Indo-Pak Bonhomie: Fear and Hope

Beneath the spontaneous bonhomie between Indians and Pakistanis lurk dark suspicions and fears. They always have. But the advent of a stable Narendra Modi-led government in New Delhi and the freshly-minted Pakistani resolve to take terror groups head-on open a small window of opportunity to address them in right earnest.
That was the major takeaway from the day-long discussions that a group of Indian academics, politicians, retired ambassadors and journalists recently held with their Pakistani counterparts (who also included two erstwhile chiefs of the notorious ISI). Organised by the Regional Peace Institute, a think tank launched a year ago by Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri, a former foreign minister, with partial funding from the Hanns Seidel Foundation of Germany, the objective of the bilateral dialogue was to reduce the trust deficit between the two neighbours.
Easier said than done. The concerns on the Pakistani side related to the mushroom growth of terrorism and religious extremism in the country, the dire straits of its economy and the aftermath of the withdrawal of Nato forces from Afghanistan — factors, as they candidly acknowledged, pose a lethal threat to their state and society. All that the Indians wanted to know is: who calls the shots in Pakistan and to what end?
Ever since he won the last general elections with a handsome majority, Nawaz Sharif has tried time and again to assert the civilian government’s authority over the powerful military. But he has had to buckle in to the military’s pressure on several issues: closure of Geo, a private TV channel, for accusing the ISI of trying to kill its star anchor Hamid Mir; the trial of Pervez Musharraf on charges of treason; how to deal with the Pakistani Taliban etc.
On this last score, the prime minister favoured talks with them while the army wanted to bomb their hideouts in North Waziristan. But after the attacks on Karachi airport, the political class fell in line. Will the civilian and military establishments now also agree to crack down on terror groups that sow mayhem in India and Afghanistan? Our Pakistani interlocutors were coy on this subject just as they were coy on why the Mumbai terror attacks trial continues to drag on and how Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, amir of the Jamaat-ud-Dawa, is able to move around freely to spew his venom against India.
The same interlocutors, however, repeatedly stressed that sound relations with India are crucial to tackle their domestic problems. They still harbour reservations about Modi given the communal violence that erupted in Gujarat under his watch. But they also gave the distinct impression that to deal with a ‘communal’ BJP-led government in Delhi might be tougher but also more productive than to deal with a ‘secular’ Congress-led government since the former’s rise to power vindicates, in their eyes, the two-nation theory!
The Pakistanis expect Modi to simultaneously address all contentious issues — from trade, development and a liberalised visa regime to Siachen, Sir Creek, Wullar barrage and, not least, J&K — without preconditions such as a clamp down on terror groups and an end to firing across the LoC. But that is precisely what India demands on the strength of the assurances given by the Pakistanis, officially and through back-channel parleys, to successive governments in New Delhi over the past 15 years.
So, despite the personal rapport that Sharif and Modi were able to strike during their very first meeting after the latter’s oath-taking ceremony, and the warm letters they subsequently exchanged, a great deal of ground needs to be covered. If Pakistan’s movers and shakers genuinely seek to crush terrorists of every stripe — a long haul by any reckoning — New Delhi should be more than willing to walk the extra mile. Meanwhile, both governments must ensure that jingoists in their countries, especially in the media, don’t derail their sustained engagement.

Indo-Pak Bonhomie: Fear and Hope

Beneath the spontaneous bonhomie between Indians and Pakistanis lurk dark suspicions and fears. They always have. But the advent of a stable Narendra Modi-led government in New Delhi and the freshly-minted Pakistani resolve to take terror groups head-on open a small window of opportunity to address them in right earnest.
That was the major takeaway from the day-long discussions that a group of Indian academics, politicians, retired ambassadors and journalists recently held with their Pakistani counterparts (who also included two erstwhile chiefs of the notorious ISI). Organised by the Regional Peace Institute, a think tank launched a year ago by Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri, a former foreign minister, with partial funding from the Hanns Seidel Foundation of Germany, the objective of the bilateral dialogue was to reduce the trust deficit between the two neighbours.
Easier said than done. The concerns on the Pakistani side related to the mushroom growth of terrorism and religious extremism in the country, the dire straits of its economy and the aftermath of the withdrawal of Nato forces from Afghanistan — factors, as they candidly acknowledged, pose a lethal threat to their state and society. All that the Indians wanted to know is: who calls the shots in Pakistan and to what end?
Ever since he won the last general elections with a handsome majority, Nawaz Sharif has tried time and again to assert the civilian government’s authority over the powerful military. But he has had to buckle in to the military’s pressure on several issues: closure of Geo, a private TV channel, for accusing the ISI of trying to kill its star anchor Hamid Mir; the trial of Pervez Musharraf on charges of treason; how to deal with the Pakistani Taliban etc.
On this last score, the prime minister favoured talks with them while the army wanted to bomb their hideouts in North Waziristan. But after the attacks on Karachi airport, the political class fell in line. Will the civilian and military establishments now also agree to crack down on terror groups that sow mayhem in India and Afghanistan? Our Pakistani interlocutors were coy on this subject just as they were coy on why the Mumbai terror attacks trial continues to drag on and how Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, amir of the Jamaat-ud-Dawa, is able to move around freely to spew his venom against India.
The same interlocutors, however, repeatedly stressed that sound relations with India are crucial to tackle their domestic problems. They still harbour reservations about Modi given the communal violence that erupted in Gujarat under his watch. But they also gave the distinct impression that to deal with a ‘communal’ BJP-led government in Delhi might be tougher but also more productive than to deal with a ‘secular’ Congress-led government since the former’s rise to power vindicates, in their eyes, the two-nation theory!
The Pakistanis expect Modi to simultaneously address all contentious issues — from trade, development and a liberalised visa regime to Siachen, Sir Creek, Wullar barrage and, not least, J&K — without preconditions such as a clamp down on terror groups and an end to firing across the LoC. But that is precisely what India demands on the strength of the assurances given by the Pakistanis, officially and through back-channel parleys, to successive governments in New Delhi over the past 15 years.
So, despite the personal rapport that Sharif and Modi were able to strike during their very first meeting after the latter’s oath-taking ceremony, and the warm letters they subsequently exchanged, a great deal of ground needs to be covered. If Pakistan’s movers and shakers genuinely seek to crush terrorists of every stripe — a long haul by any reckoning — New Delhi should be more than willing to walk the extra mile. Meanwhile, both governments must ensure that jingoists in their countries, especially in the media, don’t derail their sustained engagement.

Reason and Humor in Police-Lit

I recently saw a picture of a police officer grabbing a Delhi University student’s throat as firmly as upper-respiratory tract infection. The student was among a group protesting against some proposal of the university, and the long arm of the law was attempting — I suppose — to modulate the voice of disapproval so that it remained within the acceptable range of civil order.
The squeeze to regulate the voice box made my mind reflexively cry out the words of Christopher Hitchens. He suggests that human voice is a triumphant note in the song of evolution. Even as esophageal cancer was shoveling silence on him, he wrote this: “… I feel that there must be a deep relationship [of vocal cord] with the word ‘chord’: the resonant vibration that can stir memory, produce music, evoke love, bring tears, move crowds to pity and mobs to passion.”
This sentence figures in the last work of Hitchens, “Mortality”, which is chemotherapy for society’s malignancy of ordinary thought. Anyway, he goes on to say: “We may not be, as we used to boast, the only animals capable of speech. But we are the only ones who can deploy vocal communication for sheer pleasure and recreation, combining it with our two other boasts of reason and humour to produce higher syntheses.”
Reason and humour. This declaration, seen alongside the public-necking image, made me wonder if cops can ever show both. So I pulled out two volumes from the modest rubble of my book collection — made up mostly of Hitchens; two of Ivan Turgenev’s small masterworks (“Fathers and Sons” and “First Love”); and a seldom disturbed mass of Marcel Proust’s “Remembrance of Things Past”.
The first book I opened to run the reason-and-humour scan was S A Huda’s “Inside Police”. In this 2004 work, Huda — a DG-rank IPS officer of the Andhra Pradesh cadre — presents an accessible and clear-headed account on the ways in which the force can be made better. For example, he cites a 1993 study to establish that chronic problems remain untreated: lack of necessary reception at police stations, indifference of personnel to victims, and difficulties in filing reports.
Then the crucial Hitchens parameter: is the sensible tempered with the funny to create a higher synthesis in the book? Yes, and here is one example. It turns out that VIP security is the field in which absurdity is fertilized by serious intent.
“The son of a VVIP was in a prestigious school at the Jubilee Hills locality of Hyderabad some time back,” writes Huda. “The information from fellow students was that two security men used to run along with him on the pitch when the protected person used to take runs in cricket. This was carrying VIP security to ludicrous extreme.”
Just an obiter dictum: if M S Dhoni’s boys were allowed to use commandoes as runners for security reasons, our scores might be a tad augmented.
Huda’s story acquires literary timbre in Salman Rushdie’s memoirs, “Joseph Anton”. In his fatwa years, Rushide travels to New Jersey to find on the airport tarmac a nine-car motorcade and an unfalteringly solemn Lieutenant Bob Kennedy, the man in charge of his security.
At one stage, the bemused Rushdie (self-codenamed Joseph Anton) says: “Lieutenant Bob, this is a lot. The nine vehicles, the motorbikes, the sirens, the flashing lights, all of these officers. Wouldn’t it actually be safer just to drive through backstreets in a used Buick?” Rushdie records Lieutenant Bob’s response: “He looked with the pitying look people reserve for the chronically stupid or insane. ‘No, sir, it would not’, he replied.”
The second book I was able to test against the Hitchens aphorism was ‘The Other Side of Policing’ by Maxwell Pereira, the former joint commissioner of police in Delhi. His engaging recollection of service years covers sensitive periods in Indian history like the 1984 riots. However, he like Huda, grounds gravitas in the marvellous futilities of life in the police force.
For instance, Pereira describes how Sikkim, of which he becomes the first superintendent of police, launches a massive mission to find the Yeti. All personnel are enjoined to send periodic situation reports on the wireless. Usually, the reports are: “Searched everywhere! Himalayan Yeti not found.”
This desperate vigilance, soon enough, programmes the men in an unexpected manner. “Around this period, the organizers of the Himalayan Car Rally decided to route the rally to cover India’s new state,” Pereira writes. Cops are now told to recce the rally path to ensure it is clear of rocks and is in no danger of landslides. One day Pereira gets a message from an “old havaldar” — “Searched everywhere, Himalayan Car Rally not found.”
Tirukkural, a set of luminous Tamil maxims on life, love, and governance — in fact, on all human notions — says in the 562nd couplet: “Lift the rod firmly but strike very gently, it ensures long stay of prosperity”. The Kural was composed between 2nd century BCE and 5th century CE. It still speaks to us today, because it anticipated the Hitchens formulation of reason and humour together making an irrefutable argument. So, folks in the force, try a joke before the choke — such experiences make great memoirs too!

The New EU President May Make Britain Quit EU

The appointment of Jean Claude Juncker may be a catalytic agent and hasten the process of EU-Britain divorce. “I am for secret, dark debates,” former Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker said a few years ago. This is a man who not only has been caught lying and admitted to lying, but also has actually said that in a position of leadership, “when the going gets tough, you have to lie.”“Monetary policy is a serious issue,” he said. “We should discuss this in secret.” He continued: “I’m ready to be insulted as being insufficiently democratic, but I want to be serious.”
When the people of France and the Netherlands voted on whether or not to accept the European Constitution, Juncker made clear he didn’t care what they thought. “If it’s a yes, we will say ‘On we go,’ and if it’s a no, we will say ‘We continue,’” he said. This is a man who won’t let anything—truth, democracy or principles, for example—get in the way of his dream of a federalized Europe.
This is the man who is about to become president of the European Commission—one of several heads of the European Union—after winning the approval of the vast majority of EU leaders on June 27. His rise to power has caused a bitter and emotional argument between Britain and the rest of the European Union, and has pushed Britain closer than ever to quitting.
Jean-Claude Juncker is despised in Britain; he stands for everything Britain hates about the EU. Every major political party in Britain opposes his candidacy. Even supporters of Britain’s membership in the EU now question whether they belong in this union. Times columnist and former M.P. Matthew Parris wrote that “Britain is heading for the exit. Something seriously impressive has to be achieved to change our course.” “If people like me who have wanted nothing to do with our homegrown anti-EU crazies have come close to despair over the Juncker episode—close to that ‘Oh sod it, we’re out of here’ moment—then there are potentially millions more,” he wrote.
Telegraph columnist Iain Martin concluded that if Juncker was chosen, it “will be a historic disaster on a grand scale which makes Britain’s exit from the European Union very likely. And I speak as someone who has been for reform and staying in the EU if possible.” His colleague Tim Stanley wrote much the same thing: “If Jean-Claude Juncker is chosen to be the next president of the commission, Britain will eventually have to leave the European Union.” Once a relationship reaches such an impasse, it becomes obvious that it is basically over. These two countries are already at the separate bedrooms stage; moving out of the shared home altogether cannot be far behind. It’s not just Telegraph writers sounding the warning. Left Foot Forward, one of Britain’s most prominent left-wing blogs, wrote, “Britain is … much more likely to leave the EU in the next Parliament with Juncker as president of the Commission.”
Those who are more enthusiastic for a British EU exit are even rejoicing over the prospect of Juncker’s victory. The Telegraph’s chief political commentator, Peter Oborne, wrote: “The president we Euroskeptics need is someone with no international reputation and zero credibility. An inert, incompetent and useless figure capable of turning the EU into a laughingstock around the world .… The president we want is Juncker!” Why? A Juncker presidency could be the quickest way of turning Britain against the EU.
The real importance of this comes not necessarily from Juncker himself, but as a test of how easily Britain can get its voice heard in Europe. Prime Minister David Cameron promised to hold a referendum on Britain’s EU membership in 2017. He promised to negotiate a new relationship with Brussels before this date. The nation would vote on whether to leave the EU or to accept the new renegotiated membership.
Cameron did everything he could to block Juncker. He failed. So what kind of renegotiation deal can he get? Now, concessions are extremely unlikely.
The terms of this renegotiated membership are crucial. The most recent poll shows that if a referendum was held today, 48 percent of Brits would vote to quit, while 37 percent would vote to stay. But if Britain receives favorable terms in a new negotiation, the majority would flip: 42 percent say they would choose to stay, and 36 percent would choose to go.
Most of the polls over the last year or so have given the same message. A meaningful negotiation could be the only thing that will keep Britain in. Already it looks like that’s not going to happen. Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan says that “David Cameron has given up even asking.” “Seventeen months ago, in his Bloomberg speech, he was still holding out the prospect of significant unilateral repatriations of power,” Hannan continued. “Now all that has been dropped, and he has produced a list of seven paltry changes, few of which would require an intergovernmental conference, and all of which have been enthusiastically endorsed by Nick Clegg and Ken Clarke on grounds that they won’t change anything.”
Europe also shows little sign of giving any ground to Britain. One European commissioner reportedly said, “We don’t include the UK in our plans anymore. We assume you’re leaving the EU.” In order to substantially renegotiate its relationship with the EU, Britain would need the approval of every EU nation—a tall order. In a private conversation this spring, Poland’s then finance minister, Jacek Rostowski, bluntly dismissed Britain’s chances of getting any concessions, according to a transcript leaked by Polish magazine Wprost on June 23. Talking to Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski this spring, Rostowski allegedly said, “For the Polish government to agree [to some kind of renegotiation], someone will have to give us some mountain of gold.” “The Brits won’t give it to us, and the Germans, in order to keep the Brits on board, won’t give it to us either in all likelihood. So the answer will be: [Get lost],” he said, in a slightly sanitized version of his remarks. This conversation took place even before the row over Juncker. That argument has turned Britain further against the EU, but it is also turning the EU against Britain.
The Juncker row has become yet another case of Britain standing alone against all of Europe. Initially it seemed that Britain had plenty of allies in the anti-Juncker campaign. By the end, only Hungary stood with the UK.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel apparently even promised to support Cameron and oppose Juncker. “Don’t worry about the spitzenkandidaten thing, David, I’ll take care of it,” Merkel reportedly said last year—referring to the process that has resulted in Juncker’s appointment. “It’s under control.” It wasn’t. Instead, Chancellor Merkel changed her mind, and then proceeded to strip away Britain’s allies.
Cameron’s decision to continue standing alone has not won him any friends in Europe. German public opinion turned especially hostile. “Britain is important to be sure,” wrote German newsmagazine Spiegel in an editorial on June 2. “But the choice between a more democratic EU and Britain’s continued membership is clear.” Somehow it concluded that appointing a man 92 percent of EU citizens have never heard of as EU president is democratic. “Europe must choose democracy,” it concluded. Handelsblatt wrote, “Whoever listens to the Brits in the debate about the personnel for Europe’s top posts is allowing the notorious spoilsport to take charge of the game.”
Both left- and right-wing German politicians have spoken out. “It would be a farce if Europe were blackmailed by someone who does not understand Europe and who campaigns against Europe in order to improve his national profile,” said the general secretary of the left-wing Social Democratic Party. Meanwhile a senior M.P. from the right-wing Christian Social Union said, “We will not be blackmailed by David Cameron. Juncker had a majority and if the British want to walk alone and get out of the EU, well … be my guest.”
In recent days, the German press has backpedaled somewhat in its outbursts toward Britain—perhaps because it’s realizing just who it’s getting. But there’s no denying the row has caused bad feelings on both sides. The events of the last few weeks prove that Europe will not make any significant concessions to Britain. This puts Britain on a direct course out of the EU. Britain has always been on the fringes of Europe, and not just geographically. It never really embraced the European project.
It is obvious Britain will not be part of any kind of “core Europe” that will emerge from the EU. While many in the eurozone talk about drawing closer together, no one is suggesting that Britain will be part of that. Today, that 10-nation superpower is closer than ever to appearing on the world scene. At the same time, it is more obvious than ever that Britain will not be part of that power.

Russian Navy to Receive 50 New Vessels by End of 2014

Russia’s navy is slated to receive more than 50 new vessels before the end of the year.Among the new vessels is a Project 636 diesel-electric ultra quiet submarine that joined the Black Sea Fleet on June 26, 2013, and a new-generation Project 12700 mine countermeasures ship that will launch on June 27. The admiral said that by the end of the year, the navy will receive five more Project 636 submarines, four Raptor patrol boats and over 40 other combat and logistic vessels.
This information
come amidst a time of increasing aggression by Vladimir Putin’s Russia. Although Moscow enjoys trumpeting news of its expanding military might and its increasing defense spending, savvy Kremlin watchers say that the true breadth of Moscow’s military spending is actually far greater than what the Russians reveal.
“[T]he budget put forth by the Duma’s defense committee cannot accurately reflect either the real cost of Russia’s growing expenditures on nuclear and conventional forces or the real size of deficits being run up to finance increased military spending,” Langley’s Intelligence Group wrote after Russia announced its defense budget last year.
Inaccurate defense spending data from Moscow is nothing new. The true military budget of the Soviet Union during the Cold War was a state secret, and so is Russia’s military budget today. The difference is that today’s leaders of America believe the Duma’s figures, and make foreign policy based on them.
Those who believe the Duma’s propaganda believe Russia only spends about one 10th of what the United States is shelling out for defense, so they call American spending grossly excessive and work to reduce it. Langley Intelligence addressed this, saying the Duma figures are “transparently false to the point of absurdity, since the Russian armed forces outnumber those of the United States in every category and are embarked on ambitious modernization programs, while the U.S. military is cutting its budget.”
Despite security agreements with Ukraine, U.S. policymakers have shown themselves unwilling to take a meaningful stand against Russian expansionism. But the situation in Europe is different. A growing number of European leaders are concerned about Russia’s rise, and see the need to prepare to counter it.

Defence Modernisation in India: A Long Road Ahead

On September 15, 2013 an Agni V ICBM (Intercontinental Ballistic Missile) took off from the Wheeler Island in Odisha. The missile travelled almost 5000 kilometres towards the South before splashing down into the Indian Ocean near Australia. The launch took place with copybook precision and put India in the league of countries that had mastered the crucial ICBM capability. The missile will undergo a few more tests before being inducted into the Indian armed forces. The second test of Agni V led to a new debate in American and Chinese strategic circles about India’s growing ICBM capability. The Agni V test came as a morale booster for Indians at a time when Pakistani troops have been repeatedly violating the ceasefire along the LoC in Jammu and Kashmir and the adventurist Chinese troops have been making frequent intrusions into the Indian territory in Ladakh.
The political innings of UPA-2 has now ended. But when one looks back at former prime minister Dr Manmohan Singh’s legacy, one may easily find that he has been a dove throughout his entire political career. On July 9, 2006 the Agni III IRBM (Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile) was tested by the UPA-1 regime at a time when the global media’s attention was focussed on North Korea’s “provocative” missile tests. The failed maiden test of Agni III was followed by successive successful tests of the same missile. The Agni III’s legacy was taken forward by the Agni IV and the Agni V missiles. After the maiden test flight of Agni V on April 19, 2012, a section of the Chinese media speculated that the real range of Agni V is 8000 kilometres and that the Indian government had deliberately downplayed the vehicle’s range under Western pressure. The Indian government again played dove by reiterating that the missile’s range is around 5000 kilometres.
At a time when the ambitious IGMDP (Integrated Guided Missile Development Program) is yielding significant results, the morale of our countrymen is being degraded by repeated incursions by Chinese troops in the Chumar area of Ladakh. While China has built a well connected network of highways and railways over the last three decades, the erstwhille UPA-2 government has just sanctioned the raising of a dedicated mountain strike corps and the operationalisation of a few Advanced Landing Grounds (ALGs) in Leh, Ladakh and the Northeast in recent years. The Chinese have reportedly stationed their air defence units and mobile ballistic missile launchers and have also set up their air bases (with night landing capabilities) along with forward operating bases in the entire Tibetan plateau which pose a direct threat to Indian forces positioned near the LAC (Line of Actual Control).
On the Indian side there is a lack of motorable roads which will definitely hamper our capability to deploy mechanised infantry units, 135 mm and 155 mm self propelled artillery systems and truck mounted cruise missile batteries during a possible future war with the Communist giant. When one looks back at the resources available with the Indian armed forces stationed in the area, one may find that the country lacks effective air defence systems on the lines of Russian-made S 300 systems deployed by China. The nation`s military capabilities have also been hampered due to the lack of laser guided, satellite guided and radar guided artillery shells. The absence of 155 mm howitzers also cripples the Indian Army’s much required firepower.
The last time when the country witnessed the use of precision guided munition was during the Kargil War when the Indian Army fired Russian made Krasnopol laser guided artillery shells to cleanse the Kargil heights of Pakistani intruders. The indigenous 155 mm howitzer (India Field Gun) project is yet to see the light of the day whereas the LCA (Light Combat Aircraft) – Tejas is also yet to make its maiden flight with the indigenous turbofan (Kaveri) installed on it. Again, the government is yet to float a global tender for acquiring 100,000 automatic assault rifles for the Indian Army.
On the other hand when one looks at the dilapidated condition of the Indian Navy, one finds that the design of the proposed second indigenous aircraft carrier hasn’t yet been finalised while the navy lacks a credible underwater based second strike capability. This at a time when a huge fleet of Chinese nuclear submarines poses a direct threat to our military and civilian ports in the event of an armed confrontation.
Recent reports highlighted the fact that the Indian Army and special operations troops urgently require helmet mounted night vision goggles, Level 5 bullet proof Kevlar vests, thermal imagers, satellite navigation equipments (SatNavs) and hand held laser designators (for guiding laser guided artillery shells to targets). Former defence minister AK Antony had been very reluctant to meet and modernise the basic requirements of our armed forces. Rather than looking into this matter with a serious note of concern, he only managed to blacklist a number of foreign OEMs (Original Equipmnent Manufacturers) which sounds quite strange. It looks like the defence minister may have been more concerned about saving his own image as an honest politician rather than taking bold decisions in national interest. A decade of inaction by the erstwhille UPA government has left the armed forces in a very sorry state.
Though the possibility of a new India-China military confrontation is slim, India should develop the technological capability to fight with a hostile and mighty army in the Northeast in the very uncertain near future. In the eventuality of a full blown assault by our Communist neighbour, we will require the capability to deter the enemy from overrunning our Forward Operating Bases (FOBs) at the LAC. The outdated Russian made Igla MANPADS (Man Portable Air Defence Systems), automatic assault rifles/sub machine guns (SMGs) with telescopic vision and the lack of shoulder mounted anti tank guided missiles with the Indian Army will badly hamper our capability to cause significant damage to intruding hostile forces in the Northeast. One has to take note of the ground reality that the country also lacks hypersonic Theatre Ranged Ballistic Missiles (TBMs) on the lines of the Russian `Iskander` systems to neutralise Chinese TEL BMD (Ballistic Missile Defence) and AAD (Advanced Air Defence) batteries installed in Tibet. The Indo-Russian BrahMos 2 hypersonic cruise missile project is yet to see the light of the day.
When one looks at the country`s strategic capability to intercept hostile spy satellites, one may find that we lack an effective surface launched/air launched capability to shoot down enemy satellites in the low earth/medium earth orbit. Despite the fact that the country aspires to be a 21st century power, India is yet to demonstate and deploy an effective ASAT (Anti-Satellite weapon) capability. In the eventuality of a nuclear/thermonuclear exchange with China, the first six hours of the war will be very crucial as the country will need to neutralise the enemy`s radar units, air defence batteries, artillery positions, mechanised columns, TELs (Transporter Erector Launchers) and air bases with cross border surgical strikes and simultaneously blind the enemy`s reconnaissance satellite coverage over the Indian peninsula. This must be done with copybook precision during the first six hours of the war to effectively degrade and destroy (if not obliterate) the Communist rhetoric in Beijing.
Taking into consideration India`s superpower ambitions, one must emphasise that the country needs to increase its ICBMs` ranges and potentially develop a global strike capability. This will be possible if the newly elected government in New Delhi takes bold decision of sanctioning the long pending Agni-VI and Surya ICBM projects. At a time when defence analysts are talking about such futuristic projects, a lot of ambiguity remains about India`s thermonuclear deterrence capability. Recent reports quoting DRDO official K Santhanam suggest that India is yet to weaponise the 200 kiloton theromonuclear design detonated in Pokhran in 1998 and that the Shakti 1 test was a fizzle. If the need arises the country should opt for one more round of nuclear test detonations (Pokhran 3) and master the Hydrogen bomb (thermonuclear device) technology in the next few years before effectively miniaturising and weaponising the design to fit atop Agni V, Agni VI and Surya missiles. On the mere basis of rationalism, the country should confidently sign and endorse the CTBT (Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty) after successfully concluding Pokhran 3.
At a time when the global geopolitical equations are changing at a fast pace, the country needs to deter all potentially hostile nations from eating into its diplomatic weight either by military or by economic means. There is a clear need for India to develop a global strike ICBM capability. India needs to develop the capability to hit Western and American cities if a NATO-Kosovo/Serbia like flare up ever takes place over the Indian peninsula. On the other hand, the Indian Air Force urgently needs to raise squadrons of radar-evading fifth generation fighter jets to effectively deliver strikes on hostile bases in the region, while a number of Carrier Battle Groups (CBGs) are required to support it.
At a time when the country has witnessed a historic political transformation and it aspires to be a superpower, the new government in New Delhi must go that extra mile in rapidly modernising the nation`s military infrastructure on a massive scale. Recently, the incumbent NDA-2 government proposed to raise the FDI cap in defence hardware manufacturing to 100% which is a step in the right direction.
Lastly, India must not forget that it happens to be bordered by an Islamic terrorist sponsoring state in the West and a communist giant in the Northeast. It is important for India to secure the land and sea borders in all fronts so that Indians can peacefully sleep in their bedrooms with a sense of fulfilment. A bold step in the right direction by the new Narendra Modi government at the Centre will provide the much needed impetus to the ambitious defence modernisation program of the nation. The buck has now been passed to the NDA-2 government.

 

Save Your Tears Bamiyan Statues – Here We come: ISIS, iconoclasm and Iraq

The ISIS advance is a specter that haunts Sunnis and other minorities. It is a new face of fundamentalism that has brought to fore the capacity of human beings to be intolerant, and has also revealed the weak kneed policy of the West that has often kneeled before terror and injustice, till a leader of vision emerges.
One of the major threats made by the ‘Islamic State for Iraq and Shaam’ or ISIS has been that they will destroy the shrines of Imam Ali in Najaf, the shrines of his two sons in Karbala as well as other shrines important to many Sunnis not to mention Churches and other places of religious significance. In a press release, Abu Muhammad al-Adnani recently stated that his group intends to cleanse the ‘filth-ridden’ cities of Najaf and Karbala. Groups like ISIS have long advocated the destruction of tombs and shrines as they believe that such places become objects of worship and thus go against their idea of monotheism. This is part of the reason that they feel such deep antipathy towards Shias, Sunnis and especially certain Sufi Sunnis, though for the time being there seems to be an understanding between ISIS and certain Naqshbandi groups.
The visceral hatred towards the remembrance of the dead or a commemoration of their final resting place is not a new phenomenon in Islamic history. Between the 7th and 8th centuries a series of Abbasid Caliphs including Al-Mansur, Haroun ar-Rashid, Al-Mutawakkil and others destroyed the shrine for theological as well as political reasons. In the 1801, Saudi Wahabi’s sacked the shrine of Imam Hussain in Karbala in keeping with the pledge sworn in 1744 between Mohammad ibn Saud and Mohammad ibn Abdul Wahhab, the ideological progenitor of the Wahabi movement. The Wahabis had already started demolishing various shrines and tombs in the Hijaz before this time with a view to ‘cleanse’ Islam of superstitions and polytheism and since then many historical and religious sites have been demolished, often in the name of development. In the 20th century Saddam Hussain’s army attacked the shrines of both Najaf and Karbala and the treasuries, including priceless historical artifacts and manuscripts, were looted.
In a bid to increase awareness of the historical significance of the shrines of Karbala, an annual festival — Rabee ash-Shahadah — is sponsored by the administrations of the two shrines. This year delegates from 49 countries and of various religious affiliations, including prominent Shia and Sunni scholars, were invited and apart from lectures, visits were organized to various important sites. This included a trip to the museum in Imam Hussain’s shrine where Shawqi al-Musawi, the curator, gave us a tour. Apart from the various historical artifacts, two new exhibits caught my eye in particular. As it happened both had been placed right near the entrance of the museum. One was a list of the names of various people, including the ones mentioned above, who had at various times sacked the shrine and looted its treasury and also a list of the people who stole various belongings of the Imam after the battle of Karbala. The names and dates were written in Arabic, while an orangish red glow emanated from depictions of logs ‘burning’ at the bottom of the panel. Next to this was a LCD screen with a photo slideshow of the havoc that was wrecked on the shrine by Saddam Hussain. These two exhibits, jarring because of their content as well as the artificial light, give some insight into the reasons why the threat to their holy places has evoked so much anger amongst the Shi‘a.
Shawqi al-Musawi’s art also illustrated the huge toll that sectarian violence has taken on all Iraqis. An educated and soft-spoken man as well as a prolific artist, Musawi’s most recent work is a poignant reminder of the brutal civil war in Iraq in 2006 when headless bodies were being found all over Iraq. The powerful yet simple modernist canvases, some painted over multiple panels, depict decapitated heads. Many were representations of single heads and others showed piles of heads staring out at the viewer, forcing one to confront the reality of the brutal killings in a way that is not possible when reading statistics of the violence in a newspaper. At times Musawi also engages with symbols from Iraq’s ancient past but all of his newer work is in sharp contrast with his earlier paintings, which are lighter and calmer.
Meeting Musawi reminded me of many Sunni Iraqi artists whom I had met in Damascus a few years ago and who had also fled the violent insurgency raging in their homeland. Jassim Mohammad from Mosul was one such artist whose work I saw at an UN sponsored exhibition. Jassim later made a painting for me with a saying from the 6th Imam, Jafar as-Sadiq: ‘the most beloved of my brothers is he who points out my shortcomings.’ It seems however, that groups like ISIS, far from even realising their shortcomings, think that they are infallible: a concept which they accuse the Shi‘a and certain Sunni groups of using to elevate the position of the Prophet and his descendants.
In Syria, ISIS and its affiliates have already destroyed the shrines of Owais al-Qarani and Ammar ibn Yassir, companions of the Prophet, apart from many other religious sites. The recent bombings of various shrines in Mali were carried out by groups that espouse a similar ideology and most recently, a Dominican Church and the tomb of ‘Izz al-Din al-Athir, a 13th century historian were destroyed in Mosul. Now there are wide spread fears that the tomb of the Prophet Yunus or Jonah in Mosul will also be destroyed. Today as various powers contemplate how to redress the crisis in Mosul which is in the Nineveh province, it is worthwhile to recall that Jonah, in the face of overwhelming difficulty and fear, initially ran away from God’s injunction that he preach to the people of Nineveh, for ‘a great wickedness’ had arisen amongst them and only returned later to show them the error of their ways. Do not cry Statues of Bamiyan, we are coming to keep you company, cry these doomed shrines.

The Ahmadiyya Annual Jalsa- A Once in Lifetime Experience

It is an experience that is ineluctable, inexplicable and indicative of deep faith, and reverence. It was the 38th Annual Jalsa of the Ahmadiyya Community – an event that had over 35000 participants and despite the huge masses of the people, everything was so neat and tidy, so disciplined that it could rival the German precision in every detail. The volunteers at every place, the solemn dignity and most of all the strict adherence to the time was something that is rare, especially in the events organized by people of South Asian descent. The moment I entered the hall and was was escorted to my seat by a n extremely pleasant young man, I was overawed by the dulcet tone of the the reading from Quran. I am an avowed agnostic, but the the ambience of piety and overwhelming prevalence of love was an awe inspiring aspect of the ambience.
Why this Jalsa? Jalsa implies celebration, and also a meet. What better can be there to express this celebration of an community that has been persecuted in different Islamic Countries, despite being the purest followers of Islam? The creed of this community spread across the globe is “Love for all, hatred for none”; and they live upto it. The participation of people of all religions and creeds, the active eulogy by the political leaders of all hues bears a testimony to the Ahmadiyya espousal of peace, fraternal love and spread of human and humane feelings to a degree of passion.
The presentations were so scholarly, and devoid of all cant, or hypocrisy that often marks most of the religious events.
The Ahmadiyya
s hold many beliefs far outside mainstream Islam, including the idea that the Messiah has arrived. They’re also convinced Jesus died in Kashmir, in the Himalayas. Their opponents observe that the Ahmadiyyas have become known as assertive proselytizers and that the Ahmadiyya are not shy about seeking converts in Canada, mainly by connecting with politicians and offering hundreds of public talks and “interfaith” forums each year.Through such well-publicized open forums on themes such as suffering, goodness or human rights, the Ahmadiyyas often attract Canadian newcomers unfamiliar with the different schools of Islam. And pray what what is wrong with t.
As Maulana Mubarak Ahmad Nazir in a heartfelt speech observed Islam had been hijacked by forces that are un Islamic, as the word Islam means peace. Referring to the recent murder of a young dedicated cardiologist in Pakistan, he categorically said that the revenge for this crime would be creation of hundreds of such doctors. ” Love does not beget hatred; peace does not beget war”. he observed. I was moved, as he was not just making statements, but one could see the agonized outpourings of the soul of this fair skinned white robed man, whose whole being radiated love and serenity. If such is a disciple of the Messiah- how charismatic would be the master. But what man has made of man; these peace loving people are the butt of tyrannical oppression of petty, narrow minded fanatics. He called for Jihad – but jihad for liberation of soul and upliftment of man.
A big difference between an Ahmadiyya and a non-Ahmadiyya Is that the Ahmadiyya beliefs in striving and struggling for the dissemination of the Light of Islam; which is described in the Quran as Jihadan Kabira, the highest/greatest Jihad, carrying the message of Islam to the four corners of the world, at great personal sacrifice in terms of money and worldly prospects. The non-Ahmadiyya, unfortunately, is still very apathetic to this great duty enjoined by the Quran, which divides Muslims into two categories the Mujahidin and Qaideen, i.e., those struggling and suffering for the establishment of Truth and those who sit back doing nothing. The first group is said to have a higher status with God: “Those who do Jihad with their wealth and lives carry with God a status higher than those sitting back.” (The Holy Quran: 4:95).
The Ahmadiyya Muslim is a veritable Mujahid, the non-Ahmadi a Qa’id. Both are Muslims, but with a big difference. Islam is a call to striving and struggling for the establishment of God’s sovereignty in human heart. Mere acceptance and profession is not enough. The Quran has a poor word for those who say they believe that Islam is the only Light that can save mankind, but, raise not a little finger to make that Light known to the world. They are described as “idlers.”
There are about 50,000 Ahmadiyyas in Canada. Many of them are refugees from Pakistan. Ahmadiyya Muslims represent about one per cent of all the world’s Muslims; most live in South Asia and Africa.
Muslims generally believe that Muhammad is the greatest and the last of the prophets the Ahmadi, although accepting Muhammad as the greatest prophet, teach that there can be other, albeit lesser, prophets. Rejecting the rhetoric of violence declared by militant Islam the Ahmadi also teach that true jihad is “to struggle” for righteousness, to fight with the pen in rational debate, rather than fight with the sword or Kalashnikov.
As with all other Muslims, Ahmadiyya Muslims believe in the ‘Five Pillars of Islam’, and the ‘Six Articles of Faith’. They follow the same holy scripture (The Holy Qur’an), and accept that Islam is the final and perfect religion for mankind. They also believe in Prophet Muhammad as Khataman Nabi- yyeen (the ‘Seal of the Prophets’) as he was the one who was the best model for mankind who brought God’s final and perfect message for mankind.
Ahmadiyya Muslims also follow the Islamic sources of guidance and jurisprudence– which is sourced from three main authorities: The Holy Qur’an; The Sunnah (practice of the Holy Prophet Muhammad; and The Hadith (sayings of the Holy Prophet Muhammad) as given in the authentic books of Hadith such as Sahih Al Bukhari, Sahih Al Muslim, Sunan Abu Daud,Tirmidhi, Ibne Maja and Nisai (Ahmadi Muslims also have regard for the interpretation of Islamic Laws (shariah) provided by the classical Islamic scholars. They generally follow the Hanafi school of thought, but all such matters are considered in light of the guidance provided by the Promised Messiahs). Despite this abundance of guidance Muslims, like followers of all religions before them, were destined to drift away from the true teachings of Islam. This decay was to be followed by the revival of Islam through the messiah of the latter days as prophesied by the Holy Prophet Muhammad. So whilst all Muslims expect a messiah to appear it is only the question of the identity and acceptance of the messiah that distinguishes Ahmadiyya Muslims from all other Muslims.
In some Hadith the messiah is referred to as ‘Jesus son of Mary’ and in others he is referred to as ‘Al-Mahdi’.
. It is interesting to note that there are also similar such prophecies in other religions that tell of a messiah who was to appear in the ‘latter days’; for example, Christians are awaiting the second advent of Jesus.
Ahmadiyya Muslims believe that the messiah who was promised has come and that he was a single person who fulfilled all the prophecies relating to such a messiah not just in Islam but also in all religions. This was to be a unifying factor for all humanity and a means of uniting people under Islam, as it is the perfect religion for man
.
This Jalsa opened a window on the thoughts that pervade the universe of this sect of Islam- the real Islam. As an unforgettable experience, it shall remain etched in the memory of the attendees; as learning experience, it shall stand out as an outstanding celebration of love, upliftment, mercy and forgiveness

 

India & Iraq Crisis

India is a mute spectator to the Iraq crisis , and apart from making efforts to rescue its citizens, India seems to be following insensitive American political leaders. I have found them shallow and despite their high faulting talk practically ignoromous, insensitive, clinically sterile from all human emotions and oblivious of history or cultural nuances. I have found so during my interaction and the 2016 US presidential hopeful is no exception. The only time I met Hillary Clinton was at a small luncheon hosted by Natwar Singh, then India’s External Affairs minister. I was on a visit to India and Natwar wanted me to attend that small close lucheon and assess the situation. I was startled to find that Ms. Clinton did not seem to have heard of either the Battle of Qadisseyah, where in 637 AD the Arabs drove the Persian Sassanids out of Mesopotamia, nor of Ismail I who from 1501 AD started the progressive transformation of Persia into a Shi’ite state, thus imparting to traditional Arab-Persian ethno-linguistic rivalry the sectarian complexion of a Sunni-Shia confrontation whose historical roots go back to the succession to the Prophet .
The emotional consequences of the assassination of the Prophet’s son-in-law, Ali, in 661 AD in the Grand Mosque of al-Kufa, and the military defeat of his sons, Hussein and Hassan, at the hands of the Ummayad Caliph, Yazd’s army, at the Battle of Karbala, 680 AD, reverberate down to the 21st century, never more strongly than the present when US intervention in Iraq has brought Shia Iran cheek-by-jowl with Sunni-Wahabi Saudi Arabia and the Sunni Emirates of the western coast of the Gulf that they share with Shia Iran on the other side of the same narrow waterway.
Till almost exactly a hundred years ago, Iran’s Shi’ism was principally pitted against the Sunni Turkish Empire of the Ottomans and the Sunni Kingdoms of Central Asia. The dismantling of the Ottoman Empire as a result of their defeat in the First World War led to the emergence of a number of Arab nations generally under the Mandate of Britain or France. Britain got Iraq and the modern history of Iraq begins in 1932 with King Feisal I being placed on the throne of Harun al-Rashid but as a vassal of the British Empire. (As an aside I cannot resist recalling that under the Mandate, Iraq was administered as a district of the Bombay Presidency. So, when on arrival in Baghdad, I asked my Ambassador, the gracious Romesh Bhandari, what were our “larger goals'” in Iraq, he punctured my pompous question by remarking, with a wicked gleam in his eye, that our larger goal was to re-establish that position!)
But to return to my narrative, the Iraqi monarchy was overthrown in 1958 and a decade later the Ba’ath Party under Saddam Hussein established its murderous rule. Murderous it might have been but it was also modernizing and secular. Shia and Sunni both were to be found in high office in the Baghdad where I served, both at the ministerial and civil servant level. The presence of numerous women in universities as unveiled teachers and students, as also in high public sector positions, was truly impressive. Any number of minorities, including the Christian number two to Saddam, Tariq Aziz, even the wretched Armenians, were given respect and security (provided, of course, they hailed the Leader). The Iraqis were especially proud of preserving and pointing out to Indian visitors the precincts where Guru Nanak is said to have meditated on returning from Mecca to India via Baghdad. For Saddam, India was so much the secular exemplar to follow, even as India to him was Indira (which is why he held a mass rally in Baghdad in support of her Emergency!) that when she was defeated in the elections of 1977, I saw several Iraqi officials wearing a black band of mourning on their upper arms in the expectation that in India, as in Iraq, the leader would be hanged when their government fell!
My closest encounter with the secular Iraqi state came from being required from time to time to visit Najf and Karbala on the Euphrates to distribute largesse from a fund set up by the Nawab of Rampur in the thirties to support Indian Shias resident in these holy places. After Independence, the administration of the fund had devolved on the Indian government and through it to the Embassy. That too was when I discovered the extent of Sunni-Shia rivalry for the temperature would be hovering near 50 degrees centigrade but Azmi, our English-Hindi-Arabic interpreter, would drink no water. I asked him discreetly whether he was not thirsty and he solemnly warned that since his name gave him away as a Sunni, he feared the Shias would spit in his glass before they served it to him!
All this changed with the ascendance of Ayatollah Khomeini (who, in fact, had spent 14 years of his exile in Najf under the benevolent secular protection of Saddam Hussein, the Sunni). By mid-1978, as my posting was drawing to a close, it became clear that the Shah of Iran’s days were numbered. At this, Saddam startled the world by inviting the Shah’s sister, the notorious Princess Ashrafi, to make a state visit to Baghdad. All stops were pulled out to make the visit a really grand affair (including all private house-owners with villas on the banks of the Tigris being ordered to vacate their homes to make these available to Princess Ashrafi’s large suite) in order the better to signal the Ayatollah that the triumph of a clerico-political Shia order in Iran would be fiercely resisted by the Ba’athist regime in neighbouring Iraq. This reflected the millennial paranoia of the Iraqi Sunni that were the Sh’ia Iranians from in front and the Shias of the Euphrates (Farhat) from behind to clamp their jaws together, the Sunnis on the Tigris (Dijla), to whom Saddam and a large part of his cohort belonged, would simply be snapped up as so much carrion.
When the Ayatollah took over, and the US hostage crisis began, the Americans (specifically Donald Rumsfeld) saw in Saddam their surrogate who would win for them their war against the Ayatollah. That is when secular Iraq crumbled. Invoking the Battle of Qadisseyah, Saddam, with massive and unremitting US backing, went in to invade Iran. Meretriciously, he called this the Second Battle of Qadisseyah. While the war with Iran ended in a draw (and the worst blood-letting since the Second World War), the Nineties brought on the first Gulf War, followed a decade later by the second, under respectively the two Bush’s, father and son. Iraq as a shared home of Sunni and Shia, and a secular buffer state between Shia Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia, was destroyed. The latest ISIS capture of almost all of Iraq north of Baghdad definitively smashes the buffer and brings Shia and Sunni into eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation over Baghdad. Worse, with US power exposed as hollow and non-sustainable, the field has been cleared for a resumption of the seventh-century Battle of Qadissiyeh, backed respectively by the Sunni Wahabis of Saudi Arabia and the Shia clergy of Iran.
This has been the disastrous long-term outcome of the vacuous American intervention that began with their encouraging Iraq to invade Iran in the Eighties – and all that has since followed. While we might rely on the excellence of our Foreign Service officers to rescue the Indians caught in someone else’s war, as they did so magnificently in the two previous Gulf wars and more recently in Libya, what of our political leadership?
From Nehru to Rajiv Gandhi, the careful cultivation of Arab friendships made us the most influential outsider in the Arab world. We began siding with Israel and cozying up to the Americans in Narasimha Rao’s time. By neglecting our relationship with the Arabs for the better part of the last twenty years, we are now virtually without a voice in a region from where we import 70% of our oil and is host to some 7 million expatriate Indians whose remittances fill our coffers.
What little influence India had left is now reduced to nil and thereby hangs the tale.

Overview of Indian Economy

Despite a number of reform announcements by the UPA II government at the fag end of its tenure, India’s growth story remained muted throughout the financial year 2013-14. While all economic indicators showed a dismal performance, the major challenge before the new government is to kick-start the growth rate cycle, which is sluggish under 5 percent.
India started the fiscal year 2014-15 on a buoyant note but it was merely a show of market which was driven by foreign investors (FIIs) triggered by the Narendra Modi euphoria. But the main concern is the sustainability of the current market rally, which will finally be guided by the fundamentals of our economy that is yet to get back on track. Short term excitement will not be able to fuel the steam in the long run.
Nonetheless, with Budget 2014-15 around the corner, India faces major challenges. Some of them are – implementation of structural reforms like GST, DTC, further relaxation in FDI norms, government’s stand on retrospective tax and passing of insurance bill.

Here is an overview of the Indian economy:
GDP Growth 
India’s economic growth remained below 5 percent mark second year in a row at 4.7 percent in 2013-14, but the industry is hopeful of a rebound with a stable government headed by Narendra Modi who is considered pro-business.
India’s fourth quarter growth stood at 4.6 percent. Decline in manufacturing and mining output eclipsed the overall growth during the entire fiscal.
As per government data, the economic growth remained below 5 percent for two consecutive years after a gap of almost 25 years. Earlier from 1984-85 to 1987-88, the economic growth rate remained below 5 percent. 
The country’s economy, or gross domestic product (GDP), had expanded at 4.5 percent in 2012-13, the slowest pace in the previous decade. 
Inflation
Subdued prices of vegetables, cereals and dairy products pushed down retail inflation to a three-month low of 8.28 percent in May. Retail inflation, measured on consumer price index (CPI), was 8.59 percent in April. In February 2014, retail inflation was at 8.03 percent, followed by consecutive rise in March (8.31 percent) and April. As per the data released by government, food inflation also fell slightly to 9.56 percent in May against 9.66 percent in April.
Fiscal Health :Fiscal Deficit 
The fiscal deficit for 2013-14 fiscal may finally turn out to be 4.5 percent of GDP. The fiscal deficit, which is the gap between expenditure and revenue, was 4.9 percent of GDP in 2012-13. 
The interim Budget for 2014 has projected the fiscal deficit for 2014-15 fiscal at 4.1 percent of GDP or Rs 5.29 lakh crore. 
Current Account Deficit
As per the latest data, India’s CAD sharply narrowed to 1.7 percent of the GDP or USD 32.4 billion in 2013-14 from a record high of 4.7 percent in FY’13. For the January—March quarter, CAD – a measure of the inflow and outflow of foreign currency — stood at USD 1.2 billion or 0.2 percent of GDP, as against USD 18.1 billion, or 3.6 percent of GDP in the same period of the previous fiscal, according to the RBI.
The highest ever CAD reported in 2013-14 had led to a slew of problems, including a heavy drop in the value of the rupee, which touched an all-time low of 68.85 against the US dollar last August. However the rupee has strengthened since then and recovered up to about 58 vs dollar since then. It is, however, under pressure again due to the Iraq crisis. 
Foreign Direct Investment
Foreign Direct Investment into India grew 8 percent year-on-year to USD 24.3 billion in 2013-14. Foreign investment inflows more than doubled to USD 3.53 billion in March this year from USD 1.52 in the same month last year. The highest FDI came in services (USD 2.22 billion), followed by automobiles (USD 1.51 billion), telecommunications (USD 1.3 billion), pharmaceuticals (USD 1.27 billion) and construction development (USD 1.22 billion) in 2013-14. Singapore led the FDI inflows into India with USD 5.98 billion, followed by Mauritius (USD 4.85 billion), the UK (USD 3.21 billion) and the Netherlands (USD 2.27 billion).
Foreign Institutional Investment 
The net investments by FIIs into Indian equity markets since the beginning of 2014 have crossed USD 5 billion over Rs 30,000 crore), while the same for debt markets also stands near USD 5 billion (about Rs 29,000 crore)- taking the total to close to Rs 60,000 crore.
This includes net investments of about Rs 1,500 crore so far in April. This is despite a net outflow of about Rs 7,000 crore from debt markets, as equity markets have seen a net inflow of over Rs 8,500 crore this month till April 25, the latest trading session. They invested Rs 20,077 crore in Indian stocks in March, compared with Rs 1,404 crore in February and Rs 714 crore in January.
The strong inflows in the recent months have taken the cumulative net investments of FIIs into India to close to USD 197 billion, while their investments in rupee terms is a bit away from Rs 10 lakh crore level.
Trade 
India’s exports grew by 3.98 percent to USD 312.35 billion in FY 2013-14 while imports dipped by 8.11 percent during the period. Imports declined to USD 450.94 billion, narrowing the trade deficit to USD 138.59 billion in the last fiscal. In FY 2012-13, trade deficit stood at USD 190.33 billion. The overall shipments in 2013-14 fell short of the target of USD 325 billion fixed by the government for the period.

Operation Blue Star – Tragedy of A Nation

Three decades ago, Govt. of India ordered Operation Blue Star. This operation was a surgical requirement, otherwise the the country might have been truncated. Was this operation avoidable? No. As a matter of fact, this operation was needed and needed much earlier. The ideal time was Nov. 1982 when the Sikh DIG of Punjab police was shot dead at the very entrance of the Golden Temple. Had the operation been undertaken at that time, the resistance would have been much less, as the terrorists were still not as entrenched as in June 1984. However, the Government was still believing that persuasion and logic shal make the fundamentalists turn to sanity. But it was not to be.
Nobody can
reconstruct the 72 hours of Operation Blue Star. Books have been written about it by the finest reporters, notably the BBC’s Mark Tully (Amritsar: Mrs Gandhi’s Last Battle, co-authored with Satish Jacob). Books have been written by the generals who led the assault: Lieutenant General K.S. “Bulbul” Brar’s Operation Blue Star: The True Story (UBS, 1993) for the army’s side of the story, told as honestly as possible for a partisan, albeit an exceptionally honourable one. There was also a recent series of TV documentaries put together and anchored by Kanwar Sandhu, currently executive editor of The Tribune. There is no real mystery about the operation, how it started and ended.
The very nature of the selection of the codename Blue Star is interesting. Contrary to speculation over the years, it had nothing to do with the way traditional or devout Sikhs dress, or their colour preferences. Lieutenant General V.K. “Tubby” Nayar was the deputy director general of military operations in 1984 . He was driving home, exhausted after a long day in the ops room, a codename yet to be found, and the signboard of a refrigeration shop caught his eye. It was selling Blue Star, a prominent fridge/ AC brand. Let’s go with it, he decided. Operation Blue Star was concurrently conducted with Op Woodrose to sweep the rest of the state clear of militants and maintain order and Op Metal to specifically catch or kill Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and members of his inner core team.
The greatest mystery of these 30 years, however, is how and why, with such elaborate planning, the army brass miscalculated on Blue Star so horribly. It is tempting to say they were arrogant and underestimated the task, but that would be unfair. More than 70,000 troops had been called to Punjab, tanks, APCs and all. Vijayanta tanks had been lined up along the final approaches of the Golden Temple much before the first shots were exchanged between the army and the militants. The media was cleared out even before the militants, all telephone lines cut and the state put under not curfew but martial law for the first and hopefully last time in our history. There was no underestimation of the task but I dare say now that there was a touching belief that the militants wouldn’t fight, and if they did, their resolve would be broken in a couple of hours. All the bandobast, therefore, was to stun them with a display of firepower, a strategy of shock and awe, decades before it was given that name in Iraq by George Bush junior. Each of the generals involved, Brar, Western Army Command chief of staff Lieutenant General Ranjit Singh Dyal, Army Commander K. Sundarji and his chief, General Arun Shridhar Vaidya (later assassinated by revenge-seeking Sikh gunmen while driving his Maruti 800 after retiring in Pune), later admitted to this miscalculation to some extent. There was a firm belief that Bhindranwale would not fight, he would surrender or try to escape.
The first assault by the commandos ran into trouble. One set of audacious generals had overlooked the fact that they weren’t up against some armed rabble but a small army of faithfuls led by someone just like them. In fact, a fellow general as bright, if not brighter, than all of them. Former Major General Shabeg Singh had served with each one of those serving, he had received his fame organising and training the Mukti Bahini during the Bangladesh war and was a master of guerilla warfare. He earned infamy later as he was accused of irregularities and dismissed a day before retirement. But as most human beings do, he never believed he was guilty but was victimised because of what else but his religion. He had found spiritual succour and a new soldierly cause with Bhindranwale, although now in what he saw as the service of his faith, not his republic. Just how good was he? I won’t go by hearsay, though even that makes him sound superhuman. Wading through the rubble at the Akal Takht a couple of days after the fighting, we found a copy of a book, a thin memoir written by a Pakistani brigadier who was taken PoW in Bangladesh. It had been presented by an officer of the BSF’s intelligence branch, who had “sourced” it from across the border. It had a warm and respectful note to Shabeg Singh from his BSF fan, saying how happy he was to see high praise for the (now rebel) general from the Pakistani brigadier and what a privilege it was to present the book to him.
In any case, the defence of the Golden Temple was not so much about high strategy or even old-fashioned guerilla warfare. It was more like a battalion-level tactical defence of a built-up complex of buildings. They provided alleys, parapets, machine-gun emplacements, tunnels, towers and lots of ancient marble walls more impregnable than modern armour. Most importantly, it had a bunch of manholes. So important, because it was inside them that he placed his LMGs, which sprayed murderous grazing fire at assault troops while guns positioned higher up rained sweeping fire. Together, they fully covered the small, open courtyard, maybe half the size of a football field, where the attackers had to expose themselves to reach the Akal Takht. This was his designated killing ground, as it would be defined in classic infantry defence manuals, specifically, in this case, following the principles of what acronym-loving armies called FIBUA (Fighting in Built-Up Areas). Manhole LMGs were so effective because they denied the attackers the basic defensive tactic of hitting the ground and crawling, because the bullets then got you in the bodies instead of merely the legs. A very large number of the jawans, therefore, were injured in the legs.
Shabeg wasn’t foolhardy enough to think he would win. His tactic was to optimise his resources, snipers behind any hiding place, every room along the parikrama infested by a gunman or two so any probing patrols would be cut down, others sprinting up and down the staircases linking just the two floors of the buildings and their parapets. His idea was to inflict as many casualties as possible and thereby delay the inevitable so that Bhindranwale’s supporters in the villages had enough time to organise mobs to converge on Amritsar and make further army operations impossible, unless Indira Gandhi was willing to inflict scores of Jallianwala Baghs in Punjab. It was a good approach that succeeded tactically. The commandos did not get very far, took several casualties and also underlined the generals’ unthinking impatience in launching them in black dungarees on white marble as it gleamed in bright moonlight. A more conventional infantry charge, by the troops of 10 Guards, a regiment genetically designed by none else than god for the assault role, was stopped as well as it spilled in from the main entrance. This was the first time the generals were made to wonder if they had miscalculated. More assault troops, launched from other directions, were similarly pinned down. Typical of the Indian doctrine in such situations, the army followed the approach of incremental escalation, and not with the best results. One infantry unit after another was thrown in, but casualties only mounted. Then an approach was tried through an APC, but again, sort of half-heartedly, in a wheeled old SKOT rather than a tracked Russian BMP with better armour and firepower. It was knocked out by a militant RPG-7 rocket launcher, and there was much recrimination on this later.
Did intelligence warn the army of the presence of such a weapon? Or were the generals being too arrogant in not anticipating this? There were nearly 3,000 infantry troops pinned down, hundreds wounded, more than a hundred bodies. This time of the year, the sun comes out really
early, and every soldier still alive — all the thousands of them — would be a sitting target for snipers. As often happens in such situations, the battlefield, the “terrain” was the best force-multiplier for the defender. He could hide and fire, whereas the attackers had to expose themselves. This was unacceptable, so further escalation became inevitable.
The operation regrettably, was the story of incredible military courage and yet, incompetence. No soldier flinched, even when faced with an impossible task. And the generals, who had misread and miscalculated, played on incrementally, until the dawn threatened and artillery was called out, along with Vijanta tanks that blazed with their main guns. The brutal destruction of the Akal Takht building was now launched in earnest. If Bhindranwale wouldn’t flee or surrender, or come out in a suicidal charge, he would be entombed there now. There were Vijayantas to the left of the sarovar, firing from just a couple of hundred yards, and howitzers on top of facing buildings firing in direct mode. This was the equivalent of a sledgehammer where a psychological or, at worst, surgical strike had been anticipated. There was never any doubt who would win. But the cost, in lives, sentiment, political consequences and a legacy of anger and bitterness, had not been imagined. It is for this reason that I would call Operation Blue Star a bold, brave, audacious operation where soldiers did the profession of the arms proud, but both leaderships, political and military, showed gross incompetence.
But the generals of one side were not the only ones who had miscalculated. Bhindranwale too made similar, arrogantly delusional blunders. He had boasted that the Sikhs in the army wouldn’t fight him. Two of the three generals involved, Brar and Dyal, were Sikhs. The first army injury, Captain Jasbir Singh Raina of 10 Guards, was a Sikh too. Brar while addressing his troops before the assault, he had given the freedom to opt out to everybody, particularly Sikhs, if they had any hesitation. Nobody did. Raina, in fact, volunteered to go in first. If the generals showed an underestimation of the militants’ fervour and tactical dash, Bhindranwale — and sadly Shabeg too — showed similar lack of appreciation of the ethos of their own country’s army.
Many militants and civilians died, but the army suffered gravely too. And brutally so. It was 26 Madras, and I had the privilege of being taken under their wing, even while the wounded were being tended to. They suffered heavy casualties and when one of their assault sections managed to enter the Akal Takht, the JCO leading it was overpowered, blinded and flung from the top of the building to the marble courtyard. But the cruellest, saddest and most unnecessary loss of life was that of battalion doctor Captain Rampal, more than 24 hours after the fighting was over. He was walking around, looking for the wounded from any side to tend to, when a group of terrorists hiding in one of the basements dragged him in, demanded that none else than the head priest of the Temple be sent down to negotiate with them and when that wasn’t done, the doctor was tortured to death, his body dismembered.
Lieutenant Ram Prakash Roperia of Jind, in Haryana, fell to a sniper bullet on the afternoon of June 6 as he climbed down a rope ladder from the wide parikrama parapet, where several of his comrades lay flat to escape snipers. In the 46-degree sun for all of the day, they were dying of thirst and heat stroke and young Robert Prince, a baby but an officer to the core, volunteered to go down and bring water. A sniper in the Temple shot him in the neck. Roperia died three days later.
There were also many other mysteries and mythologies. What happened on the first night of fighting, for example in the sarais, from where several Akali leaders were rescued and many militants escaped, while a sudden flurry of grenades and the confusion that followed led to the death of a very large number of people, maybe a couple of hundreds, in the crossfire, many of them innocent devotees? It was later said that the army unit there, from 9 Kumaon Regiment, had lined up the Sikhs and shot them randomly. Frankly, I tried every source possible but could never confirm this. But that there were many deaths, most of them unnecessary, is undeniable. Many Sikh survivors, including some priests, back the deliberate massacre story.
The reality is that this was just murderous confusion caused by the militants, some of whom hid in the pilgrims’ rooms in the sarais and cut down the soldiers who tried to clear them. The Kumaonis responded by presuming every room to be terrorist-occupied and fired, also resulting in innocent deaths. Thirty years later, I am still not willing to buy that deliberate massacre story, though so many survivors have repeated it. In so many decades of covering the army’s operations, I have found Indian soldiers to be mostly honourable and the officers, if anything, caring and cautious to the extent of being soft in such situations.
The aftermath, as the operation itself, was a nightmare and despite the fact that militancy was finally removed by another equally intense operation – Operation Black-thunder, the fact remains that the nightmares shall haunt for long and not simply ever go away.

Jarnail Singh- The Saint or a Devil?

As the day dawns, the Indian nation once again remembers the tragedy that was generated thirty years back by venal ambition of one person who posed to be its savior and result was that the the nation was almost ripped apart. Delayed, but sure action did stop the vivisection of the country, but left an almost enduring rift. Who was this man ? Was he a saint as known by his alias or was a dyed in wool politician for whom no means was bad that led to his aim to rule a new, though moth eaten country? Was a visionary, or was he a rabble-rouser ?
T
here is a time in the history of people when there is need to appraise people and events. Thirty years have passed since for the first, and hopefully for the last time, Indian Armed Forces had to to storm religious temples all over a province to flush out the rabid fundamentalists who were a danger to the very existence of India. The resulkts were horrondous. There were spordic army revolts, there was a hushed mute increduality and ultimately the murder of the prime Minister that led to wanton , mindless killing of thousands of innocent people. Who was responsible for all this?
There lived and died a man called Bhindranwale. Charismatic and chilling, he wrote this country’s present and future as no one has done post-Independence. A little footnote: once, he pulled my leg and I needed to check his arm-length. I am inevitably and repeatedly asked one question : who was Jarnail Singh a.ka.Sant Bhindrawala. Was he a religious leader? Was he a rebel? Was imbued with revolutionary zeal? Or was he a rat nibbling at the roots of India?
It is often alleged that Mrs. Gandhi created him. Nothing can be farther from truth. He was created by the then Home Minister Zail Singh to be used for two purposes: to bring down Darbara Singh and to belittle the then Akali leadership. However, after the infamous Baisakhi murders at Chowk Mehta, orders were issued to curb him. Bhajan Lal arrested him, but again Zail Singh went subverted and asked for his release. But of that another time. Let us come to this person.
He was the main protagonist of the worst possible nightmarein the history of modern India. But what do I think of Bhindranwale when pushedto identify the man. All my memories and references are for the 1978-89 period of various degrees of violence. I start at 1978 because that was when, on Baisakhi (April 13), a clash took place between Bhindranwale’s supporters and a congregation of the Nirankari sect. Thirteen of his followers were killed, and suddenly an unknown young preacher became a name known nationally. I also became conscious that we were now lamenting for the 30th anniversary of Operation Blue Star, not only one of the most traumatic events in our history but also one with the longest-lasting consequences. And I apologise for sounding like such a cynical, insensitive commentator made so particularly by the fact that when the army banished the entire rabble of domestic and foreign press on the evening of June 3, filling them into buses that dropped them off directly in Delhi under armed escort, I was among those who had to stay back to chronicle and later tell the story.
I still remember walking as a devotee , head bowed on the parikrama but, instinctively and inevitably, my points of references were the two Ramgarhia Bungas (towers) on which the sandbagged machine-gun nests of militants were stockaded, the image of the bags and bodies sent flying when struck by the army’s howitzers (on June 4, 1984, exactly 30 years back), the Guru Ram Das Sarai terrace overlooking the Golden Temple, where Bhindranwale originally held court and routinely updated his hit lists — in public (basically it meant adding new names and striking out those who had been “sorted out”), the Akal Takht building, the supreme seat of Sikh spiritual and temporal power with the authority to issue Hukamnamas (the Sikh equivalent of encyclicals or ecclesiastical bulls) to the community, where he finally took control of his faith’s Vatican and where he met his end on June 6, 1984, 30 years this Friday, grenade shrapnel hitting his face first and then an entire carbine burst from an infantryman cutting him down. But not before nearly 2,000 lives had been lost, 136 of them from the army — the highest casualties suffered by our armed forces in a domestic operation ever in 24 hours — and those of anything from 600 to 1,000 innocent pilgrims.
Dead, along with Bhindranwale, were his most committed lieutenants, Major General (retired) Shabeg Singh, Bhai Amrik Singh, the handsome, articulate but fiery deputy from whose father Bhindranwale had inherited the position of the head of Damdami Taksal, an ancient and conservative religious seminary in Mehta, near Gurdaspur, and several others. No, Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale was no saint. Nor was he even a nice man. But he was the most interesting human being I have ever met and dealt with, and god knows I have met more than a few of those in
50 odd years of my public life.
And he was one of the most talented, charismatic and, in the end, recklessly courageous. You had to be so, to make a last stand in an ancient building, fighting off repeated assaults by six of the finest infantry battalions of the army, besides the commandos, Vijayanta tanks firing from their main guns, APCs, 3.7-inch mountain howitzers, the venerable, World War II, 25-pounders, helicopter patrols, for 36 hours.
Luring desperate assault troops and young officers into the killing ground between the Akal Takht and Darshani Deori, where the causeway to the Temple begins, and cutting them down with machine guns sited to cover every inch, and peeping out of the slits cut out of the Akal Takht’s centuries-old marble walls. You had to be reckless to fight there, knowing the inevitability of the end. Or you had to be delusional.
There was a bit of that to Bhindranwale too. In fact, quite a bit. He had begun to believe the mythologies spread about him by himself and his devotees. That he was an embodiment of the divine, that his victory and the formation of a new Sikh state were preordained, that in a holy war against the Hindu state, his Sikhs were obviously going to win. He genuinely believed that till the last moment. To him, the only inevitability in that murderous June week was fateh, victory. Shikast, or defeat, was for “Bibi’s” (as he addressed Indira Gandhi) army. I was among the very small group met over glasses of a herbal concoction (banafsha was his preference, tea and coffee were forbidden, like all intoxicants) just before the army fully slammed the trap shut. A kind of last supper.
Bibi and her Hindu Congress, he said, had declared war on the Sikhs, and he was ready for the last battle and victory. “But how will you fight the might of an entire army,” the reporters asked, “they even have tanks lined up near the kotwali (old police station).” “Dus diyo ehnan nun kis taran ladoge singho, (tell them how you will fight, my lions),” he said, “you will be victorious, you just have to mentally prepare to fight Russian commandos.”
“Why Russian commandos Santji?” one reporter asked. “Because Sikhs in the Indian army won’t fight us and the topiwallahs (Hindus) won’t be able withstand us. So Bibi will have no choice but to seek Russian commandos,” he said with a smirk that, to those familiar with him by now, usually meant a death sentence. Just that in this case, it was a death sentence for himself, almost all his followers present there and thousands of others.
It is simply not possible to describe the descriptive flourish or the turn of phrase to do a portrait of that once-in-many-generations character with any degree of fairness. He was taller than most of us, born in 1947, so a Midnight’s Child, and between 35-37 years (he died at 37), had a standout aquiline nose, wiry (healthy) vein-studded legs that stood out from his long, loose kurta that just about hung below the traditional Sikh underwear, or the kachcha, no weapon on his body barring the ritual kirpan and a trademark stainless steel arrow that he carried as a general would flaunt his swagger stick. He had brilliant, studied delivery with perfect pauses to let his audiences enjoy his wisecracks or thirst in anticipation of the punchline, infra-red eyes and, most importantly, a laser wit and repartee. Of course, you could never answer back or join an argument with him. Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale did not run a parliament or panchayat in the Golden Temple. His was a medieval court with sub-medieval instant justice, and nobody would dare disagree with him or even protest when he pilloried you with cruel sarcasm or simply piled you with humiliation.
This humilationwas the lot of all, especially reporters visiting him and it was in full public view of a delirious congregation. No journalist ever openly contested what he said or argued with him except, to an extent, two, in varying degrees.
The first was Tavleen Singh, herself a fiercely proud Jat-Sikh. Bhindranwale never fully got the better of her but got his cheap thrills, and amused his doting congregation by referring to her in her absence as that “Sikh patrakar who plucks her eyebrows (jehdi bhoan patdi hai)”.
The other, old Satinder Singh, The Tribune’s bureau chief from Delhi and much older than all of us (he was film star Dev Anand’s schoolmate and bosom pal, and Khushwant Singh’s alter ego), got away with more. He even got Bhindranwale to laugh, genuinely laugh, not snigger or smirk when he told him, one evening, that if Khalistan became a reality, he would have to emigrate to “vilayat (Britain)”. “Why, Satinderji?” asked Bhindranwale, with (probably) mock concern, “don’t you think Khalistan will need budhijeevis (intellectuals) too?” “It may, Santji, but I will tell you my problem,” said the irrepressible Satinder, “Hindus will not let me live in India because I am a Sikh, and you won’t let me live in Khalistan because I am padhiya-likhya (well educated). So I will go to England.”
It was the only time I saw Bhindranwale let someone else win an argument, even if it was a joke. He justified it to the audience, however. Something like, in any family, there was the odd offspring who was uncontrollable. You have to tolerate those types. Of course, Bhindranwale was still laughing, in fact, giggling. The only time I ever saw him do that in possibly 30 encounters. Once, I froze as I saw him tick off a very old woman who bent to touch his feet. He nearly threw her off her feet, admonishing: “Don’t you do this. What will people say, an 80-year-old woman and a 36-year-old sant.”
The Indian subcontinent specialises in producing a unique type of demagogue, with the ability of picking up the grievances of a minority when it is most vulnerable and then magnifying and amplifying them brilliantly to create widespread popular outrage. Even in that formidable pantheon, Bhindranwale was at the very top. One of the finest accounts of the way his “court” functioned has been written by Tavleen in the chapter she wrote for a book, The Punjab Story, published by Roli Books after Operation Blue Star and later republished in 2009 on its 25th anniversary, where Lieutenant General Jagjit Singh Aurora, Khushwant Singh, M.V. Kamath, Kirpekar, Sunil Sethi, the CPI’s Amarjit Kaur also contributed chapters. She describes the case of one Leher Singh, who Bhindranwale presented to his audience in her presence (I wasn’t there that day). His beard looked like it had been rudely hacked with a large knife. He said he was from village Jatwali in Fazilka district, bordering Punjab in Pakistan, and that his beard had been cut off by Thanedar (inspector) Bichhu Ram. Six months later, Bichhu Ram was shot dead. Tavleen wrote later how she never realised then that she had seen a death sentence being delivered.
However devout he was, Bhindranwale was really no man of god, no realised master who had conquered ego and vanity, if other worldly desires. In any congregation, he always wanted to be the centre of attraction and hated anybody stealing the limelight. But he definitely wanted to be counted at some stage in the pantheon of Sikh gurus. He always carried the arrow- the symbol of Guru Gobind Singh. Stories were circulated that Guru Gobind Singh’s falcon used to fly over him. And many of rural people believed these tales. He was a politician who seized the opportunity, created a sense among the Sikhs of being discriminated against and exploited unemployed and unemployable Sikh youth. During one of my several visits to the Golden Temple, I saw Raghu Rai, the greatest celebrity photographer in five decades. Raghu, with his locks, tall, wiry frame, shirts in exotic weaves and undone really low to expose oodles of chest hair, many cameras, humongous lenses dangling from his neck barely providing tantalising cover, if at all, was a real magnet for Bhindranwale’s rustic audiences, and he did not like it one bit. Particularly when, one winter afternoon at his sarai terrace, Raghu sat soaking in the sun on the parapet. He attracted a lot of attention.Bhindranwale wanted him to get off the parapet. Nobody usually asked him why, and it wasn’t such an impossible demand, so Indian Express’s Shekhar Gupta told Raghu that Santji wanted him to get down and either stand or sit with the congregation on the floor, like me, lower than Bhindranwale. “Why, what is the problem,” Raghu, a prima donna if you’ve seen one (albeit a true genius with the camera), asked with just a hint of petulance. “Tell him, Shekharji, to get off that parapet. Or he may just roll over and die, and then the whole world will say santaan ne maar ditta (that the sant killed him).” This time even Raghu obeyed.
On another occasion, possibly just a couple of weeks before Operation Blue Star, Edward Behr of Newsweek (check out his reporter’s memoir, Anyone Here Been Raped and Speaks English?) visited him. Behr was quite a spirited old man, one whom nothing would ever bother or irritate. On long drives through terror-soaked Punjab, he would regale you with stories from the battlefront, reportage as well as the years he spent as an officer in the Indian army’s Garhwal Regiment before Independence. As we got up to leave, he hobbled a bit, as old people, particularly foreigners, do because they are not used to squatting. “Why is the gora (white man) hobbling,” asked Bhindranwale. Somebody conveyed this to Behr and Behr responded: “Oh, just tell him my foot has gone to sleep,” said Behr, just a little dismissively, and Santji did not miss it even as I played the honest interpreter. “His foot has not gone to sleep,” he said, turning to his fully armed audience now, “the white man’s legs are trembling at the sight of our Sten guns.” Up came a spirited bole so nihal. There was no way Santji was going to let anybody, even a benign old gora journalist, walk away with the last laugh. Of course, Behr figured the joke was on him and for once he, the reporter with the thickest skin, lost it. “Tell them I am not afraid of these Stens,” he said, wagging his finger, “we used the Thomson carbine in the Indian army and if you dropped it accidentally, it fired three rounds, what do you guys know about guns…”
It felt by now as if the temperature had dropped to minus 30 degrees. A gentleman grabbed Behr by the waist and dragged him out to safety.
By May 1984, it was evident that something catastrophic was going to happen at the Temple. Intrigue hung heavy in the air as everybody, even Bhindranwale, felt insecure. A story headlined “Temple Intrigue” appeared in the May 15 issue of India Today, describing a string of cases of torture, assassination of suspected rivals and renegades, chopped bodies being taken out of the Temple and dumped in gutters. A lone woman shot dead Surinder Singh Sodhi, Bhindranwale’s favourite hitman, while he sat sipping tea outside a tea shop near the Temple and screamed, waving her pistol, “
Maine badla le liya hai (I have taken revenge).” Next morning, two assassins shot the tea-shop owner. Several mutilated bodies then appeared in gunny bags here and there and the local police had a rough time dealing with them, fishing them out of the gutters. One of these, evidently, was that of Baljit Kaur, the Dalit woman who had shot Sodhi because she believed he had killed her husband. Policemen who put together that body said they had not seen such brutal torture before. It was in this atmosphere of rising blood-letting, revenge killings and suspicion that Bhindranwale decided to up the ante, and Indira Gandhi decided to strike.
Mohkam Singh, whose imposing figure is etched as one of Bhindranwale’s closest lieutenants echoes many people when he says: “Santji was no ordinary human,” he said, “remember how his arms hung below his knees, just like Guru Gobind Singh. He was no ordinary human.” In 1983-84, when people looked at Bhindranwale and “pointed out” the same “fact” to you, that his arms hung lower than his knees. But, god’s own truth, they didn’t. They didn’t, if you believed your eyes. But in Punjab of 1984, so many were not willing to believe what they could see, hear and comprehend. It was a phase of madness, so eminently worth forgetting.
And he was the man who controlled and directed this madness.

Obama Again Shows his Colors : Bowe Bergdahl Case Calls for Impeachment

I am disgusted and shocked. But I should not be. Obama is acting in a manner that is true to his salt. It is just a reiteration of his real self- bowing before the Saudi King, treating Iran with consideration and in fact, winking at their deeds, denigrating Israel, thus going back of committed US policy. Imagine the mightiest government kowtowing to a terrorist group and then trying to camouflage its action as action to save a hero. The reality is that a deserter was exchanged with five leaders of terrorism, to capture whom hundreds of brave American soldiers shed their blood.
I felt nauseous when I heard Fox News’ Harris Faulkner refer to Army SGT Bowe Bergdahl as a local hero. Since when are the deserters heroes- maybe the lexicon of Obama-servile media is undergoing a sea change.
This deserter should have been court-martialled, rather than being lionized, the way it is being done. We need to know the truth and truth is that Obama and cohorts have in fact committed an act of promoting terror, albeit indirectly by releasing the planners and promoters of anti-west terrorism.
SGT Bergdahl was not “captured” by the enemy in 2009. He deserted and abandoned his assigned post on his Forward Operating Base (FOB), leaving his weapon. And as a matter of fact many U.S. Army Soldiers lost their lives searching for this man- who left his post in a cowardly and unprofessional manner -Bergdahl. In ordinary course, he might have faced firing squad. His disappearance can only be classified as desertion and the media must not abandon truth and honesty just to tell good news story to promote Obama. Evidently they are trying to suppress the truth, and the light of truth shines through all the covers of deceit and dishonesty. The allegation of desertion is serious. It is grave because it occurred during a war, during combat operations. And it calls for a Court martial. The plea of the Honorable defence Secretary was not only ludicrous , but pathetic and reminded me of the honesty and goodness of Brutus and his ilk who need to be exposed.
The U.S. Army must uphold its well known professional integrity, proper order and discipline and this allegation must be investigated — even though the truth is already known. Unfortunately the Commander-in-Chief and his Defence secretary are the real guilty people, insofar as they are not only shielding the guilty, but have also taken the unprecedented step of releasing those people who are sworn to destruction of US. Are people like Obama and Chuck , in fact , not guilty of treason. I believe the liberal media will attempt to elevate him to some type of status that will cause the Army not to pursue the right direction under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). Those who have served in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other combat areas of operation against radical Islamists know they don’t hold our troops — they are savagely and brutally murdered. They exist to kill Americans. And releasing their patrons, guides and leaders , Obama and his team have injected life saving drug to this menace. I wonder are there no real patriots left in US who should ensure the start of impeachment process for this anti-national action.
Are we glad that Bergdahl is home? After five years, yes, but there are many unanswered questions that cannot be dismissed because of emotions. Evidently, there has been a marked shift in US policies. America has now negotiated with terrorists, because the Taliban is not a nation-state, it is a non-state, non-uniform belligerent organization, a terrorist group. This is a dangerous precedent and was done unilaterally by President Obama.
How many of US troops lost their lives and sacrificed to capture those five senior Taliban leaders? All for naught. I must admit, the only way I would have released these barbarians would have been once a tracking chip/device had been implanted — without their knowledge. I believe there are long-term ramifications that will result from the release of these five terrorists — there was a reason why the Afghan Taliban demanded these five.
And why would Obama enter into brokerage with Qatar, a supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood? I believe we should see them for who they are and cease air operations from that country. And the timing of this action is equally crucial. It was in fact well thought out to get mileage and planned the way how the media works — hence why Obama made this move over the weekend, on Saturday, as a matter of fact. The belief is that we will cease paying attention to the story by middle of this week. But we cannot. Bergdahl is home, but emotions cannot allow us to abandon our senses, as he abandoned his post.
It is possible that Americans might have already forgotten what happened in Clinton era. I have not. The New York Times of May 2, 1999 carries in detail the same stupidity and to quote:
“Three American soldiers held captive for more than a month were released today and handed over to the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson for their trip home. On Saturday President Slobodan Milosevic of Yugoslavia agreed to free the Americans after a lobbying effort by Mr. Jackson that was not sanctioned by United States officials.
“The soldiers, who were captured March 31, said they had no ill will toward the Yugoslav people and were treated well. Staff Sgt. Christopher J. Stone also said he was thankful for the gesture of goodwill. He and the other soldiers, Staff Sgt. Andrew A. Ramirez and Specialist Steven M. Gonzales, then joined Mr. Jackson for the trip home. After winning Mr. Milosevic’s promise on Sunday to release the men, Mr. Jackson urged NATO to reciprocate by immediately halting further air strikes and opening negotiations on Kosovo.”
Of course, the question back then by those of us in the military was, how did these guys get captured and not fire off a single shot or make a radio call for reinforcements? They were taken along with their HMMWV gun truck. The dirty little secret was that they were somewhere they should not have been.
Do the Americans have to bear this burden for ever? Would they shed blood to safeguard their nation and then permit desecration of that blood by inept, and even, treasonable action by the executive? Would some right thinking Congress members take up and initiate impeachment proceedings? Today there is need of such a drastic action – tomorrow may be too late.