Saturday, November 30, 2013

Sultan, Caliph, Padişah and Velayat-e faqih

Sultan, Caliph, Padişah and Velayat-e faqih 


Before the advent of Google , it was quite some task to quickly refer to the original source or meaning or quick summary of a political or historical event and origin of words .As I was never posted out to an English speaking country , except for local British Council library, there were few resources for books in English language .So while posted to Romania in early 1980s, I got Encyclopedia Britannica , carried by the chief of protocol on a state visit to Belgrade and then by Defence Attaché concurrently accredited from Yugoslavia to Romania . More on the uses of the encyclopedia later. (They both did very well in their careers)


My first post as third secretary /language trainee was in Cairo from end 1962 , to learn Arabic ( allotted time 2 years) .I took only one year having had done my primary schooling in Urdu in Bhiwani municipal school called Madarsa . So I knew the script. Urdu was then the medium of instruction in most of north India .Urdu script is derived from Persian script and has more alphabets than Arabic. Persian script itself is derived from Arabic .Arabic does not have alphabet P so Paris becomes Baris and Padishah becomes Badshah. For Ch it goes into circles.


After Cairo I was posted to Algiers where in the foreign office or otherwise few spoke Arabic .They spoke many dialects  and most educated persons used French as we use English even now .I was called Mudarris or Muallim, Arabic teacher or learned man . I had to start learning French, which I continued in Paris, where I could manage with English even in their Foreign office at Quay d'Orsay .But in Dakar almost every one spoke French only and may be Wolof (common with neighboring states).


I had to speak Turkish when as First Sec in Ankara ( 1969-73) I toured interiors of this vast land going up to the borders of Bulgaria, Greece, Syria ,Iraq ,Iran , USSR (now Georgia).It is beautiful and full of history , over 40 civilizations . I would normally carry tea caddies and literature on India in Turkish to give them to Kayakams like our sub-divisional officers in olden days and news paper owners cum printers, attached to some political party bringing out 4 to 8 page weekly sheets .My visit, a big event, would cover the first full page in the next issue .With press owners and others I had to speak in Turkish.


Finally I did learn Turkish and about the language and wrote a pioneering article, now available on many websites.


The script of the Turkish language in secular republic of Turkey was changed from Ottoman era Arabic script ( no short vowels, you have to guess) to modified Latin script , in which c stands for J and C cedilla for ch .G is silent and as in ogan becomes silent long oaan , so Erdogan sounds like Erdoaan.


In spite of 10 years in two spells in Turkey and postings and visits to Arab states I remained mystified by the word Sultan .I sensed that originally it was a title of a small up and coming ruler, who soon grew too big and powerful and over shadowed even his original nominal master. This transformation perhaps emerged during the Abbasid Caliphate , when in mid-9th century luxury loving Arab Caliphs started recruiting Turkish slaves from central Asia ,as major fighting forces ,whose commanders acquired status of a sultan .Soon the Caliph to whom the Sultan owed obedience , became the protector of the shadow of the God on the earth ie the Caliph.


When in early 2000s, I had stayed with the Vice Chancellor of Aligarh University, where I had delivered some lectures including on the influence of Turkish on Hindustani, I had looked up about Sultan in the encyclopedia of Islam in his very rich collection of books, but was not satisfied .So here is an attempt.


As for Iranians and Shias, who do not recognize the first 3 Caliphs and in fact curse them, after Mohammad comes Imam Ali, the prophet's son in law.


Persia's conversion to Islam, which forced Zoroastrian Parsees to migrate to India in the 7th century, disrupted mutual interaction and enrichment of Indian and Persian social and cultural streams in place since Achemenean days, if not earlier. But Islam did not liberate the sophisticated and evolved Persians, deeply influenced by spiritual and speculative Avestan, its excessive rituals and love for the intoxicant soma having been curbed earlier by Zoroaster's reforms (Buddhism was a similar attempt against Brahminical rituals and excesses in India around the same time).


Then the Persians lost their language, Pahlavi, which emerged a few centuries later as Persian in modified Arabic script. Having been ruled by Arabs, Turks, Mongols and Tartars for eight-and-half centuries, there emerged the Sufi-origin Persian Safavids, who became finally masters of their own land, which more or less comprises present-day Iran. At the same time, to preserve their sect and survive, Iranians after centuries of foreign rule developed an uncanny ability not to bring to their lips what is on their minds, and have institutionalized it as takiyya, ie dissimulation.

They also modified simple Arab Islam into a more sophisticated and innovative Shi'ite branch, with the direct descent of Imam Ali's progeny from Fatima, daughter of the Prophet Mohammed, echoing their deeply ingrained sense of the divinity of rulers. They strengthened (against the Arab caliphs and Turkish sultans) the status of the imams, who among more egalitarian Sunnis are no more than prayer leaders, in line with the Indian-Iranian tradition of placing priests higher than rulers (as are Brahmins in the Indian caste system). By tradition, Azeri (Turkish) speaking Iranians become chiefs of the armed forces. Ayatollah Ali Khameini is an Azeri speaking Iranian.

The status of the imam evolved into the doctrines of intercession and infallibility, ie, of the faqih/mutjahid. (Somewhat like Hindu shankracharyas and the fraternity of learned pundits). The speculative Aryan mind fused the mystic traditions into Sufi Islam, bringing out the best in Islamic mysticism and softening the rigors of austere and crusading Islam which had emerged from the barren sands of Arabia.


Velayat-e faqih (Persian: ولایت فقیه‎, velāyat-e faqīh), also known as Islamic Government (Persian: حکومت اسلامی‎, Hokumat-i Eslami), is a book by the Iranian Shia Muslim cleric and revolutionary Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, first published in 1970, and probably the most influential document written in modern times in support of theocratic rule. The book argues that government should be run in accordance with traditional Islamic sharia, and for this to happen a leading Islamic jurist (faqih) must provide political "guardianship" (wilayat or velayat) over the people. A modified form of this doctrine was incorporated into the 1979 Constitution of Islamic Republic of Iran[2] following the Iranian Revolution, with the doctrine's author, Ayatollah Khomeini, as the first faqih "guardian" or Supreme Leader of Iran.


Sultan (Arabic: سلطان‎ Sulṭān, pronounced [ˈsulˈtˤɑːn]) is a noble title with several historical meanings. Originally, it was an Arabic language abstract noun meaning "strength", "authority", "rulership" and "dictatorship", derived from the masdar سلطة sulṭah, meaning "authority" or "power".* Later, it came to be used as the title of certain rulers who claimed almost full sovereignty in practical terms (i.e., the lack of dependence on any higher ruler), without claiming the overall caliphate, or to refer to a powerful governor of a province within the caliphate.


*Most Arabic words originate from and hence can be reduced to 3 Arabic alphabets ( use=isteimal to amal ,Mudarris to dars –lesson)


Muslims total around 1.6 billions in all sects and factions. After the decline of US led West , they are emerging again as powerful community aka Ummah and force .So the various aspects of Islam and its states , differences and cleavages need to be studied and Western propaganda should be abjured.


Below is a piece from Turkey's major newspaper Hurriyet whose original avatar called Turkish Daily News I was very familiar and associated with since 1969.


K.Gajendra Singh 3 November, 2013.


Ottoman rulers - sultan, khan, padişah and caliph

NIKI GAMM  November 30, 2013


The word sultan derives from an Arabic word meaning authority or power, particularly the strength, authority and position of a ruler or dictatorship. It was first used in the Abbasid period but not to signify the ruler, rather men of lesser importance but still wielders of power


"… the son of Sultan Murad, son of Sultan Mehmed Khan, the sultan of the lands and the emperor of the seas, the shadow of God extending over men and djinn, the deputy of God in the East and the West, the champion of the water and the land, the conqueror of Constantinople and the father of that conquest Sultan Mehmed…" is how Fatih Sultan Mehmed is described in the inscription above the gate (Bab-i Humayun) leading into the first courtyard at Topkapı Palace. The Ottoman ruler wasn't just plain "sultan"; he had acquired a whole series of attributes to emphasize his importance.

The word sultan derives from an Arabic word meaning authority or power, particularly the strength, authority and position of a ruler or dictatorship. It was first used in the Abbasid period (750-1258) but not to signify the ruler, rather men of lesser importance but still wielders of power. The Seljuk Turks however did use the word for their rulers when they had conquered the Middle East (1037–1194) and much of Anatolia. There has been some debate among historians over when the Ottoman Turks applied the word sultan in documents; however, Fuad Köprülü seems to have settled the issue by attributing its use to Yıldırım Bayezid (1354 – 1403) in two documents written in his time. Still Ahmet Refik Bey, citing other sources, insisted that the reign of Çelebi Mehmed (1413-1421) as the first time when "sultan" was used, although he admitted that it had been previously used in various places from time to time such as on Bayezid's mausoleum. The whole argument takes up several pages in Mehmet Zeki Pakalın's "Tarih Deyimleri ve Terimleri Sözlüğü," if you're interested.

The first time that the word sultan was used on Ottoman coins was on a copper coin minted by Murat I (r. 1362–1389). There were two elements necessary to demonstrate that one held power in the Islamic Middle Eastern world: one was by having one's name read out in Friday prayers, the other way was by having the right to mint coinage in one's name. 

The title of khan was a traditional one that emphasized the continuity of the Ottoman Empire with its Central Asian roots. The word apparently comes from Çağatay Turkish or possibly the Tatars. It was regarded as the equivalent of padişah and seems to have been a reminder to the Ottoman Turks of where they came from. It appeared on coinage as early as that of Çelebi Mehmed. 

Padişah more common

The Ottoman rulers also used a Persian title, padişah (shah of shahs) and this seems to be interchangeable with the title sultan. According to Gibb and Bowen in "Islamic Society and the West," padişah was the title more commonly used. Unlike the title sultan, historians don't seem to have been as concerned about establishing its first use for an Ottoman ruler. One could speculate that the adoption occurred after the first time an Ottoman ruler defeated an Iranian shah. 

As for the title caliph, Sultan Selim I took the title after conquering Egypt in 1517. It had been the title of the last of the Abbasid rulers, Al-Mutawakkil III who was captured together with his family. They were taken to Istanbul, where he formally surrendered the title to Selim. By this time however the caliph no longer wielded political power; it had become a means for the Mamluke sultans in Egypt to legitimize their rule since the caliph of the time would issue a diploma granting them the right to it.

Although Ottoman rulers assumed use of the title exclusively, they weren't addressed by any of the forms of address that applied to the caliph such as imam. Nor did they concern themselves with religious matters directly unless there was a direct threat to their rule. Instead they appointed a "şeyhülislam" to adjudicate religious affairs. At the same time they were not the Commander of the Faithful (Amir ul-Mu'minin), that is, acknowledgement of their right to the title of caliph extended only as far as their political power stretched; their reach was not universal. The same terms of address that could be used for the Ottoman sultan as caliph were used to describe one of the Mughal rulers of India. 

Title of caliph

Holding the title of caliph did oblige the sultan to uphold sharia law and the Ottomans were conscientious in doing this. Gibb and Bowen conclude from this that "the general conception of the powers and functions of the monarchy was but little affected by Islamic ideals. The Seljuk Turks had been thoroughly indoctrinated with Persian prinicples, which fit in well with Turkish views based upon the military-style organization of their tribal system, a feature that was passed down to their succesive Ottoman rulers. The main function of the 'World-Creator' – hünkar, one of the favorite titles of the Ottoman Sultans – was to keep the world on its axis by seeing that his army was paid and that no class of his subjects trespassed upon the rights and duties of any other class. The weaker the personal authority and influence of a Sultan, the more rigidly he was held to the strict observance of traditional customs and usages." The authors here are not referring to religious customs and usages but secular ones, although this may be why the Ottomans were more assiduous in upholding sharia law as their power grew weaker over the centuries.

Until the eighteenth century however the Ottomans successfully expanded their empire into the Balkans, at times losing a lot of ground. The battle at Petrovaradin (modern Serbia) in 1716 resulted in a disastrous defeat for the Ottomans at the hands of the Austrians, however it marked the furthest northern point that the Ottomans were able to march. From then until the Treaty of Passarowitz in 1718 they continually lost ground to European forces and while they made somewhat of a recovery, it was only temporary. Of particular importance however was that until this juncture Ottoman sultans had insisted that they were superior to the rulers of European nations. They had insisted on being called padişah but with their being defeated, they were forced to acknowledge that the Austrian emperor was also a padişah in the Turkish versions of the various treaties signed. The Ottoman padişah was no longer the one and only. 


Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Gen Raheel Sharif; the new Pakistan Army Chief

Gen Raheel Sharif; the new Pakistan Army Chief


The post of Chief  of Army in Pakistan , because of the dominant role of its military in Pak polity and the region , attracts lots of attention .The appointment of Gen Sharif was discussed earlier along with Lt Gen Rashid Mahmood , who will become the new chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee.


"Rashad Mahmood and Raheel Sharif each built promising bureaucratic careers and have served in both command and staff positions, although it has been reported that neither has led troops against the Taliban."


This might be a positive in talks with Taleban and Jihadis.


Because of the traditional closeness of the armed forces in Turkey and Pakistan, I have followed the role of the military in both the countries with considerable attention and have written extensively and spoken on the subject.


.Gen Parvez Musharraf spent his schooling years in Ankara and has abiding regard for Kemal Ataturk, a general himself, who created a secular republic out of the ashes of the Ottoman Empire following its collapse in WWI.


At the moment the hotheaded Islamist AKP leader Recep Erdogan has imprisoned hundreds of military officers including senior generals, even active ones .Armed forces in Turkey are stake holders and a blowback cannot be ruled out .Turkey's foreign policy has been a disaster and many internal problems like with Kurds, Alevis, even Armenians have emerged strongly. There is open disquiet in AKP over Erdogan's policies.


At the end I have given extracts from a 2003 piece on General Pervez Musharraf who had ousted PM Nawaz Sharif from power in 1999. Gen Musharraf is now under house arrest and charged with treason. The usual Pir –Mir fight for power as in most Sunni Muslim countries


 K. Gajendra Singh 27 November, 2013 .Delhi


Gen Raheel Sharif named as new Pakistan army commander


 On November 27 Pakistan announced the appointment of Lt Gen Raheel Sharif as its new army commander after weeks of speculation. He replaces Gen Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, who retires on Thursday. Lt Gen Rashid Mahmood would be the new chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee.


It appears that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has carefully considered the crucial appointment of Lt Gen Sharif - not related to him - since twice he was ousted by the military from his post.


In 1999 Sharif was ousted by Gen Pervez Musharraf. In 1993 army chief Abdul Waheed Kakar forced  Sharif to resign and hold elections in the wake of political stand-off between the prime minister and President Guam Ishaq.


Not much is known about Gen Sharif .His brother was one of the army's most decorated soldiers and was killed in the 1971 war with India. Gen Sharif is a career infantry soldier and is expected to continue Gen Kayani's policies and to avoid overt interference in politics.


"The officer carries with him a vast experience of command, staff and instructional appointments," Pakistan's Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) said in a statement.


Before his promotion, he headed the army's training and evaluation department and has previously served in senior roles as a corps commander and head of the country's premier training institution, the Military Academy in Abbottabad.


For details see


URLs of two recent articles on Gen Kiani's successor are given below.


1.    Asia Times Online: Pakistan looks to fill Kiani's military boots


Nov 20, 2013 - With General Ashfaq Parvez Kiani leaving his post as Army chief, the country's civilian leaders are seeking a successor who can mirror his style...

2.    Retiring army chief set to extend power - Asia Times Online


Oct 7, 2013 - KARACHI - General Ashfaq Parvez Kiani, one of Pakistan's most powerful ... Sharif has to take the critical decision to appoint a successor to the...


RISE OF GEN PERVEZ MUSHARRAF –India's bete noire 12. 05. 2003

By K. Gajendra Singh




Who is Pervez Musharraf?

 Pervez Musharraf was born on August 11, 1943, in an old haveli (mansion) in Neharvali Gali (street) behind the Golcha cinema in Delhi.  When he was four years old, his family - mother and father and two brothers (his father hugging a box stuffed with a few lakhs of rupees) - migrated to Karachi in the new Pakistan soon after it became independent on 14 August, 1947.  

Non-Punjabi speaking immigrants from India (Urdu was the home language of the Musharrafs) are now mostly concentrated in the ghettoes of Karachi and nearby Hyderabad in Sindh, and are known as Mohajirs (a name preferred by them to that of "refugees") and they form over 8 percent of the population. They have been openly discriminated against by the ruling Punjabi-Pathan elite and have, therefore, established a political organization of Urdu-speaking migrants, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), in Karachi, whose leader, Altaf Hussain, now lives in London. But exiling powerful leaders in nothing new in Pakistan polity.  Starting with President Iskender Mirza, who was exiled by General Ayub Khan after the 1958 coup, the tradition has been kept up. Former Prime ministers Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif are the latest examples.  

The Mohajirs, led by the Karachi-born Jinnah of the Ismaili Bohra community, who built up his legal practice and political career in Bombay, now Mumbai, were primarily responsible for the creation of Pakistan.  Being generally better educated, they had formed the ruling group in Pakistan's then capital city of Karachi before the new capital was built and power center moved up north to Islamabad in the heartland of the Punjabis, who form around 60 percent of the population.  

After spending six years in Ankara, where Pervez learned to speak and write Turkish fluently, he completed his further education in English medium schools in Karachi and Lahore.  He joined the Pakistan Military Academy in 1962 and finished second in the class after Quli Khan.  The military has always been a coveted profession in Pakistan, but its officer class has traditionally been dominated by Punjabis, with the Mohajirs actively discriminated against.  Nevertheless, Musharraf proved himself loyal and diligent, especially with regard to Pakistan's anti-India policy.  

Other members of the Musharraf family have sought greener pastures outside Pakistan.  Except for his married daughter, Ayla, an architect, who lives in Karachi, the oldest brother, Javed, is an economist with the International Fund for Agricultural Development in Rome. Another brother, Dr Naved Musharraf, is based in Illinois, US, and is married to a Filipino.  Musharraf's son, Bilal, an actuary, is settled in Boston, US, and even his mother and father, who passed away a few months after Musharraf took over, had become naturalized US citizens.  

Raised by parents who were moderate in their religious outlook, modern and almost secular in outlook and well educated (his mother had a master's degree in literature from Delhi and had worked for the International Labor Organization in Karachi), Pervez's catholic outlook was reinforced by his stay in Ankara.  Outgoing and extrovert, Musharraf is a caring family man, but somewhat authoritarian.  After a normal retirement as a lieutenant-general, Musharraf would have perhaps divided his time between Pakistan and the US. Even now, whenever he visits USA on official visits, he spends time with Bilal in Boston, but still utilizes the time to promote the cause of Pakistan.  

Destiny's wheel

But destiny had other plans for Musharraf.  Two things happened that catapulted him to the top of the heap.  A thoughtless and erratic prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, who twice came into power in the musical chairs with Benazir Bhutto - conducted by the Pakistan military after the death of dictator General Zia ul-Haq in 1988 in an air crash - started to go haywire after his 1997 election victory.  After getting a two-thirds majority, with an abysmal turnout of less than 30 percent, an arrogant Sharif amended the constitution, stripping the president of the power to dismiss the government and made his power to appoint military service chiefs and provincial governors contingent on the "advice" of the prime minister.  

Worse, in a rush of blood, he forced into early retirement General Musharraf's predecessor, General Jahangir Karamat, an able and apolitical general.  Gen Karamat, after a lecture at the Pakistan Defense Academy, in response to a question, had only expressed the need for a National Security Council (NSC) in view of the introduction of nuclear weapons into Pakistan's arsenal. But the armed forces took a serious note of the insult.  

Sharif, whose family is of Indian Punjab origin and now settled in Lahore, was a small-time businessman.  He was groomed (along with many other middle class Punjabis) by General Zia (also from Indian Punjab) as a reliable rival to the Sindhi Benazir Bhutto, and other feudal political leaders. Sharif had promoted Musharraf in October 1998 to chief of Army staff, ahead of many others including Gen Quli Khan.  He thought that being a Mohajir without a Punjabi support base he would not have any Bonapartist ambitions. Perhaps Musharraf would have faded away after completing his term. 

But at a time when the economic situation at home was dismal, in another rush of blood and hoping to gain absolute power and popularity, Sharif dismissed Musharraf and attempted to replace him on October 12, 1999, with a family loyalist, the Director General of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Lieutenant-General Ziauddin.  Although Musharraf was out of the country in Sri Lanka at the time, the army was prepared this time and moved quickly to depose Sharif in a bloodless coup.  After Musharraf took over, Sharif was charged with attempted murder and other crimes.  

One of the reasons why Sharif wanted to get rid of Musharraf was that the latter had led the Pakistani forces in the debacle at Kargil, in the summer of 1999.  Infiltrators from Pakistan occupied Kashmir had clandestinely occupied the remote mountainous area of Kargil in Kashmir, threatening even the ability of India to supply its forces on the Siachen Glacier.  Serious fighting flared up, but the infiltrators had to withdraw after a Washington meeting between Sharif and then US president Bill Clinton in July.  Sharif was severely embarrassed by the incident, although he appeared to be in the loop and would have happily reaped the benefit of popularity if the Kargil misadventure had succeeded.  

Two days before the coup, the Washington Post had noted that "analysts said (that) Sharif has little idea how to restore confidence in a government that has lost credibility at home and abroad - this deeply unpopular government is facing its worst crisis since early 1997".  A Gallup Poll taken a day after Musharraf seized power revealed that most Pakistanis wanted an unelected, interim government of "clean technocrats" to rule for at least two years.  Even Benazir Bhutto said, "He [Musharraf] was a professional soldier and I thought he was very courageous and brave.  He'd been a commando and one who is a commando can take tremendous risks and think afterwards."  

A Pakistani editorial welcomed the coup, "This is perfectly understandable.  The political record of the last decade of 'democracy' is dismal. Benazir Bhutto blundered from pillar to post during 1988-90. Nawaz Sharif plundered Pakistan (1990-93) as if there were no tomorrow.  Then Benazir was caught, along with her husband, with her hands in the till instead of on the steering wheel. So Sharif returned to lord it over a bankrupt country.  Then, obsessed with power, and emboldened by an illusion of invincibility, he went for the army's jugular and paid the price for his recklessness."  

Turkish connection;  

At his very first press conference soon after taking over as Pakistan's chief executive, General Musharraf spotted some journalists from Turkey. Speaking in fluent Turkish, Musharraf told them that he was a great admirer of Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the Turkish Republic and its first president.  "As a model, Kemal Ataturk did a great deal for Turkey. I have his biography. We will see what I can do for Pakistan. " Not only is he more at home with Turkish than Pakistan's national language, Urdu, Musharraf also admires Turkey's generals and the country's political model, having spent his most impressionable school years in  early 1950s in Ankara, where his father was posted as a junior diplomat.  Ataturk's legend of forging a new, vibrant, modern and secular Turkey out of the ashes of the decaying deadwood of the Ottoman Empire left an indelible mark on young Pervez, as evidenced by his remarks above and his subsequent actions as the leader of Pakistan.

However, following his statements lauding Ataturk, the Jamaat-i-Islami, the largest of Pakistan's religious parties, immediately expressed its opposition to the secular ideology of Kemalism. As a result, Musharraf now also highlights the aborted vision for Pakistan of Qaid-e-Azam Mohammed Ali Jinnah, the country's founding father and its first leader after independence in 1947.  Therefore, it came as no surprise when Musharraf visited Ankara in November, 1999, within weeks of taking power, on a pre-coup invitation from Turkey's military chief of general staff, who happened to be away when the Pakistani general landed in Ankara. Musharraf s main objective was to meet with General Kenan Evren, who had carried out the 1980 coup.  But Musharraf found himself a most unwelcome guest because both President Suleyman Demirel and Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit, now back in power, had been imprisoned and debarred from politics after Evren's coup.  They advised Musharraf to restore democracy at the earliest possible.  

The influential Turkish Daily News, close to Demirel, castigated the visit as "untimely and unnecessary so soon after grabbing power and jailing elected Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. The coup in Pakistan or one in any other country can never be accepted.  Despite the role of the military in public life in Turkey the general failed to realize the sensitivity Turks feel towards coups and authoritarian rule.  He seemed to forget that Turks have now found out that coups have not solved the problems of the country and that, to the contrary, they have further complicated things. The way the general praised former coup leader General Evren was unnecessary."  

Discouraged from seeing Gen. Everen, Musharraf met his old friends in Ankara and lunched with the chief of protocol, an old school mate. Musharraf did concede before leaving that all countries must find their own solutions. –

At best Musharraf can be said to have succeeded in emulating his publicly undeclared model Gen Evren and that too not that well. There are some similarities with Ataturk.  Delhi-born Musharraf's family comes from east Uttar Pradesh (India). Blue-eyed Ataturk was born in Salonika (Greece) and his family came from Macedonia.  Ataturk was able to rally the world war-weary Turks, whose land had been occupied by foreigners.  At first he battled the Ottoman Sultan's forces sent to kill him and then vanquished friend turned foe rebel Ethem and his ragtag army, which had helped fight off invading Greeks who had almost reached Ankara. This was something like the various jihadi forces and foot-loose groups that Musharraf now faces. Later, Ataturk ruthlessly crushed religious revolts led by feudal Kurdish tribal chiefs and others.  And to fulfill his destiny, he even got rid of his earlier nationalist comrades, who were in favor of continuing with the Caliphate. 

Musharraf, too, has succeeded in sidelining many unreliable generals but not completely. Despite his belief in his avowed destiny, his proclaimed good luck in escaping helicopter mishaps, not being in the plane crash that killed Zia and victory in the standoff with Sharif, he has not shown the boldness and ruthlessness of Ataturk.  September 11 and December 13, provided him with a golden opportunity to go the whole hog in the fight against the virus of fundamentalism and usher a new era in Pakistan on the lines of Ataturk's reforms.  He would have got unstinted support from US led West, India and others. 

Ataturk had boldly and ruthlessly carried out westernizing and modernizing reforms against religious obscurantism and dogma and forged the remnants of the Ottoman Empire with a 99 percent Muslim population into a secular republic in the 1920s.  The Ottoman Sultan was also the Caliph .He abolished both the offices. But he had kept his external ambitions in check, he did not claim former Ottoman provinces lost in World War I, and had concentrated on building a new Turkey from the bottom up. 

Musharraf, a child of his times, did step down, after September 11, from the fundamentalist tiger he was riding and had helped nurture. Quite clearly he is not fully in command on the home front, with suicide bombers killing foreigners and Christians and senior officials being assassinated.  He tightens up from time to time, with some arrests of ranking Al-Qaeda members and others to please USA.  If he tried too hard, these forces, now baying against him, would conspire for his blood and threaten his US allies.

Musharraf's childhood Ataturk-inspired dream is unlikely to come true. Perhaps he is not ruthless enough, determined and single minded like Ataturk, or maybe there are just too many cards stacked against him. "




Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Five years after 2611;How America sacrificed Mumbai

Five years after 2611; Has India learnt any Lessons?

How America sacrificed Mumbai to keep Headley in play; a new Book


Reproduced below are extracts and URLs of 4  of my articles on this humiliation, carnage and damage to Brand India (!!) How the Chinese tittered at our delusions of great power.


And a review of the book "America sacrificed Mumbai to keep Headley in play."


1. West Stirred-up Muslims Terrorize Mumbai
by K. Gajendra Singh 12 December, 2008

City's Rape, Shocked and in Disarray, India Watches with Impotent Rage
Would New Delhi get sucked onto Western Crusade!

When questioned if he had any regrets in supporting Islamic fundamentalism in Afghanistan during 1980s, Zbigniew Brzezinski in a January 1998 interview with Le Nouvel Observateur, Paris, replied, "What is most important to the history of the world? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire? Some stirred-up Moslems or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the cold war?"." Nonsense--" responded Brzezinski when asked "If Islamic fundamentalism represents a world menace today." Brzezinski was President Jimmy Carter's National Security Adviser.

"Terrorism is a tactic, a technique, a weapon that fanatics, dictators and warriors have resorted to through history. If, as Clausewitz wrote, war is the continuation of politics by other means, terrorism is the continuation of war by other means."
Patrick J. Buchanan

"The United States has supported radical Islamic activism over the past six decades, sometimes overtly, sometimes covertly," and is thus "partly to blame for the emergence of Islamic terrorism as a world-wide phenomenon." Robert Drefuss.

"It looks more like a classical Special Forces or commando operation than a terrorist one. No group linked to Al Qaeda and certainly not Lashkar has ever mounted a maritime attack of this complexity."- David Kilcullen, a counter-insurgency expert and adviser to US Gen. David Petraeus of 'Surge fame' in Iraq. .

"[Which would be worse: if the Pakistani military knew about this operation in advance, or if they didn't?] - Fareed Zakaria in Newsweek.

"You may not be interested in war but war is interested in you." Leon Trotsky

"Could this be happening to the "city of dreams"? Our very own Mumbai? The city is no stranger to terror attacks, but the scale, audacity, flamboyance and planning of this assault takes one's breath away. As the faces of anonymous, but not hooded, assassins flashed on TV screens, one thing became quickly clear. These gentlemen were looking for maximum exposure in maximum city. And what a spectacular success, from their perspective, the operation has been. Will Mumbai ever be the same again? "Vinod Mehta, Editor, Outlook magazine, India

2.Mumbai Terror Attacks Expose
India's Chronic Systemic Security Weakness
by K Gajendra Singh    8 January, 2009

"Terrorism is a tactic, a technique, a weapon that fanatics, dictators and warriors have resorted to through history. If, as Clausewitz wrote, war is the continuation of politics by other means, terrorism is the continuation of war by other means."
- Patrick J. Buchanan

The 60 hour brutal rape of Mumbai, India's commercial and cultural metropolis, telecast around the world, which was carried out by Pakistan based Muslim terrorists (financed and trained at inception in 1980s by the West, Saudi Arabia and Muslim countries and allowed to fester), with New Delhi almost immobilized, exposed its dysfunctional security infrastructure and inability to hit back at Islamabad. Since then Indian leader's fulminations against Islamabad and West's blowing hot and cold with little likely effect on its long term ally Pakistan, highlights Indian state's abject failure to provide its citizens with even basic security, a basic social contract between the rulers and the ruled. Business Houses like Tatas are going in for their own private security. So what is the state for! Yes India's generally corrupt political elite is well protected by the National Security Guard commandos since the December 2001 attack on the Indian Parliament. ---                                                                                                         


3. "FBI complicity in Pak ISI's 26/11 Mumbai Rape"                                                              Who needs Enemies with Friends like Washington                                 

By K.Gajendra Singh                        26 October, 2010 (and a score more websites/blogs)

 As for 911, most Muslims believe that it was a false flag operation .The number of US citizens to this viewpoint are on the increase with a large body of evidence to support it. The author believes that powers that be in US knew about it and allowed it to happen, so that Washington could use it like Pearl Harbour before US entered the WWII .It is now clear that Bush administration insiders had plans to invade Iraq for its oil and Afghanistan for strategic control of the region even before Bush was sworn in as the President.

4. Taj Hotel, Mumbai; a Symbol of India's Impotence and Humiliation

US president Barack Obama delivers a speech there. Suppose President Parvez Musharraf of Pakistan had gone to the site of the destroyed New York towers and made a speech about the resilience and courage of New Yorkers, how would US and its people taken this sermon .After all the hijackers/terrorists, were trained and even financed by those who were either Pakistanis or were their friends, guests and comrades.

7 November, 2010. Delhi

The three day rape of India's commercial and cultural centre, Mumbai by Pakistani terrorists on 26 November, 2008 with Hotel Tajo as the main theatre of inflicting horror and fear , wanton destruction and showcasing Indian state's impotence and total incompetence and inefficiency of its security establishment, in some ways mirrors the destruction of  US symbols of economic power in New York's Trade Towers and damage to its military power's nerve centre ,the Pentagon, on 11 September , 2001.

Suppose President Parvez Musharraf of Pakistan had gone to the site of the destroyed towers and made a speech about the resilience and courage of New Yorkers , how would US and its people taken this sermon .After all the hijackers/terrorists, mostly from Saudi Arabia , were trained and financed by those who were either Pakistanis or were their guests and comrades of the Jihad against USSR in Afghanistan in 1980s. The Al Qaida and its host Taleban were created by Pakistan ISI and financed by Washington, Riyadh and others , mostly Muslim countries .Just before 911 Taleban were having discussions with UNOCAL , a US oil company for allowing use of Afghanistan territory for laying energy pipelines from central Asia to south Asia .

Thus the choice of Hotel Taj , Mumbai as the venue for the speech of US president Barack Obama was most inappropriate and unfortunate ,if not a slap on the face of Mumbaikars who lost friends and relatives and suffered the humiliation of being made to witness the City's rape .How could a feckless Indian administration and Indians agree to it .

"India disappointed that the name of David Headley was not provided (by US), if not pre-26/11 at least post 26/11", Indian Home Secretary GK Pillai , (Headley  visited India in March 2009 . New Delhi could have nabbed him).

But the Indian worm was not even allowed to turn . Next day the US ambassador contradicted Pillai's statement .Soon after his boss Home Minister Chidambaram and others were disowning the truth about FBI's complicity in 2611 so evident because of the involvement of its agent David Goldman Headley. What else is arm twisting!

But to allow Obama to make an otiose speech at the Taj was a most thoughtless decision. What happened to thousands of Mumbaikars who held TV discussions , seminars , candlelit sit outs after 2611 .

No brave souls showing a black flag or two .---

The world laughed at us and continues to do so . Sec of State Ms Rice ,worried that India might retaliate tried to speak to EAM P Mukherjee .He could not be traced , worrying her even more .He was traced in his constituency ,perhaps readying for the elections .Shame ?


K.Gajendra Singh 26 November , 2013


 America sacrificed Mumbai to keep Headley in play


By Adrian Levy & Cathy Scott Clark | Nov 24, 2013, 05.15 AM IST

Five years on, this is what we now know. A valued CIA proxy, who infiltrated the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), a banned Pakistani Islamist outfit, planned the Mumbai attacks in which 166 people were killed, and more than 300 injured. David Headley, an American citizen, conceived, scoped and ran supplies for the terrorist 'swarm' operation, so called because several independent units simultaneously hit their enemy in multiple locations, coming out of nowhere, multiplying fear and panic. 

Headley selected Mumbai, India's commercial capital, as the theatre of operations while acting as a 'prized counter-terrorism asset' for the United States, according to senior officers in the Joint Terrorism Task Force, who described his covert career as running for eleven years. When the LeT's ten-man suicide squad sailed from a creek in Pakistan's southern port city of Karachi, at dawn on 22 November 2008, they navigated towards a landing spot in Mumbai, marked on a GPS provided by the Washington DCborn maverick. Reaching the world's fourth largest metropolis four nights later, LeT's team fanned out, following routes plotted by Headley over an intense two-year period of surveillance . Shortly before 10pm, the gunmen shot dead tourists at the Leopold Cafe, massacred more than 60 Indian commuters at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST) railway station, and then laid siege to a Jewish centre and two five-star hotels, including the luxurious Taj Mahal Palace, Mumbai's most famous landmark. Ten men would keep the mega-city burning for more than three days. 

This month sees the fifth anniversary of the Mumbai attacks, and the most complete survey to date of former and serving intelligence agents, diplomats, police, and survivors from 12 countries, reveals that the CIA repeatedly tipped off their counterparts in India to an imminent attack, using intelligence derived from their prize asset Headley. What they did not reveal was that their source, a public school educated Pakistani-American dilettante and entrepreneur, was allowed to remain in place even as the attack was realized. His continuing proximity to the terrorist outfit would eventually lead to a showdown between Washington and New Delhi. 

Researching 'The Siege', we learned that Indian intelligence agents accused their US counterparts of protecting Headley and leaving him in the field, despite the imminent threat to Mumbai. Irate Indian officials claimed that Headley's Mumbai plot was allowed to run on by his US controllers, as to spool it in would have jeopardized his involvement in another critical US operation . Having infiltrated the LeT, Headley also won access to al-Qaida, making him the only US citizen in the field who might be able to reach Osama bin Laden. Three years before America's most wanted terrorist was finally run to ground in Abbottabad, this was an opportunity that some in the US intelligence community were not willing to give up. 

Phone and email intercepts seen by us confirm how Headley had become trusted by Ilyas Kashmiri, a former LeT commander and senior al-Qaida operative, who led an al-Qaida military affiliate, known as Brigade 313. Based in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan, Ilyas Kashmiri was, at one point, considered as a potential successor to Osama bin Laden until his death in June 2011. 

In 2009, several months after the Mumbai atrocity, agents from the Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW), India's foreign intelligence agency, confronted the CIA with these claims, according to accounts seen by us. India is said to have accused the US of pursuing 'a narrow self-interest' and having some responsibility in the deaths in Mumbai. 

However, the CIA stood firm, one senior agent claiming that 'Indian incompetence' was to blame for the attack. In 2006, the US had warned India that the LeT was forming a suicide squad to attack India from the sea. More than 25 increasingly detailed bulletins followed that named Mumbai as the prime objective, and identified several targets, including the Taj hotel. Additional bulletins suggested that a team of highly trained gunmen using AK47s and RDX, military-grade explosives, would seek to prolong the attack by taking hostages and establishing a stronghold, before a final shoot-out that they hoped would be broadcast live around the world on TV. 

Some of these bulletins were eventually distilled into notices that reached the police patrolling Mumbai . However, the assessments were 'ignored or downplayed' until July 2008 when a senior police officer, a Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) with responsibility for security in the district of South Mumbai where the Taj was located, took action . On 12 August 2008, DCP Vishwas Nangre Patil spent nine hours with the Taj's security staff, writing a report to his seniors that concluded: 'Overall, the [Taj] management has done very little to adapt the hotel to the changing security environment in the city.' When a truck bomb devastated the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad, Pakistan, on 20 September 2008, Patil drew up an urgent list of enhanced security measures for the Taj, including snipers on the roof, blast barriers on the driveway and armed guards on all doors. Although security was tightened as a result, most of these measures were withdrawn again after DCP Patil went on leave in the second week of October 2008. 

David Headley was a bizarre mix of Eastern and Western cultures and made for a near-perfect mole. His mother was Serrill Headley, a socialite and adventuress from Maryland, whose great-aunt had funded women's rights and Albert Einstein's research . His father was Syed Gilani, a renowned radio broadcaster and diplomat from Lahore, who had been seconded to Voice ofAmerica. When Headley was born in Washington DC in 1960, he was initially named Daood Saleem Gilani. Within a year, the family had relocated to Pakistan, where Gilani was brought up as a Muslim and schooled at an exclusive military academy. After his parents divorced and Serrill returned to the US to open a bar in Philadelphia, named, suitably, the Khyber Pass, Gilani, aged 17, rejoined her. He lived with her in a flat above the Khyber Pass — and soon immersed himself in the American way of life. Later he moved to the Upper West Side in New York, where he opened a video rental shop, Fliks. 

By 1984, Gilani was a six-foot-two American boy, with a fair complexion, broad shoulders and an impressive mop of curly blond hair. Only his distinctively mismatched eyes — one blue one brown —hinted at his mixed heritage and muddled ancestry. Dressed in crumpled Armani jeans, a leather jacket slung over his shoulder, and a £10,000 Rolex Submariner poking out of his cuff, he was already looking for more lucrative opportunities than video rental. That year, he used his dual identities to smuggle half a kilogram of heroin from Pakistan's tribal areas to New York, selling it through the video store. When German customs officers caught him four years later at Frankfurt airport en-route to Philadelphia, with two kilograms of heroin, Gilani informed on his co-conspirators to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). While, his accomplices were jailed for between eight and ten years, he became a paid DEA informer, infiltrating Pakistan's drug syndicates . Some US agents warned that Gilani was too volatile to be trusted, and in 1997, he was arrested again in New York for trafficking. He offered another deal, suggesting he infiltrate Islamist radicals who were starting to worry the CIA and FBI

A letter put before the court reveals prosecutors conceded that while Gilani might have supplied up to fifteen kilograms of heroin worth £947,000, he had also been 'reliable and forthcoming' with the agency about 'a range of issues' . Sentenced to fifteen months in the low-security Fort Dix prison, New Jersey, while his co-conspirator received four years in a high-security jail, he was freed after only nine months. In August 1999, one year after hundreds had been killed in simultaneous Al-Qaeda bomb attacks on American embassies in Africa, he returned to Pakistan, his ticket paid for by the US government. 

By 2006, Daood had joined the inner circle of Lashkar-e-Toiba, which had been proscribed by the UN five years earlier. Coming up with the plan to attack Mumbai and launch LeT onto the international stage, he changed his name to David Headley and applied for a new US passport. He would use it to travel incognito to India on seven surveillance trips, selecting targets in Mumbai which he photographed using a camera he borrowed from his mother-in-law . 

Headley was chaotic and his Mumbai plan was almost undermined by his private life. By 2008, he was married to three women, none of who knew of the others' existence, two living apart in Pakistan and one in New York. The wife in the US, however, grew suspicious after he championed the 9/11 attackers, reporting him to the authorities. Shortly before the Mumbai operation, his cousin Alex Headley, a soldier in the US Army also considered reporting him after Headley announced that he was naming his newborn son Osama and described him as 'my little terrorist' . His Pakistani half-brother Danyal Gilani, who worked as a press officer for the Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, disowned him. 

Eventually, Headley's mother informed on him to the FBI. Her son was only ever interested in himself, she warned, arguing that his selfishness was born out of his lack of a sense of self. None of the complainants heard anything back, with Serrill Headley, who died ten months before Mumbai, confiding in a friend that her son 'must have worked for the US government' . 

Five years on, with American officials continuing to remain silent over Headley (and the conflict of interest that enabled him to run amok in the field), and with New Delhi still prevented from accessing him, the full truth about Washington's culpability in 26/11 remains muddied. In India, where no postmortem of any depth has been carried out into Mumbai, the scale of the intelligence failings — the inability of IB and RAW to develop the leads passed them by the CIA and others — will also never be fully exposed. 

Levy and Scott-Clark are investigative journalists and authors of 'The Siege'

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Fwd: Why India’s Mars mission is about more than power and prestige


Why India's Mars mission is about more than power and prestige

Sreeram Chaulia is a Professor and Dean at the Jindal School of International Affairs in Sonipat, India.

: November 07, 2013 20:28

This handout photograph released by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) on November 6, 2013, shows the PSLV-C25 rocket carrying the Mars Orbiter Spacecraft blasting off from the launch pad at Sriharikota on November 5, 2013. (AFP Photo)

This handout photograph released by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) on November 6, 2013, shows the PSLV-C25 rocket carrying the Mars Orbiter Spacecraft blasting off from the launch pad at Sriharikota on November 5, 2013. (AFP Photo)

Space travel has historically been closely tied to competition for political prestige and influence in international relations, but the Nov. 5 launch of a Mars orbiter spacecraft by India has proved there is much more to it than that.

The fact that India's first inter-planetary satellite was built by its own homegrown scientists in barely 15 months, at a record-low cost of $73 million, has become a matter of intense pride, and part of Indians' collective psyche. 

It was a can-do, Sputnik-like feeling that defied the usual lament that defines average Indians who feel let down by daily governance failures and infrastructure bottlenecks of a dysfunctional governance system. That same system delivered a psychological ticket into the wider solar system for Indian people who crave grand achievements and global recognition for their scientific human capital. 

The widespread joy in India at the launch of the country's Mars orbiter, Mangalyaan, should not be mistaken for vanity or escapism, however. Patriotic Indians are acutely aware of the rising profile of their country in global economics and geopolitics, alongside other emerging powers belonging to BRICS and similar groups. Every milestone in advanced rocket science, literally a rarefied and sophisticated field that few nations can master, is a shot in the arm for national self-confidence, showing that India is headed for global leadership. When the chips are down, or if there is a national calamity, memories of the Mars orbiter blazing a trail in the sky will sustain the faith that the future belongs to India. 

Perception of competition with China

Many analysts argue that India is engaged in a space race specifically with China, and that the former's Mars orbiter was spurred on by the failure of China's Yinghuo-1 mission to Mars in November 2011. 

The Indian Space Research Organization's chief scientist, K. Radhakrishnan, rejects such comparisons, however, saying: "We are in competition with ourselves, in the areas we have charted for ourselves." For the scientific community, which is directly involved in high stakes projects such as the Mars orbiter, it is obvious that they set goals internally and are determined to achieve them. However, the belief that India is trying to steal a march over China is widespread.  

China's state-owned media have also echoed this perception, by reacting with jealousy or wariness to India's Mars mission. The Global Times, published in Beijing, tried to reassure nationalistic Chinese readers that in space technology, their country "has already been in advance of India" and that China "has no choice" but to invest more in its own space exploratory abilities "in front of an India that is striving to catch up with China. 

A girl in a school in Beijing asks Chinese female astrounaut Wang Yaping (Top R) questions as Wang delivers a lesson to students from Tiangong-1 space module in the morning of June 20, 2013. (AFP Photo)

A girl in a school in Beijing asks Chinese female astrounaut Wang Yaping (Top R) questions as Wang delivers a lesson to students from Tiangong-1 space module in the morning of June 20, 2013. (AFP Photo)

Yet, unlike in the Cold War era, when the USSR and the US engaged in a spectacular tit-for-tat space race while remaining economically and politically estranged from each other, China and India today have a booming trade relationship and are not engaged in any outright ideological confrontation. If there is a "new Cold War" rivalry now, it is more between a whole group of powers led by Russia and the US. 

There are elements of a Cold War mindset when China and India square off in strategic competition, but it remains embedded within the liberal framework of economic globalization and cooperation. The Chinese Foreign Ministry's call for "joint efforts" in space exploration after India's Mars orbiter launch underlines the complexity of this key bilateral relationship in Asia. 

India is mindful that the strides it's making in space science can also be a medium for enhancing international cooperation. For instance, its Moon mission in 2008 won the International Cooperation Award from the International Lunar Exploration Working Group for carrying a payload of as many as 20 countries. 

As India's satellite launch capacity expands, it can also offer friendly countries a platform for joint space exploration and help to mitigate predictions of galactic war. Through technology, India can assume international leadership in cutting-edge dimensions and issues. 

Race to be first in Asia

Missions to Mars are treacherous, however. Scientists at the Indian Space Research Organization point out that 30 out of a total of 51 Mars missions, from various countries, have ended in failure. 

Bets are currently being placed on whether India's Mangalyaan (Mars Craft) will succeed in reaching Mars' orbit and detecting possible signs of life there in the form of methane gas. 

The satellite is projected to reach its destination, 400 million kilometers away, by September 2014. Asia's two largest economic powers, Japan and China,  launched their own Mars missions in 2003 and 2011, respectively, but neither of them reached Mars' orbit due to technical problems. Regardless of the current euphoria in the Indian media surrounding the launch, the scientific verdict on Mangalyaan will only come later. A sobering reminder comes from India's first lunar mission, Chandrayaan, which was designed to explore the moon for two years, but was declared lost after 312 days due to technical snags. 

India is only the sixth power to embark on a mission to Mars. If it succeeds, India would be the first in Asia to do so, and only the fourth in the world after the Soviet Union, the US and the European Union. 

Military angle

There are obviously military applications to India's space program, and India's longstanding National Satellite System, now in its third decade, has long been closely linked to its Integrated Missile Development Program, 
which built India's intermediate-range ballistic missiles. Today, India can boast of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) named Agni V with a strike range of 5,000 kilometers. This is due in part to the cooperation between the civilian scientific community and the defense industry.

Indian visitors to the Nehru Planetarium watch the live telecast of the launch of India's Mars Orbiter Mission in New Delhi on November 5, 2013. (AFP Photo / Prakash Singh)

Indian visitors to the Nehru Planetarium watch the live telecast of the launch of India's Mars Orbiter Mission in New Delhi on November 5, 2013. (AFP Photo / Prakash Singh)

Since the weaponization of space is now in full throttle, with the Chinese competing hard against Russia and the US, one benefit for India of projects such as the Mars orbiter mission is that it demonstrates the country's long-range military potential. It is tacitly acknowledged that the civilian space program brings strategic benefits to the country, as military thinkers say space will be the arbiter of future wars. The potential dual use of space technology is why the Chinese media has reacted to India's Mars orbiter by reminding the Chinese people of the need to "construct our comprehensive strategic power." 

Brainpower versus naysayers

 As can be expected in a developing country with a free media, in the run-up to the Mars orbiter launch Indian opinion makers also considered the opportunity costs of space missions. Even though the costs of Mangalyaan are revolutionarily low by global standards and a feather in the cap for India's famed 'frugal innovation' industry, some in India complained about "wasteful expenditure" on nationalistic ego trips, when money could have been better spent on economic development schemes and alleviating poverty. 

But the "guns versus butter" argument, which assumes that there has to be a tradeoff between state spending on military and the basic needs of citizens, is negated by the concrete benefits that India's satellite system has brought to the lives of ordinary people. From meteorological predictions that have saved thousands of lives from natural disasters, to broadcasting and telecommunications, India's National Satellite System has greatly helped human development in the country. If India remains poor and plagued by economic imbalances and inequalities, blaming greedy space scientists is way off the mark. 

Returning to the national psyche, why has the Mars orbiter launch struck such a chord among all sectors and classes in Indian society? It's because India has always viewed its intellectual and mental faculties as extraordinary, and rocket science is revered as a key frontier of the human mind. Children in India learn in school textbooks about the ancient astronomer Aryabhata (AD 476–550) and his prescient works about the solar system and models in which the earth turns on its own axis. Especially in southern India, which produces the vast majority of the astrophysicists who lead the country's space research, the tradition of excelling in mathematics and physics is deeply ingrained in the culture. 

To most Indians, their support for the Mangalyaan mission is not only about winning the space race for international prestige and influence, but also about reaffirming the core love in Indian society for pure and applied science, which is considered the summit of intellectual achievement and the testing ground for individual brilliance. The Mars orbiter speaks to the innate curiosity and rational scientific temper that Indians aspire to. In short, it's India's alter ego in space. 

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.