NAGROTA: PARTING SHOT BY GEN SHARIF OR INAUGURAL GIFT BY GEN BAJWA?

Though Pakistan’s new army chief Gen Bajwa, after taking the charge yesterday, said the situation along the Line of Control (LoC) between India and Pakistan would be normal soon, indicating a softer approach than his predecessor, developments say otherwise.

The day, when Lt. Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa took baton from the outgoing Pakistan army chief Gen. Raheel Sharif, a proven India detractor, 7 Indian soldiers including two officials were martyred in a terror attack on an army unit near Jammu.

The attack that began early morning and lasted for some 14 hours saw fierce gunbattle and a hostage like situation with terrorists targeting army officials’ mess and residential units in Nagrota, near Indian Army’s 16 Corps Headquarters.

As expected, ugly politics over the issue has pitched in. Political goalposting has started. Debates and opinions are raging on ‘whys and hows’ of this attack that is clearly an intelligence failure but, at the outset, it is clear that it will be linked with Gen. Raheel Sharif’s parting warning to India and Gen. Bajwa ascendance to the throne.

While transferring power to Gen. Bajwa, Raheel Sharif warned India of its stand on Kashmir, comparing it with ‘increased terrorism and aggression’. He said, “India should know that mistaking our policy of patience for weakness would be dangerous.”

We all know that is an empty rhetoric, especially after the fact that the all powerful army of Pakistan had no other option left but to deny the highly successful surgical strike by India deep inside Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir. The Pakistan Army could not have accepted the Indian surgical strike as it would undermine the numero-uno position it enjoys in Pakistan, presenting its weaker character before everyone – whereas Raheel Sharif had curated a ‘hero sort of image’ for himself – riding high on anti-India acts and rhetoric.

Also, doing so, as the Pakistani civilian leadership had done initially, accepting India’s claims till the army told them to toe its line of shameless denial, would have put tremendous pressure on the Pakistani army to reply back to India in a similar manner, something that it was simply not capable of.

But incidents like Nagrota or Uri present reaffirm the clear face of danger due to Pakistan’s proxy war in India. Almost all terror attacks in any part of India are found to have Pakistani links. If Jammu & Kashmir, that was once considered heaven on earth, has now become a living hell, it is because of Pakistan’s proxy war only.

It is this proxy war that Pakistan has adopted as the mainstay of its policy. Raheel Sharif actively extended that tradition. And whatever Pakistan’s military does, its civilian government has to follow that – willingly or unwillingly –  because military is supreme in Pakistan.

So, even if we were yet to hear a word about India from its next army chief, Pakistan’s spin doctors, its politicians, were already on the job. So Sartaj Aziz had said that any dialogue process cannot go ahead with India unless Kashmir is on the table, a prospect that India has officially denied, saying if there has to be India-Pakistan dialogue, it will be on terror only. So Pakistan’s defence minister Khawaja Asif had said there will be no change in Pakistan’s military policy on Indian border under Gen. Bajwa.

Even if Pakistan’s new army chief Gen. Bajwa is yet to speak openly on his thoughts on India!

Whatever little he spoke yesterday didn’t give much – but at least, from that little – we can give him the benefit of doubt – that this cowardly act in Nagrota, targeting residential units of an Indian Army base, was a parting shot by a frustrated Raheel Sharif, who, despite all his tall claims and boastings, would have to live forever with the fact that it was during his tenure only that India conducted a highly successful surgical strike deep inside his territory of influence and owned it before the world and he could not do anything.

©SantoshChaubey

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RUSSIA REFUTES PAKISTAN’S CLAIMS THAT IT IS JOINING CPEC

The article originally appeared on India Today.
Here it is a bit modified and extended.

Russia has rubbished Pakistan’s claims that it has requested to join the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

According to the Russian news agency TASS, the Russian Foreign Ministry has not initiated any negotiation on joining CPEC, the $46 billion mega project that Pakistan sees as the next big thing in the nation’s history that will transform it into a hub a regional and economic activity in this part of Asia.

In a flat denial that highlighted ‘secret talks’, the Russian Foreign Ministry said, “Reports on the ‘secret talks’ between Russia and Pakistan on implementing the projects within the framework of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor that have appeared in the Pakistani media are not true. The TASS report added that any possibility of Russia’s involvement to this initiative has not been discussed with Islamabad.

Pakistan recently accepted Russia’s request to use Gwadar port for its exports. And today’s clarification by Russia says it was limited to the use of Gwadar port as a strategic trade stopover only. That means all the big talks in the Pakistani establishment and media about Russia joining CPEC were nothing but cooked up propaganda stories.

Perhaps, the Pakistani media reports follow the claims of its prime minister and president. Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif, during his Turkmenistan visit last week, had claimed that may countries including Russia had shown willingness to join CPEC and he welcomed the Russian initiative. His words were echoed by the President of Pakistan Mamnoon Hussain who said that the Russian interest showed significance of the project. Reiterating the Pakistani establishment’s version, Pakistan Foreign Office Spokesperson Nafees Zakaria yesterday said that ‘Russia had shown a keen interest to boost its relations with Pakistan’.

Pakistani media had picked up these clues and had widely reported on Russia joining CPEC. A report in The Nation went on to the extent to claim that Alexander Bogdanov, Federal Security Services chief, had made a secret visit to Pakistan, the first visit by any Russian intelligence chief in 14 years, during which he had forwarded the Russian request to join CPEC. Interestingly, according to The Nation report, the Russian request was accepted and the Gwadar Port permission was given under this only. Geo News in its coverage said that after the Gwadar Port access, Russia also wanted to join the CPEC to ‘reap the maximum dividends’.

All those claims, by Pakistani leaders as well as by its media, proved a bunch of lies today. Russia is India’s oldest defence partner and was also the largest one, when seen on annual trade figures, until it was overtake by the US in 2014. Now with big defence deals signed between Russia and India during Russian President Vladimir Putin’s India visit in October 2016, Russia is there again and it would never want to lose the big opportunity that India’s $100 billion defence upgade provides.

India is opposed to CPEC because a part of it passes through Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir. For strategic reasons also, India doesn’t welcome a Chinese presence just across the border in a disputed territory that India considers its own. Prime minister Narendra Modi has conveyed these concerns to Chinese President Xi Jinping.

©SantoshChaubey

CONTINUING ANTI-INDIA RHETORIC, PAKISTAN’S FS WARNS INDIA OF ITS BELLIGERENT ATTITUDE

The article originally appeared on India Today.
Here it is a bit modified and extended.

Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary Aizaz Chaudhry has warned India against the ‘harms’ of its hostile ‘tendencies’ against Pakistan, implying it’s a ‘dangerous’ territory.

According to a report published in The News International, Chaudhry, in a TV programme, said ‘India, with its belligerent attitude, was treading a serious path’.

Pakistan’s new army chief, Lieutenant General Qamar Javed Bajwa, is assuming office tomorrow. His predecessor, General Raheel Sharif, has had the notoriety of pushing India-Pak ties to a historically low point with war-like situation prevailing along the border between the two neighbours.

Now it is a well-established fact that Pakistan’s army chief is its most powerful person. Gen. Raheel Sharif is leaving the Pakistan’s most powerful office with anti-India designs, something that reflects in the statements of every Pakistani politician, be it its prime minister or defence minister or foreign affairs minister.

If we take a cue from that, India is going to handle the same, belligerent and backstabbing Pakistan as it was during Raheel Sharif’s time.

Continuing the tradition of anti-India rhetoric, Pakistan FS said ‘Pakistan had very sagaciously reminded it (India) of such dangerous tendencies’.

While emphasizing that India and Pakistan needed to talk, he further added that ‘Pakistan’s defences were fully impregnable and it could not be intimidated with volleys of bragging talks’.

Pakistan’s leadership has been more livid ever since India conducted its surgical strike deep inside Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir in September eliminating dozens of terrorists and terror launch-pads. What has been more humiliating for Pakistan and its military leadership is that they cannot accept on any platform any such military exercise by the Indian army inside the territory of its influence.

And so they are resorting to such ‘volleys of bragging talks’ like Pakistan’s FS has just said or like other ruling elite of Pakistan say about India every other day or like the continued shelling across our border areas ever since the surgical strike.

Ever since the surgical strike on September 29, Pakistan has violated ceasefire over 300 times and brags about how many Indian soldiers it has killed in the cross-border firing to appease concerns of its internal politics. But as the Indian forces have been given a free hand to give befitting reply to any Pakistani misadventure, the scale of damage on the Pakistani side in the Indian counter-firing has been manifold.

Last week we saw a glimpse of it when the Pakistani DGMO had to call his Indian counterpart for talks after India’s retaliatory fire in response to an Indian soldier’s beheading inflicted heavy damage on the Pakistani side. We can gauge the extent of damage by the fact that it was the first time since the surgical strike that the Pakistani DGMO had to speak to the Indian DGMO about bringing normalcy along the LoC.

©SantoshChaubey

THERE WE CALL HOME..

Where do we call home.
Where do we seek life.
Where do we come from.
Where do we sing life.
Where do we go.
What do we live for.
When do we take sides.
What do we die for.
A name was given to you.
A name you became.
A man was thought about.
A man you became.
Where is the home.
What became of life.
Where is the name.
What became of the guide.
Where do we come from.
Where do we go.
When do we dance.
When life sings.
When do we seek.
When do we give.
When do we cry.
Where do we go to cry.
Where do we belong.
Where questions cease.
Where answers speak.
There we call home.
Where we belong.
When life is a song.
When it can’t go wrong.
There we call home.
Its where we come from.

©SantoshChaubey

VARANASI VIBES – IN GOD’S OWN CITY

INDIA’S OLDEST LIVING CITY – INDIA’S HERITAGE AND CULTURAL CAPITAL – AND THE WORLD’S SPIRITUAL CAPITAL THROUGH RANDOM CLICKS

vv6mornlife

VARANASI VIBES
IN GOD’S OWN CITY

©SantoshChaubey

VARANASI VIBES – IN GOD’S OWN CITY

INDIA’S OLDEST LIVING CITY – INDIA’S HERITAGE AND CULTURAL CAPITAL – AND THE WORLD’S SPIRITUAL CAPITAL THROUGH RANDOM CLICKS

vv1mornlife

VARANASI VIBES
IN GOD’S OWN CITY

©SantoshChaubey

WHAT MAMATA ANTI-DEMONETIZATION HINDI TWEETS TELL US

Mamata Banerjee is very active on Twitter (@MamataOfficial) and basically tweets in English and sometimes in Bangla. But she is using Hindi as well, and strategically, in order to reach a wider cross section of people on the demonetization issue which she is vehemently opposed to. A scroll down her Twitter feed will show that increasingly most of her tweets on demonetization are in both languages. She has tried to emerge as a central figure of the anti-demonetization front and her outburst began on Twitter only when she termed the Modi government decision ‘a financial chaos and disaster let loose on the common people of India’ after Narendra Modi finished his address to the nation announcing the decision that has kept India hooked since then.

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Her Hindi tweets also indicate that she is now looking for a wider canvas politically, something that the ensuing chaos in the aftermath of the demonetization drive can give her. She has hit Delhi streets and has held meetings and parleys against demonetization since the Parliament’s winter session began on November 16.

Now that the opposition parties have decided to launch a pan-India anti-demonetization protest with ‘Aakrosh Diwas’ on November 28, they all will try to mobilize masses as much as possible and Mamata’s use of Hindi to reach out and appeal to people, along with her image and streets-smart style politics of ‘Ma-Mati-Manush (Mother-Motherland-People)’ will come in handy here. Demonetization pangs have affected people across the country and speaking in a language that reaches out to the maximum number of people is certainly a logical idea. Also, now that TMC is a national level political party, speaking and tweeting in Hindi makes sense when the heart of India’s political landscape, Uttar Pradesh, a Hindi speaking state, is going to polls in the next few months.

©SantoshChaubey

FACEBOOK: FROM FREEDOM OF INFORMATION TO CENSORSHIP

Facebook is reportedly working on a software that will sift the content hostile to the interests of the Chinese government in order to gain entry in the world’s largest base of active telecom and internet users. Facebook was blocked by China in 2009 for allegedly contributing to Xinxiang’s race riots.

China has around 700 million digital population, largest in the world – and Chinese internet companies like WeChat, Weibo and Baidu have grown manifold, aided by a protectionist Chinese government and by the absence of global internet giants like Google, Facebook and Twitter.

And it seems Mark Zuckerberg wants a share of that digital population to fuel his organization’s further growth even if it comes at the cost of the founding principle of Facebook.

Mark Zuckerberg had written about information flow on Facebook in an open letter on September 8, 2006 that is available on Facebook. The open letter was basically about how apologetic Mark Zuckerberg felt after Facebook had a messy launch of its News Feed. The open letter was basically about the ‘free flow of information the Internet’.

Zuckerberg writes in the initial lines of his open letter, “When I made Facebook two years ago my goal was to help people understand what was going on in their world a little better. I wanted to create an environment where people could share whatever information they wanted, but also have control over whom they shared that information with. I think a lot of the success we’ve seen is because of these basic principles.”

Zuckerberg further writes in the letter about creating a group ‘Free Flow of Information on the Internet’ because this is what he believes in as he says. The open letter has hyperlinked text to redirect to the group but when the link is clicked it says “sorry, this content isn’t available right now.”

From that motto of ‘free flow of information on the internet’, Facebook is now reportedly developing tailored tools to serve propaganda of the autocratic regimes like China.

Facebook was founded in 2004. In 2006, it was still a small business with valuation around $500 million. But 10 years later, its market cap is now over $350 billion – in ivy league with companies like Apple, Microsoft, Google and Exxon. Industry analysts say Facebook’s profit has the potential to grow 32% annually for some next years and its market cap may touch $1 trillion. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is already among the wealthiest people in the world and that if it happens so it will make him the richest person on the planet.

That makes Facebook a pure business interest for Mark Zuckerberg and with that comes the pressure growth. And he is already facing the heat. The pressure to grow its market has effectively put a break on Mark Zuckerberg’s goal of ‘free flow of information on the internet’. The ‘unavailability’ of the group Mark writes about in his open letter can be seen as a testimony to that. There has been a flurry of cases around the world on how Facebook uses the data or it violates personal privacy norms. It has unsuccessfully tried introducing controversial platforms like Free Basics in India, essentially a marketing tie-up with some companies that provides free basic internet to the users but with selected content.

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To maintain its hold as the primary and most preferred social networking site, Facebook has tried to increase its reach, acquiring new platforms like WhatsApp and Instagram and focusing on markets with enormous potential like China and India. Facebook’s mammoth acquisition of WhatsApp for $19 billion in 2014 was seen as a desperate attempt to maintain that lead.

Facebook is slowing down in its main market – America and Canada – that it counts as one – and it needs to expand. China and India are the world’s biggest telecom markets in terms active users. As Facebook India MD Umang Bedi puts it, and as Mark Zuckerberg says, India is the most critical and strategic market for Facebook. But there is a big catch. India may a be a future market for Facebook but its contribution in Facebook’s overall revenue at the moment is negligible. Facebook earns Rs. 630 per user in the US whereas in India, it is still less than Rs. 9 while the global average is around Rs. 270. That is a huge gap to fill.

Also, Facebook has set a norm for itself that how many ads it can show in its news feed and it will hit the threshold in 2017. So, it needs many more users and markets outside the US to fuel its miraculous growth story. And China can be the solution Zuckerberg will have in mind.

And he is trying to woo China like anything. He has had multiple visits to China. Though Facebook is blocked in China, he opened his sales office there in 2014. He has learned Mandarin. Like Narendra Modi, he has also met with the Chinese President Xi Jinping and has given those events ample publicity. Narendra Modi even visited Facebook headquarters during his US visit in September 2015 but that luck has not smiled on Facebook when it comes to Xi Jinping.

©SantoshChaubey

WHAT BYPOLL RESULTS TELL US ABOUT DEMONETIZATION?

If we go by the results of the bye-elections announced yesterday, we get it straight – that demonetization is just a political issue which has not those social contours as is being projected by its opponents.

Bye-elections were held in four parliamentary constituencies and ten assembly constituencies spread across six states – Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Tripura – and in the union territory Puducherry.

Going by the charges that the political opposition is levelling against the NDA government led by prime minister Narendra Modi, there could have been just one possible outcome of these bye-elections – the BJP facing a humiliating electoral loss.

But that didn’t happen.

The results announced show the public has gone ahead with the status quo prevailing – and going by the geographical spread – Assam (Northeast), Arunachal Pradesh (Northeast), Madhya Pradesh (Central), West Bengal (East), Tamil Nadu (South), Tripura (Northeast) and Puducherry (South) – certainly a wide cross-section of the country – we can say it is not a localized reaction of a certain pocket.

The BJP, in fact, has fared well, and at cost of those who are vehemently opposing the demonetization move – like Congress or the Left front.

The BJP won parliamentary and assembly constituencies in Madhya Pradesh, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh comfortably, came second in the Coochbehar PC in West Bengal and came second in one seat in Tripura. That shows demonetization didn’t work against the BJP even if the bypolls were held 10 days after the sudden policy change announced by Narendra Modi on November 10.

What can we read into it? Are all the stories of people thronging banks and ATMs day in, day out and in night and people dying in queues are nothing?

To continue..

©SantoshChaubey

DEMONETIZATION MUST NOT END UP LIKE JUST YET ANOTHER POLITICAL ISSUE.

The whole country is trapped into the demonetization debate.

For its proponents, it is discourse. For its opponents, it is an illegitimate force.

Like always, there are many who are caught in the grey zone.

The trial and error juggernaut is marching ahead and it has been a mixed report for the government so far – in giving people their hard-earned money – in new notes and in old notes.

And this trial and error nature of it has given the political opposition a golden chance to score some brownie political (and electoral points in the season of state assembly elections) points by trying to corner the government. For them it is an illegitimate force and they have left no stone unturned in spreading this notion.

And what about people – commoners like you and me?

Well, either they don’t matter or if the systems looks taking care of them, it is like it is extending some sort of favour.

It is said that the common man is the basic entity of a democracy and the processes of a democratic nation should revolve around him.

But we live in the times and in a society where the common folks – people like you and me – are only given some value or hearing when either there is a massive civil agitation like Vinoba Bhave or Lohia or JP or Anna Hazare could do or when there is some court pressure – as we see from time to time – in enacting pro people laws – in interpreting the existing laws to prevent their misuse – even in bringing erring elitist people or organizations in line – like we are witnessing in the BCCI case.

There are many who are complaining. There are many who are resolutely supporting it. They are commoners like you and me. Like always, they must not be duped by our political establishment because they are supporting this demonetization drive in spite of massive inconvenience it is causing – hoping there will be fundamental changes to their lives after it – once the things start settling down.

And stakes involved here are enormously high – specially after reports of many deaths in bank/ATM queues.

The government needs to answer them – and to them who are complaining – because they own it – and they own the processes on every stage. If they are compromising, the government must also compromise to become sensitive to them.

Demonetization must not end up like just yet another issue to play politics. As the government has promised, it must do the promised cash clean-up to filter out Black Money from our lives.

what-next
Cartoon: Ragini Chaubey

©SantoshChaubey