Monday, August 29, 2005

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is in Kabul today. This story has been largely ignored in the Western press, but it has received considerable attention in India as well as in Afghanistan. I thought I'd share this interesting editorial on an Afghan portal on the significance of teh Prime Minister's visit.

I don't intend to analyze the politics or geopolitical considerations behind my country's interests in Afghanistan. But I'm proud that the Afghans recognize India's greatest strength is its resilient democracy. I've always believed that it is this ideal of democracy that is our great export -- not software, diamonds, or IT professionals. India is a powerful example of how a functioning parliament, free press, independent judiciary, the rule of law, and a bill of rights can thrive in difficult, imperfect, and trying settings of a developing country. We started down the long and difficult road to establishing and sustaining a democratic republic nearly 60 years ago. The journey has certainly not been easy. Yet, except for a minor detour in the 1970s, we have never swerved away from this goal that our founders ordained for us. The Afghans started their quest only recently. But they have made an impressive beginning in their recent Constitution, which was accepted by their home-grown version of a constitutional conventional -- the Loya Jirga.

There are still many hurdles for Afghanistan's fledging, including the forthcoming parliamentary elections in September, when the new Constitution will be put to the test. A Parliament is a country's Parthenon, or high-temple. An Indian-build Parliament in Afghanistan will be an important reminder of why that country must remain resolute and unwavering in its commitment to the democractic experiment. After all, India's own Parthenon, its circular Parliament House in the heart of New Delhi, is so much closer to Kabul than either the United States Capitol in Washington, DC, or the Houses of Parliament in London.

Today Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh is arriving in Kabul. He is coming here on his two day official visit. He is the highest Indian official visiting Kabul in more than 29 years. Indira Gandhi was the last Indian Prime Minister who visited Kabul in 1976 during the reign of President Mohammad Dawood.

President Karzai has a very high level of security arrangement for the prime minister. He and his international allies are completely prepared to check the earth and air when Dr. Manmohan Singh Plane enters the Afghan airspace. Indian government also has some advance security measures for their premier's visit to Kabul.
In addition to some of his official and professional colleagues, Dr. Monmohan Singh will also be accompanied by his wife Gursharan Kaur and the young congress parliamentarian Rahul Gandhi. The presence of both of them with this delegation, except for that of politics, has also has special importance for Afghanistan because Mrs. Gursharan Kaur is hardly seen with Dr. Singh in any of his official tours but here in Afghanistan she will be seen with her husband and Rahul Gandhi is the son and the grand son of the former legendary premiers of India, the late Rajiv Gandhi and Indra Gandhi respectively. His grand mother was shot dead by her two Sikh bodyguards in November 1984 and father Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated by a Tamil women suicide bomber in 1991. He is also the son of Congress party supremo, Mrs. Sonia Gandhi, who has emerged as the new mother India.
Italian born Sonia Gandhi even after having a clear mandate of the Indian voters as prime minister refused to take over and nominated Dr. Manmohan Singh as her candidate for the
premiership. She is a highly respected as well as the most powerful political personality of the present India. In addition to that Rahul is the descendent of a very respected and revolutionary family. Jawahar Lal Nehro, the father of late Indra Gandhi is one of the heroes of the freedom movement of India from the British colonial rule. He was also the first prime minister of India. So
a lot of cameras will be focused on Rahul during his Kabul Visit.
Dr. Singh who himself is a well known economist and did his doctorate from Oxford University in
1962. For the last 35 five years, he has been serving his country on various political and executive posts. Ethnically he is a Panjabi and religiously belongs to the Sikh minority. He is the actual representative of the rich ethnic and religious harmony as well as tolerance and unity of
India.
Kabulis also delights to receive their honorable guests and anxiously follow all the activities of Dr. Singh and his delegation on various TV channels of Kabul. India is the country to build the
parliament building of Afghanistan and Dr. Singh in his visit will lay down the foundation of that building. Without the shadow of a doubt Dr. Singh is the correct person for laying down the foundation of Afghan parliament because on one hand if India is building it, on the other hand it is the largest democracy of the world, a country that is considered to have one of the strongest democratic set ups of the world.
With $500 million in aid, as being among the top six donors for rebuilding Afghanistan, India is
also involved in training Afghan armed forces, police and diplomats; building roads, schools, hospitals, power lines; digging wells; and supporting trade and services to Afghanistan. Afghans hope that Mr. Singh will certainly bring some more aid packages with him.
The other important analysis of this visit done by AFP is in the prospective recent new alignment of the region. AFP says that "Mr.Singh would also try to woo Afghanistan's dominant ethnic group the Pasthuns, during his working visit." Ramakant Dwidevi of the military-funded Indian Institute of Defence Studies and Analysis has almost the same approach. He says, "It is vital for India to make in-roads among the Pashtuns if it wants to enhance its presence and blunt Pakistan's influence in Afghanistan." He further analyzes that "the Taliban is mainly spawned from the Pashtuns who are closest to Pakistan and it would be a diplomatic coup for India if it wins over this community."

The Daily Outlook Afghanistan does not believe in these types of approaches because India has been proven as the reliable friend of Afghan nation and aims to promote democracy, democratic values and economic growth in Afghanistan. As Indian Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran said on Friday August 26, 2005, that the visit of Indian PM to Afghanistan is to strengthen political, strategic and cultural relations and give a boost to reconstruction efforts in the war-torn country and we want Afghanistan to emerge as an independent, democratic and sovereign country.

Dr. Singh has already said during his official speech on August 15, 2005 on the occasion of the 68th anniversary of India's Independence Day that, "We have had historic links and relations with Afghanistan. It is our desire to see Afghanistan prosperous and strong." Daily Outlook
Afghanistan hopes for the best and cordially welcomes the honorable guests to Afghanistan and
wishes them a nice and historic stay in Kabul.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Killing Kadirgamar

This is a brief, but poignant piece on the slaying of Sri Lanka's Foreign Minister, which only appears online in the New Yorker. Like other Sri Lankans, I'm outraged at this killing. Kadirgamar was a distinguished lawyer. I stayed with the Kadirgamar family when I worked in Sri Lanka in 1996. Like his brother, Sam, Lakshman Kadirgamar was a "Queen's Counsel." The Kadirgamar book collection is now housed in the Law and Society on Kynsey Terrace. (They also have a little-known family museum on Queens' Road).

The Kadirgamars were barristers. They practiced law upholding all that is good and noble about the legal profession (ignoring the imperfections and many bad things associated with it). I remember a speech by Kadirgamar in February 1996 to the Sri Lanka Bar Association. He said: "I feel welcome and I'm at home in the bar. I've left our profession for a life full of problems and difficulties." I can't help thinking today, as I did when I heard that speech, that there was a strange element of premonition in it. Yet, Kadirgamar persevered.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Supreme Court's "Anti-Reservation" Order

There has been great hysteria over this anti-reservation judgment. Someone ought to do a calm, dispassionate analysis of this judgment to determine what exactly the Supreme Court ruled. The Supreme Court's jurisprudence on educational law is a like a never-ending jigzaw puzzle game. It gets more complicated by the day because extra pieces are added without anyone assembling the entire puzzle. Regretably, the latest judgtment is another instance (and I'm purloining the great Seervai here) of our Court wandering about in a maze of its own creation. Any thoughts and comments? Please read the judgment before writing, as I'm sure most of those complaining have not!

Saturday, August 20, 2005

My First Post

I've finally given up on Frontpage to do my Blog. I just can't get why they don't put out a blogging element to their program. Anyways. Their loss. So, Blogger, here I come.