VIDEO: Prof Madhav Nalapat on Nehruvian secularism and Indian Muslims – Niti Central

Prof Madhav Das Nalapat holds the UNESCO Peace Chair and is Director of the Geopolitics and International Relations Department at Manipal University, an international private university headquartered in Karnataka, Southern India. He is a former Coordinating Editor of the Times of India and writes extensively on security, policy and international affairs. He is also a columnist for the Sunday Guardian and the Pakistan Observer. Prof Nalapat has no formal role in the Indian government, although he influences policy at the highest levels. – Wikipedia

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Malnourished India gifts $2bn to the EU – M.D. Nalapat

Prof. M.D. Nalapat“Tragically, India’s leaders are generous only with the money of the common citizen. They themselves continue to live in the same luxury as did the British colonial rulers in the era before “freedom” came to the Sub-continent. The top leaders travel in special aircraft, at huge cost, while 300 million people in the country starve each night. Each of them has a retinue of several hundred security personnel, most of whom are there only to “shock and awe” the ordinary citizen with the might and majesty of the powerful.” – Prof. Nalapat

Winston ChurchillAlthough India’s ruling politicians ignore the fact, especially during their frequent travels abroad, the reality is that more citizens of the world’s most populous democracy go to bed hungry each night than do in Sub-Saharan Africa. More than 300 million Indians are malnourished, a testament to the fact that nearly seven decades in power has not been enough for the country’s leaders to wipe away the poverty that descended on the country during British rule. While several Mughal emperors were cruel, and more than a few of them rapacious, yet in 1820 the Indian sub-continent accounted for 23% of global output. Indeed, the very battleship in which Lord Nelson defeated the French at Trafalgar was made in India. However, colonial policy was designed to choke off local manufactures so as to encourage the import of goods from the UK. Hence by the time the Union Jack was lowered from Delhi for the last time on August 14,1947, the sub-continent was contributing less than 1% to global output. Churchill had further succeeded in ensuring the death of 9 million in famines that rolled across North India during the 1939-45 war with Germany and Japan.

P. ChidambaramWealth was drained from India to Europe – principally the UK – for many generations. And now, once again, a similar process is unfolding. While there has been some comment on the Commonwealth Games scam, the reality is that for years, practically every major procurement has been a scam. In the case of the “modernisation” of large airports, for instance, equipment has been sourced mainly from suppliers in Europe, and there is talk within the bureaucracy that a particular political family with close links to a European country was behind several of the contracts. While Home Minister Chidambaram has forbidden the security agencies from monitoring the activities of this family and its relatives abroad, concerned officials say that the latter are acting as middle persons in facilitating mega-deals between Indian government and private agencies and suppliers based in the EU. Altogether, the volume of such transactions is reported to have crossed $ 6 billion in as many years. Only in the case of the Commonwealth Games procurements has there been any official enquiry into such purchases, and even here, the Central Bureau of Investigation is more concerned about protecting those higher up than the jailed MP, Suresh Kalmadi, from exposure than it is in finding out the truth. Small wonder, as selection to the CBI is made from among those officials most pliable to political and other pressure.

Manmohan SinghWith all the money flowing from India towards the EU economies – cash earned not by a dysfunctional government nor even by corporates but by the sweat of millions of Indian nationals toiling in foreign countries – it would seem that there was no need for Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh ( the duo who run India) to fork out $2 billion in what is in effect a cash dole to the EU. Even schoolchildren are aware that the money so generously being given to European countries by the IMF will never come back, given the fact that not only the PIGS ( Portugal, Ireland, Greece and Spain) are bankrupt, but Italy and in fact, France, as well. Only by bluff is the EU avoiding default, a bluff in which international rating agencies are playing a shameful role. These have consistently sought to artificially raise the cost of borrowing in Asia by giving low scores to local economies, while keeping borrowing costs low in Europe and in North America by giving scores that are absurdly high. The US, for example, has a Triple A rating when the country is bankrupt and is relying on China, Japan and the GCC to avoid a slide into financial chaos. China in particular, based mostly on the advice given to the Chinese Communist Party by economists and others trained in the US and Europe, has invested a dangerously large amount in the US dollar and in the Euro. This $3 trillion hoard would have been better invested in real resources across the world than in money assets that have weak fundamentals.

Sonia GandhiIt is understood that both Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh have been eager that India show itself to be a “responsible stakeholder” by forking out cash to the stricken European economies. Generosity to other countries has been a hallmark of the gentle Prime Minister of India. In 1993, he agreed to allow Russia to convert its worthless roubles at a rate many times in excess of what the market – that he constantly talks about – was decreeing. As a result, India has ended up paying a subsidy of nearly $15 billion to Moscow. Tragically, India’s leaders are generous only with the money of the common citizen. They themselves continue to live in the same luxury as did the British colonial rulers in the era before “freedom” came to the Sub-continent. The top leaders travel in special aircraft, at huge cost, while 300 million people in the country starve each night. Each of them has a retinue of several hundred security personnel, most of whom are there only to “shock and awe” the ordinary citizen with the might and majesty of the powerful. The VVIPs stay in huge colonial bungalows, each of which costs upwards of $50 million, while just a few kilometers away are festering slums denied the amenities needed for a proper existence. It is in this spirit of waste for VVIPs and starvation for the poor that $2 billion has been gifted, and with more to follow. The indications are that the total asked for from India is $5 billion, so that the country can be “fully responsible”.

Begging in Udaipur, RajastanBureaucrats known for their loyalty to political dynasties have been placed in key posts, so that they may continue to protect their patrons. There is therefore little chance of accountability. Meanwhile, the Sonia-Manmohan team go about seeking to shut down Indian business by constantly raising the cost of borrowing. In just the past year, interest rates for Industry have gone up by nearly 4%. Given that the profit of most enterprises is only about 7%,this means that a higher interest bill has wiped out the bulk of profit. As a consequence, investment in fresh plant and machinery has been stopped, and hiring has slowed down. Under the Sonia-Manmohan team, annual increase in productive employment is less than 10% of what it was under Vajpayee, despite the shrill sounds of “concern for the poor” with which political speeches are so liberally peppered. Should the

Pranab MukherjeeReserve Bank of India continue to follow the Sonia-Manmohan line of ever-rising interest rates ( which is the policy favoured by the EU, China and the US for India, as it ensures that Indian companies get handicapped in competing globally), then several sectors of the economy are going to get sick within a year, especially Telecom and Infrastructure. The result will be a loss of confidence in the banking system, because of a huge increase in loans that the companies will no longer be able to repay.

Raisina Road & North Block in New DelhiOn the one hand, companies are ordered to purchase expensive equipment sourced from abroad because of the secret pressure of political families with links to foreign suppliers. On the other, the cost of money has been raised to a level that is making commercial activity un-economic. Not that any of this is of concern to Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, the man who in the 1980s – again as Finance Minister – argued against colour television technology being developed in India, “as citizens should make do with black & white television”. Of course, it would be wrong to blame Mukherjee, for the inhabitants of Raisina Road ( India’s Beltway) now that the hapless Finance Minister can do little other than obey “orders from the top”. Meanwhile, foreign suppliers based in Europe have worked out an effective way of competing with cheaper products sourced from Asian countries. They ensure that their intelligence and security agencies pass on warnings about Asian suppliers to their Indian counterparts. Seven decades after “freedom”, India’s security agencies still believe implicitly in what they are told by UK, French and other agencies. As a result, while European suppliers are getting Red Carpet treatment, Asian suppliers are being blocked from competing,” on grounds of national security” which of course no one can argue about, and the reasons for which are never made public. And with good reason, for the fact is that several such decisions have been taken for commercial reasons rather than on genuine grounds of national security. It is a sad development when the Hidden IMFHands behind mega-procurement from abroad can manipulate agencies so as to ensure the success of the suppliers that they have links with. These same foreign companies also use Indian agents to blacken the reputation of those few Indian agencies that refuse to cooperate in their selfish designs. Recently, there has been a campaign of calumny against selected security agencies, carried out by known agents of foreign countries and enterprises, a campaign in which an unsuspecting media has participated In the midst of all this confusion, perhaps a further $3 billion gift of cash will be sent from starving India to well-fed Europe via the IMF. Truly, the world is an amazing place! – Pakistan Observer, Islamabad

» Prof. Nalapat is Vice-Chair, Manipal Advanced Research Group, UNESCO Peace Chair & Professor of Geopolitics, Manipal University, Kanataka State, India.

Sonia Gandhi: Supreme power with no responsibility – M.D. Nalapat

M.D. Nalapat“That Sonia Gandhi frequently uses the corporate aircraft of one of the oil companies that is the subject of public attention is known to media persons and others in the national capital. That Sonia Gandhi, her two children and her two sisters travel extensively is equally known. Many times, such visits are made on corporate jets, although no photographer is permitted near the runway when such flights take off and land. The media in India is silent as a mouse about such travels of the First Family of the Republic.” – Prof. M.D. Nalapat

Reliance PlanevIn times past, a section of society was treated as “untouchable” by the rest. They were not allowed to approach the others, and if by mistake one of them made physical contact with the “touchable” part of society, the unfortunate individual was put to death. In the south, a section of society was not merely “untouchable” but “unseeable”. This lowest of the low was forced to ring bells or shout out their location, so that others may be warned to keep away. They were not allowed to use the same paths as others did, having to content themselves with moving around inside fields and jungles, out of sight of others. The rigid stratification of society – which after a while became based on birth – helped weaken the different kingdoms within the country such that they became easy prey for invaders from Afghanistan, Arabia, Central Asia and the territory that is modern-day Iran

R.L. FrancisOne of the few benefits of British rule was the springing up of reform movements within the Hindu religion, many led by thinkers from Bengal. Raja Rammohun Roy and others like him understood that there was no way India could expel the British, unless society itself became more just. For millenia, learning had been confined to a small proportion of the total population. The rest were given no opportunity to study. This state of affairs continued till the Mughal era, when several from the lower orders of society discovered that they could vastly improve their status by adopting the faith of their conquerors. Of course, such individuals could not dream of equality with the Mughal princes and their retinue, just as later on Christian converts in India were still treated as inferior to the British,despite both having the same faith. However, the treatment given to them was far better than the discrimination they had endured when they were in their previous faith, a factor that encouraged a steady flow of converts for several centuries

MayawatiEver since the 1857 uprising, the British in India were reluctant to force social change,or to impose their systems and standards on those who did not want them. Hence the country had to wait till independence in 1947 for laws to get passed that criminalized discrimination on the basis of caste. A section of government jobs was set aside for those from the castes that had suffered discrimination. This was meant to be a temporary measure, but now seems to have become permanent. Thanks to such policies, many from the former “untouchable” castes got educated, and these days, include within their midst some of the country’s most talented people. Since the 1990s, they have begun to vote tactically, such that in several parts of the country, chief ministers have come from their midst. An example is Chief Minister Mayawati of India’s most populous state, Uttar Pradesh. She has proved to be an effective administrator, as well as a determined campaigner.

 Meira KumarShould she succeed in coalescing the underprivileged across the country, she may even emerge as India’s first-ever “Dalit” ( or “untouchable”) Prime Minister. At present, her only challenger for such an honour is the telegenic Speaker of the Lok Sabha ( or Lower House of Parliament), Meira Kumar, who entered the Indian Foreign Service due to her studious qualities, is the daughter of the late Jagjivan Ram, who for decades was a Union Cabinet Minister under successive PMs. Each portfolio that he handled was administered well. This columnist’s father was in charge of rural credit at the Reserve Bank,and he used to say that he found Minister Ram to be “the most efficient member of the Cabinet”. His daughter has clearly inherited these qualities, for she is handling her duties as Speaker very well, without once losing her temper. As a senior leader of the Congress Party, Meira Kumar has a chance to be the PM, except that she is scrupulously honest, and hence not popular with other party leaders, most of whom view politics as a means to riches. However, the decision on whether or not she gets selected as a replacement for Manmohan Singh is entirely in the hands of Sonia Gandhi. Of course, the choice of a non-family member to be PM is only in the event that her son Rahul decides not to take up the job. So deep-rooted is loyalty to the Nehru family within the Congress Party that Rahul Gandhi would have the support of 100% of Congress MPs,including current PM Manmohan Singh, if his mother decided to appoint him. His father Rajiv Gandhi was about the same age when he took charge of the country in 1984, and like Rahul today, Rajiv too had zero experience in government before taking up the Prime Ministership.

P. ChidambaramThe steady drumbeat of scandal has lowered the chances of Home Minister Chidambaram or others in the Union Cabinet of ever replacing Manmohan Singh. Each day fresh reports of corruption are emerging, the latest being allegations of favouritism shown to two oil companies, one foreign and the other Indian. Should this scandal become too hot to handle,the way the telecom scam has developed, it is possible that some minister or the other may first be thrown out of the Union Cabinet and thereafter be sent to Tihar jail, the way the former Telecom Minister has been. The calculation would be that the sacrifice of a minister would satisfy the people and douse their anger. However, the reality in India is that although others sign on the files,the real decision-making power vests with Sonia Gandhi. Trusted officials and party members convey her commands to the ministers and even the PM. Indeed, Manmohan Singh has been honest enough to admit before television cameras that he follows the “orders of Soniaji and Rahulji”

That Sonia Gandhi frequently uses the corporate aircraft of one of the oil companies that is the subject of public attention is known to mediapersons and others in the national capital. That Sonia Gandhi, her two children and her two sisters travel extensively is equally known. Many times,such visits are made on corporate jets, although no photographer is permitted near the runway when such flights take off and land. The media in India is silent as a mouse about such travels of the First Family of the Republic.

IGI Airport Terminal 3And while the same ministers who dance to her commands get excoriated for possible corruption, Sonia Gandhi herself is kept out of controversy. Recently a Canadian diplomat even wrote in a newspaper that she was among the country’s most determined corruption fighters, an image shared by the foreign media, who give her favourable coverage even as they have now begun to expose the failings of Prime Minister Singh. Indeed, Congress President Sonia Gandhi has become the new “untouchable”, only this time, she is at the top of the heap rather than at the bottom. Whether it is key decisions or changes in personnel, hers is the final – often the only – say. So pervasive is her authority that many are now saying that it would be best for the constitutional fabric of the country if she were to take charge as PM, rather than – as now – exercise power without responsibility. – Pakistan Observer, Islamabad, June 14, 2010

» Prof. M.D. Nalapat is Vice-Chair, Manipal Advanced Research Group, UNESCO Peace Chair & Professor of Geopolitics, Manipal University, Karnataka State, India.

NGOs: How to run a country on “trust” – M.D. Nalapat

Prof M.D. NalapatAfter she took over power in 2004 – not in law but in fact – Sonia Gandhi has made India an unpleasant place for people to visit, getting imposed such absurd rules as refusing to allow a person to come back to the country within six months of leaving it, or demanding permission from the Home Ministry (which takes 25 years to process a request during the period when it functions at high speed) before holding an international conference. Slowly, the country is getting strangled by a web of regulations that are each designed to squeeze bribes out of the very people who are today at the cusp of going into the streets to protest a system that makes them suffer so that a few can enrich themselves. – Prof. M.D. Nalapat

National Advisory CouncilAs ubiquitous, yet because of the fact that the only way to get funding and fellowships from the US or the EU is to toe their general line, the big cities are filled with “analysts” and “experts” who fill newspaper columns and television space retailing what their benefactors in Washington, Paris and London (the three “saviours of the Libyan people”) want them to say.

The first priority in India – and other countries in the vicinity – is to take care of family and friends. An example is the so-called National Security Advisory Board. Members of this august body come at least once a month to the national capital, where they are put up in 5-star hotels in exchange for giving their views on subjects as diverse as Fiji and Moratua. Not that any of these opinions gets taken seriously, much less gets integrated into policy.The purpose of the NSAB is to accommodate old friends in a comfortable sinecure and make them understand how much they are appreciated. Most of the distinguished members are regular guests of the nominating authority.

During his time as National Security Advisor (1998-2004), Brajesh Mishra ensured at almost every individual who treated him to lunch or dinner at the India International Centre, otherwise known as Jurassic Park, not because of the advanced age of most members, but for the fact that most remain firm admirers of the Nehru era, and are therefore clearly delighted at the dawn of Nehru Era II in 2004 under the charming leadership of Sonia Gandhi, the present head of the family. One of his successors, the brilliant, acerbic M. K. Narayanan (who ensured that the Intelligence Bureau was given a much greater priority in the security system than agencies such as RAW) followed Mishra in filling the NSAB with his buddies, a practice that gained him immense popularity in the small circle of retired admirals, generals and officials who collectively form the Brains Trust for the conference circuit.

The Patron Saint of the NGO community is Sonia Gandhi, who has sought to make an NGO headed by her – the National Advisory Council – a super-government, able to inflict its views on a government where prominent ministers such as Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Home Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram are openly subservient to her dictates. In departments across the system, including in the crucial field of Education, the influence of the NGOs ( many of whom get foreign funding and have foreign staff) is all-pervasive, which is why so many ministers come up with ideas that are designed to wreck what little excellence remains within the system. One of the ministers close to Sonia Gandhi is Education Minister Kapil Sibal, ordinarily a first-class intellect. However, recently he has been coming up with policy prescriptions clearly cooked in some NGO pot in London or in Luxembourg, that would have the effect of destroying quality school education in the country. India would then join the many other poor countries where the only way to get a halfway useful education would be to go abroad. The NGO-inspired suggestions of the minister in the field of education have horrified parents across the country and unified them against his government, but in the Congress Party, there is only one vote that counts, and that is Sonia Gandhi’s, so Sibal is safe. More so as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has entrusted the preparation of a road map for educating a country where more than 40% of the population is under 40 to a close friend, the 79-year old Professor Yash Pal. One of the benefits of being in government is the easy way in which friends and relatives can be obliged, some with deals, others through sinecures, and Manmohan Singh is no different from other politicians who look only within the circle of their friends to fill jobs that require real skills and commitment.

Manmohan Singh & Pranab MukherjeeHypocrisy is not second nature to politicians in India, it is the first. Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee has a constituency known for drug and people smuggling, but interestingly, several of the worthies active in these key national tasks are now busy seeking to elect his son as a Member of the Legislative Assembly. The Central Board of Direct Taxes (under an officer close to a lady in the Finance Ministry who seems to have powers equal to the minister himself, for some unexplained reason) seems unaware of the financial standing of Mukherjee Junior, although now that he is in politics, such facts will begin to seep out, as they are in the case of other high-profile siblings such as the son of Home Minister Chidambaram (and his friend Sanjeev Hooda) or the son-in-law of Sonia Gandhi herself, who has built a fortune in a relatively short time span purely – one would assume – owing to his genius and insight and not because ministers ranging from the Home Minister to the Chief Ministers of Delhi and Haryana dance attendance on Robert Vadra, whose activities have become so blatant that even the tame Indian media (which usually looks the other way at VVIP peccadilloes) has begun to murmur. Clearly, Robert Vadra or Karthik Chidambaram are young men in a hurry to join the same pantheon inhabited by Bill Gates or Warren Buffet, an understandable objective for two such capable youngsters.

Because of the fear of getting harassed by the Intelligence Bureau (which has reverted to the Nehru era days by becoming a house agency for the Ruling Family) or the Income-tax authorities, media houses do not examine the activities of VVIPs the way it happens in civilized countries such as the UK or the US. Indeed, the Supreme Court of India has just decreed that the religion followed by Sonia Gandhi is not a matter that the public should be aware of. Hopefully, the judges who gave this order will enlighten an eager citizenry about just what facets of a public figure are suitable for the public to know. This columnist believes that the public are entitled to every scrap of information about those in whose hands the running of the country vests, but this is clearly not the view of the Supreme Court of India.

Given such a mindset, it is hardly surprising that so little is known about the personal and financial details of VVIPs. Indeed, the Election Commission of India actually censures those who make “personal attacks” ( such as pointing to examples of corruption) against other candidates. If the officials (and the Election Commission in democratic India is filled only with unelected officials who have never stood for election even in the college union) running the EC have their way, any attempt at giving negative information about a candidate would be outlawed, the way exit polls have been. Of course, political VVIPs in India are delighted. They can safely go about enriching themselves and selling the country short, aware that the Election Commission will go to bat for them should there be the threat of exposure during a campaign. Sadly for those pinning their faith in this noble institution, the Supreme Court has now decreed that the public do not have the right to know the same facts about their rulers as voters in the US or the EU do. Hopefully the judges will reconsider.

The Nehru era has been marked by tight control over citizens, depriving them of autonomy and forcing them to get government approval for any action. Now three admirers of the Nehru family have demanded that India should go the way of Pakistan, and impose a One Dish rule in weddings and feasts. If Rajiv Shukla  (who leaped from journalism to cricket with considerable finesse twenty years ago, and from there to cricketing administration) and his two fellow-members of Sonia Gandhi’s National Advisory Council have their way, there would be policemen at each wedding to ensure that not more than one dish is being served. Shukla is likely to next suggest that permits be mandatory before any wedding feast can be organized, and indeed before the bride and groom disappear on their honeymoon. After she took over power in 2004 (not in law but in fact), Sonia Gandhi has made India an unpleasant place for people to visit, getting imposed such absurd rules as refusing to allow a person to come back to the country within six months of leaving it, or demanding permission from the Home Ministry (which takes 25 years to process a request during the period when it functions at high speed) before holding an international conference. Slowly, the country is getting strangled by a web of regulations that are each designed to squeeze bribes out of the very people who are today at the cusp of going into the streets to protest a system that makes them suffer so that a few can enrich themselves. – Pakistan Observer, Islamabad, Pakistan

» Prof. M.D. Nalapat is Vice-Chair, Manipal Advanced Research Group, UNESCO Peace Chair & Professor of Geopolitics, Manipal University, Haryana State, India.

Corruption: UPA cabinet ministers protecting the corrupt – M.D. Nalapat

M.D. NalapatAlthough both print and electronic media in India remain submissive to the dictates of UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi, not daring to challenge her role in the deterioration of administration caused by the misfeasance and worse of her nominees, the Internet has remained a point of irritation for her. Chidambaram has sought ceaselessly to sanitize the World Wide Web of negative references to Sonia, but is falling back because of the sheer volume of postings. His new Internet law makes punishable by long years in prison any Internet user who dares to say more than “Our Leader Sonia Gandhi”. – M.D. Nalapat

Although society in Europe and in the US has evolved significantly since the period when those continents enslaved much of the world, so that today Europeans are among the most liberal and enlightened of global citizens, yet because of the grip of elites over the media, several times they fail to appreciate ground reality. An example was the widespread belief in the US that Saddam Hussein was the chief of Al-Qaeda, when in fact that terror outfit spent many years trying to assassinate him. The demonization of the secular Saddam by US and EU media helped George W. Bush and Tony Blair finish off the Iraq strongman. These days, a similar smear campaign has been launched against Colonel Gaddafi, which is so extreme in its characterization that many in Europe and the US probably believe that the Libyan strongman – for whom NATO has prepared the same fate as befell Saddam – has horns and hooves. In reality, Libya is a country where women and religious minorities are given equal treatment, and whose life expectancy matches that of many parts of Europe.

The monopoly of the popular narrative by the economic elite has led to the uncontrolled explosion of greed that caused the 2008 collapse and which is leading to a fresh disaster by 2012. Already, the same small group of speculators who cheated international investors of more than $6 trillion are once again up to their old tricks, sending up the price of commodities and spreading hunger and misery across the globe. The use of force in Libya is a warning by the NATO elites to the Arab elites not to go the Gaddafi way and seek to diversify their investments into non-NATO countries. Fear of NATO action will, it is expected, ensure that fresh trillions of dollars will be entrusted by the Arab elites to the same banks and financial institutions that cheated Arabs of more than $1.3 trillion in 2008. This fusion of criminal greed (of course, legalised and encouraged in the US and in much of the EU during and since the Thatcher-Reagan era) and a 19th century propensity to use military force to keep the natives cowed has meant that several countries face the danger of subversion of their own interests at the altar of seeking to rescue the NATO economies from the pit dug by its own elite.

It is in such a context that the War on Corruption that is being waged by the people of India against their own governmental system assumes importance. So compromised has this system become that it has succumbed to alien powers, in the process sacrificing the future of the people of India. Although the Vajpayee-led government too was complicit in such a sellout, its own dismal record has been eclipsed by the Sonia Gandhi-led UPA, which has made India a meek camp follower of the NATO powers. As a result, the price of items such as pharmaceuticals and insurance has skyrocketed, because of the entry of the same criminal financial entities that caused the 2008 crash. When he was Union Finance Miniister, Palanipappan Chidambaram initiated an Open Door policy towards these dodgy enterprises, in the process making him their favourite for the post of Prime Minister, should the present open conspiracy against Manmohan Singh succeed in throwing out of office India’s honest ( if ineffective) PM. As Union Home Minister, Chidambaram has silently constructed a web of regulations and laws so comprehensive that almost any citizen can now get arrested for some technical infringement.

An example is the Internet. Although both print and electronic media in India remain submissive to the dictates of UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi, not daring to challenge her role in the deterioration of administration caused by the misfeasance and worse of her nominees, the Internet has remained a point of irritation for her. Chidambaram has sought ceaselessly to sanitize the World Wide Web of negative references to Sonia, but is falling back because of the sheer volume of postings. His new Internet law makes punishable by long years in prison any Internet user who dares to say more than “Our Leader Sonia Gandhi”. The wording is so vague and general that almost any critical comment can be seized upon as an infringement, besides such hazards as accidentally opening porn spam. Through such laws, Chidambaram is helping to ensure that India loses its edge in the Knowledge Industry, for whose benefit is not clear. However, unlike in the past, these days more and more officials in crucial ministries are opening out in private about the misdeeds of their masters, and some of this is becoming public knowledge.

Given the reality that several politicians in India are dollar billionaires (and one even has wealth estimated by banking sources at $30 billion), there is disquiet at the top about the way the anger of the public is fanning the anti-corruption campaign. Unlike Germany or the US under Barack Obama, both of which took effective steps to check tax evasion through the use of external shelters, the Union Finance Ministry under Pranab Mukherjee (who was a minister when Indira Gandhi raised the income-tax rate to 97.25% of income) has adopted an ostrich policy of refusing to even acknowledge the fact that more than $1 trillion has been stashed in Swiss banks by Indian citizens acting through their relatives or directly. Some corruption fighters are busy preparing a Public Interest Litigation that would target Mukherjee and his key officers for – in effect – sabotaging efforts at getting back such cash though the minister is not worried, certain as he is that he has the blessings of Sonia Gandhi in all that he does (or more to the point, does not do). The agencies working under him are giving the impression of going after graft, while in reality ensuring the escape of the financial scamsters who have looted India far more comprehensively than the British ever did. Small wonder, as agencies such as the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and others are carefully manned with pliable officials who will leap to the bidding of VVIPs (of course, after taking a cut of the loot).

On record, Letters Rogatory have been sent by the CBI and the ED to a number of countries in order to uncover details of Indian citizens (though not yet their foreign relatives) having bank accounts and property there. However, officers say privately that such activity is an eyewash, and that word has gone to the higher levels of Mauritius, Seychelles and other tax havens not to take such Letters Rogatory seriously, but to ignore them or reply in a way that conceals far more than it reveals. This, they say, is the reason why India is having zero success in getting back illegal funds, unlike Germany and the US. Some even claim that the leadership of the ruling coalition has constituted an informal group of four Cabinet Ministers to “ensure that the drive against corruption gets sabotaged”, and that those parking funds abroad escape. The names on this list comprise four of the most senior members of the Manmohan Singh cabinet, and the whistle-blowers say that this “Gang of Four” has been meeting regularly with a ruling party power-broker to steer the investigation into safe channels. Does such a Gang of Four operate in India? Only the future will tell. In case the official effort at accountability fizzles out, it will become clear that this is the consequence of deliberate sabotage at the highest levels of the Sonia Gandhi-led ruling coalition.

In 1993, the lid was blown off a scam that involved 115 top politicians and civil servants. This was the Jain Havala Case, in which records showed that several VIPs and VVIPs used the Jain brothers to funnel cash to overseas destinations. Instead of any of them being punished, the individual who took up the scam — Vineet Narain — was arrested, humiliated, financially ruined and driven out of the country. Top officials colluded to ensure that the guilty escaped, while the whistle-blowers were taught a lesson. The failure of then Prime Minister Narasimha Rao to ensure accountability at the top meant that he had to face prosecution, calumny and criminal charges almost till the end of his life. A similar fate awaits Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, in case he allows the Gang of Four ( assuming these reports are correct) to sabotage his efforts at ensuring that those responsible for corruption get punished, no matter how powerful they be. Of course, the record is not encouraging. During the Vajpayee years, two intrepid journalists, Tarun Tejpal and Aniruddha Bahal, exposed widespread corruption in the party and in the government. The Tehelka expose only resulted in both of them facing financial ruin, and in the case of Aniruddha Bahal, criminal cases that drag on to this day. So much for justice!

However, there is a change, and this is the fact that these days, millions in India have become so alarmed at VVIP corruption that they are refusing to be quiet while a Gang of Four once again sabotages investigations. They are collecting documents to target erring politicians and officials, and they hope to use the judicial system to enforce accountability on a government riddled with graft. In a cabinet where – in the estimation of this columnist – only two individuals are honest, it is laughable that so far only one Cabinet minister has gone to jail. Several others need to follow him, and will, once public anger translates into political change. – Pakistan Observer, Islamabad, Pakistan

» Prof. M.D. Nalapat is Vice-Chair, Manipal Advanced Research Group, UNESCO Peace Chair & Professor of Geopolitics, Manipal University, Haryana State, India.

Corruption in high places creating chaos in India – M.D. Nalapat

M.D. NalapatOne of the past bosses of RAW was so close to a certain VVIP family that he used to personally go to London with huge bundles of cash that were distributed in secret to foreign relatives of the concerned VVIP. Not only did he personally hand over the cash, but he used to ask RAW officials not to accompany him on such “cash and carry” missions. Naturally, he used to submit bogus receipts that showed the money being given to miscellaneous South Asians, when in fact the cash was handed over to relatives and friends of a particular VVIP. The bureaucrat who ensured that this man took over RAW is likely to soon get a high position in the Prime Minister’s Office, because of his closeness to a certain VVIP. Incidentally, this bureaucrat is the uncle of the former RAW chief, which is why he pushed his case despite being aware of his dubious background. – M.D. Nalapat

ISI Chief Lt. Gen. Pasha (right) next to Gen. Ashfaq Kayani on the USS Abraham Lincoln talking with Michael Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.Especially since the 1971 defeat of the Pakistan Army in the east, the ISI has been seeking to weaken – and if possible destroy – the Indian State. The organisation has been funding, training and equipping multiple sources in India and abroad in furtherance of this objective. However, it has thus far had very little success, mainly because India is too big and too un-coordinated to suffer serious damage from the kind of tactics that the ISI specialises in. However, over the years, an enemy of the Indian people has emerged that is proving to be a potent threat to the future of the Indian Union. This is the shameless, uncontrolled greed of those at the apex of the political system in India.

New Delhi night life.Any visitor to the numerous discos of the 5-star hotels of Delhi will spot there a crowd of youths whose common factor is hedonism and access to cash. In selected discos can be recognized the sons and daughters of top politicians, officials and businesspersons, all having a wonderful time. This community of hedonists acts as a bridge between their parents, seeing to it that an opposition leader – for instance – avoids targeting the family of a ruling party VVIP. The daughters of businesspersons mix and mingle with the sons of high officials, and vice-versa, thereby helping to create a bond between the parents that ensures quick and reliable – if expensive – service for the businessperson at the hands of the official. Of course, the Intelligence Bureau stays far away from such dance halls and the farmhouses known to be the haunts of the fun-loving offspring of India’s elite. This, despite the fact that several foreign agencies and missions send attractive males and females to such locations, to ensnare the children of VVIPs. So loyal is Home Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram to his boss Sonia Gandhi, that he has converted the Intelligence Bureau into a personal detective agency designed to protect the First Family of India. Rather than focus on threats to the people and to the state, Chidambaram has reconfigured the IB to meet threats to the primacy of the ruling family. Because this columnist is a critic of VVIPs (and has been so for four decades in journalism), not only the telephones of himself and his spouse, but informed friends claim that even that of his chauffeur are being monitored – clandestinely and illegally – by the IB. Chidambaram has converted the Home Ministry into a Kafkaesque behemoth that needs to be approached even when international conference takes place. Visas are held up, invitees are harassed, and buisiness deals blocked. Of course, those knowing the “proper channel” can navigate their way around such difficulties with ease.

RAW Director Sanjeev TripathiIf the IB is in this pathetic state, can the (much-discussed in Pakistan) Research & Intelligence Wing of the Cabinet Secretariat (RAW) be far behind? Because of the fact that many of its bosses have been chosen on grounds of personal loyalty to VVIPs rather than for any competence, the standards of the outfit have dropped to alarming levels. One of the past bosses was so close to a certain VVIP family that he used to personally go to London with huge bundles of cash that were distributed in secret to foreign relatives of the concerned VVIP. Not only did he personally hand over the cash, but he used to ask RAW officials not to accompany him on such “cash and carry” missions. Naturally, he used to submit bogus receipts that showed the money being given to miscellaneous South Asians, when in fact the cash was handed over to relatives and friends of a particular VVIP. The bureaucrat who ensured that this man took over RAW is likely to soon get a high position in the Prime Minister’s Office, because of his closeness to a certain VVIP. Incidentally, this bureaucrat is the uncle of the former RAW chief, which is why he pushed his case despite being aware of his dubious background. Clearly, nepotism is no crime in today’s India. A small group of bureaucrats close to a certain VVIP family are dominating the Government of India, making a mockery of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s efforts at fighting corruption. In the Income-tax department, the current chief is an already superannuated official who is in line for yet another one-year extension. Some unkind voices say that this is because of his proximity to a charming lady who – according to honest officials in the Finance Ministry – gives lists of those she wants raided. Of course,  the lady always gets her way, and an average bribe of $10 million reportedly gets paid to stop the harassment. These days, the Income-tax, the Enforcement Directorate and the Department of Revenue Intelligence conduct multiple raids, which are quickly settled after the lady in question gets approached. Clearly the upright Minister of Finance, Pranab Mukherjee, is unaware of the havoc that this lady is causing in his prestigious ministry, or he would have taken action against such extortion. Will the Central Bureau of Investigation probe this lady? Of course not. Rather, it will go after the whistle-blowers. People such as Hassan Ali, who have laundered billions of dollars for VVIPs, will escape.

A VVIP lady in New Delhi.Why is this charming lady so powerful in matters of finance? How does she succeed in getting the agencies to intimidate and hound those fighting against such corruption? Why do even decent individuals such as the Finance Minister or the Prime Minister do nothing to stop the extortion racket that is seeing honest companies such as Infosys getting intimidated, and tax notices being sent for the “crime” of seeking investment in the State of Gujarat? Are they forced into silence because a share of the loot goes to a certain VVIP family, to get transferred to London in suitcases that leave the country unchecked because the Special Protection Force refuses to allow inspection of the luggage of the friends and family of a particular VVIP, whose family members always travel with multiple suitcases in and out of India, escorted by those whose duty is to protect the security of the country and not to prevent the customs authorities from doing their task? Shockingly, in India it is those who fight corruption who are harassed by the authorities, not those ensuring that cash and other facilities flow in abundance to selected VVIPs.

So what the ISI has failed to achieve, certain VVIPs in India are succeeding [in doing], which is to slowly poison and destroy India. These VVIPs go often to Dubai and London, where they meet with people known to be hostile to India, and enjoy their hospitality. Of course, the IB does nothing about such a huge gap in the country’s security, and neither does RAW, for fear of annoying the super-corrupt at the apex of political power in India. Small wonder that a reaction is developing to such a situation. Swami Ramdev, a highly respected teacher of spiritual health, is leading a crusade against corruption. In a few years, millions of people are likely to agitate outside the homes and offices of VVIPs in India, the way they have done in the Arab world, so as to bring to book the super-corrupt who are destroying India. Sadly, poor Manmohan Singh seems to be running out of steam. He is getting weaker and weaker, because the agencies working under him technically but in reality being influenced by [those at] the apex of greed refuse to send the big fish to prison. Until that happens, the country is in trouble.

PM Manmohan Singh & Chief Justice KapadiaUnless Manmohan Singh takes courage in his hands and stands with Chief Justice of India Kapadia in cleansing the highest levels of his government of corruption, India is in trouble. Only a cleanup at the top can save the country from losing its future, and time is running out for the PM. Soon, unless at least a few big fish go to jail, he will be so politically weakened that resignation will be the only option. Yet another good man will get sacrificed to keep the Money Machine of the Apex of Greed functioning. Should the PM fail in implementing the will of the Chief Justice, the only solution may lie in the streets. – Pakistan Observer, Islamabad, Pakistan

» Prof. M.D. Nalapat is Vice-Chair, Manipal Advanced Research Group, UNESCO Peace Chair & Professor of Geopolitics, Manipal University, Karnataka State, India.

Sonia Gandhi: World’s 9th most powerful person accused of corruption – Cleo Paskal

Cleo PaskalPart of the genius of Sonia Gandhi is her ability to present herself as a helpless victim, convincing even her political rivals not to fear her as she is fatally flawed. In 1998, India was being led by BJP Prime Minister Vajpayee. When [Times of India correspondent] Nalapat spoke with him about Sonia, he was bluntly told to lay off, as, “so long as a white Christian lady is head of the Congress Party, I [Vajpayee] and my party will always be in power”. Vajpayee and his party lost power to Sonia’s Congress in 2004. – Cleo Paskal

Sonia GandhiNew Delhi: Some of India’s biggest fish are getting caught up in the country’s fast-growing wave of anti-corruption activity. In what could be India’s equivalent of a judicial jasmine revolution, previously invulnerable politicians, business icons, and pillars of the community are all nervously keeping their lawyers on speed-dial.

The anti-corruption push is an unprecedented coming together of myriad facets of Indian society. Religious leaders are concerned about the effects on morality and spiritual growth. NGOs speak of the effects on the poor. The middle class is angry about its future being stifled by a smothering blanket of day-to-day corruption. The intelligence services see corruption a clear threat to national security. And the business community, thanks to globalization, has seen how efficiently things can operate without having to constantly pay bribes or be tangled in red tape, and they want the same thing at home.

Even the Supreme Court is fed up, with Justice B. Sudarshan Reddy saying about the vast sums of Indian money being illegally hidden away in Liechtenstein Bank: We are talking about the huge money. It is a plunder of the nation. It is a pure and simple theft of the national money. We are talking about mind-boggling crime.

The scandals are bursting on to the front pages fast and thick. Suresh Kalmadi, a Congress Party politician and the former head of the corruption-plagued Commonwealth Games, was arrested April 25. According to a report by the Indian Comptroller and Auditor General, the 2G spectrum scam alone, in which 2G licenses were sold off in a manner that was, to say the least, less than transparent, cost close to $40 billion in lost revenue.

All across India, people are saying enough is enough. And suddenly the unthinkable is starting to happen. People considered above reproach, or at least untouchable, are coming under the judicial cross-hairs. 2G alone has seen charges laid against one former government minister and several captains of industry.

And the latest high profile target is one of the biggest fish of all, Congress Party President Sonia Gandhi, currently #9 on Forbes list of the World’s Most Powerful People.

Sonia Gandhi has one of the most remarkable life stories in international politics. Born Edvige Antonia Albina Maino into a family of modest means in rural Italy, she didn’t even get a chance to complete high school before heading to the UK for work. There she met Rajiv Gandhi, son of Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. She eventually married him and the young family moved in to Indira Gandhi’s New Delhi’s home, putting her literally in the heart of Indian politics.

After Indira Gandhi’s assassination in 1984, Sonia’s husband Rajiv became Prime Minister. Following Rajiv’s 1991 assassination by Tamil terrorists, there were rumors that Sonia was going to put herself forward as Prime Minister.

As she herself later said, she “could not walk past the portraits of my husband, my mother-in-law and her father and not feel that I had some responsibility to try and save the party they had given their lives to.”

Given her focus on the party, it was fitting that instead of becoming Prime Minister, she ended up as President of the powerful Congress Party. Politically, it proved to be a smart move as it gave her power without direct responsibility — while she is #9 on Forbes list of power people, the actual Prime Minister of India, Manmohan Singh, is only #18. According to Forbes, “Gandhi remains the real power behind the nuclear-tipped throne […] she has cemented her status as true heiress to the Nehru-Gandhi political dynasty.”

Her image is of a dutiful, submissive Indian wife, now widow. When her husband was alive, she would walk behind him. In public she wears saris. Although a devout Catholic, she is often photographed at Hindu temples. And like a good Indian mother, though she has decorously pulled herself out of the race for prime minister, she is happy to encourage her son, Rahul, to take the job.

However there have been growing, persistent murmurs about questionable business deals and inexplicable exponential jumps in the personal wealth of her and her family.

M.D. NalapatThe allegations came out in the open in 1995 when M. D. Nalapat, then Resident Editor (Delhi) of the world’s largest English-language newspaper, the Times of India, began a groundbreaking series of articles about Sonia.

The articles made the controversial (at the time) claim that the public docility was just a ploy, and that Sonia actually had serious political ambitions (later confirmed by her role in Congress). Also, crucially, the series said that her desire for power wasn’t simply altruistic and that the wealth not only of her, but of her Italian relatives, rose stratospherically after Rajiv Gandhi became Prime Minister in 1984.

Nalapat’s articles could not be ignored as he was one of India’s most respected journalists and had, throughout his career, taken on corrupt politicians, social inequity and institutionalized discrimination.

This however was a ‘topic too far’. While the facts in the article were never refuted, Nalapat was forced out of journalism in 1998 and moved into academics.

Next came public questions from another highly reputed source, Sten Lindstrom, Sweden’s special prosecutor investigating the pay-offs associated with the sale of weapons by Bofors to the government of India. His investigation showed that a close friend of Sonia’s, Ottavio Quattrocchi, has received kickbacks in the millions.

Quattrocchi & Sonia GandhiIn 1998 Lindstrom gave an interview in which he said: The Gandhis, particularly now Sonia, should explain how Quattrocchi-owned companies got such fat sums as payoffs from the Bofors deal. After all, what is the connection of Sonia and the Gandhi family to Quattrocchi? Who introduced Quattrocchi and his AE Services to Bofors? At least one thing is certainly known now. A part of the payoffs definitely went to Quattrocchi. […] the papers all pointed to the Gandhi family.

Not only have the questions not been answered by Sonia, but in spite of substantial evidence against him, Quattrocchi has managed to evade prosecution in India, and has even had his kickback funds unfrozen from overseas accounts.

Part of the genius of Sonia Gandhi is her ability to present herself as a helpless victim, convincing even her political rivals not to fear her as she is fatally flawed. In 1998, India was being led by BJP Prime Minister Vajpayee. When Nalapat spoke with him about Sonia, he was bluntly told to lay off, as, “so long as a white Christian lady is head of the Congress Party, I [Vajpayee] and my party will always be in power”. Vajpayee and his party lost power to Sonia’s Congress in 2004.

But the most serious threat to Sonia — and, as she is at the apex of the Congress Party, and so to Congress itself — is now lying on the desk of #18, the Prime Minister of India.

Subramanian SwamyOn April 15, former Law and Justice Minister and Harvard Professor Dr. Subramanian Swamy asked Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for leave to lay corruption charges against Sonia Gandhi. In a meticulously researched 200+ page submission Dr Swamy alleges Sonia Gandhi has been involved in corruption in India since 1972 and personally benefited from the Bofors scam (1986), has held billions in non-Indian bank accounts since at least 1991, illegally profited from the Iraqi oil-for-food deals (2002), and even accessed KGB payoffs during the Cold War.

The Prime Minister has three months to decide whether or not to grant sanction to prosecute. If he doesn’t, Dr. Swamy can take the case directly to the Supreme Court, which under Chief Justice Kapadia is showing a definite proclivity towards facilitating corruption cases.

While, so far, the corruption cases in India have caught up some pretty big fish, if charges are laid against Sonia Gandhi, it won’t just be part of a wave, it will be a sea change.

Sonia Gandhi is not just an individual, she is the steely core of a pillar of Indian politics. If she crumbles, it will shake the foundations of the venerable Congress Party, and possibly leave a gaping hole in the political scene. Meanwhile, a range of polarizing and regional parties are ready to rush in and stake their claim. Given the growing importance of India in our heavily globalized world, this is not just an Indian story, this is one all should be following very closely indeed. – Huffington Post, April 25, 2011