Sunday, April 1, 2001,
Chandigarh, India

E D I T O R I A L   P A G E


Entrapment journalism and the menace of media hype
M. V. Kamath
OW that the anti-BJP media hype has allowed if not died down and talk of over-throwing the government has receded, the time has come to inquire what the is all about and what it sought to achieve.

USA and Russia: a resumption of spying games ?
V. Gangadhar
HRILLER writer John Le Carre will rub his hands in glee and locate his next thriller in the familiar surroundings of the West and Russia. 

Small corruption can be ugly and costly too
Prem Kumar
MALL is beautiful, so have we been told over the ages. But small can be ugly too. The whole nation is talking about Tehelka. They are discussing the magnitude of the mess that prevails in the country. 




Jaswant Singh goes to Washington wearing two hats
Rakshat Puri
R Jaswant Singh, the Minister for External Affairs and Defence, is due to visit Washington shortly. Relevant aspects of the international context and developing configuration may make the visit significant.


No Tehelka for this government
MARTING under criticism for allowing the official media to be used by former Defence Minister George Fernandes to defend himself and announce his resignation, caution has become the new buzzword in the government. 

  • Loudmouth Mathew

  • In battle-gear

  • Evasive Cong

  • Scribes get it

  • TV takes over


Harihar Swarup
Another Harvard don as US Ambassador
ORTY years ago when John F. Kennedy ruled the USA, he drafted a Harvard Professor, John Kenneth Galbraith, as his Ambassador to India. Galbraith became a popular envoy and came to be known as a friend of India; his three-year tenure — from 1961 to 1963 — is still remembered.


Humra Quraishi
Diversity of Viennese orchestra
HE Delhi do-ers here are doing it as if there was no tomorrow. The Viennese Chamber orchestra and the accompanying ball went off very well except that next time there should be some sort of a check on the supposed who’s who buying those donor tickets.Top


Entrapment journalism and the menace of
media hype
M. V. Kamath

NOW that the anti-BJP media hype has allowed if not died down and talk of over-throwing the government has receded, the time has come to inquire what the is all about and what it sought to achieve. First, let it be quite clear that what Tehelka had done was not investigative journalism — we do not have to go overboard on that — but what in the United States has come to be known as Entrapment Journalism. And the difference between the two is that between chalk and cheese. In legal case, as a Washington-based correspondent recently pointed out, entrapment is the act of officers or agents of a government that induces a person to commit a crime not contemplated by him, for the purpose of instituting criminal prosecutions against him.

Investigative journalism is intended to find out what actually has been done. A classic example of this is that of Sucheta Dalal ferreting out the Harshad Mehta scam. Entrapment journalism is what government agents do to trap a person by inducing him or her to do or say certain things by leading the person subtly into some form of self-incrimination. It is by no means journalism. To dub it so is an insult to the profession. Whatever the intentions of Tehelka — and whoever is behind it — is a matter for its editor-in-chief Tarun Tejpal and his conscience. Entrapment, as Chidananda Rajaghatta noted in The Indian Express (March 19) “ranks alongside provocation and self-defence as one of the pleas entertained under the rubric ‘situational defence’ “ which means a defendant is entitled to an acquittal if he committed the crime under circumstances constituting an entrapment.

It does not matter that the evidence against the defendant is over-whelming or that his guilt is undisputed. If he was entrapped, he goes free. Bangaru Laxman was entrapped. So was Jaya Jaitley, so indeed very many others. To call this investigative journalism is to make a mockery of clean journalism and deserves to be strongly condemned.

Tehelka’s intentions may have been honourable but their application leaves many questions to be answered. A claim made in behalf of Tehelka is that ends justify means and if the end is noble, any ignoble means to reach it is justified. This is poppycock. One has only to remember what happened when Richard Nixon’s henchmen broke into the offices of the Democratic Party in the Watergate housing complex in Washington DC, only to be caught red-handed.

It is immaterial whether the Democratic Party had some incriminating material that needed to be exposed.

The fact of the matter is that the thugs took recourse to illegal ways. If, some day, Tehelka indulges in house-breaking in its self-imposed mission of cleansing the administration its supporters among today’s intelligentsia may have cause to regret their stand. The second point to remember is that no BJP Minister has been involved in what our media has been pleased to call ‘sleaze’, unlike P.V. Narasimha Rao who received suitcases full of currency notes to the equivalent of some five crore of rupees. Narasimha Rao did not resign; nor did Sonia Gandhi ask him to.

And let it be remembered that Narasimha Rao was not only Prime Minister, but was President of the Congress as well. He resigned from neither position. Again, nor did Sonia Gandhi ask him to. Rao totally ignored her. That at the Congress session in Bangalore, Sonia Gandhi (whose friend Ottavio Quatrrochhi is still absconding and does not have the moral courage to face an Indian Court on the Bofors deal) should be seen check by jowl with Narasimha Rao with the media refusing to take note of this, speaks for itself.

It does not speak too highly of our media pundits sense of impartiality. They should remember that Bangaru Laxman resigned, even if it is claimed that he was forced to. Incidentally there have been hints — and like all hints uncorroborated with evidence — that Tehelka is not all that innocent and very likely was pushed into action by Congress.

That a company that reportedly did not have enough cash to pay its minimal staff regularly should have Rs 27 lakh to spend on its sting operation understandably raises doubts about Mr Tejpal’s credibility. Mr Tejpal no doubt is aware of the comment in Shakespeare’s Hamlet: “He thinks the lady protests too much”. Mr Tejpal’s protestations of innocence invite suspicion, especially in view of the glee in Congress camp. For all one knows, he may be innocent. But suspicious about intentions persist. Good intentions are no excuse for wrong behaviour. But what is this ‘sleaze’ that the media is talking about? The Indian Army is not the creation of the BJP. And within the Army structure itself no deal can be easily concluded without inputs from various sources. It is not that the Defence Minister can arbitrarily sign a deal without taking into consideration inputs provided by so many committees specially appointed to go into great details into the suitability of a given weapons system.

Even conceding that the final word rests with the Defence Minister — and if that is not to be, what is a Minister for? — he is still bound by the advice of many experts. The Tehelka tapes do not show any impropriety on the part of Mr George Fernandes, nor, shocking though it may sound, on the part of Jaya Jaitley. The objection against her seems to be that she took money while promising to recommend the fake and non-existence West End International’s case for consideration. If she had not taken money, would she have been guilty of impropriety? The problem here is of raising party funds. This is an issue that calls for more detailed consideration.

When a party accepts large funds from even high-sounding sources, the presumption is that somewhere down the line some quid pro is expected. To believe otherwise is to be exceptionally naive. Party donations anywhere in the world implies certain obligations on the party to fulfil unstated but expected demands.

Are we to believe that the Sukh Rams, Antulays, Gundu Raos and Arjun Singhs received what they did because their donors were moved by noble thoughts? But whatever the motives entertained by Tehelka, it has exposed certain weaknesses in our political system that need to be repaired and this has to be undertaken soonest. Blaming the BJP for the prevailing system is neither here nor there. Even looking askance at the Prime Minister’s Office is beside the point. If Mr Brajesh Mishra is to be blamed, can’t we blame Mr P.N. Haksar as Indira Gandhi’s adviser who, was responsible for returning several thousand square miles of Pakistani territory won during the last war without getting anything back for this generosity in return?

Our media pundits have done a lot of damage to the country. A little bit of introspection on their part may not be out of order. Hating BJP may be good politics, but it is bad statesmanship and betrays a mind-set that is inimical to the best interests of the country, a point that even Sonia Gandhi who has much to hide may wish to take note of. The Bofors Case is still pending and so are many other charges against her and her supine party.


USA and Russia: a resumption of spying games?
V. Gangadhar

THRILLER writer John Le Carre will rub his hands in glee and locate his next thriller in the familiar surroundings of the West and Russia. There will be no need to create plots with terrorists or religious fundamentalists. Sir Sean Connery may look forward to one more role as James Bond and a final tilt against the dreaded SMERSH, an offshoot of the KGB which undertook all the dirty work including the killings.

Many of us believed that with the end of the Cold War, the destruction of the Berlin Wall and the crash of the Soviet empire, the spy game which was played out by the two super powers had ended. That was when Le Carre’s novels went off to the Middle East and Panama and the James Bond films relied more on gadgetry than the hero’s charisma. The two super powers came close to each other. The USA propped up the Russian economy and saw to it that the former Russian President, Mr Boris Yelstin, was well supplied with his favourite drink, Vodka.

Once the Soviet empire disintegrated, it was clear it could not claim to be a super power. Russia had neither the resources nor the manpower to take on the west. Gradually, its sphere of activities sent down in several trouble spots in the world and its influence in the United States waned. Former Arab allies of the Soviet Union in the West Asian region were dismayed, when Moscow had nothing to offer to the Arab-Israeli dispute and US President Bill Clinton had to play a solo role and try to bring about some peace.

The USA no longer thought that Russia was an equal power and posed a threat to its role as the sole super power. It enlarged the role of Nato in Europe, took an active interest in the internal politics of Russia and propped up Mr Yelstin with massive loans and other forms of economic help. The USA, which feared the return of Communism promoted the Yelstin form of democracy in Russia, which any way, did not find favour with the Russian people who became sick of the public exhibition Mr Yelstin made of himself. The US Administration knew that so long Mr Yelstin was in power; it could play a decisive role in influencing its policies.

The political turmoil within Russia subsided only when Mr Vladimir Putin took over as the President. A no-nonsense ruler, he had clearly established himself as the most powerful voice within the country. Tackling the nation’s economic problems vigorously Mr Putin brought some sanity to the national scene. He acknowledged the help rendered by the USA and its western allies, but was rather cool over the entire issue.

When the two power blocks were snarling for each other for over 40 years from the end of World War II, the main areas of confrontation were on the arms and then intelligence fronts. Both the USA and the USSR spent enormous amounts on their intelligence systems and spymasters. The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) on many international issues ran a parallel government. The Soviet intelligence agency, KGB, was the most dreaded and powerful unit in the country. The activities of these agencies were glorified from within and condemned from outside. For the USA, the KGB was the worst kind of enemy, and there was no love lost between the USSR and the CIA.

The spy game was dangerous, dirty and ruthless. Each system harboured its own moles, double and triple agents who were glorified or vilified according to the group one belonged to. The spy masters of both groups were viewed as super men and even the Presidents of the rival nations seldom interfered with their work. Spy game was like chess, the moves had to be made carefully. Sometimes, it was necessary to sacrifice the humble pawns, but the higher players had to be protected at all costs.

The spy games revolved around myth and reality, fact and fiction. La Carre, Ian Fleming and other spy writers from both groups contributed their mite to this myth. Hollywood added to the glamour of spy business. Not many people knew who was right, who was wrong or who was more competent and who was less! It was freely admitted that both sides and their allies spent billions of dollars in spy games, equipment and assassination attempts.

It was felt that with the termination of the Cold War, the spy games would be over. The two big powers, to start with began to cooperate with each other. Top KGB officials were welcomed in the West. Believe it not, the FBI was allowed to start an office in Moscow. People who had been watching the spy games during the Cold war era could not understand what was going on!

It was hard to understand if the US or Russia was keener to undo the spy networks. Of course, intelligence operations were needed against new enemies like the drug barons; terrorists and religious fundamentalists who were trying to expand their areas of influence. In many cases, the KGB and the CIA co-operated in pursuing the common enemies. But it came as a distinct surprise when the US and Russia announced they would expel 50 diplomats each from their respective countries. The reason? Good, old spying activities.

Now, who should want to resurrect the dirty old tricks? When both the USA and the Russians had thrown open their nations, why should the spying games resume? Were the Russians becoming too inquisitive about the new anti-missile system the USA was planning to install despite stiff opposition from practically everyone? Despite the newfound camaraderie between the two nations, there were areas where each group held on to its own secrets. There was enough scope for industrial espionage and snooping around defence plants.

But expulsion of 50 diplomats on spying charges was an old diplomatic game. It was often childish and revolved around diplomats who could not spell ‘espionage’! The reasons were mostly political. No one should forget the fact that President Bush’s father, also a President, had headed the CIA. And Mr Vladimir Putin, for his part, had been the ruthless master of the KGB! Had they decided to their old games of playing ‘I Spy’?

Your guess is as good as mine, but Mr Bush and Mr Putin, appeared to have taken the expulsion issue in their stride. They expressed views that the act would not jeopardise the friendly relations between the Russians and America. But despite these assurances, no concrete action had been taken to remedy the situation and call back the expelled diplomats. Mr Bush assumed power only recently and it was natural that he followed the common policy of flexing one’s muscles to impress those back at home. For years, the American Presidents had created a halo around them. They had to act tough and prove their toughness to the ‘other guys’. Iraq had been bombed already. Fidel Castro of Cuba had been warned. These are the traditional gestures of the newly installed US Presidents. But Mr Bush seemed to have gone one step further with the order to expel Russian diplomats.

Normally, Russian leaders fight shy of such acts of bravado. They do not have the cowboy culture. So, why was President Putin involved in the spy scandal? Was it an act of one-up-man-ship on the Americans and also a hint to the world that Russia can no longer be taken for granted. International media commentators are also puzzled at the mutual expulsions but believe that the problem would be only a temporary aberration in USA-Russian relations. If that were the case, John Le Carre had to stick to tailors from Panama for his future novels!

— The author is former Editor-in-Chief, Reader’s Digest, India.


Small corruption can be ugly and costly too
Prem Kumar

SMALL is beautiful, so have we been told over the ages. But small can be ugly too. The whole nation is talking about Tehelka. They are discussing the magnitude of the mess that prevails in the country. Tehelka is only a talking point. Why it should have shocked anybody—man in the street or the man who matters—surprises. What is new? Who does not know what is happening around us? Is corruption such a secret of the nation that a Tehelka has to happen to tell us about its ramifications? Or does an outside organisation, of Singapore or anywhere else, have to study and tell us that the phenomenon of corruption is among the worst in the world?

I do not intend to repeat what is being said, what has been written, said or shown of this episode of corruption. I only want to deal with the least talked about part of the phenomenon. The provocation could be a remark by former BJP President Bangaru Laxman, who said in an interview, “In these kinds of deals with huge amounts involved, why should anybody take Rs 1 lakh. What is Rs 1 lakh?”

Yes, what is Rs 1 lakh? So ask most Punjabi friends and lament that he has lowered the status of leaders of national stature. Even a state politician or a district level leader will not think of mere Rs 1 lakh, they add, and wonder what is happening in the world of corruption where things happen on a grand scale.Punjabi friends have a point for they like to think big. My apologies for deviating from the trend and trying to refer to small operations and small amounts in the world of corruption. And it is in this part of corruption where small is not beautiful. It is not only ugly, it is sad and tragic.

Imagine a parent who does not have money to pay the fees of his ward or somebody who is prepared to sell his child or who has to advertise his helplessness in getting treatment for his spouse or child, what would Rs 1 lakh mean to him? He cannot say with the same ease as that of politician, “What is Rs 1 lakh?”

That brings us to the subject of corruption on what may be described as small scale. It is this kind of corruption that touches the common man the most. The bribe he has to give for a telephone, electricity or water connection, the money he has to pay the lineman to keep his telephone working or for uninterrupted supply of electricity, the tip he has to pay the postman or even a sanitation karamchari for their services, they are all small amounts but paid with a lot of difficulty. Or think of the railway reservation for which you had to pay a little more than the fare.

Do you remember how many times you went to a local administration office or even a police station for help and had to part with money in return for that help? Did you hear about the “speed money” everybody has to pay for movement of his petition or file in any department? How would a government employee, just retired, feel if he has to pay a bribe to an ex-colleague to expedite his pension or gratuity papers?

What would you think of a situation where kin of deceased have to bribe somebody for getting compensation or relief or even for a death certificate? How about having to pay money to get money as loan from a lending institution or about getting your own money from a matured insurance policy? Did you ever think of parents who have to pay through their nose to get their wards admitted to good schools—not fees but bribe in the name of donation, etc., or get them jobs after they finish education?

Is it very rare that people in employment have to pay money to proper postings, to get transfers or promotion? One could go on and on posing such questions. They are all about small amounts by politicians’ standards. Mostly they will be in three figures, four figures or may be five figures. They concern small people for whom these amounts are not so small. But they could be at times a matter of life and death for them and often they may have to stretch to the maximum to mobilise these resources.

Leaders, political or other kind, men who offer and accept large or respectable amounts in the world of corruption, will never know about it. They never face situations like that. Have you seen or heard of a man who matters in a queue at a railway station, municipal committee office, telephone exchange or any other office of public dealing. They live in a world that is insulated from that of the common people whom they represent or claim to serve. It is another matter that they all know in a general way that there is corruption at every level in every field. The men who matter in the government and outside are aware of the rates and techniques of corruption.

Sometimes, they say, people in high places share the loot of the common man by functionaries at lower levels. Some of them share, in confidence, that they cannot but give part of their “earnings” to those above them. It is often so in lucrative departments like taxation and the police. There is the case of the chairman of a public corporation who came to know about his driver cheating on petrol consumption and started getting his share out of this. There is the case of a person going to the official concerned for the registration of a sale deed of land and being asked for the usual bribe. “But I am a journalist,” he informed the official, who in turn was very polite to him, offered him a chair and even a cup of tea. The official frankly told him that it was all he could do for him, being a journalist, but that he could not waive the money part for part of it had to go “above” and he could not possibly give it from his own pocket.

There can be many stories —true stories— of the kind that are narrated by the givers and takers of bribes of what may be considered small amounts. They all take it as normal part of life, not worth notice by those who are supposed to oversee work of those offices or even public watchdogs like the media. These small things are not discussed in legislatures or any other public forum. They are not written about or televised. Political parties do not make them issues during or after elections. Great orators among the politicians do not find time to refer to them in their speeches. It is Bofors that would interest them, or any other defence deal that would run into hundreds of crores of rupees. Since the smaller corruption does not become an issue for them, the question of its eradication naturally does not arise. They are all aware of it, yet they are ignorant of it.

Big corruption scandals will be exposed, debated, inquired into and, maybe, tackled, but no such thing in the case of small-level corruption, which, in fact, is very large as it is so widely spread in the entire public life and all small amounts could together run into a mind-boggling sum indeed. And so, small remains ugly.


Jaswant Singh goes to Washington wearing
two hats
Rakshat Puri

MR Jaswant Singh, the Minister for External Affairs and Defence, is due to visit Washington shortly. Relevant aspects of the international context and developing configuration may make the visit significant. A full discussion between him and the US Secretary of State, General Colin Powell, is expected on a range of important issues.

Mr Jaswant Singh is also expected to hold talks with the Defence Secretary, Mr Donald Rumsfeld. The Bush Administration has, in the past many weeks, been building on the thaw in Indo-US relations that began with former President, Mr Bill Clinton’s visit, but more positively than was evident in the Mr Clinton- Mrs Albright combine. The latest indication of this continuing build-up was the 30-minute meeting that India’s new ambassador in Washington, Mr Lalit Mansingh had with General Colin Powell when he went to present his credentials last week. General Powell is reported to have said that President Bush was keen on building a close relationship based on the vision statement and dialogue architecture, and to resume high-level official contacts that had tended to droop.

A positive sign of the Bush administration’s keenness is the choice of the new ambassador who will replace Mr Richard Celeste. The nominee is Mr Robert D. Blackwill, whose overseas assignments in the US foreign service have included Kenya, Britain and Israel. But he is perhaps best known for his work relating to China and to US-Chinese relations. He is a member of the US International Institute of Strategic Studies and of the Council on Foreign Relations. Announcing Mr Blackwill’s nomination, Mr Bush said “he understands the important place India holds in my foreign policy agenda”. Mr Blackwill recently authored a book, America’s Asian Alliances, in which he is said to have dwelt on the need for a joint effort by the US and its allies including Japan and South Korea to consider and address the rise of Chinese power, counter the spread of nuclear and high-tech conventional weapons, and, among other things, expand the world free trade system.

In effect, it would seem Mr Bush’s foreign policy agenda coincides with India’s politico-strategic interests. But it is not enough for Delhi to view the shaping of Indo-US relations in an exclusive way. Adequate and effective reference is necessary to the emerging world context and configuration. It would be useful to note the US’s parleys with some of its allies.

Discussions have just taken place between President Bush and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori on strategic issues. The joint statement calls for close consultations on missile defence among allies and with other interested parties. It states that Washington and Tokyo are already conducting cooperative research on ballistic missile defence technologies. The statement reaffirmed that the US military presence in the area remains vital to regional security.

For Japan, an American missile defence shield is essential, in the context of the rise, primarily, of China. Countries such as Japan, even though it is part of the developed First World, —- traditionally dependent for security on the US —- feel threatened in the neighbourhood of a rising power such as China, which does not bother to conceal its combative super-power ambitions. Add to this the fact that in a subsequent meeting at Irkutsk between Prime Minister Mori and Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Russians were not quite forthcoming about the return of four islands captured by Russia in World War II —- a Japanese precondition for normal relations. The meeting ended with clichés about speeding up further talks on the issue. The situation —- for both Japan and India —- is made somewhat tricky by the steadily coinciding Russo-Chinese approach to Washington’s active endeavour for building an American missile network.

Japan is troubled primarily because of a hotting-up neighbourhood —- including China’s loud missile-backed aggressiveness towards Taiwan. For India, the discomfort may stem in good measure from not only China’s intrusive aggressiveness but also from the fact that Russia has been and remains a good friend. Among other things, it ignored US wrath to supply nuclear fuel for the Tarapur plant. Nevertheless, the effect of a Russo-Chinese get-together to counter the US, which under President Bush is gradually seeing India as an important global player, may not be in India’s best interests. There should obviously not be any question, as things are, of India’s joining the Russia-China combine against Mr Bush’s programme of a missile defence network.

It is to be noted that of the two countries which Russia is currently helping with nuclear arms and systems —- Iran and North Korea —- Iran is bothered most immediately by developments in the Afghan-n-Pakistan region.

In a number of ways, Indo-Iranian interests coincide —- not only because of the gas pipeline project. Relations between Delhi and Tehran have been tending to smoothen. Recently, Iran’s President Khatami was in Moscow. Pakistan-balancing agreements were signed for the sale of large quantities of Russian military hardware. More important, an agreement was signed for continuing Russian assistance in Iran’s nuclear power projects. The US expressed concern. China is evidently uneasy about the effect on its own strategic intentions.

The other country, North Korea, has been and remains a little too close to China for comfort in Delhi. It is at one with China in equipping Pakistan with nuclear equipment and missile technology, intended to keep India in check and tied down in South Asia.

Russia has accused the US of being still locked in the old Cold War mentality. In return, anxious about Russia’s nuclear assistance to Iran and North Korea, US Defence Secretary Rumsfeld has dismissed the 1972 Russo-American treaty on anti-ballistic missiles as outdated and irrelevant in today’s circumstances.

As for China, the US-Japan joint statement indicating the two are already conducting joint research on missile defence technologies can hardly please the Beijing regime. It seems inevitable that Moscow and Beijing should move to cooperate in countering the re-affirmed and perhaps heightened US-Japanese strategic alliance.

Last week China’s Vice-Premier, Mr Qian Qichen, was in Washington. Among the issues discussed, apparently without even a pretence of movement towards agreement, were the sale of arms by the US to Taiwan, and the position of human rights in China. Mr Qichen warned that serious strains would result in US-China relations if arms sales to Taiwan continued. The US’s stand on National Missile Defence also came up in the discussion. Mr Bush said the Missile Defence was not aimed at China. After next October’s meeting of the Asia Pacific Economic Forum in Shanghai, Mr Bush is scheduled to visit Beijing. Important developments in Indo-US relations may have taken place by then.

This is the context and configuration in which discussions will be taking place between Mr Jaswant Singh and General Colin Powell. Will Mr Jaswant Singh be able to project India effectively as a global player and a politico-economic force that matters? —AF


No Tehelka for this government

SMARTING under criticism for allowing the official media to be used by former Defence Minister George Fernandes to defend himself and announce his resignation, caution has become the new buzzword in the government. This came to light at a Press conference addressed by Food Minister Shanta Kumar at the conference hall of the Press Information Bureau. Speaking against the backdrop of the Government of India logo, the Minister while speaking about the export of foodgrains suddenly switched over to the fallout of the ‘Tehelka’ secret tapes controversy. The Principal Information Officer, Ms N.J. Krishna, was visibly embarrassed and intervened to tell mediapersons that they could talk politics after the Minister finished with his briefing on wheat exports. Once this was done, she politely told the Minister that he should avoid speaking on politics in the backdrop of the government logo as this would be televised. Ms Krishna’s worry was what if the Congress too demanded that the PIB hall be made available to it for airing its political views? The principal Opposition party had made a similar demand when Fernandes spoke on Doordarshan.

Shanta Kumar agreed with the PIO and climbed down from the dais and addressed mediapersons against a blank background. He spoke about the need for a churning in the political system, especially funding of elections. The Minister was of the view that private funding of elections should be banned and made punishable. Only the State should be entrusted with funding of elections. He was also critical of former BJP President Bangaru Laxman, who was filmed while taking a wad of notes from the Tehelka scribe, who posed as an arms agent. It is because of people like Laxman that Prime Minister Atal Behari is being called a ‘Bhrashtachari (corrupt)’, Kumar lamented.

Loudmouth Mathew

Thomas Mathew, the Home Ministry official, who is facing a probe for allegedly leaking official information to ‘Tehelka’ scribes is being projected as a national threat. The Central Bureau of Investigation and the intelligence agencies are probing his background. If Mathew’s friends are to be believed there is nothing dubious about this Home Ministry official. Mathew prided himself in being a card holder of a Left party and it was probably his Left leanings that had the Right wing BJP hawks fuming.

Mathew resides in a middle class society in far off outer Delhi and does not live a lifestyle that describes his new found reputation. He is a loudmouth who likes to boast about his links. He had even served a Union Minister earlier on his personal staff. According to reports, even the CBI has not been able to establish anything against the Home Ministry official. Is he being made the scapegoat?

In battle-gear

Though it is only Assembly elections in five states, the Congress and the BJP are in full battle gear. Both are accusing each other of declaring political war on the other. Both are looking for the slightest opportunity to turn the tables on the opponent. Both are playing victim and aggressor in turns. And in the game of political sweepstakes, the question of Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s foreign origin is also being raked up. Words from her recent speeches are being picked up for their direct and implied meaning. At the NDA rally last week, it was Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee who led the attack. The Congress, he said, had sounded the bugle for political war and the NDA is ready to battle it out. Mrs Gandhi was accused of being intemperate and offensive.

Though the Congress has been taking pains to explain that Mrs Gandhi never called Mr Vajpayee a traitor during the party’s Bangalore plenary, the BJP is out to make political capital out of her use of the word “gaddar” in her speech. “Mr Vajpayee’s life is an open book,” new BJP president Jana Krishnamurthy declared, asking the gathering at NDA rally if the same could be said about Mrs Gandhi. Surprisingly, Vincent George, Sonia Gandhi’s aide, against whom the CBI recently registered a case, hardly found a mention in the rally where nearly 15 leaders spoke.

Evasive Cong

What is the Congress doing these days? Opposing and exposing the government but not deposing it. And in a bid to keep the Tehelka issue alive, the party is coming everyday with posers for the NDA government on the expose. Important questions are being asked after long interludes.

Like it happened last week, when after a fortnight of the expose, the Congress asked Prime Minsiter Atal Behari Vajpayee to clarify if he knew R K Gupta, a businessman shown in the tapes acting as a middleman in defence deals. Evidently keen to keep up the pressure on the government, the Congress does not want the heat to turn on it.

No questions are being answered by the Congress spokespersons on the CBI case against party chief Sonia Gandhi’s aide Vincent George. The first day after the case came to light, the party showed bravado in fielding these questions but found the mediapersons gunning for it. The party leaders have a reason for being evasive on the CBI case against Vincent George.

“We do not want to fall into BJP’s trap,” a leader said, hinting that taking questions on George would dilute the party’s focus on Tehelka.

Scribes get it

The fallout of the ‘Tehelka’ controversy is beginning to be felt by scribes in the Capital. Visit to the North Block and South Block offices on Raisina Hill, which houses the Ministries of Defence, Home, Finance and External Affairs besides the PMO, have become more difficult. In a subtle move, the authorities have made the official parking lots in the two complexes out of bounds for scribes and outsiders. Only vehicles with the official labels are being allowed inside the parking lots. To compound the woes of the visitors, the spacious footpaths around the complex, which can also accommodate a large number of cars, have been cordoned off with ropes. The only option is to park the vehicles on the roadside, which is officially a no parking zone. The message it seems is directed towards the scribes. Behave or else your vehicles will be towed away.

TV takes over

Parliament’s loss is the electronic media’s gain. Ever since the Opposition stalled proceedings in Parliament over the ‘Tehelka’ tape revelations, politicians have taken to the television to air their views. Leaders from both the Opposition and ruling parties make themselves available for debates on the controversy. In some shows even the public is allowed to participate and put embarrassing questions. Unlike Parliament, the politicians are seen handling difficult questions deftly. Is 24-hour direct telecast of Parliament proceedings the answer to orderly functioning of the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha!

— (Contributed by TRR, T.V. Lakshminarayan, Prashant Sood and P.N. Andley)


Another Harvard don as US Ambassador
Harihar Swarup

FORTY years ago when John F. Kennedy ruled the USA, he drafted a Harvard Professor, John Kenneth Galbraith, as his Ambassador to India. Galbraith became a popular envoy and came to be known as a friend of India; his three-year tenure — from 1961 to 1963 — is still remembered. After 38 years, New Delhi will have another Harvard Professor as U.S. emissary to India. President George W. Bush has nominated Robert D. Blackwill, a scholar and a career diplomat, as his man in the biggest democracy of the world. Will he be able to touch the popularity graph of Galbraith now that Indo-US relations are on a much better keel compared to strained relationship of the early sixties?

Little known in India, Prof. Blackwill is currently teaching International Security at Harvard. Judging by his bio-data, the Ambassador designate is a prodigy both in the academic world and in the sphere of diplomacy. He was, in fact, a confidant of the present President’s father, Bush (Sr), who appointed him as far back as 1989, as Special Assistant to him. Blackwill was assigned National Security Affairs and designated Senior Director for European and Soviet Affairs, significantly, in the years preceding disintegration of the USSR. At his behest the modus operandi of the CIA in providing intelligence to senior policy makers underwent a drastic change. During the recent Presidential campaign, he served as senior foreign policy adviser for George W.Bush.

President Bush’s decision to nominate Blackwill as US envoy to India came as a surprise. In the backdrop of his expertise on China, the expectation was that he might be sent to Beijing. He has been Director of the Harvard University programme for Senior Chinese Military Officers and entrusted with the task of bringing People’s Liberation Army (PLA) nearer to the USA. He has reportedly trained a number of Chinese army officers and, two of them, holding the rank of Colonel, took part in Tiananmen massacre.

President Bush has himself explained why he chose Blackwill for India and not China. In a signed statement issued by the White House, he explained: “Blackwill understands the important place India holds in my foreign policy agenda and will be an outstanding American Ambassador. He will bring a wealth of expertise to the position”.

While Blackwill’s knowledge about China and Russia is phenomenal, his study about the affairs of the sub-continent is mostly confined to likely developments in the wake of both India and Pakistan turning nuclear . The Ambassador-designate is more concerned about Pakistan having nuclear weapons in its armoury than India possessing such arms and feels this may jeopardise the American interests. In a recent article “An Action Agenda to Strengthen America’s Alliances in Asia” he has forecast that the adverse impact may start coming to the fore in the next five years. His apprehension is that Pakistan is on the verge of joining the category of a “failed state” and a fragmented nation, dominated by Islamic fundamentalists, besides risking an Indo-Pak war, run the risk of passing the N-technology and fissile materials to few other equally fanatic Muslim states. He is of the opinion that it was a mistake on the part of Washington to have viewed India “through the prism of its confrontation with Pakistan”. Also fixation of USA with India’s nuclear programme, at the expense of a broader strategic approach, was not a correct approach.

In another book entitled “America’s Asian Alliances” Blackwill talks of the instabilities and new risks in Asia-Pacific region. He says: “America’s Asian alliances face an arc of potential instability, from the divided Korean peninsula in Northeast Asia, to the nuclear confrontation between India and Pakistan on the South Asian subcontinent, to an unstable Indonesia in Southeast Asia”. Also he believes that India’s nuclear activities could not be separated from its political-security relationship with China, and that open nuclear deployment would heighten tension between Beijing and New Delhi.

Besides penning over a dozen books on such varied subjects such as arms control, new nuclear nations, Russia and outside world and the future of transatlantic relations, Blackwill acquired long years of experience in diplomacy. Having served as Peace Corps Volunteer in Malawi, African, he began his diplomatic career in 1967. During his long foreign service tenure, he served in Nairobi, London, Tel Aviv and designated US Ambassador and Chief negotiator at the negotiations with the Warsaw Pact on conventional forces in Europe. His high water-mark in diplomatic service was in 1990 when he was awarded the Commander’s Cross of the Order of Merit by the Federal Republic of Germany for his contribution for unification of Germany.

In the diplomatic circles Blackwill has the reputation of being a “workaholic”. He has also a passion for computers and spends over two hours every day surfing the internet. Happily married, he has three children.


Diversity of Viennese orchestra
Humra Quraishi

THE Delhi do-ers here are doing it as if there was no tomorrow. The Viennese Chamber orchestra and the accompanying ball went off very well except that next time there should be some sort of a check on the supposed who’s who buying those donor tickets.

For with the changing social order, those with wads of money are under the illusion that they can attempt a waltz or two — but several amongst the crowd did end up making complete caricatures of themselves (it was rather obvious that ball evening at the Taj Palace). Anyway, I wasn’t around for long because that very evening , kathak dancer Uma Sharma had hosted a dinner (she has bagged the Padma Shri). But later I was indeed present for more than a couple of hours, the very next day, when Austrian Ambassador Herbert Traxl hosted a dinner in honour of the orchestra members and it was a very pleasant session. What really surprised one was that most of the orchestra members (including the conductor Joji Hattori who is a Japanese by birth but has settled in Vienna ) are from different nationalities and it is an intense love for music that has drawn them towards Vienna (amazing is the power of music!) and again, each one of them was well versed with the political situation -in their home countries, and, perhaps not surprisingly, after the Tehelka aftermath, familiar with the happenings in our country. The Tehelka bubble burst whilst they were touring here. And so entrenched were they that a few were even asking some of the Indian guests sharing our table (Kiran Chaudhry, Nalini Singh) about their reactions vis a vis Tehelka tapes. In fact, musician/orchestra member Sebastian Freze’s political awareness took me by sheer surprise, for within minutes he was recounting the political developments in his country, complete with reiterations that the Right Wing political party in Austria was causing great concern. Moving on, there seems much activity in diplomatic circles here — the Greeks have shifted to the new Embassy premises at Chanakyapuri and the country’s Ambassador Yannis Alexis Zepos hosted the national day reception (March 27) at the new premises. In fact for years the Greek ambassadors to India have lived in a particular five star hotel suite. This was indeed a rarity, with just a few exceptions, if I am not mistaken even the Israeli Ambassador to India lives in a hotel suite and till lately Panama’s ambassador to India followed suit. Then, the Italians together with the Ministry of Textiles are presenting an exhibition of ‘India inspired ‘ Tarshito Nicola Strippoli with creations made in collaboration with several of our artisans. Titled “The gold and the clay” it will go on till the end of May. Moving still further on , the UN is hosting a special evening with a special someone — Vijay Amritraj the UN Messenger of Peace. In fact, Amritraj is one of the nine prominent individuals appointed by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to serve as messengers of peace. The eight others are: Muhammad Ali, Anna Cataldi, Michael Douglas, Earvin Magic Johnson, Enrico Macias, Wynton Marsalis, Luciano Pavarotti and Elie Weisel. Amritraj is said to be focusing on drugs and HIV/AIDS and according to UN estimates there is an alarming increase on both these fronts. So these messiahs-to-be really ought to take stock or recharge their strategies or else they‘d be called very poor messengers indeed! And when I got the invite for Jacqueline Lundquist’s book ‘ There’s A Mouse In Roosevelt House (Har-Anand) I was a bit surprised. For with all that hectic socialising, the American Ambassador Richard F Celeste’s spouse, managing to find time to write a book seems a difficult proposition . Said to have been written for her four-plus son Sam (in fact he is the co-author !) it is a children’s book and Maurya’s Nandiya Gardens stand all spruced for the book release ceremony, scheduled for April 2. And on April 3 the French Ambassador to India Bernard de Montferrand is hosting a reception, for the launch of the English edition of Jean Alphonse Bernand’s ‘From Raj to the Republic’. And once again the publisher is none other than Narendra Kumar of Har Anand publishing house. In fact I still recollect what Femina editor Sathya Saran once told me about Kumar (he published her book of short stories too) “he has been most encouraging giving a platform to so many to vent out their feelings , thoughts’s so important to be able to write and to have someone who doesn’t discourage by rejecting the manuscript at the first glance”.

And on April 6 there opens a very unusual exhibition in the Capital at the India International Centre. Rather, it is the unusual name of the artist who simply calls herself ‘GAP’ which attracts one’s attention. She’s actually Dutch artist Ghislaine Aarsse Prins who is the wife of Robert Aarsse, the head of the Press and Culture section at the Netherlands Embassy. GAP has worked on this exhibition for the last three years in her Delhi studio. Her invite reads “Understanding, Humor, Beauty of Matter, Density, Tenuous equilibrium, blend onto the fixed form of a canvas; the non revealed form.. Above all GAP. is a painter”.

Back to home territories now. At the time of my filing this column there is news that there might be a round of transfers at the Centre next week.

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