14 January 2015

In Patel’s theatre of command

Jan 13, 2015

Cariappa came and we proceeded in the car to his house. He muttered that he had given a monosyllabic reply, ‘Yes Sir’. A couple of days later I saw in the newspapers that the Indian Army had marched into Hyderabad.

When I was in my teens at school, I reve-red the Mahatma, idolised Jawaharlal Nehru and admired Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. I met the Mahatma once for a few minutes and I interacted with Nehru in his office twice. I hardly ever met Patel.

In September 1946, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel became the Home Member of the Viceroy’s executive council in the interim government. Nehru was vice-president. They functioned as de-facto Prime Minister and home minister respectively. In August 1947, Nehru became the Prime Minister and Patel the home minister as also deputy Prime Minister. The Sardar was living in 1, Prithviraj Road, opposite Claridges Hotel. I was a captain serving in Military Operations Directorate at Army Headquarters. As a bachelor living in Officers Mess on Zakir Hussain Road, I used to go out jogging in Lodhi Gardens every morning. The Sardar used to come to the gardens for his morning walks. He would be accompanied by about half a dozen people. While jogging, when I saw him coming from the opposite direction, I would stop and respectfully do my “Pranam”. He responded by nodding his head, giving me a slight smile. In September 1948, I saw him from close quarters. Lt. Gen. K.M. Cariappa, the then Western Army Commander, was in Kashmir at Uri.

Being his General Staff Operations Officer, I used to frequently accompany him on his tour of battle areas in Kashmir. One afternoon we received an emergency message from Delhi wanting Cariappa to meet the Sardar immediately. We rushed to Srinagar airport and caught a special plane for Delhi. Perhaps Cariappa knew what this call was about. On arrival at Palam airport, we drove to the residence of the Sardar.

There were no air-conditioners in those days. The Sardar was in his drawing room and one could see him from the adjacent verandah. The ceiling fan was running, the front door was open and the curtain was swinging. Cariappa sat next to the Sardar and discussed some matter. I could not hear what they were saying from the verandah where I was sitting with an officer of the Sardar’s staff. The meeting lasted about 15 minutes. Cariappa came and we proceeded in the car to his house. He muttered that he had given a monosyllabic reply, “Yes Sir”, and he then said “Thank You”. I was curious to know what it was all about. A couple of days later I saw in the newspapers that the Indian Army had marched into Hyderabad.

Hazards of looking younger than age

Col D S Cheema (retd)
Jan 14 2015 

In our times, it was only after completing 42-43 years of age that one got an opportunity of commanding a unit as a Colonel. And that is the time when grey hair start peeping out from all nooks and corners of the face. Most people get scared with these first signs of getting older and take to colouring the hair to hide their true age. And those like me who are nothing much to look at are even more worried about the outcome of nature's onslaught. I, however, believed that since change is the law of life, one should not only look to the past or present but should also be looking to future with confidence and hence decided not to colour the beard. In any case, I had always admired men with a wispy grey beard. 

The outgoing CO thought otherwise and on a Sunday when he was preparing the colouring concoction for his own use, he decided to increase the quantity for my use as well. After about an hour or so, I couldn't believe what I saw in the mirror. His logic was that whenever you look in the mirror, you see an old man which can actually make you old over a period of time and so to remain young one must look young in the mirror. Though I did not approve of this line of thinking, yet I succumbed to his pressure to oblige him more out of courtesy for the outgoing CO than out of my own conviction. He deftly administered the concoction to my face with his experienced hand and demonstrated the whole process meticulously for future operations I had to face in his absence. In a way, he also handed over the art of remaining young when he handed over the battalion to me. 

A few days after I started looking younger than my age, I overheard a jawan telling the other, "Sahib to chhokra ban gaya hai". I liked it and just smiled. Sometime later, my battalion officers were invited for lunch by the neighbouring unit on a particular day. When we settled down in comfortable surroundings, a waiter brought drinks for us and headed straight for the burly Sikh Major with a grey beard. The Major looked sheepishly embarrassed, got up from his seat and guided the waiter to me. Everyone smiled and the matter would have ended there and then had not another waiter, who brought some snacks, also done exactly the same thing. It was obvious to everyone present that I had lost the 'physical' right to command the battalion.

Another similar situation which confirmed my downward slide in the eyes of the juniors was when one of the newly posted officers, a Major, came to meet me when I was on annual leave at Panchkula before he took the AN-12 flight to Leh. This stocky short Major with a receding hairline came in the evening when I was away overseeing the construction of our house. He was in the midst of sipping coffee when I shot through the sitting room after I saw someone sitting there, straight to the bedroom. When I came out after a while, my wife introduced me to our guest. He looked flabbergasted and told me in no uncertain terms that he could never imagine such a young CO.

These two incidents demoralised me so much that I decided to stop colouring my beard and get back to the earlier look. When I went back to the unit, I noticed mischievous smiles on the faces of the two Majors. Even though they did not say a word, I am certain they would have made a fun of the turnaround in my absence. Till date I continue to believe in what Mark Twain said about age, "Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don't mind, it doesn't matter." And like most seniors feel reassured by reciting these lines, "Kudrat ne keeya kaya haseen sitam, jism boorah kar diya dil jawan rehne diya"

Fortify defence framework to combat threats

Kanwal Sibal
Jan 14 2015

Excerpts from the presentations at the Roundtable on National Security Key Challenges Ahead organised by The Tribune National Security Forum in collaboration with the Indian Council of World Affairs See also www.tribuneindia.com

To be able to deal with threats, we have to first identify them. Historically, the threat to us has been from the west. Today, Pakistan has become the embodiment of that threat. We had no historical threat from the north, but now China embodies it. The eastern part of the country remains disturbed, with local insurgencies there having some external connections even now.
Southwards, seaborne threats are rising. The 1993 Mumbai attack and the subsequent 26/11 attack were staged from the sea, opening a new area of vulnerability. As our Home Minister has pointed out, while our major ports are well secured, there are over 200 minor ports and 1,500 landing points which still appear vulnerable.

Further south, with the Chinese presence growing in the Indian Ocean area, we have to increasingly contend with a new threat to our security. India is, therefore, uniquely challenged as the threats are from all directions. India's territorial integrity is threatened. Two countries claim Indian territory: Pakistan and China. No other example exists of unsettled borders involving a country of India's size in an environment of conflict and competition.

Both Pakistan and China collaborate with each other against India, presenting us with a two-front situation. Both countries do not accept the territorial status quo, which alone could be the basis of eventual compromises. But Pakistan wants a part of Kashmir and China, at the minimum, wants Tawang. China has neutralised us strategically in South Asia by transferring nuclear and missile technologies to Pakistan. Consequently, despite acquiring nuclear capability, India has not been able to deter sufficiently territorial and other pressures from China and Pakistan.

Under cover of its nuclear capability, Pakistan uses the instrument of terror against us. As is the case with its nuclear capability that Pakistan is constantly augmenting without any serious countervailing action from the West despite its nonproliferation phobias, the Western powers have been remarkably tolerant of Pakistan's terrorist affiliations too. This is a problem for us.
The argument that putting pressure on an ailing state like Pakistan will push it towards failure, raising the danger of its nuclear arsenal falling into the hands of extremists, is unconvincing when the US and EU are willing to impose punishing sanctions on a major nuclear power like Russia and seek its economic collapse.

India has not found an adequate answer to the terrorist menace from Pakistan as the option of serious punitive action carries great risks. In our neighbourhood, the Taliban remains a disruptive force and ideology. The future of Afghanistan is uncertain, with the planned withdrawal of US/NATO forces as well as the pursuit of Pakistan's strategic ambitions there.

Brussels in winter- Europe is India's largest source of foreign direct investment

K.P. Nayar
January 14 , 2015

New Delhi's civic body was on overdrive to complete what needed to be done to spruce up the city for Barack Obama before Monday's announcement of the local elections. The worry was that some "anarchist" in the Aam Aadmi Party would approach the Election Commission complaining that one activity or other in Obama's name was in violation of the model code of conduct. Think tanks are on super-drive on behalf of the president of the United States of America, especially those institutions headquartered in the US, many of which now have branches in this country. Only at Rashtrapati Bhavan, where Obama's actual host lives and works, it is business as usual, which is how it should be. "Where was all the fuss," one of India's finest diplomats asked on Sunday, "when Vladimir Putin was coming?" He then proceeded to recount to a small group at a garden party how ties with Russia still carry more substance in absolute terms for India than any other bilateral relationship.

It is time, therefore, to do a reality check on another of India's external relations, a hugely understated engagement, which, any analysis without frills will show as potentially the most important friendship, without an iota of doubt. It may come as a surprise to some that this is the relationship between India and the European Union, collectively made up of 28 countries. Amidst all the fancy talk about a target of $500 billion in trade between India and the US, it is often ignored that this country's biggest trading partner is neither the US nor China, but Europe as a single market through the mechanism of the EU. Europe is well ahead of anyone else as the largest destination for India's exports as well.

Unlike in other major markets, Indian exports to the EU did not fall even after the global financial meltdown in 2008. India's stake on the Continent aside, Europe is also the world's largest economy and the biggest global wealth market. MTV and CNN may have altered perceptions ephemerally and created illusions about the US, but it is Europe that continues to set the standard for most things internationally. Manufacturers know that there is something called European specifications, which continue to be the hallmark of quality and - as in the case of automobiles, for example - the touchstone for safety and social responsibility.

It is not very well known in this country that Europe is India's largest source of foreign direct investment, higher than even the dodgy position of Mauritius on the FDI table because of the island's somewhat mysterious role as a source of investments. If one looks at Indian investments abroad, Europe is high up on that chart too. Such investments are of high standards, an example of which was the acquisition of Jaguar and Land Rover by the Tatas.

Hindustan Lever is a household name in India. Every middle-class child grows up on Lever products. Indians also know Siemens and ABB well, to name two other European companies. Not so with Honeywell or Raytheon of the US. So, there is an inherent association in daily life between India and Europe. Perhaps because of this historic association which long predates the arrival of American multinationals in India, Europe in general and relations with the Continent are sometimes taken for granted. But it is a mistake that needs to be corrected.


Rakesh K Singh
14 January 2015

The foray of Pakistani boats in the coastal waters near Porbandar earlier this month marks the operationalisation of Lashkar-e-Tayyeba’s marine wing whose 200 aggressively-trained cadres are making desperate bids to cross over to India with active support from Islamabad. 

The LeT men were extensively exposed to marine tactics at the terror outfit’s facility in Muridke with training and simulation paraphernalia provided by the Pakistani Defence forces and Intelligence agencies.

Assessments by Intelligence agencies, so far, suggest that the four occupants of the recently-destroyed Pakistani boat were in regular contact with their handlers in Pakistan Army and the maritime agency of that country.

The terror group had planned such a marine unit, way back in 2006, with the insidious agenda of targeting India’s vital installations spread across the coastal region, including nuclear power stations, missile testing and launch facilities and space infrastructure besides ports.

Agencies are trying to crack the code word “UAEC” that found mention several times during the conversation of the four occupants with their Pakistani mentors over satellite phone. The code could have been possibly used for a designated target in India, Intelligence sources said.

In the conversations with their Pakistani bosses and between the occupants of the two boats, the operatives kept on calling the explosive

consignment keemti saamaan (precious articles), the sources added. 

Amid a looming threat from the LeT’s marine unit, the agencies are also exploring the possibility of ascertaining through forensic analysis the nature of the explosives/chemicals being ferried by the boat. Initial estimates suggest the material could have been used for fabricating powerful bombs.

Agencies here are also trying to analyse a possible plan B of the terror operatives in the wake of their botched up operation.

Threats from non-traditional sources a challenge

Sanjeev Tripathi
Jan 14 2015 

WE are clearly living in an increasingly dangerous security environment. While border and other issues related to Pakistan and China are continuing concerns, new dangers from jihadi militants and cyber terrorism are engaging our attention even more lately. India and China need to work to clearly define the Line of Actual Control (LAC) as there are several pockets of dispute. We should focus on finalising the LAC on priority and the strengthening of bilateral economic and trade relations.

We should work to enhance our own military capabilities and accelerate the pace of development along the border. Pakistan has taken the covert route to inflict injuries on us. The involvement of Pakistan's ISI in such activities is well known. While we should continue to expose Pakistan's nexus with terrorist groups and take other counter-measures, responding through overt action will not be prudent. Any escalation of war will not be in our large national interest. The possibility of engagement with Pakistan should always be explored. Of external threats emanating from non-traditional sources, radical Islam or jihadi militants pose the most serious threat to our national security. In the present environment of global Islamic radicalisation, they may get support from within the country too. 

We need to focus on learning more, and in greater depth, about activities of such groups operating in different parts of the world, their inter-linkages, objectives, strengths and weaknesses, rivalries, areas of operations, their global agenda, intentions in India, etc. Noticing the global influence of the Islamic State even in the Indian subcontinent, particularly after a few Indian Muslims travelled to Syria to join it, Al-Qaida has indicated its intention to strengthen itself in the region and has announced the formation of its subcontinental arm, the Qaida Jihadi. 

The last couple of years have seen mercy propaganda in Pakistan about Ghazwa-e-Hind, according to which any jihadi in India will be tantamount to going for jihad along with Prophet Mohammed himself, and thus of great religious sanctity.

Tackling threats

The war against radical Islam or jihadi militancy has to be fought on the ground and at the ideological level. For tackling it on the ground, we need an effective anti-terrorist legal framework. We earlier had the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act, thereafter Prevention of Terrorism Act, but both were repealed. We have the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, which needs to be made much more stringent. 

Charlie Hebdo publishing Prophet Muhammad cartoon on new cover

January 13, 2015 

Charb , the publishing director Charlie Hebdo, displays the front page of the newspaper as he poses for photographers in Paris. (Source:AP)

The French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo is publishing a cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad on the cover of its first issue since Islamic extremists killed 12 people at its offices.

The newspaper Liberation hosted Charlie Hebdo staff as they prepared the new issue and is handling its special 1 million-copy print run in numerous languages.

Liberation published the Charlie Hebdo cover online late Monday night, showing a man in a white turban it says represents the Prophet. He is holding a sign reading “Je suis Charlie” (“I am Charlie”) and with a title reading “Tout est Pardonne”) (”All is Forgiven”), which French media interpreted as meaning Muhammad is forgiving the cartoonists for lampooning him.

Charlie Hebdo’s past caricatures of the Muslim Prophet appear to have prompted last week’s attacks, part of the worst terrorist rampage in France in decades.

Some witnesses reported that the attackers at the paper’s offices shouted “We have avenged the Prophet.” Many Muslims believe all images of the Prophet are blasphemous.

Earlier Monday, Charlie Hebdo lawyer Richard Malka told French radio that the new issue would “obviously” feature cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.

A total of 17 people died in last week’s attacks. Brothers Cherif and Said Kouachi and their friend, Amedy Coulibaly, were killed on Friday by police after the murderous spree at Charlie Hebdo offices and a kosher supermarket. The three all claimed ties to Islamic extremists in the Middle East.

France attack: Limits of solidarité

Written by Rakhshanda Jalil
January 14, 2015

That the right to dissent works both ways seems lost on the champions of free speech.

of intelligence? I was unable to find any sharp, penetrating insight, any flash of brilliance, even a smidgeon of genuine understanding behind the banality and nastiness.

Joe Sacco, an acclaimed graphic artist, writes in The Guardian of January 9: “Along with grief came thoughts about the nature of some of Charlie Hebdo’s satire. Though tweaking the noses of Muslims might be as permissible as it is now dangerous, it has never struck me as anything other than a vapid way to use the pen.” Pointing out the “limits” of satire, Sacco goes on to note, “when we draw a line, we are often crossing one too”. Charlie Hebdo was crossing that line repeatedly and doing so with impunity. Of course, its cartoonists did not deserve to die for it. Of course, the sane, sensible reaction to any form of offence is to ignore and disregard. Of course, the right thing to do is to not buy the Charlie Hebdo if you don’t like what it prints.

Refuting charges of Islamophobia and racism, Charlie Hebdo has claimed the right to offend and offend with impunity. While it is true that the newspaper has taken potshots at all religions, including Christianity and Judaism, it is also true that its staff dip their pens in a special vitriol when it came to Islam. It has always derived a perverse pleasure in displaying a gleeful irreverence for Islam and its Prophet. Given that Muslims constitute the single largest — and most visibly distinct — minority in France, its darts have found a perfect target among the immigrant populations crowded in the urban ghettos that skirt Paris. Given also that Muslim immigrants are the poorest and most disenfranchised of French citizens, the consistent attacks in print acquire a sinister xenophobic tinge in a country that is becoming alarmingly rightwing, despite its avowed secular credentials.

It must also be remembered that one of Charlie Hebdo’s staff members, Maurice Sinet, was sacked in 2009 for being anti-Semitic. Sinet had mocked then President Nicolas Sarkozy’s son for marrying a Jewish heiress for her money; he was lambasted by the French intelligentsia and pressure was brought upon the newspaper’s editor to fire him since he refused to apologise. The magazine showed no such sensitivity towards Islam and all Muslims, including the Prophet Muhammad, are routinely depicted as savages and barbarians. 

Terrorism is a common challenge for humanity: Ban Ki-moon

January 14, 2015

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon during an interview in New Delhi on Tuesday. Photo: S. Subramanium
This is the complete transcript of an interview of United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to The Hindu and CNN-IBN in New Delhi on January 13, 2014.

Hello and welcome to this special interview as UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who is visiting India, speaks to CNN-IBN and The Hindu. I am Suhasini Haidar.

Q. Secretary General, you are here even as the world is mourning the victims of the attack in Paris. You and PM Modi (Prime Minister Narendra Modi) spoke at the Vibrant Gujarat conference about global terrorism. How do you think the world can cooperate better, or has the world failed?

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon: We are deeply concerned about the increasing trend of growing terrorism, extremism and radicalisation. To address all these we have to be united, to show that nations are united and solid in addressing all this. At the same time, we have to mobilise all possible resources and strength to deter.

Unfortunately with all the technological development and communication, these terrorists are using internet and social media to propagate their hate. This is very dangerous. The United Nations has adopted a resolution on global counter-terrorism and we have set up a counter-terrorism centre on training and assistance, and the Security Council has taken a leadership role in the case of ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and Levent) or Da’esh, in Iraq and Syria, the UNSC has urged the world, whoever has the capacity and resources to provide their support. If we don’t address ISIL, Da’esh and Boko Haram, and all these terror groups, we will not be able to provide sustainable development, or protect human rights and human dignity. Terrorism is a common challenge for humanity.

Q: But is there a global double standard? Because its not just ISIL or Boko Haram, or the attacks in France or Australia or Canada, but also the terrorist attacks in the subcontinent. India has sponsored an international convention of terror… is that something you would recommend?

UNSG: Member states are discussing the matter of just who are the terrorists and other issues, but at this time rather than spending time and energy on definitions, these ISIL and other groups have been doing unspeakable acts of brutality against parts of humanity. It is important that government authorities take a firm position, show solidarity domestically and regionally, and in terms of their justice system, they have to ensure that all these perpetrators should be brought to justice. At the same time it is important to have good governance and inclusive dialogue with the people so terrorists and extremist elements may not find any breeding ground on the basis of people’s grievances.

Q. The problem is that in India as I said, there is a perception of a double standard. For example, a UN designated global terrorist like the Lashkar-e-Taiba founder and Jamat-ud-Dawa chief Hafiz Saeed, wanted for the Mumbai attacks, was in Lahore addressing a public rally last month. He is a globally designated terrorist, and was re-designated by the UN just a few weeks ago…how is it possible without any comment from the UN?

" If we don’t address ISIL, Da’esh and Boko Haram, and all these terror groups, we will not be able to provide sustainable development, or protect human rights and human dignity."

'Pak. should act against Hafiz Saeed'

January 14, 2015

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon during an interview in New Delhi on Tuesday. Photo: S. Subramanium

U.N. Secretary-General urges India to repeal law on homosexuality, says it is a matter of human rights

Pakistan must curb Hafiz Saeed, said U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in his first remarks about the U.N.-designated global terrorist’s public rallies.

“It is very important that the Pakistan government takes necessary and corrective measures in accordance with the U.N. Security Council’s counter-terrorism policies,” Mr. Ban told The Hindu in an exclusive interview during his visit to New Delhi.

Mr. Ban’s comments came in response to a question whether Saeed’s rally at Lahore’s Minar-e-Pakistan in December constituted a violation of the U.N. mandate by the Pakistan’s government.

“I was shocked when the Mumbai terror attacks took place and we all expected that all these terrorists would be put to justice,” Mr. Ban said.

“I sincerely hope that the Indian and Pakistani government authorities discuss this matter that all the perpetrators should be punished as terrorists, brought to trial. It is important not to allow room for terrorists, radical groups, armed groups to take such chances with the lapse of the justice system.”

In a lengthy interview, Mr. Ban spoke on several subjects. He hoped India would “lead negotiations” to bring about a climate change agreement at the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Paris this year.

“The U.N. for 2015 has made sustainable development and the adoption of a climate change agreement in December this year its two top priorities.”

Calling India a “critically important member state of the U.N. by any standard,” Mr. Ban said consensus must be built so that the U.N. could discuss changing the Security Council, a move that would enable India to realise its dream of a seat at the ‘high table.’

“The General Assembly has taken this up informally and I have urged it to accelerate the process, so that the Security Council can be better equipped to address all the changing peace and security issues,” he said.

In a strong statement, Mr. Ban demanded that the Indian government repeal Section 377 of the Indian Penal code that criminalises homosexuality.

In maya, the killer and the killed

January 14, 2015

Emotional violence is not measurable. Physical violence is, which makes it a crime that can be proven and hence a greater crime, especially when emotional violence is directed at something as notional as religion

When the Pandavas invited Krishna to be the chief guest at the coronation of Yudhishtira, Shishupala felt insulted and began abusing Krishna. Everyone became upset, but not Krishna who was listening calmly. However, after the hundredth insult, Krishna hurled his razor-sharp discus and beheaded Shishupala. For the limit of forgiveness was up.

Charlie Hebdo, a French satirical weekly, published cartoons; offensive cartoons that I have never seen, and would never have, had someone not killed its staff. With that Charlie became a person, a victim, a martyr to the cause of the freedom of expression. We became heroes by condemning the killing. And so millions have walked in Paris to declare that they are Charlie.

Will there be a march where people identify themselves with Charlie’s killers? Is that allowed? Who are the killers? Muslim, bad Muslim, mad Muslim, un-Islamic Muslim? The editorials are undecided, as in the attack in Peshawar on schoolchildren. The victims there did not even provoke; their parents probably did.

The provocation in Charlie’s case was this: perceived insult to the Prophet Muhammad, hence Islam. Charlie, however, was functioning within the laws of a land renowned for the phrase, “Liberty, Equality and Brotherhood!” Islam is also about brotherhood (Ummah, in Arabic) and equality, though not so much about liberty since Islam does mean submission, a submission to the word of god that brings peace.

Managing the measurable

The two siblings, believers in equality and their own version of liberty decided to hurt each other, one emotionally, the other physically. Emotional violence is not measurable. Physical violence is. That makes the latter a crime that can be proven, hence a greater crime, especially when emotional violence is directed at something as notional as religion. Because we are scientific, you see.

And here is the problem — measurement, that cornerstone of science and objectivity.

We can manage the measurable. But what about the non-measurable? Does it matter at all? Emotions cannot be measured. The mind cannot be measured, which is why purists refer to psychology and behavioural science as pseudoscience. God cannot be measured. For the scientist, god is therefore not fact. It is at best a notion. This annoys the Muslim, for he/she believes in god, and for him/her god is fact, not measurable fact, but fact nevertheless. It is subjective truth. My truth. Does it matter?

Where do we locate subjective truth: as fact or fiction? Some people have given themselves the “Freedom of Expression” and others have given themselves a “God, who is the one True God.” Both are subjective truths. They shape our reality. They matter. But we just do not know how to locate them, for they are not measurable.

We cannot measure the hurt Charlie’s cartoons caused the Muslim community. We cannot measure the Muslim community’s sensitivity or over-sensitivity. But we can measure the outcome of the actions of the killers. We can therefore easily condemn violence. That it caused hurt, rage, humiliation, enough for some people to grab guns, is a non-measurable assumption, a belief. Belief is a joke for the rational atheist.

The intellectual can hurt with his/her words. The soldier can hurt with his/her weapons. We live in the world where the former is acceptable, even encouraged. The latter is not. It is a neo-Brahminism that the global village has adopted. Those who think and speak are superior to those who beat and kill, even if the wounds created by word-missiles can be deeper, last longer and fester forever. Gandhi, the non-violent sage, is thus pitted against Godse, the violent brute. I, the intellectual, have the right to provoke; but you, the barbarian who only knows to wield violence, have no right to get provoked and respond the only way you know how to. If you do get provoked, you have to respond in my language, not yours, brain not brawn, because the brain is superior. I, the intellectual Brahmin, make the rules. Did you not know that?

Learning from one another

January 14, 2015
Indian research was deeply influenced by the knowledge of foreign works on the subject, and in turn, Indian maths influenced mathematical work in other countries

The skill of doing research, the hard preparation needed for doing new and original work — going beyond the old established knowledge, and indeed the courage to think in novel and daring lines — are all immensely helped by good and exciting teaching. For me, this began at home. My grandfather Kshiti Mohan Sen, who taught at Santiniketan, could excite my interest in Sanskrit studies, including heretical texts in Sanskrit, which still inspire my engagement in that wonderful language, as I pick up a book in Sanskrit today. Sanskrit, we have to remember, is not only the language in which the Hindu and many of the Buddhist texts came; it is also the vehicle, among many other radical thoughts, of comprehensive doubts about the supernatural expressed in the Lokayata texts, and also the medium in which the questioning of class and caste and legitimacy of power would be expressed with spectacular eloquence by Shudraka in his profound play, “Mricchakatikam” (“The Little Clay Cart”). It was great for me to be taught at a very early age the distinction between a great language as a general vehicle of thought and the specific ideas — religious or sceptical — that may be expressed in that language. That distinction remains important today.

I also have to acknowledge my debt to my other teachers — in Santiniketan, at Presidency College, and at Trinity College in Cambridge — in helping me to find my way. I am delighted that the Infosys Foundation has initiated a new scheme for the training of rural teachers of mathematics and science. Since our school education is the basis of all our education — no matter how “high” our higher education maybe — the fruits of investment in good school education can be extraordinarily high. Narayana Murthy, who like me grew up in a family of teachers, knows that with visionary insight.Wider role of teaching

I also want to say a few things about the wider role of teaching — in linking different nations and different cultures together. Teaching is not just a matter of instruction given by teachers to their individual students. The progress of science and of knowledge depends in general on the learning that one nation, one group of people, derives from what has been achieved by other nations and other groups of people.

For example, the golden age of Indian mathematics, which changed the face of mathematics in the world, was roughly from the fifth to the 12th century, and its beginning was directly inspired by what we Indians were learning from work done in Babylon, Greece and Rome. To be sure, there was an Indian tradition of analytical thinking going back much further, on which the stellar outbursts of mathematical work in India from around the fifth century drew, but we learned a lot about theorems and proofs and rigorous mathematical reasoning from the Greeks and the Romans and the Babylonians. There is no shame in learning from others, and then putting what we have learned to good use, and going on to create new knowledge, new understanding, and thrillingly novel ideas and results.

Indians of course were teaching other Indians. Perhaps the most powerful mathematician of ancient India, Brahmagupta, would not have been able to do such dazzling work without his having been influenced by the ideas of his own teachers, in particular Aryabhata, the pioneering leader of the Indian school of mathematics. Alberuni, the Iranian mathematician, who spent many years in India from the end of the 10th to the early years of the 11th century (and helped to make Arab mathematicians learn even more from Indian mathematics than they were already doing) thought that Brahmagupta was perhaps the finest mathematician and astronomer in India, and possibly in the world, and yet (argued Alberuni), Brahmagupta could be so productive only by standing on the shoulders of the great Aryabhata, who was not only an extraordinary scientist and mathematician, but also a superb teacher. Learning from each other continued over centuries, involving — in addition to Aryabhata and Brahmagupta — Varahamihira and Bhaskara, among many others.


By Fakir Mohan Pradhan*

In a change for good, the five phase Assembly Election in Jharkhand held in the month of November and December 2014 passed off peacefully, with a record voter turnout of 66.47 per cent. According to the Jharkhand Chief Electoral Officer P.K. Jajoria the State has not recorded this high a polling in any election – Assembly or Lok Sabha – since the creation of the State in 2000. Significantly, Inspector General (IG) of Police (Operations) M.L. Meena, who was a nodal officer in the Election Cell, added, “Since 1996, no election had been peaceful. Casualties were reported in 2009 and 2005 Assembly and Lok Sabha polls from Palamu, Dhanbad, Giridih, Khunti and Dumka.” In the General Elections to the Lok Sabha (Lower House of Parliament) held in April-May 2014, eight persons – five Jharkhand Armed Police (JAP) personnel, two poll officials and a cleaner of the minibus in which they were travelling – died in a landmine blast by the Maoists in the Shikaripada Police Station area in Dumka District on April 24.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its pre-poll alliance partner the All Jharkhand Students’ Union (AJSU) won 42 seats (BJP 37 and AJSU 5) in the 81-member Assembly, looking to end the persistent political instability since the formation of the State. Jharkhand has seen nine Governments in the 14 years of its existence, with none of these completing a full term. President’s rule has been imposed thrice in the State. Moreover, with BJP now leading the State Government, better coordination between the State and the Centre at the policy as well as operational levels is expected, raising hopes for improved state response to the Maoist challenge. The Maoists, moreover, have lost significant momentum in the State, despite making their presence felt in a number of incidents.

In fact, just a day after the declaration of the results of the Assembly Elections on December 23, over 40 cadres of the Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) attacked a Police patrol at Itkhori in Chatra District, killing one Policeman and injuring another three on December 24, 2014. The ambush spot was just one kilometre from the Itkhori Police Station. A 30-minute encounter followed, after which the Maoists escaped, taking advantage of the cover of darkness. Director General of Police (DGP) Rajiv Kumar termed the incident a “desperate attempt” by the Maoists who “have lost the ground”.


By A. K. Verma

With frequent violations of the Line of Control in J&K State and not so frequent infiltration across the borders with China one has to estimate which is the more dangerous frontier.

Few are ready to give a clear cut answer but such an answer must be given authoritatively. There are other dangers to national security, internal and external. All must be organized in a descending or ascending order of severity for the citizen to understand what quantum of danger may be expected from which quarter. Other nations come out regularly with a public declaration of their national security policy. This does not happen in India.

India’s borders with all its neighbours are more or less secure except with two countries, China and Pakistan. The focus of national security efforts have therefore to be directed against these two countries. Which one of them deserves greater attention? The public discourse in India is extremely divided, with prejudice generally deciding, rather than dispassionate cold analysis. To find the correct answers one must look closely into their history.

China during its 4000 years of civilisational history got involved in only three wars by choice, all in the last century. Earlier it had been forced into one war, the opium war, by European imperial powers which had resulted into a great misery for the country. The lesson learnt from the opium war was that the country could never afford to be in a state of weakness, this lesson is now the bedrock of Chinese policies. Its current quest for economic and military strength is to seek parity with the US perceived as an abiding threat.

The three wars fought by China out of its own volition were the Korean, Indian and Vietnamese. It had felt obliged to enter the Korean war because of its fears that after crossing the 38th parallel which was the border between South and North Korea the South Korean forces aided by the US troops would get across the Yalu river to enter China. The Chinese entered the war to forestall this development.

At an event to honour the six winners of the Infosys Prize in Kolkata last week, the Nobel Prize winner noted that the progress of knowledge depends on learning from other cultures.

I begin by saying how sorry I am that Pranab Mukherjee, the President of India, whom I have the privilege of having as a friend, has been prevented by illness from coming here today. We wish him a quick recovery.

There are many different ways of achieving fame. Doing original and outstanding research that gets international recognition is perhaps the best. The winners of the Infosys Science Foundation awards are establishing this right now. We have just heard about their wonderful achievements, and we are all very proud of the work they have done. But there are also other ways of getting fame. Sitting on a chair intended for the President of India is an easy way of getting recognition, without the hardship of research. I am, in fact, quite overwhelmed by the accidental fame that has suddenly come my way.

I recollect another occasion when fame came to me accidentally. I was at a conference in Hanover in Germany and I was walking back from the conference site to my hotel, and stopped at a traffic light since it was red and disallowed pedestrian crossing. There was no car in sight, in any direction whatever, and I decided, after a hundred seconds of solitude, that it is extremely stupid to stand there doing nothing – without even a car to watch. I thought there was even the danger of my not being counted any longer as a proper Indian if I did not take the law into my own hands when needed (who knows, I might even lose my Indian citizenship).

Gaming Military Money

12 Jan , 2015

The report submitted by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence to the Parliament on 22 December 2014 made little news. There were odd news items talking of its contents, mentioning the army running low on ammunition, soldiers posted in freezing places like Siachen and Leh sans boots and mosquito nets, and the country failing for over a decade to produce an assault rifle that meets the most basic requirements of the army.

The shocking highlights of the report are: IAF is down to just 25 fighter squadrons against a sanctioned strength of 42; the situation was very grim and national security was being compromised.

Specifically the Committee found: soldiers in high-altitude areas were short of nearly two lakh pairs of ankle leather boots; more than 13 lakh canvas boots were needed in same areas; one lakh mosquito nets were wanted; soldiers were awaiting 65,000 Balaclavas or masks to keep their faces warm; MoD had failed to furnish plausible information about how many soldiers have bullet-proof jackets with voids jeopardizing the lives of thousands of soldiers, and; while MoD seemed satisfied that equipment like night vision goggles are plentiful, the Army was not satisfied with the state.

The report says, “It appears that the Ministry is not taking the Army into confidence while doing its perspective planning.” The report warns that the shortage of ammunition means “it would not be possible for the country to sustain a war for a longer period.”

The above committee report further brought out that the DRDO, tasked with developing technology for the military, has failed since 1982 to produce an acceptable INSAS rifle, the standard weapon of the army. But that is not all and not only at the cutting edge troops.

Ashraf Ghani and a Game of Fiefdoms

By Shawn Snow
January 13, 2015

Is the president being too ambitious in his effort to end corruption in Afghanistan? 

The administration of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, which has completed its first 100 days in office, has come under increasing pressure since New Year, despite a recent success with the signing of the Bilateral Security Agreement to keep NATO and ISAF forces in the country. Since the swearing in of the U.S.-brokered government, which made Ghani president and rival Abdullah Abdullah CEO, Afghanistan has been plagued with increasing security concerns, including suicide attacks and bombings in Kabul, and a failure to select a cabinet. Some claim the dysfunction is a natural outcome of the power sharing deal brokered by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry over the summer.

The president of Afghanistan has the power to appoint members to the cabinet, with the approval of the Afghan Parliament. Ghani has sworn to elect individuals based on merit and not tribal and clan affiliation, a promise he made to rid the Afghan government of its corrupt patronage system, a system that pits the various ethnic groups and tribes against each other and undermines the legitimacy and credibility of the government. Whether this is a feasible goal is still unclear. Ghani may have to learn to be a pragmatic politician instead of the all-knowing professor.

Since the swearing in ceremony on September 29, 2014, Ghani and Abdullah have been unable to agree on cabinet appointments. Mohammad Mohaqiq, a former warlord and adviser to Abdullah, has stated that heexpects 20-22 percent of all cabinet positions to be filled by the Hazara people, an indicator of a possible fissure between Ghani and Abdullah.

Ghani will also have to balance the needs and worries of various provincial governors throughout the country, including Attah Mohammed Noor, the powerful governor of Balkh province who threatened an uprising against Ghani over the summer election, and who is a strong supporter of Abdullah.

During recent visits to provinces throughout Afghanistan, Ghani fired 15 police commanders, eight district governors, five border police commanders, and the appellate court prosecutor in Herat province over charges of corruption. However, he failed to replace the fired officials, and locals have since complained of increasing violence in the region.

The Strange 'How We Lost Iraq and Afghanistan' Debate

January 13, 2015 

Post-mortems on “How We Lost Iraq and Afghanistan” seem to be proliferating—even though there’s a lot of “mors” still happening in those battlegrounds.

Of course, criticizing the conduct of war, even as bullets fly, is nothing new. Even “the Good War” had its share of cranky complaints about how the war was being won. One of the more distasteful examples came via Major General Edwin F. Harding, who had commanded the 32d Infantry Division during the bloody Papua-New Guinea campaign.

Canned for lack of progress, Harding subsequently instigated an article in the Saturday Evening Post criticizing an “unnamed” general who exacerbated battle losses by ordering direct attacks on fortified bunkers. The same general, the article claimed, told starving men to take vitamin pills if they were hungry and ran away at the sound of Japanese mortars.

The only American general fighting in Papua-New Guinea at the time was Robert Lawrence “Ike” Eichelberger, who had fired Harding and replaced him at the front. Harding’s finger-pointing in print was a bit of payback.

Harding is no one-off. Still, by any standards, the laments over Iraq and Afghanistan seem to be coming in record numbers.

James Fallows penned the most recent, high profile piece in The Atlantic. He laments that the U.S. military repeatedly “has been defeated by less modern, worse-equipped, barely funded foes.

Or it has won skirmishes and battles only to lose or get bogged down in a larger war.” We lose, Fallows concludes, because we just don’t take war seriously enough. “The cost of defense,” he argues, “goes up and up, will little political resistance and barely any public discussion.”

Time for Pakistan to Get Tough on Terrorism

Shot in both legs, Shahruh Khan survived the Taliban attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar, Pakistan. “The man with big boots,” Al Jazeeraquoted Khan as saying, “kept on looking for students and pumping bullets into their bodies.”

It took army units eight hours to kill the seven attackers who wore army uniforms and suicide vests. The carnage included 141 dead, including 132 helpless children. As the school had over a thousand pupils aged between five and eighteen, with 960 students and staff surviving, the only heartening news is that the toll could have been worse as the terrorists searched out and shot children hiding beneath desks. The Tehrik-e-Taliban claimed responsibility as revenge for last summer’s army offensive code-named Zarb-e-Azb, which has killed thousands of Taliban members in North Waziristan.

Amid national shock over the school shooting, the army took aggressive action against the Taliban in North Waziristan and showed that it could employ massive air strikes to deadly effect when it actually chose to do so. Nawaz Sharif, whom former President Pervez Musharraf once branded a “closet Taliban,” suddenly made all the right noises. These included a declaration that Pakistan would no longer tolerate a distinction between “good” and “bad” Taliban. “Good” Taliban did things like serve as proxy forces for Pakistan’s interests in Kashmir and Afghanistan but not attack fellow Pakistanis. “Bad” Taliban targeted the Pakistani state.

Nawaz declared that distinction obsolete. Political rivals agreed to devise a National Plan of Action on tackling terrorism in each province, which will be headed by Interior Minister Nisar Ali Khan. Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Raheel Sharif, even went to Afghanistan to share intelligence and the new Afghan President Ashraf Ghani accepted an offer to help train his nation’s military. Nawaz also supported two controversial bills allowing the Army to trycivilian terror suspects in military courts and reinstating the death penalty.

Iraqis Credit Iran, Not the U.S., With Halting Advance of ISIS

January 12, 2015

BAGHDAD — In the eyes of most Iraqis, their country’s best ally in the war against the Islamic State group is not the United States and the coalition air campaign against the militants. It’s Iran, which is credited with stopping the extremists’ march on Baghdad.

Shiite, non-Arab Iran has effectively taken charge of Iraq’s defense against the Sunni radical group, meeting the Iraqi government’s need for immediate help on the ground.

Two to three Iranian military aircraft a day land at Baghdad airport, bringing in weapons and ammunition. Iran’s most potent military force and best known general — the Revolutionary Guard’s elite Quds Force and its commander Gen. Ghasem Soleimani — are organizing Iraqi forces and have become the de facto leaders of Iraqi Shiite militias that are the backbone of the fight. Iran carried out airstrikes to help push militants from an Iraqi province on its border.

The result is that Tehran’s influence in Iraq, already high since U.S. forces left at the end of 2011, has grown to an unprecedented level.

Airstrikes by the U.S.-led coalition have helped push back the militants in parts of the north, including breaking a siege of a Shiite town. But many Iraqis believe the Americans mainly want to help the Kurds. Airstrikes helped Kurdish forces stop extremists threatening the capital of the Kurdish autonomous zone, Irbil, in August. But even that feat is accorded by many Iraqis to a timely airlift of Iranian arms to the Kurds.

The meltdown of Iraq’s military in the face of the extremists’ summer blitz across much of northern and western Iraq gave Iran the opportunity to step in. A flood of Shiite volunteers joined the fight to fill the void, bolstering the ranks of Shiite militias already allied with Iran.

Those militias have now been more or less integrated into Iraq’s official security apparatus, an Iraqi government official said, calling this the Islamic State group’s “biggest gift” to Tehran.

"Iran’s hold on Iraq grows tighter and faster every day," he said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the sensitive subject.

Over the past year, Iran sold Iraq nearly $10 billion worth of weapons and hardware, mostly weapons for urban warfare like assault rifles, heavy machine-guns and rocket launchers, he said. The daily stream of Iranian cargo planes bringing weapons to Baghdad was confirmed at a news conference by a former Shiite militia leader, Jamal Jaafar. Better known by his alias Abu Mahdi al-Mohandis, Jaafar is second in command of the recently created state agency in charge of volunteer fighters.

China in South Sudan: Practical Responsibility

January 13, 2015

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi is on the beginning-of-year Africa tour customarily undertaken by Chinese foreign ministers. On Monday, Wang was in Sudan, where he participated in a discussion with both sides of the South Sudan conflict on how to speed up political reconciliation in that newly-formed country. Also under discussion: the lingering conflict between Sudan and South Sudan, which dates back to the years before South Sudanese independence.

In Khartoum, Wang met with representatives from both sides of the South Sudan conflict as well as officials from the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), a trade bloc consisting of eight African nations that is helping mediate the South Sudan peace process. China’s Foreign Ministry called the meeting a “China-brokered Special Consultation in Support of the IGAD –led South Sudan Peace Process,” which impressively manages to both put China front and center and yet insist on IGAD leadership. “This Consultation is held to continue with the support for the mediation efforts by IGAD on the South Sudan issue, [and to] encourage conflicting parties of South Sudan to proceed with dialogue and negotiation,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei explained.

Why the insistence on IGAD’s leadership role? In a word, political cover. China generally steers clear of internal conflicts like the ongoing war between South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir and opposition fighters led by former Vice President Riek Machar – all the more prudent as the two sides are largely divided along ethnic lines. However, China’s own interests in South Sudan – and, perhaps just as importantly, a lack of any other major powers with an incentive to step up — have forced Beijing to play a more active role. China has been acting as a mediator between the two South Sudanese sides for over a year now. “We have huge interests in South Sudan so we have to make a greater effort to persuade the two sides to stop fighting and agree to a ceasefire,” Ma Qiang, the Chinese ambassador to South Sudan, told Reuters last June.

President Xi Vs. China's Spies

January 13, 2015

On January 11, the news trickled out that Ma Jian, a deputy minister at the Chinese State Security apparatus, had been detained over allegations of corruption. Ma’s detention is significant because it marks a clear change in the anti-graft campaign. China’s spy agency is one of the best funded, most politically protected entities in the country. Only the most confident and emboldened dare to take it on. For President Xi Jinping and his colleagues to have allowed such a senior figure to be targeted in this way shows they must think things are going to plan in the great clean-up that has been underway for over 18 months now.

Over a decade ago, when I joined the British Foreign Office, I was solemnly told in a briefing that Chinese leaders took the work of their intelligence services very seriously indeed, and heeded their advice closely. Under Hu Jintao and the pro-stability strategy, the Ministry of Public Security and the Ministry of State Security (MSS), along with all the other various agencies having a covert function, entered a new era of empowerment and influence. Zhou Yongkang, from 2007 on, sat atop this network. It was a well funded, politically supported fiefdom that may have had up to a million people working for it in various forms and guises.

This industrial sized entity, however, has been stymied by the sort of problems that plague similar organizations the world over. Territoriality, poor internal communication, and burgeoning waste of resources (not to mention their siphoning off to corrupt networks) are part of this. In any country, intelligence agencies have a tendency to become political tools for one power group or player over another if they aren’t closely watched. Their greatest asset is access to supposedly precious, privileged information and the ability to convey this directly to leaders without jumping through bureaucratic hoops. It is an old trick, but pasting a “Top Secret” line across a document raises the chances it will be read, no matter what it might contain. Intelligence agencies always have a keen readership.