Outlook’s collector’s issue articles on Power of the Sea, (Jan 16) were a great read. Rana Mitter’s Anything But Pacific, on the future of the Asia-Pacific, reminds me of the many reasons as to why the US had to go nuclear to combat Japanese aggression. Obviously, the Trump presidency is expected to make some changes in the new era of US leadership, yet I don’t think there would be any key strategic changes of note. One reason is that the US still wants to ‘lead’ the world in the same way. The one thing to guard against are misunderstandings that lead to conflicts. Unfortunately, they are still continuing.
Ramachandran Nair, Oman
China and India are in a shadow antagonistic position today because of their interaction with the West. The tension in the South China Sea seems to be the fallout of a conflict between China and the US, which is playing proxy to the other nations who rim the sea. All this wouldn’t have happened if the two nations had confidence in each other. China today is distrustful of its neighbours because of their cosy ties with the US.
Aditya Mookerjee, Belgaum
China flexes its arms in the South China Sea. The rules-based order that is vital for the world would fall apart if countries pick and choose the rules they wish to live by, like China dangerously seeks to do. Indians have been sailing east for ages, having trade links with China, Thailand, Cambodia etc. The Indian Ocean is one of the world’s important maritime routes, and is emerging as China’s playing field under the maritime silk route (MSR). Whether the proposed One-Belt-One-Road or the MSR will establish trade and friendly relations or create new rivalries will need to be watched.
H.N. Ramakrishna, Bangalore
Raja Menon’s article on the impending rivalry in the ‘Indo-Pacific’ (The Reborn Armada of Cheng Ho) was an illuminating read. Though India had made remarkable progress in ship-building during the Maratha regime and had traded across the sea with Arabia and African countries for a millennium before that, they didn’t venture into mastering the art of building war ships. There are two reasons for this—all invasion routes into India was land routes, and two, India is a vast, rich and self-sufficient, and thus any of the emperors didn’t feel the need to strike out across the seas for new territory. However, Shivaji and Tipu Sultan realised the importance of sea power. Around 1674, the Maratha navy under Kanhoji Angre made remarkable progress on ship-building.
Lt Col Ranjit Sinha (retd), Calcutta
Raja Menon mentions Tipu Sultan’s vision of being a maritime power. Actually, a hundred years before Tipu, Shivaji was the first to understand the importance of naval power, and had raised a formidable navy headed by Kanhoji Angre. He revamped some old sea forts and built a strong one called Sindhudurg at Malvan, near Goa. Kanhoji kept both the Portoguese and British navy in check. Unfortunately, later the Peshwas did not realise the navy’s importance in holding back the British.
Ramesh Marathe, Mumbai
Outlook’s Power of the Sea issue is a great collection of articles on maritime history, power and future strategy. However, I have an issue with two sentences in Raja Menon’s article, pertaining to Brahmins. He mentions that since non-Brahmins were kept outside the ambit of knowledge, India could not progress in many fields. This biased statement should have found no place in the article. Indians were divided on varnas and this enabled them to lead regimented lives and to peacefully co-habit. Indeed, what has carpenters unable to scale up ship-making got to do with Brahmins? And so many Indian temples were built with precise calculations—didn’t Brahmins help out then?
Karthik, On E-mail
Outlook’s cover story on the spice islands, written by Amitav Ghosh (In Meluku, East of Eden, Jan 16), made a gripping read. Spices have been an integral part of human food since time immemorial and India has been a spice exporter since ages. We all like spicy food, but many of us are unaware that other than adding distinctive taste, every spice is also an effective home remedy for some health problem. Concise information about the health benefits of various spices would have been useful.
M.C. Joshi, Lucknow
Your January 16 issue might be a ’collector’s’ delight, but for an ordinary mortal like me it was indeed torture. For the first time I enjoyed the last page of the issue.
P. Ramachandran, Bangalore
Modi has a stable job as PM, but when will the people of the country get jobs?
N. Namasivayan, Nagpur
This refers to The Plutocrats and Their Angry Sheep (Jan 16) by Pranab Bardhan on the rise of the populist right-wing across the world. We read about three ‘isms’—capitalism, communism and socialism—and saw them being experimented with in different countries under the overall rubric of democracy. Now the models are all mixed up and there is no country left that is purely capitalist, or purely communist or even purely socialist. Political leaders are now talking of nationalism and patriotism to touch the souls of voters and divert their attention from deficits in governance. They are also talking about liberalisation, privatisation and globalisation as ways to take the country forward, but not about multiculturalism and cosmopolitanism. They talk about justice, liberty, equality and fraternity, but never practise it in letter and spirit. They also try to restrict, thwart and punish those who exercise the right to free speech for criticising the government. The days of despotism and dictatorship may be over, but elements of both are found in what passes for democracy in our time. We are seeing majoritarian rule over minorities—religious, economic, cultural, linguistic, racial and regional—and the first casualty is humanity and the rights of minorities.
M.Y.S., On E-Mail
This refers to Shiv Visvanathan’s column The Dirty Indian Male (January 2). I think ‘The Dirty Mind of the Indian Male’ would have made a better headline. That is because our social thinking is mainly based on various old texts such as the Manusmriti. Let me quote from the text. Here’s chapter nine, verse three: “Father takes care of young girls, husband takes care of grown-up girls, sons take care of elderly mothers. Never should a woman be given any freedom.” Or take verse 13: “Drinking wine, mixing with bad people, separating from husband, travelling, dreaming, living at somebody else’s house—all six spoil women.” So, what about men? Verse 17 reads, “Sleeping, doing make-up to look attractive, anger, deceit, bad habits—these aspects are inherent in women.” Does that mean men do not have these traits? According to verse 146, “A Brahmin man can have four wives from different castes.” What a privilege! Are Brahmin women allowed to marry four men from different castes? There are many such gems of gender discrimination in the Manusmriti.
G.L. Karkal, Pune
Halfway Modi’s tenure, the average Indians’ life remains devoid of any perceptible change. The government has done precious little beyond dishing out catchy phrases. The November 8 pullout of two high-value banknotes is a welcome move, but its follow-up has been extremely shoddy. Yearning for achhe din has become like waiting for Godot.
Vijay Pant, Hempur
Modi’s idea of India is still in the making. He is greatly influenced by his upbringing in the RSS from an early age, transformed by his stints as the chief minister of his native Gujarat, and now the highest political office of the land. Maybe he is trying to project himself as a suave leader, but then no BJP PM can stray very much away from the Sangh ideology. That dilemma will always check Modi from performing to his potential.
J.S. Acharya, Hyderabad
While party functionaries in the AIADMK are singing paeans to ‘Chinna amma’, it was the late Jayalalitha who selected O. Panneerselvam twice in the past to act as CM. Panneerselvam should be given enough time to function before he is judged. So far, he has not done badly as CM. The Tamil Nadu government may lose credibility if his constitutional position is continuously challenged by Sasikala’s sycophants in the party.
Kangayam R. Narasimhan, Chennai
Agreed, Tamil Nadu has for a while now revelled in the culture of treating certain public figures as gods (The Worshipful Leader, Dec 19). But then, such icons have also been from outside of the state. Late chief minister M.G. Ramachandran was originally from Kerala. His successor Jayalalitha was a native of Karnataka. Tamil cinema’s king Rajnikanth is of Marathi origin.
Going by Pakistan’s track record, General Qamar Bajwa taking over as the country’s new army chief can exist only in the realm of imagination (Even His Epaulette Weighs Heavy, Jan 9). As for relations with India, he would, if anything, be only forced to toe the hawkish line of his predecessors. Since Bajwa is from the Ahmadia sect, the administration in Islamabad will be viewing his actions with suspicion.
K.R. Srinivasan, Secunderabad
Almost every major incident of global terrorism in the Indian subcontinent has its origin in Pakistan, yet India’s politicians won’t go beyond the cliched broad hint—‘a foreign hand’—when they accuse Islamabad of perpetuating turbulence in the region. That country should end its wrong assumption that it itself is a ‘universal victim’ of terror.
Doesn’t the Pakistan Army see that organisations like the Jaish-e-Mohammed, if allowed to propagate their message, will give rise to other similar organisations, which will be disgruntled with the Pakistani establishment just as JeM is with India. For all we know, dissatisfied JeM members might be breaking ranks and fighting against the Pakistani army during Operation Zarb-e-Azb. What does Pakistan have to say to home grown militants who fight against the State? What does the common man in Pakistan think about the JeM?
A.M., On E-Mail
Once during the ongoing Samajwadi Party feud, Mulayam Singh Yadav had to go to the Election Commission in order to protect his party’s well-known symbol, the bicycle, which his son UP Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav has now taken away from him (The Chachas And Chanakyas, Jan 9). What a fall for the grand old man of SP!
Apropos Heart For Mart Sake (Dec 26), there is another aspect of stents not mentioned in your cover story but covered early in western media. The real effectiveness of the stent has never been proved at all, nor have its side effects been mapped. It has simply been pushed into mainstream medical practice by aggressive hard-sell.
Vijay Padaki, Bangalore
Karun Nair has the potential to be India’s next batting superstar, going by his elegant strokeplay (Eleven Strong Against Invaders, Jan 9). The triple ton he scored was replete with a range of shots that had the class of greats like Sunil Gavaskar, Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid.
J. Akshay, Bangalore
This refers to your special year-end issue Partnership & Pleasure (Jan 2). In excess, even nectar becomes poison. I am an old-fashioned senior citizen who thinks highly of the good old days when sex was hush-hush even in British society. How Audrey Hepburn’s swear words at the race course in My Fair Lady made society ladies swoon! Sex in those days had its own exquisite charm. Now even a schoolboy knows everything about the birds and the bees. Your special issue gave sex an even more pedestrian spin. Too much exposure could make sex in the future ‘untouchable’. In the days when sex was a subject to be secretive about, men were virile, whereas in these times of overexposure to all things sexual, the prevalence of impotency is alarmingly high. Secrecy about sex makes it more attractive and natural.
M. Stanes, Bangalore
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