Posts Tagged ‘US’

I am happy that I was proved wrong, at least on one count. I had said to my friends that India would not carry out surgical strikes against Pakistan because of US and Chinese pressure.

What happened today across the Line of Control (LoC) may not have been war, but to Indians, at least those who believe in the Indian nation, and not those who think Pakistan is their homeland, it has been a cathartic experience and as good as a victory in war. It was virtually a case of crossing the Laxman Rekha to avenge the deaths of the countless soldiers and innocent civilians who had lost their lives in Jammu and Kashmir and around the country in terrorist attacks, bomb blasts. The imaginary line was finally breached, all thanks to this government and our brave soldiers.

Even in 1999 during the Kargil war, Indians seethed when Atal Bihari Vajpayee told then US president Bill Clinton that the Indian forces would not cross the LoC. Since then, Indians have lived with a sense of helplessness as Pakistan continued to send in terrorists, weapons, fake currency and drugs with impunity and the Indian Army could not cross the LoC and could not target terrorist training camps in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK), because of ‘international’ (read USA) pressure. Worse, our hands were tied by some countries who were worried about their interests in Pakistan, and a fear that things could spiral out of control because Pakistan was as good as a rogue nuclear state. The question they need to ask is “who made them a rogue state?” Not India definitely.

But in the last couple of years even the Americans were fed up with the Pakistanis, who they believed was an ally in their so-called war on terror. The Pakistanis had started to behave as if they were now a law unto themselves. Secondly, every terror attack anywhere in the world somehow had a Pakistani link. I guess even in the US the mood against the Pakistanis was turning and they were now being viewed as a global terror hub and a nation of double-crossers, who were taking the money the Americans were giving them and using it to fund acts of terror against its neighbours, especially India, Afghanistan and Bangladesh.

But coming to this surgical strike itself, the elation and relief one feels cannot be explained. The Loc that stood like some foreboding hoodoo that we were afraid to cross holds no fears for the Indian forces anymore. The message India has sent out is that if the need arises the army will do it again.

What is interesting is that the two countries India was worried about have so far been completely silent on the surgical strikes. The Americans have said nothing and the Chinese have asked India and Pakistan to scale down the tension. But after this incident even they will be forced to accept that after the Uri killings the Indian establishment had finally lost its patience. That lack of confidence of the Chinese in the Pakistani establishment in this incident must have shaken the latter the most, and now they are busy falling over each other to contradict themselves. Have fun, people.

Which begs the question, why didn’t the earlier Indian governments have the courage to do what Narendra Modi’s government did today? I think, besides Indira Gandhi, the rest were stuck in some sort of time warp, a desire to avoid war at all costs, and a psychological fear that a desperate Pakistan could use their nuclear weapons. There is another reason much bigger than all these that politicians feared – losing the next election and losing their vote bank.

Well, I am glad Mr Modi had no such compulsions. Some of the voters and liberals, with their misplaced sense of self-righteousness and outrage (over something that happened 16 years, and for which no court in the land has held Mr Modi responsible) would anyway not vote for him, but he was confident that a huge number of Indians were backing him, and they were looking to him to act against the Pakistanis in every and any way possible – militarily and diplomatically. And he did.


We don’t know whether the four youngsters who died last week when their car went into the Neera river, were momentarily misled by the NHAI signboard, or they were speeding and lost control as the cops reported, or whether some vehicle came at them from the wrong side and forced them off the road or… there could be a half a dozen reasons.

The damaged i20 . Pic by Sakal Times photojournalist Vaibhav Thombare

The damaged i20 . Pic by Sakal Times photojournalist Vaibhav Thombare

What we do know is what happened that night could have been avoided if all the organisations responsible – NHAI, Highway Traffic Police and contractor – had been doing their respective jobs. Had the police told the NHAI to remove the sign since there were no road repairs going on there, had the NHAI not put up that stupid sign in the first place, and had the contractor stationed his security guards at the spot (which I am told they should have), four lives could have been saved. Which brings me, specifically, to the Highway Traffic Police and traffic management on the highways.

What is the highway traffic police supposed to be doing on a daily basis? Are they just supposed to lurk on the highway and stop trucks to add to their daily collections and show up after an accident and conduct a panchanama. Is that their only job? Not if you read their pompous Mission Statement on their website.

This is what it says:

* Ensure Safe and Secure Travelling on Highways.

* Reduce and Prevent accidents, save lives

* Help the victims and injured persons

* Ensure smooth flow of Traffic by constant vigil and patrolling on Highways

* Constant education of motorists and road users by arranging workshops by each TAP

* Active and Helpful Highway Police.

How many of the points mentioned above do they actively practice? Not the first, definitely, unless levying a fine of a few hundred rupees is their justification for ensuring safe and secure travelling on the highway. Because the minute the offending driver pays up and leaves he usually chucks the receipt away and goes back to his errant ways. What are a few hundred bucks, anyway, today?

If they’re not ensuring the first, then they definitely cannot do the second and third. If they had been doing so, the four youngsters, and countless others would have been alive today. Look at the fifth point – constant education of motorists and road users? Forget workshops, how many times have you been pulled over by a highway traffic police cop and given a lecture on safe driving, especially at night or in the wee hours?  Maybe, they don’t have enough people to do that (as the accompanying chart shows), but again, that is no excuse.


The truth is, while those who drive are mainly responsible for keeping the highways safe, there will always be those who pay scant regard to rules, and to the lives of fellow drivers. There is no effective law to stop such people, and even if there was, there is no one to implement it effectively. In the end it comes down to the people who should be doing their jobs, but aren’t.

I drive on the State and National Highways and when I spot police jeeps they are usually parked on the roadside, waiting for some truck driver who they can squeeze for a few hundred bucks – but beyond that, not much else. I had a friend in the Highway Traffic Police, who once told me that their main task was to collect a certain amount everyday from the truckers as fines to fill the department coffers!

Until recently, we would often drive to Satara on Sunday mornings, and drive back in the evenings. Along with us, every Tom, Dick, Harry and their dog would also be driving back from Kolhapur, Satara, Panchgani Mahabaleshwar or any other weekend getaway on that route, at speeds in excess of 100 kms per hour. And most of them would be uncomfortably close to each other. By the time I got back home I would be mentally and physically exhausted. I often wonder what would happen if any of the vehicles has a flat tyre or the driver loses control of his vehicle. It is a scary thought.

One day I told my wife that I would not drive anymore on the Mumbai-Bangalore Highway in the evenings, because I couldn’t take the stress. The drive from Pune to Bengaluru in the day is less harrowing than the one from Satara to Pune in the evenings, I said. And that happens because there is no one from the Highway Traffic Police to take errant drivers off the road. These maniacs are allowed to have a free run. The SUVs – and they’re getting bigger and bigger – bear down on you from the rear like some huge inter-galactic machine and start honking, swerving, just like in a scene from some Hollywood movie during a chase, looking for an escape route in their desperation to get ahead.  The even more scary sight, is the much smaller hatchbacks which try to emulate their big brothers. And there is no one to stop them.

Many years ago, a relative living in the USA, told me about how he had been stopped by the police on the freeway, when he was on his way back home from some work in another town. He was exhausted and just for just a second his eyes closed and the car drifted. Almost immediately, or so he thought, a police car, its siren wailing asked him to pull over.

The police officer politely told him he had fallen asleep on the wheel, had been speeding and told him to slow down. The relative told the officer “I am tired. I am going home to my wife and kids. So you want to penalise me, go ahead, but don’t give me a lecture.”

He realised the moment those words tumbled out that he had gone too far. Without another word, the police officer told the relative to follow his car, slowly. A mile or so ahead, the police car stopped at a drive-in. The officer told the relative to throw cold water on his face, order a large coffee – without milk – and wait for him till he returned.

“If I don’t see you here when I return, I’ll book you,” were the officer’s words as he left. He returned half an hour later and told him to drive home safely “otherwise your wife and kids might not see you alive again.” He said it was an experience, he would never forget. Of course, that was the USA. Does the traffic police in this country believe in such social niceties?

So another important Indian official got frisked at some US airport. The Yanks probably thought she had an AK-56 hidden in the folds of her sari! But jokes aside, at least she got frisked. In India try frisking your own MPs and bureaucrats and the next thing you know the Airport Manager will be transferred to Tinsukhia.

I remember the outcry by MPs and bureaucrats when it was suggested that they all be frisked at airports. What’s the harm? If they are carrying firearms they can declare it. And like the rule states, it will be handed back to them once the aircraft reaches the destination. But it does make one wonder why they refuse to be frisked –especially when they and returning with their spouse from sojourns abroad.

I’ll agree that the US airports do stretch things a bit at times – like when they made Defence Minister George Fernandes undergo a strip search and patted down former president APJ Abdul Kalam. But sometimes an advanced state of paranoia is a good thing. The US has, by and large, managed to avoid any major terrorist attack after 26/11, unlike here where we wait for an incident to happen and then make a lot of noise, point fingers at the whole world and generally flounder around. At most places there isn’t security worth its name.

Every time I read about a bomb blast somewhere in the country I realise how helpless we are when it comes to protecting ourselves. While politicians get z+ security the common people are left to fend for themselves. Look at what happened in Varanasi. A bomb went off and, somebody died because the police were goofing off on the job – which is nothing new when it comes to the UP Police. But instead of doing something, Mayawatiji says the Centre should give her the kind of security that Mumbai got after 26/11! Then the Centre blames UP, and the chief minister throws it right back. In all the buck-passing the people who suffer are mere statistics.

Take even Pune, German Bakery was reduced to rubble two years ago, but it hasn’t really changed anything here, has it? At one of the biggest malls in Pune the security apparatus is a joke. At this place two people – one who slides a mirror under the car and the other who opens your boot and gives it a cursory look- are what we have in terms of security. Where is the thorough check that is required?

Hundreds of people flock to the mall every day and the damage in terms of lives and property can well be imagined if some nut-case decides to do something. Yet is the Pune Police or even the authorities at the mall bothered? The cops will shrug it off with the words that security inside the mall is not their concern, and the Mall owners will say they are doing all they can. But is that enough? So often, we’ve parked our car in the parking lot at the mall and stepped across the road to do some shopping.

A colleague told me this rather interesting story and I think it fits perfectly into the bureaucratic bungling which we see when a terrorist attack takes place. She was in Delhi in 2001 with students on a study tour when terrorists struck Parliament House. The Capital was suddenly under siege so the lady decided to visit George Fernandes, who was a friend of her father’s and also the defence minister.

When she reached his house she informed the security personnel who informed Fernandes. The minister called her and the kids in, but, surprisingly, his security refused to allow them in! Since this was the day after the Parliament attack they were adamant that no one would be allowed in even without the required approval, even though the minister had no objection, since guarding him inside his house was their responsibility.

The security personnel then told the lady that she could meet Fernandes when he drove out of his bungalow. Once the minister left the bungalow, he would step out of the car and meet them. The lady then posed the classic question: What if, when Fernandes steps out of the car, someone waiting across the road shot at him?

The security officer’s answer left her speechless. “That’s not our problem. Our jurisdiction ends the minute he steps out of the gate. If something happens after he leaves his residence, that’s the responsibility of the commandos protecting him.”

My former colleague and good friend, Candice, now a marketing manager at Vodacom in far away Dar es Salam, believes I should rename my blog “Mohan Sinha ko Gussa kyo aata hain!”

I shouldn’t be ranting and getting mad, she feels. There should be self-expression. She thinks I should be writing on Aloo tikki! I guess, that’s self-expression for her! I thought I expressed myself in a pretty lucid manner sometimes, a little too lucidly for my comfort and that of others around me! Ok Candice, this one’s for you!! No ranting, just some good-natured and light-hearted ‘self-expression’ about a few things!

A colleague told me (I am assuming, in jest), that I should not pen any posts criticizing the US government or the Americans. The reason, she explained, was that someone in the US Government might be trawling the web looking for anti-American sentiments by people from these parts and they might file my blog post away for future reference. So when I go to the US embassy for a visa, they might pull out my post, wave it in my face and accuse me of giving the US the middle finger! In other words I would never be allowed to board a plane for New York or wherever.

My take is, since US Immigration has already issued me with a multiple-entry business visa, which doesn’t look like it is EVER going to be put to any use, except to wipe my nose, I have no such worries! And if the Americans ever ask me why I said all those nice things about them, I am just going to say “BOO!” Hopefully, the US Marine who stands at the entrance of the Embassy on Warden Road in Mumbai would only have me evicted and not arrested for showing them my middle-finger.

On their previous visa application form they even had a question (thankfully removed later), which asked the applicant if he/she had ever indulged in terrorist activities against the US or intended to! So now you know how all the 9/11 hijackers got into the US. They lied through their gold capped teeth. So they learnt it from the masters of the game – the Americans themselves. Look at the way they’ve been lying about Headley, from the time they supposedly “arrested” him. Even a mentally challenged person knows by now that Headley is an American stooge and to allow some other country to interrogate him would be hara-kiri.

Which brings me to the Greeks….Remember this line? “Do not trust the Horse, Trojans / Whatever it is, I fear the Greeks even bearing gifts.”. Every time some American official lands up at our door with news and tidings from the ‘Great One” I can’t get over the apprehension that they have some nasty surprises hidden up their sleeve. A few weeks ago one US official told India that they would be given access to Headley. Then a couple of days ago another official did a 180-degree turn! And at the same time we hear that the Americans are talking to the Pakistanis about a civilian nuclear deal.

They are even chatting up General Kiyani, who, to the Americans and the rest of the world, is the man holding the reins in Pakistan. This also makes it more than obvious, that the elected government there is nothing but a sham, and survives because it pleases the Pakistan Army establishment to tell the world that it is a ‘democracy’. The fact that the Americans are speaking specially with Kiyani is proof of his importance in the scheme of things.

God knows where Obama gets his moments of inspiration from. Right now, even a lot Americans don’t seem to be too enthused by their President. I hope for the sake of the sub-continent at least, He knows what he is up to. And I mean Him as in The Almighty. A lot of people believe that right now if a nuclear-armed Pakistan would pass into the hands of the Taliban, it would resemble a monkey with a loaded gun in its hands. You never really know how and who they’ll use it against. So where the Americans got this idea from to give civilian nuclear power is baffling. This is as crazy as the good Taliban and bad Taliban justification by the Americans! I wonder what happened to that, considering the fact that Pakistanis are experiencing a bomb blast a day.

So why do the Americans play these games and why do successive Indian governments fall for it? That’s a question only the Indian government can answer. But my take is, it bodes well for both the US government and its industries to keep the hysteria alive. The American weapons industry can continue to do roaring business with both governments, which is already in an advanced state of paranoia, while the US keeps up the pretence of brokering peace between the two warring neighbours.

We know the Pakistanis are never up to any good, so we are always wary of them. But we tend to trust the Americans and usually get taken for a ride. That is why I distrust them more than I do the Pakistanis. And that’s why I compare the Americans to the Greeks!