Friday, September 26, 2014

PM Modi in US

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to set foot on US at around 2 PM today. Hours before his arrival in the US, excitement is palpable everywhere. PM Modi is not the first Indian Prime Minister to visit this country, nor is he going to be the last. Yet his visit, maiden one after becoming the Prime Minister of the world’s largest democracy, has generated tremendous interest and interest among not only the Indian American community but also among the US Law-makers, administration and the government.

Shri Narendra Modi is visiting US after a stupendous victory three months ago in the world’s largest democracy where an electorate bigger than the population of USA and Europe has used its democratic right of franchise to elect him as their leader. He pulled off a sort of revolution by securing majority to the BJP on its own thus forming a coalition government that is absolutely stable and strong. PM Modi’s support base includes all sections of Indian society, most importantly the youth. He represents the aspirational young population of India.

Naturally the expectations are that through this visit PM Modi will rejuvenate Indo-US ties that have slowed down in the last few years due to various domestic and international factors. During his visit to India in 2010 President Obama had called for making Indo-Us relationship “the defining partnership in the 21st Century”. The US administration certainly looks up to PM Modi’s visit for such a major leap forward.

For PM Modi this is not a bilateral visit alone. He is scheduled to address the United Nations General Assembly on Saturday. The world leaders are keenly looking forward to his address to the UNGA and his position on various international issues. Pakistan Prime Minister’s speech, scheduled for a day early, is likely to touch upon a raw nerve or two too. Besides, PM Modi has bilateral meetings lined up with a few important heads of nations. However the bilateral part of the visit that takes place on 29-30 September is what the people in India and the US are eagerly looking forward to.

Prime Minister’s engagements include meetings with business leaders, investor companies and Indian American community. He is also scheduled to meet President Obama for a Summit Meeting followed by meetings with Vice President, Speaker etc. Thus his visit includes G2B – Government to Business and G2P – Government to People agenda besides of course G2G – Government to Government agenda.

PM Modi’s USP is his single-minded focus on India’s economic development. He has set his eyes on the goal of making every Indian rich in a few years from now. Towards that end his government is pursuing a number of economic policies that have the power of propelling inclusive economic development. As part of his drive to strengthen India’s economic basics he is also scouting for investments to flow into India.

He did it in Japan and with China; and he is expected to do the same here in the US. For sometime now India’s economic climate has been vitiated so much by wrong policies that the investor is scared to look at an otherwise goldmine-like market in india. PM Modi’s biggest challenge is to bring back investor confidence in India. He has to reassure the global investor that there won’t be any sudden taxation regime changes.

There is considerable enthusiasm in the business community in US over his visit. They had seen him as Chief Minister of Gujarat successfully pursuing development-oriented economic policies that have benefitted his people greatly. They expect him to do the same at the national level as Prime Minister. This forms his G2B engagement in US.

His G2G engagement is also crucial. As two world’s important and big democracies, India and US have many shared objectives and concerns. Besides economics India and US share a major common concern in the form of terrorism. Terrorism is an enemy of democracies. It is a global menace now. Both our countries have been working together on issues of terrorism and homeland security. Furthering this cooperation in fight against global terror is an important issue for both the governments.

There is a need for the US to review its policy with regard to addressing this global terror network. We have the epicentre of global terror in India’s neighbourhood. The US must keep in mind that a stable and strong government in Afghanistan is critical to addressing the menace of terrorism.

India and US have been cooperating in defence related sectors too. India is committed to strengthen its defence establishment in view of the regional environment it is forced to live in. There is no clash of interests for both our countries in this regard. However the US shouldn’t see India merely as an export destination for defence equipment. PM Modi is keen on making India a manufacturer not only of consumer goods but also defence equipment. His Make in India campaign includes both high-tech and low-tech industry. The US can use technology transfer route to boost India’s defence industry.

The most important factor in Indo-US relations is the more than 4 million Indians living in this country. They are greatly excited over the visit of PM Modi. He is going to address them on Sunday at Madison Square Garden. It is a basket ball stadium and the biggest available one in New York with a seating capacity of about 20,000. The stadium is already overbooked for PM Modi’s event being hosted by Indian American Community Foundation. The fact that no other world leader has ever attempted such a big event in New York goes to show the popularity of PM Modi and the enthusiasm of the Indian American community to meet and greet him. A large number of Congressmen are also expected to turn up at the event to greet Modi.

Prime Minister Modi today represents a new India of 1.2 billion self-confident Indians. The US administration and the world leaders will see a leader who is himself confidence personified. And they will learn to deal with a new India - youthful, energetic and eager to grow and progress. India’s rise is a good news for all those who care for peace, stability and prosperity in the world.

And Prime Minister Modi is the leader destined to script that growth story for India.

Friday, August 15, 2014


He arrived in style.. the turban he wore reminding the countrymen of a Swami Vivekanand who went to the World Parliament of Religions in Chicago some 121 years ago wearing the same. He invoked Swami Vivekanand a couple of time in his speech to proclaim that ‘India will once again rise to become Vishwa Guru’. And what he spoke was the essence of what Rishi Aurobindo and Swami Vivekanand – the two scholar-saints had wished India to be.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Independence Day address was a visionary exhortation to inspire patriotic action among a billion plus Indians – be it the senior government officials or the ordinary village folks. Gone are the days of reader-Prime Ministers, who blabber extremely uninspiring insipid paragraphs from the notes prepared by some pen-pusher bureaucrat in South or North Block or the ubiquitous PMO. He did not hide behind the bullet-proof chamber, the very sight of which used to send chill in the spines of ordinary Indians reminding them of how insecure their own Prime Minister was and they themselves ought to be.

From the open podium on the ramparts of the historic Lal Khila – the Red Fort, with the triumphantly fluttering Tricolour behind him Prime Minister Modi declared that his course was going to be different. From the very first sentence itself he sent out a clear message to the countrymen that here is a leader who is different; who calls himself not the Prime Minister of the country but the Prime Servant – Pradhan Sevak. Through the entire 65-minute extempore address which forced many to introspect and also look for their kerchiefs he didn’t speak to the mammoth 20,000-strong audience in front of him alone, nor to the officials – civilian and military on both sides of his podium; he was speaking to the billion plus Indians; he was actually speaking on behalf of them.

The Prime Minister had a vision, and most importantly an action plan too. That is brand Modi. Those who are familiar with Gujarat know that Modi is a visionary-doer; not just one of them. For a vision to manifest in action one should know the path. Modi knows the path. That is why he repeatedly exhorted that he wanted the support of every political party, the industrialists, the Indians abroad, the youths of our country, the women, the parents… practically his agenda involved every Indian. It is participatory governance rather than representative governance. He wants to make every Indian a stake-holder in India’s progress and he thinks that it is possible.

He is a modernist when it comes to the tools of his vision. He talked about e-governance proclaiming it as effective, efficient and economical governance. He envisioned a digital India that empowers the last man. He attempted to stir up the latent patriotism of overseas Indians by calling upon them to ‘Make in India’.

At the same time his motivation is very Indian. He didn’t attempt to quote from some unknown author of a failed western country to sound big and intellectual. In stead he dived deep into traditional Indian wisdom and invoked the age-old Hindu dictum ‘Sangachaddhwam Samvadaddhwam Samvomanamsi janatam’. This Rigvedic hymn calls upon the people to ‘walk together, speak in one voice and think collectively’. This should be the mantra of national unity according to him. ‘Vayam Rashtre Jaguyama Sarve’ – another Vedic hymn quoted by him contains the message of patriotism and oneness. ‘Let us all wake up into a nation’ the hymn proclaims.

Through these very native ideas the Prime Minister wanted the countrymen to be inspired and motivated. Prime Ministers have traditionally been using the Red Fort occasion to deliver populist speeches with hoards of announcements of freebies etc. Announcements are important and Prime Minister Modi did announce a scheme or two. But he also made it clear that he was not going to indulge in any deceptive and un-fulfillable promises. Even in the schemes that he announced he wanted public participation in a big way. The cleanliness campaign and building toilets in schools is one such example of how he wanted India to progress on a model of participatory governance.

When Swami Vivekananda spoke at the World Parliament of Religions in Chicago about the greatness of India and Hinduism the world was stunned into silence. But later somebody asked Vivekananda an important question - ‘If your country is great and your culture is great why are your people so poor and backward and in slavery?’. Vivekananda’s reply was: ‘My country and culture are great. But my people have become lethargic and self-centred’. That was why after his return to India he launched a movement in the name of Shri Ramakrishna Mission to reform Indian society.

Wearing the turban the Vivekananda style was not merely a political stunt for Prime Minister Modi. He decided to literally walk in the footsteps of great humans like Buddha, Vivekananda, Aurobindo, Gandhi and Sardar – all of whom he invoked in his address. Reform is anything but populist. To tell the government officials that he was ashamed to see news items glorifying their coming to offices on time; to tell the parents that rapes happen because they don’t discipline their sons as much as they control their daughters; to tell the doctors that female foetecide is a sin and families that boys and girls should be treated equally; to call for a 10-year moratorium on caste and communal politics; to call upon the MPs and MLAs to build ideal villages; to ask corporates to build toilets in schools – all this and more is not easy for a populist ruler in democracy.

But Prime Minister Modi is different. He calls himself and his entire government machinery the ‘servants’. He has the courage to call a spade a spade. But he also has the confidence to achieve his goals and accomplish his vision. He has deadlines for everything precisely for that reason. ‘We have to wage a war on poverty and defeat it’, he declared concluding ‘we can do it’.

Is this not called ’56-inch ka… ‘.


Friday, June 27, 2014

Going Beyond Panchsheel

India and China must go beyond Panchsheel and develop a new framework
(On the occasion of the 60th Anniversary of Panchsheel)

The biggest problem in Sino-Indian relations is the utter lack of ingenuity and innovativeness. Six decades after the formal engagement through Panchsheel and five decades after the bloody disengagement due to the war of 1962 the leaders of both the countries still struggle to come up with new and out of the box answers to the problems plaguing their relationship.

When there are no new ideas one would resort to symbolism and rituals. These rituals and symbolic actions are projected as the great new ideas to kick-start a new relationship. However there is nothing great nor new about these actions. They are the very same worn out and tried-tested-and-failed actions in the last several decades.

Panchsheel itself is one such ritual that successive Indian governments have unfailingly performed in the last five or more decades. Vice President Hamid Ansari will be visiting Beijing on 28 June to uphold India’s commitment to the ritual. The occasion is completion of six decades of the signing of the Panchsheel Agreement.

It was exactly six decades ago, on 28 June 1954, roughly two months after the formal signing of Panchsheel, that the Chinese Premier Chow En-lai visited India. He and Prime Minister Nehru had issued a historic statement on that day reaffirming their commitment to the five principles that were enshrined in the Panchsheel that “would lessen the tensions that exist in the world today and help in creating a climate of peace”.

What Exactly Was Panchsheel?

Contrary to public perception, or propaganda Panchsheel was actually an agreement between ‘Tibetan region of China and India’ on ‘Trade and intercourse’. It did include five principles like mutual respect, mutual non-aggression, mutual benefit, peaceful coexistence etc, but the very title of the Agreement itself was a big defeat to India.

The British had, at least from the Shimla Agreement of 1912 onwards till they left India, never conceded that Tibet was a part of China. Unfortunately one of the first foreign policy deviations of the Nehru Government was the signing of Panchsheel wherein India had formally called Tibetan region as ‘of China’.

Thus Panchsheel was signed as a treaty of peaceful coexistence over the obituary of Tibetan independence. That was why eminent parliamentarian Acharya Kripalani called the agreement as ‘born in sin’.

Rituals Continue

Panchsheel met its watery grave in just three months after its signing when the Chinese were found violating Indian borders in Ladakh area in late 1954. A formal death note was written by Mao a few months before the war of 1962 when he told Chow En-lai in a mischievous tone that what India and China should practise is not ‘peaceful coexistence’ but ‘armed coexistence’.

The war followed and ended in a huge humiliation and loss of territory to India. It left behind a massive border dispute which continues to haunt both the countries.

However all this didn’t seem to deter the Indian and to some extent the Chinese leadership in continuing with the deception of Panchsheel. History of Sino-Indian relations in the last five decades is replete with instances of violations of sovereignty, mutual animosity, attempts to upstage each other and general ill-will. Mostly the Chinese were on the wrong side of the so-called Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence.

Yet the ritual continued through the decades and changing governments in India. Nehru to Narasimha Rao to Vajpayee continued this ritual of paying lip sympathy to Panchsheel during the bilateral visits.

“Only with coexistence can there be any existence” declared Indira Gandhi in 1983. Her son and the next Prime Minister of India Rajiv Gandhi expressed confidence in 1988 that “the five principles of peaceful coexistence provide the best way to handle relations between nations”.  Narasimha Rao as Prime Minister declared in 1993 that “these principles remain as valid today as they were when they were drafted”.

While Vajpayee too was forced to continue this ritual, he made a significant difference by refusing to falsely credit China for following Panchsheel. He put extra emphasis on ‘mutual sensitivity to the concerns of each other’ and ‘respect for equality’.

New Framework

At a time when Beijing is celebrating the six decades of Panchsheel it is important to look at a new framework for Sino-Indian relations beyond Panchsheel. Vajpayee has laid some foundation for a renewed outlook by emphasising on sensitivity and equality. That can form the basis for the new framework.
The Chinese have a clever way of promoting their superiority and exclusivism. Sinologists describe it as Middle Kingdom syndrome. While Nehru wanted to take credit for Panchsheel, Chow En-lai told Nixon in 1973 that “actually the Five Principles were put forward by us, and Nehru agreed. But later on he didn’t implement them”.

The Chinese side also brought in Myanmar – Burma at that time – and entered into a similar agreement with that country also on the same principles in 1954. Thus they made sure that Panchsheel doesn’t have any exclusivity in terms of their relationship with India.

For the Beijing event the Chinese Government has invited President of India as well as President of Myanmar. Gen. Thein Sein, the Myanmar President is going to be present along with the Vice President of India Hamid Ansari who is leading the Indian delegation.

Without any malice towards Vice President Ansari one would notice the downgrading of India’s participation in the Beijing event. Beijing was keen on having the President or Prime Minister at the event. But for once the South Block mandarins seemed to have done good homework in advising the Indian Government against sending either of them. The Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj too decided to skip the event and chose to visit Dhaka around the same time sending a rather strong signal.

If Prime Minister Modi and President Xi Jinping, who is expected to visit India in September decide to depart from the Panchsheel framework and embark on a new relationship both countries would greatly benefit. Both leaders have that ability as both of them come from backgrounds that are markedly different from Nehruvian and Maoist ones. Both enjoy trust and confidence of the people of respective countries. Most importantly both are seen as out of the box leaders.

India and China can cooperate with each other on the principles of sovereign equality and mutual sensitivity. China has emerged today as an economic super power but it is exposed to serious internal and external threats. It is facing problems with almost all of its 13 neighbours. The fact that China spends more money on internal security than on external security speaks volumes about its internal vulnerability. That way while India is not that big an economic power as China is, its security apparatus is certainly better placed than China’s.

Modi and Jinping can chart a new course in Sino-Indians relations if they are prepared to unshackle themselves from ritualism and symbolism. Both have the ability to do that and the much needed support from the people. 

Wednesday, June 11, 2014


 (Published in Indian Express dt 07-06-14)

Prime Minister Modi’s foreign relations innings began with a bang through the invitation to the heads of the SAARC countries for his swearing in. The resounding success of that initiative can be gauged from the fact that all but one head of state turned up for the event making it an international relations coup of sorts.
Through this deft move Prime Minister Modi proved that he understands the external affairs department well enough. He is not all that new to other countries and their leaders. As Chief Minister and even earlier as a Party leader he had visited several countries including China, Japan and USA. His home state became a destination for countless world leaders during his stewardship and he regularly rubbed shoulders with the high and mighty from more than a hundred countries during his Vibrant Gujarat Summit and other events.
His Cabinet colleague and Minister for External Affairs Sushma Swaraj too is no novice to the subject. As Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha she had had the opportunity to interact with a number of senior world leaders including President Obama. Her recent visits to Singapore and Sri Lanka as the leader of BJP showed her grip on foreign affairs. Leaders of those countries fondly remember their association with her even to this day. Swaraj’s acumen can be appreciated from the fact that Hillary Clinton was greatly impressed by her use of the word ‘Act East’ as a substitute to India’s two-decade-old Look East policy. Borrowing it from Swaraj, Clinton in fact started using it in her subsequent speeches on Asia.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s participation in the swearing in has raised big hopes in the diplomatic circles in both the countries. India and Pakistan have had chequered relations from day one. Moreover the BJP is seen as a hardline party when it comes to relations with Pakistan. Given that scenario it is natural that a lot of discussion took place on whether Modi and Sharif would kick-start a new era in the vexed bilateral ties.
This feverish enthusiasm is understandable. Many Indians have, for several decades, been obsessed with Pakistan. For them the benchmark of success of our international relations is our relationship with Pakistan. They fail to appreciate that India is miles ahead of its failed western neighbour. They also fail to realise that Sharif is not the right man to deliver anything. As Ayaz Amir pointed out in his latest article in The News, while Manmohan Singh took ten years to fail Sharif may need just two years to collapse. Already the all-powerful Pakistan Army and the mercenaries of the ISI are baying for his blood. As President Karzai pointed out the attack on the Indian Consulate in Afghanistan by the ISI cronies on the very day of Modi’s swearing in was more a warning to Sharif than to India.
However Modi government should realise that the real foreign policy challenge comes not from Pakistan but from China. India and China have been uneasy neighbours for longer years than India and Pakistan. Unlike Pakistan China is a big and successful country. On the eve of the visit of China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi Indian government should revisit its China policy. Indian leadership should understand one basic truth. It hardly matters in China’s context as to how many times our leaders have visited China or vice versa. The notion that diplomacy is all about proximity doesn’t hold any water in China’s context. Nehru to Nixon had good experience of it.
What plagues our foreign policy with regard to China is the utter lack of knowledge about the Himalayan neighbour in our country. With Pakistan our obsession is security whereas with China we are overawed by the talk of development there. Commoners and Ministers alike look at China only from the prism of its development and fail to appreciate the complex civilizational traits of that country.
All neighbours are not alike. China is certainly not like any other neighbour. China is not just a country or a government; it is a civilisation. To understand China our leader should better understand their civilizational behaviour… we should know Sun Tzu’s Art of War; we should study Confucius. China’s policy behaviour is largely shaped by their civilizational experience. Diplomacy, for them, is an art of deception.
In 1954, India and China proclaimed Panchsheel as the basis of our relations. Successive Indian leaders, including Vajpayee, never missed the opportunity to refer to Panchsheel and ‘peaceful co-existence’ as enshrined in it in the bilateral talks with the Chinese counterparts. No wonder if the present leadership is also forced to continue the ritual by the MEA mandarins. But we forget that the obituary of Panchsheel was written by Mao in 1962 itself when he told Chow Enlai that India and China should practise not ‘peaceful co-existence’ but ‘armed co-existence’.
Another important aspect of China to be borne in is that like in Pakistan military plays an important role in China too. The Central Military Commission, the all-powerful body that controls the Chinese Military reports to the CPC more than to the Government of China. While we deal with the government leadership on various bilateral issues we can’t overlook the fact that the view of the military on various cross-border issues is also significant.  
Indian government enjoys one advantage in India-China relations, that of the ignorance of the masses in India about the complexities in it. In case of Pakistan people of India are very aware forcing government’s options to a limited few. Whereas in case of China no such constraint in the form of popular backlash is going to happen. The very fact that while there were animated debates over whether Nawaz Sharif should have been invited or not continue to this day there is no such commotion with regard to the phone call or proposed visit of the Premier of China in the next few months prove this point.
But the government must understand that this popular approval borne out of lack of knowledge can become a danger if it decides to take things easy with China.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Because India Comes First

(Published in Indian Express on 17-05-14)
A historic election has come to an end. The BJP started its journey three decades ago with the slogan of “United India-Strong India”. The challenge came from not just the divisive politics of caste and religion but also a formidable section of the intelligentsia. It is the journey of that idea of India that culminated in the historic victory yesterday, in the process decimating the politics of caste, religion and vote banks. That idea has become pan-Indian, encompassing all regions and sections of society. That is the central message of this election, and therein lies the future of India.
Starting with just two seats in 1984, the BJP rose quickly to become the ruling party by 1996. There was no looking back after that. Thirty years after its first election, the party has registered a thumping victory in 2014. Undoubtedly, the credit goes to Narendra Modi. He turned this election into a quasi-presidential one. He travelled to every nook and corner of the country, addressed thousands of meetings and occupied many hours of airtime. In the process, he set a new benchmark in politics that might be difficult for any future leader to meet.
In Modi and the BJP, the people of this country have seen not only an alternative government to the disastrous one headed by the Congress, but an alternative vision, too. It is that vision that sets Modi apart. He has an economic vision that cares for the last man — the proverbial chaiwala. It is this vision that has brought millions of India’s poor to him, deserting their traditional caste-based parties.
He has a much-discussed social vision. He views India as one, above the differences of caste, religion and region. “Justice for all and appeasement of none” — the traditional conviction of the BJP marks Modi’s social vision, which seems to have attracted large sections of the minorities. Above all, Modi’s clean and efficient governance model, as against the dynastic, corrupt and inefficient one provided by the Congress, appears to be the game-changer.
Modi is driven by the passion to make India strong. India needs a strong economy that caters to the last man by invoking the mantra of development and growth. It should strengthen the hands of the poor by facilitating more employment. It shouldn’t turn them into perpetual beggars, surviving at the mercy of the government-offered doles. For that, our infrastructure has to improve quickly. India’s security, both external and internal, needs greater attention. We have to pay special attention to strengthening our border infrastructure.
Most importantly, we need to address the serious problem of corruption and mal-governance. Corruption is eating into the vitals of our nation, killing our efficiency; it is leading to severe social unrest, violence and breeding insurgencies. There is also a need to strengthen our social fabric. We need a government that treats all people as equals and doesn’t discriminate on the basis of their religion or region. It should be benevolent to all and tyrannical to none. No one, minority or majority, should feel discrimination or apprehension.
This is a tall order. It requires great leadership qualities, like clarity of vision, courage of conviction, will power, selflessness and team spirit. In Modi, the people of India have perhaps seen all those qualities. With great hope and anticipation, they have voted him to power.
The RSS cadres have worked tirelessly with two specific mandates; one, to reach out to the people and inform them of the challenges the country is facing today and the need for a change in government to overcome them; and two, to encourage more people to use their franchise. It gives us immense satisfaction that there has been remarkable success on both counts. People have voted for good government and in the process, polling percentages too have gone up in different parts of the country.
With a sense of contentment we return to our core activity outside the political arena, of character-building and social service. We have complete trust and faith in the present leadership to take appropriate decisions in matters like the formation of the cabinet, setting the agenda for the new government, etc. The RSS doesn’t interfere in those matters.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Interview on Aaj Tak

Modi and the Migrants

The issue of Bangladeshi infiltrators is a vexed one. It evokes sharp reactions everytime some reference is made to it by any leader. This time too when Narendra Modi, the BJP’s Prime Minister candidate raised this issue during the election campaign scorn was poured out on him.
Mamta Benarjee and some other political leaders on one side and SAHMAT and other Left and Jehadist intellectuals on the other have issued strong statements censuring his views. While Mamta declared that she would protect and safeguard the interests of each and every infiltrator, SAHMAT intellectuals called Modi’s statement a grave danger to the minorities in India. “Apart from the sheer inhumanity of the remark, we fear that in a country in which every citizen does not possess documentary proof of citizenship, such a move  would simply cause a general victimization of persons belonging to that particular religious community”, the SAHMAT apologists averred in a statement released to the media.
Arnab Goswami, the garrulous and ebullient news lead, referred to the BJP manifesto and raised objection to the reference to ‘persecuted Hindus’. In his inimitable style he asked: “My question to you is why only persecuted Hindus, Mr. Modi!, and why not persecuted Buddhists, why not persecuted Sikhs, why not persecuted Jains, why not persecuted Muslims or persecuted Christians? Because if the BJP speaks the language of inclusion, then Mr. Modi!, your manifesto should have included all religions”.
Let us examine the facts first. That a large number of illegal migrants enter into India from across the porous Bangladesh border is a well-known fact. Successive governments at New Delhi have acknowledged this phenomenon. Senior Communist leader Indrajit Gupta made a statement as Home Minister in 1996 stating that over one crore illegal migrants have entered India from Bangladesh. These illegal migrants, or infiltrators, have become a major source of conflict and resentment in the North East. The AASU movement that had rattled Assam in the early 80s was a movement against these infiltrators only. Estimates vary, but they all put the numbers of these infiltrators above two crores. Assam and West Bengal bear major brunt of these infiltrators. They affect the economy of these states and also the livelihood of the ordinary and poor people thus causing major resentment and leading to severe unrest, of the kind being witnessed in the Bodo areas of Assam of late.
However, there is a small section of these migrants who cross over into India not for any economic reasons but due to extreme religious persecution in Bangladesh. Almost all of them are minority Hindus and Buddhists – the Chakmas of the Chittagong Hills. Occasionally someone like a Taslima Nasreen too may become a target of religious persecution and seek refuge in India.  
Globally, a distinction is made between the economic infiltrators, namely those who sneak into another country for economic reasons like jobs, livelihood etc without proper documents, and those who come seeking asylum. Even in most liberal countries of the European Union and in the USA immigration laws clearly prohibit infiltration for economic reasons. The European Union has recently passed a law calling for incarceration of illegal migrants. The central point in the directive was a provision in which illegals that refuse to go back can be detained for up to 18 months and then deported – with a ban on them from re-entering the EU for five years. It doesn’t apply to asylum-seekers though.
The USA too faces a serious dilemma over the illegal migrants from the Latin American countries, especially Mexico. An estimated 12 million illegal immigrants have made USA their home today, and half of them are from Mexico alone. In fact some of the Mexican states on the US border like Yucatan encourage illegal migration by providing information about how to survive, where to get medical aid, how to get children into education system etc through books, DVDs etc. Mexican constitution grants its citizens freedom to cross its borders.
With a vociferous liberal intelligentsia around, the US government has been struggling with the problem of how to handle this illegal migration. It used the 1993 New York World Trade Centre bombings as an excuse to bring in the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA). The Patriot Act promulgated in the wake of 9/11 terrorist attack is another legislation that addresses the issue of illegal migration.
Under the Patriot Act the Attorney General was granted the power to "certify" illegal immigrants based on the grounds that they pose a threat to national security. Once an illegal immigrant is certified they must be taken into custody and face mandatory detention which will result in a criminal charge or release. Under this Act an illegal immigrant is not granted the opportunity for a hearing before given certification.
In China the immigration laws are very strict. A new and harsher immigration law was introduced in July 2013 in that country. For the first time, the law would detain foreigners between five and 15 days if they were caught residing or working illegally in mainland China. Illegal migrants would also be fined 5,000 yuan to 20,000 yuan and face deportation. Their employers would be fined up to 100,000 yuan per individual illegal employee.
Even predominantly Muslim countries like Malaysia and Saudi Arabia have in the recent past thrown out illegal immigrants, most of whom are their co-religionists coming from countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh and India.
In the light of this global scenario on infiltrations for economic gain what Narendra Modi said in his speeches in Assam and West Bengal recentlywais perfectly legitimate. Intellectual dishonesty marks the discourse in our country. Modi was equated with certain ultra-Right parties in Europe for arguing that infiltrators cause economic hardships to the locals whereas the world over immigrant laws prohibit illegal migration precisely for the same reason, besides of course, the security concerns.
In a landmark judgement on July 12, 2005 the Supreme Court of India, while ordering for the repeal of the controversial IMDT Act in Assam, had made several pertinent observations regarding the Bangladeshi infiltrators.
“The influx of Bangladeshi nationals who have illegally migrated into Assam pose a threat to the integrity and security of north-eastern region.   Their presence has changed the demographic character of that region and the local people of Assam have been reduced to a status of minority in certain districts”, the Court observed. It also added that “the foremost duty of the Central Government (is) to protect its borders and prevent trespass by foreign nationals”.
Also on the issue of the deportation of these infiltrators, the Court was categorical. “The Bangladeshi nationals who have illegally crossed the border and have trespassed into Assam or are living in other parts of the country have no legal right of any kind to remain in India and they are liable to be deported”, stated the learned judges.
Narendra Modi too was perhaps suggesting the same. It is dubious to caricature it as ‘inhuman’ or ‘against the minority community’. His reference to the Hindus as ‘persecuted asylum seekers’ is based on the historical experience with both Bangladesh and Pakistan. Of course India has always been a safe haven for all sorts of persecuted peoples, be it the Jews or the Parsis or the Tibetan and Burmese Buddhists. Wu Nu, the Burmese General lived in India in exile for several decades. HH the Dalai Lama and his people have been here for more than five decades.
Even the persecuted liberals like Taslima Nasreen found in India a safe asylum. It may not be out of place to mention here that the very same people who are attacking Modi for differentiating between the infiltrators and asylum-seekers were the ones who had thrown out Taslima from Kolkata and never championed the cause of her human rights.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Rejoinder to Ashutosh Varshney

Varshney’s Hindu Nationalists are True Universalists & Humanists

Dr. Ashutosh Varshney, like many of his colleagues is a known professor of distortion. In his latest article ‘Modi the Moderate’, published by the Indian Express on March 27, 2014, Varshney amply demonstrates his skill once again.

“Anyone who has read the basic works of Hindu Nationalism knows that three ideas constitute the thematic core of Hindu nationalist ideology”, he claims. As the ‘basic works’ he cites V.D. Savarkar’s Hindutva. The ‘three ideas’, according to him, are – First, Hindus are the primary, or exclusive, owners of the Indian nation. India is a Hindu rashtra (nation). Second, two minorities – the Christians and especially the Muslims – have a profound ambivalent relationship with India. Third, caste divisions within Hinduism and caste-based politics need to be minimized, for they undermine Hindu unity. The lower castes should follow the Brahminical model of Hinduism.

Varshney’s intentional bias, as against genuine scholarship, is glaring in every sentence of his write up. For, a true scholar looks at the entire gamut of literature before jumping to any conclusion on any subject. But past masters in academic deception take statements out of context, quote them partially, twist them to suit their biased arguments and deliberately ignore all the other available material. Varshney had done no better.

Let us look at the first distortion about Hindu Rashtra. Hinduness as a cultural identity that this ancient nation has come to acquire is what Hindu nationalists have always propagated. In this proposition, Hindu doesn’t come to represent any religion or mode of worship. Instead, it is a set of values that have come to be known as the Sanatana Dharma. Savarkar himself had given a clear definition to the word Hindu in his book ‘Hindutva’ thus:

Aasindhu sindhu paryantaa Yasya Bharata Bhoomika

Pitrubhu Punyabhuchaiva Tavai Hinduriti Smritah

‘Those who regard this land of Bharat spread between river Sindhu (in the north) to the ocean Sindhu (Sindhu Sagar – Indian Ocean in the south) as their Pitrubhumi – Fatherland and Punyabhumi – Holy land are called as Hindus’.

It is more about emotional bonding with the country in which they were born. But Savarkar never differentiated Hindus and Muslims as superior and inferior. In the manifesto of 'Hindu Rashtra', which Varshney had referred to as the basic text, Savarkar states: “Religious minorities will have all the right to practice their religion in a Hindu Rashtra and the State will ensure that; but the Hindu Rashra won't allow creation of a nation within a nation in the name of religious minoritysm.”  What's wrong with it? This is exactly the situation in the country where Varshney has grown up and prospered, the USA.

Infact, Shri M.S. Golwalkar ‘Guruji’ told an Iranian scholar by name Saifuddin Jeelani in 1971 that: “According to our ways of religious belief and philosophy, a Muslim is as good as a Hindu. It is not the Hindu alone who will reach the ultimate Godhead. Everyone has the right to follow his path according to his own persuasion. That is our attitude.”

Talking to some media persons in 1970, he made a categorical statement that: “So far as the work for the country is concerned, I do not distinguish between Hindus and Muslims”. To a question as to what he meant by ‘Muslims joining the mainstream’, Shri Golwalkar replied: “They should experience the same 'sense of belonging', as the Hindus do, to this country, its people, its culture, tradition and history and also its past memories and future aspirations. If, after fulfilling all these, anybody says that he has studied the Koran or the Bible and that way of worship strikes a sympathetic chord in his heart, he is welcome to follow it. Thus he has his choice in a portion of his individual life. For the rest, he must be one with the national current.

We have been in existence as a nation for scores of centuries. There are some fundamentals on which our national life is resting. That is our mainstream. We want all people to come to the mainstream of national life but not to lose their identity”.

Where is the question of primacy or exclusivity? If a pre-Islamic Persian hero like Rustom can still be admired by the Muslims, why not the pre-Islamic heroes in India be respected similarly? Many Hindus do not believe in God, Reincarnation etc. Yet they respect the heroes of ancient India as cultural heroes.

But Varshney has objection to Savarkar asking non-Hindus to regard this country as Punyabhumi – Holy land. He insinuates that Savarkar had said of Christians and Muslims that “India is not their Punyabhumi (Holy land)”. “As a result their love for India is divided. They need to demonstrate their fidelity to India, or must be made Indians; Indian loyalties cannot be assumed to exist”, is how Varshney interprets Savarkar’s view.

Firstly, one fails to understand what objections one can have with regard to asking people to have “undivided” loyalty to their ‘motherland’ or ‘fatherland’. But Varshney’s objection seems to be about the other part, “Indian loyalties cannot be assumed to exist”.

Before taking up this insinuation, it is important to note that Savarkar had always maintained that he didn’t differentiate between Hindus and Muslims. When a journalist asked him in Lahore in 1938, when he was Hindu Mahasabha President, as to why he and Jinnah were bent upon dividing the nation along communal lines, his reply was sharp: "Your question is misplaced. While I am for equal treatment for all, Jinnah is for more and more concessions for Muslims". This emphatically exposes the hollowness of the charges that Savarkar wanted Muslims as second class citizens in a Hindu Rashtra, which people like Varshney want to falsely propagate.

Here it is also important to understand the context – the prevailing situation in India at that time. Large sections of Muslim population were influenced by Jinnah’s Two Nation theory causing serious consternation in the minds of many a leader of those times. Forget about what leaders like Sardar Patel had said, even a leader like Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru, the darling to Varshney and his ilk, had raised a voice of concern about the loyalty of the Muslims that remained in India.

“I have said that I am proud of our inheritance and our ancestors who gave an intellectual and cultural pre-eminence to India. How do you feel about this past? Do you feel that you are also sharers in it and inheritors of it and, therefore, proud of something that belongs to you as much as to me? Or do you feel alien to it and pass it by without understanding it or feeling that strange thrill which comes from the realisation that we are the trustees and inheritors of this vast treasure? I ask you these questions, because in recent years many forces have been at play diverting people’s minds into wrong channels and trying to pervert the course of history. You are Muslims and I am a Hindu. We may adhere to different religious faiths or even to none; but that does not take away from us that cultural inheritance that is yours as well as mine”

- This is what Nehru asked the students of Aligarh Muslim University in 1948. How is it different from what Savarkar had said at that time?

Let me quote another senior leader of those times on this issue.

“Islam is a close corporation and the distinction that it makes between Muslims and non-Muslims is a very real, very positive and very alienating distinction. The brotherhood of Islam is not the universal brotherhood of man. It is brotherhood of Muslims for Muslims only. There is a fraternity but its benefit is confined to those within that corporation. For those who are outside the corporation, there is nothing but contempt and enmity” – This was not Savarkar or Golwalkar. This was Ambedkar in his book “Pakistan or The Partition of India”.

Ambedkar also makes the same point that Varshney objects to in Savarkar’s arguments, namely their loyalty. “Islam is a system of social self-government and is incompatible with local self-government, because the allegiance of a Muslim does not rest on his domicile in the country which is his but on the faith to which he belongs. To the Muslim, wherever there is the rule of Islam, there is his own country. In other words, Islam can never allow a true Muslim to adopt India as his motherland and regard a Hindu as his kith and kin”, he says.

Savarkar, and for that matter Golwalkar believed in and worked for Hindu-Muslim unity. Their approach was different from that practised by others at that time. But their commitment to it was above-board. In early 1940s Savarkar openly appreciated when a Group of Muslims in Lucknow in appreciation of the efforts being made by Congress for Hindu-Muslim unity got together and passed a resolution saying  'any Muslim slaughtering a cow will be considered an enemy of Hindu-Muslim unity'. Savarkar immediately issued a press statement appreciating this gesture on the part of Lucknow Muslims and said "if such gestures keep on coming from Muslims Hindu-Muslim unity is possible”.

Unlike Savarkar and Golwalkar who believed that Hindu – Muslim unity is possible through genuine reform, Ambedkar was categorical that it was a near impossibility. “… a great gulf has remained fixed between the two and their enforced political union either under the Moghuls or the British ….has only accentuated their mutual antipathy. Neither religion nor social code can bridge this gulf. The two faiths are mutually exclusive and whatever harmonies may be forged in the interest of good social behaviour, at their core and centre they are irreconcilable”, concludes Ambedkar. I hope Varshney wouldn’t call Ambedkar a Hindu supremacist. However, even these statements of Ambedkar shouldn’t be taken out of context to suggest that he was anti-Muslim. The primary concern of all the national leaders at that time was to somehow ensure national unity by understanding and exploring socio-religious dynamics.

That brings us to the third point about caste and Hinduism. Here again, Varshney uses his sleight to distort the argument because of his inherent bias. Hindutva’s emphasis on minimising caste distinctions and creating Hindu unity is interpreted by him as forcing lower castes to follow ‘Brahminical model of Hinduism’. As is the standard practise, Varshney doesn’t explain as to what was that ‘Brahminical model of Hinduism’. He knew that both Savarkar and Golwalkar were opposed to hierarchical system of caste superiority which has come to be identified with the word ‘Brahminical’.

All his life, Savarkar fought against caste-based inequalities and untouchability. He was the first to launch temple entry campaign for Harijans. He was unequivocal in his condemnation of the distorted caste system. “As the Sanatana Dharma did not die due to this tectonic change, so too it will not die if the present-day distortion that is caste division is destroyed”, he exhorted.

Infact, Varshney’s Hindu nationalist is at core not an exclusivist, but a universalist and humanist. Rejecting the Notions of ‘high and low’ on basis of the caste by birth, Savarkar wrote: “No one should ever think that a certain Hindu caste is high or that another is low. The notion of high and low will be determined by overt merit of individuals. Every Hindu child has but one caste at birth- Hindu. Other than that, consider no other sub-caste. ‘Janmanaa jaayate Hinduhu’ (‘every one is a Hindu by birth’)! In truth, every man has but one caste at birth- human. But at least so long as other religionists such as Muslims and Christians keep aside that lofty aim and consider themselves Muslims and Christians by birth and endeavor to swallow the Hindu, we too must cling to the identity of our race. On every occasion and especially during census, register yourselves as Hindus only. Consider all castes as occupations.

The Hindu nationalist whom Varshney called ‘Brahminical’ declared once that “I felt like rebelling against the caste system. Just as I felt I should rebel against the foreign rule over Hindusthan, I also felt that I should rebel against the caste system and untouchability in Hindusthan.”

Problem with scholars like Varshney is that they write conclusions first and then the hypothesis. Their biases become their arguments and their positions the launching pad for their false rhetoric.

Fortunately for us, the average Indian turned out to be more scholarly and understanding, and capable of chafing truth from hyperbole.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Four Failures - Henderson Brooks - P.S. Bhagat Report

Brooks-Bhagat Report – Naiveté and Foolishness of the Indian Leadership

When the news of the leak of Henderson Brooks Report tumbled out in the media, the Congress Party’s reaction was that there was no mention of Prime Minister Nehru’s name in that and hence he shouldn’t be blamed for whatever had happened then. This is a weird argument. As the Prime Minister of India not just during the period of war but at least a dozen years prior to that, Prime Minister Nehru can’t be absolved of his failures that had led to defeat in the war, loss of territory and loss of face.

Henderson Brooks – P.S. Bhagat Committee was instituted by the Government in March 1963, full four months after the war had ended. Lt. Gen Brooks and Brig. Bhagat were known to be no-nonsense officers. Their report was submitted to the Defence Ministry in May 1963. For the last 51 years, the reported has been gathering dust in the South Block cupboards. In September 1963, the then Defence Minister Yashwant Rao Chauhan took the plea that publishing this report would ‘not only endanger our security but affect the morale of those entrusted with safeguarding the security of our borders’. In 2012, the present Defence Minister A.K. Antony too rejected the demand for the declassification of the report on the specious ground that it would ‘adversely impact Government of India’s sovereign interests’.

Since the report was commissioned by the government of the day, it is natural that it didn’t contain the names of the political leadership of the day, namely Nehru, Menon etc. But it is well-known, and the Brooks-Bhagat Report vouches for it, that the real failure for the 1962 debacle was not military, but political.

Failure 1: India’s refusal to support the Tibetan cause.
Despite repeated requests from the Tibetan government and suggestions by the western powers, Nehru refused to help Tibet when the Maoist China launched its ‘continuous aggression’ in 1950. Korean crisis broke out around that time. Prime Minister Nehru called for a special session of the Indian Parliament to discuss the Korean crisis. But when it came to discussing China’s annexation of Tibet Nehru’s response was that ‘Tibet, as far as we are concerned, is simple’. It was taken up only as part of a routine discussion on international relations. He was championing the cause of China’s entry into the United Nations at that time. Hence he refused to raise the Tibetan issue in the UN; and when a tiny country like El Salvador raised it he instructed India’s Representative B.N. Rao to make sure that the UN doesn’t include it in the agenda. India watched silently when China slowly but surely occupied Tibet and stood at its own doorstep by 1952.

Failure 2: Panchsheel.
Described aptly by veteran Congress leader K.R. Krpialani Panchsheel was ‘born in seen’. Having watched demurely the occupation of Tibet by China, India had, through this agreement, put its stamp of approval on the occupation. Amid the cries of ‘Hindi-Chini Bhai Bhai’ India and China signed the historic Panchsheel Agreement on 29 April 1954. Nehru exuberantly declared in the Indian Parliament on 18 May 1954 that “We have done no better thing than this since we became independent”. However, the fact is, this disastrous agreement had officially and fatally undone all that good work done over decades to uphold the independence of Tibet. It was the very title ‘Agreement on Trade and Intercourse between the Tibetan region of China and India’, which proved fatal to the Tibetan cause. It must be borne in mind that the Shimla Agreement of 1914 was entered into for the same purpose. But the British were shrewd enough to enter into the agreement with the Tibetans while the Chinese were called in as mere observers. Panchsheel was naturally a windfall for China. Interestingly while Nehru claimed credit for Panchsheel, Zhou Enlai told Nixon in 1973 that: “Actually the five principles (Panchsheel) were put forward by us, and Nehru agreed. But later on he didn’t implement them”.

Panchsheel brought nothing but ignominy to us. Friends felt betrayed; China never believed in the spirit of the agreement and violated it just within three months after signing. Originally conceived for eight years, the agreement died a natural death exactly in same period with the Chinese attacking India in 1962.

Failure 3: Not containing China in time

Nehru government had the information about the transgressions by the Chinese in the Aksai Chin area in 1952 itself. B.N. Mullick, Nehru’s Intelligence Chief sent messages in 1952 that the Chinese were engaged in converting a mule track into a jeep track in the Aksai Chin area. By 1953 Nehru had the information that the jeep track was being fast updated into a highway. Starting with 1955 regular clashes began between the two forces. In 1957 the Chinese media had officially announced that they were building a highway linking Xinziang with Tibet through Aksai Chin. Yet, Nehru kept the country in dark until 1959. Finally when he was forced to concede he resorted to lies and polemics. In a letter to China he insinuated that the Chinese workers working in Aksai Chin region ‘had not secured valid visas’, as though that was the real problem. Nehru and Menon were even unwilling to take up the issue at the UN. “The UNO has not defined aggression”, was Menon’s comic argument.

Failure 4: No preparation for war

Chen Yi, the Foreign Minister of China had assured Menon in New York in mid-1962 that there would be no reaction to Indian Army trying to evacuate the Chinese. Zhau told Nehru in 1960 that there would be no war between the countries. Nehru himself had the belief that China would never attack India because “Is it imaginable that a war between India and China will remain confined to those countries? It will be a world war”. Hence no preparation; no planning. “Defence against whom?” Menon said to have asked famously. So, when the Chinese came attacking Menon was in New York, Nehru first in UK, then in Africa and later in Sri Lanka.

Brooks-Bhagat Report pointed out that there was no road link between Srinagar and Leh until November 1961; there were only 4 air bases; and just one brigade to man the entire 2000 km border. The army wanted one additional Brigade and they were given just one Battalion. Shortage of ammunition plagued throughout.

Nehru called Sardar Patel ‘Naïve’ for asking India to be pragmatic in relations with China. In an interview Neville Maxwell called Nehru ‘Foolish’.

History is witness.