Friday, September 15, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


E D I T O R I A L   P A G E


Gates to investment
FTER being caught on the wrong during his interaction with the sadhus and sants in New York Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee appears to have rediscovered his touch for making friends and influencing people. In what is being seen as an “upbeat message” to American entrepreneurs the Prime Minister set a healthy target for attracting foreign direct investment in Indian projects. 

Petrol price war 
OST European roads are under blockade, petrol filling stations are dry, hospitals are putting off operation and there is tension in the air. Yes, a bitter struggle is raging between truck operators, farmers who use tractors and small businessmen and the governments of Britain, Germany and some other countries.The issue is the high prices of petroleum products. 


A Revolution at the crossroads
September 14, 2000
His master’s choice
September 13, 2000
New York is not Nagpur
September 12, 2000
A bunch of pious hopes
September 11, 2000
The state: protector turns pleader
September 10, 2000
Procurement date
September 9, 2000
Calling USA on the cheap
September 8, 2000
“NaPak” and revolting
September 7, 2000
Food for free
September 6, 2000
RBI’s urgent warnings
September 5, 2000

Will it affect man behind machine?

by Harwant Singh
SILENT yet obtrusive revolution is taking place in the field of defence technology which has the potential of completely transforming the battlefield of the future. Throughout recorded history man has sought to harness technology to devise better weapons to influence the outcome of battles.

A disappointing summit
by Arvind Bhandari
ROM the standpoint of the crucial need to reform the United Nations, the just-concluded UN Millennium Summit has been a complete wash-out. A mountain was in labour and has not produced even a mouse.


On retirement
by Ram Varma
HE daily grind is at long last over. Day after day, year after year, I have been going through the hassle of getting ready, dressing up and going to office. No more of that, thank God. I have retired.


Indo-US relations: beyond the bonhomie
By M.S.N. Menon

T seems, America has at last discovered the soul of India. It has taken a long time — from Katherine Mayo to William Jefferson Clinton. “India is obsessed with sex.” This is what Mayo wrote of India. She was one of the first Americans to visit this country. Gandhiji described it as a “drainage inspector’s report.”



Gates to investment

AFTER being caught on the wrong during his interaction with the sadhus and sants in New York Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee appears to have rediscovered his touch for making friends and influencing people. In what is being seen as an “upbeat message” to American entrepreneurs the Prime Minister set a healthy target for attracting foreign direct investment in Indian projects. There is no doubt that India has everything going for it , in spite of the periodic discordant notes of the members of the Swadeshi Jagran Manch, ever since Dr Manmohan Singh discarded the play-safe policy in favour of opening the economy to the pressures from global market forces. Today India has emerged as the fourth largest economy. With a little bit of fine tuning it has the potential to become the most favoured destination for investment by global players. Even when US President Bill Clinton visited Delhi the signals that India was ripe for attracting American business were strong. What Mr Vajpayee has done, in the course of his America yatra, is to assure the usually demanding business community in the USA that they would have a hassle-free system in India for taking care of their investment-related needs. Addressing the US-India Business Summit in New York, Mr Vajpayee did not overstretch the point while assuring the business community about India being counted among the fastest developing economies. By international standards the target of $15 billion investment in Indian projects over the next three years is modest and there is no reason why American businessmen should not oblige Mr Vajpayee.

It is clear that the businessmen, both non-resident Indians and hard-boiled Americans, did bring up the subject of being put off from taking interest in Indian projects because of “too much bureaucracy”. The announcement by the Prime Minister about the setting up of a strategic management group within the PMO for speedy processing of proposals from foreign investors for large projects should take care of the most common problem which makes India an unattractive destination for global players. Setting up a special cell in the PMO for dealing with special clients is not a permanent solution to the problem. The Indian bureaucracy has to unlearn to poke its nose in every file and raise objections not because they are valid but because it helps it to bolster its self-created image of being the indispensable wing of the administration. The setting up of a special cell in the PMO would encourage the retention of the same old system in which no one has any “natural rights”, and only favours are extended to those with the right connections. The need is to create a system which need not pass through the corridors of the over-worked PMO for attracting any form of investment, from both foreign and Indian parties, in the Indian economy. Microsoft chief Bill Gates flew in and out of Delhi on Wednesday-Thursday after taking part in the “decade celebrations” of his firm in India. He met and discussed the expansion of his business interests with Mr Azim Premji and Mr N. R. Narayanamurthy. Mr Pramod Mahajan too was on his list. But he discussed more fruitful business with the giants of the information technology sector in India than with Mr Mahajan. It is evident that less government interference is good for the health of the Indian economy. 


Petrol price war 

MOST European roads are under blockade, petrol filling stations are dry, hospitals are putting off operation and there is tension in the air. Yes, a bitter struggle is raging between truck operators, farmers who use tractors and small businessmen and the governments of Britain, Germany and some other countries. The issue is the high prices of petroleum products. The recent increase in crude prices and the resultant hike in motor spirit prices turned public attention to the price structure. The government tended to blame OPEC, the oil cartel, for the people’s misery. OPEC hit back and successfully put the governments with their greed for ever rising revenue in the dock. It pointed out that crude producers get only 16 per cent of the retail prices and the remaining 84 per cent goes to the government in the form of various taxes, to the refineries and as commission to the filling stations. In other words, if the crude cost goes up from $22 a barrel to $32 a barrel, a hefty 50 per cent climb — as has indeed been the case between September last year and now — the exporters get only $ 1.50, the remaining goes to others. For instance, in Britain the government collects 71 per cent as levies, another 10 per cent finds its way to the refineries and retail marketing. The price of petrol in Britain is $1.21 (approximately Rs 54) a litre while it is $1.04 in France and 85 cents in Germany. The difference in retail prices reflect the high and low levels of taxation. Once this became known, the public wrath was turned on the respective governments and farmers, truckers and others drove their vehicles to sensitive points and parked them there. As is only to be expected, French farmers, forever a fighting section of society, took the lead and others who were groaning under very high prices, joined the protest. On one day last week trucks blocked the entry point of the channel tunnel, the undersea rail link between Britain and France, at Calais. That disrupted the glamour travel and injected a sense of emergency. And emergency it indeed is in Britain.

The French government has quickly conceded the demand. Tax has been pruned by 35 centimes now and will be by an additional 25 centimes next year. Germany has not only refused to yield ground but has also mocked at the weak-kneed policy of its western neighbour. Britain too is adamant on retaining the levy level in the interest of protecting public finance from needless buffeting in the months and years to come. Prime Minister Tony Blair is showing signs of nervousness; he called refinery managers and ordered them to keep the oil moving. It is not. He listed priority services like hospitals and schools and promised them a steady supply. Still several hospitals postponed operation in an attempt to save as much fuel as possible. From Wednesday, truckers have occupied busy areas in London even while continuing the refinery gate protest. It is a mess and suddenly the petrol price has become an index of popular disgust. From now on, like the stock market index, the cost of the most widely used fuel source will indicate the sense of social well-being.


Will it affect man behind machine?
by Harwant Singh

A SILENT yet obtrusive revolution is taking place in the field of defence technology which has the potential of completely transforming the battlefield of the future. Throughout recorded history man has sought to harness technology to devise better weapons to influence the outcome of battles. The invention of stirrups, gunpowder, steam and the internal combustion engine, aircraft and radar changed the course of world history. There is a unique inter-play between defence technology and battlefield tactics. One has often had a direct effect on the other. At times the demands of the battlefield and its tactics have acted as a driving force for advances in defence technology, and at other times the application of defence technology changed tactical concepts. More recently, technology essentially developed for civilian use opened new avenues in the field of defence application. At the same time, technology developed for defence has found widespread application for civilian use. As always, efforts are afoot to develop systems to downgrade every new technology emerging on the battlefield.

During the eighties, at the height of the Cold War, defence scientists in the USA focused their energies on the development of defence technologies to meet the challenges of far larger armies of Warsaw Pact countries by smaller NATO forces. These developments were essentially in the field of three areas of defence technology. One was the real time flow of intelligence and information through all-around connectivity leading to instant and simultaneous decision making at each level of command, thereby enhancing many-fold coordination, communication and command and control capability. To this was added the power of the computer. The second relates to the transparency of the battlefield. It is also referred to as dominant battlefield knowledge (DBK). What it really means is that the age-old dilemma of military commanders to know what is on the “other side of the hill” would get resolved. These relate to the areas of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR technologies). All information about the enemy, his dispositions, deployments and moves would be known at all times with the use of satellite imagery, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), thermal imaging and surveillance radars. The third pertained to precision weapons technologies. These imply that long-range weapons of greater destructive power would deliver munitions onto the targets with unerring accuracy, using advance guidance systems such as laser guidance, heat seeking, radar-based homing devices, terrain-matching techniques and so on.

Once fully adopted, the battlefield will become transparent, command and control and decision making much easier and the hit and kill probability of weapon systems will increase enormously. It will diminish the importance of the paradigm of war dominated by manned aircraft carriers and tanks. These developments and their projection and the attendant hype were focused on the erstwhile USSR, where Marshal Nikolai Ogarchov and certain other Soviet theorists began to believe that these new technologies and “deep strike” weapons would frustrate their attempts to create massive armoured forces to overwhelm NATO’s defences. It was Marshal Ogarchov who coined the term “Revolution in Military Affairs” (RMA), something these technologies were expected to bring about on the battlefield of the future. Some military analysts are of the opinion that former USSR’s efforts to catch up with America in these fields and the Star Wars system intensified the arms race and contributed to driving that state to bankruptcy and its final collapse. There is also a view that these developments were projected, with the added hype, for that very purpose.

Many a defence analyst in India, including some in the military establishment, have been understandably enthusiastic about the RMA technologies and have succeeded in introducing some of these, especially in the aftermath of the Kargil conflict. But the terrain and weather conditions along the LoC in J and K do not lend to the full exploitation of the technologies that relate to battlefield transparency and precision weaponry. There is an unfortunate impression among some defence experts that the induction of these technologies will result in the reduction in manpower, the relevance of certain existing capabilities and consequently, a scaling down of these. However, those who adopt this stance tend to forget the nature of India’s defence commitments, terrain and its extent, which are unexceptionably manpower-intensive. Moreover, the RMA technologies are prohibitively expensive, especially when these have to be imported, as is the case with us.

Therefore, each technology sought to be imported will need very careful evaluation and assessment. Its relevance to our battlefield milieu, adequately established as well as alternative and cheaper options, will require to be examined. The propensity to seek any and every new weapon system which receives publicity abroad will need to be resisted. The arms industry is one of the most lucrative lines of business, and there is much exaggeration in claims to performance, and there is excessive hard-sell in this area. The military’s inventory has much equipment bought without establishing its efficacy for our setting and has consequently never been fully deployed.

It would be fruitful to examine America’s own approach to the full adoption of these technologies and the policy for the replacement of some of the earlier weapon systems and any paradigm shift in concepts. Americans themselves were perhaps less enthusiastic about the supposedly revolutionary nature of these new weapon systems until their deployment in the Gulf war in 1990-91. Even so the full awareness of this revolutionary change on the battlefield “sank in” a few years later when in the Quadrennial Defence Review (QDR) of 1997, Pentagon recorded, “Just as earlier technological revolutions have affected the nature of conflict, so too will the technological change, so evident today. It means harnessing new technologies to give our people greater military capabilities through advanced concepts, doctrine and organisation, so that we can dominate any future battlefield.”

Ironically, the development of these technologies and their employment for military use and as demonstrated in the Gulf war have not resulted in the reduction in the USA of conventional forces — tanks, aircraft, aircraft carriers and other existing weapon systems. Eliot Cohen, Professor of strategic studies and the one who conducted the Gulf war air power survey, records, “The United States still thinks in terms of armoured divisions, carrier battle groups and air wings. Its platforms are those of the 1980s — neither the organisational nor the conceptual leap has occurred.” Obviously, the Rma revolution is yet to come. It could be partly due to the fact that the performance of technology was unduly hyped during the Iraq war, where in any case it was a one-sided deployment.

Gen Foley of the US army, writing in the Armour Magazine after the Gulf war, had this to say, “In Desert Storm, not one enemy element withdrew one meter until the arrival of tanks and the rest of the armoured ground force. Then and only then did the enemy realise that he must fight, surrender or flee.” The American experience during the Vietnam war, where again it was a one-sided application of advance defence technologies, did not materially alter the fortunes of that war, is equally fresh in the psyche of its defence analysts and military commanders. Terrain was an important factor in downgrading the value of technology in the case of Vietnam. Perhaps these experiences have a direct bearing on the enthusiasm for change within the Pentagon that remains more rhetoric than substantive. The US defence forces look very much the same as they did a decade ago. Very few new weapon systems have been introduced. While the RMA technologies are yet to fully impact on the battlefield, a second technological revolution in weapons systems is in the offing. Developments in the field of laser weaponry, robotics, artificial intelligence and those still in the realm of science fiction will truly change the battlefield scene.

The spell cast by these new technologies has been so pronounced that many in India have tried to relegate the importance of the man behind the weapon. Admittedly, almost on every occasion a new weapon technology has had a pronounced effect on the outcome of battles, due to the element of surprise and the devastating nature of their destructive power for which the opponent had no defence. Given good leadership and a high-level of motivation, these could be countered to an extent. The Vietnamese were able to successfully meet the challenge of American technological onslaught. At the First Battle of Panipat, Babar’s victory is attributed to the use of muskets and cannons by him. But what is overlooked by many historians is the equally important fact that in Babar’s army 90 per cent of his soldiers were prepared to die on the battlefield and the percentage of those in Ibrahim Lodhi’s army fired with the same spirit was much less. We saw this very spirit prevail in 1965, 1971 and now in Kargil. The victory in the Battle of Britain was as much the result of the better fighter aircraft (Spitfire) and the radar as the spirit of the RAF’s fighter pilots.

Those who feel that with the coming of RMA technologies, conventional forces have lost their value are no different from those who, in industry, consider the advent of information technology as the harbinger of a decline of the old economy. While the application of information technology will vastly enhance all-around performance, it cannot as such be a substitute for the “brick and mortar” industry. A similar relationship exists between RMA technologies and the battlefield dominated by tanks, aircraft and naval war vessels.

The writer, a retired Lieut-General, was a Deputy Chief of Army Staff.


A disappointing summit
by Arvind Bhandari

FROM the standpoint of the crucial need to reform the United Nations, the just-concluded UN Millennium Summit has been a complete wash-out. A mountain was in labour and has not produced even a mouse.

In April this year UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan released a much-publicised report which was pompously entitled, “We the People: The Role of the United Nations in the 21st century”. The Secretary-General emphasised that the UN Millennium Summit would consider how to make the Security Council broadbased, so that it reflected the realities of our times. But the summit declaration adopted on September 9 has skipped the vexed issue altogether.

Anyhow, the question of restructuring the Security Council cannot be avoided indefinitely. There are various permutations and combinations. But the proposal which is likely to draw the maximum attention, not the least because it has the overt support of the USA, is that the number of permanent members of the Security Council should be increased from five — the USA, Russia, Britain, France and China — to 10. The five new members would be Germany and Japan from the industrialised world and one country each from the continents of Asia, Africa and Latin America.

India has a cast iron case for inclusion in the Security Council from Asia. One, India represents a large share of humanity, with every sixth human being walking this earth being an Indian. Two, in terms of its geographical spread and size and the potential of its economy, India is a major nation. Three, India is the world’s most populous democracy and a shining example of the rest to the Third World, which is still pockmarked by tinpot dictatorships and military regimes. Four, India’s contribution to the peace-keeping operations of the UN has been exemplary.

Five, India has been forcefully articulating the concerns, priorities and perspectives of the developing world with reason, balance and a constructive orientation. New Delhi has been instrumental in placing on the UN agenda issues like decolonisation, apartheid and human rights on which the world body has achieved maximum success.

Of the present permanent members of the Security Council, France and Russia have indicated, although vaguely, that they shall support India’s case for inclusion in the supreme body. But India will have to be wary of American machinations. Knowing fully that Pakistan, India’s habitual foe, will never allow the Indian claim to go unchallenged, Washington has been harping on the selection of the additional permanent members from the developing world on the basis of a “regional consensus”. To no one’s surprise, the American Ambassador at the United Nations is on record as saying that the Clinton Administration cannot sponsor India’s claim to a permanent membership of an expanded Security Council because of a counter-claim by Pakistan.

Although President Clinton is now in a lameduck position, it is worth mentioning here that his own posture has been equally unhelpful. Before the commencement of his Indian visit, he made a statement to the effect that the UN resolutions on Kashmir acted as an obstacle to sponsoring India for a permanent membership of the Security Council. Subsequently, when President Narayanan made a pointed reference at the state banquet to India’s claim to a permanent seat, President Clinton maintained a Loud silence.

During his speech at the UN Millennium Summit Prime Minister Vajpayee should have used the opportunity to strongly pitch for India’s inclusion in an expanded Security Council and categorically rejected the “regional consensus” approach. Regrettably, he failed to do so. In view of the deceit it is encountering, New Delhi should stop soft-pedalling the issue and adopt a tough stand in the coming months.

To United Nations General Assembly should first adopt a normative framework of criteria, according to which the eligibility of countries for permanent membership would be determined. (Needless to say, Pakistan, a military dictatorship suffering from political turbulence and economic bankruptcy, will not qualify.) After such a normative framework is in place, it is the General Assembly which should elect the new permanent members of the Security Council from Asia, Africa and Latin America.

Accordingly, this would require hectic lobbying in the General Assembly. India cannot afford to sit on its oars. Going by size and economic strength, the claimants from Africa and Latin America would be South Africa and Brazil, respectively. In fact, New Delhi, Pretoria and Brasilia should cooperate in the United Nations to vigorously promote each other’s candidature for the Security Council. When the then President of South Africa, Mr Nelson Mandela, visited India three years ago, he vociferously called for such cooperation.

A Security Council expanded on these lines may, however, continue to discriminate against the developing world. While Europe with 8.9 per cent of the world’s population will have four permanent members (Russia, the UK, France and Germany), Asia with 57 per cent of the global population will have only three members (China, Japan and a third member to be elected). Asia deserves proportionately more permanent seats. The industrialised world could, however, counter-argue that it pays more to the United Nations. Ten industrialised countries are responsible for 80 per cent of the budget of the world body.

Another aspect of the dissimulation being practised at the United Nations is the move to deprive the new permanent members of the veto power. This is rank nonsense. Stripping the new members of the veto power would render meaningless the entire exercise to broadbase the Security Council.

There is also a case for increasing the number of non-permanent members of the Security Council. In 1945, there were six non-permanent members from 52 nations. Thereafter, the non-permanent membership was expanded, first to 10 and subsequently to 14. Now with the strength of the General Assembly reaching 185, there is need to further increase the strength of non-permanent members accordingly.


On retirement
by Ram Varma

THE daily grind is at long last over. Day after day, year after year, I have been going through the hassle of getting ready, dressing up and going to office. No more of that, thank God. I have retired.

Indeed I have been finding the chores in the office rather demanding, even gruelling, particularly in the last four years. Of these, in the first three years, I had a boss who is a hard taskmaster, difficult to please. If he was not displeased, you may presume you have done well. One year’s work with him was like three years with anyone else. There was a prospect of my retiring in 1998, when I turned 58, after working for two years with him. That changed when they made 60 years as retirement age. I felt like a marathon runner, who, after straining every nerve, was approaching the finishing line and was asked to do two chakkars more!

Then about a year ago a new boss came. I was certain I would be relieved and given a lighter assignment. Alas, that was not to be. I experienced the most complex emotion of joy tinged with disappointment. And I worked even harder, thankful for the trust reposed in me.

Thank heavens, all that is over. Those who have been in my kind of job would testify that it can perhaps be likened to tight-rope dancing. Naturally, I am glad to have performed, without slipping, till the end; with a graceful bow at the fall of the curtains.

My friends and wellwishers who meet me on the lake in the morning congratulate me on an honourable exit from government service, with an untarnished reputation. They give me an impression as if I was working in a coal depot and it was a marvel that my clothes did not get smudged or smeared. I am reminded of our inimitable political philosopher, Chanakya, who in his Arthshastra had observed that just as it was impossible to know how much water of the river a fish had imbibed itself, no one knows how much money a government servant had himself siphoned off as he veritably lives and swims in money. What to talk of government servants, he did not trust even the king’s wives and devised an elaborate spying system to keep a watch on them.

People ask me what I intend doing now. Don’t I want another assignment? Good gracious, no. I wish to slow down now and relax and gaze at the colour of the huge canvas that the Shivaliks and the Sukhna and the wandering clouds weave in the morning, and let my hair down and prattle with my grandchild in birdspeak.

It’s time to unwind, and uncork the accumulated tensions. It’s time to say thanks and ask forgiveness for favours received and harm done. It’s time to remove the stilts of office one has been used to walking on, and find one’s own feet, one’s own level, and learn to walk without aides. It’s time to remove the mask one has been wearing and reveal one’s real face.


Indo-US relations: beyond the bonhomie
By M.S.N. Menon

IT seems, America has at last discovered the soul of India. It has taken a long time — from Katherine Mayo to William Jefferson Clinton.

“India is obsessed with sex.” This is what Mayo wrote of India. She was one of the first Americans to visit this country. Gandhiji described it as a “drainage inspector’s report.”

The American Baptist missionaries soon followed. They did greater damage to India’s image in America by portraying this country as primitive and barbarous. They still do. They were and are still engaged in making India a Christian country.

But there were others — mostly American philosophers — Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry Thoreau, Walt Whitman and others, who thought differently. They recognised India’s greatness and the depth of its civilisation. They were deeply influenced by eastern religions, above all by Hinduism, and called themselves the Transcendentalists.

That original impulse has not died down. Today, India is back in American thought — in “New Age” thought, to be precise. Indian Yoga, Indian medicine, Indian cuisine — these are in great favour today.

But imperial America, like imperial Britain, has never been friendly to India. Two men — Richard Nixon and Dr Henry Kissinger — stood out for their pathological hatred against us. Kissinger went to the extent of telling Mao, the Chinese leader, that “there is a sentimental love affair between western intellectuals and India, based on a complete mis-reading of the Indian philosophy of life. Indian philosophy of life,” he emphasised, was never meant to have a practical application.” Obviously, the man knew nothing of India, for India is the author of the only work of philosophy in the world with an application to practical life — namely the Yoga philosophy.

Kissinger was not content with this denigration. He wanted to have a dig at Mahatma Gandhi, too. He said to Mao: “For Gandhi, non-violence was a revolutionary tactic, not an ethical principle.” The fact is: for Gandhi, ethics was all. Everything else was secondary.

And yet this man, at one stage in American history, shaped America’s India policy!

One cannot put the entire blame for these distortions on the Americans, for they were tutored by the rulers of India, the British. The British were determined to project India as a country of the devil in order to justify their own rule over it. This British influence on America continued till the Suez crisis, when Washington broke away from British policies. But, then, the cold war set in, and “hate India” became the ruling passion among the American ruling class, because India refused to fall in line with American wishes.

It was, therefore, no surprise when Clinton told the Indian Parliament: “For India and the United States, this is a day of new beginnings. We have before us for the first time in fifty years the possibility to realise the full potential of our relationship.” True.

But his other observations were not expected. He said: “We are two of the world’s largest democracies. We are nations forged from many traditions and faiths, proving year after year, that diversity is our strength. From vastly different origins and experiences, we have come to the same conclusions: that freedom and democracy are the strongest bases for both peace and prosperity.”

So, is there a new dawn in the life of India and the USA? Only time can tell, for the conduct of America in the past 50 years or so does not assure us that it has truly changed its ways. We cannot even trust the words of Clinton, for they could have been written by his speech-writer. How is it possible, we may well ask, that a man, who encouraged the separatist forces in India a few years ago, could dump his anti-India baggage so fast? He could have said all these to please us, to beguile us or to take us off our guard.

And yet there is a logic in his change, for he could not have ignored the new realities: that India has become a nuclear power, that it has the fourth largest economy, the fourth largest defence forces, the second largest population, the third largest scientific pool and is the leader of the most advanced technological revolution.

India is on the march and nothing can stop it now. It is as if the very Fates are engaged in spinning a glorious future for India!

The soul of India lies in its tolerance of diversity. It has brought it glory. This is true of America, too. America has wooed diversity deliberately, thought it has not come to terms with it. Now it cannot wish it away. It must make it the basis of its life just as India has done.

But India’s tolerance came from its freedom of thought and expression. At the time of the Buddha (6th century BC) there were more than 100 sects competing for attention. Naturally, Ashoka, the great Buddhist emperor (3rd century BC) exhorted his Buddhist compatriots to respect other sects. This is not heresy. It is inscribed on his rock edicts. America has no such tradition. This diversity has rewarded India, for it produced the richest civilisation of the world. Clinton calls it “a richness of its tapestry.”

India’s diversity is a matter of pride to us. But it is also our greatest problem. How to reconcile the various ideologies and the interests of various ethnic groups — this has taxed our ingenuity. And foreign forces have exploited the magnanimity of our civilisation.

Imagine, then, the absurdity of it all, when we are told to give up all these great traditions, to give up our own history, to adopt the history of other people! We believe that India has a message for the world. Even Clinton recognises it, for he says: “It is being said that the only way to keep different people from killing each other is to keep them as far apart as possible. But India has shown us a better way. Under trying circumstances, you have shown the world how to live with difference. You have shown that tolerance and mutual respect are in many ways the key to our common survival. That is something that the whole world needs to learn.”

That is why this great enterprise that India has begun is vital for the world. Clinton says: “India is a leader, a great nation, which by virtue of its size, its achievements, and its example has the ability to shape the character of our time.” This is high praise. But it took half a century for America to recognise it. But no matter. We still can work together. We have a common commitment to democracy and to fight terrorism and the narcotic trade. But let us understand this clearly: we cannot promote pluralism at home and hegemony abroad. And it is time America spoke in one voice. We are often confused by the different goals pursued by the US Congress, the administration, the Pentagon and Wall Street. Not to speak of the American church leaders.

As the Russian leader Kruschev used to say: a weak India is of no use to anybody. Surely, Washington wants a strong India? So, will it support its claim for a permanent seat in the Security Council, will it help India economically, will it allow India to be a nuclear power to ensure its survival, will it help India to resolve the Kashmir issue? And will it join India in the fight against fundamentalism, Talibanisation and terrorism?

Or will America frustrate us as it has done in these long 50 years? That is the question. On its answer will depend on which side India will throw its weight and on the kind of relations that will develop between India and the United States.



Truth is righteousness. Righteousness is light, and light is bliss.

— Swami Shivananda, Bliss Divine, Chapter 63


Each one of you has struggled upward from the stone to a plant,

From the plant to an animal,

From the animal to a man.

Do not slide into an animal.

Rise higher to Divinity

Shining with the new effulgence of love.

— From the discourses of Sri Sathya Sai Baba


One cannot become divine unless one already is. We can become only that which we are. Becoming is nothing but unfolding: the hidden becomes manifest. But the hidden is as much as the manifest. And once we know that at the source we are divine, then a great trust arises that nothing can go wrong. Even if we go as far away as possible, we remain divine. The sinner is as divine as the saint. There is no distinction at the root, at the source.

— Osho, The Ninety-nine Names of Nothingness


Thou art Atma! Atma art thou. Realise this and be free. Nothing can hinder thee from the realisation of thy essential nature.

— Swami Shivananda, Bliss Divine, Introduction


We should never think for a moment that the voice of Truth can be stilled. It could never be silenced in the past. Whenever anyone tries to suppress it, it bounces with a bang.

— Baba Gurbachan Singh, Precious Pearls


When the sun rises, the darkness automatically vanishes. We should unfold Truth. Falsehood would vanish automatically.

— Baba Avtar Singh, Spiritual Sparks


Nothing is baser than calling our brother a sinner.

— From Swami Vivekananda's lecture at Memphis, January 17, 1894

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