Archive for January 2007

A Tribute to Kamleshwar: An Immortal Star of Modern Hindi Literature and Friend of Burma

January 29, 2007

Burma Review pays its deepest tribute to Kamleshwar (1932 – 2007), an immortal star of Modern Hindi Literature and friend of Burma, who passed away on Saturday night, 27th of January 2007, by massive heart attack at New Delhi. Although Kamleshwar is more known for his many great works in modern Hindi literature and script writing for successful Bollywood Films like: Aandhi, Choti Si Baat, Mr. Natwarlal, Rajnigandha, Sara Aakash etc. then his association & love for Burma. But Kamleshwar’s journey to literary fame in India never hindered his attachment and affection for the people of Burma and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

His works reflected the voice of common people’s struggle to establish participative institutions and respect for human values. He generally chose ordinary middle class people’s character in his works and never got scared, lured and bogged down by power, money and official pressure in speaking truth.

The eminent writer was conferred prestigious Padmabushan award in 2005 for Hindi literature by Government of India and earlier he had priviledge to be chosen for the Sahitya Akademi award in 2003 for his famous book – Kitney Pakistan. He also served as an Editor of Hindi daily newspaper: “Dainik Jagaran (1990-1992)”, “Dainik Bhaskar (1996-2002)” and successfully revived popular Hindi magazine- “Sarika” under his editorship. He also held important position at Doordarshan (India’s official Television Channel) as its Additional Director General.

I can well remember, I first met Kamleshwar Ji at the seminar organized by the Indian Council for International Co-operation (ICIC) on the topic entitled, “Indo-Myanmar Relations: Past, Present & Future” at New Delhi on 21st November 2002, where he was one of the prominent speaker. And even today, I’m thankful to Baleshwar Agrawal, C. Lakshmanna of ICIC and my two great Burmese friend – Mr. U Ram Jeet Verma (leader of NLD – LA & Committee For Nonviolent Action in Burma, whom I met during my research work on Burma) and Late Dr. C. P. Prabhakar ‘Maw Thi Ri’ (Editor of Irra-Ganga Journal of Indo-Burma Relations, the journal publication was stopped after his death) for giving me the opportunity to share the stage with eminent writer Kamleshwar as a Speaker. It was a high profile seminar presided by India’s former Prime Minister: Mr. I. K. Gujral and among list of other speakers included: India’s then Minister for State for External Affairs, Mr. Digvijay Singh, India’s former Minister for External Affairs, Mr. Hari Kishore Singh, Eminent Gandhian – Nirmala Deshpandey, JNU Professor of School of International Studies – Dr. Ganganath Jha and most interestingly Burma’s then official ambassador to India– Mr. Kyaw Thu. It was a memorable event for me as Kamleshwar ji was a person, whom you couldn’t forget once you met him. Before his presentation, I was like a kid for him & others, he was telling me that, never compromise in your life for wrong things and for profits. You see…now we have come to the stage, that for few dollars of benefits…the country of Gandhi ji is betraying one of his greatest disciples of modern era. He was referring to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, and the great pain she had been suffering under prolonged house arrest and I could see in his eyes about his concern, pain and anger against Government of India’s constructive engagement policy with Burma’s military junta. And when his turn came up to present his opinion, he couldn’t hold his love and affection towards Burma and followed the path of Gandhi ji to speak truth & going beyond diplomacy.

And it is my priviledge to reproduce some of Kamleshwar’s thoughts and speeches of that occasion from my diary notes of 21st November 2002, when great luminary of modern Hindi Literature and writer par-excellence is no more with us:

“Though the things have been going on for the last so many years and years, yet the things are not changing in Burma. To discuss the Indo-Myanmar Relations, Past, Present and Future, the past has become a kind of tradition for us. The past has always been very grand, great and gorgeous. The past was very great, gorgeous and grand, but what about the present?….What I feel is that if the present can be corrected, then we need not worry about the future. The future will be safe if we take very proper kind of steps in present.”…..

“Now I should come directly on the condition of Burma. What is happening today? I can’t be diplomatic, diplomacy is another thing. We are not diplomats. What is the condition of Burma? Why we have assembled here? Whether we have come here to gather some information that what United Nations and other institutions are doing in Burma? Or, we want to know what is happening in the common mind in Burma or Myanmar? Have we come here only to defend the history of Burma or we have come here to understand the present day history of the common man of that country?…..You very well know that there was a movement going on, the movement of democracy in Burma and that was not only going on during 1990. It was established clearly by the vote of people that they want democracy and they have selected their MPs and the Leader also. Take Aung San Suu Kyi, what the Army junta has done to her? What they have done to other people? What they have done to other MPs, who have fled away from Burma? And what India can do in the present circumstances? Though I have no right, as I can only speak as a common Indian as a writer, as a journalist, I feel all the time, whatever be the relations, India can definitely do one thing that India can ask or the Indians can ask that the democracy must be restored in Burma, as fast as possible.”

“…We are opening roads, fine, very good. I know Jaswant Singh Ji (then External Affairs Minister for India) had opened a road to Burma, but these roads were actually there from centuries ago. This is only a kind of a concrete road, which has been built now, but the roads of culture have been there. So there is no dearth of roads between India and Burma. There are many roads but which one is the road to erode the pain and suffering of the people? That road is definitely democracy. If the democracy is established in Burma, the things will change definitely and with these roads there will be no worry at all as to what the future is holding for us, whether for India or Myanmar or on the relations between both of us. Therefore, if we correct the present, then definitely the future is very safe.”…

“…But what is happening? We only talk about democracy. Human Rights chairman visits Myanmar, even United Nations official visits there and say that efforts are going on for democracy. It is funny. Only elected representatives must be given the opportunity to shape up the future of their own country. But what is happening in the name of diplomacy? It is better to be a diplomat than to be a warrior because diplomacy can definitely stop a war. But here I see that diplomacy is being used to postpone the future of a nation. The future of Burma is being postponed, whether it is the diplomacy of China, whether it is the diplomacy of the Human Rights Commission’s representative who visits Burma or be the diplomacy of Indian Government.”…

Suu Kyi is very important citizen of her country. If she has been given freedom to visit one province of her country, it does not mean that freedom has been granted by military junta in Burma. She is granted permission to go to that province, is something funny. But Hindustan (Referring to India) doesn’t speak. It is not very important news as it is being floated as if the democracy is being restored. First you curtail the democracy and then you say that by granting her permission to go to another province, you are restoring democracy. It is something very interesting. We have to understand it.”…

“I’m speaking here as an Indian citizen, and as an individual. If India wants that the democratic rights must be restored in Burma…then let India say so…what stops you from saying this? But unfortunately they don’t say. I don’t understand what sort of diplomacy prevents them in saying so? We don’t have even words to say so….We can not explore even words of wisdom, of feeling camaraderie, but we send trucks and truck loads of ammunition from India to Burma. What is all that? How has this ammunition been sent for restoration of democracy there? I question it. So we have to understand this. As Indian citizen, I feel for Burma….?”

This was Kamleshwar with great pain, love and affection for Burma. Kamleshwar’s speech in every little pause generated a huge applause. I was watching the event very minutely and thinking, that, although the government might pursue the policy of constructive engagement with military junta in Burma but the rising applause from general Indian community once again proved and shown, that, the people of India is still with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and people of Burma! However, today, Kamleshwar’s is not with us and many Burmese would be not knowing about Kamleshwar’s love for the people of Burma and Suu Kyi. But Kamleshwar’s thought will always remain immortal for India and Burma.

(Important Note: Full Text of the Speech of Kamleshwar can be collected from the office of Indian Council for International Co-operation, M-6, Bhagat Singh Market, New Delhi – 110001)

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Russia & China’s Veto on Burma and Politics of Double Face (Part-III)

January 26, 2007

Russia’s veto on Burma issue on 12th of January 2007 in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) in tandem with China’s politics of double face is more related with new emerging economic opportunity in golden land & to build new power order in Asia Pacific region in Post-cold war era, sacrificing the basic spirit of United Nations Charter. For Russian Ambassador to the UN, who also holds responsible position of UNSC President in January 2007, Mr. Vitaly Churkin, “the Burma issue didn’t pose any threat to international or regional peace, so his country had consistently opposed the consideration of the Burma / Myanmar issue in the Security Council?” (20) However interestingly, he accepts that, “Not denying that Burma had been facing certain problems, particularly in the socio-economic and humanitarian areas.” (21) It appears that, probably Mr. Vitaly Churkin is not aware of the wonderful and significant economic achievement gained by the military junta in Burma or totally unaware of the press conference of Burma’s Minister for National Planning & Economic Development, U Soe Tha’s press conference to the world media on 17th of December 2006 at the new capitol – Nay Pyi Taw of achieving great economic growth as well as of contributions made by military backed quasi socio-political organization – Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA) in creating congenial & harmonious social order in Burma? Or, Mr. Churkin is accepting truth of Burma in half way to serve business interests emerging from the energy fields of Myanmar and fulfilling commitment made to Chinese President, Mr. Hu Jintao during his visit to Kremlin in the year 2003? In May 2003, during Chinese President- Mr. Hu Jintao’s trip to Russia, both the countries strongly expressed their commitment to abide by the ‘Russia-China Good Neighbourly Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation’ signed in July 2001 and reached a wide range of consensus on bilateral ties & major international issues. For Russian leader, Mr. Vladimir Putin, “Hu’s visit was landmark in Russia-China friendship and provides an opportunity for both sides not only to sum up the course of development of bilateral relations and the achievements, but also to draw up a mid and long term plan for future development of the ties in the commerce, energy, aviation & satellite technology and major international issues.” (22)

It is important to note that, Russia which is trying to create a new power order in the Asia Pacific Region together with China also enjoys membership with NATO’s Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC) after the collapse of Soviet Union. And the founding Act on Mutual Relations, Cooperation, and Security between NATO and the Russian Federation was signed on May 27, 1997, and thereafter NATO-Russia Permanent Joint Council got established to develop productive partnership for dispelling unwarranted concerns held by both parties on international issues. (23) However Russian veto on Burma resolution against US & UK, two most powerful member countries of NATO, shows the politics of double face of Russian leadership. Russian ambition to create strategic new power order in post cold war era in Asia Pacific Region is not only related with her energy ties with military junta in Burma but of defence, trade & commerce as well as her nuclear research collaboration with military dictators since 2001. (24)

Although interestingly, for Mr. Churkin, “the Burma issue would be better handled by other UN organs, particularly the Human Rights Council, the General Assembly and its Third Committee, International Organization for Migration and humanitarian agencies such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and the concerned US-UK backed resolution would hamper diplomatic efforts being carried out through the good offices of the Secretary-General and substitution of their efforts by the Security Council would be counterproductive and would not facilitate the division of labour between the main bodies of the world Organization, which was provided for in the United Nations Charter, or development of their constructive cooperation.” (25)

Mr. Vitaly Churkin was right in his speech & opposition to Burma resolution and Veto on 12th January, as the art of diplomacy of contemporary business globalization doesn’t permit him to say at UN platform that his leader, “Russian Prime Minister, Mikhail Fradkov had signed a strategic energy treaty few months back with then visiting Myanmar’s Vice-Chairman of the State Peace and Development Council of military junta- Mr. Maung Aye in April 2006 and Russia’s oil company Zarubezhneft got a strategic lead in the energy fields of Myanmar”. And to say that, two sides also agreed to develop interaction in the protection of secret information and expand cooperation in all directions. Whereas, visiting General Maung Aye, stressed that, the two countries are to deepen friendly relations not between the governments and the peoples but also with the armed forces. And Russia’s ambition to create new power order in Asia Pacific region could be understood from the statement by Russian Prime Minister, Mr. Fradkov on this occasion to Maung Aye, that, “Russia seeks to expand participation in the Asia-Pacific region. Thus, Russian-Myanmar relations have good and promising prospects.” (26)

One more UN organization, Mr. Churkin missed in his opposition to Burma issue & speech to quote is – “United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)” offices to avoid substitution and counterproductive to UNSC. But then it would have led to Chinese and Russian delegate to fall into the trap of making Burma issue – an international one, endangering peace and stability of the region, otherwise it is an internal affair of the country in their world vision fitting into their economic & strategic interest’s agenda. However, Russia’s positions in the Sixty-First Session of the UN General Assembly of championing the cause of Peace Building Commission and the Human Rights Council and ensuring the effective functioning of these bodies for the benefit of all Member States with the words, that, “the key long-term priority in that area is the strengthening of the international human rights protection regime” got lost with her veto. (27) The double talk with double face has become a growing phenomenon of the art of international diplomacy and national postures, which results in the dichotomy of words & deeds, ultimately weakening international institutions like – the United Nations.

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ENDNOTES:

20. Note-1, P.6.

21. Note-10, P.1.

22. Chinese President Holds Talks with Putin, People’s Daily, Beijing, China, 28 May 2003.
23. Raymond L. Garthoff, NATO and Russia: Looking to the Future, the Eisenhower Institute Papers, 915 15 Street, NW, 8th Floor, Washington, DC 20005, USA.

24. Roland Watson, Nuclear Proliferation and Burma – The Hidden Connection, Dictator Watch, 13 November 2006.

25. Note-1, P.6

26. Russia, Myanmar to enhance oil Cooperation, People’s Daily, Beijing, China, 04 April 2006.

27. Speech by the Russian Ambassador to the 61st Session of the UN General Assembly, P.1. UN General Assembly Documents, No. 282-17a-19, pc3.

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Russia & China’s Veto on Burma and Politics of Double Face (Part-II)

January 20, 2007

The politics of double face of China in the UN Security Council (UNSC) on the issue of Burma’s democratic and human rights questions and thereafter her veto on 12th January 2007, is more related to her growing economic & trade interests with ruling military junta popularly known as State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) than the question of human values. After military take over in Burma by General Ne Win in 1962, over the years, the country has become more a colony of Chinese economic activity than pursuing an independent vision of national economic development. Before 15th of September 2006 UNSC resolution on Burma, in April 2006, China’s planning ministry has approved an oil pipeline linking Burma’s deep-water port of Sittwe to Kunming in the landlocked Southwestern Chinese province of Yunnan, which would provide an alternative route for China’s crude imports from the Middle East and Africa as well as reduce her dependence on traffic through the Strait of Malacca. It would also serve as an important strategic conduit to transport crude to China’s populous inland provinces of Yunnan and Sichuan and the Chongqing municipality. (8) Even by the end of year 2000, Seven hundred fifty-two (752) contract agreements between Chinese and Burma / Myanmar companies with a value of 1.786 billion US dollars had been signed. And in the first ten months of only year 2001, Chinese companies signed 87 projects worth totaling 186 million US dollars in Burma together with China’s export to Myanmar reached 385 million US dollars and the imports from Myanmar achieved 113 million US dollars, tilting the balance of trade drastically in favour of China. (9)

It is interesting to note that, during Burma’s question in UN Security Council, military junta’s Ambassador to the UN – Mr. Kyaw Tint Swe defended his countries position on the pretext of significant economic development achieved under UNDP (United Nations Development Programme) programme and said that, “the draft resolution was based on ‘patently false’ information and council was clearly exceeding its mandate by considering the issue and his country was making economic gains.” (10) It is important to note here that, Burma enjoys interaction with UNDP since June 1993, through a programme known and coined as HDI (Human Development Initiative) in the areas of basic health support, training and education, HIV/AIDS, the environment and food security in twenty-three townships and six different regions & not into the whole of country. (11) Although interestingly UNDP’S current Asia Pacific Human Development Report, 2006 after thirteen years of interaction with military junta in Burma, still places once rice bowl of the world among fourteen economies of Least Developed Countries (LDC) in the Asia-Pacific region. (12) Moreover the myth of Burma’s economic development through ASEAN and UNDP interaction could be explored from the facts that, the junta’s claim of GDP growth of present Five year plan – 2001/2002 – 2005/2006 was targeted with an average annual growth rate of 11.3 percent and the performance achieved during the plan period was 12.8 percent, an increase of 1.83 times is far away from the truth. (13) Another myth in the areas of external trade, the junta claims that the balance of trade was surplus for the last four consecutive years beginning from 2002-2003. (14) However much cited UNDP economic growth and favourable balance of trade in Burma by military junta at UN & other regional associations and forums, has some different story in UNDP Asia Pacific Human Development Report, 2006 & ADB (Asian Development Bank) reports. The UNDP’s current Asia Pacific Human Development Report, 2006 economic data unmasks the myth of so called favourable trade balance and reasons of Chinese veto on Burma, which explicitly shows that, Burma’s / Myanmar’s export to China in the year 2004 was of US $ 207 millions, whereas imports from China to Myanmar was of US $ 938 millions and ending up as a negative trade balance of minus 731 million US dollars. (15) Moreover it also indicates that, military junta didn’t provide any data to UNDP in 2003 related with GDP per capita assessment and exports as percentage of GDP in the year 2003, despite Aid per-capita in 2003 of 2.5 million US dollars and country is severely indebted. (16) The sudden press conference to world media by Minister for National Planning & Economic Development, U Soe Tha of military junta on 17th of December 2006 at Nay Pyi Taw was nothing but to pick & choose some favourable economic facts from UNDP & other international reports to avoid impending UNSC action, other wise any economic data of any country does not appear suddenly in a particular fashion & month like December 2006 before international media, but it generally appears regularly with facilities provided to open criticism & cross-check facilities for re-examination?

In addition, ADB’S official macroeconomic assessment of Asian Development Outlook 2002 shows that, for the year 2000 in Burma / Myanmar, GDP growth is officially estimated to have been 13.6 percent. However, independent estimates suggest that growth was much more modest possibly 06 (Six) percent. It further says that, official estimates of growth for 2001 are, as yet, unavailable but the pace of economic activity in Myanmar, as in other countries of the region, is likely to have slowed. (17) Furthermore, the ADB’s recent Asian Development Outlook 2006 preface clearly states in its observation that, “an assessment of Myanmar’s economic development is handicapped by incomplete information and by deficiencies in the reliability of data. Official estimates suggest that the economy grew quickly in financial year 2004, but this is not supported by trends in inputs. Inflation appeared to rise to double-digit rates in 2005 and significant improvements in economic performance are unlikely in view of structural weakness in domestic policies, which include the monetization of fiscal deficits and a dual exchange rate.” (18) However for Senior General Than Shwe’s SPDC team, ADB’s macro assessment might soon turn as an economic tool or data management of neo-colonialist agenda of US & United Kingdom (UK) and other West European countries. And it is not far, that one day, Car Diplomats’ of India and new economic tigers of Asia like – Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Japan and South Africa also find themselves together with US and UK in the league & bandwagon of new definitions of neo-colonialism of military junta corrupting the original phrase in post-cold war era; which was once given by the representative of President Nkrumah of Ghana – Mr. Quaison-Sackey in the UN General Assembly on 05th of April, 1958 and if they question SPDC’s seriousness towards democracy? Moreover for military General’s in Burma, it is ILO (International Labour Organization) which holds negative view about the regime; otherwise, they are trying to build a golden nation on its own and cooperating with ILO? (19) And world would find it soon in near future that, ADB, UN, ILO and all those who question their human rights record and commitment towards democracy will be branded as – “NEO-COLONIALIST” ?

(Continued….)
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Endnotes:
8. China Gives Green Light to Myanmar Oil Pipeline, China Institute, University of Alberta Uofa Web Project, taken from: (April 18, 2006, Agence France-Presse reporting).

9. China, Myanmar Trade Keeps Growing, People’s Daily, Beijing, China, December 12, 2001.

10. China and Russia veto US/UK- backed Security Council draft resolution on Myanmar, UN News Centre, UN News Service, 14 January 2007.

11. UNDP in Myanmar report by UNDP office Myanmar.

12. Asia Pacific Human Development Report 2006 of UNDP, Trading Opportunities for the Least Developed Countries, Chapter – Six, p.127

13. Myanmar and UN Agencies jointly implementing programs, The New Light of Myanmar, Volume XIV, No. 246, 18 December 2006, p.4

14. Ibid., p.5

15. Note-12, p.136

16. Ibid., p.128

17. Asian Development Outlook 2002, Economic Trends and Prospects in Developing Asia: Southeast Asia – Myanmar, Asian Development Bank, p.19

18. Asian Development Outlook 2006, Myanmar, Asian Development Bank, p.213

19. Maung Hmat Kyauk, Myanmars to build a golden nation on own strength, labour despite negative view of ILO with whom the country is cooperating, The New Light of Myanmar, Volume XIV, No. 278, 19 January 2007, p.8

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(Continued…)

Russia & China’s Veto on Burma and Politics of Double Face (Part-I)

January 14, 2007

As it was expected, on 12th of January 2007 afternoon, the draft resolution in United Nations Security Council 5619th meeting moved by the United States and the United Kingdom to establish freedom from fear in Burma got vetoed by the Russia Federation and China – the first use of multiple vetoes at the Council since 1989, despite generating the required nine majority vote in favour for the move to initiate & establish rule of the people in ‘the Land of Pagodas’ by Belgium, France, Ghana, Italy, Panama, Peru, Slovakia, the UK and the US. (1)

However interestingly the two other nations– Qatar and Congo, which earlier voted on 15th September 2006 with Russia and China in UN Security Council to block Burma’s freedom move went for abstentions together with the new non-permanent member from ASEAN group – Indonesia. Probably this time Qatar remembered their leader Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani’s pledge, announced at the official dinner for the ministerial meeting of the 5th Asia Cooperation Dialogue on 23rd May 2006 at Doha, to initiate internal reforms, that realizes the rule of law and respect of human rights in Asia to make guiding principles of Asia wide cooperation, and Congo genuinely & bravely respecting the spirit of reconciliation enshrined in the draft resolution on Burma went for abstentions. And South Africa’s voting with Russia and China could be understood from the recent China-Africa summit held at Beijing in the first week of November 2006 and China’s growing trade ties with Africa worth $ 42 billion in 2005. (2)

Moreover, the UN Security Council was having majority votes on the issue to include it in substantive matters become helpless with the move by Russian and Chinese veto, which has been utilized by former & present champions of proletariats to suffocate democracy in Burma endorsing & assigning the freedom issue to the other UN bodies. For enlightened Russian and Chinese representative’s, now-a-days, the UN has become a platform of double speak at different occasions in its different bodies like variations of different form of Communism from Marx-Plekhanov-Lenin-Stalin-Mao Zedong to Deng Xiaoping. The double face of China at the UN could be seen from the fact that, when Chinese Ambassador, Liu Zhenmin was speaking in UN Security Council open debate on “Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict” on 04th of December 2006; shows deep concern for the lives and properties of civilians threatened in armed conflicts and appeals to international community to abide by international humanitarian law, render adequate protection to civilians, and avoid making damage to their lives and properties.(3)

But they prefer to veto on Burma’s freedom move despite official acceptance by Permanent Representative of China to the UN, H.E. Wang Guangya, that, “Undeniably, Myanmar is now faced with many challenges in political, economic and social areas, and some problems are quite serious.” (4) Most interestingly, H.E. Wang Guangya also appreciates, encourages and supports the Secretary-General’s good offices under the mandate of the General Assembly and understands rising interest and concern by international community on Burma in recent years in its official statement made on 12 January 2007 veto. (5) Probably China is very much concerned by the issue of democracy and has a very high respect to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s appeal made on 8th January 2007 to Burma’s infamous military junta, “to go beyond their first step by releasing all other political prisoners in the country, including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi,” (6) to veto Burma’s question of substantive political dialogue initiative and cease military attacks against civilians & genuine roadmap for democratic transition. For China, presently it is Kosovo which has now reached a crucial stage. It is also a very sensitive and complicated issue (Kosovo), which has direct bearing on peace and stability in the Balkans & the neighbouring regions. (7) and not the Burma. Or, does China and Russia together with South Africa wants to see more blood than Kosovo in the streets of Burma for future considerations and inclusion of Burma issue in the substantial agenda of UN Security Council rather than truly enforcing UN Secretary General (UNSG) – Mr. Ban Ki-moon’s appeal to free Daw Suu Kyi – the symbol of non-violence and freedom from fear in Burma? It is important to note that, Mr. Ban Ki-moon’s appeal to free Suu Kyi is not new one, earlier former UNSG – Mr. Kofi Annan had made constant appeal to the military junta to free her.

(Continued….)

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Endnotes:

1. Security Council Fails To Adopt Draft Resolution on Myanmar, Owing to Negative Votes by China, Russian Federation, UN Security Council 5619th Meeting (PM), SC/8939, Department of Public Information, News and Media Division, New York, 12 January, 2007.

2. Africa-China meet means business, BBC News, Thursday, 02 November 2006, 21:16 GMT.

3. Statement by Ambassador LIU Zhenmin at the Security Council Open Debate on “Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict”, Permanent Mission of the People’s Republic of China to the United Nations, 04 December 2006.

4. Explanatory Statement by H.E. Ambassador Wang Guangya, Permanent Representative of China to the UN, on Draft Resolution on Myanmar at the Security Council, 12 January 2007.

5. Ibid.

6. Ban Ki-moon calls on Myanmar to release all political prisoners, UN News Services, UN News Centre, 8 January 2007.

7. Statement by Ambassador LIU Zhenmin at the Security Council Public Meeting on Kosovo, Permanent Mission of the People’s Republic of China to the United Nations, 13th December 2006.

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(Continued…..)

The Role of the Individual in History and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi (Part – II)

January 10, 2007

In the Asian Social Structure, which predominantly enjoys a joint family system since its civilizational growth, one can easily find an importance of the Headmen as an individual in the family. And if we consider a family leader being a dominating micro unit of the society, then its chain itself generates a natural social-political values which venerates heroes and great men like – Gandhi, Bogyoke Aung San, U Wisara, U Ottama etc. in history like- Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, who has sacrificed her personal comforts for the peoples cause. Even in the context of World History, a famous Scottish historian and philosopher Thomas Carlyle was apt in his assertions that, “ Yes, from Norse Odin to English Samuel Johnson, from the divine founder of Christianity to the withered Pontiff of Encyclopaedism, in all times and places the Hero has been worshipped. It will ever be so. We all love great men, love venerate, and bow down submissive before great men, nay; can we honestly bow down before anything else?” (7) Another famous historian Arnold J. Toynbee in his classical work – “A Study of History”, rightly points out that, “In a general way it is evident that a society in process of civilization articulates itself through the individuals who ‘belong’ to it, or to whom it ‘belongs’… and ‘these individuals who set going the process of growth in the societies to which they ‘belong’ are more than mere men. They can work what to men seem miracles because they themselves are superhuman in a literal and no mere metaphorical sense.” (8)

However by proposing the importance of the individual in history, my intention is not in any way to prove that, commoners and other factors hasn’t got any role in the history of a nation and world, without which writings of history would show only one side of the coin or half truth. But it doesn’t mean by accepting certain roles of other factors in history to define complete construction of history on the theory of Plekhanov, that, general factors always control actions of great individuals like Gandhi and Suu Kyi. So by accepting Plekhanov, it would be also presenting only half picture of the construction of history, if it negates importance of the individual in history like SPDC in Burma. Asian and even world history has proven time and again, that heroes of history are different than commoners. And these different persons like – Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Nelson Mandela, George Washington and Suu Kyi etc. are not born every year in any nation’s history to truly ameliorate the condition of their people. It is true that sometimes circumstances and general conditions of the history play an important factor in the decisions of a great men, when they begins their journey towards greatness. But it doesn’t mean that always a great man in history can succumb to circumstances and other factors happening around him in his role to perform as a hero of the society as proposed by Plekhanov. So if military junta in Burma thinks that by keeping Suu Kyi in house arrest and NLD at bay, they would break the leadership, than they have wrongly analyzed the role of the individual in history like Plekhanov.

Plekhanov’s thesis could be correct for a moment, when we analyzes the beginning of a career of a great men, when they are not great and only social activists in their long walk towards greatness. And it can not be true for great persons like – Gandhi and Suu Kyi (Present Status), when they attains great hood (Although I’m sure about that, if anyone ask a question to Suu Kyi that, do you consider yourself as a great person of history?…She would definitely reply that I’m not great, like – Gandhi, who never acknowledges himself that he is a Mahatma and great person). Suu Kyi’s un-fledgling convictions towards the ideology of non-violent political struggle of Gandhi and insurmountable courage of personal sacrifice of remaining away from her late husband & sons for the people of Burma has already completed her journey & test of being great in the world history.

It is an interesting similarity between Gandhi and Suu Kyi that neither of them planned their political career. Gandhi’s visit to South Africa and Suu Kyi’s Burma, were more related with family matters which turned out to be political one with the prevalent unjust situations. Aung San Suu Kyi arrived in Burma, in the last days of March 1988 to see her ailing mother at Rangoon. But the democratic uprisings and demonstrations of 8th of August 1988 and thereafter her memorable speech at the large rally at the Shwedagon Pagoda on 26th of August 1988 indicated that she would play a crucial role in shaping the political destiny of Burma. And ninety-five years before Suu Kyi’s visit to Burma, Gandhi equipped with a British law degree takes a voyage for South Africa in April 1893 to find a career as an advocate to give a better life to his family in India. Gandhi’s visit to South Africa was initially a one-year contract with Dada Abdullah, a Gujarati merchant to sort out his Lego-business problem. Although with the racial discrimination prevalent at that time in South Africa and dictatorial suppressive rule made his one year contract into almost two decades of struggle to ameliorate the conditions of oppressed people in South Africa. Even Gandhi ji at that time had never imagined this great role of responsibility to perform in his life. (9)

So when Suu Kyi and Gandhi started their political career, they were not aware about their future role to play in their nation’s history. At that time, as I proposed earlier; that, they were activists, having sketchy idea of their future plan of actions and properly fit into the theory of Plekhanov. But when their constant pursuit and convictions for truth attains greatness and comes out of the activist’s role, then they control human actions and general factors of history. And it is not like Burma’s ruling military junta’s thesis that, “She is like a fly caught in a web because she has been binded with the strings of the awards.”

For a moment, if we take a peep into the golden pages of Indian Nationalist Movement. We can find a very illustrative example of a larger nationalist movement in the context of the role of the individual in history, in which Gandhi unaffected by the advice of his equally great political compatriots’ like – Motilal Nehru, C.R. Das, Jawaharlal Nehru, Subhas Chandra Bose etc. suddenly withdraw the Non-Cooperation Movement (1920-22) after the Chauri Chaura (a small village in Gorakhpur district of Uttar Pradesh State in India) incident on 05th February 1922 due to his personal unflappable convictions towards non-violence (Congress Working Committee hastily summoned at Bardoli on Gandhi’s insistence officially ratified 12th February 1922 to withdraw the movement). Although from outside, it appears that particular Chauri Chaura incident or general factor of history like – Plekhanov’s thesis played an important role in decisions of Gandhi but if we analyze it minutely then, it was his own consciousness towards his well derived political strategy and ideology influenced the decision to withdraw the Non-Cooperation Movement, since almost all congress party members were against withdrawal. As decision taken solely by Gandhi came as shock to many Indian national leaders, Subhas Chandra Bose (later leader of Indian National Army or Azad Hind Fauj) called it a “national calamity”, Jawaharlal Nehru mentions in his autobiography his “amazement and consternation” at the decision, and illustrious Marxist leader M.N. Roy saw in it a weakening of the leadership rather than of the masses. (10) Many in the country thought that the Mahatma had failed miserably as a leader and that his days of glory were over. They couldn’t understand why the whole country had to pay the price for the crazy behaviour of some people in a remote village (11) like Burma’s ruling military junta’s doubt & slandering on Suu Kyi reflected in the New Light of Myanmar.

Although despite Burma’s ruling military junta’s governing council – SPDC’s abuses against her in the media, she had been always supportive of the unity of the people of Burma and national defence forces popularly known as Tatmadaw like a great individual. In a BBC interview on 24th April 1989, Suu Kyi reiterated that it was not the intention of the NLD to cause a rift between the Defence Forces and the people, and we do not want the Defence Forces to break up.” (12)

Even in the case of another great individual of Burma’s history – U Wisara’s one hundred sixty six day fast against the rule prohibiting monks to wear yellow robs during imprisonment in 1929 at Rangoon Jail and thereafter his death on 19th September 1929, symbolizes individuality of greatness rather than reflections of Plekhanov criterion of outside factors and prevalent rule in Burmese Jail. As this rule was not only applicable in 1929 and others had been also affected by this draconian law. But it was only U Wisara having a personal belief to the certain cause stood like Jatin Das of Bengal, who died in similar fashion (on 64th day of his epic fast in jail) few days before U Wisara on 13 September 1929 on the issue against the prevalent horrible conditions in jail and for the treatment as a political prisoner & not as a criminal during colonial rule. (13)

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, who had continuously refused the chance to leave Burma to see her dying husband – Michael Aris in March, 1999 and her other family members, because she couldn’t abandon & leave her people, itself proves her as a great individual in the history of contemporary Burma beyond Plekhanov’s theory of historical construction.

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Endnotes:

7. Allan Nevins, The Gateway to History, Anchor Books, Doubleday & Company, Inc. Garden City, New York, 1962, p.323

8. Arnold J. Toynbee, A Study of History, Abridged by D.C. Somervell, Oxford University Press, New York & London, 1957, pp. 209-212.

9. This idea of comparison between Suu Kyi and Gandhi came while presenting an academic paper at Sweden, year & date of the event is not proper to disclose at present moment.

10. Bipan Chandra, Amales Tripathi, and Barun De, Freedom Struggle, National Book Trust, New Delhi, India, p. 133.

11. Bipan Chandra , Mridula Mukherjee, Aditya Mukherjee, K.N. Panikkar, and Sucheta Mahajan , India’s Struggle For Independence 1857-1947, Penguin Books, New Delhi, 1989, p. 192.

12. Aung San Suu Kyi, Freedom from Fear, Penguin Books, New Delhi, 1995, p. 340.

13. Rajshekhar, Myanmar’s Nationalist Movement (1906-1948) And India, South Asian Publishers, New Delhi, 2006, p.48.

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The Role of the Individual in History and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi (Part – I)

January 5, 2007

In 1898, a famous Russian Marxist philosopher and historian Georgii Valentinovich Plekhanov (1856-1918) wrote historical essays in Russian on the role of the individual in History and draw conclusions like present ruling military junta’s (SPDC- State Peace and Development Council) view on Aung San Suu Kyi in Burma that, the role of the individual in making history is misjudged notions propounded by materialistic philosophers & culture and it negates the general historical progress of the society. Plekhanov’s thesis later found most suitable for the propagation of communist views of dialectical materialism & theory of people’s democracy after Bolsheviks revolution in Russia after his death in August 1918. And Soviet supported press Gospolitizdat (State Publishers of Political Literature) Moscow translated the Plekhanov’s Russian thesis in English edition in 1944 for wider readership of the view in Eastern Europe, Latin America, Asia and Africa.

Plekhanov’s interpretation of the role of the individual in history was written in the political settings of the end of 19th century socio-political circumstances, when the most part of the globe was under colonialism and monarchy. But the later Marxist leaders found it suitable mistakenly for the philosophy of people’s democracy of proletariats, which criticizes vehemently the importance of the role played by individuals in historical transformation. It was mistaken because Marxists who spread the ideology of Plekhanov, themselves fall victims of promoting image of individual heroism of their leaders (As big statue & photograph of Lenin, Stalin in Russia and Mao in China had been installed at major points of their cities and other communist countries) rather than Plekhanov’s more stress on circumstances which creates revolution and state power transformation. Although, Plekhanov thesis gives new insights into intellectual philosophical debates , but the history of the world has different facts to prove that Plekhanov was far away from the truth like SPDC in Burma.

Plekhanov, criticizing role of the individual in history blames subjectivists for promoting individualism and gives lesson that, “History is made by men, and therefore, that the activities of individuals cannot help being important in history.” (1) He further founds Bismarck’s speech delivered in the North German Reichstag on April 16, 1869 suitable for his arguments and quotes his speech in his essay that, “We Cannot ignore the history of the past, nor can we, gentlemen, create the future. I would like to warn you against the mistake that causes people to advance the hands of their clocks, thinking that thereby they are hastening the passage of time. My influence on the events I took advantage of is usually exaggerated; but nobody would demand that I should make history. I could not do that even in conjunction with you, gentlemen, although together, we could stand up against the whole world. We cannot make history; we must wait while it is being made. We will not make fruit ripen more quickly by subjecting it to the heat of a lamp; and if we pluck the fruit before it is ripe we will only prevent its growth and spoil it.” (2) He analyzes I.I. Kablitz (1848-1893, a Russian Narodnik thinker), Gustave Lanson (1857-1934, French Literary Critic and Writer), V.G. Belinsky (1811-1848, an outstanding Russian Critic), George Simmel (1858-1918, A German Philosopher and Sociologists and follower of Kant), Thiers (1797-1877, a French Statesman, historian and organizer of the ruthless suppression of the Paris Commune, remembered by Plekhanov as reactionary), Augustin Sainte-Beuve (1804-1869, A French Poet and Literary Critic), Gabriel Mably (1709-1785, A French Utopian Communist) and most importantly Karl Lamprecht (1856-1915, German Historian, remembered by Plekhanov as bourgeois) and propounds that, “General historical circumstances are more potent than the strongest individuals. For a great man, the general character of his epoch is “empirically given necessity.” (3) Plekhanov, more than one hundred years back like present military junta in Burma went by the words of Bismarck (or intentionally did it to theorize his thesis) rather than reading between the lines of his future visions, who was well aware of his position and role in German politics & history, when he says, “nor can we, gentlemen create the future”. Bismarck was full aware of his role like great man in history as an individual than commoners; otherwise Plekhanov wouldn’t be quoting him in his equally famous thesis. Moreover those individuals who are great, they never say that they are great, otherwise they wouldn’t have become great in their roles in history. Although, Plekhanov’s examples were mostly from European history and political settings, but communists of Asia and Africa fall victims of his theory and found it even suitable for Asia.

SPDC under the Chairmanship of the State Peace and Development Council, Commander-in-Chief of Defence Services Senior General Than Shwe is making a fatal mistake of historical judgment and great national disservice to the people of Burma by propagating that, “Daw Suu Kyi and NLD (National League for Democracy) are not the essential saviours or elements for national development and Myanmar is not a country of ‘saviours’,” (4) negating the role of the individual in history like Plekhanov’s thesis blunders. And if individual’s role is not important at all in SPDC’s view, than, why it becomes necessary for Tatmadaw (military in Burma) to read his Chairman’s message in-absence on 59th Anniversary of the independence day in Burma on 4th January 2007, (5) when he was not present at Nay Pyi Taw and on treatment at Singapore? And more importantly General Than Shwe’s message to the nation’s young generation on 59th independence day doesn’t mention even a single word about – Bogyoke Aung San (also known as Bo Te Za), U Nu, Ba Maw, Thakin Kodaw Hmaing etc. contributions to the freedom struggle of Burma, as if independence of Burma has been brought only by General Than Shwe! He even forgets that, the Tatmadaw, whom he is commanding and perpetuating his power was created by Bogyoke Aung San.

It is a sheer intellectual bankruptcy of the SPDC to state in their media – The New Light of Myanmar, that, “ Daw Suu Kyi is pursuing his non-violent struggle in Burma because she has won more than eighty international awards including Nobel Peace Prize and at the expense of sweet and blood of party members. And now she is like a fly caught in a web because she has been binded with the strings of the awards. (6) Probably SPDC has forgotten that the award which was given to Suu Kyi was not asked by Suu Kyi. It was her work, personal sacrifice and love to the people of Burma brought her nearer to those awards. She is among few leaders of contemporary Asia who has got best of the education from reputed institutions of Asia & Europe and her research at India’s apex Social Sciences institution at – Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Simla was on “Burma and India: Some Aspects of Intellectual Life under Colonialism”, about which SPDC leadership has forgotten in 59th independence day of Burma.

(Continued….)

Important Note: Plekhanov’s theories other answer will be given in details in next part, in the context of Modern Asian History including Burma.
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Endnotes:

1. G.V. Plekhanov, The Role of The Individual In History, Translated From the Russian by J. Fineberg, Foreign Language Publishing House, Gospolitizdat, Moscow, USSR, 1944, p.17.

2. Ibid., P.20

3. Ibid., P.21

4. Maung Setana, The Only Way Out For NLD, The New Light of Myanmar, Thursday, 05 October, 2006, P.9.

5. General Than Shwe’s message on 59th Independence Day of Burma, Powerful Countries interfering in internal affairs of others, Young generations are duty bound to safeguard independence and sovereignty, The New Light of Myanmar, Vol. XIV, No. 263, Thursday 04, January 2007, p. 1 & p.8.

6. Note- 04, p.10.

(Continued….)
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