Friday, July 31, 2015

Rajnath’s blistering attack on flawed anti-terror & foreign policy of Congress

jeetne ke baad baazi hartey rahe
..........For every battle we won, they (Congress) seemed to turn these into defeats) - thus spoke Rajnath Singh in Lok Sabha on July 31, 2015.

Rajnath Singh is known both to his admirers and detractors as a hardcore ‘Thakur’ neta from the most populous cow-belt state. Someone who can make a right synthesis of typical North Indian rustic style and modern times sophistication, Rajnath is known for measuring his steps and words carefully.

The manner in which he backed Narendra Modi in 2013 to declare him party’s PM-nominee against the wishes of veteran L K Advani and his camp showed the hardcore political creature in him. I have often compared this with Chetan Chohan kind of supportive role to batting legend Sunil Gavaskar. Thus when Rajnath made optimum use of the pandemonium created by Congress members in Lok Sabha on July 31, 2015 when he was making a statement on the Gurdaspur terror attack, BJP watchers knew the Home Minister was working to a plan. The plan was to puncture Congress on its various claims.
Wily Thakur Neta: Knows where it pinches Congress most
While in his prepared speech Rajnath linked Gurdaspur attack to Pakistan, in his impromptu and extempore observations, the former BJP chief made a more focused political point. In fact, his rhetoric punctuated with poetic lines made blistering attack on the Congress policy on both anti-terror strategies and mainly the foreign policy pursued by Congress regimes over the years. The sharp arsenals from Rajnath Singh clearly left Congress upset and bewildered.

The fact that Congress floor leader Mallikarjun Kharge roared in Lok Sabha later protesting Rajnath’s impromptu observations only speak of the embarrassment they have been subjected to.
Some of Rajnath’s oneliners pointed out Congress follies vis-à-vis China 1962 war, Sharm-el Sheikh fiasco and Indo-Pak statements at Havana NAM Summit during Dr Manmohan Singh regime.
At Sharm-el-Sheikh the agreement sough to give recognition to India’s supposed hands in Baluchistan. Even an embarrassed Dr Manmohan Singh later called it a bad draft.

Much to the chagrin of Congress camp, Rajnath readout four poetic lines to strengthen his argument on Congress’s flawed policies and suggested that such policy often turned India’s achievements into failures.

"Chin chheen desh ka gulab le gaya
Tashkent mein desh ka lal so gaya 
yeh sulah ki shakal ko sawar-te-rahe
jeetne ke baad baazi hartey rahe
(China has taken away a key part of motherland,
In Tashkent we lost a great son of India;
They kept on embracing the pretensions of friendship
For every battle we won, they (Congress) seemed to turn these into defeats.)

But the most hard hitting attack came when he blasted the erstwhile Congress regime for coining the term ‘Hindu terrorism’ and said this had weakened India’s fight against terrorism. Rajnath also did not forget to mention that none other than Pakistani terrorist Hafiz Saeed had complimented the then Home Minister for inventing the phrase ‘Hindu terrorism’. One may agree or disagree with Rajnath Singh but sincere studies reveal that the foreign policy of world’s largest democracy has been generally non-committal, passive and mostly guided by short term and emotive agendas – those lacked tactical visions.
One may agree or disagree with Rajnath Singh but sincere studies reveal that the foreign policy of world’s largest democracy has been generally non-committal, passive and mostly guided by short term and emotive agendas – those lacked tactical visions.

Thus, the foreign policy framework was clouded by certain preconceived notions. The use of force and assertiveness was thus seen as a ‘failure’ of diplomacy. The foreign policy makers in India – albeit Congressmen - have often misread the non-alignment as a cocktail of anti-alignment, anti-Americanism and third world solidarity. Nehruvian doctrine hardly saw the foreign policy from the primary objective of ‘national interest’. 

At the global space, the mantra in diplomacy and strategic dealings in the new century has been economic consideration and mutual benefits wherein the ideology hardly mattered. But thanks to Congress prism, in the past, the foreign policy framed by New Delhi remained factored by what Russia or the United States thought.

A drastic change to this was heralded in 1998 by the Atal Behari Vajpayee government. The nuclear tests and subsequent Indo-US dealings by Jaswant Singh displayed an assertive touch taking either Moscow or Washington by surprise.
Time to ponder

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Did APJ Kalam often go 'SOFT' on Hardliner Hindutva?

Some people might be grudging APJ Abdul Kalam for often going soft on hardliner Hindutva or that he subjected himself to be 'used' as an icon to correct BJP's anti-Muslim image post-Godhra mayhem.
But it could be travesty of truth and gross injustice to the Late former President as often he spoke out his mind and even in 2002 itself within days he took over as the President, Kalam visited riot-hit Naroda Patiya and had said in no unambiguous words:

"The grievances poured forth by the affected people (READ riot-scarred minorities) to me... should merit immediate attention of those concerned and actions taken with alacrity".

A 'people’s President' that he was, Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, would be best remembered in this multi-religious and multi-lingual nation as a great unifier. He was truly a champion of inter-religion faiths and struck the right balance as a man of science with a political system that by the start of the new millennium in India was getting extremely polarized and communal.

He kept up his commitment to religious harmony even after laying down office. “When nations join together to build a cohesive society, it is necessary to ensure that benefits of development encompass all sections of the society…..Both India and European Union have witnessed and are witnessing the unsavory acts of certain misguided sections of society. We have to jointly address ourselves to the root causes of such phenomena for finding lasting solutions for promoting peace,” he had said addressing the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, during the golden jubilee of the European Union in 2007.

The speech, many still remember, as a true reflection of Kalam’s faith in his ideological moorings would be one of the most memorable ones. 

Those who have seen him work first as a respected missile scientist at India's state-run Defence Research Development Organisation (DRDO) and one of the key hands behind successful nuclear tests of Pokhran in desert state Rajasthan in 1998, also know him as a great admirer of Mahatma Gandhi, the peace apostle and India’s Father of the Nation. Kalam in his public speeches and interactions with students would often quote the Mahatma (Great Soul Gandhi) and would say, “Be fearless, speak from your heart, speak for your rights”.
On another occasion and as late as April 11, 2015, Kalam said at a Navy Foundation Kolkata Charter function, “People in India will have to learn not only to respect but also celebrate differences in culture, religion and race”.
"There has to be tolerance for other people's opinions, beliefs and culture. Everybody from political leaders to administrators, the police, the defence forces and the media will have to learn to regulate themselves in accordance to rules laid down by the Constitution,” he had said.
These utterances were considered much bold and apt commentary on the state of affairs in the country when the socio-political atmosphere looked polarized following number of incidents wherein either Christian minorities faced the threat of re-conversion or some minority religious places were under attack.

In retrospect Kalam took over as the 11th President of India under the cloud of 2002 anti-Muslim mayhem of Gujarat. While a debate could linger whether Kalam, a Muslim himself who openly admired ancient Hindu teachings, would have made it to the highest office in the country had there been no 2002 riots directed generally against Muslims, it is worth recall that as President, Kalam’s first tour outside national capital New Delhi – was Naendra Modi-ruled Gujarat.
He visited Bhuj where a major earthquake had taken place in 2001 and also worst riot-hit Naroda Patiya in Ahmedabad’s suburbs where he  went around riot-scarred minority households and Noorani Masjid locality.

During a brisk 30-minute walk around the locality in the company of Chief Minister Narendra Modi, victims of the violence complained to the President that there had been 'gross negligence' of the area during and after the violence.
Moved by the plight of the victims, the President told District Collector K Srinivasan that everything possible should be done to make the battered victims feel safe and secure. Reflecting his special concern for children, an anguished Kalam told Srinivasan to ensure that children in the affected areas are immediately put in schools.
Vajpayee making the famous 'with which face I will go abroad'
Kalam also had said, "Having seen all this and appreciating them against the background of the rich traditions of Gujarat, I am convinced and my faith is reinforced that the nation urgently needs an intensified movement to eliminate totally communal and other forms of strife and bring about unity of minds and total integration of our vision and goals."
One of the most distinguished scientists of India with the unique honour of receiving honorary doctorates from 30 universities and institutions, he was awarded the Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian award in 1997.  
Even his critics, though he had a few, would admit, he had ideas on how to solve India's problems - on bridging the rural-urban divide through his pet concept "Providing Urban amenities in Rural Areas - for empowering villages, and also to use solar power in a big way to tide over energy needs.
Igniting Minds
Author of widely read books like 'Wings of Fire' and 'Ignited Minds', Kalam was also a champion of the cause of digital India and always urged governments and citizens to attain self-sufficiency in "critical technology", agriculture, health and education.
Better known to commoners in the country for his right synthesis between modern science and ancient oriental teachings, his admirer would certainly love to remember him as a Karma-yogi (ancient Indian word for a workaholic) and someone who carried on with him the Indian faith of Rishi-parampara (the tradition of renunciation and service of nation).
Though his smiles and simplicity touched Indians, Dr Kalam also used his charm in a few major diplomatic events. 
First Indian President to visit military ruled Myanmar in 2006, he floored Myanmar’s head of military junta Senior General Than Swe. Kalam, who had done his homework pretty well about Myanmar, had asked the General, “How is your daughter?”. 

Monday, July 27, 2015

APJ Kalam - Interacting with him ......a soldier would easily lay down his sword


Mehnat itni khamoshi se karo ki safalta shor macha dey

(Work hard so much silently that your success story becomes a national/global craze)

The above quote will be a good way to pay tribute to the former President APJ Abdul Kalam, who breathed his last on July 27, 2015.
Pages are being written about APJ Kalam......but I doubt had it not been for 2002 anti-Muslim mayhem, he would have become President of India. 
Dr P C Alexander, then Maharashtra Governor, was perhaps much ahead in the race.
Alexander later charged Congress with derailing him on the ground that "Congress did not want a Christian as President".

BJP opted for APJ Kalam to cover up its anti-Muslim image due to 2002 mayhem...That APJ did not get second term....and then then Information and Broadcasting Minister Priya Ranjan Dasmunshi carried out his madam's instructions to use some objectionable words against Dr APJ him in 2007 is sad! Even Maratha strongman Sharad Pawar, who like Somnath Chatterjee, does not lose time to preach morality, did not lag behind. Under pressure, both had to later clarify that their assault pertained to a "potential candidate" and not to the President of Republic. 
Nevertheless, Dr Kalam will remain in the heart of millions of Indians as “people’s President”, a great scientist and missile man who made the country realize its nuclear-power dream.
APJ as Maj Gen Prithviraj: Pokhran 2

For Operation Shakti, as the nuclear tests were called, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, dressed in Army uniform, was known as Major General Prithviraj. 

My assessment about the man on the hind side would be that Dr Kalam would be or rather should be best remembered for his intellectual tilt towards ancient Hindu teachings as well as the modern scientific realms. The synthesis he cherished later became a part of his life. This is precisely one thing that must have endeared him to the saffron brigade but had also gelled well with the BJP leadership of the time, especially the then Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee.

How much he went on well with Dr Manmohan Singh needs some analysis and this is probably not the time. However, one remembers with sadness the angry outbursts of Congress minister Priyaranjan Dasmunshi.

In retrospect, on June 20, 2007, President Kalam took everyone by surprise by saying that he would consider contesting for a second term provided there was “certainty” over his win – switching from the word 'consensus' to ‘majority’. This prompted UNPA (Third Front) –likes of Jayalalitha and Mulayam Singh Yadav to start on their path to convince the UPA and NDA to support Kalam. 
Can photo tell some hidden stories? 

Too keen to impress 'empress' Sonia, who wanted her handpicked Pratibha Patil as next President, Priyaranjan Dasmunshi did not think twice to term the development “unfortunate” that Kalam has made such a statement. "It has never happened in the history of Indian politics that someone is persuaded to become a candidate for the presidential polls. At the same time, no such communication should come if certainty or consensus comes." 

NCP president Sharad Pawar, also a Neta with Congress-DNA, said Kalam's candidature was a ‘political move’ and said that the UPA will stand by its candidate. "Kalam's indications are surprising. It is just a political move and Dr Kalam will not be a player in the race. The entire race will be between just two candidates and ultimately Pratibha Patil will win," Pawar had said. 
That Pratibha Patil succeeded to become President of India is only a testimony of callousness and rather helpless common Indians have in terms of choosing individual to such coveted constitutional posts. Pratibha Patil’s dedication to Sonia’s political dynasty was obviously legendary. On the grapevine front, many people recalled Gyani Zail Singh.
A Karmayogi
Now, let us examine how BJP and the Vajpayee government reconciled to make APJ their Presidential candidate and in the process let down the then Vice President Krishan Kant and P C Alexander.
I had dealt a bit about APJ Kalam's election as President in my first book 'Godhra - A Journey to Mayhem'.
Here's some extracts:
"The (BJP) think tank got back in business and one evening shifted focus on the Presidential polls. .....
Vajpayee, George Fernandes, Kalam: Pokhran 2

Friday, July 24, 2015

Review: on a book on Sikkim ‘The Lone Warrior – Exiled in My Homeland’ (A rebel’s version)

(Edited version appeared in book review section of The Statesman)

The country's journalistic-politico circle is full of stories and tales about insurgency related episodes in northeastern states and the militancy in Jammu and Kashmir. There are also series of books and write ups on political one-upmanship of cow belt states Bihar and UP and also about sugar politics of Maharashtra; but Sikkim has had a long history of hiding its history of turmoil from the national mainstream. 

Thus, this book in hand, ‘The Lone Warrior – Exiled in My Homeland’ penned by Jigme N. Kazi is an eye opener. More so because Kazi, a Sikkim-based veteran journalist and also an active political activist at one point of time, has been witness to and has thus written about almost every developments in Sikkim, some of it hardly known outside Sikkim.

In his own words, Kazi remains a journalist-turned-political activist-turned journalist and is ‘back’ where he belongs – Journalism - and hence this book by and large is a frank and candid portrayal of the affairs of Sikkim and reflects author’s indepth knowledge about the land and the people. 
By his admission Kazi has flirted with politics but amidst all that what is important to note is that he has remained loyal to the interest of his people. These were definitely testing times for the author as an individual but also for state like Sikkim, whose portrayal outside the state is sadly stereotyped.

Kazi admits, “while I was soft on the Chamling government and the chief minister, particularly during the first tenure, it is on record….(we) took on the government on issues ranging from corruption, protection of locals, political rights of bonafide citizens….”. Facets like this not only make the book interesting. In fact the chapters – portrayed in biographical style mostly - start with one episode or a theme and then proceed to another convincingly and sequentially like a good drama plot.

The book actually makes an unintended praise of the political acumen of incumbent chief minister Pawan Kumar Chamling politically, who has managed to remain a regionalist to the core and also in power for years now, probably by his ability to keep nationalist parties like Congress and BJP at bay and fighting hard other state-based outfits. 
A tourist's paradise
According to the author, Chamling has been successful in ‘isolating’ Nar Bahadur Bhandari, who too had a long stint as chief minister before losing out to Chamling. The success was more in the context of sabotaging the ‘merger’ of Bhandari’s regional outfit Sikkim Sangram Parishad with Congress and with BJP. And when the merger of SSP into Congress came about in 2003 after lot of spade work by the likes of the author and Congress leader Salman Khurshid perhaps things were too late as Chamling continues to remain invincible. 
 The reference to machinations within Sikkim unit of Congress party (as on page 176) only brings to light how the then ruling party (Congress) with a commanding stature at the national level wasted an opportunity to strike strong roots in the state. 

The writer quotes his own media reports exhaustively and points out how by 2001 when Mani Shankar Aiyar was Congress point-man for Sikkim as AICC general secretary, “only about 6-7 so called Congressmen, who ran the party (read in Sikkim) had sobataged the merger” of  Bhandari-led Sikkim Sangam Parishad into the Congress.
But he found even BJP no better and explains in certain details how attempts by few Sikkimese leaders to establish a toehold for the saffron party also failed. 
Chamling: What makes this man click? 

“Unfortunately, the BJP, too, went the Congress way and fell into the same trap. Pawan Kumar Chamling succeeded in wooing the central BJP leaders, including the Sikkim Governor, K N Sahani,” writes Kazi and partly blames L K Advani, then the powerful Home Minister, for endorsing Governor Sahani’s report against the SSP-BJP merger.

Politics is dynamic and more so in these smaller states. Nar Bahadur Bhandari, who succeeded in merging his party with Congress in 2003, and also made Congress state unit president by Sonia Gandhi, is again out of the party. Bhandari has revived his SSP on May 24, 2013. The hands of the clock have come back to the same position from where it all started. 

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Opposition Disunity: When will BJP make the most of it?

BJP needs one Pramod Mahajan and either Arun Jaitley or Venkaiah Naidu cannot replace him !

There are various factors which could be responsible for lack of floor coordination between the BJP and regional parties like Samajwadi Party and Trinamool Congress. One of them certainly is: BJP’s ambitious plans to establish “more than just toehold” in states like West Bengal, Odisha and Tamil Nadu. This would keep the saffron outfit in direct confrontation between it and other regional parties led by the likes of Mamata Banerjee, Naveen Patnaik and J Jayalitha.

BJP could draw a solace that while it is already being considered a force to reckon with in some of these states, in Delhi especially in Rajya Sabha the coordination could remain far cry.
This argument was held valid when Mamata Banerjee identified Narendra Modi's BJP as one of her rivals for next year's assembly elections in 2016. Thus Mamata-Namo bonhomie sought in Bangladesh has reasons to fail. 

Besides these political realities another major reason attributed to ineffective coordination between the BJP and state-level parties is the BJP leaders' arrogance. 
None other than Shiv Sena leaders would endorse this easily. Sanjay Raut has gone vocal more than once that BJP leadership and especially the duo of Amit Shah and Narendra Modi treated allies with disrespect -- something perhaps unthinkable during the stint of Atal Behari Vajpayee.
In fact Vajpayeeji had maintained high respect to the coalition dharma and gave up Speaker's post to TDP and later to Sena (Manohor Joshi after Balayogi died in air crash). This tradition was continued even later and when BJP lost power in 2004, the deputy Speaker of Lok Sabha was passed onto the Akali Dal.

"You have majority.....God willing this majority should remain. But we are happy that the government has realised that they need the support of all allies," Sena spokesman and Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Raut said on the eve of monsoon session on July 20.

Some of these issues were raised during NDA meeting on July 20 NDA meeting - first time since May 2014 - at Prime Minister's official residence.
Blind admirers: Can't be Good Floor managers
Even regional party sources say : there has been absence of personal rapport with top BJP leaders, again something unlike Pramod Mahajan days - as the late BJP leader even shared good personal relationship with communists and Congressmen. Senior Congress leader Santosh Mohan Dev jokingly used to call Pramod Mahajan - 'Entertainment Merchant'. But Mahajan's successors perhaps in other qualities like Arun Jaitley simply have failed to establish such bond.
"Jaitley is too high flying.....Good English debating ability is one virtue he has. But he does not have other qualities of Pramod Mahajan," says a JD(U) leader. 

Some say the sheer mismanagement in running both the Houses or failure of BJP floor managers could be easily gauged from the fact that they seem to face bigger hurdles than the Congress at a time when BJP has 282 members in Lok Sabha while Congress had hardly 205 during UPA-2 and much lesser numbers in UPA-1.
Trinamool sources insist despite Narendra Modi's time to time 'outreach approach' - nothing much moved substantially. "They remain the same BJP, they remain the same arrogant and patronizing," is refrain of a few Trinamool leaders. 
This has been damaging, they say. 

Monday, July 20, 2015

Revital ? Revival ? What would real time Congress isolation mean?

What would 'real time isolation' of Congress - if that happens in Parliament during monsoon session – mean?

“Most Opposition parties appeared lukewarm to the idea of rallying behind the Congress to stall the three-week monsoon session of Parliament,”  reported Kolkata-based The Telegraph, hardly known for being a pro-Modi publication. So if a paper of secular-intellectuals, written for ‘secular or sickular intellectual readership’ in Mamata Banerjee-ruled West Bengal; has something to say in its first sentence of the story, there’s reason to believe that anti-Modism is yet to fructify. 

This may be set back to sickular English press and pro-left (also pro-Nitish babu) vernacular and Hindi journos; but political animals like Leftists and socialists have their own reasons. 

 So, what comes next: “India’s main opposition Congress party is worried over possible isolation in its unrelenting attack on the government over the visa row of former cricket administrator Lalit Modi”

Ironically this line was reported by Gulf Times on June 22 itself showing despite the limitation of political reading by ‘sickular English press’ – mostly deliberate – some could read what’s stored in.
A number of regional parties have their reasons to stay away from Congress game of trying to isolate Modi government – only to help its own revival.
Regional parties like Samajwadi Party see a pattern in Congress strategy of trying to take on BJP chief ministers in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. 

No regional party can benefit by cornering BJP in these two states and so Rahul Gandhi brigade – despite being armed chair intellectuals like Jairam Ramesh – presume once BJP popularity is on decline – owing to Vyapam and Lalitgate charges against Shivraj Singh Chouhan and Vasundhara Raje – the votes would come to Rahul-baba’s kitty.

The BJP spokesman M J Akbar, a former seasoned political journalist and who was once a Congress MP, has his own reasons to argue: "When there is nothing to say, they shout. A lost child cries... One hopes it will grow up, become an adult”.

There’s a characteristic deeper meaning in what Akbar says. In fact many other regional outfits like JD(U) too find that Congress behavior is childish and it is taking support of other regional parties for granted. 
Thus, it is not without good reason that JD(U) and Samajwadi Party leaders while favour raising Vyapam and Lalitgate they do not want to be seen with Congress in sabotaging parliament proceedings.
Day Dream: Mission Revival
In the GST panel, too, the BJP thinks Congress could be "sidelined" and a report could be tabled paving the way for its passage. The Rajya Sabha select committee headed by BJP MP, Bhupinder Yadav  adopted the report today with dissent notes from Congress members.

"If Parliament cannot function....the Land Bill will be also pushed to the back burner," one BJP leader said adding this suits BJP as anti-farmer issue won’t become major poll issue in Bihar and most of the rumblings in both Houses of Parliament would confine to 'Tu Tu Main Main' war-cry between Congress and BJP.

Similarly sentiment was shared by Ram Vilas Paswan of LJP. The BJP's floor strategists reportedly counseled all constituent partners of NDA to prepare well about counter strategy vis-a-vis Robert Vadra land deals in Rajasthan and the Louis Berger-bribery scam.
"It's a huge scandal worth millions and what has come to light is only tip of iceberg," one leader said commenting on Louis Berger bribery issue against Congress governments in Goa and Assam in 2010 and added that some scams in Congress-ruled Himachal Pradesh too could be raised.
Targeting Chouhan is in Diggy's interest
 In the 'Louis Berger-bribe' scam which allegedly took place in 2010 "officials and ministers" in these two states were bribed for water development projects.
BJP sources alleged needle of suspicion is against Digambar Kamat, former Goa CM,
and Churchill Alemao, who was PWD department. Similarly, Assam CM Tarun Gogoi and his erstwhile cabinet colleague Himanta Biswa Sarma have come under attack.
The BJP spokespersons and NDA MPs who would speak in Parliament during the debate and otherwise would be also given dossiers to prepare themselves to speak on Vadra land deals and the alleged bribery from the US-firm.

"how much of loot was shared by the ruling family in Delhi"
BJP sources said in her meeting with party chief Amit Shah and other BJP leaders, Rajasthan CM Vasundhara Raje, who is under attack over her association with cricket administrator Lalit Modi, submitted papers related to Vadra’s land dealings in Rajasthan.
"It has come to light that the Congress attack against Vasundhara was intensified after the Rajasthan government cancelled mutation of land purchased by his firm Skylight Hospitality Private Limited in January this year," a source said.

In an elaborate plan on reaching out to regional parties like Trinamool Congress, the AIADMK and the Samajwadi Party, BJP sources said, "Congress party was humbled in Lok Sabha polls and lost a series of assembly elections in states. Our message to these regional parties at  such juncture is when the Congress is desperate to revive itself, should these parties work under the same party who had been at one time their rivals in the states".

If Congress really gets isolated in both Houses during the stormy monsoon session and government is able to push pro-reforms GST Bill, this could mean big failure in rejuvenating Congress. A party that has practically marginal and zero support base in several states.
Trinamool Congress....Whose side?

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Withered Naga peace talks: Namo has few options

“The soldier must conquer the pain and the melancholy of the passions.” – Napoleon

The Naga peace talks is certainly at a crucial stage but the unilateral abrogation of ceasefire by NSCN (Khaplang) and subsequent aggressive strikes by the militant group has left very few options with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his National Security Advisor Ajit Doval.
The NSCN (K) had unilaterally announced abrogation of ceasefire with the centre in March 2015 protesting among other things that the government has refuse to talk on Naga sovereignty and integration of Naga contiguous areas.
Subsequently, the end of ceasefire by NSCN(K) has resulted in a series of violent incidents in the northeast lately and in June in a dastardly attack several Dogra regiment personnel were killed in a major ambush in Manipur.
Modi flanked by Ajit Doval and Naga CM T R Zeliang

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is somehow in a tearing hurry to prove that he is making forward movement in talks with NSCN(IM), now in parleys since 1997 when I K Gujral was the Prime Minister.
The Naga peace talk is a complex issue with a principal demand of Naga groups’ 'unity' of Naga contiguous areas remaining an everlasting hanging fire.
Thus unification of Naga groups or broad agreement amongst them is must for bringing about a solution. But with NSCN(K) walking out of ceasefire and subsequently unleashing an era of violence only have made things more challenging for the Modi-led dispensation.
Such broad agreement will be required to ensure that the Government does not end up creating another Shillong Accord type agreement of 1970s which ultimately led to the split of A Z Phizo-led NNC and creation of a more potent National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN).
  It is in this context the Prime Minister seems to be guided by more sensible way of handling things. Meeting the all-party delegation of Nagaland legislators including Congressmen suggest NSA Ajit Doval despite his hawkish doctrine quite often wants to go steady and slow. In this context the offer from Nagaland Chief Minister T R Zeliang to send a team of emissaries to NSCN(Khaplang) is highly appreciable.

Zeliang in a meeting with the Home Minister Rajnath Singh made his offer which has been rightly welcomed by the Home Minister.
Rajnath conveyed that the Government is committed to finding "an amicable solution to the Naga issue".  

"The Naga delegation led by Chief Minister pointed that in the past, the Interlocutors to the Naga Peace Talks were authorised only to talk, but not to thrash out a formula for resolution of the problem.... this time the Naga delegation of state legislators met Home Minister and suggested that the present interlocutor R N Ravi be fully empowered to bring out a formula," a spokesman for the Nagaland government later said.
Will Khaplang again agree for a ceasefire?
 Such formula should "form the basis for the consultations" amongst the Naga militant groups and  the Naga people as a whole, said the state Parliamentary Working Committee comprising of Speaker Chotisuh Sazo and MLAs from all parties.

The Naga leaders also urged the Home Minister "to try to re-build the ceasefire with NSCN(K)", which walked out of the ceasefire recently. The delegation said the centre should also review its decision of declaring entire Nagaland State as "disturbed area" under the provisions of the Armed Forces Special Power Act (AFSPA). 

The lack of 'adequate power' for the interlocutors has been an issue vis-a-vis Naga peace talks as earlier too previous government negotiators like Swaraj Kaushal (during Vajpayee regime) and K Padmanabhaiah (during Manmohan Singh government ) had complained over the same.
At present the peace parleys with NSCN (IM) is at crucial stage as 49 out of 72 listed topics have been discussed and cleared, government sources said here. 'However, the crucial issues have not come for discussions yet," sources said while making it clear that the government of India will not hold any talks on Naga sovereignty.
The negotiator R N Ravi perhaps awaits further directives and power to talk.
Isak Chishi and Muivah - Tough Negotiators

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Indo-Pak ties: Vox populi vox Dei: the voice of the people is the voice of God

"The life of a flower that blooms in a corner of my courtyard is only half a day. That stone with which I grind my spices is much more durable. Where will you find a better yardstick to measure truth?......To someone who doesn't appreciate flowers that stone is the greater reality by far. There's no risk of it withering away: it will last forever, not for half a day.
It will always crush and grind as needed for the kitchen, it will  prepare the ingredients you need. Life becomes tasteless if it isn't there".

 What's driving me crazy to quote Saratchandra Chattopadhayay here as I embark on another debate on peace initiatives between India and Pakistan or the supposed futility about it?

The overwhelming response to my last two blogs on Pakistan is actually driving me to refer to the masterpiece called 'The Final Question' by Saratchandra. Well, I have my reasons, 'flowers and stones' are two permanent ingredients in any Indo-Pak parleys.
Let me take 'stones' for hardliners from both sides ! Life would be really "tasteless" without them. Peace is hard owned phenomenon - best sum upped by Lord Krishna when he told Draupadi "even you have to make sacrifice of your five sons, because it's you who sparked off this battle of Kurukshetra".
In Indo-Pak context and especially on the backdrop of Ufa Joint Statement and tete-e-tete, such references do make sense.
One also needs to make an observation that for both the countries - since 1947 - it's turning out to be 'New Born at 68 years' -- especially in the context of working together and settling down as neighbours.
My emphasis has been clear that both Nawaz Sharif and Narendra Modi are aware of the doggedness of the old older. But they want to take the challenges head on.

Both have their compulsions too. Foremost of all of these is common people's wish. In both the countries notwithstanding the chest thumping crowd; the neo-middle class wants peace and restoration of normal economic and trading ties. Both Modi and Nawaz Sharif - as the ear-on-ground netas- realise it well that the neo-middle class in both their countries are emerging as powerful instruments of change --- especially the youths - for augmentation of peace and normalcy between the two countries.
This is what is generally understood to be: vox populi vox Dei: the voice of the people is the voice of God.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

A 'new Nawaz' takes calculated risk against old doggedness

The Kargil misadventure firstly to allow cross over Line of Control had isolated Nawaz Sharif internationally in 1999. He was under fire and cut in size domestically and later upstaged in a bloodless coup apparently for succumbing to Bill Clinton’s directives and order withdrawal of troops from Kargil. 
He is not a novice but he agreed for a joint statement at Ufa on July 10, 2015 with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi with no mention of K-word, “Kashmir’.  

To security establishments in India, Nawaz Sharif reflects Pakistan’s diplomatic image – a ‘quick-change’ artiste. He truly reflects a typical run-of-the-mill Indian variety of Neta (leader), whose words and actions are most often contradictory.

Thus Indian security and strategic experts are not simply rejoicing on Nawaz giving in for a joint statement and that too without mention of Kashmir. If BJP hawks are to be believed – Islamabad agreed to New Delhi’s definition of  terrorism – thus Indian security establishment would be busy next couple of weeks trying to weigh what’s really in Sharif’s mind.
'Kashmir' dominates the very psyche of Pakistani politics and diplomacy. The “divided mountainous region”, as western diplomats call,  has been the cause of two of the three wars the countries have fought since 1947 and certainly still fuels bitter rivalry.  

For a section of India’s security and strategic specialists, Nawaz remains an all-time “bundle of contradictions”. Groomed by military dictator Zia-ul-Haq, he first became Finance Minister of Punjab province in 1981 and later the Chief Minister in 1985. A former army corps commander who served in northeast India, says, “Sharif surpassed Z A Bhutto’s popularity and in 1997 perhaps had emerged as Pakistan’s most popular PM since Muhammad Ali Jinnah.
Nawaz with Vajpayee: 1999
Sharif's popularity in New Delhi is no less as was experienced during his visit on May 26, 2014 for swearing in ceremony of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Punters believe both Nawaz and Modi have stuck a personal rapport and more importantly for South Asia perhaps, both share certain ‘ambitious’ future for the sub-continent. 
“Nawaz Sharif derives much of his clout despite the 1999 coup and his forced exile to his businessman father Mian Sharif who was known for iron hand approach,” says a well informed source.

The man, who “allegedly” allowed Kargil misadventure to divert people’s attention from domestic trouble and a series of corruption charges he was in 1999, Sharif did not mind claiming his “helplessness” before Atal Behari Vajpayee about army movement into Kargil and had said, “I did not know myself”.

The claim was later summarily rejected by Gen Pervez Musharraf. But at the same time in 1997, Sharif did away with Gen Zia’s 8th Amendment (which Benazir and others did not dare to touch). The constitutional amendment had given overidiing powers to Pakistan army. Thus like his Indian counterpart, Sharif too is a gutsy leader.

There is another common ground between Sharif and Modi as both are “home grown” politicians with both possibly lacking western sophistication but both speak good Hindi and are certainly ear-on-ground politicians.

While Modi braved trough 2002 Gujarat mayhem onslaught, Sharif returned to Pakistan politics and captured power after being forced to exile after Musharraf took over.

Between the two, Sharif is actually the original ‘development catalyst’ who post 1997 had made his mark by opening up a strictly regulated economy.

This blogger had interviewed Mobarak Haider, Pakistani intellectual on the eve of Lok Sabha polls in India in 2014. Haider sahib was point blank in telling that the trading community in his country (Sharif’s strongest supporters in Pak) believes a saffron party regime in India would bring in better economic ties between the two countries (story reported on The Statesman, 31 March, 2014). 
However, Sharif might have had his compulsions like Modi has his own to agree for a joint statement.

Is China letting him down? Has Modi charmed American and Chinese leadership to mount pressure on Nawaz Sharif to put the thorny issues aside?

Pak's closeness to China is legendary

Friday, July 10, 2015

Namo-Nawaz Meet: A match-winner or lost in symbolism

Narendra Modi has nearly staged a near coup as the Ufa joint statement by India and Pakistan read out by two Foreign Secretaries at a joint briefing did not have the undeviating ‘K’ word.
How Sharif agreed to a draft without mention of Kashmir is a double-edged sword. It can mean India has won a point that Indo-Pak talks can pursue even without discussions on Kashmir or that Pakistani side is not taking the Ufa exercise seriously. For them perhaps a commitment from Modi, a hawkish Hindutva school leader in his own right, that talks will be revived is itself a take away.
Opposition parties in Pakistan were not starry-eyed about the Namo-Nawaz meet.
Senator Rehman Malik, a former Interior Minister, dispatched a press release that detailed his reading of the icebreaker. “The recent meeting [of] Modi with Sharif clearly demonstrates how disrespectful Mr Modi was towards Sharif,” Malik was quoted by a spokesman as saying.
Nawaz with his army chief Gen. Raheel Sharif
He compared Indian Prime Minister Modi to “the Tsar of Russia” as he described how the two state leaders interacted. Ms Shireen Mazari of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) expressed dismay over the manner she felt Sharif “appeased India” in the meeting. Mazari felt that Sharif’s invitation to the Indian head of state was unnecessary and “beyond the requirements of diplomatic protocol”, as the same would have gone out as a matter of routine.
“Modi raised Mumbai and Sharif agreed to ‘fast track’ the investigations. Not a word on Samjhota Express was uttered by PM Sharif,” she fumed. Sharif could face further protest when he returns home and there would lie the true test of the leadership mantle in Pakistan Prime Minister, otherwise a tough nut in politics. And this would also decide whether Ufa was a winner for peace and stability in the region or yet another case of mountain out of a mole hill.

A decisive leader particularly in Indian context means different things to different people. That is one of the many questions many people throw up when we discuss a leader like Narendra Modi, who has diehard admirers and hardcore critics. 

The latest move by PM Modi vis-à-vis Pakistan has thus sparked off a turbulent debate, has he done the right thing in trying to revive talks with Pakistan and will Pakistan again go back on its words.

Modi’s detractors in India including a large section of media call him Hitler – someone who has choked dissent even from his party seniors; but I among a minority – especially among the ‘liberal’ journos – that only a decisive and determined person can lead India to a new path. Thus Modi’s roadmap is understood from that perspective.

But what’s this latest round of Indo-Pak or to be specific Namo-Nawaz talks at Ufa in Russia? Predictably BJP is jubilant and party’s neo-Muslim face and an intellectual in his own right, M J Akbar, was fielded within minutes to snatch the credit for the ice-breaker meeting for Modi as well as the BJP itself.
“The meeting was a breakthrough, the reason for this is very clear as for the first time Pakistan has accepted our definition of terrorism," he said.
But Congress is skeptical and tried to dismiss the efforts as being “nothing unique”. A more sensible voice about diplomacy in Congress, Shashi Tharoor has put it rather practically saying, “the taste of the pudding is in its eating”.
Vajpayee, Musharraf
In other words, a lot depends on the delivery level and that too from Pakistan, where Nawaz Sharif could be the Prime Minister but the diplomatic engine room vis-à-vis India is most of the time is in the military camp.
So, what next? Omar Abdullah says while he is “not pessimistic”; he does not want to be “over optimistic either”.
Frankly, years back Atal Behari Vajpayee had tried to put Indo-Pak dialogue at the core of his foreign policy. His Lahore Bus journey and classic oneliner in a some-what enemy country: “apki chini khae…kaafi mithi thi” was a heart-winner.

India had imported sugar from Pakistan that year. But things got derailed and things were again sabotaged at Agra chiefly owing to hawkish stance taken by Gen Pervez Musharraf as also Vajpayee’s longtime friend L K Advani and his blue-eyed girl Sushma Swaraj (the then I&B Minister).

when Pakistan was founded !
A few Modi detractors are already singing “u-turn” theme song and refusing to give Modi the benefit of time – till Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif can actually deliver.

“Is making a U-turn necessarily a bad thing in politics and governance?,” asks columnist Shekhar Gupta while he answers himself; “The truth is, four big turnarounds Modi as Prime Minister has made on his party's pre-election position are pragmatic and in our larger interest”.

The references are to nuclear deal with the US, LBA with Bangladesh, India’s stand vis-à-vis China and now the talks with Pakistan, which was abandoned eight months back.
To take the discussion forward, we need to examine will Nawaz Sharif deliver or more specifically will he have the ‘power’ to deliver? In Pakistan the control of army is now in the hands of army chief General Raheel Sharif, incidentally a former protégé of Gen Pervez Musharraf.

Moreover, Gen Raheel Sharif at his tender age of 15 had lost his elder brother in Bangladesh war in 1971. So there’s a scar that remains as a ‘bitter pain’ in Gen Sharif’s psyche as well as in the psyche of all Pakistanis. The Bangldesh (or East Pakistan) fester was only renewed for Pakistan when Narendra Modi made a very candid but bitter speech in Dhaka.

No Pakistani General should be considered a moderate. To cap it, on June 3, 2015, Gen Sharif  at the National Defence University in Islamabad had said, "Kashmir is an unfinished agenda of partition. Kashmir and Pakistan are inseparable."

So is there a meeting point really?

In the ultimate analysis, Indo-Pak tie is a no-win diplomatic tussle. However, the Indian media generally go overboard when there is any India-Pakistan meeting. But it could be going back to the basic if there is any major terrorist attack. All hopes will be dashed and it will fall like a house of cards.
Just as the saying goes: Lamhe ne khata ki hae; sadiyon ne saja pae hae !!