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Sunday, December 27, 2009

Looking back at history: Hijack of Fokker Aircraft in 1971

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The year 2009 is coming to an end, and touchwood, we haven't had any major terrorist strike.Indian Home Minister recently admitted that luck played an important part in this - the Indian intelligence agencies need to be lucky every time, the terrorists need to be lucky just once.

So are Indian intelligence agencies who are often criticized and termed ineffective, really that bad? In this article, I am going to discuss a very old incident, Hijack of Fokker Aircraft, which happened just before the 1971 India-Pakistan war. Most Indians would be unaware of this incident.

Let me add a caveat before I continue with my article. This article contains my understanding of the incident and is based on my various reading I have done on this topic. This may or may not be the actual description of the events. India has never officially acknowledged its involvement for obvious reasons. It is unlikely to do the same ever, in pretty much the same way as Pakistan is unlikely to accept its support for terrorism.

Creation of Bangladesh was perhaps biggest ever success of RAW. The Fokker incident occurred before the start of the war but it proved to be an important event.

India and Pakistan had been quarreling over Kashmir ever since independence. They had fought two wars in 1948 and 1965. By 1970, cracks began to appear between the West and East Pakistan - its two wings.

East and West Pakistan were separated by more than 1000 miles. Soon after independence, Urdu was proclaimed to be the national language of the wings even though Bengali was spoken by a majority of the Pakistanis. The Bureaucracy and Army was dominated by Punjabi's. There was considerable resentment among the East Pakistanis over dominance of the West.

President Yahya Khan held fair and free elections in December, 1970 in which Awami League of Shaikh Mujibur Rahman won a majority largely due to his Six-Point manifesto. National Assembly was to hold its first session in Dacca on 2nd March, 1971. It was, however, sabotaged by vested interests of West Pakistani establishment and some leading politicians, who were not willing to accept a Bengali-led government. (Source)
By March, Pakistani army resorted to use of force and decided to crush the political movement. Mujibur Rahman was arrested and sent to prison in West Pakistan. The use of force was excessive and large number of Bengalis were killed. A huge number of Bengali women (mostly Hindu) were raped by the Pakistani army. Survivors have compared it to the Nazi extermination of Jews. This led to a large number of Bengalis seeking refuge in India. India decided to extend all help to the refugees.

India and Pakistan had two different strategies. Pakistan was aware that India could come to help the East Pakistanis. Therefore its plan was to devote more men and material for West Pakistan.

The Pakistanis would concentrate their forces in the West and thereby aim at capturing as much as Indian territory as possible. The Indians, on the other hand, would be fighting a war on two fronts (while at the same time keeping a fearful eye on the Chinese borders). Given this scenario, the Pakistanis felt that India at best would be able to capture some territory in East Pakistan and lose quite a bit in the West. In the end, the Pakistanis knew that the Western powers would intervene to stop the war and what would matter is who had the most of the other's territory. (Source)

They were hoping for a stalemate just as had happened during the 1965 War. Indian plan was essentially to liberate East Pakistan as quickly as possible. On its Western sector, it had essentially planned to defend with much smaller units and had much fewer offensive plans.

The Fokker incident
On January 30,1971, brothers Hashim and Ashraf Quereshi of the Jammu & Kashmir Liberation Front, armed with a pistol and a hand grenade, hijacked Ganga, a Fokker Friendship aircraft of the Indian Airlines (IA), after it had taken off from Srinagar for Jammu and forced the pilot to take it to Lahore.

After the aircraft had landed, Zuklfiquar Ali Bhutto, then Foreign Minister under Yahya Khan, rushed to Lahore, fraternized with the hijackers and helped them get maximum international publicity for their cause. On February 1, he persuaded them to release the crew and passengers who were sent by road to Amritsar. (Source)

Was the hijack staged
Pakistan has consistently alleged that this hijack was staged by Indian intelligence agencies. Soon after the hijack, India banned all Pakistani flights over its airspace. This meant that the distance between West and East Pakistan became three times the orginal distance and thus made it more difficult for Pakistan to transfer resources from West to East. It may have played its part in the overall outcome of the war.

The aircraft was hijacked by two Kashmiris, Butt and Hashim Quereshi. One of them was a Border Security Force man. What made the affair curious was the fact that Ganga was one of the oldest aircraft in the Indian Airline fleet and was already withdrawn from service but was re-inducted days before the 'hijack'. Even more tellingly, a deputy inspector general of the BSF based in Jammu, bristling at the involvement of one of his men in hijack, had gone public to say that he had objected to the induction of Butt into the BSF but was overruled by a 'higher intelligence agency'. (Source)
From the prima facie , it does appears that the hijack was staged by Indian intelligence agencies. In hindsight it appears to be clever plan that worked perfectly. Though there are some unanswered questions. Like why was Quereshi arrested by Indians when he returned back to India.

This surely is gratifying for an ordinary Indian that its intelligence agencies are capable enough to do something like that. Indian agencies have consistently maintained a low profile as compared to other agencies like CIA or Mossad. There are rarely any publicity or movies made on RAW's operations.

The reasons are best known to the people in-charge. I only hope that they are still carrying on their good work.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Telangana Conundrum

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Let me say from the outset, I am a North-Indian and I have no in-depth knowledge of the issue. I am just expressing my understanding of issue based on various readings I have done on the issue.

Why Telanana?

First of all, Telangana is not a new demand. Telangana basically comprises of the districts of the erstwhile Nizam's Hyderabad princely state. After the independence, Telangana was merged into the larger Andhra state.
The States Reorganization Commission (SRC) was not in favour of merging the Telangana region with the then Andhra state. The concerns of Telanganas were manifold[citation needed]. The region had a less developed economy than Andhra[citation needed], which Telanganas feared might be diverted for use in Andhra. They also feared that planned dam projects on the Krishna and Godavari rivers would not benefit Telangana proportionately even though Telanganas controlled the headwaters of the rivers. (Source)
Telanganas feared too that the people of Andhra would have the advantage in jobs, particularly in government and education. Telangana people under Nizam had no or little education till then. Those who had were educated in Urdu. Meanwhile the people of Andhra were educated under British – learning Telugu and English. So, when the new state of Andhra Pradesh was formed, the prerequisite languages were Telugu and English, and since people of Telangana lacked education in both these languages all the initial jobs were filled up by people of Andhra causing anticipated anguish to people of Telangana.(Source)
In 1969 there was a popular student movement in Telangana and many people were killed and jailed. Following that TPS (Telangana Praja Samiti) won 11 out of 12 Lok Sabha seats on a single plank – of creating new Telangana State. Indira Gandhi snubbed that movement while the leaders of Telangana betrayed their own people by joining the Congress and Chenna Reddy became Chief Minister of the entire state.  (Source)

This is quite similar to what in case of Jharkhand. A demand for Jharkhand (basically comprising of tribal districts) was also made to the SRC. However, a larger state of Bihar was created. The erstwhile state of Bihar had a total of 54 seats of which only 14 were in Jharkhand. Jharkhand is highly rich in minerals. Hence, the region which was already backward was exploited by the Biharis who were numerically superior.

BJP has always supported the Telangana movement. It was the BJP led NDA that created the states of Jharkhand, Uttaranchal and Chattisgarh in 1999. However, at that point of time they were in alliance with the TDP and hence didn't then.

Why no to Telangana?
One of the major reasons for an opposition to creation of Telangana is because the twin-cities of Hyderabad-Secunderabad lie in the Telangana region. The twin-cities have received a large investment into infrastructure particularly under Chandrababu Naidu making it preferred IT location. A large number of Telugu people are settled in the cities.

Gurgaon, another IT hub contributes about 40% of the GDP of Haryana. I do not have the similar figures for Hyderabad, but I am sure the figure would be immense, although Haryana is a much smaller state.

Another important issue is that of Naxalism which is active in the Telangana region. At a time when the Naxal movement is on the rise, it may not be the best idea to create a new state. I am not sure whether the new Govt. would be able to deal to effectively with the Naxals. Veerappan, the dreaded smuggler remained nuisance for around three decades. This is primarily because he operated in a region bordering three states Kerela, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. Coordination among different states police was not effective.

Even in case of West Bengal, it is reported that the Maoist are much strong in the bordering districts of the state. After committing the crime they escape into the neighboring state where West Bengal police have no writ. Similar situation could now arise. The present crisis may have created some resented among the two sides and they may not co-operate with each other thus playing into the hands of the Maoists.

The present crisis
KCR formed the his new party TRS in 2001 and has been fighting for a new state. In 2004, he won fought the elections in alliance with the Congress and won. But the Congress did not keep its promise. Despite that, the party managed to win the 2009 elections. That could be attributed to the YSR magic who is no more.

Perhaps KCR feels that this is the right time to press for Telangana because the Chief Minister is still new in the job and YSR loyalists may not give him a free hand. Needless to say that the demand for Telangana runs deep and the present protests are a clear indication of that. Moreover, I don't think that it is correct for the numerically superior Telugus to decide whether Telangana stays in Andhra or not. A referendum in Telangana is perhaps the best option.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Interesting Reading: Why Sena's attack on Sachin will backfire

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Last couple of weeks have witnessed increasing regional chauvinism, particularly by the MNS and Shiv Sena. It started with MNS slapping Abu Azmi and then threatening SBI. Shiv Sena followed with its supremo lashing out at perhaps the biggest modern day Marathi icon - Sachin Tendulkar.

It is quite hard to understand why the Shiv Sena chose to take on Sachin. Sachin's remark that "Mumbai belongs India" was most likely to be directed on the MNS and its chief. Perhaps he has not learned from what happened in 1999.

The Shiv Sena government established an award.... I think it's name is Maharashtra Bhushan Puraskar. Basically, Maharashtra's equivalent of the Bharat Ratna. The first recipient was, duh, PuLa. In his acceptance speech, PuLa made some remarks that were mildly critical of the Shiv Sena government. Nothing too hardcore, but a rebuke nonetheless.

Pu La Deshpande, the literary genius, a selfless and austere humanitarian, and an independent spirit, was (and continues to be after his death), something akin to a god for most Marathis. Bal Thackeray flipped his lid. He made some rude and uncharitable comments about PuLa, something like "jis thali mein khatey ho, usi mein chhed karte ho" (Source)

Shiv Sena had called for early state elections so that they could be held along with Lok Sabha elections and Shiv Sena could benefit from the NDA wave. The Saffron did win the Lok Sabha elections but lost the assembly elections. The election pundits were surprised and dumbfounded. One obvious reason was that the alliance between the two was well demarcated - BJP would be the senior partner in Lok Sabha hence fight more seats while vice-versa for Shiv Sena in Assembly Elections.

There has been absolutely no wonder that the MNS has not uttered a single word against Sachin. Raj Thakerey selectively picks his enemies. For instance, Mumbai-Pune circle accounts for 40% of film collections and hence he chose to attack Karan Johar's Wake Up Kid. He knew that the producer will buckle down due to commercial reasons.  Likewise he has attacked Bachhans (a North India). He will not dare to attack an icon like Sachin.

Its just hard to understand how a seasoned politician like Bal Thakerey would commit such a rookie mistake. Even the BJP has distanced itself and has praised Sachin. The Sena on the other hand seems to be hell bent to isolate itself. It followed up its atack on Sachin which a physical attack on the IBN Lokmat.

In the recent Assembly elections, Shiv Sena was badly defeated. It was even forced to give up the post of the Leader of the Opposition as it won only 44 seats as against the BJP's 46. The BJP, marred by problems of its own chose to continue the Saffon alliance (its oldest ally) and let Shiv Sena fight many more seats. It surely could have won many more seats on its own.

The Congress on the other hand is following the model that the CPM employed so successfully in West Bengal - keep the alliance intact and divide the opposition. CPM continued to have an alliance with other Left Front members despite the fact that they enjoyed simple majority. For the moment, plan seems to be working, but its the poeple of Maharashtra who are suffering. Its Govt. is complacent because it knows it will be re-elected as the opposition is divided. Apart from some sugar coated statements from the Chief Minister, nothing has been done against the MNS.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Why is billion strong India a laggard in Sports

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A few days ago, I wrote a post on India’s chances to host the 2020 Olympic Games. I disgusted to see the reactions of people who laughed at this mere suggestion. They mocked the Indian Sport persons. This post is for those morons who have no idea to Sports and perhaps don’t watch any sport other than Cricket. They have no idea how much sports has changed.

I am starting this article by covering some of the sports which I follow.

Hockey is the national game of our country and India has won the Olympic Gold and World Cup several times. However, field Hockey moved from playing on grass to synthetic surfaces in the early 90’s.

India does not enough of these which are costly. Moreover each surface has only a fixed life. No wonder, India has hardly done well at either the World Cup or in Olympics. The lowest point came when the mens team failed to even win a medal at the 2006 Asian Games. They even lost to China. Infact the Chinese went on beat Pakistan as well and finish second on Mens Category and won the gold in Womens - can you imagine that!!! Indian eves however saved some grace for the national sport by winning the bronze medal. I suppose by that logic sooner Chinese might even win the Gold in Kabbadi as well.

Chak de India, a Bollywood sport movie based on Indian Women’s Hockey clearly showed the difference. While Australia’s coach was strategizing based on video footage and printouts, India’s coach was merely encouraging his players.

India’s current Hockey coach, Brasa from Spain is realizing this lack of facilities. According to him, India badly needs a sports psychologist, GPS system, heart-rate monitoring machine, a software to analyse matches and some laptops for the coaches. Till date he has only received promises. (Source)

Vijay Amritraj (former World no 16) is perhaps the only singles player (of good quality) that India has produced. Though he never won a Grand slam, he defeated John Mc Enroe four times. Sania’s best rank was 37th and even she has hardly defeated any top ranked players. On the doubles circuit though, Leader and Mahesh have been a dominant force.

The reasons are not hard to guess. It is a herculean task for any Indian player to rise in the ranks. Top ranked Tennis players usually prefer to compete in tournament in the Europe and the US. This is because of the higher prize money. This means that the local talent gets to see and play higher ranked players thus improving the standard of play. An Indian would have to spend a lot of money just to travel and compete. Better training and coaching facilities abroad further aggravates the gap. As a result, higher ATP points are given for winning a tournament in Europe than a one in India. It is no wonder that generally the top ranked players hail from Europe, US and Australia.

Ten years ago there were just 8 Indians among the top 2000 men and women. Today there are 50. But just one woman is among the top 100 while none in case of men. Yuki Bhamri, the number one junior player essentially trains abroad. Prakash Amritraj also has a US passport and play there.

Mahesh Bhupati in partnership with Apollo Tyres launched the Apollo 2018 mission with an aim to produce singles Champion by 2018. It aims at selecting young talent and providing them with the best training. However, this has run into financial troubles due to recession.

This is surely an upcoming sport in India. This sport is dominated by the Chinese. In the past Prakash Padukone and Gopichand have won the prestigious All England Cup. Saina Nehwal, perhaps the best Indian singles talent, has been doing a great for the past couple of years. She reached the last eight in the Beijing Olympics.

But even this sport is not without any fiasco. Recently Saina had to miss a major international event because the Badmintion Association officials didn’t send her entries. As a result her rankings dropped from World No. 6 to World No.8.

Not long ago, she had almost missed out on participating at the Yonex Sunrise World Super Series Masters Final in Malaysia because she hadn’t received her passport in time from the regional passport authorities of Hyderabad. Only when The Times of India intervened on behalf of the teen did she receive the documents from the Chief Passport Officer in New Delhi. It took him just a few hours on Saturday, which is usually an off day. (Source)

Shooting is perhaps the most promising non-cricket sport of all. We have producers winners like Rajwardhan Rathore, Abhinav Bindra, Gagan Narang, etc. We have got a realistic chance of producing many more Olympic medals in Shooting.

But all is not well. For instance, at a major international event, India performed exceeding well (as compared to the previous edition of the Games). Soon after the team lands, the Chief Coach resigned because he was sick and tired of delays in ammunition.

Abhinav Bindra, India’s lone Olympic Gold medal winner comes from an affluent Sikh family and his father had setup an indoor shooting range at their home in Punjab. He was someone who got the right training. Sports have moved beyond the sport fields and into the research labs. For instance, Shooting at the highest level involves controlling your heart beat. Not many Indians can afford this.

On back of their strong performance, National Rifles Association of India(NRAI) recently got Sahara as its sponsor. Top 15 shooters got Cricket styled graded contracts. “ Abhinav Bindra’s absence in the National Rifle Association of India’s (NRAI) graded contracted system is just the most apparent lapse, it’s hardly the only one. Kynan Chenai, who won a gold at the Youth Commonwealth Games in Pune last year, has more national and international accomplishments than Shresyasi Singh. And yet the latter is placed in the higher slab — Rs 12 lakh per year — while Chenai gets Rs six lakh per year. Shresyasi also happens to be the daughter of the NRAI president Digvijay Singh. ” (Source)

Cricket, the most popular game in India is played in just a handful of countries. There are just nine Test playing countries. Of this, we all know the standard of Bangladesh Cricket while West Indies Cricket has been struggling for quite some time now. That leaves just seven countries that play good standard of Cricket. Yet there is immense popularity of the sport in India. There two reasons for it – first Cricket is a team sport which makes it much more interesting to watch, second, unlike other sports India has in the past has won all the major Tournament (World Cup, World T20, and Champions Trophy).

Now just picture this, India’s population every year increases by an amount that is roughly equal to the current population of Australia. Yet our team (of which most of us ardent supporters) is thrashed by a team that was essentially composed of Australia’s reserves.

Reasons are not hard to guess. There are 27 teams in the Ranji Trophy (at least one for each state). These are divided into two divisions – Elite (10 teams) and Plate (17 teams). This number was even higher in 2007 when there were 12 teams in the Elite division. The number of reduced following India’s humiliating exit from the 2007 World Cup. Ideally this number should be further reduced to eight (something that is hard to do). Dhoni who played for Jharkhand( a Plate division side) made it to the Indian side shows that the systems is well equipped to promote talented players even from the Plate Division. Only difference is that, Had Dhoni played for a bigger Ranji team like Mumbai or Delhi, he might have made his debut by time he was 19. He eventually made his debut at an age of 23.

Compare that to Australia which has just six teams in its domestic structure. This means every Australian has to fight hard just to keep his place in the state side, forget the national side.

Infrastructure has improved compared to the past. But picture this; UP an Elite-division team has been very well for past few seasons. Some of the top player like Suresh Raina, Praveen Kumar and Piyush Chawla hail from here. But until very recently they did not have a full time physical trainer. You can surely imagine what would be the condition of the Plate division teams.

IPL has brought in the money, but has it really improved the quality? Earlier this year, IPL tournament just preceded the T20 World Cup, seemingly an ideal preparation for it. The defending Champions were badly beaten. One of the obvious reasons is that there are as many as eight teams in IPL. Most teams have just one or at max two good bowlers. As a batsman you would try to play out these bowlers and attack the rest.

You all can imagine what would happen to the standard of Cricket when the number of teams is increased in 2010. Domestic T20 tournament in Australia has six teams with each team allowed just two overseas players as opposed to four in IPL. And what I find really hard to understand how people can support any of these teams? I asked some of my colleagues who hail from Hyderabad, why were they support the Team. That team hardly had any players from Hyderabad or AP for that matter. Other than the foreign recruits most of the Indians in the team hail from other states.

Inefficiency and Corruption in cricket is even higher at junior levels which are by and large outside the media glare. IPL has addressed this to a certain extent but it has also made players less enthusiastic of playing for India, since they can make enough money even if they never get to play for India. Most of the support staff around the world are Australians. There was time when there were as many as five Australians as National Coaches – Greg Chappel (India), John Bucchannan (Australia), Tom Moddy (Sri Lanka), Dave Whatmore(Bangladesh) and John Dyson(West Indies). The best umpire till very recently was also an Australian. Surely there is something in the Australian setup.

Our Sports Administrators
Most of the times, it is the sportsmen who face the ire of the fans. The public is completely oblivious to what happens behind the scenes.

• National Games to be held in Jharkhand in 2007 have been delayed four times and still no dates as to when they will be held.
• Our Commonwealth Games preparation is going shamelessly slow. Though IOA has assured that they will be done on time for the Games, Indian sportsmen would not get any home advantage because lack of practice and thus would cost us lot of medals.
• A certain Monica Devi missed out on the Beijing Olympics because the Indian Olympic Association withdrew her name after she tested positive during a drugs test. When she asked for another test, it was found that she was, in fact, innocent, but by then it was too late for the Manipuri to participate at a competition that just about every sportsman dreams of. (Source)
• PT Usha, the doyen of Indian athletics was denied proper accommodation at the National Athletics Meet in Bhopal. The 'sprint queen', as she is known as, was asked to share her less than spectacular room with five others. The room did not even have hygienic conditions or running water. (Source)

Forget the money, if we can just remove these inefficiencies, a quantum jump in performances can be achieved. With improved performance money will come as is shown by the recent contract won by Vijendra Singh.

The way forward……..
If money alone would have been the issue, then Africa or North Korea would never win medals at the Olympics. Surely they have something right in their sporting structure and it is not marred by the corrupt and inefficient practices. Perhaps this is not just the story of Indian Sports alone, this is a story of all Indian Systems across the board, be it civil administration, police, judiciary, etc.

Sports are a way of life. Sports can also play a major in raising nationalistic feelings. In India, the North-East and in particular Manipur has a sporting culture. In the last National Games, Manipur and Assam were at second and third spot respectively in the overall medals tally, quite disproportionate to their population size. This region is capable of producing Olympic Champions. Cricket is not the only sport in this region. More encouragement and better facilities could produce better results. These regions are also insurgency prone and sports could act as a means to integrate them with the rest of the country.

BCCI is perhaps the only Sporting organization in India that has loads of money. It has recently started supporting other games. It has promised 25 crore to help the Indian Football over the next two years. However, it can surely be more innovative and invest in long term projects that can produce lasting results. For instance, it can invest in an Institute of Sports Science.
Sport science is a discipline that studies the application of scientific principles and techniques with the aim of improving sporting performance. Human movement is a related scientific discipline that studies human movement in all contexts including that of sport. The study of sports science traditionally incorporates areas of physiology, psychology, motor control and biomechanics but also includes other topics such as nutrition and diet, sports technology, anthropometry kinanthropometry and performance analysis. (Source).

Andrew Leipus, India’s physio during 2003 World Cup had a Sport Science degree from an Australian Institute. If we could have a local institute to produce physios, most Ranji sides could have a physio and thus India’s perennial problem of fielding could be solved. Fitness in other sports would also greatly improve. Likewise, Indian sports need Sports Psychologists.

If Indian sportsmen still manage to win so many accolades, it is not because of the system, it is despite the system. Let us not mock these sportsmen who bring glory to our nation.


Sunday, November 15, 2009

Interesting Readings

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I came across two interesting articles.

The first one is article mentioning some of the major books that have been banned in India since 1934. Largest number of the books banned are those that have been critical of India and its foreign policy (primarily on Kashmir)

The second is an article that appeared in the latest edition of Outlook magazine. It is a article by a Pakistani journalist and gives interesting insight into the viewpoints from across the border. It states that 1947 is a wrong lens to look at Pakistan. According to him 1971 is a more appropriate lens when India took advantage of an internal trouble to divide Pakistan, something that is still not forgotten and may never will be. Hence, the Pakistanis don't give too much weight age to terrorism in India as for them it is justified.

Though it is slightly biased at times, it is worth reading. I would strongly recommend you to read the second article.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Vande Matram: A needless controversy

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‘Vande Matram’ or Hail the Mother land

Vande Matram’, the national song of India has distinct historic importance. It was one of the more prominent slogans of the Indian Freedom Movement. It was the national cry for freedom against the British Raj and played an important role in generating nationalistic feeling. The song was written by Bankim Chandra in 1876. It was sung by Rabridranath Tagore in 1896 at a Indian National Congress Session making it the first political occasion when the song was sung. Later the song was regularly sung at Congress sessions and today it is sung in the Parliament as well before the start and end of every session. A one point of time, the song was banned by British.

However, this song has been controversial from the very beginning. Recently Jamait-e-Ulema Hind issued a fatwa against the singing of the song. Earlier in 2006, Shiromani Gurudwara Parbandhak Committee also instructed the Sikhs not to sing the song.

Why is this song controversial?
The main reason why this song is opposed by some of the religious groups is that - the original song written by Bankim Chandra represented India as the Hindu deity of Durga and called to bow/salute the Nation, i.e. Hail the Motherland. Many religions like Islam are opposed to idol worship and this is precisely the reason why there was so much of opposition.

In 1937, the Indian National Congress had a detailed discussion on the song. Finally it decided to adopt only the first two stanzas as the National Song which did not have any religious connotations. Furthermore, Jana Gana Mana became our national anthem even though Vande Matram was the more popular song at that time. This meant that it wasn’t mandatory to sing this song.

Present Controversy
Other than politics, it is difficult to understand the present controversy behind this song simply because it is not mandatory to sing this song. Ironically, it was A.R. Rehman (born Hindu but practicing Islam) who released his version of Vande Matram in 1997 on 50 years of India’s independence.

It is highly unfortunate that a song that played a major role during our freedom is being dragged into such controversy. In 2003, the song was selected as the second most famous song from a BBC poll conducted all around the world.

Indian Muslims took active part during the freedom struggle and have also laid down their lives for the country in the various wars. It would be foolish to associate their patriotism to just the singing this song. Likewise, I don’t understand “What’s the need to issue fatwas as long as the song is not mandatory”. There are many other issues, much more important concerning the Muslim community and India that need attention. Moreover, I doubt how many Indians actually understand the meaning of the song, something that is rarely taught.


Sunday, November 1, 2009

Bollywood: Miles away from Bharat

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India is a land of great diversities. In his book ‘India After Gandhi’, Ramcharan Guha describes “Hindi cinema to be great unifier.  We are divided along caste, class, language, language and gender. Attempts to make Hindi a national language failed. It is Bollywood that has made Hindi language more comprehensible across India. It has given icons that are revered across the country in the same breadth“. The only other thing that unites India like anything (that comes to my mind) is Sports and more precisely Cricket. With Cricket and Bollywood, I really find it difficult to believe that India could have remained united with such a diverse culture.

Films can play an important role in the society as they reflect on present issues. In a poor country where vast numbers of people are still illiterate, movies are much more effective medium to shape public opinion than books. Hindi movies have always played an important role in nation building. Bollywood played a vital role during the Independence struggle as it evoked patriotic emotions. Post-independence several movies about inter-caste marriages, north-south marriages and also Hindu-Muslim marriages have been made aimed at promoting India’s unity. The legendary 1957 movie ‘Mother India’ talked about struggle of a widow, the exploitation of the farmer at the hands of the moneylender.

But that has been Bollywood of the past. Bollywood today does not cater to the audience in rural areas. Bombay (Is Raj Thakerey reading :P )-Pune  circle contributes around 40% of the revenues. Today’s movies are targeted at Multiplex audience and Audience abroad. Today’s producers and directors like to copy Hollywood stories, use Foreign Locations, and depict the lives of NRI’s or rich in India (of course that represents the aspirations of a small section of Indians). Quite often producers are enticed by Western Countries to shoot in their countries. (This is because Hindi movies are an ideal platform to showcase their countries to the potential tourists from India.)

Looking back at the Bollywood hits in the last 10-15 years, I really find it hard to recall many mainstream movies that were based on a story of rural India in today’s context and depicted the issues of rural India. Only movie that comes to my mind is Swadesh. But even Swadesh didn’t really cover all issues that plague our rural society. It basically talked about poor infrastructure and illiteracy. Caste issues were touched but not much. It did not touch issues such as farmer suicides. Nevertheless, it was brave attempt. It was more centered on evoking nationalistic feelings and called upon the intelligentsia to stay in India and to contribute in nation building.

While the movies in the earlier year’s depicted common man and his problems like dacoits in villages or role of money lenders. Gradually these dacoits were replaced by Smuggler. Today’s villains are Underworld gangsters and terrorists. This is more of an urban phenomenon and urban issues. Unfortunately, no bollywood mainstream movie has depicted the problem of farmer suicides.

While movies on Kashmir are regarded as glamorous, there are hardly any movies on the North-East. There is absolutely no wonder that these region are troubled and yet to be fully integrated with the India mainstream (in real sense). 

While the Prime Minister of India might argue that Naxalism is the biggest threat to India, Bollywood doesn’t seem to be interested in the issue.  There have been several Bollywood movies on Pakistan, Terrorism, and even about Gay and Lesbian relationships but no mainstream movie has been made either on Naxalism or Farmer Suicides.

It would be incorrect to say that Bollywood does not make any movies with social messagea. Some of the recent movies that come to mind are – Lage Raho Munnabhai, Swadesh, Firaaq, Baabul, etc. But by and large, such movies are rare, and mostly take up issues that more relevant to Urban India, and not to the rural Bharat. Even Baabul, a story on widow remarriage, was actually a story set in an Upper Class Family. The upper class and even middle class to large extent are much more open minded. It would have been better if the producer could make a similar movie based on a rural setting.

Two of the upcoming movies – My Name is Khan and Total Ten. While the first one is about a Muslim man’s struggle in America post 9/11, the second one is about 26/11 Mumbai Attacks. Both the issues are primarily urban.

Naxalites often claim that there is a growing inequality in our society. Unfortunately our movies only tend to depict the opposite. It showcases only the riches, lives of NRI’s, grand marriages. Movies like Hum Apke Hain Kaun were purely urban stories. The only poor people shown in the movie were servants. Even Slumdog (which was an Indian story by Indian author, involved Indian Actors, Technicians and Musicians) was actually produced by a foreigner.

If Hollywood can successfully movies like Kiterunner (depicting problems of Afghanistan) ,Blood Diamond (Africa), Hotel Rwanda, etc depicting problems of all around the world, why can’t Bollywood do the same on the problems of our own country. All the above mentioned movies were big hits.

Over the last 10-15 years, Indians have been bombarded with this false sense of prosperity and now there is feeling that is creeping, particularly among the urban, metropolitan youth that India is much better off that it actually is. They are often surprised how HDI rank of India is even poorer than Bangladesh or Sri Lanka.

Bollywood cannot remain oblivious to its environment. It’s difficult to think of any suggestions or solutions. Movies on patriotism are often made tax-free. Even Lage Raho was made tax-free as it was based on principals of Gandhi – the father of the nation. But movies on Naxalism, North-East and other Social Issues like caste, dowry,etc should also be made tax-free. This is can make such movies commercially viable. Likewise, the govt. can tax movies that particularly and clearly made for the classes – movies that are ostensibly made for audience abroad and show far too much prosperity.

While the first step is rather easy, the second is difficult to implement. While it is difficult to convince producers (often driven by commercial interests) to make movies on these subjects, attempt can be made to promote art movies. Art movies are often much closer to reality. One such move can be to fix a mandatory period of say 2 weeks during which all cinema halls across the country (including multiplexes) can show only movies that won the national awards in any category. Few Indians would know that every year, Nargis Dutt Award for Best Feature Film on National Integration is given away. Some of the Bollywood movies like Mr and Mrs Iyer, Bombay, Roja have also won it in the past.This can be a huge promotion for regional cinema as well help in integrating India.

Indians need to be constantly reminded that there is Bharat that has been left far behind India.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Interesting Readings

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With increasing workload and lack of regular internet, I haven't been that regular on my blog. However, the long holidays of Diwali gave me sometime to explore newer site. I came across some very interesting websites. India Together and Economic and Political Weekly are two of more promising ones. I have added a new widget on blog - News - consisting of all the major sites that I rely on for my news.

In less than a months time, this blog shall complete one year. Its been an amazing journey and I have thoroughly enjoyed.

And finally, I came across this article by Ramcharan Guha, Netaji vs Panditji.It is counter factual story of what would India's history have been if Bose had not died in an air-crash. Unlike Sardar Patel, he was eight years younger than Nehry and could have challenged his hegemony.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

My take on India Australia series

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When Dravid was selected for Sri Lankan Series and the Champions Trophy, I had pointed out that it was merely a selection for the South African conditions. With the BCCI unceremoniously dumping the nicest man of Indian Cricket (perhaps the nicest of all active cricketers), my fears have come to be true. It is highly unfortunate that the selectors chose to treat such a senior cricketer like a spare tyre. They would have been much better off trying out Rohit Sharma or Virat Kohli in the Champions Trophy with future in mind.

As far as the other selections go, it is good to see both Viru and Yuvraj back. They are sorely missed and it once again goes to show that India (despite two seasons of IPL) does not have a great bench-strength. On the other hand, Australia’s wicket-keeper Paine, a replacement for the injured Haddin impressed in the ODI series against England. That proves that IPL does not necessarily promote the right kind of talent.

I really wonder why Ishant Sharma is still being retained. This is a good time for giving him a rest. Moreover India does not play any test matches in the near future, so this could be a good time when he can rethink his game. This is his second season in International Cricket, which is always much tougher than the first because by now batsman have worked him out. This is quite similar to what happened to Irfan when he came to the international stage as a 19-year old in 2004. After tremendous success for the 1-2 seasons, he faded out didn’t make it to the 2007 World Cup, but made a comeback in the World T20 Cup.

Amongst the other players who have been omitted are Dinesh Kartik, RP Singh and Yusuf Pathan. While it was ok to drop RP who didn’t have any success in the Champions Trophy, I am not sure about the other two. Dinesh Kartik was made to open the innings in place of Viru something which isn’t quite used to. He had a good IPL season and can serve as a good backup keeper for Dhoni.  The selectors instead chose Kohli, which isn’t that bad move either as he was outstanding in the ICC Emerging Players Tournament, which India won.

As regards to Yusuf Pathan, I think it is highly unfair to drop him. He came into the side on back of a brilliant performance in the IPL Season 1, where he was the man-of the tournament. He is capable of doing what Symonds did for Australia, bat explosively at six and bowl his part-timers. He isn’t as good as Symonds in the field though. But in the last one year, Dhoni has consistently made him bat at number 7. With Indian batting working so well during this time with Yuvraj, Dhoni, Sehwag and Tendulkar all in good form, he has hardly got any opportunities to bat. He either comes in the last 10 overs  or he comes in when half the side is gone early and he is forced to play defensive game.  Even in bowling, Dhoni hardly seems to trust him. In the series in Sri Lanka, Dhoni preferred to use Yuvraj’s part-time spin over Pathan. He has been reduced to merely a traveler who just gets to field in every match. Dhoni could have tried him up the order, may be even make him open the batting in place of Sehwag who was injured. Unfortunately, the Team Management, Dhoni and Kirsten do not really believe much in his abilities. Moreover, he is not very good against the short-pinched stuff. My advice to him would to play for one season of county cricket. This should improve his game overseas.

Now I am not sure what Ravindra Jadeja has done to make a comeback. Perhaps he is coming in place of Yusuf Pathan as a possible contender of second spinner spot in the side. He too isn’t good against short pitched stuff. He is no match to Pathan as far as explosive batting is concerned but is a much better fielder. However, looking back at his innings in World T20, I can only say that he isn’t good under pressure and Yusuf is a much better bet for he shows any nerves. He can bowl even in the death or at the start of the innings. Warne used him to open bowling in IPL. He is explosive and doesn’t fears while taking on any bowler.

As far as the bowlers is concerned, its good to see Praveen Kumar opening the bowling attack. He is a genuine swing bowler, and should make a lethal combo with Nehra. Though I am not sure how good he will be in Indian conditions. The problem is that he doesn’t have the pace, nor is he a good fielder. He can bat though and must improve his batting to permanent cement his place. Mishra is a fine bowler and at the moment number one choice for the leg spinner, ahead of Piyush Chawla who still hasn’t managed enough control over his leg-spin and prefer the googly far too often.

Champions League
I never believed that this was a good idea and lacks of crowds have proved it. The football version of the UEFA Champions League is played with teams playing two games with each other on a home and away basis. The final though is played on a neutral venue. But this home and away format is possible as UEFA Champions League is played among the clubs of Europe only. In cricket such a format would involve huge amounts of travel and thus difficult to accommodate in the ICC calendar.

Moreover, I am not sure whether this can be treated as tournament to promote domestic talent. In the football version of the Champions League, a player can play for only one club. In case there is a mid-season transfer, he cannot represent the new club for Champions League. In cricket however, players like Mahela, and Mecclum played in the Champions League despite the fact that their IPL teams have not qualified. Gibbs is playing for Cobras and not Chargers whom he represented at the IPL. Ideally this choice should not remain with the players. A player must specify which club he shall represent at the Champions League before the start of the season.

Finally, it’s good to see that the Deccan Chargers have not even made it to the Super Eights. They might have won the IPL, but I still don’t regard them too highly. They are far too dependent on their foreign recruits like Gilly, Symonds and Gibbs. That’s exactly what happened in IPL 1 when neither of them fired. In IPL 2, all of them fired and they won. T20 is an unfair format, which gives only 4 over’s to a bowler but no such restriction is put on batsman. One batsman alone can potentially win a match. That’s what happened when Gilly outplayed Delhi in the IPL semi-finals. The team composition is hardly representative of Hyderabad. Pragyan Ojha hails from Orissa which comes under the catchment area of KKR. VVS Laxman and Venugopal Rao hardly got to play in IPL 2. Only other player Suman who I suppose is also the region. Rest of the lot has been recruited from other regions of India. I do not know how this will boost cricket of the region and why did Hyderabadis come out in support of the team when there is hardly any localite in the team.

India-Aus Series
Steve Waugh has predicted the series to be a close affair with a result 4-3 in favor of either of the two teams. Bret Lee on the other hand has set a target of 7-0 whitewash. I would go somewhere in between. My take is 5-2 in favor of Australia. This should be a fair call considering India’s recent concerns in the bowling and fielding departments. I am assuming that despite all these struggles, the likes Sachin, Sehwag and Yuvraj can come good and win at least 2 of the 7 matches. As for Australia, Ponting is the key.

The Aussies have one obvious weakness in the spin department. I really hope that all matches are close affairs. A lot will depend on how India’s bowlers perform.

Rio de Janeiro,2016 - Delhi-2020?

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This post is perhaps late by a couple of weeks. Nevertheless, it is still worthwhile to discuss.

After China, Brazil became the second country from the much talked BRIC to win rights to host the Summer Olympics. Brazil is today among the 10 biggest economies in the world by GDP and winning this bid is a testimony of its growing economic clout. It has already won the rights to host the 2014 Football World Cup.

Importance of Hosting an Olympics
Hosting an Olympics is a gigantic exercise that involves building massive infrastructure. It requires coordination between scores of departments of the respective Govt and also the city municipality and local govt. While it is still a hotly debated topic whether hosting the Olympics is actually beneficial or not, the games can surely serve as an image building exercise for countries. For e.g. Germany hosted Olympics in 1936, Japan in 1964 and recently China in 2008.

The Games help create permanent physical infrastructure and temporarily boosts the local economy. It also helps showcase the country as a possible investment and tourist destination. This is particularly important for our country because we are constantly bracketed along with our troubled neighbors. It is important for us to ensure that the world perceives India to be different and is secure.

Perhaps it was this which prompted the NDA Govt. to bid for the Commonwealth Games and thus gain experience in hosting mega-sporting events.

So when will India host the Olympics
The success of China and now Brazil gives hope to our chances. They too are developing countries. Just like South Asia is plagued by terrorism, South America is plagued by drug trafficking. Just today  Ria de Janeria was in news about a drug gang war. But still the Olympic Committee chose it over others major economies like Japan and the US.

But for that India really needs to pull up its socks and ensure that we host a great Commonwealth Games. For the moment, the IOA seems to be involved in an ego clash. India lost the 2014 bid to host the Asian Games. It was said to be an extremely messy bid. India has already indicated that it may bid again for 2018 Asian Games. The Olympics committee would decide in 2013 for the hosts of the 2020 games.

Possible Competitors
The Wiki page lists a whole of possible bidders which includes New Delhi. The biggest competition to Delhi in my view is going to come from South Africa. Like South America, Africa too has never hosted the games and this could just be the opportunity. South Africa has an excellent track record in hosting various cricket events like Cricket World 2003, World T20 2007, IPL 2009 and Champions Trophy 2009. It has also hosted other major events in Hockey, Fencing, Modern Pentathlon, Cycling. The infrastructure in South Africa is way ahead of us and it has a good chance of winning the bid.

Other competitors include UAE, Qatar, South Korea, Japan and US.

Other Roadblocks
Besides the infrastructural bottlenecks, India needs to improve its medals tally at the London Olympics as the Olympics committee would not like the host country without winning any medals.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

More views on the Austerity drive

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I came across the following interesting articles on the same topic. (MJ Akbar, Atanu Dey, Prajatantra) Several interesting points were made. I am just mentioning some of them.

  1. 'Travel is a minor percentage of government expenditure, but every little drop helps, but has a special austerity fund been created to collect the money saved?'
  2. 'The cost of MPs’ tickets, as well as for pricey hotels when Parliament committees go on tour, is paid by Parliament. Have the chairman of Rajya Sabha and speaker of Lok Sabha placed the unspent cash in escrow, reserved for the families of farmers still committing suicide in Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh?'
  3. 'Throwing ministers out of hotels might send the right signals, but are they spending they spending their money by adopting a village'
  4. 'The big ticket in travel costs is not high in the sky but closer to the ground. Somebody should tot up the fuel costs of the thousands of very austere cars allotted to ministers, MPs and bureaucrats.'
  5. 'Talking about the austerity measures on travels, it needs to be asked as to what is the actual amount of savings expected to be achieved which would be meaningful to relieve pressure on finances due to drought, which is supposedly the reason for the Austerity. In the first place, the instructions issued last year in June 2008 were expected to be followed with proper monitoring. If the Government claims to be at all serious, it ought to have first told the people in a transparent manner the achievements from the previous austerity instructions. According to Budget estimates for 2009-2010, the travel expenses under the Head Establishment are Rs. 2,506.67 crores, a jump from Rs. 1860.26 crores in the previous year. Of this, the travel expenses of the Ministry of Home Affairs have jumped from Rs. 25.99 crores to Rs. 82.62 crores. The travel expenses estimates of The Cabinet are Rs. 179.22 crores which for some strange reason were only Rs. 17.82 crores in the previous year. (see here) It must also not be forgotten that the Government had ordered in 2005 not one but three aircraft for the travel by the President and the Prime Minister, at a cost of Rs. 937 crores. The first aircraft was delivered in August 2008 followed by the other two and the maiden flight was inaugurated by the President on 1st April 2009. One aircraft is understandable, even two, because we want to project ourselvs as a superpower with such show. But three?'
  6. 'It is very clear to those who are well versed in the ways of the Congress party that the benefits of any such austerity drive are only incidental and the real motivation is provided by other factors. Last year, it was to divert the attention of the people from the uncontrolled inflation and the unpleasant increase in fuel prices announced by Government. This year, it is not due to the drought, but to take the focus away from the the intolerable increases in the prices of all essential food products including dal and sugar brought about largely by the successful mismanagement of the Agriculture Ministry by Sharad Pawar, even before the effects of the drought on the coming crop.'
Do read the entire articles. They cover a lot of new points which I hadn't covered.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

How to make a mockery of Austerity

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One of my professors once said that, "a politician would do anything if it grabs the people's attention". Then the obvious question arises why don't they work hard for development.

The answer is not hard to guess. Development is a continous process. It takes years to make a difference that is easily distinguishable. Hence a politician goes in for easier ways to grab attention. So since development is difficult, politician would work hard to make Bombay to Mumbai, Madras to Chennai, Calcutta to Kolkata, Bangalore to ......(I am sorry I can't spell that). Never mind if there is any change on the ground. The politician would always claim that it is the people's desire to change the name. Similarly Mayawati finds it much easier to built statues than work for the backwards whom she claims to represent.

In a country where just 2% of the people travel by air, it was surely going to grab headlines and it has indeed. So if Rahul Baba takes a train or Sonia madam travels by economy class, then the Congress makes sure that it is publicized in the media. Austerity is a way of life and not just for the bad times. Moreover when you start showing off austerity then it loses the very purpose it was started in the first place.

The late Indrajit Gupta, who was the Home Minister during the United Front Govt from 1996-98 refused to move out of his two-bedroom apartment. He continued to eat in the common canteen in the MP's hostel. But he never made a big deal out of it or tried to get a mileage out of it. He was from a rare breed. MP's of today rarely vacate their bungalows after losing elections unless forcefully evicted.

After all, why should there be an austerity drive. Why not have a performance based pay structure for Ministers/MP's. Those who don't perform won't get the perks. I am sure we can save much more money with that. But of course that is never going to happen because politics is perhaps the only job where you get to decide you pay.

A blog from across the border

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I came across this blog from a Pakistani. This is first time I have come across a Pakistani blogger who has shown the guts and honesty to criticize the Pakistani psyche and thinking. Unfortunately there aren't too many of them. Most of them agree with the monolithic anti-India view propagated by the state and the ISI.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

1965 War - Part 1

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I wish all my readers a very Happy Independence Day. So finally, I am here with the first part of the summary of the 1965 War. I know I am a little as promised. The primary reason for that is that I got hold of the Official History of 1965 War of the Indian Govt. I going through it, though not in absolute detail, but still I guess this report is more detailed than any articles found on the internet. At the same time it must be noted that this is a document of the Indian Govt. and hence may be biased to some extent.

Soon after the War, the Army HQ in Pakistan ordered all the formations and units of the Pakistan Army to destroy their respective war diaries.(Source) Hence, the Indian version shall be the main source of my briefing. In case anyone of you comes across any credible source for the Pakistani version, kindly pass them on. In the meantime, I shall try to put forward the Pakistani version from wherever I can. But at the end of the day, I am an Indian, and it might not be as unbiased as I want.

India and Pakistan, both had been claiming Kashmir ever since 1947. But since ceasefire in 1948, there had been no military conflict between the two nations. Meanwhile Pakistan pursued to internationalize Kashmir and tried its best through diplomacy. In 1962, India suffered a crushing and humiliating defeat at the hands of Chinese. Pakistanis now began to believe that India could be militarily defeated.

India had not invested much in defense up until 1962. But things began to change as India started investing in defense. It also got some defense aid from US and UK in the form weapons who were alarmed at the rise of communist China.

Meanwhile, Pakistan had invested and modernized its defense forces. Moreover, being a part of US led millitary alliances SEATO and CENTO, it got access to the latest weapons. In 1963, Pakistan ceded Aksai-Chin to China and thus began a friendship which had a common enemy, India.

Integration of Kashmir with India
It must be noted that Jammu & Kashmir had not been fully integrated with India. Article 370 guarantees a special status to the State. Under this, Indian Parliament had limited rights over the State Govt. and citizens of India outside Kashmir cannot buy property in the state. Nehru successor Shastri was trying to integrate the state. This made the Pakistanis nervous.
Pandit Jawhar Lal Nehru's successor Lal Bahadur Shastri, rushed through a series of "Constitutional amendments, ( Articles 356 and 357 of the Indian Constitution ) despite strong opposition." The aim was to bring the State of Jammu and Kashmir in line with other States of the Indian Union. The head of the State under new law was not to be elected by the State Legislature, rather the Delhi government had a right to nominate anyone. Also under the new law four seats were allocated in the Indian Parliament, Lok Sabha, to the State of Jammu and Kashmir. And for the first time the Kashmiri people would contest for seats in the Indian Parliament. This really meant a gradual erosion of the Article 370 which gave special status to Kashmir. There was a strong reaction to this in the Valley. Sheikh Abdullah declared on May 7 1964, that ‘no solution will be lasting unless it has the approval of all the parties concerned, namely India, Pakistan and the people of Kashmir’. (Source)
India and Pakistan had two completely different objectives for the war.

With India trying to integrate J&K with itself and increasing defense expenditure, Pakistan felt nervous. They saw that this was their chance to attack India (at a time when it was weakened by the 1962 War), and take Kashmir, something they haven't been able to achieve diplomatically.

On the other hand, Indian objectives were rather defensive. India sought to maintain status quo of Kashmir. It also didn't want to escalate the conflict too much.

I shall analyze at the end where things stood at the end of the war and were objectives of the two sides met.

Pre-War Clashes in Rann of Kutch
Skirmishes at the Rann of Kutch flared up almost accidentally in the Spring of 1965, and India and Pakistan found themselves drawn into the first of their two undeclared wars.

The dispute goes back to the days of the British rule in India. The Rann was the bone of contention between the princely state Kutch, and the British Indian province of Sindh. When British India was partitioned, Kutch acceded to India and Sindh to Pakistan. The issue was inherited by these two states along some 3,500 sq. miles of territory.

It is important to understand the terrain to region first. The Rann is a Salt Wasteland. It is a sparsely populated area and does not have enough water. Prior to the clashes in 1965, the area was under India control. Northern portion of the Rann was easily accessible from the Sind(Pakistan) as their were roads available leading upto the Rann. The India side wasn't well connected with roads.

Communications also favoured the Pakistanis as Indian Administrative base was located at Bhuj, 177 km away the border. Badin, a sizable town equipped with an airstrip and radar was available only 30 kms from the border. Thus maintainance of border posts was easier for Pakistan than for India.

The conflict started after an increasing number of Pakistani intrusions took place. Indians established a new post closer to the border called Sardar Post and Pakistanis retaliated by also having a new post. India also carried on a joint exercise of the Army and Navy called Arrow Head in the region. This alarmed the Pakistanis. In early April, Pakistan attacked the Sardar post and thus began the conflict in the Rann of Kutch. The conflict ended on 28th April when British Prime Minister Harold Wilson convinced the two sides for a ceasefire. A tribunal was setup to look into the issue. This tribunal later gave 350 sq. miles of territory out of the total of 3500 to Pakistan.

As far as the conflict in Kutch, India forces suffered a defeat at the hands of the Pakistanis. Despite getting intelligence about the Pakistani troop movements, the India effort was largely uncoordinated. I will quote from the Official History, "For India, Kutch was wrong war with the right enemy at the wrong place. For Pakistan, it was a victorious war out of which it learnt the wrong lesson that it could win a cakewalk victory in Kashmir".

Kargil Operations
In May, 1965 after defeating India in the Kutch, Pakistanis increased their activities in the Kashmir along the CFL( Ceasefire Line). From what appears, it seems that atleast a part of Kargil (if not all) was under Pakistani control in 1965. As during the 1999 Kargil Conflict, Pakistanis shelled at the Srinagar-Leh highway the only supplyline for Ladakh.

Indian Army decided to take on the enemy and to inflict maximum damage. It was planned to capture certain strategic peaks in Kargil. The situation and tactics used in 1965 weren't quite different from 1999. The terrain was extremely difficult, the temperature were sub-zero and the enemy at a height had an advantage. Indian Army choose to attack through the more difficult approaches to these mountains. This was the first counter-offensive operations taken by the Army in many years.

The operations were extremely successful and Indian captured some of the importants areas like Pt 13620, Black Rocks and Kala Pahar. However, the hard fought areas were given up on June 30 after a solemn assurance by the UN Secretary General about the safety of the Srinagar-Leh route.

Pakistan came out victorious in Round 1 in Kutch while Indians won the Round 2 in Kargil. However, it must be noted that Pakistan had a advantage of the terrain in their favour on both occassions. On both occasions, it was the international community that played a crucial role is de-escalating the conflict. In the next part we shall look in the events of the actual war.

Dravid: Is it correct to bring him back

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Last week, several former England players called for the return of Ramprakash to the English side after they lost inside two and a half days. And now if media is to be believed, Rahul will find a place in the 15 man squad for the triangular series in Sri Lanka. And if he performs well, he shall surely be considered for the Champions Trophy.

I have the highest regard for Rahul Dravid and I greatly respect his contribution to Indian Cricket. I was really happy for him and Anil Kumble after the two performed brilliantly in the IPL. Royal Challengers owner Vijay Mallaya had squarely blamed Dravid for last years defeat. But the two giants of Indian Cricket proved their mettle and that they could perform and adapt in any format.

On the otherhand, several youngsters who were glorified by our media (who neither knowledge nor respect for the game), like Rohit Sharma, Suresh Raina and Ravindra Jadeja struggled against the rising ball in the T20 World Cup, thus exposing their faulty techniques. Infact during the entire IPL, the senior and more experienced campaigners proved the importance of correct technique.

Despite being a big fan of Dravid, I still think that it is not a correct move to bring him back. I agree that he is no Ganguly who was a liability on the field. And he was successful in the IPL in South Africa, the venue for the Champions Trophy in October. And he has his own style of playing which has been quite successful and the 10000+ runs he has scored in ODI's is a proof of the same. But the main reason for him being dropped 2 years ago was poor form and he was replaced by younger and more aggressive batsman. The likes of Raina and Sharma are good under home conditions, but not good enough in alien conditions.

However, it must not be forgotten that this is an important juncture as we are only two years away from the World Cup. After the disastrous performance of 2007 World Cup, India would like to put a much improved show and hopefully win in infront of the home fans. For the 2011 World Cup, Sachin Tendulkar (touchwood, barring any injury) would be there. Bring Dravid in too would mean two players above 38, something that selectors would not be doing. Moreover, since the World Cup is in the sub-continent Dravid technique won't be required that much. Therefore, I see this as a stopgap arrangement only meant for the Champions Trophy in South Africa.

And this is precisely why I don't agree with his comback because this is the time to groom youngsters. Let them play in a big tournament so that they would be ready to play in big tournaments by 2011. Let the great Dravid concentrate on Tests. Even Sachin is playing selective ODI tournaments. Unfortunately, India does not plays any more Test matches this year. I wonder how can Sachin achieve the target of 15000 runs set for him by Gavaskar.

As far as the Champions Trophy goes India shall sorely miss Zaheer. Sehwag would be needed as India struggled at the top without him in T20 World Cup. I hope selectors make right choices by looking at the long run rather than at short one.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Upcoming posts

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War and Geopolitics have always interested me. Perhaps this is evident from the number of posts on these topics. Since last one week, almost all news channels are flooding with commemorating the Kargil Martyrs. Barkha Dutt revisits Kargil in her melodramatic way. Similar show are there on every other channel.

But what I fail to understand is why just remember Kargil, what about those killed in the earlier wars. I have rarely seen any similar shows and documetries on the previous wars that India has fought. I have decided to take up this task upon myself. My upcoming posts would be dedicated to the 1965 and 1971 wars. I will try to come up with a similar post on the 1962 war, but I have rarely come across good articles on that war. Perhaps, Indian govt. has suppressed most of the information.

I promise that I will try my very best to finish both these articles within the next 15 days. Thats one article a week. I think I should be able to manage that from my present busy job.

Kashmir predicament: Who really started it?

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India and Pakistan, the two nations that were divided on religious lines have been at loggerheads from the very beginning onwards. Of the many issues on which the two sides confront each other, Kashmir remains to be the central and core issue. But today, it has become an extremely complicated issue and no real solutions have come up that would satisfy the two sides.

So what really started the conflict?
All princely states were given an option to either accede with India or Pakistan, or remain independent. Though the third option of remaining independent was given, it was made clear that the princely states could hardly survive on their own. This was true for the landlocked state of Kashmir as well, as it would have to necessarily depend on either on India or Pakistan for trade.

However, the Hindu ruler of largely Muslim dominated Kashmir, Hari Singh chose to remain independent. In October 1947, Pakistan invaded Kashmir. Hari Singh now chose to accede with India. Subsequently India sent its armed forces to recapture Kashmir. It must be noted that this was took place immediately after partition and India had much larger millitary as compared to Pakistan at that time.

After India had captured two-third of the state, Pandit Nehru against the wishes of his home minister, Sardar Patel went to the UN Security Council. He intentions were pure but he was an idealist and not a realist. UN Security Council passed Resolution 47 on April 21, 1948. The resolution imposed that an immediate cease-fire take place and said that Pakistan should withdraw all presence and had no say in Jammu and Kashmir politics. It stated that India should retain a minimum military presence and stated "that the final disposition of the State of Jammu and Kashmir will be made in accordance with the will of the people expressed through the democratic method of a free and impartial plebiscite conducted under the auspices of the United Nations.

However, Nehru soon realised that it was a grave mistake to take the matter to the Security Council. By 1948, the Cold war had began to start and the world politics was dominated and dictated by the big powers (US and USSR), who wanted to spread their influence with the Capitalist and Socialist blocs competing against each other. Pakistan never withdrew its troops from Azad Kashmir and thus the Kashmir dispute remained unsolved.

Other similar conflict
Kashmir isn't the only victim in the world of the selfish interests of the big powers. They created many other similar problems all over the world. Korea, Vietnam and Germany are some of glaring examples. While Germany's re-unification was peaceful, Vietnam had to fight a massive war. While USSR supported the communist North Vietnam, the US supported the capitalist South Vietnam. The Korea issue is yet to be solved and has now assumed dangerous proportions with the North Korea acquiring the nuclear capability.

If we look at all such conflicts, the two big powers rarely followed any ethics. For instance, during the 1971 Indo-Pak war, the US ignored the massive genocide that was going on in East Pakistan and threatened to intervene in the war.
The Nixon administration also ignored reports it received of the 'genocidal' activities of the Pakistani Army in East Pakistan, most notably the Blood telegram. When Pakistan's defeat in the eastern sector seemed certain, Nixon sent the USS Enterprise to the Bay of Bengal, a move which was a nuclear threat. The Enterprise arrived on station on December 11, 1971. On 6 December and 13 December, the Soviet Navy dispatched two groups of ships, armed with nuclear missiles, from Vladivostok; they trailed U.S. Task Force 74 into the Indian Ocean from 18 December 1971 until 7 January 1972. The Soviets also sent a nuclear submarine to ward off the threat posed by USS Enterprise in the Indian Ocean. As the United States were not ready to risk open nuclear warfare with the Soviets the Enterprise simply turned around and sailed back to the US. (Source)
This strategy of US didn't stop and it supported General Musharraf as the dictator of Pakistan until he was finally removed.

A lot many people in India blame Nehru for trying to be too idealistic. But it is the two big powers that must have to share the larger of the blame of creating the Kashmir issue, thus endangering nearly 1.5 billion people of the sub-continent. Subsequently, India has maintained that Kashmir is a bilateral issue while Pakistan has continuously tried to internationalize it.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

The mystery behind Balochistan

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I am pretty sure that except for a few inquisitive people, not many Indians would have ever heard about Balochistan before the ho-halla over the joint declaration in Egypt recently. In this article, I would try to disseminate whatever knowledge I have gathered on this topic over a period of time (through various sources).

Balochistan, an immense desert comprising almost 48% of Pakistan's area, rich in uranium and copper, potentially very rich in oil, and producing more than one-third of Pakistan's natural gas, it accounts for less than 4% of Pakistan's 173 million citizens. Strategically, Balochistan is mouth-watering: east of Iran, south of Afghanistan, and boasting three Arabian sea ports, including Gwadar, practically at the mouth of the Strait of Hormuz. (Source). Balochis are largely tribal and consider themselves much closer to the Afghans than the rest of Pakistanis.

When India and Pakistan eventually gained independence from the British in August 1947, provinces were given the choice of either joining Pakistan or India or being independent. Khan of Kalat, Mir Ahmed Yar Khan declared Kalat's independence. The Governor General Lord Mountbatten of Burma decided that the province would not survive as an independent entity and that offer was taken off the table.(Source)

As claimed by Baloch nationalists, "Baloch nation has gone through a lot since March 23, 1948, when the Pakistan army moved in and occupied Kalat, the capital of the free Balochistan. After experiencing only 227 days of freedom in which we elected our representative assembly and wrote a constitution as a free nation of this global village. Pakistan's army trampled every thing under their boots - Baloch nation's pride, freedom, representative assembly, constitution and mostly our mother land and declared it a part of Pakistan." (Source)

There have been several conflicts between the Baloch separatists and the Pakistan army:
  1. First conflict 1948 (led by Mir Ahmad Yar Khan)
  2. Second conflict (1958-59 led by Nawab Nowroz Khan)
  3. Third conflict 1963-69 (led by Sher Mohammad Bijarani Marri)
  4. Fourth conflict 1973-77 (led by Nawab Khair Baksh Marri)
  5. Fifth conflict 2004-to date (lead by Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti and Mir Balach Marri)
The Pakistani response to the demands of the separatists has often been brutal. Particularly in the mid-1970's, when Pakistani Army brutally crushed the Baloch struggle. Perhaps it came in the backdrop of recently lost war to India which had led to the creation of Bangladesh and Pakistan could not afford to loose another major province. In August 2006, Pakistani army killed Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti, 79 years old, a very respected leader of the Baloch struggle.

The Grievances
The Baloch struggle and their demands are not entirely unjustified. The local grievances have seldom been taken seriously. Islamabad pays a pittance in royalties for the Balochis for exploiting its natural resources, and development aid is negligible; Balochistan is treated as a backwater and the Balochis remain largely poor and illiterate.

Moreover, Pakistan has essentially been ruled by its millitary for most of its 60 years of independence. Even when under civilian rule, millitary has flexed its muscles and indirectly controlled the govt. Pakistani millitary has traditionally been dominated by Punjabis (Punjab constitutes 60% of the population of Pakistan). It is this domination by just one selected group that has aggravated the problem as millitary plays a major role in Pakistan in shaping the policies. It must also be noted that in the undivided Pakistan, the Bengalis were hardly given any representation either in the millitary or in the civil services and there a complete domination of Punjabis. This was a major (Source)

The Indo-Pak joint statement
This certainly isn't the first instance when Pakistan has accused India of fomenting trouble in Balochistan, nor is it the last such instance. It must be noted that India does not share any border with Balochistan and hence it cannot support the Baloch struggle (if at all it wants to) in the same way as the state of Pakistan does to the Kashmiri struggle.

Pakistan has also accussed that India is using Afghanistan's territory to launch attacks in Balochistan and is training Balochis. Ofcourse it is difficult to ascertain the truth since just like Pakistan has never accepted the alleged role of its Army and ISI for the terrorism in India, India is unlikely to ever accept such a charge.

But the problem now is that Pakistan has been successful in equating terrorism in India to terrorism in Balochistan. The two can hardly be equated.
  1. As already mentioned, India does not shares a border with Balochistan.
  2. Terrorist groups in Pakistan like LeT have launched daring attacks on the Indian establishment like the attack on Indian Parliament or the Mumbai attacks. On the other hand, Balochi attacks have been of a much smaller scale.
  3. The Baloch struggle existed even before the 2001, when the Afghanistan was ruled by the Pak-friendly Taliban. On the other hand, Kashmir struggle has almost from the very beginning, involved a Pakistani hand. This is true even in 1947-48 when Pakistani sent its armed forces under the cover of the tribals. This strategy continued in subsequent war of 1965 and Kargil war of 1999.
  4. The Baloch struggle is hardly given any coverage in the Pak-media as compared to the Taliban struggle. Clearly, Taliban is a far bigger threat to Pakistan.
  5. Soon after the attack on Sri Lankan team, Pakistani govt. denied any Indian involvement and instead pointed towards Taliban. However, now it wants to paint the Baloch threat to be much graver so that it can be equated to the terrorism that India is facing, and thus countering the advantage that India holds with respect to the world opinion.
Can Baloch struggle ever reach the same level as that of Kashmir?
In the 1971 war, India defeated Pakistan and helped in creation of Bangladesh. In that case, India was able to use the unrest in Bangladesh against the Pakistani rule to its advantage. Even if the Indian state today wanted to use Baloch struggle to further balkanize Pakistan, it would be extremely difficult, almost impossible.

As already mentioned, Baloch population constitutes just 4% of the total population of Pakistan. In such small numbers, they hardly can hope to win against the Pakistani state without external help. Moreover, India does not shares any borders with Balochistan. Lastly, Pakistani today has nuclear weapons and hence it is unlikely that there would be a full fledged war.

Therefore, Baloch struggle can never really threaten the Pakistani state. Perhaps thats the reason no govt. has been serious enough to look into their greviances. Balochistan is a tool to counter India, something that Pakistan has successfully used very skillfully.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Ask the Pinkizzzzzzzzzzzzzzz?

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If you are 26 years old, happen to live in India manage earn decent and still single, my one and only advice is, create your “Ask the Pinkizzzzzzz” list. Yes I know, you have been avoiding this for the last 1-2 years, but now your parents are pushing too hard. So ok, you can to may be go on an on-site assignment for 2 or 3 years. Great dude, you are AWESOME ( Barney Stinson’s style).

You idiot, how did you forget about the recession and how your dear government has just in is budget done what it always does best, “Do nothing”? So dear, it’s time to prepare your “Ask the Pinkizzzzzzz” list. Because you never know when that moment may arrive. You could be blindfolded straight out of your bed while you are in your sleep and when you open your eyes, you may find yourself on a restaurant table sitting next to a sweet and beautiful women(yaa, god has spent dispprotionate time in making each one of them like that, and then they become wives :((((((), with you looking completely dumbfounded, petrified, terrified, horrified (the Thesaurus has many more of those synonyms). Dude, without the list, what are you going to ask this girl? So it’s time to you take my advice, make the list.

And like all brave Indian men, I am not nervous at all, I am only dumbfounded, petrified, terrified, horrified (please refer the Thesaurus). So guyz and gals, enough of my advice, its time you all give me back some advice.

So people, let me lay down some basic ground rules. You gender does not matter. You are eligible only if you have a have a past experience. Criteria two, you are ineligible if you are too experienced, generation gap matters. I am sorry if some of you fail to meet to either of the criteria’s, but you can still invite your eligible friends to join the discussion.

So people, get the discussion started. Your task is simple, help me create the list.

A true incident
Kindly note that much of my fear built up after I heard what happened to a friend of mine. He went along with his parents to meet an old friend(thats wat he was told). But slowly he began to realize that it was something else. A girl came out all dressed up with a cup of tea. He was dumbfounded too. He whispered into his mother's ear asking "what is going on?". She instantly ordered him to sit down quietly.

But it all ended well. My friend is now engaged to that very girl.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

India:The Weak State?

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India has been called as a weak state numerous times, both by India and foreign experts. After every terrorist attack, such claims become even more common. Mumbai attacks were no exception to this and scores of socialites who were seen on News shows talked repeatedly about India being a weak state.

Some of the arguments that were made were just too ridiculous. Comparisons were being drawn between India and Israel or India and US. Why can't India hit-back like Israel? When Osama attacked US, it hit-back with an invasion on Afghanistan, why can't India emulate the same? If you visit some of the online forums, its is quite common for Pakistanis to ridicule the Indians using similar arguments.

A fact that is quite easily forgotten is that Israel has to deal with groups like Hamas and Hezbollah which neither have an air-force nor have any tanks or other armored force. India on the other hand is dealing with Pakistan, a nuclear power nation. The two are just incomparable.

India's comparison to US is even more ridiculous. It is often argued that after the 9/11 attacks, US constituted Homeland Security department and since then there haven't been any attacks on US soil. But what is easily forgotten that US is thousands of miles away from the epicenter of Islamic terrorism i.e. Pakistan, while India is just next to it. So it may be for US to invade Afghanistan without feeling any repercussions, but for India it is just not the same.

A better comparison would be to look at the recent happenings in North Korea and see if the US behaves any differently. North Korea conducted its second Nuclear Test last week. Simultaneously, it also conducted long range missile tests over Japan into the Pacific. It is believed that North Korea is now capable of hitting at least some of the US cities. Even though its weapons program is still at a very infant stage, the fear of nuclear weapons is immense. US allies in the region like Japan and South Korea were already in its range.

But the response from US has so far been measured. Apart from condemning the Tests, US seems to be working towards introducing fresh set sanctions and is presently looking to garner international support for same, particularly from China which has consistently supported the North Korean regime.

So where is the US bravado? It is quite obvious that US can't use the same tactics it used in Afghanistan here. North Korea has the fourth largest army in the World behind China, US and India. Its special forces are the largest in the World, believed to be around 180,000. It has developed long range missiles and now with its nuclear capability, it is miles ahead of Afghanistan.

Another reason why there is a perception of India being a weak state is because Indian Govt and their intelligence arm RAW have rarely tried to showcase its achievements and choses to remain in the background. We don't make movies on RAW while Hollywood keeps making movies showcasing CIA and its capabilities. The reasons are best known to the people in the higher echelons of RAW and I would not like to question that.

Perhaps the biggest achievement of RAW was breaking up Pakistan and creating a new entity called Bangladesh. If all the noises from Pakistan are to believed then RAW is actively involved in Afghanistan and Balochistan and is trying to keep Pakistan weak. The only problem is that it may take years before we get some results from their action. But that should not mean that they are not doing anything at all.

But since we are a democracy which offers right to speech, there will always be people to question the actions of the Govt. Hopefully this shall push it towards providing faster results on the ground.

I expect lots of readers may point towards India's bureaucracy and inefficiency, towards how there have been serious lapses, how there was a scan in bullet-proof jackets, and so. I do not discount that, but I would like to distinguish inefficiency in operations from strength or weakness in decision making. It is easy to call someone weak without looking into the challenges faced and also on its constraints of resources.