Dec 10, 2008


The western and the US media has been rather measured in its castigation of Pakistan on its tacit if not active support to terror strikes in India. Spokespersons of various countries as also the western media are tying themselves in knots trying to be diplomatically correct as also putting the right amount of pressure on Pakistan to clean up its act.

            However Patrick French the UK based writer and the author of ‘The World is what it is’ the official biography of V S Naipaul, has lambasted Pakistan in his piece in the New York Times. Read excerpts from his article below.

They Hate Us — and India Is Us

Published: December 8, 2008

AS an open, diverse and at times chaotic democracy, India has long been a target for terrorism. From the assassination of Mohandas Gandhi in 1948 to the recent attacks in Mumbai, it has faced attempts to change its national character by force. None has yet succeeded. Despite its manifest social failings, India remains the developing world’s most successful experiment in free, plural, large-scale political collaboration.

The Mumbai attacks were transformative, because in them, unlike previous outrages in India, the rich were caught: not only Western visitors in the nation’s magnificent financial capital but also Indian bankers, business owners and socialites. This had symbolic power, as the terrorists knew it would.

However, I recently saw a televised forum in which members of the public vented their fury against India’s politicians for their failure to act, and it soon became apparent the victims were poor as well as rich. One survivor, Shameem Khan — instantly identifiable by his name and his embroidered cap as a Muslim — told how six members of his extended family had been shot dead. Still in shock, he said: “A calamity has fallen on my house. What shall I do?” His neighbors had helped pay for the funeral. Like most of India’s 150 million Muslims, Mr. Khan is staunchly patriotic. The city’s Muslim Council refused to let the terrorists be buried in its graveyards.

When these well-planned attacks unfolded, it was clear to anyone with experience of India that they were not homegrown, and almost certainly originated from Pakistan. Yet the reaction of the world’s news media was to rely on the outmoded idea of Pakistan-India hyphenation — as if a thriving and prosperous democracy of over a billion people must be compared only to an imploded state that is having to be bailed out by the I.M.F. Was Pakistan to blame, asked many pundits, or was India at fault because of its treatment of minority groups?

Read the full article.

Dec 9, 2008


A large number of people are suggesting use of military force against Pakistan, post the Mumbai terror strikes. Some people in some of the talk shows have suggested extreme steps including use of Nuclear weapons. While tempers are understandably running high amongst the populace, the government is also under tremendous pressure to be seen to act.

            Pakistan being a rogue state which has been called an international migraine recently by the former US secretary of state needs to be put in its place and forced to clean up its act. But even thinking seriously of military action would be nothing short of blasphemy. If anything it would put India, which has only just begun its long overdue march towards becoming an economic superpower behind by at least 25 years. To quote Thomas Friedman writing about economic development in China,

            “My belief after visiting China is that the change that has occurred there is in the best interest of the world and China. Once people get a taste for whatever you want to call it-economic independence, a better lifestyle, and a better life for their child or children-they grab on to that and don't want to give it up."

Any sort of war or prolonged political upheaval in East Asia or China "would have a  massive chilling effect on the investment there and on all the progress that has been made there," said Dell, who added that he believes the governments in that part of the world understand this very clearly.”……………….

He adds,

“When you are managing vital backroom operations for American Express or General Electric or Avis, or are responsible for tracing all the lost luggage on British Airways or Delta, you cannot take a month, a week, or even a day off for war without causing major disruptions for those companies. Once those companies have made a commitment to outsource business operations or research to India, they expect it to stay there. That is a major commitment. And if geopolitics causes a serious disruption, they will leave, and they will not come back very easily. When you lose this kind of service trade, you can lose it for good.”

Goes without saying, that the above applies equally to India as well. I am also reminded of what Rhett Butler had to say about wars in the classic novel ‘Gone with the Wind’, “No provocation can be extreme enough to justify wars.”

And what was sound logic in the eighteenth and the nineteenth centuries is sound logic in the twenty first as well. Wars should be considered a medieval, if not primitive method of resolving differences in today’s flat world.

Be that as it may, what is the choice with us to stop Pakistan from waging a proxy war against us, which continues to bleed us with a thousand cuts and more(Bhutto’s line?).The proxy war by Pakistan ostensibly to liberate Kashmir will continue to be waged, firstly to avenge its humiliating dismemberment in 1971 and secondly to stop India in its tracks towards rapid economic growth. Waging a war at this time would be playing into the hands not only of the terrorists, the perpetrators of the heinous Mumbai atrocities by getting the Pakistan Army off its back in NWFP, but also that of Pakistan, which would have achieved at least one of its aims, the latter.

However the circumstances that Pakistan finds itself in today is a whole lot different from those of a decade ago. It’s a rogue state in the eyes of the international community. And the only reason it is not being castigated by the global powers, in particular the USA, is their role in facilitating America’s war against Al Qaeda.

In such circumstances, it would only be prudent not to take the bull by its horns and use diplomacy to force Pakistan into a corner through international pressure. And that is precisely what seems to be happening.  Secondly, just the flexing of our military muscle can probably achieve a lot more than an actual war. Pakistan after all, being on the very brink of bankruptcy and on the mercy of the IMF is in no state to wage a war. And lastly, as many prominent people have suggested, we need to take some hard decisions, use the tax payer’s money prudently for a change, and improve our homeland security.

It is however not my endeavour to suggest that wars are obsolete, that we should never even think of waging a war of choice. To suggest so would obviously be naïve. However we ought to think ten times before contemplating war, because the price that we may have to pay for a war today would be twenty times greater than it would have been two decades ago.

God Bless us all. Jai Hind. 

Liked the piece? Do leave your comments.

Dec 2, 2008


Major terrorist strikes in different parts of the country this year have occurred on the following dates:

·         13 May : Jaipur. Simultaneous bomb blasts at eight different sites, including a crowded shopping site and a Hanuman temple, a self-styled Indian Mujahideen, (a collaboration of LeT & SIMI) claimed responsibility.

·         Jul 26 : AhmedabadA series of seventeen blasts killing 49 and injuring 160 people.

·         Sep 13 :  Delhi. A series of 5 bombs exploded in Delhi, killing 30 and injuring 90.

·         Nov 26 : MumbaiGunmen opened fire at eight different sites in an apparent coordinated attack. The terrorists wielded automatic weapons and attacked locations including a train station, hotels, restaurants, a police station, and a hospital. Some gunmen took hostages and high military grade explosives (RDX) were found near by.

Can you spot a pattern? ………………………………………. Suspected Islamic terrorists have struck on the 13th  and 26th of alternate months.

Is it a pattern or merely coincidence? Is my mind playing games? If it is a pattern, the next strike may be expected on 13 Jan 2009. I sincerely hope not. There have been other terrorist strikes in between as well:

·         Jul 25 : BangaloreA series of nine blasts kills 2 and injures 20 people.

·         Sep 27 : South Delhi. Two weeks from the day of serial blasts killing 30, another bomb was detonated in a market in the Mehrauli district killing three and injuring 23.

·         Oct 01 : AgartalaThree bombs exploded in the insurgency-racked North-East India. Police said they suspected Muslim militant groups based in Bangladesh for the blasts in the Radhanagar and Gulbazar areas of Tripura's capital.

·         Oct 30 :  Assam. A series of 13 blasts occurred in and around Guwahati.

The incidents above do not show a pattern. (or do they?) The last two above could have been perpetrated by separatist insurgents, though Muslim groups as suspects have not been ruled out. Jehadists /SIMI activists are definitely suspected to have perpetrated the bomb attacks on Jul 25, Bangalore and Sep 27, Delhi. Is that of any significance as far as the pattern goes?

Tell me what you think?

Dec 1, 2008


The siege of Mumbai being over, it’s a time for all of us to reflect and introspect. What happened in Mumbai was a spectacle, if I can call it that, of a kind that this country had never witnessed before. I hope and sincerely pray that there is never a repeat of this kind of massacre, not only in this country, but anywhere in the world. The outrage of the people of India, is for all to see on TV channels.

As always, this incident will inevitably be followed by the following, (in fact some of the usual fallouts have already begun) :-

·         Tightening of security all across the country in the aftermath of the strike (a case of shutting the stable doors after the horse has bolted).

·         Blaming the terrorist strike to Pakistan.

·         Numerous enquiry / study commissions, which will take an eternity to come out with their findings / recommendations, by when the circumstances in the country might have changed considerably.

·         Political blame game.

·         Blaming the terror strike to Intelligence failure.

·         A few other half measures by government agencies like creation of certain new organisations to combat terror.

·         Temporary rise of patriotic fervour in the general populace, including on this occasion accolades for security forces (NSG, Armed Forces and maybe even Police).

·         The resilient return to normalcy………… till the next time.

Is there any hope whatsoever, that things may be different this time round, given the following:-

·         unprecedented ferocity of the terrorist strike per se.

·         public outrage, highlighted by the media.

·         The targeting of upper strata of society on this occasion, as opposed to the middle and lower classes on previous ones.

·         targeting of a large number of foreigners including Israelis and US nationals.

·         our notorious western neighbour having its back to the wall, facing unprecedented pressure from the international community to clean up its act.

I hope and pray things are different. However, the thought comes naturally to me, "Will it ever change, or will our inept, corrupt, self serving, irresponsible and shameless politicians continue with their own private agenda while the Jehadis prepare for the next attack."

The signs so far are encouraging. What with rolling of heads of some of our top politicians and announcement of certain measures by the Prime Minister. But unfortunately, all of this may not be happening as a result of government's sincere efforts to make amends for their past inadequacies. It probably is more because, post this ghastly incident, there is hardly any time for damage control before the country goes to polls. While the world over, measures have been taken by countries who have faced the brunt of terror, our country is being spoken of as a soft target for Jehadists. In the words of Thomas Friedman

"Muslim jihadists — those brave warriors who specialize in killing women and children and defenceless tourists — have turned their attention to softer targets like India. Just as they tried to stoke a Shiite-Sunni civil war in Iraq, and failed, they are now trying to stoke a Hindu-Muslim civil war in India".

About time we woke up from our long slumber.

God Bless India. Jai Hind

Further reading:,0,4043886.story

Nov 26, 2008


When I first heard of recent reports of piracy in the Gulf of Aden, it was a shock to me. I always thought that piracy was a thing of the past, of the medieval times to be precise. I was never aware that rampant piracy in international waters was even possible in this day and age. The hijacking drama of Mt Stolt Valor is what brought piracy to the forefront of Indian news. And it brought back memories of 'Treasure Island', 'Long John Silver' and the rest of them.

                The sinking of an alleged pirate ship by the Indian Navy, which won accolades, world over, is now turning out to be an embarrassment, not only for the Navy, but also for the nation. It is difficult to imagine, that if indeed the ship that was sunk was an ordinary fishing boat, it being attacked and sunk by the Indian Navy could be anything but an unintended mistake.

                However what is amazing to me is how, the international community is unable to tackle the problem of Piracy off Somalian waters. Piracy in the Gulf of Aden adversely affects international sea trade and that, in these testing times of global economic meltdown. All that is apparently required is to identify the pirate mother ships and destroy them. If a UAV or an aerial strike can be used by the US forces, so accurately, as to kill one of the top Al Qaeda leaders, accused of being a mastermind of the London Bombings, a pirate ship is surely not something that can be easily hidden. Surely there would be ways to identify pirate ships. All that is required is to knock them off. Why is it not being done when we have news of fresh hijackings almost everyday?

                What is it that I am missing out? Educate me someone.

Nov 23, 2008


This is probably the first time in recent times that a number of Hindus are being accused of having perpetrated acts of terrorism(Malegaon blasts and possibly others), including an Army officer. At the face of it, it does appear that there cannot be smoke without fire. However, in its bid to appear to be following its own brand of secularism, is it possible that the law enforcement and intelligence agencies of the state may be taking things a bit too far. Just because, for a change the accused are not from the minority communities. 
For more on the subject read Tarun Vijay's column here.

Nov 12, 2008


Drill Sergeant (Afemo Omilami): Gump! What's your sole purpose in this army?
Forrest Gump: To do whatever you tell me, drill sergeant.
Drill Sergeant: God damn it, Gump! You're a goddamn genius. That's the most outstanding answer I've ever heard. You must have a goddamn IQ of 160. You are goddamn gifted, Private Gump.
Forrest Gump: Now for some reason I fit in the army like one of them round pegs. It's not really hard. You just make your bed real neat and remember to stand up straight and always answer every question with "Yes, drill sergeant."
- Dialogues excerpted from the movie 'Forrest Gump'.
The LTTE and Taliban can train in three months, the Army to train, takes years. Why? Because recruits and cadets are busier training on something called Cabin Cupboard, scrubbing and mansion polishing floors. And when they are done doing that, they are trying their utmost to dig up the tarmac on the parade ground with their heels. It's actually akin to banging ones head against the wall. And in both cases. the damage is to ones own brains.

While quite young I once heard someone say that Army was for duds. Having spent a fair bit of time in the Army I cannot but disagree, Army is not for duds. But to fit into the Army like one of those round pegs, one has to convert to a dud. A Commanding Officer is instructed by powers that be, that troops be warned, to guard against getting drugged on trains, warned, not to accept eatables from fellow passengers. I thought this kind of wisdom was required by small children who were about to undertake their maiden journey all by themselves, and not by soldiers who had children of their own. But to my horror and dismay, there was worse to come. Instructions were issued, to ensure that troops proceeding on leave or temporary duty  be provided cooked rations and water to last them their entire journey. Well, well, well! One thing is for sure, whoever got this ludicrous idea, would have had to have an IQ better than that of Forrest Gump.

Isn't it amazing, how soldiers, in numbers, large enough to ruffle feathers in the higher echelons, have been falling prey to instances of drugging. A guy is travelling to Goa, somewhere enroute he loses his senses. When he wakes up, he finds himself at Kanpur Railway Station, sans his luggage, money and the rest of it. We haven't heard of this kind of thing happening to adults from other walks of life. Have we? Why does it happen to soldiers ? Because soldiers are trained to fit into the Army like one of those round pegs. (Just like Forrest Gump)

The problem is that formal training of officers and recruits focuses much more on spit and polish than is necessary. The amount of time and energy spent trying to dig up the the parade ground with ones heels is not even funny. Why is it required? Because drill is supposed to be the bedrock of discipline? But the moment one is out of sight of the drill sergeant and his cane, all discipline gets thrown to the wind. Remember midterm mood? The sole motive of all the drill sergeants or for that matter any of the instructors especially NCOs and JCOs appears to be, to find faults in cadets and get them punished. The atmosphere in which training gets conducted, be that in the PT field, Parade ground firing range, or anywhere else, all of it, more often than not feels like punishment. It is no surprise therefore, that LTTE and Taliban are much faster on the uptake. They obviously don't waste time in frills, spit and polish or in military lingo 'BULLSHIT'. Remove all of these from Army training, make the whole process fun and informal and I am certain, results will speak for themselves.
However, what is most surprising is that nobody has so far, it appears, tried to change the training methodology. Curriculum, yes, but methodology, no. It's said that the Army trained the LTTE, which in turn gave it a bloody nose later. Is there a need for some introspection? Maybe we need to learn a thing or two from these militant outfits too.

Nov 6, 2008


The mother of all elections, election for the most powerful office of the world has just come to an end. Without doubt the world looks to the USA for leadership. Not everyone though is ready to accept its hegemony. Some look at this great country with awe, some with hatred, some with loathing, some with envy...........there is indeed a plethora of different feelings associated with the greatest democracy of the world. On the one hand it is a bullying super power, poking its nose all too often in the internal affairs of other sovereign countries, and on the other it is the only truly free country in the world, a land of hope and opportunity, which has over centuries welcomed peoples of all nationalities, cultures, colour and creed into its fold. Like it or hate it, America is the undisputed leader of the world. There have been instances of countries like China, Cuba, Iraq, Iran etc challenging its hegemony, most have been left much the worse for it. What better proof of its greatness, that the country has chosen as its leader a black American of African origin, and one with ‘Hussein’ as his middle name. It is not too long ago that one heard of the Ku Klux Klan and its campaign against blacks. I can still remember the severe thrashing of a black motorist by white policemen, caught on camera in New York. But Obama’s historic win has proved beyond doubt that the day that Martin Luther King Jr had dreamed of has finally arrived. And what a proud moment it is for America.
However, the purpose of this blog post is not to sing praises of America, it is to introspect into our own democracy, the largest one in the world.
All of us would have followed the riveting election campaign for US presidency. I for one did not follow it too closely, but follow it I did. What struck me most was the dignity, humility and grace with which it was conducted. The mutual respect shown by candidates to each other during and after the campaign. The primary between Obama and Hillary Clinton, was a close run thing. But once over, the graciousness with which Hillary accepted defeat and then, more importantly, pledged her support for Obama as the presidential candidate was touching. It was gracious and sporting to say the least.
The actual campaign, between Obama and McCain, was equally fascinating for its dignity and grace. Imagine for a moment what the same campaign would have looked like, had it been an election in India, say for example between Mulayam and Madam M. I shudder to even think what kind of mudslinging, slandering, verbal abuse and physical violence that would have been used. I would rather not go into all that. But the point I am trying to make is the difference in the quality of politics and politicians. I am not for a moment suggesting that the presidential campaign in the US was totally devoid of mudslinging or slander, but it was kept to a minimum. The real focus was on how the two proposed to govern the country. Even in defeat McCain was gracious enough to urge his own supporters to move on from the disappointment of defeat, and support the President elect as best possible. In his own words, "I urge all Americans who supported me to join me in not just congratulating him but offering our next president our goodwill and earnest effort to find ways to come together.
"Whatever our differences, we are fellow Americans."
Obama on his part assured the Republican supporters that he was indeed their President as well and had no hard feelings, while he said, “And to those Americans whose support I have yet to earn – I may not have won your vote, but I hear your voices, I need your help, and I will be your President too.”
We in India keep talking about reforms. Reforms in the civil services, Police, Intelligence Agencies, Armed forces et al, but what is required most is reform of our Democracy, plagued and poisoned as it is, by partisanship, pettiness and immaturity.
But we can take pride in the fact that we have had a large number of citizens from the minority communities hold high offices. Fakruddin Ali Ahmed, Giani Zail Singh and Abdul Kalam as Presidents and right now we have Manmohan Singh as the Prime Minister, not to mention the numerous others who have held and are holding senior ministerial appointments. However there are numerous important lessons that we ought to learn from other more successful democracies of the world.
Reform must commence from the top, if we want to take our country, with the immense potential that it has, to its rightful place on the International stage.

Oct 21, 2008


    And finally the rogue of Maharashtra, Mr Raj Thackeray is behind bars. But I cannot but wonder, for how long. Indian law enforcement agencies are notorious for their inability to keep the rich and powerful behind bars for any length of time.

    The other day I was standing in a Bank at Pune filling out a form, when another customer walked up to me and asked me something in Marathi. Much as I would have liked to help him, I didn't understand him. And I told him as much in Hindi. Pat came the remark, "Maharashtra me rehte ho aur Marathi nahi aati?" I have lived in Pune for many years, not at a stretch, but off and on. But never had I heard this kind of a retort before. Clearly, Raj Thackeray's propaganda had prompted the remark. Not to be outdone, I said, "When you go to Andhra you wouldn't know Telugu either". And fortunately, that was the end of that. The trend however is another manifestation of the fallacy of 'Unity in Diversity'.

How could the authorities allow matters to come to such a sorry pass? What is our country coming to? If things are left to themselves, the Tipping point, which will fragment the country will inevitably arrive, sooner or later. We call ourselves a Secular state, which shows tolerance towards all religions. The Dictionary meaning of secularism is :
a system of political or social philosophy that rejects all forms of religious faith and worship. In plain terms, for a secular state, it means, the Government not having anything to do with Religion. But in actual fact, secularism in India the way it is practiced by the state, is minority appeasement. And as far as the populace is concerned, there is hardly any religious tolerance in evidence. Riots, desecration and vilification of churches, perceived mockery of religious Gods by artists and painters, terrorism in the name of Jehad………..and the list just goes on and on. In the south we have demonstrations and burning of buses against Hindi language. Where is the unity in diversity? Only in slogans?

India, is a big country, but unlike some other countries like America or Canada it's becoming way too unmanageable. Why should a country so diverse in culture, language, ethnicity, creed, colour etc. be a single state. Especially since I have already shown above that 'Unity in Diversity' is nothing more than a slogan. Europe has countries, the size of Punjab, or in many cases even smaller. And since the World War II, they have had a relatively stable and peaceful existence (exceptions notwithstanding). Erstwhile USSR gave way to a number of nation states on being unshackled from communism. Though there have been minor skirmishes between states which were part of erstwhile USSR, I am of the firm belief that in the long run, the break up of the Soviet Union will turn out to be the reason for prosperity in the region.

Had India not been held together by military might, it would have disintegrated long ago. States in the North East, Kashmir and possibly Punjab, to name a few would have seceded. The question that I want to ask the readers of this blog is "Would it be such a bad thing for India to allow some of these provinces, which have been bleeding the country for decades, to be allowed to secede? The oft repeated answer that I get is "where will it all end?" There will hardly be an India left. But so what? Wouldn't India, or what was left of it be more prosperous than any of the other provinces that have been clamoring for Azaadi. And in the long run like Europe, a time would come when these very nation states after having seceded, and realized their folly would want an 'Indian Union' on the lines of the 'European Union.'

However, one of the pitfalls of a Democracy, esp. in a country like India is petty politics. And so, even a hint of a suggestion of the kind that I have made above by any political party, would push the country into throes of rage, anger and very likely violence by the so called 'Nationalists'.

Note: If you find my thoughts offensive, feel free to post your comments without prejudice. It will be my endeavor to respond objectively.

Oct 12, 2008


If you have been through the narrow lanes and by lanes of old Delhi's residential areas, where you have hardly enough space even to walk, you find children playing Cricket with ingenuously designed bats and balls. Bats made out of wooden logs and balls made out of old socks, or tennis balls being used as cricket balls. It is impossible to miss them. And this unfortunately is true not only of Delhi, but of the entire country. While football say for example can be played anywhere and everywhere without much ingenuity, as a football can be fabricated rather easily with old rags, cotton wool, or for that matter anything that is round in shape, its only cricket that you would find being played. Indeed we are a Cricket crazy country.

Why did it take India till 2008 to get an individual gold medal in Olympics? A country of a billion had, not one individual gold medal till the current year. Why?

        The answer is plain and simple. 'Cricket'.

        It is indeed difficult, to imagine that there has never been one talented enough person, capable of winning an Olympic gold medal in the second most populous country of the world. While we have our Northern neighbour, China(the most populous country of the world) topping the medals tally, we barely made it to the tally. The reason: 'Chinese don’t play Cricket.'

        While the above has been said slightly tongue in cheek, the more serious point here, is that children whose talent needs to be nurtured to make them succeed, play only one game, and that, unfortunately is not, and never will be, an Olympic sport. The whole country is playing cricket throughout the year, it is the only sport(if it can be called that) that is considered worth playing. And what do we have to show for it. Amongst the cricket playing nations in the world, which can be counted on fingertips, our country which plays only one game has never been on the top for more than a few months. In fact, it is perpetually struggling to be amongst the first three cricketing nations in the world.

        Talent, there would be in abundance in the country. Talent for Athletics, Swimming, Tennis, Badminton, Wrestling, Boxing and the host of other individual sport. Much of the talent never gets the opportunity to blossom. (Think of the young boy who is washing dishes in one of the roadside Dhabas or another who is making beedis in a factory, to help his folks make ends meet). Of the remainder, that has the opportunity, ninety nine percent concentrate their energies on Cricket, a game that in my opinion requires the least amount of athleticism.  It is hardly surprising therefore, that of the meagre one percent that remain, there has been only one Olympic gold medallist.

        It does not end there either, while cricketers are raking in moolah, not only from the BCCI but also from endorsements, the other sportspersons are struggling to afford the game, for want of adequate sponsorship.

        And I am not even talking of the other ill effects of the game. The very shape of Cricket stadia, prevent them from being used for any other sport. What a criminal waste of prime real estate. The all pervasive nature of fan following of the game in the country, results in a needless waste of millions of man hours throughout the year. A single game itself takes between one to five days to complete, a colossal amount of time in this day and age. And at the end of which, numerous times there is no result (in test matches particularly).

        Take the case of the two hugely successful Hindi movies based on games in India, 'Lagaan' and 'Chak de India'. While both movies were hugely popular and successful, only one of them got nominated for an Oscar. And there are no prizes for guessing which one (for those who don’t already know). It obviously had to be the one on Cricket, notwithstanding the fact that our country has won the Olympic gold in Hockey on so many occasions in the past.

        If we have to produce medal winners, we have to seriously think of weaning the youth away from Cricket. While banning the game altogether would be a rather draconian step in a free country, we ought to think seriously about making the game less attractive and popular, as also encourage other sports.


  1.    1  A game that requires you to put on a pullover / sweater to keep yourself warm while playing scarcely qualifies for a game.

Oct 9, 2008


Something for the reading Buffs. I found these readers recommendations of the best books on India. I would not particularly fancy all of the recommendations but nevertheless reproduce the same below:

In spite of the Gods - Ed Luce
India - What can it teach us? - Max Mueller
In light of India - Octavio Paz
India: a million mutinies now - VS Naipaul
India: A history - John Keay
A two volume history of India - Romila Thapar and Percival Spear
The Idea of India - Sunil Khilnani
The Argumentative Indian - Amartya Sen
Wings of Fire - APJ Abdul Kalam
Ignited Minds
Being Indian
A search in Secret India - Paul Brunton
A source book of Indian philosophy - S Radhakrishnan
India My Love - Osho
India - from Midnight to Millennium - Sashi Tharoor
India Unbound - Gurucharan Das
The Algebra of Infinite Justice - Arundhati Roy -
Five Point Someone - Chetan Bhagat
One Night at Call Centre - Chetan Bhagat
The Discovery of India - by Jawaharlal Nehru
The British Rule in India - by Karl Marx
The Wonder that was India - A L Basham
Imagining India - Ronald Inden
The Vedas, Bhagavad Gita,
Engaging India - Strobe Talbott
The Polyester Prince - Hamish McDonald
Yuganta - Irawati Karve
Swami and Friends - RK Narayan
The Vendor of Sweets - RK Narayan
The Great Indian Novel - Shashi Tharoor
Sardar Sarovar: The Independent Review - Bradford Morse
Power Play - Abhay Mehta
City of Gold - Gillian Tindall
City of Djinn’s - William Dalrymple
The Hills of Angheri - Kavery Nambisan
Words Like Freedom - Siddharth Dube
Savaging the Civilized - Ramachandra Guha
Sourcebook of Indian Tradition - Ainslee Embree
Early history of India (and other volumes) by Romila Thapar
The world is flat - Thomas L. Friedman
Social Background Of Indian Nationalism - by A R Desai
The Age of Kali - William Dalrymple
The Burdens of Democracy - Pratap Bhanu Mehta
Why Ethnic Parties Succeed in India - Kanchan Chandra
India’s Economic Reforms - Jagdish Bhagwati
Raag Darbari
The Best of R K Laxman
Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie
In Light Of India - Octavio Paz
Tamas - Bhisham Sahni
The Elephant Paradigm - Gurcharan Das
Culture Shock! India - Gitanjal Kolanad
Everybody loves a good draught - by P. Sainath
Freedom at Midnight - Dominique Lapierre and Larry Collins

Go through the complete post here.

Aug 26, 2008


Indian defence forces are currently going through a period of turmoil. Manifestations of the numerous malaise plaguing the services are, increase in the number of personnel applying for premature release from service, large number of senior officers declining to attend prestigious courses of instruction, lack of subscription in officer training academies, large No of cases of financial impropriety and moral turpitude especially amongst the top brass. Incidents of desertion, soldiers running amok, fratricide, suicides, not to mention the large number of cases of indiscipline etc are threatening to tear the very fabric that holds the forces together.
The rising discontent among the army’s folds, especially post the announcement of the recommendations of the SCPC is the least of the Army’s worries. Erosion of values, corruption, especially in higher ranks and the bulging, pot bellied midriff of the Army comprising primarily of superseded officers is not helping matters.
One of the major causes of discontent besides poor pay and perks and an unfavourable exit policy is the ‘Hanuman Syndrome’ which is taking a grip of the Army like never before. Let me explain what this syndrome is in the next few paragraphs.
An army during peace, is required to prepare for war, primarily through training and by equipping itself better, in tune with the changing times and technology. But increasingly over the last few years, Army is being called upon or many a times volunteering for internal security duties and aid to civil authorities. In fact the charter being given to the Army on such occasions goes much beyond aid to civil authorities, to include mundane tasks which should ideally be handled by the civil administration. The firebrand National Conference leader from Kashmir, in his speech in parliament (during the floor test of NDA govt) said that the Amarnath Yatra would go on irrespective, till even a single Muslim remained in Kashmir. “Show me one Kashmiri", he shouted, "who has threatened the Yatra”. The truth of the matter is that the Yatra has been threatened with terrorist attacks on numerous occasions every year. But for the laudatory efforts of the Army, this Yatra would not have been possible, not incident free in any event, for many years now. Not without the administrative and security arrangements made by the security forces every year. That is what Mr Abdullah conveniently forgot to mention. While Mr Abdullah spoke well and his speech was in fact praised by many, this factual mistake in his speech was not pointed out.
Is there any justification for the use of the Army in organising pilgrimage to a place of worship? Particularly in Kashmir, the Army is involved in almost all facets of civil administration be it the Amaranth Yatra, Muzaffarabad bus service, keeping the roads and highways open to traffic, building roads, schools, playground etc. The Army top brass has been volunteering to take on such responsibilities in the name of Project Sadbhavna or some other name, ostensibly in an effort to win the hearts and minds of the civil populace. Five decades of trying the same thing in the North East and two decades in Kashmir have not borne much fruit.
And this tendency of volunteering for tasks on behalf of the civil administration is not limited to the troubled areas alone. At the very sight of rains in the beginning of the monsoons, a senior army Generals, without even awaiting the customary requisition from the District authorities start asking their staff, when the flood relief columns should be deployed. If its a life in danger because the civil administration has left a manhole uncovered, and an unfortunate individual falls into it, or it is earthquake, floods riots, Tsunami, or any other disaster, natural or otherwise, its the Army which is required for resolution of the crisis. Elections in Kashmir are not possible without the support of the Army and so is the case in many other parts of the country. In fact disaster management by the civil authorities does not appear to be at all possible without the support of the Army.
In effect therefore the Army is so embroiled in matters non military, that it has no time or resources left at its disposal for carrying out any worthwhile training.
The unfortunate part, is that the Army's top brass has all but decided that Counter insurgency, aid to civil authorities, flood relief, disaster relief, election duties et al has become its primary responsibility. Senior officers of the Army are apparently beginning to enjoy it and are eager to plough the forces at their disposal in such duties, as these, give them a sense of importance, bring them closer to the civil administration who would otherwise shun them, and gives a sense of purpose to their lives, with no probability of a war in the near future. Like Hanuman, who dedicated his life in the service of people with whom he had no or little concern, going around the city of Lanka with his tail on fire, trying to save someone else's wife who had been abducted by a third party, the Indian Army has taken it upon itself to be the saviour of the country and the civil administration, rather than being an instrument of last resort. This is what I call the ‘Hanuman Syndrome.’
Almost three fourths of the Army is deployed in Kashmir which comprises three of the largest Corps' of the Army. And the entire lot in Kashmir is actively engaged in counter Insurgency or guarding the Line of Control(LC), with no time or resources to engage in any worthwhile training activity. On the one hand we have diplomatic initiative and confidence building measures to improve relations with Pakistan, and on the other we are sitting in bunkers along the LC, physically manning posts to guard the same.
The Indian army has been short of a large number of officers for many years now. The lucrative job market, given its thrust by the booming IT industry which continues to propel India into becoming an IT superpower, the burgeoning economy and rising aspirations of India’s youth are propelling bright young personnel away from taking up Armed Forces as a career. Capable youngsters obviously choose a life in the corporate sector which promises, money and relative comfort in metropolitan cities compared to the tough and demanding life in the Armed Forces, which is plagued by low pay scales, slow promotions and a host of other ills. The armed forces on their part are making matters worse for themselves by certain absurd policies. Officers in the service bracket between ten and twenty five years are looking to move on to a second career in the corporate sector and be a part of the country’s growth story.
Shortage of officers is nothing new, in fact the services have been plagued by it for the last at least about four decades. The situation however has never been as serious as it is now. The Armed Forces and the government have therefore decided to make it more difficult for officers to proceed on premature retirement from service. Even after serving in the Army for twenty years, officers are not being allowed voluntarily exit from service. One has to wonder whether we are living in a free country. What can be worse than living in a free country where one is not even free to choose where one wants to work. Unfortunately even the courts, that are supposed to be guardians of democracy, are not looking at such matters sympathetically on grounds of national interest. Thus compounding the discontent in the armed forces, leaving the officer cadre disenchanted. And if the leadership itself is not motivated and happy, what can be expected from the troops.
The issue of an Exit Policy from the three defence services, or rather the lack of it, typifies the callous and unprofessional nature of the HR policies pursued by the Indian defence organisations. The Indian constitution guarantees liberty as a fundamental right and this right, especially to pursue employment, is not curtailed under the Army, the Air Force or the Navy act, which are a straight copy of the British acts initiated in the early twentieth century for the British colonial forces in India.[1]
India is also a modern, liberal democracy like the US where the freedom of the individual, including the soldier, has been guaranteed by the state. The defence services can not operate outside the dictum of the law or the state; however the Indian military has been provided this immunity against the founding principles of the Indian state by weak politicians and inept bureaucrats. The issue of an equitable exit policy, however, is the worst form of violation of fundamental rights possible in any democratic country.
Cases of corruption in the Army are coming under intense media and public scrutiny on a regular basis. Such cases have been coming out in the press with amazing regularity, so much so, that some of them cease to make news. The Army is thus fast losing its ‘Holy Cow’ image. It is losing the respect from society that it used to command in the past.
The pay commission has done little to assuage the numerous grievances of the forces pers. On the contrary it has precipitated an outpouring of emotionally charged outburst from the forces. That the service personnel have not given voice to their anguish is understandable, but the retired lot has created history by actually taking to the streets in protest.
Time is ripe therefore for the services, nay the nation, to carry out a sincere and thorough introspection into the state of affairs of the services and to come up with the necessary policy changes. And the Army top brass to shed its ‘Hanuman Syndrome’ before it is too late.
[1] National Interest Blog:

Aug 20, 2008


Ever since my first posting to the Kashmir valley, about two decades back, I have wondered whether our policies in Kashmir are in our best interests, whether the massive effort being put in by the country to retain Kashmir as an integral part of India are worth it. Somehow, over the years I have been more and more convinced that all our efforts are in vain. In fact Kashmir has become a prestige issue with the country. India would be a much better and more prosperous country without having to devote time, energy, effort and resources not to mention the burden on the finance minister, towards Kashmir. Its an ungrateful people that we are talking about here. Kashmiris have little or no regard for the amount of funds that are being pumped into their state or the amount of subsidy being given to them.
However as Jug Suraiya succinctly put it in his editorial in the Times of India, available online at, “Any suggestion that Kashmir should, if it so wants, be allowed to secede from the Indian Union is immediately deemed to be treasonable, and its proponents to be agents of Pakistan’s ISI, who wish to hive off not just Kashmir but to fragment and balkanise India by fomenting insurrection across the country.” I have therefore never wanted to be branded a traitor or an anti national. And much against my instincts refrained from suggesting that Kashmir be allowed to secede from India.
In the last about five days I have heard or read a lot in the media suggesting what my instincts have been suggesting for a long time now. Maybe its time to give serious consideration to the idea of letting Kashmir fend for itself in the Jungle out there. Never before have I ever come across such suggestions in the media, be it print, TV or radio. For the benefit of those that have missed them out, there is the article by Swaminathan Aiyar in the Times available online at And on TV a programme on whether Kashmir can or should be granted independence was aired in ‘Face the Nation’ on CNN IBN on the 19 Aug 2008. Jug Suraiya’s editorial column on the subject is available at the link in the second paragraph.
While one can argue and debate the pros and cons of retaining Kashmir till cows come home, the fact of the matter is that it is evident that the Kashmiris themselves do not seem to be in favour of remaining with India, not the ones in the valley in any event. The struggle and strife in the valley is looking uncannily similar to India’s struggle for independence. Should Kashmir ever gain independence, the Kashmiri terrorists of today, would become shaheed Bhagat Singhs and Chadrashekhar Azads of independent Kashmir’s history books. The current agitation in the valley, seems similar to the Quit India movement of 1942. Only, it has been precipitated by the inept handling by the govt of the Amarnath Shrine board controversy.
What we have to ask ourselves is whether it is worth its while, to spend the millions of dollars in Siachen glacier as also in the state of J&K on maintaining law and order, checking infiltrations, etc. Funds which are so badly needed by many other states of the country. What about the lives of the thousands of soldiers martyred in Kashmir? And the numbers are rising every day. What answer does the country have to the orphaned children of our soldiers? For what have they laid their lives down? In the 21st century, we are guarding our Line of Control like primitive people with eyeball to eyeball contact with our adversaries and by making physical fences along the border to check infiltration. Can a progressive economy like ours afford this kind of expenditure in this day and age?
Besides, one of the major problems that our country is facing today, is that, its large size is really becoming quite unmanageable. Unity in diversity is only a good slogan. We have MNS trying to oust North Indians from Maharashrta, the Bodos killing Biharis in Assam, south Indian states agitating against Hindi as a language, Maoists terrorizing innocent civilians in almost all parts of the country, and of course the much appeased, minority Muslims running amok creating terror in all parts of the country. And this is probably, just the beginning. In another couple of decades if things keep going the way they are we are going to have the Army in anti insurgency role almost all across the country. Currently we have about a third of the country’s army in J&K and other north eastern states facing insurgency problems. In a couple of decades at this rate, the entire Indain Army will only be tackling insurgency with no troops left to fight a war, should that be required.
We need not fear for the safety of the rest of our territory, once Kashmir is gone. Pakistan today is not in any position to wage a war with any country, it has enough problems of internal strife of its own. ‘As you sow, so will you reap’ is an apt idiom that comes to mind, looking at the state of Pakistan today. As for China, its much more busy trying to prove its supremacy economically, militarily and as a sporting super power at the world stage to have time to even think of waging a war with India. In any event a war at this stage would take China’s development back by a couple of decades. Something that China can ill afford at this time, given the fact that it has to compete with the United States for global supremacy.
It therefore appears to this blogger that the time may be right, to at least initiate a debate on Azaadi for Kashmir, or, as Arundhati Roy has put it, for Kashmir to gain azadi from India, and for India to gain azadi from Kashmir? The other choice of course is to retain Kahmir and give Pakistan a quasi legitimate gateway through which to keep bleeding our country, something that it has almost perfected in the last few decades.

Jun 29, 2008

Stand at East

In June 2005, BBC Radio 4 ran a three-part series on the contribution of the British Indian Army during the Second World War, titled “Stand at East“. It was hosted by the famous Indophile Sir Mark Tully, former BBC correspondent and author. It has three episodes of around 30 minutes duration each [in Real media streaming format] and provides some enriching and entertaining fare.

In Part 1 [Listen to episode 1 here], Tully begins with the transformation of the Indian Army, changing horses for tanks, and small arms for artillery, into a force that became the world’s largest volunteer army.

In Part 2 [Listen to episode 2 here], survivors of the gruelling Burma campaign recall the horrors of battle and veterans of the Indian National Army reflect on the provocations which drove them into fighting against the British.

In Part 3 [Listen to episode 3 here], veterans of what is called the forgotten army demand recognition for their achievement in inflicting the biggest defeat on land the Japanese ever suffered.

Ever wondered why this nation, 60 years after independence, has not been able to produce a similar chronicle of independent India’s military history.


Why do I still serve you?

How you play with us, did you ever see?
At Seven, I had decided what I wanted to be;
I would serve you to the end,
All these boundaries I would defend.

Now you make me look like a fool,
When at Seventeen and just out of school;
Went to the place where they made “men out of boys”
Lived a tough life …sacrificed a few joys…

In those days, I would see my ‘civilian’ friends,
Living a life with the fashion trends;
Enjoying their so called “College Days”
While I sweated and bled in the sun and haze…
But I never thought twice about what where or why
All I knew was when the time came, I’d be ready to do or die.

At 21 and with my commission in hand,
Under the glory of the parade and the band,
I took the oath to protect you over land, air or sea,
And make the supreme sacrifice when the need came to be.

I stood there with a sense of recognition,
But on that day I never had the premonition,
that when the time came to give me my due,
You’d just say,” What is so great that you do?”

Long back you promised a well to do life;
And when I’m away, take care of my wife.
You came and saw the hardships I live through,
And I saw you make a note or two,
And I hoped you would realise the worth of me;
but now I know you’ll never be able to see,
Because you only see the glorified life of mine,
Did you see the place where death looms all the time?
Did you meet the man standing guard in the snow?
The name of his newborn he does not know…
Did you meet the man whose father breathed his last?
While the sailor patrolled our seas so vast?

You still know I’ll not be the one to raise my voice
I will stand tall and protect you in Punjab Himachal and Thois.

But that’s just me you have in the sun and rain,
For now at Twenty Four, you make me think again;
About the decision I made, Seven years back;
Should I have chosen another life, some other track?

Will I tell my son to follow my lead?
Will I tell my son, you’ll get all that you need?
This is the country you will serve
This country will give you all that you deserve?

I heard you tell the world “India is shining”
I told my men, that’s a reason for us to be smiling
This is the India you and I will defend!
But tell me how long will you be able to pretend?
You go on promise all that you may,
But it’s the souls of your own men you betray.

Did you read how some of our eminent citizens
Write about me and ridicule my very existence?
I ask you to please come and see what I do,
Come and have a look at what I go through
Live my life just for a day
Maybe you’ll have something else to say?

I will still risk my life without a sigh
To keep your flag flying high
but today I ask myself a question or two…
Oh India…. Why do I still serve you?

May 27, 2008


This is a true story, adapted from Colonel Rajan's public lament, a tale typical of every officer and jawan. S.S. Rajan, the son of an army officer, joined the army with an engineering degree and was commissioned in the corps of engineers in June 1963, with his pay at Rs 460 per month. He served in NEFA and later fought in the Indo-Pak war of 1971. In that war, his vehicle was blown up, maiming and killing his comrades, but he was lucky to escape with major injuries. He was recommended for the Vishisht Sewa Medal on four occasions. After over 19 years of service, he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant colonel, whereas IAS and IPS officers automatically become joint secretaries and equivalent on completion of 18 years of service or less. Rajan was promoted to colonel in August 1985 and retired after over 33 years of meritorious service, when he had a daughter aged 15 and a son aged 8 to take care of. He received a pension of Rs 9125 per month and got a lump sum of about Rs 10 lakh for commutation of pension, gratuity, provident fund, army group insurance and leave encashment — not enough to buy even a small two-bedroom flat in Bangalore. To add insult to injury, his pay was fixed at the 'starting pay' for a colonel plus one increment, whereas it should have been fixed at the maximum pay eligible for a colonel. Rajan's contemporary, one Mr. R. Swaminathan, joined the Armed Forces Head Quarters (AFHQ) Cadre as a lower division clerk. Being in the AFHQ Cadre, he was posted in Delhi throughout his career. He worked hard and steadily rose up the ladder, with promotions at regular intervals and finally retired as Deputy DG (Personnel) in June 2003. His children studied in one school throughout. Before his retirement, his son graduated as an engineer from IIT, Delhi and his daughter graduated as a doctor from AIIMS, Delhi. Not being subjected to transfers he could afford to save more. On retirement, Swaminathan was granted pension on par with a senior deputy secretary (IAS) and got Rs 45 lakh in cash, by way of gratuity, provident fund, leave encashment and commutation. This is not an isolated instance. It happens to all military personnel. The telling effect of this true story on the morale of soldiers and their children is obvious. Rumblings have increased and should be heard by the discerning, before a catastrophe occurs. The writer is a retired lieutenant general Moral of the Story ....BE A CLERK ...WHY SHOW PATRIOTISM and screw ur life !!!!!!!!! ...will fetch u nothing !!!!!

May 25, 2008

Why this Blog

I was just reading today, Ms Shobha De's column in Times of India on how famous actors of Bollywood are using their personal blogs for mud slinging. I have been thinking of a permanent place under the sun to store my random thoughts without the fear of losing or misplacing them. Many a times while on the net, i use notepad to copy stuff that i would like to store for later reading. And before i have had the time to read it i have lost it either by accidental deletion or hard disk crash or change of PC........ Mind you, I have no intentions of using this blog for mud slinging.
So here i start with my Blog.
By the way i am a serving Army Officer of the Indian Army with 21 yrs of service. I applied for premature retirement from service, last year but the Army is refusing to let me quit. Makes me feel like labor. i thought we were living in a free country. Its not much use living in a free country where one does not even have the freedom to choose where one wants to work.

A Poem


(A Soldier Died Today)

by A. Lawrence Vaincourt

He was getting old and paunchy and his hair was falling fast,

And he sat around the Legion, telling stories of the past.

Of a war that he had fought in and the deeds that he had done,

In his exploits with his buddies; they were heroes, every one.

And tho’ sometimes, to his neighbors, his tales became a joke,

All his Legion buddies listened, for they knew whereof he spoke.

But we’ll hear his tales no longer for old Bill has passed away,

And the world’s a little poorer, for a soldier died today.

He will not be mourned by many, just his children and his wife,

For he lived an ordinary and quite uneventful life.

Held a job and raised a family, quietly going his own way,

And the world won’t note his passing, though a soldier died today.

When politicians leave this earth, their bodies lie in state,

While thousands note their passing and proclaim that they were great.

Papers tell their whole life stories, from the time that they were young,

But the passing of a soldier goes unnoticed and unsung.

Is the greatest contribution to the welfare of our land

A guy who breaks his promises and cons his fellow man?

Or the ordinary fellow who, in times of war and strife,

Goes off to serve his Country and offers up his life?

A politician’s stipend and the style in which he lives

Are sometimes disproportionate to the service that he gives.

While the ordinary soldier, who offered up his all,

Is paid off with a medal and perhaps, a pension small.

It’s so easy to forget them for it was so long ago,

That the old Bills of our Country went to battle, but we know

It was not the politicians, with their compromise and ploys,

Who won for us the freedom that our Country now enjoys.

Should you find yourself in danger, with your enemies at hand,

Would you want a politician with his ever-shifting stand?

Or would you prefer a soldier, who has sworn to defend

His home, his kin and Country and would fight until the end?

He was just a common soldier and his ranks are growing thin,

But his presence should remind us we may need his like again.

For when countries are in conflict, then we find the soldier’s part

Is to clean up all the troubles that the politicians start.

If we cannot do him honor while he’s here to hear the praise,

Then at least let’s give him homage at the ending of his days.

Perhaps just a simple headline in a paper that would say,

Our Country is in mourning, for a soldier died today.