BJP Must Rethink Strategy Urgently

Just three months more and then the ides of March. The general election to decide the fate of India – whether it continues to be ruled by a coterie of corrupt, but inefficient few or proclaimed achiever like Modi or new comer on Indian political scene Kejriwal. So near and so yet so far. This may well be the swan song for the Vedic civilization and Indic culture movement in this ancient land of ours. All because of a coterie of dinosaurs in the BJP-NDA group whose unbridled ego and Himalayan incompetence can yet derail the advent of the Indian renaissance. And this time possibly for ever.
Am I saying this to utter sheer alarmist words? Or am I suffering from unnecessary panic? Am I an agent-provocateur spreading disinformation? Am I a committed sympathiser reading the signals wrongly? All of this, or any combination of the above, may be the reaction of the people living in ivory towers or occupying places in top echelons and the inner circle. Shooting the messenger is always an option for power centres when they are losing the plot. Hitler routinely resorted to it. So did Idi Amin, Saddam Hussein and Gaddafi.
Among the ones currently in power, the North Korean abomination also does it with predictable frequency. However I would like to immediately clarify that I am not, by any means, suggesting a parallel between the top echelons of the saffron movement and the despots whom I have just named. By the same token, history also gives us enough examples of good people who failed their destiny because of common human frailties like ego and shortsightedness.
I am sure there are enough thinkers in New Delhi’s 11 Ashoka Road, the sprawling bungalow complex in the Capital’s Lutyens zone that houses the nerve centre of the BJP, who will be acutely aware of the historical parallels that support my thesis. Let us analyse just a few cases. If only the great Napoleon had given the command to Marshal Davout, rather than to General Ney, or not relied so much on the bumbling Grouchy to counter the Prussians, the Battle of Waterloo would have been a resounding French victory and there would have no British global domination for the next 100 years.
Similarly, if Lenin had heeded the advice of some of the genuine revolutionaries, he would have seen through the machinations of the Georgian butcher, Josef Stalin, who derailed the onset of genuine Marxism in the Soviet Union forever. In our shores also, we have had numerous ‘what if’ scenarios in recent times. In 1972, India had the best chance to neutralise Pakistan for many decades, but Indira Gandhi blew it all in the Shimla Agreement. We allowed 92000 Pakistani POWs (out of whom at least a few thousand were war criminals and butchers under any criteria) to go home, without sorting out the Kashmir mess, or, most atrociously, getting back all the Indian POWs in Pakistani hands. Earlier, in the late 1940s, even the great Sardar Patel could have allied with Shyamaprasad Mookerjee and ensured a non-Nehruvian regime in Delhi. Or possibly, Shyamaprasad Mookerjee could have initiated the approach to the Sardar.
There can be a whole lot of polemics about the parallels I have cited. Be that as it may, the situation at this juncture for the BJP-NDA group is critical. The high command needs to introspect deeply about the developments in Delhi in the last few days, with the coming into power of a minority AAP Government with the tacit backing (so far) of the Congress. The BJP strategists need to ponder dispassionately about the groundswell of support and empathy for Arvind Kejriwal and his young team.
There is, of course, always the Gadkari-type assessment they can make – a knee-jerk reaction that talks of the role of business houses in the formation of the Delhi Government. That would be a lemming approach, leading to certain extinction in the hustings in 2014. Or they can look at other conspiracy theories to justify their lack of rational thinking. Instead, they should be looking at the lessons of their own success in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan. And very, very closely at why they could not make the magical number of 36 in Delhi. The top brass should study why the public found the working of the BJP-controlled Municipal Corporations in Delhi (MCDs) so unsatisfactory and abhorrent. The stench from these local bodies drowned out all the impact of the NaMo wave in the minds of the Delhi voters who could have made the difference in the critical 4 to 5 constituencies.
The next question they should pose to themselves is the fatal effect of the delay in naming Harsh Vardhan as the Chief Ministerial candidate, instead of Vijay Goel. The saffron lot really don’t know a winning horse from a losing nag. Even after the Modi wave had made people forget the sorry shenanigans of Advani and company five months ago, when this writer was compelled to pen two appeals to Advani. Hubris in one’s own house is always more tragic than in the opponent’s mansion.
This brings us back to the main issue that should be agitating the think tank at 11 Ashoka Road. This is the overwhelming and unconditional preference of the Indian masses for a corruption-free and efficient State apparatus. Every Indian, with any consciousness, wants a sarkar that responds to the needs of the citizen and keeps in check the rapacious instincts of the babus and the netas. Is this so difficult for the saffron strategists to grasp?
Allied to this is the national desire to see young and energetic faces in the winning team. The geriatric group in the BJP and its allies must step down – those who have had their innings must contribute from the changing room. Yes, there is glory in stepping down when you are at the peak, rather than being shown the door. Look at Zidane, Pele and Puskas. Even Tendulkar, for heaven’s sake, without talking of his Bharat Ratna bravura.
Finally, get cracking on the manifesto and its key issues and themes. Give the electorate a distinct and justifiable alternate plank compared to what the Congress lot were fibbing during the last 62 odd years. Don’t waste your time with non-issues and bagatelles, like the Section 377 judgement of the Supreme Court or the antics of Khobragade and the IFS gang. These will not even be footnotes in the history books that will be written by future generations. Do not forget that the Congress war room is depending on AAP to cut into the BJP-NDA vote-bank so, drastically that it will be virtually curtains for the latter. Therefore, getting the act together for the nationalist forces is vitally important at this stage. Remember that human history is never kind to losers.

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Nelson Mandela – The Truth & His Legacy

Madiba shall live for ever – I had written two weeks back. But fresh thoughts and rumination make me rethink about forever. He mights live for ever as a national leader who was a p[oor husband; a towering personality that left squalor and poverty as his legacy. As a person he might not be revered as his being seen today, once the veil is lifted and fog around his persona settles. Amid all the praise for the ‘Rainbow Nation’s’ former president, much has been left unsaid. In December, the world honored Nelson Mandela as one of the greatest heroes of our time. More than 90 heads of state honored Mandela at his memorial service, one of the largest in history. U.S. President Barack Obama called him “the last great liberator of the 20th century.”

Yet amid all of this praise for a man who helped bring down the white government in South Africa, almost nobody mentioned the nightmare that is South Africa today: crippling poverty, a collapsed educational system, brutal attacks on white farmers, escalating sexual assaults on   little girls, an AIDS epidemic, and on it goes; nor did anybody mention his failure as a husband, as a father and a family man. I was jolted and brought back to reality during that period by my friend Norma Jean Olivier a sensitive soul, who pointed out the ill-treatement of his long suffering wife Winnie. I remebered that despite all the support and sacrifice by Winnie, Nelson Mandela did not hesitate to ditch her for political benefit. And that is noty the trait of a person who is adored and almost worshipped by people across the globe. While Mandela’s long imprisonment on Robben Island and on the mainland stole almost three decades of his life from him, his incarceration not only made him a powerful symbol, but protected him from what he might have become. Robben Island is absolutely unpleasant, a place full of hard labor, verbal and psychological abuse from the guards, and profound isolation. But while inside, Mandela studied, grew tomatoes, and deepened his bond with his co-defendants. His bond with one of his guards, over time, earned him increasingly respectful treatment.

Life on the outside for Winnie, by contrast, comes across as even more grinding and humiliating. While Nelson is awaiting trial, she is fired from a job and has to deal with constant visits from the police. After he is incarcerated, her altercations with the cops who invade and disrupt her home become more violent. She’s placed under a banning order and the harassment increases. “They like to have little chats with me,” Winnie explains her frequent arrests to Nelson during a visit to Robben Island. “Usually they wait until just before the girls get back from school, so they find an empty house.” Ultimately, she spends sixteen months in solitary confinement, subject to worse housing conditions than her husband, and to sexually assaultive strip searches. When she’s released from prison, Winnie tells a crowd of her supporters “I was very young when I married Nelson. I’m not young anymore. And I’m not afraid anymore.”

“Are you ashamed to greet me in front of our people?” Winnie goads Nelson when he asks to speak to her privately after a rally. “I am angry. You are angry. But you must show loyalty,” he tells her. “Loyalty, Winnie Mandela. Loyalty.”

If he’d stopped there, we might have sided purely with Mandela in the real life. But he pivots, telling her “I have decided it would be better if I live in my own home. Better for the cause. Better for me.” The separation might be the act of a statesman. And it’s certainly an expression of disgust at Winnie’s tactics. But there’s something breathtakingly callous in Mandela’s demand for political loyalty at the moment that he leaves the wife who suffered enormously for the decades of loyalty she’s given him already.   Then there is Mandela himself. He was known for being a “political prisoner” for 27 years. But why was he in prison?

Before becoming South Africa’s post-apartheid president in 1994, Nelson Mandela headed up a terrorist organization that was responsible for thousands of deaths—most of it black-on-black crime. Mandela also had strong ties to communism, an ideology responsible for more death and destruction over the last century than any other political movement.  And yet, Mandela once said, “If there is a country that has committed unspeakable atrocities in the world, it is the United States of America. They don’t care for human beings.” This view did not stop many American leaders from comparing Mandela to Washington, Lincoln and Gandhi.

A more accurate comparison would be with Yasser Arafat, the former-terrorist-turned-statesman whom the West enthusiastically embraced. Mandela’s take on Arafat? “[O]ne of the outstanding freedom fighters of this generation, one who gave his entire life to the cause of the Palestinian people.”

Mandela once said, “Under a Communist Party government, South Africa will become a land of milk and honey. Political, economic and social rights will cease to be enjoyed by whites only. They will be shared equally by whites and non-whites. There will be enough land and houses for all. There will be no unemployment, starvation and disease. Workers will earn decent wages; transport will be cheap and education free.” This empty promise highlights another buried angle of the true Mandela: his FAILURE as a president.

Truly, Mandela’s election in 1994 ushered in a new era that could have been much more violent at the start. He has been profusely praised for not seeking revenge on his jailers. Most have also praised him for the fact that he voluntarily chose to step down in 1999, which is very unusual in African nations.

But besides these noteworthy achievements, “people exhibit an extraordinary amnesia,” writes R. W. Johnson. “His presidential term started with the Shell House shootings, when [African National Congress] militants on the roof of the ANC’s headquarters used AK-47s to gun down Inkatha marchers in the streets of Johannesburg. Mandela simply refused to hand over either the murderers or their weapons, and attempted to justify this wholesale murder. Then, early in his term, the government laid off all the country’s most experienced teachers, a blow from which the school system has never recovered” (National Interest, Dec. 10, 2013).

Before he stepped down, Mandela gave a radical speech implying there were vast conspiracies in place seeking to overthrow the government. This landmark speech paved the way for his successors to implement brutally repressive measures. Today, South Africa is in shambles. It is far more violent than it was under apartheid. It hasn’t gotten better over the past two decades—IT’S GOTTEN MUCH WORSE.

In 1980, there were 128,000 commercial farmers in South Africa. Today, there are 40,000. About 200 white farmers have been murdered every year since the end of apartheid in 1994. According to Genocide Watch, 3,000 white farmers have been killed by blacks. Many of these killings have been unbelievably gruesome: victims disemboweled or dragged to death behind vehicles, mothers raped in front of their children, babies boiled to death in hot water.

Twenty whites per day are murdered in South Africa—70,000 since 1994. That murder rate is more than 100 times worse than in London. This is the true “legacy” that began with Nelson Mandela in 1994.

“If you’re shocked that you haven’t heard anything about this, don’t be,” Selwyn Duke wrote at American Thinker on December 16. “It’s even less politically correct to talk about the extermination of whites than that of Christians, who are currently persecuted in many Muslim lands. The SA police often aren’t interested in investigating crimes against whites (especially since they perpetrate some of them), and the Western media were only concerned about reporting on SA whites when they could be demonized.”

And all the adulation of Mandela- it would turn out in next fifty years- is misplaced and is result of highly imaginative and well contrived propaganda machine.

Devyani Khobragade – The MEA Favorite- Rules Bent to Her Interest

Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade had been a go-getter right from the day she entered Indian Foreign Service (IFS) and got what she wanted, thanks to her ‘influential’ IAS father and benevolent political connections.
The rules for allotment of foreign language to the IFS officers on the basis of their rank in the select list was changed only for her batch (1999) to ensure she got her chosen language. The Supreme Court found this in a judgment that was delivered three and half years ago while reinstating a dismissed IFS officer Mahaveer V Singhvi and imposing a fine of Rs 25,000 on the Union government for wrongfully terminating the services of the 1999 batch IFS officer.
In this judgment, the court noted the sensational allegations of Singhvi against his batch-mate Khobragade. His lawyer Jayant Bhushan said, “Authorities were desperate to cover up the highly dubious and motivated manner in which the rules of allotment (of foreign language) were altered only in respect of the 1999 batch of IFS appointees in order to favour a particular candidate who was graded lower than Singhvi.”
Bhushan said despite being graded higher than five other candidates in the select list of 10, Singhvi was denied right of preference relating to allotment of a foreign language of his choice in order to accommodate one Devyani Khobragade, who was graded at two places below Singhvi and wanted German as her first preference. “A great amount of political pressure was brought to bear upon the authorities concerned to ensure that Khobragade was allotted German as her language preference, as she happened to be daughter of a powerful IAS officer in Maharashtra,” Bhushan had alleged.
A bench of then Justices Altamas Kabir, J M Pnachal and Cyriac Joseph said, “From the facts as disclosed and the submissions made on behalf of the respective parties, there is little doubt in our minds that the order dated 13th June, 2002, by which the Singhvi was discharged from service, was punitive in character and had been motivated by considerations which are not reflected in the said order.”
“The Union government and ministry of external affairs have not been able to satisfactorily explain why the rules/norms for allotment of languages were departed from only for the year 1999 so that the Singhvi was denied his right of option for German and such choice was given to Khobragade who was at two stages below Singhvi in the gradation list,” the bench said. “The mode of allotment was amended for the 1999 Batch in such a calculated fashion that Ms Khobragade, who was at Serial No.7, was given her choice of German over and above Singhvi, who was graded at two stages above her,” the bench had said in its judgment delivered on July 29, 2010.
And now the Manadarins can keep shut when an Indian solider is beheaded, or when the Chiense penetrate 150 Kms. inside India; or even when The Pakistan PM calls Indian PM a deahti woman ( an illitrate country bumpkin); but the sound bytes in Devyni case are almost deafening. Verily policies change in India as per the personalities involved.

Modi’s Mumbai Rally Creates Another India and US Diplomatic Spat

India has rebuffed attempts by the US to raise security concerns over Gujarat CM Narendra Modi’s rally in Mumbai on Sunday, saying that ensuring security was its responsibility and it was not for anyone else to determine where Indian political parties conduct their political activities.
As India and the US seek to control the fallout from the Devyani Khobragade crisis, it is the issue of security which is proving to be the latest dampener. Despite India repeatedly asserting that security of no US installation in the country has been compromised after the recent removal of barricades, US authorities raised the issue again just ahead of the rally saying its consulate had been rendered vulnerable to possible attacks by people attending the rally.
MMRDA Grounds, where Modi’s rally was held, is in the same Bandra area where the US consulate is located. India conveyed to the US that expressing concern about a “legitimate political rally” by a mainstream party on the basis of “specious” security concerns was completely unacceptable. US ambassador Nancy Powell was also invited for the rally initially but the invitation was later withdrawn by BJP.
Several layers of security were provided to the US consulate in Bandra and more security staff were deployed in the area. Officials though were stunned when US security concerns on Modi’s rally were communicated as part of the need to tighten security.
It is learnt that the US insisted before Indian authorities that people likely to attend the rally on Sunday could be a threat to the consulate and its officials. Indian officials maintained throughout that the security issue raised by the US was a red herring and that the real issue in the ongoing crisis was the humiliation of an Indian diplomat and the subsequent US action to “evacuate” the family of Sangeeta Richard to New York.
India has maintained that while the removal of barricades will impact traffic movement, it will have no bearing on the security aspect and that India remained committed to Vienna conventions in this regard. The removal of barricades, it said, was a reciprocal measure and not a retaliation.
As the two countries seek a way out of the Khobragade crisis, India is also going ahead with other reciprocal measures it took after the diplomat’s humiliation. US consular officials in consulates in all parts of India are to submit their identity cards by Monday.
India, it is understood, will insist that the new identity cards for consular officials and diplomats have the same language which the US has for Indian diplomats posted in consulates in the US, making it clear they will be liable to be arrested in case of contravention of Indian laws.
It is interesting that the Americans are seeking more time, beyond the December 23 deadline, to submit details about embassy staff spouses teaching in the local American School. Indian officials believe it may be worth finding out if there are dependents of US officials who have the requisite work permits to work in India or are there any who may have fallen foul of Indian requirements. Further, issues of compliance with Indian tax requirements for dependents of non-diplomatic staff working in American schools may well come tumbling out of the closet.
In fact, those accustomed to receiving Christmas and New Year gifts from the embassy and consulates may also have to wait a little longer. US containers containing these gifts have also been held up.

AAP-Congress Tango Has No Future

 

The year-end is almost upon us and a new AAP Government is finally imminent in Delhi. While this affects just the people in the tiny city-State in terms of its current anticipated writ, the AAP style politics is acting as a catalyst to the somnolence of all the other parties. And they have every intention to spread their wings during the forthcoming general election next year.

Narendra Modi as the BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate and Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Vasundra Raje and Raman Singh may indeed be dynamic but the BJP as a whole has not been so. It has often been criticised for being a token Opposition Party, very comfortable with the loaves and fishes of privilege.

The Delhi BJP has declined to form the Government having fallen 4 seats short of a majority. It fell short of the numbers probably because of endemic and unseemly infighting among several ambitious leaders. The AAP got the benefit, both from the anger against the Congress and the disarray in the BJP, and was able to secure larger numbers of seats than was expected.

Congress has been a cesspit of blatant corruption, nepotism, maladministration and has presided over sharp price rises. It also continues with its age old and cynical vote-bank politics going back for as long as memory serves. But even the minorities are fed up of the scaremongering and non- delivery.

Coming to the new AAP Government likely to be sworn-in on Christmas Day and the BJP patriarch Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s birthday, there is room for excitement. We, who live in Delhi, except for the privatised discoms themselves, are eagerly awaiting the 50% reduction in electricity tariff in place of the next hike, Mrs Sheila Dikshit was threatening.

And this hike was due in view of the Rs 16,000 crore shortfalls the discoms have been claiming between their power purchase/ distribution costs and the high tariff the groaning consumer is already paying against astronomical bills. Something is definitely wrong but Mrs Dikshit did not ever think so. And this is not counting the diesel generating costs, especially in summer and cold spells in winter. Privatisation, in this instance, has been far from cost efficient!

The discoms, oddly enough, have suddenly stopped clamouring for a hike in rates, and are rumoured to be quite worried about their books of accounts being examined for alleged ‘fudging’. Also their sympathetic champion, former Chief Minister Shiela Dikshit is no longer in the power seat. The AAP made this item an important election issue, as did the BJP, which promised a 30% reduction. So the Delhi Vidhan Sabha as a whole has promises to fulfil in this regard.

Kejriwal, the probable Chief Minister designate, has also promised the citizens of Delhi some respite from our soaring water bills and indeed 700 litres of water per household free every day. That our water bills are bundled with rapacious sewer maintenance charges surreptitiously introduced, that do not seem to be spent on sewer maintenance at all, is another Congress administered mystery. Certainly, every sewer pipe seems to be choked. No one has ever seen them being cleaned. And the merest downpour results in flooded roads and dirty water ingress into ground floor homes. Bundled together, water and sewer charges have risen some1100 per cent by one estimate!

Most Delhi consumers have been paying thousands of rupees in both water and electricity bills every month lately, and both items have now become a significant chunk of the household budget.

The big question is what will the AAP really do about these campaign promises once it forms the Government in Delhi? If it succeeds in bringing down these two tariffs, perhaps by the inevitable introduction of fresh subsidies, it will certainly earn the gratitude of Delhi’s population. This, in turn will go some way to give them a boost in their ambition to emerge on the national scene as well. The people of Delhi have high hopes and if the AAP delivers them, they won’t be the only ones. Conversely, they will stand exposed as loquacious, false promising politicians, no different from the rest!

None among the beneficiary aam admi are going to worry about how the price cuts will be squared. But some khaas admi are concerned about the viability of pulling off such reductions in tariff, if the discoms and Delhi Jal Board books of accounts stand up to scrutiny.

But the other obsession of the AAP is likely to take priority. And this is the Janlokpal Bill. It is unclear what this will achieve in actuality when most laws, rules and regulations are flouted routinely, particularly by the powerful political classes, but let us give it the benefit of doubt. AAP also plans to regularise every unauthorised colony in Delhi left unattended in this regard by the Congress.

It is also unclear how long the AAP’s alliance with the venal Congress will last. Kejriwal expects it to sustain for six months, implying this is enough for the AAP to extract political mileage for the general election and deliver on some of its promises. “AAP may be in for a surprise”.

Russia The New Messiah for Arab World

The stupidity or working on one’s hidden agenda can often be a windfall for another, It is especially so, if one is playing the intricate game of international politics, where the stakes are high and one misstep can be harbinger of disaster. The hare-brained policies of Obama have such repercussions that Americans shall rue having ever elected him. He is undoing all the achievements of people like Jefferson, Wilson and Roosevelt. The international supremacy of this nation is just on the verge of being a matter of past.

It’s an embarrassing moment in history when the Middle East would rather bring back the Soviet Union than rely on today’s United States. U.S. support for the Muslim Brotherhood and the nuclear deal with Iran is propelling the Arab world into the arms of Russia. The Egyptian government, formerly a U.S. ally, will buy $2 billion in arms from Russia, signalling a strategic realignment in the Middle East that leaves Putin in control.

Egypt’s open embrace of Russia started immediately after the Obama Administration suspended some military aid to the Egyptian government in response to the overthrow of President Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood. While American aid continued unabated after the Islamists took over, it was cut after they were overthrown.

Support for America and President Obama in particular collapsed in Egypt in response. Only a single percent of Egyptians have confidence in the U.S. and three percent have confidence in Obama. The U.S. support for the Brotherhood has made it a casualty of the regional backlash against the Muslim Brotherhood.

Saudi Arabia is embarking on a similar course. Saudi officials now openly talk to reporters about how their country will be more independent in reaction to U.S. policy. Reports about the acquisition of Pakistani nuclear weapons are met with non-denials. The Saudis offered Russia a strategic alliance and major oil partnership if Putin abandons the Assad regime.

We’ve seen several red lines put forward by the president [Obama], which went along and became pinkish as time grew, and eventually ended up completely white,” said Prince Turki al-Faisal, the former director of Saudi intelligence.

The Royal Family of Bahrain, a foe of Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood, feels the same way. Crown Prince al-Khalifa recently said, “America seems to suffer from schizophrenia when it deals with the Arab world.”

He compared the U.S. unfavourably to Russia; a shocking assessment considering Bahrain’s hostility to Putin.

This trend didn’t start after the Arab Spring brought the Muslim Brotherhood to the forefront. It started shortly after President Obama took the oath of office. By June 2010, Egyptian and Jordanian officials were privately fretting about American diplomacy, specifically how the administration was reaching out to Syria.

Similarly, a Jordanian official said the U.S. “sold out the Christians and Druze in Lebanon, sold out the Kurds in Iraq and abandoned the Hariri probe,” referring to the investigation into the assassination of Lebanon’s former Prime Minister. Syria, Iran and Hezbollah are widely thought to be the perpetrators.

It is mostly forgotten that the Iraqi government was confronting the Syrian regime (and therefore, Iran) back in 2009. The Iraqis were threatening retaliation for Syrian support of terrorism, releasing incriminating intelligence proving Syria’s complicity and trying to rally international support for a U.N. tribunal to prosecute terrorism-supporting Syrian officials.

When the Iraqi government asked for U.S. backing, the administration declared it would not get involved and that Iraq and Syria should solve their differences diplomatically. An Iraqi official claimed that the U.S. privately fought Iraq’s plans for a tribunal. Iraq is now in Iran’s orbit and is an ally of Bashar Assad.

This is great news for Vladimir Putin, who said in 2005 that “The collapse of the Soviet Union was the biggest geopolitical catastrophe of the century.”

Today, Russia is returning to a number of regions lost during the 1990s,” Mikhail Margelov, chairman of Russia’s Foreign Affairs Committee, proudly stated when talking about the arms deal with Egypt.

Similar statements are coming from the Egyptian side.

We want to give a new impetus to our relations and return them to the same high level that used to exist with the Soviet Union,” Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy said.

The Middle East is now divided into three alliances.

The first alliance is Turkey, the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, Qatar and Tunisia. The Obama Administration is most favourable to this one, going so far as to use taxpayer money to spread Turkish and Qatari Islamism

The second alliance is Iran, Hezbollah and Iraq. The administration is trying to build a better relationship with this bloc.

The third alliance is Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Kuwait. The Gulf country of Oman is trying to stay out of the confrontation with Iran. This bloc is the one most favourable to Israel and the one most vocally disappointed with U.S. policy.

The first two alliances are coming together against the third. Turkey and Iran want to achieve a ceasefire in Syria and their senior officials say they want to “join hands” to become the “backbone of regional stability.” Earlier this month, Hamas announced it resumed relations with Iran.

Russia is now in an ideal position where its friendship is craved by bothsides in the Middle Eastern power struggle. Putin is the one with the options.  He can pick the Iranian/Turkish side, pick the Saudi/Egyptian side, or play them against each other to his benefit.

It’s an embarrassing moment in history when the Middle East would rather bring back the Soviet Union than rely on today’s United States.

Khobragade affair: Diplomatic Mess or Shadow Boxing and Charades

o it is outrage time in India. US Consulate’s barricades removed, details of US Consulate’s Indian staffers’ salary asked, special passes for US diplomats revoked, airport passes for diplomats withdrawn, imported liquor privilege for diplomats withdrawn, schools involving US folks scrutinized, and much more. In brief, India, led by UPA Government is angry! Media houses are full of outrage and are vocally demonizing mighty Uncle Sam.

Why?
Devyani Khobragade, an Indian diplomat was arrested rudely in front of her daughter’s school in New York, handcuffed, subjected to a strip search (without touching) and cavity search (most likely involving touching). Worse, she was treated on par with drug addicts in New York. This medical Doctor turned foreign service diplomat was barely in US for a few months representing India.

It took $250,000 bond to get her out. That’s a whopping Rs1,55,00,000 arranged to keep her out of jail, temporarily. The charges against her are Visa fraud and paying her maid lesser than the legally stipulated minimum wages.

This article is not to discuss exactly how she treated her maid (who is absconding now), or whether Devyani is guilty. This is also not to talk about her caste, possible racial discrimination, her gender, or any other personal background. This purpose of this article is to speculate why such harsh treatment was meted out to an Indian diplomat, and possibly to wonder why India is in this terrible ‘spineless state’ status in the eyes of the world.

1) Many screaming #DevyaniHumiliated on Twitter now were the ones celebrating when a democratically elected Indian Chief Minister Narendra Modi didn’t get US Visa. This included many from the UPA Government. If an outrage was warranted, that was the moment. Instead, the same governing party’s members celebrated at various occasions, taking potshots at Modi without realising that they were making fools of themselves in the eyes of the world. Petty local politics is one thing, but not standing up for your country’s legislator in international light is a sorry sight.

2) The UPA Government, that’s screaming #DevyaniHumiliated, was the same one which sponsored the Wharton event in USA, even after Wharton snubbed an Indian Chief Minister after initially inviting him. How could a Government go ahead sponsoring a foreign event when the hosts did not allow an elected Chief Minister of your country? You should have woken up then at least, leaving aside your vicious political hatred. Needless to say this was again a case involving Narendra Modi, hated by the ruling alliance’s members in India.

3) The UPA Government that’s screaming #DevyaniHumiliated right now was the same one which did not intervene when Baba Ramdev was humiliated at London airport. The renowned Yoga guru who has tens of crores of admirers and followers in India, was ill treated for over seven hours. Did the External Affairs Minister act swiftly? Did anyone from the Government even make a courtesy call to the Yoga guru to find out more? Some Indian media houses even went to the extent of using ‘London mein lafda yog’ kind of demeaning titles to news stories when Ramdev was in trouble. Just because this Yoga guru had targeted Sonia Gandhi during his protests against black money, he was allowed to be humiliated?

4) The UPA Government that’s screaming #DevyaniHumiliated was the same which almost let off killer Italian marines, until the Supreme Court intervened. If the court had not intervened, India could have lost custody of the murder accused forever.

5) The UPA Government that’s screaming #DevyaniHumiliated was the same which did not retaliate when Group Captain Mohonto Panging was denied China visa. The reason for denial of Visa? He is from Arunachal Pradesh and in spite of being a senior Indian Air Force officer, China considerd his home State as its own. How did the UPA react? They sent the remaining staff to China and never took a hard stand to stop this insult to a senior IAF officer. This, after years of stapled visas to Indians from Jammu & Kashmir and Arunachal Pradesh by China. Where was your pride when this insult was meted out to the IAF?

6) The UPA Government that’s screaming #DevyaniHumiliated was the same which did not retaliate when Lance Naik Hemraj’s head was chopped off by Pakistanis. Worse, even after a series of such atrocities on Indian fighters, the lame duck Prime Minister went ahead with his meeting with Pakistan counterparts. To make it even more shameful, it was reported that India’s Prime Minister was even dubbed “Dehati Aurat” (whining village woman) by the same Pakistani counterpart, which was quickly hushed up. Any country with pride will not only give a strong response, but also cancel such useless symbolic meetings when your jawan’s head was missing from the dead body, to the shock of his weeping wife. Interestingly, in spite of being hated so much by Congress, Narendra Modi of the BJP stood up for the Prime Minister during the “Dehati Aurat” episode, as well as the current Devyani episode. Something to learn from a true statesman!

7) The UPA Government that’s screaming #DevyaniHumiliated is the same which ignored 140 Indian fishermen arrested by Sri Lanka just this month. Where was the outrage? Aren’t these Indians?

8) The UPA Government that’s screaming #DevyaniHumiliated is the same which has ignored 1400 Indians jailed by Saudi Arabia. Imagine how these 1400 would have been treated in a country like Saudi Arabia. Not just that, they have also deported and humiliated countless Indians this year. Where was the outrage?

9) The UPA Government that’s screaming #DevyaniHumiliated is the same has NO clue as to why 109 Indians are jailed by Italy. Sonia Gandhi’s country of birth won’t even tell the Indian Government why some of these people are even jailed. Such a shame for the world’s largest democracy!

India needs to show more diplomatic muscle: YES / NO

These are just a few examples to show that when India shows callous attitude towards Indians abroad getting into trouble, situations such as #DevyaniHumiliated are bound to happen. It’s the duty of the Government of India and the obligation of Indian media to help ALL Indians when they are in trouble abroad. Not just a privileged few like Shah Rukh Khan and Devyani Khobragade. I am not saying ignore SRK or Devyani. Treat all as Indians and give them confidence. Stand behind them. When you let Indians get humiliated by Sri Lanka, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, China, USA, UK, Italy and many more, the world knows you are a pathetic soft power with no biting ability.

Remember, the world won’t respect those who don’t respect themselves. Devyani Khobragade, irrespective of what she did in US, is a classic case of UPA Government’s diplomatic failure.

Given the Maharashtrian flavour of the entire affair, it would be more appropriate, one supposes, if we were to label the current charade playing out in New York and Raisina Hill as a tamasha. However, I can vouchsafe from my childhood memories of watching tamasha performances in the typically Marathi parts of Bombay like Dadar or Parel, where our family friends would invite my parents, that the overall cocktail of boisterous humour and suggestive songs had much more dignity than the burlesque that we are seeing in the capital in the last few days.

Bearing in mind the other key element in the desi polity, one cannot but feel that it is also appropriate to view the recent events in Delhi through the Italian prism of the Commedia dell’arte, the theatre form which was founded entirely on the notion of extravagant emotions, however contrived they may be in reality. The principal characters in these shows were servants and masters and this is clearly reminiscent of the present situation in our hapless country.

To get back to the current shindigs, the following are the uncontested facts:

(1) An IFS officer of the 1999 batch, Devyani Khobragade (39), posted in the Indian Consulate General in New York, was arrested by US Marshals on charges of committing Federal offences.

(2) These offences relate to her allegedly filing false visa applications of her maid who was in her personal employment in New York. She was also accused of paying the maid a salary much lower than the statutory minimum level prescribed under US laws.

(3) The charges were levelled by Preet Bharara, the U.S. District Attorney for Manhattan, New York. Bharara, an Indian-origin American, is a Harvard law school graduate, and has successfully prosecuted many high-profile white- collar criminals, including Bernie Madoff, who carried on a billion-dollar scam for many years, and Rajat Gupta, a great favourite of the Delhi power circuit for decades. Therefore, any loose talk of American racism, in this instance, goes out of the window.

(4) As an Indian diplomat posted in the New York consulate, Khobragade is not covered by the Vienna Convention for Diplomatic officials, which provides complete immunity to diplomats of one country posted in another. The young lady falls under the purview of the Vienna Convention for Consular staff, where the immunity is much more restricted. Only acts done in pursuance of official duties and functions are protected under this treaty. There is definitely no immunity in the case of offences that Khobragade has been charged with.

Unfortunately, the desi pundits who have been pontificating on the idiot box, and also in Parliament and in the print media, are blissfully unaware of this major distinction between these two international treaties. It is also possible that they are aware of the legal scenario but are playing their usual games. In any case, they look like a bunch of demented Don Quixotes charging at imaginary targets.

(5) The young lady was arrested in front of her daughter’s school and then handcuffed before being taken to the local version of the lock-up. Inside the police precincts, she was strip-searched and subjected to other “indignities” according to her complaint to the Foreign Ministry in Delhi.

Now, we should remember (and this is hard to believe) that in one major area of criminal law and justice, we are actually ahead of the Americans. Our Supreme Court, very wisely and humanely, banned the use of handcuffs on accused persons, unless there is a definite security threat and very serious offences are involved.

The American criminal justice system, on the other hand, is much more robust and crude in these matters. Handcuffing of accused persons is routine and legal ; there is no distinction of major and minor crimes in Uncle Sam’s land. There is also the nauseating practice of a “perpetrator walk”, where the accused is made to march, handcuffed and all, in front of the public at the scene of the crime. Readers will remember that the former IMF managing director, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, was made to go through this humiliating procedure on a number of occasions. And it must be pointed out the French government, including the Quai d’Orsay, the French Foreign Ministry, did not drive themselves into a frenzy on that issue.

As far as the other indignities suffered by her are concerned, the Americans have categorically stated that she only went though routine procedures that all arrested persons in that country are subjected to. In any case, the Indian government, not to mention great votaries of human rights like Mulayam Singh, should be reminded that we recently had a case of a convicted prisoner in UP’s Dasna jail who was branded on his back with a hot iron and one did not hear a whimper from the desi political establishment to condemn this horrendous brutality. More on this later.

However, what one should mention here at this stage itself is that the Americans are very egalitarian and class-neutral when it comes to their criminals or those who are accused but not convicted. Getting privileges like the ones our upper echelons obtain in the justice delivery system at the drop a hat are impossible. There would not be the ghost of a chance for an American counterpart of Sanjay Dutt to repeatedly get parole after being convicted of terrorism-related offences.

This entire episode brings out the glaring differences between the world’s oldest Republic and a moth-eaten zamindari structure that we label as the Indian republic. I will now come to the role that has been played by the Indian bureaucracy in this complete non-event that is now being touted as a major human rights issue.

The IFS, among all the national services, is definitely the coziest and most convenient life-time employment opportunity that this hapless country and its equally exploited tax-payers can offer. I can confidently state that every IFS officer rises to the rank of Ambassador by the time she or he reaches retirement. Never mind that His Excellency or Her Excellency is our “Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary” in Burkina-Faso or Somalia. This extraordinary upward mobility has distinct post-retirement advantages – all these retired flunkeys flaunt the title of “Ambassador” before their names and pirouette around in Delhi’s salon circles and talking shops. I have had to remind some of these characters that the only persons who are legally allowed to retain their ranks after retirement are members of the armed forces. I regret to say that these fellows don’t show the slightest dismay when their absurd self-aggrandisement is exposed. I have nightmares of other babus emulating the IFS lot and going around with titles like “Deputy Secretary” or “Under Secretary (Special Grade)” appended before their names.

But we digress. It is the character of the service that I was analysing. Whether it is the IFS A cadre (those who made it in the initial examination) or the IFS B cadre (referred to disdainfully by the former as “promotees”, an Indian-English word that is jarring and obnoxious), the entire bunch is usually out to lunch. You get the gist. It is only the good life in foreign lands at the taxpayer’s expense that this lot cares about. The result is that we have a bunch of under-performing and overpaid babus whose professed task is to represent our country’s interests but who do nothing of the sort. There are honourable exceptions, of course. It would violate the laws of probability if this had not been the case. But, here again, we should allow the figures to guide us.

How many of us during our travels in foreign lands have had occasion to seek the assistance of our diplomats for whatever problems or difficulties we have faced ? If we have had to go through this experience, without the benefit of the presence of someone we knew or were referred to, I would wager my last rupee that we have would have emerged sadder and wiser. Because, just inside the door from the main entrance where the tricolour proudly flies, is the stench of Indian babudom. From the top to the bottom, in every Indian diplomatic mission, all the talk you can hear is about the techniques of maximisation of personal benefits and privileges. Now, in Raisina Hill, this is par for the course and creates few ripples. In the great wide world outside our shores, these people are always under stringent scrutiny not only by their host country but also by the international community. And they care a fig.

To take young Khobragade’s case, she has already proved she has a tainted legal record. By applying for a flat in Mumbai’s “Aadarsh” complex and getting the flat allotted, she has, prima facie, committed an offence, because she was neither a military person nor a dependant of a military person. The crime would be more serious, if she had another residential property in the city, which has also been alleged. Clearly, a person like this is quite capable of signing papers showing a monthly salary of $4500 to her maid but actually paying her some $540 or so. She presumably thought that the American State Department was like the Maharashtra Registrar of Cooperatives and would just forget about the little discrepancy. Moreover, in New York, she did not have the benefit of her dear father’s protection and assistance.

This brings me to the crux of the whole issue. Did the great Bharat Sarkar react with any palpable indignation when Indian soldiers were murdered on the LOC and decapitated ? Did we have a squeak of protest from the Prime Minister who is now going ballistic? When Sarabjit Singh, the brave Indian prisoner, was murdered in a Pakistani jail, did we see the GOI reducing security around the Pakistani Embassy ? Or Shiv Shankar Menon harrumphing on the media ?

No, we did not. This is because the interests of the babus were not affected and the government had not been trounced in a series of state elections. The current high-voltage actions by Raisina Hill are nothing but bad drama. Yes, there are many things about the U.S. Government and about the great USA that we need to protest about. But this is not one of those issues or occasions. What we are now seeing is appalling theatre and shadow-boxing.

Devyani Khobragade Row: Real Issue Clouded

Devyani Khobragade,Indian diplomat who was publicly handcuffed, arrested and subjected to indecent body searches and locked up with lumpen drug addicts and other convicts prior to receiving bail last week, could have inadvertently compromised Indian security by harbouring a mole in her domestic establishment.Agreed she is guilty of making a wrong statement; agreed that she has violated the rules. But such minor infractions have been the order of the day. The South Asian, African and Far Eastern Diplomats have often been guilty, but there never has been this reaction.It is important that India understand how Khobragade engaged Sangeeta Richards, the nanny-cum-housekeeper behind the trouble, and took her to America.

Our diplomatic mess is of our own making

That there is a larger conspiracy behind the episode is evident from the fact that on December 10, two days before the diplomat’s arrest (December 12), Sangeeta Richards’s husband, Philip, and two children quietly flew to America by an Air India flight. Somebody in Washington had helped them procure visas, a highly unusual development, since the Indian Government had revoked Sangeeta Richards’s official passport in July and asked for her to be deported to India. Usually such a dramatic evacuation is done only to protect US spies; hence it is important to investigate the Richard family, its associations, and bank accounts.

The Richard family seems well networked with the diplomatic community. Sangeeta’s father-in-law reportedly works in the American embassy in Delhi; her mother-in-law is said to have worked for a senior US diplomat; her husband, Philip, was a driver with the Mozambique embassy. Philip was granted a T-visa, which allows victims of human trafficking and immediate family members to remain and work temporarily in the United States if they agree to assist law enforcement in testifying against the perpetrators. This suggests a larger conspiracy.

American conspiracy behind Devyani Khobragde’s arrest

Sangeeta Richards arrived in the US in November 2012 to work as a domestic help for India’s deputy consul general in New York. She allegedly wanted to do extra work outside on her off days, but was told it was illegal under her visa status and because she had an official passport. But on June 23, she simply walked out, and two weeks later turned up at an immigration attorney’s firm in Manhattan, New York, alleging that she was overworked and underpaid. She had clearly rustled up some powerful support, or was known to the US authorities all along, given the employment profile of her marital family.

The MEA has since revealed that on July 1, Devyani Khobragade received a telephone call from an unidentified woman who said Richards would not go to court if her employment was terminated and she was paid for 19 hours of work per day. On July 2, the diplomat informed the Office of Foreign Missions and the New York Police Department about the call, in writing. But on July 8, she was called by the immigration lawyer’s office and asked to pay $10,000, convert Sangeeta Richards’s passport into an ordinary one and help her get a visa to stay on in America.

India needs to show more diplomatic muscle: YES / NO

Alarmed at this development, the Indian Government revoked Richards’s official passport, which made her status illegal in the US, and asked the State Department to locate and send her back to India. The request was repeated in September; the same month, the Delhi High Court issued an interim injunction restraining Richards from instituting any action or proceeding against Khobragade outside India regarding her employment and to settle all disputes in India as both women worked for the Government of India. The Indian mission informed the US authorities that as the maid was seeking a US visa, she was violating laws in both countries. On November 21, the Saket district court issued a non-bailable warrant for Sangeeta Richards, and India asked the US to help serve the warrant and repatriate the maid.

The MEA clearly erred in not issuing an immigration alert for Richards’s husband and children once the State Department proved so uncooperative, and since Philip Richards initially filed a missing persons report about his wife but later withdrew it. The authorities took six days after Khobragade’s arrest to realise that the family had flown the coop.

With hindsight, it seems that Richards’s walkout was part of a plan in concert with American authorities; the luckless Indian diplomat seems collateral damage. New Delhi must figure out the US game plan and enlighten the nation. Sangeeta Richards has received US hospitality for six months and now her family has surreptitiously been taken to settle in America. This makes a mockery of the US claim that Khobragade was arrested because she was not paying her staff according to the hourly minimum wage in America.

The Sangeeta Richards episode brings to mind the 2004 affair of Army Major and CIA mole, Rabinder Singh, who was serving as a joint secretary in the Research & Analysis Wing (R&AW), when he escaped to the United States with his wife after causing untold damage to India’s national interests and security. Former R&AW special secretary and head of the counter-intelligence unit, Amar Bhushan, uncovered the scandal in his book, Escape to Nowhere. It seems Indian intelligence was aware of Singh’s betrayal and was monitoring him closely for three months when he suspected that he had been unmasked and escaped via Kathmandu with the help of the CIA station chief there.

The lesson which India never learnt is that the US compulsorily retired the Kathmandu station head to punish him for failing to evacuate Singh covertly and exposing CIA’s hand in the episode. But in India, the 57 employees of R&AW who regularly shared information with Singh remained in the organisation; 26 were not even asked for an explanation and 31 who had shared operational details with him were posted abroad.

After Dr Manmohan Singh became Prime Minister, the CIA tried to infiltrate the National Security Council Secretariat (NSCS), which is part of the Prime Minister’s Office. Some NSCS staffers were suspected of having clandestine links with an unnamed lady CIA officer posted as a diplomat in the US embassy in Delhi. Her task was to liaise with concerned Government departments in connection with the Indo-US Cyber Security Forum set up when Atal Bihari Vajpayee was Prime Minister. She reportedly used this opportunity to allegedly recruit moles in the NSCS, which coordinates the work of the Indo-US Cyber Security Forum.

Previously also, the Indian intelligence community has been suborned by the CIA at middle and senior levels. Just eight months after Rajiv Gandhi became Prime Minister in 1984, India’s biggest and most serious spy scandal broke, resulting in the arrest of 15 officials, including TN Kher, personal assistant to Principal Secretary PC Alexander. The scandal involved thousands of top secret documents and code books being photocopied and faxed from the PMO itself. Alexander resigned on ‘moral grounds’.

Then, the head of the R&AW office in Chennai, an IPS officer in the rank of director, was found to have clandestine contacts with a CIA officer posted in the US consulate there. Tipped off by the Intelligence Bureau (IB), R&AW immediately detained and interrogated him for one year at New Delhi’s Tihar Jail, but he was not prosecuted.

In the 1990s, when PV Narasimha Rao was Prime Minister, a very senior IPS officer serving in the IB was suspected to be working for Heidi August, a CIA officer posted as a diplomat at the US embassy in Delhi. He was exposed when a junior IB officer accidentally discovered that Heidi August had a mobile phone registered in the senior officer’s name. The officer was sent on premature retirement after the IB and R&AW confirmed his treason.

This brings us back to Devyani Khobragade, who has been unjustly accused of underpaying an employee who is possibly an ‘asset’ of a foreign agency. The Indian Government, which failed to retaliate when former President APJ Abdul Kalam was double frisked at an American airport, former Defence Minister George Fernandes was strip searched, and attempts were made to humiliate diplomat Hardeep Puri, must ensure that Washington release the diplomat unconditionally and with full apology, and explain its inexplicable interest in the Richards family.

The initial Indian reaction to the arrest – snub to a visiting Congress delegation; revocation of diplomatic IDs to US consul staff and their families; withdrawal of airport passes and import clearances; removal of security barricades around the American Embassy on Shanti Path; and demand for information about wages paid to Indians employed by the US mission and by individual diplomats in India – is inadequate given the enormity of the provocation.

Russia fumes as diplomats charged with cheating

The Government of India, backed as it is by the entire nation, must respond in a more muscular fashion, commensurate to the offence in which the US Government has knowingly helped Sangeeta Richards commit an immigration fraud and evade Indian justice. In these circumstances, Secretary of State John Kerry’s telephonic apology to National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon is a meaningless diplomatic nicety since the US is standing by the arrest. Worse, the US marshal service seems to have flouted its own rules by subjecting the diplomat to intrusive strip and cavity searches, when these can be done only if there is “reasonable suspicion” that the person arrested is carrying contraband or weapons, is a repeat offender or is considered a security, escape or suicide risk. None of these conditions apply to Devyani Khobragade. She is a victim of on-going systematic and subversive activities of US – to penetrate the  not top-secret cobweb of Indian security.  But even the Indian Government would not point out the facts and are content with just getting her back.

 

What the 2013 Provincial Election Results Mean for 2014

 

The results of the 2013 assembly elections in Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan are out but those looking for clear pointers towards how the next General Election will play out are likely to be left scratching their heads. The total rout of the ruling party shows disenchantment with venality and corruption; nepotism and economically disastrous policies of the famed economist turned prime minister.

The Bharatiya Janata Party turned in a spectacular performance in Rajasthan and wrested the state from the Congress. It has retained Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh, the latter with a significant increase in its seat share. But in Delhi, the BJP failed to properly ride the wave of anti-Congress sentiment, yielding crucial political space to the Aam Aadmi Party and falling short of a clear-cut majority.

That said, this ‘three-and-a-half to zero’ verdict in favour of the BJP and against the Congress is no mean achievement and is significant for what it tells us about the state of the two national parties in these four states. Taken together, the four account for 72 Lok Sabha seats, of which the Congress had won 40 and the BJP 30 in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections. If the current trends carry forward to 2014, the Congress will lose all seven Delhi seats, and perhaps as many as 17 seats from Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, giving the BJP a net gain of 24.

The truth of the matter is that both, in these states and at the wider national level, the Congress is in retreat and its saffron challenger is clearly ascendant. But that still does not leave us with a clear sense of what will happen overall in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

Before the current round of state elections, there were three big questions that needed answering.

First, is the Congress party, under the stewardship of Rahul Gandhi, capable of reviving its flagging fortunes? The answer today is a resounding ‘No’. Sunday’s results have surely put paid to the notion that the Congress vice president is capable of producing a miracle that can banish not just the dysfunctionality of the party’s organization but also the unpopularity of the Manmohan Singh government. Whether he is declared his party’s prime ministerial candidate or not, the Congress’s electoral fate seems more or less sealed.

The second big question for which we were looking for answers was whether the BJP, under Narendra Modi’s leadership, is likely to capitalise on the Congress’s abject condition. Here the picture is a little complicated. The BJP’s victories in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan are handsome, and, no doubt, the appeal of Modi to a section of the urban electorate contributed to the inherent strength that Shivraj Chouhan and Vasundhara Raje Scindia brought to the campaign. And yet, the scale of the victories here is not unprecedented, either for the BJP or indeed the Congress. The Congress swept Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh in a comparable fashion in 1998. And Uma Bharati won 173 seats for the BJP in MP in 2003 when Modi was not even a blip on the horizon. Crediting the “Modi Wave” for the BJP’s wins in these two states on Sunday thus appears a bit of a stretch.

Indeed, when we turn to Chhattisgarh and Delhi, the Modi effect appears totally absent. Not only did his hectic campaigning in these two states fail to give the BJP a big boost, the fact that he was not able to convince a third of Delhi’s urban anti-Congress electorate to choose his party over the Aam Aadmi Party is surely a sign that the Gujarat Chief Minister’s popularity and appeal cannot be taken for granted.

The third question in Indian politics is whether there is still space for a non-Congress, non-BJP alternative at the national level. After the performance of the Aam Aadmi Party in Delhi, the answer should be obvious. But just because the AAP has emerged as an alternative to the two big national parties in the national capital, does this mean that similar space exists elsewhere? If that were the case, why have all efforts to build and consolidate a ‘Third Front’ floundered in the past and failed to even get off the ground in recent years? The reason is because what has historically been known as Third Front has been little more than an artificial and even opportunist grouping of political parties with no vision of an alternative politics. The AAP, on the other hand, seems to hold out the promise of a new political vision. Its methods of mobilization have the potential to alter the grammar of Indian politics and the issues it has taken up seem to connect with ordinary voters in a much more fundamental way than anything the ‘Third Front’ ever attempted.

The AAP is likely to use its spectacular performance in Delhi as a springboard for the 2014 elections, where it stands a good chance of making inroads in urban and semi-urban areas across the country. In many states, the Aam Aadmi Party will eat into the anti-Congress vote and undermine the BJP, which is looking to use Modi to make gains in cities and towns. But whether the AAP has the capacity to wage the kind of campaign it did in Delhi remains to be seen.

 

Madiba will live forever

As I sit down to encapsulate my thoughts, I find that the world is in mourning for wonderful, glorious Madiba. The world is also, in parallel, celebrating the amazing life of this man whom we all claim. The scenes of dancing and singing and “toy-toying” outside the Johannesburg home of Nelson Mandela speak volumes. Is there a person on this planet who doesn’t know who Madiba is, and who isn’t sad at his passing? And is there a person on this planet who has a bad word to say about this giant of a man?
And, just stop and think for a moment, is there anyone else, anywhere, who evokes the same love and adoration? Is there another politician anywhere in the world who will be mourned like this? Actually is there another politician who will be mourned? Period. Possibly, such persons come across the horizons of humanity once in a millineum.
Sickened by corruption, sickened by inefficiency, sickened by venal politicians. I am not sure how many politicians are genuinely loved. As in loved and revered and admired – say the way Gandhi was. Or Madiba. These were two men who had principles and vision and such a profound love for humanity, that they ignored and rose above divisions. Gandhi was heart broken at the idea of India being divided along religious lines. Despite having suffered at the hands of the abhorrent racist apartheid régime, Madiba stood firm that the new South Africa was for all South Africans – black, white, Indian, coloured.
Madiba was adored. He was credited with having almost single-handedly prevented civil war after 1994. He was the President for every single person living in the country, not just his own race or clan. A man for all people, like our own Bapu. I am still racking my brains to think of another politician of that class. Another man or woman who evokes such love and respect and tears and smiles. And on the day we mourn Madiba (and celebrate, never forget we should also celebrate such a life) what do we have on our political scenario anywhere?
My recollection of Nelson Mandela- Madiba, as he is called- reminds me of Jacaranda trees, that in my humble opinion, are the most majestic of all the trees, lending their grace and beauty to an assortment of lands the world around. Their vivid color and grand stature command your attention, sometimes enough to lure you, like a curious child, to stand beneath them and stare up in awe at their branches festooned with dazzling purple blooms
These magnificent trees hold a special place in my heart, as they transport me back to the glorious landscapes of South Africa, where the capital city of Pretoria is known as “The Jacaranda City.”And that is where I met this exqisite specimen of humo sapiens. Come springtime, Pretoria becomes a sea of purple, awash with endless rows of flowering Jacaranda trees. It is a rather august sight to see, this florid assembly of nature ruling over the urban landscape. It’s no wonder the university students in Pretoria have a sweet little legend that when passing underneath a Jacaranda tree, if a petal falls on your head, you will surely pass your exams.
The farewell to Nelson Mandela will be an event like no other – a major organisational challenge posed to people each dealing with the deeply personal loss of a man everyone called “Tata”, father.
The burial of former president Mandela will be in accordance with the traditions of his Xhosa tribal roots and a private, family event although a handful of the celebrities and dignitaries closest to him are thought likely to be invited. Xhosa tradition usually includes the slaughter of a cow or sheep, periods of prayer, singing and silence, and the possessions of the loved one placed inside their grave to help them in the afterlife. As a lover of good food, whose personal cook is a celebrity Mr Mandela foresaw such an eventuality in a letter he wrote to Zulu chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi from prison on Robben Island in 1968.
“The death of a human being, whatever may be his station in life, is always a sad and painful affair,” he wrote. “That of a noted public figure brings not only grief and mourning but very often entails implications of a wider nature.”in her own right in South Africa, Mr Mandela is likely to have stipulated that a final feast be held in his honour.
Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela is sometimes called by other names. Each name has its own special meaning and story. When you use them you should know what you are saying and why. So here is a brief explanation of each name, as he explained them to me during our first meeting.
Rolihlahla – This is Mandela’s birth name: it is an isiXhosa name which means “pulling the branch of a tree”, but colloquially it means “troublemaker”. His father gave him this name.
Nelson – This name was given to him on his first day at school by his teacher, Miss Mdingane. Giving African children English names was a custom among Africans in those days and was influenced by British colonials who could not easily, and often would not, pronounce African names. It is unclear why Miss Mdingane chose the name “Nelson” for Mandela.
Madiba – This is the name of the clan of which Mr Mandela is a member. A clan name is much more important than a surname as it refers to the ancestor from which a person is descended. Madiba was the name of a Thembu chief who ruled in the Transkei in the 18th century. It is considered very polite to use someone’s clan name.
Tata – This isiXhosa word means “father” and is a term of endearment that many South Africans use for Mandela. Since he is a father figure to many, they call him Tata regardless of their own age.
Khulu – Mandela is often called “Khulu”, which means great, paramount, grand. The speaker means “Great One” when referring to Mandela in this way. It is also a shortened form of the isiXhosa word “uBawomkhulu” for “grandfather”.
Dalibhunga – This is the name Mandela was given at the age of 16 once he had undergone initiation, the traditional Xhosa rite of passage into manhood. It means “creator or founder of the council” or “convenor of the dialogue”. The correct use of this name when greeting Mandela is “Aaah! Dalibhunga”.
Other names – Of course, Mandela’s family use many terms of endearment for him. His grandchildren use variants of “Grandfather”, like “Granddad” for instance. Mrs Graça Machel frequently uses “Papa”.
I am moved by the way in which his words directly link to his values and principles and these are what make Nelson Mandela one of the most loved and admired individuals of the twenty-first century. He chooses his words deliberately, he means what he says and he wants his audience to easily grasp their meaning. As he said on 14 July 2000:
It is never my custom to use words lightly. If twenty-seven years in prison have done anything to us, it was to use the silence of solitude to make us understand how precious words are and how real speech is in its impact on the way people live and die.
His emphasis on the importance of connecting with an audience through the clarity of words is further demonstrated by this quote from a speech he delivered on 21 September 1953:”Long speeches, the shaking of fists, the banging of tables and strongly worded resolutions out of touch with the objective conditions do not bring about mass action and can do a great deal of harm to the organisation and the struggle we serve.”
I was impressed by his well known for his sense of humour and his ability to find amusement in even the most challenging circumstances. He explained the value he placed on humour:”You sharpen your ideas by reducing yourself to the level of the people you are with, and a sense of humour and a complete relaxation, even when you’re discussing serious things, does help to mobilise friends around you. And I love that.” He was passionate about being a real human being: “We of the ANC had always stood for a non-racial democracy, and we shrank from any action which might drive the races further apart than they already were.” And then he remarked: ” I hope that our movement will always hold that commitment to non-racialism dear in its thoughts, policies and actions. It is that commitment, even in circumstances where we could have been pardoned for deviating from it, that amongst other things earned us the respect of the world.”
I spoke of the tough chalenges that face us and he responded: “Difficulties break some men but make others. No axe is sharp enough to cut the soul of a sinner who keeps on trying, one armed with the hope that he will rise even in the end.”
He tiold clearlythat is very selective. While accepting all human beings as equal, he restricted his friendship. ” I like friends who have independent minds because they tend to make you see problems from all angles.” This does not negate his cioncept of equality, as he remarked ” I have never regarded any man as my superior, either in my life outside or inside prison”.
Like othervisionaries he was not afraid of death. Like Oliover Wendell Holmes, he knoew its inevitability and said: ” Death is something inevitable. When a man has done what he considers to be his duty to his people and his country, he can rest in peace. I believe I have made that effort and that is, therefore, why I will sleep for the eternity.”
Her did not believe in a life that is just existence and I was moved when he said: “What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.”
Wedid talk of integrity and honesty and when I lamented tghe failings that are so prominent in most of politicans, he remarked :” Those who conduct themselves with morality, integrity and consistency need not fear the forces of inhumanity and cruelty.”.
Verily, Madiba, you are a Collosus that have moved across this world in a time when all human values are at stake. Centuries later people would wonder Could such a man really exist?

Article 370 -A Historical Blunder

The recent comments about Article 370 by Modi were immediately misunderstood by almost everyone. Farooq Abdullah saw it as an attack on Kashmir’s special status and pronounced in menacing tones that Article 370 could never be abrogated no matter what. His son, the Chief Minister of Jammu & Kashmir, said that Modi was wrong when he said that Kashmiri women were discriminated against because of this article. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) saw his comment as a watering down of its long-standing position that Article 370 must be abrogated altogether so its senior leaders went on national television to announce in embarrassed tones that Modi had not weakened the BJP stand. And, sundry political pundits pontificated, as they usually do whenever Modi speaks, about what a danger he is to India’s ‘secular fabric’.
All he said was that it was time to examine seriously whether Article 370 has benefited the people of Kashmir or not. The reason why I found this interesting is because I myself feel that the people of Kashmir deserve better than they have so far had. They have been betrayed over and over again by Kashmiri political leaders, by political leaders in Delhi and even by the terrorist groups who promised them azadi when they began the insurgency in 1989. I believe that it was bad policies made in Delhi that turned a straightforward, basic political demand into a secessionist movement and then this movement acquired an ugly jihadist character.
“Nobody wants terrorism to continue, they said everyone wants peace”. But, some people do feel that Kashmir had never been part of India but only a colony that had been cruelly exploited. And, I sense under the surface calm a disturbing, ill-omened tension as if violence lay just below. It will continue to lie under the surface until there is a more lasting solution to Kashmir’s political problems. This is the context in which we need to see Modi’s comments on Article 370. Personally, I have no idea whether he thought deeply before saying what he did but if he did not then it could be time for him to start doing so. This is because if he does become the Prime Minister, he needs to be sure that he does not make the mistake that Atal Behari Vajpayee did which was to continue with the same Kashmir policy that the Congress Governments have followed since Jawaharlal Nehru made the mistake of sending Sheikh Abdullah to jail in the 1950.
History will see it as a very serious mistake because had it not been for Sheikh Abdullah’s adamant stand that Kashmir would rather be part of secular India than Islamic Pakistan the Kashmir story may well have been a very different one. When I was researching, I could come up with no valid reason why the Sheikh should have been jailed at all. Even the terrorist leaders said they thought Vajpayee could find a lasting solution if he became the Prime Minister. He was not the Prime Minister at the time but had said on national television that if mosques were used to launch political movements then you could be sure that Hindu temples would be as well. The terrorist leaders found Vajpayee’s frankness refreshing especially when they compared it with the ‘duplicity’ of the Congress. It is India’s bad luck that after becoming the Prime Minister Vajpayee found no time to make a new Kashmir policy.
The Nehruvian vision of a separate status has given rise to aspirations for the pre-1953 status, self-rule and even Azadi. The desire of proponents of these three ideas has weakened the Constitutional and political relationship between Jammu & Kashmir and the rest of the country. The journey of separate status has been towards separatism and not towards integration. It would be incorrect for anyone to interpret BJP’s challenge for a debate on this issue as a softening of stand on Article 370.
However, coming back to the Art. 370 that provide special status, I find this disturbing, especially in this fast changing world.
The anti-daughter position in Jammu & Kashmir
The State laws in Jammu & Kashmir were consistently interpreted for over five decades to mean that a daughter in Jammu & Kashmir would lose her status as a permanent resident of the State as also special rights and privileges available to her if she married outside the State. This was based on an erroneous belief that a wife followed the domicile of the husband. A large number of women in Jammu & Kashmir questioned the constitutional validity of this provision. A Full Bench of the High Court of Jammu & Kashmir by a judgement dated October 7, 2002 re-interpreted the law and by a majority judgement held that a daughter marrying outside the State would not lose her status as a permanent resident. The National Conference government which was in power in the State was represented in this case by its Advocate General MA Goni who vehemently opposed the plea of the daughters. The judgement records:
“Ld. Advocate General, Mr MA Goni contended that a female descendent of a permanent resident of the state on marriage to a non-permanent resident of the state would lose the status of a permanent resident of the state and would not be permanent resident of the State as defined under section 6 of the State Constitution. He submitted that by marrying a non-permanent resident, a female descendent of a permanent resident of the State will not only lose the property which she may have acquired in the State before marriage as permanent resident of the state but she would also lose all special rights and privileges like employment in the State Government, right to scholarship or any other such privileges as the government may provide. He further submitted that the status of the wife or the widow depends on the status of the husband and in case she ceases to reside in the state and takes permanent residence outside the state she would lose the status acquired by marriage with a permanent resident of the State.”
This was the categorical position of the Government of Omar Abdullah’s party, the National Conference. Dissatisfied with this judgement, the National Conference government filed an SLP in the Supreme Government.
In the year 2003, the PDP Government in alliance with Congress Party was formed in the state. The PDP Government followed an alternative strategy. They withdrew the SLP and introduced ‘The Jammu and Kashmir Resident (Disqualification) Bill 2004’, which attempted to statutorily nullify the progressive majority view taken by the High Court. The Bill was enthusiastically supported by the PDP and the National Conference. It sought to withdraw the status of a permanent resident from a daughter who married outside the State. The Bill was passed by the Legislative Assembly.
Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the then Prime Minister in March 2004, suggested that the State Government should find a solution to this problem. The PDP and the National Conference linked it to the upholding the special status of the State guaranteed under Article 370 of the Constitution.
After being passed by the Legislative Assembly, this Bill was taken to the Legislative Council. It ran into some trouble with the Chairman of the Legislative Council adjourning the House without voting and referring it back to the Assembly where it again got stuck. Recently, again moves have been made to re-enact the Bill.
In 2010, a PDP member again introduced this Bill as a Private Member’s Bill in the Legislative Council. Competitive statements have been made by leaders of the National Conference that they are committed to bring this Bill. Special status and Kashmiri identity have been pitted against Women’ rights.
Can the Chief Minister Shri Omar Abdullah ignore a dubious track record of his Party on this issue and indulge in discourteous tweets on the subject? It must be accepted by one and all that such discriminatory provisions which also compromise on the right to live with dignity have no place in Indian law.
So, if Modi does end up as the BJP’s second Prime Minister then he should already start thinking about what needs to be done beyond rethinking Article 370. A good start would be for him to examine the historical mistakes that were made and that included rigged elections and the denial of basic political rights in exchange for cheap rice and the ostensible ‘pampering’ of Kashmir. This so-called pampering caused hostility towards ‘ungrateful’ Kashmiris in the rest of India and did very little to improve living standards in Kashmir. He needs to look very carefully at why a new phase of the Kashmir problem was created after the toppling of Farooq Abdullah’s Government in 1984. If he does, he may discover that the historical Kashmir problem had died by the 1980s and that it was reborn only because people were denied their fundamental democratic rights. And, he needs to examine why jihadists have so changed the culture of the Kashmir Valley that cinemas remain closed even today and little girls are forced to wear the ‘hijab’ in a State where women with uncovered faces once prayed beside men in mosques. So much blood and water has flowed down the Jhelum since then that there will be no real peace in Kashmir until there is a fresh approach taken towards solving India’s oldest and most intransigent political problem
Narendra Modi’s speech at Jammu invited Omar Abdullah’s response. After a long time, Article 370 is being seriously debated in this country. An ill-informed debate had earlier linked the issue of Article 370 to a secular versus non-secular debate. Article 370 has nothing to do with Secularism. My own study on the subject has revealed a very interesting dimension as to how Article 370 can turn into an instrument of oppression and discrimination against Indian citizens.
Article 370 is a special provision created only in relation to the State of J&K. It is a temporary provision. It relates to the distribution of power between the Centre and the State. The Central List in relation to J& K was a small one. Most powers are vested in the State Legislature. If any power had to be transferred from the Centre to the State, it required the concurrence of the State. Article 370 states-
Article 370, Temporary provisions with respect to the State of J&K :
(1) Notwithstanding anything in this Constitution;
(a) The provisions of Article 238 shall not apply in relation to the State of Jammu and Kashmir;
(b) The power of Parliament to make laws for the said State shall be limited to:
(i) Those matters in the Union List and the Concurrent List which in consultation with the Government of the State, are declared by the President to correspond to matters specified in the instrument of accession governing the accession of the State to the dominion of India as the matters with respect to which the dominion Legislature may make laws for that State; and
(ii) Such other matters in the said, lists as with the concurrence of the Government of the State, the President may by order specify.
(c) The provisions of Article 1 and Article 370 shall apply in relation to that State;
(d) Such other provisions in the Constitution shall apply in relation to that State as a subject to such exceptions and modifications as the President may by order specify.
Article 35A, notwithstanding anything contained in this Constitution, no existing law in force in the State of J&K, and no law hereafter enacted by the Legislature of the State,
(a) Defining the classes of persons who are or shall be the permanent residents of the State of J& K; or
(b) Conferring on such permanent residences any special rights and privileges or imposing upon other persons any restrictions as respects:-
(i) Employment under the State Government;
(ii) Acquisition of immovable property in the State;
(iii) Settlement in the State; or
(iv) Right to scholarships and such other forms of aid as the State Government may provide, shall be void on the ground that it is inconsistent with or takes away or abridges any rights conferred on the other citizens of India by any provisions of this part.”
There are thus citizens of India who have not been conferred the status of State subjects. The phrase ‘State subjects’ and ‘permanent residents’ are used interchangeably. Millions of people migrated to India in 1947. Those who settled in other parts of India have all the constitutional guarantees available to them. They are entitled to all fundamental rights available under the Constitution of India to the citizens. The unfortunate ones who migrated to the State of Jammu & Kashmir have been conferred citizenship of India. They can vote in national elections. They can hold property anywhere in India. However, they have not been conferred the status of being State subjects under Article 6 of the Jammu & Kashmir Constitution.
Being citizens of India, they are discriminated against. They cannot vote or contest elections of the Assembly, Municipality or Panchayats in the State. They cannot get a job in the State. They cannot acquire property in the state. Their children are not entitled to admission to colleges as State subjects. The bright ones amongst them cannot even get scholarship or any other type of aid from the State. Article 35A of the Constitution of India executively inserted pursuant to Article 370 (1) (d) excludes the provision of ‘this part’ of the Constitution. ‘This part’ of the Constitution refers to ‘Part III.’
The effect of this would be that laws inconsistent with fundamental rights would be valid qua these persons. These citizens of India are not entitled to the protection of Article 14 (equality), Article 15 (prohibition of discrimination on basis of religion, caste, race or place of birth), Article 16 (Equality of opportunity in matters of public employment and reservations), the fundamental rights under Article 19 including the right to free speech and the right to life and liberty under Article 21. They are not entitled to the freedom of practice and propagation of religion under Article 25. They are also not entitled to protection of interests available to minorities under Article 29 and 30. The non-State subjects, who are citizens of India, who live in Jammu & Kashmir by virtue of Article 35A, are denied these protections. The pre 2002 position in relation to daughters who marry outside the State that they would lose their right of inheritance is based on the authority to discriminate against citizens of India, between citizens of India and State subjects which Article 35A confers.
Should a provision like Article 35A which exists only because of Article 370 have place in any civilized society? It is oppressive against citizens of India. It is discriminatory and violative of fundamental rights. Article 35A was inserted in 1954. On a bare reading, it violates the basic structure of the Constitution. I wonder if its constitutional validity will be challenged at some point of time.

America’s Forgotton First War on Terror

When George Bush declared a war on terrorism after thge infamous and dastardly attack on the the soil of US by terrorists, people were not aware that he was in fact, carrying on the fight against terrorism that in fact started about two centuries back. He was following the glorious tradtion of Jefferson and Adams. Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, then serving as American ambassadors to France and Britain , respectively, met in 1786 in London with the Tripolitan Ambassador to Britain , Sidi Haji Abdul Rahman Adja. These future American presidents were attempting to negotiate a peace treaty which would spare the United States the ravages of jihad piracy—murder, enslavement (with ransoming for redemption), and expropriation of valuable commercial assets—emanating from the Barbary states (modern Morocco , Algeria , Tunisia , and Libya , known collectively in Arabic as the Maghrib). During their discussions, they questioned Ambassador Adja as to the source of the unprovoked animus directed at the nascent United States republic. Jefferson and Adams, in their subsequent report to the Continental Congress, recorded the Tripolitan Ambassador’s justification:

… that it was founded on the Laws of their Prophet, that it was written in their Koran, that all nations who should not have acknowledged their authority were sinners, that it was their right and duty to make war upon them wherever they could be found, and to make slaves of all they could take as Prisoners, and that every Musselman who should be slain in Battle was sure to go to Paradise.

Thus as Joshua London’s Victory in Tripoli elaborates in lucid prose, an aggressive jihad was already being waged against the United States almost 200 years prior to America becoming a dominant international power in the Middle East . Moreover, these jihad depredations targeting America antedated the earliest vestiges of the Zionist movement by a century, and the formal creation of Israel by 162 years—exploding the ahistorical canard that American support for the modern Jewish state is a prerequisite for jihadist attacks on the United States .

Jihad at Sea—An Overview

Barbary jihad piracy was merely a 16th through 19th century manifestation of the naval razzias characteristic of Islamic imperialism since its emergence (pp.41-43) in the 7th and 8th centuries. For example, although the Abbasid state (750-1250) “orientalized” the Caliphate, and lacked naval power of any importance, in the west, Muslim forces (i.e., decentralized, “organic formations”), continued the Islamic expansion by maritime warfare. Throughout the 9th and 10th centuries, Berbers and Arabs from Spain and North Africa launched raids along the coastal regions of France , Italy , Sicily , and in the Greek archipelago.

Francisco Gabrieli has described how these naval razzias were concordant with jihad, yet antithetical to the modern rule of law. He also emphasized their capacity for conquest, or, even when “disorganized”, triumphal rapine and destruction:

According to present-day concepts of international relations, such activities amounted to piracy, but they correspond perfectly to jihad, an Islamic religious duty. The conquest of Crete , in the east, and a good portion of the corsair warfare along the Provencal and Italian coasts, in the West, are among the most conspicuous instances of such “private initiative” which contributed to Arab domination in the Mediterranean .

In the second half of the ninth century, a large number of Saracen (Muslim) raids occurred throughout Southern and Central Italy, but we do not get the impression of their ever having been part of a plan or organized conquest, as Musa’s, Tariq’s, and Asad’s campaigns had been in Spain and Sicily. Their only object seems to have been destruction and looting which was also the object of the armed groups faced by Charles on the Balat ash-Shuhada near Poitiers .

The no less classical themes of Arabic war poetry, the hamasah sanctified by jihad, ring out in the recollections and boasts of Ibn Hamdis, the Sicilian Abu Firas, who exalts the military successes of Islam on Calabrian soil, the landing of Muslim troops at Reggio and their exploits against the patricians whom they cut to pieces or put to flight.

A proto-typical Muslim naval razzia occurred in 846 when a fleet of Arab jihadists arrived at the mouth of the Tiber, made their way to Rome (p. 421), sacked the city, and carried away from the basilica of St. Peter all of the gold and silver it contained. But perhaps the largest and most infamous of the naval jihad campaigns during this period was the sack and pillage of Thessaloniki in 904. During July, 904, under the command of the Muslim convert Leo of Tripoli, more than ten thousand Cretan Arabs, Syrians, and North Africans briefly sieged, and then captured Thessaloniki, slaughtering and enslaving its inhabitants (some 22,000 slaves were taken), and causing great physical destruction to the city. John Cameniates provided an eyewitness account of these events, recorded in his chronicle. Cameniates, his elderly father, and his brother, taken prisoner while they tried to escape by the ramparts, were spared their lives because they promised their captors a large amount of money. They were marched as prisoners through the city, and thus witnessed the terrible carnage of their fellow townspeople. Cameniates narrative reveals that (p. 604):

The Thessalonians tried to escape through the streets, pursued by the Saracens, who were unleashed like wild beasts. In their panic, men. women, the elderly, and children, fell into each other’s arms to give each other one last kiss. The enemy hit with no mercy. Parents were killed while trying to defend their children. No one was spared: women, children, the elderly, all were immediately pierced by the sword. The poor wretches ran through the town, or tried to hide inside the caves; some of them, believing they could find refuge inside a church, would seek shelter inside, while others tried to scale the walls of the ramparts, from where they jumped into the void and crashed to the ground. Nuns, petrified with fear, with their hair disheveled, tried to escape, and ended up by the thousands in the hands of the barbarians, who killed the older ones, and sent the younger and more attractive ones into captivity and dishonor… The Saracens also massacred the unfortunate people who had sought refuge inside churches.

Halil Inalcik has placed the 14th century Aegean sea naval razzias of the Turkish maritime emirates in the context of jihad, citing, for example, the chapter of the Dusturname of Enveri concerning the actions of the emirate of Aydin. Elizabeth Zachariadou describes the consternation of contemporary 14th century Latin and Byzantine chroniclers observing the “spectacle” of Turkish emirs, “…who were proud only because they were able to lead their ferocious soldiers” in such predatory attacks. These raids—designed to pillage property and abduct captives for sale in slave markets—although merely ignoble piracy or brigandage from the perspective of the Christian chroniclers, nevertheless, as Zachariadou notes, were,for the Muslim Turks, a Holy War (Jihad), a praiseworthy and legitimate occupation, leading directly to Paradise .

Gregory Palamus, a Metropolitan of Thessalonica during the 14th century, wrote this commentary while living as a captive amongst the Turks in 1354, confirming (albeit with astonishment) that indeed the Turks attributed their victories over the Byzantines to their (the Muslims) love of God:

For these impious people, hated by God and infamous, boast of having got the better of the Romans by their love of God…they live by the bow, the sword and debauchery, finding pleasure in taking slaves, devoting themselves to murder, pillage, spoil…and not only do they commit these crimes, but even—what an aberration—they believe that God approves of them. This is what I think of them, now that I know precisely about their way of life.

More than 650 years later, and a continent (and oceans) away, C. Snouck Hurgronje reported (in 1906) that similar acts of jihad piracy were still being performed against non-Muslims (both indigenous populations, and Western traders) by the Muslim Acehnese of the Indonesian archipelago:

From Mohammedanism (which for centuries she [i.e., Aceh] is reputed to have accepted) she really only learnt a large number of dogmas relating to hatred of the infidel without any of their mitigating concomitants; so the Acehnese made a regular business of piracy and man-hunting at the expense of the neighboring non-Mohammedan countries and islands, and considered that they were justified in any act of treachery or violence to European (and latterly to American) traders who came in search of pepper, the staple product of the country. Complaints of robbery and murder on board ships trading in Acehnese parts thus grew to be chronic.

Jihad Piracy and the Barbary States

The Barbary jihad piracy which confronted America soon after our nation was established (i.e., between 1786-1815), was an enduring, formidable enterprise. During the 16th and 17th centuries, as many Europeans were captured, sold, and enslaved by the Barbary corsairs as were West Africans made captive and shipped for plantation labor in the Americas by European slave traders. Robert Davis’ methodical enumeration indicates that between one, and one and one-quarter million white European Christians were enslaved by the Barbary Muslims from 1530 through 1780. White Gold, Giles Milton’s remarkable account of Cornish cabin boy Thomas Pellow, captured by Barbary corsairs in 1716, also documents how earlier 17th century jihad razzias had extended to England [p. 13, “By the end of the dreadful summer of 1625, the mayor of Plymouth reckoned that 1,000 skiffs had been destroyed, and a similar number of villagers carried off into slavery”], Wales, southern Ireland [p.16, “In 1631…200 Islamic soldiers…sailed to the village of Baltimore, storming ashore with swords drawn and catching the villagers totally by surprise. (They) carried off 237 men, women, and children and took them to Algiers…The French padre Pierre Dan was in the city (Algiers) at the time…He witnessed the sale of the captives in the slave auction. ‘It was a pitiful sight to see them exposed in the market…Women were separated from their husbands and the children from their fathers…on one side a husband was sold; on the other his wife; and her daughter was torn from her arms without the hope that they’d ever see each other again’.”], and even Reykjavik, Iceland!

Alberto Guglielmotti (vol. 3, La Guerra dei Pirati, 1500-1560) included this description of the severe commercial and social devastation wrought upon the Mediterranean littoral of southern Europe by these jihad razzias (English translation, p. 24):Everyone…could see with their own eyes the desolation of the Spanish, French, and Italian coasts, thanks to the pertinacious infestation of these pirates: the wretched beaches, the abandoned islands, the shacks [reduced to] ashes, the fishermen in flight, and the vessels of the Barbarian rovers loitering about on the sea.

And the epigraph from Padre Biaggio di Turena which introduces Davis’ recent monograph (p. xxiv) on Barbary slavery, depicts the plight of the captives:

In twenty years of wearisome work as a missionary in Aleppo , Baghdad , Grand Cairo, and Suez on the Red Sea , I have seen the infinite miseries of the poor Christians oppressed by the barbarian cruelty of Mohammedans.

America and the Barbary Jihadists

Joshua London’s compelling narrative of America ‘s political and military efforts during the Barbary wars highlights—appositely—the experiences of William Eaton. Eaton’s triumphs and travails during his tenure as consul to Tunis (1799-1803), and later U.S. naval agent to the Barbary states , mirrored those of the young American nation he served.

Born on February 23, 1764 in Woodstock , Connecticut , the highly intelligent and strong-willed Eaton, when 16 years old, ran away from home, subsequently lying about his age to join Washington ‘s Continental Army. He rose to the rank of sergeant in the Continental Army, which he served until 1783. Eaton graduated Dartmouth in 1790, and in 1791 was chosen clerk of the Massachusetts House of Delegates, where he remained until 1797, while he also served (beginning in 1792) the U.S. Army as both a fighter and negotiator during the frontier campaigns against the American Indians. Later, Eaton assisted then Secretary of War Timothy Pickering’s espionage/treason investigations. When Pickering became Secretary of State, he chose Eaton to serve as U.S. consul to Tunis , initially under President John Adams.

Eaton’s consular journal (reproduced by London, on p. 63) recorded these brutally honest and comical impressions of his first diplomatic encounter (on February 22, 1799) with Dey Bobba Mustafa of Algiers , which would make the craven State Department mandarins of today, wince:

we took off our shoes and entering the cave (for so it seemed), with small apertures of light with iron gates, we were shown to a huge, shaggy beast, sitting on his rump upon a low bench covered with a cushion of embroidered velvet, with his hind legs gathered up like a tailor, or a bear. On our approach to him, he reached out his forepaw as if to receive something to eat. Our guide exclaimed, “Kiss the Dey’s hand!” The consul general bowed very elegantly, and kissed it, and we followed his example in succession. The animal seemed at that moment to be in a harmless mode; he grinned several times, but made very little noise. Having performed this ceremony, and standing a few moments in silent agony, we had leave to take our shoes and other property, and leave the den without any other injury than the humility of being obliged in this involuntary manner, to violate the second commandment of God and offend common decency. Can any man believe that this elevated brute has seven kings of Europe , two republics, and a continent tributary to him when his whole naval force is not equal to two line-of-battle ships? It is so.

Despite such inauspicious beginnings, and the institutionalized Barbary corruption Eaton found so repugnant to his person, and nation, his negotiations eventually secured U.S. commercial interests (at least a temporary) immunity from the attacks of Tunisian corsairs.

Eaton agonized over the gulf between the enormous potential and depressing reality of the Barbary states . He admired the Mediterranean coast of Tunis , “…naturally luxuriant and beautiful beyond description…I know not why it might not vie with the opposite continent in every thing useful, rich, and elegant”, yet despaired of the stultifying religio-political institutions which arrested the regions progress. Ultimately, Eaton concluded that Islam itself, certainly as practiced in Barbary , was the source of this backwardness:

Considered as a nation, they are deplorably wretched, because they have no property in the soil to inspire an ambition to cultivate it. They are abject slaves to the despotism of their government, and they are humiliated by tyranny, the worst of all tyrannies, the despotism of priestcraft. They live in more solemn fear of the frowns of a bigot who has been dead and rotten above a thousand years, than of the living despot whose frown would cost them their lives…The ignorance, superstitious tradition and civil and religious tyranny, which depress the human mind here, exclude improvement of every kind…

[A century later (1899), based upon his experiences as a young officer in the Sudan , Winston Churchill* would draw remarkably similar conclusions about the impact of Islam in “The River War”]

But Eaton also possessed the intellectual honesty to acknowledge that the cruelty of the Barbary slavery he witnessed was “…but a copy of the very barbarity which my eyes have seen in my own country. And yet we boast of liberty and national justice.”

Appointed Naval Agent for the Barbary Regencies in 1804, Eaton then organized and led an expedition to unseat the predatory Barbary ruler Yusuf Qaramanli. Eaton’s army arrived outside Derna. on April 25, 1805. When the bey of Derna refused his generous ultimatum, at 2 p.m. April 28, Eaton led a successful attack on the city, supported by U.S. naval gunfire. During the fighting Eaton—who had led his outnumbered force in a gallant bayonet charge—was wounded in the left wrist. As London recounts:

He simply wrapped his arm in a makeshift bandage and sling, grabbed a pistol with his right hand, and continued to charge ahead. With the American Marines in the lead, Eaton’s forces stormed the ramparts and advanced straight to the harbor.

Subsequent diplomatic efforts stalled the expedition. Tobias Lear, the Consul General, reached an accomodation with Yusuf Qaramanli, which included ransom money for all American prisoners, the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Derna, and the betrayal of Eaton’s key Arab ally, Ahmad Qaramanli. Eaton commented upon this treaty with predictable bitterness in a letter to Commodore John Rodgers:

Could I have apprehended this result of my exertions, certainly no consideration would have prevailed on me to have taken an agency in a tragedy so manifestly fraught with intrigue, so wounding to human feelings, and, as I must view it, so degrading to our national honor.

Although the Senate ratified the Tripoli treaty in April 1806 by a vote of 21 to 8, as London notes,Jefferson declared ‘victory,’ but the ‘peace’ proved rather political…The Federalists did not manage to derail the treaty, but they did embarrass and, at junctures, discredit President Thomas Jefferson and forever tarnish the career of Tobias Lear.

The signing of the Treaty of Ghent (Christmas eve, 1814)—subsequently ratified in the U.S. (February, 1815)—ended the so-called War of 1812 with Great Britain, and allowed President James Madison to address the problem of renewed Barbary jihad terrorism. On February 23, 1815, Madison provided this written assessment of the matter to a closed session of Congress:

Congress will have seen, by the communication from the Consul General of the United States , at Algiers , …the hostile proceedings of the Dey against that functionary. These have been followed by acts of more overt and direct warfare against the citizens of the United States trading in the Mediterranean, some of whom are still detained in captivity, notwithstanding the attempts which have been made to ransom them, and they are treated with the rigor usual on the coast of Barbary…The considerations which rendered it unnecessary and unimportant to commerce hostile operations on the part of the United States, being now terminated by the peace with Great Britain, which opens the prospect of an active and valuable trade of their citizens within the range of the Algerine cruisers; I recommend to Congress the expediency of an act declaring the existence of a state of war between the United States and the Dey and Regency of Algiers; and of such provisions as may be requisite for a vigorous prosecution of it to a successful issue.

Shortly afterward, President Madison commissioned two naval squadrons led by Commodores William Bainbridge and Stephen Decatur, and dispatched them to the Barbary States in May, 1815. By June/July 1815 the ably commanded U.S. naval forces had dealt their Barbary jihadist adversaries a quick series of crushing defeats. These U.S. victories were solidified by what London terms “unprecedented” treaty agreements forced upon the Barbary states , which “..made practically no concessions and stood very firm on every point”—the abolition of all tribute; release of all American prisoners currently held, and acknowledgement that no future American prisoners of war could be enslaved; the payment of indemnities; and the restoration of American properties held by the dey.

Joshua London concludes his engrossing, carefully researched, and intellectually honest account of the Barbary wars with this insightful analysis:

During the war with Tripoli , the United States began to test William Eaton’s hypothesis that fighting back and protecting the national honor and national interest with force was the best way to end Barbary piracy. Just at the moment of triumph, however, President Thomas Jefferson wavered and settled on the side of expediency. Jefferson’s lack of resolve left American interests unguarded, and once again American maritime trade felt the Barbary terror. By 1816, however, the United States finally provded that William Eaton was right. This success ignited the imagination of the Old World powers to rise up against the Barbary pirates.

Where is Our William Eaton (or John Quincy Adams )?

Shortly after the cataclysmic jihad terror attacks of 9/11/01, President George W. Bush made his now infamous utterance that Islam is a “religion of peace”. Ironically, the renowned 20th century Muslim ideologue Sayyid Qutb, perhaps the most brilliant Muslim scholar of the 20th century, who is demonized as a fomenter of “radical” Islam, has also referred to Islam as a “religion of peace”. But Qutb’s context is unapologetic and clear—he is referring to the Pax Islamica that would prevail when the entire world was submitted to Islamic domination, and the rule of Islamic law (i.e., the Shari’a), by jihad war.

President Bush further insisted in a more recent speech that the “ideology” of the most notable Muslim terrorists, who he maintained “distort the idea of jihad”, is “very different from the religion of Islam”, and indeed “exploits Islam to serve a violent, political vision.” The President’s specific and assertive comments regarding jihad were a profound disappointment. Indeed, such words could have been written and spoken by the most uninformed, or deliberately disingenuous apologists for this devastating, and uniquely Islamic institution, well over a millennium old, and still wreaking havoc today.

In stark contrast, John Quincy Adams, who made seminal contributions to the formulation of U.S. foreign policy, possessed a remarkably clear, uncompromised understanding of the permanent Islamic institution of jihad war, and its corollary institution, dhimmitude. Regarding jihad, Adams, in his essay series dealing with the Russo-Turkish War, and on Greece, (written while JQA was in retirement, before his election to Congress in 1830, Chapters X-XIV [pp. 267-402] in The American Annual Register for 1827-28-29. New York , 1830), states,

he [Muhammad] declared undistinguishing and exterminating war, as a part of his religion, against all the rest of mankind…The precept of the Koran is, perpetual war against all who deny, that Mahomet is the prophet of God…the faithful follower of the prophet, may submit to the imperious necessities of defeat: but the command to propagate the Moslem creed by the sword is always obligatory, when it can be made effective. The commands of the prophet may be performed alike, by fraud, or by force.

And Adams captured the essential condition imposed upon the non-Muslim dhimmi “tributaries” subjugated by jihad, with this laconic statement,

The vanquished may purchase their lives, by the payment of tribute.

Joshua London’s elegant analysis of America ’s first war against jihad terrorism illustrates the pitfalls of ignoring basic Islamic precepts—rooted in jihad—such as Dar al Harb, as stated ad nauseum by our Muslim adversaries, past and present. It is critical that current U.S. political leadership rediscover and imbibe the uncompromised knowledge of Islam possessed by John Quincy Adams, and the outspoken, tragic hero of the Barbary jihad wars, William Eaton.

During Eaton’s 1798 voyage to North Africa to serve as the consul to Tunis , he lamented in his journal,

It is sad to reflect that our beloved nation could sink so low in her self-esteem [as to pay such lavish tribute to pirates]. I pray that I will have an opportunity to cause the rulers of Barbary to think more highly of us in years to come

Eaton subsequently warned the political elites and ordinary countrymen of his time that: Our language to them [the Barbary jihadist states] should be the language of the gospel:‘I have set this day before you life and death, choose which you will’. Without a language like this, and an attitude to support it, to think of reciprocity is idle…

The epigraph to Victory in Tripoli was also written by William Eaton. Two centuries later, these words are a fitting epilogue to the Barbary wars, as America struggles against contemporary jihad terrorism, triumphally resurgent:

To the United States , they believe they can dictate terms. Why should they not? Or why should they believe it will ever be otherwise? They have seen nothing in America to controvert the opinion. And all our talk of resistance and reprisal, they view as the swaggering of a braggadocio…But whatever stratagem may be used to aid our measures, it is certain, that there is not access to the permanent friendship of these states, without paving the way with gold or cannon balls; and the proper question is, which method is preferable.

Hope springs eternal that politicians or diplomats possessed of William Eaton’s and John Quincy Adams’ learning, experiential wisdom, and moral clarity will step forward and admonish Americans so forthrightly today.

[*Sir Winston Churchill, The River War, first edition, Vol. II, pages 248-50, London : Longmans, Green & Co., 1899]

How dreadful are the curses which Mohammedanism lays on its votaries! Besides the fanatical frenzy, which is as dangerous in a man as hydrophobia in a dog, there is this fearful fatalistic apathy. The effects are apparent in many countries. Improvident habits, slovenly systems of agriculture, sluggish methods of commerce, and insecurity of property exist wherever the followers of the Prophet rule or live.…A degraded sensualism deprives this life of its grace and refinement; the next of its dignity and sanctity. The fact that in Mohammedan law every woman must belong to some man as his absolute property, either as a child, a wife, or a concubine, must delay the final extinction of slavery until the faith of Islam has ceased to be a great power among men. Individual Moslems may show splendid qualities …but the influence of the religion paralyses the social development of those who follow it. No stronger retrograde force exists in the world. Far from being moribund, Mohammedanism is a militant and proselytizing faith. It has already spread throughout Central Africa, raising fearless warriors at every step; and were it not that Christianity is sheltered in the strong arms of science, the science against which it had vainly struggled, the civilisation of modern Europe might fall, as fell the civilisation of ancient Rome. And this fight continues, despite Obama’s all efforts to compromiose with terrorsits.

 

The Housing Bubble in India Could Impact Its Fragile Economy

Property markets in India are increasingly witnessing signs of stress as rising inventory levels, or the number of unsold flats, pressure new launches and prices. In the key Mumbai market, inventory levels have climbed to 1.3-1.4 lakh units leading to a “free fall” in launches and sales. The number of quarters required to sell these inventories (quarter to sale) has gone up from five to nine and there is no sign of cooling off.

Inventory levels are comparatively less in Delhi-NCR and Bangalore, but relatively high from a historical perspective. Rising inventory is not news. In September, realty consultant Jones Lang LaSalle said builders in Mumbai are sitting on inventory of 48 months. The accepted level of inventory in Mumbai is around 14-15 months.

What’s important to note is the fact that developers have managed to hold on to prices despite plummeting sales and rising inventories. A price cut might not happen. Instead, buyers can negotiate for 5-10 per cent discounts through promotional schemes such as rent-free period of accommodation and waiver of registration and stamp duty charges.

The Reserve Bank of India is also worried about high property prices. On Friday, it asked banks why they have not raised interest rates despite the central bank hiking policy rates twice since September 2013. Higher rates would not only hit property sales, but may also contribute to loan delinquencies. And with the central bank keen on fighting inflation, interest rates may rise sooner than expected. Clearly, the realty sector is in for tougher days ahead despite an extended lean patch.

The Indian property market has not escaped attention of global economists either. In a column written for Project Syndicate last week, noted economist Nouriel Roubini said there are signs of frothiness in property markets across the globe, including India. “Signs that home prices are entering bubble territory in these economies include fast-rising home prices, high and rising price-to-income ratios, and high levels of mortgage debt as a share of household debt,” Roubini said.

The 2007-08 global financial crisis was triggered by the collapse of housing bubble in the US. The question many are weighing is whether the bubble in domestic property prices will pull down India’s fragile economy, already growing at the slowest pace in a decade.

Policy Deadweight Clogs India’s Waterways

Inland waterways: India is endowed with waterways with an aggregate length of 14,500 km comprising rivers, lakes, canals and backwaters. They offer a safe, eco-friendly and economic mode of transporting heavy cargo where speed is not a critical factor. Even a relatively small shift in cargo volume from other modes to inland waterways will reduce dependency of imported petroleum products. Rivers were preferred mode of travel and transporting cargo in pre-modern India. But automobiles and railways have weaned away most inland water traffic since the 19th century. In the 1950s, the Government applied itself to reviving water traffic. A conference of North Eastern States was convened in April, 1951 which resulted in the formation of a Brahmaputra Water Transport Board in 1952.

Interlinking of rivers: In 1956, the erstwhile Central Water and Power Commission had drawn up an ambitious plan to a) link Ganga and the Narmada to provide continuous waterway from West Coast b) connect Narmada and Godavari c) linking Tapti with Godavari via Wardha d) linking Ganga with Mahanadi via Son river and e) providing continuous inland coastal waterway connecting Calcutta with Cochin via Kanya Kumari. An Inland Water Transport Committee was set up under the chairpersonship of BK Gokhale in February, 1957. It submitted its recommendation to the erstwhile Ministry of Transport and Communications in 1959.

CAG reviews poor progress: But thanks to unimaginative policies, the results have fallen short of expectations in the last 60 years. The CAG audit (Report No.9 of 2010-11) observes that Inland Water Transport (IWT) could not develop its full potential due to several constraints like insufficient water depth of major rivers, non-availability of navigational aids, inadequate terminal facilities etc. Developing IWT could catalyse industrial growth, promote economic activities in the hinterland and decongest the road and rail traffic.

National waterways: There are five waterways which have been declared National Waterways (NWs). The Ganga-Bhagirathi-Hooghly river system (Allahabad-Haldia-1620 km) was declared NW- 1 in 1986. River Brahmaputra (Dhubri-Sadiya-891 km) in Assam was declared NW-2 in 1988. West Coal Canal (Kottapuram-Kollam) along with Udyogmandal and Champakara Canals (250 km) in Kerala was declared as NW-3 in 1993. Kakinada-Pudhucherry canals with Godavari and Krishna rivers (1078 km) across Andha Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry was declared as NW-4 in 2008. East Coast Canal integrated with Brahmani river and Mahanadi delta rivers (588 km) in West Bengal and Odisha was declared NW-5 in 2008. The aggregate cargo movement volume (in million tonnes) on these National Waterways was 3.42 in 2010-11, 5.53 in 2011-12, and 4.51 (Provisional) in 2012-13.

Meagre share in cargo transport: This is not more than 0.15 per cent of total cargo transportation in India. The share of cargo movement by inland waterways is substantially high in several countries. As per FICCI’s finding, it is 32 per cent in Bangladesh, 20 in Germany, 14 in the USA and nine in China. Even in Kerala, despite its tradition of inland water transport, cargo traffic has shifted substantially to other modes in the last decade.

UPA withdraws NDA era support: During the NDA rule, a Centrally-sponsored scheme in IWT sector, in existence since the First Five Year Plan, was liberalised. Since November 2002, cent per cent grant-in-aid was extended to North Eastern States and 90 per cent grant-in-aid to other States. Under the UPA Government, in February 2007, Planning Commission discontinued the scheme but retaining the grant for North Eastern States only. Field visits by the CAG team to Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Himachal Pradesh, West Bengal and Odisha revealed that many projects had not achieved their intended objectives and there were several cases of futile expenditures.

PMO and the PSUs: In January, 2012, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) stepped in to speed up the development of the IWT sector. The two-pronged approach visualised was a) encouraging Public-private Partnership and b) asking Public Sector Units (PSU) to commit a part of their cargo to IWT. The NTPC agreed to provide long-term cargo commitments of three million tonnes of coal for Barh power project (Bihar) once all its five units were functional in 2016-17. The Food Corporation of India (FCI) also committed three-year commitment of food grains to Assam from Kolkata and within Assam. The ONGC and Oil India have committed cargo.

Need to be ‘Water minded”: Uutilising the complete potential of inland waterways is still a pipedream. Until now, all policy planning has been disjointed. As the Inland Water Transport Committee (1957) has rightly emphasised on the need to be ‘water minded’. “A concerted drive is necessary to make people water minded. Government should encourage water sports, regattas, yacht clubs and organise boat races amongst a number of villages on similar lines to the traditional boat race in Kerala. A great deal of propaganda and publicity is necessary”.