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Posts Tagged ‘Manmohan Singh

Barkha Dutt of NDTV interviewed P Chidambaram, who was Minister of Home and Finance in the Manmohan Singh government and a member of Cabinet Committee of Security. The interview was to be aired on NDTV in the evening of October 6 and extracts of the interview were played on the channel throughout the day. Suddenly, NDTV decided not to telecast the interview because Chidambaram was critical of the Modi government’s handling of the surgical strikes by the Indian army across the Line of Control (LOC) in Kashmir.

The same evening, NDTV’s editorial director Sonia Singh told NDTV’s journalists throughout the country about the channel’s ‘new editorial policy’ which, in nutshell, was that ‘we have decided we will not give space to the bizarre political bickering that has broken out on surgical strikes…’

In an elaborate article in ‘The Wire’, Siddharth Varadarajan says that according to the extracts played out by the channel, Chidambaram had only criticised statements of Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar made after the surgical strikes. Varadarajan says that dropping Chidambaram’s interview wasn’t the only act of censorship at the channel that day. Editors were instructed that Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi’s statement in Uttar Pradesh about Modi trading in the blood of Indian soldiers was not to be run on the channel either.

The sorry state of the media under the Modi-Shah dispensation is fully explained by the questions ‘The Wire’ sent to Co-Founder and Chairperson of NDTV Radhika Roy and Sonia Singh. Varadarajan says that in her reply, Radhika Roy provided only a general explanation of NDTV’s policy, but did not answer specific questions, especially those on Chidambaram, Rahul Gandhi, Manohar Parrikar and Amit Shah. Some of the questions were:

*What prompted NDTV to announce a new editorial policy as mentioned in its message ‘India above Politics’?

*Was it true that the decision to not air Rahul Gandhi’s (statement) was taken pursuant to the new editorial policy?

*Extracts of P. Chidambaram’s interview to Barkha Dutt were played during the day on October 6 but the full interview was finally never broadcast. Is it true that the decision was taken in keeping with NDTV’s new editorial policy? Was Chidambaram saying things that compromise national security?

*Doesn’t NDTV’s refusal to telecast statements by a former home minister or by the leader of the main opposition party amount to censorship of the news on your part?

*Contrary to your stated policy of not encouraging politics and political debate to compromise national security, NDTV showed BJP leader Amit Shah’s press conference today live. Is this because, in your channel’s view, his remarks do not constitute a politicisation of the surgical strikes, and of national security?

*Raksha mantri Manohar Parrikar recently made a statement about how the Indian army realised its strength only after the current government came to power: “Indian troops were like Hanuman who did not quite know their prowess before the surgical strikes,” Parrikar said. In your view, is this an example of political debate that does not threaten to compromise national security?

*Will criticism of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, or the use of pellet guns against civilians by the security forces in Kashmir, be allowed on NDTV in the future?

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been preparing the ground for allowing US military presence on Indian territory. Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter have been negotiating the issue for over a year and much advancement is reported to have been made. They jointly announced during Carter’s recent visit to New Delhi that India and the United States have ‘agreed in principle to share military logistics.’ The two, it appears, have decided to release only bits of negotiations periodically for fear of the possible strong reaction of the people of India towards allowing the US, or any other country for that matter, to use Indian territory for its military purposes.

It may start by establishing army repair shops in India. The two countries have almost finalised a Logistics Support Agreement that allows the two militaries to use each other’s land, air and naval bases for supplies, repair and rest. Both sides claim that this has become inevitable to ‘counter the growing maritime assertiveness of China.’

It has been repeatedly emphasised by both sides that there is no question of stationing US troops on Indian soil. ‘As and when a situation arises, like an earthquake or a natural disaster, that is when it is directed at’, Carter announced. Parrikar said, ‘it is a concept of logistics support’ to provide ‘support for each other’s platform where they need fuel and supplies.’ The Wall Street Journal has quoted an unnamed Indian Naval Officer as having said: ‘since coming to power two years ago, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has strengthened strategic and defence ties with the US, while avoiding the steps that could provoke a major reaction from Beijing.’ The Indian officer further said: ‘there is no ammunition involved, no combat operations. We are not talking about positioning men in each other’s countries.’

America has been coveting Indian territory for use of its armed forces ever since India got independence. Nehru resisted it diplomatically all his years as Prime Minister. He did not succumb to the pressure even when the Chinese assertiveness had ceased to be a mere perception but become real as that country had advanced its troops on Indian territory. Indira Gandhi virtually snubbed America during the Bangladesh war when that arrogant super-power threatened to destroy India with its legendary nuclear-powered Seventh Fleet. Even Atal Behari Vajpayee considered it terribly against the national interests of India to allow Indian territory to be used by a foreign power for its military activities. The Chandra Shekhar government had, though, allowed the US armed forces the refuelling facilities in India during the 1991 Iraq conflict and there were widespread protests within the country.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in the UPA government was inclined to accede to the US request for closer military cooperation. However, Defence Minister A K Antony, reportedly with the full backing of Congress president Sonia Gandhi, stood firm against any military relationship between India and America, and was jeered at by pro-American sections as a Leftist.

Apprehensions in India about allowing military bases on its territory are based on the history of colonial period. The powerful nations had sought a foothold for some small military operation or commercial activity and had eventually occupied the host country.

During one of the visits of the US Defence Secretary to India, the USS Blue Ridge, the flagship of the US Seventh Fleet, was on a port call off Goa coast. The principal tasks of the USS Blue Ridge include providing command, control, communications, computers and intelligence support to the commander and staff of the US Seventh Fleet. Defence Secretary Carter took Defence Minister Parrikar on a tour of the USS Blue Ridge. Parrikar was said to be simply overawed by that majestic machine of destruction.

The US military experts estimate between 662 and 900 military bases in 38 countries. According to the official information provided by the US Department of Defence and its Defence Manpower Data Centre (DMDC), there are still about 40,000 US troops, and 179 US bases in Germany, over 50,000 troops (and 109 bases) in Japan, and tens of thousands of troops, with hundreds of bases, all over Europe. Over 28,000 US troops are present in 85 bases in South Korea, and have been there since 1957.

According to David Vine, Associate Professor of Anthropology at American University, Washington DC, who has specialised on US defence affairs, the Pentagon claims to have just 64 ‘active major installations’ overseas and that most of its base sites are ‘small installations or locations.’ But it defines ‘small’ as having a value of up to $915 million. ‘In other words, small can be no small.’

The information about troops abroad, too, isn’t completely clear, which ‘makes it difficult to know the true extent of the American military footprint,’ Professor Vine writes.

 

 

 

 


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