Thursday, 26 July 2012

Indian Ocean and the Rimland

Before the First World War, Mackinder, a British geographer presented the first geopolitical idea in his research paper. He identified the combined land of Eurasia and Africa as World Island which represented the largest occupancy of land and people. During the phase of turmoil and the unsuccessful attempt of German invasion on Russia, Mackinder moulded his theory and presented the 'Heartland concept' in 1919. His famous quote was, "Who rules East Europe commands the Heartland; Who rules the Heartland commands the World Island; Who rules the World Island commands the World." This theory was further amended leading to criticism on the economic front, the, unfavourable physiography, climate and cultural attributes. 

In the meanwhile another significant scholar, Spykman presented the 'Rimland concept' in 1944, incorporating maritime Europe, crude-oil rich West Asia, agrarian and dense clustered India and China along with Heartland of Mackinder. In accordance Spykman concluded that the one who commands Rimland will command the world island and thus the world. On the economic front, Rimland with huge potentiality justified the validity of the concept. But on the political aspect, consolidated Rimland lacked its practicality with individual countries specifically of Asia posing as distinctive nodes. 

The rim countries barring the exception of Singapore and Australia are newly independent developing countries. The only entity which unites these nodes is the Indian ocean. Traced back to colonial times, the Indian ocean gained significance as the British Lake, with Colombo functioning as the naval headquarters. Indian ocean identified itself with strategically important locational characteristics in comparison to other oceans of the world. The continental ocean is bounded by land along the three sides making it geographically distinguished and known as the half ocean. 

In addition to this, the ocean connects the sea route between Atlantic and Pacific through the Suez canal and Strait of Malacca. The offshore crude-oil, exploitable manganese nodules, natural gas reserves and the onshore gold reserves, tin, manganese and the assortment of marine resources and the agricultural produce with the onshore reference adds to the commercial value. Thus there is a convergence of interests which has led to instability in the region. The existence of naval bases of UK and USA at Chagos archipelago and Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean, the presence of navy of China under the viel of research in open seas and the so called 'string of pearls' adds to the growing significance of Rimland concept and ultimately the Indian ocean.

- Shivaprasad Patil 

The writer is a Civil service aspirant.

Twitter handle : @shivpatilb

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Re- Discovering History : Temples of India.

The word temple originated from the Latin word 'templum', which means  a structure reserved for religious or spiritual activities which includes prayer, sacrifices, or corresponding rites. However when we talk about temples the 1st thing that comes to our mind are those temples situated in India. The number of temples in India is innumerable, popularly known as “Mandir”. The word Mandir  means a place of worship. Both “Temple and “Mandir” though synonymous, the word 'Temple' is a bit wider term. Where temple includes all type of worship place in the world irrespective of religion, “Mandir” includes only those places of worship which have “Murti”, an idol worshiped only by Hindus

There is no written record of the establishment of the first temple or mandir. But if we look into the Hindu mythology, we will find that emergence of god and goddesses were due to the fear that dwelled in the people. Every natural calamity that destroyed, caused danger, death was attributed to the god of destruction. Other gods brought prosperity or profit and were worshiped by the people to please the gods.  For example they worshiped “Surya dev” the god of life, “Indra dev” the rain god for fertility, "lakshmi" the goddesses of prosperity and so on. Initially idols were not worshiped, it was later when people started imagining  as to how gods and goddesses might looked, that the ancient people started the art of sculpture and idol worship, however when the idol worship started, people started to feel a need of a shade to prevent these sculpture or idol from destruction  hence building of temples started.   

The earliest temples were made of perishable materials for example clay and timber which were destroyed way back and have no record today. Next was the cave rock cut structure where the dead body was buried and caved the grave with big rocks. The first such cave was created in Rajgir around 500 B.C. it was later that elaborated structural temples with complex architecture and sculpture came into existence. With the adoption of verity of styles, Gupta period marked the beginning of structural temples.  The temples were now built of stones and bricks. And thus an era of building of temple started in India so much so that today one can see a temple at every corner of the road. There is a great difference in the building style of temples of all the regions of India thus theses temples are categorized on the basis of their structure and design.

Thus temples in India are divided into 3 types on the basis of their construction:-

      The North Indian style (Nagra style)
      The western and Deccan style
      The Southern style (Dravida style)

 The North Indian style (Nagara style)

In this style we see projection on the outer side leading to cruciform shape where the temple is a square at the centre.  Each projection has been named, where there is one projection it is known as triratha, two projection, pancharatha, in case of three projections it is called  sapthratha and for four projection it is called navarath. These projections can be found all over the structure of the temple. These temple styles can mostly be found in Gujarat, Orissa and Rajasthan. The temple of Orissa are described as Nagara Style. These are the temples which managed to survive the destruction made in  several invasion in India and are still standing as an unique piece of art. The temple as well as the literature lays down the rules and modes of construction and are very well preserved in Orissa. In this particular style, the structure consists of two “mandaps”. The main shrine is taller and bigger in size while the other adjacent one is smaller and shorter “mandap”. The basic difference between both of them is the  “shikhara”. Temple presenting this particular style are:

The sun temple at Konarak
Jagannath temple at Puri
Rajarani temple
Lingaraja temple
Anantha vasudeva temple
Brahmesvara temple in Bhubaneswar
The Parasurameswara temple at Bhubaneswar .

However the oldest Hindu temple functioning today which has survived all the odds is Mundeshwari Temple situated in Kaimur district of Bihar. It is also the oldest Hindu temple in the world. It’s construction date is ascribed 108 B.C.

Western India and the Deccan Style (vesara style)

western India and Deccan style basically originated from the North Indian style. It is essentially a combination of Nagara and Dravida style. A typical example of vesara is Kajuraho temple. The Svargabrshma temple situated at Alampur in the state of A.P has similar characteristics. The trend of merging styles was started by Chaiukyas of Badami (500-753 A.D) who built temples merging the two different style if the Nagara and the Dravida. Temples built in Halibid , Belur and Somanathpur are classified under this style.

Temples built in Vesara Style are also found in other parts of India, including Baijnath, Sirpur, Baroli and Amarkanatk.
Oldest or Early temples of this style are:
Vaidyanatha Mahadeva temple at Baijnath
Sikara  Mahaseva temple at Baroli
Viratesvara temple at Sohagpur
Lakshmana temple at sirpur
Kesavanarayana temple at Amarkantak

The Prime temples of this style are:
Devi temple
Jawari temple
Adinath temple
Brahama temple 
Laiguan temple 
Lakshmana temple 
Parsvanatha temple
Kandariya temple
Charsath temple
Vamana temple
Matangeshvara temple etc.

Chandellas basically used the coloured sandstone for instance pale yellow, pink, buff colour in the construction of these temples. Temples were also made of Granite stones. Temples of vesara were dedicated to gods Shiva, Vaishnava however the Jain sects did not show great variation in style between one another.

The Southern style (Dravida Style)

Vimana and the Gopurams are distinctive characteristic of the southern style which developed in the Dravida Desam.  Vimana is nothing but a tall pyramid tower consisting of several progressively smaller storeys which stands on a square base, whereas Gopurams are are two storeys separated by horizontal moulding. Parakara (the outer wall) envelops the main place of worship as wall as the other shrines, the tank. 

All the mighty rulers of the south like the Pallavas, the Cholas, the Pandyas, the Nayaks, Vijayanagar, contributed a lot to this style of temples.

Pallava Temples: 
The Pallava temples generally have a somaskanda relief panel. Some of the Pallava temples includes Rajasimha temple, Olakkaneshvara temple, shore temple at Mamallapuram, Vaikuntha Perumal temple, Mukundanayanar temple etc.

Chola Temples: 
They erected a lot of temples and also renovated earlier brick structures in stone.
 Earlier Chola temples are Kamparhesvara temple at Triubvanam, Airavateswara temple at Darasuram, Brihadiswara temple at Tanjavur, Gandikonda Cholapuram, Narthamalai Komganatha temple etc.

Pandya Temples:
Pandyas mostly concentrated at the main entrance which they called  Gopurams. Typical Pandya style can be seen in Sundara Pandya Gopuram added to the Jambukesvara temple, east Gopuram, Great temple, Chidambaram.  In this style basic structure and the original style was maintained, but the decorations on the Gopurams and the size characterises the Pandya Gopurams.

Vijayanagar Temples:
The tall massive Gopurams and the multiple mandapas are the main contribution of the Vijyanagar Period. Another major feature of this temple is the carved pillars with the reasing simhas (lions), yalis (lions with elephant trunks). Vijayanagar temple was very different from that of Chola  here the entire temple structure was not unified whole like those in the Chola system. The number of mandaps, pillared halls, shrines to minor deities, tanks, etc was found to be absent in this form of temples, which was very much present in the chola system.  Important temples of vijayanagar period are Vitthala swami temple, Vijayanagar, the pillars of the Ekambaranatha temple.

Nayak Temple:
The main characteristic of temples of this period was the elaborate mandapas of hundred and thousand pillared type, the high Gopurams with stucco statues on the surface and the long corridors. Temples representing this style are The Ranganatha temple is known for the increase in the number of enclosures while the temple of Rameshwaram is known for it’s  long corridors. The Subramanya temple situated Brihadisvara temple court at Tanjavur is known for the fine vimana with arsha and maha mandapas. 

Thus one can actually see the variety of temples present in India each being totally different from the other. The influence of various kings, era and popularity of god and goddesses can be very well perceived in the construction of an assortment of temples of different states.  It must be noted that temples not only mean “Mandirs”, rather it includes all places of worship irrespective of caste, creed, religion or country some of the famous temples of the world are:

Temple of Hephaestus, a Doric Greek Temple in Athens, 449 B.C

Khmer Angko Wat Hindu temple in Cambodia.

Mesopotamian Temple (The Ziggurat of Ur)

    Egyptian Temples (Luxor temple,Egypt)


Greco- Roman temple (Parthenon on Acropolis, Athens)

             Zoroastrian temple ( Fire temple)   

                                               The Golden Temple, Amritsar    

            Hindu temple (Akshardharm temple, New Delhi, India)

Wat Phra Kaew (Buddhist Temple)

Jain temple (Rankapur Temple)


- Kumari Ranjana Bharti

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Rio+20: Will we get the future we want?

Recently concluded Rio+20 Summit, formally United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development; created much buzz-more criticism less applaud. The 10 day mega-conference involved 45,000 people including heads of states and ministers from 190 member states, businessmen, academicians and even religious leaders. Rio+20 was supposed to be the successor of Rio Earth Summit held 20 years ago, but ironically unlike Rio Earth Summit ’92 which brought climate change agenda to international politics and resulted in two ground breaking treaties on Climate Change and saving biodiversity; all Rio+20 culminated into was a non-binding document-“The future we want”-devoid of any detail and ambition needed to address the challenges posed by a deteriorating environment, worsening inequality and a global population.

How far have come since Rio Earth Summit 1992? Since then global emissions have risen by 48%, 300m hectares of forest have been cleared and the population has increased by 1.6bn people. Despite a reduction in poverty, one in six people are malnourished. Humanity's annual requirement for natural resources is about double what it was then. The rate of species extinctions is undiminished. Carbon dioxide emissions are up 40%, and the concentration of the heat-trapping gas this year for the first time hit 400 parts per million (ppm) in the Arctic air — up about 40 ppm from 1992. 

Even though Rio+20 aimed to discuss and charter a way forward to “green economy”; what it actually achieved is debateable.  Though the UN officials and Government representatives were optimistic about the outcome of Rio+20; Ban Ki-moon, UN Sec. Gen, said the document would guide the world on to a more sustainable path: "Our job now is to create a critical mass. The road ahead is long and hard." US secretary of state Hillary Clinton said it was a time to be optimistic. "A more prosperous future is within our reach, a future where all people benefit from sustainable development no matter who they are or where they live." But environment campaigners and scientists decried the summit, and were scathing its outcome. WWF International lambasted a "colossal failure of leadership and vision" and Greenpeace International Executive Director Kumi Naidoo called the summit a failure of epic proportions. "We didn't get the Future We Want in Rio, because we do not have the leaders we need.”

So what did Rio+20 achieve? 

“Plan” to set up Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Negotiators at Rio were unable to agree on themes, which will now be left to an "open working group" of 30 nations to decide upon by September 2013. Two years later, they will be blended with Millennium Development Goals

United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) was not upgraded to World Organisation, as many stakeholders wanted, but would get will get a more secure budget, a broader membership and strong powers to initiate scientific research and coordinate global environment strategies. Rio+20 also established a "high-level" forum to coordinate global sustainable development, though its format is still to be defined.

“Green Economy” which was the buzzword at the Rio’s corridors was diluted by suspicions from some developing countries that this was another way for wealthy nations to impose a "one-model-fits-all" approach and raise “Green Barriers” to trade.

Nations agreed to think about ways to place a higher value on nature, including alternatives to GDP as a measure of wealth that account more for environmental and social factors, and efforts to assess and pay for "environmental services" provided by nature, such as carbon sequestration and habitat protection

All nations "reaffirmed" commitments to phase out harmful fossil fuel subsidies.

A plan to rescue the high seas – which are outside national jurisdictions – was blocked by the US, Nicaragua, Canada and Russia. Instead, leaders say they will do more to prevent over-fishing and ocean acidification. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature called the decision a "deep disappointment".

Developing countries were able to have their say and steer their concerns regarding environment and its economic and social costs.

An underlying characteristic of the Rio+20 accord was its vagueness, there were no quantified environmental or sustainability goals to which anyone committed to. The strongest initiatives have been taken at the sidelines of the summit, outside the negotiating halls. Significant agreements have been struck on investing in public transport, commitments made to green accounting by corporations and strategies agreed by cities and judicial bodies on reducing environmental impacts. The dynamism has been found in a 10-day "People's Summit”, running parallel to Rio+20 Summit, which saw more than 50,000 people participate in it to voice in their support for the environment. 

Transition to “green economy” and more sustainable development has economic costs, though all nations seemed to uphold the ideals of saving the environment but nobody wanted to put money on the table. Developing countries wanted a $30bn per year fund to help in the transition to sustainability, but in the midst of a financial crisis in Europe and fairly recent financial crises in USA, nobody was willing to say how much money they would contribute. Instead, there was a promise to enhance funding, but by how much and by whom were left to future discussions. This was sighted by G-77 countries as a major reason for a weak outcome. Paradoxically, the summit was supposed to introduce green economics as an answer to the financial crisis and as a springboard for growth.

Another reason for failure of Rio+20 was lack of trust between nations. The recriminations began even before the conference closed. British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg blamed developing countries for being "antagonistic to our European ideas on the green economy." Brazilian delegate and Senator Eduardo Braga said, "Europe is too absorbed by its economic problems." Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff said rich nations had not kept Copenhagen promises on "green funding" and so were in no position to criticise others for a lack of ambition: "All countries must take responsibility. Nobody can point the finger."

Rio+20 witnessed some interesting trends. Unlike Rio Earth Summit ’92 which attracted every world leader including the reluctant George H.W. Bush, Rio+20 had important world leaders like Obama, Angela Merkel and David Cameroon missing; is this indicative of leadership deficit or question of priority in view of upcoming presidential elections for Obama and financial crises at home for Merkel and Cameroon, is open to interpretation. Another important trend was intense participation of private sector, with UN claims that more 1500 top corporate leaders attended the summit. If governments can’t be decisive, Corporations can be. Private corporations seem to have got the scent that “green economy” means a lot of new business, and why not? Commoditization of environment and Carbon Credit trading is just indicative of the fact that Environment is going to be the next hotspot for investments. NGOs warned in Rio that if nature had a dollar sign attached, corporations would soon take it over. How prescient these predictions are time will tell. 

Though Rio+20 did not live upto the expectations, as the overall governmental commitment and resolve was conservative, but it charted a way forward which clearly demarcates that public-private partnership and individual commitment to saving the environment will play a crucial role if we want to materialise the future we want or else we will be more culpable in Rio+40!

-Sudhanshu Sharma

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Sands and Diplomacy

It was in Jalore, a remote district in South-western Rajasthan where this fine idea invaded my neurons. The idea which will be developed and revealed gradually like a muddy stream flowing in it’s deltaic stage has a bearing on the future of the political common-sense. Jalore falls in geographical region which is historically known as Marwar. In fact it is one of the sub-region of Marwar called Godwad. The region is uniquely adorable for it’s Raikas with 50 meter long pagdis and thousands of sheep, it’s jungle temples frequented my merchant like milk loving bears, Jain sadhus and sleepy babus in their vintage lal battis. The marriage which I was attending was one of the typical feudal marriage of Rajasthan with it’s Langa performances, got(meat eating feast with buckets of whisky), Rajput thikanedars with their big mustaches poorly hiding the vanishing finances and old glories.
 There, I came across many people. Some of them were quite interesting like the hawala seth (very much like the mirchi seth from Sarfarosh) and a local MLA who was quite anti- Civil Society. But, I am not going to write anything about these interesting ones but I am going to discuss the one who was the most unpleasing or rather irritating one but who planted a great idea in my mind. I begin with a great thanks to him.
 He was an IFS officer with 7 years of diplomatic experience. For obvious reasons I am not going to divulge his name but he was an Indian diplomat who began his conversation with a complaint that since he was IFS he won’t get a good dowry thanks to the IAS officers of his community. That really kicked. I wanted to hear more and talk more.
 I initiated a discussion on public policy and public diplomacy. He replied that “public is always a public. It can not have a policy and it is not just capable of doing diplomacy.”Mark the word ‘doing’ here.  Initially I thought that it was some piece of diplomatic wit but soon it turned out that it was a piece of scattered wit. He meant it literally. He had no idea of what public diplomacy actually is. Soon enough I asked him why he hadn’t opened a Twitter account given the nature of his job as someone who should be well- connected with the world. He replied that the last time he wrote any sensible thing was 7 years back when wrote an essay on women empowerment in his IAS exam. I replied that I found it rather cool that 7 years ago he was thinking about women’s empowerment/. He was on 7th heaven to learn that. What had me astounded was the question that followed. He asked me, “Does that make me a suitable candidate for the MP’s post?” Worried more than ever I now asked, “When are you standing for the elections?” “Post- retirement,” he replied with a natural ease. That was a good 30 years from now I argued and till then it must be diplomacy, not politics. He retorted in a rather drab tone that diplomacy began with his coaching classes in Mukarjee nagar and ended the day he got his appointment letter.
Later, when I mentioned names like Jagat Mehta, Samuel Huntington, Francis Fukuyama, Pratap Bhanu Mehta they were like physics and chemistry formulas for him. He said I really don’t know calculus. I said, they are great public policy experts. Jagat Mehta is from your state.You must know him. He only said one sentence, “In sab bekar ki baton me kya rakha hai. Jab UPSC ke exam me inke bare me nahi padha to ab kya zarurat hai. Exam ke baad to maine newspaper bhi padhna band kar diya.” [What’s the point knowing these people. When I studied for the UPSC exams I never came across these names, why bother now? In fact I have stopped reading the newspapers as well.] He was least interested in knowing anything about Amitav Ghosh, Gabriel Garcia Marquez. He could not speak for 2 minutes fluently in English. But yes he was regaling his friends and cousins with his escapades with blonde girls. The only virtue which he had was that he was not arrogant and bossy like other babus. He could drink the lowliest of wine and call it  a Johnny walker.
 Today a batchmate for St.Stephens’s called me from the U.S. He did  MSFS(Masters of Science in Foreign Service) from Georgetown and was thinking of joining Indian Foreign Service. He asked me about the UPSC exam. I told him that it is something which goes on for two-three years and it is capable of failing Henry Kissinger in International Relations as optional. He asked me if there was any alternative system of recruitment based on interview, SOP or lateral entry in civil services. In fact he found it quite funny. He is already a graduate in foreign service and according to him his degree should be sufficient. Before our conversation ended he said, "I am not interested in taking this exam as I already have an offer from Brookings Institution.I just want to serve my country but not at this big a cost.”
I said good bye and hungup the phone.

Later in the evening he rang me up once again and announced his decision that he is joining Brookings institution. I am not very happy to learn about this. He could have been an asset to this nation if he had joined our diplomatic services. But we do not have anything for these people and this makes them land up in U.N and Brookings because the latter two know their worth. Our system just does not go beyond conventions, customs rigid exams (which makes diplomats and administrators out of engineers, doctors, linguists and historians)
Why can’t we begin with some change? When the U.S can appoint Vali Nasr, Francis Fukiyama ,Brett Mcgerc as policy advisors and ambassadors than why can’t we send our Ved Pratap Vedics, Brahma Chellanys, Achin Vinayaks, Narayan murthys etc as our envoys and high commissioners. We can give a chance to Indian students (who want to join our civil service and diplomatic service) who go and study public policy and diplomacy courses at places like Cornell, Princeton, Fletcher, Harvard etc to join our civil services and foreign services. There is no need to subject them to UPSC exam (as most of them already have good job, offers from MNCs, thinktanks etc so we have to somehow get this talent) They can simply write an SOP and then shortlisted candidate should be called for an interview. Finally selected candidates can start with a 6 month orientation course and then parceled to their foreign postings or field postings in India(if they ar in administrative services).These students are professionals with a good exposure, knowledge,and dynamic personality. They can do a great service to our country.
Recently Farid Zakaria raised a big question mark on our foreign policy and our whole foreign service set up. He wrote that a nation as small as New Zealand has 11,000 diplomats and on the other hand India ,who dreams of game changer role has only 600 diplomats.So ,I believe it is the right time to think out of the box and get Kissingers and Bismarcks for India.
 Finally it is our choice,who do we want to represent us ? 
a)The fellow who cremated the diplomacy the day he was appointed(after passing a great,great and greatest exam!) or the fellow from Georgetown for whom diplomacy is a passion, mission of his life but must rely on an exam to prove his mettle.

-Abhinav Pandya

The Writer is a Fellow at the Cornell University pursuing his MPA and a proud alumni of St. Stephen's college, Delhi

*Note: The incident narrated in the article is based on actual events.