He was an extraordinary scientist, but more than his myriad positions and multi-faceted achievements, Dr A.P. J. Abdul Kalam was a luminous human being, radiating boundless energy and an inner radiance that illumined the lives of all around him. Humility can be sometimes fake, a show, but for Dr Kalam, sporting his floppy silvery mop nestled around his forehead, it was his second nature. Scientist extraordinaire, the father of India’s space and missile programme, India’s 11th president, his life story is truly inspirational as the boy from a non-descript village in Tamil Nadu rose to occupy not only the highest position in the world’s largest democracy by sheer self-belief and tireless hard work, but also remapped the contours of the presidency by bringing the much-needed people’s touch to a largely ceremonial institution. His achievements were many, but for countless of young people he will remain a teacher, inspiring them for reach for the skies. It was fitting that he breathed his last among students at an institute in Shillong on July 27. The man who epitomizes the power of dreaming and self-fashioning is alive and burning in all ignited minds. Here is a random selection of Dr Kalam’s inspirational thoughts.
The reopening of embassies and establishment of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the US after 54 years marks the start of a new chapter in relations between the once estranged countries. Diplomatic engagement opens another road towards resolving many issues that have bedevilled relations between these two neighbours. But there are many difficult and long-standing differences that will require persistent efforts to resolve in moving from destructive conflict to constructive engagement. The development has been welcomed globally, and is especially welcome in the Americas. It is important to note various historical and political factors at work.
President Obama had indicated his intention to improve relations with Cuba as long back as 2005. But the opposition of hard-line Cuban Americans and their representatives in the Congress, and the imprisonment of USAID worker Alan Gross in 2009 stalled progress. The recent thaw began with the release of Alan Gross from a Cuban prison in exchange for the release of five Cubans imprisoned in the US since 1998 for spying. Gross was suffering from medical problems and there was a strong effort by the Jewish lobby to secure his release. The Vatican and Canada facilitated contacts that led to the agreement for the mutual release of Gross and the “Cuban five”. Gross’s release by the Cubans resulted in the Jewish lobby supporting détente with Cuba. A New Cuba-PAC has been set up to press for normalising relations with Cuba. The success on this front encouraged President Obama and President Raul Castro to move further, and led to the decision to resume full diplomatic relations, broken off in 1961.
Assuring India that its strategic interests will not be compromised after the Maldives passed a constitutional amendment to allow foreign ownership of its islands, President Abdullah Yameen in a statement said, “The Maldivian government has given assurances to the Indian government and our neighbouring countries as well to keep the Indian Ocean a demilitarised zone”.
The statement came in the backdrop of India raising concerns over the land law amendment passed by the Maldives. The Maldives’ Vice-President Ahmed Adeeb said, “We don’t want to give any of our neighbours including India any cause for concern. We don’t want to be in a position, when we become a threat to our neighbours.” He also said Maldives was not looking at strategic projects and was looking at projects on the lines of Dubai’s Palm Islands or Singapore’s Marina Bay Sands. He criticised the opposition parties for raising concerns over the law.
The terror attack in Dinanagar in Punjab’s Gurdaspur district on July 27 has ended with less than a dozen casualties, but the incident has raised⋅⋅⋅
In an ongoing spat with India, Pakistan Army has released footage from a small spy drone that it had shot down a few days back⋅⋅⋅
Diplomacy, In Pictures
The ‘Skill India’ Initiative is another shot in the arm for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s India Inc, after the ‘Clean India’, ‘Make in India’⋅⋅⋅
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led “Digital India” mission took its first giant leap towards making the country’s digital dream real as Minister of Communication and⋅⋅⋅
While India has continued to make impressive progress in giving primary education to its children, it has struggled to achieve similar results in lower secondary education, a UN⋅⋅⋅
India and France are set to galvanise their multifarious relations during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s maiden trip to Paris. The two countries have a robust strategic partnership over the years, and are looking to push the envelope in a host of areas.
In this interview with Manish Chand, Editor-in-Chief, India Writes Network, (www.indiawrites.org), Rakesh Sood, India’s former ambassador to France, speaks about a cluster of issues that will be on the table when Prime Minister Modi holds talks with the French President Francois Hollande in Paris on April 10. He provided an overarching view of what makes India-France relations unique and how the forthcoming prime ministerial visit will impart a renewed momentum in areas of defence, nuclear energy and space and open up new avenues of bilateral cooperation.
(Excerpts from the interview)
Q) How do you look at the trajectory of the India-France relations at this moment? And how do you see the importance of Prime Minister Modi’s visit to France, which is also his first visit to Europe?
A) India and France have had one of the oldest strategic partnerships. What do I mean by a strategic partnership? I mean that we have had long-standing cooperation in areas of defence, nuclear energy and space. Three areas that normally constitute strategic partnership, and particularly in recent decades we have also strengthened our cooperation in the area of counter-terrorism and intelligence-sharing. So I think it is a very substantive relationship and French President Hollande was here in February 2013. Obviously, in 2014 we had our elections and so it is very opportune that Prime Minister Modi is now visiting Paris and other locations in France.
Vibrant democracies, emerging powers, and partners in the unfolding Asian resurgence. India-Indonesia relations have a rich past, and is looking to zoom into a rich future, bristling with possibilities. Co-founders and fellow-travellers of the Non-Aligned Movement, India and Indonesia have imparted a contemporary strategic dimension to their multi-faceted relationship. From President Sukarno gracing the first Republic Day celebrations of 1950 to India hosting Indonesia’s then President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono as Chief Guest at the Republic Day celebrations in 2011, the India-Indonesia partnership in the 21st century is acquiring new layers and depth.
The year 2014 saw a change of guard in both New Delhi and Jakarta, propelling self-made politicians from humble backgrounds to the top of the power ladder. The new leaderships in both countries are keen to seize the moment to infuse a new energy and vitality into this robust relationship.
Manish Chand, Editor-in-Chief of India Writes Network (www.indiawrites.org), caught up with Indonesia’s Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs Dino Patti Djalal in New Delhi for a free-wheeling conversation on the entire gamut of India-Indonesia relations, and much more. In this probing conversation, the suave and eloquent deputy minister shares his views on the future trajectory of India-Indonesia relations, how the two countries can collaborate in areas like pro-poor technologies, a new kind of creative politics emerging in Indonesia and a radical transformation of the image of India from a country ridden with poverty to a country synonymous with enterprise and innovation. India used to be known as a country with a rich past, but now it is seen as a country with a rich future, he says presciently.
India’s multifarious relations with the resurgent African continent has deepened and acquired a new traction over the last decade or so, especially since the inaugural India-Africa Forum Summit (IAFS) in New Delhi in 2008. India is set to host the third edition of IAFS early next year, which will bring the leaders and representatives of all 54 African countries to the capital Delhi, and is expected to mark an all-round acceleration of this burgeoning partnership. This will also be the first India-Africa Forum Summit, which will be hosted by the Narendra Modi government in New Delhi.
In this wide-ranging conversation with Manish Chand, Editor-in-Chief, India Writes Network (www.indiawrites.org) and Editor of “Two Billion Dreams: Celebrating India-Africa Friendship,” Ethiopian ambassador to India Gennet Zewide strikes an upbeat note about the future trajectory of the India-Africa relations and hopes that this partnership will “tripled, multiplied and even quadrupled” under the new dispensation in New Delhi. The Ethiopian envoy, a former education minister of the East African country, the seat of an ancient civilization, also speaks about the win-win partnership unfolding between India and her country, and the transformative impact of India’s Line of Credit for the country’s sugar industry, which promises to turn Ethiopia from an exporter into an importer of sugar in days to come.
India has increased its exposure to US government securities by USD 31 billion in the first five months of 2015, thereby taking the total holdings⋅⋅⋅
China stock market has been hogging headlines constantly since June 13 and this time the reason is neither high economic growth nor the exceptional quarterly⋅⋅⋅
In a series of suicide attacks in Nigeria and Cameroon, more than 50 people were estimated to have been killed, signaling a spurt in increasing extremism across a wide swathe of the continent.
Boko Haram is suspected to be behind these attacks. The terror canrage comes in the backdrop of Boko Haram releasing videos on the social networking site Twitter, where it claimed that they were not defeated and said, “We will be coming from where you never expected, stronger than before.”
Boko Haram is among prime drivers of terrorism in the region, which also include outfits like Al-Qaeda in the Maghreb and al-Shabaab. Boko Haram deploys Wahabbi Islam for radical proselytization and is waging a war against what it calls “the evil secular government in Nigeria.” In an hour-long video released on August 24, Boko Haram’s emir, Abubakar Shekau, declared his intention to establish the world’s second Islamic “caliphate.”
Underlining the need to eliminate a host of armed conflicts that most of the African states have been facing, African leaders have vowed to eradicate⋅⋅⋅
Naseeruddin Shah comes across as an actor who knows his craft but does not take filmdom or stardom with any degree of seriousness. A rare ability to laugh at oneself, coupled with an acute understanding of the world of theatre and Bollywood. It is difficult to talk about one’s life with any kind of objectivity and Shah manages just that with his funny bone absolutely intact. Be it the boarding school at Nainital, the hallowed portals of NSD or the Film Institute of Pune, Shah breezes through it all, seeing it with the critical eye of the present and looking at this intelligent non-conformist young Naseeruddin as he hems and haws through life. Not having set goals and not having made the obvious choices, the journey is tough as the young protagonist stumbles along in the haze of marijuana.
Shah’s book has an extremely humane side to it where the reader does not feel in awe of a star but a human being on a journey that continues with all its rough and tumble in place. The book too, plays by its own rules – deciphering but not revealing the man who refuses to be slotted as a hero or a character artist in Bollywood and who chooses to be remembered and not revered for some of the most virtuoso acting skills in the industry.
“Turning and turning in the widening gyre The falcon cannot hear the falconer; Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon⋅⋅⋅
If you’re a singer you lose your voice. A baseball player loses his arm. A writer gets more knowledge, and if he’s good, the older⋅⋅⋅
The greatest part of a writer’s time is spent in reading, in order to write; a man will turn over half a library to make⋅⋅⋅
For those of us living in India, crossing over casually is a distant dream. Even though India and Pakistan were one over six decades ago,⋅⋅⋅
Ecuador is probably the only country in the world named after a geographical feature – the equator. Crossing over from the Colombian border post near⋅⋅⋅