Will Congress Fall?

The outcry on the streets of Mumbai, the public outrage at the news that the Government may have had prior relevant intelligence on the attachs makes the resignation of Shivraj Paril too little, too late. The Governments of Manmohan Singh and Vilasrao Deshmukh, the Maharashtra Chief Minister, are both on the back foot. In politics, perception is everything and sadly, both these Governments are being seen as soft on terror with nothing more than political speeches and a rearranging of the cabinet chairs.


The ever growing calls for a firm Government and a secure India should see the opposition win a vote of no-confidence in parliament before the year end, and a new CM in Maharastra. Nothing else will do if we are to save the markets, tourist industry and faith in India as a safe destination. 

The next 48 hours are crucial. Watch this space.

What's going to happen to the India – Pakistan relationship?

More than any other question I have been asked, the central issue that everyone needs to be concerned about is that of the future of the India – Pakistan relationship.

If the mood of the people in Mumbai – those most affected – is anything to go by, we should expect a huge contingent of soldiers to make their way towards the border and eyeball their Pakistani counterparts whilst the international community goes into overdrive to avoid nuclear meltdown. However, the situation today is different to the last time – when the Indian Parliament was attacked.

Different for the following reasons:

1. The Pakistani Government has been quick off the mark to say the right things that may buy them some time. Last time, they also denied their involvement, but they didn’t give the same sense of urgency and importance as they have this time.

2. They fear the consequences of doing nothing. President Elect Obama has already indicated that he wouldn’t have any problems in standing over Pakistant to make sure it delivers on its promise to clamp down on terrorism. He may have made those comments in the context of Afghanistan, but these comments will also apply to these outrageous incidents.

3. India has succesfully managed to shed the much ingrained view that the fortunes of two were linked – the manifestation of this is that now we hardly hear about ‘India – Pakistan’ in one breath, but instead hear about ‘Ch-India’ or ‘India – China’. The successes of India Inc and the huge bank of goodwill that the country has developed is paying huge dividends today. India’s economic might overpowers that of Pakistan by a factor of mllions today and simply put, it is this realisation that strikes fear at the centre of Pakistani decision making.

For these reasons, I believe we will witness a much required and massive rebalancing of power and influence in the region. If there’s one good thing that these attrocities will have done, then this is it.

Is this India's 9/11?

Was invited onto BBC World News and News 24 yesterday & today to help make sense of what’s happening in Mumbai. In response to a question whether Pakistan could be behind this attrocity, I was left with no choice to point out that it wouldn’t be the first time that the left hand fails to speak to the right – in recent history, we know of situations when the Pakistani administration were simply not told what its security and intelligence services were upto.

If Bush can brand Pakistan as being the epicentre of the axis of evil, if Obama during his election campaign can say that he wouldn’t have any issues with launching strikes on Pakistani soil, then the world shouldn’t break ranks with India if it were to exercise its right to protect its citizens. Yesterday, I argued that Pakistani stability was in India’s interest. Today, I go further – Pakistani stability is in the entire international community’s interest.

This could well be India’s 9/11. Let’s hope the world stands with India rather than obstruct its path in helping Pakistan come to grips with the challenges it has domestically.

Massacre in Mumbai

The scenes that we are witnessing in Mumbai this evening should be flashed across the world to bring home the impact of terrorism, as they have to my home in London. We’re shocked by the images we are seeing – a policeman nursing a fresh bullet wound, the domes of the Taj Palace Hotel engulfed in flames, news about  40 hostages being held, and news reports suggest that as I write there are 16 active terrorist units raging in Mumbai tonight.

Given that India over the past 30 years has probably been the biggest victim of global terrorism, there’ll be a volley of questions asked and fingers pointed tomorrow morning asking how the political command structure and security services failed to detect such a coordinated and massive attack. Before the politicking and blame game commences, I’d like to urge the commentariat to consider the impact on ordinary Mumbaikars and Indians.

There’s a real & human cost – families have suffered losses and pain that is unimaginable; lives have been changed for once and for all.

We know that the resilience of Indian people during previous attacks and havoc has remained steadfast; and live in the hope that as the sun rises on the Gateway of India, tomorrow morning, that Mumbaikars hold together, as they have previously.

From London, we want you to know that we stand shoulder to shoulder with you in these testing times.

India this week: Advani, Sonia, Blair, and India Inc.

Quite a week in India as far as the interplay of politics and business are concerned. Let me explain:


With a number of state elections taking place as we speak, and the prospect of a general election within the next six months, LK Advani, Prime Ministerial candidate, brought business leaders together, on Thursday, to advise him on the options available to take control the impact of the financial crisis in India.

It’s been reported that the good and great of Indian commerce advised him to work with the Congress to help India weather the storm, knowing fully well that with elections pending, it was a tough commitment for Mr Advani to make. The BJP have been quick to point out that comments such as those of Mr Chidambaram, equating Mr Advani to John McCain, have made it impossible for the two sides to work together in a bipartisan manner.


Reacting to the press coverage of Mr Advani meeting the ambassadors of India Inc, UPA Chairman, Sonia Gandhi’s gone out and made remarks of her own that support her mother in-law, Indira Gandhi’s decision to nationalise banks four decades ago.

Sure, India’s prudence and protectionist attitude may shield her from some of the turmoil being witnessed today, but I believe that India stands to gain from a more open economy. I’m not just talking about the burgeoning middle class, but also of the most vunerable sections of society.


Mr Blair’s delivered a speech at the Hindustan Times leadership Summit and and excerpt from his speech struck me as being spot on. He said:

On India’s role, he said, “India has to decide its future path. One thing is for sure, India will demand its rightful place in the councils of the world…no wonder it was the G-20 that met in Washington and will meet in London, not the G-8. A UNSC without India as a permanent member is an anachronism. An IMF or a World Bank without a proper role for India, will no longer do. Across the world’s agenda, India will demand and will receive the position due to one of the world’s major powers.”  

But, he cautioned: “Beware one thing: with the power will come the responsibility. All of a sudden, you will find the expectation that, just as you will, in partnership with others, lead the world, so you will be able to solve the problems. People will knock on your door not to give opinions, but to hear answers. It is an exciting prospect but also a daunting one.”

Pratham – breaking cultural stereotypes

Last weekend, my friends at Pratham – one of India’s largest and most effective literacy / educational NGOs, organised a fabulous event to raise the profile of their cause. Sensing the worries of their donor base, they made the prudent decision to organise a ‘no frills’ party instead of their signature Ball – which last year saw them raise in excess of £2m for their ‘Read India’ campaign.

Having worked and supported with many NGOs that have their roots in India, not only am I impressed with Pratham’s ability to tap into the city / banking circuit in London and New York, I have to applaud the efforts of Reita Gadkari and the entire team for breaking many stereotypes that I believe dog the Indian charity scene.

For me, Pratham leads the way in not only showing us that an Indian cause can raise millions in the UK, but importantly, Pratham shows us how to gain the support of non Indians for charity. As a result of their clear focus and messaging, we saw a huge turnout of supporters from all ethnicities – all rooting for improved literacy in India. Sounds strange, but I haven’t seen this before – at least not on this scale.

My advice for those who rely on newspapers and TV for their information on India – don’t believe the hype! Yes, India is booming. Yes, it produces so many million more graduates than Europe. However, not all of these are of the quality that you and I are lead to believe. Basic literacy and skills are a major concern and this is where groups like Pratham provide effective solutions.

As an event – great fun. Well done. Was good to see eminent persons like Andrew Neil, Lakshmi Mittal, Anshu Jain, Dalip Pathak, Jim O’Neill all present and supporting Pratham.

Elections in New Delhi

Why is everyone saying that Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit is going to lose Delhi’s election? 

I was in Delhi since last week and just can believe how political chit chat dominated a reception hosted by Sir Dickie Stagg, British High Commissioner, at his residence on Tuesday evening. I’m not referring to British politics and the fortunes of Gordon Brown, but firstly of Obama (who’s since won the contest) and secondly of Sheila Dikshit, Chief Minister of Delhi.


As per my knowledge and experience of Delhi, she’s done very well in her tenure of ten years. I can’t believe the change in climate – less smog and pollution, a brand spanking new metro network, the commonwealth games etc. For this reason, I just can’t understand why everyone is saying that she’s toast. Not one person has said that she’s going to win.


The challenger, Dr Malhotra of the BJP, has a good reputation and from what I’m told,  heralded some positive changes when he ran Delhi as a civil servant in the 50’s. Since then, he’s climbed up the political greasy pole and is the Deputy Leader of the BJP in the Upper House of the Indian Parliament. He’d make a good Chief Minister. His credentials are good. But, we also know that no matter how good a challenger is, the burden lies with the incumbent, it’s Sheila Dikshit’s election to lose. At least, that’s what political wisdom would suggest.


I can understand the reasons why Obama ran a campaign promising change, but I really can’t understand the basis of Delhiites demanding political change in their city.


Any ideas?