Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Diplomat in Conversation!

Diplomat in Conversation!
Mr. Sudhir T. Devare joined the Indian Foreign Service in 1964 and served in India’s Missions in Moscow, Washington and Yangon. While serving in the Permanent Mission of India to the United Nations in Geneva, he was the alternate delegate to the Committee on Disarmament. He has also served as Consul General in Frankfurt, Germany and was India’s Ambassador to the Republic of Korea (1985-89), Ukraine, Georgia and Armenia (1992-94), and Indonesia (1994-98). From 1998 till his retirement from the I.F.S in June 2001, he was the Secretary in the Ministry of External Affairs in New Delhi. As Secretary, he dealt with India’s bilateral as well as multilateral economic relations and was closely associated with the ‘Look-East’ policy and the evolving relations with the Asia-Pacific. He was the Leader of the Indian delegation at the senior official meetings of India-ASEAN Dialogue Partnership, ASEAN Regional Forum, BIMST-EC, Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation and others. He was a Member of the National Security Advisory Board of India in 2002-03. He was a Visiting Professor at the Jawaharlal Nehru University in 2002 and was the Vice-Chairman of the Research and Information System of Developing Countries (RIS), New Delhi. He has authored India and Southeast Asia: Towards Security Convergence (2006) by the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, (ISEAS) Singapore and Capital Publishing Co. Delhi and A New Energy Frontier: the Bay of Bengal region published by ISEAS, Singapore (2008). He is currently the Director General of the Indian Council of World Affairs (ICWA) New Delhi. Recently we had a long conversation at historic Sapru House on diverse issues related to the Indian foreign policy…edited excerpts are…

Q: - How do you see the change in dynamics of Indian foreign policy? Especially, in the context of our traditional allies in South East Asia, Arab and Central Asian countries?

A: - Indian foreign policy has undergone a consistent evolution since 1991; end of Cold war and subsequently, the collapse of U.S.S.R and emergence of new States besides India’s own liberalisation of economy left huge impact from the policy perspectives. Moreover, post 9/11, strategic consideration pushed India for greater collaboration with U.S against the international terrorism. For the first time, U.S acknowledged India’s long suffering from the terrorism; it was indeed remarkable from the strategic point of views. Besides, India still continuing strengthened co-operation with the likeminded nations, to enhance its security safeguard.

India maintains functionally smooth relations with all the countries, last year representatives of the all five Member nation of UN visited India…so the dyamicism has broadened our ties in foreign affairs. Post Cold war, a realization grew that India should give greater attention towards South East Asia, that popularly known as “Look East Policy”. Even in historical terms, South East Asian nations remained our close allies albeit the interruption of Cold war resulted in the kind of distance for twenty years. 1990’s saw good rapture; now our relations are excellent, both at the bilateral level with the nations of the region and through ASEAN. Free Trade Agreements {FTA} and close defence co-operation with the ASEAN nations are epitomes of our diplomatic stronghold in the region. My book, India and South Asia- towards Security Convergence, argues that India entered in comprehensive treaty that leading towards convergence. So things are going on good course though much has to be done ahead. ICWA is a steering organisation in India on ASEAN dialogue, since last year we took many initiatives in this regard and also hosted a meaningful Conference on India-ASEAN dialogue, which made positive impacts.

Central Asia has been a promising region in all the terms, our ties was on peak during Soviet Union era, though the collapse of U.S.S.R in 1991 necessitated to engage the each separated States individually. Connectivity is a big problem in this region, so we are facing limitation in our closeness. We have traditional presence in the Arab world, and that’s based on trust and fine engagements. India has consistently supported to Palestinian cause and its legitimate aspiration but we shall not interfere in their domestic affairs. Though, India is open for talking to these nations, if they feel such need.

Q: - Does India’s emergence as an economic/strategic power influencing its conventional relationship with the neighbouring countries?

A: - India’s capacity has considerably gone up in principally immediate neighbourhood. Around 70-80% of SAARC nations economies are influenced by the India, so significant happenings here leave substantial impact on neighbours. In terms of commercial/educational/service potential, India stands with a crucial position for its neighbours; so India must be taken into good light and its rise should be seen positively. Since India became a nation, it always forwarded its best support for neighbour’s prosperousness, though it’s worrisome that our trade volume is still much smaller with our neighbours in comparison of China. Here measures are immediately needed to broaden the trade relations in neighbourhood, and that must be started with the adequate investment in these countries; this will be helpful in forming the atmosphere of goodwill.

Q: - How India should approach on Nepal’s ongoing stalemate?

A: - India closely monitoring the ongoing political development in Nepal. We have genuine concern with our most trusted neighbour, so we always need a peaceful and stable Nepal. India supported Maoists in the mainstream politics and their consolidated efforts for Constitution making. As once again, Maoists are heading the coalition government under the premiership of Baburam Bhattarai, we are hoping positive time ahead in our relationship. India always has been and is open for help.

Q: - Should China be taken more diplomatically or India should rather compete it economically in Nepal and Pakistan?

A: - China’s action mustn’t endanger our legitimate bilateral security interest with both these countries…until the rubicon has not crossed; there is no need to hype such involvement.

Q: - What’s the official stand of India on Non Aligned Movement {NAM}? Strategically, should India retrieve its earlier closeness in ties with Russia?

A: - NAM remains a key cardinal principle of Indian foreign policy, but it needs not to be seen in blocks, as Cold war doesn’t exist now. It has historical importance, as the basic ideals of NAM reflect our consistent opposition to the colonial ironies. As a leading member and the world’s largest democracy, India will continue to sideline those anomalies for better equality on international platform. We will keep playing crucial role on the matters of importance at multilateral level negotiations…world need a voice, India offers that along with Brazil and entire participants of BRICKS. So, with a different shape, NAM remains relevant. As far as India-Russia relation is concerned, NAM plays practically no role; we have other intrinsic commonness in our outlook besides a very closely shared historical past that plays rather cornstone of our relations. Our collaboration in defence and science-technology is still touching high sphere, now with the enhanced capacity, India is equally crucial for Russia.

Q: - What should be the India’s next course of action in Srilanka, Myanmar and Bangladesh?

A: - After the end of LTTE's dissemination in Srilanka, there emerged some contentious issues, like the presence of large numbers of refugees created by long civil war in the country. India keeps pressing Srilankan authority for the welfare of Tamils. Economically, both nations are on fine course, yet India will be concerned for Tamils who have been badly affected by the parochial ideas of LTTE and consistent ignorance by the Srilankan authority. We have old links with Myanmar that reached in closest terms during our shared struggle against the colonialism…unfortunately democracy couldn’t sustain there for long and Military rule’s shaky treatment with Aung San Sui Ki created bad feelings. Though India kept engaging Myanmar government, they have recently introduced a formal democracy, following that, visit of our foreign minister and high level envoy Nirupma Rao and their meeting with Aung San Sui Ki shows a positive development. Myanmar’s connectivity with ASEAN is crucial for us. With Bangladesh, we are working closely and many outstanding issues are being resolved now. Bangladesh has shown great action in extraditing top ranked ULFA leaders; and moreover also showing goodwill in other directions as well. We have high regards for our bilateral relations and bond of sharing.

Q: - It’s quite intriguing to observe the mix reaction of Pakistani Air force following the end of military aid from U.S…will the China leverage Pakistani Army in same way as till recently U.S did? What would be its implications on India-U.S relations and India’s interest in Afghanistan and north-west frontier?

A: - Pakistan seems to remain a close partner for U.S, even U.S had reduced military aid to Pakistan but it will not affect their ties too much…it should be taken in long perspectives only. China is an all weather ally of Pakistan, so their level of co-operation can be easily anticipated. Ofcourse, Pak-U.S relations have implications for India and in the specified regions particularly, but for now, there is little possibility for big change in geo-strategic scenario.

Q: - Do you think, now time is conducive for India to pitch strongly a permanent in UN Security Council? Should India fix a balance between its traditional foreign policy with the newly strengthened alliances?

A: - India, overall regard its right to be in UN Permanent Council, as it has always subscribed the ideals of UN. So, India naturally deserves permanent membership. It will be our thirst in the days ahead…now; we are expecting all positive moves from both the U.S and China!

Q: - What’s your view on the India-U.S Civil nuclear deal? What’s true meaning of new twist on non waiver issues? Are we heading on the right path for our energy requirements…especially after FUKUSHIMA incident?

A: - It’s indeed a positive development and must be regarded as our diplomatic achievement that secured the recognition of matured Indian position on all nuclear questions all along. We have well guarded nuclear establishment, so shall be sanguine about the future.

Q: - How Arab uprising should be seen…as democratic upheavals against the west supported autocracy or series of revolt, generated by the local causes? What will be its impact on India, and the world at large?

A: - Unrest is localized and against the western domination to some extent. India is closely watching the scene, however welcome the mass aspirations for democracy. Some of the movements are less bloody; those could be listed in positive category.

Q: - India’s opportunity in Libya and Arab world?

A: - India has good relationship with the Arab world including of Libya, so has big stakes in peace making process inside these regions.

Q: - Will inclusion of India and Pakistan in Shanghai Cooperation Organisation {SCO} make any constructive development in bilateral ties?

A: - It seems ambiguous. SCO may not influence bilateral ties but sure will leave sound impact in the regions of Central Asia. So, overall it’s a welcome development. Only SCO meetings shall not be considered as end in bilateral ties.
Atul Kumar Thakur
August 29, 2011, Monday, New Delhi
Email: summertickets@gmail.com

Friday, August 26, 2011

Tells of 24 Akbar Road etc!

Book Review: 24Akbar Road
Author: Rasheed Kidwai
Format: Hardback/Non-fiction
Language: English
Pages: 295
Price: RS.495
Publishers: Hachette/2011
Even before writing this book, and earlier Sonia: A Biography, Rasheed's grip on Congress Party affairs was undoubtedly out of match...as political reporter for years, he carried the best practices of journalism without using the mileage of political proximity. Such impartiality and presentation of truth is evident in most part of the book and that must be considered his big success. With my own high impression, I will consider this book an “essential read” for all those want to know India’s single most ruling party in multidimensional ways. Here, Rajdeep Sardesai’s rating of this book as “thriller” needs to be little more stretched in favour and shall be taken in proper light as the Rasheed’s 24 Akbar Road is out of sycophancy.

Until few years back, when Ramchandra Guha has written “India after Gandhi”, there was terrible shortage of documentation on modern India, especially on Indian democracy. Whatever we could remember before those were either stodgy writings in academic fashion or ran by views in fantasy…with little or no puts of social history, those works were hardly genuine in the historical narratives. Though 24Akbar Road naturally has leaning with political historiography, yet it delved substantially too with the socio-economic perspectives that gives readers insightful accounts of all important events in post-colonial India. Like, recalling the very crucial nationalization of banks and Coal Mines as “With the single stroke of pen, nationalized fourteen banks and Coal Mines”…beautifully narratives are at place, so are the abundancy of many hidden or less known history of Congress, and infact even about the many bungalows of Lutyns Zone, including of historical 7Jantar Mantar Road, which is an end past now for Congress.

As the existing Congress party represents more or less an unusual dualism in its action, so it’s praiseworthy, the way Rasheed has given good light where the proper works have been done by Indira Gandhi and Rajiv and defiance for the power mongers with akin to rose the rank either “by hook or crook”. Indian National Congress has indeed a unique characteristic of hierarchy which sharply cuts the topmost position for an outsider…sole exception of P.V.Narsimha Rao {Manmohan Singh is reluctantly at helm of affairs} was a conditional outcome of tragical spontaneity that arose out of Rajiv Gandhi’s unfortunate assassination in 1991. There were no other reasons, he could have Prime Minister without the sudden delinking of Gandhi family-when it reinstated, Mr. Rao was sidelined to the level of oblivion. His fall after Sonia’s arrival in politics and unjustified prominence of incapable and odd Sitaram Kesari will be remain a severe blot on the democratic credential of Congress party!

Unparalleled prerogatives of Nehru, grace in compatibility with the power of Indira, and modernism of Rajiv has covered lucidly. Book also tries well to capture the persona of Sanjay Gandhi in different way, it vehementally articulates its own views instead of chasing stereotypical conceptions, that’s more humane and real. Sanjay, as an impatient child of Indira had impacted negatively on Indian democracy…he grabbed the forefront of power with mother’s emotional breakdown in 1970’s. That was the result of her high shot intervention in international affairs, particularly in the birth of Bangladesh besides the fading strength of Congress in States. Rise of Communism and growing caliber of Socialist forces were other reasons that made her passed the baton informally in hand of Sanjay, who kept bad habits of less listening and reading even after that.

Finally with emergency, Congress shown an arbitrariness in political functioning that tolled it heavy losses, except South India
[South of Vindhya}, its position never remained so stable again. Premature death of Sanjay and conditional arrival of Rajiv shaped the further course of Congress…but in the meantime, Indira’s assassination followed by the avoidable communal clashes and bawdy display of personification from tier-II and tier-III leaders bought some murmur of leadership change but lasted soon. The bad personal maneuvering Pranab Mukherji was shunted under the charge of command that lost prominence he could retrieve only in 1991, after the Rajiv’s sad death. He displayed this time proper loyalty in favour of Sonia, and still doing so with greater say in party and government led by the Congress party.

Rasheed has succeeded to establish a broader outline, how Congress party has been moving over the years through many formative and deformative stages. He also did beautifully overtures with the internal nuances of Congress organisation, especially the detailed classification of party affiliates are worth of reckoning and besides also knowing how good or bad democracy exists within India’s largest political party. I will reprise again here, that historical narration is the best thing with this book, although a big missing has also emerges from the same section. In entire book, there is no mention of Congress high profile leader from Bihar, Lalit Narayan Mishra who spearheaded the party organisation in eastern/northern India besides also playing formidable role in establishing smooth rapport with Communist bloc during the Cold War era. Ambiguity of his death while serving as most effective Railway Minister should have also been taken into account as he remained unparalleled leader of Bihar after Shree Krishna Singh.

Name of his younger brother, Jagganath Mishra was among the five probables after the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi, but here too, there is no mention of that. Till then, Congress started catching decline in Bihar…defeat of Jagganath Mishra by the legendary Communist leader, Bhogendra Jha by substantial margin in 1991 Loksabha election from Madhubani marked the end of Congress party as functional power in Bihar. Anyway, Dr. Mishra continued as Rajya Sabha member with a plush Ministry of Rural Development, but his adventurous decision to lobby against Sonia Gandhi knocked him permanently irrelevant in Congress politics. Though two other dissent lobbyists, P.A.Sangama and Sharad Pawar is enjoying best time in power circle of UPA government. Lastly this book must be stacked in bookshelf of every serious readers with penchant for understanding Indian politics, I am sanguine about that and hoping it as starting of a new wave of political commentary.
Atul Kumar Thakur
August 26, 2011, Friday, New Delhi
Email: summertickets@gmail.com

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Battle of Telangana!

Book Review: Battleground Telangana: Chronicle of an Agitation
Author: Kingshuk Nag
Format: paperback
Language: English
Pages: 239
Price: RS.299
Publishers: Harper Collins/2011
Kingshuk Nag being a journalist has very sharp eyes for details that is easily evident inside his timely and well written political commentary/ Battleground Telangana on Telangana Statehood. This work is straight forward in narration, so it seems interesting in reading...primarily, Statehood has two arms-agitation and its political manipulation by the parties involved. Flaws in Statehood could be traced back since the recommendation of first State Reorganization {SRC}, led by Fazal Ali in 1953, on this basis modern Andhra Pradesh came into existence. As this book rightly establishes; that unmindful alteration in Geography and uneven spread of resources, falsified the meaning of State in the eyes of peoples from Telangana region.

Two major factors [feeble enterprising quality and low literacy rate] are still being caused for the rise of demand for Telangana Statehood. Anyhow, time of 1956-1968 remained passive regarding the Statehood but the year 1969 proved a painful year with witnessing large scale violence and misadventures of political class. Andhra Pradesh has always been a key strength of Congress, even after the emergency, Congress did fairly well in south of Vindhya and especially in Andhra Pradesh with winning 41 Loksbha Seats out of 42. In later years too, Congress has managed somehow a respectable electoral edge in AP, which is the major reason why it reluctantly been centered over its policy on separate Telangana.

Congress naturally has chosen an ambitious stand of breaking the natural leadership from Telangana. Chenna Reddy's opportunism and pacifying turn of of P.V.Narsimha Rao are two classic examples how Congress prioriiesd its electoral bnefits instead anticipating on genuine demand of Telangana as a separate State. Chapter-4 {Paradigm Shift: NTR, Naidu and YSR} inquisites the rise of NTR out of the firm minded convictions of Congress at Center which in late 1970's and early 1980's used to accustomed for cornering the local demand and changing of Chief Ministers as legislative measures. Here NTR after being rejected for a Rajya Sabha birth from Congress, sailed on Telgu pride and his own mythological image earned through an impressive inning in Cinema. That ended the monopoly of Congress for a long time; his son-in-law, Chandra Babu Naidu outgrew him later but on the cost of mass support.

Congress finally cashed on such dwindling peoples confidence for Naidu under the Y.S.Rajshekhar Reddy. These three big leaders had almost cut-size the Telangana movement. The present wave of demand is being led by K Chandrashekhar Rao{Telangana Rashtra Samiti}, which became resonant only after the unfortunate death of YSR and dramatic change of guards in State Congress.

It could be a matter of big debate, why Congress has marginalized a long demand for Telangana over the years! This book meticulously reveals the persisting biases towards the development in Telangana region that turned it to bastion of ultra-left armed movement. If development is directly related to the law and order situation and cure is lies in bifurcation of State-then, Telangana must be given its due. Afterall, Jharkhand, Uttarakhand and Chattisgarh as States have made lot of differences in local development. There is urgency now to end the Battleground Telangana by the Center, as its Home Minister in 2009 announced for the Statehood of Telangana while en-route Delhi in his flight! Time is to act now in real world…!
Atul Kumar Thakur
Tuesday, August 16, 2011, New Delhi
Mail: summertickets@gmail.com

Searching Solitude!

Book Review: Fiction/The Garden of Solitude by Siddhartha Gigoo, Rupa, 246 pp; Rs195 (Paperback)

The Garden of Solitude by Sidhhartha Gigoo is a remarkable personal narration on the collective outbreak of turmoil inside the socio-cultural fabric of Kashmir in late 1980’s. This novel honestly gives the sense of loss for what wrong happened with the Kashmiri Pandits in their trusted neighbourhood, that were never bad and troublesome…even after two decades and considerable adjustment in mainframe, Kashmiri Pandits are still missing those composite bonds which once used to be the intrinsic part of existence. Gigoo graciously allows his own voice in the protagonist, Sridar who epitomizes an authentic account in socio-cultural terms, without getting too much involved with the highly reprised effects of Cold War and subsequent wave of Islamization in valley.

This promises much for readers to understand the plight of Kashmiri Pandits through humane perspectives instead of getting blurred in cobweb of political tantrums. Now when a new generation of Kashmiri Pandits are already moved up with the time and theirs incessant struggle in alien circumstances; it’s solacing to see many of them being creatively able to historically shape theirs good and bad memories of once home and a forbidden territory for last two decades. So, Sridar’s memories of looking through his intimate window and impulses to visit his lost heaven amidst very lively reception from forcibly deprived neighbourhood gives lucid indication that at socio-cultural level, loss of exodus is reciprocal.

Searching nativity should be the main plank of Kashmiris in exile who tagged for long with an unjust and illogical suffix, SHARNARTHI! Never it was justifiable inside a free state like India…only it was an illuminating stance of Center’s failure to reach the basic flaws of Kashmir issue and getting involve for a constructive way out. What we have witnessed rather a consistent derailment of genuine concern substituted by hippocratic rise of local leadership which remains devoid to attain any rational purposes. Siddhartha succeeded to an extant in striking balance between essential sentimentalism and the existing scenario.

The right thing he did to route his vision in straight way without being fixed with tricky Kashmiri discourse, likewise of A.G.Noorani type in fruitless and divisive fashion! Over the years, Center missed to empower the Kashmiris who were in State or outside; instead wrongly all resources were directed to nurture the questionable local leadership and symbolic institutions. Even today, the path chosen of Public diplomacy is completely out of touch from the core of problems and it’s unlikely they will fetch anything substantial as solution on a very costly Kashmir issue.

It will be wrong to describe every work on Kashmir through the theoretic construct of international conspiracies. Needless to say, it caused for all turmoil inside once a living Paradise but need is too look around what forced at social/cultural/psychological that frozen and broke Kashmir? With impressive past and articulate lifestyle, the land which should have been the role model for peace, how turned to be among the most dangerous place of the world? After the folly of last six and half decades, Indian side must deal the Kashmir issue in straight terms without even a think to stretch the existing approach of Public diplomacy which otherwise will be keep downgrading the genuine aspirations out of its incompetency to engage effectively. Time is to think on many Sridar who should be given again theirs lost windows to see the world…!

Atul Kumar Thakur
Monday, August15,2011, New Delhi
Mail: summertickets@gmail.com
(Published in The Financial World/Tehelka's business paper, dated on April19,2012,Thursday)