A Chanakyan Lesson for Obama

In 2007, speaking at the London School of Economics, Benazir Bhutto declared that nurturing Taliban was a mistake ; in the 90s it looked like a wise move. In 90s Afghanistan was in disarray: the Americans had left, various Mujaheddin warlords controlled the supply route from Pakistan to Central Asia, and there was no central leadership. Aided by Pakistan, Afghan refugees who attended Islamic schools took over Afghanistan and according to the view at that time – brought stability.
While handing over Afghanistan to Taliban looked like a bad idea after 9/11, we are now back to early 90s thought process again. The American plan calls for negotiating with “moderate” Taliban, through a combination of “political accommodation, financial rewards and astute exploitation of inter-tribal rivalries.” Thus the same entities against which a war was fought and is still being fought, by a simple switch, are going to be rewarded with power.
In Mudrarakshasa, Vishakhadutta’s 4th century novel about the battle of wits between Chanakya and the deposed minister Amatya Rakshasa, a question arises about reinstating people who were thrown out.
In Act III, there is a heated conversation between Chakakya and Chandragupta Maurya on why certain people switched allegiance to the enemy camp. Among them there are, Bhadrabahata, the superintendent of elephants and Purushadatta, the superintendent of horse. Chanakya explains that these two superintendents were given over to women, drinking and hunting. They neglected their duties and hence were removed from their posts.
Chanakya explains that two kinds of action can be taken against subjects who have grievances; they can be rewarded or they can be punished. In the case of Bhadrabahata or Purushadatta rewarding them would mean giving them their jobs back. To reinstate people who have been dismissed for incompetence, Chanakya explains, would be to strike at the very foundation of government.
The question in Mudrarakshasa is domestic politics while it is international terrorism in Afghanistan and the Taliban were removed from power, not exactly for incompetence. One point is moot though: you do not forget why they were dismissed in the first place; you do not give them an opportunity to commit the same crimes again.
Later in Mudrarakshasa, one of the characters Bhagurayana laments about politics.

Turning friend into foe, foe into friend
on grounds of practical advantages
Politics takes a man while he still lives
Into another birth where earlier memories are lo
Bhagurayana’s lament is true about geo-politics as well. There is no excuse, if a decade later, we look back at 2009 and repent like the 2007 Benazir.

Israel and Two Democracies

On Nov 29, 1947, few months after India’s independence, Resolution 181 was approved by the General Assembly to partition the territory of Palestine into Jewish and Arab states. The vote was 33-10 with 10 abstentions. Albert Einstein had written to the Prime Minister designate of India that year asking support for a Jewish state, but Nehru wrote back saying that while he was sympathetic to the suffering of Jews, he did not like that the new state would be located on someone else’s land. He also wrote that due to India’s national interests, he could not support the formation of Israel. Thus India voted along with Afghanistan, Cuba, Egypt, Greece, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey, and Yemen against the resolution.

In United States, an unpopular Harry Truman supported the partition, but faced opposition from the State and Defence departments. One of the biggest opponent of the plan was Secretary of State, George Marshall, who bluntly told Truman that if elections were held, he would vote against the President. His Defence Secretary told him not to offend the Arabs since it could lead to denial of petroleum resources.

On May 14, 1948, Israel declared independence.

With only a few hours left until midnight in Tel Aviv, Clifford told the Jewish Agency to request immediate recognition of the new state, which still lacked a name. Truman announced recognition at 6:11 p.m. on May 14 — 11 minutes after Ben-Gurion’s declaration of independence in Tel Aviv. So rapidly was this done that in the official announcement, the typed words “Jewish State” are crossed out, replaced in Clifford’s handwriting with “State of Israel.” Thus the United States became the first nation to recognize Israel, as Truman and Clifford wanted.[Washington’s Battle Over Israel’s Birth]

Richard Holbrooke writes that while many think Israel has been nothing but trouble for United States, it was the right decision.

Israel was going to come into existence whether or not Washington recognized it. But without American support from the very beginning, Israel’s survival would have been at even greater risk. Even if European Jewry had not just emerged from the horrors of World War II, it would have been an unthinkable act of abandonment by the United States. Truman’s decision, although opposed by almost the entire foreign policy establishment, was the right one — and despite complicated consequences that continue to this day, it is a decision all Americans should recognize and admire. [Washington’s Battle Over Israel’s Birth]

Though India did not recognize Israel till 1950 and did not have diplomatic relations still 1992, Nehru asked David Ben-Gurion for help during the 1962 war and it has continued till the Kargil war. Voting against Israel did not result in any extra ordinary favours from the Arab world which supports Pakistan’s Kashmir cause.

Arunachal Pradesh: Taking a stand

It was the failure of Jawaharlal Nehru and V K Krishna Menon and those in India’s ministry of external affairs who were their advisers to understand the Chinese mindset, which led to the national humiliation in the Sino-Indian war of 1962.

Repeated warnings from the Intelligence Bureau about the large-scale Chinese intrusions into the Aksai Chin area of Ladakh and their construction of a road there were not only ignored, but these disturbing developments were kept away from the knowledge of the public and Parliament. They fondly believed that they would be able to make the Chinese see reason and withdraw from this region by observing a policy of silence and not articulating our concerns in public. Their fond hopes were belied.

It was not the Indian intelligence and security forces which were responsible for the 1962 debacle. It was the political leadership, which was living in an illusory world of its own creation [Tawang: Some Indian plain-speaking at last!]

Not much has changed from the days of Nehru in terms of preparedness, but now it is hard to hide such information from the public and Parliament and that in turn forces the  Ministers to make hard hitting public statements.

Talking to journalists in Shillong on June 16, Mukherjee said ‘he had made it clear to his new Chinese counterpart that any elected Government of India is not permitted by the provisions of the Constitution to part with any part of our land that sends representatives to the Indian Parliament.’

The minister added: ‘The days of Hitler are over. After the Second World War, no country captures land of another country in the present global context. That is why there is a civilised mechanism of discussions and dialogue to sort out border disputes. We sit around the table and discuss disputes to resolve them.’

Antony told journalists in New Delhi on June 18, ‘China has been building infrastructure (near the Line of Actual Control). We are also building infrastructure. Nobody can prevent both sides. There is nothing wrong in that. They have the right to build infrastructure on their territory. We have the right to do that on ours. We are also trying to hasten the development of our infrastructure. They have their perception (about Arunachal Pradesh). On our part, we are very categorical that Arunachal Pradesh is part of India.’ [Tawang: Some Indian plain-speaking at last!]

I wish they tried some of our suggestions as well.

Diplomatic Middle Finger

When members of the Royal Navy were captured by the Iranians in March, the Iranians made sure that the British were decently humiliated. The sailors had to apologize for straying into Iranian waters and later  thank president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for magnanimously releasing them. The entire nation could do nothing, but watch this public humiliation in silence. Now displaying something called spine, the British have knighted Salman Rushdie providing employment opportunities for suicide bombers. The Iranians are upset and made the usual remarks.

There is a lesson from this for us. Now that China is making noise about Arunachal Pradesh (in the spirit of Hindi-Chini-Bhai-Bade Bhai) we can follow the British model and cause some discomfort to the Chinese. One great way would be to ask the Prime Minister of India to give the keynote on the first ‘Conference for an Independent Tibet‘ organized by Friends of Tibet from June 23-24, 2007 in Delhi. Later in the day we could organize a discussion on the teachings of Falun Gong and compare their spiritual practices with Indian spiritual techniques.

Yes, it is juvenile, but sometimes it is the best way to get the message across.

His Glass is Always Half Empty

Seeing Burma’s new capital city Naypyitaw, he wrote “its geometry so incredibly vast that even a crowd of half a million is unlikely to pose a political threat”. He was thrilled to see Mr. Ahmadinejad, the leader of a nation which supports the Lebanese Shiite militants of Hezbollah  and such terrorist groups as Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. His blog looks like a journey through the axis of evil, with an occasional diversion via an interview with a Maoist. It does not take a Sherlock Holmes to figure out that Siddharth Varadarajan works for The Hindu.

In his latest post on the events in the Korean Peninsula, he is happy that a dramatic breakthrough has happened, but he puts the blame entirely on United States for the North Korean nuclear test while making North Koreans look like saints. He says that President George Bush’s remark classifying North Korea among the “axis of evil” undermined the 1994 Agreed Framework. North Koreans have not said so, but Mr. Varadarajan alone comes up with this theory. 

North Korea has a long history of terrorism and provocations against Japan and South Korea. Even though  South Korea was willing to ignore all activities of terrorism against it, but the Japanese were not. North Korea kidnapped Japanese citizens and used them for training North Korean agents for terrorism and in the six party talks, the Americans told several times to the North Koreans to settle the kidnapping issue and they did not.

Continue reading “His Glass is Always Half Empty”

Well said, Bishop Tutu!

The other day we expressed our regret at Pranab Mukherjee’s silence in Myanmar on the state of affairs there and the treatment given to Aung San Suu Kyi.

Yesterday, in one speech Bishop Desmond Tutu mentioned all the things which India should support, but does not. More credit to him for saying all this while accepting Gandhi Peace Prize in the presence of both the President and the Prime Minister.

Nobel laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu on Wednesday caught the Indian leadership unaware by advocating independence for Tibet at a function to award him the Gandhi Peace Prize at the Presidential Palace.“We thank you for giving refuge to one of the greatest human beings, Dalai Lama, and pray that you help bring about freedom of his Tibet,” the South African anti-Apartheid struggle hero told the gathering that included Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in his acceptance speech after President APJ Abdul Kalam presented the award to him.

Indian officials promptly distanced Delhi from the remark, saying Tutu had only expressed his “personal” views. Former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee had articulated India’s position on Tibet in 2003 when he acknowledged the concept of “one China”. Officials said the stand had remained the same. Dedicating the peace prize to Myanmarese pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, Tutu sought India’s help to bring about the “freedom” of Myanmar and release Suu Kyi. He  also dedicated the prize to the people of South Africa and the freedom of Darfur.[Tutu’s remark on Tibet creates flutter]

Now the folks at Ministry of External Affairs will be crawling on their knees in the embassies of China, Myanmar and Sudan expressing “regret” and informing them that they can continue with their genocide and we would never interfere.

Mr. Mukherjee's illusion

Recently on a visit to Myanmar, India’s External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee said in diplomatic language that we don’t care if the people of Myanmar are suffering under dictatorship. India would not talk about democracy since it is not one of our exports. Mr. Mukherjee also comically said that democracy is something each country has to decide as if one fine day, the junta would decide to hand over power and fade away into oblivion.

Indian Govt. has also agreed to sell arms to the military rulers without uttering a word about the state of the Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi who celebrated her 60th birthday under house arrest. In fact our support of the dictators are  worse that when Senior General Than Shwe of Myanmar visited India, visas were refused to a number of speakers who wanted to speak about democracy.

In the most recent State of the Union Speech, President Bush mentioned that United States would continue to speak for the cause of freedom in places like Burma (The US refuses to call it Myanmar). The President also said that he would “continue to awaken the conscience of the world to save the people of Darfur”.

After maintaining silence about Darfur, the word finally appeared in the State of the Union, which is due to the activism by various groups, journalists and movie stars. They believe they can cause the super power to act. Now activists are targeting companies which do business in Sudan like Siemens AG and forcing them to pull out. States like Texas, Nebraska and Colorado have introduced bills, like the one passed in California forcing state pension funds not to invest in Sudan.

These activists know that United States can exert pressure both economically and politically to prevent the genocide. At the same time when Pranab Mukherjee says that he does not care about the state of the people in Myanmar, we have to ask if any change will be caused due to India’s pressure.  Our external influence extends upto Katmandu and not a kilometer more. Even that is questionable.

If, God forbid, India starts throwing its weight around, then Myanmar will just become a vassal state of China and nothing will change for the people of Myanmar. Somehow Mr. Mukherjee’s statement give an illusion that we have the leverage to cause a change in Myanmar, but we refuse to. It is vastly different from reality.

(Crossposted on INI Signal)

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Saddam hanged, Malayalees suffer

According to an Iraqi court Saddam Hussein was  found guilty of the massacre of Iraqis in Dujail and sentenced to death.

“Now, he is in the garbage of history,” said Jawad Abdul-Aziz, who lost his father, three brothers and 22 cousins in the reprisal killings that followed a botched 1982 assassination attempt against Saddam in the Shiite town of Dujail. It was the Dujail killings of which Saddam was convicted. [Iraqis execute Saddam for mass killings]

But then in Kerala we mourn for such brutal dictators and a hartal was called by both the Communists and Congress.

Stating that the “American imperialism has raised a grim challenge to the world peace once again through the execution of Saddam Hussein”, Chief Minister V S Achuthanandan said the Iraqi leader would be remembered forever as a martyr who heroically fought the imperialist interests.[Hartal in Kerala, leaders condemn Saddam’s execution]

For members of a party which think that the Communist occupation and enslavement of Tibet is “peaceful liberation“, Saddam could be a martyr. No mention of his invasion of Kuwait or the murder of a large number of Shiites and Kurds or any of the atrocities mentioned in an article in the New York Times.

DOING the arithmetic is an imprecise venture. The largest number of deaths attributable to Mr. Hussein’s regime resulted from the war between Iraq and Iran between 1980 and 1988, which was launched by Mr. Hussein. Iraq says its own toll was 500,000, and Iran’s reckoning ranges upward of 300,000. Then there are the casualties in the wake of Iraq’s 1990 occupation of Kuwait. Iraq’s official toll from American bombing in that war is 100,000 — surely a gross exaggeration — but nobody contests that thousands of Iraqi soldiers and civilians were killed in the American campaign to oust Mr. Hussein’s forces from Kuwait. In addition, 1,000 Kuwaitis died during the fighting and occupation in their country.
More recently, according to Iraqis who fled to Jordan and other neighboring countries, scores of women have been executed under a new twist in a “return to faith” campaign proclaimed by Mr. Hussein. Aimed at bolstering his support across the Islamic world, the campaign led early on to a ban on drinking alcohol in public. Then, some time in the last two years, it widened to include the public killing of accused prostitutes.

Often, the executions have been carried out by the Fedayeen Saddam, a paramilitary group headed by Mr. Hussein’s oldest son, 38-year-old Uday. These men, masked and clad in black, make the women kneel in busy city squares, along crowded sidewalks, or in neighborhood plots, then behead them with swords. The families of some victims have claimed they were innocent of any crime save that of criticizing Mr. Hussein. [How Many People Has Saddam Killed?]

Of course, as usual Americans are terrified after listening to the hardship enforced on Malayalees by Malayalees and are busy googling to see who Achyutanandan is.

Guns, Rock Climbing and iPods

Sometimes international politics and diplomacy offers more chance of fun than watching kids play in a day care center. The first one comes from Colonel Muammar Gaddafi who landed in Nigeria with some 200 armed body guards. When the Nigerians refused the body guards to carry arms, Gaddafi threatened to walk some 40 kms to the capital city from the airport. With some intervention from President Obasanjo, the Libyans backed down, though it would have been more fun to see Gaddafi walk all that distance.

The second piece of funny news from that land where Uncle Castro rules from the bed. Right now the biggest threat to Cuban national security comes from – Rock Climbers (gasp!). The reason is that Castro launched his 1959 revolution from a camp in the Sierra Maestra Mountains and now the the Cuban Govt. thinks that all people who climb mountains are about to conduct another revolution. Also some of the Cubans climb mountains with Americans. Due to this now Cubans are required to get a permit before climbing, with only one problem that no one knows how to get a permit.

If tiny countries can act juvenile, it is hard for the lone superpower to stay away. In a move which is sure to bring down the regime of Kim Jong Il, United States has banned the export of iPods, plasma televisions and Segway electric scooters to North Korea. When Kim knows that he will have to listen to music on the Zune, watch the latest James Bond movie on a normal television and will have to walk instead of zipping on the Segway, he is sure to roll back his nuclear programme and come out from the Dark Side.

I thought I would stay away from blogging for the holidays, but all these folks won’t let me.