BJP’s Dashapratigyam – 10 promises BJP needs to make to the people of India

I was just thinking the other day about the original three promises of governance made in India, i.e. Roti, Kapada aur Makaan (loved the movie by Manoj Kumar on this also) but it was more to show broken promises, than promises kept. The governance deficit in India goes back a long way, and is not something new that cropped up during the regime of UPA2 (as Chidambaram disingenuously informed recently).

I also thought about the “new” 3-promises made by the BJP (Bijli, Sadak, Paani) – something on which we saw major initiatives towards delivery, during the reign of NDA1, but unfortunately, UPA1 happened and things slowed down again. UPA2 was also lucky that a lot of the work done by NDA1, actually got delivered during the time of UPA1 (say in the area of telecom growth). W Edwards Deming, one of the greatest management gurus ever, had written with pathos on this, how the good work done by one leader (CEO of a company) only sees fruition during the tenure of the next, and systems don’t have performance indicators in place to correctly allocate credit for this (likewise in political leadership too – the results of the revolutionary ideas of Vajpayee couldn’t be seen during NDA1).

Which is when I thought of a “new strategy” that the BJP needs to follow, to differentiate itself from the Congress, and legitimately grab the governance mind-space. The BJP needs to make a public “song-and-dance” routine and then declare that all it’s governments (in all BJP/NDA-ruled states and also when they come to power in the Centre) will take an oath to deliver on what will be called the “ BJP’s Dashapratigyam”!

The BJP promises to deliver the following for “all” the people of India:

  1. Roti (Food)
  2. Kapada (Clothing)
  3. Makaan (Shelter)
  4. Bijli (Electricity)
  5. Sadak (Roads)
  6. Paani (Water)
  7. Mobile / Internet (Broadband) 
  8. Suraksha (Security)
  9. Shiksha (Education)
  10. Swasthya (Health)

In any case, in different BJP-ruled states, different parts of the above list are being implemented well (like Roti in Chhattisgarh and Bijli in Gujarat). Let the BJP define metrics for each of the above measures (it’s actually very easy – “e.g. KMs of double-laned highways per capita”), set state-specific targets and start working towards achieving those targets.

Let there be a quarterly review meeting of the following people to review progress and share ideas:

  • All BJP / NDA Chief Ministers
  • Declared “Shadow CMs / Dy CMs” from each state where BJP/NDA is not in power (to be identified for all states)
  • BJP Party President, LOP from LS & RS
  • Designated BJP Vice President who will be the Co-ordinator of this programme (I nominate Manohar Parrikar)
  • 10-member advisory council for this initiative consisting of – 1 industrialist, 1 farmer, 1 Civil society (Middle Class) representative, 1 retired soldier, 1 retired civil servant, 1 Industrial worker, 1 “youth member”, 1 “women’s group member”, 1 “minorities” representative, and 1 NRI/PIO

This group will discuss issues, highlight achievements, share best practices, make plans, review them, etc. The BJP needs to show that it is serious about solving the day-to-day issues facing the Indian people.

For too long India has really been behaving like what the International media has dubbed, the “Idiot Savant”, i.e. a country that will not / cannot / does not address its most obvious basic problems. This has to change to change and BJP has to realize its own importance, that it is the chosen vehicle of bringing about that change. A Congress that has a one-point agenda of serving and protecting its ruling dynasty, will always compromise on the nation’s and the people’s interests, and therefore cannot be that change agent (as long as the dynasty is in control).

BJP, are you listening? You are very important to the people of India!

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Indian version of primaries to select the BJP PM candidate

Well, one can always trust the Indian media to fish in troubled waters if it can help the Congress and malign the BJP. Therefore, just when Congress’ cup of woes is brimming over, it has triggered off this debate on whether Sushma Swaraj is the best PM candidate for the BJP?

Firstly, of course, they will never have the guts to ask such a question of the Congress. Secondly, the BJP hasn’t asked for their opinion on this issue. But then again, it is a free country. The media is free to be biased also!

Well, in any case, the question is intriguing, and one that BJP will have to face sooner rather than later, that who should be its prime-ministerial candidate for the next Lok Sabha elections. While it is scheduled for 2014, many analysts (including this one) believe that it would happen sooner, much sooner! Maybe as early as mid-2012!

While there are many that support Narendra Modi (including me), let us actually think whether there can be a systemic plan for the BJP to throw up PM candidates, and by subsequent extension, CM candidates also.

The process can be as follows:

  1. The PM candidate will be selected by popular vote by a voting collegium of members of BJP
  2. The members in this collegium should be a) registered members of the BJP for at least five years; and b) should have stood for elections in the past on behalf of the BJP (either for the Lok Sabha or the State Assembly, in any state of India, irrespective of having won or lost)
  3. The voting could be done in person through a paper ballot, or through mobile SMS (which is very easy nowadays), in a national convention to be organized in any state capital, for this expressed purpose only.
  4. Any member of the BJP can nominate oneself to be considered for the PM nomination, provided one is a) registered member of the BJP for at least 10 years; b) should have successfully contested either Lok Sabha or Assembly elections in any state of India; and c) should have held at least a ministerial post, in either the central or a state government
  5. The nomination should be accompanied by letters of support from at least 500 BJP members, supporting that candidate’s nomination
  6. There will be no widespread campaigning allowed for the nominees to garner support from the voting collegium, except for releasing a documented vision for the country on what they propose to do as Prime Minister, interviews through the media and a speech during the national convention
  7. No negative targeting of the opponents to be allowed (candidate can be disqualified), only positive campaigning for how the individual is more suitable for the party nomination
  8. The nominee with the most votes would be declared the PM candidate of the BJP
  9. By extension, and if the NDA allies want, the voting collegium could also include their members (same criteria), to make them feel a part of the process. Of course, only a BJP member can stand for the elections (if Nitish Kumar wants to be considered, he has to merge JD(U) into the BJP!)

Now this is just a rudimentary thought and needs to be discussed, debated and finalized.

The important messages that come out of this process are as follows:

  • A PM candidate should not be selected on the basis of seniority, support from the RSS, or the BJP high committee of leaders.
  • The qualifications of a nominee allow for only those candidates to be selected who know what it feels like to be amongst the public, and have a mass base, not those who come in through the back-door of the Rajya Sabha (like our illustrious current PM)
  • The voting collegium also gives due weightage to those members of the BJP who have stood for elections and know what it means to campaign and seek public support. They are the best judges for who would have a national appeal and deserves to be the BJP’s PM candidate.
  • It also creates a selection process so that no one in the party can say that the candidate did not have support of the party cadres. The moral authority of this person to lead from the front would be unchallenged, and the allies would also have to accept it
  • The biggest advantage is the distinctness it will give, from the Congress, which can either offer a member of the dynasty, or their representative “minion” for the PMs post.

What a coup this would be! BJP, are you listening?

Addendum: Based on some feedback received, and also my own thinking on this subject, a similar process should also be considered and rolled out to decide who gets the party nomination for an MP / MLA seat, from party members within that constituency (same criteria), so that rebellion and dissaffection during ticket distribution is eliminated! Similarly, it could also be done for party positions, district, state and national Presidents, etc.

In a democracy, the more democratic a political party becomes, the better it is for democracy itself! We have already seen the ill-effects of an autocratic “democracy” within the Congress party for decades now (See my earlier Blogpost – “The problem I have with the Congress“)!

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The problem I have with the Congress

There are many well-meaninged and educated people in India who just happen to be Congress supporters by default, many of whom are even first time voters. Most of the younger voters of this country haven’t personally experienced the ills of the Congress (like say the Emergency, playing with the fire of Khalistan, the 1984 Anti-Sikh riots, etc.), and also erroneously conclude that the older voters who tell them otherwise are merely biased against the Congress. They also cannot associate themselves when “older” leaders like Advaniji talk about what happened during the Emergency, as they were not even born then! The media doesn’t really help, as the strong bias that it carries against the BJP and the “kid-glove” and “sepia-tinted” treatment given to the first family of the Congress, further perpetuates this bias. There are unconfirmed reports that the owner of a leading Indian TV news channel had assured Musharraf when he was visiting India (Agra Summit) that the media will ensure that the BJP never comes back to power!

Many voters have correctly identified that for the Lok Sabha elections, they need to vote for a national party, over the regional (one issue / one family) parties, as this splintering of the vote has weakened the central government and also taken the focus away from national issues (like security, economic slowdown, Pakistan and China) to regional and local issues, from clearing drains to the creation of new states (which are also very important, but state-level issues).

Once a decision is made that the vote must go only to a national party, and claiming that as far as economics goes, there is apparently very little difference between the Congress and the BJP (which is again erroneous as Congress is markedly left wing, and BJP ostensibly right wing, but leave that aside for now), and therefore many innocently opt to vote for the Congress over the BJP for two primary reasons (as I have heard from many friends), as follows:

  • The Congress has many young political leaders (like Jyotiraditya Scindia, Sachin Pilot, Priya Dutt, Milind Deora, Jitin Prasad, et al, and to top it all, Rahul Gandhi – and of course he is so good looking), they are a secular party, and Manmohan Singh is still a good and honest man (despite the CVC and 2G fiascos)
  • I don’t like this “Hindu” talk that the BJP indulges in, it is anti-minority, does not have young leaders (Advani is 82) and talks about the past only (like Ayodhya, Kashmir, etc.)

Since there are many issues in this apparently simple association, I wanted to restrict this article to just the issue of “young leaders” in Congress and by extension, the dynastic politics inherent within this party.

What one notices that each of these “so-called” young leaders are from a political dynasty of the Congress, have inherited the mantle from their fathers, and most analysts have called their performance in the Lok Sabha (from a perspective of raising questions and issues, debating, and sponsoring bills), to be poor to moderately average. They have also been largely kept away from positions of power, crawl out of the woodwork during elections or for raucous TV debates (to present the young face of the Congress) and are largely considered to have been sidelined. The levers of power in Congress are still very much with the old guard and the ultimate example of this is Pranab Mukherjee, our Finance Minister, undoubtedly a “nice” person, but frankly from “three generations back”!

The ability of the Congress to throw up young leaders from the grass roots, not linked to any political dynasty has been abysmal. The good part about the next rung of BJP leaders is that none of them are related to S P Mukherjee, Deendayal Upadhyaya, A B Vajpayee or L K Advani.

The real issue with voting for the Congress is the “royal family” that runs it, and controls all the levers of power. This is despite the fact that the person who is ostensibly the PM is not a “family member”, but every political observer knows that the seat is being kept warm, till “Rahul Baba” is convinced he is ready to take over. Wags in the Congress actually market this current arrangement as “get two for the price of one”! It is also a fraud on the constitution, as our founding fathers did not visualize a PM who has the post but no power, a NAC Chairperson who has no post but all the power, and a perpetually “young” inexperienced dynast who has the post of the PM for the asking! While this arrangement is a “sweet deal” for Sonia Gandhi, and potentially Rahul Gandhi too (his choice for MMS’ role could be Digvijay Singh or P Chidanbaram), it is a fraud on the people of this country!

This Nehru-Gandhi family that has appropriated the right to the “PM-ship” of this country, for apparently “getting us independence” and making “sacrifices” for the country (reference is to the members of the family who have been assassinated, as if they offered their lives for a cause – like soldiers defending our borders). The most telling comment on this was made by Nitin Gadkari recently, that like him, any ordinary youngster who joins the BJP (unlike the Congress), can aspire for the PM’s post or the Presidentship of the Party, as these are not reserved for the family members, or its minions (like royalty appointing a regent, till the rightful owner is old enough to take over).

Rajiv Gandhi’s widow, by accident or sheer luck could rightfully claim ownership over the PM’s post, and in 2004 was just about kept away (not by sacrifice) by the fact that the then President (APJ Abdul Kalam) told her that by the law of reciprocity, since a non-natural born Italian cannot become a PM in Italy, therefore a naturalized Italian cannot become a PM in India, and she would be forced to resign as a PIL would be filed in the Supreme Court. This is why she “sacrificed” the highest position in the country and this sham is marketed by the Congress as a great selfless act of renunciation! Again, what a fraud precipitated on the people of India.

Similarly, friends of the Gandhis (Rajiv and Sonia) have talked about dinner table conversations when Priyanka and Rahul were kids, about who would make a better PM (since obviously the seat was reserved for them). Apparently Priyanka had made a statement as an 8-year old that she would like to become the PM (which 8-year old doesn’t, but this is different), obviously spurred on by doting parents (the reigning royalty at that time). Apparently, she is also very cut up with her Mom, for promoting Rahul over her, as she feels that she is not only older, but also better (and she does have a point there). This is the modern-day version of the “Mughalian sibling rivalry” for the throne of India! Wow, what a democracy we are!

The problem I have with the Gandhis, is that the Columbian / Afghan girl-friend of Rahul Gandhi (now ex-girlfriends apparently) can also rightfully claim the “privilege” to become the PM of this country, under a certain set of circumstances, and everyone in the Congress would be thrilled at this prospect.

This is what gets my goat!

Until the Congress gets over its first family fixation and really develops some spine, I cannot understand how any right thinking Indian can agree to perpetuate this monstrosity.

As far as we know till now, the only achievement of Rahul Gandhi (besides carrying the right surname) is organizing a T-20 cricket match in Amethi and spending a night in a Dalit’s hut (oh look, how gracious the Regent Prince is) along with that idiot of a British Foreign Minister (now Ex-) David Milliband. What credentials does he have that so many in the Congress are willing to propose his name as the next PM of the country? Rahul made a statement recently that he feels he is not yet ready to become the PM as of now (may one ask what does he intend to do over the next few years so that he becomes ready – like take over a ministry or a state and show his administrative acumen – like Nitish Kumar had so correctly asked during the Bihar elections). The reason why he doesn’t want to take over right now is because the Congress is not strong enough to come to power on its own, and they cannot stomach the thought that its royalty would have to be dependent on “regional parties” (like the PM so dutifully remarked recently in the Lok Sabha, the price of “coalition dharma”).

Shame on the Congress for bequeathing us this legacy, and shame on people who ignore this and vote for them in any case! 

(I had written this piece a few years ago. I am posting an updated version of this as I think it is still relevant)

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What do you do with a problem like Pakistan?

With due apologies to “The Sound of Music” and “Maria”, the time has really come for the World in general and India in particular to start thinking about “What do you with a problem like Pakistan?”

India almost seems to be at its wits ends as to how to tackle this problem. However, let it be frankly said, that India has never taken a dispassionate look at the options it already has in this area. The list of sins of omission and commission of this failed / failing state (take your pick) is long and well-documented and hence bears no repetition. The official “state-sponsor of terror” tag still eludes it and might continue to do so for some time, mainly because it serves the short-term purpose of the US to extricate itself from the Af-Pak quagmire, and the long-term perspective of China to keep India boxed in. However, there is no doubt whatsoever in anyone’s mind anywhere in the world that this state has for long been playing with fire, has itself created this terror monster (in order to hit back at India) and now is getting consumed by it. The problem still is how do you handle a state which negotiates with one hand pointing a gun to its own head? And yes, this is not a state that is going to go away without a fight.

There is a lovely Urdu couplet “Ham to doobenge sanam, tumko bhi le doobenge” (roughly translating as, “my beloved, I will not sink alone, I will take you along with me” – Urdu is a beautiful poetic language, and its nuances really get lost in translation).

What one does find is that most experts fall far short the moment one gets into specifics about what should India do to tackle Pakistan and make it pay for its sins. From advocating endless and effete peace initiatives to an all-out war, there is nothing practical that one hears from both extremes.

When one talks about tackling a “normal” state anywhere in the world, one essentially talks about how one needs to engage or punish the government of that country, as it is the government of a state which normally takes actions on behalf of a country / people. Pakistan is an abnormal agglomeration of differing interest groups, masquerading as a state. At the very least, this includes, Feudal landlords (mainly Punjabis), Jihadis, Military fundamentalists and Islamic ideologues. Understanding these various hydra-headed components is important, as the approach needs to be nuanced to tackle each head separately, for it to have any chance of success.

The failing state of Pakistan is a classic example of what happens to either a nation or a person when consumed by hatred. Pakistan’s visceral hatred of India and trying to only define itself as “not-India” is what has led to its precipitous downfall. It has willingly allowed itself to be used and abused by its own leaders and other countries as well, only if it felt that it could spite a much larger India. Today it is literally and figuratively on fire, the same fire with which it actually wanted to burn India up!

So what must India do with Pakistan?

Firstly, let’s see what India must not do or stop doing in order to eventually get to what we should do.

India at the very least must stop doing the following:

  1. Stop asking the US to apply pressure on Pakistan to act against the 26/11 terrorists (and the list of 20 other terrorists, or other terrorist infrastructure in Pakistan). The US is hardly likely to pull our chestnuts out of the fire, when it is itself keen on getting its own out of the Af-Pak fire with a semblance of self respect (of course they are going to spectacularly fail in this endeavour – India needs to prepare for the mess to blow up in 2012, but that’s a different story). Like Vajpayee had said, in this battle, we are all alone.
  2. Stop hoping that if we pamper the Pakistanis (something we have been doing for 60 years) and indulge in “pappies-and-jhappies” (kisses-and-hugs, for the non-Punjabified) with them, they will suddenly have this monumental change of heart, become our best friends and all will be hunky-dory! Stop the Wagah candle charades, stop the Mushairas in Delhi and Lahore, stop the nonsensical “Aman-ki-Ashas”, and stop deluding ourselves that we are not at war with Pakistan (we have been for the last 60 years).
  3. Stop linking our actions against Pakistan to the sensitivities of Indian Muslims (most of them are patriotic Indians and do not see Pakistan as their saviour – as evidenced in Mumbai Muslims refusing to allow the 26/11 terrorists to be buried within the city / country). We not only do a great disservice to the second largest Muslim community in the world, but also severely limit our options by doing so.
  4. Stop this ad-hocism in our tactics (as we have no strategy in any case) on how to deal with Pakistan (despite Vajpayee’s humongous and appreciable efforts on bringing peace with Pakistan, it was ad-hoc and no one was taken into confidence before he made his famous “peace clouds in the sky” speech in Srinagar). The two principal “default” ruling parties of India, the Congress and the BJP, have to have a joint strategy session on this (I know that here itself is a show-stopper for the plan), so that sustained and long-term actions are taken, without becoming hostage to petty politics and changes in government.
  5. Stop denying one of the fundamental truths of our relationship with Pakistan – the problem we face today is created more by our “inactions” of last 60 years, than the “actions” of Pakistan. We have allowed this pinprick of a state to become a festering gangrenous wound and our great power dreams are not going to materialize anytime soon, if we cannot tackle this problem called “Pakistan”!

The next step is to get some form of consensus (even if it is not explicitly stated or “screamed-from-the-rooftops” – on what is our ideal long-term solution for the state of Pakistan, assuming everything was in our control).

So, just what is our long-term objective, keeping our selfish interest in mind (and ours alone)?

It is not the oft-repeated homily, for a variety of reasons that a “strong-and-stable” Pakistan is in our interest. This large artificially created state, born out of our own womb, but full of hatred for us, and an antithetical self definition, has caused untold miseries for its neighbours, friends (yes including the US and China), and its own populace also. A state of this size, orientation and stage (of cancer) can never ever be either friendly or beneficial for India. Like the US’ objective with a similar “monster-state” called USSR, our long term objective and ideal scenario is the negation of this state, for our own benefit, and the benefit of its own citizens.

Explicitly stated, the long-term best-case scenario for us is that the present Pakistani state be split into four pieces, the 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 (it had very nominal linkages even with British India – although there has always been a very significant Hindu population there for centuries). Sind should become an independent state, with a possibility of eventual merger with India, through a plebiscite, as not only is there a very significant “Hindu Sindhi” population in India, but the name India and Hind itself come from the words “Sindh (Hind), Sindhu (Indus and Hindu), and the old “Sapta Sindhu” which became the “Hapta Hindu” for the Persians (and that’s how the word Hindu was born). Pakistani Punjab is the real cancer which has been the undoing of the state of Pakistan. This has to be left alone as a diminished “Punjabistan”, which will be too small and weak to be able to either challenge India or sustain its programme of global jihad! Under no circumstances should India consider integrating this region into itself, the Punjabi Wagah candlewallas notwithstanding. POK and Northern Areas should come back to India, as per the Instrument of Accession signed in favour of India in 1948.

This should be our maximalist position and objective!

Now a lot of people will recoil in horror when they read this, call it “neo-imperialistic” and what not. I can live with that. Its not that this is going to come about tomorrow, in an elegant and peaceful manner. The state of Pakistan is not going to go “peacefully into the night”. I am stating what I think is in the ultimate selfish interest of the Indian state, and the Indian state only!

The point is that without a clearly articulated maximalist position, we don’t even know what our strategic objectives should be and whether and how we should move forward.

Now let’s come to what India can start doing, in order to move towards this long-term strategic goal, through overt and covert means. The operating principle for all actions (and what is given below is definitely not a comprehensive, but only an indicative list), is to maximize the damage to the Pakistani Army, ISI, Politico-religious-jihadi nexus, and at the same time, try to minimize the negative fallout (‘collateral damage’ – I love this term given to us by the Americans) on the ordinary people of “Pakistan” (as they will eventually be our biggest allies).

The steps to be initiated are as follows:

I. Cause economic pain to Defence forces / related entities:

The biggest reason why the Pakistani establishment continues with its policy of “war-of-a-thousand-cuts” (Operation Topac) is because even after engineering as dastardly an attack as 26/11, the retaliatory pain caused to them by this “powerful-emerging-economic-global-power-on-verge-of-getting-permanent-UNSC-seat” is a big Zero! This has to change. The correct identity of the primary cause of our “pain” from Pakistan is the Army and the ISI. India needs to publicly declare the Pakistani Army as rogue, and debar any and all companies from ever doing business in India, if any of them or their associated entities does business with either of the following: 

  1. The Pakistani defence forces
  2. ISI
  3. Any private company in Pakistan which is owned / managed by serving / retired Pakistani defence officers
  4. Operate in any part of POK or Gilgit-Baltistan region

This will cause the western world in general and Americans in particular to weigh the cost of doing business with Pakistan and the benefits of accessing the Indian market. This will cause severe economic pain to the Pakistani military and related entities.

As an example, Thuraya satellite phones were used by the 26/11 terrorists that attacked Mumbai. These phones were most probably supplied by this Middle East company to some arm of the Pakistani Army, which in turn through the ISI reached the terrorists. Now Thuraya (and all its associate companies) need to be permanently banned from doing business with India. If Thuraya chooses to sever its links with Pakistan (which logically it should), in order to do business with India, this will immediately impact the terror camps in POK, as these phones are commonly used to communicate for fear of the regular mobile network getting tapped by American El-int easily.

Globally, companies will start choosing India to do business with, shunning the Pakistani military establishment (yes the supplier of F-16s too needs to be banned from India).

II. Offer to pay this mercenary nation for better behaviour

What has been conclusively established and experienced by the world, is that Pakistan as a state is available to the highest bidder for a fee. The routine monthly billing being done between the US and Pakistan for services rendered (like allowing the safe passage of cargo from Karachi to Afghanistan, operating drones from Pakistani airports, paying for the Pakistani Army to launch operations in SWAT region, etc.) clearly establish this operating principle.

We need to offer to join this party.

We need to tell Pakistan (initially privately and then in public) that we are willing to pay for its better compliance with civil norms in terms of decent behaviour. The starting list of compliances that we can announce that we will pay for is as follows:

  1. $25 million for handing over the 26/11 accused to face trial in India
  2. $5 million each for each on our list of 20 most-wanted terrorists
  3. $50 million (one time) for permission to conduct a quarterly audit, by an international group of civilians led by the UN, for the presence of terror camps in POK / NA region

Now I seriously don’t expect any Pakistani government to come forward and accept this money. I do want them to know that there is a potential windfall for them if they start complying with some established “norms” of behaviour, and we are making it worth their while, as that’s the way they have positioned themselves.

III. Reach out to the suffering masses

India should set aside an aid amount of some $ 50-100 million a year, and ensure through various Global NGOs that it reaches the Pakistani masses, across all four states, but with a greater focus on Baluchistan, Sind and NWFP. This aid should only be delivered in kind (and not cash).

This becomes critically important as the earlier steps are going to hurt Pakistan economically, and they will find a convenient scapegoat in India to blame for all the sufferings of their people. This has to be countered by this massive aid, so that the Pakistani people realize that we are attacking our enemy, the Pakistani state (Army and ISI), but we have no enmity with the Pakistani people.

This nuanced approach is what could be the decider between success and failure, as frankly the state of Pakistan can only be salvaged by its own people.

IV. Denuclearize this rabid state

One of the key objectives of India has to be to somehow, along with voluntary or forced assistance from the western world, help to denuclearize this state. This will be a very complex task and will take time but still needs to be done, as Pakistan has perfected the art of rabidly attacking India and operating under the nuclear overhang, so that India cannot and will not hit back even conventionally (as they don’t believe in the no-first-use-doctrine). This is an untenable position for us and should be openly stated to the world.

The steps required to do this would be as follows: 

  1. Pass a resolution in the Parliament that:
    1. India will not unilaterally initiate an unprovoked attack on the territory of Pakistan or even areas under its illegal occupation
    2. India will be legally bound to strongly respond and with full force, to any attack from Pakistan-based state or non-state actors, at a time and place of its choosing
    3. India reiterates that it will not be the first to use a nuclear weapon, but will respond to a nuclear attack with obliterating force, even if it is in the form of a “dirty-bomb”
    4. Declare that India’s nuclear weapons programme is not Pakistan-centric (unlike Pakistan’s programme), and hence any equation of the two is unacceptable.
    5. India doesn’t accept the rationale for Pakistan to have nuclear weapons, given the additional risk of these falling into the hands of “non-state” actors, and an attack on India being mounted.
  2. Declare Pakistan a proliferator of nuclear weapons technology and permanently ban companies that do any nuclear / missile trade with Pakistan from doing business with India (particularly Chinese state-owned companies).
  3. Offer Pakistan a sum of $ 1 billion as a reward for giving up its nuclear weapons and technology (in perpetuity and in all its forms), to be verified by IAEC. Do not accept the need for civilian nuclear power as an excuse. Offer in turn to set up non-nuclear power stations within the territory of Pakistan (as part of Indian aid) and if required, nuclear power plants on Indian territory (in say Rajasthan & Gujarat), dedicated to supplying power to Pakistan, again as part of Indian aid.
  4. Reduce the aid given by India each time Pakistan conducts a missile test or buys any equipment that can be used to transport nuclear weapons (missiles, submarines, F16s, etc). Let Pakistan and its people learn that there is a price to be paid for needless belligerence, and what it feels like to actually “eat-grass” just in order to spite India (as pompously claimed by Zulfiqar Bhutto).

V. Increase focus on fissures within Pakistan

Pakistan has relentlessly and cynically focused on fissures within India (god knows we are not perfect) and exploited every slip of ours in Kashmir or other regions, or on issues concerning Indian Muslims. They feel it is their god-given right to comment on every issue where India slips up.

Its time to start sending some “jihadi” coal back to the Pakistani “Newcastle”!

Start focussing on the Baluchistan struggle for independence. Raise it openly and start providing “moral” support to their legitimate demands (the annexation of Baluchistan by Pakistan, and the sham plebiscite needs to be highlighted). Express concern when the Pakistani army kills local Baluchis. Highlight it strongly when Pakistani minorities are subjugated or attacked. Criticize its record on Blasphemy and Hudood laws. Support Sind on the issue of the Dam on the Indus which will irrigate Punjab but leave them “high-and-dry”. Offer to Sind that if Punjab blocks the flow of water to Sind, India will in turn block the flow of Indus and its tributaries to Pakistan. Support Afghanistan on the issue of non-acceptance of the Durand line as the border with Pakistan (and earlier British India). Highlight the pitiable state of the Mohajirs as also the ones left over in Bangladesh (that Pakistan refuses to accept).

Two can play at this game and the splintering of Pakistan will require playing up on these fissures.

VI. Resolve Kashmir

Although this article is not on the issue of Kashmir (see my article on “Resolving India’s Kashmir Problem”), but very little progress with Pakistan is possible unless we are willing to take steps on resolving Kashmir.

I would request you to read the above article on how India has lost the initiative on Kashmir, is presently bringing no ideas to the table on moving forward, and is dangerously drifting towards being forced to accept a sub-optimal solution on it. We need to grab the initiative, explore some radical and creative ideas, and put Pakistan (and China) on the back foot.

VII. Threaten to break all diplomatic relations

India has for long begged and beseeched the world community to declare Pakistan a sponsor of terror, so that we can win some debating points with the Pakistanis. The world laughs at us, as we have ourselves not declared them as such and frankly given them a MFN status on trade in turn.

We need to do the following things: 

  1. Declare the state of Pakistan (i.e. its Army, the ISI, its powerless “government” and the jihadi organizations) as sponsors of terror.
  2. Threaten that the next time India is attacked, and sure enough it will happen, India will break all diplomatic relations with Pakistan, move to have it removed from SAARC and the Commonwealth countries group, and excepting the UN, withdraw from all multi-lateral forums, wherein Pakistan is a member. Force the world to choose between a democratic and growing India, and a terrorist rabid Pakistan.
  3. Withdraw overflight facilities over Indian airspace to any and all aircraft coming in from Pakistan
  4. Withdraw landing rights to all airlines that operate from or within Pakistan

VIII. Provide a face to India’s Pakistan initiative

We don’t realize that at this point in time, we actually have two aces up our sleeve, which could be jointly positioned as the face of the above initiative against Pakistan.

We have two people in our country who are: 

  1. Very senior in the Indian Political system
  2. Still carry a lot of respect (individually at least) and across the political spectrum
  3. Were born in that part of undivided India which is now in Pakistan
  4. Are looked upon very kindly and favourably even in Pakistan, as people who came to India as refugees post partition, but were able to come up in life due to the liberal democracy that India is
  5. Have interacted with the Pakistani establishment intensively over a long period of time.

Yes, I am talking about Dr. Manmohan Singh and L K Advani!

India should strategically position these two faces, to lead this overall initiative on Pakistan. The entire initiative should be announced by them in a joint address to the Indian people, the people of Pakistan, and the entire world (I offer my services to draft their speeches)! These two respected people should jointly tell the world that India has had enough!

Now one might call the points outlined above either impractical or emotional (frankly I don’t care). The point remains that India has for long tolerated this country on our borders with calm and equanimity, which has been out to attack and humiliate us at every opportunity. The approach has obviously not worked and our “niceness” is known now to be a “weakness”. The world appreciates our “extraordinary restraint” to our face, but laughs at us behind our backs, for being so pusillanimous. I am tired of being the nice kid on the block, whom everyone thinks they can grab a slice of (economically, territorially, etc.).

Pakistan needs to realize that there is a severe price to be paid for the dangerous game that it has been playing, and frankly, benefits to be had, for genuinely cooperating with us. The time has come that India for once punch in keeping with its weight. If we don’t, won’t or can’t, let’s not pretend to be some great emerging power of the 21st century, and we might as well accept the secondary role that we will play to both the US and increasingly to China in the future (read my blogpost on India Firmly in China’s Crosshairs for more). Of course this could come with further territorial losses in the future, in favour of both Pakistan and China!

Posted in India-Pakistan | 11 Comments

India firmly in China’s crosshairs!

I have always found it fascinating how utterly impossible it is, and always has been, for the Indian political class to comprehend China’s actions and motives towards us. They almost seem to naively ask, “Why doesn’t China like us?”

We have done “Hindi-Chini, Bhai-Bhai” with them! We signed the Panchsheel agreement with them, and then mildly protested as they broke it and attacked us. We didn’t say anything when they gobbled up Tibet (with whom we had treaty rights as well as responsibilities to defend) and Xinjiang using moronic justifications (India can claim suzerainty over the US using the same logic, as both were ruled by Britain at the same point in time; and frankly even over Xinjiang, as apparently during the Mahabharat, Sahadeva had conquered “Uttara Kuru” (now known East Turkestan / Xinjiang); the race of “Chinas” was mentioned in the Mahabharat, fighting on the side of the Pandavas, and used to pay tribute to the Chakravarti King Yudhishthira; and Kashmiri king Lalitaditya Muktipeeda in 8th century AD had attacked and captured parts of Tibet!).

We laughed off Mao’s ominous statement on Tibet being the palm of a hand and Aksai Chin, Nepal, Bhutan, Sikkim and Arunachal being the five fingers into the heart of India! We gifted them the permanent seat on the UNSC which was offered to us, and supported them in the UNGA even after 1962! We didn’t go to Chiang Kai Shek’s aid when he was fighting off Mao, and literally “ditched” him after first having promised him support! We don’t even mention now that China is sitting on Aksai China and the Shaksgam Valley (both part of the undivided state of J&K and legally a part of India – funnily both kept by China to facilitate roads, one to connect Tibet with Xinjiang, and the other as “payment” from Pakistan for building the Korakoram highway!). We are acting blissfully unaware of the flagrant and open encirclement of India being done by China, through its string of pearls strategy, over the last 30 years. We are desperately hiding from the Indian public their active border transgressions, and creeping acquisition of additional land in Ladakh!

And for having done all of this, China still hates us! Wow!

In a nutshell, it hates us because of all the above reasons, and not despite them; but this deserves a slightly deeper appreciation and a more detailed answer!

Napoleon had once said, that the world must let China sleep, for once it wakes up, it will shall shake the world! China apologists view this as a compliment and limit its scope to the economic domain, but I view this as an ominous warning by a great leader with remarkable vision.

The world has not really understood the characteristics of this fast-rising power that keeps on desperately pleading that it will “rise peacefully”, but no one seems to believe them.

The Chinese state has the following attributes:

  1. Like we in India “tongue-in-cheek” say that Pakistan is an Army that has a country attached (and not the other way round), China is a political party that has a country of its own. The way the world experiences China is the way the Communist Party of China wants it to experience China (please read the story of Village Potemkin in Czarist Russia)! Never before in modern history has such a small cabal of people enjoyed so much power, over such a large area/populace, and not be accountable to anyone for it.
  2. The PLA is becoming increasingly assertive and now driving foreign policy in China, and hence becoming more and more like Pakistan, and also retain plausible deniability (a best practice they share with Pakistan).
  3. China is one of the oldest, largest, unitary (Han Chinese), exclusivist cultures in the world, with the possible exception of Japan (though not the largest).
  4. China has a deeply internalized superiority complex about itself, its culture, intellect, its place in the world (the Middle Kingdom, i.e. centre of the world).
  5. It has a very very long memory and does not forget slights to its honour (both real and perceived), whether individual or collective (i.e. by a country)
  6. It has a very deep-seated anger against the western world and Japan, that for the past 250 years, it has been denied its place in history (as the de facto leader of the world) by a combination of factors (be it the forced Opium Wars by Britain, or the brief but violent colonization by Japan).
  7. Even its “short-term” strategic thinking is probably over a timeframe of 50 years, and therefore thinks and acts consistently, and with a single-minded focus, over very long periods of time (Mao’s “Palm-and-fingers” strategy is just being played out in Nepal and Arunachal Pradesh now)
  8. China is a “hyper-expansionist” power with an insatiable lust for land, and extremely dismissive about the people that may just happen to be living on that land – example the “breed-them-out” programme in Tibet and Xinjiang.
  9. China currently only fears US’ military power, which is holding it back from unleashing a campaign of violence against (at the very least) – Taiwan, Vietnam, India, and even some Japanese and Russian interests. It is waiting for the day that it is convinced that it has caught up with the US in terms of military power and/or the US has lost its gumption for a fight (both of which seem to be scheduled to happen sooner rather than later)
  10. The one-child policy and societal bias in favour of the boy-child has distorted the gender ratio very adversely, with millions of Chinese men unable to find partners. Historically, such ‘testosterone-crazed’ populations have only led their nations towards war and eventual destruction (the Huns and Mongols of the past, and some analysts’ also point to the “need for Jihad” in Pakistan to be caused by this very same reason).
  11. China’s secretive and relentless drive for building up its military muscle (given that no nation in its right mind would attack China), only raises concerns in neighbours about its intentions, and this can cause the “law of unintended consequences” to go haywire (many expect Japan to soon give up its policy of “defensive restraint” of more than 60 years and go in for major arms upgradation, only due to apprehensions about China’s intentions).

So what does this all mean for India? As mentioned earlier, Indian politicos, even if they grant all of the above, are still unable to understand “Why China doesn’t like us”. So let’s understand what exactly China’s problem with India is.

China’s disgust, disdain, and visceral hatred of India stems from the following causes:

  1. Although a statement to this effect was made by a Chinese scholar (that “India conquered China many centuries ago without ever having to send a single soldier over the Himalayas”), it is extremely difficult for the proud Chinese to accept that anything about their culture could have come from anywhere else (remember “Middle Kingdom”). The fact that most Chinese martial arts have descended from ancient Indian knowledge (there are pictures of dark-skinned Rishis teaching Chinese pupils in a Shaolin temple, but largely hidden and denied by the Chinese). A lot of “ancient Chinese knowledge” actually came from Indian manuscripts held in Tibet over centuries, or spirited out of India by its inveterate “travellers” (like Hiuen Tsiang and FaHien). Of course, a lot of “modern Chinese knowledge” comes from stolen western knowledge, but that’s another story!
  2. Even a casual look at the geography of Asia (in the 1950s) would have made it obvious that from a strategic rivalry perspective, only two nations stood out – India and China. For a nation that covets “global dominance”, having a strategic rival in Asia is anathema (please remember the official paper by a Chinese think-tank that China should split asunder India into 20-25 statelets!). The Chinese have very seriously offered to the US that they split their “zones of dominance” over the Pacific at the Hawaiian islands, west of Hawaii for China and east of it for the US, Atlantic for the US, and Indian ocean for China (the other thing that irritates the Chinese no end is that an ocean is named after India, therefore their statement that “the Indian Ocean is not India’s Ocean” – although they see nothing wrong in saying South China Sea is a “core” interest for China, and thereby obviously being “China’s Sea” – they have planted the flag of China on the seabed to make it absolutely clear).
  3. The India-China hyphenation (Chindia), which China has assiduously worked to jettison for the last 50 years, is becoming popular once again. The reason why they have cultivated Pakistan as a client state to do their bidding, the risk of Pakistani Jihad overflowing into Xinjiang notwithstanding, is only to ensure that the world continue to hyphenate India with Pakistan, and hence not with China. China can’t stand the thought of an India-China hyphenation.
  4. China only respects might, and hence the respect for the US, grudgingly even Israel, and to some extent Russia. China truly loves “defiant spoilt brats”, and thereby the love for Pakistan, Burma, North Korea, Sudan, and recently even Iran (they do keep some very “august” company). They have studied and understood the Indian obsession with peace, which they see as a weakness, and do not respect anything about India. Hence the utter disdain with which they treat Indian sensitivities (be it stapled visas for Kashmiris or blocking loans for projects in Arunachal). India does not even have the guts to ask China that if they have accepted the McMohan line as border with Burma (Myanmar), then why is the same principle not applicable for India?
  5. India’s chaotic democracy, despite its obvious shortcomings, is still not preventing our economy from growing fast, and threatening to rival and potentially even overtake the Chinese growth rates (despite their fudged numbers). The world then sees India as a beacon for smaller countries and offering a better developmental template than what China can. The Chinese cringe at this thought (if only they could make India disappear)! The handsome support received by India for the non-permanent membership of the UNSC, and the embarrassingly desperate attempts made by China to block the NSG vote, bear testimony to this (so much for China claiming that it doesn’t care much for India).
  6. India’s humanistic offer of asylum to the Dalai Lama is seen as a direct affront to China, and they would actually want us to hand over this “splittist” to them so they could torture him in one of their “gulags”, or frankly just bump him off! India has not only provided him a home and kept the Tibetan culture alive, with respect and dignity, but this has also allowed the Dalai Lama to build up his global profile, including getting the Nobel Peace Prize! This does not allow China to pretend that it does not have a “Tibet” problem. They forget, that there is no precedent in history of this kind of benign support given by any nation to its strategic rival, as India has never ever used Tibet to create trouble for China (although that is a weakness in India and not a strength).
  7. India’s obviously superior entrepreneurial culture, accentuated by the freedom its people enjoy, has allowed for the creation of world-class companies that are respected all over the world. China, in contrast, and although it is able to show much bigger financial muscle, is only able to showcase its “state-funded” and protected public enterprises (SOEs). It notices the welcome say the Tatas get when they takeover a western company (JLR) as compared to the fear and protectionism they meet when Chinese companies try to takeover an entity (e.g. Rio Tinto). They just don’t get it that the world doesn’t trust them with its IP!
  8. One of the biggest issues the world is facing today, in light of Huntington’s infamous “clash of civilizations” theory, is the ability of different people to live together in peace and harmony. Modern India is one of the largest and most important “social experiments” taking place on the planet today, where such a large and diversified set of people are living together, largely in peace, despite the periodic problems that crop up. Again, China’s inability to integrate the restive populations of Tibet, Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia, despite being more than 95% Han Chinese, stands out in absolute contrast (of course what they don’t realize is that “breed-them-out” can never be done peacefully). It can pretend that they can hide the horrific persecution going on, but the world can see and is keeping quiet out of fear! While the world applauds China’s sparkling infrastructure, its abject failure on the social side, is once again an area where India makes China look small, and the Chinese don’t like it!
  9. It is too much for the Chinese egotistical sensibility to accept that anyone anywhere can do anything better than them. They have historically made some allowances for western powers, essentially because China itself acknowledges that it went through a period of weakness due to these very same western powers, over the past 250 years, and is only now re-emerging from it. The Indian success in the area of software, services and even a few areas of “design-intensive” manufacturing (e.g. automobile components), is not easy for the Chinese to swallow. While they have been very comfortable with the thought of “stealing” intellectual property from the West (which they have turned into an art form), the idea of having to do the same thing from “Indian” companies (IT, Telecom and automobile components) is particularly abhorrent, but is being done nonetheless.
  10. Lastly, and definitely not the least, the Chinese need a “case study” to demonstrate their power to the world, and what they can do to a country that may hold “illusions” of standing up to China (India doesn’t have any such illusions, but that’s a minor technicality). This is so that no other country should have the guts to stand up against them, in this “Chinese century”, where it plans to be the “sole superpower”. They believe that this time round, the sun will never set on the Chinese empire (sounds familiar?)! There is no better candidate than India, from a perspective of size, potential, and brittleness, for China to demonstrate this power.

Unfortunately for us, we are their neighbours, and China is out to teach us the lesson of a lifetime.

So now let’s take a look at what China has already done, from an India-specific perspective, over the last 60 years. Let’s start with the 1962 war. The Indian public has not been able to figure out why exactly China attacked us in 1962, apparently for a piece of land where not even a “blade of grass grows” (as Nehru had tried to justify our loss).

Some of the reasons why China attacked us in 1962 were as follows:

  1. Demonstrate to the Soviet Union (which was a regional hegemonic power in those days, and had got India into its orbit of influence) that it can attack India with disdain, and despite them moving their forces to the Chinese border (near Inner Mongolia), give India a bloody nose! It was also a message to the other littoral states of China, that if India can be attacked, despite its size and the protective umbrella of the Soviet Union, they stood no chance against China (a message well received by say Vietnam and South Korea!).
  2. Grab Aksai Chin, yes, remember for the road project from Xinjiang to Tibet, (and as we all know, roads require land)!
  3. Test out their battle doctrine of successfully attacking India’s north-east over the Himalayas from the north of Arunachal, and the pincer movement from the south-west (across the territory of Burma – something very few Indians know about), and then tactically withdraw, to take the new knowledge into their “war games” drawing rooms. Their long term aim is to definitively detach India’s north-east, and either incorporate into China, or create independent “statelets” beholden to China (Naga separatists please note). Sorry for not mentioning before and being hugely politically incorrect, in the Chinese scheme of things, any region consisting of people with mongoloid features is fair game, and yes of course has historically always “belonged” to China.
  4. Get a sense of how India goes to war. Is it able to fight? Is it able to call upon its allies? Is it able to use all its resources? Can China successfully leverage their fifth columnists (the left parties) within India to disrupt and cause confusion (and yes, this was a resounding success).
  5. The only one fear that the Chinese had was if India used its air force (which was vastly superior in those days) to disrupt the Chinese supply lines, which were dangerously over-stretched and vulnerable, as there were no railway lines to the border (like they are putting in place now). As expected, India in all its wisdom did not use its air force, and what could have been an evenly-matched battle (despite the shortage of arms and ammunition), turned out to be totally one-sided, and a national humiliation (please read the book “Himalayan Blunder” for more).
  6. The Chinese wanted to know whether India could or would disrupt Chinese fuel-supply lines in the straits of Malacca (which we could have but didn’t), a stratagem we later so brilliantly executed, and blocked Karachi harbour in 1971!
  7. They wanted to test our leadership, which came out to be truly wanting, and validated the Chinese assumption, that a pacifist India, does not have the guts to defend itself with full vigour, even when attacked (this was proven once again in the Kargil War, the battle plans for which I am sure were whetted in advance by Chinese Generals – Proof: Parvez Musharraf visited China immediately before and again during the Kargil War).

So what else has China been doing since 1962, which has been obvious to everyone but not to India’s ostrich-like and corrupt political leadership? Some of their actions have been as follows:

  1. They have dramatically upgraded the infrastructure on their side of the Himalayas in the form of rail, road, airstrips, missile silos, etc. Even their recent activities in Gilgit, which although have an economic rational also (access to Gwadar port), have a pure military angle behind it (they are less than 100 kms from Ladakh from there and with good roads; if Pakistan could create such severe problems for us during Kargil just by more accurate shelling of NH1A, wait till you have the Chinese crawling all over Ladakh).
  2. They have fully effected their “string of pearls” strategy around India, a few pointers being Gwadar, Coco Islands, Hanamkonda, Trincomallee, another port in Burma, Cox’s Bazaar, rail lines to Nepal, Bangladesh, Burma, etc.
  3. They have reactivated their support to the north-east rebels (evidence is that their leadership is now based more in Burma than Bangladesh).
  4. The dominance over Pakistan is complete, especially now with the US tiring of its duplicity, the new nuclear reactors (in defiance of NSG), control over Gilgit (where they could have set up missile silos), transfer of missiles and missile technology, directly conducting Pakistan’s nuclear explosions (in response to India’s tests), transfer of latest fighter aircrafts (based on stolen Russian designs anyway), etc.
  5. The support to the Indian Naxals, through the Nepali Marxists and Communist apologists within India, which can be activated to create chaos during a war situation.

So what are China’s objectives against India now?

  1. On a maximalist basis, to split India into multiple statelets, so that the potential strategic rival is eliminated permanently.
  2. Definitely detach India’s entire northeast, by exploiting the Chicken’s neck vulnerability (what a strategic disaster this is, and India has been sleeping on it, rather than trying to set it right; we frankly should not have accepted it all in the first place, by exchanging territory with East Pakistan / Bangladesh, when Jessore and CHT were needlessly handed over to them, for nothing in return).
  3. Give another “bloody nose” to India as to nip in the bud, the India-China hyphenation that has started happening once again.
  4. Undo India’s already severely limited hegemony over South Asia also, so that even its neighbours are convinced that India will not come to its aid in times of need, and that they don’t need to bother about its interests, hence keeping India bogged down in the quagmire that South Asia has anyway become.
  5. Have total dominance over the Indian Ocean, so that China’s energy security is never threatened, and it can in turn threaten India’s energy security. Even an idiot can see that India’s geographic location makes it imperative that it should strategically dominate the Indian Ocean; and if it doesn’t, then the ocean itself can become the most lethal point of attack against India. In any case, India has never cultivated the strategic foresight of say the Cholas and Shivaji, who had realized and exploited the importance of sea power. Its “north India” dominated political culture has always had a “Khyber Pass” mentality, that as in the past, all security threats will only come to the Indo-gangetic plains, and from the north-west (which too we have not been able to protect – for example the loss of the strategic Haji Pir Pass in Kashmir, but that’s another story).
  6. Capture Tawang, as in the post Dalai Lama battle for controlling the fallout on Tibet, China would want to present the next Dalai Lama as having been born in China (this was the reason to test out the attack on Tawang in 1962). Ideally it would also want to annexe one of the holiest monasteries in Ladakh, and the one in Sikkim. The post Dalai Lama phase of the Tibetan struggle is something that China has been planning for at least 50 years, and mark my words, they will not get it wrong. Unfortunately for them, the Dalai Lama just refuses to die (how inconsiderate of him), and has threatened to live for a hundred years (i.e. another 20 years), but China has legendary patience, and the “breeding-them-out” programme in any case continues in Tibet, uninterrupted.

China also realizes that it probably has only five more years to achieve its objectives against India. India’s rising global stature, its GDP growth rates potentially surpassing that of China, the rise of a new, younger, right-wing and more risk-taking political leadership, its own greying population, the potent convergence of India’s security objectives with countries like Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, etc., will increasingly make it more difficult for them, if delayed beyond 2015.

The gut-feel of many analysts is that 2012 is likely to be a flashpoint year between India and China, for the following reasons:

  1. Political mess that is likely to emerge in the US, as a tired and weary Barack Obama, who would have “lost” the Af-Pak war by then, may not be put up for re-election by the Democratic Party, and the front-runner from the Conservative Party, as of now, is Sarah Palin, whose foreign policy experience is limited to a good “view” of Russia from across the waters in Alaska!
  2. Mess that would have been created in Af-Pak with the partial withdrawal of NATO forces (and the psychological victory of Taliban, and yes don’t forget, its patron, Pakistan)
  3. The steroid-pumped Pakistan (with US arms and aid), crazed by its “victory” over the other superpower (after “defeating” the Soviets), would now hit out at its mortal enemy India, with full force
  4. Likelihood of a dissillusioned Manmohan Singh stepping down in favour of either Rahul Gandhi, or another “weak” and inexperienced candidate as the PM of India, creating further policy confusion and “learning time”!

These and other such factors will create a veritable cocktail of disaster for India, maximising its vulnerability, and providing a golden opportunity to China for achieving its objectives (please don’t forget that 1962 was executed during the window of opportunity provided by the Bay of Pigs crisis, and the attention of the world was diverted). China, unlike India, doesn’t miss opportunities (a wag of course had once said that India never misses an opportunity to miss an opportunity, and it would have even been funny, if it were not a potential life-and-death struggle for India).

To test whether India has been weakened enough or not, and whether it is ripe for a Chinese attack, a “dirty-bomb” could be launched by “non-state” actors from Pakistan, while the “Government of Pakistan” would innocently maintain its infamous “plausible deniability” (which they have also turned into an art-form over 60 years, and now fool even the US). India’s weak-kneed response (as ably demonstrated during the aftermath of the Mumbai 26/11 attacks, and reconfirmed by the Wikileaks expose) could be the final go-ahead for the Chinese plans.

To achieve the above objectives, China’s likely course of action for a short, quick and bloody war, could be as follows:

  1. The next “war” for the defence of India will be a combined “three-front” war, all activated by China – viz. the Pakistani border, the Chinese border (which itself is huge) and the internal “red corridor” of the Naxals (along with their fifth columnists within India).
  2. China must have war-gamed enough ways in which to hit India in the vulnerable Chickens neck, and the entire north-east from the north across Tawang, and the south-east from the Burmese border (please read Bharat Verma’s article)
  3. China has already tested out its anti-sat systems to hit India’s satellites and majorly disrupt its “eyes-and-ears” during the war. These anti-sat systems also double up as anti-missile and anti- aircraft carrier systems, and hence India’s puny missile attack of Agnis / Prithvis and the aging carriers could be easily deactivated.
  4. Simultaneously, the divisions of “hackers” (nearly 2 million strong), would be activated to hit India’s defence communication and economic nerve-centres (stock markets, media, etc.), to further the chaos in the country.
  5. The Indian ocean, the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal will be crawling with China’s nuke submarines, to launch an obliterating attack, even if one of India’s missile were to get through to mainland China (they don’t care if Tibet is hit), from across the Himalayas (a tough ask in any case).

There are two other very scary plans which China has drawn up for India, both of which have been leaked into the public domain. They are as follows:

  1. Nuking the Himalayas and creating a 5 km wide flatland in between the mountain ranges, so that the monsoon winds which become bone-dry by the time they cross over to the Gobi Desert, can pass through, and carry rain to these parched lands, which China desperately needs to house its population (water security was the primary reason for capturing Tibet, and not to “free-the-serfs” as has been disingenuously argued).
  2. Nuking the “big-bend” in the course of the Brahmaputra, a spot in Tibet where the river takes a sharp U-turn and enters India, which can be disguised as an earthquake, and then presented to India as a fait accompli, a changed course of the river, and make it flow into its own parched lands with impunity.
  3. If these two dangerous plans have somehow come into the public space, one just wonders what other plans this war-hungry and paranoid country has drawn up for India, which have not come out in the open as yet.
  4. Now, all these plans sound too “fantastic” to be actually implemented by any country, and could be considered alarmist. Anyone who has seen the single-track mind with which China has built the Three Gorges Dam, the rail track to Lhasa, and now the road through Gilgit, needs to think twice, and get really really scared, because if there is one country that can and will execute these plans, with total disdain for world opinion, it is China!

So, even if some parts of the above scenario are remotely likely to be played out, India has a big big problem on its hands! So what should India do about this? Uptil now, except for the baby-steps of activating some minor landing-strips, building some roads, and raising two mountain divisions, we have not done anything much. Apologists will point out that the India of today is not the India of 1962, but we should also be aware that the China of today is definitely not the China of 1962, more rabid and much more confident that it can get away with anything.

So what should India do?

Firstly, India is sleeping and blissfully unaware of the security threats to its existence and its way of life, primarily from two countries (Pakistan and China) that share a visceral hatred for it, and have converging strategic interests, with one becoming a supplicant to the other. India is somehow convinced that pampering them with moralistic talk about peace (Hindi-Chini Bhai Bhai and the Wagah candlewalls), and doing more business with them, will ultimately bring about a change in behaviour, and they will also become pacifists like us (modelling themselves on Chishti for one, and Confucious for the other). India doesn’t realize that the actual role models for them are very different, Mahmud Ghazni for one and Sun Tzu for the other! India needs to understand that it has an existential battle on its hands. Indian politicos have never understood geo-politics, or frankly never even understood the need to understand geo-politics. The strategic blunders committed by India over the last 60 years are legion, and do not deserve repetition here, but one must read (“Seven blunders that will haunt India for posterity”) for some understanding of this.

The two major parties of India that are “ostensibly” natural claimants for governance, BJP and the Congress, need to take the lead in understanding this issue, and taking a “nation first” approach to this problem. Instead of insultingly dismissing strategic thinkers as “retired drum-beaters of war”, learn to engage with them and get a better understanding of the strategic issues facing India, and develop a long-term plan (although frankly we do not have much time on hand) to tackle this, so that a change in government does not torpedo the plan.

Secondly, we need to realize that there is a global discomfort with the aggressive rise of China, and its flagrant power-play against most of its neighbours. If India has something to fear, frankly, so do Taiwan, Japan, Vietnam, South Korea, Mongolia and the Philippines (for starters). Although they don’t realize it as yet, the US and Russia are equally and deeply threatened (relaxed frogs that will be boiled to death in a Chinese stew). China covets Russia’s far east Siberian territories, under the flawed “justification” of lebensraum (BTW, the people there also have Mongoloid features), but it is also to get access to the waters of the Arctic and threaten Japan from the north. As far as the US is concerned, China knows that it has to dethrone the US to become the unchallenged global superpower, as it is convinced that this is China’s century, in as much as the US knew that it had to dethrone Great Britain.

Coincidentally, all of these countries are democracies, and history has shown that they normally don’t go to war against one another. India needs to build a coalition of these democracies, at the very least to come to each other’s aid, if attacked by China, as many hands are needed to quieten this crazed “bull-in-a-china-shop” (wonder where the expression came from). Japan was a great military power once but the debilitating conditions the US put on them post the second world war, has sapped the fighting energy from it, to almost becoming a hollow-image of its past (the way in which Japan capitulated in the recent stand-off in the South China Sea confirms this). The world needs to awaken that military spirit of Japan (Samurai spirit), so that it can not only defend itself, but also help defend the free world. Given its colonial history over China, do not underestimate either China’s desire to destroy Japan, or the value of Japan in eventually controlling China.

Finally, India needs to prepare for defending itself like never before, as it is not a question of whether but when this would happen. Besides a faster implementation of some of the steps that have already been initiated, other ideas for specific action are as follows:

  1. Plan and prepare counter-measures for cyber attacks from China that could cripple our command and control systems, and create chaos in general. I don’t think we have even contemplated such attacks, let alone taken effective counter-measures. The help of top Indian IT firms needs to be taken in this, as the government and the armed forces do not have this capability. Test out these measures in a real-life scenario.
  2. The eastern and western seaboard makes us very vulnerable to attack from a superior force – particularly aircraft carriers (which China is close to acquiring) and nuclear attack submarines (where China has huge superiority). Our “Khyber Pass” mindset does not allow us to exploit our sea boundaries effectively, either for power projection or even defensive strategies (maybe because of the distance from Delhi). We need to fast-track the acquisition of aircraft carriers (at least three) and nuclear submarines (at least eight, or get a Trident from UK). We must understand that with our self-declared no-first use policy (which China doesn’t profess), and proximity to China, from the triad of our nuclear delivery systems, the one most likely to survive an all-out attack from China are the submarines, hence they have immense deterrence value!
  3. Map out the Burmese border on foot, build our defences (including roads, and fences), build it into our defensive doctrine, as if China attacks the north-east again, this border will definitely be used. Today we are almost sitting ducks on that flank!
  4. Chickens neck is a known vulnerability, and I am not sure whether we have war-gamed enough on attack possibilities and choking over there – we need to talk to Bangladesh and thru some territory swap agreements, expand that “neck” area. Activate the alternative river-route to the north-east from Burma, as that can be a life-and-death facility, if the Chickens’ neck is lost! Conclude the road transit agreement with Bangladesh at the earliest and build a close strategic relationship with them, firstly so that they don’t go with China (like Burma has) and secondly we will need them very badly in case of war.
  5. Build full-fledged strike air-bases to hit Chinese supply lines, both in Tibet and Mainland China. Even though the Chinese have got air and naval superiority over us at present, in battle, our real saviours will still be these two arms of the defence forces, much more than the Army.
  6. Undo the damage done to the defence procurement programme over the past few decades. India can just about win a war against Pakistan with its current readiness, and stands no chance against China.
  7. Build naval and air defence infrastructure in Lakshwadweep also, as an attacking Chinese Navy will destroy Andamans first. We need a second line of defence and counter-attack for the Navy.

There are obviously many more steps that need to be taken.

I am not a sinophobe (and defintely not a sinophile), but I think that China is a nation that carries very long memories, feels a great sense of insult from the world, feels it deserves to be the leader of the world, and is willing to attack if required (I believe the term they used for the 1962 war was “self-defence proactive attack” – go figure). In their history books, they do not even talk about the 1962 war (calling it a small border skirmish and we still get teary-eyed about “ghayal hua Himalaya”). They are masters of psy-ops, and one way to break our spirit is to try and convince us that we don’t even exist in their strategic calculus, although all evidence points towards them planning for offence.

The stock response that one gets to such articles on China’s intentions is that this is hyperbole and an alarmist over-reaction. Why would China want to endanger its economic growth and standing in the world, by initiating war with any other country. The reason why this doesn’t wash is because a democratic government wants development for the benefit of its people. The “slave-labour” kind of environment in Chinese factories and the lack of focus on building “consumption” (and thereby a peaceful and happier people) makes one wonder as to what the Communist party intends to do in the long-term, once they have grown stronger and richer. The scale, pace and kind of weaponisation in China is not defensive, but clearly offensive (as the hacker army proves). Its democratic governments that hesitate to declare war unnecessarily, as they will be voted out of power. Autocratic governments have no such compunctions.

One also contemptiously hears that despite Indian fears, India is just not “high enough” in the list of priorities for China! The pincer movement being affected by China to encircle India obviously belies that claim. If we were not important enough for China, why were we attacked in 1962! Loudly stating that India is not important enough is itself a classic Sun Tzu tactic, of lulling the enemy before striking – and fortunately for China, it is very easy to lull a pacifist India to sleep! In any case, one doesn’t expect the Chinese to read something like this article and say, wow, this is so true and confirm that they are planning on attacking India! This is more for Indians to read and become more aware, and for Indian politicos to get really alarmed.

The Chinese also know that we have become a nation of genuflectors, and submit dossiers to countries that conduct an act of war against us (26/11). Chinese troop activity in Gilgit is also an act of war against India – but we are quiet about it. We are still ascertaining whether they are actually there, after we learnt of the news from TV channels. We need to be really really scared.

Vajpayee had once said that in this fight we are all alone – and it is true. The Chinese chickens are coming home to roost!

I am only an “arm-chair” strategist, and hence would love to be proven wrong, and really wish that someone who really knows what he is talking about dismisses my comments as alarmist, as then it will actually give me a lot of peace as an Indian citizen. India has too deeply internalized the peaceful concepts of Buddha and Mahatma Gandhi, and yes there is a place for this in the world. We have lost sight of the concepts of the Bhagwad Geeta and Chanakya, who talked about waging terrible war for achieving peace. We need a balance between these two concepts, so that the idea of India, which we all so deeply love, does not get lost due to the unfortunate actions of “frankensteinian nations”. I don’t want India to be a nation in the past tense, a “case study” in the footnote of history, as a classic execution of the Sun Tzu war doctrine in the modern age!

Funnily, both these Frankensteins (Pakistan and China) have been created by our “friend” the United States, one created to help defeat the Soviets, and the other to control inflation in the US and provide cheap goods to the American consumer. What a price the world is having to pay for this folly!

I would like to end this essay with a reminder that as per the Mayan calendar, the world will end in 2012! Should the world mentally prepare itself for an Armageddon?

I remain a very concerned and patriotic Indian!

Posted in India-China | 12 Comments

White Man’s Burden – Worshipping False Gods and saving the Environment

(Part I of a two-part series)

(The title of this article, and the article itself, both are provocative and politically incorrect, and are so by design. If you have hyper-sensitivities, the time to stop reading this article is now. Please do not complain later that you weren’t warned.)

Jairam Ramesh, a Minister whom I normally consider too arrogant and profane to learn anything from, recently made a very profound statement. He said that “if India adopted the western developmental model, it would be a recipe for disaster”! The statement made me think long and hard, and also question as to why we Indians so deeply want to follow western models. What is it that makes us junk our own 5000 years of developmental experience, and blindly ape the west?

One of the most bitterly painful and offensive images seared into my sub-conscience from childhood is of Britain, as represented by her queen, receiving gifts from a dark-skinned lady, representing the East in general and India in particular (Roma Spiridione’s The East Offering its Riches to Britannia). It is funny that even in those days; the irony was totally lost on those 18th century bigots, that it was an impoverished and poor country that was still “giving” to a relatively rich western power (and not the other way round). The poem written by Rudyard Kipling, “The White Man’s Burden” somehow legitimized this perception of a “god-given” right to rule over the East, and exploit her people and her resources (as exemplified by Britain over India, and also ironically, the US over the Philippines, despite the fact that the US itself was a colonized country which had won its hard-fought freedom from Britain).

This background is important to understand why a hesitant Asia is taking such reluctant baby steps towards providing global leadership, despite the obvious writing on the wall that global economic momentum has once again decisively shifted towards the East, after an almost uninterrupted run for the western world, of over 250 years.

A cornucopia of European powers fought over the vast territories of Asia (and frankly Africa too) for colonial control, and did not have the slightest doubt that they were actually doing the local natives (who were considered savages in any case) a favour by bringing development to them (for a small transaction fee of course). The local histories of these countries were first explored, then manipulated, and finally de-legitimized, so as to not allow a sense of pride to develop in the local population (the opium wars in China, Macaulay’s education policy in India, and the infamous and debunked Aryan Invasion theory, are cases in point). These exploitative regimes not only enriched their home countries phenomenally, but also served a pernicious agenda of religious conversions, led by fundamentalist zealots in the garb of “benign” missionaries, who were enthusiastically supported by their political masters. This sustained campaign was brilliantly successful in the Philippines, while only marginally successful in China and India – although very successful in Goa under Portuguese rule.

The tide dramatically started turning against these imperialist powers post the Second World War, driven both by the rising awareness and aspirations of the ruled populace, as well as the inability of their now impoverished economies to be able to maintain control over these colonies by force. One by one, these countries started becoming free, some by force, and some through more peaceful means, like India, which was led to freedom by Gandhi. These newly freed countries were drawn into becoming part of a cynically titled Commonwealth of Nations. However, a mindset of freedom took a long time to get created in these countries, and is still largely, work-in-progress.

All these newly freed countries did face an unseen enemy which prevented their own rapid growth – they themselves. The British in particular, were great psychologists and also institution builders, but these institutions were built to perpetuate a colonial power and rule over natives, and not for a free country to govern itself. All these countries left these inherited institutions largely intact. The British brilliantly succeeded in developing a mentality of inferiority in the people they ruled, and in large parts of the non-white world, and this mentality still exists. This insufferable feeling of inferiority to the white man became institutionalized in these so-called “coloured” peoples. I still recall this photograph of Pandit Nehru subserviently bowing and fawning over Lord and Lady Mountbatten, and this when he was the first PM of a “free” India.

Derisively categorized as “third world” countries (nobody explained to us what third world meant, although it sounded as a derivative of “third class” – and interestingly there were no second world countries), the desire to become “developed” countries like the ones in the “first world”, became an article of faith, irrespective of whether they were democracies or dictatorships. We dreamt of either being able to build ourselves into the white man’s image, and if not, then at least be able to emigrate to these countries and vicariously partake of some of this development, even if it meant living as a second class citizen or in ghettos (like in London).

It is pretty difficult for the white man to understand how intensely we “coloured people” wanted to become like them (just read the matrimonial columns of any Indian newspaper and you will understand the depth of our fascination for “fair skin”). Any attempt to relook at our history and propose a seemingly more favourable alternative was looked down upon and banished as “revisionist” or even “fascist” (the last ditch battle being fought by the beholders of the Aryan Invasion theory in India would have been funny, if it wasn’t just so sick).

The godly deference shown to white people in India (say when tourists or business leaders come) or even in the Middle East has at times to be seen to be believed (thankfully it is changing very rapidly in modern India). The pleasure we got by being able to merely speak a few broken words of English or French, in front of our ‘foreign guests’ was almost heavenly. We had started almost worshipping these gods, and I am sure that Roma Spiridione would have been ecstatic at how well we had started living the mood of his infamous painting.

Somehow, the world started changing once again, around 30 years back. Non-western nations finally started to demonstrate that they could also become “developed”. The success stories of Japan, Singapore, South Korea started emerging, China next and finally India. There was this quivering confidence that started developing in these countries, and we all finally felt that we could not only aspire but maybe also become as developed as these “developed economies”. In the process, we started building our cities in their likeness, driving cars like them, wearing clothes like them (Japan and China have almost forgotten their own clothes of over 3000 years of culture, and are now almost totally attired in western clothes, except during ceremonial occasions).

Willy-nilly, our destruction of the environment also started catching up with that of the West. Even for all these efforts, many of us had to go and genuflect in front of the IMF and the World Bank (the Bretton-Woods twins) and subserviently follow the insipid “medicinal” advice given for the economy (like restructuring, opening up the economy without any local institution-building, current account convertibility, etc., which in many cases turned out to be disastrous).

Then the climate change issue burst upon the world like a nuclear bomb.

What we now suddenly find is that these erstwhile “masters” telling us that while it was ok that they nearly destroyed the world in their process of development, we cannot similarly develop ourselves now, as that would destroy the world in toto! While largely true, there is a huge sense of institutionalized unfairness in this, and guess what, there are no apologies being proffered by the western countries for bringing the world to the brink of environmental disaster.

The most destructive force on the face of the planet for the last 250 years has been the western world – politically (the two world wars), economically (brash, unchecked and unregulated free markets that led to the creation of the Lehman and Enron fiascos), socially (the still ongoing war to harvest “heathen souls” into Christendom – no less than Pope John Paul II said this on his maiden trip to Asia), and environmentally too (the current emissions, pollution and climate change).

It now transpires that for all the time that we were aspiring to blindly ape the white man, we were worshipping false gods!

That needs to change and we need to move on from our white-man fixation. We need to treat them like just ordinary people, like anyone else, with the same rights and duties towards the world, and yes, the same per capita carbon footprint eligibility!

The developing world needs to realize (mainly now led by India and China) that the world does not have resources to be able to allow the 2.5 billion people in these two countries alone, on the basis of western model, as we will need at least 2.5 planets for that. The Middle East (with its oil-fuelled, arrogant autocracies) has set a very bad example for growth, and that cannot be emulated by others.

The difficulty is that we are still looking towards the West for answers, for technology and funding – both of which will only stunt our growth and increase dependence on them further. There is no help coming from them, as the western world has clearly indicated (and rightly so) that any developmental aid which may be provided, will go only to the most impacted and vulnerable countries like Bangladesh, Maldives, etc., and yes of course Tuvalu (the hero of Copenhagen last year).

The model of development that both India and China have to follow has to be fundamentally different, and in consonance with the genius of their respective 5000-year old cultures, and has to be much less carbon-intensive than the western model. China needs to ask itself whether it wants to just be the “factory of the world” and live with the pollution this brings! India needs to ask itself whether it wants to be the “back-office of the world” and be called “cyber-coollies”! We need to cater to our own requirements and also build on our strengths.

The gods that we need to worship and are now within us, and not without – long live Confucius and the Vedas!

Postscript: It would obviously have upset any white people who have read this article. While an apology is due (and tendered herewith), there are still a couple of additional points to be made:

  • While the western world has been the most destructive thing to hit planet earth, it has been one of the most constructive things to happen to it also. All modern institution building doctrines have an unmistakable western ring to it. The amazing work done by individual westerners in areas of medicine, wildlife conservation, science, etc., is just immense. This has to be and is hereby acknowledged.
  • There is a strong and lingering sense of deep injury that the developing world still feels from the excesses of colonial rule of the west. The western world has still not found the decency (or the heart) to be able to apologize for these excesses upon non-white people. So while the Holocaust and the Irish Potato famine have been apologized for, the Bengal famine and the Opium wars are not found fit for the same treatment. The missionary excesses in the Philippines have not even been acknowledged (although Australia has done a good job of apologizing to the Aborigines). The descendants of the Incas and Mayas have not been apologized to. While it may sound petty to some of you now (as you had nothing to do with it, and rightly so), trust me, an apology from “erstwhile gods” still has an amazing cathartic value for us. The Germans have come out stronger after accepting and openly teaching about the horrors of the holocaust to their kids. The British still hide their record of infamy in India from their children (Prince Phillip had made an extremely insensitive and boorish statement on the Jallianwalla Bagh massacre, essentially calling us liars). This attitude doesn’t help!
  • The arrogant way in which national boundaries have been distorted and re-drawn, sometimes on paper napkins (the way Churchill famously claimed for Jordan), makes it incumbent upon you to assist with settling and healing these festering wounds (and maybe also apologizing for). There are just too many boundary conflicts in the world that are an inheritance of colonial legacies. You need to help set that right. For starters, open your archives so that we can see and judge for ourselves what thoughts were behind these decisions.
  • Britain still naively describes its vicious colonial rule over the Indian Subcontinent and its violent vivisection, as part of its “long shared history”. Very very duplicitous and insensitive. We haven’t forgotten your record in India. However, I will say something nice about the British, as compared to the record of France in Algeria, Portugal in Brazil (and Goa), Spain in Latin America, and yes, even the US in the Philippines, if at all India had to be ruled by a colonial power, the British were the “least worst”, although it is frankly not saying much!
  • Please also be prepared that as Asia takes baby steps towards reclaming its global leadership position, there will be quite a few amongst us who will lash out at the western world irrationally, as an Ex-Environment Minister, Ms. Maneka Gandhi had done some years back. Learn to live with it. The clock has turned, and you will face some flak because of your past sins.
  • While you might think that this is unnecessary and being over-sensitive, try and remember that Asia has a long memory and the wheel of time is turning fast. People here remember past actions for long and very soon (say in a decade or so) many westerners are going to be desperately knocking on doors here to get “green card” equivalents, maybe a “saffron card” from India and a “red card” from China. It would be smart thinking to try and heal these wounds. Also note that the mother of all memories is not of the Indian Elephant but the Chinese Dragon!

(Part II of this article will cover what the Indian government needs to do to facilitate a low-carbon intensive economy in the form of specific implementable ideas)

I do once again apologize for any offence that this article might have caused. What I can say, however, that writing it itself, was highly cathartic for me personally! The West has a long way to go before it can understand the chaotic and emotional, but intelligent and gentle people of Asia!

Posted in India | 2 Comments

Ground-rules for Seat Distribution in Coalitions

Now that the Bihar elections are over and quite a lot of the “election analysis” too, I was just wondering to myself as to how would their election performance effect the relative dynamics between the JD(U) and BJP in the state of Bihar?

This also brought me to another question, that when two or more parties get together to fight elections as an alliance, how does relative performance impact the equations between them, and I am only talking about the way they do the onerous task of seat distribution. We are living in an era of coalitions, where national and state level alliances decide everything. Most political parties in India have either not thought about this, or just remain fixated on some old formula of seat sharing, and fight to keep that unchanged, irrespective of relative performance.

Now let’s look at the case of Bihar. The NDA alliance of JD(U) and BJP fought the elections together, and their performance was as follows:

  • JD(U) fought in 141 seats and won 115 (a strike rate of 82%)
  • BJP fought in 102 seats and won 91 (a strike rate of 89%)
  • The combined vote-share of the alliance was 39%, and confirmed data now indicates that JD(U) got 23% and BJP got 16% (we will use this data for a hypothetical exercise)

Under normal conditions, the same seat distribution formula will be applied for the next Assembly elections in 2015, although the data indicated a significant differential performance. I propose the following changes:

  • Given the base of seat distribution between two or more partners, the future seat distribution should be constantly changing, and on the basis of relative performance, using two key parameters – proportion of votes garnered and strike rate (i.e. percentage of seats won against contested)
  • The seats to be contested next time round should be split on the basis of proportion of votes that each party was able to garner, and offset by half of the differential in the strike rate

Practically, it would calculated as given below

  • JD(U) got 23% of the votes, i.e. it brought 59% of the votes that the alliance garnered (23 / 39 * 100), and BJP brought in 41% of the votes (16 / 39 * 100).
  • The differential between their strike rates was 7% (89 – 82), and so half of that would be 3.5
  • So JD(U) next time would get 55.5% of the seats (59 – 3.5), which would be 135 of the 243 seats
  • BJP next time would get 44.5% of the seats (41 + 3.5), which would be 108 seats

Now in this example, it just so happens that BJP is likely to get a marginally higher number of seats than the JD(U) next time round, but it could easily have been the other way round.

Now let’s see what kind of psychological changes this can bring about within the coalition partners.

  • One of the reasons alliances break-up is because each party keeps on claiming that it is actually stronger than what the other partner is conceding. This proposed process makes it formulaic, rather than negotiational, and hence likely to survive longer and be more amiable
  • It will make each party chase every last vote in its allocated constituencies, and hence make their appeal more inclusive and moderate, rather than exclusive and radical
  • Performance will become the benchmark for dynamic changes, rather than ossified old formalae, which then could lead to breakage in alliances
  • A fair process for growth is provided to each party in the alliance, so that they don’t feel suffocated that their growth is being hampered

There are downsides to the above process also, which should be acknowledged, especially since we Indians have a way of wanting to bring the other party down. Since this formula is based on relative performance, a partner instead of only trying to improve its own performance, may also try to sabotage the prospects of the other, and thereby benefit from it. In this case, firstly they would be cutting their nose to spite their face, as they would win less seats overall and probably not be able to form the government. Secondly, if this happens, then the alliance should be called off in any case, as the basic element of trust is missing.

What this process also fails to take into account is the changes in vote-base that may have happened from the previous election to this one (five years can be a long time). Maybe this formula should take data from the immediate past election and not necessarily the last similar election, meaning that the above proposed calculations should be used by NDA in Bihar for the LS elections in 2014, and not the next Assembly elections in 2015, or even consider it for the local body elections.

This message is most relevant to the two main poles in Indian politics, Congress and the BJP. Both have had mixed experiences with allies, in their quest for power, although both swear by the unclear concept of “coalition dharma”. Since either one of them is very far from the day when they could come to power on their own (although Congress recently does seem to be getting some delusions of grandeur), they do need to work out a good process to work with regional parties, who have a very different agenda, and often see these two parties as detrimental to their long-term interests in the state.

I don’t claim that this is something earth-shatteringly important (I am sure that both of them would be focusing on the 2014 LS elections). But in their preparation, they would be well-advised to work out how they would, establish, build and sustain their relationships with current and future allies. The above formula could be a good starting point.

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