Showing posts with label Salman Khurshid. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Salman Khurshid. Show all posts

Thursday, May 16, 2013

What is Salman Khurshid Up To?

The aphorism ‘No nation has friends, only interests’ and its variations were attributed to the former French President, Charles de Gaulle and the English Statesman Lord Palmerston. Some believe it predates even these politicians. An article in Time Magazine (May 9, 1955) obliquely attributes it to the English Statesman. For now the authorship of the aphorism is not the issue but whether Indian politicians were / are wise enough to pursue the course defined by it. Surprisingly, India’s foreign policy from the days of Jawaharlal Nehru has functioned at complete variance from the wisdom the aphorism advocates. Another interesting feature is that although Indian Prime Ministers in general seem to have a penchant for the foreign ministry, probably because it helps them to frequently fly abroad and rub shoulders with other world leaders, Nehru never let go of the foreign affairs portfolio. He was his Foreign Minister throughout his tenure as Prime Minster from September 2 1946. He relinquished both the posts only when he died on May 27 1964. The following article was originally published in South Asian Idea (SAISA), the official website of the South Asian Institute of Strategic Affairs as, ‘What is Foreign Office Up To?

Does the Indian government have a strategy to counter the latest Chinese incursion deep into Indian territory on April 15? If it does, it is shrouded in mystery and obfuscation. The first reports indicated that the Chinese penetrated ten kilometres inside from the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and pitched tents. The government finally admitted that they intruded nineteen kilometres. (Dr.!) Salman Khurshid, the dermatologist heading the Indian Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) described it as a spot of acne on the India-China relations! Such expressions appear colourful in sophomore essays or university debates. However Khurshid is neither a sophomore nor was he writing an essay for a college magazine.

The recent incursion is not the first (more than 200 Chinese incursions into Indian territory have been reported since 2008) but what made it disturbing was, this time around the Chinese did not indulge in a niggling in-and-out inroad but seemed to have come to stay put. Equally disturbing is the Indian response which seems to be following the disastrous course of the 1962 script.

One would like to forget what happened in 1962 but for the indelible scar that the humiliating defeat left on India’s collective psyche. There were varying versions of what went wrong. There was an extreme view projected by the then undivided Communist Party of India (CPI) which overtly functioned as the Chinese fifth column. The left wing Chinese sympathizers in the academia and their fellow travellers in the media did their bit to cloud the picture. Several generals of the defeated army added to the cacophony by offering self-serving apologias.

Then there are accounts of foreign journalists like Neville Maxwell (1970. India’s China War). An Australian national born in London and educated in Canada, Maxwell was The Times’ foreign correspondent in Washington for three years, before being posted to New Delhi as the paper’s South Asia correspondent. Though extensively researched, the book appears to have been written to absolve Britain of any responsibility for the mess it left behind. In an article he wrote for Rediff in 2002, Maxwell observed that ‘[t]hrough the early 1950’s Nehru’s covertly expansionist policy had been implemented by armed border police…’ (Rememberinga War).

Even his worst enemies would not have credited Nehru with an expansionist mindset. Quite the reverse; he was hugely enamoured of China and its culture and wanted its friendship not enmity. (The CIA documents mentioned below confirm this.) He meekly acquiesced when the Chinese usurped Tibet, although Sardar Patel warned him years earlier, about Chinese ambitions over it. Patel foresaw that the disappearance of a buffer state between India and China would only fuel the latter’s expansionist ambitions further. The Chinese proved Patel right. In 1956-57 they quietly built a road to Aksai Chin and occupied it. It was a monumental failure of the Indian intelligence but the Indian government came to know of it only in 1958 according to secret CIA documents declassified in 2007.

Isn’t 2013 a poignant parallel? With all the technology and spy satellites that are available to them, the Indian intelligence agencies (again) failed to notice the Chinese creeping in till they pitched their tents nineteen kilometres inside India. That is not all. There are ground reports that the Chinese have been nibbling at Indian territories for years and altering the contours of the borders. 

Nehru first denied the Chinese incursions into Indian territories (as Khurshid now seeks to minimize it) and when it was no longer tenable to do so informed parliament that the Indian army was asked to ‘throw the Chinese out’. The Chinese fifth column in the Indian polity latched on to that phrase and claimed that it hurt the Chinese pride and in a way triggered the war. After the war, the Indians were left with only shame, not pride! There is no dearth of Chinese sympathizers even today. Academics of the JNU variety argue in television debates that the incursions occur because of differing perceptions about the border. They never pause to ponder why, because of similar differing perceptions Indian troops do not wander into China? Isn’t it precisely because, it is not a settled and demarcated border it is called the ‘Line of Actual Control’ and not an international border?

Maxwell had access to the ‘Henderson Brookes-Bhagat Report’, an Operations Review of the debacle, commissioned by Gen. J. N. Chaudhuri, who became the army Chief after the war. The report is still classified and not available to the Indian public. Nehru revealed more about the Indian army’s capabilities to the Chinese Premier, Zhou Enlai (trained in military and intelligence matters) by taking him on a conducted tour of Indian ordnance factories than the Henderson Brookes-Bhagat report conceals from the Indian public.   

Maxwell and others opine that the Indian army was forced to take on a more superior army in terms of training and equipment. But the war was probably lost in the minds of the generals much before it was on the ground. There is the old saying that ‘The Battle of Waterloo was won on the playing-fields of Eton!’ (It may be an uncorroborated version but a veteran of the war whom this writer met in a train journey said that the Chinese were not as well equipped as it was made out to be. They carried one rifle for four to six soldiers.) The generals hoped till the end that Nehru would somehow find a diplomatic solution to the vexed border problem. He failed them and they failed him.

Haven’t the Americans met their Waterloo in Vietnam and the Russians in Afghanistan in spite of their vastly superior arms and equipment? Therefore the inferior quality of arms and equipment was not a valid argument for the defeat in 1962. Similarly, China’s numerical superiority of arms and equipment is not a valid argument for inaction in 2013. The rule is to be able to stare the enemy in the face. As an emerging economy and aspiring world power, China has as much at stake as India. 

There was a view that Nehru’s overweening ambition to win a Nobel peace prize was at the back many of his political decisions which resulted in disastrous consequences. One hopes the present leadership would not consider trading off national interests for some elusive personal monument for itself! The nation will not approve it. Therefore Salman Khurshid should keep the nation informed about his game plan for securing the safety and integrity of the nation. More importantly the nation would like to have an assurance from the Defence Minister that his armed forces are fully capable of securing the nation’s safety, security and integrity. 

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Have political ploys made the law an ass?

Is the law an ass?’ asks a character in Charles Dickens’ famous novel, Oliver Twist. Several incidences over the last few days make ordinary folk wonder whether the law is really an ass?

ITALIAN MARINES CASE The first of these concerns the Italian marines’ case, which raises several questions. Why had the Indian Supreme Court exhibited unseemly generosity in permitting the Italian marines – undergoing trial for first degree murder - to return home first to celebrate Christmas and then to vote in an election?

The Italian marines were undoubtedly undergoing trial for first degree murder as they shot to kill. Their claim that they thought that a pirate ship was closing in and they shot in self-defence does not wash. For, as trained naval officers, could they not distinguish between a pirate ship and a fishing boat? Were the naval officers so scared of a small fishing boat, that they thought that it was closing in to hijack their vessel? If so why did they not fire warning shots to dissuade the boat even assuming that it was closing in, which appears far-fetched?

Could an Indian citizen undergoing trial for first degree murder expect the same treatment from the Indian courts? Had an Indian Court ever permitted a prisoner, undergoing trial for first degree murder, to go home to celebrate Diwali? It would never have occurred to an ordinary citizen in judicial custody, undergoing trial for first degree murder to even pray for such leave. Therefore an ordinary citizen should not be faulted if he wonders why, even for the Indian Supreme Court Italian citizens are more equal than Indian citizens’. On many occasions in the last thirty years, the Indian establishment has demonstrated that for it, Italian citizens are indeed more equal than Indian citizens. The reason for the establishment to bend backwards being the Italian connection of India’s ruling party is quite obvious. But does it matter to the Supreme Court, the highest judicial body and the last arbiter for the ordinary citizen without any clout?

Having blundered twice, the Indian Supreme Court sought to make amends by taking a tough stance in restricting the movements of the Italian ambassador. This put the Indian establishment – especially with its Italian connection – in a quandary. After days of huffing and hawing about Italian perfidy (by the primary and proxy protagonists of the government), the External Affairs Minister grandiosely announced (not without a hint of self-congratulatory glee) that diplomacy succeeded in making the Italians see reason. His tall claims notwithstanding, there are several questions that require answers: 

Why did the Indian government sign a treaty with the Italian government in a hurry while the murder trial was under way? Was it not to benefit the two marines? Do sovereign nations sign bilateral treaties to solve instant crises? 

How would the Italian government have reacted if two Indian naval officers killed two Italian fishermen and were undergoing trial in an Italian court? Would it have been as generous as the Indian government?   

Did the Indian government make a clandestine deal with the Italians to satisfy the Supreme Court and bring back the marines? If this is not so, how could Salman Khurshid assert that the marines ‘will not be awarded death penalty as theirs is not a rarest of rare cases’? If it does not fall in the ‘rarest of the rare cases’ category are Indian fishermen routinely fired at and killed by foreign marines? 

Who should decide which case falls under the ‘rarest of the rare cases’ category or not? Is it the judiciary or the External Affairs Ministry?

The upshot of the deal - which the Minister denies was done - is, the marines will not be taken into judicial custody during the course of the trial; they will stay in their embassy; they will not be awarded death penalty as their case is not in the ‘rarest of rare cases’ category; and if awarded a prison sentence, they will serve it in their own country.

SANJAY DUTT CASE The second case is even more bizarre. It is about the sentence the Supreme Court awarded to Sanjay Dutt, famous film personality, son of a famous film personality and former Congress MP and bother of a sitting Congress MP. The four qualifiers deserve to be stressed to put the case in perspective. The 1993 Bombay blasts (in eleven locations) killed 257 people and severely injured 700 people. According to some sources, the number of injured was 1400.

[Sharad Pawar, Chief Minister of Maharashtra (at the time) later confessed that he deliberately misled people by adding Muslim dominated Masjid Bunder to the list blast locations to pacify communal tensions. See: To keep the peace, I misled people on 1993 blasts: Pawar. This secular balancing of terror has been going on since 1993. Pawar’s confession puts the pronouncements of P. Chidambaram, Sushil Kumar Shinde et al., Rahul Gandhi’s whispering to the American ambassador about Hindu Terror and the NIA ‘investigations’ in certain cases, all in perspective. To grab and retain power, secular politicians would go to any extent to appease the minorities, principally the Muslims. The invention of a phantom Hindu terror is part of the game.]  

The Supreme Court verdict in the case confirms the role of the ISI and several underworld dons. Sanjay Dutt’s role in the blasts has been known almost since the beginning. He had been known to confer with the dons, converse with them over phone and collect and store arms for the attack. His pedigree and the power of his political connections helped in almost getting him off the hook. 

If the CBI could be used to discipline wayward coalition partners to fall in line, it could also be used to save loyal allies. In Sanjay Dutt’s case the CBI did all it could to help him evade the long arm of law. It did not matter to India’s premier investigation agency that it was indeed obstructing the course of justice. It delayed investigation to help Sanjay Dutt destroy evidence, did not pursue leads, presented a weak case in the trial court and did not appeal against the trial court verdict. The CBI did not work for the people, who are its paymasters. It worked against them, and for an individual who declared a clandestine war on the people. Just as in the marines’ case, in Sanjay Dutt’s case too, it has been kinship with the high and mighty that carried the day.

One can understand the clamour of the film fraternity to obtain state pardon for Sanjay Dutt. It has been known for long that the same forces that supplied Sanjay Dutt with prohibited arms and ammunition to wage a war on the Indian state also control the film industry. But why would a retired judge of the Supreme Court and Chairman of the Press Council want to interfere with the administration of justice? That is the sad part.

The highest court in the country has delivered its verdict unambiguously pronouncing Dutt guilty. The Supreme Court has also been magnanimous in awarding the least possible sentence according to law. If in spite of this, as the Law Minister averred, an appeal for pardon is favourably considered, it would amount to subverting the justice system.