Tuesday, January 31, 2006

US-India Nuclear Deal

Cynical Nerd has posted an extremely informative, well researched and thought-provoking take on the proposed nuclear deal. He calls for a public debate. Let's hope that the Manmohan Singh administration had not negotiated the deal in a hasty manner. More discussion is warranted in light of the shifting goal posts in Washington DC. The Indian government should consult the Armed Forces and the Opposition before finalizing any such deal of national importance. Please read on!

Monday, January 30, 2006

Prepared To Walk Away

Nitin is not sure whether India's decision to abstain at IAEA on Iran is strategic or childish.

This follows US Ambassador David Mulford's threat to India which we argued is background noise -- what India needed to focus, instead, was hard bargaining. Well, we are getting some of this now.

It goes without saying that India's bargaining position is enormously weakened if it were not prepared to walk from the US nuclear deal. We think India's Iran abstention communicates its willingness to do precisely that to US interlocutors. Seen together with the weekend sidelining of anti-US Mani Shankar Aiyar and retention of the foreign ministry by the pro-US Dr. Singh, the message cannot be clearer: India is willing to cut a deal with America, but only at sensible terms -- otherwise we walk.

Iran itself is a useful sideshow to this Indo-US fencing.

This is entirely appropriate. Not only does this action silence domestic critics of the deal, it makes India more credible at the bargaining table with the US.

Ultimately, US must understand that it needs India perhaps even more than India needs it. India has prospered independent of US patronage so far, and will continue to do so with or without a deal with Americans. America, on the other hand, cannot really play in Asia absent partnership with the ever-stronger India.

India calling America's bluff is entirely within the rules of poker. Hopefully, this will eventually yield a better deal for India and a worthy ally for America.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Familiarity & Contempt

Amit is serving delicious slices of Pakistan on India Uncut.

His are stories of familiar people in familiar places. The subliminal point, we think, is that Pakistanis are not the devils Indians may imagine -- rather, people very much like us.

This is what our peace process through people-to-people contact hopes for. Illusions are dispelled, familiarity is restored and, as Amit might quip, "fun even comes".

Almost too easy, isn't it?

Pakistan is indeed familiar, as though India in a looking glass. Things are similar, but not quite. Here, life writes itself right to left -- small but deliberate mutinies against inherited history and culture subtly clarify one isn't in Kanpur anymore.

These small mutinies are like still-smouldering dust from our own mutual big bang, the partition.

We are amused by the idea that peace will emerge from a renewed familiarity between our people. As though, Amit's slices of Pakistan are an astonishing revelation to most Indians who, inspired by Bollywood kitsch, will revise their rage into a melodramatic epiphany of familiarity.

Unfortunately, reality is reverse. Familiarity with Pakistan is hardly news to Indians and should only generate contempt.

Indians have forever understood our commonality with Pakistanis -- it's Pakistan's birth pangs that denied this. Indian nationalism sought to hold the family together -- it's Pakistan's that sought divorce.

All this inspite of a thousand years of shared spatial and cultural identity.

We were stabbed in the back by our own -- this evil arose amidst our mundane familiarity. It always does, doesn't it, lulling one's senses then beheading our idealism. Yet, Amit desperately seeks normalcy in Karachi as perhaps Daniel Pearl once did -- reminding us of Mirza Ghalib:

humko maaloom hai jannat ki haqeeqat lekin
dil ko khush rakhne ko 'Ghalib' ye khayaal achcha hai

We are being asked to believe a few cricket matches, kababs, and qawwalis will numb our memory of betrayal. Please. This memory is all we've got to protect us from being lulled as some of our best minds evidently are.

The entirely familiar Pakistan stands astride the suffering of the millions dead and displaced by partition. Our problem is hardly a lack of familiarity, rather an acute understanding of the separatist evil that slouched from Karachi, the 1947 capital of the infant Pakistan.

Update: Amit hears from Nitin as well.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Politics And Math

Via Hindustan Times, we read about India's cabinet reshuffle:

GK Vassan, TNCC president and son of late Congress veteran GK Moopanar, will be Minister of State with independent charge of Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation while Renuka Chowdhury has been shifted from tourism to women and child development.

While we are at it, marrying politics to mathematics, why not a Ministry of Geometry?!

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Greetings on Republic Day

Greetings to all on Republic Day. We can look back and be justifiably proud that the Constitution of 1950 has endured - except for a brief dark period in the 70's. This is the day we moved from being a British Dominion to "purna swaraj" (full independence). And we have done well. It's time to make good on those promises the Indian nation made itself several decades ago, and fulfill the promise of being the Eastern Beacon of the Free World.

India is called the "largest democracy". That is not true. India is, in fact, the largest Republic - authoritarian China hardly embodies the spirit of a Republic. We certainly have a democratically elected government. But we are no democracy. And we should never be. Here's an interesting distinction between a Republic and a Democracy - a.k.a. "Rule of the Omnipotent Majority".

Background Noise

When we first read US Ambassador David Mulford's threat to India, our first instinct was to call for an Indian abstention on the vexed Iran matter at IAEA.

Not that we like the thugs running Iran these days; who'd want them to have a nuclear capability. And, if Iran's extremism threatens our natural allies in US & Israel, why shouldn't we call out Iran at IAEA?

In any event, all this is a complex dance going nowhere fast.

But David Mulford has waded in and queered the pitch. If this strongly pro-US blog is infuriated, most US-baiters in India are likely apoplectic.

Mercifully, we have learned to check ourselves when in rage. As we thought more about Mr. Mulford's threat, we realized it is essentially background noise.

Of similar quality are statements from Iranian official Ali Larijani who astonishingly compared his country's nuclear program to India's. His statement allowed India to distance itself from Iran.

Mr. Mulford quickly erased this advantage to his own country -- and placed India in a very tough spot.

The Indian left has unsurprisingly weighed in. It seeks a Government commitment that India will not vote against Iran. The Indian right is upset as well.

What is the Government to do? The answer is clear. This is hardball territory where sages, fools, and madmen all have something to say. It's good theater but our focus should remain on national interest.

It's clearly in India's national interest to get the nuclear deal. So, lets ignore background noise, drive a hard bargain, and move on with life.

After that, there's an eternity to settle petty scores with Mr. Mulford and everyone else.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006


Baltistan is situated at the northern end of pre-partition Kashmir. It is linked to Tibet and Ladakh in language although its population adopted Islam in the 14th century CE. The Dogras led by Zorawar Singh annexed it in 1840 and united it with Kashmir. The Maharaja leased the territory to the British in 1935 to help them spy on Xinjiang and Afghanistan. The land was returned to the Maharaja in 1947. A local uprising backed by Pakhtun irregulars ensured that Baltistan acceded to Pakistan later that year. Pakistan occupied about 10,000 square miles of Balti territory although it ceded 2,500 square miles to China in 1963. India captured the Kargil district in 1971. Pakistan retains control of the other two districts in Baltistan i.e. Skardu and Ganche. The indigenous inhabitants speak an archaic form of Tibetan. The area purportedly has a population of 400,000 though the number is difficult to verify in the absence of a proper census.

The Iranian revolution in 1979 inspired Shi'ite radicalism in Baltistan. Teheran financed Shi'ite organizations. The Tehrik-e-Jaffria was in the forefront of Shi'ite militancy given the lack of economic opportunity and investment in a remote, arid and harsh landscape. The Zia-ul-Haq administration settled Sunni Muslims from the North West Frontier Province in the territory to neutralize this. The Sipaha-e-Sahaba, the Sunni extremist organization was built up to counter Shi'ite militancy. There was a proliferation of hard-line Sunni Madrassahs. The Shi'ite population reportedly declined from 85% in 1948 to 53% today. This statistic is hard to verify in the absence of census figures.

There were sectarian riots in Baltistan in 1988. Outside gangs terrorized the local Shi'ite population. Zia despatched then Brigadier Pervez Musharraf to suppress the unrest with brutal force. Many perished in the violence. Some allege that Balti airforce personnel might have had a role in the subsequent plane blast that killed Zia 10 days later. Regardless, the ISI continued to sponsor Lashkar-e-Toiba and Hizbul Mujahadeen bases in Baltistan to foment unrest in Indian-held Kashmir.

Ethno-sectarian tensions continue to simmer with Baltistan. The movement for independence or far reaching autonomy is not irrelevant. The Baltistan Student Federation boycotted the 50th anniversary of Pakistan in 1997. There were riots in June, 2004 over the Government's school curriculum viewed as anti-Shi'ite. Sunni extremists in turn attacked the Ismaili Agha Khan Foundation in December, 2004. This triggered sectarian violence in January, 2005. There were reports of more unrest in October, 2005 and January, 2006 with several being killed.

The Baltis demanded the right to be represented in the Pakistani legislature, one that is currently denied to them given the legal ambiguity of that region. The Pakistani constitutions of 1956, 1962, 1972 and 1973 make no reference to Baltistan or Gilgit. The Balti do not have the right to vote in national elections. They unsuccessfully filed action in the Supreme Court to win the fundamental rights accorded to Pakistani citizens. All in all, this is a region that remains disaffected and marginalized from the Punjabi mainstream.

Indian policy makers will need to highlight human rights in Baltistan and Gilgit in international fora. They should support Balti dissidents to neutralize the Wahabi fundamentalist groups operating in the area. A link with Iran might be useful here in light of the Pakistani sponsorship of terror in Indian-held Kashmir since 1989.

Greetings, Mr. Aziz

Coincident with Shaukat Aziz's Washington trip, the influential Washington Post has an appropriately hawkish editorial on The War in Pakistan

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Indian History being rewritten in the US

Here's an interesting debate on Indian history in US textbooks!

Madrassa Reform

Rezwan discusses how Madrassa's are being reformed in West Bengal -- the results are seemingly pretty good.


The linguistic, sectarian, tribal and political fault-lines that run across Afghanistan, Baluchistan, the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and the North West Frontier Province impinge on the stability of Pakistan. Emphasis to date has been on the politics of the Punjab and Sindh. The trans-Indus dynamics might in fact be more relevant to the continuity of the Musharraf regime. This post will focus on the Federally Administered Tribal Areas in Pakistan.

The Pakhtun North West Frontier Province and the adjoining Tribal Areas lay between the Mughal and Safavid empires. Ahmad Shah Durrani founded the Durrani empire in 1747 CE that included Afghanistan, the North West Frontier and the Tribal Areas. The three regions have strong ethno-religious links. Maharaja Ranjith Singh brought the Tribal Areas under Punjabi domination in 1818 CE. The politics of that region were linked to the Indian subcontinent from then on. The British imposed the 1,500 mile Durand line in 1893 that cut through Pakhtun lands. Afghanistan rejected the legality of the Durand line in 1949.

The colonial authorities chose not to directly administer the fiercely individualist Tribal Areas, a region of 10,500 square miles. Independent Pakistan continued the policy of autonomy. Tribal law supersedes the civil and criminal law of Pakistan. The Tribal Areas comprise Bajorr, Khyber, Kurram, Mohmand, Orakzai and Waziristan. It has a population of 3 million. The tribal chiefs or Maliks reign supreme. The fall of the Taleban in neighboring Afghanistan in December, 2001 changed the relative independence that the region enjoyed. Pakistan sent in 70,000 troops in 2004 as part of the United States sponsored Global Offense Against Terror. This led to increased restiveness in the Tribal Areas. The international media has not covered the simmering unrest partly because of a lack of access.

United States military activity in the face of increased instability in adjoining areas of Afghanistan heightened tensions. It launched a missile attack on January 13 targeting suspected militant cells in Bajorr. 18 civilians were reportedly killed in addition to 4 alleged Al Qaeda operatives. Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai had accused militants operating from the Tribal Areas of carrying out the suicide attack that killed a Canadian diplomat and two others in Kandahar on January 15, a suicide attack that killed 5 more in Kandahar on January 16 and a attack that killed 23 in Spin Boldak. The Governor of the Afghan province of Kandahar accused Pakistan of complicity.

The information is sparse and the implications unclear. This is much to do with the lack of access to the region. The events in the Tribal Areas might destabilize the adjoining North West Frontier Province, currently governed by the six party Islamist alliance the Muttahida Majlis-e Amal. The provincial government has crossed swords with Musharraf accusing him of being an "American slave". It has charged American troops carrying out earthquake relief operations of espionage. Another issue that comes to mind, albeit in an indirect manner, is the proposed Kalabagh dam that largely affects Pakhtun areas. In addition to withholding Indus river waters from the Sindh for use in the Punjab, it would submerge the Pakhtun city of Naushera. Several other Pakthun areas would face regular water logging.

Indian policy makers need to assess the potential for instability. The case for a greater Afghan involvement in the affairs of the North West Frontier Province and the Federal Administered Tribal Areas should be explored. The three units after all form part of an ethno-religious continuum unrelated to the Punjab. The Pakhtun partition was a mere accident of history. A Pakthun nationalism divorced from the Punjab and one that takes inspiration from the Durrani empire, the warrior poetry of Kushal Khan Khattak and the anti-colonial agitation of Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan is in India's interest. This after all was the historic Indic frontier with the Farsi realm.

Mind bending experiment in China

This article from MIT Technology Review discusses the Great Chinese experiment of instituting the scientific mindset onto its research community in a top-down manner. Much of the funding is mandated by the bureaucrats in the Communist party. Big brother is always watching what the scientists say to foreigners. And cultivating the ethos, the discipline of science, faces challenges from two deep-rooted cultural problems: the Confucian problem and the plagiarism problem. Harmony, consensus and respect for authority or elders, broadly the Confucian mindset, goes against the most fundamental aspect of modern science where the senior-most professor can be challenged by the youngest of students. The other problem is the complete ignorance or disrespect of intellectual property rights, trademarks and the stealing or the widespread practice of incorporating ideas without attribution.

This article from Newsweek talks about Chinese industrial and governmental espionage (including some in India) in its drive to acquire high-technology at any cost.

Goes to show that you can beg, borrow or steal, but none of it can help you create mind bending miracles, like inculcating the spirit of scientific enquiry. (What are they going to think of next? Introducing democracy by decree?)

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Cricket And Terror

Via Hindustan Times, Missing cricket fans behind B’lore terror?

THREE OF the 32 Pakistanis visitors who had gone missing after the Indo-Pak cricket series in India last year may have been involved in the terror attack at the Indian Institute of Sciences in Bangalore in December.

If this pans out, then this on-going farce of cricket diplomacy should be immediately ended. It has already cost us too much blood in exchange for only cheap thrills.

The Market Knows?

Via Israeli Debkafile, Tehran plans a nuclear weapons test

Via Associated Press, Israel hints at preparation to stop Iran

Via Reuters, US stocks suffer biggest fall in nearly 3 years

Via TMCnet, Tokyo stocks open sharply lower after NY shares plunge

Idiocy Watch

Pakistani Daily Dawn's New Delhi reporter Jawed Naqvi presumes to caution India on its emerging American alliance.

Why? Because, he writes:

It is no coincidence that America’s biggest bugbears today — Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden — were once its key allies. If India were to follow Washington’s lead on global issues, particularly in the Middle East, it could end up being similarly trapped in a duplicitous bargain, most likely on the losing end of it.

So, let's get this straight. India is being compared to Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden?! Doesn't the comparison better fit America's frontline ally in the war on terror?!!!

How do these fools print things like this while keeping a straight face? Ironically, the same -- supposedly respectable -- newspaper carries the following editorial in the very same issue: Indian media’s blinkered perception. What's that about pot and kettles?!

Self-Destructive Rage

Via Associated Press, Sympathy For Al Qaeda Surges In Pakistan

If one had to have an enemy state, could one possibly find a more self-destructive one?


Gargi's The call of the old… revived old memories for this blogger.

She refers to "Buniyaad"; there were also "Hum Log" and "Aur Bhi Gham Hain Zamane Mein".

Interestingly, the theme song for the former and the name of the latter are both adapted from Faiz poems linked below. See if you can spot the reference!!


Mujh se pehli si mohabbat

Indian Foreign Policy: Reflections

The continuity in the foreign policy styles of the Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh administrations is unmistakable. Both governments endeavored to improve India's international profile by leveraging a strategic alliance with the United States, initiating significant forays into Central Asia and South East Asia, and retaining existing defence links with Russia. Both administrations fared better in back-room diplomacy despite the failure to implement a firm stand in the public arena vis-a-vis national security. The preferred method was covert and behind-the-scenes rather than activist and high-profile. While this might have had its benefits, it also revealed the soft state that India is today.

The common thread in foreign and defence policies is striking when it came to the investment in space technology, participation in the East Asia Forum (which convenes ASEAN, Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea), the importance placed on the Far Eastern Marine Command at Port Blair, the emphasis on road, shipping and defence links with Burma, not to mention strengthened links with Thailand and Indonesia. The look east policy is visible. The Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh governments similarly emphasized investment in the Sakhalin oil fields and the joint Russian-Kazakh Kurmangazy oil fields in the Caspian as part of a broader energy thrust. India also hopes to invest in rail and road links between the Central Asian republics and Iran as part of the 1999 Trilateral Agreement that envisioned an oil swap between India, Iran and Turkmenistan. The two administrations continued the key defence and allied space technology links with Russia, while developing ties with the United States in dual use nuclear, space and military technology. Russian efforts to establish with Indian support the Global Navigation Satellite System as a counter to the United States-based Global Positioning System is a case in point.

India's foreign policy is a quiet and largely covert one. The emphasis on the immediate neighborhood is a tacit one. Despite increased rapport with the United States, India discreetly vetoed United States efforts to enter into an Access and Cross Servicing Agreement with Sri Lanka, to construct an international airport at Kuda Oya in that country's deep south, to modernize airport facilities in Jaffna in the island's far north and extend the immediate post-tsunami US Marine presence beyond one month. It is entirely probable that India covertly facilitated international focus on the upsurge in Islamist fundamentalism in neighboring Bangladesh and media attention on Pakistan's restive Baluchistan province. India appears to excel in back room diplomacy.

Nonetheless, the broad scope and long term character of Indian foreign policy should not detract from its essential weakness since 1990. One can give two examples out of several i.e. (a) Islamist radicalism in the neighborhood; and (b) the fast unravelling scenario in Nepal. China is a third example and will be covered in a separate post. It sponsored Pakistan's development of nuclear technology in the early 1990s. The Narasimha Rao administration did nothing to contain that.

India failed to address the role of Pakistan's Inter Services Intelligence in fomenting unrest in Afghanistan and Kashmir in the 1990s. The Taleban captured Kabul in 1996. This helped transform Afghanistan into a haven for terrorism targeted at India. Fortunately, international events unrelated to Indian initiative helped neutralize the Taleban regime in 2001. However, Pakistan-sponsored Islamist radicalism continues to pose a threat to India. This has not been addressed despite terrorist attacks in Ayodhya, Bangalore, Gujarat, Hyderabad, Mumbai and New Delhi since 2001.

While the immediate arrests in the aftermath of a terrorist attack in India reveal fairly good intelligence mechanisms, the inability of the two administrations to neutralize the source of the threat is striking. India is unable to prosecute an overt foreign policy response to Islamist belligerence. It is better equipped to deal with issues behind the scenes. This is its weakness. Let us not forget that General Musharraf was the author of the incidents at Kargil and Kandahar. The unrest in Baluchistan has offered a window of opportunity to contain over zealous intelligence officials in Pakistan. While India had little to do with that insurrection, the least it can now do is to leverage that.

Nepal is another instance in point. The Nepalese monarchy might be on the verge of collapse given a recalcitrant, short-sighted and stupid ruler. A dysfunctional party system adds to the crisis with the shared incompetence of the Nepali Congress and the Communist Party of Nepal - Marxist Leninist. The belligerent Maoists have brought day to day administration to a halt in several parts of Nepal and have cooperated with their co-ideologues in destabilizing remote tracts in India as well. The solution to the imbroglio in Nepal is clearly within India's reach. Two of the three sets of actors are within its direct influence i.e. the monarch and the established political parties. It is in India's interests to arbitrate a solution between the two sides before enforcing one on the Maoists.

I favor a constitutional monarchy. The unified Nepal that we know of today came into existence with the Gorkha empire established in 1742 CE. Remove the current dynasty and one removes a key unifier in an otherwise heterogenous and varied land. This said, the current monarch should be compelled to restore democratic rule and forfeit his authoritarian prerogative. Maoist violence will need to be eliminated under a broader rubric of democracy and internationally-financed development. Dick Cheney's remarks are pertinent here i.e. "we do not negotiate with terrorists, we put them out of business".

Reference to the ancient Sanskrit classic on statecraft - the Artha-shastra - is in order here. Kautilya argued that "the welfare of a state depends on an active foreign policy". He enumerated six principles of foreign policy i.e.a ruler shall (i) augment the resources and power of the state; (ii) eliminate the enemy; (iii) adopt a prudent course; (iv) prefer peace to war, all things being equal; (v) be just in victory and defeat; and (vi) cultivate international allies.

The track record of the Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh administrations is not too bleak in light of these precepts. Theirs was a quiet, tacit and behind-the-scenes diplomacy. But they failed to prosecute a pro-active foreign policy in the public domain. This lacunae will now need to be reversed.

The Valley Of Blood

Via BBC, Nepal Maoist clash leaves 23 dead

Via Stratfor, High Noon in Nepal, India to the Rescue?

The government of Nepalese King Gyanendra cracked down Jan. 19 on Nepal's political parties, which had planed a Jan. 20 rally against the royalist regime, a move quickly drawing India's ire. The stage is now set for a Jan. 20 showdown between Nepal's increasingly agitated political parties and government security forces -- a showdown that could result in swift action by New Delhi to restore democracy to the troubled mountain kingdom.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Nuclear Knee

The terrific Belmont Club has a fascinating analysis of France's startling escalation in the "war on terror" rhetoric.

Shapely Observation

Via Science, Humans hard-wired for geometry

Given this, why did we struggle so much with the darn subject as kids?!

Thursday, January 19, 2006


Via Associated Press, Most college students lack common literacy skills

More than 50 percent of students at four-year schools and more than 75 percent at two-year colleges lacked the skills to perform complex literacy tasks.

That means they could not interpret a table about exercise and blood pressure, understand the arguments of newspaper editorials, compare credit card offers with different interest rates and annual fees or summarize results of a survey about parental involvement in school.

This is in America, no less. We shudder to imagine how terrible the standards are in Indian, particularly rural, colleges?

Startling Escalation

Via Reuters, France threatens nuclear weapons against 'terrorist' states

We are hardly terror apologists given that we reject terrorists' evil methods and their tortured "root cause" analyses.

Still, we are startled and quite alarmed by French President Chirac's significant escalation of the war on terror rhetoric. This is almost more worrying than the new purported Osama tape.

"The leaders of states who would use terrorist means against us, as well as those who would consider using in one way or another weapons of mass destruction, must understand that they would lay themselves open to a firm and adapted response on our part," Chirac said during a visit to a nuclear submarine base in northwestern France.

"This response could be a conventional one. It could also be of a different kind."

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Jain Ire At ASI

Via BBC, Police blocked from Indian temple

Thousands of Jain devotees have defied a ban on gatherings of more than five people and prevented police from taking an ancient temple complex in India.

The Jain community in Madhya Pradesh want to remove a statue from one of the temples to a different location.

The police wanted to prevent Jain devotees from transferring the statue to a nearby temple.

The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) says moving the statue of Lord Adinath, the first Jain prophet, would be illegal.

But a gathering of about 15,000 devotees, who came together in Mandla district on Monday, formed a human chain with women and children at the forefront and prevented police getting near the temples, a top police official said.

Idiocy Watch

Via BBC, Why Chinese-speaking childminders are all the rage in New York

An increasing number of families in the United States is looking to employ Chinese nannies - not so much for their child-rearing abilities, but more for their language skills.

Parents always want to give their children a good head start in life to prepare them for the future.

It seems that families in the United States with a lot of disposable income believe that helping their children master the intricacies of Mandarin at an early age is one way to do that.

One Chinese woman even managed to secure a salary of $70,000-a-year after two families tried to outbid each other to get her.

(Link courtesy: Drudge Report)

Negotiating with Musharraf. Not.

We read with amusement the transcript of the recent Musharraf interview. Apart from the inarticulate, incoherent and self-incriminating comments, this was our first oppurtunity to gain an insight into the delusional mind of the Pakistani leader. We have always wondered what the final solution to the decades-old Kashmir problem is, and what are the positions staked out by the negotiating parties. Good negotiating strategy or not, Musharraf chose to go public with his ideas, giving the public its first insider look at the ever-secretive peace-process.

So, what the General wants, quite simply, in exchange for turning off the terror tap, is joint-soveriegnty over combined-Kashmir. The proxy-war is his leverage, and he's not letting go of it for free (else, his colleagues would argue, what was the point of the 20-year jihad?). It does make sense, in a perverse way, from the General's point of view.

What does India want? For lack of visibility, we'll speculate, that the Indian side would settle for converting LoC into the border, with some soft border controls in Kashmir, with Indian sovereignty this side of LoC, and autonomy within the Indian constitution. So, what leverage does India have to get what it wants? India is not going to get what it wants by gently pleading to the General's conscience - this is a tough game of realpolitik and its going to have to play hardball.

The key is to acquire a few trump cards that India can then barter away. India needs to convince the General that if he doesn't take what is offered, the alternative would be much worse. India needs to create circumstances that make the current offer "an offer he can't refuse". Here's a few ideas from the outside - hopefully the babus have better ideas.
  • India should refuse to negotiate with the untrustworthy Musharraf. Reject his absurd proposals outright, refuse to negotiate with a gun to our heads, highlight his long resume of deception, and say we'll wait till we get a credible partner in peace. Meanwhile, move unilaterally, Ariel Sharon style, to implement the final solution as we see fit. (see below).
  • Launch a massive Marshall-plan for Kashmir's development. The people there have suffered enough, and its time for redevelopment. This has to be investment, more than aid. Create special economic zones, IT parks, highways, offer tax holidays. Get the Indian private sector into the act.
  • Move aggressively to assist those affected by the recent earthquake on the Indian side. While the Pakistani government has refused Indian aid, there should be serious infusion of cash and support through informal channels. Let the people realize that in their time of need, the self-absorbed Pakistani military was sorely lacking.
  • Stop the cricket matches, exciting as the games may be. US wouldn't send a soccer team to Saddam's Iraq or Kim's Korea. This is not to suggest that the fight is with Pakistani people - quite the contrary, they are our brothers with a few thousand years of shared culture. The problem is with the half-century old military regime whose ideology and very origins are opposed to everything good about India. Playing cricket only serves to legitimize the regime.
  • The jihadi war needs to be fought in their backyard, not ours. Indian intelligence agencies should be tasked with Israeli-style neutralization of jihadi leaders who roam freely in Pakistan. They've spilt enough blood, and these criminals must be stopped, by any means necessary. This also weakens Pakistani leverage.
  • Publicly support pro-democracy movements in Pakistan, be it at the national or state level. Pooh-pooh the charade of a democracy in today's Pakistan.
  • De-construction of the Pakistani military machine should be India's twenty-year project. There is no permanent peace without this. Refuse to buy arms from those that sell to Pakistan. Outspend Pakistan till they give up. Setup offensive weapons that can completely annihilate the Pakistani armed forces infrastructure, not the country, in a few minutes of war.
  • Publicly hold Pakistani feet to the fire for the non-proliferation violations. Shame US and UK into doing the same. The current problems with Iran and N Korea create an awkward situation for those that would brush this under the rug for other private deals.
  • Lobby the US that Musharraf is not the solution to the Al Qaeda problem, but part of the problem. Some articles suggest its already happening - India could accelerate the tipping point.
  • Its a stretch, but can RAW assist the CIA in locating OBL? Indian agents should find it easier to blend into the local society on the Pak/Afghan border than American agents. This will fix the US obsession with OBL and its consequent dependence on Pakistan.
India has been on the receiving end of the "war on terror" for decades before the term was coined. Its about time we joined the fight and acted like we were at war instead of suing for temporary and illusory peace. Whether one agrees with US/Israeli politics, when they're at war, they fight. India needs to learn to fight. Once the fight is won, we can get back to negotiations and play cricket.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Ignorance Is Bliss

Photo courtesy: Hindustan Times

Lebanon Adrift?

Lebanon is at the cross roads once again. The Syrians had militarily intervened at the commencement of the civil war in 1975 and were forced to leave only in April, last year after the February assassination of Rafik Hariri, former Prime Minister of Lebanon. Hariri was a quiet opponent of Syria's continued domination and his death had fueled anti-Syrian sentiment. The street protests in Lebanon and international opprobrium forced Syria to withdraw its troops after 30 years.

However, Damascus is alleged to have planned 14 bomb attacks in Lebanon last year targeting anti-Syrian public figures and commercial centers in Christian neighborhoods. The latest bombing on December 12 killed Gibran Tueni, the Lebanese Christian media magnate and legislator.

A UN commission investigating the Hariri murder had implicated senior Syrian officials in October, 2005. There appears to be dissension in the Syrian camp. The exiled Abdul-Halim Khaddam, a former Vice President of Syria, charged that the Syrian President had ordered the Hariri assassination. Khaddam announced plans over the weekend to establish a government-in-exile. The narrow Alawite base of the ruling Ba'ath administration in Syria is under threat. International isolation, the re-emergence of the Muslim Brotherhood in that country and dissension within the ruling elite bode ill for the current administration. These factors have direct implications on the future stability of the multi-confessional Lebanon as well.

Syria backed the Shi'ite Hezbollah militia in Lebanon in the 1990s. Five Shi'ite cabinet ministers had suspended their participation in the Lebanese cabinet recently. The Hezbollah opposed international calls for a UN inquiry into recent political assassinations within Lebanon. Hezbollah also rejected UN Security Council resolution 1559 which stipulated that all armed militias in Lebanon disarm.

Walid Jumblatt, leader of the Druze minority, attacked Hezbollah over the weekend for its refusal to decommission. Hezbollah responded with a harsh rejoinder. Meanwhile, David Welch, Assistant Secretary at the United States Department of State had threatened Damascus to cooperate with the ongoing UN investigation on the murder of Rafik Hariri or "face further action". This led to pro-Syrian Shi'ite demonstrations in Beirut yesterday condemning the United States. The police used tear gas and water cannons to disperse the demonstrators. There were counter demonstrations against Hezbollah.

Lebanon's confessional political system might be under strain. Can the Levantine Phoenix sustain itself in light of these ominous developments? And is the Arab glasnost sustainable? Much would depend on how events unfold in both Syria and Lebanon in the coming weeks.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

The Al-Aqsa Constraint

UPI's Martin Walker describes the complex ripples from Iran's nuclear ambition. He concludes that the likely scenario is not war, but a mutually assured destruction dynamic versus Israel.

Many in the West believe, with some justification, that Iran intends using the bomb to annihilate Israel. Martin Walker points out that this will also destroy the Al Aqsa Mosque -- from where the Prophet Mohammad ascended to heaven. Will Iran's theocracy really go down this blasphemous path?

While the worst case scenario might be overstated -- of which Ahmedinejad's repugnant anti-semitism is a key driver -- there is no question that Iran is calling the West's bluff. Why and why now?

There is little doubt that the nuclear issue is really a nationalist issue in Iran. By standing up to the West, the Iranian theocracy finds itself in rare alignment with their young & less Islamist population. This is crucial to keeping its home in order as Iran grapples with its rivals abroad.

Further, with Al Qaeda's gambit having been largely crushed, there is clear opportunity for a serious Islamic nation-state to step in and take up the role of West's principal antipode. While the vast majority of Muslims were staunchly anti-Qaeda, there exists a regrettably wide resentment of the West. Supporting an Anti-West nation-state (versus a barbaric terrorist outfit) is far more respectable option for many.

Iran can increasingly point to the "Western lackeys" in the Sunni Islamic world -- the "compromised" Arab dictators and Pakistani/Turkish Generals incapable of leading Islam.

Finally, after Iraq, an invasion of Persia is out of the question. Also, given high oil prices, broad economic sanctions are unlikely. What this leaves is targeted strikes on nuclear sites -- which is almost what Iran wants because such strikes merely slow down a process whose result (the Bomb) is not usable anyway (given the Al Aqsa constraint).

But, such strikes (particularly by Israel) have the potential of galvanizing Muslim public opinion in a manner that the pathetic Osama bin Laden could only fantasize about.

If we were the Saudis, this is what we'd fear -- Iran with a robust conventional military, world's Muslims behind it, the Saddam Hussain buffer neutralized, mocking the inept guardians of the holy places.

Iran is likely provoking the West not to annihilate Israel but to overturn the legitimacy of the Saudis. This is the ultimate in geo-political bank shots. If the West restrains its response (what its been doing), Iran goes nuclear -- if the West reacts, Iran emerges the leader of Islam. Either way, the Ayatollahs in Qum come out ahead. This is the 2.0 version of the 25 year old Iranian Revolution.

Oh, and by the way, Iran will be referred to the Security Council -- likely unanimously. Why? Because, if everyone casts their vote against Iran, Iran couldn't pick on anyone for retribution. Besides, Iran seeks such referral in the first place!!

These sure are the years of living dangerously.

For another view, read Niall Ferguson's The origins of the Great War of 2007 (link courtesy: The Daily Telegraph)

Sex and Nudity

On January 8, Agence France Presse had a blurb on the recent theological debate in Egypt as to whether nudity was permissable during sex. Rashad Hassan Khalil, the former dean of the Faculty of Shari'ah of Al Azhar University, had issued a fatwa that "being completely naked during the act of coitus annuls the marriage".

This led to an immediate controversy. Suad Saleh who heads the Women's Department of the Faculty of Islamic Studies at Al Azhar rejected the edict that nudity during sexual intercourse could invalidate a union. She pleaded for "anything that can bring spouses closer to each other". Another scholar chipped in to dismiss the religious decree mentioning that "nothing is prohibited during marital sex, except of course sodomy".

Eager to bring the vexed issue to a close, Mufti Abdullah Megawar, the Chairman of the Al Azhar Fatwa Committee argued that "married couples could see each other naked but should not look at each other's genitalia". He suggested that "they cover up with a blanket during sex".

Blankets anyone?

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Unintelligent Design?

Daily Times columnist Ahmad Faruqui dares to question the conventional wisdom blaming Mr. Jinnah's early death and the absence of politically strong successors for Pakistan's ills.

Instead, Mr. Faruqui argues:

Jinnah might conclude that Pakistan had failed not because the leaders who followed him were weak, but because there were weaknesses in the original design. How else can one explain the behaviour of a state that was able to bring home 93,000 prisoners of war within two years of a military debacle but another 32 years later, has been unable to bring home 200,000 civilians displaced by the same war?

Only a state that has succumbed to regimented thinking would fail to see the contradiction in calling for the people of Kashmir to be given the right of self-determination for 58 years, while continuing to deny its own people the right to elect their own government.

Jinnah would conclude that Pakistan had failed him. But will the barrister, who was once the ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity, call for the annulment of Partition? That is the $64 million question.

It's much too late -- and quite dangerous -- to reverse the partition, but this debate is crucial so that a failed Pakistan is seen as a warning by divisive others in our Indian political maelstorm.

Arsenic Laced Honey

Via Hindustan Times, Arundhati Roy declines Sahitya Akademi Award

Why? Because the award is linked to a government she opposes.

By "government", she doesn't imply the secular-left UPA government or its predecessor, the religious-right NDA government. She likely means our system of government -- and our way of life.

Ms. Roy is a leftist extremist who, in a throwback to the discredited ideologies of the Soviet era, seeks a revolution to overturn the advance in our economic freedoms -- what she contemptuously calls "the neo-liberal project".

The irony of this stale rebel being courted by the Indian establishment is hardly lost on her. Ever the publicity hound, she rejects the Sahitya Akademi award -- an act that will further endear her to the intellectual dwarfs -- and punishment gluttons -- who preside over our cultural scene.

The scandal here is that Ms. Roy was selected for the award in the first place. Her words may drip like honey, but her honey is laced with arsenic. Calling her vile manifesto literature is absurd. Sahitya Akademi should be ashamed.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Outrage In Malaysia

Via PTI, Sikh boy asked to shave off beard in Malaysia

Matters Of Morality

Via PTI, Ban family planning, abortion, says Puri seer

Is this what India needs to further fracture our society -- a US-style politico-religious fight over abortion? We think absolutely not.

This is not to say we do not appreciate the complex moral issues on the matter of abortion. Personally, we have a pretty dim view of the procedure. In our ideal world, abortion would be extremely rare -- self-limited by mothers only to situations where their lives are at stake.

But, given the extraordinary complexity of the issue, we are loath to imposing our personal morality on others through legislative dictat. Clearly, the seer thinks otherwise. This is rather unfortunate.

There's a great deal of intolerant morality imposition that's going on in India these days. This is hardly emblematic of a healthy and free society. We may disapprove of certain lifestyles and public conduct, but our tolerant social heritage and our constitutionally guaranteed freedoms require us to live and let live.

If we absolutely must condemn certain practices, fine -- that afterall is an exercise of free expression -- but there should be no expectation that the Government will use its machinery to follow along.

Good News, Maybe

Via ABC News, Pakistani Military Sources Say Zawahiri May Be Dead

Keeping our fingers crossed.

Hopping Humans

Via The Guardian, Scientists set to create human-rabbit hybrid

Why, you ask?

To endow human eggs with legendary rabbit fertility!!

Sue The Saudis

Via BBC, South Asia counts Hajj death toll

Frankly, this annual dying is squarely the consequence of criminal crowd management by Saudi authorities. India should sue the dictators in Riyadh -- for Billions of their ill-earned Dollars -- on behalf of our innocent dead.

See also, Rezwan's call for Saudi accountability.

Green Is Not All Good

Via Financial Times, Robert Mathews draws our attention to a startling new discovery which is a must-read in the debate about the environment. He writes:

Everyone knows trees are "A Good Thing". They take in the carbon dioxide that threatens our planet with global warming and turn it into fresh, clean oxygen for us all to breathe.

But now it seems we need to think again. In a discovery that has left climate scientists gasping, researchers have found that the earth's vegetation is churning out vast quantities of methane, a greenhouse gas far more potent even than CO2. This is not a product of trees and plants rotting, which everyone already knew was a source of methane; it is an entirely natural side-effect of plant growth that scientists had somehow missed. Yet it is by no means trivial: preliminary estimates suggest that living trees and plants account for about 10 to 30 per cent of the methane entering the atmosphere.

While no one is suggesting chopping down the world's trees to save the planet, the new research highlights the astonishing complexity of environmental science. Measures to combat climate change that once seemed simple common sense are turning out to be anything but.

Everyone knows fossil fuel power stations are hefty producers of CO2 and need urgently to be replaced. Yet they are now also recognised as hefty producers of aerosols - tiny particles in the atmosphere that play a key role in reflecting the sun's heat back into space. The scientific consensus was that this is a minor benefit of fossil fuel burning. But last month Nature published new research showing aerosols may be twice as effective at keeping the earth cool as was thought. Suddenly, wholesale closure of power stations no longer seems such a good idea.

Climate scientists would have us believe there is no doubt about the basics of global warming and the time for action is now. The recent spate of large revisions of the facts tells a different story. Yet politicians are still being pressed to do the impossible: modify the huge, chaotic system that is the earth's climate in ways guaranteed to be beneficial for all.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Malthus Lives!

Worldwatch Institute claims that booming nations 'threaten Earth' (BBC)

Asian prosperity bothers Western liberal "do-gooders" comfortable in their cushy, energy-intensive lifestyles. What a surprise?

Their sensationalist headlines are meant to frighten ordinary Joe and Jane -- i.e. Western voters -- about rising India and China. Consequently, these environmentalists represent a clear and present threat to the prosperity of our people.

Reality is that the only resources humans really need to achieve exceptional living standards are curiosity, imagination, and freedom. Armed with these, we can tame the universe to our ends.

Best part is, these resources are infinite and ever-lasting! Neo-Malthusians fail to understand this.

India's response to environmentalist provocation should be clear -- we intend raising our prosperity, and consequent energy needs, to Western standards and woe be unto anyone who stands in our way.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Japan and the Modern Novel

I refer to Will Durant, "The Story of Civilization: Our Oriental Heritage", New York: Simon and Schuster, 1954; and the December 31, 1999 Millenium special edition of the Economist.

Murasaki no-Shikibu, the author of the world's first novel, lived in Japan between 975 and 1025 CE. Born into the Fujiwara clan as the daughter of a provincial bureaucrat, she was widowed four years after her marriage. Murasaki's aristocratic background enabled her to join the royal court. She turned to writing in response to her personal loss and studiously kept a diary. Her real identity is unknown, Murasaki Shikibu being a pen name. As an attendant to the Empress Akiko at the Heian court, she kept copious notes of the events and personalities of her time. This provided the material for that work of historical fiction - the Genji Monogatari (Gossip of Genji) in 1001 CE.

She writes of an imagined prince - Genji whose good looks exceeded his morals and who passed from one lover to another with versatality. Genji was the son of a Japanese emperor by his favorite concubine. A dashing prince, he was a woman's idea of a man - all sentiment and seduction. Genji had the intelligence, the charm and the libido to match. Murasaki portrays the complex psychology of the individuals at the royal court and weaves a narrative that revolves around their inner conflicts. She explores a fast-receding time and memory in the lives and loves of her characters. The novel is grand in its conception, graceful in its expression. But beneath the sketch is a brooding interpretation of life, one that is all too cognizant of its transitoriness and fleeting brevity. There is pathos, regret and a refined sensitivity. The story ends with Genji at 52 planning to retire to a mountain temple aware by now of the emptiness of life.

The male literati in Japan had traditionally used the sophisticated Chinese calligraphy. Murasaki introduced a new literary genre by relying on the simpler Japanese phonetic syllabary. The comparison could be made to the stenographer's short-hand. Most women were not tutored in the Chinese classics and Murasaki's was a feminine diction. She continued to write and the novel ran into many volumes. Many ladies-in-waiting sought her evolving narrative, even stealing unrevised pages for a preview. Murasaki ran out of paper and laid her hands upon the sacred sutras in a Buddhist temple, sacrilegiously using them for manuscript. The printing press was introduced in Japan in the 1700s. The book had become an even bigger hit.

I recommend the Genji Monogatari. The woman's journal has a distinct more intuitive flavor to it, one that offers insights into the complexities of life. It has a perceptive feel and richness that broadens ones experience. The novel has a timeless quality, so classical and yet contemporary.

On a related note, my greatest regret was the loss in Jaffna of what was perhaps the last surviving Tamil manuscript of "Urutira Kanikaiyar Katha Sara Tirattu". This was the autobiography of an early 19th century temple-courtesan by the name of Tirumati Anjukam in colonial Jaffna. "Urutira Kanikaiyar" translated into English means "nautch-dancer" or Devadasi. Unfortunately, little is known of that vanished era replaced with the tumult and chaos of today.

Is Musharraf Toast?

Via Asia Times Online, US turns against Musharraf

Syed Saleem Shahzad's story speculates a great deal but, if true, then the new year could turn out to be a very interesting one.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Is Musharraf delusionary?

Nitin Pai gives us his take on Musharraf's interview with Karan Thapar. The interview is a must-read. Following are some mirthful excerpts:

President Musharraf: Now, you have spoken about Manshera and you have spoken about LeT operating there for earthquake relief. LeT is not operating, it is Jamat-ud-Dawa.
Thapar: But it is the same organisation under a new name.
President Musharraf: No. Yes, I know that but it is not a banned organisation.
Thapar: But they have just changed name and continued?
President Musharraf: Well, it has linkages but it's not the same. It has its linkages as long as it is there. It has not even been banned abroad. LeT is a banned organisation in the UN. This one is not banned.
Thapar: But it's the same organisation, with the same man as the head.
President Musharraf: No, If they are there and they are carrying out relief operations, and they are doing a good job, I have no reason to stop anyone who is not banned and doing a good job or relief in the people. Why should I stop anyone? So, that's the issue.

Thapar: But you are suggesting that in the past terror was used as a weapon?
President Musharraf: No. Terror was not used. It was a freedom struggle going on in Kashmir, which is still going on. So let us leave that chapter aside because on one side Indians believe that it is terrorism, while we are saying that it is a freedom struggle.

President Musharraf: You select people who are unbalanced. He is not a balanced man. Let me say and please project this on the TV. I am sending a message to Ayaz Amir that he is an unbalanced man. You read any of his articles, they are all unbalanced. He doesn't know what he is talking.

President Musharraf: Let me tell you Karan, this is not a Banana Republic Army. This is an army which has fought wars. It's an extremely disciplined army. It is totally loyal and committed to me and I know that.

President Musharraf: It is an irony that I am trusted, I think, by the whole world, and here is one country and one leadership who don’t trust me when I am saying things.

Dragon In The Lab

Via Newsweek, Inside China's campaign to be a tech power

An interesting excerpt:

In 2001, U.S. intel sources reportedly alerted their Indian counterparts to "suspicious" activities by the Chinese firm Huawei (next story). Telecom software developed at Huawei's Bangalore R&D center allegedly wound up in the hands of the Pakistan government, New Delhi's archrival, by way of Huawei's Afghan operations. (Huawei has denied the allegations.) Indian intelligence officials, in particular, oppose allowing Huawei to expand its presence in their country because they fear strategic telecom networks would become vulnerable to China.

A Democracy Of Dunces

Of Arafat, it was frequently said, he lost no opportunity to lose an opportunity.

Alas, the same is true of our Indian democracy of dunces.

In this crucial geopolitical moment -- serendipitously pregnant with strategic possibility -- India's democracy is typically missing in action.

Global strategic equations are being re-defined. UN Security Council (which excludes India) has been devalued. G8 (which excludes India) is finally sending warm feelers. EU is in demographic crisis and economic stagnation. The Atlantic alliance is ever less relevant -- particularly to the US. West Asia is at war.

India is -- by sheer accident -- being courted by many major powers. US, Japan, EU, Russia, China, Iran, Israel and now, even Saudi Arabia.

If there's a time to assert ourselves, this is surely it. We finally have diplomatic capital which we should be spending.

Instead, we are allowing our neighborhood, where we can have the most infuence, to burn itself down. Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Burma, Nepal, Maldives and Afghanistan are all in deep trouble. As a great power aspirant, isn't India expected to flex its muscles and enforce its writ in these blighted countries?

We should be enforcing political modernity among our neighbors. Instead, as C. Rajamohan ably chronicles in Indian Express, our failed intervention in Sri Lanka in the late 1980s has sapped India's will to take hard decisions on managing regional crises.

How can we possibly frolic with great powers at day if, at night, we make our bed in a burnt out neighborhood?

Now, it's easy to blame our political leadership. But, as must be done in a democracy, we need to start with the man in the mirror. It's India's people who talk a big game but are unwilling to give our leaders the needed political mandate to really exert India's power.

We consider Pakistan evil for its terrorist ways, still cheer Cricket with them. We've had an ex-PM blown up by LTTE, whose terrorist leader sleeps in his own bed 14 years after the ghastly murder. Would Indians support an all out war against the LTTE? Unlikely. Nepalese Maoists roam around freely in India, and their domestic allies kill and maim our policemen, but Indians are hardly ready to wage war on this pernicious evil, are we?

Nah. We want our shiny malls, internet cafes, credit cards, and ridiculous "peace parks". We seek economic engagement and "people to people" contact. A fat lot of good this naivete has done for us.

So, our democracy of dunces straggles on -- without any firm sense of direction. What a sorry bunch of people we must appear to our rivals in the world?

Supreme Court

Via BBC, Indian politician's wealth probed

India's Supreme Court has ordered the chief minister of northern Uttar Pradesh state, Mulayam Singh Yadav, to explain the sources of his wealth.

The court order came after a petition alleging that Mr Yadav and his sons had amassed millions of rupees since 1977.

Not that we hold any brief to defend Mr. Yadav, but is his alleged corruption really a matter the Supreme Court ought to take up? Isn't this an issue for the investigative agencies? Why isn't the court limiting itself to serious constitutional matters of which there are many in a complex society such as India?

Monday, January 09, 2006

Ghadr Movement

Mark Juergensmeyer and Khushwant Singh have an interesting take on the expatriate Sikh contribution to the Indian freedom struggle in 1915. The reference is to the Ghadr movement that had its origins in California. Pre-partition Punjab had stretched from the outskirts of Delhi to the North West Frontier Province. The Sikhs lived for the most part in the central districts of the old Punjab i.e. Amritsar, Hoshiarpur, Jullundar and Ludhiana. The colonial authorities developed new canal-irrigated farming colonies in the late 1800s in west Punjab in what is today Pakistan. Many Sikhs moved to the hitherto largely Muslim western districts. The diversion of the Chenab river in the west Punjab had transformed a barren wasteland into a fertile area developed by the Sikh entrepreneur-farmer. The Sikhs dominated the new canal colonies.

The British however introduced the Alienation of Land Act in 1900 to prevent certain non-farming castes from owning newly irrigated agricultural land in the Punjab. The objective was to prevent the urban mercantile castes from appropriating the land. Many non-Jats were thus excluded from the canal settlements. The colonial administration introduced legislation preventing the new Sikh settlers from having full legal title to the irrigated land. A famine and a bubonic plague killed a million people in the Punjab in the early 1900s as well. This tightening environment triggered Sikh immigration to the west coast of Canada and the United States.

The first Sikhs arrived in California in 1899. There was a wave of Sikh immigration into Canada in 1907 and 1908. 1910 witnessed a significant Sikh influx into the United States. The Sikhs worked in the lumber camps of Oregon and Washington state, in the Canadian-Pacific Railroad and in the Hudson Bay Company. They later expanded into the San Joaquin valley of California. The Sikhs helped construct rail links in the North West United States and in the Panama Canal. A Sikh Gurudwara was built in British Columbia in 1907 and in California in 1912.

The arrival of Asians in the Pacific coast contributed to racial tensions. The anti-Asian riots of 1907 in British Columbia affected the Sikh community. Race riots spread to California and Oregon in 1908. Gangs attacked striking Chinese, Japanese and Sikh workers in 1914 in Wheatland, California. British Columbia stopped all new Asian immigration in 1908 while California passed the Alien Land Law in 1913 to restrict land ownership for Asians to a three year lease. The ill-fated attempt of 376 Indians who had traveled to Canada aboard the Komagata Maru in 1914 heightened the disenchantment. California introduced the Asiatic Exclusion Act in 1924. It refused permission for wives and children to join the Sikh men.

The early Sikh immigrants turned to Indian nationalism in exasperation. They founded the Ghadr movement in California, obtained German financial support and enlisted volunteers to return to India to stir rebellion. Several Hindus joined the effort given the close links between the two religions. World War 1 was then raging in Europe. Several hundred expatriates traveled to India to "participate in the armed uprising". The untrained and naive leadership unsuccessfully reached out to Afghanistan, China and Turkey for help. The three countries were themselves on the brink of collapse. This was a bizarre experiment where overseas Indians tried to start a revolutionary army and invade India by sea. The attempt ended in a fiasco. A series of mishaps, colonial infiltration and financial irregularity explained its failure. A few hundred "revolutionaries" were tried, 36 individuals sent to the gallows and most others sentenced to life in prison.

This was the first organized violent bid for independence after 1857. The Ghadr movement failed in its immediate objective. But it succeeded in inspiring other Indian freedom fighters. Subhas Chandra Bose might have well been influenced by the Ghadr precedent to leverage German and Japanese support in his efforts to dislodge the British in World War 2. In fact, his Indian National Army had a strong Sikh component. The Ghadr movement directly inspired Bhagat Singh and his band of revolutionaries. Many Ghadr veterans later joined the ranks of the Babbar Akalis to secure control of the Gurudwaras and oppose the British sponsorship of the Sahajdari (non-Khalsa) Sikh Mahants. A few members of the Ghadr linked up with Stalin's Comintern. Regardless of the immediate failure, the Ghadr had influenced the freedom struggle in no uncertain manner.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Delhi Chills

Via BBC, Delhi hits coldest in 70 years

So much for global warming!

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Break Up Our Broken Polity

UPA’s plan for minorities: we will fix govt spending as per their population share (Indian Express)

Whoever came up with this idiocy needs serious IQ injections.

Why is the Government obsessed with dividing Indians through rigid quotas -- instead of seeing them as one people with similar development needs?

Besides, this lunacy will require its own monitoring bureaucracy. How much more babudom can India take?

Fareed Zakaria observes the Indian state is failing badly, our society succeeding nevertheless. With Indians trapped between the bigotry of the religious-right and the divisiveness of the secular-left, how long before the society gets dragged back in the mire it's desperately trying to emerge from?

Somehow, someway, our broken dysfuctional political structure has to be broken up.


Start With The Man In The Mirror

India should pull out troops from J&K: I’ll fight terrorists, says Musharraf

Forgive our contemptuous mirth on this Daily Times report.

This man is burning down his own country -- yet presumes to advise India on what we ought to do in our own territory. Wow!!!

Extending Democracy To All Indians

Via Indian Express, NRIs may get voting rights: Manmohan

This relates not to the so-called "dual citizens" but those who live abroad while retaining their Indian citizenship. We've long lobbied for this personally and are thrilled that the Government is considering this step.

Of course, we fully expect BJP (who's long courted NRIs) to support this measure. Progress-averse Mr. Karat & his band of communists will likely protest any advance. On balance, however, this measure seems to be a winner.

Blog Mela

Gargi has compiled this week's terrific Blog Mela -- not least because it links to two posts here, one each by our fellow bloggers Libertarian and Jaffna.

Friday, January 06, 2006

India's Scheduled Tribes

India might well have the largest "tribal" population in the world. The scheduled tribes in India constituted 8.2% of India's population in 2001. This translates into 82 million people. There are 698 scheduled tribes in India. However, these numbers might be inflated. Reports suggest an increase of 148% in the scheduled tribe population in Maharashtra between 1971 and 1991 due to the inclusion of others for reasons of reservation.

The word "scheduled tribe" is an administrative term used for purposes of administering constitutional privileges, protection and benefits in independent India. The colonial authorities had introduced the term "criminal tribe" through the Criminal Tribes Act of 1871 which designated 150 tribal communities as "inherantly criminal". Independent India repealed this hideous piece of legislation in 1952 but unfortunately replaced it with the Habitual Offenders Act instead.

Colonial administrative boundaries paid scant attention to tribal linguistic identity. As in Africa where ancient tribes found themselves divided by arbitrary colonial boundaries, the scheduled tribes in India live across states notwithstanding common language. The historical Jharkhand (not to be confused with the modern state) straddles across Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa and West Bengal. The Gond region extends across Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Orissa. The Bhils inhabit a region that stretches from Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Rajasthan. The Nagas live in Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur and Nagaland.

The tribal imprint is clearly visible in the Hindu tradition. Much of Hindu civilization has tribal antecedents. The tribal element helped define the Sanskritic inheritance as the Arthashastra, the Mahabharata and Ramayana indicate. And yet due to reasons of geography, colonial history and incompetence in the post-independence era, the scheduled tribes have been marginalized and impoverished. India will need to remedy this through long term investments in health, education and infrastructure. Unfortunately, the Government has chosen quick and easy populist measures such as reservations in private unaided universities and the corporate sector that are not likely to succeed.

The scheduled tribes collectively owned property in keeping with their tradition. The colonial authorities introduced a land regime where others encroached into traditional tribal lands on the grounds that such land were "terra nullius" i.e. land that belongs to none. This led to a series of tribal revolts against colonial rule. I refer to the Malpahariya uprising in 1772, the unrest in Kutch in 1815 and 1832, the Bhil revolt of 1818, the uprising of the Mers in Rajputana in 1820, the rebellion of the Hos in Chote Nagpur in 1831, the uprising of the Khonds in Orissa in 1846 and the Santhal revolt in Bihar in 1855. Heroes like Birsa Munda, Kanhu Santhal and Tantya Bhil stand out in the annals of Indian nationalism. The underlying causes of these revolts have not been addressed in independent India as yet, a factor that explains in part the continuing Maoist ferment in Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Telengana.

The scheduled tribes account for 55% of the total displaced population in India. Their lands have been appropriated, the traditional right to forests denied, and they are a source of cheap and bonded labor.

It is reported that 8.5 million tribals have been displaced by the construction of hydro-electric dams, heavy industry, coal mines, highways and steel plants. These development projects have failed to meet the needs of the scheduled tribes. Though over 3,000 dams are located in tribal areas, only 20% of the tribal lands were irrigated in 1981 as compared to 46% of agricultural land overall. Tribal lands account for 56% of the total mineral revenue in India. 3,500 mines out of the 4,175 mines in India are in tribal areas. And yet the tribes have not benefited from the extraction of bauxite, coal, graphite, iron and manganese. The incidents this week in Orissa with the proposed establishment of a steel plant illustrate this vividly.

The total forest cover in India is reported to be 295,000 square miles. 71% of this is populated by tribal communities. The Forest Act of 1864, the Indian Forest Act of 1927, the Forest Policy of 1952, the Wild Life Protection Act of 1972, and the Forest Conservation Acts of 1980 and 1988 inadvertently sidelined the scheduled tribes under the guise of environmental conservation. The legislation treats the tribes as encroachers rather than an integral part of the forest environment. Many have been denied access to their traditional forest lands.

The Fifth and Sixth Schedules under Article 244 in 1950 provided for self-governance in designated tribal majority areas. The BJP-led administration issued a draft National Policy on Tribals in 1999 to meet the development needs of the tribal population. The emphasis was on education, forestry, health care, land rights, language policy and resettlement. Efforts were made to recognize tribal languages such as Bodo, Gond and Santhali. The then Government established a Ministry of Tribal Affairs. It carved out the states of Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand in recognition of tribal sentiment. The subsequent Congress-led administration drafted the controversial Scheduled Tribes (Recognition of Forest Rights) Bill in 2005 to address their needs. The bill was later shelved due to objections by the environmental lobby that it would legitimize encroachments on forest lands. However, India will need to follow up on these efforts to empower its tribal citizens.

For those interested to delve deeper into the subject, I recommend Sandhya Jain's "Adi Deo Arya Devata: A Panoramic View of Tribal-Hindu Cultural Interface", New Delhi: Rupa and Co, 2004; B.B. Kumar, "The Tribal Societies of India: A Macro Perception", New Delhi: Omsons Publications, 1998; and G.S. Ghurye, "The Scheduled Tribes", Bombay: Popular Prakashan, 1963.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Deep Sorrow

Via Reuters, Sharon in 'critical condition' after stroke: source

The year has barely begun and the world has to contend with the implications of Mr. Sharon's grave illness. We pray that he recovers -- and brace ourselves for the terrorism that'll likely follow if he doesn't.

This is a very damaging development for Israel, a vital Indian ally.

Idiocy Watch

Via Reuters, Man sets self on fire in courtroom after fine

Mercifully, this did not occur in India.

India - Center of the Muslim World?

India is the rough geographic center of the Muslim world. It is at the least the 3rd largest Muslim country (after Indonesia and Pakistan(?)) and the 2nd largest Shia country after Iran. We have the the most diverse (Muslim) population of any nation. Our architecture - a grand distillation of all things Indian - inspires awe. Our intellectual sophistication is peerless in the Muslim world. Islam has been in India since the Prophet was alive. So what's my point?

Indian Muslims need to grasp leadership of the Islamic world. They need to show the way. The current leadership in West Asia is visionless and untutored - leaders by default, arising from the serendipities of oil. They are incapable of providing the necessary intellectual underpinnings for the faith - and have amply demonstrated so. The result is confusion: in interpretation of the faith, and in action. Islam currently resembles a rudderless movement rather than a confident faith. It's no accident that many Muslims perceive themselves as under attack.

Why India? The large faith base, a long-standing commitment to intellectual excellence, and perhaps critically, the presence of a secular "frame". The presence within a secular nation-state should not be underestimated. It allows leaders of the faith to focus (almost) exclusively on the faith, and not have to worry about the basics of government. It also allows religious leaders to paper over sectarian or sub-communal differences - and focus on similarities. This criterion precludes other major players viz. Indonesia, Pakistan, and Malaysia - they've shown they are incapable of separating masjid and government.

Most people like order and structure in their lives. We have the intellectual ability to be able to provide that order and structure in a rational (as opposed to ad-hoc) manner. Increasingly, we will have the economic ability as well. It's time for Indian Muslim leaders to seize intellectual leadership from folks who are patently incapable. Opinions, thoughts?

Cruel Irony

Via New York Times, Taliban Behead Teacher in Afghan South

Outrageous how these barbaric "students" treat educators.


Via Times of India, SC quashes job quota for muslims

This is good news. Now, we hope the Supreme Court will apply similar logic to quashing caste-based quotas too.

Fawning Over Terrorists

Via Reuters, Bollywood director to explore suicide bomber's mind

(Mahesh) Bhatt, who is researching material on suicide bombers and bombings, said he was moved after reading an account in Time magazine written by a young suicide bomber in Iraq shortly before embarking on his fatal mission.

"The suicide bomber wrote that he began to live the day he came to know he was to die. Where did he get this passion to kill?" Bhatt said.

While he is free to express himself as he chooses, Mr. Bhatt would have done better profiling the innocent -- mostly Muslim -- victims of these depraved terrorists instead.

On Economic Liberty

Opinion Journal columnist Mary Anastasia O'Grady writes that democracy does not always create prosperity.

She contrasts Estonia with Chile as an example, then observes:

Countries that liberalize quickly and thoroughly achieve resounding successes, politically and economically. Conversely, gradualism risks stagnation and even reversals, because the benefits are not evident enough to impress the electorate and generate a momentum in their favor.

Hopefully, someone will share a cutting with India's regrettably gradualist leaders.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Dark Clouds

Via Times of India, Get set for quota, India Inc told

This is bad news to kick off the new year.

Hasn't Government messed with India's private enterprise enough over the past six decades to realize such intervention in liberty is the principal root of poverty? On this course, we'll end up having further institutionalized caste and dimming Indian hopes of erasing the wretchedness of poverty.

Hopefully, our courts will set aside this idiotic policy on constitutional grounds.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Back In The Race

I say that's life, and as funny as it may seem
Some people get their kicks stompin' on a dream
But I don't let it, get me down
'Cause this old world, just keeps spinnin' around

I've been a puppet, a poet, a pauper, a pirate, a pawn and a king
I've been up and down and over and out and I know one thing
Each time I find myself flat on my face
I pick myself up and get back in the race

Ain't this as if India's own song -- Happy 2006 everybody!!

(Frank Sinatra's lyric covered by Bono for the The Good Thief)


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