Thursday, February 18, 2010

HOW TO OUTSOURCE NATIONAL INTEREST

It is a marvel – and almost a miracle – that Jihadis took 14 months after 26/11 to strike again at a soft target; this time the German Bakery in Pune. And it can happen only in India! The week before the blast, even as the Jihadis were making their final preparations, virtually the whole of Maharashtra was obsessed with a Shah Rukh Khan movie! And in typically Indian fashion, there is a cacophony of voices arguing about the efficacy of any talks between India and Pakistan. That is expected in a democracy like India; there will always be a set of Indians who will think that love and brotherhood will ultimately defeat the hatred and mayhem unleashed by the Jihadis and there will always be a set of Indians who think that it is pointless to have any dialogue of any form with Pakistan.

I don’t think it really matters much whether India talks to Pakistan or not; at least when it comes to Jihadi attacks. Why, even a full fl edged all-out war against Pakistan will not stop the Jihadi attacks. The terror strikes will stop only if the Establishment in Pakistan stops defining its raison d etre in terms of permanent enmity with India. There is really nothing much India can do about that except hope for the best and be prepared for the worst. What is more worrisome is the manner in which India is dealing with its ‘strategic ally’ and partner United States. Ever since the nuclear deal was signed, there is this lingeringly na├»ve belief that America will always come out in support of India – both overtly and covertly – when it comes to tensions, disagreements and worse with China and Pakistan. This belief persists despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Of course, there are periodic bouts of ‘Et Tu Brutus’ agonising when India is given a wakeup call by America that pursues its own strategic interests; consequences for India be damned.

Just look at the scenario unfolding in the Af-Pak region. The ‘allies’ led by the armed forces of America have launched an all-out assault on the strongholds of Taliban. Uncle Sam is very worried that like in 2001, the Taliban fighters will melt away in Western Pakistan where they will find safe havens and the Jihadi version of steroids. It is very important for Pakistan not to allow that to happen. But why should Pakistan obey American dictates if there is nothing in the deal for it? Voila, let both terror and Kashmir be on the agenda of more talks between India and Pakistan. Voila, self important leaders and diplomats from the West start preaching to India about the importance of talking to Pakistan. And it is astonishing how many Indians are fooled, swayed and misled by this nonsense. I don’t know if talking to Pakistan will help India in any way or not. But I know for sure it will help America. I still recall 2003 when influential sections of India – both in the government and the media – were aggressively asking for India to send troops to Iraq to help the new ‘ally’ America. Thank God Atal Bihari Vajpayee did not allow that folly. Can Manmohan Singh draw some lessons?


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Friday, February 5, 2010

AN APPEAL TO LATA MANGESHKAR AND . . .

...Asha Bhosle and Nana Patekar and Madhuri Dixit and Ritesh Deshmukh and Amol Palekar and Madhur Bhandarkar and Ashutosh Gowariker and Mohan Agashe and Sai Paranjpe and Rohini Hattangadi and dozens of other illustrious and not so illustrious people who have won hearts, minds, fans and big bucks in Bollywood. Just in case you failed to notice, all these personalities are Marathi Manoos. Some are legends who have already become immortal and most have enriched Bollywood with their incredible talent and performances. I am deliberately appealing to Ritesh Deshmukh instead of his father Vilasrao Deshmukh because neither you or I really expect politicians to stand up and be counted when it comes to defending the idea of India.

But I earnestly appeal to these theatre, film and music personalities to defend colleague Shah Rukh Khan. As things stand now, the movie My Name is Khan will probably not be screened in any theatre or multiplex in Maharashtra unless Shah Rukh Khan apologizes for a crime he has not committed. Just as Amitabh Bachchan was forced to apologize in the recent past when the screening of The Last Lear was disrupted in Mumbai. This madness is going too far and now threatens to destroy the very foundations of India where all citizens have equal rights to talk, work and pray. Shah Rukh Khan the individual or the superstar or the icon is not really the issue here. The issue is far bigger and demands artistes to finally decide that enough is enough.

I doubt if there ever was – or will be – a better singer than Lata Mangeshkar. But just imagine Lata tai: if this kind of parochialism had prevailed even in the past, would you have sung haunting melodies written by Sahir Ludhiyanvi and composed by Madan Mohan. Would you have captivated us with the delightful duets that you sang with Mukesh, Mohammed Rafi and Kishore Kumar? And Madhuri Dixit, would you have delivered hits like Dil Toh Pagal Hai and Hum Aapke Hain Kaun without co-stars Salman Khan and Shah Rukh Khan? I can cite such instances ad nauseam and it won’t make a damn difference unless Marathi artistes come out and support not Shah Rukh Khan, but his freedom to work and speak. Many of the personalities in the ‘appeal’ list are quite well read and will know that this demon will sooner or later devour even their freedom to work and speak.

I think they need to be inspired by the words and deeds of another icon, arguably one of the greatest Maharashtrians of modern times. Yes, I am talking about Sachin Tendulkar. More than his centuries and records, he really made India proud the day he rebuffed narrow-minded parochialism by publicly defending the idea of India. That one gesture made a world of difference. Imagine the difference it will make if legends like Lata Mangeshkar, Nana Patekar also step up and publicly defend the idea of India

I think the Shiv Sena and the MNS have every right to espouse the cause of Marathi Manoos. They have every right to publicly protest and criticize anything and anyone they think is infringing on the rights of Marathi Manoos. But do they have the right to stop other Indians from working and speaking? I would be happy if Lata mangeshkar and Nana Patekar answer that one.

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