Monday, March 16, 2015

Prof Mattoo at Oxford

Prof Mattoo delivered an address titled 'The Intellectual Legacy of Martin Ceadel' at Oxford University recently. Below is an abridged version of the speech.

It is the greatest honour to be invited to return to Oxford to celebrate the intellectual achievements of Martin Ceadel: as a scholar, as a teacher and, in my case, as a doctoral supervisor.

I completed my DPhil. in July 1992 and in all the 23 years since then I have neither met Martin nor been in contact with him. I cannot claim to be a friend of Martin’s and our social relationship – during my almost four years at Oxford – was limited to a wonderful dinner at Debby and Martin’s lovely home with, if I remember right, Avi Shlaim (the great scholar of the Middle East), where I was first introduced to the culinary joys of a delectable savoury ice cream as a starter.  Martin also invited my wife Ajita and me to lunch at New College after I successfully defended my D.Phil. thesis where, for the first time, both for him and for me, we polished off a bottle of sauvignon blanc in the afternoon.  But that was it! 
Before it began, I had thought my Oxford journey would be merely a respite from what I imagined would be an arduous career in the Indian civil service. But Oxford and Martin Ceadel changed all that.  The civil service seemed too stifling a career, the seductive world of ideas that I had been introduced to at Oxford seemed much more fulfilling and attractive.

I moved back to India, resigned from the civil service, became a leader writer for two dailies, and then tried to straddle what then seemed the Manichean worlds of academia and public policy.

 I am a Kashmiri. My family lived in the Himalayan valley, which had imploded while I was at Oxford. Unlike many others, they had stayed on! War and peace were not distant conceptual issues; they were part of a daily struggle to survive, to recover what we had lost and part of a gigantic mission to build peace, aman, shanti – call it what you will.  There was no choice between the theory of peace building and the praxis of peace building.  My world continues to be one in which I use my ideas to intervene in policy. In contrast, Martin Ceadel never left what seemed to be the ivory tower world of academia. In fact I remember when a Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament activist, after hearing Martin Ceadel’s clinical narrative of the history of the British peace movement, here at Oxford at the Friends Meeting House at 43 St Giles, exclaimed in horror, at the end of the talk: “How can you be so dispassionate?”

And yet, ironically – some may say – through all these years, I have always considered Martin Ceadel my intellectual guru, in every sense of the term. A guru in the Vedic Sanskrit tradition is more than just a teacher, more than a role model.  A guru is an embodiment of the highest virtues of scholarship, one who gives without asking, one who shares without demanding reciprocity, one whose intellectual generosity knows no selfish emotion. Martin Ceadel was and will remain, I repeat, my guru. I say this not in in any rhetorical way, or because the occasion demands that we be positive about Martin, but because through all these years that I have navigated the minefield of South Asian politics and particularly the issues of war and peace that we are confronted with every day in the region, the writings of Martin Ceadel have given me great clarity.  While Martin’s writings have been firmly located in British and, to an extent, European history, there are universal truths – and I use the term “truths” knowing very well how loaded it is – to his understanding and analysis which apply as much to South Asia as to the larger international system.

So when Jonathan sent an email to me at Melbourne on the “outside chance”, inviting me to be part of this colloquium, I said yes in the blink of an eye. There would be other engagements, other calls, but this was an occasion that I could not miss. I made it clear that I would not have the time to make an academic presentation, but that I did want to reflect, a little self-indulgently perhaps, on aspects of Martin’s work as a teacher and a supervisor, as a student of the British peace movements and as a scholar of war and peace.

Let me begin by focusing on what I would argue was Martin Ceadel’s seminal contribution to scholarly thinking about the issues of war and peace, Thinking about peace and war,which was published in 1987 by OUP, and then as an OPUS paperback in 1989.  OPUS books then (with the triumvirate of Keith Thomas, Alan Ryan and Walter Bodmer as general editors) were intended to provide concise and original introductions to a diverse range of subjects. Experts wrote them for students and for the general reader. For me, Thinking about peace and war was a path-breaking study. It influenced and continues to influence generations of those academics and practitioners who are engaged with the fundamental question that Martin asked in the book: “Why do people disagree about war prevention?” Although Martin saw and sees himself more as a historian and less a theoretician, the book preempted much of the theoretical work in International Relations of the 1990s and of the first decade of this century, including the latest variants of realism, liberalism and even constructivism.  Of course, as you will recall, in the appendix of the book, Martin had critiqued Martin Wright’s typologies (for being “unnecessarily complicated as well as for being neither readily understood nor easily memorable”) as well as Kenneth Waltz more gently, arguing that the latter’s Man, the State and War belonged to the “category of philosophical works rather than those able to elucidate everyday debates about war and peace”.

Although derived primarily from Martin’s solid archival research into the history of the British peace movement and European wars, Thinking about peace and war for me was a critical aid to understanding the debates about war and peace in South Asia (beyond the crude realism that seemed to define the discourse of our times).  No less importantly, it helped me to advise several Indian leaders as theysought to engage Pakistan in a sustained, but ill-fated, process of reconciliation and war-prevention.

In Thinking about peace and war, Martin Ceadel pointed out incisively that in order to understand the “underlying dynamics of the war and peace debate it is essential to probe deeper, as in domestic politics, to the ideological level”. Without this deeper understanding of ideological motivations, Martin pointed out, the war and peace debate is conceptually stunted. In the book, as we all know, Martin examined the competition between five war and peace theories: militarism, crusading, defencism, pacific–ism, and pacifism (in its optimistic and mainstream version).  This typology was analyzed along two dimensions: attitude towards force, and doctrinal content – that is, means and ends. Having dealt thoroughly with the content of each theory, in his concluding chapters Martin analyzed the determinants of the debate, focusing both on political culture and strategic situation.

While Martin’s book was written when there were few signs that the Cold War was ending, it is a tribute to his scholarship that this typology, suitably customized, was most useful in understanding issues of war and peace in nuclear South Asia. I have used Martin’s study to arrive at an understanding of India's and Pakistan's  strategic culture for  my academic s well as my policy papers. Indeed, to move the debate beyond the poverty of the realist/liberal debate.  If only some of these papers were declassified, the tremendous influence of Martin’s work beyond this island would become clear.

As a student of the British peace movement, Martin Ceadel has no equal.  Each of his four books is essential reading for students of contemporary British history.
·      Pacifism in Britain, 1914–1945: The defining of a faith (1980)
·      The origins of war prevention: The British peace movement and international relations, 1730–1854(1996)
·      Semi-detached idealists: The British peace movement and international relations, 1854-1945(2000)
·      Living the great illusion: Sir Norman Angell, 1872–1967 (2009)
They are not just models of rigorous archival research, but exceptional in being able to weave common threads though two centuries of British peace activism. But as with the finest scholarship, they have wider implications, lessons – but in no didactic fashion – for the world that confronts us today. As we face a rising China – and that rise is starkly obvious in the two countries where I live most of the time, India and Australia – it is increasingly clear that sustainable peace built on the fact of economic integration and interdependence, may turn out to be another great illusion, as much a chimera today as it was in the late 19th and early 20th century.

As a supervisor, Martin was the reason I finished my D.Phil. in just under four years.  I started out wanting to study the contemporary British peace movement, greatly influenced by the writings of the charismatic Marxist historian E. P. Thompson, and inspired by Frank Parkin’s Middle class radicalism: projects, in hindsight, that could have lasted decades! It was Martin who suggested I write a history of the re-emergence, growth and decline of the CND in the 1990s. He thought – wisely – that I, as a total outsider, could, for want of a better word, “infiltrate” the CND, not in a Michael Heseltine way but as a participant observer, and gain access to the archives of the organizations at the national and local level.  Which I did.  My central thesis, which explored the tensions between the organization’s absolutism (psychologically essential to generate activism) and the prudence or pragmatism that would widen its popular base, remains as true of the CND then as it does now of numerous other causes across the world.

As a supervisor, Martin was demanding but always patient. Every month I would see him in his New College study with a draft chapter sent to him a day in advance. Every half-baked argument was challenged, every split infinitive corrected. He could be fierce in his criticism (“This reads like a CND pamphlet”) but always encouraging and optimistic (“I think we are almost there”). It is his supervisory style that I have used as a model. Begin writing from day one, no matter how unsure you are. The more you write, the better you will get at it. Every argument, flawed as it may be initially, will get more rigorous and more sophisticated with each iteration. I wrote about 10 drafts of each chapter. But my first draft was written in my first month at Oxford, when I could barely expand on the acronym CND.

For 23 years, I said, I have had no contact with Martin Ceadel. And yet I am wrong!  Each time I have grappled with an intellectual or policy problem (ranging from violence in Kashmir, to nuclear deterrence, to the India-Pakistan conflict, to the rise of China), or indeed each time I have tackled a difficult student, I have gone back to what Martin Ceadel taught me, to how he taught me and to his own writings which are a source of continuing inspiration to me. That is the reason I am here. For I could think of no other way I could pay tribute to a great teacher.
Thank you Martin Ceadel!

Thank you very much for inviting me!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

The new entente with the U.S.

The Obama visit is so overwhelming a development that it has hardly evoked dissent. Not since India signed the peace and friendship treaty with the Soviet Union has New Delhi aligned itself so closely with a great power. Anti-Americanism, once the conventional wisdom of the Indian elite, seems almost antediluvian today.
Robert Blackwill, former Ambassador of the United States and Harvard academic, used to often recount at his dinner round-tables in New Delhi’s Roosevelt House an intriguing story about how he was persuaded to take up the job. In 2001, President George W. Bush called him to his ranch in Texas and said: “Bob, imagine: India, a billion people, a democracy, 150 million Muslims and no Al Qaeda. Wow!” More than a decade after President Bush’s first exclamation, India-U.S. relations have truly reached their ‘wow’ moment.
President Barack Obama’s visit is so obvious a watershed in India’s foreign policy, and so overwhelming a development, that voices of dissent are mute or feeble. Not since India signed the treaty of peace, friendship and cooperation with the Soviet Union in 1971 has New Delhi aligned itself so closely with a great power. More important, outside the Left, both within India and in the U.S. the consensus across the mainstream of political opinion favours stronger relations between the two countries. Anti-Americanism, once the conventional wisdom of the Indian elite, seems almost antediluvian today.
Behind the change

The reason for the drastic change in the geostrategic outlook can be summarised quickly. The 1971 treaty was a response to the continuing U.S. tilt towards Pakistan and the beginnings of a Washington-Beijing entente (President Richard Nixon’s then National Security Advisor, Henry Kissinger, went secretly to Beijing via Islamabad a month before India signed the treaty with the Soviet Union). In contrast, in 2015, it is the prospect of a powerful, belligerent and potentially hegemonic China in the Indo-Pacific region that is helping to cement the relationship. While this may seem like a parsimonious explanation, it is rooted in an understanding of the manner in which great powers, rising powers and emerging powers have responded to changes in the balance of power in the international system since the Peace of Westphalia in 1648.
Clearly, the pièce de résistance of the Obama visit has been removing the final hurdles in the civilian nuclear agreement to pave the way for its commercialisation, almost a decade after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President Bush first issued a joint statement, in July 2005, on civilian nuclear cooperation. As we know, two sticking points were holding up an agreement: differences over liability in case of a nuclear accident, and over administrative arrangements governing the transfer of nuclear materials to India.
Consider first the latter. For more than a year, the U.S. has refused to accept an Indian draft agreement that was based on the sound principle that New Delhi would be accountable only for the totality of nuclear material supplied to it, and under the safeguards of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Given India’s closed fuel cycle, allowing nuclear material from different countries to be tracked and audited separately could be unnecessarily intrusive and could undermine the confidentiality of its nuclear programme. While the Canadians saw reason and accepted India’s draft in 2012, the non-proliferation lobby in Washington seemed to have had the upper hand as the political leadership seemed reluctant to take a call even though it was against the letter and spirit of the 123 agreement: the fundamental basis of the civil nuclear agreement between India and the U.S.
Nuclear liability issue

The deal has been done only because President Obama has now put his personal weight behind it, to marginalise those who still see India’s nuclear programme through the prism of Washington’s non-proliferation policies of the 1990s towards New Delhi. With the U.S. accepting the Canadian model, it will be easier for India to negotiate with Japan and Australia, the other two countries still holding out for tracking and audit of nuclear material based on national flags. Hopefully, the deal will pave the way for GE, Westinghouse and other leading businesses in the nuclear industry to begin commercial operations in India.
Similarly, on the issue of nuclear liability, where American companies were concerned by the unlimited liability they could face in case of a nuclear accident under Sections 17(b) and 46 of the Indian Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Act of 2010, a compromise seems to have been found.
New Delhi has agreed to create a publicly funded insurance pool and the Attorney General of India is likely to issue an explanatory memorandum on Section 46 which will potentially clarify the limits of tort claims by accident victims against the suppliers of nuclear reactors. The latter, however, as Indian officials have said, is still a work in progress. Given the collective national memory of the Bhopal gas tragedy, this could still stir a public controversy if the limits are in absolute terms. Rather, the claims could be linked to compensations offered contemporaneously to victims of industrial accidents in the U.S.
The vision statement

No less important is the commitment of President Obama and his team to support India’s membership of international export control regimes, including the Nuclear Suppliers Group, the Wassenaar Arrangement, the Australia Group, and the Missile Technology Control Regime that will help to further mainstream India’s nuclear programme. Given that similar promises have been made in the past, it is important that India uses the goodwill of the Obama visit to ensure that Washington presses for this to happen as soon as possible — despite the obvious reluctance of some members of these regimes.
The media focus has been on the nuclear issue — yet the U.S.-India Joint Strategic Vision for the Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean Region is no less significant. It is a major advance on the early initiatives made during last September’s Obama-Modi summit in Washington. Indeed, given India’s traditional strategic caution, the vision statement could be even seen as radical by its standards. Shorn of the homilies, the vision statement has three significant features.
The first is the clear link between economic prosperity and security, and the critical importance of freedom of the seas in the region. The statement could not be more explicit: “We affirm the importance of safeguarding maritime security and ensuring freedom of navigation and over flight throughout the region, especially in the South China Sea.”
Second is the commitment to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and to “pursue resolution of territorial and maritime disputes through all peaceful means, in accordance with universally recognized principles of international law.”
Third is the agreement to work with other countries to better respond to diplomatic, economic and security challenges in the region. The five-year vision includes strengthening regional dialogues, making trilateral consultations with third countries in the region more robust, deepening regional integration, strengthening regional forums, and exploring additional multilateral opportunities for engagement.
China factor

While India has traditionally favoured a policy of deep engagement with all major powers, the special relationship with the U.S. today, especially the “vision” statement, is rooted in great apprehensions in New Delhi about China’s aggressive “peripheral diplomacy,” particularly after the intrusions in Chumar during 
President Xi Jinping’s visit to India last year. That the new Chinese leadership had abandoned Deng Xiaoping’s ‘24 Character Strategy’ of biding time, hiding its capacities and not attracting attention has been clear for some time now, but what is intriguing is that Beijing has managed to alienate nearly all its neighbours, except North Korea and Pakistan, by its malevolence. Not surprisingly, a rising China is a cause of trepidation in most capitals of the world today. Will Beijing now introspect and recalibrate? For it must realise that New Delhi’s closeness to Washington is also a function of its strategic distance from Beijing.
In late 2005, amidst the negotiations over the civil nuclear agreement with the U.S., Dr. Singh, appointed a task force on global strategic developments headed by the doyen of India’s strategic thinking, K. Subrahmanyam. As a member of the task force, I remember the meetings essentially became a series of inspiring lectures by Mr. Subrahmanyam on geopolitics. Mr. Subrahmanyam was an architect of many of India’s key strategic decisions, including the policy that led to the creation of Bangladesh, the Indo-Soviet treaty, as well as the nuclear tests of 1998. But throughout the meetings, Mr. Subrahmanyam, with a mind as agile as that of a restless teenage prodigy, would emphasise the importance of arriving at a modus vivendi with the U.S., the overriding importance of the nuclear deal, how it was in Washington’s own interest to support a rising India and how New Delhi should grab that opportunity. As the United States and India finally “recognise” each other and promise to realise each other’s potential, the new entente between the two countries is a fitting tribute to the legacy of India’s modern-day Chanakya, just days after his 86th birthday.
(Source: The Hindu)

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Australia, India and Prof Amitabh Mattoo

Professor Amitabh Mattoo arrived in Australia shortly after the violent attacks on Indian students.  It was a time when Australia was accused of being racist, and unsafe, by the Indian community.  In fact Amitabh's friends warned him that he would literally go “Down Under”.
But on completing his posting as one of the inaugural directors of the Australia India Institute, Amitabh says that the relationship is now energised -  not only has Prime Minister Abbott visited the sub-continent, but Narendra Modi was in Australia for the G20 conference last month -  the first time an Indian prime minister has visited Australia in 28 years. The times, as Amitabh puts it “are clearly changing”.

Prof  Mattoo spoke to Geraldine Doogue about the transformation in Australia-India Relations, his personal experiences in Australia and what lies ahead. To listen in to the conversation, go to the following link:
(Courtesy: ABC )

Friday, December 19, 2014

Graduation Ceremony at University of Melbourne

Professor Amitabh Mattoo delivered the convocation address to the graduating class of 2014 at the University of Melbourne. Presented below is the text of his speech.

The Deputy Chancellor of the University of Melbourne, Mr Robert Johanson, Vice Chancellor Professor Glyn Davis, Deputy Vice Chancellor and Deputy Provost Prof Susan Elliott, the graduating class of 2014, Ladies and Gentlemen.

There can be no greater honour for anyone connected to Academia than to be asked to deliver an address at a Graduation Ceremony. I came to Melbourne from India a little more than three years ago, and in all these months I have begun to value, a little more every day, the enormous strengths of this great University and realize how fortunate are those, like you young men and women, who get the opportunity to study here. 

Today, the University of Melbourne is truly, to paraphrase Prof Glyn Davis, a Republic of Learning and comes with the promise of training you to be a citizen of the world.   And as you go through this most sacrosanct of academic rites of passage, it is important also to never forget how privileged you all are and how this knowledge will be a continuous source of power to you, to your families and to all those around you,

 Many of you will move into what some describe as the real world of action in contrast to what may be viewed as the sheltered world of ideas in a university. And some may stay like I did and be  students for quite a while.  But, no matter where you go, you will be more secure and independent and empowered than most people across the world because of this great education. 

But do remember that this knowledge, this power, this passport to the world of ideas and action comes with one obligation. The responsibility, no less than the challenge of working, nay striving, towards a better world.

After all, events of the last few days are just a stark reminder of the need for all of us to work together to build sustainable peace and harmony

The tragedy at Sydney and the cataclysmic events at the Army school in Peshawar in Pakistan are a painful reminder that no one, young or old, rich or poor, can be insulated from violence and rage and conflict in this deeply interconnected world. And there are no quick fixes either. There are those who believe that unless we address the roots causes for this violence we cannot build peace. And there are others who argue that nothing but nothing can ever justify violence.  But far beyond issues of individual and collective grievances and punitive action is the fundamental question:  
How do we build, in today’s world, tolerant, inclusive societies that are at peace with themselves and the outside world?

Melbourne is rightly considered the most livable city in the world, and the last 40 odd months that I have spent here have been some of the most pleasant in my life.  But I grew up in Srinagar, a city nestled in the beautiful valley of Kashmir in the mountains of the Himalayas. When I went to school there, it was idyllic. But all that was idyllic then has now been shattered by nature and men. So peace can be fragile, and needs nurturing and injection of new ideas and, above all good people, with passion and commitment willing to work selflessly. Because, as the great Irish poet  Wiliam Butler  Yeats reminded us in 1919,  during the Great War in The Second Coming , for things to “fall apart” you only  need the best to “lack conviction” and for the worst to be driven by “passionate intensity”.

 When I did my Humanities degree, it was not a  favoured option for the really clever. To be honest, I don’t even know how much Political Science learnt during my years in College. But a Humanities Degree taught me then, as it will have taught you -through much greater rigour and the richness of the Melbourne model - at least four things:
First, that I while may not know have the answers, I learnt what were the important questions to ask.

Second, it taught me not just the value of money, but that there were, to paraphrase the Harvard philosopher, Michael Sandel, things that money cannot buy, such as peace and justice!

Third, that often in the world of problems. Much like in the Japanese auteur Akiri Kurosowa’s Rashoman, there is no one truth, just many interpretations.

And finally, that new ideas to solve old problems can often come when you do not let your schooling come in the way of your education (as Mark Twain is thought to have said). In other words, innovation, creativity and imagination often flourish  when you use the powers of  the critical thinking and problem solving (that were honed in the class rooms)to move beyond the orthodoxies of the past and the belief systems of the present. 

In many ways, therefore a Humanities degree (a degree in the Arts and Social Sciences), equips you, much much better, to  not just face the world,  but to  help change it for the better.

I want to, in conclusion, share parts from my one of my  favourite  poems by  the great Indian poet Rabindra Nath Tagore, who was the first Asian to win a Nobel Prize for Literature. This is from Tagore’s book Gitanjali or Bouquet of Songs, published in 1910, but is as relevant now as it was more a century ago.

Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high
Where knowledge is free
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments
By narrow domestic walls
Where words come out from the depth of truth
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake. –

All the best then as you move into an exciting new phase of your lives. And thank you for listening to me patiently.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Australia and India have never been closer

When Narendra Modi arrives in Melbourne on November 18, he will be the first Indian Prime Minister to visit the city   for a bilateral visit, since Indira Gandhi was hosted by John Gorton in May 1968. Unlike Gandhi's visit, which is remembered today only for its insignificance, Modi's Australian yatra promises to be the most important ever made by an Indian prime minister for both countries' bilateral relations.

Consider this: In Melbourne alone, he will attend four functions, two at Government House and two at the MCG. The Governor will host a chief executives' round table at which Modi will have the opportunity to interact with a who's who of Australian business, including Anthony Pratt, of Visy Industries, and Gina Rinehart, of Hancock Prospecting. Later, he will address more than 500 business leaders, before leaving for the MCG where Prime Minister Tony Abbott will host a reception for 1000 select guests and a dinner for 500.

Modi's schedule elsewhere in Australia is equally packed. Quite apart from the G20 meeting, he will unveil a bust of Mahatma Gandhi in Brisbane, attend business breakfasts, speak to a crowd of more than 15,000 Australian Indians in Sydney, address both houses of Federal Parliament and hold bilateral talks with Abbott. For each public event, there has been a scramble for seats and invitations.
But Australia is not alone here. India's Prime Minister, once a controversial and even polarising figure, has taken the world by storm. In its recent list of the world's most powerful people, Forbes magazine described Modi as India's newest rock star who doesn't hail from Bollywood. Many expected him for his first year in office at least to look inward, focusing mostly on domestic issues. But in the less than six months that he has been Prime Minister, Modi has visited Brazil, the United States, Bhutan, Nepal and Japan, and hosted leaders from South Asia, China and Vietnam. This outward-looking, activist stance has revived hopes that India may at last achieve its potential as a major economic and strategic player.

No one quite remembers the last time an Indian leader demonstrated this kind of chutzpah – an approach to leadership that is energising citizens in India and wowing audiences internationally. One Australian business leader compared Modi approvingly to Singapore's Lee Kuan Yew: a benevolent, authoritarian, incorruptible leader who could transform his country. Another compared his non-ideological economic pragmatism to that of China's Deng Xiaoping who modernised the communist country. Modi, with his usual fondness for alliteration, sees India's unique selling point as its unbeatable combination of the Three Ds, democracy, demand and  demography – that is, the rule of law, its huge market of nearly 300 million middle-class Indians, and the youth bulge of more 500 million Indians under the age of 25, who could become part of a global workforce in an otherwise ageing world.

Together Prime Ministers Abbott and Modi have the chance to transform the bilateral relationship between their countries from one characterised by missed opportunities into a genuine strategic partnership. The long shadow of the Cold War, India's autarkic economic policies, the White Australia policy, and Canberra's decision not to transfer uranium to India, have kept the two countries apart for several decades. But this is now history.

Today, few countries in the Indo-Pacific region have more in common in both values and interests than India and Australia. Apart from being two English-speaking, multicultural, federal democracies that believe in and respect the rule of law, both have a strategic interest in ensuring a balance in the Indo-Pacific and in ensuring that the region is not dominated by any one hegemonic power. In addition, Indians are today the largest source of skilled migrants in Australia.

The extent of Australia's and India's common interests was reflected in the 36-paragraph joint statement that concluded Abbott's visit to India early in September. From water management to clean energy, from trauma research to skills and higher education, from maritime and cyber security to counterterrorism, a world of opportunities awaits the two countries if they can work in harmony.

Late last year, the Australia India Institute at the University of Melbourne and Sydney's Lowy Institute commissioned a comprehensive survey of Indian public opinion on foreign policy and governance challenges. Indians ranked Australia in the top four nations towards which they feel most warmly. Only the United States, Japan and Singapore ranked higher. Indians feel warmer towards Australia today than towards countries in Europe, including Britain, or India's fellow emerging economies in the so-called BRICS group.

Relations between India and Australia have deepened dramatically over the past decade. India's economic growth and its burgeoning demand for energy, resources and education have made it suddenly one of Australia's largest export markets. Beyond the trade links, there is the shared concern in Canberra and New Delhi about security and stability in the Indo-Pacific region. Both India and Australia have deep economic relations with China, but equally both are concerned about Beijing's aggressive behaviour in the recent past, and would ideally prefer the region not to be dominated by any single hegemonic power. In the past Canberra has shied away from an explicit military partnership with India, Japan and the United States.

This may well change in coming months. Both Modi and Abbott are seen as China sceptics, open to a more candid assessment of China's rise and its consequences for the region. The Australia-India relationship is clearly an idea whose time has come, but it will require political nurturing before it acquires a momentum of its own. Fortunately, Modi and Abbott have bonded well.

In her forthcoming definitive account of bilateral relations, historian Meg Gurry relates how Arthur Tange, high commissioner to India and one of Australia's most formidable diplomats, wrote in 1965 to his foreign minister, Paul Hasluck, that there was fertile ground between the two countries, but "no one seems to know what seeds to plant". Fifty years on, there are not only many seeds waiting to be planted, but much ripe fruit ready to harvest.

(Source: The Sydney Morning Herald)

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Cry, my beloved Srinagar!

My beloved Srinagar, the only city I have ever called home, has gone. 

The city of wealth and prosperity drowned by the worst floods in its history. I was there when our home was violated by what we held most precious: water. What wrong had we done collectively to deserve this fate? 

In 2010, there was a chilling forecast in the Srinagar-based daily, Greater Kashmir, based on interviews with officials of the state flood control ministry that a catastrophic flood awaits Kashmir. A plan was drawn up, but like much else in the state: nothing happened. Four years later, Kashmir lies devastated, and Srinagar destroyed. 

The history of Srinagar, of the last three decades or more, is the story of an urban disaster. But it was not always like this. 

Growing up in Srinagar in the 1960s and 1970s was to live a life so idyllic that in hindsight it seems unreal. Every season was special. Rivers, water, ice and snow were part of life and brought its challenges, but never overwhelmed. 

The spring, from March to May, was when school began after the long winter break. The ice melted and the fragrance of the Yemburzal and the blossoms of the almond trees enveloped the valley.We had our first excursion of the year to the almond orchards or Badam Vari, with hundreds of others, carrying portable stoves, rice and mutton. 

School was a five-km cycle ride away , passing the river Jhelum on the left, and crossing the Zero Bridge and finally arriving at Burn Hall School, in Sonwar with the wonderful chinars of the Amar Singh garden just across the road. The Jhelum was a lifeline: when we stayed at 'mata mal' (maternal grandparents' house) we took the shikara to cross the Jhelum to our first school, the Presentation Convent. 

The summer, from June to September, was when life was at its most robust. The swimming boats of the Dal lake and Nageen lake was where one learnt swimming, unless you were at the tough Biscoe School, which taught you that in "All things be men" while Burn Hall relied on "Industria Floremus" (In Toil we will flourish). But the Biscoe boys' encounter was not without tragedy. Several Biscoe boys had drowned in the great Wullar lake in the early 20th century. This was a time for night excursions in the floating houseboats: the doongas. This was the only season when it rained heavily, other than in March-April. But while in the spring the mountains were full of ice, in August-September the glaciers would melt feeding the river and threatening floods. In autumn, one prepared for winter. As the valley turned gold and rust, we dried vegetables, stored firewood, and prepared for the final exams in November. 

Winter was the time for snow and stories. We ventured for a few hours to play snow games, but the rest of the day was spent reading and finishing homework during the three-month vacation. There was no central heating, but just fireplaces, bhukharis and kangris. 

Never ever in all these years did water enter our house. There were warnings in earlier years, and my hyper-sensitive grandmother would walk several times a day to the flood channel to take a look at the water level. The flood channel was where the water was sent when the level of the Jhelum rose, and if it went alarmingly high the gates of the Dal were opened and the lake was flooded. 

But after the great flood of 1902 and then of the early 1950s, there was no flood that severely impacted on the city . As a consequence of the great flood of 1902, the flood channel behind our house was created and there were nallahs and wetlands that absorbed excess water. But by the 1980s and 1990s, every rule of urban planning had been violated. 

The Nallah Mar, an important flood channel, was filled up and made into a road. The wetlands became residential colonies, and there was encroachment on most embankments of the river Jhelum. 

Srinagar will now have to be rebuilt brick by brick, but before that thousands will have to be rescued and rehabilitated and provided the space where they can mourn in dignity. 

But after a tragedy of this enormity (corpses of babies and women are still floating in the river), will we allow the same crop of corrupt bureaucrats and inept political leaders to take charge? Or will we build Srinagar, the valley of Nund Rishi and Lal Ded, again as it once was: the abode of fresh air and pure springs, and the land of peace, compassion and prosperity? 

(Source: The Times of India)

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Harrowing flight from flooded Valley

We stayed up, maintaining a vigil, while the night echoed to cries of ‘bachao’
I have returned from the hell that Srinagar and much of the Kashmir Valley is today. I have returned with my parents only because of the Indian Army and the kindness of strangers. Everything else has collapsed in most of Srinagar.
I went to Srinagar on Saturday alarmed by reports of floods in the Kashmir Valley to reassure my parents who lived there, but not very concerned about their safety. Four generations of Mattoos had lived in our family home, in one of the most pleasant neighbourhoods of Srinagar: Gogji Bagh. My grandfather liked to tell his grandchildren that they should ensure that their spine was as strong as the foundations of our house! It had survived every vicissitude in the ups and downs of the Mattoo family and Kashmir: earthquakes, militancy (a bullet in my great grandfather’s portrait is a reminder of the violent 1990s), deaths and personal grief.
On Saturday evening, there was the first ominous sign: there was a power outage. We slept, however, comforted by the prediction of the local meteorology chief, Sonam Lotus, who has become a popular icon for the accuracy of his forecasts, that Sunday would be sunny. And indeed I woke to a radiant blue sky with not a cloud in sight. But the power outage had continued through the night, and I got a frightened phone call from a neighbour at about 9.30 a.m. that the bund on the bank of the Jhelum (near Lal Ded hospital, about a kilometre from our house) had been breached!
Within minutes the water was streaming ferociously into our garden. I calculated we had about an hour before our ground floor was submerged; actually we had just about 30 minutes.
In that frenzy, we could only really clear the kitchen: food and water to feed a staff of 12 — and moved to the upper storeys. The water had risen one- and-a-half storeys by the afternoon and we stayed up that night maintaining a vigil, not entirely sure what we would do if the water rose to the upper floors: we had no power, no phones (mobile or landline), no contact with anyone, and just a couple of messages that we were not sure had been delivered. The night echoed with cries of ‘bachao bachao’ from the nearby Gujjar and Bakerwal hostel in Amar Singh college and other places!
On Monday morning, we were finally rescued by the brave jawans of the Indian Army in a paddle boat and taken to a safer point at the bund – with just one small bag each.
There was no sign of relief or help.
The only option was to rush to the airport. We did so with the kindness of good Samaritans, and after walking kilometres in waist-deep water. Many who helped had never met us, some were friends from Facebook, including Ashraf Bhat – a distinguished lawyer, who walked with us and dropped us near the airport, young Suhail who helped us find a short cut and helped my parents traverse the wall that led us to a dryer route. And Dr. Khan and Sherwani Sahib for finally dropping us to the airport!
We are back in Delhi’s safety, but deeply concerned about those in the valley who are still marooned. Today, Prime Minister, rescue Kashmir, and Kashmiris will respect you forever!

 (Source: The Hindu)