Fabian Blog
November 16th, 2018

Beyond the border - India China Boundary Issues

India China Boundry Issues - Book by Ranjait Singh

India China Boundry Issues - Book by Ranjait Singh Kalha


The personal and professional experience of Ranjit Singh Kalha, who has dealt with China for over 12 years, makes his book refreshingly different from many others on the boundary issue

ALTHOUGH there are many books on the complex issue of the unsettled boundary between India and China, Ambassador Ranjit Singh Kalha’s book is a welcome addition. Broadly, there are two schools of thought among scholars studying China. The first one worships China with such devotion that we need to coin a new word, sinolatry, along the lines of idolatry, to describe it. Examples of two books in this school readily come to mind. One is When China Rules the World: The End of the Western World Order and the Birth of a New Global Order by Martin Jacques, which came out in 2009. The other is Eclipse: Living under China’s Economic Dominance by Arvind Subramanian, who was recently appointed Chief Economic Adviser to the Government of India.

The second school, much less prolific and much less influential, propagates a sort of sinophobia, basically a mixture of hatred and fear of China. Kalha, neither sinolatrous nor sinophobic, is sober and scientific, and he writes with remarkable lucidity.

Kalha’s compulsory foreign language when he joined the Indian Foreign Service in 1965 was Chinese. In 1972, he was posted to China. He went to China via Hong Kong, and on the train in the mainland he asked for bacon as breakfast was being served. He was refused because some official had decided that the passenger was a Muslim and hence should not be served bacon.

Kalha’s showing his passport and declaring his Sikh identity did not change the decision. It is the personal and professional experience of the author, who has dealt with China for over 12 years, including three years of boundary negotiations, that makes this book refreshingly different from others.

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January 10th,2015   category: Book Reviews, Books |    No Comments

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

V. K. Krishna Menon Memorial Lecture 2014

krishna_menon14It is indeed a high honor and privilege to be addressing this august audience assembled here to pay homage to Vengalil Krishnan Krishna Menon whose life and work reminds one of Thomas Carlyle’s dictums:

NO GREAT MAN LIVES IN VAIN…HISTORY OF THE WORLD IS BUT THE BIOGRAPHY OF GREAT MEN.

When Krishna Menon started speaking for India on the world stage, the establishment in the West started a cottage industry of demonizing him.

Some in India obediently joined the demonizing game.

Why did US want to demonize him?

Because, he was seen as ‘dangerously persuasive’

That is what the CIA told MI5.

The MI5 once seriously considered assassinating Krishna Menon when he was High Commissioner in London. Fortunately, the Agency reconsidered the matter.

This is revealed in the book Defence of the Realm, written by Professor Christopher Andrew of the Cambridge University, published in 2009. He was commissioned to write a history of MI5 at the time of its centennial. MI5 was set up in 1909.

Our IB (Intelligence Bureau) was established in 1887.  Did any one think of publishing its history in 1987?

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June 30th,2014   category: Speeches, Uncategorized |    No Comments

Chess Game over Crimea

Crimea Russia Ukraine Map

Crimea Russia Ukraine Map

Russia has won the chess game. President Putin played well. The other side consisting of the fledgling government in Kiev, President Obama, and the European Union could have played a better game. There was a significant failure on the part of Obama, his advisers such as Ambassador Samantha Power, the European Union, and the rest of the West in understanding the ground realities and grasping the big picture. For example, Obama and even German Chancellor Angela Merkel, seem to have believed that Russia was not serious about annexing Crimea and that by threatening dire consequences Putin could be made to change his course.

Part of the reason for West’s failure lies in their habit of ignoring history. The Russian Black Sea Fleet at Sevastopol was established by Prince Potemkin in 1783. This is the only warm water base that Russia has. The 1997 treaty between Russia and Ukraine divided the fleet between them, 81.7% for Russia and 18.3% for Ukraine; Russia was given the right to use the port of Sevastopol for 20 years. In 2009, Ukraine sent out signals that the treaty would not be extended when it expires in 2017. Finally, an agreement was made in 2010 to extend the treaty by 25 years in 2017 with a provision for an additional 5 years taking it to 2047. Read the rest of this entry »

March 20th,2014   category: Uncategorized |    No Comments

Italy Erred in Dealing with Marines Case

“Masters of the art of diplomacy have failed to tackle the Indo-Italian imbroglio, emerging out of the killing of two fishermen of Kerala, in a mature way,” K P Fabian, former Indian Ambassador to Italy and the diplomat-in-residence of KPS Menon Chair for Diplomatic Studies, School of International Relations and Politics (SIRP) at Mahatma Gandhi University has said.

“Masters of the art of diplomacy have failed to tackle the Indo-Italian imbroglio, emerging out of the killing of two fishermen of Kerala, in a mature way,” K P Fabian, former Indian Ambassador to Italy and the diplomat-in-residence of KPS Menon Chair for Diplomatic Studies, School of International Relations and Politics (SIRP) at Mahatma Gandhi University has said.

He was delivering a special lecture on ‘Indo-Italian Imbroglio’ at the KPS Menon Chair here on Wednesday. Ambassador Fabian said the Italian government has erred in dealing with the marines case right from the day of the incident.
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March 6th,2014   category: Uncategorized |    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: AN UNCERTAIN GLORY

An Uncertain Glory – India And Its Contradictions
by Jean Dreze and Amartya Sen
Penguin Books, London
433 pages; Rs 503 

An Uncertain Glory

Tale of inequality

An Uncertain Glory is an indictment of the Indian state for failing the poor by not addressing the disparities between the privileged class and the rest despite its stated aim.

I found it difficult to put this book down. I read it with a unique mixture of pleasure and pain: pleasure, because the book is a study in lucid writing and public reasoning; pain, on seeing the pathetic picture of the human condition in India that emerged.

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September 12th,2013   category: Book Reviews, Uncategorized   | tags: , , , , , , |    No Comments

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Beyond the border - India China Boundary Issues


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The Middle Path


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Israeli impunity and global helplessness


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Can Iraq’s disintegration be prevented?


June 30th, 2014

V. K. Krishna Menon Memorial Lecture 2014


March 20th, 2014

Chess Game over Crimea


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Italy Erred in Dealing with Marines Case


February 20th, 2014

Where is Egypt going?


September 12th, 2013

Book Review: AN UNCERTAIN GLORY


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