PMO, Rajnath Singh and rumours

The controversy surrounding Rajnath Singh and his son being called by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and confronted with evidence of “improper conduct” is refusing to die down. The details of the rumoured incident were already being discussed in the power circles even before the media started reporting about it.

While Rajnath Singh pointed towards internal rivalry within the party for this controversy, the inside details of the entire episode paints an altogether different picture.

According to top sources in the government, a team has been formed in the Intelligence Bureau on the direction of National Security Adivsor Ajit Doval to track activities of ministers and people around them. The objective is to have a parallel feedback mechanism for the PMO on the activities of the people running the government.

Recently, this team reported to the PMO of another case of a senior minister in the Modi government, an ally from a North Indian state, getting Rs 40 lakh for clearing a proposal. The son of this minister, who is also a Member of Parliament, was approached by a business group and he got the work done through his father. The IB team decided to raid the residence of the minister where the cash was kept but the PMO intervened and the father-son duo got a call to meet the PM. Both of them were confronted with the facts and they were in a state of shock. The PM let them go with a warning to desist from such wrongdoings in the future.

So who leaked the details of these ministers being called by the PM? Well, it’s obvious, isn’t it?

Meanwhile, another senior minister from the BJP too is said to be unhappy with the lack of opportunities to make money. He went and complained to another senior minister about how even small projects (less than Rs 100 crores) are being sent to Cabinet for clearance.

The difficult task of finding friends and foes in West Asia

BY SAEED NAQVI

It is widely known that New Delhi tilts towards Israel in its dealings with West Asia, particularly since the 1999 Kargil war when the Jewish state provided the ammunition required for India’s field guns. Other mutual interests have since multiplied.

It therefore made practical sense that External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj restored the balance somewhat when she dwelt at length on traditional ties with the Arab world while opening an India-Arab media conference organized by the MEA and attended by media managers from the Arab world. The media link is a tenuous one because an independent media is not the Arab world’s strongest feature, Al Jazeera’s inexplicable credibility notwithstanding. It is an enigma: an independent channel owned by a Sheikhdom which hosts the US Central Command.

Even during India’s non-aligned phase, there were groups and individuals who saw Israel as a model for the wrong reasons. The late M.L. Sondhi, for instance, sketched a grand design in my presence in the conference room of Jerusalem’s King David hotel: two non-Muslim countries surrounded by problematic Muslim neighbours. Both also had “problematic” Muslims within.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1990, it seemed a dream scenario for these “two” countries to clasp the hand of the world’s sole superpower and live happily ever after.

It would be useful for Sushma Swaraj to recall the goings on in Atal Behari Vajpayee’s cabinet. L.K. Advani and Jaswant Singh had agreed to send Indian troops to govern the Kurdish North of Iraq, exactly the region the Americans have now returned to in military formation. Why was India willing to subserve US occupation of a friendly country? In fact possibly the friendliest country India ever had. In every UN debate Iraq was the only Muslim country that stood with India on Kashmir.

In 2003 there was great faith in the durability of the sole superpower. After Saddam Hussein’s fall, the Indian ambassador to Baghdad was not asked to return to New Delhi. He was asked to mark time in a three star hotel in neighbouring Amman, and wait for Americans to take charge in Baghdad whence he would rush to present his credentials.

The person who read the future right was Vajpayee. On April 9, Saddam Hussein’s statue was pulled down at Baghdad’s Firdous Square by US marines. The global media gave it a different spin. Angry Iraqis had pulled down the statue, the world was told. Vajpayee described the US as an “awesome” power on the move. From Srinagar he called off the eye ball to eye ball confrontation with Pakistan.

I have inserted this piece of history the world knows little about, deliberately at a time when a handful of Arab media representatives are present in New Delhi. The Arab media itself had been pushed beyond the margins during the occupation of Iraq. The show was being largely controlled by BBC and CNN. It is worth mentioning that Doordarshan was the only non-Western media to have comprehensively covered that piece of history. Sushma Swaraj was the Information and Broadcasting Minister then.

US Vice President Dick Cheney, even more than Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, was keen to declare victory on global TV. Obstructing celebrations was a singular problem. There was no demonstrable public enthusiasm for Saddam’s ouster. The entire choreography of the war had been designed for TV. How could the US declare victory if there were no street celebrations?

The only people willing to celebrate Saddam’s downfall were Shias in the south and east of the country. They could not be magically produced in Baghdad. In any case Shias would be ultra cautious coming out on an American invitation because after Operation Desert Storm in 1992 they had mounted an uprising in the South against Saddam Hussein. They mistakenly thought they had US protection. But Washington looked the other way. Saddam Hussein brutally crushed the uprising.

Cheney’s men did some quick thinking. After the 1992 uprising, Saddam Hussein had settled rebellious Shias from the south in a ghetto outside Baghdad called Saddam city. These Shias could be commandeered if their leaders, Ayatullah Baqar al Hakeem and Muqtada Sadr could be persuaded. They agreed. That is when Shias came out of their ghetto slapping Saddam Hussein’s photographs with heir sandals. Saddam city was overnight renamed Sadr city by an American edict.

Only after operation Desert Storm did Saddam Hussein place “Allah O Akbar” on the Iraqi flag. His message was simple: the “agnostic” and “atheistic” Baath Sunnis would from now on not be averse to the easier, more emotional, religious mobilization. Abu Bakr al Baghdadi is a subsequent creature of this duality. Baathist education with a religious edge. An ability to organize, administer, hold territory, derives from his Baathist training. Macabre actions like James Foley’s beheading and suicide bombing are a specialization of recent Sunni Jehadism. The two can be alternately stoked against the American infidel in Iraq and the Shia exclusivism of Baghdad. Now the US, Baghdad and Iran are laying traps to catch this animal.

(Saeed Naqvi is a senior Indian journalist, television commentator, interviewer, and a Distinguished Fellow at Observer Research Foundation. Mr. Naqvi is also a mentor and a guest blogger with Canary Trap)

Courageous of Modi to talk of toilets from Red Fort

BY SAEED NAQVI

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s courageous elaboration in his maiden Independence Day speech, on the nation’s need to build toilets had in it a touch of Acharya Vinoba Bhave. It also brought back a Devi Lal story.

During a visit to China, Devi Lal, then India’s Agricultural Minister, made a great impression on the Chinese leadership by his knowledge of things agricultural. Even though he had been invited to study Chinese agriculture, his hosts found his observations and queries so insightful that they took him to more and more places so that they too could learn from his asides.

On one field trip, Devi Lal, the tallest Jat from Haryana, towering above his Chinese counterpart in every sense of the term, stood on a piece of high ground, put his hands on his hips, and began to survey a mega farm. The Chinese waited for his pearls of wisdom. Devi Lal leaned over and whispered something in the Indian Ambassador’s ear that made the emissary, an expert mandarin speaker, turn pale, then white as a sheet.

Devi Lal had whispered a simple question. “Kisaan tatti kahan kartay hain?” (Where do the peasants shit?) The Chinese, prolific spitters off the main highways, do, nevertheless, have a sense of delicacy about the theme Devi Lal had touched upon.

In the dictionary of his mind, the ambassador translated “shit” into “nitrogenous waste matter” for which expression he found a suitably ornate word in Mandarin. When he communicated the query to the Chinese Agriculture Minister, he froze and blinked and blinked and shook his head like a sage who had seen light. Devi Lal had spotted the biggest gap in Chinese Agriculture: want of adequate toilet arrangements for peasants.

I have embellished this Devi Lal yarn with a purpose. Middle class squeamishness sometimes obviates scrutiny of basic issues. It was courageous of Narendra Modi to have dwelt on the absence of toilets in the countryside and on the shame of our unclean cities. He touched on numerous other themes. When even our Gods and Goddesses are manufactured in China, it is time someone spoke of reviving Indian manufacture. That is an idea whose revival will take time.

Toilets for rural households and cleanliness in cities is a revolution the Modi government can start tomorrow.

Let us not talk about Gujarat which is probably much better off in this regard than UP and Bihar. Let him begin with the National Capital Region where, by Modi’s own definition, he is still an outsider. Before staleness sets in, let him appoint an official in his own office with a strict mandate: in six months to a year, the official must have in his hand a comprehensive blue print for toilets for Delhi’s villages and the hundreds of thousands of pavement dwellers. Nobody knows where they go for their ablutions. Also, there must be a plan for the removal of garbage dumps.

Let this official be a regular member of the Indian Administrative Service. Try giving him a suitable job description, say, Secretary Toilets. My guess is that he will bolt the service, go back to his village and arrange a hundred havans to get this Rahu out of Ketu in the quickest possible time. If he happens to be a Muslim, Deoband will launch an agitation.

Alright, for national tranquility, let us call him Officer on Special Duty. Let this OSD begin his inquiries by visiting important hotels, hospitals, major multistoreyed blocks and seek out the managements to show him the toilets on the premises. He will discover that those manning these facilities are six inches shorter and a few shades darker than other management cadre on the premises. They are not even on the rolls of these outfits. They cannot be. How can a toilet cleaner be promoted as a lobby manager, for example. How can he even dream to ever become a Food and Beverages manager?

Garbage dumps, thousands of them around the city, cannot be removed for similar reasons. Rag pickers employed to load the garbage trucks have found a market, heaven knows where, for the scrap they pick from the garbage bins parked in these dumps. A chain of interests has developed around each one of these. They have become sources of livelihood.

Outside of India I have seen men and women find privacy behind the sand dunes in, for example, the Sahara desert. The picture cannot be very different in the sandier part of the Thar Desert. Within an hour of daybreak, every particle evaporates in the sharp “shams” or sun.

In Europe, atleast upto the 18th century ablutions were a taboo. Wolfgang Mozart, and his brothers, died young of ailments from lack of washing. In Andalusia, on the other hand, a culture of Hamams and libraries prevailed since the arrival of the “Moors” in the 8th century. In fact one of the charges during the Spanish Inquisition after 1492 was quite extraordinary: “He Bathes”. This history has something to do with the culture of toilet paper introduced by the British in the colonies even where, otherwise, plenty of water was available.

A tropical country needs ablutions for minimal hygiene. It required considerable self belief for Modi to dwell on the theme at such length on such an occasion.

(Saeed Naqvi is a senior Indian journalist, television commentator, interviewer, and a Distinguished Fellow at Observer Research Foundation. Mr. Naqvi is also a mentor and a guest blogger with Canary Trap)

CIA Drone Control Huts

PHOTOS AND CONTENT COURTESY: WWW.CRYPTOME.ORG

These two “huts” were constructed in early 2007 outside the CIA main dining room.

Each of the huts has 18 roof-top air-conditioning units, with 4 rows of 4 and 2 separately. This suggests 16 pilot drone controller cubicles each with its own AC units, with two additional AC units for common areas. Cubicles are customarily self-contained with light and AC systems to shield from external light, noise and interference.

While there appear to be no public photos of CIA drone operators, below are military drone cubicles. CIA operators allegedly train at military facilities such as Creech Air Force Base, NV, and Holloman Air Force Base, NV.

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Nehru hated Indian Army!

Only two days back, a diplomat turned politician, whose only claim to fame is fealty to one particular family, said in an interview to a TV channel that an Army Chief, with high IQ should not be selected for the post. This politician has no problems with the IQ of the family members that he serves. Disparagement and hatred for the armed forces is probably part of the political DNA that this politician has inherited. Reproduced below is an article from an Army Veteran, who sources the pernicious DNA.

BY MAJ GEN NC KHANNA (4th IMA Course, Gunner, Former GOC 2 Mtn Div)

I joined the IMA 4th Course on 10th January 1948. My CO had 5-6 years service and the C’Arty 11 years. And the GOC 15 years. The GOC had served as a major only for 3 years. The C’Arty had been a Japanese POW in Singapore as a Captain, who within a few years on return and on India becoming independent found himself getting a quadruple promotion. The B’Arty had gone on a gunnery course in UK as a major. When he returned by ship and landed at Bombay he was received by his BM who was carrying the rank badges of a Brigadier, for his boss. Amazing, but that’s how things were. We further do not know that only about 4 to 6 Indian Officers were given a brigadier’s rank, about a dozen as Lt Cols and the rest of the Indian Officers served as Majors/Captains and below.

So these were the young converts who had scant knowledge of the deep issues involved in management and governance of the Armed Forces. Trust me I saw how the lack of ‘Upper Storey’ wisdom of our leaders of that time, allowed the bureaucracy to creep, slowly trespass upon our rights and privileges, degrade our status, our pay structure and dignity. Today their behavior towards the Armed Forces is not only abrasive but unacceptably insulting.

All this took place because our first PM, with scant knowledge of world strategic and tactical issues or deep understanding or wisdom about affairs of statesmanship, within a month of taking over asked his four star British General who had been specifically detailed to advise him on military matters, to put up a paper to him TO DISBAND THE INDIAN ARMY. The General was stunned and asked him as to how he intended to run and manage his country without an Army? Nehru answered with the POLICE OF COURSE.

Don’t please laugh. It’s all available in the British Archives. Since then, the ICS and the IAS cunningly employed this knowledge to go the whole hog to degrade the uniformed elite of India. Our young military leaders were then too engrossed in their merry making, gleefully gloating their triple and quadruple promotions and allowed all unimaginable trespasses. This carried on for almost two decades till Field Marshal Sam came to the helm.

Here are some anecdotes, humorous but true, that highlight our failings:

  • Just prior to a Pay Commission a senior general was told that the Government intended to give officers an annual increment of Rs 25 per month. He huffed and said what nonsense. The bureaucrat then said in that case would Rs 50 per month bi-annually be acceptable. The general said that’s much better. We lost Rs 25 per month for every alternate year till the next Pay Commission.
  • They asked if we wanted a deputation allowance? The answer No. We serve the nation anywhere in the world and no such allowance was necessary. The IAS on the other hand wanted a deputation allowance of every imaginable count. Today an IAS Officer of the Haryana cadre when assigned to the Centre gets an allowance of I think about Rs 10,000 per month. This similarly is applicable to all Class One Officers.
  • Gen Cariappa immediately after taking over conducted himself as a ‘New Convert’. He overnight reduced the perks of the Army Officers. They lost their marriage allowance of Rs 150 per month; Children’s allowance of Rs 50 pm for each of the first two children; Command or Staff allowance for all majors of Rs 50 per month; an Instructors allowance of Rs 75 per month. This is not all. He then wanted to know from each Officer in writing if they owned a horse/horses, and how much money per month were they paying their ‘Syhes’s’ (householders). What a laugh?
  • The national borders were manned by The Border Scouts, army units equipped with MMGs and Artillery. The Army was asked to take over this responsibility. We said NO. The Army’s reasons were totally devious and unfathomable. And the BSF was created.
  • During one of the Pay Commissions the Armed Forces had put up TWENTY POINTS for consideration and discussion. This paper had been put up to the PM’s level. The decision was given that if the Armed Forces insist they may be conceded up to 17 points. If they insist on more the matter must be referred to the PMO’s Office. The bureaucrats accustomed to negotiations and bargaining took three days of discussions to concede the first point. Thereafter the next day the next four points were conceded without discussion. On the next day again an acrimonious discussion pursued for a prolonged period. At this the senior Armed Forces Officer got up in a huff and left the meeting along with his delegation saying that we were not beggars to go on pleading point to point. The bureaucrats sighed a sigh of relief and reported that the Forces delegation did not wish to raise any more points. This entire episode was narrated to me by an IAS friend attending this meeting who was amazed to observe the over sensitiveness of our reps and how their ego took precedence over their well deserved points raised.

Note: This hatred of Nehru was despite sacrifices of the Indian Armed Forces in forging Independent India. It may be recalled that when Nehru told Gen Cariappa that India was a poor country and pay of these Officers needed to be reduced, the General acceded to the request but insisted that the King’s Commission Officers (KCOs) should continue with their old pay scales. Nehru agreed. Was Cariappa also a KCO is for the readers to ascertain?