The Indian capital of New Delhi was hit Saturday
with three simultaneous bombs in marketplaces
filled with citizens belonging to the middle and
lower middle classes, killing 58 and injuring
hundreds. In every incident the explosives were
said to have been placed in a rickshaw or a
motorcycle. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has
denounced the terrorism, thankfully without any
reference to Pakistan; and Pakistan has denounced
it in the strongest, and thankfully most
unequivocal, terms. Even the BJP opposition in
parliament, while blaming the government for
ignoring earlier signs of terrorism, has
abstained from naming any organisation in
Pakistan. Experts in New Delhi have pointed the
finger at non-Pakistani organisations active in
India's northeast and in Held Kashmir that are
opposed to the Indo-Pak normalisation process.
Meanwhile, in Islamabad, after some anxious hours
of deliberation, the two countries went ahead and
agreed to open five points on the Line of Control
to facilitate relief operations in the areas of
Azad Kashmir devastated by the October 8
That the two sides are not jumping to conclusions and have decided to wait and see what kind of evidence emerges is a good sign. New Delhi clearly wants to finish questioning the suspects it has caught before "guessing" at whodunnit. Pakistan has most vehemently condemned the bombings and said they are an attempt to sabotage the peace process, a process that has stayed the hands of formerly rash alarmists in India. The formerly defiant All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC), for example, has engaged in dialogue with the Indian prime minister and been allowed freer travel in and out of Kashmir than in the past. There is also a clearer understanding in both countries about elements on both sides that find it against their self-interest that the two countries should start patching up and settling their old, deadlocked disputes. So, despite there being much to jerk the two back into the old rut of accusations and counter accusations, the process continues.
Terrorism experts have already looked at the pattern of near-simultaneous explosions adopted as a technique by Islamist terrorists in Iraq, Pakistan and Indonesia and opined that it could be the same elements once again. Pakistan itself experienced similar near-simultaneous bombings in Lahore only last month. On September 22 "bicycle" blasts at two markets in Lahore killed seven and wounded many. The police arrested two men and a couple, which "may lead the police to the bombers". The two men were arrested in Sadiqabad in southern Punjab with explosives and other bomb-making material, and on their information, a man and a woman were arrested from Lahore. The couple were originally from Jacobabad in Sindh and had been living near Lahore's Data Darbar shrine in a rented house. Police also seized Rs 200,000 in cash and found some "important" telephone numbers on them. The first reflex was to see the hand of the Indian RAW in the bombings, but there was also a doubt that organisations opposed to the Indo-Pak normalisation and provoked by Pakistan's contacts with Israel could have done it. Finally, there were some members of the "militant groups" among the 35 arrested who are being questioned by the police.
In the past, India and Pakistan have not tried to understand the true dimensions of terrorism and have blamed each other for acts performed by organisations not controlled by any state. India's position has been that even the "out-of-control" groups were somehow Pakistan's responsibility. This meant ignoring the importance of cooperating with Pakistan to get rid of them. For example, the 2001 attack on the Indian parliament was finally discovered to have been the work of a defiant group of terrorists that had got out of hand in Pakistan. But the incident led to a period of extreme tension between Pakistan and India, with both amassing troops on the border. Pakistan's denial of complicity was held unacceptable by India, although most Pakistanis were not ready to believe that any Pakistan-based group had done it. In 2003, however, the true dimension of what the two countries were faced with began to become clear after President Pervez Musharraf was attacked by the very organisations accused of the New Delhi attack. In 2004, President Musharraf and Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz were both attacked again, not by RAW but by the jihadists working for Al Qaeda.
After the leaders of India and Pakistan began to lower the bilateral temperature in 2003, a better understanding of the nature of terrorism began to dawn on both sides. We now learn that there is no uproar about the pending sentence that a Delhi court is about to deliver to seven terrorists (one of them allegedly Pakistani) who had attacked the Red Fort in 2000. The men under trial are all Muslims and may be connected to the extremist organisations that have been forming in India. Apart from extremist elements in Held Kashmir, most Indian Muslims have by and large held aloof from terrorism. Indeed, now that New Delhi has started talking to the APHC, the chances are that the dangerous fringe organisations may become isolated to such an extent that acts of terrorism will no longer be popular.
Meanwhile, as if forming a backdrop to what is happening in the east in India, Pakistan's south-western province of Balochistan continues to languish in the grip of terrorism. On Saturday, as Islamabad condemned the New Delhi attacks, the gas pipeline serving the capital city of Quetta was blown up for the second time. Needless to say, it is advisable not to start accusing RAW and the Indian consulates in Afghanistan just because it looks plausible. This "plausibility" game has muddied the waters in the past. Both sides must avoid this reflex if the process of normalisation is to be saved.
FINE, OK, I get it. I'm obsessed with Kashmir.
Viewers, television critics, policy-makers, col
leagues and competitors, have all bemoaned my
insatiable appetite for tracking which way the chinar
But this fortnight the chinar, quite literally, fell to the resounding sound of silence. The emotional indifference to the earthquake across much of India left me stunned. Almost as if when the earth moved in the Valley, the rest of us were unmoved, looking on with the same weariness, that same glazed _expression that we wear when thousands die in some unpronounceable part of China, or Africa. Far away. Somewhere else. Not our own.
As journalists, you often look for the one face that captures the hidden depths of a tragedy; that one narrative that breaks down the wall of indifference between the story and its audience. Usually, it's children. Tracking the tsunami, I met a six-monthold baby, born blind, to parents who had saved all year to have him operated on -- their money and hopes had now been swept ashore. But equally overwhelming was the tidal wave of help, as people wrote out blank cheques, doctors volunteered, hospitals waived fees and families wanted to adopt Baby Sukumar. Many just wrote to say they had wept.
This time in Srinagar, I met Ishfaq. A miracle rescue of the quake, bright-eyed and precocious, he asked the prime minister why he had come visiting without chocolates. When the eight-year-old was airlifted into the army hospital, his abdomen had been ripped apart, his pulse was dead, and worse, there was no sign that his parents had survived.
Doctors battled to drain two litres of blood from his tiny frame to save a boy who had caught their imagination. The day we met Ishfaq, he had serendipitously been reunited with his father, an ageing schoolteacher, who came to the hospital after burying his other son in the village grave. Ishfaq told us, he had always dreamt of being a doctor. It was a compelling story, of heartbreak and hope, of sadness and succour, one we hoped would register on a different kind of Richter scale. It never quite happened. Our emotionally seismic ride was essentially our own, a lonely one.
I kept thinking, why was it that the desolation of coastal fisherfolk in Tamil Nadu had managed to sear through the thick wall of urban indifference, but here in Kashmir, we were still struggling?
Kashmir's relentless violence and tragedy has, in a sense, underlined its beauty, adding soul and pathos to mere good looks. To make our way to the ravaged township of Uri, we would drive down what's arguably the most breathtaking stretch of road in the country; the same one on which Shammi Kapoor courted Sharmila Tagore, and countless other screen romances were mapped.
But there were no film stars to be seen. No Vivek Oberoi to adopt a village, no Rahul Bose to raise money, no Shah Rukh Khan at the PM's residence. The contrast with the reaction after the tsunami could not have been more stark.
And it's a poorly-kept secret that apart from notable worthies like Infosys, the PM had to personally nudge and elbow Corporate India into action. Ajai Shriram astutely pointed out that business houses had responded with more alacrity after the Bhuj earthquake because, after all, they had a presence in Gujarat, unlike Kashmir, where, industry is still negligible.
I've heard the other theory. Disaster fatigue, said most. Indians were simply spent. But was the truth just a little more awkward? Is it simply, because it was Kashmir?
Some of it makes sense. First, there's terrorism. Life simply isn't worth risking for people who may be ready to volunteer otherwise, as hundreds did in Tamil Nadu.
But there's another unspoken reason. Many people privately argue that they just can't be bothered about a people whose loyalty to India they question. The more bigoted among them may go so far as to whisper, "These Muslims..."
This is exactly the problem. We can't care about a people, and fight four wars (counting Kargil) over Kashmir. We can't go into a paroxysm of middle-class rage over why the state has its own constitution and flag, but passively flip the channel to Desperate Housewives when we learn that two lakh people in Kashmir are without a home and are sleeping out in the open; we can't want the land, and disclaim responsibility for a scarred relationship with its people, and we can't want dividends, without being stakeholders in Kashmir's future.
Equally, the ordinary Kashmiri who points at the indifference of the rest of the country needs to look inward. The domestic discourse in the Valley is still dressed up in much hypocrisy. A people who have always seen the army as the enemy now find themselves entirely dependent on the military for earthquake relief. Sure, extreme circumstances don't erase past transgressions and viola tions by men in uniform. But rehearsed conspiracy theories and irresponsible local editorials against the military's role in earthquake relief have a false, distasteful ring to them. Uri exists alongside Chittisinghpora, in Kashmir's complex, blood-soaked history. The lazy slotting of victims and villains just doesn't hold in a shifting society; truth lives in shades of grey.
It's also time for the Valley to be more vocal about violence, to rip off the shroud of silence and let the men who were beast enough to kill a firsttime politician last week know that there is no constituency for them.
The problem is sometimes you need emotional confidence and a sense of belonging to speak up. Trapped between the battlelines all these years, most Kashmiris have been pummelled into a self-defeating passiveness.
Perhaps it comes from carrying the burden of a grief, that is unique and thus isolating. In which other state would an archaic rule that forbids direct dialling from `our' Kashmir to `theirs' become one more element of an unfolding tragedy.
Before the prime minister intervened to have phone lines across the LoC operational, we connected divided families via satellite, through a crackly audio line. One man discovered on live television that his sister in Muzaffarabad had died. I watched the lines on his face change -- silent, in shock and, above all, so alone. Would the pain of that moment make him more assertive for his own future, or simply push him into philosophical resignation?
In the end, fuzzy as it sounds, it really is all about dotting the lines on a battered drawing board. Connecting people, not just across the LoC, but bridging the great divide within.
With his mop of untidy curls, and his shy, but cheeky smile, Qazi Tauqeer, the boy from Srinagar who made the giant leap to national iconhood, is one such example. Fifteen million Indians voted to make him the winner of Sony TV's Fame Gurukul. He now must sing for us all.
The US and India have recently come up with a deal so shamelessly dirty that everyone should know about it. It illustrates the naked self-interest of regimes that always do the opposite of what they say, and what really drives their foreign policy.
Earlier this year the current government of India signed a major contract with the Iranian regime to build a gas pipeline between the two countries. India's present government, led by the Congress Party and including two parties that falsely call themselves Marxist, held this up as proof that it is different than the slavishly pro-US flunkies previously in office. India is now a temporary UN Security Council member, and bidding for a permanent seat - supposedly as a representative of the third world. Some people hoped India would use its present Security Council position to block the US's attempts to use the UN to bring about regime change in Iran. But just the opposite happened.
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visited Washington in July and signed a 'strategic partnership' agreement with the US. In this context, President George W. Bush promised India access to American nuclear technology. In return, Singh agreed that India would support the US against Iran at the UN. In a reversal of what many people expected, on 24 September India supported a US resolution at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in favour of referring Iran to the UN Security Council for punishment if it refused to drop its nuclear programme. Right now US under secretary of state R. Nicholas Burns is in Delhi working out the details of just what the Indian regime will get as a reward. India is expected to vote with the US at a second vote in November. Most importantly, India's vote at the IAEA was a signal of the position it intends to take in the Security Council itself.
Bush's offer of nuclear technology to India came at exactly the same time as the US was pressing the IAEA to put Iran on the road to Security Council sanctions. Using a similar excuse about what turned out to be non-existent 'weapons of mass destruction', the US also used the Security Council-imposed economic embargo to weaken Saddam Hussein's regime. In the case of Iraq, this helped prepare the ground for an eventual invasion. Now the US is looking for any excuse it can find to overturn an Iranian regime that doesn't suit its present goals of more direct and open domination of the Middle East.
Let's look at the facts about Iran and India in relation to nukes. Iran is a signer of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Pact. Under international law it has every right to operate nuclear power plants and it invited UN inspectors to verify that it is not making bombs. India refused to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and, as the Maoists of the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) (Naxalbari) put it, 'started an arms race in South Asia'. India held its first atomic test explosion in 1974 for what it claimed were 'peaceful purposes'. Then in 1998 it exploded another one, this time bragging that it had become a nuclear weapons state. Why does the US support India's right to nuclear weapons and oppose letting Iran even make electricity with uranium?
It is true that the nature of nuclear programmes is such that there is no wall between peaceful and warlike uses of the process of splitting atoms. The knowledge and technology developed in making nuclear power plants can be used to make bombs. That's one basic reason why the US and every imperialist country - those that openly have atomic weapons and those that don't - put so much emphasis on atomic energy plants. But stopping nuclear proliferation or reducing the chances of a horrendous nuclear war have nothing to do with the US's position or India's sudden apparent shift. The US claims the right - based on its military might - to reward and punish countries by telling some they can have atomic weapons and, in the case of others, using alleged efforts to attain such weapons as an excuse for imposing 'regime change'.
The US cut India off from American technology in the 1970s when India was in the orbit of the USSR. American law dating from that decade bans any US nuclear cooperation with India because of India's nuclear weapons. This makes Bush's promises to India illegal - a technicality he says he'll get around by having Congress change the law before anything is actually shipped. What the US is giving India now is not technology but its blessing - acceptance of India as a member of the nuclear club. The reason for this policy shift is that the US feels it can consolidate India as 'the new outpost of the US in South Asia', as the CPI(ML) (Naxalbari) said in a 14 September press release. 'This surrender is a logical culmination of the foreign policies adopted by the various governments in power at the Centre. If a total sell-out of the country to the US imperialists was effected during NDA [the previous government], a total surrender is now shamefully endorsed during the present UPA government.' 'There exists no such thing as non-alignment in a US-dominated unipolar world and India's foreign policy was always tied up to one or the other imperialist power,' Naxalbari continues. Putting 'India firmly in the US orbit', it said, 'serves Indian expansionism.'
The US's attitude toward Pakistan's nukes is another illustration of American motives. UN weapons inspectors had found traces of enriched uranium on nuclear centrifuges Iran had bought second-hand. The regime claimed it had not used them to obtain the advanced levels of enrichment necessary for making weapons. For many months the US used this as its main argument why Iran should be punished. But it turned out that the traces on the centrifuges came from Pakistan's use of them to make enriched uranium for bombs before they sold the centrifuges to Iran. Instead of criticising Pakistan for doing what the US forbids Iran to do, the US dropped the whole matter. Pakistan's Islamic military dictatorship is now also an important American ally, along with its rival India - and while the US has always encouraged that rivalry to facilitate its domination of both countries the US intends to keep both regimes in its pocket.
It should be noted that while supporting atomic weapons in India and Pakistan, the US also wants to forbid North Korea to have any capacity for self-sustaining nuclear energy. Also, all the UN Security Council members are engaged in a conspiracy of silence about one of the world's most dangerous nuclear-armed rogue regimes, Israel, with whom Pakistan is becoming closer and closer in parallel with its arrangements with the US.
While the US uses the 'nuclear card' to reward and punish regimes according to its imperialist interests, it remains by far the world's biggest holder of nukes, the only country ever to have used them and the only one that could imagine itself winning a nuclear war. In all of these cases, the goal of American policy is the same - world domination.
Well timed in the evening, targeting Eid and
Diwali shoppers for dramatic effect, the three
bomb blasts in Delhi’s three most populous and
popular areas on Oct.28 destroyed far more than
only 70 innocent lives and over 115 injured.
Whose purpose this wanton massacre served, how it
advanced a cause, whom the criminals sought to
avenge, whom they so brutally taught a lesson,
whether this is a prologue to the series of
blasts in gestation, and where and when next – we
will never know, because our law and order
machinery is unwilling and unable to probe it
all. As has been the practice thus far, glibly or
sagely it can all be laid at the doors of ISI,
Lashkar-e-Taiba, and, of course, the ubiquitous
monster Al Qaeda, which goes on getting invented
endlessly for a multiplicity of purposes and by a
slew of ever ready users.
First, the police alacrity post-blasts. The whole city was covered with police patrol. Isn’t that something the citizenry is expected to be grateful for? Why the intelligence failed to prime itself prior to the mayhem, or why it did not consider posting patrols in the dense shopping centres when it had received intimations of such threats materializing soon, which was what it could and should have done as the most minimum required in the name of civil safety, passes understanding. But, the establishment will not admit it was careless or clueless or incompetent.
The other, ancillary question, from just not the usual run of skeptics. Why was this carnage timed to burn and blacken the bonhomie increasingly gathering strength and volume between the peoples of Pakistan and India? Whoever did it must have a vested interest in keeping the jihadi or patriotic pot boiling. Not above suspicion are the two nations’ institutional cabals of warmongers who, with peace and normalcy prospectively regnant, will be grievously bereft of their vested interest, their venal cause. These cabals can be political heavyweights, political parties, and the entrenched bureaucracies of the two nations who have to upstage each other just for the fun of it- grandstanding, keeping the other flustered and short of breath are such pure fun in underhand politicking!
One aspect that by some unwritten but suspicious compact, always gets omitted from consideration, both in the media and government circles, is the Modi Factor. This is a small name for a large but lethal enterprise. The enterprise is Hindutva : liquidation of minorities in well-planned series of massacres, seemingly random, localized, and dressed up as “reaction”. This experiment of ethnic cleansing has signally succeeded in Gujarat. The plight of Gujarat Muslims ever since the 2002 genocide has remained abysmal, if the recent reports of Kuldip Nayar and Harsh Mander are any guide.
No criminals were punished. Killers, rapists, arsonists, thugs and assassins were lionized as Hindu heroes. The saffronazi cult of crime and the dagger-invested brotherhood of mobsters, upgraded, the former as Hindu religion and the latter as its exemplars, were admitted, without any shame or apology or remorse, into national polity as legitimate constituents. It is this which on the one hand has led to a feeling of helplessness and humiliation among the victims and survivors, the state reduced in this perception as complicit or co-sponsor of the crimes of Hindu terrorists, and on the other a very starkly demonstrable proof of a failed state catering with determination to the interests of fascist gangsters and theo-terrorists, which cannot be confronted other than by its own methods of terror and tyranny, indiscriminate, endless, and unrelenting.
The continual murders of Christians all over and their churches being vandalized and burnt, the non-stop murders of Muslims, more grimly and recurrently in western UP, the calls by Hindu outfits on BJP aggressively to pursue the Hindutva agenda, their main warlord Sudarshan’s assertion that there are no minorities in India except Parsis and Jews, and any slight concession to justice or even a modicum of legalistic equality in bourgeois terms is tantamount to appeasement, none of them being arrested or prosecuted for harboring killers and funding criminals – all the mounting congeries of ever swelling volume of violence and terror against the minorities stresses the obvious repeatedly that the state in India is mired in a big failure, and that violence prevails both to undermine the state constitutionally and to indulge in ethnic cleansing with impunity.
Whether the government at the centre was BJP’s is immaterial in so far as the constitutional safeguards were concerned in the case of Gujarat. There was a glaring case for the President to dismiss the delinquent government of Vajpayee. Then, the UPA government in New Delhi could have remedied the situation by kicking out Modi government. But, popular, “democratically elected” government seemed to have held UPA’s hand. There was no such compunction on the part of Congress when it had sacked the Kerala government of Namboodiripad on far trivial excuses in the 1950s.
In the Hindutva book Red Indians are not a minority because they belonged to the land. That they were massacred in millions to render them into a besieged minority is not a fact to bother him. That 1 million Armenians and 30,000 Kurds were killed in Turkey’s genocide by state connivance and sponsorship in 1917 too would not matter to him, despite the fact that both had lived there for hundreds of years. He would refuse to see they were the minorities singled out for liquidation just as Hindutva has singled out Christians and Muslims.
Whether this violence was a plant or a vengeance of the weak we will perhaps never know. But, if we seek to have a grip on the situation, we will have to look deeper, look farther. What our police and military are capable of in terms of cold blooded murder in the lock up or fake encounters is public knowledge. Our army excelled itself in Chattisinghpura in Kashmir by slaughtering in cold blood 24 Sikhs and laying the crime at the doors of the militants, the more savagely to pursue them and win awards. Such plants are endemic to the institutional imperatives of a repressive state.
As to vengeance. Those guilty of the murders of Christians, those guilty of the genocide in Gujarat 2002, those killing Dalits and adivasis in various urban and rural locations, must be seen punished, or the state would seem to have nullified itself. It is the frustration of the victims which may be stirring, however blindly, to resort to these wanton acts of terror. The perpetrators may not even care if they are thus helping the victims of state terror or inducing the state to intensify its regime of unremitting terrorism on the minorities. Did the shoppers in Paharganj, Govindpuri, and Sarojini Nagar not include Muslims?
Two issues that are not so apart must be broached here. BJP has denounced Punjab government for the statues of seven terrorists in Ludhiana. It should have begun with denouncing itself for the two statues raised in Gujarat to its own terrorists. Two, have we not failed, as in Gujarat, to validate our claims and honor the constitutional guarantees in the case of Kashmir pulverized by quake? Have we done enough, and fast, and well to reach people there the much needed help and succor? Or, the Hindu “majority (a fiction) is happy to get Kashmir, but cleansed by nature of thousands of Muslims? These utterances are not limited to a crazy fringe in India any more. And, they unmask us both as a state and tarnish us a society. The report of our national endeavor there are not upbeat (Yogi Sikand: countercurrents.org).
Rounding up of Muslim youths following each such mayhem, torturing them, destroying their families with violent meanness and reckless mendacity, concluding even without any preliminary inquiry of substance that it was Al Qaeda or Lashkar-i-Tayyeba which caused the blasts, is, to put it mildly, both to revel in dereliction of duty, and promote terrorism for establishmentarian ends.
This is a disaster that comes with the sting of
winter in its tail; a disaster that has no early
closure. The projections are dire and compelling.
Some 8,00,000 are without shelter in the high
mountains and are extremely unlikely to have an
effective roof over their heads before snow cuts
off the area. The fate of these millions -
babies, women, the elderly, the seriously injured
and handicapped - are at best tenuous; at worst,
We cannot of course choose where a disaster should strike. But there cannot be any dispute that the October 8 earthquake - said to cover 20,000 square kilometers, stretching from Afghanistan to India -- marked one of the worst sites on the face of the earth to manifest itself. Much of the affected region is ensconced within the treacherous folds of the Hindukush-Karakoram ranges. Unlike the December 26 tsunami, which hit tourist-friendly regions and therefore rang alarm bells in every capital of the world, these are inhospitable heights inaccessible to all but the most intrepid journalist and relief organisation.
But greatly more unfortunate than its geographic location is its location on the political map of the region. Large swathes of the affected area comprise one of the most bitterly contested regions in the world, the site of bloody wars and unrelenting militancy. It is a terrain that best resembles a freezing tundra. Nothing grows on these icy wastes of supposed national interest but a constantly renewable harvest of outdated policy formulations, static posturing, and television soundbites which carry the ubiquitous stench of mutual hostility.
In the first flush of the surprise and horror engendered by the earthquake, there were some words exchanged between India and Pakistan which gave rise to the hope that the unfortunate calamity would perhaps have some mitigating consequences. That it would actually forge a shared bond of cooperation, a shared sense of purpose; that there would be an escape for at least a short spell from the prison house of the past. Those expectations were quickly belied, as each side reverted to type and official lips unleashed words like "sensitivities" and "realities". There are sensitivities to consider, observes Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf; it is a question of reality, no room for romanticism, pronounces Indian Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee, even as both natter on in the same breath about the need to provide "urgent help" to the "hapless victims". Every move that each side proposes is carefully weighed in the scales of precedent, scrupulously jotted down in the debit and credit columns of each nation's balance sheet.
Indian helicopters are welcomed by Pakistan but without Indian army personnel piloting them; or Pakistan's proposal for five relief centres along the LoC must necessarily be pared down to three by India. Meanwhile we continue to turn the screws, each on the other. Rhetoric over F-16s, A.Q. Khan, Gilgit, lace the air and is in imminent threat of degenerating into confrontationist positions. Our army bunkers may not be quake proof. Not so the adamantine matrix of Indo-Pak diplomacy. It is built to withstand the shifts and eddies of the passing decades, reinforced brick by verbal brick, on an 58-year-old blueprint based on mistrust and equivalence. At its centre, lies the unfortunate region of Kashmir.
There is another aspect to this exchange that Smruti S. Pattanaik, a scholar in international relations, highlighted in her study, /Elite Perceptions in Foreign Policy/ - that is, the essentially elitist nature of the official Indo-Pak discourse. As Pattanaik observed: "Policy arises out of elite discourse. Perceptional biases have created a stereotype image of each other, within which the expectation of each other are formulated. This has rendered a certain rigidity to the articulated stands of both countries on various issues. Each concession weighted purely in terms of 'gains' and 'losses' within the prism of the two-nation theory. In a relationship characterised by emotionalism, gains tend to get interpreted as strength, and compromise is equated with weakness." Pattanaik's book deals with the period between 1989 and 1999, but nothing has changed in essentials despite the much bruited "peace talks". Indeed, if the "peace talks" were a living thing, it would have been reflected in an animated joint response of both countries to the horrific natural calamity in their respective backyards. The sterile response to the earthquake can only be read as a reflection of the innate sterility of the on-going peace process.
International codes of conduct during times of human suffering on a mass scale are based on the imperative that the right to receive humanitarian assistance and to offer it is a fundamental humanitarian principle. Such offers cannot, should not, be framed or presented as partisan acts, or denied to people on the basis of race, class, religion or nationality. Further, the nature and extent of this assistance is based on one criterion alone -- the actual requirements of the affected population. This also means that the need to reach the affected populations is paramount. The process cannot be allowed to be impeded by political or other extraneous -- and often erroneous -- considerations, like national pride and prestige. In fact, as some have argued, it behooves a nation to privilege humanity and concern, rather than false pride and prestige in situations when its people are facing a great distress that demands an urgent response.
Hurricane Katrina highlighted what had been suspected all along -- that Black America has fallen off Washington's radar, that the American establishment neither cared about nor understood its plight in its darkest hour. Will the October 8 earthquake hold a similar lesson for the subcontinent? Will it reveal that neither India nor Pakistan really cares about the Kashmiri, only about a territory called Kashmir?
The clock is ticking. India and Pakistan do not have much time left to choose whether they want to be recorded by history as nations that could rise above their situation and respond with efficacy and magnanimity to the earthquake, or as nations that allowed their narrow conceptions of self-esteem to blind them and strap them into a criminal lack of adequate and effective action.
Last Monday, India's Foreign Secretary Shyam
Saran made an important speech on nuclear weapons
and world security to the Institute for Defence
Studies and Analyses. The salient point of the
lecture was not, as emphasised in much of the
Pakistani media, a hardening of India's stance on
Iran's nuclear activities, nor even the demand
for a 'clarification' of the role of 'the
Pakistan-based A.Q. Khan network' in it. It was
the enunciation of a doctrinal shift in India's
Put simply, Saran announced a decisive departure from India's traditional advocacy of global nuclear disarmament. Instead, India has embraced the one-sided agenda of selective nuclear non-proliferation favoured by the nuclear weapons-states (NWSs). From now on, India, long an apostle of peace and nuclear weapons-free world, will behave like a 'responsible' NWS, which will prevent other countries from acquiring nuclear weapons, while keeping and expanding its own atomic arsenal.
Saran's speech, made just two days after the India visit of US under-secretary Nicholas Burns, marks the end of a 60 year-long era, in much of which India took the moral high ground in promoting international peace and arguing against bloc rivalry and the use of force to resolve conflicts.
This is a shameful break not just with India's long-standing policy, but also the solemn pledge, made last year in the United Progressive Alliance's National Common Minimum Programme, to take 'leadership' in fighting for a nuclear weapons-free world.
Precisely because this policy shift is so radical and massive, India wants to deny it. Saran claims "continuity and consistency" in India's approach. He rationalises this by falsifying India's record on nuclear disarmament and the lead it took since the 1950s in demanding a nuclear weapons-free world. Thus, Saran says, India "can truly claim to be among the founding fathers" of non-proliferation. He invokes Nehru as its apostle. Nothing could be further from the truth. Nehru campaigned for nuclear disarmament, not non-proliferation.
There's a sharp, clear difference between the two terms. Non-proliferation is about preventing the spread of nuclear weapons, both horizontally (to countries other than the NWSs), and vertically (through the expansion and refinement of existing arsenals). Disarmament is about eliminating all nuclear bombs from the world.
Non-proliferation accepts the legitimacy of the possession of these weapons of mass annihilation by a handful of states, while denying it to others. The disarmament perspective regards them as an unmitigated evil, which must be abolished everywhere. That's because nuclear weapons don't give security. They aren't legitimate instruments of war. They are the ultimate instruments of terror.
Nuclear weapons are often regarded as a sign of strength. But their possession doesn't ensure strategic superiority or military victory. Or else, the US wouldn't have lost in Vietnam and the USSR wouldn't have had to quit Afghanistan in ignominy. Nor would threats by powerful NWSs to weaker states have repeatedly failed.
There is of course a link between the complete elimination of nuclear weapons and their step-by-step reduction. It's in that spirit that Nehru proposed a 'standstill' agreement or a Comprehensive Test Ban in 1954, while renouncing nuclear weapons. India continued to link nuclear restraint to disarmament until recently. Now, that link has snapped. This is a betrayal of the Nehruvian legacy and India's traditional advocacy of nuclear abolition.
This advocacy was in evidence even in the 1990s, until the CTBT debate vitiated the climate. Only a decade ago, India pleaded before the International Court of Justice that nuclear weapons be declared incompatible with international law.
In 1996, India's Foreign Secretary (Salman Haider) told the Conference on Disarmament at Geneva: "We don't believe that the acquisition of nuclear weapons is essential for national security. We are also convinced that the existence of nuclear weapons diminishes international security. We, therefore, seek their complete elimination. These are fundamental precepts."
The ICJ, the world's highest authority on international law, ruled in 1996 that the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons is generally illegal and contravenes international law.
Two years later, India exploded five bombs and joined the very global order, which it had condemned as "Atomic Apartheid". There was no security rationale for this shift. The Vajpayee government didn't conduct the strategic defence review it had promised. It merely fulfilled the nuclear obsession of the Hindutva current. The decision was hidden even from the Defence Minister. The Cabinet was not party to it. But the RSS was.
Pakistan's blasts duly followed India's. A year after the tests, the two fought the world's most serious conventional conflict ever between any two NWSs. Today, millions of their citizens have become vulnerable to attacks by nuclear missiles which take only minutes to hit each other's cities.
India's military spending has more than doubled since 1998. And Pakistan's has ballooned too. The consequences are potentially ruinous for our economies and societies, including the rise of bellicose nuclear nationalism.
India made a great blunder in initiating nuclear rivalry in South Asia. Pakistan has followed India's lead in a knee-jerk manner. Now, India is compounding its blunder by joining the US as a junior nuclear partner. Pakistan shouldn't be tempted to emulate India's bad bargain.
India has put such high stakes on the July nuclear deal that it can be blackmailed into making all kinds of compromises to save it -- including pressures on energy policy, Iran, on trade negotiations on agriculture and services, on patents, on anything.
Saran's speech has already prepared the ground for the next Iran vote at the IAEA by saying India won't accept "pursuit of clandestine activities in respect to WMD-related technologies". This sounds tough, but it reflects caving in to US pressure.
By jumping on the non-proliferation bandwagon, India risks becoming the laughing stock of the world. India has moved from being a force for peace to a force for hegemony. India's capitulation to the US even while it pays lip service to a multi-polar world will earn it ridicule.
Powerful states don't respect client-nations. Even weak states don't. Why should the King of Nepal talk seriously to India if New Delhi's Nepal policy is determined in "coordination" with Washington? India's nuclear posturing lacks credibility given its miserable rank of 127 in the UN Human Development Index, which places it squarely among the bottom one-fourth of the world's nations.
India earned the world's respect when it was poorer -- because of its democracy, its moral clarity on certain issues, its secularist ideals, and its effort at making the world a better place. The new policy turn robs India of all this.
In his speech, Saran cites a version of the "Third Class Railway Compartment" syndrome. This means that when you are outside the coach, you try to barge your way in. Once you are inside, you forcibly keep all potential entrants out. This is what Saran had in mind when he said "the international community also needs to ask whether the global non-proliferation regime is better with India inside the tent or outside".
This statement is marked by double standards and blatant inconsistency. It demeans India's stature while sacrificing her policy independence. One can only hope Pakistan doesn't follow India's lead here.
(The writer, a former newspaper editor, is a researcher and peace and human-rights activist based in Delhi)
Why has the Kashmir Earthquake of 8 October been
termed the 'Southasia Quake' by the international
media, including the all-powerful, real-time
satellite television networks? Southasia is a
vast region and the ground trembled beneath one
corner of it, well known to the world as Kashmir,
on two sides of the 'line of control'. Somehow,
it does injustice to the suffering of the living
and memory of the dead to call the disaster by
the name of the larger region when a local name
Meanwhile, the UN has declared the Kashmir catastrophe more devastating than last year's tsunami. Three to four million people are suddenly without homes on the edge of winter. The result of an underground quake, the tsunami of 12/26/04 struck the southern beaches of Southasia, while the earthquake of 8/10/05 hit the northwestern mountain fastness. Because it was such an unusual event and also because many holidaying westerners died tragically, the coverage of the tsunami attracted emergency support on a massive scale. Not so with the Kashmir quake of 8/10. To date the world is not even close to matching the $11 billion gathered for post-tsunami relief.
In the face of an earthquake that knows neither borders nor LoCs, of course we must utilise the opportunity of the disaster to ease Kashmir tensions between India and Pakistan. But geopolitical certitude in the two capitals will surely require something more than a shifting of geological plates to undo. What we need is for national establishments in both countries to learn to take the Kashmiris themselves into confidence, as well as find a way to fuzz the frontiers and sanction dual identities. For that, we need a shake-up of the mind, not the ground.
The immediate challenge in Muzaffarabad, in Uri, in Hazara, in Tangdhar, is to help those without shelter and means of livelihood to make it through the winter of 2005-06. But thereafter, we are looking at many years of rehabilitation. Given the sharp drop that we can expect in humanitarian concerns as soon as the television cameras stop broadcasting live, the intelligentsia of Pakistan, India and Southasia as a whole have a responsibility not to turn their backs on this quake and its living victims. They have to stay with the Kashmiris for the long haul and keep the governments on their toes.
This year, nature chose Kashmir to sound a warning to the rest of Southasia-most importantly, to those who live along the Himalayan-Hindukush rimland. The geologists are not sitting easy and neither should the rest of us. The prospect looms of a horrendous earth shaking in what is known as the Central Himalayan Gap, which covers all of Nepal and more. There has not necessarily been enough release of 'cumulative elastic energy' in the rubbing of plates beneath Nepal and the nearby regions to the north, west and south. A huge swath of territory is therefore dramatically overdue for a devastating quake. The suffering of Kashmiris must at least inform those who are in a position to save lives when the earthquake hits the Central Himalaya.
The newly adopted building material all over the Himalaya-Hindukush is concrete. Heavy-set buildings were the death traps of Kashmir as testified by numerous pictures of the tragedy. Kathmandu, the largest urban concentration in the Himalaya, will become a 'valley of death' when the Big One comes, for its buildings are now nearly all of concrete using 'pillar system' construction. And what of rescue? In Kathmandu and elsewhere, there will not be the military helicopters and ground transport available in militarised Kashmir.
To die under rubble while awaiting a rescue that never comes is a gruesome way to go, as happened to many on and after 8/10. Kashmir will have to be helped back on its feet, while we look ahead to the next Big One-and prepare.
Pakistan's resource base is under pressure from
the October 8 earthquake. The government says
that $5-10 billion will eventually be needed to
rehabilitate and rebuild the lives and homes of
the quake victims. The United Nations is asking
the world to contribute half a billion dollars
for relief work immediately but has had little
success so far in meeting its target. Some money
has come from Turkey, Saudi Arabia and other
Muslim countries. But international donors have
not been as forthcoming as hoped. Indeed, it does
seem that while the Western countries are
agreeable to sending men and materials to
Pakistan they are still leery of forking over
cash to Islamabad. Is the fact at the back of
their minds that Pakistan is about to spend $1.5
billion on a first batch of F-16 fighter bombers
when that money could be better spent on
alleviating the hardships of the people of
Pakistan? Countries in the EU, like France, which
have yet to decide to give any kind of aid, could
conceivably balk at the seeming contradiction
between Pakistan's needs and its military's
The good news from Washington is that Pakistan's military leadership might be "reconsidering" the F-16 deal. The Bush administration is expected to formally notify the US Congress next week of plans to sell the planes. The order is for 55 new Lockheed Martin planes, 25 used aircraft as well as so-called "mid-life" upgrades that would significantly improve the capability of another 32 jets in the Pakistani Air Force's inventory. The price of all this will go into billions of dollars. This is a stupendous amount, given the fact that Pakistan's GDP is not even worth $100 billion and at least $5 billion will be needed for quake relief in the short and medium term. Given Pakistan's conflictual-mode defence strategy vis a vis India, its air force (PAF) has been under pressure for some time now in view of its depleting armour. Its current fleet of 32 F-16s is not fully operational due to the lack of spares. Indeed, the PAF has had to cannibalise a few aircraft to keep the rest operational. But all said and done, the truth is that even after getting the 24 new F-16s (after shelling out $1.5 million) the value of the new aircraft acquisitions by Pakistan in the Indo-Pakistan weapons calculus will remain only symbolic. It may serve to improve the PAF's morale but it will not bring commensurate strength. On the other hand, it might conceivably further hone the instinct in the Pakistani strategic elite to engage India in a conventional arms race. That raises the question: Isn't it inhumane at this tragic point in our national life to think of avoiding war with India by rearming ourselves? Unfortunately, there is another lethal aspect to this trend which must be kept in mind.
India can actually lead us to our perdition by playing on our imitative military instinct. The US offer to Pakistan is accompanied with a much bigger offer of technology transfer to India. New Delhi will be offered top-of-the-line fighter aircraft, such as the F-18, or the Joint Strike Fighter, with the additional advantage of licensed production in India. The US is also thinking of transferring to India some of its anti-ballistic missile systems and dual-use technology. Given the foremost reflex in Pakistan to match India weapon for weapon, this gives India an advantage over us, which is more lethal than its military superiority. Last year, India led the developing world in arms purchases, signing agreements totalling $15.7 billion between 1997 and 2004. The size of its economy gives it the leeway to spend more on arms than Pakistan at all times. Its edge over Pakistan in technology sharpens this advantage further. It can force us to spend ourselves into insolvency. The world sees the folly of an Indo-Pakistan arms race. It wants the two to normalise relations and become economically interdependent neighbours. Since 2003, the two are actually involved in a process of normalisation that is popular in both India and Pakistan. Instead of focusing on the weapons calculus, more and more opinion-makers in South Asia are thinking of alleviating poverty in the region and exploring the synergies concealed in a cooperative Indo-Pakistan equation. Now that the mother of all cataclysms has happened - which the world insists on calling "the South Asian earthquake" - there is a need in Pakistan to shift from the conflictual paradigm and think of peace as a struggle against the "external threat" from an overly strained environment and economy.
NEW DELHI, OCT 25 (PTI)
Comparatively a newcomer in the international arms sales arena, India may be on the brink of concluding its biggest ever weapons platform deal to sell 12 Advance Light Helicopters(ALH) to Chile.
The deal, estimated to be worth Rs 200 crores (USD 44 million), according to Defence Ministry sources here may be clinched during the official visit to Santiago by Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee at the head of a high level delegation. He leaves here tonight on a five day visit to the South American country.
"The visit assumes special significance as Chile has shown heightened interest in the Dhruv Advanced Light Helicopter" an official statement said here asserting that HAL (Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd) had expressed confidence of being in a position to meet the needs of the Chilean Armed Forces and Security Services.
"Chile has also shown interest in a number of other armaments and defence related stores" an official spokesman said.
Though India has sold a number of Dhruv ALH to Israel and neighbouring countries like Nepal, the deal with Chile would be the first major bulk sales of the helicopters, which have been making waves during recent international aviation shows including the prestigious ones in Paris and Faranborough in England.
For the Chilean order, Dhruv was pitted against some of the frontline helicopters being manufactured by major weastern nations including the Eurocopter and American choppers. The Chilean deal would be culmination of almost three years of hard negotiations between the two countries.
In 2003, the then Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal S Krishnaswamy led a high level HAL and IAF delegation during which the Indian Advanced Light Helicopter went through tough user trials over the Andes.
During the trials, the IAF lone helicopter Aerobatic team, Sarang put up performance for the Chilean armed forces.
During his visit Mukherjee, officials said, would call on the Chilean President Ricardo Lagos Escobar and hold delegation-level talks with his counterpart Jaime Ravinet.
New Delhi, Oct. 24: Nearly five years after terrorists stormed the Red
Fort here killing two jawans and a civilian, a Delhi court on Monday
convicted Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Tayyaba militant Mohammad Arif, alias
Ashfaq, and six others while acquitting four accused. The quantum of the
punishment will be pronounced on October 29. Ashfaq and his key Indian
conspirators, Nazir Ahmed Qasid and his son Farooq Ahmad Qasid, have been
found guilty of waging war against the state which can attract a death
sentence. Delivering the verdict in a packed courtroom, additional
sessions judge O.P. Saini, also held Ashfaq guilty of murder, criminal
conspiracy, cheating, forgery and illegal possession of arms and
ammunition. The Pakistani national was also convicted for illegally
entering and staying in India under the Foreigners Act. Nazir and Farooq
have also been convicted for criminal conspiracy. The lone woman accused
in the attack on December 22, 2000, and Ashfaq’s Indian wife Rahamana
Yousuf Farooqui was found guilty under Section 216 of the IPC (harbouring
an offender) and 218 of the IPC (trying to save a person from punishment)
for providing shelter to the LeT militant. However, the court acquitted
her of the charges of waging war against the country and the conspiracy to
attack the 17th-century Mughal monument.
Civilization is on a mission from God to free the
world from the evil of tyranny and bring
democracy and human rights to all peoples of the
planet. Presumably, there is human concern and
compassion behind such a quest, more grand than
any conceived in the long and glorious past of
humanity. It is worth contemplating however, the
shape in which this compassion appears. If the
early signs in the twenty-first century are
anything to go by, the coming decades look
devastatingly ominous. Let us look at some
Consider this. Four years ago, in October 2001, Western civilization thought nothing of starving over 7 million poor innocents (themselves victims of the Islamic fundamentalists) in Afghanistan in order to exact revenge for 9/11 (and for failed oil negotiations) on the Taliban. These people relied on food delivered by aid agencies who were ordered to suspend operations by Washington in order to put their delivery vehicles out of the line of fire and make the bombing possible. At the time, Noam Chomsky described what was beginning to happen as a "silent genocide", for which the West and its democratic citizens were morally responsible. Fortunately the bombing campaign ended soon enough, food deliveries could be restored quickly and Western societies and their governments were relieved of a potentially colossal "embarrasment" (though the faithful corporate media would have ensured that nothing was heard about any genocide this side of the Suez). Fortunately, compassion did not come into question (except of course in the case of about 4000 civilian deaths, caused by US bombing). In March 2003 the US, the UK and their string of credulous cronies launched the morally unconscionable and legally criminal invasion of Iraq on false pretexts, putting at the mercy of their dreadful "Shock and Awe" campaign the lives of millions of people who had already suffered for well over a decade the effect of the murderous UN sanctions which had led to the deaths of a million people, half of them children (according to UNICEF). This habit of civilization, whereby it employs starvation as a means of warfare has hardly ended in Iraq. BBC reports UN human rights investigator, Jean Ziegler, as having accused the US and British forces in Iraq of breaching international law by depriving civilians of food and water in besieged cities. "A drama is taking place in total silence in Iraq, where the coalition's occupying forces are using hunger and deprivation of water as a weapon of war against the civilian population," Ziegler told a news briefing in Geneva a few days ago.
Since the war on terrorism was launched by Washington, 49 months of the most hectic manhunt in history by the most powerful and wealthy state known to man have not yielded Osama Bin Laden (something that truly makes one wonder whether there was ever a clear intention to get him in the first place!). Meanwhile, taking both the Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns into account, somewhere between 110,000 and 130,000 people (we cannot know exactly how many since it appears, after Katrina, that Washington barely keeps track even of its own dead), who had nothing to do with terrorism have been killed, hundreds of thousands have been wounded or maimed for life and the everyday lives of 50 million people subjected to hardship and hoplessness. As has been said repeatedly by commentators across the political spectrum, this has led predictably to an exacerbation, rather than an alleviation, of terrorism.
Iraq had been named in Bush's "Axis of Evil" speech in January, 2002. So had been Iran. Since the time when the first phase of the war on Iraq had been completed, Iran has repeatedly been brought up as Washington's next target, once again on grounds as suspect as those on which the Iraq invasion was launched. After getting promising support from IAEA members, the US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice has recently been jetting around the world trying to convince global powers why an invasion of Iran is necessary to make the rogue state behave itself in nuclear matters.
The Western media has made the world forget that Iran suffered a massive earthquake in December, 2003. Over 25,000 people died and hundreds of thousands were rendered homeless. Six months later there was another major earthquake which led to the loss of almost a thousand human lives. None of this, however, has prevented the West from seriously contemplating "action" against Iran. Britain, France and Germany have all succumbed to Washington in applying pressure on a country that has suffered natural disasters so recently, other than having to bear the burden of economic sanctions led by the US.
In October 2005 it has been Pakistan's turn to endure nature's cruel fury. In the recent earthquake over 50,000 people have died and at least 2 million rendered homeless. There was an urgent request made to rich countries by President Musharraf for helicopters to deliver relief and supplies to Kashmir. The US could only spare eight from their obviously more important operations in Afghanistan. Britain could spare none. (Only some minibuses were sent!) Aid pledges made by both governments are embarrasingly insignificant and are exceeded by private collections which are already being sent. Meanwhile, just yesterday (October 17), The Independent reported that Tony Blair has ordered a new generation of nuclear weapons to replace the existing Trident fleet at a cost of billions of pounds. Blair had also made a peace-making visit to India and Pakistan a few years back (just before the two countries had engaged in the Kargil conflict in Kashmir) and returned after selling over a billion pounds of weapons to both sides (an old empire tradition, welcomed by ruling elites in the poor countries, and good for the world economy).
Did compassion guide the deals?
Finally, take the case of Darfurs in Sudan, where the ruling Islamic fundamentalists have been busy overseeing a genocide in which upto half a million black African farmers and their families might have already been killed over the past two years in order to clear their farming land for drilling oil and setting up pipelines. British, Chinese, Indian and Japanese oil companies are already in the fray. US companies want their share of the booty, though a law passed under Clinton (remember he ordered the bombing of the pharmaceutical factory in 1998) prohibits trade with Sudan. This situation is changing since Condoleeza Rice took over the office of Secretary of State this year and US oil companies are beginning to do business in Sudan. So, even if Rice's predecessor, Colin Powell (under pressure from Christian and African-American groups in the US) had designated what has been happening in Darfurs as a "genocide", no military intevention has been forthcoming from the Western powers (just like in Rwanda) to stop it. Compassion somehow always gives way to oil pressure!
As their leaders scrape the depleted barrels of their humanity, citizens of democratic societies in the West urgently need to ask themselves why they tolerate such open hypocrisies from their elected representatives. At present it is mostly the inhabitants of poor countries who pay the price for these mass-deceits. But the time is hardly far when citizens of Western democracies will be footing increasing portions of the bill too. In fact, this is already happening, if one takes into reckoning the growing burden of war taxes, lives lost to war and terrorism, the pressure of immigrants from regions of the world impacted by war, poverty and tyranny, a rapid erosion of democratic rights (in the form, among other things, of anti-terror legislation and the muzzled media, not to speak of the various forms of thought control exercised on and within the academy) and, not the least important, the corrosion of the moral sense which, two world wars notwithstanding, has thus far sustained these societies in the past.
It is a matter of unspeakable astonishment that when so much stands to be lost in the West, most people are numbly going about their daily business, not paying much heed to the happenings of the world. The alternative to a serious internal reckoning by the West is the mounting nihilism and narcissism of consumer society which, in a world as interconnected as ours (in which, for instance, the availability of products ranging from lipsticks to Jaguars relies on an on-going supply of cheap oil and resources from other countries) is not merely solipsistic thoughtlessness about the sufferings that billions go through in order for the posh and privileged to go on with their indulgent ways. It is ultimately a recipe for catastrophe. This is no time for compassion fatigue. Even vaguely enlightened self-interest should suggest large-scale collective action to re-democratize the democracies.
Nobel-prize winning Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore had written in 1916, in the midst of World War I: "the West must not make herself a curse to the world by using her power for her own selfish needs." However, he also wrote that "in the so-called free countries the majority of the people are not free, they are driven by the minority to a goal which is not even known to them." By the time he was on his death-bed in 1940, in the midst of World War II, more evidence had appeared of the declining human condition in the West. Tagore then wrote that "the failure of humanity in the West to preserve the worth of their civilization and the dignity of man which they had taken centuries to build up, weighs like a nightmare on my mind." The holocaust in Germany and the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, fours years after Tagore's death, made the nightmare visible to the world.
If the US instigates an invasion of Iran - either by using a staged attack on Israel as a trigger or by blaming Iran for its self-created mounting mess in Iraq or by simply aiming to stall its nuclear programme, and all, in the end, only to regain control over Iran's oilfields that the 1979 revolution took away - then all bets are off. Whether the world stands or falls after that is anyone's guess.
Of one thing one can be sure. They who claim the guardianship of civilization today are its worst traitors and can know nothing about compassion. For that they have to achieve the impossible feat of humbling themselves to the level of those two school-teachers in Muzaffarabad, Kashmir who, when the earth below them was trembling with rage ten days ago, stood in the way of a falling wall and sacrificed their lives to save the many children who would otherwise all be dead today.
Aseem Shrivastava is a free-lance writer.
Saab on Oct. 18 signed a provisional $1.1 billion contract with Pakistan
to deliver an airborne early warning (AEW) surveillance system comprising
Saab 2000 turboprop planes equipped with the Erieye airborne radar. Saab
refused to specify the number of AEW systems contained in the preliminary
contract. The Swedish company said a number of outstanding issues remained
before the contract can be finalized. “We are not disclosing what exactly
these issues are,” said Saab spokesman Peter Larsson. “What we can say
right now is that we do not expect to execute delivery for several years.
All of the integration work attaching to the contract will be carried out
The AEW systems to be supplied to Pakistan are to be primarily used for continuous surveillance of the air territory, borders and the sea, Saab Chief Executive Åke Svensson said at the company’s quarterly results meeting in Stockholm Oct. 21. “We have been actively negotiating this contract with Pakistan for two to three years,” said Svensson. Initial leaks from Saab’s negotiations with Pakistan suggested that a final order could entail delivery of up to 14 Saab 2000s for the Pakistan Air Force to replace aging F-27 Fokker planes. Defense industry analysts in Sweden suggest that the final number of AEW systems delivered to Pakistan could range between six and eight. Of the total contract value, two-thirds of the final amount will go to Saab and one-third to Ericsson Microwave Systems, which makes the Erieye radar, Saab said. “As Saab is not manufacturing Saab 2000s any more, we will need to source the turboprop aircraft we need from the civilian market in Scandinavia and globally. There are a lot of aircraft of this type with low-flying hours and which are in near-mint condition. We will have no difficulty sourcing the Saab 2000s we need in the numbers required to fulfill our contract with Pakistan,” said Larsson. Powered by two Allison/Rolls-Royce AE2100 engines, the Saab 2000 can remain airborne for nine hours at 30,000 feet. Ericsson’s Erieye is the first long-range, high-performance airborne early warning and control system to be customized to operate on small- to medium-sized commercial and military turboprop planes. The Erieye can effectively spot a fighter-sized target about 330 kilometers away. Seaborne targets can be detected 320 kilometers away when the aircraft is at optimum cruising height.
New Delhi: Concern for quake victims finally got the better of
geopolitics, with Pakistan matching India's decision to open the Line of
Control to offer succour to calamity-hit Kashmiris. In near-simultaneous
moves which followed international con cern about Pakistan's continued
reluctance to help Kashmiris cross the LoC before harsh weather claims
more lives, the two countries decided to open five points, three of which
are common to both lists, on the LoC. India decided not to wait for
Pakistan to overcome its hesitation to make formal proposals to help
quake-ravaged Kashmiris. On Saturday, it went ahead uni-laterally and
opened three relief camps on its side of the LoC for quake victims from
PoK. As part of the move, announced by the ME A on Saturday evening,
relief and rehabilitation camps are to be opened at Kaman near Aman Setu
in Uri, Tithwal in Tangdhar and Chakan Da Bagh in Poonch. The MEA
spokesperson said these centres would provide medical facilities to people
from across the LoC. India's decision was conveyed to the Pakistan High
Commission on Saturday afternoon and, in Islamabad, to the foreign office
by Indian high commissioner Shiv Shankar Menon. The proposals coincided
with Pakistan coming up with five of its own points on the LoC for India
to assist in relief. This was given to the Indian High Commission in
Islamabad, the Pakistan foreign office spokesman said.
NEW DELHI, Oct. 20 (UPI) -- Indian Navy chief Adm. Arun Prakash said that
the Indian Navy was "keenly examining" a Pentagon offer to sell it a large
troop transport ship. Critics, however, charge that the USS Trenton is
outdated and not suitable for India's military modernization program.
New Kerala news agency reported that the Pentagon, under its Foreign Military Sales program, has offered India the USS Trenton.
The USS Trenton is a landing platform dock (LPD) used for long-range transport of large numbers of troops.
Prakash said that the Indian Navy was evaluating the American offer as the Navy strives to strengthen its ability to transport relief materials following natural disasters.
"One of the major lessons learnt after the December 2004 tsunami was the requirement to augment sealift capability to enable relief materials (to) reach the affected areas. This calls for the services of a large amphibious vessel and the navy is keenly examining the offer for an LPD by the U.S. Navy under the FMS program," he said.
Some naval specialists counter that the USS Trenton was commissioned in 1971 and with age the vessel has deteriorated.
Critics added that the U.S. Marine Corps, which also uses LPDs, has complained about problems with the ships.
New Delhi: The Manmohan Singh government is expected by the United States
to fulfil its commitments under the civilian nuclear energy agreement by
early next year so that President George W. Bush can move Congress to make
the necessary changes to put the agreement into effect before he visits
India in early 2006. US undersecretary for political affairs R. Nicholas
Burns is arriving here on Thursday to work out the implementation schedule
and ensure adherence to the commitments by both governments. In an address
to the Asia Society on the eve of his departure, Mr Burns indicated the
above time table, adding, "India will be working to develop a way to
segregate its civil and military nuclear sectors and develop an
appropriate safeguards regime of the sort envisaged in our July 18 (2005)
agreement." The Indian government, which has so far refused to spell out
the agenda for discussion, has been upstaged by Mr Burns, who had no
hesitation in pointing out that the last was a "necessary step" to
implement the agreement. He will insist during his interactions with top
Indian officials to firm up a schedule for the implementation of the
commitments which, for India, range from the separation of military and
civilian nuclear facilities to signing the additional protocol allowing
intrusive IAEA inspections of its military nuclear facilities. Mr Burns
said, virtually linking the vote on Iran to the civil nuclear energy
agreement, that "India’s vote to find Iran in non-compliance with IAEA
standards was an even more dramatic example of where it stands on the
critical effort to prevent a theocratic Iran from acquiring nuclear
weapons capability." The strong assertion made it apparent that the Bush
administration does not expect a re-think from the Manmohan Singh
government on this issue.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said Oct. 20 the government could allocate
about 3 percent of India’s gross domestic product for its defense needs if
the economy grows at 8 percent annually. “If our economy grows at 8
percent per annum it will not be difficult for us to allocate about 3
percent of our gross domestic product for our national defense,” Singh
said. “This should provide for a handsome defense budget,” he said in
comments to an annual meeting of India’s armed forces commanders. “Our
priority is to pursue policies to generate faster economic growth and
mobilize more resources,” he added. In February, Indian Finance Minister
Palaniappan Chidambaram announced a 7.8 percent hike in its defense budget
to 830 billion rupees ($19 billion) or 2.6 percent of GDP while laying out
the national budget for 2005-2006. India’s defense budget for the year
2004-2005 was $770 billion. Military experts say India’s aging military —
the world’s fourth largest — is badly in need of modernization. India, one
of the world’s biggest arms buyers with one million-plus troops, is
looking for 126 new jet fighters to replace an accident-prone fleet of
Russian-built MiGs, new submarines from France, an anti-missile system
from the United States and rocket launchers from Russia. Defense analyst
Commodore C.U. Bhaskar, deputy head of the Institute of Defense Studies
and Analyses, said India’s defense budget, which averaged between 2.3 and
2.6 percent of GDP for almost a decade, has been “insufficient for
modernization and new acquisitions of military hardware required to be
relevant to changing times”. “So I think it’s a very welcome development
that for the first time a prime minister has made a commitment of giving
three percent of GDP to defense, even if it is linked to eight percent
economic growth,” he said. Bhaskar recalled that India had allocated three
percent of its GDP for defense in the mid-1980s. India has fought three
wars with arch-rival Pakistan and came close to a fourth in 2002. New
Delhi and Islamabad are currently in the midst of a tentative peace
process that was launched in January 2004. India and China too had a
brief, bitter border conflict in 1962 but are also engaged in peace talks.
India’s economy is expected to grow at seven percent in the fiscal year
ending March 2006.
SRINAGAR, India Oct 20
The devastating October 8 earthquake may have shifted thousands of landmines planted by Indian and Pakistani troops along their disputed Kashmir border, a group warned Thursday.
"We are very much concerned," said Shafat Hussain of Global Green Peace, a non-government organisation that has worked since 1998 to persuade India and Pakistan to demine the region.
"There are thousands of mines out there threatening to take human lives."
Hussain said areas along the de facto border, the Line of Control (LoC), are "heavily mined" on both the sides.
"As the earthquake triggered massive landslides along the Line of Control, it must have surely relocated these mines," said Hussain.
"We are told that respective armies do keep a proper map of the planted mines, but those maps will not help, given the devastation."
Army spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Vijay Batra played down the risk.
"Landmines have been planted along the LoC and army posts some 58 years ago. No civilian area is involved," he told AFP.
"Wherever a little bit of damage has taken place to the minefields due to the landslides, it is not affecting the civilians as no mines have drifted or shifted towards the civilian areas."
The Red Cross says that in the heat of war, mines are often not mapped or monitored and can shift depending on the weather and soil type, sometimes travelling kilometers if washed out by heavy rain.
Hussain said if mines have been displaced they will put the lives of quake-hit villagers living along the LoC at risk.
Scores of people have died in landmine explosions over the years in Uri district, one of the regions in Indian Kashmir worst hit by the quake.
It took the Indian army weeks to demine a three-kilometer (two mile) stretch of road in Uri that is part of a route opened in April for a bus service between the Indian and Pakistani Kashmir capitals Srinagar and Muzaffarabad.
The quake killed 1,300 in Indian Kashmir and tens of thousands on the Pakistan side.
SRINAGAR: Jammu and Kashmir Minister of State for Education Ghulam Nabi
Lone was shot dead by a militant, while CPI (M) State secretary M.Y.
Tarigami escaped unhurt in a similar bid in the high-security Tulsi Bagh
area here on Tuesday. Two security guards and a civilian were also killed
in the incidents, for which the Islamic Front and Al-Mansoorein have
claimed responsibility. Two militants, believed to be a suicide squad,
sneaked into the colony, where the houses of Ministers and legislators are
located. According to one account, one militant, along with some visitors,
entered Dr. Lone's house and fired at Central Reserve Police Force guard
Sonu Prakash, killing him on the spot. He then entered the room of the
Minister, who was talking to members of the public. Police sources,
however, said the panicked visitors ran out soon after the guard was shot.
The militant then opened fire, leaving Dr. Lone and two civilians in a
pool of blood. At the same time, the other militant attacked Mr.
Tarigami's house after he was denied entry. On being challenged by
security guard Abdur Rasheed, the militant hurled a grenade and fired
indiscriminately, killing him. Other security personnel retaliated and
engaged the militant until he was killed. Dr. Lone was taken to the S.K.
Institute of Medical Sciences here, where doctors declared him brought
dead. An injured civilian, Mohammad Siddique, died there later.
Congressional leaders crucial to the fate of a controversial U.S.-India
nuclear deal are pressing Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to consult
them before proposing legislation to implement the agreement. The leaders
make their case in a letter that congressional aides said reflects deep
unease about the deal's consequences and the way the administration
secretly negotiated it, without input from lawmakers who must approve it.
"We firmly believe that such consultations will be crucial to the
successful consideration of the final agreement or agreements by our
committees and the Congress as a whole," they wrote in the letter, which
was obtained by Reuters.
Many members of Bush's Republican Party, which controls Congress, and also many Democrats fear the deal excessively benefits India and undermines international efforts to halt the spread of nuclear weapons. The letter was signed by Republican Rep. Henry Hyde of Illinois, chairman of the House International Relations Committee; Republican Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee; and the panels' top Democrats, Sen. Joseph Biden of Delaware and Rep. Tom Lantos of California. For nearly 30 years the United States led the global fight to deny India access to nuclear technology because it has developed nuclear weapons and tested them. But President George W. Bush jettisoned this approach with a July 18 agreement that would permit nuclear cooperation between the two democracies. He is seeking changes in U.S. law and international regulations to allow India to obtain restricted items, including nuclear fuel. Undersecretary of State R. Nicholas Burns, in a telephone interview with Reuters on Oct. 18 before flying to Paris and New Delhi, said Rice intends to privately brief lawmakers on South Asia policy, including India, later this month. The administration hopes to propose legislation to implement the nuclear deal early in 2006, after India drafts a plan for separating its civilian and military nuclear facilities, he said. The separation plan is at the heart of the nuclear deal because it is meant to ensure any U.S. or international cooperation with India advances only the South Asian nation's civilian energy program, not weapons development. Burns said the separation issue will be central to his talks in New Delhi this week but it would probably take a month or two for the plan to be drawn up. Once a clear separation plan is offered by India, it will be easier to ask the U.S. Congress for the necessary changes, he said. Burns has said the nuclear deal is among the administration's top legislative priorities and he is confident Congress will approve it before a U.S.-India summit in New Delhi in early 2006. But his optimism runs counter to the views of many in Congress. India is a nuclear power but not a signatory of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. "I think this is going to be a very tough deal" to get approved, especially in time for the planned U.S.-India summit, said one Republican congressional aide. A second Republican adviser told Reuters: "It's very dangerous to assume we'd be predisposed to act quickly." "No one believes the Indians will do that (separation) as quickly as implied in that (Burns) statement. This is just a plan. Why should the United States change its laws before India implements the plan," he said. Burns insisted officials are in touch with Congress. "There are concerns out there but I think we're beginning to answer them. The important thing is to get the agreement done and in the right way," he said. The administration considers India a democratic ally and rising global power that will be central to promoting peace, stability and prosperity in the decades ahead.
Fear of revealing nuclear testing and the refusal
to sign the test ban treaty delay the exchange of
BOMBAY - In the wake of the recent earthquake that devastated Kashmir, some Indian officials are reevaluating the government's refusal to share real-time online seismology data with the international community.
India has balked at putting seismic data online because it could provide evidence of underground nuclear testing. The country's refusal to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty also excludes it from exchanging data with the International Monitoring System, a global network of seismological sensors operated by treaty signatories.
Seismologists can more rapidly and accurately pinpoint the location and power of an earthquake when real-time data can be triangulated against a wide network of sensors. A delay of even seconds in reporting data induces errors in the exact location and could set back relief efforts in their crucial early stages, prompting some scientists here to argue against data hoarding.
"In India, the nuclear issue is a sensitive one. But now the question is about saving lives. The policy certainly needs a review," says Sushil Gupta from the Stress Analysis and Seismology Department at the Nuclear Power Corporation of India in Bombay.
Meanwhile, relief efforts continue in regions of India and Pakistan affected by the Oct. 8 quake that has claimed an estimated 54,000 lives. Some injured people still await transport to hospitals by helicopter, an effort hindered in recent days by torrential rain and snow. The chief minister of India's Jammu-Kashmir state called on Delhi Monday to restore telephone links, cut since 1990, between his state and Pakistan so that people could find out what happened to relatives across the border.
As for the value of sharing seismic data in the event of a future earthquake, some decision-makers in Delhi have yet to get the message. "Share data? What for?" asked an official from the Ministry of Science, sounding nonplussed when questioned about India's policy to not make real-time data available via broadband.
"Effectively reporting seismic hazards considerably reduces vulnerability to it, if not totally eliminates it," says David Booth from the British Geological Survey. He notes that at international meetings seismologists have frequently deplored the absence of free seismic data exchange with India, but to little effect.
"Open-data sharing in seismology over the past century ... has been of enormous importance in reporting of earthquakes and studies of global and regional earthquakes," says Shane Ingate, director of operations at the Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology (IRIS) in Washington, the world's repository for data from most seismic networks around the globe. "It is regrettable that India ... imposes restriction on the open and rapid access of these important data."
Though India is free to contribute to and draw from IRIS's data, the country does neither. "All Indian data contributed to the IRIS would then become free and openly accessible to anyone that requests it. India is probably wary of that," says Mr. Ingate.
Seismology can provide national maps of earthquake shaking hazards which yield information essential to building codes in regions of known earthquake activity, explains Ingate. Such "shake maps" can also predict the intensity of shaking due to an earthquake, he says. "Then, when an earthquake occurs, given accurate location and magnitude determination, these shake maps allow first responders to develop a coordinated response to move directly and precisely to the areas with the most societal impact."
This kind of information, Ingate says, becomes less accurate along the edges, or outside a seismic network, as when one country does not share its in-country network data with those in-country networks in surrounding regions.
On request, India does share a kind of data called "phase data," which helps in detailed analysis of earthquakes. But there's a time lapse associated with it. "Delays of even minutes to seconds can severely impede the ability to provide rapid and accurate reporting of earthquakes," says Ingate.
Kapil Sibal, the minister of science and technology, acknowledged to reporters in Delhi last week that "India surely needs to network with the rest of the global earthquake community. It needs to re-think on all old issues."
"That's a big policy decision made at high levels within the Indian government," says Rajendra Kumar Chadha, a scientist at the National Geophysical Research Institute in Hyderabad. He advocates that all stations in the Himalayan network be well connected to speedily transmit real-time online data to the Indian Meteorological Department in Delhi, and to the rest of the globe. "Considering how rigid we are about nuclear issues, acknowledging we need to review the policy is a big step forward."
BEFORE THE earthquake of October 8, the disputed
region of Jammu and Kashmir was widely seen as
the likeliest flashpoint for a nuclear disaster.
After the quake it has become 'Ground Zero' for
unprecedented human misery.
As luck would have it, in most disaster-stricken situations in India and Pakistan as well as in Kashmir, as is now evident, it is not the state, the army or the so-called ordinary people who become the fulcrum of rescue and relief operations. In India, it is the rightwing Hindu organizations such as the RSS and Shiv Sena that reach the sites of disasters before anyone else.
In Azad Kashmir and the Frontier, religious parties like Jamaat-i-Islami and the JUI are reported to be quiet active in organizing and delivering aid and rescue.
Also, as irony would have it, all these groups are votaries of the atom bomb. The RSS and Shiv Sena, spurred by their hatred for Pakistan, advocated and got their government to carry out the 1998 nuclear tests. In Pakistan, the Jamaat-i-Islami is one of the heady campaigners for the country's nuclear prowess. In the trauma of the Latur earthquake that destroyed vast tracts of Maharashtra in September 1993, I saw volunteers of the RSS and the Shiv Sena removing dead bodies with bare hands.
It is a tragic thought that these people, with their immense resources and zeal for voluntary work, will be completely pulverized in a nuclear war. That is the way the nuclear cookie crumbles. The tragic deaths and devastation of Azad Kashmir would be a pin-prick before the calamity which the zealots on both sides have not even thought of but seem cavalier enough to want to bring about.
Earthquakes and natural disasters have exposed the vulnerability of the mighty United States. The pun unintended, disasters are a great leveller. Indians and Pakistanis may boast of their superior camaraderie and self-help groups that help cushion and repulse catastrophes, unlike hurricane Katrina that laid bare the hollow innards of the American society. But all these good feelings would vaporize in a nuclear mushroom if one is triggered either by accident or in a fit of rage, or out of palpable insecurity of a government.
When people mourn their dead in Azad Kashmir and their friends and sympathizers from far and near rush in with instant warmth and selfless help they pay tribute to the innate humanity that is part of our people. It hardly stands to reason then that people who are grieved by the loss of 40,000 fellow humans and are distraught at the uprooting of the lives of another million or two can advocate a nuclear exchange as a means to settle scores from history.
It is all very well to exhort a vulnerable people to be prepared to eat grass for a thousand years, if that is what it takes to build a bomb. But in what is left of Muzaffarabad today, people are scrounging for food, shelter, medicines, not for a plateful of grass.
During a visit to the United States in May 2002, at the height of the India-Pakistan nuclear standoff, I picked up the just published copy of the Doomsday Scenario, written by the United States government during the Cold War to prepare for a multi-pronged Soviet missile attack. That the document became public was partly due to a clerical error at a restricted library and partly the grit of the person who put it together for the general public -- L. Douglas Keeney.
In the aftermath of the faltering and seriously deficient relief efforts in Azad Kashmir and on the Indian side of the Line of Control too, lessons from the Doomsday Scenario look all the more relevant. Someone should consider making it a mandatory reading for everyone in South Asia who advocates the use of nuclear weapons whether as a first strike option or as a second strike retaliatory weapon.
The first and the most important lesson from the book that came out of the years of painstaking research by all branches of military and civil administration, according to Keeney, was that most of the preparedness for a nuclear strike was quite useless when it came to practise. The jammed motorways in the aftermath of 9/11, the complete chaos that ruled the country for days after the attack, when even the whereabouts of the president of the United States were not disclosed to the people should remain etched in our collective memory.
"The medical care requirements are overwhelming," says a passage from the Doomsday Scenario. Is it similar to refrain we are faced with, albeit on a much smaller scale since last week? "In addition to 25,000,000 dead or dying, there are 25,000,000 surviving casualties who require emergency medical care," the American scenario says. "Of this number, one-half (12,500,000) are suffering from blast and thermal injuries and have immediate and evident need of treatment. Of the 25,000,000 radiation casualties, 12,500,000 have received lethal dosages and have died or will die regardless of treatment. Of the 12,500,000 remaining one-half will require hospitalization during the period of 12 weeks."
The ordinary Indian and Pakistani have not been taken into confidence, much less briefed about the do's and don'ts to survive a nuclear catastrophe. By contrast, the United States spent more than $45 billion to protect both senior government officials and at least some members of the general public in the event of a nuclear attack.
This funding supported everything from production and distribution of films and pamphlets instructing citizens how to mitigate the effects of a nuclear blast and fallout to the secret construction of massive underground facilities to allow the government to continue to operate during and after a nuclear war.
And yet it is still appropriate to ask, says the publisher's note in the Doomsday Scenario: "With so much attention, and money, devoted to safeguarding government leaders and so little to protecting the public, would there be anyone or anything left to govern in the event of a truly catastrophic large-scale attack upon the United States?" That is pretty much the question people in India and Pakistan should be asking of their governments. Coping with the ravages of nature is quite enough. There is hardly any room left to take on any man-made catastrophe.
THE October 8 earthquake that devastated scores
of towns and hundreds of villages in Pakistan and
India and caused untold human suffering was a
quintessentially South Asian catastrophe. It
suddenly rendered India-Pakistan borders
meaningless. Like its geophysical origins, its
effects too cut across politically drawn
This, at the very least, warranted a South Asian response. For instance, both topography and the destruction of road links logically dictated that Pakistan should have accessed its part of Kashmir through the Indian segment of Kashmir. The two governments could have cooperated in a hundred different ways to rescue people and provide them food, shelter and clothing in time.
Yet, India and Pakistan failed to summon up a joint subcontinental response to the earthquake. That's their second tragedy. The causes of the first lay in natural causes-in plate tectonics and the release of enormous amounts of energy through rifts and fissures in rocks. The causes of the second are entirely man-made and political.
In fact, disaster management and post-disaster relief has long been politicised in the subcontinent. This became glaringly obvious with the tsunami last December, when India was more anxious to project its power in the neighbourhood by dispatching relief teams than to being succour to its own citizens in the South and the Andamans. (In keeping with power considerations, India also offered the United States $5 million in assistance after Hurricane Katrina - a weird thing to do for a state that cannot look after its own poor people.)
What's new about today's politics of disaster management is that it's taking place about two years after the India-Pakistan peace process began. This speaks to the relative fragility of the process. That's not all. The two governments swear by Kashmir. And yet, they have failed to respond to ardent appeals by Kashmiri leaders from both sides of the Line of Control for joint rescue and relief operations. This won't endear either of them to the people of Kashmir.
Pakistan has cited domestic "sensitivities" while refusing India's prompt offer of aid and joint relief efforts. In plain English, this spells Islamabad's fear that accepting substantial aid from India would be seen as a sign of weakness - the opposite of "national pride". This replicates India's own repeated recent rejection of aid offers, including during the Bhuj earthquake and the tsunami. Pakistan even spurned a loan of light helicopters to airlift people trapped in remote villages. Evidently, false notions of prestige matter more to the subcontinent's governments than saving citizens' lives.
India generously offered relief material to Pakistan. But it has refused to share seismic data with Pakistan for fear that the data would be used to detect the precise location of any future nuclear experiments (including non-explosive tests called hydronuclear tests). In reality, such locations are known to the entire international science establishment through thousands of seismographs placed all over the globe.
The real reason for India's refusal lies in its nuclear ambitions and its opposition to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. The CTBT remains a dead letter because powerful states, including the US, have refused to ratify it. But some verification arrangements agreed under it have become operational in another guise.
For instance, there is a network of 128 high-quality seismic stations maintained by the Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology, Washington, a consortium created by universities. India has refused to join IRIS. Joining it would give India real-time access to seismic data. Although this would still not allow earthquake prediction, it could substantially cut the response-time to earthquakes and save lives.
Such indifference towards human life is part of a larger bureaucratic culture of apathy, which results in appalling levels of disaster preparedness, management and relief. Earthquakes are a "normal" feature of India's geological make-up. More than half of the country's land area falls within the most seismically active Zones 3 to 5.
Zone 5 is the most hazardous and includes certain areas in the Kashmir Valley, the Chamba and Kangra Valleys of Himachal, and parts of the Northeast. The next riskiest zone (IV) includes large parts of Punjab and Himachal. Pakistan has almost exact parallels to these vulnerable areas, including its part of Kashmir.
Particularly worrisome are sections of Zone 5 in the Himalayan range, which has witnessed four gigantic earthquakes in the past century, each of a magnitude 8.5 or greater on the Richter scale, and accompanied by 200-300 km-long fault slips or ruptures of the detachment plane. This is the great faultline where the Indian plate thrusts against the Eurasian plate generating enormous strain along some 2,400 km of mountains. The energy accumulated in the rocks is suddenly released in catastrophic earthquakes every few hundred years.
And yet, India is building the large Tehri dam along the great faultline, near the very location where geophysicists the world over forecast another monster earthquake of intensity 8.5 in the next 50 to 100 years. This would release more than 30 times the energy delivered by the Muzaffarabad event, probably breaching the dam, downstream of which live some 300 million people.
This is an invitation to a calamity of biblical proportions. India and Pakistan's failure is evident on a less catastrophic scale too. They have done little by way of designing earthquake-resistant structures, evolving a building code, and enforcing it at least in the most vulnerable areas. True, some Indian cities (e.g. Delhi) now insist that new buildings comply with some earthquake-resistant features. But these are inadequate according to seismologists and architects. Besides, builders often cheat on these and obtain false certificates. Old buildings are meant to be "retrofitted" with modifications to make them earthquake-proof. But these are based on obsolete and unsound principles.
Official apathy is thus leaving millions of people vulnerable to the next great earthquake, which is due in the Central Himalayas, probably between Dehradun in Garhwal and Kathmandu. Nothing could be further from democratic accountability. Nothing could be more lethally irresponsible either.
Praful Bidwai is a senior Indian journalist, political activist and widely published commentator
New Delhi: Visiting Russian
Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov has said that Russia was ready to provide
India with the latest weapons technology.
He said that Moscow was willing to co-operate with New Delhi on co-production of weapons systems and platforms like fifth generations fighters, advanced warships and submarines.
Ivanov who arrived here on Saturday night on a three-day state visit also expressed his hope that India and Russia would conclude an agreement on military Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) by the year-end.
He said that the pending pact on protection of military IPR between the two countries for safeguarding technological know-how was also likely to be reached by the year-end.
Ivanov's visit assumes significance as Russia has recently offered a proposal for joint production and investment sharing in the development of a fifth generation fighter, a medium class passenger-cum-cargo aircraft and opening the Amur class submarine assembly line in India.
Ivanov who is being accompanied by the Commander in Chief of the Russian Navy, besides holding talks with Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee, will also witness the Indo-Russian Naval exercises at Vishakapatnam and the first ever Indo-Russian joint land exercises at the Mahajan firing range in Rajasthan.
India and Russia has over four decades of defence ties and Russia is presently India's largest weapons supplier with export of Russian military forming 40 per cent of Russian military sales worldwide.
India and Russia have jointly developed the Brahmos supersonic cruise missiles. The Indian Air Force's (IAF's) fighter fleet is mostly of Russian origin with the bulk comprising of the MiG - 21s, and other variations like MiG 27s, MiG 29s. The Sukhoi multi combat aircraft (Su-30 and Su-30 MKI) developed by Russia is now being produced at Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) under licence.
The T-72 tanks and the T-90 MBT that forms the core of the mechanised corps of the Indian Army are also of Russian origin. India has also signed a 1.5-billion dollar deal with Russia for Admiral Gorshkov that will be handed over to India by 2009 after a refit.
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