Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Narendra Modi - 17 Questions

    Elections 2014... and Narendra Modi. These are the "Modi" elections... everywhere you look, you will find Mr Modi. Nothing wrong with that - problem is, in this Modism, the real issues lie buried somewhere - buried and forgotten. Let me enumerate these issues in the form of Questions, in short and simple words. This is not a long blog-post; I am just asking a few questions. If you want my vote, please answer these questions, straight and simple. Else, I am clear: I will not cast my vote for the BJP. Mr Modi, sir, my vote may not mean much to you, but it means a lot to me. I am a nobody in the 1.27 Billion, but to me, I am a somebody, a thinking individual...

    1. How will you ensure that infrastructure projects' implementation will start after your rising to the pole position? How will you ensure implementation of all Government projects, departments and works?
    2. Will you give Autonomy to the CBI?
    3. Will you allow Raghuram Rajan and the RBI a free hand to reign in Inflation? How will you reign in Inflation?
    4. Will you cut red-tape and reduce the number of approvals required for setting up new businesses?
    5. How will you stoke consumption, and improve the confidence levels of business in the country?
    6. How will you ensure the investment cycle picks up again, and Capital Flight is stopped?
    7. How will you improve Brand India?
    8. Will you make Gen VK Singh - or someone else equally qualified {an ex-serviceman} - the responsibility of the Armed Forces?
    9. Will you increase allocation of funds to Defence, Health and Education as a percentage of GDP?
    10. How will you increase the manufacturing base of the country?
    11. Will you set up the tri-services command?
    12. What will you do about the crippling shortages plaguing the Indian Armed Forces?
    13. How will you handle Kashmir, and the relations with Pakistan and China? 
    14. What will be the thrust of your Foreign Policy?
    15. What will you do about Farmer Suicides? 
    16. How will you ensure Market Access to ensure proper rates for farmers? 
    17. Our Small and Marginal Farmers regularly lose money on every crop. What will you do to ensure their profitability - without raising subsidies?.
    The reason I am asking these questions is straightforward : everyone is expecting Mr Modi to waive a magic wand, and hey presto! Everything is right with the world again. We even have a suprising spectre of famous people stating that some level of corruption is acceptable if the result is stability. Expectations are rife - expectations of India being a strong, and renewed India. A euphoria, a heady euphoria is in the air, the euphoria of a rise of the BJP after 10 long years of the UPA. It is a given that the initial response to a Modi Government will be positive on the business cycle. But will this be sustainable?

    For it to be sustainable, the points enumerated above will have to be attended to. And no one - note, no one is asking these questions of the BJP, or the UPA or even the AAP. No one. I would like to understand how can things correct themselves automatically? Let us take stuck  projects as an example. How can anyone ensure that implementation picks up unless the very serious and vexatious issues of land reforms and corruption are solved?  If anyone expects that once BJP comes in power, corruption revelations will stop - they are living in Shanghri-La, the land that doesnt exist! The Media, the CAG, and the others in the fray will continue to ensure that corruption is exposed. Same is the case with Land Reforms, or red tapism, or any other issue highlighted above. These will have to be attended to; and yet, no one is asking these questions. Everyone is just chanting some name or the other!  

    How can any Government ensure rapid growth without sorting out these questions I have asked above is beyond me. Just shouting NaMo or RaGa or Kejri will not solve our problems. There has to be a strategy, a plan of action, a clearly definable tactical execution strategy that tackles extant problems. This is clearly absent - and yet, people are jumping for joy in sheer expectation! Will we never learn our lessons? High time the Indian electorate learnt to asked our political classes the right questions. Sadly, it is with a feeling of deep regret that I note that even the educated middle classes - the only people who can show the path to the rest of India, and lead the true renaissance of our land - are missing these very real questions, and are getting caught in the pointless and dangerous euphoria!

     It is the time for the middle classes to step up and be counted - but looking at the euphoria and the heady mood of the people, including the only people who can bring about real change - I cannot but feel a dredge of helplessness sweep over me; that our problems will never be solved. There is no concrete proposal on the board in the manifesto of any political party that attends to these real problems facing my India. And yet, the people are ecstatic and euphoric of the rise of Mr Modi. Amazing! How will one man solve all problems? How? Please do tell me!

    Jaago, Sonewaalon!

    Saturday, 22 March 2014

    SunSilk RealFM - A unique movie, and a unique launch

    I went into this Indiblogger without any expectations... I was in Andheri on a sales call, and was due at a friend's place for dinner - giving me a few hours in between; which meant I could register for the meet, which was in the evening. To cut a long story short, it was a very enjoyable event - both for me as a professional as well as for me as an individual. The event in question was the launch of the short movie RealFM - to be aired on MTV on the 23rd of March {Sunday}.

    THE MOVIE
    The movie is a power-packed punch by Anurag Basu - a Brand Promotion with a difference (More about this is the 2nd section below). It is a moving, heart-warming rollicking ride of emotions - all fun emotions; no tragedy here. Anurag has created a fast-moving and rapid-paced movie out of a relatively drab and in fact downright serious subject. In the process, he has also made it into a fun, touching, heart-warming movie that is genuinely hilarious in places, and packed with the entire range of entertainment. To put it in short and sweet terms - not one single emotion has been missed out; and in doing so, he has managed to keep to the plot, keep up the pace as well as held the attention of the audience. 

    The plot is around a Radio station that is facing some serious challenges, and is ditched by its unionised employees on the eve of Independence Day; leading to the MD getting an attack, and landing up in the hospital - and at death's door. At this point, the daughter, rather than hold her head, or her father's hand in the hospital - sets out to do the impossible- ensure that the Radio Station keeps running on the critical Independence Day - without any staff, or any programming. Sounds impossible, doesnt it? This is where the script scores - it has made us all believe in the impossible in the short span of around 70 - 90 minutes. So what does she do? She rallies 3 of her friends, and sets about turning the impossible, possible. And in a very believable, plausible manner - one that is, as I said above - touching,  heart-warming, genuinely funny, entertaining, power-packed - giving us all a rollicking and enjoyable ride; and one that also delivers a very powerful message to boot. What more could you ask for? 

    Watch the movie on MTV on the 23rd at 7pm for a genuinely enjoyable ride with three ladies with chutzpah, courage, audacity, attitude and optimism in the face of near-insurmountable odds. Trust me, you wont regret it! The movie is 5-star rating material; and unforgettable. All the performances are spot-on, and will leave a mark on your memory... so enjoy this Sunday evening...




    THE LAUNCH
    The launch was, to be frank, thought-provoking. This is the latest trend among brands- using the blogosphere to connect with the youth; and I could see the reason on attending the launch, and looking at the fellow-attendees. It was an experience and an education for me as a professional, connecting with these younger people (given that I am on the wrong side on 40 now),  and seeing their reactions to this frankly off-beat but highly entertaining movie. Going through the blogs and tweets also further buttressed this learning further. It was handled on a very professional and rich scale, with a high-end location to ensure a positive vibe, feel as well as attendance. The venue was top-class, as was the treatment.

    The idea behind this movie was that the story should connect with the Sunsilk Brand through association with its target segment as well as its brand tagline or message, if you will. In other words, the story should portray what the Brand and its ideal (optimal?) target segment stands for, thereby creating a connect with the relevant audience, and ensure high recall and association, leading to influencing purchase decision choice at the point-of-purchase. It is too early to state, without supporting data, whether such strategies actually do succeed; especially given the nature of the vehicle chosen. Having said that, the response the storyline got in the younger audience indicates that the brand might just succeed its connecting with the target segment- the young, 15-35 girl or lady. All in all, for me it was an education in my new field of digital sales and marketing, an opportunity to observe things up close and personal from the within the audience.

    These are early days in the digital marketing space, as I observed in my earlier articles on this subject : 



    This event is yet another in the stream of events that will contribute to building up this space. At this point, given the paucity of research on the effectivity, as well as the rapidly evolving nature of this space, nothing can be said; one thing is certain - it is emerging as a powerful tool to connect people, and one that can be eventually tapped into by companies in a big way. But is that day here? Cant be said. Having said that- events such as this one contribute in no small way in ensuring that that day arrives here faster than anyone expects. 

    Until that day comes, this remains a work in progress, and an area where at least I am learning with each passing day and event. 

    In closing - dont miss the movie, folks. No jokes; it is a seriously good movie. Top-notch!

    Thursday, 13 March 2014

    Security at ATMs...

    ATM – The Automatic Teller Machine is now the most frequently accessed portal or method for Urban Indians for a large majority of their banking tasks; especially the withdrawal of cash. Banks are supposed to provide Cash and other services from their ATMs for their customers; In addition, and equally, perhaps more important – they are also supposed to provide adequate security at their ATMs. It is, after all, situated at a location outside the bank {where there usually is security}, and are at times located in lonely places as well. 



    The need for security is underscored by recent happenings, with a couple of attacks on customers in ATMs. You might state what it is only a couple of attacks; the critical point that is missed in stating that is that these are the first attacks in ATMs; how long before it dawns on the criminal classes that ATMs are easy pickings – after all, all you really have to do is ensure that your face doesn’t show in the security camera. This is exactly the modus operandi of the first attack. Neither can it be said that we should avoid ATMs in lonely locations and at late night. But even that does not hold water, as the nature of these two attacks and their brazenness prove.

    And yet, provision of security at ATMs is exceptionally weak – basis what I have observed. This is not limited to any one bank; I have noticed this lackadaisical approach in several banks’ ATMs. Security is lax, or is absent on any number of occasions. Sadly, this is not corrected even after complaining to the bank. The local manager at times even bluntly says it is not his responsibility; at times he promises to correct the anomaly. And yet, despite this, the ATM security issue remains inconsistent. I have even complained in writing to a bank. There has been no response to my mail, surprisingly. This absence of a response is indicative of the approach, in my opinion. 

    Why are banks and their managements not waking up to the threat that is now real and present? Why cannot security be provided at ATMs – we operate from ATMs for own convenience; that does not mean that we will be willing to accept risk in lieu of that convenience.  Who is to stop anyone to walk into a multi-ATM booth, wait for the customer to withdraw cash, and rob the customer are decamp with the cash? Note that the Door and Window of the ATM is glazed, and anything happening will not be visible from outside! When will banks wake up to this massive risk to us customers? 

    What is of even greater import is the lackadaisical approach of the staff as well as customers, who just don’t seem to care, and who are not aware of the risk potential that is so apparent! The examples are present in front of us – these should act as wake-up calls to banks and customers alike, both of whom are caught in their usual stupor, and ignorance. Neither stake-holder in this matter seems to care enough about it to do anything; the customers don’t seem to want to build pressure on their banks, and bank employees don’t seem to want to build internal pressure on superiors. Some things have to go beyond the mere profit and convenience motive in life; this is one of them.

    We customers face a risk that is very, very real – and are blissfully ignorant about this. This is evident in the manner in which we arrogantly enter an occupied ATM – I have had to tell many an errant customer to walk out as I am using the ATM; this is evident in the way banks and their staff treat security related complaints of ATMs (at least in my experience). A problem will not go away just by ignoring it or wishing it away; it is real, it is present – and it poses a massive risk. The doors and glass are glazed, the glass is thick – anything that happens inside will not be visible outside. And a closed shutter or half-closed shutter is normally assumed to be due to ATM cash refilling, or repairs. Not only this, there is another type of risk associated for customers - that of ATM card fraud, or stealing of ATM card numbers etc. These frauds are also well-known as well as reported; and can also be minimised (if not totally eradicated) by the provision of adequate security. 

    Both, banks as well as customers need to wake up from their stupor and exercise their various options; this is not something that can be shoved under the carpet and ignored. ATM operations are a part of our daily lives; we trust the bank to provide us with a convenient as well as safe outlet for our normal operations. And if the bank does not provide adequate security 24*7, it is as much the bank’s problem as ours. On their part, banks need to wake up to the risk being faced by its customers, and take action to ensure proper security at their ATMs – regardless of whether customers complain, or not…

    Sunday, 9 March 2014

    Book Review : The Utopia Experiment - A Ludlum Covert-One Novel


    {A Covert-One Series Novel written by Kyle Mills This is the latest in the Covert-One series, featuring Jon Smith and Randi Russell. .}

    THE PLOT
    What happens when all information goes online, the large majority of an individual's information is on the internet, or on connected computer systems? What happens when you get one device that can combine the power of your most advanced computing device, your cell-phone as well as other electronic devices  - all that have been invented - into one powerful device? This is precisely the concept of the latest in the Covert-One series of novels. This device - called The Merge - has a military version as well, For the assessment of this device suitability to US Military requirement, Lt Col Jon Smith is called in, who gets taken in by its effectivity and power almost immediately. 

    As each subsequent test of the device - including rigorous field testing - gives superlative results, the US Armed Forces move forward with its adoption. Enter Randi Russell... who has, simultaneously. in a parralel sub-plot, being investigating a mass-murder of two villages in Afghanistan. This investigation leads to troubling questions for Randi, as she finds that one village behaved in a strange fashion - they did not fight back despite being armed almost to the teeth. Further investigation leads to the discovery that all who didnt fight were equipped with The Merge. How is The Merge connected with these murders? How can an essentially benign electronic device play a role in this? What is the reason behind it? Read the book to find out!


    THE ANALYSIS
    First off, this is not the best in Covert-One series. It could have been better, much better. Having said that, at least the characterisation is spot-on; this time, the character plot of Jon, Randi Russell is within the overall boundaries set originally in the first few novels. Jon, unsure at first, increasingly confident as the story picks up; showing flashes of insight and brilliance under pressure is the Jon we have come to know and like. Randi, tough, independent, frustrating and action-oriented is the Randi we identify the series with. 

    Unlike other Covert-One Novels, this one is a bit slow-paced and lacks the breakneck and reckless action that is the hallmark of this series. I found myself skipping paragraphs in a few instances, and flipping pages to see if what I was reading is relevant to the story. This lack of pace, and lack of binding in the middle section of the book is the major drawback in this book. This is in large part due to the nature of the plot; this time it is not a simple case of a biological weapon that is the cause of the trouble. The slightly convoluted nature of the plot, as well as its relative complexity, is the main cause of this. Aside from that, another reason is the threat takes time to build up, unlike in other cases, wherein you are into a major international threat within the first 50 pages. 

    This is not your typical Covert-One action novel; but is a novel that can be liked by all who are into fiction - and like convoluted plots and slow build-up of the story line. To Covert-One aficionados, the return to accepted parameters of Jon and Randi will be enough to take you through the novel. In fact, I would not classify this book  as an action novel at all, as there is precious little in the way of action in the entire book. And yet, it just manages to hold your attention throughout, despite slagging slightly in the middle section. 

    From an Indian or Asian perspective, there are a couple of major gaffes - but these are not central to the story, and can thus be ignored. In fact, they are not connected with the story at all, but are instead value judgements. For example - the references to Afghans being fighting like this for thousands of years is a clear indication of lack of back-ground research into Afghanistan : thousands of years ago, the land known as Afghanistan was called "Gandhar", and was a Hindu Kingdom. It later became a Greek-Hindu stronghold - and the strife is relatively recent in origin! As another example, I have difficulty in believing that an Afghan can have a name such as Aditya! Muslims do have that name - but an Afghan? I doubt it. Anyways, this is irrelevant, and can thus be ignored. 

    All  in all, this is an eminently readable and interesting novel with a very interesting concept behind it. I rate it 3 stars out of 5; to be fair, it can even be rated 4 stars out of 5. I am doffing a star for the lack of pace, since my expectation was of a fast-paced novel. The most interesting part is the concept of the novel - which is what I conclude this book review with. A very timely novel this, coming as it is in an age when the internet rules, and privacy of information is a serious question. Just how much information should be online? Just how can it be misused? Food for thought...

    Friday, 7 March 2014

    NaMo, RaGa and ArKe... A List Of Questions...

    There is a new party on the Horizon - The AAP. In just 48 days of Governance, the people of India are picking on their mistakes - just 48 days - unmindful of the fact that both the BJP and the UPA have had chances to rule India, and have committed massive errors - errors which the people of India have conveniently forgotten. I have been seeing questions being asked of the AAP; why isnt anyone asking these questions to both the UPA and the BJP? The below occurred in their tenures; neither can escape answering these : 

    1) A special group was set up to study the defence structures in India, Its recommendations lie unheeded - and all this while, our defence preparedness continues to suffer, Why?

    2) During Kargil, emergency supplies were needed; for ex, the Swiss company supplying Bofors had to be de-blacklisted on an emergency basis. Other examples abound. This caused the then Chief of Army Staff to comment, : "We will fight with what we have". What are our politicians doing? Are they not seriously compromising the security of the nation?

    3) Kargil was a serious intelligence failure; we were caught with our pants down. And yet, the intelligence set-up, while decidedly improved, has still to be unified. Are we not compromising on the lives of our citizens? Examples abound. NCTC remains a pipe dream, and the NIA is supposed to lack substantive powers

    4) Moving On, there were 2 major scams - Harshad Mehta and Ketan Parekh, Have they been properly investigated? The CBI's investigation apparently had numerous loopholes; all regulators were blamed or faulted in an investigative report by Sucheta Dalal and Debashis Basu. The money is still untraceable. Where is the money? What about the small investors, several of whom were destroyed? Why were SBI officials targeted, when they were the ones to expose the scam? Why werent the systemic flaws attended to? The investigators claim that huge numbers of junior functionaries lives or careers were destroyed, or are fighting to clear themselves. Why? 

    5) Why is the CBI still not an autonomous body, despite numerous CBI directors coming out openly in favour of this?

    6) Why have the police reforms, accepted by everyone and demanded by no less a body than the Supreme Court, not been implemented? Isnt this causing risk to the lives of the people?

    7) Why has no Government been able to control the Fiscal Deficit, and has insisted on running freebies and leaking schemes, and ignoring the real demands of the people?

    8) Why is the expense on Education, as a percentage of GDP, among the lowest in the world? What have our politicians been doing all these years?

    9) Why is the expense on Defense as a percentage of GDP at the lowest level since 1962?

    10) What has been done about Black Money by anyone?

    11) Mining - across states, is mired in illegal activities. There have been documented murders of even IAS officials because of this. What is being done to control this? How has this come about?

    12) What has been done the check the banks after the Cobrapost expose, and to check systemic flaws and abuse? 

    13) Telecom : security aspects. The questions remain unanswered till this date. What is being done to address this?

    14) Telecom scam : What has happened? Why are the guilty still free?

    15) Commonwealth scam?

    16) Why is the status of India on HDI parameters comparable, or lower than, even sub-saharan nations?

    17) Why is malnutrition such a serious issue in the interiors?

    18) What is being done to address the concerns of the people from whom land is forcible taken away for development? This is a serious impediment causing several developmental projects to be blocked up.

    19) What has been done to overhaul the RBI, SEBI, Banks and their working?

    20) What is being done about Fertiliser and Oil Subisidies? Why are the rich being subsidised by cheap petrol?

    21) Why is good Healthcare in Rural India such a serious concern even in 2014?

    22) Good Motorable Roads: It takes more time now to travel by road {by truck} than 40 years ago, Fact, Why? Why dont we have good motorable roads connecting villages to marketplaces, when this will result in savings and benefits for the people?

    23) Why is Agricultural Productivity among the worst in the world in any number of crops? What is being done about this?

    24) We are facing a serious electricity shortage in the years to come. Why is there no traction in planning and implementing this?

    25) Farmer Suicides : Why are large amounts of farmers committing suicide?

    26) 76% of our farmers are small and marginal farmers, who lose 840 - 1400 Rupees per hectare per crop - in Modern India. Why?

    Why is each and every political party silent on these {or a majority of these) matters? Why is no one addressing quite a few of these serious issues? Why is this absent from the English Language press? {Dont read the vernacular, so no idea of them}. Why are we not concerned about these serious, serious issues? Because they dont impact us directly? Farmer Suicides, Malnutrition, Healthcare, Land Acquisition, Project Implementation, Defence Preparedness, Police Reforms - no one is talking about these. Why? Why only focus on Urban India? We Urban Indians comprise only 17.68% as per 2011 census - speaking from memory. What about rural India? What about their concerns? And I have not even started asking questions!

    There are many more questions that can be asked. Why should only the AAP be answerable for just 48 days of power, and not the NDA and the UPA for their mistakes? Why the differential treatment? Not only that, the AAP is being asked for clarity on its economic and other policies. Please tell me which party has a clearly defined economic ideology? Which party has clearly stated its objectives in no uncertain terms, encompassing various aspects of trade and foreign policy - things which are being asked of the AAP? 

    • Just how is the NDA / UPA going to reign in inflation? 
    • How are they going to contain fiscal deficit? 
    • How do they intend to fill the tax deficit that will arise from their grandiose taxation reforms suggested - I mean specific, time-bound implementable measures? 
    • How much will they spend on defence? 
    • How much will they spend on Education? 
    • How much will they spend on Plan and Non-Plan Expenditure? 
    • How much will they spend on Healthcare? 
    • What are their specific plans for disinvestment of Blue Chip PSUs? 
    • How do they intend to stoke the slowing manufacturing engine?
    • How do they intend to reverse the IIP numbers? 
    • How do they intend to tackle inflation?
    • What is their foreign policy? 
    • Precisely how will they tackle the challenges now arising in the Malidives, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Sri Lanka? 
    • What is their defence outlook? 
    • What is their stance on the relationship with Japan, Israel and France? 
    • On Pakistan? 
    • On Terrorism? 
    • On centre-state relationships? 
    • On sharing revenue with the states? 
    • On the plans to bring in the GST? 
    • On the excise duty structure and the customs duty structure? 
    • What is their stance on the exim (trade) policy?



    No one is asking these questions - I can ask dozens more. There isnt a single document, a single article - at least one that I have seen on mainstream media; neither is anyone asking these questions of the NDA or the UPA.

    But Lo and Behold, along comes a new person - and everyone pounces on that person! Asks for a detailed manifesto covering these points! Everyone in the Media and the Public, members of my friends and family included! There isnt even a hint of a discussion on these vital parameters anywhere - but the new guy has to answer these questions. The NDA was given 5 full years; and their failure in innumerable areas is a matter of documented record. I am not an AAP fan - but within a span of 48 days people are willing to write off the new guy! Fantastic!

    As far as I know, as on date, the AAP is the only party with a clearly documented vision and action plan; the others are playing ad-hoc. Read the book swaraj. also remember that they have promised a detailed clarity on all points. No one else has promised that... it may not be what you are looking for - but they have a clearly defined ideology, and a set of policies; they have further promised a detailed clarification on all points. This is more than anyone else's statements. 

    Wednesday, 5 March 2014

    Book Review : India's Military Conflicts And Diplomacy


    The only good histories are those that have been written by the persons themselves who commanded in the affairs whereof they write; rest is hearsay - Michel Eyquem Montaigne, {from the Preface of the current book}

    This is the second book by General V P Malik - and it is as good as the first; and in some ways, far more reader friendly. While the first - Kargil - was a deep and involved analysis of the Kargil War, this is one comprises a set of real-life incidences from his Army Experience; incidences which are known in almost every educated household in India. This takes up half of the book; the second half is a short, and to-the-point analysis of Military Diplomacy. Again, in this part as well, the author has delved into his personal experience, which gives the reader the entire story from the horse's mouth, so to speak. 

    THE FIRST PART
    This part will be the interesting part for those readers who are not too interested in Military Diplomacy or Foreign Policy. This part alone makes it worth the money spent on it. For, in this part you get to read about some of India's most famous military operations - from a person who was an integral part of the entire matter. This lends considerable weight to the book, as well as makes it doubly interesting; you are not reading a third person telling a story. You are reading history as it happened, through the eyes of one of the major players in these historically vital events; you get a blow-by-blow account of things as they happened and when they happened. 

    The events I am referring to are the IPKF, Kargil, Commando Operation in the Maldives, Nuclear Tests, and UN Peacekeeping at Sierra Leone. For those who dont have the patience to read the voluminous Kargil - From Surprise To Victory - this book will give a short but complete summary of the Kargil War, alongwith an insightful but interesting analysis. And for those who have read the first book, this book contains new material, including analyses and reports from retired Pakistani senior Military Officers and journalists who have ripped into the Pakistani ruling elite for the entire fiasco. 

    For the first time, we get an understanding of the sad sequence of events that led to Rajiv Gandhi's assasination; a true and no-holds-barred account of the entire IPKF saga that is disquieting and frank, honest and transparent in its appraisal. The book makes no bones about it : as the heading of the chapter itself states: Wrong From The Start. You feel sad - not just for Rajivji; but actually for all the needless lives lost in that entire IPKF mission. And yet, you also feel pride in the performance of our warriors despite the immense pressure and problems they had to face; the struggle of coming to terms with a sudden 180-degree turn in political orders, and the brilliant performance despite such factors. You feel a sense of pride, tinged with grief at what was inarguably the second-worst episode in our military history. This chapter will be a stunner to the uninformed; a punch to the solar plexus, since the entire saga goes far deeper than what is generally known; as well as will raise some very very pertinent questions for Indians.

    Moving on from this, we are treated to a fast-paced and deeply interesting account of how India helped the Maldives President avoid a military coup, in all the classic detailing by a person who was there. Even here, the more informed will wonder at the turn of events, as a close relationship has gone slightly awry in recent times, as reported in the latest papers - educating us about the need for keeping good relations on a healthy level, and giving due importance. You get a ringside seat {in every chapter} of the decision making process; it is an experience to be savoured, as you read about momentous and well known decisions being made. 

    Then you get to read the details of the Nuclear Tests, and the way India went about it - alongwith the international repercussions. You also get to read an insightful yet simply worded analysis of the Nuclear Issue, which is an education in itself. The last operation covered is a UN peacekeeping operation at Sierra Leone. Like the other chapters, this one is also chock-full of surprises that will bring questions to your mind; like the hardly known fact that Indian casualties in UN operations are the highest suffered by any nation, and that India is one of the most active members in peace-keeping missions in the UN. You cannot avoid a feeling of pride as you get to know how highly regarded Indian soldiers are in UN missions due to various factors. It is such simple insights, simple analysis and fast-paced narrative of actual on-ground operations that make this part of the book a highly engaging and energising read. 


    THE SECOND PART
    This part is much shorter {happily so for those readers who are not inclined towards deep analysis}, but is equally - if not more - full of surprises and unknown or lesser known facts of the Indian Armed Forces. This part starts with the role of the Military in Diplomacy, which will be both a surprise to us, as well as a very highly informative and interesting look into a side of the Armed Forces that is not too well known. It contains a short but to-the-point and effective analysis of our relations in Military as well as diplomatic terms with China, Maldives, Nepal, Israel, Tajikistan, Myanmar and the USA. Again, you get a ringside seat on the authors visits to these places, as well as interesting background on how relations were repaired {Israel, for example - or Myanmar} and the role of the Military in these matters. 

    The last 3 chapters are on Myanmar, Nepal, and an analysis of our strategic culture and the way forward for us. The chapters on Nepal and Myanmar are replete with surprises; I would prefer each reader discovers what they are for themselves. Suffice it to state that these are the most surprising of all, and contain the real meat of the book. These 2 chapters are the most engaging and informative, alongwith IPKF - and form the real meat of this fast-paced, interesting book that both educates us on our Military Operational And Strategic Culture, as well as raises some deeply disquieting questions.

    This book  is a great resource for every educated Indian; a must-read for all of us, given that we as a nation do not have a very transparent culture on these matters, Further, there is little understanding of how a public discourse of these matters can help give shape to national policies, which are currently made in exalted halls, with little information being shared with the public, leading to a situation where the common citizens are just not aware of strategic matters, and thus cannot help shape the national dialogue, which is an essential part of any democracy. That is why this book, alongwith Pax Indica, is an important contribution towards a more open public discourse on matters relating to strategy, as they ultimately impact all of us...