Where is the Line of Actual Control ???

Lakshman a central character in the very popular Indian mythological epic – ‘The Ramayana would never have imagined that a line he drew would become a brand by itself and would draw references day in and day out in modern India.  The line named after him as the Lakshman Rekha is believed to be the central raison d’être of the epic itself.  If Sita had heeded to his advice and not crossed that line when Raavan under disguise came to her for alms, it is believed she would have escaped all the sufferings she had to go through later.  So every time the Lakshman Rekha is brought up as a metaphor in the context of crossing one’s limit only to endure misery later.

  •   “Don’t cross the Lakshman Rekha” exhorted a minister from Madhya Pradesh to women if they want to avoid unwanted consequences
  •  “Don’t cross the Lakshman Rekha” said even the Supreme Court to journalists in the context of reporting

The context of Lakshman Rekha again dominated public discourse recently when Pakistan killed 2 Indian soldiers and allegedly beheaded and mutilated their bodies and dumped them against established international conventions.  Somebody said Pakistan may cross the Lakshman Rekha at its own peril. My piece is basically to focus on drawing the Rekha (line). The reaction in India to the indeed dastardly act by Pakistan has been extremely raucous.  In TV channels the radars of the OB vans shifted from the Delhi gang rape incident to this absolutely heinous act.  There have been cries for firm and tit-for-tat response to this from media, the opposition and the public by and large.   Let’s look at some of them:

  • If Pakistan does not return the severed head of the martyred soldier Hemraj, India should get at least 10 heads from the other side said an opposition leader and a potential Prime Minister candidate in that
  • Call off all talks with Pakistan and end the dialogue process
  • Stop all trade and commerce between India and Pakistan
  • All cricketing and sports ties must be severed with immediate effect
  • Why is India not carrying out covert action across the LOC (Line of Control) and create trouble on the other side?
  • Why is India not getting powers like US to stop aid to Pakistan and put pressure???
  • ,..,..

In the days following the event we saw TV channels and their wannabe Arnab Goswamis I mean anchors (with few exceptions) getting politicians, journalists, diplomats, so called defence experts and Ex-service men from both sides of the border and engaging in mostly over the top debates on what should be India’s response to this.   And as childish it would seem, some of them wanted answers from the Govt. to their questions on the type and nature of response.

The irony is from the discourse it appears that if India calls off the cricketing ties between the two nations or stop Pakistanis from being a part of the annual IPL festival, it would amount to some tough response from India!!   From all what I followed, I couldn’t get a sense of exactly what the opposition or the media or the defence experts wanted Government of India to do which will tantamount to a “tough response”. 

The question is can governments conduct diplomacy thro OB vans? Even if the “Nation wants to know” can the government’s spokesperson appear in prime time debates and announce that from tomorrow R&AW is going to depute 10 officers for carrying out undercover operations across the border?  Can the military representatives come out in the open as to their strategy for countering the shocking acts of Pakistan? Do we expect the MEA spokesperson to outline the different tactics they are going to adopt on the diplomatic front?

Given that the act was indeed barbaric and flouting all humane conventions, it calls for a firm response from our country.  However we must have firm faith in our military and leave it to them to deliver that firm response.  From that point of view the measured and mature response of our Army Chief among the din is indeed commendable.  After all it is his team which has this onerous responsibility of protecting our borders and he has to ensure that his men are high up on morale and motivation.

Most of the shrill noises called for action – which will put India and Pakistan on an even scale. The fact is that it is not. The stark truth is – the India Vs Pakistan issue is not an issue among equals. Just because India and Pakistan are nuclear states doesn’t make them equal. In size, economic strength, military might, political stability we are way above our neighbour and that calls for a response which is restrained, mature and firm. 

The ‘Line of Control’ is considered to be the border  between India and Pakistan for all practical purposes and both the countries have an underlying understanding to observe restraint across it.  So in effect this becomes the Lakshman Rekha for both the countries. However there is a need for a Line of Actual Control for our media, politicians, and commentators when it comes to matters of external security.  Where is that Lakshman Rekha and why is it missing?

In the meantime, do enjoy Surendran’s superb cartoon in ‘The Hindu’ on ‘Lakshman Rekha’!!!


A New Year’s Wishlist !!!

“In the last few days of his life, my predecessor earned the sobriquet of Annus Horribilis – regrettably so.   Blaming him for all that happened in that 365 days is unfair. But that’s how it’s always.   Like the ‘Mayfly’ insect which lives for few hours, our life span is fixed for 365 days. And in that short span we are expected to bring great amount of good to humanity.  We don’t have the fortune of being known by great names – just numbers and that too in a sequence.  So in spite of carrying a supposedly unlucky number 13 as part of my name, I am supposed to bring in loads of luck to people. So here I am, born just few days ago – 6 days to be precise as ‘2013’ – carrying the expectations of a few billion people. With my predecessor’s innings not going so well or so people have concluded the pressure on me seems to be immense.  I don’t have the time to grow up.  However I’m resolute.  While the world has its expectations from me, I’ve my own set of expectations from the people as well.  Particularly I’ve expectations from India and its people who by their acts of omissions and commissions contributed to the ignominy of my predecessor –2012.  The expectations span across from the leadership i.e. the political class to the common man – ‘aam admi’ and here they go: (some of the important ones)

  • The Ruling class:  The Government in India for most part of few years has been in a state of paralysis. It shook itself up few months ago and I sincerely hope that the Ruling class focusses on the unfinished legislative tasks in hand and work over-time to pass a few bills as early as the budget session of the Indian parliament.
              • A New Anti-Rape law as per Verma Committee’s recommendations is passed sooner than later.  I fervently hope that one doesn’t get to hear of what happened in Delhi in Dec ever again in India or elsewhere.
    • The Lokpal bill – now that a score of standing committees, GOMs and  parliamentary committees and what have you have value added to the bill, please table it in both the houses and get it passed.
    • Land Acquisition bill: This was again missed during 2012 but I hope I will be fortunate to see this bill passed in my life which can prevent another ‘Nandigram’ or a ‘Singur’. The key is adequate compensation, transparency in acquisition and of course re-settlement and rehabilitation.   I’ve high hopes on the passionate minister Jairam Ramesh who is piloting this bill. But I hope his colleagues in the ministry don’t put spokes in his wheel to stall the bill once again.  If passed, this can make India Inc. once again to start focusing on capacity expansion, new projects,..  in India or  Bharat rather than in Indonesia!
    • GST reform: ‘PC’ as India’s finance minister(FM) P.Chidambaram is fondly known is sharp, intelligent and articulate and hopefully with a good memory too.  It was he as FM in 2007 announced that GST will be introduced in India by Apr 2010. My predecessors were not that lucky. And I don’t want to be labeled one either. So, I hope PC can use his persuasive skills to address the concerns of the states in migrating to GST.  This will be one ‘Game Changer’ as per me in simplifying the Indirect Tax regime in India. So, Go PC Go!!!
    • Again I expect PC to come up with if not a ‘Dream budget’ but certainly not a nightmare of a budget like his predecessor. I hope he and his team are not either in a ‘regressive’ or a ‘retrospective’ frame of mind while preparing the budget of my life.

The Opposition: In India they have an opposition which performs it duty religiously by its definition i.e. it opposes anything and everything. Even initiatives which were conceived when they were in power few years ago – are not palatable to them now.  My predecessor years had to bear the brunt of their whims and fancies – which delayed reforms like FDI in retail, GST,.. and thereby removed the sheen out of India’s shining story.

  • So my expectation is that the Opposition performs its role of opposition constructively and value adds to the Governance.  Please don’t oppose for the heck of it. Soon the roles may reverse and you may have to face the situation of walkouts and boycotts. Please support the Government in key legislations which will finally bring goodwill to you.

Civil Society (Aam Admi): The last few years have been witness to some positive activism and energy of the civil society and I’m glad to see this development. I hope that this will continue which will keep the ruling class on its toes. Ofcourse I do hope that they save precious water by not using those water canons on common public!

Men: Just one thing. Please leave women alone in Delhi and everywhere.

Others :  Apart from the above there are quite a few hopes and expectations like :

  • India’s Prime Minister will speak/read less and communicate more with people. Teek Hai? !!!
  • Indians will buy less of the yellow metal and help to reduce the Current Account deficit
  • Rupee will strengthen against the dollar and come to near 50 levels
  • RBI finally cuts the interest rate at least once!
  • Indian Cricket team learns the spelling of the word “WIN” once again!  And a certain God retires from all forms of cricket!
  • Bollywood puts an end to the torture of ‘Sequel’!  Kamalhaasan acts in a movie without make up and Rajnikant well at least appears in a movie in my time!
  • Fewer politicians suffer from foot’n mouth disease !!!
  • ,…
  • ,…

The wish list is certainly long. And may get longer as I get older. I can hear you saying “If only wishes are horses!  But I’m desperate. I don’t want to be another ‘horribilis’. I as 2013 want to end up as ‘Annus Mirabilis’.  Please help.

With that hope, here’s wishing you all a happy, successful, peaceful and healthy ME!!!”holiday 2013