The 2019 election gives the Indian public the same choice: Between growth and oligarchs (or, in our case, dynasts and crony capitalists).
If we chose wisely, well and good.
If not, well, we have the Nehruvian Rate of Growth and massive corruption to fall back on.
In a large sense, it is a choice between the India of the Lutyens elites, and the Bharat of the real citizen, says Rajeev Srinivasan.

When the parades are over and the curtain has come down on the Republic Day celebrations, there is the question of what this entire spectacle actually means.

What exactly are we celebrating?

What is the relevance of the Republic?

What has been accomplished in 70 years of the Republic?

What remains to be done?

What has the ‘rule of the public’ failed to do?

Have we, the public, messed up?

… deleted


i wrote the attached in november, when the ICJ win over britain was being trumpeted. i sent it to an editor who said he’d publish it, but didn’t: i don’t think it was out of fear, but out of other, more mundane considerations, like i’d fallen off his roster of columnists for lack of activity. anyway, i thought it lost timeliness.

but now i think it may add a little oil to the current fire about foreign policy. my general thought is that though it was well begun, the PM’s foreign policy has now lost its way. the MEA is doing too much low-level stuff of no great value. i’ve been urging @vijay63, the BJP foreign policy cell head, repeatedly on twitter to step up and make sure there was triage, and that real foreign policy issues are paid attention to, and not trivialities.

also, i was right in forecasting that the chinese proxy party in nepal would win, and that nepal would fall into china’s lap.

here’s the original copy:

India’s foreign policy: are we getting outmaneuvered?

Rajeev Srinivasan

There was much celebration over the fact that the Indian candidate for the International Court of Justice won a hard-fought victory over the British candidate. Since this is for a term of nine years, Justice Dalveer Bhandari will, one imagines, champion India’s causes there, including the pending issue of Kulbhushan Jadhav, jailed on false charges in Pakistan and threatened with execution.

It is a signal victory for Indian diplomacy, and those at the UN, especially mission chief Syed Akbaruddin deserve to be congratulated. It is said that despite strong opposition by China and Pakistan, there was support from the Arab world, and also from Europeans who are peeved with Britain over Brexit. There is, however, the question of how many silver bullets India would have used up in this election, and whether in the long run it was the optimal use of foreign policy resources.

In the meantime, at least three other events took place that suggest that India’s position in foreign affairs is not as strong as it could be. The first is the release, just a few days before the tenth anniversary of the 11/26 attacks on Mumbai by Pakistani terrorists, of the alleged mastermind, Hafiz Saeed. The second is the successful intervention by China in the Rohingya affair. The third is the elections in Nepal, which is seen as a proxy battle between friends of Indian and friends of China.

But back to Hafiz Saeed. He had been under house arrest for some months (although he suffers no great hardship in his Lahore mansion) and the US had placed a reward of $10 million for information leading to his conviction. The Lashkar-e-Toiba founder was released when a Pakistani court found that he was not a threat. The US made its customary distressed noises, saying this act would have “repercussions on bilateral relations”.

The very fact that, thumbing its nose at India just before the anniversary of 26/11, Pakistan felt free to release Saeed and not rearrest him on further charges (as the US demanded) suggests that there is a tacit understanding between the two countries. It is back to business as usual, although the strong words from President Donald Trump last year, and the sidelining of much of the Deepstate, had led us to expect that there would be a sea-change. Sadly, it does not appear to be so.

This is despite the glad-handing and bear hugs between Trump and Prime Minister Modi and the recent visit of the US Secretary of State Tillerson, the Malabar joint naval exercises, and all the talk of the US-Indo-Japan-Australia Quad. All of that is helpful to the US in its competition for China, but it’s not clear how the US is willing to go to bat for India in its concerns: which means we’re back to square one.

On to the Rohingya crisis. The Lutyens types made many noises which amounted to wanting to settle large numbers of them in India (by the way, I guess nothing has happened about deporting those illegally settled in Jammu and in Hyderabad?). But there was nothing constructive about ending the crisis. Now it appears as though China has brokered a deal whereby Myanmar will take back those who had fled, and rehabilitate them. The details are not clear, but the big picture is that benevolent China, the neighboring superpower, has been able to persuade two Asian countries to do something sensible.

Now why didn’t India do this? After all, China has no borders with Bangladesh, nor did it help it through a painful civil war. India also has a fair amount of goodwill in Myanmar. Instead, the Chinese have rescued Ang San Suu Kyi from a tight spot: she was getting to be a little persona non grata among the western countries that had championed her. There will surely be a quid pro quo for China.

The third is Nepal’s elections. Early indications are that there is a lot of money being spent, and no prizes for guessing the money is coming from China. In effect, the elections are being seen as a proxy fight between India and China. Given prior form in the subcontinent, where India is seen as a bit of a Big Brother, chances are that the election will go China’s way.

In addition, something that worries me is the fact that the Minister of External Affairs, the kindly Sushma Swaraj, is constantly being swamped on twitter by Pakistanis seeking medical visas. And being the compassionate soul that she is, she does respond to them and help them. My concern is moral hazard: by encouraging this behavior, India gains nothing; instead, let them go to China or Saudi Arabia.

800 words, Nov 27 2017

this piece of mine appeared on on 29 aug at

do not lower our guard. i fear that the chinese, a bit surprised by modi standing up to them, will now activate their sleeper cells all around, leading to

a) riots: like the Jat, Patil, JNU kanhaiya riots

b) accidents: train crashes, floods,

c) terrorism: more incidents across the border, in Jammu Kashmir, including stone throwing support for holed up terrorists, and this will spread more broadly

d) cybersecurity: mysterious collapses of financial system, etc

hans, like a woman scorned, will hit back hard to avenge their loss of face.

the poisoning of modi in xiamen during BRICS2017 is not unlikely. i said this in my draft of this piece, but the editor didn’t agree.


this piece was published by swarajya magazine in its august 2017 issue. it is online at

Let’s talk about who said what when, and priority dates, then

Rajeev Srinivasan

As a columnist in the Indian media for over twenty years, I have had several of my ideas copied without attribution by others, and I have always looked at this with mild amusement. If you put things out there in the public domain, there is always the chance that this will happen, and it may not even be such a bad thing. This is how ideas propagate, and all of us stand on the shoulders of others whose works we have read and unconsciously internalized.

Thus I was not particularly surprised by a column on by Sadanand Dhume, titled “India’s Incredibly Shrunken Presidency” . Several points made by Dhume I agreed with, and the structure of the piece appealed. It bemoaned the fact that non-politicians had very few chances to become President of India, and named a few professionals who would be, in a fairer world, serious candidates for the post. It then expressed regret that few Presidents nowadays were of the calibre of some of the stalwarts of the past, naming some of the worst examples. I read this piece and left it at that.

However, someone who was struck by some similarities with a piece I had written a month earlier, “E Sreedharan for President” on put together a brief comparison chart that showed several similarities between my piece and Dhume’s piece. The BJP’s Amit Malviya tweeted about the similiarities, and here is his tweet: The screenshot doesn’t capture the entire image.


That got me curious about these similarities, so I read both pieces carefully. There were differences: I wrote in general terms in June, requesting that the BJP nominate a non-politician. Dhume wrote in July, after the election, suggesting that a specific individual, Shri Ram Nath Kovind, the new President, was unworthy.

But overall, I was struck by the fact that the structures of the two pieces were almost identical: general concern about the role of the presidency, desire for non-politicians, etc. There were five or six clear similarities between the two. And I found a couple of others: both had mentioned the bathtub cartoon lampooning Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed, and while I dreaded some ‘dreary political apparatchik’ being chosen, Dhume called Kovind a ‘humdrum politician’. All this was interesting, but nothing of great substance.

However, this morning, I was directed to a piece by Dhume, “How the BJP’s Smear Machine Works: A Personal Story” . Apparently, Dhume feels there’s a conspiracy against him, and in passing, that I am guilty by association. I think he’s wrong on both counts. He wrote a point-by-point response which I feel compelled to respond to.

In addition to some general comments, Dhume suggests that there is a “a clear difference in our prose styles”. I am not quite sure about this, because looking at it casually, we both write passable prose, that’s about all.

Dhume makes a point of going through each of the six suggested similarities in the chart, and asserts that he could have arrived at them on his own, and he quotes his own earlier writings in July 2015 and in 2012.

But where my mild amusement turns to mild annoyance is when Dhume, choosing his words carefully, says the following:

“I’m not using these examples to claim that Srinivasan, or anyone else, lifted the idea of writing about the merits of India elevating a non-politician from my 2015 column”….

“Once again, I’m not accusing Srinivasan of plagiarism because he happened to make a similar observation to the one that I made in a column two years ago, or in a widely shared tweet six months ago…”

“Ironically, if I used exactly the same examples as in the graphic I could accuse Srinivasan of plagiarizing my earlier work”…

Graciously, he continues, “Of course, this is preposterous. I have no reason to believe that Srinivasan did not come to his views about the decline of the Indian presidency independently”.

Nice wording, reminds me of (in a small way) “I came to bury Ceasar, not to praise him”. Damning with faint praise, I believe they call it.

So it appears to be a claim about primogeniture, so to speak. Unfortunately for Dhume, I can point to another of my columns from ten years ago, which I had referred to at the start of “E Sreedharan for President”: from July 2007, “A Whiff of a Manchurian Candidate”. Almost every one of the points Dhume elaborates on was elucidated there. So Dhume stands little chance of accusing me of plagiarizing from him because this was written ten years ago, much before his own work that he quotes.

Here are the points Dhume made in response to the chart:

  1. Mostly mediocre politicians. I said in 2007: “The ceremonial leader of the country, which the President is, should really not be a politician… What India needs are leaders, intellectuals and others who can inspire the citizenry to dream and to aspire to greatness.”
  2. Jagdish Bhagwati and other potential candidates. Here are my suggestions from 2007, apart from O V Vijayan and E Sreedharan: “N R Narayana Murthy or Ratan Tata or Lakshmi Mittal or Azim Premji… K P S Gill,… Jagdish Bhagwati,… C K Prahalad,… Arundhati Ghose,… Fathima Beevi,… Vandana Shiva”. Yes, there are/were many deserving candidates. Ratan Tata is also one of Dhume’s suggestions, along with Rahul Dravid (I would never suggest a cricket player). By the way, I think Jagdish Bhagwati may be a US citizen, in which case he’s not eligible for the post and both of us would be wrong.
  3. The presidential palace. No, I didn’t say anything about this in 2007, and yes, 300 acres or 340 rooms just suggests the place is huge, a place of unimaginable privilege
  4. Excellence of past Presidents. I said in 2007: “So far as I can tell, none of the politicians who held the position particularly distinguished himself.” The point is obvious, and whatever phrases we used, both Dhume and I basically said that.
  5. Kalam and Radhakrishnan as good Presidents. I said in 2007: “Kalam, on the other hand, certainly stood out. This is quite possibly because he was a working engineer, not a politician… Perhaps the scholar Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan was a good President, for he was a towering intellect”.
  6. Dynasty loyalists. I said in 2007: “The problem is that ….the Congress – which cannot think beyond the interests of the Nehru Dynasty… are not particularly thrilled at the prospect of an activist President. They would much rather have someone who will do what they are told. This may well be a reason for choosing Prathibha Patil…”

It’s rather clear that the prior art argument doesn’t work very well, because almost all the points made were covered by me either in 2007 or 2017 before Dhume’s 2017 piece. And the laws about copyright and ‘fair use’ are such that it is acceptable for someone to use another’s ideas for limited research and educational purposes.

Therefore let me grant that I have no reason to believe that Dhume is not capable of arriving at all these ideas by himself, which seems to be crux of his argument. Hey, I can do “damning with faint praise” with the best of ‘em.

But there is also the dictum that “plagiarism is stealing from one person; research is stealing from many people”. In these days of efficient Google searches, and crowdsourcing on Twitter, it is astonishing how much one can dig up through due diligence, and one may unconsciously internalize what one read somewhere.

As a non-professional journalist, I have had the luxury of having consistent opinions over time, and I have suffered for it. For the longest time, I was a complete outlier. Then I was kicked off one newspaper not for what I wrote, but because the opinion editor didn’t like my political perspective. I stopped writing for another because the sub editor, who disagreed with my perspective, made it clear through unreasonable demands that he didn’t want me there. So I’m not about to change now. But there has long been a Leftie stranglehold on opinion, which basically prevents any dissent; and that extends to their online acolytes on Twitter and Facebook. They have been masters of ‘manufacturing consent’.

Therefore if Dhume feels that there is a Hindutva Troll Army [sic] after him, I sympathize. Personally, I don’t know anything about this, and they are all big boys and can take care of themselves.Screenshot 2017-07-26 at 1.12.27 PM

didn’t occur to me when i wrote this article, but senkumar situation is a bit like l’affaire dreyfus in france: he’s a possible victim of religious discrimination. those of the communist religion do whatever they can to hurt hindus. this article was published on on 16 jul 2017 at

i had written in 1998 about l’affaire dreyfus and its relevance to us today. there is nobody to stand up for a wronged man. dreyfus was attacked because he was a jew. i think senkumar is being attacked partly because he’s an ezhava. and we have no emile zolas to say j’accuse.