Thursday, July 23, 2009

Is the lamp trimmed?

Capt. Bharat Verma, the Editor of the Indian Defence Review recently made the headlines by declaring that China may attack India in 2012. Whether his ‘prophesy’ will come true or not, only the future will tell us. But apart from pointing out the aggressiveness of some of India’s neighbours, Verma’s statement probably has another objective: to make us think about today’s India and her preparedness to cope with an unwanted and unexpected situation.
India is the largest democracy in the world. So, we are told! Unfortunately, the sense of Nation has today been relegated to the back burner due to the distortions of the very same ‘democratic’ process which everybody is proud of. Look at UP and elsewhere! One see that while everybody swears in the name of democracy, ‘Bharat that is India’ seems to be forgotten, particularly by some of those who are the ‘elected representatives’ of the people.
In this gloomy context, Bharat Verma’s recent book brings some fresh air and forces us to take his ‘prophesy’ a bit more seriously. Under the disturbing title, Fault Lines (Lancers Publishers), Verma publishes an anthology of editorial pieces which have appeared in the Indian Defence Review from 1998 to 2009.
In geology, a ‘fault line’ refers to a fault within the earth's crust, often running along the boundary between two tectonic plates. It is caused by ‘differential or shear motions’ between plates, say geologists. Being caused by energy release during rapid slippage along a fault, most earthquakes occur along these fault lines. Verma has extended the concept to national politics.
These editorials are more than relevant to the present ‘democratic’ environment; they not only go deep into the movements of the different subcontinental plates, but often anticipate some of the upheavals that the country may have to face in the coming years and offer preventive measures.
While reading Fault Lines, one ponders on the ‘elasticity’ of the Indian State and wonders when the next earthquake will shake India. Will it come from the Middle Kingdom?
For Verma, one of the main problems is that many in India have: “the tendency to create their own make-believe world convinced that the invasions from our land frontiers for centuries could be ignored as the subcontinent assimilated the invaders in the existing society.” He adds: “How misplaced and erroneous, a perception. Invaders from the Northwest/Central Asia ruled over the locals by edge of the sword and forced their assimilation. Our helpless, bewildered ancestors with their petty bickering were left with no choice and therefore, tried to make a virtue out of consistent defeats. [This tendency] persists in the Indian mind.”
Read the headlines of any newspaper or switch on your TV and zap through any ‘breaking news’ channel, one will never hear questions which are critical for India’s survival. This is the real tragedy.
Many examples of the impeding forthcoming catastrophe due to the make-believe approach could be given.

An illustration: while China is planning to divert the Brahmaputra river from Tibet to the mainland, but India has decided to keep quiet, so as to not disturb its friendship with Beijing. Would not the logical step have rather been to take up the matter in the strongest possible way with Beijing?
We are now told that Delhi is ‘forced to look for preemptive solutions’. What are these solutions? A news report explained: “China’s unilateral plans to redirect the flow of Brahmaputra river away from India has certainly led to alarm bells ringing in the Indian camp”. But it only resulted in India “unleashing efforts to quicken the pace of projects envisaged on the three tributaries — Siang, Subansiri and Lohit — of the river, so that it can claim first-user rights on the water”. One newspaper has even titled “Panel to plan for more hydropower projects to pre-empt China”.
How can building dams in India ‘preempt’ Beijing from going ahead with its project? It just shows the intellectual paucity of the Indian politicians (Though from their point of view, there are probably mega-bucks to be made out of the mega-dams).
When the ‘friendly’ Chinese regime in Beijing blocks an Indian application for a loan from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) because it contains a $60 million project for Arunachal Pradesh, a ‘disputed territory’ according to China, Delhi only meekly protests. The irony is that India wanted to use the ADB loan to deal with water management and ecological problems caused by the Chinese deforestation policy in Tibet.
Hundreds of other cases could be cited such as the wrong drafting of the Joint Indo-Pak Statement. India’s tectonic plates today are not only terrorism, the talibanisation threat, Naxalism, corruption or casteism, which a;; increasingly collide with India’s interests, but also the lack of character of politicians. It is probably the deepest fault line in the country today.
One can always argue that the tectonic tremors are far greater in the neighouring states, particular in Pakistan. Many analysts (including some foreign ones) give only a few months to the Pakistani State to implode. The problem is that what happens in India’s neighbourhood has serious consequences for India.
It is like global warming. The Government may argue that the Americans are worse polluters than us in India, but the problem does not get solved by quoting greater wrongs to justify one’s actions.
True, the original fault line (one could call it, the ‘original sin’) was the work of the British who decided to partition the subcontinent on communal lines. All great leaders agreed at that time to the ‘shear motion’ on the country, to put it in geological terms. It has resulted in 4 quakes in 1947-48, 1965, 1971 and 1999 (Kargil). With the fault line still very much present, the high volatility on the Pakistan side (and despite the legendary Indian ‘flexibility’, makes a new quake always loom large on the Indian horizon. This time it will be a fully fledged pandemic, but who cares? Cricket and ‘breaking news is continuing.
The words of Sri Aurobindo, written nearly one century ago always resound in my mind: “There are moments when the Spirit moves among men and the breath of the Lord is abroad upon the waters of our being; there are others when it retires and men are left to act in the strength or the weakness of their own egoism. The first are periods when even a little effort produces great results and changes destiny; the second are spaces of time when much labour goes to the making of a little result. It is true that the latter may prepare the former, may be the little smoke of sacrifice going up to heaven which calls down the rain of God's bounty. Unhappy is the man or the nation which, when the divine moment arrives, is found sleeping or unprepared to use it, because the lamp has not been kept trimmed for the welcome and the ears are sealed to the call.”
The question is India prepared? Is the lamp trimmed and ready?
Sri Aurobindo concluded: “Nor let worldly prudence whisper too closely in thy ear; for it is the hour of the unexpected, the incalculable, the immeasurable.”

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