Sunday, March 31, 2013




 “China’s new soft power”, “A Media Sensation” --- these were some of the expressions used by the Chinese media in their reports on Peng Liyuan, the second wife of President Xi Jinping, who accompanied him on his just-concluded  first State visit to Russia,Tanzania, South Africa and Congo   

2. The correspondent of the Channelnews Asia reported: “China's glamorous first lady Peng Liyuan has become a media and internet sensation. Some say she could also signal a new era of change in Chinese politics. The world took notice when Madam Peng made her debut as China's first lady, during President Xi Jinping's first visit overseas as head of state. Already a household name in the world of Chinese military folk music, the 51-year-old soprano is used to being in the limelight. And now, she's getting more attention than her predecessors - both at home and abroad.”

3.It added: “Analysts say Mrs Xi's celebrity background played a part in raising her profile as China's first lady. Prof Li Weijian, Director of Foreign Policy Studies at the Shanghai Institute for International Studies, said: "She was previously in the limelight for being a singer. She's now in the limelight for being a politician's wife. That kind of public attention she previously received has been brought over and people want to see how she's like as a leader's wife."

4.Prof Li added: "Everyone's interested in her and her image and charm makes it easier for people to get close to her and in turn understand China as well. She's also an artist and she has an affinity to communicate with others unlike someone who's never been a public figure and has no experience in communicating."

5. "Other commentators say Mrs Xi, who's also a global ambassador in the fight against HIV/AIDS, signals the beginning of a new political scene in China, as her transition from popular singer to now, first lady makes people feel more connected to the Chinese leaders, whose lives have always been kept away from the public eye.”

6.In a write-up on March 29,2013, the “China Daily News” reported as follows: “If you were looking to cast someone to carry on Jacqueline Kennedy's charm offensive, it would be hard to find anyone more suitable than Peng Liyuan, wife of Chinese President Xi Jinping. If you were writing a novel and trying to craft the perfect blend of personal history, capabilities, poise and charm for a character, you'd come up with someone like Peng.

7.“Born into a humble family in Shandong province, she joined the People's Liberation Army at the age of 18, gaining nationwide fame as a performer of patriotic and military songs. But she is not only praised for her voice and professional achievements, she has also gained plaudits for her charity efforts and volunteerism. She has, among other things, distinguished herself as a World Health Organization ambassador in the fight against AIDS, and was a comforting presence in the aftermath of the 2008 Sichuan earthquake.

8.”I've had the great joy of attending one of the super-talented Peng's performances in the Golden Hall, the Musikverein, in Vienna and, like the rest of the audience there, was enchanted and mesmerized by her.
9.”Try as it may, it's no secret that China, even with its unparalleled rich and venerable culture, has not done a good job when it comes to its attempts to exercise the soft power that befits a country of its stature. Let's face it, the United States is doing a much better job in this respect, it has dominated this field in virtually every aspect for the last hundred years and perfected the projection of soft power beyond its shores as both an art and a science.

10.”The media attention given Peng as she accompanies her husband on his first foreign trip as president shows that not only can she serve as a role model for Chinese women, especially young Chinese women at home and abroad, she can also be an effective icon for projecting China's soft power overseas.

11.”For decades at least, China has not had a tradition of first ladies like in the US. Now that China has mounted to a higher position on the world stage, it can project its first first lady!And Peng Liyuan is the perfect person with whom to begin.”
12.This is not the first time the wife of a Chinese leader has accompanied her husband on his foreign visits. The wife of Hu Jintao, the predecessor of Xi, had accompanied him on some occasions. But whereas the wives of the previous leaders were not glamorous. Peng is glamorous and the Chinese media focused on her glamour to showcase her as the image of the new Chinese woman---glamorous and politically and socially active, who can hold her own against the First Ladies of Western Countries---particularly the US.

13.An American TV channel described her as China’s Michelle Obama. And the Chinese were happy with that description.

14.Everything she wore and did during the travel became news. She always made it a point to wear Chinese, avoiding expensive Western brands. The focus was on the fact that whatever she wore was a product of the Chinese fashion industry. She sought to show that a Chinese woman can be chic even while adhering to her husband’s exhortation to the Chinese people to be austere in their life-style.
15.Interestingly, even though Xi took over as the General Secretary of the Communist Party of China in November last year, she avoided the limelight till he was elected as the State President by the National People’s Congress (NPC) in March.

16.Was the decision to bring her into the limelight and direct the media focus on her as the First Lady was taken personally by Xi or was it the decision of the Party? No answer to this question is available in the media reports on her, but it is quite likely that her being brought into the limelight and projected as China’s New Generation First Lady was the decision of the Party and not of Xi.
17.Is there a possibility of a personality and glamour cult building around her as a result of the adulation to which she is subjected and is there a danger of this cult being viewed adversely by the old generation party members? This is a question which will engage the attention of the Chinese analysts in the months to come.

18.After Xi returned to China from his foreign visit, the spotlight on her was dimmed, thereby indicating that she will be projected as a showcase of emerging China to the outside world, without giving her any domestic role as the wife of the Party leader.
19.She was a sensation among China’s growing community of netizens. While many of the online references to her were positive, some brought out clips to show that she had sung and danced for PLA troops in Tibet and for the troops which had crushed the pro-democracy students in the Tienanmen Square. Official censors had them blacked out quickly.

20.This shows a danger that while the Government and the Party want to focus on the glamorous and positive side of her image, as a PLA officer, she also has a negative side and skeletons. The detractors of the Party will try to dig out the negative side and expose it to the people. (31-3-13)

( 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. Twitter: @SORBONNE75 )
























Saturday, March 30, 2013



The media has reported that Smt.Sushma Swaraj, Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, and Shri Arun Jaitley, Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, have strongly objected to a proposal from the Government to appoint Shri S.C.Sinha, the retiring chief of the National Investigation Agency (NIA), as a member of the National Human Rights Commission.

2. They are reported to have suggested that someone not belonging to the Indian Police Service should be appointed to this post. They have also reportedly pointed out that the NIA has come under controversy in connection with its investigation of allegations of involvement of some Hindus in acts of terrorism. There have been allegations  in the past that the NIA was sought to be misused by the Government to demonise the RSS by projecting the arrested Hindus as having acted at the instance of the RSS.

3. It may be recalled that some allegations openly made by Shri   Sushil Kumar Shinde, Minister For Home Affairs, in this connection which sought to create an impression in the public mind that there were terrorism training camps being run by some Hindus, came in for strong criticism from the opposition. He made these allegations at a brain-storming session of the Congress (I) at Jaipur, which nominated Shri Rahul Gandhi as the Vice-President of the Congress.

4. One understands the NHRC has an investigation division to investigate allegations of human rights violations and that this Division has been usually headed by a retired IPS officer, well-versed in investigation. He investigates the complaints and submits his findings to the Commission as a whole.

5. The NIA was set up in 2009 after the 26/11 terrorist strikes in Mumbai to undertake the investigation of terrorism cases with a pan-Indian dimension referred to it by the Government. Whereas in the US the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) automatically investigates all terrorism cases without the President playing any role in the matter, in India, the Ministry of Home Affairs, which is the supervising Ministry of the NIA, has kept in its hands the discretion to decide which cases will be investigated by the NIA and which cases need not be.

6.There have been allegations that the Government has been misusing this discretionary power to discredit the RSS and the BJP by selectively removing investigations against the arrested Hindus from the hands of the State Police concerned and  transferring them to the NIA.

7. The effectiveness of the NIA as a terrorism investigation agency depends not only on its investigation capability, but also on its credibility as an independent agency like the FBI of the US that does not allow itself to be misused by the Government for its own political agenda.

8. The investigation and prosecution record of the NIA since its inception in 2009 has been poor. Many terrorist incidents have remained undetected. It is distrusted both by the Hindu and Muslim communities. Large sections of the Hindus distrust it of letting itself be misused by the Government for discrediting the Hindutva organisations and creating suspicions of their involvement in terrorism.

9. Large sections of Muslims too distrust it of seeking to implicate innocent Muslims in terrorism cases and harassing them. As a result, the public credibility of the NIA is poor.

10. While it would be unfair to hold the retiring chief of the NIA responsible for this state of affairs, the public perception will be that he cannot escape responsibility for this.

11. Many of the complaints of human rights violations received by the NHRC are against the Police and counter-terrorism agencies. The public would tend to believe that retired IPS officers appointed to head the investigation division would not be fair and impartial in their investigation and would try to cover up the misdeeds of fellow police officers.

12. There is, therefore, validity in the reported contention of Smt.Sushma Swaraj that a retired IPS officer should not be appointed to this post. Particularly, it will be very unwise to appoint the retiring chief of the NIA to this post. The investigations of the NHRC will not have any credibility in the eyes of the aggrieved communities.

13. Moreover, the elections to the Lok Sabha are due in the next few months. The appointment of the retiring NIA chief at this time as a member of the NHRC will create a suspicion that the Government has a hidden political agenda. This matter needs to be brought to the notice of the Election Commission too. ( 31-3-13)

( 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.

Twitter: @SORBONNE75 )

Friday, March 29, 2013






The violent incidents in Central Myanmar, which initially targeted Muslims, their places of worship and properties at Meikhtila on March 20,2013, have since spread to other areas north of Rangoon and there have been reports of Muslims as well as Buddhists now being targeted often by the same mobs which move on motor-bykes.

2. In the fresh incidents, there have been no fatalities. Rioting groups have been attacking places of worship and properties of both the communities. These have strengthened suspicions that the violence directed against both the communities has been instigated by anti-reform elements in the Army in a bid to discredit President Thein Sein.

3. Members of both the communities allege that the police are remaining passive spectators so long as only places of worship and properties are attacked without causing any loss of lives.

4.In an open letter to President Thein Sein, leaders of four Muslim organizations, including the Islamic Religious Affairs Council and the Myanmar Muslim National Affairs Organisation, have accused the security forces of standing by as rioters went on a rampage.

5. Min Ko Naing,  a member of the 88 Generation movement which organized the students movement against the Army in 1988, alleged in an interview that  the mobs attacked both Buddhist and Muslim prayer houses. He recalled that  the military was swift and used brutal force to suppress protests by monks and students during the decades of junta rule in the past and added:" In the past, when high school students were marching with peacock flags and when Buddhists monks were marching peacefully, they got shot by security forces. That was an extreme measure. Now, they cannot stop and arrest the trouble makers behind this violence.”

6.Stung by widespread  criticism of inaction by the security forces, President Thein Sein, in a televised address on the evening of March 28, said he had authorized the use of force by authorities to prevent the spread of violence and told “religious extremists” that they would not escape prosecution for participating in acts of violence.

7.He said:“I would like to warn all political opportunists and religious extremists who try to exploit the noble teachings of these religions and have tried to plant hatred among people of different faiths for their own self-interest: their efforts will not be tolerated.”

8.Thein Sein said the riots had been caused by organized “instigators [who] exploit the situation to engineer violence in other parts of the country.”


( 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. Twitter: @SORBONNE75)







Thursday, March 28, 2013




The PLA Daily of March 29,2013, has carried the following report on the bilateral meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Chinese President Xi Jinping in the margins of the BRICS summit at Durban on March 27.


Xi says world needs common development of China, India



(Source: Xinhua)   2013-03-29





Chinese President Xi Jinping (L) meets with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in Durban, South Africa, March 27, 2013. (Xinhua/Huang Jingwen)



  DURBAN, South Africa, March 27 (Xinhua) -- Chinese President Xi Jinping said here Wednesday that the world needs the common development of China and India and can provide sufficient room for the two neighbors' development.


  Xi made the remarks during a meeting with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the sidelines of a summit of BRICS countries -- Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa -- in the South African port city of Durban.


  China and India, as the world's two largest developing nations, have a similar historic mission to boost their social and economic development, Xi said.


  Both countries are in an important period of strategic opportunities, he said, adding that China-India relations have broad prospects for development.


  China, which regards its ties with India as one of the most important bilateral relationship, commits itself to pushing forward the two countries' strategic cooperative partnership, Xi said.


  He called on the two sides to maintain high-level reciprocal visits and contacts, make full use of political dialogues and consultations at various levels to strengthen strategic and political communication.


  China and India should broaden exchanges and cooperation between their armed forces and deepen mutual military and security trust, Xi said.


  The Chinese president said the two countries, with the help of such cooperative mechanisms as strategic and economic dialogue, should also discuss their cooperation on large-scale infrastructure projects.


  Xi also called for enhancing people-to-people exchanges and cooperation, and broadening youth exchanges.


  He said the two sides should strengthen coordination and cooperation within the United Nations, BRICS, the G20 and other multilateral groupings, support each other's participation in regional cooperation, and promote peace, stability and development in Asia.


  On the border issue, Xi said China and India should improve and make good use of the mechanism of special representatives to strive for a fair, rational solution framework acceptable to both sides as soon as possible.


  Meanwhile, he said, the two sides should continue to safeguard peace in their border areas and prevent the issue from affecting bilateral relations.


  Singh expressed admiration for China's achievements in development, saying that developing good-neighborly and friendly relations with China and realizing common development along with China is a priority of the country's foreign policy.


  India hopes to continue to maintain high-level exchanges, dialogue and communication with China, he added.


  He also voiced the hope that the two countries would respect each other's core interests and major concerns, deepen mutual strategic trust, strengthen coordination and cooperation on international affairs, and safeguard peace and stability in the region and the world at large.


  Singh said his country, which adheres to an independent foreign policy, will not be used as a tool to contain China, adding that India is willing to make concerted efforts with China to show the world that they are cooperative partners instead of rivals.


  India will abide by political guidelines set by both sides and seek a solution to the bilateral border issue from a strategic height with a commitment to safeguard peace in their border areas, he said.


  The Indian prime minister said his country recognizes the Tibet Autonomous Region is a part of the Chinese territory and that India will not allow Tibetans to conduct political activities against China in India.

2. As this writer has been pointing out in the past, there are nuances in Chinese references to its territorial disputes with India and with some ASEAN countries and Japan in the South and East China Seas.

3.While China continues to project its maritime disputes as its “core interests” not permitting any compromise, it projects its dispute with India as calling for a mutually acceptable solution.

4.This comes out once again in the PLA Daily’s report on the talks between the Prime Minister and Mr.Xi. It says: “On the border issue, Xi said China and India should improve and make good use of the mechanism of special representatives to strive for a fair, rational solution framework acceptable to both sides as soon as possible. Meanwhile, he said, the two sides should continue to safeguard peace in their border areas and prevent the issue from affecting bilateral relations”

5.The Chinese formulation is more or less the same as in the past except significantly its reference to finding a solution “ as soon as possible.” Past Chinese formulations used to refer to the border dispute as a complex historical legacy which will require time to solve. The need for a solution “as soon as possible” is stressed now. It is not yet clear as to why this change.

6.If the PLA Daily’s references to our Prime Minister’s assurances on Tibet are correct, one would wonder what was the need for us to take the initiative in raising this on our own when China continues to maintain a silence on our core concerns regarding its increasing presence in Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltisan and in Gwadar and regarding its continuing nuclear supply relationship with Pakistan.( 29-3-13)

( 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. Twitter @SORBONNE75 )



Monday, March 25, 2013



Anti-Muslim rumours projecting Muslims negatively have spread to Rangoon from Meikhtila which has been placed under a State of Emergency following three days of Buddhist-Muslim clashes last week.

2.While no fresh fatalities have been reported from Meikhtila, there have been reports of fresh attacks on mosques and Muslim-owned properties in the villages and townships around Meikhtila.

3. There have been reports of fear among the Muslima of Rangoon, many of them of Indian origin, following circulation of rumours regarding possible attacks on Muslims and their properties there. The Myanmar Government has placed security forces in Rangoon in a state of alert. There have been no violent incidents so far.

4. Muslims suspect that the attacks on Muslims and the rumours are being instigated by anti-reform elements in the Army to discredit President Thein Sein and Aung San Suu Kyi.

5.The privately-owned Irrawaddy Journal has reported as follows:  “ Fear gripped Rangoon’s Muslim communities on Sunday night after reports and rumors began to emerge that groups of rioters were planning to attack their neighborhoods. Muslim residents reacted by closing shops and holding nighttime patrols, but eventually there were few incidents in Burma’s biggest city.

“Over the weekend the violence directed at Islamic communities spread southward through Mandalay Division from Meikhtila Township, where 8,000 Muslims were displaced and dozens of people were killed after violence erupted last Wednesday.

 “Some Islamic leaders and Burmese activists now allege that the rapidly spreading communal violence—which appears to pit Buddhists against Muslims—is in fact being incited by outside interests.

“On Sunday night, reports and rumors that groups of anti-Muslim rioters were on their way to Muslim neighborhoods in central Rangoon first began to appear. Around midnight an unidentified group allegedly tried to set fire to buildings in Ma U Gone, a Muslim quarter in Tamwe Township, according to local resident Tha Aye.

“It was near midnight, around seven or eight people came in a van and tried to set buildings on fire. When people tried to catch them they ran away,” said Tha Aye, who is also chairman of the Union National Development Party, an Islamic political organization.

“They threw [Molotov cocktails] at a mosque but it was in vain,” he said, adding that the attackers revisited the area more than one hour later, but they were chased away by residents who carried knives and sticks.

‘News of the incident quickly reached other Islamic communities who formed vigilante groups to patrol the streets, according to Aye Lwin, a Muslim representative from Burma’s Interfaith Friendship Organization.

‘At around 3 am Monday morning Muslim crowds could be heard chanting ‘God is Great’ as they marched through central Rangoon’s Pabedan Township.

‘Residents of Mingalar Taung Nyunt Township, a predominantly Muslim market area, were also on alert after they received repeated anonymous phone calls on Sunday night, saying that the area would be the target of mobs.

‘Businesses in the area remained closed during a visit by a reporter on Monday. “We want the government to help stop these rumors and reassure the community’s safety,” local community leader Khin Hlaing said.

‘Some Muslim leaders believed that the violence directed at their communities was being orchestrated by outsiders. “In my opinion, a group of people is trying to instigate public unrest by targeting Muslim people,” Aye Lwin said.

‘”Tha Aye alleged that elements in the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party were involved in the supposed organization of the anti-Muslim riots, adding that they wanted to hinder President Thein Sein’s political and socio-economic reform agenda.”

6.Our security agencies should step up online monitoring to prevent dissemination of morphed images of the violence by extremist elements as happened last year after the violent incidents in the Rakhine State.( 26-3-13)

(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. Twitter @SORBONNE75 )


Saturday, March 23, 2013




Between 20 and 26 persons are reported to have been killed in three days of violent clashes between Buddhists and Burman Muslims (not Rohingyas) in the central Myanmar cantonment town of Meikhtila since March 20,2013. Official figures have, however, given the death toll as five only till the evening of March 22.

2. The town has a population of about 100,000 of whom one-third are estimated to be Muslims. The violence reportedly broke out following a quarrel between the Muslim owner of a jewellery shop and some of his Buddhist customers.

3.Five mosques, including the main mosque of the town, are reported to have been burnt down by Buddhist mobs. Armed Buddhist monks prevented journalists from taking photographs of the damages caused to the mosques.

4.Finding the local police unable to bring the violence under control, the Government imposed a State of Emergency in Meikhtilla and neighbouring townships and villages on March 22 to enable the deployment of the Army.

5. A reporter of the privately-owned Irrawaddy Journal has reported as follows: “Photo evidence of widespread carnage is also emerging, with news media websites and social media sites such as Facebook posting pictures that show numerous charred bodies and whole neighborhoods on fire. Some local residents told The Irrawaddy that militant Buddhist monks and laymen went on a rampage through the city in Mandalay Division on Friday morning, destroying mosques and what they believed were Muslim-owned properties. “It’s as if they are destroying the town. The situation is now out of control,” said a Pauk Chaung quarter resident, who wanted to remain anonymous for fear of his safety.”

6.He said Muslim residents were seeking shelter at sites in Meikhtila where police could offer them some form of protection. “They [police] are standing guard over 800 Muslim people taking refuge at a football ground. Now I’ve heard that the ministers for internal affairs and religious affairs and the chief minister for Mandalay Division are here,” the Buddhist man said. However, police had little control over events, according to the resident. “Now we have nearly 30 truckloads of riot police here, but they can’t control the mob,” he said. “Instead they are trying to put out the fires.”

 7.The Irrawaddy Journal reporter added: “Thousands of Muslims, who are believed to make up as much as a third of the city’s population, have reportedly fled since Wednesday out of fear that they might be killed. On Friday evening, The Irrawaddy’s reporter in Meikhtila observed police evacuating about 1,500 residents, mostly women and children, out of the city’s Chan Aye quarter to a makeshift refugee camp on the town’s outskirts. More than 2,000 Muslim refugees were gathered at the  site.”

8. Meikhtila is a garrison city (Cantonment) with a heavy military presence, located halfway between Mandalay and Naypyidaw.

9.The Journal has quoted Kay OO May, a representative of a local NGO, as saying that  12 Muslims and eight Buddhists are dead. “I myself witnessed two dead bodies,” she said. “Five mosques, including the biggest one, were destroyed. The Muslim quarter of Chan Aye was the most hard-hit.”

10. Members of the  88 Generation Students organization have criticized President Thein Sein for his allegedly inadequate response to the violence. Islamic Organizations have  sent a letter to the  President  urging him to urgently provide Muslim people in the country with lawful protection.

 11.The Irrawaddy Journal has commented as follows:’ “The clashes in Meikhtila are the latest flare-up in ongoing Buddhist and Muslim inter-communal violence in Burma. Since June 2012 there have been recurrent waves of violence between Buddhist Arakanese and Muslim Rohingya in western Burma’s Arakan State, which have killed 180 people and displaced 110,000 villagers, mostly Rohingyas. In recent months there have been several reports of inter-communal clashes in other parts of Burma, but no one was reportedly killed in  these incidents.”

( 23-3-13)


( 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. Twitter @SORBONNE75 )

Friday, March 22, 2013



I have been in receipt of many tweets and E-Mails criticizing me for advocating that the case of Sanjay Dutt, who has been convicted under the Arms Act for having been found in illegal possession of two fire-arms and sentenced to five years of imprisonment, should be treated differently and any petition from him for a lenient view of his guilt should be considered sympathetically.

2.In my first tweet after his conviction by a bench of the Supreme Court, I had said that, as in the US, there is a need for a provision in our laws under which a court can allow a convicted criminal in certain cases to do compulsory community service in lieu of imprisonment to cover cases like that of Sanjay.

3.Subsequently, I had tweeted my agreement with the view of retired Justice Katju, Chairman of the Press Council of India, that Sanjay’s case deserves pardon in view of the good service to the community that he and his parents had done in the past. However, I had differed from Justice Katju in respect of the community service. I am of the view that Sanjay could be considered for pardon  not for his good service of the past, but for the community service that he promises to do in future in lieu of the imprisonment. His performance has to be closely monitored by someone designated by the Governor to ensure that he carries out his solemn commitment. If he violates his commitment, his pardon should be cancelled.

4.My views have been strongly criticized on the following grounds .Firstly, he has committed a heinous offence by accepting a gift of arms from a person allegedly connected with Mumbai’s mafia. Secondly, if any special consideration is shown to him by virtue of his celebrity status, it would be a violation of the sacred principle of equality before law. Thirdly, there are many others who are languishing in jail despite their good service to the community. When the law has not shown them any special consideration, why should it show a special consideration only to Sanjay.

5. Sanjay is a confirmed convict under the Arms Act against whom a minimum sentence of five years as provided in the Arms Act has been awarded by the Supreme Court. Taking into consideration the 18 months that Sanjay had already spent in jail during the trial, the court has ordered that he should spend another  three and a half years.

6.I  argue for a lenient view in his case on the following grounds

·      Even though Sanjay has been found guilty of illegal possession of arms, no evidence has been forthcoming to show that he was aware that these arms were part of a consignment that had been smuggled in from Pakistan for use in the Mumbai serial blasts of March 1993. If he was aware of this fact, as a law-abiding citizen, he should have immediately alerted the police and his failure to do so would have amounted to complicity in an act of terrorism. Since there is no evidence to show that he was aware of this fact, he cannot be accused of complicity in an act of terrorism.

·      No other evidence has been forthcoming to show that he was part of the conspiracy relating to the Mumbai blasts. He has not been found guilty of an act of terrorism.

·      Despite the absence of any evidence to show his involvement, he was treated as a suspect under the TADA along with the members of the conspiracy. As a result, he was not tried separately under the Arms Act, but along with the conspirators and perpetrators of the Mumbai blasts. The trial went on for 20 years. Had he been tried separately under the Arms Act and not with others, his case might have concluded a long time ago and by now he might have completed his sentence

·      His case being clubbed along with the cases against others has resulted in his having to wait for 20 years for the final judgment and he has to go to jail now after this long delay, spending another three and a half years in custody. This is unfair to him and is contrary to the principles of natural justice.

7.Taking into consideration the facts and circumstances relating to the conviction of Sanjay I had suggested that he should be treated differently and a sympathetic view should be taken if he petitions for pardon. It will not be a violation of the principle of equality before law. My views have nothing to do with his celebrity status or his family and social connections.

8. If there are others with similar facts and circumstances, their cases have to be examined in the light of those facts and circumstances without any prejudice. In my view, Sanjay had to suffer unfairly because of his case being clubbed along with the cases of the conspirators and perpetrators of the blasts in the absence of credible evidence to warrant it.

9. I will be happy to stand corrected if I have failed to consider any other relevant fact relating to him. (23-3-13)

( 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. Twitter: @SORBONNE75 )


Thursday, March 21, 2013



The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Government of Dr.Manmohan Singh have come under criticism for the perceived ham-handedness of the CBI in the investigation of a complaint regarding irregularities in the import of some foreign cars involving suspected evasion in the payment of duty.

2.In connection with the preliminary enquiry into the complaint, which precedes the registration of a First Information Report  (FIR), the CBI allegedly raided the houses of Shri M.K.Stalin and Shri M.K.Alagiri, senior DMK leaders and sons of Shri M.Karunanidhi on the morning of March 21,2113, while looking for the suspected cars.

3.Since the raids came a day after Shri Karunanidhi announced the withdrawal of the DMK from the ruling coalition in protest against the Government’s policy on the violation of the human and political rights of the Sri Lankan Tamils by the Sri Lankan Government, there have been allegations that the raids were politically motivated to teach the DMK a lesson for its action.

4.Dr.Manmohan Singh and some senior Ministers from the Congress (I) have dissociated themselves from any responsibility for the controversial raid and found fault with the CBI action. There has been professional as well as political ham-handedness in the entire affair.

5. The CBI has the duty and the responsibility to take cognizance of reports of illegalities and investigate them if such investigation falls within its charter, irrespective of the political and other background of the persons against whom complaints have been made.

6.The timing of the investigation  is in the hands of the CBI. Action has to be immediate where heinous offences such as murder or terrorism are involved or where there are reasons to apprehend tampering with the evidence by the wrong-doers if the investigation is delayed.

7.The investigation in connection with irregularities in the import of foreign cars did not come under any of these categories. It was not a heinous offence. Nor were there grounds to apprehend attempts to tamper with evidence.

8.The CBI could have chosen its timing keeping in view the possibility of misrepresentations and misprojections to attribute political motives to the raids in order to discredit the CBI as well as the Government. If it had delayed the raids by a few days till the heat of the controversy over the withdrawal of the DMK from the ruling coalition has died down, heavens would not have fallen. This is where sound professional   judgment  comes in. While one could not fault the CBI for the raids, one could fault its judgment in rushing with them.

9. There is so far no evidence to believe that the raids were undertaken at the instance of anyone in the Government or the Congress. It would seem that the Prime Minister and some senior Ministers were taken unawares by the raid. There were panic reactions due to a fear that the raids may further complicate the relations of the Congress with the DMK  at a time when the  Congress had not given up hopes of finding a face-saver that might enable the DMK to at least support the Government from outside.

10. In the resulting panic, the Prime Ministers and the senior Ministers handled the sequel to the raids with lack of political finesse---not only criticizing the CBI, but also giving the impression of asking the CBI to discontinue the raids. They forgot they had no powers to do so.

11.As a result of the mishandling  by the Government, the CBI has been put in an embarrassing position. It will be suspected if it went ahead with the investigation and even more suspected if it did not.

12. Building up the credibility of the CBI as an independent organization known for its professionalism depends not only on its officers, but also on the political leadership which should refrain from actions or inactions that could impact on the prestige of the CBI.

13.In the final analysis, we will get the CBI we deserve. There is no point in blaming it all the time----right or wrong .(22-3-13)


( 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. Twitter: @SORBONNE75)


Wednesday, March 20, 2013



In his first visit abroad as the President of China since assuming office on March 14,2013, Mr.Xi Jinping is scheduled to visit Russia, Tanzania, South Africa and the Republic of Congo from March 22-30 and attend the fifth BRICS( Brazil,Russia,India,China and South Africa) summit on March 26-27 in Durban, South Africa. In the margins of the summit, he is scheduled to have bilateral talks with Prime Minister Dr.Manmohan Singh.

2. The PLA Daily of March 21 has carried a report disseminated by the official Xinhua news agency the previous day on an interaction which Xi had before his visit with representatives of the Chinese media as well as media representatives of the BRICS countries based in Beijing.

3.In addition to Xi’s views on the importance of BRICs as an economic co-operation organization, the Xinhua report as published by the PLA Daily highlights the views expressed by Xi on Sino-Indian relations.

4. To quote from the Xinhua report as published by the PLA Daily:

  On Sino-Indian ties, Xi said, to jointly follow a path of peaceful development and development through cooperation not only meets the common interests of China and India, the two largest developing countries in the world, but also does a great service to Asia and the world at large.

  Speaking highly of the important headway in bilateral ties in recent years thanks to concerted efforts of the two sides, Xi urged both countries that are pursuing development at a faster pace to seize the opportunities and take solid steps to bolster cooperation and exchanges in all fields, accommodate each other's core concerns and properly handle their problems and differences.

  On the boundary problem, Xi said it is a complex issue left from history, and solving the issue won't be easy. But he said he believes "as long as we keep up our friendly consultations, we can eventually arrive at a fair, reasonable and mutually acceptable settlement."

  "Pending the final settlement of the boundary question, the two sides should work together to maintain peace and tranquility in border areas and prevent the boundary question from affecting the overall development of bilateral relations," the President added.”

5. Two significant points in his observations need to be underlined. Firstly, he talks of China’s “core concerns” vis-à-vis India and not core interests. Xi and other Chinese leaders talk of “core interests and major concerns” when they talk of China’s relations with the US, Japan and the ASEAN countries. When they talk of core interests and major concerns, they have in mind Taiwan and sovereignty issues relating to the islands in the South and East China Seas.

6. While Xi has not spelt out what are the core concerns of China vis-à-vis India, one could assess that these probably relate to the activities of the Government-in-exile of His Holiness the Dalai Lama from Indian territory, China’s sovereignty claims relating to Arunachal Pradesh and India’s strategic relations with Vietnam and Japan.

7. Of late, the Chinese have been accusing the Dalai Lama’s set-up of orchestrating the self-immolations in the Tibetan areas of China. It is likely that the reported revival of the activities of the Tibetan Youth League (TYC) and other pro-independence elements in the Tibetan diaspora in the West could be interpreted by Beijing as adding to its concerns.

8.Even though the Chinese have not openly taken up these issues, the likely impact of the Chinese concerns on this subject on our bilateral relations with China has to be continuously monitored and assessed.

9. As I had pointed out in the past, the Chinese attitude on the border dispute with India has been less confrontational than their territorial sovereignty-related disputes with Japan and the ASEAN countries, particularly Vietnam. In the case of India, they have accepted over the years “mutual accommodation” as one of the principles that should be followed in any border settlement. While they are prepared for mutual accommodation in a border settlement with India, they never talk of mutual accommodation in their disputes with Japan and the ASEAN countries. It is this Chinese acceptance of mutual accommodation with India that should explain the absence of rhetoric when they talk of the border  dispute with India as contrasted with the rhetoric in their statements on the South and East China Seas.

10.China’s nuanced policy in matters relating to sovereignty disputes with India is evident from Xi’s recognition of the border issue as a complex problem on which the two countries should keep negotiating while maintaining peace and tranquility across the border and without allowing the dispute to affect the over-all development of the bilateral relations.

11. This is a formulation  with`  which India need have no quarrel. Neither India nor China has been transparent on the progress in the border talks. As a result, one does not know where the two countries are stuck up. The conventional belief is that the lack of progress is due to India’s opposition to China’s demand for the transfer of Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh to China.

12. In the absence of details regarding the present stage of the talks, there has been no contribution by the non-governmental community of analysts to the search for options to find a compromise solution. There is a need for the two Governments to be more forthcoming on the border talks so that the search for a compromise solution could be intensified. Ultimately, public and political opinion in India has to accept a border settlement .Keeping them in the picture will facilitate this. Since India too has accepted the principle of mutual accommodation, a compromise has to be found which will not seriously affect the national interests of the two countries. Why not the two Governments appoint a small core group of non-Governmental experts from the two countries to come up with alternate ideas that could be mutually acceptable?

13. On the question of China’s core concerns regarding India’s strategic relations with Vietnam and Japan, there is no reason for India to be defensive or apologetic about them. India’s relations with Vietnam and Japan do not pose a threat to China whereas the increasing presence of the Chinese Army in Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (POK) and Gilgit-Baltistan and of the Chinese Navy in Gwadar in Balochistan do pose a threat to India’s security. The Chinese have been indifferent to India’s core concerns on this. There is  no reason for India to be sensitive to Chinese concerns regarding its relations with Vietnam and Japan. (21-3-13)


( 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. Twitter: @SORBONNE75)