Deceptiveness is not a quality I generally admire but I make an exception for the remarkable Bhagat Ram Talwar, aka Silver, whose feats of cunning are detailed in Mihir Bose’s intriguing book (Silver: the Spy Who Fooled the Nazis) and highlighted in the very readable Asian Affairs article ‘Silver – the quintuple agent’. The dangerous games of strategy and invention he played transcend purely moral matters, as Silver’s tactical skill was nothing short of genius, especially when one considers that he spoke only broken English at the time, and did not speak any of the languages of the countries he spied for and against.
But do forgive me if I have one small quibble: should the article not have referred to Silver as a ‘sextuple spy’, since he also spied, it could be said, for India and her independence, where his only true allegiance lay?
Humphrey Hawksley’s ‘A new kind of destruction’ reflects the fears that many of us have of the world’s new weapon of choice, the cyber attack. Where individuals and nations may not have the physical or economic strength to impose their will, cyberspace provides the means and the anonymity, and the effects are far-reaching. We have seen the influence of digital attacks on the French and US elections, and on (according to some) the Brexit vote, and now the latest international attacks that have left Britain’s NHS, among other institutions, in chaos. One wonders if the UK General Election will be similarly targeted.
But most interestingly of all, Hawksley touched on the potentially positive aspects of cyber weaponry as a channel for ‘negotiations to prevail over war’. This raises really important questions about ethics, legality and policy, which I would love to see explored in future issues of your magazine.
Your informative magazine offers serious analysis and coverage of Asia and beyond, which is great. However,lighter moments are always welcome, and a couple of statements cropped up in the last (May) edition that raised a smile – notably, your Editorial’s gently mocking comments on Donald Trump’s La-La-Land view of healthcare policy and the ease with which a shared piece of confectionary seemingly altered his world view. High five, too, for Raymond Whitaker’s wry observation (in ‘Having greatness thrust upon it) that ‘ex-ambassadors and special envoys [attending an LSE South Asia Centre conference] could agree on one thing… if India wanted to raise its profile abroad, it would need more diplomats’.
Keep it up on both counts. Both the gravity and levity are much appreciated.
Martin L. Jackson
The only way is up?
Congratulations to Dr. Ian Davis for his excellent article on the Bhujearthquake recovery project (‘After the shock’, Asian Affairs May issue).
I am familiar with the region, having friends and family there. Bhujhas learneda very hard lesson over the last 16 years,and to some extent learned it well. New regulations mean strictheight restrictions onmost new commercial or residential structures, which all have to be quake-resistant. Everything is now constructed with the very real possibility of future earthquakes in mind, and the city, as Dr. Davis notes, has continued to expandto almost four times its previous size since the disaster.
This in itself is a concern. Quite rightly, Dr. Davis also writes of the post-recovery impact on poorer people in the city, which has not been all positive by any means.But he does not really touch on the fact that, with the height limits for buildings in place, Bhuj’sresultant spread outwards has lead to increased transportation and public service needs, which bring their own socio-economic problems, as well as ecological issues. It would surely be better to have a slightly denser city with taller but still earthquake-resistant buildings.