Friday, September 8, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


E D I T O R I A L   P A G E


Calling USA on the cheap
RIME MINISTER Atal Behari Vajpayee is carrying a dazzling gift for US telephone operators. They can now hire or lay fibre optic cables and compete with the government monopoly, Videsh Sanchar Nigam Limited (VSNL). One of the last things the Prime Minister did before he boarded the plane was to get the Cabinet to clear the decks for throwing open this lucrative business to private operators. 

Millennium Summit
NITED NATIONS Secretary-General Kofi Annan deserves a standing ovation for putting the millennium mania to constructive use. The Millennium Summit of Spiritual Leaders was his brainchild. It did serve the purpose of making heads of different religions and sects accept the basic commonality of all faiths which are bound by the thread of spirituality. 


“NaPak” and revolting
September 7, 2000
Food for free
September 6, 2000
RBI’s urgent warnings
September 5, 2000
Apex court is angry
September 4, 2000
Battle for White House hots up
September 3, 2000
Of numbers and seats 
September 2, 2000
Small mercy this 
September 1, 2000
Adding insult to injury 
August 31, 2000

Challenges before Vajpayee
by Hari Jaisingh
HERE does India stand in America’s strategic thinking and politico-economic calculations? The answer is both simple and complex, depending upon how one looks at the US reaction to Indian sensitivities concerning the subcontinent and beyond.


Towards a firm relationship  
by Bharat Wariavwalla
F the various visits that the Indian Prime Ministers have made to the USA in the past 50 years, Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee’s visit seems most promising. The reason for this is simple: we have gone up appreciably in the American pecking order of nations.


Living two lives 
by Michael Hogan
ESTERDAY morning, at about 9.30, I was waiting on the edge of the main road where it curves past Mashobra, looking out for the bus, when a friend of mine from the village strolled by.


United Nations: godmen to the rescue? 
By M.S.N. Menon
ELIGIONS divide men. Politics divides men. Economics divides men. And cultures divide men. They all divide. What on earth is it that unites men? I looked for an answer from the thousand or so of those who had gathered — they were all men of God — at the Millennium World Peace Summit in New York. But they had no answer.



Calling USA on the cheap

PRIME MINISTER Atal Behari Vajpayee is carrying a dazzling gift for US telephone operators. They can now hire or lay fibre optic cables and compete with the government monopoly, Videsh Sanchar Nigam Limited (VSNL). One of the last things the Prime Minister did before he boarded the plane was to get the Cabinet to clear the decks for throwing open this lucrative business to private operators. This has been a persistent demand of both US multinationals and their friends among Indian reforms advocates. They felt incomplete without the presence of big “players” like AT&T, Singtel (Singapore Telecom) and BT (British Telecom). All of them are expected to set up shop by April 1, 2001, and cut deep into the VSNL business and profit. It is obvious that VSNL will lose heavily. At present it charges over Rs 60 for a minute for a telephone call to the USA, while calls from America cost a third of it. No doubt, it pays more than Rs 100 a share as dividend, with its scrip selling at over Rs 3000 in December before crashing to Rs 814.95 on Wednesday. Its potential revenue decline is also evident from the compensation the government, which holds 52.97 per cent of shares, is offering. For the next five years it will get Rs 700 crore a year and VSNL will also get a free hand to enter trunk telephone service, Internet service and maybe cellular phones. The government has asked an international consultancy to quickly estimate the financial implications of ending the VSNL monopoly. When the report comes after a fortnight, more help is likely, like a share in the revenue from international competitors. VSNL came into existence in 1988 and became the sole international subscriber dialing facility six years later. Its agreement with the government was for 10 years but has ended two years earlier by mutual consent. Originally, the Department of Telecommunications opposed the proposal before falling in line.

VSNL is not the only telecommunications giant to get into front page news on Wednesday. The employees of the Department of Telecom Services (DTS) thrust their organisation under the spotlight by going on an indefinite strike. The government has done two obvious things. It has claimed that the local and long-distance services are normal and has accused the three lakh-strong workforce of resorting to this extreme step without any reason. Still the employees have two genuine fears. One, with the DTS being made into a company and long-distance telephone services being thrown open to private operators, profit will come tumbling down and force the government to sell off the new corporation. That means loss of jobs on a large scale. Two, if there is a regular loss, their promised pension will never come, and to ensure payment the government should take over the direct responsibility by making it a charge the Consolidated Fund of India (or, out of the Union Budget). The government has failed to convince the agitated workers and the offer of fancy salaries by prospective private companies to a few efficient engineers has added to the apprehension of early unemployment. Without sitting on judgement, it is essential to stress the point that economic reforms and strikes do not go together. And in this case the government should go the extra mile to end the work stoppage. 


Millennium Summit

UNITED NATIONS Secretary-General Kofi Annan deserves a standing ovation for putting the millennium mania to constructive use. The Millennium Summit of Spiritual Leaders was his brainchild. It did serve the purpose of making heads of different religions and sects accept the basic commonality of all faiths which are bound by the thread of spirituality. The three-day Millennium Summit of Heads of Government and State which opened in New York on Wednesday too is the result of Mr Annan's tireless effort to make the world leaders share a common platform for presenting their respective points of view on how to make the evolving global village a happy place to live in. Who could have imagined that Cuban President Fidel Castro would one day be allowed to set foot on American soil for sharing his views on the basics of global peace with leaders from 150 countries - the biggest ever assembly of world leaders at the UN? As usual, Pakistan's skewed sense of occasion and propriety manifested itself on the opening day of the summit with self-appointed Chief Executive Pervez Musharraf introducing a discordant note by raking up the Kashmir issue. Why do all Pakistani leaders, self-appointed or elected, sound like stuck a gramophone record? They must be searched for the parrot which makes them repeat the K word with monotonous regularity at international forums. General Musharraf, like other Pakistani military dictators, did not have much to say on the restoration of democracy in the benighted country. But for the false note struck by the Pakistani dictator the summit did succeed in giving glimpses of a possible blueprint for global peace. However, before Mr Annan could present his views on how to reduce global tension and conflicts, he had to share with the General Assembly the news of renewed attacks by pro-Indonesian militias on the UN staff in East Timor.

Ever since East Timor voted for independence from Indonesia, armed gangsters have ensured that peace does not return to the former Protuguese colony. In the fresh attacks at least four UN personnel were killed in the western part of the island. This was exactly the theme of US President Bill Clinton's last address to the special millennium session of the General Assembly. He spoke of the dawn of a new era where globalisation and information technology are bringing people closer, and of the kind of challenges and responsibility which lay ahead for the UN. But the more pertinent point he made was that ever since the creation of the UN 55 years ago, for saving mankind from the scourge of war, there have been fewer conflicts in which one nation or group of nations was pitted against another nation or group. However, instead of celebrating the success of the UN in reducing global conflicts, the world leaders are now saddled with the more challenging responsibility of putting out bush fires - which if not controlled can turn into a major conflagration - in the form of civil wars caused by ethnic or religious factors. He summed up the situation aptly by stating that "most disputes and conflicts are not so clear-cut. Here there is no alternative to principled compromise and giving up old grudges in order to get on with life. Right now, from the Middle East to Burundi to Congo to South Asia, leaders are facing this kind of choice between confrontation and compromise". However, in a world which is shrinking at a rapid pace because of technological factors, even local conflicts tend to disturb the peace of the global village. President Mohammad Khatami of Iran, who was among those who addressed the opening session of the Millennium Summit, made a refreshingly enlightened and well-argued presentation for reducing areas of tension. His thesis in defence of promoting the forces of democracy and encouraging the policy of reducing global conflicts and domestic tensions through the process of dialogue may have had an element of deja vu. But coming from the leader of a theocratic state, which came close to being declared a terrorist state after the overthrow of the Shah of Iran, it was like a whiff of fresh air. The day leaders in Pakistan and Congo, in Burundi and West Asia, in South Asia and other areas of conflict start speaking the language of President Khatami the UN would not have to start a historic session by announcing the killing of its personnel on humanitarian duty in East Timor.


Challenges before Vajpayee
by Hari Jaisingh

WHERE does India stand in America’s strategic thinking and politico-economic calculations? The answer is both simple and complex, depending upon how one looks at the US reaction to Indian sensitivities concerning the subcontinent and beyond.

There are several grey areas which make Indo-American relations fluctuate sharply between “love” and “hate”. Right now, there is more of “love plus” than “hate minus”, howsoever superficially packaged. It is probably President Clinton’s little tilt in favour of this country that has made a difference in America’s standing in South Asia.

The question that can be legitimately asked is whether the warmth in the relations felt these days will continue when the new incumbent occupies the White House on January 20 next year.

In fact, the real test for India’s foreign policy-makers begins now, with the current visit of Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee to the USA. This will provide them an opportunity to closely understand some of the major players who decide America’s foreign policy goals. It will also be worthwhile to know the key persons in the camps of the two presidential candidates — Mr Al Gore and Mr George Bush.

What is, however, equally important is how our policy-makers in South Block identify national interests and what sort of alternative options they work out to achieve our objectives. This requires an objective assessment and projection of our foreign policy goals. This is possible if we keep certain harsh facts in view.

First, it needs to be appreciated that emotions and emotional responses do not make or unmake relationships. I am saying this specifically in the context of Indo-US relations.

True, democracy is the silken bond between the two countries. A number of people in New Delhi and Washington swear by democracy and underline the need for the world’s two largest democracies to work together for mutual benefit and in the larger interest of global peace, prosperity and security.

Most Indians look towards the USA with great expectations in the hope that America’s response towards this country will one day become more positive than what has been the case so far.

These are very legitimate feelings. What is, however, forgotten in the process is the fact that the making of America’s foreign policy is a highly complex exercise which is born out of hard calculations.

Nothing is guided by emotions in the USA. Even in the name of democracy. Much will depend on the occupant of the White House whose attitude can make a difference in the conduct of foreign policy, but not substantially.

The State Department and the Pentagon play a decisive role in identifying America’s global interests and targets. There are also powerful interest groups and lobbies which cannot be ignored. Equally vital are America’s economic interests as perceived by the chief executives of top US multinationals. They do influence major policy decisions, one way or the other.

Second, some critics have raised the question whether the timing of the visit by the Prime Minister to Washington is appropriate since Mr Bill Clinton is a “lame duck” President. This is true to a large extent since the American public will be pre-occupied with the election process and campaigning during the next two months.

As it is, India does not count much in the US media calculations.

There will, therefore, be not much enthusiasm for Mr Vajpayee’s presence. Yet the visit has its own significance. The gesture shown by President Clinton to the Indian dignitary should count a lot in strengthening the relationship between the two countries.

Mr Vajpayee’s address to the US Congress is in itself a unique honour. This will have some impact on the minds of the Congressmen representing the American people. In fact, pro-India caucuses in the House of Representatives and the Senate have played the most significant role in the post-cold war period. Whoever comes to power in the USA, India will continue to bank on the sympathy and attention of these American representatives.

It must be said that India is now being increasingly taken more seriously than was the case earlier. The Americans are now looking at this country as a new Asian economic power. Viewed in this light, everything that India does or does not do is closely noticed by policy-makers in the USA.

Americans, after all, go by the value of the market available to them. After China, India’s is the biggest market which has a tremendous potential for growth. Our policy-makers would do well to exploit this fact to derive the maximum advantage and support from the USA.

There is nothing like a free lunch. In diplomacy, everything is give and take. What is tragic in the conduct of India’s foreign policy is that our policy makers often settle for a few crumbs while conceding major concessions in different areas to others. Here we need to have a sharper focus on the pursuit of our foreign policy goals.

Third, there is no denying the fact that the USA has considerable interest in the goings-on in the subcontinent and beyond. It takes keen interest in Kashmir affairs and plays a quiet role in influencing events, whether we like it or not.

Perhaps, we have no choice. However, the moot point is: do we know what Americans are up to? Do they want an independent Kashmir to emerge? Or, do they desire to divide Kashmir along the Line of Control (LoC)? Or, do they want General Pervez Musharraf to grab Kashmir in the name of old strategic ties? We have also to find out whether the USA really wants India to adopt tough postures to eliminate foreign mercenaries and other forces of terrorism.

These are not hypothetical questions. We need to have a clear perspective of not only Pakistani objectives but also of American calculations. We simply cannot ignore the US factor in the subcontinent. This is the harsh reality.

At the same time, it would be a folly on our part to expect the USA to fight our battle. We must fight our own battles firmly and decisively. The making of foreign policy is a complex process. Very often it is reactive to actions or initiatives taken by others. What matters here is the process of formulation, achieving the set objectives and its execution. Unfortunately, big gaps remain in our objectives and action on the ground. This reflects poorly on the quality of leadership.

Jawaharlal Nehru gave India its foreign policy with an attractive baggage of theory, idealism, ideology and practice. He, too, failed to deliver the goods at certain critical moments, especially with regard to Kashmir. Foreign relations now stand de-idealised. But alternative options are not yet properly evolved.

We need to identify the basic ingredients and interests in our foreign policy. We expect Mr Vajpayee to be both clear and forthright on the basic issues of policy we wish to pursue. He also must be clear and categorical on eliminating Pakistan-sponsored terrorism in Kashmir and finding for India its rightful place as a permanent member of the UN Security Council.

There should be no compromise on terrorist activity aided and abetted by Islamabad. In fact, today it is more menacing than a full-fledged war. For, terrorism interferes with the country’s legitimate national interests and hence poses a real threat to peace in the subcontinent. Washington needs to appreciate this harsh fact for the sake of Indo-American economic interests.


Towards a firm relationship  
by Bharat Wariavwalla

OF the various visits that the Indian Prime Ministers have made to the USA in the past 50 years, Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee’s visit seems most promising. The reason for this is simple: we have gone up appreciably in the American pecking order of nations.

We are a major player in the area of information technology and the USA is its largest beneficiary. The economic boom it saw in the last decade and the American productivity lead over its Japanese and European rivals were partly made possible by Indian software exports. This is a beneficial relationship for both and will continue to grow regardless of which Administration comes to power in November.

There is another development — a disquieting one from the American point of view — that has pushed India up in the global ranking: Pokhran - II of May, 1998. Nuclear proliferation per se is bad and the possession of nuclear weapons by “irresponsible Third World countries like India and Pakistan is worse,” as a conventional American thinks. Besides, in Washington’s thinking, Kashmir is a nuclear flashpoint which it must try to defuse. So, India is important because it has gone nuclear.

Mr Narayan Murthy, Chairman of Infosys, and Mr Abdul Kalam, Scientific Adviser to the Prime Minister, personify Indian power. Of the two, the power of Infosys is more substantial than the power of the atom. We have had nuclear weapons since Pokhran-I in 1974 but no one took us seriously till now. Today we matter because our economic and military power is in harness.

It is an important achievement of the Vajpayee government that it has projected so well our power on the international stage. From earning the condemnation of the major powers in May, 1998, for nuclear tests we have today earned their respect. In 1998 the great powers isolated us, today they accept us.

The change was signalled by Mr Bill Clinton’s visit last March. He came out against changing the line of control in Kashmir by force and he supported, albeit conditionally, our claim to a permanent seat in the UN Security Council. The External Affairs Minister of the Vajpayee government, Mr Jaswant Singh, largely brought about this change in the US policy towards India. His prolonged and perhaps tense negotiations with Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott, spread over nine rounds, helped convey the image of India as a responsible nuclear weapons power. Occasionally, diplomacy can build a new relationship. Mr Jaswant Singh’s diplomacy built a new US-India relationship.

Two issues will figure centrally in the talks Prime Minister Vajpayee will have with American leaders in Washington. They will be with us regardless of which Administration comes to office in November. Except for the issues of arms control and China, there are no great foreign policy differences between the two Presidential candidates, Mr Al Gore and Mr George Bush.

Kashmir and the CTBT are two issues that weigh importantly in India-US relations. No doubt, Washington would like us to talk to Pakistan over Kashmir. There was perhaps some unhappiness in Washington that we did not take up the revised Hizbul Mujahideen proposal for three-way talks on Kashmir.

But we are not that apart on Kashmir as we were at one time. In the past two years the Clinton Administration has not backed the Pakistani position of self-determination for the Kashmiri people. Rather Washington wants us to talk to all the representatives of the Kashmiris and arrive at some settlement over the future of the Kashmir valley.

Of course, the USA wants Pakistan and India to talk directly to each other over Kashmir; so does the Indian government. But a Pakistan that stages the Kargil operations to kill the detente arrived at Lahore and one that backs the organisations that kill Hindu pilgrims and innocent Bihari workers is obviously not an interlocutor whom one can talk to seriously. Yet we must define clearly the terms on which we will talk to Pakistan and let the USA know what they are.

It is time we understood that Pakistan has no strategic importance for the USA. Those days are gone when Pakistan would arrange for a secret flight of Mr Henry Kissinger to China or when Pakistan would fight America’s war in Afghanistan. Now there is the real possibility, as that courageous Pakistani human rights activist, Ms Asma Jehangir, says, of the country coming in the grips of religious zealots. And with nuclear weapons, such a Pakistan makes the USA greatly apprehensive of peace in South Asia. We and they share fears of a religiously fundamentalist Pakistan armed with nuclear weapons.

The CTBT issue could turn out to be divisive. The US Senate rejected the treaty not so much on security grounds as on other grounds — like the antipathy of many Senators towards Mr Clinton for his indiscreet liaisons. Nonetheless, security considerations could begin to matter as the USA proceeds with the deployment of anti-ballistic missile defence system aimed at deterring attacks by rogue states. The Republicans are more firmly committed to this strategy than the Democrats, and in the event of a Republican victory, testing of nuclear weapons may be resumed. As such, the USA has already carried 11 sub-critical tests since tabling the CTBT treaty for signature.

The CTBT will then have been killed by its principal author, the USA, and we will have been spared of the dilemma of signing or not signing it. But it’s just as possible that the USA, under Mr Al Gore, may stop at a thin or perhaps even a symbolic deployment of the ballistic missile defence system and then renew pressures on us to sign the CTBT. At any rate, Washington under either a Republican or Democratic Administration would insist that we desist from carrying out more weapon tests.

What do we do? The scientific community is now divided between those like M P.K. Ayengar, who says that more tests are necessary to build a credible minimum nuclear deterrence, and those like Mr Chidambaram and Mr Abdul Kalam, who say that we don’t need any more tests. They are of the opinion that the Pokhran-II tests yielded us enough data to build a deterrence of our choice, and whatever more data we need we can get it by simulation. It’s time the government came out with an honest assessment of our weapons capability.

Irrespective of the US pressures, we have chosen to behave as if we are a signatory to the CTBT. At the time of Pokhran-II in May, 1998 the government said it would not undertake any more weapons tests. Can we now bank on this public statement. 



Living two lives 
by Michael Hogan

YESTERDAY morning, at about 9.30, I was waiting on the edge of the main road where it curves past Mashobra, looking out for the bus, when a friend of mine from the village strolled by.

“Going to Shimla?” he asked, though it was more of a statement than a question.

“Sure,” I replied. And then, with an air of bored indifference worthy of a character in an Oscar Wilde play, “but with any luck I’ll be back by lunchtime...”

There is no way around it, I’m afraid. Barely three weeks living in Mashobra and I have reverted to type, a village boy, a 35 year-old kid whose idea of heaven is just one street with open country either end.

My father came from a small town in the middle of Ireland — we used to go back there summers when I was a child. I can still remember the cattle being driven through the streets on market day, the picture house with the title of that night’s movie written on a sheet of paper torn from an exercise book and sticky-taped to the door, the chemist’s shop with bell-shaped jars of coloured liquids — purple and green and yellow — displayed in the window like magic potions from the Arabian Nights.

I remember it with the clarity of nostalgia — and there’s no greater clarity than that.

So here I am in Mashobra, living two lives simultaneously — the now and the 30-odd years ago. I am boy and adult rolled into one. No wonder I feel so at home.

Each morning I stroll up to Anivarti Kumar’s general store and take a seat behind the counter with him, while he sends out for cups of tea and serves his customers rice and toothpaste, soap and cigarettes. On the way I’ve picked up a paper, and now I scan the sports pages with my feet stretched out towards the electric fire. My father had the same easy relationship with the owner of his town’s general store, a man named Jim Fagan from whom I bought chocolate bars and learnt such gossip as I was old enough to understand.

Like most writers I compose a fair few letters, and so chances are I’ll be going up to the post office three days out of four. I like the way the unpaved road turns up through the village, with fires lit out of piles of leaves making a friendly haze of smoke that drifts through shallow angles of sunlight. I like to step aside for packhorses, their width tripled with bales of straw, the bells around their necks chiming in the frosty air. In the post office they have a wood-stove with a misconnected flue that billows out woodsmoke across the room. And returning down the street, with the sunlight behind me, every face, every figure, has the clarity of a steel engraving.

At dusk, from my window, the hills turn into shadow, the mountains beyond them fade into the sky, and the lights of the houses glitter like a field of stars. The nights are peaceful here, which is as it should be. In six hours time it will be night in Ireland too. The cattle will be sleeping in their byres, the picture house will have shut its doors, the colours of the liquids in the chemist shop window will be invisible from the darkened street, and Jim Fagan will have locked up his sweet-jars and cigarettes. Anybody still awake and watchful can see the same constellations as I see from my window in Mashobra — six hours from now and 30-odd years ago...


United Nations: godmen to the rescue? 
By M.S.N. Menon

RELIGIONS divide men. Politics divides men. Economics divides men. And cultures divide men. They all divide.

What on earth is it that unites men? I looked for an answer from the thousand or so of those who had gathered — they were all men of God — at the Millennium World Peace Summit in New York. But they had no answer.

It was a unique gathering, the first in 50 years, to establish peace and brotherhood among men. But how is it that we are calling upon the same men — the men of God — who have murdered peace and brotherhood to re-establish them? More people have died of religious intolerance and wars than from any other causes. But the UN’s effort is laudable. Let’s put these “men of God” on the world’s forum — before the glare of public opinion.

Religions, these men claim, are engaged in saving souls. But how can a soul be saved when it is so full of hatred for men of other faiths? How can a “man of God”, who denounces the faith of others every day of his life be ever at peace and concord with the same men?

So, is there no hope? There is. And that must begin with a ban on organised conversions. That will put a stop to this hatred.

But that is not enough. We must know our religions better. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, one of the participants at the summit, drew attention to the three aspects of every religion — values, symbols and practices. Symbols and practices are what distinguishes a religion from another. But values are common, he says. These values form the highest common factor, the perennial philosophy. The lower rungs of humanity cling to these symbols and practices, while those who are evolved - no doubt a minority — take to the values. The “popular” form of any religion is thus more often full of abominations.

We must also keep religion and politics apart. If they come together, they will be too strong. That will spell disaster.

It is said religion is the basis of an ethical life. But the Jains say: for an ethical life, there is no need for God, for it is reason - a light given unto man - that guides him along the ethical path. His goal? To be a good man.

And even the Popes and Acharyas cannot be anything more than good men in life. Then, why this violence and discord in the name of God?

Amrit Kaur had said of Nehru that “by far the greatest lack in him is his inability to believe in God”. But with all his failures he was a good man — a universal man. Nehru had his reason for what he was. “What the mysterious is,” he had said, “I do not know. I do not call it God, because God has come to mean much that I do not believe in. I find myself incapable of thinking of a deity... in anthropomorphic terms.... Any idea of a personal God seems very odd to me.”

Nehru’s dispute was not over the existence or otherwise of a supreme power, but the way men speak of it in human terms. So, Gods came and went like human beings and religious history is strewn with the cemeteries of Gods.

Dr S. Radhakrishnan says: “The process of god-making in the factory of man’s mind cannot be seen so clearly anywhere else as in the Rig-veda.” The factory continues to churn out more gods and goddesses, and with it has come a spurious sense of religiosity, which political parties, one and all, have exploited for their ends.

After having rejected the anthropomorphic gods, Nehru saw no good in religion, either, for, he says, “often in history, we see that religion, which was meant to raise us and make us better and nobler, has made people behave like beasts.” Men still behave like beasts when seized by religious fanaticism. Look at the Taliban!

And when there is a marriage of state and religion, there is bound to be disaster. In Europe, the marriage of the Cross and Sword led to the Dark Ages, which lasted a millennia, which is why the West — perhaps with a vengeance — has brought about a divorce between state and religion.

The point is: if religions turn men into beasts, the beasts must be prevented from usurping the powers of the state to promote their vandalism.

But that is precisely what we failed to do. Nehru, the Marxist that he was, thought that religion would wither away with the growth of the scientific temper. This was a grave error, for it led to India’s partition.

But we have not buried the ghost of partition. It continues to haunt us in the form of secularism. We say we give equal respect to all religions. And to prove it, we have made religion the central point of all our political discussions and agenda. Thus have we nurtured this monster of religious fundamentalism, which has now taken to terrorism.

A bill for the separation of religion and politics should have been passed in 1947 after Partition demonstrated the tragedy of mixing religion and politics. But we let that opportunity slip, for the major party, the Congress, was gearing itself to exploint religion to create its vote banks.

Secularism does not unite our people. Only nationalism can. But, for some strange reason, it is in disfavour in India.

After seeing two devastating world wars, Nehru could not have been a blind supporter of nationalism. His was more an emotional attachment to his motherland, to its fauna and flora, to its lakes and mountains, to its people, to its topography, to its music and dances. He wrote in 1944: “Old established traditions cannot be easily scrapped or dispensed with; in moments of crisis, they rise and dominate the minds of men.” But he linked nationalism to anti-imperialism.

Now that imperialism is dead (at least its worst forms), is there no use for nationalism? To this Nehru says: “The individual human being or race or nation must necessarily have a certain depth and certain roots somewhere. They do not count for much unless they have roots in the past.”

Secularism has outlived its use. Should we not call up nationalism — a positive force — to combat the growing fundamentalism of our times? Fundamentalism is divisive. So can nationalism be. But we are warned.

There is a fear among minorities that they will be swamped if their defences are down. They want their space to grow. Let us hear what the Pakistan scholar Dr Akbar Ahmed had to say on this matter. He says he is proud of India’s tolerance, for it “provided space for Islam to flourish.” And he is proud of the fact that the greatest contribution to Muslim thinking in the last century was made by South Asia. This would not have been possible, he says, “without the deepest synthesis with Hinduism.” Nowhere else has Islam flourished as here in India. Alas, these thoughts have come too late in the day.!



Treat everyone you meet like you want to be treated.


Plant a tree on your birthday.


Never give up on anybody. Miracles happen everyday.


Keep a tight rein on your temper.


Stop blaming others. Take responsibility for every area of your life.


Admit your mistakes.


Give to charity all the clothes you have not worn for three years.


Do not mess with drugs, and do not associate with those who do.


Avoid sarcastic remarks.


Make it a habit to do nice things for people who will never find out.


Think big thoughts but relish small pleasures.


Never cheat.


Smile a lot. It costs nothing and is beyond price.


Learn to listen. Opportunity sometimes knocks very softly.


Never deprive someone of hope; it might be all they have.


Do not waste time responding to your critics.


Avoid negative people.


Be kinder than necessary.


Never take action when you are angry.


Measure people by the size of their hearts not the size of their bank accounts.

— H. Jackson Brown, Jr Life's Little Instruction Book, 33, 35, 43, 48, 55, 60, 72, 79, 81, 94, 99, 106, 107, 123, 139, 165, 166, 173, 177, 187


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