Monday, June 26, 2006

Bahadur Shah Zafar

Manraj Grewal had the following in the Indian Express which I liked:

The Badshah smiles
At the grave of Bahadur Shah Zafar

There was something heartwrenching about it. Maybe it was his sad verses written in calligraphy on the wall, or his brooding picture that seemed to chide me ever so gently. But there was no escaping the thick sense of melancholy that descended on me and made me linger and grieve at the grave of Bahadur Shah Zafar, the last emperor of India, at Yangon.

The white and green mazar was a study in simplicity, untouched by the Mughal splendoour. But then, so was Zafar, as he spent his last years in a strange country, pining for home, in the garage of a Capt Davies who'd grown fond enough of him to call him 'Abu'. 'Abu' to the officer, Zafar was a pir to the locals; the old man with the healing touch and potions. The Britishers must have been relieved when he was gone - this is evident from the haste with which they tried to consign him to oblivion even in death. His grave was allowed to be swallowed by weeds until it was discovered by chance in 1991.

Zafar, who passed away on a wintry day in November 1862, had always feared this lonesome existence. No wonder he wrote:

Na kisi ki aankh ka noor hun,
Na kisi ke dil ka karaar hun...
Koi char phool chadaye kyon,
Koi aa ke shama jalaye kyon,
Main woh bekasi ki mazaaar hun

(Neither am I the light of anyone's eye
Nor am I the peace of anyone's heart...
Why would anyone offer flowers or light a lamp on this grave of helplessness?)

Not really given to Urdu poetry, I secretly though him a loser. This visit to his mazar changed all that. Zafar was not a loser, he could conquer hearts with one stroke of his quill. And even after his death, he had a presence so strong that he could reduce a bunch of hardened journos and bureaucrats to solemn attention. Abu was a badshah alright.

That day in March, he finally got what he may have wanted. A visit from India's president, APJ Abdul Kalam, who penned a fond note to him: You said no one will visit, on behalf of your nation, I lit candles on your grave, I offered a chadar, I sprinkled flowers, I read 'Fatiha'...

Was it my imagination, or did Abu smile?

Monday, June 19, 2006

OK, you're impatient

Perhaps I've given you too much to read.

So I'll just give you this one sentence from Ambassador Dean, and then you may contemplate the death and destruction that has ensued from not heeding him:

I perceived {that} Washington's true policy in South Asia {was} full support for the most fundamentalist of all Islamic movements to take over political control in Kabul.

J.G.D also had heretical thoughts about the responsibility for the crash that had killed Zia ul Haq. For this he had his sanity questioned, and was essentially placed under house arrest.

Narcotics and the Afghan War

All of transcript of John Gunther Dean's oral history of his ambassadorship in India at the Jimmy Carter library is worth reading. (Thank you, Bharat-Rakshak!)

Here is an excerpt.

In order to understand U.S. relations with South Asia in the 1980s, one must also have some understanding of Indian-Pakistani relations during that period, and the crucial role of Pakistan in U.S. policy toward Afghanistan. Little was written in the United States during the 1980s about the links between arms for those fighting the Soviet Union in Afghanistan and the boom in the drug culture in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Perhaps the overriding U.S. policy consideration toward all of South Asia in those days was "to trap and kill the Russian bear in Afghanistan, and Pakistan was a staunch ally in its strategy."

For obvious reasons, I prefer to quote from public documents in discussing the connection between drugs and arms for Afghanistan rather than referring to classified official cables; moreover, they say about the same thing. This subject was much discussed at the time within the American Embassy in New Delhi. As I stated in earlier chapters, different agencies and departments of the U.S. Government could have conflicting positions. This was also the case in Embassy New Delhi;
specifically, it applied to the relationship of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA).

Generally speaking, to protect its "assets" abroad, the CIA had ensured in those days that the DEA's concerns outside the United States were subordinated to its own. We are talking about the 1980s. No DEA country attaché overseas was allowed to initiate an investigation into a suspected drug trafficker or attempt to recruit an informant without clearance from the local CIA station chief. DEA country attaches were required to employ the standard State Department cipher and all their transmissions were made available to the CIA Station Chief. The CIA also had access to all DEA investigative reports, and informants' and targets' identities when DEA activities outside the United States were Involved.

The boom in the poppy growing and heroin refineries in Pakistan and Afghanistan coincided with the beginning of the Afghan War in early 1990. Madame Benazir Bhutto, then Prime Minister of Pakistan, said that "today Pakistan society is dominated by the culture of heroin and the kalatchnikof rifle" . With drugs came arms. But who had heard in the United States, in 1985 when I arrived in New Delhi, about the role of General Zia-ul-Haq's adopted son and drug smuggling? Yet,
in December 1983, a young Pakistani was arrested at Oslo airport with 3.5 kilos of heroin. It eventually led back to the President of Pakistan's involvement in drug smuggling.

Even as the U.S. Government was congratulating in 1984 General Zia-ul-Haq for helping control narcotics traffic, the Police of Pakistan, under Norwegian pressure, arrested Hamid Hasnain, the "adopted son" of General Zia, who turned out to be a kingpin in the drug running mafia. In Hasnain's possession were found cheque books and bank statements of Zia-ul-Haq and his family. I am relating these facts here not to undermine General Zia's reputation but to demonstrate the linkage of drug dealing with arms to fight the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan and how we interacted with these criminals to achieve our own ends, i.e., the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan and the toppling of the communist regime led by Najib Boulla in Kabul.

On the Norwegian bust of the Pakistani drug smuggling ring, I rely on the detailed newspaper article which appeared in the TIMES OF INDIA. Please note that the author is an American journalist, formerly the South Asia correspondent of the FAR EASTERN ECONOMIC REVIEW and later working on special assignment with the New York publication THE NATION.

By reproducing Mr. Lifschultz' lengthy article, I am trying to give the American public a glimpse of what we knew at the American Embassy in New Delhi, India, in 1988 about the covert struggle and the relationship between Pakistan - United States - Afghanistan, subject which remained taboo for the American mass media for many years: drugs, arms, and Afghanistan.

So, be obliging and go take the glimpse! Understand some of the roots of the current mess!

Network Neutrality

Misener gets it; this is the way I think Network Neutrality should work.

“When we get to the point of discrimination, there’s also this misnomer when we talk about things like wanting to prioritize videos so things don’t get clogged… We don’t want that either. We don’t think that that’s wrong for the network operators to be able to prioritize certain types of content. So if they want to prioritize telemedicine over data files that makes perfect sense. Let them do it. We’re not opposed to that. The [Net Neutrality] rules that we propose would not do that. Our concern is discriminating among the source or ownership of that content. So if the network operators are put in a position of favoring the Mayo Clinic over Johns Hopkins, that’s a problem. That’s the discrimination. That’s when the network operators become the HMO.”

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Take the Preznit to the movies

Ariana Huffington notes that after watching a documentary on the oceans, Bush was inspired to create the world's largest protected marine area, something which is against his political philosophy and his normal repertoire of actions. She then asks what other films we might show Bush.

That's easy. We show him Fahrenheit 9/11 and he is inspired to resign.

Deconstructing Wolpert

Professor Stanley Wolpert, Professor of History at the University of California, Los Angeles, is an eminent historian of India. Among his books are biographies of Nehru, Gandhi and Jinnah. A layperson like me would normally hesitate to challenge him.

The problem is that I have now access to the original sources, the ones Wolpert cites, and to put it gently, Wolpert is a great spin-meister if not an outright dishonest reporter.

Life is going to be busy over the next three weeks, but I hope to return to this topic.

I'll give you one brief example. On March 31, 1947, Gandhi suggested to Viceroy Lord Mountbatten that Jinnah and the Muslim League be given the opportunity to form a Cabinet for India, the Congress would not be in the government but would cooperate. Mountbatten was taken aback by this, but this was not a new proposal. It has been proposed in 1940 and 1942, in 1946, and possibly on one other occasion. {If we believe Wali Khan, Gandhi had made such an offer from prison in a letter to Jinnah in 1943, which caused some anxiety to the British that Jinnah might accept.} Janet Morgan, in her biography of Edwina Mountbatten notes that others were less surprised, this kite had been flown before (and her focus as far as I can see is on Edwina and not on Indian events). On April 1, Mountbatten discussed this proposal with Nehru. The primary source for this conversation is Mountbatten himself, Wolpert's reference is to The Transfer of Power papers, edited by Mansergh, where the Viceroy's report is included in full.

This is what Mountbatten wrote:

1 April 1947
The interview lasted from 3 to 4:20 pm.
I began by giving him an account of my talk with Mr. Gandhi, which the latter had agreed I should do. Pandit Nehru was not surprised to hear of the solution which had been suggested, since this was the same solution that Mr. Gandhi had put up to the Cabinet Mission. It was turned down then as being quite impracticable; and the policy of Direct Action by the Muslim League, and the bloodshed and bitterness in which it had resulted, made the solution even leas realistic now than a year ago.

He said he was anxious for Mr. Gandhi to stay a few days longer in Delhi, as he had been away for four months and was rapidly growing out of touch with events at the Centre....

Wolpert should have done better than to write the following:
Nehru was shocked to learn that his Mahatma was quite ready to replace him as premier with the Quaid-i-Azam.


Full Wolpert quote:
Mountbatten opted first to discuss the matter with Nehru, whose reaction was totally negative. Nehru was shocked to learn that his Mahatma was quite ready to replace him as premier with the Quaid-i-Azam. After telling Mountbatten how "unrealistic" Gandhi's "solution" was, Jawaharlal said "he was anxious for Mr Gandhi to stay a few days longer in Delhi as he had been away for four months and was rapidly getting out of touch with events at the Centre." Nehru and Patel hoped quickly to bring the unpredictable old man back into "touch" with their conclusions on how best to handle Jinnah and the Muslim League. Perhaps even if Jinnah were offered the entire central government on a platter with the whole cabinet under his personal control, he might have dismissed it with a negative wave of his long-fingered hand. Yet it was an exquisite temptation to place before him. It was a brilliant solution to India's oldest, toughest, greatest political problem. The Mahatma alone was capable of such absolute abnegation, such instant reversal of political position. Gandhi understood Jinnah well enough, moreover, to know just how potent an appeal to his ego of that sort of singularly generous offer would have been. It might just have worked; surely this was a King Solomon solution. But Nehru had tasted the cup of power too long to offer its nectar to anyone else - last of all to that "mediocre lawyer", the "reactionary-Muslim Baron of Malabar Hill" as so many good Congress leaders thought of Jinnah. Nehru notified Mountbatten that the scheme was "quite impracticable...even less realistic now than a year ago" when Gandhi had suggested the same idea to the cabinet mission.

Incidentally, if we believe V.P. Menon, Jinnah was wary of such proposals, because he was afraid that the Congress would genuinely cooperate with the Muslim League and that would put paid to the Pakistan scheme.

Some more of the Viceroy's discussion with Nehru, as reported by the Viceroy:

He {Nehru} had not yet had the opportunity of discussing with Mr Gandhi his reasons for opposing the Congress resolution on partition; but he realised that Mr Gandhi was immensely keen on a unified India, at any immediate cost, for the benefit of the long term future......

...We next discussed the work which Mr Gandhi is now carrying out in Bihar. We both recognized the high purpose which impelled him to carry out this very difficult task in the hopes of healing the sore spot in Bihar. But, as Pandit Nehru so aptly pointed out, Mr Gandhi was going around with ointment trying to heal one sore spot after another on the body of India, instead of diagnosing the cause of this eruption of sores and participating in the treatment of the body as a whole. I entirely agreed, and said that it appeared that I would have to be the principal doctor in producing the treatment for the body as a whole....

Friday, June 16, 2006

Murder of a Journalist

The body of Pakistani journalist Hayatullah Khan was found last Friday handcuffed and shot from behind. He had been missing since December 5, 2005, when five masked gunmen abducted him.

Amnesty International has some background.

On December 1, a house containing al Qaida operative Hamza Rabia was blown up in North Waziristan. Pakistani officials claimed essentially that Rabia blew himself up.

Hayatullah Khan was the first journalist to photograph pieces of shrapnel which local villagers said they had found in the rubble of the house. The shrapnel found at the site is reportedly stamped with the words "AGM-114", "guided missile" and the initials "US". It is believed to be part of a Hellfire missile. These missiles are used by the US Airforce’s remote controlled Predator aircraft.

Hayatullah's brother makes some serious allegations as per The New York Times:

Mr. Dawar, 21, said that in a meeting with local intelligence operatives and government officials on May 15, he had been assured that the family would hear something about Mr. Khan on or about June 15.

"And this is what we have got: his body," he said. He had been assured time and again by Pakistani officials, Mr. Dawar said, that Hayatullah was alive and well but had been detained on matters relating to national security.

"We knew it all along whom or which agency had held him. There is not even an iota of doubt in our mind. He was wearing government handcuffs."

His family suspected that Mr. Khan had been picked up by an intelligence agency after he first released pictures of the remains of American missiles that had killed a senior Al Qaeda operative, Hamza Rabia, in North Waziristan on Dec. 1 last year.

His pictures proving United States involvement in taking out Mr. Rabia, exposed as false the Pakistani military's claim that the Al Qaeda operative had been killed in a blast inside the house, his brother pointed out.

Mr. Khan was married and the father of four.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The Circle of Life

This was old in July 2005, when I first posted it:


More analytically (from laxmibai, via bharat-rakshak), this is the current situation.
Not much change, it appears.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Nehru considered bombing Travancore

From Volume X of the Transfer of Power papers:

Minutes of the Viceroy's Eighth Staff Meeting
2nd April 1947
His Excellency the Viceroy added that he had great faith that, if Pandit Nehru could be caught at the right moment, there was no man more quickly able to shed all traces of emotionalism. It was, however, necessary to choose the right moment - as was shown by an incident at the previous day's Cabinet meeting. A report had come forward that Travancore had made an agreement with a "foreign" power (which was presumably Great Britain) over the disposal of her uranium deposits. [footnote] Pandit Nehru had been by no means dispassionate over this issue, and had in the end declared that he would, in the extreme, send the Indian Air Force to bomb Travancore.
 PS: Jan 10, 2015:
Transfer of Power papers, Vol IX, #469 is dated February 26, 1947, from Field Marshall Viscount Wavell to Lord Pethick-Lawrence.  Excerpts, and the above-mentioned note 6 are given below.
9. Merrell's No. 2 {probably Thomas E. Weil, Second Secretary at the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi} in the American Embassy came to see my Deputy Private Secretary soon after His Majesty's Government's Statement was made.   He enquired about the Governments to which His Majesty's Government would hand over power in the absence of an agreed constitution framed by the Constituent Assembly.  He asked whether it was the intention that His Majesty's Government would make treaties with the Indian States if there was not an all-India constitution.  He asked particularly, with a slightly meaning look, about Travancore [6], and mentioned that Kalat might well have oil.
 [6] In January 1947 the Government of Travancore issued a communiqué announcing that in collaboration with a British firm who would supply the technical knowledge, they were setting up a factory for the production of thorium, a substance of importance in the development of atomic energy, from the State's deposits of monazite sand.  The arrangements agreed contemplated 'the export to the United Kingdom for a limited period of a limited quantity of surplus monazite and of the factory's output of thorium nitrate, save for what may be required in India'.

Anonymous posters, watch out!

(Via Peter Woit's blog)

The Congress has created a statute, and President Bush has signed it into law that is as follows:
Whoever...utilizes any device or software that can be used to originate telecommunications or other types of communications that are transmitted, in whole or in part, by the Internet... without disclosing his identity and with intent to annoy, abuse, threaten, or harass any person...who receives the communications...shall be fined under title 18 or imprisoned not more than two years, or both."

You can read more about it here and here.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Gandhi to the Communists

June 8, 1947

I will tell you the same thing that I told those Socialist friends on two days. All of you should think first of the interest of the
country as a whole. Instead of doing that, you are wasting your time over minor grievances. The moment you come upon some error by somebody, real or imaginary, without any investigation you Communists start making inflammatory speeches, denounce the Government and incite the people. Is there not a single act of Government deserving your co-operation? Just think for a moment. If you were in the place of Nehru, what would you do? You should, therefore, either take the places of Nehru or Sardar—I stand guarantee that they will step down the moment you ask them to do so—or cooperate with them. That will be for your own good. In any case you should stop making speeches full of baseless allegations.

Your principles are fine indeed. But you do not seem to follow them in practice, for you do not seem to know the difference between truth and falsehood or justice and injustice. What is more saddening about you is that, instead of having faith in India and drawing inspiration from its unrivalled culture, you wish to introduce Russian civilization here as if Russia was your motherland. I disapprove of relying on any outside power, however much that may materially benefit us, for I believe in the principle that your eating is not going to satisfy my hunger, that I can satisfy my hunger only be eating myself. I tell Rajendra Babu the same thing every day, that in the matter of food we should not depend upon any foreign country. It would be more
honourable for us to share among ourselves the food that we have than to live on other people’s charity. Let us be worthy of our freedom. We may certainly accept useful and beneficial ideas from foreign countries, but this does not mean that we should uncritically admire everything foreign. There are good and bad things in every country. It is a grave error to believe that everything in our country is bad and in other countries good. Some things in foreign countries are good while some features of our culture are unrivalled.

You also use the work ‘satyagraha’ as part of your jargon. But anybody who uses this word should realize that by doing so he accepts a great responsibility. A satyagrahi should rely wholly on truth. He cannot then afford to be ambiguous in his attitudes. He cannot jump on to a bandwagon. In brief, he cannot depart from his principles in the smallest
degree. A satyagrahi cares for nothing but truth. He will give no pain or do no injustice whatever to anybody either in thought, word or deed. And he must always have perfect clarity in his thoughts.

All of you are servants of the country and are eager to serve it. Such as we are, we are brothers and sisters born in the same country. As such, we should supplement one another’s work, give up slandering one another and stop fruitless arguments, be generous and mutually forgiving. Let us give up out narrow-mindedness, cultivate generosity of heart and raise the good name of the country to the highest point in the whole world. In that lies everybody’s happiness, peace and prosperity.

All of you are like my own children. Since you heard me patiently, I poured out my heart to you. You can come to me
whenever you wish. I want your help. I can do something only if I have it. What can I do by myself? One cannot clap with only one hand, as the saying is.