|Wednesday, April 5, 2000,
dance of death
LAND USE POLICY
gift to Clintons diplomacy
April 5, 1925
A MACABRE twist, wholly avoidable, was given to the ongoing blood-stained saga in the Kashmir valley on Monday. The police firing which claimed seven lives, will sadden all sections of the people in this country. And ironically the situation could have been handled differently and a confrontation between the security forces and protesters could have been headed off. The people are angry that of the five men killed in a mountainous hideout in the wake of the Chittisinghpura massacre, four were harmless local villagers and not foreign militants. But two of the bodies could not be identified since they were charred beyond recognition by the heavy gun and rocket fire. The police claim that the other three were kept in the police station for the locals to come and identify them if they could. Not unnaturally, no one turned up and the bodies were buried and the security forces claimed that a villager of Chhittisinghpura, one Mohammed Yakoob Magrey and a self-confessed contact man of the militants, had revealed the names of the three whose bodies were not badly mutilated. And they were Pakistanis. From then on things spun out of control. It is not the first time that the claim of the security forces had been challenged and the people had given vent to their bitter feelings. What is new this time is the way the protest has been sustained despite factors suggesting that it should have tapered off. A magistrate has ordered a police inspector to investigate a complaint from a cluster of nearby villages that the victims were brick kiln workers who were dragged out of a mini bus and led away. The SSP of Anantnag has welcomed the probe and has also suggested that the bodies should be exhumed for re-identification. The Chief Minister too has asked the DGP to simultaneously conduct a probe. The preliminary reports should be out in a day or two. And the Army and paramilitary forces have a record of accepting the findings and punishing their wayward men, as they did after the Brijbehera firing killing several people.
Given this background,
the people should have retreated from the streets and
shops must have opened, but no. The protest continues to
simmer and there are forces keeping it that way. The
provocative antics of Pakistan TV is one of them. Sadly,
the Centre was remiss in not acting promptly and the
state governments actions do not carry much
conviction. Home Secretary Kamal Pande flew to Srinagar
to take stock of the situation and ended by talking
tough. He could have anticipated the controversy and
thrown the Centres weight behind the inquiry with
an implied assurance of action. That would have weakened
the peoples case. The Anantnag Bar Association
opened another door when it presented small pieces of the
turban and another piece of cloth of one Jumma Khan who
is missing and believed to be among the victims. The Bar
Associations stance has been pointedly
anti-crackdown but then that vests it with a degree of
credibility. With some nimble footwork, it could have
been involved in defusing the tension. The Centre
continues to talk of a pro-active policy, of
crushing the ISI-trained and ISI-inducted terrorists and
of the Hurriyat leadership lacking credibility. All these
maybe true but that is the material New Delhi has to work
on, apart from relying on the Army and para-military
forces in holding operations. The security expert who
headed the Kargil enquiry has offered an excellent
advice. Prolonged anti-insurgency operation without
tangible success will adversely affect the morale of the
fighting forces in two ways, he says. They will become
impatient and their famed discipline will slacken. He
refers to the Army and not the few divisions in the
valley. This analysis cries out for urgent action, but
the Centre is content with retooling its past plans.
CONGRESS President Sonia Gandhi has only herself to blame for having been talked into, by self-seeking partymen, taking the plunge into active politics. They made her see glimpses of Indira Gandhi in her style of functioning before she was made to commit the mistake of humiliating Mr Sitaram Kesri for taking charge of a "sinking ship". But the latest round of rumbling in the West Bengal unit of the Congress, following the defeat of her handpicked nominee in the Rajya Sabha elections, has once again given courage to Congress rebels to mobilise support against her. During Mrs Sonia Gandhi's maiden appearance as "boss" her supporters had succeeded in keeping the dissidents at bay by attributing the success of the Congress in the assembly elections in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Delhi to her " boundless charisma" as the "bahu" of Indira Gandhi. On hindsight it can now can be said that Madhya Pradesh was won because of Mr Digvijay Singh, Delhi because of the faction-fight in the Bharatiya Janata Party and Rajasthan because of a combination of the anti-incumbency factor against the BJP and the clean image of State Congress President Ashok Gehlot. The Rajya Sabha elections have once again exposed her limitations as President of the oldest political party. With an eye on the assembly elections in West Bengal the State Congress leadership is now reportedly putting pressure on the high command, read Mrs Sonia Gandhi, to do political business with Trinamool Congress President Mamta Banerjee. In simple language the Congress is willing to live in the rapidly increasing shadow of the Trinamool Congress in West Bengal rather than face political oblivion. And the irony is that West Bengal Congressmen have begun the exercise of wooing the Trinamool Congress even before getting the green signal from Delhi and before Mrs Banerjee has explained her party's stand on its alliance with the BJP. To be fair Mrs Sonia Gandhi is fast running out of options for containing the threat to her leadership.
The report that she has
decided to start a mass contact programme for reviving
the Congress is neither here nor there. She may start a
padyatra like Mahatma Gandhi or a rath yatra like Mr L.
K. Advani, because this is free country. But she will,
sooner than later, have to reckon with the fact that she
simply does not have the necessary political intuition
for doing for the Congress what Indira Gandhi did after
the first split in 1969 and the rout of the party
following the lifting of the Emergency. Those who dared
to defy Indira Gandhi ended up losing their political
identity. But the same cannot be said about Mrs Sonia
Gandhi. She is a leader in perpetual retreat. Just about
every provision of the Pachmarhi Declaration has been
violated because the Gandhi "bahu" has failed
to deliver on the promise of making the Congress the
force it was when its control came in the hands of Rajiv
Gandhi. The Trinamool Congress has emerged as a powerful
regional party in West Bengal, capable of ending the
25-year rule of the Left Front, on its own steam. The
Tamil Maanila Congress of Mr G. K. Moopanar in Tamil Nadu
and the Nationalist Congress Party of Mr Sharad Pawar in
Maharashtra too have struck regional roots. When Indira
Gandhi was the boss the message to Congressmen was
"defy and perish". Today the writing on the
wall outside the Congress headquarters in Delhi could
well be "defy and flourish". It is becoming
clear with each passing day that Mrs Sonia Gandhi is more
"Rajiv Gandhi" than "Indira Gandhi".
Why? Because Rajiv Gandhi did not waste much time in
reducing the Congress, which had won a record-setting
mandate in the Lok Sabha elections after the
assassination of Indira Gandhi, into a party in retreat
within a span of five years. Since then the Congress has
never won an absolute majority in the Lok Sabha. And Mrs
Sonia Gandhi does not look like a leader who can change
TO some it may appear that Turkeys desire to upgrade its relations with India, as expressed by Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit during his just-concluded three-day visit to New Delhi, ignoring Pakistan, its ally for decades, is because of an apparent shift in the USA's South Asia policy. There may be some grain of truth in this perception, but the fact remains that in the emerging post-Cold War scene no world power can bypass India. The Turkish Prime Minister has shown pragmatism in preferring India over Pakistan as Islamabad is getting a dressing- down in most world capitals these days. Mr Ecevit has identified areas in which his country and India can cooperate with each other. Both have been victims of cross-border terrorism and can benefit from each other's experience in handling this menace. However, India's case is entirely different as the people in Jammu and Kashmir will be least interested in subversive activities if Pakistan shuns its programme of training and arming mercenaries and other misguided elements for its proxy war. Pakistan's involvement in the trouble in India is now an established fact and Turkey should have no difficulty in condemning Islamabad's dark designs, though it has not done so far very clearly. But the Kurdish issue is quite complicated and the Turkish government has been criticised the world over for its harsh ways of handling it, leading to human rights violations. India may find it difficult to wholeheartedly support Turkey in its campaign against the Kurdish movement.
Both India and Turkey
are secular democracies but faced with the problem of
religious fundamentalism. Turkey had been free from this
problem for a long time, but it is resurfacing again.
Both countries can learn a lot from each other's
experience in this highly sensitive area. But more than
anything else, both can benefit greatly in the area of
economic development by strengthening their relations.
India is the biggest market in the region after China. A
large percentage of India's population has enviable
purchasing power. India is soon going to be recognised as
an information technology super power. And nowadays it is
basically industry and trade which guide a country's
foreign policy. Turkey too must be influenced by this
factor while extending so warmly its hand of friendship
to India. Earlier Ankara has been least interested in New
Delhi because of its Cold War compulsions. Now that the
situation has changed altogether, Turkey is looking for
new and useful friends, economically and strategically.
In South Asia, India is bound to figure very high on its
priority list. So far as India is concerned, Turkey can
serve as a powerful bridge to secure maximum economic
benefits from Central Asia. Most Western consortiums are
laying their oil and gas pipelines from Central Asia to
Europe through the Turkish port of Ceyhan. Thus Turkey
can be helpful in India's efforts to ensure adequate oil
and gas supplies from Central Asian sources. Friendly
relations with Turkey can make it easier for India to
corner Pakistan at different world fora, including those
in West Asia. Moreover, the present Turkish Head of
Government is an Indophile. The opportunity that has come
India's way must be seized.
LAND USE POLICY
INDIAS burgeoning population and the steady degradation in its soil health have brought into focus the need for evolving a comprehensive and perspective land use plan for this most important natural resource. The absence of such a plan has already created serious problems for agriculture and allied fields as also for urbanisation where the situation is turning chaotic. Though the central and some of the state governments have, in the past over 25 years, made some half-hearted attempts to evolve a land use policy, they have done pretty little to take concrete steps to tackle the problem.
The present BJP-led NDA government has now proposed to have a fresh look at the issue. In his budget speech, Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha announced the governments decision to set up a national commission on land use policy comprising experts in the relevant fields to examine the various aspects and make appropriate recommendations. Detailing the objective behind the decision, he said that there is urgent need to review and coordinate our long-term strategy at the national and the state levels on the pattern of land use in the country, the development of agriculture in relation to the agro-climatic conditions in the different regions and the preservation of our forest resources. We need to adopt an integrated approach to a number of related subjects such as preservation and development of forest wealth, optimum utilisation of wasteland, watershed development, safe guarding biodiversity, etc.
To view it in proper perspective, two aspects of the land use issue need to be highlighted. One is the gravity the problem has acquired. The other is the failure of our successive rulers, particularly in the states, to take short-term and long-term measures to tackle the aggravating situation.
The magnitude of the problem can be gauged from the fact that about 174 million hectares 53 per cent of the total geographical area of the country is suffering from various degrees of degradation consisting of water and wind erosion, salt-affected soil, deforestation, shifting cultivation waterlogging, areas suffering from gullies and ravines, etc. The net sown area in the country is about 142.8 million hectares which has been stagnant for the last 15 years though the population pressure is increasing constantly. There are 24.18 million hectares of land which fall under the categories of fallow land other than current fallow and culturable waste lands which can be brought under cultivation or productive use. In addition, about 14.8 million hectares, which is unproductive wasteland, could also be brought under productive use to enhance its productivity.
The problems of land degradation in the Green Revolution states, particularly Punjab and Haryana, are becoming acute. Intensive cultivation, over-exploitation of underground water resources and particular cropping patterns have led to degradation in soil health and erosion in the micro-nutrient reserves along with alarming depletion in the water-table. On the other hand, rapid urbanisation has been eating into the fertile land, especially in the agriculturally advanced states.
That India needed to evolve a land use policy was first posed by the late Mr B.B. Vohra, a Punjab cadre IAS officer, then Additional Secretary, Union Ministry of Agriculture, in a paper titled A Charter for the Land in 1973. A visionary Indira Gandhi in her note on the paper observed: I feel that we can no longer afford to neglect our most important natural resource. This is not simply an environment problem but one which is basic to the future of our country. The stark question before us is whether our soul will be productive enough to sustain a population of one billion by the end of this century at higher standards of living than now prevail. We must have long-term plans to meet this contingency.
As a follow-up action, Mr F.A. Ahmed, the then Union Agriculture Minister, and Mr Jagjivan Ram asked the Chief Ministers to set up Land Use Boards in their respective states. Though these boards were constituted in most of the states and Union Territories by 1974 and later restructured in 1985, most of these have either virtually remained non-functional or have been treated by ruling politicians as dumping ground for unwanted officers. Kerala and UP provide some exceptions. They have done some useful work.
In December, 1986, a study group was set up by the National Land Use and Conservation Board to go into the whole question of working of the SLUBs. It submitted its report in December, 1987. Based on this report, the Centre announced the National Land Use Policy in 1988. Earlier, a 19-point agenda was adopted based on the decisions taken at the first meeting of the National Land Use and Wasteland Development Council. Apart from again stressing the need for revitalisation of the SLUBs, the agenda sought evolution of a land use policy and enacting of legislation for its enforcement.
Some of the other important points of the agenda are: restructuring of the urban policy so as to ensure that highly productive land is not taken away; reviewing of cropping patterns, especially in drought-prone/desert areas to take maximum advantage of improved soil and water management practices; completion of land and soil surveys and preparation of inventory of land resources in each state; bringing under control of the problems of waterlogging, salinity and alkalinity by using appropriate technologies; control of the practice of shifting cultivation in order to protect valuable forests and integration of land use planning with rural employment programmes in such a manner that loans and subsidies are given only for those productive activities which represent efficient land use.
But the apathy of the successive ruling groups in the states towards these laudable objectives has, instead of solving the problem, aggravated it. SLUBs in most states are virtually being treated by their respective governments as an illegitimate and toothless child with inadequate staff and poor funding affecting their working. For instance, the Haryana SLUB has been treated by successive state governments as a dumping ground for its unwanted officers with their turnover so fast as to give the impression of being a stop-gap arrangement for the rehabilitation of officers. No land use policy and perspective plan has so far been finalised by the government. Although Punjab has formulated its perspective plan, the government is still trying to obtain the comments of the land user departments on the 19-point national agenda.
It is a peculiar situation in Maharashtra. The government had set up SLUB in 1976 under the chairmanship of the Chief Minister. It has since constituted Integrated Waste Land Development Mission. The state governments representative told the annual national review meeting of the State Land Use Boards held at Thiruvananthapuram in November, 1999, that he did not know whether SLUB still existed but its activities would be taken care of by the Mission.
In sharp contrast to most SLUBs the SLUB in Kerala has done very useful work. Having a full-fledged organisation which includes technically qualified field experts, the board has the Kerala State Remote Sensing Centre under it. Land use maps upto panchayat levels have been finalised and are extensively used in the planning process. A comprehensive resources-based perspective plan upto 2020 has been prepared for land resource conservation development and management.
Similarly, the UP SLUB has also a full-fledged establishment and change of land use from agriculture to non-agriculture purposes falls within its jurisdiction. The state has also finalised its land use policy.
The government of India has since suggested to the states to give priority to a four-point immediate agenda: (i) Preparation of a perspective plan for the next 25 years, keeping in view the increasing demand of population; (ii) Preparation of a state land use policy with legislative support for implementation; (iii) Comments on national land use policy outline for its further improvement; and (iv) Follow-up action on studies conducted by SLUBs in the past.
Keeping in view the state governments past apathy and poor record of dealing with the problem of degradation in soil health, it would be futile to expect better performance from the present coalition-era rulers. They are more busy in fighting their inter-party and intra-party power battles. Also land mafias and vested economic interests now wield greater influence and power over them than in the past.
Failure to restore and
preserve soil health, particularly in the countrys
foodgrains bowl of Punjab and Haryana, can pose a serious
threat to Indias food security in the years to
come. The disastrous effect such a failure will have on
the urbanisation process and the countrys
environment is difficult to gauge.
Summit: move to claw back power
THE vast majority of the worlds peoples are disenfranchised by the brave new world of international decision-making, because the USA and Europe have sidelined the United Nations in favour of undemocratic institutions such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organisation (WTO), where they rule supreme.
Developing countries would like to increase their collective negotiating power in these organisations which is the reason behind the South Summit in Havana on April 10-14.
The Summit has taken three years of planning, and aims to send a clear message to the rest of the world on four key issues facing the South: globalisation, North-South relations, South-South cooperation, and knowledge and technology.
Organised by the Group of 77 (G77), it will be the largest single gathering of premiers, presidents and government leaders from the Third World. Established in 1964 by 77 founder-nations, the G77 now brings together 133 countries from Asia, Africa, the Americas and the Middle East. It represents the aspirations of 80 per cent of the worlds population.
Many of those people have failed to benefit from globalisation. Cuban President Fidel Castro, who will open the conference with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, says globalisation has aggravated existing inequalities and raised social inequities and the gaps between wealth and extreme poverty to extreme levels.
To see globalisation work to the benefit of the poor as well as the rich, the G77 needs to address the marginalisation of the developing world in North-South relations. The Group itself was originally set up to enhance the capacity of developing countries in international negotiations, given the enormous impact of global treaties on the development potential of their economies and their people.
Yet the rich countries of the industrialised world continue to sideline Third World representatives at international meetings. Never has this been more clearly shown than at the WTO conference in the US city of Seattle in December, where US and European Union negotiating teams went into closed session to hammer out an agreement on behalf of all WTO members.
Delegates from the developing world were told to wait in the cafe until it was time for them to sign up to the deal.
In the end, angry resistance from African delegates exposed the total absence of democracy at the WTO and brought the curtain down on the Seattle fiasco. Yet developing countries still face an uphill struggle to make their arguments count: US and European negotiators are already forging new deals on trade liberalisation which disregard the concerns of the Third World.
For years, politicians in the Third World have called for more cooperation between developing countries in order to share the benefits of their experience and to break their dependence on the North. Cuba itself has been a leader in this field: more than 25,000 Cuban doctors have gone to work in dozens of Third World countries to provide the high level of healthcare for which their country is famed.
Globally, however, South-South cooperation has been scaled down over the past two decades as many poorer countries have struggled to maintain their own domestic services. Structural adjustment programmes (World Bank-sponsored economic reforms) and the debt burden have forced developing countries to cut spending on basic health and education still further.
In such circumstances the harsh realities of survival can make exporting expertise seem a low priority. Yet the sharing of skills and experience could bring great benefits to the countries of the South, and Third World solidarity remains an important rallying cry. Chief Arthur Mbanefo, Nigerias UN Ambassador and current chairman of the G77, puts it more starkly: The member countries of the Group of 77 recognise that no one will do for them what they are not prepared to do for themselves.
South-South cooperation could also help many of the worlds poorest communities gain access to the new skills and technologies which are increasingly important in todays world especially as countries such as India and Malaysia develop their own high-tech industries.
Nevertheless, most new technologies continue to be concentrated in industrialised countries and, as Chief Mbanefo admits, gaining access requires technology and skills transfer from the North: The North has all the advances in the field of electronic business and we have to catch up at some point, so we must be prepared to take advantage of what they have to offer.
The G77 also needs to reassert its own authority as the political voice of the developing world. A product of the more idealistic, post-independence 1960s, the G77 is based within the UN system and operates through the major UN development agencies. Its strength stems from the democratic procedures of the UN institutions in which it works.
Its weakness is that these fora are increasingly bypassed in the brave new world of international decision-making.
The G77 could thus find itself sidelined, too. Developing countries need to explore new ways of increasing their collective negotiating power. In March, trade ministers from Egypt, Nigeria and South Africa set up a new Third World grouping at the WTO designed to strengthen the position of developing countries at that forum. Brazil and India are expected to join shortly.
The South Summit offers the G77 an excellent opportunity to reassert its importance at the opening of the new millennium. It will produce two major documents: a declaration embodying the Souths vision for a fairer world, and a platform for action which will detail the specific measures needed to bring about change.
With the UN Millennium Summit coming up in September, this declaration of vision and values will act as a focal point for campaigners and activists the world over, and stand as an alternative Southern agenda for the new age. Gemini
IN the pre-Independence period the Commander-in-Chief in India in rank was next to the Viceroy. The Commanders of the other two Services were subordinate to him. The Naval Commander was nomenclatured as the Flag Officer Commanding Royal Indian Navy and the Airforce one as Air Officer Commanding Royal Indian Airforce.
The Commander-in-Chiefs committee met daily at 9.30 a.m. and fulfilled a useful purpose and ensured that all the principal officers met each other daily. From the archives I was able to glean some extracts from the Godfrey Papers. Vice-Admiral J.H. Godfrey, Royal Navy, was the Flag Officer Commanding Royal Indian Navy from March, 1943, to March, 1946.
The Committee met in the Commander-in-Chiefs room and was presided over at that period of time by Field Marshal Sir Claude Auchinleck, a distinguished officer who returned to India as Commander-in-Chief after a successful stint in North Africa and remained here until 1947. The committee meetings were attended by the Chief of General Staff, Deputy Commander-in-Chief, Military Heads of Departments and Chandulal Trivedi the only Indian, who was then the Additional Secretary Defence. Philip Mason, also of the ICS, was secretary of the committee.
The Godfrey Papers have some interesting recordings. One of them relates to the Burma Campaign. After a depressing recital by the Chief of the General Staff (CGS) of the progress of the war in Burma, someone said, well, things cant get much worse. Trivedi a realist, (who was later specially selected by Mountbatten, to be the Governor of Punjab), disagreed observing that there is no upper limit to chaos, an aphorism which Godfrey records he used with telling effect on several occasions.
The other incident also concerned the Burma Campaign where the braying of our mules was apt to give away the position of troops. The QMG (Phil Vickers) announced triumphantly that the vets had succeeded in devocalising the mules in Burma, whereupon Roome, the E-in-C said he hoped that one of the first acts in our post-war reconstruction programme would be to restore their brays. Every one laughed except the Chief Claude Auchinleck.
John Godfrey is remembered in India as Commander of the Navy when the Service experienced a major mutiny. He handled it disastrously and amongst other things broadcast from the All India Radio at that time February, 1946 that he would not hesitate to sink the whole Indian Navy if the mutineers did not surrender. He even brought some ships of the Royal Navy including the cruiser Glasgow to help him fulfil his mission. As a young Lieutenant of the then Royal Indian Navy I witnessed the mutiny from a building opposite the Castle Barracks, the Navys main shore establishment at that time.
It is the custom in the
United Kingdom that their service officers who reach the
rank of Vice-Admiral and equivalent in the other two
services are knighted. In their own silent way the
British took notice of Godfreys inept handling of a
major situation and passed him over as a silent measure
of displeasure and disapproval and he was probably one of
the few who were not knighted by the British Sovereign.
gift to Clintons diplomacy
NEITHER the Indian nor the American media coverage of President Bill Clintons India trip appears to have identified the most defining event which occurred in connection with his visit.
This was not his speech before the Indian Parliament, its measured tones and sensible admonitions notwithstanding. It was not the obvious hit he made with the Indian public through his personal magnetism. Nor was it the refreshing absence of the pontifical rhetoric that many feared might mar an otherwise golden opportunity to at last put US-India relations on a more constructive track. Nor, finally, was it the summatory document entitled, India-US relations: A vision for the 21st century, whose purpose is to lay the foundations for a more institutionalised process of political, economic and security dialogues between the two states.
In the end, it took the Pakistanis to add the ingredient which put Clintons visit over the top. This, of course, was the act of wanton terrorism committed by Pakistani-backed Kashmiri separatists resulting in the massacre of 35 innocent Sikh civilians right under President Clintons nose. Nothing could have more vividly driven home the fundamental differences between the two South Asian states than did this act of unbelievable stupidity.
It demonstrated as nothing else could what the more perceptive South Asia analysts on both sides of the world have been trying to get across to American administrations for years. Namely, that it is Pakistan and not India which is and has been the principal impediment to peace and stability in South Asia. And that the key to achieving peace and stability (and along with it economic prosperity) in South Asia is to once and for all recognise, encourage and reward Indias democratic achievements while putting a stop to the bankrupt policy (born in the crucible of the cold war) of promoting and rewarding the perpetuation of Pakistans military machine, which has sustained a corrupt, feudal elite since Pakistans inception as a nation.
Together, they have conscientiously inhibited the evolution of democratic political institutions in that country and employed obsessive hatred of India, terrorism, jingoistic Islamicism, and phony anti-Communism (designed to placate their American benefactors) as the principal means of clinging to power and preserving their privileges while doing almost nothing to improve the lot of ordinary Pakistanis.
Admittedly, in keeping with the usual diplomatic niceties, Clinton cannot be expected to bluntly declare that his administration now sees the extent of the difference between India and Pakistan that one state used its 50 years of independence to create a genuinely civil society while the other careened from one dictatorship to another and provoked one war after another in the region, while its economy sank into ruins. But his unequivocal repudiation of the Chittisinghpora massacre in southern Kashmir and subsequent public utterances as he moved about India make it apparent that the difference has been duly noted and will be acted upon.
New York Times correspondent Barry Bearak has put it that the difference between Washingtons perceptions of India and Pakistan seems to be the difference between a potential market and a potential disaster. While true, there is more than just economics behind the perceptual change. It is also a measure of the degree to which the simplicities and the truisms of the cold war era are at last on the wane.
Previous membership in the right ideological camp doesnt count the way it used to. General Pervez Musharrafs statements prior to Clintons arrival in Islamabad indicate that he hadnt really grasped this point. Musharraf sounded as if he still believed that when push came to shove Pakistans status as the loyal cold war ally would somehow once again carry the day. It turned out, however, that being in the right institutional camp is what counts. And Pakistan, with its military dictatorship, its subsidising of terrorism, its moribund economy and its paralytic civil society, resides in the wrong institutional camp.
Chittisinghpora, in the context of Clintons visit, had still another unanticipated and thus far unanalysed effect. This pertains to Indias current anguishing over what kind of a political society it ought to be. It is no secret that the dominant party in the countrys present ruling coalition, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), espouses a type of Hindu denominationalism and nationalism which implicitly challenges the efficacy of secularism and pluralism as currently embodied in the Indian Constitution. The partys hardline right wing makes no secret of its yearning to cleanse India of much of its ethno-cultural diversity.
The BJPs more moderate wing, represented by Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, publicly eschews any such ethno-cultural final solutions. Nevertheless, even they send out veiled signals from time to time that their reticence is governed more by political expediency than high principle (as, for example, their less than unequivocal denunciation of violence against Christian missionaries, and their Heider-like initial acceptance of, but later backing away from, the decision by a certain chief minister to allow government servants in the state, whom current law says are supposed to be ideologically neutral, to join the ultra-reactionary, Hindu-chauvinist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh or RSS).
Efforts to capitalise on the contrast between the Pakistani and Indian political systems which the Chittisinghpora massacre revealed, while Clinton was physically present in the country, put Vajpayee and other BJP leaders on the spot. To do so they were compelled, rhetorically at least, to gravitate further towards the political centre in the sense of adopting a more liberal posture on secularism and ethnic diversity than they had previously shown any inclination to do.
The Home Minister, Mr L.K. Advani, now declared that the Central government must evolve a strategy to protect all sections of Kashmiri society (meaning Sikhs and Muslims as well as Hindus). Statements were made which endorsed greater decentralisation of state power in order to afford greater political protection to those who feel alienated from the mainstream (i.e., ethnic and religious minorities). This because regional parties are now such powerful forces in Indian politics and tend to be more cognisant of the special rights and needs of the culturally diverse groups who inhabit the grassroots.
So we may conclude that Bill Clintons South Asia pilgrimage bore more fruit than might normally have been expected from such a symbolically diffuse venture in diplomacy, not solely due to the good choreography which his aides and advisers put together for him, but thanks mostly to the alacrity with which Pakistans military dictator at the propitious moment showed his countrys true colours.
Chittisinghpora not only enhanced the American Presidents ability to set the stage for a new and healthier relationship between India and the United States but perhaps, as well, put Indias Hindu nationalists on notice that preserving the secular state is a necessary aspect of maintaining the distinction between India and Pakistan upon whose basis that healthier relationship alone can rest.
India Abroad News Service
IN the course of his tribute to the memory of Lord Curzon, Lord Hardinge lays his finger on one essential defect of Lord Curzons angle of vision as Viceroy, to which inadequate reference has been made in the obituary notices of that distinguished Englishman in this country, his failure to open the door for the employment of more Indians in the higher ranks of the administration.
That this failure was no mere accident but was the outcome of a deliberate policy can unhappily admit of no doubt.
In a famous speech he
laid down the principle that while Indians might be
employed in larger numbers in subordinate offices the
corps de elite of the Imperial Services must be manned
principally, if not exclusively, by Europeans, because
only by that means could the British character of the
administration be maintained in tact. Here was not only a
most obnoxious racial generalisation, but a deliberate
insult hurled at Indias manhood.
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