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Kurdish Iraq might have been India’s, had Former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee not played Spoilsport

The fall of Saddam's statue had registered differently with Vajpayee - this scale of Western triumphalism was a source of anxiety for him

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Atal Bihari Vajpayee with Narendra Modi, Flickr
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– by Saeed Naqvi

October 29, 2016: Hard to believe, but Mosul, currently in the news, would have been ours today had Atal Bihari Vajpayee not played spoilsport.

After their invasion of Iraq in April 2003, Americans realised fairly early that a full- fledged occupation for an unspecified period was not possible without allies taking responsibility to administer large swathes of the ancient land.

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Seldom has a US ambassador been more effective than David Mulford was. It took very little persuasion for External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh, Defence Minister George Fernandez and Army Chief N.C. Vij to fall in line.

Ships were readied, battalions shortlisted, Generals chosen for India’s first imperialist adventure since the Cholas. We were going to rule a part of that country which alone of all the 52 Muslim nations had stood by us at the UN, Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) and elsewhere on the Kashmir issue.

I suppose it must have been self-interest which caused us to turn turtle on Iraq as soon as the Americans were in occupation of the country.

Our ambassador to Baghdad, B.B. Tyagi, even risked his life. Iraqi resistance had identified him as a diplomat who was supportive of the occupation. No wonder I was once ushered into his presence while he sat in bed, his legs outstretched, eyes wide open as in a daze, his hands on automatic weapons by both his sides. It was a frame for a possible Woody Allen war film.

Just as the first US representative, Paul Bremer, was convinced that the occupation would be a cakewalk, so was South Block and, indeed, Tyagi.

Bremer, a devout Roman Catholic, had turned up with a batch of priests who smacked their lips at the prospect of saving souls in a post Saddam Iraq. It turned out that antique smugglers did rather better, cleaning out the Baghdad museum on America’s watch.

[bctt tweet=”South Block, like Bremer, had assumed that once Saddam’s yoke was lifted from their necks, Iraqis would turn up in droves to hug the Americans.” username=””]

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In anticipation of Iraq’s immediate future in American hands, South Block parked Tyagi in a three-star hotel in Amman where he spent mornings, afternoons, evenings watching CNN and BBC for the American progress in Iraq. The irony was that Lyse Ducet of the BBC was herself in occupation of the terrace of Amman’s Intercontinental Hotel watching her Arab staff count their worry beads, waiting for the American flag to be fluttering over all of Iraq.

Were this to happen, Tyagi would helicopter into Baghdad’s Green Zone and offer his credentials to Bremer or his Iraqi nominee.

Just imagine, New Delhi was all but ready to open its embassy with the American occupiers of a country which had given unstinted support to India always, particularly against Pakistani machinations at the UN.

This being the state of affairs, who could blame the US for being so confident of India’s enthusiastic willingness to partner them and take charge of Kurdish Iraq. It had very nearly happened, had Vajpayee not decided to show spine – just in the nick of time.

He kept his head while those around him were losing theirs. On April 9, American marines brought down Saddam Hussain’s statue and exactly the media which is lined up behind Hillary Clinton attributed the statue’s fall to popular rage.

Vajpayee kept his counsel. On April 18, he turned up in Srinagar. Remember, the armies of India and Pakistan were in an eye-ball to eye-ball confrontation after the December 13, 2001 terror attack on Indian Parliament.

The fall of Saddam’s statue had registered differently with Vajpayee – this scale of Western triumphalism was a source of anxiety for him. An “awesome” power has arisen. In the new situation, regional quarrels had to be composed, he said. Dramatically, he extended his hand of peace to Pakistan.

This was the beginning of the process which led to India and Pakistan signing an agreement in Islamabad on January 4, 2004 that forbids the use of a country’s territory for cross-border terrorism. The word was not kept by Pakistan, but that is another story.

The “Shining India” campaign mounted by the BJP recoiled on it during the May 2004 elections. But for India-Pakistan relations, it was an unfortunate turn. When Vajpayee became the External Affairs Minister in the 1977 Janata government, he had made up his mind on Pakistan: “We cannot change our neighbours.”

Among his first foreign visits was to Pakistan in February 1978. The bus journey to Lahore in February 1999, and the January 2004 visit which resulted in the agreement against cross-border terrorism, were audacious. But there were reverses.

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He was able to cushion the reverses because of his cross-party stature nationally and his standing with the RSS. But he persisted because he had grasped the triangle in which the country had trapped itself since 1947 – Srinagar-New Delhi, India-Pakistan, Hindu-Muslim are one complex of issues. Unless a holistic view is taken of this triangle to outline suitable policy, eternal social strife would remain the nation’s lot.

Vajpayee had the vision to pull India back from the brink on Iraq. Just imagine, what would have been our fate had ships carrying Indian troops actually set sail.

The troop build-up against Pakistan after the Parliament attack was also a calculated move. The sole superpower was in place to pull the protagonists back from the brink. It is just as well that neither Russia and China (nor the US) paid much credence to the “surgical strikes”. In the absence of an overarching superpower, real “surgical strikes” may cause the situation to spiral out of control. (IANS)

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10 Facts About The Most Famous Defense Lawyer of India

Ram Boolchand Jethmalani is better known as Ram Jethmalani. He was born 14 September 1923.

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Ram Jethmalani was a very bright student during his academic years, he obtained LL.B.degree at the age of 17. Wikimedia Commons
  • Ram Jethmalani was referred to be the highest-paid and the best defence lawyer of the Indian judicial system
  • Ram Jethmalani has often faced much criticism for taking up some controversial cases
  • On 10th September 2017, Ram Jethmalani announced his retirement from the judicial profession

Ram Jethmalani is considered to be the Best Criminal Lawyer in India and he has left his mark in Constitutional Law by defending the reservation in Supreme Court, fighting against eminent lawyers.

Ram Boolchand Jethmalani is better known as Ram Jethmalani. He was born 14 September 1923. Ram Jethmalani with his family moved to Mumbai from Sind after Partition. Ram Jethmalani is a well-known Indian lawyer and politician. He is also referred to be the highest-paid lawyer in the Indian judicial system.

As Ram Jethmalani was a very bright student during his academic years, he obtained LL.B.degree at the age of 17and started practising law in his hometown until the partition of India. Due to partition, he moved to Mumbai as a refugee and he began his life afresh with his family. He has two sons and two daughters, of whom, Mahesh Jethmalani and Rani Jethmalani. Both of them are also well-known lawyers.

Also Read: Raghuram Rajan: The Man Who Revolutionized The Indian Banking System

Ram Jethmalani has often faced much criticism for acting as the defence lawyer and taking up some controversial cases like Satwant Singh and Kehar Singh who had been sentenced to death for the assassination of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. He has dealt with many high profile cases of the country like that of Shiv Bal Thackrey, Haji Mastan, alleged killers of Rajiv and Indira Gandhi, Lal Krishna Advani, NTR Rao, Osho, Harshad Mehta and many more.

Ram Jethmalani drew a lot of storm when he took up the case of Afzal Guru, who was the prime convict in the 2001 Parliament attack. Ram Jethmalani demanded the commutation of his death sentence. He was even approached by Dawood Ibrahim in the 90s to fight for him in Indian Court. But the case wasn’t taken up, as Ram Jethmalani wasn’t able to fulfil Dawood’s demand for no-arrest orders for him.

Ram Jethmalani has left his mark in Constitutional Law by defending the reservation in Supreme Court, fighting against eminent lawyers. Wikimedia Commons
Ram Jethmalani has left his mark in Constitutional Law by defending the reservation in Supreme Court, fighting against eminent lawyers. Wikimedia Commons

Ram Jethmalani was elected a member of parliament in the 6th and 7th Lok Sabha on a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ticket from Mumbai. During the prime ministership of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, he has served as Law Minister of India and also as Minister of Urban Development. Although, later he contested election against Atal Bihari Vajpayee in the general elections of 2004 from Lucknow constituency. In 2010, he again joined BJP and was elected to Rajya Sabha on its ticket from Rajasthan.

Also Read: Interesting Life Facts About Dr BR Ambedkar

Finally, on 10th September 2017, Ram Jethmalani announced his retirement from the judicial profession.

Check out some of the facts about the life of one of the exceptional criminal lawyer of India:

  1. Ram Jethmalani has served as India’s Union Law Minister and also the chairman of the Bar Council of India. Ram Jethmalani was elected as the president of Supreme Court Bar Association on 7 May 2010.
  2. In 1971, Ram Jethmalani lost the general election he contested from Ulhsnagar (Maharashtra) as an independent candidate.
  3. Ram Jethmalani is considered as one of the key members of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The party was founded on 6 April 1980.
  4. Ram Jethmalani was an outstanding student in school and got a triple promotion when in school.
  5. Ram Jethmalani persuaded the then Chief Justice of Sind to pass a special resolution to relax the rules of law practising age. At that time, the mandatory age for a lawyer to practice was 21 years.
  6. In 1959, Ram Jethmalani’s famous case of K.M. Nanavati vs. State of Bombay case was among the last cases to be heard as a jury trial in India, as the government abolished jury trials soon after.
  7. Ram Jethmalani was expelled from BJP in 2013 for accusing the party of being “silent against high corruption”.
  8. Ram Jethmalani also launched his own party named ‘Pavitra Hindustan Kazhagam’, in 1995. The motto of his party was to achieve transparency in the functioning of Indian Democracy.
  9. Ram Jethmalani was given Political Asylum by the USA during Emergency. He garnered the support from Western Countries towards Indira Gandhi’s suppression of Personal Liberty during Emergency.
  10. Not many people know but Ram Jethmalani contested the Presidential Election in 1992. Although, he withdrew his name from the candidature list and still he got 3k votes.