A time to court trouble
Sir — Is it mere coincidence that New York’s mayor, Michael Bloomberg, has decided to sue the Indian government and that his state faces a budget deficit of about $ 3.4 billion (“$ 16-million suit on India’s UN office”, April 11)' The Indian government has allegedly been using a building in the city for housing government staff without paying the requisite taxes. The Indian embassy may really be at fault, and the Americans a litigious lot, but the timing of the lawsuit leaves one uncomfortable. Bloomberg’s men were surely not unaware of India’s unlawful occupation of the premises all this while. It is also difficult to believe that the two parties failed to reach an amicable settlement, given that diplomatic relations are involved here. What clinches the case away from Bloomberg is the fact that Turkey, Mongolia and Philippines have also been slapped million-dollar lawsuits under similar flimsy pretexts. Isn’t this a classic case of trying to kill two birds with a single stone'
Manabi Kapoor, Calcutta
Protesting too much
Sir — The Iraq war has many ramifications for policies, facts and fond imaginations. In principle, it is entirely clear that no sovereign state can be overrun in this fashion. However, within the four corners of the “morality” stance that everyone so righteously takes, is hidden a great lesson of self-interest for India. Any national policy must consider the nation’s self-interest first, everything else follows. All the arguments which the United States of America has used against Iraq also applies to the Kashmir situation, with specific reference to the terrorist camps barely across the border in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. Using the example set before the world and taking advantage of and shelter under it, there is a lot that can be done by India to wipe out those terrorist camps and, if not end, at least seriously erode their capability of inflicting wounds on us at will.
If we examine history, starting with Chanakya — who would have whole-heartedly endorsed this policy — we find example after example of a third party situation being turned to another party’s advantage. Even today, for all the lip sympathy that our Western friends give us, no one is sincere in helping us to stop this scourge. The US actually asked us only last week to start a dialogue with Pakistan. I do not see why we have to be extra pious and deny ourselves such an opportunity. This is not to advocate rushing into open war, but there are many other ways of protecting our interests using this principle.
Many will remember that the Libyan bombing by the US in the mid-Eighties was on grounds of preventing terrorism. That again was a golden opportunity for India to follow suit, but, in the same pattern of mindlessness, the then foreign minister was instructed to actually verbally abuse the US in the United Nations. He accomplished the job with a significant flair. For all his pains, the Americans complained to New Delhi, and the minister lost his job in a hurry. However, this abusing had the direct impact of encouraging Punjab militancy at that time. The militants then got a clear signal from abroad to unilaterally declare Khalistan. This signal was the West’s way of putting us in our place and we all know the terrible price which Punjab paid for the Centre’s folly.
Therefore, it is evident that opportunities are made to be taken advantage of, and not to pass by with pious but highly impractical expressions.
S.K. Birla, Calcutta
Sir — The common sense of utilizing optimally a particular platform for furthering the economic interest of one’s country or state is what marks an astute statesman out from a petty politician. That Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee is far from making the cut is quite clear by now. He has used the platform of the Confederation of Indian Industry meeting to address his constituency at Alimuddin Street. He must also have got the “keep-it-up-comrade” pat from those ensconced in that building. West Bengal’s resurgence and rapid industrialization may remain only a dream.
Debabrata Bhattacharjee, Calcutta
Sir — The Telegraph seems to speak in many different voices, some of them virulently opposed to each other. It is incredible that the paper which lauded Cyrus Banajee for calling Narendra Modi “the butcher of Gujarat” in public is now castigating the chief minister of West Bengal for condemning George W. Bush for waging a “fictitous war” against Iraq.
Saurabh Sanyal, Virginia, US
Sir — The editorial, “Sentimental journey” (April 12), says, “Mr Bhattacharjeee’s show of righteous anger will make not the slightest difference to US policy either in Iraq or anywhere else in the world”. Similarly, the suggestion to Bhattacharjee that he make the choice between being a spokesman for his party’s ideology and the chief minister of West Bengal will make no difference to the chief minister. It is true that the “political culture of Bengalis is steeped in emotion and sentiment”. Brought up on a staple of this political culture, Bhattacharjee did not care that the Iraq war was not on the agenda that evening. The same Bhattacharjee, on a previous occasion, had forgotten to rise from his chair when the national anthem was playing. He has all the makings of an armchair leftist, like most middle-class Bengalis. Armchair politics is never pragmatic.
Aparna Ganguli, Calcutta
Sir — How much lower must we sink in our mindless sycophancy vis-à-vis the US' Why are we so scared of lauding the one courageous thing Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has done in his political career' If we have to think of pragmatic — in other words, US aid — concerns all the time, then when, if at all, will we think of poverty, deprivation, social and economic injustice that are created by one half of the world to subjugate the other half'
Rupa Lahiri, Calcutta
Sir — The US has shown its military prowess and might in Iraq. The official Indian reaction to the war was somewhat unwarranted and certainly impractical. Particularly when neither our national interests nor integrity was being compromised in any way. Ethical considerations should not be allowed to influence hard diplomatic decisions. And when the Iraqis themselves are happy to have got rid of Saddam Hussein, what has India got to protest about' The focus now should be on mending our relations with the US. It would also be economically sound since it would help India secure contracts in the process of rebuilding Iraq. Most important, it will make sure that the US does not support Pakistan on the issue of Kashmir.
Govind Das Dujari, Calcutta