Saturday, May 31, 2008

Ramadoss knows?

Smoking ban to be enforced from Oct. 2 -Ramadoss

Why Oct 2? Why does Ramadoss want to wait for Gandhi's birthday? I thought he was a rationalist atheist 'Dravidian' type who believe one date is as good as any. But then he also is the heir of Tamilnadu's casteist party PMK.

Perhaps Ramadoss knows that not only is the end for this govt. near but also when. (Prakash) Karat willing, he won't have to enforce the ban and still gets the credit for having tried sincerely.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

BJP should stay put against the nuke deal

The talks about nuke deal should've been settled by now. That would indeed be possible if we had a PM with real political authority. This is not a cheap aside at Dr Manmohan Singh, though it may seem so; it is a matter of accepted wisdom that a PM like Vajpayee or Indira Gandhi would've had no problem cajoling unruly allies into falling in line--yes, even the communists. Poiticians, who become leaders and acquire political capital through their own charisma, know all to well how to deploy it at crucial times to their advantage. That's a luxury Dr Singh does not possess. His political handicap, in turn, is costing us dearly.

That said, the deal still remains stuck where it was six months ago, and there's no resolution in sight. The topic has descended into an interminable squabble with the strategic establishment pushing for the deal, at times in humorous ways, and BJP, the only other serious side in this debate, holding out.

It should stay put, notwithstanding the barrage of articles appearing in sections of mainstream media. Some are even conveniently dropping sachharine pills to lure the BJP into acceding to their stand.

The Indian Express is hammering in its edits; strategic affairs experts and op-ed writers such as K Subrahmanyam, Shishir Gupta, Uday Bhaskar, Harsh Pant and numerous others have been exhorting BJP in charming tone as if it were a long-separated lover.

Shekhar Gupta's Indian Express, which wasted reams of print bashing BJP, and still does, has miraculously discovered virtues in the party, appealing to its good offices and what not.

K Subrahmanyam, who was reminiscing about the Marxist teachers during his school days and the influence of Marxist ideas on him only a year or two ago (this appeared in his TOI op-ed I don't wish to look for right now), yes, him, too has been busy appeasing the BJP big-wigs.

Shishir Gupta and Uday Bhaskar Nair are relatively non-partisan, but some patronizing comments in their topical articles often less artful.

Most of these commentators claim the following:
  1. This nuke deal is our only hope to turn the ban on high-tech transfer and ensure energy security,
  2. China will eclipse us if we don't ally with the US right now; time will slip away,
  3. US might turn away from us in disappointment and then things will get tough without its diplomatic attention or backing,
  4. (and the more ridiculous) BJP is playing into the hands of Marxists by siding with them and can immeasurably harm its domestic credibility if it fails to support the deal.
  5. (and the dangerous) our strategic weapons program will not be affected.
Most recently, even President Kalam endorsed the deal. Former NSA Brajesh Mishra has come out in support too.

Perhaps the most articulate columnist, Swapan Dasgupta, too has been making the reflex argument: instinctively most Indians are pro-US(true!) and know they have to ally with it if serious about countering the China threat etc.

The lone dissents have come from the indomitable Arun Shourie, analyst Brahma Chellaney, and columnist Arvind Lavakare and Rajeev Srinivasan(writing for rediff). I am not sure as to what strategic affairs analyst Bharat Karnad had to say. Lavakare says he's in opposition.

Anyway, without diverging too much, I wish to primarily address the five points above. I am nowhere near qualified as the luminaries above, but for what it is worth, and as someone who cares about his country no lesser than these folks, here's my ambitious take.

It is worthwhile to remember that the principal factor driving this deal is the threat from Red China rising. As long as we keep that in mind most doubts raised above can be argued with a relatively consistent line of reasoning.

The nuke deal can veritably open a spigot of high-tech transfers to us which have so far languished in bureaucratic mess or take unacceptably long time to clear. Some of these transfers can be useful for our space program. Others for bringing in high-tech industry and jobs.

China achieved few technological breakthroughs in its missile programs through kinks in these tech transfer regime. One example is quite illustrative. Sometime in the '90s China got its hands on multiple satellite launching ability, and few yrs. later their ICBMs had multiple warhead capability with increased accuracy. The wt. carried by satellite launchers and the technique to reorient those satellites in space in desired position is not very different from ensuring the orientation of weapons.

China is accused of piracy and violating the transfer regime, yes, but who's going to prosecute a nuclear power armed with modern ballistic missiles? Clearly, their leaders had the wisdom to weigh their choices. Clearly, high-tech transfer is a positive for this deal.

The other crucial benefit is said to be nuclear power. The end-user cost, establishment and maintenance of facilities, fuel dependence etc., raise serious questions about the claim, and have never been answered quite satisfactorily.

The next issue is our China gap. While China is ahead of us in many ways, the gap isn't something completely unbridgeable. Building infrastructure and policies conducive to industry isn't exactly rocket science. Harnessing human resources that will need and utilize these facilities isn't cryptology either.

If India with its billion plus count cannot give China a run for its money then who will?

Of course, to create such an atmosphere, India will have to stabilize its internal situation, reduce internecine squabbles, and make itself more orderly, better governed, more manageable.

The gap might be exacerbated for want of this deal, but that denouement is not exactly predicated on the completion of the deal itself.

The question of US turning its back is a bit tricky and deserves a longer response. To answer this briefly though, we've to question why they've turned to us in first place. A large democracy with unvarnished strategic interest in containing China, India is important, especially to those who know what existing with authoritarian power entails to your own freedom. This deal is but a tool to achieve seamless coalescence of overlapping strategic interests. It is not the tool but a tool. The need to involve India and for India to get involved is real. If not under this treaty, then under some other one. China knows it very well too. They've adopted a similar strategy after all. They know that it is a question of how, not now. The longer they can postpone it, the better for them. There's no turning away for anyone.

Onto the mischievous one: BJP playing into the hands of Marxists. This is not serious an accusation, obviously. Au contraire, it is the Marxists who might be doing a favor to the BJP by playing in to the BJP's hands. The Marxist penchant to make "South Asia nuke free" is an old one. (why south asia and not asia you dare not ask.) This treaty can ensure a "cap, rollback and elimination" of India's arsenal, a dream come true for the Marxists. Yet they are in opposition to this deal. Why? The answer lies in the CPI(M)'s priority, which is with an ascendant Communist China. A "nuke-free South Asia" aligned to US is still a bigger headache for China than a passive nuclearized one. It is also precarious for the Marxists own future in sub-continent, mostly in India. An economically thriving, religious people are never going to be an incubator for Marxism which feeds on perpetuating poverty and class struggle. Arguably it may be CPI(M)'s survival imperative kicking in.

The last one is the impact of the deal on our strategic weapons program. To which I have a simple set of questions. Can you have strategic weapons if you cannot develop them in the first place? Can you develop weapons if you cannot test them? Can you test weapons if you cannot have the raw materials needed to build them?

Further, without a strategic weapons program, can you defend yourself? If you cannot defend yourself, can you be a republic--and not its banana variety?

Monday, May 26, 2008

What Colombian Marxists are upto!

Wherever they may go, Marxists are upto their old mischief: fomenting anarchy. Maoists are nothing but their rancid progeny. The good deeds of Hugo Chavez and its effect on Colombia just got exposed. Well, almost.
The FARC are in some ways a throwback to a past era in Latin America. In other ways they are part of the new face of organised crime in the region. Old-fashioned Marxists unmoved by the collapse of the Soviet Union, they have flourished since then by drug-trafficking and kidnapping. Their war against Colombia's elected government has almost no public support, especially since they showed no interest in making peace during three years of talks with the government from 1999 to 2002.(emphasis added)

Some things never change.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

That's how you jump!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

How to get Afzal out!

I am reading Jeffrey Toobin's book The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court. It was a bestseller, and if you watch CNN you might know that Toobin is CNN's legal analyst. Anyway, while talking about different judges and how they're evolving he mentions that international opinions i.e., opinions by courts in other countries, might have had an influence on certain judges, and that they evoke those in their own judgments or dissents, sometimes.

Justice Stephen Breyer, a liberal judge (one of those, in minority, who voted against Bush in 2000 election case) quoted legal opinions from Zimbabwe, India, Jamaica in one of his dissents.

The quote:
" a growing number of courts outside the United States...have held that lengthy delay in administering a lawful death penalty renders ultimate execution inhuman, degrading, or unusually cruel."
This is striking. If indeed Indian judges have thus opined, then it is quite possible to purposefully use the govt. procrastination in Afzal's execution to get him out. One of the most common principle in judicial discourse is citing precedent as cause for certain decision. It is called stare decisis. It is a Latin term for "prior court decisions to be held as precedent."

It is known that Afzal has not had a fair trial. Well, it is pretty much an accepted fact. He has been languishing in jail, waiting for the execution, for about 2 yrs. now. By the time UPA demits office it will be close to 3, enough to qualify for an excrutiatingly "lengthy delay." If UPA returns to power, his waiting period can be extended further, solidifying his case for a reconsideration, a retrial or something even better.

After legally wearing out Taslima into exile, a legerdemain in Afzal's case is a must for the sake of justice. "What about laws and the attack on parliament?" you might ask.

Well, silly rabit, tricks are for kids, and laws, for communalists.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Sen Lieberman in Wall Street Journal

Yesterday, Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut wrote about Democrats and Our Enemies. He mostly discusses why his party and the party of Roosevelt, Kennedy and Truman drifted so far from a strong foreign policy agenda catering to national interest to its current flirtations with appeasement of autocrats.

He identifies a "rival political philosophy," its left-wing in common parlance, as the one which cam e to dominate the Democratic Party view. What it did was to pin the blame on America for being inordinately afraid of Communism creating problem for world peace. Carrying this leftward lurch further,
[it] argued that the Soviets and their allies were our enemies not because they were inspired by a totalitarian ideology fundamentally hostile to our way of life, or because they nursed ambitions of global conquest. Rather, the Soviets were our enemy because we had provoked them, because we threatened them, and because we failed to sit down and accord them the respect they deserved. In other words, the Cold War was mostly America's fault.
After receding during the Clinton years, Lieberman says, the left-wing "peace at any price (partisans) saw an opportunity to reassert themselves."

After lamenting the kowtowing nature of present Democratic leadership to its resurgent left-wing, he observes that Obama too is guilty of this flaw.
"...[This]unfortunately includes Barack Obama, who, contrary to his rhetorical invocations of bipartisan change, has not been willing to stand up to his party's left wing on a single significant national security or international economic issue in this campaign.
Many have pinpointed this chink in Obama's soaring rhetorical armor. The war fatigue and its economic toll has converted many hawks into peacemongers. Obama might well cash this resentment all the way to the White House. This larger malaise, though, runs deep, and is not restricted to Obama alone.

The parallels, even wider. All the way close to home.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Manmohan Singh's politics of politicisation

Politicians are known to be overdependent on cliches. Everyone has their favorite ones. The Marxists excel at telling others when it is opportune to do something: 'Now is not the right sing Humpty Dumpty, eat Samosa etc.,' they blare.

Congress honchos have their own peccadilloes. The Dynasty's severe handicap in Hindi is all to well-known: Hame dekhna hai; Bharat ke kone kone se; Hum dekhte rah gaye.......etc.

Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi can usually be found mouthing the self-righteous platitude, "We don't need certificate of patriotism," "We don't need advice from USA," and few weeks later conveniently dishes out certificate of secularism or advisory to US on how they should conduct their relations with a 'particular' peaceful community, and minor things like that.

However, this post isn't about political midgets you see. Our very own, brave, intrepid, upright, loyal (to Dynasty), civil, incorruptible, unpolitical PM(did I miss any other adjective?), Manmohan Singh, has his own favorite cliche: Don't politicise.

You can find him frequently admonishing 'not to politicize this or that issue' gunning at his political opponents all the while. The pretext that ticks him off can range from serious to frivolous.

Cynics might wonder how you can not politicize something when the person talking about it is the Prime Minister, the highest constitutional authority in town (barring the titular President of course)--a political post. When the PM says something, it is by default politicized.

The alacrity with which the PM has deployed this same platitude over and over is quite impressive. Here's a list:

Don't politicise price-rise: PM tells parties

Don`t politicise people`s misery: PM

Don't politicise Iran pipleline, assess on merits: PM to Left

Don't politicise such thing: PM to Yechuri on rice-quota ("Tamilians are most troublesome allies")

His partymen, and party aren't far behind either.

Don't politicise Rahul's visit: Pachouri

Don't politicise hunger: Kapil Sibal

Don't politicise police: A K Antony

Don't politicise terror strikes: UPA tells BJP

Mr Singh has sung the same jarring tune few times over, whether it be Mumbai train bombings or the Jaipur terrorist attacks. If one can credit him with something, it is the rapid deployment of cliches. Natural calamity or man-made disaster, the man is ready with his arsenal of platitudes.

Tell you what Mr Prime Minister, if only you and your party did the job that's assigned to you, your opponents will neither have the need nor the opportunity to politicize anything. So, please stop lecturing and get on with your job already.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Express Sadbhavna hits Jaipur

A newspaper from Rajasthan has uploaded several pics of the blast aftermath. Some see luridity in it, some call it macabre, others see it as the price of sadbhavna. Too bad 'concerned' citizens never make it to the venue. It is only the unconcerned citizens who loiter in temples and such mundane places.

Over 60 innocent people died! Chill out, that's just jejune statistics.

I've arranged the pics in descending order of public concern--for the sake of normalcy as we know it; I don't wish to loose my sleep over it. I hope you don't either.

This is what you'll mostly hear about. Hearing anything else would mean you're buying into misguided youths' misleading propaganda.

Are they washing blood stains, or truth? No, those are members of Concerned Citizens for Clean Jaipur.

All the candles and trips to Wagah didn't come to their rescue. Well, did the nukes? So, that just means we need more of the same, not less.

Brave Jaipurians should get back to stupor asap....oops, I meant work. A white-paper is on its way to reassure them.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Zombietime's awesome image archive on the cartoon controversy

The entire archive can be viewed here. The pic below (credit: zombietime) sums up the issue of faux offense pretty much. Desi media's contrived and rather fake defense of freedom-of-speech, when it comes to M F Hussain's paintings and a surreptitious cop out during the cartoon controversy, could well be illustrated in the same manner. Unfortunately, I don't have the requisite drawing skills.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Justice Kaul on M F Hussain

While delivering judgement on a criminal case against painter M F Hussain, for his nude paintings of Hindu deities, Delhi High Court judge Sanjay Kishan Kaul lectured from his dias in a palpably sanctimonious tone:
"[M F Hussain] deserves to be in his home, painting his canvas.....In a free and democratic society, tolerance is vital. This is true especially in large and complex societies like ours where people with varied beliefs and interests mingle,” said the single-judge bench of Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul. “It is very unfortunate that the works of any artist today who have tried to play around with nudity have come under scrutiny. These artists have had to face the music, making them think twice before exhibiting their work of art.”
I am tempted to ask the judge if he would be equally ecstatic about the rights of Taslima Nasrin , or say this in her defense: "she deserves to be in her (Calcutta) home, writing her novels(with stray references to Islam's prophet)." Interested groups can invite her to New Delhi for a reading of her novels or organize mass readings of the "purged" passages from her novel.

I hope Justice Kaul will upheld the right of citizens to peaceful organization and enlightenment through mass reading if not Taslima's right to read since she is not a citizen.

Hey, its a free country you see.

Just a thought.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Oughta live in here

A common refrain of secularists these days, especially with the increasing number of diaspora Indians exposing their hypocrisy too often, is to resort to a sleight of hand and discredit the expats: you cannot speak of India while living in US--or, some such western country.

The insinuation being 'you cannot really speak about India since you don't understand being distantly located, or have no real stake and hence are being unrealistic.'

I faced a similar comment from some guy on Chindu blog while talking about Jaitirth Rao's malignant, and rather misinformed swipe at Manu--the author of Hindu lawbook Manusmriti.

Mr Rao called him "misogynist Manu," hence prompting me to question if he or the 'secular' Indian Express will take the same liberty and dare print "misogynist Mohammad" or "misogynist Christianism" or "paedophile Prophet", ever?

The answer is of course no. Else they would have printed Taslima Nasrin's comments in her novel Dwikhandito where she called Islam's prophet Mohammad "our Scoundrel Prophet," or when Jerry Falwell called him "a terrorist," or the Danish cartoons.

What has this question got to do with my location I sincerely don't know, but the 'secularist' in that blog viewer clearly seemed bruised, not because of Mr Rao's comments about Manu, but due to my inquiry about his position regarding Islam's prophet.

The argument about location having anything to do with being in the know--in political or cultural context at least--is silly of course, and cowardly to boot.

First, the 'secularists' don't have the stomach to accept their own communal bias. Second, this talk is a convenient cop out for them.

Almost all Indians who are abroad have families back home and hence do have a vested interest in the ongoings over there. A whole lot are out of the country for work alone, not immigration purposes, and certainly care more intensely because their future is invested in it. Having grown in India for the better part of life there is no question of being culturally severed from India either, to draw the secular scorn.

Au contraire, expat Indians are emotionally linked to India whilst the secularists long for the West--emotionally and ideologically. Rajeev Srinivasan once appositely termed the latter resident non-Indians or RNIs. In his words, "they apparently reside in India, manage to look and act astonishingly like real Indians, even hold Indian passports, but are decidedly anti-Indian in mindset."

Secularists, especially journalist hacks and seminar circuit types, have one more trick up their sleeve. They have no compunction in calling resident Indians as narrow-minded, philistine etc., because they don't travel and hence don't have a 'broad' worldview which the secularists have acquired purely on account of their govt. sponsored limited stays abroad. But when talking to expats the criterion gets reversed. Now the poor soul is disqualified because she/he doesn't live in India anymore. Thus the only enlightened beings qualified to talk about India authoritatively happen to be none else but the jetsetting secularists. Quite convenient, huh?

No one ever seems to ponder as to why so many citizens have been prompted to work abroad. The inconvenient answer being the mess created by this very 'secular' class through its predilection for the quixotic idea of socialism that wrecked India financially. If Tom Brokaw had his Greatest Generation of Americans, the 'secularists' ensured we had the Wasted Generation of Indians. The shipwreck of Nehruvian socialism had crushed Indian spirit for better part of five decades. The country could recover only when Indians started moving out, for the only work to be found was work outside the country. Veritably, Indians abroad have a silent contempt for secularist shenanigans, and this the secularists can't stomach.

I call the question of not-knowing-while-abroad silly because of its inherent irony. Hey, if I can't possibly talk about something simply by virtue of distance, how do you assert so confidently about me, and my ability, including the ability to speak about India, so removed, so distant, so far that you are from me?