Terrorism

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The Israeli Relationship – Moralistic, Geopolitical & Palestine Considerations Analysed

Published July 5, 2017 by vishalvkale

This week, just yesterday as a matter of fact, our Prime Minister landed in Israel  – the first ever Prime Ministerial visit to that nation from our side. This is a seminal event; yet, it was saddening to see some voices being guarded, as opposed to openly welcoming this move. In a democracy, it is perfectly fine if you don’t support the ruling party, having voted for the other side; it is accepted as well as expected that you criticize – but when the Government does something laudable – you should welcome it.
This move by the NaMo Government stands in that list; a fully laudable move, one that we would do well to welcome, leaving our apprehensions aside for the time being. On that other hand – this is not a time for chest-thumping either; let us reflect what this move means for us as a nation, and analyse the pluses and the minuses of this new equation. Whatever else we look at, this is not the time for misguided moralistic analyses – Geopolitics is not a field that lends itself to excessive moralization, to be honest. You have to be extremely hard-nosed and practical in Geopolitics.
THE MORAL OBJECTIONS
These stem from the Israel-Palestine issue; and the hard-nosed Israeli response. I feel for the problem, to be honest; but I have to admit with deep regret that they aren’t Indians – and Indian interests have to be placed first. I don’t say I like the way it is being handled – but there is little we can do, beyond a point. We aren’t the world police – and neither do we want to be the world policeman either. The onlyway to look at this problem is from a Geopolitical angle; not a right-and-wrong angle.
Further, it is surprising to note objections being raised basis Palestine, and in some cases China: I do not recall many voices questioning our relationship with the USA, which actively sends arms and aid to Pakistan, and which was the original provider of weapons to our enemy, leading from the Afghan conflict. The continuing support from the USA to Pakistan is a matter of documented record – and yet  few people raised a question as we went closer to the USA. Where were these moralizing objections then?
Not only that, Is the USA’s record crystal clear? Want that we should go into its highly chequered and ugly history? Or perhaps the innumerable times it stopped India, or tried to, from achieving its justified goals? I respectfully submit that The USA has a far uglier record than the Israelis who actually are saints by comparison. Remember the Iraq Fiasco? Where are those WMDs? And yet, we welcome closer ties – because it is the primary world power, and a much-sought after relationship?
I don’t recall as many questions being raised on the impact of our relationship with the Russians as we came closer to The USA. Why is that? So, it is OK if you go after an aspirational relationship with the premier world power, forgetting our long standing support from Russia? That is something that has required far more serious thought, and has been handled very adroitly by all Central Governments we have had; let us give them credit for that. Thus, cant we cut slack for our Government and our Diplomatic forces that they can handle Israel and Palestine with equal aplomb?
Yet, when we come to Israel, we get instant moralization. Where was this moralization when The USA is involved? Its human rights record is ugly beyond mention – yet, no controversy. Where was this moralistic stance when we moved USA-wards, forgetting that it was Russia who has always stood by us? When has the USA ever stood for us in Geopolitics? Almost never historically! What’s good for the geese is good for the gander – you cannot ignore moralistic issues in one relationship, and apply them in another. You have to apply the precise same standards in each case.
GEOPOLITICS
More serious are the Geopolitical objections, which to be perfectly frank – deserve a serious reading, and merit a reasoned response from us. To summarise, these are India-Iran; Arabs; NRIs in the Middle East; and the Israeli-Chinese relationship. We need to look at all of these in an informed debate : a dispassionate analysis of these is required, shorn of ideological baggage. Some of these frankly are fantastic, like the NRI problem or how our NRIs will be treated due to a relationship with Israel – that is just stretching things too far. The Arab world also has relations with Israel!
First, India is seeking alternatives to OPEC actively, trying to reduce the dependence on it for Oil. Second, some Arab nations are anyway fedup with Pakistan due to terrorism, and that is a huge point in our favour. Third, The Arab World is itself giving overtures to Israel – Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia to be specific. We are also building relationships with The Arab World, who can also see our impact in Afghanistan. So, why on earth shouldn’t we build a relationship with Israel?  Fourth, Iran has seen our support to them in the face of The USA – and our diplomatic forces can be expected to handle the delicate relationship balance. That leads to Fifth – the Israel visit comes after a visit to the Arab world!Thus,  If we can balance USA and Russia, we can certainly be expected to balance Iran and Israel, that much seems to be certain. Let us not sell ourselves short.
Now, the Israeli Chinese Relationship. Why on earth should this make us uneasy? First of all, Israel is but of three major defense partners of ours, alongside the USA and Russia. We have hedged our bets, not being dependent on any one partner. Sure, a lot more needs to be done, but the direction is right. Second, Israel had supported us in 1962 against China. While that is no guarantee of the future, it is nevertheless a significant factor. It actively supported our Armed  Forces as well as our anti-terror efforts many times after that as well, including as recently as in 1999 during the Kargil conflict. Third – we are perfectly fine with having a relationship with USA, which is supporting Pakistan openly – but use a different yardstick to judge the India and Israel relationship! That is amazing!
PALESTINE
Finally, on Palestine, I accept that we have been a long-standing supporter of the cause.  But we need to understand that we need to look out for ourselves first. We are in a world with rapidly re-aligning geopolitical relationships. In such changing times, we need to change with the times, and respond to the challenges being raised. A strategic alignment with Israel is a given, as we have many common points and mutual areas of interest. This is not present in the Palestine relationship.  Furthermore, there is no other reason to be reticent; we will have to trust our diplomatic corps to play the balancing role, That is the need of the hour. There is no such thing as a perfect strategy – it is always give and take.
CONCLUSION
This does not include the many areas of trade and scientific commonality that we enjoy with Israel – which is only just one more added incentive for closer and more open relations with Israel. From my opinion, my point of view, it sounds slightly hypocritical to talk of our relations with The USA is one voice, and analyse the Israeli relationship along diametrically opposite tones. In this, I stand solidly with the Government praisers – well done, NaMo Government. You have taken a splendid step for the reasons outined above. That said, it has been a collective effort- it has to be said that all political parties have stood by this relationship for years and nurtured it actively.


Selected References : 

Book Review – Tales From Shining And Sinking India

Published March 15, 2017 by vishalvkale

Image result for tales from shining and sinking india amaryllisTales from Shining and Sinking India is a series of deep fascinating and interesting stories covered by a journalist during the course of his career. The selection is stupendous, meaningful, and a great value add, besides being interesting and largely of current interest. The eclectic selection includes stories on the Naxal problem, massive floods in Bihar, the 26/11 attack and its Media coverage, Air Accidents – YSR Helicopter accident & Mangalore, Chandrayaan, Tibet, A visit to Pakistan as a Media professional, West Bengal and the fall of the Left, and the two best ones – Anna, and a lovely article on Festivals of India
Tales from Shining and Sinking India is a book by a Media Personality – Akash Banerjee; it has its many good points; but let me depart from my convention, and first point out what I felt were its negatives. I want the readers to leave with a positive impression of this excellent work, so for once let me get into the negatives of the book before I delve into the positives. There aren’t very many, to be honest.
Image result for tales from shining and sinking india amaryllis

THE NEGATIVES
First and foremost, this is an out and out defense of the Media, start to finish. That is the impression I got from it. Now, that is not necessarily a bad thing – the other side of the story does need to be told, especially in an atmosphere wherein the Media is often called up for its ways. The US example is present in front of all of us – and that is why, despite me calling this a negative point, this book needs to be read by all. Credit where credit it due. That said, the points raised in at least one article, maybe two or more, failed to impress me, especially the article on 26/11 Media Coverage. I didn’t buy the arguments put forward, sorry. But as this is a book review, I leave it at that. Read it yourself to form your own opinion. Suffice it to say that I remain singularly unimpressed by the defense stated.
Furthermore, the second negative – the point in the Epilogue on Paid Media, well – let me just say that I don’t buy it as an individual. The points raised by the author, while pertinent, do not tally with what I have experienced. I have read one-sided views on at least two scientific topics, with the brunt of the articles being on one side of the argument only. The other side – well covered in more than several researches – didn’t see the light as often as the other side. Now this may be due to opinion as well – not paid news; but unless these and such instances are analysed and explained, I just don’t buy the entire segment in the Epilogue, as it seems to me one-sided. I can also spot many other examples from memory, but science is fact-based, so I choose only science.
THE POSITIVES
Moving on to the positives, let me start be saying that there are so many that it will be difficult to list in a small Blog Article. The subject matter this book contains is so pertinent and varied that listing all pluses is not feasible. So let me just focus on the main points I noted. First and foremost, the depth of coverage of each article, and the entire presentation is excellent. This makes for riveting reading. Since these are personal experiences, depth refers to the complete experience of the Author, and the attention to detail. That is remarkable.
Next, the choice of articles and the subject covered deserves a special mention. You get a view of the on-ground scenario in a variety of contemporary and vital aspects of public importance or interest, ranging from Pakistan,  Natural disasters, Accidents, Terror aspects, Media, Politics, Science – topped off with a delectable number on India’s Religious Festivals. It is this top-notch mix of articles that make for a fascinating, riveting read; giving the book a lovely flavor – this is a very highly balanced book indeed!
Third, the articles, or rather memories, are so well presented in the book, that you get a birds-eye view of the entire scenario as it plays out. The follies as well as the good points have been fairly narrated, with a full coverage; this tends to lend authenticity to the work. The coverage is fairly in-depth, and it gives us an idea of the entire scenario. The articles on the Tibet situation, India’s Festivals, Bihar Floods, Naxal Menace, Anna – and The West Bengal Left’s collapse are the best of the lot.
Fourth, and perhaps the most significant, it gives us, the audience, an inside look at the career of a Journalist in the modern high-pressure world of constant 24*7 news, the pressures they work under, and extent of the hard work, trouble and hardships they have to go through to get us that vital news-bite. This is, in my opinion, vital – as the 24*7 atmosphere is here to stay; and rather than blandly criticize the Media, or take it for granted, we should all be aware of what they go through. This book is a significant contribution in that realm. All in all, a class book truly worth reading for all bilbiophiles, indophiles, current affairs followers and Media persons… 

Book Review – Tanzeem by Mukul Deva

Published February 9, 2017 by vishalvkale

The one I missed… this is a book I read more than a couple of years ago, and forgot to review it then. As luck would have it, I dug deep into my pitaaraa two days ago, and thought of re-reading this one to check up on how exactly Iqbal ended up. The immediate stimulus was a twitter conversation with the Author himself. And so it was that I found that this excellent book was spared my attention in the list of books reviewed, which is a real pity; I would rate this as being among the Author’s very best. If any of you haven’t already read it – do so; you will not regret it.
THE PLOT
Image result for tanzeem mukul devaThis is the 4th book of the Lashkar series; and this one is all about Iqbal from start to finish. A shattered Iqbal comes out of Blowback with hatred and revenge the only two alternating emotions in his heart; a heart burning with one desire, and one desire alone. And a mind filled with alternating thoughts of Tanaz, and the man / men who were ultimately responsible for her condition… the combination of the mind and the heart propels Iqbal towards his goal, his purpose, and gives him resolve. And his resolve, his goal? The destruction of the entire people behind the most sordid Saga of his life.
Alongside this overpowering emotional state, is the realization that his personal enemies are also his national enemies; the patriot in him does not lose sight of this reality. He is keenly aware that something big is being planned by the Pakistanis and the terror machine; only this time – he wants to go after them alone. The current book is that story – the story of his infiltration into the vicious terror machine. The entire book is built around this one theme…
THE REVIEW
As is usual for a Mukul Deva book, this is, once again, a hurtling, breakneck speed and incredibly fast-paced story, written in his signature style. And, again as usual, this story is also completely unique in every respect; different from Lashkar, or Salim Must Die, or even Blowback in this very series itself; to say nothing of the other fiction titles of this author. And as a tribute to his skills, let me add that despite this complete difference in the books of the series, the books represent and make one complete fully connected story; the story of Iqbal. For that is what the Lashkar series is all about – the story of one man, one incredible man – Iqbal.
There are two or three things that need to be highlighted in this story. The first aspect is the shocking attention to the scenes of brutality,  including torture – the attention to detail as well as the way they are woven into the story so as to make them not just integral to the story, but also central to carrying the story forward. The second aspect is the graphic descriptions and narrative style that is used to  both capture your attention and build up speed and tension. The beauty is that the story doesn’t lose out on the pace due to the graphic details included.
The third, and as per me, the most critical aspect of this book is the history lesson that it tried to create for the reader. The entire 44 page section dealing with the Ameer’s flashback tells a history lesson that achieves two objectives : firstly, it creates a complete character sketch in the readers’ minds of the principle antagonist,  taking you deep into his psyche and behaviour. Secondly, It uses contemporary history which is certain to capture the attention of the target audience, which is largely Indian; and gives what I regard as a history lesson {almost – let us not lose sight that this is a work of fiction. That said, I took the trouble of cross-checking some 6-8 facts in this section – turned out completely accurate in every respect} in the background to the Af-Pak regions’ headlong rush into disaster.
It also makes for a slightly emotional read for us Indians, as this “aid” to Pakistan was diverted towards fighting India. You could feel a tinge of stunned shock at the clear US stupidity of acceding to Zia’s demand for what tantamounted to unrestrained control of the aid package. Anyone with even a small tiny iota of intelligence should have known that this would be diverted to fighting India! But let us move on… I hope now at least the great USA realizes is folly, its stupid and naïve support of Pakistan through – aah –  aid! This does not make for an easy read for a Western reader; the USA has been, quite literally, taken apart for its role in Af-Pak, as has Russia and its role. This is not a novel that projects either in a positive light; by and large. Even in the climax, it forcefully underscores the USA’s shortcomings, as it is the Indian forces who are in complete control of the operation.
To summarise, this book once again rates an easy 5 stars out of 5. And, as you turn the last page, you realize with more than a tinge of regret that this is the last time you are reading of Iqbal, and of Force 22. I still believe there is a scope of a couple more based on Iqbal; and I am certain that the author can build a new series around Force 22, making them a series as avidly followed as Lashkar was, and the current Ravinder Singh Gill series is. There is tremendous potential for these two story ideas; I hope Mr Deva is reading these words… 

UNDERSTANDING THE 500-1000 BAN – WHY IT ISNT ABOUT CORRUPTION ALONE

Published November 9, 2016 by vishalvkale

UNDERSTANDING THE BAN – WHY IT ISNT ABOUT CORRUPTION ALONE
MY THOUGHTS ON THE PEOPLE OF INDIA
The Indian capacity for hero-worship at times surprises me; it is one thing to hero-worship without cause; this can be  easily dealt with by speaking facts. But it is quite another to hero-worship when a) the personality in question is very good at what he-she does; and b) the hero-worship has basis in facts, albeit incompletely understood. This was proven yet again, as there arose a deluge of praise – most of it deserved – on the 500/1000 note ban. That by itself is fine; but going through the comments frankly left me speechless, as I saw an amazing capacity to not think in the light of cold reason, but rather react in a classic response from a strong emotive viewpoint
TACTICAL GENIUS
That is critical; if responses arise from emotive regions of your brain, the capacity to fully analyse diminishes. And that was in full evidence yesterday, as people went ballistic, not asking questions, not trying to fathom the move, not trying to connect the dots – but rather, going ballistic in praise. This admittedly excellent move has many parameters to it; few people and publications picked out the finer nuances of this stunning strategy. The most critical aspect is not the Ban per se; it is the tactical execution of the Ban; the secrecy – nay, total secrecy of the step; the way little to no time was given; the way hard decisions were taken. Not one person in my circles stated this, appreciated this. I just hope they understood, but didn’t state it explicitly.
NO SPACE FOR ANALYSIS?
Even  more worrying was that there was no space, quite literally, for conflicting opinion. People were just not willing to listen to reasoned voices, and going gung-ho ballistic, which was a genuine shocker. It shows us people in a very poor light indeed – for reasons I shall point out in the following paragraphs. Let alone the people, this move exposed the Media as well – as their emerged a clear cleft between reporting Media, and Analysing Media. One publication, which I expected, emerged tops, as it correctly analysed the move and its associated problems and full parameters. Just one in my reading at least – if there are others, shall update as and when I read them in follow-up articles.
When I state conflicting opinion – I don’t mean that I disagree with this move – I support it wholeheartedly. In fact, I am full of praise –  not just for the ban, but the way it was implemented. For it to be successful – surprise had to be total. It was. There should have been no time given to anyone, regardless of rich or poor. No time has been given. Full marks to the Government of India for this – and NaMo, who has clearly spearheaded this excellent move. I criticize where due; and praise effusively where due – and this move deserves nothing but praise. These are the kind of hard decisions that this nation needs; these are the kind of hard-headed, hard-hitting reforms that we urgently needed. Good to see some action at last!
UNDERSTANDING THE BAN
Now let us understand the Ban : first, large denominations account for 84% of the money in circulation. I shared this yesterday immediately, few responded, being more enamoured by the externalities of the Ban, not the nitty gritty involved or understanding the full. Now add this data to the total lack of time given – it clearly means difficulties lie ahead in terms of money in circulation, and money available in our pockets. That is why the limits on withdrawals. Going forward, just as in the case of GST, where I noted that everything hinges on implementation – I state the same here. Now, this is the real test for the GOI – how efficiently it can manage cash replenishment in a diverse nation such as ours. That is why I reserved judgement, and still do, knowing fully well the fickle nature of the Indian Electorate. Let us see.
Second, Corruption. Yes, it will be a temporary and massive setback for corruption; and is to be welcomed wholeheartedly. Again, everything hinges on the implementation and the follow-up; not all corrupt money is held in cash – and not all cash transactions are corrupt. The entire retail trade, for example, depends on Cash transactions, and most retailers do daily banking or thrice a week banking, and normally use a mix of 1000, 500, 100, 50 and 10 notes to deposit, which represents their retail collections from customers over the day. The Indian Economy is mostly cash-based, like it or not.
And that is why this is a hard decision – it will like as not impact roll-over of trade, as over the short term the trade adjusts. People will be inconvenienced, there could be a panic like situation – for proof, note the rush to ATMs. All I did was check if I had enough to tide me over  for 2 days in 100 and lower denominations, and forgot about going to the ATM. How fast logic prevails will entirely depend on the CMS wings of the banks {CMS is Cash Management Services}, and the Government planning. This is the real test going forward – their implementation skills. All the best to them; we need this initiative to succeed, and need it badly.
This is being touted as a move against corruption; that is only one small aspect of this – as I was at pains to point out in several whatsapp conversations yesterday. It will not do anything to prevent the further accumulationof Black Money; that is an entirely different story altogether, one which no doubt is being attended to. It will also not to anything whatsoever against small-ticket corruption; the corruption that confronts us normal people is the 10 and 100 rupee variety which is rampant. This Black Money will remain until systemic reform is implemented. This variety is also a significant aspect of the Black Money and Corruption conundrum confronting us as a nation.
It will only impact the big-ticket moves, and held-up cash that is stored secretly. Some portion  of the 500 and 1000 rupee variety corruption will have been invested, or put into circulation – this will not be affected. The nationwide Hawala Network operates on all currency denominations; this network will be inconvenienced, not put out of action. How they take this is something which the authorities will no doubt have planned for, {digitization programme is one such example}  so let us wait and watch. What is happening is phenomenal, and let it be implemented first before we can draw any conclusions.
It will also give a fillip to mobile money, online and cashless transactions, mobile wallets – all of which are traceable monetary mediums, and which will be a welcome move. It is said that a large part of India’s Economy is in Cash Mode – not necessarily all of it illegal. The impact on this segment will only be known over time, given the deep relationships, networks, business interdependencies, and norms and practices of operation – which are primarily based on Cash as of now. It is hard to dismantle this structure overnight; and thus cash will continue, especially since new 500 and 1000 tender is being introduced over a period of time. But yes – now,  there will be further motivation to shift towards non-Cash and online methods, improving traceability and reducing transactions costs.
THE MAIN PLANK
Which brings me to the main plank of this wonderful move : this is a move that, in one fell swoop, finishes the entire counterfeit cash network and makes it redundant. This was, increasingly, becoming a major problem, as has been previously highlighted in various news articles. The finger was pointed at Pakistan, and was a major thorn in the flesh. In one overnight move, the entire network right from Pakistan to the last points in India has been rendered valueless; this fake money has been flushed out of the Indian Economy in one move, in a matter of hours so to speak. This is the primary objective

The second aspect is Terrorism – funding terrorism also has been made far more difficult, and is a brutally hard smash into the entire terror machinery. In fact, this move is one of the hardest hits the Pakistani terror factory will have ever suffered; now financing terror for them is going to be bloody hard, near on impossible – unless they use traceable transactions, which are easy to monitor. Their options are now highly limited, and poses serious logistical difficulties for them. That is the second objective of this entire matter – which has three prongs. The major one – counterfeit cash; second – terror, and minor objective – Black Money flushing. Ek Teer Se Teen Nishaane. And that is why this move deserves a standing ovation from all India – well done, Mr Prime Minister, as well as every member of the team that made this possible!  

Book Review : Mumbai Avengers, S Hussain Zaidi

Published January 10, 2016 by vishalvkale

MUMBAI AVENGERS : S HUSSAIN ZAIDI

For the past 25 years and more, we have been facing the evil and duplicitous activities of Pakistani-supported terror groups, aided fully by Pakistan and its organisations. We have witnessed and withered many a murderous attack,  and paid a heavy price in blood, all for no fault of ours. In all the list of attacks we have suffered, no single attack holds as much relevance and importance to the national consciousness than the one that happened on the fateful date 26/11.

Mumbai stands as a beacon in India – it is the city of hope, and the personification of the spirit of struggle, hard work, innovation, and enterprise that is present in all Indians; it is to us Indians representative of something larger than what it is physically, and that is why an attack there was so hard hitting. It also attacked the centers that represented the new India-  the rising India, the India of Business, fast growth and great global prospects. That is why this attack was so important an event; almost a watershed. These people were trying to attack the ideal of new India…


 
The current book under review takes on from the feeling of deep hurt and helplessness in the people rising from this cataclysmic event , and goes on to craft a plot that seeks not revenge – but justice. The emotional connect it {the concept} made with me was immediate; it was an enticing and deeply engaging thought and concept, and was further written by one of the most accomplished non-fiction writers in the reality / underworld genre – S Hussain Zaidi.




THE PLOT
The plot is deceptively simple – go after the perpetrators, the planners of the 26/11 plot and bring them to justice, strike back at the monster and seek justice for the victims of the wanton murder and mayhem that happened from 26/11/2008 to 30/11/2008 in Mumbai, India. The book is, from the start to the finish,single-mindedly focussed on only one aspect : Justice. There are no subplots, no needless twists and turns, and no mandatory love angle anywhere. That is the beauty of the plot; it is a lovely taut narrative, completely focussed in its core task with no diversions at all.

The concept has been rolled out extremely well, and comes across as totally feasible and practical; that is its main power. The story starts with a presentation by a retired Army General with a proposal to hit back at Pakistan; one which immediately meets with scepticism and mistrust from the political powers that be. This General – Lt General Syed Waris Ali – is then approached by an old friend from his army days – now in RAW with a simple proposition : do it. But I don’t know you did it, and you don’t know or remember that I told you to do it.

That comes across as completely and devastatingly believable in the real world; this is further buttressed further on, when the team put together for the task needs help – which is denied initially, only to be given later after a public adulation of these national heroes : again, very plausible.  There is no jingoism, or one-man action scenes; instead, you see a team – or rather set of teams at work, fitting together and gelling together into one whole.

The General, after being assured of all help in every way being given by the friend, including his choice of personnel from the forces and intelligence community, then crafts together a multi-disciplinary team of hardcore professionals. These people, led by the very capable General Ali, then go about delivering justice – starting from locating their current location, selecting how to give justice, and then the deliverance. This forms the meat of the book as our heroes go out to achieve the impossible for the nation and the victims.

The rest of the book forms the hunt and the deliverance of justice; each hunt is different from the others, each is painstakingly planned out and plotted, executed with near-perfection as the kingpins of the plot start falling one after the other. This does not go unnoticed by the ISI, as well as the Chinese, who play a lovely double role, playing both sides efficiently as per their needs. This is what sets up the climax, as all the forces come together to try and prevent the final damage, and the biggest kingpin of the terror factory’s fall…

THE ANALYSIS
The book is not one of your rapid and blinding fast thrillers shooting your way through pages; this is an excellently crafted, carefully plotted suspense thriller. The narrative is sufficiently fast paced to keep your interest not only alive, but captivated; and yet, it is slow enough that the complexities of the hunt and the justice are fully developed. This is important, for this is not your average revenge book or spy thriller. The targets have to be taken out one by one, which means that ensuring zero suspicion on India or on the team is paramount.

That is the only way the plot can be carried forward logically, given the parameters of the operation, and given that this isn’t a commando style operation – which is anyway infeasible, as the targets are widely dispersed geographically. That is why the story has to be complex and yet plausible- which  it is in every way. The surgical precision of each strike is a thing of beauty, as is the part about the hunt for the target within the limitations imposed by the Government. And the way the story links effortlessly to the climax is excellent – and completely flawless.

The character development is as required by the storyline and the genre; effective; the characters are well etched and very well developed with bold strokes and strong personalities, as befits the task requirement. Each character is a flawless and effortless fit in this story; given the wide range of personalities and characters adopted, this is the most fabulous aspect of the book. Each character comes across  as believable, and, at times, reacts exactly as we would expect someone in the real world with a similar background or personality. This is realism at its best.

All in all, I rate it 5 stars out of 5, and as one of the best fiction thrillers to have been written  in Indian English. S Hussian Zaidi’s expertise in the genre of real crime is well known, {you can find three non-fiction works reviewed on my blog},  – this book is an added feather in his cap. The research done is extensive, and its shows. The book is a riveting read, has a powerful emotional trigger for Indians, as well as is crafted and put together very well indeed…

The Biggest Threat – USA or Pakistan?

Published February 1, 2015 by vishalvkale

The USA – Friend, Threat Or Foe? Some voices tend to typify the USA as a foe or a threat, and my own articles have been largely critical. An article a few months ago { Biggest Threat} in a leading daily carried a survey that showed The USA as the biggest threat to world peace.. Let us look at the other side of this issue, and examine the relationship in the light of cold logic. 

First, threat. I am no fan of the USA, anyone who has read me knows that. I am a die-hard nationalist Indian, who loves India beyond description {as most people do their nation}, and who sees the USA as something less than nice;  but even to me – the claim of the USA being a threat to the world  sounds a bit far-fetched. The USA as a threat is a bit of a stretch, even for my highly critical imagination. A victim cannot be called a perpetrator; a fool or naive maybe, or a person who made a strategic error : but threat?

The biggest threat to world peace cannot be the person who is trying to maintain world peace; credit where credit is due. Coming from a critic of the USA, this is saying something. That the means adopted by this peacemaker are all cockeyed does nothing to take away the basic premise. Furthermore, this has no link with the issues of Trade; if you were to ask, the biggest threat to real free trade / fair practices to India, I would state The USA each and every time. But that is trade, and each nation has a right to protect its turf, howsoever amoral may the approach be.  This is not about trade – it is about Geopolitics. 


THE GEOPOLITICAL SITUATION
The Geopolitical situation in the world has 2 hotspots : Ukraine, which is a mild political issue, a creation of misbegotten policies on both sides, and is localised to one region with little chance of getting into a world issue unless the USA pushes needlessly; and The Middle East, or more specifically Islamic Terror. The third one – India/Pakistan, the West’s favourite bugbear, is in reality no threat all, for the perfectly simple reason that Pakistan knows fully well that it cannot take on India in straight honest hard combat and win; that is a manifest impossibility. 

A strike from our side would decidedly have a significant downside. The key aspect here is the overall geopolitical situation, which is not in our favour. A unilateral attack from our side can only lead to international intervention due to the Nuclear bugbear, which is exactly what Pakistan wants. Doing that would be playing into Pakistani hands. Personally, I am sure that the Nuclear threat is just a bluff : we are certain to give a disproportionate response. That would mean certain obliteration for Pakistan. Second, it would leave Pakistan’s owner & master the USA with no option but to participate in the response, and step in. For Pakistan, it means complete destruction and/or dismemberment. That is 100% assured. 


And that is what is Pakistan’s play is : it is buffing. And those geniuses in the West are too smart to see through this, the biggest bluff ever perpetrated by any nation. I would request people here to watch state department interviews on youtube – Pakistan is always viewed as a strategic location. Always and everytime. This is blinding the West to the reality; the grand bluff. A master play by a genius – credit where credit is due. Hence, every time there is tension on the border, everyone from The Western Media to The Western Leaders begin their nightmare scenarios, forcing intervention.

{This analysis taken from  my article :India, Pakistan and The West}

That only leaves the Middle East, and more specifically Islamic Terror, which the USA is trying to fight. That much is the truth. I need not state much on that; the inroads being made by Islamic Terror are known by all. Please note that this is a threat that is not limited to the borders, but rather has the capacity to reach into the innermost and most secure and safe civilian locations within our towns, cities, homes and offices.  From our POV, that the steps taken by the USA or The West at times go aginst our interests does not make them a threat; it only means that we have to strengthen our own response, and ensure that the other side understands the error of their strategy. This can only be through negotiation and discussion. 


THE BIGGEST THREAT?
Pakistan, period. It is a known fact that Pakistani Armed Forces are in cahoots with the terrorists, with deep and systemic links to terror organisations both India-specific and world-focussed. Pakistan is also home to rabid fundamentalism {not my words, words to this effect have also been stated by some forward-looking and worried Pakistanis} for ex :”

The common belief in Pakistan is that Islamic Radicalisation is a problem only in FATA, and that  madrassas are the only institutions serving as Jehad factories. This is a serious misconception. Extremism is breeding at a ferocious rate in public and private schools within Pakistan’s towns and cities. Left unchallenged, this education will produce a generation incapable of co-existing with anyone except  strictly their own kind. The kind of mindset it creates may eventually lead to Pakistan’s demise as a nation-state… “ :  Pervez Hoodbhoy, in Newsline,  January 2009




This is a nation that has nuclear weapons; is highly unstable; with an economy in deep trouble, and no genuine efforts to repair the same; with a fundamentalist population; is a known recruiting and breeding ground for terrorists; with deep, systemic and well-thought-out and supported contacts with terrorist bases and organisations; is increasingly anti-Western; has a  modern & professional Armed Forces; with deep cultural, religious and other contacts with the entire Islamic World. That they have become like this due in part to Western {particularly US } handling does not excuse them from the sins they have or will commit. 

For more specifics, read this : The War On Terror : India Versus Pakistan


That the USA and the entire West are wrong in their handling of Pakistan is beyond debate; that they have created this entire problem is also beyond debate; that does not make them sinners, only erroneous in their approach. That we understand Pakistan better than anyone is also no surprise, for the perfectly simple reason that Pakistan itself is a mirage, with no basis in history, culture or reality – an imagined never-never land. Pakistanis are, after all, howsoever much they may deny it, Indians. That is an inescapable fact. 

How to handle this? I dont know. Going to war with them is not the solution, neither is ostracizing them. Pakistan cannot be wished away; best would be to help Pakistan build its own identity by strengthening moderate forces within Pakistan, and evolving an identity different from India. But that is another story, not relevant here.


The War On Terror : India Versus Pakistan

Published January 21, 2015 by vishalvkale

The War on Terror, and the US-Pakistan leading it, has always been a topic of intense interest and debate in India, for obvious reasons. This is usually considered as one singular situation, when in reality there are two distinct parameters at play. This is a geo-political problem with socio-cultural undertones, with roots deep in the past, going back to before independence. While geopolitical strategies may be new, the mental attitude and societal approach of The West is a function of its history, just as our societal approach is a function of our history.

This is an exceedingly complicated multi-layered problem, built on a long legacy of injustice to entire peoples, constant interference in their affairs, wanton bloodshed without reason, and founded on a platform of a culture that the West has no conceptualisation of – the desires, the dreams and self-perceptions, and the past of the Islamic world. This did not happen overnight; it required a series of events over a long period of time. 

Terrorism arose because of the combination of two unrelated factors : the pulls-pressures and self-examination within Islam emanating from its fall from political pre-eminence in the 1800s, and the interference in Islam through the Western powers in the runup to and during the cold war. Without this interference, this would not have happened. Be it the middle east or Pakistan, the problem is the same – unwanted people poking their noses. Being an Indian, I know the Pakistan story inside out, and in addition have a better than average understanding of the ME, the story – if not identical – is comparable. Without the external stimulus, chances are that the direction would have been totally divergent… sad, but now we may never know. 

It is a known fact that Pakistan is a creation of the Great West, the archival documents in various national libraries leave no room for doubt. The MOMs of various major players between 1930s and 1940s are crystal clear in this regard. The only way to achieve this was sowing discord in 2 communities. This was done with remarkable aplomb. As I noted in one of my previous articles, Islam was in the throes of a deep self-examination, and Western games at this point drove a deep schism into it.


To cut a long story short, there was good and justifiable reason for deep discontent within the Islamic belt; this would have subsided, with time – had it been allowed to. The forces let loose in the 2nd half of the 19th and the first half of the 20th centuries drove a massive change: fundamentalism, as beautifully picturised by Pakistan’s descent into chaos from the early 1950s {1954 to be precise, if memory serves me right} 

Into this maelstrom, came free weapons, and active politically motivated channelisation into Jihad during the Afghan problem, built on the foundation of constant unilateral support to Pakistan and its dictators right since 1947. Fact of the matter is that in the 1980s, these terrorists were heroes for The USA and the West, who continued on this unholy strategy despite the manifest problems it created in India. 

The Afghan issue started due to the Russian Phobia, and the cold war; the introduction of weapons could only be through Pakistan. Be it Oil, or be it any reason, Pakistan is strategically ideally located in the part of the World, and is virtually indispensable. And this is borne out by History, with support to the idea of Pakistan pre-dating independence, as shown by the post-war papers dating from 1945. The strategy laid out in those papers was exactly how things played out in the 1950s. 

The current geopolitical situation is no better, at least from an Indian perspective. The Western powers’ predilection with Russia, and its constant baiting, has already led to a powder-keg like situation in Ukraine. Meddling in countless nations in order to ‘create’ “democracy by supporting secessionist movements in the ME is another factor. Palestine is a third critical factor. And in all of these, Pakistan assumes importance in Western eyes, due to both its strategic location as well as its hold on terrorists. The West assumes {an assumption based on a complete myth, as usual} that it can force Pakistan to play ball, and thus lead to a semblance of peace and control. 

Further, prejudices running into centuries dont change. A glance to the mid 1800s will show Russia has always featured as a threat to Western interests in western perceptions, even when they had no intention of doing anything. In 1854, those who have read me before will recall my article – we had approached the Russians for help during planning for the First War Of Independence. The record shows clearly the existing deep seated distrust even on those days, as evidenced by the events in the 18th and 19th century. This distrust runs deep, and will not change, and has been a constant feature of the past 5-6 decades as well.


That is one. Next, the Middle East. That is also now a massive problem for Uncle Sam and the UK; they are stuck, plain and simple. Damned of they do, damned if they dont. Again, that is why they think they require Pakistan. {Note my words, please; very carefully}. Which means, Pakistan will keep getting weapons, which in turn means that Pakistan will continue to arm terrorists, with the attendant problems for India. Pakistan needs to keep the area aflame; without that, it fears a relapse into nothingness. But that is another story, one that I shall take up later on. 


It is for these reasons the USA has no intention of reigning in Pakistan. Neither does anyone else. The reason is simple : India has no utility whatsoever {Thank God for that!} to The West from a strategic perspective; locationally, we could not have had a more useless geographical positioning. Pakistan is situated at the joint of the Karakoram and Hindukush ranges, with a straight pass into Afghanistan, and is connected integrally to the Middle East. It is also closer to the old Western Bugbear Russia. Add to the the close contacts with terrorists as seen in the above paragraph. 

Next, the overt Islamisation of the entire region has meant, sadly, that areas that were once relatively unconnected, have now risen in one whole again. The West, with its lack of understanding of 100% of all things Eastern, blundered. They used the Religion card; we knew better. Our past experience had taught us not to use the Religion card; and certainly not in arming religious Islamic Jihadis, having seen them up close innumerable times. Further, we knew well enough that Islam in danger has always been an exceedingly powerful cry, capable of uniting the entire spectrum. 


And that is what happened, as things went ahead in their Russian-centred stupidity, it introduced an element that was not recommended : it gave ignition to the fundamentalist elements within Islamic society. Pakistan, as you have seen in my earlier articles, is a western creation. Creating Pakistan let loose these elements; they were further emboldened by Zia, and Western support to Zia. 


Add to this potboiler, Free Arms, and a licence to do anything. This created oceans of discontent, as disaffected and ruined families in first Afghanistan and then Iraq took to violence. Palestine was already aflame; this completed the circle. They {The ME} had no option; none whatsoever. They were caught in a deadly trap between 3 powers. As it became apparent to all Islamic groups, regardless of political dispensation, awakening happened… the spark was already lit…  only problem was, this awakening took them in a direction that led to disaster! 


All it required was one additional event for the explosion to take place. Continuing western interference in more than a few middle eastern nations, combined with internecine issues in the region, provided it. Islam in danger + intervention + real injustice to the people + politics + internecine disagreements is a very heady concoction. To this deadly mixture, some genius had already added Weapons. Result? Explosion! That is what happened… we could have told the West that is precisely what happened; perhaps we did. Maybe that is why the Ex-British PM observed in deep and genuine regret that The West blundered bigtime, that they should have listened to India. 


This would not have happened had we had a genuine and effective UNO, instead of the what we have now, a whore and a keep of the USA and the Western Powers. It is a foregone conclusion that without the intervention, while the ME would still have issues among themselves, would not be a world threat. And now that the scourge is at the Western doors, they are aflame and a-rage, as now for them it is an issue not of politics, but of self-defence. And that is where things stand as on date on this war on terror…


Conventional wisdom tells us that possibly the worst we can do is now ally with the West over this; we have fought hard, bled in rivers for the past 30 years, and have finally, finally driven the scourge back against its own creators, by the simple expedient of fighting back hard, and without showing any mercy; combined with a peace building inclusive internal agenda, which ensured that no ignition happened internally. This, combined with a genuine democracy, and fairness, alongwith landmark laws, approaches to the community and continued fairness {by and large} has meant internal peace for us, proving that the problem is not Islam, but politics. Had Islam been the problem, India would have been aflame as well. 


Question is, will this peace continue? And is a solution possible? And is our non-interventionist approach correct in the light of the overall geopolitical situation? Your guess is as good as mine on that, we civilians can only analyse and theorise on that. Only one thing is certain : we have to maintain our fierce strategic independence what may, and not get pulled into any particular block. And vest our trust in our Government and our security agencies, who have done an excellent task so far, all things said and done.