Wednesday, October 31, 2012




Immediately after I came to know of the shocking remarks made by Shri Narendra Modi, the Chief Minister of Gujarat, on Mrs.Sunanda Tharoor, wife of Shri Shashi Tharoor, the re-inducted member of the Council of Ministers of Prime Minister Dr.Manmohan Singh, I had tweeted that I considered his remarks uncultured for any audience and were unworthy of someone who sees himself as a possible future Prime Minister. I stand by these views.

2.Both Shri Tharoor and his wife had every right to counter the unworthy remarks of Shri Modi in strong language. Shri Tharoor did so the same day and the TV  channels rightly gave due prominence to what he said in their coverage.

3.At the same time, I would be failing in my sense of propriety and rectitude if I did not admit my disgust at the manner in which an unseen influence mobilised some TV anchors of our private channels on October 31 to interview Mrs.Tharoor and to give her an opportunity to project her views relating to the controversy in general and Shri Modi in particular.

4. There were five newsworthy items on October 31--- the brave manner in which the Tamil Nadu people and Administration were facing the Nilam cyclone, the allegations made by Shri Arvind Kejriwal of India Against Corruption (IAC) against Shri Mukesh Ambani and the Government, the aftermath of the Sandy hurricane in the US, the likely impact of Sandy on the US Presidential elections and the anniversary of the assassination of Indira Gandhi. The TV channels correctly gave prominence to their coverage some of these items.

5.The time and prominence that were given to the interview of Mrs.Tharoor were definitely uncalled for and uncouth. One had an impression that more time was devoted to her interview than to the sufferings and fortitude of the people of Tamil Nadu because of the cyclone. The TV channels seemed to consider interviewing Mrs. Tharoor and projecting her views more important than projecting the traumatic moments faced by the people of Tamil Nadu as they awaited the cyclone.

6. Every time you switched on the TV to get the latest on the cyclone, you had visuals of Mrs.Tharoor being interviewed by  obliging and fawning anchors. Some of our TV anchors are known for their propensity to fawn, but I had an impression that I had rarely seen such fawning as I saw during the interview of Mrs.Tharoor on October 31.

7. Where was their professionalism? Where was their sense of dignity? Where was their news sense? Was the orchestrated projection of Mrs. Tharoor that we saw more important than recalling the painful moments after the assassination of Mrs.Indira Gandhi by two of  her security guards?

8. It was a day of infamy for our TV channels. Whose is that unseen and unfelt influence that organised and orchestrated all this? ( 1-11-12)

Tuesday, October 30, 2012






There are two Central Military Commissions (CMC) in China----the Party Central Military Commission and the State Central Military Commission. The party CMC is the more important of the two. It acts as the interface between the Armed Forces and the Communist Party of China CPC) and makes recommendations to the Party leadership in matters such as declaration of war and peace, declaration of an internal emergency or martial law and deployment of the Armed Forces inside and outside the country.

 2. The State CMC exercises professional control over these forces. In China, the Defence Ministry does not exercise this professional control. It is essentially responsible for military diplomacy and handles military-military relationships with other countries.

3. The Party  CMC was created under the first Constitution of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in 1954 after abolishing the People’s Revolutionary Military Commission which had been set up when the formation of the PRC was proclaimed in 1949. The State CMC was created under the fourth Constitution in 1982.

4.The Party CMC reports to the Central Committee and the Politbureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC). The State CMC reports to the National People’s Congress (NPC), which is China’s Parliament.

5.The following have been the Chairmen of the Party CMC since it was created by the first Constitution in 1954:

Mao Zedong, September 1954 - September 1976

 Hua Guofeng, October 1976 - June 1981

 Deng Xiaoping, June 1981 - November 1989

 Jiang Zemin, November 1989 - September 2004

 Hu Jintao, September 2004 – Present.

6. The following have been the Chairmen of the State CMC since it was created by the fourth Constitution in 1982:

Deng Xiaoping, June 1983 - April 1990

 Jiang Zemin, April 1990 - March 2005

Hu Jintao---Since March 2005.

7. There are three important posts in China----the General Secretary of the CPC which gives the incumbent control over the party, the Chairman of the Party CMC which gives the incumbent control over the armed forces and the President of the State which gives control  over the State apparatus. During the period when Deng was considered the paramount ruler of China, it became evident that of these three posts, that of the Chairman of the Party CMC is the most important. Deng never officially held the posts of General Secretary of the CPC and the President of the State, but he held the post of the Chairman Of the Party CMC from  June 28 1981 to November 9,1989.

8.Zhao Ziyang, who was the General Secretary of the CPC from January 16, 1987 to  June 23, 1989, before he was removed  for his perceived softness towards the student demonstrators of the Tienanmen     Square in June 1989, was reported to have told Mikhail Gorbachev during the latter’s visit to Beijing that though he was designated the General Secretary of the CPC, the real power vested in Deng in his capacity as the Chairman of the Party CMC.

9. Jiang Zemin took over as the General Secretary of the CPC on June 24,1989, after the removal of Zhao and continued till November 15,2002, when he handed over to Hu Jintao. He held office as the President of China from March 27,  1993 to   March 15, 2003 when he handed over to Hu. He held office as the Chairman of the Party CMC from November 9, 1989 to  September 19, 2004 when he handed over to Hu. He held office as the Chairman of the State CMC from March 19,1990 to March 8,2005, when he handed over to Hu.

10. Thus, between November 15,2002 ,and September 19,2004, Hu had the control of the Party and the State apparatus, but did not control the Armed Forces, since Jiang continued to hold office as the Chairman of the Party CMC. Was it an unilateral decision by Jiang or was it supported by the CPC? What were the circumstances that led to Jiang continuing to function as the Chairman of the Party CMC? The answers to these questions are not clear. It is however, evident that Hu was not totally trusted to exercise control over the Armed Forces for nearly two years after he had taken over as the CPC General Secretary.

11.A speculation at that time was that the so-called Shanghai clique, including Jiang, which was in a majority in the Standing Committee of the Politbureau, did not trust Hu who is not from Shanghai and preferred that Jiang continued to control the armed forces even after handing over control of the Party to Hu. It was speculated that the  professionals in the PLA found it increasingly odd having to report to Jiang when Hu was the party chief. Ultimately, Jiang was persuaded or pressured to hand over to Hu as the Chairman of the Party CMC. Since September 19,2004, Hu is the effective head of the Party, the Armed Forces and the State apparatus.

12. According to published information, the present composition of the Party CMC is as follows:

Chairman: Hu Jintao  (since September 2004)

Vice Chairmen:

General Guo Boxiong (since November 2002).Age 70.In charge of weapons and logistics

General Xu Caihou (since September 2004).Age 69. Responsible for political and ideological affairs in the Armed Forces.

Xi Jinping (also Secretary of the Secretariat of the Communist Party, Vice President of the People's Republic of China) (since October 2010)


Minister of National Defense - General Liang Guanglie. Age 72.Due to retire at the 18th Party Congress starting on November 8,2012. (since November 2002)

Chief of General Staff of the People's Liberation Army and Commander of the PLA Army — General Chen Bingde (since September 2004).Age 71

 Director of the General Political Department — General Li Jinai (since November 2002). Age 70

 Director of the General Logistics Department — General Liao Xilong (since November 2002) .Age 72

 Director of the General Armament Department — General Chang Wanquan (since October 2007). Age 63

 Commander of the PLA Navy — Admiral Wu Shengli (since October 2007). Age 67

 Commander of the PLA Air Force — Air Force General Xu Qiliang (since October 2007) .Age 62

Commander of the Second Artillery Corps — General Jing Zhiyuan (since September 2004). Age 68.

13.On the eve of the 18th Party Congress starting on November 8,2012, the following postings have been announced:

General Zhang Youxia ( Age 62) to replace Gen. Chang Wanquan as Director of the General Armament Department.

General Fang Fenghui  ( Age 61) to replace Gen. Chen Bingde as Director of the General Staff Department.

General Ma Xiaotian (Age 63 ) to replace Gen. Xu Qiliang as Commander of the PLA Air Force.

General Zhang Yang ( Age 61) to replace Gen. Li Jinai as Director of the General Political Department.

Gen.Zhao Keshi ( Age 64) to replace Gen.Liao Xilong as Director of the General Logistics Department.

14.The five new incumbents are expected to take their place as members of the Party CMC. General Chang Wanquan is tipped to be promoted  as a Vice Chairman of the Party CMC and a Member of the 18th Politburo of the CPC.

 15.On October 26,2012, the PLA Daily and the “China Daily News” commented as follows on the key postings announced on the eve of the 18th CPC Congress:

 The People's Liberation Army announced key appointments in a major reshuffle that experts and observers said reflects its determination to continue its modernization drive.

“Four generals — Fang Fenghui, Zhang Yang, Zhao Keshi and Zhang Youxia — were named to lead four key PLA departments: general staff, general political, general logistics and general armaments.

“All held leadership positions at major military commands.

“Ma Xiaotian was recently named commander of the Air Force after holding the post of deputy chief of the general staff.

The reshuffle won't change the country's military strategy as the appointments are not decided by any individual but the top leadership as a whole, said Xiong Guangkai, a retired general who was deputy chief of the general staff in the 1990s.

“It is the Central Military Commission that makes such personnel decisions," Xiong said.

"Like the country, the PLA is under collective leadership. So unlike some other nations, the PLA's strategy and policies are not going to change with changes in personnel."

“Teng Jianqun, research director of China Arms Control and Disarmament Association, said the reshuffle reflects the leadership's emphasis on the experience of senior military commanders, especially at a time of regional tension.

“Their careers almost follow the same path," Teng said.

“All four are generals from the PLA ground force and have achieved their rank through merit and worked their way up.

“For example, Fang joined the PLA in 1968 when he was 16. He served more than 34 years in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region. Fang became the commander of the Beijing Military Command, which covers part of North China, in 2007.

“Zhang Youxia, who takes over the responsibility of improving the PLA's weaponry and technology, is the son of Zhang Zongxun, one of the first PLA generals who achieved their ranks in 1955. This makes Zhang and his father the second such pair to achieve the rank.

“Li Qinggong, deputy secretary-general of the national security policy commission of the China Association of Policy and Science, said that all of the four newly appointed chiefs are veteran and strategists as they were promoted from major command areas.

“"As the leader of a military command area, it is necessary to think strategically and understand the overall picture," Li said, adding these appointments will also ensure that the top leadership know more about the situation at basic units in the armed forces.

“The appointments follow the steps of Ma Xiaotian, who was recently named commander of the Air Force.

“Education and extensive combat experience are common traits, retired general Xiong said. He cited the example of Ma, who used to attend training lessons with Xiong at a military academy.

“"Ma is an incredible pilot and studied at military academies. He used to be president of the National Defense University."

“Other top military posts were reshuffled recently in a move analysts said injects new blood and enhances the army's leadership.

“Wang Guanzhong, former head of the general office of the Central Military Commission, and Qi Jianguo, who was an assistant to the chief of the general staff and a veteran of the border war between China and Vietnam, was promoted to deputy chief of the general staff. ( My comment: This sentence is not very clear. There is apparently a typo )

“Li, from the China Association of Policy and Science, said that Wang might be the first Chinese military officer at his level with a doctorate.

“"Degrees are a trend in the PLA. At the grassroots there are numerous officers who have a master's or doctoral degree, while many of them even obtained diplomas from overseas institutes, which we could hardly imagine in the past."

“The Takungpao newspaper in Hong Kong said in a commentary on Wednesday that the reshuffle opens a window on the PLA leadership on the eve of the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, which will start on Nov 8.

“The appointed officers are mostly around the age of 60, which means they have spent about 40 years in the PLA and have extensive experience in various positions.

“That is conductive to the smooth transition of the military leadership ahead of, and after, the 18th CPC National Congress, the paper said.”

16.At the monthly press conference of the Ministry of National Defence held on the afternoon of October 25, a reporter asked  how the Defence Ministry would  comment on the reshuffle  in the PLA high level and whether the reshuffle aimed to strengthen exchanges between the PLA general headquarters/departments and the military area commands of the PLA.

17.Spokesman Yang Yujun, who is also deputy director of the Information Office of the Ministry of National Defence, said that the  reshuffle is normal personnel changes and over-interpretation from the public is not expected.

18. Despite his cautionary advice against over-interpretation of the reshuffle which he projected as a normal rotation of senior officers, it would be seen as  significant from the internal as well as the external points of view.

19. Internally, it would be seen as an attempt by Hu Jintao to retain the Chairmanship of the Party CMC after handing over as General Secretary of the Party and the State President to Xi Jinping till such time as the criminal trial of Bo Xilai, the party leader from Chonquing, is over and he has been convicted. Hu would be seen to have placed in position officers who would support his continuing to hold charge as the Chairman of the Party CMC. It remains to be seen whether the new Party leadership under XI would support this.

20. Externally, it would be seen as an attempt to place officers with extensive command experience, who have been playing a role in the modernisation of the Armed Forces, in key positions in view of the tensions in the South China and East China Seas due to frictions with some ASEAN powers and Japan over territorial sovereignty issues and the increasing role that the USA is seeking to play in the Asia-Pacific region. ( 31-10-12)

(The  writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail:  Twitter @SORBONNE75)








Monday, October 29, 2012





Our prayers are with the people on USA’s Eastern Coast who have been living through nightmarish experiences as they are threatened with hurricane Sandy. It has brought life almost to a standstill, but fortunately there has been no humanitarian disaster of the kind that the Tsunami of December 2004 inflicted on the people of Chennai, coastal Tamil Nadu, the Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Sri Lanka, the Maldives, Southern Thailand and some of the islands of Indonesia.

2.Barring Indonesia, the rest of the areas were hit by a Tsunami for the first time in their history. Many of us did not even know what had hit us when we suddenly found huge waves taking away thousands of people who were near the sea shore.

3.As I keep reading the Tweets of Barkha Dutt, Group editor of NDTV, who is presently in the Brown University on the Rhode Island, regarding the progress of the hurricane and its feared aftermath and watching  the brave coverage  of  Sarah Jacob of NDTV from the streets and restaurants of New York, my mind goes back to the hours after the Tsunami struck us.

4.Some brave young journalists and officials were the first to reach the affected areas to assist the disaster-struck people and keep the world informed of the magnitude of the disaster. Sheela Bhatt of and Suhasini Haidar, then working for CNN, New Delhi, rushed to the Andaman & Nicobar Islands, which were practically cut off from the rest of India. Barkha Dutt  rushed to coastal Tamil Nadu where  many villages were swept away by the waves and thousands of poor fishermen were killed by the marauding waves. Lyse Doucet of BBC co-ordinated the coverage from all the affected areas---initially from Tamil Nadu and subsequently from Indonesia.

5. Many young officers of the Governments of Tamil Nadu and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands rose to the occasion in a brilliant manner despite the fact that our Governments had never prepared a crisis management drill for dealing with Tsunamis since we had never experienced a Tsunami before. There was  global recognition of the remarkable work done by them.

6.The Indian and US Navies together mounted a massive humanitarian relief operation in south India, Sri Lanka, the Maldives and Indonesia.

7.When memories of the disaster were still fresh, Governmental and non-Governmental organisations  in the US undertook a systematic documentation of the Tsunami experience so that a data-base of knowledge and experience was available for the future.

8.One would have expected a similar exercise to document our Tsunami experience. Unfortunately, we never did it. In 2005, I was associated as Distinguished Fellow with the Observer Research Foundation (ORF) of New Delhi. I proposed to the late Shri R.K.Mishra, the then head of the ORF, that we in the ORF undertake such an exercise. He reacted positively, but I found within six monthsiof the Tsunami disaster a total lack of interest and co-operation for the project, which failed to take off.

9. I do not know whether the National Maritime Foundation of  our Navy has undertaken such an exercise for documentation. If not, it is time for it to do so. ( 30-10-12)

(The  writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail:  Twitter @SORBONNE75)

Sunday, October 28, 2012





I would like to make the following points regarding the Cabinet reshuffle carried out by the Prime Minister Dr.Manmohan Singh on October 28,2012.

2.The widespread expectations by many, including me, that the reshuffle would have the stamp of Shri Rahul Gandhi have been belied. The reshuffle has the hotch-potch stamp of Dr.Manmohan Singh and Mrs.Sonia Gandhi. It is a play-it-safe reshuffle to carry on the governance without any major political problems till the 2014 elections to the Lok Sabha.

3. Not only Dr.Singh and Mrs.Sonia Gandhi, but even Shri Rahul Gandhi and his young aides have chosen to play it safe lest Shri Rahul Gandhi fall flat on his face as he did after the elections to the  UP State Assembly earlier this year. Once bitten twice shy. That has been the attitude of  Rahul. He is still politically diffident and does not want to project himself in the forefront till the political situation turns in his favour. Public perception is still not  in his favour.

4.The most surprising element in the reshuffle is the elevation of Shri Salman Khurshid as the Minister for External Affairs. Shri Khurshid is a gifted individual and Minister who had done well in whatever responsibility was entrusted to him in the past, but he had recently got involved in an embarrassing controversy due to allegations of misuse of funds sanctioned for the welfare of physically disadvantaged people by a Trust with which he and his wife are associated. He and his wife handled  the allegations in a press conference in a shockingly petulant and insensitive manner.

5. His behaviour definitely created considerable embarrassment for the Government and a negative percepton of him even among those well disposed to him. One would have, therefore, felt that Dr.Singh and Mrs.Gandhi would have played it safe by not giving him a prominent portfolio. Their action in giving him the prized portfolio of External Affairs can be explained only from the point of view of a convergence of the interest of both Dr.Singh and Mrs.Gandhi in having him in that portfolio.

6.Since he became the Prime Minister in 2004, Dr.Singh has been playing an activist role in foreign policy matters whether it be in respect of closer strategic partnership with the US or a thaw in the relations with Pakistan despite the 26/11 terrorist strikes in Mumbai or co-operative relationship with China despite the continuing border dispute.

7. He chose Shri S.M.Krishna as the EAM because of the confidence that Shri Krishna would let him play that activist role without any friction and that the two would be on the same wavelength on important foreign policy issues. Shri Krishna totally went along with Dr.Singh in all these matters. Dr.Singh has similar confidence in Shri Khurshid.

8. In the case of Mrs.Sonia  Gandhi, it is not so much her confidence in his foreign policy expertise as her gratitude to him for standing by her in public as the Law Minister in the controversy relating to the allegations of wrong-doing made against Shri Robert Vadra, her son-in-law,   by India Against Corruption (IAC) led by Shri Arvind Kejriwal that has played a role for her backing to his elevation. It must be remembered that on the day the IOC publicly made the allegations against Shri Vadra there was total panic in the Congress Party and in the entourage of Mrs.Gandhi.

9. Shri Khurshid stood in the forefront of the Ministers who openly defended Shri Vadra. It would not be wrong to say that his fierce defence of Shri Vadra and his open proclamation of his loyalty to Mrs.Gandhi added to the venom of the IOC against him. Mrs. Gandhi has thus reasons to be grateful to Shri  Khurshid for diverting the fire away from her and Shri Vadra. These two factors have definitely played an important role in his elevation in total disregard of the public perception against him.

10. Will this Cabinet, which is expected to fight the coming elections to the Loh Sabha, be able to avert a defeat in the elections? I will not be surprised if it does. The BJP has been thinking that the allegations of corruption against the Congress alone will bring it down. The history of our elections since 1950 show that allegations of corruption, however serious, are not crucial in determining the outcome. Despite the Bofors controversy, the Congress led by Rajiv Gandhi did not do that badly in the 1989 polls even though it failed to secure a majority. The Congress was back in power within two years. All the allegations of corruption and Emergency excesses made against Mrs.Indira Gandhi could not prevent her return to power with a huge majority in 1980.

11. Relentless demonization of political opponents has played a crucial role only in the elections to the Tamil Nadu Assembly .Otherwise, the impact of a demonization campaign is generally marginal as we have been seeing repeatedly in Gujarat and in the elections to the Lok Sabha. If the BJP wants to profit from the existing mood against the Congress, it has to project before the people an alternative policy framework. Instead of doing so, it seems to be thinking that it can rout the Congress by harping on the issue of corruption and by demonising the Sonia Gandhi family. It may not work. ( 28-10-12)

(The  writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail:  Twitter @SORBONNE75)

Saturday, October 27, 2012







As the 18th Congress of the Communist Party of China scheduled to take place in Beijing on November 8,2012, approaches, members of GenNext of Tibetans are desperately taking to more and more self-immolations in an attempt to awaken the conscience of the international community to the plight of the Tibetans.

2. The fact that during the recent three Presidential debates in the US, neither President Barack Obama nor his challenger Mr.Mitt Romney made even a reference in passing to the human rights situation in the Tibetan areas of China has added to their desperation.

3. In the perception of young Tibetans, only the US political leadership and public opinion are in a position to exercise moral pressure on the Chinese leaders to address the human rights concerns of the Tibetans. The almost total absence of any reference to this issue during the current election campaign in the US is driving more young Tibetans to self-immolation.

4. This  week has seen seven self-immolation attempts---- the largest number in a week since self-immolations started in the beginning of last year. Six of them proved fatal--- the largest number of fatalities in a week. Till now, the total number of self-immolations has reached 62 in all the Tibetan areas put together.

5.While the self-immolations continue to be concentrated in the Sichuan province where monks of the Kirti monastery rose in revolt last year against Chinese suppression by taking to self-immolation, it has been spreading to other Tibetan areas too affecting many youngsters who are not  monks. It is no longer a protest movement confined only to the monks.

6.Of the seven incidents reported this week, five were in the Gansu province and two in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR). On October 25,2012, two young Tibetan cousins aged 20 and 25 resorted to self-immolation in front of the local school in Driru (Biru in Chinese) in the Nagchu Prefecture (Naqu in Chinese) of the TAR.

7. According to Radio Free Asia, there have been seven self-immolations so far in the TAR—three in Driru, two in  Lhasa and one each in Chamdo county's Karma township, and in the town of Damshung, just outside Lhasa. Tibetans in Driru have been in the forefront of opposition to Chinese rule in the TAR.

8.The same day, two other young Tibetans aged 21 and 25 committed self-immolation in the Gansu province.

9. The Chinese authorities seem to suspect that the spreading self-immolations across the entire Tibetan belt are not spontaneous, but are being co-ordinated by some clandestine organisation. They have announced a reward of US $ 32000 to anyone giving information as to who are behind  the self-immolations. ( 28-10-12)

(The  writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail:  Twitter @SORBONNE75)

Friday, October 26, 2012







Since the afternoon of October 26,2012, there has been a lull in communal rioting between the Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims in the Rakhine State (Arakan ) of Myanmar.

2. The rioting broke out on October 21,2012, reportedly following demonstrations  by some Buddhists against allowing the OIC to open a humanitarian relief office in Yangon. The Rohingya Muslims wanted the office to be opened.

3. Despite opposition from some Buddhists, the Government of President Thein Sein has continued to accept humanitarian relief from the OIC countries for distribution to both the communities. It has been reported that two planeloads of humanitarian relief material arrived at Yangon from Turkey on October 25.

4. According to Government sources, when the rioting broke out on October 21, the security forces found themselves to be inadequately numbered and had difficulty in controlling the situation. Reinforcements have since reached the State and the security forces are now in a better position to deal with the situation.

5. While official statements continue to estimate the total number of fatalities as about 60, the local “Irrawaddy Journal” and the Xinhua news agency of China have estimated the total number of fatalities till the evening of October 26 as 112.

6. According to local sources, the steep increase in fatalities is partly due to the security forces repeatedly opening fire on the rioting mobs from both the communities. It  has been reported that nearly about 2600 houses have been burnt down.

7. Following expressions of concern by Western and UN sources that if the riots continued it could threaten the process of reforms initiated by President Thein Sein and weaken his position, the National League of Democracy (NLD) of Aung San Suu Kyi, which was maintaining a discreet silence till now on the situation, has bestirred itself and urged the  Government to send more reinforcements to the affected areas of Mrauk U, Minbya, Rathedaung, and Kyauktaw townships, north of the state capital of Sittwe, and southern Rakhine’s Kyauk Phyu city and Mebyon.

8.A member of the “Committee of the Rule of Law and Tranquility,” which is chaired by  Suu Kyi, proposed at the Lower House in Naypyidaw on October 26 that the situation  be discussed in Parliament. Following a debate, Parliament approved a proposal to deploy more security forces to the region.

9. The Chinese have been concerned over the spread of the violence to Kyauk Phyu, where a Chinese company has been constructing a port and a gas/oil pipeline to Yunnan to reduce China’s dependence on the Malacca Straits for energy supplies to China. Chinese officials have expressed the hope that the Thein Sein Government will be able to maintain stability in the area. So far, there are no reports of any threats to the Chinese working in the Rakhine State for oil and gas exploration, port and pipeline construction and the construction of a railway line to Yunnan. (27-10-12)

(The  writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail:  Twitter @SORBONNE75)








The fresh communal clashes  between Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims in the Rakhine State of Myanmar, which broke out on October 21,2012, have worsened despite the induction of security forces reinforcements by the Government.

2. While local Government sources have put the total number of fatalities so far at 20, a despatch of the Associated Press of the US has put it at 56. Local sources say that many of the latest fatalities seem to have occurred due to the security forces opening fire to bring rioters from both the communities under control. Arson attacks at nights have reportedly led to the destruction of nearly 2000 houses so far.

3. The areas worst affected by the violence and arson attacks are Minbyar,Mrauk-U,Kyaukpyu and Kyauktaw. Reports from the affected areas indicate that the security  forces, though inadequately numbered, have been trying to protect the Muslims by opening fire on rioting Buddhist mobs seeking to attack the Muslims. This should account for the sudden increase in the number of fatalities.

4. The National League for Democracy (NLD) of Aung San Suu Kyi  issued a statement on October 25,2012, urging the Government to take further security measures to stop the ongoing violence  and re-establish peace and security in townships such as Kyaukpyu, Minbyar, Mrauk-U and Ann.

5.The 88 Generation Students group also released a statement calling on all people  to work together to resolve this conflict, stressing that a solution must be based on democracy and human rights. ( 26-10-2012)

(The  writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail:  Twitter @SORBONNE75)

Thursday, October 25, 2012




Shri Nitin Gadkari, President of the BJP, and Shri Naveen Jindal, Member of the Lok Sabha belonging to the Congress, are businessmen who have entered politics and have continued to be associated with decision-making relating to their business companies even while playing their political role.

2. Mrs.Sonia Gandhi, President of the Congress, which is in power in the Government of India, is the mother-in-law of Shri Robert Vadra, who has prospered in business after  marrying Ms.Priyanka Gandhi, daughter of Mrs. Sonia Gandhi.

3.Mr. Mitt Romney is a member of the US Republican Party belonging to a well-known business family of Massachusetts. He entered politics to become the Governor of his State. He is now contesting the US Presidential elections against President Barack Obama.

4. Shri Gadkari has got involved in a huge controversy because of his continued association with his business companies when he was the PWD Minister in the Maharashtra Cabinet in the 1990s and now as the President of the BJP.

5. Shri Jindal has got involved in an embarrassing controversy because of his continued association with his steel business even while serving as a Member of the Parliament belonging to the Congress. He has allegedly benefitted from a coal mining block allotted to him by the Government of India.

6. There is nothing wrong in businessmen entering politics provided they do not profit in their businesses as a result of their political position and they do not allow their political role to influence their business decision-making. How to enforce political and business rectitude when businessmen take to politics?

7.It would be useful to make a case study of Mr.Romney in the US. He was associated with some business companies of his State investing in and trading with China. One of the companies was allegedly even dealing with telecommunications which is a sensitive area from the national security point of view.

8.Before Mr.Romney decided to enter politics and contest as Governor of his State, he made a public statement of all his business interests and holdings, formed a public trust in respect of each of his companies and dissociated himself from all decision-making in respect of these companies.

9. Those who had watched the second Presidential debate between Mr.Romney and Mr.Obama, would have noticed that Mr.Obama questioned Mr.Romney’s association with business companies investing in and trading with China. Mr.Romney replied that the  affairs of these companies are managed by a public trust and that he is not associated with their decision-making.  Mr.Obama was satisfied with his reply and did not pursue the matter.

10.In India, huge controversies have arisen relating to the business background of Sri Gadkari and Shri Jindal because they did not dissociate themselves from decision-making relating to their business companies while functioning as political leaders holding key positions. The public perception is and will be that they have benefitted in their businesses as a result of their political role and influence.

11.Shri Gadkari was a public servant when he was the PWD Minister. He is not a public servant now as the President of the BJP. Shri Jindal is a public servant as a member of the Parliament and is subject to the jurisdiction of the Prevention of Corruption Act. Had he been a member of the US Congress and had he been allotted a coal mining block, the legal and public assumption in the US would have been that he did not get the block on merits, but by virtue of his being in the Congress. To avoid such perceptions, all public servants in the US form public trusts of their businesses and dissociate themselves from decision-making.

12. In the case of Mrs.Sonia Gandhi, the wrong-doing was of a different kind. When the Congress was elected to power in 2004, political rectitude demanded that she should inform all Government departments of the Government of India and all State Governments where the Congress is in power, that her son-in-law is a real estate businessman and he should not be shown any favours because of his being her son-in-law. She did not do so.

13. When the controversy regarding the real estate wheeling and dealing of Shri Vadra recently broke out, she should have immediately written to the Prime Minister to look into all his real estate dealings in which departments of the Government of India and State Governments were involved and satisfy himself that there was no wrong-doing.

14. She did not do that either. Instead, allegedly at her prodding, a number of senior Ministers of the Cabinet of Dr.Manmohan Singh holding sensitive portfolios embarked on a cover-up and damage control exercise to prevent any political embarrassment to her and to deny any criminal liability of Shri Vadra.

15. The controversies relating to Shri Gadkari,  Shri Jindal and Mrs.Sonia Gandhi call for follow-up action at two levels. An enquiry into all allegations made to rule out civil or criminal wrong-doing and introduction of conflict of interest provisions in our laws to enforce rectitude when businessmen want to enter public life. ( 26-10-12)

(The  writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail:  Twitter @SORBONNE75)

Wednesday, October 24, 2012




The Myanmar Government headed by President Thein Sein is rushing Army reinforcements to the Rakhine State following  a fresh outbreak of clashes between Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims in different townships of the Rakhine State since October 21,2012.

2.So far, two Rohingya Muslims and one Buddhist have been killed in the clashes and about 1000 houses, mostly belonging to Rohingya Muslims, have allegedly been burnt down, thereby forcing the Muslim residents of these houses to shift to boats.

3. The fresh anti-Muslim campaign has assumed new disturbing features. Buddhist monks have revived their opposition to the Government accepting humanitarian assistance for the Rohingya Muslim displaced persons from the OIC member-countries. Following bitter opposition from the monks, the Government of Thein Sein has reversed its decision to allow the OIC to set up a branch in Yangon. It has now stated that it will allow the OIC to have only a temporary set-up in Yangon to supervise the distribution of humanitarian relief to the internally displaced Muslims and Buddhists in the Rakhine State. The monks are opposing even this and have been insisting there is no need for any humanitarian assistance from the OIC countries.

4.Buddhist students, who took out a procession ( 800) in Sittwe, the capital of the Rakhine State, on October 24,2012, have demanded the introduction  of an anti-Muslim apartheid policy in the local educational institutions. They have been saying that they will not sit in the same classes and stay in the same hostels as Rohingya Muslim students and have been demanding separate classes and separate hostels for the Rohingya Muslims. The Buddhist students, who participated in the procession, denounced the Rohingya Muslims as Bengali terrorists.

5. The Commission set up by the Government to enquire into the causes for the violence since May has not made much headway in its enquiries due to non-cooperation from both the communities.

6. The anti-Government anger of the Muslims of the Rakhine State has started affecting Muslims of sub-continental origin living in Yangon and other cities of Myanmar outside the Rakhine State. Apart from expressing solidarity with the Rohingya Muslims of the Rakhine State, they have been accusing the Government of Thein Sein of failing to give assurances regarding the security of the Muslims living in other parts of Myanmar during the Eid festival on October 26,2012. Muslim groups in Yangon have called for the non-observance of Eid on the ground that the Government has failed to give satisfactory guarantees for their security during the festival.

7. The Government of President Thein Sein is finding itself in a dilemma. It is under growing pressure from the OIC as well as the Western countries to pay attention to the human rights and security of the Rohingya Muslims. At the same time, the anti-Rohingya  demands of the monks and the Buddhist students have public support, even among Buddhist soldiers of the Army.

8. Till now, the Buddhist soldiers of the security forces have remained disciplined and have been complying with the orders of the Government to enforce law and order and to protect the Rohingya Muslims. But will they continue to do so? That is a question that has been troubling the Government.

9. Unfortunately, there is no political leader ---not even Aung San Suu Kyi---- with any influence over the Buddhist monks and students of the Rakhine State who can persuade them to tone down their anti-Rohingya rhetoric and refrain from acts that could further exacerbate the situation. Aung San Suu Kyi continues to maintain a discreet silence on the plight of the Rohingya Muslims lest she lose the support of the Buddhists.

10. The unabated anti-Buddhist anger among the Rohingya Muslims could add to the radicalisation of the Muslim community in the affected region with unpredictable fall-out on the regional  law and order situation. ( 25-10-12)

(The  writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail:  Twitter @SORBONNE75)


Tuesday, October 23, 2012




This has been a Dussehra like no other since we became independent in 1947.

A negative atmosphere and negative forebodings everywhere.

Our dreams of emerging as an Asian power on par with China have received a set-back.

Everything about us seems to be in a bad shape---- the state of politics, the economy, the administration, the style of governance.

There is talk of corruption everywhere, in everything.

The people’s faith in the political leadership has been badly shaken.

The success of a democracy depends on its people and its political leadership.

If the political leaders come to be viewed by growing numbers of citizens as a pack of self-serving, unprincipled and opportunistic money-makers, democracy suffers.

The nation suffers even more.

India presently has the most uninspiring leadership it has ever had.

Leaders with no pride in the country.

Leaders with no principles.

Leaders with no qualms of conscience.

Leaders with no sense of political morality.

It is so in the Congress which is now headed by a set of leaders who will make our greats of the past like Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Rajaji,  Vallabhbhai Patel etc shed tears in heaven.

It is so in the BJP which has become a party of opportunism and cynicism.

It is so in other political formations.

It is so in the civil society.

When Anna Hazare made his appearance in New Delhi last year and took over the moral leadership of not only India Against Corruption, but also India of The Common Man, we all thought we are going to be born again Indians full of pride and hope for the future.

Anna’s moral crusade has lost its momentum and its moral fervour.

The virus of cynicism and political opportunism has infected his followers too.

As we wake up every morning, what we see on the horizon is not messages of hope and good cheer, but forebodings of more bad things to come.

More allegations, more scams, a further weakening of the moral fibre of our society.

Anything goes. That is our driving force.

People like Shri Robert Vadra, son-in-law of Mrs.Sonia Gandhi of Italian origin, and Shri Nitin Gadkari, son of the soil who heads the BJP, are not exceptions to the rule. They are the alleged rule of wheeling and dealing.

Look at the way they have been unabashedly stonewalling demands for the truth, for their explanations on the allegations against them. .

By failing to insist that Shri Vadra account for his huge wealth and remove the suspicions of the people, Mrs.Sonia Gandhi has let herself be suspected as a possible accomplice through silence and inaction.

She has made the Congress that won our independence look no different from unscrupulous political parties of Italy in which  anything goes.

By failing to enforce standards of rectitude on his Ministers and officials, the Prime Minister Dr.Manmohan Singh has made himself be suspected as an equal accomplice.

By failing to insist that Shri Gadkari quit the leadership of the BJP and satisfactorily reply to the allegations of wheeling and dealing of the worst kind indulged in by a political leader, the BJP and the RSS have forfeited their claims to be seen as parties with a difference.

By surrounding himself with aides of dubious credentials, Shri Arvind Kejriwal of IAC has lost his moral authority to lead a  new self-rejuvenating movement with a difference.

It is darkness everywhere.

Only people’s anger can dissipate this darkness.

Where is that anger? (24-10-12)

(The  writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail:  Twitter @SORBONNE75)





The misgivings entertained till now in the West regarding the advisability of doing business as usual with  Shri Narendra Modi, the Chief Minister of Gujarat, are showing signs of subsiding.

2.That is the message that comes out loud and clear from the visit of Mr.James Bevan, the British High Commissioner to India, to Gujarat on October 22,2012. Till now, the UK was following in the footsteps of other European Union countries in avoiding any governmental, including diplomatic, interaction with the Government of Gujarat in general and Shri Modi in particular. This policy of avoidance of interaction was a sequel to the widespread communal riots in Gujarat in 2002 and the deaths of three Muslims of British origin in the State during the riots. This policy of avoidance of Governmental interactions did not, however, stand in the way of British investors---of Gujarati as well as non-Gujarati origin---investing in Gujarat.

3. The decision to end the policy of avoidance of Governmental interactions was announced by Mr.Hugo Swire, a Minister in the British Foreign Office, some weeks ago. While announcing the decision, he said: “ This will allow us to discuss a wide range of issues of mutual interest in Gujarat. We want to secure justice for the families of the British nationals who were killed in 2002.” It was in pursuance of this announcement that Mr.Bevan visited Gujarat.

4. Among those he reportedly met during his visit were Shri Modi himself, Ms. Kamala Beniwal, the Governor of the State, and Mr.Arjun Modhvadia, the President of the State Congress. Reading between the lines of the statements and observations of Mr.Bevan, two significant points are evident.

5.Firstly, the UK continues to attach importance to the question of human rights in Gujarat. Secondly, it decided to resume interactions with Shri Modi and other members of the Gujarat Government because it sees no reason to blame Shri Modi personally for the violations in 2002. The British move is a clear indication that the British Government no longer feels that alleged sins of commission and omission of Shri Modi contributed to the massacre of the Muslims in 2002, as alleged by his detractors.

6. Sections of the Muslim community of sub-continental origin in the UK have strongly protested against the British decision. It is significant that the British High Commissioner went ahead with his visit to Gujarat despite these protests. This shows that the British Government took its decision after a careful consideration of its implications and there is little likelihood of its reversing the decision under pressure from its Muslim community.

7.Mr.Bevan has also been quoted as saying that the British Government took the decision on its own without prior consultation with the  Governments of other EU countries. There is an element of surprise that Mr.Bevan undertook the visit during the current election campaign in Gujarat, but he did not seem to be worried that this could be politically misinterpreted in India.

8.The only other EU country which has officially commented on the British decision is Germany. Its officials have been quoted as saying that Germany would wait till the elections to the Gujarat Assembly are over before examining the matter.

9.It is likely that after the State elections, other EU countries may follow the British example. The ultimate attitude of the US is not yet clear.

10. If the British decision is followed by other EU countries, it will pave the way for the end of the diplomatic avoidance of Shri Modi followed by the EU countries since 2002. If the US also joins, it could lead to a collateral strengthening of the Prime Ministerial claims of Shri Modi.

11. While Shri Modi has a very good record as the Chief Minister, what stands in the way of his prime ministerial aspirations is his image as non-secular among political elements outside Gujarat and the diplomatic avoidance by the Western countries.

12.With the seeming beginning of the end of the policy of diplomatic avoidance, only the mental reservations still in India outside Gujarat about his credentials as a pan-Indian and all-community leader will stand in the way of his aspirations. But if the BJP, under his leadership, fights the next elections to the Lok Sabha  unitedly and scores a significant victory, it may be difficult for other political formations in the NDA coalition to oppose the acceptance of Shri Modi as the post-2014 P.M. ( 23-10-12)

(The  writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail:  Twitter @SORBONNE75)