Editorial 1/Crawl space
Editorial 2/Spy the coward
Still night in nightmare city
Letters To The Editor
Dizzy heights/Book review
Passport to a perfumed city
Zero hour strategies/Book review
Prima donnas and propagandists/Book review
On making cash flow a constant/Bookwise

 
 
EDITORIAL 1/CRAWL SPACE 
 
 
 
 
In a marked departure from nine previous rounds of talks, the most recent pow-wow between the United States deputy secretary of state, Mr Strobe Talbott, and the Indian foreign minister, Mr Jaswant Singh, focussed more on terrorism than on nuclear nonproliferation. New Delhi and Washington have held several meetings on terrorism since September last year. This summit saw the formal establishment of a joint working group on terrorism between the two countries. A recent visit of a senior US navy admiral, Mr Dennis Blair, to India has initiated the revival of the India-US military steering group that was formed in the mid-Nineties. This incremental institution building is necessary to rebuild an India-US security relationship that has been moribund since the Pokhran nuclear tests in 1998. But plans for a more comprehensive strategic partnership will remain stillborn until the two countries resolve their differences over nuclear weapons. The tenth round of Talbott-Singh talks was notable for its silence on the nuclear issue. This is no surprise. The Atal Behari Vajpayee government has barely stirred itself about signing the comprehensive test ban treaty or joining the global nonproliferation mainstream. New Delhi may be holding out for a partial peeling back of the layers of technology sanctions imposed on India since 1974. Or the government may feel the political costs of signing the CTBT are too high until the US itself ratifies the treaty. It is a sign of the fragility of India-US security ties that it progresses only during fair political weather in both capitals.

This is one reason the US treasury secretary, Mr Lawrence Summers, said during his stopover in India that the two countries should let their economic and security relations move “on separate tracks.’’ In other words, do not let the slothful pace of India-US security relations hold back the greater potential existing in economic ties. Even the economic relationship, however, depends mostly on India’s domestic environment. Though the Vajpayee government is whittling down the mountain of pending legislation, talk of a second generation of economic reforms remains largely rhetorical.

The two countries also retain differences on how to deal with Pakistan. The two are in general agreement that Pakistan is a nuisance. However, the US believes that Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal and proximity to Afghanistan mean that it should not be diplomatically isolated. Hence the present visits by senior US officials to Pakistan to see what price the chief executive officer, Mr Pervez Musharraf, will pay in return for Mr Bill Clinton dropping by that country if the US president comes to south Asia in March. It seems likely the price — Mr Osama bin Laden’s head or Mr Musharraf announcing a date for restoring democracy — will be too high. India has urged a tougher stance against Pakistan. However, if Mr Clinton comes to the subcontinent, he will come with minimal expectations regarding both countries. India seems unable or unwilling to get out of the nuclear rut. Pakistan has a dozen millstones around its neck. Mr Clinton had hoped to initiate an India-US renaissance in 1997 but was stymied by the nuclear tests. The fallout of Pokhran is being dissipated very slowly, though the Kargil conflict did help clear the air. The road still remains strewn with historical and political rocks. India-US relations, which at one point looked like they would gallop into the new millennium, continue to crawl forward.    


 
 
EDITORIAL 2/SPY THE COWARD 
 
 
 
 
Perhaps a captain’s spiritual power can stop terrorists from killing passengers of a hijacked aeroplane. That is the only conclusion to be drawn from the comments Mr Ashok Singhal, the working president of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, has made about the captain of IC 814. Not content with having called Hindus cowards, as the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh has also done, Mr Singhal homed in on Mr Devi Sharan, the captain whose courage and judgment were crucial factors in the ultimately not too unhappy fate of most of the passengers. There is always a charming simplicity about the psychology of the more strident members of the sangh parivar. In this case too, the main reason behind the frustration of the VHP and RSS is fairly transparent. There is no nationwide fury against Muslims after the hijacking. It is infuriating for the sangh parivar, instead, that people have reacted with logic, not condemning one section of their fellow citizens for the acts of terrorists. Calling Hindus cowards is one way of whipping up anger through insult. Calling the captain a coward is to suggest that things could have been otherwise if the man had what Mr Singhal confidently calls “moral courage”. Both are attempts to arouse aggression.

It is to be hoped that Mr Singhal knows what he is talking about. He has reminded the nation of the schools being run by the RSS and the VHP in which students will be taught the basics of moral courage and spiritual power. If these lessons produce a brood of captains who will provoke terrorists into killing passengers and crew of hijacked planes, all the best for the country. Mr Singhal has done what he and his like do best — shoot his mouth off about things regarding which he is totally ignorant. He has done his bit of public bullying and has, predictably, exposed his own blindness and that of those for whom he speaks. Fortunately, such remarks are not important. What is important, though, is how far the Bharatiya Janata Party is willing to perceptibly distance itself from its saffron brethren. It is not reassuring to think that the leading party at the Centre might be harbouring sentiments similar to those of Mr Singhal’s.    


 
 
STILL NIGHT IN NIGHTMARE CITY 
 
 
BY BHASKAR GHOSE
 
 
From among the many images of metropolitan neglect and decay that one has, there is a strange, and seemingly unrelated one which is the most vivid. There had been some unrest among the dock workers, and one had journeyed to the warren of hovels, piles of refuse, and the remains of once splendid bagan baris — garden houses — through dank, narrow lanes and the gouged out trenches that the corporation was pleased to call roads to talk to groups of sullen, angry dock workers who eventually took us to meet their leaders. One expected even tougher, bigger men in sweat stained vests and crumpled trousers; instead, we were greeted by elegant men in silk panjabies and dhoties, wreathed in the fragrance of fine aftershave lotions, in gold rimmed spectacles and finely turned out kolhapuri sandals. They spoke to us softly, with what they said being punctuated by disarming smiles.

This image has remained, as vivid as if it had been yesterday, of the dreadful conditions of our cities; these exquisite dandies surrounded by desolation and decay. An image of something very wrong somewhere. Not very different from scenes we witness in all our cities; mayors and municipal commissioners sweeping in to some public function or the other attended by swarms of obsequious officials, strutting to either a podium or to a chair shaped like a throne, while somewhere else, conveniently out of sight, are the disinherited, the dwellers in slums, and those who are made to live without electricity and water amidst piles of refuse, who have to travel across pitted stretches of stony, often slushy land which the corporations call roads through murderous, chaotic traffic.

There has been a deal of railing against our urban ills but it has made little difference to the conditions in which we have to live in our cities. From time to time we are told the municipal corporations have no money, and cannot therefore really improve matters. Every now and then a garbage truck is bought, but within months is transformed into yet another one eyed monster growling through rush hour traffic spewing noxious black fumes from its exhaust and leaving a trail of refuse behind as it journeys to the dumping grounds.

Streetlights are set up and never come on; public toilets are strewn with a slimy mixture of excrement and urine; the health clinics are dirty, lack medicines and, more often than not, doctors; so runs the litany of horrors over which our mayors and municipal commissioners preside with such blithe indifference.

There are relatively pleasant areas in every city, true; but one must consider the much larger areas where conditions are like those described, even though the degree may vary. But it does not pay to be merely indignant; no one really bothers, and the indignation is lost in the roar of traffic. Occasionally there are campaigns for change, and very occasionally the government promises “radical” change, and then transfers the municipal commissioner or an additional commissioner or two. There is a slight ripple, but things settle down soon; lower down it makes no difference at all.

And all the while the sad fact is that things could be very different, very much better, at no extra cost. The governments know it, some of the municipal commissioners know it, but for some reason the matter is simply not addressed in the way it should be.

When a government promises action after an epidemic, or a terrible water crisis or some other civic disaster, and removes the municipal commissioner, it seems on the verge of doing something a little more serious than that, and then, inexplicably, doesn’t do it. Because the problem is what that one symbolic transfer points to — the human resource and systems failure that can, with a little effort, be changed.

This does not mean merely transferring more people, or “fixing responsibility” (that wonderful relic of colonial phraseology from which so many bureaucrats and ministers draw comfort and solace), or abolishing a few forms and procedures. It means a steady, honest appraisal of the system in its entirety, and then of the people who run it; appraisals that can then translate into firm decisions to alter or even abolish those parts that require it.

To take some examples: after looking carefully at its garbage disposal system, can the corporation of Chennai decide to privatize it totally, and if so, what would be the best way of doing it? Where are the professional agencies which have the competence to take this job on? How can this be done effectively while keeping the vultures in the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam at bay? The city of Mumbai has an effective power supply system, so effective that its inhabitants are totally ignorant of the joys of inverters and gensets; can the city of Delhi pattern its power delivery system on the same lines? What would that mean in terms of changing existing systems?

To then look at some issues which should cause concern to all civic bodies: how do their services relate to the inhabitants? Linemen and meter readers and workmen in the water systems of every city in India take bribes regularly; so do the clerks who send out bills for payment of rates and taxes and a whole host of others. Officials higher up in the system are just as avid bribe takers, and love being wined and dined by the corrupt and dishonest, the so called professionals who claim to do this to be able to survive.

Without coming out in a violent moral rash, can systems be looked at to determine whether this can be stopped, or reduced? We are told by experts that the propensity to look for such payments is fuelled to a large extent by a deepseated job dissatisfaction. Can this be determined and acted on, if true?

Municipal corporations are usually derailed by such issues as the high incidence of power theft, of non-payment of rates, of damage to roads and pavements by hawkers and other bodies like the telephone authorities. These are surely major issues and need to be addressed, but they’re not new, and will be around for many many years. Can the focus be kept unwaveringly on the system itself which lets all this happen?

The answer to all these questions can be a positive one, even if it is rather hesitant. These are systemic problems, to which there certainly are solutions. They cannot of course be seen in isolation; the human resource factor is obviously crucial. This does not mean pay commissions, but a firm removal of all but the essential, effective people. It will be an expensive business, but one has to consider relative advantages and costs here.

The problem and its remedies. Known to all, but worth stating, if only to ask whether at any stage any state government really means to take its urban disasters in hand. Some may, and some like Bihar will have no idea what the issue is. Is that a reason for general inaction? Inevitably, everyone’s eyes will turn to the uncomfortable Central government, which will try to wriggle out of the situation by trotting out the Constitution, and reeling off the huge amounts it has given state governments for urban development.

Neither will do. Ultimately it is a question of the way people live; every demographic projection indicates that a frighteningly large percentage of the population will be living in urban areas in the next decade. What is being done about it by those who have sought, and got, what they refer to in reverential terms as “the people’s mandate”? They will need to prepare an answer very soon.

The author is former secretary, ministry of information and broadcasting    


 
 
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR 
 
 
 
 

Minor matters of state

Sir — Uma Bharti seldom runs out of issues (“Uma seeks quit-licence to hit the streets”, Jan 16). But her decision to quit the Union ministry of tourism to protest against the alleged roughing up of Bharatiya Janata Party councillors in Bhopal is somewhat confusing. The flimsiness of this “issue” has made even BJP insiders feel that she is eyeing the Madhya Pradesh chief ministership, hence the tirade against Digvijay Singh. Perhaps her urge to take up the cause of some “maybe not so” injured partymen may be read as an attempt to project herself as a state leader before the state assembly elections. And she has the implicit support of L.K. Advani, on rather sulky terms with the prime minister since the hijack debacle, in this. For wasn’t it Advani who had advised her not to protest against the state government while still in the Union ministry? But toeing Advani’s line may lead to a rift within the party. And the desired chief ministership may elude her if she fails to make a big enough mountain out of this molehill.

Yours faithfully,
Soumya Sarker, Katwah

School for cricket

Sir — The banner put up by some Indian supporters at the Sydney Cricket Ground during the January 14 one day international between Australia and India, “We want our money back”, provides ample food for thought. Even without going into the contentious issue of the merits of Sachin Tendulkar’s captaincy, India’s selection policy, the functioning of the Board of Control for Cricket in India or the disgraceful treatment of Nayan Mongia, one cannot but feel that all is not right with Indian cricket.

India must refrain from playing international tournaments for a few years. The money saved by this should then be spent for the proper training of young players. The board must make it compulsory for the so called stars to participate in domestic tournaments like the Ranji Trophy and the Duleep Trophy. The national selection committee should be disbanded forthwith. Some form of accountability should be incorporated into the “system” of cricket.

Finally, since national pride and credibility are at stake, the corporate sector should abstain from sponsorship of cricketers. The media, which has been instumental in making stars out of cricketers, should know that stardom has turned them away from the game.

Yours faithfully,
J. Braganza, Calcutta

Sir — “The honourable schoolboy” (Jan 16) by Mukul Kesavan is more than a little unfair in dismissing Sachin Tendulkar merely as the best schoolboy cricketer India has produced. Remember Donald Bradman saying that Tendulkar’s game was akin to his own? Kesavan admits cricket is a team sport, yet he wants Tendulkar to win every game for India by his individual performance.

Tendulkar was the only player with decent scores against Australia. But he did not have adequate support from Sourav Ganguly, S. Ramesh, Rahul Dravid and others. One cannot forget Tendulkar’s innings in the Chennai test against Pakistan in 1999 when, after his dismissal, the last three Indian batsmen failed to make the 16 odd runs required for a win. Again, throughout 1998, Tendulkar’s innings helped India win most of the one day matches played under the captaincy of Mohammed Azharuddin. Nothing will come of tarnishing Tendulkar’s image.

Yours faithfully,
Vijay Kant Singh, Kharagpur

Sir — Mukul Kesavan is rather harsh on Sachin Tendulkar, while being full of praise for Mohammed Azharuddin. Despite having an impressive test average, Azhar is more of a politician than a cricketer. How can one forget he forced the former captain, Kapil Dev, to retire? He even refused to include Sourav Ganguly in the team. He is also reputed to have treated reporters brusquely. Tendulkar’s antagonism against Azhar is probably justified, since the latter had frequently changed the tempo of matches by batting like a test player in one dayers, and vice versa.

Yours faithfully,
Dhananjoy Mitra, Calcutta

Sir — Lokendra Pratap Sahi writes (“Sachin remains a big hit”, and “Agarkar to miss Hobart tie”, Jan 17) more as a supporter of Sachin Tendulkar-Kapil Dev than as an unbiased correspondent. This is not the first time Sahi has eulogized the duo and glossed over their shortcomings. Even before Tendulkar was appointed captain, Sahi was busy putting out anti-Azhar stories that gave the impression that Azhar embodied all that was wrong in Indian cricket. Mukul Kesavan and the editorial, “Batting genius” (Jan 14), on the other hand, gave a more balanced picture. Such unbiased reports do more harm than good.

Yours faithfully,
C.L. Madappat, Calcutta

Plane misunderstanding

Sir — The attention of the royal Nepalese embassy has been drawn to the news item, “Delhi wary of Nepal, clean chit to Pak”, (Jan 17) by Pranay Sharma. While disagreeing with the contents and import of the news item, we are extremely disturbed by the allegations against Nepal’s minister for foreign affairs. These are simply not true. The news item casts serious aspersions on the age old ties of friendship and cooperation that characterize Nepal-India relations. The publication of such news, based on imagination rather than facts, in a prestigious daily like The Telegraph has the potential of generating mistrust and suspicion between the peoples of the two countries.

The insinuations against Ram Sharan Mahat are unfortunate. Also, the item’s insinuation that ministries of the government of Nepal hold divergent views is totally false. The hijacking of IC 814 was unfortunate. The Nepal government has taken the episode very seriously. The high level commission, constituted to investigate the security lapses at the Tribhuvan International Airport which could have a bearing on the hijacking of the Indian Airlines plane, functions independently. The government is committed not to interfere in its functioning, neither is it in a position to do so. The writer seems not to have taken account of the Nepal government’s resolve and determination to fight terrorism in all its manifestations. Nepal’s commitment not to allow its territory to be used for activities directed against its friendly neighbours is total.

The Nepal government’s decision to expel an official of the Pakistan embassy in Kathmandu caught dealing in counterfeit Indian currency notes following the refusal of the Pakistani government to waive his diplomatic immunity testifies eloquently to the government’s seriousness. Nepal is committed to further consolidating bilateral ties with India for mutual benefit. The two governments cooperate closely in various fields. We are sorry to note that the author of the story has either been inadequately informed or been misled.

Yours faithfully,
B. Dhungana, Public relations officer, Royal Nepal Embassy

Sir — It’s a full 10 years now since the people of Nepalese origin were driven out by force from Bhutan. Many found shelter courtesy international bodies like the United Nations high commissioner for refugees, the Lutheran World Service, the Red Cross and so on. Some 100,000 refugees were housed. Education was given to the young, a few of the lucky and the meritorious going on to study outside the camps where these Nepalese lived. But the UN and other bodies do not have unlimited funds or resources. Thus the release of their leader, Tek Nath Rizal, from a prison in Bhutan is a step in the direction of a political solution.

Rizal championed the cause of Bhutanese democracy. But after all these years some of the shine has gone out of the fight for democracy in Bhutan. Now that the king, Jigme Wangchuk, has granted him an official pardon, events in that country might unfold faster. A democratic Bhutan can uphold monarchy through a constitution. Compromises will have to be made all round, and demands scaled down.

Yours faithfully,
Sush Kocher, Calcutta

Letters to the Editor should be sent to:
The Telegraph
6 Prafulla Sarkar Street
Calcutta 700 001
Email:
[email protected]
   

 
 
DIZZY HEIGHTS/BOOK REVIEW 
 
 
BY RUDRANI SARKAR
 
 
Vertigo
By W.G. Sebald Harvill Press, £ 12

One must it seems approach W.G. Sebald’s books backwards. Vertigo is the third of the acclaimed writer’s books to be translated into English but it is actually the first of the “fictions” he wrote and published in his native Germany. Not unlike its history, the story of Vertigo begins at its very end. It is when the dizzying, often daunting strangeness of the book begins to take shape that it allows the readers to leave with something of its meaning. Like his previous books, Emigrants and Rings of Saturn, Sebald’s latest offering defies definition.

Made up of four linked chapters (each a small essay in its own right) Vertigo hovers between travelogue, history, autobiography and fiction. But it is precisely our certainty that Sebald wants to rob from us. In Vertigo he asks if we can know anything, even our past. It’s an old question, but in Sebald’s hands never a worn one.

The book begins with a brief account of Stendhal’s first journey to Italy as a 17 year old and his subsequent visits back. The young man, later to become one of France’s most renowned authors, travelled to Italy with Napoleon’s army in 1800.

Exhilarated and unsettled by the skirmishes around him, Stendhal took himself to see a local opera company perform Il Matrimonio Segreto by Cimarosa in the town where the army had camped. In his heightened state, the amateur efforts of the actors seemed to him to be sublime and the lead actress, a goddess.

Attending the same opera at La Scala in Milan, on his return to Italy some years later, Stendhal was inevitably disappointed. But his chastened realization is not another example of the subjectivity of memory.

It is, in fact, the beginning of the French writer’s uneasy realization that the past he remembers doesn’t resemble the present he inhabits. It was not just the opera that failed to move him on a second hearing. Stendhal is disconcerted to find that the landscape he remembers is markedly different as well. Then comes the even more terrifying thought. If the past has been a construction, perhaps it has never happened at all.

The ground beneath Sebald’s feet has opened. In the next chapter, he describes his travels in Austria, Germany and Italy but his narrative is haunted by the realization that he may only be imagining things. Sebald’s journeying begins to take a hallucinatory turn, as he walks through cities and villages dizzy with not knowing. This is vertigo — if of another kind. Sebald travels to Vienna and Venice seeing Dante and King Ludwig II of Bavaria pass him by.

He cannot visualize the devastated village he has seen on a train anymore because in recalling that he can only picture a particular painting of a plagued village. For this is a world where the boundaries between the past and present, art and life have faded, where ghosts abound and characters walk out of their books.

There is a Kafkaesque element to Sebald’s adventures where the most ordinary things are heightened to a surreal, anxiety-ridden pitch and the third part of the book is in fact about Kafka taking the waters in the Italian spa town of Riva.

Of all the ghosts that haunt this book, it is surely Kafka whose shadow stretches the longest. The chapter on him is not unlike the Czech writer’s own novels and is perhaps the most masterful and inevitably bewildering part in the book. Fortunately, this is only the storm before the calm.

In the final chapter, Sebald returns to the placid mountains of Tyrol where he had spent most of his childhood and the themes and preoccupations of the book come closer to being resolved.

Like the best kind of travel book, Vertigo is also about an internal journey. Through the book Sebald continually walks: in circles, often in his sleep, in other people’s footsteps (Kafka, Stendhal) and, as we discover, always his own. From questioning the idea of a reliable past, Sebald concludes by exploring the way it nonetheless imposes cunning designs on our lives.

This is a cerebral and inventive work and Sebald writes with an academic’s (he is the professor of modern German literature at the University of East Anglia) precision and erudition. He brings clarity to the most convoluted of his imaginings and order to the four quite different chapters.

But it is a terribly, terribly hard book to read. Deeply allusive and circular it leaves one staggered — like a victim of the kind of vertigo it describes. Sebald writes with none of the flair and charm of his fellow academic and writer, Umberto Eco, and his intelligence and skill can often be exhausting. Not easy to enjoy, Vertigo is impossible not to be impressed by.    


 
 
PASSPORT TO A PERFUMED CITY 
 
 
BY ARUNJYOTI BASU
 
 
Smell
By Radhika Jha, Viking, Rs 395

In the last decade one has seen a plethora of English writings by Indian authors. While some of the works are excellent, many of the novels have been mediocre.

It is here that Radhika Jha’s first novel, Smell, stands out. Not only does the writer display remarkable literary skills, she also narrates an unusual story of a young girl regaining control over her life.

The plot is intriguing and the settings partly exotic. The heroine, Leela Patel, leads a tormented existence in Paris. She is born and raised in Nairobi where her father, like many expatriate Gujaratis, runs a business. But he is killed in a race riot and her mother sends Leela away to her uncle in Paris while she herself moves to England with her two sons.

Soon after, the heroine’s mother distances herself from her daughter and eventually gets remarried. Thus, Leela feels betrayed by her mother and life with her uncle gets unbearable. She escapes without her passport — a suicidal act in Paris. Life becomes an unending struggle as she drifts from one unsatisfactory relationship to another. But ultimately amid all her stress and strains, Leela acquires a new passport with the help of one of her lovers.

Meanwhile, through her troubles, Leela discovers her extraordinary sensitivity to smell in Paris. And this quality begins to colour her emotions and responses — from food to sex. At this point, when Leela begins to fear losing control of her life, she is shown the way to inner peace by a puppeteer, and an ordinary character. He explains that the smell she is so scared of, is simply her inner fears. Leela comprehends this complexity and her apprehensions take a backseat.

The plot aside, Jha shows a unique control over the language. Her novel is evocative, which at times even graduates to poetry. At the very beginning, the reader is introduced to the element of smell — Jha juggles with words and elaborates on pungent alien odours and the “heady perfume” of spices.

Meanwhile, as mentioned earlier, the first time when Leela is convinced of her sensitivity to smell is when she is forced to cook in her uncle’s apartment — “suddenly a new odour hit me, ... an ugly death smell. I jumped away from the stove, as if I had been slapped in the face”.

From this time “smell” never leaves her. As she moves away from her roots, and redirects her life in alien surroundings, she smells “a dark feral smell, too strong to be civilized, too powerful to be hidden. A smell so shameless, it belonged to the night or to those private moments of solitude that cannot be shared”. The smell is that of an outsider who desperately wants to belong, but is unable to do so.

Interestingly, Jha also unravels the peculiarities of French society, particularly its insularity towards foreigners. For instance, Leela attempts to buy some flowers at a little village near Cannes — the florist quotes a much higher price and when challenged, sarcastically tells Leela that the written price is only for the French people.

The next time Leela is reminded of being an outsider, a well known scent again overpowers her. Here, Anneliese, a German alien, takes a spirited stand and berates the locals. Interestingly, Leela’s quest for acceptance leads her into the arms of Phillipe Lavalle, a millionaire foodstore owner. He is also bestowed with a peculiar smell” that is “strong and unambiguous”. For a brief interval, the canny businessman is fascinated by Leela’s analyses of this smell. But he deserts Leela after arranging for a French residence permit for her. This is when the heroine accepts her fate.

And finally, Leela makes the Paris metro the focal point in her life. Its anonymity appeals to her and gives her periodical relief during times of stress . She even falls back on it after her break up with Lavalle. And Jha’s powerful descriptions of a person desperate to be accepted makes Smell one of the more significant contributions to Indo-Anglian fiction.    


 
 
ZERO HOUR STRATEGIES/BOOK REVIEW 
 
 
BY KAUSHIK ROY
 
 
If War Comes Tomorrow? The Contours of Future Armed Conflict
By Makhmut Gareev, Frank Cass, £ 16.50

On August 6, 1945, the atomic age was born when an American bomber dropped a fission bomb over Hiroshima. It became clear to politicians and generals that the era of mass conscript armies backed by thousands of aircraft and tanks — that battled in confined space — was over.

At present, there are two schools of warfare. The anti-war school as represented by the American political scientist, Robert O’ Connell. In Of Arms and Men he discusses the concept of a world that will be free from warfare in future because of the presence of strategic nuclear silos.

The opposing pro-war school speaks of a far more pessimistic future. And John Hackett in The Third World War argues that conventional warfare along with tactical nuclear strikes might ravage the Eurasian heartland in the near future.

Continuous limited conflicts after 1945 forces experts to take the pro-war school’s view much more seriously. But the representatives of the pro-war schools such as Hackett and Colin S. Gray visualize a future conflict between the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the countries in the Warsaw Pact. The dissolution of the bipolar world seems to have made this school’s predictions dated.

Thus, here it is relevant to ask the sort of warfare that may occur in the evolving multipolar world. The nature of this warfare is addressed by a Russian general, Makhmut Gareev in If War Comes Tomorrow? The Contours of Future Armed Conflict.

He writes that the collapse of the Soviet system requires the shift in attention from central Europe to local conflicts situated along the rim of Eurasia. Gareev’s view is similar to the British experts’ speculation as outlined in Brian Holden’s Military Power — that future conflicts would comprise limited wars in the Afro-Asia belt fought with high precision weapons.

Gareev tows Reid’s line in pointing out that inter-ethnic conflicts resulting in peacekeeping operations by Western powers will be the main characteristic of warfare this century. And the nature of these “small wars” warns Gareev, will vary according to specific contexts.

Meanwhile, it is interesting to analyse the chief features of such low intensity conflicts. Following the line taken by the Polish philosopher, Leszek Kolakowski, Gareev challenges the German concept of stunde null or zero hour which is used to explain historical events that symbolize a complete break with the past. Every historical event, asserts Gareev, is the product of dialectics of past trends and original elements. Thus, Gareev is uncomfortable with the concept of military revolution. Radical progress in radio-electronics, microbiology and cybertechnology has encouraged a group of Western scholars to coin the phrase that a revolution in military affairs was occurring in the Nineties. But Gareev is for conceptualizing these changes as a military evolution.

Since Gareev’s military evolution includes elements from history, he wrestles with the past military philosophies. The author emphasises that F. Engel’s assertion of all conflicts with economic roots is erroneous.

Future warfare, says Gareev, will be due to demographic explosion and power politics. The forms of combat, that will result, continues Gareev, will not witness bloody battles. And here the author marks a definite break with the Prussian philosopher, von Clausewitz, for whom the climax of any war is decisive battles.

Rather than atypical confrontations like Austerlitz and Stalingrad, future warfare will involve plenty of political intrigues and diplomatic powers. Instead of bloody frontal collisions, Gareev says, the Chinese military philosopher, Sun Tzu’s psychological warfare and the indirect strategy of the British military theorist, B.H. Liddell-Hart, would be most apt in any clash of arms in the future.

To sum up, Gareev’s treatise in a way represents glasnost and perestroika. Till the Eighties, Soviet military literature was unnecessarily burdened with the drudgery of Marxist-Leninist concepts. Though a proud Marxist, Gareev never mentions Lenin in the book — this would have been impossible before Gorbachev’s advent.

The author rightly styles himself as a critical Marxist, who is ready to doubt even the high priests of Marxist thought. Credit should be given to Gareev for stating that a watertight distinction between the “bourgeois” and “socialist” military theory as claimed by Stalin and Mao is nonsensical.

Gareev’s attempt to break out of the straitjacket of Marxism while theorizing warfare, is by all means a positive achievement.    


 
 
PRIMA DONNAS AND PROPAGANDISTS/BOOK REVIEW 
 
 
BY SUNANDA K. DATTA-RAY
 
 
“Mr Editor, How Close Are You To The PM?”
By Vinod Mehta, Konark, Rs 295

Like the memoirs of Newsweek’s Edward Behr, Anyone here been raped and speaks English? this title, too, is intended to grab attention. It also bears out the view that politics is to Indians what sex is to Westerners.

But whereas Behr tells the story of his life, Vinod Mehta’s 50 essays (following a 20-page introduction, of which more later) cover a range of topics. Some essays are charming, some incisive, all eminently readable. But the overall impression left on this reviewer, who enjoyed writing for one of the papers that Mehta edited – there’s nothing like declaring one’s interest — was of the ephemera in which he has been engaged all his working life.

No doubt the piece from which Mehta takes his title made a profound impact when it appeared in 1987. The discussion of editor-politician relations is still relevant, but who remembers Mani Shankar Aiyar’s letter to Suman Dubey on which it is pegged?

Dubey is identified as editor of The Indian Express, but only insiders will recall in another few years who Aiyar is or was. The passage of time has reduced many of the people who glide across these pages to shadowy wraiths for lay readers.

Issues that dominated headlines in the Eighties have lost their urgency. This is where journalism differs from history. It is not the author’s fault. But did the late K.C. Khanna, erstwhile editor of the defunct Illustrated Weekly of India (already a forgotten name and title), really try to “extract responses from Mr Gandhi’s recalcitrant mouth” (emphasis added)? However, if Mrs Malaprop rides on page 12, delightful vintage Mehta spices page 219 where we are told that P.V. Narasimha Rao’s advisers had “as much charisma as a cold dosa”.

Mehta’s book and film reviews, diaries and vignettes, Etcetera, have best stood the test of time. They are also the most enjoyable read. Heroines of the Air strikes a chivalrous blow for our harassed air-hostesses. The deeply moving and blisteringly honest review, “You can Dislike Sonia and still Love this Book”, reminds us of the impressive credentials that have cost Mehta one editorship after another.

His Introduction describes this fascinating tale of an editor in search of proprietors. Controversy is inevitable since it deals with prima donnas, power brokers and propagandists. Also, that personification of bloated Indian self-importance, the editor- in-chief instead of workman-like editor.

More to the point, not all the “firsts” claimed are justified. Bombay produced a fat weekly newspaper The Sunday Standard in the Forties, and Calcutta’s Sunday published a media column (by this reviewer) in the Seventies, both before The Sunday Observer appeared in 1981.

If Mehta does not live up to the introduction’s concluding homily, “Take your work seriously but not yourself”, he is not the first person to fall short of his own aphorisms.

However, much can be forgiven a journalist who writes with a feeling and flair that is unusual in commentators of New Delhi’s deadening political circus, and who is known as much for his organizational ability as his refusal to compromise.    


 
 
ON MAKING CASH FLOW A CONSTANT/BOOKWISE 
 
 
BY RAVI VYAS
 
 
Soho is not just an acronym for small office, home office. With more affordable computers, faster communications and easier access to information via the internet, more and more publishing professionals are opting out of the hurly-burly of the corporate world to set up shop on their own — as literary agents, publishing advisers or simply freelance writers.

But there is a problem apart from cash-flow worries if you haven’t created a financial cushion over the years in the corporate world. How much to charge for the work done? Knowing what to charge for each job is difficult as many factors are involved in the decision. The size of the job is a primary concern but other variables such as level of experience, the nature of the client’s business can affect your fees. You will notice that some of the ranges given are broad, taking location and other factors into account.

What you must ensure is that you don’t sell yourself short as you avoid pricing yourself out of the market. This is a delicate balancing act, especially when you are breaking into the market. Here are some do’s and don’ts that you should take as broad parameters within which to function.

First, understand what needs to be done and for whom the work is being done or the profile of the ultimate buyer. This means you need to have a good, hard look at the nittygritty involved and how much time it would take to get the job done.

Second, in preparing your bid look at the range of fees listed for that particular service. This means that networking with other writers is essential. Not only can contacts with others give you an idea of what to charge, but you will also learn who uses freelance help and who the best clients are. Then, using what you have learned from others, try to assess how much your client is willing to pay. If you are unsure ask him what he has budgetted for the work and start from there.

But, make sure you avoid the per page rule of thumb formula of Indian publishers: rupees x per page for editing, rupees y per page for writing. For the new comer who doesn’t know what he is in for, the formula does not work: very often it may take hours to straighten out a page or to write just 300 words.

The nature of your client’s business can also affect how much you are able to charge. For example, work for business clients tends to bring in higher fees than editorial work for newspapers, magazines and book publishers. Non-profit organizations do not generally pay rates as high as those of corporations.

Your experience with a particular type of work will also affect what you will charge. For specialized work like the editing of science, technical and medical texts the fees will be much higher than straight social science typescripts . And if you are working in an area new to you, you could charge an hourly fee instead of an outright fee.

Having come so far, it is necessary for the freelancer to work out two other agreements before taking on the job. First, the total fees payable by the client and when the payment would be made after the work is delivered. Second, the delivery dates for the completion of the job. From the freelancer’s point of view, it is best to factor in plus or minus a week because it is simply not possible to predict what delays might hold up the work. But once a freelancer has worked repeatedly for a particular client, he will get a feel for the effort involved and thus demand the fees that would be willingly paid.    

 

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