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Saturday, December 13, 2008

Historical Turning Points in Kashmir

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Kashmir remains at the core of the issues between India and Pakistan and it has once again come to focus with the recent Mumbai Blasts. It has remained an issue for the last 60 years. However, there have been three important events that took place in History; each of them could have changed the History of Kashmir. I am sure most of the Indians or Pakistanis would be unaware of any of them.

The First of them took place a few months before independence of the two countries. This was when the actual border was being drawn. The fundamental basis that was followed for this was the population of the region. So, Muslim dominated areas were given to Pakistan while India retained the Hindu and Sikh dominated areas. One interesting deviation from this rule was the case of Gurdaspur, a border district, now a part of Punjab (India) and is represented by Vinod Khanna. This district had a Muslim population of 50.5%. It was initially given to Pakistan. However, later on it was given to India to please the Sikhs. The Sikh had lost significant portion of their land to Pakistan. Amritsar was the holy city of the Sikhs. Gurdaspur would provide a buffer to Amritsar, which otherwise would be surrounded by Muslim-dominated areas. Moreover, by giving Gurdaspur to Pakistan would have also meant that Pakistanis could stop the river water supply to the Holy City. A lot of prominent Sikh religious places were already lost to Pakistan. Therefore, this was an important concession to be made.

Gurdaspur is an extremely strategic location. Of the three routes to Kashmir by land, two of them are in Pakistan while the third was through the district of Gurdaspur. The route from the Kangra side not that good. So if Gurdaspur had not been given, most probably Kashmir today would have been a part of Pakkistan. Indian troops in 1947-48 used the Gurdaspur route(via Pathankot) to enter the state.

Quite expectedly, there has been a lot of criticism of British for giving Gurdaspur to India. Allegations of bias have been made. However, almost of these allegations fail to mention the case of Chittagong Hill Tracts, which were given to Pakistan despite 97% non-Muslim population. The rationale of giving Chittagong Hill Tracts to Pakistan was to provide some buffer area to Chittagong (now in Bangladesh) a major city and port and also it was argued that its only approach was through Chittagong. Gurdaspur District had a slight Muslim majority, because Ahmadiyya community were counted as Muslims even though they had been declared non-Muslims by Muslim clergy (there was large concentration of Ahmediyas in that area because their spiritual centre Qadian is located in Gurdaspur district). (Source: Gurdaspur & Kashmir accession)

The Second incident occurred soon after independence. All princely states were given the option that could join either India or Pakistan, or become independent. However, becoming independent was not feasible for most as they were to small to survive. British Govt, India and Pakistan all agreed. By August 1947, three states Junagarh, Hyderabad and Kashmir were yet to sign the accession agreement. Junagarh and Hyderabad were Hindu majority states with a Muslim ruler which in case of Kashmir it was the reverse.

The ruler of Junagarh dis-regarding the viewpoint of his subjects decided to accede to Pakistan. The Indian government did not accept the decision. Junagarh was surrounded by India on three sides with Arabian Sea on the fourth. It was 300 miles away from the Pakistan mainland. Govt. of India blockaded Junagadh and then invaded it. Delhi then imposed a plebiscite and secured the result it desired: Junagadh became part of India.

In Hyderabad’s case, it was surrounded by India on all sides. The ruler wanted to accede to Pakistan. Having hostile country right in the heart of India was not acceptable. For Kashmir , it was possible for it accede to either India or Pakistan. When Liaquat Ali Khan met Nehru at the end of November (while the Junagarh was being invaded) he exposed the illogicality of India's position. If Junagadh, despite its Muslim rulers' accession to Pakistan, belonged to India because of its Hindu majority, then Kashmir surely belonged to Pakistan. When Liaquat Ali Kahn made this incontrovertible point his Indian interlocutor, Sardar Patel, could not contain himself and burst out: 'Why do you compare Junagadh with Kashmir? Talk of Hyderabad and Kashmir and we could reach agreement.' However, Jinnah was thinking in terms of legally possible options rather than political realities. In the long term the independence of Hyderabad, while constitutionally proper, was never going to happen. The new Indian leadership saw the issue clearly enough and when the Nizam tried to strike a deal which would allow him to hang on to some degree of autonomy, Delhi flatly refused to consider the idea. (Source: Hyderabad and Junagadh at Partition)

Had Jinnah accepted the deal, it would have meant, Kashmir would have been a part of Pakistan.

The Third incident occurred after Kashmir was invaded by Pakistan. Kashmir’s Maharaj had not joined either with India or with Pakistan. After the partition most of the armed forces went to India. As a result Pakistan sent irregular tribal militia to invade Kashmir. After a substantial portion was captured by the Pakistanis, the Maharaja signed the accession document. After this, the Indian Govt. sent its troops to capture back Kashmir. Indian forces were easily defeating the militia. However, Nehru withdrew the operation and announced on radio that he would hold a plebiscite under UN supervision. This left Sardar Patel fuming. But, Nehru was someone who rather than being a pragmatic wanted to establish himself as a statesmen in the international community. He later went on to form NAM. One of his other major blunders was to mishandling of the Chinese that led to a humiliating defeat for the country.

In short both Jinnah and Nehru had the opportunity to avoid the situation that we are presently in. What is interesting to note that both of them are still widely respected in their respective countries. The Nehru-Gandhi family is perhaps even bigger brand than Mahatma Gandhi(Father of the Nation) as more number of Public schemes, buildings, airports and Hospitals in their name than of Mahatma Gandhi.


1. Jinnah and Kashmir

Friday, November 28, 2008

A Wednesday

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Wednesday, a recently released Bollywood movie was a fictional story where in an average Mumbaikar, takes revenge for the Mumbai serial train blasts. Ever since watching that movie, I had a feeling somewhere from within that the next attack would happen on a Wednesday. It might well be a co-incidence that the latest attacks on Mumbai happened on a Wednesday.

I am writing this article even as the rescue operations still continue after over 48hrs since the attack first began. These attacks are perhaps the biggest ever attacks, ever bigger than the 1993 attacks. This attack raises important questions on our security establishment:

* Terrorist used loopholes in India’s coastal security which were not plugged even after 1993 attacks
* The political leadership was indecisive and NSG was called in very late. This delay would have allowed the terrorists to take proper positions at the hotels.
* Further time was lost in briefing of the commandoes about the internal layout of the hotels.
* Initial reports claimed the number of terrorists to be between 25 and 30. However, adding up the terrorists killed so far and those holed up inside, the number is nowhere close to 25. So it seems that a lot of the terrorists managed to escape after creating mayhem in the hotels.
* Shivraj Patil’s mis-handling of the home ministry has been well documented. Another chapter to it was added when he accidently helped the terrorists by giving prior information about the movement of the Commandoes from Delhi.
* No Helicopters weren’t used on Thursday. Opening up a second front could have speeded up the process as it would have easily diverted the terrorists’ attention that would have to fight on two fronts now.
* All this is quite reminiscent 1999 Kandhar hijackings where the terrorists were allowed to leave the country from the Amritsar airport.

The Congress Govt in the last five years of its rule has done little to counter terrorism which meant that the attacks have more daring day by day.

* The Congress has always been keen to stick to its secular image. What is unfortunate is that being secular has lately meant tolerating everything what the minority community does even if it is against the larger interest of the country. So even if BJP raises the issue of terrorism, it is often labeled as communal by the so-called secularists (Congress and the Left)
* Bangladeshi refugees have continued to stay in the country and pose a grave danger to the country’s security. Many of them have even obtained voter id cards. The NDA did take some initiatives to fan out these illegal immigrants. But such issues of grave national importance have continuously been politicized. During the NDA regime several Left leaders raised the issue stating that only Muslims were being transported back to Bangladesh easily ignoring the fact that over 83% of the population of Bangladesh is constituted by Muslims.
* It has always opposed Uniform civil code and reforms in the Muslim society which are absolutely necessary to prevent any outburst by the Indian muslims who could become easy recruits for the Lashkar and Jaish.
* Even in the past it came under the pressure of the fundamentalist and India became the first country to ban Salman Rushdie.

At a time when Hindu fundamentalism is on the rise and has even managed to take shape of terrorism, it would be grossly naïve to ignore the Muslim extremism, which still remains a much bigger danger. However, the political leadership seems to be more interested in scoring brownie points and trying to equate both forms of terrorism. The so-called Hindu terrorists do not receive the kind of military support that Islamic militancy gets. There may a few mis-guided Hindu youth backed by some retired military officers. But this is still no match to the Islamic terrorism who have the audacity and the capability to carry out attacks of this scale like that in Mumbai.

The US after 9/11 attacks enacted ‘The Patriot act’ to counter terrorism, an act that in some ways compromises with personal freedom but aims to keep US and its citizens safe. However in India with its diversity in religions, it is unlikely that such a consensus is possible. The BJP ofcourse has been repetedly demanding that POTA be brought back, which was repealed by the UPA soon after it came back to power. Merely bringing back POTA may not bring back peace.

As Vinod Sharma points out in his blog, “ Laloo Yadav, India's Railway Minister, has in fact, been openly calling LK Advani a terrorist. He himself was openly moving around accompanied by an Osama Bin Laden look-alike during the elections in Bihar to get Muslim votes.”

All this has happened just a couple of days before the Capital is set vote for the Assembly elections and the ruling party is bound to suffer heavy losses because of this. In my earlier article, I had said about the possibility of a Third Front govt. led by Mayawati. But that is all set to change with the events of the last three days. So far, the BJP has exercised restraint and not really started politicizing the issue, but it hard to say how long that would continue. The NDA could be a major beneficiary of these attacks and given the new political dynamics where in it has the momentum going into the polls. It is now quite likely that it may also be able to convince some of the regional parties who are yet align with any of the fronts.

It is often said that a week is a long time in politics, well it is still more than 3 months for the general elections and hence anything can happen. For now, its advantage BJP.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Who will be the next Prime Minister of India?

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With just 3-4 months left for the General Elections, the question as to who shall be the next Prime Minister is pertinent question to be asked.

So who are the possible candidates. BJP has named one of its founder leaders, L.K. Advani as its Prime Ministerial candidate. This may be his last shot at Prime Ministership given his age. Congress on the other hand will most probably fight the elections under the leadership ManMohan Singh given his recent success in driving the Nuclear Deal home.

However, in my opinion there is a third candidate, Mayawati, the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, who has a realistic chance at becoming the Prime Minister. And more importantly, she knows it pretty well and has been actively working on it. I know the readers of this blog are bound to raise a few eyebrows. Some of my friends too objected with my choice when I told them of the possibility.

Here is the reason why I feel so. In 2007, Mayawati won absolute majority in UP, something that has not happened in over decade with a single party managing a majority. Uttar Pradesh is the largest state with respect to number of seats in Lok Sabha. The states has produced as many as eight Indian Prime Ministers. Out of the 85 Lok Sabha seats, it is quite likely that BSP may win about 55-60 seats, which is a huge number.

Left has already indicated that it is willing to consider a Third Front under Mayawati. The Left Front which has its govts. in Kerala and West Bengal should win atleast 40 out of 62 seats. This is conservative estimate acknowledging the Singur controversy in WB. So the Left-BSP combine should end up with around 100 seats. That leaves 442 seats.

Getting 272 out these 442 seats by either NDA or UPA is extremely unlikely considering that there are still many strong regional parties like AIADMK, Trinamol Congress and TDP that haven't aligned with any group. It must not be forgotten that all three parties are the states where anti-incubancy is likely to be a major factor and all three are expected to make huge gains.

All groups have been trying to woo these parties for sometime. Since, DMK is in UPA, AIADMK cannot be a part of UPA. Similarly, TDP cannot be a part of UPA while Trinamol Congress cannot be a part of the Third Front. All three parties in the past have been a part of NDA at some of time. However, they all have suffered because of BJP's communal image in the past and the Third alternative is a good option for them.

The NDA in the last fews months has managed to bring aboard a few allies, for example - AGP in Assam. However, Assam has only 14 Lok Sabha seats which WB, AP and TN have 42, 42 and 39 seats respectively. So even one of the three decides to go the Mayawati, she will be in a very strong position to dictate terms.

The coming months are very crucial and would decide who would become the next Prime Minister.

Chinese claims on Arunachal Pradesh

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Over the last week, India and China have been in a war of words over Arunachal Pradesh or Tawang as China calls it. So what is this land dispute with China all about. I doubt whether many Indians would be aware about it. The mainstream media all also rarely covers such issues.

It all goes back to the ancient times. The present Arunachal Pradesh was a part of Tibet. Tibet was an independent country Tibeten culture was distinct from Mandarin culture. By now Buddhism had spread to Tibet. However, from the 13th century onwards Tibet was under the control of the Mongolsho also controlled vast stretches of China. It was now that Buddhism began to spread rapidly in China and Mongolia. Tibet has had wars with the kingdoms of Ladakh, Bhutan and Nepal, losing many battles and winning a few.

Since the early eighteen century, the Manchu rulers of China have made claims on Tibet. However, the China empire was in a decline and Tibet managed to assert its independence. With rise of Communist Russia, the British began extending its influence in the region.The British forced the Tibetans to sign a trade treaty which opened Tibet’s borders to British India. In 1907, Britain also entered into a treaty with Russia which recognised Chinese suzerainty over Tibet.

After China was defeated by Japan in a series of battles in the early twentieth century, Chinese control over Tibet waned. Britain, Tibet and China held negotiations in Simla in 1913 and 1914 to resolve the boundaries between India, China and Tibet. The negotiations broke down and Henry McMahon, the then British Indian foreign secretary and the chief British negotiator, unilaterally demarcated the Indo-Tibetan border. Approximately 9,000 square kilometres of traditional Tibetan territory in southern Tibet (the Tawang region) was given to India (which now forms the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh). McMahon also recognised Chinese suzerainty over Tibet and affirmed that Tibet was a part of China. China did not agree to this Simla convention and hence, this treaty became a bilateral agreement between India and Tibet.

This border is also the McMahon Line or Line of Actual Control(LAC). Chinese refuse to recognise Tibet as a separate country and thus according to them the 1913 agreement between India and Tibet is not valid. While the Indian side claims that Tibet was independent and thus Arunachal Pradesh is a part of India.

To add to India acknowledged that Tibet was a part of China in a treaty concluded in April 1954. The Chinese did not bring up the border issue at the 1954 conference, the issue was supposed to be settled. China which had occupied Tibet began land reforms. As a result of Dalai Lama fled to India in 1959 which created a lot of sympathies for the Tibetians in India. Chinese began suspecting that India had designs on the region. China attacked India in 1962 and easily captured the disputed territory. It was however forced to retreat after the US, USSR and UK pledged millitary support to India.

Like all border issues, this one doesn't looks to be solved anytime sooner.


1. Wikipedia

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Dhoni - is it luck or charisma behind his initial success?

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Date:Nov 13,2008-Article was migrated
With Anil Kumble hanging his boots after poor series and serious injury, Mahendra Singh Dhoni was handed over the Test captaincy of India. He managed to win the Nagpur quite comprehensively in the end. Meanwhile Rahul Dravid failed miserably in the series managing just one half-century and there are calls that he is next in line for retirement. So is this a fair assessment, and does India no longer needs its fab-four? Does Mahendra Singh Dhoni who has a 100% record so far, deserves the captaincy?

'Statistics are like a bikini. What they reveal is suggestive, but what they conceal is vital.'

Media like everyone else, likes to salute the rising sun which in this case happens to Dhoni. Lets look at a few facts.
In the 2007-08 Test series in Australia, Anil Kumble led the side extremely well and had a good personal series. Dhoni averaged just 17 in four Test matches with no fifties while someone like Harbhajan Singh who didn't all four matches managed two fifties. Media as always has chosen to ignore this fact.

During the CB series in Feb-March 2008, Indian bowlers led by Ishant did an amazing job. India however continued to struggle as a team because their were unable to put up decent scores. Sachin Tendulkar who missed the early part of the tournament because of injury played a major role in reviving the team. In the two finals(best of three) he scored 117 and 90. Tendulkar bashers were no where to be seen.

However, what followed was the IPL. The focuss was lost and the more glamourous and young Indian lot captured all the attention. Dhoni missed the test series in Sri Lanka but he played well against Australia. What is important to note is that those runs came under home conditions. Despite sounding cynical, let me add that I am great admirer of Dhoni's leadership. However, it is too early for us comment. He is yet to prove himself at Test level abroad against quality opposition. More important, India may have fared well against Australia at home and may easily beat England but they still don't have enough depth and need the likes of Tendulkar and Dravid especially abroad.I really feel sorry for Jammy, I hope he scores plenty against England.

Also we must not forget that India won the toss three of the four times. In Bangalore where India lost the toss, they nearly lost the match and if it had not been a rescue by Bhajji and Zaheer, India could well have started the series 0-1 down. Anil Kumble too was extremely unlucky in Bangalore where a couple of decisions went against him and a crucial catch was dropped by none other than MS Dhoni.

As for Mahi, despite all the buzz I would like to wait to form an opinion. But its good for him that he is a wicket-keeper and manages to keep his place even if he has a poor series with a bat, a luxury that most Indian captains don't get.