Sunday, March 28, 2010

Humour: We Learn, They Fall

A popular joke in China making the rounds right now is:
"We learned from the Soviet Union, and it collapsed. We learned from Japan, and it collapsed. We learned from the United States, and it collapsed"

Confucius and Freedom in China

JK at Varnam wrote about the current debate going on China regarding its future direction from the recent past communism. Maoist variety of communism, after taking its brutal toll of about 60-million Chinese, is fairly dead in China. Is the future western democracy, some mix of British or American or European democratic mishmash, that we have in India, amended to death from a 60-year old decent constitution of Dr. Ambadkar, or is it back to Confucius future in China? As JK, Sebastian Mallaby writes in Washington Post that Confucius seems to be winning for the moment:
[Yan Xuetong] quotes the ancient scholar Xun Zi, who taught that great powers must respect others if they aspire to be "as secure as a boulder." Moreover, Yan says, the Chinese tradition requires powerful states to help weak ones. If pirates menace citizens of countries that lack the seapower necessary to fight back, a country with a strong navy has a duty to enforce order on the oceans. If this means that a powerful China will be a benign global cop, its rise may turn out to be welcome.

But Yan's conclusions can also unnerve. He explains, for example, that the Chinese tradition rejects the idea that human life has an intrinsic value. "Not everyone's life is equal," he maintains. "[A]n uncivilized person -- a barbarian -- his life is less meaningful." It follows, Yan says, that a powerful China would see no strong argument for combating a global health crisis such as AIDS. Barbarians are not worth saving.

Might a powerful China want to help barbarians attain a state of civility? Yan says no: In the Christian tradition, missionaries strive to make converts, but in the Confucian tradition, teachers are not supposed to recruit pupils. In the Chinese view, barbarians are welcome to learn from China's example, but if they don't, that's their concern. China will do business with barbarians -- think Zimbabwe, Burma or Sudan -- but it will not try to change them.
There is also a freedom debate going on in China: how dead is communism really in China. With Google deciding to leave China, its co-founder Sergey Brin, who escaped Soviet communism in 1979, says he did it because the current censorship crackdown reminds him of Soviet Union. Yasheng Huang argues, asking Google to reconsider leaving China, comparison with Soviet Union may be a bit of stretch and that Google's presence in China does promote better lives and freedom for Chinese:
Anyone who has spent time online in China can testify that the Internet community there is easily one of the most dynamic and vibrant on Earth. On any issue, there are passionate debates and opinions across the ideological spectrum. Maoists, Hayekians and Confucians trade barbs with insults and zealotry. Blogs by serious intellectuals attract audiences unimaginable in the West. China's market for ideas is enormous. Last month, the Chinese premier, Wen Jiabao, went online and personally answered netizens' questions, even some that, by Chinese standards, were rather blunt. (One answer Wen gave on the real estate market prompted a blogger in China to post all the past statements Wen had made on controlling real estate prices -- alongside an index of rising prices.)

Western observers are fixated on dramas such as the Tiananmen protests and the condition of human rights dissidents. They forget that bread-and-butter issues, such as high housing prices and polluted rivers, now animate citizens as much as ideas of freedom and democracy did two decades ago.

Another point that Indian peddlers of western ideas ignore that the means of communication in China is Chinese, mostly Mandarin.  That itself will ensure that what ever future Chinese decide for themselves, with a strong involvement of state, of course, will be based on Chinese ideas, not borrowed and hoisted ideas that we get from Indian elites who crawl at any idea that emanates from western English world with no indigenous cultural mooring.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

US Behaviour On David Headley

Trying to explain US-India relationship, Pragmatic at Indian National Interest, unfortunately falls for some old markers of the relationship and gives the notion that US has everything to give and India has nothing to offer in the apparent disparate relationship.

We are not so sure. We'll come to what India offers US in the relationship in a little bit. First, we like to remind ourselves that we proposed fairly early on, when the relationship were in the heady phase of nuclear deal and strategic upswing, that US-India relationship was predicated on George W. Bush being president of US. Most commentators thought otherwise - they convinced themselves that it was generational relationship that is independent of US presidency.

Obama's presidency, despite having Hillary Clinton, who has close ties to India community in US, as Secretary of State, is proving to be otherwise in more than one way. To be fair, the trend of Obama's presidency seems to be that US antagonizes its friends and be submissive to its enemies and competitors.

The issue with Headley is more than transactional. If US covers up the one single clearest lead to the deadliest terror attacks of Mumbai 26/11, on Indian soil, what kind of relationship is it - strategic or otherwise? US is behaving like Pakistan lite when it comes Islamic terror emanating from Pakistan region - on LeT, on Headley, on the whole Islamic terror apparatus that is targeting India.

Assume, for a moment, the opposite; that India is in possession of a terrorist who killed 166 Americans. And the terrorist has linkages to Indian security apparatus. Won't US immediately use all available avenues such as diplomatic, military, trade, western media (and ever obliging Indian media) to browbeat India into submission. We would venture further that US would impose economic and military sanctions if India doesn't comply.

The dismay of Indian strategic establishment, and few commentators, even as Indian ruling government dithers on the confusion emanating from Washington, is a non-response compared what Washington would have done if India responded similarly.

By the way, despite what Robert Blackwell, a close Indian friend and voice in Washington circles, had to say about what India wants and India can give, India also reciprocates to US pursuit of strategic relationship with open markets, open visa policy, open trade, nuclear power deals, weapons purchases, and, the latest, very generous nuclear liability bill targeted specifically at US companies

It's incredible to think that India has nothing to offer to US. With US in the economic dumps, and China pushing back on US on trade and currency manipulation, India is the only other large growing market that US companies can look to for future growth.

We don't think we need to undersell ourselves. India should use all avenues to push to get Headley talking, understand global reach of LeT and other Pakistan sponsored Islamic terror apparatus, and, more importantly, take actions to thwart and beat back those terror forces.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Bharatiya Common Currency - In 6th Century BCE

There is a small wing of left wingers who say India is a country by force; that if imperial British did subdue the various kingdoms, we won't have the country we have now and all the states will go their own way. Well, here some proof that subcontinent had common heritage, or at least was a common economic entity, sort of like current Euroland, wait for this, six centuries prior to common era:
...16 princely states in ancient India had a common currency in the sixth century BC, historians say.

Displaying 373 silver punch-marked coins from Vaigainallur, a village in Karur district in Tamil Nadu at the Government Museum here, historians said the coins — found in regions spanning from the Himalayas to Cape Comorin in the Indian sub-continent — could have served as a uniform currency of ancient India.

Most of the coins unearthed from different sites of the sub-continent had similar marks on them, making it probable that they were the earliest common currency in India, the historians said.

Dr T S Sridhar, commissioner of museums, and N Sundarajan, curator, numismatics division, said the coins — unearthed from land belonging to a man, Jayaraman, in 2008 — revealed trade ties between Sangam-age Tamils and the Mauryan empire.

Sundarajan said the coins were circulated throughout the Indian sub-continent before the commencement of the Common Era.

Silver coins were used for large but common transactions, and as a unit of account for taxes, dues, contracts and fealty in ancient India, since the time of the Mahajanapadas.

Five symbols including the sun and the six-armed wheel have been identified on the coins, and it is inferred they were issued by the Magadha dynasty.

“Several Sanskrit writers such as Manu, Panini and the Buddhist Jataka tales have mentioned these coins,” Sundarajan said.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Interpreting A Secular Apologist - M. F. Husain

See our earlier post on this subject including some offending painting of M. F. Husain here.

Here we interpret a secular apologist of M.F. Husain painting. As with most left wing ideological narrative, the core issue is dealt with only tangentially and that too to prove that their role model actually knows more about the subject than the experts on the right side of the debate (the whole Bt Cotton and Bt Brinjal debate was such a debate). The narrative then finds a boogie/straw man, usually RSS or its cohorts - those apparent right wing fascists or fundamentalists - if it's a cultural, historic, or scientific issue , or BJP if it's a political issue, and then the narrative trashes the straw man. Never mind that RSS/BJP usually are exhibit aggressive-passive behaviour - first aggressiveness issuing wild statements and then passivity when questioned by left wing media with selective facts, meaning RSS/BJP rarely have their facts, and thoughts, straight before speaking up for the right.

While the left wing media never consults/interviews/quotes anyone who can think coherently on right wing ideological narrative, they offer plenty of space to left wing ideological narrative and secular apologists. In the recent barrage of news stories and interviews boosting M. F. Husain apparent talent and our apparent lose when he voluntary accepted Qatari citizenship, amidst the cover up of what really offends Hindus, is an interview with one friend of M. F. Husain, Ram Rahman, himself a photographer and designer. We are told Rahman is an activist (is there another kind?) for freedom to speak(!!) and a founding member of the artists body Sahmat and that he laments India's shrinking space for creative freedom (I like to see his defense of Taslima Nasreen - but she's a Bangla!). Here is our interpretation of the interview published in Times of India on Sunday February 28, 2010.

TOI Question:

Left wing ideological narrative (LWIN): What is it about M F Husains clutch of paintings that keeps him away from his country?
Right wing interpretation ( RWI): An opened question by media asking an apologist for tangential answers and beating up the straw man.

First Part:
Rahman's narrative is in two parts: first is to say that M. F Husain is a traditionalist, ie a conservative himself, he's not out of the ordinary and there is nothing new about his painting. But he's special!

LWIN: Husain is one of the few artists who has a popular connect because he comes from a different background. He has crossed every tradition...
RWI: Meaning, he's a conservative or a traditionalist himself.

One of the key standard defense of LWIN is that left wingers themselves are traditionalist or that they are not radical. If they can't find the conservatism in India they usually point to the west, there is always something to find and emulate from the west, and that works perfectly.

LWIN:...worked on every religion,...
RWI: meaning, he painted similar painting of Islam and Christianity as he does of Hinduism, so it's no big deal. We have shown how similar Husain's paintings and interpretations are of Hinduism and Abrahamic religions.

LWIN: ...and mined all iconographic traditions.
RWI: meaning, he studies icons, pictures in depth. The guy knows what he's doing!

LWIN: The irony is that he is not a revolutionary painter: Conceptually, Husain has never transgressed...
RWI: meaning, again, he's a conservative or traditionalist painter. There is nothing out of the ordinary in Husain's paintings, every painter does it.

LWIN: He has reinterpreted existing icongraphy in his own style. That's all.
RWI: meaning, it's just a matter of interpretation, which is his own style. It's no big deal. They don't know what the fuss is about. 

LWIN: But he has a connect. 
RWI: meaning, despite his ordinariness, he's special!

Second Part:
Rahman's second part of the narrative is setting up the straw man - usually that tiny, ignorant, illiterate, facist, and fundamentalist - and then connecting the straw man to a known straw man, an apparent Hindu organization, would make the narrative perfect.

LWIN: There are two issues here. First, the titles of the paintings. Second, the politics of protest. 
RWI: Here the secular apologist is framing the narrative – it's nothing out of ordinary but Husain is special, and here's why he's being maligned unfairly.  Look for Rahman blame others for what Husain painted.

LWIN: Husain named his Durga sketch just that, 'Durga'. 'Durga in union with Lion' is the interpretation on the website of the Janajagruti samiti which run their main campaign against Husain. 
RWI: We hope you got this! Here the secular apologist narrative is into semantic manipulation. Rahman is talking as though Durga is not naked having bestial sex with her ride, the loin. In fact, loin may have been added into the painting by Janajagruti samiti itself – who knows! Surely Husain just painted Durga, because he called his painting that. The fall back is: why does one interpret more than what Husain intended? The narrative says that the core issue now really is about misnomer of the painting, not the painting itself!

LWIN:The title was given by an art critic who didn't have the guts to come out in the open. 
RWI: Again, the fault lies with the title and title giver who interpreted it differently than Husain, not the painting or painter. Also the narrative is such that an art critic, some unknown boogie man, is the frightened man, not Husain who left the India and became a citizen of a professed Islamic country, instead of fighting for what he believes in, which is hatred of Hinduism, in Indian courts, which we think would have obliged him.

LWIN: Husain is not stupid. He knows his Ramayana better than many pundits. He was making a flying Hanuman. The title is incorrect. Did Hanuman rescue Sita. No....
RWI: This is title of the interview in the newspaper, meaning, for people who glanced the title and move on, Husain paintings are real interpretation of Hinduism!!  This classic defense of all secularists and communists – who just simply make up stuff from thin air - that they actually know more about a subject than the analysts who base their information on facts. We see this defense of left wing ideology repeatedly on free markets, open trade, defense issues, and, of course, on culture and religion issues. This is exactly why we, the right wing narrative has to be based on facts because liberal secularists talking points are based on fiction. 

Painting in this case is the naked Sita Devi sitting on naked Ravana's thigh with Hanuman watching. The issue that this secular apologist brings up is: Did Hanuman rescue Sita? Obviously, according to Ramayana, Hanuman came in search of Sita and he was ready to take Sita back to Rama. Sita declined to go with Hanuman and wanted Rama to come rescue her from Ravana. The point is that Sita Devi is immensely respected in Hinduism for her piousness, for her fidelity to her marriage to Rama, and she would never do anything to shed her modesty. Not only that, Ramayana itself makes clear that Ravana himself, a Shiva bhakti, is a man of character. Although the enraged Ravana abducted Sita and wanted her to marry him, he was perfectly willing to wait until Sita changed her mind about him. He did not go naked in front of Sita, dangling his penis, and Sita, enamored by his naked body, did not get close to him. But we are told by Times of India and their secular apologist that Husain knows his Ramayana better than Hindu pundits themselves. 

In this secular apologist view of the painting, pictures of which they could have easily published along with the interview, available on our blog, the painting didn't even have Sita and Ravana, both of them naked, on it. It was just flying Hanuman and nothing else was on the painting! The lies that secularists speak and media that publish are amazing!

LWIN: The reaction is the work of powerful rumour propaganda machinery, the RSS's...
RWI:  And then comes the pitsy (intellectually) little RSS as the fall guy - that powerful rumour propaganda machine!! So the narrative went from Janajagruti samiti to RSS – that apparent famous Hindu fundamentalist organization that organizes for the sake of organizing and that which has done nothing for Hindus or fundamental since its inception some 85 years ago.

LWIN: ...The Saraswati drawing was 20 years old when it was picked up ..., several years ago...Only when commual politics was allowed to grow was the furore allowed to grow...Husain is the perfect target for communal politics.
RWI: The earlier nonsense is followed by irrelevant information – that a rich Hindu actually first commissioned Husain Ramayana paintings – there is no way to verify this information.  Then it is followed by turning the tables: while Husain's work has no expiration date the people who are offended shouldn't be beyond a certain time.  Meaning, it's Hindus fault that Husain painted what he did. In fact, his paintings don't represent hatred of Hindus until Hindus, who were offended, pointed them out for their own religious gains. As in the left wing standard narrative, the hater becomes the victim and the object of hate becomes the perpetrator.

This part of the narrative is the most important part. It turns the entire issue upside down - this is, again, a classic strategy of the left wing ideological narrative: after setting the narrative background that the left wingers are not radical, that they know more about the subject than knowledgeable right wingers, that right wingers themselves liked the offending material, and finally the offended party becomes the guilty party!!

One can go on about the nonsensical interview of the secular apologist in Times of India (which gave no space give to the opposing view). It is one illustration of the classic secular and liberal media narrative. This is exactly what we have fight. And we can't do that by being centrist. We have to offer an alternative fact, analysis, and commentary based right wing narrative to herds the cattle and bulls to our side. The politics will take care of it by itself.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Saudi's Historic Islamic Terror Connections And Our Engagement

We proposed India should try and enroll Saudi Arabia for quite go-between for India during India- Pakistan negotiations. B. Raman provides a historic context to Saudi's support of Islamic jihad since the 80s.

Like Pakistan, Saudi Arabia has been following a dual policy on terrorism. It has taken ruthless action against Al Qaeda elements posing a threat to its internal security. At the same time, it has avoided taking action against Wahabi organizations which have been supporting terrorism in other countries. Many of the so-called charity organizations, which have been funding terrorist organizations in other countries including India and Bangladesh, are of Saudi origin. Despite international pressure on Saudi Arabia to act against such charity organizations and stop the flow of funds to global jihadi terrorism, the action taken by the Saudi authorities has been unsatisfactory.

While Saudi officially did support jihad extensively for decades, we are not sure they still do, especially after some terrorist groups tried to take over the main mosque in a siege. But there are plenty of Saudis individuals who engage in and fund Islamic terror. And, of course, Saudi funded Wahhabi centers in India, and across the globe, are fountain heads for funding and supporting Islamic terror.

We are still inclined to think Saudi quite involvement would be a non-negative for negotiations and sustained peace between India and Pakistan. Our arguments made earlier still stands. Indian government has to be vigilant if such a path is invoked and not get complacent about Saudi's involvement. But the path is less riddled by pot holes than using US has the current presumed mediator. Engagement with US is a well worn path and we understand how they think and act. With Saudi Arabia, we have to be mindful of the many unintended consequences of this engagement and quite mediation and pull back if things are going bad from our vantage.

Monday, March 1, 2010

How Lord Venkateswara Helped Fight Indira's Tyranny in 1974

Remembering Nanaji Deshmukh, RSS and Jan Sangh leader, and founder of mostly defunct Deendayal Research Institute, a think tank, on the eve of his death, at age 94, S. Gurumurthy recalled a remarkable story that Nanaji narrated to him about what lead Jay Prakash Narayan to lead the fight against the absolutely corrupt and tyrannical Indira Gandhi's rule in early 1970, when she rolled out her socialist programs, destroying the already dying Nehru's command economy, and destroyed the constitutional separation of judiciary and executive branch. (Does communism and socialism exist in another kind?)

An incredible incident made Jayaprakash Narayan to agree to the plea of Nanaji and Ramnathji to lead the movement against Indira Gandhi. I came to know of this in the late 1980s when at a dinner in the Express Towers in Bombay I asked Nanaji and Ramnathji how they brought JP into the movement. Nanaji described the thrilling and unbelievable episode. A historic meeting of Ramnathji, Nanaji, Achyut Patwardhan, the hero of the 1942 underground movement and Ramdhari Singh Dinkar, a great Hindi poet, took place sometime in 1973 in the Indian Express Guest House in Bangalore. Ramnathji, Nanaji, Ramdhari Singh Dinkar and Achyut Patwardhan, began insisting that JP should lead the movement as Indira Gandhi had become highly autocratic and had begun destroying the institutional framework of democracy including the judiciary and bureaucracy. Incidentally, Dinkar was one of the greatest friends of the Nehru family and particularly of Indira Gandhi herself. But that did not detract him from doing what he thought was his duty to the nation. JP was hesitant mainly because of his health. He was a diabetic and had acute prostrate gland issues. He said that he would not be able to live for long and his health did not permit him to undertake such an arduous task. Ramnathji assured him that he would have his prostrate operation done in Vellore, which he eventually got done later. But JP could still not make up his mind. At that point, Ramnathji suggested that all of them should go to Tirupati, have darshan and prayers and from there, go to Madras as it was known then, and continue the discussions. And they all left for Tirupati.

During the darshan at Tirupati, Ramdhari Singh Dinkar openly prayed to Lord Balaji, to the hearing of JP and the others, that whatever remaining years of life Dinkar had the Lord should give them to JP to help him serve the cause of the motherland. And they all returned to Madras and to Ramnathji’s house in the Express Estates in Mount Road. Within hours Ramdhari Singh Dinkar fell on the lap of Ramnath Goenka and died — yes he died when JP, Nanaji and Achyut Patwardhan were around. It was clear that Lord Balaji had answered Dinkar’s prayers. JP’s decision to lead the movement came in no time. Despite my several requests Nanaji had refused to write about it in the Indian Express. When I asked him how will the people of India know about it, he said that he had written in his diary and he would like it to be known after his death. Now that he is no more I felt free to write about it.

Bring Saudi Arabia into IBSA Before Making it a Mediator in Indo-Pak Dialogue

Getting Saudi Arabia to Play a Fair and Quite Role is Key

Despite Sashi Tharoor pronouncements and retractions, we are sure India has sought Saudi Arabia's help in reining in various Islamic terrorists groups supported by Pakistan that create death and destruction in Indian cities with regular frequency. Saudi is the main financier of increasingly bankrupt and strife-ridden Pakistan. Being an Islamic country that doesn't think that it's the greatest gift to mankind, with immense oil and energy resources, and influence in Pakistan, unlike the erratic US, Saudi may actually be a asset to India during it's long winding and ever changing negotiations with Pakistan.

Saudi would surely be better than China in the role of quite mediator - for example, India could have talked to Pakistan via Saudi, quietly, instead of via US, which ends up using the situation for its own advantage, on what Pakistan was willing to do, soon after Mumbai Islamic terror attacks on 26/11. May be Pakistan will not play so many double games if it gives its word to Muslim Saudi instead of to Christian US - when Pakistan follows Islamic practice of lying to non-Muslims to win a battle/war (we forget the exact Quranic word that convey the meaning of this war/negotiation strategy of Islamic groups/countries). In fact, assurances made to Pakistan to Saudi may be more binding then those made to US or India.

Of course Saudi, being an Islamic country itself, may also practice the art of lying to non-Muslim India. But we would like to think Saudi, if it does so, has more to lose strategically and financially unlike morally bankrupt Pakistan. To bring Saudi into that strategic and financial reliance on India, we must first open up to Saudi Arabia.

While the current visit by Manmohan Singh, first visit by Indian PM since Indira in 1982, has been well received, despite Tharoor tamasha, we have to go a step further.

"We deeply value Saudi Arabia's role as a reliable partner in meeting our energy needs. We believe that conditions are ripe for moving beyond a traditional buyer-seller relationship to a comprehensive energy partnership," he [PM] said.

"India sees Saudi Arabia as a strategic partner for promoting peace, stability and economic development. Such a partnership will bring benefits not only to our two countries but to the region we both belong to, and to the world at large," the PM said.

The Saudi industry captains said India should grant multi-entry visa to ease movement of businessmen and clear hurdles in investment funds. They said there was tremendous scope for cooperation in the oil, power and IT sectors.
Singh said Indian companies are well-equipped to participate in upstream and downstream oil and gas sector projects in Saudi Arabia. "We should also establish new partnerships in the area of new and renewable energy through sharing of clean technologies and joint collaborations," he said.

Saudi Arabia is India's fourth largest trading partner with two-way commerce being to the tune of about $ 25 billion.

We should have, after consulting with South Africa and Brazil, brought Saudi Arabia into the IBSA strategic initiative as Saudi is also a major littoral state. IBSA has been one Indian initiative that has been a success and has potential to be substantive if we play it right. Bringing in Saudi into a strategic framework of a global group would make Saudi a responsible and viable country. Saudi would then, one would hope, play a fair and quite mediator role between the troubled Pakistan with its negotiations with India.

We see little downside to Saudi being a quite go in-between between India and Pakistan. Surely Saudi would play the role much better than US or China. But in order for Saudi Arabia to play its role fairly, we should bring Saudi along to the global stage and take the relationship beyond an economic one.