Friday, October 31, 2014

Arun Shourie on China and Tibet

Arun Shourie on China and Tibet

Arun Shourie on Tibet

Post 2014 Lok Sabha elections India has witness drift from the Nehruvian policies that have influenced India since independence. This raises a question and a hope about India’s policy towards its neighbour Tibet which has acted as a buffer state between India and China. Arun Shourie, the noted politician and the recipient of the Ramon Magsaysay Award for journalism in his book “We must have no price” has dedicated an entire chapter on India’s Tibet Policy.

Mr. Shourie mentions how under Nehru’s firm hand, the Indian Government shut its eyes to the roads and other infrastructure which were being built in Tibet. He states that,

“Indeed, the “policy” was carried further. The view was taken, and enforced, that we should not only not ourselves raise, we should oppose efforts by others to raise in a forum like the United Nations what was being done to Tibetans. This, Panditji laid down, is what would be in the best interests of the Tibetans themselves.”

Just as Mr. Shourie has forewarned us we see that the net result of shutting eyes to Tibet was that the Chinese having already swallowed Tibet are now making systematic inroad onto the southern slopes of the Himalayas. There is another feature about India’s stance towards Tibet as per Mr. Shourie which is a feature that reveals a lot about us as a people, a feature that goes beyond the attitude of successive Indian governments.

He says that the Buddhist tradition was forgotten in India, however, among the places in the world, where this great heritage of mankind, and the Buddha’s doctrine and practice, were preserved has been Tibet. The great Tibetan masters have been with us and amidst us now for 50 years. Mr. Shourie says that,

“It is often said, “But we had no option in 1949-50.” Take that to be true for a moment. They tragedy is that six long decades later, we remain a country without options.”

Mr. Shourie says that it is weakness that lies at the root. The rest, accepting Chinese “suzerainty” one day, “sovereignty” the next; accepting Tibet as an autonomous region within China one day and as in internal affair of China the next; these are just successive steps to “operationalise” that weakness, so to say.

Mr. Shourie rightly says,

“Unless we acquire strength comparable to that of China; unless we build up an alliance system with other countries that are concerned about Chinese intentions and might, we will be left with hope as our only policy: the hope that “ultimately truth triumphs,” that “ultimately tyrannies dissolve,” the hope that like all else “ultimately China too will evolve towards freedom and democracy.”

After witnessing the moves of China in the recent year it is very clear what China wants to be. It is obvious that China wants to be the dominant power in Asia and one of the two major powers in the world. It regards India as a potential nuisance; a nuisance that must be confined within South Asia. The onus is now on the Indian Government as to how it wants to review its Tibet Policy. While the new Indian Government decides on its Tibet Policy it must know that for China conquering and suppressing Tibet, militarising Tibet and stationing air and nuclear bases in Tibet are part of China’s larger policy.


Arun Shourie on Strategic Thinking

Arun Shourie on Long Term Thinking

Arun Shourie on Long Term Thinking

Arun Shourie in his book “We must have no price” says that a host of factors are liable to affect the security of our country, some here and now, others in the middle distance. And some will affect us 20 or 30 years from now. Here it is important to know that the last lot are no less important for that reason: their effects could be absolutely devastating, as we shall see, and preparing for them will take all of 20 or 30 years.

Arun Shourie then goes on to talk about the nations in our neighbourhood.


Among the factors that bear upon our security here and now, is the course events are taking in Pakistan. Mr. Shourie adds that a development which will affect our security in the immediate future, a development which transcends Pakistan but which is now centred on what is happening there, is the foreseeable withdrawal of the US in defeat: from Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.


The UPA government’s neglect of the situation in Nepal is as per Mr. Shourie one of the costliest blunders. He says that outsourcing foreign policy to CPI(M) ensured monarchy was abolished in Nepal, China got gateway to descend to the southern slopes of the Himalayas and Pakistan got to bring up string of madrasas and mosques right along the Indian border.


Mr. Shourie says that the illegal migrants from Bangladesh in West Bengal and Assam has altered the demographic balance in the states to such an extent that who shall be elected in over third of the seats in the Assam Assembly and in close to a fifth in the West Bengal Assembly is now decided by illegal migrants.

Sri Lanka:

As per Mr. Shourie the LTTE cadres who have escaped can set up pockets in the Nilgiris or links with our insurgents. This would create problem later on for us but as of now Sri Lanka poses no immediate threat.


China is the biggest threat for India as per Mr. Shourie. He says that Chinese rulers have translated economic strength into military muscle, as well as diplomatic influence. So much so that no country is prepared to speak the truth to or about China. He adds that China has a definite view about India: that it is a potential nuisance, and, therefore, it has to be kept busy in South Asia. Accordingly he says China has ringed India: Pakistan as a willing instrument; a fully militarised and nuclearized Tibet; a friendly Nepal; Bangladesh with which it has a military pact and which is by now dependent on it for arms and equipment: Myanmar as a dependency.

As per Mr. Shourie we need to make nationalism respectable again and we must make pursuing the national interest legitimate. To be able to face the danger we must educate people that bombing terrorist camps will not help. It simply solidifies people behind regimes. He also suggests that we must exhume the connections of, the selective humanism of liberals, civil rightists, and peace-mongers. He adds we must make our decision-makers think beyond clichés.

He gives the most useful tip by stating that to protect our nation we must help create the environment, the climate of opinion and provide alternatives to the people and leadership by great intellectual works. We need to look decades ahead and foresee the likely transformation in the nature of warfare; likely evolution of countries and to the availability of resources for us.

As Walter Lipmann put the matter succinctly: “A nation has security when it doesn’t not have to sacrifice legitimate interests to avoid war, and is able, if challenged, to maintain them by war.” We need to make our nation secure.


Arun Shourie on Liberty versus Security

Arun Shourie on Liberty versus Security

The choice between individual liberty and national security has always been tricky one. However, as per the noted author, journalist and former minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government, Arun Shourie individual liberty and national security have to be balanced.

In his book “We must have no price” he says

“Which of the two will have to be given primacy at a particular time depends on the situation in which the country is placed at that juncture. The Constitution has, therefore, balanced each right and liberty with the grounds on which it may be subjected to reasonable restrictions.”

Mr. Shourie suggests that what should get prominence over the other depends on the circumstances prevalent at a particular time.

“Today, the country is being subjected to a war – engineered, instigated, equipped, directed, financed by powers and groups that are out to dismember India: the Supreme Court has, therefore, been absolutely right in approving legislation that is necessary for enabling the security forces and the investigating agencies to prosecute that war, even though that legislation may result in curtailing some liberties of some individuals. The courts are, of course, absolutely right in affirming that it is their duty to see that power is not misused.”

As per Mr. Shourie we must distinguish between the liberty of (1) the one who is out to break India or to overturn our constitutional system by violence, and those who help him; (2) the liberty of a member of the security forces who has to face the bullets of the first lot; and (3) the liberty of the ordinary citizen. Having made these distinctions, we should respect the liberty and rights of the first lot, that is those who take a gun in their hand and those who aid them only to the extent to which they respect the liberty and rights of their victims.

He suggests that we must equally expose political parties that jeopardize vital legislation for the sake of votes of one section or another. Mr. Shourie says that the balance cannot be maintained unless the lawyers too rise above legalism, unless they rise above the self-serving notion, “We have to defend whoever comes to us for help.” The fact is that they don’t. But I am on a different point: they shouldn’t.

As per Mr. Shourie even greater responsibility rests with those who are in public life and discourse. As we have seen, by and large, the courts have taken cognizance of the threat that the country faces. Even as they safeguarded liberties, they have put their seal on laws that were required to fight the menace. That is far more than can be said of politicians and many in the media. The fabricated miasmas they have used to undo legislation show how they will cast away the requisites of national security for votes in the one case, and to be intellectually fashionable in the other. Neither the security forces not the courts can save the country when those in control of legislatures and public discourse act in this way.

Mr. Shourie rightly says that unless we effect changes of this kind, we will have to wait upon terrorists to settle our debates!


Friday, October 24, 2014

Arun Shourie on Pakistan – Diplomacy or War

Arun Shourie on handling Pakistan

Arun Shourie on handling Pakistan

On August 18, 2014, India called off foreign secretary level talks with Pakistan which were scheduled to be held on August 25 in Islamabad. The talks were called off in the wake of Kashmiri separatist leaders being invited to meet Pakistan’s High Commissioner Abdul Basit. This created lot of buzz in the national as well international media. Arun Shourie in his book “We must have no price” has dedicated an entire chapter to India having only a choice between Diplomacy and War when it came to Pakistan.

Mr. Shourie states that every time there is a change in the leadership in Pakistan the advocated in the Rajya Sabha use the well-tested argument: “Don’t you see, whenever there has been democracy in Pakistan, relations with India have been better? If we don’t reach out, these leaders will weaken. The Army will be back, and relations with India will worsen once again.” He states that India has only two options to deal with Pakistan which are Diplomacy and War. He adds that “I believe the current leadership understands that …”, can’t be the basis of policy with Pakistan as it has been able to use a third option against India for 30 years. The third option being terrorism as Pakistan has built the requisite capacities and we have not.

He further states that Diplomacy for India is going from one capital to the next requesting others to do our work for us. Sadly things don’t end at that for India and as no sane person wants to go to war, the only option India has is dialogue. Pakistan on its part has shown that it will not fulfil the pledge it had made of not allowing the territory under its control to be used for terrorism against India, thus India recommences dialogue, confident that the next assault will make us forget the last one.

Mr. Shourie also brings to the notice that the Vajpayee-Musharraf Declaration had carefully chosen the words: Pakistan shall not allow the territory “under its control” to be used for terrorist attacks against India. This was replaced with “its territory” by former PM Manmohan Singh. This he said meant two things – 1. India recognises Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK) as Pakistani territory. 2. Pakistan can use POK for terrorist attacks against India.

This Mr. Shourie said was not a case of bad drafting as pointed by the former PM Manmohan Singh but it was the indefensible concession which he has made for Pakistan. He says that this was all done to suit the conductor the US. This he said was because the US was dependent on Pakistan to curb the terrorists along its Afghan border and thus was delivering to Pakistan what our neighbour has not been able to get on its own.

The recent move by Prime Minister Narendra Modi suggests that he may have taken heed to what the renowned author, politician and the former economist with the World Bank had writren on Pakistan. The Modi government showed that like the past governments his government will not treat meetings between Hurriyat leaders and Pakistani government officials as non-events. Modi government made it clear that what was acceptable to the previous governments including the previous NDA government. This move meant that finally India made it clear to Pakistan that it will respond in appropriate manner if more red lines are breached by Pakistan.


Friday, October 3, 2014

Arun Shourie takes on Girish Karnad on Freedom of Speech

File photo of Arun Shourie
Arun Shourie the noted journalist, author and former Minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee Government, took on prominent writer/actor Girish Karnad at length during the Bangalore Literature Festival on the topic of whether India was gagged and bound by illiberal laws.
Both Arun Shourie and Girish Karnad were on a panel discussion titled – A Country Gagged and bound? moderated by Arshia Sattar‏ with Shubha Mudgal, Siddharth Dhanvant Shanghvi, Joe D’ Cruz, Rajiv Malhotra, Swapan Dasgupta and Sankarshan Thakur‏ also participating as panelists.
Reacting to arguments that India’s laws were illiberal, Shourie said that because of the Constitution of India, we are one of the freest countries in the world and among the freest societies in the world. There will always be individuals who will take offence to anyone but in general because of our culture and because of great diversity and size of our country, freedom has been sustained.
The Ramon Magsaysay Award winner added that our Constitution limits the ability of the State to put restrictions up to the limit of reasonable restrictions and it is the courts that will decide what is reasonable and what is not. The Indian Supreme Court and most of the High Courts too have been staunch protectors of Freedom of Speech. Also any Government that has raised hand against free speech or free media had had to withdraw the hand. Shourie drew at that point in time the attention to Jagannath Mishra’s Press Bill and that it had to be withdrawn. He went on to add that the same thing happened when the late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi tried to shut us up with the Defamation Bill. He said that this doesn’t happen just because of the courts but because people feel that free speech is a must for complete freedom.
Shourie added in his inimitable style that when it comes to social media, yes, the licence is used to cross the limits and people are trolled but for that he said that one has to be thick skinned. As he felt that if one tries to control what is said on the social media which is such a loose medium, then one will again have to allow the Government to take things in its hands and this would mean more restrictions. He shared his own example saying that people have created fake Twitter account in his name and also a Facebook page. He added that he doesn’t look at all that is put up there and also requested people not to trust information supplied through such accounts as coming from him.
He quoted Balasaheb Thackeray who used to say that remote of the TV is in our hands, so, if we see something being telecasted which is not of our taste we can always switch it off. He had an excellent advice for the supporters of Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the social media. He said that it would be best if they stuck to the facts and get trapped by the tactics of defaming others that is used by the supporters of the others. He said that facts are on our side and it would be best to use them to counter the trolls. He requested supporters of the Prime Minister not to abuse those who do not support or say nasty things about the Prime Minister. He said that abusing those who have counter view of the cause that one supports only causes harm to the issue they are supporting.
All reforms offend. Don’t believe all that you read on the Internet about an individual. Please verify the facts before framing opinions about anyone.
While replying to the query raised by Girish Karnad, he said that when he was talking about the facts he meant that he wouldn’t want people to be abusive on the social media. He preferred sticking to the facts. He said,” We should present facts as we see them adding that we should present the facts after due research as we present facts for a case to the prosecution.”
He also talked about Left Liberals and added that for 40 to 50 years, the Leftists presented history in a certain way and now the facts are being challenged. He said that Left has presented its facts to the prosecution so have they presented theirs. He said over the time, it will get sorted out. He also talked about how the changes always offend someone or the other. He cited the example of now banned Sati System. Speaking about the system, he said that there must be those who had preferred the system in the past and they were all offended when Raja Ram Mohan Roy and others objected to it. He said that when we are interpreting law, we should remember that it is for the court to decide as to should a voice be muscled just because it is offending someone or is there a real need to do so.
Shourie in a lighter vein talked about how it was important to have thick skin and little contempt for those who shout at others. He said that being a member of Opposition, he used to shout at the then Finance Minister and the current President of India Pranab Mukherjee after he had signed a treaty with World Trade Organisation (WTO). He said that he and other Opposition leaders used to shout at Mukherjee that he had mortgaged the sovereignty of the nation. To which Mukherjee had once said that he has lost the count as to how many times he has mortgaged the sovereignty of the nation.
He was also in the favour of Section 66A being struck down as it was being misused at the lower level. For media’s voice being suppressed, he said that if media is so much in the favour of the people, it will be people who will stand up for them when media is being suppressed. He also suggested that one should not believe all that one reads on the social media about someone. He asked people to verify the fact and then form and opinion.
While referring to the recent Internet block out in Vadodara, he said that if the riots spread and people get killed then public is bound to say why simple steps like blocking Internet weren’t taken to stop riots from spreading. He added that curfew during riots was also a form of curtailment of freedom (freedom of movement) but that was necessary to stop people from coming onto streets and killing each other. Shourie concluded by stating that one should not become a fundamentalist on any issue even if it is in the context of defending Social Media freedoms that are liable to misuse.

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