Sunday, October 08, 2006
This blogger has no personal view on Afzal's guilt except to note that he has been convicted through our process of law -- which is how we settle such issues in democratic India.
Afzal's guilt, therefore, is not an issue at all.
The the only issue is the manner in which we should treat such terrorists.
Executing Afzal does little to advance justice any more than his lifetime incarceration. Why then should his evil blood be on the hands of the good citizens of India? For vengeance?
Forgiveness is surely a greater virtue than vengeance. This blogger hopes that India will act accordingly -- with greatness and mercy.
Let's also join most leading democracies by abolishing capital punishment in India.
Tuesday, July 18, 2006
Official outrage and vows of vengeance are followed by a quick moving on. The most that we appear capable of is a temporary drama-queen delay of our so-called "peace" process with Pakistan.
This is largely because India has global aspirations which compel it to act "responsibly", no matter the cost to our people.
The paradox of this posture is that we end up pleading with the world to recognize our new-found "power" even as terrorists castrate what little remains of our tattered mojo.
This is, therefore, not about whether India should or not talk to Pakistan (it doesn't really matter, does it?) -- rather, this is about India's structural misunderstanding of the nature of power in our world.
Whereas great powers use muscle to assert their influence, India seems to be intent on acquiring its geo-political weight through permission and charity of others.
As long as this remains the view of our political elite -- across the ideological spectrum, it needs to be emphasized -- Indians will continue dying while our elite express unfelt regret then continue chasing their mirage of faux-power.
To this retired blogger, it's clear that sensible Indians will now quit celebrating meaningless adulations in the world media, quit talking about great power status, quit our obscene and unearned swagger, and quit talking big while carrying a really small stick.
Instead, we need to get back to hard work, back to our democratic revolution for throwing overboard this pussilanimous elite-- we need to get back to reversing, in Gore Vidal's words, the overturning of our real history by their made-up myths.
This is what we owe the dead of Mumbai and Delhi and Akshardham and Ayodhya and Kaluchak and Kargil and Kashmir as also Godhara followed by its viciously evil whirlwind.
Let's begin by acknowledging how extremely weak our state is presently and how unbelievably far we have yet to go. There is surely no shame in beginning with the truth about ourselves.
As Faiz wrote, Aaiye haath uthaein hum bhi.
Tuesday, July 04, 2006
This lapsed blogger finally found himself in Paris this past weekend where he stole precious time for Louvre and Versailles between heavy swatches of work.
At Louvre, three icons were on the wish list.
Of course, the Mona Lisa -- much too small and locked up with too many people all around her.
Then, the magnificent Venus de Milo. Just like one had imagined having seen a cheap replica way back in the innocence of childhood.
But most important, the law codes of Hammurabi. Few people around, fewer still understanding its colossal significance. There it stands, lonely in Louvre, like a rock.
Have concluded the ancient is far more interesting than the medieval. This is a change of heart -- had not felt the same awe of the distant forbearers while in Egypt many years ago. This rethink must be, what Eliot called, one of the gifts reserved for age.
Mona Lisa and Taj Mahal feel ridiculously pretentious now -- come look at me, how clever I am, how gifted, how very metrosexual! In contrast, those who chiseled out the law codes in Akkad or moved the Earth to shape the Great Pyramids and the Great Wall, or those who invented Zero were surely the real men among men.
Then, Versailles -- where Marie Antoinette lived at the end of one metrosexual age and the beginning of another. Impressive in a profoundly gaudy sense -- no wonder the nouveau riche are drawn to it as a venue for their children's weddings!
The best part of being in Paris was watching the local Portuguese celebrate their team's world cup victory over England. Seemed like the entire nation of Portugal had congregated at the Arc de Triomphe. Then France won -- Champs Elysees overflowed with emotion and libation. Fascinating stuff.
Odd post this. From a lapsed blogger and political junkie. Now, returning to hibernation.
Monday, May 15, 2006
Monday, May 08, 2006
I will continue to post elsewhere as "Jaffna".
Let me end my stint here with a quote from the 6th century BC Chinese classic, the Tao Te Ching.
"The wise leader knows,
When enough is enough.
Stretch a bow too far
And it will snap.
Sharpen a knife too much,
And its edge will not last.
Fill your house with gold and jade,
And you can not defend it.
Exalting in your success,
Invites a certain fall.
When your work is done,
It is time to move on".
Tao Te Ching - verse 9.
Wednesday, May 03, 2006
Some maintain that educational standards will decline with reservations. Others allege that state interference in the private sector's ability to hire and fire individuals will compromise the open market.
Let me reflect here. The UPA had widened the ambit of reservations to include private fee-levying educational institutions. It exempted minority religious schools from the new policy - a poll tactic to not alienate the minority religious vote. It then endeavored to extend reservations to Muslims but failed due to judicial intervention. It now plans to introduce legislation to make it mandatory for the private sector to hire a fixed proportion of the backward castes, scheduled castes and scheduled tribes.
While I do not care for India's Prime Minister, the policy of reservations does have its merit. Education and employment standards might not necessarily be compromised. However certain caveats are in order.
India is a pluralist land with many languages, ethnic groups, caste configurations and religions. It is a county poised for economic and military take off. It is only correct that different caste groups share the best education opportunities available and the fruits of economic development. A policy of reservations would ensure greater representation of marginalized groups and would help integrate them into the national mainstream.
While not all "backward" castes are marginalized, they are under-represented in the modern urbanized economy. Integration through socialization, inter-marriage and close bonds would take place once they are fully represented in education and employment. This can only strengthen India, not weaken it.
Would this compromise the quality of education in the elite IITs and IIMs that have churned graduates only to lose them to the United States? I think not, provided rigorous admission and graduation standards are retained. Only the most qualified amongst the backward castes, the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes should get admission into the elite institutions of higher learning. And only the most qualified should be allowed to graduate. The admission and graduation standards can not be compromised. Quotas to ensure adequate representation of different caste groups would integrate India's myriad castes provided rigorous standards of admission and graduation are retained.
Some would argue that this would strengthen caste through university admissions and employment. But one can not deny that caste is already a social reality that strikes one in the face. Its existence can not be denied. Integration would only follow once different caste groups are represented in the mainstream. I provide the example of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu.
Reservations are in keeping with the Indic historical tradition. The Panchayat (five castes) or the basic structure of local government in ancient and medieval India was a forum where the five broad caste groups convened to jointly decide on village affairs. The five groups were the Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas, Shudras and the "Untouchables". All five had to jointly anoint the king upon his coronation.
This is not to deny the reservation pitfalls. The current UPA administration has arrogated the right to interfere in private university entrance fees. It excluded minority religious institutions once again in the most cynical manner. This is a dangerous precedent. Interference in the fee structure undermines private education.
The administration should instead set up an endowment to provide scholarships to India's neglected and marginalized. It needs to invest in grass-roots education to ensure the improved competitiveness of non-elite caste groups over time. Nehru failed to do so and it is high time to rectify this anomaly. Until then, caste-based reservations are needed to ensure national integration. India can only emerge stronger.
Monday, May 01, 2006
This blogger's time's been at a steep premium and he's been traveling much on work. But more importantly, his zest for blogging has faded.
Because nothing ever changes and politics' become a bore.
Because summer is here, finally -- convertibles and surf trump politics and prose!
Its been fun talking with you all, and reading your views. Its been a useful experiment. But this is where the road ends for this amateur blogger. Maybe a future guest post or two, here or there, but that's really it.
On Kashmir, one wonders when Indians will turn their rage at our Government that has clearly failed to secure our people even after 17 years of waging war. Where's the accountability? How come we haven't yet crushed this terrorism in Kashmir and smashed its infrastructure in Pakistan?
On Afghanistan, we know who the Taliban is a proxy for. Why are we not at war with the terroists who rule Islamabad?
Sunday, April 30, 2006
The 49 mile long Siachen Glacier forms part of the watershed that separates Central Asia and the Indian subcontinent. The Indian Army has been deployed on the commanding Saltoro Ridge since 1984. The line of deployment is known as the Actual Ground Position Line (AGPL). India and Pakistan appear to be currently negotiating troop reductions in Saltoro. The agreement might entail a redemarcation of the ground position. It is difficult to assess the proposed deal as the negotiations are being conducted in stealth.
M.K Narayanan, National Security Adviser to the Manmohan Singh administration indicated that India and Pakistan were about to reach agreement on the mutual reduction of troops and troop withdrawal in Siachen. In contrast, the Indian Army Chief of Army Staff, General J.J. Singh has expressed concerns that "We have conveyed our concerns and views to the Government and we expect the composite dialog between the two countries will take care of all these concerns" and added that "demilitarization is not on the horizon"
The United States might have facilitated discussions on the vexed subject. It is in American interest that Indo-Pakistan relations improve so that the strategic objectives of the United States can be better met in the extended region. Any settlement on Siachen should not compromise India's long term interest to ensure a corridor to Central Asia. India needs to retain its presence to prevent further consolidation of the Sino-Pakistan axis across the Karakoram pass.
This is not to deny the value of mutual troop reductions in Siachen. The current deployment of troops is not cost effective. However, the rumored redemarcation of the AGPL (even if accepted by Pakistan) is not in India's interest. Writing in the Asian Age, former Vice Chief of Army Staff Lt. Gen. Vijay Oberoi says that "while the Indian Army is not averse to vacating the AGPL, if the nation so desires, but wants that what it secured with great effort and many sacrifices, and which it has held safely for the nation, in the face of enemy action, as well as the severity of the climate and the treacherous terrain, for the last 22 years, should not be sacrificed at the altar of expediency, merely to notch up one more CBM towards the ephemeral peace process". He added that "if India withdraws from Saltoro and Pakistan captures it, the situation then becomes irreversible".
Nehru had erred in "conceding" ground control over Baltistan and Gilgit to Pakistan in 1948. That terrain had enormous geopolitical significance given its proximity to Central Asia. Mrs. Gandhi recaptured Kargil - one of three districts of Baltistan - in 1971. India occupied Siachen in April, 1984. Pakistani troops under a certain Brigadier Musharraf unsuccessfully endeavored to undo this in 1987 and in 1999. Recall that before the Kargil aggression of 1999, Siachen was an unoccupied zone since 1949 with the positions of LoC clearly delineated as per the 1972 Simla Agreement. Yet the Pakistani Army had no scruples in violating these borders. There is a good reason not to trust them today since the mastermind of that war is still the ruler of that country.
There are reports that India might even drop its insistence on marking a AGPL in Siachen before withdrawing to show its 'eagerness' for the peace process during Prime Minister's upcoming visit to Pakistan in July. This is an unwise move devoid of strategic considerations. It is in India's long term interest to annex the restive region of Baltistan when Islamabad is preoccupied with domestic insurrections and Beijing focused elsewhere. Any compromise on the line of control could foreclose future options. Moreover, New Delhi can not forego its de jure claim on the territory.
The reported deal benefits Pakistan. Pakistan currently has 80,000 troops stationed in Balochistan to crush an insurrection there. It has another 80,000 troops tied down in the North West Frontier Province/Federally Administered Tribal Areas. Its military is stretched and it needs to urgently redeploy troops. Islamabad now requires a stable eastern frontier to tackle domestic issues to its west. India can use this to leverage better terms. For one, it should not concede on the line of control in the Siachen segment. While Pakistan would find this difficult to accept, India is not pressed for time.
The lack of transparency vis-a-vis the current negotiations is disturbing. India is a democracy where the executive is held accountable to the elected legislature. The authorities in New Delhi need to take Parliament into confidence on an issue of such importance. The Government must realize that its only constituency is the local one, not foreign interests.
Subhash Kapila, India: Government set to repeat strategic blunder of Aksai Chin in Siachen?,South Asian Analysis Group, 2006.
Vishnu Makhijani, From Haji Pir to Siachen, it is deja vu for the Indian Army , IANS, 2006.
Thursday, April 27, 2006
What India will likely do is employ a two-pronged approach in dealing with the Maoists. Existing fissures among the Maoist cadres over the future of the movement are waiting to be exploited by New Delhi and Kathmandu. The personal hatred between Prachanda and Baburam Bhattarai, another leading figure in the party, is widely known, and their differences will only deepen once the group faces the critical issue of disarming and merging with the Nepalese army in exchange for political representation. By reopening these fissures, India can work with the Nepalese government to divide the Maoist movement and undercut its ability to deadlock the entire country through blockades and attacks.
And the Maoists may not be the only ones suffering from internal divisions. It is questionable whether the unprecedented unity of Nepal's political parties will succeed in holding out for much longer without the king as a common enemy. Moreover, the political parties want guarantees from India that they will not come under attack from the Maoists down the road. As the parties proceed with their own political agenda, their alliance with the Maoists is likely to come under serious duress when the Maoists begin to feel like they are being sidelined out of the political process. With King Gyanendra slowly retreating into the background, the difficulties in maintaining the alliance among the seven parties and weakening the Maoist movement will only add to New Delhi's task list for maintaining order in its own backyard.
Wednesday, April 26, 2006
While the LTTE retains the ability to wreak havoc with the Sri Lankan economy, it has few real options. For one, it has been increasingly sidelined in the international arena given its human rights record and terrorism. Australia, Britain Canada, India and the United States have designated it a terrorist outfit. The European Union is likely to ban it should the current cease-fire be broken. This restricts their international fund raising capability. Financing constraints would prevent a return to prolonged conventional warfare.
The fighting capacity of the LTTE that once allowed it to take on the Sri Lankan military might now be dented. Reports suggest that Indian intelligence had instigated the revolt of Eastern/Batticaloa LTTE cadre led by Karuna in March, 2004. The Northern command of the LTTE crushed this but in doing so lost one of its most capable strategists. Karuna defected to the military. The LTTE has a Northern/Jaffna leadership that controls the sea tigers, the incipient air tigers, its intelligence, its finances, its international procurement and its mercantile shipping. However, many of the foot soldiers hailed from the poverty stricken East. While the LTTE has not lost the East, its ability to recruit fighters there has been dented. It now faces a shortfall in cadre.
The close ties forged between Karuna and the Army under Indian sponsorship resulted in snipper attacks on LTTE leaders. The LTTE retaliated with claymore mine attacks on army convoys. The military responded with the murder of Tamil civilians. Last afternoon's attempted assassination of the hard-line Army Commander deep within the fortified Army Headquarters in Colombo and the subsequent Sri Lankan Airforce bombardment of Tamil villages in Trincomalee indicate that we might be in for turbulent weather.
The LTTE retains the capacity to attack Colombo and destroy investor confidence. Any terrorist attack in Colombo would send the economy into a tailspin. Even if there were to be a return to conventional war due to trigger-happy hard-liners on either side, both parties realize that they lack the means to sustain it. There would be the inevitable peace talks after a swift territorial redemarcation of areas controlled by either side. As in the past 25 years, Sri Lanka remains in a stable equilibrium of continued uncertainty.
Tuesday, April 25, 2006
By contrast, the Indian role has not been altogether benign. The Indian Foreign Secretary - Shyam Saran- announced over the weekend that India had abandoned its "Twin Pillar" policy of supporting a multi-party democracy and a constitutional monarchy. He added that it was for the Nepalese to define their political system. New Delhi appears to have had a tacit understanding with the Maoists.
The Maoists might still consolidate their hold in the emerging political vacuum. To quote, United States Ambassador Moriarty "My real concern is that the successor Government may end up being dominated by the Maoists. The Maoists under the current situation swing a lot of weight because they have the weapons and the parties do not".
Others confirm the not so hidden clout of the Maoists. Maoist cadre had directed the street demonstrations in Kathmandu and provided the manpower. The SPA had no real control on the streets. A significant number of the protestors appeared to be from Maoist controlled rural areas.
Hundreds of Maoists had stormed the Nepalese town of Chautara 75 miles east of Kathmandu attacking the local hospital, the post office, the education office and administrative buildings yesterday. The Maoist insurgents destroyed the communications network. Military reinforcements had to be airlifted in. Kathmandu was under curfew for five days. Protestors had already occupied the 17 mile long ring road. The Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist Leninist) had announced plans to march to the royal palace today to declare a "Democratic Republic". Let's hope that the politics of reconciliation now sets in.
The Maoists control one third the territory of Nepal. They have set up local government authorities. They have built a 55 mile road through the mountains that might eventually link up with China. The Maoists collect taxes. They run collective farms, riverine fisheries and livestock. They retain links with Indian Maoist rebels in Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Telangana.
New Delhi blundered with its sponsorship of Tamil militant groups in Sri Lanka in the 1980s. It has no coherent policy in Nepal either. The current deal in Nepal owed more to European and United States proactiveness than to any initiative in New Delhi. It might be intended to contain the Maoist insurrection and ensure political space for Nepal's moderates. Let's hope that the restoration of democracy last night leads to peace and economic growth in the Shangri-La that once was Nepal. We need to watch events today to see whether this would indeed materialize.
Saturday, April 22, 2006
Reuters had an interesting blurb on the subject datelined April 21, 2006. Chinese leaders view nuclear energy as a counter to increased reliance on hydrocarbon imports, not to mention the environmental pollution in Chinese urban areas. China intends to quadruple civil nuclear capacity by 2020. And yet, this would only provide 4% of Chinese energy needs. Opponents warn of challenges that include waste disposal and the steep cost of new generators.
China had opted to rely on a mix of American, Canadian, French and Russian civil nuclear technology designs. The objective was to keep China up to speed on the latest development in the technology realm in different countries. However, the nine nuclear reactors currently in operation barely contribute 2% of the nation's power today. This is a mere one-eight of the global average. The plan is to raise this to 4% over the next 15 years by building 30 new reactors. Many doubt whether this target could be met given the difficulty in constructing 2 major reactors each year. The reliance on fossil fuels is thus set to remain.
The Chinese are moreover pursuing designs that use less uranium as international uranium prices have tripled since 2004. The financial challenge ahead is daunting and China hopes to tap into the power utilities listed in its share market to help fund the nuclear expansion. This would be an interesting development to watch.
Thursday, April 20, 2006
This means recognizing the simple fact that India's emergence as a superpower is constrained by our (politically and literally) bombed out neighborhood. Also, that our long term interests are in alignment with those of the people in our neighboring countries -- not with their frequently autocratic rulers.
Therefore, in Nepal, we should be squarely with the people demanding democracy. The King's fortune has run out and there is little gain in including him in the next chapter of Nepal. It's time for him to retire in exile.
What we need to do is to find a way of sidelining the Maoists. This is possible if India can persuade the Nepalese Army to join the democracy bandwagon -- and the political parties to accept an India-backed Nepalese Republic in exchange for their pledge to crush the Maoists.
Hopefully, this is precisely the prescription Shyam Saran and Karan Singh have taken to Kathmandu.
Wednesday, April 19, 2006
The unstinted support of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi on two crucial occasions explains Nehru's rise in the political firmament. The Indian National Congress had three leaders of towering national stature in 1920 - Sardar Vallabhai Patel, Mohamed Ali Jinnah and Subhas Chandra Bose. Gandhi sponsored Jawahar due to the close links he had with Jawahar's father. Jinnah left the Indian National Congress although he retained ties with the party until 1929. Subhas Chandra Bose veered in his direction. Gandhi nominated the 40 year old Jawahar as President of the Indian National Congress in 1929. The Indian National Congress had its presidential elections once again in 1946. Several state units nominated Patel for the position. Gandhi asked Patel to withdraw from the race to allow Nehru to run uncontested. This paved the way for Jawahar to become independent India's first Prime Minister in 1947.
Nehru's legacy of constitutionalism and the rule of law was profound. This Kashmiri barrister educated at Harrow, Cambridge and Inner Temple nurtured the institutions of liberal democracy in India. He ensured the resilience of the judiciary, the legislature, the federal structure, the cabinet and the civil service. India today is one of three countries in the Asian continent to have had such institutional continuity - the other two being Israel and Japan.
Nehru had a contradictory persona which makes one grudgingly respect him. Highly westernized, he made the transition to a Gandhian nationalist. An authentic liberal, he supported socialism. He opposed his father in demanding a complete break with Britain. His nationalism compelled the colonial authorities to imprison him several times in contrast to Ambedkar and Jinnah. Nehru's international outlook in the pre-independence era revealed a cosmopolitan world view. The support for the Irish Freedom Struggle, the passionate endorsement of the republican cause in the Spanish civil war and support for Iraqi nationalism in light of the incessant aerial bombing by the Royal Air Force was noteworthy.
And yet, Jawahar was a flawed leader. While Sardar Vallabhai Patel successfully integrated the multitude of problematic princely states (such as Hyderabad, Junagadh, Manipur and Travancore) into the Indian Union, Nehru messed up the Kashmir issue. He dithered when action was called for. He imposed conditions on the Kashmir Maharajah when Pakistani irregulars were ready to invade in 1947. Pakistan captured large tracts of land. Indian troops fought back and were poised to retake the strategic terrain of Baltistan and Gilgit when Pakistan called for a cease-fire. Nehru accepted the offer when his military was on the winning streak. He referred the matter to the United Nations unnecessarily internationalizing it. The issue remains unresolved to date. Indira Gandhi did her bit to recapture lost ground by retaking Kargil and Siachen in 1971 but was stopped on threat of United States intervention.
Nehru's China policy was tarnished for similar reasons. The Chinese People's Liberation Army captured Beijing in October, 1949. It moved into Tibet in 1950 and occupied Lhasa in 1951. The Tibetan administration tabled a motion at the United Nations appealing for international assistance. Nehru's delegation prevented its inclusion in the UN agenda. He withdrew the Indian garrison from Lhasa in 1950 and accepted Chinese suzerainty over 471,700 square miles of Tibet without extracting commensurate Chinese recognition of Indian claims on Kashmir.
China was not a member of the United Nations at that point. Nehru defended China in international fora while Beijing stealthily annexed 15,000 square miles of territory in Aksai Chin in 1957. India was caught unprepared. China invaded India's 32,000 square mile North East Frontier Agency in 1962 and crushed Indian resistance. Nehru helped establish the Nonaligned Movement with much ado. However, not one Non Aligned Country supported India's case vis-a-vis China. It was left to the Kennedy administration to do so.
Much has been written on Nehru's policy of socialism, centralized planning and the stifling of private initiative. India had the proverbial 2 to 3% Nehruvian rate of growth in the 1950s and 1960s. The fact that 40% of India's population continues to live on less than US$ 1 a day is an indictment on the Nehruvian vision for economic progress.
Jawahar focused on heavy industry, engineering and technology. He established the Indian Institutes of Technology. And yet he failed to build primary schools, health clinics and rural roads to educate the poor and provide decent health care in India's poverty stricken hinterland. India's record vis-a-vis literacy, infant mortality and maternal mortality was amongst the worst in the developing world. These human indicators demonstrated the failure of Nehruvian social policy. His administration had conceptualized the policy of reservations to help integrate India's scheduled castes and tribes into the national mainstream. But he did little in way of substantive investment on the ground to raise the competitiveness of the Dalit youth.
India's agricultural sector fared poorly under Nehru. Despite the anti-American rhetoric, he was dependent on American food aid. It was Mrs. Gandhi who ushered in the Green Revolution, achieved self-sufficiency in food production and turned down PL 480.
Nehru failed to introduce the uniform civil code - that ultimate test of modernity. An Indian woman's right to divorce, inherit and sue on marital grounds is constrained by the religion she is born into. Nehru fell short of the imperative of gender equity and national integration. There needs to be a level playing field applied to all Indians regardless of religion.
Jawahar alienated the likes of Ambedkar, Jayaprakash Narayan, Purushottam Das Tandon, Rajagopala Chari (rugger playing charlie) and Shyama Prasad Mookerjee. India would have had a different history had Nehru not been in power for 17 years. Term limits on the lines of the United States have their value. But alas India had been introduced to the politics of dynasty! And a controversial one at that too.
Tuesday, April 18, 2006
In an attempt to split the SPA (seven party alliance) and Maoists, the king announced in a Hindu New Year address April 13 that he would call national elections and consult with the country's political parties. The promise of elections was viewed as a complete farce, and the opposition's calls to replace the monarchy with a constitutional assembly only grew louder.
Politically, however, India has no easy options. Supporting King Gyanendra -- an autocratic monarch who has lost practically all standing with his people -- would be futile, but New Delhi also cannot afford to sit by and allow the monarchy to be overthrown, since that would provide an opening for the Maoists to take power. Since the king disbanded parliament, India has been taking its time to formulate a strategy on Nepal, but it's now clear the clock is ticking and spillover is possible. Recognizing that Nepal's fate depends primarily on the mindset of its generals, India's attention likely is fixated now on the Royal Nepalese Army (RNA). Senior army officials feel that New Delhi, formerly one of its chief suppliers, ditched the army when it cut off military aid to Nepal following the royal takeover. If New Delhi and the RNA can make peace, India might begin to draw the SPA away from the Maoists with the promise of RNA backing to topple the monarchy.
Though a military coup is likely in the cards for Nepal, such political maneuverings by the SPA and India would need time to develop. Meanwhile, the dark cloud of emergency rule hovers.
Saturday, April 15, 2006
Daily Times' Khalid Hasan is even reduced to parroting the lunatic Vladimir Zhirinovsky's vile outbursts against Condi Rice. Lost your own tongue, Khalid?!!!
The Maoist insurrection started in 1996. 13,000 have died since then. King Gyanendra dissolved the legislature in 2002. He suspended the All Party Government in 2005. The situation has since worsened. As the Chennai-based "Hindu Newspaper" put it, "A novice in politics and statecraft, Gyanendra is all tactics and no strategy". It is clear that he needs to either hold free and fair elections or abdicate.
The Seven Party Alliance of Political Parties (SPA) had signed a political compact with the Maoists in November, 2005 and March, 2006 to (i) initiate a nationwide agitation against the autocratic monarchy; (ii) restore parliament; (iii) form an interim administration: (iv) conduct elections for a constituent assembly; (v) and initiate the process of constitutional reform. The goal is "Loktantra". The word could either mean "people's rule" or outright "republic". The Seven Party Alliance is led by the Nepali Congress and the Communist Party of Nepal - Unified Marxist-Leninist.
India helped negotiate the deal. This is surprising given the extent of anti-Indian sentiment held by the Maoists. India until recently had the "twin pillar strategy" that it believed held the key to stability in Nepal. The "twin pillar" entailed the co-existence of a constitutional monarchy and elected government.
The United States on the other hand had pressured the SPA not to enter into the agreement with the Maoists. Washington expressed concerns that the deal had failed to commit the Maoists to abandon the campaign of violence. Donald Camp, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, stated in the Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific at the House of Representative Committee on International Relations that the United States had only two goals in Nepal i.e. the (i) restoration of multi-party democracy; and (ii) prevention of the Maoist take over. This vision is in New Delhi's interest given the anti-India record of the Maoists, not to mention the Maoist campaign of murder, torture, bombings, extortion, kidnapping and the recruitment of child soldiers. It is in India's interest to coordinate with the United States in this instance.
King Gyanendra is increasingly unpopular. The nationwide agitation has had its effect. The King held Municipal elections on February 8, 2006 to test the waters. The call for a boycott by the SPA and the Maoists succeeded with only 20% of the electorate casting their vote. Only 15% of the seats were contested while 54% of the seats had no candidates. The Maoist campaign of terror and high levels of popular disaffection explain this.
The latest civil uprising is now in its tenth day. There is now grass roots support for the anti- government demonstrations. The elderly, women and children defied nationwide curfews to come out to the streets and protest. They clashed with security personnel. Students, teachers, professionals, doctors and civil servants joined them to barricade roads, burn tires and chase away the police. Lawyers took to the street. Journalists did the same. There are increasing calls for the monarch to be exiled.
Nepal is a landlocked country. It is one of the ten poorest countries in the world. Kathmandu is heavily dependent on India for trade, transit and riparian rights. It is heterogenous with numerous tribes, ethnic groups and dialects. The Caste Hill Hindu Elite that comprise 31% of the population is dominant. The need for a smooth transition in Kathmandu from an inept autocracy to a representative democracy is in India's interest. The days of the monarchy appear numbered unless the King were to dramatically shift gears. A Maoist takeover is therefore possible in the upcoming political vacuum. This is not in India's national security. The deafening silence in New Delhi is therefore perplexing.
Friday, April 14, 2006
Personally, we are strongly opposed to quotas and reservations -- these are highly inefficient and profoundly immoral means of trying to correct real and perceived inequities in our society.
Having said this, we see little value in expressing stale lament over Government's attitude on this subject. Our politics have long since fallen to the seductive and poisonous embrace of brazen populism -- this strategy is a vote-winner, hence nothing else really matters.
Frankly, what reservation opponents ought to be doing is not protesting Government's predictable senselessness, instead constructively engaging the purported beneficiaries of its myopic approach on why we think this is counterproductive.
Given our democracy and our demographics, persuasion is the only real way to win this valid battle. This long-term process will be costly -- we'll probably lose IITs, for example, as the genius factories that they used to be -- but this would be a cost worth bearing if we ultimately convince the vast majority of Indians that reservations are profoundly violent to the spirit of our equalizing constitution.
If we fail, unfortunately, so will India.
This joins the long list of disgraceful assaults on our places of worship -- from Akshardham to Varanasi to, now, the Jama Masjid, we've been witnessing an unrelenting assault on basic human decency.
Hopefully, all Indians will join together to condemn this latest barbarity.
A light source that could put the traditional light bulb in the shade has been invented by US scientists.
The organic light-emitting diode (OLED) emits a brilliant white light when attached to an electricity supply. The material, described in the journal Nature, can be printed in wafer thin sheets that could transform walls, ceilings or even furniture into lights.
The OLEDs do not heat up like today's light bulbs and so are far more energy efficient and should last longer. They also produce a light that is more akin to natural daylight than traditional bulbs.
Cool! Bye, Bye, bleeping tubelights!!
Wednesday, April 12, 2006
The criticism of the Indo-US nuclear deal has become rather personal -- brazenly accusing Dr. Singh of selling out India's security interests. Sample this from the linked post:
Nonetheless, the charges persist that Manmohan Singh might have traded long term national security for immediate commercial benefit.
First, if such an ugly and personal charge is to be made, why not make it directly rather than hiding behind the construct "charges persist".
Second, to cite Yashwant Sinha and Vajpayee ji as voices of dissent here is laughable -- these folks were pretty close to making a similar deal themselves, then suffered an electoral reverse. Now, their protestations sound like "sour grapes". Afterall, what's Vajpayee ji's legacy? Incompetence in Gujarat, cowardice in Kandahar, the irrelevance of BJP.
Debate is good. Mudslinging is not. Many issues that are being raised relate to steps India has not taken (e.g., agreeing to fissile material cutoff, abiding by CTBT, etc.), nor intends to take. Why then all the alarmist talk?
We respond to the comments on Pragmatic's post on Condoleeza Rice's testimony. There has been little clarity in New Delhi on the precise contours of the Indo-American nuclear deal. The ongoing US Congressional deliberations led Brahma Chellaney (here and here), Yashwant Sinha and AB Vajpayee to reopen the debate in India. Manmohan Singh had failed to provide sufficient detail to the Lok Sabha. He now needs to answer the concerns raised in light of US Congressional deliberations.
Condoleeza Rice indicated that the Bush administration will push for a South Asia-wide moratorium on the production of fissile material. China rejected the draft Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (FMCT) and so did the United States. A formal regional cap will compromise Indian nuclear options vis-à-vis China. Critics counter that India’s interest will be affected once Chinese nuclear submarines with ballistic missiles start lurking in Indian waters. Furthermore, the United States Congress plans to insert riders into the deal mandating India not to test nuclear weapons. The United States Senate rejected the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and Washington therefore has no right to enforce it upon India just as it keeps sub-critical tests to further perfect its large arsenal. Some in the US Senate like Sen. Sarbenes propose that India enter into an Additional Protocol with the IAEA before the Indo-American deal is made effective.
A clause on the Congressional resolution states that “A determination under subsection (b) shall not be effective if the President determines that India has detonated a nuclear explosive device after the date of enactment of this Act.” The pro-deal advocates say that India has in any event announced a moratorium on nuclear tests. The opponents stress the need for options should China or Pakistan test a weapon overtly or covertly. In any case, it should be up to India to retain the flexibility whether to respond with further tests or not. This should be a national decision, not an international obligation.