While it lasts
Sir — Mamata Banerjee can rest assured that the best thing that will happen to her Trinamool Congress this year will be the new party office at Topsia and possibly her new red car (“Stung Mamata cries Central rule”, April 17). For with that old slogan against Marxist misrule, the same demand for the imposition of Central rule, the same alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party and the same tactic of wooing the rural people, there is not much the Trinamoolis will be able to achieve. The red bastion is still firmly in its place and panchayat elections will reinforce that shortly. The Trinamooli didi ought to realize that she is making a tactical mistake. There is not much left for her in Bengal. If she wants to make the most of what remains of the Trinamooli bargaining power, she should concentrate on armtwisting the Central BJP leadership into giving her a ministry of some import. That alone can give her party some saleability.
S. Balaji, Calcutta
Sir — Without explicitly pointing his finger at the military and political establishments of India, V.R. Raghavan in “Precise technique” (April 15) delivers to them some homilies about the wars of the 21st century — “rhetoric and bluster do not win wars. Wars need armies to be equipped and trained for the new kind of technology. Political leadership will have to find ways and means to equip their army accordingly”. But it ought to be kept in mind that the offensive and defensive capabilities which the United States of America has acquired over the years has been made possible by the US congress’s approving of billions of dollars for defence services. This year they are said to have already spent about $20 billion. Poor countries like India can ill-afford the luxury of a totally digitized war. Neither can India hope to equal the air supremacy of the allied forces. A B-2 long-range bomber with all its precision-munition costs $2 billion each and the US has a squadron of 25 of these alone.
The other important point is the concern the US has for the well-being of the soldier in the battle-field . This is reflected in the casualty figures. Kargil alone had cost India a few thousand lives — unpardonable by American standards. Also, we can no longer win wars by sheer numbers alone in the absence of the right technology.
India should ponder deeply over whether it is really worthwhile to go to war with even a much smaller country like Pakistan, given the constraints of resources. “Preemption” does not sound convincing any more. The people of the subcontinent should now make concerted efforts towards a durable peace. There is no other alternative.
Kangayam R. Rangaswamy,
Sir — V.R. Raghavan is right in commenting that armies need equipment and training in new technologies to win modern wars . But that does not mean that we prioritize the purchase of technology as our political leaders desire. We are already spending crores of rupees to buy obsolete aircraft from foreigners. Yet India cannot afford either night vision equipment, mortar launchers, or something as basic as boots for soldiers fighting in high altitude. Would it not be better if the money spent on buying useless MiGs from Russia was spent on acquiring the necessary equipment for those on the battlefront, or in defence research and development of cheaper alternative equipment'
As the Iraq war has shown, control over the skies is essential in modern conflict. But India can hardly hope to have any of it. Our MiGs, assembled from dated spares, keep falling off the sky. How can the government continue to purchase these aircraft at the cost of the lives of so many pilots and the security of the nation' Would it be too unfair to keep pointing an accusing finger at our corrupt policymakers who undermine the interests of the nation'
Mahesh K. Rathi , Calcutta
Sir — There was never any doubt about the public reaction to the invasion of Iraq (“Rising resentment in Baghdad”, April 17). US marines do not enjoy the confidence of the people. Already, this has led to law and order problems, as evident in the rampant looting and destruction of the city. Given the situation, the patience of the marines may be wearing out faster than expected. The knowledge that they are in alien land here they are unwanted is sure to undermine their confidence. These soldiers have been groomed for combat operations and not patrolling. So this new role will exercise additional pressure on them. The nervous tension will lead to firing on demonstrations and gatherings. There have already been such sporadic incidents in Nasiriyah and Mosul. Unless proper precautions are taken, similar incidents will recur.
Avishek Biswas, Calcutta
Sir — The collapse of Iraqi army can be attributed to use of tactical weapons by the American tanks rather than the bravery of the marines. It is curious that no voices have been raised against the kind of weapons being used by the allied forces in Iraq. There are chances that low-grade uranium weapons were used in the war. Humanitarian agencies should expose the cruelty of the US invaders of Iraq.
Natranjan A. Wala, Rajkot
Sir — It is a shame that despite sending 300,000 troops to Iraq with 14,000 precision-guided explosives, the coalition forces led by the US not only failed to unearth Saddam Hussein and his sons, let alone kill them, but could not find any weapons of mass destruction. All they could do is vent their anger on Saddam's statues, sit on his thrones and sneak into his bathroom.
Srinivasan Balakrishnan, Jamshedpur