Deconstructing Terrorist Violence – Faith as a Mask : Ram Puniyani

BOOK - Deconstructing Terrorist Violence

Sage Publications (I) Pvt. Ltd., New Delhi; Year:2015; Pages:180; Price:Rs.650

Reviewed By : Brig. Suresh C. Sharma (retd.)


The media in the USA coined the phrase “Islamic terror” after the 9/11 tragedy and the same phrase was adopted by the media and the public to describe terror attacks that occurred from 2004 to 2012.   Continue reading


Reminiscences of K. Natwar Singh – Diplomat and Politician

Brig. (retd.) Suresh C. Sharma, a familiar name to our readers, gives an overview of K. Natwar Singh’s “One Life Is Not Enough – An Autobiography” published in 2014.  This write-up is a brief summary of the book (though we have categorized it under “Book Reviews” section).  A review (by Prof. P. M. Kamath) of the book was published in Freedom First of April 2015. 

Natwar Singh narrates his experiences as a diplomat and politician in his autobiography One Life Is Not Enough.

Congress Party Stint

He came under the spell of Nehru when he met him as an IFS probationer. He served as a diplomat under Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi and resigned in 1984 to join politics. He became Minister of State in the Ministry of External Affairs [MEA] under Rajiv Gandhi and continued to help Sonia Gandhi after Rajiv’s assassination. He accompanied her at various visits to foreign countries and was a favourite of the ‘dynasty’ till his name figured in the Volcker Report as beneficiary in the “Oil for Food” programme in Iraq. The Volcker Report mentioned the Congress Party as a beneficiary.  Justice Pathak Commission exonerated the Congress and commented that there was no evidence of material gains by Natwar Singh. The Congress Party spokesperson and Dr. Manmohan Singh put the entire blame on Natwar Singh who resigned from the Party and the Cabinet.  Natwar Singh believes that Sonia Gandhi did so in order to save the Congress. It is possible that she may have done this in order to save the real culprits.

The loyalist, having been let down, became a strong critic of the Congress, Dr. Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi. Natwar Singh comments that Dr. Manmohan Singh never forgets a slight, but his expression does not show it. The latter had no foreign policy. Whenever he planned a visit to Pakistan, some anti-India incident took place leading to its cancellation. After one of the meetings with him, Nawaz Sharif remarked that it is useless talking to him and that he rather wait and speak to the next Prime Minister.

On learning about Natwar Singh writing a book, Sonia Gandhi called on him and her gushing greeting bewildered him. It was so out of her character to do so after eighteen and a half years. Swallowing her pride she had come to her closest friend.

On Pakistan

While working in the PMO’s office, Natwar Singh recommended benign neglect of Pakistan, for nothing bothered Pakistan more than indifference. However, his advice was ignored.  As Ambassador in Pakistan, he resolutely stood his ground. The late Zia-ul-Haq told him “Kunwar Saheb, Kashmir is in our blood.” Natwar Singh responded “It is in our bone marrow.” During his tenure in Pakistan, he realized the futility of trying to address the Pakistani people. The people always supported their country’s foreign policy. He took active part in the negotiations for the Indo-US nuclear deal.

On Sri Lanka

Natwar Singh narrates the events that lead to the tragedy in Sri Lanka. In the SAARC summit held in Bangalore in November 1986, the then President of Sri Lanka, J. R. Jayewardene broke the unwritten rule of not raising any bilateral issues and criticized India’s support to the Tamil militants. Rajiv Gandhi instructed Natwar Singh and P. Chidambaram to meet M. G. Ramachandran, Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu who considered Jaffna an extension of his state and provided financial and military aid to the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam). LTTE Chief Velupillai Prabhakaran was staying with him. President Jayewardene learnt about this and demanded that Prabhakaran be handed over to them. Having achieved success in negotiating accords in Assam and Punjab, Rajiv Gandhi felt confident of Accord with Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka also blamed RAW for hijacking their aircraft in which sixteen persons died and some forty injured.

Sri Lankan forces cordoned off Jaffna in May 1987 and stopped supplies of essential commodities. Food sent by India in ships was interrupted by Sri Lanka navy. India air-dropped supplies on 22 July 1987 which enraged the Sri Lanka Government.  They intensified their campaign and Prabhakaran sought peace through N. Ram, editor, The Hindu. Prabhakaran demanded devolution, merger of Eastern and Northern areas and recognition of Tamil language at par with Sinhalese. A draft agreement was prepared by a team led by Natwar Singh. No military officer was included in the team. Prabhakaran was put up at Ashoka Hotel, New Delhi and pressurized by M. G. Ramachandran to agree after a promise of monetary compensation. Only one instalment had been paid. No further payments were made as, within three months, LTTE was at war with the Indian Army.  Rajiv got irritated when Natwar Singh suggested to take Prabhakaran’s agreement in writing.  The only person who had reservations about the agreement was P. V. Narasimha Rao.

Rajiv Gandhi, accompanied by Narasimha Rao, Natwar Singh and a large number of MPs from Tamil Nadu went to Colombo on 29 July 1987 and signed the India-Sri Lanka Accord at 3.00 p.m.  They had to fly by helicopter from the airport as the road had been blocked by Sri Lankans protesting against the Accord. Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister and Defence Minister did not attend the signing ceremony and the reception that followed. Jayewardene and Rajiv were engaged in a serious discussion during the reception after which Rajiv told Natwar Singh that Jayewardene had requested for immediate support of the Indian Army to ensure peace and added that he had already ordered the Army. Rajiv had taken this important decision without consulting his Cabinet Ministers or the military commanders. The next day (30 July 1987) Rajiv was attacked by a Lankan guard during the naval Guard of Honour.  It was an expression of simmering discontent by Sri Lankans.

The Indian Peace Keeping Force [IPKF] arrived in Sri Lanka in August 1987 without a clear brief of their mission, intelligence and information of terrain in Jaffna. Everyone was trying to control the IPKF operations. Soon the Indian Army was at war with the LTTE. The COAS (Chief of Army Staff) General K. Sunderji had hoped to take care of the LTTE in two weeks. J. N. Dixit, who was the main adviser to Rajiv blamed others for having been misguided about the political, military and intelligence factors. K. C. Verma, Director, RAW (Research and Analysis Wing) was conducting talks with Jayewardene without the knowledge of the Ministries of Defence and External Affairs. Jayewardene remarked sarcastically to Dixit “How many policies does the Government of India have regarding the Sri Lanka situation?” When Lt. Gen. Depinder Singh, the Army Commander suggested to the COAS to seek clarification from the government on some issue, he commented “Woh sunta nahin hai.” [They do not listen.]

The story of payment to LTTE by the Government of India was leaked by an Indian journalist. It was timed to block a new peace initiative by RAW. The leak was traced to Dixit.  Monetary payment to the LTTE was to help the LTTE to change over from violence to a peaceful life. In 1988, Jayewardene stepped down and Ranasinghe Premdasa took over as President of Sri Lanka. He dismantled the policy of Accord. In India, Rajiv lost the elections in 1989 and V. P. Singh recalled the IPKF who were received with black flags at Chennai.

Sri Lanka erected a monument in 2008 to honour the 1155 Indian soldiers who made their supreme sacrifice. Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh did not visit the inauguration of the monument. The IPKF martyrs had laid down their lives, not in the defence of their motherland, but due to misguided policies of the Congress Government which chose to ignore the IPKF.



AIRLOOMS – Random Recollections of an Ancient Aviator : By Cecil Parker

Airlooms Cover Cropped ReducedBOOK - Airlooms Back Cover

Sanbun Publishers, New Delhi; Year of publication:2014; Pages:192; Price:Rs.225

Reviewed by K. S. Nair, son and son-in-law of IAF officers; life-long student of the IAF’s history and author of several articles on the IAF.  His book “Ganesha’s Flyboys” tells the story of the IAF in the Congo in the 1960s.  E-mail:

The name Cecil V. Parker should immediately be recognizable to those who remember the 1971 war.  Air Vice-Marshal Cecil Vivian Parker, MVC, VM, is one of less than twenty Indian Air Force personnel since Independence who have received the Maha Vir Chakra, India’s second-highest gallantry decoration.  For 28 years, he was the only MVC recipient from his home state, until Major Padmapani Acharya (the role played by actor Nagarjuna Akkineni, in the film LOC Kargil) posthumously received the same decoration in 1999.

AVM Parker’s MVC was the mid-point of an IAF career with many distinctions.  He remained active after leaving the IAF, in the private sector and in teaching.   Gifted with an engaging writing style, he has written frequently, during and after his period of service.  His articles have appeared in services and aviation journals, general interest magazines, and in newspapers.  Airlooms, the whimsically-titled book under review is a collection of some sixty-odd of these pieces.

Airlooms is certainly not AVM Parker’s “memoirs” – though Indian aviation aficionados would have appreciated that.  The pieces making up this collection are mostly light recollections of escapades and situations from his life, sometimes harum-scarum, sometimes dramatic, but not necessarily of special historic or military significance.  Many are tributes to colleagues; most have a services flavour, but some are simple family stories, and a few are reflections on management or leadership challenges.  They are cheerful in tone, always enjoyable and, at times, thought-provoking.

The tone is sunny and self-deprecating; the humour is nothing so much as – this may be an odd word to use about a highly-decorated warrior, but it is appropriate – gentle.  The tenor throughout is fatherly, and understanding of human foible.  The armed forces career offers opportunities, indeed demands, to exercise courage, certainly.  But often it simply pitchforks a young officer into situations where he has to take some personal chastisement and, if he grows appropriately later, into situations where he has to dish some out.  AVM Parker’s stories demonstrate numerous lessons learnt; and when his turn came, passed on.

There is, characteristically, nothing in this collection on the exploits of derring-do that earned AVM Parker his decorations. There is, and I think this is significant, just one short wartime piece.  It recounts an unplanned attack on a train encountered in the wrong place.  Then-Wing Commander Parker realized, literally just as he rolled his formation into the attack, that the train was carrying civilian passengers.  As that realization struck, this gunnery trophy winner – closely followed in this, as in much else, by his well-trained formation – without any fuss, altered his aiming point just a little, expending his ammunition harmlessly over the target and into empty desert beyond.  I would like to think this little story says something important, about the ethos of the Indian armed forces.

At a time when much is made of how the 1990s and 2000s have greatly improved life in India, AVM Parker’s stories are sometimes salutary corrective.  They convey a sense of an altogether more innocent period, a period when mid-seniority Indian armed forces officers, like most of the middle class in those days, had very little in cash and consumer goods.  Yet, they experienced a certain richness of life, in ways that seem to have been lost today.  Squadron Leaders and Wing Commanders, in the India of that time, could and did encounter Presidents, Prime Ministers, and Governors, and interact with them meaningfully.  They could invite such august personages to their messes, on the basis of a services connection and mutual respect, and see the invitation graciously accepted.  There seems to have been much less of the determined intermediation that would probably be interposed today, by a clucking bureaucracy.

The stories also convey the wonderful diversity of the armed forces, and indeed of India of the time.  This was a period before Bollywood and cable television imposed their current superficial uniformity on the middle class, and some of the rich social variety of that period is nicely captured.

The reminiscences covered in Airlooms span a few decades, during which the author went through a number of interesting roles in the IAF – some of which are only hazily visible as background in these stories.  The stories can all stand on their own, each by itself; but there does seem to have been some editing, to establish connections and cross-references between some of them.

This prompts one of my few criticisms of the book : I might have asked for a few lines of connecting narrative, between pieces, conveying a little more of the background and stage of the author’s progress in service – I believe this would only improve the book, for a wider audience.  I might also have asked for a different cover picture.  The current cover shows a stock image of the IAF’s Suryakirans aerobatic team.  An image of their immediate predecessors, the Thunderbolts, would have had a more direct connection to the author.  The Thunderbolts were formed out of a squadron that the author commanded, and flew the Hawker Hunter, the aircraft type with which he is most identified.

Photo Courtesy : IAF. Thunderbolts Aerobatic Team
Photo Courtesy : IAF. Thunderbolts Aerobatic Team

… But even as I write these thoughts, they seem churlish, among so much else there is to enjoy in this most agreeable book.  Definitely recommended, especially to those who remember the times!

The author is personally known to this reviewer.


NEXT POST : Bihar Elections – An inexpert analysis

Global Jihad and America – The Hundred-Year War Beyond Iraq and Afghanistan : Taj Hashmi

BOOK - Global Jihad

Sage Publications (I) Pvt. Ltd., New Delhi; Year:2014; Pages:324; Price:Rs.995

Reviewed by Humera Ahmed, freelance writer and author of short stories. Currently, Managing Editor of an e-journal “”.  E-mail:

Taj Hashmi, the Assam born  Professor of Security Studies at the Austin Peay State University at Clarksville, Tennessee, is the author of the book.  Hashmi’s credentials in attempting the study are impressive.  He has vast experience in teaching  Islamic and Modern South Asian History and Cultural Anthropology in various universities – Bangladesh, Australia, Singapore, Canada and authoring several papers, essays and books on these subjects.  His book Women and Islam in Bangladesh is a best seller in Asian Studies.

So how does Mr. Hashmi explain this phenomenon of “Jihad” which seems to be spreading so menacingly and distressingly beyond Afghanistan and Iraq to Syria, Yemen, Nigeria, Mali, Somalia, and God only knows, which other country will be in line next.  And what about the rise of Islamists in Egypt after the euphoric Arab Spring? And what does he consider the solution to this phenomenal clash between the Islamists and the West?  What does the book offer on the loaded concept of Global Jihad?  Is it another addition to the growing corpus of the ever-increasing literature on Global Jihad versus War on Terror or does it throw new light on this burning issue?

According to Hashmi, the book is an attempt to examine and understand the clash between the West and the Islamists in its proper perspective since literature churned out after 9/11 gives the impression that “Islamist terrorism is the biggest threat to Western civilizations”.  The Western policy-makers, influenced by the advice of such Islamophobes, take counter-terrorism measures such as preemptive strikes and unauthorized invasion of countries, exacerbating the problem. Unfortunately, the Muslim World, under the fanatical influence of anti-west clerics and Islamists, portrays the West as evil, programmed to destroy Islam and regain the lost colonies, and therefore, promotes the concept of global jihad against all perceived to be anti-Islam including the deviant Muslims.

While examining the clash between the Islamists and the Islamophobists, Hashmi has critiqued the following issues : whether post-colonial terror and anarchy are legacies of European Colonial rule; whether terrorism is/was an existential threat to America or any Western Nation; is Islam a religion of peace, and therefore, not responsible for the terror outfits spawning in many Muslim countries; has globalization created an uneven playing field between the western and the Muslim nations and, consequently, resulted in a surge of Islamic militancy; whether the West–Islamist clash is due to the Military–Industrial Complex and the Israel lobby in America; is America an empire and is its imperialistic behaviour the biggest threat to world peace; and, whether the Islamists are playing second fiddle to Russia, China and other old contenders in the conflict of hegemony between America and others .

Each of these issues takes the shape of a chapter followed by pages of Notes and References.  In the introductory chapter itself the author cum scholar cum professor summarizes each chapter and explains each issue, thus providing a glimpse of the discussions emerging in each chapter.

The first chapter explains the difference between Islam – the religion, as emanating from the Quran and Islamism, which is a political ideology emanating from the various interpreters such as the Salafis and Wahabis.  The author explains how a religion, which inspired and sustained a unique civilization and dominated many parts of the world for over a millennium, declined like many others due to complacency, neglect of science and technology, internal feuds – sectarian, tribal or racial, and through foreign invasions.  Today, most of the Muslim nations created by arbitrarily drawing lines by the colonists, ignoring traditional, ethnic, tribal and cultural affinities, positioning a Zionist, aggressive Israel in a Palestinian dominated territory, have made them acutely aware of their backwardness and subjugation by an advanced, techno-savvy west and the community feels threatened and humiliated.  To emphasize this, Hashmi quotes Lindner : “Humiliation is the strongest force that creates rift and breaks down relationships among people ….. Men such as Osama bin Laden would never have followers if there were no victims of humiliation in many parts of the world….”

And therefore, terrorism is a weapon “of the weak”, the disempowered and exploited people who cannot otherwise  overpower strong and powerful states.  In the case of the Muslims, they tend to take recourse through Islamists, invoking a “Utopian” past, as the present secular leadership which is perceived as corrupt, autocratic and pro-west has failed them.

Ironically, Islamism, as manifested through the Taliban, was welcomed by the West against Russia.  It is only in the post Cold War period, and the aftermath of 9/11 that the Islamist have been identified with terror.  But not all Islamist, only those who are not conducive or favourable to the West.  Thus Iran – anti-West and anti-Israel – poses the greatest threat, while Saudi Arabia, whose antipathy towards Iran, a Shia nation – ideologically against the Salafi and Wahabi Sunnis dominant in  Saudi Arabia and Egypt – is a staunch ally.  Global Jihadism, therefore, has acquired a different context – it is no longer  just anti-West and anti-Israel, it has become a sectarian and ideological strife between the different sects and interpreters of Islam.  More Muslims, than non-Muslims, are killing Muslims whom they term as deviant.  The proxy war between the Wahabi/Salafis and the Shias and other sects of Islam has spilled over into Pakistan, Iraq and Syria in gigantic proportions. The Palestinian problem, which commenced in 1948 and is the primeval cause of the conflict between the Muslims and the West, continues to fester while the Palestinians are bombed and terrorized by Israel; and America continues to destabilize and remove governments hostile to it, or allows its allies to fund Terror and then declare a War on Terror especially in resource rich or strategically located countries.

By the time we reach the concluding chapter, the reader is aware of the causes of Global Jihad and the summarization that it has no existential ramification for America or the West.  For them, the threat is a myth, but for different sects of the Muslims, it is very much a reality and will continue as long as America continues to be dominated by the Israel lobby and the Military-Industrial Complex which needs war and sale of weapons, and till the Palestinian problem is resolved.

Taj Hashmi’s book offers no solution to the 100-year strife, but it is an erudite study and a positive addition to the body of literature which counters the Islamophobia propaganda and makes an attempt to create a better understanding between the West and the Muslims.


From FF Digital Team:  The reader has had a good dose on the subject of “Terrorism” with the above book review and prior to that, the article by Dr. B. Ramesh Babu on “Failure of Terror Talks” between India and Pakistan – sort of a never-ending matter between the two warring neighbours.  To lighten up a bit, our next post will also be the review of a book, a random recollections of an ancient aviator, entitled “Airlooms” by Air Vice Marshall Cecil Parker.

Do keep the conversation going by commenting on the posts.  HAPPY DIWALI CELEBRATIONS!

Science and Technology in China

BOOK - Science and Technology in China

Science and Technology in China – Implications and Lessons for India – Edited by Maharajakrishna Rasgotra – Sage Publications (I) Pvt. Ltd., New Delhi; Year of Publication:2013; Pages:256; Price:Rs.795 

Reviewed by Brig. Suresh C. Sharma, advisor to the telecom industry and freelance writer.  E-mail:

The book is a collection of papers discussed at a seminar organized by Observer Research Foundation [ORF].

S. Ramamurthy has narrated two examples of the progress by China in manufacturing high technology items. It invested in a rare earth refining plant in USA, closed it down and shifted it to China. China has now a monopoly of this important item. In 2008, China outbid Bharat Electronics of India and a German firm to offer Doppler weather radars. It should not be a surprise since PSUs get cost plus profits for sale to Government organizations and there is little effort in keeping costs low. China’s investment in research is much higher than that of India and China has a larger number of scientists and engineers under training.

Dr. V. P. Kharbanda has explained that following liberalization, China decided that Science and Technology [S & T] work must be oriented to economic construction. There has been continuous effort to institute a reward mechanism in the S & T system. The highest academic institution to control the scientific work is the Chinese Academy of Sciences [CAS]. The CAS established new research facilities based on open, mobile system serving the whole country in place of the earlier system which was isolated with universities and industry. Till the year 2000, 400 high-tech spin-off companies were formed under the CAS in the areas of IT laser technology, pharmaceuticals, energy and bio-medicine. The best scientists and engineers were recruited and a close relationship maintained with the political elites. National knowledge and innovation programme was started in 1995 to convert CAS into a research base of international standard. Simultaneously, the number of institutes of higher learning has increased and so has the number of research papers. State allocations to research institutes were reduced and institutes encouraged to commercialize their research results. S & T organization has been structured to encourage research institutes and industry cooperation. The success of Chinese efforts in innovation and research is due to the political will. There is an open environment for import of advanced technologies, better tax incentives and promotion of MNCs. India’s efforts need a big political push.

China started its space programme in the 1950s while India embarked into it in 1963. U R Rao has given a comparison of the progress by the two countries. China is far ahead due to being able to allot large resources and has gone ahead with building anti-satellite system. China’s objectives are to assure or deny access to and deny freedom to operate in space. Its missile programme aims at stocking adequate number of medium, long range and inter-continental missiles and change “no first use of nuclear weapons” to use against any nuclear power showing signs of attacking China. Rao has warned against our tendency to over-claim and over-advertise our accomplishments which creates a false sense of comfort within the country. India should not overreach its financial resources just to compete with China.

Chinese aviation policy has given more importance to the civil sector due to economic reasons. Half of the global profits in civil aviation are being made in China. In the military sector, China is going ahead in producing stealth fighters. The Western companies are in a dilemma whether to help Chinese industry for quick profits now and face it as an adversary later. Dr. R. Rajaraman estimates the number of nuclear warheads in China at 240 and it has the capability to assemble another 240 weapons. The warheads can be launched by any of the three systems – land based missiles, submarines or aircraft. India and Pakistan have about 90 to 100 nuclear warheads each. They are lagging behind in high energy physics. A number of bright scientists of Chinese origin and working in the West have a strong interaction with mainland Chinese scientific groups and quality work may emerge from China. We have not been able to get similar effort from NRIs. In India, the IT industry skipped the hardware component of IT and communications. In China, it covered all aspects like manufacturing, communications, software development and cyber security. China is believed to be indulging in violation of intellectual property rights. IT industry has been growing rapidly in China due to a well-planned system of investments and novel policies. It is robust and sustainable.

Ashok Parthasarathi has given a detailed account of the use of science and technology in China and its implications for India. China’s industrial development started with setting up of 300 heavy industry plants with the help of the former Soviet Union [FSU]. Major dislocation occurred due to   the Cultural Revolution and ideological break-up between China and the FSU. New economy policy was adopted after Mao’s death and western multinational companies went into China in a big way. India was forced to open its economy to foreign participation in 1991 owing to low level of foreign exchange. Political will has made it possible for China to achieve high rate of industrial progress but has led to distortions. Steel production in 2009 was 600 million tonnes while the domestic consumption was merely 370 tonnes. The industry was highly fragmented. There are 7000 iron and steel companies. Some of them have a capacity of only 100 tonnes per year. These inefficient units cannot be closed down due to ownership or patronage of local party leaders.

India has eleven plants producing 55 million tonnes of steel per year. We should look beyond China. The former Governor of Reserve Bank of India pointed out that landed cost of steel from Japan which imported coal and iron ore was lower than the cost of steel from Indian plants. To his discomfort, a student showed by a quick calculation that the cost of steel in India was high due to the cost of coal and iron ore supplied by Public Sector Units [PSUs]. The quality of power generating equipment from China is lower than that from BHEL of India. Some of the State Electricity Boards imported Chinese equipment which was offered at a much lower price due to dumping. It was unsuitable for the Indian plants using coal with high content of ash and had to be discarded early.

China plans 15% of energy demand from non-fossil sources by 2020. India is likely to reach a target figure of 18% for renewable energy by that time. Both the countries are promoting solar and wind energy systems. In India, there is a greater reliance on private companies and an involvement of international players in production and financing. Sam Pitroda successfully developed electronic exchanges in C-DOT and 42 million exchange lines of this technology were inducted into the network by 2006. There is a similar success story of Wireless-in-Loop [WILL] technology developed by Professor Ashok Jhunjhunwala of IIT, Chennai. During 2005 to 2007, cell phones made a rapid growth. Indigenous component of telecommunication equipment declined from 70% to 20% and the imports of these equipments in 2008-09 were Rs.46,200 crores. China, on the other hand, insisted that foreign companies in China use 95% Chinese staff and content. India needs to take similar steps. In pharmaceuticals, India is far ahead of China.

India stood at 62 and China at 29 in the Global Innovation Index. Smita Purushottam has narrated the different economic and technological paths taken by the two countries which have resulted in this gap. They both started with investment in heavy industries with help from USSR. In 1978, China switched to a model of Comparative Advantage Following [CAF]. The state owned units were free to participate in the market and massive investment was made in infrastructure. The manufactured products were competitive due to cheap labour, reverse engineering, leadership and FDI. India woke up only in 1991 and the Government did not give due importance to manufacturing industries. IT Service sector could provide limited employment opportunities. The author has made recommendations for high growth which can be 10% per year. Some of the suggestions are to develop manufacturing industries and not allow any damage to Indian units even at the cost of appearing protectionist. We need to develop both hard and soft capabilities. Civil and military technologies should be integrated. The book has well covered the reasons for comparatively lower performance in economic growth.

Gandhi and the Ali Brothers

Books - Gandhi and Ali Brothers

GANDHI and the ALI BROTHERS – Biography of a Friendship – By Rakhahari Chatterji, Sage Publications (I) Pvt. Ltd., New Delhi, Pages 229, Year of Publication:2013, Price:Rs.695

Reviewed by Brig. Suresh C. Sharma, advisor to the telecom industry and freelance writer.  E-mail:

The book is an attempt to examine the start and the end of an intense relationship between Gandhi and the Ali brothers. The political rights of the minorities did not attract much attention till the middle of the 20th century. They were expected to be assimilated with the majorities. Gandhi’s movement in South Africa was the first movement for the rights of a cultural minority. After returning to India, he considered Hindu-Muslim unity to be essential for achieving swaraj. He believed that the support to the Khilafat movement, led by the Ali brothers, is fundamental for such a unity. The Khilafat movement sought restoration of the Islamic Holy Lands under the Caliph. It had pan-Islamic concerns but became a symbol for Indian Muslims for their political identity.

It was clear to the British after the mutiny of 1857 that unity amongst Indians was against the interests of the Empire. Sir Syed Ahmed Khan realized that the British could not be removed from India soon and advised the Muslims not to wage conflicts against them. His loyalty was rewarded by a largesse to establish Muslim Anglo Oriental [MAO] College at Aligarh. It later became the Aligarh Muslim University. He believed that the Muslims should restore their political identity in India and did not support the Khilafat movement. Nor did he support the Indian National Congress.

A section of the Muslims considered the British rule as a loss of self-esteem and identified themselves with the Caliphate in Turkey. Al-Afghani, who came to India in 1857 and again in 1879, was the source of anti-British pan-Islamism. Four major streams of thought took shape amongst the Indian Muslims based on pro or anti-British attitude and autonomous Muslim community or support for Hindu-Muslim unity. Reunification of the Bengal had hurt the Muslims and a deputation called on the Viceroy, Lord Minto. The Viceroy assured them that the political rights of the Muslims would be safe-guarded. Soon the Muslim League was born. It made a commitment of loyalty to the Government. The Muslims felt that separate electorates were essential for their political rights and the Congress agreed to it. This was the foundation of a permanent political disunity between the two communities. Jinnah joined the Muslim League when they passed a resolution for self-government in 1912.

The author gives a brief biographical account of the Ali brothers. Their paternal grandfather had received a jagir for helping the British in 1857 while their maternal grandfather had lost all they had for joining jihad against the British. They studied at MAO College, Aligarh. The younger brother Mohamed Ali obtained did well in the B.A. examination and proceeded to Oxford with the aim of joining the ICS. Due to a young man’s foolish fancy, the details of which remain undisclosed, he could not get into the ICS. He failed to get a teaching assignment at Aligarh and took small jobs in various government departments before settling down as the editor of a magazine, Comrade. The elder brother, Shaukat Ali followed a similar path. They joined the Muslim League, organized cheap mode of transport for Haj pilgrims and sent a medical mission to Turkey. They were interned for five years in May 1915 for suspected jihadi activities. The internment had turned them into bitter critics of the British rule and they became deeply religious. They wanted the Indian Muslims to identify themselves with fellow Muslims all over the world.

On his return from South Africa, Mahatma Gandhi was keen to understand the Muslim mind through contact with their purest and most patriotic representatives. Gandhi met Mohamed Ali in April 1915 and was impressed by his power of expression, religiosity, concern for Turkey and his capacity to reach the Muslim masses. Shortly after this, the Ali brothers were interned and Gandhi made a plea for their release. They were released in 1919. Mohamed Ali had gone to the UK to plead against the terms imposed on Turkey but failed to convince the UK Government.  On his return to India, he called for non-cooperation. The trustees of the MAO College, Aligarh rejected his plea to discontinue Government aid and closed down the College. With Gandhi’s help and backing, a new college, the Jamia Milia was started at Aligarh and later shifted to Delhi.

Hindu-Muslim unity was important to Gandhi and he thus supported the Khilafat movement. The Ali brothers toured India working in tandem with Gandhi calling for non-violent, Non-cooperation Movement for the cause of Khilafat. But, there were discordant voices among the Muslims for cooperation with the Hindus. The Ali brothers also made ambiguous statements about non-violence. The issue of a possible invasion by Afghanistan created embarrassment for Gandhi, particularly when Mohamed Ali asserted in a speech in Madras that he would assist the Afghan Army. Pundit Madan Mohan Malviya and Lajpat Rai were against any support to the Afghans. The Ali brothers then issued a signed statement to the press which amounted to an apology. The Urdu press reported with delight that the Ali brothers had obtained freedom from arrest by tendering an apology. The Khilafat document signed by Gandhi and the Ali brothers called upon the Indian Army soldiers not to fight against the Turks. The two brothers advised Muslims not to join the Indian Army. The Government responded by arresting the Ali brothers. The people started agitating and communal riots broke out in Malabar and other places after the arrest of Gandhi and the Ali brothers.

Khilafat became irrelevant when Turkey gave up the idea and the Ali brothers started losing their hold over the Muslims. In order to salvage their image, in a speech in 1924, they declared that “an adulterous Mussalman was better than Gandhi”. The Congress leaders were not amused. The non-cooperation movement had also failed. These developments and the break-out of communal rights put the alliance between Gandhi and the Ali brothers in trouble. Shaukat Ali blamed the Hindus for the riots in Kohat where they had suffered great loss of life and property. Muslim groups talked of reservations and separate electorates. Viceroy Lord Reading paid tribute to Mohammedan loyalty and promised to always protect their interests. Disturbed by communal riots, Gandhi took a one year’s holiday from politics. The Ali brothers strongly spoke for boycott of the Simon Commission but were critical of the proposal for joint electorates as suggested in the Motilal Nehru Report. They did their best to dissuade the Muslims from joining Gandhi’s call for the disobedience movement. The break was complete and Shaukat Ali even asked the Government to reward his loyalty by renewing his pension of Rs.150 per month which he had not drawn since June 1919. The Government obliged by paying it with effect from October 1933, refusing to pay for the period when he was opposing Government policies.

The author concludes that Gandhi’s idea of multicultural nationalism was too early for its time when Europe was redrawing its maps based on self-determination of ethnic nationalism. In 1927, Gandhi said “It [Hindu-Muslim unity] has passed out of human hands, and has been transferred to God’s hands alone.”

The book excellently brings out how Gandhi forged unity between the two communities by supporting the Khilafat movement and its decline when Khilafat became irrelevant.