Friday, December 31, 2010

Ayodhya: Battle for Peace - Taking a closer view at the dispute and politics

Did Manmohan Singh reject Sonia's nominee as Lok Sabha Speaker?
Did Atal Behari Vajpayee oppose L K Advani over alliance with Shiv Sena?
- Answer to these questions are in the book 'Ayodhya: Battle For Peace' penned by your's truly this blogger --- ha ha Nirendra Dev.

- Into his second term since 2009, the Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh is getting more assertive and “persuasive in pushing his personal preferences”. "Grapevine is a senior parliamentarian was denied the Lok Sabha Speaker’s post in 2009 even after his name was cleared formally by UPA alliance in a joint sitting,” it says.
“If the conjectures are to be believed, NCP chief Sharad Pawar,
Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee and even top Congress leaders had
reportedly complimented the said member for being chosen for the
coveted office in June 2009; when Dr Singh threw in the Dalit-woman
card to elevate his ‘Water Resources Minister’ Meira Kumar for the key
job,” says the book, a publication of New Delhi-based Har-Anand
It further says, Dr Singh’s admirers are reported to have floated the
theory that the 2009 mandate for UPA was in effect a mandate for him. His media advisor has already spoken against Congress in a public function; and yet continues to enjoy the Prime Minister’s confidence."
Among other things it argues “the overall future cannot be very good for the communal forces in South Asia” and cites the illustration of the return of Sheikh Hasina regime in Bangladesh in 2008 as a glaring instance.
“The manner in which people responded to the September 30 ruling offers enough reasons to keep the secular disposition optimistic that the days of fundamentalism are numbered for the common man has had enough of it and long since rejected the same".
It also throws light on politics of Rath Yatra of BJP stalwart Advani and in the context of alliance building with Shiv Sena, says, "when he (Advani)and Pramod Mahajan floated the idea of an alliance with Shiv Sena, there was strong opposition from the likes of Jaswant Singh and to an extent by Atal Bihari Vajpayee himself. However, Advani reportedly argued that in the past Congress and socialists had joined hands with Sena to end the leftists’ control on the trade union politics."

Amid high drama in national polity over scams and alleged 'Hindu
terror' under RSS, the book also cautions Congress against going
overboard on ‘Hindu terror’ saying in the process Congress is only
preparing the ground "for political polarization (based on religions)"
"The Hindus in general are anguished as well as shell-shocked at the
allegation that their faith, known for its tolerance, is being linked
to terrorism. They believe the Congress party led by a Christian and
that too a foreign lady is indulging in politics to defame the Hindu
organizations and thus win over its lost support base among the
Muslims. There was a deliberate attempt to blow up the issue of ‘Hindu
terror’ just on the eve of beginning of monsoon session of parliament
in 2010".
"The Muslims should learn to live in harmony as the confrontationist
path does them no good," it says.

Indian Foreign Policy - An Enigmatic Journey

The Indian foreign policy in circa 2010 remained as intangible as it
has been always barring some success in terms of getting Big 5 led by the US knocking its doors.
Otherwise it was typical of its characteristic, more often delivering mixed signals with itself unable to pursue diplomatic billiard well and at the same time often proved vulnerable to fall as a victim. In the process,
India saw a few smaller countries especially in neighbiurhood often snubbing it. Even on crucial front like climate change, India seems too eager to oblige the US.
But in 2011, the government of India is all set to chart out on a more promising roadmap in the coming year with a much brightened possibility of entering the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). Keeping that prestigious berth as a virtual ‘jewel in the crown’, in the coming months New Delhi is likely to focus on improving its ties in the neighbourhood, often neglected Africa and the crucial the Indian Ocean rim.
Even during last two years the government has able to improve its relations with countries like Bangladesh, Myanmar, Bhutan and Sri Lanka.

Among the major global players, all five permanent members of the UN Security Council — the US, China, Britain, Russia and France — came calling on India in 2010 extending all round friendship even as each one of them sought India’s help for reviving their economies.

In the neighbourhood front and other smaller nations, India has been lately trying to consolidate its relations. Bangladesh under a longtime friend Sheikh Hasina has been very cooperative during the last two years especially in fostering stronger economic ties and as well as helping Indian government curb the activities of northeast India’s insurgent groups in that country.
Now peace process with ULFA is heading towards a positive direction, thanks to Sheikh Hasina regime's help to arrest the chairman Arabind Rajkhowa and others.
It is the sagacity of the leadership in respective countries in South Asia now that there is a growing realization that economic potential and especially the power front and infrastructure building should be exploited well.
There’s still a large untapped potential to cooperate further to mutual benefits with countries like Bhutan and Nepal.
Taking the Indo-Bangladesh ties to a new high, India has also offered to sell the surplus electricity from the northeastern state of Tripura.

The External Affairs Minister S M Krishna is expected to visit Dhaka in a few months. The Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh is also likely to follow.
Similarly on Nepal front, the External Affairs secretary Ms Nirupama Rao is likely to lead a delegation in January.
Similarly, New Delhi has scripted a much stronger tie with another strategically sensitive Myanmar and would strengthen them further with new projects. No wonder, the US was not amused a bit.
Truly, India has been doing its best in fulfilling several developmental commitments. This approach is in fact ideally suited to be the ‘model for development cooperation’ India has been stressing with Myanmar, Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh where in the people from these countries can work together for economic prosperity.

In the coming months, Indian foreign policy managers will also explore other options of diplomatic tools: like marine partnership and energy cooperation and would undertake concrete steps to bridge the gulf with African countries as also strengthen its bond in the Indian Ocean rim.

In this context, countries those will come in focus include Nigeria, South Africa, Mauritius, Kenya, Ethiopia, Tanzania and Ghana.
Official estimated also say put together these countries account for around 50-60 per cent of India’s total bilateral trade in Africa.

India along with other countries like Brazil and South Africa in blocks like IBSA and BRIC has also inched ahead to enhance India-Africa partnership that has today obviously led to counterbalance the monopolistic G7 nations on the global economic plane.
Among the highlights, an Africa Forum is on card sometime next year and it will be South Africa’s turn to host the IBSA summit in 2011.

During last one year or so, the government of India has also extended cooperation to international community to fight terrorism in general as also help combat the sea piracy. Besides offering itself as a pro-development partner for Afghanistan, New Delhi would also give itself greater engagement in Indian Ocean rim with countries like Mauritius, Mozambique and Seychelles.
There is a growing realization that India ought to enhance its presence in Africa and subsequently build up lasting strategic partners in the continent in order to play a vital role in reshaping the global economy aftermath the 2008 recession and the more recent ‘Greek crisis’ in European economy.

In recent months, therefore, India has tried to strengthen defence ties with smaller countries like Ghana, Nigeria, Lesotho and Botswana.
In the end it must be said that sustaining a lasting friendship in international relation is a continuous stream. The new thinking in foreign policy, therefore, ought to have broader scope as well as show greater flexibility for setting up new goals and compromises.
New Delhi’s foreign policy engine rooms under the constant hawk's eye of the PMO – knows it pretty well.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Has Congress also forgotten the ghost of Bofors?

The web dictionary of the word ‘despicable’ covers a wide range of equally strong words: appalling, dreadful, wicked, disgraceful, vile, shameful …..the list would go on. Actually, in her address to the plenary session of the Congress on December 19, Ms Sonia Gandhi chose to describe the opposition attack on the Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh for alleged corruption charges virtually mushrooming under the UPA carpet (read regime) by that select word, ‘despicable’.
In effect it means, the Congress president wants to use all the above adjectives for the opposition parties especially her principal rivals, the BJP.
Seeking to take the battle on corruption to the enemy camp, the Congress president dubbed the BJP's personal attack on Dr Singh as 'downright despicable'.
“He is the embodiment of sobriety, dignity and integrity,” Ms Gandhi said about her hand-picked prime minister, who unlike UPA I is now allegedly doing some muscle-flexing often against the powerful 10 Janpath. She also chose the occasion to compliment the Prime Minister for his “silence” on various charges from the opposition – prime among them being the official explanation why the government was against the Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC). This answer ought to be answered particularly because the repeated Congress explanation is that the party has nothing to fear on all the charges of corruption!
Even in her address to the plenary session, Ms Gandhi spoke at everything else on corruption and alleged RSS-terror link, but there was no explanation why her party is not in favour of JPC. A demand – apparently even agreed to by key UPA allies like Sharad Pawar-led NCP and Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress.
“On your behalf, I want to compliment him (PM) for his wise leadership, for remaining calm amidst the storm,” Ms Gandhi waxed eloquently from her written speech.
The speech was otherwise well drafted reportedly with intervention of old war horse and expert draftsman Pranab Mukherjee, Sonia’s political secretary Ahmed Patel and Dr Singh’s point man, Kapil Sibal.
Meeting against the backdrop of a stalemated parliament and threat of a similar show looming large even for crucial budget session from February over corruption scandals and Congress denial of JPC, Sonia Gandhi outlined a five-point agenda to deal with corruption, including fast-tracking cases of graft against public servants and politicians “like us’.

Terming corruption as a "disease spreading throughout the society", she outlined multi-prong steps to tackle corruption and among other things called for full transparency in public procurement and contracts and that whistleblowers should be protected. Counseling her party men to abjure “vulgar display of wealth”, she advised simplicity and austerity for celebrating occasions like marriages and birthdays.
Making her presidential speech on the backdrop of Rahul Gandhi’s wikileaks controversy, she lashed out at the BJP and singled out RSS for alleged terror links.
"Congress makes no distinction between organizations of the majority and minority communities who indulge in communalism and related acts of terrorism. They are all dangerous and must be all defeated,” she practically endorsed her son’s remarks even as another party general secretary Digvijay Singh harped on his agenda and said the biggest challenge to the country is RSS and BJP. “The way Hitler's Nazi party had targeted Jews, RSS is targeting Muslims. Even in the army, they have sent their people. In Malegaon blasts, two army officers were caught. The terror in the entire country has roots in Advani's Rath Yatra,” he said.

The Congress efforts in these party sessions seem clear: deflect the nation and media from the raging debate on corruption and the Congress complexity and talk more about secularism – a card that goes well with Congress’ vote bank, “Muslim minorities”.
But, the nation’s heart would continue to beat looking for more genuine answers.
Madam Sonia, Where's Mr Quatrochi?

Foot in the Mouth Syndrome: Over to Jairam Ramesh

For suave Jairam Ramesh, Indian MoS Environment, it’s the proverbial case of foot in the mouth syndrome. Known as a ‘good and ingenious’ glib talker, this time at Cancun Climate Change Summit he opened his mouth little more than he should have and thus dragged both himself and the beleaguered UPA government to the receiving end of much brickbats.
Some one who loves to go out of the "box", the Environment and Forest Minister, his detractors say, by way of remarks has shifted the ‘goalpost’ on climate change negotiations. Back home opposition says it’s sell out. The charge is, however, denied by the government even as the PMO, reeling under much attack on corruption, also issued a veiled snub on the suave minister.

If the taste of the pudding is in it’s eating, in diplomacy and international negotiations, winning new friends and to be flexible is the real success mantra. Ramesh and his supporters say, this has precisely happened in the Cancun Climate Change Summit 2010. India has emerged as a key voice in the key conclave along with two influential global players China and the United States opposing the legally binding emission cut.
At the same time, they insist, India has opened the door for negotiations.
But at what cost - remains a question.

The rough weather that he has landed is the creation of a man who loves to fondle his hair and gesticulate with his hands while delivering speeches in parliament – trying to present himself before the camera as an intellectual academician!
Ramesh also wants to present himself as a unique synthesis of a ‘science-knowing-nature-loving-Rahul Gandhi loyalist’ politician. This syndrome –of thinking oneself beyond the size of his shoes – say his detractors - is singularly responsible for getting him the snub from the Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh, who had to issue a statement saying nothing much must be read in the remarks from Ramesh.

Sadly, the PMO had to make the remark about none other than the leader of the Indian delegation at the summit. When the Prime Minister says “nothing much must be seen” in the minister’s remarks – one obvious question startles the observers is why did the Prime Minister give such a free hand to the minister of state for environment.
To a large extent; these only reflect Congress internal power bickering as Ramesh is not only a mere Rahul loyalist. Over the months, Ramesh has also made his pro-environment tilt as the union minister deciding principally by the tour map of Rahul Gandhi.
Rahul has accordingly rewarded by his appreciation of Ramesh at IIM, Ahmedabad as a 'performing' minister; notably the Gandhi scion forgetting to mention the likes of Pranab Mukherjee, the principal trouble shooter of the government.
Therefore, how much damage control can this half-hearted clarification from the Prime Minister can make really remains to be seen?

Objective analysis at this juncture suggests that by Ramesh remarks at international for a, New Delhi has definitely crossed a red line previously seen as inviolate and is also marking a virtual culmination of dilution of its commitment to the
Kyoto Protocol. Rightly summed by his critics at the moment is inescapable conclusion that India had gone along with the US line on climate negotiations.

Sunita Narain, Director, CSE, said, “The minister has shifted goalpost unnecessarily, even when we are not getting anything in return. Instead of putting pressure the entire strategy should be to somehow let the US get off the hook.”
The climate change negotiations is a long drawn battle. But Ramesh has probably committed a blunder for India.
There is a feeling that this US-tilt was deliberate and was with prior sanction of the PMO- Dr Singh's citadel and the foreign policy engine room.