Sunday, January 25, 2015

Deft Defence Minister .... Power & Politics / The Sunday Standard / January 25, 2015

Deft Defence Minister on a Mission to Ensure India is Respected and Feared in the World

The guns have fallen relatively silent on India’s borders for the past few weeks. Even the Pakistani establishment seems to have reined in jihadis for now. Secularists may attribute the unexpected fall in the number of border incursions and infiltrations to the Obama visit, though the Indian Army said two days ago that 150 militants are waiting behind LoC to cross over. But the Olive Branch Brigade has conveniently forgotten that India now has a defence minister who neither barks without biting nor starts snoring when jawans are being maimed and civilians are massacred. And when he bites, it turns out to be fatal for the foe. Ever since 59-year-old Manohar Gopalkrishna Prabhu Parrikar took over as the 24th defence minister, protecting the country and its men in uniform has become his Mission 24X7. For the past three months, his actions have been unconventional and his comments acidic, which have pained peaceniks. Last week, he stirred a hornet’s nest with the explosive revelation that some former Indian PMs compromised our deep intelligence assets in Pakistan. No other defence minister has ever charged any chief executive of the country of treason. But it was not just an off-the-cuff remark. It was a calculated strategy on Parrikar’s part to silence those who are out to sabotage and oppose India’s new aggressive stance against its inimical neighbour. For the past 10 years, the Indian defence establishment has been forced to face the enemy with both hands tied behind its back and mouth bridled. Now, through his frank statements and quick decision-making, Parrikar has changed the entire narrative and grammar of India’s defence and strategic policy. He hardly bothers about the nuances and spins offered to him by agents of Western think tanks.
On Monday, as India’s defence minister, he would be playing the host at the Republic Day Parade, for which US President Barack Obama is the chief guest. While Parrikar is busy in conference with backroom diplomats and defence officials to anticipate every possible hiccup in the execution of his plans, the media is more concerned about Obama’s Beast and his romantic but now aborted visit to the Taj Mahal. As a member of the all-powerful Cabinet Committee on Defence, he has been chosen as the pointsman to finalise various defence and strategic pacts. PM Modi knows Parrikar wouldn’t be swayed by US mania and instead, would do some plain-speaking to the business-minded Americans.
Defence experts feel that Parrikar’s strong comments and inflexible approach towards Pakistan has forced the US and Western world to look at the insurgency-infested country with suspicion. Parrikar was uncompromising when he made it clear to the West that it has to choose between a democratic India and terror habitat Pakistan. Last month, the defence ministry read the riot act to US Secretary of State John Kerry that India wouldn’t be able to do business with the US unless it forces Pakistan to dismantle terror camps and ban terrorist outfits operating on its soil. It is not a coincidence that the Sharif government banned a few of them and Obama spoke against terror camps prior to landing in India. Such high testosterone actions were never expected from the US in the past, because of India’s wavering stand on Pakistan. The Americans were particularly taken aback by the threatening tenor of Parrikar’s repeated warnings to Pakistan. When incursions rose exponentially, he sent a clear message to the Indian armed forces. “Our (NDA government) response is: don’t hesitate. React appropriately without holding yourself back.” He mandated that they should retaliate “with double the force” against all ceasefire violations.
Parrikar’s security-minded preoccupation with Pakistan is not his only virtue. He is very impatient with the slow speed in procurement of defence equipment and the largely dysfunctional DRDO. Last month, when he terminated the services of DRDO chief Avinash Chander—who was on a temporary extension—it signalled his intent of promoting innovative thinking. Parrikar feels that it is the DRDO’s failure that has made India heavily dependent on defence imports. On Chander’s exit, he remarked: “I thought that at 64, a person (Chander) probably thinks in a more cautious way. The scientist world today requires probably a much younger generation.”
Another bold decision of Parrikar’s was legalising the role of defence agents, ignoring all possible adverse impact. Within two months in his job, he told officials to draw up a roadmap for legalising the role of these agents. Aware of the damage done to many politicians and civil servants through their dealings with them, Parrikar felt it was better to bring all hidden persuaders into the public gaze so that their connections become transparent to all. He says, “Several times we require feedback and also someone who can get us information. There are some foreign companies which want to come to India... They can’t go on sending their people here.” But he also made clear that it was just an idea, and a “clear cut” policy would be announced soon on engaging representatives for arms procurements, which will also provide for punitive action against firms found giving kickbacks.
As Goa’s CM, Parrikar dealt with various stake holders directly on all issues. He wouldn’t mind walking down to the hotels and offices of those whom he thought would be useful for his state’s development. He has carried this culture to the defence ministry. Soon after Modi approved the hike in FDI in defence, Parrikar invited a number of Indian corporates to Goa on December 27. He was assisted only by his private secretary at the meeting, which was attended by representatives of leading defence equipment manufactures like Kalyani Group, Bharat Forge, Godrej and Boyce, Ashok Leyland, Tata Advanced Systems and Larsen & Toubro. Parrikar is playing the role of a reformer for whom defence production is not a clandestine business, but a source of boosting the Make in India campaign. As CM, his mission was to make the tiny state of Goa a vibrant global tourist destination. Now as defence minister, his vigilant eyes are constantly examining every chink in India’s defence armour and seal it mercilessly. Parrikar’s idea of India is a nation, which is both feared and respected not just in the neighbourhood, but in the entire world.; Follow me  on Twitter @PrabhuChawla

Monday, January 19, 2015

The Outcome of Delhi Elections ...Power & Politics/ The Sunday Standard/ January 18, 2015

The Outcome of Delhi Elections Will Set the Tone and Tenor of Future Electoral Battles

Modi posters at a rally in Delhi|Ravi Choudhary

Sometimes small is not only beautiful but can be quite brutal when the occasion rises. A tiny ant can kill a mammoth elephant as the fable goes. That is why the battle for the picayune capital city—1,484 square km compared to India’s 2,973,190 square km—has become a challenge of both credibility and survival for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party. The city sends just three MPs to the 242-member Rajya Sabha and seven to the 542-member Lok Sabha. Delhi doesn’t even enjoy the status of a full-fledged state. In theory, its local dynamics can hardly influence the omnipotent political establishment of 7 RCR and Raisina Hills. The Prime Minister, however, may not relish the idea of an ardent adversary sharing the high table with visiting dignitaries from all over the world. It is obvious that both Narendra Modi and his trusted political magician Amit Shah are taking no chances with the outcome of the Delhi Assembly elections. They know not only is every vote precious but each and every individual with either celebrity status or a community tag matters greatly in the poll calculus.
Last week when Modi welcomed Kiran Bedi, India’s first female IPS officer, into the saffron fold, he was sending a clear message to Delhi’s voters and his party that he wasn’t confident of any current state leader delivering the capital to the BJP. In Delhi, the party has been stuck in a quagmire for the past two decades, having been taken over by nouveau riche upstart politicians who have never sweated for the party, but instead have only managed to become rich and famous in more ways than one. Despite an urge for change, the party could not win a majority in the Delhi Assembly polls. Modi feels a victory in his new habitat would enable him to formalise the formation of a genuine Modi Sarkar in which a Modi-fied state BJP would play a pivotal role. When the Modi-Shah duo decided to induct Bedi along with AAP rebels, and a few minor minority leaders, the idea was to empower those who did not belong to any local faction. Additionally, it was an attempt to give a liberal patina of ‘swatch’ gloss and glamour to the colour of the saffron party, whose many local leaders have tainted reputations of various sorts. One of the most successful grand masters of game-changers ever, Modi is trying to repackage the BJP to recapture its market share in the capital.
His aggressive marketing strategy has been put in place only after proper research and serious study of Delhi’s social, political and economic layers. Though it may sound like an overstatement, Team Modi knows that the outcome of Delhi elections will set the tone for future electoral battles and generate positive perception about the acceptability of the Central leadership among Delhi voters. Empirically, the party that wins Delhi eventually wins India. In 1993, the BJP stormed into power by sweeping the Delhi Assembly elections. Three years later, it also formed the government at the Centre and won in many other states later. It tasted victory again in the Lok Sabha when Atal Bihari Vajpayee became the Prime Minister for the second time in 1998. But six months later, the party lost Delhi, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. The BJP did defeat the Congress in the 1999 Lok Sabha elections, but the victory had more to do with the patriotic exultation over India’s Kargil victory than any popular love for the party’s local units. In 2003, even after ‘India Shining’ was spun as a web of enchantment to mesmerise the masses, the BJP lost the state elections for the second time. A year later in 2004, it lost not only six of the seven Delhi Lok Sabha seats but its majority in Parliament as well. The triumph of the Congress was further consolidated by a third consecutive win in the Delhi elections in 2008. A year later, it grabbed all of Delhi’s Lok Sabha seats in 2009, which contributed to the formation of the UPA II.
BJP’s fortunes, however, regained the glow soon after the Congress was washed away in the Delhi polls in December 2013. Not only did the BJP become the single largest party in the Assembly, it won all Lok Sabha seats in the capital in May 2014. Modi is not in the mood to suffer any setback in Indraprastha, especially after his uninterrupted winning spree in Maharashtra, Haryana and Jharkhand, and to some extent in Jammu and Kashmir. Both Modi and Shah are a tad disappointed with the party’s failure to secure a majority on its own in Maharashtra and Jharkhand. The two titans have made it clear that securing a comfortable majority in Delhi is their top priority because it will set the tone for the elections in Bihar and Assam scheduled to be held later this year, followed by West Bengal and a couple of other states. Modi’s mandate mantra is “chalo chalein Modi ke saath”.
Setting new records is not only his predilection but his mission as well. He wants to break Indira Gandhi’s record, when under her, the Congress ruled not just India but more than two-thirds of the states too, including the big ones at the same time. He has already created history by placing eight BJP chief ministers (its highest ever tally) in Haryana, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Goa, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Jharkhand. The BJP is part of the ruling front in Andhra Pradesh and Punjab. Modi and Shah realise that it is difficult for the party to achieve any meaningful verdicts in Kerala, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and some of the north-eastern states even if massive communal polarisation happens in any of them. They are also aware of the dangers, which a united Janata Parivar can pose in both Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. Since the process of forging a powerful anti-Modi confederacy has started in earnest, the Prime Minister is determined to demoralise and deflate their enthusiasm by scoring a big win in Delhi. Modi is like a political Eratosthenes who realises that like the earth, the globe of power is also round, and the road to Delhi’s throne in 2019 can end in Delhi only if the new journey begins from the destination itself.; Follow me on Twitter @PrabhuChawla

Monday, January 12, 2015

Your Religion Reflects your identity ... Power & Politics/The Sundary Standard/January 11, 2015

Your Religion Reflects Your Identity, But Your Action Connects You With Your Name

An injured person being transported after attack on Charlie Hebdo in Paris

The defining dilemma these days regarding identity is “What’s in a name?” In these tortuous times of identity crises, one’s appellation establishes one’s credentials. So, when I say, “My name is Prabhu and I am not a Communalist,” it means that it is my name and not my actions that denote my acceptability and credibility in society. Like many Indians, I am proud to be a nationalist Hindu. But I take much more pride in being a Bharatiya, which doesn’t differentiate between religions, cultures and faiths. For me, Hinduism is not a religion. It defines how we live in peace and tolerance. It pains everyone, including me, when one has to invoke his first or last name to prove his commitment to human values and liberty. It is also equally agonising that this nomenclature nightmare started when Muslims started being blamed by Islamaphobes for rising terror incidents worldwide. To convince people that not all Muslims are jihadists or terrorists, Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan even acted as the hero in a film, the theme of which was “My name is Khan and I am not a terrorist”. It was shot in the horrific background of the 9/11 attacks. Since then, Indian liberals and propagandists have been celebrating only Muslim names in various fields to establish the nationalistic commitments of Indian Muslims, which is hardly in doubt in the minds of most number of Indians. This moniker manipulation marked the beginning of the identity wars between various communities with their fringe organisations taking advantage of the divisive din. Though all Ahmads and Abdullahs are not supporters of the Taliban or Al-Qaeda, the impression being created by secularism-mongers is that most Prabhus, Rams, Deen Dayals and Krishna Kumars are communal and conspiring to annihilate the minorities. For the past few months, a competitive chorus is on, using proper nouns to divide India rather than to unite it. The discourse is not aimed at the consolidated idea of a united and inclusive Bharat, but to keep reminding people of their distinctive religious identities by emphasising on their family background. Why can’t those who exploit religion to prove their secular credentials use the hashtags #IamaBharatiya and #I stand for unity? It is tragic that in the name of modern thinking and fake ideological neutrality, some of us are bandying about minority names to defend the indefensible that is terrorism.

Unfortunately, the dance of terror in Paris has once again revived the practice of using names for cultural and religious taxonomy. For the past four days, millions of people worldwide have been tweeting #I am Charlie” and  #JeSuisCharlie (I am Charlie), which have become slogans of solidarity with the victims of the Charlie Hebdo massacre. Two terrorist brothers attacked the offices of the French satirical magazine—which had satirised Islam—and murdered 12, including 10 journalists whose only fault was critical and perhaps excessive satirical adventurism. Now for the French, and other Western countries, the name of an individual appears to be the only effective way to identify a possible terrorist threat. Sadly, it took the Paris carnage to wake up the West once more, which faces a lethal threat to its existence and culture. Forgetting the famous adage that ‘thou shalt reap what thou shall sow’, the West is primarily responsible for overtly and covertly funding non-governmental organisations working in the Third World for ameliorating the conditions of the poor and oppressed. For Europe’s neo-liberal altruists, championing human rights and saving the poor guarantees a ticket to heaven, flying first class. Hardly do they realise that financial magnanimity will also lead to the rise of communal hatred and encourage divisive tendencies, the way it is happening in India. Over one lakh Indian NGOs receive about `4,000 crore annually from Europe, the UK and US in the name of protecting human rights. Some of them have even aggressively defended people with suspected terrorist links. It is due to massive Western support and native chest-thumping by professional human rights activists that terror groups in Afghanistan, Syria, Pakistan and India as well as in other parts of the world got the space and time to consolidate themselves and eventually become a threat to the very people who financed and promoted them for the sake of their own narrow political or ideological proclivities.

It is quite telling that France is now Europe’s terror capital. According to figures released by various websites on the 152 terrorist attacks in the EU last year, about 65 happened in France alone. The research organisation, Muslim Statistics, claims that over 66 per cent of Muslims in France and 80 per cent in the UK support the idea of an Islamic State. It also reveals that Sweden spends over 10 million kroner to finance Muslim immigration and the UK parts with 840 million pounds of taxpayers’ money per year on Muslim prisoners who constitute 14 per cent of Britain’s prisoner population—who incidentally are converting many prisoners into radical Islam, which has become an added source of worry for law enforcement agencies. Research scholar Tim Sadandoji wrote in his blog that “looking at all the people killed in terrorist attacks in Europe and North America during the last 10 years, 97 per cent was committed by Muslim terrorists, or 4,703 of the 4,873 killed”. While none of the Western countries have released a comprehensive list of jihadi attacks on their soil, over 5,000 people are estimated to have been killed so far in America, Russia and Europe during the past 12 years. If one includes the pogroms in West Asia and Africa, the victims of the Taliban, Boko Haram, Al-Qaeda and ISIS, the number stands at 18,000 people. Out of each 100 killed, 90 died in bloody encounters between a Hafiz and Bin Laden and not between an Antony and Abdullah, or a Prabhu vs Hezbollah. Even in Paris, it was none other than Said Kouachi, a devout Muslim, who shot the 40-year-old French Muslim policeman Ahmed Merabat in cold blood. One of the rampaging monsters said killing the journalists of Charlie Hebdo was taking revenge for insulting their Prophet. When the screams had died, and the smell of cordite was blown away in the chilly January wind, what was left scrawled in the blood and gore was just a name. It was Chérif and he turned out to be a terrorist. It’s all in the name, stupid.; Follow me on Twitter @PrabhuChawla

Monday, January 5, 2015

Ideological Compatibility ....... Power & Politics/The Sunday Standard/January 04, 2015

Ideological Compatibility Among Ministerial Troika Strengthens Modi-fied Pak Policy

According to the great 6th century BC Chinese general Sun Tzu, who authored The Art of War, “Invincibility lies in the defence, the possibility of victory in the attack.” Now in 21st century India, for the first time since Independence, a strong defence and offence strategy is in place. This was evident on Friday when the Indian Coast Guard intercepted a Pakistani boat laden with explosives and terrorists whose ostensible purpose was to repeat the 26/11 attacks. The pre-emptive action was the outcome of a properly coordinated strategy prepared by the ministries of Home, Defence and External Affairs with the PMO fully in the loop on one of the most successful operations against India’s enemies.

Undoubtedly, the number of Pakistani incursions, LoC violations and terrorist infiltration has risen during the past six months, but the Modi government has decided to pay Pakistan back in the same coin, be it forceful retaliation to enemy fire or blowing up a terrorist boat. The wait and watch approach to Pakistan has been thrown into the dungheap. If comments made by the stakeholders of India’s security are indications, it is obvious that the PM has chosen to follow bullets-for-bullets tactics towards Pakistan.

The change in perception and strategy is not by accident. It is embedded in the composition of Modi’s Cabinet and the restructured security establishment. Earlier, various ministers and officials were able to impose their personal preferences when it came to dealing with Pak-led terrorism. There was little ideological connectivity between those who ran the ministries of Defence, Home and External Affairs. Modi has ensured that the Big Three—Home Minister Rajnath Singh, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar—complement, instead of confronting each other on national security. Not only are they die-hard Hindutva followers, but also none of them have been part of any kind of pro-Pak backroom diplomacy or belong to the peacenik club. No power player in any Western capital could ever have dreamt that an IIT-ian from a tiny state like Goa would be chosen to lead India’s gargantuan defence ministry. Swaraj and Rajnath are ‘fortunate’ victims of the class apartheid enforced by the Indian elite. Defence agents, international lobbyists and hawkers of Hawks jets, fighter planes, submarines and other defence equipment had thought it was below their dignity to include them on their mailing lists. Hence, the exclusivity of the three tigers has become India’s virtue.

The champions of dialogue and commerce with Pakistan would never have imagined the triumvirate occupying three of the five powerful corner rooms in South and North Blocks, where security strategies are evolved. Rajnath, Parrikar and Swaraj have acquired a reputation of a troika on a track, which means to destroy those hostile to India. They are working not for fame in Washington, London, New York, Mumbai or Lutyens’ Delhi but to make Pakistan an international pariah who breeds and feeds jihadists. Their mission is smooth, because the PM himself and NSA Ajit Doval have given them total support in their endeavour.

Defence analysts expect that ideological compatibility of the key players of Indian defence strategy will be able to restore some sanity to the Pak Army and its political leadership. Now, through Track-II brigade, they will not be able to infiltrate directly or indirectly Modi’s new fortress-like framework. Rajnath, Swaraj, Parrikar and Doval have minds of their own and directly report and discuss every issue with the PM. They have blighted the chances of many retired defence officials, superannuated diplomats, journalists and corporate leaders by making them irrelevant, and thus unemployable by any Janus-faced international agency or NGO, which encourages the arms race while propagating dialogue. Most of them were collecting commercial and strategic information during interactions with ministers and senior civil servants in previous regimes. All such informal espionage has stopped for the time being, since there are no conflicts of opinion either in the BJP’s political forums or the government hierarchy.

Modi, it seems, has learnt lessons from the past and has avoided choosing opportunists who pursued their own agendas without staying true to self-professed ideology. With promise of strong action against Pakistan during election rallies, Modi was deviating from the thinking of even Atal Bihari Vajpayee, whose political DNA made him evade confrontation in dealing with Pakistan. Kargil was forced on him. Vajpayee’s magnanimity was mistaken as weakness. During NDA I, there were differences between home minister L K Advani, foreign minister Jaswant Singh, defence minister George Fernandes and NSA Brijesh Mishra on Pakistan policy. Advani was overruled many times when he suggested strong action against the country whenever its terror plots were unearthed. The pro-US Mishra was always in favour of indulging Pakistan. Despite strong division within the Cabinet, Jaswant bartered with terrorists and accompanied them to Afghanistan to bring back a hijacked Indian Airlines plane in December 1999.

During the UPA’s rule, from PM Manmohan Singh to defence minister A K Antony, not one leader favoured an eye-for-an-eye approach towards Pakistan. Home minister Shivraj Patil, Antony and foreign ministers like S M Krishna, Natwar Singh and Salman Khurshid followed the diktat from the PMO or NSA Shiv Shankar Menon. The regime was habitually receptive to guidance from the US. Starting from 1950, none of the over three dozen defence, external affairs and home ministers had ever spoken—until now—in one voice on a decisive Pakistan policy. From Nehru to Manmohan, it was the acceptability among the classes and not the masses that dictated India’s response to its belligerent neighbour. All our leaders were influenced by non-state players of India or Pakistan while taking the final call. Modi has so far resisted all external pressures, which have tried to influence his strategic and diplomatic initiatives. The Modi-fied command and response mechanism has sent a clear message. The PM is convinced that any “strategy without tactics is the shortest route to victory”. Sun Tzu would agree.; Follow me on Twitter @PrabhuChawla