Big brother has vision trouble
Thanks to the perceptive journalistic sense of Siva Illankesan, a former colleague of mine in Hong Kong who is now doing duty for Rupert Murdoch's News Corp in Sydney, I read the speech by India's new president Abdul Kalaam.

Knowing my interest in words of wisdom irrespective of their source, Siva emailed it to me as he always does when he does run into words that are interesting, amusing and even bootlicking. The latter comes largely from some so-called sports writers whose tendency to lavish praise on sports ministers and political leaders of the day has turned sports journalism into a joke.

But this was no joke. The new president of India is a reputed nuclear scientist and has played a lead role in taking India into the Nuclear Club.

One can debate till doomsday whether this was a desirable development or not. And were the discussions left to Indians themselves, whose proclivity to talk endlessly has gained some universal notoriety, they will, I suppose, go beyond Armageddon.

Still a man who helped bring India into the nuclear age must be heard. President Kalaam says he has three visions for India. For my purpose it is sufficient if I deal with one vision- the first.

"In 3000 years of our history, people from all over the world have come and invaded us, captured our lands, conquered our minds. From Alexander onwards. The Greeks, the Turks, the Moquis, the Portuguese, the British, the French, the Dutch, all of them came and looted us, took over what was ours. Yet we have not done this to any other nation. We have not conquered anyone. We have not grabbed their lands, their culture and their history and tried to enforce our way of life on them. Why? Because we respect the freedom of others. That is why my first vision is that of FREEDOM".

A most venerable vision, a most laudable objective, this publicly avowed respect for the freedom of others.

Moreover one cannot seriously quarrel with the first part of that statement- the invasions largely by western conquerors both ancient and modern, the pillaging of the lands and the attempt to impose an alien way of life.

But what is worrying is President Kalaam's attempts to white-wash India of all such criminality, of violations of international law and good neighbourly policy and to dress collective India in a lily-white dhoti.

Had such thoughts been expressed by some jingoistic Hindutva determined to parade India before the world as one sinned against but never sinning, they could have been simply dismissed as the rantings of the self-righteous.

But these words do not emanate from the mouths of babes or the Brahaminical bigots of Bharat.

They are the considered thoughts of an educated man. It is possible, of course President Abdul Kalaam knows more about nuclear fission than history, that he has spent the latter years of life pouring over scientific data deep in some laboratory in Rajasthan than in historical study.

Perhaps he has not had the time-or the inclination- to study India's history over the last 3000 years-the period that occupies his mind most- and so knows less about modern Indian machiavellianism than even of the political machinations of Kautilya, the prime minister of Chandra Gupta.

Had he but studied the lessons of history- Indian history at least- he might have saved India's neighbours a great deal of grief and suspicion and himself much embarrassment.

Since President Kalaam is ready to go back 3000 years to establish the foreign policy purity of India, obviously he is not limiting himself to modern India, the post-independent country.

President Kalaam's memory might be jogged, if he is not actually edified, about South Asian history, if he was referred back to the numerous invasions of Sri Lanka by the Cholas, Pandyans and others from non-belligerent India, forcing the kings of Lanka to shift their capitals south. This moving of capitals to escape the marauders from our neighbour to the north is known to students of history as the drift to the south-west.

It is these invasions which not only brought Hinduism to Lanka but also gave several centuries later, the LTTE "vision" that a Tamil kingdom stretched from Jaffnapatnam to the deep south, a claim that is hardly borne by historical, epigraphical, archaeological or cartographical evidence.

Such a vision is as much a figment of Dravidian imagination as President Kalaam's vision of an eternally victimised and non-belligerent India is a figment of his imagination.

If India is what Abdul Kalaam claims it is, why are all of India's neighbours deeply suspicious and fearful of it? It is not merely its geographical size and enormous population that make its neighbours, including one born through Indian midwifery, nervous.

Surely it is because even in modern times India has shown by deed, if not by word, that it has in no way abandoned the political philosophy of Kautilya as enunciated in his book the "Arthashastra".

The former Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi was a great follower of the Kautilyan philosophy and subscribed to his policy of waging "battles of intrigue" and "secret wars" to achieve her objective of Indian preponderance and paramountcy in the region.

It seems that President Kalaam has completely dry-cleaned his mind of India's military occupation of Goa, of initiating the border clashes with China at the behest of Indian intelligence that led to the Sino-Indian war of 1962, India's annexation of Sikkim in 1975 and its role in the break-up of Pakistan in 1971.

It might also be useful to remind Abdul Kalaam that while he was helping to bring India into the nuclear arms age, Indira Gandhi and later his son Rajiv were training, arming and funding Tamil separatists to subvert the legitimate government of a neighbouring country. But now it cries foul when Pakistan-inspired terrorists strike at India.

And lest the bomb-making president forgets, it was the very forces that the Gandhis' created and fostered that killed Rajiv Gandhi. If President Kalaam is not privy or inclined to read the numerous books that have been written by Indians and other subcontinental authors about Indian duplicity, then at least he should lay his hands on the Jain Commission report that could help provide him with a clearer vision.

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