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.