The Filter Coffee

Foreign policy, strategic affairs, defense and governance

Where do we go from here?

The people of India have spoken.  A clear mandate for the UPA government has been given.  While this blogger doesn’t consider the verdict to be optimal (considering UPA’s unforgivable lapses in security and foreign affairs), the decisiveness of the victory is pleasing because it allows a less fractious Central government to go about its business.  The mandate against the BJP is very clear — the people don’t want any part of their divisive politics.  A campaign that was overshadowed by the venom spewing bigotry of Varun Gandhi was only bound for failure.  Uttar Pradesh has told Mayawati what it thinks of her self glorifying statues in Lucknow.   And Prakash Karat stands amidst the shattered pieces of his non-ideology.

Where does India go from here?  The Filter Coffee has repeatedly drawn attention to the dilapidated state of our local law enforcement forces, and national and border defense mechanisms.  They need addressing immediately.  When Chidambaram took over as Home Minister, he instituted a few changes, come cosmetic, some concrete.

The Congress must stop pretending that it is tied at the hip to the Unlawful Activities Prevention (Amendment) Act and work with the Opposition to construct a meaningful anti-terror law for the nation.  Our local law enforcement agencies need money, equipment and training.  Our national forces face severe shortages in equipment, which can only be addressed by correcting India’s defense procurement mechanism.  The shackles need to be loosened from our intelligence agencies.

India faces two immediate threats with regard to terrorism, from the Maoists and Jihadi groups.  With regard to external Jihadi threats, there are some elements that India can control and some that it can’t.  However, the Maoist menace is well within India’s realm and decisive action is needed to eliminate this plague that has consumed a third of India.

On the foreign affairs side, the Subcontinent is on fire.  Sri Lanka has found itself an effective counterweight to India in China, and its dismissal of India’s pleas was the most telling aspect of this relationship as war against the LTTE drew to a close.  Similarly, India lost the plot in Nepal during the UPA administration and as tensions continue to rise between the army and the Chinese backed Maoist government, India has a great opportunity to play the honest broker and demonstrate to that nation that India wants peace and stability in Nepal.

The United States is blowing a sigh of relief that the month long elections in India are at an end.  Obama’s immediate concern is to get India to focus on the Af-Pak issue.  The repeated calls for India to reduce troop levels along the western border are as absurd as they are misplaced and the UPA would do well not to wilt under American pressure as they have so often done in the past.

With Pakistan, India must continue to use every tool at its disposal to pressure that country to dismantle not just “terror” infrastructure, but specifically the Punjabi-terror outfits that target India.  The Pakistanis must be pressed to ensure that those responsible for 26/11 are brought to justice.  Pakistan’s “investigation”, as farcical as it was, is now a casualty of all the attention to the existential threat that country faces today.  Above all, the UPA must impress upon Islamabad that for India to show any interest in rekindling the “peace process”, there needs to be very credible action from Pakistan on both dismantling terror infrastructure armed at India, and bringing to justice those that were responsible for 26/11.

The mandate for the Congress is conclusive.  Manmohan Singh can either show the country that he can act convincingly to address the challenges that face us, as he did in 1991, or he can falter and stumble from one embarrassing embroilment to another as he has done over the past five years.  The ball is in his court.  What’s it going to be, Mr. Prime Minister?

Filed under: 2009 Indian General Elections, Af-Pak, Barack Obama, Foreign Policy, India, Politics in India, Sri Lanka, Terrorism, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Damn the plebs…

LK Advani has been calling for live television debates since the schedule for the 15th Lok Sabha elections was announced.  The people of India have a right to know where the Congress, the BJP and other national parties stand on the complex issues that face the nation.  But the silence from the Congress has been deafening.  The maneuvering, amusing.  First, we were told that there would be no debate between Manmohan Singh and Advani because unlike the US, ours isn’t a two-party system.

Then we were told by Manmohan Singh that he isn’t much of a speaker, and lets his actions speak for him.  In other words, he’s a decider: like his good buddy, George W Bush. But Bush’s record in the White House makes him look like FDR after the Great Depression, when compared to Mahmohan’s record over the past five years.  And now this vitriolic harangue from Sanjaya Baru, the PM’s former “media manager”.  A cushy job, I’m sure, as it entailed doing nothing, just like the post of Home Minister.

Never before was a prime minister denied the right of reply in a debate on a motion of thanks to the President. Never before has a prime minister been prevented from defending his record in office in a debate on a motion of confidence. Manmohan Singh was at the receiving end of such grossly unfair treatment from an Opposition that turned every parliamentary debate into a duel. And now they want a television debate? Hah!

Wonderful.  In other words, you tried to knock me off the pedestal when I was vulnerable. Now, it’s payback.  To hell with the voters.  Damn the plebs. Where is this disillusioned rhetoric going to take India?  The kind of debate favored in our country is one where accusations are countered with counter-accusations. In the end, it’s the man on the street that loses.  This will continue only as long as you and I give currency to such garbage talk.

Voting begins in India tomorrow.  So please go out and participate in the largest democratic exercise in the world.  But pledge to yourself that the act of casting your vote won’t be the end of your engagement with governance in the nation; that it will be the first of many such engagements between a complex, if chaotic, democratic system and you, the middle class, English speaking, Internet surfing, pub hopping, reality TV watching Indian voter.

Filed under: 2009 Indian General Elections, India, Politics in India, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Show Must Go On…

The Indian Premier League must be held as planned

The Indian Premier League (IPL) must be held as planned

Home Minister P. Chidambaram has urged that the second edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) be postponed, due to conflicts with the Indian general elections in April — May, 2009.  He argues that law enforcement forces in India will be unable to provide sufficient security cover during the games due to election commitments.  This blogger feels that the Home Minister is attempting to play it safe during election season and not be drawn into a scenario that provides a damning indictment of his party’s mismanagement of India’s internal security apparatus, should something, God forbid, happen during the event.  The Lahore terror attack on the Sri Lankan team gave Mr. Chidambaram a convenient out, before a security assessment on the matter was even conducted.   Outside the Subcontinent, there appears to be an attempt to paint India and Pakistan with the same broad brush, in terms of threat potential.  Various quarters in India have also been playing up this hyphenation.

Let’s get real.  Pakistan is a smoldering pot of jihadi fanaticism where the writ of government is undermined every hour of every day as a matter of common practice.   Extremist forces in Pakistan operate with impunity both inside and outside the federal framework.  The Pakistani establishment brought this upon itself and is now overwhelmed and unable to deal with this Frankenstein.  To compare this to the state of affairs in a country that is about to hold the world’s largest exercise in universal suffrage (the 15th such installment, since independence) is laughable.

So go ahead, Mr. Home Minister, do your security assessment.  Keep in mind, however, that your inability to provide security cover will be a condemnation of the security apparatus that you and your predecessor oversaw for five long years.   B. Raman believes that only a pragmatic security assessment should dictate whether the IPL should be allowed to go ahead as planned.  He suggests:

The national debate on this question is sought to be influenced more by commercial considerations arising from the profit-making urge of the corporate entities owning the participating teams and the money-making urge of different sections of the media and the advertising community than by security considerations…

The importance of ensuring the security of the life and property of the common citizens is sought to be subordinated to catering to the money-making urge of these sections with a vested interest in seeing that the IPL tournament goes ahead as scheduled.

I have nothing but the highest regard for Raman, but my beef with this article is the notion that just because this is a commercial venture (or a “money-making urge” as Raman puts it) that it should be brushed aside. No one in their right mind would assign anything but top priority to security during national elections, but private enterprise is an integral part of urban, middle class India, and has been for some time.  It isn’t a “money making urge”, like some sly, underhand, nefarious charade, it is the engine that is driving India’s economy.

If the Home Minister is telling me that he can’t protect private enterprise in the country, our law enforcement agencies, along with the Home Minister can just pack up and move along because they are of no use whatsoever.  Our law enforcement agencies have done little else in recent memory than raid rave parties in Mumbai and Bangalore. What message is Chidambaram trying to convey to India and to the rest of the world?  That we are incapable of holding a sports tournament and national elections at the same time in India?  Pragmatic Euphony echoes similar thoughts on The Indian National Interest:

[I]t should worry the nation that the Indian state seems incapable of holding a sporting event along with the general elections. The UPA government has done little to build these capabilities during its tenure and is intent on using Mumbai or Lahore as an excuse for its failure.

[T]he greater impact is in the signalling value of the decision taken.  It impacts the international standing of the country not only for the tourists, but more importantly, for financial, commercial and business interests, as the security advisories get revised in corporate headquarters and government departments the world over.

The show must go on.  Not for “national pride”, or for corporations’ “money-making urge”, but for the Indian government to show its people and countries outside that the fallacious hyphenation of India and Pakistan is absurd, and that it is capable of maintaining law and order it the country after the aberrations of the recent past.

Filed under: 2009 Indian General Elections, Business, Congress I, India, Politics, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , ,

By-two Kaapi (Twitter)