Thursday, October 1, 2009

Turning a deaf ear

Thursday , Sep 17, 2009 at 0351 hrs
Gandhiji’s rules
As usual, Gandhiji’s rules, sprinkled throughout his writings, speeches, letters, are an excellent guide, even though for us pygmies, trying to abide by them taxes one to the limit.

“I do not read newspapers as a rule, but look at the enclosed in The Leader...” writes Gandhiji answering a series of letters from C.F. Andrews against the Khilafat movement that Gandhiji has launched. Those first few words — “I do not read newspapers as a rule.. .” — are the gem that should be our first rule! For one thing, it is not just that the rule is much easier to follow than the others, it is something to which the media itself pushes us these days. In Gandhiji’s case the reason, of course, was that the newspapers dealt with matters so ephemeral that they had little bearing on his quest — of freedom for India, of the inner search. Today, obsessed with the “breaking news” of the moment; obsessed with any and everything that they can inflate into the sensation of the moment, the media deals in even more evanescent flickers.

Second, as for calumny, Gandhiji never answered it, his rule being, “Public men who wish to work honestly can only rely upon the approbation of their own conscience. No other certificate is worth anything for them. . .”

Third, as for criticism, a letter from him to Rabindranath Tagore at the height of the agitation against the Rowlatt Acts has a typical gem. It was well known that Tagore had not been well disposed towards the new methods that Gandhiji was introducing into Indian public life. Tagore had not been well. But Gandhiji had just learnt that he was giving lectures at Benares. Hence the letter requesting a message: “...I venture to ask you for a message from you — a message of hope and inspiration for those who have to go through the fire. I do so because you have been good enough to send me your blessings when I embarked upon the struggle. The forces arrayed against me are, as you know, enormous. I do not dread them for I have an unwavering belief that they are all supporting untruth and that if we have sufficient faith in truth it will enable us to overpower them. But all forces work through human agency. I am, therefore, anxious to gather around this mighty struggle the ennobling assistance of those who approve it. I will not be happy until I have received your considered opinion in regard to this struggle which endeavours to purify the political life of this country. If you have seen anything to alter your first opinion of it you will not hesitate to make it known to me. I value even adverse opinions from friends for though they may not make me change my course, they serve the purpose of so many light-houses to give me warnings of danger lying in the stormy paths of life. . .”

As for misrepresentation, Gandhiji’s rule is prudence itself. “I am used to misrepresentation all my life,” he writes in Young India in a typical passage. “It is the lot of every public worker. He has to have a tough hide” — and then the operational rule: “Life would be burdensome if every misrepresentation has to be answered and cleared. It is a rule of life with me never to explain misrepresentations except when the cause required correction. This rule has saved much time and worry.”

Insulating circumstances

Given what we might call their “status”, the party spokesmen must have been mighty thrilled at the strong words they were launching. As the words I have used in the preceding part — “swine,” for instance — themselves indicate, I am as yet far from adhering to Gandhiji’s rules. Even so, the pejoratives of the spokesmen had absolutely no effect. And that for a reason. Since I began writing in India thirty-five years ago, at every turn, smears have been hurled at my associates and me: the result is that I no longer care for them. But it isn’t just that I have become used to them.

To begin with, I wear two thick layers of insulation.

The first insulation — the impenetrable one — is that very child; and his love which has made him the centre of so many lives; and his laughter which you can hear three houses away. I lose a job? I have but to compare my circumstance with that of our son — and I at once see the occurrence to be a trifling one in comparison. Someone hurls abuse? I have but to ask, “Does it affect this child’s love for all of us? Will it dim his laughter?”

Second, because of our circumstances, my wife, our relatives, and I lead cloistered lives. We get next to no magazines. As for Indian newspapers, we get just two, and we just about skim through them. We don’t, therefore, get to hear of or read most of what commentators and others have said. On occasion, some well-wisher will ring up and say, “Have you seen the vicious piece X has written about you? You really should read it.” But why should I? I am not looking for a job that I should worry about what prospective employers may think after they have read the piece. One of the greatest beings of our times, the Dalai Lama provides an excellent example even in so mundane a matter. In his instructive book, The Wise Heart, the American Buddhist teacher, Jack Kornfield narrates:

“A reporter once pressed the Dalai Lama about his oft-quoted statement that he does not hate the Chinese communists, in spite of their systematic destruction of Tibet. In reply, the Dalai Lama explained, ‘They have taken over Tibet, destroyed our temples, burned our sacred texts, ruined our communities, and taken away our freedom. They have taken so much. Why should I let them also take my peace of mind?’...”

When the Dalai Lama will not let even the Chinese communists rob his peace of mind even after the horrors they have inflicted, why should we let mere mouthpieces ruffle us with mere adjectives?

Mention of the Dalai Lama, of what has been done, and is being done to his people and culture and religion leads one to the next antidote: a sense of proportion, of humility. Recall for a moment the lives of the Buddha, of the Lokmanya, of Gandhiji, of Solzhenitsyn, of Mandela, of others who stood up. The worst kind of smears were hurled at the Buddha: those whose grip was being loosened by his teachings even got a young girl to say that the Buddha had made her pregnant; at least two attempts were made to kill him. The Lokmanya was not just traduced and reviled, he was sent off to Mandalay to spend six long years in solitary confinement, years that broke his health — so much so that when at long last he reached his abode, the watchman would not let him in, so unrecognisable had he become. The years and years that Solzhenitsyn and Mandela spent in prison, in the former case in deathly labour camps. Jesus and Gandhiji were not just reviled, they were killed. When this is what has been done to these giants, who are we ants to complain, and that too just because some adjectives have been flung in our direction?

A bit of conceit also helps! As the pejoratives are hurled one’s way, we are bound to ask, “Who are these persons who are saying all this?” Are they the Seervais of their field, of any field? That is, are they scholarly authorities so that one has to take their opinion seriously? Is a Baba Amte saying, “No, this was not expected of you?” — for then one would naturally have to reflect on one’s conduct. Quite the contrary. So many of them are lawyers — who will argue either side of the case, if the reward is right! Most of them are official spokesmen for political parties — they take it to be their duty, ex officio, to twist facts and turn out opinions that the party’s convenience requires. And when parties make lawyers their spokesmen? We are entitled to feel doubly secure!!

This time round, their mettle was put on display sooner than I could have expected, for they had but to hurl their epithets, and the unexpected happened! Shri Mohan Bhagwat, the sarsanghchalak of the RSS, came to Delhi. The BJP was reeling from the aftermath of Jaswant Singh’s expulsion and the ban on his book. My interview with Shekhar Gupta had been broadcast. Newspapers predicted “strong action” against me; some forecast expulsion from the party. The RSS office announced that Shri Bhagwat would address the press. Hosts of journalists from TV channels and newspapers were present. It was one of the most widely watched press conferences. In my case, Mohanji was asked as part of a question, “. . .do you think it was appropriate for a senior leader of any party to speak in the language that he used against his colleagues?” The expectation — in several quarters that I know! — was that the sarsanghchalak would express strong disapproval, and that would give grounds for the leadership to act. To their great confusion, the head of the RSS pronounced, “You see, Arun Shourie is a very respected, senior intellectual. So I don’t want to comment on what he has said about others, he should think about that.” That certainly was not what the spokesman had been anticipating. Hence, their resolve to give me the opportunity for martyrdom, suddenly deferred! Should we be in awe of men with such stern resolve?!

There are two further facts that give one heart. First, people do not go by a single deed, and most certainly not by the single smear. If, after decades of work, the credibility of a writer is so fragile that a sudden smear can shatter it, then it isn’t worth worrying about in any case. On the other side, can the smearing of the one who has revealed the facts, suddenly burnish the image of ones whose misdeeds have been in the public eye for decades, the consequences of whose negligence are before everyone at that very moment? Second, even in a society like ours — one in which so many want to believe the worst about everyone else; one in which the media broadcast anything anyone says about anyone — people must at some stage see that smears do not refute facts.

For all these reasons, smears have little effect. I have come to conclude that, till we can learn to follow rules such as the ones Gandhiji prescribed, the best response to smears is the one that I was once told was the stock answer of a Marathi writer to his detractors’ vituperations: Believe every vile thing that they are saying about me, he would say; believe the worst about me, the very worst they say, the very worst you can imagine about me — but what about the facts?

Hence, to begin with, we must be right on the facts. Second, we must have that thick hide so that we are not distracted by calumny. Third, as the ones we are exposing are definitely going to strike back — on the count of my friend, S. Gurumurthy the number of cases, inquiries, raids, prosecutions, actions of various kinds that Rajiv Gandhi’s government instituted against The Indian Express exceeded three hundred and twenty — our conduct must be, it must for decades have been, immaculate. And the reason is not just that the Empire will strike back. The even more vital reason is that the issue will be decided in the public mind not so much by the minutiae of evidence as of the relative reputation of the writer and the ones he has written about. That is why we should always bear in mind Vinoba’s warning: “A single hole makes the pitcher unfit for holding water.”

But there is an even more significant positive reason also.

(To be continued)

The writer is a Rajya Sabha MP from the BJP

A few lessons

Source: Indian Express
Wednesday, Sep 16, 2009 at 0232 hrs
“Arun Shourie has attacked the Chief Minister, A.R. Antulay because the latter has opposed America’s decision to give arms to Pakistan... Arun Shourie’s well-known connections with the American CIA... He was got a job at the World Bank... Since his return to India, he has been using the pretext of his son’s illness to regularly visit his bosses abroad. . .”

Across the top of the page was a photograph of our helpless little son laughing away in my arms.

Though twenty-seven years have gone by, I still remember the smear that a glossy magazine put out when I wrote the series that led Mrs Gandhi to eventually have Antulay resign. That was a load of nonsense, of course. It constituted no answer to the facts that had been printed. Even that bit about the CIA was of no consequence. After all, it was a conventional slur in those days — Mrs Gandhi herself had insinuated that a “foreign hand” had been behind even as saintly a person as JP and his movement. It was that bit about “using the pretext of his son’s illness to regularly visit his bosses abroad” that infuriated me no end. The least of it was that I had scarcely been abroad since I had returned during the Emergency — only once after our child had been reduced to a handkerchief by the sedatives he was fed by doctors here and we were told to urgently take him to London. It was the pretext business.

Pretext? PRETEXT? My head screamed. Our son could not walk: thirty-four now, he still cannot. He could not stand: he still cannot. He could not use his right hand and arm: he still cannot. He could see only as if through a tunnel: that is still the limit of his vision today. He could barely speak: he still speaks syllable by syllable. And here were some swine who said his illness was a pretext that I was using.

I sued the magazine for defamation. Through its lawyer — quite a famous man in Bombay at the time, and, I am sure, a very highly priced one — the magazine ensured one adjournment after another. Eventually, it filed an affidavit: through this sworn document and its famous lawyer, the magazine said we hold Arun Shourie in the highest esteem; indeed, he has blazed new trails in Indian journalism; far from having proof for what we published, we do not believe a word of what was printed, it swore; we only wanted to alert our readers to the kind of things that are being said even about such a person in our society. . .

“They can drag the case on forever. . .” I was advised. “In the end, you will have to settle for an apology. . . They are prepared to print straightaway the apology you draft. . . Why not settle the matter? Why not draft the apology you want printed? They will print it promptly. . .”

I drafted an abject text for the apology. They printed it — conspicuously. For all I know, gleefully. That I succumbed to the advice burns my heart to this day.

This time round also, there has been the usual crop. “These have been the pampered boys of the BJP. . . They came to the party only for cream. As the party, having lost the elections, cannot give them any cream now, they are hurling these accusations. . . He is doing this only for publicity. He wants to be a political martyr. We will give him the opportunity. . . He is saying all this only because he got to know that he will not be given a third-term in the Rajya Sabha. . .”

Nor was I the only one who had such pejoratives flung at him. Jaswant Singh had written a letter asking the party leadership to hold those who had been responsible for the electoral campaign and defeat “only because he was upset that he would be losing a room in Parliament”! Yashwant Sinha too had demanded that the party make an honest and open assessment of the shortcomings that had led to its defeat. He had himself won the Lok Sabha poll, and handsomely. But he was dubbed “a frustrated politician” in the stories that were planted.

Mr Advani had been maintaining that he had not known about various aspects of the Kandahar exchange of terrorists for hostages. Jaswant Singh disclosed facts that put Mr Advani’s account in question. Brajesh Mishra set out further facts. Yashwant Sinha endorsed what Mishra had stated. With these statements, four members of the cabinet committee on security, excluding Mr Vajpayee all four other than Mr Advani, had called Mr Advani’s version in question — for George Fernandes had already said that Mr Advani had perhaps forgotten that he had been in, and participated in, the meetings at which each of the decisions had been taken. There must have been a way to set the doubts at rest. But what did the spokesman do?

“Mr Mishra’s statements are unfounded, unfortunate and politically motivated,” declared one of the current spokesmen of the BJP. “He is not a member of the BJP.”

What had the veracity or otherwise of Mishra’s statements to do with his being or not being a member of the BJP? He was the national security advisor at the time as well as the principal secretary to the prime minister. He had participated in every single meeting and decision relating to Kandahar. Neither the spokesman-of-the-moment nor others holding party offices at the time could claim to have known first hand anything at all about what had transpired then. Nor were they producing or even pointing towards any documentary record to show that Mishra was wrong. Did those formulaic words — “unfounded, unfortunate” — prove the facts to be otherwise?

Just as important is another question, indeed from the point of view of the media, an even more important one: Is there another country in which such words are taken to be ‘“refutations”? Is there one in which they are even reported as they are here?

As for “politically motivated”, not one, but two things stand out each time the words are flung. Everyone has a motive, it seems, except them! Second, in the reckoning of our politicians, the most devastating abuse is that the other fellow is “politically motivated”!

(To be continued)

The writer is a Rajya Sabha MP from the BJP

Master strategies

Source: Indian Express
Thursday , Aug 27, 2009 at 0530 hrs

Here we are breaking each other’s heads over Partition when the man who presided over it has already assumed responsibility for so much that happened. Here is what we find in Stanley Wolpert’s Shameful Exit, (Oxford University Press, New York, 2006, p. 2):

“When asked how he felt about his Indian viceroyalty eighteen years ago after Partition, Mountbatten himself admitted to BBC’s John Osman, when they sat next to each other at dinner shortly after the 1965 Indo-Pakistani War, that he had got things wrong. Osman felt sympathy for the remorseful sixty-five-year-old ex-viceroy and tried to cheer him, but to no avail. Thirty-nine years after the meeting he recalled: ‘Mountbatten was not to be consoled. To this day his own judgment on how he had performed in India rings in my ears and in my memory. As one who dislikes the tasteless use in writing of... ‘vulgar slang’... I shall permit myself an exception this time because it is the only honest way of reporting accurately what the last viceroy of India thought about the way he had done his job: ‘I f***ed it up.’”

Just like us, isn’t it, that we should be expelling each other, and breaking our heads over what others had done!

But that is master strategy!

The Red Queen strategy

“The Queen turned crimson with fury, and, after glaring at her for a moment like a wild beast, began screaming, ‘Off with her head! Off with her...,’” when Alice couldn’t say who the gardeners she didn’t know, were...

“Off with their heads,” said the Red Queen as she saw the gardeners hastily painting the roses...

“ a very short time,” into the crocquet game, “the Queen was in a furious passion, and went stamping about, and shouting, ‘Off with his head!’ or ‘Off with her head!’ about once a minute...”

“Alice began to feel very uneasy: to be sure, she had not as yet had any dispute with the Queen, but she knew that it might happen any minute, ‘and then,’ thought she, ‘what would become of me?’ They’re dreadfully fond of beheading people here: the great wonder is, that there’s anyone left alive!’”

You see, as we know from Through the Looking Glass, “The Queen had only one way of settling all difficulties, great or small: ‘Off with his head!’ she said, without even looking round.....”

That is the way to mete out justice. But in doing so, you must strictly follow the Red Queen in procedure too:

• The sentence must be executed before it is pronounced.

• The sentence must be pronounced before the verdict is settled.

• The verdict must be settled before the arguments are commenced.

• The arguments must be concluded before the evidence is examined.

• The evidence must be examined before it is collected.

And so, “Off with his head!”

The Cheshire Cat strategy

But what when they all lose because of you, and they bay for your head?

“But how have we lost?” you must demand. “We had X. We expected to gain an additional Y. That would have made us X+Y. All that has happened is that, instead of gaining Y, we have come short by Y. We are now X-Y. Our projections turned out correct. Just the sign played mischief. Where is the question of defeat?”

In fact, “The result places us in a position that is even better than in 2004. Then, we were just one of the Opposition parties — the Communists, the SP..... They have all been wiped out. The entire Opposition space is now ours.... And this is the fulfillment of our vision. Thirty years ago, we had set out to end the monopoly of the Congress. With the victory of the Congress, with our not winning, and the defeat of the rest, we have succeeded in creating a bi-polar polity. Where is the question of defeatism?”

Hence, as there has been no defeat, there is no reason for any inquiry-shinquiry into so-called reasons for so-called defeat.

Next: in fact we have already constituted a committee to inquire into the reasons for defeat. But the names are being kept secret.

Next: we have already sent selected persons to seek views of our state units as to the reasons for defeat. And our respected colleague......will collate their observations in a report.

Next: no, he shall not collate their observations. He shall prepare a report on the basis of their observations.

Next: no, he shall not prepare a report on the basis of those observations for they are about the past. He shall prepare a report on “The Way Ahead.”

Next: no, he shall not prepare any report on any “Way Ahead.” He shall prepare a paper listing suggestions that have emerged for “The Way Ahead.”

Next: no, he shall not write the suggestions down at all. To start the discussion, he shall mention a few points — briefly — about “The Way Ahead.”

Hence, no report was tabled. Firstly, there was no report. Secondly, there was no table. What the media are reporting is an imaginary document.

...’How do you like the Queen?’ said the Cat in a low voice.

‘Not at all,’ said Alice: ‘she’s so extremely...’ — just then she noticed that the Queen was close behind her, listening — so she went on, ‘...likely to win, that it’s hardly worth while finishing the game.’

The Queen smiled and passed on.

‘Who are you talking to?’ said the King, going up to Alice, and looking at the Cat’s head with great curiosity.

‘It’s a friend of mine — a Cheshire Cat,’ said Alice: ‘allow me to introduce it.’ [As you remember, this cat was exactly like the report: she could have her head appear, as it did now, without the rest of her body.]

‘I don’t like the look of it at all,’ said the King, ‘however, it may kiss my hand if it likes.’

‘I’d rather not,’ the Cat remarked.

‘Don’t be impertinent,’ said the King, ‘and don’t look at me like that!’ He got behind Alice as he spoke.

‘A cat may look at a king,’ said Alice. ‘I’ve read that in some book, but I don’t remember where.’

‘Well, it must be removed,’ said the King very decidedly, and he called the Queen, who was passing at the moment, ‘My dear! I wish you would have this cat removed!’

‘I’ll fetch the executioner myself,’ said the King eagerly, and he hurried off.

Alice thought she might as well go back, and see how the game was going on, as she heard the Queen’s voice in the distance, screaming with passion...

When she got back to the Cheshire Cat, she was surprised to find quite a large crowd collected round it: there was a dispute going on between the executioner, the King, and the Queen, who were all talking at once, while all the rest were quite silent, and looked very uncomfortable.

The moment Alice appeared, she was appealed to by all three to settle the question, and they repeated their arguments to her, though, as they all spoke at once, she found it very hard indeed to make out exactly what they said.

The executioner’s argument was, that you couldn’t cut off a head unless there was a body to cut it off from: that he had never had to do such a thing before, and he wasn’t going to begin at his time of life.

The King’s argument was, that anything that had a head could be beheaded, and that you weren’t to talk nonsense.

The Queen’s argument was, that if something wasn’t done about it in less than no time she’d have everybody executed, all round. (It was this last remark that had made the whole party look so grave and anxious)...

But what are you to do when the Queen turns on you?

The legal eagle strategy

“But after quoting Jinnah’s singular — ‘We are going to be a secular State’ — speech, did you not say, ‘I believe that this is the ideal that India, Pakistan as well as Bangladesh... should follow’?” the cussed demand. “Did you not yourself write, ‘There are many people who leave an inerasable mark on history. But there are a few who actually create history. Qaid-e-Azam Mohammed Ali Jinnah was one such rare individual.... My respectful homage to that great man.’ How then are you less liable than the one you have executed?”

When faced with such cussedness, field the resident lawyers.

“My Lords, when my client said ‘India’, he did not mean India as we know it. But Akhand Bharat. Now, as my Lords know, Akhand Bharat includes Pakistan. And my Lords, in that expression, ‘includes Pakistan’, the word ‘includes’ is manifestly and intentionally redundant. Hence, my Lords, when my client said ‘India’, he meant ‘includes Pakistan’, and when he said ‘includes Pakistan’ he meant Pakistan. What he said therefore reads, ‘The Qaid-e-Azam’s formulation is an ideal for Pakistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh.”

“But what about paying ‘homage’? Did he not say, ‘My respectful homage to this great man’? Has the noted inquisitor, Karan Thapar, not pointed out that according to the Oxford Dictionary, ‘homage’ means ‘acknowledgement of superiority, dutiful reverence’? Where has the condemned man expressed anything equivalent to ‘dutiful reverence’?”

“That is the problem, my Lords, these people read too much, and too superficially. The cleverness, the tactical strategy, if I may say so, is right there, in that very word, ‘homage’. You see, this cussed assaulter himself has quoted the meaning of ‘homage’ as ‘acknowledgement of superiority’. In paying ‘homage’ my client was not acknowledging the Qaid-e-Azam’s superiority, but his own. Moreover, my Lords, these words were written for purely tactical reasons. They were written to disorient the Pakistanis so that we may vanquish them that much more easily.”

But how can words be twisted like this? How can “India” mean “Pakistan”? How can acknowledging the superiority of the other become affirming one’s own superiority?

Aren’t there 364 unbirthdays in a year, and only one birthday? Humpty Dumpty demands. So, you have 364 days for unbirthday presents in a year,

“And only one for birthday presents, you know. There’s glory for you!”

“I don’t know what you mean by ‘glory’,” Alice said.

Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. “Of course you don’t — till I tell you. I meant ‘there’s a nice knock-down argument for you!’”

“But ‘glory’ doesn’t mean ‘a nice knock-down argument’,’” Alice objected.

“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.”

“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”

“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master — that’s all.”

But will the lawyers go so far as to advance such arguments for a client? Will they not worry that doing so may affect their credibility?

When they do so for the Ketan Parekhs day in and day out, and that, far from diminishing their credibility, is what leads people to call them “among the country’s foremost legal brains,” why will they not do so for the higher cause?

Enforce principle, uphold ideology

“The lower down leaders must resign owning moral responsibility for the defeat in their states.”

But on that principle, why should the top leaders not resign?

“Why should we resign when we have already accepted moral responsibility?”

“And be it noted, whether we win or lose elections, we shall never depart from our core ideology of Hindutva.”

But what is Hindutva?

“As the Supreme Court has itself said, it is ‘a way of life.’”

But isn’t Islam also “a way of life”? Isn’t Christianity? Indeed, isn’t the drug addiction of the hippie “a way of life”?

Binding strategy

Your chieftains are at each other? Make them commit a crime collectively. Let them stab one of their own in each other’s presence. Each will know that everyone has seen him drive the knife in. That is what will bind them. And no one will accuse the other, to boot, lest his own deed be brought to light.

After all, events are moving so fast. High time you convert the Mutual Projection Society into the Mutual Protection Society.

The dead horse strategy

The final strategy is spelled out in the latest issue of The Other Side, George Fernandes’ Journal of Socialist Thought and Action, and requires the littlest adaptation for our context — I will transcribe it almost literally. “When you discover that you are riding a dead horse,” the journal reminds us, “the best strategy is to dismount and get a different horse.” However, in our political parties more advanced strategies are employed:

1. On the authority of the Gita, declare the horse as “Not dead” — for, does the scripture not teach us?, “What is real is the soul, not the body; and the soul was never born, it never dies.”

2. Buy a stronger whip.

3. Wield it on anyone who says the horse is dead in spite of the Gita — for obviously, he who doubts the Gita has repudiated our core ideology.

4. Declare, firmly, that the horse is not dead, and, therefore, nothing needs to be done.

5. Pressed, announce that a committee shall circumambulate the horse, and, if necessary, suggest potions to revive it; but, so as not to disturb the horse, ensure that the committee remains secret.

6. Launch a study of our ancient scriptures to see how our revered ancestors rode dead horses. Anyone who doubts that they did, has obviously repudiated our core ideology, and, so, for him, the whip as in (3) above.

7. Wait for the next breeze — as it sways the horse’s mane, even the negativists shall see that the horse is alive and well.

8. Harness several dead horses to accelerate the speed.

9. Locate younger jockeys.

10. Coach them that they shall ride the horses, not jockey.

11. He who points out that the younger jockeys also happen to be the heavier ones, is obviously out to discourage the horses, and distract the jockeys. So, for him, the whip as in (3) above.

12. Calculate and show that, as the dead horses do not require any diet, much less geriatric supplements, to energise and motivate them, their net contribution is not just positive, it is incalculable — zero divided by zero, as Aryabhatt would have proven, if only he had been asked, is incalculable, hence infinite.

13. Redefine “running and winning races” — for, obviously, the horse that lies unmoved in the midst of the world’s frenzy and bustle, is the real sthith pragyan, and, as our scriptures have so clearly proclaimed, the sthith pragyan is the real victor.

14. Finally, of course, promote the dead horses to supervisory positions.

15. He who now entertains a doubt about them has not just repudiated our core ideology — for that is reverence for our leaders — he has repudiated our leadership. Hence, for him, not the whip as in (3) above. For him, expulsion.

That is what will prove that the horses are not dead. They can throw a kick.


The writer is a BJP MP in the Rajya Sa

A few extracts from the book

Source: Indian Express
Tuesday , Aug 25, 2009 at 0529 hrs

Now, it so happens that I profoundly disagree with Mr. Jaswant Singh’s assessment of Jinnah. Ever since I read the multi-volume Jinnah Papers — brought out by the National Archives of Pakistan; the two-volume, Foundations of Pakistan, edited by Syed Sharifuddin Pirzada; and the four-volume History of Partition of India, edited by the Pakistani historian, K.K. Aziz, Jinnah has seemed to me a pinched, narrow-minded, diabolic schemer — one who used and was used by the British to divide India. To use his words, he ‘forged a pistol’, the armed thugs shoring up the Muslim League. He unleashed them in his ‘Direct Action’ against Hindus. He paralysed the Interim Government through Liaquat Ali. From 1937 onwards, he worked stealthily and continuously with the British to thwart every scheme that might have preserved a united India. His contemptuous characterisations of India, of Hindus, of our national movement and its leaders, make one’s blood boil to this day. That he talked Islam and drank whiskey, ate ham, and the rest, that he hardly knew the Quran to say nothing of living by it, do not prove his secularism to me, they make him out to be a hypocrite. In a word, far from being ‘attracted’ by Jinnah, as my senior Jaswant Singh is, I am repelled by him.

And book after book that I have read regarding those decades since I wrote about him and his stratagems twenty-five years ago has etched that image even deeper. My perspective also differs for another reason from the one that informs Jaswant Singh’s book, and that, if I may add, of those who still dream of a ‘grand confederation of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh’, of those who still talk of Akhand Bharat. Having waded through the writings of Islamic leaders and clerics of the period, and seeing the direction in which Pakistan and Bangladesh have evolved — have inevitably evolved, given the principles on which they were founded, principles that Jinnah articulated and insisted upon incessantly — I have come to realise that Girilal Jain was the one who was right. You are dead wrong, he told me, after reading what I had written about Jinnah. The best thing that has happened for us is the Partition. It has given us breathing time, a little time to resurrect and save our pluralist culture and religions. Had it not happened, we would have been bullied and thrashed and swamped by Islamic fundamentalists. So, my lament is the opposite of Jaswant Singh’s today. And it also so happens that I am an adorer of Sardar Patel as of the Lokmanya, and a worshipper of Gandhiji.

But first the book, and a few extracts.

A glimpse of the contents

A chapter, ‘Compromise on national symbols’ — not by the British nor by Jinnah, but by the Congress leaders. By Congress leaders does the author mean, ‘Sardar Patel’, or even “Congress leaders, in particular Sardar Patel”?

A chapter, ‘Boost to Jinnah by Congress’.

A sub-heading: ‘Azad shocks Gandhi’ — when Maulana Azad, then Congress President, conveyed acceptance of the Cabinet Mission Plan, in particular of excluding non-League Muslims from the Cabinet, and his assurance to the British that he would carry the Congress with him, that they need not worry about any misgivings that some, including Gandhiji might have. All this without telling either the Congress or Gandhiji, and he ‘mis-stated’ the facts, to boot, to Gandhiji’s face, till he was confronted with the letter he had sent. The author sets out the ‘devastating effect’ of the episode on Gandhiji.

Citations from Sardar Patel

He recalls how the Congress Working Committee, in spite of the strenuous, indeed broken-hearted opposition of Gandhiji, accepted the British proposal to divide Punjab and Bengal. He quotes the letter that Sardar Patel wrote to a member of the Working Committee, and points out how very unrealistic the Sardar was in this case:

“If the League insists on Pakistan,” the Sardar wrote, “the only alternative is the division of the Punjab and Bengal... I do not think that the British Government will agree to division. In the end, they will see the wisdom of handing over the reins of Government to the strongest party. Even if they do not, it will not matter. A strong Centre with the whole of India — except East Bengal and part of the Punjab, Sind and Baluchistan — enjoying full autonomy under the Centre will be so powerful that the remaining portions will eventually come in.” The author remarks,

“Both Nehru and Patel surmised that by this counter-strategy Jinnah would be paid in his own coin; he would be made to realise that his argument would be turned against him; that what would be left to him ultimately was the ‘truncated, mutilated, moth-eaten Pakistan’ which he had scornfully refused to look at some years ago.”

Recounting subsequent events, the book records, “Patel was so fed up with the League’s tactics inside the Interim Government that he saw nothing but endless intrigue and troubles ahead in any kind of working with the League; it was better to have a clean separation rather than have pinpricks every day. Nehru too had lost all hopes of joint action with the Muslim League in any kind of arrangement; the League would never see eye to eye with the Congress on any of the issues. He felt, despairingly, that there was no way out except Partition. Rajendra Prasad came out with the same explanation: ‘It was the Working Committee, and particularly such of its members as were represented on the Central Cabinet, which had agreed to the scheme of Partition... (They) did so because they had become disgusted with the situation then obtaining in the country. They saw that riots had become a thing of everyday occurrence and would continue to be so; and that the Government... was incapable of preventing them because the Muslim League Ministers would cause obstruction everywhere... It had thus become impossible to carry on the administration.’”

“With Nehru and Patel finally acquiescing to the demand for Pakistan, the atmosphere, especially in the north, began to hot up as never before”, the book records, and elaborates what followed.

‘Benumbed mental state of Congress’

The book turns to what it calls “Benumbed Mental State of Congress”, and cites Acharya Kripalani’s admission to nail it. Kripalani, then the president of the Congress, wrote about the crucial meeting in which, unknown to Gandhiji, the Working Committee met, and endorsed the Partition Plan: “The Working Committee met in a tense atmosphere. Everybody felt depressed at the prospect of the Partition of the country. The Viceroy’s proposals were accepted without much discussion. As a matter of fact, Jawaharlal and Vallabhbhai were already committed to the acceptance of the proposals. There was no critical examination...” Kripalani noted the manifest infirmities in the Plan that had been drawn up, and which the CWC approved, and wrote, “It was quite natural for our foreign masters to ignore all these inconsistencies in order to favour the League; one cannot understand why we of the Working Committee did not even draw their attention to these important details.”

The Plan had been accepted behind Gandhiji’s back. He was dead-set against it even after Panditji and Patel told him that they had already agreed to it in their meeting with the Viceroy, and had already got the Working Committee to endorse it. Gandhiji was torn — telling his closest associates one moment that he would put up a last fight, telling them the next that he was helpless. At the crucial moment, he told Congressmen that, as their leaders had already accepted the Partition Plan, they should do so also. The book quotes Panditji sort of placing the responsibility on this falling in line by Gandhiji! Panditji told Leonard Mosley, “But, if Gandhiji had told us not to accept Partition, we would have gone on fighting and waiting.”

The book records that, given the extent to which it had been weakened by the Second War, the British had come to realise that their time was up, that there was no way they could impose their conditions on the Indians. So, they set about their fallback option — to divide India so that they would have a strategic foothold in Pakistan. Having documented the mirages and miasmas of the Congress leaders, the book remarks, “the Pakistan demand assumed prestige mainly because of the Congress vacillation on that issue and pampering of the League...”

The book shows how the rationalisation the Congress leaders advanced — that the only alternative to Partition was civil war — is blown by the massacres that followed. It recalls Panditji telling a New York audience two years later, that if they had known the terrible consequences of Partition in the shape of killings etc., they would have resisted the division of India. It recalls, Rajendra Prasad exclaiming, “If only we had known!” “As for Acharya Kripalani,” the book records, “his choicest epithets in later years were reserved for those in the Congress High Command on whom he put the entire responsibility for Partition — so far had his own mind traveled from the position he had taken (of defending the June 3 Plan) in that fateful session of the AICC meeting in June 1947.”

The book records Pyarelal’s telling assessment: “Pandit Nehru’s speech revealed — what had all along been suspected — that it was the Interim Government’s helplessness, owing to sabotage from within by the League members in the Government and retention of control by the British, to cope with the spreading anarchy that had driven the Congress High Command to desperation, so that they were glad to escape from the intolerable situation they found themselves in, even by paying the price of Partition. The Congress leaders were past the prime of their lives. After a quarter of a century of wandering in the wilderness they had come within sight of the Promised Land. They were doughty warriors and were not afraid, if necessary, to take the plunge once more. But they were afraid that it might not be given them to see another successful fight through, and the fruit of their struggle and the countless sacrifices of a whole generation of fighters for freedom might slip through their fingers when it seemed almost within their grasp. If the hour of decision had come earlier when the Congress was in the wilderness, when they were young and before their experience in the Interim Government and the exercise of power had coloured their thinking and outlook, their choice might have been different.”

But that was not just Pyarelal’s assessment. Panditji’s own assessment was harsher. The book records what he told Leonard Mosley in 1960: “The truth is that we were tired men, and we were getting on in years too. Few of us could stand the prospect of going to prison again, and if we had stood out for a United India as we wished it, prison obviously awaited us. We saw the fires burning in the Punjab and heard every day of the killings. The plan for Partition offered a way out, and we took it.”

A few questions

I can go on reproducing extracts, but the main theme of the book’s thesis will be evident. According to the book, while the British had the manifest design to partition India; while Jinnah and his Muslim League subordinates were manifestly working for Pakistan, neither of the two would have succeeded but for the vacillations, mistakes and compromises of the Congress leaders.

To assess the anger that the Gujarat government has worked up, ask three questions:

• Is it just this book alone that asserts that mistakes by Congress leaders contributed to the outcome? Was that fact not acknowledged by the Congress leaders themselves?

• When the book speaks of the vacillations, mistakes and compromises of the Congress leaders does it mean, “the vacillations, mistakes and compromises of the Congress leaders - excluding Sardar Patel”?

Manifestly not. So, is the author guilty of insulting Sardar Patel or not? Should the Gujarat government not, therefore, ban the book? And so, the final question:

• Whose book are we talking about?

The book is The Tragedy of Partition by one of the longest-serving and most revered pillars of the RSS, H.V. Seshadri. It is the standard text of the RSS on the Partition. It is sold at every RSS bookshop, and read, its message is internalised, by every RSS swayam sevak.

Now that the Gujarat government knows the name of the author, two further questions:

• Is there one passage in Jaswant Singh’s book, even one passage that casts the Sardar’s role into graver doubt than Seshadri’s book?

• Is the Sardar’s reputation, in the view of those prancing about to shield it, so fragile that such references as there are in Jaswant Singh’s book or Seshadri’s will undermine it?

Nor is Seshadri’s book alone in documenting the lapses of the Congress leaders. Professor R.C. Majumdar nailed the lapses extensively in lectures that the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan published. He nailed them in his three-volume study, History of the Freedom Movement in India. The lapses are nailed even more firmly in Struggle for Freedom, which forms Volume XI of the great series, The History and Culture of the People of India, ‘prepared under the direction of’, as the cover of each volume says, that other distinguished son of Gujarat, K.M. Munshi — one of the closest associates of the Sardar himself. And they are nailed — not as lapses, but as inexcusable blunders — in the work on the Partition of India of the greatest constitutional scholar we have had since Independence, H.M. Seervai. The self-serving speeches of the Congress leaders are available in Mitra’s Annual Register. The anguish of Gandhiji, his torment at what Congress leaders, in particular the two closest to him, Panditji and the Sardar, had done is recorded from day to day in his addresses at the daily prayer meetings and in Pyarelal’s searing volumes, The Last Phase — “The purity of my striving will be put to the test only now,” Pyarelal records him saying as he lay in bed, having awakened earlier than he was meant to. “Today I find myself all alone. Even the Sardar and Jawaharlal think that my reading of the situation is wrong and peace is sure to return if Partition is agreed upon...They wonder if I have not deteriorated with age... Nevertheless, I must speak as I feel if I am a true and loyal friend to the Congress and to the British people as I claim to be...”

As all these books, as well as many more, can be stretched to cast the same doubts on the role of the Sardar, as one of the principal leaders of the Congress, how many of them will the Gujarat government ban?

(To be continued)

The writer is a BJP MP in the Rajya Sabha

“Either diplomacy or war”

Source: Indian Express
Thursday , Aug 13, 2009 at 2353 hrs New Delhi:

“Trust but verify,” the Prime Minister says, invoking Ronald Reagan. Of course, Reagan did not just stop at enunciating a maxim. He worked to, and succeeded in helping dismember “the Evil Empire.” One does not have to even ask whether the Prime Minister will do anything of the sort.

But take the maxim itself that the Prime Minister says he believes in following. Has all verification not already shown that Pakistan has not just been organizing terror-strikes against India, it has conducted a proxy-war continuously, unrelentingly for three decades? Evidence apart, haven’t the highest authorities of Pakistan acknowledged as much? Did Musharraf not proclaim, “Jihad is an instrument of State policy”? Has Zardari not said just a fortnight ago that, indeed, Pakistan spawned terrorists? Has our Army not said just a few weeks ago that infiltration into Kashmir has been stepped up again?

The Prime Minister’s reason for going on trusting is belief, it is faith in the current leadership of Pakistan. He told Parliament on 29 July, “I sincerely believe that it is as much in Pakistan’s interest as it is in ours to strive to make peace. Pakistan must defeat terrorism before being consumed by it. I believe the current there understands that. It may not be very strong, but the impression that I have is that the current leadership understands the need for action. [What “may not be very strong”? The current leadership of Pakistan? The understanding that the current leadership of Pakistan has about the need to fight terrorism? Or the impression that the Prime Minister has formed of the understanding that the current leadership of Pakistan has about fighting terrorism?] I was told by their parliamentarians who accompanied Prime Minister Gilani that there is now a political consensus in Pakistan against terrorism. That should strengthen the hands of its leadership in taking the hard decisions that will be needed to destroy terrorism and its sponsors in their country.”

Last time the faith was in George Bush – “The people of India love you, deeply.” Will we never learn? When Benazir Bhutto was the Prime Minister, we were told, “No, no, you don’t understand. She and Rajivji have excellent rapport. You see, they were at Cambridge at the same time” – as Mrs. Indira Gandhi and Zulfiqar Bhutto had been at Oxford in their time! When Nawaz Sharif replaced Benazir, we were told, “No, no, you don’t understand. He is a businessman. He is a practical wheeler-dealer. We can cut a deal with him.” When Musharraf ousted him, we were told, “No, no, you don’t understand. He is going to be there for years, in any case. It is with him that we have to strike a deal.” When he weakened, the argument became the opposite: “You don’t understand. We have to be generous and come to an agreement that he can present to the Pakis as a victory. Don’t you see, the alternative to him are the mullahs? We have to trust him. We can trust him. You see, he has learnt from Kargil.”

Now that Zardari and Gilani have replaced him, “I believe the current leadership there understands that.” Advocates in the Rajya Sabha added the tested argument: “Don’t you see, whenever there has been democracy in Pakistan, relations with India have been better? If we don’t reach out, these current leaders will weaken. The Army will be back, and relations with India will worsen once again.”

Trust apart, are Zardari and Gilani the “current leadership”? Is it not that collective – the Army, the ISI, and the organizations they have spawned, the LeT/JuD, and the like? On the one hand, the Prime Minister asks us to trust the new realization among the current leaders. On the other, in the same statement to Parliament, he reports that both Zardari and Gilani told him that “Mumbai was the work of non-State actors.” Anyone who is prepared to swallow that does not know a fig about, or is deliberating shutting his eyes to the pervasive presence and role of the Army-ISI and allied agencies in Pakistan’s State and society. But even if that assertion is taken at face value, what does it establish? That Zardari and Gilani may be the “current leadership”, they are not in control. How then can a new realization among them – on which also the only evidence we have is the Prime Minister’s gut feeling, “I believe the current leadership understands that…” – be the basis of policy?

And what precisely is this current leadership prepared to “seriously address”? After the Taliban had reached within 100 miles of Islamabad itself; after the Americans had put the fear of a complete rupture into them, these “current leaders” began an offensive against the Taliban. Only against the Taliban in its western provinces. Indeed, even in that region, only against those sections of the Taliban that have gone out of the control of the ISI-Army.

Neither the “current leadership”, nor, of course, the Army-ISI have raised a little finger against the terrorists and organizations they have reared in the East for assaults on India. Quite the contrary, as we shall see.

The moral is what it has always been: do not go by your assessments of “current leaders”. Go by the nature of Pakistan’s State and society. Go by the attitude of that State and society towards – not Pakistan; not the world; not the US, but – our country. And in that, go by their attitude to what they have made into their obsession regarding our country – that is, Kashmir. Is there the slightest evidence that the basic attitude towards India, and towards what they insist is “the core issue” has changed in any way?

“But we cannot change geography,” the argument goes. “Pakistan is our neighbour. It will always be so.” For seven months, the PM says, we have used all bilateral and multilateral instruments. It is only after doing so that the new course embodied in the Sharm-el-Sheikh Joint Declaration has been charted. Actually, the only things that have been done are two: plead with the US and others to do something; and go on talking to Pakistan at different levels. Naturally, this could not and has not yielded anything.

Pakistan will not desist from what it has for three decades been successfully inflicting on us for the simple reason that we are not able to, and manifestly do not have the nerve to inflict any cost on the ones who are orchestrating the assaults.

But it is diplomacy or war, says the Prime Minister, and the Congressmen echo him in chorus. There is no third alternative.

But even in one element – dialogue – of one of these alternatives, diplomacy – there are two alternatives! Dialogue after the preconditions you have laid down are fulfilled. Or dialogue irrespective of whether what you said were preconditions are fulfilled or not. To get the answer to the question whether the choice is only the binary one that the PM posits –“diplomacy or war” – consider two questions:

• How is it that Pakistan has been able to use a third option against us for 30 years? The option, namely, to inflict, and go on inflicting violence on us, but always do so at a level below the threshold that would trigger a full-scale war?

• How is it that Dawood Ibrahim is able to live in style in Karachi and go on orchestrating operations against India? How is it that Paresh Barua and other leaders of ULFA are able to hide in plain sight in Dacca and go on killing people in Assam?

The answer is obvious: Pakistan has built the requisite capacities, and we have not. After every assault, therefore, we are left in the same quandary: “Either diplomacy or war.” And “diplomacy” here means just going from one capital to the next requesting others to do our work for us.

But things obviously don’t stop there. There is the further lemma: “And as no sane person wants to go to war, the only way is dialogue.” And then the lemma after that: “As Pakistan has shown that it will not fulfill the pledge it had made of not allowing the territory under its control to be used for terrorism against India, there is no alternative to giving up the precondition…”

And so we recommence dialogue – confident that the next assault will make us forget the last one.


In the wake of the attacks in Mumbai, the Prime Minister and others in Government laid down two conditions for the resumption of talks and the “peace process”: that Pakistan must bring to book the ones who had planned, controlled and directed the operations from Pakistan; second, that it must dismantle the infrastructure and groups that it had built up for terrorist assaults against India.

These two conditions were reiterated again and again in the months that followed. S.M. Krishna emphasized them as the new Parliament commenced. I said and wrote then that the Government would be compelled to abandon these conditions and resume the so-called dialogue without any conditions whatsoever.

That required no astrology! The reason was simplicity itself. Americans are desperate to get out of Afghanistan. To do so while retaining the pretext that they have accomplished their objectives, they have to be able to claim that they have restored “normalcy”. For that they are dependent on Pakistan. They will, therefore, have to do Pakistan’s bidding. And that bidding will be, “Get us concessions from India.” They will, therefore, force the Government to make concessions. And the modality for that has to be resumption of “dialogue”.

The Government would have to do all this, I said, as it has become perilously dependent on the US.

How much more “composite”?

That is exactly what has happened. The Prime Minister has had a meeting with the Pakistani President. He has had a two-hour meeting with the Pakistani Prime Minister. As The Hindu has reported, and as the Prime Minister has subsequently acknowledged, the head of the ISI, Ahmed Shuja Pasha, has met Military Attaches in our embassy in Islamabad. There have been meetings at other levels – the “formal Track-II”, so to say. In the Sharm-el-Sheikh Joint Statement the roadmap for further talks has been set out: Foreign Secretaries will meet “as often as necessary,” the Foreign Ministers will meet during the forthcoming UN General Assembly session – which, incidentally, begins in just three weeks.

And the talks that have already started cover everything. The Joint Statement says that the two Prime Ministers “considered the entire gamut of bilateral relations…” Not just that. Our PM has pledged that “India was ready to discuss all issues with Pakistan, including all outstanding issues” – the last two words being a euphemism for Kashmir.

The Government makes out that the “composite dialogue” shall actually be kept in abeyance till, as the PM put it in the Lok Sabha, “Pakistan fulfils, in letter and spirit, its commitment not to allow its territory to be used in any manner for terrorist activities against India.” Yet, as we have seen, the talks are taking place. The roadmap for further talks has been set out. The agenda is to cover everything.

A vital substitution

Several other aspects in regard to this sleight of words should be noted. Twice in his statement in the Lok Sabha, the Prime Minister; and then on the 31st July, S.M. Krishna in the Rajya Sabha laid down as the condition that “Pakistan fulfill, in letter and spirit, its commitment not to allow its territory to be used in any manner for terrorist activities against India.” Ostensibly this is the commitment that it had made in the Joint Declaration of Mr. Atal Behari Vajpayee and President Musharraf in February 2004.

Do you notice the change the PM and Krishna have made? In the Vajpayee-Musharraf Declaration the words had been carefully chosen: Pakistan shall not allow the territory “under its control” to be used for terrorist attacks against India – that meant the territory of Pakistan and Pakistan Occupied Kashmir. Replacing “territory under its control” by “its territory”, as Manmohan Singh and Krishna have begun doing, means either of two things: either that we now recognize POK as Pakistani territory, something that the Vajpayee-Musharraf Declaration specifically did not do; or that Pakistan does not have to do anything in regard to groups and infrastructure that it has created in POK and is using against India.

Another bit of bad drafting?

Furthermore, as “all issues, including outstanding issues” are on the table, has Parliament been told; have even the leaders of other political parties been taken into confidence; I dare ask, have other members of even the Cabinet Committee on Security been taken into confidence about the contours of the “solution” to Kashmir that the Government is prepared to arrive at with Pakistan?

Apart from the intrinsic importance of the issue of Kashmir, there are two reasons why the question is important. First, as we saw in the Nuclear Deal, and as we have now seen in the abandoning of preconditions to which the Prime Minister had committed himself and his Government, Manmohan Singh’s stratagem is to present everyone with a fait accompli. Second, the Resolution that the Parliament passed unanimously on Kashmir and which stands unaltered to this day is that the only unfinished business in regard to Kashmir is for India to get back the portion illegally occupied by Pakistan. Does the Government stand by that Resolution or not?

Foolhardiness to foolishness

Foolhardiness crosses all limits in two subsequent clauses of the Joint Statement. First, “Both Prime Ministers recognized that dialogue is the only way forward. Action on terrorism should not be linked to the composite dialogue process and these should not be bracketed” – an expression that gives, to use the expression much favoured by the Prime Minister, a clean waiver to Pakistan from the commitment it had undertaken in the Vajpayee-Musharraf Joint Declaration.

Nor can this be put to bad drafting. For it faithfully reinforces what Manmohan Singh had agreed to in the statement he signed with Musharraf in April 2005. The peace process is “irreversible”, the two proclaimed. Further, the two “pledged that they would not allow terrorism to impede the peace process.” What was the result? Musharraf’s Army and ISI continued to execute their murderous operations against India; and the onus to keep these from impeding the peace process fell on India! The consequence of the new Statement will be exactly that.

The next provision raises foolhardiness to foolishness: “Both leaders agreed that the two countries will share real time, credible and actionable information on any future terrorist threats.” Imagine this pledge had been signed earlier. The equivalent of Zaradari and Gilani in Pakistan receive information that the Indian Embassy in Kabul is going to be blown up. You think they will pass the information to India? Remember that even the friendly American agencies were constrained to say that the ISI had planned the assault. Or look at it the other way: we get to know that terrorists have captured Kuber, and are moving in to attack Taj, the Railway Station, Oberoi in Mumbai; should we give that information to the Pakistani Government so that its agencies and the handlers may alert the terrorists?

Will we never learn? In July 2006, there were a series of blasts in trains across Mumbai. Two hundred were killed. What was the creative response of our Government? Within two months, in another act of faith, it set up a “Joint Mechanism” with Pakistan for fighting terror! This was presented as the great breakthrough, the result of out-of-the-box thinking – “For the first time Pakistan has agreed to cooperate in curbing terrorism. No earlier Government has been able get Pakistan to do this.” If you count only the major strikes by Islamic groups and only from six months after the Mechanism was formed, giving it time to get functional, so to say, and excluding all the strikes in J&K and the entire Northeast, you bump into the explosions on 19 February 2007 near Diwana in Haryana: 68 killed; in Hyderabad on 18 May 2007: 11 killed; in Hyderabad again on 25 August: 44 killed; in Ajmer on 11 October: 3 killed; near simultaneous blasts in Varanasi, Faizabad, Lucknow: 15 killed; in Rampur on 1 January 2008: 8 killed; 8 blasts in Jaipur on 13 May 2008: 80 killed; 8 blasts in Bangalore on 25 July 2008; 17 blasts in Ahmedabad on 26 July 2008: 53 killed; 5 blasts across Delhi on 13 September, and again on 27 September 2008: 27 killed; 26 to 29 November 2008: assaults at multiple locations in Mumbai: 166 killed. In between, there was the attack on the Indian Embassy in Kabul in July 2008. And, of course, the attacks across Kashmir, and the Northeast… [For an authentic, regularly updated enumeration, see the outstanding South Asia Terrorism Portal,]

And all through the Joint Mechanism was holding meetings. Of course now, it will not just hold meetings. The Prime Ministers have pledged that it will also pass on or be furnished “real time, credible and actionable information”!

Narrowing even the single condition

That enumeration is a cruel reminder of another facet of our collective psychology: convenient amnesia. We allow, in fact, we almost use every assault to erase from our minds the memory of previous assaults. Of no one is this truer than of our governments. In the Joint Statement that our Prime Minister has signed, the demand that Pakistan dismantle and destroy the infrastructure and groups which it has set up to attack India, of course, finds no mention. But nor does any assault except the attack on 26/11 in Mumbai. The Indian demand has now been reduced to the minimum – that is, that Pakistan bring the organizers and directors of that attack to book.

And notice what the Pakistani Prime Minister has pledged to do even in regard to this minimal demand. In the Joint Statement we are told, “Prime Minister Singh reiterated the need to bring the perpetrators of the Mumbai attack to justice. Prime Minister Gilani assured that Pakistani will do everything in its power in this regard.” And now see how things work out to the convenience of the perpetrators and organisers. Under pressure from countries across the world, Pakistan put the head of the LeT/JuD, Hafeez Sayeed, under house arrest. In the judgement which the Lahore High Court delivered on 6 June 2009, the High Court released Hafeez Sayeed even from the minor inconvenience of remaining in his own house, recording that not a single document had been brought on record that the Dawa or Sayeed or his associates were involved in the Mumbai incident. It also recorded that no evidence had been adduced to establish that Sayeed or any of his associates had any links with Al Qaeda or any other terrorist movement. Indeed, the court went on to say that “the security and anti-terrorism laws of Pakistan are silent on Al Qaeda being a terrorist organisation.” When the case came up before the Pakistan Supreme Court, the position was no different. The oral remarks that fell from the Chief Justice were along the same lines. Sayeed has, therefore, been set free even from having to remain in his own house.

How very convenient! To make a show of doing something, you ask the man to stay in his house. At the hearings, you produce no evidence. The Court frees the man even from that minor inconvenience. And you claim that you have done everything you had pledged to do. Recall that the Pakistan Prime Minister has pledged Pakistan to do “everything in its power in this regard.” Surely, now the Pakistani authorities can say, “What can we do? Our courts have set the man free. Doing anything more about him or his associates is not in our power.”

In fact, what more evidence is required for proceeding against a person like Hafeez Sayeed or Sallauddin who operates to this day out of Muzzafarabad in POK? Their speeches are available on tapes by the hundreds. The literature recording their hate-filled words and the murderous declarations of their organisations against India and Indians are available in piles and piles of publications. But, to the convenience of all concerned, the court insists on “specific evidence”; the Government produces none; the court sets the man free to work his evil. The commitment enshrined in the Joint Declaration is fulfilled!

The perpetrator as Judge

Nor is that the end of this predictable tale. The Joint Statement goes on to record, “He [ the Prime Minister of Pakistan] said that Pakistan had provided an updated status dossier on the investigations of the Mumbai attacks and had sought additional information/evidence. Prime Minister Singh said that the dossier is being reviewed.” That is exactly what I had warned would happen. Soon after the Mumbai carnage, the Government announced that it would give detailed evidence and information to Pakistan. At that very time, I warned of the consequence of doing so: you will be installing Pakistan on the seat of the Judge; the authorities there, the controllers of those authorities – the very ones who would have sanctioned and planned these attacks – will now be pronouncing on whether the evidence you have given them is sufficient and credible or not. Even the Home Minister, P. Chidambram, has since been compelled to say that furnishing evidence to Pakistan has become an endless exercise – they just keep asking for more. As The Indian Express reported the other day, now Pakistan has asked for a sample of the “pink foam” taken on board MV Kuber; a statement from the Indian magistrate who recorded the confessional statement of Kasab; the testimony of experts who conducted the forensic examination of the GPS device; the testimony of experts that establishes that the terrorists were in touch with handlers in Pakistan; the interrogation reports of others who were first arrested, and so on. As for what we will do now, the Joint Statement records our Prime Minister assuring the PM of Pakistan, “the dossier is being reviewed”!

But through this dossier Pakistan has admitted that persons of and from Pakistan have been responsible for terrorist attacks on India, the PM says. This is the first time that Pakistan has made such an admission. The NDA Government was never able to get the Pakistan Government to admit as much… With Kasab in our hands, with his having made a detailed confession, admitting to the role of Pakistanis is the least that the Pakistan Government could have done.

I become the cause!

Then there is the howler regarding “Baluchistan and other areas.” Apropos of nothing, the Joint Statement records, “Prime Minister Gilani mentioned that Pakistani has some information on threats in Baluchistan and other areas.”

Pressed to put up some sort of defence, Pranab Mukherjee told the Lok Sabha that this was just the unilateral view of the Pakistan Government. Is a Joint Statement of two Prime Ministers the place in which one of them records his unilateral assessment of some internal problem that is on his mind? And just see what the Prime Minister of Pakistan said immediately after the Sharm El Sheikh Statement was put out: “The Joint Statement underlines our concerns over India’s interference in Baluchistan and other areas of Pakistan.” The Interior Minister of Pakistan, the Chief of Staff of the Pakistan Army have all been asserting that India is behind the troubles, and not just in Baluchistan. Pakistan has blamed the troubles in Swat, the explosions at the Police Academy in Lahore, even the attack on the Sri Lankan cricketers on India. And here is our Prime Minister signing a Joint Statement incorporating this “unilateral view”.

The Prime Minister told the Lok Sabha that he had categorically told the Prime Minister of Pakistan that India had nothing to do with the troubles in Baluchistan, etc. As that was the case, what was the difficulty in adding one sentence after that “unilateral view” of the Pakistan Prime Minister? Why could just a few words not have been added to record, “In response, the Prime Minister of India said that India had nothing to do with the troubles in Baluchistan or any other areas of Pakistan”?

But the Government and its backers were not done. In both the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha, they invoked me to explain the reference to “Baluchistan and other areas” in the Joint Statement! Had I not said in Parliament, they demanded, had I not written that Pakistan will desist only when we acquire the capacity to do a Kashmir to Pakistan in Pakistan? Had I not said that Pakistan itself was presenting us opportunities in Baluchistan, Baltistan, POK, etc.? Had I not said, they asked, “Not an eye for an eye, not a tooth for a tooth. For an eye, both eyes. For a tooth, the whole jaw”? How can you now object to the reference to Baluchistan in the Statement? they demanded.

What importance these spokesmen confer on me! That two Prime Ministers should be moved to make a reference to matters just because of what I had said. I might as well say all that again. After all, that is exactly the view I hold. And may be, by my saying it again, in the next Joint Statement they will refer to me by name!!

Faithful drafting

To attribute all these things to “bad drafting” is worse than disingenuous. No official, certainly not a Foreign Secretary who has served the country with great distinction in the most delicate assignments for decades, would have slipped up on a document as important as a Joint Statement of two Prime Ministers. Quite obviously, someone whose command he could not disregard would have told him to agree to the words which we now find in the Joint Statement.

Moreover, the words faithfully reflect the convictions on which the Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, has been proceeding all these years. When the Joint Statement puts the victim of Pakistan’s terrorism – that is, India – at par with the perpetrator of that terrorism – that is, Pakistan – it does so in furtherance of his oft-expressed view that Pakistan is a victim of terrorism. When this Joint Statement records, “Both Prime Ministers recognized that dialogue is the only way forward. Action on terrorism should not be linked to the composite dialogue process and these should not be bracketed,” the Statement does no more than once again reaffirm what Dr. Manmohan Singh pledged in the statement he signed with President Musharraf in April 2005, namely that the two of them “would not allow terrorism to impede the peace process.”


But red herrings are the well-practiced device. The Government has signed the End Use Monitoring Agreement with the US. It maintains, with the same disingenuousness, that, in fact, the Agreement precludes the United States from unilateral inspections of equipment it supplies – that the venue and timing of the inspections shall be determined by India. This is how the Prime Minister put it in the Lok Sabha: “There is no provision – I repeat, there is no provision – for any unilateral action by the United States side with regard to inspection or related matters. India has the sovereign right to jointly decide, including through joint consultations, the verification procedure. Any verification has to follow a request; it has to be on a mutually-acceptable date and at a mutually acceptable venue. There is no provision for on-site inspections or granting of access to any military site or sensitive areas.”

The US supplies F-16 fighters. What will we do? Bring them for display for display and inspection to the India Gate? The US supplies some optical devices for our Air Force’s aircraft. What will we do? Take them out of the aircraft for them to be inspected at some civilian venue?

The fact is that American officials – Condoleezza Rice, Nicholas Burns, and others – had repeatedly assured the US Congress that the Administration would ensure, what they called fall-back safeguards. That is, if the US was not satisfied with the inspections that were carried out by the IAEA, the agreements to be signed with India would ensure that India would give access to US inspectors to inspect the equipment and materials which had come from the US. And the 123 Agreement specifically provided for this – all that it did was to replace the word “inspectors” by the word “experts”. India pledged under that Agreement to “facilitate” the visits of those “experts”.

The End Use Monitoring Agreement merely operationalizes that pledge, and enlarges it to cover all sensitive supplies from the US. That is how the US Assistant Secretary of State, Philip Crawley said that this new Agreement is part of the understandings arrived at during the negotiations of the Nuclear Deal. But we are to swallow, “mutually acceptable date and venue.”

The device is even more evident in regard to the Prime Minister’s new observation in regard to the transfer of enrichment and reprocessing technologies. Throughout the discussions on the Nuclear Deal, when persons like me read out specific provisions of the 1954 US Act, of the Hyde Act, Government spokesman maintained, “But those are laws of the US. We are not bound by them.” The question was: “Is the US Government bound by them? Will US companies that will be exporting materials and reactors and technologies to India be bound by them?”

Persons like me read out the specific provisions of US laws as well as the repeated affirmations of President Bush, Condoleezza Rice and others in which they pledged that India would not be given the processing and enrichment technologies, and that the US Government would work with other members of the NSG to ensure that they also would not make such technologies available to India. But, “No, we are not bound by US laws or what US officials say… ‘Full” means full…”

And now see what the Prime Minister has slipped in. Responding to the concerns which members had expressed about restrictions that seem likely on transfer of enrichment and reprocessing technologies to India, the Prime Minister told the Lok Sabha:

“…our Government is fully committed to the achievement of full international civil nuclear co-operation. Consistent with this objective in September last year, India has secured a clean, and I repeat we secured a clean exemption from the Nuclear Suppliers Group, one that was India specific. At that time also, there were attempts to make a distinction but we got a clean exemption which means that the Nuclear Suppliers Group consisting of 45 countries has agreed to transfer all technologies which are consistent with their national law.”

Did you notice the last seven words -- “which are consistent with their national law”? But, exactly as persons like me had pointed out at the time, the US laws – the 1954 Act, the Hyde Act, the new Act passed in October 2008 approving the 123 Agreement – prohibit the US from transferring such technologies and they bind the US Government to work with other members of the Nuclear Suppliers Group to ensure that they also refrain from transferring such technologies.

That is the device: do what you will; present everyone with a fait accompli; and slip in a few words every now and then to establish that you have done nothing which you have not already said you would do!

Just the trailer

Each step is leading to the next one. The Joint Statement which the Prime Minister has signed with the Prime Minister of Pakistan and the disastrous concessions which he has made through it, are not a case of bad drafting. They are what the conductor – the US – finds convenient. We should, therefore, open our eyes to what is coming: pressures to withdraw over troops from Siachin; pressures to grant “autonomy” to Kashmir… All this simply because the US, dependent as it is on Pakistan today, has, to get Pakistan to curb the terrorists along its Afghan border, to deliver to Pakistan what the latter has not been will to get on its own.

Open your eyes now. No use wailing after the deeds are done.

New beginnings?

Source: indian Express
Monday , Jun 15, 2009 at 1635 hrs Special to Indian Express

New Delhi:
Of course, I would have liked the election results to have been the other way round. [1] But, of the remaining alternatives, what the electorate has handed down is the best one. While many had been celebrating the trend towards coalitions – “The real India is coming into its own… India’s vibrant diversity is asserting itself…” – I had been alarmed by the descent towards more and more fractured results; leading to more and more splintered legislatures; leading to more and more unprincipled and weaker and weaker “coalitions” – in which each partner is a law unto itself, weaker and weaker coalitions; not just coalitions with more and more parties as members, but coalitions with weaker and weaker cores. In the event, that perilous trend has been stemmed.

And the team that has taken office this time is more reassuring. The principal ministers are persons of substantial experience; none of them has the sort of taint that marred several ministers in the first Manmohan Singh Government; equally important, the principal ministers are ones who are less liable to ignite the acrimony that characterized the last five years.

As a result, the Government will have none of the alibis it relied on last time – the Communists, the allies. And the Opposition will have to work much harder to discharge its proper role. Indeed, for all parties, there are the same two lessons.
• Inside Parliament, each should seek to engage others in a competition for advancing the better ideas and proposals. No one will gain merely by shouting about problems – people know the problems that afflict them; after all, they live them. They will have to be convinced that this side rather than the other has the better solutions, that it has worked out the solutions in detail, that it holds better promise of implementing the solutions rather than its rivals.
• Outside Parliament, the singular course for each party is that wherever whoever is in office should provide exemplary governance.

All this is to the good, and it is imperative that we act accordingly. We must remember that, yes, the country has enormous potential – and in the last ten years, we have had but a glimpse of what can be achieved; but, it is just as true that, unless we mend our ways, unless we improve our governance and discourse, the country can get stuck in that well-documented pit, the middle-income trap: Brazil Mexico, Thailand, Philippines and so many other countries also registered spurts of high growth rates, only to get stuck before attaining their full potential. In a word, all sides have been afforded an unexpected opportunity to do right by the country; they must seize it, inside Parliament as much as outside.

Nor is the way ahead easy and smooth. In many respects, the situation facing the country is far more complex, indeed treacherous than is evident from the Address that the President has read out on behalf of Government.

I shall begin with the challenges the country faces in foreign policy and defence; turn briefly to the economy and Reforms; and conclude by drawing attention to the most important respect in which the legacy of the last five years has to be reversed, a matter that finds no mention at all in the Address of the President.

I begin with paragraphs 41 to 44 that deal with foreign policy.

Precariously dependent
The paragraphs contain all the familiar homilies:

“My Government’s foreign policy will continue to pursue India’s enlightened national interest, maintaining the strategic autonomy and independent decision-making that has been its hallmark. India has vital interest in the stability and prosperity of its neighbours. The highest priority will be accorded to working with our friends in SAARC… My Government will seek to reshape our relationship with Pakistan depending on the sincerity of Pakistan’s actions to confront groups who launch terrorist attacks against India from its territory… The momentum of improvement of our relations with the major powers will be maintained. The transformation of our partnership with the United States will be taken forward. Our strategic partnership with Russia has grown over the years, and we will seek to further consolidate it… With countries of Europe and Japan my Government will continue the sustained diplomatic efforts… The multifaceted partnership with China will be expanded… My Government will continue to work with other developing nations. It will contribute to all efforts at peace in West Asia… The traditionally close ties with countries in the Gulf will be strengthened. The process of engagement with Africa… will be further expanded. The multi-dimensional partnerships with countries in South-East Asia and the Pacific as well as Central Asia and the Latin American region will be consolidated…” And so on.

Such phrases may be customary; they may even be useful if they are intended to hide what is actually intended; but when, as in this case, they represent the farthest-reaches of cerebration, they are hardly reassuring.

When the House discussed the assault in Mumbai, and its aftermath, I had warned, first, do not put Pakistan in the position of becoming the judge by offering to provide evidence; second, do not rush to Mummy, that is the US. Unfortunately, these are the two things that the Government did, apart of course from planting stories in the media – legitimizing whatever it had done as well as whatever it was not able to do.

As a result, we are today in the same position vis-à-vis Pakistan as we have been for the last five years. In addition, we have become precariously dependent on the United States for dealing with Pakistan as well as China. “Why does the US not see that what it is doing to arm and assist Pakistan will only be used against India?” we ask. “Why does the US not see that we are the ones who can be made to stand-up to China?” we ask.

We must remember two points about the position of the US today:
• First, it is dependent on Pakistan.
• Second, it is dependent on China.

The US is dependent on Pakistan so that it may – somehow, anyhow – continue the fight which it has started in the region – till the time it can find an honourable exit. It is dependent on China to finance the bailout packages that are necessary to save its economy and financial system today: and remember, in any case, the US cannot afford to forget, that China has thrice shaken the tree in the last six months. Unfortunately, we continue to fool ourselves that, in spite of these realities, the US will look after our interests vis-à-vis Pakistan, our interests vis-à-vis China.

Three developments are imminent, and the House should be alert to them.

First, the steps which were not just implicit, but explicit in the Nuclear Deal will now commence. In the coming months the country will be under pressure to sign on a slew of follow-up agreements which will freeze the power imbalances of today:
• The NPT review is scheduled for 2010, and there will be extreme pressure on India to sign up – without being recognized as a Nuclear Weapon State;
• There will be similar pressure to sign the CTBT – without there being in place an international mechanism of verification;
• And then to sign the Fissile Material Control Treaty or, if the Treaty is long delayed, to in effect declare adherence to the walls that are going to be prescribed in it – remember that during the Nuclear Deal negotiations, and under the Hyde Act India was told that it must declare a cut-off date for producing fissile material even before the FMCT comes into force. Here also, we will be under pressure to abandon the stand we have hitherto taken: namely, that there must be an internationally controlled, and not a nationally controlled verification mechanism.

The slightest reflection will show that the stance that the verification mechanism must be an international one and not one in the control of one or two countries that have the technology for verification as of now is a substantive and not a semantic one. Today the US does have the ability to verify. But can one rely on it to be even-handed? It has been well-documented, after all, how the US agencies knew for years about the bazaar that A.Q. Khan had set up: they chose to do nothing; indeed, they squashed researchers who had nailed the evidence. Hence, when verification is left to mechanisms that are under the control of – the very few – countries that today have the requisite technical capacity, they will proceed by their convenience.
• We will also be told to sign the PSI – recall that the PM had himself said that India has reservations about this in its present form.
• And a much tighter Additional Protocol of the IAEA is also in the works.

Second, we will be under pressure to resume the so-called peace process with Pakistan, without insisting on the condition that we have hitherto advanced – a condition that was stated again just day before yesterday by the Foreign Minister, S.M. Krishna – namely, that we shall not resume the peace talks with Pakistan till it takes effective action against those who were behind the Mumbai attack, and till it demonstrably dismantles the terrorist infrastructure that has been set up for assaults on India. The peace process, so called, resumed, pressure will build to make concessions to Pakistan. Last time, we barely escaped by the skin of our teeth being made to withdraw our forces from Siachin, and that too just at the penultimate moment. By now, the US has concluded that
• It is stuck in Afghanistan;
• For it to get out with some shred of honour intact, Pakistan is central;
• In Pakistan, the Army and ISI central;
• Hence, the US just has to make available what the Pakistan Army and ISI want.

And as the Army of Pakistan and the ISI want the arms that they can eventually use against India, such arms and aircraft, etc. just have got to be given. As the Army of Pakistan and the ISI will not be placated till concessions – in regard to Siachin today, Kashmir tomorrow – are wrested from India, well, they just have to be wrested.

Just recall the sequence that has transpired in regard to Pakistan’s nuclear weapons in the last two weeks. The New York Times published a report saying that American sources had evidence that Pakistan was rapidly increasing its nuclear weapons production programme. In the hearing on May 14, 2009 of the US Senate Committee on Armed Services, Senator Webb asked the Secretary of Defence, Robert Gates, and the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, “I have [seen] written reports in the general news area, but from reputable commentators, that Pakistan is at the moment increasing its nuclear programme, that it may be actually adding on to weapons systems and warheads. Do you have any evidence of that?”

Admiral Mullen replied in one, unambiguous word: “Yes.”

Senator Webb remarked, “That strikes me as something that we should be approaching with enormous concern. We are – we are spending a lot of time talking about the potential that Iran might have nuclear weapons capability, and this is a regime [the regime in Pakistan] that is far less stable and that should be a part of our debate. Do you have any idea of the percentage of the $ 12 billion, since 2001, that has gone toward – to Pakistan that has ended up with their security interest toward India or other non-terrorist or Taliban related threats?”

Secretary Gates and Admiral Mullen just waffled in response.

Four days later, on May 18, 2009 the subject was taken up repeatedly at the briefing given by the spokesman of the State Department, Ian Kelly. He was repeatedly pressed on this question about Pakistan expanding its nuclear arsenal and was asked, again and again, whether the US would make its aid contingent on Pakistan desisting from such expansion. Again and again, and yet again, Kelly refused to answer the question. In fact, he went further and said that the US shall not link the two.

Reflect too on the sudden somersault of the Pakistan Army in regard to the Taliban. One reason would, of course, be that by taking over Swat and advancing into Buner, the Taliban had reached within 60 miles of Islamabad. The second reason could well be that the US, having just orchestrated announcement of massive aid from the Friends of Pakistan club, may have conveyed to the rulers there that the aid would be held back unless they went hard against the Taliban. These would be substantial reasons. But I would think they would be insufficient, and would surmise that, in addition, the US would have assured Pakistan, “You go after the Taliban, and we will get India to make concessions on Siachin and Kashmir.”

Third, we must expect greater and more persistent interference by the US in our decisions even in regard to our own security. You will recall the great outrage and helplessness and consternation throughout the country in the wake of the attacks on Mumbai: outrage at the attacks and consternation at the fact that the Government of India did nothing and was able to do nothing to those who were behind the perpetrators.

One explanation for the Government merely going through the motions of response was what I had pointed out at the time – namely, that we are a country without options, and that is so because we have just not built up the capacity for the only thing that would work – namely, the capacity to “do a Kashmir” to Pakistan in Pakistan.

But there is another explanation also and this you will glean once you recall the testimony that was given by the Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, herself recently. In her remarks on April 23, 2009, before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programmes, while discussing the attacks in Mumbai she said

“We worked very hard, as did the prior Administration, to prevent India from reacting. But we know that the insurgents and al Qaeda and their syndicate partners are pretty smart. They are not going to seize their attacks, inside India, because they are looking for exactly the kind of reaction that we all hope to prevent.

“So we do have a lot of work to do, with the Indian government, to make sure that they continue to exercise the kind of restraint they showed after Mumbai…”

She assured the Subcommittee that these efforts were continuing. Referring to the meeting that President Obama and PM Manmohan Singh had in London on the sidelines of the G-20 meeting, she told the Subcommittee:

“There have been a number of high-level discussions, including between the US President and the Indian Prime Minister on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in London, ‘raising the issue of how India can do more to tamp down any reaction on any front, like Mumbai could have provoked’.”

It is pointless blaming the Americans for any one of the three preceding dangers. What we have to remember is that:
• Every country, including the US, will act in its own national interest.
• It will act in its own national interest as that interest is perceived by a handful.
• It will act in its own national interest as that interest is perceived by a handful at that moment.

Today Saddam Hussein is good as a counter to Iran, and so he must be financed, encouraged, armed; tomorrow he is the Devil. Today the Taliban are the phalanx of Freedom against the Soviet Union, and so they must be financed, trained, fired up, organized, armed; tomorrow they are the soldiers of the Devil, and so must be exterminated.

In a word, we must develop close relations with a series of countries, including the United States. But first and foremost we must build up our own “Comprehensive National Strength.” Second, we must stare facts in the face. In particular,
• We must look not at what some sundry ruler of Pakistan says – remember Musharraf when he visited Delhi, “Main naya dil leke aayaa hun,” and he continued doing exactly what he had been doing through his puraanaa dil; we must look at the nature of the Pakistani State and society – is there any evidence that that is changing?
• Similarly, we must look at China’s aim; the capacity it is acquiring; we must look at what it is actually doing, and not construct yet again a world of make-believe, the sort of fairy-land which landed us in a ditch in 1962.
• And, third, we must look at the real interests of the US in this region, the current perceptions, and the current compulsions of the United States in regard to these before we outsource our national interests and security to it.

In a word, much more is required than the customary homilies that are set out in the paragraphs on foreign policy in the President’s Address.

Defence policies

Unfortunately, the same is true of paragraph 12 that deals with Defence.

The paragraph is worth reading as an illustration for what passes these days as statement of policy, and that too in regard to the defence of the country:

“Our Armed Forces are the nation’s pride, a symbol of our values of sacrifice, valour and the spirit of national integration. India’s defence forces stand committed to the task of defending the territorial integrity of the country. They will be fully enabled with modern technology to repel any threat from land, sea or air. To enhance combat efficiency as also to address the requirements of modern day warfare, a number of steps are underway. The welfare of ex-servicemen will continue to be accorded high priority. The Committee headed by the Cabinet Secretary, to look into the issue of One Rank One Pension has already commenced its work and expects to complete it by the end of June 2009.”

Both in regard to internal security as well as fortifying ourselves against external aggression, we face a dire situation. I do hope that at some stage the House will get the opportunity to discuss the entire gamut of issues connected with Defence. For the moment I will confine myself to four issues.

First, acquisitions as well as the development of new weapons systems have certainly fallen behind: in rocketry, for instance, we are behind even Pakistan, to say nothing of China. This is often blamed on the fact that, from time to time, allegations erupt against acquisitions that have been made and inquiries are launched. It is said that these allegations and inquiries are what lead officers to postpone decisions. This is far from being the case.

The fact is that two other features, features that are the complete opposite of what this charge entails, are what cause decisions to be shirked.
• First, inquiries drag on.
• Second, the guilty are never punished sufficiently and conspicuously enough.

This is why the honest officer concludes, “Why not just pass the file around, till the time I transit to my next posting?”

Hence, the way forward is:
• Expedite inquiries, make sure that they are concluded with lightning swiftness.
• Second, make sure that exemplary punishment is meted out to those who are guilty; and have that punishment echo in every nook and corner of the country.
• Third, demonstrate by your actions that you will stand by the honest officer, even if he makes a genuine mistake.

The second point relates to civil-military relations. We have never, but never had a situation of the kind that erupted in the last few months in which the senior-most officers of the Armed Forces, officers and men who have staked their lives in defence of the country, have felt compelled to take to the streets, to return their medals to the President.

The question here is not just of one-rank one-pension, as someone reading paragraph 12 would seem to conclude. The entire gamut of recommendations that were made by the Sixth Pay Commission, and which were adopted by the Government, have caused great disquiet among the Armed Forces. There is a definite feeling that bureaucrats who assisted the Commission were able to get their way in the interest of their services, in particular that they were able to reinforce the superior status of their services vis-à-vis the Armed Forces. This, in spite of the fact that our Army today suffers from a crippling shortage of officers. By now that deficit exceeds 25,000 officers. And the deficit affects field formations the most – that is one reason for the sharp increase in incidents of breakdown among jawans. All this is obvious to even the casual observer. It must have been obvious to the Pay Commission. It is obviously within the knowledge of the Defence Ministry. Yet, the pay revisions that have been decreed are certain to exacerbate the problem.

The second aspect of this question of civil-military relations is the balance between civilians, in particular civil servants in the Ministry of Defence, and the Armed Forces in the formulation of defence policy, defense strategy, and, therefore, to take one example, the planning, acquisition and development of weapons systems. The Armed Forces were asked to prepare a National Strategy Paper in 2006. They worked hard at it, and finalized it before the end of the year. Does it not alarm us to learn that this paper has been lying on a civilian’s desk since January 2007? Are we not concerned when we find that no less a person than the former Chief of Army Staff, General Ved Malik, has felt compelled to refer to this fact in public? [2] More than pay and allowances, more than one-rank one-pension, it is this which the Armed Forces want – a greater participation in the assessment of threats to the country, and in the formulation of the proper response strategy.

The third deficiency which we have to make up is what has become evident time and time again during the last 10 years: inflicted by yet another assault, we come out as a country without options. That is so because, while we have acquired some types of capacity – for instance, of nuclear weapons; we have not acquired the capacity that a country that is committed to peace, requires: that is, the capacity to counter the entire spectrum of violence. For it is the enemy who shall select what kind of violence he shall unleash on the country. To give just one example which springs from the President’s Address, consider the last sentence of paragraph 9, the paragraph that deals with internal security: “and hence information and intelligence sharing on a real-time basis, would be made possible by the creation of a net-centric information command structure.”

We must assume that these words are not there just because they are fashionable. The net-centric information and command structure is necessary. But it is also obvious that as societies develop, they become more integrated, and, hence, by striking at just a few nodes, an enemy can paralyze them; for that very reason, net-centric information and command structures, while they extend the capabilities of forces, become more vulnerable. Since 1989 China has been, as the then President of China said, marshalling “an army of hackers”. Its strategic planners have declared time and again that they will acquire the capacity to strike at the acupuncture points of their enemies and thereby completely paralyze the societies within a few minutes: they are far into acquiring the wherewithal to disrupt air and rail traffic control systems, financial transactions, stock markets, communications and broadcasting services, and of course information and command structures of the Armed Forces – massively, simultaneously, instantly. Every other week, we learn of penetration by Chinese hackers, backed no doubt by the PLA and other agencies of China, into the computer, information and communication systems of countries as far apart as US, UK, Germany and others. And we have had warnings upon warnings, what with countries like Estonia and Georgia being completely paralysed for a month at a time through these very means. But in our case, our defences in this area remain weaker than rudimentary. In fact, I have watched with great dismay as the initiatives which were begun 7/8 years ago for putting security systems around our infrastructure, around our financial systems, around governmental information and communication structures, have all languished, indeed most have lapsed into neglect.

An illustration from an allied sector will also bring home how oblivious we are of security. Countries like the UK and the US have totally banned the adoption of communication systems – for instance routers and servers in Telecom and information technology systems – from potentially hostile countries – in particular, from China which has been proven to plant backdoors and triggers in such hardware and software. In India the very same companies have, in spite of the strenuous objections of intelligence agencies, been allowed to install the very same sort of equipment across the country.

And look at the asinine “arguments” on which these decisions have been rammed through. When the intelligence agencies pointed to the dangers that using Chinese telecom equipment would entail, the representative of the Department of Telecommunications, so as to meet their concerns, proposed that restrictions on using such equipment be confined to areas bordering China! How is handing China the ability to disrupt networks in Mumbai with its financial activity, or Nasik with its defence production facilities, or Pune with its airbase, or Bangalore with its IT hub be any less consequential than giving it that ability in Pithoragarh? How will the capacity to disrupt the power grid in the South be any less consequential than to disrupt it in the North? And can the disruption not be programmed to cascade across the system? Even a fool knows the answer. Representatives of the Department of Telecommunications too would have known it. The only “reason” on account of which they could have advanced such an absurd proposal must have been that they were directed to do so. And they prevailed!

In a word, much greater alertness is needed, and much greater work on net-centric affairs, and the rest, work across a much wider swathe than is indicated by that last sentence of paragraph 9.

For, there is the challenge of China – a challenge and a threat that is intensifying by the week:
• China has a definite view about its own place in the world and in Asia;
• It has an equally definite view about India: that it is a potential nuisance, that it is one of the claws of the crab, the US, which is trying to encircle China;
• And that, therefore, it must be kept busy in South Asia.

For this purpose, China has encircled India. Two further turns in this encirclement have been facilitated by the paralysis of the Government during the last three years:
• First, the paralysis in regard to the developments in Nepal, a paralysis which eventually culminated in the complete outsourcing India’s foreign policy to the CPI(M), gave China a wide opening to entrench as never before its influence in Nepal: this is the first time that China has acquired a firm position on the southern slopes of the Himalayas.
• Second, because of the nature of the last coalition, India’s policy in regard to developments in Sri Lanka also remained paralyzed: Pakistan stepped in with arms, China provided intelligence and even handed over persons of Tamil origin who were ferrying arms via the waters off northwestern Indonesia. The result is that Pakistan and China have acquired a great deal of goodwill among both, the people of Sri Lanka as well as the Government.

Nor is it just a matter of encirclement. The capacities that China is acquiring vis a vis, say, the US – the capacity, for instance, to disrupt its power grids, or to blind its satellites –will be no less effective against India. And look at what it does by the month:
• China continues to reiterate with ever-greater force its claims to Arunachal. Earlier this year, it blocked a loan from the Asian Development Bank because the proposed loan had a component – minuscule though it was – for a project in Arunachal.
• It has blocked every proposal for reform of the Security Council which might have secured a seat at the table for India.
• It has consistently put speed-breakers to slow the development of India’s relations with ASEAN.
• China has also used its enormous economic muscle to establish its influence among countries from Latin America to Central Asia to Africa to Southeast Asia. Ask yourselves: which of these countries will go by the preferences of China in regard to Security Council reform and which will go by our preferences?
• Even more ominous, it has systematically continued to intrude into Indian territory all across the border from Ladakh to Arunachal Pradesh. The Director General of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police had stated publicly that there had been close to 170 intrusions in 2007 alone. In 2008, the number of intrusions was even higher. The most reliable sources tell me that this year, and we are yet just at the beginning of June, there have been close to 80 incursions. Unfortunately, the Government continues to follow the suicidal policies of the late Fifties that culminated in the slap which was administered to us in 1962. To cite just one instance, in the first week of January 2009, Chinese armed personnel pushed back Indians from the SPANGUR GAP, very close to Chishul in Ladakh. Using the local language, they kept shouting, “You Indians get out, You Indians get out.” The area was being guarded by personnel of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police. The Chief Executive Councilor of the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Council as well as other officials rushed to the place. The ITBP officers told them, “We have no instructions to reverse what has happened.” Officials at all levels were told to hush up the matter. The result of such instances is that, in the last few years, in this area alone, we have lost another stretch of territory – 90 km long, 20 km wide – to China. The Chinese used to be 15-25 km away from the Line of Actual Control. They would come and go, as we would. But today they have advanced and now sit on the Line of Actual Control. And what is the response of our Government? Look the other way, and hope that no one else will notice either.

In a word, much more will be needed in regard to the defence of India than is evident from paragraph 12 of the Address.

I turn next to the paragraphs that deal with the economy.

The economy and Reforms
In spite of the fact that a “dream team” was said to have been in place during the last Government, Reforms remained at a standstill. Apologists of the Government blamed the Left. The fact is that its principal leaders were not prepared to stake anything for Reforms, and little can be accomplished – especially in regard to Reforms, which, after all, will necessarily dislocate some persons – if one is not prepared to stake something. And that difficulty, namely that there will be some resistance, continues today. This is what dampens hope in regard to the promises which have been made through surrogate microphones, for instance in the media and in industry – that, with the Left out of the way, this time round Reforms will be pushed swiftly and decisively.

For we should not forget that, because Reforms had been brought to a standstill, the momentum of growth had already begun to slow down – well before the international economic meltdown. By March 2008, to cite just one example, over 25 lakh jobs had already been lost in the textile sector. Several reforms, like the dismantling of the Administered Price Mechanism in the petroleum sector, were actually reversed. Similarly, several initiatives which were going to restore our competitiveness, had been brought to naught: when we met industrialists in October 2008, we were astonished to learn that for almost nine months there had been absolutely no disbursements from the Textile Modernization Fund.

It is never enough to execute one or two specific reforms. The momentum of Reforms has to be kept up. There are a host of reports waiting to be implemented: the report of Raghuram Rajan on the Financial Sector; of the Knowledge Commission on the entire system of higher and technical education.

Furthermore, as the tsunami of the international economic crisis began to reach our shores, the Government remained in denial. As a result, corrective measures were delayed too long. By now, as the Economic Advisory Council of the Prime Minister himself has stated, there is little fiscal headroom for stimulus packages; and most of the monetary policy instruments have already been deployed.

Therefore, the Government must
• Expedite the measures it intends.
• It must deploy the measures in time, it is better to risk being before time.
• The measures must be deployed, not by half-hearted incrementalism but as an avalanche, to overwhelm the problem that is emerging.

One thing necessary above all
The most important step that the Government can undertake, however, is not one reform or another, not this project rather than that, it is to implement the myriad schemes and projects that it already has in hand. To cite a single contrast, recall that we guarantee, by law, a rate of return of 16.5% on investment in mega power plants. Japan’s post office bank alone sits on deposits of around 2 trillion dollars, earning just 0.05 to 0.383 per cent interest. Yet they do not invest in our power plants – as they have little confidence that the plants will come up in time.

The point becomes obvious when we see that this Address is studded with the same desirables, the same hardy perennials that have featured in government proclamations without number.

Paragraph 35 of the Address proclaims, “This will require that all subsidies reach only the truly needy and poor sections of our society. A national consensus will be created on this issue and necessary policy changes implemented.” Reports after reports of successive governments have listed evidence that the subsidies are not reaching the needy, that food meant for them is being sold in black markets. Bibek Debroy recalls that in his first term, Dr. Manmohan Singh declared on twenty-four solemn occasions that the country must review the subsidy regime, and ensure that subsidies reach the intended beneficiaries. As for finance ministers, each time Chidambram takes on the portfolio, he has a paper prepared on subsidies – their incidence on the Exchequer, the leakages, the alternatives… He is soon reduced to pleading the need for a national consensus so that some improvement may be affected. He went through the sequence this time round also.

The exact same thing is true for Administrative Reforms. Once again, in the President’s Address we are treated to declarations of determination to carry these out. The Department of Personnel has just put out a CD on this subject: guess, how many task forces, Committees, Commissions have been set up to study the matter, and have produced detailed reports and road maps, and governments have vowed to implement the recommendations? Seventy three!

By now, these Commissions and Committees have been reduced to reiterating, I won’t say reproducing the recommendations that have been made by earlier Committees and Commissions. You just have to compare what the new Administrative Reforms Commission headed by Veerappa Moily has recommended on a slew of matters with what the Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution headed by Justice Venkatachalaiah had recommended on the same matters. [3]

The five proposals

So, expeditious implementation is the key. And this is where the President’s Address is particularly disappointing. When it comes to ensuring better implementation, the Address contains five proposals:
• “A Delivery Monitoring Unit in the Prime Minister’s Office to monitor flagship programmes and iconic projects and report on the status publicly.”
• “Suitably institutionalized quarterly reporting on flagship programmes as ‘Bharat Nirman Quarterly Reports’ where ministers would publicly report on progress through the media.”
• “Strengthening public accountability of flagship programmes by the creation of an Independent Evaluation Office at an arm’s distance from the Government catalyzed by the Planning Commission” - at an arm’s distance from the Government but catalyzed by the Government’s component and habitual legitimizer, the Planning Commission!
• “Establishing mechanisms for performance monitoring and performance evaluation in Government on a regular basis” – it isn’t quite clear whether the Address promises that the mechanisms will be established on a regular basis; or that they will be performing their monitoring and evaluation functions on a regular basis. If truth be told, the unvarying record of our governments is that such mechanisms are established on a regular basis!
• “Five Annual Reports to be presented by Government as Reports to the People on education, health, employment, environment and infrastructure to generate a national debate.”

Now, the website of the Planning Commission has an entire section on the Programme Evaluation Organization. The website tells us that the PEO “was established in October, 1952, as an independent organization, under the general guidance and direction of the Planning Commission…” This “independent organization” was merged with the Planning Commission in 1973. The website tells us that the PEO “undertakes the evaluation of selected programmes/ schemes under implementation,” that “the PEO is conducting external evaluation, independent of the administrative channels, through direct observations, sample surveys and social science research methods.” Compare each expression with what the President’s Address says the new office, etc. will do.

What happened to the PEO was exactly what JP Naik’s law forecasts: a problem erupts; we ignore it; the problem swells, we shut our eyes tighter; it explodes, we set up a Commission to recommend corrective steps; the Commission recommends that we set up an institution to deal with the problem; we set up the institution; five years later, the problem is still there and the institution has become a new problem!

Compare what the Address presents as if it were some novelty with what the 11th Plan said. “Mechanisms for this coordination, convergence & synergy at all levels have atrophied or are non-existent,” it noted, in particular that “the capacity of the PEO has suffered even though the need for evaluation of Plan programmes has grown…” As is its wont, the Commission made the predictable recommendation: “A committee with representations of both the Centre and the states would be set up to formulate a plan of action to improve the quality of public expenditure in key result areas and enable its public monitoring. This committee would have a timeframe of three months to give its report and would be part of the 11th Plan monitoring.” That was in November 2007.

Similarly, in budget after budget, Chidambaram emphasized that what is important is not just outlays but outcomes. In his Budget Speech of 2005/06 he put it this way: “At the same time I must caution that outlays do not necessarily mean outcomes. The people of the country are concerned with outcomes. The Prime Minister has repeatedly emphasized the need to improve the quality of implementation and enhance the efficiency and accountability of the delivery mechanism.” So, what did he propose? “During the course of the year, together with the Planning Commission, we shall put in place a mechanism to measure the development outcomes of all major programmes. We shall also ensure that programmes and schemes are not allowed to continue indefinitely from one Plan period to the next without an independent and in-depth evaluation…”

Accordingly, a new Central Plan Scheme, “Strengthening evaluation capacity in government,” was introduced in 2005/06. The Planning Commission’s website informs us that the outlays for this scheme to monitor schemes and programmes during the three subsequent years were pegged at Rs. 8.55 crore, Rs. 26 crore and Rs. 12 crore respectively. These amounts were sanctioned to the same, admittedly enfeebled PEO!

Chidambram repeated similar declarations in his subsequent budgets. The Prime Minister kept emphasizing the same point in speech after speech.

As little happened, in his Budget Speech for 2008/09, Chidambaram took decisive action:

“I think we do not pay enough attention to outcomes as we do to outlays; or to physical targets as we do to financial targets; or to quality as we do to quantity. Government, therefore, proposes to put in place a Central Plan Schemes Monitoring System (CPSMS) that will be implemented as a Plan Scheme of the Planning Commission. A comprehensive Decision Support System and Management Information System will also be established. The intended outcome is to generate and monitor scheme-wise and state-wise releases for about 1000 Central Plan and centrally sponsored schemes in 2008-09.”

Given the words that were fashionable at the time, he added,

“Government also intends to strengthen evaluation. Some ministries have started concurrent evaluation. This needs to be supplemented by independent evaluations conducted by research institutions. The Planning Commission will authorize such evaluations of the major schemes and complete the task by the time of the mid-term review of the 11th Plan.”

What will the new reports and mechanisms that the Address proposes accomplish that the schemes and mechanisms that were set up in the last four years could not?

As for the new proposals of setting up a Delivery Monitoring Mechanism in the PMO and an Independent Evaluation Office “catalyzed by the Planning Commission,” we seem to forget that
• A committee has already been functioning under no less than the Prime Minister himself to ensure the expeditious implementation of and to monitor the implementation of all major infrastructure projects.
• Similarly, as the projects under the National Highways Authority had come to a near standstill, an “independent evaluation” of their implementation was entrusted to the Planning Commission. The Prime Minister himself took a much-publicized review. Decisions were taken at the review. The result was that, while the prescribed period for awarding contracts had been laid down as five months, the NHAI, after the review, and the decisions taken at the review, has been taking 20 months to award the contracts.
• As power projects have been falling behind at a rate even greater than other infrastructure projects, yet another committee was set up – this one under the then Finance Minister, Chidambaram – to ensure that all bottlenecks were removed. The committee continued to function, the power projects continued to take longer and longer.

And yet, what the President’s Address promises is another “Delivery Monitoring Mechanism in the PMO”, another “Independent Evaluation Office catalyzed by the Planning Commission”!

As for the “institutionalized quarterly reporting”, and the five annual reports, they will be of assistance only to the extent to which the reporting is candid. If all that happens is what has been happening in the Action Taken Reports that follow commissions; if all that happens is what has been happening in the Action Taken booklet that is now being appended to budgets, no object will be fulfilled – people will not be better informed, officials will not be any more accountable, nor will implementation be nudged to become more expeditious. Recall what was said in those documents about drinking water, about power, about the Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Vidyuti Karan Yojana, and what the facts actually were. Inquire if a single person – official or minister – suffered – either for the shortfalls or for the suggestio falsi. The problem is that the same culture of insinuating the false, and suppressing the true, continues. Reading paragraph 22 of the Address the President has given this year, you would conclude that the Government has, in fact, achieved what it set out to do under the Bharat Nirman programmes five years ago. In fact, on every single item the achievements have been far, far below targets.

In a word, on the crucial point of implementation, the new Government augurs no new beginning.

What we need is an approach that is much sterner, and at the same time much more generous:
• A massive system of rewards – to states as well as to firms which implement projects within the time frame and cost estimates that had been agreed to in the beginning. This is what will be the real stimulus package: it will get money to those who work on these projects and thereby stimulate demand; even more important, it will leave in its wake completed capital assets.
• A corresponding system of penalizing those firms and officers that do not implement projects in time and within the stipulated cost.

An illustration will bring home the culture that prevails and what we need instead. To rein in the enormous cost over runs and time overflows that were typical of projects, the Cabinet decided that, when and if a proposal came for approval of additional funds, it would be accompanied by an inter-ministerial report fixing responsibility for the over runs. At one stage, I read 30-odd of these reports. Each and every one of them without a single exception concluded that no one was to be blamed, that the over runs had taken place because of “systemic failures”, that mantra of universal absolution!
• We must quickly pass whatever changes in the law are needed: for instance, the Address mentions the Land Acquisition Bill. Compensation should be based on market price, not some artificially notified governmental figure. Save in the rarest of rare cases, the entrepreneur should purchase the land directly, governments should not acquire it for him. Rehabilitation must be full. The persons who were displaced must be given both – a stake in and jobs in the new project. This is not rocket science. The components have been enumerated times without number. Indeed, one consequence of Nandigram and Singur has been that all governments and political parties have deliberated on alternatives. These can be swiftly taken into account, and the Bill passed.

These are the sorts of things on which we should all join to ensure expeditious implementation.

Two cautions

In regard to the specific reforms that have been listed in the Address, I urge two cautions.

The first is in regard to disinvestment. What has been proposed – that up to 51 per cent shares in governmental enterprises will be sold, while government control over the enterprises will be maintained – is the worst possible alternative.
• This is what was tried between 1991 and 1998. The entire amount realised from sale of government shares went into, and will now go into the black hole of fiscal deficits.
• Such sale of government shares while retaining control in government hands, does not change the governmental character of the enterprise, which is the real malady: for instance, look at what has happened to Air India in the last five years, the very years in which Civil Aviation is the one sector in which Reforms have continued apace.
• In fact, this device of selling shares to raise resources, encourages fiscal indiscipline: wasteful, populist expenditures are made, and then deficits are sought to be plugged by selling shares.

The only justification for what is being proposed today is that fiscal mismanagement in the last five years, particularly in the last two years has now left no alternative at all.

Therefore, I sincerely hope that a seasoned person like Pranab Mukherjee will steer the Government’s finances back to prudence, and that we will get back to the discipline of the FRBM.

Second, I must caution against attempts, ever so visible once again in the President’s Address, to justify everything in the name of “inclusiveness”. “My Government will continue to accord the highest priority to the welfare of Minorities,” the Address says. Why not to the security of the country? Why not to the families of those who have laid down their lives in defence of the country? Why not to the poor, whatever their religion? When expenditures are made which will, to everyone’s knowledge, leave no capital assets in their wake, they are justified in the name of “inclusiveness”. Now the absolutely suicidal schemes which are being launched for the ostensible purpose of helping Minorities, are again being justified in the name of “inclusiveness”.

I am for the fullest possible help to every deprived section of society. But there are four principles of secularism that must form the banks within which such assistance is given:
• First, the individual must be the unit of State policy, not a group.
• Second, in selecting the individual, secular criteria must be used: for instance, income and asset levels – the sort of criteria that are used in identifying individuals and families that fall below the Poverty Line.
• Third, we should never give to a group of one religion what we will not give to groups of another religion.
• Fourth, we must never give to a religious group or institution, what we will deny to a secular group or institution.

And, fifth, the help which is given must not be in the form of an entitlement as in Reservations, as in the Prime Minister’s declaration, “Muslims have the first claim on the resources of the country.” It must be positive help, help that will lift that individual to a level where he can compete with others on an equal footing.

The lesson of history is that discourse, perceptions, politics, eventually power, gets congealed around the criteria on which allocations are made by the State, schemes are formulated, or help is proffered. The classic device of the British divide and rule policy was exactly this: a group could get assistance or a privilege if it remained, and to the extent that it remained separate from the rest of society. Recall their diabolic decision to decree separate electorates for Muslims. And recall its fatal effect: in his book written in the 1940s, W. Cantwell Smith put the point in prescient words:

“A Secretary of State for India, Lord Olivier, once admitted the playing-off of one community against another: ‘No one with any close acquaintance of Indian affairs will be prepared to deny that on the whole there is a predominant bias in British officials in India in favour of the Muslim community, partly on the ground of closer sympathy but more largely as a make-weight against Hindu nationalism.’ The government’s method of encouraging communalism has been to approach all political subjects, and as many other subjects as possible, on a communalist basis; and to encourage, even to insist upon, everyone else’s doing likewise. The principal technique is separate electorates: making the enfranchised Muslims, and the enfranchised sections of many other groups, into an increasing number of separate constituencies, so that they vote communally, think communally, listen only to communal election speeches, judge the delegates communally, look for constitutional and other reforms only in terms of more relative communal power, and express their grievances communally. Even the British government has admitted on occasions that the system serves to keep India from gaining independence by political means: ‘Division by creeds and classes means the creation of political camps organised against each other, and teaches men to think as partisans and not as citizens… We regard any system of communal electorates, therefore, as a very serious hindrance to the development of the self-governing principle.’ [Edwin Montague, Secretary of State for India, and Lord Chelmsford, Viceroy, Proposals for Indian Constitutional Reforms.] And as this same statement goes on to say, the principle works so well that once it has been firmly established, it so entrenches communalism that one could hardly then abandon the principle even if one wished to do so.”

It is this seed which eventually led to the partition of India. The identical result has ensued from the decision to base Reservations on caste – that evil fissure, caste, which was being dissolved by modernization, has been bolstered. What is being done in a state like Andhra today – repeated decrees, in spite of their being struck down by courts, making reservations for Muslims as Muslims; grants of Rs. 12,000 to every Muslim and Christian couple on their marriage; subsidies for journeys to Mecca and now Jerusalem – and what is being planned in the wake of the Sachar Committee Report are an exact replay of that sequence of the first half of the last century. What happened then, will happen now: such communal measures will widen the earth-faults of our society; they will foment separatism, and the country will be reduced to fending off demands for separation.

Therefore, I sincerely hope that the Government will think again about where the measures which it is pushing for the ostensible purpose of helping Minorities will eventually lead the country.

The principal legacy

We all remember, the Prime Minister’s repeated pledge during the last term: there will be “zero tolerance of corruption.” There is absolutely no mention at all in the President’s Address of any step towards translating this resolve into fact.

By contrast, the Address the President read out in June 2004 on behalf of the first Government led by Manmohan Singh proclaimed,

“The Government is determined to rid the country of the scourge of corruption. The root causes of corruption and the generation of black money will be effectively tackled. For this purpose, procedures will be streamlined and processes will be appropriately re-engineered to bring in transparency in governance.”

Can it be that corruption has been completely wiped out and, therefore, there is no need now for such a pledge and programme? Is it that the tolerance has risen somewhat above zero? Or is it that realism has crept in? The realization, “As we are not going to be able to do anything about it at all, why mention it?”

And recall what this year’s Address says in paragraph 31: “An area of major focus for my Government would be reform of governance for effective delivery of public services. Reports of the Administrative Reform Commission would guide the effort…” Well, that very Commission has made a series of detailed recommendations about things that need to be done urgently to eradicate that “scourge of corruption.” There is not a word about any of these recommendations either. Should the sentence in this year’s Address, therefore, have read, “Reports of the Administrative Reform Commission would guide the effort – except in regard to wiping out corruption?”

The reason I mention this omission is that the singular, and most debilitating legacy of this Government’s first term has been the erosion of norms, and the perverse use of institutions:
• From inducting into the Council of Ministers persons against whom criminal cases were proceeding, to
• Gross corruption, to
• The complete abandonment of even the semblance of collective responsibility, to
• Wanton disregard of the verdict of courts, even the Supreme Court – as on the IMDT Act.

And the conversion of institutions into instruments. Recall how the CBI was converted into a posse of convenience: the cases against Mayawati, Mulayam Singh, Lalu Yadav swung as the need for their support swung. Recall the disgraceful way in which Quattrochi was allowed to spirit away his money from banks in London even though it had been frozen by court orders. Recall the even more disgraceful way in which he was allowed to fly free from Argentina where he had been caught because of a Red Alert Notice of Interpol. Recall the most disgraceful and shameless way in which all proceedings against him were dropped, on the so-called “opinion” of a rubber-stamp of a law officer. The office of the Governor also was prostituted time and again, and the Supreme Court passed the strongest possible strictures against what was done by the Governors in the interest of their controllers in Delhi.

But a State, even a Government runs on iqbal, on esteem, on institutions discharging their dharma, on being obeyed spontaneously for doing so.

Unfortunately, neither the President’s Address nor anything said or done till now gives any indication whatsoever that things will be any different on this, the central legacy of the first term of this Government. On the contrary, there is every prospect that victory will make them feel vindicated in their ways. The consequences will be upon the country. And therein lies the case for maximum vigilance.


“My Government shall…,” “My Government has…,” My Government will…” The expression jars – for several reasons. It is a relic of the British times – the Government is no more the President’s than it is of the ordinary citizen. Worse, there have been instances when a President has spoken of “My Government” doing this and the other, and extolling what it has done, and immediately having had to speak as the mouthpiece of the Government that replaced it, and which was keen on showing how the previous Government had in fact not done what was needed! Indeed, such a reversal had to be executed in the term of the immediate predecessor of this President! In the case of hapless Governors such somersaults are frequent. In addition, every other year, in some state or the other, they have to suffer the indignity of legislators not letting them read the Address at all: on occasion, Governors have had to read just the first and last sentences, and declare that the rest of the Address may be taken as having been read; on others, Governors have had to go on reading the text in the din with not one word audible!

And look at the dhobi lists that governments make the President read. Not just dhobi lists, but carelessly drafted dhobi lists. Look at the list of things in this Address that the Government says it will do “in the next 100 days.” Among these are the following:
• “The next three years would be devoted to training panchayat raj functionaries in administering flagship programmes”. Three years compressed into 100 days? Or 100 days stretched to three years?
• “Five Annual Reports to be presented by Government as Reports to the People on education, health, employment, environment and infrastructure to generate a national debate.” Five annual reports in 100 days?
• “Electronic governance through Bharat Nirman common serve centres in all panchayats in the next three years.” Three years compressed into 100 days? Or 100 days stretched to three years?
• “A roadmap for judicial reform to be outlined in six months and implemented in a time-bound manner”: Six months within 100 days?

Similarly, it would be a miracle if some of the things which have been pledged for the next hundred days can be accomplished within that time period. Consider as examples, the following:
• “Revamping of banks and post offices to become out reach units for financial inclusion complemented by business correspondents aided by technology”;
• “Targeted identification cards would subsume and replace omnibus below poverty line list. NREGA has a job card and the proposed Food Security Act would also create a new card…”

Such things will get done in just 100 days? Such proclamations are no more than what John Kenneth Galbraith had identified as one of the features of Indian planning: namely, therapeutic targetry! It has become habitual with our governments. Should we implicate the President of India in such inanity?

What the President or Governors are asked to read out is the programme of the government of the day. The Prime Minister or Chief Minister should read it out, and take responsibility for the contents.

In a persuasive paper, [4] Justice Rama Jois has set out the constitutional provisions that bear on the matter, and also the shouting and walkouts that he had to endure as he tried to read the Governor’s Addresses to the Assemblies in Jharkhand and Bihar. He has correctly concluded that the constitutional requirements would be perfectly met were the President or Governor to address the legislators merely as follows:

“This joint session of the Parliament has been convened in terms of clause (1) of Article 87. I hereby inaugurate the session and declare it open. I call upon the Prime Minister to place a statement of his Government regarding the policies and programmes of his Government and direct each House of the Parliament to discuss the same in terms of clause (2) of Article 87.”


1) Based on speech delivered on 8 June 2009 in the Rajya Sabha on the Address of the President, June 2009.

2) The Tribune, 25 April 2009.

3) As a single example, take the Report, Ethics in Government, of the new Administrative Reforms Commission. On each of the following matters, its recommendations are exactly the ones that were urged by the Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution:

4) M. Rama Jois, President’s Address to Parliament and Governor’s Address to Legislature, Need to change the practice,” Vijnaneshwara Research and Training Centre in Polity, Gulbarga, 2008. The same words would hold for state Assemblies and Governors, substituting “Article 176” for “Article 87”, “Assembly” for “Parliament”, “session” for “joint session”, and “Chief Minister” for “Prime Minister”.