Thursday, September 29, 2016

Surgical Strikes: Namo's 56-inch show and Importance of Timing

Indian agencies are confident that lately Pakistan's ability to "manage affairs in Kashmir campaign" has failed to evoke confidence in the international public opinion and Islamabad is almost turning into a regional pariah in the comity of nations.

As a result, they say, Pakistan is being subjected to growing hostility from even countries like Afghanistan and Bangladesh, while it's established friends  have offered only lip-service and stereotype assistance.
This has to do the the timing of the surgical strikes by India.

Thus the 'Surgical strikes' came within hours Nawaz Sharif held strategy meet on Kashmir on September 28, Wednesday. Even as the meticulous manner the 'special forces' of Indian army conducted the surgical strikes against terror launch pads in Pakistan-Occupied-Kashmir (PoK), those in the know of things say the credit for the successful assault  should also go to intelligence agencies and other security forces.

It was sheer "efficiency" of Indian security agencies that army could conduct the surgical strikes within hours  Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif presided over a strategic meet with his close aides to discuss Kashmir issue and Islamabad response to New Delhi. 
"It was not only a well coordinated operation by security forces and army but various intelligence gathering mechanism also did play their part. All proved to be very useful," an insider says. 

In fact, hours before the first formal clearance was obtained from the army head quarter and the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) on Wednesday, there were inputs that a high-level meeting Pakistani political, civil and military establishments were trying to coordinate and carry out some "nefarious designs".

"There was intelligence input that Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in a meeting with the likes of Interior Minister Chaud­hry Nisar Ali Khan, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, Army Chief Gen Raheel Sharif, National Security Adviser retired Lt Gen Nasser Khan Janjua, Director General Military Operations Maj Gen Sahir Shamshad Mirza and army and ISI officials were planning something big," the source said. 

Sharif had also assured the gathering that notwithstanding "threats" from Indian leadership, Pakistan will "continue" to extend the moral and strategic support to Kashmiris.
The Conclave!
In fact, Sharif had also instructed National Security Adviser Lt Gen (Retd) Nasser Khan Janjua and Foreign Secretary Aizaz Chaudhary to take necessary steps on lobbying for Pakistani point of view on Kashmir with the Arab world and other friendly nations.

Indian government assessment has been that during last 10 days or so, the Pakistani politically leadership had started feeling the heat or impact of "diplomatic offensive" pursued by New Delhi following the Uri terror strike on the army camp.

The high-level meeting presided over Sharif also "reviewed and expressed satisfaction over the Pakistani military’s preparedness" vis-a-vis actions along the Line of Control.

However, sources say the Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh in a crucial meeting with senior Border Security Force
officials on Tuesday was briefed about their side of the information.

Singh was categorical in directing the top BSF brass that he would prefer "zero or reduced infiltration" and directed them to revamp security and border guarding along the borders.

--These surgical strikes have raised many eye brows and raised a few questions. Some of them are essential ones and need to be looked into in right perspective.

##### I wrote this in June 2015......after Myanmar venture of Indian army! And its all seem relevant.
-------------"Modi is working on a different kind of engagement. He wants to negotiate with Pakistan from a position of strength possibly on all fronts. That is why Prime Minister wants India to be
friendly to China, US and Russia and also BRICS and European nations. He also wants to isolate isolate Pakistan in SAARC and then say Mr Sharif 'let's talk'. Certainly, the plan sounds took bookish. It's tough and ambitious.

Journey of a loner: Narendra Modi

His admirers say Modi has always challenged the concept of ‘status quoist’, a feature hailed in Indian polity and banked on certain ‘out-of-box’ thinking and actions. By surgical strikes has made a superb lethal combination of nationalism, diplomacy and a good geo-strategist!!
Narendra Modi has been a true loner even post 2014 when he led his party to a grand victory of all-time!!! 
Considered a loner - both in his party and in national politics - he was a steadfast outsider to the 'Delhi club' and had to deal with friends and foes often single-handedly.
"The way I am working is my USP. I don't think till date there is anything wrong in that," Mr Modi had said in March 2013 during a media interaction in New Delhi.
This assertion in reply to a question whether he should have apologised for 2002 anti-Muslim mayhem, that his onetime mentor L K Advani described as a blot, and also cost his party allies, sums up the personality of Modi.
He has truly over the years weathered enough brickbats and political discomfort to emerge as the party’s new mascot.

+++His ''Çongress-mukt' campaign line appealed to the new generation of voters and it is believed that this section voted with a vengeance. They must be happy with today's news.
Many voters across cow-belt states said they would rather prefer a new approach. It is in this context, even Muslim and Dalit voters in known ‘secular’ bastions like Mainpuri (Mulayam Singh Yadav’s fiefdom) stressed on the key factor of performance.
In July 2011, the magazine ‘The Economist’ said rather caustically, “so many things work properly in Gujarat that it hardly feels like India.”
With Sept. 28-29 actions, here’s was a synthesis of hardliner Hindu chauvinism and development --- along with a government now backing Indian army.......– the legacy called ‘Moditva’ he has created and nurtured so well.
Correction Time

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Namo's tilt towards Muslims - Lip Service or Disowning Hindutva Agenda?

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s conduct vis-à-vis address to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders in southern state of Kerala on Sunday on Muslims has predictably evoked mixed reactions. To be precise it has made many raise eyebrows in socio-political circle as Modi has always tried to uphold his core hard-line Hindutva constituency. He need not have cherished the image of a ‘Muslim hater’ but the perceived “antagonism” towards Mulims actually helped him and had endeared him to his voters. 

In fact the so called “Moditva brand” people talk about either romantically or acidly – as the prism would be – generally suggests to a lethal combination of a Hindutva champion, an industry friendly catalyst for development and a man would not compromise with ideologies of his roots – essentially given to antagonism towards Muslims.

Like anything else in life, success for any politician also comes with hard work, proper planning and playing the cards well. There is little to dispute that Modi’s pro-development image building exercise “Vibrant Gujarat” – organizing conclave of industry captains and diplomats to attract investment in Gujarat – was certainly well planned.

Therefore when he waxes eloquence on Muslims – rather in an unprovoked situation – when the public mood is about hard measures against Pakistan – and suggesting that the battered Muslims of 2002 be treated as “our own” – there is certainly more to it.
Some politicians already see a plot in his scheme of things. Bhartruhari Mahtab, a Biju Janata Dal lawmaker from the eastern state of Odisha – a Hindu-dominated state where Modi’s BJP is still to make much headway – says Prime Minister Modi is trying to distance himself from the core agenda of the hard-line Hindutva brigade – the Sanghparivar.

“Modi is trying to give an effect to playing the centrist role henceforth. May be he wants to transform. He wants to play a bigger role – an Asian role. I welcome this because this is necessary for a country like India," Mahtab told this writer. 
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on this backdrop seems to have come a long way vis-a-vis his troubled relations with the Muslims – who would not long ago compare him with Hitler and Milosevic – the two popular ‘hate’ images.

This is certainly a long way from an outright rejection to wear a Muslim skull cap at his Goodwill Fast in 2012.

"Do not rebuke Muslims... They need not be rewarded. Empower them. They are not items of vote market nor are they substance of hate. Treat them as your own," Modi told a BJP national council meeting at Kozhikode in Kerala.
Notably many see his remarks on Muslims aimed towards ensuing elections in the northern province of Uttar Pradesh – India’s most populous state with sizeable Muslim population. Five years in the local state elections, BJP did not do good at all and the repeat of the same performance –to finish third below two regional caste-based parties will be a big setback to Narendra Modi’s image of a “performer Prime Minister”. Muslims in this state are at cross roads on deciding about their political patrons and hence the pro-Muslim tilt could be deliberate and well timed political move.
On the other hand it is vital now to examine Modi’s or his ministerial colleagues approach towards other minority Christians. Many in his party including sitting parliamentarians have time and again spoken about “Ghar Wapsi (a popular local agenda of re-conversion of Christians and Muslims to Hinduism). Generally, Modi has kept silence on the controversies only to earn rebuke of liberal Hindus and minorities. But on February 17, 2015, Modi had addressed a large Christian gathering and said his government would ensure that there was complete "freedom of faith and that everyone has the undeniable right to retain or adopt the religion of his or her choice”.
Christian clergy say that thousands of their religious group have faced threats in recent months from hardline Hindu groups agitating to make India a Hindu-only nation.
Many politicians like K.C Tyagi of socialist party – Janata Dal United – says Modi is not trying to be centrist. “Modi remains 100 percent Sanghi – an adjective for committed followers of hard-line Hindu chauvinism,” says Tyagi.
Thus the obvious inference is perhaps Prime Minister is only playing double games allowing hardliners to pursue polarisation agenda on one hand while he gives only a lip service that only religious book for his government is the Constitution of India.

With regard minorities in India, for their part – they do face certain predicament and there is no easy way to come out of this. An impression was created that Christians would back Congress party led by Sonia Gandhi – an Italian Christian by birth. But it is also true that overwhelming Christians have voted for the BJP in the past even in Christian-dominated states like Nagaland.

Which way India under Modi and the Prime Minister as an individual is moving –only the posterity would judge that better.

Monday, September 26, 2016

A Polemical Love - Letter to Mr Nawaz Sharif and other citizens of Pakistan

I would have possibly performed a more useful task if I have been more polemical or vitriolic in this missive (or the blog). I am thinking of this letter writing exercise addressing to Pakistani citizens – most of whom do not know me at all - at a time when the tension between India and Pakistan is at its height. Probably it all started about 40 years back when your country started ‘cross border’ strategy – we call it terrorism – to avenge your defeat on Bangladesh front.

In the last two decades or so, India is estimated to have lost about 25,000 soldiers and citizens. In the meantime, in the name of democracy in India – we developed a sickness – a growing tendency to defame our own government, own police and military men and in short – our own country. This jiongoism of self-criticism became associated with modern liberalism. In the meantime, in a wider scale – the so called appeasement of minorities in our own country – especially Muslims - have assumed an even more dominant role than most observers a generation ago would have thought about.

In the process, even showing softness towards your country – that is Pakistan - became a vote bank issue – a tool to garner Muslim votes in India. 

Faced with such unashamed glorification of a style to defame own religion and culture, “Our Indianness” almost withdrew into itself. Mocking at majority in India became a fashion. For some newspapers in Kolkata it became a style statement. Hence your envoy’s voice --- blatantly against my own country – has become a flier news story. 
blogger Dev

However, over the years your political establishment in tandem with the military worked to a plan. You seemed to be enjoying every time a ‘kafir’ soldier was killed or beheaded!

And the moment a general mood was being prepared for harsh steps against your country – we had candle light marchers, editorials and Left-Congress-socialists variety of politicians. 
Some like Marxist doyen Jyoti Basu rejoiced in calling our Hindu brethren “barbarous” and chose to look the other way when perpetrators were the other lot and even from your country. 

The “human rights bogey” was raised at wrong moments and we had several other instruments to mock at ourselves.
But while your political class and military dragged your polity to a jingoism – wherein anti-India rhetoric became a tonic for survival, as citizens you all lost the track of your democratic polity. So the blame has to be accounted one day.

In the meantime, we had given ourselves a political thought and a leadership that made a fine combination of Hindu chauvinism, nationalism, anti-Islam and anti-Pakistan rhetoric. This was certainly our creation – like the speeches of ‘Mia Musharraf’ variety in 2002 and to an extent this also has to do with the passivity of Pakistanis.
You gave a free hand to your political-military leadership to breed “snakes” in the backyards and thus the rest is history. Can you really deny Pakistani complexity vis-à-vis the rise of Taliban cult and other forms of terrorism? These have only – and that unfortunately - also left your country bleeding number of times.

In 1997, your present Prime Minister Mr Sharif (I always thought he remained a ‘gentleman’ as the Urdu word suggests) made a promise to work for peace with India. There was a huge mandate in his favour and we could also hope for a break. May be your PM wants to deliver. Some of us had doubts. Your military power brokers had other intentions.

Our doubts were proved right when your military intervened and first you gave the sub-continent the ‘Kargil conflict’ and later the coup from Gen Pervez Musharaf.  

Mr Sharif had to flee. He has again came back to the political forefront even as in the meantime you lost Benazir Bhutto.
Today your country’s economy is in doldrum and even Afghan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani during a visit to Delhi said, your country Pakistan has turned into a nation that "celebrates every single episode of its own defeat" as victory and "every single intelligence failure is regarded as a confirmation of conspiracy theory".
Now, our Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made an attempt to establish a dialogue with the citizens of Pakistan and urged you all to examine where did you go wrong in giving a freehand to your political class. They worked out on the unholy nexus with the military establishment and created the monster of terror around.

What’s the roadmap ahead then?

Our Prime Minister Narendra Modi has also reminded you of your “Indian roots”. This may sound irritating to most of you as you have lived all these years to hate ‘kafirs’. Hindu religion and the country India – both have grown as a result of thousands years of evolution. We had origins in Aryan foundation and also lived with the codified theories of Vedas and Upanishads. But it is true the richness of our civilization would not have been possible without the role of Islam.

The ‘Pakistan’ you created certainly had its roots in Indian values and civilization. It is high time – you all look back – and re-examine the history – last 70 years – you have dedicated in creating and exporting terrorism to bleed us.

Certainly, Pakistan as a country presents a paradoxical case. The hatred you lived on has reduced the country – you so affectionately named ‘holy- homeland’ – today is almost a “failed state”. The byword of your co-existence with terrorism is sheeer obstinacy. It is like the case of an unsuccessful painter who had all the potentials to shine with his art but created a ground only to end up as a failed imposture. 

Islam in India – a multi-lingual nation with multi-faith – arrived as a ‘phoren’ influence and only represented a culture of Monotheism.
It gathered immense respect. Sufism even became a part of rural characteristic. But the success was limited. Despite converting millions into Islam, the country has remained essentially Hindu – both in numbers and spirit and also superstitions. The fact that Hindus remained Hindus – notwithstanding Christianity and Islam – is only a proof that Monotheism also divides people – tears them apart. Look at both the countries today. We know it. You must also know it.  

Your’s Blogger
Nirendra Dev 

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Syrian Conflict - US and Russia and A Messy Unfolding

It is like the return of the old cold war days with vengeance. Russia and the United States are in intense battle of wits against each other after 18 humanitarian trucks clearly marked and carrying wheat flour, medicine and clothing were attacked and destroyed in a dastardly attack in Syria.
The relief materials comprised nine tons of medicine and clothing for about 78,000 people for violence hit northern Syria. The attack on humanitarian convoy has severely weakened the pact reached sometime back between the United States and Russia aimed at halting the war. The U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry blasted Russia for allegedly changing its explanation about the attack that killed 20 people.

“This is not a joke,” Kerry said at a U.N. meet. 
Predictably, irked by the attack, the United Nations have suspended all aid convoys in Syria and also described the bombing as a possible war crime.
The Obama administration has held Russia responsible for the attack, while Moscow has denied it. Russia has said, the major mishap that destroyed 18 of the 31 trucks had occurred as a result of a fire mishap.
The UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said the attack on the convoy was “sickening, savage and apparently deliberate.”
However, amid the battle of wits a positive aspect remained that despite the outrage and continued bombing of rebel-held areas, both the US and Russia have still decided to salvage the Syrian ceasefire. But the repeated major mishaps are seen only as a part of greater designs. The destruction of these humanitarian trucks was the second disaster in three days. Experts see these only as attempts to subvert the agreement between Russia and the United States, which had called for a cease-fire and delivery of humanitarian aid.
Earlier, on Saturday last week, Americans had to tender an apology when a US airstrike supposed to target Islamic State militants in Syria instead had killed 60 people that Syria’s government and its Russian allies identified as Syrian soldiers.
Despite American apologies, Russia and Syrian government have called the misdirected air strike as deliberate.
Now the question comes, are the two big powers serious about a global response to counter the terrorism in Syria?

The US-Russian agreement has been ironically the first truly serious attempt to reduce the violence. 
The blood-soaked conflict in Syria is probably easy to track by figures than understanding the basics. It has almost claimed 5 lakh (50 million) lives, displaced several millions, opened space for the Islamic State and has involved powers like the US and Russia into it.But the complex problems involved probably have not been understood and analyzed well as allowing these conflicts to linger can only harm the world. Going into basics, the core conflict has been between forces loyal to President Bashar Al-Assad and the rebels. In the meantime, Syria’s ethnic Kurdish minority took up arms and an ominous group Islamic State with their ruthless style has come to steal the limelight.
There is a vital international angle into all these. Syrian President Assad receives support from Iran and Russia and a Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, the “rebels” are said to be backed by the United States and some oil-rich Arab states. 

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Uri attack and Namo: The belligerent anti-Modi Jehad of ‘Sickular army’

The hypocrisy has no limitation. Belittling Modi is the real ‘jehad’ sickulars have found themselves in.

Singing laurels of Pakistani terrorists and Pakistani establishment thus assume greater significance than the supposed national interest.

Who is the winner in the ultimate analysis?

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Advantage India :: Wresting the Initiatives - Pak on backfoot

“Khoon hae angan mere, bhai bhabhi ro raye haen.....ankh hae bhara bhara aur tum dil lagane ki bate kar rahe ho !!
(There’s blood in my courtyard. My brother and his family are shedding tears. My eyes too are moist and you want me to buy peace around)” --- these are a collection of rare melancholic lines I penned almost unknowingly for a Facebook posting on September 20-21(2016) – mid night.

In the unprecedented terror strike at fortified Uri sector in Baramula district on September 18; India lost of its 18 brave hearts. 
Words fail this caption
Truly, its melancholic time in India as a generally peace-loving nation is being forced to take an aggressive stand. There is a teaser, a provocation for the government of Narendra Modi – who sadly, may be has “more enemies” in India than abroad! By temperament, an obstinate kind of a man and a hardliner by training, Modi by himself offers as a challenge to Pakistan. Yet things in Pakistan mostly go in a dubious manner towards an unknown direction.

By nature, politicians are known for double standards. Pakistani politicians’ track record too – like in India and elsewhere - smacks of duplicity. On face value, Pakistani politicians talks against military interference in their affairs, but privately they strike deas. Even the famous 1997 election victory of Nawaz Sharif – often hailed as a victory of the institution of Parliament and Sharif’s pledge to work for peace with India – in effect – what later came out suggested that he had stuck a deal with General Jehangir Karamat. Hence the army chief in Pakistan has remained a key arbitrator in their political system. But this logic does not end here.
A most unendurable factor haunting Pakistani politics-military powergame is – it excludes civil society. In the process, Pakistan inherently has to do with anti-thesis of democracy. The system – how much faulty – actually provides cover for civilian political delinquency and military ambitions. Former Indian foreign minister Jaswant Singh once explained – this is why military and Prime Minister in Pakistan are more often forced to work in tandem and yet appear to be at cross purposes. 

In case of aberrations, there are other factors to argue about, presumably.

First question is, who is the boss in Pakistan, the chief of armed staff or the Prime Minister? 
Do we know Pakistani military’s attitude to Modi’s stopover in Lahore in December 2015?  To recap, after Atal Behari Vajpayee’s visit to Lahore in 1999, we had Kargil; Mumbai 26/11 came about arguably after some progress in the backchannel talks. In 2016, so we had Pathankot. If that was not enough- around nine months after, we had Uri wee hours holocaust.

Now, India is virtually pushed to act. Even domestic forces – those who are generally known for avoiding jingoism – have challenged Prime Minister Modi to act firmly.
Others say – India’s faulty policy in Jammu and Kashmir would get the Modi government on its nose.

Even on September 18 afternoon hours after the horrifying attack including with
the use of "incendiary" arms by the terrorists as claimed by Director General, military Operations, Lt. Gen. Ranbir Singh, a feeling went on in social networking that despite initial reactions New Delhi will be forced to negotiating table.

In the words of former army chief  Gen (Retd) Bikram Singh, "Let's be very forthright. It has been supplied by Pakistan. It is ordinance ammunition made by the ordinance factory of the army and has white phosphorous content. It is not available off the shelf. Therefore it only supports the point that it (the attack) was supported and sponsored by Pakistani establishment”. 
Did Nawaz get a snub?
One does not rule out dialogue especially because US and others would disfavor conflict between two Nuke powers. But India seems serious today about what all has happened.

Indications are on that the Uri terror attack has left Modi anguished – even personally - in more ways than one – as it seeks to belittle his efforts to building up an atmosphere of dialogue with Pakistan. Home Minister Rajnath Singh has thus called Pakistan a “terror state” and demanded that efforts be made to “isolate” Pakistan internationally.

Minister of State for Defence, Subhash Bhamre has only endorsed these lines when he said, “Pakistan has a history of fomenting trouble in Jammu and Kashmir. In spite of this, we tried to resolve the issue peacefully, but we have realised that Pakistan is not sincere towards peace... We (Government of India) have changed our policy".
These are not only specific words but also signal that New Delhi this time around wants to take on Pakistan and its vicious circle of “talks-Kashmir-terrorism” head on. The Ministry of External Affairs is learnt to be enlisting support of SAARC members like Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka for the same at the regional level.

So far, India has got “in principle” support from the United States, Russia and also United Kingdom. Nawaz Sharif’s America trip so far has turned damp squib.
His soliciting the “world support” has practically no takers in western world. Pakistan and even pro-Pakistan sympathizers in India (anti-Modi and the rest for whatever reasons) would do well to realize that unlike the past Islamabad’s utility to the western powers is evaporating. No foster guardian actually cares much about a baby which is no longer useful.

On the other hand, India has also emerged as a potentially major player in Asia as well as global platform. By contrast, Pakistan has an image of a “failed state”, an “economically challenged” entity whose advocacy of the Kashmir cause is an obsession and thus like a liability. International community by traditon has hated to shoulder the burden of other nations.  

Security experts in New Delhi now, therefore, say, - Pakistan would be compelled to enlist the support of Kashmiri diaspora to internationalise Kashmir imbroglio.

Indian foreign policy engine room, the powerful PMO – is also assessing Pakistan’s next move vis-à-vis China and Islamic world – a real source of inspiration for Islamabad.

I also wrote – almost unknowingly -- KASH YEH KASH NAHI HOTA... BHAI BHAI HEE HOTEY......EK MUSALMAN...EK KAFIR NAHI HOTA.....


Monday, September 19, 2016

Goods and Services Tax: Can Namo deliver?

In 2014 when Narendra Modi took over, voters in India, his admirers  -- all wanted India under Modi to take tough decisions and reboot its economy.
People expected miracles. PM trusted Arun Jaitley and possibly also Ajit Doval and other officials in the PMO.

But for failures, people would not blame Jaitley or Doval. Those who feel belied feel let down by none other than Modi himself. That's a challenge for Namo and he has to take it head on !

I have written on these lines earlier also. ut now the issue on hand is GST. 

The Narendra Modi government is showing urgency in getting the Goods and Services Tax (GST), the unified tax regime, rolled out across India by April 1, 2017. In order to achieve the same, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has directed in no unambiguous manner that all efforts be made to ensure that the government gets adequate time for parliamentary nod to the supporting bills.

For this, he has directed that even the winter session of Parliament be advanced to the second week of November. An early winter session of Parliament by second week of November will help quick passage of the central GST bill and also the Integrated GST bill. By first week of December, the government wants to clear the paper works and legislative matters.  

Modi in a meeting with Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and senior officials from the Finance ministry and the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) last Wednesday reviewed the government's preparation on the same.

"In order to ensure that there is no slippage on date of implementation of GST from April 1, 2017, the Prime Minister reviewed the progress made on various steps needed for the roll-out of GST relating to preparation of Model GST laws and rules to be framed,”, a PMO statement said.

Importantly, why this urgency? 

As usual PM Modi wants to be seen as a “performer Prime Minister” and wants to deliver the common tax regime according to the already announced deadline. Otherwise it again gets postponed may be to April 1, 2018.  

Significantly, the push for a no-holds barred approach to ensure GST implementation by Modi comes after Finance Minister Jaitley's acknowledgement that the deadline to roll out the GST was quite tough and there were a few hurdles ahead. 

On September 8, Jaitey had said the Centre and the states were "running against time", and there were issues, which the proposed GST Council would need to address. 
"After the notification and constitution of the GST Council, there are obviously some pending issues, which the council will have to resolve. So we have September and October and parts of November to do that," Jaitley had said.

Significantly, the push for a no-holds barred approach to ensure GST implementation by Modi comes after Finance Minister Jaitley's acknowledgement that the deadline to roll out the GST was quite tough and there were a few hurdles ahead. 

On September 8, Jaitley had said the Centre and the states were "running against time", and there were issues, which the proposed GST Council would need to address. 
"After the notification and constitution of the GST Council, there are obviously some pending issues, which the council will have to resolve. So we have September and October and parts of November to do that," Jaitley had said.

In the words of Union Cabinet Secretary P.K. Sinha; “GST is the biggest game changer. But it is also a challenge. We are working overtime to make it happen from April 1, 2017”. He further pointed out that a “silent revolution is happening and despite teething problems” and India would move on to accomplish the objectives and targets set in by the government in all sectors of economic activities.

Official sources said among the few hurdles the main issue to be addressed is: What will be the GST rate? This is being fiercely debated as base rates recommended by experts and stakeholders vary from around 15.5 per cent to as high as 26 per cent.

The opposition parties too seem to understand the desperation of the government. “We know their urgency. They want to keep with the deadline of April 1, 2017. But it will not be easy,” said a Janata Dal (U) leader.

Agree others, mere passing the GST bills by Parliament and state assemblies cannot enforce the unified tax regime across the country, said Samajwadi leader Dharmendra Yadav.

He says “there is a long way to go” as the newly set up GST Council headed by Finance Minister Jaitley has to figure out other issues too.

Experts and government officials say :the GST Council also has to put in place a dispute resolution mechanism. The necessary IT infrastructure backbone too, has to be set up. Working in coordination with Infosys, the Goods and Services Tax Network has targeted October 2016 for the commencement of transferring existing assessees to the new system. This is easier said than done as all backing has to be ensured either way - software and hardware tests.

The government also needs to ensure training for about one lakh officials at the central and state levels who are involved with indirect taxes.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

US Presidential Elections 2016: Has Donald Trump Turned An “Insurgent”?

How do the US presidential elections bother Indians in India, how would Indian-Americans vote in this year’s polls? More importantly perhaps, why would Indian-Americans vote for an “insurgent” campaigner like Donald Trump?
To answer these questions, let us first assess what Trump, the maverick Republican candidate, has to say.
“I think this will be the last election that the Republicans have a chance of winning because you’re going to have people flowing across the border, you’re going to have illegal immigrants coming in and they’re going to be legalized,” he said even as he cautioned that “Already the path is much more difficult for the Republicans. You just have to look at the maps”.True, Trump has been stealing the headlines in the run-up to the polls and mostly for wrong reasons.
During a brief interaction in New Delhi, the India-born US Democrat leader Aruna Miller (51), delegate from Maryland, rather unhesitatingly described Trump as an “insurgent” and emphasized that a leader contesting the prized post of US President’s office should conduct himself “responsibly”.
“Donald Trump is a polarizing individual. The statements he has been making have only damaged America,” she said in an interview and dismissed the recent surveys that showed Trump slightly ahead of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.
“I am not convinced of such surveys,” she said.
On the other hand, she asserted that Hillary Clinton will be a unifying factor and an endorsement of “inclusive politics” of Americans.
“The selection of Hillary Clinton as the presidential candidate is reflective of our Democratic party’s policy and the overall commitment of the United States. We always wanted an inclusive society. But for Trump, I must say, if you are contesting for such a high post, you must show responsibility. You cannot keep making such sweeping statements”.
To a question whether it was proper to call the Presidential candidate from a rival party “an insurgent”, Miller shot back, “he (Trump) is an insurgent…what else you call him”.
She went on: “Our Democratic Party has a system of superdelegates. Republicans do not have this. If they had Superdelegate mechanism, I don’t think their candidate would not have been an insurgent like Donald Trump”.
Hyderabad-born Aruna added: “In our party, the super delegate system allows screening of candidates for US presidential polls. I wish Republican also had one”.
In American politics, a “superdelegate” is considered “unpledged delegate” to the Democratic National Convention who are free to support any candidate for the presidential nomination. This mechanism is, however, not practiced in the Republican party.
Against this backdrop, Aruna said there is already a growing realization now in the United States for reforms in the system of presidential polls and ” after this year’s polls, some actions will be taken on these lines”.
On Hillary Clinton, she said, “Hillary is an inclusive character and she will build bridges and not walls. The US is a nation built on immigrants,” she said and maintained that the media has often been unfair to Hillary and tried to “demonize” her on issues concerning her health and controversy on the email server.
On Indo-US relations, Aruna asserted: “Irrespective of the outcome of the November 8 US presidential elections, both and India and the United States relations will be good and continue to grow”.
Miller also said: “… the United States, India, and all other countries will have to come together to fight terrorism.”
Her views on Indo-US emerging robust relationship was also endorsed by
Republican senator Wayne Harper.
“Regardless of the changes one may see after the (US presidential) elections, the relations between the two countries will continue to grow,” Harper said.
On the issue of terrorism, he pointed out that “It is a matter of concern globally as terror has struck not only the United States but everyone, be it Europe or India or other countries.”
However, he sounded defensive about some of the rhetoric of Trump and sought to look for an escape route to wriggle out himself from the debate.
“ I agree with issues flagged by you, like immigrants, Muslims, and women. Some of these remarks are not party statement; some of his statements concern me definitely,” he said, adding: “Like everyone else, Trump, too, is an individual. Many of his statements came more as an individual and not from the Republican platform. These do not reflect the Republican stand”.
He added “You guys (Indians) are greatly involved in the world affairs. It is a good sign. It is a sign of mature citizenry of the world’s largest democracy.” Harper was on a maiden visit to India.
(written by Swati Deb) 

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Omar tried to empower Panchayats, but failed:: G K Pillai has a formula to show Kashmiri leaders their place

Omar tried to empower Panchayats, but failed, - says ex-Home Secretary Pillai

Stating that empowering of local panchayats was crucial to create a "new set of leaders" in Jammu and Kashmir to bring about general improvement in the situation, former Union Home Secretary G.K. Pillai told me in an interview (for the IANS) that the erstwhile Omar Abdullah government did try to give more authority to local bodies but the efforts did not fructify into results. 
Pillai said Omar Abdullah didn't empower local bodies when he was Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister as he did not want to risk his chair and introduce the reforms that would have brought about drastic socio-political change in the troubled state and spawned a new generation of grassroots leaders.

Pillai said empowering the local administrative bodies was crucial to improving the situation in the state, particularly the Kashmir Valley where an ongoing unrest has left 76 people dead and thousands injured in an unending cycle of stone-pelting protests and counter-violence by security forces. "In 2010, over 75 per cent of Kashmiris had voted during the panchayat elections. There were overwhelming expectations. But these local bodies did not have much power and nothing much really happened. Currently, in Jammu and Kashmir, local panchayats do not have any power and steps should be taken by both the Centre and the state government to empower them". 

He said in 2010, during Omar Abdullah's meeting with then Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram and Pillai (then Home Secretary), the Chief Minister was "advised" to work to empower the panchayats in the state.

"Omar said that he would try. But he got back to the Centre stating that there were hurdles as the MLAs were not allowing this to happen. If I take a sanguine stand, my chair will be at risk, Omar had then informed the central government," Pillai said.
Twitter hero: Omar could not empower Panchayats
The 73rd constitution amendment that gave immense functional autonomy and financial powers to the panchayats in other parts of India could not automatically become applicable in Jammu and Kashmir because the state has its "own Constitution".
Pillai said empowering the local panchayat bodies can go a long way in bringing about drastic socio-political changes in Jammu and Kashmir as it will give village-level leaders the power to work on developmental works and also end the "monopoly" of the existing leaders. "Local people in Jammu and Kashmir expect the panchayats to work on drainage and village roads. But in the absence of power and money, nothing can be achieved," the former bureaucrat said. 
"In the rest of India, we have seen panchayat leaders coming to Delhi as members of parliament. This is perhaps not possible in Jammu and Kashmir," Pillai said. 
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 He urged the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leadership to impress upon the PDP-BJP government headed by Mehbooba Mufti in the state to bring necessary changes in law to empower the panchayats.

"BJP is in power in Jammu and Kashmir; they must do it. They must ask the PDP leadership to give powers to the panchayats for tangible results," he said. Pillai also said that over the years "undue importance" has been given to the Hurriyat leaders even by the central government agencies.

"I have said that the Hurriyat can be ignored. The Hurriyat leadership can be ignored at least for two years if they are not interested in talks. We must help create a new set of leaders in panchayats in Jammu and Kashmir," he said. When asked whether the Hurriyat has "mishandled" the situation by declining to meet an all-party delegation as was being suggested by official sources in Delhi, Pillai said: "These issues are peripheral and minor. We should work to empower the local people."

Separatist Mirwaiz Umar Farooq

Pillai maintained that even the separatist leaders understood that "India is running a democratic set-up and they need not be afraid of us". He recalled that around 2010-2011, separatist leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq had told the Home ministry top guns that he is "not afraid" of the Indian establishment as it will "not exceed limits" unlike miscreants in Pakistan. He maintained that in states like Kerala, the monopoly of the MLAs and state-level leaders is discarded completely.
"Considering the lack of powers of the panchayat leaders in Jammu and Kashmir, the rest of India seems a paradise. In my native state Kerala, though the state assembly passes the budget, nearly 40 per cent of the developmental works and social welfare schemes are implemented by the panchayats. Hence there is no monopoly. That model is worth emulating," he said.
Pillai hoped that there will be improvement in the situation in Kashmir Valley in the next two months or so when the apple harvest season sets in.
"Common people are more interested about day-to-day affairs, jobs and children's education. Once economic activities gain speed, things will hopefully improve," Pillai asserted.
(this interview run by IANS was well received in the media)