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Towards a new Kashmir policy
The following aspects that have not received the requisite degree of consideration to date need to be looked at urgently in order to come out with a New Kashmir Policy, that will make clear the limits to toleration of agitations that lead to prolonged unrest, deaths and economic disruption in the lives of ordinary people in the Valley. In a nutshell the new features of the revised policy could include inter alia:
Spelling out the government’s view on what has been termed as ‘political’ engagement with the separatists. Opposition political parties at the Centre and in the State have emphasised a political solution rather than the administrative measures being undertaken. None of them have spelled out as to what their idea of a political dialogue could be. The same applies to media persons. Each one of them must propose a clear enunciation of what they propose. All-Party or Single Party dialogue with the separatists has been continuing on and off for decades. This time around consideration has to be given to the fact that the separatists have been infiltrated by jihadi elements from across the border; possibly marginalising the separatists of yore and calling the tune.
The underlying causes of the agitations are generally known to all. These are lack of employment opportunities and poverty in spite of massive grants to the Valley over the years. Evidently, the monies made available to successive state governments have not reached the people. It is common knowledge that these have been siphoned off and enriched the rulers and their henchmen. Who is to blame for this state of affairs? Evidently the political dispensations that have been in power, the foremost being the National Conference. Notwithstanding the ongoing fulminations by their leaders the blame for the economic decline in the state rests largely with them.
Whenever the situation gets out of control segments of the Kashmiri separatists and political parties demand implementation of the Kashmir Accord, Delhi Agreement and other agreements dating back primarily to the 1950s. The demands for ‘Azadi’ and greater autonomy stem from these accords. After over 60 years these accords while not being declared ‘null and void’ by any Indian government to date need to be reconsidered based on the circumstances obtaining then and now. For example, when the agreements were signed Kashmiriyat was acknowledged by one-and-all as the identity of the state. Syncretism flourished and became a model to be adopted across the troubled nation traumatised by the recent partition and the large-scale killings and displacements in the sundered subcontinent. The Prime Minister of the time being himself from Kashmir was particularly influenced by the syncretism that obtained in the state and used it as a basis for his policies of communal harmonisation throughout India. They had a beneficial impact on all sections of Indian society of the time.
At about the same time so much was happening in and around India at the end of World War II. To the north, China had militarily seized Tibet and obliged the young Dalai Lama to enter into the 17-Point Accord with Beijing. It was never implemented. After over 60 years it lies in tatters. Meanwhile, both Pakistan and China have demographically swamped the areas that had been occupied by them in Tibet, Xinjiang, Gilgit and Skardu and POK, drastically altering population and denominational ratios, often with extreme violence and harshness. In fact a joke going around in the UK states that there are more Mirpuris in the UK than in Mirpur. How Pakistan and China continue to deal with unrest in the provinces with no holds barred is too well known to require elaboration.
When elements in the Valley demand azadi they must spell out what exactly they mean by it. ‘Azadi’ from what(?) should be the main issue to be considered. In most developing societies in the world ‘freedom or azadi’ generally means freedom from hunger, freedom from want, rapid movement towards MDGs (Millennium Development Goals). Countries in the subcontinent are nowhere near meeting these goals. The Kashmiris shouting for azadi would have seen the azadi that obtains in and around them with erstwhile compatriots to the West and Tibet and Xinjiang. The Indian government in spite of six decades having elapsed has not even gotten the law that prohibits non-state subjects from holding property in J&K modified, something which no other country would have countenanced for so long.
Most importantly, and above all, Kashmiriyat that obtained in the 1950s when the agreements were signed is all but dead. The Hindu Pandits still languish in miserable conditions away from their homes, fearful for their lives were they to attempt to move back. Kashmiriyat has been replaced by the dreaded Islamist ideology that is sweeping across the entire Muslim world and even in countries where Muslims have emigrated to in large numbers. Amazingly, and whatever anyone might say, compared to other countries where the jihadis and jehad have taken root, these have still not been able to strike roots in India. In the Valley strong action by the state and the centre in concert has to remain the order of the day as jihadis from across the state are profiting from the unrest to boost their strength through infiltration, as well as through local recruitment. Concomitantly, reasonable demands from elements that are suffering at the hands of the separatists should be discussed and implemented at the earliest.
Powerful jihadi tanzeems like the Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jamat-ud-Dawa and others raised, nurtured and equipped primarily to create trouble in Kashmir and India are enormously strengthened within the Vale due to the present agitation. None of these were present even in Pakistan during the 1950s when the accords were signed. While the government of India will have to look afresh at the options available to it and act fast to stem the unrest in the Valley the separatists and jihadi supporters in the Valley should also realise that collectively they are destroying the future generation of young people in the Valley by inducing very young children to thow stones on security forces.
The parents of children less than 14-years old have also abdicated their responsibility. The consequences for all concerned could be far-reaching. The people of the Valley, governments at the State and Centre as well as the Army and paramilitaries must realise that the ISIS in Iraq and Syria is harvesting young children of both sexes for suicide missions and infiltration, calling them ‘Cubs of the Caliphate’. Similarly Boko Haram in Nigeria. So far children in the Valley have been mobilised only for stone throwing and the occasional grenade throwing. If firm and immediate action is not taken to nip mobilisation of children in the bud the consequences could turn out to be very grim for Kashmiris in the Valley in the first instance and later beyond Kashmir.
The bottom line for all concerned is that there is no way that any government in India can compromise with the security of any part of J&K and India.

Choas At Railway Crossings

The concerned government authorities should have been alive by now to the total chaos that results on several National Highways and lesser highways at Railway Level Crossings. This has nothing to do with the railway authorities or the personnel manning the crossings. It has to do with the inordinate chaos that takes place on the road on both sides while vehicles wait for the gate to reopen. What is being narrated in the ensuing paragraphs is the experience of practically all road users whether they are travelling on the finest 6-lane highways that have been created or the roads with lesser width and carriage-way. Example is given of level crossings. The same applies to most types of bottlenecks that exist or are temporarily created.

Every time the booms at the level crossing come down vehicles start lining up on both sides. On highways and roads with high traffic density it does not take more than two minutes for the line to reach back up to about 2 kms. At that stage a car or vehicle with a VIP - real or self-assigned - breaks away to form a second line on the right. This is the signal for two lines to form within the next two minutes. Soon enough impatient drivers start forming the third line, now comprising trucks buses and all sorts of transport including farm tractors. In exactly 8-9 minutes 5 or six lines are formed right up to the edge of the road. A similar exercise takes place on the other side,i.e., hypothetically there is no space to move forward on either side because of the complete packing of the road on both sides.

Where the road is on level ground the system clears itself in about 5-6 minutes, some time in 10 minutes. Where the road is on an elevation should even one vehicle get stuck in the melee, with incessant blowing of power horns, the blockage can last between 30 to 60 minutes and some time up to 4-6 hours. Many people have personally experienced this unnecessary blockage on several occasions, more accurately on practically every long journey by road - the blockage finally being cleared by the arrival of police. Meanwhile, due to lack of coordination and information about why the blockage has taken place motorists, thelas, trucks, tractors keep building up at the back adding another hour or two to the restoration of free movement.

 The phenomenon is not limited to national highways and commerce arteries. It is happening even in cities. One can witness it at traffic lights at various crossings in Delhi during rush hour and in Gurgaon much too often. The cause for these traffic jams of short or long durations is almost invariably lack of patience, indiscipline and lack of heavy deterrent fines.

What Can be Done About it

The first suggestion is for the railway authorities at the level crossings, although they have nothing to do with the chaos that develops on both sides. Wherever it does not exist, railways should extend a central verge or road divider for up to 2-3 kms on either side of the level crossing gates/booms. Mobile police patrols on national highways finding any vehicle on the wrong side, i.e., side from where the traffic from the opposite direction has to flow should impound the vehicle for minumum 12 hours plus levy a heavy fine. The punishment will help curb impatience plus burn a hole in the pocket.  At peak periods extra manpower should be positioned to ensure road discipline. Even a single policeman from the nearest police post or motorcycle police patrol would suffice. Once road users realise that they will not be able to get away with lack of road discipline the situation should improve. The extra railway personnel or policemen or mobile patrol need not be always at the same place. Frequently changing places will induce certain caution on wayward road users.

For the State authorities and NHAI knowledge of what happens on highways leading to delays should have automatically led to elementary regulatory mechanisms. Even a token presence from time to time has a commendable salutary effect. Monitoring becomes essential for free and continuous flow of traffic on national and state arteries. Breakdowns due to causes that can be easily remedied should never be allowed to take place. Monitoring will also ensure that when chaos has resulted at a certain location police stations 10,20 and 30 kms away are automatically warned to halt the flow at their locations and monitor progress before allowing forward movement. In the absence of these procedures delays of 10 to 16 hours have been experienced from time to time.

What the PMO, Ministry of Shipping and Roads (especially Ministers Gadkari and Suresh Prabhu) should understand is that infrastructure improvement is oriented towards faster movement of goods and persons, i.e., if there is no free flow 30 days in the month, improving of road infrastructure does not by itself bring in the desired returns either to the government or the entrepreneurs - big or small. In summer perishable goods have to be thrown after long delays or their value reduced by more than half when they land up at 'mandis' causing avoidable financial loss to the farmer, retailer and the customer. Delays affecting manufactured goods not reaching the containers or ships to be loaded in time is a nightmare situation for manufacturers. Government planners, especially those dealing with infrastructure and 'Make in India' must realise that in most ASEAN countries time taken for a container from factory to ship has been reduced to about 10 days. Slippages, unless due to natural calamities are simply not allowed or condoned. In India no one can plan. On practically every journey motorists come across trucking jams that lead to unnecessary delays all round. The causes for these are known to everyone. Even those manufacturers who have set up factories nearer the ports can never be sure of goods reaching the destination in time due to the blockages mentioned above, in addition to their other headaches. The loss to the exchequer due to long delays at bottlenecks, artificial, temporary or due to natural causes add a phenomenal amount to the energy bill of the country as well as to environmental pollution in cities. Committees being set up to streamline infrastructure should invariably consider laying down guidelines for the problems mentioned above to be tackled speedily as most of them are self-induced. A reckonable improvement in the national finances could take place within the financial year as well as reduction in pollution.

It is amazing that elementary remedies have often to be ordered by the National Green Tribunal rather than undertaken speedily by the concerned ministries and departments, including the police who could be acting far more efficiently and purposefully. Their manpower accretion has to be concurrently planned.


Vinod Saighal

Executive Director, Eco Monitors Society


The piece below is a continuation of an earlier article published in The Statesman (March 21-22, 2013) under the title The War in Afghanistan was Lost in Pakistan. Newspapers in India are again fuming at Secretary of State Kerry's clean chit to LeT and other tanzeems in Pakistan ; the certification being a pre-requisite for the disbursement of the next tranche of US aid to Pakistan amounting to 1.5 billion US dollars. In diplomatic circles in India it has to be clearly understood that regardless of White House inclinations, US policy towards Pakistan is not going to change radically. The same goes when the next incumbent steps into the White House. At several fora in India and abroad the author has repeatedly opined that the US needs Pakistan more than the other way around. In fact, Pakistan's deep state has the US by its throat, in a manner of speaking. Recall that during the Afghan operations when Pakistan was their frontline state against the Russians in Afghanistan , William Casey the Head of CIA was inclined to spend more time in Peshawar than in Washington . The same was true for his number two Robert Gates, till recently the Defence Secretary. What is more, during those halcyon days of US-Pak relations, ISI operatives and top military officers from Pakistan had free run of Langley , the CIA headquarters, at the highest levels. That deep penetration of Langley and other institutions run by the CIA and the US Defence Department, including those established under NATO aegis in Europe, as also the insights gleaned as to CIA global operations has served the Pakistan Mil-ISI combine very well. It will continue to do so. Moreover, over the last 40 years, besides facilitating the opening to China for the Kissinger-Nixon duo, the ISI had been subcontracted for doing much of the dirty work for the CIA in the subcontinent, Afghanistan and beyond. In that way the CIA was immune to Congressional oversight. In some areas it still continues.  

            Looking at the present situation in India ’s neighbourhood in the West, Pakistan has fast emerged as the foremost player in Afghanistan with a capacity to call the shots. Whereas India ’s developmental efforts and soft power in Afghanistan have been much appreciated, it has to be remembered that when realpolitic enters the arena decisions are made on hard power. Soft power bereft of hard power can go thus far and no further. Possibly, that is one of the reasons for Russian overtures to Pakistan . Today when it comes to crunch issues the country has the solid backing of Saudi Arabia , China and the US and its allies. This situation is unlikely to change in the foreseeable future. It would be prudent for India to adjust its policy to this hard reality.

Published in The Statesman, New Delhi, 11 January 2015, P. 7.

The write up below was circulated after the series of attacks a few years ago across Europe when the Danish cartoons that gave offense were first published. I have it from a French diplomat that when it was circulated it dampened down the anger manifested by the offended community. It would be worth circulating the italicised portion again, even publishing it..

(Talk delivered at the Technical University , Eindhoven on 25 April 2006)


"The difference in outlook emerges from the furore over the Danish cartoons. Even after several world leaders, including Presidents Bush and Putin had condemned the publishing of the controversial cartoons the Muslim clergy-inspired mob fury continued unabated in many countries. One of the reasons was that they had smelled blood. They realized that Denmark was wilting and many in Europe were frightened of a heightened backlash. Were that not the case mass hysteria on a global scale across the Muslim world could not have been sustained for so long. The righteousness of the anger professed was also questionable, if not untenable.

    "It may be recalled that just a few years ago a far worse sacrilege was carried out in the Muslim world. On a scale of 0 to 9 if the offense given by the Danish cartoons is put at 4 or 5 the destruction of the Bamian Buddhas tips the scale well beyond the maximum 9 on any comparative basis - not that outrages can be compared or quantified. Yet no Budhhist asked for the head of the perpetrators, nor was any Muslim property burned anywhere in the world. No Muslim was harmed. What is more, no Muslim even felt afraid of a backlash from any quarter. 

       The announcement that the Bamian Budhhas would be destroyed was made several days before the threat was carried out. Pakistan , where the riots were spreading faster than elsewhere, had the capacity to intervene decisively to prevent the most abominable desecration that the world has witnessed in modern times. It did not intervene. Nor did Saudi Arabia or the OIC. The ulema in India put the highest price on the cartoonists' heads. Their protests spread to other cities in India . None of these worthies asked for the head of the Taliban leadership of the time. There was not a single riot after the destruction of the Bamian Buddhas.

    The Muslim world should have realised that the anguish and gloom caused to the Buddhists in every corner of the globe, including the Koreas , Japan , China , Mongolia and several other countries would have been infinitely more deep than that caused by the offensive cartoons. There are many denominations whose followers across the world number in the hundreds of millions or more than a billion. They feel sacrileges, slights and threats to kill (the infidels) as keenly as do Muslims. If they do not react in the fashion of the Muslims it is because they might have actually moved up civilisation's ladder. Their religions teach them that every life, regardless of whether it is that of a believer or non-believer, is sacred. The Buddhists who must have been knocked senseless by the sheer magnitude of their loss internalised their suffering and prayed for forgiveness to the perpetrators. There is a lesson in this for Muslims if they would still like to call Islam a religion of peace. Meanwhile the world cannot allow itself to be boxed in by a regressive interpretation of the theology of a single denomination just because it has demonstrated a capacity to activate mass hysteria supra-nationally for a well thought out long-term geopolitical quest".


China is leaving no stone unturned to complete its maritime and land silk routes in record time so that it leaves its biggest challenger in SE Asia and later in Central Asia still struggling with failed promises, tardy decision-making, delivery deficit and last, but not least, comparatively shoddy construction. Any number of examples can be listed over the past decade, earlier as well. However, things seem to be changing for the better for two main reasons: First, the advent of the new PM with resultant across-the-board improvement in decision-making in most aspects of governance; secondly as reported in many national dailies Trilateral Highway gets Modi push (The Indian Express, November 13, 2014., Page 3). It goes on to give details of the multi-modal transport corridors being fast-tracked and centrally monitored by the concerned ministries.

            As per the MEA spokesperson these could end up as game-changers.By themselves, these fast-tracked projects, even if they do come to fruition in record time, say by 2018, two-year behind schedule, may not suffice until connectivity within the northeast is also fast-tracked, and, what is more, guaranteed against delay and disruption. As things stand there is no guarantee that the pattern of frequent connectivity disruptions that have bedeviled development in the northeast can be removed unless the government at the Centre resumes sovereignty in the northeast.  Although at no stage did sovereignty stand revoked as such, not exercising it to the fullest in as far as it relates to connectivity can be deemed to be tantamount to abdication of sovereign responsibility.

            By its very charter the Union Government is obligated to guarantee free movement of people and goods to every part of the country, no matter how remote – be it through rail, road, air, postal or telecommunications. While natural disasters, whenever they occur, can be deemed to be force majeure delays, and disruptions cannot always be controlled by the government, no excuse for disruption can be made when these are orchestrated by political parties, disaffected groups, insurgents or for any other similar reason. The cutting off of road connectivity to Manipur for long periods is a case in point, although not the only instance of the government abdicating its sovereign responsibility. Other examples from recent memory relate to road communication disruption to the northeast for several weeks by uncontrolled elements in Bihar after the railway recruitment fiasco a few years ago. Elements in Jammu have resorted to disruptions of a similar nature. And in the case of the Jat reservation agitation the Courts had to step in to direct the government to step in and remove the rail roko agitators. All such man-made disruptions cause untold misery to the poorest strata of society, the daily wage earners, and heavy losses to the exchequer when movement of goods and essential commodities is stalled. The excuse normally offered by the government has been that ‘law and order’ is a state subject. In the case of the northeast the tragedy is doubly compounded because no business persons would like to invest in green field projects, when movement of goods to and fro can be delayed for long periods of time.

            For the economy to improve and the country’s international commitments to be met the new government must announce full resumption and exercise of pan-India connectivity. The following methodology can be enunciated and acted upon:

-         Starting with the northeast the Union government must make it abundantly clear that both in the case of force majeure as well as disruptions caused by political or insurgent-type activity it will allow the concerned state government to take all steps necessary to restore connectivity in the shortest possible time. Should the government feel that the response of the state government did not measure up to the emergent situation thus obtaining, it will suo motu take all measures to restore connectivity. In all such cases, especially in the northeast, the army would remain at call and in a state of readiness to restore connectivity at the earliest.

-         Similar instructions will be issued to state governments for strikes that disrupt connectivity on national communication networks. Once again, should the state government show reluctance, tardiness or inability to act, the Centre would suo motu take steps to restore connectivity.


Needless to say that speedy infrastructure development becomes the basis for reviving the economic activity in the country. However, ease of movement and removal of bottlenecks would become equally important for benefiting from the improved infrastructure. For the northeast it literally becomes a lifeline for future development internally; and for India to take up the challenge of ACT EAST connectivity.


New Delhi , 17 November 2014

*The author is Executive Director, ECO MONITORS Society
 The Statesman (November 20, 2014, Page 9), "Resuming Sovereignty in the North- East


The Accidental Prime Minister- Implications for National Security

 Vinod Saighal

Not surprisingly Sanjay Baru’s book has created enormous stir. While the PMO and Congress circles close to the dynasty have criticised the book as travesty and ranting of a person denied  a second term after the resounding Congress victory in 2009, most others have been surprised, horrified and alarmed at the revelations. Therefore, it becomes essential to take measure of the veracity of what has been written. Regardless of opinions expressed on the contents of the book or the motives for writing the same as also the timing of the release, it can be safely stated that up to this point Dr. Sanjay Baru was held in high esteem by his peers in the profession and the public that read his articles. There may have been differences of opinion on the numerous pieces written by him, few would be able to recall criticism directed at the persona of Dr. Baru. Hence, the charges of gross misrepresentation or being influenced by extraneous factors or disappointment can easily be set aside. Similarly, the harshest criticism has largely been made by interested parties out to protect the reputation of the Prime Minister and Mrs. Sonia Gandhi as also persons who feel upset or slighted by what has been written about them. For the informed public at large, across the political divide, the serious charges made about the manner in which government was being run with a pliant Prime Minister who just carried out instructions from above ring true. What is more, people had long suspected that the government was being run by the dynasty for the dynasty. The national interest, whenever it clashed with the dynasty’s interest was ignored, even subverted. At the end of the day the charge made by Sanjay Baru of near-total dynastic control on all important appointments in practically every sphere of governance has extremely serious ramifications for national security.

The signs that the national interest was being sacrificed by an unaccountable extra-constitutional entity wielding immense power, whose foreign background, antecedents, travels and interactions – both within India and abroad - have never been fully investigated or allowed to be revealed was suspected by many in political, and media circles and certainly by all those in close proximity to the power hierarchy in the capital, not to mention foreign circles. The prime minister’s acquiescence to diktats from 10 Janpath are recorded in Baru’s book; what has not been recorded is the utter helplessness and lack of spine shown by the man when he was bypassed by ministers and bureaucrats, including in the PMO, carrying out instructions of Mrs. Gandhi without even keeping him informed. Close friends of the PM whom he confided in often have revealed his anguish at some of the incidents where he was kept totally in the dark. One of these, according to sources close to the PM relates to the de-freezing of Quatrochi’s account in the UK . The matter was sub judice. Yet it is most unlikely that the Law or Home ministries would have kept record of the directions for its execution.  

            Such serious misconduct should have alarmed the entire cabinet and the senior civil servants in the government. Apparently no one protested in the charmed circle of ministers appointed by Soniaji. One of the biggest anti-national acts was carried out by the lady right at the beginning of UPA I when she selected Shivraj Patil to be the Home Minister of India at a time when the country was exposed to serious threats from terrorism, both home grown and from across the border(s); a good parliamentarian who was clearly out of his depth as home minister. He had been placed there with a one-point agenda: to clear all cases against Quattrochi. He delivered admirably and finally when his deficiencies could not be condoned any longer after 26/11 he was relieved among strong public clamour and replaced by Mr. Chidambram, a far abler person for the job. On occasions when the media criticized Mr. Patil he was on record as saying that he was satisfied that the authority that had placed him in the home minister’s chair was pleased with his performance. Evidently that is all he cared about. Madam was pleased. He had delivered. It began and ended there. How did it matter what the nation felt. The Law Ministry played its part equally admirably. Both the law and the home ministers, when the pressure to replace them could not be opposed any longer were dispatched as governors, rewarded for outstanding devotion to duty – not to the nation; to the lady at 10 Janpath. Not a whimper from the PM or his cabinet colleagues. Examples from other ministries and agencies – many now in the public domain or part of PILs before the Court – abound. In a few years they will all come tumbling out. Actually what happened in the UPA decades when Sonia G wielded unchallenged power was a throw back to an earlier era. She was privy to the fact that during Rajiv Gandhi’s regime Quatrochi wielded enormous power. He could walk into almost any ministry without let or hindrance and influence decisions. He was a law unto himself. Sonia Gandhi evidently watched the master influence peddler with awe and admiration. She did not know that she would have her day. It came sooner than she expected.

            Denials about classified files being shown in 10 Janpath are not likely to convince the people of India . There would be many in the government who would be willing to swear to the goings-on on affidavit were they to be summoned by the courts should a new government or the courts decide on a SIT to investigate the comprehensive destruction of parliamentary democracy as embodied and embedded in the PM and the Council of Ministers according to the Constitution. Several pronouncements and actions from 10 Janpath bespeak a good grasp of classified matters. There can hardly be any doubt that the list of holders of illegal monies stashed abroad was made know to her and through her to the charmed 10 Janpath circle. A RTI query was passed around between the cabinet secretary and the MEA without eliciting any worthwhile response. Questions are bound to arise as to whether such information was used to keep the wrong-doers in check or whether they were made to part with some of the wealth – to whom?

            A yet more grave matter is the goings-on within 10 Janpath and the guests who stayed there, mostly family and friends from abroad as there would be no one left in the Nehru or Feroze Gandhi families  who would be welcome to stay.  Such secrecy should be unacceptable where ultimate authority is wielded by an extra-constitutional authority or family not bound by any oath of secrecy. It is well on the cards that nationally important matters would have been discussed in family circles within the hallowed precincts. By the same token sudden visits abroad at critical junctures by Mrs. Gandhi and on occasions accompanied by her children (quite apart from the US visits for treatment) were surrounded by such a veil of secrecy that they defy any reasonable explanation. Links to the events that could have threatened the dynasty’s interests can be gleaned. Followed through logically they lead into a frightening dark alley. 

Whatever the secrecy within the country there are foreign agencies that kept track of the places visited and much else. Indian embassies were seldom kept in the picture. In fact, after the Bofors exposures ambassadors of India to sensitive countries in Europe were reportedly selected keeping in mind the loyalty factor and the need to ensure that the embassies did not make requests for embarrassing details. After the revelations of the book should one make the assumption that something similar could be happening even now after the Augusta-Westland case came to light?

            Tragically for India and its security, people have to raise these questions to demand of their political masters as to how the country could have sunk so low. Why only blame Sonia Gandhi and her close circle that enjoyed unimaginable benefits, power and presumably amassed untold wealth. Almost the entire political class occupying the sprawling Lutyens Delhi bungalows for years and decades on end did not wish to upset the applecart. The same goes for crony capitalism and large portion of the media heads that were very much alive to what was happening. The ultimate tragedy is that leaving aside the weak prime minister how does one explain that none of the Congress ministers in the cabinet put their foot down or quit when all along they were privy to the country’s interest being sold down the river by what was and remains a foreigner-led dispensation. Many of the ministers were luminaries in their own rights with outstanding practices bringing in enormous wealth. Can one even approach the President of India in this regard? Even he delivered. The DTAT with Switzerland had the key clause to which no satisfactory answer was given by anybody in the government as to why the agreement  would be prospectively operative after April 1, 2012 and all cases prior to that would stand closed and not available for scrutiny or words to that effect. Even the Swiss ambassador’s interview of the time to the press reveals a lot.

To conclude the decline in India since the UPA governance decade under the aegis of Sonia Gandhi is so steep and so palpable that hardly anyone in India or outside the country doubts it. During UPA II the mandate for the Congress Party led by Dr. Manmohan Singh and SG was so impressive that it could have been used to pull up India in every sphere of governance internally and project it to the front ranks of the comity of nations externally had the interest of the country been foremost in the reckoning of the dynasty. It was undeniably not. The current state of the nation impels concerned Indians to look deeper into the reasons for the national decline. The foremost reason that stares one in the face and which not many people dared to openly question up to now while the dynasty wielded untrammeled power and used it with ruthless determination is that subliminally sacrificing the national interest to perpetuate itself has become part of the DNA of the dynasty as it nears its end-point. The book is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. It is to be hoped that a successor government would order an impartial investigation into the manner of governance in the UPA decades with a view to ensure that the security and sanctity of the nation is never again compromised in this manner.

The item below appeared in The Statesman this morning (New Delhi, Thursday 17 April 2014 - Page 09). 

Vinod Saighal

Convenor, MRGG, Author Revitalising Indian Democracy.  

Dynastic Shenanigans.... The Statesman (10 February 2014)

The dynasty is following a scorched-earth policy. There is still scope for limiting the damage that is likely to be attempted in the coming days before the Election Commission embargo sets in. Whether the Prime Minister or the cabinet will muster the courage to finally put their foot down is difficult to say. Clearly the time has come for the President of India to exercise his constitutional mandate and step in to limit the damage ~ VINOD SAIGHAL.

            Pronouncements by the ruling party’s prime minister-in-waiting have been flying thick and fast, bestowing benefits to all and sundry from an exchequer that stands critically depleted. An example is the decision by the government after intervention of Mr. Rahul Gandhi (as per news reports) that the number of gas cylinders available at the subsidized rate should be increased from 9 to 12. There could hardly be any doubt that the concerned ministry knowing the parlous situation of the economy would have been opposed to it, as would have been the finance minister and the Prime Minister even if they chose to remain silent. After all, the extra-constitutional authority with no accountability has been running the government and for that matter the country by fiats from time to time. The question of non-conformity has almost never arisen for the simple reason that all the important ministerial appointments have been made by the UPA chairperson. They run their ministries at her sufferance. The Prime Minister falls into the same category. Even the crucial positions within the PMO are decided in the same manner.

            In the remaining period till elections are announced many more sops irrespective of whether the economy can withstand further shocks are likely to be announced. In the case of the increase in subsidized gas cylinders at a cost to the exchequer of Rs 5000 crore, the Reserve Bank Governor felt impelled to come out with an uncharacteristic negative comment against the government’s decision. It is not likely to have an effect on the cavalier dynastic shenanigans.

            Increasingly they seem to have abandoned the armed forces, thereby endangering national security due to critical shortages and the wellbeing of troops on the frontier facing severe winter conditions. A news item had appeared in the papers to the effect that heating oil for the troops in J&K would be reduced. Earlier while the comparatively niggardly amount required for one-rank-one-pay for the armed forces was denied, the MPLAD sum for the elected representatives was increased to Rs 5 crore. Enough has already been written as to how this fund is used or misused. That it could be a source of enrichment for many legislators can be gleaned from their affidavits filed for election. For most of them there appears to be an across-the-board increase in their wealth when compared with previous affidavits.

            Not long back an announcement was made, possibly at the behest of the dynasty, that civil servants and their families could now go abroad for treatment. Provision was also made for taking along an attendant. Evidently the step was taken to keep the civil servants well-disposed towards the ruling dispensation knowing full well that notwithstanding their other attributes civil servants are not unintelligent people. The handout if implemented might not induce them to vote in their favour. That was never the aim; which was that when inquiries into the misdeeds of the people at the apex of governance take place, as they are likely to sooner or later, the highly placed babus do not give evidence against them. Several other examples can be given of wasteful expenditure that no self-respecting government or democracy would have tolerated.

           Surprisingly hardly anybody in authority seriously questioned the extra-constitutional manner in which decisions that have pushed the country into a negative spiral in practically every sphere of governance were taken. The Prime Minister, whatever his personal views, clearly opted out. So did the rest of the council of ministers and senior government functionaries; even the judiciary. The democratic decline and the body blow being delivered to the constitutional responsibilities of the government were allowed to go unchallenged for all these years. There are those who feel that in the ultimate analysis the blame could also be apportioned on the President, one of the most astute and gifted political figures to have been elevated to the highest office. Constitutional subversion and irregularities stare everyone in the face, not excluding the so-called independent media, currently having its moment of glory in the sun.

           Was it not evident to all concerned that as per the Constitution important decisions are to be taken by the Prime Minister and his Council of Ministers? When a thorough examination of how the UPA government has been run is carried out it is bound to emerge that many important decisions were taken by the extra-constitutional authority over the head of the government. Directions given from above were simply carried out without demur. Leave alone the UPA partners even the ministers were not kept in the picture in several cases where decisions of the government were set aside or literally flung aside. Whether well-orchestrated or simply the good-cop-bad-cop style of functioning of the dynastic scion, decisions of the government can only be overturned after the collegium that is the Council of Ministers is constituted or re-constituted and its deliberations recorded.

            An independent investigation could also bring out that highly classified information that should never have left the closely guarded precincts of the government had been communicated to the extra-constitutional authority and by extension the close dynastic advisers as well. The black money case before the Supreme Court, were it to be carried through to its logical conclusion, could yet spring many horrifying surprises.

            By now the writing on the wall would be clear to the dynasty and its close supporters. All the trends indicate a severe decline for the Congress. Clearly many of the sops and largesse for the ensuing weeks are not going to affect the electoral chances of the dynasty or the party significantly. Yet the shenanigans and impulsive decisions of the dynasty and its scion are likely to continue. What could be the reason for it? Unless the national interest has ceased to matter to the dynasty ~ and all economic indicators leave no doubt about the economic folly of some of these decisions ~ the strategy becomes eminently clear. The dynasty is following a scorched-earth policy. The planning just might be to leave the economy for a successor government in such a precarious condition that any meaningful attempts to bring in desired policy changes would flounder on the rock of a semi-bankrupt exchequer. The new government, whatever its hue, would not be in a position to deliver on their election manifesto. Thereby the hope is nurtured that another general election would soon follow.

            There is still scope for limiting the damage that is likely to be attempted in the coming days before the Election Commission embargo sets in. Whether the Prime Minister or the cabinet will muster the courage to finally put their foot down is difficult to say. Clearly the time has come for the President of India to exercise his constitutional mandate and step in to limit the damage.

(The writer is Convenor, MRGG, and author of Revitalising Indian Democracy). 

The Pernicious Secularism Agenda

The majority of Indians regardless of their denominational leanings would agree that what happened in Gujarat post-Godhra was a blot on the state whichever way one looks at it. In spite of several commissions of inquiry and investigations carried out the link to the Gujarat Chief Minister was never established. Whether he should get the benefit of the doubt or whether he could have acted more aggressively to stop the carnage will remain an unanswered question and should continue to weigh on his conscience; having said that, there have been bigger carnages in the past. For example, the killing of Sikhs in Delhi and elsewhere in much larger numbers after the assassination of Indira Gandhi was an unsurpassed abomination that happened at the national level. What is more, without doubt it was directly initiated and orchestrated by Congress leaders. In the orgy of violence that followed central government agencies present in the capital could easily have stamped it out within the first few hours had anyone in authority given the call to do so. This did not happen. Since the young Prime Minister himself seemed to have blessed it with his infamous statement nobody in authority lifted a finger to call a halt to the madness. Many senior Congress leaders of the time were personally accused of fuelling the frenzy of killing that lasted over several days.

            The point being highlighted is different. Not one Congress leader starting from the PM was ever accused of being non secular at that time or to this day. Yet, from the moment news of the killing in Gujarat became known practically everyone in the Congress and the media aligned to the party accused Narendra Modi of being non secular. What is forgotten is that many BJP leaders including Shri Vajpayee were dumb struck at what had taken place; as were the large majority of Hindus. If any proof were required as to which set of people are truly secular; in the elections held shortly after the outrage in Gujarat in the state of Himachal Pradesh where the overwhelming majority of the population professes the Hindu faith the voters of the Himalayan state equally upset at what had transpired in Gujarat rejected the BJP and voted the Congress to power.

            It is indeed sad that since the UPA came to power a decade ago the country has been increasingly polarized into the secular - non secular divide. As the country moves towards the next general election this pernicious secularism agenda will remain the order of the day. It is being pushed on to the public consciousness almost on a daily basis at the behest of the UPA apex.  Evidently, among other reasons that need not be gone into here the electoral reason to do so becomes compelling for the dynasty that is on the back foot on practically every aspect relating to the country’s governance: decision-making paralysis, breakdown of law and order, security and well being of the people. Since corruption directly under the patronage of the highest in the land having assumed proportions that have hollowed out India and nearly turned it into a basket case can simply not be explained away by any false propaganda, the tried and tested secular agenda will be kept in the forefront till the next general election and beyond. And should the dynasty be worsted, as increasingly looks to be the case, explanations for the rout will again be laid at the door of this pernicious theme. Therefore as political compulsion, nay political survival the polarization will be deepened and perpetuated.       

            It is high time that the people of India saw through the pernicious game that primarily suits the dynasty and its closest advisers. The very brazenness of putting this agenda on the mast, practically at par with the national flag should have been nailed by most thinking Indians by now. How on earth could anybody, other than a foreigner, have dared to attempt to divide India along these lines when the only religious tradition in the world that from time immemorial has extolled syncretism took birth in India ’s sacred soil? Is there any Indian who has not heard of Vasudaiva Kutambakam. This is perhaps the only ideology and philosophy that since millennia has embraced pluralism to its bosom. Every religion has been welcomed with open arms in the country and flourished here. To the contrary the two major religious denominations that conquered the world in the preceding millennia and in several cases butchered their way to expansion and world dominance never professed syncretism of the type imbibed in all the Vedic dispensations that took birth on the soil of India.

            The quality of secularism being practiced by current rulers in Delhi was highlighted by the recent bomb blasts in Bodh Gaya. Along with relatively tepid condemnation a case was being made out almost justifying the blasts that these were the direct result of the killing of the Rohingyas in Myanmar . How does that justify the attempted destruction in India of Budhhism’s most sacred place?  Has the same analogy been applied by these apologists to similar crimes elsewhere. It may come as a surprise to these leading votaries of secularism on Indian soil that to date – at least in the UPA-led decade - only Hindus have been branded as being non secular. No non- Hindu leader, even when preaching hatred from the most renowned pulpits in the land has been branded as being non secular. The irony is evidently lost on the leaders who persist in persevering with the divide. The greatest curse that the ruling dispensation could have visited upon the country in which it has prospered beyond its wildest expectation is to divide it along secular and non secular lines. Possibly as a parting kick, because after this obnoxious exercise the chances of this dispensation ever again wielding such enormous power have faded, even become non-existent, irrespective of whether the non secular Narendra Modi makes it to Delhi or not?


Vinod Saighal

Convener MRGG (Movement for Restoration of Good Government)

New Delhi, July 16, 201
(Published in The Sunday Statesman, New Delhi, 21 July 2013 Page 7) 


An article in the Financial Times, Asia edition dated March 5, 2013 with title 'CANCER'VILLAGE MICROBLOG CAMPAIGN PUTS POLLUTION CENTRE STAGE FOR CHINA'S NEW LEADER’paints a frightening picture of the horrendous ecological decline in China with many deleterious effects resulting from frenzied development, too rapid modernisation and hasty infrastructure development. Not much thought seems to have been given to the ecological consequences of the decisions taken; generally without adequate safeguards and due diligence, often disregarding the warnings of experts within the country and those beyond its frontiers. Example has been cited of a village Huangjiawa, and its surroundings. The area now has one of the highest rates of stomach cancer in the world; wells that sustained the village for centuries have been poisoned. There are other examples in the article of similar tragedies unfolding throughout the land. Tibet  has been called the Roof of the World. It sustains the climate of the region and is the source of many rivers on which nearly 2.5 billion people depend. From the Indus in the west, across south and south-east Asia to the Yellow River in the east, increasing devastation is being caused since the Chinese occupation of Tibet over 60 years ago. Much of the damage done is irreversible. The air, soil and ground water pollution has reached critical levels in large parts of China .

    The tragedy cited in the FT article is being repeated in India and many other countries that are aping the Chinese pattern of rapid development that entails destruction of virgin tracts and mining in pristine areas without adequate safeguards to prevent leeching of the toxins in the ground water and adjoining waterways. Similar pathways to so-called 'Vikas' or development are being bandied about by politicians for immediate gains without a thought for the havoc being wrought. They are blissfully unaware, or simply don’t care about the price that would have to be paid by future generations for their greed, thoughtlessness and folly. It is time that ordinary people around the country and civil society join hands to put an end to the development model that so far has benefited mainly the political class and big business. There are exceptions, but they are few and far between. Evidently, there is no time to lose. Higher annual GDP growth figures of 7, 8 and 9 at the cost of destruction of the few remaining pristine tracts in the country, where mining leases are being sanctioned left, right and center, often disregarding the injunctions of the courts, green tribunals and even the Ministry of Environment and Forests at the behest of the PMO and other interested parties will soon enough reduce India to the same degree of ecological devastation that has overtaken Tibet and China.


Vinod Saighal

26th March 2013

Mail sent to Gen. B C Khanduri when he was the Chief Minister is self-explanatory. Evidently no action was taken on it. It is imperative that the restoration planned after the Kedarnath tragedy is carried out along these lines. What is more the template must apply hereafter to most of the hill states and regions in the country. Please ensure that follow up action is taken along these lines in a non-partisan manner, otherwise organised HIndu religion and our millennia old heritage will suffer much greater decline.
Vinod Saighal
Executive Director, EcoMonitors Society

3 June 2008

Dear General Khanduri,


 This morning I read in the newspapers that on your visits to the Char Dham sites you had given directions for encroachments to be removed as well as for keeping a firm check on unplanned growth in the future. This is indeed welcome. On my lecture tours around the country I have came across so many of our sacred sites being despoiled by land-grabbers, political bahubalis, encroachments, unimaginative (development) planning by government bodies, official apathy, unregulated waste disposal, pollution of the water bodies and waterways, unhygienic food at dhabas, overcrowding, blaring film music and the like.

In spite of thousand years of foreign rule, our religious sites right up to independence were still havens of peace and tranquility and were largely surrounded by forest belts. You might like to issue follow up instructions for a ten-year plan for site restoration, removal of all encroachments and ugly structures, improved sewage disposal, proper toilet facilities, cleanliness and creation of peace, tranquility and quietude around each site; Construction, where inescapable, to come up at least three to five kms away from the holy sites. In future, shuttle electric cars or bus services could be positioned by the local authorities for conveying pilgrims to the site and back to designated resting places. Chemicals and pesticides should be totally banned and organic farming to be introduced, wherever planting is possible. It has to be remembered that each visitor leaves behind one kg of personal waste per day by way of urine and excreta. When the number of pilgrims was less this waste could have been managed. It is no longer the case. Tens of lakhs of pilgrims will deposit over a million kg of urine & excreta, in addition to non-biodegradable waste. These will flow into our sacred waterways at or near the source. Organizations in Bangalore and Auroville near Pondicherry have came out with very effective on site schemes for waste disposal of this type.

          Some years ago on a visit to Guwahati I had seen similar encroachments and unplanned construction on the hill where the famous Kamakhya temple is located. I had brought it to the notice of the governor who apparently was already alive to what was happening. I again spent an evening in the Raj Bhavan a few weeks ago and asked the governor whether he had been able to check the menace at the temple hill. He assured me that some steps towards amelioration were in the pipeline. Nothing worthwhile happened. Uttarakhand has many holy sites. You might like to consider creating a cell directly under the Chief Minister to keep a constant watch on all deleterious activities at the holy sites that attract lakhs of pilgrims every year. There is simply no time to lose, otherwise our timeless heritage will be further degraded or destroyed because we did not muster up the will to protect these ancient treasures.

          In an earlier letter dated 7 September 2007, soon after you took over as the Chief Minister, we had recommended a twenty year plan for creation of mixed dense forests in all areas of the state where large-scale felling had led to soil erosion and destroyed the ecological balance.


 Maj. Gen. B.C. Khanduri, AVSM

Chief Minister,

Government of Uttarakhand,

Raj Bhavan Annexe,

Dehradun – 248003.

Political Churning: Not Reading the Tea Leaves Right
The item below on political churning in preparation for the 2014 elections appeared today in The Statesman (June 14, 2013, page 9).

Political churning in the BJP comes soon after the semi-political churning that has taken place very recently in the cricketing world. Without again going over that messy affair one can proceed straight to an outcome that augurs well for the future of cricket in India . Reference is being made to national level teams representing India in the international arena. Observers of the Indian team competing in the ODI World Cup taking place in the UK are pleasantly surprised at their élan and self-confidence. Regardless of the final outcome they looked winners from the word go; onlookers, TV commentators and cricket lovers are unanimous in their view that the team comprising fresh talent has a great future.  

            How did this dramatic change come about? One of the decisive factors besides the exposure of corruption is that the older lot of players, many of them iconic figures well past their prime were either shown the door or pushed out by public opinion.  

            Something similar has taken place in the BJP. The dissonance, infighting and deep churning have been described in the media, by the Congress, former allies and even within the BJP as divisive and harmful for the future prospects of the party. These hasty judgments on the part of friend and foe alike might turn out to be premature. What took place in Goa would have occurred sooner or later in any case. It was unavoidable. The old order that had been unable to take advantage of the dismal state of affairs and governance failure of the Congress Party had to be given the boot. So precipitous has been the decline in the Congress in the last five years that a sagacious BJP top order should by now have come out smelling of roses. Not only has that not happened, not many people in the country up till now thought that the BJP will emerge as the clear winner in the forthcoming 2014 elections.

            The churning that has taken place in the BJP has not come a day too soon. It is to be hoped that the new dispensation at the helm will follow up the self-cleansing process in the states where the BJP performance leaves much to be desired, Delhi being a case in point. Young, fresh, untainted faces need to be given a chance. The older, under-performing, defeated leaders must bow out gracefully or be shown the door while there is still time to consolidate before the Delhi state assembly election.

            Democracy in the country would greatly benefit were other parties to now follow the example of the BJP churning at the top. It could lead to much-needed spring cleaning down the lower order as well. Entrenched dynasties manifesting signs of dynastic warlord-ism must either make way for greater inner party democracy or face terminal decline and even worse at the hands of the energized young electorate that will no longer be satisfied with more of the same.


Vinod Saighal

Convener MRGG (Movement for Restoration of Good Government) and author Revitalizing Indian Democracy

New Delhi , July 13, 2013

It is amazing that while a potentially strategic vulnerability is being created with each passing day on the DBO front in Ladakh and possibly elsewhere as well the Foreign Minister of India in his wisdom chooses to call it a minor blip, an acne that will soon disappear. Disappear it will not and by the time the Foreign Minister returns from Beijing an element of irreversibility and potential future untenability of positions in Siachen could conceivably have been created. It would hardly be an exaggeration to say that every hour that a well-thought out military response by top commanders on the ground is delayed the situation becomes more and more difficult. In the process the government through its vacillation is leaving everybody confused. Leaving senior military commanders tasked with the defence of Ladakh or for that matter any other sector bereft of initiative is an invitation to disaster; minute-to-minute micro-management from the top not being the answer. That the present incursion does not fall into the category of routine Chinese incursions is clear to all military commanders and defence analysts. It is a given that Chinese incursions have been increasing, sometime on a daily basis, in direct proportion to the government's response of playing them down or denying that they have taken place. Lack of condemnation and allowing even minimal freedom of action to military commanders only emboldens the other side who have taken the full measure of the government and its functioning. It is nobody's contention that an asymetrically enfeebled army should not exercise extreme caution; the army commanders being more than aware of their vulnerbility due to gaps in infrastructure and the delay in critical military acquisitions that should have been in place by now or even the lack of a riposte capability that should have been in place ages ago.
    More importantly what the government and its strategic planners do not appreciate is the impression that is being made on the rest of the world by its flip-flop policies in the face of continued Chinese aggravations. They have seen that India has already ceded control on its periphery on the subcontinent in several countries of SAARC. A few years earlier under pressure from the US and the West it had jeopardised its most advantageous relationship with Iran by unnecessarily and unprovokedly voting against it in Vienna. Other decisions that indicated to the world that the government may not be in control of its foreign policy followed. Having ceded strategic space to China on its West, what exactly is the government's response to the latest provocation by China indicating to its strategic partners in East Asia; with whom strategic defence agreements should have been taken to much greater heights by now. A policy of keeping all options open simply means that when the crunch comes no option is available to be exercised. Specifically, Japan, Vietnam and several other potential strategic partners to India's east are watching and waiting; wondering whether it has the resolve to protect its own interest in the first instance, before calculating its ability to come to their assistance should the need arise.
    From day one instead of dithering and hamstringing military commanders on the ground the incursion in DBO to a depth of 19 kms demanded an immediate and robust response. It is akin to fire fighting. A blaze can be put out by the effort of a single man or few people in the first few minutes; after more than 10 to 15 minutes it would require far greater fire fighting resources to get it under control; and after about thirty minutes or so it can often become completely uncontrollable. The government cannot be pardoned for disallowing the immediate fire fighting actions to remove the Chinese incursion. Instead of leaving it to the military commanders to deal with the situation it took it upon itself to show its diplomatic consummatenes. It will send its foreign minister who has actually pushed off in the reverse direction for the time being to Beijing after another 10 or 12 days, thereby allowing the ingressors time to consolidate their incursion and dig in deeper. Meanwhile asking the army to take up positions opposite them in its own territory and do nothing to evict them while it would be possible to do so with minimal force. To the armed forces, to the people of India, and to the world the foreign minister of India is not going to the Chinese capital to demand a pull-back. He is seen to be going to Beijing as a supplicant. As in the days of yore the imperial power may graciously oblige its vassal. The country will not know as to what concessions the minister would have been authorised to concede that would further undermine India's capability in the future. Flowing from it, it could be well on the cards thatr during the Chinese Prime MInister's visit some public pronouncements that the country can live with would be made. Nobody would be deceived that once again India would have been humiliated.
    India still has a range of options to make China see reason without losing face. It hardly matters that India loses face, the country having been been inured to it, used to it and reconciled to it by now. If these options are not exercised early enough - timing always being of the esence - India's humiliation would have been compounded and its military positon further degraded. What is worse the status quo might conceivably turn out to be freezing of positions as obtaining on the date of the agreement; meaning thereby the new LAC on the DBO sector would be 19 kms within Indian territory.   
vinod saighal
New Delhi April 25, 2013
It has also appeared in The Statesman (April 28, 2013) on P 7 under title Border Flip-Flop
Recent events in the subcontinent - at the extreme ends of SAARC - call them straws in the wind, give an indication that people might finally be rebelling against the harshness, or the harsh edicts of theological orthodoxy that has denied them the freedom and joys that are the natural rights of free people everywhere. The first story comes from Panjwai in Afghanistan. In an article in New York Times (reproduced in The Indian Express, 26 March 2013), 'IN TALIBAN HEARTLAND, VILLAGERS DECLARE 'ENOUGH' ' by Carlotta Gall, It appears that the villagers who were fed up with the activities of the Taliban, took courage in their own hands and decided to make these villages and the surrounding areas safe from the Taliban. Since early February, when villagers joined with police forces to begin ousting Taliban fighters from this region of rich vineyards and orchards southwest of Kandahar, hundreds of residents have rallied to support the government. Nearly 100 village elders recently vowed to keep the Taliban out. The revolt in Panjwai district is the first in southern Afghanistan, right in the spiritual heartland of the Taliban movement. Matters came to a head when 300 to 400 hundred civilians had been killed or injured by bombs or ambushes by the Taliban in the past six months in Panjwai, according to the district govenor, Haji Fazel Mohammad. He said that the villagers were angry because the Taliban had been laying mines in their orchards and vineyards.
     Moving to the other end in the east, the events in Bangladesh are being watched with great interest - and anxiousness - by the countries in the region and the world. The developments in Bangladesh resulting from the trials being concucted by the (National) International Crimes Tribunal have ramifications that go well beyond the internal stability of Bangladesh. The spontaneous outbursts in Dhaka's Shahbagh Circle of people demanding death penalty for those charged with abetting rape and genocide in 1971 by the Pakistan Army have taken an ominous turn. The occupying army of Pakistan killed three million Bangladeshi fighters, activists, students and academics and raped 200,000 Bengali women as per Bangladeshi figures. Many forget that when these attrocities were committed the country called Bangladesh had not yet been formed; those being brutalised, killed and raped were citizens of East Pakistan. The Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI) Razakars of the time supported the Pakistani brutalisers against their own people. JeI, whose leaders are being charged with the crimes have been able to mobilise their followers to contest the public spaces occupied by Bangladeshis demanding death penalty for the perpetrators of the 1971crimes. The counter mobilisation has shaken Bangladesh authorities. Large number of  people have been killed and injured due to the violence unleashed by the cadres of JeI and its student wing Islami Chhatra Shibir (ICS).. There does not seem to be any let up in the rioting that has spread across the country. That the JeI was well-organised and had a substantial following was never in doubt. However, the coming overground of the Jihadi elements in total mobilisation of JeI cadres across Bangladesh indicates the enormity of the inroads that the extremist elements had made in the country. It has turned out to be much larger than people inside or outside Bangladesh had suspected. The outcome of the struggle between the secular and liberal elements on the one hand and the Jihadis on the other is being eagerly watched by all well-wishers of Bangladesh. While countries that back secularism in Bangladesh can only wait and watch, the countries with a negative agenda - Pakistan and Saudi Arabia - are not likely to remain inactive.. Both these countries were responsible for the spread of fundamentalism in Bangladesh. The Pakistan ISI combined with massive outflow of Saudi monies have been responsible for the spread of Islamic orthodoxy in the subcontinent and throughout the world. With the amount of effort that they have put in into Bangladesh over the years they are not likely to let Bangladesh get out of their clutches. The US and the West seem to be focussed almost exclusively on the Middle East. Seeing that Bangladesh could turn out to be the much bigger prize for the Islamists, it might be time for the West to take note of developments in Bangladesh. Should the liberal elements in Bangladesh manage to marginalise the fundamentalists* in their country the ripple effect will be felt in Malaysia and Indonesia to the East and India and Pakistan to the West. The stakes all around for a successful outcome of the struggle for freedom from orthodoxy are much too high for Bangladesh and the world.
Except in very few countries where the populations have been totally excluded from modernisation and globalisation there is some awakening; no matter how tentative. For example, in countries like Pakistan where the danger of an extremist takeover cannot be wished away the majority of the people would not be averse to a freer life with more choices for them and their children. Taking other examples from West Asia, in both Egypt where the Brotherhood has taken power and Tunisia, which is under an Islamic dispensation, people are beginning to protest in large numbers. Having suffered the ills of earlier dictatorial regimes people do not want to be put under another type of suppressive regime based on outdated orthodoxy. These stirrings should they be able to ensure more moderate governing dispensations are bound to have a salutary effect in much of the Middle East, Iran and Pakistan.
In the case of Bangladesh the majority of the people are much too immersed in their culture and language to ever come under the total sway of imported orthodoxy; in other words through a medieval interpretation of religion that denies rights to women and gains ground through coercion and organised terror.
Analysing the nature of the hold that regressive orthodox regimes have on large swaths of the population in so many Muslim countries and in a few cases elsewhere as well an inescapable inference is that organised groups, even small ones when compared to the size of the population, are able to exercise power or wield influence far in excess of their actual strength. The time may have come for liberal elements that historically have seldom shown themselves as being capable of organising themselves to capture political power, commensurate to their size, to bring in the desired change in their countries. Otherwise, they might have to continue to remain under the sway of regressive orthodoxies notwithstanding the winds of globalisation sweeping across the rest of the world. It is against this background that the world watches with trepidation the outcome of the youthful exuberance spilling over from Dhaka's Shahbagh Circle .
Vinod Saighal
March 28, 2013.
* At the SOUTH ASIAN CONFERENCE ON FUNDAMENTALISM & COMMUNALISM  (June 01-02, 2001) in Dhaka a few months before the Sheikh Hasina government lost power, the author in his presentation outlined his definition of fundementalism that was largely endorsed at the conference:  

Simply put, in its broadest sense, fundamentalism can be described for the purposes of this discussion as any system or group that seeks to impose its own values and beliefs on other people through coercion or violence. Any system or regime that demands absolute conformity in thought,  conduct, mode of dress and the like and that which continues to enforce its tenets through violence or the whip to the exclusion of all other beliefs, values or modes of conduct is fundamentally abhorrent to human dignity and progress".



I know Meera  H. Sanyal well. Her views are not only well-expressed, they are important for the country. Please read and disseminate. Incidentally, besides being a top-notch international banker she is the daughter of a former Naval Vice-Chief. That background reinforces her value system.

Beautifully put! How many of our existing parties can claim to have such an elegant manifesto or the sincerity of purpose to implement it ?

 Dear General,

It is uncanny how similar our thoughts are. Yesterday I published this article on my blog.

 Best regards



What I stand For : blog published on 14 April 2013,

In 2009, I stood for the Lok Sabha, National Parliamentary election as an Independent Candidate for South Mumbai. Though I lost, I learnt a great deal about my city and the people at its heart. It was the beginning of a journey, and one that I knew, I would devote the rest of my life to.

At the time, my step was considered quixotic by many, who regarded it as tilting at the windmills of the powerful Indian political establishment. Yet, in the four years since then, I have been delighted to see a rising wave of other independent citizen candidates and newly formed political parties, start to contest local and state elections.

It is as if the floodgates have opened, and the common citizen, the Aam Janta have said "Enough". The initial reluctance of our generation, to participate in a political process widely regarded as venal and corrupt, has given away to the realisation that Politics matters. We can no longer abdicate the space of Governing our nation to the lowest common denominator. We can and must participate constructively, not just in the political debate, but in the process itself.

In the past four years I have been asked repeatedly if I would stand again; from which constituency and what my campaign strategy would be. Friends and well wishers have been generous with advice and offers of support, that I greatly value.

But it was a simple question from a child that has dominated my thoughts over the past four years.  "Why are you standing" she asked, "and what do you stand for ?"

To answer this question, I started to undertake a series of exploratory journeys. The first into the issues that our country grapples with. The problems of education and health; of law and order and human rights; of poverty and corruption; of water, energy and food security...and of the best practices and policies that India could adopt, to address these challenges.

But it soon became evident that my ideas were shaped by my own background and perspectives - that of a banker who had grown up in urban India. In my years of banking I had learnt one thing - if you make the wrong assumptions, you make the wrong decisions - and such mistakes can be very expensive. There is no better way to understand the business and prospects of clients than to spend time with them in the field and understand the dynamics and drivers of their business.

Since India lives in her villages, it became clear to me, that this is where I would have to go. So in the summer of 2012, I embarked on a journey to the villages of India. During the course of the year I visited 15 states and spent time in over 120 villages. For the most part I traveled by public transport and lived in the homes, for a day and a night, with the women beneficiaries of my bank's foundation.

Some of the stories of the journey have been shared with you through this blog and posts on Face book and twitter, and much of it still remains to be told. But the thread that ran through each and every step of this path, was that despite all the cynicism and sense of hopelessness that we experience when we watch TV or read the papers, the heart of India beats strongly.

The dignity and generosity with which I was welcomed into the homes, of women who had very little, will stay with me for ever.

In home after home, my hostesses refused to take any compensation for the hospitality they provided me. The true meaning of "Atithi Devo Bhava" came home to me when in one instance my gift of a saree was gracefully accepted and then in return I was presented her "shaadi ka joda". Despite the  hard physical labour which they put in over long hours (women everywhere in our country rise at dawn and work till late at night), there was always time for the sharing of stories and for the gift of laughter. It became abundantly clear to me that the women of our country have very big hearts and very broad shoulders.

But it also became clear to me, that we are eroding this moral fibre of our people with the policy of hand-outs and give-aways that every political party is adopting for short-term electoral gains.

In Gram Sabhas, I was often asked aggressively by male villagers, as to what I had come to give them. The plethora of Government schemes driven by electoral promises, delivered inefficiently and with innumerable leakages, is creating a climate of entitlement. This is worsened by well-meaning NGO's who see development through the lens of charity.

In other villages I was asked for help in accessing bank loans. Initially very pleased at this request, I was distressed to learn the reason bank loans were preferred to all other forms of credit was that "they never had to be repaid - as they were invariably written off before the next election."

Flag ship schemes such as MGNREGS, which if well executed can transform districts (ref my blog on the Bankura experiment) are in general so poorly implemented that they are becoming major vehicles for corruption and theft. Villagers across the country confided how they had received money despite doing no work, but also shared that they did so in the knowledge that everyone up the chain had taken a much larger cut. "Is it not fair that we should get our share ?" was the simple question.

So we have embarked on a path, where policies that ostensibly aim to provide social justice and inclusion are becoming ruinous. From the recent experience of some countries in Europe, it is clear that such policies are not financially sustainable in the long run and result in the impoverishment of the finances of a nation. What is worse, is that through the collateral damage they create, they impoverish the soul of a nation.

We are converting a proud and dignified people into those who are dependant on hand-outs. This will destroy the future of our children.

The second major concern that I gathered on this journey, was the erosion of faith in our Institutions. The common man has begun to doubt the pillars that are the very foundation of this country - the police, the judiciary, the CBI, various constitutional bodies, and even the Armed Forces.

These are institutions that we look up to, to uphold our rights as free citizens - no matter what our social status or incomes, no matter what our gender, community, caste or religion. We can only be equal in the eyes of the law if there are institutions that defend and uphold our rights, not just in letter but in spirit.

But sadly, whether this is justified or not, the people of India have begun to feel that the integrity of these important institutions have been compromised. This will erode the faith of citizens in the state and the very basis of our democracy.

We are at a tipping point.

Ours is a nation of hard-working, innovative, entrepreneurial people who are decent, God-fearing and honest. Our people have no need for charity, nor is it in their nature to cheat or defraud anyone. We are not a corrupt nation but sadly some of our leaders are. It is not the people of India who have let our country down, but regrettably much of our political leadership has.

It is time for all of us to take a position in defending what we believe to be right. And so, this is why I stand.

And this is what I stand for :

I stand for the soul of India.

I stand to uphold the integrity of our institutions.

And I stand for the dream of every mother who believes that the future of her child will be bright - based on his/her own hard work and because she/he had no more, but also no less, than a fair and equal opportunity.




The salient points of the speech made by Maj. Gen. (retd.) Vinod Saighal at the public gathering at Jantar Mantar, Parliament Street, New Delhi on 2nd February 2013 are reproduced below. The gathering at which practically the entire Kashag and the Sikyong were present on the final day of the Tibetan Peoples Solidarity Campaign comprised between 2000-3000 Tibetans and their supporters           
         After the greetings to the dignitaries on the stage and words of support for the struggle of the Tibetan people the speaker examined what he referred to as the trend lines of the last 50 years. Starting with China , the repression, brutality and genocide in Tibet , he said, has only increased in spite of the decadal leadership changes that have taken place after the Deng Xiaoping era.

         During the same period the maximum effort of H.H the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan Diaspora was oriented towards America and the West; understandably so, as the Western Nations were in the ascendant, while India and most of the Asian Nations were relatively poor and still finding their feet after freedom from colonial rule. For the same reason young Tibetan people made a beeline to the West.

            No doubt the near-total orientation towards the West paid off to the extent that His Holiness’s following increased exponentially and Tibet support groups proliferated in most Western countries. Chinese repression in Tibet was roundly condemned and resolutions passed in the legislative assemblies of many countries.

            Notwithstanding the above, the fact remains, that 40, 30 and 20 years ago when the West was very strong and China relatively weak in comparison, the former were not able to compel China to change their repressive policies in Tibet . As is well known the meetings between the Chinese and the Dalai Lama’s representatives were an exercise in prevarication and futility.

             Coming to India , the country although way behind China is in a much stronger position than it was in the earlier decades. Today China ’s foreign currency reserves are over $3 trillion, whereas for India these have been hovering around $3 billion since long. Had India been governed better and had not allowed its wealth to be siphoned away, its reserves would certainly have crossed the $1tn mark. In which case it would have been militarily far stronger and able to look China in the eye.

            Global projections put China and India as the leading global economies in the coming decades; along with it the centre of gravity and global wealth are markedly shifting to Asia . Sooner rather than later, India will play a much bigger role, both within the region and in the international arena. This is a given. There are hardly any doubters, except within the country on account of weak and ineffective governance.

            Looking ahead, Mr. Lee Kwan Yew, the elder statesman of Singapore in an interview with the Western publication several years ago had famously stated that a strong India was necessary for the stability of Asia, especially South East Asia and East Asia. The reason being that in the absence of a balance provided by India , smaller countries were perforce constrained in independent policy formulation as they had of necessity to be mindful of Chinese sensibilities.

            In the mind of the speaker there was no doubt that India , despite its present difficulties was well on the way to providing what he referred to as a “dynamic equilibrium” in the region and beyond. In better case scenarios, India could well be in a position by 2020-2025 to unequivocally demand of the Chinese government that it not only stops its repression in Tibet, but moves substantially towards providing autonomy as laid out in the Middle Way proposition put forward by the Dalai Lama.

            Looking around the world India will perhaps be the only country in a position to take up Tibet ’s case with China from a position of strength. When that happens, change for the better will take place in Tibet .

            Concluding, the speaker suggested to the Sikyong, the members of the Kashag present and the audience that the trend lines spelled out clearly indicated that India would be the prime mover for the resolution of the seemingly intractable Tibetan question. Hence, their efforts and that of the Tibetan Diaspora should now be reoriented much more towards India . Migration of young Tibetan people to the West should become a thing of the past. In fact reverse migration could take place as is the case with many NRIs who had prospered in the West, now seeking to return to India .

            Finally the speaker expressed the hope that on the 80th birthday of the Dalai Lama the Government of India would invite His Holiness, being one of the great spiritual leaders of the age, to be the Chief Guest at the Republic day parade.   


Vinod Saighal

New Delhi , February 2, 2013


 Now that the entire spectrum of harassment of women from what is termed in India as eve-teasing to rape, acid attacks and other forms of repression is being examined, it is worth visiting an issue that has not been part of the debate so far. What is being referred to is the term ‘loose women’, ‘women of loose morals’, ‘women of easy virtue’ and the like. In many cases of rape, when the case came to trial in the USA , UK , India and elsewhere as well, the defence often tried to prove that the woman raped had a history of wanton behaviour. Amazingly, in several cases the judges allowed the defence lawyer to continue with this line of reasoning to show that his client accused of rape was not to blame, or not entirely to blame. There have been instances where such tactics led to the dismissal of the case against the rapist or leniency in sentencing. In India , the police have frequently refused to register FIRs where the accused has been able to tarnish the reputation of the woman. What is more, not infrequently they themselves come to a similar conclusion and not register the FIR. While in the higher judiciary the concerned judges would not be influenced by such specious pleas the story is different in some of the lower courts.

  The present turmoil offers an ideal opportunity to completely eliminate pleas of the defence based on reasoning that attempts to tarnish the woman’s reputation and thereby escape the severity of the law. For that matter even if a woman is a prostitute she has full right to her body and to the decision as to which person she should sell her body.

  Surprisingly, none of the women’s organizations have forcefully taken up this issue. What is more, if thought through, the prosecution can start turning the tables on the accused. It is not merely male chauvinism; society itself in practically all countries has been condoning wayward behaviour by their men folk. Families, especially mothers justify such behaviour on the part of their sons when they use phrases that have gained currency over a period of time. For example: “he has been sowing his wild oats and now he is ready to settle down”; compulsive philanderers are habitually referred to as ‘gay blades’ and so on.

   Seeing that the whole issue is being comprehensively reviewed the Justice Verma Committee must lay down firm guidelines that the police as well as the lower courts must not allow such female-demeaning line of argument to be pursued.


 Vinod Saighal

Convenor, Movement for Restoration of Good Government (MRGG)

New Delhi, 10 January 2013.

The letter to the Goa CM is self-explanatory. Relates to the powerful mining lobbies. Do have it circulated extensively. This vital subject is exercising the minds of the courts, government, parliament, civil society, mining lobbies, quarrying mafias and an host of others all over the world. The comment of Dr. Ronald McCoy is equally important for the struggles of civil society.
Dear Chief Minister,
It is important that you read the item below that has found resonance around the world. Here is a comment from a former head of IPPNW (International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War). Dr Ronald McCoy was the one who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1985 on behalf of his organisation.
Best wishes
Vinod Saighal
Dear Vinod,
Thank you for this inspiring piece, but in many ways a sad piece. Sad because we are allowing ourselves to be carried along by the forces of materialism and the catechism of 'economic growth.' It is time for a global  Occupy Movement, but we will first have to awaken the apathetic, dispirited majority who have lost their sense of empowerment. We must believe that there are human solutions to human problems, that change is achievable.
I continue to have faith in the 'innocence' of young people all over the world, but time appears to be running out. I remain an optimist.


                                BY Vinod Saighal

The most important threats for humanity and all life forms on the planet are undoubtedly global warming and climate change. There are hardly any international bodies, countries or NGOs in this domain that are not seized of it. The number of international, regional and local meetings that take place on the issue are legion. One of the most urgent problems remains the increasing levels of CO2 in the atmosphere. Many mitigation techniques from carbon sequestration to carbon credits among others are being considered to reduce carbon levels. That being the case it must be one of the most amazing conundrums that one of the simplest pathways to ameliorate the situation at little or no cost is ignored by world bodies and governments and by the numerous conferences taking place on the subject around the world.

Simply stated, it is the heedless method of exploitation of natural resources and the accompanying isplacement of local communities that invariably takes place, mainly in the developing world and the pristine forest regions (where local communities have been living as pastoral societies engaged in gathering forest produce, using methods that they have practiced for centuries), leading to shrinking habitats still rich in biodiversity. Most of these communities are to be found in developing countries in Africa, Latin America and Southeast and South Asia. They are that part of humanity  whose carbon footprint even in the 21st century is extremely low, some time almost non-existent. This realization has either not dawned on decision-makers or governments and vested interests simply turn a blind eye to it. Numerous examples can be given from around the world. A few of them fresh in the public mind will suffice.

In Myanmar, the new government has decided to stop the construction of a mega-dam being built by China on the Myitsone River in upper Myanmar. The Chinese government having already sunk in a fair amount of money into the preliminary works is furious. It is to be hoped that the Government of Myanmar will stick to its decision and what is more halt the planned construction of mega-dams elsewhere on the Myitsone and Irrawady rivers. Had the construction not been stopped what would have been the outcome. The Myanmar government would have earned money from electricity, 90 percent of which would have been sold to China. The hidden costs of these gargantuan projects hardly get publicized. It has been estimated that approximately one hundred thousand people would have been displaced. These people have already suffered due to clear felling of a sizeable forest area, as has been the case for the mega-dams built earlier. Some of the displaced forest dwellers and pastoral societies living in the area might have found work as laborers under Chinese construction bosses.

The large majority would have been sent to other sites and put in shanty towns for perpetual ghetto-ised xistence. The second example is from the tribal societies known as ‘adivasis’ in the eastern state of Odisha in India. Large-scale mining activities have taken place or are in the pipeline in areas where the adivasis live as they have lived undisturbed for hundreds, if not thousands of years. Mining is also planned by mining leviathans in a pristine tract called the Nyamgiri Hills sacred to the adivasis from time immemorial. The damage already done by the bauxite mines has resulted in heavy pollution of the area: disease inducing toxins in the water bodies, where even the animals (although seldom recorded) that come to drink suffer as much as the humans.

Protestors are routinely beaten up by the police and several killed. Compensation is offered. It has been mostly rejected by the adivasis who would not like their centuries-old traditions that hardly leave any carbon footprint to be disturbed. Selected leaders of the protest movements are likely to be made to fall in line by hefty bribes - standing operating procedure worldwide. Even the compensation to the adivasis will be increased. Again at what cost to the environment and the natural guardians of the environment, the forest dwellers whose lands are expropriated. Only two examples have been given. They are representative of the tribulations of the indigenous communities displaced by governments allied to global mining lobbies bent upon destroying pristine tracts around the world; where so-called modernization is being forced upon hapless people who have been the guardians of the undisturbed forest habitats so critical for habitability of the planet for future generations of humans and the flora and fauna that has managed to survive.

A word on the fate that awaits displaced communities forcibly removed from their land and way of life. They are resettled in ghetto-like shanty towns or even concrete blocks. Either way the disoriented elders spend their time bemoaning their loss while the youngsters drift into drugs, drunkenness, prostitution and the other ills of modernity into which they have been forced. Lacking survival skills for the new life that they are equired to lead many of them drift into cities into a life of crime or destitution in the hovels known as ‘bastis’ (in India) and ‘favellas’ (in Latin America) where they end up. The lands that they have left behind are ravaged.

Animal and bird life soon disappears due to the extreme pollution of the water bodies and the toxins that leach into the soil. Even in their marginalized condition their carbon footprint automatically rises in the city.

Unsustainable economic development has not been reined in, despite all the climate change conferences.  Capitalism capitalises on human greed. That’s why it is called capitalism. China and India will not forgo development, as they still have a long way to go before ameliorating poverty, leave alone eradicating it. The economic bottom-line of the largely unfettered corporate world must include an environmental bottom-line that will translate into ecological sustainability, if the planet is to survive. In his concluding remarks from a presentation at Basel before the 19th IPPNW Conference, (International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War) in August 2010 the author stated: “The large economies pushing toward very high growth do not seem to be concerned about future generations. The tragedy is compounded by the rest of the world that is undergoing recession pangs pushing for greater consumption by China and India. In short, nobody seems to be concerned about the future of our children or the coming generations. We are heading toward planetary destruction here and now. China and India still want GDP increase in double digits when most of this growth is predicated on higher energy consumption levels based largely on abundant coal reserves, the burning of which is most conducive for global warming and climate change. In fact, the consequences of double digit or very high GDP growth in the case of countries with large populations are such that this high digit growth can be termed as obscene. China, overtaking the world’s largest car producer, saw its passenger car vehicle sales zoom 47.5 percent, from 5.7 million units in 2008 to 8.4 million units in 2009, in just one year. India registered 24.5 percent jump in passenger car vehicle sales from 1.5 million units in 2009 to about 1.9 million units in 2010 in the domestic market.

Should this trend, egged on by the rest of the world for greater consumption to underpin the global economy continue for just 10 more years these two countries, without even counting USA, Brazil, South Africa and Nigeria would be able to incinerate the planet by their scorching pace of growth, with attendant environmental destruction on a scale not witnessed earlier on the planet, well before the next nuclear related mishap. It is time to take stock. Time is not running out for critical decisions that should have been in place by now; it has already run out. The human race is now running on borrowed time”. Unquote.

(Excerpt from Revitalising Indian Democracy by Vinod Saighal. Gyan Books Pvt. Ltd, New Delhi, 2012.


18 October, 2012

Over the last few years I have been writing to you on several issues directly, both in my capacity as Convener MRGG (Movement for Restoration of Good Government) and in my personal capacity since the time I came to know you consequent to your inaugurating my book “Dealing with Global Terrorism: The Way Forward” at the India Habitat Centre some time in 2003. Today I am writing on the plight of women while undertaking journeys by road, whatever the mode of transport. Every few hours when the ‘call of nature’ comes, men folk have no problem; they simply go to any tree or wall or just stand on the roadside and merrily urinate away. The women have no such option. When we were young there was sufficient vegetation cover - medium and low canopy vegetation - along practically all roads. These provided cover for women. This is no longer the case. Very briefly my request to you is to send a directive to the concerned ministries to make provisions of clean toilets for women at given distances. In the first instance it should be mandatory for all oil companies that have set up or licensed petrol pumps along highways to construct clean toilets for women, failing which they would be heavily fined or even lose their license. Additionally, the ministry dealing with national highways should be directed to make similar provisions at laid down distances.

Hon’ble Dr. Manmohan Singh

Prime Minister

Prime Minister’s Office; South Block 

New Delhi –110011



 Muslim outrage leading to death and destruction in many countries simultaneously against insults to the Prophet or desecration in whatever form of the Muslim holy book regardless of its provenance or authorship is becoming commonplace and occurring with increasing regularity; leading each time to killings, mob violence and extensive damage to property. Nobody seems to be able to control it in practically every Muslim country or nations with sizeable Muslim presence as in India. The spontaneousness of the outbursts whether orchestrated or fuelled by the internet actually leads to greater and repeated outrages. The reason being that the perpetrators - more often than not fringe elements who are immediately condemned by their own communities and respective governments whenever they indulge in these insane provocations - are secretly delighted by the mayhem they cause; which in turn leads to copycat actions by like-minded fringe elements elsewhere. Evidently this cycle of mindless insults followed instantaneously by equally mindless violence must stop. Those being angered must realise that western democracies are not in a position to put a stop to such activities because their laws and mores, however distasteful to outsiders, do not allow for the curbing of free speech. This is not going to change any time in the foreseeable future. Hence may be the time has to come for the aggreived party or parties to look within and not react in the manner that the perpetrators of these mindless deeds would want them to react - i.e., to provoke outrage. The greater the violence the greater their self-satisfaction over their provocative acts. 

The righteousness of the anger manifested might become questionable, if not untenable, should they look around at what is happening around them. It may be recalled that just a few years ago a far worse sacrilege was carried out in the Muslim world. On a scale of 0 to 9 if the offense given by the earlier cartoons or the picture that has reportedly been put out on the You Tube (or wherever else) is put at 4 or 5 the destruction of the Bamian Buddhas tips the scale well beyond the maximum 9 on any comparative basis - not that outrages can be compared or quantified. Yet no Budhhist asked for the head of the perpetrators, nor was any Muslim property burned anywhere in the world. No Muslim was harmed. What is more, no Muslim man, woman or child felt unsafe for one moment anywhere in the world or was afraid of a backlash from any quarter. The announcement that the Bamian Budhhas would be destroyed was made several days before the threat was carried out. Pakistan , where such riots in the past generally spread faster than elsewhere, had the capacity to intervene decisively to prevent the most abominable desecration that the world has witnessed in modern times. It did not intervene. Nor did Saudi Arabia or any of the countries where the worst rioting is taking place. In most cases there was stony silence. On the other hand, the ulema in India had put the highest price on the cartoonists' heads. Their protests spread to other cities in India . However, none of these worthies asked for the head of the Taliban leadership of the time. There was not a single riot after the destruction of the Bamian Buddhas. The Muslim world should have realised that the anguish and gloom caused to the Buddhists in every corner of the globe, including the Koreas , Japan , China , Mongolia, India, much of Southeast Asia and several other countries would have been infinitely more deep than that caused by the offensive cartoons or other such insults by individuals, whereas the destruction of the Bamian Buddhas was a collective action. There are many denominations whose followers across the world number in the hundreds of millions or more than a billion. They feel sacrileges, slights and threats to kill (the infidels) as keenly as do Muslims. If they do not react in the fashion of the Muslims it is because they might have actually moved up civilisation's ladder. Their religions teach them that every life, regardless of whether it is that of a believer or non-believer, is sacred. The Buddhists who must have been knocked senseless by the sheer magnitude of their loss internalised their suffering and prayed for forgiveness to the perpetrators. There is a lesson in this for Muslims if they would like to call Islam a religion of peace. Meanwhile, the world while it must put an end to the type of free speech that causes such grave offense to other faiths cannot allow itself to be boxed in by a regressive interpretation of the theology of a single denomination just because it has demonstrated a capacity to activate mass hysteria supra-nationally.

The writer is the author of Third Millennium Equipoise

Eco Monitors Society letter addressed to Ms. Connie Hedegaard, Copenhagen Conference in December 2009 is more relevant now for RIO+20. 

H.E. Ms. Connie Hedegaard,
Minister for Climate and Energy,
Ministry of Climate and Energy
Subject: Agenda for the Copenhagen Conference, December 2009- Dealing with the Global Commons
Hon'ble Minister,
    One of the winners of the Nobel prize for Economics this year, Elinor Olstrom has written extensively on the despoliation of the global commons. In this regard you may like to take note of the extract from the book Third Millennium Equipoise (1998) on 'Environmental Policing of the Global Commons'. The book was first reviewed by the UN Chronicle (3/98) soon after its release. Whatever the decisions taken at the Copenhagen Conference in December a thought will have to be given to some form of compliance mechanisms although nations generally shy away from any attempt to impose accountability. Have no doubt that we are nearing the point of irreversibility on the planet. Nations can no longer opt out of painfully concluded global accords in the interest of national sovereignty. A recurring theme of the book Third Millennium Equipoise (Spanish edition Equilibrio en el Tercer Milenio) has been the overriding need of bringing in the primacy of the 'supreme planetary interest' where activities in one nation or a collectivity of nations or private interests can endanger humanity at large or the planet. The extract below if not accepted in toto can form the basis of supplementary protocols for protecting the most endangered global commons like the Arctic, Antarctic and other large tracts that retain their pristine nature.
Yours sincerely
Vinod Saighal
Executive Director, Eco Monitors Society
New Delhi, October 16, 2009

    (Extracted from Third Millennium Equipoise*)

            It is tragic that in spite of the leaders of the governments of the world pledging to reverse the ecological decline mostly lip-service is paid when follow-up action has to be taken on the ground. The damage to the environmental health of the planet came to light a good forty to fifty years ago. Not only was heed not paid to the dire predictions but the pace of decline actually increased. All indicators – destruction of forests, loss of bio-diversity, seepage of toxic substances into ground water aquifers, increase in pollution, etc. – have shown that the rate of decline increased manifold. The way things are going a terminally sick human civilization may limp beyond the next century to sub-human survival levels.

            Twentieth-century organizations – national and international – are not geared to meet the environmental challenges of the next century. The nations of the world have got bogged down in unproductive adversarial dialogues. In as little as ten or twenty years the terms North-South and haves versus the have-nots will cease to be relevant because the scale of depletion will render all such compartmentalization meaningless. Mankind has entered the last decade where rational decisions between rational human beings can still be taken to attempt to retrieve the situation. Going beyond the useless tenor of the debates urgent measures that need to be taken forthwith at the global level are spelled out in the ensuing paragraphs.

  • Extensions of ICJ jurisdiction to all matters relating to the global environment. ICJ to be assisted by a specially constituted Environmental Legislative Wing (ELW). The ELW comprising independent experts to prepare a comprehensive blueprint for the eco-revival of the planet. The planetary environmental blueprint to be ready within twenty- four months of setting up of the ELW.
  • The ELW planetary environmental blueprint to be discussed in the UN General Assembly for adoption by 1 January 2000. All states will be “obliged” to adhere to the blueprint regardless of individual beliefs of the states or their subjects. Penalties for infractions ill be laid down the by the ICJ. All recoveries would be credited to the GRF.
  • Environmental policing of the global commons and eco-fragile areas by UN environmental protection forces - terrestrial and marine. Again no separate organizations are required to be raised. A small eco-protection cell would nominate NGOs considered competent to do the task. They would be hired for the purpose. Ships and patrol vehicles could also be hired, along with crews, from governments or other commercial organizations at the normal rates prevailing for carrying out the operations. Ecomonitors on the ships or onshore would be nominated by the eco-protection cell on as required basis. The emphasis, periodicity and quantum of force required to be maintained would depend on the assessment of the threat as well as the fragility of the area.
  • UN agencies, international donor agencies and private philanthropic organizations have made available large amount of money to various governments for environmental protection and developmental activities. It has been seen that the sums allocated do not always reach where they were supposed to. Noted environmentalists, retired military personnel and managers with proven competence could in future be co-opted to supervise the programmes on the ground.
  • Globally enforceable guidelines to be laid down for the optimum size of bulk carriers and the safety measures to be incorporated. Irrespective of the longer routing and increase in transportation costs, exclusion zones for movement of hazardous materials to be laid down on the seas and on land.
  • Based on satellite monitoring and shore intelligence UN backed naval patrols or navies of nation states that volunteer for UN work to be authorized  to confiscate the ships and fishing nets falling in the banned category. Owners of the shipping lines to be prosecuted separately thereafter. After a first fine every second offence would make the defaulters liable to heavy prison sentences.
  • Where a species has been declared an endangered species the culpability for violation to extend to heads of syndicates or organizations deploying the resources for illegal exploitation. The US model RICO (Racketeer Influenced & Corrupt Organization Act, 1970) to be adopted internationally for violations to the environment, specifically prohibited under global protocols.
  • A global natural regeneration scheme to be worked out whereby selected eco-fragile areas would be excluded from all environmentally harmful activity for given periods ranging from ten to fifty years by rotation to allow for natural regeneration.
  • Global or national conventions relating to the environment normally end up preaching to the converted or restating the obvious. A thought could be given to reducing these conventions where the costs of holding the convention turn out to be on the higher side. What is more important is that the known faces could be replaced by inviting younger people from the threatened areas and exposing them to the deliberations of the convention. At least fifty per cent of the invitees should fall into the second category.
  • On the lines suggested earlier tourist activity could also be curtailed in ecologically threatened areas.
  • The establishment of UN Peace and Eco-Revival Universities worldwide with curricula more suited for the tasks that would be taken up by the students of these universities. Global quotas will be maintained.
  • Extension of the Auroville ( Pondicherry ) type of international living experiments.
  • Ecotone restoration along water bodies.
  • Ecotone restoration along the sea coast in ecologically devastated areas.
  • Synecological studies of river systems. The immediate objective of such studies would be (i) to determine the pelagic /terrestrial interface in coastal/estuarine regions; (ii) to identify nesting/ spawning habitats of anadromous species in their upstream migration; (iii) to recommend/ initiate steps for preservation of the ecotone critical to spawning and nesting habitats for marine organisms, avifauna and fauna endemic to the region; (iv) to study pollution effects and recommend short-and long-term remedial measures; (v) to prepare technical river profiles having ecologic-geomorphological bias.

A momentous reversal must now take place for the eco-revival of the planet. There is no more ground to give. Where reasoned dialogue works it must be continued. Where it does not work other means will now have to be adopted. When a person’s house is aflame the person has to go all out to put out the flames. When nations have been attacked they have strained every sinew to repel the attack. Humankind’s home is under attack from all sides. Humankind must get up to fight on all fronts. It is no longer a (passively) defensive battle. It can no longer be won that way. The war has to be carried to the regions where the Earth is being ravaged. Creating awareness is no longer enough. There is hardly any schoolchild anywhere on the planet not aware about the ecological decline. The problem lies elsewhere. The fight must be carried professionally and under a global mandate (UN mandate) to every spot on the globe where despoliation of the remaining virgin tracts is still taking place. Cease and desist notices must be issued. Where no action is taken on these notices or where clandestine activity still continues, the individuals or corporations concerned must be apprehended by international forces and brought to book. Bringing to book is not enough. Where irreversible damage has been done, no penitence after the act can restore the lost heritage of mankind. Corporations indulging in these activities must be dealt with most severely in the manner specified earlier for nuclear infractions. There is no other way. Even that would not suffice. Global action to resume degraded ecological zones for restoring their ecological health for periods ranging from twenty five to hundred years – under global trusteeships – should commence simultaneously. After the fragile zones have been revived through global funding they will be handed back to the countries to which they belonged with sufficient safeguards to prevent further despoliation. In the case of global commons the trusteeship could continue for as long as required.

A debate has been raging in many parts of the world on human needs verses animal needs. The human species is proliferating exponentially. A few more or less or this particular species will not impoverish the planet. The disappearance of a unique habitat or an endangered species will. (P-215 to 224)



The excerpt below from a talk delivered at the Eindhoven Technical University in The Netherlands needs to be taken note of 'urgently' by decision-makers in the free world as well as citizens organisations for communal harmony as well as the media. It had a salutary effect on the Muslim clergy in Europe after it was circulated to all concerned.



(Talk delivered at the Technical University , Eindhoven on 25 April 2006)


"The difference in outlook emerges from the furore over the Danish cartoons. Even after several world leaders, including Presidents Bush and Putin had condemned the publishing of the controversial cartoons the Muslim clergy-inspired mob fury continued unabated in many countries. One of the reasons was that they had smelled blood. They realized that Denmark was wilting and many in Europe were frightened of a heightened backlash. Were that not the case mass hysteria on a global scale across the Muslim world could not have been sustained for so long. The righteousness of the anger professed was also questionable, if not untenable. It may be recalled that just a few years ago a far worse sacrilege was carried out in the Muslim world. On a scale of 0 to 9 if the offense given by the cartoons is put at 4 or 5 the destruction of the Bamian Buddhas tips the scale well beyond the maximum 9 on any comparative basis - not that outrages can be compared or quantified. Yet no Budhhist asked for the head of the perpetrators, nor was any Muslim property burned anywhere in the world. No Muslim was harmed. What is more, no Muslim even felt afraid of a backlash from any quarter. 

       The announcement that the Bamian Budhhas would be destroyed was made several days before the threat was carried out. Pakistan , where the riots were spreading faster than elsewhere, had the capacity to intervene decisively to prevent the most abominable desecration that the world has witnessed in modern times. It did not intervene. Nor did Saudi Arabia or the OIC. The ulema in India put the highest price on the cartoonists' heads. Their protests spread to other cities in India . None of these worthies asked for the head of the Taliban leadership of the time. There was not a single riot after the destruction of the Bamian Buddhas.

    The Muslim world should have realised that the anguish and gloom caused to the Buddhists in every corner of the globe, including the Koreas , Japan , China , Mongolia and several other countries would have been infinitely more deep than that caused by the offensive cartoons. There are many denominations whose followers across the world number in the hundreds of millions or more than a billion. They feel sacrileges, slights and threats to kill (the infidels) as keenly as do Muslims. If they do not react in the fashion of the Muslims it is because they might have actually moved up civilisation's ladder. Their religions teach them that every life, regardless of whether it is that of a believer or non-believer, is sacred. The Buddhists who must have been knocked senseless by the sheer magnitude of their loss internalised their suffering and prayed for forgiveness to the perpetrators. There is a lesson in this for Muslims if they would still like to call Islam a religion of peace. Meanwhile the world cannot allow itself to be boxed in by a regressive interpretation of the theology of a single denomination just because it has demonstrated a capacity to activate mass hysteria supra-nationally for a well thought out long-term geopolitical quest".

This item appeared in the centre spread of The Sunday Statesman (Sunday 5 February 2012).  Like many of our countrymen I am dismayed at the turn of events relating to the controversy over the age of the Army Chief. During a long career of nearly 40 years I never came across any officer who questioned the need for civilian supremacy. Since retirement seventeen years ago I have not come across any veteran who feels differently on the subject. The problem arises out of the manner in which this supremacy is being exercised. Many people feel that the way in which the Ministry of Defence exercises supremacy leaves much to be desired. The issue when decided in the coming days by the Supreme Court could have as major an impact on the government as the SC decision on the 2G case, possibly followd by some resignations.




It is generally the Chinese who have been the most adept at the practice of consistently stating something detrimental to the interest of its adversaries often enough so that over a period of several years it almost becomes a settled proposition for its victim. India has had plenty of experience in dealing with China in this regard. Therefore it remains inexplicable as to how it fell for the Pakistani claim, supported largely by the US and the UK that Afghanistan has to remain under the tutelage of Pakistan to safeguard Pakistan ’s strategic interest. This canard took shape during the halcyon days of Pakistan-US collaboration to oust the Russians from Afghanistan . Even after the departure of the US from the arena the West continued to go along with Pakistan on this issue, more by default than by design. And so it continued in spite of 9/11 and the sequence of events that followed.

          Now when the Americans seem to have decided on a pullout from Afghanistan by 2014, there remain significant lobbies in the US and UK that continue to maintain that Pakistan’s interest remains paramount in Afghanistan and needs to be respected post-2014. The very absurdity of this line of thinking has remained unchallenged even in India to the extent that it continues to be tentative in safeguarding its own strategic interest in Afghanistan .

          The basic premise of this approach fails to take into account the extreme fallacy of Pakistani claims of strategic depth with implied overlordship over successor governments in Kabul . It is understandable that close Pakistan allies like China , Turkey and Saudi Arabia would back Pakistan to the hilt in taking control over Afghan affairs. For the West not to have shaken it off after the second resurgence of Taliban in Afghanistan is if anything suicidal reasoning. Afghanistan under Pakistani control or tutelage with the Taliban in the ascendant would be a far more formidable threat to USA , the West, Central Asia, Russia and India than was the case prior to 9/11. This time around an US-NATO pullout from Afghanistan manifestly reeling under mounting losses from Pakistan military-abetted Taliban and Jihadi networks would probably be the last time in this century that any Western force would dare set foot again in the region, irrespective of a repeat of 9/11 on Western soil or even a greater provocation resulting from nuclear type of assault from Pakistan-based non-state actors.

          Once the pullout is completed neither the public in the West nor their economic condition would allow for another show of force. Left under the domination of Pakistan the new Taliban-type dispensation, this time backed by the enormously expanded nuclear and missile arsenal of Pakistan, could easily become one of the most formidable players, able to take on any and all-comers once they have consolidated their hold on Afghanistan and the Af-Pak region. At that stage it would be anybody’s guess as to whether the Pakistan military would be calling the shots or whether the extremist elements would be the ones dictating policy. In either case the increased threat would remain.

          During all these years when talking of Pakistan ’s strategic interest in Afghanistan nobody seems to have spoken even peripherally that Afghanistan might have existential interests of its own, well away from dominance by any outside power. This is where India comes in. Of all the interested parties it has the least ability or for that matter inclination to interfere in Afghan affairs. Based on past record it enjoys the respect of the majority of Afghan people. A strategic opening has come its way out of the blue. It has resulted from the belated realization in Washington that the Pakistan Army-ISI combine have been playing the Americans for suckers (to use a well-worn American cliché) and that the US government has been filling the coffers of the Pakistan military solely to enable them so it would seem to kill American soldiers and those of its allies. It was the killing of Osama Bin Laden from a compound close to the Military Academy in Abbottabad that convinced the American public that the Washington Establishment and its think tanks had allowed themselves to be comprehensively befooled by their trusted ‘major non-NATO ally’. The revelation that should not have come as a surprise has finally allowed the US to pull away from its trusted ally after the mounting ills that have befallen their soldiers in Afghanistan . The second event that obliged the Karzai government to invite India to help maintain post-2014 independence was the killing of the former President Rabbani. Like the killing of Ahmed Shah Masood ten years ago this killing too is unlikely to have taken place without the full backing or at least the tacit support of the Pakistan military–ISI combine.

          The Afghans are bound to be happy that it is India rather than any other country that is being invited to help Afghanistan to retain their independence once the Americans departs. It is the only country in the region that is militarily non-threatening. It is the only country in the region that, except for Pakistan and China , would be viewed with general goodwill by all other neighbours of Afghanistan , especially in Central Asia . The latter would be the most worried from a Pakistani-controlled dispensation. Further, it is the only country that the US, the European Union, Russia and Iran would view with favor for taking up the slack in the strategic vacuum that could prevail for several years after the US departure; till the time that an Afghan government fully backed by a strengthened, cohesive and professional Afghan national army is able to take its destiny in its own hands.

          Neither the rest of the world, especially USA and the West, nor India could have foreseen the fortuitous development caused largely by Pakistan ’s duplicity and the tragic events that followed. The Afghan nation and all countries interested in seeing an independent Afghanistan would be unstinting in their support to India were it to step in and meet its obligations to develop and strengthen Afghan independence and neutrality. Should India go about its assigned role with determination and vigor without self-doubt about its capability, it would have become the instrument for peace and prosperity in the region. Strange as it may sound, it would have in the process added immensely to the security of Central Asia, Russia and Pakistan itself, besides its own security. Finally the biggest beneficiary would be SAARC. The ball is fairly and squarely in India ’s court. It has to convince itself and the world that it has emerged a deft player. Success in this task that it has decided to shoulder would automatically make it a very strong contender for a permanent Security Council seat.


Vinod Saighal

October 11, 2011




The cover of TIME magazine dated October 24, 2011 has the caption “why the U.S. will never save Afghanistan ”. The article by Aryn Baker goes on to explain the reason for the startling TIME cover at a juncture when it should be about the last thing that a leading, globally renowned publication of the US should be saying. ’Never’ has a finality about it that brooks no self-doubt. As to what effect it will have on the situation in Afghanistan and on the US troops fighting in that country is anybody’s guess. For certain it will boost the morale of the Taliban fighting there and give a fillip to the Pakistan military-ISI combine. That it might be a misconceived perspective in view of the radically altered equation between the US and its Pakistan ally does not seem to have influenced Time’s editors. This requires elaboration.

           In spite of having been designated a major ‘Non-NATO Ally’ and having been showered with billions of US dollars in economic and military aid the unholy alliance was never really fighting on the same side. In fact they were fighting each other in some form or the other for ten years. It is only now that the full realisation has donned on the US establishment in Washington that they have been comprehensively taken for a ride. The commanders of US and NATO troops on the ground had no doubt as to the real enemy. It is only the leaders of US forces at the highest levels who chose to ignore the persistent feedback from their commandersin Afghanistan while they kept on suffering losses in men and materiel. These have been steadily mounting, it being perhaps the reason for the message of gloom, doom and total despair on the TIME cover.

          After many setbacks the nickel has finally dropped, it having become eminently clear that for 10 long years the US and Pakistan have been fighting ‘each other’. The battleground was Afghanistan . The difference was that the US was fighting with its soldiers and taking the mounting casualties directly, whereas the Pakistan Military-ISI combine were fighting through their proxies, the various Taliban and jihadi factions. The US and NATO cannot go on sustaining the higher casualty levels. In the case of Pakistan their proxies can be fed to slaughter indefinitely with the mushrooming of the Madrasas linked to a poverty-stricken but burgeoning population where the fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth child can be handed over to the mullahs with the surety that the children would be fed, clothed and have a roof over their heads. It does not matter what the mullahs do with them. For every child killed the compensation for martyrdom in addition to the boost in prestige are a welcome few lakhs of rupees (three or four thousand dollars, a mini fortune for the impoverished family). Casualties should they number even in the tens of thousands make no difference in the state that is now Pakistan or to those who have been controlling its destiny since Zia’s Islamisation drive. What is more, the children in the madrasas, already low-birth weight and malnourished in the poor families from which they come, suffer further deprivation and mental impairment. It is a condition which makes it far easier to indoctrinate the children with misanthropic zeal. Producing the youngsters for suicide missions has become an assembly-line process.

          Although the situation on the ground may not give much cause for cheer right now, it is nevertheless quite possible that from 2012 onwards the tide might begin to turn. Finally the establishment in Washington has realized what should have been evident since long that while the Pakistani belligerents  cannot be got the better off in Afghanistan at this belated stage, the decision taken by President Obama to fight Pakistani trouble-makers in Pakistan rather that Afghanistan could turn out to be a potential game changer. The new no-nonsense approach will make the Pakistani jihadis and their military backers pay a price that will oblige them to change course before they suffer unacceptable damage. The US has many ways of turning the tide without sending fighting soldiers to any depth across the border. The Pakistani generals have already appreciated that the game may be nearly up should the US persist in dealing with Pakistani menace in Pakistan . It is the reason for Gen. Kayani’s bluster that the US better watch out because Pakistan has nuclear weapons. Whether the statement was for internal consumption or actually a warning to the US , it is the type of statement that no mature civilian government head would make, not even a far-thinking head of the Pakistan Army. The allusion to the nuclear threat could cost Pakistan dearly.

          It is not necessary to bring in the India factor at the present time. However, the strategic agreement between Afghanistan and India for the latter to train the Afghan national forces as well as capacity building could make an appreciable difference. Training at the hands of Dutch, German and other western trainers compared to training by the Indian army personnel are two different things. The latter have been fighting at high altitudes under similar conditions with not very sophisticated equipment for over fifty years. The difference in approach will lead to better results over a period of time. There would also be far greater receptivity and emotional integration between the trainer and the trainee. Indians are respected and liked by the Afghans. India is sending its training personnel after being invited to do so. Their presence and India ’s commitment to see it through could become a decisive factor for peace in Afghanistan in the not too distant future. The US and NATO would be heaving a sigh of relief that the Indian presence in the training domain would relieve a large number of their personnel from this onerous task.

          In sum with the clarity in thinking that has finally donned upon the decision-makers in Washington not only is all not lost in Afghanistan, the situation is likely to improve well before 2014.


Vinod Saighal

October 22, 2011


In the unending calamities that have befallen Tibet since its military occupation by Chinese forces in 1950 the latest one to traumatise the Tibetans is the series of recent self-immolations by Tibetan monks and nuns. From time to time one hears of self-immolation by individuals in other countries as a final act of  desperation. In the present case the numbers tell a tale of suppression, incarcerations, brutality and humiliation on the collectivity of Tibetan people way beyond those inflicted by totalitarian regimes in other countries. Stalin's gulags disappeared after thirty  years or so once the Russian people and the world realised the extent of the horrors to which the regime's victims were being subjected. Hitler's atrocities did not last for more than seven years. In no other country in the world of the 20th or 21st centuries has extreme oppression on subjects lasted more than 20 or 30 years. In the case of China the oppression of Tibetans and Uighurs has been an unending nightmare for the suppressed minorities for three generations with no hope of relief. So horrendous has been the victimization of Tibetan people that it would be impossible to describe it in a few pages. After each protest the figures of Tibetan deaths at the hands of the Chinese occupation forces far exceed those officially conceded to by the authorities, remaining far lower than independent estimates. The actual figures after each repressive wave could be a multiple factor of three, four or five. The reason is that the Chinese forces seal off the monasteries where the unrest started for weeks and months disallowing medical aid for the wounded and other essentials of life for several weeks, some time months. These increase the fatalities several times over. No outside visitors are allowed to visit the monasteries for long periods of time. In addition to the physical decimation of the population and demographic swamping by an influx of Han Chinese, cultural genocide to eventually eradicate a millennium-and-a-half of the old culture continues apace.

Over two-and-a-half millennia before Mahatma Gandhi it was the Buddha who first enunciated  the dharma of  ahimsa. contemporaneously with the Jain Digambars. China and the majority of the countries contiguous to China in the east and south still hold on to the Buddhist faith. How are the Chinese leadership going to explain away to their own people and the world the inhuman suffering that they continue to visit on the Tibetan people even after sixty years. The Chinese government's blanket suppression of the truth is well known. But what has happened to the rest of the world, the so-called liberal democracies. If not their leaders who seemingly worship Mammon more than God and king, what about the freedom loving people of the Western democracies who have been in the forefront of affirming their faith in human rights. What is the nature of the infirmity that has overtaken the collective conscience of several billion people that they are unable to bring their governments to hold China accountable; or does it take a few hundred billion dollars of  purchase of their treasury receipts and bonds to make them close their eyes and seal their lips. Evidently that is the case.

    The Tibetan sacred space is too precious an heritage of mankind to be lost to the world. Much more so for China that still has the largest population of Budhists in the world. Their leaders send erring officials on pilgrimages to ancient Buddhist temples for a parikrama several times over around the temple precincts to expiate their sins. Many leaders have also visited these sites from time to time for similar reasons. When the full realisation of the magnitude of the sins committed on the Tibetan people by those who govern China becomes known to ordinary Chinese people how many generations will have to make the parikrama of the sacred Buddhist sites to even begin to wipe out from their collective karma the sins visited on the hapless Tibetan people.


vinod saighal  

Executive Director, Eco Monitors Society

New Delhi October 24, 2011.



The opening paragraph from an article on Iran published a few years go when preparations for a strike on Iran appeared well advanced during the George W. Bush presidency is reproduced below:

“Long after the Americans would have left Iraq , and long after the world would have discovered alternate energy sources, and well after the hydrocarbon reserves of the Middle East would have been depleted, the consequences of the US intervention in Iraq in March 2003 will continue to haunt the region. The Sykes-Picot agreements of an earlier period shaped the post-World War I history and geography of the Middle East . Its effects continue to linger to this day. In like fashion the effects of the US policies in the region in the first decade of the 21st Century are likely to be felt till the end of the century. The turmoil in Iraq will spill over to engulf the Arab world from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean . There is a tendency to focus on the immediate consequences of a cataclysmic event, whereas the long-term effects can often assume a configuration scarcely imagined at the birth of the climactic”.


Rumours are again flying thick and fast that Israel backed by USA could be planning to carry out strikes on Iranian nuclear assets. At the very outset it must be said that carrying out the threat would be extremely foolhardy. The repercussions of a strike on Iran are bound to have a ripple effect in and around the region and perhaps around the world. These need to be spelled out.

            Israel no longer has the overwhelming military superiority over its neighbours as it did at the height of the cold war and possibly up to the turn of the century. It no longer has the capacity to act individually against a country the size of Iran . Nor will it be able to get away with the strike on Iranian nuclear facilities as it did when it attacked the Iraqi reactor nearly thirty years ago and the suspected Syrian facility more recently. The Iranians have been preparing for an Israeli–US strike for over a decade. They are well aware that the combined US-Israeli attacks besides severely damaging Iran ’s nuclear program would inflict heavy damage on their retaliatory capabilities. With that realization they would have planned intelligently to ensure that neither Israel nor USA gets away scot-free regardless of the severity of punishment inflicted on Iran . At the very least Israel , whatever its degree of preparation for an Iranian riposte, should be prepared to suffer hundreds if not thousands of casualties amongst its people, both killed and wounded. The attacks on Israel could take various forms many of which no Israeli government can prepare for to the ultimate degree. These possibilities should be made known to the public in Israel , Europe and USA before any Israeli leader embarks on another exceptionally risky venture, which in the worst case could produce unacceptable retaliatory damage on Israel , especially in view of its small population, minuscule geographic area and vulnerability to attack from several directions. That Israel has no depth of any kind would be well known to the Israeli leaders as well as its people. In spite of that if the Israeli leaders are able to indulge in the type of brinkmanship that could lead to serious miscalculations they need to be put under  restraint –literally so- by the Israeli people as well as by all well-wishers of the Jewish state. There have been instances in the past where brinkmanship has escalated into war that neither side really wanted or was prepared for.

            USA , the other likely belligerent although oceans and continents away will not be immune from the consequences of an attack on Iran as the people of that country may have been led to believe. The real tragedy is that the people of the countries that provoke war are totally out of the reckoning when war is launched on their behalf. Iraq was a case in point. When the British and Spanish governments, actually the Prime Ministers of these countries, took the decision almost single-handedly to join the US , nearly 80 percent of the people of Britain and Spain were against their countries joining the Iraq invasion. The consequences of that foolish act, over the heads of their people, are still being felt around the world. The economic decline of USA and the West was set in motion by the invasion of Iraq . The consequences of strikes on Iran might turn out to be equally tragic. While Iran may not be able to do any direct damage on the US mainland it would certainly be able to inflict considerable damage to the US economy and its military and commercial assets in the Middle East and elsewhere. In the altered circumstances Turkey and Egypt would hardly remain mere bystanders.  

            No one can doubt that the entire Middle East and neighboring countries would face considerable turmoil and collateral damage. Iranian oil facilities as well as Saudi and Gulf facilities might also suffer damage causing further recession around the world that could end up by crippling the economies of the US, West, Israel, and many other countries in the developed and developing world. Radiation damage over a radius of action that could reach parts of China in the east and throughout the Middle East up to and beyond the Mediterranean would be extensive over a period of time on account of the munitions that would be used to penetrate Iranian facilities deep down in the earth. Besides the whole of the Middle East parts of Russia and South Asia would be affected more severely.

            These are a few of the major consequences that have been outlined that would result from a strike on Iran . BRIC, IBSA, SAARC, ASEAN, Shanghai Cooperation Organization and European Union must come out strongly to oppose the course of action that is being contemplated, ‘all options being on the table’. Germany has already voiced its concern. Russia , China and India as well as the UN Secretary General must not only voice their concern but hold urgent consultations to rule out the possibility of any ill-advised military action against Iran . Pressure should continue to be put on the country through sanctions as it is no one’s case that Iran should go nuclear and thereby trigger an arms race in the Middle East . However, when singling out Iran for the type of punishment being talked about for attempting to provide itself with nuclear weapons, it needs to be remembered that the case of Pakistan and North Korea becomes far more serious when measured against the projected Iranian capability in the coming years.

            Last but not least, unilateral action against Iran will send a wrong message to countries that have the potential to cross the nuclear Rubicon, more so when they see what happened to Libya after it gave up its nuclear option. Ditto for North Korea and Pakistan . In the latter case the Pakistani generals only the other day made the not so idle boast that the US dare not take certain actions against Pakistan because ‘we now have nuclear weapons’.

Vinod Saighal

New Delhi , November 9, 2011

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