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Old Hands at an Old Game

THERE have been three-and-a-half wars (the little skirmish in the Rann of Kutch counting as half a war) between them (the Pakistanis) and us. Add to that the holocaust of the partition. One would think that this experience would make the people (who matter) in New Delhi and Islamabad pause and think before they turn relations between them into a theatre of the (cruel) absurd. Obviously, that is not the case. The subcontinental politicians and statespersons are a special and unique breed. It was in December 1989 that George Fernandes, then railway minister, came out with a statement on Tibet, In no other cabinet system would a railway minister issue a statement which has a bearing on foreign policy. Nawaz Sharief, the former prime minister of Pakistan, has announced that Pakistan is a nuclear power. Issues of defence, security and foreign policy would not be talked about so lightly and irresponsibly in other democracies. But South Asian culture or the essential unity of erstwhile India is demonstrated usually through such acts of irresponsibility. Fernandes provided an example; Nawaz Sharief has provided another; and Benazir Bhutto's proposed and now frustrated trip to the Gaza Strip is yet one more.

Deng Xiaoping A Senile Ninety

Deng Xiaoping: A Senile Ninety? GPD With all his faults, Deng Xiaoping and, because of him, the other leaders of China are the only people in the developing world who are able to hold their own against the ' hegemonism' and big power chauvinism that have come to mark the post-Soviet world.

A Language Problem

A 'Language' Problem GPD The issue raised by Taslima Nasreen's Lajja is, in the last analysis, one of language and not theology. People for whom modernity is essentially a west-of-Khyber phenomenon will find it difficult to understand this.

Narasimha Rao Visits Jurassic Park

More than the prime minister and the ruling party, it was the media which were determined to present Narasimha Rao

Mahaan Sa Nripatih

Mahaan Sa Nripatih GPD India's foreign minister thinks that foreign policy has to do with economics. There are others who believe that all politics has to be pedagogy. There are some people in need of being taught a lesson and some others ready to teach the lesson.

Communalism Beyond Political Parties

Communalism: Beyond Political Parties GPD The setback possibly suffered by the BJP or the arrest of RSS leaders cannot stop the production of Hindu chauvinist ideology. This process has been going on for a number of years and has by now communalised Indian polity as a whole. It is no longer a question of whether a given political party is banned or not. The question is what happens when a communal discourse becomes the dominant discourse in society. How does one deal with that situation?

Everything in a Name

Everything in a Name GPD The 14th congress of the Chinese Communist Party had been billed as the congress of reform and change. It has been nothing of the sort. The congress has merely decided to carry out a plan of action which had been approved as far back as at the 1978 plenum of the 11th central committee of the CPC NEARLY 2,000 delegates attended the 14th national congress of the Communist Party of China which opened on Monday, October 12. So much has been written on the congress already that there is some point in writing rather late on it. One advantage of doing so is that one then knows what one should not and need not say about the congress. The Chinese themselves must have partially expected that some profound things would be said about the congress, making it 'new' and 'path-breaking' and things like that. They, therefore, went out of their way to put the congress firmly within the context of the history of the Chinese Communist Party. The New China News Agency (NCNA) issued a backgrounder which listed all the 13 congresses of the CPC (see the table). It gave the number of delegates and membership figures of the different congresses. Even the 1969 congress was not left out of the reckoning. Only it was described as having been "held...during the chaotic cultural revolution"! The 14th congress was thus projected as more of a continuity than a change. From Deng down to the backroom-boys of the NCNA, the Communist Party which held its congress in Shanghai in 1921, in Yanan in 1945 and in Beijing in 1969 is the same as the one ruling China today. There may be doubts and questions in everybody's mind. But there are none as far as Deng Xiaoping, Li Peng, Jiang Zimin, Zhao Ziyang and others are concerned. For them it is the same party. Their sense of history is comparable to the late Dange's sense of history. The not-so- fiery Indian CPI leader proudly claimed till his very last breath that the CPSU was and is Lenin's party. The NCNA also thinks so. It makes a mention that the first congress in 1921 was attended, among others, by Mao Zedong.

Indo-Pak Relations Getting to the Roots

Indo-Pak Relations: Getting to the Roots GPD Liberals and secularists in India have almost instinctively banished the reconstruction of the subcontinent from their agenda, thinking that it is a Hindu nationalist demand.

The New Jews in Europe

The New Jews in Europe GPD THE German historian-philosopher Koselleck had made an interesting point nearly a quarter of a century ago that "all reflection on history on the continent of Europe throughout the nineteenth century looks behind it to the moment of that revolution in which the meaning of revolution itself was transformed from a circularity of movement to the advent of the new" (cited in Paul Connerton, How Societies Remember, Cambridge University Press, 1989, p 6). It may be mentioned in passing here that it was perhaps Chalmers Johnson who remarked that Chinese is the only language where the word for revolution has exclusively political meaning. Anyway Koselleck obviously thought at the end of the sixties (his book in German was published in 1969) that the term revolution finally came to mean the advent of the new1 in nineteenth century Europe. The Chinese word gem- ing only suggests that the mandate of heaven has changed and does not necessarily indicate the advent of the new except in a chronological sense. But in Europe we are told, and not entirely without justification, that the revolution has come to mean the "advent of the new'. But what is happening in Koselleck's Germany might suggest that the distinguished professor was taking a very romantic view of the change in the 19th century. We mean the forthcoming trial of Erich Honecker, the former East German (GDR) supremo. Already, as he stood with a clenched fist outside the Chilean embassy in Moscow being taken out to be deported to Germany, he looked a pathetic caricature of himself, of a period and of a system, lb put him on trial again is futile madness. The revolution, which swept the erstwhile Soviet Union, the countries of eastern Europe and, of course, the GDR, is being reduced by the rulers of unified Germany to what it was not supposed to be according to western views on the developments, i e, merely a coup d'etat. After a coup d'etat the previous ruler, unless he has managed to flee in time, is usually decapitated or fatally humiliated as the Cultural Revolution enthusiasts did to Liu Shaoqi. The Chinese example has been cited just to make the point that even in a geming the ideas of justice are perhaps not supposed to include the advent of the new. Honecker's trial is not very different.

A Room for Mr Faleiro

A Room for Mr Faleiro GPD What image do we think we are creating for ourselves? Nations crumble around us. The fundamentalists have killed the president of Algeria. In our own country fundamentalism is being defended on the ground that those who do so understand their respective communities better. Do not lead people, simply follow them to their and the nation's doom, seems to be the reigning logic. In the circumstances what foreign policy can you possibly have?

Of Languages, Books and Words

Of Languages, Books and Words GPD There could have been a political campaign against the Rushdie book as a phenomenon, not as she wrong-doing of an individual But when you make ordinary people, an academic here or there, your enemy, you simply let the big enemy get away.

Chinese Art of Defiance

Chinese Art of Defiance GPD The Chinese nuclear explosion is an act of defiance of the international distribution of power. THERE are two obviously nice things about Venkataraman 's visit to China. The first is that this is the Indian president's first visit to that country. The second is that Venkataraman is concluding his term of office with a visit to an Asian state and that too China. International visits of heads of states (as against those of heads of governments) do not carry much significance. All the right things are said, the usual sightseeing is done and the head of state then returns home after a session or two of formal diplomatic talks and a couple of banquets.

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