Does India need Russia to defend itself?
Richard Gregson’s report on the recently signed agreement between India and the Philippines (‘India’s BrahMos stratagem’, March 2022) served as a reminder of the ambition of both nations to foster mutual defence ties in order to counter Chinese expansionism in Asian waters.
I believe that the sale of weapons to the Philippines represents a significant milestone in India’s journey to become a major regional power. Strong defence should counter threats not only from China but also from Pakistan. The Indian army claims that the long range BrahMos missiles are able to destroy targets with pinpoint precision and are another shot in the arm for Atma Nirbhar Bharat, the policy advocated by Prime Minister Modi which advocates greater self-reliance by India in defence and security.
However, we need to bear in mind that the BrahMos missile project is a joint venture between India’s Department of Defence and Russia. In fact, many of the weapons used by the Indian army, navy and air-force are sourced from Russia.
This presents India with a dilemma. Should it join the international sanctions against Russia in the wake of the Ukraine invasion? Or should it continue to seek Russian support in order to tackle the march of the Chinese dragon?
Mr. Gregson points out that India is a member of the Quad, the informal defence alliance with the USA, Japan and Australia, designed to counterbalance Chinese expansion. If India continues in a defence partnership with Russia at this time, it will surely leave India at odds with the other Quad members.
Kolkata, West Bengal
Tribute to the Paralympians in Beijing
I feel that the report on the Beijing Olympic Games in your magazine rather overlooked its significance for athletes with disabilities (‘The silent sporting protests’, March 2022). Duncan Bartlett focussed on the political aspects of the event, but what about the role of the people from many lands who went to China to take part in the Winter Paralympics? It was inspirational to see people striving towards their goals, with many sportsmen and women achieving personal bests. China topped the medals table with 18 golds as many silvers and 23 bronze, so despite the difficult politics, the host nation deserves credit. Now China and Japan, which hosted the summer games last year, both need to preserve the legacy of the Paralympics by creating societies in which disabled people are no longer simply seen as people who are dependent, or need help.
Songs beyond boundaries
I was moved to read the tribute by MJ Akbar to the wonderful singer Lata Mangeshkar, who died this year (‘Goodnight to the nightingale’, March 2022). While most people know that she was widely loved in India, few also realise that she was an international figure. She holds the distinction of being the first Indian artist ever to perform live at London’s iconic Royal Albert Hall in 1974. She also recorded music in over 30 languages, although she was best known for her songs in Hindi and Marathi. In my view, she was also able to strike a chord with people of many different nationalities. After she passed away, I read that the Pakistani Sufi singer Abida Parveen said that Lata Mangeshkar’s voice was nothing short of a ‘gift from god’, and the humility she displayed despite possessing such a gift was unique. I hope that other performers will cherish her memory and be inspired by her commitment to transcend geopolitical boundaries.