Monday, December 6, 2010



It is dangerous to defend Barkha Dutt, the well-known TV anchor, on whom stones are being thrown from different directions following the publication of a set of carefully selected telephone intercepts of her conversations with Niira Radia, who was handling the public relations and government liaison work of two of the leading corporate houses of India. I have been subjected to considerable abuse.The critics of Barkha are shocked that I should be defending her instead of joining the hunting pack and going after her. A senior journalist, who had served in the Prime Minister's Office when Shri Atal Behari Vajpayee was the Prime Minister, subsequently went on a diplomatic assignment before reverting back to journalism, is reported to have described me as a tired old man .

2.I chose to defend Barkha because I strongly feel that her hard-earned reputation as a young, courageous and successful journalist, is sought to be besmirched----wittingly or unwittingly---- on the basis of an incomplete and motivated narrative. It is incomplete because only about three per cent of the total number of about 5800 intercepts has been made public. This clearly indicates that there has been a careful selection of the intercepts to be leaked to the press. Who made the selection? With what motive? Unless one has answers to these questions, there should be a big question mark over the narrative.

3. Telephone intercepts are double-edged swords. One can get valuable information regarding law-breaking from them. At the same time, they also lend themselves to be easily manipulated to damage innocent reputations.That is why many foreign Governments have carefully drafted dos and donts regarding telephone tapping ----like fixing the duration of the tapping just as one fixes the duration of police custody of a suspect, taking a fresh authorisation every time the duration expires, destroying intercepts which do not indicate any violation of law to prevent their misuse for character assassination etc.

4. The danger of misuse of intercepts to harm innocent persons is real. In the 1980s, when Rajiv Gandhi was the Prime Minister, a young officer, who was in charge of tapping, was sacked because he manipulated the process in order to create suspicions about some members of the Sikh community being Khalistani sympathisers. His manipulation of the process was detected in time before any damage was done to the reputation of those named by him.

5. Many circumstances relating to the tapping in the present case are not clear. On what specific grounds was the tapping authorised by the competent authority? Was the authorisation of limited duration? If so, was it renewed from time to time? Was a due judgement made at the time of each renewal that there were valid reasons to suspect criminal wrong-doing? Were the intercepts not indicating any criminal wrong-doing ordered to be destroyed to prevent their falling into wrong hands? Such questions need to be gone into thoroughly and a detailed directive issued on the use of tapping for the investigation of crime.

6.Tappings are meant to facilitate detection and prosecution of crime and not to damage the reputation of innocent persons. (7-12-10)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi. E-mail: )


Date: Thu, Dec 2, 2010 at 9:35 AM
To: Prem Jha

Thanks, Mr.Jha. You are welcome not to use my writings in the " Financial World". Warm regards. B.Raman

On Thu, Dec 2, 2010 at 8:05 AM, Prem Jha wrote:

Dear Mr. Raman,

I am not going to post a comment on your blog on Barkha dutt. But I must warn you , out of respect for your writing that you are doing yourself considerable damage by minimising wher9 and by imnplication, other journalists' involvemenr as intermediaties in government formation. That journalists do getinvolvedas intermediaries in affairs of state from time to time , is not unusual.The key issue is whether they do so in the national interest or in the private interest of a minister or a political party jockeying for power , when the purpose of that jockeying is to secure lucrative ministries.

I have great respect for your writing and have been intending to use your postings regularlu in theFinancial World ( Tehelka's daily paper, which starts next month) . I would be deeply disturbed if you become controversial and your credibility suffers, on such a trivial issue, whenyou have so much to contribute to the public's understanding of the threats that India faces.

With warm regards

Pre,m Shankar Jha
Editoy Financial World



President Asif Ali Zardari of Pakistan visited Sri Lanka from November 27 to 30,2010, at the invitation of President Mahinda Rajapaksa. Among those who accompanied him were Shah Mehmood Qureshi, the Pakistani Foreign Minister, Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar, his Defence Minister, and Saleem Mandviwala, Chairman of the Investment Board of the Government of Pakistan. He was also accompanied by a delegation of Pakistani businessmen.

2. In an article on the visit titled “A new dawn in Pak-Lanka ties”, the “Daily Times” of Lahore said on December 6: “In the past, Pakistan helped the Sri Lankan state for three reasons. First, increasing Pakistan’s ability to participate in South Asian politics and posing itself as a counter-balance to India. Second, increasing its value in the region. Third, fighting Tamil militant forces, which are considered a product of Indian intelligence agencies. “

3.Pakistan’s value for Sri Lanka in the past came from its willingness to supply heavy equipment such as multi-barrel artillery guns and shells to the Sri Lankan Army for use against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). It also helped the Sri Lankan Air Force in the servicing of its aircraft used against the LTTE. The heavy military equipment supplied by Pakistan and China helped the Sri Lankan Armed Forces in their operations against the LTTE.

4. Now that the LTTE has been defeated and practically destroyed by the Sri Lankan Armed Forces, Sri Lanka does not have the same pressing need for military equipment from Pakistan as it had in the past. Despite this, Pakistan is interested in selling to Sri Lanka military equipment manufactured by it with Chinese assistance. This was one of the subjects discussed with Rajapaksa. The Pakistani Defence Minister accompanied Zardari to assist him in these discussions. Qureshi was reported to have told Pakistani journalists accompanying Zardari that Sri Lanka evinced interest in the purchase of the Pakistani al-Khalid Main Battle Tanks, light weapons and ammunition, and the JF-17 Thunder aircraft jointly produced by Pakistan and China.

5. The two leaders are reported to have agreed to enhance intelligence-sharing in matters relating to terrorism. Zardari reportedly offered to train Sri Lankan police and other security officials in counter-terrorism.

6. Sri Lanka has entered the post-insurgency reconstruction period and is in need of assistance for economic re-construction. Pakistan, whose economy is in a bad shape, is not in a position to help Sri Lanka either financially or through other means. One of the purposes of Zardari’s visit was to explore the possibility of Pakistan being associated with some of the reconstruction projects of China in Sri Lanka----one of the examples of such association being China buying from Pakistan its requirement of cement for its projects in Sri Lanka. Qureshi told Pakistani pressmen that China-Sri Lanka relations were gaining strength and this would be good for the benefit of the three countries. The idea of Pakistan and China co-operating in jointly assisting South Asian countries has also been taken up by Islamabad in respect of Afghanistan. Islamabad sees it as a way of counter-balancing Indian influence in Sri Lanka and Afghanistan.

7. According to Saleem Mandviwala, Pakistan has offered a soft credit of US $ 200 million to Sri Lanka for facilitating its exports and barter trade. After Zardari’s meeting with Rajapaksa on November 28, Pakistani officials told their correspondents that the two Governments had agreed to expand their relationship from defence cooperation to an “overall comprehensive engagement” involving trade, communications and culture. They said that the two Governments had identified cement, sugar, dairy production, chemical plants, textiles, tourism and pharmaceuticals as potential areas of mutually beneficial collaborative projects. During the visit, the two delegations inked three agreements on waiving off visas for officials and diplomats, cooperation in customs matters and strengthening cultural exchanges and a Memorandum of Understanding on agricultural co-operation.

8. A joint statement issued at the end of the visit said that the two countries have agreed to establish a multi-faceted partnership in security, trade, tourism and culture and to promote a dialogue on security and defence issues relevant to their bilateral relationship, through high-level contacts between the defence forces and the training of security forces personnel. They agreed to promote active cooperation in countering the menace of narcotics and illicit trafficking of narcotic substances and to establish mechanisms and modalities for such cooperation.

9.It was announced at the end of the visit that the National Bank of Pakistan will be opening a branch in Colombo and that the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) will be re-starting its flights to Colombo from March next. The Sri Lankan Airways presently has three flights a week to Karachi. These decisions could have security implications for India. The transit of terrorists trained in Pakistan to South India via Colombo will be further facilitated and Colombo could become an additional centre ----after Kathmandu--- for the dissemination of Indian currency notes counterfeited by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).

10.The two countries presently have a Free Trade Agreement covering goods only signed in 2002. Bilateral trade has doubled from $150 million to $300 million per annum during the last three years They are holding talks on extending it to cover services too. Qureshi said that the next stage could be negotiations on a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement. (6-12-10)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies.. E-mail: )