Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Connecting the Emerging Dots – A Govt. finally getting its Act together on Terror Networks

Connecting the Emerging Dots – A Govt. finally getting its Act together on Terror Networks

If the message coming from the UAE is indeed true, that Dawood’s financial assets there will be seized, then it is clear that the broad counters of the Doval- Modi Doctrine on Pakistan and the terror machine are well in execution mode now.

My own take is that at a very broad level it has three components which are classic strategic and tactical moves

1. Reduce Operating Space: One thing that the recent past has shown that the GoI has shown clear signs of proactive diplomacy to secure the support of the governments that are currently the operating areas of the Pakistani terror operatives and ISI operating bases against India. Towards this, the Modi-Doval duo have been working assidiously at many levels. Right from setting up a network of information gathering and sharing protocols with regard to specific targets and assets, being alive to the opportuinities that the fast changing Middle Eastern geo-political scene and exploiting that (the role of India in securing the Iran nuke deal, has meant also creating a shared agenda that Iranians will work with India; the opening that was created by the Yemen crisis quickly capitalized in UAE, the extensive links being established across several Central Asian states; the increased working arrangements with ASEAN countries) all are evidence that the GoI is finally working to a plan. It is not fully down but it is clear that there is a tremendous coordination between Home, MEA and PMO on this.

2. Shutting of the Money Supply: The second leg, and by far the most crucial, seems to be a clear and concerted effort to go after money sources and financial hubs of targetted people. The passing of a stringent Black Money bill also has a component of neutralising money supply to the terror network. Given the past experience in actual cooperation (largely negative) on counter terror moves with the West, the Modi-Doval duo seem to have calibrated this aspect of cooperation with the western powers in terms of sharing of financial movements tracking and tracking of assets. The operational aspects of tracking and sharing information on specific high value targets seem to be going at a slower pace. What is evident from of the publlic statements made by the GoI, is that they are now tracking and sharing financial operations far more closely and are getting the inputs and cooperation from the West. I think this had a lot to do with Shri Doval staying back post Modi's US visit and having extensive interactions. If the UAE action is indeed true, it is a clear proof that they are going after the oxygen supply

3. Building and extending covert reach: This aspect, for obvious reasons, will not be in public domain, and will have to be estimated in terms of extending some of the actions that are visible to announcements and assertions and connecting a lot of dots. What is clear however, is that under Modi-Doval doctrine, there seems to be three concentric rings of networks that are being equipped to expand and extend the covert capabilities. 

One is the re-building the internal intelligence network and reducing the operating space for the terrorists inside conflict zones. 

Second network is the building up of technical capability including TechInt and HumInt networks across the operational zones of Pakistani ISI and their terror workers. 

The third is a Geo-Political network of world powers that will act in concert with India on terror directed against India, that is being established by Modi personally. It is clear from his first foreign policy initiative of inviting SAARC heads that he has integrated cooperation in anti-terror operations of India as an integral part of all relationship. In exchange he is providing them the access to Indian market, technology, skills and investments, in a deft combination. 

For the first time, National Security is fully integrated into bilateral and multilateral frameworks including economic ones - case in point making Terrorism as a point of discussion in G20; in BRICS, at Ufa, with Japan, Germany, US. Earlier this level of integration was not visible at least.

This is of course a reading that I have made based on observation of Modi's foreign visits and the clear articulation of goals for each and every relationship. The imprint of strategic National Security thought in the conduct of foreign policy is very evident and the efforts made by a more galvanized and action oriented MEA, Home, Finance and Intelligence agencies are begining to make an impact. These are welcome changes that arrests the policy of drift and stop start, siloed and hesitant approach that marked the era of Manmohan Singh.

The signs that efforts are begining to yield results are yet to emerge, but the signs that these efforts are being executed well by a competent team in Modi-Doval-Sushma Swaraj-VK Singh-Rajnath Singh is clearly visible for those who wish to see.

Just the usual ramble. Take it for what it is worth.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Shed Not a Tear!

Bharat Ratna Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam has reached the heavens! God granted his wish of taking him back whilst he was doing his life’s karma – teaching and sharing his wisdom! The exit was a fitting one to this modern Bheeshma amongst men!

Is it possible for any eulogy to capture the life, time and thoughts of a great man who lived his entire life for the sake of the nation? More so, if he was a man of not only great accomplishments in myriad fields but also a man who was responsible for capturing the imagination of millions, are mere words enough to capture the enormity of the legacy he leaves behind?

Yet, as an ordinary Indian, who has never had the opportunity to meet him in person, except from afar, I do feel that the message that his life’s work and achievements have meant for me personally should be shared.

What then was his life’s message? For me there are many dimensions to this question.

His life was a message of the eternal India  - As we look back at the phenomenal journey of this son of a boat man’s rise from the southern shores of Rameshwaram to the Himalayan heights of high office, we can see that the best and noble ideals of this ancient civilization have shaped him. It was as if Mother India ensured that the upbringing of Kalam was influenced by the best and brightest of individuals that captured the diversity of thoughts and systems of this land.

Starting from his parents, his father’s friend the Priest of the Rameshwaram temple, the Primary school teacher, Sivasubramania Iyer who introduced him to Aerodynamics, or Iyyadurai Solomon of Scwartz School, his professors in St Joseph’s College Trichy and Madras Institute of Technology, his mentors Vikram Sarabhai, Satish Dhawan, Brahm Prakash and UR Rao – each one of them shaped his thinking and development and each one of them were themselves dedicated Indians, representing the best work ethic and noble values of this land.

It is therefore as if his life is, in essence, a product of the best elements of our heritage and legacy. In that sense, his life is a message of eternal India!

Positive Karma Yoga as a way of life – By the same token, his approach to life has been one of a practicing Karma Yogi who went on undeterred by failure and criticism and unswayed by adulation and high office. It is not as if he that he did not feel the ups and downs of his life. Growing up his ambition was to fly and join the IAF, yet when he met with failure during selection trials, and as a despondent young man, wandered aimlessly to the ashram of Swami Sivananda, it was the Great Master who instilled him in the confidence of a Karma Yogi.

The many other incidents that he faced in his long career at ISRO, DRDL and the many mentors who demonstrated to him by their example qualities of leadership and Nishkamya Karma Yoga, the instinctively philosophical and spiritual Kalam became a consummate Karma Yogi – a fantastic transformation of Karna into an Arjuna – if one were to draw a parallel.

Inspired by his mentors and gurus, as well as by his idols of Gandhiji, Vivekananda and Kalifa Umar, shaped by their thoughts and his deep study of all spiritual philosophies, he had tutored his soul and mind to become a true Stithapragnya of our times

He combined the art of being impelled by noble thoughts, to do practical purposeful action without attachment to the results and resolute faith in the grace of God to help achieve the impossible! If such a life is not a worthy example of a Karma Yogi in action what is?

Life lived as journey on the path to excellence – His long and distinguished career had many achievements to his credit and many failures too. He understood very early in his career that a life well lived must necessarily mean a lifetime dedicated to the pursuit of excellence.

He never allowed negativity and constraints to come in the way of taking on the biggest of challenges. He believed that we are all capable of much more than we think we can. Not for him was the safe and risk free, for he believed that he must throw himself, with all the talent he could muster, at the greatest of tasks with the greatest of risks.

Nor was he, satisfied with success, for he was ever seeking out for the next challenge, the bigger dream and how he could make a positive difference in every field that came his way. He, more than anyone, realized that his persona and image itself could be used in a positive way to inspire and make others dream and take on the challenges that the nation faced.

His personal quest for excellence and his persistent articulation of the need for that quest for excellence, extended till his last breath. This example held out the message that life is a journey on the path to excellence!

Life dedicated to building Leaders – Kalam was a leader who was shaped by leaders amongst men. Therefore it was no surprise that his life to was spent in building Leadership. It takes a leader to recognize the need for creating leaders. One can cite numerous occasions where he has demonstrated leadership and even more so the kind of leaders he has developed have demonstrated it themselves.

He developed a brand of leadership that was not dependent on just individual capabilities and brilliance, or merely on the strength of collective endeavours of talented teams. His was a brand of leadership that was founded on something more than mere traits of character or function of habits.

It was based on the strength of inspiring vision, on values and empowering belief in the Almighty. He was at once able to combine the more practical and visible aspects of leadership, with the more difficult to perceive and tap, yet real, aspects of leadership.

Not only was he able to practice that kind of leadership, he was able to impart that to a whole army of Indians ranging from children to women, from scientists to farmers, from soldiers to saints, from businessmen to politicians, from sportspersons to movie stars.

It is this life message of Leadership that he has bestowed on himself and others that will continue to burn bright in the hearts and minds of a new resurgent India and its young Indians for years to come!

Life as a Unifier – India is a country that has been truly blessed, in that it has from time immemorial borne witness to the advent of great unifiers. Kalam is definitely in that list.

He conducted his affairs based on stressing what unites all of us, not only Indians but also all of us in this world. His worldview was that of building on the harmonious while leaving behind that which are negative and divisive. One cannot forget that inspired speech to the Parliament of the European Union, which represented his soaring aspirations of an indivisible world, anchored in the reality of positive, harmonious and purposeful action.

He travelled, to every corner of India and across the world, and gave his message of harmonious vision with practical suggestions. He spoke to children, he spoke to political leaders, to businessmen, to international leaders. Power point presentations and talks left everyone amazed and touched by the nobility of his vision and the sincerity and passion of his belief in that vision. Presidents, Princes, Children and Commoners were all touched by that vision and his living example. They saw in him and his life the living example of that vision and thus he became a unifier across all barriers. It pushed them towards their own inherent nobility and into purposeful action.

He sought out harmony, practiced it with all his heart and mind, and shared that unifying vision of harmonious living that was rooted in the Indian way of Vasudeiva Kutumbam –A world for all species and nature, living harmoniously

A Rasika of Life – I do not want to use the word Connoisseur for the word Rasika means much more than that. He was a true Rasika of life. The way he found time for his passion for playing the Veena or listening to music, or his passion for getting into the cockpit of Sukhoi or into the Captain’s bridge of a Submarine, he did not waste his time of thinking about these things. He just did them and enjoyed that moment.

If he wanted to walk, he did, anytime of the day, if he wanted a garden or a hut built, he just did it. If he wanted to read or write a book or a poem he just did. He liked his dose of comedy and humour and he ensured that he watched such movies and plays. He enjoyed it and was not at all bothered about what it meant for others.  He loved nature and gadgets and celebrated life itself. That is the true Rasika.

To many an ordinary Indian, he was the distant Acharya who taught us all the many dimensions of a life well lived. As an ordinary Indian, as I read the many articulate eulogies, I am reminded of the immortal Subramanya Bharati’s poem Agni Kunju

Agni kunjondru kandaen – adhai
angoru kaatil Or ponthidai vaithaen;
Vendhu thanindhathu kaadu

thazhal veerathir kunjendru moopendrum undO
thatharikida thatharikida thithom!

Agni’s fledgling spark, I saw once,
That I place in a tree hollow in a forest nearby;
Burnt to a cinder was the forest;
In the furious blaze; Is there
a difference between the spark and the inferno? (translation by me)

So too is the message of the life of APJ Kalam; a spark of Mother India’s Agni. He has placed his life and message in the forest of our minds; may it burn to cinder negativity and ignorance and let there be no difference between the teacher and the taught.

I am sure that in the many villages, cities and towns of this vast nation, there are many more Kalams inheriting the legacy and values as he once did, being molded by great teachers and mentors, as he once was, inspired by heroes as he once was, getting themselves ready to achieve that impossible dream as he once did.

As I grew up, I watched from a distance, at first drawn to him by my interest in Defence related matters, his emergence as a leader of men, as a President and finally as a teacher. I shared with him my inspirational heroes and saw how he himself became an inspiration. I also witnessed first hand his effect on children and how he capitalized on their admiration to plant within them the courage to dream and transform India.

When such a person, whose very life was a message, passes on to eternity, I do not see the reason to shed a tear or feel any sorrow. As he himself had said, “Your birth may be just an incidental event, but let your passing away be a history”. He is one of those rare persons who has entered in some way or form into our very thoughts and indeed our soul. Knowingly or unknowingly we have all learned a lesson or two from him and it will issue out in our thoughts and actions.

May many more Kalams arise with the flame of his life’s message in their hearts and minds.

Shed not a tear, nor lament his absence,
For he lives through his life’s message
And through us in our Billion dreams 
After all, his death is but a passage
For him to reach the heavens

And take his place amongst the immortals!

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Decoding Signals from Noise - The Need to think Differently!

Decoding Signals from the Noise - The Need to think a bit differently!

First appeared as a post in Bharat Rakshak forum Bharat Rakshak Forums

Gentle readers of the forum. I do believe that the famed "ahead of the curve" BRF is slowing down. Hence thought it is time for another ramble from yours truly can gently point out to certain facts and trends amidst the noise. A better signal to noise ratio, should ensure that our collective thinking is more focussed.

So in that spirit, it would be pertinent to point out a few interesting trends of the last few months since a new GoI dispensation took over

1. A far more integrated approach to National Security across all its dimensions i.e. Geo-political, Economic, Military, Socio-Cultural and Science & technology has been adopted. Evidence of the same is there to see if only we pick up the signals. The Inner Mandala (immediate neighborhood) being engaged, Act East, Engagement with Paki sponsor states in a new manner, revving up economic engine, Make in India, Cleansing of institutions, drawing up a plan for rapid military industrial complex building, intel up gradation, border areas being focused for development etc

2. A clear demonstration of National interest being reinforced be it with WTO negotiations or taking an offensive defence action against pakistani entity in the latest standoff, or standing our ground against Chinese bala pariksha during their President's visit

3. The clear acceptance that things have change in India by the western power elite, in terms of the long queues to get Modi to their country, from the USG's attempt to mend fences, to Australian and British efforts to reset their relationship with Modi. Not to mention, the almost daily wailing across Pakistani channels about how India is way ahead and how they are getting to be irrelevant.

4. The willingness on the part of GoI to engage the diaspora and integrate the vast presence and influence that they represent into articulation of Indian power projection. The positive response that this has evoked and very visible changes in processes and government attitude to them shows another intent. That India is ready to take on the responsibility towards them and work towards being a global player.

5. The very clear signals that the PM has made to the rest of South Asian region - offering them a choice and chance. They have all been clearly told to make a stand in terms of building a region that is open, sensitive to each others interests and becoming more integrated. That is the choice that they have been asked to make. In terms of chance, by electing to be aligned with the overarching Indian vision of an integrated region, the neighbors will be allowed to partake in the economic resurgence and growth of India. They will be able to get Indian capital, expertise, access Indian infrastructure.

These five mega trends are pretty obvious. What does it therefore portend to the artificial entity called Pakistan and its international benefactors?

1. First and foremost, India will act without recourse to any other consideration to any other power, to protect its national interest. Any Pakistani misadventure will be dealt with a composite response that will inflict disproportionate pain. It has already been demonstrated. Their backers in terms of the US and its allies, the Saudis and the Chinese are now very aware that India will not be acting in a purely defensive defense manner any more.

2. The survival of the artificial entity called Pakistan will be left to themselves. India will not do anything in terms of throwing a life line to this entity or a set of the power elite that controls that entity to ensure its survival. Indeed, should the entity or the power elite there continue to act against Indian security or export terror, India will retaliate and ensure everything possible is done to hasten the implosion.

3. Indian position with regard to Pakistan will not be based on any notions of what it will mean to Indian Muslims or potential fault lines that it might  breach internally in India. There is a clear departure of sub-conscious linking of Indian Muslims to the problem that the artificial entity called Pakistan poses to us. No longer will the GOI be shackled by those imaginary chains.

The above messages are being increasingly understood by the Pakistanis as well as their benefactors, as they are not mere posturing but what they see as action on the ground by India. It is another matter that the biggest benefactor of the artificial entity called Pakistan, the USA, the sole super power is finding it increasingly difficult to maintain or control events in the rentier state. It is a reflection of the slow erosion in their capacity to use their still unsurpassed power and capabilities at the altar of geo-political constraints. What is not noticed or given any recognition and acknowledgement is the new found clarity of purpose and unity in action on the part of GOI. Even less understood is the full geo-strategic impact of the General Elections and what it has meant in terms of expression of National Will by the people of India. This has been a true "Black Swan" moment that should be understood.

If these basic signals or understood, we can understand that the coming decade will be one that will change the region in many ways as yet unimagined.

So gentle rakshaks, I do hope that this little ramble will set us all thinking a bit differently and act a bit differently. For after all, as I keep saying, the toughest shackles to break are the ones in our minds.

Just a ramble as usual take it for what it is worth!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Shankh Naad - The Call of our Times!

The Shankh Naad - The Call of our Times

Statecraft is best pursued without attaching emotions. Modi could have clearly delayed going to the US? Yes. Would it send a message to the US? Of Course Yes! But what is important is not the public messages that press and BRF members discuss when it comes to the interests of the state.

The insult to India by way of La Affair Khobragade and Visa Refusal is there. It is not going to go away. As the leader of the country, Modi had a choice. He could have clearly indicated that he remembers the insult to India and to him personally by not going to the US or agreeing to meet the POTUS by not accepting the invitation immediately and wait for the completion of Obama Presidency. Bear in mind, he has very clearly stated that acts against individuals will not decide on relations between sovereign states. He obviously does not see the insult to bear on relations indefinitely. 

He clearly wants to establish a road map and trajectory for India that will put firmly on a path of relative security and strength that will guarantee and underpin a growth model that will be comprehensive. No more compartmentalized vision of a India as an economic power, like the "Japan Model", that I used to refer. That was a vision pursued by the likes of Manmohan Singh. That era has ended.

The first steps of Modi in the realm of strategic affairs and foreign policy is clearly indicating to a vision of India that will take its place as a comprehensive global power. I have always maintained that National Security is essentially multi-dimensional. I have written and presented in the past this aspect of National Security as a composite, dynamic and evolving set of goals. In its essence, National Security is about protecting and promoting National Interests, which by themselves are inherently dynamic and evolving. How are these National Interests defined and envisioned? It has to be a natural extension of National Strengths across five dimensions, Military, Geo Political, Socio-Cultural, Economic and Science & Technology. In each of these dimensions we will have National Aspirations and this has to be viewed in the context of National Strengths.

It is this integrated view that will help envision a set of National Goals and National Interest and to pursue them would be the basis of our National Security agenda. Foreign diplomacy and geo-political realities must dictate a set of options. Capabilities in these dimensions will not ensure achieving of National Interests or Goals. An integrated well crafted pursuit of National Interests that combines all the five dimensions alone will help achieve our agenda. It is also important that the National Interests are well defined and clear.

Given the above, this watershed election has given an opportunity to the GoI to recalibrate the National Vision of what India wants. Unfortunately, in our democracy, foreign policy is not an election issue. The reason for this is very clear. The general population trusts the GoI of whatever dispensation to pursue a policy of continuity in our foreign policy. In this two principal axioms were considered inviolable by any government.

(i) Strategic decisions and options of India will be decided only by India and by Indians. There can be no dilution of this principle for any of the strategic decisions to powers outside India - be it super powers or any multi-lateral arrangement. 

(ii) Indian independence to exercise its strategic decisions and options will never be compromised. No inducements, threat of force or coercion will be accepted to infringe on this right and India will pay any price to defend this independence. 

Till the advent of Manmohan Singh government, all previous governments have never compromised on these fundamentals, no matter what the odds. 

I believe that the dilution on the above principles will be stopped and their sanctity will be restored. This is the continuity part of our National Security strategy and the foreign policy that we adopt will be within the boundaries of these principles. There is no change in this from Modi government. It will only be a reassertion of these inviolable postulates. 

The change will be in the tone, tenor and grammar of how we conduct ourselves. That is in large part dictated by the Vision and Goals we will have. This government has indicated very clearly that they are not thinking of a five year mandate but are laying out a plan and vision for India for a much longer time frame. The change will be seen in the comprehensive vision of India that straddles all the five dimensions mentioned above. 

While that clarity in thought is essential in forging a path ahead, it is also a demand of statecraft that one must have a clarity in the path to be taken to reach or realize the Vision. It has to be a reflection of a good understanding of the current situation across all the five dimensions in relation to that vision. The lens of realism must be applied without sentimentality. The realpolitik nature of the World must be studied and opportunities seized so that the path to the vision is traversed. 

I believe that the initial steps taken by Modi government signals an understanding and intent. It is a call for action. There is a Unity in Purpose and Clarity in Thought on what needs to be done. It is in this context one should look at things and decide. Modi has exercised a choice here. He is pursuing a plan of action that will call for engagement with the pre-eminent powers of the world and that includes the USG. I do not think he is under any illusion, nor is he looking at things from a transactional point of view. It is merely an acknowledgement to reality that he needs to engage. 

What is more important is the agenda that is getting unveiled slowly. The ramifications of which will be far reaching. Is he likely to make all the decisions in this journey correctly? Probably not. There will be a few mis steps. What is more important is that there is a plan and there is an approach to realize the plan that is based on unsentimental and objective assessment of the situation. Even more importantly, the plan that is there is clearly to achieve a comprehensive Vision of India. 

The signals are there for those who care to read them well. 

As usual just a ramble, take it for what it is worth.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Raising the Flag - A call of our times!

The following is what I had posted in the Bharat Rakshak Forum's J&K thread in response to a question on - Why is there an insistence for raising the National Flag on Republic Day at Lal Chowk in Srinagar by the BJP and consequently the State and Central Governments resistance at all costs to the same. The same has been suitably edited here as a blog post.

I hope some of you read my post a few weeks ago titled "Beware of the Ides of March" on BR forum. I had mentioned therein a few straws in the wind. Let me eloborate here. Obama is committed to cut his losses and arrive at a compromise in Afghanistan. The will to stay the course is not there. The Pakistanis are now in such a downward spiral, that it is evident to all concerned that no one is really in control of the situation. The Pakistani Army remains forever India focused and is sensing the American inability to stay the course as a chance to recover back Afghanistan.

The USG definitely wants to cut a deal with Pakistan that will facilitate American draw down of troops and ensuring that no further attacks are organized from Af Pak region. Obama is the Neville Chamberlian of our times.

The time table that Obama has announced would mean that the Pakistanis have asked for a price. That price is for stabilizing itself. The usual gun to the head based demands are:

1. India should cut and run from Afghanistan and should not have any role to play at all

2. India should settle Kashmir in a way that Pakistani establishment can claim victory

3. US and China should act together to deny India supremacy in the region and China should be allowed to give a similar nuclear deal to Pakistan. US should help through China in its efforts in getting a similar nuclear deal

4. The west and everyone should write off debt and give more money to Pakistan

In return Pakistan:
1. Will never allow a base to develop in the region that would organize terror attacks on the US (it will try to restrain acts against India and not provide "official policy" support but cannot guarantee against "non-state" actor executed terror strikes - it will however promise to bring to book any such perpterators)

2. Will settle for a compromise on Kashmir as long as it gains territory to show for its efforts. The Indian side should make borders irrelevant, and the hold on Kashmir by the GOI should be tenous at best.

3. Will promise not to proliferate nuclear weapons and will cap its capability. India should do likewise and not enhance its delivery capability or nuclear stockpile. The US India nuclear deal should be used as a leverage to achieve this objective.

The USG seems to be willing to cut a deal along these lines. In the Indian leadership of MMS and Sonia Gandhi, they have willing partners. MMS is a strong believer that India's foremost duty is to deliver itself from poverty and it should not become anything other than an economic power. He is also a firm dissenter of a nuclear India. He does not believe in the sanctity of maintaining India's soverign options.

Sonia Gandhi has nothing but a mercenary relationship with regard to India. Her motivations seem to be driven by her native faith and cultural outlook coupled with a need to perpetuate the hold of her family in the party and on India.

As per the plan, the Indian people are to be won over by a mix of economic populism fueled by the growing economy, creation of a fear amongst minorities regarding any nationalistic force, by painting them as anti-secular and themselves as the sole capabale protector, building a base for exercisig absolute control through a network of crony capitalistic sources of power, money and influence. The actions of the current dispensation reeks of this mindset.

Sample these as evidence -

1. The systematic rolling back of the armed forces in J&K,

2. The slow but steady PR campaign that has been unleashed to prepare the Indian public for the need for peace as a precursor for growth and "super power" status through campaigns like "Aman ki Aasha",

3. The antics of the likes of A Roy and gang's assorted conferences questioning the very basis of India without any hindrance from the state,

4. The constant and high profile propogating of the twin myths (A stable, prosperous Pakistan is in India's interest and There is no alternative but to talk and settle with Pakistan),

5. The appointment of the interlocutors and their acts and statements following the same are pointers.

Therefore gentle readesrs, if seen under the context of the US intent, Pakistani demand and the Congress leadership's predilictions, it will provide the answer to the happenings in J&K today.

The BJP has been forced to do this yatra. Please remember that it was because of a similar yatra in 1948 by SP Mukherjee of the then Jan Sangh that the rights of rest of Indians to visit this part of India was asserted. He went there in defiance of the ban on entry by Indians and hoisted the flag there. He resigned from Nehru's ministry and did what he did. He was rewarded with death for his act.

Nehru, it appears from numerous records of events of that era, was in agreement with the idea then to keep Kashmir in some kind of "trishanku swarga". He himself was not averse to the idea that Kashmir was special and should be protected from rest of India.

While MM Joshi's earlier march did not attract the same populist fervour of Advani, it was far more important than Advani's at that time. The separatists were at their peak and there was popular and wide spread support for them in the valley, and Pakistani infiltration was at its peak. It was an act of asserting national soverignity. It went unnoticed and unappreciated by the media elite and the elite in India. But it did send a message to those it was primarily intended - the Pakistani puppet masters and to their cat's paws in the valley.

The Amarnath shrine related demonstrations in Jammu are a watershed in the events of Kashmir. The power in that state has been long dominated by the Kashmir valley politicians. It demonstrated that there is a ground swell of support to a nationalist call in the state. It also sparked the re-assertion of the other regions of J&K of their right to chart their destiny as a part of India.

If you look at history, it is often filled with symbolism. That is why it is not right to dismiss the flag hoisting as political gimmickry by a cut throat opposition, because it has not been able to project a charismatic leadership. The BJP has many faults. It is aware of them. It is trying to the best of its ability to correct them. However, it also recognises that it has to be true to its role as an Opposition. It cannot be just watching silently these concerted efforts to do a deal in order to fit in with the agenda of foreign powers.

It has to act. It also knows that it has "communal" tag associated with it. What should a responsible opposition do? It has tried to organise a reassertment of national soverignity by way of a symbolic act. It has adopted a way that is peaceful, a cause that no one can have any issue with, through an act that is essentially lawful and well protected as per judgements of the Supreme Court. It has also invited others to join in this across party lines. It has not whipped up any religious or ethinic fervour against Kashmiris in any way.

Is there a precedent for this? Of course, the famous Dandi March itself was along these lines was it not? Does any right thinking Indian question and dismiss Gandhiji's act of making salt as political gimmickry? Was it not a symbolic act? Did it not galvanize a nation for a national cause? Can it be dismissed as a useless act? It became a watershed event in India's march to freedom.

Gentle readers, India's is at a inflexion point. We have the demographic dividend in our favour. We have built national capabilities against great odds, we have now a chance to have our own narrative, to assert ourselves in our march to a tryst with destiny on the strength of Indian thought and ethos. A rise of India is imminent and inevitable. It is but natural that it causes concern across status quo power structures across the world. There will be attempts to take control of India by different means. For many powers, a united India is something that must be averted at all cost. Many powers, for different reasons, would therefore want to do their utmost to unravel India.

Given the many fault lines that we still have as a nation, it is imperative that the political parties across the spectrum maintain a "Lakshman Rekha" when it comes to discussing national soverignity or maintenance of national soverign options. Unfortunately, a great political party like the INC is not being true to its own legacy. The BJP, despite its many faults and failings, is only trying to do its duty here.

It is imperative today that this symbolic act be done to ensure the assertion of national soverignity and our national strategic options. The raising of the National Flag at Lal Chowk is exactly that. The Lal Chowk has a lot of significance to those who want to cut India asunder and who hold the very ideals of the Republic with contempt. It is there, that we must assert our soverignity and our ideals.

It saddens me to see how otherwise intelligent posters in BR forums and elsewhere are seeing so many devils into what is essentially the need of the hour. We should not be apologetic in asserting our nationhood in Kashmir. There are people in that valley who want to be with India who are silenced by intimidation and cooercion exercised by a few with help of a hostile neighbour. Hoisting the flag is important to people of Jammu and Ladakh, to the minorities there, to show and demonstrate that the rest of India cares for them. They are part of this Republic like everyone else.

The state of Jammu & Kashmir belongs to every Indian as much as the rest of India belongs to the citizens in that state.

The raising of the flag is therefore not simply an act of political opportunism, but a call of our times to reassert our national soverignity and integrity.

May be I have become an irrelevant Indian, disconnected from reality given that others are seeing nothing but petty political grandstanding. I leave it to you, dear readers, to judge, what is at stake - Just political grandstanding or re-asserting our national soverignity which is at risk through some back room wheeling and dealing.

As for me,it has always been my refrain that it is not prudent to march to distant drum beats of others.