Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Why so much fuss about WikiLeaks report?

By: Subhadeep Bhattacharjee

This is touted at being one of the biggest war leaks in American history. There is huge furore in Washington and Islamabad over reports that ISI provided funds to Taliban to act against India. The report also rubbishes Pakistan’s stand against the good Taliban (which acts against India) and the bad Taliban (which carries out attacks on the American and NATO troops in the Pak-Afghan border.)

The massive 90000 page leak reveals the ISI had offered $15000 to the Taliban to kill some Indian contractor in Afghanistan. Other documents that have mentioned information regarding India and Pakistan, state that from the period of 2004 to 2007, it has been confirmed from the website that the ISI was under the command of the Pakistani army chief, General Parvez Ashfaq Kayyani.

The big question here is why is so much fuss being made around this? Is this something that people in Washington did not know about? The Indian government and people in India did not need any intelligence leak to know about these revelations. New Delhi has been constantly making appeals to Washington on the issue of ISI funding jihad and helping Al Qaeda and other terrors groups in the region.

An American Congressman said that “Pakistan is digging its grave by funding the Taliban” What is the United States doing in this? Helping Pakistan to dig this grave faster and better? It is no surprise that US funds are being used to plan 26/11 like attacks in India which are being fully supported by the Pakistani army and its rouge intelligence agency the ISI. Do these new stories surprise people in United States?

The reports also say that ISI had ordered an attack on the Indian embassy in Afghanistan. It is no surprise that America has been turning a blind eye to all this and waiting for an escape route out of Afghanistan. So why create so much fuss out of an open secret? It is high time the US realises that that anti Soviet campaign resulted in the birth of an Osama Bin Laden and the present campaign will be no different. Perhaps US will wake up after a second 9/11 style attack.


Saturday, July 24, 2010

Kayani’s extension proves who calls shots in Pakistan

By: Subhadeep Bhattacharjee

Democracy has one major fault line; it has too many protocols which prevents people from choosing the obvious. In feudal times peace negotiations would happen between real centres of power. In democracy however there are lot of rules and by rules to be followed which at times prevents people from taking a more practical decision. The Indo-Pak peace process is a major example to this theory.

In Pakistan General Ashfaq Kayani is the real power but the Indian leadership is forced to talk to President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani due to our democratic protocol. These people hardly have any power other than acting as ceremonial leaders. In Pakistan the three centres of power are the military, terrorists and the radicals among which military is the only institutionalised centre of power.

In 1999, then Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee had made the famous bus trip to Lahore and signed the Lahore Declaration with Pakistani PM Nawaz Shariff. Pakistan replied India with Kargil in less than six months. It was a certificate on the theory that the civilian leadership in Pakistan is nothing more than the official seal. It doesn’t give orders to the army rather listens to it and at times takes call from it also.

Kayani who has taken the mantle of the army from Pervez Musharraf has forced the government to extend his term by another three years. This is quite ironic as in 2008 he had replaced Musharraf on the country wide pretext that the former President was turning into a dictator. History repeats itself in Pakistan, the only difference being that this time the decision has been endorsed by a civilian government (read under tremendous pressure). The reason Kayani’s leadership is important for the fight against terrorists!

The former director general of the dreaded ISI is not known to be too fond of India and New Delhi doesn’t like him either. His term extension has now become a worrying factor for the Indian leadership who want to start dialogue with Pakistan. It would be wise for the Indian leadership to talk to a man who holds power in Pakistan rather than to ceremonial heads it it wants to take the peace process forward.


Friday, July 23, 2010

Muralitharan finishes with just 800 wickets!

By: Subhadeep Bhattacharjee

The title might seem insane for many as the Muralitharan Muttaiah the best off spinner that the game of cricket has perhaps seen will no longer be seen donning the whites for his country. Although 800 wickets is no mean achievement he could have easily gone to become the first bowler in the history of the game to grab 1000 wickets! His form and fitness seemed good enough for him to carry on for a few more years.

Murali had come to the Galle match needing 8 wickets to reach the milestone no cricketer had achieved in the 147 year old history of the Gentlemen’s Game. Most cricketers would not have the guts to announce retirement without reaching the milestone. But the magician from Sri Lanka knew he could grab 8 scalps against an Indian side who had played him relatively well and could have stopped him a single digit short of the achievement.

The first innings wicket of Sachin Tendulkar would be a moment for Murli to cherish as one of the best rivalries of the game came to an end with Murali having the last laugh. It would take decades for cricket fans to see such sights in the game again. Three Indian heads in the second innings wasn’t going to be tough for Murali but the cricket god was in no mood to deny one of his favourite sons the last laugh.

In what seemed a script straight out of a Bollywood movie, the off spin master had to wait for the last Indian wicket in the second innings to achieve this feat. When the last Indian wicket of Pragyan Ojha fell even the Indian fans seemed happy after all it was a deserved achievement for the man who had made cricket a better game facing all odds. His career could have easily ended in 1994 when Darrel Hair called him for chucking had it not been for then Sri Lankan skipper Arjuna Ranutanga.

With Murali a era in spin bowling comes to an end with Shane Warne and Anil Kumble already hung their boots. Murali will be always remembered as a true gentleman in the game which doesn’t see too many of them anymore. He was one of the best ambassadors of the game his generation. To break his record in the future a bowler would not just need great bowling skills but a lion’s hear. Adieu Murali!


Thursday, July 22, 2010

Are we expecting too much from Pakistan?

By: Subhadeep Bhattacharjee

There has been huge hue and cry over the relative failure of India-Pakistan foreign ministers’ talks. This after Pakistani side wriggled out of the talks after India disclosed of the David Coleman Headle’s link with the Pakistani intelligence service the ISI. The Pakistani side which had been lying low due to the US pressure suddenly got a shot in the arm to make a mockery out of the talks. This left our foreign minister SM Krishna dejected who had gone to Islamabad with high hopes and huge promises.

The big question that arises here aren’t we expecting too much from Pakistan? Did people in the Indian intelligence and security agencies expect Pakistan to own up the link? The government has been sending multiple dossier to Pakistan relating to the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai but has Pakistan acted? Or rather do we expect the Pakistani establishment to act tough with the perpetrators of terror? The answer is known to most people around the world but as far as official records are concerned we are not willing to accept the obvious.

Most people in India have believed that Kashmir is the bone of contention between the two nations. But the main problem lies in the political and military culture that has developed in the two nations over the last 63 years since independence and subsequent partition. While India developed into a well functioning democracy (at least on papers), Pakistan is yet to come to term with itself. It is neither a democracy, nor a military ruled state which faces the fear of being run over by militants. In this situation we should not be singing the tunes of diplomacy with Pakistan.

While India is striving towards becoming one of the largest economies in the world, Pakistan is trying hard to hold a nation together. The Frankenstein monster that it had created to wage a proxy war against India is slowly biting it on its head. There is complete lawlessness in the tribal areas of the north and demand for independence in the Balochistan region. In such situations the military and the intelligence are left loose. The result is a Mumbai attack which most likely was backed by the ISI. But the Indian side shouldn’t expect any strong actions by the government on ISI.

Waging a proxy war against India is not just a mania but a need for Pakistan. It allows it to divert attention from its own domestic affairs where people from Punjab, Sindhi, Balochistan and northern tribal areas have enough differences between them to be a one nation. In such a situation a proxy war is the only solution for Pakistan to preserve its integrity. In such situations should we expect the Pakistani side to take concrete steps against an agency which holds the grip over integrity of the nation?


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Do we need a Railway Minister?

By: Subhadeep Bhattacharjee

The latest of the train tragedy involving Uttarbanga Express and Vananchal Express at Sainthia station has some of the common things associated with every railway accident in India. The opposition calling for the head of the Railway Minister, high profile visits to the site, promise of compensation (which doesn’t reach 90% of the people) and the usual setting up of the enquiry commission by the railways whose report will lie in some corner of one of the zonal headquarter of the Indian Railways.

The worst among all these is the mud slinging that politicians resort to in the hour of human crisis. This has been true cutting across party lines on whoever has been in power and opposition. Ram Vilas Paswan asked Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee to choose between Railways and West Bengal. BJP demanded for her resignation and the Congress just condoled the death of the victims trying its best not to anger one of its maverick allies. Such political flings in such tragic situations bring shame to everybody except our politicians.

The Railway Ministry is one of the cream portfolios in the Union Cabinet. It is more preferred by politicians of the backward states. It is no wonder that in the last 20 years barring a brief period of C. K. Jaffer Sheriff the ministry has been in the hands of Bihar politicians and Mamata Banerjee from West Bengal. It is the instrument to bring in cheer from the poor when their leaders have very little to offer on other parameters on the development index. Populist railway budgets have been common with Mr. Lalu Prasad Yadav linking the village of his wife through the railways!

This brings us to the big question do we need a Railway Minister? Is a minister is so important to running the Indian Railways? It is a well known fact that no minister is directly involved with the functioning of the railways. It is the bureaucrats along with the employees of the railways who keep the system running. The Railway Minister is honorary head one of the side effects of our red tapism and socialistic growth in the first 40 years of our independence.

The Railway portfolio has become a victim of poor polity in our country. The politicians have more of vote banks to think of than development when it comes to running the Railways. The ministry can instead be run by a board which is nominated by the government and has retired people from the Railways. These people will have more knowledge about the system than a Mamata Banerjee, Ram Vilas Paswan or a Lalu Prasad Yadav does. In situations of crisis there will be less mud slinging and more of rescue operations.

If only we could have it this way, the railways would have been saved the ordeal of having turned into a political football.


Thursday, July 15, 2010

Will Unified Command be able to tackle Maoist?

By: Subhadeep Bhattacharjee

The Central Government has finally waken up to the growing problem of Naxals and proposed the setting up of a Unified Command to tackle the problem. Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Jharkhand and West Bengal which have been the worst affected by Maoist violence, have been asked to set up a Unified Command. Its main aim will be to share intelligence and handle the Naxal problem as a single force. This Command will be headed by Chief Secretaries of the four states.

On paper this looks like a great decision to bring the state police, central forces and paramilitary forces and intelligence agencies under one command. A retired Major General will be a part of this Command structure to look into its functioning. The states will appoint an officer of the rank of Inspector General for the Command. But the bigger question is will such a structure work effectively?

The absence of West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee from this high level meeting shows that not all political leaders and parties are on the same platform and frequency when it comes to tackling the Maoists. Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar wants to fight Naxalism with development while his Chattisgarh counterpart Raman Singh believes there is no alternative to armed response. Will a United Command work if we do not have a united polity?

The problem in dealing with the Naxals so far has been the fact that different states have had different approach when it comes to dealing with them. While some believed in using forces others wanted to invite them for talks. This gave Naxals a free haven where they would conduct operations in one state and than slip into another thus making a mockery of the security forces in the country. It is no irony that the security forces in the Naxal affected areas have hardly achieved any success.

Bulk of the security forces in the Unified Command will come from the State police forces which will be controlled by the state governments. The problem is to make all of them work like a single machine. The Centre’s role will be to oversee the operations as our federal structure provides very little playing ground to the Centre in such situations unless it takes control over the State with President’s Rule. Can it make the different states fight as a cohesive unit? This question will only be answered in the coming days.


Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Is Pakistan fuelling Kashmir’s violence?

By: Subhadeep Bhattacharjee

Stone pelting civilians, Kalashnikov carrying security forces and complete breakdown of law and order. After years of simmering Kashmir valley seems to be burning again. Ironically all this in a year when Chief Minister Omar Abdullah had declared 2010 to be a year for tourism in the scenic valley about which the great Mughal emperor Shah Jahan had once said “Agar Firdous Bar Roi Zamanast Tho, Haminasto, Haminasto, Haminasto" (If there is ever a paradise on earth, it is here, it is here, it is here).

It is a well known fact that nothing happens in the valley without political and diplomatic interest. The question is who the biggest gainer in all this is? Pakistan seems the obvious answer. Imagine this Prime Minister of Azad Kashmir Raja Farooq Haidar Khan has asked Pakistan to de-link Kashmir issue from the peace talks with India as he believes Pakistan doesn’t have much bargaining powers at present due to the international pressure. A violent valley gives Pakistan a chance to blame India of atrocities.

Years of cross border terrorism have given Pakistan very little gains as far as diplomatic victories are concerned. Post 9/11 the global perception on terrorism has changed and Pakistan finds itself isolated on the Kashmir issue. It’s biggest supporter America doesn’t give much weightage to the Kashmir issue owing to its covert support to Taliban and better economic ties with India. America cannot afford to upset India anymore due to economic pressures with a crumbling economy back home with many signalling it will soon cease to be the biggest economy in the world.

On one hand the terror outfits in the valley are keeping the security forces busy on the border districts and on the other the people of the valley are being incited to violence. Stone pelting seems to have become the latest weapon among the hardliners to fight the Indian establishment. The J&K government seems to be loosing its grip completely over the Kashmir valley and Omar Abdullah doesn’t symbolise a chief minister in control.

In the last decade several peace initiatives starting from the Vajpayee era had brought down the violence in the valley. The Army had moved to the borders and the paramilitary forces and police taken control of the valley. All this seems to be crumbling like a pack of cards in the last 12 months. It is high time India starts talking hard with Pakistan and makes the international community do the same. Considering the economic interest America and the European Union has in India this isn’t impossible. A few measures in the valley won’t yield results unless Pakistan has been taken care of.


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