Archive for: July 2015

R.I.P. Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam.

Dr A P J Abdul Kalam, best known as India’s Missile Man, was a life of extreme humility and a single minded devotion.  He was responsible for the missile technology that India talks about so naturally today. It was his dedication that sowed the seeds of India’s successful space research.  India owes a lot  to him for its missile program, a program that succeeded in the face of sanctions. It was he who made India believe in itself.

Also, let us not forget, he operated in an era, where the pulls of nuclear proliferation were critical. He managed India’s nuclear program at a time when it would have been easy for anybody of his caliber to have indulgence. We all know  what happened in neighbouring countries, and what happened to the world efforts of stopping proliferation.  But, APJ’s commitment to his vision and goal were un-finch able. This led to the world believe that India’s nuclear or space program could never be questioned for nuclear proliferation. The world can apply sanctions, but could not accuse India of being on the wrong side of the Nuclear Technology proliferation.   But above, all his life was so full of humility that came so naturally to him, in whatever he did. He was one of the most loved Presidents that Indian had.

Towards his end, Bharat Ratna Dr APJ Abdul Kalam  was doing what he enjoyed the best – teaching & talking to students.

This country will always remember the beloved APJ as a personified example of humility. Intellectual Post Bureau brings you a brief synopsys of the journey of the legend that Dr APJ Abdul Kalam was :

  • 15-Oct-2015 : APJ was born to a Tamil muslim fishing family in Rameshwaram. His father was Jainulabdeen and mother was Asiamma.
  • His Family had a poor upbringing and young APJ had to start working at a young age to supplement the family income. He also distributed newspapers in his young days.
  • 1954 : Graduated in Physics from St Josephs College, Tiruchirapelli.
  • 1955 : Moved to Madras to study Aerospace Engineering.
  • 1960 : Joined the Aeronautical Development Establishment of the DRDO after graduating from Madras Institute of Technology.
  • 1969 : Was transferred to ISRO, where he was Project Director for SLV-III ( Satellite Launch Vehicle )
  • 1970’s : APJ Directed two projects ( Project Devil and Project Valiant ), for developing ballistic   missiles from the successful SLV technology. Prime Minister also allocated secret funds for these aerospace projects headed by APJ.
  • 1980 : APJ and Dr V S Arunachalam worked together to set in motion an ambitious project to develop a string of missiles including the Agni and Prithvi.
  • 1981 :  Awarded the Padma Bhushan.
  • 1990 :  Awarded the Padma Vibhushan.
  • 1998 : Awarded the Veer Savarkar award.
  • 1992 to 1999 :  APJ served as the Chief Scientific Advisor to the Prime Minister.  The Pohkran-II tests were conducted during this period.
  • 1988 : APJ along with cardiologist Dr Soma Raju,  developed a low cost coronary stent called as the “Kalam-Raju-Stent” . In 2012 , the same duo also developed a Tablet called “Kalam-Raju-Tablet”
  • 1997 :  Awarded the Bharat Ratna.
  • 1999 : Writes his Autobiography – Wings of Fire.
  • Jul-2002 to Jul-2007  : Served as the President of India.
  • In 2005, Switzerland declared 26 May as “Science Day” to commemorate Kalam’s visit to the country.
  • 2007 onwards :
  1. Took lectures at IIM-Shillong, IIM-Ahmedabad and IIM-Indore where he was a faculty.
  2. He was a Chancellor of the Indian Institute of the Space Science and Technology – Thiruvananthapuram.
  3. He was also a Professor of Aerospace Engineering at Anna University. He taught Information Technology at the International Institute of Information Technology – Hyderabad.
  4. He also taught technology at Banaras Hindu University.
  • APJ’s 79th birthday was recognised as Worlds Student Day by the United Nations.
  • 27-Jul-2016 :  While delivering a lecture at IIM-Shillong,  DR A P J Abdul Kalam suffered a cardiac arrest and passed away.

Intellectual Bureau
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Bhujangi Bhaijaan

A suggestion for the next Amul ad: Nitish Kumar garlands his long-time nemesis but current ‘elder brother’ Lalu Yadav with the sobriquet Bhujangi Bhaijaan.

JDU leaders Nitish Kumar and Sharad Yadav with RJD leader Lalu Prasad Yadav.

nything as witty as an Amul butter advertising campaign must be taken seriously, despite its use of that rhetorical nuisance called a pun. The admen who spin Amul’s lines have an accurate pulse count of public opinion. That’s why it works so well.

So when they joined the applause for Bajrangi Bhaijaan, a movie that celebrates the triumph of the human spirit over the deepest political divide, it was easy to infer that popular sentiment in both India and Pakistan still prefers reconciliation to conflict, despite acknowledged difficulties. This does not mean it will happen; this merely indicates that hope is not lost.

Here is a suggestion for the next Amul ad: Bihar’s Chief Minister Nitish Kumar garlands his long-time nemesis but current “elder brother” Lalu Prasad Yadav with the sobriquet Bhujangi Bhaijaan. For those who are not aware, bhujang is Sanskrit for snake, while bhaijaan is Urdu for elder brother. A little background might nevertheless be helpful.

A few forgotten weeks ago, Nitish Kumar and Lalu Yadav did a minor pantomime and announced a merger of their hostile parties in order to confront the BJP in the coming Bihar Assembly elections. This was explicit admission that they had no chance alone, but even such compulsion could not prevent an abortion of marriage plans even before celebratory drums had ebbed. They agreed, instead, to live together.

“The relationship between Nitish Kumar and Lalu Yadav has been poisoned over the years by a range of factors: personal ambition, alternative poles in support base, statecraft, style and purpose. They hate each other’s guts. There is enough angst here to ensure that any partnership between the two formidable antagonists will never be stable.”

Lalu Yadav explained the arrangement to his supporters by suggesting that someone had to drink poison for the greater good. Nitish Kumar said nothing then, but clearly the remark rankled. Last week, when asked about alliance difficulties, he repeated a familiar saying: “Chandan vish vyapat naahi, liptat rahat bhujang.”

Translation: the fragrance of a sandalwood tree does not diminish because snakes wrap themselves around its branches. Message: Lalu Yadav might be hanging around me, but my aroma remains perfume. Consequence, initial: uproar in Lalu camp. Consequence, subsequent: “I was misunderstood” statement by Nitish Kumar, and a late night meeting with Lalu Yadav on 23 July, which ended with Kumar describing Yadav as his elder brother. This is bhujang brotherhood.

In public life, what you say is important, but what people believe is decisive. The tongue is tricky. Sometimes it obeys the mind, sometimes the heart, and sometimes the gut. The mind is measured. The heart is emotional. The gut is repository of truths that the mind has persuaded you not to express, a storehouse of raw feelings. The relationship between Nitish Kumar and Lalu Yadav has been poisoned over the years by a range of factors: personal ambition, alternative poles in support base, statecraft, style and purpose. They hate each other’s guts.

True, you do not have to be besotted in order to shape a political alliance. But there is enough angst here to ensure that any partnership between the two formidable antagonists will never be stable. The Bihar voter understands that stability is essential for development, and this Assembly election will hinge on the promise of development. Confirmation came in the first exchanges, when on 25 July Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar shared more than one platform at the inauguration of various projects. Kumar, who was Railways Minister in Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee’s Cabinet, pointed out that a scheme being switched on now would have become reality if the Vajpayee government had lasted another six months in 2004. The Prime Minister agreed very readily, and then asked a simple question. Who sabotaged this project during the decade of Congress rule? The answer is Lalu Yadav, who became Railways Minister in the Cabinet of Dr Manmohan Singh and leadership of Mrs Sonia Gandhi.

So what is Nitish Kumar doing in the company of a man who denied Bihar development?

You can make a safe bet that this will be a major talking point during the Bihar campaign season. Nitish Kumar’s remarks do not fall into the deniable category, because there was nothing oblique about them, and they were made before a large immediate gathering and a huge television audience. This was evidence of bhujang on sandalwood. The man who repeatedly characterised Lalu Yadav as Chief Minister of a “Jungle Raj” was after all Nitish Kumar. I doubt if either has forgotten this fact. Their internal tussle for supremacy will begin with seat distribution, when the two try and ensure that they get more winnable seats than the other.

In political calculus, the Lalu Yadav brand has also withered. From a leader of the state, he has slipped to the champion of a particular caste. Traditional vote banks are also offering diminishing returns, as static forms of investment turn barren. Economic growth has taken precedence over caste or ethnic loyalty, as the rewards of this loyalty programme are gathered by a limited elite. Bihar wants a change of rhetoric and direction, and will go with the party that offers hope encouraged by visible delivery. The brotherhood of enemies is passé.


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A building block in the SAARC vision

Caution is not enough. India-Pakistan relations must always be handled with caution, precaution and, if one may coin a phrase, post-caution.

The India-Pakistan relationship is vulnerable to history, geography, ideology, sabotage, uncertainty and miscalculation. Ever since Pakistan launched its first war for Kashmir, within ten weeks of freedom in 1947, the corpse of good intentions has been repeatedly buried in the malignant shroud of warriors. War in all its nuanced dimensions — declared, semi-declared, undeclared — has sent even the well-meaning into the retreat of a fragile status quo.

The ideologies of India and Pakistan are at cross-purposes, if not inimical. Those invested in confrontation litter communications with barely concealed landmines. And uncertainty has always been the father of miscalculation. Legacy issues are fraught with peril. The future is hostage to a strategic ecosystem into which no less a person than a nation’s defence minister can casually drop mention of nuclear weapons. Perhaps there is a justification. A strident war cry is often fed to hawks when the leader sets off in search of a dove.

One cannot fault Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for being careful. The last time he made a bid for amity with India, he lost his job and almost his life to an army coup. His successor, General Pervez Musharraf, attempted, after some sabre-rattling, to sustain the peace process, but lost his nerve at the last minute during the most difficult day in India-Pakistan talks, at the Agra summit. Politics, and Providence, have given Nawaz Sharif a second chance. He has displayed the courage to make another effort. Experience of failure will serve both Islamabad and Delhi well as they search for success.

When the frippery of democratic fencing subsides, the intelligent jury of Indian public opinion will still have a serious question to ask: Is Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s outreach shaped by conviction?

“What brought all pieces together was PM Modi’s decision to go to Pakistan in 2016 for the SAARC summit. This is what links today’s Ufa talks to the swearing-in ceremony of 2014 and the goal of a new subcontinent, energised by economic growth.”


For Prime Minister Modi this is the last, but vital, building block in his vision of a resurgent SAARC that can offer prosperity to the impoverished in an environment of shared peace. The foundations were laid on the day he was sworn in, when every SAARC leader was invited to Delhi. Nawaz Sharif must have been a bit bewildered by this initiative, but he seized it. As has happened before, saboteurs intervened, but Narendra Modi was set on his course. Working with sustained pace and unprecedented effort, he strengthened India’s ties with other SAARC nations. His visits to Nepal and Bangladesh will be remembered as turning points. This could hardly have gone unnoticed in Islamabad. That old temptation of ring-fencing India with hostile neighbours was being upturned, replaced by the whisper of “SAARC-minus-one”. There were many advocates in Delhi for this option, arguing that the status quo with Pakistan was a much safer place than yet another encounter with adventure. But India’s Prime Minister was not yet ready to give up on his vision.

Prudence placed one condition: before he could act, he had to be confident about Pakistan’s response. In the last week of January, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar was appointed foreign secretary. In the midst of a harrowing schedule he made a very quiet trip to Islamabad. Obviously, we cannot know what transpired, but you do not have to very intelligent to guess that the ball was back in play.

The Agra summit had collapsed over the definition of terrorism. A consensus on its meaning was obviously crucial. This was achieved. As a consequence, Pakistan has agreed to expedite the trial of those accused of masterminding the Mumbai attack in 2008.

But what brought all pieces together was Prime Minister Modi’s decision to go to Pakistan in 2016 for the SAARC summit. This is what links today’s Ufa talks to the swearing-in ceremony of 2014 and the goal of a new subcontinent, energised by economic growth rather than escalating confrontation. No one in his senses believes that all problems can be solved; but they can be resolved through mutually acceptable mechanisms. There was one that had been crafted out as a follow-up to Agra, and would have been revived if Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee had been re-elected in 2004.

Caution is not enough. India-Pakistan relations must always be handled with caution, precaution and, if one may coin a phrase, post-caution. If anything, the last is most vital. Saboteurs may have been temporarily finessed into silence, but they are not dead. A crucial test will lie in border stability. If borders bleed, the environment is poisoned. Both nations recognise this, and meetings have been scheduled at NSA and operational levels to minimise tension and incidents. The big, if unspoken, concern is the threat of high-voltage terrorism with all its destabilizing consequences.

The great strength of this shift towards peace is the enormous support of public opinion in both countries. The people have risen beyond the past, for they know that this is the only way to change the future.


M J Akbar
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M J Akbar