‘You can’t play cricket in a tennis court’



My colleague Kushalrani Gulab – Bunny – asked me in response to my blog last week what had prompted me to become a journalist. As I said in my reply to her, that had not been my intention when I started out as one nearly three decades ago. But so many years later, I realise I would rather be a journalist than anything else in the world – not even a bureaucrat or diplomat as I had intended when I took a journalism degree, essentially to learn to write for the civil services exams.

I meet and speak to many students of journalism and mass communication these days and each time I do I give them the same piece of advice that I got half-way through my career from former Prime Minister V P Singh.

I started out by disliking Singh immensely – I held him responsible (and still do so) for the fragmentation of the Indian polity with his Mandal card. I had always believed that he was too small for the job he finally ended up with. But then he was a close confidante of a very good friend of mine and the endless dinners he took me to with Singh at the State Guest House, Sahyadri, whenever Singh came visiting Bombay (and he came frequently for dialysis treatments at the Bombay Hospital), helped to soften my ire against Singh over the months. And when I finally got into easy conversation with him, I picked up two valuable insights from the former Prime Minister.

I had reason to recall both last week, as the Copenhagen summit wound up and I met more students of journalism. When I heard Union Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh say, “I am not here to save humanity. I am here to protect India’s interests and our right to development,’’ I was not surprised that the world was blaming India (and China) for putting a spoke in the works at Copenhagen.

For, as Singh told me years ago, India was always putting a spoke in the works just about everywhere and has always been blamed for spoiling the developed world’s parties. “We are regarded as the world’s toughest negotiators,’’ Singh had said, out of experience. He said Rajiv Gandhi had trusted him with keeping up India’s interests at WTO negotiations when they first began and then India and Brazil had been the spoilers, as he said it. “We were the only two nations who refused to concede rights in matters of services and intellectual property. We were the only developing nations who were invited to their exclusive dinners in the hope they might wine-and-dine us into concessions. But despite all that we stood our ground and did not cede an inch. Because all that we have among all those developed nations, who are worried only about protecting their interests and hoping to con us under the guise of humanity or co-operation , is our instinct of self-preservation.’’

I presume the pressures this decade over issues like climate change were more than that prevailed  two decades ago over issues like intellectual property rights but  I thought India knew how to keep her ground without making an enemy of the developed world – one statement Singh said he had made to the developed nations in the decade of the Eighties has stuck in my mind. “When they asked for unreasonable concessions, I told them `You cannot play cricket in a tennis court’.’’

I use that phrase all the time in my private conversations with friends and others who make unreasonable demands and expect more of me than they are prepared to give and I always stump them as Singh said the phrase had stunned the big nations when he had first voiced it to them.

But it is the second lesson (I call it `lesson’ for want of a better word) that I impart to journalism students all the time when they ask me if they are being wise in getting into mass communication and if they will make good journalists.

I was halfway through my career when I got one of the best job offers I had had since then. But it put me into  a great dilemma because I thought I was in the best job to be had for a journalist at my level at the time in Bombay. Moreover, I had been in that job for only a short while and I was neither tired of it, nor had I lost interest nor did I have any problems at that job, either. Singh advised me to take the new job and told me I could not see it then but the offer I had would qualify me as a successful journalist in a few years from then.

“Your parents might not have wanted you to be a journalist?’’ he asked. And when I nodded my head vigorously he looked smugly satisfied as he said, “Journalism is not a great profession to get into when you are a starter. Most parents would rather their children get into medicine or engineering or even law because journalism seems like a no-go at that young age.’’

But, he said, “You will have to work at it for at least 20 or 25 years before you realise whether you are a success or failure at journalism. If you are successful, then you are better off than even a highly successful doctor or lawyer; you will always be more famous and better regarded than any body else who might be equally successful in other professions. But if you are a failure, then you would have been better off being a doctor or a lawyer, for a failed doctor or lawyer will always be far better off than a failed journalist. But the call has to be yours. And you will never know until you have spent almost half a life time trying to achieve that success; if you have failed, nothing on earth can compensate you for your lost years.’’

That is the advice I give to my students whenever they ask. And add for better measure, “It will take a long time before you realise if you have been playing cricket in a tennis court. Or, happily, not.’’

I, for myself, hope I have been playing tennis in, well,  a tennis court!

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  • salil

    I didnt think a journalist could do this to a ’suit’ but you have set me thinking :)
    nice post as always

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    Sujata Anandan Reply:

    Thank you

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  • http://iuhu.litio.org/l2/profile.php?mode=viewprofile&u=7867 Hong Slingerland

    According to some diet experts, dieters must only drink tea, coffee, plain water, mineral water, or lemon water. Alright so there you have it, but wait most of the acai sold in America is not in pure form.

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  • Abu Ahmed

    I think Mirza Ghalib would be more acceptable to all Indians as a national symbol – for his poetry is far more universal and humanitarian than any other poet – and Urdu is understood anywhere in India (though people tend to call it Hindustani for various reasons), which is not the case with Bengali.

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  • Shyam7310

    mercedes R class, vw jetta due to their pricing

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  • http://www.facebook.com/naturerules Balaji Babu

    I am balaji from chennai. I own a beat diesel and I am not a previous owner of indica(i had a getz 2005). I can say the refinement is better if not best compared to a swift or micra.. but still even the polo’s engine has a clatter which is similar to beat and i dont find any difference between these two as far as the refinement goes… If you talk about high speed, then there is no diesel engine of its capacity to compare with, as in a 1 liter engine(its actually 936 CC) you cant expect it to perform like a 1.3/1.4. I believe GM is fine withe sales of BEAT diesel, as only after the launch of this diesel version beat started to clock around 5000 cars rather it was 1500 on average considering the Petrol/LPG alone.
    so is the EON worth the money that is paid for? or whether it has the best of fuel economy, built, drive ability, ergonomics and cost? I see that its top end model is almost 4.5 lacs in chennai. Do you think eon has a better refinement overall? As a package at their own segments and cost, i feel BEAT is better car than the EON and if you have not driven an EON, please try it once.
    Again coming to the price, the entry model of figo diesel is 5.5 L on road chennai whereas Beat is 5.03, its almost 50K difference and this continues for all the variants. If 50K is not a difference at all, I would like to say that the budget interval between a wagonR(1 Liter VXi) and a Ritz(1.2 Liter LXi) is a meagre 20K. With ABS version of WagonR you need to spend more than the Ritz Lxi. So certainly 50K is a better difference and any consumer will realize on the date of delivery. Beat is better built, good interiors and better plastics than the ford figo and comparing it with Figo itself will solve the purpose of GM’s idea of BEAT diesel. When a car like EON which is noisy and has a vibrating gear lever with a lousy 3 pot IRDE version engine can be tagged at 4.5 lacs why not the beat with good built and better plastics and good steering/clutch assembly with the 1 liter derivation of the famous FIAT engine should not be priced 50K lesser than the competition? On a lighter note, if the engine is approx 500 CC less you want it to be at half price of Figo? :-)

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    Ramesh Reply:

    When I bought my figo, the difference in price between beat and figo is 30K. Though beat has better looks and descent interiors [ figo is close in terms of quality and is durable but may look old]. how about the the front leg room, rear legroom, boot space, better refined engine and super precise Hydraulic steering and chassic which made a benchmark in the segment since it entered. After one should not compare beat which is in B1 segment [eon,wagon r,alto,spark] to a B2 segment [swift,ritz,micra,vista,pulse,i20]

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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002582675712 Rocco Hunter

    WTF !! :-/

    according to wt basis is d fiesta worst performer ???
    it has got luks, performance, handling, built quality, gud avg .
    jus bcoz its priced at a bit high price doesnt means dat its an worst performer
    dear writer,
    i think according to u, best cars are bad design, bad handling, poor safety, poor built qualtiy n GOOD MILEAGE + LOW PRICING = BEST CAR !

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  • Anonymous

    I’ve bookmarked this because I found it interesting. I would be very interested to hear more news on this. Thanks!

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  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_XAVBIBSZW4ITEUU7A4MJXBIXVU Saahil

    Well, a perfect analysis.. But have a point, instead of going in for the new car, still the best priced cars are now available dirt cheap if you enter the used car market. Whats the harm in having a Honda City of 2009 at under Rs. 5 Lacs.. The car is less driven, maintained and by sure now will attract less depreciation from current price as already 3 -3.5 lacs eroded in first 2 years.. Got the latest stock at:- http://www.usedcarindelhi.com

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  • http://www.facebook.com/kumaril.bhowmick Kumaril Bhowmick

    Maruti Kizashi……. 300 for a maruti car is unforgiving faliure

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  • http://www.facebook.com/kumaril.bhowmick Kumaril Bhowmick

    Maruti Kizashi……. 300 for a maruti car is unforgiving faliure

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  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_URSXATBEMZ7HUAB3OH36PLYWDM Ashok

    There is no justification for inordinately delayed deliveries and humongous cost escalations. In principle there should be no hesitation in encouraging private shipyards to share the burden ( pie ? ). As far as competing with China is concerned, we should be realistic in dealing with a nation whose economy is three times larger.

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  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_URSXATBEMZ7HUAB3OH36PLYWDM Ashok

    There is no justification for inordinately delayed deliveries and humongous cost escalations. In principle there should be no hesitation in encouraging private shipyards to share the burden ( pie ? ). As far as competing with China is concerned, we should be realistic in dealing with a nation whose economy is three times larger.

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  • Darshana Thakur

    Sorry, I don’t agree at all. You have missed the point altogether. Try to understand it from the alternative perspective, of a Dalit or a non-upper class urbanite. I read this article and felt it resonates
    http://www.anindianmuslim.com/2012/05/cartoon-controversy-belittling-dr.html

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  • Anonymous

    I wish this is just someone’s blog instead a reporter’s article, because it doesn’t sound very wise. There are bigger countries who try to contain China, so I guess India does not have to sweat about this idea. Why don’t Indian people focus on their own development instead of focusing on being the big leader, a mentality got them into the 1962 war? I guess that’s the biggest lesson India should learn from the war.

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    anil Reply:

    India cannot even contain its corrupt politicians (rather it is contained by the corrupts) and it now wants to c o n t a i n China! This guy must be drunk when wrote this or watching too much Bollywood movies for inspiration in life!

    I am 1000% sure China would not even bother to respond to this considering children are supposed to behave in childish manner!

    This is more of a story to go into Children book rather than appear as an article in any respectable journal!

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    Anonymous Reply:

    And China has no corrupt leaders right ?

    How much does trolling for the Chinese communist party pay ?? It must pay so well if you can orally defecate so frequently without even countering a single argument with logic or facts.

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    dasg Reply:

    Mao’s son, daughter and grandson are not running communist party. Despite one party state, there is more democracy and severe punishment for corruption than India.

    Anonymous Reply:

    LOL nice try but unfortunately for you, we in India operate on facts.

    The difference is NOBODY voted for Mao in the first place, while Nehru was voted in 5 times!! And how can there be “democracy” in a one-party state when the “demo” can’t vote ? Even Hong Kong is a sham of a democracy compared to any city in India.

    Unlike China, Indians don’t need “patriotic education”
    camps to teach us how the “ruling party” is so great. If “severe” punishments for corruption is so effective how come Chinese government officers are hiding in US embassy afraid for their lives ??

    Sorry, but your arguments are nonsense.

    Anonymous Reply:

    The reason Mao’s son/daughter/grandson are not running the communist party is because Mao spent most of this time with his prostitutes/mistresses than with his MANY wives.
    http://suite101.com/article/the-sex-life-of-chairman-mao-a53842

    Anil Reply:

    Yes, they have corruption problem too but they do address that quickly and swiftly. There is no society or country in the world which does not have corruption but all that matters is how one addresses it. In India’s case corruption controls the leaders where it should have been the case other way around!

    (And yes they have other problems too but being wise and sensible they are slowly moving toward freeworld – just in case you want to ask that questions again).

    Anonymous Reply:

    If “justice” is simply catching one corrupt official and executing him publicly like some dictatorship , then sure they are “dealing” with corruption but it isn’t “justice”.

    But if like a free and civilized society that through the popular will of its people chooses to address corruption like the Anna Hazare movement is something China has “replicated” or implemented then they have been keeping it a very good secret!
    LOL, yes China is so “wise” and “Sensible” that even Chinese government officials are escaping China! How many Indians are hiding in the US embassy escaping India? ZERO!!

    kavi Reply:

    No need to hide for Indians anywhere as there is no one who would question them? India is a banana republic you can get away with just anything! Do not try to be righteous, India is a hell hole, do not live in a denial, nothing can be done about it, no matter how the Indian literate dummies think.

    Anonymous Reply:

    Yes for the mentally challenged Communist fruitcake – India is the banana republic while the worlds largest open air prison where people are burning themselves alive because they can’t live in that hell hole is “paradise”. Tell me, do you get paid to knuckle pound such rubbish or are you just so far removed from reality that you would do this for free ?
    The only denial here is by trolls like you who are trying desperately to prove that China is “democratic” and “free” ! IF it wasn’t so ridiculous I would pity you!

    anil Reply:

    In a ideal world what you say is right, provided, yes provided there is a link between what is written in the book or even in constitution and what is followed. But given the status India is in where aspirations and legitimate rights of people are thwarted (not much better than in communists countries) by the mafia disguising as upholders of democracy, anything must be better than this and people deserve some change. Imagine a burden one is creating on humanity with 1 billion people who are automatically going to be a drag unless the course of direction is changed and they start breathing fresh air letting others do the same. I mean if it continues like this no one but anti-socials and terrorists will reap the most of the benefits of chaos simply because terrorists will be more determined then those who are opposing them and they will bought out in the race (it is probably already happening in India directly or indirectly).

    Anonymous Reply:

    Clearly, your knowledge of China is severely limited if you are going to make such ignorant statements.

    India may not be perfect but compared to a nation like China, even an Indian Dalit beggar enjoys 1000 times more rights and dignity in the eyes of the Indian government than even the richest Chinese businessman does in the eyes of China’s government.

    Not even the poorest Indian would ever agree to live in a repressive society like China no matter how much money you pay them – this is why even today Tibetans are escaping to India. And not just Tibetans, followers of Falun Dafa, artists like Ai Weiwei, even a blind man like Chen Guangcheng have tried to escape China and openly criticize their government’s repressive polices that see their people as slaves to exploit for the pride of the Communist party. At least in India, people have legitimate rights that are guaranteed by the constitution, upheld by the courts and bound to the government – in china no such things exist. The government in China can pass any law, seize anybody’s home, force people to live anywhere it wishes and arrest/detain anybody for any length of time without charge!

    To compare the two systems is simply ignorant of all the facts. India may not be perfect and may not be orderly but it is free and it is far more respectful of its citizens than the PRC ever has been!

    The best thing about India is that if you feel that something is wrong, you have the power to change it instead of simply complaining on a forum. You can campaign for change, you can stand for elections and you can enact policies that you believe are right within the bounds of the law. In China, anybody who questions the legitimacy of the Communist party is thrown in jail never to be heard from again.

    serenity Reply:

    omg..dont compare india to china at least…i cant believe it india being a democratic have left with nothing like democracy..n bro if u believe in facts and figures u can check it out the dam-breaking figures of molestation, rapes,abductions,riots n CORRUPTION…our country is on the peak of declining…china is one of the advanced n developed nations full of justice,law n strength..they dont decieve their citizens by doing scams,disorder in law,,,n a long list….how many scams u heard of them…they dot afraid of the corrupt arsed nations like india…globally indians are disliked nowadays just cus of the illiterates,greedy n brainless politicians mass…

    Anonymous Reply:

    Have you checked out the figures for crimes in China bro?? Just because you see big buildings and highways doesn’t make a nation a “developed” nation when people still can’t own land or move freely insider their own country!
    LoL full of justice and law ? You mean like how Bo Xilai was so “law abiding” ? Or how Ai Weiwei is treated so “justly” ??
    Just because you are ignorant of the “scams” of China doesn’t mean everybody else is – please do some research on Chine before blindly accepting Chinese communist propaganda.

    First make Facebook and Twitter available legally in China, then tell me how “developed”, “just” and “law abiding” China is!

    Anonymous Reply:

    Save the wisdom from China is for the Chinese!

    Dealing with China is an important part of development in India because Chinese are part of the problem as far as Indians are concerned. China’s aid and meddling in Pakistan and Kashmir, its loitering in the Indian ocean and its attempts to set up ports around India are antagonistic. For India to progress, it needs to deal effectively with China’s antagonism. And this reporter correctly states how the Indian government is being meek to China’s tantrums instead of forging ahead irrespective of China’s concerns and building alliances with SE Asian nations, missile technology or indeed dealing with Pakistan, separatists in the North Eastern hill tribes, the Tibetan issue, etc.

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  • anil

    [It’s time India took steps to contain China]

    Isn’t this toooooooo big a talk to fit into a toooooooooooooo small mouth?

    Try to be realistic just f a r t i n g will not give one enough power to rise into the air, man! Sorry I could not find anything else to compare with.

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    sanjeeb Reply:

    what do u mean….ur comment is vague ……pl be clear to start a discussion……

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  • H.Mani

    India is ditering soft power.It is waiting in the hope nothing bad is going to happen soon,so there is no urgency.It also does not want to provoke China by overt way of kozing upto USA,& thinks if China attacks,USA in its own interest will come to India’s rescue,there is validity to that thinking,but that is not policy,it is hope,& country should not base their national security in wishful hope.There is another factor,India’s internal problems are becoming more & more accute,like population,decaying infra-structure,detoriation in law& order,instability of center,Congress has lost the its hold in up,bihar,mp,and now in Andhra.Corruption,power shortage,water scarcity,& now economy.All in all,pretty dark scenario of bad option.Inflation,poverty,crumbling state of affairs in north,Delhi area law & order is alarming,in fact it is unsafe for females after 8pm.It is scary.The leadership vacuum is frightening.The opposition is still worse,so the the cynical politicians are no hope for a respite. ,India’s cup of misery now over flowing.

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  • Krishna

    This writer is correct. One fine morning, we will end up having chunks of Arunachal under chinese. The present govt is stupid and is simply not up to the task. Indian should make a strong link with the US, in the similar fashion as UK. There is real appreciation for India in the US, both the political class and the people. India has been squandering this intent and goodwill.

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  • sanjeeb

    It is only my view….one day we will be over run be china…..our leaders will flee and poor country men/women will be left….may sound ridiculous but it is true….we are surrounded by pakis and Chinese…..our strategists r not up to the mark thinker and our ladders are busy making money…..GOD SAVE US….

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  • PatriotIndian

    The only solution in India is education. If everyone is educated properly and armed with technical usable skills that would solve half the misery in the globe.

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  • junior consultant Daxue

    Thanks for this both informative and insightful article. This is a report I posted recently about the influences, characteristics, and negative effects of FDI in China from foreign countries. you can find it http://daxueconsulting.com/fdi-in-china/, Hope to exchange ideas.

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  • ved

    It was Nehru’s timidity and stupidity that we lost 1962 border skirmish.China was allowed to dictate the battle as well as the ceasefire. It was allowed to withdraw with a medal just as indian army was preparing to meet and challenge the invader.Why did we accept the ceasefire.? We should have continued the conflict. China had no stomach to continue for long. Nehru also had another hunchback-Krishna Menon who coild not distinguish between a revolver and a pistol. With these two jokers at the helm great Indian army had to bite dust. Shame.

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  • AjaySingh

    India need to show the world, how to become part of the emerging world. China is not a treat that we need to contain. China is fighting for her own survival. With every day passing by, China feels trapped and isolated. There is no need to isolate any nation. Competition is always good. Sit like civilized people and divide what products they can have the market for. And what they can provide market as far as Indian products are concerned. In the end, if the business relations are strong enough, there will be no need for containment policy.
    India can never contain any nation other than Andaman Nicobar !
    Don’t even try to think you are pleasing any other nation by writing such articles. No body is stupid these days. Spread fragrance by rich Indian values, that will work in the end as containment.

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    serenity Reply:

    u r right bro!!! ol nations r familiar to the internal structure of india…weak structure of india n i dont know about the containment by china but our nation is definitely going to collapse due to the internal demonic faces of politicians…i hate this phase that indiia is going thru…none is loyal,joblessness,extreme loads of rapes, abducions,extortions n dumb dead eyed police with having control of their balls to their ministers…really F*** them off……

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  • Col. P.S. Sandhu

    All experts who are credible are of the opinion that 2012 is not 1962. India clearly has an edge over China militarily.

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  • Anonymous

    Superb and
    timely article.
    China’s support
    to Pakistan and Sri Lanka does not serve any of China’s interests — except that of encircling India and ‘putting India in her place’. It is reported that the ‘Maoists’ of Nepal are ’surprised’ at China’s cynical ‘power play’ in their country’s internal affairs! China’s chauvinism has brought together Japan,
    Vietnam, Philippines and South Korea. An alarmed Australia has strengthened her military ties with the US — publicly, to warn China. Even Vietnam is warming up to the United States. It is time India
    joins the Asian neighbors and the US in a ‘formal’ alliance. It is
    better to be proactive than regret after the event.

    China’s Indian lobbyists of today do not even have the ‘cover’ of ‘ideology’, their compatriots had in 1962! It is business now!

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  • Anonymous

    It is always fashionable to blame Nehru for the defeat in 1962.Our Army was not well trained at all and even today it is becoming something like the US army who inspite of complete air superiority cannot tame Taliabn in Afghanistan. The Chinese soldiers do not use Bhukharies like us in cold regions.They donot expect air support because they plan for war in peace time and build continuously and train continuously .Their communication trenches can accomodate a jeep and their OPs can take a direct hit of a maortar shell while ours is built on sand bags.Our NAVY’S MARCOS COMMANDOES COULD NOT SUBDUE just 4 terrorists in 60 hours at Taj and have to call in NSG commandoes. Today what we should we discuss is how to improve the stamina and training of our troops so that they feel self confident about themselves.There were nearly 70 constables with 303 rifles in CST but could not fire single bullet at Kasab and his buddy. Why? We must think.

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  • Anonymous

    It is always fashionable to blame Nehru for the defeat in 1962.Our Army was not well trained at all and even today it is becoming something like the US army who inspite of complete air superiority cannot tame Taliabn in Afghanistan. The Chinese soldiers do not use Bhukharies like us in cold regions.They donot expect air support because they plan for war in peace time and build continuously and train continuously .Their communication trenches can accomodate a jeep and their OPs can take a direct hit of a maortar shell while ours is built on sand bags.Our NAVY’S MARCOS COMMANDOES COULD NOT SUBDUE just 4 terrorists in 60 hours at Taj and have to call in NSG commandoes. Today what we should we discuss is how to improve the stamina and training of our troops so that they feel self confident about themselves.There were nearly 70 constables with 303 rifles in CST but could not fire single bullet at Kasab and his buddy. Why? We must think.

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  • fledglingBlogger

    Test

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  • fledglingBlogger

    I cannot understand the claim that Mr.Pilot graduated from Wharton – verity needs checking- I happened to be in a university in close promixity and had heard that he was flunking out – he probably got admitted using the ‘corporate’ quota; but getting through the competitive course wasnt trivial.

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  • Nathan

    China today is not the same as China of 1962. They are certainly focused on the country’s internal development. They want to play their legitimate role internationally. When it comes to India, China unfortunately feels its superiority, and perhaps rightly so because they were smart enough to exploit capitalist countries to invest in their country by liberalizing its economy to attract capital. Even Japan and Taiwan joined this investment rush. They all benefited from this: both the investors and the investment destination. Today This massive investment China has brought in cheap products for consumers and big profits for investors. Naturally others are jealous of their success. True, China has a way of asserting their power and influence wherever it can. Who can blame them? Pakistan loves China because it supported its existence through thick and thin. China also helped Sri Lanka with massive arms in its deadly war against the Tigers. So there are countries that love China. How does that affect India. Look what is happening in the countries that China helps. Pakistan is financially crippled and China’s funds are waisted there. Sri Lanka wants to balance China and India. Myanmar is ready to ditch China. Even North Korea won’t listen to them. So Why should India worry so much?

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  • fool

    Also please note that so many people are also leaving AAP in a hurry. Why

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