Friday, December 25, 2009

Only if I had the words....

Who could say we could meet...

Despite the odds and the distances...

Yet we did...

Some call it destiny, some call it fate...

Only if I had the words...

To say what it is...

As I went along,

Feelings blossomed...

That intensity, the longing, the desperation...

To be with you, to talk to you...

Some call it love, some call it passion...

Only if I had the words...

To say what it is...

As I went along,

One fine day,

I succumbed to the feeling...

Decide to navigate life with you, together...

Through its ups and downs...

Through the storms and sunshine...

The feeling grows,

Gets so intense that it hurts,

Hurts really deep inside...

Only if I had the words...

To say what it is...

Whatever the world may call it...

I don't care, I don't bother...

All I know is she feels the same...

Feels the same, for me...

Only if I had the words...

To say what it is!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

26/11 - Living in Paranoia

It's 26/11 again.

One year has passed since that gruesome bloody night.

That was a night when I stayed up awake, afraid and sad. That was probably the first time in my adult life that I was actually so scared that I couldn't sleep a wink.

It was a sad spectacle to see CST in blood - if it was CST, it could have been the Churchgate station as well, that I had used only a few hours before the carnage started. Had it been Churchgate and had I left office an hour later, I could have been in the line of fire.

The Marine Drive promenade, was where I used to take my customary walk, post-lunch. That is where the fire was blazing.

It was a scary night, a sad night, with teary eyes begging to weep, but couldn't as all of it was happening so fast for my numbed mind to gather and assimilate.

The eerie silence on the New Link Road, which normally bustles with traffic till 1-2 AM, was a shocker. With rumours of firings taking place at the JW Marriott (which is barely 5 kilometers from home) and a blast in a taxi outside the airport (where I was supposed to be at 6 AM to catch a plane to Hyderabad), I felt I was staring terror in its face and trembling.

And channel after channel blared the news that the top cops of Mumbai Police had been eliminated. The sense of this wave of lawlessness and despair was overwhelming.

And then the images of a crying baby Moshe emerging out of Nariman House and the para dropping of commandos on the building went on to show how anti-Semitism, sadly, had reached our shores, after 2000 years.

The charade that followed on television shows made terror sexier than sex itself. Socialites after socialites, corporate honchos after corporate honchos and hotel hostages after hotel hostages were prodded, provoked by the likes of Barkha Dutt in meaningless debate on security that she can barely comprehend one year later.

The channels sponsored, provoked and initiated inumerable petitions, candle-marches and campaigns for silence till "we, the victims" were heard. The cause degenerated quickly into a page 3 event, with the gathering becoming a grand avenue for celebrity spotting. I don't think "we" were ever heard, but the charade went on ad-nauseam till the TRPs were high, and was soon forgotten thereafter.
The ammunition that our forces fought with, or rather without, became the topic of huge debates. Terms like the MP5s entered our vocabulary - no, I am not talking of an advancement of the MP3 or MP4 audio-visual formats, I am talking of the MP5 rifles.

And in the aftermath of 26/11, Jewish establishments have become strictly off bounds. No longer can I ever visit the Knesset Eliyahu Synagogue at Kala Ghoda that truly mesmerised me, that convinced me that Bombay was truly a melting pot.

Right now I am flying back in to Bombay from Delhi. And this was despite stern warnings from Neeti and everyone at home to be careful, to be on the lookout for anyone, anything suspicious. And as I write this piece, I notice three veiled ladies across the aisle, loudly playing with "cellphones", despite repeated and angry warnings from the stewardesses. These actions were certainly not above suspicion.

And I wondered, could they be carrying weapons? Were they frisked properly?

And it dawns on me that paranoia has come to be a part of our lives, ever since 26/11.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Obama and India

Our Prime Minister is visiting Washington, and it seems to be a very big deal.
He would be Obama’s first state guest and it’s been made out to be a very big deal.
What is India going to achieve from this visit?
The excitement of the nuclear deal is dead now. The United States is getting ready to deny India 11 out of 15 dual use technologies. There will be pressure on us for signing the CTBT and NPT. (Why should we be shy of signing the NPT? We are overtly nuclear. We are not going to proliferate. Let’s sign. The CTBT is a different question.)
We have been caught sleeping when the Chinese and Obama have carved up the world (or Asia) between themselves. (China has reportedly asked the United States to let it control the Indian Ocean.)
Obama has given a de-facto policeman status to China on the world stage.
He knows the United States cannot live without debt from the Chinese.
Obama wants to get out of Afghanistan at the earliest. Who would fill in the vacuum? Obviously, the Chinese and the Pakistanis would oblige.
Obama has been steadily releasing Guantanamo inmates since he assumed office and has vowed to close the prison by early 2010. It obvious the released detainees will head for the hotspots – Afghanistan, Pakistan and yes, India (don’t be surprised – there had been reports jehadi Uighurs being detained in Kashmir).
All this is very bad news for India. And Obama is turning out to be India’s worst nightmare today – we should award him the Nobel Prize for War, for his actions would destabilize Asia more than we could even imagine, eventually pushing us to the brink of the next world war.
Obviously our external affairs ministry and its diplomats were napping, or were rather excitedly preparing for the pomp and pageantry that goes into a State Dinner at the White House.
It’s high time we saw through all this and had a foreign policy.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Almost Like A Dream Come True

It was almost like a dream come true.
Certainly it was a big deal for a person who is as comfortable with recognizing landings at Runway 27 at Bombay and taking off at Runway 28 at Delhi, just as anyone else would be with, say driving on the Western Express Highway in Bombay or along the Inner Ring Road in Delhi.
Certainly it was a big deal for a person who is extremely pleased to spot a Boeing 747-400 or an Airbus 330, just as one would be pleased to spot a Ferrari or a Jaguar.
Certainly it was a big deal for a person who is extremely passionate about the beauty and splendor of a Boeing 747-400, as if he owns one and is unable to stand any criticism of the Jumbo, just as a car aficionado would get pissed if someone were to doubt the capability and performance of his car.
Certainly it was a very big deal….
I happened to travel on a client’s private jet for work, alongwith a few fellow bankers and client representative.
It was a beautiful little bird, the Dassault Falcon 900EX.
My fellow passengers were excited about the luxury of the aircraft, the plush interiors, the shiny, soft leather seats that were so comfortable and relaxing that they would have put a chronic insomniac into a deep, deep slumber
But my eyes were on the cockpit, those little dials, those small screens were all visible from the cabin. I wanted to pounce on the opportunity to raid the cabin at the earliest.
If you thought I had joined the bearded-turbaned mad gang, you would be disappointed. No I haven’t. I was really excited about the thought of seeing work in action in the cockpit, that thought was certainly driving me mad.
I had visited cockpits of the Hawker Siddeley HS 748, Airbus A300 and McDonnell Douglas DC10, as a kid, but could never really figure out how they flew the bird. This time around, armed with some idea of flying, courtesy the FlightSim, I had a much better idea of what actually actually goes into flying an aircraft.
The crew graciously accepted my request to visit the cockpit and the steward led me in.
The captain handed me a pair of headphones so that he could explain the flight plan, while the co-pilot, a rather young and pretty lady, was in constant touch with the ATC, taking instructions on altitude and headings.
The captain explained the functions of various instruments rather enthusiastically, despite knowing that I was a FlightSim regular!
The captain and the co-pilot explained the route that we were to follow into Bombay which was pictorially depicted on the LCD screen. We took a turn east from the Arabian Sea, to fly over the Virar coast, over Thane, took an about turn over Vashi to align with the ILS glide slope on Runway 9!
And now the ATC came into action – every couple of seconds, the ATC would check on the altitude which would be confirmed by the co-pilot and before I knew it, it was touchdown time!!!!
For me, it was a big deal as I had always dreamt of becoming a pilot, as a kid, but could not because of my myopia.
It was a damn big deal for me, one tick off on the “things to do before I die” list!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Free Tibet, Now!!!!

Today, a newspaper carried a short story on a little girl in Hyderabad, who claimed to have met the Dalai Lama in her "previous life" and is convinced Tibet will be free by 2012!!!

I wish, I pray, I hope that happens!
But, it is a tough going for Tibetans and their supporters.

The Dalai Lama and his people have been living in India for over 50 years, peacefully. Is that why we have forgotten them?

How could we forget that Tibet was a free nation when India gained independence? How can we forget that we have had a deep cultural intercourse with a culturally and politically independent Tibet for centuries?

Can we afford to ignore the gruesome human rights abuses in Tibet that China has been perpetrating for over 60 years. And what about the steady decline of Tibetan population within China-occupied Tibet? Who has spoken about the concerted effort by the Chinese to promote a steady influx of ethnic Hans into Tibet, which threatens the very Tibetan heritage?

How can the Indian establishment be so weak to ignore all this?

We seem to be living in denial.

We supported the anti-Apartheid struggle in South Africa, liberation movements in Rhodesia and Namibia, de-facto independence of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (Western Sahara) and Palestine. How is Tibet different? All that moral high ground India seemed to adopt is symptomatic of our directionless, opportunistic and reactionary foreign policy.

We, as a nation, suck up to those wielding power, first it was the Soviet Union, then the United States. And it's China now?

No one in our establishment seems to care.

And what about the United States? They are no different. It obvious that they are not interested in this cause because Tibet does not seem to have oil or natural gas. I believe their policy will change overnight, if these resources are discovered in Tibet.

It is a selfish world and Tibet is a forgotten cause that seems to matter little in this world.

Sad, but true.

As the enslaved Jews in Babylon used to say "Next year in Jerusalem" to keep their hopes alive, the Tibetans should also keep their hopes alive and should works towards independence.

Who could have even imagined in 1988 that the Soviet Union would break up by 1991? It happened in 3 years flat.

2012 is only 3 years away and I hope the little girl's oracle comes out true.

Friday, October 30, 2009

One Morning, in interior Gujarat.....

Time for a morning snack.......

Just as the calf enjoys her morning snack, lesser mortals, "the two legged variety", stop by for tea...

The autorickshaw-walla is a big fan of Rani Mukherjee...

"It's Saturday morning and these God-damned two legged creatures are rushing aroung around on the highway, God-knows, chasing what?" "Crazy!"

A colorful way of travelling in the hinterland....

Monday, October 26, 2009

More than what meets the eye?

Is there more than what meets the eye?

Isn't there too much of a coincidence that China's aggressiveness in its relations with India post the nuclear deal have been quickly followed by an upsurge in the Maoist-Naxal violence in the country?

This is too much of a coincidence.

I may be speculative in this, but the possibility of a China angle in aiding Maoists-Naxals has to be considered, examined and evaluated.

A few questions need to be answered, more importantly investigated - where do the Naxals get their funding from? Who supplies them their arms? Who has given them expertise in guerrilla warfare?

All fingers could point to China.


The Maoist ideology is one.

The second is grand idea of pulverising India into smaller geographical entities that would never challenge China's dominance in Asia, which was mentioned in my blog, The Great Game ...

It is certainly a great strategy that not only would Chinese actively encourage anti-India sentiment in our neighbourhood, but would also stoke embers within India.

Obviously, India would be too busy to take on the challenge.

Mr. Chidambaram recently alluded towards foreign support coming in for the Maoists-Naxals. Was he referring the Chinese?

Without doubt, Maoist-Naxal violence needs to be crushed with an iron fist, else we'll end up making a horrible example of our country....

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


The Delhi heat made this gentleman itchy!!!!!
(Location: GKII crossing, New Delhi)

"Sit Long, Talk Much, Laugh Often" - A Mantra to live life by
(Cafe Moshe's, Apollo Bunder, Bombay)

Roast tongue! Yum!
(Location: Cafe Mocambo, Sir P.M. Road, Fort, Bombay)

The pitch is indeed aggressive.... Is Mr. Chavan listening? Maharashtra is losing on tax revenues....
(Location: Croma Zip's outlet at Terminal 1D of Delhi International Airport)

IPood? The Thinking Man at the WC!!!!!
(Location: CSI Airport, Bombay)

Why should we smoke? Let the Pizzas have the privilege....
(Location: Pizza Hut, Bandra Kurla Complex, Bombay)

Do I get a ride for free in this autorickshaw?
(Location: Andheri Station, Bombay)

Friday, October 9, 2009

When did I last see the stars?

Travelling out of Bombay for work, at times, is quite an experience.

Not only does travel give me an opportunity get out of the grind, the rush, the endless frustrating traffic jams on the Western Express Highway, the bad roads, etc. etc., it also thrills me, re-energises me from within.

The pain of getting up early at say 4AM to leave in time is all but gone, when I drive through the scenic countryside roads, see the varied hues of green in the vegetation, see the relaxed pace of life, the smiling faces that are a rarity in Bombay.

Today was one such day.

By the time I got over with work and meetings, the sun had set. Just as night was creeping in, pin drop silence took over the place, which was punctuated with sounds of crickets, which in itself had therapeutic effect.

The cool breeze beckoned me to take a stroll. And as I was walking, I looked up into the sky..... all the stars that bewitched me as a child were still there..... !!!!!

Somewhere in the grind, I actually did forget that these little joys were once a part of my life.... and I asked myself "When did I last see the stars?"

Try answering the question for yourself.....

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Alibis, excuses all the way......

When I started Rajeev's World, I had promised to be quite regular.... regular in putting my thoughts online.

I had been quite regular over the last 15-odd months in blogging here. And there had been times, when ideas just flowed like a gushing mountain stream, right into Rajeev's World. And there were also times when I really did really push myself to pen my thoughts, when the ideas slowed down, just as what happens when the mountain stream enters the plains and decelerates a great deal.

However, this time stream hasn't slowed a bit, the thoughts and the ideas are gushing at the speed of light. But the blog posts have...

Who's to blame for this?

Sad, but true, logistics and infrastructure can indeed impede thought. This may be termed an excuse, but seriously I really could not push myself to write.

Now look at this.... in the last 10-odd days, I have barely got a couple of hours at home. There had been a mad rush to get things done at work, meet certain critical social commitments, etc. etc.

Isn't that always there?

True. But the killing commute to work and back (bad Bombay traffic again!) seems to have chomped on MY time, BIG TIME!

And then, our home PC's UPS has been down for the last few days. I wouldn't dare using my PC without the UPS. Frantic calls to customer service initially and now angry calls haven't yet yield any results. I am still waiting for my patience to run out before APC's CEO gets an angry email from me. And then, we'll see APC's service engineer scurrying in to repair my UPS.

(But seriously, customer service in India doesn't suck, it stinks awfully, be it APC, Dell, Hathway, Tata Communications, Airtel, Reliance Communications, Maruti Suzuki, Citibank, Standard Chartered, ICICI Bank, HDFC Bank, Taj Hotels, Jet Airways, etc. etc. Trust me the list is endless.....)

Till APC responds, there will be alibis, excuses all the way......

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Remembering Ammi....

Today, September 27, is Ammi's birthday.

My grandmother, Ammi, we used to call her affectionately.

It's been 5 years since she left us, creating a void in our lives.

Despite her age, or rather with age, she became fuller with life and had an incredible way of lightening up the atmosphere with the people she was close to. She had a certain charm, a pleasing personality that was matchless. Her endeearing toothless grin and loving looks will always remain etched in my mind.

The death of grandparents is an overwhelming experience, for me, Ammi's death was such an experience.

Surely, the attachment factor was at work. But also one gets the realisation that now one's own parents are getting old - surprisingly one does not feel that one's parents are ageing when grandparents are around. And one realises that one has to be more responsible and mature faster.

But I have one wish, which I know cannot be fulfilled.

To meet Ammi again!

But she is up there somewhere, watching us lovingly, blessing us....

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Taking on the Dragon

A few days back, I had written about The Great Game being played. The Great Game is an advanced form of conflict, a new-age Cold War confrontation.
India, in order to face this kind of conflict, needs to evolve a new strategic doctrine covering our nation's long term security, foreign affairs and economic policy. We cannot, cannot, afford to look at any of these policies in isolation any longer, any more. We need to know what our interests are, very clearly - that's the first step to evolving a doctrine. As Henry Kissinger had said "There are no permanent friends or foes in diplomacy, only permanent interests."

India's security policy for long has been Pakistan-centric. But it has become very obvious in the recent past that the real danger lurks somewhere else. And that threat is spreading slowly but surely, like a malignant cancer, all around. That threat is China.

But sadly. our strategy has been to downplay all the moves that China makes. I was appalled by the statements from the army chief Gen. Deepak Kapoor, the National Security Advisor, M.K. Narayanan and the Prime Minster that these were not major incidents.

We need to accept the situation, we should not downplay, but we should not create a hype - it is a delicate balance that our strategic minds need to maintain.

But we should, silently, prepare towards building a military strength and capability to counter the Chinese. Towards this, we could learn a bit from Sun Tzu, the Chinese philosopher and author of "The Art of War", who said "In peace prepare for war, in war prepare for peace."

To be in a absolute readiness for war or peace, as the case may be, we need a co-ordinated approach between the administration, diplomats, intelligence agencies and the armed forces. We need to evolve and institutionalise a think-tank of opinion-makers in these fields to strategise and deliberate on various war and peace scenarios. The government then needs to merely implement the capability measures that would be distilled by the think-tanks. This would also delink the strategic thought from petty party politics.

Sun Tzu also said "If you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles... if you do not know your enemies nor yourself, you will be imperiled in every single battle"

To know our enemies, we need credible intelligence. Developing a capability for intelligence gathering is most critical. Intelligence experts still rue the gradual demobilisation of human intelligence (humint) networks that India had within Pakistan and other neighbours during Mr. I.K. Gujral's days as prime minister. Mr. Gujral's fascination for anything sarhad paar has cost dear and made us incapable of gathering even the basic intelligence. We need to build humint again, in Pakistan and also, more importantly, in China. Why can we use Tibetans for that?

Besides humint, India should also look at e-espionage in a big way. We are a country full of geeks and we can build on that knowledge. Quite a few Indian companies have entered the Chinese and other markets. Surely Indian spies can enter these countries undercover as employees of these countries to snoop on them. India needs to build intelligence gathering capabilities in China, extremely fast. We can learn a lot from Israel on humint, afterall Mossad has been very effective in gathering intelligence in a hostile environment.

Military capability building is the next step. It is well known that India has for long relied on Soviet and Russian military hardware. That served us well for all these decades. But the Admiral Gorshkov episode (India's acquisition of a mothballed Russian aircraft carrier) has proved that we cannot bank on the Russians alone to built our capability. We need to diversify our supply base, in order to avoid arm-twisting.

In a sense, the Indian establishment has recognised that. The pointers for this come from the Indian Air Force's order for the European Airbus A330 multi role tanker transport (MRTT), despite having the Russian Ilyushin IL78 in its fleet. Subsequent orders for the C-130J Super Hercules transport aircraft and the Poseidon P-8I naval reconnaissance planes, both of which are American products, have driven the point home in Russia that India cannot be taken for granted. We need to realise that the Russian armament industry is in doldrums and we can surely get a good bargain. The Russians are watching us closely now. They are prepared to offer India a license for manufacturing Sukhoi Su-30MKI fighters. They are also likely to bargain hard for Indian Air Force's tender for the supply of 126 multi role combat aircraft.

India's bid to diversify the military supply options could put it on a different plane in its relationship with Washington. It remains a fact that defence contractors are big lobbies on Capitol Hill. And we can leverage on these lobbies to our advantage to gain American support for other significant issues.

The Indian defence establishment needs to focus on building a military capability spanning the globe, this crucial for protecting Indian economic interests worldwide. Towards this end, India needs to develop an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) capability fast. Thankfully now, America would be amenable to making dual-use technology available to India. India must also leverage on its relationship with Israel for availing technology and furthering joint development of advanced armaments.

There is a limit to which a superpower can rely on others for capability. We need to provide more funds to take defence research projects ahead. Ultimately, there is nothing like self-dependence.

Undoubtedly a successful military alliance complements internal capabilities. India should know that the days of the Non-Aligned Movement are over, finally, good riddance, I would say. Now India should take a lead in rallying an Asian alliance to counter China. The alliance was talked about about 5 years back, but died a premature death, with regime changes in Australia.

Across Asia, there are quite a few nations that have a deeply ingrained mistrust towards China. Taiwan, Vietnam, Japan, South Korea and Singapore are among them. We need to forge a military alliance with them, with America providing back-stop guarantees as well as a nuclear umbrella.

We need to send a strong signal to China by taking up the Tibetan cause as well as supporting Taiwan's bid for the membership in international fora. India's handling of the Tibetan issue has been a classic case of hypocrisy and double-speak, so far, after the grand Nehruvian blunder in 1959. Our support for the Tibetan issue can unsettle the Chinese establishment, which we should leverage on. Tibet is a trump card India has against China.

A military alliance in Asia, closer ties with Taiwan and support for the Tibetan cause would be the tiger's roar in response to the string of pearls that the Dragon is making.

Last but not the least, we need to lobby hard to get into the United Nations Security Council at the earliest, in order to achieve diplomatic parity with China. We American help for this, it would be tall order to do it solely. To achieve unequivocal support from Washington on this, the defence lobbies in Washington would be a big help, for which doling out defence contracts to the likes of Boeing, Lockheed, Northrop, etc. at regular intervals would help.

We can take on the Dragon, surely and successfully. The only condition for this is careful planning and flawless execution.... Let's do it!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

A Tale of Two Cities!!!!!

I have been in Bombay for the last 4 years and 9 months and have loved every moment that I have spent in the city. One cannot but help admire and respect the high energy levels Bombay has. I had yearned for years to be a part of this energy and am happy to be a part of it.

But increasingly, I, as any North Indian, have faced incessant comparisons that Bombayites do with Delhi. These comparisons often border contempt.

Sample this:

"Delhi people", a term, which is a term interchangeably used for North Indians, are arrogant, flashy, have an attitude and are ostentatious...
Delhi is a brash, uncouth, unfriendly, inhospitable city
Delhi neither has a culture nor a "character"
Delhi hides its dark underbelly

The list, is long, very very long. And surprisingly, these rants come from educated, well read, well travelled "liberals", who would claim to be open and rational.

What hypocrisy?

Delhi as a city has its own character. Let us not forget Delhi's attitude has been defined by the Punjabis who inhabited the city following the Partition of the country. We as, a community, faced what no one else faced in the rest of the country. (I have blogged about this nearly 8 months back in a blog titled Saluting the Punjabi Spirit.)

What we went through in 1947 had defined how Delhi had evolved, over the years. The homeless, penniless Delhiites, Punjabis, or North Indians of 1947 have slogged to achieve what they are today and they are proud of it. The result - we Punjabis or Delhiites live today to the fullest. This is what most Bombayites mistake for an attitude, arrogance or whatever. Shouldn't Delhites be proud of what they have achieved? Shouldn't the whole country, including Bombayites, be proud of us?

Delhi may seem to be brash, uncouth and unfriendly to a visitor. But there is more to it, that perhaps has never been explored. Hasn't Delhi fallen in line whenever it was required? Look at this - the Metro in Delhi is a grand success. Delhiites have respected the Metro they got and are extremely orderly while using it. But in Bombay, while the commuters crib about inadequate suburban trains, they have actually misused and damaged the modern rakes which were acquired under the MUTP scheme.

The "brash, uncouth and unfriendly" city of Delhi has had a decent prepaid taxi system working at the airport, railway stations and bus terminals for as many as 15 years now. But Bombay has not been able to get such a system running at all. Ever tried taking a taxi from Bombay airport or Bombay Central? I will bet a million on this. The probability of getting fleeced and facing an arrogant, aggressive cabbie will near 100%, while the police will be quiet onlooker!!!

We talk of Delhi not having a character. What c**p?

Take a round of Connaught Place, Chandni Chowk, Darya Ganj, Delhi University, the Mall. You will be inundated with oodles of culture and the so called character, you will find in Fort, Kotachiwadi, Girgaum, Tardeo, Bandra, etc. What's the difference, guys?

Delhi doesn't hide its dark underbelly. Delhi doesn't ghettoise communities. Who's more "advanced" and open in that sense?

Talking of style, anyone who has spent even a week in both the cities would realise that the style quotient on Delhi streets, among ordinary Delhiites is way higher than anywhere else, Bombay included.

These debates are endless, but ultimately pointless.

We, in Bombay, have to realise that both Bombay and Delhi are great cities, but complementary. These two cities do define what India is and will be, in the future, as a world superpower. India cannot be what it can without these two cities. Bombayites have to realise this and look at Delhi and Delhiites with an open mind and a wide open heart, the way Delhi welcomes Tamils, Bengalis, etc. etc..

Friday, September 11, 2009

9/11 - Eight Years On - Lessons for America

Today, is a significant day. It's the 8th anniversary of horrific bombings and catastrophic airstrikes into the Twin Towers.

Sad but true, the world has indeed changed in these 8 years.

America's reaction, or as some may say over-reaction, post 9/11 has resulted in America's popularity plummeting the world over, except for a handful of countries.

Was Bush wrong? I really don't think he had a choice. He had to act, act really fast. The war in Afghanistan was largely justified, though I did have reservations on Iraq. Afghanistan was a global nuisance, but Iraq was a fairly safe and secular state under Saddam (though he wasn't quite a saint either).

America's plunging popularity has been evident in Pew Research Center's Pew Global Attitudes Project. America's "Favourability Rating" as Pew calls it has gone down considerably from 2000 to 2009. It is obvious that the decline would be substantial in the Islamic world, the Pew report confirms that. But what is surprising is the decline in the likes of Canada and Britain.

Something surely went wrong.

But on the other hand, America's popularity in India gives us some clues, some learning's. America has seen a steady but increasing popularity here.

The lesson is obvious. It is an issue of brute force vs. soft power.

The Islamic world thinks that it has been at the "receiving end" for long now. American allies like Canada and Britain which had supported the American brute force saw their economy falter. Their people saw their governments fighting America's war, under coercion etc. etc. which led to the decline in popularity.

On the other hand, in India, America exercised a kind of soft power. The American dream is something that India understands very well because we ourselves share similar dreams and aspirations. Outsourcing from America, H1B, etc. gave the Indian dream its wings. Hollywood has made significant inroads in India, not only through cable and satellite, but also through piracy - it is not uncommon to find peddlers selling Hollywood releases all over the country for a mere Rs. 50 - 100. Piracy in software also contributed to the growth and enhancement of IT skills in India - tell which small town computer institute here doesn't use pirated software? This in turn, opened a whole new world of economic possibilities. It may sound trivial, but American brands like Coke, Pepsi, McDonald's, etc. were the best ambassadors of America's soft power here.

America's soft power worked in India. Pew's numbers show that.

And that is a lesson for America. Influencing the world through soft power doesn't make enemies , brute force does, creating a spiral of war and destruction, as we have seen. Soft power, on the other hand, can prevent a 9/11-like situation.

Obama is perhaps trying to reorient the brute force into soft power. But I fear, he might swing to the other end of the spectrum and become completely soft and pliable. Closure of Guantanamo is one such example, which was covered in my earlier blog, Old Wine, New Bottle...

So time will tell whether America learns its lessons or not.....

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Stop Worrying, Start Living!

Another one from my mails, which is a gem. The message: "Stop worrying, start living!"

First I was dying to finish high school and start college
And then I was dying to finish college and start working
Then I was dying to marry and have children
And then I was dying for my children to grow old enough so I could go back to work
But then i was dying to retire
And now...
I am dying.........
And suddenly I realized I forgot to live
Please don't let this happen in life
Appreciate your current situation and enjoy each day against all the odds
To make money we lose health and then to restore our health we lose our money....
We live as if we are never going to die!

Friday, September 4, 2009

The Gift

I was cleaning up my inbox today when I came across this simple yet touching and heart-warming account. I have to share this on Rajeev's World, despite not being my creation. Here goes:

Today Harish punished his 4-year old daughter for wasting a roll of gold wrapping paper. Money was tight and he became infuriated when the child tried to decorate a box.

Nevertheless, the little girl brought the birthday gift to her father the next morning and said, "Happy Birthday Papa, this is for you." He was embarrassed by his earlier overreaction, but his anger flared again when he found the box was empty.

He yelled at her, "Don't you know that when you give someone a present, there's supposed to be something inside it?"

The little girl looked up at him with tears in her eyes and said, "Oh, Daddy, it is not empty. I blew kisses into the box. All for you, Papa."

The father was crushed. He put his arms around his little girl, and he begged for her forgiveness. It is told that the man kept that gold box by his bed for years and whenever he was discouraged, he would takeout an imaginary kiss and remember the love of the child who had put it there.

In a very real sense, each of us as humans have been given a gold container filled with unconditional love and kisses from our children, friends, family and God. There is no more precious possession anyone could hold.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Interesting Moments

Happy, yet simple!!!

The cock with an attitude!

Waiting for work?

The Sam Dune desert camp

Thar Express!!!

Sunset at Pokharan

Sunset hues!

Adieu Dear Ganpati!

A pup in the sky?

A Firang enjoying his Kachori at Surajkund!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Art of Hypocrisy

I am extremely appalled, ashamed, alarmed and shocked as I write this post.

A few minutes back, I got an SOS call from a close friend who is being "forced" to move out of her recently acquired flat. The reason? She does not belong to the dominant community in that locality.

What the hell is this?

Aren't we as Indian citizens are guaranteed "Equality of status and of opportunity" in our Constitution? Or are these mere golden words penned years back that we have conveniently forgotten in these 60 years since our Constitution has been adopted?

How can we still discriminate on the basis of religion, caste, creed, ethnicity, etc.? How can the State turn a blind eye to all this?

Isn't there a strong and valid case to delink governance and law enforcement from religion and all this stuff that creates differences? Isn't there a case for homogenisation of the population? Isn't there a case for adoption of a single law (Uniform Civil Code) to iron out any whiff of discrimination?

Perhaps, yes!

But as long as our politics as remains an art of hypocrisy, our politicians will continue to do lip-service to the lofty ideals of our Constitution, instead of following it in letter and spirit.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Great Game ...

A few years back, the then Defence Minister of the NDA government, George Fernandes created quite a furore when he stated that China was India's enemy No. 1. Was he wrong?

On the face of it, trade between India and China is booming. Indian IT companies are entering the Chinese market. Indian manufacturing companies are poised to leverage on China's low cost manufacturing. We are too happy to import anything Chinese. We apparently crossed the Great Wall, ever since Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi's Beijing visit in 1988.

On the other hand, India remains the only country with whom China has not moved an inch for resolving the border disputes in Aksai Chin and Arunachal Pradesh. China has still not recognised Sikkim's amalgamation into India. Every now and then, whispers are heard of Chinese incursions across the border and ensuing skirmishes. Very recently, there was a news on an evacuation from Nathu-la. A major skirmish was suspected. There was complete silence from officials.

And if you think these are small insignificant incidents, then sample this. China has followed a policy of encircling India, creating a "string of pearls". It is building a naval presence In Myanmar. It has set up a "listening" station in the Coco Islands of Myanmar, to snoop on India's missile test site in Orissa and ISRO facilities at Sriharikota. Not too much is known about the two deep-water ports being constructed by China at Kyaukpyu and Sittwe. Undoubtedly, these strategic assets can be used against India if the need arises.

Sri Lanka has been a significant recipient of Chinese military aid to help it fight the LTTE, while India looked the other way (though it is rumored that Indian military strategists and intelligence assets were readily made available to the Lankans). Further, the Chinese are building a port at Hambantota, in southern Sri Lanka. This is suspected to be a naval base and fuel bunkering facility for the Chinese.

Chinese involvement in Nepal is well known, so is their de-facto alliance with Pakistan. The Chinese have been heavily investing in the development of the Gwadar port in Baluchistan which is strategically located at the head of the oil tanker routes in the Persian Gulf and is rumoured to be a future naval base. Their investments in Gwadar would give them not only energy security but also an opportunity to choke oil supplies to India.

It is also suspected that when Pakistan decided to go nuclear immediately after their 1971 debacle, the Chinese not only did help provide (read: proliferate) nuclear technology to build the bomb, but also allowed the Pakistanis access to their Lop Nor nuclear test site in Xinjiang, much before India went overtly nuclear in 1974. Such support is continuing till date. Hasn't China signed the NPT?

Arming the Pakistani military was always a non-issue for the Chinese. The Chinese have apparently facilitated the transfer of North Korean missile technology to Pakistan, which was the foundation of the Pakistani IRBM programme.

The Chinese have also built the Karakorum Highway right from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir into Xinjiang. This undoubtedly is a strategic asset for both countries - China gets a road access to Pakistani ports in the Persian Gulf while all-weather road transport facilitates Pakistan's easy access to heavy-duty Chinese military hardware. China has very smartly propped up Pakistan, as a constant threat, a constant pin-prick to keep India occupied to further its agenda of dominance.

China is also focussing on building a strategic relationship with Bangladesh, along similar lines.

China has played quite a dubious role in promoting insurgency movements in the North-East as well as the Maoist and Naxal movements all throughout the mineral rich areas of eastern and central India. It is a clear attempt of weakening India from within, an act of war, which we have failed to recognise till date.

A few weeks back, on August 8, 2009, newspapers here covered an article, authored by Zhong Guo Zhan Lue Gang, which appeared on a Chinese website ( captioned 'If China takes a little action, the so-called Great Indian Federation can be broken up'. The article which been analysed on clearly talked about breaking India into 20-30 pieces.

Clearly, the Chinese are following Deng Xiaopeng's doctrine of "Keep a cool head and maintain a low profile. Never take the lead - but aim to do something big." They appear to be overtly warm and friendly but do not spare any opportunity to undermine India.

Talking of undercutting, Chinese intentions became crystal clear when the Indo-US nuclear deal was being culminated and the Nuclear Suppliers Group was considering the US sponsored India-specific waivers. The Chinese all along indicated their support but started dithering just before the vote. It took a desperate phone call from the then US President George W. Bush to the Chinese President Hu Jintao at 1 AM Washington time to get the Chinese on board.

Chinese lobbies worldwide have been fairly active in supporting the grand objective that China has. Australia under Prime Minister John Howard was quite eager to start uranium supplies to India. However, John Howard was succeeded by Kevin Rudd, who has been experiencing an orgasm with China, as he has himself said!!!! Now Kevin Rudd had been a relative unknown on the Australian political theatre and his election was marked with controversies of Chinese funding benefiting him directly! Australian blogs have sarcastically been calling Rudd a Mandarin Chinese!

Now Rudd did a complete U-turn on assuming office - he stymied all attempts to sell uranium to India citing a stand of non-proliferation. He tries to project an image of maintaining a moral high ground, but his actions are quite suspect. On whose insistence is Rudd taking this stance? I think we have sufficient clues on this.

The scramble for resources has led both India, China and other powers into Africa. The Chinese have very often outbid all other competitors. Very often this has achieved by bribing successive regimes. If the incumbents do not oblige, the Chinese arm insurgents. The Chinese have had quite a success in acquiring such assets, but their subsequent actions and attitudes towards the locals have brought fears of a second round of imperialism. This has happened in Zambian copper mines and tin mines in the Congo, besides other African countries. Chinese "neo-imperialism" has been well covered in the international press, including the The New York Times.

Why is China playing the Great Game to outbid, outsmart and keep India on its toes?

The answer lies within China.

China is a multi-ethnicity rag-tag union held together with an iron fist. The recent Uighur unrest in Xinjiang and the Tibetan protests in 2008, which were spontaneous but heartfelt, indicate a very strong undercurrent which would erupt at any moment the fist loosens.

That is precisely what the Chinese establishment is scared of. It needs to keep the economic miracle running. This can be sustained only by gobbling up whatever resources are available.

India can possibly be the only challenge that China faces for dominance in Asia. "How can India (despite being a multi-"ethnicity" country still thrive?" is a question that bothers the Chinese establishment. It therefore has to prove a point that India is a horrible example to look up to. This is a point which has to be proved at any cost. And Pakistan, Bangladesh, the People's Liberation Army (PLA) do the job well for the Chinese establishment.

India, in a sense, can also be called a multi-ethnicity union. But the difference lies in the a benevolent governance here unlike an iron fist. While there is discontent from time to time, every "ethnicity" does get a voice, is heard and issues do get sorted out.

That is something which is hugely comforting, but is not enough till the Great Game is on. Sadly, few Indian governments have ever recognised the Great Game.

The Chinese philospher Sun Tzu had said "For, to win one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the acme of skill. To subdue the enemy without fighting is the acme of skill." China is doing just that.

The Great Game is an all out war, without combat, without war being declared. George Fernandes recognised this fact.

India needs to recognise that the Great Game is being played.

India needs to evolve a set of carefully calibrated strategies to play Great Game. I would be talking of some of these strategies in my subsequent blog posts.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

A Major Mistake!

Major Jaswant Singh has finally been expelled from the BJP. What a Major Mistake!

For nearly two decades, the BJP appeared to be the political party with a difference. The party stood for what many Indians wanted - opening of the economy, strengthening of the defence capability, a universal recognition for India's strengths. The BJP did all that just too well. They capitalised on economic initiatives taken by the erstwhile Prime Minister, PV Narasimha Rao and took India to a pedestal on the world stage, gave India a voice.

All credit for this goes to the statesman, Mr. Atal Behari Vajpayee, who charismatically took alongwith him friends and foes alike. Mr. Vajpayee drew on the immense goodwill he had built over the years and weaved together a rainbow coalition of political parties, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and almost gave India the governance that we needed.

But off-late, we have seen a complete disarray in the BJP, the NDA is practically non-existant today. Why has Mr. Vajpayee's legacy been squandered away just like this?

Mr. Vajpayee, it can be concluded, had the knack for identifying the capable people for the right job. That's why we had seen several initiatives being taken in all spheres. And these were successful.

As long as success was there, there was power, ensuring that the different factions stayed together as one. A part of the "staying together" can also be attributed to the "Vajpayee factor".

Today, the BJP doesn't have the success, the power or the "Vajpayee factor". And the result - a complete chaos and disarray.

Jaswant Singh's expulsion points to that disarray. Do Jaswant's views on Jinnah really impact India? Does it really matter whether Jinnah was a nationalist or not? Isn't Jaswant entitled to his own views as an individual?

Despite Jaswant's statements that Jinnah was a nationalist, they would not solve the problems between India and Pakistan today.

The fact remains that India has a distinct national identity today. We are very different from what Pakistan is. We are a young, ambitious and forward looking nation and we have no place for retrograde thought.

Whether Partition was a good or a bad thing is another question. The "grandparent generation" is still nostalgic and romanticises about anything "sarhad paar". They regret the Partition and still fantasise about bazaars of Lahore, the culture and the prosperity that was left behind, etc. etc.

But, I have a question. Would you have ever wanted to live in one nation with millions of fanatics, share a border with the Taliban?

My answer to this question would be a big big NO!

So while millions of lives were lost in the Partition, a lot of blood was shed, the Partition was a blessing in disguise for India. We got rid of the baggage of an inward looking, crazy and regressive set of people.

We became a leaner and meaner nation. We got an agility to move on. And the result - today Partition is absolutely irreversible.

So why all this controversy on Jaswant's book?

And to top it all, when the BJP is looking for a firm grounding, it expels its global face.


What a Major Mistake!

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