By Manju Gupta
Ignited Minds by by A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, Penguin, 205 pp; Rs 125.00
This book, primarily addressed to the young to fire their mind, should be kept in every library of every educational institution and also in the child'sschool bag.
With the dream of turning India into a developed nation, Abdul Kalam (who is pres-ently the President of India) chose to write on this subject of igniting young minds because ?all through my career in the field of technology and its manage-ment, I relied on the power and potential of youth,? and he is convinced that ?given the freedom to achieve and guided properly, the young of India can accomplish far more.? He wants his young readers to ?start moving? to help the nation achieve its goals and overcome the inertia that has gripped the national psyche, the mindset of defeat. The book ?is all about developing the conviction in overselves and discarding the things that hold us back.?
Kalam had the desire to dream and it goes without saying that ?dreams transform into thoughts and thoughts result in action?. He begins by describing his experience when his helicopter crashed before landing in Bokaro. He was given a tranquilliser to sleep so as to alleviate the ?perceived shock?. He had a vivid dream in which five men?Mahatma Gandhi, Albert Einstein, Ashoka, Abraham Lincoln and Caliph Omar talked of seeing a violent world and what Einstein said in Kalam'sdream seems most relevant today: ?I would like to recall my friend Werner Heisenberg'sview, ?You know, in the West we have built a large, beautiful ship. It has all the comforts in it, but one thing is missing: it has no compass and does not know where to go.? Men like Tagore and Gandhi and their spiritual forebears found the compass. Why can this compass not be put in the known ship so that both can realise their purpose?? Kalam says that there is no greater commitment on earth than that ?to a dream?.
He adds that on the basis of his experience as ?a rocket man after taking the rocket further along its intended trajectory?, he learnt that ?change is crucial. It brings new thought; new thought leads to innovative actions?. He continues the second lesson he learnt while developing the missile system was on how to manage ?failures?. The third stage was India'smission to become a ?nuclear-weapon state?.
In the second chapter Kalam talks of role models, who for the youngsters can be parents or teachers. When the child grows up, then ?the role models will be national leaders of quality and integrity in every field including politics, the sciences, technology and industry.?
In the third chapter Kalam talks of the personalities who inspired him and these include J.R.D. Tata, Homi Bhabha, Vikram Sarabhai and Satish Dhawan, who were involved in mission-driven programmes while their discoveries benefi-tted the country.
In the next chapter he discusses his experience with Swami Maharaj of Swami-narayana Sanstha at Ahmeda-bad on fusion of science and spirituality. He considers spiritual wisdom as strength and believes that our technolo-gical advance ?should not preclude spiritual develop-ment.?
He has talked of Amartya Sen'scriticism of India on nuclear development, espec-ially after the Pokharan II test. Kalam questions, ?It is essential to remember that two of our neighbouring countries are armed with nuclear weapons and missiles. Can India be a silent spectator?? His vision of India includes not a nation of cities but ?a network of prosperous villages empo-wered by tele-medicine, tele-education and e-commerce.?
Kalam has all words of praise for ancient India that contributed a great deal to our civilisation. ?We need to recover that status and become a knowledge power.?
He presents his vision for India 2020 where agriculture and food processing would bring prosperity to the rural poor and speed up economic growth; supply of electric power; education and health-care for population control; information technology for promoting education; and the strategic sector?nuclear, space and defence technology.
Kalam takes up different issues and themes that struck him on his pilgrimage around the country as he met thousands of school children, scientists and saints. On going through this book one is reminded a wee bit of Jawaharlal Nehru'sGlimpses of World History wherein Nehru covers a vide canvas to tell the history of the entire world, while Kalam, on a limited scale, touches upon the contributions of various people to the development of India.
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Siachen: Why we keep it close to our heart
Siachen: Conflict without End by Lt. Gen. V.R. Raghavan, Viking, 240 pp, Rs 375.00
Tracing the genesis of the centuries-old geo-political interests in Siachen, this book is an objective and lucid account of a high-altitude war between India and Pakistan. For the last 20 years India and Pakistan have been locked in fierce combat to gain control of the barren heights of the Siachen glacier which lies in the western Himalayas. Conducting military operations at great altitudes and in extreme cold weather is a daunting task, guaranteed to test even the most dauntless of men.
Siachen has often been mentioned but it was George Fernandes, Defence Minister in the NDA government, who brought it into limelight by making visits to the region to confirm his commitment to the welfare of the gallant soldiers, who were on extremely dangerous military assignments. Siachen glacier has become synonymous with the military conflict between India and Pakistan which has continued without respite for nearly two decades. The battles, though fought with limited aims had the potential to trigger off a larger conflict.
Six major mountain systems form part of what has been called ?the navel of Asia??Hindu Kush, Pamirs, Kun Lun mountains, Karakorams, Great Himalayan range and Pir Panjal range. ?It is on the eastern Karakorams that the interests of India, China and Pakistan have converged in a complex set of ambitions, errors of judgement and deliberate exploitation of geography,? says the author. India and Pakistan have fought three wars over Jammu and Kashmir. The first war in 1947-48 for the control of Jammu and Kashmir saw a determined Pakistani thrust when it seized Gilgit by subterfuge.
In 1962 came the Sino-India border dispute, when the Chinese overran Indian defences in all theatres of the war. In the east the Chinese forces captured the whole of what is today Arunachal Pradesh, and within weeks withdrew from all the areas captured in the eastern sector. In the Ladakh region, the Chinese attacked in strength and occupied a portion of Ladakh. The Chinese then obtained a new boundary on the Karakorams from Pakistan. The Chinese involvement in the India-Pakistan dispute is significant because it is part of their counter-encirclement strategy in which they want to draw in Pakistan as a partner. India had to cede 2,700 square miles of its territory to Pakistan and China.
The second Indo-Pak war took place in 1965 followed by a third in 1971. New geo-graphical compulsions of India, Pakistan and China have brought it centre stage because it is part of a region where the three nations want to exercise their control. According to the author, ?India and Pakistan, both feel compelled to take a stand on Siachen. Pakistan feels it must gain control over the glacier, however long it may take. India is determined to retain it at any cost. The glacier has become an essential imperative of the two countries? political and security constraints.? Indian experts feel that if the Siachen glacier goes under Pakistan'scontrol, ?then it can develop into a combined military offensive with China against northern Ladakh and Leh.? Control of the 80 km-long range in the Karakorams has become the prime objective of the India-Pakistan conflicts.
The author describes the Siachen glacier, its ice and snow, the rugged terrain, with no natural resources. The author has given a moving description of the tough life of the Indian soldiers (braving temperatures of minus 50 degrees Celsius and altitudes of 20,000 feet) for whom each and every item of use is sent from the plains; the frequent skirmishes between the two countries; the seven round of talks to solve the issue.
In 1999 came the Kargil conflict whose impact and consequences on the war over Siachen have been considerable. Now the question is what can bring about an end to the conflict? ?All fighting has to stop on the Line of Control including the Saltoro,? says the author. A freeze on fighting through an agreed ceasefire and reduction in forces over a period of time can provide the basis for a planned solution. Says Major General Raghavan, ?The period of ?no fighting, no change of status quo? understanding can be agreed upon by the two sides.?
On reading the book it seems defusion of terrorism in this ?highest battlefield in the world? depends less on the Army but more on the political will of the leaders of the two warring nations. The book is required reading for all who seek to understand both the origins and the political-military factors that have prolonged the brutal struggle which is too painful to be continued, but too meaningful to be ended.
(Penguin/Viking, 11 Community Centre, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi-110 017.)