Let us face up to the reality of the losses on our borders and take some firm action rather than spend time concealing facts from the domestic audience
It is a matter of immense national pride for all of us to have witnessed the successful launch of Chandrayaan- 3 on its epic journey and landing on the moon’s South Pole. Though well begun is only half done, one is hopeful that the team of dedicated scientists, engineers and technicians behind this project are rewarded for their wholehearted dedication and untiring efforts towards this mission with complete success.
The very fact that ISRO has achieved so much, with a minuscule budget of around Rs 650 Crores to boot, speaks volumes for its focus. Some movies cost more to make! It is therefore extremely puzzling as to why our engineers dealing with more mundane issues of town and infrastructure planning have made such a hash of things all around the country, as the monsoon plays out.
Of course, unexpected extreme weather may have been responsible for some of the havoc, but why was this not foreseen and catered for? After all a veritable army is employed, and paid for by taxpayers' money, for just this very thing! We have also had an array of civil servants and politicians, including the Prime Minister, travelling the world and attending a host of conferences and symposiums on mitigating the impact of climate change, on tax-payers money of course. These have been nothing more than holiday jaunts for the participants.
Accountability, or to be more specific, the lack of it, is the issue here In Delhi. The unseemly fight between the elected government and a puppet Lieutenant Governor, beholden to the Central Government in more ways than one, has allowed the bureaucracy to do as it pleases and get away with daylight murder. Fortunately, nobody has yet suggested we turn Delhi into another ersatz Venice, in the way MS Mamata Banerjee has attempted to make Kolkata into another imitation of London.
Somehow non- accountability seems embedded in our DNA. Whichever facet of governance one turns one attention to suffers from this cancer. Take Manipur, where by all accounts, an intense civil war rages on, with cases of rape and murder being documented almost daily, with no end in sight. Instead, as was to be expected, the Naga community now finds itself being slowly dragged into the quagmire with one of their community recently murdered.
Despite the universal condemnation, whether the Prime Minister speaks up publicly is unimportant. Though, he has now been forced to break his months-old vow of silence following the horrific and shameful video of Meitei crowds parading two naked Kuki women on mainstream media. More importantly, why has his government not substantially intervened as yet? In such circumstances what can one expect from complicit local politicians and bureaucrats awho are a part of the problem and not the solution?
But this is not an issue restricted to the political establishment or those in government. Mainstream media could not be bothered till now and paid only lip service to the issue. Those from civil society who never lose an opportunity to focus the spotlight on human rights and alleged violations by the security forces have not uttered even a squeak. That certainly is a pointer to the disturbing fact that those who covertly financially incentivise their initiatives have felt it necessary that Manipur should burn. This is not just local politics playing out, but something far more reprehensible and sinister.
In the same vein the BJP much touted nationalistic agenda and supposedly “muscular foreign policy” has turned out to be a damp squib, as it has cut no ice with China. The External Affairs Minister needs to clarify if we have any realistic hope of recovering the estimated 3000 square km of territory, that some analysts have alleged, we claim but can no longer patrol, in Eastern Ladakh.
In this context, the wishy-washy excuse of differing perceptions about the alignment of the LAC or whataboutism with regard to the loss of much of the Aksai Chin in the 1950s cuts no ice. As Mr Shyam Saran, former Foreign Secretary, points out by doing so, our side has implicitly conceded to Chinese perceptions and double-speak. The fact is, if we are unwilling to categorically and publicly state our position on the alignment of the LAC, why would the Chinese clarify their position? They see “salami slicing” actions as legitimate. We, of course, refuse to face up to the reality of the losses and spend more time concealing facts from the domestic audience rather than taking any firm action. Whinging, it seems is the default mode of all our governments.
Without accountability, we’re going nowhere and it needs to start with this government holding those responsible for the Ladakh fiasco accountable. Is it worried that by doing so they would have to concede the Prime Minister had deliberately mis-spoken when he famously gave the Chinese a clean chit? Holding to account members of the security and intelligence establishment should not in any way be linked to politics. It was indeed an unhealthy trend set by Mr Vajpayee’s government following the Kargil Conflict that needs to be reversed, and quickly, lest we find ourselves even more deeply embarrassed in the future.
(The writer is a military veteran, currently a Visiting Fellow with the Observer Research Foundation and Senior Visiting Fellow with the Peninsula Foundation, Chennai)