Cover Story en Sat Mar 07 16:18:16 IST 2020 rites-of-return <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Whether you like him or not, you have to admire Rahul Gandhi for his gumption to walk back into the limelight despite the crushing electoral defeats, the myriad questions raised about his leadership abilities and the ignominy of being held up as an object of ridicule by his political rivals.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In the midst of Covid-19, the former Congress president has taken a new avatar and is tirelessly carrying out an incessant critique of the Narendra Modi government’s handling of the pandemic, the economy and the Chinese intrusions in Ladakh.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There is a hectic pace to Rahul’s online interventions, and his effort is to project the Modi government as incapable of handling the pandemic and the economic slowdown, and as dishonest on the skirmish with China.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It, however, appears that the main purpose of the endeavour is to refurbish Rahul’s image and project him as a person who delves into issues with the rigour of an intellectual and the sensitivity of an empathetic, thoughtful leader.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The image revamp coincides with the Gandhi scion crossing an important milestone—he turned 50 this year. He cannot be referred to as a young leader anymore, having well and truly entered middle age.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In keeping with the seniority that he has assumed, he has given up the belligerence of the angry young leader persona of yore, appearing calm, composed, thoughtful and self-assured in his online outings.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Clean-shaven, hair neatly combed, the kurta replaced by a formal blue shirt in his videos on the Chinese incursions, the get-up seems aimed at showing him as a leader with a difference. The tone, too, is markedly different, shorn of the aggression of the ‘chowkidar chor hai’ slogan.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Rahul has said he wanted to offer constructive criticism over how the government was managing Covid-19 and its impact on the economy. He has had a series of online conversations with experts such as Raghuram Rajan, Abhijit Banerjee, Ashish Jha, Rajiv Bajaj and Muhammad Yunus on the socio-economic effects of the pandemic. He sat down on a footpath with a group of migrant workers to talk about their struggles and interacted with a taxi driver at a tea stall, the events gaining traction on social media.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>He has held news conferences, posted video messages, has been active on Twitter and has even launched his Telegram channel. And the latest online tranche of four slickly produced videos on the Chinese incursions attempts to show him as a leader with a deep insight into the problem, thereby trying to project Modi, by comparison, as not telling the complete truth about the issues with China.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A repackaging of Rahul is under way, and the effort appears to be to project him as the antithesis of Modi, as a leader who is empathetic to the vulnerable sections of society, willing to seek suggestions from experts and is prepared to take questions from the media. He has sought to come across as the voice of sanity in these uncertain times.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>While Rahul was not altogether missing from the public eye after his resignation last year, he did stay under the radar, hence there is intense speculation whether he is now ready to make a comeback as Congress president.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The timing of Rahul’s efforts makes it all the more interesting. His mother, Sonia Gandhi, who stepped in after his resignation, completes one year as interim chief of the Congress on August 10. With no sign of a process being put in place to elect a new president, an option before the party is to extend Sonia’s interim presidentship. The other possibility is Rahul agreeing to take charge and settling the leadership issue.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>At a news conference a couple of months ago, Rahul was asked whether he was on a comeback trail. He replied: “Please see my letter from a year ago…. I stand by my letter.” Sources close to him said the reasons why he quit were spelt out clearly in his open letter issued at the time of his resignation and that it stressed that accountability needed to be fixed at all levels. They said he would come back on his own terms.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A close Rahul aide said his return as Congress president was imminent, although he could not confirm whether it would happen now. “Majority of the Congress workers definitely want him back. It is also a fact that Sonia Gandhi’s appointment was on a temporary basis, with a certain date, which we are now nearing. There are serious health issues. She stepped in to fill a vacuum, and she cannot continue doing that indefinitely. So I am sure there will be a resolution soon, though I am not sure what that resolution will be,” he said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Rahul’s supporters have begun calling for his return. Demands were made in the Congress working committee (CWC) meeting of June 23 and Sonia’s meetings with party MPs on July 11 and July 30. Rahul’s staunch supporters, who had defended his decision to resign, now want him to come back.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“As someone who worked with him, I was not disappointed with his decision to resign as party president. The party lost the Lok Sabha election. But it was not his fault alone. Yet, he came forward to put in his papers. But now, I feel it is high time he returned as party president,” said S. Jothimani, MP from Karur and a close aide of Rahul.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Along with the demand for Rahul’s return, the divide between the old guard and the young leaders in the party—the principal reason for his resignation—has reappeared, too. It played out in Sonia’s meeting with members of the Rajya Sabha on July 30. The leaders in this meeting, many of them representing the old guard, were not so effusive in their demand that Rahul come back, quite unlike the fervent demand heard in her meeting with Lok Sabha members on July 11.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The meeting, in fact, became a war of words between the seniors and the young leaders identified as Team Rahul. The call for introspection made by senior leaders and the organisational issues raised by them were seen by Rahul’s supporters as expressing reservations about his leadership. Rahul aide Rajiv Satav reportedly said the introspection had to begin with the functioning of the second United Progressive Alliance government and how the Congress fell from more than 200 seats in 2009 to just 44 in 2014. There was an immediate retort to this from leaders like Manish Tewari and Shashi Tharoor, who were ministers in the UPA government and are uncomfortable with the way the leadership issue has been dragging on.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The seniors are also said to be uncomfortable with Rahul’s online interactions, especially his China videos. They complain that he is setting a line of attack against the Modi government without consulting party leaders. It has been an old grouse that Rahul relies on his set of advisers rather than taking the senior leaders into confidence, betraying a distrust of them. Moreover, they feel he has been going on a trajectory of his own, without taking the party along or conveying the impression that the view that is being offered has been discussed and debated in the party.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In the past one year following Rahul’s resignation, several voices within the party have demanded an end to the leadership conundrum, arguing that it was hurting the party badly. The sentiment gathered steam after the party drew a blank in the assembly elections in Delhi, second time in a row, and leaders including Tewari, Tharoor, Abhishek Manu Singhvi and Sandeep Dikshit spoke about the need for Rahul to make it clear whether he wanted to be Congress president or not, so that the party could then go ahead and settle the issue. Some leaders suggested having a non-Gandhi at the helm, while some others felt that general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra can step up, although she has made it clear that she wants to focus on Uttar Pradesh, her current assignment.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Gathering momentum is the view that either the CWC appoints a full-time president or elections be held for the top post as Sonia completes a year as interim chief. Many leaders feel that if Rahul does not want to come back as president, then the party should ideally have elections for the post.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There is restiveness in the party, even among Rahul’s supporters, over the way he has kept the leadership issue hanging, and it is felt that the uncertainty is doing the party a lot of harm. The state of drift, with the leadership vacuum not allowing the party to have a sense of direction, is proving to be a big impediment in countering the aggressive politics of the Modi-Shah combine. Electoral contests apart, the party has found it difficult to keep its flock together; its government in Madhya Pradesh fell a few months ago and its chief minister in Rajasthan, Ashok Gehlot, is struggling to save his government.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There is a growing feeling that the Congress has failed to stop its decline. Its national footprint has shrunk drastically, and its organisation has become weak and lacks direction. Leaders have deserted it in a steady stream, with a weak high command unable to negotiate with regional satraps from a position of power. And the party has been unable to get an ideological footing to take on the BJP-RSS.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Statistics bring out the current state of the Congress. It has just 92 MPs in parliament which has 790 members—52 in the Lok Sabha and 40 in the Rajya Sabha. It has about 800 MLAs of a total of 4,123 MLAs in the country. In the last Lok Sabha elections, it failed to win a single seat in 13 states and five Union territories. In the politically crucial Uttar Pradesh, it won only one seat—Sonia Gandhi’s Raebareli. The victory in the heartland states in the assembly polls in December 2018 failed to translate into any gains in the Lok Sabha elections.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The party which was in power in 14 states in 2014 now rules only three states—Rajasthan, Punjab and Chhattisgarh—and the Union territory of Puducherry, and is a junior partner in the government in Maharashtra and Jharkhand. There are vast expanses where the party has either become redundant or is riding on the back of a regional player. Madhya Pradesh was won back from the BJP after a gap of 15 years, but the Kamal Nath government fell because of desertions. The northeast, once the party’s stronghold, is now Congress-mukt.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Not enough has been done at the state and Central levels to revamp the party. The party has to make a serious effort to train leaders and workers to make them understand the Congress ideology, the history of the party and the nation,” said former Madhya Pradesh chief minister Digvijaya Singh.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There is dissatisfaction with the manner in which the high command culture works and there are demands that decision making should involve diverse voices and must be decentralised. “Why can’t you have leaders who are in their 20s and 30s in the decision-making process? The party needs to hear new and diverse views,” said Aditi Singh, MLA from Raebareli, who was once close to the Gandhis, but is now seen as a rebel leader.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Former Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi said the party should put in place a dedicated cadre like that of the RSS. “The workers should have a sense of commitment to the party ideology and be ready to fight and make sacrifices for it. We used to have committed leaders. But that is not the case now,” he said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Ideological clarity is, however, what the party appears to lack at the moment. It looked confused in its responses to crucial issues such as abrogation of Article 370, the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and the National Register of Citizens. It could not take a clear stand on the construction of the Ram temple and on the tie-up with the ideologically opposite Shiv Sena. The party has found itself doing a tight-rope walk between its own ideological bases of secularism and inclusive politics, and the hindutva-based and nationalism-infused narrative of the BJP.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Congress needs a powerful story of its own to counter the BJP’s narrative, and this has to be provided by the leadership. Rahul found a potent line of attack, unveiled in his Berkeley talk in 2018, but it was lost in the noise over nationalism in the post-Pulwama situation and in his own reliance on the ‘chowkidar chor hai’ election slogan.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Even as the party debates the efficacy of Rahul’s renewed attacks on the Modi government, his supporters insist he is on the right track. “Yes, he is a dynast. He has that baggage. But there is no denying that he has a unique voice and he speaks from the heart,” said a Rahul aide. “He is talking to an audience those in power do not care about. He is resonating, maybe not on a tsunami scale right now. Will that happen in the next two to three years, given the current state of affairs? I definitely think so.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Rahul has complained that he finds himself alone in his fight against Modi. This is a point he stressed in his resignation letter and has repeated in party meetings. However, Randeep Surjewala, head of the Congress communications department, who is close to Rahul, said, “Rahul Gandhi has never said he is alone in the fight against Narendra Modi. He only expects every Congress leader, who has served in positions of power, to rise in unison in these difficult times to fight the battle unitedly and not be hesitant of the brutalities unleashed by the Modi government by false cases of ED or the Income Tax or the CBI. When he says ‘Daro mat’ (Don’t be afraid), which is his clarion call for all, he says it also to Congress leaders to be not scared of Modi.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Members of Team Rahul have felt abandoned and sidelined after his resignation, and some of them felt compelled to leave the party, the most significant one being Jyotiraditya Scindia. Some others have been sulking or striking discordant notes, such as Milind Deora or Jitin Prasada. Sachin Pilot, another prominent young leader, has gone on the warpath against the leadership, leaving the Gehlot government in dire straits.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“There are problems in the Congress across the country and that is largely because there is no direction. Party leaders and workers don’t know where the buck stops or to whom to address their problems,” said Pradyot Deb Barman, who quit as Tripura state Congress president last year. “Circumstances in the party changed drastically after Rahul’s resignation. Young leaders like me were in the party because of him. But after his resignation, he became unresponsive to our concerns. He changed his number and it became impossible for us to get in touch with him,” Barman said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As questions were raised about Rahul abandoning leaders who had grown in the party with him, some leaders said he had actually promoted ‘babalog’, who came from entitled backgrounds and could not deal with loss of power. Newly appointed Congress working president of Gujarat, Hardik Patel, said it was wrong to say that young leaders in the party were not getting their due. “Had that been the case, a 26-year-old like me would not have been given such an important assignment in a crucial state. While the party leadership recognised Sachin Pilot’s abilities, it also gave regard to the experience and political sagacity of Ashok Gehlot. Similarly, in Madhya Pradesh, it was felt that the experience of Kamal Nath was important to run the government. Young leaders need to exercise dhairya, dheeraj aur sahas (patience, endurance and courage),” he said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Countering the criticism that Rahul left young leaders to fend for themselves or was inaccessible, Surjewala said, “Scindia and Pilot were treated by Rahul Gandhi as not just friends but as members of the family. So if either of them says they were unable to meet him, they are simply lying.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Said Surjewala, “When you work in a political scheme of things, you have to negotiate the political waters without looking at Delhi 24x7 for intervention. So Scindia had to learn to negotiate the political waters alongside a Kamal Nath and a Divgijaya Singh or Pilot had to learn to deal with Gehlot. To expect Rahul Gandhi to be on their side 24x7, negotiating those political waters, would be too much to ask.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Meanwhile, as friends turn foes, supporters get restless, detractors get into attack mode and the party withers, the time for Rahul to make up his mind is running out.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Give up the sycophantic culture</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>ADITI SINGH</b><br> MLA, Raebareli</p> <p>After the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, Rahul Gandhi said there would not be another Gandhi at the helm of the Congress and that things needed to change. But the party went ahead and appointed Sonia Gandhi as interim president. Now we hear that Rahulji is poised to come back as president. So, is there any change happening? Leaders like Jyotiraditya Scindia and Sachin Pilot might have thrown their hats in the ring for the post of Congress president.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The youngest member in the Congress Working Committee is 37. Why cannot you have leaders who are in their 20s and 30s in the decision-making process? For me, what has been most frustrating is that things just do not seem to move in the party. Nothing happens, no new thing gets done.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Twitter trolls call me opportunistic. But I joined the Congress in 2016 when it was not in power at the Centre and was not in a position to win in Uttar Pradesh. I joined the party because I had faith in the party’s ideology. But now I do not think there is any ideology left.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I think India deserves a better opposition. The party needs to get rid of the ‘chamchagiri (sycophancy)’ culture. It needs an active leadership and inner-party democracy. We have brilliant leaders in the party. But if you do not know how to make use of them, then nobody can help you.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Congress is not a bunch of sycophants</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>S. JOTHIMANI</b><br> MP, Karur</p> <p>Rahul Gandhi is the best thing that has happened to the Congress. I am not saying this because he is my leader and my mentor, but because of the qualities that he embodies. A leader has to be committed, honest, truthful, knowledgeable, visionary, democratic and compassionate. Rahul is upfront, speaks the truth irrespective of the consequences and he understands the idea of India. He empowered young leadership and tried to build a party with all kinds of leaders.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>We are not a bunch of sycophants. We have strong views. We have many differences with Rahul. But we trust the Gandhi family and his leadership because of what they stand for.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Rahul said he himself was the symptom of a disease called nepotism. He fought against the status quo. That is why he is what he is now. He could have been prime minister in 2009 itself. But he is not after power. When the Congress was in power, he moulded leaders like me.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I was not disappointed with his decision to resign as party president. The party lost the Lok Sabha elections. It was not his fault alone. Yet, he put in his papers. Now I feel it is high time he returned as party president. He should build the Congress and its organisation from the grassroots. The clarity that he has for fighting the RSS and the anti-people regime of the BJP has to percolate down through the party.</p> Fri Aug 07 11:30:12 IST 2020 india-will-soon-discover-its-need-for-rahul-gandhi <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p><b>THE LEADER IS GONE;</b> long stay the leader. The modified conundrum of leadership might well help perplexed minds, within the Congress and without, to understand the situation in our party.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>No standard rules of the game can be applied to the Congress, even if any other party goes by any rules beyond jo jeeta wo sikander! The problem for them is to understand that two successive defeats in Lok Sabha elections and the subsequent resignation from the post of party president have not conspicuously impacted the hold of Rahul Gandhi on the party. His repeated assertions about having decided to distance himself from the top post, sometimes with surprising adamance, have put some entreaties on pause, but have not made people give up on hope and habit of Congress ethos.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>One thing is clear though: vacating the president’s post did not mean retreat from leadership, which, in any case, is a trait not amenable to being switched on and off. Rahul has remained in control of guiding the party and has concentrated on a leadership style unique in terms of the standard we are accustomed to in the dreary political landscape. Indeed it is commendable for modern democracies, closest to the likes of Barack Obama and Tony Blair rather than Donald Trump and Boris Johnson. Contrast prime minister Nehru and Prime Minister Narendra Modi and you will understand that there are many role models and the Congress preference is obvious.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Ultimately, however, it must work with the voter. I recall a brilliant piece written by Vir Sanghvi many years ago in memory of the late Madhavrao Scindia whom he described as the ‘best PM India never had’. But then as Shah Rukh Khan would add, picture abhi bhi baki hai.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>We hear a great deal about the urgent need for the leadership ambiguity to be removed. We all think that in principle that is fine, but the ambiguity, as I said, is for outsiders, not the homegrown Congress cadres and leaders. That is a fact that outsiders can continue to deny for as long as they wish; it has and will make little difference for party faithfuls. Nothing is on hold that we would do with a full-time president. There is, of course, much more that we can do even now and hopefully will in the weeks and months to come, factoring in the constraints of Covid-19 and the political atmosphere in the country.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Rahul is an idealist, something some people consider a disqualification for a mass leader; he is a hardcore professional, something that some people believe sits uneasy with the malleability needed for the rough and tumble of politics; he has clear likes and dislikes for ideas and people, something that people used to politicians who are everything to everyone do not understand. The unrelenting attacks on Modi and the RSS made some leaders uneasy about taking on the popular mood.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>At one gathering of intellectuals suggesting more diplomatic alternatives he asked as only he can, “Why? Are you afraid of the RSS?” His steadfastness and political fortitude showed in his response to the Scindia and Pilot episodes. In the world of compromises, he is loath to depart from principle. Some of his uncompromising democratic positions, like the Youth Congress elections, made dyed in the wool old hands nervous.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Once India tires of being told it is deprived by the ‘other’ and inevitably returns to collective destiny, it will discover the need for Rahul. The only question that remains is whether this happens naturally or will require strategic steering. The truth is that no party has figured this out as yet. Many are hoping that the fruit of change in public mood will fall in their lap like in the past, but politics has transformed considerably to assume that. The tree needs to be shaken and from the record Rahul is the only public figure to be attempting to do that.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Any honest person will admit that contemporary politics in India is surreal. There is public approval of vigilante justice and crowd lynchings, criminals use crime to secure political power and then use power to subvert justice, botched governance is being proclaimed as high accomplishment, and inexplicable military ambiguity is being brandished as unprecedented success. Audacity of the political class is the new norm, while dissent and public protests are being painted in dark shades. Enforcement agencies are unselfconsciously becoming dramatis personae of the drama of political vendetta, while disguised and open defiance of India’s composite culture has become entrenched in the landscape.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In this crowded space, Rahul has thoughtfully chosen to harp on the devastating medical and economic consequences of mismanaging Covid-19 and the knots we are tying our foreign policy into. The future of India depends heavily on those two frontiers, yet people continue to ask what he is doing about the party. Politics is as much about the idea whose time has come as indeed about the nuts and bolts of the organisational machine with circumstances dictating priority.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>His commitment to liberal democracy is second to none, but as we learnt in the economic competition with China, democracy has its own timeline for development and growth. It is the very time that Congress is taking to shake itself free of the shock of two consecutive defeats that will give it a sustainable thrust for the future. Many of us in the Congress continue to have faith in the proposition that the future will not only include Rahul, but will be substantially shaped by him. His detractors and ambivalent well-wishers will just have to understand that he will write his own script and pick his own timeline.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Boxing great Muhammed Ali’s career seems to have interesting parallels that fit the trajectory of Rahul’s politics. When the body was young, it was the dance trick to tire the opponent with ‘I dance like a butterfly, I sting like the bee....’ In tougher moments it was the rope-a-dope: lean back on the ropes to take more beating than the opponent has the stamina to give. Ultimately it is the left jab that will decide the match. Lesser mortals can seldom guess where and when it will come.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The dream of Camelot, ‘the once and future....’ is still alive. Those who have gone to the current power house without character will miss being part of it and resign to the fate of being part of the best team that did not happen because of their unwise decisions.</p> <p><b>The author is a senior Congress leader and former Union cabinet minister.</b></p> Fri Aug 07 11:07:58 IST 2020 only-rahul-can-lead-the-fight-against-modi <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p><b>Q/ From Himanta Biswa Sarma to Jyotiraditya Scindia, so many young leaders are leaving the Congress.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ Sometimes, it is a mistake to appoint people as state Congress presidents at a very young age. As regards Himanta Biswa Sarma, he was originally not a Congressman. He had links with the United Liberation Front of Assam and had cases against him. To save his skin, he came to the Congress. Yes, I encouraged him and gave him opportunities. He was not humiliated. He left because of other reasons. The BJP government raided his house. There was a case against him.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>If a young leader proves his mettle, for example, like Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy did in Andhra Pradesh, he or she deserves to be put in a leadership position. Reddy may not be with us, but he proved his leadership capacity and organisational skills.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ It is said that the young leaders in the Congress are feeling sidelined.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ The problem is that people like Jyotiraditya Scindia are not committed to the party ideology. Sometimes, you get impressed with the smartness or intelligence of a youngster. But that is not enough. They must be committed to the party ideology. We must choose people who are committed and have worked their way up from the grassroots. It is a mistake to promote people who have not worked hard for it. Some of them are capable, but in most cases, you will find that youngsters, particularly those who have come in because of their father’s blessings, are most likely to commit mistakes. That is because they have not come through trials and tribulations. That is the case with my own son also.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ Is the leadership issue wrecking the Congress?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ I have always been in favour of Rahul Gandhi being Congress president. I was not in favour of him resigning and had asked him why he was stepping aside. In a democracy, defeat in an election is a part of life. Even a leader like Atal Bihari Vajpayee could not get his party elected for so many years. But Rahul felt he was morally responsible for the defeat.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Today also, we want Rahul at the helm. Of course, we need Sonia ji’s guidance. But because of her age and other reasons, she cannot move around the country as much as Rahul can. And that is important, particularly when you are in the opposition and pitted against a leader like Narendra Modi who is an expert in perception management, has money power and has no qualms in using institutions to target his adversaries. We feel that among us, only Rahul can fight against these forces.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ Rahul Gandhi and the party do not seem to be in agreement on taking on Modi directly.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ Rahul is attacking Modi like anything. Many senior leaders, whom I do not wish to name, are completely silent. The BJP attacked Pandit Nehru, Indira ji and Rajiv ji. And now, they are attacking Rahul. Why? If Rahul is a nobody, they should ignore him. But they attack him, even though we are in the opposition and he is not even the president of the party. They know that by finishing him, they can destroy the Congress. They know that he is one of the main pillars of the party, just as Modi is the symbol of the BJP and the head of the government. Who else should we attack with regard to wrong policies of the government?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ What does the Congress need to do on an urgent basis to get back on its feet?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ We have to change our strategy. The world is changing and Modi has changed the nature of politics. It is all about marketing. We must change our outreach to beat him at his game. We need to vigorously use new media. We also need to create a dedicated cadre like that of the RSS. The workers should have a sense of commitment to the party ideology and should be ready to fight and make sacrifices for it. We used to have committed leaders. But that is not the case now. Look at Scindia or Pilot. How can you leave the party and join a party that is diametrically opposite to our ideology?</p> Fri Aug 07 11:06:50 IST 2020 revisit-secularism <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p><b>THE CONGRESS</b> lost both 2014 and 2019 Lok Sabha elections with only 44 and 52 seats, respectively. Congress president Rahul Gandhi resigned on July 3, 2019, stating, “As president of the Congress party, I am responsible for the loss of the 2019 elections. Accountability is critical for the future growth of our party. It is for this reason that I have resigned as Congress president. Rebuilding the party requires hard decisions and numerous people will have to be made accountable for the failure of 2019. It would be unjust to hold others accountable but ignore my own responsibility as president of the party.” Only an honourable man with the courage of conviction would quit considering that no one held him accountable or much less asked him to step down.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>On August 10, 2019, the Congress working committee, after wide-ranging consultations with state leaders, appointed Sonia Gandhi as provisional president under Article 18(h) of its constitution. Says the article, “In the event of any emergency by reason of any cause such as the death or resignation of the president elected as above, the senior most general secretary will discharge the routine functions of the president until the working committee appoints a provisional president pending the election of a regular president by the AICC (All India Congress Committee).”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The reappointment of Sonia Gandhi, much to her disinclination, was a wise choice and was widely welcomed. From 1998 to 2017, she led the party with sagacity and compassion and was responsible for two Congress-led governments at the Centre. Since then, the Congress has managed to be a part of coalition governments in Maharashtra and Jharkhand. It got 31 seats in Haryana—35 being the halfway mark—but unfortunately drew a blank twice over in Delhi where it had governed from 1998 to 2013. The Bihar assembly elections are now round the corner.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>However, the trials and tribulations that confront the Congress today have roots that stretch back over five decades. The process commenced in 1967 with the loss of Tamil Nadu, deepened with the defeat in West Bengal in 1977 and worsened further with the loss of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Odisha in the 1990s. These are the states the Congress has never won back. There are certain other states such as Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Punjab where the party was out of power for 10-15 years, but has been able to reclaim. The reason why the losses went unaddressed was due to the four stunning victories that the party pulled off in 1971, 1980, 1984 and, to a lesser extent, in the 1991 general elections.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Coupled with this electoral deficit are profound ideological challenges it needs to address with dispatch. After the collapse of communism in 1991, it re-oriented the nation’s economic trajectory and made it congruent with the Washington Consensus. Unfortunately, the Congress has never been able to align its own economic philosophy with that economic shift. A millennial today wants to know whether the party recognises the pursuit of individual wealth through legitimate means as a valid aspirational goal. The challenge to reconcile the animal spirits unleashed by liberalisation with social equity has never been adequately communicated.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Congress needs to revisit its position on secularism, which is a classical construct imported into the Indian socio-political environment by the founders of the Constitution who were acutely cognizant that there must be a clean separation between the Church and the State, especially in a profoundly religious country such as India. Over a period, their ideological offspring reinterpreted it to mean ‘Sarv Dharm Sambhav (equal respect for all faiths)’.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>What the last couple of decades has taught us is that when secularism is interpreted as patronage of all faiths, you skid down a slippery slope where religious preferences of the ‘powers that be’ then start dictating the policies and priorities of the state. This is the spectre of majoritarianism. Can this genie be put back in the bottle?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Congress must define its vision of nationalism. In the past six years, its delineation of nationalism has been the antithesis of what the BJP stands for—a narrow, chauvinistic and patriarchal view of nationalism. It is unfortunate that the party that was in the vanguard of the freedom struggle has not been able to articulate its vision of nationalism cogently.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Finally, it must exorcise politico-economic neo-feudalism from the political firmament, including its own backyard. In 1971, the Congress leadership took a stout position against the vestiges of feudalism that paid rich political and economic dividends. Over a period, those feudal interests have been able to re-ingratiate themselves into positions of influence within the party structure.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Of late there has been persistent comments that the Congress must have a non-Nehru-Gandhi president. The fact is that the Congress rank and file across the country still identify themselves with the Gandhi family. Between 1991 and 1998, no Nehru-Gandhi was part of the Congress. For the past 21 years, no Gandhi has been a part of any government at the Centre or in the states.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Under Sonia Gandhi’s leadership, the Congress did form the government twice at the Centre. Following Rahul Gandhi’s resignation in 2019, the Congress now has three options. It can either confirm Sonia Gandhi as the full-time president or Rahul Gandhi can withdraw his resignation and return as president for he was elected for five years till 2022. If both these are non-sequiturs, then the Congress must hold an election to the post of president and to the working committee. Article 18(h) of the Congress constitution puts the ball squarely in the AICC’s court.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The CWC’s mandate ended after appointing a provisional president. The ideal solution would be a Nehru-Gandhi presidency, elections to the CWC, the reinstatement of the Congress parliamentary board and deep organisational reforms. The uncertainty at the top must end.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Recently, some relatively younger people who always got things on a platter have left the party. For them, power and positions are the only aphrodisiac. They never went through the organisational grind of the National Students’ Union of India and the Youth Congress. They never spread mats for a public meeting or pasted posters or did wall writing or, for that matter, got knifed in a student union election. They never asked themselves the basic question: Why am I in the Congress?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Scindia, Pilot, Priyanka Chaturvedi, Ajoy Kumar, Pradyut Kishore and many others belong to this genre. They received in disproportion to what they deserved at the cost of other young people. However, the party must also look within. If it keeps rewarding people who repeatedly lose their security deposits, decimate the party in states they once headed and cross vote against the party in Rajya Sabha elections, it demoralises those who believe in ideology and diligence and patiently wait for their chance. Where then is the accountability that impelled Rahul Gandhi’s resignation? It cannot be ‘you show me the man I will show you the rule’.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The problem of India today is not the government. Its credibility lies in tatters. It is the absence of a viable opposition.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>The author is a lawyer, MP and former Union minister. Views are personal.</b></p> Fri Aug 07 11:15:37 IST 2020 the-gandhis-are-made-of-sterner-stuff-than-what-modi-and-shah-think <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p><b>SENIOR CONGRESS LEADER</b> Digvijaya Singh says former party chief Rahul Gandhi’s image has been spoilt by the BJP and the RSS through a concerted social media campaign, but insists that it is on the mend ever since he has started taking on Prime Minister Narendra Modi on critical issues such as national security, Covid-19 and the economy. In an exclusive interview with THE WEEK, Singh says Rahul should never have resigned as Congress president and that he is a leader with a different temperament, who believes that “power is poison”.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Excerpts from the interview:</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ What does the Rajasthan episode tell us about the state of the Congress?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ Narendra Modi and Amit Shah have brought the Gujarat model of politics to the national scene. Under Atal Bihari Vajpayee and L.K. Advani, the BJP was a different party. We have seen the most unethical way of functioning in the BJP since the advent of the Modi-Shah partnership. They are on a buying spree. I have never heard of MLAs being given Rs20-25 crore.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ Is the BJP not merely taking advantage of fissures in the Congress?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ Fissures will be there in a party. The Congress may not have managed its internal dissensions. But look at the offers to defect, and defection is not because of ideology or discontent. Those who joined the Congress seeing it as a party of power and authority started looking elsewhere when they found that it is unable to give them power or authority. But they are not the majority. Only 15 to 20 per cent people may have left.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ Why are the young leaders upset?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ In Madhya Pradesh, the majority of the MLAs supported Kamal Nath. In Rajasthan, the majority of the MLAs supported Ashok Gehlot, and Sachin Pilot was given the posts of deputy chief minister and state Congress president. In Madhya Pradesh, these positions were offered to Jyotiraditya Scindia. They should have waited. They should have been more active in winning over MLAs if they wanted to be chief minister.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ Is not their exit a big loss for the Congress?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ They worked hard and the Congress looked after them. They took off from where their fathers—Madhavrao Scindia and Rajesh Pilot— had left. They were both in the Union cabinet. One became state party president and the other was national general secretary, appointed over thousands of Congressmen. But these youngsters, who in 10-15 years got more than what they could get in any other party, are unhappy. And to do a somersault and join the party against whom you had spoken with such force and venom [seems unthinkable].</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ Scindia attacked you.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ Did I ever oppose him in the party? He was given ample opportunity. He became a Congress working committee member surpassing many others. In fact, I always promoted him. I had brought his father into the Congress. I mentored him after his father’s untimely death. We saw him as a future leader. Then why this mad hurry?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ Were Scindia and Pilot asking for more than what they deserved?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ Yes. I became chief minister at 46 after I got more support in the Congress legislature party than my senior Shyama Charan Shukla. I was not nominated.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ Was Rahul Gandhi’s resignation as party chief a correct move?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ There was no reason for him to resign. He had emerged as a national alternative to Modi. His ratings had gone up. Yes, we did not do well in the Lok Sabha elections, although I do not want to mention the reason here. But he should have carried on.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>However, he was the first person to warn the government about Covid. He was the first to question Modi over Chinese incursions. Among the opposition leaders, Rahul is the only one taking on Modi on every front, and he is doing it convincingly.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ Do you feel he can provide a viable leadership alternative to Modi?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ He has a different temperament. Power does not attract him. He could have easily become a cabinet minister or even the prime minister between 2010 and 2014. We would all have supported him. But when he became the Congress vice president, he quoted his mother to say that “power is poison”. He wants to connect with the poor and the downtrodden. His is the lone voice for the people who are not heard. Had his idea of NYAY been implemented, the poor would not have been so badly affected during the pandemic. His ideas are absolutely right.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ The Congress does not seem to have recovered from the Lok Sabha defeat.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ I agree. Not enough has been done to revamp the party. We have to make a serious effort to train leaders and workers to make them understand the Congress ideology, the history of the party and the nation. And then, democracy within the party is important.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ How do you see the probe into the Gandhi family trusts?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ The Bofors case was investigated by the V.P. Singh government and then by the Vajpayee regime. They found nothing, because there was nothing. These trusts are regularly audited. The probe is meant to scare and create a bad image of the Gandhi family. But the Gandhis are made of sterner stuff than what Modi and Shah think.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ Is it high time Rahul Gandhi returned as party president?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ This is my grouse with Rahul Gandhi. Of course, he always treats me with great respect and I find him to be a very sincere person. He is a voracious reader and understands the basics of democracy and the socioeconomic conditions in India and the world. But because of his tough stand against the BJP and the RSS, they have tried to destroy his image through a concerted social media campaign. For a young emerging leader, his image has been tarnished by the misrepresentation of facts.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ Do you feel he has an image problem?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ The image problem is in the minds of the people. But it can be countered. Ever since he started challenging Modi on issues of national security, Covid-19 and the economy, things are changing. He is getting as many likes and retweets as Modi does. So people are realising their mistakes.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ Will he be back as Congress president soon?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ There can be no comeback since he is already there. He has voluntarily held himself back, which I think is not the right decision.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ Sonia Gandhi is completing one year as interim president of the Congress. Can we expect a leadership change?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ There is no such thing as interim president. She has been appointed Congress president by the working committee. She is a full president. Let the CWC decide on the leadership.</p> Fri Aug 07 11:03:26 IST 2020 jammu-and-kashmir-365-since-370 <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>On August 5 last year, the Centre cut Jammu and Kashmir in two. It evoked both gasps of horror and raucous applause. However, unlike the svelte assistant in a magician’s saw trick, the state did not come out unscathed. Now sliced into two Union territories, the former state had also lost Articles 370 and 35A, which had given it special status when it joined India. What followed was a tight lockdown, restrictions on movement, a communication blockade and mass arrests.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A year on, the sight of tourists fleeing Kashmir still haunts Feroz Ahmed Shanglu, a houseboat owner near the Dal Lake in Srinagar. “My business was good before Article 370 was revoked,” he said. “The hotels referred tourists to my houseboat for overnight stays.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The dearth of sightseers dried up his savings; dazed and confused, he approached the Houseboat Owners Welfare Trust for help. The charity, which gives monthly aid to 600 houseboat and shikara owners, took care of him.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Later in the year, after the lockdown was eased a bit, Shanglu met owners of several hotels and guest houses, looking for work. “They used to hire me for making<i> kahwa </i>and <i>noon chai</i> (salt tea) for tourists, but none of them had any business,” he said. Since June, he has found some work at weddings and small events outside Srinagar. “I get Rs 700 a day (selling tea), but save only Rs 500 because I have to pay for travel,” he said. As fewer weddings are taking place, Shanglu has not been able to provide for his family, which includes his wife, two children and his old mother. “Without help from the charity, my family would starve,” he said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Abdul Khaliq Shora, another houseboat owner, said, “I am 70. I cannot go out looking for work. I survive on aid from the charity.” Shora, who lives with his wife, divorced daughter and grandchild, said his houseboat had been lying vacant since August and needed repair.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Tariq Paltoo, who owns two houseboats and a guest house, and works as a volunteer for the charity, said, “Our charity is supported by our community members outside Kashmir. Our community is not used to aid and that is why every family listed with us is identified by a code number and food kits are delivered to them at night.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Land rides have fared no better. Ghulam Nabi Pandav, chairman, Kashmir Tourist Taxi Operators Association, said 26,000 cab drivers were without work since August. “Many drivers are working as labourers away from their homes so that nobody recognises them,” he said. “We were told rivers of milk would flow in Kashmir after Article 370 [was revoked]. Where are those rivers?”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The carpet industry, one of the mainstays of business in Kashmir, is also hanging by a thread. At Pattan and Sumbal, considered the carpet belt of Kashmir, dozens of weavers have closed their looms and have taken to menial labour. “There was no raw material as everything was shut and phones were also blocked,” said Nazir Ahmed Malik, a weaver in Pattan. A half-finished carpet lay unattended as he spoke. “Even if I had completed this carpet, there would be no buyers,” he said. “My son now works as a labourer in Srinagar and that is all we are surviving on.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The story repeats itself in neighbouring villages.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Every year, Kashmir exports about Rs 1,600 crore worth of handicrafts, which includes shawls, papier-mâché products and wood carvings. Parvez Ahmad Bhat, president of the Artisan Rehabilitation Forum, said there were more than the “official” 2.5 lakh artisans in Kashmir, and that the handicrafts department seemed unmoved by their plight.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Syed Kounsar Shah, who exports papier-mâché products, said some artisans had become suicidal because of unsold stocks. “We are now arranging counselling [sessions] for them,” Shah said. “I am an award-winning exporter, but today, like most artisans, I feel desperate.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The lockdown aside, the suspension of high-speed internet also killed many businesses. Hundreds of WhatsApp accounts, which could not be updated, were deleted. “We used to get orders online and the money through net banking,” said a female entrepreneur. “But after the internet was blocked, we could not do any business.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Education also stalled. About 10 lakh students could not attend school and college for months last year because of curfew-like restrictions. They returned to classes in March, but the pandemic forced them back home. And though online classes have been introduced, the slow internet has played spoilsport.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The story in Kashmir’s apple orchards, too, is not rosy. In October, after militant attacks on apple traders and on truck drivers coming into Kashmir discouraged them from pursuing deals, local farmers were left without buyers. The government offered to buy the fruit, but not many growers came forward.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As the autumn leaves fell, sector after sector bled. As per a December report of the Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Kashmir lost between Rs 14,296.10 crore and Rs 17,800 crore, and 4.9 lakh jobs between August and December. In July 2020, it updated the figure to Rs 40,000 crore.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In Jammu, however, most of the restrictions of the post-abrogation lockdown were quickly lifted and internet connectivity was restored earlier. The region saw growth in manufacturing of plastic and steel products, pharmaceuticals, fertilisers, and animal and poultry feed. The toll on imports from other states was also abolished, making goods cheaper for consumers.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Local businesses, however, are worried about their ability to compete with cheaper goods from outside. “Our cost of manufacturing is higher than neighbouring states because we import raw material from outside,” said Annil Suri, former president of the Bari Brahmana Industries Association. “We have to pay higher freight charges on raw material; skilled manpower also comes from outside.” He said that, after they paid migrant workers in March, all of them were ferried out. “Now there is labour shortage in Jammu,” he added.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>For most people in Kashmir, the revocation of articles 370 and 35A was always about changing the demography of India's only Muslim-majority state. This impression only deepened after the Centre, on March 31, announced new domicile rules under the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation (Adaptation of State Laws) Order, 2020.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The order defined domiciles as those who have lived in Jammu and Kashmir for 15 years and those who have studied for seven years and appeared in Class 10 and Class 12 exams in schools there. It also included any Indian citizen who had been an employee of the Central government or a public-sector undertaking in Jammu and Kashmir for 10 years. And, the children of anyone who fulfilled the criteria above.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Until last August, only permanent residents were considered domiciles. Article 35A defined a permanent resident as a person who was living in Jammu and Kashmir on May 14, 1954, or had been living there for 10 years and had lawfully acquired immovable property. The state government would issue them a Permanent Resident Certificate (PRC), which was needed to apply for government jobs and to buy immovable property.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Then, on May 18, the UT administration issued the Jammu and Kashmir Grant of Domicile Certificate (Procedure) Rules, 2020. Under these, the tehsildar has to issue the domicile certificate within 15 days of application, failing which he could lose Rs 50,000 from his salary.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“This is unprecedented,” said a tehsildar who did not want to be named. “While issuing PRCs, it used to take weeks and sometimes months to verify the antecedents of the applicant.” Another tehsildar spoke of a recent procedural headache. After she had sought documents from a man who claimed to be living in Kashmir for more than 15 years, she got a call from an Army officer asking her to issue the certificate. “I told him that the man had no documentary proof or witnesses to support his claim,” she said. “I told him he would be posted elsewhere tomorrow, but I have to live here and cannot flout the rules.” She said the officer understood and did not insist.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>While the government has said that permanent residents will get the domicile certificate based on their PRCs, the order has sparked fears of a National Register of Citizens in Kashmir. In fact, some revenue officials THE WEEK spoke to in Kashmir believed that it was easier for an outsider to get the domicile certificate. The rules dictate that the PRC should match with government records, but the officials feared that some records could have been lost due to a number of reasons, including floods and fires.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The immediate beneficiaries of the domicile law are the migrants living in Jammu and Kashmir. Currently, at least 17 lakh of them are eligible for a domicile certificate.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Also, with a nudge from the Centre, the underprivileged from other states could look to Jammu and Kashmir for a better life. That will not only alter the demography of the Union territory, but also reduce the societal clout of permanent residents.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It could also affect jobs. According to the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy, the unemployment rate in Jammu and Kashmir is currently 17.9 per cent, far higher than the national average of 8 per cent. The domicile law has come at a time when, according to the Union home ministry, there are 84,000 government vacancies to be filled.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As for investment from outside, sources said the revenue department had identified around 50,000 acres, mostly in Jammu, to set up industrial units. According to sources in the State Industrial Development Corporation, several companies have shown interest in investing in a variety of sectors, including health care, hospitality, education and agriculture.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Chaitanya Sharma, manager of the Jammu and Kashmir Trade Promotion Organisation, told THE WEEK that they were in talks with companies, but the pandemic had put everything on hold.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Some local businessmen said they welcomed outside investment, but that the government should dispel fears that inviting such companies was not part of the plan to change the region’s demography. “Land could be leased to outsiders to set up business even when Article 370 was in effect,” said a businessman. He added that the government had also, on July 18, approved amendments to the law to allow marking of “strategic areas”, where the Army could carry out unhindered construction and related activities.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Syed Mujtaba, a lawyer in Kashmir, said the Centre could not make any law as the abrogation had been challenged in the Supreme Court. “The lieutenant governor does not represent the people of Jammu and Kashmir, but the Centre,” he said. “The people have no agency.” A government spokesman, however, said there were adequate safeguards in place and accused the political parties of spreading misinformation.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Unlike in Kashmir, the scrapping of the state's special status was greeted with cheer in Jammu, especially by BJP supporters. The domicile law, however, has them worried about losing jobs and business to outsiders. There has been no open dissent in Jammu for fear of strengthening what they consider “anti-national” protests in Kashmir.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Zorawar Singh Jamwal of Team Jammu, a socio-cultural group, said that though he was concerned, the new domicile law did have safeguards. “Navin Choudhary (an IAS officer from Bihar whose domicile certificate went viral) has been living in Jammu and Kashmir for 26 years,” he said. “Only then has he gotten the certificate.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>However, Sushma Singh, who lives on the outskirts of Jammu, said she was worried about the future of her daughter, who recently passed her CBSE class 12 exams. “Now outsiders will also stake a claim on seats in professional colleges here,” she said. “We are now feeling insecure.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Harsh Dev Singh, chairperson of the Jammu-based National Panthers Party, said the domicile law was unfair to the educated youth of Jammu and Kashmir, and that the government should at least have retained the permanent resident status. “There has been no development and only retrenchment since last August; around 1,200 health workers were sacked,” he said. “Employees of the information and education departments have also been removed. No daily wager has been regularised.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>That all is not well for the BJP in Jammu was evident when the party won only 52 of 148 seats in the block development council elections in October. This when the National Conference and the Peoples Democratic Party did not contest.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Notably, most political leaders detained in early August have been reluctant to broach the topic of abrogation even after their release several months later. The silence of the senior NC leaders and former chief ministers Farooq Abdullah and his son, Omar, has fuelled speculation that the party is hoping only for the restoration of statehood. On July 27, Omar wrote in a national daily that he would not contest assembly elections as long as Jammu and Kashmir remained a Union territory.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The party's workers, some of whom have spent their whole lives with the NC, are not pleased. “We fought separatists only because we had autonomy, our own flag and laws that protected our identity,” said a leader in Srinagar. “Now we have nothing and our party is saying it will fight in court.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The reason the burden of fighting is on the NC is that it is the only party whose leadership and support base are still largely intact. And the BJP knows this. The party is now banking on the delimitation process, which would be completed in May. As part of this, Jammu is expected to gain twice the number of seats as Kashmir. Before last August, the state assembly had 87 seats, including four from Ladakh. Kashmir had 46, Jammu 37.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The BJP hopes for votes of the West Pakistan refugees, Gorkhas and Valmikis, who have gained certain rights because of the abrogation. The party is also banking on the new domiciles, especially in the Muslim-majority areas of the Chenab valley and the Pir Panjal region of Jammu.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Only Mehbooba Mufti, PDP president and former chief minister, who is still detained under the Public Safety Act at her home in Srinagar, continues to be defiant. Analysts said she wants to salvage her image, which was sullied by her alliance with the BJP in 2014. The party, though, seems to be in disarray as many of its leaders have joined the Jammu and Kashmir Apni Party, which PDP minister Altaf Bukhari floated with the BJP's backing last year.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As for the separatists, the abrogation has left them in tatters. On June 29, Syed Ali Shah Geelani resigned from the chairmanship of the Hurriyat Conference (G) and accused its constituents of shying away from accountability.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The separatists had lost traction long before August 5 because of internal feuds and the inability to get public support. The Centre's crackdown on separatists through the National Investigation Agency hit both factions of the Hurriyat Conference, headed by Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As expected, the abrogation has affected the security of the region. Since January, security forces have killed at least 133 militants in Pulwama, Shopian, Kulgam and Anantnag districts of south Kashmir. After last August, the state police came under direct control of the Centre. That freed it from political interference and increased synergy with the Army and the CRPF.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In 2019, security forces had killed 133 militants before August 5, and only 25 in the remaining months. “We resumed operations after two weeks [of the abrogation],” said a senior police officer. “The priority was to prevent 2010- and 2016-like agitations in which many civilians were killed.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The restraint, however, led to several militants infiltrating from Pakistan. Minister of State for Home G. Kishan Reddy, last December, told Parliament that there were 84 infiltration attempts and 59 militants could have slipped in.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Last October, a new militant group, The Resistance Front (TRF), announced its presence with a grenade attack on security forces at Hari Singh High Street in Srinagar; seven people were injured. That the group had been active on Telegram while internet was suspended in Kashmir led to suggestions that its handlers were in Pakistan. The police said that Pakistan had formed the TRF to mislead the Financial Action Task Force, which had threatened to blacklist the country for supporting terrorism. “Lashkar floated the TRF with some members of the Hizbul Mujahideen,” said Vijay Kumar, inspector general, Jammu and Kashmir Police.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The group gained notoriety after five of its militants and five Army men were killed in an encounter on April 4 near the Line of Control in Kupwara. After that, security forces intensified operations.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In April, 23 militants were killed in the first 24 days. But, on May 3 and 5, eight security forces personnel and two militants were killed in two engagements with the TRF at Handwara in Kupwara.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>On May 6, the security forces killed Riyaz Naikoo, Hizbul Mujahideen chief operations commander, and his associate at Beighpora in Pulwama. “While on his trail, we managed to bust six of his hideouts,” said Kumar. “We interrogated some of his over-ground workers and got vital information.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>On May 19, Junaid Sehrai, the Hizbul Mujahideen’s divisional commander for central Kashmir, and his associate Tariq Ahmed of Pulwama, were killed in Srinagar. “In the past two months, there have been attempts by the JeM (Jaish-e-Mohammed) to carry out a Pulwama-type attack, but we have foiled them,” said a senior police officer. Security forces are on the trail of other listed militants, including Naikoo’s successor Saifullah Mir alias Ghazi Haider and JeM IED expert Adnan Bhai.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There have been political casualties, too. On July 8, militants shot dead BJP state executive member Sheikh Waseem Bari, his father Sheikh Bashir Ahmad and brother Sheikh Umar, who were also office-bearers of the party, outside their Bandipora home. The attack happened a month after Ajay Pandita, a Congress sarpanch, was shot dead by militants in his village of Larkipora in Anantnag. Deputy General of Police Dilbag Singh said the attack was the handiwork of a hybrid group of local and foreign militants working together to confuse security forces.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In another significant move, security forces have stopped handing over the bodies of local militants to their families to prevent emotional funerals, which they said motivated the youth to join militancy. Though police have cited the pandemic as the official reason, police sources said the policy was first discussed in 2018, but could not be implemented due to objections by local politicians.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Kashmir has seen many such changes in the past one year. And now, another autumn beckons. The chinar leaves must fall again; hope, though, can cling on.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> Sat Aug 01 17:34:43 IST 2020 time-for-street-protests-has-passed <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Our primary fight will be in the courts because that is where we expect to get justice from. There is no point expecting justice from the very government that snatched Article 370 from the people of Jammu and Kashmir,” former chief minister Farooq Abdullah told THE WEEK. “As a political party, it is but natural that we will also keep the people abreast of what we plan to do. We were among the first to approach the Supreme Court and we have one of the best-drafted petitions. If by proactive you mean street protests, then the time [for] that has passed. We are a democratic mainstream party and will use every democratic means at our disposal.”</p> <p>As for the 'Gupkar declaration', where regional parties of Jammu and Kashmir resolved to stand together and fight the abrogation on August 4, 2019, Farooq said: “I cannot say what its current status is. Some of the signatories to the declaration have gone to court individually and some have not bothered to challenge the abrogation at all. When all the leaders are freed from detention, the NC will meet and decide on its next course of action. But we are clear that we do not accept the changes forced on us on August 5 and will continue to oppose them.”</p> Thu Jul 30 18:02:50 IST 2020 our-only-concern-is-our-identity-we-do-not-want-ladakh-to-be-like-assam <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Gyal P. Wangyal heads the 30-member Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council and holds the status of a cabinet minister. He talked to THE WEEK on the changes that have come in Ladakh since it became a Union Territory, challenges ahead, Chinese incursion and more.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/It's been a year since Ladakh became a Union Territory. How do you see the development?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Despite its strategic significance (shared border with Pakistan and China), Ladakh has been the most neglected part of the country under the erstwhile J&amp;K government. Infrastructure developmental work was absolutely on low priority for Srinagar-run government. After becoming Union Territory, Ladakh has got actually its identity. It is the foremost thing for us. For developmental work, Union government has already allocated Rs 6,000 crore for Ladakh. Earlier, having funds for the development was a big problem for us because of stepmotherly treatment by J&amp;K. Now, we need to start from the scratch. We need to begin from zero unlike J&amp;K, and it will take time.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/Are you saying J&amp;K discriminated against Ladakh?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Yes. Ladakh has always faced discrimination by the political class of Kashmir, who used to rule on us from Srinagar or in Jammu. We need to beg to J&amp;K for funds, despite being largest in area, as Ladakh is 65 per cent while Jammu and Kashmir is only 35 per cent of total land area of the erstwhile state. And Leh district itself is 45,000 sq km. Development is to be done for the area not its people. Ladakh has a population of close to three lakh. J&amp;K used to ask money from Planning Commission in terms of area, but while distributing, it was always on the basis of population. Due to this, Ladakh used to get only 2 per cent of the total budget of J&amp;K. So, we had to face issues on the development as our area is vast.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/How has the development work progressed in the past one year in Ladakh?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Since, we have become UT, our budget has increased four times—Rs 232.43 crore for Leh and similar amount for Kargil district. But, it is our bad luck that due to COVID-19 pandemic, we could not utilise it. Due to the restrictions, no meeting of general council of the Ladakh Hill Development could take place in the last five months. So, no planning was made on the disbursement of the allocated fund. Now, we need to follow MHA rules for financial planning. Our biggest problem is availability of labour, as they come from Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh and even from Nepal. There is a big uncertainty on return of these labourers to Ladakh. Now, we are afraid that whether we will be able to utilise this allocated Rs 232 crore for development.</p> <p>Moreover, from October, winter will set in the state and it brings to halt all infrastructure work due to heavy snow. COVID-19 and tension on border with China have badly affected the development of Ladakh.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/Are you satisfied with the development on the border area in view of the Chinese incursion?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In 2015, there was a proposal from MHA of Rs 600 crore to develop the border area. Unless we provide basic facilities to residents of border villages, they will migrate. In recent past, hundreds of migrants have come down and settled in Leh. Union government could not implement its own plan of border development. Now, we are pushing to revive as it becomes important in terms of Chinese incursion. If we manage to stop migration, these people will always be the eyes and ears for the security agencies. With better road connectivity, border tourism can also be promoted in remote areas.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/How do you see the abrogation of Article 370 ?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>To have a separate Union Territory was long-pending demand of people of Ladakh. The demand was legitimate on the various grounds—geographical, cultural and linguistic. Many Ladakhi leaders, including Kushok Bakula Rimpochee, have led the movement for the separation from J&amp;K state. Thupstan Chhewang, former member of Parliament, who founded the Ladakh Buddhist Association that spearheaded the agitation, ultimately led to the setting up of Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC ) in 1995. But due to Article 370, we were not allowed to have separate status of Union Territory. Now, Modi government has removed Article 370 and both J&amp;K and Ladakh have made UTs. With abrogation of Article 370, Ladakh should integrate the region fully with the rest of the country as an equal stakeholder in building the nation.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/Do you fear change of demography?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Yes. Fear of the influx of outsiders that would lead to a change in the region’s demography is very much there in every Ladakhi's mind. Now, anyone can settle here. With no special status, Ladakh will become open for all, especially in terms of real estate. That is why, we need protection of land. Domicile rules also need to be considered for Ladakh, too, if residents of J&amp;K can get it. Essentially, the Ladakhi identity needs to be protected through safeguards. We don’t need everything defined under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution. Based on Articles 244(2) and 275(1), the Sixth Schedule provides for the administration of tribal areas in the states of Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura, and Mizoram after setting up autonomous district and regional councils. But, we are asking for safeguards in employment, land, environment and heritage.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/What are the challenges ahead for Ladakh?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>We are well aware of it that we do not have any issue of funds after becoming a UT. Our only concern is our identity. We should not lose it. We do not want to be like Assam. Our upcoming generations should not blame us for wrongdoings. Government of India has given us the status of a UT with Hill Development Council, which is unique. But now, there is a need to amend the legislative powers of Hill Development Council at UT level to avoid any friction between UT administration and Development Council. Both need to work together for betterment of Ladakh otherwise tug-of-war will start. We (Development Council) are an elected body and represent the people. Accountability of voters is on us, as nobody will ask questions to the district administrative body. So, we need an amendment to bring us at par with UT administration to work jointly for developmental task. Hill Development Council has 30 body members, of which 26 are elected and four are nominated. PM Modi-led government at the Centre has fulfilled the long pending demand of Ladakhi people. People cannot forget what he (PM Modi) did for Ladakh. Centre had that option to disband Hill Development Council, which it did not do.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/How do you see the issue of nomads in Ladakh?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>We have been constantly working on issue of pasture land for nomads. Earlier, we did not have the required fund. Now, we have no dearth of funds. Nomads on border villages suffer the most when it snows. So, we are creating a fodder bank and identifying pasture lands for them. We need to develop the border infrastructure as we are lacking it hugely. Lack of communication system is also an issue. Our executive councillors have made a couple of visits to the remote border villages after tension on the border with China and listened to their grievances.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/What is your take on incursion by Chinese military?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is not the first time, Chinese have intruded into our territory. They have been doing it for the last five decades. Now, it has come to the limelight because our forces have shown firmness and retaliation on the border, which never used to happen earlier. There is a buffer zone, which was never contested, and both sides used to patrol. Earlier, we never objected to Chinese incursion. We cannot trust China. Ladakhi people are not scared of Chinese military.</p> Fri Jul 31 18:28:26 IST 2020 sino-indian-tensions-have-not-affected-the-situation-on-the-pakistan-front <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Lieutenant General B.S. Raju, who heads the Army’s Srinagar-based Chinar Corps (XV Corps), has been successful in tackling the twin challenges of infiltration operations along the Line of Control (LoC) and counterterror operations in the hinterlands. In an exclusive interview with THE WEEK, the commander discussed the impact of Covid-19 on operations in the valley, the improvement in the security situation in south Kashmir and whether Pakistan is trying to take advantage of Sino-Indian tensions.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Excerpts:</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ Do give us a sense of the current security situation against the backdrop of last August’s legislative action [revocation of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status and turning it into a Union territory] and the threat of Covid-19?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ The internal situation in Kashmir is stable but sensitive. Maintaining peace has been the prime goal of all government agencies. The prevention of violence in the post legislative action (situation) has been the cornerstone of our security strategy. The adversary’s principal strategy is to instigate violence and cause the loss of Kashmiri life and property, which starts a cycle of violence. Our strategy is to carry out most operations based on specific intelligence and in a manner ensuring minimum use of force and taking all steps to avoid collateral damage. Precautionary and preemptive measures for the safety and security of the people have been instrumental in saving lives. The recent spurt in civilian killings is a repeat of the terror activities that happened last September, and is indicative of the desperation of terrorist controllers. They are resorting to hitting soft targets among the Kashmiri population. We are working towards neutralising this threat, too.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Covid-19 is a challenge for common citizens and soldiers alike. The Army has been involved in the dissemination of information about Covid precautions, distribution of sanitisation supplies and relief material. We have a detailed protocol of quarantine and testing of personnel coming after leave. During operations, all precautions are taken as per the recommended protocol. However, if things get active on the LoC, we are ready for all contingencies.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ There has been a sharp decline in stone-pelting incidents during anti-militancy operations.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ The principal strategy of Pakistani handlers and their proxies has been to instigate violence and protests that can lead to the deaths of civilians. Pakistan has been using a variety of means to instigate violent protests including stone-pelting, using money and a network of radicalised over ground workers (OGW). Concerted police action to cut off hawala and drug channels has choked funding for such anti-national activities. Good intelligence and policing has ensured identification and booking of OGWs. The support of the <i>awam</i> (general public) has helped maintain peace. The civil society is actively contributing to control these violent activities. The recent success in kinetic operations to kill terrorists, with a focus on the terror leadership, has also played a role.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ Is south Kashmir free of militancy now as claimed by the police? Will the focus now shift to the north, where a mix of local and foreign militants are mounting attacks?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ The success in eliminating terrorists operating in the hinterland and an effective counter-infiltration grid have virtually broken the backbone of terrorism in J&amp;K. There are pockets of turbulence in south Kashmir and we are focusing on these pockets. The security forces and other agencies have been working in tandem to maintain a robust counter-terrorist grid in south Kashmir. The past one year has witnessed the elimination of all major terrorist leaders. The number of terrorists operating in the valley has gone down because of reduced recruitment and successes in counter-terror operations. We are conscious of the threat to soft targets, which normally are the civilians, and are working hard to defeat such efforts.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>We expect terrorists to shift focus based on the pressure applied by security forces. The success in the south is complemented by similar operations in the north, which is affected more by Pakistani terrorists who infiltrate across the LoC. This year, a robust counter-infiltration grid and the domination of the LoC have curbed infiltration. There have been successful elimination of terrorists who were trying to infiltrate both in the Baramulla and the Kupwara sectors. The terror <i>tanzeems</i> (groups) are under pressure from their handlers for executing terror activities as we head towards the completion of one year of relative peace after the August 5 legislative action. We are working hard to deny any operational space to these terrorists and to provide an environment of peace and security to the people.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ How would you describe the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Riyaz Naikoo after a Colonel and a Major were killed in an operation against militants in Handwara?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ Over the past year, the leadership of all terror <i>tanzeems</i> has been effectively targeted and eliminated. Riyaz Naikoo’s killing, which was part of this effort, was important because of his reign of terror, and helped dent the terror activities of Hizbul Mujahideen. We are committed to wiping out terrorism from the valley and efforts are being made by all stakeholders to this end.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In Handwara, late Col Ashutosh Sharma and his team acted immediately to neutralise the threat after receiving information on the movement of terrorists nearby. Our men take risks beyond the call of duty and we remain indebted to such brave men.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ A new militant group the Resistance Front (TRF) has claimed most attacks on security forces since February. What do we know about this group?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ The Resistance Front is a social media organisation. Various reports exist on its origin, funding and backing by Pakistan. TRF is one of the several efforts of Pakistan-based controllers, to give terrorism an indigenous face, and it has claimed various terrorist acts as its own. Pakistani authorities have directed terror organisations not to claim any such acts in an attempt to hoodwink the FATF authorities as the country faces international scrutiny.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>TRF has also been at the centre of the recent spate of inter <i>tanzeem</i> rivalries which have come to light.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>We are surveilling and monitoring Hawala networks. Drug money is known to fund terror activities, and efforts by intelligence agencies have led to major recoveries and disruption of this channel of funding. In addition, we are committed to identifying and neutralising of the OGW network which sustains terrorists.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ Could you share details of ‘Operation Rangdori Behak’ in which five militants were killed in one of the most daring operations amid thick snow and inhospitable terrain at Keran near the LoC in Kupwara?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ On April 1, footprints were noticed near the LoC at first light. The area has razor sharp ridge lines and all routes have high levels of snow. Terrorists attempted to exploit the inclement weather. Search parties were immediately launched and terrorists were given chase; however they broke contact after dumping their heavy loads and bags. Subsequently, additional troops were launched and the area was cordoned off.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A close quarter battle followed at virtually point blank range. The Army, with their superior training standards, were able to take out all five terrorists before the fall. However, we lost the entire squad.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ How is the Army dealing with the threat of infiltration and militant infrastructure in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ Since the legislative action on August 5, 2019, Pakistan has been belligerent across diplomatic forums. It has also been under domestic pressure to instigate violence in Jammu and Kashmir. We have an all-weather, effective, multi-layered counter-infiltration grid in place. We keep updating our drills and use technology to beat any fresh tactics used by the adversary. The surveillance grid has a mix of technological tools for all-weather day-and-night surveillance. The effective surveillance grid and top class weaponry ensure we respond hard and fast, in a punitive manner. The Pakistanis know it and the unlucky ones experience it.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ It is said that local militant recruitment dipped in 2019.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ The recruitment of local boys in 2019 was less compared with 2018 and it shows the decline in terror influence. Local terror recruitment is one of our primary concerns. Our efforts are aimed at weaning the youth away from terror. Proactive steps are being taken to identify and counsel vulnerable youth. In this we seek help and support of the civil society. New recruits have very low survivability, with some getting killed within a couple of months. We are working to firstly prevent the local youth from joining terrorism and secondly to facilitate the surrender of those who have joined terror groups.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ So you want to give the militants an opportunity to surrender.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ Promoting surrender is something that we are working on at multiple levels. In all operations, we extend every opportunity to local terrorists to give up arms and return to the mainstream. During most encounters, we halt operations and involve the parents or society elders to urge trapped local terrorists to surrender. Even before encounters, as part of our counterterror operations protocol, we reach out to friends and family of a known terrorist to facilitate surrender. The family and the misguided youth are assured of state help in surrender, security from terror retribution and help in rehabilitation. To make it more attractive, we have given suggestions to the government to update the existing surrender policy. We also look at the <i>awam</i> and Kashmiri society to constructively engage with the youth to remove the false notion of ‘<i>jannat</i> in martyrdom’ spread by Pakistani and separatist propaganda.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ How many local and foreign militants are active in Jammu and Kashmir?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ Estimates regarding active militants vary, but the figures are down because of the relentless successful operations. This is largely a result of good control over infiltration, killing of existing cadres and reduced recruitment. The number of terrorists remaining does not matter much since lower numbers do not mandate a major change in our methods; a single terrorist with a pistol can prove lethal and terrorise the population. We are working towards addressing the complete ecosystem that nurtures terrorism so that we can once again focus on development, prosperity and the well-being of the population.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ The recent killing of an old man in Sopore and the images of his grandson seated on his body evoked widespread condemnation. What is being done to prevent the recurrence of such acts?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ The unfortunate killing of the man in the crossfire was another example of terrorists choosing civil areas to attack security forces. In Sopore, we witnessed both the effect of violence initiated by terrorists from a religious place and the scale of vicious propaganda against the security forces.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The ground layout and the sequence of events clearly show that the grandfather of the child was killed in the firing by terrorists from the window of a mosque. Four CRPF soldiers were injured and one succumbed to injuries. The society forgot the trauma of the child and the effort by security forces to ensure his safety. Journalists and civil society need to hold themselves at higher levels of professionalism. We respect the role of the journalists as watchdogs.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Army conducts its operations under a stringent code of conduct. Safety of the civilian population is our prime concern and we take every possible measure to avoid collateral damage.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ How do you look at the recent resignation of Syed Ali Geelani, a vocal supporter of militancy, from the Hurriyat Conference?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ The resignation of a man who has already lost his relevance is an effort to regain space for the separatists. It reveals the corruption and the Pakistani roots in all actions of the separatists. The desperation of the Pakistani establishment and the separatist camp is visible in such acts. It is also interesting to note that Geelani found no one in Jammu and Kashmir fit and ready to carry his anti-India ideology forward. The proxies in PoK are his last hope. These are also indicators of a failing structure, with infighting, slandering and the blame game coming to the fore. The Pakistan–separatist–terrorist nexus is at its lowest ebb. The Pakistan-controlled proxies are focused on re-engineering violence and generating a state of fear. We as a nation need to identify this opportunity and work hard to strengthen the progressive elements in Jammu and Kashmir.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ Ceasefire violations along the LoC have increased. Is Pakistan trying to take advantage of Sino-Indian tensions?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ There is only one reason for the near constant ceasefire violations—Pakistan is attempting to assist more and more terrorists to infiltrate into India. The Pakistan army facilitates these infiltration attempts. Also, in the summer months, an escalation in ceasefire violations and infiltration attempts is well anticipated. The Army is well poised and fully committed to not allow any misadventure by Pakistan.Å The situation on the Ladakh border is also well under control. There has not been any major escalation in the situation on the Pakistan front. We are aware of some defensive deployments done by the Pakistanis. The situation in Gilgit-Baltistan is also being watched. There has not been any major perceptible escalation in the situation on the Pakistan front owing to the situation on our borders with China.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ What has been the impact of Covid-19 on the Army's public reachout programmes?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ The support and cooperation we have received from the <i>awam</i> in our outreach programmes has been overwhelming. Our programmes are running well within the revised safety protocols and we are helping the <i>awam</i> by spreading information about Covid, distribution of sanitisation kits/face masks and humanitarian aid to the needy, especially in far-flung areas. We have incorporated safety guidelines and have suitably modified the implementation of our outreach initiatives. The joint efforts of all stakeholders in the national fight against the pandemic will ensure that the people of Kashmir will remain safe and healthy. We are confident that with our combined efforts, we shall overcome this hurdle. The Army is constantly working alongside the civil administration to bring succour to the lives of the people. We have modified our combat drills as per Covid-19 advisories to ensure the safety of both the soldiers and the <i>awam</i> in all interactions. Force preservation in the times of the pandemic remains our concern even as we ensure the safety and security of the national borders and the hinterland.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ What is your reaction to the demand for a political initiative to fill the vacuum created by the abrogation of Article 370 and the bifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ Our role as security forces is to ensure a secure environment where the administration and the civil society can function without the fear of the gun. We are working on that singular aim. It is a work in progress. On the political front, the government has clearly enunciated the objectives and the roadmap for the political landscape and we are confident that we will soon see progress on that front. It will not be apt for me to comment on the political developments or scenarios.&nbsp;</p> Fri Jul 31 13:25:12 IST 2020 keeping-the-faith <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>For the people of Ladakh, the past one year has been one of hope and apprehensions. Hope, because the erstwhile Buddhist kingdom’s decades-old dream to be a Union territory finally came true on August 5 last year. “It was the result of a 70-year fight of the people of Ladakh to get their identity,” said P.T. Kunzang, president of the influential Ladakh Buddhist Association, which had been spearheading the agitation.</p> <p>Apprehension, because Ladakhis now worry about jobs and protecting their land and fragile ecosystem. “People who want to use the resources in Ladakh for selfish purposes are not welcome,” said J.T. Namgyal of the BJP, who represents Ladakh in the Lok Sabha.</p> <p>Ladakh has two districts, Leh and Kargil. Leh is dominated by Buddhists; Kargil, by Shia Muslims. There are about 1.15 lakh Shias and 1.35 lakh Buddhists. Hindus, Sikhs, Sunni Muslims and others number around 10,000.</p> <p>The past one year has not seen any big-ticket development work here. Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently approved the plan for the first Central university in Ladakh, which will have a centre for Buddhist studies. This will help Ladakhis, who now have to travel hundreds of kilometres from home for higher education. The Union government has also allocated 06,000 crore for various development projects. “A cold desert, Ladakh only gets few months of summer to carry out development work. Activities had to wait till March because of the snow. But from March onwards, the Covid-19 pandemic has gripped us,” said Gyal P. Wangyal, chairman of the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council.</p> <p>According to Wangyal, Ladakh has to start from scratch. “Ladakh used to get only 2 per cent of the total budget of Jammu and Kashmir [even though it covered 65 per cent of the state’s area]. So development was almost negligible here,” he said.</p> <p>The council, which was set up in 1995 after a series of agitations, has 30 members; re-elections are expected to be held in September or October. The ruling BJP has an edge over the Congress in the polls.</p> <p>With Article 370 gone, there is fear that the influx of outsiders would lead to a change in the region’s demographics. “With no special status, Ladakh will become open for all, especially in terms of real estate,” said Wangyal. “That is why we need protection of land. It has to be ensured that potential buyers do not exploit us. Domicile rules for Ladakh are also required.”</p> <p>Abdul Qayum, president of the Anjuman Moin-ul-Islam, which represents 20,000 Sunni Muslims in Leh, Dras and Zanskar, fears that Ladakh is set to lose its cultural identity. “With enough funds from the Union government, Ladakh will develop,” he said. “But I feel the ‘Ladakhiness’ will be lost. We have a distinct culture and identity; I don’t think it is going to last.”</p> <p>Qayum said Leh has benefited administratively—people no longer have to travel to Srinagar to make their grievances heard. But he believes that demographic change is now imminent. Leh is easily accessible by air, and every year it hosts tourists that number four times its population.</p> <p>Qayum said the only way forward is to give more teeth to the hill development council. “Unless the Union government empowers the council,” he said, “I do not see any change in decision-making.”&nbsp;</p> Thu Jul 30 17:55:04 IST 2020 testing-times <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>A year after articles 370 and 35A were struck down, a list of challenges still confronts the Centre. These include legally defending the bifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir, assuring people of the region that the decision was not an attempt to change demography, and defeating the home-grown militancy born of a deep sense of alienation in Kashmiri Muslims.</p> <p>“The alienation of the Kashmiri Muslim is nearly 100 per cent after the abrogation of Article 370,” said former home secretary G.K. Pillai, who was part of discussions between the Centre and Kashmiri groups during the previous UPA government. “The Covid-19 crisis and the ensuing lockdown have been a blessing in disguise for the security situation. How the government utilises this time to generate employment, initiate developmental works and launch outreach programmes will temper the repercussions later.”</p> <p>With the delimitation process and new domicile law, Kashmiris feel they can be dispossessed of their rights by hegemonic control through new settlers, said M.M. Ansari, former interlocutor, Jammu and Kashmir.</p> <p>Policymakers in Delhi, however, are confident that once the benefits of the new domicile law start showing, people will embrace the change.</p> <p>“A variety of developmental activities were anticipated, but little happened after Jammu and Kashmir went into a second lockdown because of Covid-19,” admitted a government official.</p> <p>The benefits of certain Central laws are also yet to reach the grassroots. “The empowerment of the Panchayati Raj institutions is still not complete. The babus in the central secretariat do not believe in decentralisation of powers,” said Anil Sharma, president of the All Jammu and Kashmir Panchayat Conference. “People feel as if they did something wrong by supporting the abrogation. They cannot meet any administrative secretary for redressal of their grievances. Corruption continues at all levels.”<br> Anoop Kaul, chairman of Sampoorn Kashmir Sanghathan, said the government should issue a domicile certificate to all Kashmiri Pandits living outside the Union territory. He also demanded that a truth and reconciliation commission be set up to bring out the actual reasons behind the exodus and bring all culprits to justice.</p> <p>There is also growing resentment among people, especially in Jammu, about the UT status; home ministry sources indicated that Home Minister Amit Shah, who wants to control the security situation, is keen on restoring statehood. D.K. Pathak, former Border Security Force chief, said heavy deployment of security forces had prevented terror incidents, but a wave of mass mobilisation can be expected in future.</p> <p>The litmus test for the Centre would be the phased withdrawal of security forces and the smooth conduct of assembly elections. Sources said that Delhi would like to wait for the delimitation process to end and economic activity to pick up before calling elections.</p> <p>Sources also said that the Centre might release a few political detainees as a symbolic gesture to get public support. By now, many of the detainees are too weak to shape public opinion.</p> <p>The separatists have also lost their power. Recently, Syed Ali Shah Geelani resigned from his faction of the All Party Hurriyat Conference. Intelligence agencies have inputs on how the Pakistan Inter-Services Intelligence was leaning on Geelani to control the narrative in Kashmir, which he failed at.</p> <p>The ISI is now, reportedly, pooling the resources of Jaish-e-Mohammed and Lashkar-e-Taiba for infiltration and attacks. Pakistan seems to be worried that further integration with India would sever social ties between PoK and Jammu and Kashmir, and is trying to lure young professionals from the valley who sympathise with the Pakistani narrative on Kashmir.</p> <p>Delhi's direct control of the security grid in Kashmir could give it the upper hand, but for normalcy to return, more bloodshed cannot be ruled out. However, the good news for Delhi is the burgeoning pro-independence sentiment in PoK. “Instead of keeping the [24 seats reserved for PoK in the assembly] empty, the Indian government should consider nominating the people from PoK living in exile to those seats,” Amjad Ayub Mirza, from Mirpur in PoK and living in exile in the UK, told THE WEEK.</p> <p>Geo-strategic experts said the abrogation was also meant to send signals to China and Pakistan. “The Modi government wanted to tell them that after such internal reorganisation, a red line will be drawn on their interventionist policies,” said Srikanth Kondapalli, a professor in Chinese studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University. “However, China's approach is to put India on the defensive, and hence took the issue to the UN Security Council thrice last year. If China does not resist the lifting of Article 370, the Kashmir land it acquired from Pakistan (including Aghil, Shimshal, Ruksam and Sakshgam) will be in jeopardy.” India, in a tit for tat move, raised the Hong Kong issue at the UN Human Rights Council in July.</p> <p>Pillai said Modi was disillusioned with Chinese president Xi Jinping and there was a worry that India was joining the anti-China chorus with the US. “India needs friends, and in diplomacy, there are no permanent friends, only permanent interests,” he said.</p> <p>Ansari said the way forward for peace in the region was a tripartite dialogue with Pakistan and China, as the Line of Control and the Line of Actual Control were not internationally accepted borders.<br> Referring to the Galwan Valley clash of June, Pillai said: “India cannot open too many fronts. It needs to be careful how it treats its neighbours. When we deal with the Kashmir situation, it is not only the domestic audience that is listening. We know the Chinese were not only listening and watching, but also preparing,” Pillai said, referring to the Galwan Valley clash of June.</p> <p>A section of the security establishment, however, believed that Chinese ambitions in Kashmir had nothing to do with Article 370 and that they would grab any territory if there was an opportunity.</p> <p>“India will not hesitate from revisiting its China policy,” said a top intelligence official. “India will pursue strategic autonomy by not working against interests of any country, but whenever Indian interests overlap, it will collaborate with others, including in military cooperation.”</p> <p>As for the on-ground situation in Jammu and Kashmir, a security expert in the government said National Security Advisor Ajit Doval would be the man to take the Union territory out of the double lockdown. “History is replete with examples of how princely states that merged with India grew to become world-class destinations. The IT city of Hyderabad is one example and they can thank [Sardar Vallabhbhai] Patel for it,” said a government official.</p> <p>The government hopes to do the same with Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh.&nbsp;</p> Thu Jul 30 17:51:21 IST 2020 this-will-be-the-last-phase-of-militancy-or-terrorism-in-j--k <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p><b>Q. Was Jammu and Kashmir ready for the drastic change of removal of its special status?</b></p> <p>The year 2019-20, since August 5-6, has possibly been one of the most eventful years. For that matter a historical year since Independence. The Constitutional changes, which happened on August 5, 2019, were the ones for which the nation was ready. The people of India were waiting, but somehow the political will was lacking. Many governments came and went and maybe it was God's will that someone like Narendra Modi should take over as prime minister and accomplish this noble task.</p> <p><b>There is concern over the security situation in J&amp;K post abrogation of Article 370.</b></p> <p>Till as late as August 5, 2019, all the prophets of doom were saying no one can touch Article 370. They had gone to the extent of saying that if somebody even touches it, there will be earthquakes, volcanoes, bloodshed. But from all aspects, including security, if we go by evidence and chronology, August 6 and the following six months have been the most peaceful festive season in Jammu and Kashmir. This was the time when we had Diwali, Holi, Eid, Moharram. Among national festivals, we had Independence Day and Republic Day.</p> <p>In the last thirty years in Jammu and Kashmir, there has been not a single occasion when there wasn't any untoward incident on the day of these national festivals. The perpetrators of terrorism in the state and Pakistan-sponsored terror groups would always try to show their presence. This was the only year when no untoward incident took place. So the prediction made by prophets of doom turned exactly reverse. This was also the year when for the first time there were Block Development Council elections in Jammu and Kashmir. This itself speaks for the security situation.</p> <p><b>When can we expect a terror-free Jammu and Kashmir?</b></p> <p>I can speak from the evidence on the ground that terrorists are on the run. This is going to be the last phase of militancy or terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir.</p> <p><b>But there is a threat of local militancy and even Pakistan-sponsored terrorism is continuing on the border.</b></p> <p>When I say the phase of militancy will be over, I am referring to both. Because the terrorist infiltration from Pakistan has considerably gone down as there is a heavy check now. All kinds of technology are being put to use and the local youth are also realising the futility of it. The ‘life’ of even the most celebrated commanders of terrorists is not more than two years. Now the parents are coming forward to warn their children against falling prey to any kind of allurement to become terrorists.</p> <p><b>Pakistan will continue to stoke unrest in J&amp;K.</b></p> <p>Pakistan has been trying and it will continue to try. But from the Indian side, it is much more strict now and with the modern technology available, the surveillance is also of a very high degree. It is not only physical surveillance. There is graphic, thermal, satellite-driven surveillance.</p> <p><b>The recent killing of a BJP leader in Bandipora in North Kashmir isn't a good sign.</b></p> <p>These incidents which we are seeing, which includes the unfortunate incident of one of our BJP worker getting killed, are happening because terrorists are desperate and on the run and trying to attack whatever soft targets they come across.</p> <p>But now the flushing is going on, for example, in my constituency of Udhampur, there were two districts, which had earned notoriety as far as terrorism is concerned. Doda and Kishtwar have been officially rendered terror-free now. This happened early this year. These were the districts that witnessed many massacres during the last 30 years of terrorism.</p> <p><b>China and Nepal have reacted sharply to India's claims on PoJK, Aksai Chin, Kalapani after the abrogation of Article 370.</b></p> <p>First of all, it has nothing to do with the abrogation of Article 370. I would not get into the nuances as this is a highly sensitive matter related to security and I will leave it to ministries of external affairs and defence. But Article 370 has nothing to do with it. Whatever is the stand of the government of India and whatever is the stand shared by the ministries of external affairs and defence, we would stand by that without adding to it.</p> <p><b>What have been the immediate benefits of removal of special status in J&amp;K?</b></p> <p>There were at least 800 laws enacted by the Indian Parliament that was not applicable in Jammu and Kashmir. These are laws that had no effect on the so-called special status, but they were held back for political reasons. For example, the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act. I don't think any country in the world would have any reservation in implementing it. But it was not enforced in Jammu and Kashmir, maybe for political motives and appeasement of certain sections of society. Similarly, the Dowry Prohibition Act was not applicable. The 73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendments brought in by Rajiv Gandhi government were not implemented in Jammu and Kashmir, despite the Congress being in coalition for so many years. These amendments ensured direct empowerment of local bodies by allowing Central grants for panchayats and municipal bodies to directly reach elected representatives. But this was not implemented and Central grant reached ministers who then routed it as per their discretion. This is the first time it has got implemented and true empowerment of people has taken place in the last six months.</p> <p>Political parties like the PDP and National Conference spoke of self-rule and autonomy, but does it mean autonomy or self-rule for family or dynasty? True autonomy should have taken birth from the grassroots. So much duplicity was going on in the name of Article 370.</p> <p><b>How is the government ensuring good governance in Jammu and Kashmir?</b></p> <p>As far as governance is concerned, the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 (amended in 2018 ) dealt by the Department of Personnel and Training handled by me, has been implemented in Jammu and Kashmir for the first time. Till date, Jammu and Kashmir had its anti-corruption law, which lacked lustre. If you wanted to fix somebody or let him go, you could do it.</p> <p>Now, Jammu and Kashmir has a PC Act, which talks of time-bound disposal of cases and after the 2018 amendment, not only the bribe-taker but the bribe giver is also held guilty. Secondly, the jurisdiction of CVC has been extended there. The Right to Information Act is the same as the Centre. All these laws were either not implemented or implemented in a modified or truncated form to suit the political interests.</p> <p>&nbsp;Citizenship rights were not given to refugees who settled there from Pakistan. The contradictions were huge and this was happening because the political parties were thriving on a captive vote bank.</p> <p>But now for the first time, Jammu and Kashmir is enjoying a similar kind of liberty and freedom as the rest of India. J&amp;K is the only UT which has got two AIIMS. This happened after the personal intervention of Modi. In the last five years, more than half-dozen medical colleges funded by the Centre were opened in J&amp;K but there was no faculty since the local government did not allow them to purchase land. That barrier has been removed now.</p> <p><b>How big is the focus on industrial growth in J&amp;K?</b></p> <p>Jalandhar city, which is close to Jammu, is a big business centre but the latter has not. This is because investments were not allowed from outside. All that has been changed with the new domicile law. The COVID lockdown has caused some interruption, otherwise, a big outreach programme had been started by the UT government to facilitate and create awareness for available investment options. They were visualising a huge investment up to Rs 25,000 crore and had started conducting outreach programmes in various cities like Mumbai, Bengaluru and Kolkata. New industrial hubs have been identified in small districts like Udhampur and many potential investors are already keen to go there and set up units.</p> <p><b>There is a worry that the new domicile law will change the demography of J&amp;K.</b></p> <p>This debate has been raised by those who have a huge vested political interest. It is not the population demography they are worried about, it is vote bank demography. They feel if someone comes from outside and gets citizenship after living there for ten years, as per the domicile law or an IAS officer is allocated AGMUT cadre and after serving there for a couple of years, he will also get voting rights and like that students, Pakistani refugees or Gorkha settlers get similar voting rights, that will impact their limited captive vote bank on which they have been thriving on. Otherwise, if there is a healthy change of demography happening all over the world, why should J&amp;K shy away from it?</p> <p>There are certain advantages to it. Now people are increasingly realising this facade of demography and debate is cooling down.</p> <p><b>When will the delimitation exercise start in J&amp;K?</b></p> <p>The Delimitation Commission has been set up and because of the lockdown certain procedural delays happened, but soon thereafter they will start their sittings.</p> <p><b>&nbsp;Is the government looking at a timeframe to complete the delimitation exercise?</b></p> <p>There was no exact timeline fixed, but in between the COVID pandemic broke out and the lockdown happened so they could not even move forward and fix deadlines. But of course, it is an elaborate exercise, which needs sufficient time to complete.</p> <p><b>What was the need for a delimitation exercise?</b></p> <p>To put it bluntly, the need for delimitation has arisen from some time. There have been allegations that the 2011 Census exercise was not fair; the embargo on delimitation by the then government was meant to obstruct the normal periodic exercise, which should take place. Delimitation is an exercise, which should take place in democracy from time to time because of the population demography changes, land demography changes, the topography changes. Depending on several parameters, the constituencies are determined for the state assembly. There is also a rotation of the reserved constituencies. So, this is an exercise that has to be undertaken periodically to make it more compatible with a free and fair democracy. But this was not happening and we are only making up for it now.</p> <p><b>There are allegations BJP is doing delimitation for vote bank gains.</b></p> <p>BJP is not barring anybody from their voting rights so this allegation is unfounded. If this allegation is coming from some quarters, maybe they are apprehensive that after delimitation they will not be able to thrive on that captive vote bank. If they are truly committed to democracy, they should be ready for delimitation and a free franchise. BJP has never shied away from it. BJP has been supporting voting rights all over the country. BJP has never obstructed any procedures and processes but in the natural course, if people of J&amp;K, elect BJP then it is not BJP's manipulation, then there is something wrong on the other side.</p> <p><b>&nbsp;How soon will Assembly elections be held in J&amp;K?</b></p> <p>They will happen in due course of time and as you know the delimitation exercise is also going on.</p> <p><b>Will the government wait for the delimitation exercise to get completed before holding Assembly polls in J&amp;K?</b></p> <p>I cannot say right now as this is something for which a call has to be taken by the government depending on the various inputs received by it.</p> <p><b>When will the government look into the demand for statehood for J&amp;K?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;I agree with you. There has been a discussion on this and I don't need to add anything to it because the Home Minister, Amit Shah, has said on the floor of the House that this is an arrangement for the time being and once the circumstances are congenial, it will be reverted to a state.</p> <p><b>The J&amp;K Reorganisation Act, 2019 has 24 seats reserved in the state assembly for PoJK. What is the plan for PoJK?</b></p> <p>There cannot be any difference of opinion as far as the facts are concerned. PoJK is a part of India and it was forcibly occupied by Pakistan and that too when the Indian forces were on the verge of retrieving. It was one of the many Nehruvian blunders as history records it that prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru went to the Akashwani Bhawan and made the announcement of a unilateral ceasefire without consulting his Cabinet, home minister or defence minister and the territory had to be lost to Pakistan occupation.</p> <p>The question now is how to retrieve it? Even in 1994, when the Congress government was in power, a resolution was passed unanimously by Parliament saying that the only pending issue between India and Pakistan is of retrieving the illegally occupied part of J&amp;K that is in Pakistan's occupation. So why were successive Congress governments quiet on it for 25 years? Now since the BJP and NDA have shown will to move forward and having accomplished what it has in the last one year, I think we should look forward to it as the next agenda.</p> <p><b>What will be the way forward for retrieving PoJK?</b></p> <p>These are issues that involve a great amount of technicality and sensitivity and worked out at different levels. But certainly, this is very much on the agenda. It is also the will of the people living in PoK to be part of India because they have been maltreated and given second-degree treatment over the years.</p> <p><b>&nbsp;The exiled community from PoJK wants nomination to these seats. Is that a possibility?</b></p> <p>The will is there and it is testified from the fact that 24 seats have been kept reserved in the State Assembly for the residents of POJK. Now, how does the government go about it is something we will have to work out. Right now we are seized of the delimitation exercise, once it is done, a thought can be given to this aspect also.</p> <p><b>Pakistan is holding elections in Gilgit-Baltistan region of PoJK in September. Your comments.</b></p> <p>It has been an accepted position of the government in Islamabad that Gilgit-Baltistan was a disputed area. In other words, it was not their area. Now, suddenly in the last few years, they have changed their stance and expansionist designs have cropped up in Islamabad. An administrator had been appointed there all these years because they had accepted it officially that this territory is not part of Pakistan like the four provinces of Balochistan, Sindh, Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. As far as POJK is concerned, Pakistan was illegally occupying it. So we reject the move.</p> <p><b>Will the government undertake outreach and cultural awareness programmes for PoJK and Gilgit-Baltistan to connect the people there with the rest of the country?</b></p> <p>Certainly. This is already being undertaken. Political of course is just one part, but even at the social level, at the level of NGOs, we are holding outreach programmes and discussions throughout the country in different parts—south, north, east, west, northeast. Due to the pandemic and lockdown, it has got disrupted.</p> <p><b>How do you see the future of separatists in the Valley, especially after the resignation of Syed Ali Shah Geelani from the All Party Hurriyat Conference?</b></p> <p>Separatists have no future. Their past could never have a future because as I always said separatism in Kashmir is by convenience and not a conviction. I wish it would have been better for them if they were separatists by conviction. At least they would have been faithful to their people. They have been unfaithful to their people and trying to bluff them by raising the slogan of separatism. Many separatist leaders are drawing pension as ex-legislators of J&amp;K Assembly, including Geelani. Some of them have a son working in the provincial civil services, daughter working in the education department, daughter-in-law working as a doctor and one of the members of the family also becomes a separatist. So, it is politics by other means. It is not by conviction.</p> <p>On the one hand, they claim not to be subscribing to the Constitution of India, on the other hand, they are very particular to make use of every privilege made available through the Constitution of India. The point is you can fool some of the people some of the time, but not all the people all the time.</p> <p>They fooled people for three generations and now the young generation in Kashmir are not ready to be taken for a ride. They have seen the earlier two generations suffering and being at a disadvantage and they will not allow themselves to be used in the same manner. So that myth has exploded.</p> <p>What has also happened is that in the last six years under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, there has been a whole new opening of avenues and opportunities particularly for youth and now with the age of social media, connectivity, the youth of Kashmir can realise what he is missing out. He is conscious of the fact that India is on the verge of becoming a global power and the Indian youth is dominating in every sphere of life around the world so why should he be left out on a hollow slogan of separatism that too given by the leaders who themselves are leading a life of double standards.</p> <p><b>So is it the end of the road for Abdullahs, Mufti, Geelani?</b></p> <p>As far as the dynasties are concerned, not just in Jammu and Kashmir but all over India the feudalist hangover is over. It is the third generation after Independence and it is said that even the Samskara changes after the third generation. Today, people have learnt to test and elect their representatives based on certain hard evidence. So, I don't think simply being the member of a dynasty would be sufficient to reach where you wish to reach.</p> <p><b>How do you see the entry of new political parties in J&amp;K?</b></p> <p>As far as we in BJP are concerned, the more the merrier. That is the spirit of democracy.</p> <p><b>When will the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) go from J&amp;K?</b></p> <p>That is something which the Union home ministry has to take a call and they have inputs which we may not be having access to.</p> <p><b>Did the special status benefit J&amp;K in some way?</b></p> <p>The National Conference or the PDP have used the alibi of Article 370 for their convenience. The so-called protagonists of Article 370 were also not loyal or faithful to it. The used it to carry on their political hegemony. They deprived their daughters of the right to property and citizenship. I can name at least three chief ministers whose own daughters or sisters were deprived of citizenship rights or property rights just because they had married outside J&amp;K. So, this was an anomaly, a miscarriage of history and the principle of justice. Any anomaly cannot stay forever, that is the rule of nature.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Fri Jul 31 08:00:39 IST 2020 we-were-there-everywhere <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>It was a former ruler of India who sent the ultimatum that started the war. It was a future ruler of India who received the final document of surrender that officially ended the war. From the beginning to the end, World War II was India’s war as much as it was of any other people.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Let us begin at the beginning. At 4am on September 3, 1939, Lord Halifax sent a telegram from London to Neville Henderson, Britain’s ambassador in Berlin. The cable contained a message for Germany’s foreign minister Joachim von Ribbentrop: Withdraw Germany’s occupation army from Poland. “I have accordingly the honour to inform you,” continued the Halifax cable, “that unless not later than 11am, British summer time, today September 3, satisfactory assurances to the above effect have been given by the German government and have reached His Majesty’s government in London, a state of war will exist between the two countries as from that hour.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>That was perhaps the harshest step that Halifax, a man of peace whom his old friend Mahatma Gandhi had described as “the most Christian and the most gentlemanly” personage, had taken in his eminently successful public life. Born without a left hand, Lord Irwin, as he had been known before he was made the Earl of Halifax, had finally landed the most prestigious job in the world at that time, the secretary of state of Great Britain.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Indeed, as viceroy of India, he had put Gandhi in jail for breaking the salt law, but had soon made amends by receiving the “half-naked fakir” as an equal at the magnificent palace that he had inaugurated in the new imperial capital of New Delhi. The two men had also signed a pact that had led to Gandhi sailing to London for the second Round Table Conference and having an audience with the king-emperor. Though the conference had failed, the Gandhi-Irwin pact had opened the way for political dialogue between Indian leaders and British rulers.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Later, as foreign secretary in the embattled Tory government of Neville Chamberlain, Halifax had fathered the appeasement policy by which Britain watched helplessly while a militarised Germany, under the Austria-born artist Adolf Hitler, was gobbling up country after country in Europe. All along, Halifax had been avoiding a war that he was convinced would not only destroy Britain and her empire, but also wreck the whole of Europe and the free world. His admirers say the appeasement helped Britain gain time to rearm.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Halifax’s assessment was not wrong. The same afternoon after his ultimatum expired, British ocean liner Athenia was torpedoed, killing 112 passengers. Only then did the harsh reality hit the great sea lords of England—that they might still be ruling the world’s waters, but German U-boats were ruling the underwaters. The Battle of the Atlantic opened the same day, and within a month the Royal Navy would lose half a dozen ships.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The dry ground, too, was shaking under Britain’s feet. Most of her land forces were dispersed across Africa and Asia. There was an expeditionary force of about 1,50,000 men in France, but the generals knew that they stood no chance before the German panzers. Finally, the entire expeditionary force, along with an Indian animal transport contingent, would be ferried to safety in May 1940 across the English Channel from Dunkirk, on every little boat that could float, making it the largest military evacuation in world history.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As the hour set by Halifax elapsed, his office sent cables to hundreds of offices across the world. One landed on the desk of the viceroy of India, Lord Linlithgow, in Simla. At 8.30 the same evening (3pm London time, just four hours after Halifax’s deadline expired), Linlithgow went on air pledging India’s wholehearted support to the war effort. The proclamation, done without even a modicum of consultation with Indian leaders, would later prove politically the unwisest step taken by any viceroy (see story on page 48).</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>No one—not even the viceroy—had any idea how India would fight the war.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>At the hour when Linlithgow was going on air, the Indian Army had just 1,60,000 troops, including about 16,000 British officers and men, and 72,000 with the princely states. The Royal Indian Navy had just 1,700 officers and men, and the Indian Air Force had just one squadron with 200 officers and men who were busy quelling a tribal uprising in Waziristan. The squadron was commanded by its first Indian commander Subroto Mukherjee, who would later become the first Indian chief of the IAF; among the officers was Arjan Singh, who would also later head the IAF and become India’s only marshal of the air force. By the time the war ended in 1945, the Indian Army had swelled to “more than two and a half million”, writes Harry Fecitt in Distant Battlefields. “It was the largest all-volunteer army in the history of human conflict.” Close to 25,000 of them perished in the war, 64,000 were wounded and 12,000 went missing.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But at this moment, it was nothing but a small border army. Most of the land and air forces were deployed to guard the northwest from the Russians, who, the British feared, had been coveting India, first under the imperial Tsars and now under the godless communist Joseph Stalin. When the war opened, the Soviet Union was an ally of Germany. Only months earlier had Stalin signed a non-aggression pact with Hitler, and occupied most of eastern Europe. The two dictators, it had appeared, were dividing Europe among themselves, and Stalin would soon be reaching out to Asia, particularly India.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Britain’s position was precarious—alone and friendless with a huge empire to defend. The United States, with its enormous grain granaries and industrial might, offered some hope; but its isolationist politics made it stay neutral in what was perceived to be another European war. The US offered arms, but on cash basis.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Cash was what Britain did not have. Britain’s strength lay in her colonies, the crown jewel being India, where the Linlithgow regime launched a massive recruitment campaign. Indian leaders, despite their non-cooperation, did not try to block it. By late November, the first Indian troops joined the expeditionary force in France, allowing part of the main British force to move north. By then, Stalin had conquered Finland.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Early in 1940, Italian dictator Benito Mussolini met Hitler on the Austrian border and promised to enter the war “at an opportune moment”. In April, Norway and Denmark fell to Germany. On May 10, Hitler shocked the world by invading Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands and attacking Britain’s staunchest ally, France. Chamberlain resigned the same day, giving way to an all-party government under the India-hating Winston Churchill.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It was Mussolini who drew first blood with Indians. He chose his “opportune moment” in June 1940 to strike in North Africa, held by Sir Claude Auchinleck’s Eighth Army with the 4th and 5th Indian divisions under it. The overall command of the region was vested in the one-eyed Archibald Wavell, a general who wrote poems when he was not planning strategies. (He had lost his left eye in the Battle of Ypres in World War I.)</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Both men took an instant liking to the Indians. Before the war would end, the two would come to India, both to command the army here and Wavell to also rule India as the viceroy who would pave the way for a constitutional transfer of power through an interim government.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>We will leave the two Indian divisions under these two men for the time being, and see what was happening in Europe.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The picture was getting dismal in Europe. As regime after regime fled to London, Churchill ordered Operation Dynamo by which 3,40,000 Allied troops, including four Indian mule transport companies, were ferried to England from Dunkirk on warships, sloops and country boats. On June 25, France surrendered. Hitler was now the overlord of the entire western Europe, leaving the east, the Baltics and Finland to Stalin.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In July 1940, Hitler asked his general staff to plan an invasion of Britain, a venture that several European kings and dukes, including Napoleon, had planned but never succeeded since 1066. In what came to be known as the Battle of Britain, history’s greatest air war, German bombers pounded the cities of Britain day and night.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It was into this dismal picture that Indians entered. Italy had a vast empire in East Africa from where they threatened British territories and invaded British Somaliland. The first major Allied action in Africa, Operation Compass, was against the Italians in Sidi Barrani area of Egypt. The 4th Indian Division, commanded by Major General Noel Beresford-Peirse, was pressed into battle in December 1940; they pushed out the enemy in three days, capturing 38,300 prisoners, 237 guns, 75 tanks and 1,000 vehicles. The 5th Indian Division, under Major General Lewis Heath and comprising only two brigades, defeated the Italians at Agordat in Eritrea and pushed them out of Keren. But the Italians took up defensive positions on the mountains 70km east. The Indians soundly defeated them at Ad Teclesan, where Subedar Richpal Ram (4/6 Rajputana Rifles) won a posthumous Victoria Cross. The Italians surrendered at Asmara in Eritrea on April 8, 1941.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In short, it was the Indian forces that liberated the city of Addis Ababa in April, paving the way for Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie to return to his homeland. Ever grateful, Sudan and Ethiopia would later contribute money for setting up the National Defence Academy near Pune. The main building of the NDA is still called Sudan Block.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>By now, the Italians fighting in Eritrea regrouped in Amba Alagi. The 5th Indian Division stormed the heights from the north, while a British force pushed from the south. On May 18, the Italian viceroy and the entire Italian force surrendered to the Indian division. Even Churchill conceded: “The whole empire has been stirred by the achievement of Indian forces in Eritrea.” In the subsequent mop-up operation, second lieutenant P.S. Bhagat (later lieutenant general) won the Victoria Cross.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Meanwhile, another threat arose in the Middle East. A pro-German junta, led by Rashid Ali, seized power in Iraq, from where Britain was getting most of its oil to run the war machine. With all her forces tied down in Europe and Africa, Britain sought India’s help. In mid-1941, the 8th Indian Division reached Basra in Iraq, followed by the 10th division. They occupied Baghdad and secured the oil fields, winning the theatre honour of ‘Iraq 1941’. Another Indian brigade, along with Australians and the Free French Forces, captured Damascus in a bold night attack and secured Syria and Lebanon.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Embattled in Africa by the Indians and the Allied forces, Mussolini sought German aid. Hitler sent his celebrated general, Erwin “the Desert Fox” Rommel, a master tactician who was respected even by his British enemies, as head of the Afrika Korps. Rommel struck in March 1941. A brilliant action by the 3rd Indian Motor Brigade delayed him at Meikili on April 6, which allowed an entire Australian division to withdraw to Tobruk in Libya. Rommel besieged Tobruk, forcing the Allies to withdraw further. In December, Rommel defeated the Allied force, including 4th Indian, but their subsequent actions forced him to withdraw to El Agheila.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In May-June 1942, the 10th Indian Division joined the Commonwealth forces in the first Battle of El Alamein in Egypt. Soon the 4th Division, which had gone to Syria, too, returned and helped in the famous victory of Bernard Montgomery over Rommel in the second Battle of El Alamein. An exuberant Churchill declared: “This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It was not just the genius of Montgomery (his father had been one of the greatest administrators of Punjab and had lent his name to a district in West Punjab, now in Pakistan) alone that turned the tables. Hitler was losing interest in Africa; his eyes had by now been on a larger pie—the vast territories of Russia, its oil in the Caucasus and the cherry cities of Moscow and Leningrad. If he could conquer Russia, he would be the master of the entire European landmass, save perhaps the little island of Great Britain.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>On June 22, 1941, Hitler committed a Napoleonic folly—he invaded the Soviet Union in a three-pronged operation. The blitzkrieg of tanks faced no resistance for miles and miles. Taken by surprise and speed, the Russian defences crumbled in town after town. More than five lakh were captured prisoner within weeks, and starved or tortured to death.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In July, Stalin ordered his people to burn their crops, bridges and buildings and withdraw, so that the invading Germans would not seize them. By autumn, the German forces had begun the siege of Leningrad that would last 872 days, and were almost sighting the spires of Moscow. Russia was starved of food, fuel and ammunition. They needed immediate supplies, especially oil, as did Britain. Most of the oil had been coming from Persia, and now that was under threat from the advancing German army. An Anglo-Soviet invasion of Iran was planned, but where would the forces come from? Again the British looked to India.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The 8th and 10th Indian Divisions, the 2nd Indian Armoured Brigade and a British armoured brigade, all fighting in North Africa, were pressed into an incredibly rapid invasion of Iran in August 1941. Two Indian battalions made an amphibious crossing of the river Shatt al-Arab and captured the oil rigs of Abadan. Eight battalions of British and Indian troops under Major General William Slim, who would later defend India from the Japanese, advanced from Khanaqin in Iraq into the Naft-i-Shah oilfield in Iran and on towards the Pai Tak Pass. The pass was taken on August 27, and two days later the defenders surrendered. It was all swift, and fairly easy, but very vital to the further conduct of the war. As Auchinleck, who had commanded Indians in the Middle East and would later become the commander-in-chief of India, said, the British “couldn’t have come through both wars if they hadn’t had the Indian Army”.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The operation would give relief not only to the British, but also to starving Russia. The job of opening a supply line to Russia from the Middle East was also entrusted to the Indian command now. The Persia and Iraq Force (PAI Force), consisting mostly of Indian troops, developed ports, roads, river and canal routes from the Persian Gulf to the Arctic reaches of Russia, through which tens of thousands of soldiers carried 62,000 tonnes of aid. Later, in 1944, a grateful Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR would award the prestigious Orders of the Red Star to Subedar Narayan Rao Nikkam and Havildar Gajendra Singh Chand of the Indian Army Service Corps.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>By late 1941, the German advance, though slowed, was reaching the outskirts of Moscow. Stalin moved his government further east, but he stayed in Moscow with his celebrated general, Georgy Zhukov, who, too, moved his troops behind the city and waited for the snow to fall. Into this freezing picture, now entered another enemy and a friend. And that enemy was going to pose a direct threat to India. With that, the war also would become a world war.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>On December 7, Japanese planes bombed the US Pearl Harbour. America’s entry into the war, with all her industrial might, was a big relief to Russia, which had been worried that Japan would attack them from the east. Japan’s attack on the American port revealed that her interests were in the Pacific. Relieved, Zhukov moved his Siberian divisions, the world’s best snow-warriors, to fight the Germans around Moscow.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>For Indians and the British, however, this also brought new dangers. Japan, the Allies realised, was coveting the Pacific and also Britain’s Asian empire, of which India was the crown jewel. It also meant that thousands of Indian lives were in danger. For, most of Britain’s Asian empire—from distant Hong Kong to next-door Burma—was garrisoned mostly by Indian troops.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Within four hours of the attack on Pearl Harbour, Japan struck at not only the British garrison in Hong Kong, which included 5/7th Rajput Regiment and the 2/14th Punjab Regiment, but also Malaya, where the bulk of the British army was Indian. On December 11, the Japanese invaded Burma.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Rajputs and the Punjabis in the Hong Kong garrison fought bravely for 18 days before surrendering. Bearing the brunt of the ferocious Japanese attack on Malaya that began December 8, were the 9th and the 11th Indian Divisions, the 12th Indian Infantry Brigade and several independent battalions. They tried to stop the Japanese at Jitra, Kampar and Slim River in Malaya; two Indian brigades which had arrived as reinforcement in January 1942 joined them at Muar. More than 3,000 of the 4,000 men in these brigades perished.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Malaya looked a lost cause, yet the troops fought bravely. But the biggest blow came in Singapore, considered the eastern gate of the empire. Despite the brave fight put up by the 9th and 11th Indian Divisions, Singapore fell to the superior might of the Japanese on February 15, 1942. About 55,000 Indians were captured by the Japanese. The fall of what was called Fortress Singapore, like the disaster in Mesopotamia in World War I, was the hardest blow that the British suffered in the war. In both, it was Indian troops who suffered the most. The surrender signalled that the sun was going to set on the empire in the east. An alarmed Churchill exclaimed at the fall of Singapore: “Australia is threatened; India is threatened.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Naturally, the subsequent battles were the most desperate ever fought in any war in modern times. Military historians say that in terms of ferocity, the battles in the east—on the islands and atolls of the Malayan archipelago, the vast malaria-infested plantations of Malaya, and the dense jungles of Burma—were the most desperate, for both the British and Indian regiments. A battalion of 15th Punjab were in Kuching, the capital of Sarawak, ruled by a British rajah since James Brooke set up a kingdom styling himself rajah in the mid-19th century. The Punjabi bid to hold an airfield cost them 230 men on the Christmas eve of 1941. The survivors crossed into Dutch Borneo to fight the Japanese under a Dutch command for three months before being captured.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Into Burma, it was not an attack but a massive invasion by the Japanese on December 11. The 17th Indian Division held the Japanese at the Bilin River for two days in February 1942 in close-quarter fighting. As the Japanese outflanked and encircled them, they fell back wading through the jungle track for about 50 kilometres to Sittang bridge. In the pitched battle that followed, they lost most of their guns, vehicles and other heavy equipment. The remnants made their way to Pegu in March.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In April, the 48th Armoured Brigade, along with the 48th Indian Brigade and 1st Burma Division, could finally inflict some damage on the Japanese. By the time the battle ended, the troops were too exhausted to even hold on. The high command in India tried once more to hold on in Burma with a bold campaign in Arakan, beginning December 1942. But with neither the Indian nor the British troops having been trained for jungle warfare, the campaign flopped. The repeated defeats affected the morale, and stories of Japanese invincibility began spreading among the troops and the public. About 12,000 of the 40,000 Indian prisoners of war who were captured in Malaya or surrendered at Singapore joined Mohan Singh’s First Indian National Army, and subsequently Subhas Chandra Bose’s forces.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>By now, London decided that their Indian high command was not capable of training and equipping the army for jungle war. A new Supreme Allied Command for South East Asia was created under Admiral of the Fleet Lord Mountbatten, leaving the India command in charge of internal security. General William Slim, who commanded the entire force in Burma, concluded that it was time to take a last stand for India.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But where? It would have to be at the eastern gates of India itself, he decided. The entire army in the Arakan was airlifted with American help to Imphal and Kohima. This far and no further, Slim decided.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Slim’s grit paid off finally. As the British and the Indians stood defending India, the Japanese infiltrated through the gaps, crossed the Kalapanzin River, turned west and south, and attacked the headquarters of the 7th Indian Division in February. In what came to be known as the Battle of the Admin Box, one of the most ferocious battles ever fought, the 5th, 7th and 26th Indian, 81st West Africa Division, and 36th British Infantry Division dug in and fought back.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>For Indians on both sides, it was a war for their country. The defenders at Imphal and Kohima were told that they were now, for the first time, fighting to save their motherland from unknown tyrants of the east. On the attacking side too, the INA troops were told that they were seeking to liberate their motherland from the European enslavers. To the great glory of India, both sides fought hard.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Hitting like typhoons from land and air, the defenders mauled the Japanese. The ferocity of the defence took the Japanese by surprise; though more Indian and British soldiers were killed in the battle than the Japanese, for the first time the Japanese realised that capturing India, even with the help of the INA, was not going to be a walkover as they had thought.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The brilliant defence of the Admin Box boosted the morale of the Indians and the British. It shattered several myths, the primary one being that the Japanese were some sort of supermen who could not be defeated. It also proved that regimental loyalty in the Indian Army was as strong a bonding as were national loyalty and ethnic bonding. If many troops had switched over to the INA during the Burma campaign, many more had stayed on with their buddies, platoons, battalions and regiments, even risking their lives. And by the time the Japanese arrived at Imphal and Kohima, many of them had also been trained in jungle warfare through the famous Chindit operations of Orde Wingate (see page 38).</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>So when the attack on Imphal came, the defenders were in fairly high spirits. The 17th, 20th, 23rd Indian Divisions, 50th Indian Parachute Brigade and 254th Indian Tank Brigade defended Imphal and Sangshak from March till July 1944, yielding not even an inch, and finally pushing back the enemy into Burma with heavy losses.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Almost simultaneously, the Japanese were pushing at Kohima, too, where the 50th Indian Parachute Brigade, 5th and 7th Indian and 2nd British Divisions captured a ridge that was dominating the area. The Japanese held on to the road that was leading to Imphal for more than a month from May 16. Finally, the defenders blasted them out, and captured the road, which was a major supply line for the army. The battle ended on June 22, when the troops from Kohima and Imphal met on the road at Milestone 109. Finally, the Japanese abandoned their invasion plans and began a retreat into Burma. As Wavell would remark later, Kohima was where “the Japanese were routed and their downfall really began”.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Slim decided that his victory would be complete only if he reconquered Burma. He sent his Indians and British troops after the Japanese. Probably inspired by the memory of the 70,000 who had fallen in Malaya and 1,75,000 in Burma as dead or wounded, they hit the enemy hard at Meiktila and Mandalay from January to March 1945. They proved to be as good as the Japanese in jungle warfare, and superior to them in the use of armour and mechanised forces in jungles. Even Slim was surprised at the ferocity with which the Indians hit the enemy.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The twin victories at Meiktila and Mandalay virtually decimated the Japanese army in Burma. The subsequent operation to capture Rangoon, Operation Dracula, was a walkover for the Indian divisions.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There were still pockets of fierce resistance. In the Battle of Ramree Island in southern Burma, which had been captured by the Japanese in 1942, the 26th Indian Division fought for six weeks in early 1945.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>By now the Allies were gaining the upper hand in both the Pacific and Europe. General Douglas MacArthur, a brilliant tactician, had led the American forces ‘leap-frogging’ from island to island, kicking out the Japanese. In Europe, the Allied forces, under the overall command of Dwight Eisenhower, had landed in Normandy and also pushed up from southern Italy, fighting their way into Rhineland. Meanwhile, Zhukov’s Russians, who had suffered the most in the war, were having their revenge by pushing the Germans back into Germany and Berlin.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As the Russian forces were finally pounding Berlin, Hitler knew the game was over. He married his mistress Eva Braun on April 30, 1945, retired to his bunker, where she swallowed poison, and shot himself. Seven days later, at 9:20pm, his nominated successor, Admiral Karl Dönitz, signed the instrument of surrender.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The guns went silent all over Europe, and celebrations broke out. Wandering incognito among the London revellers were two pretty girls named Elizabeth and Margaret, much like the bored princess who sought a few nightly adventures in Roman Holiday.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But there was still no revelry for the Indian soldiers fighting in Asia. As Churchill said in his radio broadcast next afternoon, “We may allow ourselves a brief period of rejoicing [as Japan] remains unsubdued.” In Washington, DC, Harry Truman, who had succeeded Franklin Roosevelt as president, said, it was “a victory only half won”.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The two were now after the Japanese. As Burma was conquered, the British made plans to retake Malaya and Singapore. The 25th Indian Division with 3 Commando Brigade had joined in the first large-scale amphibious operations in southeast Asia in January 1945. They had occupied Myrbaw and Ruywa. In April, the division was withdrawn to south India to prepare for Operation Zipper. They were chosen for the assault landing role in the invasion of Malaya.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But Truman decided to cut everything short. After the Battle of Okinawa in April, in which 82,000 US troops and 1,17,000 Japanese soldiers and citizens were killed, he decided enough was enough. From Potsdam on July 26, he ordered the Japanese to “surrender or suffer prompt and utter destruction”. Japan rejected the ultimatum.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>On August 6, a USAF B-29 Superfortress bomber Enola Gay, named after the mother of its pilot Colonel Paul Tibbets, dropped the atom bomb Little Boy on Hiroshima, killing about 80,000 innocent people. Even before the mushroom cloud dissipated, Truman issued another warning to Japan to surrender or “expect a rain of ruin from the air, the like of which has never been seen on this earth”. On August 9, Stalin invaded Japan. Within hours, another of Truman’s bombs, Fat Man, fell on Nagasaki. The next day, Tokyo agreed to surrender on one condition: Please let our emperor remain in place.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The big three, now the rulers of the universe, agreed.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>On August 14, the Allied governments announced the surrender of Japan. On September 2, the Japanese generals officially surrendered to General MacArthur on board USS Missouri, berthed in Tokyo Bay.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>For India, however, there were a few more days of war left. The 5th Indian Division had sailed from Trincomalee and Rangoon to retake Singapore in Operation Tiderace. The fleet arrived in Singapore on September 4, 1945. The 23rd and 25th Divisions landed in Malaya on September 9.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>On September 12, exactly six years and nine days after Gandhi’s friend Halifax had sent the ultimatum to Ribbentrop, the war officially ended. Jawaharlal Nehru’s future friend Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten, the supreme Allied commander for southeast Asia, accepted Japan’s surrender in the Municipal Building of Singapore, now known as City Hall. Representing the Indian Army at the ceremony with General Slim was Brigadier K.S. Thimayya, the only Indian officer who had been given an operational command in the war. He had led the 8/19th Hyderabad Regiment against the Japanese in the Burmese jungles, and would later save Kashmir and command the Indian Army.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Thus, the war that had started with a cable sent out by a former ruler of India ended with a document received by a future ruler of India, who would also bring the curtain down on the colonial phase in India’s history. But the armed forces that they left behind would march on to greater glories.</p> Fri Jul 24 11:44:14 IST 2020 theatres-of-war <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p><b>THEY FOUGHT IN</b> East Africa; they fought in North Africa. They fought in Iraq, Iran and Palestine, and in Italy, southern Europe, Borneo and the Philippines. They fought in Malaya; they fought in Singapore; they fought in Burma; they finally took a last stand at the gates of India, where they vowed not to surrender.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>To paraphrase a famous Winston Churchill speech, they fought on the beaches, on the islands, on the landing grounds, in the streets, in the deserts, in the jungles, in the hills—they fought everywhere. Where they were not fighting, they were serving the men who were fighting—even on the frozen Russian front.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>That was the story of the Indian Army in World War II. As military historian Rana Chhina says, they “fought against two of the finest armies of the world—the Germans and the Japanese—and proved [their] worth.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>When the war started, the Indian Army had less than two lakh men, including a few thousand British officers and men. When the war ended, they were 2.5 million, after losing 87,000 dead and 64,000 wounded; the largest voluntary army ever raised in the history of the world, as Churchill grudgingly conceded.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Here we present a broad picture of the major battles that the Indian Army fought. They won some, they lost some, but they fought all well.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>★★NORTH AND EAST AFRICA★★</p> <p>Defeating Italians; taking on Rommel</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>OPERATION COMPASS</b></p> <p>This was the first large British operation in the war, and the Indian Army played a major role in it. British, Indian and other Commonwealth forces attacked Italy’s 10th Army under Marshal Rodolfo Graziani in western Egypt and Cyrenaica, the eastern province of Libya from December 1940 to February 1941.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The 4th Indian Division, commanded by Major General Noel Beresford-Peirse, joined the battle on December 9, 1940. In two days, they pushed the Italians out of their fortified positions, enabling the British to capture the Libyan ports and cut the enemy’s supply line. They captured 38,300 prisoners, 237 guns, 73 tanks and 1,000 vehicles.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>OPERATION BATTLEAXE</b></p> <p>This was a British attempt to raise the Siege of Tobruk and recapture eastern Cyrenaica from German and Italian forces. It was the first time that a major German force had to be on the defensive. The celebrated General Erwin Rommel launched his Afrika Korps in late March 1941 against the British Desert Force, which included the 3rd Indian Motor Brigade and the 11th and 18th Frontier Force Cavalry. They could not stop the Germans, but the motor brigade held ground at Meikili, and finally made breakthrough on April 8. This enabled an Australian division to entrench at Tobruk.In June, Archibald Wavell launched Battleaxe to drive out the Germans and Italians beyond Tobruk, but failed. The British and Indians fell back to Sidi Barrani. The failure led to the replacement of Wavell by Sir Claude Auchinleck.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>OPERATION CRUSADER</b></p> <p>Auchinleck was trying to bypass Rommel’s defences on the Egyptian-Libyan frontier and defeat the German armoured forces to relieve Tobruk, which was under siege. The 4th and 5th Indian Divisions and the 29th Indian infantry brigade formed part of the attacking force. On November 18, 1941, Auchinleck launched a surprise attack, but it lacked punch since he had dispersed his attack force. The attackers lost 530 tanks. On November 24, Rommel ordered the “dash to the wire”, causing chaos in the British rear echelons. The timely arrival of a New Zealand force saved the British and the Indians. By December, Rommel’s supply lines got thin. He narrowed his front and shortened his lines of communication. By mid-December, he withdrew to El Agheila.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>FIRST BATTLE OF EL ALAMEIN</b></p> <p>The British Eighth Army settled at El Alamein, only 106km from Alexandria port, from where their supplies were coming. Rommel, too, had his forces nearby, planning to capture Alexandria, and then Cairo, and ultimately the Suez Canal. But he was hampered by the fact that his supplies had to come from distant Tripoli in Libya. In July, Auchinleck’s Eighth Army launched six attacks employing, among others, the Indian 5th Division. Rommel resisted fiercely. As he suffered 13,000 casualties, including 3,000 Indians, Auchinleck decided to wait. But Churchill, who wanted immediate action, removed him and appointed Sir Harold Alexander as Middle East commander and William Gott as Eighth Army commander. Gott was killed when his aircraft was shot down. So Lt Gen Bernard Montgomery was appointed in his place. He took command on August 13.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>SECOND BATTLE OF EL ALAMEIN</b></p> <p>Rommel’s Afrika Korps launched a determined attack at Alam-el-Halfa on the night of August 30, 1942, but Montgomery resisted fiercely. On October 23, Montgomery launched an attack in which the 4th and 5th Indian Divisions played a major role. The Indian 5th Brigade broke through Rommel’s defences and captured El Alamein. By the end of November, the Allies took 30,000 prisoners.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The victory at El Alamein was the first big success against the Axis forces anywhere in the world. It eliminated the Axis threat to Egypt and the Suez Canal, which was Britain’s main supply route for oil from the Middle East and troops from India. The 4th Indian Division fought hard; the 10th Indian Division, too, joined at a later stage. Subedar Lal Bahadur Thapa and Company Havildar Major Chhelu Ram won Victoria Cross in these operations.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>★★MIDDLE EAST★★</p> <p>Securing oil for the war</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>ANGLO-IRAQI WAR</b></p> <p>In 1940, a pro-German junta took power in Iraq, threatening Britain’s oil supplies and opening a route for Germans to invade Afghanistan and India. Since the Indian Army was even otherwise guarding the northwest against threat from Russia, it was asked to neutralise the threat. Gen Robert Cassels, commander-in-chief of India, who had successfully commanded a cavalry brigade in Iraq in World War I and helped end the Mesopotamian campaign, sent the newly formed 20th Indian Brigade under Brigadier D. Powell. Along with the British forces, they swiftly captured Basra and Baghdad, reoccupied Iraq and installed the pro-British Prince Abd al-Ilah.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>SYRIA-LEBANON CAMPAIGN</b></p> <p>In mid-May 1941, trouble arose in Syria, where French Vichy forces, which were friendly to Germany, captured the airfields. The 5th Indian Brigade joined the Free French forces and captured Damascus airfield in a bold night attack on June 21, 1941. Syria sought armistice in July 1941.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>ANGLO-SOVIET INVASION OF IRAN</b></p> <p>Iran ruler Reza Shah had good relations with Germany, and he threatened to cut oil supplies. Russia, which had just joined the war on the Allied side, panicked. The British moved the 8th Indian Division along with their own and Soviet forces in an Anglo-Soviet invasion. The 8th Indian Division attacked from the west while a Russian contingent attacked from the north. They installed a friendly regime and this ensured supplies to Russia. A new Persia and Iraq (PAI) Command was raised, consisting mostly of Indian units, to ensure the supplies to Russia.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>★★EUROPE★★</p> <p>Chasing Mussolini</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>ITALIAN CAMPAIGN AND THE BATTLE OF MONTE CASSINO</b></p> <p>The victories in North Africa in 1941-42 enabled the Allies to plan an invasion of Italy from the south. The 8th Indian Division, which was with Mongomery’s Eighth Army in North Africa, captured Taranto port, which was the first bridgehead captured by the Allies on European soil. When the task of advancing to Rome was given to the British Fifth Army, the Indian 4th Division joined them.The division assaulted Cassino, but it proved costly. So the overall Middle East commander, Gen Harold Alexander, sent the 5th and 8th Armies to attack Liri Valley and force a way to Rome. The 8th Indian Division, too, joined the attack. They broke through the Gustav Line and chased the Germans into Rome. Soon the 10th Indian Division secured the north up to the Adriatic. As many as 4,720 Indians died in Italy; another 17,310 were wounded. Six Indians won the VC.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>★★THE FAR EAST★★</p> <p>A Dip in the Pacific</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>BATTLE OF HONG KONG (DECEMBER 8–25, 1941)</b></p> <p>The day they bombed Pearl Harbour, the Japanese also attacked Britain’s crown colony of Hong Kong, which was garrisoned by British and Indian troops. The first attack was faced by the 2/14 Punjab. On December 8, 1941, their forward troops virtually wiped out a Japanese platoon.Despite being subjected to dive bombing and heavy mortar fire, 5/7 Rajputs held on to Devil’s Peak on the mainland until ordered to retreat to Hong Kong island. The Japanese followed them to the island, where they fought till the last man. The garrison held out for 18 days before being forced to surrender. Some were captured alive and murdered by the Japanese. Among the prisoners who survived were 5,072 British, 3,829 Indians and 1,689 Canadians.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>★★SOUTHEAST ASIA★★</p> <p>Enemy from the East</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Malaya and Singapore</b></p> <p>The Malayan and the subsequent Burma campaigns were the bloodiest battles for both the British and Indians. About 1,30,000 of the Allied troops were captured by the Japanese in Malaya alone, and 15,703 killed.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The British were caught off guard when Japan’s 25th Army, under Lt Gen Tomoyuki Yamashita, invaded Malaya and began bombing Singapore. The Indian III Corps, the 12th Brigade and a number of independent battalions resisted them, but were smashed in the battle of Jitra (December 11-13). The enemy swiftly advanced to Kota Bharu on the northeast coast of Malaya. As the British abandoned Penang, the local Indians felt betrayed, and many began to cooperate with the invading Japanese.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>On January 11, 1942 Kuala Lumpur, too, fell to the Japanese. As the Japanese moved towards Singapore, less than 320km away, the Indian 11th Division resisted them bitterly in the battle of Kampar (December 30-January 2). But as the Japanese brought more forces by the sea, the Indians and the British retreated to Slim River. Two Indian brigades were wiped out in the battle of Slim River (January 6-8).</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In the Battle of Muar, the 45th Indian Brigade was destroyed. The survivors grouped themselves into a Muar force and tried to keep off the Japanese while allowing the remnants of the Allied forces to escape from northern Malaya. When the wounded and bleeding force finally reached the bridge at Parit Sulong, they found it had been captured by the enemy. Every man was for himself then. They took to the jungles, swamps and rubber plantations. All but two of 135 troops were captured, tortured and killed. About 3,000 Allied troops were killed in the Battle of Muar. Of 4,000 men in the brigade, only 800 survived.On January 27, the remaining forces crossed over to Singapore. The Japanese invaded the island on February 7. The Allied force of about 80,000 was taken prisoner.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>BATTLE OF BORNEO</b></p> <p>As the Japanese threat loomed, the British sent the 2nd Battalion of the 15th Punjab and a gun battery from the Hong Kong-Singapore Royal Artillery to guard the airfield at Kuching, the capital of Sarawak. The Japanese attacked, killed 230 men of the battalion in one night, and captured the city on December 24, 1941. The defending force was disbanded, and they crossed over to Dutch Borneo, where they were placed under Dutch command. The men continued to resist the Japanese in the dense jungle of southern Borneo until April 1, 1942, when they finally surrendered.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>★★ENEMY AT THE GATES★★</p> <p>Burma campaign and Defence of India</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>On December 8, Japan invaded Malaya and, later, Burma. The 17th Indian Division fought and delayed the Japanese at Bilin River in February 1942. Outgunned, they retreated to the Sittang bridge. The enemy followed and in the ensuring Battle of Sittang Bridge, the division lost most of its guns and equipment.In April, the Japanese attacked the Yenangyaung oil fields, where the 48th Indian Brigade defended it with the British 1st Burma Division, inflicting heavy casualties. But the Japanese reinforced and struck. The badly bruised army retreated through the jungle, mostly without even transport, towards Manipur and were joined even by the Chinese.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In 1942 the Allies attacked Arakan with the Indian contingent trying to capture Mayu peninsula and Akyab Island, but failed. Then, Brigadier Orde Wingate raised the famous Chindits, who infiltrated through the Japanese front lines and marched deep into Burma, so as to cut the main north-south railway. They damaged communications of the Japanese in northern Burma, but most of them were killed or captured. All the same, the adventures of the Chindits became legendary and helped instil confidence in the Indian and British troops.By early 1944, the Indian XV Corps broke a Japanese counterstrike in the Arakan. As the XV Corps came under attack in the Battle of the Admin Box in February, the 5th Indian Division broke through the Ngakyedauk Pass and reinforced them. Both sides lost heavily, but that was the first major battle won against the Japanese and it was mainly by the Indian units.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>BATTLES OF IMPHAL AND KOHIMA</b></p> <p>Yet the Japanese pushed forward. William Slim correctly judged that they would now lunge forth towards India, and that is where the British would have to take a last stand.As the Japanese 15th Army under General Renya Mutaguchi and Subhas Bose’s Indian National Army crossed the Chindwin River on 8 March, Slim and Lt Gen Geoffry Scoones ordered a fighting retreat to Imphal and Kohima. Having blunted a Japanese attack on Arakan, Slim airlifted the entire 5th Indian Division to the Indian border.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Japanese now struck Imphal. As the enemy rolled down the hill into the Imphal plain, IV Corps opened up while airplanes piloted by Arjan Singh and his buddies roared up into the skies and pounded them from the air, blunting the Japanese attack. By May, a counteroffensive was ordered.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Another Japanese division, under Lt Gen Kotoku Sato was pounding Kohima to capture it and advance to Dimapur. Lt Gen Montagu Stopford quickly reached there with his Indian XXXIII Corps and stopped Sato. The two brilliant defences finally stopped the Japanese march, which had never been stopped since the war began.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As Sato retreated, the troops of IV Corps and XXXIII Corps met at Milestone 109 on the Dimapur-Imphal road on June 22, signalling they shall not pass. That was the greatest defeat that the Japanese had suffered ever in history—60,000 dead and more than 1,00,000 wounded.As the enemy retreated, Slim ordered a pursuit. The 5th Indian Division advanced along the mountainous Tiddim road, captured Kalewa and crossed the Chindwin. Soon Mandalay and Rangoon were taken, and the Japanese were on the run.</p> Fri Jul 24 11:38:26 IST 2020 courage-under-fire <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p><b>INDIAN ARMY PERSONNEL</b>—native Indians, Nepali Gurkhas, natives of future Pakistan and Bangladesh, and Britons who were commissioned or enlisted in the Indian Army—won nearly 6,300 awards in World War II. The tally included 31 Victoria Crosses (VC), which were the highest military gallantry honour, seven George Crosses, which were the next in order, 252 Distinguished Service Orders, 347 Indian Orders of Merit and 1,311 Military Crosses.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The VC was awarded for “... most conspicuous bravery, or some daring or preeminent act of valour or self-sacrifice, or extreme devotion to duty in the presence of the enemy”. Here are the 31 bravehearts who won the award.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>NORTH AND EAST AFRICAN CAMPAIGN</b></p> <p><b>Second Lt Premindra Singh Bhagat </b>(Corps of Engineers) was the first Indian to win the Victoria Cross in the war. When his men were chasing the enemy after the capture of Metemma in Ethiopia, he personally cleared 15 minefields in 96 hours from the night of January 31, 1941. Bhagat rose to the rank of lieutenant general in independent India’s army.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Company Havildar Major Chhelu Ram</b> (6th Rajputana Rifles; posthumous) was already wounded when he took command of his company at Djebel Garci, Tunisia on the night of April 19, 1943. He led them in a hand-to-hand fight, was wounded again, but continued rallying his men until he fell.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Subedar Lal Bahadur Thapa</b> (2nd Gurkha Rifles) spotted enemy posts on both sides of a pathway winding up a narrow cleft when he was commanding two sections at Rass-es-Zouai, Tunisia on the night of April 5, 1943. Stealing his way up, he killed them all, including a machine-gunner, with his khukri and bayonet. Then he fought his way up the bullet-swept approaches to the crest, where he and his men killed four. This enabled an entire division of troops (more than 15,000) to advance further.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Subedar Richhpal Ram</b> (6th Rajputana Rifles; posthumous) led an attack at Keren, Eritrea on February 7, 1941, and repelled six counterattacks. Then, without a shot left, he brought the few survivors of his company back. Five days later, his right foot was blown off when he was leading another attack, but he continued to encourage his men until he died.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>ITALIAN CAMPAIGN</b></p> <p><b>Naik Yeshwant Ghadge</b> (5th Mahratta Light; posthumous) was commanding a rifle section on July 10, 1944 when he came under heavy machine-gun fire at close range, which felled all except him. Ghadge threw a grenade which knocked out the gunner, rushed at the post shooting another, and clubbed to death the two remaining members of the crew. He was shot finally by an enemy sniper.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Rifleman Thaman Gurung</b> (5th Gurkha; posthumous) was patrolling Monte San Bartolo, Italy on November 10, 1944 when his gallantry helped his platoon withdraw from a difficult position without many casualties. The platoon also picked up some valuable information that resulted in the capture of the area three days later.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Sepoy Ali Haidar</b> (13th Frontier Force) and two other men of his section were the only ones who survived machine-gun fire during the crossing of the Senio River on April 9, 1945. Haidar then attacked the nearest strong point and, in spite of being wounded, put it out of action. He was again wounded while attacking a second strong point, but he crawled closer, threw a grenade and charged the post. Two enemy soldiers were wounded, the remaining two surrendered. His company was able to cross the river and establish a bridgehead.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Sepoy Namdeo Jadav</b> (5th Mahratta Light) carried two wounded men to safety under heavy fire through deep water, up a steep bank and through a mine belt on April 9, 1945. His party was almost wiped out. Determined to avenge them, he eliminated three enemy machine gun posts. Finally, climbing on top of the bank he shouted the Maratha war cry and waved the remaining companies through. He not only saved many lives but enabled the battalion to secure the bridgehead and crush all enemy resistance in the area.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Sepoy Kamal Ram</b> (8th Punjab) was part of a company that was advancing on May 12, 1944 when it was held up by machine-gun fire from four posts on the front and flanks. Ram volunteered to get round the rear of the right post and silence it. He attacked the first two posts alone, killing or taking prisoner the occupant. Together with a havildar, he went on to destroy a third post.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Rifleman Sher Bahadur Thapa</b> (9th Gurkha; posthumous) was part of the company that was resisted by a German-prepared position on September 18–19, 1944. Thapa and his section commander, who was badly wounded afterwards, charged and silenced an enemy machine gun. Then he went alone to the exposed part of a ridge, where, ignoring a hail of bullets, silenced more machine guns, covered a withdrawal and rescued two wounded men before he was killed.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>MALAYAN CAMPAIGN</b></p> <p><b>Lt Col Arthur Cumming</b> (12th Frontier Force) led a counterattack with a small party when the Japanese attacked his position near Kuantan, Malaya on January 3, 1942. His men were felled, and he was bayoneted twice in the stomach, yet Cumming fought on till the rest of the battalion could pull out. Later, he drove in a troop carrier, braving enemy fire, to pick up scattered men when he was again wounded. But his effort saved his entire brigade.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>BURMA CAMPAIGN</b></p> <p><b>Captain Michael Allmand</b> (6th Gurkha; posthumous) and his platoon were 20 yards short of Pin Hmi Road Bridge when the enemy opened heavy fire. His men sought cover, but Allmand charged alone, hurling grenades into the enemy gun positions and killing three Japanese with his khukri. Inspired by his action, his men followed him and captured the bridge. Two days later, Allmand took over command of the larger company, and charged through a marsh towards Japanese position braving enemy fire. He personally killed a number of enemy machine-gunners and led his men to the high ground that they had been ordered to seize. Again, in a third action, he attacked a rail bridge at Mogaung, in which he walked alone with trench foot to charge at a Japanese machine-gun nest, but was felled. He died shortly afterwards.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Major Frank Blaker</b> (9th Gurkha; posthumous) was commanding a company on July 9, 1944 when they were stalled by close-range firing from machine guns. The major went ahead of his men through heavy fire. Despite being wounded in the arm, he located the machine guns and charged alone. He continued to cheer on his men even while lying mortally wounded, inspiring them to accomplish the objective.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Naik Fazal Din</b> (10th Baluch; posthumous) personally attacked the nearest bunker when his section was held up by fire from enemy bunkers during an attack on March 2, 1945. As he led his men against the other bunker, six Japanese, two wielding swords, rushed out. Fazal Din was run through the chest by one of them. As the sword was withdrawn, he wrested it from the hands of its owner and killed him with it. Killing another Japanese with the sword, he waved it aloft to encourage his men before collapsing.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Havildar Gaje Ghale</b> (5th Gurkha) was in charge of a platoon attacking a strong Japanese position on May 24–27, 1943. Wounded in the arm, chest and leg, he continued to lead assault after assault, encouraging his men by shouting the Gurkha battle-cry. Spurred by his action, the platoon stormed and captured the position.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Rifleman Bhanbhagta Gurung</b> (2nd Gurkha) and his company were pinned down by an enemy sniper on March 5, 1945. Gurung stood up, exposing himself, and calmly killed the sniper. The section advanced but came under heavy fire again. Gurung attacked the first enemy foxhole, throwing two grenades and killing two occupants. He rushed to the next enemy foxhole and killed the Japanese in it with his bayonet. He was under machine-gun fire during the entire action. He cleared five enemy positions single-handedly, and his party repelled a counterattack with heavy loss to the enemy.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Rifleman Lachhiman Gurung</b> (8th Gurkha) was manning the most forward post of his platoon on May 12, 1945 when it was attacked by 200 enemy troops. He hurled back the two grenades that fell on his trench, but the third exploded in his right hand, shattering his arm and wounding him in the face and right leg. Yet he loaded and fired his rifle with his left hand for four hours, calmly meeting each attack by firing point blank. Afterwards, it was found that he had killed 31 Japanese with only one arm.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Jamedar Abdul Hafiz</b> (9th Jat; posthumous) and his platoon were ordered to attack an enemy position on April 6, 1944. The only approach to the position was across a bare slope and up a steep cliff. Hafiz led the assault, killing several of the enemy himself and then pressed on regardless of machine-gun fire. He received two wounds, the second of which was fatal, but routed a vastly superior enemy and captured an important position.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Lt Karamjeet Singh Judge</b> (15th Punjab; posthumous) dominated the battlefield with numerous acts on March 18, 1945. As a platoon commander, he destroyed ten enemy bunkers. Then he directed one tank to within 20 yards of another and asked the tank commander to cease fire while he went in to mop up. While doing so, he was mortally wounded.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Rifleman Ganju Lama</b> (7th Gurkha) was attempting to stem the enemy’s advance on June 12, 1944 when his company came under heavy machine-gun fire. Lama took his anti-tank gun, crawled forward to 30 yards of the enemy tanks and knocked out two of them. Despite a broken wrist and two serious wounds to his both hands, he moved forward and killed the tank crew as they tried to escape.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Rifleman Tul Bahadur Pun</b> (6th Gurkha) found that he, his section commander and another trooper were the only survivors in a section that attacked a railway bridge on June 23, 1944. The section commander then led a charge on the enemy position but was badly wounded, as was the third man. With a Bren gun, Pun continued the charge alone, reached the position, killed three, put five more to flight, and captured two light machine guns and much ammunition. He then gave accurate supporting fire, enabling the rest of his platoon to reach their objective.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Rifleman Agansing Rai</b> (5th Gurkha) killed three machine-gun crew under withering fire on June 26, 1944. After taking the enemy position, he killed three more machine-gunners who were firing from the jungle. He then attacked an isolated bunker single-handedly, killing all four occupants. The enemy fled in fright, and the second post, too, was captured.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Sepoy Bhandari Ram </b>(10th Baluch) was pinned down, along with his platoon, by machine-gun fire on November 22, 1944. Although wounded, he crawled up to a Japanese light machine gun, in full view of the enemy, and was wounded again. But he continued crawling to within five yards of his objective. He then threw a grenade into the position, killing the gunner and two others. This action inspired his platoon to rush and capture the enemy position.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Lance Naik Sher Shah</b> (16th Punjab; posthumous) was commanding a left forward section of his platoon on January 19–20, 1945 when it was attacked by an overwhelming number of Japanese soldiers. He broke up two attacks by crawling right in among the enemy and shooting at point-blank range. On the second occasion, he was hit and his leg was shattered. When the third attack came, he again crawled forward, engaging the enemy until he was shot in the head.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Naik Gian Singh</b> (15th Punjab) was in charge of the leading section of his platoon on March 2, 1945 when he went on alone firing his Tommy gun, and rushed the enemy foxholes. Though wounded in the arm, he went on hurling grenades. He attacked and killed the crew of a cleverly concealed anti-tank gun, and then led his men down a lane clearing all enemy positions. He went on leading his section until the action was completed.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Naik Nand Singh</b> (11th Sikh) was commanding a leading section of an attack on March 11–12, 1944 when he was ordered to recapture a position gained by the enemy. He led his section up a steep, knife-edged ridge under heavy fire and, although wounded in the thigh, captured the first trench. He then crawled forward alone and, wounded again in the face and shoulder, and captured the second and third trenches.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Havildar Parkash Singh</b> (8th Punjab) drove his own carrier forward and rescued the crew of two disabled carriers under heavy fire on January 6, 1943. Again in the same area on January 19, he rescued two more carriers that had been put out of action by an enemy anti-tank gun. He then went out again and brought to safety another disabled carrier containing two wounded men.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Jamedar Prakash Singh Chib</b> (13th Frontier Force; posthumous) was commanding a platoon on February 16-17, 1945. He was wounded in both ankles and relieved of his command, but when his second-in-command was also injured, he crawled back and took command again, directing operations and encouraging his men. He was wounded in both legs a second time, but continued to direct the defence, dragging himself from place to place by his hands. When wounded a third time, he lay shouting the Dogra war-cry as he died, inspiring his company that finally drove off the enemy.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Havildar Umrao Singh</b> (Artillery Regiment) was a field gun detachment commander whose gun was in an advanced position supporting the 8th Gold Coast Regiment on December 15–16, 1944. After a 90-minute bombardment from 75mm guns and mortars, Singh’s position was attacked by two companies of Japanese infantry. Using a Bren gun, he held off the assault and was wounded by two grenades. A second attack killed all but Singh and two other gunners, but it was also beaten off. The three soldiers had only a few bullets remaining, and these were rapidly exhausted in the initial stages of the third attack. Undaunted, Singh picked up a ‘gun bearer’ (a heavy iron rod, similar to a crowbar) and used that as a weapon in hand-to-hand fighting. He struck down three infantrymen, before falling to a rain of blows. Six hours later, after a counterattack, he was found alive but unconscious near his gun, almost unrecognisable from a head injury, still clutching his gun bearer. Ten Japanese soldiers lay dead nearby.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Subedar Ram Sarup Singh</b> (1st Punjab; posthumous) was commanding a platoon attacking a strong enemy position on October 25, 1944. They routed the enemy and he was wounded in both legs. But he insisted on carrying on, and his dashing charge alone halted an enemy counterattack. In this action, he killed four of the enemy. He was again wounded, in the thigh, but continued to lead his men, killing two more of the enemy, until he was mortally wounded.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Acting Subedar Netrabahadur Thapa</b> (5th Gurkha; posthumous) was in command of a small isolated hill post at Bishenpur, Burma, on 25–26 June 1944 when the Japanese attacked. The men, inspired by Thapa’s example, held their ground and beat off the enemy, but casualties were very heavy and reinforcements were requested. When these arrived some hours later, they also suffered heavy casualties. Thapa retrieved the reinforcements’ ammunition himself and mounted an offensive with grenades and khukris, until he was killed.</p> Fri Jul 24 11:33:22 IST 2020 birth-of-a-nation <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p><b>LORD LINLITHGOW’S BIGGEST</b> handicap, as Labour Party leader Clement Attlee remarked, was that he lacked “imaginative insight”. Jawaharlal Nehru thought of Linlithgow as a man “heavy of body and slow of mind, solid as a rock and with almost a rock’s lack of awareness”.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Unfortunately, Linlithgow happened to be the viceroy of India when World War II broke out. The man made things difficult for both the Indians and the British.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Though fighting the British for political freedom, most Indian leaders, except Subhas Bose, had been well disposed towards the British cause against Nazism. The Congress working committee had resolved not to make things difficult for Britain, in case of war.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Nehru had a record of anti-fascism that “far surpassed that of the British government”, writes Donny Gluckstein in A People’s History of the Second World War. While the British government of Neville Chamberlain was appeasing the fascists in the 1930s, Nehru toured Europe and declared support to the democratic elements fighting the fascists in Spain and Czechoslovakia. In Italy, he even refused an invitation to meet Benito Mussolini.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In short, Linlithgow only had to ask, and India would have supported the British cause in the war. In return, India wanted self-government, at par with the dominions of Canada and Australia. But Linlithgow had neither the imagination to ask India, nor the sagacity to advise London to promise self-government.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Instead, within hours of Britain declaring war on Germany, he proclaimed that India was at war. He did not consult the central legislature or the provincial governments that had been elected on the strength of the Government of India Act of 1935. He did not consult the Congress or the Muslim League. He did not consult any of the stakeholders in India’s political destiny.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>When Linlithgow went on air, Nehru was on his way back from China, where he had declared support to Chiang Kai-shek’s nationalist forces that were fighting the imperial Japanese for nearly half a decade. During his stopover in Rangoon, when the press asked him about Linlithgow’s proclamation, Nehru said: “This is not the time to bargain. We are against the rising imperialism of Germany, Italy and Japan and the decaying imperialisms of Europe.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In India, Subhas Bose, who had just resigned as Congress president over his differences with Nehru and Sardar Patel, seized upon this. Proclaiming that “British adversity is India's opportunity”, he organised protests when Nehru landed in Calcutta. Sensing that a split was imminent within the national movement, Mahatma Gandhi declared that the Congress would finalise its stand only after Britain defined its war aims.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It was the memory of their bitter experience after World War I that made the Congress and the Muslim League hold back. They had wholeheartedly supported Britain in World War I, and had hoped that the British would move towards granting self-government after the war. But all that they got was the massacre at Jallianwala Bagh, and a diarchy through the Montagu-Chelmsford reforms. So now, when World War II broke out, they told Linlithgow: No more promises; give us self-government now and we will be there to defend the Commonwealth.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Linlithgow refused. The Congress governments in the provinces resigned in protest. Later, in February 1940, the viceroy told Gandhi that a new constitution would be drawn up after the war; but Gandhi was not impressed.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Linlithgow called Muhammad Ali Jinnah, who agreed to support the war effort if the British promised not to deal with the Congress behind his back. Linlithgow gave his word.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Gandhi, quick to sense the danger of a communal divide, persuaded the Congress to declare “nothing short of complete independence” as their demand and threatened civil disobedience. The political parting of ways between the British rulers and India’s leaders happened there.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Linlithgow had one more chance in August 1940. When they heard of the fall of France; of the desperate evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force from Dunkirk; of the misery of the British people facing the daily Luftwaffe bombings; and of the fear of imminent invasion of Britain itself, Indian leaders’ hearts melted again. The Congress made another offer to cooperate if at least a provisional national government could be established in Delhi.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>By now, the government of Chamberlain and the India-friendly Lord Halifax in London had given way to arch-imperialist Winston Churchill. On London’s instructions, Linlithgow replied with the most mulish ‘no’ ever said by a liberal regime to a friendly offer. Not only the Congress, but Jinnah’s Muslim League, too, was outraged. As the Congress threatened civil disobedience, Linlithgow threw most of its leaders into jail.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>By March 1941, Bose had escaped house arrest and fled to Moscow. When the Russians spurned his pleas for help against the British, he went to Berlin. Soon he began radio appeals to Indians in Europe and elsewhere to support the Axis cause.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>By now, big power equations were changing. Having signed a non-aggression pact, Germany and the Soviet Union had been dividing Europe into their spheres of influence. But in mid-1941, Hitler invaded the Soviet Union, suddenly turning his ally into an enemy. Britain thus got a powerful ally in Europe, and the British administration in India got the support of the Soviet-leaning communists in India.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The strategic perception from India, too, had changed. Since the 19th century, the biggest British concern in India was a possible expansion of the Tsarist and then the communist empire into India’s northwest. Thus most of the Indian army and air defence installations had been stationed in the northwest when the war broke out. Now, with the Soviet Union having become an ally, there was no more concern about India’s northwest. This enabled the viceroy to withdraw Indian troops from the northwest and send them to the Middle East and North Africa to secure British interests.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But, soon a new enemy appeared on the eastern horizon and he was coveting India.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>On December 8, 1941, Japan not only bombed America’s Pearl Harbour, drawing a new power into the war, but also invaded British Malaya and Singapore, all of which were garrisoned by mostly the Indian Army. In two days, the Japanese sank two British warships in the South China Sea and, on December 11, invaded Burma. The war was now coming close to home for India. A panic-stricken Linlithgow freed the national leaders and expanded the executive council, but was still unwilling to make any political offer.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The biggest shock of the war in the east came on February 15, 1942. That day, Fortress Singapore, considered the eastern gate of the British empire as also India’s strategic perimeter, fell to the Japanese. An exasperated Churchill described it as “the worst disaster and largest capitulation in British history”.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Within days, the Japanese bombed Chittagong and other ports in the Bay of Bengal. By now, the Americans, too, were putting pressure on Churchill to consider India’s demands more favourably. As Rangoon fell, it was clear that Calcutta would not be far behind. Alarmed, Churchill offered to send his cabinet colleague Sir Stafford Cripps to negotiate with Indian leaders.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Cripps was chosen for his three qualities. One, he had leftist leanings and thus could jell well with Nehru and others. Two, he had a sympathy for the Indian cause. Three, he could sup with the vegetarian ‘devils’. Like Gandhi, he was a sworn vegetarian.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But Cripps could not make much headway because his mandate was limited. The most he could offer was a constitutional assembly and dominion status, both of which would come after the war. Gandhi dismissed the offer as “an undated cheque on a crashing bank”.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It was not just rhetoric. Gandhi and the Congress, though sympathetic to the British cause, were convinced that Britain was crashing. They were worried about the security of India in the event of a British defeat. With the fall of Rangoon, they were convinced that the British would be defeated at the gates of India, and be forced to leave India, leaving a vacuum which the Japanese would occupy.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>They did not want that to happen. Instead, as the journalist Durga Das observed, they wanted an Indian government to be in place in Delhi, with the Indian army commanded by an Indian, to fight the Japanese even after the British were forced to leave. Interestingly, even Archibald Wavell, who was then commander-in-chief of India (he would later become viceroy), was favourable to the idea. But Churchill simply refused, leaving Cripps helpless.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Yet, the Indian leaders were willing to help. The Congress passed another resolution on July 14, 1942, offering that once given self-government, they would not only commit India to the Allied war effort against Japan, but also allow British and other Allied armies to be stationed in India, along with Indian troops, to fight the Japanese. But Churchill did not even acknowledge the offer.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Disgusted and desperate, the Congress authorised Gandhi to decide the next course of action. He did it with the strongest two words that he ever uttered in his political life: “Quit India,” he told the British. Linlithgow promptly sent all national leaders to jail, throwing India into turmoil.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Meanwhile, Bose’s efforts to rally German aid for Indian freedom got nowhere. The Germans told him to seek the help of the Japanese, who were fighting the British in Asia. Bose undertook a submarine journey to the east and reached Tokyo. The Japanese gave him charge of 60,000 Indian prisoners they had taken from Malaya and Singapore. He took them to Singapore, where Rash Behari Bose handed him the command of the Indian National Army.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>With about 25,000 of 60,000 surrendered Indian troops, Bose joined the Japanese march towards India. By then the Indian Independence League of Japan had sent 14 men in four groups by land and sea to spread the seeds of revolt in the Indian Army, but they were captured and executed by the British.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In October, London recalled Linlithgow and appointed Wavell, the well-loved general who had commanded Indian divisions in North Africa and had been impressed by them. But he had not impressed Churchill, who had sent him as C-in-C of India and now viceroy. Within days, the Andamans fell to the Japanese who handed over the islands to Bose. As Bose hoisted the Indian flag there, Japanese bombers were pounding Calcutta.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Wavell, a man with poetic imagination (he used to compose verse even on the battlefield) and military common sense, realised that the situation was getting precarious on three grounds. One, thousands of Indians were dying in a famine in India after the fall of Burma, from where rice used to be imported.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Two, Wavell’s military mind understood that the Japanese could not be stopped anywhere in Burma and they would invade India. By March they were knocking on the gates of India at Kohima and even planted the INA flag on a corner of the Indian soil. With the presence of so many Indians in Bose’s ranks fighting alongside the Japanese, there was no guarantee that even the most loyal Indian mind would not turn against the British.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Three, Gandhi’s health was deteriorating in the Aga Khan Palace, where he was incarcerated. Kasturba’s death in prison, too, had devastated him.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In May 1944, Wavell released Gandhi. Gandhi told Wavell’s emissaries that he was willing to withdraw civil disobedience and offer full support to the war if Wavell could at least promise freedom soon enough. Once again, Wavell found his hands tied by London.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Fortunately, the war was turning favourable. Having evacuated the entire army from Arakan in Burma with American aid, Gen William Slim decided that Britain would take its last stand at the gates of India. The battles on the Indian frontier would ultimately decide the destiny of the so-called free world.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The gamble paid off. Indian and British troops fought what they thought was the final battle at Kohima and Imphal, where they finally blocked the Japanese. For Indians, it was the last chance to save India from another tyranny. For the British, it was the last chance to save the free world and exit from the empire with honour.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Most military historians say the battles of Imphal and Kohima were among the worst and the fiercest ever. For the first time since the war had begun, the Japanese land advance was halted. On July 8, 1944, Gen Renya Mutaguchi accepted failure and ordered the remnants of his army to withdraw. India was saved.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Slim came to be known as the man who saved India. But in his hour of glory, he would not rest on his laurels. In a brilliant counterattack, Slim sent his Indians to chase the Japanese across the river Chindwin, into the Irrawaddy basin, into Rangoon and beyond, in what he himself described as “a forgotten war”. Slim would later declare with pride: “My Indian divisions after 1943 were among the best in the world. They would go anywhere, do anything, go on doing it and do it on very little.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The victory strengthened Wavell’s hands. He could now persuade the home government to divert food supplies from Australia and elsewhere to India.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>With the Japanese in retreat, and the INA having surrendered or been captured, Wavell invited the Congress and Muslim League leaders to a conference in Simla in June 1945. Slim was planning an amphibious invasion of Japanese-held Malaya with his British and Indian forces when US president Harry Truman atom-bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki and brought a quick end to the war. Within a week, Bose was reported killed in an aircrash in Formosa while trying to escape to Russia.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The final surrender of the Japanese was accepted on September 12, 1945, by Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten, the Supreme Allied Commander South East Asia Command, who would preside over the transfer of power in India. But as the British moved to try INA officers and troops at the Red Fort in Delhi, protest broke out across the country. Nehru, who had political disagreements with Bose and the INA, himself donned the barrister’s gown and went to defend them along with eminent lawyers like Bhulabhai Desai. The protests drove home a message to the British, that the loyalty of Indians could not be taken for granted any longer. India was ready to be free.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Saner counsel prevailed on Wavell and his C-in-C Claude Auchinleck, both of whom had commanded Indian troops in war and in peace. Early January, they freed the INA men unconditionally. Parting from India, they realised, had to be with honour, or at least without rancour.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Within a month and a half, they received the final warning, too. The sailors of the Royal Indian Navy rose in revolt in February 1946. Finally, it needed persuasion by Indian national leaders for the rebels to call off the mutiny.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>By now the British were reading the writing on the wall: They had won the war with India’s help; now it was time to leave India to Indians.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>London sent one last delegation, the Cabinet Mission, to make the parting as friendly as possible. The members were chosen carefully. Heading it was, of course, the good old leaf-eating leftie Sir Stafford Cripps. One of the two other members was Lord Pethick-Lawrence, a pacifist Labour leader known in England as ‘Gandhi in a suit’.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The rest is history—of the dawn of freedom and the birth of the largest democracy in the world.</p> Fri Jul 24 11:29:05 IST 2020 sterling-effort <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p><b>WHEN HITLER WAS</b> blaming the Jews for Germany’s economic miseries, a British Jew was running India’s finances. Ironic as it may sound, he would later run the finances of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, too.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Sir Jeremy Raisman was the finance member (finance minister) in Viceroy Linlithgow’s cabinet when the war was declared. Though an Englishman, he was not from the British civil service. In fact, he was the only member of the Indian Civil Service to handle the finance portfolio since 1922.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>During World War I, India had voted for gifting £100 million towards Britain’s war expenses. When World War II was declared, Raisman knew that there would not be any such largesse, with the Congress and Indian leaders being non-cooperative. "He, therefore, devised an ingenious plan,” wrote the journalist Durga Das, “under which he was not only able to get all he wanted for the war effort, but created such a powerful profit motive that even Gandhi-capped businessmen came forward to provide supplies.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>One such businessman, though not Gandhi-capped, was J.R.D. Tata. Tata Airlines, the forerunner of Air India, took part in the evacuation of Baghdad when Iraq was taken over by a pro-German junta. Raisman encouraged Tata to enhance his steel output and allowed him to open Tata Chemicals in Baroda state. Tata Chemicals would be the largest chemical factory in India to produce industrial chemicals needed for the war effort.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Raisman encouraged Indian traders—mostly Marwaris, Parsis and Gujarati Banias who had accumulated wealth during World War I—to get into manufacturing. The Birlas set up Hindustan Motors in Calcutta in 1942; Walchand formed Premier Automobiles in Bombay in 1944. Though cars were not directly linked to the war effort, the British sourced ancillaries such as pistons, springs, bulbs and fuel pumps from the plants.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The war effort required some 50,000 articles made of cloth, and India supplied 37,000 of them. With textile industry booming, machine-building for textile mills began with the opening of Textile Machinery Corporation in 1941. Even Russia, China and Australia received Indian supplies. Hindustan Aircraft Company, the future Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd, was founded in 1940. The first shipbuilding yard was set up in Visakhapatnam in 1941; Mysore Chemicals and Fertilizers began producing nitrogenous fertilisers the same year. Allwyn Metals was set up in Hyderabad in 1942. Aluminium industry, vital for aircraft building, was started with the launch of Alupuram works of Indian Aluminium Corporation in 1943.</p> <p>Walchand Hirachand, who had almost pioneered aircraft building before Hindustan Aircraft Company actually did, began making motor cars in 1944. Three of future India’s engineering majors—TELCO, Mahindra &amp; Mahindra and Bajaj Auto—were launched in 1945. Jute industry boomed during the war. Millions of jute bags were needed for transporting goods and for sandbags in bunkers.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Raisman adopted a simple device under which Britain would pay India for the goods and services in sterling, and not in gold. The rupee reserve would be held in paper currency, and not in metal. As the journalist Sunanda K. Datta-Ray wrote later, the reserves “amounted to a handsome £1,300 million or Rs1,733 crore at the prevailing exchange rate, being mostly money an impoverished Britain, which had to spend vast sums buying equipment from America..., owed India. [Prime minister Winston] Churchill’s government expected India to pay even more for the war effort than the Indo-British agreement on sharing expenses stipulated. Some in London, including [the economist John] Maynard Keynes, wanted Britain’s debt reduced or cancelled. As India’s effective finance minister, Raisman objected to both. He wanted the agreement adhered to, and told the war cabinet in London on August 6, 1942, that being a belligerent had already caused a heavy increase in India’s own expenditure. It could not accept a larger defence liability.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The effect of all this was that “India... built up a huge sterling balance but the country suffered considerable inflation,” wrote Durga Das, who deemed Raisman “one of the architects of the Allied victory. It was primarily his design that provided the manpower and goods worth hundreds of millions of pounds which brought the British their victory at El Alamein in North Africa.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But there was also a geographical shift. As the war effort grew, several ordnance factories came to be set up, most of them in central and western India so as to be away from the reach of the Japanese bombers flying in from the east. Thus small towns such as Itarsi, Jabalpore and Kanpur grew into ordnance hubs.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Indeed, the war story of India was not one of prosperity. On the contrary, a severe famine struck the country, especially the once-rich province of Bengal, during the war. Several reasons have been proffered for the famine; most of them put the blame on Churchill, who had asked India to export grain in the early stages of the war and, ignoring pleas from the Indian government, refused shipment from Australia and elsewhere. When Secretary of State for India Leopold Amery and Viceroy Wavell asked for stopping of food export from Bengal, Churchill asked them if the famine was that bad, why Gandhi had not died of starvation.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A third reason was the Japanese conquest of rice-exporting Burma. Fourthly, the British themselves followed a scorched-earth policy. Fearing that eastern India would fall to the Japanese, they destroyed several roads and bridges in Bengal to slow down a possible Japanese advance towards Delhi. This affected the transport of food in the eastern provinces. Fifthly, with lakhs of refugees coming in from Malaya and Burma, there were more mouths to feed.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Towards the closing weeks of the war, it was thanks to Raisman’s efforts that India, though still a British colony, was invited to the Bretton Woods conference that would shape the post-war economic world order. India was a creditor now to Great Britain, argued Raisman leading the Indian delegation. Two members of the delegation, R.K. Shanmukham Chetty and C.D. Deshmukh, became finance ministers in free India.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Jewish Raisman was sympathetic towards the Nizam and the creation of Pakistan. After partition, he became an adviser to the government of Liaquat Ali Khan and headed what would become Pakistan's finance commission. He was the author of the Raisman Programme or Raisman Award, a series of economic reforms programmes by which Pakistan distributed its revenue to federal institutions.</p> Fri Jul 24 11:24:55 IST 2020 a-road-for-china <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p><b>BY MAY 1942,</b> the Japanese juggernaut had driven the ill-prepared and outnumbered British and Indian forces out of Burma and sent them reeling back into northeast India. Along with them went 23,000 troops of the Kuomintang, the Chinese nationalist party, who owed their allegiance to Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>These Chinese troops were housed at Bihar's Ramgarh (now in Jharkhand). The USA was supporting the Chinese in their fight against Japan, and the Chinese presence at Ramgarh gradually rose to 75,000 men equipped and trained by the Americans. They were to be used in the reconquest of Burma under the command of their crusty commander of the China-Burma-India theatre, Joseph “Vinegar Joe” Stilwell.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>To keep China in the war, it was vital that supplies were sent to the Chinese. Having lost the supply route through Burma, Stilwell decided to do the impossible—build a road from the easternmost corner of the Brahmaputra valley at Ledo in India, to Kunming, the capital of Yunnan province in China. The Ledo Road, which came to be called Stilwell Road, wound its way through the Patkai mountains and traversed swamps and jungles in northern Burma to its destination some 1,700 kilometres away in China.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The road was mainly built by Indian labourers and black American soldiers at immense human cost. Construction started in December 1942. On February 4, 1945, a convoy of 113 vehicles entered Kunming, breaking the blockade of China and securing the US strategic objective of opening a land route to China. The Chinese divisions that trained at Ramgarh spearheaded the advance and evicted the Japanese troops barring the way in northern Burma.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>During the two years that it took to build the road, supplies to China were delivered by air. The US built a network of airfields in eastern India for this enormous effort. Carried out by a variety of transport aircraft of the US Army Air Force (USAAF), this airlift over the Himalayas was given the nickname “the Hump operations”.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Hump operations delivered more than 6,50,000 tonnes of fuel and supplies to support the Nationalist Chinese war effort. It was one of the longest supply chains in the world, as supplies travelled some 12,000 miles from the US to India, first by sea, then overland from Karachi or Bombay by rail and road. The Hump supplies were delivered at a considerable cost. American sources estimate that they lost 590 planes and more than 1,650 lives.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Apart from supporting the Hump operations, India also provided training facilities for the Nationalist Chinese air force. Chinese pilots were trained on Ryan and Stearman trainer aircraft at the Elementary Flying Training School set up for the purpose at Walton, Lahore, from the beginning of 1943 till it was disbanded in February 1946.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>The author is secretary and editor, USI Centre for Armed Forces Historical Research.</b></p> Fri Jul 24 11:21:18 IST 2020 for-the-country-against-the-crown <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p><b>IT WAS NOT</b> just for the king and the crown that Indians fought. Many fought under an 'Indian' flag of Subhas Chandra Bose, and a few under the Axis flags of Italy and Germany.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Italians, who were initially successful in north Africa, had raised a unit composed of Indian prisoners of war. But when ordered to Libya in 1942, the Indians refused to fight their compatriots on the British side.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In Germany, where he fled first from house arrest in Calcutta, Subhas Bose raised a legion of about 2,000 Indian soldiers whom the Germans had captured in north Africa. But as Bose failed to raise them into a composite unit, German general Erwin Rommel refused to induct them in north Africa in late 1942. They were then sent to Holland where they mutinied, and later to France. By then, Bose was fed up with the Nazis and made his submarine trip to Japan.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In Singapore, meanwhile, Captain Mohan Singh, who had been captured by the Japanese, had raised the first Indian National Army consisting of Indian prisoners of war. Soon, Mohan Singh became suspicious of the Japanese intentions. The atrocities they committed on the locals in Malaya, and also on the Indian prisoners who refused to switch allegiance, shocked his gentleman-officer conscience. He declared that only Bose could lead the INA and stand up to the Japanese on equal terms. By the time Bose arrived, Singh had relinquished command. In October 1943, Bose formed the Provisional Government of Free India, with his newly raised INA as its army.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Bose's cries of "Chalo Dilli", "Jai Hind" and "Give me blood, and I will give you freedom" had inspired not only thousands of captured soldiers, but also many more Indian civilians living in Singapore, Malaya and Burma to rise against the British. The cowardly evacuation of Malayan towns by British troops and families when the enemy came knocking had made Indians there feel let down.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Bose had plans to raise an army of 2,50,000 Indian civilians and prisoners of war. The Japanese political leadership was accommodative of his plans and had signed a treaty that they would treat the INA as an allied army as distinct from a fifth column. But Japanese field commanders were suspicious of the prisoner-turned soldiers. They thought that the prisoners had joined the INA only to escape torture in PoW camps. Field Marshal Count Hisaichi Terauchi, the Japanese commander in Burma, was reluctant to employ the INA, and when he finally did, he allowed only 12,000 of them. He feared that the INA troops would switch back to the British side at the opportune moment.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The British too had similar worries. They feared Bose's popularity among the troops and thought that many might defect. So, either side unleashed propaganda wars maligning the other (see story on page 60).</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The high point of the INA's campaign was when Bose planted the flag of his provisional government on the Andaman Islands. His plan, in the event of a Japanese defeat, was to make the INA infiltrate into India and wage a guerrilla war against the British in India.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But the rout of the Japanese from Imphal and Kohima, and General William Slim's decision to pursue them, put paid to the plans. The expected desertions from the British Indian side also failed to materialise at Imphal and Kohima. Bose walked with his troops while retreating from Rangoon to Thailand, refusing a commander's vehicle. When the war ended in 1945, and Bose died in an air crash while trying to escape to Russia, the INA had about 40,000 soldiers.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>More than during the war, it was after the war that the INA became a threat to the British. Even Bose's critics were outraged when the British proceeded to try them for treason. Jawaharlal Nehru, who was also a critic, donned his barrister's gown and joined Bhulabhai Desai to defend the prisoners' case in the Red Fort trials. Sensing the mood in the country, the commander-in-chief Claude Auchinleck granted them pardon, though they were not taken back into the Army.</p> Fri Jul 24 11:16:21 IST 2020 mind-hunters <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p><b>IN THE MIDDLE</b> of 1944, when the epic battles of Imphal and Kohima were raging in the east of India, a parallel war was being fought on the margins. Both the Allies and the Japanese were fighting this invisible war for the minds of men. The British Psychological Warfare Division was working full swing to churn out propaganda leaflets directed not just at the Japanese, but also at men of the Indian National Army (INA) and the peoples of Japanese-occupied territories.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It was a herculean task, but the British hoped that their efforts would tilt the outcome of the battles in their favour. The fate of British India was at stake. These leaflets were fired through mortars and airdropped in their thousands over enemy territory. The main objective was to demoralise opponents and make them surrender. While the British were slow to start, the Japanese were well ahead in the game.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Unlike in World War I, India now had to contend with a direct threat on its doorstep. This came from the east as the Imperial Japanese Army sliced its way through southeast Asia in December 1941, taking the wholly unprepared British garrisons by surprise. The swift Japanese offensive led to the capitulation of Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaya, and the expulsion of British and Indian troops from Burma. Indian soldiers who became Japanese prisoners of war formed the nucleus of the INA, which gave the British considerable cause for concern and led to a propaganda war directed at Indian troops fighting in Burma.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Japanese employed propaganda from the very beginning. Japanese propaganda leaflets were inspired by the famous Manga comic art and were produced in colour. Prominent among their Indian leaflet series were satirical caricatures of British prime minister Winston Churchill, US president Franklin D. Roosevelt and Nationalist Chinese leader Chiang Kai-shek. The central message to the Indian target audience was that the British had bled India dry and Japan was the true friend of India.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Leaflets were only one of many propaganda mediums used by the Japanese. Radio broadcasts were made in a number of languages, pushing the Japanese grand scheme of a Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere. Indian PoWs were recruited as agents to infiltrate the ranks of the Indian Army to spread rumours, affect morale and entreat men to desert their units. These men came to be known as JIFs, or the Japanese-inspired fifth column. To combat the JIFs, the British created their own counter-propaganda organisation called ‘Josh’ groups, which tried to raise the morale of Indian troops.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>While the Japanese had coopted the use of propaganda in their overall plans, the British had been slow to follow. British psychological warfare efforts in southeast Asia came about through trial and error. Eventually, the British developed their own propaganda leaflets in a diverse range of languages. Employing the same fundamental principles of demoralising their opponents, they made the imminent defeat of Japan and the Axis powers a recurring theme. Many of these leaflets doubled as surrender passes. They urged the reader to lay down his arms while there was still time and assured him of good treatment as a prisoner of war. A weekly news-sheet titled Hamara Hindustan was also published in Urdu targeting INA troops.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Additionally, the British raised ‘Indian field broadcasting units’ to carry out broadcast and leaflet propaganda specifically targeting Japanese troops. Broadcasts were transmitted over loudspeakers in forward areas and emphasised the futility of fighting the British. Interspersed with these broadcasts were Japanese gramophone records meant to induce a feeling of homesickness.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Soldiers who fought on India’s Burma front are known as the ‘Forgotten Army’. Lesser known is the titanic struggle that was waged for their hearts and minds in the hills, swamps and jungles of northeast India. These forms of psychological warfare were precursor to the present use of information warfare and ‘fake news’. The medium of transmission has changed, but the concepts are still very much the same.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>The author is an independent researcher currently focusing on propaganda in World War II.</b></p> Fri Jul 24 11:14:28 IST 2020 in-the-sky-on-the-waves <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p><b>UNLIKE WORLD WAR I,</b> which was primarily an army affair as far as India was concerned, World War II saw the active participation of all three Indian fighting services.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Both the Indian Air Force (IAF) and the Indian Navy were fledgling services when the war broke out. The IAF came into existence on October 8, 1932. The Royal Indian Navy (RIN) evolved from the Indian Marine founded in 1612, undergoing a series of transitions till it was reconstituted as a combat service on September 8, 1934.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The outbreak of the war gave a great fillip to the growth of the Indian armed forces. The IAF and the RIN both came into their own as a result of the wartime expansion. Both services used a system of ‘volunteer reserves’, akin to the present Territorial Army, as the nucleus of their expansion. The IAF Volunteer Reserve (IAFVR) in particular formed the basis of the IAF Coastal Defence Flights (CDFs), which grew into regular IAF squadrons as the war progressed.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>While officer commissions into the RIN were open to both Indians and Europeans alike, the IAF was the first truly ‘Indian’ service. Only Indian nationals were commissioned into it as officers or recruited as airmen, although in the early years a number of Royal Air Force personnel served in it on attachment. The ratings (sailors) of the RIN were recruited from all over India, but predominantly from Punjab and Konkan, while a large number of Bengali lascars served on board merchant marine ships.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In the IAF, the ground crew were initially recruited on an all-India basis as ‘Hawai Sepoys’. But soon after the war began, the RAF rank structure was adopted by the IAF as well. The senior-most Hawai Sepoy, Harjinder Singh, was one of the early proponents of the ‘Make in India’ policy. He rose to be the first AOC-in-C (air officer commanding in chief) of the IAF’s Maintenance Command after independence.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>India’s commanding geostrategic location ensured that it played a pivotal role in the Allied war effort in the Middle East and southeast Asia. India’s defence was no longer confined to its national borders; its frontiers were seen to lie in Singapore and Egypt. Apart from defending the country’s 5,000 miles of coastline, the RIN had to protect all sea routes in the Indian Ocean.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In the early stages of the war, it was deployed to keep the Red Sea safe for the passage of troopships and supply vessels between India and the Middle East. It succeeded in this task despite sporadic Italian attacks. The RIN later took part in the operations against Italian East Africa and in a brief campaign in Iran. After the entry of Japan into the war, the RIN was increasingly built up. By 1944, it was 20 times larger in terms of ships and men than in September 1939.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In November 1942, one of its ships, the HMIS Bengal, a Bathurst-class minesweeper, fought an epic battle against two Japanese raiders on its maiden voyage in the Bay of Bengal. Its operational duties in the war against Japan included convoy escorts, anti-submarine patrols, constant minesweeping and collaborating with other services operating on the Burma seaboard.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The IAF began the war with a single squadron equipped with antediluvian Westland Wapiti biplanes. It initially took over ‘watch and ward’ duties from the RAF on India’s rugged mountainous North-West Frontier. Simultaneously, five IAFVR-CDFs were formed in major coastal cities.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>IAF pilots won 22 Distinguished Flying Crosses (DFCs) during the war. One of them, the indomitable K.K. “Jumbo” Majumdar later became the only Indian pilot to earn a bar to his DFC while flying reconnaissance missions over Normandy prior to the ‘D-Day’ landings.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>IAF personnel saw service as far afield as Occupied Europe and Australia, but by far its most important theatre of operations was Burma, where it flew more than 16,000 sorties involving more than 24,000 operational flying hours. In recognition of its contribution towards victory, the service was bestowed with the prefix ‘Royal’ in March 1945, becoming the Royal Indian Air Force.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>The author is secretary and editor, USI Centre for Armed Forces Historical Research.</b></p> Fri Jul 24 11:09:47 IST 2020 the-remembrance <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p><b>A SOLDIER FELL</b> into the ocean and was there so long that his nails fell off; a young groom left his wife of six weeks to fight in another continent; four prisoners of war escaped and were hidden by Italian villagers; a soldier came home to find his wife remarried. She thought he had died. These are some of the largely unremembered stories that I heard, of the 2.5 million Indians who fought in World War II, during my project to collect their stories and pictures.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The project started on the opening day of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale in December 2018, when a friend, Yamini Nayar, read that I was exhibiting an installation on Indian soldiers and the Battle of Monte Cassino of the Italian campaign of World War II. She sent me a photograph of her grandfather, Lt Col Goal Chakraborty, posing casually in front of the Leaning Tower of Pisa in his army uniform. The striking photograph gave me a visceral connection to those 2.5 million Indians.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This has led me down a rabbit hole of sorts. I recently completed six months in India on a Fulbright fellowship, crowdsourcing poignant images and stories of these unheralded people (mostly men) who fought for the British and by extension, the Allies. (I am still collecting images, so do send me more.) These photos and stories came from the north, south, east and west of India. They came from middle-class families, royalty and the poor. Some were swashbuckling young men who believed “in the cause”; others were looking for a regular salary. Once enlisted, all of them took their duties seriously.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I received one poignant story from Iona Sinha. Her grandfather Lt E.C. Joshua was one of the unremembered Indian soldiers. He contracted cholera on the Assam front in 1943 and was shipped back to Kirkee (now Khadki, in Maharashtra) where he died—12 days before her father was born.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Another is of Flight Lieutenant Arjan Jethanand Mirchandani. He had won a scholarship to pursue a PhD in England, and got stuck when the war started. He joined the signals unit of the Royal Indian Air Force and served in Europe, Africa and Burma. On his way to Burma, he passed through Hyderabad and Sindh, and was able to see his mother briefly. That same family was uprooted during the partition of India.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Mirchandani often sent photos and postcards of the murals that he made along the way. As Saaz Aggarwal writes in her book The Amils of Sindh, Mirchandani’s children say art was his way to shift his thoughts away from the atrocities and hardships of war. I have a photo of him on a camp bed in Burma and another of his sister dressed in his uniform!</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I also have photos and stories from two prisoners of war, Lieutenant Ramachandra Salvi and Lieutenant General D.S. Kalha, whose families told stories of being sheltered and hidden by local Italian families in an extraordinary testament to our humanity.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>During the process of collecting these, I have been fortunate to meet families of the soldiers and even a few veterans. As an artist, the viewers of my work have to connect with these soldiers to empathise with them. The universality of family photographs allows us to do that. Family snapshots create a sense of intimacy beyond the more formal imagery found in military archives. The family photographs that we all love reflect the personalities of these soldiers, allowing us a glimpse into their lives, their loves, their families and their personalities.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As with most of my projects, this archival material will go through an artistic intervention as it becomes a multimedia installation that spotlights this forgotten history. The installation will make the history accessible to a larger audience, and spark interest in the sacrifice of these soldiers.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The question sometimes asked is: “Were these soldiers serving on the wrong side of history?” Acknowledging their service will expand our understanding of the tapestry of who we are. Breaking free from our colonial past does not mean negating their experience. Instead, it can give us perspective. As Yasmin Khan wrote in The Raj at War, “Britain didn’t fight the Second World War, the British Empire did.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>If you have family photographs and stories, I would be happy to receive them on</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>The author is professor (art) at the University of Rhode Island.</b></p> Fri Jul 24 11:05:38 IST 2020 degrees-of-change <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>There is an unprecedented quiet across university campuses. At a time when students would have been setting out with their parents to compare different campuses and been dreaming of dormitory living, they are cooped up at home. The Class 12 results have only just been declared, and as colleges announce cut-off percentages over the next week, the activities will all be online, the campuses remaining silent. Seniors, who would have been strutting around corridors, planning fresher parties and college society inductions, are listlessly playing PUBG or surfing through stale programming on Netflix, as they wait for their online semester to begin, maybe in August. Final year students of Central universities are still not sure whether they will have exams or not. While the University Grants Commission (UGC) said all final year exams should be done by September, state governments are protesting the need to conduct them.</p> <p>Academic year 2019-20 will be remembered for the abrupt way it ended—for many, without even a farewell party, let alone a proper convocation ceremony; for some, midway between exams. Academic year 2020-21, on the other hand, will be another experiment entirely, what with the uncertainties around the pandemic forcing authorities to repeatedly change plans. By how much should the curriculum be reduced to fit into a shrunken semester? What component of instruction should be online, and would there be any offline classes at all this semester, or even this entire academic year? What about courses like hotel management, medicine or physiotherapy, where the bulk of learning is on the job and not in class?</p> <p>This summer has been a learning experience for educators. When the pandemic forced institutions to shut abruptly in mid-March, universities were left in various stages of incompleteness. In the peninsula, where the academic session winds up in March, some courses were frozen midway through the examinations. Up north, classrooms were emptied halfway through the teaching session.</p> <p>Education was one of the first sectors to immediately adapt to the new reality as institutions began exploring options of continuity online. Managements quickly rustled up modules to train faculty to become online educators, a specialisation with an entirely different skill set. They did such sessions for students, too. “Students did not need much initiation as the virtual world was already their comfort zone,” said Sanjay Srivastava, vice chancellor, Manav Rachna International Institute of Research and Studies. “Teachers were more resistant, but they finally got around to understanding the new medium. We incorporated different approaches like consultative classes, where more than one faculty member presides over a lecture, and flip lectures, for which students need to prepare for the topic of the day in advance, and anyone can be asked to speak on it. We finished the semester, conducted exams—mostly online, but in person for postgraduate courses—and declared results.”</p> <p>The response was quick and efficient in private universities, which have autonomy. Central and state-run institutions moved at a slower pace, facing resistance at each step from various unions, whether it was for conducting classes online or in assessing students, online or in person. Thus, while students of these universities are still awaiting a decision on end-term exams, the UGC’s announcements have not impacted most private institutions; almost all of them have completed the academic year, declared results and made preparations for opening up the new term. They are now awaiting government directions on opening.</p> <p>In the early months, teachers’ unions in government institutions felt screen time cannot compensate for physical lectures as online connectivity in India is patchy and many students would be left out of the loop. Given that students had returned to hometowns, and not every home has seamless internet connectivity, many objections were, to a point, justifiable. Massive glitches marked Delhi University’s recent mock test with the website crashing repeatedly, giving the protest against a mandatory end-term exam a sound argument.</p> <p>“Private institutions are more adaptable. They have autonomy. They also have more investments in modern learning aids,” said Tej Pratap, president, Association of Indian Universities (AIU). However, as the new academic year rolls out, the writing on the screen is clear: Tech up or perish. “Internet is the new electricity,” said Sanjay Sarma, vice president (open learning), Massachusetts Institute of Technology, at a webinar on the future of learning post Covid-19. “The 21st century didn’t begin in 2000, it begins in 2020. We now enter the information age.”</p> <p>How geared is India towards the new requirements? “Data shows that only around 12 per cent of Indian households have proper systems at home like uninterrupted electricity and good internet coverage. These are challenges,” said C. Raj Kumar, vice chancellor, O.P. Jindal University, Sonipat. “Even if universities have the capability of delivering education online, the fact is many will remain out of the net. These are issues that the government needs to address through public policy. We need a bandwidth revolution now on the lines of the mobile revolution 15 years ago.”</p> <p>India had already started taking steps towards the virtual future, the government’s massive open online courses (MOOCs) like Swayam and ePathshala predate the pandemic. In 2019, the UGC had told universities they could begin registering online courses with it. Amity University was the early bird and already offers 24 degree and diploma programmes online, including an MBA. Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, in her budget speech, when the lockdown had not been envisioned, said the top 100 universities of the country would soon roll out full-fledged online courses. A few weeks ago, IIT Madras announced the world’s first online BSc degree in programming and data science. This course frees applicants from the straitjacketed prerequisites of age limit or clearing the Joint Entrance Examination (JEE) or even a fixed subject combination in high school. It also allows exits with qualifications—after the first year, the student gets a diploma, after the second an advanced diploma, and a degree on clearing the third year. As an IIT official said, developing such a course took time and vision, and was not a knee-jerk response to the pandemic. The government has already cleared the decks to allow students to pursue two degree courses simultaneously, one online and one college-based.</p> <p>It is becoming increasingly clear that at least the first semester of the new year might be entirely online. “If students return to the campus, it will be a bonus, but we are prepared for an entire semester online,” said Rupamanjari Ghosh, vice chancellor, Shiv Nadar University, pointing out that even if governments give the green signal, students may not return due to travel issues or fear of infection. “It didn’t take long to shift our teaching online,” said Ghosh. “We even opened up library resources for students, but we noticed fatigue showing after a month and realised we need to make adjustments in the online mode of teaching.” Their new curriculum, therefore, has considered such issues.</p> <p>One major concern is the effect that such a shift in environment has had, or will have, on the mental health of those involved. “Numerous studies are pointing out the psychological impact of the lockdown and of adapting to the new setting where the home environment is undergoing a fundamental change,” said Nissar Ahmed, chancellor, Presidency University. “New educational models and policies need to incorporate norms for the mental and emotional well-being of not only the students but also that of the teachers and the non-academic and support employees, developing strategies that benefit the psychological well-being of the whole community.”</p> <p>A new reality awaits education on the other side of the pandemic. As Aditya Berlia, pro chancellor, Apeejay Stya University, noted, while the global experiment with online learning gave faith and confidence to regulators to move towards virtual systems, it has just as surely underscored the importance of physical classrooms and academic structures. Education is more than just attending lectures and writing exams, it is a 360-degree exposure for students, including social interactions, club activities and sports. But these brick-and-blackboard structures will have to transform now. “When proximity is returned to us, our classroom lectures should not be replicating what Zoom lectures are doing now,” said Sarma. A monotonous lecture that the student can catch a recorded version of later is no incentive to sit through a period in the classroom.</p> <p>Ishita Choudhary from Jaipur, who is seeking admission into the world of degrees, is clear about what she wants from her college. “I want an institution with a good reputation, and where I can focus on extracurriculars along with academics, as I am not very studious,” she said. The pandemic has made no change in her choice of varsities. It is a temporary situation, she believes. “I would still prefer a residential campus as it gives better exposure,” she said. Siddhant M., a history student in a Delhi University college, however, has now factored in the distance from home into his choice of institutions for a postgraduation.</p> <p>While Covid-19 may have accelerated adoption of technology in education, both traditionalists and the avant-garde concur that the future is blended, or hybrid. “We have realised that one cannot be dependent on just one mode of education, and that there is a need to have alternatives ready to cope with any kind of challenge,” said Atul Chauhan, chancellor, Amity University. “The pace at which we adapt and adopt will define our future goals.”</p> <p>So, in what way should education transform? “The focus should be more on coaching, not lecturing,” said Sarma. The lockdown also put the spotlight on another education essential—examinations. With colleges having scrambled to grade students (of junior batches) on class performance and assignments, the examination might lose the top slot in the knowledge-assessing system. Even the resistant are having to accept that there can be alternative means of assessing students. “The UGC is encouraging students to collect credits through the Swayam MOOC. These are positive trends,” noted Devinder Narain, director, Shobhit University.</p> <p>“In India, we have all been eagerly waiting for a new education reform policy due for more than a decade,” said Berlia. “Hopefully, the lessons learnt from Covid-19 will be considered and become part of a transformative new eco-system.”</p> <p>Indian higher education could benefit in many ways from the pandemic. Not only could it accelerate policy changes and technology adoption, but it could also climb up a rung or two on the international scene. As it is, the uncertain global scenario has made many cancel international study plans or at least defer them. Can the desi varsities provide them with the alternative they seek?</p> <p>Universities like Amity have programmes where students can study in part in India, and then transfer to a foreign university that Amity has tied up with. “Many students are joining this programme now,” said Chauhan. The university also has a lateral entry programme for those who were studying abroad but do not want to return.</p> <p>Beyond such programmes, however, should be the aim to make the Indian university the coveted choice, both for Indians and foreign students, said Raj Kumar. The government’s Institutions of Eminence (IoE) scheme, launched in 2017, envisages this. The plan is to finally select 20 institutions, 10 public&nbsp;and 10 private, and encourage&nbsp;them to develop into “world-class teaching and research institutions”. These institutions, which include Banaras Hindu University, Delhi University, four IITs—Bombay, Delhi, Kharagpur, Madras—Indian Institute of Science and Hyderabad University, among the government institutions, will get a grant of up to Rs1,000 crore over a period of time to attain the goal. The private universities do not get the money, but all IoEs, public and private, will be given more autonomy in setting up curriculum, fee structure and international tie-ups.</p> <p>The pandemic will also have a limited impact on course and career choices. The medical field—MBBS, nursing and physiotherapy—will be more in demand. With the acceleration of the technological revolution, many might seek futures in developing tech solution to emerging situations. Research options might also open up, what with the hunt for a vaccine and cure on the one hand, and economic and social studies of the impact of the pandemic on people on the other providing new avenues for study. Of course, this depends on the availability of research grants. These are, however, trends that will emerge over the next few years. For the immediate batches, the pandemic will not make much impact on course choices, feel experts.</p> <p>“They say we are living in a VUC world—volatile, uncertain, complex,” said Ghosh. “But I have my interpretation of VUC: virtual, understanding, clarity. The situation is as you make it, and I firmly believe that this is an opportunity with lots of learning.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>The online option</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i>It is a feasible option, provided we help the students from remote areas get good internet connectivity. We should also train our faculty members on how to handle online education. Campuses have to become more technology oriented. After the pandemic is over, we can have a blended learning model with a healthy mix of campus learning and online learning, to get the best of both worlds.</i></p> <p><b>- Sekar Viswanathan, vice president, VIT University</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i>It is high time the dependence on online tools is done away with. Zoom, WA, Webex and Google [Meet] are mere tools. Universities must build their own learning management system platforms that create a total online campus feel, both in the short term and in the long term.</i></p> <p><b>- Sudhakar Rao, director, branding, ICFAI Group</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i>In a country like India, we do have a few challenges while resorting to online teaching especially in terms of infrastructure, uninterrupted power supply and internet connectivity and teacher-student readiness towards delivering and receiving practical sessions. Government and educational institutions should come forward to address these challenges.</i></p> <p><b>- Anand Jacob Verghese, director and CEO, Hindustan Group of Institutions</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i>The current scenario has generated a huge paranoia in young minds. Reassurance is the need of the hour. On the academic front, the university must be prepared to handle online classes and exams without a compromise in the curriculum. India being a country where the majority still believes in conventional teaching methods, it is time to revolutionise our teaching methods.</i></p> <p><b>Dr Sindhu Ramesh, dean of accreditation, Saveetha Institute of Medical and Technical Sciences</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Research Methodology</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>THE WEEK and Hansa Research conducted the Best University Survey 2020 to rank the best multidisciplinary and technical universities in the country. Universities recognised by the UGC, offering full-time postgraduate courses in at least two disciplines, and having graduated at least three postgraduate batches were eligible. A primary survey was conducted with 255 academic experts, spread across 15 cities. They were asked to nominate and rank the top 20 universities in India. Perceptual score for a university was calculated based on the number of nominations by experts and the actual ranks received. For factual data collection, a dedicated website was created and the link was sent to more than 600 universities. Fifty-one universities responded within the stipulated time; two were rejected as they did not meet the eligibility criteria. Factual score was calculated using the information collected from universities and other secondary sources on age and accreditation, infrastructure and other facilities, faculty, research and academics, student intake and exposure, and placements (only for technical universities). Composite score = perceptual score (out of 400) + factual score (out of 600) Some universities could not respond to the survey. For these universities, composite score was derived by combining the perceptual score for the university with an interpolated factual score based on their position in the perceptual score list.</p> Thu Jul 16 19:16:46 IST 2020 we-have-to-be-pragmatic-about-opening-campuses <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p><b>The pandemic has changed the delivery system of education. How have Indian universities coped?&nbsp;</b><br> Ever since campuses closed in March, face-to-face teaching-learning-evaluation and field-laboratory-based research activities have come to a halt, and technology-enabled academic activities have been initiated. The UGC is closely observing the situation, taking timely decisions and issuing advisories and guidelines to address challenges related to health, examinations and academic calendar; accommodation and food for hostel residents; logistics and campus life. As India has a diverse set of educational institutions located in different parts of country, ranging from metros to tribal areas, Indian universities and colleges are still evolving various innovative delivery systems of education, including technology-enabled solutions.<br> </p> <p>UGC recognises the importance of direct connection and frequent exchange of dialogue between the teacher and the taught, for which the traditional face- to-face education is a must. But keeping in view the benefits of ICT tools and also to prepare for meeting challenges like the present one, in future, UGC would like to promote a blended mode of teaching and learning.<br> </p> <p><b>Exams, in particular, are turning out to be a challenge. Your comments. </b><br> Examinations are an integral part of the education system and a measure of the student's knowledge, abilities, competencies, skills and other dimensions of performance. Examinations are needed to uphold the academic integrity and to ensure academic credibility, career opportunities and future prospects of students globally. On July 6, we revised our April guidelines on examinations and academic year, extending the timeline for completing terminal semester/final year exams to September end. The guidelines also offered the flexibility of offline (pen &amp; paper), online and blended (online plus offline) mode of examinations. Universities and colleges may adopt any of the suggested options. Blended mode is a solution to sites crashing and other connectivity related issues.&nbsp;<br> </p> <p>The UGC is ensuring that students are not put to any inconvenience in the COVID-19 scenario. In case the student of terminal semester/final year is unable to appear in the examination, whatsoever the reason may be, the student will be given opportunity to appear in special examinations for such courses or papers, which may be conducted by universities as and when feasible. The UGC guidelines also offered flexibility to institutions to enable them to safeguard the principles of health, safety, fair and equal opportunity. The examinations are required to be conducted by following the SOP formulated by the MHRD and duly vetted by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.&nbsp;<br> </p> <p><b>Last academic year, UGC announced universities could start online degree courses. What is the status?</b><br> In order to enhance access, equity, gross enrolment ratio and to promote quality online education in the country, UGC had notified UGC (Online Courses or Programmes) Regulations, 2018. In January 2020, UGC recognised seven universities for 37 programmes at various levels.&nbsp;<br> </p> <p>The COVID-19 pandemic has made universities prepare themselves on priority basis for delivering quality online education. We are confident that many universities will start offering online programmes in the near future. UGC will put in place a monitoring mechanism to ensure that the online programmes of Indian universities are of global standards. Many foreign students are also expected to register for them.&nbsp;<br> </p> <p>The Commission has decided to permit universities, based on NAAC or NIRF benchmarks, to offer online programmes. Shortly, we will notify new regulations to enable 100 top universities to start online programmes automatically, and many other universities to start online programmes with prior UGC permission.&nbsp;<br> </p> <p><b>How long do you foresee the effects of the ongoing pandemic to impact regular classes?</b><br> It would be difficult to foresee the impact of the ongoing pandemic on regular classes. We are reassessing the situation constantly. Considering the unprecedented nature of pandemic, we have to be pragmatic and flexible about reopening campuses. Institutions need to plan meticulously to adhere to the norms of physical distancing. Perhaps, it may be prudent to plan re-opening campuses in a phased manner, gradually increasing number of students over a period of time. At any given time, some students may attend classes physically, while others may join online. Alternatively, some students may attend class physically and others may be engaged in the labs at the same time. Institutions may also extend online support for teaching and learning to those who may prefer to study from home.&nbsp;<br> </p> <p><b>In a country like India, where disparities are huge, how badly will an online-oriented approach to education impact students whose access to internet is not smooth?&nbsp;</b><br> At present, the higher education landscape has three modes—conventional, open and distance learning (ODL) and full-fledged online. All three modes provide learning opportunities focusing on the educational needs of the learners with diversified background. UGC is aware of the issues and limitations that confront us with regard to expansion of online education. UGC also attaches due importance to direct interface and frequent exchange of dialogue between the teachers and the taught, for which the traditional system of face-to-face education is a must. In my opinion, blending learning with higher component of ODL/online education will be the future mode of education. Recently, we took a decision that universities may offer up to 40 per cent credits through MOOCS courses on SWAYAM platform.<br> </p> <p>With social distancing going to be the norm now, technology-enabled education will be important for timely completion of academics and all universities should put efforts towards this end. While promoting online education, the challenge is to ensure that equal opportunities are provided to the learners. We will request universities to extend all possible support, infrastructure and technology, to needy learners. The human resources ministry is facilitating educational connectivity in remote areas. Swayam Prabha, a group of 32 DTH channels, is another initiative which [will help] students in remote areas with limited internet facilities.<br> </p> <p><b>What lessons of the pandemic will impact on university education in the long term?&nbsp;</b><br> COVID-19 will impact higher education in many ways including the teaching-learning process, governance, research, health of the stakeholders and skill development. Online education or technology enabled learning is the need of the hour, but even after the pandemic is contained, we feel that the norms of physical distancing will be required for quite some time. Also, we have to prepare ourselves to meet such type of eventualities in future. UGC is working on different dimensions to enhance the scope of online education. We have decided to increase the component of online education in conventional universities from the existing 20 to 40 per cent. UGC is deliberating on integration of ODL and Online Regulations and promotion of effective utilisation of technology. Recent initiatives of the Government of India such as “PM-eVidya Programme” and “One Nation, One Digital Platform”, allowing the Top 100 universities of the country to offer online teaching will go a long way in promoting online learning, too.<br> </p> <p>The present generation of learners are quick to adapt to technology, but there is a need for capacity building of faculty and strengthening of the ICT infrastructure. The human resource ministry is organising short-term programmes to prepare teachers for online education.&nbsp;<br> </p> <p><b>With travel restrictions in countries like the US, do you think Indian universities could benefit? Do we have enough college seats to cater to the requirement? And do you think we will be able to attract more foreign students to our campuses?&nbsp;</b><br> Considering that United States is the most preferred destinations for Indian students preferring to study abroad, with almost two lakh Indian students there, travel restrictions will surely impact the prospects of many. Our approach is not to look at the development as benefitting us, but with focus on quality upgradation, our universities are equipped and prepared to cater to the increase in prospective students preferring to study here, rather than going abroad. But definitely, this gives an opportunity to tap these bright minds to study in India. With many of our universities providing world class education, we expected that these students will not miss much.<br> <br> Our higher education sector is consistently expanding and can cater to the increased demand. UGC has provided flexibility and autonomy to increase the intake in the well performing institutions.<br> </p> <p>Regarding attracting foreign students, with the pandemic, student mobility will be an issue. But we are continuously working to balance the inward mobility with outward mobility. Even before the pandemic, we were taking various steps to increase academic collaboration with foreign universities and to attract foreign students to India. Schemes like Study in India are designed to increase inward mobility of students.<br> </p> <p><b>What is the number of students seeking college education every year, and how many seats are available for them across universities? How many more universities does India require to meet the shortfall?&nbsp;</b>India is a Young Nation with a population of 14 crore in the 18-23 year age group. Estimated Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) in higher education in India is 26.3. During the academic year 2018-19, 3.74 crore students enrolled in various courses at all levels in universities /colleges/stand-alone institutions of higher Education. As per AISHE Portal 2018-19, 1.34 lakh students took admission in the first year of undergraduate courses.<br> </p> <p>The number of colleges and universities is expanding continuously. There were 621 universities and 32,974 colleges in 2010-11, whereas in 2018-19 the numbers increased to 993 universities and 39,931 colleges in the country and this will continue to expand to meet the shortfall.<br> </p> <p><b>The UGC rolled out the Institutes of Eminence programme a couple of years ago. What is the aim of the IOE, and what progress has been made in this direction?&nbsp;</b>The finance minister, in his budget speech 2016, committed for formulation of a detailed scheme to empower higher educational institutions to help them become world class teaching and research institutions. Subsequently, the human resource ministry, on UGC's recommendation, approved 20 institutions, ten each from public and private sector, for upgrading into IoEs. We expect the selected institutions to come up in top 500 of the world ranking in ten years, and in top 100, eventually. For this, IoEs are given greater autonomy in deciding course structure, hours and years to take a degree and complete flexibility in fixing curriculum and syllabus; in admitting foreign students and faculty, in collaborating with top institutions in the world without UGC permits.<br> </p> Thu Jul 16 18:59:44 IST 2020 hurdles-and-heights <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>One of the earliest Indian language institutions in India, Kolkata’s Sanskrit College, was founded by Englishmen in 1824. Horace Hayman Wilson, one of the greatest Sanskrit scholars of the time, played a major role in setting up the college and its scientific-Orientalist pursuit of subjects like ancient literature, philosophy, Hindu law, grammar and Indian culture.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>However, it was Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar—as a student and later principal—who turned out to be most associated with the college. He opened it out to Hindu students without caste distinctions in the 1850s, reduced tuition fees, composed manuals of Sanskrit grammar and made the college the most important centre for learning and interpreting the classical language and ancient Indian texts. But Sanskrit could not fight the “emancipatory potential” of English, effectively subjugating the linguistic plurality of the country in subsequent education policies. In 2016, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee transformed the institution into a university to revive the language. Udaya Narayana Singh, chair-professor and dean (arts), Amity University, says the Kolkata institution continues to deftly straddle traditional and modernist streams of Sanskrit teaching. “But some of the best Indian language teaching institutions are not even formally recognised as Central universities,” says Singh. “The language universities scene in India is very complicated.”</p> <p>According to the 2018-19 report of the ministry of human resource development, there are 13 Sanskrit universities and nine language universities in India. Singh points out how the late 1960s saw progressive moves by the government of India with regard to language universities, especially in the context of anti-Hindi agitations in south India. Mysuru’s Central Institute of Indian Languages (CIIL) was established in 1969. “This was a world-class institution, but again, not a university,” says Singh, who served as director for CIIL for nine years. “It was too precious for the government to let go of for various tactical reasons. A lot was happening there, including defence and border area research vis-a-vis languages. We could train the local military and the armed battalion in languages of the other side before engaging in armed conflict. Some of the biggest projects of the government are still being run by them. But it is not a university. Interestingly, it is recognised by 25 universities to be an advanced centre, so they can conduct research and the degrees can be granted by some other university.”</p> <p>When it comes to enrolment, the variations between language colleges and universities get more pronounced. The modern Indian languages departments of Central universities are extremely popular. For higher studies in Urdu, Aligarh Muslim University and Jamia Millia Islamia are preferred outposts but they are not even language universities.</p> <p>Singh points out that with respect to original research output, two language institutions are the current frontrunners: CIIL and English and Foreign Languages University (EFLU) in Hyderabad. “Students from both English and foreign languages are mostly sought after for appointment as teachers, content writers, copy editors, editors, language interpreters, translators and language experts by premier institutions like Amazon, Paper True, Byju’s, Oracle and TCS,” says, E. Suresh Kumar, vice-chancellor, EFLU. “Every year about 85 per cent of EFLU students receive placements from these companies.” While EFLU is generally considered a leading player in the instruction of foreign languages, their offerings in Indian languages are equally interesting.</p> <p>Certain gaps and challenges persist when it comes to language universities in India, like the difficulty for students to relate one language with the other. “Each of the big languages, whether it is Sanskrit, Urdu, Hindi or Tamil, really draw on many other Indian and western languages,” says Singh. “There was a lot of give and take—like Urdu cannot be studied without Persian and Farsi—for cutting-edge research to take place, both for academic purpose and government work.”</p> <p>“If a Kannadiga wants to learn French and contribute to French-Kannada [relations], it is not encouraged in India,” says Shashi Kumar, who is on a graduate research assistant fellowship in the English and film studies department, University of Alberta, Canada. “India has accorded classical status to six of its languages: Tamil, Sanskrit, Kannada, Telugu, Malayalam and Odia,” says Kumar. “Some of the languages have a connection with [dialects] in Greek. The Greek have had trade contacts with India since the time of the Mauryans…. My point is, if researchers want to explore this connection further, basic training in classical Greek is required. Our Indian universities are not equipped to facilitate this. Whereas south Asian studies in the US and Europe have connections with Indian languages because they are taught in some of the major universities. Strangely, researchers who want to work on Indian languages, go to universities in these continents, and come back to India to work on it.”</p> <p>Even when it comes to Sanskrit instruction—what with the ruling government’s strong pitch for promoting the language in the education system—senior academic administrators are torn between two types of focus: to work on ancient Indian knowledge systems like mathematics, geometry, science or medicine or to promote modern-day Sanskrit writing. “A lot of people are writing new texts, trying to keep Sanskrit afloat as a living literary language,” says Singh. “This is a big challenge. Some people are focusing on the second type of teaching at the cost of the first.”&nbsp;</p> Thu Jul 16 18:00:13 IST 2020 biggest-transition-is-the-need-of-the-student <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p><b>Q/ How would you rate the pandemic as a catalyst for change in the education system?</b></p> <p>A/ It has given us the confidence that we can adapt quickly to technology. It took the teachers longer to adapt, but they did, ultimately. A lot of systems we have introduced right now are in response to the situation. Not everything will last. But it has made us relook at established beliefs in a new light. For instance, virtual learning aids show that physical attendance in the classroom is not that vital to learning. The classroom lecture should be stimulating enough for the student to want to attend it, instead of catching it online. Indian higher education is going through a bigger transition, the pandemic is only one event.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ Please elaborate.</b></p> <p>A/ The biggest transition is the need of the student. We rue that because of poor economic growth, campus recruitments are coming down. But getting a job at the end of the degree is no longer the outlook of many students. The idea that an MBBS graduate should go into the field of medicine or an agriculture graduate become a farmer or researcher is also passé. Today’s graduates do not look at degrees as career limitations. They want the sky open to them. They want the choice to go into administration, research or entrepreneurship, irrespective of what degree they take. We need to understand this.</p> <p>Another big transition in our education is the large number of female students in our colleges. Even in agricultural colleges, earlier a male domain, 70 per cent of the students are now female.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ How would you rate the quality of Indian higher education?</b></p> <p>A/ We have been able to meet the demand for colleges. There are nearly 1,000 universities and 40,000 colleges in India, almost on par with China. We, however, need to have good quality standards. China is doing this, integrating institutes and developing them to be top class.</p> <p>Our private sector has all types of institutions. But to develop them, we need to put money into education, and yet, give institutions enough autonomy. If their research is tied to funding, how will they grow? I believe the growth will be more in private institutions. Most public institutions today are only running on past glory. We need to have a serious rethink on how to fund these colleges before they become sick. Look at JNU, where even hostels are subsidised on taxpayers’ money. That is not how higher education should be funded.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ What are your suggestions for becoming world-class?</b></p> <p>A/ First, we need to change our idea of world-class. Getting a ranking from an international agency is no validation. That system of ranking is developed for western institutions, which cater to the needs of their society. Our institutions should first cater to the needs of our people. You become world-class not by replicating another world-class [institution]. You become one when you are so good in your area that there is no other like you. Be original. Why would anyone go to a place that is like Harvard, when they can go to Harvard?</p> <p>I believe my university is the best in its class. It is producing high-quality seeds for the farmers in the country, even if it does not fit into a world ranking. We need to develop this pride in ourselves. Many of our technological institutions are better than foreign ones but are not projected that way.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ Teachers need to change, what about students?</b></p> <p>A/ Today’s youth is much smarter and more intelligent. They are savvier than their teachers, perhaps the first such generation to be so. Of course, they are more comfortable with technology than the older generation, but even otherwise, they are a smarter lot. I have great admiration for today’s generation.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Thu Jul 16 17:55:05 IST 2020 war-by-other-means <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Who would have imagined that the ‘Biden for President’ campaign would be launched from the basement of the candidate’s home? In the era of Covid-induced quarantine and social distancing, the rituals of political campaigning are playing out from strange new locations.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Instead of the big, raucous rallies which are part of American political life, former vice president Joe Biden has been conducting a series of virtual meetings with donors and supporters. This reporter was privy to one such meeting organised by Shekar Narasimhan, chairman and founder of the AAPI (Asian American Pacific Islander) Victory Fund, the first and only Asian American Super PAC (political action committee). Present along with Biden at the meeting were high-profile decision makers like Senator Kamala Harris, Congressman Ami Bera and former US ambassador to India Richard Verma, speaking from the intimacy of their own homes.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>With the sound of Canada geese honking from the pond in the background, Biden spoke from his home office: “My prayers are with all those who are scared or sick or grieving and struggling just to get by.” He spoke about the large number of Americans who lost their lives to the pandemic. “It’s infuriating. More than that, it’s heartbreaking to think how much fear, how much loss, how much agony could have been avoided if the president had not wasted so much time in taking responsibility.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>For Biden, who on June 6 won the nomination of the Democratic party in the presidential election scheduled for November 3, the fight against President Donald Trump is very personal, all-consuming, and a “battle for the soul of the nation”. It is indeed a triumphant moment—he won the gruelling race for the Democratic nomination. If this were a video action game, we would have to give him points for persistence, persistence and persistence as he battled more than 20 contenders—some weak and some strong—until he became the last man standing in his third bid for presidency.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>All of his former opponents including Senators Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker and Amy Klobuchar, Mayor Pete Buttigieg and former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg have coalesced behind him in a massive show of strength. Biden’s last big battle was with Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders who has a huge following and a progressive agenda. The two have come together, with Sanders endorsing Biden in a friendly virtual meeting.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>All these formidable contenders now support Biden, forming a powerful network. Biden has also received ringing endorsements and support from former president Barack Obama, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Hillary Clinton. “Joe has the character and the experience to guide us through one of our darkest times and heal us through a long recovery,” said Obama. “I know he’ll surround himself with good people—experts, scientists, military officials who actually know how to run the government and care about doing a good job running the government, and know how to work with our allies, and who will always put the American people’s interests above their own.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Biden has pledged to select a female vice president, and Harris is a strong contender. She is solidly behind Biden and has emphasised the importance of a Democratic victory at a time when Trump might get the chance to nominate yet another judge to the supreme court, and radically alter its delicate balance. “Who is president of the United States matters on this very important issue of the supreme court,” said Harris. “Joe understands what’s at stake, and has supported justices who believe in upholding all the rights that we have fought for and care about and rely on.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>People know Biden by his actions in the White House for eight years as vice president and as a senator for 36 years. To many people, he is simply ‘Joe’ who will watch out for the underdog and the middle class. As he says, “I’ll make sure everyone in this country is treated with dignity, respect. My dad used to say, ‘Joey, everybody’—and he meant it—everybody is entitled to be treated with respect, be it the guys who shine your shoes or the president of the hotel chain.’ We have a strong and resilient safety net, and we have to reconstruct to keep us going when hard times hit.” After losing his son Beau to a brain tumour in 2015, he created in his private capacity the Biden Foundation, the Biden Cancer Initiative, the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement, and the Biden Institute at the University of Delaware.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Verma recollected how Biden built the inclusive and diverse staff of the senate foreign relations committee. “He listened and gave everyone a chance. And, of course, I saw him work so hard during the day, and then take that train back to Delaware each and every night for decades just so he could spend time with his family.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Biden campaign has received more than 2,100 endorsements from current and former senators, representatives, governors, state representatives, state senators, community leaders and national security professionals. For once, Trump—a hugely divisive force—has unintentionally acted as a unifying glue, bringing together all of them.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But how will this play out in November, especially with Covid-19 completely upsetting the best laid plans of both parties? The pandemic sneaked into the country, unfazed by walls and borders and immigration protocols. It has become a living nightmare, killing 1.32 lakh Americans and infecting 29.83 lakh as on July 6, and the numbers continue to rise.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Trump’s bragging rights have been seriously compromised. His USP was the economy and the healthy stockmarket numbers, which now lie in a shambles. The American economy has been decimated by the pandemic. Many parts of the country are shuttered and businesses lie in tatters with more than 38 million people losing their jobs.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Even as many cities attempt to reopen, there are long lines outside food banks, and the curve has not flattened in many states. Underlying all this is the fact that thousands of American lives which were lost could have been saved by more prompt action and preparation. A study by Columbia University researchers shows that more than 36,000 deaths could have been averted had social distancing measures been put in place just one week earlier.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Trump has been anxious to reclaim the economy in time for the elections but the virus has not been supportive. Schools and businesses remain largely shut as governors debate how much to reopen. The main problem is the woefully inadequate testing and tracking, which has hurt the reopening of businesses, hampering economic resurgence. Polls indicate that Trump is trailing Biden in the states he had won handsomely in 2016.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>So much depends on the vagaries of the pandemic. Will there be a second wave or even a third wave? Will people be able to return to school and to work? Can millions of tests be done every single day?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As president, the buck stops with Trump. But as he has famously said, “I do not take responsibility at all.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Biden is hard at work in the background, preparing his multiethnic army of supporters and his legislative arsenal to combat Trump. It is a role he has been rehearsing for all his life. Despite the pandemic and the inability to hold live rallies and meet voters face to face, he has readied a full agenda.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is by no means going to be easy as Trump remains a formidable opponent. There are also so many variables like the sexual harassment case brought against Biden by former staffer Tara Reade which could trip up the campaign.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Is there a silver lining to this contactless political campaign? “If Joe Biden plays his cards right, the death of the traditional presidential campaign will turn out to be a blessing in disguise,” wrote Democratic political strategist Lis Smith in The New York Times. “The 77-year-old Mr. Biden, whom the president derisively calls ‘Sleepy Joe’, can become the hottest bad boy and disrupter in the media game.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Smith said being freed of an expensive campaign involving constant travel would help Biden, and so would his palpable empathy, which was his greatest asset as a campaigner. “Politicians can learn a lot of tricks—talking points, debate and interview strategies—but personal warmth is something that cannot be taught. It also happens to be a trait that translates well on TV.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The latest RealClearPolitics national average poll shows Biden with 49.6 per cent support, while 40.9 per cent said they would vote for Trump. It is to be seen which way the strong Indian American community votes. While most Indian Americans tend to vote blue, those who follow Prime Minister Narendra Modi may be tempted to follow Trump to the voting booth, particularly after his successful visit to India and his many beliefs which are similar to the Modi philosophy. It remains to be seen whether Biden’s critical views on certain key Modi initiatives like the abrogation of Article 370, the National Register of Citizens and the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, which recently appeared on his campaign website, will have an impact on the voting preferences of Indian Americans.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Biden realises the importance of getting all Democrats and independents to the table for a unified response to Trump. He and Sanders have created six ‘unity task forces’ dealing with economy, education, immigration, health care, climate change and criminal justice reform. These six committees will meet ahead of the Democratic National Convention to make recommendations to the DNC Platform Committee and to Biden directly.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Two Indian Americans are co-chairing the health panel: former surgeon general Vivek Murthy and Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal of Washington. Varshini Prakash, executive director and co-founder of the Sunrise Movement, the progressive group behind the Green New Deal, is on the climate control task force.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The fabric of America is woven with many different people and races and Biden’s challenge is to bring them all to the polls to vote blue in November. “Biden is Donald Trump’s worst nightmare, and you don’t have to take my word for it,” said Ajay Bhutoria of Fremont, California. “Even Trump’s own advisors have admitted he is terrified of running against Biden.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Bhutoria, who is a political activist and fundraiser for the Democratic National Committee, is on the Biden National Finance Committee. He says the choice for the American people could not be clearer: “Donald Trump is a man of chaos and cruelty; Joe Biden is a man of character and compassion. Trump has failed every test of presidential leadership and has broken just about every promise he’s made, including during this public health crisis.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>South Asians for Biden is a new grassroots volunteer group which has several young Indian Americans anxious to bring out the voters for Biden and ensure a Democratic victory in November. It has 15 chapters across the US. Neha Dewan, a New York lawyer who was previously the national co-chair of South Asians for Hillary, is the group’s national director. “We are a national grassroots organisation that is dedicated to engaging, educating and mobilising the south Asian community to get Joe Biden elected in November,” she said. The teams are headed by regional representatives and perform everything from outreach to voter registration, and include everyone from college kids to seniors, from heavy hitters to those just entering politics.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Indian Americans, as part of the 21-million strong Asian American Pacific Islander community, form a powerful segment of the voter base. It is the fastest growing racial group in America and has 20 members in the Congress. It has doubled voter registration numbers from two million to four million people. It is solidly behind Biden.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As Congresswoman Judy Chu told supporters during the recent event with Biden, “We are the swing vote in key swing states, adding congressional districts, all across the nation. And that is why I like to say we’ve gone from being marginalised to becoming the margin of victory.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The death of an unarmed, handcuffed black man George Floyd at the hands of a white police officer in Minnesota has turned the whole of America into an angry tinderbox with riots in many cities and the demand for racial justice in America. In an emotional plea, the dead man’s brother told America to vote in November to change the status quo. Biden is beloved in the African American community.</p> <p>Asked about a single quality which makes Biden eligible to be president, Verma said, “It’s the humanity of Joe Biden. His decency, his kindness, his integrity, his caring for others. He exhibits that empathy, that character that is the best of us and it is that character that we see in the frontline health care providers. It’s that character that is the soul of Joe Biden, but also the soul of America.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>The author is a New York-based journalist who blogs at Lassi with Lavina.</b></p> <p></p> Fri Jul 10 11:40:49 IST 2020 in-joe-we-trust <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p><b>FOR HIS CLASSMATES</b> at the Archmere Academy, a Roman Catholic day school in Claymont, Delaware, Joseph Robinette Biden Jr was Joe “Bye-bye”. The nickname stuck because Biden had a debilitating stutter and could not even pronounce his surname properly. He was Joe Impedimenta in his Latin class as he just could not finish a sentence. But Biden never gave up. He worked on his staccato delivery by memorising routine conversations and reciting poems—W.B. Yeats was a favourite, thanks to his Irish roots—in front of the mirror for hours. He even practised talking with pebbles in his mouth, like the Greek orator Demosthenes. By his sophomore year, the stutter was under control and he even managed to get himself elected class president, despite a patchy academic performance. Even today, most of his prepared speeches have markings on them, showing where to take breaks between words.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Taming his stutter gave “the scrappy kid from Scranton, Pennsylvania”, enormous self-confidence. He was 10 when his family moved to Delaware after Biden Sr got a job as a car salesman. Biden met his future wife Neilia Hunter in the spring of 1965, while he was in the Bahamas, enjoying a break from undergraduate studies at the University of Delaware. While talking to the Hunters, Biden revealed his ambition: he wanted to be the president of the United States. That fire still burns even after 56 years, as he takes on Donald Trump in the presidential election this November.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It has not been an easy journey. In 1972, as a 29-year-old, Biden caused a major political upset in Delaware’s history by beating incumbent Republican J. Caleb Boggs in the senate race. Biden had to take out a second mortgage to finance his campaign after wealthy donors deserted him as he was against lowering capital gains tax. He overcame a 30-point deficit and beat Boggs, a former governor and Congressman, who was a household name in Delaware.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Tragedy struck a month later. Neilia was driving home with their three children after picking up a Christmas tree when a tractor-trailer carrying corn cobs slammed into their station wagon. Neilia and their one-year-old daughter, Naomi, died on the spot, while the two sons, Beau and Hunter, escaped with serious injuries. Biden was devastated, but he took charge as senator, taking oath from his sons’ hospital room. He never moved to the national capital, but commuted daily between Wilmington and Washington on Amtrak for more than 30 years, earning him the nickname Amtrak Joe.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Five years after he lost Neilia, Biden fell in love with Jill, an English teacher at a community college. “She gave me back my life,” Biden wrote in his 2007 memoir Promises to Keep. “She made me start to think my family might be whole again.” Their wedding took place at the United Nations chapel in New York City with only close friends and family in attendance. Beau and Hunter stood with the bride and the groom at the altar and later joined them on their honeymoon trip.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>With things looking up again, Biden entered the 1988 presidential campaign. He was soon caught in a plagiarism controversy after he passed off first the speech and then the life experiences of British Labour Party leader Neil Kinnock as his own, finding too much inspiration from a Kinnock campaign video. Biden falsely claimed that his ancestors worked in the coal mines of northern Pennsylvania and that he was the first university graduate in his family. The campaign collapsed after a front page exposé in The New York Times. Soon came stories about Biden borrowing quotes from American stalwarts like Robert Kennedy and Hubert Humphrey without attribution. A plagiarism charge from his days as a law student at Syracuse University, too, resurfaced, forcing him to withdraw in disgrace. Political commentator William Schneider, who gave Biden the Kinnock tape, recently told The Atlantic that Biden had all the benefits and failings of a normal guy, which got him into trouble in the first place. “In 1988, it was a different universe,” said Schneider. “Now he’s seen as a normal response to Donald Trump, and Trump is not normal.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A few months after his disgraced exit, Biden, who complained of recurring headaches while on the campaign trail, collapsed in the middle of a snow storm. He was rushed to the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, where doctors diagnosed him with a ruptured aneurysm. He was so close to death that a local priest was summoned to administer last rites. Two months later, he was operated on for a second aneurysm. It took Biden more than seven months to return to active political life.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>For the next 20 years, Biden remained a solid presence in Washington. As the senate judiciary committee chairman, he helped president Bill Clinton secure bipartisan support for his favourite initiatives like the ban on assault weapons and the bill to prevent violence against women. By the time George W. Bush became president, Biden had moved on as chairman of the senate foreign relations committee. He was strongly critical of Bush’s philosophy of interventionism and the neocon moorings of his foreign policy.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Biden’s second presidential bid was in 2007 for the 2008 elections, but in the Democratic party it soon became a two-horse race between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. After securing the nomination, Obama invited Biden to be his running mate, which he accepted on Jill’s persuasion. It was not easy for Biden as it was the first time in 36 years that he agreed to become somebody’s wingman. But the arrangement clicked. Biden’s decades of experience was crucial to the ticket, and it played an important role in convincing white America to vote for the young, black senator from Illinois.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Notwithstanding the occasional skirmishes with Obama’s ‘Chicago cabal’, Biden had a satisfying run as vice president. When he was offered the job, Biden had just one demand: “I want to be the last guy in the room on every major decision,” he told Obama. For most part, the president granted that wish, and, in return, Biden soldiered on as a staunch Obama loyalist, despite his ambition to run for president one more time. In the early days of the presidency, when the United States and the world were experiencing a major financial meltdown, Obama deputed Biden to sell his controversial $787 billion economic stimulus bill. Under Biden’s watchful eyes, only 1 per cent of the total outlay was lost in waste or fraud.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>After the Republicans seized majority in the House of Representatives in 2010, Biden was the White House’s face on the hill, leading protracted negotiations on budget and debt-ceiling. He also played a key role in getting Obama’s signature legislation, the Affordable Care Act, passed by the Congress. Biden was instrumental in convincing Arlen Specter, the Republican senator from Pennsylvania, to switch over to the Democratic party. Specter gave Obama the crucial 60th vote to pass the bill in the senate. Biden also provided critical inputs on the foreign policy front, especially on Iraq, Afghanistan and Ukraine, and remained steadfastly against the use of force. Interestingly, he counselled Obama against the raid to kill Osama bin Laden, pointing out that the mission’s failure would cost him his second term.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Over the course of years, Obama and Biden grew close despite their differences in style, substance and temperament. The president stood like a rock behind Biden when Beau was diagnosed with brain tumour. When asked in a CNN interview about his most memorable moment at the White House, Biden spoke about how Obama offered to pay for Beau’s treatment. During one of their weekly private lunches, Biden told Obama that he might take out a second mortgage on his home to pay the mounting medical bills. Obama got up, walked up to Biden, put his hands on his shoulders and said, “Don’t do that. I’ll give you the money. I have it. You can pay me back whenever.” After Beau’s death on May 30, 2015, it was Obama who delivered the eulogy. Finally, before leaving office, Obama conferred Biden with the nation’s highest civilian honour, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Yet, Obama has never been enthusiastic about Biden’s presidential ambitions. He had personally talked him out of running in 2016. Early this year, according to a New York Times report, Obama tried to persuade Biden to drop out. “You don’t have to do this, Joe, you really don’t,” he told Biden. But, like in 2016, Biden has been convinced that he stood the best chance to beat Trump.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The early days of the Democratic primary, however, turned out to be a major disappointment for Biden. Despite leading opinion polls for nearly a year, the Biden campaign collapsed under the onslaught of his more savvy colleagues like Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg. He finished fourth in Iowa, fifth in New Hampshire and a distant second in Nevada. The money flow dried up and the campaign was in a shambles. Going into the South Carolina primary on February 29, not many people gave him a chance. But then came the most pivotal moment in the Biden campaign. He won the endorsement of James Clyburn, the senior-most African American member on the capitol and a doyen of South Carolina’s Democratic politics. After Clyburn’s emotional speech, Biden romped home in a landslide, winning 61 per cent of the African American votes, beating Sanders by 30 points. Biden had to wait for 33 years to win a primary, but it was worth it. The black voters in the American south knew and remembered that Biden had stood loyally behind the country’s first black president, not trying to undercut Obama even once.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>With South Carolina, Biden turned the primary contest on its head, winning 10 of the next 14 states on Super Tuesday, following it up with four out of six states a week later. The momentum was finally with him, convincing his rivals Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, Michael Bloomberg and Warren to withdraw. Finally, even Sanders chose to suspend his campaign and endorse Biden.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>With Biden becoming the presumptive nominee, Obama stepped in with his endorsement through a video message. In a stinging take down of the Trump administration, Obama said Biden would “banish the corruption, carelessness, self-dealing, disinformation, ignorance and just plain meanness” plaguing the Trump White House. With Covid-19 completely upending his calculations, Trump is finding it difficult to campaign on the American economic performance, which he hoped would secure his second term. But his apathetic and inept handling of the pandemic has given Biden a crucial opening.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Biden would fancy his chances against Trump after having trumped Sanders, who ran a massive digital operation, and Bloomberg, who had an endless supply of money. Despite being confined to his Delaware home because of the lockdown, Biden has widened his lead over Trump. Opinion polls from key states like Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Florida, North Carolina and Arizona, which voted for Trump in 2016, show that Biden is moving ahead.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is, however, not going to be easy for Biden. His younger son Hunter’s indiscretions could prove costly. The Biden campaign was shaken further by allegations of sexual assault by his former staff assistant Tara Reade. After Biden’s forceful repudiation, that storm seems to have passed, at least for now.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Biden, meanwhile, needs to step out of his basement and tackle Trump head on. He needs to ensure that minority and progressive voters get out and vote. He has to consolidate his support among African Americans and suburban white voters. Latinos and young Americans need further convincing from the Biden campaign. He also needs to ramp up his online presence. David Axelrod and David Plouffe, who managed Obama’s campaigns, recently wrote that Biden’s home videos looked like “an astronaut beaming back to earth from the International Space Station”. And, he needs to stop putting his foot in his mouth. Biden recently got into a tiff with a prominent black radio host after he wanted to cut short an interview because of time constraints. “If you have a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or Trump, then you ain’t black,” said Biden. He expressed regret the same day, saying he “shouldn’t have been such a wise guy”.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The gaffe may not hurt Biden much, because it is not easy to hate him. As Republican Senator Lindsay Graham, a Trump ally who is one of Biden’s long-standing political rivals, says, “If you can’t admire Joe Biden as a person, then probably, you’ve got a problem. What’s not to like?”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>WITH LAVINA MELWANI.</b></p> Fri Jul 10 11:36:30 IST 2020 keeping-the-house <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p><b>SEVENTY-TWO YEARS</b> ago, when America went to the polls to elect its president, Republican nominee Thomas Dewey was the odds-on favourite. Back then, opinion polls were a novelty, and all of them had given Dewey a double digit lead over Democratic candidate Harry S. Truman, who had succeeded Franklin D. Roosevelt as president after his unexpected death while in office. Dewey’s advantage appeared so obvious and overwhelming that even before all the votes were counted, the Chicago Tribune published an early edition with a banner headline, “Dewey defeats Truman”. But when the counting was over, Truman won with 303 electoral votes against Dewey's 189.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>At this point in his reelection campaign, President Donald Trump hopes he can emulate Truman. The Covid-19 pandemic and the ‘Black Lives Matter’ campaign have eroded Trump’s approval ratings. Most opinion polls now give the Democratic candidate Joe Biden a double-digit edge. He is ahead in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, the key to Trump's unexpected triumph in 2016. The president is also trailing in Florida and Arizona, and he could even lose Texas, which the Democrats won last in 1976. His political rally on June 21 at Tulsa, Oklahoma, the first such campaign event after the pandemic struck, was a disaster. Despite claims that millions were waiting for a ticket, only about 6,000 people showed up.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Four months ago, Trump was leading a buoyant economy with unemployment rates at a half-century low. Now, his chances rest on the possibility of a quick economic recovery after strict lockdown measures are withdrawn. “A bumper third quarter recovery will help Trump sell himself as the leader who can put the US economy back on track once again,” says Joshy M. Paul, international relations expert at the Delhi-based Centre for Air Power Studies. “Even now, Americans trust Trump more than Biden on economic issues.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Moreover, there is still time for Trump to turn the Covid-19 crisis into an opportunity. He enjoys the advantages of the bully pulpit and is certain to take credit whenever Covid numbers start coming down. He could even ask the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to fast track regulatory approval for a vaccine. A dramatic launch of a vaccine could be the critical boost the president is looking at.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A low-hanging fruit for the Trump campaign would be to viciously target Biden and his family. Trump will certainly try to define Biden for the voters as a sloppy, senile loudmouth, who is close to China. The nickname “Sleepy Joe” seems to be sticking. Trump is also likely to go after Biden’s son Hunter and his $6,00,000-a-year gig at an Ukrainian energy company at a time his father was overseeing Barack Obama’s Ukraine policy.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Biden is known to be gaffe-prone. So far, he has been spared the intense scrutiny experienced by presidential candidates as he has been confined to his Delaware home because of the pandemic. But once the campaign gathers steam, there is a possibility that he may slip up. The Trump team is already pushing for more debates, hoping that Biden may embarrass himself.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Trump should focus on Biden’s vulnerabilities,” says James E. Campbell, who teaches at State University of New York at Buffalo. “Biden has been nearly absent from the campaign. Many voters have given him a pass since attention has not been focused on his liabilities. Trump should make the point that Biden’s mental capabilities have slipped over the years and that he would be controlled by the very dangerous and radical elements of his party.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Trump enjoys yet another advantage over Biden in the form of complete command over his party and absolute loyalty from his base. Among Democrats, supporters of Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are yet to warm up to Biden. “There is the possibility of hardcore Sanders and Warren supporters staying home on election day,” says Paul. “Unfortunately for Biden, he does not command the absolute loyalty of a base. Moreover, he has not yet been able to fully enthuse the Obama coalition of the young and the Afro Americans.” It is, therefore, not surprising that the same polls which show Biden leading Trump by nearly 10 points nationally show that his base is less passionate about him than the Republicans are about Trump.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>And, Trump has more aces up his sleeve to keep his base excited. Using the Covid-induced economic crisis as a ruse, he has imposed massive curbs on immigration, suspending green cards and other major visa classes like H-1B, H-2B and L till the end of the year. It has been one of the key demands of the Trump base. Trump is also likely to use the ‘Black Lives Matter’ campaign to drive political mileage. “His reaction to the movement has been to follow former president Richard Nixon’s playbook by invoking the virtues of ‘law and order’ and pushing for a forceful response to protests in a cynical effort to placate his electoral base,” says Graham G. Dodds, an expert on US presidential elections at Concordia University, Montreal, Canada.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There could be attempts to whip up anti-black sentiment among white voters, especially if violent protests break out, and it could increase further if Biden picks a black running mate. The strategy was evident during the Trump rally in Tulsa. “The unhinged left-wing mob is trying to vandalise our history, desecrate our monuments, tear down our statues, and persecute anyone who does not conform to their demands for absolute and total control,” said Trump. “They want to demolish our heritage.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Democrats worry that the president could also facilitate voter suppression tactics, especially in key black areas. If blacks vote the way they did in 2012, Biden is likely to win. But the Covid pandemic poses serious challenges to the traditional voting system. The Democrats want to have extensive mail-in voting facilities; Trump and the Republican party are opposed to it. Pro-Democratic groups have been supporting lawsuits filed in at least 18 states to remove administrative restrictions that could hamper mail-in voting. Trump says mail-in ballots pose the biggest threat to his reelection prospects and will make 2020 the most rigged election in American history.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Democratic strategists are worried about other tactics such as voter intimidation outside polling booths, denial of funding to the US Postal Service which is in charge of delivering mail-in ballots and even the use of the pandemic as an excuse to keep voters away. “Trump’s reelection strategy appears to depend on cutting off channels for voters to have polling places and then sending operatives and right-wingers to intimidate and suppress voters in person,” Ben Wikler, chairman of Wisconsin’s Democratic party, told New York Magazine a few days ago.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Trump will also make a play for groups like Indian Americans who have forever been staunch Democratic voters. He is expected to use his friendship with Prime Minister Narendra Modi to draw their support. In contrast, the Biden campaign has been critical of Modi’s pet initiatives like the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and the abrogation of Article 370.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As the election day draws close, Trump could use foreign policy tools to boost his reelection bid. “A flare up of foreign threats through China or Iran is possible,” says Uma Purushothaman, an expert on American politics at the Central University of Kerala. A muscular foreign policy has always helped incumbent presidents. Trump may also benefit if countries like Russia and China launch cyberattacks to sabotage Democrats or try and help him with strategically timed favourable trade deals.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“It is no secret that presidents have more ability to act independently in the realm of foreign policy, and some have arguably used that ability for short-term political gain shortly before an election. Trump is not above such tactics,” says Dodds. Trump can also look at fast tracking the military drawdown in Afghanistan. He has already scaled down US military presence in Iraq and Syria and has reached an understanding with the Taliban, aimed at pulling out most US troops out of Afghanistan. “Trump could make a dramatic announcement of troop withdrawal just before the elections,” says Paul.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Despite the commanding lead enjoyed by Biden, the presidential race is by no means over. In July 1988, Democratic candidate Michael Dukakis had a 17-point lead over George H.W. Bush. Four months later, Bush swept the election, winning 40 of 50 states and 426 of 538 electoral votes. “Biden’s current lead in national polls is impressive. What, however, matters is not nationwide support, but rather which candidate wins which states in November,” says Dodds. “Trump can afford to lose some of the states he surprisingly won in 2016 and still win again, and just a slight change in people’s preferences could cause several states to go one way or the other. The race is far from over.”</p> Fri Jul 10 11:33:59 IST 2020 the-art-of-the-comeback <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p><b>AT THIS POINT</b> in the presidential elections, you would have to say that Joe Biden is the favourite. That is not just because he is doing so well in the polls. It is also because most presidential elections are decided by a small set of “fundamental” factors. These include the state of the economy, public approval of the current president and how long the president or his party has served in office. For the most part, these factors work against Donald Trump. The United States is facing a major financial downturn, primarily because of the Covid-19 pandemic, and Trump’s approval ratings are quite low. The only thing working in his favour is that he is the incumbent, and—despite Americans’ proclaimed disdain for politicians and the status quo in Washington—voters tend to reelect incumbent presidents and other federal officials.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The best thing Trump could do for his reelection campaign is to demonstrate effective, principled leadership to slow the spread of the pandemic and help unify the country on issues of race and policing. He has had ample opportunities to take these steps, but has resisted doing so, preferring to wish the pandemic away and exacerbate rather than combat racial tensions. It is his lack of discipline, principle, and ultimately leadership, that has caused him to sink so low in the polls. Until Trump changes course—and, crucially, stays that course—I do not expect his current problems to go away.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There is good reason to believe—based on the impeachment investigation and former national security adviser John Bolton’s recent book—that Trump has been and is willing to seek help from other countries to aid in his reelection effort, whether that is from smearing Biden or obtaining more favourable trade policies for electorally important states or regions. Having survived the impeachment effort and dismissed Bolton’s claims, I see no evidence that Trump will discontinue these efforts. In fact, it does not appear that he sees such efforts as problematic from an ethical, legal or constitutional standpoint.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Covid pandemic has undermined the US economy and voters' faith in Trump’s leadership. Given the virus’ disproportionate impact on Black Americans in particular, the pandemic also may have contributed to the anger and frustration expressed in the ‘Black Lives Matter’ protests. Trump has mostly focused on responding to the most violent elements of the protests against the murder of George Floyd. He, along with allied politicians and media organisations, has sought to frame the protest movement not as peaceful but as lawless and violent, often referring categorically to “riots and looting” rather than protests. This shifts the focus from racial justice and police reform to Trump’s long-favoured “law and order” approach. He thinks doing so helps him with his party’s base, and to some extent he may be right. But polling also shows that this response has caused many Americans to view him as dividing, rather than uniting, the nation at this time. In fact, his response to the protests seems to have hurt his popularity among Americans more so than his response to the epidemic or the state of the economy.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>AS TOLD TO AJISH P. JOY</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Devine, an expert on US presidential elections, teaches at University of Dayton, Ohio.</b></p> Fri Jul 10 11:30:48 IST 2020 ready-to-rumble <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>After returning to Delhi from his two-day visit to the forward areas of eastern Ladakh on June 25, Army chief General M.M. Naravane first briefed Defence Minister Rajnath Singh. The duo then went to Prime Minister Narendra Modi with a detailed situation report. After interacting with soldiers injured in the Galwan clash and with his local commanders, General Naravane concluded that the situation in the Ladakh sector was way too serious. Despite promises of troop reduction, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of China has further strengthened its deployment on the flash points by setting upÅ permanent bunkers, pillboxes and observation posts. The prevailing sentiment on the ground on the Indian side is to impose a bigger cost on the enemy for the Galwan “betrayal”.ÅÅ</p> <p>Eyeball-to-eyeball situation prevails in multiple locations where troops are separated by barely 100m, although at the June 22 meeting between corps commanders, there was an understanding to maintain a distance of at least 2.5km to 3km. What is most worrying for India is the deployment of Chinese armoured vehicles and artillery units in areas facing the Gogra Post-Hot Springs region. In response, India has moved forward its newly-inducted M777 howitzers, T-90 Bhishma tanks and other armoured vehicles. While China has deployed the S-400 air defence system, India has in place its Akash air defence system.</p> <p>Even as New Delhi is exploring diplomatic and economic options to put pressure on Beijing to return to the pre-April status quo, the Army has been devising ways to show its prowess to the enemy. “Either you exercise military options or you wait and watch through negotiations. But in the wait-and-watch scenario, another Galwan type clash cannot be ruled out,” said a former deputy Army chief. “Military options, however, always have the risk of escalation.”</p> <p>The PLA has 2.3 lakh troops under its western theatre command and the Tibet and Xinjiang military districts. It has recently deployed its 4th Motorised Infantry Division opposite Daulat Beg Oldie-Debang, while the 6th Mechanised Infantry Division is positioned between Pangong Tso and Chumar. There is another Chinese division opposite Demchok. A military observer said the PLA’s objective could be to threaten a section of the Darbuk-Shyok-DBO road and cut off the DBO sector, restricting India’s access to the Karakoram Pass.</p> <p>Military analysts believe that India has an edge over China as it has fought and won several wars with Pakistan. Moreover, it has many fighter aircraft capable of flying at high altitudes. Chinese pilots have to fly with limited supplies and fuel because of difficult weather at their air bases in Tibet.</p> <p><b>HOLDING THE LINE</b></p> <p>With heavy deployment, the enemy can be restricted to wherever they are, which is known as holding the line in military strategy. To ramp up its deployment along the 826km-long front on the Line of Actual Control in Ladakh, the Army, apart from its regular deployment, has moved at least two of its divisions from their peacetime locations in Himachal Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh towards the Ladakh sector, along with two engineer regiments.</p> <p>Animal Transport Units, which have not been used for several years, have been reactivated to move arms and ammunition to places without proper roads. The units, consisting of sturdy mules, have been assigned to support remote outposts located at heights of up to 19,000 feet.</p> <p>The Army has moved an infantry division to look after the Galwan and DBO sector, and there is another division to take on aggression in Hot Springs, Chushul, Pangong Tso and Spanggur Gap. Another division is based at Chumur and Demchok. The frontline troops are reinforced by infantry and armoured brigades, three tank regiments and a mechanised regiment.Å</p> <p>A few months ago, there was an integrated exercise of all arms by the Army in a “super high altitude area” in eastern Ladakh involving tanks, infantry soldiers, paratroopers and mechanised infantry as part of a readiness exercise to test its capabilities against China. “Holding the line is a defensive, but deterrent strategy,” said former northern Army commander Lieutenant General (retd) D.S. Hooda. “The huge deployment of troops, artillery and armoured vehicles may somehow create fear in the enemy’s mind, preventing it from moving further.”Å</p> <p><b>QUID PRO QUO</b></p> <p>Quid pro quo option in military parlance means tit for tat. To counter China’s ‘adamant’ behaviour on the border, India can strike at places where it enjoys tactical advantage. “We can occupy some of their areas where we can dominate them with sheer numbers. By occupying Chinese territory, our bargaining power becomes stronger and gives us negotiating leverage,” said a general. But it is an act of military escalation and may have its consequences.</p> <p>Top defence ministry sources said the Army was working on places on the LAC where it had the upper hand. Military strategists believe that even in some areas in the Ladakh sector, like the plains of Depsang, India has the tactical edge. The Army enjoys numerical advantage in Depsang, Trig Heights, Dumchele, Chumar, Spanggur Gap and the south of Pangong Tso. Apart from the Tawang sector, which is heavily guarded by both sides, there are several places in the rest of Arunachal Pradesh, including Lohit, Subansiri and the Dibang valley, where the Indian Army can surprise the Chinese. Barahoti, Kaurik and Shipki La in the middle sector and the Chumbi valley near Sikkim can also be considered.</p> <p>“The Chinese are not moving back, and military and diplomatic talks have not yielded much,” said Lieutenant General (retd) Mohinder Puri, former deputy chief of the Army. “I would feel comfortable if we think of a quid pro quo on the other side. Plenty of areas are available where we can surprise them.” Some military analysts, however, feel that exercising the quid pro quo option isÅ a little difficult now because the Chinese are also on alert in every sector.</p> <p>Lieutenant General (retd) Vinod Bhatia, who was director general of military operations, said for a viable quid pro quo option, India needed a mountain strike corps, which had the capability for such operations. A mountain strike corps named XVII Corps was sanctioned in July 2013 after the Chinese incursion in Depsang. But the corps, headquartered in Panagarh in West Bengal, could raise only a single division in seven years. The project is now on the backburner as the Army is focusing on small Integrated Battle Groups (IBGs).ÅÅ</p> <p>One plan under the quid pro quo strategy is to recapture Aksai Chin, which India lost in 1962. But the risk of a full-fledged war is probably stopping military planners from going ahead. Moreover, Aksai Chin, which links China’s Xinjiang district with Tibet, is not as strategically important for India as it is for China. “For China, Aksai Chin is very critical and the Chinese will certainly make every effort to retain it,” said an official.Å</p> <p><b>LIMITED CONFLICT</b></p> <p>It means forcibly evicting PLA troops from India’s territory and securing the heights through a calibrated conflict. Military strategists believe that the Indian infantry and special forces could launch coordinated surprise infantry or special-forces attacks on each one of the occupied positions, with artillery and armour support in the rear as a deterrent against escalation. This is the most vocal argument among military planners. In fact, during his visit to the forward locations in the eastern Ladakh sector, General Naravane got a sense from his men that China needed to be unequivocally told that the Indian Army was no pushover and that the PLA could not keep on unilaterally changing the status quo along the border. India can look at limited conflict options, which will be limited in time and geography.Å</p> <p>The newly set up IBG is the most workable option available, as it has elements of airpower, armour, artillery, mechanised and traditional infantry engineering and ordnance units that can be activated without delay. An Army official said the IBGs could perform both offensive roles involving cross-border operations and the defensive role of withstanding an attack.</p> <p>A general who supports limited conflict said the option was either to accept the ground situation or to keep fighting to get back lost territory. “When all your diplomatic channels fail, you are left with military options. Limited conflict option seems the obvious one. If you are determined to kick them out, you go for limited conflict options. Infantry and special forces can be supported with armoured elements and the newly-inducted Apache attack helicopters,” said the general. The limited conflict option, however, has the maximum chance of escalation and can result in a full-fledged war.ÅÅ</p> <p>“Military options are very much there. But the key issue is whether it should be exercised at this point of time. Military options like quid pro quo or limited conflict can be considered at an appropriate time,” said Hooda. When asked about the use of airpower, he said it was an option if India decided to escalate. “I do not think we should start with airpower. It is not a Balakot-type situation, and China is not Pakistan.”</p> <p><b>COVERT OPERATION</b></p> <p>A section of the military believes that hitting Chinese investments in Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir through covert operations can also be a viable option. Targeting the 3,000km-long China-Pakistan Economic Corridor that connects the two countries with railway lines, roads, pipelines and optical fibre networks can be a message to Beijing. The CPEC, which is a key element of China’s Belt and Road Initiative, passes through PoK.</p> <p>“China has invested heavily in infrastructure projects worth $11 billion to $12 billion in PoK even before the BRI was launched. We can activate our assets in Gilgit-Baltistan to carry out a covert operation,” said an official. Balochi nationalists can also be tapped to target Chinese interests. Observers, however, point out that China and Pakistan have taken every possible precaution to ensure CPEC’s security. China has recently supplied armed drones to Pakistan specifically for the purpose.Å</p> <p>Another option before India is to target restive regions in China like Xinjiang and Tibet. “If China can raise the issue of Kashmir, we can also start talking about Tibet and Xinjiang,” said a military strategist.</p> <p><b>MARITIME OPTION</b></p> <p>Another option before India is to put pressure on China with naval operations in the Strait of Malacca and other chokepoints in the Indian Ocean Region, which are critical for Chinese energy supply. India can also target the new Chinese oil terminal in Made Island in the Bay of Bengal off the Myanmarese coast, which receives tankers from Africa and the Middle East and transports oil through pipelines to Kunming in China. “We can use our naval assets to block Chinese vessels in these chokepoints,” said an observer. “China is dependent on the sea lanes of communications in the Indian Ocean Region for its energy imports. Targeting its interests will be a viable option.”</p> <p>Besides working on immediate options, military planners believe that India should be ready for the ‘long haul’. Former Army chief General (retd) Deepak Kapoor said the 2017 Doklam standoff took 73 days to resolve, and the ongoing crisis could last much longer. “I will look at it as a long-term problem which is not going to be sorted out overnight. It will take months. I do not foresee a solution anytime soon,” he said.Å He added that even if military action was required, it had to be supported with diplomacy. “If nothing gets resolved through talks or negotiations, then the possibility of military option remains. We have multiple options and the capability to strike at the right time. Though we recognise that China has a much larger defence expenditure than us, we also have the capability to surprise China,” he said.</p> <p>As winter approaches, it will not be possible for China to keep occupying the heights, as temperatures will drop to minus 40 degrees Celsius. “First of all, the PLA is not used to such high altitudes,” said Bhatia. “The cost of occupying the heights is manifold and if China is ready to pay it, let us see.”</p> Thu Jul 02 17:56:44 IST 2020 secure-line <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p><i>Dezinformatsiya</i>, which means disinformation in Russian, is a term widely used to describe an alleged covert online campaign to sway the results of the 2016 US Presidential elections. American cybersecurity experts have blamed Russian intelligence for spreading disinformation on social media to manipulate voters and turn the tide in favour of Donald Trump.</p> <p>As India is trying to block Chinese manoeuvrers in the Galwan Valley and on the Line of Actual Control, intelligence agencies are worried about the People’s Liberation Army using the backdoor of popular Chinese applications to access critical information and manipulate the sentiments of Indian users. As a defensive step, India has blocked 59 Chinese applications, including popular ones like TikTok, Helo, WeChat, ShareIT, UC Browser and Club Factory. The decision came after intelligence agencies noticed that all these applications were capable of transferring data to servers outside India.</p> <p>On May 7, The Citizen Lab, an interdisciplinary laboratory based at the Munk School of Global Affairs &amp; Public Policy, University of Toronto, came out with shocking disclosures on how non-China users of WeChat were subject to pervasive content surveillance. WeChat, a multipurpose app for messaging, social media and mobile payment, is the most popular social media platform in China and the third most popular in the world.</p> <p>John Scott-Railton, senior researcher at The Citizen Lab, told THE WEEK that applications developed for the Chinese market had built-in censorship and, in some cases, surveillance tools. “This is just another example of that problem,” he said. “It is the scale of users that makes it so troubling.” He said there were serious national security concerns for other countries that use such products.</p> <p>A report prepared by Indian security agencies has raised concerns over Chinese corporations having a Communist Party cell to monitor and ensure that the party line is maintained. It refers to the Cybersecurity Law of People’s Republic of China, which came into effect on June 1, 2017, and mandates all Chinese companies to cooperate with and collaborate in national intelligence work. “This means that China can weaponise their data for information warfare,” said a senior cyber security official.</p> <p>For instance, TikTok, which is owned by the Chinese internet giant ByteDance, has around 119 million active users in India. If the Chinese government or the Communist Party has access to these accounts, they can read the popular sentiments in the country by analysing the data or spread disinformation to manipulate these sentiments.</p> <p>TikTok strongly denied the allegations. Nikhil Gandhi, head of TikTok India, said the platform complied with all data privacy and security requirements under Indian law and had not shared any information of its users with any foreign government, including the Chinese. Meanwhile, the Chinese foreign ministry said New Delhi’s decision to ban Chinese apps was discriminatory and it ran against fair and transparent procedure requirements.</p> <p>China’s giant telecommunication companies like Huawei and ZTE are also bound by the Chinese Cybersecurity Law, and India is not the only country worried about it. On June 30, the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) designated Huawei, ZTE and their affiliates and subsidiaries as national security threats and blocked their deals of expanding internet access in rural America. “Both companies have close ties to the Chinese Communist Party and China’s military apparatus, and both companies are broadly subject to Chinese law obligating them to cooperate with the country’s intelligence services,” said FCC chairman Ajit Pai.</p> <p>Huawei and ZTE are among the world’s biggest suppliers of telecom gear and have a strong presence in 5G telecom technology.</p> <p>While the ban on Chinese applications is the first step, the government may further tighten the noose around the Chinese telecom equipment and system providers. A report prepared by security agencies has noted that over the past decade, Huawei had teamed with members of various organs of the PLA on at least 10 research projects on subjects like artificial intelligence and radio communications. “They include a joint effort with the investigative branch of the Central Military Commission—the armed forces’ supreme body—to extract and classify emotions in online video comments,” said the report.</p> <p>The report also pointed towards the initiatives taken by these companies in collaboration with the National University of Defence Technology in Changsha, Hunan, to explore the ways of collecting and analysing satellite images and geographical coordinates. “These projects are just a few of the publicly disclosed studies that shed light on how staff at China’s largest technology companies teamed with the PLA on research into an array of potential military and security applications,” said an official. “It would be naive on the part of anyone to consider that there would be no backdoor from a Huawei 5G core network to the PLA.”</p> <p>Huawei and ZTE did not respond to the calls from this correspondent.</p> <p>Cyber security officials say it is important for India to develop its own applications and have its own servers to prevent misuse of data. Moreover, dependency on imported 5G network equipment will put India at the risk of collateral damage if Chinese and western countries target each other’s equipment.</p> <p>“We need to put in place a robust technological system for our security and safety,” said Pamela Kumar, director general of Telecommunications Standards Development Society. “A system for setting testing standards, policies, testing, certification and continuous surveillance, and for ensuring that application configurations, methods and processes are there to check if any leakage is happening. The security lacunae can be plugged by setting up exclusive labs to test and ratify equipment and technologies. The certification process for security clearance should be strong. Only then we will be able to take preemptive steps and avoid knee-jerk reactions.” She said India needed to build its own cyber security force. “Unless we prioritise and invest in that the visible and invisible threats will continue.” &nbsp;</p> Thu Jul 02 17:20:38 IST 2020 much-at-stake <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>The revelry had started early at Huawei’s India offices for New Year 2020. IT and Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad ended the company’s long wait by giving the go-ahead for it to participate in India’s 5G trials, a day before New Year’s Eve. It came two months after the Modi-Xi meeting at Mamallapuram. Now, after the skirmish in Ladakh, that celebration may just turn out to have been premature. India is firing economic shots at China. Chinese telecom companies Huawei and ZTE could soon be in the crosshairs.</p> <p>According to sources, the June 29 ministerial meeting in Delhi which banned 59 Chinese apps had also deliberated on Huawei’s involvement in 5G trials. An email questionnaire sent to Huawei did not elicit any response.</p> <p>Huawei has been called out for its links to the Chinese apparatus before. It was a crucial element in the trade war between the US and China. Among other things, the US accused Huawei of siphoning data to China, and has been asking countries around the world to shun the company. Australia, New Zealand and Japan banned Huawei from installing their 5G infrastructure, while Canada’s top mobile operators chose Ericsson and Nokia.</p> <p>“It is likely that India could target Chinese telecom infra giants, which could bring it closer to the US,” said Kunal Kislay, cofounder and CEO of Integration Wizards Solution, an Indian AI firm. “In the short term, this will have a disrupting effect on our existing telecom players, who have significant investments in technologies provided by these organisations.”</p> <p>Indian telecom companies fear costs could mount by 30 per cent if Huawei is taken out of the equation. The Chinese company’s prowess in the next-generation mobile standard of 5G is supposed to be cutting edge. Huawei accounts for 30 per cent of Airtel’s infrastructure and 40 per cent of that of Vodafone-Idea. Its eyes were firmly fixed on India’s lucrative 5G rollout pie. Interestingly, Reliance Jio has steered clear of using any Chinese infrastructure.</p> <p>India is already behind many other countries in its 5G rollout, with spectrum sales now postponed till next year. However, sentiments are now firmly stacked up against the Chinese company, despite it having been present in India for decades. Huawei also retails smartphones in India under two brands, Huawei and Honor.</p> <p>“There are legitimate fears regarding foreign surveillance,” said Kazim Rizvi, founder of The Dialogue, a policy think-tank. “Considering how 5G will be a bedrock of India’s plans for smart cities, transport and infrastructure, we need a strategic approach. The Central government has to decide whether it is prudent to allow Chinese investment in technology that is closely linked with nation development. A formal policy on this [has to] consider non-technical aspects such as the political, economic and geopolitical landscape.”</p> Fri Jul 03 19:37:31 IST 2020 settle-border-dispute-politically-and-urgently <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>A historical fact that is often overlooked is that India and China were never neighbours. There existed the kingdom of Tibet, which acted as a buffer between the two ancient and prosperous civilisations. Tibet lay between two massive mountain chains—Himalayas to its south and Kuen Lun to its north. It was only in 1951 when China militarily occupied and ‘liberated’ Tibet that the Chinese army was seen along India’s northern frontiers. Till then, neither its administrative machinery nor military was present at Aksai Chin, Demchok (Ladakh), and going eastwards along the Himalayas at Shipki La (Central sector), Nathu La (Sikkim) and Pemako-Zayul regions (opposite northeast India).</p> <p>Historically, Asiatic nations did not follow a concept of well-demarcated boundaries, and instead had traditionally accepted undefined boundaries. Consequently, neither China nor India has been able to convincingly prove to the other the historical and legal rights on which they claim their respective boundaries. On balance, India has a stronger case both on the northeast frontier on the basis of the McMahon Line, and in the Ladakh region, based on the Ardagh-Johnson Line. However, the dispute continues to linger on despite the Treaty of Peace and Tranquillity (1993), Treaty on Confidence Building Measures (1996), Agreement on Political Parameters and Guiding Principles for the Settlement of the Boundary Question (2005) and a Shared Vision for the 21st Century (2008).</p> <p>What was surprising was that Xi Jinping gave a go-ahead to his military to mobilise a large force in the Ladakh region and carry out intrusions in the Galwan Valley and Pangong Tso during the first week of May. These actions eventually led to the violent clashes in the Galwan Valley. It is now evident that the premeditated attack by the Chinese was part of a grand design to alter the status of the LAC. A face-off between Indian and Chinese troops also took place at the Naku La pass in Sikkim on May 9. The Indian Army stood firm and conveyed to the Chinese to withdraw back to the positions they were deployed at in April and thereby restore status quo ante along the frontier.</p> <p>The crux of the problem lies in the control of the region of Aksai Chin, situated between the Karakoram and the Kuen Lun ranges, and through which passes a strategic north-south communication artery linking Xinjiang with Tibet. This old caravan route, joining Lhasa and Leh with Yarkand and Kashgar, was used by the Chinese to invade Tibet in 1951. Thereafter, the Chinese converted it into a motorable road; today it is super highway Number 219. To keep the construction of this road a secret, the Chinese asked India to close the Indian Consulate at Kashgar and stopped all trade and movement through the Aksai Chin area. We complied with the Chinese proposal and did not care to join the dots and deduce their intention as we were naively pushing forward the ‘Hindi Chini Bhai Bhai’ slogan. The Chinese inaugurated the road in 1957 in a grandiose manner and that is when India woke up to comprehend the strategic design behind it.</p> <p>The LAC was evolved after the Chinese declared a unilateral ceasefire in November 1962, after having secured Indian territory that was of interest to them. In the east, they withdrew their forces behind the McMahon Line, except for the Thagla ridge that they retained, and in the Ladakh region they drew a line west of their 1956 and 1960 claim lines. When questioned about this cartographical aggression, they responded that the 1956 line was a simpler version and that the 1960 line was the precise claim line of their boundary. The Chinese also claimed areas further west of the 1960 line. This salami slicing westwards was basically designed to give greater depth to their strategic road artery described above, so that it would deny the Indian Army surveillance of the highway and possible interdiction by ground patrols, long-range artillery and aerial photography. Thus one realises that their latest claim line does not follow any geographical feature such as watersheds, ridge lines or mountain passes and cuts across in an arbitrary manner. The recent endeavour was to change the status quo of the LAC and shift it even further west in the Galwan Valley to be able to dominate and if required interdict the newly constructed Indian road along the Shyok river that connects to the military and air base of Daulat Beg Oldie.</p> <p>It was a bold gamble by Xi and his western region commander General Zhao Zongqi to move a large force from the exercise area in Tibet and occupy the territory that would help them achieve their tactical aims. It goes to the credit of the alert forward troops of the Indian Army who reacted with alacrity and stalled the devious design of the dragon in a close unarmed combat during the night of June 15/16. The Chinese soldiers were armed with iron rods, spiked batons and knives. The Indian soldiers retaliated in a ferocious manner and caused about 40 fatal casualties of the Chinese army, while we lost 20 of our brave soldiers. The Chinese would not forget this misadventure in a hurry and think twice before repeating it.</p> <p>The way forward lies in sincerely implementing the decisions arrived at during the second round of military corps commander level talks held on June 22 and maintaining peace along the LAC after the disengagement process is completed. Thereafter, diplomatic and military parleys should be commenced to demarcate the LAC without prejudice to the original boundary claims of both countries. These ought to be settled at the highest political level with a sense of urgency, and not when ‘the time is ripe’ atypical of the Chinese philosophy of procrastination.</p> Thu Jul 02 17:10:49 IST 2020 beijing-blame-game <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>When Narendra Modi became prime minister in 2014, many in China saw him as a man of development who had, as Gujarat chief minister, travelled to their land looking for investment. Policymakers in China had then told their president, Xi Jinping, who had taken office in 2013: “This Indian prime minister is a resolute leader with remarkable charisma. Frugal, clean and effective on social media, he looks like a saint, combining tradition and modernity.” It seemed like a time for change, and Xi was keen on India joining his One Belt One Road project, now known as the Belt and Road Initiative. It sought to connect China with Europe by road and sea, and South Asia through a Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar (BCIM) Economic Corridor. Though India declined to join the BRI, the friendship between Modi and Xi seemed unaffected. But now the two countries are in conflict, with their soldiers massacring each other in June, the bloodiest violence in more than four decades. Though all-powerful—he is the president of the country, the general secretary of the Communist Party, and the chairman of the Central Military Commission—Xi is not above criticism in China. His decisions are debated and questioned in the Politburo and the Central Committee. He is now under pressure, as it was he who had sold the BRI idea to the party. The onus is on him to make it a reality, and India’s resistance does not suit him.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>While China grew massively in the past three decades, its western part remained mostly backward and inaccessible. This is the part that borders India. So, under Xi, China decided to connect the southwestern Yunnan province to the autonomous Xinjiang province in the northwest through roads and airports. In the past few years, Xinjiang has also seen rampant militarisation, worrying India. Modi has also been building roads in the northeast part of India, which borders China. This activity increased after Article 370 was revoked and Ladakh was made a Union territory last August. Most Indians, obsessed with the Pakistan border, did not notice that there were more than 400 transgressions by the People’s Liberation Army on the India-China border in 2017. They woke up only when the Doklam standoff happened that year. In this dispute, India objected to China building a road in Bhutan to further its BRI project. Confidence-building measures followed talks between the two armies. The Eastern Command monitored the measures in the northeast and the Northern Command monitored them in Ladakh. “[Regardless,] China is building huge physical infrastructure in Bhutan at the request of the people of Bhutan, who would like to come out of poverty,” a Chinese strategist told THE WEEK. </p> <p>As China built up Xinjiang, the Indian Army started building roads in the Galwan valley and near Pangong Tso, two strategic points in Ladakh. China sees it as India’s effort to gain access to Aksai Chin and Gilgit-Baltistan. The Chinese were also angered by statements of Indian politicians, including a cabinet minister, that India would take back Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and Aksai Chin. The Chinese State Council, the country’s highest administrative authority, seem to have taken these statements at face value. Responding to THE WEEK, it called the Modi government the “aggressor” and accused India of trying to repeat another Doklam in Ladakh. “It is the result of New Delhi’s miscalculation and the new ‘forward policy’ of the BJP government,” Li Xiaojun, information director at the State Council, told THE WEEK. “New Delhi is clear where the LAC is and it has ordered the soldiers to take wrong steps into the Chinese fields, like it did in Doklam.” Apparently, the statements by Indian leaders irked China so much that Xi asked the PLA to take full control of the Galwan valley and Pangong Tso, which China says were “unmarked and disputed”. “China tried to take control of the Galwan valley because that would enable it to create a parallel CPEC (China-Pakistan Economic Corridor) road through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir,” said Major General K.K. Ganguly, a veteran who fought in the three wars between 1962 and 1971. He said Xi had been sidelined internationally because of the Covid-19 pandemic and had received threats of an investigation into the outbreak. “He asked for India’s help (to open up India for Chinese companies) and our prime minister turned a blind eye,” said Ganguly. “The prime minister also checked Chinese investment in sectors that are now open to domestic players only. As a result, China [executed] an inhuman massacre at the border.” </p> <p>The current dispute is not confined to Ladakh. The two armies also fought at the Naku-La sector in north Sikkim in May. Apparently, China wanted not only to redraw the Ladakh border but also to revoke its recognition of Sikkim as Indian territory. “If the Chinese were shouting that Sikkim is not Indian territory, then too, we have a problem,” said Jabin Thomas Jacob, associate professor, department of international relations and governance studies, Shiv Nadar University. “[China] had officially accepted that Sikkim was Indian territory in 2003.” He said the Chinese were determined, unlike during Doklam, to set a new status quo. “This time, the transgressions are of a different nature for two reasons. First, they intruded in Galwan, across an alignment of the LAC that was previously not disputed. Second, they are preventing Indians from patrolling up to our perception of the LAC at Finger 8 at Pangong Tso and have blocked us at Finger 4, which is their perception of the LAC. In both instances, this is a change of the status quo. Why now? Why not now? It was always in the cards post-Doklam.” Jacob agreed that the clashes reflected China’s desperation to implement the BRI. “China would do whatever it takes to implement the BRI successfully,” he said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In May, when scuffles started in Ladakh, the State Council told THE WEEK: “[The issue] is a nonstarter here. We are busy with parliament proceedings (Hong Kong-related legislation). Nobody cares and India plays it up too much.” Apparently, unlike during Doklam, Xi did not lay the groundwork for diplomatic dialogue this time. He left it to the military to resolve the matter. As a result, Modi’s Doklam team, led by National Security Adviser Ajit Doval, has been missing from the headlines. Li said the recent meetings at the joint secretary and military levels were a big sacrifice on China’s part. “Compromise means give and take,” he said. “No winner and loser. But India just overlooked the compromise we made.” The talks failed and clashes began. On June 16, India lost 20 soldiers; a week later China admitted that it had lost less than 20 soldiers.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>India had about 10,000 troops against China’s 7,000 in Ladakh. But China flew in 10,000 more from Wuhan before the corps commander-level talks on June 6. Indian Army sources said China even brought fighter planes to Xinjiang airstrips. “[It was] tragic and unfortunate. It was an unexpected loss of precious lives [on both sides],” said Li. He said India had broken the resolution agreed upon on June 6; it did not stop the construction of roads and tried to obstruct China miles away. “India should stop living in a dream on border issues,” he said. “China would never retreat 20km only to find India taking them all and edging forward.” “It was almost impossible for China to convince the Indian authorities and people about the intricacies of [the] border,” the State Council said to THE WEEK in a statement. “But we tried to do that impossible work thanks to our strong leadership. But India broke its word in the end.” The State Council alleged that a section of the Indian media had “instigated the government”. Calling the border situation “very dangerous”, it said, “We would like to see political and military leaders in India as well as the Indian media stop adding fuel to the fire. Both sides should strictly observe the political documents [agreed to] in the past on border tranquillity in letter and spirit.” Asked to comment on foreign ministry spokesperson Anurag Srivastava’s statement that China’s claim on the Galwan valley was untenable and exaggerated, Li said: “Mr Srivastava used similar terms like our side. But his LAC is not our LAC. His fruit might mean mango, but ours might mean apple. This kind of difference can only be solved through words and pens, instead of fists and stones.” A Chinese official alleged that the Indian soldiers had thrown the first punch in both Sikkim and Ladakh. “Seeing the brutality of the Indian force, we had to retaliate,” said the official. “It was unfortunate, but the instigation was clearly from the Indian side.” </p> <p>Ironically, India and China were planning to celebrate 70 years of their diplomatic relationship in 2020. Modi and Xi discussed it when they met last year and decided to choose a suitable time for the celebration. In fact, they planned to visit each other as a mark of gratitude. “The face-off is a slap to both leaders,” said Li. “It should have been avoided or [should] at least be resolved without further escalation. Otherwise, the 70th [anniversary] events would turn out to be useless and emotions on both sides [would be] damaged beyond [repair].” The recent clashes have also drawn attention to other parts of the India-China border, especially in Arunachal Pradesh, which China sees as part of South Tibet. Major General Ganguly said it was a matter of time before there was a flare-up on the eastern border.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“China is an expansionist force,” he said. “Look what it has done in the South China Sea. I am sure it would create a complex situation in Arunachal Pradesh. But I am sure the people of Arunachal Pradesh would checkmate it.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Only two dozen of 400 border transgressions in 2018 were in Arunachal Pradesh; the majority were on the northern border, said Army sources. So, is the Arunachal Pradesh issue settled? “No, I do not think so,” said Jacob. “Such transgressions and face-offs also happen in Arunachal. It is only a matter of time before something serious happens there, too.” Li said the boundary dispute was a colonial legacy; British India had annexed thousands of kilometres of Chinese territory. “Independent India happily inherited the map, invaded Tawang in 1950 and seized South Tibet,” he said. “The Johnson Line and others were only dreamed lines. The ground reality and historical reality were quite different. Aksai Chin was never under British India’s rule. The Indian people should know this. They should also know the internal report on the 1962 border war.” The report is classified in India, but sources said it talked about how India was politically “defeated by China”, which led to military backtracking. However, the situation has changed a lot in the past six decades and India has strengthened the Arunachal Pradesh border with huge military build-up. It has also influenced the people of Arunachal Pradesh culturally, trying to instil in them a feeling of Indianness. And perhaps China realises that Arunachal Pradesh is not a desert, like many parts in Ladakh, and it would be difficult to be similarly aggressive there. In fact, Li said, “For the Chinese, it would be better to accept the reality that it is almost impossible to take back each inch of its former territories, namely some parts of South Tibet.” However, by positioning itself in Ladakh firmly, China has challenged India’s position in South Asia. Even India’s friends, such as Bangladesh, could be left with no option but to accept the Belt and Road Initiative, even if they face the possibility of being debt-trapped. “At the moment, it does not look like the Chinese are going to withdraw from Pangong Tso,” said Jacob. “They have achieved what they wanted. They seem to think they have the strength to change the status quo and get away with it.” The Modi government would either have to retaliate on the border or defeat China diplomatically on the international stage. India has begun to consolidate the border with more troops, arms and ammunition, and fighter jets. Major General Ganguly, however, said, “India would have to [consider] all other avenues apart from military options. The entire world economy [has gone] haywire after Covid-19. The Chinese economy is not that hurt. A war would make things complex. India must think how, by aligning with world powers, it could cause major harm to the Chinese economy and further isolate it from the world.” Prime Minister Modi is at a crossroads. With Covid-19 spreading faster, experts said, it would be prudent not to choose military options. As for reaching out to other nations, some analysts felt Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has partnered with China for the BRI, could be a better option than US president Donald Trump, who is already in a verbal war with China. A Russian intervention could hold the Chinese army back with no further bloodshed. Modi, they said, was unlikely to cede an inch on the BRI in exchange for withdrawal of Chinese troops. Li finds India’s objections ridiculous. “China advocates the five principles of peaceful coexistence, good neighbourly relationships, [and] win-win cooperation. The top priority is to eradicate abject poverty and build a comparatively well-defined society (through BRI).” Modi would, of course, love to eradicate poverty, just not the Chinese way.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As David Chang, an industrialist in Shanghai, said, “From 2019 to 2020, within a mere eight months, the Sino-Indian relationship has gone from holding hands to fist fights. The Asian century, which is centred on cooperation between the two most populous countries, is now entering an unpleasant new normal.”</p> Fri Jun 26 11:54:03 IST 2020 red-hand-shows <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>China has been on an economic expansion spree for a while now. Its investments in deep-water ports and other infrastructure projects in Pakistan and Sri Lanka are well-known. While building assets outside its territory has contributed to an all-time high national debt, many in China see President Xi Jinping as an icon who is turning the country into a superpower.</p> <p>Xi’s handling of the Covid-19 crisis, despite it originating in China, was well-appreciated. He managed to restrict its impact on the economy, even as the country’s growth rate plummeted in the first quarter. But the growth rate does not worry Xi, as the resumption of economic activities will spur growth. What worries him is the job loss in different sectors and the fear of US firms exiting China. Xi decided to take on the US by introducing a stringent security law in Hong Kong, which is being opposed by its citizens and the west. Chinese intelligence claimed that the US, UK and Taiwan were involved in the widespread protests that shook Hong Kong recently. “It is nothing but colour revolution,” said Li Xiaojun, information director of the State Council, China’s highest administrative body. “The intention is to change the regime through staged protests like the Arab Spring and protests in central Asian countries. The umbrella movement in Hong Kong was one attempted colour revolution.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>While the US alleged that China was trying to undermine Hong Kong’s autonomy, Li asked whether the autonomy was to serve Washington’s interests more than China’s. “The rioters were brainwashed through problematic textbooks and teaching by the British, even after the handover,” said Li.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The US, said Li, has 1,300 companies in Hong Kong and enjoys more than $34 billion trade surplus with Hong Kong. He alleged that Taiwan and the US financed the protests in Hong Kong. “The US and Taiwan provide financial support through their various entities operating in Hong Kong,” he said. “The Netherlands and many US foundations and companies gave training to those brainwashed youngsters in Hong Kong.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>According to the State Council, some of these protesters were children of landlords and capitalists who had fled from mainland China after the communists came to power in 1949. “They were taught to hate anything connected with socialism and communism. The US and the UK did that along with Taiwan,” Li told THE WEEK. But China is trying hard to transform the Hong Kong society through its intelligence networks and large-scale social media intervention. It believes that a segment of the new generation in Hong Kong is pro-Beijing.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>While China has spelt out its plans for Hong Kong, it is tight-lipped about its silent intervention in Nepal, which recently issued a new map that “includes Indian territory”. The disputed territory is Kalapani, which is the tri-junction between India, Nepal and China. The tussle between India and Nepal came to a head when India inaugurated the 80km-long Lipulekh-Dharchula road in early May. While India said the road would help pilgrims reach Mansarovar quicker, China saw it as India’s move to bolster its military base near the border. A senior Indian defence ministry official told THE WEEK, “It is no secret that this emerging global power is unhappy with any infrastructure development along the borders and has often used direct or indirect methods to pressurise smaller nations to toe its line.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Many believe the difference of opinion between India and Nepal came to light because both countries are now ruled by nationalist parties. “It should be a matter of concern that this growing fissure in the once close relationship maybe exploited by a third nation,” said the defence official. “The current Nepalese ruling dispensation has always played up a theme of nationalism and India is its favourite whipping boy for obvious reasons. ”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But not everyone blames China for the dispute between India and Nepal. “Indians managed to complicate the relationship with Nepal with their own lack of sensitivity and unwillingness to acknowledge Nepalese concerns or to implement their promises in a timely manner,” said Jabin Thomas Jacob, professor of international relations at Shiv Nadar University. “This created openings for the Chinese, which they have exploited to the hilt.” A number of infrastructural projects that India failed to finish on time were taken up by China. Also, China has made inroads into Nepal through the trans-Himalayan project under its Belt and Road Initiative, selling the development dream to Nepal Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli and his people, including Indian-origin Madheshis.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>When THE WEEK contacted Oli’s office, his foreign policy adviser Rajan Bhattarai said that Oli does not want to make any comment. “This issue is very sensitive for Nepal government and the prime minister is busy implementing the policy of his government,” he said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Deputy Prime Minister Ishwar Pokhrel said he would get back at an appropriate moment. “We are totally busy with the Covid-19 situation,” said Pokhrel, who is also the defence minister.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The current dispute could severely damage Indo-Nepal defence ties. Would the two countries meet and talk, at least at the military level? “No meeting has been slated as of now,” said Santa Bahadur Sunar, spokesman, defence ministry, Nepal. “I can only say that India must learn to respect the sovereign rights of the Nepal government and our country’s integrity.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>China, however, denied any involvement in the Indo-Nepal dispute. “That is against one principle in Panchsheel agreement, namely non-interference in other country’s internal affairs,” said Li. “China still sticks to it. But India has long buried the Panchsheel, except for the Panchsheel Marg and historical files.”</p> Sat Jun 27 12:59:45 IST 2020 call-to-action <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>At first glance, the town of Leh seems peaceful, almost placid, till you begin hearing the roar of fighter jets racing through the clear blue skies. By the second day that we are there, their roar over the horizon has only gotten louder, breaking the silence every 15 minutes. The Apache helicopter, which can fire Hellfire missiles and destroy enemy tanks, is also in service. But other than that, what one can witness under an open sky is that the movement of the media has been severely restricted. Even the cantonment areas that make up the headquarters of the Army’s XIV Corps are off limits for cameras.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>While there are varying versions of exactly what happened in Galwan valley and what is still happening between Finger 4 and Finger 8 (the spurs around Pangong Tso Lake), there is one thing that almost everyone on the ground we speak to agrees on. The Chinese clearly try and play with the edges of the Line of Actual Control every year. This year, however, there has been a clear attempt to definitively alter its contours. In Galwan valley, multiple sources confirm that the Chinese had entered one kilometre below Patrolling Point 14 (PP 14) at what is called the ‘Y junction’. On the night of June 15, when Colonel B. Santosh Babu went with 19 of his men to oversee what he thought was going to be a withdrawal by the men of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), he was taken aback to find that the Chinese flatly refused to do so. The first time, the Indian side, which was roughly equal in number to the Chinese soldiers present, pinned six of them down and began dismantling the two tents the Chinese had erected. It is when the Chinese side returned with reinforcements and crude weapons two and half hours later that the crisis blew up. Nearly 300 PLA troops came down PP 14, wearing riot gear and armed with batons, rocks and wooden spurs with sharp nails. By now, we know that Colonel Babu was hit on the head with a blunt object and fell to his death 20 feet below. In the mayhem that followed, Indian soldiers fought with passion, despite being grossly outnumbered.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In Galwan valley, the Chinese may have retreated, arriving only one more time inside Indian territory the next morning to retrieve their fatalities—12 Chinese soldiers were killed in the brawl according to highly placed sources.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But the larger question remains wide open. Military commanders have had several rounds of negotiations. And clearly the hope is that dialogue could still do the trick. Any military retaliation would need the “wherewithal of war,” says Colonel Sonam Wangchuk, the “Lion of Ladakh”. He should know. In 1999, during the Kargil war, Wangchuk cleared a nest of Pakistanis from a mountain post 18,000 feet above sea level—it would later be called the Battle of Chorbat La.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Wangchuk explains that, because reports suggest that the Chinese have the advantage on the heights, “[removing China militarily from any area inside our territory] is no longer possible to do with small firearms. You would need artillery; in fact, you would need to use artillery as a direct firing instrument.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>His namesake—often confused with him, but actually the engineer-turned-educationist who inspired the movie 3 Idiots—says this ingress by the Chinese is only the latest reason to galvanise Indian public opinion. Wangchuk, whose role Aamir Khan essayed in the movie, says, “While the soldiers respond with a bullet, let citizens respond with their wallets. China is a rogue nation, ethically, politically and morally. The boycott should start now.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This, however, is easier said than done. At Leh’s Tibetan refugee bazaar, second-generation Tibetans, most of them born in India, say that when they first asked for an economic boycott of Chinese goods, their battle cry was considered a joke. No one supported them. They still soldiered on, but found that even when they made the effort to procure ‘Made in India’ goods, there were hardly any to be found. Literally every product had a Chinese link. This is how entrenched China’s infiltration into India’s markets is.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Not many believe that there are any immediate solutions in sight. If anything, the very real fear is that Pakistan, as a vassal state of Beijing, may trigger tensions on the Line of Control and heighten the conflagration there. If this happens, then for the first time in decades, both the LoC and the LAC will be hot; a deliberate ploy designed to stretch the attention of the Indian troops.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Notwithstanding the practical complications, there is enormous pressure on the ground on the Modi government to act. P. Kunzang, the president of the Ladakh Buddhist Association, says, “Prime Minister Modi must act with China as he did with Pakistan after Pulwama. If action is not taken, do not be surprised if one day the Chinese are sitting right here in Leh.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>That may sound like an exaggeration or an off-the-cuff remark. But across political affiliations in Ladakh (Kunzang is a Modi supporter), the demand is the same. Namgyal Durbuk, a villager from the border areas of Durbuk-Shyok, used to be a councillor with the Congress. But he insists that he is talking purely as a Ladakhi Indian when he says, “We are with you Mr Prime Minister, please act. Where our horses once went to pasture, we see the Chinese.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Given the absence of easy and viable options on the one hand and rising sentiments on the other, perhaps the government may choose to heed the former foreign secretary Nirupama Rao, who says, “Perhaps this is precisely the time to push for a permanent border solution.”</p> Sat Jun 27 12:43:29 IST 2020 uneasy-calm <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>The Chandigarh Air Force Station has been busy. The Indian Air Force’s heavy lift strategic aircraft—C-17 Globemaster and IL-76—have been busy ferrying tanks and other armour designated for forward areas in Ladakh. Military observers said that such urgent movement to Ladakh is a first since 1962. China, too, has pumped up its forces by at least 30 per cent since the clash on June 15,said a military observer.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, who went to Moscow to take part in the 75th Victory Day Parade, pressed his Russian counterpart General Sergei Shoigu for urgent supply of spares for Sukhoi Su-30MKI and MiG-29 fighters, T-90 main battle tanks and Kilo-class submarines. (More than 60 per cent of India’s weapon systems are of Russian origin.) The purchase of 21 MiG-29s and 12 Su-30MKIs is under consideration to fill gaps in India’s air combat capabilities.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Observers said the Chinese aggression in Galwan valley was the brainchild of General Zhao Zongqi, head of the People’s Liberation Army’s Western Theatre Command. Zhao, who had also planned the Doklam intrusion in 2017, is believed to have “planned the standoff” in the early months of 2020 and tasked units in the Xinjiang military district to take on Indian patrols on the northern bank of the Pangong Tso, and at Galwan, Hot Springs and Depsang Plains. Experts said that he chose Galwan valley to escalate as it was a “settled place” where Indian forces would not anticipate action, but was surprised by “mirror deployment” by India in eastern Ladakh.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Army has dispatched additional brigades to forward positions along the 826km-long front of the Line of Actual Control in Ladakh and beefed up firepower with the equipment that was flown in. It already had three armoured regiments in Ladakh. The Indo-Tibetan Border Police has deployed 40 additional companies along the LAC. The Army has also moved at least two peace-time divisions from Himachal Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh towards Ladakh, along with two engineer regiments. However, new troops would need to acclimatise to high-altitude warfare.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The IAF has deployed Su-30 MKIs, MiG-29s and Apache attack helicopters to carry out combat air patrol. Air Chief Marshal R.K.S. Bhadauria made a secret visit to Leh last week. Air assets were deployed after additional fighter jets, bombers and attack helicopters were noticed at four Chinese bases close to the LAC. Animal transport units, which played a crucial role in the Kargil War, have been reactivated to supply weapons and ammunition to areas without motorable roads, including remote outposts at heights of up to 19,000ft.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The PLA has an armoured division (three brigades) and two motorised infantry divisions close to Ladakh. An Indian official said China also has two armoured brigades and four motorised infantry divisions in Chengdu. After the Galwan valley clash, on the insistence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Army’s rules of engagement along the LAC were amended; field commanders can now sanction the use of firearms in “extraordinary” circumstances.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Frank O’Donnell, non-resident fellow, South Asia Program, Stimson Center, the US, said that India’s defence position was more secure with adequate dispersal across land, air and sea. He told THE WEEK that India also has more and better aircraft along the border, more experienced air crew, and a large number of airfields in the east and west. “So even if some airfields are down, operations can continue from other locations,” he said. O’Donnell said that in the event of war, China would opt for early long-range missile strikes against Indian air bases, but added that a daunting number of Chinese missiles would be required to incapacitate relevant Indian air bases.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Despite the strong preparations, Pangong Tso continues to be a concern for India. The lake is divided into eight fingers—ridges jutting into the lake. In the past, India had claimed territory till the easternmost ridge, Finger 8. But, gradually, both sides agreed on India controlling fingers one to four and China, five to eight. But India has its last post close to Finger 3. Lt Gen D.S. Hooda, former head of the Army’s Northern Command, said that in the last six weeks, when the focus was on Galwan valley, the PLA is learnt to have built permanent structures and roads up to the areas between Fingers 4 and 8. Intelligence inputs based on satellite images said that the PLA now holds the entire Finger 4, almost 5km inside Indian territory.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A build-up of Chinese forces can also be seen at Depsang Plains, north of Galwan valley. But O’Donnell said: “Despite the apparent numerical parity of ground forces, Indian forces are all permanently close to the border, limiting prospects of a successful Chinese cross-border advance.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>He said that even in a war with India, a significant proportion of Chinese ground forces would be unavailable, reserved either for taskings on the Russian border or for countering insurrection in Xinjiang and Tibet. Moreover, the majority of forces are located further from the Indian border, in contrast with the majority of forward-deployed Indian forces, which have a focused “China defence” mission.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>While the military is determined and prepared to tackle Chinese aggression, questions have been raised about intelligence failure in detecting the massive build-up of Chinese forces on the border sooner. A military intelligence officer said that India does not have enough dedicated military satellites. “To have round-the-clock coverage on the China border, especially in our areas of interest, we require at least 10 dedicated satellites,” he said. “Moreover, Indian satellites are controlled by NTRO (National Technical Research Organisation) and ISRO scientists, who do not understand military requirements.” An intelligence analyst claimed that India’s focus has always been on Pakistan; China was never a priority. It certainly is now.</p> Fri Jun 26 11:16:56 IST 2020 relationship-update <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>In the summer of 2015, Narendra Modi—on his first visit to China after he became prime minister—deviated from his script while addressing students of Tsinghua University to make a grand gesture offering e-visa to Chinese tourists. The gift was not on the list of 24 agreements, and security agencies had warned against it. It even caught Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi by surprise, and he urged students to cheer once again for Modi to thank him for the gift.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Five summers on, after 20 Indian soldiers were killed in a clash with the Chinese at Galwan Valley, Modi’s closing remarks at the all-party meeting offered China another advantage, claims the opposition. “No one has intruded and nor is anyone intruding, nor has any post been captured by someone,” he said, contradicting the official position of the Army and the ministry of external affairs. The statement, said former prime minister Manmohan Singh, allows the Chinese “to use his words as a vindication of their position”.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Prime Minister’s Office rushed to clarify Modi’s statement a day later, claiming that his observation of “no Chinese presence on our side of the LAC pertained to the situation as a consequence of the bravery of our armed forces”. However, the confusion has only helped bolster the Chinese confidence and their claims.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“This has been an absolutely shocking coup of sorts by China,” says Alka Acharya, professor, Centre for East Asian Studies, School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University. “They are unlikely to retreat from the territory they now occupy. It is a crucial part of the overall strategic advantage for China in that area. It remains to be seen what kind of a spin will be given to make it more palatable for India.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Both sides may be now willing to de-escalate—another word that experts believe suggests that India is on the back foot. But the negotiations for peace at Galwan Valley, the bloodiest episode since 1967, and the fallout on the relationship presents the biggest challenge for Modi. It could not have come at a worse time—there is the war against a pandemic and a looming economic crisis.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Unlike his predecessors, Modi came to power convinced of furthering warmer ties with China. He wanted to move beyond 1962 to define India and China through an economic prism, courtesy his experience as chief minister. The e-visa was his attempt to demonstrate India’s closeness with China. All the imagery with Xi Jinping, from Modi’s first visit to China to Xi’s 2019 visit to Mamallapuram, has been proof of personal chemistry and a special bond.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“The policy has been a failure,” says Rajesh Rajagopalan, professor, Centre for International Politics, Organization and Disarmament, School of International Studies, JNU, referring to the personalisation of the relationship. “It was foolish, and he [Modi] is partly paying the price for that. I don’t see, diplomatically, where he goes from here. But at the same time, he can’t completely afford to break with China.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The face-off at Doklam in 2017 might have exposed China’s intentions, but the Galwan Valley incident has revealed the full force of China’s ambition. “New Delhi is under tremendous pressure to retaliate for the 20 Indian soldiers that lost their lives, and a nationalist like Modi could suffer a political blow if he just shrugs everything off. But at the same time, India is in a tough spot,” said Michael Kugelman, deputy director of the Asia Program and senior associate for South Asia at the Wilson Center. “It has relatively few military options, and any punitive economic measures it implements against Beijing could end up hurting India’s economy more than China’s.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>For now, India can take a tough line in negotiations, says Kugelman. “Beijing won’t back down either. So what we are looking at in the coming days and possibly weeks are continued talks, but talks that don’t lead to a resolution,” Kugelman says. “And the longer the talks go without a resolution, the more the chances increase for more provocations and escalations. So the two sides are far from being out of the woods. And even when they get out of the woods, the next crisis won’t be far away.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This then lies at the heart of the problem. And, the border dispute, which had remained dormant for years, is at the front, centre and looming. That the Line of Actual Control has had different interpretations for both sides is now evident. As are the implications of living with the fuzziness. “Even if China agrees and restores status quo ante, one thing is now clear—the old agreements are no longer enough to restore peace and tranquillity on the border,” says Rakesh Sood, distinguished fellow at the Observer Research Foundation. “The 1988 modus vivendi [when Rajiv Gandhi visited China] is no longer tenable.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The existing tools in the diplomatic toolbox do not work. And summits, even formal ones, will not work. A win—with all the optics that Modi is known for—will require Houdini-like skill. Continuation of the policy towards China as it exists will not be effective. “The Indian government needs to start afresh in terms of how it visualises its relationship with China in the coming decades,” says Sood. “It has to create a new policy consensus by taking people into confidence.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Reaching out across the aisle for support is not Modi’s strength. Will he be willing to do it? To make it truly effective, India might need to re-evaluate its relationship with its neighbours. “The economic boycott of China will be only feasible if it is in concert with others,” says Rajagopalan. And in building consensus outside—much easier for Modi than domestic unity—India may need to reach out even to Pakistan. “By rejecting any semblance of a dialogue, we have reduced leverage,” says Sood. “Is it strategically wise to have a Pakistan-China dynamic? We should not be deluded that we would somehow wean Pakistan off China. But diplomacy is about creating perception.”</p> Fri Jun 26 11:14:38 IST 2020 enemies-with-benefits <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Uddhav Thackeray did not have any inkling of what was to unfold when he logged onto an online meeting on June 15. The Maharashtra chief minister presided over the signing of deals with three Chinese firms—Great Wall Motor Company, Hengli Engineering and PMI Electro Mobility Solutions’ joint venture with Photon. The three agreements totalling around Rs5,000 crore of investment were part of Thackeray’s ambitious plan to reinvigorate the state’s Covid-19-ravaged economy. In a few hours, however, everything changed.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As the brutal killing of 20 Indian Army men in a skirmish in Galwan valley on the India-China Line of Actual Control (LAC) sent shockwaves across the country, popular sentiment rose up against Chinese products and businesses. Calls to boycott Chinese products began trending on social media and protest marches were taken out in many cities.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Some people in Gujarat threw out their made-in-China televisions and stomped on them, while traders in Delhi made a ‘Holi’ bonfire of Chinese products. The Uttar Pradesh government had to deploy policemen outside the factories of Chinese firms in Greater Noida and an apartment complex where some 100 Chinese nationals live. Chinese phone makers in India suddenly started highlighting their ‘Indian’ credentials, and startups with Chinese funding started referring to themselves as “proudly Indian”. In the frenzy, Thackeray’s dream projects did not stand a chance, and were put on hold.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Centre also wasted no time. One of the first deals to be axed was the Indian Railways’ Rs471-crore signalling work on the Kanpur-DDU line awarded to Beijing National Railway Research. State-run telecom operators BSNL and MTNL were asked to drop Chinese vendors. E-commerce bidders have been asked to specify ‘country of origin’ while listing on the commerce ministry’s e-marketplace, with the provision likely to be extended to e-commerce sites like Amazon and Flipkart.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>India had already fired the first shot back in April, when it stopped the automatic foreign direct investment (FDI) route for investment from neighbouring countries. The worry then was that Chinese investors may take over Indian firms weakened by the pandemic. It was followed in May by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call for ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ and ‘Vocal For Local’, which actually meant ‘stop depending on China and build self-reliance in manufacturing’.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Post Galwan, the gloves are off. New Delhi’s move, riding on the coattails of the backlash on the streets and in drawing rooms against China’s ‘aggression’, may no longer limit itself to piecemeal gestures. The department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) has asked industry bodies to submit lists of Chinese imports by Indian companies—the aim is to chart out an action plan to replace non-essential imports with local products where possible. Rules for government contracts, both Central and state, are also set to be tweaked based on quality and technical specifications so that Chinese companies do not become eligible. Further tightening of FDI rules to keep out future Chinese investments now appear likely. There is now an added urgency to take a re-look at India’s Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) with countries like Thailand and Vietnam to plug the loophole of Chinese products taking this ‘third party’ route to enter India.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Economic boycott has been used effectively by this government recently in the cases of Malaysia and Turkey. In both these cases, India had an upper hand,” said Divakar Vijayasarathy, managing partner of the business advisory firm DVS. But he advocates caution with China. “India is dependent on China for many critical supplies. Any large-scale attempt to boycott Chinese products would invite an export restriction of these critical products. Hence, economic warfare has to be meticulously planned and we should be prepared for a backlash.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Breakups are never easy. According to Invest India, the national investment promotion and facilitation agency, India-China trade, which was worth just $2.8 billion in 2001, has grown 31 times to $87 billion in 2018-19. While India’s exports to China have grown 12 times to $16.8 billion during this period, imports from China have jumped 45 times, to $70.3 billion.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>China is well entrenched in India’s startup and technology ecosystem. In fact, Chinese tech giants and venture capital funds are the primarily vehicle for investments in tech startups. Over the past five years, companies like Alibaba, Tencent, Didi Chuxing and Fosun International have invested an estimated $4 billion in Indian startups. Of the 30 Indian unicorns (startups valued at $1 billion or more), 18 are Chinese funded. Marquee names like Paytm, Oyo, MakeMyTrip, Delhivery and Byju’s have received funding from China.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A bigger presence are the many Chinese apps with huge followers in India. It is estimated that half of top app downloads (iOS and Android combined) in India in 2018 were those with Chinese investments, such as UC Browser, SHAREit, TikTok, and Vigo Video.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The thriving Indian pharmaceutical industry is heavily dependent on critical components from China. Over the past three years, 68 per cent of the active pharmaceutical ingredients (API) used in medicines in India were imported from China. These API supplies were hit hard as Chinese factories were forced to shut down by the Covid-19 pandemic in January and February. If the imports of API from China were to be crippled, it would have a huge impact on the $40 billion pharma industry, which is one of India’s largest exporters. “If China is taken off the equation immediately, the supply chain would be severely affected, with closures for a long time,” said Debabrata Chakravorty, president (global supply chain, sourcing &amp; contract manufacturing) of the pharma major Lupin. “There are limited immediate alternatives globally, even at a higher cost.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is a similar case with the automobile industry. According to credit ratings agency ICRA, China accounts for 27 per cent of India’s auto component imports. India also imported capital goods worth around $12.78 billion and electronics worth $18 billion from China from March 2019 to February 2020.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“There is a trade relationship that has developed over the last 20-40 years between China and the rest of the world,” said Amit Bhandari, a fellow at geopolitical think tank Gateway House. “If something has developed over such a long period, you cannot unwind it in one week, two weeks or even a year. It is a long-term process.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Chinese companies have cumulatively invested more than 06 lakh crore in India, spawning 1.87 lakh jobs in the last two decades or so. They have been scaling up in recent years on the value chain. Besides telecom and software, Chinese companies in sunrise sectors like electric vehicles and renewable energy have been setting up major projects in India.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Almost half of the consumer durables imported into India are Chinese. About 40 per cent of leather products come from China. While that shirt or trouser you are wearing may be made in India or Bangladesh, chances are that the buttons and zippers came from China.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The reason everywhere is the same. The cost. For instance, half of the smart TVs in India are Chinese. The alternatives, those from Japan or Korea, could cost 20 to 45 per cent more. The pandemic also, ironically, helped the Chinese cause. “It has reduced the purchasing power of the Indian public as they have less money in hand,” said Anusree Paul, trade economist &amp; associate professor, School of Management, BML Munjal University. “Indian companies are not equipped to substitute China’s cheaper products.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Everyone, however, agrees that India should focus on developing the domestic industry, which would help it naturally compete. “Currently, 40 per cent of India’s imports are products like electronic items and medical instruments. And almost 50 per cent of imports from China are either in capital goods or intermediary goods, which form crucial supplies to the domestic industry. What can be done is to reduce low-grade imports from China and produce such items domestically,” said Mohit Singla, chairman of the Trade Promotion Council of India.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Indian brands account for just one per cent of the booming domestic mobile phone market. “A person does not go to the market and look for products made in China. Instead, he looks for high quality products that are affordable. Chinese products have cracked that equation,” said brand expert Harish Bijoor.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>That is why consumers giving up Chinese products en masse is an unlikely scenario. “Chinese products are value-for-money and they have made their mark in India,” said Prachir Singh, senior research analyst with the telecom consultancy Counterpoint Research. He does not see much merit in the campaign against Chinese companies. “Components from China and other parts of the world are assembled in Indian factories that employ thousands of Indians to bring out a Chinese brand mobile phone. How can you label it Chinese in this globalised environment? Like it or not, they are delivering value to the Indian GDP as well,” he said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Let alone its logicality in a post-global world, any attempt by the Indian tiger to leap out of the dragon’s chokehold may not be practical or sensible. “India still does not have adequate infrastructure and alternative investment prospects to substitute China,” said Paul. “So India is going to be affected more if it takes any stringent decision based on the present bellicose sentiments.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>So, what is the way out?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Sankar Chakraborti, CEO of Acuite Ratings, said India could afford to reduce the dependency on China in a phased manner. “We believe that Indian industry has the wherewithal to safeguard its interests,” he said. According to Acuite, without any significant additional investments, the domestic manufacturing sector can substitute 25 per cent of the total imports from some specified sectors in the first phase, thereby reducing $8.4 billion in trade deficit in a year. “With a strategic intent and highly calibrated approach from both the government and industry, the Indian economy can see a new narrative that can not only reduce its trade deficit but also kickstart a cycle of fresh private sector investments,” said Chakraborti.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The government seems to have a plan. Prime Minister Modi met key ministers like Piyush Goyal and Nitin Gadkari a week ago along with officials. Presentations were made on how to improve India’s ease of doing business and ramp up manufacturing and exports. An interesting idea that gained traction was making states compete with each other to attract investment.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Another meeting of ministers with industry captains took inputs on how to reduce turnaround time at ports and how infrastructure can be improved in the countryside, a crucial determinant in making India an attractive hub for manufacturing. Among the non-fiscal measures being discussed are labour, ease of doing business and coordinating the efforts of the Centre and states in a bid to attract more investment. The writing on the wall for the Indian tiger is clear—crouch, crawl and create your own space in the long run, but it will be hard to ignore the dragon in the room right now.</p> Fri Jun 26 11:13:17 IST 2020 india-should-meet-china-halfway-on-bri <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>The One Belt One Road Center, created in 2013 by President Xi Jinping, not only works to mould global opinion in favour of the Belt and Road Initiative, but also carries out scientific research on its implementation across the world. Xu Wenhong, its deputy secretary general, has travelled the world in this regard and advises Jinping and the Chinese State Council on BRI projects. In an interview with THE WEEK, Wenhong talked about the BRI, India’s absence from it, and how India’s fear about the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor was unfounded. Excerpts:</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ How much progress has the BRI made?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ Till now, within the framework of the BRI, China has signed cooperation documents with more than 170 countries and more than 30 international organisations. The BRI and its core concepts have been included in important outcome documents of the UN General Assembly, the UN Security Council, the G20, APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation), ASEM (Asia-Europe Meeting), the SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organisation), etc. This means the BRI is [transforming] from China’s economic development initiative into a prescription to revive the world economy.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ India sees the BRI as a strategic initiative rather than a commercial one. How does China see India’s objection to the BRI?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ Every country has its own assessment, no matter how many times China tries to explain it. Only the results of the BRI will prove it (China’s intentions). [Even] after so many years, if the Indian government still cannot understand the key points of the BRI, I would say the only thing the Chinese government can do is encourage the Indian government to meet it halfway. We would also suggest that the Indian side correctly view and understand China’s development trend.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ Is it possible that the BRI might influence the foreign policy of other nations?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ The original [aim] of the BRI is to unite all countries to contribute to regional economic development. If you say that the BRI has influenced the foreign policy of different nations, [so be it].</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ How much progress has the BRI made in India’s neighbouring countries?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ Till now, BRI-related projects in countries like Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Bhutan are going well. All parties are satisfied with the current situation. Future progress of the BRI depends on their real needs, the friendship between these countries and China, and the real capabilities of both sides.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>We hope that China and India join hands with these countries to build a real Shangri-La along the foothills of the Himalayas.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ You have said that China is working in Bhutan. But did it not halt making roads there following the Doklam standoff with India?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ We believe in the wisdom and capabilities of diplomats on both sides to settle it (Doklam issue) peacefully. To dominate other countries is not the Chinese way. We have [done] nothing to dominate Bhutan. But, to eliminate poverty there, on the request of the local people, we might provide some help in infrastructure construction.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As the Chinese saying goes, ‘If you want to be rich, first build the road to be rich.’ So, infrastructure (roads, bridges) and connectivity are the top priorities of the BRI. China has some infrastructure projects in Bhutan and other countries, but [those are] just for economic development, not for [any] geopolitical purpose.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ India has objected to the BRI, and within it the CPEC and the Trans-Himalayan economic corridor, perhaps because of strategic interests.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ India has been a very important neighbour to China for thousands of years. More communication should [happen] between these two countries. China has repeatedly explained to India through various channels that the CPEC emphasises transport connectivity and economic cooperation; no sovereignty disputes and political considerations are involved. According to the Chinese mindset, poverty is the breeding ground for terrorism. The construction of the CPEC will solve the problem of terrorism in Pakistan, which is also conducive to [strengthening] India’s national security. The BRI [does not mean] an exclusion of India. There is the BCIM (Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar) economic corridor just for connecting India and China.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ China has made significant progress in building infrastructure in Nepal. How do you see that affecting the India-China relationship?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ China is a peace-loving nation and wants to be a good neighbour, good friend and good partner to all its neighbouring countries. China is willing to be of help as its capability allows [it to do so].</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ How could India benefit from the BRI? Can India be a joint partner in this initiative? India has Japan as an infrastructure development partner, and the latter might not like India working with China.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ The BRI originated in China, but it benefits the whole world. China is willing to have a fruitful dialogue with India. It is said in the China-India joint declaration released after Prime Minister Modi’s visit to Wuhan that both sides welcome cooperation within the framework of the BCIM economic corridor, which will provide more opportunities to India. There is huge room for cooperation between the BRI of China and Project Mausam of India. It is not what some speculators call as opposing or even controlling each other. Within the framework of SCO, BRICS, China-India-Russia mechanism, etc, both sides should know how to abandon the Cold War mindset of a zero-sum game. By connecting the two major ocean plans and connecting the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean, [India and China can] jointly promote peace, development and prosperity in the Asia Pacific region.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ So, like Japan, can India also join the BRI through third-party market cooperation?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ Yes, of course. We hope India will do that.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ Can you explain how third-party market cooperation works?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ Take, for example, Nippon Express, which is a Japanese global logistics company. It recently began using the China-Europe express to provide intermodal transport services between Japan and Europe. The China-Europe express passes through BRI countries, which, according to Japanese entrepreneurs, could play a positive role in the march of Japanese enterprises into Central Asia, Russia and Europe.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Also, there are precedents for China and other countries to jointly develop markets in third countries. For example, China and France have jointly built nuclear power projects in Hinkley Point, in the UK, and China and the United States have jointly developed bauxite resources in Guinea.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ The US has been criticising China as if there is another Cold War. We are also witnessing a global pandemic. Do you feel the BRI would face roadblocks in the days ahead?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ Yes, China-US relations are facing a hard time. But, whether it deserves to be described as a cold war, we will have to wait and see. China-US relations are a vital part of current international relations.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In the backdrop of the coronavirus, not only will the BRI not face roadblocks, but [its] necessity will also be demonstrated.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ How do you counter the argument that countries could fall into a debt trap while supporting the BRI?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ The so-called BRI-related debt trap is a western media illusion. When you say BRI-related debt trap, it means that you undervalue the wisdom of those who are cooperating with the Chinese. Almost all BRI-related projects are located in African, South Asian, Central Asian and Latin American countries, where western capital is reluctant to get involved. Those countries either cannot get financial support from western financial institutions [or] get loans at very high rates. Compared with [this], BRI-related projects are usually the [cheapest]. [Only] those who have had a bite can tell you the taste of the peach. If such a cooperation can be sustainable, it means that such a trap is a sweet one; the local people like it.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Sat Jun 27 13:40:47 IST 2020 how-to-tame-the-dragon <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p><i>For want of a nail the shoe was lost,</i></p> <p><i>For want of a shoe the horse was lost,</i></p> <p><i>For want of a horse the knight was lost,</i></p> <p><i>For want of a knight the battle was lost,</i></p> <p><i>For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.</i></p> <p><i>So a kingdom was lost—all for want of a nail.</i></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The ancient rhyme rings true in South Block today. For want of a phone, 20 precious lives were lost.</p> <p>For seven years, Indian and Chinese diplomats had been arguing over where to place a phone. Late last year they found a spot, but the ‘instrument’ has not yet been connected. It “is on the cards”, is what we heard last, in January, from Army chief General M.M. Naravane.</p> <p>It is not an ordinary telephone, but a hotline between the armies of India and China. Had it been in place, perhaps the current military standoff in Ladakh could have been averted and the lives of 20-odd brave troopers of 16 Bihar, including its commander Colonel B. Santosh Babu, could have been saved.</p> <p>The idea of a hotline, like the one between the military operations directorates of India and Pakistan, was agreed upon in the Sino-Indian border defence cooperation agreement of 2013, and reiterated during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Beijing visit in 2015. The Delhi-Islamabad line worked every Tuesday and on emergencies, and has averted several military mishaps on the line of control. However, the two sides could not decide where to place the China end. India wanted the line to run between the director general of military operations (DGMO) at the Army headquarters in Delhi and his counterpart in Beijing. But China wanted its end to be in Chengdu, at the headquarters of the People’s Liberation Army’s newly-formed western military command which looks after the entire border with India. Finally, India gave in. But before it could be installed, the Chinese moved into the Pangong lakeside and the Galwan valley in eastern Ladakh, with a never-before-made claim that the valley was theirs.</p> <p>Now, many wonder whether hotline calls would be enough to sort out standoffs with the PLA, which has suddenly turned violent after four and half decades. “This changes the nature of the line of actual control [LAC] and the India-China relationship significantly,” said Jabin Jacob, associate professor of international relations, Shiv Nadar University. “For many years, Indian officials tried to downplay the seriousness of growing tensions along the LAC, saying there were protocols and agreements in place, and that there had been no casualties since 1975. The protocols were written at a time when infrastructure and technology were not as advanced as they are today.”</p> <p>That China is no longer going by old protocols became clear on the evening of Monday, June 15, at Patrolling Point 14 in Galwan valley where Colonel Santosh Babu and his men were waiting, unarmed as per negotiated protocol, to ensure compliance of an agreement by which troops would disengage from patrolling points 14, 15 and 17 in Galwan valley and from Chushul and the north bank of Pangong lake. The Chinese troops in Galwan valley were to fall back 5km to the east, according to the disengagement plan agreed on June 6 between Lieutenant General Harinder Singh, commander of India’s Leh-based XIV Corps, and Major General Lin Liu, commander of China’s Xinjiang military district, at Chushul-Mondo border personnel meeting point. Around dusk, a group of Chinese soldiers armed with iron rods and construction tools (which they had brought for building structures in the intruded area) suddenly attacked Babu and his two aides who were standing at the front. As colleagues jumped to their rescue, they too were attacked, and soon it was a free-for-all. The brawl went on till midnight.</p> <p>But, why did the formations in the rear not send reinforcements? “Our posts were on the other side of the stream, and they were unaware of what was happening,” said an officer. “Even if they knew, it would have taken some time for them to cross the stream and reach the spot. On the other hand, the Chinese just have to roll down their troops. So, it was like an ambush.”</p> <p>The initial reports suggested that 20 were killed—some in the scuffle, a few by hypothermia, and a few fell off the cliff. Their bodies were recovered downstream from the Shyok river, into which the Galwan stream flows. The injured could be taken to the 303 Field Hospital in Tangtse and the Army Hospital in Leh only by morning.</p> <p>Many in the Army headquarters now feel that senior officers in the defence and external affairs ministries should have overseen the disengagement plans, instead of leaving things to the on-scene commanders, especially since the Chinese had shown signs of violence even earlier. On May 5, the commanding officer of 11 Mahar was badly beaten up during a skirmish.</p> <p>The Chinese have been making the intrusions unarmed. The pattern had been to send unarmed building parties into Indian territory or disputed territory and set up tents and other infrastructure. These intrusions were all supported by heavily armed formations which would be positioned on Chinese territory, but within clear view of the Indian formations and posts. Thus, the Chinese had moved a brigade-size force close to the LAC. India’s response had been to protest the intrusions and deploy forces mirroring the Chinese formations.</p> <p>Intelligence analysts believe that India’s handling of the situation was far from coordinated. From the beginning, there was very little involvement of the foreign office. When two major-general level and eight rounds of lower-level meetings failed to defuse the tension, India asked for talks at corps commander level, which was unprecedented. The five-hour meeting, held on June 6 between Lt Gen Harinder Singh and Maj Gen Lin Liu, led to an understanding that both sides would de-induct forces from Patrolling Point 14 in Galwan valley to Patrolling Point 17, along with gradual de-escalation in depth areas. However, there was no conclusion to the talks over the Pangong lake intrusion, and, therefore, another corps commanders meeting was being planned when all hell broke loose in Galwan valley.</p> <p>Senior Army officials say that while the LAC is neither delineated nor demarcated, the local formation commanders are clear about the ground alignment. “Our troops, wherever deployed, dominate each bit of it by patrolling and aerial surveillance,” said an officer at the headquarters who had served on the LAC. “Of course there are challenges of weather and terrain. We also have a reasonably good idea where Chinese perception of LAC runs on ground because we all observe them patrolling up to certain areas. This mutual understanding about LAC alignment on ground coupled with respect for protocols and agreements of 1993, 1996, 2005, 2012 and 2013 enabled peace and tranquillity so far.”</p> <p>But the problem is that, as Jacob pointed out, “the subsequent updates to these protocols also predate the current phase of aggressive Chinese nationalism and assertiveness under Xi Jinping”. In fact, Xi’s China is not just reiterating old claims over territory, but also making new claims. What surprised India was that China had never made a political claim over Galwan, though it had coveted it militarily. Realising that it could dominate the entire neighbourhood from atop the hills around the valley, the Army occupied them in 1961. In the 1962 war, the Chinese dislodged the Indians, but unilaterally retreated after the war, realising that they could not maintain the post. India had reoccupied the heights and the valley but had been finding it hard to maintain them.</p> <p>The completion of the road from Durbuk to Daulat Beg Oldie (near the LAC) and the building of a bridge across the Shyok have now changed the tactical picture. India can now maintain the Galwan heights and the neighbourhood of the LAC easily, by sending military supplies up the road. China worries that a well-supplied Indian Army may next be tempted to roll into Aksai Chin over which India has a claim.</p> <p>Indeed, South Block had always known that building of the border roads and bridges would unnerve China. As External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar, then as foreign secretary, told a parliamentary standing committee in October 2017, “as we build our border infrastructure, there will be a little bit of action-reaction where they are concerned”.</p> <p>The scrapping of Article 370 of the Constitution and the reiteration of India’s claims made by politicians in Parliament over the Chinese-held Aksai Chin and the Pakistan-held regions of Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan also are believed to have provoked China into military action. As much was clear from the tweet made by Wang Xianfeng, the press officer in the Chinese embassy in Islamabad: “India’s actions of unilaterally changing the status quo of Kashmir and continuing to exacerbate regional tensions have posed a challenge to the sovereignty of China and Pakistan and made the India-Pakistan relations and China-India relations more complex.” The tweet was later deleted. All the same, as an Indian diplomat admitted, “the cumulative effect is that now China, too, has been drawn into the Kashmir dispute”.</p> <p>As much is clear also from the Chinese move to bring in a new political factor into the LAC situation. It has now, for the first time, made a political claim over the Galwan valley, which it had occupied only for military purposes in 1962 and subsequently vacated. But in the May 5 intrusion, the PLA crossed its own claim line and made a political claim over territory up to the Galwan-Shyok confluence.</p> <p>Now what? Naturally, the largest loss of life on the China frontier in half a century has put a question mark on whether India has the capability and the will. Comparisons will be made with Indira Gandhi’s robust response to the intrusion in Nathu La in 1967. “The response shattered the myth of Chinese invincibility,” said an officer. “We didn’t concede an inch then, and also gave them a bloody nose.” Then there was the Sumdorong Chu incident during Rajiv Gandhi’s reign when India showed signs of aggression and nearly went to war. The show of force led to Rajiv being invited to Beijing and the famous minute-long handshake with Deng Xiaoping.</p> <p>Modi will have to live up not only to his combative reputation, but also to his two predecessors who had called the Chinese bluff even when they were militarily weaker. Right now, there is absolute caution reigning in the political circles. Unlike in the case of any incident involving Pakistan, which leads to political leaders and ministry spokesmen getting competitively outraged, there has been complete silence from the establishment. Finally, at a video meeting with chief ministers to discuss the Covid-19 situation, Modi assured “the nation that the sacrifice of our jawans will not be in vain,” and then called for an all-party meeting, which was another rare move on his part.</p> <p>Lt Gen D.S. Hooda, former northern Army commander who supervised the 2016 surgical strike against Pakistan, however, ruled out similar action against China. “It can’t be something off the table,” he said. “We also must have plans to enter in some of their territory. We have the capability to strike.”</p> <p>The recent accretions to the battle order, especially with the induction of tanks and armoured fighting vehicles, are signs of the Army’s enhanced self-confidence to hold against China in Ladakh where it had a disadvantage till recently. There are now three infantry brigades in eastern Ladakh, and a mechanised infantry battalion (equipped with armoured vehicles) and an armoured brigade with more than 100 recently inducted tanks. Since most machines behave oddly in the cold heights where air is thinner, new firing drills and protocols have been evolved and were proven in the exercises last September-October. The capability was announced, rather boldly, with the release of photos of the then northern Army commander Lt Gen Ranbir Singh sitting atop a T-90 tank and watching the exercises.</p> <p>All the same, currently the attempt on the border is to defuse the situation. With passions running high in the battalions that were involved in the clash, they are “likely to be replaced so as to prevent any untoward actions,” said an officer. Though the opposition has been restrained, public anger could be simmering. “Public tempers can complicate matters for policy makers,” said Harsh Pant, head of Observer Research Foundation’s strategic studies programme, explaining why India should try for a “de-escalation quickly”.</p> <p>However, the loss of life would remain a slap on the Modi government’s face unless it is avenged, especially since the Army has been contending that it has the capacity to stand up to the Chinese. “The Indian Army is not a pushover,” said Lt Gen Anil Ahuja, who had commanded the 5 Mountain Division in Tawang and the 4 Corps which holds against China. “On the nearly 4,000km long boundary with China, there are places where we can give them a befitting response. Letting China off the hook this time would contribute to upsetting the regional balance of power perception.”</p> <p>Coupled with that is the perception that India’s neighbourhood policy is in a shambles. With even puny Nepal, which had been beholden to India for two centuries since the Anglo-Gorkha wars of the early 19th century, cocking a cartographic snook, perhaps it is time to follow what Teddy Roosevelt said a century ago: “Speak softly and carry a big stick.”</p> <p><b>With Mandira Nayar and Namrata Biji Ahuja</b></p> Thu Jun 18 16:05:20 IST 2020 road-to-normalcy <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>On June 13, Nepal’s parliament amended its constitution and ratified a new map of the country, which shows around 335sqkm of Indian territory as being part of Nepal. The bold bill was passed nearly unanimously, and it brought together parties as divergent as the ruling communists, the opposition Congress, and groups representing the Mhadesi community.</p> <p>The legislation was a knee-jerk reaction to India opening a new road to Kailash Mansarovar through the Kalapani valley, a region whose ownership has for long been a matter of dispute between the two neighbours.</p> <p>Certain recent events may also have spurred Nepal into action. Last November, India released its new map after the abrogation of Article 370. While the map did not alter international boundaries, China objected to designating Ladakh as a Union territory. It said there were disputes between the two countries in the region, and that India’s move affected China’s sovereignty. Nepal, too, objected to showing the Kalapani valley as Indian territory. It sent three notes last year to the Indian ambassador in Kathmandu and the government of India, proposing foreign secretary-level talks to resolve issues.</p> <p>The matter went to the backburner as Covid-19 became a pandemic. The road inauguration in March, however, changed the situation. The haste with which Nepal drew up and ratified the new map has raised eyebrows. “Nepal raises the border issue usually when it wants to create an anti-India sentiment to divert public attention from [domestic] political troubles. It doesn’t raise the issue during prime minister-level talks,” said Ranjit Rae, former Indian ambassador to Kathmandu.</p> <p>Sarita Giri, a member of parliament who opposed the new map saying it was not supported by historical evidence, is now facing expulsion from the Samajbadi Party. Nepal itself has decided to set up a committee of experts to collect historical proof to bolster its claim.</p> <p>India, though, is confident of the legality of its claim. An 1870 treaty recognised the region as Indian territory. Staking a claim on it after 150 years is absurd, says India.</p> <p>The increasing Chinese influence in Kathmandu, however, complicates matters. Unlike previous communist leaders in Nepal, Prime Minister K.P.S. Oli makes no bones about his affinity with China. Also, Hou Yanqi, Beijing’s envoy to Kathmandu, is a popular fixture in the city’s social circuit, and she engages with leaders across the political spectrum.</p> <p>India says it had agreed to foreign secretary-level talks even before the new map was tabled, and that Oli did not share this information with the parliament because of his rush to legislate at any cost. “This is not true,” says Bishnu Rijal, deputy chief of foreign affairs of the Nepal Communist Party. “India has been repeatedly hurting our sentiments. The allegation that China is behind our act is another insult. India should know better about the spirit of nationalism. When Narendra Modi ordered the Balakot strikes, Rahul Gandhi lauded it. For us, the map is a matter of nationalism.”</p> <p>Nepalese leaders point out that China is actually pro-India on the Kalapani issue, since the two had agreed to a trade route through the region, ignoring Nepal’s claims. The recent killing of an Indian citizen on the border near Sitamarhi in Bihar signals an emboldened Nepal. The killing was a lockdown violation issue that got out of hand, but it came at a difficult time. Nepal is now setting up 500 armed posts along the border, which is famed for its openness.</p> <p>Oli continues to make anti-India remarks, mocking India’s national emblem and accusing it of exporting the coronavirus. But not everyone in Nepal is buying his rhetoric. “Many of us hadn’t even heard of the Kalapani region,” said S. Dahal (name changed), who works for an international start-up in Kathmandu. “If the government were so keen on the area, why haven’t they invested in its development all these years?”</p> <p>India says it is waiting for Nepal to create an atmosphere conducive for talks. But Oli may well have tied himself in knots. “Getting the constitution amended to include territory is easy,” said Rae. “But will any leader be able to pass an amendment to restore it to the previous position? This is going to be a constant irritant in bilateral engagement.”</p> <p>Nepal insists that the map is an “internal matter”. “Since our national emblem has the map of the country, we needed to amend the constitution to include the redrawn map.” said Rijal. “This should not come in the way of talks with India.”</p> <p>India says it will continue its development work, which includes rebuilding posts destroyed in the 2015 earthquake. India has already given 04.5 crore to Nepal to battle Covid-19, and is willing to give more.</p> <p>With its ties with China deteriorating, India will have to rethink its engagement with Nepal. New Delhi looks upon Nepal as a small, friendly country. Nepal looks at India as a giant that might swallow it whole. Yet, it does not consider China to be a threat.</p> <p>It does not help India’s cause that the triumvirate of Prime Minister Modi, Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar and National Security Adviser Ajit Doval is unpopular in Kathmandu. On the other hand, China is keen to see Oli, a master at playing the ultranationalist card against India, complete his term, which ends in 2023. To counter China’s influence in Nepal, India has to step up engagement at every level. And it must do so quickly, too, before every second person in Kathmandu begins speaking fluent Mandarin.&nbsp;</p> Fri Jun 19 19:55:51 IST 2020 border-tension-is-a-manifestation-of-larger-issues <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>What has happened in Galwan valley is a result of many factors. But the main question is whether it was China’s pre-planned mischief or just an incident at the local level that spiralled out of control.</p> <p>This must be seen against the backdrop of previous such incidents since the 2017 Doklam standoff. The pain from that episode had not been forgotten, and the tension during the three-month-long standoff has lingered on despite the mutual de-escalation. Second, there has been a massive build-up of troops and infrastructure from both sides in eastern Ladakh. There was, hence, every possibility of an intense face-off taking a violent turn.</p> <p>To claim that 20 Indian soldiers died in unarmed combat, and that no bullets were fired, will be to once again ignore stark realities. The clash took place at Patrolling Point 14 on the Indian side of the Galwan region, where the Chinese sit at a height. Despite the understanding reached on June 6 for disengagement, the Chinese PLA backtracked.</p> <p>There has been a breach of trust once again. Is it a breach of the 1993 bilateral agreement or the 2013 border defence cooperation agreement? An inquiry will take place to ascertain this, but the fact is that the June 6 agreement has not been handled properly by both sides.</p> <p>The Chinese PLA has been sitting in Galwan valley publicly claiming the territory. The Indian foreign ministry was taking a quiet, conciliatory position until this incident. This leaves one confused as to who is causing the problem then.</p> <p>The border dispute seems to have occurred because relations between India and China have gone sour in the last few months. Covid-19 has only sharpened the differences.</p> <p>When we talk of engaging China, a question that arises is whether India’s US policy has changed. If that has happened, then the balancing strategy has been disturbed and the border skirmishes are a manifestation of New Delhi rubbing Beijing the wrong way. India is seen as moving away from its non-aligned policy while speaking America’s language on key issues like the spread of Covid-19, Indo-Pacific issues, Taiwan and so on. We seem to be more tilted to the west than towards China.</p> <p>Xi Jinping and Modi have shared a good equation, then why has there been a flare-up at this level? It could also be an attempt by the Chinese to show the US that it can open multiple frontiers if it interferes in Beijing’s military plans in Taiwan. China’s stakes are higher in Taiwan than with the Indian boundary dispute.</p> <p>Clearly, the tension on the border is a manifestation of larger issues. It could also be part of China’s south Asia policy to project India as the big bully, after the abrogation of Article 370. What has also missed our attention is the complete neglect of Ladakh, while Jammu and Kashmir was busy sorting its own problems of militancy and terrorism. China, on the other hand, has been trying to make inroads in Ladakh gradually.</p> <p>Ladakh has been facing these kinds of situations for centuries with Tibet—over border issues, pastureland rights, trade disputes and the like. But no efforts have been made to understand the genesis of the problem from a historical perspective. The fact that the Galwan incident has gone out of control calls for introspection.</p> <p>The situation in Ladakh could escalate or de-escalate. India should keep all options open. Of course, the military war option is one that India should be ready for. But attempts should be made to continue with the disengagement process despite the clash on June 15.</p> <p>—<b>As told to Namrata Biji Ahuja.</b></p> <p><b><i>P. Stobdan is a leading strategic thinker and founding president of the Ladakh International Centre, Leh.</i></b></p> Fri Jun 19 17:07:17 IST 2020 make-china-blink-first <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>A superpower is an imperialist country which everywhere subjects other countries to its aggression, interference, control, subversion or plunder and strives for world hegemony,” said Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping in a speech at the United Nations in 1974, when Mao Zedong was still alive. This was reiterated on other international platforms, too. Deng said if China ever turned into a superpower, “the people of the world should identify her social imperialism, expose it, oppose it and work together with the Chinese people to overthrow it”. However, President Xi Jinping, having secured the unassailable position as the ‘Chinese Supremo’ for life, seems to have dumped this vision for China. And his vision for the world, it seems, has little or no place for other countries.<br> </p> <p>China has crossed swords with anyone she has come across in the recent past. What explains China’s belligerent attitude? Is China testing its capacity to hold out all alone―while dealing with Taiwan, South China Sea, Hong Kong, and allegations of malpractices in international trade, allegations of spreading the Wuhan Virus and the India-China border, all at the same time? It seems to be an ideal time to carry out such an experiment as the rest of the world is reeling under the Covid-19 pandemic and its economic and social impact. It is possible that China also believes that the domestic politics of most democracies that have the muscle to contest China are in a splintered and divisive state, making the situation conducive for such an experiment. Viewed in this context, is the systematic escalation on the Sino-Indian border purely India-centric or is it part of an overall resetting of the world order by China?<br> </p> <p>In the face of the current situation, it is important to take a brief look at the background of the Sino-Indian border. The border between the two nations is a line agreed upon by both, demarcated on a common set of maps which are endorsed and authenticated by both sides. It is mutually demarcated on ground by erecting border pillars and wherever required, using distinct unambiguous geographical features such as rivers, watershed of mountain ranges etc. Land boundary demarcation is an elaborate joint exercise. In many cases, however, boundaries between countries are legacy agreements, some of which date back to more than a hundred years. Some of the legacy boundaries, when interpreted in the present times, in the light of greater degree of physical accessibility to areas that were earlier considered totally remote and inaccessible, availability of accurate global positioning systems could also give rise to ambiguities.<br> </p> <p>The Sino-Indian boundary can be classified into the eastern, central (middle) and the western sectors. According to India, the boundary is 3,488km including 523km of POK-China segment, 1,597km in the western segment (Ladakh), 545 km in the middle segment and 1,346km in the eastern segment. Shaksgam Valley, illegally ceded by Pakistan to China is 5,180 sq km.<br> </p> <p>The boundary in the eastern sector follows the McMahon line born out of the Simla Convention of July 3, 1914, an agreement between British India, Tibet and China. China, however, did not sign the agreement citing objection to Article 9 of the Convention which was about the boundary between inner and outer Tibet. It is also significant that along the same McMahon line, China settled its boundary with Burma in 1960 rechristening it as “The Burma-China Boundary Treaty of 1960”. In the eastern sector, China claims areas south of McMahon line based on so called “traditional boundaries”. In the middle sector, there is broad consensus, but dispute exists at four places. Post independence, in the western sector, the boundary was fixed along the Johnson line of 1865, with Aksai Chin on the Indian side, but not claiming northern areas near Shahidulla and Khotan.<br> </p> <p>The Chinese have never committed to a specific alignment in the western sector and have changed their stance a number of times. Border stand-offs in the western and eastern sectors have taken place with increasing frequency in the recent years. The scope of the stand-offs has also been rising. However, so far, the dispute settling mechanism has prevented any exchange of fire.<br> </p> <p>What explains the cause of the violent clash and the choice of Patrolling Point 14 on the Line of Actual Control close to where the Galwan River meets the Shyok River, for the clash on the night of June 15? This segment has not witnessed disputes in the past. The newly constructed Darbuk-Shyok-DBO road on the Indian side runs close to the LAC at this point. The Indian post at DBO is at an aerial distance of just about 10km from the Karakoram Pass. After making Ladakh a Union territory, voices have been raised about a relook at Gilgit-Baltistan. This changed scenario, combined with the DBO road which runs well inside the Indian territory has changed the dynamics of threat perception in the areas of Karakoram, Gilgit-Baltistan and even the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. From China’s perspective, this area has become very crucial and had to be brought under the ambit of disputed areas and an opportunity was created making it appear as if it presented itself. Regarding the incident itself, it is not appropriate to comment on the incident at this stage. Both sides seem to have suffered high causalities. While saluting our brave heroes, one finds it difficult not to condemn the apparent urge on the part of some people to treat such incidents like T20 contests. How can there be a tit-for-tat response on the part of the Army or the government just because the electronic media and ‘experts’ crave it?<br> </p> <p>An India-China armed conflict, even under the present heightened tension appears most unlikely. But China can be expected to employ every possible trick, falling just short of war. The most dangerous of such tricks would be for China to do something short of war, for which no ‘short of war’ counter exists. Occupation of important unoccupied Indian territory will fall into this category. Expect China to even activate the Arunachal sector at a suitable time as a subset of the present imbroglio. There is nothing stopping India from taking the initiative of activating Arunachal border, if any advantage is perceived, by undertaking such an action.<br> </p> <p>Looking at how far we have moved on the escalation process, it is almost certain that it’s a long haul ahead. Considering the mood prevailing around the world and our capabilities, India is in a position to hold fast militarily and make China blink first. All that is required is a united domestic approach. We can put aside our differences for the time being, to be sorted out after we chase the Dragon away.</p> <p><b style="font-size: 0.8125rem;">The author is a former deputy chief of Army.</b><br> </p> Thu Jun 18 17:22:24 IST 2020 capital-pains <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>A few months ago, Arvind Kejriwal and his Aam Aadmi Party had carefully negotiated the communal minefield set by the BJP, against the backdrop of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, to record another spectacular victory in the Delhi elections. It was almost as dazzling a win as the 2015 victory, perhaps even more so, given the anti-incumbency.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>However, Kejriwal did not have the luxury of easing into another term as chief minister. Communal riots shook the capital soon after he was sworn in and he was criticised for focusing more on optics and attempting a balancing act rather than dealing with the violence head-on. Then came the pandemic, which is proving to be an extreme test of Kejriwal’s leadership.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In the initial days of the outbreak, the focus was on the government’s ability to help those left stranded by the lockdown. The BJP had alleged that the AAP had a role to play in the exodus of migrants from the capital. There were also complaints about the distribution of free ration and food to the poor. On balance, the Kejriwal government was seen as having made an effort to feed and shelter those affected by the pandemic restrictions.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It has been a testing time for Kejriwal personally, too. He fell ill and had to be tested for Covid-19; it was negative. A much bigger test, however, lies ahead.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In the past three months, Kejriwal has addressed the people of Delhi with great regularity. Through ‘digital press conferences’, he has sought to convey his government’s preparedness to deal with Covid-19 and appealed to residents to stay indoors. He even prescribed reading the Gita to beat lockdown blues.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>He then got people ready for relaxation in the lockdown, saying the city could not be perpetually locked in, and that there was an urgent need to restart economic activity.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Though there was a tinge of concern in his tone as he spoke of the recent rise in Covid-19 cases, he insisted that his government was two steps ahead of the virus.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As on June 9, Delhi had 31,309 cases and 905 deaths. It had registered more than a thousand cases daily for the past several days. According to the Delhi government’s estimates, the capital could even see as many as 5.5 lakh cases by July 31.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>What is more worrying is that the city appears to have entered the community transmission stage, though this has not been officially declared. The Delhi government, however, has admitted that the source of infection is not known in 50 per cent of the cases.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Critics said the AAP government did not utilise the lockdown well enough to create treatment facilities. This, they said, was evident in the numerous reports of commoners’ ordeals. “On April 7, Arvind Kejriwal had said that 30,000 beds were being arranged and there was no need to panic,” said Delhi BJP leader Vijender Gupta. “Instead of using the lockdown to make arrangements, he indulged in a blame game, and then on May 30, he said his government would arrange 9,500 beds by June 5. He has clearly failed to create new facilities.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Reportedly, when Kejriwal announced on May 30 that facilities would be ramped up, there were only around 2,800 beds (2,500 beds in Delhi government hospitals) available. This led to questions on why new facilities were not created during the lockdown.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Jasmine Shah, vice chairperson of the Dialogue and Development Commission of Delhi, said it was wrong to say that the government had not utilised the lockdown. “As the chief minister also said, the priority of the government during the lockdown was on expanding capacity,” he said. “When the lockdown began, 10 to 20 per cent of the beds had oxygen facility. Now, almost all the beds are equipped with oxygen. Health care staff was trained, PPE kits were arranged.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Shah also said that the Delhi government ensured that the capacity of its hospitals was 50 per cent more than the current requirement. “The government had asked private hospitals to keep 20 per cent of their beds for Covid-19 patients,” he said. “But they took a lot of time doing that. And in the meantime, after the lockdown was relaxed, there was a surge in cases.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>According to Delhi government figures, as on June 9, there were a total of (government plus private) 8,821 Covid-19 beds, 582 ICU beds, 468 ventilators and 3,590 beds with oxygen support.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“At this time, we have more than 8,500 beds in Delhi, of which around half are vacant,” said Delhi Health Minister Satyendar Jain. “In some private hospitals, there are no beds available. But there are no complaints so far of people not finding beds in Delhi government hospitals. We have enough beds for now. But we have to prepare for the coming days. Our target is to have 15,000-16,000 beds by the middle of June.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>If there were beds available, asked Congress leader Ajay Maken, why were so many patients being turned away by hospitals? “It is baffling that 33 of 38 Delhi government hospitals are not taking in Covid-19 patients,” he said. “Why should only five Delhi government hospitals be put on Covid-19 duty?”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>He also slammed the Centre and municipal corporations for providing only 1,500 of more than 16,000 beds in facilities that come under them.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Kejriwal has also been criticised for his adversarial attitude towards private hospitals. He warned them against alleged black-marketing of beds, saying that he would not desist from taking action against them. The Delhi government then filed a complaint against Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, a leading private facility, for not using an app that is mandatory for Covid-19 facilities. The hospital was barred from conducting tests.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“It is important to ensure that patients get beds at private hospitals and they are not harassed,” said Delhi government spokesperson Aswathi Muralidharan. “It was for this purpose that the Delhi Corona app was launched. We have a helpline where people can call if they are refused beds by private hospitals. We have also posted nursing officers at the private hospitals to ensure that no patient is turned away if beds are available.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>However, critics said Kejriwal was clashing with private hospitals at a time when he should be getting them to collaborate in the fight against the virus.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Another point of contention was the Delhi government’s decision, on June 8, to reserve beds exclusively for Delhi residents. The opposition said the move was insensitive, parochial and smacked of an attempt to divert attention from the government’s failure to create the required infrastructure.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“A large number of migrants do not have IDs,” said Indranil Mukhopadhyay, associate professor at the School of Government and Public Policy, Jindal Global University, and co-convener of Jan Swasthya Abhiyan.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“What about street dwellers? How will they prove they are Delhi residents? A large number of students come to Delhi from all over the country. Let us not discriminate against them. The entire NCR depends on Delhi for secondary and tertiary health care.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>On June 9, Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal overturned the decision. The AAP said he did so under BJP pressure. “It is projected that by July 31, 80,000 beds will be required for only the people of Delhi,” said senior AAP leader Sanjay Singh. “In such a scenario, if the hospitals are thrown open for people from outside Delhi, [more than] two lakh beds will be required. When this question was put before the lieutenant governor, he had no answers.” Even in regular times, said AAP leaders, 50 per cent of patients in private hospitals and 70 per cent in government hospitals were from outside Delhi.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It was wrong to say that Kejriwal had lost the plot, argued his aides. They said he has been directly monitoring the arrangements, and a team stationed in the chief minister’s office has been constantly monitoring the status of beds and ventilators and the condition of patients who are serious. After he tested negative for the virus, Kejriwal announced that he would personally inspect stadiums and other facilities to arrange for additional beds and called for a jan andolan (people’s movement) to ensure that social distancing norms were practised. This was clearly aimed at conveying to the people that he was totally in control.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Currently, the government’s efforts to augment Covid-19 facilities includes a plan to take over stadiums, banquet halls and hotels. By June 15, the number of beds could increase by 2,000. A new 450-bed hospital is being built in Burari, on the border with Haryana. The government has also asked 22 private hospitals to reserve 20 per cent more beds for Covid-19 patients, which will add around 2,000 beds.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As of now, more than 14,500 people, who are asymptomatic or have mild symptoms, are in home isolation. This, said the government’s detractors, betrayed its lack of preparedness. Moreover, this system is fraught with danger as many areas in the capital are densely populated, with small, cramped houses.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The government, however, has defended the home-isolation arrangement, saying that a proper protocol was in place, and if there were patients who found it difficult to self-isolate in their homes, they were put up at the government’s Covid-19 care centres.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The AAP government has also been accused of being opaque about the Covid-19 death toll. The BJP and the Congress have accused the government of underreporting deaths. A plea regarding this was filed in the Delhi High Court in late May, but it was dismissed. The government countered the allegations, saying that the hospitals were not reporting deaths on time. Over the past several days, a corrective exercise has been visible in Delhi’s Covid-19 bulletins. The government has added additional deaths, which happened earlier, but were reviewed and deemed Covid-19 deaths by the death audit committee (formed on April 20) only later.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Another issue the Delhi government has been criticised for was the alleged low level of testing at a time when the virus was spreading fast. The government was also criticised for disallowing testing of asymptomatic persons, and it was argued that the decision to not test dead bodies, taken on June 2, would impact contact tracing and isolation efforts.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As many as six labs were issued notices for flouting the new testing norms. The charges against them included conducting tests on asymptomatic people and delaying test results. However, the lieutenant governor once again stepped in, overruling the Delhi government’s decision to not test asymptomatic patients. Now, the six labs have been allowed to test again.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“It is a myth that testing in Delhi has come down,” said Shah. “One needs to look beyond the past few days and take into account the overall context. States like Maharashtra and Gujarat, which are going through a grave crisis, are testing three to four times less than Delhi.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>According to the Delhi government, the capital is conducting 13,537 tests per million, compared with the national average of 3,531. The numbers for Maharashtra and Gujarat are 4,766 and 3,715, respectively.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Mukhopadhyay said that a more accurate indicator of the level of testing was how many tests per positive person were being conducted. This, he said, was 22 tests per person nationally. Karnataka carried out 100 tests per positive person, while the figure was 70 for Kerala. It was much lower in the states where the situation was more alarming, such as Maharashtra (seven), Gujarat (13) and Delhi (12.4), he said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>However, he supported the Delhi government’s policy of not testing asymptomatic persons. “It is really not fair to feed on fear and test people by charging them huge fees,” he said. “This is an extraordinary situation and a lot that is happening in the private sector is limiting our capacity to test and treat people.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>More importantly, amid the hectic politicking and the tussle between the Delhi government and the Centre, Kejriwal has struck a conciliatory note. On June 10, in his first public appearance after testing negative for the virus, he said, “If we fight among ourselves, corona will win. Till we do not collaborate, we will not be able to fight corona.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Mukhopadhyay agreed. “Public health requires collective leadership,” he said. “A lot of planning happens at the level of local institutions. So, the municipal corporations have a big role to play. The Central government, too, has an important role in terms of providing adequate funds. While Kejriwal may have to take the blame for any failure of governance, the Centre and the local bodies also have accountability.”&nbsp;</p> Fri Jun 12 15:43:09 IST 2020 a-time-to-talk <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p><b>IN DELHI, BETWEEN</b> life and death, there is a dashboard of numbers. You could look at the Delhi government's Corona Dashboard that gives an estimate of beds and ventilators dedicated to Covid-19 and feel, at least somewhat, reassured. On June 10, out of 9,061 beds and 509 ventilators, 4,378 beds and 245 ventilators were vacant. But, juxtapose this with the latest Delhi health bulletin that shows an active case count of 18,543, and you could not be faulted for being unsettled. Moreover, when the estimate of beds and ventilators is read against Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia’s dystopian estimate of 5.5 lakh cases by July 31, and the need for 80,000 beds, you ought to feel terrified.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Sisodia’s comments imply that over the next month and a half, around one in 40 people in Delhi would be infected. Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s repeated assurances—most recently on May 25 and June 10—that Delhi was ready to handle the deluge, will be put to the test. Experiences from the early phase of the pandemic in the capital, however, are far from encouraging. Anecdotal accounts from those seeking health care in the capital, including several prominent citizens, suggest that it is difficult to get a simple Covid-19 test, find a hospital bed and even a place to lay the deceased to rest.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The government’s claims of adequate infrastructure seem to have fallen flat. Short of ideas, it has tried to rope in private hospitals, luxury hotels, and encountered some resistance from both. A five-member expert committee has now suggested that a few stadiums be taken over for makeshift Covid-19 facilities. After asking 117 private hospitals to reserve 20 per cent of the beds for Covid-19 patients, on June 9, the government increased the quota of beds by 50 per cent in 22 private hospitals.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“On paper, it looks good,” says Dr Aqsa Shaikh, assistant professor, department of community medicine, Hamdard Institute of Medical Sciences and Research, Jamia Hamdard, Delhi. “On the ground, however, the situation is pretty chaotic.” Last week, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan termed the Delhi Covid-19 situation worrisome. At a meeting with top Delhi health officials, he said that the average test per million in some districts, such as North East Delhi and South East Delhi, was around 500-700, as against Delhi's average of 2,018. He also said that while the Union territory's positivity rate was 25.7 per cent, several districts reported figures above 38 per cent. A high positivity rate implies that only the sickest are getting tested, and testing needs to be expanded.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>An order by the Delhi government restricting testing to only symptomatic people—now overturned by the lieutenant governor—further exacerbated the crisis. “While it is true that most of the people have mild symptoms and can recover at home, there is anxiety among them to know their status,” says Shaikh, who is part of a volunteer group helping people access Covid-19 care. “The demand for testing has been increasing, especially since offices have reopened.” Instead of expanding access to tests, government testing laboratories that are short of kits have resorted to restricting timings for testing from 8am to 4pm. Moreover, reports take a long time because of the backlog at laboratories.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>According to Professor Jugal Kishore, head, department of community medicine, Safdarjung Hospital and Vardhman Medical College, testing for Covid-19 requires a processing time of up to eight hours. This has contributed to backlogs. Kishore says that given the high demand, the Delhi government was compelled to restrict the testing to symptomatic people so as to better manage the increasing load. “Fear drove many to seek a test, creating a backlog,” he says.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>At the heart of the crisis, according to Kishore, who has been part of the rapid response team of the Union health ministry for several states, is the capital’s “unique” health care system. “It’s a problem of coordination,” he says. Delhi has Central government hospitals, railways hospitals, state government hospitals, municipal hospitals and ESI (Employees' State Insurance) hospitals, among others. “Unlike other cities such as Mumbai and Chennai, we do not have one chain of command,” says Kishore. If all the beds and facilities were merged into a single system, the issue could be resolved, he adds.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Besides, in Delhi, the government has also been locked in a battle with the private health care system. “In a pandemic, the first line of defence has to be government hospitals,” says Dr Giridhar Gyani, who heads the Association of Healthcare Providers (India). “The Delhi government has 37 hospitals, out of which only five have been made into dedicated Covid-19 facilities. What is stopping the government from turning the rest into Covid-19 hospitals?”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>He adds that it is difficult for all private hospitals to reserve 20 per cent beds for Covid-19 patients. “The big hospitals have separate buildings which they can convert into Covid-19 facilities,” he says. “But how will smaller hospitals that have 70 to 100 beds with common entry and exit points and central air-conditioning do that? We even said that we would give them the 3,000-odd beds that they wanted. If we talk, solutions can be found. We are willing to work with the government.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Gyani says that the government ought to discuss alternative ways to manage the situation, such as converting community centres in residential colonies to makeshift Covid-19 facilities with the help of hospitals. “This way, if we manage patients early with oxygen , they won’t need the ICUs and ventilators,” he says. “In Mumbai, this is already being done.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Another issue is that the cost of Covid-19 treatment has not been regulated, leading to inflated bills. The matter has now reached the Supreme Court. “Private hospitals have hiked charges to make up for the losses they incurred during the lockdown,” says Shaikh. “A bed at one of the hospitals, that used to cost Rs1,000 a day, now costs Rs10,000,” says Shaikh. The government is trying to discipline the private sector, but it would not be able to manage by using the stick, she adds. “Not only do the patients pay huge amounts, they are also telling us that until they can prove they are almost dying, hospitals are turning them away saying your symptoms are mild and can be managed at home,” she says. A government-appointed nursing officer has now been handed over the responsibility to decide which cases are severe. “So now it is not an experienced consultant who decides whether the patient is severe, but a nursing officer,” says Shaikh.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Dr G.S. Grewal, president-elect of Delhi Medical Association, says that there is a communication gap between the government and the medical fraternity. “The government needs to speak to relevant experts, especially those in the fields of epidemiology and community medicine,” he says. “The five-member committee appointed by the government does not even have a single expert from these fields.” He says that apart from creating infrastructure, there has to be an aggressive push on behavioural change, and adds that governments seem to have forgotten the lessons learnt from HIV. Says Grewal: “Then, while the government kept focusing on blood transfusion to prevent transmission, the simple strategy of advocating safe sex helped control the spread more effectively.”</p> Fri Jun 12 15:32:33 IST 2020 a-700km-trip-to-die <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>When Aditya Kumar’s father arrived in Bhopal at the crack of dawn on June 6, his oxygen saturation levels were less than 40 per cent. “People were appalled and shocked to learn how a man so ill and weak could make a train journey all the way from Delhi. Please trust me, my father followed all social distancing norms. We just had no choice,” says Aditya Nekya, 18, who is preparing for NEET exams in Bhopal.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>On May 30, his 42-year-old father applied for leave at his workplace—a small electronic media house in Noida—after he developed cold and fever. In the next few days, the Mayur Vihar resident tried to get a prescription for a Covid-19 test from local doctors. But they just gave him medicines for cold and fever. He finally got a prescription from an ESI hospital on June 4, and he set off in his car with his daughter for the hospitals listed in it: Guru Teg Bahadur Hospital, Rajiv Gandhi Super Speciality Hospital and Dr Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital. But the three hospitals said they were not conducting Covid-19 tests, said Aditya. His father was growing weaker with every passing hour.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“He never had any severe medical problems,” says Aditya. “He was a staunch AAP supporter and was on good terms with the local councillor. Still, he was reduced to this state.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Out of sheer desperation, Aditya booked a night train for his father to come to Bhopal so that he and his uncle could get him tested there. On June 7, a day after his father had arrived in Bhopal and tested positive, Aditya cremated him wearing a PPE suit. After the last rites, he called his mother in Delhi. “My mother and sister were just returning after their own tests. I told my mother about father’s death. She had a severe asthma attack right there and collapsed. That was my biggest mistake,” says Aditya, breaking into sobs.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>His 15-year-old sister took their mother to the Lal Bahadur Shastri Hospital to find a bed but to no avail. She finally managed to admit her in an isolation ward at Metro Hospital in Noida, said Aditya.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>His mother tested negative for Covid-19, but is on oxygen support. His sister, however, tested positive and is quarantined at home.</p> Fri Jun 12 15:27:40 IST 2020 no-dignity-in-death <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Around 2:15pm on May 22, a teary-eyed Dharmendra Bhardwaj recorded a video, seated in his car parked outside Max Super Speciality Hospital, Patparganj. In the six-minute video, he recounted how his 68-year-old mother was denied treatment by the hospital after she tested positive for Covid-19. The deputy medical superintendent, he said, informed him via intercom to arrange his own bed and ventilator. “I approached so many other hospitals after that… no response anywhere. We are in India’s capital and we feel so helpless. First, you teach the public how to arrange their own beds and ventilators,” said Bhardwaj in the video. It was only after the video went viral that Max hospital called him and agreed to treat his mother. Even the Delhi High Court took suo motu cognisance of the incident and pointed out how the video “raises serious issues of public concern”. Bhardwaj’s mother died on May 31.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The next day at the Nigambodh Ghat crematorium, Bhardwaj had to buy a PPE kit for Rs500 from another mourner on the spot to complete his mother’s last rites. “There is no humanity in the way they handle dead bodies there,” he said. “Have you seen a porter handle luggage at a railways station? I get goosebumps when I recall that day.” He said that the authorities there charged different rates from grieving families. “I paid Rs8,000,” he said. “I saw another man screaming about how he paid Rs20,000 and yet his relative’s body was so shoddily treated. They deny us entry on the pretext of contamination. The priest and the helper did not even wear a mask.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Bhardwaj and his four-year-old daughter, both asymptomatic, have tested positive and are in home isolation.</p> Fri Jun 12 15:24:29 IST 2020 hari-atmanirbhar-singh <a href=""><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="" /> <p>Hari Singh from north Delhi’s Adarsh Nagar has a litany of ailments to deal with. He is HIV positive and diabetic, and has kidney and cardiac problems. On June 1, he got tested for Covid-19 at Jag Pravesh Chandra Hospital, where he works as a medical counsellor for drug addicts. He was planning to meet his daughter in Dwarka, where she had just given birth a day before. So, he thought it best to do the responsible thing. Singh, 52, had earlier got tested at Baba Saheb Ambedkar Hospital in March. But the hospital apparently lost his report. “My welfare is my responsibility,” said Singh. His June 1 test results came back positive.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Despite finding beds in Lok Nayak Jai Prakash Narayan Hospital and Lady Hardinge Hospital, Singh isolated himself in an empty shop on the ground floor of his building. “This is the best decision I have taken and I know I am recovering,” he said. “If I had checked into those hospitals, I would have been dead by now. They would have thrown me with other Covid-19 patients. My case needs a separate facility, otherwise I might end up with TB or something.” His only plea is to get someone to come and collect his blood samples for glucose and other tests, apart from conducting the second round of Covid-19 testing after seven days. “I am too weak to step out of my house,” said Singh. “And I have worked in Delhi hospitals for 25 years. I don’t have an iota of faith in Delhi’s government hospitals… because our healthcare system is so rotten. Most Delhi government hospitals are houses for the dead. The hospital where I work, there is no cleanliness, no one wears a mask…. I am much better off here.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>His wife and children living on the floor above have not been tested yet.</p> Fri Jun 12 15:22:09 IST 2020