Print edition : July 31, 1999

This has reference to "And now, informaion warfare" by Praful Bidwai (July 2). When former military officers and bureaucrats appealed to the media to exercise restraint while reporting and commenting on Kargil, they never implied that facts concerning th e intelligence, military and administrative failures be suppressed. It was suggested only to ensure that any criticism does not dampen the spirit of our brave soldiers.

Bidwai's intense and passionate (and largely negative) criticism of the government and armed forces was, therefore, ill-timed.

Atal Behari Vajpayee is held in high esteem not only by his party members but by the Opposition and also a vast majority of the people. Vajpayee is an honest, secular and patriotic Indian. It is wrong to describe him as a "petty, cynical leader with no g lobal vision or principles".

Sameer Shaw Hassan, Kannur * * *

Having clearly enunciated the reasons for Pakistani intrusion in Kargil, Lt.Gen. V.R. Raghavan makes a suggestion ("A turning point in Kashmir," June 18) for evolving and enforcing "CBMs to ensure that neither side need be anxious about encroachments acr oss the LoC during winter when some posts are vacated". This argument sounds rather unconvincing.

Indeed, 15 Corps' "institutional mentality" is mainly responsible for the Kargil crisis. It is a pity that none of our defence commentators/analysts has attributed the bloody fiasco to where it mainly belongs - the North Command, which saw a serious comm and failure.

Brig (Retd.) F.F.C. Bulsars Mhow, Madhya Pradesh

Sethi's arrest

In his article "The many roads to Kargil" (July 16), Aijaz Ahmad refers to the arrest of Pakistani journalist Najam Sethi "with the complicity of the Pakistan High Commission in Delhi".

Nothing could be further from the truth. I made no recommendation or even suggestion that Sethi had violated any law of Pakistan, or that he be proceeded against on any charge.

The burden of my comment on his speech in Delhi was that in painting a near hopeless picture of his country before an Indian audience - not an "enemy" audience, let me hasten to add, but an audience that for historical and contemporary reasons had at bes t a pragmatic and sceptical attitude towards Pakistan - Sethi, as a prominent and politically active journalist, had shown a callous disregard for our efforts to establish a credible, if arduous, India-Pakistan dialogue process. Such a process can only d evelop on the basis of a mutual presumption that each country will cope with its respective domestic problems no matter how daunting they may appear.

It was certainly very disappointing that Sethi refused to make a similar presumption about his own country and, thereby, clearly if implicitly denied the possibility of an India-Pakistan dialogue process. My recommendation was that Sethi should explain t o his readership what constructive purpose was sought by such an implacably pessimistic account of Pakistan (not just the government) to an Indian audience.

Unfortunately, the turn of subsequent events was such that Sethi has altogether escaped having to explain himself to his Pakistani readership. While his Pakistani readers might agree with all, some or none of his observations, they would certainly wonder why he chose to indulge in Pak-bashing in India.

To be fair to Sethi's Indian audience, they were not at all expecting such a performance from him. The organisers had actually asked him to speak on "Pakistan in the 21st Century". In other words, they were looking forward to a speech on Pakistan's futur e, not its impending "failure".

In view of the above, it was both inaccurate and irresponsible of your correspondent to have casually thrown in an accusation against me of "complicity" in Sethi's arrest.

Ashraf Jehangir Qazi (Pakistan High Commissioner) New Delhi

Nuclear deterrence

No sane person can disagree with Dr.Richard L.Garwin's view that "any nation that uses nuclear weapons against any other nation is going to be wiped out, more so if it uses nuclear weapons against nuclear powers" ("The idea of a nuclear deterrence is que stionable," July 16). It is because of the fear that Pakistan might use the nuclear weapon first, warmongers in India have been telling the Government to bomb Pakistan and finish it off once for all.

The United States fought a war with Vietnam for over a decade and suffered a humiliating defeat. Why did not the U.S. use a nuclear bomb against that tiny nation? Because, at that time the U.S. was not the only country possessing nuclear weapons. Had the U.S. used a nuclear bomb against Vietnam, it would have led to a world war. It was again precisely because of this reason that the U.S. did not dare to use a nuclear weapon against Iraq and Yugoslavia although it has thousands of nuclear warheads in its stockpile. The U.S. did not even resort to nuclear blackmail.

Let our nuclear bombs remain in showcases to be admired like a child admiring toys while window-shopping!

K.P.Rajan Kannur "Biased views"

Let me express my serious concerns about the article, "Sonia and the Tigers" (July 16), by D.B.S. Jeyaraj. I think that the writer is highly sympathetic to Sonia Gandhi and hostile to the BJP and its allies. I do not know what compels him to conclude tha t the Samata Party, the Shiv Sena, etc., are sympathetic to the LTTE, as I am unable to remember a single statement they have issued to indicate this. What is most hurting is the following statement: "To eliminate Sonia the LTTE would collaborate with so me Hindu nationalist-fanatical organisation... and it would not be difficult to find some high-strung person who is determined to serve his or her 'Bharat' by trying to kill Sonia Gandhi." Every responsible citizen of India is worried about the LTTE's th reat to Sonia Gandhi, but I do not think that for any "Hindu nationalist" organisation or person, eliminating Sonia is the way to serve the nation.

Vijay Vikram (vijay.vikram@usa.net) A novel gesture

Kudos to Arundhati Roy for having reaffirmed her commitment to the people in the Narmada valley by donating the entire Booker money to the Narmada Bachao Andolan. ("A novel gesture", July 16).

D. Ravi Kumar Hyderabad * * *

Every Indian must be proud of Arundhati Roy's excellent gesture. It shows her dedication to the cause of the poor. The money she has donated will certainly help many tribal families and poor peasants of the Narmada valley.

Abhijeet D.More Nashik Narmada

Kudos for publishing Arundhati Roy's excellent and moving essay, "The greater Common Good" (June 4), questioning the concept of "development" through big dams. Often, essays on complex issues like this degenerate into a barrage of statistics in an attemp t at objectivity, effectively "dehumanising" the issue. What is remarkable about this essay is that it never loses sight of the human side of the problem while retaining concise but powerful technical arguments. Rarely do such issues get attention in the mainstream media.

Manoj Saranathan Rockville, Maryland * * *

A key passage in the essay that enables the reader to understand the philosophy of Arundhati Roy reads as follows: "It is possible that as a nation we have exhausted our quota of heroes for this century, but while we wait for shiny new ones to come along , we have to limit the damage. We have to support our small heroes. (Of these we have many. Many.) We have to fight specific wars in specific ways. Who knows, perhaps that's what the twenty-first century has in store for us. The dismantling of the Big, big bombs, big dams, big ideologies, big contradictions, big countries, big wars, big mistakes. Perhaps it will be the century of the small. Perhaps right now, this very minute, there's a small god up in heaven readying herself for us. Could it be? Could it possibly be? It sounds finger-licking good to me."

Small is beautiful. Forty years ago when I got my initiation in the political economy of our nation and the world at large, I used to hear this slogan from the Nehru-baiters, including our present Prime Minister. When the West and Japan imposed economic sanctions on the country the Prime Minister declared that the Indian economy had an inherent strength to withstand the impact of those sanctions. From where does that inherent strength spring? Indeed, it springs from big dams like Bakra Nangal and huge s teel and heavy engineering industries and certainly not from any wretched stop-dam. So I shout from the house top - big is bountiful.

The wrongs done to the displaced people of the Narmada valley can be corrected by those who implement the project. And this can be effected only when the system is changed.

R.S.Dixit Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh * * *

The callous and whimsical attitude of successive governments towards this question is shameful and deplorable.

In this tragic story the bravery, perseverance and patience of the illiterate and supposedly backward tribal people inhabiting the Narmada Valley are in strong? contrast to the selfishness and ruthlessness (at worst) and cynicism (at best) of the "clean" and "conscious" sections of our society, with the exception of people like Medha Patkar and Arundhati Roy.

I hope the cry of protests from affected people will force our bureaucrats to wake up.

The tribal people want to continue with pattern of life which they are used to for thousands of years. Their capacity to adapt themselves to other environments is doubtful. Past experiences elsewhere show that rehabilitation is not possible at all.

The destruction of the vibrant culture of the Malos of Bangladesh about half a century ago is powerfully portrayed in Advaita Malla Barman's "Titash Ekti Nadir Nam". They were forced to move away from the banks of their "dear" river Titash owing to man-m ade and natural reasons (triggered by deforestation). Barman's book would force any sane person to question development that displaces tribal people.

Kamrul Haque Guwahati Islam and science

Pervez Hoodbhoy's "Bombs, missiles and scientific progress" (June 4) wrongly assumes that the Islamisation of Pakistan is some kind of a stumbling block to scientific progress in the country. He thinks that "the medieval theocracy... counts upon having a t its disposal the power of fiery jinns to use as it wills." It seems that Hoodbhoy is acutely unaware of the contribution of Islam to the development of modern science. The history of science is full of names such as Al Geber (the founder of Algebra), A l Kwarizmi (mathematician), Al Haytham (optics) and Ibn Sina (medicine). Yet all these scientists and mathematicians did not use the fiery power of jinns but their own God-given intellect and observation and experience. Islamisation has not impeded the power of any country because unlike other religions, Islam allows, in fact encourages, research and development of science and technology.

Mohammed Ayub Ali Khan Chicago, U.S. Foreign origin

This refers to the editorial and articles on Sonia Gandhi's foreign origin and her eligibility to become Prime Minister (June 18).

Much can be said for and against her foreign roots. There can, however, be no difference of opinion on the need for proven ability and record of public service for any candidate for prime ministership.

Is anything known about Sonia Gandhi's political and social ideology? Is there a single published paper or article embodying her views in her own words? Has she the debating skills to manage in a Parliament as aggressive and relentless as ours? Has she d emonstrated any administrative ability? Does she have proven ability to discuss complex issues with world leaders, without aides, if required? Is there proof that she can act decisively in the event of a crisis? Has it been proved beyond reasonable doubt that she had nothing to do with a leading accused in the Bofors case? What is the extent of her knowledge of India's Constitution and laws? Has she the benefit of advice, unpalatable advice when required, from a body of competent, non-sycophantic adviso rs?

The answer to the last question is unclear, and the answers to the other questions are surely negative. Entrusting her with the prime ministership will, therefore, mean a leap in the dark for the nation. The manner in which she walked into the trap of se lf-seeking politicians and allowed the BJP Government to be toppled before an alternative was ready and the toppling of the United Front Government earlier with her connivance, which ultimately resulted in delivering the country to the Sangh Parivar, are sufficient proof of her political immaturity.

J.N. Iyer Chennai * * *

Jayati Ghosh's column ("On being foreign and being nationalist", June 4) makes light of Sonia Gandhi's foreign origin, dismissing it as a non-issue. She is right in pointing out that Non-Resident Indians are perhaps the most vociferous in raising it as a relevant factor. That is only natural, as we have been through the complex process of establishing our rights and responsibilities in our adopted countries and have first-hand knowledge of how far a first generation immigrant might be allowed to aspire.

Jayati Ghosh lists past Congress(I) presidents who have been non-Indians. Heading a political party and heading a country are different matters, as Sharad Pawar, Tariq Anwar and P.A. Sangma eloquently pointed out in their letter. And, I hope she would ag ree that Annie Besant and Sonia Gandhi are different too.

The U.S. notion of being 'soil born' is a travesty of modern civilisation and simply betrays the narrow, obscurantist world-view of that supposedly free country. Any nation has had some of their best sons and daughters born on foreign soil by virtue of t heir parents' lifestyles. William Makepeace Thackeray and Sir Cliff Richard - two quintessentially British gentlemen - were born in Calcutta. Does that make them Bengali?

Similarly, even if Sonia Gandhi were born in India, she would remain Italian. Having reluctantly acquired Indian citizenship after Rajiv Gandhi became Prime Minister, he declares her Indianness with a vengeance when her prospects of prime ministership ha s become bright.

Sonia's Indianness is as spurious - indeed as much as that of many NRIs - as her knowledge of Indian history.

Would a first-generation Italian-Indian Catholic, no matter how much in love with Italy, ever aspire to be Italy's Prime Minister? How many Italians would accept a 10th generation Italian Jew as their Prime Minister?

If Sonia Gandhi were to become Prime Minister, a constitutional crisis (or even an impasse) would ensue as writ petitions would challenge the validity of her Indian citizenship (and therefore her prime ministership) as the question of whether she has for mally renounced her Italian citizenship is shrouded in mystery.

I do not know why Jayati Ghosh does not consider the Congress(I) as much a party of dalals (middlemen) as she does the BJP. After all, the liberalisation process was started by the Congress(I). And, has India seen a better dalal than Ottavi o Quattrocchi?

Dr. A. Chatterjee London

A letter from the Editor

Dear reader,

The COVID-19-induced lockdown and the absolute necessity for human beings to maintain a physical distance from one another in order to contain the pandemic has changed our lives in unimaginable ways. The print medium all over the world is no exception.

As the distribution of printed copies is unlikely to resume any time soon, Frontline will come to you only through the digital platform until the return of normality. The resources needed to keep up the good work that Frontline has been doing for the past 35 years and more are immense. It is a long journey indeed. Readers who have been part of this journey are our source of strength.

Subscribing to the online edition, I am confident, will make it mutually beneficial.


R. Vijaya Sankar

Editor, Frontline

Support Quality Journalism
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor