Tuesday, December 30, 2008

China or the USA?

Will 2009 be the year of China or the USA?

ND Batra
From The Statesman
This may be a defining year for both China and the US. Both are in trouble. The US is in recession. China’s export-driven economy has slowed down significantly. How each one comes out of the trouble will determine its future. The US cannot keep borrowing money from China to buy its cheap goods or resume subprime lending to finance its housing and real estate market. If China cannot export what it manufactures, what will it do? Furthermore, if China has no place for investment or depository for its billions of annual trade surpluses, what will it do?

Consider for a moment the following facts. China has been growing at the rate of more than 9-10 per cent for the past two decades and rightfully expects to become a great economic and military power in the next decade or so. Since the one-party authoritarian rule has not hampered China from growing at an extraordinary rate, it is reasonable to ask: How could China accomplish so much in such a short time without political freedom?China is one of the US’s biggest foreign lenders but it earns no gratitude; instead it creates fear. Mr Gao Xiking, president of the China Investment Corporation, which manages an about $200-billion sovereign fund, told Mr James Fallows in a recent issue of the Atlantic, “Be nice to the countries that lend you money.” In other words, don’t talk about human rights, Tibet, piracy, currency manipulation, bad toys, or milk products that kill children. Many American politicians including Speaker Nancy Pelosi have been great critics of China’s violation of human rights and unfair trade practices. But their rhetoric of idealism is compromised by international realities of Chinese economic power. When China says it might diversify its foreign exchange holdings, the dollar shudders. China holds about $2 trillion in foreign currency reserves (a substantial portion in US Treasury notes) thanks to its export-driven economy and controlled currency value. Japan too has massive foreign currency reserves, more than $1 trillion, but the US has never felt threatened by it.

Between the US and pro-American Muslim-Arab countries human rights and freedom have seldom been an issue. As a global power, the US cannot give up dealing with authoritarian regimes regardless of its zeal to spread freedom universally. But China is different because it wants to be a superpower. The rhetoric of freedom and liberty is a tool of public diplomacy that China cannot match.Nonetheless, many Americans believe that the US will remain vulnerable to terrorism so long as authoritarianism and hate ideology prevail abroad; and to beat it there’s no other solution except to expand freedom and openness.

But again China is doing well without democratic freedom. Day and night China’s disciplined and hard working people make goods for the entire world without much thought about freedom. Many countries in the developing world look to China not only for aid and trade but also as a wonderful working model. The biggest challenge for US diplomacy today is to ask China to open up and loosen its authoritarian control over society. But look what loosened controls have done to the US and global financial markets!

Before the global financial crisis hit China, the country was full of great expectations about its future, while the rest of the world struggled to manage with bad debts, spiralling prices and random outbursts of terrorism. China’s peaceful transformation from communism to state-controlled, export-driven capitalism is in fact a great tribute to China’s pragmatism, creating the perception of China’s relentless and inevitable rise as a global superpower. China has been attracting foreign direct investment with its managed narratives of boundless opportunities; and more so with the power of its ruling party’s ruthless collective will that rules 1.3 billion hardworking, entrepreneurial and yet obedient masses.

Until recently China believed that since the world could not do without its inexpensive goods and talents, there’s not much to worry about intellectual property, currency manipulation to boost exports, massive trade surpluses, and rising foreign exchange reserves that end up as US Treasury notes. Rising prosperity did not encourage China’s rulers to loosen their control over power and become less authoritarian. China felt that it could compete with the best without facing problems that an open society like the US confronts.Beijing, with the help of US telecommunication companies, Google, Yahoo!, Microsoft and Cisco, has expanded its control into cyberspace. Some social scientists say that large centralised political systems crumble due to internal pressures created by communications technology unless they have built-in shock absorbing capabilities. But it is not happening in China in spite of the Internet, satellites, cell phones and hosts of other wireless devices that are becoming available to masses.

Some US corporations think that by offering selective partnership to Chinese businesses they will be able to draft in China’s brainpower.In 2005, IBM alerted the public about the inevitability of China’s rise and the need to harness its strength for corporate America. “The future is a dragon. Do you hear it coming?” barked an IBM adman. IBM boasted of access to a global pool of thousands of scientists, engineers and technologists to solve complex problems. But that was a different time. The incoming Obama administration has already concluded that borrowing money and brainpower from China to sustain US global power is not an option any longer.

The Japanese too have been watching the dance of the dragon. In 2005, the Chinese claimed that their feelings had been hurt because some Japanese school textbooks showed no regrets about the atrocities the Japanese troops had committed against them during World War II. There were other grievances. Japan had begun to explore undersea oil and gas deposits in a disputed region of East China Sea. When Japan asked for an apology and compensation for vandalism and damage to its diplomatic and commercial property, China said there was nothing to apologise about. Before street protests, the Chinese government had allowed an online petition drive by millions of Chinese against Japan’s effort to seek permanent membership of the UN Security Council. The unprecedented online phenomenon showed how China could mobilise its masses.

A few years ago, China stunned the world when it destroyed one of its own ageing weather satellites by hitting it with a ballistic missile five hundred miles into space, thus, signalling its intentions to master space. The US cannot ignore such intentionality even though China has ceased to be an imminent threat since its economic growth has become increasingly tied up with search for energy and raw materials, foreign direct investment, and exports.

Through its growing trade surplus and currency reserves it seemed until recently that China had established an iron grip on the US.

But the financial crisis and recession, contrary to the general impression, have energised the US. The new kid on the block, President-elect Barack Obama, stands tiptoe, determined to rebuild the $15-trillion economy through innovative strategies for economic self-reliance (not protectionism).In 2009 as China scrambles to put its $3.25-trillion export-based economy in order, it will face a new United States of America ~ bolder, smarter, and more imaginative. The beat of the American drum will be heard around the globe for decades to come.

(ND Batra is professor of communicationsat Norwich University)

Monday, December 29, 2008

Shesher Kabita

Shesher Kabita
(The Last Poem)
A novel by Rabindranath Tagore (1861 to 1913 AD, Nobel Laureate of 1913)

(Forwarding note and poems in Bengali by Tagore translated by RAJAT DAS GUPTA, KOLKATA, rajatdasgupta@yahoo.com & rajarch@cal3.vsnl.net.in )

Tagore had no dearth of his critics who had to beat a retreat for the time being after the Poet had the accolade of Nobel Laureate. However, in the mid-twenties of the last century they surfaced again and some young scribes ‘revolted’ against Tagore’s hegemony in Bengali literature and tried a ‘coup’ to dislodge the Poet from his supreme position. They declared that Tagore’s time had ended and that it was their turn to hold the rein of the Bengali literature to re-vitalize it with their ‘new’ contributions. Tagore foiled their move simply with a big laughter and affection towards this young group through his brilliant novel ‘Shesher Kabita’ (=The Last Poem). I read this novel in early fifties in my college life as it became essential for a Bengali young man at that time to be ranked ‘intelligentsia’ which all of them aspired. Later I read its wonderful English translation by Krishna Kripalani captioned ‘Farewell my Friend’. I do not know if Kripalani’s book is still available in the market but, I believe, some translation of ‘Shesher Kabita’ must be available. I would suggest any Tagorephile not knowing Bengali to read translation of ‘Shesher Kabita’. Seemingly, it is a story of triangular love, the theme on which numerous novels/stories have been written all over the world in all major languages. However, I daresay, this is the only novel/story of its kind on earth which marvelously echoes the contrast between ‘Finite’ and ‘Infinite’ as conceptualized in Upanishad (nearly 4500 year old Indian scripture) The story may be outlined as – Amit Ray, an accomplished Barrister, met Labanya in Shillong (the hill station in the easternmost part of India with superb natural beauty) and amnesiac of his first love Ketaki, fell in love with Labanya. Eventually, Labanya opted out of Amit’s life and he gets married to Ketaki. Amit was an ardent ‘modernist’ and would never miss a chance to downplay Tagore in the literary gatherings. One such example, Amit trashed Tagore’s widely celebrated poem ‘Shah Jehan’ [of the book ‘Balaka’ (=Crane) written in Allahabad in 1914], where the Poet compared ‘Taj Mahal’ with a ‘Drop of tear- on the cheek of Time, bright white’- ‘as a memento for Shah Jehan’s pathos’ for his wife Mamataj. However, the long poem concludes with the perception that ‘Taj Mahal’ is only a museum piece and that the ‘traveler’ (i.e. Shah Jehan) who had conceptualized this, had transcended this mundane ‘Taj Mahal’ for his eternal journey free from any earthly bondage. Amit discards this view with his antithesis of ‘Shah Jehan’ by offering ‘Basarghar’ (=Bridal Chamber) which is eternally vibrant with the perpetual visits of the married couple, giving a truer view of life, as Amit upheld. The poem is as follows –

Poem: Basarghar (Bridal Chamber)- of Tagore’s book Mahua (name of a flower) written at Bangalore in 1928.excerpted in the novel ‘Shesher Kabita’

[Translator’s note: It is a universal ritual that the couple spend their nuptial night ceremoniously in their Bridal Chamber which is gorgeously decorated for that night. But the euphoria is momentary as soon the couple will have to vacate the Bridal Chamber for their journey on the rugged road of their life. Yet, the eternal function of Bridal Chamber remains which welcomes the new couples every day to baptize them for their life’s new journey.

Thou hast to be left behind
As the dawn’s chariot wheel will grind
The night’s slumber,
O Bridal Chamber!
There the vast external
Is a separating demon terrible!
Yet, more it’ll massacre,
The Exchange Garland (*) in pieces will tear, (*)
Thou art there without decay
Night and day;
Thy gift ever festive
Won’t mute or strip.
The couple, who said,
Have vacated Thy bed?
They haven’t, no they haven’t,
Amidst new passengers to Thee is their bent –
At Thy call,
To Thy noble gate, they return all.
O Bridal Chamber,
Love is immortal, so Thou art.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

(*) In Indian marriages the couple exchange their garland.

It may be safely observed, Tagore’s rival Amit was only Tagore’s brainchild, which never achieved a separate flesh and blood entity in Bengal, nay, in the whole world ever. Several more poems transposed to the novel from the book ‘Mahua’ of the Poet to capture the passions/realizations of the concerned characters at different times are as follows.

Poem: Achena (=Unknown) of the book Mahua (name of a flower) written at Bangalore in August 1928 excerpted in the novel ‘Shahser Kabita’

O Unknown, how Thou’ll elude me
Ere I’ve known Thee?
In which blind hour
Betwixt wake and slumber
As dawned the night
Thy face I did sight;
With my eyes on Thine
Asked, “What escape Thou pine
Amidst amnesia of self,
In the inane taking Thy delve?
Acquaintance with Thee
Will not be easy;
Not in Thy ear
By soft whisper;
But conquer Thee shall I
From Thy inhibition high
With all my vigour
From Thy shame, indecision and fear;
Lift Thee up into light merciless
Thy tears Thou to bless
To wake into self-knowledge
Thus to snap Thy bondage;
Liberation of Thine
Will be mine.

O Unknown,
Days pass, time will be flown;
A great mishap
Let all bondage snap;
Let that flamboyant be
For knowledge of Thee,
There my life to surrender
With perception of Thee serene for ever.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Poem: Daymochan (Absolving from onus) of the book ‘Mahua’ written at Bangalore on 23 August 1928 excerpted in the novel ‘Shahser Kabita’

[Translator’s note: We should not scramble for whatever precious we pine for in our life as that only blights the sanctity of our claim. Our glory is more to find accomplishment in life’s rewards with which we are blest in due course rather than lament those which we miss.]
You’ll remain beggar
Of my love ‘for ever’,
If you’ll say so –
This small moment let go
As that ‘forever’,
If you forget thereafter,
I won’t remind your oath,
Entry and exit doors both
Will remain open,
So, as time will pass, go then
And if you crave, be back again,
But if you are dubious
It’s no harm enormous;
Love me if you will
If you so desire still.

Friend, I know your journey is ahead,
Behind I lag, but tears I won’t shed
Neither curse my fate
To block your way desperate.
Your life’s aim I’m not,
If so from your mind I’ll blot
Your gift will remain green
In my memoir of tears unseen.
And my gift too
In your amnesia will leave its clue.

On your way if you’ll sojourn
And your eyes backward turn,
You may find my lost vision –
My eyes, tears moisten.
If you pity
My tears will never empty.

Let remain with me
The bare truth only
Out of your gift –
But shame will leave me bereft
If you offer anything beyond –
As, if grief I’ll abscond,
Its price I’ll miss
Which might be my supreme bliss.

The feeble weakens own right
With the reception garland’s slight;
One who takes it at ease
One’s competence for it doesn’t cease;
To beg he’ll care not
His claim to blot.
I’ll not blend the counterfeit
Love’s shortfall to meet;
But my border
I’ll honour.
Whatever I got is my treasure
Without decay for ever;
To me is not great
Whatever I didn’t fate.

· * * * * * * * * * * *

Poem: Asru (Tears) of the book ‘Mahua’ (name of a flower) written at Bangalore in July, 1929.

O Beautiful,
Thou appear with eyes tearful!
Convey in Thy heart flame fierce
Mine to pierce.
So is sorrow resplendent
Life’s charming spells snap blatant;
In the breathe of that fire
Blossoms the separating lotus dire.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Poem: Antardhan (=Disappearance) of the book ‘Mahua’ written at Santiniketan in July 1928 excerpted in the novel ‘Shesher Kabita’

On the canvas of your extinction
I see your eternal configuration.
Within my heart unseen
Your ultimate visit has been –
The un-decaying touchstone
As my gain I’ve known.
Your vacuum that I sense
You yourself recompense.

As darkened the life, in my heart’s temple I had the clue
The evening lamp there was gifted by you.
In its separating flame -
Grief’s brilliance that from it came,
Love shaped up into worship
With its solemnity deep.

· * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Rather than an encounter with the enormity of Tagore, if not to excel him, Amit eventually had his accomplishment in deeper perceptions through his life’s experiences. He realized that his love both with Ketaki and Labanya were equally true. Love with Ketaki was like ‘water drawn in pitcher from the pond for daily use’ representing our mundane life. On the other hand his love with Labanya was like a vast ocean, akin to Infinity, where he will swim never to find its shore where to anchor.
So, all roads lead to Upanishad!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Saving India from the corrupt

Corruption in India is a form of terrorism


From The Statesman

Economic growth averaging 8.5 per cent during the last five years made us forget about corruption and crime in India. So it was very refreshing to read what former President APJ Abdul Kalam said recently. “My message to you is this: A corruption-free constituency (means a) corruption-free Karnataka. A corruption-free India is possible. Will MLAs of Karnataka lead the way?” he said, while addressing Karnataka’s legislators.

Ordinary Indians, the hoi polloi, pay bribes of about $5 billion (Rs 21,068 crore) a year in order to avail of “one or more of the 11 public services in a year” according to a 2005 Centre for Media Studies/Transparency India Report. Can you imagine how much “extra-ordinary Indians”, those who breakfast in New York, lunch in London and dine in Mumbai, must be paying to speed up their business deals? Corruption is endemic both in the Indian polity and the bureaucracy. Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index ranks India 72 out of 179 countries.

Asking the lawmakers to be “a friend, philosopher and guide to every family in their constituency”, Mr Kalam said, “Your mission should be to free your constituency from poverty and crime and ensure the dignity of every human being.” The message, though aimed at Karnataka’s new ruling party, the BJP, some of whose members are associated with the Hindu right, is the need of the moment, especially when Indians have become pre-occupied with terrorism. Internal terrorism is called insurgency, whether it is by Northeast separatists or by faux Maoists, and it has a strong correlation with corruption and crime. Corruption, crime and insurgency go together. “Criminals as lawmakers” is unique to Indian democracy.

India’s pace of globalisation from economic growth and foreign trade to piracy, terrorism and even movies like Slumdog Millionaire has raised expectations, revealing India’s strength as well as its weaknesses. So it is not surprising when I come across a person asking a question such as: If Indian economists are so smart ~ look at Professor Amartya Sen, Union Home Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, et al ~ can they help India get out of the global financial trouble? My quick answer is that corruption has bogged India down. Of course, some blame the socialist political economists of the post-independence generation who believed that a bad car made in India was a sign of self-reliance.
It is true to some extent that protectionism and buddy capitalism of the socialist era proved a poor substitute for the challenge and response of the competition of the marketplace.Initially, as the legend goes, the foreign exchange crisis of the early 1990s forced India to open up its doors to market economy.

But India was pushed into globalisation by the information revolution that had begun to sweep the world. The other India, its diaspora, especially in the IT field, began to show its unusual ingenuity for developing new products and services as well as for solving complicated problems, including killing the millennium bug.

Bangalore was able to lift off in spite of its poor infrastructure and in the process transformed itself into a cyberspace module that expertly docked with the emerging digital universe, partly thanks to Indian satellite technology, which was paradoxically developed during the era of self-reliance.While the spectacular success of Bangalore and IT showed how much the Indian tinkerer could do for the world, at the same time it exposed India’s vulnerabilities ~ its sluggish rural economy, massive shortfalls in investment for infrastructure development, more than 300 million illiterate people, and a high rate of underemployed and unemployed people.

The world began to look at India’s underside, miles of slums and millions of malnourished children, and the exposure has challenged Indian scruples and sensibilities. Indian policymakers and intellectuals began to grapple with the problem of economic growth, but they did not pay attention to the culture of corruption, the yoke on the poor.

The optimism created by IT and other industries cannot be sustained unless India develops the political will to clean its stables. What will make politicians and bureaucrats more accountable and responsive to public needs? Individuals who exercise political power should be made answerable for not only the way they use the power vested in them but also whether they achieve their goals with clean hands. Perhaps India needs a minister of corruption, who should build a network of whistleblowers. Sadly, the news media has not been playing the watchdog role essential for a healthy democracy.

Of course some problems are systemic and need structural changes. Poverty reduction depends on the rate of economic growth and how widespread and decentralised economic opportunities are. The system as a whole has to be geared for growth, which means the development of a grand national strategy that covers every region. Blooming Gujarat and gloomy Bihar (and the Northeast) cannot be part of the same country.The burden of corruption is ultimately borne by the poor in India.

The source of corruption is unaccounted exercise of power, and of course, a sleepy kowtowing press. Elected officials can be removed, though one might say disdainfully, only to be replaced by another crop of corrupt people. But democracies do have methods of dealing with corrupt people in high places if the rule of law is enforced.

Public accountability through news media exposes and merciless investigative reporting, especially through Internet blogging and television, as the American experience shows, is a strong antidote to corruption. Secondly, well-regulated and carefully crafted privatisation might reduce corruption because it takes power away from bureaucrats and gives it to entrepreneurs and corporate leaders. But they too can, as happens in the US, abuse power.

But if laws are enforced rigorously, the corrupt will find their well-deserved place in jails as many American chief executive officers have discovered.India will need more than Mr Kalam’s exhortation to eliminate corruption in public life. Corruption is a terrible form of terrorism; it is always there.

(ND Batra is professor of communicationsat Norwich University)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Not for girlie-men

Fighting terror is not for wimps

From The Statesman

Mr KPS Gill, a most highly regarded former policeman, told the Ladies Study Group in Kolkata last Thursday (11 December): “If 10 terrorists can hold the entire city of Mumbai to ransom for three whole days, I must admit that whoever is training these boys, handpicking them and motivating them, is definitely doing a good job.”

Not only have the Pakistanis done an excellent job in turning out superb commando-style terrorists but also they have used some of the most modern means of communication including GPS surveillance, Google Earth, satellite phones and voice-over-Internet-Protocol phone services.

Imagine a virtual war-room somewhere in Pakistan where every movement of “these boys” are being monitored in real time, as if the Houston ground control was monitoring a space shuttle flight. In comparison Operation Blue Star ~ pardon me Mr Gill ~ must have been child’s play, however tragic.

Do not underestimate the Pakistanis. They have created the indestructible Taliban and a ruthless secret service, the ISI, which through lethal, self-multiplying cells and self-sustaining charities rules Pakistan and casts its deadly shadow beyond its borders ~ what UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown on his recent visit to Pakistan called “the chain of terror that links the mountains of Afghanistan and Pakistan to the streets of the UK and other countries around the world”.

Sometimes I feel that Indians simply live in India but do not care much for India. For example, in 2007 when there was a terrorist attack in Hyderabad, an Indian minister said something unforgettable and unforgivable, “Do you want us to keep vigil on all the chaat-eating people? How many chaatwallahs can we guard?” If these girlie-men surrounded by 24/7 bodyguards had taken care of the rakeriwallahs, rikshawallahs and chaatwallahs, they would not have to fight this day to protect the poor rich people who throng the Taj Mahal Palace and the Oberoi Trident; and the unfortunate Jewish visitors who simply love India.

Only by protecting the lowly can you protect the mighty.

Terrorism has to be fought with anticipation, intelligence and persistence as the Europeans and Americans have been doing. Every now and then the US Homeland Security authorities revisit and update their plans to meet new contingencies. In 2006, for example, authorities had discovered a plot to blast and cripple the underground tunnel system that connects New Jersey with New York City. The discovery was not accidental. The security forces were on the lookout for terrorists in order to pre-empt any attack. Apart from the federal homeland security department, every state has contingency plans. The federal government and state governments work closely to fight crime and terrorism.

Do you remember what happened in India in 2006?

Indians forget and they pay for their forgetfulness. Americans don’t forget anything, whether it is Pearl Harbour or the 9/11. Americans commemorate and learn from history.

In the US and increasingly in Europe, there has been a big shift in thinking about terrorism. The policy has been to eliminate terrorism at the neonatal stage by establishing an early awareness system. The working principle is: what is anticipated can be prevented. Preventing terrorism at the inspirational and “aspirational” stages is the goal. Following the pre-emptive policy of dealing with terrorists, US Attorney David E Nahmias says, “We no longer wait until a bomb is built and ready to explode.” For example, the plot to bomb the Sears Tower in Chicago was at a stage “more aspirational than operational”, according to the FBI, when the terrorists were nailed down in June 2007. Europeans are doing the same thing.

Consider what happened in Brussels last Thursday, when, according to the International Herald Tribune (IHT), the Belgian police arrested 14 people on the mere suspicion of suspected terrorist links. Six of them were charged with being member of a Belgian branch of Al-Qaida. What prompted the pre-emptive measure was a two-day European Union meeting, which could have been the target. The IHT quoted the federal prosecutor in Brussels, Mr Johan Delmulle, as saying, “We don’t know where the suicide attack was to take place. It could have been an operation in Pakistan or Afghanistan, but it can’t be ruled out that Belgium or Europe could have been the target.”

Instead of waiting for an uncertain event becoming certain and then taking action, Europeans are now following the American strategy of preemption. On the contrary, Indians do not do anything even when they know terrorists are going to attack.

In a remarkable piece, replete with irrefutable evidence, published in IBN-Live, Mr Arun Shourie, a former editor-in-chief of the Indian Express and BJP Rajya Sabha MP, said the government knew about the threats and did nothing. Mr. Shourie understands that India need not be throttled by its enlightened doctrines when law-enforcement authorities try to locate and destroy terrorist cells functioning openly or clandestinely in their own backyards. Mr Shourie, I am sure, will make a terrific terrorism czar.

The security doctrine is simple: eliminate terrorism at the “aspirational” level, as the Belgian police did. The US security laws allow intelligence and law-enforcement authorities to monitor places of worship, activities of charities, communications of suspected militants, and even their shopping patterns.

Superb intelligence-gathering, preemptive and preventive measures and anticipatory disaster plans could go a long way in eliminating terrorism, if India wants to take terrorism as seriously as Europeans and Americans do.

The 2007 US National Strategy for Homeland Security emphasised that “we cannot simply rely on defensive approaches and well-planned response and recovery measures. We recognize that our efforts also must involve offense at home and abroad”. The US strategy “provides a common framework” through which not only do the federal, state and local governments work together, “the private and non-profit sectors, communities, and individual citizens” are also actively included in homeland security operations. Like the US, India should create a culture of preparedness that permeates all levels of society ~ from individual citizens, businesses, and non-profit organisations to federal, state, local and tribal government officials and authorities.

Post script. By saving the country from terrorism, India would lift millions of its Muslims from fear, which would let them give their best as some of them are doing in Bollywood, sports, and myriad other productive enterprises.

(ND Batra is professor of communications at Norwich University)

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Securing India day and night


India Above All
Cyber Age The Statesman
ND Batra
As soon as he assumed his new role as a terrorist czar, Mr Palaniappan Chidambaram, India’s new home minister, assured the people that “we will respond with determination and resolve to the grave threat posed to the Indian nation”. We have heard such bluster, such clenched-fist promises of dealing with the enemy myriad times before.
The painful truth is that India has no well-thought-out and planned strategy for apprehending terrorists and pre-empting them before they strike. Unlike the US and several European countries, which have learned from their own lapses and tragedies, India has failed to establish a dynamic national structure that responds not only to knowable threats but is also capable of anticipating the unknowable. For example, it was a lackadaisical attitude that prevented the authorities from apprehending the possibility that a terrorist attack could be launched from the Arabian Sea. Only a few days before the terrorists struck Mumbai, the Indian Navy had boasted of destroying a Somali pirate mother ship off the Gulf of Aden. Yet no one knew what was happening near India’s own coastal waters.

Where will the next attack come from? That is an unknowable at present but an early awareness system could show emerging possibilities before they become actualities. India has to establish a powerful central agency on the lines of US Homeland Security buttressed by a powerful tool such as Patriot Act and recruit and train a new kind of police force of well educated and intelligent people.It is shocking that the attacks on the famous Taj Mahal Palace, Oberoi-Trident and the Jewish centre that killed more than 190 people lasted so long ~ three days of running battles between India’s elite commandos and the gunmen before the sites were brought under control. Nothing of this kind has happened anywhere; in other places terrorists simply blow up their targets and themselves. In Mumbai they came to kill, kill, kill, as long as they could. Pakistani Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani said his country “would itself take action against the miscreants if there is any evidence against a Pakistani national”, warning at the same time that a “blame game should be avoided at all costs”.
Because otherwise the growing relations between the two countries could be adversely affected.If pushed to a corner, Pakistan will divert troops from its frontier badlands to the India-Pak border, an apparent blackmailing tactic against the US.Pakistan has the backing of its all-weather friend China, after all.

Syed Irfan Raza wrote in Dawn: “China has also assured Pakistan of moral, financial and material support in tackling the Mumbai fallout. In a message, the Chinese government said that it would assist Pakistan in any situation to overcome problems and challenges...(the) Chinese leadership was in constant touch with Pakistan to know the nature of assistance the latter requires and ensure its immediate availability.”Unlike the US, China is not persuading Pakistan to cooperate with India. Pakistan won’t hand over Dawood Ibrahim, the boss of the Mumbai underworld reputed to have networked with Bollywood bigwigs to Islamic militants; and Maulana Masood Azhar, the leader of the banned Pakistani militant group Jaish-e-Mohammed, who was once jailed in India, and let out after the 2000 December hijacking of an Indian Airlines flight from Kathmandu.

How the relationship between India and Pakistan will change because of terrorist acts after a few years of positive development is difficult to say because at present there is tremendous anger in India and official denial in Pakistan. What the new US administration should be looking at is to see that Pakistan’s nuclear weapons do not fall into terrorists’ hands.
If rogue elements in the ISI and other state and non-state actors, who do not want India and Pakistan settling down as peaceful neighbours and solving their problems, including Kashmir, get access either to nuclear weapons or technology, there could be a serious problem.

Regarding any possible involvement of the Pakistani government, including its intelligence services, India should not depend upon mere intuition but on solid evidence. At present India has evidence of only one terrorist who disclosed that Lashkar-e-Toiba-trained terrorists were involved. But they could not have been done without the support of the ISI and the D-Company, the crime and smuggling syndicate run by Dawood Ibrahim from Karachi.

At the conclusion of US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s visit, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari said, “We are looking at this as an opportunity and I intend to do everything in my power.” But how much power does he have? Who listens to him?
The Pakistani Army is the most powerful institution, which controls the ISI, which in turn controls the shadow jihadi organisations that train terrorists. Most Pakistanis trust the army rather than politicians who have little credibility. The army is more or less an absolute syndicate with criminal and terrorist proxy organisations, and one might say, of which Mr Zardari is a nothing but an apologist. He knows who killed his wife Benazir Bhutto, doesn’t he?
Mr Michael Moran, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations has told Newsweek: “So what you have in Pakistan is, in relative terms, a strong and dominant national institution in the army and a relatively weaker civilian political leadership that is only in the very early stages of trying to balance out the influence and sort of come to any kind of command relationship over the military.” I am very sceptical that the army will ever relinquish its political and cultural dominance in Pakistan; nor its historical enmity against India, for which it will always need the ISI and its lethal proxies with variable names.

So what is India’s choice? India must strike a new balance between civil liberties and national security. Within the framework of optimum civil liberties and the rule of law, India should establish a total surveillance system, a vast and comprehensive human and technological intelligence system that is capable of capturing unheard sounds of unborn events. But intelligence without action is meaningless.You cannot save India unless you love India totally and absolutely with all your heart ~ India above all.

(ND Batra is professor of communicationsat Norwich University)

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Yes, India Can

Give India weapons of self-protection

From The Statesman

India needs weapons of mass self-protection, not the false sense of security of regionalism as is being proposed in some quarters.

Mr Ahmed Rashid, the renowned Pakistani journalist and author, dumps the entire region extending from India through Pakistan and Afghanistan to the Central Asian states into one giant problematic region and laments that the US has failed in its duty of stopping the region from sliding into anarchy. In his latest book, Descent into Chaos, he reprimands the US for not doing enough, and advocates that saving the region is in the US national interest.

Mr Rashid is perhaps one of the very few Pakistanis who believe that the US invasion of Afghanistan “created enormous expectations of change and hope for a more sustained Western commitment to the region that would lift it out of poverty and underdevelopment”. After 9/11, the US wanted to get rid of Osama bin Laden, Al-Qaida and the Taliban. No nation can lift another nation or a whole region out of poverty and degradation caused by the blind hatred of others based on religious obscurantism. Instead of giving us an intelligent analysis of why Pakistan sank into progressive misery during six decades of independence, Mr Rashid blames the West for not waking up “to the realities and responsibilities of injustice, poverty, lack of education, and unresolved conflicts such as those in Kashmir and Afghanistan, which it had ignored for too long and which could no longer be allowed to fester”. Mr Rashid forgets that since the 1980s when Zia-ul-Haq seized power, Pakistan has been deliberating and turning into a nation with a fundamentalist mindset. In varying degrees, every institution, including the Pakistani armed forces and the ISI, has been infused with the fundamentalist virus, which spread from Saudi-financed Wahabi madrassas and abundant infusion of cash by Arab petrodollar charities.

There is no gainsaying the fact that Pakistan-backed Islamic fundamentalists and the US-financed Afghanistan armed resistance ultimately drove the Soviets out and might have played a significant role in the final collapse of the Soviet Union. When the US withdrew from Afghanistan leaving behind battle-scarred guerrillas, the ISI in collusion with Al-Qaida and helped by Arab money raised the Taliban, which in a short time overpowered the country, imposing a brutal fundamentalist order on the helpless, war-ravaged nation.

The ISI-Taliban control of Afghanistan seemed an unprecedented strategic achievement of the Pakistani armed forces, but it has become an endless nightmare. No less significant has been the role of China in helping Pakistan develop nuclear weapons, which turned a bankrupt country into the most dangerous place in the world, which could not be left alone.Instead of looking deep into the flawed foundation on which Pakistan was founded, Mr Rashid continues to blame the US for every ill of the region. He states the obvious that “Afghanistan is once again staring down the abyss of state collapse, despite billions of dollars in aid, forty-five thousand Western troops, and the deaths of thousands of people”.

This would not have happened if the Pakistan military and especially the ISI, which he calls “a state within a state”, had not collaborated with and sheltered Al-Qaida. Instead he says the resurgent Taliban have been “getting a boost from the explosion in heroin production that has helped fund their movement”. He also jumps to the facile conclusion, which sounds like propaganda, that, “At stake are the futures of the United Nations, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (Nato), the European Union, and of course America’s own power and prestige.”

He conveniently forgets to mention the role of China, Pakistan’s most reliable all-weather friend, in the country’s collapse. All we know is that when President Asif Ali Zardari went to Beijing to borrow a handful of dollars from China’s massive foreign exchange reserves, he returned with plenty of good wishes and re-affirmation of eternal friendship but nothing else.As expected, Mr Rashid indirectly places the responsibility of political disarray in Pakistan on India’s shoulders.

Pakistan’s obsession with Afghanistan is due to the fear generated by the increasing influence of India in the country, he says. It is true that India has poured massive development funds, as much as $1.2 billion, into the rebuilding of Afghanistan’s educational system and social-political institutions as well as infrastructure projects including the building of the Zaranj-Delaram highway that connects Afghanistan’s highway system to the Iranian port of Chabahar, which will eventually become India’s port of entry to central Asia. The purpose is not to surround Pakistan but find an alternative route to Central Asia to share its natural resources as China is doing.

When General Pervez Musharraf seized power in 2002, he had the opportunity to pursue his grand vision of making Pakistan a modern progressive Muslim nation. But like others before him, he got more interested in holding on to power than rebuilding Pakistan in spite of the billions of dollars in aid from the US. Mr Musharraf left the country bankrupt and in a worse shape than before. But he initiated some fresh thinking on India-Pakistan relations especially in regard to Kashmir and the confidence-building measures that he started have been taken up by Mr Zardari, whose recent pronouncements have raised great interest.

In an October interview with Wall Street Journal, Mr Zardari said India had never been a threat to Pakistan and he called Kashmir militants terrorists. In a recent leadership videoconference he suggested a no-first strike nuclear deal with India and envisaged the possibility of a South Asian economic union.

But the difficulty is that whenever India begins to believe that there is a genuine change in Pakistan, an ugly reality strikes brutally into India’s heart as it did last week in Mumbai when terrorists brazenly emerged out of the darkness of Arabian Sea to destroy everything India values and seeks: building peace with the rest of the world through economic growth, trade and commerce.India cannot stop Pakistan’s descent into chaos. But India can certainly protect itself by erecting a dynamic system of total homeland security as the US has done.

The US is safer today because of the US Patriot Act, which was renewed by the US Congress in 2006. Consider the acronym: Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act.

The US Patriot Act is a weapon of mass protection that has worked. That is what India needs. By protecting itself, India will protect the region and contribute to world peace.

(ND Batra is professor of communicationsat Norwich University)

A Tagore's Poem

A poem by Rabindranath Tagore, (1861 AD to 1941 AD) Nobel Laureate of 1913.

Translator: RAJAT DAS GUPTA, Calcutta
rajatdasgupta@yahoo.com & rajarch@cal3.vsnl.net.in

Poem No:1 of the book Patraput (Folded leaf) written on 4 May, 1935.

[Translator’s note: The poem is based on the association of the Poet once with a party who went for a trek on the mountain. There was a lot of reveling with the Poet’s participation, as is usual in such excursions, which the poem indicates. At the end, the spell of the ineffable natural beauty on the mountain captured all, and drowned the Poet into its fathomless ecstasy. Tagore’s mobility between the mundane, including very refined practical jokes, to the supreme aesthetic and spiritual intuitions was indeed amazing. I am tempted to refer here quite elaborately to Maitrayee Devi’s book ‘Tagore By Fireside’ (a translation by herself of her original book in Bengali ‘Mangpute Rabindranath’ i.e. Rabindranath at Mangpu, a hill station near Darjeeling which was the workplace of her husband) based on her diary she maintained while Tagore was her guest intermittently between 1938 to 1940. Her book is a unique literature of its kind. In no other writing one gets Tagore so closely as in this book, through the eyes of Maitrayee Devi. Following incidents/quotes from this book will hopefully be found relevant to this poem..

Once at Mangpu, Tagore conspired with a few of his associates to play a practical joke on a female relative of Maitrayee, whom all of them (including Tagore) addressed as Mashi (which in Bengali is the address for one’s mother’s sister, but may be applied to any woman around their age. For jest it is applied to much younger girls also, as in this case). Mashi was terribly afraid of insects which were then abundant while it was monsoon time. In the morning the Poet predicted the girl that it would be a bad day for her, pretending that it was his astrological reading. On persistence of the girl for more details of the impending mishap, the Poet replied that it might be of any kind which could not be precisely foreseen. Then in the words of Maitrayee Devi:]

“Early in the evening, at about dinner-time, I was waiting to give the Poet some medicine, when I suddenly heard a piercing shriek and a loud crash of falling crockery. I ran into the dining room to find Mashi standing on a chair, thoroughly distraught, with the dining table in complete disorder, while the others, whom the Poet used to call his three lords, were eating a huge beetle with much gusto. Then it came out that the beetle was made of chocolate. The great lord ordered it from a confectioner’s in Darjeeling, and then by previous unanimous agreement it was placed ready on Mashi’s plate neatly covered with a serviette. I came back to the Poet’s room and found him laughing to himself to his heart’s content.

‘Mashi, didn’t I predict that the day would end badly for you?’
‘Extraordinary! You were also in this conspiracy?’ ‘Really, I am also in it, am I? That is too bad, it really has gone too far – please do not release the news to the Associated Press, for the Poet Emperor (the Poet is referred in India as the Poet Emperor, the World Poet, The Great Poet etc.) would lose his prestige altogether, specially in our Guru-ridden country! Had I sat on a high pedestal, behaving like a proper preceptor and now and then showered sermons from on high, who would have been the loser? Those who fix themselves on the top of the ladder do not realize how much they lose.’

Words, that are limited by fixed meanings, seem inadequate to express how all the fine and sensitive touches of his personality revealed themselves to us, how we found him at once detached and absorbed. Even when absorbed in deep thought, engrossed in serious writing, he would return to us in a moment. He was interested in our smallest pleasures and pains, the trivial problems of our everybody life, watching over us with affection and anxiety. He did not stand like an onlooker on the bank, but came right into the middle of our life stream and felt its flow. Yet, in a moment he would be off on a voyage to some far away region. At one moment he would talk on the ordinary topics and regale everyone with humorous conversation, but the next moment he would relapse into a silence that would change the whole aspect of his personality, as if a door had closed, leaving us outside it, to gaze into a mystery we never could aspire to reach. Sometimes, in moments like this, we have felt, at least I have felt, that I should not speak at all, even if there should be something urgent to say. The tranquility that emanated from him at such times cannot be transmitted to my readers through the medium of language. Sometimes he would sit for hours without moving a hair, a hush would descend over the trees, over the dark masses of the bushes; at such times all noise, even the voices inside the house, would disappear from consciousness, something would reach out to me from an absolute stillness. I longed to sit at the feet of my Guru at those tranquil hours, but it was not an easy thing at the beginning; for ordinary persons like us to be able to sit in perfect stillness for a while needs training. One’s back would start itching, or toe would go to slip, something or other would tickle somewhere, making it absolutely necessary to change position. In the beginning, I was amazed to see him sit in the same position for hours, forgetting the existence of a body. Sometimes in the early hours of dawn, I have found him sitting thus, quite unmindful of the centipedes that were crawling up and down his arm. And then I would be confronted with a problem, not knowing whether to brush them away or leave them undisturbed. I found it impossible to express not only what he was, but also how I saw him. I can take down a little of his conversation, but how can I explain that eloquence of his silence, which was deeper expression of his personality, as I felt sitting there in an ineffable companionship, filled with a glow of well-being that baffles all description?”

Amidst the muddle of all weal and woe
That does with the stream of life flow,
Sudden encounter there has been
With moments of fulfillment hardly seen –
As in a mass of pebbles, a rare
Pick of a glistening sapphire.
So many times I thought
In Bharati’s (*) garland have those caught, (*)
But dared not,
Lest my poesy would fall short;
My artistic zeal
Their innate beauty would kill.

At Darjeeling we went for a trot
Stayed in a concealed cot
Down the main road –
On the porter’s back our load
Of all stores to keep our revel,
Like Esraj (**), food chests et al, we set for Sinchel (**)
To spend the night on that peak
Our enjoyment to seek.
On the mendicant mount,
Our mirth wouldn’t count.
Shaky Nabagopal rode a pony
And was indeed funny –
More he feared,
More the boys jeered.
Of that clime they were the lord,
All the way echoed their laughter and discord.
The vacuum of the hill
We few would fill
With our wits
And delighting feats –
With our ingenuity high
The solemnity to defy;
Such was our conviction
As we trekked on.

At last when our up climb ended
The afternoon Sun had descended,
Hoping amusement profuse,
Our unguarded cacophony we did muse
Would overflow our night
With nectarous delight.

At the peak under the sky infinite,
The Sun right on the horizon to prelude the night
Down the wide valley there
Zigzags the silvery river,
At the Western sky lines
The angels’ playfield shines
With the golden pot’s outpour,
Its ecstasy to capture the Earth to its core.
Reticence fell on the revelers,
All stood in amazed peers;
The Esraj lay aground silent
Earth’s din held to perceive that supreme moment.

Not born in the Vedic age
None could gage
A solemn hymn to the gale
Down that superb dale.
Right then we looked behind
The full Moon to find;
With friend’s beaming smile –
Heaven’s Poet Laureate to beguile
With his mystic literal
Just composed with its ineffable spell.

Daily the maestro plays his lute,
Unwitting, perceives the absolute,
One day all of a sudden,
The silver string resonates with the golden
When none is around,
That never before he found.
The music that day thrived
In eternal silence it dived
That very day;
His lute, the maestro scraps away.

When the ineffable tune did play,
On this Earth was my stay –
“Wonderful” – to say.


(*) Bharati is the Goddess of Learning, also referred as Saraswati, whose worship is performed particularly by the student community in Bengal, the time for is generally in the month of February.
(**) Esraj- a stringed musical instrument, like violin.