Tag Archives: India

‘The Assault on Mumbai’

‘The Assault on Mumbai’ by Tariq Ali for Counterpunch, November 27, 2008

The terrorist assault on Mumbai’s five-star hotels was well planned, but did not require a great deal of logistic intelligence: all the targets were soft. The aim was to create mayhem by shining the spotlight on India and its problems and in that the terrorists were successful. The identity of the black-hooded group remains a mystery.

The Deccan Mujahedeen, which claimed the outrage in an e-mail press release, is certainly a new name probably chosen for this single act. But speculation is rife. A senior Indian naval officer has claimed that the attackers (who arrived in a ship, the M V Alpha) were linked to Somali pirates, implying that this was a revenge attack for the Indian Navy’s successful if bloody action against pirates in the Arabian Gulf that led to heavy casualties some weeks ago.

The Indian Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, has insisted that the terrorists were based outside the country. The Indian media has echoed this line of argument with Pakistan (via the Lashkar-e-Taiba) and al-Qaeda listed as the usual suspects.

But this is a meditated edifice of official India’s political imagination. Its function is to deny that the terrorists could be a homegrown variety, a product of the radicalization of young Indian Muslims who have finally given up on the indigenous political system. To accept this view would imply that the country’s political physicians need to heal themselves. read more

‘Mystic River’

‘Mystic River’, a review by Tariq Ali of Amartya Sen’s The Argumentative Indian: Writings on Indian History, Culture and Identity for The Nation, November 17, 2005

The sage of Bengal has pronounced. Pluralism, we are informed, has an ancient pedigree in Indian history. It is embedded in the oldest known texts of Hinduism and, like a river, has flowed through Indian history (including the Mughal period, when the country was under Muslim rule) till the arrival of the British in the eighteenth century. It is this cultural heritage, ignored and misinterpreted by colonialists and religious fanatics alike, that shapes Indian culture and goes a long way toward explaining the attachment of all social classes to modern democracy. The argumentative tradition “has helped to make heterodoxy the natural state of affairs in India,” exerting a profound influence on the country’s politics, democracy and “the emergence of its secular priorities.” This view informs most of the thought-provoking essays in Amartya Sen’s new book, a set of reflections on India written in a very different register from his other books on moral philosophy and poverty. It is designed not so much for the academy but as a public intervention in the country of his birth, to which he remains firmly attached despite the Nobel Prize and his latest posting at Harvard as a Boston Brahman. read more

The Nehrus and the Gandhis

The-Nehrus-and-the-Gandhis

Published by Picador, 2005

The Nehrus are a dynasty without precedent in the modern world; nowhere else and at no other time in recent history has a single family wielded such enduring and pervasive power over the country—and the electorate—they serve. From Jawaharlal Nehru to his daughter, Indira Gandhi, and from there, via Sanjay and Rajiv to—most recently—Sonia, this remarkable family have consistently established both the parameters and rhetoric of India’s political development.

In the eighties, Tariq Ali made several trips to India, meeting a wide range of political and public figures, including Mrs Gandhi, and leaders of both the Congress and Opposition parties. The Nehrus and the Gandhis, first published in 1985, was the result. Now updated to include the most recent chapters in India’s political history, it remains as relevant as ever, offering an intricate and revealing portrait of power, seen through the continued rise—and eyes—of one family.

Buy from Amazon.com Amazon.co.uk

‘Enemies of Hindutva’

‘Enemies of Hindutva’ by Tariq Ali for The London Review of Books, July 8, 2004

The pundits say that the Indian electorate does not cast votes, but votes castes. This is generally true but at key moments in its postcolonial history, the citizens of the world’s largest democracy—India’s population is just over a billion—have acted to punish the ruling elites. It is the subaltern’s revenge, unpredictable and unpredicted. Almost every Indian pollster forecast another BJP triumph before the election results were announced in May. Few believed that the Italian-born head of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty could lead the Congress-dominated alliance to victory. In the 1990s, threatened by a possible challenge from Mario Cuomo, the governor of New York, Bill Clinton declared that the American people would never elect a president whose surname ended with an ‘o’. In India, the BJP ideologues thought the electorate wouldn’t accept an Italian woman. Many others agreed. Several months ago, on a flight to New York, I met someone I had not seen for twenty years. A twig from a minor branch of the old Indian nobility, she said: ‘It’s a national disgrace that the Congress is being run by an Italian au pair.’ I pointed out that since an Englishman had founded the party, the transition to an Italian could be seen as progress and that Sonia Gandhi was surely preferable to the scoundrels in saffron. Conversation dried up. Her liberal days were long over and she was now sympathetic to the BJP: they were the saviours of India. read more

From the archive

  • ‘Why did Nato attack Pakistan?’

    November 30, 2011

    ‘Why did Nato attack Pakistan?’ by Tariq Ali for the London Review of Books blog, 28 November, 2011

    The Nato assault on a Pakistani checkpoint close to the Afghan border which killed 24 soldiers on Saturday must have been deliberate. Nato commanders have long been supplied with maps marking these checkpoints by the Pakistani military. They knew that the target was a military outpost. The explanation that they were fired on first rings false and has been ferociously denied by Islamabad. Previous such attacks were pronounced ‘accidental’ and apologies were given and accepted. This time it seems more serious. It has come too soon after other ‘breaches of sovereignty’, in the words of the local press, but Pakistani sovereignty is a fiction. The military high command and the country’s political leaders willingly surrendered their sovereignty many decades  …

  • ‘Unhappy Yemen’ in The London Review of Books

    March 23, 2010

    ‘Unhappy Yemen’ by Tariq Ali for The London Review of Books, March 25, 2010

    I left for Yemen as Obama was insisting that ‘large chunks’ of the country were ‘not fully under government control’, after Senator Joseph Lieberman had cheerfully announced that it was a suitable target for war and occupation. The sad underwear bomber who tried to blow up the Amsterdam flight on Christmas Day had triggered a new interest in the country, and in al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), by claiming that while he was converted to hardcore Islamism in Britain, his crash course in suicide terrorism, mercifully inadequate, had been provided by AQAP somewhere in Yemen.

    Yemen is a proper country, unlike the imperial petrol stations dotted across other parts of the Arabian Peninsula, where the ruling elites live in hurriedly constructed skyscrapers designed  …

  • ‘Nato’s lost cause’

    June 11, 2008

    ‘Nato’s lost cause’ by Tariq Ali for The Guardian, June 11, 2008

    The west’s ‘good war’ in Afghanistan has turned bad. A local solution, rather than a neocolonial one, is what’s needed

    In the latest clashes on the Pakistan-Afghan border, Nato troops have killed 11 Pakistani soldiers and injured many more, creating a serious crisis in the country and angering the Pakistan military high command, already split on the question.

    US failure in Afghanistan is now evident and Nato desperation only too visible. Spreading the war to Pakistan would be a disaster for all sides. The Bush-Cheney era is drawing to a close, but it is unlikely that their replacements, despite the debacle in Iraq, will settle the American giant back to a digestive sleep.

    The temporary cleavage that opened up between some EU states and Washington on  …