Sunday, August 6,
exile and also a displaced
Review by Shelley Walia
The Paradox of Identity by Bill Ashcroft and Pal Ahluwalia.
Routledge, London. Pages. 166, £ 13.99.
idea of colonising the Third World for material development
indicates the imperialist arrogance geared to the
appropriation of a week and backward society through
domination. This is interestingly a paradoxical Marxist
notion. One could say in the words of Clamence, the hero of
Camus’s "The Fall", that this is "the basic
duplicity of the human being". Camus was convinced that
existentialism and Marxism were incompatible, and that
Marxism, with its specialisation of Christianity and
substitution of the movement of history for God, led straight
to the death of freedom and the horrors of Stalinism.
In the name
of freedom, bourgeois society has condoned exploitation and
social injustice and has sanctioned violence.
does not in any way help to subvert Europe’s colonial
annexation. His theory has a patriarchal bias and inasmuch as
it sides with phallocentrism, it stands implicated in its
larger support of the system of a society it sets out to
In order to
dislodge the logocentrism of the western discourse and the
universality claimed by western culture, its science, its
social organisation and, finally, its bland rationalism, it is
imperative to not ignore the voices crying out in tortured
dissent, drawing worldwide attention to the nature of self,
will, freedom and human identity, and the manner in which
these are abused.
constructs images of the East so as to preserve its
domination, as is clearly expressed in the works of Edward
Said and Gayatri Spivak, according to whom there is a
discernible history of European representation and
appropriation of the Orient which has a definite relationship
with the history of European colonialism.
and Pal Ahluwalia have explained these inherent issues in the
science of orientalism in their recent book "Edward Said:
The Paradox of Identity", and thereby assess and explain
the significance of Said’s political concerns and
scholarship in one accessible volume.
deconstruction of white mythologies within the context of
recent political and geographical upheavals throws up new
configurations and transfigurations of Orientalism, each
internally complex, contradictory and unstable. The condition
of discursive formations, as Foucault argues, are always
dynamic and discontinuous and must never be taken as
unchanging, static, and uniform. It is this argument that Said
uses to explain the semantics of the Orient and the Occident
which inevitably always include a variety of heterogeneous
discourse and constructions of national identity disrupt and
alter the exclusivity of Eurocentrism and the literary and
political traditions which go towards building grand
narratives of domination. Local exigencies and cultural
specificity reject a generalised story of the Orient.
Said’s stand, Ahluwalia and Ashcroft assert how divergent
interpretations are necessary to see the heterogeneity of the
Islamic religion with its inner antagonisms or, for that
matter, India which is now struggling with a fascist religious
take-over of secular forces clearly demonstrated in the recent
Hindu-Muslim riots. The emergence of pluralism, both in the
realms of political and aesthetic values and in the sphere of
human knowledge has called into question philosophical monism,
the doctrine that reality and knowledge form a rational,
harmonious whole, and that there is ultimate unity between
context of destabilising and transforming fixed ideas of
history, "orientalism" has been revealed to be
little more than a body of strength and power — a
"cultural hegemony at work". The imperial
epistemology exclusively works through the centrality of
western consciousness which results in ambiguous colonial
perspectives and disillusionments replete with desires and
projections, dogmatism and racism. Such is the consciousness
with which the European confronts the idea of colonisation.
Behind such epistemology, there is no passivity, but a
conscious political and hegemonic awareness which slowly finds
expression in literary and non-literary texts.
importance of the reconstruction of traditional culture
constitutes an alternative practice from the discourse of the
coloniser or the master-narrative. The desire to dominate
nature had the underlying lust for domination of human beings.
The oppressive power of purely instrumental reason had
therefore to be countered through the ideas of continuity and
difference in history, through the rediscovery of pragmatism
and the shifting of ideas about the philosophy of science.
Euro-American post-structuralist theories offer exciting
possibilities to a post-colonial theorist, it is nevertheless
important to break up such strategies for a recreation of an
indigenous culture. As we all know, the main aim of
post-modernism is to reject all master-narratives. But within
this stipulation lies a paradox! Within cultural studies the
post-modernist view allows the minority or Third World
cultures to undertake a comprehensive, synthesising approach,
but this itself tends to move towards a totalising project.
this paradox is significant and cannot be ignored if the
indigenous discourse is to dismantle the imperial one by
having an authoritativeness of its own. I see post-colonial
politics as integral to post-modernism; the practice of
fiction-writing has to be integrated within post-structuralist
theorising about representation, subject, gender and the
interaction of discourse and power.
In the last
two chapters on Palestine and role of intellectuals, the
authors take a synoptic view of Said’s political writings
concerning the absorption of intellectual life by universities
which marks the decline, if not the obliteration, of the
intellectual in a commodified and bureaucratised society.
Unlike these scholars, political activists and literary
critics like Said are in effect the intellectuals who have
superseded the professoriate because of their free-ranging
work, their credo of freedom and their discourse.
contemporary world, it is often, rather paradoxically, felt
that silencing the dissident voice is a solution to all
problems. This has to be seen in the context of the recent ban
by the self-rule administration of Yasser Arafat on the books
written by Said. For a long time Said has suggested that the
best way of removing terrorism is to remove its causes.
Undoubtedly, his work is born out of a burning resentment of
injustice and overpowering vision of an independing and more
Said has for
a very long time suggested a peaceful settlement between
Israel and the Palestinians and has severely criticised the
Oslo accord which, he feels, is a complete sell-out by Arafat.
His writings on Palestine are a moving account of the most
hotly debated issues in the world today: the emergence of a
modern Palestinian nation and its confrontation with Zionism.
voice against intolerance, ignorance and oppression, Said has
questioned the political and linguistic competence of the
Palestinian representatives at these negotiations and the
tactless withdrawal of experts, thus allowing damaging
concessions to Israel. Arafat, in retaliation to such
outspoken criticism over the past few years, has ordered the
withdrawal of Said’s books from all book shops. The ban fits
in a widening pattern of abuses by Arafat’s deeply
autocratic administration, including the death under torture
of nine dissidents. A number of suicide bombings inside Israel
are blamed on his military high handedness and his conflict
with the Palestinian civil society born out of the national
Said’s books are outlawed, he has defiantly written and
spoken against such a ban and hopes that it will at least
spark off a productive debate on his attack on Arafat’s
leadership and the terrorist attacks that he has engineered.
Arafat’s coming to Gaza in July, 1994, has, in his opinion,
worsened the effects of the 27-year-old occupation; he
strongly feels that "cronyism, a huge security apparatus,
kowtowing to the Israelis, buying people off, torturing or
imprisoning dissidents at will, are not the way to establish a
new polity for our people". Speaking strongly against
Arafat’s "stupidity" which he believes has now
reached its limits, Said has castigated the intellectuals who
have remained silent and have lacked the courage to rise
against such a leader who is fast "losing, control over
his extraordinary gifts as a survivor and as a shrewd
is the love of the daily necessities such as "a car and
portable phone" and positions of power that have
compelled them into a compromising situation.
He comes down
heavily on their role: "I have always felt and tried to
act on the principle that intellectuals must try to change
reality and be critical of power, not be accommodative to
them. So far — and I am not speaking here about the banning
of my books — there has been an extraordinary Palestinian trahison
des clercs, and I simply cannot understand why. What has
happened to a group that in the past was exiled, imprisoned,
oppressed and yet still had the courage to try to tell the
truth? "Why, when we think it is our side that is
committing the offences against human rights and freedom of
expression, is it that we should restrain ourselves? Why does
nationalism, and a primitive nationalism at that, suddenly
shut off all the appeals to universal values that we had used
bravely in the past?"
other outspoken intellectuals like him face the problem of
speaking out against the powers that be and continue to
"bring light and heart to the struggle of the people in
need". The only difference being that in the case of Said
the rulers are criticised from the outside. Unlike most
academics, Said represents a small minority of intellectuals
who, in the words of Edward Shils, can get beyond immediate
experience and represent their society’s general symbols and
values" and at the same time, possess the attributes of
"commitment and risk, boldness and vulnerability" so
necessary for an intellectual to stand in opposition to
"think-tanks" and refuse to be neutered".
of the modern intellectual, cosmopolitan and always
adversarial, Said lives an isolated yet socially engaging
life, a pro-Palestinian left-winger motivated by the sole
purpose of trying to affect the body politic in one way or
another to make sure that injustice is atleast recorded".
opinion a true intellectual must refuse the passive and
unreflexive role scripted for him by those who produce
culture. University-based intellectuals are castigated by him
for a progressive withdrawal from the general issues of public
concern and responsibility, and an increasing collusion with
institutionalised and professional structures of
specialisations that leave no scope for radical engagement
within society. There seems to be a failure of intellectual
confidence, and if this could be revived, the overall
effectiveness of the academy could then be assured.
resolutely opposed to any facile return to "roots"and
emphasises in an interview with Bryan Appleyard that he has
"never" felt at home in any culture, and "I
gave up trying". Talking about a life spent defying
labels and seeking a homeland, he takes for himself the
central metaphor of "exile" and comments: "A
lot of Third World intellectuals are unable to go back. There
has been this tremendous demographic shift. We no longer exist
in watertight cultures. One is no longer speaking to one’s
immediate audience, one is speaking to many audiences. Going
back to the roots is one of the worst fates for an
intellectual. Our job is to connect things." Said has
lived in two worlds: his homeland and his place of exile,
making him therefore take the idea of exile as central to his
definition of an intellectual, as well as an "implicit
justification of his position and activities". To be
living in New York, the "exile city par excellence",
is to always feel "outside the chatty, familiar world
inhabited by natives" but a condition necessary for
"the life-long members of society".
journeys have taken him around the world and across many
disciplines, contributing substantially to the shaping of
contemporary debates on orientalism, on discourse analysis and
on post-colonialism. He combines his ethnic provenance with
his intellectual abilities, a prestigious academic chair and a
political commitment, to bring to attention the larger issues
of under-development, imperialism and culture facing the
and more do’s
Review by Manuwant Singh Sethi
life: An Action Plan for the Indian Middle Class by Pavan
K.Verma and Renuka Khandekar. Penguin India, New Delhi. Pages
xiv+145. Rs 195.
middle class... when one talks about the middle class anywhere
in the world, especially in the corporate corridors of the
MNCs, it is invariably about India. The country with the
biggest middle class.
Yet there is
no common thread which runs through this great Indian Middle
Class except its self-absorption, utter selfishness and double
heavy-duty blinkers worn by every citizen who rants against
bad telephones, electricity and slums and yet bribes the
linesman for strealing power for his airconditioner and closes
his eyes when he sees someone lying injured on the road.
politicians and bureaucrats are so brazen in their corruption
is due simply to the fact that the middle class never bothers
to vote against or take any one of them to task. When a police
officer’s son rapes and kills a girl who spurned his love,
his father, a middle class origin bureaucrat, instead of
handing him over to the police, tampers with the evidence,
only to earn a severe stricture from a court constrained by a
penal code harking back to the days of Adam.
We are all to
blame for the world we live in and we get the leaders we
class everywhere in the world has been the conscience keeper
of the nation and the biggest catalyst in building egalitarian
societies. In India the freedom movement had its leadership
from the middle class who led from the front whether they were
extremists or moderates. They were willing to go to jail and
even lose their lives for the cause they believed in.
Yet, all is
not lost. There are some who refuse to turn their face the
other way. Those who stop to question and resist this malady.
Some hit the PIL route, others unsung in their little and big
ventures in bringing cheer to some deprived section of society
or the other, and some write manuals. This is a manual for
action. No, it is not Stalin’s manual of revolution and
change by force. More like Gandhi’s action plan.
It is written
in the "windows or dummies" format. But that is to
be excused. The middle class is more or less illiterate about
the fundamental duties of a citizen in a civilised society and
some things must be explicitly spelt out.
statistics in the beginning of the book are hair raising. But
they are government statistics and government statistics on
bad things are very very conservative and a zero or two may be
missing on the whim of a Minister. They also explain why it is
now imperative to start bothering because we now stand at the
edge of a precipice.
that is not inclusive, that doesn’t include the 600 million
who hang around the edge of that magical sarkari poverty line,
the abysmal depths of deprivation, then we are holding a bomb
that will explode in our face. There is no escaping this
reality by shutting yourself in a cocoon of self-delusion. And
action must come sooner, as a million mutinies are already
beginning to break around us.
chapter titled "Sarkari Vows" tells us that there
exists an animal in all government departments called the
charter of the department or the municipality. This is
obviously news because the ideals laid out are so lofty (by
Indian standards) that it must have been buried soon after its
birth by the newly inducted bureaucracy. It also tells us of
an organisation of busy professionals in Mumbai who took time
off their work and took the BMC to task. And they continue to
spread social awareness about their mission.
the manual on how to fight, injustice. And the methods
suggested are neither expensive or insane. They are available
to us and we are just shy in using them in out chalta hai
attitude. It is amazing to see the arbitrary babus and
self-serving netas backing out against the onslaught of a
determined group which used constitutional and democratic
means. Information is power. Till a few years ago even the
district collector’s tolet paper expenses could be withheld
under the draconian Official Secrets Act.
thankfully changing in some regions of the country. Now you
can and you must enquire why the MP you kicked out in last
election continues to hang on to his official bungalow in
Delhi. If the threat of democratic opinion affecting the poll
outcome becomes a reality, our system of accountability of
even the unelected royalty, the bureaucracy, will be enhanced.
envision NGOs as bare organisations run by youth fired with
social and reformatory zeal. Nothing could be farther from the
truth. They come in all shapes and sizes, some severely
strapped for cash and facing a hostile local official
machinery yet rendering yeoman service in the most backward
districts and others consist of the chatterati, discussing
starvation deaths in five-star conference rooms. Yet most NGOs
are in desperate need of funds and volunteers. The fourth
chapter tells us more about these NGOs, their extensive
networks and exhorts us to identify some in our neighbourhood
and try and support them in any manner.
chapter is the inspiration of the tome. Aptly titled
"Squirrels at Setu" bridge from the incident in the
Ramayana about a squirrel joining the "vanara sena"
in building the setu by dropping pebbles in the ocean.
It is a collection of write-ups on ordinary people who are
contributing to society in their own way. The collection of
people is heavily biased to the urban setting but that may be
due to the exposure of the authors.
chapter "What can I do?", again like a manual, lists
steps in celebration of an action plan.
aberration of this book is that it appears in hardback edition
priced at Rs 195. The manual is addressed to the middle class
that includes the televisioned slums and imitation arches,
tractor driving kisans and razor-creased executives, barefoot
hill postmen and Adidas teenyboppers. Such a book must be
printed in government regulation grade 3 paper, to be sold
from every railway platform, every bus stop, even college gate
and at every rural bank counter after being duly translated. A
manual for social change is not supposed to grace a coffee
table, but the satchel of a quixotic character, dog eared and
weary till a new dawn rises on our system.
is all about white and black
Review by Padam Ahlawat
The Land of Mandela by Vijay Naik. Manas Publications, New
Delhi. Pages 266. Rs 595.
AFRICA shrugged off white minority rule, when in 1994, apartheid
came to an end. Nelson Mandela, incarcerated for 27 years at
Robben Island was released in 1990. During his detention,Mandela
had become a heroic figure of South African freedom struggle.
Despite the long confinement,Mandela emerged as a mellowed man,
with no rancour against the whites.
F.W. De Klerk
had lifted the ban on African National Congress in 1990 and in
1991 repealed the 1913 and 1936 Land Acts, Group Areas Act,
Population Registration Act and other apartheid laws. The Pass
Act and Mixed Marriage Act were repealed in 1986.
The story of
colonisation of South Africa begins in 1652, when the Dutch
established a settlement in the Cape. They defeated the Khokhois
and Xhosa tribes. In 1895 the British captured the Cape
province, only to return it to the Dutch. The Africans were
driven from their land and thousands ended up as slaves.
reoccupied the Cape in 1806 and abolished slavery in 1834. As a
result the Dutch began their trek into the interior and in 1838
defeated the Zulus.
Indians were brought to work on farms. By 1877, Transvaal and
Zululand had come under British rule. Gold had been discovered
and the Dutch controlled the diamond mines.
Podoland had been annexed by the British and Gandhi had begun
his fight against anti-Indian laws and struggled for their right
The Rhodes plan
to capture Transvaal led to the Boer War, which came to an end
in 1903 and by 1910 the Union of South Africa came into being,
comprising Orange Free State, Natal, Cape and Transvaal.
Parliament with limited power was set up, but the blacks were
denied the right to vote, except in Cape Province. The blacks
were robbed of their land and herded into segregated black
colonies only to be employed as miners.
However, it was
the victory of D.F. Malan’s National Party which began real
and rigid apartheid rule in 1948.
Long years of
white rule has left a legacy, where the whites control almost
all industries and 80 per cent of the prime agricultural land.
They have the finest houses in exclusive areas, while the
Indians live separately. The blacks have been confined to areas
away from the towns, living miserably in tin sheds, without
power or water. The white Afrikaners dominate the bureaucracy,
while the people of British origin dominate trade and commerce.
majority rule provoked the whites to demand a separate homeland.
But that as not the only trouble that Mandela face, the Zulus
did not trust him and also demanded a homeland of their own.
faced immense problems. He had to find ways to provide the
blacks with jobs, land and houses. The blacks need to be shifted
from shanty towns and given better housing. But how is one to do
this when they lack skills and education?
their land by the whites, many blacks are now turning to
violence and crime. The result is that South African towns are
unsafe, even during the day. The large Indian community too
fears that they may lose their life and property.
In the 1994
elections, Mandela’s African National Congress won 252 seats
in a house of 400, polling 62 per cent votes. F.W. De Klerk’s
National Party won 82 seats, polling 20 per cent votes. The
Zulu-dominated Inkatha Freedom Party won 43 seats polling 10 per
cent votes. But, Mandela formed a coalition government that
included F.W.De Klerk and Buthelezi of the Intkatha Freedom
improved its tally of seats in the 1999 elections, but Mandela
decided to retire from politics. The Inkatha Freedom Party lost
nine seats, while the National Party lost heavily, getting only
28 seats.This is mainly because the whites are beginning to
migrate and do not see any political role for themselves.
This book is a
result of Vijay Naik’s short ( a fortnight) visit to South
Africa. He visited Pretoria, Johanesburg, Cape Town and Durban.
He saw the black township of Soweto and visited the railway
station Pietermaritzburg, which played an important role in
Mahatma Gandhi’s life in that country.
In a country
with 27 million blacks, five million whites and one million
Indians, the author found the whites and Indians to be quite
apprehensive of losing life and property. Despite the government’s
efforts to be fair to all communities and Mandela’s
magnanimity towards the whites, there was violence in several
towns. People were afraid of moving about freely and barricaded
themselves behind the doors and iron grills.
have not moved the way as in Zimbabwe, the whites fear that
their farms may be taken over forcibly.
More than 80 per cent of
Indians who had been brought as indentured labour, live in Natal
province, while 14 per cent live in Transvaal.Indians living in
Durban hope that they would not be deprived of their property,
as it happened in Kenya and Uganda. The well-to-do have big
bungalows and live comfortably.Some have embraced Christianity.
Though Indians were associated in the freedom struggle, some
look on them with suspicion, believing they had the best at both
alien messes up
Review by Baljit Singh
Kashmir by Christopher Thomas. Brunel Academic Publishers,
London. Pages 215. Rs 500.
has dominated the subcontinental agenda ever since the partition
of India in 1947 and remains the most divisive issue. One that
is so capable of whipping passions that both India and Pakistan
are prepared to string out their armies and economics along
inhabitable wastes rather than give ground, as demonstrated in
Kargil last year. With nuclearisation of both countries, Kashmir
has also soared to the top of the international agenda.
subject has spawned a flood of literature, much of it laced with
the same passion as the debate, and hence inherently flawed. So
when a professional journalist from outside the region (The
Times, London) with access to both Indian and Pakistani-held
sides of Kashmir over the momentous past decade writes on the
subject, it is certain to evoke interest.
this hope, raised in the prologue to the book depicting the
ordinary Kashmiri’s dilemma at being caught in the
subcontinent’s power politics, is belied as the writer
grapples uncomfortably with alien races. And in the absence of
empathy for them, he ends up with cruel caricatures of those he
sets out to portray.
Kashmiri is the archetypal serf, the victim of over 400 years of
continued occupation, able to posture but scared to strike,
given to "self-loathing, muddled ideologies and
The Dogras, the
erstwhile rulers of the state are also victims, sulking over
their loss in stature and betrayal by a fellow Hindu, Jawaharlal
Nehru, who not only forced their Maharaja Hari Singh, to
abdicate and gave Kashmir to Sheikh Abdullah, but tied up Hindu
Jammu’s fate with Kashmir’s.
generalisations are not limited to people but also extended to
the major players in the Kashmir drama. Thus although the author
begins with promise in his account of Maharaja Hari Singh,
saying "no leader of a major state was treated so
abominably for trying to remain independent of the dominions of
India and Pakistan. Nor has any been dragged through the swamps
of history so consistently," the tone soon reverts to type.
So there was nothing that the Maharaja could do right. And if he
occasionally surprises the author by actually doing something
good, it is immediately followed by something foul, to even the
and his strongest proponent, Nehru, are tarred with the same
brush. And while Nehru’s personal pique with the Maharaja and
obsession with bringing Kashmir into the Indian Union is at
least understandable, the characterisation of Sheikh Abdullah as
a confused and vacillating tyrant, "he danced on the
political stage to no consistent rhythm, as if his next move
were a secret even from himself", does seem rather
uncharitable, if for no other reason than that the Sheikh had
only to bend a little for his friend, Nehru, to release him from
his long incarceration between 1954 and 1959. Instead he chose
to remain defiant even when released in 1959, and soon found
himself back in detention.
The flaw in the
author’s critique of Sheikh Abdullah becomes apparent when he
cites the Sheikh’s letter to the Maharaja from his jail cell,
in which he promises his loyalty as a prelude to his release, as
an example of his "grovelling".
letter’s tone (page 145) might sound like grovelling to a
westerner with a Calvinistic mindset, to the average reader from
the subcontinent it is a reasonably balanced submission of a
subject to his king. Thus the element of self-effacement in
address ("loyal support, most obedient servant" et al)
is so common in the region that it would not even attract
attention. Especially given the background against which it was
written, as his release ensured that the Sheikh would have a say
in Kashmir’s course on the eve of independence, something he
as the leader of Kashmiri Muslims would have been anxious to
other weakness is the breaks in chronology, as the author moves
back and forth in time to fit in events and anecdotes. While
these sharpen the narrative, they can make the course of events
hard to follow for readers with limited background on the
"Faultline Kashmir" is not without its redeeming
features. It recognises, for instance, that the erstwhile
kingdom clubbed together by the British and handed over to the
Dogra kings for easy administration, comprises several distinct
ethnic and geographic regions, each with distinct aspirations.
Hence the logic in the Gilgit and Hunza Agency and the Poonch
Muslims rebellion to join Muslim Pakistan while Jammu’s
Hindus, once they sensed that remaining independent might not be
an option, wish to be included in the Indian province of Punjab
rather than remain in J&K.
the Kashmiris, who had just shrugged off a hundred years of
Dogra rule only to be ravaged by Pakistani raiders, neither
country was an attractive option in 1948. Hence their overriding
desire to be left alone even in defiance of geopolitical logic
comes through clearly. A desire that has only grown firmer over
50 years of bad administration, interspersed with periods of
direct Central rule.
But the author
points to the essentially emotional nature of the issue, which
makes it impossible for both India and Pakistan to even discuss
it although both sides admit in private that neither will go to
war to alter or capture the other’s slice of Kashmir.
The book’s major strength is
its easy narrative style and use of anecdotes to illustrate
points, and it is a pity that the author chose to widen his
canvas to repeating 150 years of tired history in which his
decade-long experiences are reduced to mere footnotes. For given
the contemporary nature of the subjects, his access across the
divide and first-hand insight as a journalist, a depiction of
the momentous years from 1989 up to the present might have been
far more effective both as contemporary history and a portent
for the future.
novel by Mulk Raj Anand
by Randeep Wadehra
Black Waters by Mulk Raj Anand. Vision Books, New Delhi. Pages
264. Rs 495.
War I was fought from 1914 to 1918, in which Great Britain,
France, Russia, Belgium, Italy, Japan, the United States and
other allies defeated Germany, Austria-Hungary, Turkey and
Bulgaria. Much has been written by western authors about their
respective soldiers’ contributions and sacrifices. However,
the Indian soldier’s contribution has remained by and large
ignored. This novel, described by British literary critic
Alistair Niven as Mulk Raj Anand’s best since the
"Untouchable", fills in the gap to a great extent.
Lalu is an
Indian sepoy, part of the two divisions-strong-contingent of the
Indian Army. For the first time he is sailing, that too for
waging war on His Majesty’s behalf against the mighty Germans
in France. He like others in the ship has only a vague idea of
his destination and the actual war theatre.
of Indian sepoys has been brought out vividly by Anand in the
scene where one of the characters describes the British monarch
as an incarnation of God. The Indian soldier does not question
the orders from the Commander-in-Chief, as relayed by the
This faith in
the divinity of the monarch enables him to sacrifice his all in
an alien land for an empire that has given him nothing worth
fighting for. Thus Lalu and his fellow sepoys find themselves in
Flanders, a historical region in northwest Europe, including
parts of northern France, western Belgium, and the southwest
Netherlands along the North Sea. For many centuries it enjoyed
virtual independence and great prosperity as a centre of the
textile industry. The Hapsburg wars in the Low Countries caused
the eventual division of the region, which suffered heavy damage
during both World Wars.
It is strange
that western literature and history do not take into account the
sufferings and sacrifices of the Indian sepoy. It required a
Mulk Raj Anand to chronicle the ordinary soldier’s
extraordinary fortitude while facing heavy odds in strange
environs. Pain and anger are evident throughout the narrative.
However, the novel is remarkable for its sensitive handling of
the characters who come from humble backgrounds. This is
probably because the author himself is the son of a subedar in
the Dogra Regiment.
The tension and
unpredictability of war is borne with resolution by the sepoys.
The front is live with the exchange of gunfire and invectives,
and the ground is littered with bodies of the dead and the
dying. Amidst all this, they are able to snatch some light
while waiting for the orders to launch a counter-attack, they
are facing the enemy’s artillery fire when they hear their
comrade-in-arms named Daddy Dhanoo, snoring away. Lalu remarks,
"Woe to the enemy if they see such warriors as Dhanoo".
When he wakes up he is asked to go back to sleep but not snore
lest he should frighten the enemy.
They show a
capacity for philosophical dissection too. Such heavy topics as
the significance of duty, obedience and dharma in the context of
war are discussed with rustic earnestness.
Daddy Dhanoo is
a typical example for whom, "obedience and duty were along
with God not only the ultimate laws of the universe, but
interchangeable. If loyalty to the spirit which creates the
universe was only possible through worship and the remembrance
of the Almighty, then the obedience to the sarkar, whose salt
one had eaten, was the highest dharma. And his pantheism was
unsophisticated sepoy is shown in the novel as being capable of
infinite shades of subtlety whenever it came to differentiating
between right and wrong according to the unwritten military
code... everything else was "reduced to the test of the
heart, the ultimate arbiter".
As with his
other novels, Anand’s characters are ordinary people caught in
circumstances that vary from the ordinary to the extraordinary.
Their dreams, their aspirations are by no means grand.
Yet there is
something majestic about their dignified struggle against odds.
This volume might not be comparable to Leo Tolstoy’s "War
and Peace". But in the portrayal of the ugly side of war,
it is as poignant. The human virtue and failings come out in
Perhaps this is
the reason why this novel has been translated into 11 European
languages; the British Council adapted it for a play to mark the
80th anniversary of the end of World War I, ignoring the claims
of such renowned works as "All Quiet on the Western
More than a
collector’s item, this novel is a must for those interested in
knowing our past in its less pleasant shades.
Why to Study,
How to Study by Vinay K. Goel. Hope, Bhopal. Pages vi+ 168. Rs
coming under increasing public focus. Their education has become
the hottest topic among the thinking classes. There are any
number of books that tell you what has gone wrong with our
educational system; some even venture to suggest remedies.
of these tomes are written in a language that goes over the head
of ordinary readers, especially if they are children. That is
where Goel scores over others. He directly addresses himself to
kids and in a lucid style encourages them to think in terms of
getting optimum education. There is hardly any didacticism. In
line with the modern ethos, Goel acknowledges that one studies
for material progress.
had divided his book into such chapters as "Making
classroom learning more effective", "Organising your
study time", "Organising your study room",
"Preparing your notes", "Improving your reading
skills", etc. There are some excellent tips for budding
scholars in this book. These might help them strive for
perfection in their respective subjects.
While there is
a separate chapter on good parenting too, one wishes that Goel
had included a small piece on ethics. Preaching might have gone
out of fashion, but human values should not be allowed to
vanish. Thus an occasional reminder of one’s duty towards
society is called for in any education-related work. We are
already witnessing the gory results of the rat race, in which we
are mindlessly pursuing self-aggrandisement.
There is a dire
need for inculcating a sense of fair play in our wards. It
might, just might, help halt our downward slide into crass
materialism. However, this does not distract from the merits of
Goel’s book, which can come handy for anyone keen on
Sikh Wedding Ceremonies by Ramesh Chander and Urmila Dogra. Star
Publications, New Delhi. Pages 192. Rs 295.
made in heaven and solemnised on earth, or so they say. However
marriage-related rituals and ceremonies vary greatly from
community to community and place to place. The Dogras have tried
to give a comprehensive picture of marriage in the Hindu
community by tracing the changes that have taken place over a
long period of time.
They have also
made references to the scriptures and other ancient texts to
give readers an idea of the various rituals associated with the
tying of the nuptial knot. However, unlike the monotheist
communities, it is a bit hazardous to slot the entire Hindu
community in one label. Various castes and sub-castes, regions
and sub-cultures, as well as other denominations have their own
unique lifestyles that get reflected in various rituals and
ceremonies, including the wedding functions.
is wrong for the authors to contend that all Singhs are Sikhs,
but not all Sikhs are Singhs. To the best of my knowledge,
Messrs Kalyan Singh, Mulayam Singh and Jaswant Singh are not
Sikhs. Rajputs, Jats, Yadavs, etc. make use of the Singh prefix.
The book’s concept is good,
but it needs painstaking research before it can become a useful
tome. However, there is some useful information on the evolution
of marriages since the hoary past. Perhaps the authors would be
more diligent in their subsequent attempts.
has different roots
Review by Bimal Bhatia
Security Problem in India: A Case Study of the Problem in
Nagaland and Manipur by Longjam Randeep Singh. A.P.H.
Publishing Corporation, New Delhi. Pages 170. Rs 400.
in the North-East have been eclipsed by the mother of all
insurgencies — Kashmir. Which is why not much seriousness
gets packed into problems afflicting the seven sister states
in the remote periphery of north-eastern India.
insurgency-ridden Manipur, Longjam Randeep Singh graduated
from Guwahati University and did his doctorate in defence and
strategic studies from the University of Pune. For his
research he chose to delve into the insurgency afflicting the
region, and this book is the result of that thesis. The book
however covers the period up to the late eighties when the
problem had accentuated.
the rest of India through the narrow Siliguri corridor, the
strategic north-eastern region has a common border with China,
Bhutan, Bangladesh and Myanmar.
Naga argument for separation was presented in a letter to
Gandhi in July, 1947. The Nagas reasoned that they were
independent before British rule and demanded that their
independence be restored since the British had quit India.
Gandhi, told the Naga delegates, "...Nagas have every
right to be independent. We did not want to live under the
dominion of the British...I want you to feel that India is
yours. I feel that the Naga hills are mine just as they are
yours, but if you say, ‘it is not mine’, the matter must
stop here...If you do not wish to join the Union of India,
nobody will force you to do that."
representatives of the Naga National Council (NNC) met Prime
Minister Nehru, the "results were not favourable".
The NNC approached the United Nations and Phizo crossed over
arrested by the Burmese government and sent back to India
where he was released after a period in jail. Now started the
armed insurgency by the Nagas. In 1955 violence erupted and in
1956 the Naga Federal Government (NFG) was formed with Phizo
as its chairman. In 1959 he flew to the UK and opened his
office in London.
Shillong agreement in 1975 the NFG agreed to recognise the
Indian Constitution under whose framework the problem would be
solved. Only a few surrenders took place and the Maoist
faction came to the fore.
setback to the insurgency, the Shillong accord also
discredited Phizo within the underground fraternity. Up came
the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN) in 1980 with
Thuingaleng Muivah leading this new militant faction which was
joined by other rebel leaders.
influence to Manipur’s East District in 1982 the NSCN
eliminated the pro-Shillong accord elements and stepped up
assassinations. The story (case study) ends with the attempted
murder of Chief Minister Keishing in 1984. One would expect
the author to update the text briefly to take you up to the
ceasefire declared in July, 1997, which runs out in a few days
— on July 31, just as this review went to print.
breaches in the ceasefire and the earlier arrest of some NSCN
(I-M) cadre (the dominant faction of NSCN is led by Isak and
Muivah — I-M — and the other by Khaplang which is mainly
defunct) in connection with the assassination bid on Chief
Minister S.C. Jamir, there is speculation that the Naga truce
may go up in smoke. Moreover, Muivah who was talking on behalf
of the NSCN, is now behind bars in Thailand for trying to
enter that country on a forged passport. According to the
jacket blurb, further analysis will be covered in the next
volume which the author is working on.
into British hands in April, 1891. The state became a
sovereign state in August the same year under the British
government. After the British left, the state merged with
India in 1949 under an agreement signed by the late Maharaja
Bodhchandra of Manipur.
Manipur was started by a small group who had gone to Burma for
training by Burmese rebels in the early 1950s. The idea was
not to seek a separate homeland for Manipur. Rather, their
agitation was fired by communist ideology. The Manipur
Revolutionary Party took to armed insurgency once its demand
for more autonomy was turned down, but it faded away in the
absence of popular support.
the Manipur valley after a relatively quiet period of 11 years
was the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) with a flavour of
Maoism and Meiteism. (Meiteis are Hindu Vaishnavites of the
Gaudiya cult.) Under Bisheswar Singh, the PLA started its
armed activity in the Manipur valley in 1974. A number of
other militant factions mushroomed in Manipur, unlike in
Nagaland which had mainly the NSCN and FGN, the latter
What are the
basic issues of the insurgency in Nagaland and Manipur? Due to
different cultural and historical background, the people have
not been able to adjust and bring themselves into the national
mainstream. The author says the semi-isolation of the
communities living in the hills of the North-East was
strengthened by the British attitude of keeping them insulated
from contact with other parts of India by means of policies
like inner-line regulation and extended areas. The inner-line
regulation still exists in Nagaland!
illiteracy, poverty and a feeling of neglect are related
issues. Nationalism is a vital element for national
integration and assumes significance in the North-East.
However, many nations with plural societies have remained
stable. And then there is the "foreign hand", but no
external assistance to insurgencies can yield results unless
the conditions for alienation of the people already exist.
access to a number of former militants who recount the
assistance they got from China and the erstwhile East
Pakistan. Also narrated by them are the adverse conditions
like unemployment, lack of opportunities and pervasive
So, what does
Longjam suggest to resolve the insurgency? He lists the many
drawbacks of using the Army for dealing with internal security
which is basically a police function and suggests that the
intelligence set-up should be modernised to make it effective.
A regional approach to deal with the insurgency will help, as
will improved Centre-state relations. Socio-economic
initiatives are needed to uplift the people, in which the
media can play a critical role.
To get to the
case study which is covered in just 42 pages, you have to wade
through two chapters on the academic discussion of national
security and terrorism which is pedantic. In the strategic
analysis of North-East India, you are told the Bangladesh is
to the east and Burma to the south. No matter how confident
one is of the bearings, you are compelled to pull out your
atlas to assure yourself that things haven’t changed lately.
For all the opportunity that
this young man from Manipur had to put some fire in his
research, this book sadly displays little evidence of it. With
so many spelling mistakes you are left constantly guessing and
out of breath. You thus have to plod through "appealing
" conditions which is appalling while "pep talls"
don’t really talk the author’s mind. And giving out the
causes of insurgency as "poverty and negligence", it
is the height of negligence rather than neglect which the
people of that region face.
guerrilla war 1979-1989 redux
Review by Parshotam Mehra
1979-1989 Redux Afghan Communism and Soviet Intervention by
Henry S Bradsher, Oxford University Press, Karachi. Pages
xviii+443. Rs 550.
the vibrant and pulsating heart of Central Asian politics,
Afghanistan today presents a grim and grisly picture of a
polity that is almost frozen in time. The Taliban who have
emerged as its virtual rulers since 1994 are in a vicious
bind. At home, their people are poor, hungry, insecure; the
capital Kabul is a city of refugees where women outnumber men
and nearly half the population is children.
is a pariah regime to whom no nation — barring Pakistan,
Saudi Arabia and the UAE — is prepared to extend
Afghanistan’s main source of income comes from narcotics; it
has the dubious distinction of being the world’s biggest
producer of opium. And most of this revenue goes into feeding
and sustaining a seemingly endless war!
itself stems from a relentless ethnic civil strife. For the
predominantly Pakhtoon Taliban presides over a most regressive
regime whose "vice and virtue" squads are
incessantly on the prowl looking out for defaulters. They are
religious zealots seeking to impose their will not only on
their own people but also for the minority Tajiks, Uzbeks and
result, the country presents an ungainly if gory sight of a
battleground of rival tribal traditions: of the Pakhtoons
versus the Tajiks and both versus the Hazaras and the Uzbeks.
Ahmad Shah Masood who has given Kabul little respite these
many years and whose stranglehold over the Panjshir valley, a
bare 25 km north of the capital, poses a major threat to the
regime’s stability, is a Tajik.
erstwhile allies, Abdul Rashid Dostam is an Uzbek while the
Shiite Hazaras claim the powerful backing of Iran, just across
the border in Herat.
Grim as the
domestic scenario is, its international dimensions are grimmer
still. After his recent visit to Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan
(end of May, 2000), the newly installed President Putin’s
first outside Russia, there were broad hints that Moscow may
consider missile strikes at radical Islamic groups based in
northern Afghanistan; not unlike Washington’s (1998)
to destroy Osama bin Laden’s hideout. Allegedly they
provide, Moscow insists, training ground for Islamic fighters
in Chechnya, and nearer home in Kashmir. Is post-Soviet Russia
likely to be embroiled in another war in Afghanistan?
heavy tome, of almost 450 pages, is the story of how, to start
with, the Soviets were drawn into the Afghan political
quagmire (1979). And after a decade-long disastrous war
extricated themselves (1989) with little honour to themselves
or peace for those they left behind.
to commit the Soviet army to Afghanistan does not appear to
have been well thought out. The basic reasons were an uneasy,
and slightly messy mix. There was the determination to support
a client regime, that of Hafizullah Amin, and thereby prevent
a rollback of communism. Tied with this was the need to
safeguard the integrity of the bordering Soviet Central Asian
republics. And uphold Soviet military and diplomatic prestige.
Amin, who had
sought Soviet help, distrusted his guests — and the latter
duly returned the compliment. In the event, no sooner did
Russian troops march in — on "insistent (Afghan)
request" — Amin was killed and Babrak Karmal was
installed in his place. The broad objective was to rebuff
"the armed interference from the outside". Needless
to add, the "limited Soviet military contingent" was
to be "completely pulled out" as soon as the
"reason that necessitated" its arrival ceased to
lengthened into years, the "limited" Soviet
contingent transformed itself into a huge army reaching a peak
strength of 120,000 men. And to help it, a desertion-ridden
Afghan force of 300,000 whom the Soviets, for obvious reasons,
did not allow to develop independent capabilities.
unexpectedly, the Soviet invasion provoked a massive American
backlash. The number of mujahideen varied but the figures were
impressive and their cause was popular. And generously
endowed. An almost $ 3 billion worth of US arms and a
corresponding sum from the rabidly anti-Soviet and stinkingly
rich Saudis kept the heat on. Their breast-beating for the
cause of Islam was not unknown and Saudi funds were funnelled
through the CIA. A major breakthrough was the induction of US
Stinger anti-aircraft missiles (September, 1986) which claimed
a heavy toll of Russian air power over footslogging
In the Soviet
Union, the war in Afghanistan had powerful political
repercussions, especially after Mikhail Gorbachev took over
command (1985). Casualty figures, now made public, were
shockingly revealing: almost 15,000 dead and another 50,000
wounded. As the new leadership confessed, the war was a costly
"bleeding wound" and had to end. And finally did,
with a total Soviet withdrawal (February, 1989).
aftermath, the political scene in Kabul was chaotic. To
everyone’s surprise, the post-Soviet regime of Najibullah
did not collapse overnight and, in fact, continued for almost
another three years. This in the face of Pakistan’s
desperate efforts to put in power its favourite Islamist,
Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. For one, the ragtag of mujahideen
factions had signally failed to turn their guerrilla talents
into conventional warfare victories; for another, a ramshackle
regime of their disparate political outfits from Peshawar
assumed nominal power in Kabul (1992). The communist interlude
was over and that is where Bradsher’s long and detailed
narrative thereof, through all its youthful high jinks and
lowdown, dirty tricks, draws to a tame end.
It was a sad
story for the Soviet state which broke up not long after the
last Russian soldier left Kabul. But for Afghanistan and its
people, the legacies were far more profound and the human
costs far too prohibitive. A devastated people and a ravaged
land where peace and governance have become tragically
elusive, if almost non-existent. Two brief criticisms of
Bradsher’s book come readily to mind. To start with, he
opens his account with Mohammad Daud Khan, the last of the
royalists who was ousted in 1977, the political shenanigans
that ensued including the goings-on of Nur Mohammed Taraki,
the veteran communist who took over in a bloody coup in April,
1978. So also the politics of the People’s Democratic Party
of Afghanistan, the better known PDPA. And its innumerable, if
sickening, faction fighting.
For a proper
understanding though of Afghan affairs, it is imperative to
underline some important facets of its historical evolution as
a backdrop. One, that the country is essentially an artificial
construct, the result of a fortuitous conquest by a military
adventurer, Ahmad Shah Abdali, in the mid-18th century.
factor that explains its singular lack of political cohesion
stems from the fact that apart from a solid Pakhtoon
heartland, there are important, and strategic, non-Pakhtoon
areas. The Pakhtoons, predominantly Sunni Muslim, constitute a
little over 50 per cent of the population; the Tajiks number
20 per cent and the Uzbeks a minuscule 10 per cent. Not to
mention the Hazaras who wield considerable political clout.
that needs added emphasis is that for almost a 100-odd years,
from the late 1830s to the early 1920s, the British Raj waged
three successive wars to fashion Afghanistan into a client
state, nominally independent but in practice a satellite, a
protege. And after large investments in men, money and
munition it drew a complete blank. For Afghanistan went its
own way — a poor, weak, faction-ridden, yet fiercely
independent state. Bradsher draws no lessons from the British
interlude, nor did the Soviets.
lacuna is the absence of an epilogue surveying major
developments in the aftermath of the Soviet withdrawal: the
incipient infighting among the mujahideen; their loss of Kabul
and the emergence of the Kandahar-based Taliban led by Mullah
Omar. Inasmuch as the book was published only last year, there
is little justification for the absence of a meaningful
summary of the post-1989 years.
more. The glaring omission of maps, a series of maps, stare
the reader in the face. Afghanistan’s geography is
important, even more so its location in the heart of Asia.
More, the Soviet offensive — and withdrawal — need to be
clearly mapped out. Apart from their overall usefulness, they
would make large chunks of the narrative relevant and more
For fear that
one may be misunderstood, the preceding lines are by way of
helpful suggestions, not carping criticism. For here is a
useful, well-researched study that offers a better
understanding of an important, if tragic, phase in Afghan
Bradsher who, apart from extensive interviewing has had access
to a wide range of source material, including Soviet archives,
is a journalist by profession. As bureau chief of the
Associate Press of America he had an impressive innings both
in New Delhi (1959-64) and in Moscow (1964-68). His earlier
work, "Afghanistan and the Soviet Union" (1983,
1985) was hailed as the "best general account" that
was "painstakingly thorough".
The author claims that the
present study is a "completely rewritten" version of
events covered in his earlier book. For one who has not tasted
the old wine, the new bottle is not unimpressive.
National security: the many angles
This is an
exerpted from "Security India’s Future’’ on
security issues. The second part will appear next week
a large, multi-ethnic and diverse country which shares borders
with China, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Pakistan, the
Maldives and Pakistan, India faces important national security
challenges. There are few countries in the world which are
placed in a security environment as unfavourable as India.
India’s security problems have been compounded by the
porous, artificial borders that were drawn in 1947 when the
subcontinent was partitioned. Such frontiers have contributed
to military and non-military threats to Indian security,
including border problems, refugee influx, infiltration of
armed militants, drug trafficking and smuggling along the
geostrategic realities India confronts are difficult and
demand a coordinated, long-term approach to national-security
planning. The rise of a powerful and assertive China and the
close Sino-Pakistan strategic collaboration pose major
challenges for Indian defence and diplomacy. With the collapse
of the Soviet Union, China is seen as a major power with the
political will and economic and military resources to play a
global role. China’s close trade and commercial relationship
with the USA, its military modernisation, its strategic
penetration of Myanmar, the expansion of its influence to
Central Asia, its continuing nuclear and missile assistance to
Pakistan and its arms exports to most of India’s neighbours
give it a strategic reach that impinges on Indian interests.
its part, remains wedded to a deep-rooted anti-India posture
despite its greater self-confidence in the period since it
conducted nuclear tests.
India has a
vast potential of its own, and India’s economic, political
and military interests cover areas far beyond South Asia.
India’s extended neighbourhood includes South-West and West
Asia, Central Asia, South-East Asia and the Indian Ocean
region. To achieve peace and stability, India will have to
forge close, mutually cooperative relationships with the
important countries in its extended neighbourhood as well as
with those powers, such as the USA, Japan and Russia, which
play a role in this wider region. With its scientific and
material resources, its size and its strategic location, India
is already an important member of the international community.
If it grows economically at a faster rate, India will increase
its weight in international and regional affairs and be better
placed to cope with its security challenges.
strengthening of the trade-related aspects of the South Asian
Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) will serve Indian
interests. Greater regional trade and economic cooperation
will contribute to peace and stability. It is also in India’s
interest to work for multipolarity in international relations.
— V.A. Pai
Panandiker in the foreword
« « «
It may be
mentioned that James P. Serba, the then New York Times
correspondent, had concluded on the basis of a briefing from
one of (Zulfikar Ali) Bhutto’s aides that "Bhutto, the
first civilian leader in 14 years, came to Simla ready to
compromise". This conclusion was in line with what Bhutto
said in the Pakistan National Assembly following the Simla
Agreement. When he was taunted in the National Assembly for
going back on his talk to wage a thousand-year war against
India, Bhutto said frankly: "... I cannot do it in the
next five, 10, 15 years... I will not do it because I know it
will be the end of my country."
talk of the futility of war, Bhutto said: "We may not
have gained anything by peaceful means, but how much have we
gained by war? The gain by way of war is that we have lost
half the country... Let us forget the past, let us forget our
follies, let us forget all the wrongs we have done. We live in
the same geographical area, we cannot get out of the
subcontinent... Since we live here, let us find some way of
living together, some modus vivendi... I think we will be able
to bring to the people peace that has been denied to them for
words are just as applicable to India as to Pakistan.
— The late
« « «
nationalistic compulsions will make it highly unlikely that
India and Pakistan will cap their nuclear and missile
programmes, bilateral dialogue with China has helped in
promoting regional stability, particularly along the border.
This is one area that permits major new initiatives, for
Sino-Indian interests will not infringe on each other in the
foreseeable future. The 1993 arms control accord between China
and India has not been given the importance it warrants. Peace
and stability on their frontiers are in both countries’
interests, and will inevitably lead to more significant
agreement in the days ahead.
Pakistan, tensions are likely to remain because of a variety
of reasons. While its armed forces do not pose a threat to
India’s survival, its alliances have brought outside powers
into the equation, parties which have actively aided
separatists in Kashmir, Punjab and even internally. Pakistan’s
ties with fundamentalist Islamic states raise the spectre of
even more unrest.
"triumvirate" that rules Pakistan — the army,
President and Prime Minister — has always had a difficult
balancing act. None of them is strong enough to either change
the existing policy or initiate fresh initiatives. It has been
suggested that Pakistan’s intransigence owes a lot to its
1959 mutual security agreement with the USA, and that without
it, a more balanced, pragmatic relationship with India would
have been inevitable. Thus it might help if the USA makes it
clear that it has no residual commitment to assist Pakistan in
the event of an Indo-Pak war. This is also likely to remove a
long-standing irritant in US-India relations.
— Gen S.F.
« « «
technological changes of recent years have substantially
enhanced the vulnerability of surface ships to stand-off
missiles, this is not to say they have become redundant. With
their armament, sensors and high speeds, they will continue to
be needed for specialist functions and in displaying naval
presence. Ship-borne naval aviation, an art acquired by our
Navy over the years, will continue to play its rightful role
whatever the size of the platform that supports it. It is
important that we continue with this dimension in the
already stated that running a navy is an expensive business,
but if it is allowed to run down, then building it up again
will be even more expensive and time consuming. The Indian
Navy has always been the Cinderella of the three armed forces,
traditionally receiving only 8 per cent to 12 per cent of the
total defence outlay.
substantial reduction in India’s defence expenditure since
the late 1980s — down to 2.2 per cent of the GDP in 1996
from a high of 4 per cent in 1987 — has hit the defence
services hard and the Navy the hardest. A medium-sized navy
like ours must have a steady induction of ships to avoid
obsolescence and remain operationally credible. One principal
surface combatant (PSC) every 12 to 18 months should be the
It is sad but
true that the Navy has rarely received adequate financial
support to attain such an induction rate. When the
indigenously designed and built 6,200-ton guided missile
destroyer, the Delhi, entered service in 1997, it did so nine
years after last PSC, the multipurpose frigate the Gomati, was
inducted in 1988.
— Suren P.
Govil, Vice Chief,
Naval staff (retd)
« « «
With a few
exceptions, most Indian politicians, civil servants,
scientists, diplomats, servicemen, journalists and academics
were just not interested in discussing the security problems
arising out of nuclear and missile issues. The American
analyst George Tanham noted that India did not have a
strategic tradition or culture. It is now clear after the
Indian nuclear tests of May 11 and May 13, 1998, that
successive Indian Prime Ministers pursued the nuclear weapons
programme in utmost secrecy without informing their own senior
party colleagues, the services, or the bureaucracy.
were perhaps justified in secretly nurturing the nuclear
weapons programme, they failed to promote the necessary
strategic thinking in the country on nuclear and missile
issues and on India’s predicament in the present
international security environment. This lapse has caused the
country to face a situation when sections of our own
intellectual establishment are asking against what threats
were the nuclear tests conducted. It is now quite obvious that
the Agni programme was slowed down under external pressure and
revived only in 1996-1997.
India declared itself a nuclear weapon state it has been
announced that India is developing the Agni-2 missile and a
minimum nuclear deterrent programme that will involve the
development, testing and deployment of the Agni-2 missile of
2500 km range. The Prithvi-150 and the Prithvi-250 dual
capable missiles will be part of India’s minimum deterrence
and some reports suggest a naval version too. The importance
of the anti-aircraft missiles. The Trishul and the Akash have
become clear in the light of Cruise missile threats. But they
are some way off.
The US attack
on Iraq with ship-borne and air-borne Cruise missiles has
valuable lessons for India. The country must be able to engage
aircraft carrying long-range missiles and to deny sea access
to ships and submarines which can operate in the waters around
India within ranges which will enable them to hit Indian
targets with missiles. This calls for submarines (conventional
and nuclear) with missiles which will deter ships from
approaching Indian shores, and for long and short-range
anti-aircraft missiles to raise the cost of missile attacks
proposals have been mooted for India to develop an
anti-missile system. Considering our progress in anti-aircraft
missiles, this is not likely to be achieved for quite some
time to come. The Russians have the S-300V and the S-300P
missiles which are believed to be effective anti-aircraft,
anti-Cruise and anti-low velocity ballistic missiles. It has
been suggested that we acquire them for the defence of vital
instalations. Rapid fire systems have demonstrated the
capability in Iraq to shoot down Cruise missiles or deflect
them away from their targets. The missile defence is bound to
raise the debate on defence versus deterrence, especially in
the Indian situation where the probability of high density
missile attacks is low.
"Countering missile threats"
« « «
since the Shakti tests have clearly disproved the prophets of
doom who had been warning that an overtly nuclear India would
get so isolated and squeezed internationally that it would
turn into a virtual pariah state. What happened was the
opposite. India got away with its open defiance of the major
powers with just a slap on its wrist, with many of the post-Shakti
sanctions against it being eased in a matter of months and its
economy doing better than before the tests. India has also
improved its international standing perceptibly in the period
since the tests.
gains, however there has been little evidence of a
"resurgent India" claimed by the Vajpayee
government. The country countinues to present itself as a soft
state susceptible to outside pressure. The months-long hold-up
in testing the ready-to-go Agni- 2 in 1999 provided evidence
determinedly pushing ahead with follow-up steps in the
shortest period possible, India feels compelled to balance its
defiance with conformist behaviour. It has gone out of the way
to assure the leading powers that it does not pose a threat to
their non-proliferation regime even though it can never be
formally recognised as a nuclear weapons state under this
system. The leverage gained from the nuclear tests was
dissipated through a series of unilateral concessions in the
pious hope that such gestures would placate international
India would have known that international relations are
centred not on goodwill but on power and leverage. Nor has
India moved fast to consolidate the gains on the ground. The
national elation over the new nuclear weapons status cannot
hide the important challenges India still faces. Unlike
Pakistan, which is able to meet any Indian advance with
Chinese assistance, India has to meet those challenges on its