The Big Story: Tell Aviv?
Prime Minister Narendra Modi may still have refrained from directly referencing September's surgical strikes, where the Indian Army claims it attacked terror launch pads along the Line of Control, but he isn't shying away from chest-thumping in the aftermath of the actions. At a rally in Madhya Pradesh on Tuesday, he brought up a bit of global envy that right-wing Indians have tended to embrace. "Everyone is talking about our Army, we used to hear about similar feats of Israel," Modi said. "But now everyone knows the Indian Army is no less."
Many in India's defence establishment and much of the Bharatiya Janata Party looks at Israel as a model state. Its government is shot through with people from the military sphere, religion plays a major role, the Army and special forces have been known to carry out cross-border attacks – sometimes far afield – and we cannot ignore what is to many the powerful image of a Jewish state standing as a bulwark against the violence of Muslim Arab nations.
Of course, Modi's comparison doesn't hold much water. India's Army has much catching up to do before it has the capabilities that the Israeli one does, in part because New Delhi has been wary of getting too close to the United States, and even if it did, going up against conventionally armed Arab states or non-state actors like Hamas and Hezbollah is not comparable to nuclear-armed Pakistan.
But the prime minister's comments do offer a useful lens through which to look at India's Army. For one, the comparison equates India to an occupying state that is happy to disregard international norms in its administration of a disputed area – a charge New Delhi would prefer to hurl at Pakistan.
Second, Israel's Army has not actually been able to prevent militant groups from continuing to grow and build support. Every few years, Tel Aviv is forced to launch a conventional war to achieve its aims. Finally, Israel's Army has credibly been accused of war crimes, such as its targeting of civilians during the 2014 Gaza war or when former Israeli soldiers themselves document systematic abuse of children.
If anything, Modi's possibly flippant references draws more of a comparison to the worst parts of the Indian security apparatus – accusations that it is an occupying force in Kashmir and that it uses the Armed Forces Special Powers Act as a shield to perpetrate abuse on civilian populations. Israel's actions are also a powerful recruiting tool for terrorists and jihadists around the world, helping drive zero-sum narratives of power, which India would do better to stay far away from. Even if the prime minister was only indulging a bit of chest-thumping, his comparison does no favours to the Indian Army.
- Former Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar told a Parliamentary panel that the post-Uri attacks were not the first such strikes carried out by India, but they were the first strikes to cross the Line of Control and to be publicly announced.
- The Goods and Services Tax Council, which is currently meeting to decide on rates and compensation, discussed a four-tier rate structure and a compensation rate that presumes 14% growth for each state for the next five years.
- With Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma visiting Ayodhya to look at the plot for a proposed Ramayana museum, Bharatiya Janata Party Member of Parliament Vinay Katiyar said he wants a Ram temple, not a "lollipop".
- Filmmaker Karan Johar put out a statement on Tuesday pleading for his new movie to be allowed in theatres, after opposition from a chauvinistic Maharashtrian party over the presence of a Pakistani actor in it.
- "We need to forsake the notion that the military must be above questioning," writes Happymon Jacob in The Hindu, adding that Pakistan certainly did not benefit from such a policy.
- Vijay Kelkar, Satya Poddar and V Bhaskar in Mint call on the government to make haste with implementation of the Goods and Services Tax, while carefully considering what India hopes to achieve with the tax itself.
- "No Indian citizen can, or should, trust a story in which Aadhaar data security is never breached," write Mishi Choudhary and Eben Moglen in The Hindu.
- Jack Shafer in Politico looks at a rather confusing paper, which seems to suggest newspapers made a huge mistake going all out on digital.
Vinita Govindarajan writes about how you can no longer study other south Indian languages in Chennai, while French and German are thriving.
A 150-year-old Urdu Department of Presidency College is – for all practical purposes – shut, as the only Urdu professor retired in 2015, reported The Indian Express. The lone student who had taken the BA (Urdu) course was asked to join take up Physics instead. The Urdu department at Presidency college, which is now faculty-less was the only academic department in Tamil Nadu to offer a co-education undergraduate Urdu major, said the report.
In the 91-year-old Loyola College of Chennai, the Telugu and Malayalam departments were gradually phased out over the years. While the Malayalam department was closed almost 20 years ago because of low student enrollment, the Telugu department was terminated only five years ago with the retirement of the department’s only professor.