Skip to content

Kabul and the beer halls in Delhi

Adversarial relationships should never be spared of calm inquiry. But India lacks a culture. The 1962 conflict with China, occupation of Siachen in 1984, IPKF odyssey in Sri Lanka, Kargil War – these should not remain wrapped in mythical mist cover till eternity. The thought occured, as I savoured a fantastic double-decker feast of a book review in the weekend edition of WSJ. 

Ambassador Rodric Braithwaite’s book on the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan (Afghantsy: The Russians in Afghanistan) is undoubtedly one of the most honest inquiries into that subject available today. Consider this: A British ambassador assigned to Moscow who worked in close collaboration with his American counterpart to relentlessly torpedo the Soviet regional policies in the late 1970s, stands back and admits that the West laid a bear trap for Moscow in the Hindu Kush and the bear walked into it. Howzaat, J.R.Jayewardene? 
The book draws the red line on what happens when the security establishment rules the roost on foreign-policy making, as the KGB did in this case. Or, how misfortune ensues when an ailing, indecisive leadership is incapable of saying ‘Nyet’ to the securitywallahs.  
Curiously, Soviet Army was realistic and warned of the consequences of an intervention and saw its futility. Tragically, though, by the time the hardliners realised their folly, the rules of the game had changed on the political chessboard and it turned out to be a unilateral Soviet withdrawal, despite the best US efforts to delay it as far as it could. Any lessons for India’s future role in Kabul? 
The best part of Braithwaite’s book is his frank assessment that no matter the propaganda, the defeat in Afghanistan was hardly a factor in the disintegration (or disbandment – depending on one’s point of view) of the Soviet Union. The WSJ book review is here

Posted in Politics.

Tagged with , , .

One Response

Stay in touch with the conversation, subscribe to the RSS feed for comments on this post.

  1. tick says

    Howzaat, J.R.Jayewardene?

    But India lacks a culture.

    The loss of 700 paratroopers including a whole fresh batch of young officers fresh from IMA never came into public domain. Rajiv Gandhi, then PM and instrumental in sending them to harm’s way could ensure the press gag. His super confident, Thinking Man’s General as India Today called him in a cover story, was the bunglerin-charge. The wily old Jayewardene can hardly be blamed for C-grade decision-making material like Rajiv Gandhi who treated competent men arrogantly and was awed by hollow smart-alecs with elan.

    Memory dims, but around the same time Time magazine had a cover story on the rising super power to play up Rajiv Gandhi’s image. LCA was launched, his Doon school boys secured GE to supply the engines. Our Kaveri engine is still not work-in-progress.

    The super kid Rajiv was in teri naani yaad dila denge mode to Pakistan, it responded by initiating a low-intensity war. That even more sordid saga was playing itself out in Afghanistan hurt India further, as it was skillfully exploited by Pakistan to deepen ties with US and isolate India. The non-consideration of freedom movement ethos in preference for a 21st century India which supposedly the new crop of younger leaders would bring forth was the tune of the brash times.

    Change of guard to next scion is now once again talk of the town. Goons , cronies, and a section of the press is orchestrating a campaign to foist a blue-blood on raj-gaddi. The middle classes may be convinced once again that proximity to West needs a scion at helm. If India really lacks a political culture as Mr Bhadrakumar avers, such an outcome is almost inevitable.

    May be India does have a political culture , presently dormant, which shall awaken just in time to prioritize gahara adhunika (in depth modernization) over westernization while also sidelining the leftist chaff who gather emotional inspiration from dated Marxists or Chinese varieties. A native culture which can envelope the whole South Asia with a newer social fabric.

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Copyright © 2015 India Limited. All rights Reserved.  
Terms of Use  |   Disclaimer  |   Feedback  |   Advertise with us