Myanmar vs. Burma & Other Stories

04 Oct

This seems to be politics week on IndieQuill. What can I say? I love the stuff… even when it makes me want to kick someone’s butt.

Like that of India’s External Affairs ministry. I cannot count the number of times I’ve heard from people who work at the UN or read books by the diplomats of other countries about the negotiating powers of the Indians. I always took those accounts with a pinch of salt because there’s nothing quite like familiarity to breed contempt and I grew up very familiar indeed with the safari suits in New Delhi. But somehow, they’ve managed to impress folks everywhere with their dastardly derring do. The Pakistanis are convinced that RAW is a superefficient organization capable of fostering civil unrest in places like Balochistan and the Americans think the EA are devious little so-and-sos whose planning always comes off. So somebody must be doing something right!

And then I see thing like the current unrest in Burma and the Indian reaction to it and it takes me straight back to square one. Here’s our esteemed External Affairs Minister, Pranab Mukherjee on the subject:

Mukherjee “suggested that the [Myanmar] government could consider undertaking an inquiry into the recent incidents and the use of force”, said a statement issued by the foreign ministry. The minister also hoped the “process of national reconciliation and political reform, initiated by the government of Myanmar, would be taken forward expeditiously”.
Mukherjee, during recent visits to Thailand and South Korea, expanded a bit on New Delhi’s thinking. He said that India does not have any problems dealing with military regimes as it considers such issues “internal matters”. New Delhi has to deal with four military-ruled states in its region – Bangladesh, Pakistan, Thailand and Myanmar. This is apart from communist-ruled China, Mukherjee said.

Dude, you so took the words out of my mouth! Yeah, if I were a Burmese citizen, I’d totally trust the military goons that gunned down my fellow citizens and tries to control my every move to conduct an inquiry into just what went wrong. After all it’s worked so well in India for the Congress Party as Mr. Mukherjee can personally attest. How’s your friend Jagdish “Friend of Sikhs” Tytler these days, sir? And what exactly, does your government think of the (ever) ongoing Liberhan Commission? Do be sure and tell our Burmese friends about this wonderfully democratic system of justice founded on the principle of let’s-scratch-each-other’s-backs. After all, we’re all crooks in this together!

You know, if you can’t be bothered to do anything because of financial considerations, then come out and say it. We’re Indians, we like money, we’ll understand your mercenary impulses. Most of us anyway. Or admit that the insurgency in the NorthEast plays a major role in our reaction to Burma. Or just make shit up. Just don’t treat us with condescension.

Here’s Tanay with a few other links and information, including one to a great essay by one of my favorite authors, Jawahara Saidullah, who has a personal connection to Burma as do so many other Indians. Also, Newsweek.

Other Stuff I Read Today:

(That you should too!)

Wired has this great piece on the ISRO:

For every other nation in space, the final frontier was first a military frontier: Space programs have emerged from ballistic weapons research. India is different. While the leaders of the free world imagine advanced weapons systems, scientists in India see space technology as a means to help the developing world.


“We can launch a remote-sensing satellite for half the price of anyone else,” said Shridhara Murhi, executive director of Antrix, the commercial arm of ISRO. It’s the sort of frugality and ingenuity that has begun to attract international investors.

The demand for space imaging and communications is huge, and yet there are only a few players in the game. Last year, Antrix brought in more than $500 million, which was more than half of the operating budget for all of ISRO. It is aiming for a 10 percent market share in less than a decade.

And of course, it’s Sputnik’s anniversary! Has it only been 50 years? My personal association with it is this childhood friend of my dad’s who was nicknamed “Sputnik” by his brother shortly after the launch. I don’t know what the joke is – my dad’s terrible at explaining things like that, especially when they make him sad like this one does ever since “Sputnik” died – but it always made dad and his friends guffaw.

On Thursday, the space industry celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Sputnik launch, an event that ignited the space race and resulted in the United States reaching the moon 12 years later. Sputnik may have been simply built, the impact of its flight was immense, inspiring not only a whole generation of engineers, but the entire U.S. nation, to aim for space.

And as I write this, my thoughts are with fellow blogger Freespirit and her family who’re living the nightmare that every service family dreads:

My grief is probably nothing compared to what his pregnant wife must feel right now. Dinesh will never get to see his son or daughter. He didn’t even know is it was a son or daughter. He will never get to experience the joys of fatherhood that he was so looking forward to. He will never send me another e mail to tell me about his child’s antics. And I’ll never be able to make that long promised phone call.

How many of us live with that same regret: a phone call we didn’t make.

To cheer me up, I read Ana on the Pakistani film industry – like I told her, I’ve seen Pakistani serials but I haven’t seen any movies made over the border. But it’s a fascinating read nonetheless, making me realize anew how blind we can be to our immediate neighborhood. Here’s an excerpt from Part 2 but I suggest you read all three (and counting!):

As a Christian growing up in Lahore, I was always excited to learn who else in the community was. There were quite a few people in the film industry who were Christian. I was told that Shabnam was, although I am not certain of the veracity of that. But there were singers as well, singers like Mujib Alam, and Salim Raza, and later on A. Nayyar. There was a Christmas function at the hospital, and A. Nayyar showed up. There is a photograph of Ma and him standing together. I do not know if he was presenting the hospital an award, or if Ma was presenting one to him. I wish Ma had looked happier. He looked very handsome.

And Gagan’s take on the Bourne Ultimatum made me think once again about movie adaptations. After reading the Bourne books and watching both this series and Lord of the Rings, I think I have moved firmly into the camp that believes that the best movie adaptation is the one that dares to strike new ground. But of course, you need to have a really talented team to successfully pull that off.

When he pummels two beat cops who question his sleeping on a park bench in the first film the stunning display of violence is as much a revelation to him as it is to the audience. There’s no adolescent rush of pride in his abilities and the film’s pace ensures little time for reflection. The violence is integral to the story and it’s negotiated well here. Bruce Lee had imagined a fighting style as fluid as water in his writings on Jeet Kune Do. Bourne’s fight sequences capture the spirt of Lee’s ideas on film. They’re sudden and utilitarian: movement that continues with brutal intent until the rival is put down, and then it is behind him. And while he never fights without reason the effect of that violence on him is less explored in earlier films than it is here. A more deliberative Bourne can’t forget the faces of those he has killed.


Posted by on October 4, 2007 in Life, News, Politics


2 responses to “Myanmar vs. Burma & Other Stories

  1. Shantanu

    October 6, 2007 at 4:38 am

    Great round-up. Thanks! Re: Indian official response to the Burma situation, the less said the better…

  2. Amrita

    October 8, 2007 at 11:40 am

    Hey Shantanu – thank you for reading 🙂

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