Tuesday, July 28, 2009

On Yesterday's Post, and the War-with-Pakistan Option

My post yesterday asking as to why the Indian govt. insists on keeping the military option off the table in its discussions with Pakistan caused quite a heated discussion, both here and (mostly) on facebook. In spite of various disclaimers in the post, some of my friends felt that I was advocating a war with Pakistan, and had no regard for the innocent lives lost in the horror that is war.

So, to (hopefully) make it clear once and for all, here are some points:

  1. I did NOT advocate war with Pakistan in my post, which I know will solve nothing. I did NOT even ask for it to be our primary talking point, which I know will only help the extremists on either side. My question was simply as to why that option is so categorically off the table. Not second option, not 100th option, but just _off the table_.

  2. To those who were anguished by my post, I apologize for not properly qualifying the question. It should have read "From a logistical/strategic point of view, why is war with Pakistan off the table?"

    Note that I have no misgivings about our Govt. being all innocent and peaceful. For FSM's sake, we still have the death penalty for the "rarest of the rare" cases! Given that I do not expect them to really keep the war option off the table for "humanitarian" reasons, I was wondering they are still not mentioning it. It was a question of (dry) strategy, nothing more.

  3. The above (logistical) question was best answered by Anupama, who convinced me that we cannot (militarily) risk a war with Pakistan due to the vastly superior capabilities of China. (detailed answer here). I now understand that keeping war off the table is not the "wimpy" option, but a strategic reality. And given that is true, the article by SG pointed out by Varun makes sense (although I share Varun's reservations about the competence of our govt.).

  4. I have NOTHING against the people of Pakistan, and in fact I have, on multiple occasions, advocated for a solution through peaceful approaches. If you do not believe me, have a look at my posts that mention Pakistan, especially this one, where I addressed my PoV of what India can do in light of the "failing country" narrative.

    No. Seriously. Go read that post before you make accusations about my having a hardline and violence-advocating approach towards the Pakistani people.

    And for those who dislike clicking links, here are some snippets from the above-mentioned blog post:
    When I think loudly about this issue, the following comes to mind.:

    Problem context/assumptions:

    2. The people of pakistan do not actively want to mess with India. They, like people everywhere, want to lead their lives and raise their kids.


    Assumption 2 above rules out options like nuking/war, not to mention the fact that they also have nukes :-).

    So the _way to go_ to address the situation there, in my opinion, is
    1. Figure out what action hurts their _government/army_. They don’t care if you send back their singers, hell it plays directly into their hands of “Indians are hegemonical, and we should hate them”. Until we hurt their establishment, there is no solving this problem. [focussed trade boycott anyone?]

    2. The only way out, in addition to finding the magic bullet in point 1 above, is to _encourage_ the moderates there. Lets face it, a pakistan which is ruled by the Taliban is not in India’s interest. But it is also _not_ in the interest of the moderates there. [I have pakistani friends, and have heard a lot about how they feel threatened by the taliban/moral-police as much as you feel threatened by the Senes]. The only long term way out for us is to help the moderates in Pakistan get a voice. If it means letting some of them even show up on our TV Channels to make their case, so be it.

    / these are initial thoughts, but I hope you see where I am going.
    // am not saying that allow any T,D&H from pakistan on Indian TV. But for a change, lets stop focussing on the crazies there who call us “hindu zionists”, and focus on the more moderate voices there. I know it makes for better TRP to give airtime to the former, but the latter are the ones whom _we_ should give visibility to.
    /// There are those who would say ‘just secure our borders, close all communications, and wait for it to implode’. I for one would _not_ want a Nuclear armed neighbor to implode, and last time I checked, we were nowhere near securing our borders completely.
    //// Reiterating: Lets _not_ break cultural ties. If anything, let their artists perform here. If they have a good welcome, they will go back and share their experiences, which will only work to dispel the lies that their govt. has told their people.

Anyways, this is what I had to say. If you still think that I am some extreme-right warmonger with no regard for human life, suit yourself.


Monday, July 27, 2009

Why is War with Pakistan off the Table?

[Update: I finally was able to find an answer to the question. Answer in the last comment.]

[Update 2: If you are reading this article, you MUST also read the follow up post to get a more complete picture.]


[ Those who know me well know how much of a non-war person I am, but here is some loud thinking on my part. Let me know what you think. ]

I was reading ShashiTharoor's tweets and other reports on the 10 year anniversary of the Kargil war, where we were left surprised by the large-scale incursion of the Pakistani forces mingled with "freedom fighters" in Kashmir. And then reports of how the deaths on the LoC continue due to firing from the other side.

M.J.Akbar has written another masterpiece today in the ToI, which, among other things, makes the following note (emph mine):
In 1965 Lal Bahadur Shastri thought a little give would purchase a lot of take at Tashkent. In 1972, Indira Gandhi bought Bhutto's plea that what remained of Pakistan would crumble without her sympathy. She did not insist on a written agreement ending the Kashmir dispute along the Line of Control. Atal Bihari Vajpayee reached out to shake Pakistan's hand at Lahore, and got slapped in the face at Kargil.

And asks this wonderful rhetorical question:
In the political calculus, Gilani does not have to do much more to survive. After all, what can India do if he does nothing? Start a war?

And I wonder to that, Why not?

I mean, during Kargil, the reason we didn't go into a full-fledged war was because we thought they could use the nukes. If we, in contrast, attack the terror camps in PoK, wouldn't Pakistan also be forced to fight a non-nuclear war, fearing that if they use their nukes, we will use ours too?

Note that I am NOT asking for war. However, I have begun to strongly feel that keeping the strike option (pre-emptive or not) completely off the table does us no good, and allows the govt. there to be in the state of "we oh-so-want to fix your terrorism problem too, not just ours" while doing absolutely nothing about it.

What do we stand to lose if we state to Pakistan in clear terms that "next time there is a terror attack (or if there is a delay in delivering those responsible for the 26/11 attacks), we won't ask you before bombing the regions where we believe the camps are located. Bring out your nukes. We got bigger ones."?

Any answers?

[P.S. Credit is due to P, who asked me a version of this question a while back]

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Phished! Beware of your ATM

[Update: A slideshow with pictures on how this could have been done is added to the bottom of this post now.]

[for those of you who are impatient, you can jump to the what should I do section]

The Incident

Last Friday evening, I was visiting the town of Antony, to see an apartment which I will be moving in come September, and M and I were passing close to a branch of my bank, Credit Agricole. So I thought "might as well withdraw some cash". So I went up the ATM attached to the bank wall, and put in my card.

Nothing happened.

The machine didn't even ask me for my PIN. It just ate my card.

So I pressed "cancel" a couple of times. Still nothing. Then I noticed a small notice with the bank's logo on it saying "sorry, this ATM is broken. The screen also won't show that. If your card is in there, please type your pin and press OK. Then type it twice and press cancel to get your card back. If it still does not work, come back tomorrow morning with your ID and check at the bank."

So I did that, and sadly, no dice. I guessed it was because I had pressed other keys. Ah well.

The next afternoon, I went to the bank, and asked for my ATM card. To my shock, the lady at the bank said that they cannot find my card! They asked me to call the bank's lost ATM line, and get a confirmation number, which I should then give to my _own_ branch (close to work) when it is open.

So (with M's help) I was able to lodge a complaint, and got a confirmation number.

The Surprize!

Today afternoon, I finally went to my bank (it is closed on Monday), and while the nice lady there was talking to me about opening an FD/savings account, I noticed that my bank balance had come down by around 1.5K Euros in the past 2 days!!

Turns out there was a contraption attached to the ATM machine that not only stole my card, but also my PIN number. The thieves had pulled out EUR 250 that same evening from the ATM (hitting the daily limit), and bought a bunch of stuff the next day. The total damage: EUR 1,278.

Following this revelation, I went to the police station with a copy of the bank records, gave my statement, came back to the bank and filed a claim for the missing money. I am told that I should get a new card in 10 days, and hopefully my money will be back in 15.

It is worth noting that the bank staff and the police people were very very helpful and comforting, especially given that my French is not that good :).

What YOU should do

Of course, this post will be useless without a set of action-items. So here they are:

  1. Do NOT use random, unknown ATMs. Prefer to use only the ones that are your bank's, or some other well-known bank's.

  2. Do NOT use ATMs attached to the wall and open to the road, even if they are outside your own bank (as I did). Always use the ones inside the bank. At least here in France, such ATMs are open 24x7, and since they have a ton of cameras pointing at them, hopefully the scamsters will avoid them.

  3. If your ATM eats your card, and the screen does not change, DO NOT MOVE. Call the cops, and tell them this happened. If the machine is broken, it will say so. If the monitor is faulty, the bank will NOT put a sticker below the machine, they will block the slot itself. Contrary to what I thought that evening, the banks are NOT that stupid.

  4. Re-read step 3. If this happens to you, CALL THE COPS.

Ah well, this is it. Feel free to forward this post as email to your friends (there should be an icon below this post). This, for one, is a true story. It happened to me!

More references:
1. http://www.snopes.com/fraud/atm/atmcamera.asp [China and USA]
2. http://www.theage.com.au/national/five-charged-over-500000-atm-scam-20090325-9aio.html [Australia]

Update: A sent me a presentation on how the machine could have eaten my card. Still not sure how they got my PIN.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Riding the Wave

So I got access to the Google Wave Sandbox, about which I had talked about earlier here.

The system is fast, and buggy -- the first time Google has really released something in beta. They are calling it a "developer preview".

The interesting part was that everyone is auto-subscribed to the main discussion group, and chaos rules there as of now. But then that is also due to the fact that none of my friends are on wave yet. Think of this like the early days of twitter or facebook, except that there is an approval process for signing up, and there are no "invites" like gmail had.

In any case, if you get an account, send me a wave at animesh@wavesandbox.com (yeah, got my firstname, just like on gmail ;-) )


Friday, July 17, 2009

Internet Explorer's latest promo in France

... is on a take-out pizza (speed rabbit) menu!

--sent from my Google HTC Magic--

To Indian Indie Music

My good friend, the immensely talented Amitanshu has embarked on the journey towards his true calling - music. Check out his first upload in the video below

More at the youtube channel of their musical team, antarnaad. Go check it out, and subscribe.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Berthillon ice cream. Yum :-)

Picture taken right before I ate this double scoop (cocktail exotique and cassis) in a special dual-cone :-). The store website is here, and it is supposed to have the best ice-cream in Paris :-).

--sent from my Google HTC Magic--

Our lady, in the Parisian sun

--sent from my Google HTC Magic--

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Eiffel Tower Fireworks

--sent from my Google HTC Magic--

Indian military bands in Paris

--sent from my Google HTC Magic--


--sent from my Google HTC Magic--

Do you see the tanks?

--sent from my Google HTC Magic--

Jeeps with guns

--sent from my Google HTC Magic--

One of many plane groups

--sent from my Google HTC Magic--

Singh is here

In case you didn't know, dr. Singh is the chief guest of the French independence day parade. Am posting this from the venue. More to come later. Watch this space.

--sent from my Google HTC Magic--

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Right to Cover-Up

There has been a lot of discussion on the proposed ban on the burqa -- the head-to-toe covering islamic garment for women -- by the French govt.

My only close encounter with a burqa was when as a child, I noticed that a friend's grandmother used to wear her burqa whenever she stepped out of the house. Inside the house, even with us present, she just wore a sari. I would have considered her old-fashioned, but it was her choice of what she wanted to wear when venturing out.

My personal beliefs are perhaps best expressed in this great Daily Show clip.

To summarize (and to paraphrase JS), the burqa should not be banned, much like it should not be compulsory.

Seriously, if I were a man who forces my wife to wear a burqa when she steps out, what do you think I will do when it is illegal? I will simply forbid her from ever stepping out! And if a girl really wants to wear a burqa, the state should not have the right to stop her, much like wearing goth makeup (or covering one's ankles) is not illegal.

What the state DOES need to do is to reach out to womenfolk and provide circumstances so that they are more comfortable in stepping out and reporting it if their men are forcing them to wear burqas, or miniskirts for that matter.

But you see, the above is a very complex action to perform, and will not get much press. So I guess we will only see knee-jerk and sensationalist all-or-nothing solutions from the govt.

What do you think?

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Bridging Distance with Music

They say music and technology can bridge barriers. But for those for whom seeing is believing, I present this "Hotel California" video, which I came across today while looking for music to play in the background while I worked. It was composed by two guys who are thousands of miles apart, using the internet to collaborate. Hear it below (choose HQ), or for a higher-quality audio-only version, check out the playlist at this page.

Do you know of any other such amazing videos, especially featuring Indian amateur artists? Please post links in the comments if so.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Hello Mona darling :-)

Learning how to grow Diamonds

Nova Science NOW is in its 4th season, and makes for some amazing viewing.

This week: Growing perfect Diamonds, and much more

Here is the video, ref: Ninjavideo.

The host, Dr. Tyson, is also a very good sport. His latest interview with the coal-bear is here

And yes, happy 4th of July to my red-white-and-blue friends :)

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Helping us Never Forget

Update: This video was removed from YouTube due to a copyright claim by Channel 4. Viewable trailer posted. Also, an alt youtube link is posted in the comments.

The official link is at

and a short sample is at

*** Old Post ***

Thanks to D for the link to the playlist below, which is a documentary on the Mumbai terror attacks of last year.

'nuf said. Watch it.