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What the video conceals

The Kashmir Monitor

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By Sushant Singh

The immediate provocation for the unofficial release of the army’s video of the surgical strikes of September 2016 to multiple television channels last Wednesday is not known: Pakistan seems gripped by its theatre of elections and the ceasefire along the Line of Control (LoC) has been restored by both sides. Educated guesses vary — from the belief that it was a response to former Union minister Arun Shourie calling them “farzical strikes” a couple of days prior, to an attempt by the government to wrest the narrative on Kashmir after the BJP’s sudden breakup with the PDP.

The surgical strikes were launched by the Special Forces of the army following the death of 19 soldiers in a terror attack at Uri military camp. That was the worst ever loss of soldiers in a single incident in Kashmir.

 

Lt General D S Hooda (retd), the then Northern Army Commander, who was directly in-charge of the surgical strikes, later told this newspaper that one of their aims was to send a message to the larger public to keep the faith in the army. The other aim was to avenge the death of 19 soldiers and send a message across the border. At an operational level, this allowed the army to professionally test itself by crossing the heavily-guarded LoC and hit the Pakistan army. The latter two aims did not need a public announcement and would have been achieved by keeping the surgical strikes covert, as had been done with trans-LoC operations in the past.

To inform the public, the success of the operation needed to be announced, which was done by the DGMO next morning in Delhi. The language was carefully chosen — he only stated that an operation was carried out “along the LoC”, not across the LoC — and no details were given out. The sanctity of the LoC as a de facto “international border” has been a thorny question for India: It was the argument used by the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government to globally isolate and pressure Pakistan when its soldiers crossed the LoC at Kargil. The Vajpayee government, in fact, passed orders that the army and air force were not to cross the LoC under any circumstances.

That the video has not been officially released by the government — although it has been verified as being real by General Hooda — but only attributed to sources is also due to this reason. New Delhi does not want to officially acknowledge that its soldiers crossed the LoC and give Pakistan a winning diplomatic argument, were Islamabad to try another misadventure across the LoC.

While the video of surgical strikes was not officially released by the government, it was given an imprimatur by the ruling party when it put out the video on social media platforms, mixed with clips of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. It aimed to transfer the credit for a tactical action’s success from the Army to the top political leadership, where no strategy was clearly involved. Avenging the death of soldiers or conducting a risky military operation without any casualties is a plus for the Army. But if the strategic aim was to deter Pakistan from sending terrorists across the LoC, end terror attacks on military camps in J&K or improve the situation in Kashmir — as it ought to be for the top political leadership — the surgical strikes failed miserably. We need to clearly understand the difference between tactical success and strategic failure, and the national institutions responsible for the two domains.

Leave alone successful military operations in 1948, 1965, 1971 or 1999, even the Special Forces have had greater successes in various tactical operations. To inflate the surgical strikes to the level of a 1971 victory, where the Pakistan army signed a document of surrender, is senseless but the hype and hyperbole on some TV channels seem to suggest so. It does a great disservice to not just to our armed forces, which are currently struggling with outdated equipment and a shortage of funds for modernisation, but also to our military veterans.

The armed forces need to be lauded by the public but they need to be supported by the government to be professionally prepared. The easy liberation of Goa in 1961, seen as a great military victory, created a perception of army’s professional invincibility which came crashing down against the Chinese a year later. That should be a lesson for us — not to be lulled into false confidence. Release of videos of tactical actions on demand may help build up a political leader electorally but it is not a substitute for building a professional military and a realistic diplomacy, backed by sound political strategy. What the video conceals is more worrying than what it shows


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Opinion

Kashmiri Followers of Aurel Stein

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By Bhushan Parimoo

Thus goes the English saying: if you love the Master; then you must love his dog as well. Looks, it may be true for some Stein lovers. That he owned seven dogs in succession, and every one of them was called Dash. The name was more common at one time than it seems to be now: Queen Victoria’s Dash was a King Charles spaniel. It still seems slightly odd to give every one of a sequence of dogs the very same name, and Stein, whose claim to fame is above all as an investigator of the Buddhist cultures of Central Asia, sometimes toyed with the idea that the latest Dash was a reincarnation of one of its predecessors. Following Stein’s Knighthood in 1912 at Srinagar, he received a very special greeting telegram. It was from his friend Percy Allen, written on behalf of Dash the Great his canine companion during his Second Expedition. 1906-1908.” Many congratulations, dear Master. Am wearing my collar of achievement. If I had known this was coming, I should not have cried on the Wakhjir. Whip the young one, and keep him in orderSir. Dash, KCIE(Have assumed the title). Thus Dash II was the only ‘Sir’ in Stein’s canine breed of seven. The two other in the family equally special were Spin Khan and Yelochi Beg!Perhaps no animal, except for Lyka, the celebrated Russian dog that ever went into space in the Soviet spacecraft Syoz in the mid-60s of the last century, has attained such a celebrated status as Stein’s dogs, Dash.It was sometime mid-September 2017, sunnyafternoon thatthis writer managed a few moments, with intent to pay a courtesy call on Mahmood Ahmed Shah, the then Director Tourism Kashmir. Knowing him as one of the best adventurist from the valley, he knows the landscape like the lines of his palm. My purpose of the visit was to kill two birds with one visit; one to pay regards beside to inquire about the arrangements being conducted to reinstall the memorial stone at the Mohand Marg in the memory of Sir Marc AruelStein whom the locals call Marg KaBabu. During our conversation I referred to Stein as the Nomadof Mohand Marg, a place where he spent several summers of his five decade stay in Kashmir between 1895 and 1943. Stein simply preferred the place over other places of the valley and even declined more urban hospitality of his fellow Europeans in Srinagar or elsewhere. The only exceptions were when it served the needs of his research.

Of course an earlier memorial of Stein was installed by his camp assistant Late Ramchand Bali and is associates on 15 August 1947, which now stands vandalised. While we were still in mutual conversation upon the subject, a hefty personality who was already there lent his ears to our talk. On his part, he informed us that he knew about mountains a bit more than anyone else; at least in a general sense. He had reasonably good knowledge while impressing that he had grown among the White adventurers. Sure of his claims, this gentleman now posed seemingly a simple question but full of punch, more to me than to Mahmood Shah as to what was the name of Stein’s dog.He wanted to take me off the guard. For a while he believed he had an upper hand thinking many did not know the name of Stein’s canine companion-friend. To say the least,this writer was subjected to a test with regard to my depth of knowledge about Sir MarcAurel Stein which in sincerity is nothing but elementary with no claims ever made in this regard.However, in all humility, I did share with this anonymous ‘all knowing Stein buff’ that it is quite well known that he edited Kalhana’sRajatarangni in Sanskrit in 1892 and later produced its masterly English translation in 1900 and Saniskrit; and both these from the original manuscript written in Kashmir’s unique Sharda script.Nonetheless, I did not shy to share that I had gone through this historical chronicle long ago in 1964 at the erstwhile Prince Wales College Jammu Library now called as. Gandhi Memorial Science College.My inquisitive friend’s roving eyes still tried to elicit more from me about Stein, perhaps in his misplaced belief that soon my ‘ammunition’ will exhaust. And it was then that I had to give a better account of my ‘ Stein ignorance’ by stating that Sir Marc Aruel Stein was born a Hungarian in a Jewish family at Budapest; got baptized to the Christianity along with his brother who was nineteen years older than him. The move was to avoid discrimination with the intent to pursue his desired studies unhindered from Anti-Semitism which was prevailing those days. Also he was administered the oath of a Naturalized British citizenship in a small tent at a remote corner of the Swat called Batkundi now in Pakistan. He carried a British-Indian passport indicating his being a domicile of ‘Kashmir.” Significantly Stein is acclaimed as a great explorer of histime but not before he had acquired the knowledge and skills of an accomplished Sanskrit’s in Kashmir which he subsequently used as a launching pad for explorations in Central Asia and the Middle East.In the finality I replied to his original question when I said Dash was the name of Stein’s dog! It was now my turn to serve. The poser from me caught him plumb before the wicket when I asked him how many Dash Stein had. He sensed it right and changed the topic.It is now through these columns I tell my friend what he avoided that day.Stein owned seven dogs in succession, and every one of them was called Dash except Dash V All were fox terriers .Queen Victoria’s dog too had the same name but was a King Charles spaniel. Dash V was the only Dash who was not a fox terrier. Stein, sometimes toyed with the idea that the latest Dash was a reincarnation of one of its predecessors. He acquired for the first time a dog in 1896 to keep away the rats at his Mohand Marg camp. It was a Fox terrier whom he gave the name of Dash. Animal played no part in Stein’s urban upbringing but perhaps he had been influenced by his old friend Lockwood Kipling who wrote in his own book; ’Beast and Man in India’ (1891) that “the companionship of a good Dog will teach more effectively than the words of any philosopher”.

 

“But quickly (Dash) became an indispensable companion travelling everywhere with his masters and enlivening otherwise lonely periods with antics which Stein always be recalled affectionately throughout his life”.Eventually a fox terrier became a fixture in his life, always called Dash. Dash I, Stein’s first dog, was acquired in 1896 and accompanied Stein on his early travels, culminating in the 1st Central Asian Expedition. Known also by the Turki name Yolchi Beg — ‘Sir Traveller’ — given to him by Stein’s servant Mirza, he is seen here at Niya in January 1901, wearing the Kashmiri coat specially made to protect him against the desert winter. He died in India in 1902 while Stein was in England.Dash II (1904-18) was the second dog. ‘Dash the Great’, the dog against which all his successors were to be measured, was acquired by Stein in 1904 and travelled with him on the 2nd Central Asian Expedition. He returned to England with Stein in 1909 and lived in retirement in Oxford until 1918, when he was run over by a bus.Acquired by Stein in 1912, Dash II’s successor (Dash III) accompanied Stein on the 3rd Central Asian Expedition between 1913 and 1916. He survived until 1919, when he was killed by a pack of dogs in Srinagar.Dash IV (1921-25) was acquired as a puppy in 1921. He was brought back to England by Stein in 1924, but died the following year. Dash V (1927-30) was acquired in 1927, Dash V was the only Dash who was not a fox terrier. He accompanied Stein on the 4th Central Asian Expedition, but died at Kashgar in 1930. Stein considered that he was perhaps over bred for the rigours of travelling.Dash VI (1931-41) was acquired in 1931 and considered by Stein a very promising reincarnation of Dash the Great’. He travelled with Stein on his archaeological investigations in Iran and Iraq. He survived until 1941, when he was killed by a leopard near Mohand Marg. Dash VII was acquired in 1943-? Dogs have long been companions in man’s quest to conquer the Poles too.

More than a century ago, Roald Amundsen the Norwegian explorer set foot on South Pole on December 14, 1911. The British team led by Robert Scott managed to arrive at the South Pole only on January 17, 1912, 33 days after Amundsen had hoisted the Norwegian flag.

The reason why Amundsen reached the Pole earlier than Scott is not difficult to figure out. Their goal was the same, but their priorities were vastly different.
Scott indulged in scientific work, wasted time to study Antarctic animals and collecting samples. On the contrary, Amundsen was focused to reach the goal to register geographical feat.

Perhaps the singular difference about the achievements between the two came from the fact of the choice of the animals. It was strikingly different. Scott took more ponies than dogs. Amundsen had special dogs to pull the sledges. Worse, Scott sent his dog teams back to the base camps and instead men pulled their heavy dredges.If Amundsen had no hesitation killing the dogs that had weakened, and eat their meat. Scott believed that using man- harnesses was less cruel than using dogs.

In the end, the focus and clear priorities meant that Amundsen reached the coveted place weeks before Scott, simply because the former relied more on dogs while latter on men.The inquisitive Stein lover I encountered that day in September 2107, I later learned is Yusuf Chapri, son of one of Stein’s favourite camp retainers GhaffarChapri.

(The author is a Jammu based environmentalist)

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Opinion

Coalition can be a better option

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By Sidharth Bhatia

“If not Narendra Modi, then who? Rahul Gandhi? That would be a disaster.” This has been heard innumerable times. As elections grow closer, discussions centre around not which party or coalition will form the government but who the next prime minister will be. Modi has successfully transformed it into a presidential-style contest between a self-made man like him and a privileged dynast like Rahul.

There are ironies galore here, not the least that the BJP, which has long claimed to be an ideology-led party in which individuals do not matter, is now seen as secondary in importance to Narendra Modi.

 

Dig deeper and the narrative gets more interesting. Even those who lean towards Modi, either out of conviction or because they don’t see an alternative, tacitly agree that his administration has failed to measure up to expectations. The more blunt assessment is that the last four years have been a disaster in several ways. While it is the farmers who have come out on the streets and protested and the liberal and secular brigade has continuously focused on the rapidly deteriorating social fabric, the business community – corporate chieftains and small traders – tends to express its anger privately.

But the anger is palpable – demonetisation and the Goods and Services Tax, not to say the sluggish economy and lack of investment, have affected companies and small businesses alike.

But it is here that support for the prime minister personally is the most vehement. Modi’s government and its economic policies may have failed to boost growth and the spending on the social sector may appal them, but they have no issues with the rest of it, including Hindutva. Add to that a deep antipathy towards the Gandhi family and it becomes clear why they are inclined to vote for the BJP the next time around.

Rahul Gandhi is also shorthand for a coalition government. Even if the BJP returns with reduced numbers and has to include a sizable number of partners to form the government, Modi is seen as the undisputed leader of such an arrangement. The others are perceived as a hotchpotch grouping with no common agenda but to dislodge Modi and grab power. And who will be the prime minister? Mayawati? God forbid. Mamata Banerjee? Even worse. “Coalitions are useless – all previous experiences of such a khichdi have failed miserably,” goes the refrain.

This limited understanding displays not just ignorance of Indian politics but of India itself. A coalition best represents the diversity of the country and the different needs that each section of this vast nation has. The Congress may have dominated Indian politics for a long time, ruling at the Centre for about three decades continuously before it was dislodged in 1977, but historical reasons had a lot to do with it. Besides, the Congress itself was – and in some ways continues to be – a coalition of forces with varying and even rival social and economic ideologies, accommodating within itself every kind of ethnicity, region and caste.

The notion that coalitions have been disastrous for India also doesn’t stand scrutiny. The Narasimha Rao government is a good example – it was a minority government that not just survived for five years but also ushered in seminal economic reforms – something that the business community needs to remember and even compare with the current BJP government, which received the biggest mandate in 30 years.

Vajpayee ran a coalition and both the UPAs were coalitions too. These leaders had to face pulls and pressures from partners, but were convivial and collegial in their approach, managing to take along their allies without giving up their own core values and agendas. Vajpayee had to deal with mercurial politicians like Jayalalitha and Banerjee while Singh had the powerful CP(M) to contend with. When it became too much, they let the partner go.

It bears repetition that when the BJP led by Vajpayee was defeated in 2004 and the hollowness of the ‘India Shining’ claim was exposed, the urban supporters of the BJP were shocked. The stock markets fell below their lower circuit when it became clear that the Congress had emerged as the single-largest party but would have to tie up with several others to reach the magic number. Five years later, in 2009, when the UPA was voted in with the Congress winning a larger number of seats, the markets had to be closed within a minute of opening because the index zoomed beyond the upper circuit.

The stock market example is used to indicate that at least as far as expectations of economic policies are concerned, the investor community – and by extension, metropolitan and tier 2 and 3 town voters – were all gung-ho about Manmohan Singh, despite the presence of other partners and even though UPA I had invested in much-reviled social programmes such as NREGA. Singh saw through not just the nuclear deal but also presided over an economic boom besides steering the country’s economy through safely in the treacherous post-2008 period.

It is equally true that his second stint saw corruption cases being exposed and he was not effective enough in calling those allies to account. But corruption allegations – and its cousin crony capitalism – are the one common theme of Indian governments, single party or coalition. There was Bofors during Rajiv Gandhi’s time and Rafale now, ‘coffingate’ at the time of Vajpayee-led NDA and the 2G scam during UPA II.

Thus, there is no evidence that coalition governments are uniformly bad for the country and one party domination is far better. Under Deve Gowda – a surprise compromise candidate – we had the ‘dream budget’ presented by P. Chidambaram, even if it went sour quickly. Under Modi, budgets have not enthused businessmen and progressively the government has become more and more welfarist. At the very least, it has not come up with any imaginative economic policies that have spurred growth; instead, we have had demonetisation, the after effects of which have left millions devastated.

That surely was a good example of how one strongman can bulldoze his way through, not even taking his own partymen and cabinet colleagues into confidence. The comparison with the Emergency, also a decision taken by a small group of people, is obvious.

The experience of the past four-and-a-half years should tell us that governments that are built around one leader and one dominant political party can and do often begin to show signs of arrogance and hubris, and get bristly about criticism. They get increasingly cut off from ground realities because there are no checks and balances, no counter forces applying the brakes or even communicating a different point of view.

Smaller parties may and do indulge in blackmail, but represent the voices of their own respective constituencies and thus can temper impetuous decision-making. Narendra Modi has not cared about his own party colleagues, forget the smaller allies, who have left the government over the years.

There is a good chance that the post-May 2019 government will be a genuine coalition, with multiple partners having a say. Who will lead it is still uncertain. But whoever it is – and this includes Modi, who has no experience in collective decision making – will have to understand that his or her government is one that best reflects India and its people and therefore must be respected.

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Opinion

Gandhi and the elusive Nobel

The Kashmir Monitor

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By Amitabha Bhattacharya

Many a genius missed the Nobel Prize. Leo Tolstoy in literature, Lise Meitner, Satyendranath Bose and MeghnadSaha in the sciences; even Einstein was awarded one for the photoelectric effect, not for his revolutionary ‘Theory of Relativity’. Why then is there such lament on Gandhi missing the Nobel Peace Prize? A book of 171 pages titled ‘Gandhi And The Nobel Peace Prize’ written by the noted author Dr.Rajinder Singh of the University of Oldenburg, Germany provides for the first time an authentic and comprehensive account of the ‘why’ and ‘how’ of this case, based largely on his research at the Nobel Peace Prize Institute, Oslo.

The book explains the process of filing nominations, short-listing of candidates based on expert advice and how the final decision is taken. Once the basic rules are explained, Singh goes into chronological details of what happened every time Gandhi’s name came up for the prize. Were the nominations sent in time? Was the expert opinion not favourable? Who were the competitors? When was he short listed? All these issues have been discussed threadbare with supporting evidence. At the end of the book, which is rather non-judgemental, the reader appreciates the complexity of the process and the bureaucratic diligence with which assessments were made and comes to terms with the final decision, with a tinge of sadness.

 

The fact that a large number of persons – present and past members of the Nobel Committee, advisers at the Nobel Institute, members of national assemblies and governments and International Court of Justice, holders of Nobel Peace Prize and even university professors of law, political science, history and philosophy – can nominate helps one understands why till 1964 fourteen Indians from Gandhi, Sri Aurobindo, Nehru, Aga Khan III and Radhakrishnan to insignificant ones like Hari Mohan Banerjee could be nominated.

Gandhi’s name was raised in 1924, 1937, 1938, 1939, 1947 and 1948 in around 100 nominations. No wonder that GeirLundestad,

permanent secretary of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, admitted “Our record is far from perfect and not giving Mahatma Gandhi the Nobel Prize was the biggest omission”. Gandhi was first nominated in 1924. But the nomination, from the Council of State, Delhi, missed the deadline of 31 January 1924.

In 1937, Ole Colbjørnsen, a Norwegian journalist, economist and politician, on behalf of ‘Friends of India’, nominated Gandhi. The ideals of ahimsa that marked his struggle against colonialism as also the fact that Rabindranath Tagore had proclaimed him ‘Mahatma’ were highlighted.

The expert of the Nobel Committee, Jacob S. Worm-Müller, a historian and politician, made a factual assessment of Gandhi’s achievements but was rather critical of his approach and unconvinced of his internationalism. “Many of his actions though religious and moral, are tactical with sly calculations. He is frequently a Christ, but sometimes suddenly a politician…” He noted that Gandhi had fought only for oppressed Indians in South Africa rather than the natives who were in worse condition, supported WW I and been inconsistent in his approach, especially on rescinding Satyagraha after the burning to death of twenty policemen in Chauri-Chaura. The expert advice was fairly detailed based on which the Nobel Committee “did not see Gandhi’s work as finished and ignored him for the prize.”

Gandhi was again nominated in 1938 by Colbjørnsen, supported by 27 members from the ‘Friends of India’, Denmark. C.F. Andrews wrote, “There is no one in the world who deserves more to receive the Nobel Prize than Mahatma Gandhi. I have known him for twenty-three years and have seen his work of non-violence which has again and again brought peace in the midst of strife…” Gandhi’s Christian followers saw him as a ‘holy Christian’. Even Romain Rolland supported the nomination. Despite such support, Gandhi’s name was not short-listed. Colbjørnsen again wrote, in 1939, reiterating the earlier arguments and adding that ‘the relaxed political situation in the provincial governments is due to Gandhi’s influence.’ This also did not work.

By January 1947, three proposals favouring Gandhi were sent by B.G. Kher, G.V. Mavalankar and G.B. Pant. Rajagopalachari also played a role. Finally, Gandhi was shortlisted amongst six. The Nobel Committee asked historian Jens A. Seip to prepare a new report which Seip did by complementing the old one with Gandhi’s contributions since 1937. This period was crucial, both for his achievements and failures. Seip analysed this period through three conflicts – one between Indians and Britons on the autonomy of India, on the question of India’s participation in WW II and the inner conflict between Hindus and Muslims. Extensive analysis followed. Eventually, Gandhi’s role as a leader of violence- free resistance and as a pacifist was appreciated. However, in the Nobel Committee, two members in Gandhi’s favour could not convince the other three. In the midst of the India-Pakistan conflict, a reported statement by Gandhi that if there was no other way to secure justice from Pakistan, the Indian government would be forced to go to war (The Times, September 27, 1947) was also perhaps taken into consideration.

Gandhi was finally nominated for the prize in 1948 from different countries like the USA, UK, France, Norway and India, with more than 20 from USA alone. Suddenly, it appeared that the whole world was pleading for Gandhi, almost in unison. Seip again added Gandhi’s contribution between the period of August 15, 1947 to Gandhi’s assassination (30 January 1948). The Nobel Committee, according to Singh, was considering a posthumous prize. But the issue was to find an appropriate successor to receive the prize money.

The Nobel Committee was told that Gandhi left no estate and no testament and that The Harijan Trust, SarvodayaSamaj and The Gandhi Memorial Fund took responsibility to work in his spirit and name.

The Indian authorities had no concrete plans and thought that the Norwegian Parliament would ensure ‘The Gandhi Memorial Fund’ receives and controls the prize money. Nothing came out of this confusion. As such, Singh feels, the Nobel Committee could not perhaps be blamed ‘for not awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to Gandhi.’

This long process from 1924 to 1948 when Gandhi’s name came up again and again was also the most tumultuous period of our freedom movement. Globally also, it was a turbulent time. Emotional appeals likening Gandhi with Buddha or Christ did not help.

Various forces working at the national and international levels might have made it difficult for the Nobel authorities to make an objective assessment of Gandhi at that time. Though gentle, his methods were so radical and original that they created different strands of opinion even in India and were adopted in many parts of the world mostly after his demise.

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