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Tag Archives | Sonia Gandhi

Business as usual

The paralysis in decision making in New Delhi is adversely affecting India’s national security.

Pakistani troops ambushed and killed five Indian soldiers belonging to the 21 Bihar regiment and 14 Maratha Light Infantry on Tuesday.  The Pakistani troops crossed the Line of Control into Poonch to carry out the attack.

Several theories have been put forward to explain the attack on the Indian patrol.  Was this retaliation to news reports in Pakistan which claimed that Indian troops kidnapped four men from PoK?  Is this just another manifestation of Pakistan’s escalating hostilities towards India in Afghanistan?  Are hardline elements in Pakistan’s armed forces attempting to discredit and derail Nawaz Sharif’s alleged attempts to make peace with India?  Interesting questions, and maybe they will be answered in time and as more facts pertaining to the attack are revealed.  But reactions to Tuesday’s incident, like those during the January 2013 incident, point to a larger crisis in national security management in India.

A quick word first about Nawaz Sharif.  Whatever his intentions are with regard to India, India must judge Pakistan by its actions and not by warm and fuzzy notions of a trans-Punjab lovefest.  The problem with Pakistan’s peace brigade is that there is a significant gap between purported intentions and their ability to deliver on them.

The net result to India is that its neighboring environment continues to remain hostile and threats to its internal security persist. In this regard, it would be silly for India to get entangled in a debate over whether Nawaz Sharif wants peace with India or not.  Instead, India must judge Pakistan by its actions and not by the supposed intentions of some of its leaders.  As my colleague Nitin Pai argues, there is no case for India to engage the Nawaz Sharif government in dialog until there is credible proof of intent.

But to return to the August 6 attack on Indian troops, such incidents along the LoC are hardly new, regrettable though the loss of life is.  The Pakistanis have always attempted to stir up tensions long the LoC to aid in the infiltration of terrorists across the LoC or to elevate the visibility of tensions with India on the global stage.  Tuesday’s attack wasn’t the first of its kind and will not be the last.  There will surely be a tactical Indian military response to the provocation, and the Pakistanis are well aware that the response will come sooner than later.  This isn’t war mongering but merely a reflection of the realities of the situation along the LoC.

However, what should be of concern to us is the manner in which Indian leadership has chosen to respond to the attack.  Browse through statements issued by representatives of India’s political parties and it becomes apparent very quickly that objective number one was to either blame or deflect blame (depending on who you were) for the attack.

BJP MP and former External Affairs minister Yashwant Sinha asked whether the Congress was with Pakistan or India (I mean, really?), while Congress Party president Sonia Gandhi affirmed that “the entire Congress party, as indeed the entire country” stood with the families of those killed. As ever, party first, country second.

In fact, further reading into statements issued in response to the attack tells us that there isn’t much consensus of opinion even within the UPA, much less between the UPA and other parties.  Defense Minister AK Antony, whose indifference to defending anything beyond his own reputation is now a thing of legend, alleged that the attackers were in fact terrorists masquerading as Pakistan army regulars, which contradicted the positions of almost every other UPA leader to have spoken on the subject.  It also happened to contradict the position of the army.  What is the Indian citizen supposed to make of the political theatrics that get played out with each bomb blast or border incident?

Confidence in India’s political leadership and national security institutions is eroding.  There has been systematic atrophy of existing institutions charged with managing India’s national security.  Worse, vested parties, both political and otherwise, have effectively stonewalled urgent reforms needed to our national security apparatus.  This includes the implementation of a recommendation first made  14 years ago in the Kargil Review Committee report that would allow the prime minister of the country to receive direct and timely military input.

The acute paralysis in consensus-building and decision making in New Delhi is now affecting India’s national security.  This cannot continue to be swept under the carpet.  If India’s leaders can’t even evolve political consensus on an expected and routine Pakistani provocation along the LoC, what sort of response do we imagine we can expect when we are faced with more serious challenges to our national security?

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Where do we go from here?

The people of India have spoken.  A clear mandate for the UPA government has been given.  While this blogger doesn’t consider the verdict to be optimal (considering UPA’s unforgivable lapses in security and foreign affairs), the decisiveness of the victory is pleasing because it allows a less fractious Central government to go about its business.  The mandate against the BJP is very clear — the people don’t want any part of their divisive politics.  A campaign that was overshadowed by the venom spewing bigotry of Varun Gandhi was only bound for failure.  Uttar Pradesh has told Mayawati what it thinks of her self glorifying statues in Lucknow.   And Prakash Karat stands amidst the shattered pieces of his non-ideology.

Where does India go from here?  The Filter Coffee has repeatedly drawn attention to the dilapidated state of our local law enforcement forces, and national and border defense mechanisms.  They need addressing immediately.  When Chidambaram took over as Home Minister, he instituted a few changes, come cosmetic, some concrete.

The Congress must stop pretending that it is tied at the hip to the Unlawful Activities Prevention (Amendment) Act and work with the Opposition to construct a meaningful anti-terror law for the nation.  Our local law enforcement agencies need money, equipment and training.  Our national forces face severe shortages in equipment, which can only be addressed by correcting India’s defense procurement mechanism.  The shackles need to be loosened from our intelligence agencies.

India faces two immediate threats with regard to terrorism, from the Maoists and Jihadi groups.  With regard to external Jihadi threats, there are some elements that India can control and some that it can’t.  However, the Maoist menace is well within India’s realm and decisive action is needed to eliminate this plague that has consumed a third of India.

On the foreign affairs side, the Subcontinent is on fire.  Sri Lanka has found itself an effective counterweight to India in China, and its dismissal of India’s pleas was the most telling aspect of this relationship as war against the LTTE drew to a close.  Similarly, India lost the plot in Nepal during the UPA administration and as tensions continue to rise between the army and the Chinese backed Maoist government, India has a great opportunity to play the honest broker and demonstrate to that nation that India wants peace and stability in Nepal.

The United States is blowing a sigh of relief that the month long elections in India are at an end.  Obama’s immediate concern is to get India to focus on the Af-Pak issue.  The repeated calls for India to reduce troop levels along the western border are as absurd as they are misplaced and the UPA would do well not to wilt under American pressure as they have so often done in the past.

With Pakistan, India must continue to use every tool at its disposal to pressure that country to dismantle not just “terror” infrastructure, but specifically the Punjabi-terror outfits that target India.  The Pakistanis must be pressed to ensure that those responsible for 26/11 are brought to justice.  Pakistan’s “investigation”, as farcical as it was, is now a casualty of all the attention to the existential threat that country faces today.  Above all, the UPA must impress upon Islamabad that for India to show any interest in rekindling the “peace process”, there needs to be very credible action from Pakistan on both dismantling terror infrastructure armed at India, and bringing to justice those that were responsible for 26/11.

The mandate for the Congress is conclusive.  Manmohan Singh can either show the country that he can act convincingly to address the challenges that face us, as he did in 1991, or he can falter and stumble from one embarrassing embroilment to another as he has done over the past five years.  The ball is in his court.  What’s it going to be, Mr. Prime Minister?

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Damn the plebs…

LK Advani has been calling for live television debates since the schedule for the 15th Lok Sabha elections was announced.  The people of India have a right to know where the Congress, the BJP and other national parties stand on the complex issues that face the nation.  But the silence from the Congress has been deafening.  The maneuvering, amusing.  First, we were told that there would be no debate between Manmohan Singh and Advani because unlike the US, ours isn’t a two-party system.

Then we were told by Manmohan Singh that he isn’t much of a speaker, and lets his actions speak for him.  In other words, he’s a decider: like his good buddy, George W Bush. But Bush’s record in the White House makes him look like FDR after the Great Depression, when compared to Mahmohan’s record over the past five years.  And now this vitriolic harangue from Sanjaya Baru, the PM’s former “media manager”.  A cushy job, I’m sure, as it entailed doing nothing, just like the post of Home Minister.

Never before was a prime minister denied the right of reply in a debate on a motion of thanks to the President. Never before has a prime minister been prevented from defending his record in office in a debate on a motion of confidence. Manmohan Singh was at the receiving end of such grossly unfair treatment from an Opposition that turned every parliamentary debate into a duel. And now they want a television debate? Hah!

Wonderful.  In other words, you tried to knock me off the pedestal when I was vulnerable. Now, it’s payback.  To hell with the voters.  Damn the plebs. Where is this disillusioned rhetoric going to take India?  The kind of debate favored in our country is one where accusations are countered with counter-accusations. In the end, it’s the man on the street that loses.  This will continue only as long as you and I give currency to such garbage talk.

Voting begins in India tomorrow.  So please go out and participate in the largest democratic exercise in the world.  But pledge to yourself that the act of casting your vote won’t be the end of your engagement with governance in the nation; that it will be the first of many such engagements between a complex, if chaotic, democratic system and you, the middle class, English speaking, Internet surfing, pub hopping, reality TV watching Indian voter.

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All Karat, no stick policy seldom ever works

Prakash Karat

Prakash Karat

The inevitable has happened. Prakash Karat and his red army have stormed out of the ruling coalition. This is just fantastic; now they can disappear into the bottomless pit of obsurity from whence they came. For three years, the Communist Party of India (CPI), with 50-something votes, has held India hostage. Since independence, CPI’s dictum has held sway in only two states – Kerala and West Bengal. However, since the formation of the UPA, the whole nation has had an opportunity to experience the obnoxiousness of this party. My general opinion is that when alliances are formed with no commonality in ideology apart from an antipathy towards a third party, that alliance is tenuous and bound to fail. The CPI in India today exists not to expound the principles of communism or Marxism, but to oppose capitalism and any alliance with the United States. Similarly, when the Congress threw its lot in with the CPI for no reason but their mutual dislike of so-called communalist parties, that alliance was bound to fail. And fail it did. Karat submitted his decision to withdraw from the ruling coalition today, and asked President Pratiba Patil to ask the Congress to prove it’s majority in the Parliament.

Even in a country where political two-facedness is de rigour, the barefaced hypocricy of the CPI is astounding. Representing India, Karat traveled to our northern neighbor to pucker to the Red bottom. Then he suggested that a partnership between India and the US was designed to “encircle China“. I’m tempted to ask why he’s so concered about the security of the country that invaded India in 1962. So what if this hypothetical Indo-US nexus were true?. If he were half as concerned about India’s energy security as he apparently is about China’s strategic security, India may have already been brought back into the nuclear mainstream of the world. One only has to look at the state of affairs in West Bengal and Kerala to gauge the leadership capabilities of the Left. West Bengal has suffered from decades of economic stagnation and widespread poverty, while Kerala earns most of its revenue from foreign remittances from the Middle East.

The Left’s farcical drama continued, with Mayawati, the leader of the Samajwadi Party, a CPI ally, claiming recently that the Indo-US nuke deal was “anti-Muslim”. That Mayawati has actually read the “123 Agreement” between India and the US is slightly less believable than the implication that she is capable of reading anything at all. Clearly, if she had read the agreement, she would have known that the proposal was to transfer civilian nuclear technology to India to help the country meet it’s overwhelming energy demands. How that translated into being anti-Muslim, only Mayawati will be able to explain.

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