The important celebrations on this day take place at Ayodhya (Uttar Pradesh), Bhadrachalam (Andhra Pradesh) and Rameswaram (Tamil Nadu). Celebrations begin with a prayer to the Sun early in the morning. At midday, when Lord Rama is supposed to have been born, a special prayer is performed. People sing devotional songs in praise of Rama and rock images of him in a cradle to celebrate his birth.
Sitarama Kalyanam, the ceremonial wedding ceremony of the Ram and Sita is held at temples throughout the south region, with great fanfare and accompanied by group chanting of name of Rama.
2. ‘SQ BEST PARAMETER TO FIND ONE’S ABILITY, APTITUDE’ : ADVANI : Stating that epic like Ramayana and Mahabharata develop the Spiritual Quotient (SQ) of an individual, senior BJP leader LK Advani on March 28 said SQ is the best parameter to determine ability and aptitude of one. “Contrary to the principle of West that a person’s capability and intelligence can be judged through his Intelligence Quotient (IQ) or Emotional Quotient (EQ), I believe if you want to judge a person, you should examine his SQ level,” he said.
Advani was speaking on the occasion of release of a book, Ramayan-the hymns of Himalaya, a prosaic English translation of the epic authored by Dr Akhilesh Gumashta, a Jabalpur-based orthopaedic surgeon and published by Prabhat Publication New Delhi.
Among the luminaries present on the occasion, Former Chief Justice of Bharat Ramesh Chandra Lahoti said Ramayana is source of inspiration for constructive and creative introspection.
Sadhvi Ritambhara said with the English translation of Ramayana, the author will quench the thirst of spiritualism of the West.
3. ASEEMANAND SAYS CONFESSION WAS COERCED: In a significant development, Swami Aseemanand, who is under scanner for his role in Ajmer, Mecca masjid, Malegaon and the Samjhauta Express blasts, has retracted his previous confessional statement, saying it was "coerced".
According to reports, the right-wing spiritual leader has made a submission before a court in Ajmer that he was mentally and physically pressurized by the investigating agencies to 'confess' that he was the man behind those blasts.
Aseemanand is also believed to have informed the court that he was also threatened and being forced to become a government witness in the case.
He is said to have pleaded before the court to reject his previous application in which he had wished to become a witness in the Ajmer blast case, while deposing that he had no intentions whatsoever to turn approver in the case.
If reports are to be believed, Aseemanand has also sent a written appeal to the President about his alleged harassment by investigators.
The development has added a new twist to the ongoing probe into the Ajmer blast and complicated things for the ATS, which has so far failed to file a chargesheet against Assemanand and the other accused.
4. HINDUISM, A WISDOM RELIGION – PROF. THILLAYVEL NAIDOO: Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism are ‘wisdom religions’ while Islam and Christianity are ‘religions of revelation’. This was stated by Prof. Thillayvel Naidoo while delivering 6th Chamanlal ji memorial lecture in Delhi on March 25, 2011.
Prof. Naidoo, former Professor of Eastern religions – Department of science of religions at the University of Durban – Westville South Africa, dealt with the theological aspects of various religions and cultures and the quest for harmony among them. While stating the need to understand the reasons for conflict, he opined that few cultures of the world take the problem of harmonization seriously and asserted that any possibility of cultural harmony flowing with absolute authenticity will be only through the light of spirituality as professed by Swami Vivekananda.
The lecture held under the auspices of International Center for Cultural Studies (ICCS), was chaired by Prof. Kapil Kapoor – former pro vice Chancellor JNU and Justice (retd) Vinodkumar Gupta – former chief Justice of Jharkand, Uttaranchal and Himachal was the chief Guest. Prof. Amarjiv Lochan conducted the proceedings.
5. TALENT SHOW RAISES $11,500 FOR SEWA PROJECTS IN BHARAT: Over 300 people attended the “Talent for Charity” cultural program organized by Keertana Pariwar at the Durga Temple in Fairfax Station, Virginia USA, on March 12. The program raised more than $11,500 for Sewa International’s development initiatives in Bharat.
Keertana Pariwar has organized this event for the ninth year in a row to support different charities. This year’s event saw the highest turn out as well as the largest amount of funds raised.
The three beneficiary projects are ; an economic empowerment project for women in Kutchh – Gujarat, Aruna Chetana - a school for children with disability in Bangalore and the Katherine & Lobo Blind School in Mangalore.
6. GITA IS THE SOURCE OF ALL EXISTING RELIGIONS: Several principles laid down in Gita and Koran, both the sacred books are surprisingly similar; said the noted Sanskrit scholar Dr Mohd Hanif Khan Shastri. Dr Khan, a devout Muslim who teaches at the Rashtriya Sanskrit Sansthan, a deemed university under the Ministry of Human Resources Development, was delivering a talk on ‘Gita, Koran and Civilisational Harmony’ organised by the Global Foundation for Civilisational Harmony (GFCH-INDIA), in collaboration with Vivekananda International Foundation on the eve of Holi on March 19, in New Delhi.
Maintaining that Gita held the key to entire Bharatiya philosophy and ancient religious discourse, Dr Khan said the sacred book can be hailed as a source for all the existing religions in the world.
Rabbi Ezekiel Isaac Malekar, Head Priest at the Delhi Jewish Synagogue said all religions taught good principles to enable human beings to lead a peaceful and harmonious life.
7. ROTORUA HOLI FESTIVAL GIVES IMPORTANCE TO YOUTH: Rotorua public got the opuportnity to celebrate Holi – the Festival of Colours – on Sunday, 20th March 2011. Both children and adults enjoyed this festival; in particular playing with coloured powder and water which was the highlight of the festival.
The celebration also included international cultural performances including Bharatiya dances, traditional Chinese dances, belly dancing, Salsa, Zumba, singing and guitar performances.
8. DR KASBEKAR AND REKHA DAVE HONOURED WITH BHAURAO DEORAS SEWA SAMMAN : 16th Bhaurao Deoras Sewa Samman was presented to Dr Milind Kasbekar of Saksham (Nagpur) and Kumari Rekha Dave, joint general secretary of Vivekananda Kendra, Kanyakumari at a function organised at Hapur on March 5. Dr Kasbekar is serving the visually challenged people in Maharashtra through the Saksham while Kumari Rekha Dave is propagating the ideals of Swami Vivekananda in the field of service. The function was presided over noted economist and Uttar Kshetra Sanghachalak of RSS Dr Bajrang Lal Gupt. Noted saint Shri Vijay Kaushal Maharaj was the Chief Guest. Speaking on the occasion Shri Vijay Kaushal Maharaj said one has to abandon the feeling of pride and insult while serving the people.
9. TURBAN ROW: BHARAT PLANS TO MOVE UNSC RESOLUTION: Bharat has decided to move a resolution at the UN General Assembly stating that the turban was a symbol of Bharatiya religious sentiments and has to be respected by all. "We attach highest level of importance to the series of incidents where disrespect has been shown to turban, which is a symbol of our religious sentiment that has to be respected,” a government official said.
The move comes after top Bharatiya golfer Jeev Milkha Singh’s coach Amritinder Singh was forced to remove his turban by security officials twice at the Milan airport in month of March.
10. PROJECTING THE ALTERNATIVE: Five years is a long time in the life of a democracy. It seems even more laborious in the rapidly transient world of today where any event or issue, irrespective of its consequences, ceases to impact public opinion for long. That only raises a simple question: Will the government's indifference to corruption or the opposition's no-holds-barred attack that we see today have any bearing on the elections of 2014?
A case in point is the way UPA-I handled terrorism. For four and a half years, Shivraj Patil, then home minister, was consistently ridiculed for inaction. The BJP was all set to fight the 2009 elections on the plank of "national security". However post-26/11, thanks to some deft damage control initiated by the new home minister, P Chidambaram, "national security" was instead usurped by the UPA. And instead of incurring losses for its mediocre performance in the first four years, UPA-I reaped the benefits of forging an image of aggressive governance in the last six months.
In a country where vast chunks of the population are not well-informed or discerning with their electoral choices, it is easy to psychologically manoeuvre their perceptions. That possibly explains why UPA-II continues to remain indifferent in the wake of umpteen scams. It knows that the opposition will find it virtually impossible to drag these issues till the next elections, especially if UPA-II changes its prime minister sometime in 2013 and effectively kills the very issue of a "weak PM". In that situation, it will be easy to paint Manmohan Singh as the culprit, while the Congress from being the culprit will effortlessly don the mantle of 'saviour'. And, for all you know, the party might fight the 2014 elections on the promise of cleaning up the mess that Singh had left behind.
This is where the opposition needs to show more foresight and form a shadow cabinet, a move that has been discussed at various points but has never taken a concrete form. In the present Indian scenario, a shadow cabinet holds several advantages. (Tuhin A Sinha , Times of India, , Mar 23, 2011),
11. KILLING THE GOLDEN GOOSE: In the budget, IT's golden goose - Software Technology Parks of India (STPI), the most successful Indian scheme copied by a number of foreign governments - was squashed prematurely. While India started its liberalisation process in 1992 with attractive tax incentives for the IT sector, the Chinese had instituted similar incentives for manufacturing in 1978. Thirty years later, in spite of conquering the manufacturing sector, China continues with its tax incentives. India's decision to end the tax incentive signals the impending decline of Indian IT.
In 1978, when China was in dire straits, Deng Xiaoping went to the US to plead for more foreign currency. China had depleted all its foreign currency reserves and did not even have enough dollars to buy return tickets for Deng's delegation. The Chinese People's Bank, with just 80 employees at its head office, was the only financial institution in the country with no linkages to the outside world.
But thereafter, China liberalised and announced incentives for manufacturing and SEZs. It reduced tax rates from 55% to 25%. For manufacturing, the policy provided for zero tax for two years and just 12.5% tax for another three years. Thirty years later, China has reserves of almost $3 trillion. Its manufacturing sector at over $2,500 billion is 12 times bigger than India's. In spite of this stupendous achievement, China continues with all its tax incentives till date.
With the world recognising Chinese supremacy in the manufacturing sector, we find the "Made in China" label on almost everything we see. Indians have even found it cost-effective to worship Ganesh idols manufactured in China. Today, China is in a position to charge higher prices for their products without affecting their business, because no country will be able to respond in the short run. Building infrastructure and manufacturing plants and training industrial workers take decades. In the next decade, the Chinese can happily extract exorbitant monopoly prices for manufactured products. (Vivek Kulkarni, Times of India ,Mar 22, 2011)
12. I-T QUERIES ON GUJARAT MOUS A MISTAKE: PM: Chief Minister Narendra Modi raised the issue of income tax department asking Gujarat government for details of MoUs, pledging more than Rs 1,000 crore investment at Vibrant Gujarat global investors' summit during a meeting with PM Manmohan Singh on March 26.
The PM told Modi it was wrong and a mistake when he heard about the I-T department's letter to the state government seeking details, including the amount of committed investment and actual investment, said a Modi aide. Singh assured an extra Rs 4,600 crore from the Centre's kitty to develop a canal network for the Narmada project.
13. AYURVEDA ANSWER TO HEALTHCARE CHALLENGE: PITRODA: Taking healthcare to the masses will be Bharat's biggest challenge in the next two decades, and the ancient medicinal system of ayurveda is the only reliable way of doing so, Sam Pitroda, adviser to the PM and chairman of the National Innovation Council, said at the inauguration of the Institute of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine (I-AIM) on March 17 at Bangalore "We can't adopt the western model - the five-star culture of health delivery system. Health care has to reach the masses,"
Tata Group chairman Ratan Tata inaugurated the 100-bed healthcare centre that aims to integrate traditional medicine with modern health science. Darshan Shankar, who along with Pitroda had floated the foundation 17 years ago, said the healthcare centre aspires to be a modern Nalanda University for traditional health sciences.
14. LESSONS FROM JAPAN'S TSUNAMI WARNING SYSTEM: Experts say Japan's tsunami warning system won a seemingly impossible race against giant ocean waves, offering possible lessons to countries like Bharat. The Japan Meteorological Agency put out its first tsunami warning with details of which prefectures were likely to face the most dangerous waves at 2.49pm just three minutes after the quake on March 11.
A detailed warning, listing the height of waves likely to strike each prefecture and the time of arrival of the tsunami at each place followed a minute later - at 2.50pm.
15. ORISSA NOW ODISHA, ORIYA ODIA: Orissa will hereafter be called ‘Odisha’ and the Oriya language will be known as ‘Odia’ with Parliament giving approval to amendment of the Constitution and also passing the related bill.
The Rajya Sabha passed the Orissa (the Alteration of Name) Bill and adopted the Constitution (113th) Amendment Bill after a brief debate with members from all parties hailing the move as “historic” for people of the state.
16. MAKAR SANKRANTI SPORTS DAY 2011: HSS HongKong celebrated annual Makar Sankranti Sports Day on 23rd January, 2011 at the beautiful Kowloon Tsai Park. The total number of participants was 85, the highest so far since 1980s.
Regular Shakha team games such as kho-kho, kabbadi, ring – o – stick, lathi relays, Ram Raja Ravan, etc were played with full enthusiasm. While all the teams gave in their best performance, the final winning trophies were given to Keshav and Balaram among the boys, and Laxmi team among the girls. A very important feature of this sports day was the whole-hearted participation of the parents – the parents took part in the 100 meters race specially arranged for them.
17. AGRICULTURE CANNOT BECOME AN INDUSTRY - GOVINDACHARYA: Noted Swadeshi thinker and ideologue Shri KN Govindacharya came down heavily on those policymakers who are trying to convert Bharatiya agriculture into an industry. “The overall objective of our developmental activities should be to achieve self-reliance as was done by Nanaji in Chitrakoot and its surrounding areas," he said while delivering Nanaji Memorial Lecture in New Delhi on March 19.
The topic of Lecture was ‘Relevance of Self-Reliance in Development’. Senior BJP leader Shri Jaswant Singh presided over the function and many other eminent personalities, thinkers, intellectuals and economists were also present on the occasion.
18. BHAGAT SINGH REVISITED IN NEW DELHI: A well-researched book, Bhagat Singh Revisited, which highlights various aspects of his life was released on March 23 in the presence of eminent historians and intellectuals in New Delhi.
The book has been written by a Ghaziabad-based researcher Dr Chandrapal Singh.
Releasing the book, Prof. Aparna Basu, said the author Dr Chandrapal Singh has successfully presented Bhagat Singh in correct historical context. "I feel the attempts on the part of left historians to portrait Bhagat Singh as a Marxist ideologue was basically to draw benefit from his popularity.
Presiding over the function, former Governor Shri Triloki Nath Chaturvedi described the book as unique.
19. RELIGIOUS GROUPS PUT FAITH IN BUSINESS - STUDY: Bharatiya religious organizations across all major faiths are diversifying their "business model" to maintain the loyalty of their followers and attract new devotees. This is the finding of a Cambridge University study, carried out over two years surveying 568 Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Sikh and Jain religions in Maharashtra, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Gujarat.
Cambridge, one of the world's leading seats of learning, constituted a group drawn from its faculty of economics and Judge Business School, which discovered that cow-lending, computer-based learning, sewing and aerobics classes are some of the innovative non-religious services being offered by religious bodies to stay ahead of the game.
The survey is believed to be one of the first in Bharat with researchers finding that although Bharat is becoming more powerful and wealthy, rising social inequality — especially in the poorer states — means religious groups often fill the breach left by the lack of social welfare, especially in education and healthcare. In total, 272 Hindu religious groups were interviewed, along with 248 Muslim, 25 Christian and 23 Sikh and Jain religious organizations.
The research unearthed that religious institutions are acting in the same way as businesses in competing to offer unique selling points when it comes to matters of ideology. Interestingly, the feedback contradicts the progressive view that religion is the poison of the people. Iyer underlined, "Counter to some analyses of religion in Bharat that have mainly studied the negative consequences religion might engender, we are emphasising the positive role of some religious organisations in Bharat and the work they do among the wider community."
20. ELECTING CRIMINALS AND TAKING BRIBE TO VOTE ARE SINS: DEOBAND: Knowingly voting for candidates with criminal record or taking a bribe to vote are un-Islamic and sinful. This was stated by Darul Uloom Deoband, the seat of Sunni Islam in Bharat, in a fatwa (edict). "Voting is akin to giving testimony in Islam. By voting, a voter provides testimony that the candidate is suitable and would fulfil all duties. A false testimony is a sin," the seminary said, responding to a fatwa sought by the Ghaziabad-based Social Awareness Society.
According to the electoral data, around 40% of candidates who get elected in Bharat have a criminal record and voters are often courted with bribes.
Former Chief Election Commissioner N Gopalaswami welcomed the fatwa and said: "As politicians fail to act, religious organizations have risen to the occasion."
21. 2006 MALEGAON BLASTS: BAIL PLEA OF 9 ACCUSED REJECTED: The bail plea of nine persons accused in the 2006 Malegaon blasts has been rejected by a special MCOCA court in Mumbai on March 14.
The nine accused had moved the special Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) court last month seeking bail on the basis of the confessional statement of Swami Aseemanand, a key accused in the Samjhauta blasts case.
22. SHRI VISHWA NIKETAN: Pravas: Shri Shyam Parande, Secretary Sewa International will tour Trinidad, Guyana, Suriname and USA starting from 9 April.Visitors:Dr.Manohar Shinde, USA, Prof.Thillayvel Naidoo – South Africa.
FOOOD FOR THOUGHT: Persevere in thy quest and thou shalt find what thou seekst. Pursue thy aim unswervingly and thou shat gain victory. Struggle earnestly and thou shalt triumph. – Gautam Buddha
JAI SHREE RAMJ&K: TRUTH LOST IN TRANSLATION
Although the interlocutors appointed by the Centre have so far denied it, the media has been persistently reporting that pre-1953 status is being recommended for Kashmir.
The crux issue in Kashmir has been obfuscated by virulent propaganda and misrepresentation of facts. The common thinking is that Kashmir has a Muslim majority and the people there want to break away from India and join Pakistan or become independent.
This is contrary to ground realities. In 2002, a Mori poll conducted by a British NGO under the patronage of Lord Avebury, a known protagonist of Pakistan, found that 61 per cent of the population of the Valley wants to remain in India, six per cent wants to join Pakistan and 33 per cent is undecided. Even if we do not give credence to this survey, we cannot ignore the fact that the Valley Muslims, referred to as Kashmiri Muslims, are a minority in Jammu and Kashmir. They constitute about 45 per cent of the population. Other Muslims, like Gujjars, Bakherwals and Kargil Shias, are 20 per cent.
Non-Muslims, that is Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists, are 35 per cent. The silent majority among the Valley Muslims is of Sufis who are being gradually marginalised. The Sunnis constitute the bulk of the intelligentsia and hold the levers of political and economic power. It may be mentioned that the office of J&K chief minister has been a monopoly of Kashmiri Muslims. Senior Congressmen of the state once met me to express grave reservations at Mr Ghulam Nabi Azad being appointed chief minister. I pointed out that he was a son of Jammu, educated in Kashmir, and a son-in-law of Kashmir, an ideal combination for CM. He was not allowed to complete his full term.
The people in the Valley are often misled by false propaganda projecting threats to Islam. This happened in 1963 when the Holy Relic at Hazratbal had disappeared, and again in 2008. On the latter occasion, it was alleged that Hindus were going to be settled on a 100-acre plot of waste land to change the demography of the Valley, like Israel had done in Palestine. This despite the fact that this land is unapproachable and uninhabitable eight months of the year. This plot had been given on lease for `2 crore.
The ownership was to remain with the state government and it was stipulated that no permanent structure was to be put up on that plot. At that time Omar Abdullah, in an emotional outburst in Parliament, had asserted that they would give their lives, but not their land. This only exacerbated matters.
Delhi has never had a road map for a solution of the Kashmir problem beyond reiterating that Kashmir is an integral part of India and a solution will emerge through dialogue. It has no media policy, with the result that we have been losing the media war internationally, nationally and regionally. Not only do we not effectively counter hostile propaganda, we fail to project our national viewpoint on Kashmir. The Valley press is often more anti-India than the Pakistan press. They assert that Kashmir has never been a part of India, forgetting history and that Srinagar was founded by Emperor Ashoka.
They put facts on their head when they state that the Indian Army invaded Kashmir on October 26, 1947 and Pakistan sent raiders to help the freedom struggle. They maintain that Kashmiri Pandits were made to move out from Kashmir in 1989 by India to give the freedom struggle a bad name and, of course, ignore that their 100 odd temples were vandalised.
As regards Kashmir reverting to pre-1953 status, those making this demand do not want the restoration of the Dogra dynasty. They are asking for an elected Sadr-e-Riyasat.
What is being demanded implies permits for other Indians to enter Kashmir, for the Indian flag to not be flown in Kashmir, for the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court, Election Commission and Comptroller and Auditor General to be withdrawn from Kashmir, a Prime Minister for the state and no IAS or IPS officers in Kashmir. In other words, it involves breaking political links with India as far as possible while continuing with maximum economic assistance from New Delhi, and, while demanding maximum autonomy at the state level, letting autonomy at the regional and panchayat levels remain neglected. The self-rule demand involving dual currency (India and Pakistan) and a joint Upper House in Kashmir with Pakistan goes a step further, giving Pakistan a foothold in Kashmir.
There appears to be a consensus on maintaining the territorial integrity of the state, but this can only be the residual part comprising the Indian administered part. Given the present international scenario, it is not practicable to recover the Pakistan- and China-occupied areas of J&K. Article 370 may continue, but putting back the hands of the clock and loosening political links with India can only be suicidal. Appeasement whets the appetite for more. In any case, a constitutional amendment will require a two-third majority in Parliament, at present an obviously impracticable proposition.
There can be no change in the present Centre-state equation. Good governance, economic development and maximum autonomy at the regional and panchayat levels need to be ensured.
There must also be a robust media policy to counter false propaganda. It must be repeatedly brought out that notwithstanding few unfortunate incidents, for which the guilty are being duly punished, the Indian Army’s human rights record in Kashmir is far superior to that of the US Army in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the Pakistan Army’s in Balochistan and Waziristan, leave alone what happened in Vietnam and in East Pakistan. The fate of Sufis in Pakistan should be highlighted in Kashmir.
Internationally, we need to emphatically project that we are not only fighting to uphold secularism in Kashmir but also serving the interests of the international community by fighting against international jihad, to which the US seems to be succumbing in Afghanistan.
The author, a retired lieutenant-general, was Vice-Chief of Army Staff and has served as governor of Assam and Jammu and Kashmir. (The Asian Age, Mar 30, 2011)
CAUTION OVER MISADVENTURE
G ParthasarathyRather than go along with the West and back its duplicitous decision to ‘intervene' in Libya, India has decided to chart its own independent course in foreign affairs.
After emerging from a situation two decades ago, when the country was bankrupt and internationally isolated following the collapse of the Soviet Union, India can derive satisfaction with what has been achieved since then. The nuclear tests of 1998 and end of global nuclear sanctions by the Nuclear Suppliers Group in 2008, has led to worldwide recognition of India as a legitimate nuclear weapons power. It is now for India to negotiate skillfully with partners like Russia, France, the US and Canada, to see that agreements on nuclear power it signs are economically advantageous and meet the highest standards of transparency and nuclear safety.
With a sustained high rate of economic growth and increasing integration with the world economy, India is now a member of the G-20 and the expanded East Asia Summit comprising the members of ASEAN together with the US, Russia, Japan, China, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand. India is closely linked to emerging economic powers like Russia, China, Brazil and South Africa, through forums like BRICS and IBSA. It is only a question of time before India joins the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, laying the grounds for a larger profile in Central Asia. But, it is crucial that despite its economic progress, India has to retain its strategic autonomy, if it is to be respected internationally.
India’s candidature for permanent membership of the UN Security Council has been endorsed by all its permanent members except China, which remains distinctly obstructive. But, given the absence of consensus on the size and composition of an expanded UNSC, it is evident that there is still a long way to go before India’s ambitions on this score are fulfilled. In the meantime, there have been unambiguous suggestions from the US and even American client states like the UK that India would be considered worthy of a permanent seat in the UNSC only if the ‘international community’ (a euphemism for the Nato members) is satisfied with how India ‘behaves’ with its voting on important contemporary issues as a non-permanent member of the Security Council. These are pressures India will have to resist and deftly deal with.
Despite these blandishments, New Delhi appears to have broadly shaped the contours of how it will proceed to deal with Western pressures involving the typical Western double standards on ‘human rights’ and their pet topic of ‘Responsibility to Protect’. One is all too aware of how NATO did not hesitate to dismember Yugoslavia in the 1990s after virtually demonising the Serbs. Force was then used to carve out and recognise Kosovo — an action mercifully not sanctified by a majority of UN member-states. The UN General Assembly Resolution of 2005 on the ‘Responsibility to Protect’ has been used at the convenience of the Nato members to pressurise and seek to remove regimes alleged to be guilty of “war crimes, genocide, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity”.
Needless to say, NATO would not dare to act on anything the Russians do in Chechnya, or against Chinese clampdowns in Xinjiang or Tibet. Genocide in Rwanda will be long ignored, because it is a poor African country with no oil or mineral resources. A blind eye will be turned when a Sunni minority ruling elite in Bahrain clamps down on the Shia majority in the country, because the US’s Fifth Fleet has bases in Bahrain. But, if Colonel Muammar Gaddafi clamps down in oil rich Libya, he is subject to a ‘No-Fly Zone’ and bombed by the virtuous British and French with American backing.
There now appears to be a clearer enunciation of Indian thinking on such issues. After consultations with like-minded emerging powers like Brazil and South Africa, India made it clear that on issues like developments in Libya it will first seek consultations with regional groupings like the Arab League and African Union before finalising its response. Rather than blindly following the Western lead, India would seek to forge and back a regional consensus in formulating its policies.
This would mean that in developments in sub-Saharan Africa, Indian policies will take into account prevailing views and a consensus, if any, in the African Union. On Zimbabwe, the advice of South Africa would be more important than that of Whitehall. In Myanmar, India will seek to promote and back a consensus evolved in consultation with Asean. The views of the GCC would be of primary importance in formulating policies on developments like the Shia-Sunni divide in Bahrain. This policy makes it clear that India is not going to be a rubber stamp for Anglo-American and NATO policies of selective use of force against regimes considered distasteful.
Over 17,000 Indians living across Libya have safely returned home, thanks to commendable work by our Ambassador Manimekalai and her staff. Col Gaddafi knows that India is not exactly pleased by his use of air-power against his own people (as Pakistan is regularly doing in Balochistan and in its tribal areas). India nevertheless joined hands with Russia, China, Germany and Brazil in abstaining on the March 17 UN Security Council resolution on Libya because of the absence of carefully considered guidelines on the use of force amidst a raging civil war, the lack of specificity on the countries and organisations undertaking the military effort and the absence of any clarity on how a political solution would be evolved to end the Libyan impasse.
The fiasco in Somalia and the attempt for ‘regime change’ in Iraq demonstrate how misguided external intervention can have disastrous consequences. India is concerned that the military intervention in Libya is going to result in a prolonged stalemate and growing radicalisation in West Asia. It will inevitably be perceived there as an attempt to partition an oil rich Muslim state.
If ‘gunboat diplomacy’ was the hallmark of European colonial powers in the 19th century, ‘No-Fly Zone’ NATO diplomacy seems to be the order of the day after the Cold War. Lessons will be learned only after European powers, who have no appetite for real combat and body bags in tough places like Afghanistan, face the wrath of people opposing them, as the Americans faced by ill-advised military interventions in Lebanon in 1983 and in Somalia in 1993. Tired and tied up in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Americans appear understandably more cautious in taking the lead in intervening in Libya. (Daily Pioneer March 31, 2011 )