- RSS Channel Showcase 5212575
- RSS Channel Showcase 5127993
- RSS Channel Showcase 5917691
- RSS Channel Showcase 5877654
Articles on this Page
- 09/26/14--06:21: _A seedling (ankur) ...
- 09/26/14--07:42: _Aur tumhare paas ky...
- 09/26/14--10:22: _Dads and daughters
- 09/26/14--11:32: _Great Wars: Panipat...
- 09/26/14--13:12: _Indians vs Cowboys ...
- 09/26/14--21:01: _Network of Death (y...
- 09/27/14--05:17: _Geetu n Geeta go fo...
- 09/27/14--06:22: _The revolution eats...
- 09/27/14--18:59: _Silk Sense
- 09/28/14--11:48: _"Vanguards of Khora...
- 09/28/14--17:25: _Why democracy?
- 09/28/14--18:49: _Lions and Christians
- 09/30/14--21:39: _An X-Y feminist
- 10/01/14--01:19: _22 ways to say "Kem...
- 10/01/14--06:05: _255, 261, 264, 350,...
- 10/02/14--08:57: _A Christmas cake (f...
- 10/02/14--21:38: _Pashtun power play(s)
- 10/05/14--12:42: _Haider - a spectacu...
- 10/06/14--09:39: _Sun wey bilori akh ...
- 10/06/14--10:53: _Imran Khan: between...
- 09/26/14--06:21: A seedling (ankur) is 40 years
- 09/26/14--07:42: Aur tumhare paas kya hai?
- 09/26/14--10:22: Dads and daughters
- 09/26/14--11:32: Great Wars: Panipat (1761) - Ferozeshah (1845)
- 09/26/14--13:12: Indians vs Cowboys (Madison Square Garden)
- 09/26/14--21:01: Network of Death (yes, but....)
- 09/27/14--05:17: Geetu n Geeta go for (Oscar) gold
- 09/27/14--06:22: The revolution eats her (girl) child
- 09/27/14--18:59: Silk Sense
- 09/28/14--11:48: "Vanguards of Khorasan"
- 09/28/14--17:25: Why democracy?
- 09/28/14--18:49: Lions and Christians
- 09/30/14--21:39: An X-Y feminist
- 10/01/14--01:19: 22 ways to say "Kem Cho Mr PM"
- 10/01/14--06:05: 255, 261, 264, 350, 381
- 10/02/14--08:57: A Christmas cake (for Dussehra)
- 10/02/14--21:38: Pashtun power play(s)
- 10/05/14--12:42: Haider - a spectacular tour de force
- 10/06/14--09:39: Sun wey bilori akh waaleya
- 10/06/14--10:53: Imran Khan: between a rock and a hard place
When it comes to the best (hindi) film actors (women) there will be many deserving candidates. Going by (Filmfare) awards won (and nominated) it would be Jaya Bhaduri (Bachhan), Nutan Samarth (Behl) and Kajol Mukherjee (Devgan). We have a soft spot for Smita Patil (Babbar) and we feel that but for her untimely death she would have been the best. Then there is Comrade Sayyida Shabana Azmi, who first starred with Ankur (The Seedling), a Shyam Benegal film in 1974. We wish Shabana didi (apu) all the best as the years go by.
Only one cloudy lining in an otherwise brilliant blue sky (and we think Azmi recognizes this herself- see interview below). There are (we believe) a few red lines in life. You are not a (human) man if you rape. You are not a child anymore when you pick up a gun and torture others (yes, we know that indoctrination is to blame).
Likewise do not call yourself afeminist if you steal another woman's husband and continue to brag about it three decades on (yes, we know that the man is equally responsible). If feminism has a creed it should be: sisters first do no harm (to another sister).
She has five National Awards, more than 120 films and has been a UN Goodwill Ambassador status. As a vocal and articulate champion of communal harmony and economic equality, she has honored her father, Kaifi Azmi's political legacy.
He inherited his literary talent from his father, Jan Nissar Akhtar and his uncles, but it was his scripting partnership with Salim Khan that created waves at the box office and made him a star. The wit and sensitivity of his poems have carved him an important niche in the nation's literary annals. Married to one of Bollywood's biggest actresses, a star scriptwriter in his own right, he remains an intensely private person.
Shabana Azmi reveals the hidden side of her husband and soulmate: Javed Akhtar.
Firstpost: You are articulate, expressive about what you believe in, while he is quieter, more involved in his own world. Are you opposites in terms of temperament?
Shabana Azmi: On the contrary, I cannot think of anyone who is closer to me, and more similar than Javed. He is my soulmate.
What makes your relationship so perfect?
Look at the similarities in our backgrounds. In discovering Javed I rediscovered my father. Both are from UP, both poets, film lyricists, writers. Both love politics... In fact if you consider the fact that one seeks the perfect match of backgrounds for an arranged marriage, then this could well have been the perfect arranged marriage.
But it wasn't arranged…
He was already married by the time I realised how well suited we were.
When did that happen?
He had been coming home for a very long time, like other poets he would come to read his poems to my father, seek his opinion. But I was very busy with my work, and never really engaged with him.
Then in the ‘80s, I sat in on conversations my father had with him on poetry, on politics, and I realised he was very different from his image.
How did you become close?
He saw Sparsh, he really liked the movie. He told Sai (Paranjpe, director) that he really liked the film. There was a little party at Sai's and he was invited too. We met there. He spoke of the film in such detail that I was amazed. That was the start of serious complex conversations.
But the fact remained that he was a married man...
Yes, we realised that. We stayed away from each other for as long as was possible. My mother was against it completely. When I told my father, I asked him, "Is he wrong for me?" And he said, "He is not wrong, but the circumstances are wrong."
When I asked him, "What if I change the circumstances,?" he said, "Then it should be okay."
It could not have been easy.
Nobody can understand the anguish, the heartbreak… There were children involved.
For 2 to 3 years, we suffered the trauma. And then one day, we decided to break up. It was too traumatic for the children if we went on. We told each other, "We will break up after one last meeting." We met for that last meeting and we talked and talked... not love talk alone, but about everything, politics, poetry. We got so busy talking , we forgot to break up.
What was especially endearing?
The fact that he is so much like my father. For any ordinary man, my father is a tough act to follow, especially knowing how much I hero-worshipped my father.
Did you never dream of children of your own?
Of course we did, I did. For medical reasons, I could not have a child. It hurt a lot, and I was heartbroken for a while. Then I told myself, "One can't have everything in life."
Also Zoya and Farhan were very young then, and their mother was generous in letting us have access to them. So I had children around. And I got the man! I cannot imagine being married to anyone else.
You complete 64. How do you look back on you amazing life so far?
With gratitude for being at the right place at the right time. I feel blessed that my parents gave me values that I cherish. I'm singularly lucky to have worked with directors who dared me to take risks and be different and I am thankful to the Indian film industry. I will also remain indebted to all those people who sensitised me to using art as an instrument for social change.
What are your earliest memories of your birthday as a child?
My mother was superstitious about celebrating our birthdays because she lost her firstborn a week before his first birthday, for which she had made grand preparations. So childhood memories are mostly distributing two sweets each to my classmates and the thrill of wearing beautiful clothes to school instead of the boring uniform.
What drove you to choose acting as a profession?
It was predestined in a way. My mother, Shaukat Kaifi, who is a very respected theatre artist, was working with Prithvi Theatres and used to strap me on her back as a four-month old child and carry me to work because we couldn't afford a maid. When I was about three years old, I started accompanying her on her tours [during school vacations]. I would go to sleep backstage, with the smell of greasepaint all around me.
At St Xavier's College (Mumbai), together with Farooq Sheikh, who was two years my senior, we formed Hindi Natya Manch and went on to win awards in every category through our college term. After completing my graduation, I joined The Film and Television Institute of India in Pune and passed with the gold medal for Best student in Acting. I am a firm believer in training and at FTII, Prof Roshan Taneja, our acting teacher, was wonderful. At the FTII, I was exposed to a lot of European and Japanese cinema that shaped my aesthetics and directed the choices I made in my career.
How did you make the niche that you have for yourself as an actor in a formula-driven industry?
I have an unconventional face for a Hindi film heroine. I remember BR Chopra suggesting that I should do only vamps roles and Tarachand Barjatya saying that I look "lower class" and so should restrict myself to playing a maid etc. It's another matter that later both of them cast me in roles that were far removed from the moulds they had suggested! I am amazed at the success I got in mainstream Hindi cinema and often think those films (like Fakira, Parvarish, Amar Akbar Anthony etc) were successful in spite of me, not because of me.
But I'd also played some very substantial roles in parallel cinema that won me critical acclaim and several national awards, so I developed a status that was equivalent to the most successful stars of those times because I was not competing on their home ground. Had I done that, I'm sure I would have been on the bottom rung of the ladder, but parallel cinema gave me and Smita (Patil) and Naseer (Naseeruddin Shah) and Om (Puri) a unique position. I will always feel indebted to the various directors and writers who cast me in strong meaningful roles.
I didn't plan my career. I was just guided by my aesthetics and the sensibilities I had acquired because of my parents and the FTII.
Would you say success in show business is, as they say, "luck by chance"?
I attribute my success to being at the right place at the right time in large measure. But I also do not take my work for granted and continue to get butterflies in my stomach before embarking on a new film or a new play.I've imbibed a lot from my mother about how to prepare for a part. Days before [a new shoot], I start dressing up like a witch, a slum dweller, a mafia don, depending on what I'm playing and move around the house trying to inhabit the part.
Filmmaking is a collaborative effort. Actors get the maximum acclaim because they face the camera. The truth, however, is that an actor is successful because a whole team of technicians behind the scenes are working to camouflage the weaknesses and enhance the strengths of the actor. The film set is a training ground for relationships - you negotiate your way through different people, from your co-star to the light boy and the junior artists. It's up to you whether you isolate yourself and choose the ivory tower or you learn from all those you work with. It's so easy for a celebrity to be liked - a kind word, a genuine smile and you spread good cheer.
Looking back, which do you feel were the major turning points in your life?
Ankur, because it ushered in the parallel cinema movement. Arth, because it started my involvement with the women's rights movement. Madame Sousatzka with Shirley MacLaine; that led to my working in 10 films in the West. My five-day hunger strike along with Anand Patwardhan for the slumdwellers of Cuffe Parade. Today, we at Nivara Hakk have built tenements for 50,000 slum dwellers at Chandivli as a result of a tripartite agreement with the government of Maharashtra, a private builder and us. My nomination to the Rajya Sabha by the President of India has also been a great learning experience. I was a very active member.
The single-most influential film of your life?
Mahesh Bhatt's Arth remains a milestone. I continue to meet women who say that it was a transformative experience for them and gave them tremendous strength.
You've also done a lot of humanitarian work. You work with the NGOs Nivara Hakk, run Mijwan Welfare society and have spoken to the UN on various issues.
I've gone to the UN, been a signatory to a worldwide Human Rights document about accepted measures during war times along with Kofi Annan and Aga Khan; spoken at the Hague international court of justice on the population question... issues that I was learning as I went along the way.
If you could change one thing, what would it be?
An end to our patriarchal society's mindset that values boys over girls.
Link (1): firstpost.com
Link (2): www.firstpost.com
It is not just a popular put-down in India......one close family member was hit with a variation of this (by a member of the academic tenure-track progress committee in the USA as part of a seemingly casual conversation).....so, what has been your contribution so far?....what do you do all day??.....within a few months he was asked to leave.....thankfully he was fore-warned (and fore-armed with a tenured position, no less)......
China: Aaj mere paas yuan hai, bangla hai, range-rover hai, naukar hai, trillion dollar account hai....aur tumhare paas kya hai? (China: Today I have everything....what do you have?)
India: Mere paas Mars hai!! (India: I have my Mars!!)
Yes, victories are never permanent (nor that meaningful in the grand scheme of things) but it is important to remember how exactly China lost out to dirty, poor, big talking but good for nothing India......the mighty Yinghuo-1 was piggy-backing on a Russian rocket which mis-fired (and the Japanese ship ran out of fuel!!!)...
Link (1): en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deewaar
Link (2): bbc.com/news/world-asia-india
True story. We recently attended a meeting filled with distinguished (old) people, when one guy suddenly points to another sitting across the table: we are batch-mates from such and such elite institution. When lunch was announced shortly and we were able to mingle the opportunity was not missed to raise an inconvenient point: you guys claim you are batch-mates, yet one has pure silver hair while the other has jet-black. What gives?
The explanation was thought provoking: in each case it was the daughter who insisted that (a) silver hair looks cool, and (b) hair dye is a must in order to preserve that youthful look from decades back.
While greeting a family with a boy-child (as they say) we usually congratulate them by saying that the little angel looks rather calm and peaceful. Most times (99/100) we get a knowing smile and a wink, their harassed faces tell the tale very well. With new dads running around with the girl-child in the park (and the mother safely out of hearing range) we try out a different message (and a different tone): Apurba (we say), you may be able to (barely) escape punishment by not paying enough attention to your wife, but beware, never say no to your daughter (and never forget her birthday). She will remember it decades later (when she chooses your nursing home). Surprisingly enough, not one man disagreed.
And now we have proof...even those evil bastards...those big shot financiers are softies...when it comes to their daughters. Heartiest congratulations to Mohamed El-Erian...he is undoubtedly the father of the month. What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his flesh and blood? May all dads (new and old) learn from this (and not wait till they are in their 50s) and become better men....who make the world a better place to live in. Bravo!!!
When the Oxbridge-educated economist stepped down last year as the chief executive of the PIMCO investment fund, one of the largest on the planet, rumour was rife that he had fallen out with its founder Bill Gross.
But Mr El-Erian yesterday revealed one main reason for leaving his high-pressured post was a
mundane conversation with his then 10-year-old daughter about brushing her teethwhich led to her writing him a note listing the 22 important events in her life he had missed due to work.
In a moment of domestic truth which will sending a shiver down the spines of working parents the world over, the document presented to the financier included missing the child’s first day at school, her first football match and a Halloween parade.
Mr El-Erian, whose earnings at PIMCO reportedly reached as much as $100m a year, said the incident showed him instantly that he had allowed his relationship with his daughter to suffer at the expense of his globetrotting job.
In an interview with Worth magazine, he said: “About a year ago, I asked my daughter several times to do something - brush her teeth I think it was - with no success. I reminded her that it was not so long ago that she would have immediately responded.
“She asked me to wait a minute, went to her room and came back with a piece of paper. It was a list that she had compiled of her important events and activities that I had missed due to work commitments. Talk about a wake-up call.”
He continued: “I felt awful and got defensive: I had a good excuse for each missed event! Travel, important meetings, an urgent phone call, sudden to-dos. But it dawned on me that I was missing an infinitely more important point.
“As much as I could rationalise it… my work-life balance had gotten way out of whack, and the imbalance was hurting my very special relationship with my daughter. I was not making nearly enough time for her.”
The 56-year-old investment guru, who regularly features in lists of the world’s most powerful or influential financiers, last year swapped his role at PIMCO’s California headquarters for a “portfolio of part-time jobs”, including a role as chief advisor to the fund’s German parent, Allianz.
Mr El-Erian said he realised the trope of departing executives and politicians that they wanted to spend more time with their families was a cliche but added he had realised his time was better spent being a good father than a good investor.
In a separate interview with Reuters, he declined to comment on his relationship with 70-year-old Mr Gross, saying only that the so-called “Bond King” was “brilliant”.
In the meantime, Mr El-Erian said he was enjoying his time with his daughter, preparing her breakfast, driving her to and from school as well as planning a holiday together.
He said: “I’m the first to recognise that I am incredibly fortunate to be able to structure my life in this way. Unfortunately, not everyone has this luxury. But, hopefully, as companies give more attention to the importance of work-life balance, more and more people will be in a better position to act holistically on what’s important to them.”
As yet another war gets kicked-off in the Middle East, it may be time to reflect on what is gained (and lost) through endless war-mongering. Indians have in particular, suffered from centuries of war imposed upon them both by desi elites and foreign invaders. It also needs to be stressed that without the help of the British Indian army, there would have been no sure path to victory for the allies in 1918 or in 1945.
The post-independence wars have been not been on such a grand scale as Panipat and
Late afternoon on January 14, 1761, Maratha generals and soldiers fleeing the battlefield at Panipat took with them an indelible memory of Ibrahim Khan Gardi's artillery and musketeers wreaking havoc on the enemy "like a knife slicing through butter". Despite their thinning ranks, the French-trained Telangi infantry, who called themselves Gardis in the honour of their illustrious commander, fought like true professionals.
Despite the defeat, Shuja continued to modernise his army, raising 18 European-styled infantry battalions by the 1770s. But he would never get the chance to measure swords with the English again as Avadh became a vassal state of the English after Buxar.
Indian history books today, while recognising Buxar as a watershed moment in our national history, skip another important point: that it was at Buxar that the identity of the Indian sepoy as a match-winner for the British was established (though four years earlier at Plassey, Robert Clive was disappointed with Indian officers and made it a rule that Indian troops will only be officered by Europeans-a condition that stuck on until the end of First World War).
For the Marathas, it was Mahadji Scindia who broke new ground in Europeanisation of his army. Scindia employed a brilliant French mercenary, Benoit de Boigne, to raise a brigade that could dress, march and fight as a European army. A former officer in the French, Russian and Honourable East India Company's armies, de Boigne taught Scindia's men the British musket drill and everything else that he knew on the condition that he wouldn't be made to fight the English with whom he had cordial relations.
But after Mahadji's death in 1794, his less capable grandnephew and successor Daulat Rao Scindia would fritter away the gains of his predecessor. He would wage fratricidal wars with other Maratha chieftains and lose both territory and reputation fighting the British. His army stopped attracting talent, both due to his own apathy and some shameless nepotism practised by his French general, Perron. But they would still give Arthur Wellesley, the future Duke of Wellington, his "toughest battle" at Assaye.
Elsewhere in the south, Nawab Hyder Ali was raising a formidable army. Hyder was impressed with the British and wanted their military assistance to modernise his army. The British were reluctant, which led Hyder to seek help from the French. With French help, Hyder modernised his infantry and artillery, but unlike other Indian powers of the day that ignored cavalry, Hyder's focus was always on his cavalry and he used it with great skill, always leading it from the front.
Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan also abandoned the common Indian practice of engaging militias raised by provincial governors in war time and went for a fully centralised recruiting and training system. A very rudimentary form of regimental system was also followed. But by Tipu Sultan's time, Mysore artillery had attained a high degree of finesse.
Tipu introduced a rocket artillery corps organised in kushoons. Tipu's guns were also known for their longer range and accuracy. It's not known how many artillery pieces he had; but at the fall of Srirangapatnam and Tipu's death in 1799, the British found 421 gun carriages, 176 12 pounders and 4,12,000 iron round shots ranging from four to 42 pounds inside the fort.
After the Third Anglo-Maratha War ended in 1818, the Maratha Empire ceased to exist and the Peshwa's army was disbanded. Many former soldiers of the Peshwa found service in the Bombay Army of the HEIC. They were placed in the Poona Horse, Bombay Sappers and Miners and Maratha Light Infantry. Among the first to join these regiments were the Gardis.
Up north, with the decline of the Scindia's power and due to irregularities in pay, many of Scindia's well-trained troops left him and sought greener pastures to the west. They soon found a new employer who was willing to pay them more, both respect and money. He was Maharaja Ranjit Singh, the lion of Punjab.
Ranjit Singh wanted to modernise his army. The visionary ruler knew a clash with the British was inevitable at some point in the future and he wanted to be fully prepared for that. He employed Europeans of different nationalities to train his troops. Ranjit Singh organised his infantry on French lines, cavalry on British as well as traditional lines, and artillery on European lines.
The English were so alarmed by this tremendous expansion of force that they ordered the arrest of any Frenchman trying to cross the Sutlej.
Despite the build-up, the clash that Ranjit Singh foresaw didn't happen in his lifetime but after his death and when the Sikh state was in considerable decay.
Just before the First Anglo-Sikh War, the Sikh army had grown bigger than the state could support. According to UK-based military historian Amarpal Singh's book, 'The First Anglo-Sikh War', in 1839, the Lahore state had an army consisting just under 47,000 regular infantry,16,000 regular and irregular cavalry, and 500 pieces of artillery. The artillery was mostly manned by Muslim gunners.
Amarpal Singh argues that the Lahore state engineered a situation whereby the growing influence of this republican Sikh army could be curbed-by crossing the Sutlej and inviting an English attack in 1845.
All through the war, the Sikh commanders abandoned the field, leaving their men to fend for themselves, at early stages of battles. At Ferozeshah, for instance, the Sikhs had clearly dominated the battlefield with their artillery completely destroying the British artillery, and infantry returning fire with amazing rapidity.
Yet, instead of moving forward and decimating the enemy, the commander, Lal Singh, ordered a general retreat, much to the chagrin of his own troops. The Sikhs abandoned all their guns and equipment and left.
A summons from the US Federal Court for the Southern District of New York...that sure rings a bell. The US Attorney for the Southern District is Preet Bharara, the cowboy lawyer who (allegedly) ordered a top-to-bottom cavity search on Devyani Khobragade. What is the chance that he and his marshals will NOT attempt to arrest the "Hitler loving" Modi??
Then again, if Hitler-praise counts as a global standard thought crime (GSTC), Madhav Sadashiv "Guruji" Golwalkar of the RSS has nothing on Haj Mohammed Effendi Amin el-Husseini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem.The latter was not just a Fuhrer fan, he actually collaborated with the Third Reich (another collaborator/admirer was "Netaji" Subhas Chandra Bose, grand-uncle of Prof Sugata Bose and hero to millions of secular Bengalis).
The Mufti's people, the Palestinian nationalists and their brothers in the Ummah, in the internationalist Left and in the nationalist Right, recently marched in Germany while chanting "Hamas, Hamas...Jews to the gas." This is most remarkable: a rainbow coalition expressing robust admiration for the Final Solution in its place of origin. Hitler would be proud.
Now as it happens, the Hindu Nationalists also have their own "Hitler" list...Yamīn-ud-Dawla Abul-Qāṣim Maḥmūd ibn Sebüktegīn (Mahmud of Ghazni), Mu'izz al-Din Muhammad (of Ghor), and many others.....who continue to receive undiluted admiration amongst the Ummah (and in school textbooks) for their unyielding endeavors in infidel crushing. This is the fundamental pillar of the two nation theory: our Ghazis are their villains. Are some Hitlers then superior to other Hitlers?
Taking a step back now to the good old days when Indian monks used to travel to the USA to preach the message of goodwill to all. The story of Narendra-I aka Narendra Nath Dutta aka Swami Vivekanandawho visited the United States in 1892 as representative of the Hindus is relatively well known.
What is not as well known is the story of Virchand Raghavji Gandhi who represented Jainism in the Parliament of Religions in Chicago in 1893 (his statue is displayed in the Chicago Jain temple).
[ref. Wiki] Jain monk Acharya Vijayanandsuri, also known as Acharya Atmaram, had initially been invited to represent Jainism at the Parliament, but as Jain monks do not travel overseas, could not attend. He recommended Gandhi to go in his stead and serve as the emissary for the religion.
Atmaram and his disciple Vallabhsuri trained Gandhi for six months. At the Parliament he said:
"It is an astonishing fact that foreigners have been constantly attacking India and in the face of all this aggression the soul of India has stood vital and watchful. Her conduct and religion are safe and the whole world looks at India with a steady gaze."
With adequate qualifications one may still say of India today that "her conduct and religion are safe." The Jains are of course at the top of the social, economic and political ladder: Amitbhai Anilchandra Shah is the first Jain President of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), he famously won the"man of the match" award (by Modi) in the campaign to crush a 50 year old dynasty. Another high-flying Jain (and a bosom friend of Modi) is Gautam Adani.
A sharp 152% jump in his wealth saw Adani Group chairman Gautam Adani break into the list of 10 richest Indians even as Mukesh Ambani retained the pole position, according to a latest report....Adani blazed into the top league riding on the runaway share prices of his companies in recent past, pegging his wealth at Rs 44,000 crore, said Hurun Report, published by a China-based luxury publishing and events group, tracking the uber rich.
It is also the case that with the advent of the second republic in May 2014, the world "looks at India with a steady gaze" (and so presumably does Preet Bharara). In light of this our best wishes (meant sincerely) to Narendra-II as he prepares to make his entry on to the world stage. It is on rare occasions that the Madison Square Garden is sold out.....certainly not for (brown) leaders.
Truth be told, this is a coming out party for the Hindu-Americans spear-headed by the Gujarati-American community. And as a wise american once said with great eloquence: "elections have consequences" and "I won" ....this is true in India as well.
If you do not like the results (and we do not), then you still have a choice to fight for your rights (and the votes of the people). But merely invoking Hitler will not stop Hindus from electing Hindu nationalists. Indeed what this does is to permit Hindutva-vadis to wear the victim mask and does nothing for the actual victims.
It is clear (from the track record of the last ten years) that Modi cannot be defeated using law-fare. The Islamists have tried guerilla war-fare with limited success- simply more victims have been created. The only way is to defeat the Hindutva-vadis through elections. That should not be too difficult- the BJP got only 31% of the national vote share (the NDA alliance as a whole got 40%).
All that needs to be done is for a "secular alliance" to make sure that the balance 60% is not wasted through ego clashes. Indeed such an alliance (Congress + Nitish Kumar + Lalu Yadav) recently crushed the BJP in the Bihar by-polls. It will be hard work to achieve such unanimity on an all-India basis. But this will be the only way.
It is a rock 'n' roller's dream to "sell out The Garden," but for a foreign politician to pack New York City’s most famous sports and entertainment arena is another thing entirely.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on his first trip to New York as leader of the world's most populous democracy, will draw perhaps the largest crowd ever by a foreign leader on U.S. soil when he takes the stage on Sunday in Madison Square Garden before a crowd forecast to total more than 18,000 people.
Thousands more are expected to pack New York's Times Square to watch his address in Hindi on big screens as well as smaller viewing parties around the country and on TV in India.
The Indian diaspora hopes this visit by a leader who was until recently barred from the United States will signify India's importance not only on these shores but in the wider world too.
The event is being emceed by prominent members of the Indian American community, Nina Davuluri, who has just relinquished her crown as Miss America 2014, and TV journalist Hari Sreenivasan.
"Indian citizens and diaspora over the world are hopeful that this (Modi) administration will cut bureaucracy and focus on people," said Dr. Dinesh Patel, chief of arthroscopic surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, who arrived in the United States more than 50 years ago.
Patel, who says he was given an award for work in education by Modi, a fellow Gujarati, added: "People are passionate to see the new leader. Another Narendra is coming to this country to let the USA know what India is about."
The first Narendra was Swami Vivekananda, a 19th-century philosopher and monk who propagated the Hindu faith in the United States. Modi often cites a speech by Vivekananda, born Narendra Nath Datta, to the Parliament of Religions in Chicago in 1893, as a source of inspiration.
"Let us remember the words of Swami Vivekananda and dedicate ourselves to furthering the cause of unity, brotherhood and world peace," Modi wrote Sept. 11 to his 6.5 million followers on Twitter.India's economy, the third largest in Asia, has struggled to recover from sub-par growth, shackled by layers of bureaucracy anathema to the diaspora. Modi's general election triumph in May was driven in large part by his entrepreneurial mantra.
On the eve of his U.S. visit, tensions remain between the Washington and New Delhi over trade and spying. The 64-year-old former chief minister of Gujarat was denied a U.S. visa in 2005 over sectarian rioting that killed more than 1,000 people, mainly Muslims, three years before. Modi, who denies wrongdoing, has been exonerated by a Supreme Court probe.
Washington was late to warm to Modi. Its ambassador to India only met him in February, when opinion polls already put his nationalists on course for a big election win.
India's U.S. diaspora is a highly educated population of nearly 3.2 million, making up about 1 percent of the U.S. population, according to latest U.S. Census Bureau data.
As a group, they are more likely to be hooked to the internet than their fellow Americans, far more likely to have a college or professional degree and twice as well off with an average household income of more than $100,000.
"Indians are generally very ambitious and entrepreneurs," said Mike Narula, the founder, president and chief executive officer of Long Island, New York-based Reliance Communications, a distributor of mobile telecom devices and accessories.
Narula, who came to the United States 17 years ago, first working in the garment industry, now has his own company with more than, 200 employees. He's part of the host committee for Modi's visit to Washington, where the prime minister will meet with President Barack Obama on Monday and Tuesday."We attempted to do business in India. I hope Modi will look into streamlining issues such as VAT, the role of FDI (foreign direct investment) and find a way for American businesses to not have to go through 19 red tape bureaucracies," he said.
While Indian Americans are well represented in America's professional class, they are less visible in the military. Some 0.1 percent serve in the armed forces compared to 0.4 percent of Americans as a whole."The diaspora does very well on entrepreneurship, but not as much on the physical sacrifices. It is not just enough to be a citizen and taxpayer," said Raj Bhandari, a 48 year old Mumbai-born banker from New Jersey. "As a larger community I would like it to be more engaged on the front lines."
A day before Prime Minister Narendra Modi's landmark visit to the US, a human rights group has obtained summons against him for his alleged role in the 2002 Gujarat riots as state chief minister. New York based American Justice Centre (AJC) obtained the summons from the US Federal Court for the Southern District of New York in a suit filed with two survivors of what it called the "horrific and organized violence of Gujarat 2002."
Filed under the Alien Tort Claims Act (ATCA) and the Torture Victim Protection Act (TVPA), the 28-page complaint charges Modi with "committing crimes against humanity, extra-judicial killings, torture and inflicting mental and physical trauma on the victims, mostly from the Muslim community."
AJC said it is providing legal support and advice to the survivors in their effort to hold "Modi accountable for his complicity in the violence.
"The survivors are suing Modi for the loss of lives and trauma in their families, and caused emotional, financial and psychological devastation in their lives. "The Tort Case against Prime Minister Modi is an unequivocal message to human rights abusers everywhere," said John Bradley, an AJC director.
"Time and place and the trappings of power will not be an impediment to justice."The Alien Tort Claims Act, also known as Alien Tort Statute (ATS), is a US federal law first adopted in 1789 that gives the federal courts jurisdiction to hear lawsuits filed by US residents for acts committed in violation of international law outside the US, AJC said.
Link (1): in.reuters.com
Link (2): hindustantimes.com/us-rights-group-gets-court-summons-against-modi
A decade ago we were up against the Axis of Evil. Now as the USA declares total war (again) there are no Christians (or neo-cons) hell bent on a crusade, instead it is just the Central Command engaged in a "lawn mowing" operation against deviant Shias (Boy Assad) and Sunnis (boys of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi).
A few (genuine, if non-original) critiques. The #1 coalition "ally" of the USA - the Saudis - behead just as many people as the Caliphate does. They were the prime movers behind 9/11. They keep spreading Salafist poison around the globe, to the extent that some Japanese (!!!) have now joined the islamist brigades. Why not get rid of the head of the snake- the House of Saud?
Speaking of allies, is it not possible for Viceroy Richard G Olson (full title: Ambassador of the United States to Pakistan) to ask the revolutionary brothers-in-arms to stop with their antics and let their long suffering countrymen move on with their lives? Hundreds have been killed by floods, millions are internally displaced, manufacturing has been paralyzed (lack of electricity). When is enough, actually, you know, enough?
Finally, many wise people are claiming (and we agree) that Obama is fighting this war to boost his popularity and keep the US Senate out of Republican hands. Already the polls are registering a boost. And that is fair enough..as a limited objective (the soldiers will be back home by Christmas).
However in the long term it appears that there are only two proper options: remain all-in or steadily pull-out. Either the Central Command is dismantled (the USA has enough oil on-shore) OR the entire Middle East North Africa is colonized (to protect minorities of all stripes including Shias and Sunnis). If the USA persists with the familiar bombs and carrots strategy, then it will surely be transformed into an ineffective master-villain despised by all (see Afghanistan, Libya).
This is how a Nobel Peace Prize laureate goes to war. He smiles warmly at the members of the U.N. General Assembly. He mentions his grandmother’s village in Kenya and notes that “Islam teaches peace.” He admits his country’s own flaws, praises “the path of diplomacy and peace,” and asserts that lasting gains cannot be “won at the barrel of a gun.”
Also, he wades a good 19 minutes into his 40-minute speech (the official time limit is 15 minutes) before getting to the nub of the matter: “The terrorist group known as ISIL must be degraded and ultimately destroyed.”
“In the most horrific crimes imaginable, innocent human beings have been beheaded, with videos of the atrocity distributed to shock the conscience of the world,” he says. “No god condones this terror. No grievance justifies these actions. There can be no reasoning, no negotiation, with this brand of evil. The only language understood by killers like this is the language of force. So the United States of America will work with a broad coalition to dismantle this network of death.”
Network of Death! A linguistic heir to George W. Bush’s Axis of Evil, perchance? “Those who have joined ISIL should leave the battlefield while they can,” the peacemaker threatens.
This is a different Obama from the one who spoke in Cairo five years ago, urging a new era in relations between America and the Muslim world. Though similar themes appeared in both addresses, the 2014 Obama was more demanding of the Muslim world — and less apologetic about America’s role — as he lectured Muslim leaders to make a serious fight against extremists.
In the 2009 speech, Obama invoked the “Holy Koran” five times and asserted that “any world order that elevates one nation or group of people over another will inevitably fail.” He spoke out against the U.S. use of torture and said he would close the Guantanamo Bay prison. (He didn’t.) He spoke of the “intolerable” situation faced by Palestinians and called for a stop to Israeli settlements.
“The enduring faith of over a billion people is so much bigger than the narrow hatred of a few,” the new president said. “Islam is not part of the problem in combating violent extremism — it is an important part of promoting peace.”
On Wednesday, the second-term president went relatively easy on Israel, instead telling Arab countries to stop using the conflict “as an excuse to distract people from problems at home.”
Obama was stern in his instructions for the Muslims: “It is time for the world, especially in Muslim communities, to explicitly, forcefully and consistently reject the ideology of organizations like al-Qaeda and ISIL,” also known as the Islamic State.
He went on at some length about the intolerance of clerics who preach hate and the “hypocrisy” of those who fund terrorism. And he instructed Arab nations to “acknowledge the destruction wrought by proxy wars and terror campaigns between Sunni and Shia across the Middle East.”
“In this century, we have faced a more lethal and ideological brand of terrorists who have perverted one of the world’s great religions,” he said. “With access to technology that allows small groups to do great harm, they have embraced a nightmarish vision that would divide the world into adherents and infidels, killing as many innocent civilians as possible, employing the most brutal methods.”
Geetanjali Thapa is an upcoming Nepali actor from Sikkim. She made her debut with Kamal K.M.’s “I.D.” and won the Best Actor award at the Los Angeles Film Festival as well as the ImagineIndia International Film Festival. After “I.D.”, she has acted in “Monsoon Shootout” that premiered at Cannes this year.
Director Geetu has struck gold with her second film "Liar's Dice" in 2013. Li-Di has received two National Film Awards including, Best Actress for Geetanjali and Best Cinematography for Rajeev. It is also selected to be India's official entry for the Best Foreign Language Film for Oscars (Feb 22, 2015). Incidentally, Pakistan's Oscar entry is also a superb, women-centered film: Dukhtar, by Aafia Nathaniel.
In a remote village, far away from Delhi, Kamala fails to hear back from her husband for five months. He is in the city for work, toiling on the constructions sites that have become the hallmark of the capital’s expansion. When his cell phone is quiet for some time and when the village elders ask for more patience, Kamala sets out to find her husband on her own.
Taking her 5-year old daughter Manya and a lamb along for the long journey, she is a lone woman on a long trek in an unknown territory. She meets Nawazuddin (Nawazuddin Siddiqui), an army deserter. They are trapped together in the only available option of a trip to the city. He is a drifter and she is focused on a spot in the dark.
Nawazuddin and Kamala are both young. The context of their journey does not allow for romantic interludes. Their culture permits even less. The distrust among them writes their characters — him a stranger with rash manners and dubious air and her, a vulnerable woman given less to trust than to suspicion of a stranger on the road. Telling the truth comes secondary to them, both impulses drawn from a deep reservoir of a desire to survive.
Nawazuddin is a hustler, for he must be, as he sets up his game of dice cups anywhere, from a train compartment to a busy street. Kamla is new to this game of survival. A man’s presence is a must for her on a journey that is not used to seeing single women in unfamiliar spaces. She brings a little stash of saved money and Nawazuddin breaks out his dice cups when he needs a little dough.
Mohandas constructs their relationship in layers of cultural permissibility and situational necessity. Their human warmth is hidden inside the tough shells of distrust, suspicion and the fear of the unknown on a road yet to be traveled.
At times, the narrative appears to belong completely to Kamala. As the more vulnerable of the two, with a young child and a lamb as both responsibilities and emotional cushions, she is careful, fearful but persistent. She begins the journey wearing the pristine beauty of the landscape on her face, only to let it withered away with the brute realities of the conditions away from the village.
The film moves toward the resolution of finding Kamala’s husband. The underlying connotation in her husband’s failure to stay in touch with her is ominous.
Thapa, whose fine performance in I.D. won international awards, plays the courageous if somewhat recklessly irresponsible Kamla, a lovely lady from the high Himalayas and mother to the precocious little Manya (Manya Gupta). It’s been five months since she heard from her husband and she’s worried. He's stopped writing and doesn’t answer his cell phone – something’s wrong.
Dragging little Manya and, absurdly, her pet goat along, she slips away in the freezing night and starts down a snowy mountain road. The little party is almost immediately attacked by two passing truck drivers and Kamla would almost certainly be raped, were it not for the prompt intervention of a straggly-looking guy who intervenes.
This is Nawazuddin (Siddiqui, who played Faizal Khan in Gangs of Wasseypur and more recently charmed in a supporting role in The Lunchbox.) He’s virtually unrecognizable with a dirty face and a rag around his head, looking like a generic freedom fighter who sews up his own wounds with a borrowed needle and thread.
There are just too few cues (outside the press book) to realize he’s an army deserter from the Border Guard, and for most non-Indian viewers he will pass as some eccentric outcast of society. As long as he’s gruff and silent, he seems like a strong protector for the two women; but when he finds his voice a few scenes along, surprise: it’s to whine for money. Kamla shows no desire for his company at all, but without him they can’t sneak their little goat on a bus that takes them to the regional capital of Shimla.
Not much is seen of this exotic location, apart from a scary night-time scene in which Kamla meets a woman from her village who evasively refuses to give her info. Sensing a trap, she backs out and agrees to give their “protector” her gold bangle if he’ll accompany them to Delhi and check around the construction sites.
The talented actors – including wide-eyed, outgoing little Manya – are interesting to watch as they struggle with their characters. Kamla however seems too focused on her quest, to the point of sometimes forgetting the young child at her side who she dragged into danger, and her inability to accept the inevitable makes her seem a bit soft-headed.
Rajeev Ravi’s sensitive cinematography smooths out the rough edges and highlights the film's transition from the pristine snowy village with its steep streets to the urban squalor of Delhi’s alleyways. John Bosters’ music is soulful and low-key.
Venue: Mumbai Film Festival (India Gold), May 18, 2013.
Production companies: Jar Pictures in association with Unplugged
Cast: Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Geetanjali Thapa, Manya Gupta
Director: Geetu MohandasScreenwriter: Geeta Mohandas
Producers: Alan McAlex, Ajay G. RAi
Director of photography: Rajeev FaviProduction designer: Prakash Moorthy
Editor: B. Ajithkumar
Music: John Bosters
No rating, 104 minutes.
Link (1): hollywoodreporter.com/liars-dice
Link (2): dearcinema.com/liars-dice
They say that the wheels of justice turn slowly (all of 18 years) but they grind exceedingly fine- no less a fine than 100 crores and a jail term of four years. If the Supreme Court does not issue a stay order (unlikely), Jayalalithaa Jayaram, will lose her status as an Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA) and will be required to dissolve her cabinet with immediate effect.
JJ famously added an "a" to her name on the advice of astrologers (we hope she gets her money back). Sad to say, she was a top-notch student who could have made an outstanding contribution to society, perhaps as a Mars rocket-woman. But she got corrupted by her mentor MG Ramachandran (MGR) and then, in her role as Puratchi Thalaivi (revolutionary leader of the Dravidas) chose to make the whole society corrupt. Her rise and fall mirrors that of Lalu Yadav: first, a sub-altern captain in the army of Jay Prakash (JP) Narayan, then, a new-age Krishna for the Yadavas, and now instrumental in his own deep-dive into ignominy.
This is to be expected when happens when you run a state as a personal fiefdom (both the Dravida parties are equally guilty of this). It was really the DMK led scandals that helped bring about the fall of the Congress.
And now all of Tamil Nadu is on fire. Hopefully not too many people will be killing themselves (as well as other people).
Amidst all the smoke and heat, a shout-out to the man who is a perennial thorn to people in power- Subramaniam Swamy. It was Swami-ji who unearthed the damning letter from the PMO (Manmohan Singh) indicating that MMS knew about Coal-gate. Just as it was his single-handed efforts which ensured that the case against Jayalalitha was registered back in 1996.
4:15 pm: Nearly 20 buses were damaged in stone-pelting in Cuddalore district.
3: 45 pm: Appearing before the court four times, Jayalalithaa has answered 1,339 questions in closed door hearings during which she has maintained that the case was "politically motivated" and "fabricated" at the instance of her rival DMK.
3:20 pm: Violence erupts in Tamil Nadu following the verdict. Traffic halted in many places and a bus has been burnt in Kancheepuram.
3: 05 pm: The verdict was delivered at a makeshift court in the Parappana Agrahara prison complex in Bangalore where Jayalalithaa and the other accused were present.
3: 00 pm: The maximum jail term she could face is 7 years, while the minimum is one year. If she is sentenced for less than 3 years, she can apply for bail, else she will be sent to prison.
2: 55 pm: The case was transferred to Bangalore's Special Court in 2003 by the Supreme Court on a petition filed by DMK leader K Anbazhagan who had expressed doubts over conduct of fair trial with Jayalalithaa as chief minister.
2: 50 pm: Pronouncing the order, special Judge John Michael Cunha held Jayalalithaa guilty of amassing wealth disproportionate to known sources of her income under sections 109 and 120 (b) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and 13 of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, said Special Public Prosecutor G. Bhavani Singh."The quantum of sentence will be decided by the judge later, which can range from two to seven years," Singh added.
2:45 pm: According to reports, Jayalalithaa is likely to appoint a partyman as the chief minister of Tamil Nadu.
2: 43 pm: Following this judgement, Jayalalithaa automatically stands disqualified as an MLA of the Tamil Nadu assembly and will have to step down as the chief minister immediately.
2: 40 pm: Earlier on Friday, Jayalalithaa's plea to postpone the pronouncement of its verdict in the disproportionate assets case was rejected by the Supreme Court.
2: 22 pm: All the four convicted in the 18-year-old corruption case. Sentencing and quantum of punishment to be made at 3 PM
2: 20 pm: Jayalalithaa is convicted under prevention of corruption act.
AIADMK supporters, police clash
Earlier, police in Bangalore had to resort to a lathi-charge to control dozens of AIADMK supporters who were protesting against the conviction of Jayalalithaa. Heavy security has been deployed in Bangalore to main peace and order in the city.
The case: The Rs 66.65-crore assets case dates back to Jayalalithaa's first term as the chief minister, from 1991 to 1996. It was filed before a special court in Chennai in 1997 by the Tamil Nadu's Department of Vigilance and Anti Corruption.
The case was transferred to Bangalore's Special Court in 2003 by the Supreme Court on a petition filed by DMK leader K Anbazhagan who had expressed doubts over conduct of fair trial with Jayalalithaa as chief minister.
Jayalalithaa, who has seen several ups and downs in her political career, in 2001 too had to quit as Tamil Nadu chief minister following the Supreme Court declaring null and void the action of the then Governor Fatima Beevi appointing her as the chief minister as she had been sentenced to two years rigorous imprisonment in a corruption case.
Thereafter, O Paneerselvan, a junior minister in her council of ministers, was appointed as the state’s chief minister. However, by 2002, she was cleared of all charges and sworn-in again as the chief minister.
Who is Professor Sen?...Prof Amartya Kumar Sen of Shanti-niketan, Delhi School of Economics, Cambridge and Harvard represents the old guard in his (sincere) attempts to bring South Asian Hindus and Muslims together. Now is the age of Hindi-Chini shadow boxing, and the man who is best informed about the thought processes of our Chinese overlords is Prof Tansen Sen of Peking University, University of Pennsylvania and Baruch College.
Tansen Sen is the author of Buddhism, Diplomacy, and Trade: The Realignment of Sino-Indian Relations, 600-1400 (University of Hawai'i Press, 2003) and co-author (with Victor H. Mair) of Traditional China in Asian and World History (Association for Asian Studies, 2012).
He has edited Buddhism Across Asia: Networks of Material, Cultural and Intellectual Exchange (Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 2014) and guest-edited special issues of China Report ("Kolkata and China," December 2007; and "Studies on India-China Interactions Dedicated to Ji Xianlin," 2012). With Wang Bangwei he has co-edited India and China: Interactions through Buddhism and Diplomacy: A Collection of Essays by Professor Prabodh Chandra Bagchi (Anthem Press, 2011).
While the scholarship is impressive, we confess to be charmed by the name Tansen Sen.
We presume that the good prof is named after [ref. Wiki] Mian Tansen (born 1493 or 1506 as Ramtanu Pandey – died 1586 or 1589 as Tansen) a prominent Hindustani classical music composer, musician and vocalist....He was among the Navaratnas (nine jewels) at the court of the Mughal Emperor Jalal ud-din Akbar. Akbargave him the title Mian, an honorific, meaning learned man....It was only after the age of 5 that Tansen showed any musical talent....he was a disciple of Swami Haridas, the legendary composer from Vrindavan and part of the stellar Gwalior court of Raja Man Singh Tomar (1486–1516 AD), specializing in the Dhrupad style of singing. His talent was recognised early and it was the ruler of Gwalior who conferred upon the maestro the honorific title 'Tansen'.
The romantic concept of a historic Silk Road by which camel caravans wend among the mountains and deserts of Central Asia is back in the news. So is talk on re-establishing the maritime networks by which the Chinese Admiral Zheng He steered his naval armada across the Indian Ocean seven times. China’s leaders promote the ancient trade routes, most recently during the Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visits to countries in Central and South Asia, to emphasize the nation’s historic role as a harbinger of peace and prosperity.
One minor problem in China’s history-based campaign— the history is distorted. In September 2013, less than a year after assuming the position of general secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, Xi launched new foreign policy initiative known as the “Silk Road Economic Belt.”
In an address at Kazakhstan's Nazarbayev University, calling for cooperation and development of the Eurasian region through this new Silk Road initiative, Xi presented five specific goals: strengthening of economic collaboration, improvement of road connectivity, promotion of trade and investment, facilitation of currency conversion, and bolstering of people-to-people exchanges.
A month later, at the 16th ASEAN-China Summit held in Brunei, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang proposed the building of a 21st century “Maritime Silk Road” to jointly foster maritime cooperation, connectivity, scientific and environmental research, and fishery activities. A few days later, in his address to the Indonesian Parliament Xi confirmed this idea and stated that China would devote funds to “vigorously develop maritime partnership in a joint effort to build the Maritime Silk Road of the 21st century,” stretching from coastal China to the Mediterranean Sea.
In both speeches, Xi underscored China’s historical linkages with the respective regions and suggested that his proposals were intended to reestablish ancient friendly ties in a modern, globalized world. In Kazakhstan, Xi credited the Western Han envoy Zhang Qian with “shouldering the mission of peace and friendship” and opening up the door for east-west communication and establishing the “Silk Road.” In Indonesia, he praised the Ming dynasty Admiral Zheng He for bequeathing “nice stories of friendly exchanges between the Chinese and Indonesian peoples.”
Not mentioned, however, are the backdrops of conflict and the push to spread a Sinocentric world order. In trying to portray the past as a utopian epoch, the purpose of Zhang Qian’s mission to the so-called Western Regions was misrepresented. The Han emperor dispatched Zhang to find an ally to fight the powerful Xiongnu Confederacy, the leading adversary of the Western Han Empire.
Because of its expansionist policies, the Han Empire was responsible for transforming the originally nomadic Xiongnu people into a semi-state entity that offered resistance to the Han forces. In 138 BCE the empire sent Zhang to Central Asia to locate the Yuezhi people, previously routed by the Xiongnus. His mission was a failure, however, as he was captured by the Xiongnu and forced to marry a local woman. Escaping after 10 years of captivity, he found that the Yuezhi were not interested in a military alliance. Zhang Qian’s only contribution was to inform the Han court about the polities and people in Central Asia.
Similarly, the portrayal of Admiral Zheng He as an agent of peace and friendship is problematic. In reality, Zheng’s seven expeditions between 1405 and 1433 included use of military force in what are present-day Indonesia, Malaysia, Sri Lanka and India to install friendly rulers and control strategic chokepoints of the Indian Ocean. He intervened in dynastic politics of Sri Lanka and Indonesia and brought back prisoners to Nanjing, the Ming capital.
Ming Emperor Yongle originally dispatched Zheng to the Western seas to look for his nephew whom he had deposed from the throne and to promote the virtues of the Chinese civilization. In the course of these expeditions, Zheng brought back many kings and princes to kowtow to the emperor and exchange gifts. The voyages were abandoned when it turned out to be too expensive and gave excessive power, in the view of the Confucian court officials, to eunuchs such as Zheng He.
The Han Empire used similar tactics in Central Asia, especially at strategic locations of the trade routes. Thus neither the overland route nor the maritime channels, termed collectively as the Silk Routes, were peaceful or fostered friendly exchanges through Chinese presence, as modern narratives would suggest.
There is also a problem with the term “Silk Road” or “Silk Routes.” German geographer Ferdinand von Richthofen coined the term in 1877 for the ancient overland trade route through Central Asia.
Since then, many routes that linked China to the outside world have been called “Silk Roads” or “Silk Routes” despite the fact that silk was neither the earliest nor the most commonly traded commodity on any of these routes. Additionally, the term, enthusiastically employed by Chinese scholars, places unwarranted emphasis on the role of China in pre-modern intra-regional interactions.
This comes at the expense of neglecting external influence on Chinese societies and economies throughout the past 2000 years.
Perhaps, like many Chinese, Xi’s views about the Silk Roads were shaped by the PRC educational system that prevents critical analysis and proper deconstruction of historical sources. It’s also possible that Xi was genuinely influenced by the fact that his family hails from near the ancient Chinese capital Xi’an, known in history as Chang’an, a place recognized in history books as the starting point of the overland Silk Road. Either the president is unaware of the negative reactions that use of Chinese cultural symbolism in the arena of foreign policy induce among some foreign states or is adamant about pushing these through with the economic muscle China has toned over the past several decades.
Several countries are willing to accept these distorted historical narratives for economic reasons.
The Sri Lankan government, for example, last year received a gold-plated statue of Zheng as a gift from China's International Tour Management Association. The two sides declared that Zheng He and his expeditions represented ancient commercial and peaceful relations between China and Sri Lanka. Neglected were the details that Zheng had instituted regime change in the region; abducted a local ruler, Alaskawera; and brought him to Nanjing as a prisoner. Zheng also carried off the famous Tooth Relic of the Buddha at Kandy, long a symbol of Sri Lankan political sovereignty.
Military conflict also took place in Indonesia, where some local newspapers applauded Xi’s proposals noting that they could bring “enormous opportunities for regional development.” Not of concern was the fact that in Sumatra, in 1407, Zheng had instituted a regime change by abducting a local ethnic Chinese leader named Chen Zuyi, whom the Ming court portrayed as a pirate. After Chen was publicly executed in Nanjing, he was replaced by a person representing the Ming court’s interest in the region. In the same year, Zheng also intervened in the internal affairs of the Majapahit polity in Java, seemingly to weaken the main regional power in Southeast Asia.
These military interventions like those in others regions that used the pretext of ushering in a harmonious world order under the Chinese Son of Heaven were objectives of the Zheng He expeditions.
The Silk Roads initiative of the Chinese government, with substantial influx of money and investment, could boost the economies of several countries in Asia and Europe that are willing to claim ancient links to the Middle Kingdom. For China, the success of the initiative will open new avenues for investing its vast monetary reserves.
It will also mark a major step towards recreating the Chinese world order of the ancient times known as tianxia, that is, all regions of the known world that belonged to the heavenly-mandated emperor of China. This new world order will not be simply rhetorical, but could impose significant geopolitical implications.
Nicola Di Cosmo, Ancient China and Its Enemies: The Rise of Nomadic Power in East Asian History. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002.
Edward L. Dreyer, Zheng He: China and the Oceans in the Early Ming, 1405–1433. New York: Longman, 2007.
Étienne de la Vaissière, Sogdian Traders: A History. Leiden: Brill, 2005.
Louise Levathes, When China Ruled the Seas: The Treasure Fleet of the Dragon Throne, 1405-1433. New York: Oxford University Press, 1994.
Tansen Sen, “Changing Regimes: Two Episodes of Chinese Military Interventions in Medieval South Asia.” In Upinder Singh and Parul P. Dhar (Ed.), Asian Encounters: Exploring Connected Histories. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, forthcoming.
Geoff Wade, “Ming China’s Violence against Neighbouring Polities and Its Representations in Chinese Historiography.” In Upinder Singh and Parul P. Dhar (Ed.), Asian Encounters: Exploring Connected Histories. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, forthcoming.
These days people are engaged in branding exercises in order to foster some or other group identity.
The trick is to build up a platform that has some basis in culture and in history and try to shoe-horn your agenda in a manner that makes it acceptable to a substantial fraction of elites and sub-alterns.
As an example consider the two principal sub-continental politico-social-cultural brands: Hindutva and Islam. For the record, we are not a fan of either brand because we consider religion to be a divisive force and that in our opinion it should be banished from the public square.
What is the Hindutva agenda and how is it helpful towards brand building? Take a specific example: the movement to protect cows (and as an extension promote vegetarianism). The cow occupies a special place in the Hindu pantheon, especially the association with Krishna and the Yadava clan (even in modern day Mumbai the milk supply chain management in our colony as well as many others is a Yadava monopoly).
For the recent Lok Sabha polls Amit Shah deployed this save the cows strategy to weaken the Muslim-Yadava alliance in Bihar. Perhaps due to this (as well as many other factors), Lalu Yadav lost, big time (he is back on his feet again, having set up a grand alliance with Nitish Kumar and the Congress).
It is surprising (to us) how potent the humble cow is, as a symbol. The liberal-lefties sneer at such "backward sentimentality," claiming (with some justification) that ancient Vedic people used to relish eating cows (and horses and many other animals).
As is usual, in their arrogance, the liberals miss the wood for the trees. The point is that Hinduism has evolved, many violent practices like sacrificing bulls and goats is now frowned upon. This year, a major theme in Kolkata is a non-violent Durga. According to devotees, the slaying of the Mahish-asura is merely symbolic, what counts is the killing of the demons within us.
Such symbolism allows Hinduism to build bridges within the fold (with Vaishnavites) and without (with Jains) and this evolution contributes to the endurance of Hinduism as a philosophy even in the age of democracy.
Shiva and Parvati are not Vedic gods, let alone the idol of the sub-alterns - Kali. Yet, they have been brought within the fold and now a majority are followers of the power couple (and their son Ganesha).
Not eating cows (and vegetarianism) is also frequency wise well matched with the modern day religion of environmentalism. There is yet no vegetarian culture as deep rooted and mass based anywhere else in the world. Without becoming as austere as the Jains (even roots and tubers are forbidden), Hinduism is the next best house for vegetarians.
Politically, also cow protection is good for branding because the main competitor (Islam) has little to say (doctrinally or otherwise) about vegetarianism (even though there are muslim vegetarians...in India). If we were a Hindutva brand manager we would run a high-profile campaign on pig protection as well - after all one of the ten avatars of Vishnu is the Varaha - but the situation here is a bit complicated. Muslims do not eat pigs because they are sacred, the consideration is that pigs are "unclean" (and so are dogs).
Still a campaign on the basis of vegetarianism can help unite a large section of Hindus and non-Hindus, elites and the masses. Even committed irreligious, non-vegetarians like ourselves may not object to a less-meat and eventually meat-less society (from a sustainability standpoint). After all there is a proposal to have meat less Mondays in the USA (and being fiercely opposed by Big Food). There is every indication that vegetarianism will become mainstream in the next few decades in the West.
When it comes to Islam there is one solid advantage and one strong disadvantage. Islam dictates that we are all equal before Allah, hence no to caste system and it forbids idolatry, now enforced much more strictly than in the past. Unfortunately, muslims in South Asia have not been able to leave the bounds of caste, Ashrafs (like other elites) continue to impose the 80:20 rule. Also, Indians are strongly in favor of idolatry, this includes Sikhs and Buddhists (where idolatry is doctrinally forbidden). After six decades of partition it may be easier for Pakistanis (less so for Bangladeshis and even less for Indian muslims) to bury the vestiges of a culture replete with references to idolatry.
For these reasons above we feel that while Brown Muslim is a powerful brand, it will gain momentum in the sub-continent only when Pakistan and Bangladesh agree to create a social, economic and cultural union (political re-union may not be possible or necessary). The key compromise is that Bangla and Urdu are to be`placed on an equal footing. Our opinion is that it will take many decades before Punjabis agree to this (but we may be wrong).
Moving away from South Asia we now focus on the age-old Khorasan brand and its implications for the Middle East. From the Washington Post we have this:
After the region was taken over in an Arab conquest in the 7th century, Khorasan became a part of the Umayyad Caliphate, and with that, part of early Islamic culture. Notably, a widely discussed (though disputed) Hadith speaks of how "black banners will come out of Khorasan" in the end times. Will McCants of the Brookings Institute notes that the prophecies derive from the 8th century Abbasid revolution, a revolution that began in Khorasan and saw the end of the privileging of Arabs over non-Arabs in the Islamic empire
As an outsider we remain puzzled by this move. The Caliphate Brand has proven to be highly successful, people from the world over are joining the ranks of the Daesh. If anything the Khorasan brand will dilute the appeal of the Caliphate and will also highlight the reality of non-Arab cliques. Will the dominant Arabs tolerate such brand dilution?
OTOH it may well be the case that with a diversified brand (much like sister companies) there will be greater buy-in from the common people (who may not be all Arabs, now and in the future). Such a step may prove to be helpful in recruiting warrior men (and women devoted to such men) from Greater Khorasan. Only time will tell if this is a net positive for the Islamist brand.
What's in a name? When you're an Islamist extremist group believed to pose an existential threat to the Western world, everything. In the past few months, we've seen the strange and somewhat revealing saga of what to call the group alternatively referred to as ISIS, ISIL, the Islamic State and Daesh.
Now, within a timeframe of just days, the Islamic State has been sidelined by a new name in the world of Islamic extremism: "Khorasan."U.S. officials say that Khorasan, often referred to as "the Khorasan group," is a small al-Qaeda linked outfit operating in Syria. They are portrayed as a more direct threat to U.S. interests than the Islamic State, which is still largely focused on operations in Syria and Iraq. U.S. officials say that their strikes against Khorasan appear to have been a success, killing the group's leader, Mushin al-Fadhli.
However, some analysts are perturbed by the lack of information about the group and why it was targeted. Even an examination of one of the most basic elements of the group – its name – paints a complicated and inconclusive picture of what the group actually is, and why it is being targeted.
As most reports on the group have noted, Khorasan refers to a historical region that encompassed northeastern Iran, southern Turkmenistan and northern Afghanistan. It was established as a region by the Sasanian dynasty, the last Iranian empire before the rise of Islam, at some point in the 3rd century. Its name literally means "The Land of the Sun," a reference to its eastern location.
After the region was taken over in an Arab conquest in the 7th century, Khorasan became a part of the Umayyad Caliphate, and with that, part of early Islamic culture. Notably, a widely discussed (though disputed) Hadith speaks of how "black banners will come out of Khorasan" in the end times.
Will McCants of the Brookings Institute notes that the prophecies derive from the 8th century Abbasid revolution, a revolution that began in Khorasan and saw the end of the privileging of Arabs over non-Arabs in the Islamic empire.
Over the years, the Khorasan region had a fractious history, and was eventually swallowed up by a variety of different states. A part of Khorasan eventually became Khorasan state in modern Iran, and "Greater Khorasan" is generally used to refer to the larger historical region.
The online magazine of al-Qaeda in Afghanistan is called “Vanguards of Khorasan," for example, and J.M. Berger, an independent terror analyst, says that al-Qaeda has often signed its communiques as emanating from Khorasan over the years.
"Jihadists deny the legitimacy of most modern nation states; they prefer using historical terms, typically the ones that were used during the time of the great Caliphates (which is obviously what they want to go back to)," Peter Neumann, director of the International Centre for the Study of Radicalization, explained in an e-mail.
In particular, the hadith mention gives the reference added power. "The symbology of this has been important for jihadis since the so-called black banners being raised in Afghanistan, which is part of Khorasan, in the '80s against the Soviets until now," Aaron Zelin of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy said, adding that Islamic apocalyptic literature has become a central theme for some jihadist groups fighting in the Middle East.
People often ask: what is the point of democracy? It is simple really, it confers legitimacy on the rulers as no other system would. Narendrabhai Damodardas Modi is Prime Minister for all of India (even if many Indians did not vote for him, they accept the system which elected him).
This is why 50 senators and congressmen met with NDM in the Garden on Sunday, while even one year ago he was not even allowed to set foot on American soil.
People will (rightly) complain that democracy is helping legitimize majoritarian rule. The answer is not to abandon democracy but to fight for a country with better protection for minorities. In other words to move away from an illiberal democracy to a liberal one. That is truly a work in progress, and it is true even for ancient democracies like the United States of America.
A diverse country such as India would be (in our opinion) best served with a proportional representation system (plus a minimum threshold) as is prevalent in advanced democracies such as Germany (where lot of authority is vested in the states).
Applying such a formula retroactively in the past elections would not have changed the picture very much. Thus, for example, Mayawati would still be without a single seat. Congress would have been in a better position with 100 seats. The key point is Congress never fought for a better democracy when it had super-majorities. That time the goal was to use the brute force of First Past the Post system to enforce dynasty power. If you choose to live by the sword, it is fair to die by the sword as well.
India was once known as a world of snake charmers, now the magic that its people have woven "with the mouse" in the IT sphere is world-renowned, said Prime Minister Narendra Modi here Sunday.
"I was in Taiwan some years ago, someone wanted to ask a question and was hesitating. He asked if I won't feel bad, I said go ahead. He said I heard India is a land of black magic and snake charmers. I said no, our forefathers maybe would play with snakes but we play with the (computer) mouse," he said in his address to a gathering of Indian diaspora at the Madison Square Garden.
Getting rid of maze of laws
Taking a swipe at the Congress-led UPA, Modi said the earlier governments would keep harping on the number of laws they has come out with, but he has made it his mission to get rid of the "maze" of "useless" ones.
Addressing a gathering of thousands of the Indian diaspora at Madison Square Garden, Modi said: "Earlier governments would keep harping that we have made this 'kanoon' (law) and that 'kanoon'.. I have started a new one - the old 'kanoon', I have thrown away the 'bekaar' (useless) ones."
"It was like a 'jaal' (maze) of 'kanoon', if one gets in, then they cant get out. I have set up a committee to examine them. If everyday, I can end one law, then it will be an achievement," he said to loud chants of "Modi, Modi".
He said good governance should be of easy ways for the people, to fulfil the people's needs in an easy, lucid way.
PIO cardholders to get lifelong visa, announces Modi
PIO card holders will get lifelong visas, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced Saturday to thousands of cheering Indian diaspora at Madison Square Garden here.
"Happy?" he asked as the crowd cheered his announcement with chants of "Modi, Modi".
"There is even more to come," he said smilingly.
He announced that NRIs staying in India for long had to visit the police station, and "there is no need for them to do that anymore".
Modi said the government will join the People of Indian Origin (PIO) and Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) schemes for the diaspora and a new scheme would be announced soon.
He also said the Indian missions in the US would grant long term visas to US citizens and US tourists would get visa on arrival in India.
50 US Senators, Congress greet Modi
Modi was greeted by 50 US Senators and members of the US Congress at Madison Square Garden as he arrived to address the Indian diaspora.
Indian singer Kavita Krisnamoorthy rendered the Indian national anthem, which Modi was seen mouthing along.
Chants of "Modi, Modi" rent the air as he began his speech.
'India blessed with democracy, demographic dividend, demand'
At an opportune cusp of circumstances, blessed with a vibrant democracy, with 65 percent of its people under the age of 35, and a market of 1.25 billion people, India will scale new heights in the near future, the prime minister said.
Addressing an around 20,000-strong gathering cheering Indian diaspora at Madison Square Garden, Modi said India is the youngest nation in the world and also the country with an ancient civilisation.
He said 65 percent of the people are under the age of 35 and with the IT ability of Indians "there is no need for such a country to turn back and look".
Modi said it is "important to recognise our strengths and mobilise them to go forward fast".
Referring to the elections, in which he led the Bharatiya Janata Party to power, Modi said the 1.25 billion people of the country had given their blessings to govern and it was akin to god's own blessings.
He said democracy is India's biggest strength and also its demographic dividend.
The third advantage is the demand - "the entire world has its sights on India and it knows that its 1.25 billion people is a huge market", he said.
"These three things are present in one country, this is not there anywhere in the world. And on the basis of this India will cross new heights - it is my belief," said Modi to loud cheering and chants of "Modi, Modi".
Have not taken 15 minute vacation so far: Modi
Winning elections is not for sitting on a seat but a responsibility, said Modi, noting that he has not taken even a 15-minute vacation since taking over the helm of the country.
To loud chants of "Modi, Modi", the prime minister, in his address to the Indian diaspora at Madison Square Garden here, said the people of India and the diaspora have conveyed the strength of democracy through the April-May elections, which saw the Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party sweep to power.
"I will not do anything to make you lower your head. The government you have chosen will not leave anything out," he said to loud cheers from the huge gathering.
People will continue to argue about the curious case that was the US ban imposed on Modi. Certainly it was unique in its application and needs in-depth probing. There have been many speculations as to how it came about. Our methodology is crude but simple: who benefits?
Certainly the goal was to make Modi unacceptable to...Indians. But indeed the opposite happened. His own people saw him as a victim and circled the wagons (and delivered three in a row victories in Gujarat).
As a result, at the national level, Modi was able to sell the story of a successful executive who could deliver on growth. This became a major point of contention between rival camps of economists (Amartya Sen against, Jagadish Bhawati in favor). Other people pointed out the poor human development indices for Gujarat. It was noted (correctly) that for disadvantaged people, Tamil Nadu is a much better place to be than Gujarat.
Our feeling is that people went ahead with gut feeling. The true battleground was Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. Huge numbers of migrant workers from these states (and others) work in Gujarat. They are made welcome in a way (not a very good way admittedly) that they will not be in Tamil Nadu. As a result people accepted the Gujarat growth story at face value. It was going to be vote for Modi (as opposed to a vote for the BJP).
Then there were the issues of corruption and safety of women. Modi is clean in a way Tamil politicians are emphatically not. Chennai is pretty safe for women but Ahmedabad ranks #1 (and has done so consistently).
Eventually in the elections the DMK was wiped out...even the most solid forts crumbled. Corruption is not a killer under normal circumstances because the people accept the fact that both sides are equally corrupt. However this election we believe was different (it felt different). People, uncommitted neutrals, not fire-breathing bigots were simply furious.
We saw the evidence of this in the polling booth and (as we pointed out on these pages) it was the first time we were convinced that Modi will win in a big way. The VISA ban had backfired, badly.
Back to the question as to who really intended to benefit. Rajeev Srinivasan is (ideologically) on the right but it does not mean that his analysis is wrong. RS claims that it was a push from US based evangelists which convinced the US political establishment. Is this a valid claim?
The US Christian Leadership was indeed worried (justified in our opinion) that a Modi sarkar would clamp down on conversions (and as it is now been made clear) would try to re-convert people via the "Ghar Wapsi" program. The pogroms directed against the tribal Christians in Odisha (2008-2009) have certainly confirmed such fears.
The battle is now being fought in the open. The US Commission on Internal Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has fired the first salvo.
USCIRF@USCIRF Hindu Nationalist Group Seeking to Cleanse Christian Presence From #India Is Not Unlike ISIS, Watchdog Group Warns http://bit.ly/1AqCYSh
The fire has been returned, not by Hindutva-vadis but Americans keen on building economic (and political) bridges with India
David B. Cohen@DavidBCohen1"Watchdog" group likens BJP to ISIS, proving they've no moral compass. Moral equivalence is not moral, nor is @USCIRF
The US Christian Leadership must be very worried right now, if it came to a competition between dollars and bibles, the Americans will always settle for dollars. As proof, they have really turned on the charm offensive. If active persecution of Christians was bothersome to America they would never do business with China, Egypt, and Pakistan.
We are not suggesting that persecution of Christians have to rise to Caliphate levels for people in India to start complaining. The point is that USCIRF and the US Christian Leadership are picking a wrong battle to fight (and they will lose badly). If America turns its back on India today, why China is waiting with open arms (we just have to give them Arunachal Pradesh and the no-limit ATM will be turned on instantly).
The uncomfortable reality is that you will catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. Comparing India to the Caliphate is not the way. The Bible advises us to turn the other cheek to violence. This implies it is moral courage and not brute force that will eventually win out. If the US Christian Leadership believes that God is on their side (and why not) then they will need to play the long game. They need to act like proper Christians and be patient and the kingdom on earth will soon be theirs.
Can men be feminists? While the long form answer can get complicated the short form is simple enough. The answer is yes, if men are interested in complete equality between men and women. Setting reproduction aside, a woman should have the same rights (and responsibilities) as a man in all other functions and aspirations (yes we know that there are other genders out there, equality for them as well).
Then again if people feel that as per this definition humanism = feminism (and we agree) then it may be preferable to call ourselves (flawed) humanists.
How about reproduction and the specific question related to the medical termination of pregnancy (MTP aka abortion)? Again the long form answer is complicated (see below) but the short answer is that the final call is wholly the woman's (to pull the trigger or not).
Yes, abortion undoubtedly involves killing, but as a society we do sanction killing, all the time, unless we are Jains who keep mouths covered and feet uncovered (while eating organic Jain food). Yes, we should aim to kill less and minimize the pain while killing. This implies that abortion should be performed as early in the cycle as possible (we like the two doctor rule). Since we are not religious we are not concerned with the quality of life in the after-life, however we understand that other people may have principled objections on this matter.
Yes, any form of state control is odious. We consider the Chicom practice of kidnapping women and forcing abortions to be one of the purest forms of evil. Societal pressure causing women to abort girl child (and on rare occasions boys) is immoral. Men forcing women to have abortions because they enjoy sex (but not safe sex) is criminal (and this is why we advocate notification of authorities, usually parents but also teachers and care-givers, if the woman is under-age).
Yes on state subsidies for MTP - it is a simple enough procedure and poor people need it the most. If you feel that your tax dollars are being misused you can try to (non-violently) change society so that abortion becomes rare (while remaining safe and legal). Yes, there is a difference between killing unborn babies and killing people. But this also implies that birth control should be made available (subsidized) to all women.
This is the bottom-line, we do not like killing. We are also extremely fond of babies (of all types), hence killing of babies (even unborn ones) is problematic for us. But we live in an imperfect society and killing is part and parcel of it. If there exists an Almighty who has privileged women (and not men) to bring life to earth, it must be equally the privilege of women to terminate such a life.
A Nagpur-based businessman is helping women seeking abortions across the world--and he's doing it through mail. Now under the Maharashtra Food and Drug Administration scanner, Mohan Kale has been running a mail-ordered abortion service, where in, he mails medicines with terminate pregnancies to women across the world who are unable to avail it.
According to a report in The Times of India, 44-year old Kale was influenced by Physician and abortion rights activist Rebecca Gomperts, who made headlines with her decision to set sail and provide abortions to women in countries where it is illegal.
"As a man, I can't give birth to a baby but I do have autonomy over my body. Why shouldn't women?" the report quotes Kale as saying.
According to the New York Times report, Kale and Gomperts met two years ago. At the time, Gomperts was looking for a new supplier in India. As a supplier, Kale's job is simple: He is sent a prescription after a doctor approves an abortion request, and he sends the 'kit' to the women in need. ....
Since the medicines are legal in India, they can be purchased with a prescription.
Kale forms part of a much bigger telemedicine service that Gomperts started in 2006. Five years before starting the telemedicine service, Gomperts "did some legal and medical research and concluded that in a Dutch-registered ship governed by Dutch law, she could sail into the harbor of a country where abortion is illegal, take women on board, bring them into international waters, give them the pills at sea and send them home to miscarry.
Calling the effort Women on Waves, she chose Dublin as her first destination," says the New York Times report.
In places like Ireland, women made a beeline to seek appointments with Gomperts. Women on Waves has since transformed into an international tele-medicine service, of which Kale forms a part.
Kale sends around 2,000 kits each month - containing one mifepristone and four misoprostol tablets - to women who live in nations where abortion is either banned or restricted. These are two of the 1,500 compounds that Kale sells, generating an annual revenue of $4.5 million - but no profit with an option for patients to donate 90 euros.
And the need is enormous. Nearly 40 percent of the world's population lives in nations where abortion is banned or restricted making it a major health concern for women.
The report in New York Times explains: "The World Health Organization estimated in 2008 that 21.6 million unsafe abortions took place that year worldwide, leading to about 47,000 deaths. To reduce that number, WHO put mifepristone and misoprostol on its Essential Medicines list."
But even as both Kale and Gompert walk a legal tight-rope, the service has enabled thousands of women across the globe to assert their reproductive rights and attain greater control of their bodies. New York Times cites a thank you note from one of the women, which sums it up: "I used your service a few months ago. Today I finally found out I was back to normal, whatever that really means, seems strange to say really, but I wanted to say a HUGE thank you."
That said Indians are united about the need for diversity (and benefit of local control). This is simply a matter of accepting reality. In a country when there are so many languages, religions, cultures there is not much you can do to privilege any one "thing" over another (you can try and fail).
In general, where there has been sustained complaints of "imposition" (one community over another), we have followed the example set by our (ex) British masters and granted partition. On November 1, 1966, there was a splitting of the pre-existing Punjabi Suba into majority Punjabi speaking (and Sikh by religion) Punjab, and Hindi speaking (Hindu) Haryana, and also Hindi/Pahari speaking (Hindu) Himachal Pradesh (25 January, 1971). The same policy was followed for Kerala (1956), Maharashtra (1960) and Nagaland (1963) and others.
In November 2000, Jharkhand was split from Bihar (and Chattisgarh from Madhya Pradesh) with an emphasis on (exclusive) tribal identities. We just experienced (2nd June, 2014) a bitter, yet mostly peaceful partition between Telugu speaking people in Telangana and Andhra. And in the future there may be a Gorkhaland for Nepalis who propose to be free of Bengali domination.
Even at the intra-state level, a new, muslim majority Malappuram district was created on 16 June 1969 (by the secular, communist government of EMS Namboodiripad) by segregating taluks of the erstwhile Kozhikode and Palakkad districts.
Thus when President Obama said: (Tame) Kem Cho (?) Mr Prime Minister we were quietly happy. There is no country on which has such diversity to the point that the Constitution notes 22 scheduled languages. Even that list ignores tens of millions of non-Hindi speaking people in the "Hindi" belt - Maithili from North Bihar is the sole exception - and the Tulu speaking community in (Mangalore) the south.
Since the time of independence elites have been fighting between themselves about the language to be imposed on the downtrodden (elites will always send their progeny to English speaking convent schools). But the eight schedule is serious business and if we really claim to love out country we should be able to speak at least one language that is not English and not our mother tongue.
For the Hindu-Hindi imperialists, we recommend learning any one of the four main southern languages; Telugu with a very large Sanskrit content will probably be the best bet. For the people of the south (who want to make a point by rejecting Hindi) we recommend Bengali (or Gujarati). However if you truly want to confound the Hindi speakers try Bhojpuri (or Maithili, the sweetest of them all).
Via the 92nd Constitutional amendment 2003, 4 new languages – Bodo, Maithili, Dogri, and Santali – were added to the 8th Schedule of the Indian Constitution.
Even though English language is not included in Eighth Schedule (as it is a foreign language), it is one of the official languages of Union of India.
As expected Bharat Desai, John Kapoor, Ramesh Wadhwani, Ram Shriram, and Vinod Khosla have either technology backgrounds or play in technology. Specifically, Desai (IIT Bombay), Wadhwani (IIT Bombay) and Khosla (IIT Kharagpur) are Indian Institute of Technology graduates and are committed to improve those institutions and create entrepreneurs (not just technology officers).
The Indian Institute of Technology (Bombay) in Powai (Mumbai) received quite a windfall recently when billionaire alumnus Bharat Desai, chairman of US-based company Syntel, donated $1 million to his alma mater. The money will go toward starting a robust entrepreneurship centre so that many more technicians come out as entrepreneurs rather than just as degree-holders.
Five Indian-Americans have been named among the 400 richest people in the US by Forbes, a list topped by Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates for the 21st year in a row with a net worth of USD 81 billion.
Founder of outsourcing firm Syntel Bharat Desai, entrepreneur John Kapoor, Symphony Technology founder Romesh Wadhwani, Silicon Valley angel investor Kavitark Ram Shriram and venture capitalist Vinod Khosla are among The Richest People In America 2014 list by Forbes.
Forbes said 2014 was another record year for American wealth, when the aggregate net worth of the richest 400 Americans was USD 2.29 trillion, up USD 270 billion from a year ago.
"Thanks to a buoyant stock market, the richest people in the US just keep getting richer," Forbes said.
Gates is the richest American for the 21st year in a row, with a net worth of US 81 billion. The Microsoft chairman's stake in the software company he cofounded accounts for just under 20 per cent of his total net worth. His friend Warren Buffett, chief executive of Berkshire Hathaway, occupies the number two spot on the 400, a rank he has held since 2001 with a net worth of USD 67 billion.
Larry Ellison, who just announced that he was giving up the CEO role at Oracle, the software firm he founded, comes in at number three, with a net worth of 50 billion dollars.
Desai and his family rank 255 on the list, followed by Kapoor who is ranked 261, Wadhwani (264), Shriram (350) and Khosla (381).
Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg is now the 11th richest person in the US, and the biggest dollar gainer on the list. His fortune soared to USD 34 billion, up USD 15 billion since last year, due to a sharp rise in the price of the social network's shares.
Desai, 61, and wife Neerja Sethi founded outsourcing firm Syntel in 1980 while studying at University of Michigan. The Indian Institute of Technology alumnus has a networth of USD 2.5 billion.
Kapoor, 71, debuts on The Forbes 400 as a serial entrepreneur who has founded two pharmaceutical companies that he has guided to exceptional success.
The bulk of his wealth is concentrated in shares of Akorn Pharmaceuticals, an Illinois-based generics manufacturer that Kapoor has been involved with since the early 1990s, and INSYS Therapeutics, a cancer-treatment maker that went public in May 2013. Kapoor, whose net worth is USD 2.5 billion, also has a small chain of fast-casual Indian restaurants in Arizona called Bombay Spice, as well as Roka Akor Japanese eateries in Chicago, Scottsdale and San Francisco.
Wadhwani, 67, an Indian Institute of Technology Bombay alumnus has a net worth of USD 2.5 billion. Forbes said over the last decade, his galaxy of companies has expanded to 20 and is generating three billion dollars in revenues with 18,000 employees worldwide.
He is the recipient of the 2013 Forbes India 'Non-Resident Philanthropist Award' and sits on the boards of the Kennedy Center and the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Wadhwani signed Bill Gates' and Warren Buffett's Giving Pledge last year.
Shriram, 57, has a net worth of USD 1.87 billion. He was an early Google backer and has been a Silicon Valley angel investor since 2000. Through his Sherpalo Ventures, he has backed early-stage tech firms such as Zazzle and Paperless Post, as well as the frozen yogurt retailer Pinkberry.
Shriram made most of his fortune through Google and has been on its board since the company was founded in 1998. In June 2014, Shriram and his wife donated $61 million to engineering initiatives at Stanford University, which both of his daughters attended and where he is a board trustee.
Khosla, 59, has a net worth of USD 1.67 Billion and has run his own venture capital firm, Khosla Ventures, since 2004, following nearly two decades at VC firm Kleiner Perkins. His highest-profile investments have lately been in clean tech: wood-based biofuel, new types of batteries and water purification.
All together, the 400 wealthiest Americans are worth a staggering USD 2.29 trillion, up USD 270 billion from a year ago.The average net worth of list members is USD 5.7 billion, USD 700 million more than last year and a record high. An impressive 303 of the 400 saw the value of their fortunes rise compared to a year ago. Only 36 people from last year’s list had lower net worths this year.
The list has 27 newcomers including Elizabeth Holmes the youngest woman on the list, and the youngest self-made female billionaire in the world. Just 30 years old, the Stanford University dropout has built blood testing company Theranos into a firm that venture capitalists have valued at USD 9 billion.
Link (1): outlookindia.com
Link (2): dnaindia.com/bharat-desai-donates-1-million-to-iit-b
We are very fond of home-made recipes because they taste different from the commercial stuff and they are quite practical (unlike the cook-book stuff).
This is claimed to be an authentic Syrian Christian recipe for sponge cake. A resourceful "aunty" instructed us "live" and the result was not half bad (and very little effort). Let us know if someone likes it, we will pass on the message to aunty.
Sift the dry ingredients together. The dry ingredients are: flour, baking powder and milk powder. Simply place everything in a sifter and shake it back and forth over a bowl to eliminate the clumps (do it thrice at least).
Mixing ingredients in a mixer grinder (bigger jar). Pour sugar, butter, egg, essence, elaichi, clove, sugar caramel and flour in a bigger mixer jar. Stir it well with a spoon and then switch on the grinder and grind it for 5 mnts.
Pour the mixture into round pan. Fit a greased paper (like butter paper) in a round pan smoothing out the wrinkles or bubbles. The grease paper will keep the mix from sticking to the pan. After pouring each layer of the viscous fluid in the round pan, put cashewnut and kismis.
Bake in oven at 350 deg F for 30 mnts. Decide the time of baking by taking the cake from the oven in the midst and poke it with a skewer. If the skewer is dry, we can assure that the cake is baked.
For some time now there has been an expectation that post-2014 Af-Pak will go from a slow burning play-field to a hot fire battlefield. These fears are just a tiny bit less now that Ashraf Ghani has assumed powers (by consensus) and Americans are allowed to stay and fight (and contribute to the Afghan economy), unlike Iraq.
Traditionally we have had a lot of (gleeful) finger pointing from the left that if the world had simply ignored their attempt to transform Afghanistan into Cuba then things would have been just fine and dandy. The problem though is more basic: Pashtuns have never accepted the Durand line and the attraction for a national homeland (we would presume) would be just as strong as that of the Sikhs (and Kashmiris and Balochis...).
The difference between then and now is that the Pashtun powers that be now feel confident about their chances to create Pakistan in their own image. All the Taliban versions (Punjabi, Pashtun) may have differences in goals and opinions but doctrinally (and often operationally) they are brothers.
We have seen this Punjabi vs. Pashtun movie before when Afghan armies would raid Lahore and Delhi and Punjabi armies would go the other way. But we have not really seen a joint Punjabi-Pashtun operation to make Pakistan more pure and homogeneous.
The fear is not that the tribal districts will be ruled by religious nut-jobs (they already do), the worry is that Karachi and Lahore will fall in the hands of the extremists. This will happen as part of a well co-ordinated strategy. These people know what they are doing and they are capable of playing the long game.
In this context meaningless words like "failed state" are not helpful, a state bound by powerful (but hateful) laws is not the same as a law-less state. The far greater problem may be "isolated state." People - yes, lots of Hindus, Jews and Americans, but also Europeans and Chinese...and Arabs (!!!) - associating Pakistan with terrorism when it is actually Pashtun nationalism in alliance with Punjabi islamism hoping to create a Caliphate for the true believers, trying to establish territorial, cultural, and spiritual control through the power of the gun (and the mob).
Flying into Kabul earlier this week just before Afghanistan’s presidential inauguration, a number of embassy cars sat waiting to pick up VIPs and visitors from their respective nations. It was telling that the Pakistani embassy cars were the only ones not armored.
After all, because Pakistan supports the Taliban and its terrorism, the visitors from Islamabad had about as much need for an armored car as Iranian diplomats would in Hezbollah-controlled southern Lebanon. Terrorism is not a random phenomenon.
For many Americans, ancient history is anything more than a decade or two old. While a generation of American servicemen, diplomats, and journalists think about the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, they think about it in terms of one-way infiltration: Pakistani-supported Taliban or other terrorists infiltrating into Pakistan in order to conduct terrorism. In this, they are not wrong. But if the broader sweep of history is considered, then much of the infiltration went the other way, with Afghan and Pashtun nationalists sneaking across the border into Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, formerly known as the Northwest Frontier Province. (I had summed up a lot of that history, here.)
As U.S. forces and America’s NATO partners prepare to withdraw upon an arbitrary political deadline, terrorism will surge inside Afghanistan but terrorism will not be limited to that country. Many Afghans believe—and they are perhaps not wrong—that diplomacy will never convince Pakistan to curtail its terror sponsorship. Pakistani officials do not take American diplomats seriously. Pakistani diplomats either lie shamelessly or purposely keep themselves ignorant of the actions and policies of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). Instead, Afghans may increasingly turn to tit-for-tat terrorism, all with plausible deniability: A bomb goes off in Kabul? Well, then a bomb will go off in Islamabad. A Talib shoots an Afghan colonel? Well, then a Pakistani colonel will mysteriously suffer the same fate.
Pakistan has supported Islamist radicalism since at least 1971, when its defeat at the hands of Bangladeshi nationalists convinced the ISI and President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto that radical Islam could be the glue that held Pakistan together and protect it against the corrosiveness of ethnic nationalism. President Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq took that embrace of Islamism to a new level.
The Pakistani elite has not hesitated to use the Taliban and various Kashmiri and other jihadi and terrorist groups as a tool of what it perceives as Pakistani interests. Sitting within their elite bubble, they mistakenly believe that they can control these forces of radical Islamism. That Pakistan has suffered 50,000 deaths in its own fight against radicals suggests they are wrong. The blowback may only have just begun, however.
Pakistanis may believe that an American withdrawal will bring peace (on Pakistan’s terms) to Afghanistan, but they may soon learn the hard way that Afghanistan can be an independent actor; that not every official is under the control of, let alone easily intimidated by Pakistan; and that terrorism can go both ways. That is not to endorse terrorism—analysis is not advocacy—but simply a recognition that the regional reverberations of the forthcoming American and NATO drawdown will be far broader than perhaps both Washington and Islamabad consider.
As the United States prepared for war against Afghanistan, some academics or journalists argued that Usama bin Ladin's al-Qa'ida group and Afghanistan's Taliban government were really creations of American policy run amok. A pervasive myth exists that the United States was complicit for allegedly training Usama bin Ladin and the Taliban.
For example, Jeffrey Sommers, a professor in Georgia, has repeatedly claimed that the Taliban had turned on "their previous benefactor." David Gibbs, a political science professor at the University of Arizona, made similar claims. Robert Fisk, widely-read Middle East correspondent for The Independent, wrote of "CIA camps in which the Americans once trained Mr. bin Ladin's fellow guerrillas."(1) Associated Press writer Mort Rosenblum declared that "Usama bin Ladin was the type of Soviet-hating freedom fighter that U.S. officials applauded when the world looked a little different."(2)
In fact, neither bin Ladin nor Taliban spiritual leader Mullah Umar were direct products of the CIA. The roots of the Afghan civil war and the country's subsequent transformation into a safe-haven for the world's most destructive terror network is a far more complex story, one that begins in the decades prior to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
THE CURSE OF AFGHAN DIVERSITY
Afghanistan's shifting alliances and factions are intertwined with its diversity, though ethnic, linguistic, or tribal variation alone does not entirely explain these internecine struggles. Afghanistan in its modern form was shaped by the nineteenth-century competition between the British, Russian, and Persian empires for supremacy in the region. The 1907 Anglo-Russian Convention that formally ended this "Great Game" finalized Afghanistan's role as a buffer between the Russian Empire's holdings in Central Asia, and the British Empire's holdings in India.
The resulting Kingdom of Afghanistan was and remains ethnically, linguistically, and religiously diverse. Today, Pushtuns are the largest ethnic group within the country, but they represent only 38 percent of the population. An almost equal number of Pushtuns live across the border in Pakistan's Northwest Frontier Province. Ethnic Tajiks comprise one-quarter of the population. The Hazaras, who generally inhabit the center of the country, represent another 19 percent. Other groups -- such as the Aimaks, Turkmen, Baluch, Uzbek, and others comprise the rest.(3)
Linguistic divisions parallel, and in some cases, overlap ethnic divisions. In addition to Dari (the Afghan dialect of Persian that is the lingua franca of half the population) and the Pushtun's own Pashtu, approximately ten percent of the population speaks Turkic languages like Uzbek or Turkmen. Several dozen more regional languages exist.(4)
Tribal divisions further compound the Afghan vortex. The Pushtuns are divided among the Durrani, Ghilzai, Waziri, Khattak, Afridi, Mohmand, Yusufzai, Shinwari, and numerous smaller tribes. In turn, each of these tribes is divided into subtribes. For example, the Durrani are divided into seven sub-groups: the Popalzai, Barakzai, Alizai, Nurzai, Ishakzai, Achakzai, and Alikozai. These, in turn, are divided into numerous clans.(5) Zahir Shah, ruler of Afghanistan between 1933 and 1973, belongs to the Muhammadzai clan of the Barakzai subtribe of the Durrani tribe. Such clan, subtribal, and tribal divisions contribute already intense rivalries and divisions.
Religious diversity further complicated internal Afghan politics and relations with neighbors. Once home to thriving Hindu, Sikh, and Jewish communities as recently as the mid-twentieth century, Afghanistan today is overwhelmingly Muslim. The vast majority -- 84 percent -- are Sunni Muslims. However, the Hazaras are Twelver Shi'i, and so have sixty million co-religionists in Iran. In the northeastern Badakhshan region of Afghanistan, there are many Isma'ili Shi'ia. When I traveled along the Tajik-Afghan frontier in 1997, numerous Tajik villagers told me they had regular clandestine contacts with the Isma'ili communities "just across the river," despite the watchful guard of the Russian 201st brigade.
Many countries thrive on diversity. However, in the context of both Afghanistan and the civil war, the fact that most identifiable Afghan groups have co-linguists, co-ethnics, or co-religionists across national boundaries became a catalyst for the nation's collapse, as well as a major determinant in the coalition-building during both the years of Soviet occupation and post-liberation struggle. For example, the Pushtuns of Kandahar have traditionally looked eastward toward their compatriots in Pakistan, while the Persian-speakers of Herat have looked westward into Iran. Uzbeks in Mazar-i Sharif have more in common with their co-linguists in Uzbekistan than they have with their compatriots in Kandahar.
As various Afghan constituencies looked toward their patrons across Afghanistan's frontiers for support, they created an incentive for Afghanistan's neighbors to involve themselves in internal Afghan affairs. The blame cannot be placed only on outside interference in Afghanistan, though, for the Afghan government has a long though often forgotten history of interfering with the ethnic minorities in surrounding countries and especially Pakistan.
DOWN THE SLIPPERY SLOPE
Zahir Shah took the throne of Afghanistan in 1933 after the assassination of his father, Nadir Shah. Zahir was not a strong leader, though. As Louis Dupree, the preeminent anthropologist of Afghanistan observed, "King Mohammed Zahir Shah reigned but did not rule for twenty years."(6) Instead, real power remained vested in his uncles who sought to break Afghanistan out of both its isolation and dependence on either the Soviet Union or Great Britain. It was during this period that Afghanistan and the United States first exchanged ambassadors. The Afghan government awarded a San Francisco-based engineering firm the rights to develop hydroelectric and irrigation projects in the Hilmand River Valley. Slowly, Afghanistan began drifting toward the West, both politically and economically.
In 1953, Zahir Shah's first cousin, the 43-year-old Muhammad Daoud Khan became prime minister. Daoud sought to root out graft in the huge Hilmand scheme, speed up reforms, but he remained a firm opponent of the liberalization in Afghan society. Seeking to recalibrate Afghanistan's neutrality, Daoud sought closer relations with the Soviet Union.(7) However, neutrality in the Cold War was a fleeting phenomenon.
Both the Soviet Union and the United States increasingly plied Afghanistan with economic and technical assistance. Daoud's government sought to buy arms, and approached the United States several times between 1953 and 1955. However he was unable to come to an agreement with Washington, which tied arms sales to either membership in the anti-Communist Baghdad Pact or at least in a Mutual Security Pact.(8)
The Soviet Union, though, was eager to supply what the United States would not. In 1956, Afghanistan purchased $25 million in tanks, airplanes, helicopters, and small arms from the Soviet bloc, while Soviet experts helped construct or convert to military specifications airfields in northern Afghanistan. The Cold War had come to Afghanistan.
While acceleration of the Cold War competition in Afghanistan -- with its subsequent tragic impact on the country -- would be a major legacy of Daoud, it would not be his most important one. Rather, during Daoud's premiership Afghanistan's relations with neighboring Pakistan would irreversibly sour. Afghanistan increasingly saw in Pakistan both a competitor and a threat. Indeed, Daoud's quest for arms was in large part motivated by Afghanistan's own cold war with Pakistan. However, it was Daoud's support for a Pushtun nationalist movement in Pakistan that would have the greatest lasting repercussions.
THE QUESTION OF GREATER PUSHTUNISTAN
The root of the Pushtunistan problem begins in 1893. It was in that year that Sir Henry Mortimer Durand, foreign secretary of India, demarcated what became known as the Durand line, setting the boundary between British India and Afghanistan, and in the process dividing the Pushtun tribes into two countries.
The status quo continued until 1947, when the British granted both India and Pakistan their independence. Afghanistan (and many Pushtuns in Pakistan) argued that if Pakistan could be independent from India, then the Pushtun areas of Pakistan should likewise have the option for independence as an entity to be called "Pushtunistan," or "land of the Pushtun."(9) Once independent of Pakistan, Pushtunistan would presumably choose to unite with the Pushtun-dominated Afghanistan, to form a "Greater Pushtunistan" (and also bolster the proportion of Pushtuns within Afghanistan).
The Pushtunistan issue continued to simmer into the 1950s, with Afghanistan-based Pushtuns crossing the Durand Line in 1950 and 1951 in order to raise Pushtunistan flags. Daoud, prime minister from 1953 to 1963, supported the Pushtun claims. The issue soon became caught up in Cold War rivalry. As Pakistan ensconced itself more firmly in the American camp, the Soviet Union increasingly supported Afghanistan's Pushtunistan agitations.(10)
In 1955, Pakistan reordered its administrative structure to merge all provinces in West Pakistan into a single unit. While this helped rectify, at least in theory, the power discrepancy between West and East Pakistan (the latter of which became Bangladesh in 1971), Daoud interpreted the move as an attempt to absorb and marginalize the Pushtuns of the Northwest Frontier Province. In March 1955, mobs attacked Pakistan's embassy in Kabul, and ransacked the Pakistani consulates in Jalalabad and Kandahar. Pakistani mobs retaliated by sacking the Afghan consulate in Peshawar. Afghanistan mobilized its reserves for war. Kabul and Islamabad agreed to submit their complaints to an arbitration commission consisting of representatives from Egypt, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Turkey. Arbitration failed, but the process provided time for tempers to cool.(11)
Twice, in 1960 and in 1961, Daoud sent Afghan troops into Pakistan's Northwest Frontier Province. In September 1961, Kabul and Islamabad severed diplomatic relations and Pakistan attempted to seal its border with Afghanistan. The Soviet Union was more than happy to provide an outlet, though, for Afghanistan's agricultural exports, which the Soviets airlifted out from the Kabul airport. Between October and November 1961, 13 Soviet aircraft departed Kabul daily, transporting more than 100 tons of Afghan grapes.(12) The New Republic commented, "The Soviet Government does not intend to miss any opportunity to increase its leverage." Indeed, not only did the Soviet Union "save" the Afghan harvest, but Pakistan's blockade also effectively ended the U.S. aid program in Afghanistan.(13)
Pakistan, meanwhile, looked with growing suspicion on the apparent development of a Moscow-New Delhi-Kabul alliance.(14) For the next two years, Afghanistan and Pakistan traded vitriolic radio and press propaganda as Afghan-supported insurgents fought Pakistani units inside the Northwest Frontier Province. On March 9, 1963, Daoud stepped down. Two months later, with the mediation of the Shah of Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan reestablished diplomatic relations.
Nevertheless, the Pushtunistan issue did not disappear. In 1964, Zahir Shah called a loya jirga -- a general assembly of tribal leaders and other notables -- during which several delegates spoke out on the issue. Subsequent Afghan prime ministers continued to pay lip service to the issue, keeping the irritant in Afghan-Pakistani relations alive.
Even if Kabul's support for Pushtun nationalist aspirations did not pose a serious challenge to the integrity of Pakistan, the impact on Pakistan-Afghanistan relations was lasting. As Barnett Rubin commented in his 1992 study, The Fragmentation of Afghanistan, "The resentments and fears that the Pashtunistan issue aroused in the predominantly Punjabi rulers of Pakistan, especially the military, continue to affect Pakistani perceptions of interests in Afghanistan."(15)
THE RETURN OF DAOUD AND THE RISE OF THE ISLAMISTS
In 1973, Daoud overthrew his cousin Zahir Shah and declared Afghanistan a republic. Pakistan, still reeling from the secession of Bangladesh, feared a return of the fierce Pushtun nationalism of Daoud's first term. Meanwhile, Soviet Premier Leonid Brezhnev, embracing a strategy of Third World activism, sought to exploit Daoud's coup to retrench Soviet regional interests.(16)
In 1971, Pakistan fought a bloody and, ultimately unsuccessful, war to prevent the secession of East Pakistan which, backed by India, had declared its independence as Bangladesh. While Pakistan had been founded on the basis of Islamic unity, the 1971 war reinforced the point that in Pakistan, ethnicity trumped religion. Accordingly, Pakistan viewed Daoud's Pushtunistan rhetoric (and his simultaneous support for Baluchi separatists), as well as his generally pro-India foreign policy, as a serious threat to Pakistani security.
Pakistani Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto responded by supporting an Islamist movement in Afghanistan, a strategy that Islamabad would replicate two decades later with the Taliban.(17) For Islamabad, the strategy was two-fold. Not only could Pakistan deter Afghan expansionism by pressuring Afghanistan from within, but also a religious opposition would have broad appeal in an overwhelmingly Muslim country without the implicit territorial threat of an ethnic-nationalist opposition. It was from this Islamist movement that Pakistan's intelligence agency, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), would introduce the United States to such important later mujahidinfigures as Burhanuddin Rabbani, Ahmad Shah Masud, and Gulbuddin Hikmatyar. The latter is actually a Ghilzai Pushtun, but from the north, with only limited links to the Pushtuns of the south. Accordingly, he was not considered a Pushtun nationalist by his Pakistani benefactors (or most Afghans).(18)
In 1974, the Islamists plotted a military coup, but Daoud's regime discovered the plot and imprisoned the leaders -- at least those who did not escape to Pakistan. The following year, the Islamists attempted an uprising in the Panjshir Valley. Again they failed, and again the Islamist leaders fled into Pakistan. Islamabad found that supporting an Afghan Islamist movement both gave Pakistan short-term leverage against Daoud, and also a long-term card to play should Afghanistan again seek to strategically challenge its neighbor to the East. With a sympathetic force in Afghanistan, Pakistan would be better able to influence succession should the elderly Daoud die. It was thus in the mid-1970s, while both the United States and the Soviet Union continued to ply the Kabul regime with aid, that Pakistani intelligence -- with financial support for Saudi Arabia -- first began their ties to the Islamist opposition in Afghanistan.(19)
THE SAUR REVOLUTION
Under Daoud's presidency, Afghanistan became increasingly polarized. The Islamists were by no means the only opposition seeking to reshape the status quo. Just as Pakistan backed the Islamist opposition, the Soviet Union threw its encouragement behind the People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA), sometimes referred to by either of its two constituent factions, the Khalq and the Parcham. The Khalq and the Parcham effectively remained competitors under separate leadership between 1967 and 1977, when the Soviet Union pressured them to reunite.
Why did the Soviet Union shift its support from Daoud, with whom it previously had a good relationship? Barnett Rubin explains that Soviet policy toward the Third World underwent a fundamental shift in the 1970s. The ouster of President Sukarno in Indonesia and Anwar Sadat's decision to expel Soviet advisers from Egypt convinced Moscow that it could no longer rely on non-communist nationalists. Simultaneously, the American defeat in Vietnam had emboldened the Soviet Union to push harder and compromise less.(20)
In 1978, a leading Parcham official fell to an assassin's bullet. Massive demonstrations erupted against Daoud and the CIA, which Parcham blamed for the killing. Daoud responded by arresting the PDPA leadership, spurring military officers sympathetic to the PDPA to move against his government. On April 27, 1978, they seized power in a bloody coup. On April 30, a Revolutionary Council declared Afghanistan to be a Democratic Republic.
The Soviet Union welcomed the new regime with a massive influx of aid. However, the old rivalries between the Khalqis, who dominated the new government, and the Parchamis, crippled the regime. Hafizullah Amin sought to implement the Khalq's program through brute force and terror, alienating many of his former partners. The Soviet Union, witnessing the disintegration of state control, sought to salvage their influence in Afghanistan through a change of leadership, but Hafizullah Amin refused to accept Soviet dictates.
THE SOVIET INVASION
Having lost in Iran's Islamic revolution their staunchest regional ally, the United States again sought to engage Afghanistan. In December 1979, Soviet Premier Leonid Brezhnev, not willing to lose the tenuous Soviet advantage in Afghanistan, sent the Red Army pouring into the country. When Hafizullah Amin still refused to relinquish power, Soviet units stormed his palace and executed him. While the Red Army and its client regime in Kabul controlled the city, the Soviets were never fully able to gain control over the countryside. Pockets of resistance continued despite all attempts to stamp them out.
Despite the oversimplifications of some in academe and opponents of the military campaign against the Taliban, the mujahidin was not simply created by the CIA in the aftermath of the Soviet invasion. Rather, as Red Army crack soldiers flew on Aeroflot planes into Kabul, and as Soviet tanks rolled across the Friendship Bridge from what is now Uzbekistan, a cadre for the enlargement of the Afghan mujahidin already existed. This cadre had remained in Pakistani exile since their failed uprising four years before. However, even if the mujahidin existed prior to the Soviet invasion, it was the occupation of a foreign power that caused the mujahidin movement to grow exponentially in both influence and size as disaffected Afghans flocked to what had become the only viable opposition movement.
ARMING THE AFGHAN RESISTANCE
The decision to arm the Afghan resistance came within two weeks of the Soviet invasion, and quickly gained momentum.(21) In 1980, the Carter administration allocated only $30 million for the Afghan resistance, though under the Reagan administration this amount grew steadily. In 1985, Congress earmarked $250 million for Afghanistan, while Saudi Arabia contributed an equal amount. Two years later, with Saudi Arabia still reportedly matching contributions, annual American aid to the mujahidin reportedly reached $630 million.(22) This does not include contributions made by other Islamic countries, Israel, the People's Republic of China, and Europe. Many commentators cite the huge flow of American aid to Afghanistan as if it occurred in a vacuum; it did not. According to Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid, the Soviet Union contributed approximately $5 billion per year into Afghanistan in an effort to support their counterinsurgency efforts and prop up the puppet government in Kabul.(23) Milton Bearden, Central Intelligence Agency station chief in Pakistan between 1986 and 1989, commented that by 1985, the occupying Soviet 40th army had swollen to almost 120,000 troops and with some other elements crossing into the Afghan theater on a temporary duty basis.(24)
Initially, the CIA refused to provide American arms to the resistance, seeking to maintain plausible deniability.(25) (The State Department, too, also opposed providing American-made weapons for fear of antagonizing the Soviet Union.(26) The 1983 suggestion of American Ambassador to Pakistan Ronald Spiers, that the U.S. provide Stingers to the mujahidin accordingly went nowhere for several years.(27) Much of the resistance to the supply of Stinger missiles was generated internally from the CIA station chief's desire (prior to the accession of Bearden to the post) to keep the covert assistance program small and inconspicuous. Instead, the millions appropriated went to purchase Chinese, Warsaw Pact, and Israeli weaponry. Only in March 1985, did Reagan's national security team formally decide to switch their strategy from mere harassment of Soviet forces in Afghanistan to driving the Red Army completely out of the country.(28) After vigorous internal debate, Reagan's military and national security advisors agreed to provide the mujahidin with the Stinger anti-aircraft missile. At the time, the United States possessed only limited numbers of the weapon. Some of the Joint Chiefs of Staff also feared accountability problems and proliferation of the technology to Third World countries.(29) It was not until September 1986, that the Reagan administration decided to supply Stinger anti-aircraft missiles to the mujahidin, thereby breaking the embargo on "Made-in-America" arms.
[While there was significant fear of Stinger missiles falling into the wrong hands in the 1990s, very little attention was paid to the threat from the anti-aircraft missiles in the 2001 U.S. campaign against the Taliban. This may have been due to an early 1990s covert campaign to purchase or otherwise recover surplus Stinger missiles still in the hands of the mujahidin factions .](30)
The CIA may have coordinated purchase of weapons and the initial training, but Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) controlled their distribution and their transport to the war zone. John McMahon, deputy director of the CIA, attempted to limit CIA interaction with the mujahidin. Even at the height of American involvement in Afghanistan, very few CIA operatives were allowed into the field.(31) Upon the weapons' arrival at the port of Karachi or the Islamabad airport, the ISI would transport the weapons to depots near Rawalpindi or Quetta, and hence on to the Afghan border.(32)
The ISI used its coordinating position to promote Pakistani interests as it saw them (within Pakistan, the ISI is often described as "a state within a state").(33) The ISI refused to recognize any Afghan resistance group that was not religiously based. Neither the Pushtun nationalist Afghan Millat party, nor members of the Afghan royal family were able to operate legally in Pakistani territory. The ISI did recognize seven groups, but insisted on contracting directly with each individual group in order to maintain maximum leverage. Pakistani intelligence was therefore able to reward compliant factions among the fiercely competitive resistance figures.(34) Indeed, the ISI tended to favor Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, perhaps the most militant Islamist of the mujahidin commanders, largely because Hekmatyar was also a strong proponent of the Pakistani-sponsored Islamist insurgency in Kashmir.(35) Masud, the most effective Mujahid commander, but a Tajik, received only eight Stingers from the ISI during the war.
Outside observers were not unaware that Pakistan had gained disproportionate influence through aid distribution. However, India, the greatest possible diplomatic check to Washington's escalating relationship with Islamabad, removed herself from any position of influence because its unabashed pro-Soviet policy eviscerated any American fear of antagonizing India. The U.S. State Department considered India a lost cause.(36)
While beneficial to Pakistani national interests at least in the short-term, the ISI's strategy had long-term consequences in promoting the Islamism and fractiousness of the mujahidin. However, the degree to which disunity would plague the mujahidin did not become fully apparent until after the withdrawal of the Soviet army from Afghanistan.
Afghanistan was a bleeding wound for the Soviet Union. Each year, the Red Army suffered thousands of casualties. Numerous Soviets died of disease and drug addiction. The quick occupation had bogged down into a huge economic drain at a time of tightening Soviet resources. In 1988, Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev announced his intention to withdraw Soviet troops. Despite Gorbachev's continued military and economic assistance to Najibullah, Afghanistan's communist president, most analysts believed the Najibullah would quickly collapse. The CIA expected that, at most, Najibullah would remain in power for one year following the Soviet withdrawal.
However, Najibullah proved the skeptics wrong. Mujahidin offensives in the wake of the Soviet withdrawal failed. Washington had only budgeted money to support the mujahdin for one year following the Soviet withdrawal, but Saudi and Kuwaiti donors provided emergency aid, much of which went to Hikmaytar and other Wahabi commanders.(37) While the United States budgeted $250 million for the mujahidin in 1991, the following year the Bush administration allocated no money for military assistance. Money is influence, and individuals in the Persian Gulf continued to provide almost $400 million annually to the Afghan mujahidin.(38)
Many Afghan specialists criticized the United States for merely walking away from Afghanistan after the fall of the Soviet Union. Ed Girardet, a journalist and Afghanistan expert, observed, "The United States really blew it. They dropped Afghanistan like a hot potato."(39) Indeed, Washington's lack of engagement created a policy void in which radical elements in the ISI eagerly filled. However, to consider Afghanistan in a vacuum ignores the crisis that developed when, on August 2, 1990, Iraqi troops invaded Kuwait. Washington's attention and her resources shifted from the last battle of the Cold War to a different type of conflict.
Islamist commanders like Hikmaytar, upset with the U.S.-led coalition in the Persian Gulf, broke with their Saudi and Kuwait patrons and found new backers in Iran, Libya, and Iraq. [Granted, while the break was sudden, the relationship with Tehran was not. Hikmaytar had started much earlier to collaborate with Iran]. It was only in this second phase of the Afghan war, a phase that developed beyond much of the Western world's notice, that Afghan Arabs first became a significant political, if not military, force in Afghanistan.
THE EMERGENCE OF THE AFGHAN ARABS
One of the greatest criticisms of U.S. policy, especially after the rise of the Taliban, has been that the CIA directly supported Arab volunteers who came to Afghanistan to wage jihad against the Soviets, but eventually used those American arms to engage in terrorist war against the West. However, the so-called "Afghan Arabs" only emerged as a major force in the 1990s. During the resistance against the Soviet occupation, Arab volunteers played at best a cursory role.
According to a former intelligence official active in Afghanistan during the late 1980s, the Arab volunteers seldom took part in fighting and often raised the ire of local Afghans who felt the volunteers merely got in the way. In an unpublished essay, a military officer writing under the name Barney Krispin, who worked for the CIA during its support of the Afghan mujahidin's fight against the Soviet Army, summoned up the relationship between Afghan and non-Afghan fighters at that time:
The relationship between the Afghans and the Internationalists was like a varsity team to the scrubs. The Afghans fought their own war and outsiders of any stripe were kept on the sidelines. The bin Ladin's of this Jihad could build and guard roads, dig ditches, and prepare fixed positions; however, this was an Afghan Jihad, fought by real Afghans, and eventually won by real Afghans. Bin Ladin sat out the 'big one.'
Milton Bearden, former CIA station chief in Pakistan, was equally blunt, writing:
Despite what has often been written, the CIA never recruited, trained, or otherwise used the Arab volunteers who arrived in Pakistan. The idea that the Afghans somehow needed fighters from outside their culture was deeply flawed and ignored basic historical and cultural facts.
Bearden continued to explain though that while the Afghan Arabs were "generally viewed as nuisances by mujahidin commanders, some of whom viewed them as only slightly less bothersome than the Soviets," the work of Arab fundraisers was appreciated.(40)
In 1995, Ali Ahmad Jalali, a former Afghan Army Colonel and top military planner on the directing staff of the Islamic Unity of Afghan Mujahidin, along with Lt. Col. Lester W. Grau, US Army, ret., a career Soviet Foreign Area Officer, published a collection of essays by mujahidin commanders explaining their tactics in various engagements. Throughout their essays, various commanders make reference to the presence of Afghan Arabs, often in ways which indicate their combat role was marginal at best. For example, describing a 1987 mujahidin raid on a division garrison in Kandahar, Commander Akhtarjhan commented, "We had some Arabs who were with us for jihad credit. They had a video camera and all they wanted to do was to take videos. They were of no value to us."(41) Similar comments were made by other commanders.
So where did the Afghan Arabs come from? Many of the volunteers originated in the Muslim Brotherhood or other radical Islamist organizations. The Saudi Arabia-based Islamic Coordination Council organized both the new recruits, and disbursement of assistance. In Pakistan, Arab volunteers staffed numerous Saudi Red Crescent offices near the Afghan frontier.
The Arab volunteers also disproportionately gravitated to the Ittihad-i Islami (Islamic Union), led by Abd al-Rabb al-Rasul Sayyaf. Sayyaf was a Pushtun, but he long lived in Saudi Arabia, had studied at al-Azhar in Cairo, and spoke excellent Arabic. Sayyaf preached a strict Salafi version of Islam critical of manifestations of both Sufism and tribalism in Afghanistan. However, successful as he was with Saudi financiers, he remained unpopular among ordinary Afghans both because of his rampant corruption and also because Afghans considered both Sayyaf and his fundamentalist brand of Islam foreign.(42)
Even without a central role in the jihad, though, Afghan Arabs did establish a well-financed presence in Afghanistan (and the border regions of Pakistan). While he does not cite his source, Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid estimated that between 1982 and 1992, some 35,000 Islamists would serve in Afghanistan.(43)
Is the United States responsible for creating the Afghan Arab phenomenon? It would be a gross over-simplification to ascribe the rise of the Taliban to mere "blowback" from Washington's support of radical Islam as a Cold War tool. After all, while many mujahidin groups are fiercely religious, few adhere to the combative radicalism of the Arab mercenaries. Nor can one simply attribute the rise of Islamic fundamentalism to U.S. involvement, for this ignores the very real fact that a country preaching official atheism occupied Afghanistan. Nevertheless, by delegating responsibility for arms distribution to the ISI, the United States created an environment in which radical Islam could flourish. And, with the coming of the Taliban, radical Islam did just that.
THE RISE OF THE TALIBAN
The Taliban seemingly arose from thin air. Newspapers like The New York Times only deemed the Taliban worthy of newsprint months after it had become the dominant presence in southern Afghanistan.(44) The rise of the Taliban was accompanied by heady optimism. Just as many Iranian opponents of the Islamic Republic freely admit to having initially supported Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, a wide variety of Afghans from various social classes and cities told me in March 2000 that they too were initially willing to give the Taliban a chance, even though few still supported the movement at the time of my travel through the Islamic Emirate. Teachers, merchants, teachers, and gravediggers all said that the Taliban promised two things: Security and an end to the conflict between rival mujahidin groups that continued to wrack Afghanistan through the 1990s and, indeed, until the ultimate victory of the Northern Alliance with U.S. air support in December 2001.
Following the 1989 withdrawal of the Soviet military, Afghan president Najibullah managed to maintain power for three years without his patrons. In 1992, ethnic Tajik mujahidin forces captured Kabul and unseated the communist president. However, Rabbani, Ahmad Shah Masud, and ethnic Uzbek commander General Rashid Dostum could not control the prize. Hikmatyar immediately contested the new government that, for the first time in more than three centuries (except for a ten-month interlude in 1929), had put Tajiks in a predominant position. Hikatyar's forces took up positions in the mountains surrounding Kabul preceded to shell the city mercilessly. Meanwhile, Ismail Khan controlled Herat and much of Western Afghanistan, while several Pushtun commanders held sway over eastern Afghanistan.
Kandahar and southern Afghanistan was in a state of chaos, with numerous warlords and other "barons" dividing not only the south, but also Kandahar city itself into numerous fiefdoms. Human Rights Watch labeled the situation in Kandahar "particularly precarious," and noted that, "civilians had little security from murder, rape, looting, or extortion. Humanitarian agencies frequently found their offices stripped of all equipment, their vehicles hijacked, and their staff threatened."(45) Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid argued that the internecine fighting, especially in Kandahar, had virtually eliminated the traditional leadership, leaving the door open to the Taliban.(46)
Afghanistan became a maelstrom of shifting alliances. Dostum defected from his alliance with Rabbani and Masud, and joined Himatyar in shelling the capital. The southern Pushtun warlords and bandits continued to fight each other for territory, while continuing to sell off Afghanistan's machinery, property, and even entire factories to Pakistani traders. Kidnappings, murders, rapes, and robberies were frequent as Afghan civilians found themselves in the crossfire.
It was in the backdrop to this fighting that the Taliban arose, not only in Afghanistan, but also among Afghan refugees and former mujahidin studying in the madaris (religious colleges) of Pakistan. Ahmed Rashid conducted interviews with many of the founders of the movement in which they openly discussed their distress at the chaos afflicting Afghanistan. After much discussion, they created their movement based on a platform of restoration of peace, disarmament of the population, strict enforcement of the shari'a, and defense of the "Islamic character" of Afghanistan.(47) Mullah Muhammad Umar, an Afghan Pushtun of the Ghilzai clan and Hotak tribe who had been wounded toward the end of the conflict with the Soviet army, became the movement's leader.
The beginning of the Taliban's activity in Afghanistan is shrouded in myth. Ahmed Rashid recounted what he deemed the most credible: Neighbors of two girls kidnapped and raped by Kandahar warlords asked the Taliban's help in freeing the teenagers. The Taliban attacked a military camp, freed the girls, and executed the commander. Later, another squad of Taliban freed a young boy over whom two warlords were fighting for the right to sodomize. A Robin Hood myth grew up around Mullah Umar resulting in victimized Afghans increasingly appealing to the Taliban for help against local oppressors.(48)
Territorial conquest began on October 12, 1994, when 200 Taliban seized the Afghan border post of Spin Baldak. Less than a month later, on November 3, the Taliban attacked Kandahar, the second-largest city in Afghanistan. Within 48 hours, the city was theirs. Each conquest brought the Taliban new equipment and munitions -- from rifles and bullets to tanks and MiG fighters, for their continued advance.(49) The Taliban maintained their momentum and quickly seized large swathes of Afghanistan. By February 11, 1995, they controlled 9 of Afghanistan's 30 provinces. On September 5, 1995, the Taliban seized Herat, sending Ismail Khan into an Iranian exile. Just over one year later, Jalalabad fell, and just 15 days later, on September 26, 1996, the Taliban took Kabul.
A stalemate ensued for almost eight months, but shattered when General Malik rebelled against Dostum, allowing Taliban forces into the north. On May 24, 1997, the Taliban seized Mazar-i Sharif, the last major city held by the mujahidin. However, after just 18 hours, a rebellion forced the Taliban from the city. When the Taliban again took the refugee-swollen city in August 1998, they took no chances, brutally massacring thousands. With Dostum in an Uzbek exile, the only major mujahidin commander remaining was Ahmad Shah Masud, nicknamed 'the Lion of the Panjshir' for his heroism during the war against the Soviets.(50)
While supported materially by Pakistan, the Taliban relied heavily upon momentum in its near-complete conquest of Afghanistan. Following the fall of Kandahar, thousands of Afghan refugees, madrasa students, and Pakistani Jamiat-i Ulama supporters rushed to join the movement. Ahmed Rashid estimates that by December 1994, more than 12,000 recruits joined the Taliban.(51) Each subsequent Taliban victory resulted in thousands of new recruits. Often these victories were less a result of military prowess than cooption of opposing warlords into the Taliban movement.
I was in Mazar-i Sharif in 1997, when the Taliban first marched on the city. Their advance was surprisingly fast (leaving foreigners in the city scrambling to evacuate). The reason was they had simply coopted General Dostum's deputy Malik, who was in command of the neighboring province. Rather than fighting their way through more than 100 kilometers, the Taliban force suddenly found themselves with free passage to within a dozen kilometers of the city.
Stalemate ensued as the Taliban were unable to gain significant ground against Masud, who retained control of between 5 and 10 percent of Afghan territory. The fight between the mujahidin forces commanded by Masud and the Taliban became a fight between those who had been beneficiaries of American assistance in the 1980s, and those who had sprung to prominence in the aftermath of American withdrawal from Afghan affairs.
PAKISTANI SUPPORT FOR THE TALIBAN
The Taliban became the latest incarnation of Pakistan's desire to support Islamist rather than nationalist rule in neighboring Afghanistan. The Taliban arose in madaris on Pakistani territory. Upon the capture of Spin Baldak, mujahidin commanders in Kandahar immediately accused Pakistan of supporting the new group. In late October 1994, the local mujahidin warlords intercepted a convoy containing arms, senior ISI commanders, and Taliban.(52) The men and material in this transport proved crucial in the seizure of Kandahar.
Even after the stalemate ensued between the Taliban and Ahmad Shah Masud, Pakistan provided the Taliban with a constant flow of new recruits. Rumors spread throughout the city while I was there that 5,000 new 'Punjabis' were on their way into Afghanistan to supplement the fight against Masud. Former Defense Intelligence Agency analyst Julie Sirrs gained access to Taliban prisoners held by Ahmed Shah Masud; among them were several Pakistani mercenaries.
Merchants in the book market in central Kabul talked about seeing many Pakistanis "here for jihad." In Rish Khor, on the outskirts of Kabul, operated a training camp for the Harakat ul-Mujahidin, a Pakistani-supported terrorist group waging a separatist campaign against India.(53) It was members of this group that hijacked an Air India flight from Nepal to Kandahar in December 1999, eventually releasing the hostages after Taliban mediation and escaping. Afghanistan provided a useful base not only to train pro-Pakistani militants and terrorists, but also to give them field experience.
While politicians in Islamabad repeatedly denied that Pakistan supported the Taliban, the reality was quite the opposite.(54) While some Taliban trade occurred with Turkmenistan and even Iran, and the Taliban benefited from the supply of opium to all of its neighbors, Pakistan remained the effective diplomatic and economic lifeline for the Taliban's Islamic Emirate. Senior ISI veterans like Colonel "Imam" Sultan Amir functioned as district advisors to the regional Taliban leadership. Pakistan also supplied a constant flow of munitions and recruits for the Taliban's war with the Northern Alliance, and provided crucial technical infrastructure support to allow the Taliban state to function.(55)
This did not represent a radical change in Pakistan's Afghanistan policy. Rather, Islamabad's support of the Taliban was simply a continuation of a pattern to support Islamist rather than nationalist factions inside its neighbor. Nor was the ISI the only supporter of the Taliban within the Pakistan government. Former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto's interior minister Nasrullah Babar also staunchly supported the group. Robert Kaplan, correspondent for The Atlantic Monthly went so far as to argue that Bhutto and Babar "conceived of the Taliban as the solution to Pakistan's problems."(56) Ahmed Rashid commented, "The Taliban were not beholden to any single Pakistani lobby such as the ISI. In contrast the Taliban had access to more influential lobbies and groups in Pakistan than most Pakistanis."(57)
Taliban volunteers, interviewed by Human Rights Watch, described Pakistani instructors at Rish Khor which, according to Afghans I interviewed, also served as a training camp for the Harakat ul-Mujahidin, the violent Kashmiri separatist group engaged in terrorist operations against India.(58) Citizens of Kabul derisively spoke of "Punjabis," volunteers from Pakistan. Guarding ministries in Kabul in March 2000 were Taliban officials who only spoke Urdu, and did not speak any Afghan language. The Pakistani government did not dispute reports that thousands of trained Pakistani volunteers serving with the Taliban.(59)
While the Pakistani government was directly complicit in some forms of support for the Taliban, just as important was its indirect support. In 1971, there were only 900 madaris (religious seminaries) in Pakistan, but by the end of President Zia ul Haq's administration in 1988, there were over 8,000 official madaris, and more than 25,000 unregistered religious schools.(60) By January 2000, these religious seminaries were educating at least one-half million children according to Pakistan's own estimates.(61) The most prominent of the seminaries -- the Dar al-Ulum Haqqania from which the Taliban leadership was disproportionately drawn -- reportedly had 15,000 applications for only 400 spots in 1999.(62)
Ahmed Rashid comments that the mullahs running most of the religious schools were but semi-literate themselves, and blindly preached the religious philosophy adopted by the Taliban. Visiting one such religious seminary in the aftermath of the World Trade Center attacks, students told a Western reporter that, "We are happy many kaffirs [infidels] were killed in the World Trade Center." Regarding Muslim casualties in the World Trade Center, one student responded, "If they were faithful to Islam, they will be martyred and go to paradise. If they were not good Muslims, they will go to hell." The seminary students generally learn only Islam, tainted with strong strain of anti-Westernism and anti-Semitism.(63)
TALIBAN SUPPORT USAMA BIN LADIN
Where does Usama bin Ladin fit into the picture? The Taliban and Usama bin Ladin's al-Qa'ida network retained distinct identities. Indeed, only in 1996 did Usama bin Ladin relocate from refuge with the Sudanese government to the Taliban's Afghanistan. Bin Ladin caused a seeming paradox for Afghanistan watchers. On one hand, the Taliban, recognized as the government of Afghanistan by only Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, sought to break its isolation. On the other hand, the Taliban continued to shelter Usama bin Ladin, even after his involvement in the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.
As the media turned its attention to Afghanistan after September 11, many commentators sought answers as to why the Taliban continued to host Usama bin Ladin, despite the international ire that he brought to the regime. CNN's correspondent even went so far as to postulate that the Taliban could not turn over Usama bin Ladin because of Afghanistan's tradition of hospitality (something which did not stop the Afghans from killing nearly 17,000 British men, women, and children evacuating Kabul under a truce during the First Afghan War in 1842.)
The answer to the paradox is actually much more mundane, and also a result of the discrepancy in the fighting ability of the Taliban versus the mujahidin commanders like Ahmad Shah Masud who had received U.S. support and training in the 1980s. Masud remained undefeated against the Red Army and, lacking both men and material, he managed to stubbornly hold back the Taliban from the last five percent of Afghanistan not under their control. Masud's secret was superior training and a fiercely loyal cadre of fighters. While the Taliban's rank-and-file may have talked jihad, more often than not they would flee or hide when the bullets began to fly. Unlike Masud's men, the Taliban simply were incapable of fighting at night.
Bin Ladin brought with him to Afghanistan a well-equipped and fiercely loyal division of fighters-perhaps numbering only 2,000. While many of these trained in al-Qa'ida's camps for terrorism abroad or protected bin Ladin and his associates at their various safe-houses, bin Ladin made available several hundred for duty on the Taliban's frontline with Masud, where they assured the Taliban of at a minimum continued balance and stalemate. While the Taliban suffered a high international cost for hosting bin Ladin, this was offset by the domestic benefits the regime gained. The war with the Northern Alliance-not recognition by Washington or even the Islamic World-was the Taliban's chief priority.
WHO IS RESPONSIBLE?
In hindsight, and especially after the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks, it is easy to criticize Washington's shortsightedness. But American policymakers had a very stark choice in the 1980s: Either the United States could support an Afghan opposition, or they could simply cede Afghanistan to Soviet domination, an option that might result in an extension of Soviet influence into Pakistan.
Contrary to the beliefs of many critics of American foreign policy, the United States is not able to dictate its desires even to foreign clients. Washington needed Pakistan's cooperation, but Pakistan was very mindful of its own interests. Chief among these, especially following the secession of Bangladesh in 1971, was minimizing the nationalist threat to Pakistani integrity. Islamabad considered Afghanistan, especially with successive Afghan government's Pushtunistan claims, to pose a direct challenge to Pakistani national security. Accordingly, Islamabad only allowed religiously based rather than nationalist opposition groups to operate on Pakistani territory. If American policymakers wanted to oppose Soviet imperialism in Afghanistan, then they simply would have to accede to Pakistani interests.
The United States is not without fault, however. Following the Soviet Union's collapse, Washington could have more effectively pressured Pakistan to tone down the support for Islamic fundamentalism, especially after the rise of the Taliban. Instead, Washington ceded her responsibility and gave Pakistan a sphere of influence in Afghanistan unlimited by any other foreign pressure.
1. Robert Fisk, "Think-Tank Wrap-Up," United Press International, September 15, 2001; "Public Enemy No. 1, a title he always wanted," The Independent, August 22, 1998.
2. Mort Rosenblum, "Bin Ladin once thought of as 'freedom fighter' for United States." Chattanooga Times/Chattanooga Free Press, September 20, 2001. Even some foreign dignitaries have sought to promote the myth. In a December 7, 2001, interview with the pro-Syrian Lebanese daily al-Safir, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak commented, "...When the so-called Mujahideen went to Afghanistan, they became more extreme, and began to disseminate extremist ideas. People like Omar Abd Al-Rahman and bin Laden were American heroes."
3. "Afghanistan," The World Factbook 2001 (Washington: Central Intelligence Agency, 2001) http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/index.html . (After more than two decades of war, any statistics regarding Afghan demographics must be considered only approximations.)
5. Vartan Gregorian, "The Emergence of Modern Afghanistan: Politics of Reform and Modernization, 1880-1946," (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1969), pp.29-32.
6. Louis Dupree, Afghanistan (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1980,) p.477.
7. Dupree, p.507.
8. Dupree, pp.510-511.
9. Dupree, pp.485-494.
10. Barnett Rubin, Fragmentation of Afghanistan: State Formation and Collapse in the International System (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995,) p.82.
11. Dupree, pp.538-539.
12. Dupree, p.546.
13. "George Washington Ayub," The New Republic, October 30, 1961, p.7.
14. Amin Saikal, "The Regional Politics of the Afghan Crisis," in: Amin Saikal and William Maley, eds., The Soviet Withdrawal from Afghanistan (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989,)p.54.
15. Barnett Rubin, pp.63-64.
16. T.H. Rigby, "The Afghan Conflict and Soviet Domestic Politics," in: Amin Saikal and William Maley, eds. The Soviet Withdrawal from Afghanistan (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989,) p.72.
17. Barnett Rubin, p.100.
18. Najmuddin A. Shaikh, "A New Afghan Government: Pakistan's Interest," Jang, (Internet edition)December 1, 2001.
19. Barnett Rubin, pp.100-101.
20. Barnett Rubin, p.99.
21. Alan J. Kuperman, "The Stinger missile and U.S. intervention in Afghanistan," Political Science Quarterly, No. 2, Vol. 114, June 1999.
22. Barnett Rubin, pp.180-181.
23. Ahmed Rashid, Taliban: Islam, Oil, and the New Great Ga e in Central Asia. (London and New York: I.B. Tauris and Company, 2000,) p.18.
24. Milton Bearden, "Afghanistan, Graveyard of Empires," Foreign Affairs, November/December 2001.
26. George Schulz, Turmoil and Triumph: My Years as Secretary of State. (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1993,) p.692.
27. Kuperman, "The Stinger missile and U.S. intervention in Afghanistan"
28. Steve Coll. "Anatomy of a Victory: CIA's Covert Afghan War; $2 Billion Program Reversed Tide for Rebels," The Washington Post, July 19, 1992, p.A1.
29. Kuperman, "The Stinger missile and U.S. intervention in Afghanistan"
30. Interview with former CIA operative, November 1998.
31. Kuperman, "The Stinger missile and U.S. intervention in Afghanistan,"
32. Barnett Rubin, p.197.
33. Pamela Constable, "Pakistani Agency Seeks to Allay U.S. on Terrorism," The Washington Post, February 15, 2000, p.A17.
34. Barnett Rubin, pp.181,198-199.
35. Kuperman, "The Stinger missile and U.S. intervention in Afghanistan"
36. Amin Saikal. "The Regional Politics of the Afghan Crisis," p.59.
37. Barnett Rubin, p.182.
38. Barnett Rubin, p.183.
39. Mort Rosenblum, "bin Ladin once thought of as 'freedom fighter' for United States," Chattanooga Times/Chattanooga Free Press, September 20, 2001.
40. Bearden, "Afghanistan, Graveyard of Empires," Foreign Affairs, November/December 2001.
41. Commander Akhtarjhan, "Raid on 15 Division Garrison," In: Ali Ahmad Jalali and Lester W. Grau, eds. The Other Side of the Mountain: Mujahideen Tactics in the Soviet-Afghan War. (Quantico, Virginia: The United States Marine Corps Studies and Analysis Division, 1995,)p.396.
42. Rubin, 223-224; Rashid, p.85.
43. Rashid, p.130.
44. See: John Burns. "New Afghan Force Takes Hold, Turning to Peace," The New York Times, February 16, 1995, p.A3.
45. "Afghanistan: Crisis of Impunity," Human Rights Watch, July, 2001, Vol. 13, No. 3, p.15.
46. Rashid, p.19.
47. Rashid, p.22.
48. Rashid, p.25-26.
49. "Afghanistan: Crisis of Impunity," Human Rights Watch, July, 2001, Vol.13, No. 3, p.15.
50. See chronology in Rashid, p.226-235.
51. Rashid, p.29.
52. Rashid, p.28.
53. Michael Rubin and Daniel Benjamin, "The Taliban and Terrorism: Report from Afghanistan," Policywatch, The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, No. 450, April 6, 2000.
54. For Pakistani denials of support for the Taliban, see: Pamela Constable. "Pakistani Agency Seeks to Allay U.S. on Terrorism," The Washington Post, February 15, 2000, p.A17.
55. "Afghanistan: Crisis of Impunity," Human Rights Watch, July, 2001, Vol.13, No. 3, p.23.
56. Robert Kaplan, "The Lawless Frontier; tribal relations, radical political movements and social conflicts in Afghanistan-Pakistan border," The Atlantic Monthly, September 1, 2000.
57. Amit Baruah. "Pak. Ripe for Taliban-style revolution," The Hindu, February 24, 2000.
58. "Afghanistan: Crisis of Impunity," Human Rights Watch, July, 2001, Vol. 13, No. 3, p.29.
59. Gregory Copley, "Pakistan Under Musharraf," Defense and Foreign Affairs' Strategic Policy, January 2000.
60. Rashid, p.89.
61. Gregory Copley, "Pakistan Under Musharraf," Defense and Foreign Affairs' Strategic Policy, January, 2000.
62. Reuel Marc Gerecht, "Pakistan's Taliban Problem; And America's Pakistan Problem," The Weekly Standard, Vol. 7, No. 8, 2001, p.24.
63. Barry Shlachter, "Inside Islamic seminaries, where the Taliban was born," The Philadelphia Inquirer, November 25, 2001. The views of the Pakistani madrasa students were equally anti-Western before the September 11 attacks. See: Robert Kaplan, "The Lawless Frontier; tribal relations, radical political movements and social conflicts in Afghanistan-Pakistan border," The Atlantic Monthly, September 1, 2000.
Link (1): commentarymagazine.com/will-afghanistan-turn-the-tables-on-pakistan/
Link (2): michaelrubin.org/1220/who-is-responsible-for-the-taliban
Lady V & I just managed to catch Haider and I have to say it was a great adaptation of Hamlet in Kashmir. In Kampala I see Shakespearean adaptation but they aren't even localised instead it's copied over word for painful word (especially when done in a different accent so it's a double adaptation).
The Coke studio version from Meesha Shafi
Whatever you may think of the new effort ("desecration of the original" or a vast improvement), it is interesting that coke studio (and Meesha Shafi's expresions) is trying to to salute some folk and classical elements in their modernized version and the director of Anwara is trying to make his picturization of the folk-ish Punjabi song more modern... I detect at least a short essay opportunity in the journal of postcolonial studies..
For the past one month, Imran Khan has been spending several hours a day on top of a container in the heart of Islamabad, demanding that the elected government must resign (because he says so) and pave the way for him to become prime minister and finally create the Pakistan that was dreamt of by Iqbal and that will be run according to the model of the State of Medina. (I am not kidding, he regularly evokes both Allama Iqbal and the model state of Medina and seems to be seriously impressed by both). Unfortunately, his sincere admiraition is not matched by any detailed knowledge of either Allama Iqbal or the state of Medina. This causes problems when someone who knows a bit about either of them shows up to bully him...poor IK has to cave in. Very fast.
This is Imran Khan promising that in his new Pakistan, "the best will be appointed on merit" and he has just heard that Atif Mian, a Pakistani economist at Princeton is among the top 25 economists in the world, so Atif Mian will be his finance minister:
Imran Khan wants “Qadiani” Atif Mian to be his...by PakistantvTV
Atif Mian is apparently an Ahmedi.
Complete Interview IMRAN KHAN on MessageTv...by fame6
Why can Imran Khan not stand up to the Jamat e Islami or Hamid Gul or anyone with any Islamist credentials?
1. Imran Khan's opinion of Iqbal and Islam is almost entirely based on what he learned in Pak studies and Islamiyat classes in Aitchison college Lahore. His knowledge of both may have progressed a little beyond that level ...though only a little in the case of Iqbal: he still struggles to recite even one verse of Iqbal from memory..in fact, he tries the same verse repeatedly and has difficulty with it:
Sabaq Phir Parh Sadaqat Ka, Adalat Ka, Shujaat Ka
Liya Jaye Ga Tujh Se Kaam Dunya Ki Imamat Ka (recite again the lesson of truth, of justice, of valor/ for you will asked again to lead the world)
OK, he may have difficulty reciting the verse, but he seems to genuinely believe in it. Maybe he is just one of those otherwise smart people who are not good with memorizing poetry, but there are other problems...
2. Based on what he learned in 6th grade (I know, because I learned the same things), he really believes there is an Islamic model, that model is perfect, that model was best understood and explained by Iqbal, and he can put it into practice if people will only make him prime minister. All the links in this chain are controversial, but let us assume that the first three are correct, is the fourth one also correct?
3. Unfortunately, no. Because even if the first three are true (An Islamic model exists, it is perfect, it is best explained by Iqbal), the fourth can only work if IK knows the first three links in some detail and is so smart and capable (in the sense of being able to do X) that he can maneuver past all the people who have bad versions of the model or who don't want the model because they are evil or whatever, and put his vision (which is, of course, the correct vision) into practice. On current evidence, what would make you believe that? In hundreds of speeches he has never moved beyond the vaguest and most general bromides ("true Islam will provide justice to all"), what would make anyone think he actually has something more profound hidden somewhere? The Atif Mian flap is not just an example of IK withdrawing from a position double-quick once some bigot shows up to challenge him, it is also a good example of how his mind works. He read somewhere that Atif Mian is a famous economist and he is a Pakistani. Without knowing anything more about Atif Mian, the people who nominated him as a top economist or even about ecomonics, he jumped all in and decided someone like Atif Mian should be his finance minister?
He has been asked before about the topic of laws discriminating against Ahmedis. And he has made some encouraging noises (though even he knows enough to be stick to vagueness in this case)
Even if he has some Western/Modern/Secular liberal instincts, it is clear that he is unable to stand up for that particular vision of justice the moment someone shows up with Islamist credentials and bullies him to retract...
Quick rough translation (not every word is translated): I want to condemn this propaganda about me and my position about Qadianis (notice that he takes care to use the term Qadiani, not Ahmedi). This is propaganda by those who see their political death coming. I am a Muslim. I have read the Quran (uses the feminine gender for the Quran repeatedly; his knowledge of Urdu is as shaky as his knowledge of Islam and Iqbal). I believe in the Quran. Whoever does not accept our beloved prophet as the final prophet is not a Muslim. So for someone to say that PTI will make some change in the 1973 constitution about laws relating to Qadianis after coming into power, this is a lie and it is propaganda. People who are giving fatwas about me without giving me a hearing are not being just. I am not a two-faced person. Wikileaks has said that I am the only politician in Pakistan who says the same thing behind closed doors as he does in public....this is my faith. This is the faith by which i live. "we follow Allah and we follow no one else". This is challenging my faith. By which I live my life.
Its not going to end well.
He was doing such good work with his hospital and his university. Another good man lost to Pakstudies and Islamiyat....