September 21, 2006

Nature of it all

There's much uproar and outrage over the recent Havana meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and General Parvez Musharraf, and their joint statement. Singh has been called a puppet and shameless, a minor babu and a cipher, lacking a spine and cowardly. Perhaps more, perhaps worse, I can't keep track.

Nevertheless. All of which has left me musing about, among other things, the nature of courage.

In no particular order: which of these, do you think, requires more courage?

  • being hostile and war-like? or searching for peace?

  • pointing fingers? or introspection?

  • seeking approval from all? or risking vicious criticism from some for choosing a path they don't like?

  • doing what others suggest you should? or doing what you believe is right?

  • victimhood? or taking responsibility?

  • continuing distrust? or searching for ways to trust?

  • criticising someone? or trying to understand their motivations and compulsions?

  • holding on to ideas? or trying new thinking?

  • remembering the past? or envisioning a future?

    Anonymous said...

    (hm - Google now seems to have enabled posting by beta bloggers such as I)

    I agree, warmongering requires no courage; peace does. That's why wars are started by the likes of Bush and Cheney, not Gandhi and Mandela.

    That said, I find Manmohan's closeness to Bush more than a little discomforting. One can be pro-America without being pro-Bush. In this case the meeting with Musharraf may (or may not) have been his own initiative, but his other actions and his general refusal to criticise the Bushies give ammunition to his enemies.

    In other respects I admire Manmohan, think he's the best PM that India (or the developing world) has ever had, and wonder how he has lasted this long.

    Was good to meet you yesterday.

    Anonymous said...

    Before the litterbugs attack and start littering up this place again let me put in my two bits.

    If a solution has to be found, the way forward cannot be to sit sulking in a corner and refuse to talk. What did the PM say anyway?

    - That Pakistan is as much a victim of terror. Is this an incorrect statement? Pakistan may have had a hand in creating this monster in the first place, but what is its present internal situation?

    - That a joint anti terror mechanism would be a good idea. Is it not good that Pakistan has agreed to this idea? After all it is not that the PM has conceded that India has been brought to its knees by Pak sponsored terrorism and therefore J&K should be handed over to Pakistan. At worst the proposed mechanism will not lead anywhere. At best it may bring a level of maturity to the dialogue. Let us not forget that joint mechanisms set up between the military on the two sides (at the DGMO level) have, on several occasions in the past, prevented needless escalation of incidents on the border.

    If these "concessions" set the dialogue in motion again that is only to be desired. Mr. Vajpayee had the courage to start the dialogue - not once but twice (Lahore bus and the famous Srinagar speech)- at times when terror attacks were as rampant as they are today. If such starts ultimately lead nowhere should we stop looking for openings?

    What is the critics' solution anyway? Nuke Pakistan?

    Instead of throwing out the baby with the bath water it would be nice if the nay sayers could apply their collective brains and suggest how the latest beginning made at Havana could actually be utilised to work towards a solution.

    Anonymous said...

    All gread idea and grand pie in the sky - till we have next round of blasts. Of course some of us would like to believe that it's handy work of some disgruntled miscreants and not our friendly neighbour oppressed by a ruthless mulla-military junta.

    Try polling those 200 families who have been victims of Mumbai 7/11 blasts and see if they have an opinion. Arm-chair bloggers with opinion are dime-a-dozen.

    Anonymous said...

    Dcubed: You trying to mop up Dr Baru's faux pas? Attempt pretty lame so far; though you should have a promising career in UPA

    Dilip D'Souza said...

    Rahul, the way I see it, there's no politician with whom you can agree entirely on everything. Thus with Manmohan: I am not happy with some of the things that have happened on his watch, I wish he would learn to assert himself more, etc -- but on the whole, like you I think he's a good PM.

    And good to meet you too!

    Pankaj, thanks. You said it better than I can.

    Suresh, there is no, repeat no, correct answer. I did not write it to insult people, just to give you something to think about.

    Anonymous said...

    I wish he would learn to assert himself more
    Looks like Dr Singh is asserting himself very well but only with some types. Read this letter to Asian Age by Mr Raman. As the saying goes - A lion at home and a mouse in front of Mush
    Sir, I read with interest and indignation about the character-assassination campaign against me said to have been launched by Dr Sanjaya Baru, media adviser to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, as reported in your paper (PM’s brusque aide has enemies’ list, September 21).

    I retired from the Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW), Cabinet Secretariat, Government of India as Additional Secretary, on August 31, 1994, and have been living in Chennai since September 20, 1994. Since then, I have been writing regularly on national security issues, including counter-terrorism. I have written nearly 1,000 articles which were carried by many websites, newspapers and journals. I had written over 50 articles criticising the policies of the P.V. Narasimha Rao government, an equal number of articles critical of the policies of the government of Mr A.B. Vajpayee and a smaller number critical of the policies of the governments of Mr Deve Gowda and Mr I.K. Gujral.

    All of them took my criticisms in the right spirit and never once attempted to hit out at me or to damage my credibility by making baseless allegations against me. Mr Narasimha Rao even sent a senior officer to meet me at my residence at Chennai to discuss my criticism of some of his policies relating to telecommunications and national security.

    I also wrote one article in 1999 in which I had referred to some likely implications of Mrs Sonia Gandhi becoming the Prime Minister. I was given to understand by some of my friends in New Delhi that even though she felt deeply hurt by my article, she discouraged her spokesmen from hitting out at me for writing that article. That was very gracious of her.

    Since Dr Manmohan Singh has taken over as Prime Minister in 2004, I have written about 15 articles critical of his policies. These related to the visit of President Pervez Musharraf to New Delhi, the India-US nuclear deal, the visit of President George W. Bush to New Delhi and the concessions made by the Prime Minister to General Pervez Musharraf at Havana on the issue of terrorism.

    While there was no reaction from the PMO to my criticisms relating to Gen. Musharraf’s visit, after I criticised the lack of transparency surrounding the Indo-US nuclear deal and some aspects of the Bush visit, I was told by some of my friends in the government in New Delhi that Dr Baru had launched a character assassination campaign against me describing me as "a cold-warrior who is unable to come out of the cold war era", "an old man who continues to live in the past", "a retired police officer who does not understand strategic issues" etc.

    I was surprised by the virulence of his reported attacks on me and decided to ignore them. After I wrote recently criticising the Prime Minister’s agreement with Musharraf at Havana for an anti-terrorism cooperation mechanism, I was given to understand by my friends in New Delhi that he has launched a fresh character assassination campaign against me by describing me as "Brajesh Mishra’s man", "Narendra Modi’s camp follower" etc. This has been corroborated by the report carried by your paper.

    The last time I met Mr Brajesh Mishra was at a seminar organised by the Observer Research Foundation of New Delhi in October 2004. I used to meet him off and on at the National Security Council Secretariat (NSCS) between July 2000 and December 2002 when I was a member of the National Security Advisory Board (NSAB) appointed by the BJP-led government. Dr Baru was also a member of the NSAB between 1999 and 2001. If my being a member of the NSAB nominated by the Vajpayee government can be interpreted to mean that I was a stooge of Mr Mishra and the BJP, so was Dr Baru.

    The first and the last occasion I met Mr Narendra Modi was at the launching of a book on NGOs at the BJP’s office in New Delhi on September 9, 2006. Before I accepted the invitation, many of my well-wishers in New Delhi had advised me not to accept the invitation to appear on the same platform as Mr Modi since they feared that Dr Baru, who was already carrying on a character assassination campaign against me, would use it in another attempt to destroy my credibility.

    Despite their advice, I decided to accept the invitation and speak on "Globalisation, NGOs and National Security" because the book had been published by VIGIL, a think-tank of Chennai. Even though it is closely associated with the BJP, I and some other retired police officers have a soft corner for it because of the following fact. In 1996, after the counter-terrorism campaign in Punjab led ably by Mr K.P.S. Gill had brought Khalistani terrorism under control, a number of NGOs started a witch-hunt against the officers who had fought valiantly against the terrorists. They dragged them from court to court on charges of human rights violations. Mr Sandhu, a distinguished IPS officer, was so dragged by the NGOs, that he committed suicide by jumping in front of a train.

    All of us — serving and retired police officers — were shocked by the tragedy and even more by the silence of the political class and large sections of the self-assumed elite of Delhi, who did not shed a tear over the suicide of this officer. VIGIL organised a meeting in Chennai to pay tributes to this officer and to highlight the ingratitude of the nation towards those who had fought valiantly against terrorism. It invited Mr Gill to speak on the occasion.

    Many of us were touched by this gesture of VIGIL. Since then, I have never declined any invitation from VIGIL to speak on any forum organised by them. I must say to their credit that on many occasions I had criticised the policies of the BJP at the conferences organised by VIGIL and its office-bearers had taken the criticism in the right spirit. In July 1999, the late J.N. Dixit, the former national security adviser, and I had appeared jointly at a conference organised by VIGIL on the Kargil conflict and criticised the BJP-led government for letting itself be taken by surprise. Everybody in Delhi took the criticism in the right spirit. Nobody tried to assassinate our character. Subsequently, I blasted the BJP-led government for the way it mishandled the hijacking of an IA aircraft in December 1999 and wrote half a dozen articles criticising the handling.

    Nobody let loose the dogs after me. On the contrary, after reading about my criticism, the Prime Minister’s Office invited me to Delhi for a discussion and subsequently nominated me to the NSAB and the Special Task Force for the revamping of the intelligence apparatus.

    For the first time, since the Emergency between 1975 and 1977, one finds such character-assassination campaigns being launched against critics of government policies. There seems to be an inexplicable over-touchiness about any criticism of the way the Prime Minister has been handling India’s relations with the US.

    Is Dr Manmohan Singh’s reputation so fragile that Dr Baru has to stoop to such methods to safeguard it by bullying and intimidating his critics into silence? Is he heading a media relations cell in the PMO or is he running the Gestapo?

    Queasy Rider said...

    Dilip, I think Suresh had a point when he said the questions were framed in a way that makes certain answers seem more rational. To compound matters, you loaded the dice with your endorsement of Dr.Singh's tenure so far as PM (of course you're entitled to your opinions, but it makes the argument look partisan).

    I'm no flag-wrapped jingoist, but I don't see how our PM can trust the Pakistani administration and take such risks, risks that affect the future of the nation. On what basis do we trust Pakistan? Not everyone who is upset with the PM's Havana drama is a warmonger. You and I can smoke the peace pipe all we want and believe what we want. But I expect the PM to have but nothing but national interest in mind.

    We can all keep singing paeans to Dr.Singh's "honesty" and "integrity" till the end of time if that satisfies some, but don't blame those who don't see things the same way you do.

    Dilip D'Souza said...

    Gameboys, what I said was, there is no "correct" answer in each case. There is what I see as "rational" or "correct", of course, but by now, I'm under no illusion that everyone else sees it that way.

    I am trying to present a POV that I have, trying to get readers to ask questions. Why on earth should I pretend that all questions are the same to me? They are not.

    I don't see what this has to do with jingoism. To those who say the PM is spineless, I say: it takes a heck of a lot of spine to negotiate an honourable peace in an atmosphere of mistrust.

    How can we trust Pak, you ask? Well, there's what Ronald Reagan -- whom I otherwise don't have a lot of respect for -- once said about negotiating with the USSR: Trust, but verify.

    What other option is there but to find ways to trust?

    You say, "I expect the PM to have but nothing but national interest in mind."

    What else do you think he has in mind? To me, the supreme national interest (when it comes to our western neighbour) must be a way to live in peace with Pakistan. Enough of my countrymen and Pakistan's countrymen have died because we haven't found that way. Be tough, be fair, work towards peace: I expect no less from my PM.