Sunday, 8 February 2009

Two Intelligent Men

Avid blog-readers would have noticed the presence of two very intelligent men in the blogosphere for some time.

One of them, Mr. Bahukutumbi Raman (Mr. B. Raman for short), has been writing columns for various magazines (especially Outlook) for some years now. Mr. B. Raman used to be with the Research and Analysis Wing, India’s external intelligence agency, where he headed its counter-terrorism division for more than a decade till his retirement in 1994. Presently Mr. B. Raman is the Director of the Institute For Topical Studies in Chennai. Mr. B. Raman’s blog can be found here.

The other ‘intelligent’ gentleman is Colonel Hariharan. Col. Hariharan’s blog informs us that he is a retired military intelligence professional with nearly three decades of experience in South Asian countries. Colonel Hariharan tells us in this very touching post of the time he spent in Sri Lanka as part of the IPKF. Colonel Hariharan’s blog can be found here.

Mr. B. Raman’s articles tend to be very factual, with an abundance of information of the sort that is not usually available to lay persons. In that sense, they are a delight to read. For example, this article on the situation in Tibet is filled with facts with very little of Mr. B. Raman’s own opinions. However, there are other posts which contain Mr. B. Raman’s opinions and views. For example, in this post, he says that there is an urgent need to tighten Sonia Gandhi’s security due to threats from the LTTE.

Col. Hariharan’s posts are very different from Mr. B. Raman’s. They don’t contain as many facts, (other than what’s available in the public domain) and focus instead on conveying Col. Hariharan’s opinions on various issues. I can assure you that they too are a delight to read. Here, you’ll find Col. Hariharan lamenting the fact that red tapism prevented the Defence Ministry from utilising its budget to the full, with the result that it had to surrender sixteen thousand crore rupees (that’s US dollars three hundred and twenty million) as unutilised money.

I think it is wonderful that Mr. B. Raman and Col. Hariharan have started blogging since their articles give lay persons access to expert analysis.

So far, I think I have read every article written by each of these gentlemen. I don’t have any disagreement with anything that Col. Hariharan has written. I can’t say the same for Mr. B. Raman. In this article Mr. B. Raman argues that it would be in India's interest to help Sri Lanka destroy the LTTE's military capability, but not its political strength. Mr. B. Raman says that the current crop of LTTE cadres had no role in Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination. He argues that India should make a distinction between the ones involved in Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination and the others. This view is in line with his view expressed in this post calling on the Sri Lankan Tamil Diaspora and the LTTE to overthrow Prabhakaran.

I don’t agree with Mr. B. Raman’s views. The LTTE is not the only Tamil movement in the picture even now. Leaders like Douglas Devananda of the Eelam People's Democratic Party and S. Thondaiman of the Ceylon Workers Congress are around. The Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Pulikal formed by Colonel Karuna is a political force in the East. Further, if Prabhakaran were to be captured or killed, the LTTE will cease to exist. The LTTE is centred on the cult of a supreme leader and without Prabhakaran, the LTTE cannot survive. I really don’t see why India should try and save the LTTE even if only as a political movement.

Mr. B. Raman goes on to say in the same post that the ‘Indian political class never understands the importance of identifying and preserving our strategic assets in the neighbourhood. Jawaharlal Nehru let go our strategic assets in Tibet. I.K.Gujral, who was the Prime Minister in 1997, unwisely and in a moment of misplaced generosity let go our strategic assets in Pakistan. Manmohan Singh, the present Prime Minister, has let go our strategic assets in Nepal and Sri Lanka. It could be a great tragedy.’

What does Mr. B. Raman mean by ‘strategic assets’? Does he mean assets which give India the ability to cause trouble in a neighbouring country? For example, if the LTTE were to survive (on India’s patronage), greatly weakened, but with the potential to be re-armed, and Sri Lanka were to do something that is not to India’s liking, say, it were to cosy up to China, India could rattle sabres by threatening to re-arm the LTTE. Is that what Mr. B. Raman has in mind? But it is exactly this attitude and approach that created the Sri Lankan mess in the first place! No country, however small or weak it may be, likes to be at the mercy of another country. India will not have a single friend in its neighbourhood if it follows this approach and tries to create ‘strategic assets’ in neighbouring countries!

Mr. B. Raman says Nehru let go of India’s assets in Tibet. I don’t claim to have Mr. B. Raman’s expertise or knowledge, but I don’t think Nehru did anything of that sort. Under Nehru, India did not give much importance to defence and cut defence spending, as a result of which, we were unprepared for the Chinese assault in 1962. I believe that during I.K. Gujral’s time, India stopped arming Baluchi militants. Were they a strategic asset for India? If India were still doing that, could India have used them as a stick to beat Pakistan with? Could we have told Pakistan, ‘you stop causing trouble in Kashmir, we will stop causing trouble in Baluchistan?’ I doubt if it would have worked, since the trouble in Kashmir is caused by militants outside Pakistan’s control. On the contrary, the enormous sympathy which Indian received after the Mumbai attacks wouldn’t have materialised if the international community believed that India was causing trouble in Baluchistan. As for Nepal, the average Nepali doesn’t have much love for India since India continued to prop up the monarchy long after it lost the people’s support. India stopped supporting the monarchy only after its downfall became inevitable. It cannot be said that India voluntarily gave up its assets (the monarchy) in Nepal.

Having said all that, I do hope that Mr. B. Raman continues to blog and write articles and express his views which are very interesting, whether one agrees with them or not.

1 comment:

ayyappadas said...

Your theory of letting go our strategic assets in pakistan and srilanka as goodwill gesture seems appealing but detrimental to the interests of the country. We should understand that Tibet was the natural buffer between India and China for centuries preventing collision between the two great civilizations. This buffer was destroyed once chinese took control of tibet. If India had maintained some strategic leverage in tibet, this could never have happened.
Secondly your absolute apathy towards the Tamil cause is worrying. The kind of preference the sinhalese get over tamils in educational sector is a clear manifestation of racism. Yes India was irked by the Srilankan action of allowing their ports to be used by Pakistanis during 1971 war. This prompted Indira to pamper LTTE. But this will never reduce the importance of Tamil cause for the Indians. I am not a proponent of a separate homeland for tamils. But srilanka should implement the india- srilanka accord of 1987 (the brainchild of rajiv gandhi)
About balochistan, the strategic assets are required to keep indian leverage in afghanistan as a route to oil rich iran and central asia. the very fact that India is constructing an important road connecting afghanistan to iran (which may be useful to both india and US as an alternate route)shows our commitment to this strategy.
Finally the story of Morarji desai ditching an Indian mole (by confiding his details to pakistani authorities as a friendship gesture) in Kahuta atomic centre remain as a classic example of Indian diplomatic folly. Had the Indians bombed Kahuta before 1980 using the blue prints of the mole, they would never have become a nuclear power.