IT is time Prime Minister Manmohan Singh got himself a new home minister. The current HM, P. Chidambaram, is a disaster, a man who is long on talk and short on action, like most Congressmen. He has no idea what is happening in the country, or, for that matter, outside the country, and though he makes great play that he is close to the United States-maybe because he spent a few years there-the fact remains that the US government has little use for him. Of what use is such a home minister?
Take the latest case of David Coleman Headley, apparently a double agent who has worked and probably still works for both the US and Pakistan, and takes money from both. He has confessed his part in the Mumbai bombings of 26/11 and received what amounts to a pardon from both his masters. The Americans have agreed to Headley’s condition-mark you, it is a condition, not plea-that he will not be extradited to India, which means he will be out of bounds for Chidambaram & Co from now onwards.
On paper, Indians can question him through video conferencing and similar gimmicks. Anyway, that is what Chidambaram says, but Chidambaram’s credibility in this matter is zero. After all, Headley has come to terms with US authorities without Chidambaram & Co knowing about it, let alone being consulted. They may be able to question him on the screen, but they will not be able to touch him or see even his toe-nail. David Coleman Headley has vanished without trace and there is nothing Chidambaram & Co can do about it, though his crime was committed in India, and Chidambaram happens to be India’s home minister. As far as Indians are concerned, David Coleman, or whatever his real name is, is just a shadow on the screen which Indians will not even be able to touch.
All this has been arranged by the Americans directly with Headley, who is their man and also their employee, without a word leaking to Indians in Delhi. Chidambaram, for all his torrent of verbiage after the deal was signed, did not have the faintest idea of what was happening behind his back far away in Washington, or maybe in Langley, the CIA headquarters. For, as far as the Americans are concerned, Chidambaram simply did not count. The deal is simply between the US government and their spy, and men like Chidambaram have no place in it.
Remember that Headley is a double agent – a CIA man as well as a spy for Pakistan. Whatever he did in Mumbai and elsewhere, he must have done with the tacit understanding, if not permission or consent, of either the Americans or the Pakistanis, or both. If the Americans knew it, why didn’t they alert Delhi? They are not telling now either, nor handing over Headley to us, because if Headley talks, he will tell us much more than is good for the Americans as well as Pakistanis. So, he has to keep his mouth shut, and the only way to do so in put him in jail, see that he does not fall into the hands of Indians, and finally probably get rid of him for all time to come.
Chidambaram says that, under the agreement, Headley is supposed to tell us everything. If Chidambaram can believe that, he can believe anything. Headley will be in jail, serving a so-called life sentence, US jail, not Indian jail, and when he is brought into the hall before the video screen, nobody will be able to tell whether he is the red Headley or his double. We won’t be able to touch him, even see him in flesh and blood. We won’t know whether the man we are talking to is indeed Headley. But Chidambaram will be able to tell the Parliament that we were able to question the spook. What a story!
Five or six years from now, Headley will receive a fresh passport, a new ID, maybe a new face through plastic surgery, and the crook will be back in Colaba roaming through the smelly alleys behind the Taj which he so loves. And there will be a news item in an obscure Virginia newspaper that a man called Headley, or David, or Coleman, died in prison this morning and God have mercy on his soul. And Chidambaram will adjust his snow-white mundu, and fell the channels in Delhi that Headley is dead. Case solved!
Assume, for the sake of argument, that the boot was on the other foot, and that Headley was an Indian spy and was involved in the 9/11 attack in New York city. What would Americans have done? Would they have written scores of letters to New Delhi – The kind of begging letters Chidambaram has written to Washington – asking to hand over Headley to them? Would they have sent emissaries to Delhi every few days to pray for more information on Headley? They would have done nothing of the kind. Remember these are the people who sent a whole army to Afghanistan and reduced Kabul to rubble just because the terrorists who brought down the twin towers came from Afghanistan’s Al Qaida.
The Americans would have taken the first plane to Delhi, ask Chidambaram to receive them at Palam, and walk straight into his or Manmohan Singh’s office and ask them to hand over Headely to them, or else. They would have come with a contingent of Marines – not a whole army as in the case of Afghanistan – parked them on the lawns of the Home Ministry, and rattled their guns along the Rajpath. They know that Indians shiver, particularly Indians who have gone to Harvard or Cambridge, when they see guns, real guns, in the hands of a white man. And with the Marines marching up and down the Rajpath, Chidambaram would have meekly handed over Headely to them on a platter and asked the Americans, “Mere Liye Kuch Sewa?”
The trouble with men like Chidambaram and Manmohan Singh is that they are pen-pushers, taking hours to draft letters in Oxford English, which even the Britishers have forgotten. They can prepare wonderful drafts, as Nehru used to do, while addressing his ambassadors. But there the whole thing ends. Nehru could have written a wonderful note on how to defend our northern borders from the Chinese. But the Chinese, like the Americans, do not read notes. John Kennedy could not write even a short sentence correctly. They read guns and missiles, and they know how to differentiate a phoney world you read about in the books from the real world. This is why America is a powerful country with armies in almost every corner of the world, and that is also why we are not. Our world is confined only to dusty files and now, to the inanities on the TV. When Chidambaram appears on the TV channels and makes faces, he thinks he is addressing the world. Actually nobody is interested in him, except the men who adjust their cameras and take shots. The real world has better things to do.
It is not only the Mumbai attacks of 26/11. it is now nearly two months since the bombs went off near German Bakery in Pune and the state home minister, like the union home minister, says that investigations are going on. Chidambaram says that the state authorities were duly told about a likely attack on German bakery but the state Home Minister, not a particularly bright chap, says that they never heard anything from Delhi. And Headley, who seems to have been everywhere, was in Pune too, and stayed a whole day in a hotel near the bakery and whose fingers can be seen all over the place.
The Westerners treat us like nobodies, because we ourselves think we are nobodies. When you bend and cringe before foreigners, like well-behaved dogs, the foreigners think we are another canine species-and treat us accordingly. Here is a double agent who murders two hundred Indians and others in the heart of Mumbai and quietly walks away and all our home minister can do is twiddle his thumbs and talk about video conferences. Can anything be more shameful?
(The writer can be contacted at 301, Mani Kanchan Apts, Kanchan Galli, Law College Road, Pune-411004)