India : Murky time ahead

The gruesome 26/11 attack on India has left it grappling with reinforcing internal security apparatus, expediting the trial of lone surviving terrorist, attempts to bring to justice the masterminds of this conspiracy and more importantly convince Pakistan to accept proof of its complicity in cross-border terrorism through a series of dossiers. In the wake of a year gone by, there is some semblance of progress made in maritime security by inking contracts for procurement of surface vessels, Dornier aircraft and interceptor boats. Establishment of a radar chain, NSG hubs, construction of coastal police stations, check posts and barracks are still in the offing. For those who think all this should have been accomplished by now are being overzealous considering India’s 7,515-km long coastline.

Aftermath of terror atleast triggered the thought of plugging porous coastal borders to make them watertight. Though, there shall always be a lurking fear till these measures see the light of day as envisaged. Mere installation of technology too is futile unless trained personnel monitor the enemy movements and thwart their evil designs. Many crowded markets that were targeted earlier, now have unmanned metal detectors and CCTV’s strewn all over the place with nobody to monitor footage. Indians get jolted often but complacency and lack of resolve to even comply with systems in place are our hallmark., In all fairness, there is a long stretch to traverse before Indians feel protected.

On a macro level, web of contentious issues have compounded further. As if dealing with Pakistan wasn’t enough, China has been audaciously tugging at India’s territory and marking “China” on boulders with red paint. Incursions, violation of air space, threatening of shepherds perhaps could be played down as minor irritants since such incidents have been a feature for long. But China wanting more on their plate by staking a claim on Arunachal Pradesh is a bit too audacious. India did respond with a strong build up of troops only to be warned by China if it can afford a confrontation.

India’s recourse of bringing about pressure on Pakistan through diplomatic channels has already proved to be damp squib. Despite being blacklisted by International community, terror outfits still operate under disguise, charge sheeted 26/11 conspirator secures easy passage for lack of nailing evidence and US aid to fight terror continues to be misused. Pakistan seems to revel in obstinacy at the expense of its own peril.

The anguish of constant rebuttals from every quarter is strengthening the perception that India is getting marginalized in the corridors of power in South Asian block. This was exemplified by US president Obama’s statement asking China to monitor the India-Pakistan stability in the region, during his recent visit.

Boosting defense capability is vital for India but the modernization plans are often stuck under red-tape and inordinate delays. Catching up with China’s military might is a tall ask and though India is touted as an emerging economic power, it still is few notches behind China. Though the scale is tipped in China’s favour, bullying by no means should be tolerated. The least India could do is shun silence and be a little terse in response when confronted with territorial encroachment.

Handling Pakistan is an arduous task. Knee jerk reactions like bombarding terror training camps which is easier said than done or engaging in full-fledged war is no solution. Instead, imposing economic sanctions or abrogation of Indus water treaty could be considered as an instrument of diplomacy against Pakistan so that they feel the squeeze. Else, the only plausible option is to make our territory an impregnable fortress so that it deters terror groups from making Indians an easy target and sense of calm could prevail.

If India were to make any headway in dealing with conflicting bilateral issues, it should exert itself as a formidable power and speak from a position of strength rather than adopting a soft approach.

Tharoor : The Diplomat

Every medium is engaged in shrieking “Cattle-Class and Holy Cows” debate, though it all started with a tweet, the word which in itself sounds so lilting and melodious. Wasn’t the fall out of twitter comment by Tharoor a bit too harsh on the Ex-Diplomat. I think, each reprimand by congress he is subjected to, is a rude awakening for him in conservative Indian polity that is devoid of humour and dwells on incisive analysis of a twitter message meant to be taken in jest.

First, it was the lifestyle soaked in luxury followed by misinterpretation of “Cattle-Class” that never was attributed to People at large but pointed towards the way passengers are huddled in Economy Class. Without discerning the reference and intent of the remark, quibbling partymen jumped the gun demanding an apology. Some even suggesting that he should resign. Queer as it may sound, this was bound to happen as nit-picking is the only means of conducting business for bunch of haggards, who cannot accept a refreshing change of guard in their league.

Even before Tharoor got elected, there was talk of his distinct profile having served in the UN and skepticism over his style of functioning rather being able to blend with the Indian political culture. Rattled he certainly would have got prior to finding his footsteps in quagmire of criticism by his own ilk. This incident certainly points at the glaring gap in sensitivities of a highly educated, suave diplomat, who earlier has seen the highest echelons of power and run of the mill, fault finding Indian Netas. The paradox is Congress clings to its stance of taking action at appropriate time, when Prime Minister dismissed his remark as a joke. Perhaps, Manmohan Singh understands how demoralizing it would be to let go a relatively young, bright intellectual making a foray into politics and trying to make a difference.

Agreed that he is in public domain where scrutiny is a reality and should refrain from touching upon sensitive cords though unintended. But all the same, gauging the mood among the spectrum of political class he tendered an apology, demonstrating that he isn’t a rebellious, stubborn and westernized politician trying to poke fun at his countrymen. Also quickly moving out of the five -star accommodation and clarifying that he was footing the bill not from the government coffers but his hard earned money, is an affirmation to tow his party’s line of austerity.

Setting an example by living an austere life without frills and fancies is a very subjective issue. Certainly, the enthusiasm on display by holy cows taking to travel by trains and economy class is highly risk prone and in the same breath extremely inconveniencing to common people given the gun totting entourage that accompanies them as security shield. Putting life in jeopardy for the sake of austerity is very imprudent.

Moreover, cutting down on travelling expenses which amounts to a miniscule percentage of the total government spend, hardly makes an impact. It’s believed 80% of allocated government expenditure is lost in transit by the time it percolates down to actual masses. If by some mechanism, this drifting of huge chunk into corrupt hands can be checked and made to reach the true beneficiaries, calamities like drought, floods, earthquake etc can be tackled without the garb of austerity.

This would have a ripple effect in terms of addressing the endemic of corruption, elevating the socio-economic status of rural masses through various government funded schemes with entire allocated funds at disposal and sparing ripping apart of political class even if it entails tweeting messages in lighter vein.

Mr. Tharoor, you have brought in a refreshing trend of leaving your trail and being accessible to common man through Twitter. I only wish you continue the political journey and become a change agent in external affairs of this country too.