On October 15, the Central Bureau of Investigation did something unusual in the coal block allotment scam—if only under the Supreme Court’s goading. It filed a First Information Report against top industrialist Kumar Mangalam Birla and former coal secretary PC Parakh for illegally allotting two coal blocks in Odisha in 2005 to the Aditya Birla group-owned Hindalco Industries to generate electricity.
What is the significance of Manmohan Singh’s visit to Moscow and Beijing, probably his last one as Prime Minister? Beyond all the pomp and show, military and energy deals, and talks on settling India’s Eastern border, lies the real substance. Singh is finally rethinking the approach of putting all of India’s eggs in the United States basket and exploring a consolidation of India’s economic-political relations with other countries, especially China and Russia.
So addicted has India’s power elite become to being treated as the proud representative of a rising great power embarked on an unstoppable march forward that it finds India’s declining global stature and influence in recent months simply incomprehensible. The signs of decline are unmistakable. The “India Story” is no longer the world’s flavour of the month, “the Next China” metaphor has faded from the Western media, and the seamy side of Indian reality is being highlighted, including the country’s raucous politics, poor social indicators, and the embattled state of a government mired in internal strife and corruption.
Three recent developments highlight the issue of weapons of mass destruction and India’s policy towards them. This year’s Nobel Peace Prize has gone to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), dealing with armaments that figure prominently in the Syrian crisis.
As many Indians expected, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi has succeeded in scuttling an odious ordinance which would have enabled lawmakers sentenced to jail for two years or more to hold on to their seats. It took the cabinet a mere five minutes to withdraw it.
Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi has succeeded, as expected, in scuttling the odious ordinance which would have negated a recent Supreme Court judgment and enabled lawmakers to hold on to their seats despite being sentenced to jail for two years or more. It took the Union cabinet a mere five minutes to withdraw the ordinance.
Vo Nguyen Giap, the brilliant Vietnamese general who died last week at the age of 102, became a legend in his lifetime as one of the greatest military leaders of the 20th century. Equally important, he became a source of inspiration to millions of young people the world over who spiritedly opposed and protested against the United States’ invasion of and war on his country. The antiwar movement ignited some of the most radical and creative mobilisations the world has ever witnessed, including the landmark May 1968 revolt in France, and politicised a whole generation.
Indians have long, and rightly, taken pride in the robustness and durability of their country’s democracy (interrupted only during the Emergency), and the relatively apolitical nature of its armed forces. India stands in sharp contrast to many Third World countries where the military has meddled in politics, or defied and suborned the civilian leadership, or directly usurped power. However, recent disclosures of former army chief VK Singh’s shenanigans, as well as other developments pertaining to tensions between the army and civilian-political leadership, demand a severe revision of this complacent assumption—and some urgent corrective action.
If the Bharatiya Janata Party is deluding itself that Narendra Modi’s stormtrooping methods will miraculously ensure its victory in the next election, the Congress is no less dangerously mistaken in thinking that Rahul Gandhi will craft its return to power by assertively signifying his importance in the party—by bypassing it. Gandhi may have scuttled the odious ordinance that was designed to prevent convicted lawmakers from holding on to their seats pending legal appeal—as might have happened by the time these lines appear in print—but he has not brought the party or himself any credit by the manner in which he went about doing it.