The Tribune - Spectrum

Sunday, August 6, 2000

An exile and also a displaced dissident
Review by
Shelley Walia

Do’s and more do’s for you
Review by
Manuwant Singh Sethi

This is all about white and black
Review by
Padam Ahlawat

An alien messes up J&K problem
Review by
Baljit Singh

The war novel by Mulk Raj Anand
Review by
Randeep Wadehra


An exile and also a displaced dissident
Review by Shelley Walia

Edward Said: The Paradox of Identity by Bill Ashcroft and Pal Ahluwalia. Routledge, London. Pages. 166, £ 13.99.

MARX’s 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.

Freud too 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 describe.

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.

The West 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.

Bill Ashcroft 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.

The 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 positions.

Counter 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.

In explaining 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 human ends.

In the 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.

The 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.

While 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.

Nevertheless, 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.

In the 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 prosperous future.

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.

Raising his 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 struggle.

But though 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 tactician".

Instead, it 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?"

Said and 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".

An embodiment 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".

In Said’s 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.

Said is 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".

Said’s intellectual 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 contemporary world.



Do’s and more do’s for you
Review by Manuwant Singh Sethi

Maximize your 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.

THE 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.

That the 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 deserve.

The middle 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.

The 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.

Any system 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.

The second 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.

Then comes 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.

Things are 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.

We often 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.

The fifth 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.

The last chapter "What can I do?", again like a manual, lists steps in celebration of an action plan.

The greatest 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.



This is all about white and black
Review by Padam Ahlawat

South Africa: The Land of Mandela by Vijay Naik. Manas Publications, New Delhi. Pages 266. Rs 595.

SOUTH 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.

The British 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.

From 1860, 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.

By 1894, Podoland had been annexed by the British and Gandhi had begun his fight against anti-Indian laws and struggled for their right to vote.

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.

A sovereign 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.

Prospects of 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.

Nelson Mandela 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?

Deprived of 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 Party.

Mandela’s ANC 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.

Though events 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 the worlds.


An alien messes up J&K problem
Review by Baljit Singh

Faultline Kashmir by Christopher Thomas. Brunel Academic Publishers, London. Pages 215. Rs 500.

KASHMIR 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.

Predictably the 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.

Unfortunately 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.

Thus the 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 ever-changing positions".

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.

The sweeping 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 score.

Sheikh Abdullah 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".

While the 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 ensure.

The book’s 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 subject.

That said, "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.

Ironically for 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.


The war novel by Mulk Raj Anand
Write view

by Randeep Wadehra

Across the Black Waters by Mulk Raj Anand. Vision Books, New Delhi. Pages 264. Rs 495.

WORLD 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.

The innocence 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 company havildar.

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 moments.

For instance, 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 activist..."

The 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 variegated shades.

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 Front".

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 195.

Children are 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.

However, most 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.

Therefore, he 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 self-improvement.


Hindu & Sikh Wedding Ceremonies by Ramesh Chander and Urmila Dogra. Star Publications, New Delhi. Pages 192. Rs 295.

Marriages are 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.

Similarly, it 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.


Insurgency has different roots
Review by Bimal Bhatia

National 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.

INSURGENCIES 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.

Born in 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.

Connected to the rest of India through the narrow Siliguri corridor, the strategic north-eastern region has a common border with China, Bhutan, Bangladesh and Myanmar.

The original 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."

When 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 to Burma.

Phizo was 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.

Under the 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.

Causing a 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.

Expanding its 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.

With some 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.

Manipur fell 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.

Insurgency in 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.

Emerging in 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 becoming defunct.

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!

Unemployment, 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.

Longjam had 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 corruption.

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.



Afghan guerrilla war 1979-1989 redux
Review by Parshotam Mehra

Afghan war 1979-1989 Redux Afghan Communism and Soviet Intervention by Henry S Bradsher, Oxford University Press, Karachi. Pages xviii+443. Rs 550.

LONG 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.

The Taliban’s is a pariah regime to whom no nation — barring Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the UAE — is prepared to extend recognition.

More, 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!

The 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 Hazaras.

As the 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.

Among his 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?

Bradsher’s 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.

The decision 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 operate.

As months 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.

Not 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 guerrillas.

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).

In the 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.

A major 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.

Another fact 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.

Another major 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.

One word 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 intelligible.

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 history.

Henry 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.



Book extract
National security: the many angles

This is an exerpted from "Security India’s Future’’ on security issues. The second part will appear next week

AS 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 frontiers.

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.

Pakistan, for 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.

The 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."

Proceeding to 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 centuries."

These last words are just as applicable to India as to Pakistan.

— The late L.P. Singh

« « «

While 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.

With 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.

The "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. Rodrigues (retd)

« « «

While the 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 foreseeable future.

I have 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.

The 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 norm.

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.

While they 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.

Now after 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 using aircraft.

Some 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.

— K. Subrahmanyam
 "Countering missile threats"

« « «

The events, 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.

Despite the 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 of that.

Instead of 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 opinion.

A resurgent 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 own.

— Brahma Chellaney

(To be concluded)