|Tuesday, February 1, 2000,
Finance Ministers month
a national slum policy
foreign policy going adrift?
February 1, 1925
Its Finance Ministers month
FEBRUARY belongs to the Union Finance Minister and his budget. Mr Yashwant Sinha will devote the entire month to shaping and straightening out the next financial years programme of the government and hence the direction the economy will take. Unlike last year, he has now started the exercise with several advantages. The economic recovery is firmly in place and the results of 400 leading companies for the three months of October-December (the third quarter) attest to this. Their profit has soared by 40 per cent even though sales have increased by only 20 per cent. There is no mystery in this as reduced duty, unchanged prices and greater demand have produced their full effect after a time lag. As a result, the economy is poised to grow at 6.8 per cent, compared to 5.8 per cent projected in last budget. Inflation continues to be low. Tax revenue is keeping pace with expectations and the small shortfall should disappear with the normally robust collection in the three last months of the year. Exports are up and one wild guess is that in the last quarter the increase may be close to 50 per cent. Foreign exchange reserves stand at about $ 35 billion and the rupee is steady against the dollar. Good rainfall has helped in a good harvest, although agriculture is stagnating for want of investment. Stock market is booming and Mr Sinhas favourite expression, the feel good factor, permeates the corporate world. This fairly long list of plus points should give him elbow room to step up the pace in certain areas, deepen the policy in others and change course in the rest. The other side of the coin is somewhat worrisome. Government expenditure is ballooning, by about Rs 15,000 crore, and not a paisa is because of the Kargil conflict. The ripple effect has been to push up the fiscal deficit by 1.5 percentage points, from the targeted 4 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP) to 5.5 per cent. The Finance Minister has to allot more, much more, money to the armed forces to replace lost equipment, buy new ones and upgrade technology.
On balance thus, Mr
Sinha faces a daunting task. The Prime Ministers
go-ahead to initiate hard policies to restore the health
of the economy has a string attached to it. He also wants
to step up the second generation of reforms which simply
means lowering taxes and levies further. So Mr Sinha has
to shrink tax revenue, which is a soft option, and also
adopt unpopular measures. The meaning is simple: cut down
expenditure on social services like education, housing,
health and poverty alleviation since he cannot reduce
expenditure on employees without triggering a revolt.
There is another option. He can borrow to invest in
agriculture and meet the social sector obligations. Here
he will run into a major roadblock. The IMF will say no,
although it is under pressure to vacate policy-making
areas except to advise on fighting poverty. Even home
grown economists oppose a huge fiscal deficit, saying it
will stoke inflationary embers. There is that promised
land but a prohibited area. He can frighten the corporate
czars into paying their tithe to the state, both in
excise duty and income tax. There is vast concealment and
evasion here. But it is against his nature to hit at the
industrialists. Personal income tax is expected to stay
intact and he is unlikely to lift the 10 per cent
surcharge he imposed last year as a purely temporary
measure. Since the budget has ceased to be a signpost of
socio-economic development, Mr Sinha will repeat his last
years performance with marginal touches here and
March of Sonia brigade
THE Congress, led by Mrs Sonia Gandhi, has raised an emotive and contentious issue by making an organised protest against what she has described as the Gujarat Governments move to saffronise the bureaucracy. She, along with senior party leaders, has made serious allegations against the BJP-led government and the Gujarat administration. The Sankalp yatras, which began from Calcutta, Jammu, Kanyakumari and Siriperambudur, were scheduled to end in Delhi. But these were diverted to converge on a sacred point in the land of the Mahatma. According to the perception of the Congress, the Gujarat order is aimed at boosting the communal activities of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). The scenario presented by Mrs Sonia Gandhis outfit is generally like this: With top leaders at the Centre and in states subscribing to the RSS credo at some point of their career (if not now), communal culture will give a non-secular orientation to the administration, polity, society and economy and damage the secular and sentimental fabric of the nation rapidly. The official trend seen in Gujarat will spread all over the country. Gujarat is only a testing ground. The values and principles enshrined in the Constitution will be destroyed by those who would review (or rewrite?) the statute book. The nation will be divided on communal and religious lines. Democracy will find itself declining and falling. And then there will be no then.
It is important to keep
in mind the Congress-BJP clash of ideologies and the
political fallout of it. There are certain points to be
kept in view. The Congress government at the Centre
banned the RSS, along with 31 other organisations, in
1986. It was seen as a communal body whose ideologues and
followers followed a disruptive non-secular
agenda in a multi-stranded country. Of the outlawed
outfits, the Vishva Hindu Parishad, the Hindu Mahasabha,
Anand Marg, the Jamaat-e-Islami Hind and the
Tameer-e-Millat, besides a few other yet not extinct
bodies, remain on the prohibited list. So, how come the
RSS has achieved recognition, freedom from legal curbs
and glorious rehabilitation? The Gujarat government has
an answer. The RSS is a social organisation engaged in
character-building and promoting positive national
spirit. The decision to give it freedom was
based on a communication received from the Centre to the
effect that the Sangh was no more on the banned list
following a judgement of the Unlawful Activities
Prevention Tribunal. Why were the Seva Dal and the
National Students Union of India (NSUI) not included in
the list of the banned bodies? The reply is neither
conclusive nor sufficient. But it seems to be a
near-impossibility to officially prop up or bolster a
particular organisation with question marks on its
credentials and claim that its members will not get
preferential treatment in various crucial matters of the
state. In sum, Gujarat is not only the state of the
saintliness that brought sanctity to our ethos from
Sabarmati. It is also the state of the Dangs area and of
communal lava, brimstone and fire. The decision of the
present administration is as unnecessary and as
politically motivated as the Congresss
justice or jail movement. (Mrs) Sonia is a
legitimate Gandhi but she need not be credited with the
vision, wisdom and sainthood of Gandhi the
Mahatma. The Gujarat decision needs to be rescinded and
the choice of joining the RSS should have something to do
just with the free will of the private individual.
Similarly, the cacophonous Sonia movement should be
turned towards quiet social reconstruction. The Congress
is a weak-rooted party today.
Living in the Dark Ages
IT is unfortunate that the subcontinent would continue its march in the new millennium with a heavy load of norms and symbols which should have been discarded at the doorstep of the Dark Ages. Instead, some of the most revolting and barbaric norms have been passed on from generation to generation with misplaced pride. Three reports carried by most newspapers in their Monday editions should help understand the influence of decadent beliefs on large sections of people in India and Pakistan. The report captioned Sad end to lovers tale is about the decision of the panchayat of a village in Bulandshahar, Uttar Pradesh, to order the hanging of a young couple for daring to defy the strict social code which prohibits marriage between members of different castes. Rekha, 17, was the daughter of a local barber and Kallu, 19, was a Gujjar by birth. The unlettered couple, who never had the means to be influenced by films or television programmes or the love tales of Mills and Boons, instinctively developed a liking for each other and decided to run away to get married. They were evidently too young to realise the hurt they had caused to the honour of their respective communities. Therefore, when the unsuspecting lovers returned they were ordered to be hanged from a tree in the village square. Those who committed the ghastly crime remained unrepentant when the police picked them up for establishing their role in the double murder. Another report captioned Plight of Pak women is equally disturbing. It tells the story of the cold blooded murder of 15-year-old Tahira Yasmin at the behest of her own mother because she had decided to seek divorce from her abusive husband. Tahira was returned to her parents in spite of her telling the court that they will kill me. Her mother, along with hired killers, followed Tahira to the office of the human rights activist and lawyer, Asma Jahangir, where she was killed. Even the seemingly sensible sections of society have supported the act of honour killing performed by the mother of Tahira.
According to data
compiled by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan,
Tahira was the 266th victim of acts of honour
killing reported from Punjab alone last year. The
study is based on newspaper reports which means that the
actual figure of honour killing in Punjab
could be higher than the figure released by NHRCP. Part
of the answer to why Bulandshahar-type of killing still
takes place in India and why incidents of honour killing
enjoy wide support in Pakistan can be provided by a
report captioned Tantriks rule the roost in the age
of science. The control of the so-called godmen on
the lives of ordinary people in Pakistan, India and even
Bangladesh is no secret. The contents of the report,
prepared by a team of psychiatrists of Ram Manohar Lohia
Hospital in Delhi, leave no scope for doubt that those
who still believe in the social code of the Dark Ages are
in most cases mentally unstable and need medical help.
The problem with some forms of mental ailments is that
the sufferer is not even aware of the need to consult a
trained professional. The absence of an effective
doorstep medical delivery system in remote areas allows
tantriks and fakirs to gain control over even the
day-to-day lives of the people. Of course, the survey
titled Project Faith Healing has covered the
role of godmen in stopping patients from seeking expert
pyschiatric help for their ailments. However, by no
stretch of the imagination can such people as defend
honour killing be placed in the category of
normal and healthy human beings. Their resistance to
accepting social changes in tune with the evolving
reality make them a far greater threat to the general
well being of society than the abnormal behaviour of
individual patients. If behavioural scientists are
allowed a say in identifying and destroying deep-rooted
and widespread social maladies labelled as sacrosanct
beliefs and customs, there is no reason why the age
of science should not at long last succeed in
exorcising the ghost of the age of darkness
from the subcontinent.
THE MILLENNIUM MYSTIQUE
NOW that the millennium hype and hysteria are almost spent, and the Y2K global catastrophe is withering away into a sneeze and a sniffle, as an American commentator put it, it compels one to ponder deeply the millennium mystique, a historico-theological construct on the one hand and a convenient escape from reality, on the other. At the same time, it is the occasion to see how the moment has been turned into a commodity by the media, and reduced to a commercial farce. And all this requires a crossing of hindsight and foresight, for the grand ironies of history, in the end, defy purposeful projections. Often, we find our great expectations are closer to fantasy than to fact, closer, indeed, to the absurd than to the poetic.
The millennium euphoria has so many aspects, dimensions and complexities as to baffle the imagination of insight and enquiry. No, I do not intend to go into the mystery and the miasma as such, though I do hope to show up the shaggy undergrowth of the phenomenon, among other things.
It may not be a wholly black picture, but the imponderables do create a feeling of anxiety and disbelief. I may even suggest the idea of angst and dread as structured in Christian existentialist thought if we extend the argument. But for the present, I keep this little discourse on a commonsensible level. To understand, then, the state of the corporate human mind in relation to what the bells have tolled out and what they have tolled in is to seek an answer to the swarm of doubts that assail the imagination in labour. If it was a grand moment for the dancing Jacks and Jills, it was also a great agonising moment for the historians of thought, and for the historians of the heart writers and artists, in sum.
Leaving aside, however, the larger questions, we have yet to take an overarching view as we stand on the slopes of history. And what we see around and far out isnt a comforting sight. In fact, the lethal aspects far outweigh the benign and the hopeful, huge qualitative advances in the areas of science, technology, knowledge, health, education, agriculture, industry, etc, notwithstanding. Undoubtedly, the levels of affluence and life-styles have reached enviable proportions in some privileged countries in both the hemispheres, and the levels of human consciousness, in general, too have risen even in countries impoverished and marginalised by imperialisms of all manner, but this mixed legacy still leaves us baffled and intrigued. How the generations gathered with the grasses and those unborn are to be viewed is a question that does tease us out of thought. A most agonising moment the millennium moment instead of generating a meaningful debate on the TV screen, or in the printed media, is being turned, as I said earlier, into a vast theatre of the absurd. It needs what Bakhtin calls the dialogical imagination to initiate an authentic dialogue or discussion.
As we see things right now, a deep darkness envelops the millennium noon, dispelling the air of cheeriness thoughtlessly generated in the process. If history teaches us anything, its the tragedy of utopias that get derailed en route, and leave behind a trail of trauma and suffering. Im not referring here only to the doomsday literature, but also to scores of great novels and plays, poems and paintings revealing the heart of darkness or the jungles of the human heart, in other words. No man or machine can ever hope to predict the human fate with any kind of certitude. What the new millennium just born can say about the next 1000 years is, at best, a tissue of half-truths, if not a wild foray into the future.
Its a fact of recorded history that the 20th century which threw up new forms of warfare,tyrannies, totalitarianisms, and terrorism, and engineered more satanic strategies and ethos of violence, experienced, both in quantitative and qualitative aspects, more savagery, more sadistic sophistication, more lethal levels of thought and more killings, holocausts and war casualties than such horrors in all the earlier centuries put together. Indeed the gory statistics tell a story that not even the imagination of disaster (Henry Jamess expression for the sense of evil) can fully cope with.
The unleashing of mans atavistic, bestial, lethal impulses as also forces of degenerate, insensate racial, religious and ideological philosophies is a phenomenon that exceeds all bounds of thoughts. In short, we see a theatre of cruelty on the grandest scale as we cast a cold look behind. It may not, therefore, be inappropriate to style it as a savage century whose fallout in the form of devastated countries, ruined societies and cultures, displaced and purloined populations, divided and upturned nations and scores of such other insanities environmental degradation and disasters, that terrifying global plague called AIDS, drug culture, sexual perversions and runaway promiscuity, etc, is a phenomenon that invites the riled and roused imagination of indignation to a new pitch of engagement, a new level of discourse.
Well, then, the American Century as the commentators and analysts called it, with all its glitter and glitz, its absolute control over the human situation in terms of power and wealth and sway has only succeeded in widening the world economics, and in narrowing the freedoms of scores of countries across the globe. Thats the price and the prize, the irony and the misery of the achieved glory. Yes, the Great American Dream of the Pilgrim Fathers and the earlier settlers has become a perverse but pleasurable reality for the Americans, in general, but the dream has been achieved at the cost of the American conscience and of the colonised, manipulated weak and struggling nations with crumbling economies. And if one adds the nuclear horrors, digital electronic modes of push-button warfare, and other weapons in the American arsenal to its sum of achievements, its not surprising to find a very harsh picture of the developing dream in some of the most thoughtful American novels and plays of the century in question.
Before I close this melancholy statement, let me recall that most terrifying poem in the entire corpus and cannon of the great Irish poet, W.B. Yeats, The Second Coming. What he saw ahead was not the promised coming of Jesus Christ again, but a dreaded monster that slouches towards Bethlehem to be born. And if Bill Gatess Windows open out on an electronic paradise, they, in the same measure, suggest strongly an unimaginable human tragedy in the making.
However, in conclusion, I do offer a morsel of hope in this nearly hopeless situation. No, I do not believe that all is lost, or that the coming centuries would be without their great moments of grace and glory. For as I see things, the precarious balance between the highly visible evil and the shy, struggling good would remain so long as the earth abides. And the earth abides in the will for the maker, not in obedience to the monkey-business of the worlds overlords.
The millennium mystique
(the aura of mystery, power, awe that surrounds a
person or thing the meaning given in
Collins English Dictionary may in this
context, be extended to include an event, or a moment.
And as I said in the opening paragraph, this theological
concept in relation to the third millennium has to be
thus understood in all its complexities, and in all its
Towards a national slum policy
IT is reported that the Union Urban Development Ministry is finalising a draft National Slum Policy to deal with one of the most serious socio-economic problems threatening urban life in India in the form of an enormous growth of slums. Once believed to be an inevitable side effect of industrialisation and the consequent migration of labour from rural areas, proliferation of slums has other causes too in India. They have grown within and on the peripheries of many towns and all the metropolitan cities, including the countrys Capital.
The national policy is expected to provide a new approach to an old problem evolved in the recognition of the fact that slum residents are a major and important contributors to city resources and form an indispensable sector, providing various kinds of skilled and unskilled services to enrich city life and facilitate its functions. A draft piece of legislation is also under preparation.
From the time of Frederick Engels effective description of slum conditions in Manchester in 1844 to current reports of the UNDP, slums have continued to exist and grow. However, the relationship between slum residents and those in the neighbourhood has been undergoing changes everywhere. While the West has succeeded in removing filth and improving the quality of life in what they call slums, third world countries have miserably failed to tackle slum problems.
The problems have, therefore, multiplied in India demanding some immediate and determined action so as to integrate the slum population with its neighbourhood and remove the conditions that make these areas what they are today.
Though the definition of slum, like the attributes of poverty, may vary from country to country, it has always referred to an area and living conditions. Identified in India on the basis of the nature of house construction and the availability of basic amenities such as drinking water, drainage and sanitation, they are known by different names jhuggi in Delhi, basti in Calcutta, zopadpatti in Mumbai and Cheri in Chennai. The national policy has to deal with the insanitary, disorganised, and overcrowded collection of mostly hutments spread in the midst of cities and towns, described by the United Nations as a menace to health and an affront to human dignity.
Slum population was estimated to be around 4.63 crore in 1991, that is, about 21.3 per cent of the urban population of India. At the turn of the century, it is expected to reach 6.2 crore. Recent surveys have shown that slum population accounts for about 34 per cent in Mumbai, 33 per cent in Calcutta, 32 per cent in Chennai, 31 per cent in Delhi.
It is officially estimated that over 20 lakh people are living in 1,080 slum clusters in Delhi. The UN State of the World Population reports have made special mention of the biggest conglomeration of slums in Mumbai. Chennai has the highest number of slums, many of which are small located side by side with developed colonies. The result everywhere is, as the reports have pointed out, intolerable levels of environmental degradation and stretching of civic services to breaking point.
As the policy has to deal with the people as much as with the area, policy makers may have noted that there is little upward movement of slum-dwellers even in a state of economic growth. Cases of absorption of residents in better neighbourhoods are exceptions and not rule as most migrants enter slums not with an idea of a transitory arrangement. Individual economic growth has taken place in the slums of metropolitan cities, but with this, an ambition to become slum lords rather than a desire to shift to a better locality catches the slum residents.
The distinction as slums of hope and slums of despair is not relevant in India as the self-eliminating process contained in the slums of hope is not present. Urban slums in India, not considered temporary shelters or a stop-gap arrangement by the new-comers to the cities to prepare for proper housing, have become permanent homes for many generations in many families.
The national policy must proceed on the premise that the earlier attempts at the relocation of slum-dwellers have not succeeded in many places. Whether it is Kalkaji or Jehangirpuri on the outskirts of Delhi or Thoraipakkam in Chennai, the story of resettled slum-dwellers selling their allotment and reverting to old slum life is repeated in a number of cases. Forcible resettlement as attempted during the days of the internal Emergency has only resulted in the mushrooming of slums in the Capitals parks after the lifting of the curbs.
A slum policy is not just a housing policy for providing shelter. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) adopted the right to housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living. The Global Strategy for Shelter by the Year 2000 adopted by the UN General Assembly in a resolution includes space, privacy, lighting, ventilation, safety, etc, in adequate measure, as also the location appropriate for work and social facilities in the concept of housing. The last mentioned does not permit relocation as a routine method of eradication of slums particularly in places where the rehabilitation site is far away from the areas of work of the allottees though economic conditions do not admit a blanket ban on relocation or eviction.
A number of judgements of High Courts and the Supreme Court have in recent years stressed the shelter aspect of slum clearance and have insisted on honouring the right to residence. While the importance and urgency of shelter cannot be denied, the proposed national slum policy cannot be restricted to housing, but should go further to improving the quality of life of slum-dwellers.
Urban slums in India are not isolated colonies or segregated population as in some countries. The culture of poverty identified from the studies in Mexican and African milieu and found in many other countries is changing fast in urban slums, presenting a curious picture of a slum culture under the dominant influence of middle class virtues. The policy envisaged may very well take advantage of the transformation taking place in slum culture.
To improve the quality
of life of these residents, slum policy should contain
clauses to enhance educational, health and moral
standards. This requires coordination among ministries/
departments concerned. Compulsory schooling and a ban on
child labour and child marriage, for instance, must form
part of the policy to be implemented, and an atmosphere
discouraging gambling, drinking and prostitution has to
be created. Without this, mere restructuring/relocation
will not help. Any place can develop slum conditions
unless the occupants are mentally freed from a slum
Is foreign policy going adrift?
WHEN Dont misjudge the Taliban appeared in these columns, some well-meaning readers had doubted its inferences. Apparently, most of us had taken in by the big hype that the fundamentalist Taliban had suddenly become gentle and that they did not support the Pakistani hijackers. We were led to believe that acquisition of power and the compulsions of diplomatic recognition had made them more responsible.
Such was the build-up that commentators had even cited the magic of Jaswant Singhs oratory that was to cause a wedge between the Taliban and Islamabad for Islamic domination. Now none other than George Fernandes has set the record straight by revealing all those self-delusions on the fundamentalist game in the region. The Afghanistan-Pakistan region, he asserts, is the epicentre of Islamic terrorism. Questioning the Foreign Ministers contentions, the Defence Minister accused the Taliban and Islamabad of rationalising terrorism in the name of Islam. He called for an international coalition to deal with this threat.
Since then we have more of the real story behind the lionisation of the Taliban. We are now told that when Jaswant Singhs aircraft arrived at Kandahar with Maulana Azhar Masood and other terrorist prisoners, Talibans Minister for Civil Aviation gave a ceremonial welcome to them on the tarmac. Later when Indias Foreign Minister alighted from the aircraft, there was no one to receive him for about a quarter of an hour. Despite this humiliation, and clear hints that Kandahar was hand in glove with the hijackers, we went on showering praise on the Taliban like a Kumaramangalam or Arun Nehru switching loyalties to the BJP on the eve of the polls.
Quick-fix solutions and lack of long-term policy perceptions have cost us dear. It was this incoherence that had made even the RSS to describe it as Hindu cowardice. Of late, the RSS has been showing increasing impatience with the governments foreign policy. It has repeatedly asked the government through its mouthpiece not to take things for granted, not to act on impulses and not to substitute sane diplomacy with simple gimmicks. Its latest open warning against signing the CTBT was far more strong. The RSS leadership wants the government not to yield to arms twisting by Uncle Sam.
In an informal chat, an aging RSS veteran has emotionally narrated a series of slippery foreign policy moves by the government. He is right. In a span of 15 months the government had moved from one extreme to the other at least three times on crucial issues. This despite the fact that the PMO itself has enough foreign policy experts. It began with Pokhran II with threats of changing the subcontinents geopolitics and pro-active approach to its recalcitrant neighbour. Then it suddenly oscillated to the other extreme of shared vision of peace with Pakistan after Vajpayees euphoric bus yatra.
In this apparent over-reaction to Western ire and embargo, the government even forgot to see woods among the trees. It again oscillated to the other extreme when at the thick of the Lahore delusion it even forgot to keep routine vigil on the border and was caught napping in Kargil. This negligence cost the nation the life of 400 soldiers and an estimated Rs 5,000 crore. Similarly, the Taliban, with its proven role as an active exporter of terrorism, became a refined friend overnight. We seem to extend the rules of domestic politics to the tough and hard domain of diplomacy. Successful media build-up has succeeded in creating images, shape the national mood and win elections. But we fail to realise that all this does not break beyond our borders.
Broadly, three aspects of the Vajpayee Governments foreign policy postulate call for elaboration. First, the BJPs own ideological baggage. Any one who favours an honest heart-search into the factors responsible for the perceptible increase in hostility with our neighbours cannot ignore the basic difference between the BJP and the earlier ruling parties. The bitter truth has been that so long as a professedly anti-minority party like the BJP continues in power or is in a position to take the reins any moment, no meaningful dialogue could be expected with religious zealots across the border.
The BJP governments policy with regard to Pakistan has been an extension of its Hindutva policy at home. It is naive to hope that half-hearted initiatives or a couple of dramatic gestures might overnight wipe out this deep-rooted suspicion. Beginning with akhand Bharat, the BJP and its earlier avatar have been making the Muslim minorities and now Christians as targets. Pakistan, which was born out of the mindless Muslim communalism, has always been obsessed with this. The BJP itself had at times tried to identify Indian Muslims with Pakistan. A look at its official documents over the years will establish this point. Years of honest confidence-building alone might have erased such mutual suspicion.
Sadly, instead of doing so the BJP government went on ridiculing the Gujral doctrine which, at least, had a goodwill statement in it. The Pokhran test weeks after the BJP came to power had exploded the feeble hopes of building goodwill. More than the explosion, the subsequent crude challenge thrown by responsible Cabinet Ministers and the well-orchestrated build-up of a mass megalomania heightened tension. This further weakened saner elements in Pakistan and gave a boost to the exporters of terrorism in Afghanistan and elsewhere.
Attempts to mix Hindutva with nuclear status had adverse effects even in countries where we had enjoyed high standing. Our job seekers in the Gulf felt its communal reverberations. More than this, Pokhran II was hailed by the ruling alliance as a short-cut to Indias great power status. Earlier regimes were squarely blamed for their failure to do so. The whole establishment seemed to have the delusion of being a world power. New doctrines like China is the real threat were freely propounded.
Second, the pitfalls of the latest US-centered foreign policy left no scope for diplomatic manoeuvres. It entirely hinges on containing and isolating Pakistan by coopting the USA, the only super power. Apart from its very efficacy such a strategy would bind us with the USA and force us to share all its strategic designs in the region. It will inextricably hook us to a third country to deal with the problems with others. Our own diplomatic and strategic leverages will be lost and it will deprive us of any room for a honest bargain with either the USA or others.
Indias long silence on the naked fundamentalist intrusions into Chechnya has been a case in point. Russias armed offensive, as mentioned earlier, is closely linked with the terrorism perpetuated by the same forces in Kashmir. It has been our new anxiety to be seen on the right side of the USA that had led to our delayed response to the recognition of the rebel regime in Chechnya by the Taliban. In the normal course, we could have shared with the Russians the experience of the operations against Islamic forces.
The decision to remove quantitative restrictions on the imports of a large number of items much before the deadline has been another frantic bid to win US favour. Even such gestures have failed to yield any results. In this era of bargain diplomacy, the USA itself has its limitations. As is known, the USA had wanted the military not to stage a coup against Nawaz Sharif. Now it is forced to deal with the new dispensation on the latters own terms. The Americans had dubbed Iran as a state sponsoring terrorism but not Pakistan, even in the face of mounting evidence. We were excited when Assistant US Secretary of State Karl Inderfurth warned Pakistan against allowing the operation of terrorist groups on its territory. But soon we realised that it was only aimed at the main US foe, Osama bin Laden.
The US State Departments recent suo motu statement denying any knowledge of the Pakistani involvement in the hijack is not without significance. It indicates the differences in the perception of India and the USA on the role of Pakistan. Despite our strategy of coopting the USA to isolate Pakistan, the former is bent on pampering Islamabad on the premise that an economically weak regime might resort to nuclear proliferation to other rogue states for a price. The USA wants Pakistani cooperation as much as it needs ours.
Third, the whole US approach to what Fernandes calls the epicentre of terrorism is not in conformity with ours. America created the Taliban, and is still not against it. It prefers a Taliban leadership that will serve its regional interests, which includes huge oil reserves. US firms maintain close contact with the Islamic terrorist groups in the region to use them to further their interests. All this is intricately intertwined with the role of Islamabad and the Taliban regime.
Sadly, wages of impulsive responses have left us in a perilous plight. The BJP had come to power on the issue of its predecessors lack of political will to fight terrorism and external enemy. It had repeatedly promised to coordinate various agencies to meet the challenge. Tragically, all this has now boomeranged on it with the unprecedented ISI threat which has now forced it to adopt a pro-active policy and the limited war doctrine.
Chanakya had advised
Chandragupta: ka kaala, kaani mitraani, ko desha,
kau vyayaagama/Kasyaaham, ka cha me shakti, iti chintyam
muhur muhur. While dealing with an enemy country,
the ruler should study, again and again: is the time
ripe, who are the friends, the economics of the operation
and how is he placed to undertake the contemplated
action. Sadly, this is precisely what is missing in the
present establishment in South Block.
IN the course of his masterly address at the Kathiawad Political Conference, Mahatma Gandhi tendered very wholesome advice to Indian princes. After making it clear that Swaraj, as conceived by him, does not mean the end of kingship, Mahatmaji says:- If the institution of kingship has a moral basis, Princes are not independent proprietors, but only trustees of their subjects for the revenue received from them. It can, therefore, be spent by them only as trust money.
This principle has, as Mahatmaji points out, been almost completely carried out in the English Constitution, but in the case of Indian Princes it is honoured more in the breach than in the observance.
Mahatmaji strongly criticises the Princes for their fondness for visiting European countries, not on business or for the acquisition of knowledge, but for sake of pleasure, and rightly characterises this expenditure as intolerable.
Again, there is enough
room for economy in the unduly lavish expenditure on the
upkeep of the Princes. They may have the right to spend
money on luxuries and pleasure within certain limits, but
they cannot certainly claim unrestricted liberty in this
matter. It is time for our Princes to realise the exact
significance of these remarks.
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