Coming to India since the year 2010, the chef who currently filming the series ‘Mega Festivals’ says that it is here that one realises how diverse food is, not only regional but sub-regional as well…reports Sukant Deepak
It can be really interesting when someone who eats only to survive has a more than one-hour relaxed conversation with celebrity chef Gary Mehigan, one of the original judges of the series ‘MasterChef Australia’.
And he plays sport — talking about the absolute satisfaction of sitting at a roadside kiosk in India and having a cup of chai — watching the world go by and not letting its pace disturb him. Not even once he takes the easy way out of talking about world cuisine.
“I simply love bhelpuri, papri chaat, and panipuri,” ensuring the subaltern interviewer can now almost put his feet on the couch.
It has been quite a trajectory for someone who wanted to be an engineer like his father but realised at the age of 15 that he was creative, and not very patient, thus deciding to follow in his grandfather’s footsteps.
“I loved how my grandad lived, and could not get enough of the buzz when I worked in a local hotel. It is tough to think of anything more rewarding than food. Food lets you be a child every day,” says Mehigan, who headed the kitchen in some of Melbourne’s most prominent restaurants, including Browns, Burnham Beeches Country House, and Hotel Sofitel, before starting the award-winning Fenix in the year 2000.
For someone who was selected as one of the entrants to the 2012 edition of ‘Who’s Who in Australia’ and travels extensively stresses that visiting new places promises peculiar experiences and new ideas.
“As a new chef, who works several hours in the kitchen one may not get to travel too much, and thus not see outside that space. But it is only when you step out, the realisation hits — how different and similar food is — and how it binds us together.”
Coming to India since the year 2010, the chef who currently filming the series ‘Mega Festivals’ says that it is here that one realises how diverse food is, not only regional but sub-regional as well.
“And also household to household. There are climatic differences and there’s a passion that Indian people have for food — which I love,” says Mehigan, who was recently in Chandigarh to hold the Conosh Classified Masterclass.
Admitting that social media has brought about a powerful shift and ‘democratisation’ in the food writers’ space, he adds, “Yes, I have witnessed the same in my restaurant. Now, before going to a new eating house, the first thing I most probably do is plug it into Instagram and look at people’s comments. It is an amazing transfer of knowledge.”
Considering the pandemic sent the food industry into a rude shock, the chef feels that the way forward is to reinvent.
“We formed a community with Comosh, a platform run by foodies for foodies that encourage entrepreneurs to start their own businesses and bring their culture to food. Cloud kitchens make a lot of sense in India. Look at the Mumbai dabbawallahs, they have been around for so long.”
Vaibhav Bahl, the Co-founder of Conosh adds, “‘Indian stories with Gary and friends’ is the next project of Conosh. Simply put, it will be a platform to promote regional Indian cuisines and Gary’s dishes — a great fusion. It will be launched from April 2023.”
Someone who has been on television since the year 1997 says he has gone from opening two restaurants and a catering company to now travelling and eating.
“It is true the media takes you away from the kitchen for too long. I still think the best restaurants in the world and run by people who want to be in the kitchen and cook for their customers.”
Just be comfortable, I think comfort is something that’s so underrated and I think we do a lot of things for fashion but I think it’s very important to be comfortable in which you carry yourself better…says Sonakshi Sinha
A repertoire in glamourous modernity, ITRH danced its way into hearts with its bold and free spirited collection ‘Dancing Queen’ at the ongoing Lakme Fashion Week x FDCI. An extension of its first disco collection which was a tribute to the original disco king Bappi Lahiri, Dancing Queen revisits the brand’s world of being extra yet chic!
Disco has always been a place where people embrace their inner glamazons and free spirits, it’s a place of utter disregard for societal norms towards sexuality, gender, and appropriation. It’s about breaking all the rules and rewriting them every time the beat changes. Keeping in tune with disco which has become inherent with the brand’s philosophy, ITRH aims at modernising disco for today’s generation through Dancing Queen.
“We are the late 80s’ babies, so disco has been an integral part of our growing years. Our first disco collection was a tribute to the original disco king Bappi Lahiri and we had the privilege to work with him in our campaign. Dancing Queen is an extension of it. We are modernising disco for today’s generation – being extra yet chic,” says Mohit Rai, Creative Director, ITRH.
Sonakshi Sinha was showstopper for the brand and took out a minute to speaking with IANSlife about her fashion preferences:
What did you love about your make-up, look and outfit?
Sonakshi: What not to love about it, I am feeling so special right now because I am shining, shimmering and collection is super fun as Mohit knows what’s look good on me as he is styling for the longest time and I am in love with it.
What one fashion accessory do you have in your bag right now which you can’t do without it?
Sonakshi: Flats, because once you are done with the heels just jump into flats.
What’s the best part about being a show stopper?
Sonakshi: The best part is all the attention, it’s very nice to put an end to the show where everybody is lively in a good mood, specially today, I think everybody out here came for ITRH as it’s a brand and it’s amazing how people conduct for him so everybody was enjoying and I was told to have a good time and that’s what exactly I get.
One style tip for women out there?
Sonakshi: Just be comfortable, I think comfort is something that’s so underrated and I think we do a lot of things for fashion but I think it’s very important to be comfortable in which you carry yourself better.
The skincare that you use daily?
Sonakshi: The moisturiser, because it’s very important to keep yourself hydrated.
What do you love about your outfit that you are currently wearing?
Sonakshi: I love the colours, I love the way it shines in the light and takes on different colours that’s what I like about it.
Share one bizarre thought you had before or while walking the ramp?
Sonakshi: While walking the ramp, actually thought my trail was very long so I thought when everybody else also comes on stage at the end, I just hope that nobody steps on it.
What’s one thing that people think about celebrities which is not true?
Sonakshi: There are lot of assumptions for celebrities out there to name a few like she has so much attitude, they don’t talk to people on their own, their managers do all the talking for them and there are too many to list but when you meet the celebrities I guess lot of people say that “you are not like how we thought you are.”
There are limits to using Gandhian thought from decades ago to deal with issues that it could not anticipate, leave alone solve, observes Dr Sinha on the irrelevance of Gandhian thought in reviving the Congress party from the successive electoral reverses
Subir Sinha is Reader in the Theory and Politics of Development at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. Hailing from Bihar, his first degree is in History from Delhi University. He studied at the University of Pennsylvania and then at Northwestern University, obtaining an MA and a PhD in Political Science from the latter. He has taught at the University of Vermont, was a Fellow at the Institute of Agrarian Studies at Yale University, and held a visiting position in the Department of Politics at the University of Turin. His early work was movements of the rural poor for common property rights to nature, inspired by ideas from Gandhi and Liberation Theology, resulting in papers in the Journal of Peasant Studies, one of them prize-winning.
Subsequently, he turned to looking at the concept of ‘subaltern’, originally enunciated in relation to colonial rule, in the context of India’s postcolonial modernity. These engagements led to his long-term project of providing a postcolonial theory of the commons. His engagement with Marxist and postcolonial political economy resulted in a collection in the journal Critical Sociology, and other papers on the question of ‘the working class’ – its composition, consciousness and political subjectivity – in contemporary India.
Within the overall theme of postcolonial capitalism and political subjectivity, he is currently engaged in a project of exploring the political subjects of authoritarian populism, and the role of social media in their formation. Papers from this project have appeared, among other places, in the International Journal of Communication, and Geoforum. His shorter writings have appeared in The Conversation and Outlook magazine. His interviews and writings have been translated into French, German, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese, and he has appeared on Indian, British, French, Turkish and Arab television. In an interview with Asian Lite’s Abhish K. Bose he discusses the impact of the bharat jodo yathra and the future of Congress party in India.
ABHISH K. BOSE: Do you think that the Bharat Jodo Yatra can help the Congress party regain its compromised relevance and mass-appeal? Has it served the purpose of a political mobilisation, re-orienting citizens towards favouring the Congress?
Subir Sinha : I think this is too early to tell. The response of the ruling party shows they certainly do not want to take it lightly: from attempts to stop it (via reference to Covid wave, or repeated insinuation that it would be a security risk), to close scrutiny of who took part, analysis of Rahul Gandhi’s clothing etc, to continuous barrage of attacks and ridicule on social media. The coverage in media was minimal and negative too. Attacks on the Yatra’s credibility now include statements from the BJP to the effect that it was funded -even orchestrated – by Soros. Journalists in newsrooms, one hears, were asked not to cover it too enthusiastically.
Some of the issues it raised were co-opted in ruling party leaders’ speeches, including Modi’s. Whether it regains relevance and mass appeal cannot be answered at aggregate level. Events such as this, in today’s context, need media coverage to become appealing and relevant. Some regional media covered it more positively than others. Did it make in-roads into the support base of other parties? And can yatras like this convert into electoral success? Note that Rahul Gandhi pointedly wanted not to link the two. Of the latest elections, while the BJP will form or be part of the government in all three states, they lost seats and the INC gained some, even though the yatra did not travel through the region.
They did well in the by-elections in areas they did traverse. Jairam Ramesh is suggesting that they may revive the yatra later in the year, so certainly they see some benefits. We will get a better answer to this question after the coming round of state elections. For a party out of power for 10 years and whose recent electoral victories were negated by horse-trading, with nowhere near the funds of media generosity as the BJP, the yatra was one of the ways of mass contact. It sponged up issues as it went along, both local and regional and also national. We saw RG’s looks change, and in some measure the BJP social media team’s obsession with his clothes and looks etc gave them wide publicity.
By all accounts, the yatra were joyful, inclusive, and energetic. Rahul Gandhi appeared comfortable among ordinary people and spoke sense, giving a different impression of himself than the BJP caricature of him. And the visuals of people from across the non-BJP spectrum participating in it, the hugging and occasional kissing all pointed to an alternative conception of the future to the angry and violent one being portrayed by the Sangh whose actions were running parallel to the yatra. It seems to have caught the imagination of considerable sections of voters, especially the youth, due to the way in which they used social media for their messaging.
ABHISH K. BOSE: Despite the predictable media lukewarmness to the Yatra, it appears to have struck a chord in the imagination of the people nation-wide. However, the paralysis of the Congress organisational machinery and the absence of grass-root-level people connect could limit the yathra’s beneficial outcome for the party. Do you agree?
Subir Sinha: Yes, I agree. The decline of the Congress Party’s organisational machinery is long term, and I would say it has appeared to be terminal. Decline in political fortunes and decline in organisational strength are mutually re-enforcing: with less power to distribute and several claimants to a declining stock of power, many will leave for greener pastures, as they have. The change of dynasty has stuck, and the BJP has been successful in communicating to ambitious young and middle-level politicians that they have a better change with them than the Congress. Congress MLAs also form the overwhelming proportion of MLAs who were “persuaded” to move to the BJP. Can a yatra by itself compensate for the reasons behind the long-term decline of the machine? No. Can it be the jump-start needed for new kind of organisation – based on younger people, women, Muslims, Dalits, advasis and others who feel a lack of prospects or representation in other parties? Possibly. Rahul Gandhi and Jairam Ramesh both said the yatra was to ‘listen to people’,‘share their pain, and carry their hopes.
Today social media is a huge part of building organisation and for mass contact, and the yatra did spark interest in that regard. Building organisation, either online or on-the-ground, needs money and central command and control. It also relies on people self-enrolling on to a political platform. The BJP has overwhelming advantage in having the Sangh’s on-the-ground organisational network, massive funds, and the BJP IT cells. The control over the media that the BJP has should also be seen as it also has an independent troll army of ‘bhakts’. To counter all this is a huge organisational challenge. One yatra cannot be seen to compensate for such a deficit. What it can do, and seems to have done to an extent, is to stimulate self-enrolment, that is it was able to motivate people who are not party functionaries to declare themselves as Congressi and to take up the task of forwarding party information outside of the mainstream media.
ABHISH K. BOSE: The political misuse of Hinduism as it is being twisted into the mould of Hindutva is the cardinal strategy of the BJP and the RSS. A major segment of the Hindu community unwittingly equates Hindutva with Hinduism. In this, the BJP’s stratagem has worked to its advantage. Given that, is it essential for the opposition to give shape to a educating mechanism to separate the chaff from the grain? Does not the adoption of soft-Hindutva strategy project the image of the Congress as a pale replica of the BJP? If it does, why would the votaries of India as a secular, democratic Republic turn or return to the Congress?
Subir Sinha: In a context in which Hinduism is both a terrain and an object of politics, and large sections of the electorate exhibit and expect hyper-religiosity, the Congress was charged repeatedly with being non- and anti-Hindu, and so had no option but to participate in this, even at the cost of some ridicule. My reading is that the Congress is NOT offering a soft-Hindutva option, but seems to want to revive the older notion of inclusion of all religions, in contrast to the BJP’s strategy of radical exclusion of all other religions. This creates a dilemma, of course. Look at Rajasthan, which has been an important site for Hindutva violence against Muslims.
With elections coming, if the Congress government takes a strong action against Hindutva vigilantes, the BJP will say it is appeasing Muslims. If it does not, then there will be legitimate Muslim complaints that its promise of justice is hollow, and that it is soft-Hindutva. The challenge is, can it provide justice to victims of Hindutva violence, and can it give them representation, without being accused of ‘appeasement’? Can it advance a platform of political equality between communities, justice for all the victims of Hindutva violence, and representation to those excluded and violated by Hindutva? That would be the principled, but electorally-risky path to take.
ABHISH K. BOSE: The OBCs, SC/ ST and the Muslim community are the major chunk of the electorate of India who are not naturally inclined to the ideology of the Sangh. Considering the liberal ideology of the Congress and the mutual incompatibility among these segments under different leaders, can the Congress coordinate the OBC groups, and the SC/ ST with Muslims so that they could help Congress come back to power? What course-corrections should the Congress adopt to be able to play this unifying and coordinatingrole?
Subir Sinha: First, I would query your assumption that some of the groups you name “are not naturally inclined to the ideology of the Sangh”. Since the movement for the destruction of the Babri Masjid, and for the erection of a Ram temple, and more recently in the sustained high levels of everyday violence against Muslims by a range of Hindutva vigilante groups, the Sangh has been able to recruit large segments of all social groups, including OBCs, SCs and STs. It has also given them representation: Subordinate caste groups have the largest representation of all time in parliament and state legislatures elected as BJP candidates. This must be acknowledged. The success of the BJP over the past decade rests partly on fine tuned attempts to break previous social constituencies and their political affiliations: breaking away entire castes, or subcastes, from previous political affiliations. This has included glorification of subordinate-caste heroes and gods.
But you are right if you were to say there is a contradiction: so you can have realities such as the vigorous attempts of institutionalising the Manu Smriti and Ambedkar, widened representation and caste violence in UP, Prime Minister washing feet and rapes and murders of Dalit women with impunity for upper-caste perpetrators, identifying with Adivasis and giving over their land to transnational and national capitalists. There is a dilemma for the Sangh: they must retain sufficient support among OBCs/STs/SCs, they must include them in their political projects, but other, more powerful elements of their social coalition want to assert caste supremacy on them, and they do this by frequent and overt use of violence, for which they expect and receive impunity. With Muslims, the situation is a different one, but also contradictory. Note the modes through which the Sangh has tried to extract a segment of Muslims and attach it to its social coalition. The ordinance on Triple Talaq, the campaign to restrict the public presence of women in hijab, was all done, as Modi says, to ease the lives of Muslim women, his “sisters”. Sangh social media often claims that “many Muslims women voted secretly for the BJP”. Then you have attempts to showcase Muslims who are party spokespersons, mostly Shia but not only. Of late, Modi has been attemptingto woo Pasmanda Muslims. This has a dual purpose: to actually expand the BJP’s electoral footprint among Muslims, and to signal to international critics that the party is more inclusive of Muslims than they accuse it of being.
Of course, though, violence against Muslims, and impunity for it, is a core part of the BJP’s appeal. Hate speech, serial polarization, vilification of Muslims and a controlled and orchestrated campaign of continuous lethal violence, selective application of summary justice etc. keeps the BJP’s core supporters in a state of political orgasm. How to include Muslims for electoral and window-dressing purposes while also allow their radical exclusion from the public and the demos is a dilemma.These dilemmas and contradictions open up a space for the Congress, but by no means is this an open goal.
Muslims, OBCs and STs and SCs have good reasons to support other parties, and to have reservations vis-à-vis the Congress, and instead of thinking about them as an automatic support base that will ‘come back’ to the Congress, the strategy of the Congress should be to create a wide coalition in which it acknowledges its own mistakes, and accept that it cannot be the sole or the primary representative of these social groups. A limited ambition in this regard may be a good strategy for longer-term survival and regeneration.
ABHISH K. BOSE: Even before the Sangh Parivar and the BJP resorted to it, the Congress usedstrategies to appease majority community by playing the soft Hindutva card forelectoral gains. This served to legitimise Hindutva as a political ideology. Don’t youthink that the future of the Congress will be served better by staying steadfast oninclusive secularism? Or, is Rahul trying to vivify memories of the Mahatma at a time when an insidious intent to counterpoint him with V.D. Savarkar is playing out in the open? In that event shouldn’t he have dressed himself different, in some wayreminiscent of Gandhi?
Subir Sinha: The INC is accused both of soft-Hindutva and of ‘minority appeasement’, and perhaps both of these charges have some degree of truth. Some of the worst communal violence in India has been under Congress rule, and they also presided over some of the key moments in the rise of Hindutva. This has created a messy legacy in which Muslims and Hindus have reasons to suspect the INC, and have gone to other parties. The challenge for the INC is to be able to articulate a new relation with both communities that avoids the mistakes of the past. They will have to publicly reckon within their sorry record of defending secularism, they have done much damage to the erstwhile meaning of the concept.
Inclusive secularism will have to be re-invented, there is no ‘going back’ to a failed model, and one in whose failure the Congress of yesteryears was a main culprit. Do we see any such platform emerging? Muslims are hurting badly after a decade of sustained assault, and have good reasons to feel let down in the decades before that. And they have other choices: AIMIM, TMC, the CPs, the SP, the RJD, and even AAP. The Congress cannot just come up with a readymade ‘inclusive secularism’. This concept will have to come from a joint struggle, primarily of those under assault, and then in conversation with a range of other political parties and non-party political formations. I also think there is limited utility in resuscitating Gandhi. Certainly, the idea of a GandhianINC in today’s context has some, but limited appeal.
In general, I am against the political practice of holding some great personage from yesteryears, ventriloquise them to s upport emerging political positions, and find solutions in their work. I would much rather see the Congress spell out the relevance of Gandhi today, what they take from him, how they want to use it for a national renewal, but this must also come with an acknowledgement of his weaknesses, his problematic positions on caste and his role in using popular Hinduism as the idiomatic vehicle for his politics. Co-existence, cooperation, friendship and the formation of a common project across religious communities, non-violence, a politics based on conviction, practices and ideas associated with him, can be newly imagined.
Some of his ideas of Satyagrah, of peace with nature, too, can be relevant, and the INC should enunciate what it wants to, and is able to, do with them. But this must be arrived at through a thorough re- evaluation of his legacy. Rahul Gandhi did not ‘dress’ like Gandhi, but the idea of simplicity did come across in his sartorial choices. His padyatra idiom, open mingling with masses of people who joined the yatra, his photographs with people identifiably from different religious communities, all invoked Gandhi. His attacks on Savarkar as the anti-Gandhi also signalled that despite Modi and the BJP’s awkward claims to his legacy, the Sangh’s Sarvarkarite platform was antithetical to the Gandhian one of religious amity.
ABHISH K. BOSE: Can a revival of Gandhian vision for India help to arrest the hurtling of India towards the pitfall of communal and divisive politics, which is bound to do enormous harm? If Gandhi were to respond to the present scenario, what new elements would he have incorporated into his strategies? Would he have been more overtly and ritualistically Hindu than he was then? Or, would he have foregrounded social justice and religious reform? Given that post-truth politics is enveloping the national psyche, how would Gandhi have given effect to his insight, ‘Truth is God’?
Subir Sinha: These are complex questions, my responses to which will necessarily be speculative. Along with acknowledging the problematic nature of Gandhi’s convictions and politics, as well as its potentialities in the current moment, we need to acknowledge the Sangh’s efforts, awkward as they are, to encompass Gandhi within Hindutva. There has long been a Gandhian tendency within the Sangh, for example in the Nanaji Deshmukh and other model village experiments, in the Swadeshi Jagaran Manch, and Gandhi’s, his antipathy to ‘the West’, to ‘western medicine’, and his civilisational discourse, his reverence for the cow, all are compatible with the Sangh.
This is also true if one interprets ‘swaraj’ superficially. Modi and the BJP have made overt attempts to ‘own’ Gandhi: much of the Gandhian cooperative movement in Gujarat, for example has been supportive of the BJP – or at least not overtly oppositional – for some duration. Gandhi is the logo for Modi’s pet Swachh Bharat project, and he is fond of invoking him on trips abroad. He has unveiled a bust of Gandhi at the United Nations headquarters in New York, and garlanded his statues around the world. When protests in Malawi broke out against installing a Gandhi statue there, the Modi government intervened and ensured this went through. Now you have Sabarmati Ashram transformed into its own antithesis, a backdrop for Modi to hold state events and receptions. Outside Delhi Airport you have a gigantic charkha, again an antithesis of the idea it is supposed to represent.
So, what Gandhi is available to use as a building block for an anti-authoritarian politics? Had he been alive, let me speculate, because he also openly and credibly articulated a Hindu politics, I wonder if Hindutva would have been as successful as it is: for example, would he have sat in front of the Babri Masjid as Hindutva extremists moved to destroy it? Would he have sat in Shaheen Bagh and Jamia and Northeast Delhi to stop majoritarian Hindutva violence, or would modern Godses, who we saw shooting at demonstrators, killed him again? Would he have joined the farmers’ movement against further shift of control over agriculture to corporate capital? Where would he have been on the politics of the cow, of beef and indeed of meat-eating. Would he support the Department of Aayush and the spread of yoga and ayurveda in the form in which it has? As ever, it would be wishful to think that he would be on the side of secularists, or those opposed to the Sangh, on all matters. Remember, he was not a ‘progressive’ in the sense in which we use the term today. It is also a pleasant distraction to think of a Gandhi adept in the use of social media. How Gandhi’s notion of ‘truth’ would fare in a post-truth environment can also be only answered speculatively. It was not so much a general, universal, empirical truth that
Gandhian truth politics was based, I would say, as much as moral and spiritual truths, truth as God. It was universal in the specific sense that it was not bound by religion, but, as he argued, was universal across religions. Post-truth politics, very different, is referring to empirical and established truths, not truth as the God-force in the universal human. It is easier to see a Gandhi involved in struggles for social justice and religious reform, but this would not be unproblematic. Since his notion of truth would insist on an autonomy from, and an alterity in relation to, the Constitution and laws, it is not clear a priori where he would stand in relation to constitutional demands by movements and parties, or their calls for the application of laws. He would, I think, recognize that hatred for the other is not just invented by the BJP and the Sangh, but that it lurked below the surface of civility as a political possibility, which has been activated by Hindutva and flourishes in that form, and that reversing or transcending it requires long-term and deep work in society.
So yes I do think he would be involved in social justice and religious reform, and that these would be different from and an alternative to the Sangh’s version of this (and yes, they do have a version of it) Gandhi, of course, was not an electoral politician; indeed he was cutting about parliamentary democracy. I am not sure what a Gandhian electoral politics would look like, as in today’s India it requires massive spending and electoral bonds, taking short-term and expedient actions, creating ‘waves’ based on information and misinformation flows, and calculations over how silence or action over violence on Muslims and Dalits would affect electoral prospects. These, I suggest, are outside of the normal parameters of Gandhian politics. This should alert us that there are limits to using Gandhian thought from decades ago to deal with issues that it could not anticipate, leave alone solve.
ABHISH K. BOSE: Why is the left, as also some of the regional parties, hesitant to join with the Congress to arrest the Hindutva juggernaut?
Subir Sinha: Making alliances at the national and state level is imperative to stop Hindutva’s advance, but these have not proved easy or durable. This is because there are many unresolved, and some unresolvable, contradictions and antagonisms between the Congress party and possible allies, and between one and another possible ally. The Congress is the dominant party in government in a handful of states, is the leading anti- BJP party in some states, and has pockets of support in other states. In some states where it had held power for decades, it is entirely decimated. In many states, its leaders have defected in large numbers to the BJP, causing Congress governments to fall or preventing the formation of Congress governments. Pre-poll allies have switched over the BJP post-poll. So no one narrative is going to be able to cover your question.
Specifically in regard to the CPM, there are clear synergies at the national level, but they are adversaries in Kerala. The idea of allies nationally but competitors at state level is damaging not only to them as individual parties, but to the prospects of a strong anti-BJP alliance. The CPIM has worked well as part of the MGB in Bihar. If this split situation on alliances between the Congress party and the left continues, it will not only confuse cadres and cause them to drift. It will also prevent the emergence of a common platform for the 2024 elections. Looking at the latest results from Tripura, TIPRA has gained seats, while the INC-Left combine has lost them. Had the Congress party managed to retain Pradyot Deb Barma’s exit in 2019, or had the INC-Left alliance managed to ally with TIPRA, it may have been possible to wrest Tripura from the BJP. Creating stable alliances is also crucial for Bengal, where the TMC has won big, but has recently appeared beleaguered. It is hard to see how the TMC and the left can be in the same formation, given violence suffered by left cadres by TMC workers. The ‘vam-to-Ram’ drift, and I am not sure of its magnitude, plus weak showing by the Left-Congress alliance there indicates a state of disintegration of the left and the Congress party there.
The Congress party win in Sagardighi, where the left provided crucial support, is an interesting green shoot, because it shows that a Left-INC alliance may be able to gain support from voters tired of the TMC and the BJP. Today, Mamata Banerjee, perhaps having read the room well that she would not be invited, has ruled out any alliance with the left-INC for 2024. Other state level allies, who are mostly regional parties, are wary of the rejuvenation of the Congress, as their rise has been at the expense of the Congress: think of the RJD, SP, BSP, among others. These parties are also stronger at state level than the Congress. So the same parties with which an alliance creates chances of enhancing the non-BJP presence at the centre would not like the expansion of the Congress in their backyard. This reflects in their offer of seats to the INC in states they rule, or have their main bases of electoral support.
So we also have non-BJP barriers to the expansion of the Congress. Congress demands for a higher number of seats than they have a realistic chance of winning has resulted in delaying seat distribution and the announcement of a common platform to dates so close the actual voting that supporters were left confused and frustrated. The INC must be realistic in its demands for seats in such states, and play the role of a junior partner. Lessons from well-functioning alliances, such as in Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra, must be taken to new states Then you have parties like the TMC, BSP and AAP who seem less interested in creating a non-BJP alliance than in picking up the support peeling off from the INC or other non-BJP parties which could be potential allies, putting up candidates in places they have no history of credible electoral success: so many recent elections have seen the support for these parties be the difference between the INC and the BJP.
Leaders of all three of these parties have Prime Ministerial ambitions, and no doubt that is one main reason for the relentless assault of the agencies on their leadership. The TMC has actively poached INC members in Goa and the Northeast, and also left supporters in Bengal. Paradoxically, if they lose credibility, they may be more amenable to entering a grand alliance than they are right now. The formation of a national pre-poll alliance and the hammering out of a common platform at the earliest is absolutely essential. The coming state elections in 2023 would be a good trial run to test out message and strategy. It is important for non- and anti-BJP parties to deny the BJP sweeping wins in this round, as this would create momentum for 2024. But one should not forget that a BJP versus all scenario might polarise the electorate, not all votes will transferbetween allied parties, and there is a possibility for some gains for the BJP as well.
ABHISH K. BOSE: If you were to enunciate a scheme for forging the unity of all opposition parties, what would it look like? Would it insist on Sonia Gandhi continuing as the President of the INC, given that she is the most widely accepted face in the party?
Subir Sinha: One thinks of Harkishan Singh Surjeet at a time like this, given his expertise and experience in suturing alliances. My suggestion would be for Sonia Gandhi, who seems to have good personal relations across the non-BJP parties, to play such a role. One question to resolve early would be: what are the chances of getting AAP, BSP and TMC into a national alliance, and at what cost? TMC today has ruled out being a part of such a coalition, and it may be best to leave out AAP altogether: its support is mostly in Delhi, I am not sure if Punjab would give them another chance. It appears like damaged goods right now, it was very much part of the Sangh-led coalition that unseated the UPA, and its rhetoric on UPA corruption, and template of leadership was a variant of Modi’s. Their silence on anti-Muslim violence will also damage any coalition that wants to be inclusive of them. AAP leadership continues to attack the Congress, and a coalition with them would be both difficult to achieve and to maintain.
The recent warming of relations between AAP and some Congress allies such as the RJD need watching, but I do not anticipate that the RJD, or Shiv Sena etc would peel away from the INC and attach with AAP. Then we have the BJD and its inscrutable leadership, and the TRS and the YSR Congress. Their cards are close to their chest, though some of them have made overtures to parties that are allied to the Congress. The idea of a coalition that would exclude the INC is a non-starter, and would not only not be a viable anti-BJP force, it would harm the prospects of unseating the BJP. As I said, my preference is for the early formation of a coalition and putting together of a common platform. Not all non-BJP parties are anti-BJP, and not all will be able to be accommodated within a coalition because of their tensions with the INC or others with whom an alliance is more possible. There should be no compulsion to name a ‘PM face’, indeed to do so would be counter-productive. As in all coalitions that do not have a predominant element, leadership can be chosen based on electoral performance.
The Congress would have more of a claim if it were to do very well in the coming state elections. But it should be open to the possibility that a non-INC figure may be better able to hold a coalition together. What should be the elements of a common platform? The performance of the Congress-run governments of Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, of the left in Kerala, and the DMK in Tamil Nadu, should inform the list of what such a coalition government can offer. Grievances related to toppling of elected governments and BJP attempts to poach MLAs from the INC and allies need to highlighted. Where the INC and allies are in opposition, they must expose the failures of the BJP. Issues of the parlous state of the economy must be highlighted beyond the Adani trope, in terms of jobs, incomes, food availability, prices of essential commodities. Governance issues such corruption police brutality, breakdown of law and order, etc must be highlighted across the board. It is important to offer a non-Hindutva brand of Hinduism, one that is not centred on brutalisation of Muslims, nor one which justifies violence on Dalits.
How to extricate Hinduism from being hijacked by the likes of Narsinghanand, how to present it as non-violent: this is an important question but not an electoral one, strictly speaking. But all this must be put together into a coherent narrative: it remains to be seen who in the INC and other parties can do it. And it must be disseminated widely, using organizational networks and social media imaginatively. Effort should focus on those states that gave the BJP massive returns in the 2019 elections: Gujarat, UP, Bihar, MP, Maharasthra, Bengal, Assam, etc. If the opposition coalition is able to dent the BJP’s massive tally in these states, then it would be possible to defeat them nation-wide. But a degree of self-limitation on the part of all possible allies is a must. It is not only that a continuation of rule of the Sangh is ‘bad for India’. It is also an existential threat to all these parties. Self-interest, as much as national interest, should motivate them to come to an agreement.
ABHISH K. BOSE: How do you perceive the chances of Congress in general elections 2024, the stranglehold of the Modi-Shah dispensation can be broken? If you are, on what basis?
Subir Sinha: The Modi-Shah dispensation has done as well as it has because it has a well-articulated package of a strong leader, aggressive party, the apparently ‘non political networks’ of the Sangh including vigilante groups, the near monopoly over the representation of political Hinduism and the recruitment of subaltern groups to it, vast financial resources, near complete control of the media, and compliance of social media firms. Besides, it seems to have near complete control over key institutions, such as the Central Election Commission, police forces, bureaucracy etc. And is it not shy of making belligerent use of it. As several journalists have noted since 2019, the BJP’s media control has made it possible to detach, in the mind of a substantial proportion of the electorate, Modi from the consequences of his policies for them.
Media seems to exist primarily to pour scorn on Modi’s opponents, for spread of hatred for Muslims, and to make ridiculous claims on his behalf. For a not-insignificant number, the formal transition to a Hindu Rashtra trumps price rise and unemployment. Yet, despite all this, the national share of the vote for the BJP remains short of 40%. The INC needs to put its house in order while it also has to become actively involved in putting a coalition and a platform together. I expect it to do better than in the last elections, and I base this on its recent wins in Himachal and by-elections in Maharashtra and Bengal, and in local elections across the board. Even in Tripura, where the vote was split 3 ways, the BJP lost nearly a dozen seats. In order for the BJP to be dislodged, some institutions have to function well.
Will the Election Commission, which has conducted elections in a way and to a schedule that works best for the BJP act differently now that the Supreme Court has mandated a change the selection of its Chief? How will the electoral bonds and the Shiv Sena cases be resolved? What will change after the rebukes handed out by the Supreme Court to several media outlets om their communal and biased coverage? These will have an important bearing on the outcomes of 2024. Ultimately, though, the people must feel the need for change. And for this, the idea that one elects governments to make changes in their everyday life must dislodge the idea that one elects them to take revenge on Muslims for perceived historical wrongs, or for Hindu pride etc. This means offering a different meaning of ‘politics’ than the currently regnant one. The extent the INC and allies are able to do this will determine their fortunes in 2024.
The actress was also seen in ‘Raju Gari Gadhi 2’ opposite Nagarjuna and ‘Touch Chesi Chudu’ opposite Ravi Teja…reports Asian Lite News
Seerat Kapoor, who made her debut with the Telugu film ‘Run Raja Run’ and was also seen playing a gray character in the crime thriller ‘Maarrich’ starring Tusshar Kapoor, discussed the importance of finding the right medium for the right content, and her thoughts on OTT versus theatrical release.
She said: “In just a few years, I believe filmmaking has expanded dramatically for all of us. Cinema and its experience have evolved. From theatrical releases to now having content instantly accessible on your phone. There are even web series and shows that have travelled across the world in terms of content. Whereas many people are concerned that the growth of OTT would result in fewer people going to see movies in theatres, I disagree.”
The actress was also seen in ‘Raju Gari Gadhi 2’ opposite Nagarjuna and ‘Touch Chesi Chudu’ opposite Ravi Teja.
She added: ” I believe OTT and theatrical releases are completely different experiences altogether. Either way, it lies in the hands of the audience really. Whether it’s the taste of the kind of story they prefer or the experience they chose to enjoy it.”
While concluding the conversation, she shared that for her, medium is not that important as she is more concerned about the story and the role given to her. She wants to give her best in her work and this matters most for her.
“For me, the story and the characters have always held utmost importance regardless of the medium. Over the years, I have formed a relationship with my audience, where they shower and support me with their love for the characters I have chosen.”
“Most of my films have left them pondering while also entertaining. It’s a very sacred connection I share with them. So whichever platform the story may release, on the bright side, today as creatives we have extended ways to explore our potential and give back to our audiences to keep their smiles around life intact,” she concluded.
On the work front, Seerat will be seen playing the lead in Dil Raju’s next, which is yet untitled.
The lithium reserve in India will open many opportunities including sustenance, local research and development (R&D) on enhancing the battery chemistries and also a reduction in the battery price, says M.A.M. Arunachalam
The finding of lithium reserves in India will open up many opportunities though the actual realisation of the mined resource may take some years, said M.A.M. Arunachalam, also known as Arun Murugappan, Executive Chairman of multi-product company Tube Investments of India Ltd (TII).
The Indian government recently announced that it has found lithium inferred resources of 5.9 million tonnes in the Reasi district of Jammu and Kashmir.
He said India should utilise its natural resource even though some had said the country should skip the lithium battery mode and go for other technologies like fuel cell. As per published reports, India at present imports lithium worth close to $20.64 million a year.
The flagship company of the Chennai-based conglomerate Rs 547 billion Murugappa group, TII, through its subsidiary TI Clean Mobility has got into the electric vehicle (EV) space majorly through acquisitions.
Interestingly TII, with its various products — metals, auto and components, cycles and others — and listed subsidiaries like Shanthi Gears, CG Power and Industrial Solutions and a couple of unlisted ones, is termed as a group within the Murugappa group.
Several years ago, the Murugappa group had launched and closed production and sales of electric two-wheelers several years back — through BSA Motors — has now re-entered the EV segment.
The TI Clean Mobility has announced the launch of its electric passenger three-wheelers. The company has also announced its plan to launch electric tractors and trucks.
In a short interview, Murugappan talks about the impact of lithium reserves and more. Excerpts:
Your views on the lithium reserves found in India?
It is welcome news for the entire Indian EV industry and will open many opportunities.
In your estimation, how long would it take for mining lithium in India?
As per the reports from the media, we have reached the G3 stage (prospecting) for the lithium presence. Therefore, further exploration (G2 stage) and the exact determination of reserve (G1 stage) will decide the starting of actual mining along with a consolidated framework from the regulatory bodies in place.
What does the finding of lithium reserves mean for the EV industry players? Will it result in reduction in vehicle prices?
The lithium reserve in India will open many opportunities including sustenance, local research and development (R&D) on enhancing the battery chemistries and also a reduction in the battery price.
Do you think EV players will go for backward integration? What are your views for your group on this point?
The industry players might consider possibilities to ensure a smooth supply chain with a competitive price along with a superior differentiating technology.
Should India skip the lithium battery and go the next step? If yes, why and if no, why?
I think we should strongly consider utilizing the resource. The reason for this, the battery element in the automotive industry may remain even if we migrate to the next level of technology such as fuel cell.
If lithium is mined and made available in the country, will there be any reduction in the global prices? If yes, to what extent? What is the current rate? Will there be more battery making units in the country?
It all depends upon a few parameters such as inflow or production rate of raw material, local consumption, grade of the reserve, conversion cost and others.
Will there be any redrawing of joint venture, technical collaboration agreements by the parties?
It will open many opportunities for collaboration in the area of technology and innovation.
Dr. Anand Parappadi Krishnan, recently joined the Centre of Excellence for Himalayan Studies, School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Shiv Nadar University, Greater Noida, as a Fellow. Prior to joining Shiv Nadar Institute of eminence, Dr. Krishnan has served for 6 years as a full-time Researcher at the Institute of Chinese Studies, Delhi, and he continues his affiliation there as a visiting Associate Fellow. Recently, he was a Visiting Faculty at the National Law School of India University – Bengaluru.
Previously, he has held Fellowships at the India China Institute – The New School, New York City (under their China India Scholar Leaders Initiative) and at the Harvard-Yenching Institute, Cambridge, Massachusetts. Dr. Krishnan holds a Ph.D. degree in Chinese Studies from Centre for East Asian Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. His research interests include Labour and Supply chains in the Global South, Political economy of China and India, State-society relations, and Labour-Urban interface.
Asian Lite’s Abhish K. Bose meets Dr Krishnan to discuss the Belt and Road initiative of China. Excerpts from the interview.
ABHISH K BOSE: The belt and road project is aimed at improving the position of China in the global economic system and to boost the scope for its emerging hegemony. In many cases a country will be unable to change its economy in a particular direction without altering the way the world economy is organised. Is the belt and road project guided by that intent? What does it tell us of the Chinese strategic thinking and policy framework?
Dr ANAND: While there has been much written, speculated and anticipated, the BRI to put it in simple terms, was conceived by the Chinese party-state to export its overcapacities in economic production and therefore, look for new markets. In fulfilling this endeavour, if the initiative helps in altering how the world economy is organized, so be it. However, it does not seem that the BRI presents a credible and viable alternative by the Chinese which is very different from the existing world order and how the world economy is organized. I believe the BRI represents what geographer David Harvey calls ‘spatial fix’.
ABHISH K. BOSE: The belt and road is mainly about economic cooperation, comprising building, factories, roads, bridges, ports, airports and other infrastructure as well as electric power grids, telecommunications networks, oil and natural resources pipelines and related projects. How will this project once executed can change the face of the regions where the project passes through? Is there any hidden Chinese agenda behind this project?
Dr ANAND: Lack of infrastructural development is a pertinent issue in the global south, and many of the countries do not have the requisite resources to fulfill that. The experiences of countries in Africa, Southeast Asia and South America to the efforts by the West have not been really satisfactory. Plus, the legacy of colonialism weighs largely in areas such as Africa. It is here that the Chinese with deep pockets and more resourceful fill the gap. Plus, the Chinese are palatable for governments of all persuasions and do not necessarily interfere with domestic politics in these countries. However, while this is largely the narrative put forth by China, over the years there are also issues that have cropped up like debt related concerns/anxieties, cultural tensions, and over the last couple of years, COVID-19 related delays. In committing and investing in the infrastructural development of these regions, the Chinese champion the ‘win-win’ discourse, and seek to showcase their economic development externally. Rather than any ‘hidden agenda’, the BRI seeks to provide more diplomatic muscle and great power status to China vis-a-vis the US-led West.
ABHISH K. BOSE: According to available estimates, this massive project comprises of the investment of 4 -8 trillion dollars. The terms of Chinese credit to countries party to the project vary widely, from interest free loans and even grants in the case of some projects in Pakistan up to commercial rate in the case of the Ethiopia – Djibouti railway. Revealingly, Djibouti’s public external debt has increased from 50 to 85 per cent of its GDP since 2015, the highest for any low income country. China has provided nearly 1.4 billion of funding for Djibouti’s major investment projects. The Chinese company operating the port of Gwadar in Pakistan reportedly receives 91 per cent of the ports profits. Is the project an expression of Chinese economic imperialism and to what extent is it likely to burden the stakeholders?
Dr ANAND: Concerns of debt burden are logical corollary of the infrastructural projects undertaken by Chinese companies in the BRI. There is no finality on this aspect, as there is also new scholarship which problematizes – and critiques – the narrative of debt-trap. Scholars like Deborah Brautigam have in fact summarily rejected the discourse on debt trap. However, while the real extent of debt burden may be debatable, it is a reality that some of these projects do take the shape of white elephants. The best example of that would be the Hambantota port in Sri Lanka. I would be careful not to use terms like imperialism loosely, since these are very loaded and have to be properly contexualized/ historisized.
ABHISH K. BOSE: Ports such as Gwadar and Kyaukpyu are intended to connect the Indian Ocean with China over land transport corridors. Pakistan and Myanmar may become China’s California, granting it access to a second Ocean and resolving the Malacca dilemma. Access to the offshore gas fields in the Bay of Bengal was always central to the Kyaukpyu project. These points to the strategic aims of China through the project. How, and to what extent, will these projects benefit China in the long run? How will it bear on its trade with India?
Dr ANAND: With China, a lot of things also fall under the ambit of dual use/dual purpose. So, it is quite logical or even rational to look at these ports as fulfilling strategic aims/objectives. These ports also help China to offset some of the chokepoints in the Malacca straits, along with providing some access to fulfilling China’s energy needs in the longer term. Further, it helps provide China additional maneuvering space in the south Asian region.
However, these ports need not necessarily be seen in binary terms vis-a-vis India, even though India’s role in the region has to move out of its conventional ‘big brother’ attitude, or patronizing behaviour. India also needs to heighten its own infrastructural and diplomatic measures in the region for sustenance of its relationship with these countries and not necessarily to only ward off the China challenge.
ABHISH K. BOSE: Bypassing the Malacca strait by building a canal through the Kra Isthmus in Thailand – around 100 km long and 25 meters deep, would take ten years could be an even greater game changer. From a shipping perspective it would mean shorter and cheaper- and speedier by two or three days – route for all. But a number of countries including the US may resist the idea because it could mean the speedier deployment of the Chinese Navy to the Indian Ocean. Should this be a worry for the US or European powers?
Dr ANAND: It would not be wise to comment on something that is in the realm of speculation. Plus, this project would take some more time before it actually gets some proper shape. Hence, any possible opposition from US and others would also need to wait rather than do so now at the formative stage. Ultimately, it will depend on how effectively China is able to negotiate with the Thais in working on this project, especially given the delays on account of the pandemic and China only returning to normalcy now.
ABHISH K. BOSE: It is said that China hopes to build a ‘ Polar silk road’ along the Arctic shipping lanes, the third main sea route of the belt and road. Shipping through the northern sea route would shave almost twenty days off the regular passage time using the traditional route through the Suez canal. Among China’s main interests in the region is its major stake in Russia’s Yamal liquefied natural gas project which is expected to supply China with four million tons of LNG. How will this benefit China?
Dr ANAND: Again, a lot of these projects are more on paper and on the realm of ideas rather than being in actual flesh and blood. Post the propelling of BRI, there has been a lot of romanticizing/fantasizing about the various possibilities of China’s shipping lanes. The Polar Silk Route is in my view, a very premature project and there has not been much weight or financial resources dedicated in this regard.
While undertaking analysis of the BRI, it is also important to not be overemphatic, and be aware of speculation-ridden narratives. Further, Arctic routes and building projects around those are also highly cost ridden and it remains to be seen how the Chinese economy now emerging out of Zero Covid policies, will be able to readily take up such projects.
ABHISH K. BOSE: The roads as part of the belt and road project passes through the China -. Indian Ocean – Africa – Mediterranean sea blue economic package linking the China – Indo China peninsula economic corridor, running westward from the south China sea to the Indian Ocean and connecting the China – Pakistan economic corridor and the Bangladesh – China- India – Myanmar economic corridor. Another road is the blue economic passage of China – Oceania – South Pacific, traveling south ward from the South China sea into the Pacific Ocean. Another passage is also envisioned leading up to Europe via the Arctic Ocean. What are the strategic importance of these roads?
Dr ANAND: Again, there is also a lot of fantasizing/romanticizing that is inadvertently associated with BRI. Hence, many of these roads are still on the realm of ideation, rather than actual presence. CPEC (China Pakistan Economic Corridor) is a credible example, while BCIM (Bangladesh China India Myanmar) economic corridor is yet to be termed a credible project given how India is still not a participant in BRI and in fact, is correctly reluctant in fitting this into BRI. Hence, despite many efforts by China, it is not accurate to bracket BCIM within BRI. China’s aim, through the roads, is to find new markets for its goods and distribute its overcapacity. Thus, rather than spreading wide and covering all areas, I believe the party-state would be more prudent and realistic in choosing those areas – especially post pandemic – which are not only commercially viable but also cost effective and have better returns to investment.
ABHISH K. BOSE: Another central driver of the Road concerns the growing trade connections between China and India. In turn this will have to be based on huge infrastructure projects along the Indian Ocean coast or by train through Myanmar and Bangladesh. It was not surprising therefore to find that the port of Kolkata featured prominently in the original plans for the Road with the Indian city appearing on the famous map of the initiative published by Xinhua. The port could be an important conduit in developing value chains connecting Chinese and Indian manufacturers, but more recently it has been dropped from all the official references, as India increasingly distanced itself from the belt and road project. To what extent, if any, can the project boost the trade between India and China?
Dr ANAND: I do not think that India will, at least in the foreseeable future, be ready to be part of BRI in any manner. While its trade relations with the People’s Republic of China will continue in the conventional bilateral manner, it would be reticent (and correctly so, in my opinion) to join this Initiative. There has been no development in the last few years for India to change its course and adopt a different stance on BRI, especially given the developments on the boundary and attempts by Chinese to change the status quo. Further, India is ridden with weak infrastructural capacity – I have written about this here in the beginning of the year 2020. Any hope for BRI through/including India is at best, wishful thinking than anything else.
I am sceptical that the Pakistani political leadership has had a change of heart regarding its relations with India, says Prof. Sumit Ganguly in an interview with Asian Lite’s Abhish K. Bose
Sumit Ganguly is a Distinguished Professor of Political Science and holds the Tagore Chair in Indian Cultures and Civilizations at Indiana University, Bloomington. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a Visiting Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. He is the co-editor (with Eswaran Sridharan) of the forthcoming Oxford Handbook of Indian Politics. An author of a number of books on South Asia, Prof Ganguly is widely considered as an expert on South Asia. Asian Lite’s Abhish K. Bose asks Prof Ganguly some pertinent questions on the crisis being faced by Pakistan.
Abhish K. Bose: While Pakistan is confronting a rare economic crisis, one of their longstanding strategic partners, the U.S., is doing nothing substantial to bail out that country, which is facing its own share of domestic headaches. Does it indicate a significant shift in geo-political perceptions and priorities on the part of the US? If yes, why? What added bearing will this have on Indo-US relations?
Sumit Ganguly: The US, at the moment, is preoccupied with the war in Ukraine, the issues it faces with the PRC in Asia and beyond and with a range of domestic issues. Under these circumstances, Pakistan’s fate is a relatively low priority for the United States. Nevertheless, there are some in the US Department of State who are trying to keep the relationship alive in the forlorn hope that they can elicit some form of counterterrorism cooperation from Pakistan. This, in part, explains the recent decision to upgrade its fleet of F-16s. Ironically, Pakistan is paying about $400 million for these upgrades at a time when it is faced with near bankruptcy.
Abhish K. Bose: Pakistan is indebted foremost to the Chinese banks. Why doesn’t China intervene to avert a collapse? Is Pakistan going the Sri Lanka way? If, like in India, Pakistan had a stable democratic mode of governance, could the outcome have been different to what it is today? Or, a theocratic State, irrespective of the role of the army, unviable in the long-term?
Sumit Ganguly: To begin with, Pakistan is not a theocratic state. A theocracy is a state that is ruled by clerics. It is, however, a state based on religion. That being said, even if both India and Pakistan were robust democracies it is not entirely clear that they could resolve their differences amicably. From its founding Pakistan has had an irredentist claim to Kashmir. This claim has not been abandoned regardless of which government has come to power. Of course, had democracy been consolidated in Pakistan, one wonders if a different outcome might have obtained.
Abhish K. Bose: What is the role that patronising and funding militancy and cross-border terrorism has played in causing the present disarray in Pakistan? What, if any, are the lessons that countries like India can learn from the plight of Pakistan?
Sumit Ganguly: India learnt its lesson from the Sri Lankan fiasco. After all, it is well known that RAW supported and trained the LTTE. This lead to a serious, eventual blowback. Yes, Pakistan’s dalliance with a range of irregular forces and terrorists have come to haunt it. Yet, far too many Pakistanis have deluded themselves into believing that that they are victims of terrorism.
Abhish K. Bose: The recent statement of Pakistan PM Shehbaz Sharif that after three wars with India Pakistan has become sensible enough to want to live in peace with India. Is a civilian government in Pakistan free enough from the control of its army to choose the path of peace with its neighbours? Will religious extremists in that country tolerate such an option? If this change in perception is due to an economic crisis, will it not revert to the old mode of antagonism when the crisis blows over? Or, do you think there is a genuine change in perception and priorities?
Sumit Ganguly: I am quite skeptical that the Pakistani political leadership has had a change of heart. Even if they have it is far from clear to me that they have the requisite ability to dramatically change course when it comes to relations with India. The military still remains primus inter pares and controls the relationship with India. Furthermore, distrust and hatred of India has become woven into Pakistan’s political culture. More to the point, the rise of Hindu nationalism in India is adding fuel to the fire.
Abhish K. Bose: To what extent, do you think, has the Russia – Ukraine war accelerated the economic downslide of Pakistan, already strained by the pandemic-induced slowdown?
Sumit Ganguly: I think that the war has exacerbated matters. However, the problems were of long standing and indeed structural.
Abhish K. Bose: How significant is the role of Pakistan in furthering the geo-political roadmap of China? China has invested hugely in Pak as part of the belt and road project. What will be the role donned by Pakistan if and when China emerges as a major global player?
Sumit Ganguly: The Sino-Pakistani nexus was forged after the 1962 war. For both countries, this is one of the few alliances that has endured. China’s commitment to the BRI is both designed to serve its own parochial, material interests while making Pakistan even more dependent on the PRC.
Abhish K. Bose: Taking into account the border disputes India had with China and Pakistan, and China creating periodic tensions in the border, what would be most prudent strategy for India to fend off these adversaries? What should be thrust areas?
Sumit Ganguly: India has to pursue two simultaneous strategies. First, it needs to bolster its domestic military capabilities. Second, it needs to strengthen its security partnership with the United States. For the foreseeable future it will lack the necessary wherewithal to cope with the threat from the PRC.
Abhish K. Bose: The Pakistan PM has recently demanded the mediation of UAE in the Kashmir issue. Do you think India will take kindly to internationalising the Kashmir issue? Wouldn’t it serve the political interests of the BJP better to keep the Kashmir pot stirring?
Sumit Ganguly: India has never taken kindly to any effort to internationalize the Kashmir issue. This government will prove no exception to the rule. Actually, apart from its drastic decision to dispense with Article 370 which had conferred a special status on the state of Jammu and Kashmir the BJP does not have any compelling reason to stir the pot in Kashmir. All they want is political quiescence.
Soman feels it is important to choose one’s exercise based on goals considering everybody has his/her strengths and weaknesses. “You need to identify the latter and work on it as weaknesses amplify with age if nothing is done to arrest them.”…writes Sukant Deepak
How does it feel to be the most good-looking man in the room? “Well, doesn’t everyone like to be appreciated? But believe me, people want to meet me thanks to the fitness level I have maintained,” he smiles.
Actor and model Milind Soman, who was in Chandigarh on Sunday for Gilco’s ‘Run for Health Marathon’, and was recently seen in the movie ‘Lakadbaggha’ stresses that cinema is not really high on his priority list. “It is happiness that I value most.”
And this is something he wants to deal with in his next book. Soman, who wrote ‘Made In India’ tells that several publishers have been pushing him to write another one – on fitness and health, but it is ‘happiness’ that he wants to explore in his next one. “I am glad we have started talking a little more about mental health. There is a debate on what is more important, but they are both interconnected, and that is something I would like to focus on – practical tips and understanding. Also, let us not forget that fitness means different things for different people.”
For someone who exercises 20 minutes a day, fitness is all about doing a little bit every day and not going overboard. He feels that the mindset with regard to fitness, especially after the Pandemic has changed. “It is also a very new topic. Around 60 years back, nothing was needed because people, in general, were very active – everyone did not have vehicles and did everything themselves. Today, we are extremely dependent on technology. The pandemic nailed it that the virus is everywhere and all you can do is keep the body strong. Now that requires effort, but more than effort, it requires insight into yourself.”
Soman feels it is important to choose one’s exercise based on goals considering everybody has his/her strengths and weaknesses. “You need to identify the latter and work on it as weaknesses amplify with age if nothing is done to arrest them.”
Ask him if the term ‘supermodel’, synonymous with his name is a media creation, and he responds – “Absolutely. Modelling is an industry, and each one (industry) has a requirement. When they needed supermodels, they made them.”
Talk to him about the many outages he has experienced – the Tuffs commercial, trolling owing to his marriage, and reference to RSS in ‘Made in India, Sonam says while living in a democracy it is important to hear everyone, and everybody has a right to opinion. “It’s a different fact that we don’t know how to deal it.”
The actor, who has just completed the movie ‘Emergency’ says whenever he is offered an interesting role, he goes for it.
Calling his mother, who started trekking at the age of 60 as inspiration, Soman who successfully completed the Ironman Triathlon remembers being bitten by the running bug when he participated in the Mumbai Marathon (2004) for the first time.
“I was 38 years old. After the Mumbai Marathon, I ran from Delhi to Mumbai. I did Iron man when I was 50 and people could not believe it because most Indians cannot move when they touch the age of 50. We have to realize our capabilities. Our life span has increased and cannot afford to slow down at 40. The body follows the mind,” he concludes.
The actress, who is at the top of her game, hopes to surprise audiences with some exciting projects that showcase different sides of her persona and talent in 2023 with ‘Shehzada’, ‘Adipurush’ and ‘Ganapath’…reports Asian Lite News
Bollywood actress Kriti Sanon, who is gearing up for her upcoming film ‘Shehzada’, likes to walk the fine line between high-content and high-entertainment films and the films in her pipeline for this year prove the same.
Talking about what audiences can expect from her in 2023, Kriti said: “The audience can probably look forward to far more versions of me. It starts with a very glamorous one which is a family entertainer, followed by probably my biggest film, ‘Adipurush’, which I am extremely proud of. Then there is a lot of action coming in with ‘Ganapath’, something I have done for the first time. You will see me ride a dirt bike, throw kicks and punches and also use a weapon.”
She added: “I am also doing a quirky love story with Shahid Kapoor. We are teaming up on screen for the first time, so you will see fresh chemistry. Then there is ‘The Crew’, which has three women (Tabu, Kareena Kapoor Khan and me) coming together, having a lot of fun and creating something amazing.”
She also spoke about how she picks up various characters and roles.
The actress further mentioned: “Till ‘Bareilly Ki Barfi’, I was getting small-town roles one after the other. So, I did the war epic drama ‘Panipat’. Then I took up a strong and meaty role in ‘Mimi’ and moved on to the next level. I want to shift the gear constantly and not stay in one particular zone. You have to move on and think what’s next, otherwise you will stagnate.”
The actress, who is at the top of her game, hopes to surprise audiences with some exciting projects that showcase different sides of her persona and talent in 2023 with ‘Shehzada’, ‘Adipurush’ and ‘Ganapath’.
Kartik Aaryan’s ‘Shehzada’ pushed by a week
The release date of Bollywood star Kartik Aaryan’s upcoming action entertainer film ‘Shehzada’ has been pushed by a week. The film, which also stars Kriti Sanon and Paresh Rawal was earlier supposed to release in cinemas on February 10 but now, it’ll release on February 17.
Senior film trade analyst Taran Adarsh notified about the new release date of the film through his Twitter. He wrote, “#BreakingNews… #Shehzada shifts to a new date… Will now arrive one week late, on 17 Feb 2023… This #KartikAaryan – #KritiSanon starrer is directed by #RohitDhawan”.
The reason behind the release date of the film being pushed is being seen as the earth-shattering performance of Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan’s recent release ‘Pathaan’ at the box-office which while continuing its dream run at the box-office is setting up new records in film trade.
The performance of ‘Pathaan’ is reminiscent of the Allu Arjun-starrer ‘Pushpa: The Rise’, which set the box-office on fire and affected the business of films that were released with it or a few weeks after it.
‘Pathaan’, which also stars Deepika Padukone and John Abraham, is currently playing in theatres successfully despite boycott calls by certain outfits.
In an extensive interview with Asian Lite’s Abhish K Bose, Prof. Gopalji Malviya discusses the various dimensions and stakeholders involved in the ongoing tension in between India and China.
Prof. Gopalji Malviya was born and had early school and college education at Allahabad. He completed his Post Graduation in Defence and Strategic Studies from Allahabad University. Dr. Malviya earned his Doctorate from University of Madras. His doctoral thesis was on Chinese Strategic Threat to India’s National Security. Dr. Malviya has authored/edited over a dozen books and over forty articles on international relations and national security issues in leading national and international publications. He has visited number of countries in connection with seminar/conferences to USA, Austria, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Nepal.
He also has been awarded Major Research Projects from University Grants Commission on Non-Traditional Threats to India’s Maritime Security and DRDO Project on India’s National Security Threat Assessment. He has guided 18 Doctoral Scholars that includes the high profile Officers from the Tri-services of Indian military. Dr. Malviya was Chairman of University Inspection Commission and Research Advisor to the Defence Services Staff College Wellington, and National Defence College, New Delhi.
Dr. Malviya has been visiting faculty to NDC, Officers’ Training Academy, College of Naval Warfare, Mumbai, DSSC, Wellington, College of Defence Management, Secunderabad and College of Army warfare, Mhow. He was a member of Academic Council and Senate of the University of Madras, University of Pondicherry, Central University of Tamil Nadu and member of various expert committees at UGC and Ministry of Human Resources and Development. He was also an expert committee member at IGNOU and specializes in India’s National Security, South Asian Peace and Security, Nuclear issues and Legal Dimensions of International Security. He has taught International Relations, National Security, International Law and Indian Military History.
He was a founding member of the Centre for Security analysis, Chennai and Convener of Society for Indian Ocean Studies, Chennai Chapter. Dr. Malviya has 40 years of teaching and research experience & retired as the Professor and Head of the Department of Defence and Strategic Studies, University of Madras in 2012. Later, he also served as Dean, School of National Security Studies at Central University of Jammu. Prof. Malviya has had intense academic interactions with institutes of armed forces over his academic career. In this extensive interview with Asian Lite’s Abhish K Bose, he discusses the various dimensions and stakeholders involved in the ongoing tension in between the two countries.
ABHISH K. BOSE: Why are China and India having border tensions and confrontations ever since their inception? Is it because of their imperial hang-over; China, of the Qing and Indian, of the British? What else could be the reason or reasons?
Prof. Malviya: Tension between India and China is deeply rooted in border dispute since their inception. India and China as sovereign independent states have never made any serious and meaningful attempt to demarcate the borders towards amicable solutions.
Actually it’s not a mere border dispute, it is largely a territorial dispute as China continues to illegally occupy 38000 sq kms of Indian Territory.
Over 3500 kilometres long border that runs through some of the most arid terrain along the Himalayan range known as eastern, central and western sectors of Sino Indian border. The unresolved border and territorial issues are key towards normalization of relations between the two Asian giants. Both the disputants have made claims and counter claims, produced evidence of historical positions including revenue record etc but so far in their various interactions at different levels, they have only ‘Talked’ and not negotiated for its logical conclusions.
There is one major irritant that adds up to tension between the two nations and that is granting political asylum to Dalai Lama in India. Growing India’s proximity to USA adds to another reason. Both countries follow different kinds of ideologies and have different systems of governance. Their strategic perceptions of global and regional issues also differs. Both are searching for great power status in their competitive approach in economy and military. In the emerging international architecture, India and China figure prominently as rising powers. Hence, the continuing tension between the two.
ABHISH K. BOSE: How do you compare the development of the military power of China and India from the 1990s onwards? Currently, the China economy is five times that of India and can afford to spend three times more on its military, whereas in the 1990s the Chinese economy was comparable to that of India and its military was not vastly superior to the Indian. To what extent is the asymmetry of power and economic resources between the two nations responsible for the aggressive posturing on the part of the Chinese?
Prof. Malviya: No doubt China is a large military power and Chinese economy is 5 times bigger than India. China is a large country with vast geographical, natural, economic and human resources. China under authoritarian rule has an ambition to become a world power and it has been constantly working through their efforts through “Four Modernization Program” since 1979. They also began their massive economic reform since then. Chinese have expanded their industrial base with large skilled work force, adopted modern technology particularly in the field of electronics and communications, they have also developed manufacturing hubs in large number of areas, and created a wide range of supply chain with export orientation. They have heavily invested in infrastructure, development and research and development. The pace of these developments has been remarkable and hence the fascinating dividends.
India on the other hand has seen too many hiccups and bottle necks in their economic and industrial expansion program. India’s growth has been slow but steady, in the current scenario, India is a fast growing economy and reached 5th largest economy in the world. India’s vision and commitment towards its goal of ‘Vishwaguru’ seems possible due to its strong and stable political leadership. During and post covid 19 scenario, Chinese economic growth has suffered a lot, their GDP has decreased, exports has also been affected. Currently China is struggling to keep pace with its economy.
Regarding asymmetry in military strength, it is true that China has large military machine and men in uniform. However mere numerical superiority is no indication of a super military power. It is also true that Chinese People’s Liberation Army has large number of naval and air platforms including their large nuclear force as compared to India. But the world has not yet seen Chinese military power in any full scale conventional combat (notwithstanding the 1962 war with India as it was one sided) against strong opponent. Present Indian armed forces are fully modernized, integrated, motivated in their conventional and strategic nuclear format. It would be a mistake to underestimate India’s defense capability and leadership.
ABHISH K. BOSE: What, if any, is the role of the US in keeping the Sino-Indian relationship on the boil?
Prof. Malviya: India and China are rising powers, and enjoyed their strategic autonomy in their regional and global conduct. Both are emerging global players, capable of guiding and protecting their strategic and politico economic interest, hence there is hardly any role for America to fish in the troubled waters of Sino Indian tension. With the rapid changing strategic landscape, it is difficult to predict US role and influence in future however in the current scenario it is insignificant.
ABHISH K. BOSE: Does the tension that prevail between the two countries presage the outbreak of a large-scale conflict between these Asian giants? What are we to make of the increased defence spending by both countries? In the event of an outbreak of war, will it take a nuclear turn?
Prof. Malviya: India and China are clearly set to emerge as great economic and military powers. They also are neighbors who will continue to compete for resources market and influence in Asian region and global stage. It is unlikely that India and China will become mortal enemies again particularly in the current political situation. Hence any large-scale military adventure or conflict is minimal and unlikely.
I don’t see any big jump in their defense spending. Gradual and incremental increase is likely to continue based on their strategic requirement and compulsion. Minor military engagement, border intrusion, temporary encroachment, fist fight and occasional crossing the line by both powers may continue at some point along the border at short intervals. However, any major conventional war is unthinkable and a possible nuclear exchange is highly improbable.
ABHISH K. BOSE: To what extent are domestic compulsions working behind the Chinese strategy to escalate border tensions? The need to divert attention from internal issues especially the slowdown of the Chinese economy post COVID 19 pandemic, for example?
Prof. Malviya: Chinese often take aggressive postures against their perceived adversaries and escalate tension in order to divert their internal socio-political issues. This is a regular strategy pursued at different occasions at different places of their choice. The Chinese tool kit for such event includes aggressive military deployment, border skirmishes, provocative statement and mounting diplomatic pressures, India is no exception.
ABHISH K. BOSE: Pakistan is reportedly teetering on the bridge of an economic collapse and the Chinese do not seem to be particularly keen to bail that country out of its present crisis. Does it signal any shift in the foreign policy of China and what bearing will it have on peace in this region?
PROF Malviya: Pakistan is on the verge of collapse. For decades Pakistan has survived with borrowed economy. Experts for long have been warning it as a ‘failed state’, economic paralysis and civil chaos. Pak as a theocratic state and military domination has not been able to evolve stable democratic culture of governance. Chinese military and economic assistance to Pakistan has been in pipeline for over 3 decades, today Pakistan finds itself totally under debt trap by China. Chinese have been using Pakistan card against India to fulfill their strategic objectives. Pakistan is also being used by China towards its design to encircle India. China has invested heavily in Pakistan to seek politico/ strategic favors from Pakistan. Currently Chinese economy has taken a backseat and hence they may not be in a position to bail out Pakistan.
Also, Chinese are facing various domestic and regional challenges. In such a case I don’t see any major shift towards Pakistan in near future. Currently there is no sign of lasting peace in this region.
ABHISH K. BOSE: What is the significance, specific to the China angle India has to mind, of the neutrality that India has adopted in the Russo-Ukraine conflict? Does India expect Putin to reign in the Chinese? Or is this expectation wholly misplaced? Or, is India trying to leverage this neutrality as a bargaining chip vis-à-vis the US?
Prof. Malviya: India does not expect Russian President Putin to reign in the Chinese, due to its (India’s) independent stand adopted in the Russo-Ukrain conflict. Any such expectation is highly misplaced. India’s assertive diplomacy and political view of ongoing conflict is crystal clear and appreciated even by all including its critics.
ABHISH K.BOSE: A permanent solution to the border disputes with China seems impossible in the near future. The Chinese, on their part, are stretching the sites of confrontation into areas where they did not have stakes previously like Galwan. How are we to read this strategy?
Prof. Malviya: Sino Indian border dispute is one of a highly complex issue. Over the period both the disputants have not been able to exercise flexible approach to resolve the knotty issue according to the terms mutually agreed by them. Both the sides have to give up ‘rigidity’ on their respective viewpoints. It also requires ‘Political Will’ from both the countries to find an amicable solution towards delimitation of the boundary. Such possibility seems very remote in the current environment. Both sides have hardliners, in Chinese PLA and also perhaps in Indian foreign establishments. Chinese have been stretching the sites of confrontation in new areas and it seems they will continue to claim areas as per cartographic aggression of their design. It is simple to understand that the Chinese have greater appetite for territories beyond their control. Chinese have also been pursuing aggressive expansionist policy in the land and sea around.
ABHISH K.BOSE: According to Nirupama Rao, the former foreign secretary of India, the border issues between India and China could have been settled, if Nehru had raised them during negotiations over the 1954 Tibet agreement, where it surrendered all its rights in Tibet. By way of quid pro quo India could have demanded the Chinese to settle its claims on the border areas which India did not do. Do you find any merit in this view, especially given that nothing prevents the Chinese from raking up issues as expeditious to them?
Prof. Malviya: Nirupuma Rao is absolutely correct and I agree with her views that Nehru could have exercised the skill of “Political Realism” to deal with China in 1954. Tibet agreement was an Indian surrender to appease China, whereas this could have been used as ‘bargain chip’ for settling the boundary issue.
In fact, later on India has missed three opportunities to settle the dispute with China or at least to read their mind on the issue. Firstly, during Chou En Lai’s visit in 1960 when Nehru was flexible for discussion and inclined to find a solution, but his cabinet colleagues protested against any settlement with China. Secondly, it was Mrs Gandhi who missed the opportunity during 1983 when she ignored Deng Xiaoping’s offer of “Packaged Deal” due to the domestic and political compulsions. Thirdly, Rajiv Gandhi during his visit to China in December 1988 never showed interest to enter into any serious discussion/ negotiation due to his rigid stand of ‘not losing even an inch of territory’ prevented India from responding to Chinese offers.
ABHISH K. BOSE: If you were to evolve a settlement package between the two countries, what would be its salient aspects? Or, do you think that peace will prevail if India is able to maintain balance of terror with the Chinese? Do you see India reaching there in the foreseeable future?
Prof. Malviya: To evolve a settlement package between India and China seems to be a tough task because Chinese practice “win win diplomacy” in their negotiations. Any dispute could be addressed with the pragmatic and flexible approach with some kind of give and take and spirit of mutual accommodation. Indian approach towards an acceptable solution is less than clear, it is not merely a lack of policy or direction but more seriously a lack of perspective. It is apparent that there are divisions among the policy makers at South Block. They have been referred as settlers and non-settlers, Indian ‘hesitation and vacillation’ is responsible for not grasping the opportunities. In the current scenario there is not ‘quick fix’ solution to the long pending issues.
India has large military machine and man power backed by strategic nuclear force. Indian defence forces are modern and continue to enhance its all-round operational capabilities. Today’s India is not of 1962, and has a major and one of the largest military forces in the world. India needs to keep its nuclear deterrent in place, to survive as an independent player it has to take it very seriously. The projection of its minimum nuclear deterrence needs to have value additions. India is fairly strong in conventional combat, capable to face any challenge or military misadventure from perceived adversaries.