Right (and its philosophy of Winner Takes All) can be doubted. Because of the much greater transparency in proceedings of the US Supreme Court than is the case in several other countries, the public can get a glimpse into the dynamics at work in an institution that seems poised to roil US society to the glee of the Sino-Wahhabi alliance and the Russians, who since their exclusion from the G-7 have been given no option by the Atlanticist powers than to cosy up to the PRC. Had President Biden a bit more spine than his boss over two Presidential terms, Barack Obama, he may not have summarily set aside the advice to expand the Supreme Court to fifteen from its present nine. Going by the trajectory of the Roberts court in the matter of social justice and workers’ rights, the next domino to fall will be the right to terminate pregnancies safely of women resident in the US. That something as basic as this to gender equality is still a political and legal football in the US indicates how little segments of that society have evolved during the last four centuries of existence of the land that remains the world’s most influential country, although under severe challenge from a country across the shores of the Indo-Pacific, the People’s Republic of China. Whether it be Justice Barrett or Justice Kavanaugh, or indeed others on the bench, they wear their religious beliefs on their sleeves. Pope Francis may have softened the stand of the Vatican on many issues. His many years of work among Argentina’s poor have conscientised the Holy Father to the needs of society better than those cloistered in relative comfort from birth (and now guaranteed such a privilege for life, courtesy their entry into the US Supreme Court and its lifelong tenure). It is clear that many of the justices believe not in reincarnation as those in some other faiths do, but together with adherents of another Abrahamic faith believe in Hell and Heaven. If the path to heaven means trampling over the reproductive rights of women, that is a small price to pay for avoiding eternal hellfire. Texas in particular has gone to great lengths to ensure that the underprivileged women there have to get abortions in unsafe and risky circumstances rather than in safety. Prohibition in the US did not stop the drinking of alcohol, nor will the removal of the right to a safe termination of pregnancy before the foetus becomes viable result in a stoppage of such actions. Of course, those from circumstances of relative privilege, such as the carefully vetted Republican picks for the Supreme Court, cannot be expected to be aware of such a fate once they decide to choke Roe vs Wade entirely, after successive federal courts have begun the process of strangling to extinction the path-breaking judgments of the Warren Court. Rather than build on the rights established under Chief Justice Earl Warren, Chief Justice Roberts and his Republican majority in the Supreme Court are intent on whittling them down.
Sunday 21 November 2021
Carbon dating and analogous scientific methods have established that the Republic of India has a provable history going back 5,000 years, if not more. Any conqueror wishes to demoralise the minds of those that are colonised, and the British were no exception. References do get made in school and college curricula about the ancient past, usually in the form of scraps of knowledge resembling the ruins left behind by millennia of destruction and neglect of monuments that many other countries preserve and very often rebuild. Of the 5,000 years of demonstrable history possessed by India, the first 250-300 years are outlined in detail by textbooks, another 300-350 years less comprehensively, while the previous 4,500 or so years are given short shrift. Much of what is known about that period, especially during the initial couple of millennia, is dismissed as myth. The war described in the Mahabharata “never took place”, while Lord Ram “never existed”, such is the content in much of books learnt by rote in our schools, as well as in literature dealing with that period. As a reaction, another school of thought has made gains, which holds that the actual history of India comprises only that 4,500 or so years, and what followed was somehow “not truly Indian”. Countering those who deny 4,500 or so years of Indian history and focus only on the 500-550 years that are most recent by ignoring the latter period and focusing only on the earlier period is as misguided as those who regard the very idea of a flourishing ancient civilisation from several millennia ago as fanciful. If that period is termed the Vedic period, the period that saw the advent of conquest by armies from central Asia as Mughal, and the era of British rule as Western, it is obvious that the history of India is a compound of all three stages. The Vedic, the Mughal and the Western. As elaborated in a 1990s oped (“Importance of Indutva”) in the Times of India, the three strands are intertwined together to form a common cultural DNA in the people of India, irrespective of the faith they are born into. Every citizen of India is heir to the entire 5,000-year chain of easily provable Indian history. Unfortunately, the residue of the Two Nation theory and variants suggest that those from different faiths are equivalent to having been born on different planet rather than, as emphasised by RSS chief Dr Mohan Bhagwat, having as they do the same DNA. So successful has been the Sino-Wahhabi project of communal polarisation, that there are those from different faiths who object to whatever the RSS chief says, even if that be exactly what they themselves have been saying all along.The present writer has long sought to convince people across society to press for the restoration of Kashi, Ayodhya and Mathura to what each was before they were destroyed by Aurangzeb. Such a change would not inflame but dampen down communal passions. Whether it be Bethlehem, Jerusalem, Mecca or Medina, they stand undestroyed by the whims of a conqueror who was a religious supremacist. Even the most observant of Muslims after a while accepted the logic that it was illogical to deny Hindus their three holy sites, especially after the country had been torn apart by Partition on the basis of the false theory that Hindus and Muslims were Two Nations. The founder of Pakistan (at least publicly) believed that Muslims should never have to live in a country where they did not form the majority of the population. That must be news to the many from that faith who raise families in countries where the Muslim community forms only a small percentage of the entire population, for example in the US. These Muslims, joined by those who opted to remain in India rather than migrate to Pakistan, prove the Two Nation theory to be wrong. Their fear was only that the return of the three holy sites of the Hindus may open the floodgates to demands calling for a similar change in hundreds of sites that were once Hindu temples. When this writer visited Indonesia for the first time, he was surprised to see ham being openly sold in markets, despite the country having an overwhelmingly Muslim majority. No faith has the right to force others to adopt the ways that its clergy claims is needed on others. Each time a local government in India bans, for example, shops selling meat, eggs and fish—as some local bodies did in Gujarat, despite the CM correctly pointing out that the state government had no objection to the eating of meat, that it was a personal choice—it has no business seeking to dictate the lifestyle, dress or diet of any individual. Only through conciliation and consent can the three holy sites of the Hindu community be returned to what they were before Aurangzeb’s rule. Each show of ill-considered muscle by those who deny the legitimacy of the last 500-550 years of our history and believe that the previous period is all that is truly representative of India is pushing into the more and more distant future that Grand Reconciliation that would restore the three holy sites to what they ought to be. Sometimes, enemies are to be found not just outside but inside. Just as Lord Ram was an authentic Indian colossus of history, just as the entire 5,000 years of history needs to be taught and accepted, so must be the fact that, as Omar Khayyam wrote, “The moving finger writes, and having writ, moves on, nor all their piety nor wit lure it back to cancel half a line, nor all your tears wash off a word”. Indic values are anchored in harmony and ours is still an Indic society, thanks to the common cultural and societal DNA we share with fellow citizens.