Thursday, August 07, 2008

A case of severe jet-lag

A major effect of jet lag on the human body and mind is that it can shift the body clock and in severe cases, throw it out of whack completely. An affected person ends up sleeping during the day when he should be awake and is wide awake in the night. Though the only known scientific cause is physical travel cross time-zones, we are currently witnessing a case of jet lag where the people affected seem to be living in a completely different world than they are physically in. They take actions when none are needed and are mute spectators when they need to do something. Yes, I'm talking about the elected government in power in India. Both at the centre and in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Current tension over the allotment of land to Shri Amarnath Shrine Board has already taken 3 lives and doesn’t show any signs of abating. And the government sleeps. Not that they were always this way. They were wide awake when they reversed the decision on allotment of land to the shrine board. They should have been sleeping then.

In a broad sense, the issue isn't even of the allotment of a small piece of land to the board appointed to take care of the shrine. After all, which logical mind wouldn’t support allotting resources to take care of pilgrims that travel from far and wide under harsh weather conditions for a spiritual experience akin to getting a little more closer to the supreme being. Case in point: all the millions in cash being spent to make hotel like accommodations for Hajj pilgrims in Delhi and subsidized travel tickets to and from Mecca. People shouting that the allotment of the land to the shrine board will create a demographic shift in the valley were either born in last five years or need a history-101 course, not to mention a copy of "common sense for dummies". The land is for the use of pilgrims. Pilgrims, by definition, leave after the pilgrimage is over with a transitory effect on demographics. Still, if someone really thinks that they wont leave and at the same time worries about demographic change, I think he should instead be happy about the change. After all, it would just reverse the damaging effect on demography that the exodus of Kashmiri pandits had about 19 years back (refer to the history-101).

The fundamental problem in the valley boils down to the deeply embedded notion in Kashmir that the valley is separate from the rest of the world (starting of course with India). Some influential people in the Kashmiri power circles do not want anything to do with the rest of the country. If it was upto some of them they would rather close the Jawahar Lal Nehru Tunnel and sever any ties that they have with India. Nothing would come out of the valley and nothing will go in. Of course, this doesn’t entirely work either because the terrorists need to come out to spread to the rest of the country and they need the food and other daily supplies to come in. So the motto is: feed us, clothe us so that we can kill you in return. Article 370 has put a shell around the valley that even the authors of the article will find difficult to crack. The people belonging to the valley get a separate citizenship like status within Kashmir. While they can travel, study, work and live in other parts of India; no Indian citizen who is not a "Kashmiri citizen" can do the same. The professional colleges do not admit students from the other parts of the country and non-Kashmiri's cannot buy land in the valley. When the valley erupts in flames, rich people with means send their kids to the professional training schools in the technically advanced cities of India while, the people with lesser means are forced to opt for the other kind of professional training across the border for their teens. But that’s not the point here, the issue being that the shell around the valley has created so severe an atmosphere devoid of cultural heterogeneity that Darwin would turn in his grave. More so, this non-exposure to the developing world is bringing another part of India down with it. I am referring to the broader region of Jammu whose inhabitants are peaceful people and have been suffering silently while they get clubbed with all the non-sense going on in the valley. Majority of the state government officials hail from the Kashmir valley (unofficial rumors vary between 70-80%) while the Jammu region gets the smaller share of the administrative posts. Same is true about the state assembly as well. The result is a non-proportional division of developmental funds between Jammu and the Kashmir valley. Apart from the fact that most of the officials belong Kashmir and have their loyalties figured out, some corrupt officials also find it easy to bag the money when it has to do with developmental activities in the valley. After all, who is going to check there?

Combine this with the historic inaction from the central government and this pot was bound to boil over one day. Two weeks back week it did. Today the peace-loving people in Jammu have said that they cannot take it anymore. Now the central government can either stay scared of the fundamentalist forces and their terror tactics or take an action showing that when a law is passed and legally signed, a terrorist's gun or a fundamentalist's hunger strike cannot change it. Can we finally shed this jet lag and wake up on the right side of the world? Establishing the original agreement on the allotment of the land to the shrine board will be a token gesture to show that the government means it when it says that Kashmir is a part of bigger India. If regional demography is an issue in our country than the software professionals from outside Karnataka should leave Bangalore, people should stop looking for work in states other than their own and the government of India should take steps to get Kashmiri pandits back to their homes in Kashmir. It is time we realize that out country is bigger than just one state or one valley. If we want true secularism we need to co-exist without boundaries and if someone has an issue with this, we need to address that person and his problem without chopping down the fundamental pillars on which our country is built.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Intelligence Games

U.S. officials said Thursday they concluded that elements of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI, aided the attack, based on telecommunications intercepts linking Pakistani intelligence officials to Afghan insurgents.

Pasted from here

The statement was published in Wall Street Journal and taken up by most of the high profile western news outlets during the last week. The central event of discussion was the brutal bombing of Indian embassy in Kabul in July 2008 that left 58 people dead and more than 170 injured. Among the dead were two senior Indian diplomats posted with the embassy. The news above was a refreshing admission, from the more widely read free world press, of the fact that India has been trying to get out in the open for more than two decades now. In fact various Indian governments, however crippled their response to the threats of internal de-stabilization may be, have never lost a chance to point out the role of padosi desh (neighboring country) in the orchestration of unfortunate terror incidents that seem to have become a part of life in the world's biggest democracy. This fact has been pointed out by multiple Indian leaders so many times that these days the media agencies might not even wait for a confirmation from the government press sources before they get a press release ready that blames Pakistan's agencies for the carnage the latest bomb has unleashed. The customary finger pointing gesture has become almost a joke now and nobody seems to take it seriously. The cycle of events goes like this:

1. A bomb explodes somewhere in India or near Indian interests abroad
2. Indian government: Isme padosi desh ka haath hai (Neighboring country is to blame)
3. Pakistani Spoksmen: Nahi hai (Nope, not true)
4. A bomb explodes somewhere in India or near Indian interests abroad
And so it goes….

But last week, suddenly all that finger pointing by the Indians seemed to make sense. After all it was American Intelligence that came to the same conclusion that the Indian Intelligence had made. So after all, there is truth to all these allegations. US, India, Afghanistan all cannot be lying about the ISIs role in promoting fundamentalist terror activities to sustain their own nefarious goals. With US on the same side of the table, people became confident that it was time for action. Now the rouge elements in the ISI will be reigned in and people will stop dying in carnages for no fault of their own. America's findings found a prominent spot in all of Indian newspapers. Two democracies, biggest and the oldest, would come together and make the world safer and better place to live. This would be a natural extension of the ongoing "War on terror". What could the actions be:

1. Would they work with the Pakistani government an weed out Taliban and terror supporting elements from ISI.
2. Would they work together to make Pakistan a more just and true democracy. After all US holds the key to Pakistan's money chest.
3. Would they pool their intelligence resources to reduce or eliminate the threat that these anti-human forces pose at the life of peaceful citizen worldwide.

With the South Asian eyes glued to any report of possible action, the western press obliged on Saturday Aug 02 2008 with the following recommendations from the US Intelligence and politicians:

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama proposed just that in an interview last week. "If one of the central concerns of Pakistan is its security posture towards India, then we need to put that on the table for discussion as we try to solve the problems in Afghanistan," he said.

The officials say a better U.S. policy would have been to limit India's high-profile activities inside Afghanistan

"Having the Indians running around Afghanistan was sure to invite retaliation," said a U.S. intelligence official with extensive experience in Afghanistan. "We may need to play a more direct role in calming things down."

Pasted from here


So again, we have decided to run than chase. The policy seems to be that if we take away the target, the terrorists have nothing to shoot at. There may be some substance in that approach if we first gave it a bit of thought. What was the "target" in the first place? Was it to bomb the embassy or get democratic influences out of Afghanistan? Instead of moving the target we end up handing the terrorists scopes that they can attach to their weapons so that they don’t miss the next time. We are losing the war just to avoid a battle. I think the conversation at some high level US intelligence/political headquarters went like this:

Big Politician (BP): So do we have any idea about who caused the bombing
Intelligence Guy (IG): Yes sir, it was Taliban with the help of ISI
BP: Why would they do that
IG: Well sir, the Pakistani intelligence establishment has some elements in it that resent the spread of Indian influence and democracy in Afghanistan so they orchestrated this bombing.
BP: Uh..looks like we should do something.
IG: Really?
BP: Yes yes, after all we are the major force in the region and the stability of the region affects us directly, or something like that. You can read the presidents last speech about why, but something should be done.
BP: Lets analyze this: If Indians stay in Afghanistan, Taliban will be angry and there will be bombings.
IG: Yes sir we need to stop Taliban.

BP: Right, ask the Indians to leave
IG: What?
BP: Yes if they are not there then Taliban will be happy and they will join the main democracy and then they will call us heroes because we bring them peace.
IG: Genius sir.
BP: Mark my words, there will be temples in our names everywhere in Afghanistan.
IG: Err…sir Taliban don’t worship in Temples, in fact they get really angry if they see one.
BP: Oh…ok, no temples. Looks like we have found a real solution to all our problems.
IG: Yes sir we are really winning this war on extremism.
BP: Yeah baby, where is OBL. We are kicking his butt here.