Fabian Blog
February 27th, 2020

The Middle Path

jawaharlal-nehru-addressing-non-aligned-summit-conference


Nehru’s pragmatic diplomacy gave a newly independent India a stature in world affairs much above its economic and military power and guided it deftly in a world being polarised by the Cold War

THE PEOPLE OF INDIA HAVE GOOD reason to be upset about the manner in which the 125th birth anniversary celebrations of Jawaharlal Nehru have begun, marked as they were by petty partisanship and unseemly attempts at settling of scores. Most people would have expected the political leadership to rise above inter-party differences and to unite and celebrate in a mature manner an anniversary of such national importance. Sixty-five per cent of Indians are under 35 years of age and for them it might have been rather puzzling that their elders should find it difficult to behave in a mature manner on an occasion like this.

A good part of the electronic media, with their debates where often more than one person speaks, or rather, the persons involved shout at each other with the anchor not able to enforce minimum courtesy levels, has only enhanced confusion in the minds of the viewers. Nehru, if he were to come back today, would have been appalled at the level of discourtesy displayed in such debates. He had a quick temper, but he was always courteous. Perhaps the debaters and anchors can consider paying a tribute to Nehru by taking a pledge to be courteous to each other from now onwards as their contribution to the ongoing celebration.

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December 20th,2014   category: International Affairs : Articles, Politics |    No Comments

Genocide in Gaza and Israel’s tunnel vision – analysis

Gaza school shellingHumanity heaved a sigh of huge relief when UN and US together announced that both Israel and the Hamas had agreed to a 72-hour cease-fire starting from 8 a.m. local time on Friday Aug 1 and that the negotiations between the two sides mediated by Egypt would begin in Cairo the same day. Alas, the relief was short-lived, only 90 minutes. The Israeli airstrike on Sunday (Aug 3) on a UN-run school only confirms the fragility of hope.

The Western media true to its tradition of biased reporting basically said that both sides were accusing each other to be the first to break the ceasefire. This assessment does not tally with what Israel’s military spokesperson Peter Lerner has told the media. According to him, around 9.30 a.m. a small number of Israeli soldiers, possibly three, inspecting a tunnel in the Rafah area were attacked by Hamas militants coming out of the tunnel. One of them had a vest with explosives; he killed himself and two Israeli soldiers; the third Israeli soldier, Hadar Goldin, 23, was missing.

It is important to analyze what has happened and why. Did the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) expect the Hamas fighters to surrender meekly once they were spotted? Did the fighters know that there was a ceasefire? The most important question is: How did any one expect the ceasefire to last when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had made it clear that the operation of locating and destroying tunnels would go ahead despite the ceasefire? In other words, was it a ceasefire? It follows that the ceasefire promoters did not think through the implications of Netanyahu’s caveat about the tunnels. Read the rest of this entry »

August 11th,2014   category: International Affairs : Articles |    No Comments

Israeli impunity and global helplessness

gaza-011-1It is difficult, almost impossible, to envisage an early negotiated ceasefire to put an end to the unconscionable carnage in Gaza. US Secretary of State John Kerry has been working hard, but with his hands tied. President Barack Obama has spoken more than once to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the need for a ceasefire, but always deferentially.

In his public statements, President Obama starts with an endorsement of Israel’s right to self-defence in a manner implying that Israel alone has that right, and not the Palestinians. The US gives enormous support to Israel, financially, militarily and diplomatically. One might have expected that such support would enable the US to have some influence on Israel. But, the truth is that the more the US gives, the more Israel’s clout to influence US policy, and the less the US’s influence over Israeli policy.

Students of international relations cannot find another instance of such an asymmetrical relationship between the recipient and the giver. Hence, the principal cause of the delay in arranging for a ceasefire to be followed by negotiations is the lack of leverage of the US vis-à-vis Israel. Read the rest of this entry »

July 28th,2014   category: International Affairs : Articles |    No Comments

Can Iraq’s disintegration be prevented?

iraq-sunni-sia-kurd-statesAt present (July 2, 2014), it is difficult to see how the ongoing implosion of Iraq can be stalled and reversed. The world  started taking note of ISIL and its leader Abu Bakri al-Baghdadi, 43, who has been declared as ‘caliph’ of an  ‘Islamic State’  claiming sovereignty over a stretch of territory from Aleppo in north western Syria to Diyala in north eastern Iraq only when Mosul fell on June 20th. But, his forces had taken over Raqqa in Syria March 2013; and Falluja in Iraq in January 2014.

ISIL, a breakaway group from Al Queida in Iraq, is basically a part of the Sunni Resistance to the 2003 US invasion and occupation of Iraq. US had made unsuccessful, half-hearted, and not always judicious attempts to build an Iraq that could accommodate the three groups there, namely, Shias, Sunnis, and Kurds. But, Prime Minister Maliki, who got his office in 2006 thanks to support from US and Iran carried out a policy of alienating the Sunnis and the Kurds. His reckless partisan policies created the conditions for the emergence of a formation called Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) to grow and derive support from the Sunni population.

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July 2nd,2014   category: International Affairs : Articles |    No Comments

Where is Egypt going?

egypt-country-mapNow that three years have elapsed since the 2011 Revolution in Egypt, it is pertinent, nay, imperative, to ask the central question: Where is Egypt? Where is it going? On January 25, 2011 Egyptians shed fear of their repressive government that had deprived them of their human rights for decades and gathered in the world famous Tahrir Square to demand that President Hosni Mubarak resign. Mubarak, in office for thirty years, fell eighteen days later. Millions of Egyptians in Tahrir Square and elsewhere saw the exit of Mubarak as signaling the beginning of Egypt’s journey towards democracy. Three years later, it is painfully clear that Egypt has lost its way towards democracy; in fact, it is heading fast in the opposite direction. The police state under Mubarak is being restored; freedom of expression has been drastically abridged; dissent does provoke punishment; political prisoners total up to twenty one thousand; and political demonstrations need prior permission. Egypt is under military rule and a field marshal is soon going to be elected president. Read the rest of this entry »

February 20th,2014   category: International Affairs : Articles, Politics |    No Comments

Book Review: MANAGING INDIA’S NUCLEAR FORCES

Managing India’s Nuclear Forces
by Verghese Koithara
Routledge New Delhi, 2012
294 pages; Rs.795

Managing India's Nuclear Forces

Managing India's Nuclear Forces

VICE-ADMIRAL Verghese Koithara examines, critically and with clinical thoroughness, India’s nuclear doctrine and the management of its nuclear forces. He points out the shortcomings and proposes remedial measures. His style, free from jargon, is a study in plain, robust English. His logic is sharp and he never misses the big picture. India acquired nuclear weapons primarily to take care of its security needs. The political leadership of the day might have wanted to make a political statement or to derive domestic political advantages. But, the primacy of the security consideration cannot be questioned. If the nuclear weapons in India’s possession are to add to its security, it should manage the nuclear forces more rationally and coherently. This is the fundamental message of the book. It should be read by those who are responsible for India’s nuclear policy. The strategic community and the general public interested in security questions will find in it much food for thought. Koithara does not practise circumlocution even for a moment. “For a variety of political and organisational reasons, India is saddled with a nuclear force management system that is seriously inadequate for the work it needs to do,” he writes (emphasis added throughout). The author mentions two reasons for such a state of affairs.
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India’s diplomacy is textual, not contextual

Ambassador K.P. FabianUnderstanding the rationale behind India’s diplomatic decisions is essential for policymakers and citizens alike, so as to take better decisions in the future. Gateway House interviews former Ambassador to Italy, K. P. Fabian, to discuss how India’s assessment of policy values the spoken word over context.

In his book, ‘Diplomacy, Indian Style,’ Fabian writes that “according to Greek mythology, Athena came out of the head of Zeus, fully grown and fully armed. There is a popular notion that India’s foreign policy came out of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru’s head in a similar fashion. That notion is wrong.”

K. P. Fabian, former Indian Ambassador to Italy, shares his insights with Gateway House’s Rajeshwari Krishnamurthy on how the formulation of India’s foreign policies depends on the written word over circumstances.
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Handling terrorism, US style: The march of folly continues

Why do holders of high office so often act contrary to the way reason points and enlightened self-interest suggests?

Why do holders of high office so often act contrary to the way reason points and enlightened self-interest suggests?

CONTEMPLATING the ongoing US-led war on terror, one cannot help wondering whether Barbara Tuchman’s “The March of Folly: From Troy to Vietnam” should not be made compulsory reading for all policy-makers, including Heads of Government. She starts with a lamentation that has a contemporary resonance:

“A phenomenon noticeable throughout history regardless of place and time is the pursuit by governments of policies contrary to their own interests. Mankind, it seems, makes a poorer performance of government than of almost any other activity. In this sphere, wisdom, which may be defined as the exercise of judgment acting on experience, common sense, and available information, is less operative and more frustrated than it should be. Why do holders of high office so often act contrary to the way reason points and enlightened self-interest suggests? Why does intelligent mental process seem so often not to function?”
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March 18th,2012   category: International Affairs : Articles, Politics |    No Comments

Will Israel attack Iran? It cannot be ruled out.

The sad truth is that an Israeli attack on Iran cannot be ruled out.

The sad truth is that an Israeli attack on Iran cannot be ruled out.

NOBODY, not even Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu, knows the answer to the question whether Israel will attack Iran. It is easier to answer another: Will it be wise and prudent on Israel’s part to attack Israel? The answer is “no”.

It is pertinent to recall Winston Churchill: “Never, never, never believe any war will be smooth and easy, or that anyone who embarks on the strange voyage can measure the tides and hurricanes he will encounter. The statesman who yields to war fever must realise that once the signal is given, he is no longer the master of policy but the slave of unforeseeable and uncontrollable events.”

The sad truth is that an Israeli attack on Iran cannot be ruled out. One comes to this conclusion going by Israel’s track record, the recent pronouncements made by its leaders, and the encouragement it is receiving from the US, not necessarily from the White House. The White House can be compelled to come to Israel’s rescue through a fait accompli.

In June 1981, Israel carried out a successful surgical strike at Iraq’s nuclear facility called Osirak, close to Baghdad. The idea of such a strike originated in the mid- 1970s. A full-scale model was built up for practice bombing. The Israeli jets over-flew the airspace of Jordan and Saudi Arabia. While over-flying Saudi Arabia, the crew pretended to be Jordanians and vice versa. Saddam Hussein’s Iraq was in no position to retaliate. Ten Iraqis and a French national were killed. It was only a research reactor supplied and closely monitored and controlled by the French. Israel was over-reacting. The reactor was designed to make it “unsuitable” to make bombs.
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March 7th,2012   category: International Affairs : Articles, Politics   | tags: |    No Comments

DEVELOPMENT, JUSTICE, AND DEMOCRACY: SOME REFLECTIONS

The Indian ParliamentAs I am writing this essay on the Republic Day 2011, naturally my thoughts wended their way to the Constitution of India adopted on January 26, 1950. Till then King George VI was the head of state of India. India’s ambassadors till that day carried their letters of accreditation from the King. On that day, Dr. Rajendra Prasad took over as President. Therefore, January 26, 1950 completed India’s journey to political independence.

It is important to realize that what was gained in 1947-50 was only political independence. Economic independence was yet not there. Economic independence implies that all Indians can live with dignity, eat well, be literate, afford to send their children to schools where there are good and competent teachers, have access to good and affordable health care, have an adequate income , and, above all, hold their heads high without fear, and proud of their motherland and its position in the comity of nations. In the first half of the twentieth century India’s per capita income grew at 0.1% annually.  We should note, en passant, that per capita income as such is a misleading indicator of the true state of the majority of the people. Yet, it is historically important to take note of the growth rate of income under the British Raj.
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