Saturday, January 29, 2011



The people's revolt in Egypt, which has cost over a hundred lives since January 25, is showing signs of taking an anti-US turn.

2. ""Neither Mubarak nor Suleiman; we're sick of Americans." So shouted the protesters in the Tahir (Liberation) Square of Cairo on January 29. The reference was to Omar Suleiman, the head of the Military Intelligence, whom President Hosni Mubarak appointed as the Vice-President on January 29, in a desperate move to ensure the continued loyalty of the Army to him.

3. The Army has till now remained loyal to Mubarak. All the fatalities were reported to have been caused in clashes between the protesters and the riot police, which comes under the Ministry of the Interior. Mubarak seems to be hoping to save his tottering regime by projecting the riot police as the fall guy. This is unlikely to work and could prove dangerous by creating large-scale desertions from the riot police. The riot police and the Army have roughly equal strength---about 3000,000 plus. If there are large-scale desertions from the riot police, the Army may find it very difficult to control the resulting situation.

4.The US is in a quandary. The administration of President Barack Obama has as badly mis-judged the gathering storm in Egypt before the riots broke out as the administration of then President Jimmy Carter had mis-judged the gathering storm in Teheran in 1978 before the fall of the Shah of Iran. Wishful-thinking by Governmental and non-governmental analysts in the US that the Shah would somehow be able to control the situatuion contributed to a strategic disaster in Iran, with the Shia revolutionaries under Ayatollah Khomeni capturing power, the consequences of which on the strategic scenario in the region are being felt even today.

5. Similar wishful-thinking by Governmental and non-Governmental analysts in Washington DC and a similar miscalculation are inexorably leading to a situation where the people's anger, which was initially against the Mubarak regime, is turning against the US Government for continuing to support it. The strategic consequences of the emerging anger against the US will be unpredictable and the Obama Administration will find its attention increasingly distracted from the Af-Pak region. "All the way with Mubarak" is no longer a workable option. "Jettison Mubarak" could be an option, but the dilemma for the US is "Who After Mubarak?"

6. It cannot be someone associated with the Mubarak regime. It has to be a new face from amongst the growing crowds demonstrating in the streets.Even though the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) is playing a behind-the-scene role in keeping the protests alive and aggravating, one has not heard of any slogans calling for power to the MB. In a situation where nobody is a leader and yet everybody is a leader, it is difficult to assess who is going to ultimately emerge as the leader to take over power.

7. The US placed so much faith in the stability and durability of the Shah of Iran that it failed to diversify its political contacts in Iran. When the Shah ultimately fell, the US suddenly found itself without any influence in Teheran and without any insights about Ayatollah Khomeni and his aides.

8. Similarly, it had such pathetic faith in the stability and durability of Mubarak that it has failed to diversify its contacts and influence in Cairo. The result: It has no contacts and friends in the people who are in the forefront of the revolt.

9.The policy and operational disasters of the Carter Administration in Iran contributed to the failure of Carter to get re-elected for a second term. Will history repeat itself? Will policy and operational disasters in Egypt contribute to a similar failure of Obama to get re-elected next year? Obama has to keep his fingers crossed. ( 30-1-11)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies. E-mail: )



I have received/seen a large number of detailed comments (60 plus) on my article of January 28 on the above subject.

2.About 30 per cent of the articles still indulge in calumny. They accuse me of having written that article in the hope of being nominated to the Rajya Sabha or getting a Padma Sri . I am a cancer patient getting myself reconciled in advance to the days to come. Where is the question of my wangling for a Rajya Sabha seat or a Padma Sri? These people are unfortunately not prepared to accept that I might have written that article out of genuine concerns and not with an ulterior motive.

3.About 10 per cent are from RSS (Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh) functionaries---some of them personally known to me. They have expressed their pain and anguish over the kind of defamatory allegations made against me and conveyed graceful apologies. One interesting comment is that Hindutva enthusiasts in the NRI community abroad have been indulging in such tactics. They say that Hindutva followers in India respect age and experience and would never behave in that manner either to me or to any other old person----whatever be their anger.

4.The remaining 60 per cent--- while not justifying the anger and behaviour noticed in the web world--- try to explain it cogently.They say that just as the perceived softness of the Government and the Congress (I) towards jihadi terrorism has triggered the recent incidents of reprisal terrorism by some Hindus, the perceived prejudices of the traditional Indian media--- print as well as electronic--- has given rise to a wave of anger among Hindu youth against our media. According to them, this should explain the new focus of the Hindutva enthusiasts on the web world to give expression to their anger, to explain their point of view and to confront those trying to demonise the Hindutva ideology. They allege that the traditional Indian media will place columns and columns and sound bytes and sound bytes at the disposal of foreign writers like Christoph Jaffrelot who make an earning out of denigrating the Hindutva enthusiasts and their ideology, but would ignore---or worse still ridicule--- the Hindutva enthusiasts. According to them, it is anger and frustration over the attitude of the mainstream Indian media that forced them to take to the web world and use it to create for themselves a level playing field. If some of them indulge in excesses as they did towards me, it is deplorable, but understandable, they say.

5.In their expressions of anger, two Indian journalists are repeatedly mentioned by name--- Barkha Dutt of NDTV and Sagarika Ghose of CNN-IBN. They are both accused of disseminating prejudice against the Hindutva enthusiasts. They are further accused of not giving equal opportunity to Hindutva enthusiasts to explain their point of view in their programmes. There is additional anger against Barkha Dutt because many feel that she gives prominence to the views of the Kashmiri separatists, but not to those of nationalist elements.

6.I am aware of the anger in the Hindu community in general and among Hindutva enthusiasts in particular over what they consider to be the prejudices of the traditional media against them. A couple of years ago I was invited to a brain-storming discussion on various aspects of national security organised by some Hindutva enthusiasts. It was attended by many prominent personalities of the Hindutva line of thinking. One of the subjects discussed was the perceived negativism of the mainstream Indian media---print as well as electronic--- towards Hindutva enthusiasts and how to counter it.

7.It was argued by some in that panel discussion that they will never be able to change the attitude of the traditional media and that they should, therefore, focus on the new media of the web world. From that time onwards, I have been seeing an attempt by young Hindutva enthusiasts to build up a constituency for themselves in the web world. I have an impression that many young NRIs are playing a prominent role in this.

8.They have every right to do so. I bless their efforts to convert the new media into the "Great Leveller" in propagating their views and in countering the perceived prejudices against them allegedly disseminated by the traditional media. My only advice to them is---by all means do so, but in a manner that is balanced, courteous and non-defamatory. Tactics smacking of defamation and intimidation will prove counter-productive. (29-1-11)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: )