Colonel ( Dr.) Anil Athale

January 2007-01-09



As the year comes to an end, PM Dr. Manmohan Singh has plenty of reasons to give a   smile of satisfaction. For on the Foreign policy front the country has indeed entered a new era. The year has also been remarkable for some startling developments on the domestic front, not all necessarily positive. But all in all, it was indeed a remarkable year that will go down as very significant landmark in our recent history.






Emerging Indo-US Partnership.


The most important event of the year indeed was the remarkable consensus with which the Indo-US Civil Nuclear co-operation bill was passed by the US Congress. That it was a lame duck session with impending Democratic control next year made no difference to the passage is remarkable. This shows the bi-partisan support for the emerging ‘Indo-US partnership’ (words used by President Bush last week when he signed the bill into a law).


Many analysts have likened this step to the ‘Shanghai Declaration’ signed by President Nixon and Premier Chou En Lie in 1972. The resemblance to that event is indeed uncanny. With this the Chinese and US signalled the end of Cold War hostility and emergence of a new ‘alliance’ directed against another ‘evil’ empire, that of the Soviet Union. Many see in this deal a similar emergence of Indo-US partnership to balance China. Though both China and the US have been careful to rule out any ‘Cold War’, a ‘Cold Competition’  between the two is very much on cards. Through this agreement India has firmly cast its lot with the US, with which it has much more in common. This is indeed a far cry from Reagan era hostility when Jean Kirk Patrick ( who died recently) as US Ambassador to UN in an unguarded moment of exasperation with India, in 1982,  had said that ‘ India was too large and troublesome and needs to be broken up in small manageable parts’. While in case of India there was dislike of US policies, we had nothing like the institutionalised ‘hate’ against it as the Chinese had, prior to 1972…….The PLA ( the Peoples Liberation Army) recruits regularly used US President Lyndon B. Johnson’s effigy to do bayonet practice! The dormant anti Americanism of the Chinese came to forefront in the aftermath of 9/11 as well. In that sense the beginning of the Indo-US partnership is really correcting the historical distortions occasioned by the Cold War politics……..China and the US being the strange bedfellows.


Domestically in India, the deal has been opposed by the left, who after having opposed tooth and nail the Indian overt nuclearisation, have suddenly become champion of safeguarding the same. Essentially the left’s opposition is to the Indo-US partnership itself and they are using the Indo- US nuke deal only as a convenient excuse. It is accident of last election that they have acquired dis-proportionate clout at the national level and need not be taken too seriously. The BJP’s opposition is virtually case of ‘grapes are sour’ variety, for it was working towards a similar goal.


The criticism by the retired scientists is a little more serious. But none of them have the broader picture in view……that this finally ends India’s technological isolation. Also it needs to be noted that while the first experimental Thorium reactor ‘Poornima’ was established way back in 1972, we are still far from exploiting the potential of our immense Thorium reserves ( we have very little Uranium). If the loosening of technological curbs  (in place since 1974 Pohran I and NOT 1998 Pokhran II as the clever Left portrays) helps us in speeding up our Thorium plan then it is indeed a worthwhile bargain. Incidentally, our scientists ought to know the long delays in strategic projects like the LCA (light combat aircraft) and nuclear submarine have showed the effect this isolation has had. Some time ago I remember being told by a very prominent Industrialist how he once smuggled a item of Carbon fibre pump ( need in handling liquid Sodium in our fast breeder reactor) in his coat pocket from the US!


The much touted Chinese industrial revolution owes much to the generous American technology exports and capital. In 1982 an Indian diplomat had asked an American as to why the Super computer is being denied to India while being given to China even without any treaty, the American had smiled and told him that with China they do not need any guarantee ( hinting that the anti- Soviet Union attitude of China was guarantee enough). If there is some truth in the idea that the US indeed wishes to make India balance China, that is guarantee enough that there will be no curbs on Indian military  nuclear programme, any number of clauses in the Indo-US deal notwithstanding.


Fortunately, while many in India worry about the Chinese opposition to the deal, being pragmatic and needing the US support in many areas, the Chinese are unlikely to be foolish to overtly oppose the deal. Being Chinese, however, what they do ‘covertly’ ought to be of concern to us. We may well see a heightened Chinese interest in our neighbourhood in the coming year (Nepal, Bangladesh, Mynmar, Sri Lanka and Pakistan) as she seeks to indirectly confront India by proxy.  


Indo- Pak Peace Process Back on Track.           


The train bomb blasts in July this year were seen as a major setback to peace process by many including me. Infact, through the columns of rediff I had publicly dis-associated myself from it. None accused the Pak govt or Musharraf of any direct involvement in that dastardly act, but the onus was very much on Pak to prove that it was NOT an act of ‘omission’ , that is failure to curb the terrorists operating on its soil. Even more seriously, there seem to have been no movement in addressing the ‘root cause’ of Indo Pak problem, ie the ‘institutionalised’  hate India mind set. A little background on this important issue is necessary.


It was in 1987, I had through our embassy, obtained the Pakistani Urdu text books ( printed by Lahore textbook board in 1979). What one saw there was appalling. Hatred of India and Hindus was elevated to the status of ideology and this poison was being injected in the young minds ( class 7 to 9) studying not just in Madarssas but regular government mainstream schools. I had written about it in Strategic Analysis ( IDSA , Delhi publication ) in Oct 1988 issue. This issue was taken up by our then PM Rajiv Gandhi with Pak PM Ms Benazir Bhutto. This had resulted in its inclusion in the Islamabad Declaration of 1988 wherein it was agreed by both that textbooks of both the countries will be revised to remove the hate propaganda. Unfortunately, Benazir Bhutto was soon ousted and the declaration remained on paper only. Thus there was the irony that while Pak talked of peace all the time in last two three years, its younger generations were still being indoctrinated in hate India/Hindu philosophy.


This issue was again taken up by me with Prof A. H. Nayyar of Pakistan when we met at the 13th world peace congress ( Doctors for Peace) in Melbourne in December 1998. Musharraf was conscious of this issue and had formed a group to remove the text book biases. ( Prof Nayyar was its member). But somehow the matter seemed to be resting there. But then according to ‘The News’ ( Editorial) of 9 December, Pakistan has finally begun the process of revising its textbooks and removing the anti India hate material.


Along with the protection of women bill ( that removes the injustice to victims of rape) these are clear signs that General Musharraf is serious about peace process with India. What is more, he is confident that he has the support of the armed forces in this process. This indeed augurs well for the future of the subcontinent.   


Challenges in 2007. 


It will be naïve to expect smooth sailing for India in future. The Indo-US partnership may well bring India on the radar of al Qaida and we may see terrorism directed against us. In Pakistan itself Musharraf may face renewed opposition from vested interests who may feel lost once anti Indianism is gone. Internationally, China, while paying lip service to Indo- Pak rapprochement, may also be loath to lose Pak as a proxy lever against India. How these forces will play out in the coming year will be interesting to watch. But there is no denying the fact that in 2006, we have laid the foundations of a prosperous and strong India.


Part II

The Domestic Scene.  













The greatest achievement of the country in this year was the sustained economic growth. Despite the obdurate Left snapping at his feet, the PM kept on course for economic development. On top of the sustained rate of growth exceeding 7 % last year, the economy grew by over 8% this year. Prof Raj Krishna’s ‘Hindu Rate of Growth’ seems to have settled at over 8%.........such is the Indian ‘inertia’ that despite political change, this growth rate now seems unstoppable and irreversible. There is much truth in Dr. ManMohan Singh’s assertion that a high rate of economic growth will solve many of our problems. Having come to power (accidentally)  on the slogan of ‘India whining’ as opposed to ‘India shining’ the UPA seems to reluctantly accept that it has actually retained the growth momentum. The question now being asked the world over in not whether India will be become an economic superpower but is ‘when’ it will become so.


If I were to be in charge of a news channel et  al, I would have chosen the ‘Indian Judiciary’ as the institution of the year! Sending a Union Minister to jail for life, the Judiciary has sent a powerful message to the criminals in Politics that they are NOT above the law.  One prays for more strength to their elbows.


But even greater has been the ( much delayed) emphasis on punishing the witnesses giving false evidence or turning ‘hostile’. No other factor had distorted the judicial system as much as blatant lying by eyewitnesses. Invariably it happens in cases where the rich and the famous are involved. So be it a case of drunken driving of BMW by a son of an Industrialist  in Delhi, or by an Actor in Mumbai or the famous ‘fodder scam’ of  Bihar, the witnesses either retract or simply vanish ( or die in ‘accident’). It is this single fact that has letting the rich and the famous get away with ( literally) murder!


There is a simple suggestion to the Judiciary, order the police to produce bank records of all these ‘Hostile’ witnesses…….I am sure the judges will be able to establish a clear co-relation between the retraction of testimony and swelling bank balance! It needs to be emphasized that in other countries like the US, even the most powerful individual like the President has had to leave office simply on the charge of giving false testimony! Kudos to the judiciary for upholding the rule of law!


The panic amongst the politicos is palpable! A particularly vocal Left MP went to town by asserting that the Parliament is ‘supreme’ on a TV channel! But the PYTs ( Pretty Young Things) conducting these ‘tamashas’ did not have the knowledge to point out to this august MP that Indian Parliament is NOT like the British one……..in case of India sovereignty rests with the People and the constitution that we the people have given ourselves……For instance the British Parliament can literally pass any Law, NOT so the Indian Parliament that has to operate within the parameters set by the constitution.


That brings us to the disastrous ‘Quota’ mania that has engulfed our system of late. None can object to the affirmative action in case of the truly meritorious but poor and lacking resources so as to usher in true egalitarianism. But pray what is the justice in CMs offspring studying in the most expensive schools getting ‘quota’ ? Much of the urban unrest amongst the Dalits and even Naxalism in tribal areas is due to the distortion that has crept in the affirmative action. For instance having studied the Naxalite problem in Chhattisgarh, one found that NOT a single  ( genuine) Gond tribal from there has been able to benefit due to quotas that have been virtually monopolised by the advanced Tribals from the North East!


About the quota for the so called ‘backwards’ the less said the better. I was in army at the time that the VP Singh ( the self styled ‘messiah’) ushered in the ‘mandalization’. My battalion had the so called upper caste Jawans in rank and file but in 1980s out of the 12 officers of the battalion, half or 6 were from the so called ‘backward’ community! So we had the bizarre situation of the better paid, educated and socially advanced officers children getting ‘concession’ and ‘quota’ while a poor Jawan’s children, with meagre means, less education and in lower social order, were regarded as ‘forward’! There are countless such examples of distortion and injustice that the timid politicos of all parties want to perpetuate.


In the  coming year the Judiciary will have to intervene and correct this distortion. As the PM has often pointed out that challenge of Naxalism is a major problem, then he ought to also see the co-relation between ‘creamy layer’ hogging the quota benefits and poor and deserving being left high and dry and taking to violence!


The ‘Sachar Committee’ report was another disaster brought about by cynical politicians. There is absolutely no doubt that Muslims are proportionately less in jobs and are backward. But the solution proposed by Sachar is worse than the disease. I have in earlier article in rediff asked a simple question……..Mr Sachar must find out the proportion of Muslim employees in Muslim owned giant companies like WIPRO, Wockhardt, Cipla and Himalyan Drugs…….He will find that the situation is NOT much different there! That leads one to the question, are these Muslim owners ‘discriminating’ against their own co-religionists?


If Sachar would have opened his eyes a little he would have found that the proportion of literacy and education amongst the Indian Muslims matches with the figures for Muslims in Pakistan ( where they are majority and have political power). Not just that, Sachar would have also found that in countries like UK while the Non Muslim immigrants actually perform better than the Whites, the Muslims are behind in every sphere. Sachar by promoting a false sense of ‘victimhood’ has fuelled a sense of alienation towards India amongst the Indian Muslims. The ‘real’ problems of Muslims lie elsewhere and the solution to these has be found by the community itself.


In the coming year the Quota folly and Sachar are going to haunt the country.