Tuesday, September 30, 2008

A Critique of Ammu Joseph's Article on Conversions

Guest Post by (Shrivathsa.Brahma):

Christian/muslim/communist apologetics is regularly bandied out as genuine intellectual discourse by chindu. The article by Ammu Joseph is a case in point.

The conclusions from the article could be summarised as follows:

  • Although the christian missionaries target vulnerable populations, one has to trust the wisdom of the same vulnerable populations who "make use of the educational, healthcare and other services of faith-based organisations without changing their creed", because you see, "After all, these are the people — not the educated middle classes — who repeatedly throw up election results that surprise and baffle political pollsters and pundits." The fact that malicious means are used to convert, the fact that physical force is used to convert, the fact that economic pressure is used to convert, all stand obfuscated.

  • Although the church has indulged in malicious slander of Hindu Gods and given rise to conflicts in converts' families, its ok because "for every story about a family divided by religious conversion there are many about families who find their own amicable ways of dealing with religious difference". Hail the (Indian?) family!

  • Although there is an open religious conflict in kandamahal, it is because of "a number of complex factors, including issues of land and livelihood, contributed to the recent eruption of prolonged violence — especially in Orissa. As in other situations, what appears to be a communal conflict is not necessarily or primarily rooted in religion. However, the power of religion is often used to rally the troops on either side of any divide". Even if you grant that  there are issues of "land and livelihood" in kandamahal? and for how long were they there? if they are here recently, who is the reason for such conflicts?

  • Although the christian religion is intolerant of any dissent, it is ok because "For instance, on a trip to Israel with a group of Indian artists (all Hindu) a couple of years ago, I found that many of them were more enthusiastic about genuflecting and lighting candles in various churches than I was". No acknowledgement or appreciation of the "pUjya bhAva" in the hindus towards anything projected as divinity, hence I think this sentence is a condescending remark. 

  • "At the same time it is impossible to disregard the role of religion as a source of security, comfort, succour and hope for large numbers of people. Many middle class Indians of different faiths find meaning in the teachings of one or other of a wide range of gurus (past and present), join various religious movements, and choose to make vows at places of pilgrimage associated with religions other than their own ...... Why then should Dalits or Adivasis — or any other citizens — not seek refuge in whatever faith answers their particular needs, spiritual or otherwise, at particular times? What right does anyone else have to question their right to do so". Seems like a QED, but what about the question of intolerance in the christian faith? what about the malicious slander they indulge in against Hindu Gods and Godesses? Have any of the "wide range of gurus (past and present)" ever indulged in slander of christianity? Have any of the "wide range of gurus (past and present)" ever taken advantage of the hunger to convert a person?

  • "For example, in his closing speech Dr. K.M. Munshi, well-known champion of Indian culture and founder of the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, justified the inclusion of the right to propagate (along with the right to profess and practice) religion, saying: "I am sure, under the freedom of speech which the Constitution guarantees, it will be open to any religious community to persuade other people to join their faith. So long as religion is religion, conversion by free exercise of conscience has to be recognised. The word 'propagate' in this clause is nothing very much out of the way as some people think, nor is it fraught with dangerous consequences." " QED again.

  • "What a sea change there has been in public discourse in this country over the past few decades. If anything endangers Indian society and culture today it is the virtual abandonment of civilised debate over political and ideological differences and the widespread adoption of violent means to all kinds of ends." The writer here has totally obfuscated the fact as to who started the violence first. Was Swami Lakshmanananda Saraswati killed by a bolt of lightning from high up in the sky? Or was he killed by the christians?

  • "At a time when unacceptably large numbers of Indians continue to have no access to basic needs such as food and shelter, when too many have too little access to education and healthcare, and when there is extensive unemployment and economic exploitation, not to mention social exclusion, across the land maybe we all need to rethink our priorities. Is religious conversion the best that we can do? Is it the worst?". This sentence seems to be either 

    • a planned addition to beguile those ones like me who generally look at the beginning and end of an article to see a writer's "abstract" and the end for its "conclusion". I hope the editor/publisher didn't fall into a similar trap.

    • Or it should be that the writer is genuinely confused that she concludes something one sidedly in the middle of the article and then she puts the same conclusion to question at the end of the article.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Vidya Subramaniam on Terrorism and the Minorities

Vidya Subramaniam's op-ed on the terrorism issue summarizes many of the points commentators have been making in recent days. B.Raman has some similar thoughts in his Outlook piece today. Some of the questions she raises regarding the ongoing investigations are from Mail Today which has been running stories raising doubts about the version of events put out by the Delhi police. But she goes on to equate the Bajrang Dal with the terrorists:

More and more voices are also asking why the Bajrang Dal, which has a proven history of bomb-making, and which, in tandem with the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, has been on an orgy of murder and mayhem in State after State, cannot be banned.

The reply as Swapan Dasgupta has been quoted to have said is this:

...Equating the Bajrang Dal with SIMI is like comparing a water pistol to an AK-47. "Rioters," he says, "cannot be equated with terrorists. An individual who took part in the Bombay riots of 1992 may be a respectable citizen today while a terrorist is committed to undermining the sovereignty of the state."

I agree with that distinction even if I do not necessarily buy the analogy of the water pistol and the AK-47. In any case, the two are different and cannot be compared though the government has a similar obligation in both instances.

She then goes on to rhetorically pose the question:

...The aftermath of a bomb blast is an extraordinarily delicate moment given the very real suffering experienced by those at terror’s receiving end. For the journalist to raise even the faintest doubt when a terror case is projected to have been solved at such a time is to risk being called anti-national. The recent vigorous discourse in the media suggests that this burden may have been lifted. What explains this?

which she proceeds to answer:

Probably one significant realisation: that unvetted police claims can have the unwitting effect of tarring an entire community when only a minuscule section is involved in terrorism.

This assessment is shopworn and false. It is not the first time we are having a bomb blast or the police happen to be accusing Muslims. In all of the earlier instances as well, the same charge could have been made. Yet, the questioning of the police theory has been more intense this time around. The answer is in part owing to the proliferation of media sources. The other potential reason is the conflicting claims being made by police agencies from different states which casts doubts on their stories. Finally, the serial bombings in rapid succession raises the cost of error - with the wrong people in custody, the odds of more attacks only get more likely, something the media with its traditional skepticism of governmental competence is acutely aware of.

Lastly, she criticizes the BJP for questioning the legal aid pronounced by the VC of JMI:

To question Jamia Millia University Vice-Chancellor Mushirul Hasan’s offer of legal aid to terror suspects — as the Bharatiya Janata Party has done — is to strike at the presumption of innocence which is a sacred law of the land.

Wrong again. The question, as Andromeda pointed out in an earlier post, is whether they are entitled to legal counsel at public expense, not about their guilt or otherwise or even about whether they deserve representation (see this item on the controversy).

Friday, September 26, 2008

Where Swamy is Wrong

This is to clarify the points my fellow blogger DD raised with regard to Subramanyam Swamy's article. First of all, one needs to understand the problem in Kashmir. Like every other state and many countries across the world, Kashmir too has always had a liberal/socialist/leftist political outfit on one end and one or more conservative/rightist/Islamist party on the other. This is true of many other Indian states as well with the Congress filling the role of the former and the BJP with its Hindutva slant taking up the latter space. Just as the BJP takes its inspiration from ancient Hindu texts and our sanatana dharma, the Kashmiri right takes its cue from the Islamist system. Kashmir has long enjoyed strong familial and religious ties with PoK and to some extent, Pakistani Punjab as well. Not surprisingly, the Kashmiri Islamists look towards the Pakistani system as their ideal model (That is one area where the Hindu/Sikh right in India differs from their Islamic counterparts. The Islamist ideologues see Islam as embodying a comprehensive system of governance which it is the duty of the ideal (Islamic) state to adopt as the shariah. In the Hindu predominant states of India, none of the Sangh organizations have any comparable alternative blueprint for governance. While the RSS/VHP/Bajrang Dal have sometimes suggested that they do not, in practice, accept some aspects of the Constitution, they have never offered a clear conceptual alternative to the system as a whole). The trouble is that this Islamist opposition has found it unable to operative within the four corners of a secular Indian constitution - they have come to believe that there is no place in our system to execute their agenda (This is again a point where the Hindu right and the Islamists diverge in their strategy. The BJP made its compromises early on - though the RSS has sought a Hindu Rashtra in the past, the BJP now swears by secularism. This was a strategic move to render themselves more broadly acceptable so as to promote their growth especially in those parts of the country where Hindus are a minority. Also, it was facilitated by the fact that unlike the Islamists, the Sangh did not have any declared alternative that it idealized - the notion of Ram Rajya is quite a nebulous one). A system that does not offer political space to a mainstream alternative is inherently unstable and finds it difficult to sustain its own survival without the periodic use of force. In other words, an absence of choice implies a freedom deficit and a situation somewhat analogous to countries with single party ruled regimes across the world. (By the way, it is this fundamental understanding of politics in pre-partition Muslim dominated states that made Indira Gandhi reject the idea of incorporating Bangladesh into the Indian Union following the Bangladesh war - the fact that there are now two established parties ruling that country alternatively, one outwardly more pro-India than the other, shows how correct that decision was).

First of all, it needs to be made clear that there is no military solution to the Kashmir problem. The military can at best contain the scope of the problem and protect us from a failure to solve it but is not an answer in itself. This is where Swamy is wrong. By ruling out negotiations and foreclosing political efforts, he will ensure that those who do not see eye-to-eye with the GoI are goaded into extreme measures. The consequences of such an extreme position are too harmful to contemplate. For one thing, such a position will effectively hand over the jehadis a victory - the Kashmiri separatists will no longer have to play a careful game of balancing their support for dialogue with sympathy for the terrorists; instead, the stance will force them to go over fully to their side. If the GoI compels Kashmiris to take a with-us-or-against-us, given the historic sentiments in the valley, the odds are that a majority including moderates and independents would choose to go against us. No one, not even Israel, despite being so powerful, takes such an extreme view that there will never be a Palestinian state - the possibility of a state in the future is always held out for the Palestinians provided various conditions of good conduct are fulfilled.

Secondly, there was an outwardly calm in the valley but there has never been genuine normalcy. Sheikh Abdullah was imprisoned off and on by Nehru and later by Indira Gandhi, there were intermittent riots on a couple of occasions and finally an accord in 1975. But the Sheikh was well aware that the only way to guarantee peace in his state was if Kashmir, India and Pakistan all agreed. This was also the reason Nehru dispatched Abdullah to Pakistan for talks shortly before his death.

Swamy predicts that Pakistan will be controlled by jehadis five years from now. The question is still open. People predicted the same thing five years ago when there was speculation about Musharraf's successor. For one thing, the Americans ensured who Musharraf's successor was going to be and are very likely going to have a prominent say in who succeeds Kayani. It is true that the Pakistan army has moved steadily towards the right since Zia-ul-Haq and many of its cadres share a common ideological perspective with the jehadi outfits. But this will affect more the answer to the questions when and whether the Kashmir issue is tackled, not so much how. As Pranab Mukherjee said recently, Pakistan will be judged by its actions, not words. If jehad is declared against India, that will of course automatically shut down the dialogue process as it had done recently following the Pakistan Army's direct role in the Embassy bombing in Kabul. No doubt we need to be prepared to wield the stick but that does not mean that if peace reigns, there can be no carrot. Besides, the ideological predilection of the army are no doubt important but it is one among several related factors to be figured into the political calculus. After all, we have dealt with the Islamist right before - for example, the Vajpayee government held discussions with Maulana Fazlur Rehman, a Deobandi cleric who heads the Jamiat-ulema-e-Islam and is currently the Pakistani parliament's chairperson on Kashmir affairs.

Finally, much has been written about the legalities of the dispute, so I will keep this brief. India promised a plebiscite in the Instrument of Accession, a promise it came to regret and reneged upon (it conducted a plebiscite in Junagadh where it was confident of victory given the large Hindu majority but none in Kashmir where it possibly predicted that the odds of losing were high). It has since been arguing that the issue of a plebiscite is between the GoI and the people of Kashmir with Pakistan having no say in the matter. As for the issue of Kashmir with Pakistan, it will be resolved by talks under the Shimla accord of 1972. This fine distinction ignores the political realities of Kashmir and ever since the current peace process picked up towards the end of Vajpayee's tenure, such legalisms have been less employed by both sides.

Swamy is right that outright secession is not the answer - it is politically untenable and constitutionally impermissible. But short of that, is there a solution to the Kashmir question that would grant enough autonomy and would also be acceptable to Pakistan? There have been some reports of the two sides having arrived at a framework. There was even an article last year in Outlook providing the details which I do not recall now. Nothing was announced however and not much has been heard of it ever since. Gen. Musharraf a while ago suggested that the answer would perhaps involve 'rendering the border irrelevant'. That may be a worthwhile goal but India would have to figure out how to go about preserving and protecting its interests in the valley, a challenge that is easier said than done.

Karat's Sophistry

Prakash Karat argues in an op-ed today the gist of which is that financial deregulation caused the ongoing financial crisis in the US and the $700 billion contemplated to fix this problem is aimed at helping the 'fatcats and speculators recoup their losses'. Both claims are false. Read this to understand the issue, these articles (here, here and here) which explain why absence of regulation was not the cause of this crisis (not paucity but potentially bad regulation - see this and this)and this piece which summarizes briefly what the US treasury department has done and how it does not benefit the rich but the hoi polloi who otherwise stand to lose the most from the failure of these firms. The episode may potentially have lessons for India but it is premature to say what they are. The imperative to prevent liberalization is however definitely not one of them as Karat posits.

Batting for terror accused

Chindu has slammed the BJP for speaking against the legal aid offered by Jamia Islamia to those accused of a role in the recent Delhi blasts. For a good part of the editorial, it appeared as if the BJP demanded that nobody provide any legal help to the accused. The BJP has only said that the university - that is centrally funded- has no business defending a terror accused. Chindu puts up a passionate argument in support of Mushirul Hasan, Vice Chancellor of Jamia Millia Islamia.

Embedded in the idea of providing accused with the means of defending themselves competently is a jurisprudential principle that forms the bedrock of modern law — the presumption of innocence unless the person is proved guilty

Does Chindu follow this principle with respect to Modi? Modi has not been found guilty by any court of law so far, but article after article slams him for his "alleged" role in the riots. Whenever the VHPs and the Bajrang Dals go on the offensive, does Chindu invoke this principle?What is all this talk of presumed innocence until proved guilty when it is only selectively invoked?

If these two students are convicted, will Chindu conclude that these guys are indeed terrorists and not innocent? Absolutely not. Afzal Guru is a case in point.With an inept government at the centre, even a conviction is not enough to prove a terrorist's role in a carnage. Afzal Guru, convicted for his role in the Parliament attack case, is still "presumed to be innocent". Even after the Supreme Court upheld his conviction, the UPA government and the entire battery of pseudo secular media is against proceeding with his execution. If indeed these two Jamia students are found guilty, the entire investigation will be questioned and the intellectuals will wonder whether they were given a fair trial.

Against this backdrop, when will terrorists get the treatment they deserve? If the killing of hundreds of innocent civilians does not necessitate an iron handed response from the state I wonder what will awake the government from its deep slumber. Looks like the PM will lose sleep only over Mohammed Haneef and not on terror victims.And the Human rights activists are bothered only about the rights of brutal terrorists and not of their innocent victims.In the time we explain these "intellectuals" that terrorists are terrorists and not humans and hence do not deserve the sympathy reserved for humans, the nation would have lost a few more lives.

The argument put forth by Chindu is plain stupid, to put it mildly. If I work for Microsoft and I am nabbed for a murder, is it logical for me to expect MS to defend me or pay for my legal expenses? Why should Jamia do this to two of its students? The question is not about denying the accused access to legal help. It's a question of whether the university should do this and send out a wrong signal. The move also raises serious doubts about the intention of the VC. By batting for the accused he is sending out the message that the Muslim suspects cannot get adequate legal help without the intervention of the university.The decision of the university is shocking , condemnable and sets a dangerous precedent. It has the potential to stoke communal unrest.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Why Subramaniam Swamy's analysis of the Kashmir issue is pragmatic

I would encourage the readers of this blog to read this article by Subramaniam Swamy. Despite my fellow blogger Pilid's arguments to the contrary, the article is quite pragmatic and should be used by the Indian Government as a corner stone of its Kashmir policy. Please allow me to elucidate:
  • Identification of our foes -
    The ‘Kashmir issue,’ in fact, can no more be solved by dialogue either with the Pakistanis or the Hurriyat, leave alone the constitutional impossibility of allowing it to secede.
  • Ability to predict the future of our enemy/neighbor with the most plausible scenario:
    The Pakistan army today, according to all informed sources available to me, has a majority of captains and colonels who owe allegiance to the Taliban and Islamist fundamentalism. In another five years, these middle ranks will reach, through normal promotions, the corps commander level. We know that the government in Pakistan has always been controlled by the seven corps commanders of the army. Therefore a Taliban government in Pakistan five years hence seems a highly probable outcome. Jihad, that is, war against India will be the logical consequence of that outcome. 
  •  Identifying the result of the scenario and hence putting the secular idiots in their place.
  • Giving sane rationale behind why Kashmir should not be parted:
    The population of that State may be majority Muslim but the land and its history is predominantly Hindu. For our commitment to the survival of the ancient civilisation of India and the composite culture that secularists talk of, we have not only to win that coming inevitable war but also resolve never to part with Kashmir.
There are additional arguments beyond the ones I've noted which bolster the argument of why India should not negotiate with such SOB's and prepare for punitive action.
To my friend Pilid's points,
bereft of popular support, no government, whatever its ideals, can survive forever except by
brute force, an option that should be reserved for the end.

For about 40 years after Independence Kashmiris lived in peace within India, there were no large scale incidents. However after 1990 when Bhutto came into power the troubles started with the militancy and the infiltration. How did the common public suddenly decide to join the forces of Islamic fascism? Where did this new found Independent Kashmir concept come about? The problem with this issue is, politicians and media forget historic facts and the legality of the Instrument of Accession.
The government lacks strong leadership who understand the issues and its ramifications and are able to tell Pakistan and the Hurriyat to shut the f-up, jail the people who create trouble for treason and hit the militants hard. But the Congress like Nero would rather fiddle away while Kashmir burns, is a sad irony considering Nehru who gave the state so much.

Kashmir, Secularism and Indian Identity

Malini Parthasarthy and Subramanyam Swamy have two op-eds (here and here) side by side in today's edition. Malini exhorts the Congress to fight harder for the secular project and Swamy asks India to not negotiate with Pakistan over Kashmir but to prepare for war to safeguard Kashmir and India from the Islamist project. If there is one thing common to both, it is their unjustified confidence in their own beliefs notwithstanding evidence to the contrary and a consequent failure to introspect.

Malini needs to wake up. If the idea of secularism had been so ingrained in our ethos, Kashmiri secessionists would not have had the traction they do - the fact that they do enjoy considerable popular support is good evidence of the failure of the much proclaimed secularism. Swamy, on the other hand, calls for India to deny Kashmir self-determination. This absolutist position is a recipe for never ending confrontation in the years to come. India has already spent a fortune on this state and will be forced, by adopting such a rigid position, to spend much more both on security and development - if peaceful protests do not succeed, they will once again give way to violent insurrection with the next generation of jihadis getting ready to fight the India once again. Swamy's legal games cannot distract from a simple fact: bereft of popular support, no government, whatever its ideals, can survive forever except by brute force, an option that should be reserved for the end.

When the Constituent Assembly ratified the Indian constitution, the word 'secular' was not to be found in it. And with good reason. While the state did not see a role for itself in the religious affairs of the people, it did not prevent the state either from identifying with popular beliefs even if they are inspired by religion. In addition, Art. 370 allowed Kashmir to retain its own Constitution even as the provisions of the country's constitution were kept apart to give the state the political space to create its own laws. Even as this autonomy has steadily eroded, anger against these special priveleges to one state has mounted across the country. The trouble with Malini and others who perceive the issue similarly is that their approach has dismally failed to resolve either of these grievances. On the one hand, she reiterates the myth that a strict enforcement of secular doctrine will keep the Kashmiri separatists at bay - the Amarnath controversy did not create the Islamist constituency, it only provided the latest pretext for Islamist mobilization against the state. On the other, she insists that fighting the Sangh Parivar forcefully will make the other question of popular anger over the special treatment go away. False again. The reason for the rise of the BJP has been the popular anger over special treatment to minorities. The only way to make that go away is to either do away with these concessions or to provide convincing justification for them. No secularist has managed either and not surprisingly, nor does Malini.

The problem is not of the Congress winning or losing electoral battles against the BJP but of its inability to counter the ideological framework of the Sangh. The answer (at least the principles of one) for secularists is actually quite simple. They need to start by distinguishing between values they perceive to be vital to the state's well-being and the system that only imperfectly reflects them but can withstand the vicissitudes of popular sentiment. They and the parties they patronize have long focused upon the former which is certainly important for mobilizing support for electoral battles as well as to generate public opinion towards an idealized goal. But it is only the latter that can create and sustain enduring political institutions and resolve the difficult political problems of our time.

In practice, this means the government must negotiate with Pakistan and with the Hurriyat. It must be willing to draw a line that is wide enough to allow some elements of an Islamic political order in an eventual Kashmiri constitution. And it must be willing to concede some leeway to religious values in other states as well. Unless, the country is willing to dismount from the high horse of secular fundamentalism, the anti-establishment undercurrents that have grown stronger in recent years will only lead the state towards a crisis of legitimacy.

Fwd: China's milk scandal

we have several times in the past seen xinhua propaganda paraded unabashedly on chindu. any inconvenient truths about china are suppressed in the true communist fashion. and all this in the pompous language of "upholding journalistic principles". bloody hypocrites, these communists.

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Girish
Date: Wed, Sep 24, 2008
Subject: China's milk scandal
To: readerseditor@thehindu.co.in


For reasons best known to the editorial team, the China milk scandal episode received scant coverage on The Hindu's print edition.

Girish K

Chinese milk fears spread in Asia

Countries across Asia are testing Chinese dairy products as fears spread over melamine-tainted milk - and some have banned these products outright.

Four Chinese children died after drinking contaminated milk and 13,000 others remain in hospital.

Four children in Hong Kong have now been diagnosed with kidney stones after drinking milk from the mainland.

The company at the centre of the scare, Sanlu, failed to report the health problems for months, state media say.

Sanlu began receiving complaints about sick children as early as last December but did not report the issue to the authorities until early September, according to a CCTV report citing an official investigation.

The report appears to be the first official admission that news of the health scare was deliberately suppressed.

US coffee giant Starbucks has stopped serving drinks with milk in many Chinese outlets and many other large companies are testing products in some Asian locations or pulling them straight from the shelves.

Malaysia has expanded its ban on dairy products to include candies, chocolates and all other foods containing milk, an official there has confirmed.

In Japan, one major supplier has pulled buns made from Chinese milk from supermarket shelves and a petition signed by regional governors urges the central government to suspend imports of all Chinese dairy products.

Parents concerned

The problem was first revealed two weeks ago, when milk powder from the Sanlu Group was found to contain melamine, an industrial chemical.

At least 22 other companies have since become involved in the scandal and milk products made by the Yili, Mengniu and other groups have been recalled from supermarket shelves in China and many other countries.

Many parents across Asia are concerned that their children may have drunk the affected milk.

"I'm still worried about my child," said Mary Yu, a Hong Kong mother
who took her 3-year-old son for hospital tests on Tuesday, along with dozens of other parents.

"I want to have a thorough check to play it safe," she told the Associated Press.

Melamine is used in making plastics and is high in nitrogen, which makes products appear to have a higher protein content.

Health experts say that ingesting small amounts does no harm but sustained use can cause kidney stones and renal failure, especially among the young.

One result of the scare is that wet nurses around China are now in huge demand, according to the Chinese media.


China's milk scandal bares government shortcomings


BEIJING (AP) — The note posted in July on the Web site of China's food safety inspection agency came from a doctor: There had been a sudden rise in infants turning up at his hospital with kidney stones after drinking the same brand of formula.


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Delayed US visa humilates an editor

Haidar Hussain, Editor of Asomiya Pratidin, alleged that the U.S. Embassy took longer to clear his visa since he was from the minority community. “For the first time I felt that I am a Muslim. Never before in my life, I felt so much humiliation. I have been working for peace and communal harmony since my student days,” he said.

When did visa processing delays become humiliation. There is another person with the same name who is a terrorist. The delay could be because of the name and not religion. Or it could just be a procedural delay. If it were so insulting to be kept waiting and if Mr.Haidar Hussain is so convinced that it is because of his muslim identity, I am waiting to hear Mr.Hussain speak against the mindless violence perpetrated by his co-religionists in the name of religion.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Countering Islamic terrorism - II

This post is a continuation of the earlier post Countering Islamic terrorism.
As my fellow blogger rightly said,
Khare must be the face of Chindu's journalistic stupidity.

There are several instances in this article alone where Khare exhibits: journalistic ignorance, blatant majority baiting, lack of common sense and a big ego, to overcompensate for a lack of some other muscle, to write his thoughts in an ignorant passage he calls, a coherent anti-terror framework
Reading his tenets, exposes his lack of understanding of what terrorism is and a feeble mind incapable of putting forth ideas to tackle them.
Lets review a few samples,
First, the state is supreme and it can and will make equal demands on all citizens

That means no group is entitled to claim a right to redress through violent means perceived grievances or injustices

Or this nugget,
Once a consensus is forged on the elements of fight against terror, the citizens, across communities and faiths, will learn to see through the politician’s designs, and only then will we be able to discover ways and means of escaping the small politician’s smallness

small politician’s smallness
Now who really is paying you to write such ignorant crap?
The entire tenets are too generic, totally irrelevant to the problem (other than showing a secular agenda) and have no roadmap or any actions either from the state or the public to handle the terrorists and their agenda.
While you and your secular friends are walking the court houses demanding justice from the terrorists, hundreds of thousands will be blown up in their neighborhoods, schools, hospitals, places of worship etc.

Countering Islamic terrorism

Khare must be the face of Chindu's journalistic stupidity.

Within the same week, a handful of brave men of the Delhi Police were able to gun down at least two alleged terrorists;

The two alleged terrorists were affable people peacefully practicing their religion when the fame-seeking policeman barged in and performed the self-immolation ritual of shooting oneself.

the encounter even produced a hero.

As if by way of a rite of collective catharsis, our mass media spent considerable time in saluting and remembering Inspector Mohan Chand Sharma, the slain hero in the face-off at Batla House in Jamia Nagar. The “encounter” itself has been designated, by a section of the media, as avenging the previous Saturday’s perfidy, perhaps with a hint of a suggestion that the scores are even between the Indian State and the driven merchants of death.

As a journalist, Khare must have done some basic research. So he must be aware of Sharma's past (thanks to girish for the link).
Sharma, who is survived by his wife and two young children, had won seven gallantry medals including a President's medal this year. He joined Delhi Police as a sub-inspector in 1989 and was instrumental in the killing of 35 terrorists and the arrest of another 80 militants, police sources claimed, adding he had killed 40 inter-state gangsters and arrested another 129.
Sharma was a hero even when Chindu has been using a broad brush over the years to paint all policemen as villians. Khare is giving the impression that Sharma's act of valor is a selfish attempt at stardom. He reiterates this by doubting the veracity of the encounter.

... when the terrorists strike next. And, they will. And when they do, they will have the collusive support of the mass media in instilling a sense of insecurity, fear and anger in the citizens. And, once again, the Narendra Modis and the L.K.Advanis will feel vindicated in their poisonous catechism and will gleefully look forward to commandeering a scared electorate into voting them to power.

This is not the first time we are seeing Chindu announce emphatically that the terrorists will strike again. Is this some kind of fatalism that we Indians must resign to? Why does Chindu not begin by asking the tough question: what must be done to make sure there is not another terrorist attack in India? The answer probably points in the direction what N.Ram has prescribed for stopping terrorist attacks in Pakistan -- hard decisions:
- countering the common, unifying religion-based (Religion of Peace) world view of the various terrorist outfits
- elimination of madrassa-based groups,
- government determination in fighting terrorism

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

TADA/POTA rises from the ashes

After a lot of pleading from the public, sane media (Chindu excluded) and some politicians, the UPA Government decided to approve "comprehensive" anti-terrorism measures.
The Captain Obvious MM Singh announced the obvious,
that the existing anti-terror law is to be strengthened while admitting that there were "vast gaps" in intelligence.
Are you sure Mr.PM? What really enlightened you? Was it the bodies of the innocent or perhaps the destruction of public property or perhaps the reckless abandon with which the Islamic fascists were targeting the public?

In a side news Super-Patriot and Defender of Minorities Lalu Yadav who demanded the meeting suddenly disappeared without notice.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Violence in Karnataka

Today's editorial deals with the recent communal incidents in Karnataka and Orissa. Read this set of reports to get a good idea of the underlying issue and what sparked the violence in Karnataka.

Monday, September 15, 2008

So The Government Knew

It is annoying to see the government making up one excuse after another for the security failure in Delhi. Laloo's statement made headlines in The Hindu today - do not blame us ministers, blame the intelligence folks who gave us vague information. Shivraj Patil told CNN-IBN the same thing: we knew of the possibility of an attack on Delhi but 'what was not available was the timing, the place and the method to be used for the purpose'. What do these fellows expect? A detailed personal briefing by the terrorists of their plan? A press release from the Indian Mujahideen highlighting the dates and venues of their upcoming events? Intelligence gathering is difficult business - it involves developing a vast network of informants, keeping tabs on a number of unseemly characters living in the twilight zone of the law, gathering tidbits of information from different places and putting them together with that extra bit of intuition coupled with a calculated mix of surmise and conjecture. Even with good luck, it is not always either complete or fully accurate. Loose talk about intelligence failure and blaming IB folks does this government no credit.

The more important question is whether the intelligence was actionable based on what Patil has admitted. He knew the attacks were going to be in Delhi. And as the whole world knows, the series of attacks in the recent past have all taken place in major market areas in every city. Putting the two together, does it require a genius to figure that the attacks in Delhi would most likely also happen at the city's most prominent markets at Connaught place and Karol Bagh? There may be a cure for negligence but there is unfortunately none for stupidity. Do these two jokers believe that they can get away with such explanations? Do they take us all to be dunces?

Conversion Conundrum

I was intrigued by two articles today on the recent violence in Orissa. One is by Soumitro Das in the Hindustan Times which takes a strongly anti-VHP line (Given her views, I am quite surprised that she has never written in The Hindu before). An excerpt is indicated below though I recommend to our readers to read the entire article:

On the Christian side, thanks to the Foreign Contributions Regulation Act, the Home Ministry is in possession of the Annual Report on Foreign Contributions for 2005-06. It lays out in minute detail the funds received by churches and Christian organisations in India. We know, for example, that the top donors are church-based or Christian-inspired organisations from the US, Britain, Germany, the Netherlands and Italy. We also know that a greater part of the funds — Rs 7,785 crore — goes to mainly Christian and church-based organisations in India. According to the Home Ministry’s analysis, the major part of the fund are spent on disaster relief and establishment costs. Welfare of scheduled tribes gets only Rs 25 crore and welfare of scheduled Castes only Rs 9 crore. The rest of the money goes into social work — building of schools, colleges, hospitals, etc. Nowhere is the word proselytisation mentioned. There are also no records of mass conversions.

Hence, the Sangh parivar’s argument that Christian charitable and social work is a disguise to convert ‘innocent, illiterate’ tribals and Dalits is a lie — at least as far as the records go. The Home Ministry report also tells us that the bulk of the money is spent in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Delhi — not in Orissa or Gujarat.

Note her claim that the Sangh Parivar's argument is a lie. She asserts that no money is being spent by missionaries and there is no record of mass conversion.

I found a second report in the Washington Post on the same topic. Here is the relevant excerpt:

Conversions to Christianity have been happening fast among impoverished tribal communities in Kandhamal, a remote district with few links to the outside world or state services. The Christian population here, largely made up of traditionally nature-worshiping ethnic groups, has swelled from 6 percent in 1971 to 27 percent today, according to government census data.

Some people who convert often get better access to schools and health clinics run by Western Christian groups.

My question: Can they both be right or is one of them lying? Perhaps there have been no mass conversions but that does not discount a much more insidious process. If so, that might explain the census data but it still leaves the question of financing unanswered. Do the missionary organizations have other sources of funding besides foreign aid or have they found a way to bring in that money bypassing the government scanner?

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Delhi Blasts and The Aftermath

Today's editorial in The Hindu was on expected lines. Blame the government but also blame the lack of justice to muslims that is supposedly at the root of this problem.

...the Multi-Agency Centre, which maintains counter-terrorism databases, received long-due funding for hiring several hundred new staff. But the action comes far too late, and is too little in scope to solve the problem. India is still years away from possessing a system for real-time intelligence sharing across States, or an online national crime database. Not one State government affected by the recent bombings has so far invested a single rupee in upgrading its police forensics facilities, hiring counter-terrorism experts, or creating teams of specially trained investigators.

Fair enough. There was a recent report somewhere of how the Karnataka government's creation of an antiterrorist cell is a complete sham with neither funding nor manpower of any sort provided to it. I am yet to read a single report of any institutional measures that any state government has taken following this series of bombings. But the next part is more disturbing:

In many areas scarred by the appalling communal violence, SIMI is seen as an armed militia defending a besieged and vulnerable community — not as a criminal organisation that must be crushed. While this perception is profoundly misplaced, its existence points to the wellsprings of rage fed by India’s depressing failure to act against the perpetrators of Hindu fundamentalist violence. Central and State governments have, for the most part, failed to ensure the equity promised by the Constitution to Muslims, a reality driven home by actor Shabana Azmi’s pained reflections on her inability to purchase a home in Mumbai. No great intelligence is needed to see that the jihadists are working against the interests of India’s 160 million Muslims. Islamist terrorism, as the cleric Mehmood Madani pointed out a in a recent interview to this newspaper, threatens to snuff out the hard-won gains of a new generation of Muslims who have defied the odds to emerge as successful entrepreneurs and professionals. But the stark fact is that there can be no peace without justice — a proposition civil society, administrators, and policy-makers must reflect and act on if India is to win the war against Islamist terrorism.

There are several problems with these contentions. The question here is not whether equity/justice has been denied to muslims but whether its denial as perceived by the perpetrators of these attacks can be addressed by the Indian state and society. The answer must be in the negative and the reason is available right in the email sent to media houses yesterday.

An excerpt from yesterday's Hindu:

Much of the manifesto is devoted to holding out threats to the police and media. It states: “Be it the ATS [Anti-Terrorism Squad] of Maharashtra, the ATS and ACB of Gujarat, the OCTOPUS [Organisation for Countering Terrorists] of Andhra Pradesh, or be it a psychological propaganda war by the biased media, none shall be spared when it comes to vengeance – the Qisas.”

Another excerpt regarding the email:

The mail referred to a night raid on some Muslim colonies in Mumbai's Andheri suburb on August 31 and alleged that the ATS had harassed and troubled Muslims there. "You threatened to murder them and your mischief went to such an extent that you even dared to abuse and insult Maulana Mahmoood-ul-Hasan Qasmi and even misbehaved with the Muslim women and children there," the mail said.

Yes, they have expressed deep resentment about the harassment caused to their community by the police interrogation. But any police inquiry is bound to cause great harassment to those who stand suspected of the crime. In this case, the organization is relatively new and the intelligence network has limited knowledge of its reach and the individuals who work for it. Naturally, a significant number of members of the community to which the terrorists are thought to belong are going to be questioned and perhaps even kept in temporary detention. No successful investigation can be conducted without some degree of psychological coercion, what one may call 'harassment'. The FBI uses similar tactics and so do government agencies across the world - not only is this necessary, the inconvenience and trouble to anyone innocent is inevitable. If this is what these terrorists call injustice and is sufficient to warrant more attacks, The Hindu is deluding itself into believing that the problem can be resolved by somehow winning their hearts and minds. It is quite clear that this is simply propaganda to justify their attacks. Even otherwise, one must have no illusions about preventing the next attack by somehow trying to 'address' these 'grievances'.

Secondly, The Hindu says that in many areas SIMI is seen as an armed militia defending a vulnerable and besieged community. Who sees SIMI as a defensive organization? I have not read any report in this paper or elsewhere saying that muslims consider SIMI as its defender and seek refuge in it. How are attacks upon marketplaces going to advance this so-called defense of the threatened?

Shabana Azmi's problem with finding a house in Mumbai is not relevant to this question at all. For one thing, the problem she faces in Mumbai in finding housing has been written about by others as well who are not muslim. In part, it has to do with owners' preference for vegetarians - many owners share a distaste for animal slaughter on the premises of their property by its tenants. They however realize that once rented out, they have no control over this and hence prefer to give it to those who they are confident will not indulge in such a thing. Secondly, this is to to some extent owing to unverified and unverifiable suspicion about a person's antecedents - the sentiment that Muslims are more prone to violence than Hindus feeds into it. Reports have suggested that banks have a similar policy of denying credit cards to certain categories including some sections of Mumbai dominated by muslims again because their cumulative experience has shown that recovery from such areas is poor. It is therefore not entirely surprising that a similar phenomenon is observed with housing but the question, from the perspective of a solution, is an unrelated one that must be tackled separately. Insisting that providing equitable housing for Muslims in Mumbai will make this problem go away is disingenious.

The government's response makes me positively ill. As for our home minister ever ready with his stock reply, the less said the better. The PM calls for calm as always, everyone from the President downwards has issued the standard condemnations and its back to business as usual. Of course, all governments are now on 'high alert', an expression that in Mark Helprin's words signifies 'bureaucratic absurdities that attempt little, achieve nothing and protect no one'. Finally, every party is now out to put its own spin on this in a manner they think will benefit them in the coming election. Advani is back to beating the POTA drum. The communists who have been screaming hoarse trying to get parliament reconvened for a second opportunity to embarass the government think they have found the perfect reason for it now. What can we really expect from all this noise? Nothing. Zilch.

The Indian mujahideen has now warned that their next attack will tentatively be in Mumbai. So enjoy the peace while it lasts (which from the record is probably not going to be long). Meanwhile, for the cameras, its over to Mumbai. God help India.

Update: Read P.B.Mehta's op-ed in the Indian Express today. He captures the sentiment well and provides the perfect riposte to The Hindu's erroneous assessment:

...There is the appeal to a fight for justice. But what sort of conviction is this in the justice of one’s cause that it can be articulated only anonymously, and can speak only the language of bloody revenge? Then there is the narrative of victimisation: portrayals of a community at the receiving end in assorted episodes from Babari Masjid to Gujarat. But this narrative of victimisation seems to become simply a pretext. It has its own self-fulfilling logic, so that everything that happens is simply more grist for the victimhood mill. Every political party, every state organ, every media intervention is portrayed as one vast conspiracy to reduce Muslims to victimhood, as if there are no spaces left to address legitimate grievances.[Emphasis added]

Amen to that. He poses some good questions.

While there may be widespread revulsion against terrorism, what will be the form of politics that will overcome the sense of victimisation that is now creeping in on all communities? How will we break the vicious circle the Indian Mujahedeen have identified: that any action taken by the state, investigation or punishment will be taken as further evidence of victimisation? Can the state overcome the accusations from all sides that it is partisan in the prosecution of its core duties? It may turn out that our biggest vulnerability is not communalism; it is a state structure now floundering for credibility, legitimacy and effectiveness.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Tragedy strikes again in New Delhi

I was saddened to hear that lots of civilians were killed/injured during yesterday's blasts in New Delhi. There are a few photos from the gruesome incident which reiterates the fact that these militants will not show any mercy. It is sad that our leaders do not show any semblance of righteous anger and back it up with action to take on Islamist terrorism

Will Chindu ever wake up and see the reality? Will it go back and defend the terrorists giving some idiotic statements about socio-economic realities?
More importantly will the Government take any action and shake off its impotency towards terrorists?

Friday, September 12, 2008

Why Khare epitomizes sycophancy and illogicalness in the Chindu

There are several flavors of writers in Chindu who show all the readers how a newspaper should not be. They range from the ones following blind ideology to the ones following a political master to the ones having specific axes to grind. Harish Khare in his latest article exhibits all the traits of a Congress politician. He starts off in promising fashion detailing the troubles facing the Congress party in the next election. But then he morphs without reason into writing something Arjun Singh or Sheila Dixit would be proud of.
Some nuggets for your consumption:
the Congress can legitimately try to project Ms Gandhi as the iconic leader around whom a new intellectual and ideological narrative can be crafted.

Where exactly did this legitimacy come from Mr. Khare? What did Madame Sonia accomplish, other than attending the Beijing games or not firing Manmohan Singh?
Leadership alone does not sell, especially in this cynical and irreverent age; a leader must be marketed as representing certain values, as subscribing to some ideas on how to fulfil the society’s aspirations, and as advocating some solutions to the polity’s current inflictions.

Hmm Mr.Khare the people expect certain achievements and qualities of a leader. Your definition of a leader would fit Sonia rightly because she has no leadership qualification other than being a wife of...
As a political group that fancies itself as the natural party of governance, the Congress owes it to itself and the country to re-energise national consensus around key strategic and policy issues.
Now who is being naive here Mr. Khare?
Admittedly in this election year the Congress’ pre-occupation naturally would be with winning the coming Assembly and the Lok Sabha polls.

Wow, what next Captain Obvious Harish Khare, a mathematical discovery 1+1=2?
The Congress has to rediscover the world of ideas and ideology.

That Mr. Khare is a true statement, but not going to happen under the current leadership of Madame Sonia and her puppets.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Chindu's Seven Stages for dealing with the N-Deal issue

The nuclear deal with a momentum like the Titanic raising across the Atlantic has been a big cause of heartache for Chindu its LiC and most of all its political masters the Left(CPM). With all statements and approvals coming as the UPA predicted the Chindu is left to complain about sour grapes. At this stage it seems as though the falling of the deal is being compared to the loss of someone close. Hence the seven stages of grief comes into picture,
  1. Shock & Denial - The loss of the trust vote lead to numerous articles covering the bribe scandal and other issues.
  2. Pain & guilt - The weeks following that, Chindu moaned about how the nation would become nuclear slaves to the West and how this could've been prevented.
  3. Anger & Bargaining - Now that the deal is on its way to approval as the American amigos had stated, Harish Khare gives a sermon that even though the deal is approved, the leaders should weild the responsibility with care. The article reads what Ben Parker would have told Peter had he been dying in a hospital bed instead of being shot. The remaining stages are listed below and would be interesting to see how the Chindu responds.
  4. Depression, Loneliness
  5. Upward turn
  6. Reconstruction and working through
  7. Acceptance and Hope - Its 2009 and election season!

Saturday, September 06, 2008

First Thoughts on NSG Waiver

The NSG waiver finally clears the decks for India to engage in nuclear commerce with the world. Political reactions were varied as expected. The Congress went into hyperbole while the BJP repeated the questions it has raised before. Given the sequence of events at the NSG that led to this approval, India cannot afford to be under any illusion that it will be able to conduct another test and continue to keep its waiver - that will almost certainly trigger the end this deal and everything associated with it (claiming that even if the US were to sanction us, other countries may be willing to play ball is simply unrealistic). Sinha's point that India has surrendered the right to conduct future tests is, in practice, therefore close to the truth.

The text is yet to be made available and analyses may be expected to follow in the days to come. Daryl Kimball has posted his view already. He makes one noteworthy claim: "In addition, in the course of the NSG meeting, the United States confirmed that participating NSG governments expressed assurances that they did not intend to transfer enrichment or reprocessing technology to India." If this is true, then the expectation seems to be that other countries will toe the US line in terms of what they will or will not sell to India. Any notion that India can somehow manage to circumvent US arms control regulations may also end up being belied by events.

The CPI, citing Pranab Mukherjee's statement yesterday, preposterously claimed that India has surrendered its right to future research and development! Apparently, the party is not talking about conducting future nuclear tests but of our research efforts for Thorium-based technology, something not pertinent to the issue here. One can read Mukherjee's full statement on the MEA website - there is absolutely no mention of R&D at all.

China, it turns out, was one of the last holdouts waiting to be convinced about the deal (see this news item). Apparently, it took a call from Condoleeza Rice for the Chinese to give the final okay to the text of the deal. It was previously reported that though China was not taking the lead in opposing it, the other holdouts like Austria and New Zealand were working with its tacit support. I am driven to speculate from this: did China have something to do with the communists' unrelenting opposition to this deal? Is that also the reason The Hindu has been actively promoting opposition to the deal by prominently and extensively publishing letters against it? The paper has no doubt provided space for various points of view in its op-eds but for one thing, there have been more articles against it than in its favor and secondly, the 'Letters to the Editor', a fairly accurate bellweather of the prevailing editorial sentiment clearly points to an antagonism belying its initial disposition to the contrary.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Burkha Dutt vs Arun Shourie

Arun Shourie teaches Burkha Dutt a few things on journalism.

hattip: anonymous comment on this blog. what is with using a name so that we can acknowledge properly. i am desisting from disabling anonymous comments.


Burkha Dutt's acts of foolishness continue (there is a popular story about how she was responsible for the death of two soldiers in Kargil war through her "journalism of courage"). At about 8 mins into the video, Arun Shourie asks if journalists actually make the effort to read the text themselves or just go around asking people for sound bites. His question on the use of adjectives is also very valid.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Chindu supports denial of fundamental rights in Orissa

Orissa one of the more silent Indian states has been in the news recently with the killing of the Hindu seer Lakshmanananda and the following riots targeting Christian properties.
Chindu has paid little attention to the root cause of the issue beyond giving its sermons on protection of minority rights.
The Chindu decides to take gloat when Praveen Togadia's (VHP) yatra carrying the seer's ashes is banned by the Supreme Court.
A Bench consisting of Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan and Justices P. Sathasivam and J.M. Panchal recorded the assurance and asked the government to maintain law and order and ensure that no untoward incident took place in the riot-hit district.

There are a few things out of order when you look at the situation.
  • Why should Togadia be prevented from doing a yatra? He is a citizen, not a criminal? Every citizen should be allowed rights to visit places within his country. Chindu which vehemently asked for the return of M.F.Husain shows its double standards here.

  • When the damage to the churches are investigated, why is the root cause of the issue the forced/illegal conversion of tribals being swept under the rug? I'm surprised that Chindu does not pull out the socio-economic circumstances rabbit here.

  • Why does Chindu not comment on the statement of the counsel for the Archbishop that the yatra would have serious consequences stating the Babri Masjid for precedence? If the State government has given an assurance that law and order will be maintained, then for the court to override that is blatant abuse of its powers. If the Supreme court does not believe that the State govt. can maintain law and order should it not advice the Center to impose Article 370 and dismiss the state for reasons of incompetency?

  • Lastly, what really happened to the killers of the Swami? Last I heard they were still at large, what actions are being taken to apprehend them? Why is the Chindu afraid of asking that they be brought to justice? Is it afraid that exposing them would expose the nexus between the Christian missionaries and hired killers? Would it expose the real image of the "peaceful followers of Christ"?

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

The Letter Controversy: Allegations and Reality

The release of a State Department letter to the House Foreign Affairs Committee has supposedly embarrassed the Indian government causing it trouble no end or so goes the top headline in much of the media today. Yet, amazingly, I am yet to see anything all that new in this latest letter (BJP members have been referring to this Washington Post article). It spells out what has been said before by various US government officials. NDTV's grouse was this: 'While much of the letter is similar in substance to the arguments one has heard but the tone and tenor is what is riling the Indians'. Now, what is that supposed to mean? A punch packed in polite language is fine but to call a spade a spade is not? If style is supposed to matter more than substance, that speaks volumes of what the focus of our media has become - an emotional and impetuous bunch, more interested in rabblerousing than in any thoughtful or reasoned comment.

The only article where I found where the implications of this letter mentioned in some detail was in Rediff by Brahma Chellaney. Yet on closer examination none of his assertions stand up to scrutiny. Below are his points and my comments on each of them.

The US has given no binding fuel-supply assurance to India. The prime minister told the Lok Sabha on August 13, 2007 that 'detailed fuel supply assurances' by the US for 'the uninterrupted operation of our nuclear reactors' are 'reflected in full' in the 123 Agreement. But the Bush administration has denied this. Its letter to the House Committee states that the US will render help only in situations where 'disruptions in supply to India... result through no fault of its own,' such as a trade war or market disruptions. 'The fuel supply assurances are not, however, meant to insulate India against the consequences of a nuclear explosive test or a violation of nonproliferation commitments,' the letter said. The letter also reveals that the US has given no legally binding fuel-supply assurance of any kind.

The PM's words (you can find his speech here) ought to be understood to mean that the fuel supply assurances hold so long as the agreement remains which is what one expects to happen in the ordinary course. The letter says that a nuclear test will lead to termination of the agreement in which case, whatever is contained in it will also be voided. In other words, no agreement, no fuel supply. These words of the PM cannot be construed to have addressed a post-nuclear test scenario; the PM was only talking of a situation where the agreement remains but the fuel supplies are interrupted notwithstanding these provisions - that is exactly the kind of situation in which the US would help us restore the supply.

No US consent to India's stockpiling of lifetime fuel reserves for safeguarded power reactors. The prime minister had told the Lok Sabha on August 13, 2007 that, 'This Agreement envisages, in consonance with the Separation Plan, US support for an Indian effort to develop a strategic reserve of nuclear fuel to guard against any disruption of supply for the lifetime of India's reactors.' But the Bush administration's letter to the House Committee makes clear that India will not be allowed to build such stocks as to undercut US leverage to re-impose sanctions.

The US has not said that it will not allow India to build a strategic reserve - the exact words in the letter are 'The parameters of the proposed 'strategic reserve' and of India's capacity to acquire nuclear fuel for its reactors will be developed over time.' His claim that India will not be allowed to build such stocks as to undercut US leverage to re-impose sanctions is therefore premature.

US civil nuclear cooperation is explicitly conditioned to India not testing ever again. The prime minister told the Lok Sabha as recently as July 22, 2008 that, 'I confirm that there is nothing in these agreements which prevents us from further nuclear tests if warranted by our national security concerns. All that we are committed to is a voluntary moratorium on further testing.'

Last year, he had told Parliament that, 'There is nothing in the Agreement that would tie the hands of a future Government or legally constrain its options to protect India's security and defence needs.' The Bush administration, however, has told the House Committee that India has been left in no doubt that all cooperation will cease immediately if New Delhi [Images] conducted a test.

There is nothing in this letter that contradicts the PM's position. India has not committed anywhere in the 123 agreement to a moratorium on future testing. He mistakes the right to conduct a test with the cost of doing so. For example, we all have the right to smoke but that does not mean all of us will simply because we are also aware that availing of it also brings with it costs that we may not be willing to pay. Likewise, we are free to test provided we are willing to live with the loss of this agreement and all the advantages it brings with it along with a host of other losses that will follow from international sanctions. With increasing international trade and greater integration into the global system, the cost of defying the US-led international order is undoubtedly going to rise. In that sense, he is absolutely right - testing in 2009 or beyond will be a much more expensive decision for India than what it was in 1998.
The US has retained the right to suspend or terminate supplies at its own discretion. The Bush administration letter plainly contradicts the prime minister's assertion in Parliament on August 13, 2007 that, 'An elaborate multi-layered consultation process has been included with regard to any future events that may be cited as a reason by either Party to seek cessation of cooperation or termination of the (123) Agreement.' The letter states that the US right to suspend all supplies forthwith is unfettered.

The key word is 'consultation', not concurrence or capitulation. When you say you will consult, it means you will be willing to consider the opposite side's perspective without giving up your own prerogative to do as you please. That is exactly the position here - if India conducts a nuclear test, both sides will talk but that does not mean the US cannot walk away from the deal if it so desires. The letter also only talks of the US' right to cease all nuclear cooperation with India immediately while also noting that the agreement can only be terminated on one year's written notice and 'notice of cessation has to precede cessation of cooperation...' Again there is absolutely nothing in it to suggest that the US intends to abrogate the understanding prematurely.

The letter makes clear that the 123 Agreement has granted India no right to take corrective measures in case of any fuel-supply disruption. Rather, India's obligations are legally irrevocable. It further indicates there is no link between perpetual safeguards and perpetual fuel supply. Contrast this with what the prime minister claimed in Parliament on August 13, 2007: 'India's right to take "corrective measures" will be maintained even after the termination of the Agreement.' Or the prime minister's repeated assurances to Parliament since March 2006 that India's acceptance of perpetual international inspections will be tied to perpetual fuel supply.

The point about the lack of any link between perpetual safeguards and perpetual fuel supply has been mentioned over and over in this debate. This is not a new concern and the answer depends again on what the phrase 'corrective measures' means. So long as no one has defined it (which is still very much the case), it is hard to definitely answer one way or the other. Chellaney's guess is therefore as good (or bad) as any.

The Bush administration's letter states that the 123 Agreement fully conforms to the Hyde Act provisions. In a press release recently, the Prime Minister's Office made the following claim on July 2, 2008: 'he 123 Agreement clearly overrides the Hyde Act and this position would be clear to anyone who goes through the provisions.'

I have stated in previous posts my own discomfort with this assertion by the government. The word 'override', as I understand it, is generally used only when there is a conflict between two things - in that sense, the government's claim is false because the US has repeatedly stressed 'conformity' with the Hyde Act. Even M.K.Narayanan initially said that the agreement had been drafted in such a way as to ensure consistency. Only when allegations of capitulation to the foreign policy goals laid down in the Hyde Act began to surface, the Manmohan Singh government changed tack and insisted on making this dubious claim.

The US Supreme Court ruled a long time ago in Whitney v. Robertson that in the event of a conflict between an Act of Congress and a treaty with a foreign country, that which is later in date will prevail. That position remains the law to this day. So the argument appears to be that once the NSG waiver is obtained and the agreement is formally adopted by Congress, the Hyde Act will no longer be relevant. However, this argument too does not hold a lot of water for two reasons: if the agreement is written in a way as to ensure consistency with the Hyde Act, a legal dispute will not arise at all in the first place. Secondly, before one can be said to override the other, the first impulse of any legal authority will be to endeavor to construe the two legislations in such a way as to give them both effect (this point has also been emphasized by the US Supreme Court). Thus, on both of these grounds, the government's claim is questionable. Moreover, as I mentioned before, such questions pertaining to foreign policy are usually political decisions and such legal technicalities are often secondary. If the President decides to penalize India, none of this legal quibbling is likely to matter much to our case.The point here is however that this letter does not change any of this.

The letter assures Congress that the 'US government will not assist India in the design, construction or operation of sensitive nuclear technologies.' That rules out not only the transfer of civil reprocessing and enrichment equipment or technologies to India even under safeguards, but also casts a shadow over the US granting India operational consent to reprocess spent fuel with indigenous technology. Under the 123 Agreement, India has agreed to forego reprocessing until it has, in the indeterminate future, won a separate, congressionally vetted agreement.On one issue, the 123 Agreement had held out hope for India in the future by stating in its Article 5(2) that, 'Sensitive nuclear technology, heavy water production technology, sensitive nuclear facilities, heavy water production facilities and major critical components of such facilities may be transferred under this Agreement pursuant to an amendment to this Agreement.' But the Bush administration's letter to Congress states that the US government had no plan to seek to amend the deal to allow any sensitive transfers.

Contrast this with what the prime minister said in Parliament on August 17, 2006 -- that India wanted the 'removal of restrictions on all aspects of cooperation and technology transfers pertaining to civil nuclear energy, ranging from nuclear fuel, nuclear reactors, to reprocessing spent fuel.' Lest there be any ambiguity regarding this benchmark, he added: 'We will not agree to any dilution that would prevent us from securing the benefits of full civil nuclear cooperation as amplified above.' Earlier, on August 3, 2005, he told the Lok Sabha that he had received 'an explicit commitment from the United States that India should get the same benefits of civilian cooperation as (an) advanced country like the United States enjoys.'

This point too has been debated extensively in the past. This fact that the US may not be able to provide us the technologies we seek was well known. The argument has been that once this waiver is concluded, we will be able to attempt to buy from other sources what the US may not be willing to give us. Again, there is nothing in the letter to alter any aspect of this issue.

On Recent Op-eds in The Hindu

'The Way Forward':

The Hindu editorial (2nd September) titled 'The Way Forward' has little new to offer. It makes only one suggestion namely, asking the government to open the Srinagar-Islamabad highway but recognizes that the problem with doing that lies with not India but Pakistan which means that there is not much the Delhi government can do about it anyway. Apart from that, it exhorts the EC to conduct early elections - again, hardly a brainwave. Neither of these is going to resolve the Kashmir issue by themselves; at best, they can facilitate a settlement to a limited extent, nothing more. On the key issue of Kashmir's political future and India's role in resolving it, what does the paper have to say? Sadly, not a thing.

Sainath on Hurricane Politics in the US:

The Hindu has exhibited a very keen interest in the upcoming Presidential election in the US. No prizes for guessing who it is rooting for. But it was quite surprising to see P.Sainath, the rural affairs editor, write upon the American political scene and how Hurricane Gustav will impact it! Sainath clearly follows American domestic politics and events very closely - that is evident from the number of occasions in which he quotes from the Wall Street Journal (his comments usually dripping with sarcasm). But to my knowledge, this is the first time he has actually written a full op-ed on the subject - for a change, the tenor is not envious like it usually is.

'Building Model Campus Communities':

Sujatha Byravan's article titled 'Building model campus communities' was strange to say the least. The article for the most part talks about how universities and engineering institutes in particular can become more ecofriendly, how they can reduce their carbon footprint, save energy and generally become more efficient. That begs the question: what actually is the contribution of these institutions towards global warming? Compared to the figures she quotes for industry and agriculture, miniscule I presume. Her real point is amplified in para 7 when she talks about the advantages that such institutions have to foster innovation:

Campuses have the capacity to build successful climate innovation systems: all the organisations and individuals involved in generating, diffusing, adapting and using new knowledge; the interactive learning that must occur when organisations engage in generation, diffusion, adaptation and new use of knowledge, (that is, new products and processes); and the institutions — rules, habits and conventions — that govern how these interactions and processes occur. Engineering school campuses, with their unique education, talent and skills, separate enclaves, and relatively independent management, are ideally placed to develop into fertile breeding grounds for climate innovation and serve as models for the rest of the community. IITs and other engineering colleges also have access to government and private funds to provide investments required for a metamorphosis of this kind.

When I started reading this article, this is the part I expected her to really focus on. How can our institutions help conduct research on climate change? Why are engineering colleges better placed than say, liberal arts colleges or specialized national institutes to conduct such research? How much investment would it take to upgrade existing engineering colleges to take up such an effort? Does it require a change in the curriculum? Does it require refashioning our model for higher education? What can the government do in terms of policy and financing to facilitate it? Sadly, none of these questions were answered (perhaps I was mistaken to have expected it in the first place but then, addressing these questions would have rendered its objective more meaningful.)

The author's idea instead seems to be that our students, exposed to environment friendly measures in college, would carry forward the same model to whereever else they go after graduation. But if the idea is to inculcate in them such a lesson of life, school is probably a better place to start than college. That is where their worldview is initially formed and where students learn the values they are expected to uphold and live by for the rest of their lives.

'Cooperation with Discord':

Today's article by Sreeram Chaulia was interesting to say the least. The Hindu published criticism of its own correspondent Vladimir Radyuchin in that article. Criticism of Russia and China has generally been disallowed on its pages in the past, so it is worthwhile to note that the paper has made something of a modest beginning here. Of course,a detailed answer to the question of why China refused to back Russia upon the Georgian question at the SCO summit meeting would have been interesting but the author does not provide any.

A final point: the recent criticism of the Indo-US nuclear agreement on the pages of the People's Daily which has received wide coverage in other media appears to have been ignored by The Hindu.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

N.Ram loyal to the Kashmiri separatist

N.Ram wants to take the credit for being the first person to identify the "genocide" of Kashmiri muslims. Bravo! A cruel irony that the real victims of genocide are projected as aggressors.

"Economic blockade" was a canard spread by the separatists. Karan "sudden removal" Thapar got cornered while trying to propogate this. N.Ram writes eloquently about the blockade to his faithful legion and draws dubious conclusions from it. Below, he suggests opening up of Srinagar-Muzaffarabad road - an option violently being followed by the separatists.

LiC, from the southern comforts in Chennai, lends support to the secessionists by swallowing their propaganda and regurgitating their demands.

The Hindu : Opinion / Editorials : The way forward in J&K
Many steps remain to be taken if the fears — real and imagined — feeding violence in Kashmir are to be stilled. Islamists in Kashmir have stoked concerns that the disruption of commercial traffic along the Jammu-Srinagar highway by Hindutva groups is the prelude to a larger ‘genocidal’ campaign. New Delhi could re-establish its bona fides by persuading Islamabad to open the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad road for cross-Line of Control trade.