Sunday, April 11, 2010

Costly intelligence failure

Soli J. Sorabjee Posted online: Sunday , Apr 11, 2010 at 0219 hrs

The ghastly massacre of over 70 jawans by the Naxals has evoked sharp reactions. One course of action advocated is the use of air power against Naxals, treating them as enemies because they have avowedly declared war on the Indian State. At first blush this course seems logical and justifiable necessitated by recent events and the Naxal’s persistent refusal to eschew violence. But knee-jerk reactions should be avoided. Despite their despicable anti-national activities, Naxalites are Indian citizens. Decision to use air power should be taken after thoroughly considering its national and international repercussions as well its implications for civil society. Moreover, the decision must have the strength of unanimity and once taken there should be no division or revision in its implementation in face of public hue and cry.

A glib explanation for this gruesome massacre is intelligence failure. If so, it was a costly, and indeed, a criminal failure. How and why did it happen? Was there a leak? Who was responsible for it? Operations against militants in Kashmir often fail because they are tipped in advance about pending military operations. Most important: What steps have been taken to prevent possible leaks and intelligence failures in future? The government has a moral obligation to give full and frank explanation to the people and in particular to the hapless families of the slain jawans. The need of the hour is not the use of the Air Force, the details of which may be leaked resulting in failure of the operation, but the strengthening of our intelligence and counter-intelligence systems.

Tiresome theatricals

The Shoaib Malik, Ayesha Siddiqui and Sania Mirza l’affaire has now ended with the parties reaching a settlement. Hopefully, we will now be spared front-page headlines in national dailies of these theatricals and also interminable discussions in electronic channels about the bizarre episode. Were there no national issues of interest and concern to our people? It is curious how those who were not affected by the controversy plunged into the fray. True to form, Shiva Sena supremo Bal Thackeray ordained that Sania Mirza should no longer play for India after her marriage to a Pakistani even though she is keen to do so. The Sena, like the Taliban, can dictate the lives of others in a matter as private as marriage. Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Quershi assured Shoaib of all assistance. Apparently he is not aware that there are lawyers in India who would extend full legal assistance to Shoaib, irrespective of his nationality. Indian lawyers have appeared for Pakistani prisoners who had served their full term of imprisonment but were illegally detained by Indian authorities and secured their release by the Supreme Court. A so-called social activist from Haryana filed a complaint before the National Commission for Women in which he admitted that he did not know Ayesha or her family and yet pressed for a probe by the Commission. Probably a book on these histrionics will soon be published and released with fanfare by some eminent personality. And of course, media, the watchdog of democracy, will give it ample coverage. There is no shortage of ‘nuts’ in our country. We seem to have lost our sense of priorities.

Herb Ellis is no more

My introduction to jazz guitar was through Charlie Christian’s hot swinging solos with the Benny Goodman sextet and with Count Basie. Christian died early but his style and playing inspired other guitarists like Herb Ellis who recently died at 88 of Alzheimer’s. Ellis had his own distinctive blues infected style. He is, however, best known for his long association with the great pianist Oscar Peterson and bassist Ray Brown. The music of the Peterson trio is a fine blend of melody and harmony and has an ageless quality. Ellis also accompanied Ella Fitzgerald and excelled in his recordings with her. Herb was liked by his friends and fellow musicians for his warm nature and good-heartedness. He is no more with us. One more familiar musical voice has departed. But life and jazz will go on.

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