Friday, December 17, 2010


For someone who has seen and suffered terror up close and personal, Rahul Gandhi’s comments are disappointing and sad to say the least. Not comments you’d expect from a man being groomed to take over the reins of a billion strong nation of secular Indians.

What is extremely frightening, these comments were not made for public consumption. These were not words uttered at a rally to sway voters. These words were uttered in private – in confidence to the US ambassador to India Timothy Roemer. One would naturally feel this is what Rahul Gandhi actually thinks.

That be the case his appreciation of terror needs a mid course correction. He is a member of parliament. He is seen as the heir apparent of the ruling party in the country and he has the prime minister’s ear. Perhaps, it would be in the fitness of things to have the Director Intelligence Bureau and the Secretary Research and Analysis Wing depute officers to brief Rahul Gandhi about the Lashkar-e-Taiba and its activities in India.

Terror is terror – it has no religion, caste, creed, sex or colour. Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Christian is not the question at all. This characterization of terror only helps terrorists succeed.

Rahul Gandhi has been quoted as saying that Hindu Radical groups are a bigger threat than even the Lashkar-e-Taiba. He was talking to the US ambassador in India on July 20, 2009. The ambassador is learnt to have broached the subject of LeT activities in the region and its immediate threat to India.

Remember, this conversation was taking place barely 8 months after 10 Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorists attacked Mumbai and held off the Indian state for 59 hours killing 166 innocent people.

The Yuvraj of the Congress party said there was evidence of some support for LeT among certain elements of Indian Muslims but he felt the bigger threat was the growth of radicalized Hindu groups.

So eight months after the worst ever terror attack on India, which police insist was carried out by Pakistan based Lashkar –e Taiba, the prime minister in waiting felt radical Hindu groups are the bigger threat.

Rahul Gandhi is making the same mistake that Bal Thackeray made in Mumbai – our mafia versus your mafia. So Chota Rajan was acceptable but Dawood Ibrahim was not. The police and security agencies just follow signals they receive from the political masters. The police automatically went soft on one set of mafia and hard on the other.

A statement like this from Rahul Gandhi may send the wrong signal again. Rahul Gandhi flanked by armed to the teeth special protection group commandoes, will, God willing remain safe. It is the common man on the street that would bear the brunt of terror. Once again.

This is not the time for point scoring and pontificating. The BJP should not try and score points. After all this is not a high school debate and clearly the BJP’s track record in fighting terror is nothing much to write home about.

A party that sent a union minister to escort dreaded terrorists to Kandahar – who in turn killed scores of innocent Indians and the party that gave respectability and acceptance to a military dictator like Pervez Musharraf has no locus standi to take the high moral ground on combating terror.

This is the time for the entire political leadership to come together and educate themselves about terror and the harm it does to the man on the street. How terror not only kills people in bomb blasts and firing, but also destroys lives of people who have lost their near and dear ones. Rahul Gandhi should know that.

Thursday, December 16, 2010


As China walks away with business deals of about $ 16 billion dollars from New Delhi what is in this for India? What is in it for our economy, diplomacy and strategy?

Bharat Karnad, Professor in National Security Studies at the Centre for Policy Research said on Headlines Today that a fool and his money are soon parted. He fears that this happening to India with billions of dollars worth of deals being signed with China, France and the US with corresponding strategic gains not being harnessed.

But for the moment let us talk about China. It is nobody’s case that India should not engage with China. But is this the best format of that engagement. What is India taking away from this summit table?

India’s core issues - terrorism from Pakistan, nuclear support to Pakistan, Chinese strategic involvement in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK), the boundary issues all remain. The added pin prick – stapled visas to people from Jammu and Kashmir still remains on the table. However in an exclusive interview to Headlines Today Foreign Editor Saurabh Shukla, External Affairs Minister SM Krishna said that China has given assurance that they will solve the stapled visa issue. But see how China makes India go down on her knees.

India has been unable to resolve the existing outstanding differences with China and have shot themselves in the foot by making stapled visas such a major issue. Have we forgotten the art of statecraft so completely? Why must we go running to Beijing – from foreign secretary to National Security Advisor to the Foreign minister - with a begging bowl pleading with them to resolve the stapled visa issue?

Our Ambassador in Beijing should have been in a position to tell us the ground realities. He is a seasoned diplomat and from the next day itself we should have started giving stapled visas to those living in Tibet.

Friendship is always between equals. China is militarily, strategically and economically far superior to India. But India, South Korea, Japan and like minded powers can together form a block to effectively tackle China. And that is what India should try for. Could this $ 16 billion dollar worth of business not be shared with Japan and South Korea ?

Foreign secretary Nirupama Rao says relations between India and China are much better than they were two or three decades ago. Trade ties have doubled – even tripled in the past two decades – but in the past 10 years alone diplomatic face off with China has only intensified.

As Brahma Chellany, strategic affairs expert and a renowned Sinologist told me that enhanced trade and economic ties are no guarantee of better strategic relations. Brahma Chellany analyses the situation thus: China is taking raw material (mainly iron ore) from India and giving us steel. There is a 24 billion dollar trade surplus in China’s favour. And China is dumping goods in India – from tyres to ceiling fans for example - only delivering a body blow to the industry but also creating more unemployment in India.

Is this not what was happening to India when the British were ruling us for 200 years. They would take cotton from here to feed their mills at Manchester and then give us the finished products. Is that not what China is doing in the 21st century to us? Our exports are mainly raw materials (quite like African countries) and buying Chinese products. They are desperate for the huge Indian market. Are we are not bending over backwards and dancing to their tune?

If better economic ties are no guarantee of better strategic and diplomatic relations – is it possible to combine the two. Let economic ties grow but let them grow simultaneously with diplomatic and strategic ties. We open our markets to you when you open yours to us – to our IT and Pharmaceuticals sector as the government says (with no hidden barriers – as we face today).

Why is it that we need to please China first – before China even thinks about answering our concerns on stupid issues like stapled visas. Ambassador G. Parthasarthy told me on the show that China respects power. Let us at least learn to display our power and presence as a growing super power that we claim to be.

Wen Jiabao, the Chinese premier called himself a Gandhian. Nice! The Gandhian Chinese prime minister has a nobel laureate locked up in prison and the country put pressure on half the world not to attend the nobel prize ceremony in Oslo. India attended that ceremony. Please show more spine – engage with His Holiness the Dalai Lama, on issues related to China – after all is he not the legitimate leader of the Tibetan masses.

Sources in the government say China was not keen to take questions after the summit level meeting between Manmohan Singh and Wen Jiabao. Is it because China has no answers to its completely unwarranted pin pricks on the visa issues and `support’ for terror-breeding Pakistan? India is a democracy and questions are asked freely.

The Chinese ambassador to New Delhi said relations between the two countries are fragile. Foreign secretary Rao says they are robust. Is this diplomatese? Or in this game of Chinese whispers is the message lost in translation.


Friday, December 10, 2010


On the 18th of December 2010, Swastika Sharma would have turned one. But on 7th December, 11 days before her birthday she was killed by terrorists on the ghats of Varanasi. The union home minister, P. Chidambaram and the Uttar Pradesh Chief minister, Mayawati visited the ghats and have promised to nab the perpetrators.

It is essential to nab the planter of the bomb, but it is of utmost importance to eliminate the masterminds of such terror attacks. There is a pattern to these attacks – strike temples on Tuesday and mosques on Fridays.

This is what Rajiv Kumar, Associate Producer, Research, Headlines Today pieced together. There is a very sinister design behind these terror attacks.

Targets and dates have been carefully chosen. A close look at recent attacks reveals the sinister design: Hindu temples have been targeted on Tuesdays, an auspicious day for the devotees of Hanuman, while Muslims and their mosques have been attacked on Fridays.


Varanasi Dec 7, 2010: Tuesday, Shitala Ghat Blast: 38 people injured.1 foreigner among the injured, The blast took place at around 6:30 PM just five minutes after the Ganga Aarti.

Jaipur May 13, 2008 : Tuesday serial blasts including one outside Hanuman Mandir, kills at least 60 in Jaipur

Ajmer Sharif Dargah October 11, 2007: Terror struck the revered Sufi shrine of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti as thousands were breaking their Ramzan fast, a day before the Friday prayers. The bomb inside the complex killed two persons and injured another 28.

Mecca Masjid, Hyderabad May 18, 2007: 14 persons killed, more than 50 injured in blasts and subsequent police firing in adjoining areas. Blasts took place during Friday prayers.

Noorani Masjid, Malegaon September 8, 2006: Blasts on Friday coincided with the Shab-e-Barat. First bomb went off outside Masjid. Blasts at Mushaira Chowk and grave yard too. The toll: 38 killed, over 200 injured.

Jama Masjid, Delhi April 14, 2006: Low intensity blasts at India’s most famous mosque left 14 injured. First blast took place as the faithful prepared for Friday prayers.

Sankat Mochan Temple, Varanasi March 7, 2006: Twin blasts in city left 28 dead, injured over 100. Blasts took place on Tuesday when the temple is packed with devotees.

July 05, 2005: Terror In Ayodhya: Terrorist attack on the site of the 16th century Babri Masjid -Ram Janmabhoomi Hindu temple in Ayodhya on July 5, 2005 ( TUESDAY). Following the two-hour gunfight between Lashkar-e-Toiba terrorists based in Pakistan and Indian police, in which six terrorists were killed, opposition parties called for a nationwide strike with the country's leaders condemning the attack, believed to have been masterminded by Dawood Ibrahim.

September 24, 2002: The Akshardham Temple Attack occurred on September 24, 2002 ( TUESDAY) when two heavily armed terrorists arrived at the Akshardham in Gandhinagar, the capital of Gujarat at around 1630 hrs local time. They scaled the perimeter fence and opened fire, killing a woman and a temple volunteer right away. Then they began throwing grenades into the crowd at the temple. About 600 people were in the temple at the time. By the end of the attack, 29 people were killed and another 80 wounded. Apart from the 25 people killed in the first assault, 1 state policeman and 1 commando also died in the action (the total toll was 31 at the time the case started). One more seriously injured commando died after 2 years.

The devilish aim of those masterminding these attacks is to create a communal divide and cause riots.

After the Batla House encounter the Delhi Police succeeded in delivering a near fatal blow to the terrorist organization Indian Mujahideen. But terrorist sympathizers put so much pressure on the security forces that they did not move in to deliver the final blow. Some terrorists managed to escape – there is proof in public domain to show they lived with politicians and slowly have managed to regroup and strike at Varanasi.

These terrorists are still at large. They have fall back options – and not just in Azamgarh. They strike and melt into some ghettos where they are like fish in water.

After the Ahmedabad serial blasts and the failed Surat serial blasts – the Gujarat police led the way. Despite strong political opposition they moved in and made arrests. They went into Azamgarh. This was a time when the intelligence bureau and the Uttar Pradesh Police despite political opposition – moved in with great speed and made arrests in Azamgarh.

Political pressure once again forced the police to get their foot off the pedal giving these terrorists crucial breathing space. That nationwide effort to hunt down and neutralize terrorists that began after a spate of terror attacks in Delhi, Jaipur, Bangalore, Ahmedabad and Surat became a victim of vote bank politics.

What are terrorists doing by attacking the ghats of Varanasi? Sending a message – we can strike at a place and time of our choosing. Hit you where it hurts the most and despite having intelligence about planned attacks (David Coleman Headley interrogation talks of attacks at Ghats and temples in Varanasi specifically), there is little Indian police can do to stop them.

An anti-terror drive cannot be an off again on again policy. Pressure has to be maintained constantly – irrespective of Congress or BJP in power.

The nation has to take a conscious call to kill convicted terrorists. Afzal Guru and Kasab are potential threats. Terrorists could hijack trains, planes, take school children, patients at hospitals, politicians, their kin, scientists…VIPs hostage and demand release of these terrorists like in the case of Maulana Masood Azhar.

Our governments have buckled in the past and there is no guarantee they will not do so again. Kill terrorists in custody and have a declared policy – terrorists may strike but they will have hell to buy when caught. They will be killed and their supporters/sympathisers jailed. There has to be a cost.

It is the government’s responsibility to ensure Swastika Sharma gets justice. Her killers – including those who planned the attack are punished! Evil must die.