Aug 31, 2006

India's Aviation Sector: Heads or Tails?

From the outside it looks like its boom time for aviation industry in India. It is not only the 25% annual growth in this sector that’s exciting but the aviation majors, Boeing and Airbus have plans to invest a total of Rs.20,000 crores in India.

India is emerging as the back-office and investment hub for global aviation majors, with aerospace majors EADS and Boeing committing investments to the tune of Rs 20,000 crore.


Boeing, which at present works with companies like Wipro, Infosys, TCS and HCL Technologies, is looking at increasing the amount of work given out to these technology companies.

The US-based aerospace company is also looking at expanding its scope of operations in the country. The company, which largely sells commercial airplanes in India, is also drawing up plans to tap the defence market.

EADS’s Rs 11,000 crore investment will largely go into setting up an engineering and research centre in India, while for Boeing the investment will be in the form of direct investment in facilities, research and development, sourcing of software and other equipment.

In addition, both the companies are looking at airplane maintenance facilities in India. Boeing has gone ahead with a Rs 185-crore announcement to set up a maintenance facility in Nagpur. Airbus is also expected to come out with a similar facility in the country soon.

A significant part of EADS’s investment will be for opening the EADS Technology Centre India, which will undertake work for all EADS companies, including Airbus, Eurocopter and the defence divisions.

It will also have Indian partners working on engineering and information technology services. The EADS Technology Centre India will create up to 2,000 jobs.[Business Standard]

Unfortunately, the future of aviation sector - growing at 25% annually and projected to grow at 20% annually for next few years - is bleak as long as it remains under govt control. Already the govt has stopped granting licences to new airlines to operate, as the present aviation infrastructure in the country is simply not enough. Under govt control its domestic airline “Indian” is at the #3 position. Indians when flying abroad want to avoid “Air India” like the plague. It is never the first choice of Indians. Moreover, the private airlines that are now flying are going deep into red due to rising fuel costs and lower airfares. The congestion of our airspace and at airports is also not helping the sector. To top it all, orders for about 400 new aircrafts are pending with Boeing and Airbus. As Indian govt is notoriously slow in decision-making, new aviation infrastructure will only come up at snail’s pace. By this time many of the players will find it simply unviable and pull out.

Complete privatisation at the earliest is the only answer. Sell off "Air India", "Air India Express", "Indian", and "Alliance Air". Then sell off all the airports except the strategically important ones. Allow private investment in developing existing airports and in building new ones.
Unfortunately this is not going to happen anytime soon because of the Left parties’ belligerent opposition as the employees belonging to Left Unions are a good source of moolah to fill up their coffers. Their fear of job loss in case of privatisation just won’t hold water in a sector that is growing at 25% annually. As new private airlines would need experienced personnel, excess staff of govt airlines would easily find jobs in the new private airlines. So it is in the best interest of the Left parties too to allow the UPA govt to privatise the aviation sector now. The Indian middle-class will also be eternally grateful to the Left parties if they allow the privatisation of our aviation sector.

Aug 30, 2006

Zidane's Scheming Intentions

Via Ahmad Mohib's blog:

As seen by the Germans:


As seen by the French:


As seen by the Italians:


As seen by the Americans:


As seen by Israelies:


As seen by the press:


As seen by the readers:


Readers at Mohib's blog suggested that Zidane was in fact saving Materazzi’s life.

Aug 28, 2006

Let Us Flex Our Muscles At Least Now

The Pakistani army using tanks, artillery, helicopter gunships and fighter jets hunted down Baloch nationalist Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti and killed him and others. Musharraf was true to his word on using any type of force to crush the Baloch rebellion and Uncle Sam just looked the other way when Musharraf used brute force to kill his fellow countrymen. No questions asked about the human rights of these people who are/were fighting for a fair share of the revenues generated by their province Balochistan. Uncle Sam’s silence on this brutal killing was expected - after all they need the Pakistani army to hunt down Al Qaeda terrorists a little toward the north on the Pak-Afghan border.

In all these years of Pakistan backed jihad in our part of J&K and elsewhere in India, we have never used brute force like helicopter gunships, fighter jets or tanks to hunt down and kill LeT, JeM, HM, etc terrorists who camp at higher reaches in the mountain ranges of the Himalayas after training at terrorist camps in PoK and other areas of Pakistan. If I recall correctly we even hesitated at first to use fighter jets to bomb Pakistanis and jihadis perched on Kargil peaks during Kargil incursion by the Pakistanis. Praveen Swami wrote recently how we are not able to destroy LeT camps in our J&K, as we cannot afford to spare additional troops.

.…Terror groups such as the Lashkar appear to be conserving their resources in well-established bases such as the Bandipora mountains of north Kashmir. Ever since 1999-2000, the Lashkar started developing fortified hideouts in the Patwan and Chatarnar forests, which served as receiving stations for terrorists who crossed the LoC. Protected by an elaborate system of lookouts, Lashkar operatives proceeded to establish weapon caches and communications centres.

Most important of all, the Bandipora base served as a centre from which operatives and explosives could be despatched for high-profile operations, such as the 2004 attack on the Prime Minister, the New Delhi serial bombings last Diwali, the assassination of State Minister Ghulam Nabi Lone - and, of course, the operation targeting the Chief Minister. While local Lashkar cadre facilitated the operation of the Bandipora-based strike squads, they did not involve themselves directly in executing the attack.

…Sources told Frontline that, at a June 20 briefing organised for United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee, the Northern Army Commander, Lieutenant-General Deepak Kapoor, argued that the core problem was the lack of will among the 31,000 men of the Jammu and Kashmir Police and the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) who have been committed to the State capital.

At a subsequent meeting with National Security Adviser M.K. Narayanan though, police and intelligence personnel hit back. Officials argued that it was impossible to secure Srinagar unless the Lashkar's mountain bases were destroyed. Local operatives working for the Lashkar had repeatedly been arrested since 2002, Narayanan was told, but their commanders in Bandipora continued to operate with relative impunity because of the Army's unwillingness to flush terrorists out of the forests.

Targeting the Lashkar's north Kashmir fortress - or similar strongholds such as the Yaripora-Shopian mountain in southern Kashmir and the Harwan forests in central Kashmir - is not, however, a simple project. Since at least 2000-01, military strategists have considered the prospect of a pincer action against the Bandipora forests, involving simultaneously pushing troops south from the Bod Kol river near Gurez and north through Patwan and Chatarnar.

However, such action has been deterred by the twin prospects that the estimated 50-75 Pakistani terrorists hidden in the Bandipora forests might evade a large military operation - or, in the alternate, that an offensive push against well-defended positions could result in casualties not commensurate with the potential dividends. An offensive of this scale and the task of ensuring that the forests remain free of terrorists could require an additional Army division, a politically contentious move in the midst of a peace process.

Just what solutions will be found are impossible to predict but solutions are needed if the peace process in the State is not to remain mired in an impasse. Continued killings have worked to undermine the legitimacy of the peace process among audiences in and outside of Jammu and Kashmir. Meanwhile, renewed summer infiltration across the LoC have put paid to hopes that cross-border terrorism would gradually wither away. What some mistook as the end of the storm, it seems likely, was just a lull. [Frontline/The Hindu]

It is very clear that in order to secure Srinagar these camps should be destroyed without losing anymore time so there will be no more grenade attacks on innocent tourists who are the bread and butter of many Kashmiris. I am no military expert but still common sense tell me that to cut down on our casualties, brute force of the Indian Air Force is the best option to destroy these camps. It’s downright ridiculous that we just watched meekly as Lashkar went on building these fortified camps from 1999. Just what was the government thinking about? How not to violate the human rights of these jihadis and still destroy the camps or how to handle human rights lectures/admonitions from the West (read Uncle Sam)? Agreed we don’t have the guts to destroy jihadi camps in PoK and Pakistan because we fear a nuclear response from Pakistan but these camps are right in our territory and still we get fidgety in ordering strikes on these jihadi camps. Today the major constituents of the jihadi groups are Pakistanis, Afghans and professional jihadis from various Islamic countries and not Kashmiris. So we don’t have to be guilty of killing “our own misguided people”. These jihadis are eager to die for Islam so they can enjoy the company of 72 virgins in paradise. When this is the case why is the Indian government taking so long to send them to paradise?

Let us not forget that Islamists are neo-fascists who believe in the supremacy of their religion. These deranged people will show no mercy to any infidel in their quest of Islamic Utopia. When that’s the case let us too not show them any mercy and blow their camps to smithereens. As Praveen Swami wrote, what is clear, though, is that even successful counter-terrorism operations… …could prove of only limited use until means are found to evict terrorists from the forest fortresses.

This is an opportunity for us to send a strong message to jihadi Islamists holed up in J&K and other parts of India waiting to commit the next terrorist outrage. So, borrowing from the neocon lexicon, lets shock and awe them. Let us stop being a meek and submitting country.

Our government should remember that after about 59 years of independence we have been able to create a booming economy which is the toast of the world but it will be of no use if the people who are the backbone of this promising economy are sitting ducks for Pakistan backed jihadis to blow up whenever they feel like.

Aug 25, 2006

A Brief History of "Vande Mataram".

Here is a brief history of our national song, "Vande Mataram". It is a pity that it courts controversy and continues to be debated even after all these years. As long as competitive intolerance afflicts us, I guess we will have to live with it.

In the beginning were just the words. Reportedly one of the leading defenders of the song and of Hindutva has said that the song was written by Bankim Chandra Chatterjee to honour those who sacrificed their lives for the country. To defend the truth about the song from such defenders it needs to be said that when Bankim first wrote it in the early 1870s it was just a beautiful hymn to the motherland, richly-watered, richly-fruited, dark with the crops of the harvests, sweet of laughter, sweet of speech, the giver of bliss. For several years these first two stanzas remained unpublished. In 1881 this poem was included by Bankim in the novel, Anandamath, and now it was expanded to endow the motherland with militant religious symbolism as the context of the narrative demanded.

However, the icon of the motherland, “terrible with the clamour of seventy million throats”, likened to “Durga holding ten weapons of war” etc, entered the public imagination much later. This was from the beginning of Bengal’s Swadeshi agitation in 1905. It was sung in the Congress session in Benaras in 1905 (music composed by Tagore), in anti-Partition processions in Calcutta led by Tagore, in meetings addressed by Aurobindo Ghose. The latter hailed Bankim as the rishi of nationalism and translated the poem into English. Many translations were made, including one by Subramaniya Bharathi in 1905. Likewise, far away from Bengal, Mahatma Gandhi took note of the song as early as 1905. What is more, Vande Mataram became a slogan for the common man, to the extent he participated in anti-British agitations. Many of the militant nationalists faced bullets or the gallows with that slogan on their lips. Thus Vande Mataram became sanctified as an intrinsic part of the memories of the fight for freedom.

A third phase in the life of the song began in the 1930s when objections began to be raised against the song on two grounds: first, its association with Anandamath, which depicted the Muslims of the Nawabi era of the 1770s in Bengal in a poor light; second, the religious imagery and idolatry implicit in the stanzas of the poem following the first two. (Today those innocent of any knowledge of the song and the novel probably mistake the part for the whole). M.A. Jinnah, as well as a number of Muslim legislators in the provincial assemblies elected in 1937, became vociferous against the recitation or singing of Vande Mataram, a practice introduced by provincial Congress governments. In response to this, as well as pressure of Congress members, Jawaharlal Nehru in October 1937 wrote to Tagore asking for his opinion regarding the suitability of the song as a national anthem. The judgement Nehru received was that the first two stanzas of Vande Mataram should be accepted; as for the later part of the verse, Tagore thought it might offend monotheists, but the song was inextricably associated with the freedom movement and “the sacrifices of the best of our youths” since 1905.

Acting upon this advice the Congress Working Committee recommended that “wherever the Vande Mataram is sung at national gatherings, only the first two stanzas should be sung”. Jinnah wrote to Nehru in March 1938 that the decision was not to his satisfaction but the Congress stuck to it; in any event, there was a proviso that any one who wished not to participate was free to do so. From then on the song was a dividing line between those who doubted the wisdom of this compromise (C. Rajgopalachari) and those, led by Nehru, who were opposed to making the song obligatory. In 1939 some provincial governments — like Bihar and Central Provinces — issued specific instructions to education departments clarifying that the song was not obligatory. A fallout was that the slogan ‘Vande Mataram’ acquired special connotation to those who valued the Hindu symbolism in the song and by 1946-47 in some parts of India it became in inter-communal conflicts the battle cry of the Hindu community. The earliest instance of Hindu Mahasabha support to the sanctification of the song is perhaps the ‘Vande Mataram Day’ organised by the party in 1937.

The fifth and most recent phase in the life of the song commenced in the Constituent Assembly on January 24, 1950, when it was sung at the end of its deliberations. It was resolved that while Jana Gana Mana was identified as the national anthem, equally with it Vande Mataram was to be recognised. It was a motion from the chair, moved by Rajendra Prasad himself, and unlike other parts of the Constitution it was never debated upon in the Constituent Assembly.[IE]

Related Link: Here is Nitin Pai in defence of the right not to sing Vande Mataram.

Aug 23, 2006

White Man's Blood is Thicker

One aspect of the war on terror is very clear. The US and the West only feel the pain when their citizens are targeted by Isalmic terrorists. This is why as long as the Pakistan backed terrorists don't kill any white man in India, USA will not force Pakistan to crackdown on ISI-backed terrorist outfits that is waging its jihad against India. This is one reason why Al Qaeda's direct presence here will be detrimental to ISI's larger diabolical game plan for India as Al Qaeda's enemy #1 is USA, they will be more interested in killing Americans than Indians (read Hindus). This was clearly illustrated during the 2002 Bali bombings, which was done by an Islamic jihadi group linked to Al Qaeda. Muslim Indonesian island of Bali has a Hindu majority. If Al Qaeda's main enemy were the Hindus, then they would have gone around bombing Hindu temples, etc in Bali and not target places frequented by Westerners. This doesn't mean we can completely rule out Al Qaeda's presence in India because they have been on record about Hindus being their enemy apart from Americans and Jews. And the recent serial bomb blast on Mumbai commuter trains bear the hallmark of an Al Qaeda job. According to B. Raman Lashkar-e-Tayiba, Harkat-ul-Mujahideen, Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami and Jaish-e-Mohammad backed by the ISI are members of Osama bin Laden's International Islamic Front For Jihad Against the Crusaders, Jews and Hindus. We cannot also rule out the presence of Al Qaeda sleeper cells in India established by brainwashed NRI Muslims having no links with Pakistan's ISI. If Al Qaeda is in India with the blessings of ISI, then there will definitely be a tacit/tactical understanding between them not to target Westerners in India.

IMO the recent US Embassy warning to its citizens in India about Al Qaeda attacks was actually breadcrumbs thrown at us to pacify and show us that they care for us too and are with us in the fight against terror. All this time the West was actively engaged with Pakistan in foiling the UK terror plot as it was meant mainly for the white man. As long as Pakistan is needed for the West in its war against terror so the white man can sleep safely, USA will not share with us intelligence that will implicate Pakistan's blood-soaked hand directly or indirectly in terrorist activities against India. Even if we provide
irrefutable evidence, USA will prefer not to believe it as we saw recently during Richard Boucher's visit. This is why as long as the white man doesn't get killed by ISI-backed jihadis in India, USA will always look the other way after issuing the routine condolences.

In this post I might have sounded like a racist, which I am not. But IMO this is why USA is lukewarm to India's troubles.