Unshackling IPL from cricket

First posted on CRI on 11 June 2011

The news and analysis cycle over the past few weeks has been negative and depressing. In as much as it concerns me as an Indian citizen, it also depresses me a bit. Not that I am going to permanently disengage myself from what is happening around me, but I did want to take a day’s break and this weekend just focus on some fantasy-building; and what better than to do some random thinking on whether there is scope to expand the IPL beyond cricket.

IPL, despite its lack-lustre performance this season (due to the surfeit of cricket, and the World Cup victory), is one of the few successful global brands that India has built, and in a very short time (four years). Each and every aspect of it is a marketing success, right from the bidding, to the main cricket season and the so-called “after-parties”! In as much as I want to criticize the BCCI for being dictators, opaque about their operations, and probably also corrupt, I can’t deny that they are doing a hell of a better job than all the other sports federations put together. And no, their success does not get explained just by the fact that cricket is the most popular game in India, there is something more to it.

The reason why corporate India has got involved in IPL is not altruistic, or just for the “glamour quotient”, but running a franchise is a bonafide business, and increasingly profitable at that (if well managed). Business analysts also point to the positive impact the IPL has on the Indian economy, in giving it a spending boost.

The impact that IPL is having on discovering new talent is slightly underestimated, but I am convinced that the Indian “Juniors” team in West Indies is doing dramatically well, because of the exposure and confidence that IPL has given them.

This post it to provide some random ideas on whether IPL could be significantly expanded in geographic coverage, as well as subsume the other two “field games” into this that India is dying to get better in, Hockey and Football.

My suggestions are as follows:

  1. Take away the rights of organizing IPL from the BCCI and vest it in an independent regulatory body, euphemistically titled “Indian Premier League Authority” (IPLA). 
  2. IPLA will have the responsibility to focus on organizing a premier league for “club games” in India, covering Cricket, Hockey and Football.
  3. Increase the number of franchisees from the current 10, to 16 in toto (to be frozen at that number). 
  4. The six new franchises should be geographically spread out within the under-represented region of the country (my suggestions – Ahmedabad, Dharamshala, Srinagar, Guwahati, Kanpur and Patna).
  5. Mandate that each franchisee will now mandatorily host six separate teams, i.e. a men’s and a women’s team, for Cricket, Hockey and Football. 
  6. Hand over the stadiums where the teams are based to be owned and managed by the franchisee (the team headquarters should be at the stadium). 
  7. Since the number of matches would rise dramatically, split the 16 teams into a “major” league of six teams and a “minor” league of 10 teams, based on the performance over the past three seasons (maybe just on the basis of points or some variation of that). 
  8. The season will start with the minor league games, and the top two teams will go on to play in the major league. 
  9. The major league games will be held between eight teams, the six major league teams and the top two from the minor league. 
  10. For team formation, do a one-time auction. Once the teams have been formed, changes can only be brought about through player transfers and fresh recruits, as the case may be. Leave it to the teams to negotiate independently. Remove all caps on what franchisers can spend on player salaries (if they can justify it in their business model, they should have the right to pay the moon to a player, if they want to). 
  11. Spread the season out over six months, starting with hockey or football, with women’s games first and then the men’s, so that season finale will be with the men’s cricket games.

Now, this is just a rough plan, and I’m sure it needs major modifications, before it can become remotely practicable. The benefits that I see coming from this are as follows:

  1. Cricket has always been seen as a cannibalistic sport, the 800-pound gorilla that demolishes all other sports in India. This will be a way to ensure that it pays back to other sports. 
  2. This will dramatically improve visibility of hockey and football, and even the women’s versions of all three games, although I don’t expect existing football clubs to be very happy about this (but frankly, they should just get acquired by the existing IPL franchisees). 
  3. There will be a significant transfer of fan-following from cricket to all other games, and hence start attracting talent, and also make it financially worthwhile for that talent, in hockey and football, and also the women’s versions. 
  4. The financial impact of this on the economy will be tremendous and could increase the impact by 2-3 times (estimates had shown that IPL3 had given an INR 10,000 crore boost to the economy).

As a very important aside, the ability of sport to draw in the marginalized regions of India into the mainstream is not completely comprehended, even in strategic circles. The impact of this on J&K and the NE regions can be tremendous.

I am frankly just ruminating about the brand extension potential of a sporting spectacle that I have come to love. I wonder what other think about this. I would love to know.

Posted in India | Leave a comment

Baba Ramdev – A Few Thoughts

First published on CRI on 4th June 2011 (morning), before the shameful attack by the Delhi Police on the protestors at the Ramleela Ground.

I had earlier written a piece on Anna Hazare (Why “Anna Hazare” is out of sync with “Lakhpat Karore”?). I was amazed to see the uncontrollably positive response of the media and chatterrati to Anna Hazare but I am equally aghast at the vitriol that is being heaped upon Baba Ramdev. I had criticized Anna’s tactic of “fast-unto-death” as blackmail, as I do for Baba Ramdev (I would have preferred dharnas). There are huge similarities between what Anna had tried to do and what Baba is trying to do. Both want to “blackmail” the government with the threat of a “fast-unto-death” to accept their demands. Both have a coherent set of demands, although Baba has a much larger set and is not dictating that he himself or his people should sit on some committee. Both have their own sets of followers and again Baba seems to have a much larger set. Both have organized their “fast” as some sort of jamboree and again Baba’s is much better organized as he has more resources. Both have made the government very nervous but although it took a few days into the fast for Anna to make the government panic, Baba seems to have done it before even starting his fast. Both are using “Bharat Mata” and other nationalistic imagery (it’s not a crime the last time I checked.) Both had got support from across the political spectrum, although the RSS and the BJP are much more closely involved with the Baba.

So why indeed have the English-speaking elite and the media gone “orgasmic” over Anna and ballistic over Baba? There is much more than meets the eye here.

For starters, there is a clear class-bias against the Baba. My son asked me the other day, “Dad, if the Baba can’t even speak English, can his demands be sensible?” He is just 15 and it’s most probably my fault in not engendering in him Indian values deep enough. But he is 15. It can be rectified. How do you handle these biased “barking” 50-year olds?

There is then the very genuine fear in many right-thinking people that the process of parliamentary democracy is being undermined and that the power of the legislature of drafting and passing laws is being taken away. I don’t agree with this premise but I am taking a slightly more nuanced stand than I had taken with respect to Anna Hazare. I still maintain that “drafting” or contributing to the draft of a law should be as broadly spread out as possible amongst the citizens of this country. The legislature of this country has failed in creating processes for collecting views of the people while drafting laws. The job of the MP is not to blindly follow the “whip” of his party but to interact with the constituents who voted for him, collect their views, and then go and vote on their behalf (he is just a proxy voter frankly). Our system has failed us and the people, seething with anger, are pushing it towards anarchy now!

For people who crib about the “extra-constitutional” nature of the methods employed by Baba or Anna, the constitutional processes were undermined first by the Congress itself by creating the National Advisory Council (NAC), the writ of which the PM cannot oppose even in his dreams. Creating a “powerless” PM is the first such act done by the Congress. Besides the jokers Gowda, Gujral, Chandrashekhar and Gulzari Lal Nanda, we never had a PM as “illegitimate” and weak as Dr. Manmohan Singh and we have the Congress to thank for that. Only a weak and illegitimate government can take part in shameful spectacles like rushing four senior Union Ministers to the airport to receive the Baba (but they are in a panic mode).

The narrative which has been built up by the elite and the media around the Baba is that he does not have legitimacy to ask for certain changes in law, etc. I strongly, strongly disagree with this premise. It is the duty of each and every citizen of this country to raise issues and demand that they be addressed, and use all resources at his or her command to do so (why are we jealous that the Baba has access to much greater resources than we do?).

The other point is about the Biblical fantasy that “let that person raise the first stone who has never sinned”, meaning only those people can raise their voices against corruption who are not corrupt themselves. Of course, no one is checking whether these media worthies, or the media-promoted worthies (like say Shobha De and Suhel Seth) are clean themselves (I am not suggesting that they aren’t, but how do we know); but this is a disingenuous argument in any case. If I pay a small bribe to get my work done with the municipal corporation (not that it is justified), it is because I don’t have an option. The system doesn’t deliver things to me easily. To posit that I should not raise my voice against Raja as he looted the country of billions just because I paid 100 rupees to the traffic cop is a ridiculous proposition. The other point on which I defend Baba Ramdev on corruption is this – like Narendra Modi, he has harmed the Congress no end. If they had the slightest evidence of corruption against either of these two people, they would have loved to haul them over the coals! Since we have not seen any such evidence, in my view, absence of evidence of corruption in their cases, is evidence of being non-corrupt (slightly warped logic I know but it’s true, think about it.)

The weirdest thing about all this is that no one seems to be focussing on what the demands of the Baba are. I asked some of my friends who are extremely critical of the Baba, that do you know what his demands are, and they said no! Anyway, what could a Baba ask for! Must be bull-shit! Right? Well, not necessarily.

I looked online and went through the list of 10 demands of the Baba. I was amazed that barring a few, I largely agreed with many of them. My point is that even Dawood Ibrahim has the right to raise the issue of say electoral reforms (he is still an absconding, but Indian citizen) and am willing to support him on it (of course after putting him in jail for the Mumbai blasts)! Point is, we are shooting the messenger for his beard and saffron robes, without even listening to the message.

The Baba’s 10 demands are as follows:

1: Declare accounts of Indians in tax havens as “national property”

Now I am not a legal expert and hence don’t know the legal ramifications of this step. What I do know is that Indian laws do not allow any resident Indian to have a bank account anywhere overseas that is not declared to the income tax authorities. Treating ill-gotten wealth just as a tax evasion issue (like it was being done for Hassan Ali until the Supreme Court stepped in) is sick. Treating it as national wealth will have a totally different impact on the legal treatment of the issue, and also spur the government to take action (as technically it will represent stolen wealth of the country), as well as give a message to governments of tax havens that this money is not “untaxed” wealth but misappropriated and stolen national wealth (should make it easier to get it back)!

2: Declare stashing away black money in tax havens as a national crime

This is a corollary to the step above, that stealing national wealth is a “national crime” and needs to be treated as a serious crime and not just like “hey, I didn’t pay the correct income tax”! It’s a bit theatrical I know but not nonsense!

3: Death penalty and lifetime imprisonment for the corrupt

I have a slight issue here but I don’t know what is the appropriate punishment for someone who has stolen say Rs. 60,000 crores (which is Subramanian Swamy’s estimate for the bribe amount in the 2G scam – of course, all of which did not go to Raja alone). My point is that legal experts need to decide this but it cannot be a simple five-years in jail right? I am not convinced of the demand for death penalty for this (even Madoff was put behind bars only for 250 years). This one is a bit overboard but it is indicative of the degree of frustration in the people and the government should sense this!

4: Enactment of a strong Lokpal

Enough has been said about this so I will leave it here. Suffice it to say that I personally support a strong Lokpal with powers to take suo moto cognizance of cases of corruption, investigate and prosecute, in special anti-corruption courts. Everyone should be included in the ambit of the Lokpal, including the PM. The Lokpal should be accountable to a parliamentary committee and should also release public reports on its activities every year.

5: Setting up of fast track courts in all states to deal specially with corruption issues

Once again, a logical corollary of the point above. If cases are not to drag on till eternity, then special fast track dedicated anti-corruption courts are a must. Experience with the special CBI courts set up shows that this system works!

6: Removal of high denomination currency notes from the economy

Estimates vary, but the parallel black economy of India is rumoured to be one to two times our official economy (which is around USD 1.3 trillion today.) This entire black economy is facilitated by large denomination notes (500 and 1000 rupee notes.) Eliminating these notes will have a marginal impact on the white economy but frankly a killer impact on the black economy of the country (Raja would have needed several goods trains to carry his loot to Chennai if he had to do it in 100 rupee notes, as opposed to the few plane-loads that it took him). This has a side benefit too, on Pakistan’s plan of printing illegal fake Indian currency; they would also need truck loads to transfer that amount to India in 100 rupee notes, so making it unviable!

7: Educational curriculum in Bharatiya Languages

Again, our elitist system of education has made it virtually impossible for non-English speakers, who are nearly three times the numbers of English speakers, in India to get high quality education. Is the solution to force all the 1 billion people of India to learn English? Why? A lot of the ancient wisdom of India (which was also scientific and technical) did not need English for it to be created. Why can’t we have a farmer do his Ph. D in Agricultural Science (or other technical subjects) from Punjab Agricultural University in Hindi (or frankly Punjabi)? It doesn’t mean that English education must be banned (like Mulayam Singh disingenuously suggests, while sending his son to study in an English medium school) but to offer the same quality of education in other Indian languages. Fair point, if you ask me!

8: Ban the Land Acquisition Act

While on one side we are worried about food inflation, on the other side we are rampantly and unthinkingly diverting rich irrigated agricultural land towards non-agricultural purposes. Many decades ago, there were people who had criticized the creation of the Bhillai steel plant on 4000 acres of prime double-irrigated rice fields. Why couldn’t this development have been done on non- or semi-irrigated lands? We are heading towards a food catastrophe in this country. We of course need development but we also need to think carefully about the kind of development use we put our land to (it is a finite resource). I want vast swathes of prime agricultural land to be declared “non-transferable” for our food security. Someone had said in Bengal (during the Nandigram agitation): take the farmer away from the land, rather than taking the land away from the farmer! A well thought through and well discussed Land Acquisition Act is required.

9: Direct election of the Prime Minister

How many of us are disillusioned because our Prime Minister (PBUH), nice and “honest” man that he is, lacks legitimacy because he has not been elected by the people but nominated by Sonia Gandhi instead. Therefore, he is one of the weakest PMs of the country ever. There are many options that have been proposed to try and ensure that a PM (and by extension even CMs) are directly elected by the people of the country. While I don’t favour a US-style Presidential form of governance (too much power in one person), I do support what has been proposed by Offstumped in his blog. Irrespective of the option, it is about time that India looked at some system that provides for direct election of PM and CMs as well as empowered Mayors in cities.

10: Enactment of a strong Public Service Delivery Guarantee Act

The darling of the media and the elite, Nitish Kumar, has already implemented such an act in Bihar, although it was first done by Shivraj Chauhan in Madhya Pradesh. Why should this not be made mandatory for all states as well as the Centre. It will ensure that Dayanidhi Maran could not have sat on Aircel’s application until he was forced to sell his stake on Maxis. Get it!

Now, what I can’t understand for the life of me is what is so objectionable about his demands. Should we jettison his demands just because the media worthies don’t like Baba’s face! Should we ignore it just because he teaches yoga and, therefore, has forfeited his fundamental rights as a citizen of India? Or just because Digvijay Singh hates his guts! We are all being extremely elitist and biased against the Baba. Give the man his due. Let’s see if his blackmail works.

Let the government also realize that there is so much anger and frustration in the people that they are resorting to blackmail (isn’t it much better than armed rebellion like the Maoists are doing)!

Till then, enjoy the tamasha and the mela! Bharat Mata ki jai!

Posted in General, Politics | 4 Comments

The coming Global Jihad after Osama’s death

First published on CRI on 2nd May 2011. Republishing on this blog.

A lot of people are in a self-congratulatory mood after the killing of Osama Bin Laden in Abbottabad, near Islamabad. I am sure that Champagne has been popped in Washington, and there have been public celebrations on the streets in the US. The American media has been playing this up as a great victory and that justice has been done (not that I disagree). Chidambaram, the Indian Home Minister, true to his clueless form, has issued a facile statement that this proves that the 26/11 plotters are also in Pakistan (pray how?). The ostrich-like policies of India against Pakistan continue unabated.

The Pakistani Army and ISI must of course be sad as one of their highest value “protected” asset has been eliminated and they couldn’t do anything about it. They will of course go around making noises that their “intelligence” facilitated this attack on Osama. General plaudits are also following from all over the world that one of the world’s most wanted terrorists has been eliminated.

And life will be hunky dory once again, like it was pre-9/11.

Right?

Well, I wish that life was so simple and events related to Pakistan were that easily predictable.

The world has never been more wrong and about something that couldn’t be more important.

I still maintain the position that I tool on a recent blog of mine “The Impending Af-Pak Fak-Ap”. The death of Osama is not the precipitating event that I had talked about, but if there was one event that could have been a precursor to my “predicted” precipitating event, this is it!

There was anyway a Wikileaks corroborated statement a few weeks ago by Al Qaeda that if something happened to Osama, they will unleash a nuclear attack, and use nuclear bombs that they have already stashed away securely in Europe. For those who took this warning lightly, we will find out sooner rather than later. If this information has come out, I doubt whether it is true, in the sense I doubt whether it would be located in Europe.

What the US has done is that it has stepped on the tail of a virulent rattlesnake, and is exultant, that it has chopped off the “rattler”. We need to realize that the “biting” force of this rattlesnake is at the other end, and not the end from which it issues warnings!

The US also seems to have “tightened up” security in all its embassies all over the world (which is a good step), but only a fool would expect an immediate retaliation outside Pakistan from the Al Qaeda (they will settle scores with Pakistan internally first). However, it would be even more foolish to assume that there won’t be retaliation, just because Osama has been killed.

I imagine that within the next six months, we will see a triggering off of any one of the precipitating events that I have spoken about in my earlier blogpost. Osama’s death is the trigger point for that.

My fear is that the US will turn triumphal, declare victory and run-like-hell, in order to give Obama his 2-minutes of fame and a boost for his electoral chances in the 2012 election.

Meanwhile Pakistan’s support to the Jihadis will go deeper underground, more sinister, and the hatred of the US will grow that much more. The policy of pretence and plausible deniability will continue. They will just become that much more careful not to get caught, and also not to leave “clues” behind that can be traced back to them, like they unfortunately did during 26/11.

I fully support the fact that the US had been able to keep pictures of Osama’s blood-splattered and bullet-riddled face away from the media channels, as these would provide brilliant propaganda tools for the new recruits amongst the jihadis. However, the US doesn’t realize the brilliance of the British in the way they handled Bahadur Shah Zafar, quietly killing him off in Rangoon and burying him in an unmarked grave, two centuries ago (I don’t agree with what they did, but it was tactically brilliant, from a British perspective).

I believe that the US Special Forces could have captured Osama alive. I believe that they bumped him off deliberately, to ensure that inconvenient details of his past association with the CIA, and present association with ISI, do not come out. They could have also done this in a fit of Rambo-like bravado.

I think celebration time will be over soon, as the Jihadi monster has not been beaten, but actually been made even more aggressive and vengeful. Watch out, and don’t presume that this is the end of either Al Qaeda or Global Jihad.

The crazed battle for Jihad 2.0 has just begun.

I still maintain that this Jihadi monster cannot be tackled till the problem state of Pakistan is handled (What do you do with a problem like Pakistan?), and their cocky Generals sent back to the barracks for good, but that’s not going to happen any time soon. There are people actually suggesting that Osama’s killing has brought the US and Pakistan closer together (is it even possible?). Sometimes I wonder whether the real conjoined twins are US-Pakistan and not Pakistan-Afghanistan.

The real battle has just begun and the world risks complacency at its own peril, the US 2012 election timetable notwithstanding!

Posted in India-Pakistan | 2 Comments

Pakistan and the fruit of hate-mongering

First posted on CRI.

As many of us studied in school, the Bible says that the wages of sin is death. What the Bible does not say is the origin of sin? Without getting too philosophical and simply stated, the wages of “hate” is sin! What we see today in Pakistan is a nation wilfully accelerating towards its death due to the intense hatred that it has harboured for its neighbour for over 60 years! Truly a text-book case of “consumed by hatred”.

Pakistan is a country born out of hate and fear-mongering. Hatred of everything that India represented for millennia. Fearful of getting swamped by a Hindu majority and cynical jockeying for power between Nehru and Jinnah, partition created this artificial state. And boy, what a price Pakistan is paying for being borne out of hatred.

This blogpost is only for us to realize the price that the Pakistani society has had to pay and is continuing to pay for this hatred of India. This includes the following:

  1. Denial of its own history and historical heritage: The area which is now Pakistan, has for millennia been the heart of “India”, full of rich heritage in the form of buildings, culture, language, etc. For political reasons, Pakistan is forced to teach its children that its history began with the attack of Mohd. Bin Qasim on Raja Dahir’s Sind. They can’t take cultural ownership over Bappa Rawal (after whom Rawalpindi has been named), Lavapur (the original name of Lahore – named after the Son of Lord Ram, Lav), the ancient university of Taxila, and even the genius of the Indus Valley civilization (I believe that there is a signboard in Urdu at the ruins of Mohenjo-Daro stating that this is what Allah does to people who don’t follow his true path). You see, everything was supposed to be “Jahiliya” before the advent of Islam, hence nothing good could have ever existed before that. The Taliban, which has actually been spawned by Pakistan, relished the destruction of the Bamiyan Buddha, which had painstakingly been built by their own ancestors!
  2. Distortion of post-independence history: Pakistan has had to per force invent a “new” history for itself, so that the Army can justify its existence as the sole saviour from that “enemy state” of India. The truth about the wars started by Pakistan in 1947-48, 1965, 1971 and 1999 (Kargil) is largely hidden from its populace. The diabolical role played by the Army in East Pakistan, which led to the break-away and formation of Bangladesh is denied.
  3. Turning soldiers into Jihadis and non-state actors: Army soldiers are trained to fight the enemies of the state, and die if they have to, defending their country. In doing so, they are proud to be clearly identified as soldiers of their country. Right from 1947, when the “irregulars” were sent into Kashmir to wrest it away, Pakistan has made its soldiers hide their identity, all the way up to the Kargil war. Pakistan refused to accept the bodies of its soldiers from the Northern Light Infantry during the Kargil War, just so that it could maintain the façade that these were “freedom fighters” and not soldiers. There is nothing more morale-sapping for a soldier than for his existence to be denied like this. However, there was a case of the son of a high-ranking Pakistani General, who had been killed in Kargil, whose body was accepted at Wagah (and India allowed them to maintain secrecy about it). The radicalization of the Pakistani soldier, who was once upon a time amongst the best professional soldiers in the world, is there for all to see today. Cohabiting with and defending the jihadis for so long, the dividing line has now all but vanished.
  4. Economic collapse through diversion of scarce resources: The Pakistani today won’t believe that no more than 10 years ago, their rupee was stronger than the Indian one, and their per capita income was twice that of India. The monopolization of all resources of that state by the Army, and the creation of its own post-retirement patronage network has sapped the economy, where the only “robust” sector of the economy happens to be terrorism! The exaggeration of the “existential threat” from India has given the fig leaf to the Army to do so. The psyche of the Pakistani citizen towards India is so scarred, that normally “normal” people start making weird statements, like Shahid Afridi (Ham mussalmanon ka dil bahut bada hai), Shoaib Malik (Pakistani victory is dedicated to Muslims all over the world) and even Imran Khan (after winning the world cup, he chastised supporters at the airport saying he is not a returning warrior after having won Kashmir for Pakistan)! Economic growth needs what Keynes had called “animal spirits”, but the average Pakistani citizen has been turned into a hate-spewing jihadi animal (hardly what an economy needs). I remember an old story I had heard some 20 years ago that when a sudden burst of fire-crackers was heard at a wedding in Punjab, the guests ran helter-skelter, because someone screamed “India has attacked”! This is the end result of sustained fear-mongering on a society.
  5. Radicalization of the Society through Madarasas: As the state gradually withdrew from Western Pakistan, and survived largely only in the urban centres of the Eastern parts, even the “milder” version of radicalisation (through distorted school curricula) was replaced by the hard-core version being taught in the Madarasas. All that the children got from a very young age was a doctored and distorted version of fundamentalist Islam and heroes from Arabia. The economic collapse had in any case created a vast majority of people, who were illiterate and jobless (like Ajmal Kasab) and were cynically used as cannon-fodder for the jihadi mill (something that Pakistan has been doing for 60 years of its existence). In a nation where the average age is 20 (yes imagine just 20), the average age of the “trained and ready” jihadi suicide bomber is just 17! To address Pakistani apologists, don’t for a moment believe that the policy of training suicide bombers is done by Jihadis only, it is a plan of the ISI, to create and send them over to India! All the 10 terrorists who attacked Mumbai (26/11) were akin to trained suicide bombers! The tragedy is that the policy of radicalization has been so successful, that Pakistan produces “tens-of-thousands” of these jihadi graduates every year! Since the post 9/11 world has made it slightly difficult to “export” these jihadis, these jobless graduates have now turned on the hand that has been feeding it for so long, the ISI and the Pakistani Army establishment (just desserts do I hear?).
  6. Nuclearization: Dr. A Q Khan made a statement recently, and I have to reluctantly agree with him (in as much as I hate to). He said that if Pakistan did not have nuclear weapons, they would have been attacked and destroyed, by either or both the US (post 9/11) and India (post 26/11). While I agree with him, the argument is disingenuous, as he glibly glossed over the reasons as to why these countries would have attacked Pakistan! It is not because they covet its territory, but because under the nuclear overhang, Pakistan continues to brazenly indulge in acts of war (26/11 was nothing but that)! But, everything comes at a price. Zulfiqar Bhutto had said that they will get nuclear weapons at any cost, even if they have to eat grass for a thousand years. Well, I am not being glib, but the time has come to redeem that pledge! If China and the US stop bankrolling Pakistan, all Pakistanis will actually have nothing to eat but grass! The citizens are paying a terrible price for this needless and shameless bravado!
  7. Shamed citizenry: A Pakistani journalist, who I have immense respect for, had tweeted a few days after Osama’s killing in Abbottabad, “I am ashamed of being a Pakistani”! The pathos and sadness was clear in this cry for help from this once proud Pakistani citizen. Ask any Pakistani citizen who travels anywhere in the world today, and he will tell you about the shame he faces and the suspicion with which he is looked upon. “Is this also a terrorist” is the question writ large on faces, the moment one comes to know that one is sitting next to a Pakistani! It is sad, but a fact. In Hindi there is a saying, “Gehun ke saath ghun bhi pista hai” (wheat bugs also get ground to death along with wheat). There are lots of innocent Pakistanis, within and outside Pakistan, who are ashamed at what their country has become. When they see the confused response of the Pakistani establishment on Osama being caught in Abbottabad, they don’t know where to hide their face, as they don’t need “proof” to believe that Osama was being hidden there by the ISI.
  8. Client-state status: Pakistan has become a client state that is in transition from one owner (the US) to the other (China). I was amazed when a person of Pakistani origin cockily wrote to me that India has no option but to also start eventually paying this rentier state that Pakistan has become. The most amazing thing is that even in these dire conditions, the cockiness of the Pakistani establishment has not gone, the bravado with which they sell the narrative that Pakistan is still a “frontline state” in the war on terror is baffling, and the effort is still to feverishly increase their nuclear arsenal (what if India attacks)! This is a neurotic state which is called an “International migraine”, pariah state and a nuclear blackmailer, for a reason.
  9. Violated democracy: Pakistan apologists keep on trying to convince the world that it is a democracy, which couldn’t be further from the truth. The long abused fig leaf that the “religious parties” don’t get more than 5% of the vote doesn’t wash anymore. When a majority of Pakistanis look upon Osama as a hero, a memorial service is held for him in the Lahore Bar Council and within the National Parliament, and Salman Taseer’s killer is worshipped as a hero, all bets on this state are off! Today, the Army is genuinely the only institution preventing absolute and total anarchy, and with the radicalization within its own ranks (bearded Army Officers are becoming the norm now), even this looks like a fast-crumbling wall. To present Pakistan as a democracy almost seems like a cruel joke.
  10. Compromised sovereignty: Any citizen will feel angry when the sovereignty of its country is violated, like it was by the US in order to kill Osama. But Pakistan needs to ask itself as to whether it has any sovereignty left to protect, and therefore protest? Is the virtual disappearance of the Durand Line not a violation of its sovereignty? If as Pakistan posits, that they were not aware that Osama was living 800 metres away from the PMA, then is it not a violation of their sovereignty by Al Qaeda? A nation that illegally prints fake Indian currency in its official mints, to undermine the booming economy of its neighbour and finance a jihad against it, can’t talk about sovereignty! For Pakistanis feeling violated by the relatively reticent US, wait till your establishment sells your state to China (which is in the process of happening), and the US withdraws from the Af-Pak theatre. Mark my words you will cry out for the US then (look no further than Tibet for what is likely to happen). If you think that after giving missiles, jet planes, nuclear weapons, Gwadar port, rail/road links via POK, China will quietly withdraw, then you are all fit for the mental asylum. Pakistan is all set to gleefully move from the “American frying pan” into the “Chinese fire”! Words like sovereignty have got little meaning for such a state.

The Pakistani state and citizens have paid and continue to pay a terrible price for their hatred of India. They have constantly needled and slashed at the extended hand of friendship that the “weak” state of India has extended towards Pakistan on multiple occasions.

Pakistan has reached a stage where the world needs to come together to save it from itself. It is beyond the capability of the Pakistani state, its radicalized populace (or even the non-radicalized civil society), and least of all its military-dominated establishment to be able to do so. The onus lies upon the US, UK, Russia, China, India and Iran, to be able to collaborate and do so. Will they? The clock is ticking!

My harsh, but practical solution from an Indian perspective still remains as per my earlier blog (What do you do with a problem like Pakistan?).

One last point, I have been agonisingly trying to answer this question to myself, from an Indian perspective, does Pakistan deserve sympathy for its present predicament, or should we just sit back and let it stew in its own jihadi juices? While it is deservingly getting its just desserts, and needs to be roundly condemned, there is a nuanced approach that one can take on the sympathy factor for various components of the state of Pakistan.

My view is as follows:

  • Army / ISI – No Sympathy
  • Vast patronage network of Ex-Army civilians – No Sympathy
  • Civilian Govt. – No Sympathy (although a few individual exceptions might be there)
  • Jihadi groups – No Sympathy
  • Radicalized Osama-worshipping populace – No Sympathy
  • Innocent populace (cannon-fodder for Jihadi Mill) – Sympathy
  • Educated, escapist, and acquiescent Middle Class defending and denying the ills of its state – No Sympathy
  • Educated Middle Class fighting for a just, secular and democratic Pakistan – Sympathy
  • Feudal Lords allied with exploitative Pakistani Administration – No Sympathy

All the above components are different, and normally at loggerheads with each other, and need a nuanced but firm approach. The only two allies of the educated and free world from within Pakistan who need to be supported are the Middle Class civilians fighting to save the soul of Pakistan and the exploited innocent masses.

Posted in India-Pakistan | 13 Comments

Why Anna Hazare is out of sync with Lakhpat Karore

The title of my blogpost is tongue-in-cheek, so kindly excuse me for that. It always helps to start with a smile, especially, if we are not going to end with one!

For the uninitiated with colloquial “indianisms”, a bit of an explanation of the title is in order. “Anna” is the old Indian equivalent of 6 paisas, and therefore 25 paise used to be called “char anna” (well, a close approximation to 24 paise). Hazare of course, implies “thousands”. “Lakhpat” alludes to both hundreds of thousands (lakhs) as well as “lakhpati”, i.e. a person who is worth lakhs of rupees. Finally “karore” alludes to crores. “Lakhpat karore” obviously implies the lakhs of crores that have been looted from the Indian exchequer, by the flurry of scams that we have seen in the recent past. I know that explaining it out, takes the charm away from the joke, but then everyone is not a Hindi speaker, and needs some appreciation of the play with words, when we want to understand the revolution that the honourable Shri Anna Hazare has started.

I have been watching the agitation led by Anna Hazare with interest, concern and disdain. I must confess that the current status of the agitation leaves me more concerned than happy, and I hope and pray that the final outcome is worth the effort and emotions that most Indians seem to have invested in it. Knowing the Congress, I am not popping the “bubblies” as yet!

Ok, a few basic comments to set the background of this “Gandhian” agitation led by Annaji. 

  1. As Anna Hazare has himself clarified, he is not “Gandhi”, not even a modern-day watered down version of Gandhi, but just someone who is trying to walk on the path shown by Gandhi. Of course, he has been labelled a Gandhian because of the path that he has chosen for many years now.
  2. “Gandhian” has almost become an ideological term nowadays, with its own set of experts and proponents, with a plethora of disagreements and dogmas (sad that Gandhi, who was the ultimate iconoclast against irrational dogmas, has now himself become one).
  3. Everything that Gandhi did was not “Gandhian”. My quintessential example is about the “experiments with truth” on self control with his two nieces. Well, he may or may not have proved a point to himself, but I am sure that the two nieces must have been psychologically wrecked by these “experiments” (funnily no one knows what happened to them later on in life). If one were to do something like this today, at the very least, he would be put behind bars for being a “paedophile” (sorry I don’t know what their ages were when this happened, but if this was done today, it would be seen as wrong, and not acceptable to society). The main point is that these “experiments” are not a Gandhian edict to be emulated by all “Gandhians”!
  4. Everything that is categorized as “Gandhian”, is not necessarily “right” or relevant for today’s times, as there is something called “yug-dharma”, i.e. relevant for that period of time only, and not everlasting (which is sanatan). For example, Gandhi’s views on economics are not relevant today (or are they?). My problem is that there aren’t too many people who are of the stature to interpret Gandhi for today’s times, and therefore he has become a dogma.
  5. Gandhian tactics like fast-unto-death and civil disobedience (and even things like jail-bharo) were probably right when used against a brutal colonial power, and maybe even today, if used against an autocratic / dictatorial regime (like say Egypt, China or Saudi Arabia), but cannot be right in a democracy like India (even if an imperfect one, which one is). It was blackmail then (like a British officer had remarked to Mahatma Gandhi), and it is blackmail now. I cannot support blackmail, even if it is done for a “right” reason (means are as important as the ends – Lord Krishna notwithstanding). A prolonged sit-in (by Anna) and nation-wide protest marches would have been more acceptable to me (even if less effective).  However, if I were the Congress, I would actually be very worried that why have things reached a stage that people have to resort to such tactics to get their government to listen to them (Telangana, Lokpal, etc., the list is long). People are now seeing India as an “elected monarchy”, led by an arrogant dynasty (Rajmata and Crown Prince), who are answerable to no one.

Now lets come to exactly what this agitation achieved.

Everyone who supported Anna’s agitation did not necessarily support the draft of the Janlokpal Bill in toto (most might not even have read it). Most don’t even understand it (I know I don’t, even though I have read it). Many supported the agitation merely because they were sick and tired of this rampant corruption, and the shameless UPA government which has been hell bent on protecting its important luminaries from the taint of corruption at all costs (besides the Gandhi family, it also includes Sheila Dikshit, Sharad Pawar, Praful Patel, Karunanidhi, Chidambaram, et al).

Despite Anna Hazare’s Gandhian nature and impeccable personal integrity (gosh, where have I heard that before), we can’t presume that everything he does or asks for is “right”! That was the UPA strategy with Manmohan Singh remember. Anna could be naïve (like I believe even Mahatma Gandhi was in certain aspects), and could even be manipulated by his over-zealous courtiers.

Nepotism is a very big thing for me. As it is said in jurisprudence, justice should not only be done, but must also be seen to be done. The fundamental principle of law is that not all thieves will be caught, but it should be demonstrated that if a thief is caught, what the system will do to that person. Anna nominating the Bhushan father-son duo on the committee on behalf of “civil society” makes me want to question his judgement. Why do all the five representatives on behalf of civil society have to belong to Anna’s camp (that is people who drafted to current Janlokpal Bill)? Isn’t this nepotism of another sort? Would it not have been better to get people from different points of view, so that a much better draft is prepared? Why aren’t people like Subramaniam Swamy, S Gurumurthy, R Vaidyanathan and Mahesh Jethmalani there? Lest it be seen as a pro-BJP list, I would have liked the Leftists to also nominate someone, maybe N Ram, or Ramchandra Guha. Anna lost me as a supporter on this issue alone.

I have seen extreme reactions to the Anna-led agitation. On one end people are saying that Anna’s word is their command, to the other extreme where people are saying that Anna has decided to banish democracy, and take over the right of the Parliament to legislate. The truth as usual, like Buddha had said, lies somewhere in between.

Those who are afraid that this attempt at joint drafting is dangerous and takes away the power from the Legislature, are just plain wrong! Even if you discount the precedents of seven bills from Maharashtra, the RTI act and the Land Acquisition act, to provide inputs on what kind of law the public wants to be governed by, is the democratic fundamental right (actually responsibility) of every citizen (for Pete’s sake, we send our representatives to Parliament for that reason only, because all of us can’t collectively be there). Frankly, my dog has the right to draft a bill, if sensible, and give it to the legislature to consider and pass it, as appropriate, and as per due process. As a matter of fact, I don’t agree with Pranab Mukherjee’s offer that the draft Lokpal Bill will not be sent to the Standing Committee of Parliament, if the Opposition so agrees. There should be no variance in the procedure as far as passing this bill is concerned, or any other bill for that matter.

Anna has promised that they will collect views from the public in finalizing the draft of the bill. I hope they do that, as I definitely want to contribute as a citizen.

Till such time, the list of non-negotiables for this bill from my side are that the Lokpal should:

  • Be focused only on corruption and nothing else. Taking a view whether due process was followed in a government decision is the domain of the Executive. If money was made anywhere in the system, then and only then the Lokpal can come in.
  • Be able to act on the basis of complaints by the public as well as take suo moto cognisance of an act of corruption based on any source of information (whistleblower, media, CAG reports, etc.)
  • Have the power to investigate and prosecute in a court of law, but not adjudicate (that is it cannot be the judge). This is like the concept of District Attorney in many foreign countries, and I see nothing wrong with it.
  • Have the Anti-Corruption Bureau merged with office of Lokpal and take away the responsibility from CBI to investigate cases of corruption (transfer some CBI officers to the Office of the Lokpal, if needed)
  • Be accountable to a standing joint parliamentary committee (parliamentary oversight in a democracy is supreme and a must), but given the obvious conflict of interest that the Legislature has in this, all hearings of this JPC should be public hearings and not in camera (transparency is the only way to control corruption).
  • Be selected by a committee of people (which should be defined by this act), but please, let it not have stupid and laughable clauses like Nobel Prize and Magsaysay award winners. The capability of the drafters comes into question when such stupid clauses are inserted.
  • There should be an annual printed and published report released by the Lokpal to the people of India (after it has been approved by the joint committee), as the people have a right to know what the Lokpal has done on its behalf

Having said all of this, as citizens, let us realize that passing this Lokpal Bill (which I conceptually support), does not mean that corruption will come down. Yes, what it does mean is that the Executive will not be able to as brazenly ride rough shod over allegations of corruption and protect its own (UPA government gave the permission to prosecute Raja not when the allegations came out but only when the Supreme Court forced it to do so). There are many things that need to be done additionally, if we want to see a visible impact on corruption, which has already become a hydra-headed monster that will eat India up.

The biggest reason why the politicians don’t give a damn about what the Middle Class says or feels is because they are not a “vote bank”. They are very smart, and they are always alert to the demands of their vote banks (like say the minorities, backward castes, etc.). They know that middle class anger asserts itself for a few days (like during 26/11), egged on by a “hungry-for-any-drama” media, and then within days, subsides, and they go back to their jobs, cricket, TV shows, and other forms of entertainment. Most of them do not even come out to vote, and even if they do, there is no consistent norm on the basis of which they vote (habits, caste, “secularism”, perceived good looks of Rahul Gandhi, etc., I know I am being facetious here). If allegations of corruption against Pawar were so important, why did we keep on voting for him? We’ll know soon what they think about 2G and DMK, with the Tamil Nadu results, but don’t be under the illusion that DMK will be wiped out, which it should have been, right? The politicos get messages very very quickly! We have taught them that we are an unreliable vote bank, have a very transient and superficial interest in national affairs, are very pliable (with help from a more than pliant media), and always have other more important things to do.

If we want to be taken seriously by politicos, we need to give them a message that we are serious about how the country is governed, and will vote on that basis! Uptil now, frankly, we haven’t given them that message!

Our politicos don’t give us forums like say the town-hall type of meeting that Obama had with the students of St. Xaviers College, because they don’t think we want it. Have any of our “media worthies” ever asked a Sonia Gandhi, Manmohan Singh, Advani or even Karat, why don’t you interact directly with the people of this country, as opposed to “talking at” them during political rallies, and only during elections?

Some of the other things that need to be done, in order to move towards a more corruption free society in India, are as follows: 

  1. Ban higher denomination notes (500 and 1000 rupee notes)
  2. By linking it with UID numbers, ensure that each citizen of India can have only one bank account anywhere in India (a temp bank account should be allowed for salary accounts, but only as pass-throughs to the main bank account which is linked to the Income Tax account). A person can change the account, but only after closing the previous one.
  3. General electoral, administrative and police reforms (enough has been said about this, but including state funding of elections and right to recall)
  4. Elimination of duplication in electoral rolls and linking with UID database.
  5. Facilitating net-based or mobile based voting, as most middle class people move around in jobs, and then don’t vote, because getting registered in a new place is cumbersome!
  6. Direct elections of PM / CMs, and also devolution of powers to the Panchayats, local bodies and directly elected and empowered Mayors for cities.

There are quite a few more suggestions that have been around for some time and will obviously help.

One of the major issues that India faces is frankly the meltdown of the Executive. In school, we were taught about the necessary balance between the Executive, Legislature and the Judiciary. There is design fault in our system as there is no distinction, let alone balance between the Executive and the Legislature. This is what has led to a collapse in the Executive, where it moves either when the judiciary gives it a kick, or when a crisis forces it to act. I will write more on this in a future blogpost (the ideas are under formulation right now).

I do want to end on a lighter note (despite the promise of a serious ending). I am happy about one thing post this Anna Hazare agitation. All that one needs to do now to get the government to act is to tell them, do this, “warna Anna Hazare aa jayega” (else Anna Hazare will come)! He is the new Gabbar Singh for the Indian political class!

But this has its own disadvantages also. The Executive is so scared that it is willing to sign-off on almost anything that Anna says (and I don’t want that).

Anyway, hope that at least this time round, the middle class awakening is of a more permanent nature, in the interest of India’s future. This will be the biggest gain from this agitation, if it were to happen!

Posted in Politics | 4 Comments

The Impending Af-Pak Fak-Ap

Trust the Americans to come up with interesting and unique acronyms and short-forms (almost naughtily tongue-in-cheek). So when the late Richard Holbrooke had to be declared the point person for Afghanistan and Pakistan, they created the term “Af-Pak” (I really wonder what they would have come up with if Holbrooke had also got India in his portfolio). The term “Fak-Ap” is also not my creation, but that of a US Senator, who wanted to chide Barrack Obama. For those who didn’t get the connotation, it alludes to “F#*@ – up”. If you still didn’t get it, then you need to get a life! 🙂

Jokes aside, this post is on a very serious subject. My worries continue about the future of the state of Pakistan  and its impact on India, US and the world. These are just my initial thoughts on how I see the Afghanistan-Pakistan situation panning out for the Americans and when.

The Americans came into Afghanistan in a huff and hurry, post 9/11, and then immediately got distracted with Iraq. After prematurely declaring “Mission Accomplished” in Iraq, and Obama finally moving attention back to Afghanistan, they are realizing every day that the real problem lies in Pakistan and not Afghanistan. Pakistan has perfected the art of running with the hare and hunting with the hound. Now even though the Americans know that they are playing this duplicitous game, Pakistan seems to have now convinced the Americans that they “can’t” control this jihadi monster, as opposed to “won’t” do it. The coverage, funding and support that the Pakistanis get from the Pentagon and the CIA is remarkable, I guess primarily driven by the fact that they share many “secrets” that they can’t afford to have come out, and Pakistan must be blackmailing them on this score.

The Americans know that the time is running out for them for three reasons. Obama had announced that he will start withdrawing troops from July 2011 onwards, after his “surge”, and the clock is ticking. The budgetary constraints in the US, both due to an almost “imperial over-reach” of power projection, and a sluggish economy, are so serious, that they know that they can really run out of money before they achieve their “objectives” (BTW, no one knows what these objectives are, or the metrics for the same). Lastly, Obama has a serous credibility crisis, and knows that if he wants to have any chance of getting re-elected in the 2012 elections, he needs to deliver a major foreign policy success (I mean, his televangelical “yes, we can” is not going to get him elected a second time round). The “headless chicken” kind of actions from the US are indicative of this desperation.

However, I feel that the game is not going to get played so smoothly, and events are going to overtake everyone, sooner rather than later (in my view, mid-to-end 2011).

I feel that the events over the next 2-3 years in this theatre are going to pan out somewhat like this:

  • A major precipitating event
  • Total meltdown in Pakistan
  • Messy and violent exit of the Americans
  • Bloody aftermath and vortex of violence

Now, let’s see what each of these could be.

I. A major precipitating event

One of the major causes of things threatening to spiral out of control is that despite the fact that the world is trying to impress upon Pakistan that battling the jihadis is an existential threat for their state, they still feel that India is their only existential threat (recent statement by Pervez Musharaff to this effect only confirms this) and that they can still select and attack only the inconvenient jihadis and keep the others as a reserve for the post-American withdrawal scenario (both for Afghanistan and India). This cockiness is what is going to be their downfall, but of course, they don’t see that as yet.

I believe that there is going to be a major major precipitating event that will trigger off a whole series of unintended consequences. It could either be:

  • A dirty bomb (nuclear) attack by terrorists on India or a western country (could even be on Australia – as it has very weak defences)
  • A brazen attack and acquisition of Pakistani nuclear bombs and missiles by Jihadis
  • An assassination of a senior American / Western / Indian leader, or even the Pakistani Army Chief, by Pakistani jihadis
  • A major attack by jihadis on China (Xinjiang)

You see, any of the above possible triggers will force the hand of the impacted country to attack Pakistan (even the perpetually full of “extraordinary restraint” India will not be able to withstand public outrage this time).

This incident (of course I hope it never happens, but I think it will), would trigger off unprecedented violence (even by Pakistani standards) and flurry of assassinations within Pakistan, and thereby force the military to take over power, once again (yes we’ve seen this movie before). The military will also be forced to attack these jihadis, as that is the only way in which the Pakistani Army can prevent or stop the attacks on Pakistan by the impacted country.

II. Total meltdown in Pakistan

The military takeover and the violence in Pakistan will trigger off the following types of reactions:

  • The jihadis will aggressively start making general mayhem in the form of bomb blasts, suicide attacks, etc., and this time will particularly focus on the military establishment.
  • The Baluchis, who are straining at the leash to get the yoke of Pakistan off them, and have been bearing the brunt from the Pakistani establishment, might start throwing all the non-Baluchis out and attacking even the Chinese in Gwadar. They could even declare independence, knowing full well that the Pakistani army is too thinly stretched and will not be able to move in with full force (of course they won’t pull troops from the Indian border because of the “existential threat” remember!).
  • The Pashtuns, both in NWFP (I am sorry but I can’t call it Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa – ugghh), and in Afghanistan, who have never accepted the Durand line as border, could just start moves to merge the two entities, again taking advantage of the general chaos.
  • The Sindhis and the Mohajirs, who have been at each others throats since independence, will stop attacking each other, and frankly start entertaining thoughts of secession from a “power-crazed” and domineering Pakistani Punjab.
  • Finally, how can Punjab be left behind. The hardline Sunnis here will see this as their best chance to eliminate anyone who is not “purest of the pure” – the Shias, the Ahmediyas, the remnants of the Hindus and Christians, etc. etc. etc.

In a nutshell, with a weakening army, the entire state could go into a meltdown.

This will lead to a refugee exodus towards India, Iran and Afghanistan, of unimaginable proportions. Both India and Iran will be very hesitant in accepting refugees, as they would suspect that many jihadis will cross over under the guise of refugees (Afghanistan of course being a weak state will not be able to do anything). Both Iran and India have not planned for the possibility on what should they do if 10-15 million refuges land up on their borders, escaping the violence in Pakistan. Frankly, no one knows what to do here (remember, East Pakistan crisis was triggered off by less than 2 million refugees, and it forced even a forever reticent India to act).

III. Messy and violent exit of the Americans

The Americans have been searching for years now, for an excuse to get an “honourable exit” from the Af-Pak theatre (as a wag had once said, the American strategy is to “surge, declare victory and run like hell”!). Since they have not been able to exit peacefully until now, I doubt whether they will be able to find a “fig leaf” very soon!

This meltdown of the Pakistani state will be happening right around them, with their supply lines getting impacted and their soldiers getting caught in the middle of it all. It is at this point in time, driven by a livid public opinion back home, which would be screaming to withdraw their troops from a “mad” region, that the Americans are likely to finally decide to cut their losses, accept defeat and just get out!

Having said this, even then the exit will not be smooth, but very messy and violent, as their troops will be caught in the thick of this meltdown. They also know that none of their NATO allies (and definitely not China) would be willing to put boots on the ground.

Amidst mounting loss of life, I think that the Americans will face a humiliating exit from this theatre, a thousand times worse than what they faced in Iran, many many years ago.

IV. Bloody aftermath and vortex of violence

With the Americans gone (which the Paksitani Army has been waiting for), the entire Af-Pak theatre will become one common zone of conflict, with each small group free to carry out their own little agenda of violence. The reason why this could go on for some time (definitely months, if not years) is because no one would be willing to step in to stem the violence and pull the warring groups apart. No nation on earth would be convinced that it is worth their while to do so.

The only way this violence will stabilize is frankly with fatigue, hundreds of thousands of deaths and also the dramatis personae eventually running out of weapons (hopefully even the US and China would have stopped providing “military aid” by then).

It is only when this violence has stopped or reduced dramatically; that the world will start looking for people from within this region to engage with and figure out what the hell should be done with it! It would need an international conference, facilitated by the UN, and hopefully, this time the pompous western powers will not keep India out of the dialogue. India has a stake in this region and will only be a part of the solution and not the problem.

My final solution for this region still remains the same as what I have espoused in another blogpost of mine (What do you do with a problem like Pakistan?).

I still maintain that the restructuring required in this region is as follows:

  • NWFP to be merged with Southern Afghanistan (for the state of Pashtunistan – northern Afghanistan should be created into a separate state of Khorashan)
  • Baluchistan should become an independent country
  • Sind should become an independent state, with a possibility of eventual merger with India, through a plebiscite
  • Pakistani Punjab is the real cancer and I have no answer for it. It has to remain a wastrel state of “Punjabistan” where no one is willing to go
  • POK and Northern Areas should come back to India, as per the Instrument of Accession signed in favour of India in 1948.

I feel that if there is a global conference, after all this aftermath, the above will be the conclusion that they will come to also.

Having said all of this, I actually don’t wish it to happen and would love it if there was a simpler and saner way to tackle this state of Pakistan, but I don’t think there is. I can actually see the situation degenerating and heading towards the precipice, and I know that the people responsible will not act, as they are too cocky about themselves and think that they can handle everything.

I actually blame three sets of people for this situation, and would call upon them to introspect, and pull back from the precipice, as it is still possible. In order of priority, they are as follows:

  1. The Pakistanis – the biggest cause of the failure of the state of Pakistan are the people who were sworn to create, uphold and defend the state of Pakistan. The Army, the politicians, the civil society, have all failed. They could have actually built a state in line with the vision of Jinnah, who had called for a secular “Muslim-dominated” state, like India is a secular “Hindu-dominated” one. Of course they forgot this no sooner had he died, and unfortunately, he died very quickly for them, after independence.
  2. The Americans – The Americans have always treated the state of Pakistan like a “condom” (apologies for the analogy, but its true), to be used and then thrown away (of course, egged on by a very willing Pakistan, in order to hurt India). It’s the Americans who have bolstered this weak state to harbour illusions of grandeur, that with US support, it could stand up to and even attack a much stronger India. It suited their interests, as India was perceived to be in the Soviet camp, and hence Pakistan could be propped up to keep India boxed in. They winked at Pakistan’s attempts to steal designs and get nuclear weapons, in order to get strategic parity with India. They conveniently ignored Pakistan treating the sovereign state of Afghanistan as its own backyard, because it gave strategic depth against India. And now all these things are coming home to bite the Americans.
  3. The Chinese – If the Americans were the old (and current) “condom users”, then the Chinese are the current (and future) ones. Pakistan has unfortunately and willingly prostituted itself. China for its own geo-political games sees India as a strategic threat (please see my earlier blogpost “India firmly in China’s crosshairs!”) and wants to use Pakistan to keep India boxed in. They don’t get it, that with India’s size and market, if the US had to side with a growing India and give up on a neurotic Pakistan, China will also have to do the same eventually (but it will take them some time to realize this – their arrogance is as vast as that of the Americans, and definitely much deeper). China has blatantly proliferated nuclear technology to Pakistan, and supplied missiles, fighter jets, etc., again to seemingly give parity with India. China will pay for this mistake very dearly in future.

These three countries are playing a very dangerous game in the Af-Pak region, for their own disparate reasons. They are being extremely irresponsible towards the people of this region, who have almost become psychological wrecks because of the constant exposure to violence, especially the kids (who are getting brainwashed into becoming suicide bombers). India has also been significantly impacted, maximally in Kashmir, but frankly all over. All Indians are subjected to draconian security measures on a daily basis, and we can’t even enjoy World Cup Cricket peacefully, due to the genuine fear that some Pakistani jihadis would attack during this time.

This Frankenstein has been created by the actions and inactions of these three countries. The rest of the world, led by India, needs to ask some tough questions to these countries as they inexorably push the world towards this potentially nuclear flashpoint.

If my above fears are to not materialize, the world needs to call for a conference today, on “What do we do with a problem like Pakistan”, before this abnormal state forces the world over the precipice.

Listening anyone?

I hope and pray that my fears are unfounded, but frankly, they’re not! The most scary thing about all this from an Indian perspective is that the “large global emerging power” of a state next-door, India, sits blissfully unaware and woefully unprepared for this fast-approaching jihadi-tsunami, which will blow the Richter Scale right out of the water!

Posted in India-Pakistan | 7 Comments

Wikileaks Full Throttle, the cash-for-votes saga continues

The demolition job Wikileaks has triggered off globally, and also within India, continues unabated. Anarchist, thy name is Assange, and god bless you!

The latest Wikileaks revelation over the cash-for-votes scandal of 2008 has hit the already scam-weary Congress as a sledgehammer! Under normal circumstances, the run of “bad luck” that UPA2 seems to be having would even have been funny, except that it isn’t, because India is paying a terrible price on a daily basis for the governance slide. This government has to go, and go today!

This latest revelation probably allows one to draw three broad conclusions, as given below, each more scary than the other:

  1. Indian voters don’t give a damn about subjugation of democratic institutions (which is what emboldens the Congress to brazen its way out, from each of these scandals)
  2. The Congress has figured out a fool-proof way to rig the EVM machines and the election results don’t reflect the will of the people (if we are to discount the 1st premise above)
  3. The US is getting too deeply entrenched in the Indian political process, behind the scenes, and the risk of Congress top honchos being blackmailed to compromise on national interests can no longer be denied

Let’s explore each one of these separately.

I. Indian voters don’t give a damn about subjugation of democratic institutions

The list of examples of the subjugation of democratic institutions in this country by the Congress party is long, and hence bears no repetition here, except of course confirming that the CVC fiasco was only the latest. Almost no institution has been left untainted but this viciously virulent “Congress-ka-haath”. What boggles my mind is the way in which the Congress bounced back both in 2004 and 2009 elections.

The Indian people saw under the full-glare of TV cameras, the cash-for-votes scandal in 2008. Everyone wrote about how a “particular” channel, which was later revealed to be IBN, had recorded the alleged meeting, and the telephone calls between Amar Singh and Ahmed Patel, if not others also. The channel later back-stabbed the BJP and refused to telecast the footage, and of course BJP naively did not even ensure that it kept a copy with itself. Anyone who believes the cynical protests of the channel that they did not telecast it because of “journalistic ethics” against sting operations, is an idiot, as the channel had no compunctions in airing private moments of Swami Nithyanand, when it suited their objective to defame Hindu religious leaders (but that’s a different story and lets leave it for now). The channel did later on air a watered down and heavily edited version of the recording, a copy of  which they also submitted to the JPC, but that was of course an eye-wash!

The fact that the Congress bribed its way through to save its government (which had earlier also been done by PVNR to save his government, by bribing the JMM MPs), is well known to the voters of India. Some had even justified it at that time, either because they supported the civil nuclear deal with the US, or did not want to force LS elections on the nation at that point in time. A much larger number of voters supported the Congress in 2009 and also gave them more seats than 2004, hence bolstering its arrogance further, convincing the Congress that it can get away with anything.

The only conclusion that can be drawn from this is that large numbers of Indian voters do not give a damn if a political party is subverting democratic institutions, as long as they can get their political label right, on “caste or communal/secular” lines!

This is a very dangerous premise for the future of Indian democracy. What guarantee is there that voters will not also discount this monumental corruption that the Congress has inflicted upon the nation under CWG, 2G, Black Money, etc. I guess we will know soon enough, once the upcoming state election results are out, but I am extremely worried. If Congress wins again, we can rest assured that they will then go ballistic with their “loot of the nation”, as like the PM said earlier in the week, by voting for them the voters have absolved them of the crime (cash-for-votes scandal)! What a fraudulent statement if there ever was one!

But hold on, am I being too harsh on the Indian voter?

II. The Congress has figured out a fool-proof way to rig the EVM machines and the election results don’t reflect the will of the people

If the above premise is not true, that Indian voters don’t give a damn about corruption and degeneration of political institutions, then one can draw an even more dangerous and scary conclusion. Is it possible that the Congress, has been able to succesfully subvert the will of the people, in collusion with the Election Commission (which has for long been packed with Congress sympathisers, who are paid back for this support after they retire, e.g. M S Gill, and you can expect something for Navin Chawla soon).

There were many issues that came out during the 2009 LS elections on the potential of the EVMs having been rigged. This was again largely ignored by the mainstream media, but the issue did get out into the public domain, and there are examples galore, including the case of several contiguous constituencies in Rajasthan where the victory margin of the Congress candidate over BJP was almost exactly the same! The government of course tried to shoot the messenger by arresting the scientist who tried to prove that the EVMs can be rigged. If DMK sweeps in TN in the upcoming elections, we will again get proof that the system has been fatally compromised. The month-long waiting period between the last phase of polling and the counting day (ostensibly because of Bengal elections) shows that the stage has been set to allow large scale electronic “rigging” (no wonder Laloo Prasad Yadav is out of a job now).

Since I can’t believe that Indian voters are either blind or can discount Congress’ long list of sins of omission and commission, I am tempted to believe that the system has been compromised on an unimaginable scale!

III. The US is getting too deeply entrenched in the Indian political process, but behind the scenes, and the risk of Congress top honchos being blackmailed to compromise on national interests can no longer be denied

During Indira Gandhi’s time, the “foreign hand” was always presented as the proverbial “smoking gun” for all of India’s problems. Blame the Americans and the CIA for rigging everything in India. All rationalists used to laugh at it during those days, refusing to believe that this was possible.

However, if one reads the Mithrokin archives, and if one believes the story that the Nehru-Gandhi family has been for long receiving moneys from the Soviet Union (from the time of Nehru) to run the Congress party, then one wonders why wouldn’t they accept money from the US also. More dangerously, if they were accepting money, were these governments not asking for any favours in return? One wonders what national interests were compromised over the last 60 years at the behest of foreign powers, by this despicable party and dynasty! More so, have these governments been blackmailing this family for keeping its “secrets” like Nehru’s involvement in Netaji’s incarceration in Siberia, etc.

Keeping this background in mind, I feel extremely violated as an Indian, when the Wikileaks cables show the inordinate interest that the US is taking in Indian political processes. Lobbying to get the nuclear deal passed is a legitimate part of “diplomatic” activities, and I have no moral issues about it. But does this include, getting access to information about how the government intends to save itself by bribing MPs? Seeing the cash? Did they contribute in terms of cash also? Who knows?

No government anywhere in the world has categorically denied that what the Wikileaks cables say as incorrect, or forgeries! They say it is unethical to bring into the public domain, puts the lives of US soldiers in danger, etc., etc., but no one has said that these cables have been fabricated! So why would a US embassy staffer fabricate false stories about the Congress and send it to his government in Washington, in the off-chance or hope that these cables could get leaked. What would they stand to gain? Obviously we have to conclude that these cables are genuine.

If they are genuine, then forget about Congress being corrupt (which we anyway know), the thought that worries me the most is what kind of anti-national activities are they able to get this government to do for them in return. How likely are they to do all that they can to prevent the BJP from coming to power (Strobe Talbot had mentioned in his book that the US was taken aback by the aggressive pro-India and nationalist stance that BJP took in negotiations, and were frankly appreciative of it also, and noted that this was a first for India).

I am not an alarmist and definitely not a “US-hater”, despite the fact that many of things that they do are anti-India. I even grudgingly appreciate them, as they only think about their own long-term national interests and nothing else. My unhappiness is that India doesn’t!

The biggest fear that I have is that with this kind of a government in place, which is either beholden to the US, or even being blackmailed for the secrets that they harbour (remember Rahul Gandhi was arrested at Boston Airport with USD 200,000, let off during Vajpayee’s time, and can be re-arrested if he enters the US again – why don’t we ask Rahul Baba if he will come along for a visit to the US), what is the price that the country is paying? We don’t even know!

This government has to go, and has to go now!

I would rather bear the cost of a mid-term election, to the cost of this government continuing in power for even one more day! I don’t care what kind of an establishment comes in its place, because whatever it is, it will be better than this government!

Eva Peron had once sung “Don’t cry for me Argentina”!

Mother India is now crying out to its children to stop crying for her, and do something to save her!

Are we listening?

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