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How far does misguided patriotism take us?

 
 
 
 
After the Uri attacks, shocking as they were, we have seen a surge of jingoism in almost all walks of life. The hysteria in some sections of the electronic media would have us believe as if there is real war going on across the border. Yes, it is true the violence from across the border had been stepped up which should be seen as a natural fall-out of the surgical strikes.
In this atmosphere, Bollywood the soft power and soft target, came under sharper focus for casting Pakistani artists in films at a time when our soldiers are shedding their blood in the fight against terror. Initially, the demand was that the Pakistani artists should condemn the Uri and other attacks unconditionally. The generic statements issued by the actors “condemning acts of terror anywhere” did not satisfy the jingoistic voices. The issue then changed track. Instead of the Pakistani actors the guns were now trained on the Indian producers who had worked with these actors. The target in the cross hairs being Karan Johar ( KJo for his fans and friends) whose latest film Ae Dil Hai Mushkil (ADHM in filmy parlance) is slated for an October 28 Diwali release. Needless to say a lot of money is riding on the shoulders of this film.
Once the release date was set the sequence moved from mere words to actionable threats as the Raj Thackeray outfit MNS warned of violence at theatres that would  screen ADHM. Immediately, the association of theatre owners that has four hundred members in Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka and Gujarat announced that it would not be screening ADHM to avoid loss to their properties as well as personnel. With many theatres having glass facades this was a realistic assessment of the threat perception from MNS cadres who have a violent track record against various sections of the society.
For a while it appeared that the nay sayers would carry the day and ADHM’s Diwali release could be an unpredictable affair. But then the pragmatic KJo made his first conciliatory move. The armchair defenders of the freedom of expression can have the liberty of calling it a surrender, but one should ask them the same question when their career and hard earned money is at stake. The film producers came into play and met home minister Rajnath Singh and gave him an assurance that the film industry respects the national sentiment and no Pakistani actor would henceforth be working in the industry. In return, they got an assurance that the release of ADHM would be a smooth affair. In stepped Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis who appeared to have ‘brokered’ a deal between MNS and KJo, that there would be no obstruction in the release of the film with two conditions. The producer would pay ` 5 crore to Army Welfare Fund (AWF) and pay a tribute to the Uri jawans at the start of the film. So was it all about money? Or is there a move to legitimise the extortionist approach of the MNS? These are some questions that need to be asked.
Similarly, some tough questions need to be asked to the jingoistic patriots as to what do they plan to do with the $ 2 billion worth goods that India sends to Pakistan through government authorised road, rail and sea routes. This is authorised estimate of the trade through formal channels for which Pakistan has a negative list of 1,209 items that cannot be imported from India. But smart traders on both sides of the divide circumvent this by using a third party country - Dubai - to channel the goods. These are called informal exports and the trade volume is twice the size of formal exports. So jingoist patriots - any plans to stalk the industrialists, traders or block the trucks? So, we should ask ourselves this question as to how far this misguided patriotism will take us? As a principled approach in this time of crisis, I fully endorse the ban on Pakistani artists. There is no question of letting them enjoy our hospitality and giving them an opportunity to earn money and fame. It is simply not done. We have adopted a similar approach in cricket, and there are no cricketing relations between India and Pakistan for the past several years and even if the two boards have shown a willingness to resume the ties, the Indian authorities have not been keen to do so. If we play cricket with Pakistan, it gives an impression of normalcy between the two countries that simply does not exist on the ground.
However, even while doing all this ban business, and trying to isolate Pakistan internationally, we cannot forget that dialogue between the neighbouring countries is the only way forward. Even the foreign secretary S Jaishankar has stated this with a caveat that the place and timing of the talks shall be of India’s choosing.
In the context of the India-Pakistan relations we have to take into account their internal conditions. Unlike Prime Minister Narendra Modi, his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif is not the master of the country’s foreign policy and the armed forces. These are dictated by the army whose chief Raheel Sharif is due to retire on November 30 and when a new chief comes in that will determine the dynamics of the civil-military relationship. Till then uncertainty would prevail. Sharif has other domestic issues like Panama gate, and the threat by Imran Khan to lockdown Islamabad. Last time this happened the army bailed out Sharif and reasserted its supremacy.
In the end, it will be through the people to people interactions and the goodwill they produce that the bosses on both sides of divide change their mindset on the India-Pakistan issue. Right now there is little scope for it but we see it in tidbits through visits by school children, etc. But one should be optimistic and hopeful that the commonalities and not the differences shall override the relationship between the two countries.
 
Before I conclude
 
There are serious questions about the role of the MNS in the context of the release of the film ADHM. Can a few persons who decide to take law into their hands dictate terms? Who has authorised MNS to collect donations on behalf of the Army Welfare Fund? How was the figure of ` 5 crore arrived at? Is this enough for repentance? National sentiment apart, the atmosphere of violence and disruption created by such outfits is a matter of concern. The authorities must act in a manner to ensure that they do not get away with their tactics.
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The author is the chairman, Editorial Board of Lokmat Media and former member of Rajya Sabha.

Russia has Stood by India’s Interests

 

 

                 

 

India's strategic relationship with the erstwhile Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and then its successor state of Russia has a historic background that dates back to early mid-fifties and the sixties. The relationship was literally cast in stone when the then prime minister Indira Gandhi signed the India-USSR Friendship Treaty in August 1971. In the immediate aftermath it stood her in good stead as she battled the multi- dimensional East Pakistani refugee crisis which led to events that changed politico-geographic map of the South Asian region and created Bangladesh. The USSR supported India strategically, militarily and diplomatically. In the cold war era, it was India’s only super power friend.

 
We must remember that this was the time when President Richard Nixon of the USA was aggressively wooing China and was also known for his infamous tilt towards the Pakistani military dictator Gen. Yahya Khan. The Nixon-Kissinger duo was unconcerned by the impact of the genocide unleashed by him in East Pakistan.
This week on the sidelines of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) summit in Goa, prime minister Narendra Modi met the Russian president Vladimir Putin and gave a renewed push to the old ties emphasising “one old friend is better than two new” in an apparent reference to the recent joint military exercises between Pakistan and Russia. But any remnants of doubts about the quality of the ties were obliterated by the joint statement, the 16 agreements and three announcements that covered a wide range of mutual interests.
 
The deals would have long term implications but the satisfying part of the joint statement at the end of the Modi-Putin meeting for the Indian side is echo on the issue of terrorism in all its forms. “India deeply appreciated Russia's understanding and support of our actions to fight cross-border terrorism, that threatens our region. We both affirmed the need for zero tolerance in dealing with terrorists and their supporters,” joint statement said.
 
This was the kind of ringing endorsement that India was looking from a majorpower in its current battle with Pakistan. In this context, Russia has always understood and backed India's interests. As the foreign secretary S Jaishankar put it: “After their talks, we are satisfied that Russia understands India's interests and will not act against these...there was a very strong meeting of minds on this.”
 
The deals amounting to $24 billion correct the tilt in India’s trade ties towards western countries that have been getting a larger share of defence procurement contract. But this time with three key deals to acquire advanced air defence missile systems, stealth frigates and to jointly produce light-utility helicopters, Russia gets three projects collectively worth an estimated $10.5 billion (over ` 72,000 crore). Of these the S-400 Triumf missile systems which basically have three kinds of missiles that fly at supersonic and hypersonic speeds to intercept targets at ranges from 120-400 km, India will acquire five of these, three meant for the western front with Pakistan and the other two for the eastern front with China ­­ can shoot down Chinese or Pakistani fighters while they fly in their own airspace. This will be a game changer for our defence preparedness. Just as the two other projects - nuclear enabled stealth frigates and the joint venture to produce 200 Kamov-226T light utility helicopters - will add to our efforts to modernise our defence systems. The joint venture for the choppers will also add to ‘Make in India’ drive.
 
The only commercial deal that has been signed involves a consortium comprising Russian energy giant Rosneft, commodities trader Trafigura, and Russian fund United Capital Partners (UCP) acquiring nearly the entire stake owned by the Ruias in Essar Oil for $12.9 billion. This is the largest-ever single foreign direct investment in India. It also signals prime minister Modi’s desire to build an “Energy Bridge” with Moscow involving a combination of robust civil nuclear cooperation, LNG sourcing, partnership in the oil and gas sector, and engagement in renewables.
 
We have to see the Putin-Modi engagement in contrast with India’s efforts to persuade the Chinese President Xi Jinping’s sustained stand over two key issues - getting Masood Azhar declared as a designated terrorist by the United Nations, and our efforts to get full membership of the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group (NSG). On both issues Russia has declared its unequivocal support but even after three Modi-Jinping meetings in one year China remains unmoved. There is no stumbling block as such as both sides remain in touch. Now there would be another meeting between the National Security Advisers of the two sides.
 
But the Chinese attitude annoys the Indian common man especially as it comes in the face of the fact that India is China’s biggest trading partner with annual bilateral trade over $ 75 billion and heavily loaded in China’s favour. This time however President Jinping has offered direct investments by China as a route to reducing the trade deficit.
The ill-logic of the Chinese position dictated not by its intrinsic national interests (after all how does it matter to Beijing if Masood Azhar is banned or not, the decision will impact Pakistan, if at all and similarly India’s membership of NSG does not affect Beijing’s interests) but because of its all weather relationship will dawn on its leadership, hopefully sooner than later. However, in international diplomacy nothing comes for free so it is time India makes some moves through trade restrictions or some other mechanism for China to see reason. After all, from smart phones to fire crackers the Indian market is flooded with the Chinese brands. Indeed, China should realise that India’s is a democracy and a clamp-down on its products need not be sanctioned by any official agency and the people on their own can be very effective in this respect.
These bilaterals may grab the headlines but behind the glare of the media the multi-lateral events like the BRICS contribute a lot in resolving global issues related to development and the economy. More importantly, these events promote interaction between leaders.
 
Before I conclude
 
India has done well to conduct the surgical strikes across the border. It may not have ended cross border terrorism from Pakistan, but a clear message has gone to Islamabad that there is a price to pay. But then round of politics over it in the domestic arena does not do us proud. It is not a subject for daily discussion, after all it is a matter of national security where deeds and not words count. Let those responsible for the task do it, and the politicians refrain from daily commentary.

 

 

 

The Usurpers of Professional Cricket

 

 
 
Do the elected office-bearers of Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) think that this institution is their landed property and they have the ownership rights over all its assets and sources of revenue? Sitting on the cash-rich body, these people have got so much enamored of the wealth, power and prestige that they have not only challenged the Supreme Court-appointed Lodha committee but have the temerity to challenge the Supreme Court itself.
 
It is a simple and basic expectation that the democratically constituted institutions should be run by the same democratic norms and principles whereby the country is run. But the board officials are behaving in an autocratic manner believing what they ‘lay down is the law’. Their arrogance was further strengthened with an almost unstoppable stream of money they got by organizing the IPL matches, but in reality this is the most mismanaged body from whose cupboards the skeletons of match-fixing and financial irregularities tumbled out in quick succession. Actually this board was constituted for the promotion of cricket, but that purpose has been relegated to the background and a clique of power brokers and vested interests have turned this institution into their personal fiefdom. It should be noted that the Supreme Court intervened in the affairs of the BCCI only when it found flagrant violations of the democratic institution. 
 
The Supreme Court appointed a committee headed by the former chief justice of India Rajendramal Lodha with the noble purpose of ensuring the management of the board in a democratic manner, and to ensure that no monopoly is created and that the priority is given to the sportsmen and to suggest ways and means of setting the BCCI house in order. The committee presented its report to the Supreme Court after interacting and holding several rounds of discussion with the institutions and individuals concerned with cricket and its management. The SC accepted most of the recommendations of the Justice Lodha committee except those like bringing the BCCI under the Right to Information Act and legalising betting which require sanction of the Constitution and the Parliament. Justice Lodha was also entrusted with the task of improving the functioning of the BCCI within a certain time frame.
 
Ever since the report of the Justice Lodha committee was announced, the BCCI has taken an aggressive stance vis-a-vis the recommendations. The board is opposed to the recommendations like maximum age limit for becoming the office-bearer, prohibiting ministers and bureaucrats, capping the working term for nine years only, three years’ rest after working consecutively for six years, one man one post, appointment of a representative of CAG on the board, formation of the sportsmen’s organisation within the board and every state to have just one vote. Though the Supreme Court set a deadline for implementing the recommendations of Justice Lodha committee within six months, the board is still not ready to do it and is raising various issues. With a view to prevaricating on the issue, the BCCI formed a four-member committee, headed by the former judge of Supreme Court Justice Markandey Katju, to discuss the Lodha committee recommendations. Justice Katju raised pointless issues like he being senior to Justice Lodha and questioned Justice Lodha’s bonafides to deal with board affairs, making his intentions clear.
 
But the presiding chief justice Tirathsingh Thakur was insistent that all the recommendations of the committee should be implemented first otherwise the Supreme Court would decide what order to pass. Besides, the SC stated that unless state cricket organisations, which are the constituents of the BCCI passed the resolutions accepting the recommendations of the justice Lodha committee, they should not be provided any funds. But still the board did not make any move. They offered a technical excuse like the board being constituted under the Tamil Nadu law and that according to that law there can not be amendment of the constitution unless two third members vote for it. After the deadline expired on September 30, the SC bench sought from the BCCI a written assurance to implement all the recommendations of the Justice Lodha committee within a certain time frame but the board refused to give that too.
 
Meanwhile, the season of domestic cricket (Ranji Trophy etc.) started and the amicus curie Gopal Subramaniam said that the BCCI’s act of ignoring the SC order amounted to contempt of court and suggested to the SC bench that the governing body of the BCCI should be dissolved immediately and that an administrator should be appointed on the board.
But Justice Thakur has not accepted this because he wants to give some more time to the board (till October 17). The picture that emerges out of such a situation is that while the court has taken a very sensible view, the board officials continue with their arrogant and contemptuous ways. They are not ready to think beyond their narrow personal interests. The board is pretending that it is the sports body working hard for the promotion of sports and creation of sports friendly atmosphere. But this claim is hollow.
 
Basically, this board is interested in making money. Even the sportspersons who claim that they are playing for the country, play only for money, their clubs, commit violation of the FEMA and FERA. The board also avails itself of several government concessions. Therefore, I feel that the Supreme Court should have accepted the recommendation of Justice Lodha for bringing the BCCI under the RTI. Most of the politicians have thronged the cricket bodies and the effort to disentangle these sports bodies from their embrace should be strengthened.  
 
Before I conclude
 
The BCCI’s claim that the rule of ‘one state one vote’ is an injustice to Maharashtra and Gujarat while inducting the office-bearers from these two states is worth taking note. There are three cricket associations viz. Mumbai, Maharashtra and Nagpur which are active in Maharashtra and their contribution is really great.

 

 

 

Need to start second phase of Swadeshi movement

 

 

 
 
“What could we give to the country in the last 60-65 years? We could not remove poverty, could not provide healthcare, water, electricity, education, employment to our people. We could not do anything that could put the country on the path of progress. We have done just one thing- spread hatred and enmity. But while doing that we forgot one thing that Islam does not permit hatred; on the contrary Islam teaches that those who indulge in hatred are not Muslims. Just look at India, what a progress that country has made  over the period of time.” This speech which analyses the condition of Pakistan and the direction it has taken has come from none other than Fozia Ejaz Khan, a Pakistani MP. She delivered this objective and hard-hitting analysis of the current situation in Pakistan, in country’s parliament. Overwhelmed with the state of utter disorder in Pakistan, the MP gave vent to her pent up emotions and broke down in the House. The reason why the speech of a Pakistani MP has been reproduced here is that though they are in a minority, Pakistan too has sane voices. Not all are madcaps. But this is the misfortune of India and the rest of mankind that sane voices are suppressed before they are expressed or they are simply ignored. The Pakistan-sponsored terror attack on the Indian Army base in Uri sector in Jammu and Kashmir that killed 19 Indian jawans, was one more attack on the sovereignty of India.  So far many such attacks took place but India hoped that the situation would improve. But there were no indications that Pakistan would ever mend its ways and therefore, Indian Army very skillfully crossed the LoC and entered the Pakistan occupied Kashmir to kill the terrorists and destroyed seven terror launch pads. Pakistan must never have anticipated the intensity of reaction and that is why the joint sitting of parliament was convened by it to discuss the situation in the aftermath of the surgical strikes by India. Against this background, the speech of Fozia Khan is quite relevant though that speech was delivered in the month of August.
 
But we can not hope that such a sane voice will have any effect on the government there. The reason is that we assume that the Nawaz Sharif government is the government of Pakistan because the people of Pakistan elected it. But all the elected governments in that country so far were inconsequential and the real powers rest in the hands of the army and the ISI, the intelligence agency. Sharif is no exception to this tradition. It was never his intention to serve the people by running the government. He just wants to stick to power somehow and make money. This is his singular purpose. During 1999 when the Kargil misadventure was staged by Pakistan’s then army chief general Pervez Musharraf, Sharif was the prime minister, but the former took the decision of war bypassing Sharif and burnt his own fingers.
 
Later, Musharraf deposed Sharif and exiled him to Saudi Arabia and took over the reins of Pakistan.Therefore, though as a person and a politician Sharif may not want conflict with India, and may want to forge ties of friendship with India, it does not carry any meaning. On the other hand, the current Indian Prime Minister has maintained good relationships with all the countries of the world, particularly the neighbouring nations and it began with his oath-taking ceremony when he invited the heads of states of the neighbouring countries. He toured many countries and built personal relationships with the heads of the countries he visited. He also highlighted during his overseas visits how India has been the victim of terrorism. He also reminded Pakistan and its PM Nawaz Sharif how terrorism has been the biggest challenge and that it should be met squarely. But his efforts did not evoke the favourable response from the neighbouring country. The terror attack on Pathankot Air Force Base was serious and hurt the pride of the country. Still, Modi let the Pakistani investigating team come to the Pathankot base for investigation. Modi who had spoken of teaching a lesson to Pakistan during his election campaign remained silent and his reticence attracted a barrage of criticism. But he bore it with silence and then started making efforts to build a favourable opinion for the country the world over. But the Uri attack proved to be the last straw that broke the camel’s back. His critics started speaking with vehemence. However, Modi government started using diplomacy to isolate Pakistan and ended up performing the ‘surgery’ with a soft hand. All his critics became his supporters overnight. But the surgical strike is not the end; if anything it is the beginning of the end.
 
Prime Minister visited many countries in the last 28 months and built a favourable image of himself and that of India. He built relationships of faith and trust even with the Islamic nations. That is why the Wednesday’s military action by the Indian Army did not evoke any adverse reaction. None of the countries of the world blamed India or supported Pakistan. On the other hand, many big countries reprimanded Pakistan. But it is equally true that the US still continues to supply arms and ammunition to Pakistan and it is still giving credit to that country and subsequently waiving off that debt. Russia too went ahead with the joint military drill. Still India undertook a direct action. Even China did not flay India in the context of surgical strikes. But China has once again used its veto power in the UN to disallow the motion to declare Masood Azhar as the international terrorist. Whether China or the US, all countries have now become traders. For them business interests are paramount. Under these circumstances we can certainly do one thing- boycott Chinese goods! But how far would that work can not be judged for sure.
 
In Pakistan, four factors that pose great threat not just to India but the entire world are at work. They are the Army, ISI, anti-India sentiment and madrasas that keep churning out terrorists. As for the people in Pakistan, they bestow love and affection on the Indian people. But they do not have freedom. I have experienced this myself during my every visit to that country. While speaking to the media there, I was asked to compare the two countries. I told them that India has democracy and there is respect for all religions with no bigotry, whatsoever. Buddha, Mahavir and Bapu Gandhi and freedom of press too are there.
 
Before I conclude
The Bollywood is wrestling with the challenge of what to do with the Pakistani artists: Whether to let them work here or tell them to leave the country. None can deny the importance of mutual interaction and people-to-people contact. But such solutions are out of context in the present warlike situation. Had Salman Khan spoken to his father before shooting his mouth off on this subject, it would have helped him a lot. He would not have said things like Pakistani artistes are not terrorists; on the other hand he would have condemned terrorism. Had he asked the Pakistani artistes to condemn the Uri attack and expressed respect and solidarity towards the soldiers who died in that attack, Salman would have become a hero rather than a villain in the eye of the Indian people.