The cause of peace
Wait and waste
Be the boss of
your inner state
THE ease with which Prime Minister Manmohan Singh resolved the dispute with the DMK, which felt that it had been done out of its due portfolios, is commendable. It is all to the good that the stand-off with the DMK — triggered by the party's threat to pull out of the United Progressive Alliance ministry — far from getting blown up into a crisis has turned out to be a mere breeze at the start. The DMK ministers have now got the promised portfolios, namely Revenue and Shipping, without any protracted tension or tamasha. Telengana Rashtra Samiti leader Chandrasekar Rao deserves to be complimented for readily agreeing to part with Shipping in a true spirit of give and take that ought to be the essence of coalition dharma. With seven ministers in Dr Manmohan Singh's team and having wrested the portfolios of its choice, the DMK should have little to complain about now. With the problem overcome, the discord itself does not appear to have been as unsettling as it was expected to be in certain quarters.
However, the tug of war over portfolios raises certain other questions. Chief among these are whether it was proper for the Congress to have a written accord about allocation of portfolios with the DMK on a party-to-party basis, and even before the Prime Minister was sworn in, when it is the Prime Minister's prerogative to choose his team and assign them work. Such political management straddling the thin dividing line between party and government many not always accomplish the desired objective, as seen in this case.
Therefore, the Congress being relatively new to coalition culture, it should evolve norms with more forethought. Although the Prime Minister deserves credit for pre-empting a grievance from snowballing into a crisis, the development underscores that there can be no room for complacency in such a coalition. The UPA might be united by its secularist concerns but this does not mean that it would be smooth sailing in all areas.
Continuity with change
IN stating that India's foreign policy is not tied to any doctrine or dogma, External Affairs Minister K. Natwar Singh has reassured the diplomatic community that the change of guard in New Delhi did not imply any drastic change in policy. As someone who spent decades in the External Affairs Ministry before joining politics, it is not surprising that he mentioned Panchsheel and the Simla Agreement while claiming that the United Progressive Alliance government will do everything to strengthen India's relations with the outside world. He has scotched misgivings nursed by some people that the present bonhomie between India and Pakistan would end with the Congress returning to power. Obviously, he lays great store by the mechanism evolved between India and China to sort out their border problem which is, perhaps, the only irritant in their bilateral relations.
The language Mr Singh employed may be different but the substance of his statement is that there will be continuity in India's policy. In fact, there is an element of permanency in the policy, which is dictated by the national interest coupled with international obligations. It is no surprise that during the National Democratic Alliance regime, the attempts made to bring about a paradigm shift in India's relations with the US came a cropper. Small wonder that when some of those in power wanted to send Indian troops to Iraq, there was a hue and cry forcing them to backtrack.
The non-aligned movement may have become a thing of the past but the general political opinion in the country disfavours India taking sides with any nation other than to promote international peace. In other words, any identification with the sole superpower that will compromise India's relations with the West Asian countries, for instance, would not be in the national interest. However, India cannot be oblivious of the changed power equations in the world and the pivotal role the US plays. Even when Mr Natwar Singh emphasises continuity in foreign policy, it does not mean that course corrections are not necessary. In fact, there is a discernible desire for change so that India can regain the respect it enjoyed as a bulwark against hegemonic ambitions.
Two statements — one by Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil and the other by Union Law Minister H.R. Bhardwaj — have come hinting at the new government’s resolve to scrap the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA). Mr Patil said that POTA was unnecessary and that a decision on it would be taken by the Union Cabinet. The ministers’ statements are in tune with the overwhelming opinion in the ruling Congress-led United Progressive Alliance on the need to dispense with the draconian law. The UPA has also included the repeal of POTA in the Common Minimum Programme. During the National Democratic Alliance government’s tenure, the Congress, the Left and other parties had strongly opposed the misuse of POTA by various state governments. Surely, few other pieces of legislation have been as misused as POTA.
The Act was enacted to tackle terrorism, but soon it became an instrument in the hands of some chief ministers to settle scores with their political opponents. For instance, MDMK leader Vaiko, who was an ally of the NDA and now with the UPA, was thrown behind bars for well over 15 months as Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa wanted to teach him a lesson for a speech he had delivered supporting the LTTE’s cause of safeguarding the interests of Tamils in Sri Lanka. The governments of Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand and Gujarat too misused POTA for partisan ends.
Ironically, the A.B. Vajpayee government was unable to check the brazen abuse of POTA as the Act, though enacted by Parliament, is implemented by the state governments. In order to prevent its misuse, a Central Review Committee was constituted after some time. This panel has given a clean chit to Mr Vaiko. Still, the Tamil Nadu government continues to indulge in legal semantics to harass the MDMK chief. Though it would take some time for the Manmohan Singh government to repeal POTA, its victims are bound to heave a sigh of relief following the new government’s determination to repeal the obnoxious Act.
The cause of peace
THE Pakistan Foreign Office has indicated what is uppermost in Foreign Secretary Riaz Khokhar’s mind. It is a set of proposed confidence-building measures, known as the Nuclear Restraint Regime (NRR), which he will discuss when he meets his Indian counterpart soon. The meeting is meant to take forward the peace process that was set in motion in January following the dialogue between former Indian Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee and President Pervez Musharraf.
But New Delhi has a change of government. The Manmohan Singh government may take a week or more to take stock of India’s foreign policy and determine the objectives to be followed. One wonders whether the Indian Foreign Secretary will be quite ready for a substantive meeting with the Pakistan Foreign Secretary in the midst of what the Press has said about reorienting South Block by the new team.
If the meeting is restricted to considering the NRR it can certainly go ahead. After all, everyone knows the origins of the proposals made in this regard. They are really an American contribution based on the long US negotiating experience with the Soviets over a whole range of disarmament issues regarding both nuclear weapons and mutually-agreed and balanced force reductions. The net outcome of over 14 years of US-Soviet talks was that the two super powers agreed first on the mutually acceptable CBMs and eventually on ABMs and Start I and II. The American diplomacy in South Asia has been assiduously selling the idea of useful CBMs to the two nuclear-armed rivals.
One remembers learning about this a decade or so ago from a high Foreign Office functionary in Islamabad. The story he told was hilarious in a way. He said he had received an immediate file requiring his signatures on a set of proposals from the Pakistan GHQ to the Indian GHQ. He quickly read out what was being proposed to the Indian Army high command. Just when he was rising, another such file arrived. It too required his signature on a set of proposals from the Indian Army meant for GHQ in Rawalpindi. He glanced at them: they were the same that Pakistan had proposed to India, almost verbatim.
One suspects that the NRR details originated in the US. What Islamabad is selling today is not much different from what was in the mind of the Vajpayee delegation to Lahore in February 1999 when an MoU was signed over nuclear CBMs. One feels sure that insofar as the contents of the CBMs are concerned, the two Foreign Offices cannot be far apart. After all, the hardliners on both sides have already agreed on the basic NRR features during the various meetings of the Neemrana group, assembled by the Americans.
Having said all this and also favouring the NRR in general, one has a gnawing doubt: the mental and emotional state of decision-makers in Pakistan and India during a grave crisis would be vastly different from what was to be expected from the American and Soviet decision-makers. The super powers had no emotive dispute over any territory. Their Cold War rivalry was over intellectual matters, if also driven by their mutually exclusive desire to dominate a greater part of the globe. Here in South Asia deep emotions and historic ambivalences are at work. During crisis situations the Generals run to mobilise and position their guns; during at least the Kargil operations and the 2002 eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation they ignored many CBMs that were already in place.
The point one can make is that given the South Asian peculiarities, history and balance of power, CBMs are at best a palliative, though they need not be decried too. What we need is a cure for the real disease. This disease is inherently unfriendly attitudes that the two new nuclear powers have displayed in their national and foreign policies regarding each other. They did not really want to befriend each other nor was anyone ready to pay a price for reconciling with the other. So long as the two do not find common, or at least compatible, objectives, neither will be really ready for a stable and peaceable security environment.
Now a word about nuclear weapons and the mischief they do. The first thing they do is to destroy trust in each other. Well, the fact is that no Indian General can really trust a Pakistani General with his finger on the nuclear button. Nor can a Pakistani General trust an Indian military establishment with its nuclear triad ready. Both sides have effectively, if not in name, deployed atomic WMDs. It was touch and go in 2002, if not in earlier crises. There is need for a proper solution to the problem posed by the existence of two rival nuclear deterrents, sitting eyeball-to-eyeball and in close proximity to each other.
It is not necessary to explain how bad the atomic weapons are. They are the ultimate in destruction. They can destroy all forms of life on earth in the areas of impact. They simply should not be used. That means we all have to work for creating conditions in which they will become unusable. The real solution, especially for South Asia, can be true nuclear disarmament, indeed disarmament in general, irrespective of whether the other six nuclear powers disarm or do not. But it is not easy. Some will say it is impractical idealism. Some, who believe in the WMDs being a currency of power and a ticket to international influence, regard the disarmament talk as a futile exercise, unrelated to realities.
It is clear that neither side is interested in nuclear disarmament. Insofar as the Indians are concerned, their pride in being a great power with ample nuclear capability is a fact of life to be lived with. One of their main objectives to become a super power remains. This is a part of the ground reality. The Pakistan government represents those who are primarily bomb lovers. They conceive the bomb’s rationale to be bound up with India’s nuclear capability. They think that they have, up to a point, acquired some sort of a practical parity with India by becoming a nuclear power. At any rate, at least in theory, Pakistan has been more ready to talk about disarmament, though only to gain brownie points in American eyes. Neither is really interested in any disarmament whatsoever; indeed, both are engaged in a constant military build-up. To expect them to think and produce a solution to the difficult problem of the WMDs’ presence would be futile.
But the problem is not going away. The two rival bombs, sitting cheek by jowl, in such a natural region as South Asia, constitute a problem that somehow must occupy the best brains in the region — and certainly in India and Pakistan. The obsession with realpolitik can be
Wait and waste
Normally, age and decay are constant companions. Sometimes, one faces even an enlargement. Having passed 62 summers, I faced this situation. So my son took me to the doctor. Series of diagnostic investigations and tests were completed fast. By the afternoon, the doctor announced, “You have to be under my knife.” And I was immediately admitted to the hospital.
The surgery was fixed for the next morning. Long lists of medicines and materials. All the dos and don’ts. Also the details of the surgical procedure were delineated. The likely and even unlikely complications were explained. Then I had to sign a statement. Just to ensure that I had given an informed consent.
Early morning, the nurse came in. She was ready to administer the “pre-medication.” The empty ampoule in the tray indicated that it was a sedative. After she had checked the blood pressure, I tried to convince her that I was totally relaxed and that I could do without a prick. After some effort, she agreed. A little later, I walked to the theatre. To be under the surgeon’s scalpel.
Inside the theatre, there were men in masks. Many machines. And intense activity. Everyone was occupied. The anaesthetist directed me to lie down on the surgical table. Quickly he put five leads on different parts of my chest. These were quickly attached to the monitor. The machine immediately indicated the blood pressure, the breathing and pulse rates. Satisfied with the readings, he told me to get on my side. “Touch the chin with the knees”. And very softly, he told me that he was going to give me a small prick with a fine needle. And then he put a bigger needle, a fine catheter and medicine through it. Soon I was beginning to feel numb below the navel.
And just about then, the surgeon arrived. Assuring. Confident. Smiling. Talked to me for a minute. On my insistence that I wanted to see the surgery, the monitor was appropriately adjusted.
At 8.30, the surgeon started. On the screen the whole area looked like raw flesh. There was the movement of a mechanical device. The blood. It vanished as soon as it appeared. The procedure continued till 9 on the dot. Then the doctor walked up to me. It is over. How are you feeling? The boys will take just 10 minutes. And then, the small pieces of what had been cut and removed were neatly placed in a tray and shown to me. A part of me had been cut. Without even the feeling of any pain.
At 9.15, I was in the recovery room. Back with my family. While I was relaxed, they were making an effort to look easy. In the afternoon, I was in my room. No pain or problem. After two days, I was back home. The relief is remarkable.
At the end, it seems like a short movie. Inside the theatre, everyone played his role. Well and fast. In retrospect, I wonder — why do we prolong our problems? Surgery is a good solution. In every sphere. We need not wait and
Towards economic reconciliation
The Economist of London described the recent general election in India as "the greatest show on earth". Leading British and American newspapers have described the outcome as "offline India's verdict" arising from large sections of the people, especially those living in the rural areas, feeling uneasy over being left out of the benefits of economic reforms.
Former President K.R. Narayanan was perhaps the first to see what was happening. In his Republic Day address on the eve of the golden jubilee, he warned his government against fostering a "stony-hearted society" in a land which in the past had produced such saviours of humanity as "the Buddha, the Mahavira, Nanak, Kabir and Gandhi". Asking policymakers to beware of "the fury of the patient and long-suffering people", he exhorted them to provide in "the three-way fast lane of liberalisation, privatisation and globalisation.... a safe pedestrian crossing for the unempowered India so that it, too, can move towards equality of status and opportunity." The advice was not heeded.
Mrs Sonia Gandhi's choice of a highly capable and respected economist to head the government seems to have been prompted by thoughts similar to those of President Narayanan.
Among the major intellectual nurseries of the world which have produced some of the most influential men in economics, Cambridge still holds the pride of place. Although Dr Manmohan Singh went to Oxford for his doctorate, he is at heart a Cambridge man. It was during his years at St. John's College in Cambridge (1955-57), where he was enrolled for his Economics Tripos, that the fundamentals of his economic policy took shape, namely that economic policy had to be delinked from ideological concerns and its only raison d'etre is its potential to deliver prosperity. He stuck to this approach with unusual tenacity and when he discovered that the socialist approach did not work, he had no hesitation in leaving it behind.
Soon after assuming office as Finance Minister in 1991, he declared at a press conference that 'We will not be swayed by ideological hangovers of the past. Socialism cannot be built on waste, inefficiency and indifference to quality. Many of his friends at that time thought that his experience as Secretary-General and Commissioner of the South Commission (1987-90) had changed his outlook. It appears now that such men were looking ahead with a mindset that was static and did not quite comprehend the magnitude and speed of the change in the world economy.
Dr Manmohan Singh's academic attainments are of exceptionally high order. He topped every examination that he took as an undergraduate and postgraduate at Panjab University (1950-54) before proceeding to England for higher studies. He took a first class honours degree from the University of Cambridge, where he was awarded Wright's Prize by St. John's College for two successive sessions (1956 and 1957) and the Adam Smith Prize by the university (1956) — both for distinguished performance.
For his D.Phil., he opted for a change and joined Nuffield College at the University of Oxford (1960-62). His doctoral dissertation entitled "India's Export Trends and Prospects for Self-Sustained Growth" was aptly judged as a masterwork in its chosen field of study and continues to be widely quoted since it was first published by the Clarendon Press in book form in 1964.
Personal achievement howsoever extraordinary does not qualify a person for a place in history. History is concerned with human affairs and how men's actions try to reach the broader strata of society. Dr Manmohan Singh is remembered for turning India away from the path that led it nowhere. Respect for him will grow if the process of reforms he and former Prime Minister Narasimha Rao initiated can be carried forward in a manner that its benefits also reach those who have been passed over in the past.
Conceptually, economic reforms can be classified into two main categories: redistributive and market. Redistributive reforms aim at consciously promoting an egalitarian society through State policies which result in transfer of income-yielding assets and income from the rich to the poor and involve State intervention in production, marketing, price formation and foreign and domestic trade and exchange, and... factor, financial and product markets. Market reforms, which are seen as the successor to redistributive reforms, move the system in the opposite direction through such measures as "fiscal stabilisation, desubsidisation, deregulation, deprotection, devaluation and privatisation. Notwithstanding some complementarity, there is a built-in conflict between the two types of reforms and unless resolved through a national consensus, the conflict can lead to anarchy. Whereas redistributive reforms create the danger that persons with discretionary power over redistribution will seize economic surpluses, market reforms create the danger that those who obtain market power will use it to subvert the State.
With Dr Manmohan Singh at the helm, the country has the best chance to go ahead with the process of economic reconciliation. He has a wide-ranging acceptability, which cuts across the party lines. He has a clear vision of the kind of global economy that is emerging. He has a partner who is not only gifted but fully alive to her role to sustain him in his historic task. All his life Dr Manmohan Singh has lived for others, seeking for himself neither power nor recognition. He carries whatever position he holds lightly.
When I visited him soon after he took over as Chairman of the UGC, an officer of the commission told me that many employees did not know that they were lunching with their Chairman when he was helping himself to tea and snacks in the office canteen. I remember his narrating an anecdote when he was a student in Cambridge. This is about Mahatma Gandhi, who always travelled in the third class whenever he undertook a journey by rail. Once asked why he preferred travelling in the third class, Mahatma's answer was because there was no fourth class. I believe Dr Manmohan Singh has been under such influences from his early years.
History is fiercely protective of space it has reserved in its hall of fame, and is generally disinclined to honour every celebrated person with a bust or a tablet. As someone who has known Dr Manmohan Singh as a close personal friend for almost 50 years and has tried to study his work and thought, I have nothing but profound admiration for wholesome pursuits to which he has dedicated his life. It is too early to judge at this stage how he is going to acquit himself as Prime Minister in the highly polarised politics of the country. But the dignity, humility, and goodwill with which he has taken over provide some indication that he is going to succeed. I consider him both a man of the moment and a man of history. Perhaps he himself will put down one day his reflections of events in the times he has lived through. In a letter which he wrote to me a short while ago he mentioned that this was one important ambition which he still cherished.
Be the boss of
your inner state
I JUST got an email from a guy who reports he's feeling exceptionally happy, everything's going `swimmingly' — his work, his love life, his social life, his t'ai chi and spiritual practice — yet he's feeling troubled and is fighting with himself because he's afraid life isn't meant to be this good.
On the one hand he's at peace and on the other, he's in distress (about it) and is wondering how to deal with it so, presumably, he can be fully at peace - or, possibly, fully in distress: he didn't specify.
Now, you may think: spoilt brat - enjoy it while you can, it won't last, it never does, but as a healer, distress is distress, no matter the cause, even if the distress is from having nothing to be distressed about.
The state of distress, or literally the state of being torn asunder, is intrinsic to the human condition. It's there to keep you on your toes — to stop your mind falling asleep on the job (of being alive). It's not something you should bother trying to resolve, for that would be merely a waste of energy.
The key to healthy functioning of mind — and consequently of body — lies in how you accommodate the distress. But first, you have to establish yourself as the boss — the boss of your inner state, the commander-in-chief, observing the warring factions within and accommodating the pleas of both, the main point being that you are the accommodator rather than either of the accommodated.
On the one side, there's the happy inner child, wanting to be fully immersed in the pleasure of it all no matter how much it sucks. On the other, there's the unhappy inner child who hates or fears what's going on no matter how wonderful, and who is always threatening to sabotage a good thing.
You, as accommodator, identify with neither the inner winner nor the inner loser. You listen, you enjoy the entertainment of the dialogue, but you don't identify with either.
This requires psycho-energetically stepping back, gathering your awareness away from your forebrain, where the dialogue goes on, and away from your chest and belly, where all the feelings go on, and drawing it backwards into your rear portion — from the base of your spine to the crown of your head.
Drawing your consciousness towards the rear like this by a minor act of will causes an instant repositioning of yourself in relation to the whole idea of winning or losing, being happy or distressed.
You are at once freed from the emotional upset in the belly, the tension in the chest and the local madness in your forebrain, and if you then allow yourself to breathe freely and let your muscles relax, you can remain like this, a travelling Buddha in the midst of daily life, no longer expending precious energy fighting with yourself to win a war that can't be won.
You think what you think, good or bad, you feel what you feel, good or bad — but neither upsets your equilibrium. Life brings pleasure, life brings pain — you see that clearly but no longer feel the childish need to cling to either. All pleasure and all pain pass eventually.
This realisation neither pleases nor pains you. You simply feel peaceful, for when you're back in your back, you have the sense that this is the part of you, the boss part, that goes on forever, and from this perspective you view the ups and downs of life as mere opinions.
Everything simply is as it is, and you feel deeply existentially satisfied with that. The inner winner can do its t'ai chi, enjoy its love life and work life and have a swimming time of things, the inner loser can be suffering distress and doing all it can to spoil the party, injecting fears of what could go wrong into the mental mix — and it's all fine. Nothing to resolve — you simply watch, enjoy and carry on doing the things you have to do, and want to do, to make this the merriest old show you can — et voila!
— The Guardian
Trust in truth, ye that love the truth, for the kingdom of righteousness is founded upon earth. The darkness of error is dispelled by the light of truth. We can see our way and take firm and certain steps. — The Buddha First gain God, and then gain wealth; but do not try to do the contrary. If, after acquiring spirituality, you lead a wordly life, you will never lose your peace of mind. — Sri Ramakrishna God is the only spouse, all other beings are His brides. — Guru Nanak Let the son be loyal to the father and of one mind with the mother. — The Vedas Courage in danger is half the
battle. — Plautus
— The Buddha
First gain God, and then gain wealth; but do not try to do the contrary. If, after acquiring spirituality, you lead a wordly life, you will never lose your peace of mind.
— Sri Ramakrishna
God is the only spouse, all other beings are His brides.
— Guru Nanak
Let the son be loyal to the father and of one mind with the mother.
— The Vedas
Courage in danger is half the battle.