Archive for August, 2015

India got a little corner in Islamic Heart to make a Hindu Temple ../ Rashmi Talwar / Rising Kashmir

India UAE shake hands  at Dubai in August 2015

India UAE shake hands at Dubai in August 2015

India got a little corner in Islamic Heart to make a Hindu Temple
Rashmi Talwar

Politics is chess. When direct approach fails, the rival can be checkmated by opening another front. Perhaps this is the stratagem used by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi against a belligerent Pakistan, a neighbor who continues to violate ceasefire, needles India on Kashmir, ignites anti nation sentiments, blueprints terrorist strikes in India, and is perpetually in denial mode of any wrongdoing.

By attaining the ‘natural strategic partnership’ with United Arab Emirates and adding counter terrorism as core area of security cooperation, the Indian PM has drafted a new chapter with the gulf country located in a critical region. No wonder the Indian PM laid out his priorities promptly when approached with a prospect of a gulf visit. He became the first Prime Minister to visit UAE in 34 years.

It was an opportune moment. The focus of discussion and political endorsement against terrorism are breakthroughs for Delhi, given Pakistan’s proximity with the Arab nation. The gulf nation always had strained relations with India, owing to its closeness with Pakistan – a country on the same religious tangent. This, despite the large human resource pool of 2.5 million Indians contributing to UAE’s success story and workforce of 7 million, as also commerce ties, geographical proximity, mutual interdependence in trade and travel and endless other common factors. So much so that today, India has already become UAE’s second largest trading partner while UAE is India’s third largest.

By resolving to combat terrorism and broad-basing terrorism’s causes and nurseries, India is hoping UAE has successfully rethought its traditional support to India’s neighbor and would engage a balanced approach towards disputes between India and Pakistan. Apart from this, the talks took in a strong stand against the broad spectrum of sub-continental and Middle East terrorism.

Earlier, UAE’s disinclination towards India’s difficulties in dealing with cross-border terrorism had put their relationship in cold storage. However, the shared bonds in matters of faith with Pakistan, surprisingly, didn’t prove to be any hurdle for forging Delhi’s engagement with UAE leaders. Rather, Pakistan believes, the Indian PM has stepped into the recent breach in relationships between Pakistan and UAE on the former’s refusal to actively join the Yemen war against the Houthi fighters.

Za’abeel Palace, Dubai remained seriously engaged with Delhi before the two Nations arrived at a joint statement denouncing terrorism and a closer cooperation by the Arab nation to deal with it.

Outstanding concerns that had hardly been discussed before were thrashed including issues of disassembling criminal and terrorist networks from money laundering, disallowing religious hues to percolate disputes in the political spectrum, besides bringing perpetrators of vicious terrorism to book.

It is an open secret that Pakistan has been erring on all above factors. These issues found acceptability and entered into an agreement flashed in the joint statement between Emirates and India.

Pakistan is seen to be guilty on many counts including free run to accused of violent terrorist acts in India such as Hafiz Sayeed, ZR Lakhvi; giving jihadi color to disputes between India and Pakistan, especially in Jammu & Kashmir as also money laundering alliances with terrorist groups of ‘Bhai’ culture of Dawood Ibrahim.

Pakistan had enjoyed fraternal relations with UAE, founded on shared religion, traditions, deep-rooted cultural affinities, geographic proximity and economic interests. UAE is a major economic donor to Pakistan and main supporter of Pakistan’s position on Jammu & Kashmir and Afghanistan.

Today, UAE and other Arab nations have woken up to dangers of supporting terrorist networks of Pakistan, Afghanistan and other Islamic or non-Islamic nations. Its fear about being targeted owing to its prosperity or something as absurd as boredom or over excited extremists on a whim to destroy appears real.

India has grabbed the opportune moment to checkmate Pakistan, closing in a deal with rival’s ally and attempt to rid its stratosphere of violent tribulations. The two nations rejected extremism and any link between religion and terrorism. They condemned efforts, including by states, to use religion to justify, support and sponsor terrorism against other countries or inciting hatred besides perpetrating and justifying terrorism.

The agreement incorporates cooperation in counter terrorism operations, intelligence sharing as well as control, regulate and share information on flow of funds that could have a bearing on activities of radicalization including on cyber-sphere. To strengthen cooperation in law enforcement, anti-money laundering, drug trafficking, other trans-national crimes, extradition arrangements, as well as police training.

The hand of support from UAE clearly means the threat perception in the Gulf countries is in the line of fire. India not only got a hand of cooperation for an arch rival’s friend but also a little corner in the Islamic heart to make a Hindu Temple.

However all this may turn out to be hogwash, given the fact that Pakistan continues to be bellicose over any efforts at dialogue. It tacitly impinges on the dialogue route with an invite to Hurriyat leaders, days ahead of National Security Advisors-NSA talks in Delhi on August 23 between Sartaj Aziz of Pakistan and his Indian counterpart Ajit Doval.

It is exactly, the same month a year back, when chances of Foreign Secretary level talks were frittered away due to the same gameplay. The invite to Syed Ali Shah Geelani for talks is scheduled for the same day as the NSA meeting. Other separatist leaders Yasin Mallik, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq too have invites but for reception of Aziz. Sources say they feel slighted by Pakistan with the kind of prominence Geelani is commanding.

With recent brazen attacks in Gurdaspur and Udhampur simmering in India, and diplomatic engagements between the two being hampered, hurdles have arisen between India and Pakistan with near negligible breakthroughs in the near future.

This cold war reflects badly on publics of both countries who are cheery on people to people relationships, but are stalled to meet due to diplomatic and political stand offs. Such stinging calisthenics seem to be puppetry exercises, slowly drawing out the Queens on both sides of the chessboard. It remains to be seen who can ultimately save its King.

Rashmi Talwar is an Award winning writer, and can be reached at


‘Rockstar’ Kalam / ……….By Rashmi Talwar

President of India APJ Abdul Kalam at Jaipur Literature Festival 2015

President of India APJ Abdul Kalam at Jaipur Literature Festival 2015

rush sopore‘Rockstar’ Kalam
Rashmi Talwar

Did they know he wasn’t going to be back? —Yes/No! Nevertheless, that was hardly a reason for former President APJ Abdul Kalam being nearly mobbed at Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF), in January this year, just seven months before his divine call.

At Diggi Palace, Jaipur, JLF Organizers were ecstatic over the response for the former president. “The numbers outmatched Oprah Winfrey, USA’s top Talk Show Host in session 2012”, said an organizer.

JLF is one time in India, where no one gets pushed, pinched, pounced or poached despite a turnout of nearly 2 lakh people over five days. The Intelligentsia behaves, is refined, courteous and firm too.

As if sensing the euphoria and cheering before Kalam climbed the front stage of JLF, Bibek Debroy- a policy research scientist himself, promptly christened Kalam – a ‘Rockstar!’

The crowd went into raptures cheering him. Kalam’s refusal to take a seat after the host invited him, was lauded; his gesture of a little word exchange with front audiences before sitting was lauded; eventually his seat-taking at his own pace was lauded. The public visibly appeared hungry. Yes, hungry or utterly famished. His every word was cheered. The audience, not only gave ovations but parroted lines whenever Kalam ordered -‘repeat after me!’ like nursery tots. Completely bowled over, Bibek gave the credit of Kalam’s Rockstar credentials not just to Kalam’s crowd pull but to the former Prez’s charged book –‘Ignited Minds’.

This, and stories by Kalam, of how his application for pilot’s license was rejected, early in life. He was ranked 10th and nine above him were selected for pilot training. Thereafter, his meteorical rise to become President of India, thus assuming charge as ‘the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces’, applying for learning and eventually piloting an aircraft. The story grabbed imaginations in multiple hues of the dreamy audience. “You have to dream before your dream can come true,” he repeated.

What really attracted youth and aged alike to this unassuming man, virtually a cartoonist’s delight, with his signature in-turned doggy tail front-locks peppered hair, loose short-sleeved bush-shirt and hanger hung pajamas, resembling pants?
The attire metamorphosis as President was easy. What was not easy; was to ignore Kalam’s purity, his humbleness, his comfortable non-conformist oratory, uncomplicated clean and resounding thoughts, a recounter of religious gems of all faiths and his simple conclusions and formulas of life. He was a lovable teacher who did not hesitate to ask his audience to repeat after him and conclude on an elevating note. These seem to be some classic reasons for Kalam’s universal adulation.
The power of collective sound, like the chirping of a school of sparrows at the prick of dawn; the unified vibrations resonating in the universe’s atmosphere, conspiring to make ‘the impossible’ happen. Kalam, stood as a tallest example of this ‘happening’ in realtime.

Kalam’s missile powered mind also hit on soft targets like me, I promptly became his follower when he took up for underdoggies likes me, -“ The best brains of the nation may be found on the last benches of the classroom”, fitted me just fine. I had continued to sit out of sight, even in press conferences.

Kalam, was the first celebrity I sat next to during a press conference, reining my mind to relax, without shivers, group fright et al, I squeaked – “Should India take the nuclear option in case there is a war with Pakistan?” The missile man spurned the query and instead talked about vision 2020 for India, a book he had penned. Being the first time, I flushed with embarrassment. This was in early 2003, when India –Pakistan soldiers stood eye ball to eye ball after the Indian Parliament attack. Undeterred, I wrote the story about evasion of the query on the nuclear option by Kalam. It hit the limelight. Lameness took time to abandon me but I tried to build on my strengths.

At the first opportunity, Kalam- ‘The missile man of Peace’s’ photo got perched on my cabin wall in The Tribune. A year later, in early September of 2004, Kalam visited Amritsar again during ‘400th year of Installation of the Guru Granth Sahib’ celebrations at Golden Temple at Amritsar.

I was deputed to cover the president at historic Jalliawalla Bagh, the symbol of blood for freedom. I reached rather early for the President’s midafternoon visit hoping to catch some side stories. Never thought, the President’s visit would actually turn bloody for me.

It was one of those days that come every month for a woman. While I patiently waited, the impatience of flow continued. With my garments stained, I sat on an edge and tried to cover my embarrassment, rolling a duppatta. Frospoke and honored the last known survivor of Jalliawalla Bagh Massacre Bapu Shinghara Singh. He urged his aides to help pen down the story of Shinghara, who showed a gunshot wound on his hand from that 1919’s bloody Baisakhi episode.

Having met the President, I still could ill afford to go home, instead went to office, used newspapers on seats everywhere, filed the story and rushed home sometime at night. However, Kalam’s, words—‘A Leader should know how to manage failure’… rang loud throughout that starlit night.
Rashmi Talwar is an Award winning writer, can be reached at

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