Sunday, June 24, 2001, Chandigarh, India

E D I T O R I A L   P A G E


Dictatorship is not necessary to fight poverty
Tribhuvan Nath
XACTLY 26 years ago as she abruptly promulgated the Emergency on that fateful midnight of June 25-26, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi undoubtedly appropriated absolute powers to herself but lost much more — her support base among her countrymen. The steps she was to take next — detention of popular leaders and extension of the terms of the Lok Sabha and State Assemblies — provoked people's ire. 

Peace and prosperity in the pipeline?
Rakshat Puri
EPORTS indicate that among the important subjects for discussion between Pakistan's military ruler Pervez Musharraf and Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee when they meet in July will be the pipeline to be laid for bringing Iranian gas to India. 




Ah, for confusion!
Prem Kumar
E in this country love confusion. And the ruling class, being the true representatives of the people, that is us, love it all the more. It is only natural that we are fond of creating a situation to our liking.

US search for strategic primacy: Bush missile defence
Bharat Wariavawalla
TRATEGIC primacy is what the USA under George Bush Jr. aspires to. In his speech before the national Defence College on May 1 he sketched a hazy design of American primacy. It is to rest on a shield a National Missile Defence (NMD). But he also wants to keep the sword- the several thousand nuclear warheads deliverable by ballistic missiles.


Harihar Swarup
Linking India, Pak through music
USIC and poetry transcend the barriers of caste, creed and religion and cut across divide between people. Ailing ghazal maestro, Mehdi Hasan, epitomises that divine link between the peoples of India and Pakistan who lived for centuries in the sub continent known as “Hindustan” and took pride in calling themselves “Hindustani”.


Confusing diplomatic moves
HE Congress is not in the habit of glossing over perceived indiscretions of the NDA government. But sometimes it does in its role of a “responsible opposition.” Political circles last week were engrossed with the talk of Americans declaring dates of the Indo-Pak summit at least two hours before the official announcement by New Delhi. 

  • Correcting impressions

  • Vying for the guest

  • No role model

  • Selective briefing

  • Stopping media


Humra Quraishi
Why not a day of togetherness
VERY year 26 June is observed as the Anti- Emergency Day. In fact even this year various groups are holding a meet at New Delhi’s Gandhi Peace Foundation. No need to go into the details of the traumatic aspects associated with this particular day or the days that followed, but what can be termed as equally disturbing are some of the so called changes creeping in now. Top


Dictatorship is not necessary to fight poverty
Tribhuvan Nath

EXACTLY 26 years ago as she abruptly promulgated the Emergency on that fateful midnight of June 25-26, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi undoubtedly appropriated absolute powers to herself but lost much more — her support base among her countrymen. The steps she was to take next — detention of popular leaders and extension of the terms of the Lok Sabha and State Assemblies — provoked people's ire. Distressed over public antipathy, she turned to western friends and the Press to reassure them that the Emergency was indeed proving a boon in disguise to India.

Parliamentary and press criticism, if any, could, of course, be gagged but New Delhi had hardly any control over the fulminations of the foreign Press. Censorship at home and the deportation of New Delhi-based foreign correspondents simply confirmed to the West, her conspiratorial designs to build-up a dynastic regime.

The PM acted fast to disabuse the West of its negative perceptions. At one stage she contemplated launching an Emergency-friendly propaganda campaign from France.

In November 1975, New Delhi hosted the Commonwealth Parliamentary Union conference in its bid to win friends and influence public opinion in other democratic countries. As a curtain-raiser to the conference, the October 12 issue of The Sunday Telegraph, London, carried an interview Indira Gandhi had given to George Evans airing her views on the beneficial impact of the Emergency and the malignant role of the Indian and foreign Press in interpreting her benevolent policy and programmes. Whatever its impact, it was soon to be washed out by another London journal.

The New Statesman carried in its November 28 issue an article by a British MP who was a delegate at the conference, giving insights into New Delhi's murky happenings. It was captioned Appointment in Delhi.

Indira Gandhi had cornered Leo Abse, the MP (who later contributed the piece) on noticing that he alone among her guests did not get up when 300 others were competing to greet her on the entry in the conference banquet hall. Their conversational gambit, as reported in the newspaper, does not seem to have staled with the passage of years.

"Are you," she said contemptuously, "fasting?". Abse says, "My wife deploying some Welsh guile sought to pour oil on troubled waters but the lady was not appeased."

A Young Turk's role

More relevant was the delegate's clandestine meeting with Krishan Kant, one of the "Young Turks" of the '70s. Abse wrote: "The day before the incident, I was made painfully aware of the shadow she had cast over India."

Intelligence sleuths were sniffing his tracks even before the MP could meet Krishan Kant. They hounded him to the doorstep of his hotel room and he in turn, mistook them for the Indian MPs waiting to meet him. Abse was soon to outsmart them.

Early in the morning, Abse says, "I had received a telephone call at my hotel room from an Opposition MP requesting a meeting on behalf of some of his colleagues.

The customary warnings of the British Embassy were still in my ears: "We remain here after you are gone. But I have received that advice before from embassies in other uncomfortable lands."

"The appointment was arranged in my hotel room for 6 p.m that day and I left the conference in good time to keep the appointment. In the lift a tall Indian joined me, together we stepped out on the same floor, joining the others waiting outside my room.

"Assuming they were my MPs, I invited the three to my room a little insistingly as they diffidently held back. I made them sit down, thinking how socially uncertain they were compared to my bouncing, smooth Westminster colleagues; and then I asked them to write down their names and political affiliations for my record. The apprehensive looks now passing between them put me on inquiry.

"Suddenly it dawned on me — they were security police. But policemen are policemen everywhere, responding well to authoritative orders. I commanded one to write his details down, and he meekly obeyed. R.S. Yadav. H.No 1439-A/17-G2, he wrote.

"Then I ordered them out of my room and dashed to the foyer to warn my guests, six members of Parliament from extreme left to extreme right. They brushed my concern aside. Of course, my telephone was tapped, one quoted Mahatma Gandhi on the need of the call for every politician.

"When the three security men waited outside, the MPs spent two hours with me. I sought to cross check every seeming extravagance with Krishan Kant, who speedily won my respect. He was the Congress member who courageously spoke out against Mrs Gandhi's assumption of dictatorial, Emergency powers and for his presumption has been suspended for 10 years from the Congress party. He insisted that 1,00,000 persons have been imprisoned. As I bade them good night and they disappeared into the darkness, they were followed by the wretched sleuths.

"Not even the elegant Abu, one-time liberation Observer and Guardian cartoonist, since nominated by Mrs Gandhi to be a member of the Upper House, could as he fluently presented the Government's justification for the new order, erase Kant's pleas to me...."

What was that speech like which cost the "Young Turk" his Rajya Sabha seat? Participating in the debate (on the official motion seeking Parliament's approval for Emergency), Kant had said:

"..... The basic question we have to ask ourselves is whether the Draconian and repressive measures are required to achieve the supposed results. We adopted a democratic Constitution and decided to have a free and open society to reach national goals through democratic processes. Have we to take a leaf from the philosophy of Mussolini to run trains on time?"

In the same vein he asked if India had to imitate Ayub Khan, Idi Amin, Marcos or the Army generals of Greece. He recalled that observers like Jawaharlal Nehru were not taken in by the achievements of wartime dictators. "That is why, Sir, we chose a different path under the inspiration of Gandhiji."

He reminded the House of the PM's views in 1969, when she had said:

"Dictatorship is not necessary to fight poverty. Nor does dictatorship give people strength.

“Sir, the real crisis, which had developed in Indian polity, was the political corruption, which had led to the erosion of values in public life resulting in economic and social crisis...

“The real problem was erosion of credibility of political parties and the political leadership which needed a decision to clean public and political life."

Though the conscientious dissenter's voice could not halt the Emergency steamroller, it was mainly the western Press build-up against it, which eventually weighed on Indira Gandhi to withdraw it in March 1977 and opt for poll that swept the Janata Party to power.

The writer is a well-known journalist.


Peace and prosperity in the pipeline?
Rakshat Puri

REPORTS indicate that among the important subjects for discussion between Pakistan's military ruler Pervez Musharraf and Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee when they meet in July will be the pipeline to be laid for bringing Iranian gas to India.

Around the time that the Vajpayee-Musharraf talks are held in Delhi, Iranian and Indian technical experts will be meeting in Tehran. The two sides will, it is said, select an international company to study the techno-economic as well as the legal and security aspects of the project. Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Mohammad Hossein Adeli was reported saying in Delhi last week that Tehran and its international business partners, such as presumably Australia's Broken Hill Property and British Petroleum, would take the responsibility of ensuring safe passage for Iranian gas in a surface pipeline laid through Pakistan.

The advantages should be of much more than passing interest for Pakistan, too, of the pipeline passing through its territory. Pakistan's economic situation is far from happy. And India has from all accounts modified its previous hesitation in having the pipeline come through Pakistan. Musharraf may have declared loftily at the question-answer session with journalists last Friday, that the Iran-India gas pipeline was "the problem of India", that it was primarily "not our problem". Bravado of this kind is unlikely to take in anyone.

As things are, it will not be easy for any Pakistani government to pull Pakistan's economy out of a mushy swamp, and in the process rescue it from a strangling debt trap — Islamabad's foreign debt at present is said to be around $37 billion, no less. According to the Economic Survey for 2000-2001 presented by its Finance Minister Shaukat Aziz, Pakistan's gross domestic product growth is 2.6 per cent against a target of 4.7 per cent, having been 3.9 per cent last year and 4.1 per cent the year before last. Aziz cited "unprecedented domestic shocks" including drought; decline in national and domestic savings; fall in total and fixed investment; decline in foreign capital investment; heavy foreign debt servicing; etc.

To the consternation of the Musharraf regime, people have begun to react violently to lack of due civic amenities — for example, the recent agitation against water-shortage in Karachi. This kind of public anger tends invariably to bring to surface old political resentments. This became evident in Karachi. The agitation was led by the Muttahida Qaumi Movement of Mohajirs — whose London-based leader Altaf Hussain proposes to visit India after Musharraf's departure — and the Jeeay Sindh Qaumi Movement.

The MQM leader has described the 1947 Partition of the sub-continent as a major blunder; and the JSQM wants independence for Sindh. Musharraf dismissed the disturbances glibly as the work of a "foreign hand".

In the obtaining circumstances, then, the passage of the Iranian gas pipeline to India through Pakistani territory, which should bring Islamabad substantial financial and other benefits, is not to be sniffed at. But there has to be a return to sane reality before such benefits can begin to accrue. The two sides will, for example, have to begin by liberating themselves from the almost psychotic mindset about the "centrality" and "non-centrality" of the Jammu-Kashmir issue.

In Pakistan, especially, the public mind has been conditioned by half a century of drumming on J-K by its rulers and politicians. Reason? First, the leaders had to turn the public's attention away from their own incompetence and corruption; and secondly, the J-K issue provided an easy way to rouse anti-Indian sentiment on a national scale. Anti-Indian sentiment was necessary for keeping alive a sense of Pakistani national identity. Anti-Indianism on a national scale was required for this because there was, and is, practically nothing to distinguish the culture and people of Pakistan from those of India — consider, for example, the reception at Islamabad last week to Sukhbir Singh's bhangra performance!

It is for Pakistan's rulers now to bring that country's people back from the "J-K psychosis" into which they led them, and to convince them, as well as all the fanatics and fundamentalists, that the "core issue" is national socio-economic development, the basis of national survival itself. Without this, all other issues, including J-K, sink to nothing. One obvious and effective way for Pakistan and India to join for tackling the real problem that the two share — economic and social development — would be to determinedly strengthen South Asian regional cooperation.

After the problem of economic and social development has been met, the "centrality" of issues such as Jammu-Kashmir will be seen to be marginal — not worth all the disputing and quarrelling. A solution to and settlement over such differences might emerge then in the natural course.

Indeed, Musharraf-Vajpayee reference to the gas pipeline could have a catalytic effect on the growth, enlargement and take-off of the entire South Asian regional grouping. And among other things, both India and Pakistan could — in the context of the pipeline discussions and of Pakistan's important place in the project since the pipeline will pass through its territory — jointly turn from other concerns to propose Iran's membership of SAARC.

Iran has historical, economic and geopolitical ties with the sub-continent. It is surrounded on the north, west and south by Turki and Arabic speaking peoples. It is somewhat different on Iran's east. History should remind the Iranians that in the centuries from the reign of Balban to that of Aurangzeb, Delhi came to be considered widely as the centre of Persian intellectual and cultural fashions. Indo-Iranian trade and other exchanges have been almost continuous in historical times. They declined only during British rule in India.

If Pakistan is willing, these historical contacts might be revived to the advantage of entire South Asia, and also of Iran itself. The subject should be very much worth bringing up when Musharraf is here. It integrates with discussion on the laying of the gas pipeline through Pakistan and the project's socio-economic advantages accruing to Islamabad as well as Delhi and Tehran.

But before any decision is possible on the pipeline's coming through Pakistan, there are doubts and questions that need to be cleared and answered. Among these the main one is about the position, reach and activity of the so-called jehadi organisations, such as Lashkar-e-Toiba, Ansar-ul-Mujahidin, Jaish-e-Mohammad etc; and about the Musharraf regime's ability or willingness to restrain them. These jehadi organisations have declared that they will continue their so-called jehaad — their euphemism for terrorism and drug-trafficking — and that peace talks will not stop them.

In fact, US intelligence is reported to have arrested four men last week, two of them Pakistani — D. Mohsen and Mohammad Raja Malik — for trying to smuggle American Stinger missiles and other high-tech weapons to "private buyers in Pakistan". Can these private buyers be any but the jehadi outfits, probably assisted by Islamabad's Inter-Services Intelligence?

So, in relation to the safety of the gas pipeline, and in relation to any possible joint invitation to Iran to join the South Asian grouping, the question remains — Can and will Pakistan's military ruler keep an effective curb on the jehadis? If he can and does, the future is bright for Pakistan, Iran, India and all of South Asia; and the brightness should become evident sooner than later.

Already, a study commissioned by the SAARC Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and detailed by the Tata Economic Consultancy Services, is reported to have suggested that India and Pakistan might cooperate and collaborate for tapping a substantial global market for software. The study is reported to have suggested also various areas for joint ventures, including pharmaceuticals, agrochemicals, automobile ancillaries, chemicals, leather processing etc.

If Musharraf has the sense of history required to move Pakistan in this direction — away from conventional political attempts to divert and deflect Pakistani public opinion into chimerical channels such as the "J-K core issue" — not only would all this become profit-providing reality. Also, what begins with the passage through Pakistan of the Iranian gas pipeline to India could very soon pick up to become a stream of national life-giving, wealth-bringing foreign industrial and capital investment. 
(Asia Features)



Ah, for confusion!
Prem Kumar

WE in this country love confusion. And the ruling class, being the true representatives of the people, that is us, love it all the more. It is only natural that we are fond of creating a situation to our liking. In fact, we revel in confusion, like on the day of Holi, or for that matter any other festival that is a riot of colour, noise and a host of emotions that nobody understands anything about. We have not confined it to festivals and special occasions, not even to limited areas of activity and specific periods of life. It is an all-round 'mela' spirit that pervades in various fields of activity in the country and all those who matter are contributing to it constantly. Politicians try to make the political situations as confusing as possible. Administrators see to it nobody understands their decisions and their implementation. Educationists, spurred by their political masters of the time, create a mess beyond anyone's comprehension even if education is meant to make things clearer. You can find similar confusion all over. That the media adds to it is only incidental. After all, media is a reflection of the society. It merely conveys and does not create.

And why should we be talking about confusion at this juncture? If it is there all the time, at all the places, where is the need to waste time and energy discussing it?

People, awaiting clarity on various issues, get impatient. The immediate provocation for this observation is the situation in Manipur that has happened and the situation in Assam and some other north-eastern states, which is developing. The Central Government's announcement about extension of ceasefire vis-à-vis Naga militancy beyond the borders of Nagaland is causing problems. The Central Government says it consulted state chief ministers and got their consensus on the subject. This is publicly stated by the highest in the Home Ministry. The Prime Minister says the ceasefire does not involve extension of boundaries of Nagaland at the cost of others. Opposition leaders say where is the need to intrude on other states' territory when law and order happens to be a state subject. Chief Ministers and ex-Chief Ministers say that they did not give any consent. Some say they were not consulted. At least one of them is right, as he was not a chief minister (in case of Assam) when the so-called consultations were supposed to have taken place. The man who struck the deal with a Naga militant organisation in Bangkok, away from the sight of Indian media, is quiet as a diplomat even if he is a hardcore civil bureaucrat. In any case, one does not know from whom he gets his brief - the Ministry of External Affairs, the Ministry of Home Affairs, or the Prime Minister's Office or from two of them or three of them. The political analysts are reminded of another ceasefire that is in Kashmir, which had to be abandoned even in the new climate of Hindi-Paki Bhai Bhai.

On the subject of Kashmir, it is time to say that the confusion is at its peak. Whether a solution is round the corner or not, talks between the Indian Prime Minister and Pakistan's Chief Executive (now President) are going to be a reality. It is immaterial if the talks are held in the city of Red Fort or Taj Mahal!

What will matter is the subject of talks. Pakistan is clear. It is all about Kashmir and they have a clear stand on Kashmir even behind the talk of flexibility. That country has tried to make it clearer through a two-hour-long dialogue with journalists and eminent citizens on TV by General Musharraf claiming he is a transparent man. His Foreign Minister, official spokesman and the Army commandars who matter support his position. In case of India, there are voices from Home Ministry, External Affairs Ministry, Prime Minister's office, alliance partners of Central Government, opposition leaders of all shades, official spokespersons of various ministries and an official interlocutor.

Yes, there are the Hurriyat leaders and some others in the Kashmir valley who think their agenda is going to be discussed and that they would make their presence felt some day. Perhaps the Prime Minister, recovering from his knee operation in a Mumbai Hospital, must have felt the confusion spreading too much and told mediapersons while leaving the hospital that the talks would be about the Pakistan-occupied part of Kashmir. Sure, it has removed some of the confusion! Incidentally, while Pakistan leaders are going to the town hammering on their agenda through domestic and foreign media, their Indian counterparts doing exactly the opposite. Need an example?

General Musharraf's TV dialogue with the nation and his address to Muslim religious leaders that was telecast repeatedly and answered almost all question. In contrast, view the Press conference by India'a Foreign Minister where he excelled in avoiding many important questions and left the mediapersons rather unsatisfied even though the press conference was held in a five-star hotel. Pakistan has a variety of spokespersons, both civilian and military who speak in one voice. We have many more spokespersons but they speak in many voices. After all, ours is a true democracy!

Whether it is Manipur or Kashmir or any other part of the country the moot issue is militancy in most cases. Indian rulers - the word 'rulers' is being used deliberately and not by mistake - are concerned about various issues out of the fear of militancy. Otherwise, they would not even think of doing anything regarding those issues. One does not have to give examples of this fear. There are many. The latest is from Manipur where politicians have gone into hiding. Till very recently they were displaying their strength and representative character to retain power in some way or the other. As for militancy, the Governments at the Centre and in states have still to formulate a clear and consistent policy. It varies from time-to-time, place-to-place and person-to-person. It is changed too often and is purely on ad-hoc basis. It may be interesting to repeat the remark of a veteran cop who has fought against militancy that terrorism cannot be contained through meditation. A lot could be said on confusion regarding dealing with terrorism but that would require a book and not a small article like this one. Yet it may be in order to quote from a press note of the Central Government issued last month. It read:

"The 21st of May is being observed every year as Anti-Terrorism Day. The purpose is to wean the people, especially the youth, away from the cult of violence and terrorism. The Union Home Ministry has requested State Governments and the Union Territory administration to observe Anti-Terrorism Day in a befitting manner. The programmes are to be held in Government offices, public sector undertakings and public institutions. An important feature of the observance of this day is the Anti-Terrorism Pledge administered to employees and the people."

What a masterstroke? The government employees and the people need to take a pledge. The mist is indeed cleared.


US search for strategic primacy: Bush missile defence
Bharat Wariavawalla

STRATEGIC primacy is what the USA under George Bush Jr. aspires to. In his speech before the national Defence College on May 1 he sketched a hazy design of American primacy. It is to rest on a shield a National Missile Defence (NMD). But he also wants to keep the sword- the several thousand nuclear warheads deliverable by ballistic missiles.

It is this combination of the sword and the shield in the American hands that perturbs its nuclear adversaries, China and Russia.

Russian and Chinese officials, at their recent meeting in Moscow, came out against the NMD on the ground that such a development would contravene the 1972 Moscow treaty which "limits" missile defence to only one site.

The American bid for strategic primacy is cloaked in moral terms. Righteousness comes easily to them as it does to us and therefore we so often clash. In his speech, Bush assured that his was a search for security and not a "search for advantage" and that he would cut offensive weapons "unilaterally" if necessary. We have chosen to emphasise those elements of the new American thinking that call for cuts in the number of warheads and launches and we welcome the consequent shift away from offence to defence.

Prime Minister Vajpayee said, on the occasion of Deputy Secretary of State, Richard Armitage's visit, that the doctrine of mutual assured destruction on which America had built its security in the cold war years was repugnant to him.

Yet it's most unlikely that the doctrine which has been the basis of security among nuclear adversaries will now die as the USA builds a missile defence shield. Incidentally the Pakistanis and we also believe that we are secure against each other's nuclear weapons so long as we have the capability to destroy each other; Lahore for Delhi, Karachi for Mumbai.

The Bush Administration has not yet defined the extent of this shield and the technology that will be deployed to build it. In fact many top American scientists ask whether it's technologically feasible; many members of the Congress, Republicans and Democrats, ask whether it's economically affordable.

A missile defence shield of the kind that Bush proposes would undo the important agreements the USA and the erstwhile Soviet Union concluded to limit their nuclear competition after their near collision at Cuba in 1962. Bush sees the ABM treaty of 1972 as an obstacle to his missile defence plan. The Outer Space Treaty of 1967 which bans the placement of weapons of mass destruction in space or on celestial bodies may also go, as the weaponisation of the outer space will become inevitable with the development of a space based missile defence shield.

The two START (Strategic Arms Reduction Talks) agreements by which the United States and Russia commit themselves to reducing their nuclear arsenal to 1,500 warheads each may also be scrapped. Russia links the START II ratification to America giving up its new strategy of missile defence.

In making a policy a sovereign state looks at the capability and not the intention of another sovereign state. Russia and China would be right in thinking that by going for a missile shield America to intercept incoming nuclear missiles while the sword in the forms of nuclear warheads and launches would enable it to devastate its adversaries. This combination of the sword and the shield would give the US enormous coercive powers over China and Russia and of course all the fiddlers whom America suspects of having nuclear ambition— Iran, Iraq North Korea, and Libya. They are called rouge states, a term that smacks of racism.

With the shield the Americans are likely to wield the sword, the Chinese and the Russians suspect. The Soviets suspected that Reagan's' Star War Programme was aimed at coercing them and they responded by threatening to go for their own missile defence. American strategic analysts now admit that one of the reasons behind the Reagan Administration calling off the Star War programme was the fear that the Soviets would do the same. Perhaps today Putin's Russia does not have the money and the will to counter Bush's NMD, though it has the technology to do so. But there are cheaper and quite effective ways of off-setting the American strategic lead: go for more offensive multi-warheads missiles. Russia has already made clear to the United States that it would pullout of Strategic Arms Reduction Talks (START) of 1993 by which the two had agreed to limit warheads to around 3,000-3,500. The agreements the two super powers had made in the cold war era to limit and stabilise their nuclear rivalry now risk being undone by Bush's drive for strategic primacy.

China could do what Russians could do to penetrate the American Space shield: add more intercontinental ballistic missiles to its weapons inventory. At present it has some 400 nuclear warheads deliverable by 20-odd intercontinental ballistic missiles. They can destroy the population centres of the western cost of the USA. By adding more missiles and warheads China can devastate larger parts of the United States.

Here we have supported, vaguely, at least publicly the NMD, though no one knows about what the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister said privately to the Deputy Secretary of State, Richael Armitage. Vajpayee said on the occasion of the latter's visit to Delhi that India was always against the doctrine of mutual assured destruction (MAD) as the basis of security among nuclear powers. An External Affairs Ministry statement, issued just after Bush's NMD speech at the National Defence College, said the same thing, but more obtusely.

Many of our policy monks have supported the NMD on foolish or flimsy grounds. Some have said if the American NMD could intercept the Chinese and Pakistani missiles we should welcome its development — as if the Bush Administration has gone for NMD for India's defence. Some other strategic analysts say that it is an outcome of the onward march of technology and since the march cannot be stopped, let's accept it.

Political leaders arrest technology when it's destabilising. But the strongest reason for our defence of the NMD is that it's directed against China and therefore it's advantageous to us.

US-China relationship is far from one of outright hostility. Bill Clinton pursued in eight years of his presidency a policy of engagement with China. Bush is not going to give up the policy of his predecessor entirely; enough though he did say during his presidential campaign that he would follow a policy of containment of China.

The stark reality is that despite the various issues of conflict between China and the United States both are together when it comes to the economy; China and America have a deep economic relationship, which neither can afford to snap without hurting each other severely. Unlike the Soviet-American relationship which was almost devoid of any economic interaction because both economies were autarchic, the Chinese-American relationship is one of conflict and cooperation. We have little ability to influence the course of their relations because we are no where in the top economic league.


Linking India, Pak through music
Harihar Swarup

MUSIC and poetry transcend the barriers of caste, creed and religion and cut across divide between people. Ailing ghazal maestro, Mehdi Hasan, epitomises that divine link between the peoples of India and Pakistan who lived for centuries in the sub continent known as “Hindustan” and took pride in calling themselves “Hindustani”.

Mehdi Hasan, like the late Ali Sardar Jafri, has been a great advocate of peace between the two countries. The maestro was, evidently, moved when he received a “get well soon” message despatched by Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee from his sick bed in Mumbai’s Breach Candy Hospital.

Recuperating from a paralytic stroke in Karachi’s Aga Khan Hospital, which impaired both his speech and memory, Mehdi Hasan, has in an article on Indo-Pak amity stressed that music and poetry knew no boundaries and the peoples of India and Pakistan had equal rights to his work. His exact words were: “Jo haq Pakistanion ko meri ghazalon pe hai, wohi Hindustanion ko bhi hai. Unho ne mujhe kam pyar naheen diya”.

Prime Minister Vajpayee too is his fan. As far back as 1978 when Mr Vajpayee was External Affairs Minister in the Janata Party government, he specially invited Mehdi Hasan for a recital at his residence and it turned out to be a memorable evening. Mehdi was in his best form and kept a select audience of music lovers, including this correspondent, spellbound for about two hours.

True to his conviction, 70-year-old Mehdi Hasan’s last concert was performed at the southern most tip of India. He had gone to Kerala for ayurvedic treatment following the first paralytic stroke. Even in that state of health, he kept the audience spell-bound on October 30, last year. Substantially recovered, he returned to Pakistan.

In March, this year, his magic voice was stifled following another attack, a severe one and he had to be taken to Aga Khan Hospital in Karachi for specialised treatment. Will Mehdi Hasan be able to sing again ? Doctors treating him are still optimistic and say he may be able to sing again.

Peoples of India and Pakistan are one in praying for recovery of the ghazal maestro. The Kashmir issue notwithstanding, Prime Minister Vajpayee and new President of Pakistan, Gen Musharraf (the fourth military dictator to usurp the number one position) earnestly want the melodious voice to be restored.

The best tribute to the ghazal wizard was, possibly, paid by the melody queen Lata Mangeshkar: “Mehdi Hasan kay galay mein bhagwan bolta hai”. Doubtlessly, it takes centuries for a Mehdi Hasan to be born and rule over the hearts of the people.

His singing career spreads over three decades. Initially, he sang as a playback singer in many films and subsequently became a legend in his lifetime. His first ghazal “meray khal-o-khwab ki duniya liya huway” in the film “Shikaar” in 1962 pitchforked him to the top. Since then, there was no looking back for him.

It is a difficult task to single out the best song from the long list of Mehdi Hasan’s super-hits. Radio Pakistan made an attempt in the eighties and after going through his music album reached the conclusion that the ghazal “ Elahi, aansoo bhari zidangi kisi ko na dey” is the best.

Years before when Mehdi Hasan was a young man, he stood before the same radio station to eke out a living; he was called for audition. So impressed was the expert, who took the audition, that he recommended the young artiste be paid Rs 35 instead of the usual fee of those days — Rs 10 to Rs 15. The recommendation was endorsed but another superior, a connoisseur of ghazals, Rafiq Ghaznavi felt it was unfair as he had never before heard such a magic voice as that of the budding youth. He raised the amount to Rs 100.

Though Mehdi Hasan began his career as a playback singer, he touched the highwater mark as a non-film singer and sang some of his best ghazals. Pick up a CD of his non-filmi recording and feel the difference. His sheer voice without “interference” of his composers and their orchestra appears to be more captivating. His distinctive voice and style in ghazal singing clearly symbolises the inherent strength and potential melodic culture of India and Pakistan.

Mehdi Hasan was born in a town called Luna in Rajasthan, 107 miles from Jaipur. Though his father, Azim Khan encouraged him, his uncle, Ismail Khan, was, in fact, his mentor. Having learnt classical music at Bhatkhande College of Music in Lucknow, Ismail, started grooming his nephew when he was only six years old. Later, Mehdi Hasan’s elder brother, Ghulam Qadir, fondly called “Panditji”, virtually became his partner and composed most of Mehdi’s ghazals. One of them “Gulon mein rang bharay bad-I-naubahar chalay”, became an instant hit.


Confusing diplomatic moves

THE Congress is not in the habit of glossing over perceived indiscretions of the NDA government. But sometimes it does in its role of a “responsible opposition.” Political circles last week were engrossed with the talk of Americans declaring dates of the Indo-Pak summit at least two hours before the official announcement by New Delhi. So, was the summit happening under US pressure? Was India departing from the purely bilateral approach it wants in Indo-Pak relations? How much were the Americans influencing India’s foreign policy? There were a number of uncomfortable questions that could have put the government on the mat.

But none of these came from the Congress. The explanation given was that the principal opposition party did not want to give the impression that there were differing perceptions on the Kashmir issue. But it wasn’t a pure case of ‘silence is golden.’ Congress president Sonia Gandhi was leaving for the USA and any harsh statement would have certainly been noticed in Washington.

Correcting impressions

The talk about the Vajpayee Government being dictated by US interests with regard to the dialogue with Pakistan did not last long as the Prime Minister himself dispelled the impression. The now famous telephonic talk between Vajpayee and General-turned-Chief Executive-turned-President Pervez Musharraf has given a new twist to the government’s diplomatic moves. In the case of Musharraf declaring himself President, it was the USA which was caught off guard. Incidentally, the elevation of the Pakistani military ruler came a few days after the US President gave a one-time waiver of US sanctions on procurement of arms. The move was intended to help the Pakistan Government to buy weapons for its peace-keeping troops in Sierra Leone. The prompt recognition of the Pakistani head of State by India clearly demonstrates that Vajpayee is guided by no country but what he perceives to be in national interest.

Diplomatic observers point out that the anticipatory greetings to the Pakistani President is not the first confusing move by the Indian Government. In the case of the National Missile Defence announced by the USA, India was quick to react and had cleverly welcomed the move, though not in so many words. However, when it came to Russia, India changed its tone and talked about the need to curb proliferation.

Vying for the guest

The proposed summit talks between India and Pakistan at Agra has all the major hotels in the tourist city vying for the important guest from across the border. Even as the Ministry of External Affairs is conducting an elaborate exercise to choose the most appropriate venue, the hotels have roped in the mighty and the influential to tilt the decision in their favour. According to grapevine, one particular hotelier, known for his connections in the Sangh Parivar, has sought the services of the RSS, an organisation known for its anti-Pakistan stance, to influence the MEA officials. Probably ideology has no place when it comes to business.

No role model

At the Congress Chief Ministers’ meeting in Delhi last week, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Digvijay Singh apparently came in for some special praise by the Congress president and his idea of district governance was recommended as a model for other Congress-ruled states. As the Congress spokesperson was holding forth over the CMs’ conclave to the scribes present, it was pointed out that the Congress government in Chattisgarh had rejected the idea of district governance. “But Chattisgarh is a small state and the idea is more relevant to big states,” Mr Digvijay Singh said shyly trying to extract himself out of the situation.

Selective briefing

Union Home Minister L K Advani seems to be unhappy over the widespread criticism of the Government on the expansion of Centre-NSCM(I-M) ceasefire beyond Nagaland to other states in the North-East. He has been avoiding any direct comments on the Naga issue to the media. However, a section of the media, who are considered close to him, have been getting the quotes from him.

Last week when hordes of TV and print media correspondents chased him for his comment on the issue, which has generated a lot of heat in the country, Advani, who is known to be media-friendly, refused to make any comment and said “ask the Home Secretary”. But, the same evening he preferred to give exclusive comments to two or three correspondents, who were carefully screened by a trusted lieutenant of his.

Stopping media

For a government which talks about right to information, a seemingly innocuous problem has been stifling the media’s right to report properly. The problem is the tight security regulations on Raisina hill, which houses the Prime Minister’s Office, the Ministries of External Affairs, Defence, Finance and Home, have affected the working of scribes on the beat. Parking of unlabelled vehicles in the area has been prohibited. The worst affected are the scribes visiting the Ministry of Defence. While the External Affairs Ministry conducts its media briefings in the adjacent Shastri Bhavan, the scribes covering the Ministry of Defence have no prescribed place or labels issued to them for the parking purpose. The situation has worsened after recent incidents of a blast and recovery of bombs from near Sena Bhavan. The strict parking regulations force media personnel to often park their vehicles at least a kilometre away from the Ministry. This often leads to their missing out on important briefings.

(Contributed by Satish Misra, T.V. Lakshminarayan, Girija Shankar Kaura, Prashant Sood and S. Satyanarayanan).


Why not a day of togetherness
Humra Quraishi

EVERY year 26 June is observed as the Anti-Emergency Day. In fact even this year various groups are holding a meet at New Delhi’s Gandhi Peace Foundation. No need to go into the details of the traumatic aspects associated with this particular day or the days that followed, but what can be termed as equally disturbing are some of the so called changes creeping in now. This does not mean that we overlook that dark phase but it is important to foresee the aspects related to the divisive forces at work, the changes being brought about in the education policy, the very thrust of unwanted and unwarranted twists getting fitted into texts, appointments in some key/ sensitive slots, blatant human right violations taking place….. I could go on and on but, perhaps, the need of the day is to observe each day as a day of togetherness otherwise divided we’d sit or fall!

And whilst discussions have begun on General Pervez Musharraf’s visit to India but sub discussions have yet to start — whether this visit will turn out to be a mere courtesy call or herald any noteworthy outcome vis- a- vis the crux of the tussle —the Kashmir crisis. Doubtful whether a solution can be brought about. In fact, ND Pancholi, of the Citizens Committee For Secular Action, sums it up rather well, “while the spokesmen of both the countries have engaged themselves in a war of words, with the sole purpose of scoring diplomatic points against each other the hopes and aspirations of the people of Kashmir are being ignored ….” . Yes , we haven’t bothered to ask what the average Kashmiri in the Valley really wants. We haven’t bothered about those displaced Kashmiris who are still languishing in Jammu, in those hell holes called tents. And, then, to top it all, those Kashmiris who come to New Delhi and other neighbouring towns are made to feel as though they are culprits of the worst kind. Last week I had interviewed a New Delhi based Kashmiri academician and she told me that even school kids who come down from Srinagar to study here are made to feel unwelcome, “as though each one of them is a terrorist”. And, perhaps, this is thanks to the hype created by the various agencies of the government. Or as a senior lawyer says, “the so called leaders not only doublespeak but have begun to speak in different directions, so as to confuse the people.. the average citizen of this country does not know what’s happening, does not know whether to even believe whatever is being mouthed …” And in this context let me also add that if the tension erupting in the North East is not controlled now (I mean not by police power but by a series of dialogues) it could end up in another disaster. In fact, last year Sudhamahi Regunathan had come out with a detailed book on Arunachal Pradesh and she had very categorically said that there is trouble brewing in those NE states , “there is tension between the Muslim infiltrators, Christian missionaries and Hindu militant activists at the very grass root ….then there has been no focus on development or facilities ….” And in the backdrop of this scenario if you talk to the people of NE states they insist that there is harmony between the various religious groups but do add “It is politics and politicians at work.. they want to divide us just about somehow …politicians sitting in New Delhi do not know the problems we face here….”

Launch of ‘the Sikhs’ and .....

Two touching sights within the span of two hours. Just before filing this column I was at a function to mark the launch of the book titled — ‘The Sikhs’ (Roli Books) and you should have witnessed the number of people who turned up for this book release function -Le Meridien’s Windsor hall turned out to be too small, as invitees and Khushwant Singh fans continued coming. And the main reason for this huge turnout was the very fact that Khushwant, who has written the text of this book, was present at this function. And it was touching to see the way people crowded around him and as one of his fans said: “There is a certain aura about him, there is immense sincerity about him ….. he is a friend in the real sense.” Yes, he is very affectionate, he is frank, fearless, honest …... what more can one ask for! And whilst driving back from that function, I saw the aging Ramu Gandhi — Mahatma Gandhi’s grandson and a scholar/philosopher in his own right — at one of the roundabouts near Khan Market. It was nearing 9 pm and the man was trying to stop one of the three wheelers. No, none of them stopped and he continued standing, looking fatigued and lost…. it was a depressing sight and left me feeling very disturbed. Imagine the grandson of the ‘father of the nation’ is without a car or for that matter does not even own a house or apartment. 

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