Friday, March 23, 2012

Sri Lanka -Why raise the China bogey?

A lot of verbal diarrhea has flown into the sewers of the press since India voted for a watered down, non binding resolution over human rights abuses that was passed by the UN Human Rights Council. All of it can pretty much be described as paranoia, and we are certainly stuck in the foreign policy mess that we got as a legacy from Jawaharlal Nehru and his ideals of Non-Alignment as rightly pointed out by Sadanand Dhume. Again and again the China-Pakistan bogey has been raised. But all that is frankly nonsense if you were to ask me. Here's my counter to reasons due to which this move is being counted as a foreign policy failure in major sections of the Indian media.
India has pushed away its most trusted ally

Not true! Its a fallacy to think that any of the South Asian countries except Bhutan are trusted allies. One need not forget the double game that Ranjana Premadasa and TS Jeyawardene kept playing with our mandarins and leaders over the Tamil issue for decades, because of which we even lost 1000 soldiers in a disastrous Indian Peacekeeping Force (IPKF) mission where LTTE and Sri Lankan government were hand-in-glove. Similarly, to think that we have pushed away Sri Lanka, remember that we are the single largest trading partner, so any effort by Sri Lanka to push us away only causes them more harm. We have tried the gentle way, and honestly, it has failed. So it was high time to up the ante.

China and Pakistan are going to take advantage 
This whole China Pakistan bogey is total hogwash. The links with China and Pakistan predate the whole voting issue, and were very much there during the 30 year civil war. G Pramod Kumar has written an excellent analysis on why this China-Pakistan bogey is nothing more than mere posturing. There is a very interesting Chinese legend about Zheng He, the eunuch admiral taking the King of Ceylon prisoner for refusing to accept the dominant status of China. To avoid history to repeat itself, the only way Sri Lanka can hedge its bets for the long run is to stay as far away from China as it can.

You are allowing China to draw a "string of pearls" around India

Frankly, this string of pearls theory should go into the dustbin. Do you really think India is silly enough to not do anything about it? Belated as it may. alliance with Vietnam, US and Japan amongst other countries allows India to draw a counter string of pearls around China. Allies of the US would be more than eager to "contain"China in every sense. Moreover, Russia and China do not see eye to eye on the foreign diplomacy front. Chinese history tells us that only those countries are respected which display their might effectively, and we will never be considered equal to China unless we hedge our bets in the right direction by allying with countries having issues with China, and not some random countries.

We do not interfere in other countries' affairs

Well, we have been on the wrong side of history far too long. Looking at the state of affairs in Libya and Syria has shown India, the world's largest democracy (albeit a flawed one) supporting absolute tin pot dictatorships (seriously, what common did India have with Muammar Gaddafi?), which leads to considerable international embarrassment when we start talking about human rights. It is this aloofness that has led to the formation of nuclear weapons by Pakistan, and also has led to the whole nuclear crisis surrounding Iran and Israel.

India will have to face similar resolutions on Kashmir and problem areas of the North East

There are major flaws with this argument. What it assumes is that a Pandorra's box shall be opened, and a host of resolutions and counter resolutions shall be launched. One tends to forget that these are "non binding" resolutions and have to be discussed threadbare. To think that they really matter is quite laughable at times, especially when countries like Pakistan move them. In any case, the truth is that India's record may not be golden, but it is certainly much more open to criticism nationally, and there have been enough international observers have been allowed into such conflict zones to let them realize first hand who's the real violator. Which other country who raises this bogey allows foreign observers in the conflict zones? Moreover, the human rights records of a majority of our South Asian neighbours leaves them open to severe criticism from the international community, and so we should stop fearing it.

It is high time India dropped the whole bogey of the Non-Alignment policy that has time and again raised its ugly head in an era where our national interests should be to rectify our past mistakes and stand on the right side of history. We shall not be sacrificing our national interests in any way by going with the majority, and we have nothing to hide. It is high time that we came out of our cocoon to really claim our rightful place in the world, and even before that, in South Asia.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Railway Budget - The Drama that is Mamata

The hoopla that Mamata Bannerjee and her coterie has created today over the Railway Budget 2012 is clearly targeted towards her West Bengal audience. The kind of drama and sulking happening now clearly points to one of the three points:
  1. Mamata is cornering UPA-II to concede a package for West Bengal of about INR 8000 crores that she has been demanding for the past one year, else she continues to embarrass the government.
  2. This shall be used as an excuse to pull out of the UPA-II so as to save her vote share from eroding by continued alliance with the Congress
  3. There is a possibility of formation of the imaginary third front as is being projected by media moguls and so called rooters of a non Congress non BJP 'secular' alternative.
So much drama for nothing. This is ridiculous. One cannot continue to blackmail the government at the cost of destabilizing the country. For once I stand by the current government. Why do the employees of Indian Railways do not seem to be the aam aadmi to these buffoons? Who will pay for their salaries? West Bengal does not have to rely on an income unlike Railways, which clearly shows that Mamata might rather see Railways become another Air India than let it be saved and get this country's economy back on track.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Third Front - Living in Fools Paradise

There has been a lot of discussion in the Indian media and political circles. It all started with the convergence of a few state leaders Like Naveen Patnaik and Mamata Bannerjee against the National Counter Terrorism Center (NCTC). Tongues have been set wagging with the invites sent out by Shiromani Akali Dal's swearing in ceremony. By sending out invites to Mamata, Jayalalitha and many others (read here), Sukhbir Singh Badal has set the cat amongst the pundit and political circles, with the talk of the revival of a United Front like formation all over again dominating headlines. Within all this euphoria, people tend to forget a few basic facts which need to be cleared up.
First of all, let us look at the potential Third Front. There is no way that a Third Front can come together, as a lot of parties that are imaginary constituents of the same are bitter political rivals to each other in the respective states. A classic case is the Trinamool Congress and CPI(M), who are mortal enemies in West Bengal. To expect them to come together is more difficult than solving the Iranian nuclear question. Similarly, expecting the DMK and AIADMK to come together on one platform is laughable. Looking at the knives and daggers between SP and BSP, one can be rest assured that there's no love lost between them.
Secondly, there is a question of practicality. Look at the current state of affairs of the Third Front. In most states, their tally can never be a clean sweep in the state. At best, they can get together about 140-170 seats in the Lok Sabha. Then what? Who supports the government from the outside? The Congress party? After the disastrous United Front experiment in 1997, this is a far fetched dream. With the impossibility of many of these parties coming together, there is no hope for them.
Third, and most importantly is the ideological basis of the formation of this Third Front. What is it going to be? Sheer political opportunism? The parties that are trying to come together do not even have common social thought, forget common economic ideologies. What is the agenda on which they are going to fight? At best, they will look more like the B-team of the Congress (which the NDA right now looks like). Most importantly, who is their Prime Ministerial candidate or leader in the house? No one is, and no one can be. The Lohiaites were famous for being unable to decide their leader in the assemblies or the Parliament, and that disease has permeated further. There is nothing that can keep these people together.
India has already suffered at the hands of the disastrous United Front that was formed out of sheer opportunism. It makes sense for these smaller parties to be practical and not try to destabilize the country the way they did more than a decade ago. A famous story of the Bedouin and the camel is what should be recalled by them, with the camel in their case being the prime ministerial ambitions of their various leaders.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Of Chocolate Fudge Cakes and Goa

I have this friend Sweta (read Sweta and NOT Shweta, else she will kill you). She hails from Goa, which is not just fun and frolic land as all tourists think it is, but it is a land of great local food, which symbolizes experimentation at its best. One has to sample just the fish and prawn curries to understand what I am trying to say (unfortunately, no restaurant targeting tourists serves that kind of food). Main course apart, I have this recipe of Chocolate Fudge Cake that Sweta was gracious enough to share. Its an interesting one, especially for all the little trade secrets that she gave out (for which I am grateful to her). So people take down the recipe and share your experience.

Parts List
125 g unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
2/3 cup dark cocoa
2 tsp vinegar
1 cup milk
1.75 cup maida
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarb
1 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla essence

1. beat butter until creamy. then add sugar and beat until light. then egg yolks - one at a time, one completely mixed in before adding the second.
2. bloom cocoa in a little hot water and mix in slowly to paste. mix until room temperature and then slowly add to butter-eggs-sugar mixture.
3. split the milk by adding the vinegar.
4. sieve together maida, baking powder, bicarb and salt. sift three times.
5. beat the egg whites to stiff peaks, add vanilla.
6. mix split milk, powders and butter cream together, adding powder and milk alternately until everything is combined. then fold in the beaten egg whites.
7. bake at 180 celsius for 30 minutes or until done.

1. replace part of the cocoa with instant coffee.
2. replace part (or all) of the sugar with brown sugar. the more brown you use, the softer the cake.
3. use regular salted butter and eliminate the 1 tsp salt to get a non-sweet cake. this is better if you want to soak it in rum as a base for black forest.
4. this combination will yield a gooey cake. for the best outcome, use hershey's cocoa. cadbury's sucks in comparison to hershey's. or if you're using cooking chocolate, measure melted and reduce milk proportionately.

Friday, March 2, 2012


यूं चुप चुप तुम मुझको देखते रहे
मैं खामोश तुम्हे बस तकता रहा
सन्नाटे के आगोश में
यूं ही वक़्त बीतता रहा
सवाल कई पर जवाब एक ही
दिल में जो और ज़हन में भी
तिनके जितना छोटा ये पल
लगे इक अरसा बीतता रहा     

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