The terrible loss of privacy


Privacy is a funny aspect of life.

Most institutions and corporations we deal with in our lives demand that we sign off on dotted lines when it comes to providing them access to our very personal data. Most consumer companies do the same thing. Governments have always asked for our data. However, the phenomenon of giving away our total freedom and personal data to social media giants did not bother us for a long time. Until last week.

I am referring to the data breach on 50M Americans who have accounts with Facebook. Well, this is not the first instance, but in terms of scale it is the biggest ever. There have been hacks on Apple’s iCloud, releasing personal data of celebrities. There have been other hacks such as the bad one on Yahoo mail.

But, people forget and forgive, the reason being that they still need the services of the social media companies, cloud service providers and email operators. There is just no alternative to leading one’s life today – if an individual is not on Facebook, he does not exist – not just virtually, but physically as well! He or she is ignored for lack of digital savviness, or inability to be in sync with the rest of the world which seems to be rushing into Twitter, Instagram, Snap, WeChat, WhatsApp, Line, Google’s variety of offerings including of course Search, and so many such digital tools.

So, things will be back to normal after a few months for Facebook. They will undergo detailed investigation that is reserved for Russian hackers, questioned on Capitol Hill, excoriated in the “adult” networking circuit, and punished in some way, like being forced to implement tougher security measures. Facebook’s reputation currently is in the dumps, and they should not be trusted as they have traded their users’ data. But apart from all this, do you think that anything substantive will happen to them? There are more than 2B users who depend on Facebook for communication. Not me however – I never seriously used the consumer version of Facebook, though I have an account with very sparse data on myself (I however use a corporate version of Facebook behind my company’s firewall for internal teamwork and collaboration, along with other tools such as Microsoft Teams and Yammer).

So here I am – not a regular user of the consumer version of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, et al, but a serious blogger on this WordPress platform and LinkedIn user. I select what I wish to do, and cannot be led to use some tool that I do not wish to use. Further, I am careful not to accept terms and conditions of these tool makers and platform owners, and do not click to give access to all my data voluntarily. Neither do I agree for unsolicited marketing communications from these folks or their marketing collaborators, though sometimes it is made difficult not to agree.

The question is – what is more important: maintain privacy or lose it due to either the lack of security of the provider or his desire to sell off my data for money? In my case, the answer is crystal clear – I would rather forego the convenience of “checking into” Facebook and detailing what I am up to, or posting my photographs enjoying a vacation with my family, but safeguard whatever little privacy that I still have. It is not necessary for the entire world or my friends and relatives, or for any government, to know what I am doing at this moment (I am blogging now!). It is irrelevant to them, but it is critical for maintaining my sanity. It is not that I am anti-social – I am in multiple WhatsApp groups – but I wish to remain private. I do not respond to LinkedIn invites from people who I have not yet met. I should know the person through a referral or I should have met that person before I would even consider accepting the invite.

Nothing wrong with wanting to be a private individual. However, we know that most teenagers willingly give away their most personal data on the Facebook platform. The issue is that Facebook cannot be trusted to keep that data totally private and secure.  We do not know for sure that the data is safe and secure. We also do not know if they had traded our data for money. We never knew that Facebook gave away the data on 50M Americans to a U.K. Professor for some vague research, who in turn handed that out to the now infamous Cambridge Analytica.

It is more important to spend F2F (“Face to Face”) time with friends, relatives and family, like in the old times. It is more important not to be influenced by hate speech and lectures that are posted on all social media platforms. Did we live without a mobile phone or social media platforms in the past? Did we live a life without networking? We did live well, but I believe we did not learn to adopt technology well in the 21st Century. We just blindly jumped into all that is new without much analysis.

I am not against any of these innovative tools and platforms which have created enormous value to equity investors and users. I think we need to be extra careful in how and why we use these in our lives. Do we give our date of birth or place of birth to our neighbours or strangers? We don’t. We do not share any personal data in public. The same caution applies when we venture into digital space. We cannot ignore the fact that digital platforms are fast proliferating across our lives, and will come to dominate all facets of our existence. We may not be able to order ice cream without a social media account in future, or something as ridiculous as that.

Welcome to a world less private, more intrusive, less secure, and more dangerous as a result.

Hope you enjoyed your weekend.

I am happy to share the fact that I am now allowed one glass of wine, and I will soon be posting on the wine I had and the experience of de-addiction to wine.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

25th March 2018

Falling Markets


We saw that the major equity markets around the world suffered steep losses during the week which just ended.

There are always multiple reasons why the equity investors fret at times and start a major selling operation of their holdings. Mostly it is sentiment, sometimes emotions, but almost always there is a reason or many reasons why the market sell-off happens.

In the current scenario, the negative sentiment is driven by multiple factors afflicting the U.S. economy, aggravated by bad government policies which appear to keep shifting all the time under the wise administration of President Trump. To start with, there has been a series of exits of experienced people from the administration – the latest being General McMaster who was the National Seecurity Advisor to the President. He has been replaced by the rather hawkish hothead – John Bolton, who is likely to plunge the U.S. into another back-breaking war, either with Iran or North Korea.

So, you have a combination of the following factors:

  • a huge deficit budget of USD 1.3T which has just been signed off by the President, necessary to keep the government running till end of September 2018, which has a massive allocation for the military (not all of that is necessary);
  • a possible credit squeeze, with the Federal Reserve planning to raise the interest rates at least twice if not more times during this calendar year;
  • a high dependency on China which buys most of the U.S. Treasury Bills;
  • a looming trade war primarily with China, with the President planning to impose tariffs worth USD 50/60B on imports from China, and the already planned retaliation by China;
  • a strong noose tightening around the President’s neck – the Russia investigation of Special Counsel Robert Mueller – Trump cannot fire Mueller as that would lead to unforeseen consequences, but he might still do it, plunging the U.S. into uncertainty;
  • more potential exits from the Trump administration – Jeff Sessions is one clear possibility;
  • sex scandals threatening Trump from a series of women – the courts are admitting the cases against the wishes of Trump and his lawyers;
  • the clear possibility that Kim Jong Un might refuse to enter into talks with the U.S. if John Bolton is involved; North Korea termed Bolton as a “scum” and a “blood sucker” in 2003/04 and is unlikely to talk to him if Trump deputes him or brings him along to threaten Kim Jong Un, which will very likely happen;
  • the Iran nuclear deal imbroglio; Trump might refuse to certify the continuance of the deal when it comes for his quarterly certification signature as required by the U.S. Congress, in which case Iran will be free to walk away from the deal, and that might lead to Bolton arguing his case to bomb all of Iran’s nuclear facilities;
  • the continuing loss of elections to the Democratic Party as just happened in Pennsylvania – the potential loss of both the House and the Senate majority, which is not likely, but appears possible now;
  • and, so on and so forth…………there are many such factors

So, the equity markets falling was expected by all and sundry. If I recollect, the U.S. market ran up by more than 6,500 points (DOW) in about 14 months from the time Trump took office, allowing him to tout the market gain as one of his signature achievements. Now out of this increase, 3,000 points are gone, and it is likely that the sell off will continue into next week.

A government that is so critical for world peace and stability cannot be tottering every day. One has to just see CNN News and the U.S. Talk Shows by major news organizations, to get the full import of what is going on in Washington D.C. The Trump administration has become a laughing stock, even within the U.S.

The only silver lining is that Trump is the first U.S. President who has succeeded in pushing North Korea to the negotiating table (mostly by harsh tweets from Trump!), though both Koreas claim that they decided to play the Olympic game together and cool off the rhetoric. The other achievement of Trump is that he is the first U.S. President to stand up to China without any fear of repercussions and challenge them to a trade war.

While these are great to see and hear about, we have to recognize that Trump has still not won any battle with either one of these countries. He could not even win the Border Wall case against Mexico, which refused to foot the bill. It is going to be very tough for the U.S. to negotiate when Trump has surrounded himself with foreign policy and military hawks such as Mike Pompeo (the new Secretary of State, yet to be confirmed by the Congress), John Bolton (the new National Security Advisor who does not need Congress confirmation), Gina Haspel (the new CIA Director nominee who needs to be confirmed by the Congress), and the perennial lady hawk Nikki Haley who is the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. A war is surely looming with such hot heads around the President, who himself is a strong hot head who will not take a slight from anyone, or advice from anyone. All the major departures have happened apparently due to the fact that the concerned person begged to differ from the views of the President.

So, here we are, with markets having fallen all around the world, including India’s SENSEX. We are entering an uncertain phase in world history and diplomatic relationships. Everything can come off unhinged. No relationship is going to remain sacred. Continuous drama at the White House is going to rock the markets on a daily basis. The markets can no longer afford to do their own business disconnected from political and economic realities.

So, we are all in for a rocky ride, folks.

Enjoy the ride however.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

24th March 2018

Humans Losing out to Technology


There are countless ways in which advanced technologies have helped mankind over the years. The current (and future, for sure) rapid pace of technological development, will, no doubt, continue to render advanced capabilities to people, businesses and governments like what we could not have imagined even yesterday.

Technology is almost on a free roll now – nobody can stop its non-stop progress and achievements, and it is the way it should be. The challenge now is adoption and ongoing utilization of technologies – let us not forget the actual fact on the ground that over 3B (yes, billion) people in this planet do not have access to the internet (most of them do not have access to electricity or clean water or sanitation either). There is a lot of work to do before we get everyone in the world connected.

In the meanwhile, the military applications of technology are proceeding at a faster pace, as the world’s super powers race against each other to get the upper hand, which will never be used as there will be no global war between or amongst the super powers due to the possibility of total annihilation of this world as we know it today.

In this context, I was horrified to view the video of the huge destructive impact of tiny drones launched in a warfare situation, put up on social media by Stuart Russell, a University of California Berkeley Computer Science Professor.

Take a look at Future of Life Institute Autonomous Weapons Ban and

Slaughterbots Video CNN article and YouTube video

QUOTE

Professor Russell says “Trained as a team, [the drones] can penetrate buildings, cars, trains, all while having the capacity to evade any countermeasure. They cannot be stopped,”.

He noted that “a $25 million order” can now buy a swarm of such tiny “slaughterbots” that could kill half a city.

Professor Russell said that although A.I.’s “potential to benefit humanity is enormous, even in defense,” allowing the widespread use of machines that “choose to kill humans will be devastating to our security and freedom.”

UNQUOTE

These tiny mini-drones which have destructive military uses are now called “autonomous slaughterbots” and are unleashed in a “drone swarm” from the underbelly of a bomber plane. These are now rightfully characterized as “weapons of mass destruction” as a small band of military men can essentially bring a country to its knees by launching a slaughterbot attack which will raze an entire city to the ground and kill millions of people at one go – more effective than a nuclear weapon which is much more expensive to build, maintain and use. In today’s world, even a kid knows what a drone is, but do we really understand how nations can get completely out of control with this technology which is like a powerful machine gun or multi-barrelled missile launcher, the only difference being that the slaughterbots can come in thousands to obliterate an entire battlefield or a city.

There is no current counter-attack mechanism against an attack by slaughterbots. Even more worrying is the fact that the “attacked” cannot easily figure out who is the “attacker”, or where they are located. How do you attack someone who you do not know, or whose location cannot be determined. So, we are now in faceless military attacks, and all that it takes is one small band of rogue folks who know this technology. Let us not forget that both “good” and “bad” guys now have drones, and also that the “good” guys could be indiscriminate in their plans and attacks sometimes.

So, the world is getting to be a deadlier place than it ever was in its history. Drones can target individulas anywhere in the world, and are being enhanced to penetrate any kind of structure to reach to the designated target. Further, drone swarms “act” like a swarm, in the sense that they will coordinate their attack plan with each other, leading to a scalability that does not exist today. We are essentially looking at the collective brain power of a slaughterbot drone swarm, which could be as deadly as a nuclear weapon without incurring all the risks of a war.

Welcome to the slaughterbot era, friends. It is critical that we protest against such weapons of mass destruction, these are much worse than land mines.

Cheers (and No Cheers!),

Vijay Srinivasan

26th November 2017

 

Europe under siege


Week after week, Europe seems to be encountering terrorist attacks.

I would not be surprised if European Union decides to close its borders against any immigration, and tightens the country borders vigorously in the coming months. May be it is time for Europe to adopt and implement some of the national security initiatives which have secured the U.S. borders more or less effectively against foreign threats.

France has suffered the most with three serious attacks in the past 18 months. Now comes Munich, considered to be generally safe. Germany has been the most lenient country in Europe when it comes to receiving and handling immigrants. Now it has to rethink. France has already assumed emergency powers of search and arrest.

One could not have imagined that European countries would come under terrorist attacks, as here was a collection of countries that became more welcoming of immigrants (unfortunately terrorists are hidden amongst the flow of immigrants) and have treated their foreign-born population more or less well. However, now it has become amply clear to the governments of the Netherlands, France, Germany, and other countries that their laissez faire approach to security, investigation, and law enforcement would no longer continue to work.

I am a supporter of ruthless law enforcement actions when faced with terrorism. I believe that India has become a good example of not willing to accept usual practices in law enforcement in various parts of the country, surely against the Maoist insurgents in the North East and Jammu & Kashmir militants in the North. It cannot be business as usual when the country is under constant attack and normal business activities have to be suspended and the normal life of law-abiding citizens is being threatened. One would need a lot of steely nerves when it comes to handling home-grown terrorism, and part of Europe’s problems is that it does not have a strategy to deal with that threat.

All citizens are unfortunately NOT equal, and it is critical for governments to monitor ALL citizens and all immigrants today, irrespective of race, religion, ethnic origin or gender. All tourists have to be monitored as well. This would necessitate complete control over airwaves, and full coverage of the country with eavesdropping and monitoring technologies. There is no choice, as the first priority of ANY government is to save the lives of its law-abiding citizens.

If such actions threaten human right activists, so be it. Human rights have to wait longer to attain their fulfillment when more serious and threatening priorities take over. I agree it would require a well-meaning government not to start trampling on human rights of ordinary citizens. The example being set by a democratic government in Turkey is not a good one, but let us remember that Turkey is acting against coup plotters and not terrorists. May be both categories are the same in the eyes of a government, but Turkey has all but ensured that it would not get admittance into the European Union. But that is exactly the point. The European Union needs to review its charter of Human Rights. Not all is well with Europe, and it is high time the EU starts paying attention and committing resources towards its home-grown terrorism threat. It would certainly mean that the EU has to take bold, tough and aggressive actions – may not all in line with its ideals and principles.

Terrorism is a present danger and will continue in all parts of the world if governments do not collaborate and take collective action against is insidious threat to civilization. Let us forget about attributing reasons for the growth in terrorism. There are no good or bad terrorists – ALL terrorists are just bad. No religion permits carnage against innocent civilians and children. No government should also authorize attacks against civilians.

People like us should send our suggestions to our governments or to the United Nations. There should be vigorous action and support for eliminating (may not be entirely possible however) or at least reducing the threat of terrorism, and that would also mean entirely removing access to weapons for the common man on the street. We should all accept more limits on our personal freedoms, to ensure the safety of ourselves and our fellow human beings.

Radical, but required necessity in today’s world. Europe needs to do its bit, to save Europeans, and preserve their values for the future.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

24th July 2016

 

The mystery of the missing airliner


MH370 was another usual flight from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, amongst hundreds of such flights from South East Asian countries. With a well-regarded service reputation, Malaysia Airlines (MAS) is the flagship air carrier of Malaysia, with generally good performance in meeting customer expectations. I have taken their flights a number of times, but usually for the short hop between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur.

For the past over 2 weeks, the world has been abuzz with the mystery of the missing flight, which originated in Kuala Lumpur, destined to reach Beijing in China. It had 229 passengers, including the crew. Such instances of missing flights are indeed rare, and there has been no official cause established for its disappearance as the MH370 is yet to be located.

While the circumstances surrounding its disappearance are mysterious, it is unlikely to be terrorism as no motive has been established, no ransom has been called, no political terror group has claimed responsibility, and generally, there has been no ownership of what happened from any quarters around the world. One is led to “derive” rather than conclude that the flight just got maneuvered by someone on board into a different direction and the motive for doing so is yet to be established.

I sometimes wonder why the Pilot gets the authority to turn off the transponder of his own flight from the cockpit – I think this is a general fallibility which is yet to be fixed across the world. Why would anyone have the authorisation to decouple the transponder ?

The other aspect is that the satellite communications capability which works so well for weather predictions and military purposes, seems to have some limitations in locating the spot of the aircraft disappearance though the location of the last handshake between a satellite and the aircraft has now been determined. There seem to be some technical challenges.

Countries seem to be worried about sharing their national radar tracking data in this world of openness when competitive governments would anyway know the limitations of their neighbouring countries. This should not have been an acceptable practice in the case of natural or artificial disasters, wherein the policy should have been to cooperate intensely without any limitations whatsoever. Even countries afar from the original location of radar disappearance do not seem to be sharing radar data freely, not wanting to expose their inefficiencies or lack of comprehensive coverage. This is nothing short of ridiculous.

Well, there are so many impatient and grieving family members of the 229 folks who seem to have completely disappeared from this world who are all waiting for some news which is more deterministic than all that they have so far heard. Let us think of them rather than worrying about national security.

No Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan
22nd March 2014

Aftermath of Spying Revelations


Edward Snowden’s revelations about spying by the NSA of the U.S. have caused consternation around the world. Not just amongst the governments who have been spied upon. Even innocent individuals have their call data collected by the NSA which has been acting like a major data suction engine.

But are things going to be any different going forward ?

Not at all, despite any claims to the contrary.

It is absolutely critical for governments to spy upon other governments. This has been a truism all this while, for more than a thousand years, or even more. Collecting intelligence about the intentions of both friends and enemies is considered by all governments as crucial in their efforts to forecast the future. Is there anything unusual about it ? No, not at all.

What is the difference now ? Edward Snowden walked out of the NSA with troves of unnecessary information which revealed the extent of spying by the NSA, even on friendly allied countries like Germany. The debates that are raging around the capitals of the countries who have been spied upon, and the intense debate in the U.K. about the role of the Guardian newspaper, etc., are too well documented for me to recant anything here in substance. So, the only thing now is that the world seems to be having “proof” that indeed such spying takes place but what has appalled all is the extent and scale of the spying activities that seems to be going on all over the world.

The U.S. Government has taken a measured approach in its cautious responses to spying allegations that have been levelled against the NSA. The Congressional “investigation” is not going to change any behaviour except to proclaim that the Congress has done its due diligence belatedly, and there will be some protective measures put in place to safeguard the interest of American citizens and allied countries.

I believe spying is crucial, critical and essential for any nation today. Especially when so much information is flying around the internet, there needs to be policies in place to protect the interests of any country (which can afford to invest in technological infrastructure) against any other nation. And lives have to be protected. Terrorist attacks have to be identified well in advance and defused. The scale of spying will of course differ from country to country, but no one is a saint in this matter. Everyone can be called a culprit !

So what the NSA has been doing is very important, and even the Russian President Vladimir Putin seems to suggest that spying is a required activity and supports NSA and the US Government !! Of course, he was a KGB spy in the past and we know what that means !!!

Well, so let us get out of our fixation about Edward Snowden and get on with our business. There will be only more, not less, spying going forward, and everyone should take it in a stride. Be careful about commercial or trade secrets though !

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan
22nd December 2013

Waste of Precious Time


The high-level talks in New York today between the prime ministers of India and Pakistan are unlikely to produce any real breakthrough, except shenanigans in front of the world media which does not believe what they are going to say anyway.

Instead of focusing on urgent and pressing domestic matters, the two countries are wasting time talking to each other.

Is it going to be of any use ?

None at all.

In fact the Pakistani army has already attempted to derail the impending talks by enabling militants to attack and kill many Indian soldiers last week. Has anything changed in Pakistan – nothing at all. The powerful army still controls everything, and the prime minister is just a dud when it comes to matters pertaining to India or Afghanistan.

So, the prime minister of India is going to waste time today talking to a prime minister who does not control what Dr Singh called as “epicentre of terrorism”. What is the big point here, except that Dr Singh is making all attempts to leave a positive legacy on Pakistan when he leaves office next year.

And, why is Pakistan wasting time ? They are talking to a prime minister widely perceived to be ineffective, and under constraint to take approval on all policy matters from his powerful party boss. Most importantly, Dr Singh is unlikely to be the prime minister after the next parliamentary elections – I don’t think he would want to be, even if the Congress Party could manage to form a coalition government with other corrupt parties.

So, it is just laughable that these two ineffective prime ministers with no real power to negotiate anything substantive are wasting time and taxpayer monies to meet on the sidelines of the U.N. Summit in New York today. It is to be noted that during their respective speeches yesterday, they accused each other !

How will they ever reach any positive conclusions ?

The Jammu and Kashmir problem is not going to be resolved in this manner. India has to be more rigorous in eliminating terrorist infiltration ruthlessly, with no fear or favour. It needs to bring the State under central government rule – the current State government is rather ineffective. It needs to communicate more vigorously to the local population that it is investing heavily in the infrastructure of the State, but they need to be more supportive of India and should not support the terrorists who will only bring more pain and death.

Is India having a game plan to tackle the problems in J & K ? Surely does not appear to be………any surprises ? None whatsoever. We have a feeble government in India and Pakistan knows it.

No point in negotiating with sponsors of terrorism.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan
29th Sep 2013

Data Privacy and Government Intrusion


The recent incident of a contractor from NSA (National Security Agency) of the U.S. almost defecting to Hong Kong / China throws open a very relevant and rather interesting topic: the intrusion into the privacy of citizens by “Big Brother” or the Government.

There are arguments (mostly) against and for the government oversight affecting the privacy of millions of citizens and other nation states. How can one government (though the most powerful in the world) intrude into the private lives of other countries’ citizens and most clearly, into other governments’ secrets ? Under what laws of the land are these actions being taken ? Does it mean that the U.S. is not respecting the other countries’ laws on privacy, though often claiming to be the torch bearer of freedom and democracy, often accusing other countries of trampling on their citizens’ rights ?

Many, many questions and the blogosphere and the traditional / electronic media are full of such types of questions and interviews with prominent folks from society and government.

Let us look at this matter very objectively.

First, is anyone around the world so naive that he or she can assume that nobody is watching the goings on in the society in which they live, given all the terrorist attacks around the world ? Is it not the responsibility of the government of the day and law enforcement agencies to track what is going on ? How can anyone assume that all is hunky dory in their own society ? That is rather stupid, to say the least.

Second, look at examples of how criminals and terrorists are getting caught via data crunching of emails and webcam / video camera images, without even shedding a drop of blood in some cases ? Are we not reading newspapers and the electronic media to take note of the enhanced intelligence of law enforcement agencies ?

Third, the NSA mainframes and arrays of computers don’t “see or hear” anything – they just simply analyze the petabytes of data collected from a million sources and derive nuggets of actionable information, which can then be studied and actions taken. Who is listening to your conversation, or reading your emails – think about it for a minute. If you are not a targeted individual, why would a government waste thousands of dollars of computing time and analyst time on you ? You have no name in the computer !

Fourthly, if the U.S. Congress bans domestic eavesdropping by NSA (very unlikely), then NSA and FBI would have to move to conventional means of tapping phones which would then potentially “target” anyone – even the normal guy – around. Think about it – do you wish to return to the Cold War days ? Surely not.

There are many other reasons why the NSA mechanism is a better way of analysing the “Big Data” collected from various sources than the older ways of James Bond days.

Let us not raise a hue and cry. This is what has been happening for the past 7 years by NSA and several decades before that as well. If you have nothing to worry, then you will have nothing to worry, right ?

Let the criminals and terrorists worry, right ?

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan
15th June 2013

Not to be Trusted


The Indian Government took all the nonsense of Pakistan’s arguments against the official involvement of their spy agency and military in the 26/11 carnage in Mumbai. Despite all the proof, Pakistan still resists in extending full and unfettered cooperation.

Now, another example has come up: despite all their protestations to the contrary, 13 Indians are still being held in Pakistan jails – and look at this: they are Prisoners of War from the 1971 Indo-Pak war, which Pakistan lost so handsomely if you would recall, leading to the formation of Bangladesh from the erstwhile East Pakistan. Even after their prison terms were long over, the Indians are being held in Karachi’s jails.

What does this discovery shows ?

That we are stupid to believe our neighbours on their claims of innocence, on their protests that they are never involved officially in terror plots against India, that they are truly committed to developing a cordial relationship with India. That we are ignorant of their aims to eventually separate Kashmir from India. That they would attack us one day with their nuclear-armed missiles. That they would continue to taunt us in international forums on the Kashmir issue. That they would collaborate more with China to strangle India.

That they can never be fully trusted.

Unless…….

Unless and until, they have a fully democratic government, not controlled by their military.

Which is definitely not the case.

Are they ever going to realize that India is too big and actually stronger than ever to fight two wars at the same time ? If not today, in a couple of years time, India would mount an impenetrable shield to protect our borders from missile attacks. India would have a much stronger collaboration with the U.S. and Israel to counter Pakistan’s insidious aims to destroy our peace.

Instead of formulating an overarching strategy to counter Pakistan, we seem to be entertaining Mr Musharraf in Delhi, who goes up on stage and accuses India. This is nothing short of ridiculous. Freedom of speech has certain responsibilities and limits. Mr Musharraf is singularly responsible for the 1999 Kargil War in which India lost many soldiers and a good deal of self-respect. He is a persona non grata in his own country – Pakistan !

While olive branches are good as a show case of peace efforts on both sides – especially on the business side – we have to be very cautious about the nefarious intent of the military and spy agency of Pakistan who celebrated the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai, which exposed India’s weaknesses. We can never forget the loss of 166 innocent lives. We can never forgive Pakistan for its intransigence in cooperating with India.

Let us not trust blindingly. Even our culture does not condone it. The nation’s security cannot take second place to our need to shake hands.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan
25th November 2012
Mumbai

Security in Maximum City


There has been a rapid deterioration in the security situation in Mumbai over the past 3 years or so.

I am not referring to the 26/11 terrorist attack or its aftermath.

I am referring simply to the cases of attack on innocent people by their own security guards. I have no bandwidth right now to write about the other aspects of the safety situation in the city, such as road accidents involving school buses for example, but I will eventually write about that aspect as well.

It appears that Mumbai has learnt the bad aspects of Delhi life. Delhi still steals the thunder when it comes to the reputation ranking of the worst biggest city in India wherein women are not safe, but it appears that Mumbai is fast catching up. Mumbai, incidentally, had (and sometimes has) the reputation for the safest big city in India, but is fast losing that.

The recent attacks on women staying alone in apartments by the building society’s own security guards are to be severely condemned. I did not see the government stepping up to the challenges. One simple thing to do is to disenfranchise all private security agencies in the city who are not “security-cleared” by the police.

We are endangering our people in two different ways – the private security agencies are not truly certified to do their work and the guards are not pre-approved or pre-registered to ensure quality, consistency and safety. This is like letting the cow graze its own backyard freely with no controls or safety checks.

Unfortunately, in India (like in almost everything), we tend to blame the government for all the ills of the society, and this case is no different. But the least that we can do is to ensure that the agencies we appoint in out own building societies are pre-cleared with the police, and there are adequate monitoring mechanisms provided so that the guards do not tinker with the automated security apparatus. The guards should never have access to the electricity supply to the apartment – it is not their job. The latest murder case in the city couple of days ago shows that such basic principles were violated. If the building society or the builder is lax in such areas, we have to be prepared otherwise to expect trouble.

Further, there is a feeling in Mumbai that it is indeed a safe city – many people have told me that it is far better than Delhi. This is a false feeling and should be discarded forthwith. In any place which has a wide disparity of incomes and living styles, there is bound to be jealousy and hunger for something better. While we cannot condone criminal actions based on that, we need to be adequately prepared for any consequences. People come to Mumbai from all over the country looking for jobs, and that cannot be stopped in a free country. The least we can do is to ensure our own safety and security by insisting on certain mechanisms for which we are paying our hard earned money in any case. Why not insist on quality ?

So, let us not forget safety and security in our own maximum city.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan
11th August 2012
Mumbai