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Its quiet an irony, 15 years ago I spent a whole evening with a bunch of friends and acquaintances, kickoff a drink at Leopold, movie at Regal, dinner and drinking at the Taj and chat in Marine drive till the am, followed by breakfast at the Oberois. We were a bunch of management trainees from a bunch of cos, who spent a good portion of our months salary that night. I do not really remember each of the participants, in fact I almost forgot about that evening (I shouldn’t since I was the designated driver and did not consume alcohol that day..or ever) till one of the partners in crime brought this up to me on facebook. What an evening, I wish the generation next has the same opportunity to have so much fun and go broke by the send week of the month. Hey you were a mgt trainee, its all ok. There are a good bunch of stories from that evening, two of the participants who are now married laid the foundation stone (literally) of their current marital bliss that evening, or so we are led to believe. 

In any case, half a billion opinions have been written on why, why not, what do do next

  • Some hard core right wing conservative who want to get the “Muslims” who are not with “US” to go Pakistan
  • Some pessimists who think this whole thing is a lost cause
  • Some armchair generals who believe pakistan “should be taught a lesson”
  • Some lampost intellectuals who try to link the whole chalta hai and jugad attitude of India to this mess
  • Some frustrated rebel rousers that do the predictable politician bashing (Shoba De included)
  • Some confused flag wavers whose minds are thinking patriotism, body is saying nationalism
  • Some insensitive southy prick that says – why don’t we give up Kashmir in exchange for eternal peace
  • Some too numb to know what to think

Most of these opinions depend to a certain extent on who they come from:

  • wannabe mumbaikars (I probably fall under this category) , I believe to be a “true” mumbaikar you should have spend at least a decade, there, sounds like New Yorker to me..whatever,
  • fake mumbaikarsfolks from other parts who have haven’t made up their mind to live here, but are mumbaikars depending on the topic, and a whole lot of
  • true blue mumbaikars..who I salute. For all the economic awakening, Mumbai is still India ONLY city and
  • vicarious mumbaikars, rest of the country, world, who think they know and understand Mumbaikars.

Well none of these opinions come close to what i value as an opinion on this issue. Only MJ Akbars http://www.rediff.com/news/2008/dec/02mumterror-pakistan-will-have-to-pay-a-heavy-price.htm came somewhat close, but even he gradually shifts to the right lane. So hey, I decided to join the melee and put my point out there.

Firstly, the islamic angle to the whole thing is undeniable. I also do not quiet believe that delinking Hindu-Indian-Muslim relationship from that of Pakistan supporting such acts is silly. They are all sides of the same prism.

Secondly, the fact that there is enormous strategic thinking that went into this act of terror is quiet evident. Look at the activities that followed, Condi Rice, Patreus, John McCain come calling (dint happen since Kargil), politicians heads rolled ala Patil, for minimal cost (probably 10 Lakhs all put together) they inflicted billions of rupees of damage, Pak was wondering shifting 100K soldiers from the western front, new ATS department etc…

Lastly, the fact that this could not have been done with local help is to me fairly clear. I am no anti-terrorism expert but unless you are james bond, there is no way you can get into Taj Mahal Hotel without local help.

Lets look at the stakeholders and who lost and gained

  • Pakistan state : Already maligned as the Varsity of the Jihad for Asia if not the world, has little to gain politically, economically, strategically or financially. Sure it sends a message that we have a soft underbelly that they can strike at a time and place of their choosing, But we already know that. 100% security is a myth.
  • Mumbai Underworld : have little to gain form this, they cannot afford to face public wrath and increased police pressure.
  • Indian Muslims : out of the 150 million muslims 99.999 % do not benefit.
  • 0.00001% of the disenfranchised muslim : retribution , payback and a demand for percieved respect.
  • BJP / Right wing : Win the next election on the basis of security?? Even they are not that cheap.
  • Terrorist in NWFP, have a huge amount to gain, their on reprieve is to get Pak to take its forces off of the western front.
  • NSA / Raw : Sure they have lots to gain, increased funding, increased personnel, authority etc… But they are not sophisticated western three letter agencies to pull this off (This is a possibility if you listen to the analyst on Pak TV)
  • LeT : Yeah, shows their might, but its completely against their cause and may loose support from their loyal support base

It is clear that the 0.000001% of the muslim population and the terrorists in NWFP are clearly to gain from this whole thing. I can only ask you to imagine if the minuscule India muslims start increasing in number what the result would be….. There was NO India muslim related violence till Babri Masjid. I mean, look at the hindi movies, till the 80’s these guys were paan chewing, red haired, sher-shayari loving, qawali listening, namaazing dudes.

There is little that India can do about the NWFP. All we can do is to take care of the muslims in India and try to diminish the lost section of the Muslim society. This is certainly less expensive, and less complicated than some of the other social engineering experiments I have been reading in the perss from so called “experts”.

Lets look at some well kown issues / facts about the Indian muslims: Majority of them live in poverty, have little education and are the fastest breeders. The fastest breeders actually being a result of the first two. If you are poor, your odds of getting taken care in old age greatly increases if you have 10 kids and hope one of them makes it in life. 

India is a land of immense unpredictability, a small minority of Muslims feel that same is the case with their civil rights, social liberties and justice. Take Godhra for example, the man with his hand folded pleading for his life, on the cover of every magazine across the country sending one message “When the rubber hits the road, the state, the mosque, the community, the security apparatus…nothing will protect them” and there stems the real issue. For this section there is every reason to turn this belief into the truth, Babri Masjid happened, Mumbai Riots happened, Godhra happened, along with a plethora of incidents that just cannot be swiped off as “exceptions”. For this section of the populace the man with the golden gun is indeed the never wavering saviour or a perpetual succour.

A long systemic cleansing of this feeling is the only true liberation that can make our Intelligence agencies intelligent, our security apparatus more secure and out politicians irrelevant. How can this be done?

  • Continual appeasement and over the top embrace of the marginalized muslims. Yes, I said it. It is time to go out of the way to ensure that every muslim feel safe, secure and Equal. Job quotas for Muslim, federal and state loan for muslim small businesses, education funds, education systems, the works. Remember poor muslims are in real danger of becoming today’s schedule casts.
  • Unified civil code, Most reports indicate that even Muslims want this. Ask the muslim women who have been divorced, they will tell you.
  • Encourage cross-religious marriage: The govt. should offer three years of no tax, marriage allowance etc…to promote such marriages.  There is no integration like marital integration. (for a similar case study refer to the Sikhs that migrated to California in the late 1800s, Chinese rail road workers in early 1900s and current african and Hmong immigrants to the United States. Also according to the latest census Muslims have a better female to male ratio compared to the national average. SOme cross pollination could help.
  • Form a joint task force with Pakistan to eradicate terrorism: Come on,  they got their Marriot blown up. Do you think they have any control on who operates on their land and who does’nt?

and someone please tell Advani to apologize for the Babri Masjid that started this whole nightmare.

Healing is a tough process. My friends had close calls when this happened, a friend of my wife died. It takes time to heal, this time it may not completely heal at all. Calling Mumbai a resilient city that will march on is like  saying that a hurt Whale continues to swim close the shore in the pacific…neither has a choice…that’s why. With 20 million people looking to make ends meet, pay rent, mortgage, credit card bills, food and an occasional movie, there is no time to stop and cry. Shit happens…move on.

Ta.

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Well, there is no simple answer to this questions.. is there? The answer to this question will also put to rest the recent soul searching exercise the nation is going through – Are the Gandhian and Neheruvian elements of non-alignment, ahimsa, moral standing relevant today?

I say “NO”. Heck, by all means, have opinions even argue about them and stand by them. But when it comes to decision-making and policy-making, at the risk of sounding harshly conservative & right tilted, I believe its best to put India’s national interest first. Indians should come first to the Indian policy makers. Given its economic growth, protecting India’s political stability, securing and expanding its energy sources, advancing its economic sphere of influence (or simply put trade partners) and securing its water sources should of primary importance. People, India has million poor hungry mouths to feed and clothe. Once they are taken care of them, then let India worry about pontificating, or better, “teaching” others about democracy, human rights, equal rights and such issues.  There is nothing morally wrong with this stance…India is not the cause, effectors of the course or catalysts to the results of any of these problems. Should it maintain a stand?…Absolutely. Argumentative that the Indians are, need to have their opinion. However, opinions should remain just that…opinions. It should not cloud policy.   

Burma – so they are under military rule, but so was (or is) Pakistan for most of its documented history, and so are many other country’s. Has that stopped India from doing business with those countries? Then, why such a hue and cry about India not intervening in this political mess. What Burma does with its people its own problem. India is not selling arms to the junta. India is just, and rightly so, protecting its energy and geopolitical maritime security interests there. It’s easy to make the argument that any economic benefit that Myanmar receives will go to silencing its people. Killing cannot be justified ever, however, the situation in Myanmar is far different from the situation in Dafur. Myanmar is a country that will write its own history of moving towards democracy, India has no place or right to hurriedly supply ink to the pen or influence the font in which that history is going to be written. Doing so is same as “promoting” western style democracy to the ones that don’t have it…Sounds familiar?  I am glad to see Indian foreign affairs office mature up to realize this and have a frenzied, but belated, diplomatic buzz with Myanmar. 

http://www.atimes.com/atimes/South_Asia/JD05Df01.html 

Dafur, is unforgivable, here we have a moral standing. The chinese are wrong to do business with the Junta that has unleashed horrors of rape, pillage and genocide. every dollar that goes to the Sudanese govt invariably ends up in the hands of the power that seeks to wipe of natives in Dafur. The Chinese even sold weapons to Sudan, that is just sic. India is right in its policy of ostracizing Sudan. Its blood money, blood oil and blood everything if you do business there.

Leave me a comment if you still have not understood the difference between Myanmar and Dafur, I will explain in greater detail.

All anyone needs to say about Palestine is that Israel is one of India’s largest economic (mostly military) trading partner.  Far cry from the days of Arafat hugging Indira. India’s stance and opinion is still very clear: Palestinians deserve their homeland. However, that has not stopped it from doing “business” with the Israelis. I know there is the whole Saudi, Indian Muslim population angle, Books have been written about it, so I shall not waste precious blogshpere sphere discussing this:

http://www.atimes.com/atimes/South_Asia/IC31Df02.html

http://www.zawya.com/Story.cfm/sidZAWYA20080403033149/SecCountries/pagSaudi%20Arabia/chnSaudi%20Arabia%20News/obj2240389B-8F1A-11D4-867000D0B74A0D7C/

http://www.amazon.com/India-World-Order-Major-Power-Contemporary/dp/0521528755

Foreign Policy Challenges : India and the Afro-Arab World/Jagdish P. Sharma

The Arab-Israeli Peace Process : Lessons for India and Pakistan/edited by Moonis Ahmar.

Iraq & Afghanistan…Its not India’s war. India is doing the right things by staying away from it. Should it do business there? Sure, it already imports Pom’gnates from Kabul and sells sugar there. Indian doctors can build a better healthcare system in Iraq that anyone else can. 

Iran, again not India’s problem, its difficult to fathom how the Indians got bulldozed into voting against them at IAEA / Security council. Now you have an India-Pak-Iran pipeline without India. If Iran agrees to US / UN resolutions in the near and diffuses the situation, what then? What happens to our stand? As a country, you can choose your friends and enemies anytime; you do not have that choice when it comes to your neighbors. Iran is in India’s sphere of influence. Decide wisely o learned grand old parties. 

Out of all the burning issues, Tibet and Sri Lanka are probably the closest to India. Both highly emotional, strategic, economic and all the ‘ics that follow. It is going to be very difficult to say “Not our problem” to those. Tibet holds the key to the water availability to India, Nepal and Bangladesh and Tibet itself in the next coming century. Chinese designs are clear. So are India’s needs, India need Chinese economic partnership for progress, god forbid the US recessions stays longer than expected. India definitely needs the Tibetan plateau to water its hinterland. India should “actively” engage China rather than make rhetorical statements.  I have great respect to B Raman, however his open letter to Aamir Khan does not make complete sense. His comparison of Chinese in Tibet to Nazis is well founded. However his call to action to ban the Olympic torch from passing through India is quiet tenuous. Why people still give a crap about Olympics in this day and age is beyond my comprehension…That’s for another Blog.

http://www.rediff.com/news/2008/apr/03guest.htm

Sri Lanka: The most well kept (maybe not so well kept because public junta like me know it) secret is that Triconamalee is the best natural blue water port in the Indian Ocean and the Bay of Bengal. Chinese trade with SL last year crossed the $1BN mark, a good 27% ahead of India (Global Trends 2007, Leading Economists).  American Interests in these areas are evident by their reaction to the tsunami. India was extremely resilient and clever in taking care of SL with minimal international intervention. That, friends, is how you secure your sphere of influence. Unlike Tibet, India is in a very delicate with SL. The tamil’s in SL have a strong bond with the Tamils in India. It is going catastrophic if it gets to a point where Tamil Nadu has to choose if it is Tamil first or Indian. Emotions aside, if not India, someone is going to be doing business with SL and that does not bode well for India. India should do what the Norwegians or the Swedes have been doing all along. Play a serious moderator, continue business as usual with SL.

India shining…, maybe now, maybe for a few… But 650 million still don’t see that shine and the ones that do, see it despite the power cuts and water shortages.  The fundamental duty of the government is to care for its peoples well-being. Let it do that first and then worry about the other 6.5 billion problems that currently inhabit the earth. Anyone still discussing Miloslavich?

I’ll leave you guys with some great quotes from the movie The Lord of War, starring Nicholas Cage

  • They say, “Evil prevails when good men fail to act.” What they ought to say is, “Evil prevails.”

  • Some of the most successful relationships are based on lies and deceit. Since that’s where they usually end up anyway, it’s a logical place to start.

  • I had a flair for languages. But I soon discovered that what talks best is dollars, dinars, drachmas, rubles, rupis and pounds fucking sterling. 

  • Say what you like about warlords and dictators; they always pay their bills on time.

  •  I’d tell you to go to hell, but I think you’re already there.  

     Cheers.

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