Saturday, September 17, 2011

Indian Leadership Lacks Vision

The fallouts of the Delhi blast and Teesta water sharing flop is ominous for the Singh government.

India has been caught on the wrong foot again. It has evoked anger over the bomb blast at Delhi High Court on the one hand and a bit of unhappiness on the accord between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Prime Minister Shaikh Hasina on the other. Both show the helplessness which has become the badge of the Union government. In the case of the terrorist attack, it is a failure of all those engaged in protecting the nation. At Dhaka, India could not deliver on the sharing of Teesta river water because West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee was not willing to release a certain quantum of water after having given her word to New Delhi.

The fallout of the two is ominous for the broken and battered Singh government. The terrorists have again dared the government which has no clue about its perpetrators, although the responsibility has been owned by the Harkat-ul Ansar, a breakaway group of the HuJI (Harkat Ul Jihad Al Islami).

In fact, as soon as the blast took place, the government sources said unofficially that the needle of suspicion was directed towards the HuJI which operated from the soils of Pakistan and Bangladesh. There was little mention of the efforts that Bangladesh had made to curb terrorism, although Singh acknowledged the cooperation of Shaikh Hasina. In the terrific noise that the blast made, the hurrah over the demarcation of the border between India and Bangladesh was lost. New Delhi did not make any specific mention of the exchange of enclaves between the two countries, pending since the freedom of Bangladesh in December 1971.

People in Bangladesh are disappointed because they had put all their eggs in Teesta water basket. Yet the territorial exchange is not a mean achievement. As for Teesta waters, the older generation in Bangladesh would recall how long it took to bring around West Bengal to give more water from the Farrakha barrage. Being lower riparian, Bangladesh has every right to get water from the Teesta. The point at issue is: how much? At the time of Farrakha barrage accord, then chief minister Jyoti Basu headed West Bengal. The centre took time to bring him around. It could not go ahead without West Bengal's sanction because water is a state subject.

Therefore, Mamata, mercurial and cautious, would need a lot of persuasion and a lot of support from within West Bengal. According to Singh, she was on board till the last minute but then she changed her mind. A leader of substance became prey to rumours and self-created doubts. She fears that the communists are only waiting for an opportunity to pounce upon her after she had decimated them in the last assembly election.
True, West Bengal has the last word on giving Teesta water and that too in lean months. But the compromise figure worked out was fair and left most of Teesta water to the state. Emotional Bangladesh has made things more difficult because it has taken the issue to a feverish pitch where the lessening of water is considered India's betrayal of Bangladesh which was breathlessly waiting for signatures on the accord.

Finding faults

In democracies, public opinion matters. It is as much potent in Bangladesh as in India. It takes time and needs a lot of patience and courage to narrow down the differences. Agreements come to be evolved. The Teesta treaty will come through as the Farrakha barrage treaty did. But by damning India no purpose will be served. In contrast, India behaved maturely and there was no angry reaction on the stalling of transit treaty, which was a win-win situation for both.

Dhaka should be more circumspect while finding faults. The bomb blast has changed India's priorities. Its attention is focused on how to create a mechanism which could cope with terrorism which has taken roots in India. Inputs by Bangladesh would help. This was the psychological moment that Dhaka should have used to hand over the ULFA leader in detention.

No doubt, the main responsibility for security lies with New Delhi. Every time a blast takes place the government says that some heads will roll. I have not seen any so far. There does not seem to be any accountability of authorities or those who had the security system under them. Six major blasts remain unsolved. The police or intelligence agencies are nowhere near finding the people behind them. Something which baffles me is the attitude of political parties. The BJP enjoys seeing Congress-led government in trouble. This is the time when all ranks should be closed. Instead, every incident is politicised. And there is no consensus on any point.

The tragedy is that India has no leader with a vision. The challenge is to the polity. For political parties, things are either black or white. There is a grey area which they should widen. This requires a sense of accommodation and spirit of tolerance. I feel that the glue which unites the country is drying up.

BY :   Kuldip Nayar.